Realizing how much we really do. We matter.

Wow what a week . . . from super stressed to feeling super accomplished!

-solid start to a new class, advanced restorative justice dialog.  Including ‘blogging’ for students, a 21st Century life skill.

-Victim Empathy Seminar – impacting 3 offenders, 3 community members.

-Circle with Alternative School Students and Community Member.

-powerful volunteer orientation Circle (of course) & updated a bunch of volunteer forms.

-Appointment with Dermatologist, managing medical issue with Hives.  Found the secret them becoming less annoying.  The cost of the newer/better cream $236!  I said no thanks!  After a $81 in antihistamines the day before!

-Mommy role:  went to basketball game, watched CSI (I don’t care for the show, but Kylie likes it) and out to dinner with my amazing teenage daughter.

-Met with Mentor – right on!  Time to focus on my goals, strengths and personal growth!

-Coffee with someone because he asked and I needed to slow down a bit.  He leads ceremony and we have common interests around spirituality.

Re,organized my book documents and my desk at work.

-Wrote 3 other blog posts, kept Twitter and LinkedIn accounts current.  Follow me on Twitter!

-Phone call to catch up my publisher Denise at Living Justice Press.  Let her know what I have set for my book deadline.

-picked up my apartment, made a favorite meal and almost have all my laundry done for the weekend.

-an hour of Kundalini Yoga.  I totally recommend this DVD, even one time and it’s worth the $13, as good as any class I’ve taken.

-some people were really there for me this week.  That’s really helped me transistion from stressed to flexed.  Flexed, like stretched or a muscle that needed a little extra effort.  My team of friends and support really stepped up.  Jeanie and I talked during the week.  She’s my best pal back in South Dakota.  Catherine had me to her home, and my blog was up on her computer screen.  She fed me supper and came along to my daughters basketball game.  She really showed kindness and gave me a Valentine’s Day gift, two heart shaped glass candle holders.  She’s also checked in on my ‘hives’.  Its the little things that mean a lot.  Ayesha came back from Trinidad and brought me Trinidad coffee, a stone necklace (coffee and stones are some of my favorite things).

I feel really good about everything I got done.  I covered for a coworker at the office, realized how much we are doing at SCVRJP.  I’ve had a great deal of awareness this week.  And hey, what could be worth more than getting to know yourself and your community a little more.

My cup is full, I feel gratitude for all I have.  I feel capable of doing what I need to do.  Hopefully it’s not just a Prednisone rush.  (On the predinisone for the hives). 

Life is what we all experience with its moments of joy, stress, anger, relief, support, healing, relaxation, love, worry and hope.  It really is living that makes us human.

Enjoy your life! – Kris

“Getting Organized” is one of my favorite ‘mirages’

Mirage – something that I believe to be true, then up close, it’s not really there.  I grew up in South Dakota, the heat and the highways gave me plenty of experiences, seeing a wavy gray cloud floating on the highway up ahead.  I would play mind games as a little kid.  Pretending that we would pass thru the portal of time, once we crossed the mirage.  Long car rides from Michigan to South Dakota.  I’m from the era of the long car ride family “vacation”.  Which was no vacation for my parents.  Trapped in a small space with my brother and I.  We either played we were ‘Daisy & Donald Duck’ with authentic duck voices of course.  Our other game was  “Mr.  Scarecrow”.  Long story, different blog post.

The highway mirage of childhood, was REAL.  I have a few adult ‘mirages’, which unfortunately I am going to have to accept that these are NOT REAL.  I somehow, see the mirage of “getting organized” as the only barrier to meeting my goals.   Writing my book and exercise, are two things in my day planner that I can seem to completely ignore.  I even spent 1/2 a day on our budget, going thru every bank statement last year, to see what we had for income and expenses each month.  Well we paid the book keeper to do her job, I already knew what annual income and expense totals were.   Our budget is short for next year.  Guess what divided by 12 (instead of the annual number) it still comes up short.  Did I spend sometime on something I already knew.  YES.  Did it contribute to me goal (getting the book done).  No.

So what’s up with this, Kris?  Before I get to that, let me tell you about time spent on the ‘mirage’.  I got a new 3 ring binder, new tabs, new pencils, new pens.  Okay – now I am really, finally organized, and that will help me get the book done.  I got really organized about 7 times now.  I even switched out a three ring binder because the new-old one had good stuff in it, so the binder had good Karma.  Oh for pete’s sake (Sorry Pete), for cryin’ outloud!  Wake up Kris, the only thing that gets a book written, is writing it.

I’ve managed to keep a great mentor, because I listen to him.  He had another mentee that didn’t listen to him, so he ended that relationship.  The mentee came begging back, fine said mentor, now that mentee pays for mentoring!  I don’t pay for it, I pass it on.  I mentor someone else and keep my mentor updated.  So tomorrow, when I see mentor, ut oh.  He might not be so happy with his favorite mentee.  Unless of course, I work my butt off tonight, he that’s an option.

Maybe I need to set more deadlines for myself.  Yeah, that’s it, another mental game to get me working on the book.  I’ll pretend I have different deadlines.  Cause I get to work underpressure,  last minute Miner!   Oh cripes, I’m making up another mirage – – making up conditions, so that once i get down the road things will be different.  Then I find myself down the road, and it’s exactly the same as it was.

So . . . here’s my restorative justice link.  It’s not about the past.   Its about moving ahead in a good way.  I guess to move ahead I have to keep ‘mirages’ out of my vision.   The real vision, is having that book done.  Having something to share with others who are working on keeping teens alive.  Bringing Restorative Justice and Circles to an issue, opening doors in schools and communities.  Most of all, I want that book in the hands of a parent or family member that had a loved one die from a car crash.  I want to bring them, healing, storytelling and hope.  I want the book to give a road map for Circles.  Okay, no more mirages . . .

A few ideas for building Circle “Synergy”

Synergy (from the Greek syn-ergo, συνεργός meaning working together) is the term used to describe a situation where the final outcome of a system is greater than the sum of its parts.  – Wikipedia

I was recently in a Circle with a few young men, that just couldn’t find the trust to share much.  They liked one word answers, but beyond that, they took every opportunity to be silent, and just pass the talking piece.  I trust that is exactly what they needed to do at that time.

For me, it helped me remember a few of my ‘synergy’ techniques!  It also has me wanting to add to my list of techniques.

I read a post by Amos on the Restorative Resources blog – and he shared about an activity to hold the talking piece until you felt your silence was ‘heard’.  I thought of that and wondered if I had used that, if the young men would have become more verbal.  I was also thinking about addressing it somehow.  Posing the question “what is it like when a few people pass”.  The three that didn’t want to talk were to my left, so it was difficult for each question to start with 3 passes.  Maybe I should have passed to the right.

Well who knows what I could have done.  The past is past on there to learn from now.

The other technique I was told by a parent.  She said in a previous women’s Circle, they did a round, where one person held that talking piece and was NOT allowed to do the talking.  The Circle then went around gave her (the talking piece holder) compliments.  The point of not speaking, is that a woman could not “reject” or respond to the positive feedback.  I thought in the right place that would be a very cool activity to do. 

I like Circles that leave me feeling ‘transformed’.  No two Circles are the same, no two people expereince a Circle the same.  The level or response can vary, each person gets and owns their own experience.

The quickest resource I use for introducing the Circle concepts comes from Millionth Circle they have nice printer friendly resources that list Circle Guidelines and Circle Principles.  I usually print those front to back and distribute to people new to Circle process.

If you are doing Classroom or Restorative Justice Circle you might slightly modify the format.

For me when I do Restorative Justice Circles – I focus on “impact” during the third stage (addressing issues) and the agreement (taking action fourth stage).  In a Classroom, your guidelines and values will be able to be carried over from Circle to Circle.

I love Circles.  Good luck, bring your best heart work to each one, and remember the goal of synergy to have the outcome be greater than the sum.

Sum-body special,


A dose of my own medicine, it’s very bitter!

So I post about my case of ‘hives‘.  I make the point it’s like Restorative Justice, not about ‘why’ but what to do now.  You see most harm is generated from a mistake.  Restorative Justice gives you another chance, to do the right thing.  You get an other opportunity to not make another mistake, and it even gives you a chance to right the wrong.  You make amends, take action.

So here I am with my hives, which are really subtracting from my life.  Yesterday I accidently scratched my leg, and the welts rose up and the skin turned red.  I have to accept the prescription medicine failed.  They are better than they were – but still reacting.  The physical issue, the mental issue (what did I eat, what did I change, what did I do).  Its emotionally draining, the worry about all of this.  And Spiritually well, who has time for that!? (I know I am not taking good care of my whole self).

 So I do more research about ‘hives’.  In the lists of ’causes’ again and again stress was mentioned.  Again and again I read accounts of people getting NO relief from doctors.  I imagine those that did, had no need to write in forums about it.

Chatting with a friend, I say it’s not stress, "I’m no more stressed than usual".  I go on to add "a lot of stress, but it’s not unusual for me."  She replies with a zinger – that’s what makes good friends good.  She says "well maybe your body is finally telling you, that’s toooo much stress".  hmmmmm.  wait, what . . .

So the thought stayed with me.  So did the post message “what to do now” (not why).  I worked on my class syllabus last night, the class is today.  I am trying to get staff to write up forms and website content, I’m not giving clear directions.  I messed up last week – trying to purchase an ad, we don’t even really need, mixed messages to board members (never a good thing). 

This morning I woke up with an Ah–HA!  Please let me vent.

Oh my gosh, how much more can 1 woman try and do!?!?!?

I am completely OVERWHELMED and STRESSED OUT!  Here’s why.

1.) Write a book in less than a year – date to publisher March 15, 2009.  Really coming up quickly.  This is not easy – especially for me.  I just started thinking of myself as a ‘writer’ 4 months ago!

2.) Run the non-profit – manage 2 staff, 5 programs – we are bringing on new board members and new officers, creating program manuals, doing a fundraiser . . . not to mention our budget for ’09 is at MINUS $26,000!  Our biggest granter is laying people off – I suspect we will be in for even more financial cutting!

3.) Teach an ‘advanced restorative justice class’ – which I’ve never taught before.  Just realized that payroll was off and I had ONE dollar of Federal Tax withheld.  The class I LOVE and students LOVE cannot be offered permenantly because only I can teach it.

4.)Manage a new website coming on line – write the organization marketing plan (since I terminated our contractor) – research and evaluate community interests – I wrote a nice survey monkey survey.  This is all wrapped up in non-profit management, but I gave it two numbers, these are major projects.

5.)Single Parent – a strong willed, confident teenager, manage family finances, juggle schedules, keep the house clean and the cat alive and now 2 cars.

6.)Date or have a life – tried to get back out there with on-line dating site membership.  Try to call girlfriends, have lunch, be a person outside of SCVRJP Executive Director.  Much harder than it seems. 

7.)Physical health committments – I decided to start cooking on the weekends, so I am not always doing fast food, last minute meals.  Getting physcially more healthy (thinner) I decided to run a 5k, to work on my self-discipline.  I was doing great until the hives!  Granted I started at Christmas.

7.) Social Networker – This is self induced – but the blog, the twitter the facebook, Linked IN.  I love it, it is a ‘labor’ of love.  It takes time, energy and resources to keep up and do a good job.  I appreciate they payoffs and these items help me reach goals.

So here’s a clue for me now . . . I’ve written this post and my hives are all inflamed and it’s not because of scratching.

It’s time for the very bitter medicine . . . my own advice . . . so what am I going to do now . . .

Education is a gift we give our children – photo


Willie and his daughter at UWRF Graduation December 2008.

Willie was a student in my Intro to Restorative Justice Class.  He invited me to his graduation party, via Facebook.  That’s how I found this photo and asked him if I could post it and do a blog post on education.  Education is a gift we give our children.

You see my daughter was 5 months when I graduated with my BS.  This photo reminded me of my college graduation.  It got me thinking about how my now 17 year old, has been impacted by the fact I pursued education.  You know Willie’s daughter although unaware in this photo, she will be impacted by Willie getting an education.  This picture made me very proud of Willie.

Since our class was held in Circle, we had an opening check in every week.  Willie often talked about how his daughter was doing.  Some of his classmates specifically talked about him in their final papers.  They were happy to get to know him from Circle process.  They also found his love for his daughter and his role as a Father to be impressive.

Having this young man in my class was a real honor.  All of my students are special, and together we learned with and from Willie.

How dealing with ‘hives’ is restorative and social media it catchy!

Blogging gives readers a really unique opportunity to learn about the “blogger”.  Once you start blogging, you see topics everywhere, or at least I have.  Just like I see “restorative justice” everywhere.

Now I am seeing ‘Social Media’ everywhere . . . last night on the evening news (must have been a slow news night), they showed Mayo Clinics new BLOG and mentioned the clinic is also going to use other social media initiatives.  That reinforced my use of social media for Restorative Justice and specifically St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice.

My facination with social media and I was reading 20 something career advice about starting a blog.  When you offer your blog in a job interview, you are saying “here I am, I have nothing to hide”.  (Sorry I just tried to find that article, and can’t, found great links in searching).  That thought stuck in my head, being a blogger, I understand that you really put yourself out there as a blogger.   Today’s post is going to be a little like that.

No pun intented, but I get the itch to blog on certain topics and I just have to.  Like the post on my hair or break-up.  So in this post, I need to explain how I have found getting a serious case of hives is restorative!  Then I connect that to the catchy social media!

Right after Christmas a little spot of red appeared, it was on my body in a place where my undergarment might rub.  I had started working out, and I assumed maybe just a little patch of  “something”.   So a quick visit to the doc and all is well.  Except that the outer edges of my thighs had gotten really itchy, I thought just dry skin.  The “patches” of dry skin, soon errupted all down one leg, and all over one thigh.  The upper body spots had crossed to the other side of my body.  I spent two or three miserable days, itching, applying creams.  A trip to the Doctor and an oral medication.  Lets hope that keeps working, its almost gone.

The itching and welts have been awful, the bruising that happens is really gross.  I looked like I got beat up!  A very close second to all of this is trying to figure it out.  The mental games about why, I broke out in hives.  What is different, did I eat something, did I start new perfume, deodorant, laundry soap.  Every bite of food in my mouth, every chemical in contact with my skin.  I question, question, question . . . and I wonder WHY!?

Then I heard myself telling teachers – RJ doesn’t ask “why” it asks “what were you thinking at the time?”.

A friend with a broken leg, mentioned in her newsletter:  WHY is an inappropriate question.  The right question is, “now that this has happened, what should we do next?”  How very ‘restorative’ of Nancy, to realize this.  What a nice reminder for me that broken legs and hives, like RJ don’t need a ‘why’.

So let me tell you about the ‘hives’ and social media. I scratch and a community and cluster of bumps appear.  Social media – creates community quickly.  The group reading this blog is a community.  All of my facebook and linked in friends are community.  It also helped me see this link, when I googles ‘hives’ and got references to places that bees live.  I got home from training and had a new facebook friend request.  The community grows quickly with social media.  🙂

Have a great day!  – Kris

School Implementation requires all levels engaged

“I’m 20 years to late”  School board member statement, made in Circle.  Reflecting on hearing about RJ in Schools.

The school board member went on to say how he never really thought that suspensions and expulsions worked all that well anyway.  He was glad to be able to answer questions now, about School Restorative Justice.  It was a perfect example of why different levels of school structure should be part of implementation.

Restorative Justice can be implemented right away, as soon as an incident occurs.  If schools reach out to SCVRJP and request the service.  If you don’t live in the SCVRJP service area, contact your local RJ program and see if that would be possible for your school.  You have parents give consent for the referral, many times families are eager to “work things out” than face the formal discipline.  You may also use formal discipline and add Restorative Justice as part of that.  For example at an expulsion hearing.

There are many myths, and misunderstandings about RJ.  We take cases along a continuum.  The left side being, prevention or diversion and the right side being totally involved in the formal system.  RJ also deals with cases along a continuum from the left that is not very violent to the most violent of all case.  As you move to the right side, more experience and training, planning a preparation is required.

For schools, having staff, students, administrators, board members, parents and community supporting or even aware of RJ is crucial.  I like to use Belinda Hopkins Model (paraphrasing her) :

4 – Being Restorative – a mindset and framework at all times

3- Doing – You facilitate process

2-Referring– you pass cases on to RJ

1- Interested – curious about using RJ

0 – Unaware or ignorant to what RJ is

1 – opposed or against RJ

I like to train on this level, and seek to always move people up the scale. 

I must express caution – – I have experience people taking on ‘Doing’ RJ and they called what they did RJ, but in reality, they had no training and simply misunderstand that simply putting two people in conflict together is all that RJ is.  So I caution schools, to not just slap on the label “restorative justice”.

I was proud to visit a community and engage with students, staff, board, teachers, parents.  I helped with 6 Circles in two days.  Each one was special and brought new perspectives and helped advance Restorative Justice.

I hope you consider bringing RJ to your community!

Each person is unique in Circle!

I continue to be amazed by this powerful and transformative process.

So far today, I have facilitated three Circles and a presentation to a student body and staff.  Working with an alternative school I mentioned in this post.

A cross section of students who had not previously been in Circle together attended.  The first two Circle also had staff, and the third Circle was one to deepen skills. 

It was really fun, a little stressful.  The first Circle was really good, I was able to negotiate the Circle, with lots of planning, few disruptions, and some really good comments about what the students felt were ‘bummers & boasts’ about school.  On a scale of 1-10 and I have lots of experiences, and lots of deeply profundly, moving Circle – I would say for me it was a 7.5.  Later in the day I heard a young man say the Circle today was 29.5 times better than any other Circle he had.  It was cute, one young man said it was different because today they had a “circle professional”.  So each person gets an individual and unique perspective.

The next Circle of the day, felt like I couldn’t crack it.  I had 3 boys that passed, and the girls next to them, passed.  It was hard to get them to even speak.  I went back to one word answers.  I did the finish speaking and say “thank you for listening”, then everyone chants back “thank you for sharing”.  I would get the piece and say “I hope we hear every voice on this round”.  I kept it as safe as possible, but didn’t feel we got very deep.  When checking out on the Circle, a student said “this was the most productive Circle I’ve ever been in”.  Wow, how different, from me feeling like I had turned 1/2 a head grey, just in telling myself to trust the process.

I felt really connected to the kids at the school.  They treated me kindly and like a guest.  That spoke volumes about the school and the climate.

One more Circle today, the school is providing a meal, and parents night.  We have the chairs in Circle, waiting for parents to experience a piece of what students did today.  I’ll keep you posted!

Circle Freak – Kris

Preparing to visit a school, training options.

Tomorrow I leave town and travel across the state.  I am going to visit a school for the second time.  I did a two day Circle/Restorative Justice training there about a year ago.  Some of the staff attended other Circle trainings I did.  I think one staff has been to three different trainings I facilitated.

The training date seemed suddenly here – for both the site coordinator and myself.  We had a loose framework planned but no specific details.  I was going to work with the school and students for day one.  Maybe do some class circles, interview some youth.  Then that evening a session on Restorative Parenting.  I suggested the school implement monthly or biweekly, Circles of Support for parents.  The second day there, I get a 1/2 day with staff only.  Since this school uses Circles, I asked for staff feedback – regarding the three biggest challenges.  This is going to help me prepare.

I am going to generate a variety of options to address ‘uncirclelike behavior’.  That way teachers will have a variety of new ideas/tools to use in Circle keeping.  At the top of that list would be to focus so much on the process. 

The questions/challenges I got back also indicate the students aren’t ‘getting’ what restorative justice is.  So that’s easy – I get 45 minutes with all 41 students to cover that.  Hopefully almost all those students will have been in one of the 3 Circles I facilitated that day.

The presentation to the teachers will be easy on why students don’t get ‘it’, especially students in an alternative school setting.  For one,  students have been treated with reward/punish models since kindergarden.  Gold stars for doing this, no recess for doing this.  I just read:  Rules without Relationships leads to Rebellion.  The other aspect is going to be if the teachers have really flattened the hierachy in the school

Can teachers turn over the classroom climate and community to EVERYONE?  Can learners be engaged, connected and involved?  I plan to take the message – the Circle is the format, the CLIMATE is the key.  Circle are a tool to improve classroom climate.  They can be a thermostat, helping set the climate.  But the culture needs to extend beyond the Circle time. I plan to have ideas for keeping ‘social curriculm’ and ‘academic curriculm’ balanced.

Lots of ideas for fun and the importance of ‘getting acquainted’ stage work.  Restorative communities are about inclusion, belonging.  Some students are apparently not participating.  That’s interesting.  I wonder how we can increase belonging.  I typically attribute this to not feeling ‘safe’.  I’ll keep you posted on what I learn.  I always tell the Circle-rejectors, I ask them in it, so I can learn their story and perspective. I say “I don’t mind if you don’t like it, I might learn something new from someone who feels like that”  I like to ask everyone what it’s like when someone chooses not to participate.  Those responses are interesting.

Well with all this ‘to do’  . . . I better get to work.  I’m going to love it, 5 or 6 Circles in two days!  YEAH!  and I always learn more about being a facilitator and helping schools!

The conversation is the relationship.

I once heard something about our conversations are our relationships.  I think it was regarding differences between women and men.  I put that information in the “ruminate” area of my brain.  I wasn’t sure if I believed that statement and over time, I think it deserves some serious consideration.

I started testing it with my last boyfriend.  The conversation is the relationship.  It seemed to make sense ‘tense’ conversations made the relationship seem uncomfortable.  Those good heart to heart conversations (which we should had more of) made me feel warm, close to him.

I started to think about this in other areas.  The conversation is the relationship.  How my daughter and I talk to each other.  What about small talk with the person in line.  That is a brief relationship, certainly our conversation was the relationship.  I’ve had great conversations/relationships with people on flights.  I think it’s been mutual.

Today I was on the receiving end of a not so great conversation.  It had a great deal of impact on our relationship.  I doubt the person even knows or realizes the impact.  I wonder if he would care.  If I was his supervisor, I would care that he is leaving people with a poor impression.  I’m sure he didn’t ‘mean’ to do it. 

Here’s the story . . . I emailed a request for discussion, indicated what I wanted to talk about.  I asked for a phone call or face to face meeting.  Since I had initiated the email, I assumed I would get my answer in either a email or phone call.  The email would indicate my answer or if I should call or make an appointment.  Does this make sense?  Are you following me?  I email, I ask for a phone or face to face appointment.  Do you have a guess on what I got?

What I got was a return call from a support staff, indicating that I was getting a one time deal.  Just this once.  So this guy doesn’t take time to reply to an email, pick up the phone and even call me himself.  I don’t get the courtesy of a conversation or even direct communication (email).  I get a third party ‘message’.

So here’s how our ‘conversation’ and ‘relationship’ tie in.  He didn’t have a conversation with me.  So I’m feeling a little put out.  Not sure what to do.  Do I drop by sometime and do a face to face “just to let you know, I might be all wrong here, but I perceived this . . . from you”.  Do I just drop it, and get over myself that he should have communicated with me directly.

Are you left wondering what his role is?  Would it be different if it was a banker, and I was asking for a loan.  What if I called the Mayor and wanted my traffic ticket dismissed (it wasn’t that).  I will give you this clue.  I was calling someone who I thought, would want to project that parents are important.

So . . . help me out here . . . how about some comments?  Do you think I was slighted?  Do you think I should mention it?  Do you want to know where this happened?

Here’s the restorative justice link – – RJ is about relationships.  If conversations are our relationships . . . what kinds of things are you conversing about?  how are you conversing and with who . . .