All Hands In – Cooperation

All Hands In
We aren’t seeing stellar examples of cooperation these days. Think government shut down and reality TV dramas. In a society that exalts the best of the best and drools over dog- eat- dog scenarios, cooperative behavior is hardly ever acknowledged or seldom encouraged. It is quite easy to get caught up in a spirit of competition and righteousness. There is nothing like the feeling of being right. It can give us a sense of pride yet open the ugly door to boast, “I told you so, and in your face!” Sometimes, being right is a matter of life and death, like getting the right diagnosis for serious disease like breast cancer. Other times, being right isn’t about anything but our stubborn nature and feeling justified. While stuck in our righteousness, oversights to solutions keep us from moving forward. We should consider if our position is helping to solve the conflict or causing more damage and whether or not the issue at hand is important enough for us to dig our feet into the ground over it. Sometimes, we get so bogged down by the right answers on tests, the right questions to ask, and the right choices to make in life that we ignore relationships with others in the name of being correct or justified. We stomp all over cooperative efforts because, “I’m right, and you are wrong,” is prevailing. Getting all tied up in a competitive moment, we miss the interdependent dynamic that serves everyone. Life is not always right and wrong, win or lose. Most situations in life require cooperation to get the job done. Can you imagine the disaster if all of the individuals working to fight breast cancer held to their own beliefs that they were right and everyone else who put forth a differing position was wrong? I’m sure it took multiple people with a variety of skills, knowledge, and scientific opinions to bring about the strides in research and treatment available today. We all possess something unique to offer, but can we forgo the temporary pleasure of being bona fide and consider the amazing outcome when all hands are in?

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

Positive Thoughts Control Destiny

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In an effort to organize and prepare for the new school year, I shuffled through last year’s school notebooks, and came across a poem taped to the inside cover of a black and white composition book. Perhaps, you use this poem in your classrooms or in your homes to stay positive. Perhaps, you realize the power of a simple thought can determine a destiny. Enjoy and share with others.

Things to Remember By: Pete Johnson

Always Remember
To keep your thoughts positive,
because your thoughts become your words.
To keep your words positive,
because your words become your actions.
To keep your actions positive,
because your actions become your habits.
And to keep your habits positive,
because your habits become your destiny.

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

Your Independence Day

American Flag
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

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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

Math Blame – Taking responsibility for learning

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won’t succeed in changing whatever it is about you that, is making you unhappy.” – Wayne Dyer

I should have been required to recite and analyze Mr. Dyer’s quote many years ago in high school and college. I was a model student, involved in: student counsel, extra-curricular activates, and excelled academically. I even worked diligently to the point of attending two schools my Junior and Senior years. I would wake early, be at school by 7:30, take classes through lunch so I could finish up my academics, and then catch a bus to Arts High, finishing around 5:00 in the evening. I loved it, and I worked hard, but, in one area–Math.

I blamed my lackadaisical math skills on my teacher, Mr. Y. He was an older teacher without personality, and we immediately clashed upon meeting. There were days he would meet me in the hallway before class would start and say, “Not today”. Fine with me, I would casually make my way to the principal’s office, where I would get some work done and no one challenged me or called me on it. Like I said, I was a model student, continued to receive A’s and B’s in all my classes in both schools, but fail math. I knew this particular teacher had a reputation for “giving” bad grades to students. So, I felt completely entitled to my blame. It was his fault I was so frustrated and flailing.

I believe the blame game is a way of life for many students and people in general, pointing their fingers at others for their personal flaws, inadequacies, and circumstances. Why bother accepting responsibility for what effects you directly; hmmm—because– it effects you directly, and typically no one else. Other times, like in my case, we can be oblivious to our blaming behavior because we feel overwhelmingly, justified in our judgment. If blame is not acknowledged and dealt with quickly, then a hard to break habit can spread across every aspect of one’s life, avoiding responsibility altogether. We can become stunted and have a horrible feeling that others control our life. This of course is an illusion. We, and only ourselves, have the ability to make choices that control the outcome of our lives.

The truth was, I didn’t like math, and it didn’t come easy to me, so, I dismissed it completely. I was doing fine in everything else. If I was slacking in math, and had a perfect scapegoat to take the fall for my arithmetic agitations, so be it.

Even in later years, I would tell people of the horrible math teacher I had, and that was the reason I didn’t understand logic problems. Ironically, I struggled years before and years after Mr. Y’s classes. Were all those teachers to blame also for my frustration and poor grades? I just refused to accept any responsibility for my learning, and in hind-sight, I know I could have put forth some effort. I never went for extra help, even though teachers were always available. Other things, places and people were more important. And, I would at times blame myself – “I just can’t get it” or better said, quit on myself.

My high school was really small, and Mr. Y knew what I was capable of. I think he was in the right for kicking me out, because I had no intention of even trying to learn Algebra II, which I had to take twice. If I was wise, I should have put forth the effort the first year, so I would not have to endure the second year too. But, I was too busying quitting and blaming to understand simple algebraic concepts.

These days, I am inspired by the children running through my house asking their father for math problems. I married a man who majored in chemistry and, yes- math. The boys are excited to get “hard” problems, and work through those challenges. Knowing my personal struggle in this area, daddy makes sure I am in the game too.

Mr. Y, I owe you a huge apology for carrying the burden of my responsibility all these years. I’m not sure if you were a good teacher or not, but it was my responsibility to at least try and learn.

Is it time for you to apologize to someone for carrying your burdens? Be accountable to yourself and for yourself.

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