Keep Your Head Up- Body Language Message

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“Don’t slouch. Sit up straight!” Mothers have chanted around the world to their children. I always thought it a nagging, ridiculous demand. I mean, why? Leave the poor kid alone. Yet, I have always been quick to encourage a child on the soccer field to keep their heads up after a demoralizing play or game. I actually get a physical pang in my stomach when I see the head drop and the shoulders fall forward for any kid. You can see their momentary pain without a single word or physical injury. I never bothered to correct my own children on the posture front because I felt I had bigger battles to fight, until I considered the bigger picture: the message of our body language to others and more importantly to ourselves. I am realizing the posture we keep on a regular basis can reveal personal details with the world. Is a student sitting so deeply in a chair as if any moment he or she will be one with the floor? Is a child constantly tapping on tables, chairs, books? With our bodies we say, I’m tired, frustrated, hurt, excited, doubtful, eager, anxious and so many other messages the world receives and we believe of ourselves. I guess in the long run, I do want my children to sit up straight because they have the confidence in and of themselves to believe they are worthy of being a part of this world because they are valuable. So instead of nagging with a “Sit-up”, I tap my chest, lift my chin and sit up straight myself. I know I have been probably slouching all day long myself. I need to “remove the tree from my eye before removing a splinter from theirs”, and set an example. I explain when we sit or stand like cavemen (insert laughter from the boys) we squish our organs (more laughter) and they need room to do their thing. Also, we let the world know we don’t think much of ourselves (insert immediate high lifted posture from all 3 boys). I wouldn’t let the boys engage in self-deprecating talk and fill their beings with negative verbal language. Why should I let the just as powerful body language fill them with the same kind of negativity?

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

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Book Review – The Skin I’m In

The Skin I'm In2
According to Maleeka’s peers, she is too poor, too skinny, too black and too smart. All of which seems to make her a moving target for abuse by Charlese, a frienemy who extorts homework from Maleeka in exchange for nice clothes and a deferral from a beat down. As if life was not cruel enough after the loss of her father, she endures relentless insults from John-John. Every turn in the hallway, in class, and on the bus, he hurls negative remarks about her dark complexion. “What is his problem anyway?” She wonders and questions her self-image. Although the reader can assume Maleeka struggles with loving and accepting the skin she is in, the writer, Sharon G. Flake clearly examines the turbulent life journey of a young person trying to understand the right choices to make under tough circumstances, which is the more significant issue for Maleeka.
The Skin I’m In is a quick pick for reluctant readers and a Coretta Scott King award winning book. Appreciated for exploring how a young person with incredible potential can feel so low, and how one teacher can make a difference in a student’s life, The Skin I’m In is highly recommended and perfectly relevant for middle school and high school students.

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

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Wake- Up Call!

Wake- Up Call!

A major obstacle children face with making positive choices is lack of exercise and nutrition. Our children are our future and we need to teach them the importance of healthy exercise and nutrition to help build positive choice making skills and an overall healthy lifestyle. The benefits to exercise and healthy nutrition outweigh the negatives. Their ability to overcome their obstacles to make healthier choices improves while building confidence and promoting self-esteem. Healthy eating provides more energy, better brain function and memory and allows children’s concentration to increase. By living a healthy lifestyle children can gain a positive feeling about them and decrease anxiety, reduce depression, and improve quality of sleep. Parents and educators your efforts to encourage our children to exercise regularly and instill the value of healthy nutrition is crucial. Let’s work together and give our children, of the future, this precious gift that will last a lifetime.

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Kindness is Intelligent

Kindness is Intelligent

Across the monkey bars to the twirling seat-cups, where I sat, spinning in an attempt to entertain my 6 year old son, Nicky*. I heard his voice call, “Who wants to play cops and robbers?” The alpha male command in the jungle beckoned and the natives came running. I was grateful to this little boy for gathering the troops on the play ground. I was getting dizzy. Also, 15 minutes prior, I was standing outside my car trying to convince my son to go, have some fun. Although grateful, I kept my eye on that alpha male, Calvin. I expected possible bossiness, intimidation, physical aggression and the like. Why? My ignorant, preconceived notions were running amuck. I watched that kid like a hawk, and not for any of the reasons above, but, because I was witnessing a natural born leader.
He began the play-process with such interpersonal discipline, I could not believe, I was watching an 8 year old boy conduct himself like a board member of a civil committee. He introduced himself, had everyone say their names, then he went around and repeated each person’s name, so everyone would know who was who. He divided the teams equally based on age, and off they went to have a great time. At no point did anyone challenge him or whine about their assigned roles.
When it was time for Nicky to leave the park, Calvin bid him a friendly good bye as if they had been friends for years. “Did you have a good time?” I asked, Nicky. “Yep! Calvin is so smart, mom.” Intrigued by his statement, “Why do you think he is smart?” I questioned. With a look that implied, I should already know this information, he countered, “Because, he was kind!”
*Alias
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Tips for maintaining your own levels of confidence:

shutterstock_15812086When was the last time you felt your beliefs in yourself were slipping away? How can you live with less fear while maintaining a level of self-esteem that no situation could rattle. Imagine the things you could accomplish if you had the belief that you could do anything while making self-empowering choices. Self-esteem comes from positive self-imaging and corresponds with making self-empowering choices. The following are tips to help build confidence.

1. Be true to yourself
2. Face your fears
3. Be grateful
4. Create an image of yourself
5. Realize that failure will not destroy you
6. Get to know who you are and what you want out of life

By trying to aspire to these tips you will be able to trust yourself and your choices. You will become stable and live a balanced life.

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Balancing Act – 3 Practical Tips that work

Balancing Act – 3 Practical Tips that work

Life is one crazy, unique, balancing act, leaving the average American: stressed, fatigued, sick, depressed, and overwhelmed. We often meet the criteria for a prescription drug advertisement, listing all the ailments above. The fact maybe; the scales of life are tilting a little too low for us to thrive. We can have a knowing-feeling something is wrong with the way we “do life”. Yet, we keep grinding through the same actions or inactions each and every day, hoping something will eventually change. We cannot wait for change to come our way. We must be the change we seek. Our choices in life can create the balance we so desperately need. The fine art of having balanced lives is such a popular topic, evident by the numerous self-help and “how to achieve balance” books lining the shelves of libraries and book stores. I admit to perusing those aisles, wanting to reduce the stressors of work and family, but the mere thought of reading a 500 page book on a balanced life made me nauseous, and meditating an hour, in a twisted position, with screaming children in the background seemed ridiculous. With some reflection, I realized, I do juggle several balls in the air at once, and, although, I am not perfect and drop balls left and right, I can honestly say, I am content with my current balancing act–challenged but not fried! Here are three, very practical tips, I use every single day to manage the madness:

1. EAT A GOOD BREAKFAST
If you refuse to eat breakfast, no matter the excuse, I guarantee you stress galore for the day. As a nation we sleep less, eat less of the good stuff and eat more junk, making us feel like slugs, all the while expecting our brains and bodies to engage at warp-speed. As a fitness trainer, I have heard of every excuse, using a few, myself. I always regret the donut, not out of guilt, but, because it always makes me feel like – a slug! Multiple studies reveal the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. According to a USDA study, adults will have better concentration, productivity throughout the morning, and suffer from less illness. For children, the impact of breakfast is enormous! The American Dietetic Association claims, children will have: better concentration, be more alert, more creative, better problem solvers and have better social interactions. More schools are practicing first period breakfast class, because, the end result is a student body ready and energized to learn. Taking 10-15 minutes to prepare and eat breakfast is an efficient and achievable way to start the day with some zing!

2. SAY NO!

This one is harder to implement if you are a people pleaser, but the freedom to say, “No”, creates confidence and gives wiggle room in life. My default answer to everyone at one point in my life was, “Yes”. I hated to say – “No”- to anyone; friends, family, co-workers. Flattery had me hooked and guilt kept me locked in. I did not want to disappoint others. In fact, I would end up crashing, and disappointing everyone, including myself. By accepting everyone’s request, I was setting myself up for failure. I love, Alicia Keys’ song, “I am Superwoman”, blasting and singing loudly like a personal anthem but at times, we need to accept our humanness. Perhaps, one can accomplish, A through Z, in a 24 hour period, but at what cost is it being done, and just because it can be accomplished, does it mean it should? Swirl that around in your head for a moment. If you have never said “No”, try this. Thank you, (person) for thinking of me for (XYZ). At this time I am concentrating on (pick a ball you are juggling). Do not make excuses for why you are saying no, because, bottom line, whoever is asking probably does not need a running list of all of your life responsibilities, they have their own too. Say no with graceful, confidence and don’t add, maybe I can… When I personally hear “Maybe”, I am hanging on to the hope of, “Yes”. Let your “No” be “No.” Friends and family will respect the boundaries you are setting for yourself.

3. TALK OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF

Don’t judge! We are already rambling to ourselves, constantly, about what needs to be done or said. For example, you might be, mentally rehearsing an excuse why the extra project you volunteered for is late (Should have said, “No”-go back to tip #2). Giving an audible voice to our thoughts can clear the clutter, and even focus us on what is truly important. Focus brings about a calm, constructive feeling. Obviously, you need to use good judgment, as to where and when to try this exercise. I do not recommend doing so in front of your classroom while students are taking a test, could prove to be a bit distracting, among other things. A perfect time to try this little exercise is in the car. Now days, if you are driving legally and talking on a cell phone, it looks like you are carrying on a complete, engaging, conversation with yourself, anyway.

I know life is challenging and circumstance can demand every ounce of energy you have in your body. I can’t promise the cure to the unbalanced life styles we live. What works for one person might not work for another. The good news, there are choices available and the opportunities to make positive ones are plentiful. Good Luck or good-balance!
Please visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com for more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process.
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

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“IS YOU UGLY?”

“IS YOU UGLY?”

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 http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
*SOURCE: Dove Research: The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited