Gripping story of teen drinking and driving . . . another lesson.

The Door County Wisconsin Sheriff’s Department and local coalition produced this video, the story of Karen and Amanda.  It’s real and it hits me because I work with situations like this at SCVRJP.  I help speakers like the ones in this video, share their story.

As you watch this, you will be drawn in, get a tissue.  Also consider the powerful impact if you heard this in person.  In Circle with the very people.  At the end you would get a talking piece, and be offered the chance to make a committment to your peers and the storyteller.

Thank you Door County for producing this, it motivates me to work on finishing the On the Road Together Safe Teen Driving Circles book.


Part 2


In case you forgot . . . getting a felony is a bad thing!

In case you missed this comment, I wanted to post it.  I think Brenda makes some strong points: 

Labeling people has played a tremendously important role in the history of the world. Labeling has ruined reputations, and ended lives, sent people to prison and to war, and just generally made people mad at each other for centuries. Labeling can be used against policies, practices, beliefs and ideals, as well as against individuals, groups, races, nations. The point here is that when individuals have been labeled, people will merely react blindly and unquestioningly to that label. No one stops to ask, what are the merits of that label, and what were the causes in being labeled? People assume an already established viewpoint. That viewpoint is one of rejection and condemnation when it’s a felon.
The crime is done and over with, it’s in the past, and now it’s time to do the right thing, but how when a felon is not given that second chance? Or, should the question be “just how reluctant are people to give that individual a chance, and welcome them back into their community after they have obtained that incurable label as “A Felon”? Felons don’t understand changes brought by legal status from being labeled as a felon until they face public scrutiny, and that scrutiny will be carried around for a lifelong stigma.
How can a felon give an affective message to their children about the value of hard work leading to success in life, when all around there is little traditional success to being observed from them? Being a child of a felon hardly seems like a status worth boasting about. Felons seeking to put their criminal past behind them are frustrated by a legal system that is complex and unclear and entirely inadequate to the task. Felons have no hope of ever being able to fully discharge their debt to society.
What about the victim? When there is not actually an individual victim, in other words, when the crime is considered against the state or commonwealth, the victim is actually everyone that lives in that state that pays taxes. It’s a crime committed against society as a whole, and courts make sure the criminal makes retribution in paying for their crime, or punish them for their crime against society. Ironically, courts make society a victim from their actions in condemning individuals for a crime that has little affects on society. Who actually pays for the cost of prisons? “Society.” Who then becomes a victim? “Society.” Who actually made society a victim in depriving them of their money?
Drug crimes are often referred to as “victimless crimes,” and clearly, to many people are behind bars for “simple” drug crimes, such as marijuana possession or the sale of small quantities. It’s a matter of private behavior that poses no harm to others. Labeling these individuals as felons puts them in the same category as someone who has brutally raped a small child. The label does not make distinction between crimes committed. When people think of the word felon, it brings to mind someone who has committed a horrible act that has an actual victim.
People convicted and labeled as a felon have no hope of ever being able to fully discharge their debt to society. Notwithstanding this fond national self-image, United States is not a land of second chances, at least as far as the legal system is concerned.
Once an individual has been convicted of a felony, that conviction will remain on their record for the rest of their life, and it’s surprising the government hasn’t stamped the label of a felon on tombstones, plus limit where their poor souls can be finally laid to rest. Consequences of a felony conviction will reach far beyond any prison time. A felony record is made available to just about anyone that wants it, and felons cannot hide from their past mistakes. A felony conviction affects every aspect of a person’s life, from the ability to vote and hold public office to the ability to pursue a career of their choice. Not only can a felony conviction affect their professional aspirations, but it affects a felons personal life in being treated differently by friends and family, and not trusted to build new relationships, plus, they are not allowed to be around other felons, and it can only lead to a very lonely life trying to fit into a society that see’s them only as a label.
The government guarantees Constitutional protection, but that guarantee is like putting a condom on afterwards, and then damage control is taken into perspective, and it is likely the factor that has encourage optimism about how our government actually operates. Sadly, the government and courts can’t connect the labeling concept, and individuals have no reason to change, plus, they are given no reason to change from blinding judgment after being labeled as a felon.
Is a bigger issue in restorative justice a concept considered? People can bare every kind of pain except the pain in being rejected, and our government should operate on the power of empathy, hearing everyone’s full situation, and drawing a line on labeling individuals as felons.
Brenda Eaton

Being a workaholic really does follow addiction patterns.

This year at work, I struggled with using all of my Paid Time Off.  I just didn’t feel like I could take the time off.  Often times during the calendar year, I was the only employee.

I tried to negotiate with the board of directors to “buy-out” part of my time off bank.  They very supportively said, use it or lose it.  They were supporting me in that emotional stability and longevity include time away from work.  Yeah, yeah, yeah . . .

I blame my Dad the farmer for my work ethic.  I blame ex boyfriends for not generating a life outside of work.  I can blame restorative justice because the healing properties are so addicting!  See its all these things OUTSIDE of me, not anything with in that feeds my addiction.

I really didn’t want to throw away 30-70 hours of paid time off.  That would be ridiculous, right.  No one wants to be acting ridiculous.

So today I justified my behavior by this one:  “I’m not going to wear my watch, so then, it won’t really be like I’m working”.  As soon as that rationalization crossed my mind I knew I would be blogging on it.  I caught myself in a really lame rationalization.

I added to my “not working” by wearing a hooded sweatshirt and not showering.  Yet, I drove to the office, returned phone calls, answered emails, picked up the phone, made appointments, clarified my to-do list and priorities.  Hmmm. 

Minimizing, rationalizing, blaming, avoiding responsibility, lacking at accountability . . . all things I do around work-aholic-ness that I have.  All things people in addicition have to overcome.

I just blocked off 3 Fridays in 2010 as PTO days.   Its never to late to turn over a new leaf.

Why Restorative Justice helps us with ‘belonging’.

maslowMaslow’s Hierchy of needs, from changing  There’s belonging right in the middle.  First we have the basic needs, food, shelter and clothing.  Then freedom from danger, and in the middle, BELONGING.

How many incidences of crime or harm do you think DON’T impact the bottom two,  safety and basic needs?  Sleep disturbance is a common impact of being victimized.  Or even being close to a situation.  A business in River Falls was held up at gunpoint, the store clerk was threatened and traumatized by the incident, obviously.  The store owner, not even present at the time, was unable to sleep until the perp was found.  (Print edition River Falls Journal Nov 12).

Consider the two needs above belonging, esteem and self-actualization.  Those are also impacted by crime and conflict.  So I find it an interesting, that the middle link between the upper and lower needs, belonging.

Mother Theresa quote . . .”we have forgotten that we belong to each other“.

Consider this, the restorative justice process follows Maslow’s Hierchy, we bring people together for interactions.  We pre-conference, or prepare those coming to the process.  I know I accomodate my meeting times around food, sleep needs, work schedules and those basic concerns for people.

We certainly focus on safety, preparing people to come and assuring that safety both physical and emotional is planned for, addressed and all preparations for a smooth process are in place.

When Restorative Justice is used as community building, vs addressing harm or conflict, the needs are still met by Restorative Justice.

I think belonging for everyone evolves when the individuals in Circle, travel from Point A to Point B.  Point A being when we are strangers in a sense and then Point B is when we have cleared the space between us.

We started a new Circle program called CSI-Circles.  Controlled Substance Intervention – responding to those who have gotten citations/tickets for marijuana possession or parapernalia charges.  We use Restorative Justice Circle process with booklets from the Change Company.  Our community members in the Circle include people in recovery, with significant life experiences impacted by addiction and previous drug use.  We focus on restorative values and the talking circle is the vehicle for impacting people.

The response by participants has really touched me.  One young person shared a traumatic story about an incident of threats and abuse by a parent.  We all silently absorbed that story, because it was Circle.  Later the “taking action” stage, was full of comments about what people would be taking from the Circle.  Hope, understanding, awareness, faith – things you would want young people who got caught with a pipe or pot to feel.  At least what I think is good to take away, I have thought long about what they were getting from courts before SCVRJP offered this session.

The final question round, is usually a reflection on the Circle itself, and I used that at the CSI.  That was really great feedback.  The attendees were really suprised by what they thought it was going to be and what it was.  Several comments on how effective it was, and how much more it should be applied.

I think all the positive-ness came from distributing the sense of belonging.  We gave it to each other, we reintegrated everyone back in the community.  The Circle safety created a candid space for everyone to talk about their crime, their lives and their future.  It was a real gift to have our CSI program be so well recieved.

Blogging helps link you to other blogs – a Restorative Justice example from Missouri.

I was reviewing my blog post, checking out how the layout looked.

At the bottom, WORDPRESS will post similar posts.

I found this one, Why Restorative Justice Programs are thriving in Missouri.    The wordpress blog is here.

I enjoy hearing that there is consistency in studies about Restorative Justice.

Evaluations show that offenders follow thru with restorative justice agreements more often than traditional means of agreements (court orders).  I believe this has to do with the process that is used to get to the agreement.  Young people have changed, as the world has changed.  In an era of getting answers on ‘google’ and being exposed to creating and contributing social media, young people need to be included in processes that impact them.

I think community integration for young people is important.  Having community members that are volunteers, makes this happen.  Young people know when people are “paid” to be in their lives.  There is something about people giving of themselves, that automatically makes you want to give back.

I act on this as often as I can.  I hold the door for strangers.  I say hello to people I pass in the hallway.  I pickup dropped items for strangers.  It’s generally always reciprocated.  When there are double doors, people usually hold the second door for me.  A genuine thank you and smile.  Kindness begets kindness.

Surviving a “colossal faux pas” and rebounding!


Colossal tells me this means extraordinarily great in size, extent, or degree; gigantic; huge.

A Faux pas -is a blunder in etiquette. 

I had to survive a colossal faux pas in October of 2007.  I brought my daughter and best friend along for the ride. 

Friend and daughter both fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  As a gift to them both I got us 3 tickets to see a live production of The Rocky Horror Picture show, at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, MN.

Picasa Web Photo Album, Image by Teresa

As you can see from the photo the Ordway is a very nice place.

In the tradition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, we lined up costumes.  My friend asked me if other people were going to be dressed up.  She’s like my sister and sometimes I act weird around her.  So I was a little short with her.  I said, “I don’t know, I can’t control other people, we’re dressing up, its going to be fun”.  We found a “man chest” at Target and a robe at Good Will, I decided to go as Brad, the main male character.

My friend and daughter found this hilarious, so that encouraged me even more.  You see I have a secret desire to be a stand-up comedian.  I bought male underwear, traditional male briefs.  I wore my underwear under the underwear so it wasn’t really cross-dressing.  To enhance my anatomy, I stuffed a pair of socks down the front of my briefs.

On the way to the Theatre, I mumbled something about, us not even having a change of clothes, if by chance others were not dressed up.  We laughed it off, it was the Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course people were going to be dressed up.

We got within a block of the theatre.  I could see the crowd moving towards the door.  People had just been out to dinner, or were dressed for an evening in at the theatre.  NOT A SINGLE COSTUMED PERSON.

“OHHHHHHH NOOOOOOO” I bellowed.  I do mean bellowed.  Three times.  After the third loud and drawn out “OHHH NOOOOO” I said:

“THIS IS THE WORSE POSSIBLE CASE SCENARIO”.  I was jetted back to my Masters in Counseling class where some dumb evaluation question was to ask people how they would respond if they showed up at a Halloween Party as the only people in costume.

My friend and daughter were in stitches.  Sure they were in costume, but I was in a man chest, robe and underwear!  They could hardly keep their breath as they laughed and laughed.  We got to the parking ramp, my friend, said “well Mom, do we go?”.  I said, “Yes” the tickets were $150.00. 

The experience began.  I pulled my robe at tightly as possible, and in flip flops marched to the theatre.  As fast as my legs would carry me, man junk and all.

In the parking ramp, and elevator, people were shocked, then they looked away, as if we were naked. 

We got in the theatre ticket pick-up line, I started asking about a costume contest.  I pretened we thought there was a contest.  I was trying to speak of something, as to not appear the fool.  People would not get in line behind our trio of odd balls.

We finally got the tickets, headed to the theatre, I could see the ticket-taker trying not to laugh.  He ignored my costume contest banter.  We arrived at our seats, in the dark theatre and I was never so happy to try and blend in anywhere.

It was a great show, we really enjoyed it.  Had a ton of laughs getting back to the car.  WOW, what a lesson in life, make sure you know the dress code.  The point of this in a Restorative Justice Blog . . . sometimes you really do just mess up!  You have to live with the consequences and do better in the future!  This really was an experience that touched my heart . . . and you know what I say:  Restorative Justice gets to a Change of behavior by a Change of Heart!

Before we knew . . . no one else was dressing up.

Are self-help books really all that helpful? A personal strength list reveals a “maybe”

I was quickly browsing one of my many dating self-help books.  Just looking for validation that I am READY for a relationship.  Something that says the problem isn’t me.

I’m not going to go down the road of why my thinking “alone” is some sort of problem, failure or deficiet – created by society, who in turn has a high divorce rate.  No cynical-Sally is not the author of this post.  Kris Miner, the hero of her own story is the author.  (Don’t forget: You are the hero of your story!)

The book gives a “ready” check-list that includes the ability to instantly make a list of your 25 personal strengths.  Oh, easy, I can do that. 

I believe Self-awareness is one of, if not, the only way to make change.  Personal change.  My favorite blogger, Penelope Trunk, calls it self-knowledge.  You have to know how your behavior is impacting others, and in turn impacting your life.  I take time to try and be aware of who I am, and that is what let me know I could make a list of 25 strengths.

I also believe in Strenghts.  Let me HIGHLY recommend and plug Strenghts Finder 2.0.  Spend the $20 to do the assessment it’s WELL worth the time.  This helped me understand that being ‘competitive’ isn’t bad, it just need harnessed.  You really get to see your characteristics as strengths.  The whole point is that its easy to take what you are good at and make it great, rather than take a weakness and try to make it good.

So a list of 25 strengths was going to be easy for me.  I am hyper, jump right in to the task at hand.  I pull out a notebook and start rattling off strengths.  I get to number 11 and wrote down .  .  . clean.  Clean as in freshly showered.  Clean as in not like PigPen. 


Wow, what a personal strength.

I am among the people that shower. 

I am a person whose clothes are washed.

Hmmmm, I thought.  Did I mean that I was free of a sexually transmitted disease?  No, I did not mean that, but it’s true!

Now I started to think the whole damn idea of a list 25 personal strengths was stupid.  When I get mad and judgemental its an indication for me to take a closer look.  I took a pause.

Maybe I needed to slow down a little.  Maybe rattling off the list wasn’t the way to do this.  I didn’t put down “clean” for number 11, I jotted down, “quick thinker”.  I only have 22 items on my list.

I guess I need two more before I’m ready for a relationship. 

Awwww, screw the list.

Deep Brain Learning book review and applications to Restorative Justice

I snapped this photo last night with my cell phone.  The lights of the Christmas tree blurred out the tabs on the side.  I tabbed 48 places in this book.

This was my Saturday night date, this book, Deep Brain Learning.  I read it in two and a half hours, cover to cover.  I thought it was very, very good.

I was reading it to pick up more information for my upcoming book:  On the Road Together Safe Teen Driving.  (Other blog links about that here.)

I was also reading the book because I love the  Circle of Courage philosophy and approach.  The subtitle of the book interested me Pathways to Potential with Challenging Youth.

I learned some very interesting connections between our brains and restorative justice, when I attended the IIRP breakout session:  The Implications of Neuroscience for Restorative Practices presented by Frida Rundell.  She actually gave us almonds in the session, to demonstrate our amygdala.  I still carry those around, those two almonds, my amygdala.  Dr Rundell, is an instructor at IIRP, and she made clear connections between restorative justice and our brains.

image by

Deep Brain Learning, gave me a great deal to think about.  I am not sure if I can completely articulate any one concept right now.  I liked several new ideas presented and the one that most struck me was the idea of Consilience.

The wiki definition here.  The authors of Deep Brain Learning share that the wordsmith William Whewell who invented the term Scientist, also invented the term Consilience.  It means knowledge that links research, practice, and deep values.  The authors make a great illustration with four circles that over lap and the center is the truth.  The four circles are Practice, Social Science, Values, Natural Science.

A subsection of the introduction is titled:  Twisting the Truth.  There is a good discussion on evidence-based practice.  I really appreciate the authors directing us to the American Psychological Associations definition of Evidence-based needing to include Scientific Research, Clinical Expertise and Person Characteristics.

Several of the tabs I placed were markers for blog topics.  I plan to link back to this blog post when I mention items from the book.  I do recommend that if you work with youth, you get this book.  It is very interesting and provided you ‘maps’ to working with young people in a way that sustain positive behaviors.  The chapters are titled like that, Chapter Four Trust Maps, Chapter Five Challenge Maps, Chapter 6 Power Maps, 7 Moral Maps.

I definately plan to make sure our work at SCVRJP integrates these nuggets of wisdom.

Update on the question: what do you know alot about and how did you get to know it

I mentioned the getting acquainted question in this post.  I gave it a try and was really impressed with how it worked.  Once again the Circle process did not fail me.

It was cute to see the person wearing a t-shirt with a soccer ball on it, say she knew alot about soccer, because she had played it since she was 5.  Or the person that said, he knew alot about movies, because he watches so many.  Some shared how they knew alot about the place they worked, from working there so much.

It was a slightly different turn on a question I had used in the past, asking people about something they were “good” at and who taught them.  Instead of a judgment of being good or bad at something, this question just drew out the fact a person had information about it.

One person really caught me off guard.  He said he knew alot about drugs, and knew that from using them.  It seemed I was the only one that flinched.  Before another second passed the talking piece was in the hands of the next person and the answers were all more typical.  Knowing alot about baseball, video games, horses.  Of the many circles that I have tried that question on , that was the only response that included something against the law.

I wonder what the ripple effect has been for the person that shared that.  I noticed some remorse in the statement, the non-verbal cues, I suspect the person is in recovery, but I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t stated as a bravado or bragging, from my perspective it sounded ashamed.  Judging from the non-response in the Circle, I suspect it is something the others may have also known.

What strikes me is that you can place something in the Center of the Circle, and it is there.  It is just there.  How many things in our life do we get to just have, without judgment being placed on them.  If its not others judging it, its probably ourselves.  Doe these questions ever rattle your brain?

“Am I good enough?  Did this measure up?  Is someone else doing it this way?  Will my boss approve?  Do I look fat in this?  Will I be able to do this?  Why did she look at me like that?”

By putting something in the Center of a Circle and not having it judged we are able to remove ourselves from it just enough to look at it differently.  If you think others see you as “wrong” you just immediately defend yourself.  If you are certain you are right, they are wrong, again, responding to defend.  The defending over rides the ability to simply look at what you put in the center of the circle.  I believe it takes self-awareness to change.  How can you change if you are being defensive, you have your back to your idea, you are defending it.  If we don’t judge we allow people to also look at what they put in the center.  To look at it and see if that is what they want for themselves.

I hope there was growth for the person who said that.  I hope by being the only person in Circle that answered like that he found something.  I know I found that not judging it may have been the best thing to do.

A dating relationship measure, “Melting Pot worthy”.

Yes, by Melting Pot, I mean the fondue restaurant chain, Melting Pot.


I had the good fortune of being introduced to the restaurant with some male friends.  While traveling I caught up with an old friend, a social media friend and made a new friend.  Here is a photo of all of us at a Melting Pot Restuarant in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.

We only had a dessert portion of the melting pot experience.  We had already had supper, but decided to catch a drink after.

As the four of us socialized we really had quality conversation.  Paul and Ben knew each other, but Matt had just met each of them.  I had just met Matt in person, Paul and I have known each other for a few years.  Ben and I only knew each other from an earlier workshops session.  Yet I was struck by how conversational the evening was, and what fun we had chatting.

At one point in the evening we spoke to the host, Jason.  He was full of helpful information regarding the history of Melting Pots and the “event” of having a full Melting Pot experience.  It really made me want to experience an entire meal at the Melting Pot.  Since the process takes awhile to go from appetizer to dessert, I commented on the importance of being in good company.  I joked about having ‘melting pot’ worthy friends.  I was glad to be in excellent melting pot company that evening.

I now measure my dating relationships up to the Melting Pot test.  Would it be enjoyable to have a long meal with this person?  My answer really should be “yes”.  It may seem shallow, but two months ago I got a real awareness when I asked this question.

So as I post on this two months after the fact, I go catch the Melting Pot link for the post.  They have a facebook application where you pair your friends.  Hmmm, maybe I’m not the only one that sees the Melting Pot dating test . . .