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!

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Self-care and so much more…at Ohio Reach’s first College Retreat!

I have attempted to keep my writing separate from my work, but this week,  my professional career and personal journey of transformation blended.

This week, we conducted a week-long conference and  inducted new Scholars (former foster youth) into the Columbus State Scholar Network. We have nearly 20 students this semester! Yesterday, Columbus State Community College also hosted the first State-wide College Retreat coordinated by William Murray IV and Ohio Reach.


Ohio Reach improves post-secondary outcomes for foster care youth and alumni through leadership, empowerment, advocacy, research and networking (L.E.A.R.N.)


Thanks to William Murray IV,  Ohio Reach had six colleges in attendance including Clark State, Cincinnati State, Ohio University, Central State University, Columbus State, and Cuyahoga Community College.

In my own words….

Yesterday, I was honored to speak about practicing self-care while also sharing my story as a former foster youth.  Self-care is so important….there have been times that I wanted to give up but did not because I implemented practices in my life that sustained me and kept me on the right track. I focused on meditation and journaling as key ways to cope with stress.  I shared specifically about my journey, not just my life in foster care. I spoke of my desire to reconcile with my biological mother and the day I introduced her to my son. I shared about my emotional path from hate to love, and ultimately about the process of developing empathy and unconditional love for my mother- who died in 2014 from brain cancer.

As I opened my heart to future leaders, I felt this amazing energy in the room and it propelled me to push through to be open and vulnerable about my journey of transformation and impact.

Over the course of my life, I never once imagined I would be working in Higher Education – and I never ever thought I would be supporting foster youth. I always ran from my identity as a foster youth. I wanted to be more than a foster kid & I believed that I would be the one person in my family to change to cycle of abuse. And when I had an unplanned pregnancy….so much of my fear and denial made me come face to face with my past; I made a promise to myself to build a better future for my son and I.

So here I am…

I am blessed to be a collaborative partner in growing the next generation of foster youth into scholar leaders; I seek to cultivate a culture of mindfulness so they can make their dreams a reality!


Today’s retreat was a reminder that no matter life’s barriers and obstacles, we can all aim higher via education,  reflection and action. All of the speakers focused on moving forward, purposefully! Speakers for the College Retreat also included, Genesis Shine and Nikki Chin (Columbus State Scholars), Rayshawn L. Wilson, “LionHeart,” and Dr. Stephanie Krah (Central State). All of the students also received 10 Ways Anyone can Graduate from College Debt-free, by Kevin Brown (former foster youth), Amazon Fire tablet and a twin-sized quilt from My Very Own Blanket.


FINALLY, I am so incredibly thankful to be a member of the Scholar Movement that is spreading across Ohio!

The challenge of compassion…and a few lessons along the way.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
― Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa

Within the past year, I have been asked, “How did you find the strength and courage to love your mom?”

When I was fifteen years old, my mom gave up her parental rights to stay with the man who molested me. As a teenager, this reality broke my heart. My mother and I never had a very close relationship; I felt like a burden, rather than a blessing. I have referenced these feelings before, I felt worthless and rejected; the pain I endured, left an imprint on my life. I spent a lot of my life struggling to overcome the odds of feeling less than, rather than greater than these emotional hardships.

I worked incredibly hard to graduate college, participate in AmeriCorps, and attend graduate school; I transitioned from my own personal struggles to focusing my energy on making a difference in my community.  No matter my professional accomplishments, my heart was still fractured and all of my relationships suffered. So, when I reconnected with my mother two years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Throughout life, I learned to have zero expectations; but this time, I earnestly hoped for reconciliation, but I never imagined  that we would have so little time to overcome a lifetime of ache; the challenge of compassion revealed the possibilities, including forgiveness.

All along the way, I felt an ever-present peace and abundance of hope through my faith. This abundance made itself known when I became a single mom a couple years ago. Hope was the ultimate message communicated to me and I learned that everything, is indeed possible. I was strengthened most by the people who came beside me and loved me—without judgement. God essentially prepared my heart to love my mom, by blessing my life with a child. It was through the process of becoming a mother, that I surrendered my heart to my creator. In this context, my heart was prepared for the challenge of compassionate action; this was the path to loving my mom.

My mother was adopted; as far as I know, I know she was loved, but she always felt discarded, unlovable and rejected. My mother came into this world feeling unloved and throughout my mom’s life,  she sought love in all the wrong places; after three marriages; she ended up very alone. Seven months ago, when my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, I made a promise – I wanted her to know she was loved. No matter the struggle, I chose to stay and be present with my mom, offering my time (and as many milkshakes as possible)!

Loving my mom was a process and gradual evolution of my heart progressing towards loving authentically. In the beginning, I was angry and frustrated; especially when my mother refused to get the care she needed or when she refused to tell her children the truth we deserved to know. We had questions and wanted answers. Over time, I learned to shut up, let go and be open. I think that’s an enormous lesson to practice…the art of learning to listen; listening requires that I purposely let go of my agenda. It was important for me to step into her experience and feel a fraction of her ache; this didn’t excuse her from the pain she caused in my life, but my heart surrendered my resentment and hurt.  I relinquished my demands, questions and anxiety to know peace that passes all understanding. I forgave her and I believe that forgiveness set her free and helped us to understand each other better. Forgiveness didn’t erase years of disappointment and estrangement, but my pain was eased and I was able to let go and finally  love without creating conditions or rules; the process of surrendering created a safe space for love to grow.

There were other key influences in my life; I definitely drew strength from my faith and people like Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen. I have always had people in my life who offered their support. Their acts of kindness kept me from diving into depression, they motivated me to keep my chin up, and inspired me to accomplish my dreams.  I attended a Christian college and had mentors and volunteer experiences that changed my heart. I learned about living compassionately and love in action. Those lessons and influences are integral to the woman I am today. I experienced generosity and was inspired to pay it forward; my heart experienced growth because seeds were sewn into my life. Those folks were mostly women, who I still have connections with today; my elementary art teacher,  high school english and spanish teachers, my foster family, job  supervisors, mentors, roommates and classmates.

My heart was prepared/cMom_9onditioned for healing; whenever I found myself in the same room with my mother, I wanted to find the nearest exit. I didn’t know what I could offer, but I learned to offer simple things, like a milkshake or smile. After my mother’s diagnosis, during the first few months, whenever I sat with my mother, I saw her as a person first, and a mother last. For years I suffered a great loss, because she gave me up. There is a unique irony to our stories, because we both felt discarded, unlovable and rejected. My mom never took responsibility, she never apologized, she never acknowledged my experieinces with her understanding, until this past October. During my childhood and adolescence, she ignored my suffering and disposed of me, when she should have fought for me. This stung a thousand bee stings (and I am allergic to bees). Ultimately,  this painful cycle convinced me to be the best mother I could become; I’m thankful for my son and the lessons I have learned over the past year.  I focused on letting go and actualized forgiveness; as a result, I became my mother’s daughter; we were no longer estranged from one another. My mother and I learned how to be family once again. That transformation changed our lives forever.

Over the past two weeks, I have had time to reflect and recognize the power of moments; some of them will always be indescribable, but I’ve attempted to encapsulate them into 5 challenges/lessons; I’ve written them as as a way to honor my mom; I am thankful for the gift of transformation….

The Challenge of Compassion, #1- Approach forgiveness as an opportunity to help, rather than be helped. In the process, all hearts have the opportunity to be changed.

The Challenge of Compassion, #2- Hope despite all impossibilities; healing is possible, when you stop giving the past power over the present; forgiveness truly mends the broken-hearted; fragments are sewn into wholes, the empty spaces are filled with love.

The Challenge of Compassion, #3- Simply being present is a gift. Kindness isn’t about what we can give, but it’s about how we give- it’s about the quality of presence, not the quantity or value of many presents. The worth of our presence will always surpass everything else.

The Challenge of Compassion, #4- A small gesture of kindness can be monumental; live graciously—

The nurse who took care of my mom, came to the nursing home and was by her side during her last moments. During the past 7 months, she was very supportive to my mother.  She eased my mother’s pain with her presence; she always appeared to offer her help, especially when she wasn’t working. She made the choice to be with us. In one minute, she was getting us coffee and the next, she was listening to my mother’s last breaths. No one that morning at the nursing home took care of us. They had other things to do, I suppose. My mom’s nurse totally went out of her way, many many times and never asked for anything in return. I am so thankful for the gift of her caring presence (#3); it was beyond comforting. Since my mom passed, we have told one another, we would be friends for life.

The challenge of Compassion, #5- Don’t wait. Make time in your calendar to love without reservation. Don’t wait for the ah-ha moment when things make sense. Chances are, none of it will make sense. People don’t always make sense; cancer doesn’t make sense, but we deal with the nonsense, by doing something as simple as making time to love without reservation. We can’t say we cannot love because….we must say, “We must, we can and we will love because of HE, who entrusts us with His love—

Two years ago, I didn’t know I would lose my mom this January. I can’t change the past. Honestly,  I spent the first year and five months, being distant and reserved. I was taking baby steps, trying to play it safe; I justified my actions;. After all, I did not have a relationship with my mom for 10 years. I was careful yes, and I should have been, but looking back, I could have done more to express my desire to get to know her again. All and all, I didn’t think I was ready. And I wasn’t. But if I had pushed myself just a little, we might have had more time together in the beginning. I am very thankful for the past seven months and for what happened between us- our hearts aligned in a beautiful constellation of understanding. Courage provided the strength, but I could have done so much more.

So? Increase your measure of knowledge  by implementing these challenges in your life. Reach deep within and reach out and around, you just might feel a squeeze in return, but don’t give up, “just keep on, keeping on.”

Ready to win my life back

Today’s post is inspired by a phrase that Dolvett Quince speaks to his contestants on The Biggest Loser. During workouts on the show, he shouts, “win your life back!!!”

Last week, when I heard him shout, “Win your life back,” I wept.

Since I was 11 years old, food has been an inappropriate coping mechanism.

At first, I ate, because I thought if I was fat, I wouldn’t be (sexually) abused.

But he didn’t care; he abused me daily, for three years.

Eating food was the one thing I had control over, so I kept eating and eating; Unfortunately, this has been my fight for the past 25 years; even when I was in foster care and had a supportive foster family, I kept over-eating;  even after I had my gallbladder removed, I kept over-eating;   even when I earned my MA in Creative Arts Therapy and knew better, I kept over-eating.

(Deep breath)

Over the past month, while spending time with my mom during her radiation treatment (for her brain cancer),  memories have resurfaced in full force about my childhood. At first, I wanted to maintain a safe distance; but during the process of forgiving her, I realized how important it is to accept grace and forgive myself too (daily).

Over the past few months, I have gained weight; everyone has been kind; no one has pointed it out, except, I feel it every day, when I try on my clothes and they don’t fit like they should. It’s as if my childhood is mocking me; I’m definitely ready to stop reaching for the comfort food; it’s so ironic, that comfort food actually makes me feel so uncomfortable; I just want to build a fort and hide; instead, I just need to sit at the table and give myself permission to eat healthy and be thankful for a new day to begin again.

I always wanted my mom to fight for me (she didn’t), but now, I need to win this fight once and for all. It’s time to win my life back…25 years is weigh too long to be carrying an albatross around my mid-section. I am ready…

The following is a poem/narrative of sorts, that I Initially wrote in 2010:

Thick

A pinch turned into a roll into curves into the full-figured voluptuous woman that appears before you today, but when I was a child, a natural instinct to eat three meals a day was warped when self-confidence diminished at the hands of an abuser.

A candy bar turned into a bag of chips into a pint of ice-cream into stuffing my body with food; this process insulated my body with a layer of protection to fight off his advances at age 11.

I had convinced myself that if I was overweight, he would leave me alone. I figured that if I was unattractive on the outside, that he would stop looking at me; all of this thinking and eating did not stop him at all.

Worst yet, my mother ignored the abuse and told me that she wasn’t going to have a fat daughter, so she forced me to exercise each day, proving that she didn’t give a damn about what I was feeling on the inside.

Three years passed and I was thickened like a plump chicken; I wanted nothing more than to die; a recipe for redemption was inscribed upon my right thigh and I found a way out by speaking the truth.

Years of molestation ceased to be a part of my daily routine but food continued to console my mind and 126 pounds turned into 157 into 176 into 198 into 210 into 234 into 246 (what I weigh right now).

A pattern of compulsive eating without exercising has given my body an over-sized shape and created a false facade; my curves are my battle wounds; they have been gaping open for 25 years.

Today, I begin to heal, inside out….

Connected and #inspiredby (People who have made a difference in my life)

ImageI was inspired to write today’s post by Hoda Kotb’s examples of inspiration from the Today Show.  She was told by Ken Duane, “Don’t hog your journey,’’ and  “Share your journey with others, and you’re a power of example. Think of what you are able to accomplish.”

On Sunday, I had brunch with a good friend of mine; she asked me, “Does keeping a blog help you?” Of course, my response was, “YES!”  For as long as I can remember, writing helps me process life, but I also want to be “a power of example.”  I hope my openness helps someone each day (and maybe my son someday); that’s what I truly want to accomplish when I write, but I dream of accomplishing more with my life (that’s another post).

The intention of today’s post is to honor five people in my life who have inspired me on my journey and changed my life.  I’m sorry, I couldn’t list “just” one; I have decided to list them by year, in the order that I “met” each of them:

Right in my own backyard, she inspired me to redefine family…

In 1996, I was in my college cafeteria, standing by the cereal bar, when a random girl came up to me and said, “Do you know who I am?  I’m your cousin!”  That moment catapulted into an incredible friendship; we lived together during my junior year and have been friends ever since.  I have learned that being family has nothing to do with biological connections; my biological mother was adopted; my cousin and I are not related by blood, but we are definitely family; she has always been a confident and one of my friends, but she is my “cuz” and one of my closest allies; we have a special tie that bonds; I believe this tie exists because our grandparents were siblings and they instilled within us the fortitude to value the connectedness of family; for this reason (and many more) we are connected through our family tree and love.

No matter the distance, they inspire me to be authentic…..

During college, in the fall semester of 1998, I met two guys at an informational meeting for a trip to Italy; the trip would be for a class, “Art in the Western World.” During the month-long class, we traveled to Italy for two weeks and explored the sights; I’m so thankful that our friendship has evolved over the past 15 years. Truly, no matter the distance, we’ve always had this uncanny ability to stay connected; I can honestly say that I have been able to be my most authentic self with them (and I hope they can say the same about me). The longer we know each other, the more I appreciate the early days of becoming friends. For example, I was recently reprimanded for calling one of them my “former apprentice;” oh, but I loved the days, they would visit me in my studio and talk. In my jewelry box, I still have a little yellow ring that was made for me. I am a sentimental fool- but I think they love me for it. We have lived all over America (California, Colorado, Tennessee, and New York), but we still manage to have had countless laughs, pep talks, critiques, real conversations, etc.  I am so thankful to be connected by a nexus of artistry, faith and veracity.

From here to there, she inspires me to pay it forward…

After college, while serving with the AmeriCorps in 2001, I had an additional opportunity to work as an intern for a not-for-profit; while working there, I met a beautiful person; she once planned a surprise birthday party for me in February (my birthday is in June!).  She is a beautiful person for so many reasons, but most of all, I have to say that her heart of compassion truly revolutionizes my life; she has made personal sacrifices in her life to help me (whether it was money, a bag of necessities from target or a fun umbrella for a new job); she has always given me her time and truly cared about me.  She is the woman I mentioned during today’s introduction; she treated my son and I to brunch (and she survived a trip to Target with my son-she bought him play-dough for his upcoming birthday). More than our Target adventures, she knows my story, I have felt her empathy, but never any pity; she inspires me to pay if forward. When I moved back to Columbus a few years ago, she relocated to Cleveland for a job. Even though we have been far apart, the distance between us  is too narrow to measure; from here to there, we are truly connected by nostalgia, creativity and love.

Across the miles; she inspired me to find my way…

In March 2010, I called one of my best friend’s (one of the two guys from college-described above) and told him about my pregnancy; he connected me to one of his friends in Colorado who could offer me support; she counseled me and delivered words of wisdom and guidance. She shared her own story and sewed hope into my heart and womb. At that precise moment, I was broken emotionally, yet she didn’t try to proselytize or fix me, even though I could tell that her faith was very important to her; she simply expressed compassion through her words and actions. She was the second person who knew I was pregnant, yet, ironically, we have never met in person (I hope to change that someday).  I am forever grateful; we are connected by the information highway, motherhood, and faith!

Okay, that’s five out of possibly a hundred (or more)!

Who inspires you? Please share!

Let it be.

This video prompted today’s post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGgOimJaqT4Image

Let it be.

Okay, so I had a conversation several weeks ago with a colleague about my anxiety regarding flying on planes (and about being in situations where I have no control over the outcome). And he said something to the effect of, “so your calm demeanor, it’s just an act?”

This statement startled me. Do I really have a calm demeanor?  How does anxiety and calmness coexist?

Umm….it doesn’t. I learned a long time ago, it’s all about developing appropriate coping mechanisms (I say appropriate, because throughout my life, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, where I fed my emotions – and still do).

So, I choose to breathe. Most of the time, I just close my eyes and meditate. I think about pushing through, to get to the other side. It’s not always effective, because I’m not immune to stress, but my breathing and/or meditation expresses my faith and belief that I am not alone in this world.

(Inhale)

Writing is also a form of  meditation; When I was in my twenties, I remember that  I would always write in a journal before falling  asleep; I would write some really bizarre ramblings; but you know what, I slept much better in my twenties, than I do in my thirties. I think way too much in my thirties: I care too much about what people think; unfortunately, it’s like that awkward space in junior high; do people accept me or do I just accept being alone?

(Exhale)

Oh, but there is irony; to some degree, I accept my aloneness, but that doesn’t mean that I am fragile, it just means that I am vulnerable, however,  I am strong and determined to push through to grow and become better, as a human being, mother, professional, ally, advocate, writer, daughter, friend, and mother. After-all, I’m on my way, but I’m not there yet.

(Inhale)

It is important for me to state that I am neither invincible nor protected from criticism. For example (pretty basic- from the time we are children to being an adult), being disliked (in whatever situation) well, it can feel defeating. No amount of pep talks (self-guided or otherwise) can make me believe that I will be in a better position to be “liked.” I know I am not perfect, but I have always sought to be my best. I lead with my heart. I guess that could be perceived as my downfall. Some folks might assume that I am weak or weakened by the fact that I step into the shoes of others, by attempting to appreciate/comprehend their perspectives; but I do so, to create better understanding within myself. This isn’t really about being liked or disliked, it’s about being progressive and authentic to learn and grow, despite external circumstances,

(Exhale)

I empathize, but ultimately, I do not back down, I just slow down to build a bridge of understanding. I am developing my skills about not rushing into judgment or assuming the worst case scenario; I practice mediation and remind myself to let it be; after-all, my heart has always been open.  I know that the path of self-knowledge leads me to recognize my weaknesses, but it also reaffirms my strengths, to which I know and accept, that I am precisely where I need to be, so I can reflect and cultivate compassion; my heart is not closed.  I’m not afraid. I was built especially for circumstances like this; my anxiety can be defeating at times, but it does not hold me captive—I have learned to meditate and breathe, to concentrate on what can be, rather than being chained by the challenge itself. It also requires humility and knowing how to be a good listener, which is not as easy as it sounds. It’s about letting go, to hold on to what is most important; to be faithful.

(Inhale)

I am stronger and more aware than I have ever been, therefore, I do accept the calm; I inhale a promise and exhale a prayer; daily, I choose to let it be.

(Exhale)

The Experience of Hoping…..

ImageJust a little while ago,  I cleaned up the living room and managed to make a path from here to there. And then I decided to turn off the TV… Thankfully,  this process prepared me to clear my mind. I now hear the rain, my son’s cough and the humming of the fridge; thank goodness, I can finally listen, at midnight, to what is important;

And so, I finally picked up a little blue book called, “Gone from my sight.”

For the past two weeks, I have been sitting by my mother’s side; I have been traveling to her radiation appointments to give her support. I frequently feel full of  feelings and empty of emotion; the emptiness wipes me out.

While sitting with my mother, I  remember happy moments of my childhood and equally, I  recall the pain that accompanied me during the best and the worst of times. In this moment in 2013, tears cascade into a reservoir of ache; I intentionally stop to breathe; I inhale and exhale and think upon my life, before it was too complicated. Honestly, I have never had the best relationship with my mother, but I have been thinking about our shared experiences that were more positive than negative. And so, I’ve asked myself, what if?

What if, I just focused on the happy memories for one day; what if I just made a conscientious effort to completely fill a room with positive energy; what if I left my disappointment and ache in the past? Instead, I  need to focus on what I can completely bring to each day, especially tomorrow and the next day.

Tomorrow, I will dwell in happy memories from my childhood, this is my current roster of experiences that I choose to celebrate and acknowledge, in honor of bringing positive energy into my mother’s room:

1) As a young child, I had ear-aches; I would be in a lot of pain; during hospital visits, my mother brought me great comfort; I sometimes felt closest to her, when I was sick, whether it was an ear-ache in first grade or phenomena in 4th grade–I felt loved.

2) During elementary school, I would go  clothes/supplies shopping with my mom; it was an annual tradition; I went shopping with my mom without my three brothers tagging along. I can still remember sitting at the Woolworth’s counter in Heath, drinking milkshakes with my mom. I felt so special during these trips….I always wished that the start of school came twice a year….

3) One day, we were walking home from Meijer and I did something silly and fell. My mom, brothers and I, had a really good laugh. For some reason,  I remember that moment so vividly; too often, it seemed as if we knew  only how to hurt each other with words, but when we laughed together as a family, it was if we really loved each other and all the pain was an emotional mirage.

4) My mom is an artist; I watched her make art  when I was just a little girl; she inspires my art-making today; I’m truly thankful for this gift, which she helped me to develop in my own life, again and again. I am a creative soul and I have my mother to thank for teaching me how to draw and express my inner-being.

5) My mom loves my son, her grandson; to see her with him, is to see someone completely untouched by heartache and cancer. She smiles with so much love, it is a miracle to share this moment (and hopefully more) with her.

I wish I had more to write; I know there are more…I promise. Maybe I will add more examples to this list, as I remember special memories……..Right now, I’m finally feeling rather tired and need to get some sleep!

Take care,

Kim

FYI: (Re)Centering in Progress!!!

(http://www.unitync.net/Labyrinth.html)

Meditating and journaling are tools that I have practice since I was in 4th grade; I have learned to thrive and evolve as a former foster youth/leader/ professional because I invested time in taking care of my core, the center of my being.  Journaling is a tool to self-reflect, record thoughts, evaluate options, share lessons and develop ideas; my journals are a record of my footsteps, illustrating hopes, dreams and aspirations (and I can’t forget, shortcomings).  Meditation is a coping tool to assist with life’s stressful experiences. Whether it is deliberately breathing, purposely being still or praying earnestly, meditation has helped me face situations with an open mind and a calm spirit. My experiences in life have culminated into a series of lessons which remind me to dive deep into the unknown, discover my passion and develop my purpose, while holding steadfast to my values and beliefs; but even so, I have failed and (re)imagined life more than a few dozen times! Recently, I (Re)discovered my need to journal (on blue lines, not online): I know my progress as a writer/mother/leader is challenged/improved/strengthened, only when I make time to breath and (re)center my being.

During November, I plan to be aware of my life-path, though sometimes, I am very unclear of a specific trail to follow, I know the destination is either within or beyond my reach, but uncertainty doesn’t stop me from trying to find my way; I truly believe that my progress is not defined by how swiftly I arrive, but that I simply practice self-awareness to arrive more succinctly, rather than only focusing on how to reach the destination successfully. Life-lessons are discovered without having all the details planned out. I am becoming (re)centered…daily, weekly, monthly, yearly…..to experience what it means to be transformed by the (re)newing of my mind—It begins with being fully present, practicing patience and living  peacefully; all of these ultimately culminate in productivity to (re)store the path of perseverance, no matter the prevalence of pain persuading  every fiber of my being to just give up–but I refuse to give the past power and intentionally step forward into the circle of connectedness with the universe and God. I do know what I want-to live kindheartedly without reservation and/or fear.

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
Lao Tzu

When you become centered, suddenly there is great freedom because you know you are not the mind and you are not the body.
Osho

(Heart, Soul and Mind).

To be transformed, in my opinion, is to have an experience that completely revolutionizes one’s way of thinking and doing; in other words, it’s an experience that alters your state of being, including every fiber of one’s existence.

I can share many stories about “leadership transformation,” but there is just one, which truly revolutionized my heart, soul and mind; It was a religion class that I took in college. First, you should know that I was an art major, with a youth Ministry Minor; throughout college, I flipped my major back in forth between Art and Youth Ministry. During January 1998, when most of my friends were taking a stained-glass/paper-making class, I decided to take a class called, “Contemporary Forms of Ministry.” I traveled to Washington D.C. with a bunch of religion majors and learned how to live my life with purpose. During this course, my professor taught us from life experiences, not just from books (FYI: That class also had one of the most difficult books I have ever read; I literally needed a dictionary, from start to finish!).

During the course (less than 30 days), we spent a week in Washington D.C. visiting not-for-profits; we were challenged to critically think about each organization’s  mission, purpose and programs; in addition, we volunteered and made a difference through service. I still remember S.O.M.E. (so others might eat) and cleaning the food pantry; I remember dreaming about starting my own not-for-profit/safe-haven for youth-at-risk, utilizing the arts to help support foster youth.

The big “experience” of the week, included a homeless simulation project, which meant that my professor woke each of us ridiculously early and dropped us off in pairs around Washington D.C. I remember that is was cold and that it felt awkward following through this experience; who legitimately was going to take me serious; I was a “privileged” college student, not a homeless student. However, I wasn’t a stranger to feeling alone, I was an emancipated former foster youth. Throughout the day, I had several encounters with the homeless; at one point during the day, I had to use the restroom; I knocked on a very well-known church door; the door was completely made of glass; someone saw me, but they denied me access; several actual homeless acquaintances told me to just go to the nearby hotel; I remember being very hesitant; it was an absolutely beautiful hotel; I was scruffy, hungry and irritable. The doorman let me walk in and use the restroom; I remember crying in the bathroom stall; I wanted to know why I was rejected and accepted; regardless, I washed my hands and there was a life-defining moment when I decided that I wanted to live my life differently; I wanted to be driven to give, serve, and lead differently.

During that religion course, my professor instructed us to utilize several tools, which I still practice today. These tools definitely have shaped and continue to reinforce my leadership philosophy. The following five practices guide my work in Higher Education today;

1) Ask questions 2)  Put myself in other people’s shoes  3) Meditate 4) Journal/ Reflect  and  5) Live Differently.

1) My professor challenged us to go to a college and ask other college student’s questions. This experience felt awkward; some students were open; others were closed. This perhaps, was one of my first experiences learning about the needs of college students; it would be eight years later, that I would begin a graduate assistantship in higher education.

2) To put myself in other people’s shoes means that I may feel uncomfortable and out of place. The homelessness simulation always reminds me that I cannot possibly know everything and the only way I can begin to understand unique perspectives is through listening. To listen is to begin to have compassion for each person’s experience (and to feel moved to do something to create change).

3) My professor included a silent retreat during the course; I became familiar with my inner-voice and I learned to rest; a lesson that I have repeated countless times; it is vital to prevent burnout, by making time to slow-down; to really reflect and determine next steps; following that course, I knew, I wanted to do more, be more.

4) I kept a journal for the class; it was a part of my grade; it was the best practice to develop insight and perspective.  I truly learned to be silent and focus on changing my core first, rather than focusing on changing others or my environment. Today, I have many other outlets, such as this blog, Facebook, and etc. Keeping a journal allows for reflective thought, which promotes constant growth; how can I take this moment, grow and improve myself?

5) Living differently meant not accepting the status quo; for me, it meant building a campfire, dwelling with others and celebrating life. I will never forget the friendships I forged during the class, but discovering my passion for service and making a difference truly resonated with me; It would take me a few years, but to live differently, means to live to make a difference; if my heart is stagnant, it means that I am no longer making an impact and that I need to reassess my dreams and forge a new path.

Again, to be transformed, in my opinion, is to have an experience that completely revolutionizes one’s way of thinking and doing; in other words, it’s an experience that alters your state of being, including every fiber of one’s existence.  I’m thankful for my professor, the course, new friendships, the lessons and the hands-on-experiences that  provided me with tools to reflect and revolutionize my priorities to live differently, keep a journal and think reflectively,  meditate and listen to my inner-voice,  earnestly practice compassion and never quit asking questions!