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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Think Prepare Instead of Procrastinate in 5 Easy Steps!

We all do it once in a while.  Some of us do it more than others.  It is the nasty word, procrastinate, that wreaks havoc in our personal, professional, or educational lives.  Students put off papers and idly find other things to do, or reasons to explain why they must do something else.  Professionals lurk around the water cooler and the offices of co-workers in an attempt to forget the project that is waiting on their desk.  It is so common, yet we very rarely fix this problem.  Some of us may justify it because the looming deadline pushes us to success.  However, if we put more time into preparation instead of procrastinating, we could essentially have a final product that truly represents our abilities.

Whether you believe procrastination helps you in the long run or not, I can say that excellent preparation instead will give you the optimal amount of time to enhance, edit, and create a paper, project, or product that stands out.  It will be of higher quality because more time, love, and attention to detail was put into it.  Especially if research is required, because rushed research shows in a final product.

Here are some ways you can get your mind to focus on the act of preparation instead of procrastinating.

1.  The minute you are assigned a task, report, project, etc… get your plan together.  Set small milestones to complete and a deadline that is ahead of the actual deadline so you have more time for improvement if it is needed.  Having small milestones will help you to feel accomplished after each step instead of feeling overwhelmed which will lead to a desire to procrastinate.

2.  Focus on the reason you are doing this project.  Is it important for a class, could it impress a boss, could it lead to a raise or advancement?  These are all great reasons that should encourage you to do your best and to prepare wisely.

3.  Think about your own work ethic, and how you want to be perceived by others.  Do you want to be the person that is seen as the procrastinator, the gossip, or the lurker in the office, or do you want people to see you as organized and someone with potential?  My bet is that you would prefer the latter.

4.  Realize the amount of stress that is taken away when you have a plan and know what must be done, when it must be done, and you are checking items off your list along the way.  Having a plan because you are prepared allows you to move at a reasonable and steady pace with the knowledge that you are getting the job done.  One of the worst feelings is having a project on your shoulders and continually putting it off.  That is a stress that is not needed.

5.  Know that when you prepare, you will finish on time and still have time to make necessary edits.  If that is done, you can make a huge impression by being done early, and you may even have some free time to enjoy yourself and feel good about your accomplishment.

The next time you are given a task to complete, try to take some time initially to make a solid plan and follow through with it.  See how well the organization works for you, and you may never procrastinate again.

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!

New Year’s Series: Past Goals and Dreams

The New Year’s series continues as we reflect and try to gain a better understanding of ourselves, our past, our strengths, lessons, and dreams. This will help us to build resolutions for the New Year based on who we really are. It also enables us to remember what was forgotten or pushed aside that is still relevant.

The task today is to reflect on the goals and dreams from your past that were never fulfilled or accomplished. Some may no longer be important, but some may still linger because you still dream of them subconsciously. We change and grow as the years pass, and it is inevitable that our wants and desires will shift as well. However, you may find that your passion for a specific dream or goal is rekindled, and this may land on your resolution plan.

Make your list, and add it to the previous lists. We will have one more day of activities and on the 31st, I will help you use these lists to create a resolution plan that makes sense and is attainable. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on the process.

The Transformative Nature of Education!

There is so much controversy over education right now.  Prices of a degree can be difficult for many people and the job market makes many question the value of a degree.  There are many articles out there with statistics telling people whether a college degree is worth it.  For the most part, everything I have read seems to show a higher level of income for degree earners in many fields, but this post is going to explore something else.  Education is not just about the income that will be earned later.  Education holds a treasure that goes beyond the paycheck, it is transformative for the learner.

As a college student who has spent six years juggling full-time education and a family to earn two degrees, I can say I have gained much more than I anticipated from my years in college.  Perhaps it is the fact that I am at an all women’s day college right now, but I have become truly empowered.  I have found the professors at Cedar Crest College to be inspiring, always challenging me to become stronger and better.  The small class sizes instill an environment of collaboration, and I have gained much from this.  I have learned to speak about my beliefs and ideas with conviction, and I have grown as a public speaker.  I have gained confidence and determination.  I am an active leader who takes charge and builds professional relationships with people based on trust.  I can collaborate, network, negotiate, and accomplish more that I though possible.  I have changed drastically.

Beyond the skills I have attained and the confidence I have built, I have also learned a great deal about myself.  I have found that I am passionate about more than writing.  I now know that I love leadership roles and teamwork.  I enjoy being challenged, and I have a passion for advocacy roles in various areas.  I have learned that my career goals can be expanded and I can aim for more than I intended.  My education has given me the gift of knowledge about the business world, and the analytical thinking skills needed to solve and analyze problems.  It has also helped to uncover the potential I had hidden deep inside myself.  While there are debates about the value of education all over the web, I find the lessons I have learned to be invaluable.

I will carry my education with me as I move forward into a rewarding life because I am now much richer than when I began college.  Richer, in the sense that the treasure I have is a better understanding of myself and a realization that the possibilities for my future are limitless.  In fact, I now know that the only thing that ever truly limited me from reaching for my dreams before was myself.  I could never put a price tag on the education I have received because its value cannot be measured.  Confidence, empowerment, skills, friendships, connections, and personal growth are worth the student loans I will owe and so much more.  I know not every student will have the same experience, but that is because they choose not to.  We can make our education great by tapping into each resource offered, and becoming involved.  This is how I made the most of my education, and it has truly transformed me.  I hope more young men and women choose to do the same because it can make the difference between a career at the end, or a struggle.

Leadership Series Begins Tomorrow!

There have been many influential leaders, pushing boundaries, inspiring action, motivating masses, and acting as agents for change. What defines a leader? This term is so broad, and it has many meanings depending on the situation or goal.

This week, I want to explore leadership by looking at some of the greatest leaders and what motivated them. I will break down the expectations we have today, and what it takes to become a leader in various fields. Join me on this journey, and perhaps you will find the inspiration you need!

Empowering Women Series: The Truth in Numbers

I want to start this series by looking at data to determine where the weaknesses lie for women around the world, and specifically, in The United States. To empower women, we have to figure out how the structures of society, the marketing strategies, the government and private businesses, and perceptions weaken them. We cannot begin to fix a problem without understanding it. Moreover, even when we do understand it, we can only fix it one step at a time. The process for change is usually a long one, but with attention, the steps become larger, and the number of people involved in implementing change grows. Many organizations release campaigns as a catalyst for transformation, and one, which was recently brought about at the UN, is called HeforShe. If you have not seen the incredibly moving speech presented by Emma Watson, I have provided it for you.


What we need to understand is that women and young girls are typically brought up to see the world in a certain way, to embrace emotion instead of toughen up, to be weak, to not argue, and to do what we are told. The list continues. Boys are taught to be assertive, to be strong, to not cry, and so much more. We are all capable of the same things, with a few exceptions; yet, we force ourselves, and our children into specific roles, which could ultimately hinder us from becoming successful. If girls cannot grow up as assertive, how can they forge their way into a position as president? If boys cannot express emotion, how can they connect with patients as a therapist?
What does the data say? When studying the world overall, the website for The UN Women, looking at available data, finds that “Between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime” (UN Women, 2012). These numbers vary greatly across countries because the underdeveloped countries see more violence against women. We know young women are at a higher risk of being assaulted, but the numbers are staggering, “Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16” (UN Women, 2012). There are girls suffering from genitalia mutilation, and, as seen with the current crisis in the middle east, marriage and assault for girls as young as age 7. Human trafficking, which has found its way into even highly developed countries, has become an extremely profitable industry.
What these numbers show us is that violence is prevalent against women, and this creates an element of fear. If women are treated as objects, not provided an education, and expected to conform to inequality, how can they rise to fight or even know they have something to fight for?

The United States

          While we are free from much of this in The United States, there is still a high level of assault and abuse, sexual harassment, and inequality in the workforce. While The United States celebrates a society built on principles of equality, the numbers show otherwise. Women are finding their way to the top, but not in the numbers that should be expected.
In The United States, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women will suffer from domestic violence in their lifetime (2007). Even more alarming, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (Rainn) reports “an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes” (2009). These numbers show how much abuse and assault against women is a part of our society, and it does not even address child abuse or emotional abuse. With statistics like this, it is easy to see how so many women still do not speak up in a job when it could lead to promotion, or how women may feel intimidated in a board room full of men.
What do employment statistics show for women in The United States? According to Employment Law for Business, while “47%, nearly half of the workforce, is female…women earn 75% as much as men at all levels of educational attainment” (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2012, pp 344). We know that more than half of college students are women, yet, “3 to 5 percent of top managers are women” (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2012. pp 347). These statistics are alarming, and something needs to change. There are various opinions on why women make less, and why fewer women hold top executive positions, and we will begin to explore this from an educational perspective tomorrow. If you would like to see me add something to this discussion, please comment, and please feel free to join in and discuss this important issue in the comments.

References

Bennett-Alexander, D. D., Hartman, L. P., (2012). Employment Law for Business. New York:McGraw-Hill. Print.
RAINN, (2009). Statistics. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Retrieved From https://www.rainn.org/statistics
UN Women, (2012). Fast facts: statistics on violence against women and girls. UN Women. Retrieved From http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html

Empowering Women Series!

I am going to write about this ever-important topic this week because this is something that affects both men and women.  There is still a gap in pay between the genders, a glass ceiling, and a social model that objectifies women.  There are women around the world with no control over their lives, their bodies, or their fates.  There are women in abusive relationships who struggle to keep any shred of confidence or dignity.

How does this affect men?  As times change, men are seeing how this inequality affects their mothers, aunts, wives, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters.  They see co-workers who work just as hard, if not harder, get less pay.  They see the statistics and actual benefits of having women at the top, at board meetings, in project committees, and in other leadership roles.  The data is there, and it will be explored later this week in a blog post detailing the ways women can benefit companies who invest in them.  When men and women come together, share ideas, and work together, great things happen.

How can we empower women today?  There are various avenues that should be taken to help women to succeed.  It begins with a change in stereotypes and mindsets that limit the expansion of women in fields typically enjoyed by men.  The sciences is just one example, and women are finally breaking the glass ceiling in this area, but not completely.  More work needs to be done.  From helping girls to realize their potential in the earlier years of school, supporting them when they have dreams to accomplish great things, allowing them to lead without being termed “bossy,” and listening to them, we can initiate changes.

Colleges tend to have higher rates of women working toward degrees compared to men, yet, men still hold a vast majority of the executive positions.  This is a problem.  Women are not hired or advanced in some careers because they are of child-bearing age.  It is time to cast aside the plague of discrimination that permeates our society and become a part of an advanced, equal, more successful 21st century.  Join me this week as I tackle the various reasons that hold women back, analyze the statistics related to this important issue, and explore simple changes we can make in our lives to become empowered, or for men, ways you can help to empower the women in your lives.

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Control and the Caregiving of the Mentally Ill!

I have not spoken about my son on here yet, and it is time that I do.  It can be difficult to speak about the caregiving that goes with caring for a mentally ill child because mental illness has become a dirty term in our society.  While we speak about the needs to pay attention to mental health when someone kills themselves or someone shows signs that were ignored and people die as a result, we never really confront the lack of care.  We do not consider how families struggle with the various perspectives people have about mental health.  My son is mentally ill, and I have spent time wondering who I could talk to because I do not want them to think I am a bad mom or we are a broken family.  Are we broken, sometimes it feels like it, but we manage to piece ourselves back together.

My son has had various diagnoses since the age of 4.  We know for sure he has ADHD as he flaps his arms, has rapid thoughts, and cannot focus.  This is just the the beginning.  He has social issues and has been put in the autism spectrum umbrella.  He has also been labeled bi-polar, but that label has been removed.  He also has oppositional defiance disorder.  The last one is difficult for me as I think it is basically a child refusing to do what they are supposed to do.  He definitely has that, but I do not believe it is a mental illness, I believe it is a choice.

The past two weeks have been a nightmare in our home.  My son was doing well, but his grades continued to drop.  He was grounded from electronics and found ways around parental controls, but he was doing well compared to what we consider to be not well.  We put increased pressure on him by taking away his ereader since he figured out how to get through parental controls to access Facebook and have inappropriate conversations.  We thought we were winning as we took more and more control, but he pushed back…hard.

He has now refused to do any assignments over the past two weeks, he has not participated in classes, and he has earned 8 after-school detentions and an in-school suspension since then.  He has made it clear that this is his choice, and he said if we took him to the therapist, he would not participate and would waste our money.  At this point, he was 3 weeks into the new marking period, and all of his grades except one, was an F.  One was a 60%.  His lowest grade was a 7%.  This was what control led to.  The harder we pushed, the harder he pushed back.  This is when we stopped and gave him control.  We let him know his choices.  He could repeat 10th grade, end up in juvenile detention if he continued down the more defiant path, residential treatment again if he refuses to participate and does not work with his therapist, or he could take responsibility for his actions and turn things around.

Surprisingly, he started to make positive decisions today, and while I am afraid to get my hopes up, it shows that sometimes we need to relinquish control to find the best outcome.  This can be difficult for caregivers because we hold a lot of responsibility.  We are used to doing everything, but when we have to let go, we feel out of control.  I think this is especially true in cases of mental illness because there is so much we have yet to understand when it comes to mental illness and we already feel out of control.  This type of illness affects the whole family, and can be devastating.  It can take over your whole world, make the entire family dysfunctional, and cause a great deal of stress.  I have struggled to handle the barrage of turmoil while still maintaining my college coursework, my job, and my leadership roles.  I managed, but how many caregivers of mentally ill individuals are suffering and afraid to ask for support because they are afraid they will be judged.

It is time we open our hearts and recognize mental illness for what it is, an illness.  We should not make people who suffer through depression, bi-polar, and the many other conditions out there, feel as though they are abnormal.  We should not make families feel like they have to hide their mentally ill relatives or children because that makes it appear as though it is shameful.  We should be having a discussion with one another about how we can help the mentally ill and their families.  We should be trying to understand these individuals because they deserve to be loved and accepted for who they are, not for the image they present to the world.

How to Transform Caring!

In the caregiving world, caring can be many things, but we often assume it is “just” the task of daily care, grooming, medication control, nursing, and providing basic needs.  The problem here is that these tasks are often cast aside as unimportant, or carers believe their role is, as my mom says, “just a caregiver”.  Caregiving includes everything above as well as advocating for another, listening to them, helping them, loving them, and being with them.  The role of a carer must be based on fulfilling human needs, including the emotional ones, because people who are weakened by illness or age need more.

My grandfather has Alzheimer’s, and he is tethered to reality by only a few things.  My parents spend their lives making sure he is loved and cared for, and this included the emotional support.  He lost his wife a year ago, and she was one person who grounded him to reality.  It was difficult because he would ask for her each day, and my parents had to relive her death along with him.  This is where caregiving becomes more about the actual caring.  They have remained patient and loving.  He has since improved slightly and is grounded by my parents and his dog, Honey.  While he may forget a great deal, he notices his surroundings, my parents, and his little terrier.

His world was turned upside down again as his dog, Honey, died this morning.  This is when I saw how difficult caring could be because while my mom was upset by the loss of Honey, she was absolutely torn knowing she would have to tell her father about his little dog.  They placed her on her cushioned bed, and put her on his lap so he could mourn her while actually seeing her.  He needed to make this connection, and perhaps it will keep him from asking about her each day in the coming weeks.  My mom cried, and told me she is surrounded by death, and she knows there is more to come with her father so frail, and the fact that she also cares for my aunt who is dying of a rare cancer.

This leads me to the need for us to transform caring.  We have caregivers for the sick and elderly, but who is caring for the caretakers.  They are shrouded by death, loss, fear, illness, pain, and so much more each day.  They struggle to cope and carry on with their lives.  They face job and financial struggles, a massive loss of privacy, stress, and exhaustion.  There are not enough resources, and in many families, support is limited.  Caring needs to be transformed into a more comprehensive understanding on a societal level.  These issues need to be brought front and center at this time when baby boomers are aging, and the demands for caregivers will rise.  If not, we will see an increase in demand placed on family caregivers without the framework of support and this will lead to higher levels of stress related illnesses.  We need to begin a dialog about the health care system and reliance on caregivers now.  And, if you know a caregiver, support them if you can.  Offer to help by giving them a break, making a meal, running an errand, or just listening to them.  They need support too.