The Gift of Mentoring

In the fall of 1996, at age 19, I was a former foster youth and freshman at college. I knew I was financially on my own  but was scared about navigating life and so much more. There was so much unknown and I wondered many times, “Will I make it?!” In my first semester, I was designated a federal work study (FWS) student in my financial aid award package. I was offered a job in the college cafeteria and met my first job supervisor, Crystal Browning. She told me about my job duties; I was required to clean the waffle bar every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as, serve food in the buffet lines during the evenings. I remember being a little pessimistic- I knew there had to be better jobs on campus, but it all worked out! I am thankful that my student employment job led me to my life-long mentor and friend. (And I loved my job so much, I worked in the cafeteria all four years during college!)

My college didn’t offer a mentoring program, but I remember all the times that Crystal asked me about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish. I told her that I always wanted to get my driver’s license but didn’t have a car or lessons to drive. Crystal not only heard me, she responded. She taught me how to drive, with her three-old daughter in the backseat! When I look back over my time in college, Crystal was my “unofficial” mentor.

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I remember when Crystal got another job on campus and she made sure to let me know that I was welcome to visit anytime. That might be an expected statement, but it meant a lot. No matter what story or experience I shared, she listened. During college, Crystal was more than my mentor and ally, she was my family. She not only taught me how to drive- she taught me how to believe in myself. Her faith demonstrated so much love and compassion. I have always admired how she lived with purpose and faithfulness. She is an example of a strong Christian woman and want to follow her lead and walk worthy in my own life.

Twenty-one years later, we still have a strong bond. Over the past seven years, she has helped me grow as a new parent, and has always welcomed her home to my son and I. In 2015, she nominated me for a Survivor’s Award from the Survivor Foundation. I was awarded the winner of the Foster Alumni and Educator Award. Once again, she impacted my life. Her simple affirmation helped me to actualize my purpose in life. I am an educator and advocate for foster youth.

(One more story, I promise!)

In January of this year, after a short battle, my biological father passed away from Kidney Cancer. I began a relationship with him at age 14, after I went into foster care. My dad didn’t gain custody, but we became a family, one day at a time. During my dad’s funeral, Crystal came up to me and hugged me. During my dad’s eulogy, I spoke about a gumball machine that my dad gave me for my birthday and how my dad visited my office every semester and dropped off gumballs. He was always being thoughtful. I spoke about how I recently visited the office and noticed that the machine was completely empty- which led me to tears. It also inspired me to ask everyone to honor my father by sharing a random act of kindness. When I returned to my office later that week, I found a package on my desk. I opened it and saw a box of gumballs from Crystal! She shared, “I hope these gumballs serve as a source of joy, rather than sadness.” Her act of kindness transformed a moment of ache into a memory of love. I am so incredibly thankful for Crystal and her role in my life. She made a heartfelt choice to support and guide me towards my dreams. She continues to be in my life and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without her mentoring and care!

Thanks for letting me share my story of mentoring. I hope that others will be inspired to think about the gift of mentoring and how we can make positive change in each other’s lives.

crystal

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Hope. Strength. Courage.

There was a time and place where I would have written, “Facing the unknown creates anxiety and fear.”

I find myself progressing and developing awareness of self, which allows me to experience life differently and more fully.

Today, I write, “Facing anxiety and fear moves you from the unknown to full knowledge of your potential to do the impossible.”

These two thinking constructs are true, but one is more healthier and demonstrates a growth mindset.

Everything prepares you for your life-defining moment, if you are willing to seize the day, when it arrives.

——————–

Earlier this year, I was struggling and afraid to reveal my personal struggles with depression and anxiety. I suffered daily, from daily panic attacks and my mind played tricks on me. It wasn’t easy to walk away from five years of beautiful wins and difficult losses, but when I made the decision to care about myself, my struggle transformed itself into vanishing points rather than places of terrifying convergence. There was something about letting go and beginning again that gave me permission to breathe again.

I didn’t spend the summer reinventing myself or starting over; I just needed to jump-start my passion and purpose. I spent considerable time reflecting and meditating about what I would need to do to live happy and whole. I re-centered my focus and energy on what mattered the most – I needed to prioritize how to better take care of myself and my son. I made myself a promise- I would dwell on the lessons learned, rather than the struggle. When I became conscientious of defining my space, I experienced a new beginning.

But this all seems poetic, rather than real, right?

I had a lot of questions and I asked myself (and God),

1) “Do I really want to move and start over?”
2) “Who will help me move?”
3) “Can I leave my family and friends”
4) “What about money, how will I pay for all these changes, especially rent in two places?”
5) “How will I manage my anxiety and pack at the same time?”
6) “Will my son be okay with changing schools again?”
7) “How will I pick the best community, school & after-school program ( & Babysitter)?”
8) “I have no sense of direction, how will I learn to drive in a new city?”
9) “What about scheduling a last minute physical and paying for an epi-pen for Carter?”

(and the list went on and on….)

Without knowing all the answers, I accepted a job offer to work with foster youth and took a leap!

Guess what?

In just one day, I found a place to live (3rd floor apartment, which helps me with my anxiety) and paid the deposit with money that came right on time.

I moved successfully & start my new job next Monday! I had a crew of folks in Cbus and Cinci. I would have never made it without everyone. (There are 36 steps up to the third floor of my new apartment and there must have been 100 trips up those stairs, by five generous people). Seriously, the awesomeness of people left me speechless. My heart is full of gratitude.

Guess what, you never really leave your friends and family, you just make new friends and family!

Two weeks ago, I had a balance of -$20.17 in my checking account and a week later, I had 2K! Everything has been provided through the generosity of others – Money, food, essentials, trash bags, boxes, containers, gas, school supplies, etc. I am incredibly thankful. My friends and family helped me with extra funds; I also got a loan from a friend, sold some paintings, and had two paying clients this summer!

I manage my anxiety, but sometimes I falter. I find that writing, praying and lemongrass oil help me cope.

With the advice & support of others, I realized that I was transferring my own fear and experiences of my childhood onto my son; I moved three times in first grade and wondered how my son would overcome change. It was communicated to me that I am offering my son the support that he needs to be successful; I was also told that I am not my mother!

I found a great school & after-school program, and have a college friend nearby for emergencies.

My phone helps, but my son is my GPS. He already knows how to get around!!! He told me this morning, “Mom you cannot use GPS to get to school. Don’t use your phone and I am not helping you either!” (That kid!)

I was able to get a physical appointment for the very next day (& pay for it). I was also able to get a free epi-pen for my son – they shipped it over-night for free, just in time for my son’s first day of school!

——————–

Honestly, I wanted to give up several times. I tried to convince myself that I was unworthy, unintelligible and pathetic. I walked myself into a corner and felt sorry for myself. I grieved my loss and I debated “what ifs” until my mind was a stinky pile of poo. And I couldn’t change the past, so I just had to reinvent my thinking process and meditate on what I know to be true. I might have failed throughout my life, but I never gave up. I never allowed circumstances to define me or people’s perceptions to dictate my purpose. I began to zoom in on my passion and decided that I wanted to support foster youth full time.

But guess what? I still I tried to walk away from a new job (my dream job), because I was afraid of change. This summer, one of my mentors told me that I had to “unpark my comfort,” and I realized that I had to be okay with being uncomfortable. Being vulnerable requires a step of faith, which expresses “hope, strength and courage” to grow and be challenged each and everyday, even when we don’t know how everything is going to be resolved.

I have had so many answers to prayer & needs met! I am stepping into my future because I am not alone. I am grateful for my faith and all my friends, family and supporters. I know I am loved and capable of fulfilling my passion and purpose. I am incredibly thankful to be a mother (and my role in my son’s life). I am excited to see what unfolds in the next Chapter, for us!

Trauma, Resiliency and Change

FYI…this is a long post.

(Written at 5 a.m. on 8/26/17)
I have been trying to get stuff together for a yard sale….. I am still up…. really wondering if I am gonna have to pull an all-nighter.

I honestly didn’t think this week could get any longer, but it just did. Out of all the things we accomplished- my son and I went through all his toys and I organized all his clothes. 

We watched the Diary of a Wimpy kid too many times (4x) and he finally fell asleep while I finished up the organizing. He definitely has more than he needs; maybe we have to work on seeking less stuff and finding more meaning in the emergence of new beginnings.

This week had me curious about our future and my heart has been pulled drastically towards patience-

I have always earned about a B/more like a C average. 

Just saying…

There are too many tasks to get accomplished at this point- but I guess I can say that I have been waiting on a job offer (it hasn’t come yet). I have also been debating change and what it would mean for my son and I. Everything from packing and sorting to putting all of our stuff into a moving truck and moving away.

This is the most scared I have felt since I was pregnant with my son. And the truth is that I know God has been with me every step of the way. Especially on the days when my anxiety sky-rocketed & I couldn’t leave my house. when my electric bill arrived,  it was always  too high because I was assaulted two years ago &  I cannot find it within myself to turn off all the lights. There is real fear in my bones and I have to pray for peace and protection each and evèry day.

There is too much ache in this world- sometimes I feel that my inconveniences seem like just a loose thread on a favorite sweater.  “I am not going to fall apart,” I tell myself. “I am not giving up,” I pray to God. And “I will try to be the mom I always needed,”  I promise myself. 

All these feelings have consumed my heart-and I just wanted to make it clear that filters may make pictures prettier, but when it comes to writing… I just keep it brutally honest. 

So, here I am.

And suddenly  I am reminded about my memoir deadline; this week it was extended again. Ugh!

Again, Life isn’t all seemingly perfect  instagram photos. And I guess that is why I finally decided to work out this past week and join a gym. And the beautiful part of this post is that I worked out and felt amazing.  And I wanted to go back day after day. Even the guy at the gym said, “Hey, you are back!” 

This week, in the grocery store,  I almost picked up a box of swiss miss cake rolls. Every month I eat a whole box in less than a day. Yep, I feed my feelings. But this week, I put the box down.

Why? I remembered the two-day training I attended two weeks ago on “trauma-informed care” and recalled my “a-ha” moment- which at first, it felt like my adolescence was being poltergeisted through my chest. I remembered the abuse and what I would think about when my abuser was violating me.

 Food.

And then I would secretly go to the store before or after school and stuff my face with junk food… and swiss cake rolls.

Not kidding.

It all really happened 30 years ago and its still ripping my heart out of my chest? I just want to get over it!!! It happened so long ago. But that’s preicisely the myth of trauma. We have no control sometimes and the memories keep us stuck in the muck.

And so, what I thought was writer’s block, was really the process of unblocking. I also realized that I am in charge of creating new memories to reaffirm my pathway towards healing.

I couldn’t move forward with writing the next pages of  my memoir if I did not face my frequent binge-eating habits. 

And it happened- it all came to a point of convergence.  Tonight, I saw a professional portrait of myself  from last night’s Pecha Kucha. I thought how crappy it was that I spoke about resiliency and yet, the pain was still evident in my physical body. 

So that’s the beauty of the lesson…purchasing a gym membership and figuring out that my goal is to breathe and live more fully in the embrace of my purpose, which simply means to continue doing my best one step at a time, but making better choices along the way!

P.S.

About Columbus Pecha Kucha #42: A Night Under the Stars:

It was an honor to share my story alongside the other speakers of the night at Gallery 934. Pecha Kucha, in Japanese, means chit-chat. I had the opportunity to share 6 minutes and 40 seconds of my life. Each image was shown for 20 seconds and I spoke about my journey of resiliency and advocacy for foster Being an advocate for foster youth is my passion and purpose- and I want to help open doors and create community for foster youth. We really do need each other. 

I want to encourage you to start a conversation that matters-

Give people encouragement and permission to share their stories. Together, We can create a safer community that supports survivors to move from hurt to healing.

Making My Mess, My Message

As I near a milestone birthday this month (the big 4-0!), I want to share some personal memories from my life journey…I am going to quickly review each decade and close out this blog with a reflection & lessons about my story progressing this year.
My Journey: 1977-2017
Decade 1:  1977-86
Memories: Little sister, only daughter, foster care child, abused, beaten, survivor, moved three times in first grade, speech impediment, dyslexia, held back in third grade, constant earaches, trouble-maker, talker, class-clown, budding artist, class council member and spelling bee finalist in 4th grade, started a food fight and read 501 books in the summer after 4th grade.
Decade 2: 1987- 1996
Memories: 5th grade crossing guard and kindergarten class volunteer, sexually abused, emotionally abused, loved art and volleyball, science fair winner, artist and creative spirit, loved riding my ten-speed pink and teal huffy bicycle, started my eating disorder, wanted to die, wanted to disappear, moved four times and changed schools three times, began to love school and writing, developed my artistic skills, went into foster care again, never went home, abandoned and rejected, became a Christian, found my strength in Him, blossomed into  a beautiful butterfly, honors student, almost quit art, still a class clown, selected by peers to be the yearbook editor-in-chief,  voted most likely to cheer you up for senior superlatives, graduated from High School  in the top 15% of my class, and was accepted to college!
Decade 3: 1997- 2006
Memories: Attended college, worked in the college cafeteria, learned to roller-blade, had my gallbladder removed, volunteered each summer in DC, brooklyn and San Francisco, visited Italy, completed my senior art show, served with AmeriCorps, rejected from grad school, went back to college,  my maternal grandmom passed, accepted to three graduate schools, moved to New York with $100, baptized, participated in a graduate assistant-ship, lost my virginity, dated with a hole in my heart, walked away from God, and graduated with my MA degree in Creative Arts Therapy, landed a job in NY and stayed.
Decade 4:  2007-2017
Memories: Made art, made a difference, lost and dying inside, wore a mask, lied to everyone about my struggles, raped,  pretended I was okay,  unplanned pregnancy, became a mom, moved home, wasn’t received as a prodigal daughter, homeless-lived with a friend, got fired from a sales job, cleaned houses, my paternal grandmother passed, landed a job at a college, found my passion & purpose, received a $60,000 grant to support foster youth, became an advocate, accepted into four art exhibits-two with my son, my brother, mother and father died, depression and anxiety, assaulted, survivor, trainer and speaker, motivator and mama bear, became an entrepreneur, and resigned from my job a month before turning 40.
Reflection and Lessons: My progression in 2017…
A little over two months ago, I had this amazing experience in March of 2107. I presented a Pecha Kucha at the National ACPA Convention in Columbus, Ohio. PechaKucha (Japanese: ペチャクチャ, IPA: [petɕa ku͍̥tɕa], chit-chat) is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format, which keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, powers multiple-speaker events called PechaKucha Nights (PKNs).
My Pecha Kucha was called “Never Never Give Up: The Resiliency of Former Foster Youth” (visit the link to view the video).
I experienced something very empowering and had a “mountain top experience.” I  had the unique opportunity to live out my passion and purpose. The evening was extra special because I had two former supervisors present and two mentees present. I didn’t know then, that this precise moment would allow me to step into my future and fulfill a revolution (new chapter) in my life.
Just days ago, I returned from a conference in Henderson, Nevada. I attended a conference calledYour Real Success: Your Message, Your Brand, YOUR BOOK with Rhonda Sciortino! I have so much I want to say about this experience!!! We were a small but mighty group of women. I am so blessed because of this circle of visionaries and leaders. This retreat/conference truly impacted my message, brand and book. My purpose for going on this trip was to develop myself professionally, but I grew in confidence, self-awareness, purpose and wisdom.  A very special thanks to Diana Bowen-Moshier, Cheryl Alexander and Crystal Van Kempen-McClanahan! Thank you so much for sharing God’s love with me and your affirmations, gentle support, laughter and positive messages. I gained so much from being in your collective presence! I definitely feel called to help others step into their future!
Over the next 6 months, I will be writing My Soul-Inspired Story and Journal for Foster Youth and Survivors. During all three-days of the conference,  I gained traction to  fulfill my personal purpose; I was given tangible tools to implement practices to realistically reach my goals. I am ready!
At the last moment, I added two days to my trip and decided to visit the Grand Canyon. As I stood at the South Rim, my heart looked out over the canyon with a heart of gratitude. I saw the depths of the valleys and I was reminded about my journey in life… I survived and thrived throughout four decades of trauma, lessons, and blessings. As I stood on the mountain top, my eyes teared up.  I realized how the valley transformed my mess into my message and I will not be ashamed of my story! My life has a purpose and so does yours! Are you ready?
Join me! Learn how you can map your revolution and step into your future. Contact me at Kimberly.C.Rhyan@gmail.com or Facebook.
In closing, I am truly thankful for all of my supporters. I wouldn’t be ready for the next chapter without you. I appreciate y’all!

Dig Deep & Call Attention to the Fear (And Let it Go)

I spent the month of April in deep reflection…not any ordinary reflection, but in meditation. During the past five years, I have experienced grief and sorrow without really processing or letting go in a healthy way.  This month,  I refused to break down or give up.  I  volunteered when I just wanted to stay in bed and hide. In my heart, soul and mind- I just knew I couldn’t give up. I am learning to be still. My circumstances lead me into a detour where I recognized (again) how important it is to listen (because even though I was tuning in, I was only doing so,  when it seemed convenient).

We all experience these life-defining moments, when things do not add up, where puzzle pieces do not fit (and were never meant to fit); these inconspicuous configurations result in being redirected. The only way to push through, is to believe in your purpose (and imagine what you can achieve while holding steadfast, onto your faith).

I have always said that life is a series of detours, which lead (or force) you towards the next opportunity. I have learned to seize the moment and accept detours as a lesson to experience life reflectively (& fully).

In the beginning, detours feel like a diversion tactic that will only lead to a dead end.  They feel extremely uncomfortable and stir up self-doubt, anxiety, pain, etc.  In those first few steps, people will try to convince you that struggles are actually blessings in disguise. Meanwhile, you just want to give a skeptical side glance (but if you stop and reevaluate, you can practice patience and your purpose).

So…here’s my advice (and encouragement), if you are facing adversity and struggling with a detour on your journey:

  1. Prayer/Meditation is a vehicle that you need to practice intentionally. Speak and say what is on your heart, but also, listen and be still before God.
  2. Open your heart and invite wisdom to speak into your life; erase that circle that you drew around yourself to keep people out. It’s not going to help you to push through. To get to the other side, we need to trust others.
  3. We are not facing adversity to “learn some big lesson.” The lessons are within you already-between fear and progress; dig deep & call attention to the fear and let it go. The lesson will be cultivated and grow within you, stronger than ever.
  4. Do not sulk or feel sorry for yourself. Yes, there are a lot of naysayers out there, but those naysayers don’t know that much about you!
  5. Be helpful. Put your hands to work in a positive way and believe that your life will continue to have a purpose.
  6. Finally, do not edit your story. Do not diminish God’s work, within your life because it’s not very pretty. God’s grace is most evident in those moments!!!

So what do you think? What lessons are you learning in your journey?

Please give feedback or contact me at kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com or twitter @kimberlycolleen Thanks for reading!

Transformation and stepping into the future…

Over the course of my life, I have been stepping into my future. Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt the impact of a few courageous steps and I am not the same woman I was, when March started. As the month wraps up,  I am being pushed into another opportunity for growth. In the past, I might have called it a challenge, but after this week, I am being reflective and looking at life as an opportunity to grow and sustain my purpose.

I look inward and have faith that transformation will continue to shape my goals and aspirations. My desire to mentor, coach, advocate and educate is embedded in my own history; I have had so many people influence my life, that it is my hope that I can pay it forward and help others step into their future; this is what I describe as, “living a soul-inspired revolution.”

Three weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a small group of college students about stepping into their future, beyond graduation. I was invited by one of my college mentors-she was my first job supervisor. She embodies love and compassion; she learned my story and became more than a supervisor. She actually taught me how to drive, with her two-year old in the back seat of the car! She has become a life-long mentor; twenty years later, she still demonstrates love and compassion through her words and actions.

As I prepared for the college-age workshop, I collected my thoughts and developed some talking points about “Adulting 101.” During the workshop,  I shared some significant lessons that I’ve learned throughout my life post-college. I have given many workshops throughout my life, but this one just resonated with me so deeply, I felt closely connected to my life mission. Through the process of storytelling, I seek to empower others in developing their passion, purpose &  plans to step into the future.

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This past week, I was given the opportunity to share my own story on the stage at #ACPA17! the lights almost beamed me (the lights were so bright!) into an alternative universe! I was grounded in hope and the promise that my story can make a difference. I’ve learned from my past and I discovered that my mess can become my message. I shared my story through PechaKucha 20 x 20; it is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and I talked along to the images. Essentially, it’s a short speech that equates to six minutes and forty seconds of storytelling. I shared my personal journey as a former foster youth and how my life-purpose intertwined with supporting former foster youth, as a part of my career. I never imagined in a million years, that I would be coordinating a program that develops former foster youth into leaders.  I am beyond thankful.

Beyond the immediate experience of sharing my PechaKucha, I felt like a became a part of very special community of PK presenters! I believe all of our stories connected with the human experience, and I personally left very changed by the lessons shared by everyone!

The change process of transformation has been strengthening my heart. During March, I have acquired a deeper understanding of my purpose; I am seeking to achieve my greatest potential; I want to cultivate revolutions in those around me that are soul-inspired!

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ACPA17: Work-Life Balance, Resiliency & Hospitality!

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The national convention for ACPA17 is right around the corner! I’ve experienced so much positive energy from being a member of this diverse community! The annual convention experience refuels my purpose and transforms my work in Higher Education. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to Connect, Experience, Reflect, Invest, and Transform!

This month, I have a new opportunity to present with Renée Hill, Dean of Student Life, and Denise Harris, Vice Provost for Student Engagement at Hilbert College, Buffalo, N.Y.. We will present an educational session at the upcoming American College Personnel Association (ACPA) conference, titled “Work-Life Balance: Interwoven Life Tapestries of Motherhood, Management and Mentorship.” The session is sponsored by the Coalition for Women’s Identities and the Commission for Administrative Leadership. This is my first educational session at a national conference and it’s an honor to present with my current and former supervisors; both of these women shaped my career in Higher Education; they are also role models and examples of women who are exemplary in leadership. I am thankful for their roles in developing my strengths and their support to help me grow as a manager, mentor and mother.

During ACPA, I  will also give a PechaKucha called “Never, Never Give Up: The Resiliency of Former Foster Youth.” I will be speaking about my experiences as a former foster youth and the development of the Columbus State Scholar Network. My session will be given in an innovative presentation format in which presenters show 20 images for 20 seconds each, covering a wide range of topics, ideas, perspectives and thoughts. I have been working on my session for over a month; it’s going to be difficult to speak about my life and passion in only six minutes and forty seconds! I am incredibly excited to have this platform to share about my growth and how we can all support former foster youth in college.

Finally, it has been a great learning opportunity to serve as the hospitality coordinator on the ACPA17 convention experiences team. I have been overseeing the development of the Welcome Kiosk, Lactation and Family Space, Service-on-the-Go projects, and the affirmation and reflection boards. I am thankful to be a member of the planning team, they have been nothing but supportive; together, we have brainstormed ideas to shape a great convention experience for 2017! Being a part of the planning team has helped me to refocus my attention on the heart of hospitality and enhance my practice with my students to consider their needs and to focus on tangible ways to support them as they face challenges in their lives.

You can read my complete online blog post, “What’s Your Happy Place?”(about the conference) here.

 

NEXUS: Mother & Child

A very special Family Art Exhibit features a young child’s (six years old) artwork next to his mother’s paintings and drawings!

During February 2017, a Family Art Exhibit by the Rhyan Family was featured at Groveport City Hall, in Groveport, Ohio. The exhibit goes on the road in March and will move to Columbus State Community College during Women’s Herstory Month. The exhibit will be in the gallery, located in Christopher Hall (the Columbus State Library). Please visit: http://library.cscc.edu/libraryartcollections/ArtExhibit

Kimberly Rhyan earned her B.A. in Fine Art from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She also earned her M.A. in Creative Arts Therapy from Hofstra University. The art process has always been a part of her family tapestry. As a child, Kimberly observed her own mother create art and also had art teachers who served as mentors in Elementary and middle schools.

Her son has always had access to art supplies; they have an art studio in their home. Carter has had a brush in his hands ever since he was 18 months old! Last summer,  Carter found a box of popsicle sticks and asked if he could glue them to his canvases (because he refuses to paint on paper because his mom only paints on canvas). After completing his own popsicle painting series, he asked if he could glue his popsicle sticks to his mother’s painting. That’s when the exhibit merged together as one.

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Carter tells everyone that his sticks are a transformer but his mom believes they look like a “home,” symbolic of their nexus.

Kimberly is inspired by her son and his creativity. Their exhibit is a chance to see Carter’s evolution as an artist next to his mother’s work; whenever she paints, he creates paintings and when she draws, he makes drawings. They each have their own style but they truly have formed a special nexus, a bond tied together through art!  They hope you will go home after the exhibit and make art with your family!

Artist Statement and Challenge:

Creating art is a family activity that fills our home with love. We focus on play and having fun; creativity shapes us to be innovators. Sometimes, our artwork connects and that’s probably our favorite experience.

I am thankful to celebrate creativity with my son through art-making; it’s a path to growth and understanding. I’ve also learned that art-making with a child is messy, but it is also filled with beautiful awakenings.

I encourage families to explore creativity together. Spend one or two hours a week creating something new. It’s a fun way to build a nexus. You become more connected and that’s the essence of family!

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(Jenga &) Perseverance.

In this NEW Year (beyond our conflicted country), in just the span of five weeks, my life has toppled over like Jenga pieces; life has been messy and disconnected.  In this chaos, I see opportunities for growth and recognize areas for improvement. Thank God, I am not stuck, but instead, I continue on my path. After all, this is not the first time, life  hasn’t seemed very fair….

1978. 1979. 1983, 1988. 1991. 1996. 1997. 2002. 2006. 2010. 2012. 2013. 2014. 2015. 2016. 2017.

These are the years, that I can cross-reference with change and challenges.  I am a victim of traumatic experiences, but I am NOT a statistic.  I am a survivor, but I identify as a WARRIOR.  It’s hard to imagine how I made it this far, but I will keep sharing the lessons that I’ve learned.  The banner of my life expresses my core belief…. I have worth in the Father’s hands. I have come this far, by His grace.

I am more than my collective fears and anxiety. I try to focus and find clarity by centering myself with conviction & courage. I try to pay it forward and share my struggle to help others.  Even with the full knowledge of His grace,  it is sometimes very difficult to resist ache as my companion.

I don’t want to know loss, but I have lost someone every year since 2012 (my grandmother, my brother, my mother and most recently, my father).

Over the past week, I felt very alone.

This is not to say that my friends and family did not reach out to me, because they told me from the beginning, that if I needed anything, just to let them know.  Through all my years, asking for help seems like the most logical next step, but it’s never that easy.

A fierce debate always takes place; self-doubt wrestles with insignificance; and I begin to question my value and people’s intentions.  My expectations limit me from accepting help. It’s all in my head, because I know in my heart of hearts, that I am loved.

My insecurity is amplified by life’s circumstances, which keeps removing blocks. There’s no way to know why bad things happen to good people. Life stays messy and I grow more and more anxious, waiting for the next disappointment and heartbreak. How do we persevere, above all?

I am holding onto hope and believing in my purpose; I imagine what I can achieve;  I want to support others who need encouraged to get through another day, month, or year(s).

I practice perseverance by trusting…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

-Proverbs 3:5

Honoring My Father

I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again.

-William Penn

My parent’s divorced when I was just a baby; I saw my dad a few times through my early childhood years (My mom didn’t make it very easy for him to know me). I really didn’t get to know him until after I went into foster care, when I was fourteen.

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I remember thinking, “who is this man?”

I recall our very first real trip together; we went to COSI to see the Antarctica exhibit (located at the old site). He bought me a penguin stuffed animal and it meant the world to me. I still have it! It was a very special day in our lives – we were truly reunited.

I remember when my dad came to NYC to see me graduate with my master’s degree. I know he worked really hard in high school and didn’t graduate because of his job, but instead he went to night classes, to earn his GED. He told me many times, how proud he was that I completed college and graduate school; he always told me that he was going to win the lottery and pay off my student loans, but the numbers just never worked in my favor. The night before graduation in New York, he stayed the night with me in my dorm room- he said he was too cheap and wanted to save money. I remember my girlfriends asking me if I wanted to go out and celebrate….and I was so proud to say that I couldn’t because my dad was there.

I also remember when I told my dad about being pregnant (and single) and he responded by saying that he couldn’t wait to meet his grandchild. My dad loved being a grandfather.

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After I had Carter, my dad flew to NYC to see us. He was so happy to hold his grandson. I remember that I got a babysitter and I took my dad to NYC to see Rockefeller Center. We ate at Juniors and had cheesecake; we also took the subway; it was quite a different trip from our very first one at COSI!!! (but he still paid for everything!)

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As a grandfather, that sense of joy never left his face. I think he was elated when I told him that I was going to move back to Ohio and raise my son here.

As father and daughter, we didn’t always see eye to eye; we didn’t always say I love you, but I felt it and I could see it all over his face with that big grin of his.

There is a strong nexus that ties Carter and my dad together. Carter will have memories for a lifetime about his Papa. When carter was a baby, my dad wouldn’t babysat him for more than an hour because He said he didn’t know the first thing about changing a diaper; he said he never changed one and wasn’t about to start!

Over the past six years, I witnessed their combined happiness; whenever they were in each other’s company, laughter was sure to be heard. As I gathered photos, I couldn’t help but notice their unescapable joy that filled their hearts and faces, when they were in each other’s presence.

Before my dad got his kidney cancer diagnosis in early December, he and my Uncle Jerry taught Carter how to play Chess. Carter couldn’t stop talking about how he “beat his Papa at Chess.” (with Jerry’s help). I bought Carter a chess board for Christmas with money that my dad gave me for his birthday; Carter asks me to play almost everyday-and he does not like it when I do not let him win! In my heart, I was hoping to see them play one more time, but I am so glad that I have this story and so many more, to share with him about his Papa.

My dad always found ways to think of others and he was always being thoughtful and kind. I have heard people say that my dad would do anything for anyone.

I know that he made sacrifices for me…

I know that he wanted me to live with a cohesive foster family, because he knew there would be benefits that he just couldn’t give to me. It took me a long time to realize that he made this sacrifice, so I could have the best future possible.

In adulthood, I would receive many odds and ends from my father’s thrift store finds. Sometimes I would laugh and other times, I would be surprised that he knew me far better than I realized.

For example, he gave me a gumball machine for my birthday in 2012, when I first started working at Columbus State. At the beginning of each semester, he would show up at my office with two containers of gumballs. He also could have just bought onecontainer, but he knew it wouldn’t fill it to the top. He would always joke around and say they weren’t cheap and he would tell me to look for any wheat pennies. The machine is a big draw for students (and for Carter)!  It is because of my dad’s love, that students stop by and enjoy his gesture of kindness.

Last week I stopped by my office. The new semester starts this week. I happened to glance over at the gumball machine and it was completely empty. My eyes teared up. I was reminded of his generosity and thoughtfulness. He was always completing random acts of kindness.

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This brings me to concluding thoughts…..

When I was at THE OSU James Cancer Hospital On December 3rd for the first time, I stopped in the Chapel to pray; I picked up a copy of Our Daily Bread. This is the prayer that was written for that day-

“Father God, Your heart beats for the vulnerable…. Help us to love your people as you love them, for we are made in Your Image. “

True faith demands not only our words, but our actions. This statement leads me to the prayer that can be found on January 10th, the day my dad peacefully passed away at home-

“Lord, what do you want me do for another today? Lead me. And may that person see a glimmer of You.”

I know I saw that glimmer in my father; I won’t ever forget what his example, so I can pass his lessons of generosity to his grandson. I have faith that his random acts of kindness were expressions of his faith; he revealed the tender mercy of God through his giving heart.

That’s how I would like to honor my dad; I would like to encourage everyone to practice a random act of kindness to celebrate his legacy.

25 years later, I finally can answer that question I asked at age 14. Do you remember my question?

I asked, “Who is this man?

He is…..my father and Carter’s Papa – He will always be loved and remembered.

*Post-Script: the day I returned to work following my leave of absence, I found an amazon box addressed to me. I opened it and found a note and gumballs from my college mentor. She had attended my father’s service; her act of kindness meant the world to me.