I’m told directly or indirectly, in some way, there is something unbeautiful about me every single day, and you are told the same. A screaming voice on the radio asks, “Do you have dark unattractive spots on your face? Is your tone uneven? Suffer no more!” I never realized I was suffering. I just wanted to listen to some music. I have become acutely aware of the insistent messages I am filtering, directly related to how I look: my hair is too curly, my skin too blotchy, my nails too dull, and, for added measure, I stink and need a stick of this and a bottle of that. So, when I came across a newspaper clipping dated a year ago, highlighting You Tube videos by preteen and teen girls asking, “Am I Pretty.” I wanted to do some more investigating. After one year, would the video pleas continue, and how did our young women really feel about their self-images?
Without empirical data, intuitively, I knew women, young and old, struggled with positive self-images (and esteem). Out of an unconscious place, we often practice self-deprecating talk, shaping our self-portraits. You and I know and love women who insult themselves, and it makes my heart cringe when I hear the loathing. The statistics are much greater and harsher than I had imagined. Dove® Research key findings from their latest research include:
• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
• Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves
• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful but do not see their own beauty
• More than half (54%) of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
The numbers are high on how lowly we see ourselves. The impact for women is huge, because, 60% of girls cease doing what they love because they feel bad about their looks and 75% of girls with low self-esteem (poor self-image) report negative activities, such as eating disorders when feeling bad about themselves. Our society’s obsession with “pretty” quells the spirit and defiles the wonders of the human anatomy. Just consider the life and death risk factors when having plastic surgery. Yet, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons report 14.6 million cosmetic plastic procedures performed in 2012, a 5% increase from 2011. Out of those millions, thousands of women are being wheeled into the morgue in search of beauty.
Curiosity must have killed the cat- or it’s nerves- because, I subjected myself to watching and listening to naive and innocent girls beg in question, “Am I Pretty” but really stating, “Please, say I am worth something.” The same videos from a year ago were still posted, with possibly censorable parameters, considering the extreme foulness of comments. But, from what I could gather, there was no uptick in similar postings. Perhaps, girls were learning lessons from those who exposed themselves to the ugly elements of the world. Last year, one girl had a whooping 4 million hits, and, this year, to date, has 7 million, with a slew of emotional beat downs in the “comment below” box. I wonder if she thinks, she is pretty.
With such an overwhelming emphasis on what we look like bombarding us each and every day, I have to admit it’s a question young and old ask themselves, usually privately. Now, the polar-opposite question is being streamlined on video, “Do you think I am ugly?” Talk about opening yourself up to emotional Russian- Roulette! The cries for attention and the truth displayed by their question reveal an obvious diagnosis of low self-esteem and poor self-image. But how do we encourage and build positive images of beauty? In an excerpt from Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, the author brings forth a truthful and powerful answer to the question on beauty our young girls are asking via live from YouTube:
“The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s over to shoot guns in the field. ‘Why you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face. ‘Well? Is you?’
I blinked, paused my crying. ‘Is I what?’ ‘Now you look a here, Egenia’-because Constantine was the only one who’d occasionally follow Mama’s rule. ‘Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?’ ‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed. Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand; something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me. ‘Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.’ Constantine was so close; I could see the blackness of her gums. ‘You gone have to ask yourself, am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’ She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.”
There needs to be some virtual and personal thumb-pressing going on for our young ladies, conveying the message of personal choice, not, “Yes, you are pretty”. Constantine did not soften this girl’s state of mind by telling her, “No, you aren’t ugly. You are the prettiest girl in the whole wide world.” Wisdom knew better– her opinion would be irrelevant. If this little girl believed she was ugly, then no words would convince her to believe otherwise. According to Constantine’s definition on ugly, there are some seriously-hideous folks out in this world, and they need to be called out on their ugliness.
7 million people could have told our YouTube girls they were gorgeous but would they believe it? The choice is always yours to make when it comes to being pretty or ugly, it is not in the eye of the beholder- it is in your own eye.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
*SOURCE: Dove Research: The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited


60 Bystanders

The realities of the case in Steubenville, Ohio, where two football players allegedly raped a 16 year old girl are unfolding, in the second day of testimony being heard today. Reviewing the articles, pictures, posts and video surrounding this horrifying event has brought me to a perplexing place. According to a news story released early this morning (see link below) there are 60 possible witnesses between the defense and prosecution. 60 potential individuals who could have attempted to intervene on behalf of the girl and even the boys. Instead, there was a flurry of pictures taken (conveniently deleted) and voyeurs, to what is now a cataclysm. No one was courageous enough to intervene? Really – 60 people?!! Instead, we watch young men repulsively comment on video to what he feels is hysterical – rape. The details coming out of this tragic situation flow like a Lifetime movie, except, this is a real life nightmare for three young people. Self-destructing choices continued to fall like beastly dominos and yet bystanders continued to watch, and click, and post for their amusement. We must encourage, and educate our young people to make self-respecting choices that are carried out under any situation, and to move to action because; it is the right thing to do.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Student Stress and One Whacked-Out Dream

Vibrant, multi-colored baby sheep rose up from the ground and surrounded me. They were perfect, adorable, little puff balls, leaping off a cliff. I was trying to stop them, but there were too many. One, slightly bigger, baby sheep approached me. He was a delicious, milk chocolate hue and his eyes were huge. He proceeded to talk fluent “Baa” to me, but I did not understand, then he smiled sweetly, and jumped off the cliff. That was my whacked out dream last night. I really didn’t need an interpreter to tell me, this was my subconscious dealing with today’s event. My oldest son is on his way to an amazing environmental science field trip that will be four days long. This would be his first time truly away from home. My anxiety decided to manifest in an unusual dreamscape, resembling a video game. I am a bit stressed, but I am not alone.
Stress is a way of life these days and According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA),” Many Americans — both adults and youth — experience high levels of stress.” As an adult, I am able to recognize my anxiety, give the proper attention and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, young individuals typically do not recognize stress and do not have the skill set to cope appropriately.
It is estimated that 10% of our teen population suffer from anxiety disorders due to stress. Guidance counselors and social workers are giving more health referrals for students who are dealing with stress and witnessing more hospitalization with anxiety and panic attacks. Stress is on the rise and crippling our children.
The causes of stress for children are extremely broad but one study in Baltimore identified the five top most experienced stressors for students: 1) school work, 2) parents, 3) romantic relationships, 4) friends, and 5) younger siblings. The same study found that boys and girls dealt with these stressors in significantly different ways and recommended separating the sexes for some stress management activities. The study also recommended that programs should teach students how to react in a healthy manner towards stress. The TURNING STONEchoice program implements techniques that will equip students with knowledge, allowing them to identify stress, or other obstacles in their lives, and how to work through these challenges in a positive way.
Schools across the country are taking action to de-stress the student body. Some schools are using service dogs to roam the halls in between classes; other schools are replacing traditional chairs with large exercise balls. Extended homeroom times are the norm in many school districts, allowing students to catch up on their work or meet with a teacher for extra help.
These ideas are needed and refreshing but one dimensional. Most of the programs being implemented are focused with relieving the symptoms of stress, not promoting students’ skills to recognize what stress is, or make self-empowering choices that reduce or eliminate stress to begin with. Relievers are necessary since we can never escape the realities of stress. Equally important, is a student’s understanding of his/her unique stress tolerance and their ability to make positive decisions that bolster their confidence, keeping stress in their dreams.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Obstacle Highlight : Fear of Failure- Make a Mistake

Did you know the chocolate chip cookie was a kitchen fiasco? How can something so amazingly delicious be a mistake? Inventor and owner of Toll House Inn, Ruth Wakefield wanted to make chocolate cookies but ran out of the key ingredient. Substituting chipped sweetened chocolate into the batter, she expected the chocolate to melt. To her surprise and the world’s pleasure, she birthed a whole new food group, the chocolate chip cookie. Did you also know cornflakes, the pacemaker, and post-it notes are among the mistaken inventions we enjoy and rely on daily? Obviously, wonderful things can derive from mistakes, including a lesson learned. Yet, many struggle with a fear of failing or making simple mistakes.
No one likes to fail but, “To err is human”. Our pride, low self-esteem, external and internal messages of perfection keep us paralyzed or have us chanting mantras of, “I can’t”, before we even try. Humans are flawed, imperfect and need to embrace this fact, because if we accept this knowledge we can be set free from the bondage of fear. Elbert Hubbard penned eloquently, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one”.
How different would we live our lives if we kicked the fear of failure to the curb. What if we removed the fear, and accepted possible success. What if we said to ourselves, “I will not fail”? I have often heard, we only fail when we fail to try. What if we gained confidence making mistakes, admitted failure and moved on because it was nothing new. These are all self-empowering choices we can explore each day that we breathe. Imagine the wonderful blessings in our homes, work places and classrooms. What mistakes are you willing to make today?

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

The Truth Behind Bullying

Currently, there is an epidemic of hostile, violent, out of control behavior plaguing our schools, requiring our immediate action. Although attention and assistance must surely be given to victims, it is equally crucial to focus on the offenders, themselves. Simply put, no bully behavior, no victims.
Complicated and individualized histories exist behind bullies and the gamut of reasons for their behavior even more tumultuous. Long gone are stereotypical theories that promote a one-stop-bullying identification process. For instance, not all bullies were bullied by their parents.
There are some children who are more likely to bully others. According to a government study, “Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others. Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.”1 With an identification that includes almost anyone and everyone at some point in time, a program that reaches students where they are emotionally at any given moment is essential.
Some school programs emphasis the typical rundown of what bullying is or is not, which on a surface level is important considering a few offending students might not otherwise become aware that their behavior actually falls within the realm of bullying. Yet, we need a solution holistic in its approach that includes an examination of interpersonal relationships and tackles the core issue- cognitive choice making. The truth is bullying is just a by- product of an immature and limited choice model; as are blame, self-pity, anger and other multiple obstacles that interfere with an individual’s effective self-empowering choices.
Turning Stonechoice is that holistic approach, a flexible program for developing students’ choice-making and critical-thinking skill sets. The program targets K-12 students and can be used as a stand-alone unit, a character-development lesson, or as enrichment material in content areas like reading, social studies or writing.
The program is comprised of four fundamental components: training, parent involvement, materials, and support. The combination of these components supports the TSC Process, which is core of our program, providing a vehicle for positive choice making in a non-competitive manner.

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

The Land of Indiana: A true story of Bullying from the Past

Once upon a time, I lived in the land of Indiana during a time when you were bullied or harassed, you did one of two things: 1) fight or 2) run. I vividly remember the torment of elementary school, tortured solely based on my race, which seemed to bewilder and anger white and black alike. I made people feel uncomfortable being both and I never really fit into a perfect box for my peers to accept. Of course, there were exceptions and friends. However, for years people would ask me crazy questions like, “What are you?”, as if I were some alien visitor from another planet. I got use to it and sometimes would head people off from the inquiry because I could see the question scrolling across their eyes.
I believe my father was fully aware of what was coming my way when I started school. He told me with seriousness, “The moment someone screws with you, pick up a chair and hit them in the head with it.” My mother, the non-violent and non-confrontational one, horrified with my father’s stern advice, told me, “No fighting in school, just walk away.” Dad gave me the look. The look as if to say: “You better listen up, girl.” I journeyed off to school with a backpack of anxiety because I kept hearing my father’s voice in one ear and my mother’s non-violent message in the other. Their opposing points of view created a deep inner conflict as to which parent to actually obey. My young mind considered only the choices my parents presented for me and limited my choice-making selections to fight or run.
As my father predicted, the first day of school was filled with rudeness, insults and isolation. I stewed in anxiety and anger for the entire day, staring at chairs. At no point did any instruction or education pass through my ears or make it to my brain. Why was this happening to me? Was it because I was the new girl? Was it because of my race? For me, it made no sense.
At the end of the day I had picked my target, a girl who had been the most vocal with her disgust for me. I was sitting on my weapon, but I did not want to disobey my mother. I decided last minute to just run home once school ended and escape the nightmare but as I stood to leave the classroom, my original target spat on me on her way out.
In a blink of an eye, I dragged my chair into the hallway, out the nearest exit. There she was with a group of friends, staring at me as if she was ready for a fight, but she quickly changed her mind when my chair hurdled into the air and smacked her across the forehead. Super-shocked, she and her friends ran from the scene as I stood there, hyperventilating and having an out-of-body experience.
There was never any adult intervention from the beginning of the day to the end. I believe the chair was still on the side of the building the very next day. While some may feel my actions were justified, I believe there were other options for me to consider, like, informing a teacher as soon as I was insulted or clearly and firmly address my tormentor instead of silently seethe. Invoking scenes from a movie, I wish I could say my retaliation prevented further bullying, but it did not. For several years, by different students and different reasons, I was tortured daily in the Indiana school system.
Today there are so many other options for students and parents to consider instead of fighting or running. Violence begets violence and running from our problems never resolves our issues and challenges in life. Although great strides have been made to bring bullying issues to the forefront of discussions much still needs to be done to end this social ill.
There is encouraging news from the land of Indiana. On Monday, February 25, 2013, Indiana’s House of Representatives passed legislation that bolstered the current anti-bullying law to include training for teachers, cyber bullying and harsher punishments for offenders of the law. It awaits Senate approval and is expected to pass into law.
Although, I will never be a benefactor of the new law that passes, I am filled with hope for those children filling the halls in Indiana schools. Hope because many students, teachers and parents now have access to wonderful services that are available to them, like the TURNING STONEchoice program, which equips adults and students with the tools to empower themselves to make positive choices.
Please visit for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

More than Cruel – Change for the Bully

Often we hear about and can identify with the victims of bullying, but we have little or no understanding of or compassion for the bullies, themselves. As a society, we have wagged our fingers and submitted judgment, with superficial consequences, but we hardly dig deeply enough to root out the reasons and causes; and if those causes seem wildly insurmountable, we shrug our shoulders and give trite excuses: “Kids will be kids,” or “Kids can be cruel.” We do an incredible disservice in limiting our children’s behavioral choices. The Turning Stone Process believes in the ability of children to make choices that require critical thinking, creating a generation of children attaining inner fulfillment through their positive choices.
If we limit our children’s choices, saying, “Kids can be cruel” and the like, they will neither seek nor accrue knowledge of the multiple choices that do exist. This mentality merely perpetuates the problem and squelches positive change. Everyone has the power to transform–especially children. Scott Callahan, a high school senior and former self-proclaimed bully, is making such a change. When he became conscious of the damaging effects of his actions, he stopped his abusive behavior and wanted to influence others in a positive direction. Take a look at his inspiring story.
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice