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

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.

Releasing Mistakes

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Once upon a time, I loathed writing. It was the subject I feared because my writing skills were awful. You see, I could not spell well and because I feared the mistakes I knew I would make, I refused to write words I fully comprehended but had no idea how to spell. To this day, I still struggle with spelling and now understand my challenge as a spelling disorder and not a reflection of my intelligence. This was such a huge obstacle, mainly because I did not understand why I was so “stupid.” I knew what the word was, how to use it and when to use it, but how to spell was elusive. Secondly, and probably most importantly, I chose to be silent about my struggle and continued to fall behind in my writing lessons. If not for the wisdom and compassion of my fifth grade teacher, perhaps I would not have the courage to write this blog today. Understanding the contradiction of my simple prose vs. my higher level speaking vocabulary (I talked a lot), this teacher casually walked up to me during a painful writing session and whispered, “Sam, please write the way you talk, and I don’t care if you misspell. It will be great.” In that single moment, I was liberated from the shackles of error because I was given permission to make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, and, “It would be great.” I am positive my spelling issues were more severe than my “Releaser” had imagined, but I had a new found freedom that would grow, and, although I would continue to make the same mistakes over and over, I actually would make fewer of them over the longer road ahead. I have come a long way from loathing writing, and I enjoy it immensely (a word I happened to misspell). I might not be the next Maya Angelou, but I am growing out from the wisdom of a teacher who understood the bigger picture of allowing mistakes and encouraging mistakes to get to the real lessons. Which students will you be releasing today from bondages that keep them from growing and learning?

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

Live Fearless – Projecting Fear

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My husband suggested a blog discussion on facing fears as he clicked the picture of that freakishly large bug in my child’s hands. (Just to answer the obvious question, that bug is called the hickory horned devil caterpillar.) Instead of facing fear, I’ll share how I projected personal fear to one of my boys. Joseph*, my middle child is absolutely obsessed with bugs. So much so, he received the birthday gift of a real life bug party. This would be the first and last time I would pay someone to bring bugs into my house (think huge hissing cock roaches). Joseph catches bugs everywhere we go. I think he is a bug whisperer. Praying Mantis walk right up to him, butterflies land on his head and chill, and there always seems to be an insect of interest around our home in some homemade habitat for his viewing pleasure. Never has he been afraid to approach or handle any insect. It is refreshing to watch – a child’s fearlessness. But, along comes Mr. Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar and I’m wondering what a creature like that, which clearly belongs in the jungle of the Amazon, is doing in South Jersey. My immediate reaction was to yell firmly, “Do not touch that thing! It could be poisonous.” I know- terrible, right. I dare you to come across this creature and not be a bit cautious. Every family member and friend who actually saw this thing for the first time all had the same reaction –a slight jump back and a, “What in the world is it?” I even commented I thought it might cocoon and turn into a bat. Joseph kept returning to the bug and I could tell he wanted to touch it. But, I had squashed his fearlessness with my reaction and it took him two whole days and a verbal “Ok” from me to say it would be fine. The point is, as teachers and parents we have fears and can project them onto the most fearless people on this planet, our children. Perhaps being more childlike and thinking – what if I did not fear, would change my reactions and life experiences? How much more would our children grow if not stifled with adult fears or even their own? I’m not advocating reckless behavior or ignoring clear signs of danger. I am asking all of us, self included these questions: What would I/we accomplish if I/we did not fear? What would be possible living a fearless life?

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