Selfie – An Empowering Choice

photo 1I confess to taking my first selfie this past week. Yep! That girl is me. I had mixed feelings about the process, since, to be honest, I was a total hater of the selfie. There seemed to be a tone of self-absorbed behavior that rubbed me the wrong way, when it came to selfies. I mean, consider the word, itself, which, by the way, is the word of the year 2013 for Oxford Dictionary.

Most of the selfies that I have seen, unfortunately, have been produced by teens making poor choices, searching for something beyond that which their audiences can give–perhaps a bit too much showing of self or a controversial setting that requires some adult intervention.

The primary reason I decided to click my pic was because I really didn’t want to! Looking at pictures of myself makes me want to sneeze. Even though I consider myself to be confident and comfortable with my physical image, I’m just like the millions of women around the world who can be self-conscious of the way I look, at times, wanting to measure up to the airbrushed faces that are stalking me everywhere I go. I thought, well my hair is a mess, I’m wearing no makeup, the lighting is horrible, and . . . girl, push through that fear , be brave and just take the picture.

My first attempt was comical. I giggled at myself, trying to figure out if I should stare at the little hole or the crazy twin looking back at me. I laughed hard and thought of the artistic details someone like Vincent Van Gough considered when he painted his own selfie. Trying to capture myself was equivalent to a dog trying to catch its tail. Sometimes you get a piece, but never the whole thing.

Yet, there is something empowering about being the artist and the subject matter, all in one. There is something of self to share that isn’t preoccupied with vanity; a self-acceptance in sharing the message, “I’m here, and I’m cool with who I am.” I came across a Dove You Tube that embraces the empowering component a selfie can have on mothers and daughters in regard to seeing oneself as beautiful. The video encouraged me with my newfound appreciation for the nuances of this art form.

I sent a trail of selfies to my husband, who replied, “Looks like you are having fun.” I was. Then, I realized, this was not my first selfie. A lost memory appeared, a time with a girlfriend, making silly faces at a Polaroid camera that spat out pictures of two girls enjoying their friendship.

Sometimes, we forget the innocence of a good time and over-analyze all the negative aspects and pitfalls of a new technology. I know it is our responsibility to be on guard as parents and teachers, but we should consider being less critical, remember the joy of our own youth and lead the way in initiating fun with empowering choices.

Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

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Having Difficult Conversations

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“Why do I have a penis?” Nicky asks, perfectly timed with my first gulp of coffee of the morning. Of course, big brother is cracking up, food shooting out of the sides of his mouth, while I’m trying to breathe and not make the news as the first person to choke to death on a sip of coffee. It’s not that I’m shocked by his question–rather, just caught off guard. Nicky asks all sorts of questions that his older brothers never even thought to ask. He is a natural investigator, never accepting trite answers such as “Because,” or “That is the way it is.” He stretches me in so many ways and beyond any other person on this planet. I love that about him!

Engaging regularly in the arena of “difficult conversations,” we have chatted about drugs, alcohol, death, racism, sexual anatomy (obviously), why the neighbor’s dog was humping his leg, diabetes, God, why friends will sometimes be mean, and everything else in between. Did I mention Nicky is seven? Nicky has broken the barrier of awkward, uncomfortable conversations and has morphed them into one continuous, casual conversation. By sheer volume, I have become less surprised and uncomfortable with the topics that pop up. Perhaps this is the foundation for significant conversations during the teen years.

Questions from our children about drugs, sex, death, and life in general often elicit prickly responses from parents and teachers: “Just say no,” or, “The stork dropped you off.” But why is it so difficult to talk with our kids about these topics? We may be dealing with our own fear, ignorance, or guilt. Maybe we do not feel we can provide the best answers and redirect inquires. Maybe there has been a battle with an addiction, and residual guilt or shame blocks the avenue to open communication. A few generations ago, people feared that conversations about sex would open the door to children having sex, and some still feel that way; however, fear, guilt, and shame should be overcome, because these conversations or a lack of dialogue shape the way our children make choices.

There are a few reasons why I encourage difficult conversations. First, the “difficulty” is usually all mine, not my child’s, and I need to get out of my own way, because, if I don’t show up for those conversations, someone else or something else will. In a time when kids have mega exposure to all kinds of information and images at the swipe of a finger, it is beyond important to lean into those challenging conversations and be the forerunner of information. Second, I want to be the safe person that my children trust, giving them the freedom to talk freely without fear of rejection in an open, yet age-appropriate, dialogue.
At the end of the day, the goal of difficult conversations should be to answer questions honestly: Don’t lie; keep them age appropriate; impart knowledge; and–most importantly–build a secure relationship with our kids. Never easy, but totally worth it!

Join TURNING STONEchoice this Friday, February 21 for a FREE Parent Workshop at Mathnasium in Cherry Hill @ 6:30-8:30. For additional information please follow this link for more details.
http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e8u594mmbf4cd55f&llr=4hspbwlab&showPage=true

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Love Thy Self – Confronting Perfection

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Sara loves art class. It’s the highlight of her day, but today she is surrounded by balled-up pieces of paper, and hot tears are flowing down her face. She just can’t get the assignment “perfect,” and the messages streaming through her mind are: “You are talentless. You are so dumb. Everyone is already done, and you have nothing to show for your time. You are failing. Don’t ever draw again.”

Sara is a fictional student struggling against a very real roadblock: perfectionism. If we are honest, not only do our children battle perfectionism, we deal with it, too. Where do you think our children learned it?

Perfectionism is not reserved for the high-functioning, type-A personality. It can be the underlying reason some children and adults give up easily on assignments or tasks because they feel they just can’t get the job done “right.” Everyone has struggled or will struggle with the concept of perfection. We can’t escape it, in this 21st-century, media-saturated environment that constantly sends the message that we are not acceptable the way we are, but if we buy a certain product, we will then, be perfect.

The word, perfection, defined by Webster, is completeness in all parts or detail, a quality that cannot be improved. Personally, I think that definition is anemic. Think about the Sochi Olympics right now, and the way every Olympian is striving for absolute perfection. A simple eighth of a point can be the difference between complete failure or triumph. Imagine the enormous pressure and emotional burden in being an Olympian. Some of us are caring that Olympic pressure with our everyday living. When I think of perfection I think: flawless; without error; cannot be negatively judged; is always accepted; never shunned or rejected; good and right. I think that is why so many of us struggle.

But, here is the sick and twisted part of riding on the perfection road. There is no end, no landmark, the trip is in vain, because the place where we are going, Perfection, does not exist. We might as well get in a car and drive straight to the North Pole to say “Hi” to Santa. [Sorry for those of you who still believe;)]

Perfection is a mind-obstacle that can be disguised as doing one’s best. How do you argue with someone (or self) claiming to be doing their best work, putting forth their best effort? I guess it can boil down to a few checks and balances like motivation. Am I doing this work, hanging out with these friends, playing this sport, buying this house, so others will look upon me favorably, or am I fueled because I enjoy and believe in the purpose of my actions?

This internal thought process can be a real eye opener, because most of us are motivated by the external. That realization can make you squirm. We want acceptance by others, but, if we are real with ourselves and others, then we might not belong. There is a huge cost to staying the course to perfection.
We are hardly ever true to ourselves.
We do not believe in ourselves.
We are never good enough, and we believe the ongoing negative dialogue we have with ourselves about our inadequacies.
Our self-esteem, confidence, and worth get run over at 100 mph on the road to perfection. Our essence, the person we really are, becomes road kill.

How do we jump off the highway of perfection? Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., in her New York Times Best Seller book, The Gifts of Imperfection, outlines three areas in which we can practice.
1) Self-Kindness*: being understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate.
2) Common Humanity*: understanding that all mankind endures suffering and experiences feelings of personal inadequacy—i. e., “It’s not just me.”
3) Mindfulness*: taking a balanced approach toward negative emotions, so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. We cannot ignore our pain and practice self-kindness at the same time.

Our fictional student, Sara, would benefit from accepting that her assignment is not coming along like she desires, due to a creative block and that is okay and happens to all artists. She can acknowledge her frustration and compassionately tell herself, “This event does not define me as an artist”, and take a break, enjoy another’s project or ask the teacher for some help.

Keeping perfection at bay is daunting! May we be mindful of its presence, may we respect our person with kindness, and may we remember we are never alone in the process. Love thy self, and Happy Valentines Day!

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

*Paraphrased from the book, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.
http://brenebrown.com/

Share This with All the Schools, Please

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One of the BEST stories I have had the privilege to read this year. A touching story of a teacher and her passion for the lost hearts of children, written by Glennon Doyle Melton from MOMASTERY on Jan 30th. Be inspired, encouraged and pass it on! Sammy@TURNING STONE choice

A few weeks ago, I went into Chase’s class for tutoring.
I’d emailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home is math – but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She emailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.” And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth grade classroom staring at rows of shapes that Chase’s teacher kept referring to as “numbers.”
I stood a little shakily at the chalkboard while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, perched on her desk, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t have to unlearn much because I never really understood the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but l could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously we have a whole lot in common.
Afterwards, we sat for a few minutes and talked about teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom. We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community – and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals who are Kind and Brave above all.
And then she told me this.
Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who doesn’t even know who to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children – I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold – the gold being those little ones who need a little help – who need adults to step in and TEACH them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts with others. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside of her eyeshot – and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But as she said – the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea – I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.
Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine.
Good Lord.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that ALL VIOLENCE BEGINS WITH DISCONNECTION. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. She watched that tragedy KNOWING that children who aren’t being noticed will eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.
And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often, and with the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11 year old hands – is SAVING LIVES. I am convinced of it. She is saving lives.
And what this mathematician has learned while using this system is something she really already knew: that everything – even love, even belonging – has a pattern to it. And she finds those patterns through those lists – she breaks the codes of disconnection. And then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It’s math to her. It’s MATH.
All is love- even math. Amazing.
Chase’s teacher retires this year – after decades of saving lives. What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in, every single day- and altering the trajectory of our world.
TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching- it’s our best hope.
Teachers- you’ve got a million parents behind you whispering together: “We don’t care about the damn standardized tests. We only care that you teach our children to be Brave and Kind. And we thank you. We thank you for saving lives.”
Love – All of Us

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com