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.

Dare to Dream, and Embrace Inspiration!

The moment I stopped dreaming is the moment I ended up in some of the lowest point in my life.  From wading through the oppression of an abusive relationship to entering the focus of caregiving for a while.  I have found that life is full of inspiration, and some of it comes out of those darkest moments.  Then, the light emerges once more and dreams become possible again.  Without the struggles, I would not have the experience or inspiration to write.

What it boils down to is that dreaming leads to great things if you have the will and determination to pursue those dreams.  Everyone should dare to dream, and embrace the inspiration that pours from the wounds of their life.  This is what makes us human, relatable, and interesting.  We all have great springs of stories that fall in tears, and everyone must climb through trenches that were created by mistakes and poor decisions.  However, not everyone can turn these moments into inspiration for dreams and goals.  Many will live and die in tragedy.  Those that are able to tell their stories or create a masterpiece from the various colors of their life journey are the ones that become authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, and motivators.

I have learned this lesson, and I am taking the many sources of inspiration in my life to create something inspiring.  I have been a dreamer on and off, but as I have overcome more, my dreams have grown, and I will not stop until I reach my goals.  I have made it to that point that many may never get to, and I hope to inspire others to get to this point as well.  It is crucial for people to have a dream, but without the willingness to take action and to take a risk, it will never become a reality.  Be one of the stars that lights the way for others.  Take your dream and make it whole, tangible, and real.  Become the inspiration for others who are still trudging in their self-made trenches, seeking a light to guide them.

5 Steps to Becoming a Genuine and Confident Leader!

There is an assurance of character that comes when we see someone with confidence.  Not the overbearing or arrogant confidence, but the confidence that expresses the belief in oneself that is rooted in a humble person.  This is the type of person we are drawn to, and the kind of person we should be if we choose to lead, manage, advocate, and inspire.  There is a quality of candor that shines from individuals like this because they do their job while remaining true to themselves.

How can you develop this type of confidence?

1.  Experience.  As you have more experience working through challenges, and life overall, you will learn who you are and what you believe.  You have to have a firm understanding of yourself, how the world works, and how you work in the world to get to a true and mature confidence in your abilities.

2.  Listening.  You need to listen to yourself, your needs, and your desires because this is part of what motivates you and defines your goals.  You also need to listen to the people around you.  How do they react to you?  Is there something that you are doing that works well when communicating with others?  Is there something that others do not respond well to?  You must be able to study human response well.

3.  Candor.  You need to be honest with yourself and others about who you are.  People do not want to find out you are artificial, a fraud, or not truly the person you claim to be.  You should be upfront about your goals, your life, you plans, your abilities, your strengths, and your weaknesses.  Sometimes it is hard to admit your weaknesses to others, let alone yourself.  However, if you are going to become strong and inspiring, you must be genuine and honest.

4.  Learn to accept your failures as easily as you accept your successes.  Everyone want to succeed, but you have to fail first.  You have to fail many times, and then some, before you get the type of success you really want.  This means hard work, repetition, analyzing your failures, and moving on.  If you can openly accept your failures, you will find that you will learn from them faster, and you will find success much more quickly.

5.  Be open to advice.  You have to be confident in your abilities, but also recognize that you do not know everything.  You will continue to grow and learn as you lead and inspire.  It is a never ending process, and it will help you to expand.  Learn from others, including the people following you, because those lessons may turn out to be the most fruitful.

Confidence is a truly necessary asset for leadership roles, but make sure you are genuine in your confidence.  Be the person that people admire, not the one who is arrogant.  Admit fault, claim success, and speak candidly.