Being forced to know how to spell “leukemia” is hurting my heart.

I am a creative person, remembering how to spell words, or use grammer rules escapes me.  Maybe it has nothing to do with creativity and more to do with I don’t care much about concrete details, I care more about emotional climate.  Who knows.  I am feeling confused right now.

Confused over cancer.  Confused over how one day a person’s life is normal and the next day your brothers wife has leukemia.  Our family dealt with a Mom with cancer when my brother and I were 13 & 11.  It took a split second and we were re-grieving these wounds.  The first voicemail from my Dad, following the news: “I know exactly what he’s going through”.  My Mom has been gone for 22 years.

You do what you know.  My Aunt came and took care of my Mom.  She showed me that sibiling put it out there for each other in time of need.  My brother needs me.  His wife needs me.  Their beautiful kids need me.  I am going to stay with them for 19 days.  I am going to be the maid, the Mary Poppins and the super fun “Aunt Kris”.

In putting my life in order, in order to be gone, I have to use the word leukemia.  I have to spell check it every time.  Denial, I don’t want to have to memorize it.  Anger, I don’t want it in my life.  Yet emotional strength is what I need right now.  Right now, I need to tend to what is in front of me.  I believe that people evolve emotionally.  At some point we have to learn what to do with our feelings in order to not hurt others or ourselves.  We learn that anger doesn’t serve us, and it’s best to get to the point of learning.

I am left with lingering wisdom from many crime victims.  When people process through things, they get to a point of resolution or learning how to live with their circumstances.  No matter the type of harm, harm hurts.  Restorative Justice sees crime as harm to people and relationships.  From seeing so many people and helping them get to a restorative set point, which I believe means processing the hurt, I can get their quicker myself.  (Or so I would like to think).  The gifts of my professional work are again, helping me personally.

I have to live with the fact I now need to spell leukemia.  I am just going to have a deep sigh and move on.  None of us can change the past.  We can however, adjust ourselves for the future.

Weird, kinda freaky, totally needed and helpful . . . finding a ring.

I am in my empty nest transition, as I type that transitioning to what I don’t know.  Am I just an “empty-nester” now, do I get another title?  “Happy, single, independent, bird house”?

Anyway . . . I believe in cleaning and rearranging, it just stirs up the energy and you feel a little different.  I want to feel differently because feeling badly my motherhood flew by isn’t very productive.  A task I had in mind was the total cleaning of my car.  Windex the dash, the cup holders, vacuum the dirt, toss my co-pilots collection of items on her side of the car.  She stopped being a regular passenger once she had her own car, but I still left her candy wrappers, dvds and misc. trinkets in her door pocket.

So I need to tell you these pieces.  My Mom died when I was 20.  She struggled with breast cancer from the time I was 13.  We had “mother-daughter” angst to say the least.  We never got the chance to reconnect as an adult mother-daughter.  So I realize my reality for an adult mother – adult daughter bond is limited.  I might be experiencing my daughter (my only child) leaving with irrational fears about us reconnecting.  (I don’t know, don’t you Freud yourself once in a while?).

It has been Kris and Kylie for nearly all of her 18.5 years of life.  I was married for 6 months when she was 3, engaged and lived with someone for a few months.  I let another someone live with us, for just a few months.  That accumulates to approximately 1 year it wasn’t just us.  Ky had limited involvement with her Dad, I’d say a grand total of 3-4 months time her whole life.  To me that seems like we were pretty much a family of two.  I am having a hard time being 1, but I am working on it.

I was cleaning my car Saturday.  Working thru thoughts of my life being different, needing in a way for a bit of my surroundings to be different.  I dusted and cleaned and mulled over many a road trip, and hopes for more.  Realizing they hold the potential to be different. The glove box was open, and there on the edge, not in the glove box was a ring.  

I picked up the dirty piece of jewelry and wondered why it never fell on the floor.  I looked it over two rings, bound to each other.  It hit me.

Kylie and I will always be connected.

It was the 4th of July, and the last time I ever saw my Mom alive, was on the 4th of July.  I will always be connected to my Mother.

I examined the ring closer.  525 was stamped on this inside of one of the rings, my understanding is that would be considered sterling silver (925 is Tiffany Co. Silver).  Then amazing as it was this ring fit perfectly on my right hand.  I have large hands for a woman, I’m 5’9″ and not petite.

Ironically enough I had just reconnected with an old friend and she had a ring just like this, just engraved with the names of her children.

I kept the ring on, finished my cleaning, thought and thought if Kylie ever had something like this.  Tried to think how it stayed perched on the edge of my glove box.  I stopped caring about the past, and just delighted in the meaningful experience of having a physical object to represent the bond with my daughter.  A real physical thing I could see touch and feel.  I can play with the rings, they slip and mix around each other.

Once inside I got my silver cloth and shined up the new find.  I wore it awhile, then tried to take it off, I typically don’t wear any jewelry daily.  It sat in my jewelry dish for 10 minutes, I had to go back and put it on.  I think this ring finally found its owner.  I have no idea how it got to me, where it came from, but it is definitely mine now.

Personal, professional, private, public why it should all be one.

I have always supported the notion that as people we should be congruent between work and home.  We should hold values that reflect how we are with family and with coworkers.  We should consistently treat people well regardless of the relationship being blood or paycheck.  I need to remember that it extends to all my relationships within SCVRJP!  Clients, volunteers, co-workers and board members, I need to live my relationship values and the ones I have selected for myself and kindness, generosity and spirit.

Some blog posts emerge from my frustrations in life.  This blog is sometimes a problem solving place.  When I struggle with issues, its internal and dark.  Putting something out there in my blog, makes it very much in the light.  No matter how long you sit in the dark, when you turn on the light, the dark is gone.

Lucky for me, this blog is about Restorative Justice, and I when I lean on it for problem-solving it brings forward the philosophies and practices of Restorative Justice.

I am not perfect.  One of my character situations is taking things personally when it comes to SCVRJP.  I use situations to describe it because I will not label it positive or negative, because it is actually both, depending on how I use it.  My character situation is that I take things personally when it comes to SCVRJP.

I would like people to know the relationship I have to SCVRJP, and specifically some of the programs.  I took Restorative Justice Circle process and married it to public health issues like underage consumption, and teen driving.  I inherited Victim Impact Panels, but developed a story telling method.  I searched the internet for resources, evidence-based practices and spent considerable time, energy and used my judgement and logic.  These programs ARE a reflection of me, I created them.  I have sat with I am sure over a 1,000 people in the various Circles and processed with clients, volunteers, community members and others involved.  Spending my time, energy, talents to improve these programs.  Along the way my personality has been shaped by Restorative Justice philosophy and Circle approach, making it personal because of how it changed me for the good.  Believe me it makes you a better person, but it doesn’t make your situations go away.

I get an enewsletter to help me with my public speaking, specifically humor.  John Kinde, humor specialist recent recieved a negative “zinger” and in this post, he reflects on that.  His suggestions hit home, and when he reflected that he was being personally attached because jokes are a reflection of “logic and judgement”, “time and effort in design”, I got that. 

I’ve expressed feeling personally attacked and I’ve heard “don’t take it personally”.

I think that’s a little like telling a crime victim, “stop crying”.  You would never do that.  Victims feel victimized and they didn’t deserve it and it hurts.  Many victims have told me that before restorative justice they just didn’t feel understood.   Because of the manner we do our work, (restoratively) we deeply listen to people and give them the room to express themselves.  Regardless of the degree of severity of the crime (recognized by the legal label of the crime or our personal assessment) we don’t just state to people to “stop that”, when they are feeling mis-understood or not understood at all.

Thank you to John Kinde, because you went on to show you live your last name!  Kind with an E!  Your post shared that when we are in control of our attitude positive and negative.  Your post showed me that I can be kind to the people that tell me “don’t take it personal” and just be positive about it.  Just remind myself they only say that because they don’t understand.  Then I can smile, move on and enjoy my day.  I just leaned back in my chair, sipped my coffee, imagined the next person to say “don’t take it personally” and I smiled and whispered “ok”.  I feel great!

So if you’ve read this post recognize that we should take things personal, we should invest ourselves completely with our mind, body and soul.  We should also as John reminded us, personally focus on a positive attitude as well.

It’s time to talk about my empty nest. Lessons for all of us.

There are cycles in nature, there are cycles in life.  Some days you feel on top of the pile and some times you feel like the pile.  My life is mid-cycle right now.  My daughter recently moved out.  She’s doing it her way, slowly.  She was home last night for a few hours, but didn’t sleep here.  I am forced to cope with this as she is handling it.  The transition is complicated, her car is being repaired and her job is here, her new home in the Cities.

I am trying to live my life restoratively.  That means being in ‘right relationship’ with others, all creation and creator.

I don’t know or feel like I am doing very good at that.  You see, I am hurting right now.  Sad to see this chapter in life end.  Sorry for all the moments I didn’t be a better Mom.  For the moments I was a great Mom, those opportunities are different now.  I have to figure out how to be SuperMom, in a different way. 

Yet I am faced with great opportunity for change right now.  I have a freedom of time and certain responsibility.  My life has eased up in a demanding category (housework, dishes, laundry – I find these things demanding).  I am in a pull to change and a pull to stay the same.

I am reminded of a quote – something about how our real character is who we are at our “in-between” times.  I’m “in-between”. 

My lessons to share:

1.) be mindful of the path.  Am I on the right path?  Who do I want to be.  What do I want to become.  Where are you on your path?

2.)small habits add up.  I haven’t made it to yoga and have NO excuse.  I haven’t packed and prepared my lunch, still eating what can be purchased quickly.  Change is a little over a long time, the littles add up.

3.)Here is here.  Now is now.  What can I do at this moment to be ME, the best person I am.  Just because of a role change, all the positive qualities I have are not gone.  I just need to BE.

Dear Readers, thank you for joining me on the journey.  The blog is going to be two years old in the fall.  Right now over 60,ooo views.  In the grand scheme of blogging that might be someone else’s daily volume, for me, I am honored to have contacted that many people.

I believe personal and professional mix.  I needed to document in this time and space where I am.  I hope the sharing of my life, helps with yours.


Perspective. A powerful tool for promoting understanding and compassion.

SCVRJP has a program supporting drug court participants and family members.  Circles of Understanding.

The format is to have 3 participants in drug court, 3 community members and 3 support people (whose loved on or family member has been in drug court or experienced addiction).  The Circle meets for 8 weeks.  Week 1 and Week 8 are the Open and Close Circles, and weeks 2-7 we are taking turns hearing stories from different perspectives.  Hearing from a person in drug court, hearing from a parent, a spouse, a community member – you begin to see, really see how people impact each other.  The deep experiences between family members are offered up and put out there in relating a story.  The non-judgemental environment in Circle allows us to absorb the experience and offer reflection.

I have been transformed by this.

A person’s story, their experience related genuinely to another, is a unique and powerful gift.  To hear people sharing, openly about an incident of harm around addiction, is bearing witness to some very deep pain. 

Addiction is not to be taken lightly.  As dark and deep as it is, it has a counter.  That counter is recovery.  Recovery is amazing.  I have heard the Circles are helping people with their recovery.  As we understand our actions we are connected to them in a more meaningful way.  Recovery is living with the responsiblity of those connections to others.

The Circles of Understanding have surpassed my expectation.  Years of restorative justice work taught me that simply hearing another side of the story was powerful.  What makes the lesson so deep and powerful is that relationship that people have to the issue.  When parents, spouses and community members speak to their experience while the loved one was in addiction, and they are sharing with people who caused that same harm to their own families.  At first glance it would seem this would create more conflict.  It creates understanding.  Perspective sharing creates understanding and I can’t think of an example when MORE understanding about something didn’t help.

Being a partner with area drug courts has really been a blessing.  I admire the courage of the teams to try something different, to allow additional programming into the many requirements of drug court participation.  All of the people associated with SCVRJP will forever be in our community of restorative justice.  We have volunteers that have been with us for years, I know, they tell me, that being involved helps keep them sober and in recovery.  That creates an additional perspective for all of us to understand, it’s about our relationships.

Thank you for reading!

Restorative Justice includes preparing yourself to be in right relationships.

I’ve carried around the concept that relationships are about going out of your way for someone else.  Thanks to a video I blogged on, here, where Seth Godin explains this.

I strive and do the best customer service possible.  One time I marched through a cemetary and took a picture of a headstone.  Pat called from across the state, interested in Circle Training.  She used to live in the area.  Pat shared she buried her husband in River Falls they bought the plots years before.  She hadn’t seen his headstone yet.  I offered to take the photo and email her.  I emailed her photos the same day I offered to do this.  She called me a friend.  We met face to face recently, 5 months after I had done this.  Her eyes sparkled, as she looked into mine in a deep and caring way.  We held each others hands for a minute after we hugged.  It was a delight to meet her because she knew very little about me.  What little she knew held a big impact.

I recently got to be on the receiver end of going out of their way for a relationships.  I mentioned to my staff, all two of them, that I was speaking during a church service and doing a Circle afterwards.  I invited them to be part of the Circle, teasing a little, it was a Sunday after all.  When I arrived at the church that morning, both smiling faces greeted me.  I know they are committed to SCVRJP and that makes me even more committed and proud of them.  It solidified our relationship on many levels.

People can go the other way as well.

She asked me if I wanted it.  I drew in my breath and started to smile . . . “oh my gosh . . .” I was so excited, so touched.  What she offered was, in fact, something I very much wanted to have.  I was starting to tear up, I was excited, then, she said ” Ha, ha, just kidding”.  I was crushed, speechless really.  I kept going and explained the background on what she had.  As I considered recounting that story to others, it nearly made me tear up.  It was a mean moment.  It reminded me, we harm people and sometimes don’t even know how.

Howard Zehr, uses 3’s to explain Restorative Justice concepts.  This blog post, by Zehr identifies aspirations that should guide Restorative Justice, they include the desire to live in right relationship…

  • with one another;
  • with the creation;
  • with the Creator.

How do we as people take the steps to prepare for our own restorative justice aspirations? 

What does a “right relationship” look like, feel like, sound like?  I think it starts with having a relationship and going out of your way for someone.

Blogging brings “you” out. Both the author and reader of blogs.

I have written 478 posts, 25 of them are still in draft form.  I have been blogging since September of 2008.  Over 58,000 people have linked to this blog.

A quick google of the phrase, “benefits of blogging” and 17 million results.  I know blogging has helped me.  Its given me the gift of writing as therapy.  Helping process my experiences in Restorative Justice, also experiences in life.  Its a hobby, yet a professional craft.  Blogging is networking and bloggers are seen as experts, talking a lot about a specific topic.

A leader, founder in the movement of Restorative Justice, Howard Zehr, he blogs.  A recent post, Retirement?.  In this he speaks about a close friend, his own plans and goals.  He is posting on Howard the person.  It made me think about how blogging gets you to open up and own parts of yourself.

I’ve had bloggers remorse, said more than I might have needed.  I do that in real life.  Its part of who I am.

I was recently encouraging someone passionate about Sex in the City to start blogging on it.  You find yourself when you blog.  Yet at the same time, it can’t be about yourself, it has to be about your readers.

I think about the readers of the blog all the time.  I think about how I can make readers better restorative justice practitioners, better people.  I think about you and I want you to comment more, yet I am happy you don’t, I would need  to answer more.

Some of my fondest moments are around my blog.  You see, the blog, is ALL me.  Its the closest proof about who I am.  Examples of times my blog, made my me, stand out.  I walked in a friend’s house, her laptop was open and on my blog.  It was the first time I saw it and it wasn’t open because I was writing on it.   A volunteer started reading a quote, it was from my blog.  A random email from California, thanking me for the blog and letting me know they would be a better person at work because of it.  My fun relationship with a Psychology Today blogger, and successful author, Melinda.  I have another friend who reads it, calls when I seem stressed.  She knows me so well, and we have a closeness over the things unsaid, but known, cause she reads the blog.  An old college pal, recently emailed, she found the blog, said she read the whole thing!  She was proud to know me after that, what a nice email that was.

Just like in Circle the more we know about others the more we know about ourselves.  Blogging will give you that, it’s a natural evolution, so be a blog writer or reader, YOU will come through.

Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices are like healthy living, you need to make lifestyle changes.

My health has been a concern for me lately.  My face is red and blotchy my clothes are snug, I haven’t been doing the good things I need to do for my overall health.  It’s so easily stated:  eat well, exercise.  Two simple, simple concepts yet much more to implement.  I think and think and think.  Why don’t I go to yoga?  Why am I buying Apple Jacks instead of Special K?  I don’t like having to hide my tummy or feel uncomfortable in tight waistbands.  I desire a healthy lean body.  I don’t always do the work.

Its been on my mind enough, that its become a comparison now – healthy and restorative justice are lifestyle approaches.

Conversation has emerged recently about the “quick fix”, others wanting to implement Restorative Justice and getting there quickly without really spending time in training.  You see Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices is not ‘fast food’.  You don’t drive up and get one meal.  It’s an overall philosophical approach.

Thank goodness some teachers have told me the truth.  They didn’t “buy in” to the idea of restorative justice.  Flavor of the month, technique of the week, and this sort of defensiveness would apply if Circles of Conferences were taken as a strand, and not the entire fabric.  Restorative Justice is about transforming the bigger way we do things.  Its being mindful and aware of community and relationships before harm or wrongdoing occurs.  Its responding to harm in a way that is inclusive, engaging and respectful.

Restorative Justice and Healthy living both appear very, very simple.  Both require small differences over time to make a major impact.  Both require changes on multiple levels.  Both require a committment to an overall different lifestyle.

A few ways I’ve found to express a restorative lifestyle:

  • honoring other peoples significant relationships.  I knew her Aunt was special, she was in town so I passed along a SCVRJP mug for her.  I remembered their son’s name, so I could ask about how he was, years after being in Circle together.
  • honor circle values, outside of circles. trust, honesty, respect, love are the top 4 values I’ve seen written on hundreds of paper plates in Circle.  Strong relationships can survive conflict.  If I find myself in conflict, for the most part, I try to honor the values.  I get to hear what is important to others in Circle and that helps me know how we all influence people.  We should always honor relationship values – it might seem like you do, but we can always do better.

Healthy living wise:

  • pack my lunch! You won’t believe it, every day I need lunch!  Yet I go unprepared into my day!  I don’t eat breakfast, I’m scrounging thru my desk for candy, crackers, whatever I can find.  Today, a salad for lunch and a midmorning serving of yogurt with extra blueberries.  The care to myself to pack lunch really helps.  Sorry for declining sales Jimmy Johns!
  • in my mouth, write it down.  Off and on I keep a food journal.  I feel really good when I keep my 1200-1500 calorie mark.  If I don’t write it down, I easily forget what I’ve had.  It’s a researched and validated technique (just like restorative justice)
  • DO IT!  JUST EXERCISE.  I wish I was better and that it was clearly a part of my life, like brushing my teeth.   When I’m not in my groove, I don’t do anything.  Exercise is a guaranteed feel good, I have never left a yoga class or gym feeling like I wasted my time.  NEVER.  I know the feeling of sitting at work, getting distracted and realizing oops, yoga started 10 minutes ago.

Our lives are our choice, our lifestyles are small choices made day after day.  Choose wisely friends!

Who knew you could gain staff and lose ground, two crucial time management tips!

I’ve had more staff around me in the last 3 months, than the last 3 years!  I worked solo (with the help of MANY great volunteers) or had one other person employed at SCVRJP.  The last few months have included 2 staff and an intern.  Great dedicated helpful people.

Yet I feel like I have lost my footing, the ground under me has slid away.  I’m disorganized, missing appointments, finishing tasks just under the wire.  WHAT?  From the woman who was running the entire show!?  It’s not like I haven’t delegated, believe me I’ve delegated.  One of my coworkers pointed out she can’t complete certain project, because of the assignments I add-on each day.
Realize that despite your skills, connections, talents and abilities, if you fail at managing your tasks or your time, you can fail in general.  Let me just use this example:  I can write a grant that ROCKS!  Makes ya wanna get out your checkbook and donate right now.  If I don’t get it in by the deadline, NONE of that matters.  No matter how rock solid my reputation is, if I ask to be on the agenda of a meeting and I don’t show up, DING.  I’ve lost points, I’ve lost credibility.  My time management, my management of self in general has not been very good lately.
Yesterday I got a stomach ache so bad I left the office.  I am lactose intolerance.  Eating dairy causes an upset stomach and . . . well rhymes with gonorrhea.  (It’s easier to use a word of something that you don’t have, than to admit you’ve had something else).  Over the weekend, I made a swiss cheese Quiche, a cheesecake and a homemade chocolate cake.  The chocolate cake required 3 cups of butter, homemade frosting, completely from scratch.  So if I had lactose issues, go figure.  What person with dairy issues makes all that food in a weekend?  I didn’t lose ground, I’ve lost my mind.  When feeling like you’ve lost your mind, its time to take control of your time!
That is what I did yesterday.  I came home, focused a little, played around a little.  Then from about 3 until 10 pm, I was working.  It felt good to be productive.  I got more organized, I hadn’t taken time to get organized, time management tip 1 – schedule time to work on your schedule.  I do so much better when Sunday evening includes a review of my week.  A mental structure and focus.  I had forgotten to schedule in some of my tasks.  For example the board report, due the 2nd Monday of the month requires stats on the previous month.  I used to schedule my stats day right around the first.  I failed to do that, and was scrambling yesterday to get my stats done.  Solution – manage your time like a budget, account for all income and expense.  Time you need for everything, we only have so many hours/income, and can only spend that amount.  I made a list of all the items I need to schedule time for each month.  Only 12 major items to schedule around. 
My time management tip #2structure to your strengths.  This is from a favorite blogger, Penelope Trunk she provides a list of 10 tips, I’m using a combo of 1 & 6.  The changes I am implementing, to structure to my strengths, include structuring my email time.  My ADD, causes me to say yes to everything.  I say yes, then look at my calendar.  If I answer emails, which are usually requests, in a structured, sit down, have my calendar time, I can more easily see what I can say yes and no to.  On the fly, I say yes.  I have superwoman complex, I think I can, and I want to be all things to all people.
Another structure to strengths example involves meeting my own needs.  I have a need to feel productive.  Spinning my wheels is extremely frustrating to me.  I am getting up, and getting on the computer first thing.  Enjoying my cup of coffee, getting something, anything done, before getting dressed and heading into the office.  I am SURE this sense of achievement and productivity will help me. 
How can you structure your time to your strengths?  Do you spend time planning your time?  I think these two tips can help all of us.  Now if I can just structure what I make in a weekend . . .

Using program evaluation as a marketing tool, necessary non-profit practice.

This is a 5th week.  At SCVRJP I’ve structured our programs to be monthly or every other month.  The recipe goes like this:  3rd Wednesday Victim Impact Panel, 1st Wednesday’s Safe Teen Driving Circles, 2nd Tuesday Underage Consumption Panels, 3rd Monday’s board meeting.  You get the idea.

I don’t have any 5th week sessions.  Therefore it’s like a whole extra week in the month!  How many people want an hour in a day!  I got a whole week!  On top of that, things are great at SCVRJP, I have two staff and an intern right now, everyone is quickly learning and taking on tasks.  This freed me up to focus on a project.  The project: our evaluation forms.

Every session we do has an  evaluation form.  I use the results to explain how we are doing.  Usually for grants, but these results are also used in marketing SCVRJP.  For example, a powerpoint:   Quotes from our community providing the reactions of people involved in our services.

I love the work of Clay Shirky,  I heard him say that you only need 1 question for marketing:  would you recommend this to others?  That made sense to me!  So I updated all 2010 evaluation forms, all 7 of them.  Now in addition to program related measurement, each survey has 2 consistent questions.

1.) Overall, how would you rate this program?


2.)Would you recommend this program to others?

I can’t wait to keep track on that, not just for each program, but for our services overall.   This is a marketing tool.

At the recent MN Council of Nonprofits Tech Conference, I learned a TON about marketing and fundraising.  The echo in my head, from the keynote presentation, I heard:  the economy is in a recession, our mission’s are not.

As non-profits we have to position ourselves as necessary and relevant.  The first quarter has passed, and I’ve just got my survey’s updated.  I thought I was too busy (well I was), I now realize the power I have harnessed by taking time to focus on my data.

In addition to using the aggregate data from the surveys, I plan to do volunteer spotlights in our monthly e-newsletter, (to sign up, email your email to, subject line: NEWSLETTER).  Guess what my common question in the volunteer spotlight?  Would you recommend this program to others?  Why?

I also learned at the #MNnptech  (facebook link) conference that individual stories will do better to promote your program.  I am scooping up stories right and left now, preparing for a website update.

If you are in a non-profit, your work at evaluation and marketing never end.  In restorative justice all relationships are bilateral, things go both ways.  You might as well, make your evaluation and marketing a two way street.

Props to MNnptech conference keynote Katya Andersen, she did a great job!