The influence of focusing on Values . . . in Circle.

I was blessed again this week.  I had some wonderful Circle experiences.  The story I would like to share happened at 1/2 way house.

The house serves men in recovery and returning to the community from prison.  Most of them I guess have been to prison, the one man that is still in high school, I suspect he has not yet been to prison, but must have clearly been on that path.

The Circle had 16 people present.  I brought two of my advanced RJ students and a storyteller/volunteer.  One staff from the home and 11 of the residents participated.

I had each student and the volunteer, pick a piece of introducing the Circle.  We sat across from each other in the Circle.  I like to do that, so mix up and disperse the leadership of the process.  After each of us had explained a portion of the Circle, I did the standard things I do for each Circle. 

1.) Read the Opening

2.) Paperplate – values round

3.)Committtment to the Values

4.)Getting Acquainted Round (what is your favorite slice of pie)

5.)Buidling Relationships Round (a story about seeing one of the Values/words on the plates in action)

6.)Addressing Issues Round (volunteer told his story)

7.) Taking Action Rounds (reflection on the story/what you will take from the Circle/anything else to say to leave the Circle in Peace)

So as casually as I have typed these out, and literally done the process 100’s of times.  I still get the feeling I had that evening (and many other times).  The Circle draws you in, one person speaking at a time.  Collective smiles of understanding when for a third time someone said “Chocolate, French Silk Pie”.  Then the powerful silence during a story.

The listening takes on something a little different, you can, in the silence, almost feel and taste the lesson sinking in.  One person sharing a tragic unintended event. 

Then the rounds of reflection and take aways.  Many offered support to the speaker, many reflected on how powerful the lesson was.  Several men shared the impact.  I was particullary struck my a fellow to my right.

His name was the same as our volunteer.  I got that on the first round, and since the speaker was across from me, I remember thinking – “hmmm, I wonder if this will hit him a little harder, sharing the same name”.  I can’t help it, I’m judgemental (I try not to be).  This fellow looked very ‘farmerish” to me, I think he had on flannel, he was simply in haircut and had a boyish innocence to him.  Yet I knew better, he was in the 1/2 way house.

He ended up saying something so deep and profound towards the end.  And his words were so powerful because of the way and manner in which he spoke them.  He was very strong and very much the opposite of my judmental assessment.  I am simply going to leave you with what I heard.

You know . . . you look around this Circle and you see 16 very different individuals.  Yet, you look at these values, here in the center – on these paperplates . . . you can see that really . . . deep down . . . we’re all alike.  Focusing on these values just blows me away.  I can’t get over it, it’s powerful, we all want and need the same thing.”

You know your running a good program when . . .

I live our mission, I love what we do.  I couldn’t do any of it alone.  Many people step up and work hard for our program.  I’ve gotten some really positive signs lately . . . so the top 10 reasons I know we have a good program.

1.) Referrals for something we don’t  ‘technically’ do.  Today I got a call from a 15 year old needing to do Community Service.  We don’t even really do this, except for my generous nature and helping those that come our way.  So I mailed out a Community Service Application, and provided a way to start out with a 2 hour volunteer orientation.  We have helped young people that have been referred (in diversion situations) when the process found ‘community service’ as a need for making things right.  I guess the word has leaked out.

2.) Referrals for things we do.  I need to talk to an area court.  I think they added one of our programs as an option without telling us.  That means I am collecting registrations and not knowing who referred these people.  Its great they are utilizing our program, but we need to have a process in place to ensure this will work for both sides.

3.) The committment of volunteers.  We have four people who have filled in over 1/2 the shifts needed to cover some office tasks.  The calendar was developed today, and this will allow me to get back to my book.  We’ve never asked volunteers to do this type of work.  The committment to our mission has them willing to help.

4.) Board Member volunteers.  One hundred percent of the board members (with board approval) recruited, have agreed to serve.  This is the first time that has happened, we have vacancies throughout the year and always in February.

5.) Connections in the Community.  Seldom do I go to the coffee shop or a meeting and not know someone.  I really feel like I belong in the community of River Falls, we have great office space and great connections with a variety of people and businesses.

6.) Strong Partners.  I never knew how many people really watched MN Twin Cities Public Television, I do now, they tell me they saw our program.  A new idea I have for business sponsorship for our newsletter, the first quarter is already spoken for, and I am sure I can easily get a few more.  More on that idea later!

7.) Unsolicited Donations.  SCVRJP needs to get better about developing private donations.  We will have our first fundraiser this fall, we have never sent out appeal letters.  Yet last week a personal check for $100 arrived in the mail.  This is not the first time for our program either.

8.) Cross-pollination.  I have been accused of planting seeds, but never “cross-pollination”  I considered that an excellent outcome, to go to another area and get that group going with some of our types of programs.  A group I trained 3 days ago, already has a meeting set to move ahead on Circles.  I guess staff are still talking about it.

9.) Blog Readers.  How about that over 4,000 views for a blog that is 5 months old.  Having made around 150 posts.  That’s having a lot to share about.  That’s getting someone’s attention and it must be interesting.  Or I have more friends than I thought.  Or Thanks for reading Aunt Toni!

10.) 137 hours in two weeks.  I don’t like to add up the hours I work, it takes away my ‘denial’ about being a workaholic.  I’ve been forced to put in these types of hours before.  It was different, I was as a Child Protection/Juvenile Justice supervisor. 

These 137 hours are different.  I wanted to work like that.  I feel tired, sure, that’s about 30 hours more than a typical work week.  Driving back from Milwaukee, that was considered work.  Cleaning the office and organizing so a volunteer team could help, that was needed.  Leading Circles, meeting with victims, preparing offenders.  All great work tasks.

Without number 10, there might not be 1-9, so that’s the biggest payoff of all.  Gosh, I’m going to bed, for some reason . . . I’m exhausted!

A partnership that continues to provide! Thank you Allstate Foundation and Twin Cities Public Television!


Dear MN Channel Partner:

There is an upcoming broadcast of the program you produced in
partnership with the MN Channel of tpt:

On the Road Together:  Teen Driving

Beginning February 18, 2009, tpt will have a line-up of digital channels
that will include tpt2, tptMN and the all new tptLIFE.

Your upcoming broadcast will occur on the statewide tptMN.   It is seen
statewide via all six Minnesota public television stations, over the air
for free to viewers, as well as on cable and satellite services.
Broadcasts on tptMN are simultaneous – your dates and times for the Twin
Cities are the same for all other Minnesota stations, as well.

Your program will be repeated many times in the coming year, statewide,
on tptMN.  To receive over-the-air broadcasts, viewers will need a
digital TV or a digital conversion box.  It will also be generally
available to all cable households and DirecTV subscribers.

Your next statewide digital MN Channel showing is scheduled for:

Friday, March 13 at 8:00 PM
Saturday, March 14 at 2:00 AM
Saturday, March 14 at 8:00 AM
Saturday, March 14 at 2:00 PM

A list of all of the Minnesota public television stations carrying the
MN Channel through their digital services is attached.  Again, all
stations will broadcast your program on the same date and time.

Do you want to know more about digital TV and the upcoming conversion?
Visit our website at:

Contracting with SCVRJP for training and workshops

I really enjoy the aspect of my job, that includes traveling to train.  Someone called my board ‘progressive’ for having this part of our programming.  Your agency would pay SCVRJP a flat training day rate, plus travel and lodging expenses.  I would come train, the training fees cover my time away from being Executive Director and helps SCVRJP as a funding source.  Not a very big one, but none the less, it helps SCVRJP promote a culture of peace and belonging (our mission statement).

The upside, is that I have lots of experience.  I have recent stories of  Circle facilitation, I’m an active facilitator of what I train on.  I can bring practical real life advice, because I have been faced with plenty of challenges.

The downside, is that I am not a “trainer” 100% of the time.  Last week, I was lost.  Downtown Milwaukee, I couldn’t find the building.  I had mapquest, I asked strangers, I kept calling the center, it was 8:15 am and they don’t answer phones until 9 am.  The training was supposed to start at 8:30.  Gheeesh! If that is the best I have to learn, I guess I am doing pretty good!

The point of the email is to have this in one place.

Here is a list of the trainings offered by SCVRJP and in the order I would recommend:

1 – 1 day over view of Restorative Justice.  A basic course, usually focus on schools.  For the agency with very little or no experience with Restorative Justice

2 – 2 days of Circle Keeper Training.  This provides a basic keeper skillset, ideas for beginning to facilitate community building and problem solving Circles.

3 – 1 or 2 days – Reinforcement Training – I visit your school or agency and co-keep or facilitate Circles.  These are usually busy days for me, going from class to class doing Circles all day.  Then spending time with staff/teachers to offer feedback and answer questions.

4 – Conference and Workshop presentations or keynote sessions.  I’ll provide a relevant workshop on topics ranging from basice Restorative Justice to programs we developed at SCVRJP addressing Underage Drinking and Safe Teen Driving.

Once you select the training you would like – contact me and we can set up the dates.  Your agency will invest $1,000 a day, plus travel & lodging costs.  We will negotiate the training rate, so don’t hesistate if that amount is difficult for your agency.  You can also reduce the training rate by utilizing a package purchase.  One school had me over the course of 15 months.  I visited 4 or 5 times, I even added a day just to help them out.

We’ll sign a contract – basic info that you agree funds are available for this, what the mileage will be, specific dates of the training and what the training will be.

I do like to get details needed so we both experience the best possible outcome.  Today I heard back from a contracted training – they said feedback was “outstanding”.  Another training participant was ready to move ahead with Safe Teen Driving Circles.  Yeah, the material is sticking!  I guess my passion really is contangious. 

Thank goodness the hives are not!

Restorative Justice “what’s the real deal?”

I have been volunteering for a project with the WI Restorative Justice Coalition, I am putting together a website for the group.  Which is actually a free WordPress blog.  I am getting a number of responses from ‘member organizations’.  One of the items listed is ‘Services Provided’, I can see that we have a very broad interpretation of Restorative Justice.

Since I’ve been around RJ since ’98 and have had a number of trainings, I am a bit of a loyalist to ‘real restorative justice’.  I used to use that title in workshops.  My perspective was that anything that was NOT punitive, was getting labeled as restorative.  That just simply isn’t the case.

I do support non-punitive measures.  I think we get more from client centered, strength-based, asset driven, family centered approaches.  They just aren’t all Restorative Justice

Same thing with in the criminal justice system itself for example: restitution.  While yes, it can have restorative benefits, in and of itself restitution is not restorative justice.  What about Victim Impact Statements, is reading a statement at sentencing Restorative Justice?  Not in my opinion.  Sure the victim is present, the victim’s voice is heard, but are they really given input to the process?  Is the offender really engaged?

I had to deal with my concerns and I posted an entry at WRJC, providing a few links for others interested in gaining a better understanding.  Lorenn Walker directed me to this article and I appreciate that.  This is an outstanding visual for understanding the different processes and their place in the field of RJ.

This illustration is from an IIRP article  by Paul McCold and Ted Wachtel.


Be a “Circle Star” . . . like super star, rock star, shining star!

I log on to wordpress today and a banner ad . . . make circlestarspace your own domain today, $15 a year

WordPress invented a new concept for me!  Circle-Star!  I had planned to log on and do a blog post about getting to be my best self today.  I got to do a Circle keeper training today, at the Benedict Center in Milwaukee, WI.  This includes being in Circle and being a Circlekeeper all day.  I love it.  I really, really, really love Circle.  I love the spontaneous creation of human-ness.  Sometimes its hard for me to actually teach others, because so much of it comes from gut instinct.

benedictFor example, today after lunch, I didn’t expect to start off really deep.  But I told the story about one of my students, and then I read a poem that he wrote.  I spontaneously moved into a Circle question about the poem.  We ended up telling stories about our fathers.  Moving, intimate and healing stories.  I found myself in the other stories, I found myself in the described relationships.  I felt the true Circle flow, when you end drained by the good.  It was powerful.

I was also my “circle-star” self when I started talking about RJ in Schools.  I can tell when I am on fire, the passion is pulsing.  I am unwaveringly convincible when I am in this state of describing the process or the outcomes.  It is usually here when people tell me they can see my passion.  So then I try to be like a wise old turtle, stick my head in my shell, and listen to what others have for wants, needs and questions.  It’s a give and take. 

I could feel the Circle process being embraced, and I could see the ah-moments for application.  We had teachers and program assistants, directors and volunteers.  I can tell this is a group that will be taking the training and putting it right to work.  I had some excellent questions today.  One person really nailed it with asking me about moving from my first experience as a participant to know as a keeper.  It really hit me, what I feel indebted to this process for.

I owe it to Circle process to be a great person.  A person of Circle values – honesty, respect, compassion.  I don’t mean great as in lots of cash or fame.  I mean great as in, people want to be around me.  People know they can count on me.  Great as in – you know Kris Miner will always do her best for others.  That means being a ‘CircleStar’ . . . be a Star with me . . . a Circle Star!!!


Living the single life . . . or am I?

So to say you are “living” something . . . to me, means fully embraced and alive with it. 

Recently watching an independent film, I remember this spoken by the main character . . .

Love is like a mine field.  You take one step and can get blown to pieces.  Yet, you put your pieces back together and take another step.  Because loneliness is more painful than being blown apart.

Hmmm, I thought about that one.  What’s been worse for me, is when I am IN a relationship AND experiencing loneliness.  It makes me realize that relationships aren’t the automatic immunity they seem to be from loneliness.  Maybe loneliness just gets to be one of my feelings.  A feeling I prefer to have pass quickly, so I can get on to other ones.  Other ones that just feel better.

I definately feel like I have spent more of my life out of a serious relationship than in one.  I guess my statistic of being 40 and one marriage 13 years ago, a 6 month marriage at that, speaks to the fact, I might have more singleness than most.   Recently I learned it doesn’t mean that I have attachment issues.  🙂    I try to find a balance between allowing myself to focus my singleness and focusing more on my personness.  I find who I am as a person, more entertaining than who I am as single.

I see my being SINGLE as so much more than my friends (I think).  When I am talking with my married friends, yeah, sure I am aware of it.  But they don’t have a big M, like I feel I have a big S.  Sometimes I am very aware that I have it GREAT. (I’ll do a different post with my list of great reasons to be single)

My list of single advantages . . . works great for me.  And yet, if I was married, I would keep a list of all my marriage advantages.  If you thought the opposite of what you are was better – your life would stink because you were viewing it wrong.

So right now at this point in time, I feel like I am embracing being Single more than I ever have.  It feels odd, I don’t wish I wasn’t home alone on a Saturday night when I’m home alone.  I had to finally realize that if I didn’t want to be home alone on a Saturday night, that meant having to do something about it before Saturday at 3 pm! 

Home alone, I just do whatever I want.  I read, I blog, I do a yoga dvd, rent a movie, drink a glass of wine. 

Then sometimes, I pine away for a lover, a partner, a buddy a Scrabble partner.  To be in the space of not wondering IF we are doing something but WHAT are we doing.  Knowing that I have someone that would notice if I was abducted by aliens.  Someone that notices, my car in the parking lot, as more special than all the cars, cause its mine.

Then again gosh it’s 5:23 on a Saturday night . . . what do I want to do . . .

Non-profit employement and the rotating supervision.

At SCVRJP our non-profit board rotates board members.  Three year terms are staggered, meaning every year in February, we have new board members.  Honestly, we have resignations during the year, and this year was full of change and turnover.

We started a new board group, adding in 3 new board members and a new set of officers.  Non-profits are structured that the Board provides organization governance, and the Executive Director provides organization management. 

This is not as easy as stated. 

Basically no one person on the board is my boss, the collective group, evaluates my work.  The board and I work together towards mission and success of SCVRJP.

So basically this year, my supervisory team has changed, almost on a monthly basis.  Today I realized how much I am thankful for this.  Just think, if I didn’t like or get along with my boss (in a traditional or formal employement setting).  I’d be stuck.  I’ve never been a person that doesn’t get along with people (in my perception).

These are challenging economic times.  Our statewide MADD WI staff positions were recently cut (the victim advocate remains).  That hurts, WI got the worse grade in the Nation from MADD, for drunk driving.  Our board, volunteers, staff and community are all going to have to work hard to keep our nonprofit functioning.  Crucial messages about our work and our rationale to be supported will be key.

We are formalizing a little more as a board, getting the board manuals done was a huge step and a project that took TWO years to get completed. 

(Don’t tell my board . . . but when I finally decided to do them . . . that’s when they got done.) 

Oh, I should be completely honest, when I assigned it to my staff CC, she really helped get them done, actually you know what?  No one person deserves credit, not me, not her, not the board.  Looks like we are operating well!

Remembering there are many ‘right’ answers . . .

I keep a pile of books by my bed, the ones I want to read.  The ones I’ve started and wanted to finish.  What amazes me is that whenever I go back to a ‘spiritually’ based book.  I read exactly what I needed!  It’s really odd, like if I had kept reading, I wouldn’t have had the necessary life experience to apply the ‘lesson’. 

When I picked up The Art of Power my bookmark was on Chapter 4, Getting What you Want.  I can’t believe I didn’t just go “sheesh, yeah right, like I can get what I want”. 

See what I think I want is the hives to go away and the recent work incident to have not happened. 

But my ‘calm, just out of the bath and fully covered with anti itch cream’ self said: (in response to seeing the Get what you want chapter heading) . . . “aaaah yes, see young grasshopper, you are getting what you really want . . .getting back to peace and practicing Restorative Justice”.  Now that I just typed that . . . could the newly prescribed hive prescription that is also an antidepressent work that fast?  I swallowed it a minute ago!  No, see, I’m being my manic, easily off track self.  Ok, back to my point.

Many ‘right’ answers. 

Is the formal criminal process the ONLY way to hold offenders accountable? 

How can we as individuals hold each other accountable?

Who are we to judge what someone else needs to be held accountable for?

Questions like these have me wondering why I didn’t try harder in college chemistry . . . maybe if I had, I’d be a nurse instead.  I’m not a nurse, I’m a nonprofit executive director for a RESTORATIVE JUSTICE program.

I contributed to a decision  to not take a path of formally prosecuting “criminal” behavior.  I then struggled about an organization paying bills that are technically not ours to pay.  Moving along and remembering that the formal system is not the only response.  The path to peace is a response.

Restoring peace will take time, but only peace will bring peace.  Instead of trying to get some debt paid by negotiating a final paycheck, I issued the final paycheck.  It doesn’t erase the debt.  It frees me from the power struggle.  It allows me to move on.

Restorative Justice – – all about relationships.  The incident changed my relationship to past  & future employees.  My relationship to my board of directors.  My relationship to my work area/physical space.  My relationship to my beliefs about Restorative Justice.  My relationship to my experiences as a victim.  The incident itself, changed many other relationships for many other people.

So I took control and changed some things.  On Saturday I worked 12 hours 9:30 am to 9:30 pm, I rearranged furniture I cleaned, rearranged file drawers including the contents.  I printed labels for practically every single file in the office.  I took out 4 bags of garbage. 

I am redefining my relationships now.  I am so glad I have taken it on this way . . . and to read on page 53 of ‘The Art of Power’ it brought it all home:

The greatest happiness is having a job that you like and that expresses your understanding and compassion.

Wisconsin Statewide Restorative Justice Efforts

wisconsin-county-mapRestorative Justice is growing in Wisconsin.

In 2004, I took a map like the one above and started to highlight the Counties where I knew about Restorative Justice Programs.  I really kept my eyes and ears open.  As a County Juvenile Justice/Child Protection Supervisor I felt connected to what was happening at the County government level.

I live on the Western (left side) of the State.  Many “Statewide” meetings are in Madison or Milwaukee.  Those Cities are on the Eastern border.  It’s hard to become involved when a 2 hour meeting means ten hours of driving.  I do what I can to stay involved.

Today I spent about 3 hours helping the state wide RJ coalition with a directory on WordPress.

This was something I was able to do to be part of the state program.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of responses.  Check out our directory.

Today I started a section for ‘photos’ of RJ in action.  Feel free to contribute a photo there . . . a picture is worth a thousand words.