Guest Post from Catherine

In talking about Restorative Justice, I share the point of getting to know each other.  The more you know about someone the less likely you are to harm them.  This is also a basic premise of Restorative Justice.  Recently my coworker Catherine, shared the following story with me, I asked her to blog on it for me.  It shows a great example.  — Kris

I have a story that I think is a good example of why connecting to our communities is important. And proves the point….we don’t harm those we know.

I live in a small town 30 miles east of St. Paul in Western WI. There are several rent controlled apartment buildings in my neighborhood. When I first moved into the neighborhood (over 10 year ago), I noticed many of the children from the apartment buildings wandered around the neighborhood unsupervised in the summer time. Since I have an in ground heated pool in my back yard, and am a former life guard, I decided to open my pool to the neighborhood children one day per week during summer vacation. The response has been overwhelming. I have children of all ages show up on “open swimming” days. Many have no towels or swim suits and just jump into the warm water…clothes and all! They are so excited to swim in the pool. Two little elementary school aged girls were regulars this past summer and I was able to spend time getting to know them.

September came around and I closed the pool down. I decorated my house with scarecrows, corn, and pumpkins. One Saturday morning in early Sept my door bell rang. I opened the door to find my two little summer swimming friends. They were standing on my front porch with two new girls. The two new girls were unfamiliar to me. One of my little swimming friends said, “Mrs. Cranston these two girls stole your pumpkins. We made them come back and return the pumpkins and tell you they are sorry.”

Upon inquiry I found out the two new girls had just moved into the apartment building. The saw my pumpkins from across the street. The new girls came across the street stole my pumpkins and brought them back to the apartment building. My two little swimming friends found out the pumpkins were from my house and were appalled that their new friends would steal from me…their friend.

I know in my heart that my pumpkins would never have been returned if my two little swimming friends hadn’t stepped forward to make things right. They told their new friends, “Those are Mrs. Cranston’s pumpkins, you can’t steal from her.” I am convinced these little girls and other children who live in the apartment building are looking out for me…because we have a connection now.

A few new categories!

Catherine left a comment, and I like the idea, you can leave a post with your favorite quote.  You can click on the category “Our Favorite Quotes” and leave a comment or email me and I’ll add them in as a post.  You can email me at

I am also going to add a category about non-profit management, I have things I’d like to write about or offer readers.  You develop some great skills managing a non-profit, and networking in a community.  I would have liked to read about someone elses experiences and tips.  If you know any great links for me, or a place to learn let me know.  I have my favorites.  That category – Non-profit Management.

The final category I am going to add in is about the book writing.  SCVRJP was SO fortunate to get funding for a publication.  It’s been a journey to even get started on this book.  Thankfully my mentor Jermaine, suggested I don’t stifle my blessing.  With the help of a writing coach, I got started.  It’s already been a life changing and growing experience.  Blogging has really helped me with it, so I wanted to do a few blogs and keep you posted on the progress of the book.

HAPPY HOLIDAY!!!!  I need to go find my recipes!


Quote I appreciate

This is from the book Love Against Hate by Karl Menninger.  He’s talking about a cure for depression!

Lock up  your house, go across the rail road tracks and find someone in need and do something for them.

Working with local schools

I was visiting our local high school today, and doing a Safe Teen Driving Circle.  There is a life skills class teacher that has us back each semester.  I bring a speaker and facilitate a Circle, introducing students to Restorative Justice.  Today’s Circle was as good as any I’ve ever done.

I asked kind of a silly question for us to get acquainted, “if you were any food on the Thanksgiving table, what one would you be”  A few laughs and giggles when someone said they’d be the “buns”.  The ‘building relationship’ question was “who really listens to you”.  Then Jessica told her story.  Even after hearing this story for almost a year, and helping her work on, I teared up today.  It’s hard not to when she shares such details and gets emotional herself.

The students had some strong reflections about hearing the story.  A few had similiar expereinces they could really relate to.  As the last round round in the Circle was about what you thought of the Circle and anythign you needed to say to leave in Peace, I jotted down the following comments:

It was easy to open up.  It was a good experience, bringing everyone closer.  A real wake up call.  Very powerful, I like we had a choice of how to interpret things for ourselves.  It really opened my eyes and was reminder of what we have. 

  I really liked one student, reflecting on the Talking Piece, he called them “these little things” but was gesturing with it.  He shared how talking to these “little things”, made it easier to open up.  We were using a metal sand dollar today.

After the Circle in the Classroom, I had an appointment with the school principal to gather information on a new referral.  It seems harrassment and threatening behavior between 2 girls, one the old girlfriend and one the new.  It turns out one of the students agreed to participate in Restorative Justice, because she was aware of what it was from an earlier Safe Teen Driving Circle.

That really shows it helps to get involved proactively, so you’ve got a connection for when reactive approaches are needed.

 Happy Thanksgiving – Kris

Restorative and Retributive

  Take a look at the link that compares Restorative Justice and Retributive Justice .  

I know that Howard Zehr’s writings have evolved and he has reminded us the Restorative and Restributive Models should not be held side by side, one way or the other.  The grid I had you linked to, is a way to help understand RJ compared to that model.  Right now, RJ is in schools, prisons and works far beyond what the formal system reaches.

WIth my college students, we spent last week’s class with the local prosecutor.  He used to be on the SCVRJP board of directors and is fairly familiar with the Restorative Justice process.  He actually participated in a community conference/circle, as a community member.  I remember he was excited at the end of that, impressed with his contribution to the community.  Needless to say, it was interesting for my students to hear more about the formal process and get to know an individual involved/employed in it.

Each student got to ask the Prosecutor questions and I was impressed with the students questions and understanding.  I believe that having our class in Circle contributed to the quality of the questions and discussion.  The students all feel comfortable with each other and with me.

So at tonights class, I routed around a talking piece and took questions from my students.  As a non-profit leader and practioner.  Again, I was impressed by the questions.  The students had questions about the field, about my motivations and about the Restorative Justice Movement.

The students had the opportunity to experience Restorative Justice all semester.  The last few classes were a great comparison of the Retributive Model.  It’s always a good reminder for me to work teach these aspects of what Restorative Justice is.  The advanced class is next semester and we’ll be taking a deeper look into the current system.  Two books arrived in the mail for me, The Limits of the Criminal Sanction and The Crime of Punishment.  I’ll keep you posted!


My hair. (yes, really)

I’ve been thinking alot about my hair.  I know, how vain.  I’ve decided it blog on my hair. 

It starts with a really great hair phase, picture 1, 2005.  My life was crazy busy, working three different jobs.  I was in a career “rebuilding” phase.  I felt blessed by this good head or hair.  I turned heads, got compliments from strangers, men and women. 

I stopped coloring my hair after my 20 year class reunion.  Picture 2, here on the left.  That’s actually taken on the 4th of July, 2006, with the hot rollers and all done up.



  Then in 2007 I got a perm in .  Big Mistake. 

I let the fact that I had the same hair for months bother me.  I got restless, I wasn’t greatful.  I didn’t appreciate what I had.  I could pony it up out of the way.  I could dress it up with hot rollers.  A trim, a good cut would have been better . . . I decided a perm.  Ick.  Why did I think something I hadn’t done for 15 years was a good idea!?  I ended up with picture 3.  This was at our “Chrisgiving” (celebrating Christmas at Thanksgiving) 2007.  Thats me and my Dad. 

Picture 3, with my Dad
Picture 3, with my Dad

The hair I know it’s so silly to have such a strong reaction to your HAIR.  But there has been such learning in this recent “hair” journey.  And learning helps us grow.  When it comes down to how I want to help people by taking the time to write this blog, I guess it is about helping us all learn to grow, to be better.  Maybe this hair story helps someone.  Maybe its more of me having the talking piece and just needing to tell my hair story . . . either way. 

Long hair, it can be a shield to the world.  My hair was thick and full and it really became a huge piece of who I was.  It’s crazy I know, it was just my most prominent physical feature (I felt). 

Then I got in a serious relationship with someone that didn’t really care for it.  You hear about how all men love long hair.  Well apparently NOT.  Being in this relationship, as well as my career and work taking off – I  was having a wonderful and positive shift to who I was, and am today really.  I also think, you can’t help be changed by raising a teen ager (totally seperate blog).  So in my time of transformation and quite honestly a negative comment boyfriend made about my hair.  I decided to get it cut!

So in the middle of December 2007, I got it cut.  It was like a therapy session!  The stylist was great.  She even said, “what’s the point of this, it doesn’t do a thing for you”.  She made sure I was ready, I thought I’d need to take some hair with me!  I thought how my hair helped me get thru a huge work transistion.  search-014For some reason or another, I don’t really know why, and I fear it sounds odd.  That hair was holding “grief”.  That perm ‘fried’ it frizzy, it was heavy and thick and it did wiegh me down.  I left the shop feeling really amazing, yet totally NOT myself, in a sense, yet it was exactly what I needed at that time. 

Two weeks later .  . . I didn’t like it.  I got another hair cut, and maybe 7 days later another, then 2 weeks later another, I was so unhappy I didn’t like anything about my appearance!  The boyfriend says “I liked your with longer hair”.  Then I found myself with this:


 From here, the cutting had to stop!  This was just tooooo short.  It was a phase of tolerance.  I had to wait MONTHS before getting a hair cut.  For some reason I had to go this short.  Clearly any hair that held ‘grief’ was gone.  I have had to learn how to work with what I have for hair and each growth stage, I have to find a way to make it look its best.  Oh my, has it been a lesson in tolerance.  Trying to remember my expression is the most important thing I wear.  I’ve gotten a little more into my clothing style as a result.  I am doing my best to look great at 40.  I’ve glanced over at my word count 707!  This is a long post.  Gosh I hope there is some wisdom in here for someone!
Leave me a comment on this one!  I’m curious what people think!
-happy with her hair, Kris

Random Gifts of Gratitude!

A large box arrived in the office.  I was busy adding my case numbers together for a grant report.  “Did you order something out of wood?”.  That got my attention, I peeked in the box, full of packing peanuts, yet a curved wooden edge was peaking out.  “Is that really our package?”  We checked the label.  UPS delivery for Kris Miner.  I checked the sender, Glen Amundson.  The name range a bell, a very nice man from a Circle Training a few years back.  Could it be, what was this?

We poured out the package pieces and I lifted out the beautifully wooden paper towel holder with 3 drawers.  I unwrapped the drawers and took one out.  I commented on the craftmanship.  The grooves, the perfect stain.  I picked up the letter that was placed in the wrapping.  The letter said:

Kris, several years ago I attended one of your Restorative Justice training.  It was my first training on the restortive justice topic and I loved it.  You also gave me several good resources on restorative justice over the years.  To show my appreciation, I made you something.  Hope you like it.dscn4027

That brought me to a quiet greatful place in my soul.  A calm.  I was so touched and moved by this gift.  I called Glenn right away and thanked him.  He reminded me how much he liked what he learned and how he believed in our mission.  He also shared that the wood used was retrieved from a scrap bin on the way to be burned.  That just added to the elegance of the gift.

I told Glenn how this gift added fuel to my tank, how reinforcing this was to continue promoting Restorative Justice work.

Thanks Glenn – – and eveyone who gives Random Gifts of Gratitude!


Inventing words . . .

My best friend in the whole world, Jeanie.  She’s the person that knows me best, she can say anything to me.  It makes me mad when its so true.  She’s been a source of inspiration, strength and real joy in knowing someone so deeply.  One beautiful summer evening sitting on her back deck, sipping margarita’s and chatting away about the world.  I invented a word.  The really cool thing about the word invention, was that she repeated the word back to me in the very next sentance!  I lept out of my skin at that, and we had a good laugh.  It’s been part of our vocabulary ever since.  I think you might appreciate learning this word.

More context.  We were talking about summer reruns of one of my all time favorite shows NYPD Blue.  I said, “yeah, they’re jicjacking the shows around”.  Jeanie says “I hate when they jicjack”.  So here we have it.

Jic”jack`, adj. to place out of order.  To randomly rearrange.   images

You can’t jicjack with the Circle process.  You can’t jicjack with victim-offender conferencing.  Even I (ms. random) have to say there is a sequence and order to things like Circles and Restorative Justice.

I’ve asked a deeper question to the Circle, and had several people pass.  I then go back, ask a simplier or less revealing quesiton.  Or even a question just on stage of the process.  I then rephrase the deeper question and people are okay moving into that stage.  If you try to go to deeply to quickly without the edges of the container (trust) built.  It just won’t work.

So . . . refrain from jicjacking!  To highjack is to remove from someone else, to jicjack is so move the elements around . . .

Happy day friends!  – – – Kris

The best thoughts I have to offer – sincere circle keeping

A few comments and a question emerged recently. 

The first was a question about how to make sure a Circle has a Capital “C”.  I like the way my friend Paul phrased that.  You may have notice I capitalize C, frequently.  I really believe brining in all the elements of being human to the Circle experience – Mental-Physcial-Emotional-Spiritual.  I was really nervous about the spriritual element when I was in Circle with church pastors that all experienced theft!  But it worked!  I’ll explain more in a bit.

The next comment, was in reflecting on how important the PROCESS itself is.  It seemed we had a group that was deciding the outcome, then having the Circle to implement it.  Rather than having the process itself bring the outcome(s).  The person reflect to me “Kris, you can be your own worse enemy.  You make it look effortless, like anyone can do it”.  I was puzzled by that at first, its so much about the process and not me.  But I gathered that as a compliment, and we chatted how to work with our group.

So I merged these two the Capital C and the Effortless appearance.  What I have for you now is a list of some tips of ideas.  Things I do slip in effortlessly, but with great intention to get the “C” in circle.

1.) Talk about Circle until I really get a sense the emotional climate understands.  Sometimes I talk about flame and people gathering around the fire.  Sometimes I talk about Toyota’s Quality Circles.  I like to tell the story of my own training or expereinces.  Honoring those that have passed the tradition down.  I talk about Restorative Justice Values.  I just put everyone at ease, and I model holding the talking piece.

2.) Silence is a golden tool of Circle.  We are not a quiet society.  We assume not responding is because you don’t know the answer.  Silence can be an opening for that ONE student to flip a negative comment out there.  What I do is have people practice “listening without interuption” and I use my Tibeten Tingsha’s.  I ask them to listen together to the tone.  This works well, because we are already using consensus.  Sometimes I point that out.  The other piece, is that listening to the tone, is focusing in, centering.  I could say that, but it depends on the group.budd4091

3.) VALUES – in a RELATIONSHIP context, asking for people to think about a person they are close to.  Then pick the most important quality or characteristic, the value to that relationship.  We all share, and then we all commit to honor the values that are in the center.

4.) I find its really important to do the first two stages.  Getting Acquainted and Building Relationships.  You don’t have to worry about rushing ahead to the addressing issues.  Because having people answer questions about what they had for breakfast, builds those relationships. 

5.) You can just talk about aspects of the process to learn more about people in the Circle.  The goals should be simple, connect.

6.)Bring your intentions, your efforts, be in ‘right relationship’ yourself.  Be open honest and in the values yourself when wanting to lead a circle as a Circle.

Thanks for the questions and I hope this helps!


Talking Circle for Language Development

bildeA traditional talking Circle is used to help students develop native language skills.

You can see the article from the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Mike, thanks for emailing me a note on this.

Circles are become (or returning) as an effective means of learning and personal development.  Circles are finding applications in a varitey of settings.  I’m working on writing a book about our Safe Teen Driving Circles.  The publisher mentioned another book is in the works about Circles for Community Planning.

Using Circle in schools will prepare our young people for effectively being in Circle in the future.

Have a wonderful day! – – Kris