When Will It Stop?

Ferguson

We’ve seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge go viral over the last two weeks on social media; people happily dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise money for a worthy cause. During this same period of time, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri and protests have continued in that city and around the country. In the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown, may we engage thoughtfully and critically in examining the situation in Ferguson and stand together on the side of justice and equality?

We need to make empowering choices to actively plan how to take actions that will dismantle injustice when it happens in America. So here’s a #FergusonChallenge:

Share a story about how the events in Ferguson have resonated with you, and then donate to an organization that promotes underserved youth, racial justice, and/or police accountability.

Here a story that resonates with TURNING STONEchoice. It is one of the Letters to the Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled When Ferguson Hits Home August 21, 2014

I never thought I would be living so close to conflict. If I jumped on the highway and zoomed down a few exits, I’d be visiting Ferguson. We are that close, yet we are so far away. Our entire city and country has become focused on what is, and even more alarming, what is not happening in a town within our town. Yet we attempt to put distance between our neighborhoods, just like we attempt to say what’s happening in the Middle East is happening “over there.” Well, folks, “over there” just came to our backyards, and it is madly screaming for our attention.

None of us know the whole story of the incident that led to this massive turmoil my neighbors are embracing without choice. I grieve with every single person involved in this story. There is not one person who is unaffected by this tragedy, including those of us who attempt to drown out the sirens because it’s happening “over there.” It’s “here,” people. The world is watching us, and most importantly our children are silently observing every step we take.

I wonder what would happen if we embraced all those who were hurting tonight, and realized that grieving is actually taking place on both sides of the police line. What if we all held ourselves accountable and allowed each other to take a deep breath when confusion, fear or anger sets in to release a potential breath of hope? I wonder if we’d find peace.

Jen McCurdy  •  St. Louis County

The choice is yours to empower your children and help guide them through purposeful and empowering choice making to help end intolerance and create a peaceful world.

As TURNING STONEchoice always teaches children and adults in our communities, and as the writer of this letter suggests, the first thing we must do is to take that “breath of hope”.

Michael Brown

ACLU of Missouri Foundation: http://www.aclu-mo.org/get-involved/
Amnesty International: http://www.amnestyusa.org/donate-to-amnesty
Ferguson Youth Initiative: http://fyifergyouth.org/
Ferguson Bail Fund: http://antistatestl.noblogs.org/…/bail-and-legal-fund…/
Or buy an “I Am Human” tee-shirt to support protestors on the ground: http://teespring.com/IAMHUMANDONTSHOOT

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Signs of Positive Self-Esteem

As we work to understand ourselves and our children, we should strive to make choices that help us achieve long term success and self-fulfillment. When we have positive self-esteem, we can better understand:

  • The reality of our personal abilities and limitations.
  • The importance of understanding that we do not live within a vacuum and must interact rather than react to others.
  • The knowledge of when we are being influenced emotionally by past events which may cloud our judgment in a new situation.
  • The reality that ultimately we only have control of ourselves and no one else, not even our children.

Ultimately, when you have positive self-esteem, you understand the reality of your choice making and are able to maintain an attitude that with careful consideration will allow you to supplement and compliment your efforts and overcome challenges.

MIL_277x277_0006_middle_school~TURNING STONEchoice

 

Getting Personal with Author, Chris Avery

chris_averyAuthor, Chris Avery shares some insight on the creative process behind his latest young adult novel, Angst.  ANGST chronicles the complicated lives of three best friends attempting to navigate the perils of freshman year in high school while dealing with the realities of teen life.

Describe your book in one sentence!
Angst is an inspiring youth novel, detailing the exploits of three teens navigating and overcoming the travails of high school.

Angst

What inspired you to write about teenagers?
When TURNING STONEchoice (TSC) approached me to write a book for young adults, I  immediately recognized  the need for an honest attempt to write something that would help young people become self- empowered. Few of today’s novels have positive role models or a message of hope for readers. As a father of three teens, I am constantly amazed by the stories shared and challenges they and their friends encounter. Today’s youth are bombarded with divorce, drugs, pressures to grow up too quickly, and many more issues that seem to be more vigilant now than previous generations. I hope Angst provides a roadmap for a possible path to navigate their landscape. And, although not perfect, Angst is a possible solution for students facing similar problems.

Parental loss in many forms seemed to be a weaving theme throughout the book.   Can you talk about those variations and significance?
Throughout the book, I attempt to paint a picture that would be relatable to today’s teens. The definition of ‘family’ continues to evolve. Consequently, I wanted to have numerous types of families in the book and help students recognize the normalcy of difference . All families are different. However, core values and respect are key to keep families close to each other. When loss of a parent occurs, whether through death or divorce, children often have trouble truly coping. While more resilient than most adults recognize, children need guidance from adults and peers to serve as support networks. Angst delivers that message by demonstrating numerous children dealing with this issue of loss and family disruption, and details how they cope. While it is never easy, it is important to see how they survive and work to thrive through it all.

What did you enjoy most about writing Angst?
I enjoyed talking to young people. The TSC approach to engage young people through conversation and allowing them to voice their view of the world and how they fit in it was at the core of my approach. I interviewed a lot of teens and parents before and while writing the book. I asked about what makes their families special and what do they wish they could tell their parents or children, respectively. These conversations really shaped the layout of the book and helped inform me about the sincerity of families to love and respect each other, but how life too often gets in the way. The book allowed me to get closer to my own children and my wife, as we spoke openly about our parenting philosophy and how we communicate with our children .

Any future book projects on your literary plate?
Angst inspired me to begin writing a parenting handbook. From interviews preparing me for the Angst project, I recognized reoccurring themes that would help parents better show their love and dreams for their children. The project has allowed me to collaborate with other parent authors and talk about relationships with our children and how to impart our knowledge without dominating our children’s lives. TSC’s emphasis on helping families has been an inspiring opportunity for me to be a part and I have been thrilled to write on these projects.

“. . . remember that the only thing standing between you and your greatness is yourself.  Take control of your life, and enjoy every second.”  Angst

To enjoy your personal copy of Angst follow click here or at Amazon.

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and our programs please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com.

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

Martin was a Man

dr-martin-luther-king-jr-and-children-on-swingWhat else could possibly be written about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that has not already been put into print? How about the fact that he smoked cigarettes? Not exactly a ringing endorsement of sainthood or a picturesque frame for “the legend.” It’s not the information we share with our students, but, perhaps, we should. Truth is, Martin was a man that breathed in air like you and me, experienced doubt and fear, and, I’m sure, if we asked his wife, had his flaws. This is the time we honor and reflect upon his legacy and the civil rights movement, and I would never attempt to belittle his contributions to our society from which all Americans have benefited. However, I think some of us get wrapped up in “the legend” and forget about his humanity. When I think of his courage, strength, intelligence, and ultimate sacrifice, I am both inspired and intimidated. Simply reflecting on “the legend” can cripple our resolve and bathe us in self-doubt when comparing our service to his. In turn, this prevents us from continuing the work he began, because–well–we might not feel empowered to act because of fear of failure. We may never have high-profile platforms from which to speak, but our words do have weight, and our silence even more. We may even feel disconnected or overwhelmed by the social ills that swirl around us every day, justifying inaction in a variety of ways, but we do have power in our spheres of influence. The bottom line is, we need not start a revolution in order to empower others and ourselves, but, as individuals, we can and should continue Martin’s work by becoming aware of and diligently speaking out against injustice whenever we witness its occurrence in our own little worlds. Let not the mind obstacle of fear prevent us from moving forward. In Martin’s own words, “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

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

Grandma’s Wisdom

hands-grandmother
Be it a true tale or not, the following story, circulating on Facebook, is fraught with wisdom. Perhaps you have read or heard the story before. We can always be reminded of our abilities to make empowering choices. Perhaps, the story is a new one that will open your minds and hearts. I can almost hear my own grandmother speaking these words of warmth. Enjoy and pass on. Sammy@TURNINGSTONEchoice

“The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised, and proud lady, fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. ‘I love it,’ she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight year old having just been presented with a new puppy.
‘Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room . . . just wait.’
‘That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ she replied. ‘Happiness is something you decide on, ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged; it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice: I can spend the day in bed, recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and, as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.’
Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.”

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

The Intangible Wish List

I wish

The content Thanksgiving spirit in November has officially been thrown out with the leftover turkey and gravy, and the height of consumerism has taken over. Wish lists have been distributed. Anxiety- filled shoppers are buying everything in their paths before the clock strikes. I wish. . . has taken over the beginning of many conversations. My oldest son’s list is completely above his current socio-economic status, but then again, it is a wish list. Amusing longings pop up on Google when typing in – I wish, like I wish to lease a Subaru, I wish I could get rid of this cough and my fav, I wish I had curly hair. Through a search, I came across the Urban Art Project,” I Wish This Was. . .” by Candy Chang. Noticing an abundant number of abandoned buildings in her hometown of New Orleans, she created bright-red, fill-in-the-blank stickers with the words, “I WISH THIS WAS. . . ,” and the community would share their hopes for a particular building, like I wish this was a grocery store or a laundromat. Reading about the community response made me think of our children and how they are like empty buildings with potential. As parents and teachers, we place our red stickers of I wish on them and I wonder if they have the time to think about what they wish for. Not the laundry list of things, but the intangible wishes of their hearts. The intangible wishes could include I wish I had a friend, I wish I had more confidence, or I wish I was happy. The tricky thing about an intangible wish list is we can’t run out and buy it and stick a red bow on top of it. How priceless would it be to hear their intangible wishes and let them know they have the ability to make self-empowering choices to grant their own wishes?
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

http://candychang.com/i-wish-this-was/