Interview with Author Traci Dunham – The Oyster’s Secret

photo (103)

Below the waves and into the deep sea, Mr. Oyster is quietly, but confidently being himself.  Author, Traci Dunham debuts her first children’s book, The Oyster’s Secret with vibrant and engaging illustrations and a clever stroke of curiosity.  TURNING STONEchoice had an opportunity to talk with the author and listen to her insights on this soon to be children’s classic.

What inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration hit me last summer while sitting down by the water in my hometown of Wildwood Crest. I  wrote the book on the beach that day on the back of a crossword puzzle.

What was your goal in writing The Oyster’s Secret?

I wanted to let children know that their self-worth comes from what is on the inside.  It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you do.  Beauty comes from the inside out.  Raising a daughter that is handicapped has shown me that every person has value and a purpose. I love books that have a message and too many children’s books today do not.  With so many children being bullied, I want every child to know that even though they are different it is ok.  I am hoping this book teaches children at a young age to accept those with special needs.  I don’t think that there are many books out there that reach the younger age groups about children with special needs and I wanted to do that.  I’ve experienced firsthand the lack of education young children receive in regards to this topic.

Do you have any other works in progress?

Yes – My Sister Lu Lu and Me, a story of two sisters, one who is handicapped.  It is written from the point of view of the sister who is not handicapped. She talks about their differences and let’s everyone know that even though her sister is different it is ok.

The Oyster’s Secret is a delightful story, geared toward the juvenile reader with an incredible message of acceptance, self-confidence, and inner beauty. To enjoy your own copy please visit The Oyster’s Secret.

For more information about TURNING STONEchoice and our process please visit www.turningstonechoice.com.

Sammy@TSC

 

 

Advertisements

Maya Angelou – “That’s Me”

Maya

I got the call late in the afternoon.  My literary role model had moved on from this earth.  I blinked hard, and my throat was sand dry, for Maya Angelou had shaped not only how I thought about the written word but how I perceived struggle and being a woman of color–phenomenally of course!

She was a brilliant word ninja, transparent in thought and feeling, and bold to tell the world her life stories.  And it was with comfort and in lore that I felt connected to her experiences and reflected on her example.

There are people in this world who lovingly shape and encourage wholeness and empowerment in others, as did Maya Angelou.  Her confidence and strength was dignified and appealing, and I had the feeling she wanted the same for every person who read her works.

Her “Phenomenal Woman” is, perhaps, the most solidly written anthem for a woman’s self-image.  Every girl should read and believe.

Personally, I lapped up every single phrase of “Phenomenal Woman,” reading it like a mantra, wanting to believe I was, and could proudly say, “That’s me!”

In honor of Maya Angelou, enjoy the following excerpt from “Phenomenal Woman,” and please share and pass it on to all of the women in your life:

“Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

The palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

‘Cause I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.” – Maya Angelou

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

Sammy@TSC

Grit

Fall and get up

With over ten years of back-yard observation, I have witnessed scores of children “wipe out” a gazillion times. There is the simple trip-and-fall, the oh-that’s-gotta-hurt, and the paranormal tumble, with its subsequent ride to the ER. What has impressed me most throughout my years of observation is the one kid–no matter the classification of wipeout or injury—who stands up, brushes himself or herself off, and keeps on going. That is the kid who has “grit.”

Parents and teachers easily spot grit in a child. It’s the “thing” that gives you some assurance that this kid will be all right in life, because he or she can take the hard knocks and persevere.

How important is grit? Some researchers claim grit is a better predictor of success than I.Q. A 2013 report from the Department of Education claims that kids are learning to “do school,” but aren’t learning the skills they need in life– skills like critical thinking and positive-choice making, which are crucial to every area of life.

However, schools across the nation are becoming more proactive in recognizing the value of determination, effort, and hard work and are providing additional resources for the development of critical thinking skills, which improve self-confidence. One can argue that grit is just a byproduct of confidence, but, although we may see grit as a natural way for some, and not for others, researchers are hopeful that the qualities that define grit, like persistence, tenacity, and resilience, are teachable. The difficulty is trying to quantify the unquantifiable.

How can we develop grit? As parents and teachers, we can simply back off and let the struggles and natural consequences of life occur. Think of a butterfly working its way out of the cocoon. Without the struggle to free itself from the cocoon, the butterfly cannot develop the wing strength to fly, and it will die. It is a test of personal restraint, not to rescue students by giving hints to questions that may prove to be challenging or to take over tasks at home with which kids may struggle. Through every struggle, our children will develop persistence, resilience, and, finally, grit.

What are your “gritty” experiences as parents and teachers? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

For more information about our programs for parents and educators please follow http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Sammy@TURNING STONEchoice

Love Thy Self – Confronting Perfection

heart

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/

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/

Take off the Costume

Wonder Woman

Costumes and candy are bulking up the store aisles. It’s Halloween – when we embrace the fantasy of being a super hero, a princess or some gruesome extraterrestrial from Mars. It’s a blast to pretend for a moment that we can be something different or something more than we are. What teacher or parent wouldn’t want to acquire a few extra powers? (I hear the yeah! Girl!) Halloween is also a time when you can peek into a person’s personality. Dressing up in costumes can be simple fun. On the other hand, I believe the costume or mask someone chooses to wear reveals something unique about that person. There is a story to be told, if we are willing to listen with our eyes and then our ears. I know one kid in the neighborhood who has sported a policeman uniform for the past 8 years. His father happens to be a policeman, and, although, his parents have given him every opportunity to pick a different costume, this young man is sticking with the police department. I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume, he looks up to his father, and wants to be a policeman someday. The number 1 costume choice for 2012 was a witch. What that might reveal could be interesting. I remember wanting to be Wonder Woman back in the day. She was the trifecta, pretty, smart and strong. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever outgrown my Wonder Woman complex. I have tweaked it over the years, embracing my unique version of a wonder woman. Sorry, but I’m not feeling that costume. That could in no way be comfortable! I am curious about the costumes and masks we continue to hold onto over the course of time. What costumes are we wearing year long? How about the children we teach and the ones under our roof? Do they slip on a mask to cover up their feelings and thoughts to blend in with the crowd? How many of us continue to keep the mask on to keep others from knowing the real us? There is this pervasive feeling among so many, adults, teens and children, that if we were to be ourselves, then others would not like us. Fear of being disliked, shunned or rejected keeps the wonder woman costume glued to our bodies. What is the worst thing that would happen if the costume were to come off? Would some people dislike you? – Yep, people dislike you already. People dislike me. That is a hard, jagged pill to swallow. But, what matters most is accepting and liking yourself and that cannot be accomplished in fantasy land or year round Halloween. Enjoy an entertaining and fun time with family, friends and neighbors. Just be sure to remove the costume, pack it away till next year, and love on the real you.

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

Dear Senia – A Note to a Brave Girl

self-esteem

Schools and communities across the nation are participating in Anti-Bullying programs this month providing a plethora of tips and techniques on how to handle situations. With respect to all those efforts, I wanted to move beyond providing information and take action. I want to share Senia’s story and reach out to her because she and kids just like her are worth it. Her story will never be on 20/20 or headlined in today or tomorrow’s paper. We are usually hand fed only the worst cases, like the recent and tragic suicide of a 12 year old girl. But, Senia’s story is extremely relevant.  Her story represents the millions of children who listen to daily cruel comments chipping away at their precious beings, and struggle to be comfortable and confident in their own skin. This month consider one child you know who could use an encouraging word to be brave, bold and already beautiful.  You can follow the link below to Senia’s post.

 

Dear Senia,

We do not know each other, but I just wanted to let you know how brave I believe you are to share your bullying and peer pressure story. It takes courage to let people know how you feel and what you believe.  You never know how your story may impact someone else who thinks they are going through the same thing, but alone. It takes self-respect to make the empowering decision to be who you are and move through the pressure to act a certain way.  I hope you continue to think of ways to help others work through peer pressure and prevent bullying. Your ideas were very solid and perhaps you may even want to pursue those ideas for your school or community.  Continue to embrace the unique and fabulous person that you are!
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

http://simplysenia.com/2013/10/15/senias-school-paper-on-bullying/
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com