Maya Angelou – “That’s Me”

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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

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Selfie – An Empowering Choice

photo 1I confess to taking my first selfie this past week. Yep! That girl is me. I had mixed feelings about the process, since, to be honest, I was a total hater of the selfie. There seemed to be a tone of self-absorbed behavior that rubbed me the wrong way, when it came to selfies. I mean, consider the word, itself, which, by the way, is the word of the year 2013 for Oxford Dictionary.

Most of the selfies that I have seen, unfortunately, have been produced by teens making poor choices, searching for something beyond that which their audiences can give–perhaps a bit too much showing of self or a controversial setting that requires some adult intervention.

The primary reason I decided to click my pic was because I really didn’t want to! Looking at pictures of myself makes me want to sneeze. Even though I consider myself to be confident and comfortable with my physical image, I’m just like the millions of women around the world who can be self-conscious of the way I look, at times, wanting to measure up to the airbrushed faces that are stalking me everywhere I go. I thought, well my hair is a mess, I’m wearing no makeup, the lighting is horrible, and . . . girl, push through that fear , be brave and just take the picture.

My first attempt was comical. I giggled at myself, trying to figure out if I should stare at the little hole or the crazy twin looking back at me. I laughed hard and thought of the artistic details someone like Vincent Van Gough considered when he painted his own selfie. Trying to capture myself was equivalent to a dog trying to catch its tail. Sometimes you get a piece, but never the whole thing.

Yet, there is something empowering about being the artist and the subject matter, all in one. There is something of self to share that isn’t preoccupied with vanity; a self-acceptance in sharing the message, “I’m here, and I’m cool with who I am.” I came across a Dove You Tube that embraces the empowering component a selfie can have on mothers and daughters in regard to seeing oneself as beautiful. The video encouraged me with my newfound appreciation for the nuances of this art form.

I sent a trail of selfies to my husband, who replied, “Looks like you are having fun.” I was. Then, I realized, this was not my first selfie. A lost memory appeared, a time with a girlfriend, making silly faces at a Polaroid camera that spat out pictures of two girls enjoying their friendship.

Sometimes, we forget the innocence of a good time and over-analyze all the negative aspects and pitfalls of a new technology. I know it is our responsibility to be on guard as parents and teachers, but we should consider being less critical, remember the joy of our own youth and lead the way in initiating fun with empowering choices.

Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

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

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

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

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

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