Your Independence Day

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Let’s talk independence. It’s such a power word often implying passage to adulthood. Independence commands respect. We all strive for it and beckon our children to attain it. It’s the word we celebrate on the 4th of July in this country with barbeques, parades and of course fireworks under dark blue skies.
Dictionary.com defines independence as; freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others. But, when I think upon the history of our independence holiday, I can adjoin to the definition, freedom from oppression, persecution and…taxation without representation (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
I applaud the definition on one hand and challenge it with the other. I think how we, as a society can strive for individual independence that frees us from letting others control us in hurtful, negative ways through our own empowering choices. Or, releasing the bondage of wanting everyone to like us – people pleasing is not diplomacy—making nice for everyone else, that is a boulder wrapped around a neck. Sooner or later it’s going to break.
Then I realize for true independence I need to surrender to interdependence (a kindred connection). See, I want the constructive influence of others. I seek the counsel of those with whom I respect and have gifts and talents to share. I take their wisdom into account to make my own decisions. We want that kind of searching for our children and students because they are still trying to maneuver this big bad world. Shucks, I’m still trying to maneuver this big bad world. I tell my kids constantly, the truly intelligent folks in this world know how to seek guidance, are not afraid to ask for help, and know to exhaust every resource available to them. We relinquish some independence at a moment in time and this can feel uncomfortable because we bare our ignorance. Yet, on the other side of the struggle emerges a more independent person because of new found wisdom.
Contemplate your independence day. Are there obstacles or struggles keeping you from realizing your freedom, your independence?

Have a Happy 4th of July!

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

Suggested Reading & Review – The Other Wes Moore

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The Other Wes Moore is a riveting, true story of two lives, one name and the diverging paths that led one to prison for life and the other a Rhodes Scholar. The author examines the overwhelming similarities between two boys: both living in the same poverty stricken neighborhood in Baltimore, both fatherless, both coping with a violent and drug saturated environment and both having run-ins with police at an early age. Among the themes the book presents with detailed examples and honest questions are: the impact of educational opportunity, family influence, expectations, personal choices, and support.
The book is currently used as common reads for incoming freshmen at colleges and universities but is also an accessible read for middle school and high school students who may be impacted by this book. Moore, the author shares in the afterword, “I will never forget the letter I received from a fifteen-year-old young man from Baltimore who has already spent part of his young life in juvenile detention. He said this was the first book he had ever read cover to cover, and after reading it he was forced to think about the type of man he wants to be, for himself and his family.”
A must read for educators, parents and students who need to look beyond the circumstances of life and expect and envision a possible future ahead. Excellent resources are built into the back of the book with a list of over 200 organizations that help young people through their journeys and questions to consider after the read. Here is one for you to consider. The author says to the other Wes, “I guess it’s hard sometimes to distinguish between second chances and last chances.” What do you think he means?

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

Busy or Full – 2 Tips to Keep it Full

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About a year ago, I became aware of how often I defined my life as busy and how much I was saying it to others. I really had a disdain for the word because it was loaded with so much negative connotation. It rolled off my tongue bitterly! Although, at times overwhelmed or anxious, busy was not what I was, nor wanted. Just like everyone, I want an abundant life. But, does that mean feeling the burden of busyness? Once I practiced a few techniques, I began to feel the fullness of life was always mine to choose. Here are 2 simple suggestions to consider for your full life.
Beware of the Time Warp
I recently watched a very interesting program called, “Brain Games”, where scientific discoveries of the brain are revealed in unique ways. The last episode was on the perception of time and how often we misjudge time based on visual objects or in the case of feeling busy, tasks and responsibilities we do not enjoy or want to do. We often impose longer periods of time on those unpleasant “to do” items, when in fact it takes shorter periods of time than we imagined. To test this theory, grab a timer and time yourself on how long it takes to do one particular task. You will be surprised by the result and perhaps it may not change your feeling on the task at hand but at least you know that it isn’t eating up your time. Getting perspective on time can foster a more positive outlook, having you feel less burdened.
Drop it Like it’s Hot
Kick the word, busy, from your vocabulary. When I actually refused to use the word ever again to describe my life or even let others tell me,” I must be busy” my attitude to how I was doing life changed. This was more effective than dropping all events, and previous obligations, and with full consciousness, I perhaps added more to the mix of my life. Because, I chose those activities with the idea of being satisfied, not hectic, it had a profound effect on my attitude.
I realize there are enormous details to life that just sometime weigh you down. The bottom line is we always have a choice on how we spend our time and how we view it. Next time you share your life with others perhaps you can let them know — life is full not busy.

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

Oklahoma Swept Away

OklahomaA class 5 tornado ripped through Oklahoma leaving behind hundreds dead and injured. Although, the area is known for twisters this time of year, the deadly force and size of yesterday’s storm has left communities in complete distress with neighborhoods leveled to piles of rubble.
Regular folks like you and me, going to work and school will not be returning to their families. It is yet another reminder of how precious life and loved ones are, and at any given moment it may be our last. May we be respectful of those who have lost family and friends, by treating ours with grace and appreciation. Today, choose to acknowledge the beauty of a fellow human being and engage with the intention to connect with one another. With respect, we extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/us/tornado-oklahoma.html?pagewanted=2

The Giving Tree – Suggested Reading & Review

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“Once there was a tree…” Simple prose, with an insightful indictment on the way society does life with such egocentric tendencies, and on the flip side, revealing the tenderness of altruistic giving. There are many reviews on this classic poem focusing on the incredible love of the tree, comparing the tree to a friend, or a parent. Others perceive the tree continues to give in order to relive the joy experienced with the boy when they simply spent time together. Of course, the tree gives sacrificially only to provide fleeting happiness to her boy. When will enough truly make the boy happy? He continues to take all she has to offer and on every returning visit her boy never reaches contentment, searching for happiness in money, a house, a boat, family. Where does real joy come from? Where does contentment and peace reside? Perhaps in the end the old boy and old stump will both decide.
Beautifully written and illustrated, convicting both adults and children to consider their roles in life. Are you a giver or taker? As always, the choice is yours! Enjoy, engage and contemplate, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

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

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Sibling Insult – In the Class and Home

Scan5_0005Admit it, parents and teachers. There are times your children/students get on your nerves. Typically, it’s not them as the wonderful unique individuals that they are. It’s the family dynamic, when they too, are getting on each other’s nerves. If you think for one moment a class isn’t filled with 15+ brothers and sisters then you are mistaken! Many teachers refer to their classrooms as, Mrs. Smith’s Family Class, or Room 2B Family, and they do so with the specific intent to create community. Yet, family dynamics can be a bit challenging. Think about your own lovely family.
My boys have been dishing out the insults and petty physical annoyances left and right, lately. It is driving me crazy! As a general rule, I like to maintain a level of kind words and civility in my home. I’ve been told; it’s not possible with three boys. It may be my ignorance to sibling-rivalry. I never grew up with siblings. But, I’m not comfortable with letting my children treat each other less than kind, because they share the same roof, that’s just not logical. Nor, does a teacher, let unkindness go unchecked, when attempting to keep respect and integrity in the family-classroom.
It can be exhausting policing this behavior and constant monitoring is not the goal. When everything is said and done, I don’t want to censor everything that is spoken. I want to build the skills that develop understanding in the power of choosing words thoughtfully, and that your brother at home or your brother in the classroom is more than someone you can insult and physically pester. Recently, I changed my approach, “Do not speak to my son that way.” I quickly informed my other son, Joseph* as he proceeded to call his younger brother,” stupid.” That word, being the one word, I can truly say makes me hot! The offender was speechless. He was just informed that his brother also belongs to someone else; sometimes we forget we are all connected. In that moment, I realized, I would not let a stranger or even a family friend speak unkindly to my boys, why should it be acceptable for them as family members?
Maybe this is a vain battle on my part and I know living with and going to school with the same people day in and day out will present its general irritations and conflicts, but, my hope is twenty years from now, my boys can share a holiday meal together and enjoy pleasant, ridiculously-funny, memories of how they lived with each other, not memories filled with residual pain from hurtful words that were allowed to freely roam the halls of their home or school.

*Alias

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

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Excellent Resource- Bystander Behavior

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Pete is the new kid learning, “The kids in his new school are way different than at his other school.” Everyone is talking about the “Promise” but will Pete join the group or continue to be odd man out. The Juice Box Bully is a realistic journey of a bully and the real power students have when standing up for each other. Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy present this book for primary grades, encouraging empowering choices under stressful interactions and giving children concepts related to bystander behavior.
Recent studies are confirming, students are the real solution to abusive and bullying behavior in schools. They have the power to set the tone of what is acceptable in their social settings. Yet, they often lack the skill set to make empowering choices. The Juice Box Bully is an excellent resource for students and teachers to discuss real life situations and how to make appropriate choices.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

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Hypnotic Screens – Alternative Choices for Children

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A typical work week had me digging through homework folders, reviewing random papers and discovering an article from Time Kids, detailing the average American child’s time usage of electronics, not including cell phones. I was blown away by the staggering hours, with the record high for 11-15 year olds clocking 10 hours a day. That is a full-time job, plus overtime! Intrigued over the possible implications for what can only be described as addictive behavior, I continued investigating. I found some even more startling facts. I like to think, I’m somewhat savvy when it comes to screen time in our home, but, I felt dumb as a brick when my general thought of – TV and video games are just bad for you– needed some major upgrading!
Excessive screen time, excessive being above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of 1-2 hours of daily screen time, places our children at risk for*
• Obesity – a 20% increase
• Cardiovascular Disease – a 20% increase
• Irregular Sleep Habits
• Behavior Problems – ADD
• Violence -A child will witness 200,000 violent acts on screens by age 18
• Impaired eyesight
• Impaired academic performance

To keep that list in perspective, a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded, for every hour of television watching we do, our life span is reduced by 22 minutes! Aside from curb-siding our televisions, smashing our computers and pitching our iphones out the window (not happening here!), how do we limit usage in this digital age to a healthy level, when screens are in the classroom, at home, at the grocery store and even on the side of a highway?

The heavy burden is primarily in the home where students are entertaining themselves to…death. Intentional choices must be made to limit usage and replace that full time job with a healthy lifestyle. Here are five alternative choices to screen time for our children.

Be bored – Out of boredom springs forth creative processes.
Go outside– Hunt for bugs or rocks, juggle a ball, walk to a friend’s house
Call a relative – Have an actual conversation, no FB, no Tweet, no Text
Help make a meal– Yum!
Read a book with paper pages…oooohhhh

I know the list can go on and on. Please share your alternative choices to screen time with our TSC family. Your expertise as an educator and parent can foster future, empowering choices for all of our children. Looking forward to your suggestions!

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

* Facts from kidshealth.org, Mayo clinic and National Institue of Health