Create Change With Simple Gestures!

We live in a time of social expression, but very little personal interaction.  We reach out through texts and social media platforms, but it almost becomes alien to reach out a hand to someone who needs us.  As we experience an explosion of technology that transforms from moment to moment, we work so hard to keep up.  Unfortunately, in the process, we lose a bit of our humanity as well.

As we tune out the world around us to embrace the one in our phones and tablets, it becomes easier to look past the homeless person on the side of the road.  We find it easier to judge people online, and that judgement can become bullying.  We see tears as cute emojis, and we begin to lose the compassion that made us human.

People struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, and so many other mental illnesses, but do we see them as a person, or a label?  When will we finally realize that we need to come together to remove the stigma around mental illness, and open our hearts to the person who is diagnosed.  In fact, we are more willing to rally behind individuals with cancer than those with mental illness.  Why can’t we just support those who need us, whether they are physically or mentally ill?

It is time to put down the phone, even if it is just for a moment, each day.  Take that time to make a difference.  You can inspire someone who is struggling, listen to someone, smile at others and make eye contact, volunteer, donate time or money, let someone know you care, or any gesture, large or small.  Just one small act of kindness can create a ripple effect.  If you have time to send a text, you have time to make an impact.

 

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From Victim To Victor: Be an Initiator of Change!

We live in a volatile world, an ever evolving landscape of humanity, and we work in environments where the masses merge to create a common goal.  There are problems that exist everywhere and incorporate major issues like gaps in treatment and pay stemming from differences in gender, generation, race, education, economic status, and so much more.  These conflicts create hostility, and this bleeds into the fabric of corporate, personal, and social relations.  Is this how we wish to live?  Do we want people in 100 years to view us as a century of turbulence?

While it may be impossible to escape victimization at times, it is possible to choose to be a victor.  You see, victimization happens to us, but we do not have to become a victim.  We can take our unique perspective of our experience, and utilize it to initiate change in the world.  We can choose to grieve over the loss of who we were before we were victimized and channel this into empowerment.  We can choose to accept what we deserve and nothing less.  We can choose to stand up to victimization and say it is wrong.  We can choose to not victimize others in the process.  This is what makes us victors.

There are statistics that clearly show discrepancies in pay for people of different races and between men and women.  Is this acceptable to us as a society in 2015?  Have we not learned from a past riddled with the oppression of others to rise above?  I know of people who have suffered from age discrimination, but it would be nearly impossible to prove.  What has happened to our values and morals?  Business ethics is still taught in college, yet it is conveniently dismissed when it goes against the bottom line.

Now is the time for our collective generations to come together and to make change that is positive for our personal and professional lives.  If we can learn to stop victimizing, and to stop accepting the acts of victimization that occur each day, we all win.  We can all be victors in a society that moves to build a brighter future.

Does this sound impossible?  Absolutely!  With so many people unwilling to change, it is not realistic.  However, you have the choice to be a victim to ignorance, or to become the victor.  Each person can make a difference, even if it is a small one, and many small ones may be what sparks the bigger changes. You have the choice, and by recognizing this, you take accountability for your actions.  Choose wisely!

Follow Your Passions!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I learned a great deal from the PLEN seminar in Washington D.C.  One of the greatest lessons I took away, that was echoed by many of the speakers, was that if you follow your passions, it doesn’t matter what path you take, you will accomplish great things.  Every speaker found their way into careers that were challenging, rewarding, and personally fulfilling.  They may have started on very different career paths from degrees in English, political science, history, and so much more, but they found their way to nonprofit, advocacy, or policy work.

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When I look at my path through education, knowing I am about to embark on an even greater adventure, I realize that the more I follow my passions, the more I will be fulfilled.  I have found that stifling passion merely leads to a life of monotony, and an existence plagued by regret.  I choose to never regret again.  I choose to take opportunities to make a difference in the world when I find them.  I choose to make opportunities where they do not currently exist.  I choose to initiate social change for the betterment of caregivers, even if it requires small steps to reap small rewards.  I choose to be an advocate for those who need one.  I choose to empower other women to lead, as these women have empowered me.  Most of all, I choose to be myself and represent my values and morals in the career decisions I make.

You have this power as well.  You can choose the person you wish to be and you can empower yourself to follow the passions that make up your spirit.  Be strong, be willing to make changes when necessary, and be open to the advice of others.  In the words of Caryl M. Stern, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get to where you want to be tomorrow.”

PLEN Seminar Experience Taught Me How To Better Advocate, Lead, and Pursue My Passions!

I have not posted a blog entry recently, but I have a good excuse.  I was attending the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) seminar, Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers!  For anyone who is not familiar with PLEN, I highly recommend you check out their site.  http://plen.org/

Cedar Crest College regularly sends a handful of students to PLEN seminars, and I was lucky to be one of the ones chosen this year.  While I will be covering some of the information I feel I received from this truly enlightening seminar throughout the week, I want to offer an overview.  PLEN is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women as leaders.  They seek to connect women in top level roles throughout various areas of health, science, nonprofit, advocacy, government, and other agencies with high-achiever undergraduate and graduate students wishing to make their mark on the world.  PLEN provides multiple sessions with a panel of women, who not only detail their own experiences navigating their career path to reach their current positions, but who also inspire students to seek out their passion, to work hard, and to never give up.  This was one of the most inspirational experiences I have had.

These sessions were broken up by practical workshops to help students build better resumes, to enhance their LinkedIn profiles, and to gain necessary networking and interviewing skills.  Overall, I feel I walked away from this seminar with more than I could have expected.  From the pages of notes that are filled with detailed information from each speaker, to exceptional quotes, and a feeling of enhanced self-confidence, I believe PLEN went beyond the experiential, into something life-changing.

The seminar was off to a rocky start initially, because of the snowstorm that hit the east coast.  Below is a picture of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. where PLEN headquarters is located.

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That was just the beginning, but PLEN was able to continue the seminar despite a few speakers who were unable to make it.  We also had to miss a planned field trip, but they filled that time with an activity that was also rewarding, and gave us a chance to think about the use of social media marketing as a tool in nonprofits.

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Our keynote speaker, Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO of UNICEF was one of the most incredible women I have listened to.  She spoke about her own family, and how she made decisions about her career, that while unusual, were exactly what she needed to get to a place where she was satisfied.  One quote that really stuck out to me was, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get where you want to be tomorrow” (Stern).  While we tend to think of how we can move up the career ladder, sometimes we need to stay on the same tier while moving to a different career or organization.  We should in fact, follow our passions because that is what will make us feel complete at the end of the day.

Caryl Stern was just one of the many speakers who left me with great ideas, plans, and thoughts to mull over.  The women who dedicated their time, helped to make a change in the lives of the students who attended.  Based on the wonderful group of women who attended with me, I believe they will take this knowledge and use it to make a difference in the world.  This is one thing I can say I have take away from PLEN, every person who spoke fanned the flames of passion I have for advocacy, and this passion will lead me to initiate necessary social changes.  This goes to show that as I move into a career in advocacy and leadership, I can do the same for others, and if we all did this, our world would become a much better place.  This is just one of the many bits of information I took away from PLEN.

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I will carry this experience with me, and continually look back at what I learned so I can apply these lessons to my life as my path shifts.  I will also build upon the networks that were started and hope they lead to valuable connections.  And, I will continue to work towards my goals to make a difference in the world one step at a time.

Below is a picture of the great group of women who attended this seminar, it came from the PLEN Facebook page which I have linked below.

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https://www.facebook.com/plennetwork?ref=br_tf

Thank you Cedar Crest College for your support and for sending me to this seminar, and thank you PLEN for all of the hard work that went into planning.  I was also chosen to receive a PLEN scholarship, and for this, I am truly grateful!

CHD Awareness Week: From the Heart!

(I am posting this on both of my blogs in the hopes to reach many readers because of the importance of the topic.  I apologize if you are subscribed to both and get this twice.)

Many may not know this, but this week is incredibly important.  February 7-14th is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week!  Plenty of information circulates to prepare parents for down syndrome, cleft lip, diseases caused by not vaccinating, and autism, but are you aware that nearly 1 out of every 100 babies is born with a heart defect.  Many of these defects are minimal and may even correct themselves, but there are also many that are life-threatening.  With advanced prenatal care, most of these defects can be caught in an ultrasound, before the baby is even born.  However, in our daughter’s case, they missed it many times.  In fact, after repeated ultrasounds because of an inability to see one side of the heart, they wrote 4 chambers down, despite the fact that she only had half a heart.

My daughter was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  This means the left chambers of her heart were small and non-functioning.  She was not even diagnosed until day 12, and she had her first reconstructive open-heart surgery the next day.  Going from being a regular parent to one caught in a whirlwind in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) is overwhelming.  Learning about the complex nature of this defect, and the special needs that a child with this defect has is terrifying.  I felt shock, and I was always worried, watching each beautiful breath she took with gratitude.  I learned how to read the machines and what her sat requirements were.  My husband and I created medication logs and we documented her life for months.  We became caregiving parents.  Between this beautiful new child with a host of complications and a mentally ill child, we were exhausted, but we survived, and our little girl is 9 now.  She has survived three surgeries, and each year, I speak about her condition to alert people to this common defect.  1/100 is a high number in my opinion.  Much higher than the current statistics for other common defects like down syndrome.

Knowledge is power, and I can say if you feel something may be wrong with your child, be adamant in getting a doctor to listen.  It took 6 visits to get our doctors to finally admit us.  My daughter was diagnosed past the date where most will die without treatment.  She was in the lucky 5% that survive past 10 days.  This is incredible to me.  The most difficult aspect of her condition that I live with each day is that the future is so cloudy.  We have been told her heart will eventually wear out as it is working twice as hard, and she has had so much work done, she will require a transplant at some point.  This is a fact, but one that I try to forget.  I can often pretend she has no problems as she acts like a typical 9 year old with a bit of an attitude at the moment.  It is when the threat of a cold looms over us, or when she wants to do gymnastics moves around the house that I begin to panic.  It is when she gets overheated so quickly in the summer that I want to squeeze her tight and never let go.  I know her life has been borrowed by skilled doctors, and I fear what the future holds.  This is why I want to bring awareness about the importance of having knowledge about heart defects.  We nearly lost our chance to know this incredibly intelligent little girl, and I hope our story can help another family get that same chance.

Looking to the New Year Ahead!

The day has arrived.  A shiny new year has begun and people awoke with a buzz of excitement, nursing hangovers, and dreaming of accomplishing newly crafted resolutions.  I started my day like any other, but ideas, plans, goals, and dreams have been carried with me in my thoughts through the day.  I know I have an exciting year ahead, and a challenging one.

I will be graduating this May with my two bachelor’s degrees, and I will begin my journey into a career.  It is hard to describe the feelings that come to a soon-to-be-graduate because there are too many.  I have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, knowing I have worked hard to achieve this goal.  In fact, it has been a six year process.  I also feel as though I have been provided invaluable skills and knowledge that will lead to an ability to move into a career.  I know the first half of the year will be full of classes, craziness, and sadly, the last semester of my undergraduate career.  I will maintain my expectations of myself, and I will graduate summa cum laude.  I will walk across the stage at graduation with a mix of pride and sadness.  A lump will fill my throat as I realize I am leaving behind the sights, sounds, and familiarity that has become a second home to me.

I will embark on a journey into the the world of job searching, learning the lingo, prepping resumes, and preparing for interviews.  I will carry the confidence I have gained with me into the workforce, knowing I am smart, strong, and capable.  I will perhaps consider graduate school, and finish my novel.  I have so many things that will fill my year with joy and achievement.  My educational and career goals will be a main focus for me this year, but there is something that must be considered in all things.  My family.

I love my family, and my son has had a challenging year with school and his behavior.  His mental illnesses have spun out of control, and it has been very difficult to work with him.  I will continue to get him the help he needs, but I will also work to help him to see his worth and potential because that will hopefully give him the strength he needs to change the path he is on.  The challenges I have faced as a mother with special needs children has been overwhelming at times, and I plan to continue to write and blog about advocacy issues because there are so many people who struggle with this problem.

I am truly excited to make this an incredible year, and I would love to hear the plans of others.  Please post any goals you may have or what you are most excited about in the coming year!

Why “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg Can Help You!

I have heard fellow business students speak about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” over the past semester and knew I had to read it.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the business world is evolving and women are taking more risks, or if it is because I attend an all women’s day college, but the popularity of this book is making its mark.  I have lofty goals and know the glass ceiling still exists in many ways for women.  As soon as my semester was over, I dove into this book.  The main concept that is discussed in this book is the fact that women tend to steer clear of the table, when they should be willing to sit down, even if they are the only woman, and “lean in.”  It is necessary for women to become more involved in the business, the dialog, the negotiations, and to not fear discussing important topics.

Sandberg even goes as far as discussing the need for women to speak about their family choices such as having a baby, and to not turn down opportunities because they think their pregnancy or children will affect it.  Instead, they should determine the choice they make based on their desires.  I have seen how women limit themselves, and I am a shining example of this as I have always put others ahead of myself, until recently.  I think Sandberg makes an important point because women tend to remain silent when they should be speaking up!  It is crucial for women to know where they are going and what they want.

As more equality is found in the workplace, more fathers will need to step up, and I have seen this happening as well.  My husband is incredibly supportive, and while I can nitpick and say he is not taking on enough housework, he takes on a great deal of the work with the kids.  I assume that as I work more outside of the home, he will step up even more and take on housework.  Sandberg shows the unfortunate seclusion men face when they become the primary caregivers for their children, and this dynamic also needs to change if women are to rely on them more.  The important thing is for the dialog to continue so changes can be made.  Women need to “lean in” because their opinions and challenges matter.  Without an equal say, there cannot be an equal society.

Sandberg brings up important topics, some of which are already widely discussed, but her overall message is important to the development of women in the workforce.  There are many things I will take away from this book, but more importantly, when I find myself backing away from a situation because I am one of the only women, or I am nervous, I will “lean in.”