People really do just want to be heard.

My first interaction with Ted Wachtel from IIRP, was almost 10 years ago.  We were in a break out session, in the Thunderbird Motel in Minneapolis, MN.  During the discussion, Ted spoke about a Harvard Business Review Article on ‘Fair Process’.  I followed up at lunch, he took my card and said he would send the article.  I was hopeful, but not confident I would hear from him again.  He did me a great favor and followed up.

By doing this Ted taught me 2 lessons.  1.)you do what you say.  you follow through.  2.)committment to theory.  The first lesson is pretty self-explanatory.  I really enjoy professional conferences.  Sometimes I have followed up and made lasting friendships.  Other times I have kept my word sent off a dvd or an article and never hear from a person again.  Ted taught me how meaningful that follow-thru is.  Ted valued in information ‘theory’ in that article.  He had a committment to that and knew it was great stuff.  I have used it again and again.  It really makes great sense. 

The second lesson is when you find something awesome, you hold it up and hand it out to others.

The article is about being heard.  You might get your outcome, but if you are shortchanged in being heard, you aren’t happy.  I got to give someone a chance to be heard.

Last Friday we had an artist reception and open house.  It was scheduled from 4-6 pm.  The newspaper printed 2-4.  At 2:30 someone arrived, and I explained we were having a meeting.  (In reality it was a Circle, but I didn’t think she would understand.)  The visitor was very short with me, informed me what the newspaper said.  She slammed the door on the way out, giving me very little chance to make a plan with her.

I went back to the Circle and as I sat down said “that was harsh”.  My face must have looked concerned, because a woman in the Circle suggested I not take that on.  It was her not me.  Yes, I thought, I don’t need to carry that around.

Ironically enough.  It was a brilliant example for our Circle.  The Circle is focusing on a teen treating Mom hostile.  We are supporting a violence free home for Mom and Daughter.

Then 4 days later I get a phone call at the office.  A woman is calling about the Open House.  We had two other people visit, so I know exactly who this is.  It’s the door slammer. 

I am saying I’m sorry, I’m inviting her down to see the art work.  She wanted to talk to the artist, well he wasn’t here then anyway.  She suggested I should have put a sign up.  I did put a sign up after she left, because before that I didn’t know the paper printed the wrong times.  I am making attempts to problem solve with her and none of it will be accepted.  I want to ask what her real problem is.  Now I’m getting annoyed!

Then my heart turns.  I feel sorry for her, this is a HUGE deal.  She is SO upset about coming to visit and being turned away.  In my kindest most sincere voice,  I ask “what do you most need me to know?”.  Well it turns out she wants me to do something for all the other people, not just her, that came down that day.  Okay, I say I will.  I apologize once again and we get off the phone.

I really doubt we had anyone other than her come visit.  It is possible that people came to the door and saw the sign.  We had just 30 more minutes of Circle.  When you consider her request for me to do something for everyone else that came down – it’s impossible.  I don’t know who they are.

This woman just wanted to be heard.

It’s amazing how often we just don’t get to be heard.  I am so thankful that Restorative Jusitice gives people that place to be heard.  Usually the Restorative Jusitce Center provides this in our Conferences and Circles, in this instance we provided it for our Open House!

We become a part of everyone we interact with.

Three of us were walking on campus, chatting away.  A street lamp was on my side of the sidewalk.  I was going to quickly cut around it.  I stopped, said “oh you can’t split the pole”.  I went on to explain I learned that from some girls I had in Circle. 

I said I honor my African-American Sisters, by keeping that superstition, (for lack of a better word).  I can’t remember why they said you can’t split, but it was important to them.  So I stopped splitting when I walk in groups.  I guess it’s like not going under a ladder.  Hey if you are reading this and know more, will you let me know.

So back to my two walking partners, after I darted back around the street lamp, so we all passed the same side.  One of the guys said, “that validates my theory: 

 “we become a part of everyone we meet.  A little piece of each person stays with us.”

Cool beans, for me.  I agreed.

I don’t put food on the floor anymore.  Someone told me that was a religious or cultural value.  Our food is such a gift, we should not dishonor it with being placed on the floor.  Cool, I dig that.  It helps me remember who planted the potatoes for my french fries.  I have had to quiet my judgemental mind.  I see someone put food on the floor . . . I think it, don’t say anything.

A recent conversation with someone working in my building.  She works for an architect, we chat in passing.  She asked me what I had going on for the day.  “Oh, I’m helping a victim and an offender talk, she was drunk, he was on his motorcycle, she left him there”.  I didn’t get far into explaining this and the look of shock on her face. 

I forgot I was talking outside of my usual network.  I started to minimize the task.  She complimented me, thanked me for doing this work.  I shruggeed her off, “oh I love it, its no big deal”.  She point blank and deeply asked “how do you not take those things home with you”.

The moment on campus flashed back to me.  The colleague that said : we become a part of everyone we meet.

I went on to explain that there is so much hope in doing this work. 

I found myself thinking about this later.  I decided it was even more important to help people find their own humanity, to discover their own spiritual response to crime and conflict.  To leave a part of me with them.  Then I had a shift in my friends comment.

We don’t become a part of everyone we meet, we already are.

Restorative Justice is a place where “mixed” messages work.

I’ve heard the communication pitfall . . . sending “mixed messages”.  Urban dictionary gives this example:

A friend tells you he wants to remain “just friends,” and then proceeds to call you every day, text message you twice a day, and express how much he misses you on a regular basis.

I am not recommending mixed messages, but I want to illustrate that Restorative Justice – really holds two seemingly different things, at the same time.

For example:

“I don’t like what you did. I want to support you”

“You are not a bad person.  That behavior is wrong.”

When I started my employment with SCVRJP I used Lady JusticeLady-Justice_31175408 on letterhead and my business cards.  I got feedback from the Board of Directors it was too close to the formal system.  I stopped using this image.

You see, I saw the scale.  Balancing two things at once.  I saw: Needs/Harms.  Victim/Offender.  Accountability/Healing. 

Years later, I wonder what the formal system would say is on the scales.  Maybe: Community/Due Process.  Is the Lady of Justice the Constitution?  The scales would be the process.  So much of the formal system is about the process.  This hearing, than  that hearing.  This step of the process.  That’s not my area of expertise . . . my area is Restorative Justice.

RJ can hold mixed messages.  That’s why understanding the concept is difficult.  RJ encourages victim and offender (when victim is willing) dialouge.  That seems counter-intuitive.  The reality is that when crime occurs an involuntary relationship is formed.  Helping people prepare to come together, and clearing a pathway for meaningful discussion is Restorative Justice.

Giving victims a space to speak – and speak to the person who caused the harm.  Seems a little mixed at first glance.

It’s helpful.  I’ve seen it time and time and reseach shows, victims are more satisfied with Restorative Jusitce – compared to traditional court process.

What about the mixed message with offenders.  Offenders have harmed the community.  Restorative Jusitce gives space for offenders to give back to the community.  Huh?  seems mixed up.  Really it’s not, how do we expect people to be different if we don’t provide a stage for that to occur?

I think Restorative Justice practitioners are a unique breed of people.  The willingness to step out of bounds, to do something that even 10 years ago was barely in the margins.  Now we are talking about moving the process “mainstream”.  I think it will be important to keep balanced . . . mainstream on one side of the scale and committment to core Restorative Justice on the other.

Great article explaining Restorative Justice – Marilyn Armour

I met Marilyn while I was taking Mark Umbriet’s week long severe crime and violence training.  That was in 2005.

When I saw her again in 2007, I reinforced how much her presentation on “meaning making” shaped my work.  At the most recent meeting, I asked her to write an essay in the upcoming book “On the Road Together”.

Here is an excellent article and explanation.  It’s from 2005, but I really like the points articulated.

I love the Vietnam Memorial – Memorial Day post










The first time I visited I was in high school, it was 1985.  I was in Washington DC as part of a 4-H Citizenship program.  I remember being emotionally drawn in, feeling afraid and confused about why I was so taken.

The photos above are from 2007, I was in Washington DC, for a National Conference.  Again, I was deeply drawn in, I got very emotional.  I took an etching of the same name.  At one time, I had my blog heading photo of me taking the etching.  I did a post to explain.

Today I caught a History Channel special on the Vietnam Memorial.  As I sat here sobbing, I decided I needed to blog on this.

Did you know the project was originally met with rejection.  Jan Scruggs woke up one day, knewing he had to do this.  He wanted names to be part of the project.  The project seemed doomed to fail.  Kind of reminded me of how some people respond to Restorative Justice.

The documentary said that with “persistence and compromise”.  It was built in 1982.  I like those things together . . . persistence and compromise.  Good reminders as we move RJ ahead.

Jan Scruggs was mocked, he wanted no government money.  He wanted is to be a peoples memorial.  Eventually 650,000 people contributed over 8 million dollars.

Did you know the location of the Vietnam Memorial is in an area where anti-war marches were once held.  The very land that opponents to the war stood, is now the sacred place of the memorial.  Seems restorative to me.

I love how restorative this is . . . RJ about equality.  The design of project was done with a blind competition.  Putting all the designers on equal footing.  Out of 14,000 submissions, the selected design was from an “unknown.  A 20 year old from Harvard.

I also learned that 58,000 names are etched in the wall.

One of the testimonials on the documentary said “most walls keep people apart and this wall brings people together”.  The only monument to bring so much donated mementos, notes, and even a Harley Davidson from Wisconsin.  The items have been saved and will be part of a future museum.

I love that, it will be the peoples museum.  The items donated at the wall, are the public being curator of the items.  That said “community” loud and clear to me.  One quote from the program “what we consider sacred” is left at the wall.

I think it’s odd for me to be so connected to the Vietnam Memorial.  Maybe it’s because I was born in ’68.  I think after posting this, its because of my fascination with healing and facilitating healing for others.  The healing that happens at the Vietnam Memorial, “the Wall”, may be the common denominator.

An excellent read on Restorative Justice and a life well lived.

I am so passionate.  It runs intense or not at all for me.  So I read this book in less than 24 hours.  I got home around 10 pm, to find Dreams from the Monster Factory had arrived in the mail. 

Book Cover Sunny Schwartz
Book Cover Sunny Schwartz

I can’t remember the first time I heard about this book.  I do remember seeing Sunny on Oprah.  Then my friend Loreen Walker did a post on the book.

The book came up again at the National Conference on Restorative Justice.  I was chatting with some friends who mentioned it.  Linda White talked about comments Sunny made on the Oprah show.  She said “we have a legal system, not a justice system”.  Linda talked about meeting Sunny, and Ellen Halbert another National figure in the Restorative Justice movement, confirmed this was a good book.

The very next time I was on Amazon, I moved this item from my wish list to my cart.  I can’t recommend it enough, I might have to read it again!

I just posted a video of Sunny, to my facebook and twitter.  Check out the site here.  Pictures from the people featured in the book.

Albert Einstein:

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

What really struck me with Sunny’s book, was the openness about who she is and how she experienced her life.  The raw honesty was refreshing.  I’ve written it many times and the feature of this blog is the intersection of personal and professional.  I think by sharing ourselves we contribute to our own sense of belonging.

I’ve been thinking over a blog post – on why being so transparent is relevant.  This book helped me understand.  I believe in the spritual transformation of Restorative Justice practitioners.  You can hardly speak of that transformation with out relevance to your own life journey.

I appreciate Sunny’s openness, I loved her book.  I look forward to meeting her in person someday, I think we have alot in common.

Book Review – 4 stars!

Relationship patterns can be hard to break. A chance to practice what I preach.

Recently I posted on congruency, and earlier here.  I mean it, I value that and strive to be that kind of a person.  It helps me watch my speech (gossip or put downs).  It helps me remember to ask myself  is it kinds, true and necessary.  I want to be kind, true and necessary.

Lately I’ve found myself encouraging Restorative Justice by explaining that most things start out small and grow.  There is a cycle, from seed to sprout to plant and then fruit.  Crime is often the fruit, so how to we deal with issues/needs early on.  I’ve also talked about stopping a train at 30 mph is easier than 90 mph.  Take that concept and apply it to relationship patterns.

I got an opportunity to be congruent, to practice what I preach.  An old boyfriend and I email or talk occassionally about work.  We’ve kept it completely professional and generic (no mention of “us”) until Friday.  It’s my fault I started it.  I wanted him to know my feelings in the past were real, I still think of him sometimes.  I acknowledged a frustration that we had alot of good, but didn’t work out.  He responded in kind, telling all the positive feelings for me flooded back.  He thought he could has spent the rest of his life with me.  He vaguely mentions getting a beer.  This went on for a few emails and ended with (via email) “call me after Scrabble”.  I played Scrabble Friday night, until about 9 pm.

I was starting to bargin with myself.  Thinking about letting go of his annoying habits.  Imagining having a beer would be great.  We would laugh and tease and have great coversation because we have so much in common.  I was looking forward to learning what books he’s been reading and what he thought of them.  I was going to talk about all my new ideas for getting more Restorative Justice in our community.  We could share stories from all the people be both know, and had different interactions with. 

Then we would talk about us, and make a plan to live happily ever after.  Or maybe just putting our relationship together.  Shit, was that some fantasy or what?  Talk about putting a lot on meeting for beer!

After Scrabble, I called his house, left a voicemail.  I didn’t hear back from him until the next day.  When he called it was an old pattern.

He doesn’t get where conversations pick up and end.  I asked if I left a message on the correct number.  He said yes, he wasn’t home.  He was getting something to eat.   He could have called my cell phone.  If he had that number at 11 am, he had it at 9 pm.

He made plans to get a beer with me after I played Scrabble.  Then just blew that off. 

I ended our conversation Saturday Morning, quickly.  He never called back to see about getting a beer Saturday Night.  I almost went with an old pattern.  Calling him back. That call, likely would have resulted in me cursing him out – for not caring.  He would say he did, we wouldn’t see the events the same way. 

I didn’t call him.  I didn’t start the waltz of our hot and cold relationship.  I felt lousy yesterday (in moments).  Really disappointed and frustrated, if ONLY he was different we could be together. 

Thank goodness for family. 

I have an Uncle that was a psychology professor.  He talked about how a woman picks her mate.  He talked about my Aunt picking him.  He was unwaveringly convinced of this.  He had research and anecdotal evidence.  This was some of the best advice I EVER got.  Because I started to see that everywhere.  I started to see yes, I could pick someone.  I could accept everything he does and move the relationship ahead.  I had already done that once “Marry me, or we’re done”.  I was married 6 months.  Lesson learned, issuing ultimatiums seldom a good idea.

My brother helped me out as well.  He said when a guy wants you, he’ll make sure you are in a committed relationship.  I’ve seen that play out.  I had a guy give me an engagement ring before I was ready.  He wanted to seal the deal with me. 

So my ex, not being home or following up with me for a beer.  That isn’t the level of attention this girl needs.  For me to be congruent, that means not starting this old broken pattern.  I’m focusing on the fact we’ve written the last chapter, this is finished.  No more questions to be answered.  No more worries it was me.

Besides – if he saw a crack in the door, why wouldn’t he invite me on a date, a dinner date.  Not just a beer.

I believe in blogging and I believe you could be a blogger.

I did a post back in October – writers, write and painters paint.   I didn’t know that in 7 months over 8,000 people would have taken a look at my blog, my writing.  It’s given me many gifts. 

Recently in Texas, at a National Conference someone told me how much they like my blog.  I almost got a head rush, trying to think of all the things she knows about me.  Right now I have 234 posts, I haven’t exactly been guarded.  Since my mouth was closed, thinking of how to respond.  She shared how cool she thought it was that my Aunt posted the comment for me.  Click here to read that post.  I liked that, hearing what she thought was a great story from this blog.  That helped me relate right back to her.

Blogging has helped me develop confidence in my writing skills.  My style of writing has become pretty apparent.  I’m not shy (not that I was prior to the blog) about certain thoughts and opinions.  I guess there is no point to stating an opinion if you can’t make a good arguement for it.  We ALL have stories.  We can all be bloggers.

I have found now, that I keep suggesting and encouraging other people to be bloggers.  I tried to encourage an Attorney who is running a Juvenile Justice program in a law school “you can be blogger”.  I also suggested this the Mother of a murdered child.  I think the benefit of “putting yourself” out there in a blog helps you grow as a person.

imagesNike said it best . . . Just Do It.

Start blogging.  I did it for awhile before telling people about it.  Now it’s a standard part of email signatures.  I also say I’m a blogger when I introduce myself to a group.

SCVRJP recently interviewed for a program assistant position.  A few people had read my blog.  The absolutely knew who they would be working for.  To tell you the truth.  I think a few board members sitting in the interview, may have been curious enough to look at this.

Where do you express yourself?  Where do you show who you are and what your values are?  See, blogging can do that for you.

I’ve also found that people are open to giving feedback and suggestions.  That’s helpful.  Knowing how to even try to put in links gets you going in the right direction.

I’d love to see more Restorative Justice practitioners, teachers, educators start blogging.  Our new staff person started today.  I was telling her about restorative justice.  She’s a little familiar to the concept.  I’m so vividly confident about it.  She said “there must be some people who don’t agree with this”.  I laughed, oh yes, there are some.  Restorative Justice is looking at things very differently.  Lets start blogging more about it.

If you have any questions please let me know, I’d love to help you cross any hurdles!

blogger, Kris

The benefits of using equality, values and a labyrinth approach.

I’m going to focus on providing rationale for my Circle style.  Background in this post.


Equality.  How I promote this:  during my opening explanation and with the use of values.  I explain how we are all equal and all responsible for our circle experience.  We get what we give, in a brief sense.  I make sure to share that we are ‘self-governing’ in Circle.  It’s empowering to others.  I think our young people are at a place were they don’t respond to authority in ways older people do.  I also promote equality in having everyone place a value in the Center.  These values are used as our behavior ‘guidelines’.  I don’t develop other rules for the Circle.  I check in and have everyone commit to honor these.  I don’t tell people how to behave, I ask them to determine that.

This type of facilitation – using the power of equality – requires trust on the part of the Circle-keeper.  You may find you need to return to the values, to recenter the Circle.  When all are equal, all are responsible.  Generally when given the option to do the right thing.  People even students, will pick it.

The Values.  I don’t think we talk enough about values.  How are you treating yourself and others.  If you feel harmed you see a dog eat dog world.  You bite before being bitten.  I know you know someone like that.  If you feel safe and okay, you assume others are okay.  Hurt people, hurt people.  Values help us heal.  Just a little bit of healing and you can change something about yourself.

Labyrinth Approach.  I have just decided to coin my facilitation the ‘Labyrinth Approach’.  A labryinth is a Spiritual tool.  I believe Circles touch us mentally, physically, emotionally and spritually. 

At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

Sometimes, in Circle i will say “we’ll  talk a little about silly stuff, before we talk about serious stuff”.  I believe in spending time with answers that might be sentances – to move to answers that are paragraphs.  It is important to hear what someone else had for breakfast.  Because here is the bridge you help people cross.

                                         The circle helps people move from curiosity to empathy.

If I don’t know a thing about you, I have nothing to be curious about.  Once I know something, I know it about myself.  Imagine you learn someone across the Circle likes blueberry pancakes.  You think “I like blueberry pancakes.  I wonder if she’s had them with blueberry syrup” .  Those few getting acquainted questions give us context.  We start to shape our relationship.  We practice ‘acceptance’.  We hear non-threatening opinions.   We practice in the early stages of Circle.  We begin to care.

So then when you move to problem solving, or discussing an issue.  You are totally engaged.  I’ve seen offenders talk way more about what they did in Circle.  I had met with them to prepare and practice telling the story.  Victims have turned their feelings over – from anger to empathy.  I believe it is because of my labyrinth approach.

You help people walk into a deeper place of relating and knowing each other.  You know that when a person goes into a Circle, they come out differently.  Every journey of worth, takes preparation.

Now that I’ve come up with this metaphor – I can’t wait to go walk a labyrinth.  If you haven’t done it, you should.  Ironically enough – I was dreaming about a future Restorative Justice Center.  I told someone  it would need a labyrinth.  You have a weight room to condition athletes and the labryinth would condition RJ practitioners!

Circle facilitation and the many different options, you’ll have to decide.

Yesterday I posted on some differences between a Restorative Justice Circle – and a Conference.  I made a little graphic, I had some trouble posting it.  You can link here to view it.

The blog post has been on my mind.  For one I don’t want to be a critical person.  Yet, I know I am biased by what I have done and seen.  Being non-judgemental is hard work.  I know why some people run a Circle from a place of above rather than with – it’s because we just aren’t used to doing things with people.  So I wanted to be more with people myself.  I have a blog in mind about the importance of the first few stages.  I’ll make a seperate entry on that.  I have to share what happened, which was perhaps a bigger lesson overall.circles

I open up my blog to type a post.  I also open another window and use that to cut and paste my links.  I knew I wanted to link today’s post to yesterdays.  Some goofy thing happened, and I hit enter before Circlespace was in the search window.  I found myself at another blog on Circles.  So check this out for some really good stuff.  Really good stuff and some stuff, I don’t agree with.

So in my attempt to do a post and show I am not critical, I run across something that I feel the need to point out what I see as weaknesses.  Here I am using judgemental terms, weakness.  I should say “differences”.  The methods can be different.

You see, I believe in congruency.  I think as human beings we have an obligation to be in ‘right relationship’ with ourselves.  This means if you speak to, believe in certain values – you also live to those.  I mention being congruent, in a post on Circle presence.  So if I believe and speak to respect, inclusion, diversity – – then I have a lesson in front of me.  Do I continue to point out what I don’t like in other Circle methods – or do I speak my voice.  I pick up the talking piece and share.  Respectfully.

I am also reminded that I can grow.  Hearing other perspectives can also add to mine.  I used to feel going to the ‘left’ was the only way.  That changed when a Native American friend, shared his perspective.  I changed.  I am now open to the talking piece going either way.  I do not do a popcorn style, where you request to hold it.  I believe in the natural flow, and once the talking piece starts it goes all the way around.

From the blog I found this morning – I am going to check out the two books mentioned.  Really the post has great stuff.

Whew – I feel better now, I was carrying around a feeling that I was judgemental, and now I can let that go!