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.

 

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Cause for Reflection

About a month before I found out I was pregnant, I told a mentor of mine, in these exact words, “I never want to have kids.” I was confident in my decision based on the facts, which included my parents getting divorced when I was 9 months old,  my mother giving me up on two different occasions (age 2 and 14), and all the ache (no matter how hard I fought it) that wrapped around my being. It scared me tremendously to think of myself as a mother; I grew up with this fear in my chest, that I was never gonna be loved, therefore, I was never going to be strong enough to love a child (even though, I can clearly identify more than a dozen people who loved me then and still love me now).

When I was placed into foster care as a teenager, multiple people offered advice, which always sounded like, “When you have your own family, you will be able to love as you always wanted to be loved.” I didn’t want to take the risk and convinced myself that I was better off alone.

Considering my personal choices, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out that I was going to be a mother, but I was completely floored. The week that I found out I was pregnant, I was about to leave for an alternative spring break trip to Seattle with 12 college students. The week was intense. There was a defining moment; I was volunteering with my students at a site for mothers and their children (the organization helps them get back on their feet); a mother entered the classroom with her infant; she reached out and asked me if I minded holding and feeding her child. I think I hesitated, but of course I offered my help.

There are few instances in my life where I felt comfortable enough to hold a baby; there was one instance in high school; but beyond that, I have always declined—even when my siblings asked me to hold their children.  I can remember changing my nephew’s diaper one time in Iowa, when my sister was helping her oldest son; I heard her youngest crying and I thought about it, and finally, I decided to change his diaper. I didn’t have a motherly instinct; I was actually afraid.

So, back to the rocking chair; I was holding a beautiful baby and feeding her; I began to seriously ponder my pregnancy and being a mother; a sea of doubt flooded my heart, but the doubt was washed away with a peace that passes all understanding. I knew no matter my fear, that I would overcome it, to love my child.

In a week or so, my son will turn 3.

And so, here I am. I am thankful for teachers, mentors and family members who taught me to always follow my heart. When my son was a newborn, I didn’t have a rocking chair, but I improvised.  I sat on the edge of my bed and rocked him to sleep while singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Lately, as his third birthday approaches, my son has been asking me almost every day, “Do you want to be my best-friend?” This little question transforms my existence; my heart is filled with love; my definition of love expands and is redefined; loving a child has restored my path in life; being loved is transformational and I feel blessed to be a mother. The fear has collapsed; I am not the same woman who once said that I didn’t want to have kids. And what is the deepest longing of my heart? I can’t imagine any other path, except for motherhood and cleaning dirty diapers, stepping on toy cars in the middle of the night, wiping up a flooded bathroom floor, and sharing the past three years with my son; his love makes me believe I was born to be his mother and his best-friend. To learn more about my pregnancy and my reflections about becoming a mother, please visit my poetry blog, HOPE.

This is a good opportunity to thank everyone for your support! I’ve learned it is okay to ask for help; I’ve learned to redefine family; and I’ve discovered that it really takes a village to raise a child; I’m so glad you are in our lives and that you love my son and I!