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!

Twinkle Twinkle

As a new mom, three years ago, I didn’t have a pre-existing catalogue of songs stored in the library of my mind. I don’t remember my biological mother being very nurturing or singing to me when I was a child; we never had a close relationship. Sometimes she would even say she wished I was never born…..

Since I held my son in my arms for the first time, I have been singing “twinkle twinkle little star.” It seemed basic. I remembered the words. I added a few lines of my own. It works for us. He was a calm baby and always a good sleeper. After he was born, the nurses in the hospital said he was the calmest baby of them all. Someone  recently told me that meant that I was calm during my pregnancy. Wow. I would have thought the opposite.  I was blessed to be a part of a faith community (Not Another Church) during my pregnancy- their love actually calmed my heart and grounded my faith. I give God the credit and the glory.

My friendships within my community were the balm that soothed worries and fears, created laughter,  and held my hand through the newness of becoming a mom. I remember how they brought me a chicken ranch sub from subway after I gave birth; they were in the room when I read my son his first book; they picked me up on thanksgiving day to share a meal with them. They took me to the emergency room when my son had jaundice; all in all, beyond their actions, they loved me and allowed me to be me. They helped me to grow in my faith and I learned to listen to my creator’s voice. I am so thankful that they were there for me when I was far away from home; they were very much my family and God’s hands and feet, when I needed someone to hold my hand and walk beside me. Beyond their acts of compassion; they embraced me; their friendships helped me as a mother and christian trying to find my way.

Today, my faith has not been diminished, but I am lacking a faith community. Which I have repeatedly promised myself that I would plant my feet somewhere. But my heart has been distant and I have been anxious, however, I have a longing in my heart to be more authentic in a shared community,  but it hasn’t happened yet–due to a lack of effort. Just honestly speaking.

And then, I check on my son at 2 am and normally he doesn’t wake or make a peep. But he says something so precious, “mommy, twinkle, twinkle.” He was asking me to sing….this time as I sang, my eyes filled with tears, just as they are falling once more as I pen these words…  no matter how many songs I don’t know or never learned, my son understands the most important one, “twinkle, twinkle little star, Carter Jacob,  your momma loves you, yes I do, I love you. ….”

This time, my son calmed my heart and he reminded me to find a faith community…

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!

Without Explanation

I close my eyes

And exhale-

Squinting through shadows

Focusing on a bright light

A source of relevation

Increasing the capacity to be

Fully present

In this moment

Even though life is

Fully chaotic

Unclear

Full of knots and cannot-

Squeezing

Fists full of ache

Twisting

Enveloping

Questioning

What is and what is not

Nothing changes quickly enough

An uncomfortable space is born

And expands into undecided

Peripheries

Continually battling-

In a knock out fight

Brutally revealing

Resistance

The pull of gravity

Unravels years of turmoil

Increasingly

Full and empty-

Leveraging the pain

Teetering between

The past and present

Memories

Inexplicably divided

Revealing

A breaking point

Or merely a pinnacle

of strength

Only to be reinforced,

By letting go–

Gaping wounds

Exposed in the light of day

Carve ornate inscriptions-

Within caverns

Leaving behind indentations-

Messages designed to communicate

An evolution of becoming authentic

Vulnerable just enough,

to listen–

Formally addressed

By truth-

Resonating deeply

Rising against

and

Breaking through

Misunderstandings

Unveiled by

Faith-

I don’t know about everyone else

But I press my ear to heaven

And it happens,

Just like that

In a blink

Before it’s too late

A heart realigns itself again

How sweet the sound-

A handwritten note

Suddenly makes me

More aware

Unequivocally declaring,

I am

In need

of a heart

Filled with peace–

I retreat and

Fall to my knees,

Promising not to go back,

the way in which I came–

Learning  to become

all over again.