Just a little perspective.

AnXiety-

You X the spot where I don’t want to be.

Even in the light, you sneak around it and make it impossible to feel safe and in the worst of situations, you completely cover it up like it never existed. Anxiety is very sneaky and I know it is coming. I am its prey.

The irony is how my insta-happy photographs do not capture everything. During one of recent joyful trips, I experienced a panic attack that left me wiping away tears, while I was hiding in the bathroom to protect others from seeing me so defenseless.

Stigma sarcastically insinuates how anxiety doesn’t have validity because we have all been through something tough and most people get over it, so anxiety launches grenades and asks,

“Why can’t you just get over it?”

“Why do you constantly act the victim?”

“Don’t you know this is your fault?”

There are moments when I can’t remember basic things and the reality is that anxiety is
wrestling for my attention because I feel mentally exhausted; there are times when it is difficult to bounce back but I am fighting trauma dating back to the day I was born.

There are instances where I check, double-check and tripple-check electric outlets just to make sure nothing bad is going to happen and then I get into my car, only to go back inside and check one more time. Anxiety just sits back and has a good laugh.

I literally have moments where I just hate the way I am feeling and I have to push through because someone is counting on me and I cannot give up or tag out or quit. I just take a deep breadth and exhale all the chaos trying to make me to lose my sh*t.

Anxiety has this way of speaking bold-face lies and sabotaging potential – potential of a job, relationship, friendship, opportunity and/or possibility. People who judge me need to reevalute their hearts, but for the people who love me, thank you for never giving up on me.

And anxiety has cruel intentions. It tries to convince me that because I failed once, I must be a permanent failure. It constantly presses me into a corner of a boxing ring that I cannot be ejected. Anxiety forces me to box my way out, but I manage to only relocate to the middle of the ring, which imagine, is not more safe at all. No matter where I stand in the ring, a fight is a fight is a fight. Arms up. Defenses raised. Heart dismantling again. Prepared to be defensive, it is hard to believe what life could be like without anxiety. Where is the peace? Where can I find a white flag?

Let me say it another way.

Anxiety has triggers. It happens to you without your permission.  You strive for constant composure and togetherness but at times it feels like everything is falling apart. It takes resilience to decide not to let self-doubt sabotage any potential of success. It takes hope to break through fear and anxiety, but over time, it can distintegrate your confidence and exhume the past. It mercilessly takes every bad decision and every lesson learned and turns it into one hell of a mental parade of ache and agony that needs deflated. I have to choose to let it go and preserve my energy.

Some may say that anxiety is all in your head and that you simply have to renew your mind, but anxiety can be a mental shredder that takes positivity and destroys it with a tsunami of dis-belief that literally reinstates untruths.

It’s not fair how a simple thing can become a very complicated something while making you feel like nothing.

This is anxiety. It kicks you in the shin and while you hold your ankle and wonder what could feel worse, anxiety kicks you in the gut and while you are hugging yourself from the pain, anxiety will show no remorse or compassion while it proceeds to kicks you in the head. Anxiety doesn’t write rain checks. It is always ready for purchase, even when the account has a zero balance.

When I post that perfect Instagram picture, just realize that picture represents all these words and a thousand more…

I cope. 

I am healing.

I am working on myself. 

Anxiety isn’t laziness; it doesn’t care if I care. It doesn’t complete an assessment to determine its path of destruction. It just comes, as an unsuspecting setback and it sucks the life out of you and tries to defeat you in the ring.

Depending on how I view myself…

I choose to let it go.

OR

I just hold on for dear life and hope it doesn’t wipe me out.

The real message:

Recovery from trauma is possible.

It is strengthened by relational resiliency, so when we fall down, we have to ask for help. And when the tears come, it feels good to have people in OUR corner. I am thankful for the compassionate people in my life that have supported me during every single battle round and kept me from complete defeat. I am surviving, thriving and arriving because I am working on my growth strategy and you can too.

I strive to lead with purpose & seek to fulfill my soul-inspired mission by helping others affirm and celebrate their journey forward.

In closing, I clearly have rough moments but I am okay. Those tough moments are opportunities to be refined, but they don’t define me!

But please check on that one friend…who you know is struggling but may not want anyone to know…

CLOSING QUESTION:

  1. How honest are you with yourself and others about your anxiety?
  2. How do you cope with your anxiety?
  3. Will you commit yourself to journaling or meditating to ease your anxiety?

Closing Affirmation:

Anxiety happens but don’t let it deter you from living your best life. And a better life may feel different a year from now, but just start with today.

ripl_image_1560419290289.png

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Advertisements

Relational Resiliency & Foster Care Awareness Month

For the past four weeks, I have been doing something for ME and I have to thank my friend because she is babysitting my son and  making it possible for me to take a 6-week class on Thursdays. It just so happens to be Foster Care Awareness Month and my class is about Relational Resiliency (Hosted by “The Hive”).

I signed up for the class because I thought it would enhance my perspective and practices at work. But it has also provided a safe and authentic space for me to be ME an so much more:

  • As a bonus, I feel like my son and I are part of a community with other families. I believe that Carter has a village (here in Cincinnati) that embraces and cares for the both of us.
  • Guess what? I can finally breathe, after 20 months of living here. Say what!?

My class has been opening the windows of my soul and inspired me to expand the periphery of my heart… and it keeps me aligned with the daily reflection process to acknowledge that heart work is hard work and that we really do need each other.

More about Relational Resiliency….

I have always been a night owl and when I think about time itself as a resiliency factor in my journey, I recently stepped back and took a big long pause…. I considered how much time that it has taken to heal, forgive, grow, thrive, and finally arrive…

I have been specifically recalling how much time it took to reconcile with my bio mom and how for ten years I didn’t speak a single word to her and then one day, I showed up with my son. And then about 18 months later, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. And I was angry because I wanted answers to my life’s questions. But in the midst of hurt and heartbreak, I had to let go of my questions to just forgive her and make peace with my past. And people ask me all the time, “how were you able to forgive and move forward?”

I believe the passage of time and the wisdom from waiting my whole life for this moment, helped me repair the rupture. It wasn’t easy. I knew since my mom was adopted that she came into this world feeling unloved and unwanted and I didn’t want her to leave this world thinking she wasn’t loved or wanted.

And the rupture was deep and wide. Just this week I recalled the day I went into foster care and it was the same day as a court hearing where my mom asked me to lie and I refused to tell the version of the story she wanted and it was on this day she was pissed at me. And it was on this day she decided to find a note in my room, the same room that I had been hiding notes for 6 months. My mom cleaned my room every day and left items that were out of place, on my bed. And so I know she must have found other notes and ignored them. But on this day, I defied her, & she chose to find a note and my life changed forever. She was suppose to protect me on so many levels and she failed me and she set me up for failure.

This is the mother who said, “Don’t make me choose between my husband and you, because I will always choose my husband.”

Understanding resiliency has allowed me to appreciate time as a way I have recovered through my foster care journey. I am continually processing my trauma and adjusting my practices to prevail. It’s never just one and done. It’s about never giving up.

I look back over my life and I feel blessed instead of cursed. I walk away with lessons learned instead of feeling burned. I look forward and know hope despite all the hurt. I am not just a survivor, I am an over-comer and advocate for you.  I am here to say, “You got this too.”

As a result of the past year and specifically, the last month,  I definitely have a better idea about the difference I seek to make every day-

Update on my goals & a Few Announcements

Today is the last official day of Foster Care Awareness Month and I want to make some special announcements (if you are still reading….).

When I started this year, I had very three specific goals in mind- 1) I wanted to gain three new clients, 2) speak in five different states,  3) publish my memoir and 4) launch a not-for profit. I’m excited to share that I have four new clients and I have been invited to speak in four states this year (of course, I am including Ohio). Finally, this August, I hope to find out if my memoir will be picked up by a publisher, or else, I will choose to self-publish.

The memoir I have been writing for two whole years is finally, finally wrapping up this month, just in time for my 42nd birthday.  One of the reasons that I have been stalling is that I want to start a foundation and allow 100% proceeds from my book sales to help fund other foster youth to follow their dreams.

I seek to broaden opportunities to grown inter-generational foster youth’s talents through the arts, educational scholarships and mentoring circles. More details will be forthcoming this summer/fall about this new network!

In closing, it is important to share my vision because I believe you have to name your goals to make them a reality. This is really happening and it is not just a dream!

Closing Question:

What’s your dream and what are you willing to do, to make it happen?

Closing Affirmation:

You got this!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Lao Tzu)

20992637_10102575352425080_8648895676393059344_n

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Purposefully Playing the Hand that You’re Dealt

IMG_20190511_101011_884

#happiness💕
#reflectionsfromaformerfosteryouth

#mothersday
#mentalhealthawarenessmonth
#nationalfostercaremonth

May is National Foster Care Month. Foster care is more than a label & Foster youth are NOT a statistic.

This month and all through
the year, may we foster strength and humanity by celebrating foster care voices.

Voices of Foster Strength: I am sharing my own journey!🎉

This week, I stepped out of my comfort zone ( I am an intravert) and conversed with a Humanist, someone who believes in the necessity of kindness as an expression of community. I re-learned that within community, we can just be ourselves, hopefully without judgement, too much self-criticism or fear.

Fear of what? Rejection. Isolation. And being less than.

And I suppose that’s why I reached out for conversation in the first place. I thought a conversation would be helpful, so I could better navigate my path in life. I was in search of wisdom and insight. Ultimately, I was curious and hopeful that something could be gained from sharing our stories, because something about his story resonated with mine.

And throughout the conversation, I felt this heaviness being lifted slowly as I realized how much fear I had been holding onto because I had become attached to guilt and uncertainty.

And I finally accepted that my guilt and uncertainty wasn’t necessary. Over the course of my life, I  had developed coping mechanisms (with good intentions), which simultaneously made me feel like a constant failure for not measuring up.

So what about the hand I was dealt? No matter how much my cards were valued, I made matters worse, due to my actions or inactions, which only served to increase my anxiety.

Where did my anxiety start? All throughout my life, I was hoping for parents to love me unconditionally.  My anxiety showed up in school when I couldn’t focus. It revealed itself when I wouldn’t hug or kiss my own family. I lived in fear for my life and anxiety poured out of my pores in my body.  I didn’t trust anyone’, not did I feel loved. Which is why my entrance into foster care at age 14 convinced me that it was up to me to break the cycle. I was going to live my life differently and make better decisions than my parents. They gave me up, and my mother’s mother gave her up. I decided that I would never have kids to prevent myself from making their mistakes.

And at age 33, I was staying the weekend with my HS English teacher (who inspires me to write and share my story) and she asked me if I ever wanted to have kids and I quickly said, “No.”

And ironically, my cards at the time were not visible, but I was most likely pregnant at that very moment. I was also in desperate straits and broken. I was living a facade and lost. I was existing in complete darkness. My remaining shell of a person was blockaded by self loathing, insecurity and fear of disappointing the people who loved me; and frequently wanted to hurt myself, but I was determined to push through the pain anyway. Externally I was a survivor and thriving in a career, but internally, I was undoubtedly failing and crashing into a downward spiral of self-destruction.

Even in the midst of my depression and anxiety, I wouldn’t give up.  I didn’t want to become another statistic. I fought through my anxiety everyday but still experienced frequent panic attacks. They were regular episodes in my life. I am being very honest about my mental health because the facade I had carefully built had limits.  I had coped by binge-eating and causing self-harm. Taking away all these extra paragraphs, it would be easier to just write that I didn’t love myself. 

Despite my worst efforts,  I kept holding on, no matter how empty I felt. And deep down, I hated myself.

I thought my fall from “grace” was permanent exile.  I didn’t think I was worthy and defaulted to one unhealthy relationship after another.

It hurts so much that my son doesn’t have two parents in his life;  I haven been heartbroken for a little boy that wants to know which parts of his biracial identity he got from each of his parents. And the devastation and the weight of making the wrong choices during the darkest point in my life, ultimately brought me my greatest gift. I am not perfect, but my #1 goal is to be attuned to my son and help him develop his strengths and overcome any barriers he may face. I know he hurts because he doesn’t have all the answers- I know that feeling and it’s heart-crushing and unfortunately, creates self-doubt.

And I wondered what everyone else wondered…

Would I even be a good mom? I doubted myself  and honestly, I needed an intervention, and that card was handed to me on a day that I was volunteering in Seattle, Washington. Prior to leaving for alternative spring break with 12 female students, I didn’t know the many ways my heart would begin to transform and heal.

However, Abortion was always a choice and I scheduled my appointment and was confident in my choice to end my pregnancy. I am pro-choice and you cannot tell me what I can do with my body.

And  back to Spring break,  I volunteered with an organization that supported mothers recovering from addiction. A mother walked into the playroom and handed me her child with a full bottle. I never held babies and was never a baby person. Naturally, I was resistant but I looked around the room and all of the other volunteers had tasks. I took her child in my arms and fed her. That moment changed my heart and when I returned from the service trip, I never went to my abortion appointment.

And my pregnancy at 33 became a gift that revealed to me that my purpose could begin with hope. I put my child first and took care of us differently. I started to practice self-care and re-prioritized my goals.And the miraculous wonder of having my son, is that I learned (and still learning) to love and respect myself in ways that I never loved myself before I became a mother.

And my son’s love for me, is a huge bonus. His life affirms my existence. All those times I wanted my mom to wrap her arms around me and whisper she loved me, I make sure that my son knows he is loved. We have a nexus that is celebrated everyday and I make sure to squeeze him and whisper, “I love you.”

The idea that I was dealt some cards that made me feel abandoned, unloved, and disregarded always weighed heavy on my spirit. My parents were asked if they wanted me back, and they passed. My mother actually said, don’t make me choose between my husband and you, because I will always choose my husband. I thought that was her way of telling me that she wished I had never been born.

I never wanted my son to feel the pain of not having both his parents present in his life.

And yet, this past week in a coffee-shop, during a powerful conversation, I recognized I am here for him and how good I am.

And not how bad I am.

I am a product of a heartbreak and hurt, not the best hand, but I am not defined by what cards I have been dealt, but I am held accountable for what I do with them next. I choose healing everyday. I choose love. I choose to forgive. I choose to be the change (Thanks Gandhi).

After all, I had 48% chance of graduating H.S. and despite failing “Transition to College Math,” I graduated as an honor’s student.

I was once held back in third grade, but I went on to earn my B.A and M.A degrees. Not too bad for a foster kid, right?

I am still here. Never perfect, but I am becoming a better version of myself everyday. I am coping and building hope through resilience. Not too bad for an adult with mental illness, right?

I am  NOT a statistic. I am a leader, mother, warrior, artist, writer, advocate and so much more.

I recognize that I was “dealt a hand” I didn’t want,  but it made me the woman I am today….

And when I met with my new friend, this metaphor hit me harder than I thought possible, which caused tears to cascade down my face. My hurt showed & vulnerability exposed my deepest fears. But it’s okay because I am human and challenging myself to grow. I hope I can help others figure this mess out too.

I know my son doesn’t have the best hand either, but he is going to be okay too. I am giving him my best and he will get better at life as he matures and grows too.

This is the life I want….the life where I don’t live in fear, but rather, accept the hand I have been dealt and figure out another way to bounce back from adversity. This is the hand I am fighting everyday to win for the both of us.

Closing Questions:

  1. In your own life, what will you fight for today?
  2. How will you choose to be resilient and bounce back?
  3. Will you take a deep breath and forgive (yourself and others)?
  4. Will you choose to believe your purpose is greater than your imperfections?

Closing Affirmation:

You got this. Your life matters. You will recover from trauma, foster care and/or mental illness.

None of these things make you less than someone else. Purposefully leverage the lessons you are cultivating and step into your future!

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude & Ending the Cycle

I’ve always wanted to write my memoir because I want to help others overcome.


I didn’t realize until very recently, that my son and I had very similar hand gestures that we made as babies. And for some reason…the very thought of us being uniquely the same, even though it’s just represented in a few photographs, makes me affirm grace at work within our lives. It began with a determined heart-I was convinced that this child was not going to be put up for adoption.

And for some reason, a few people along the way tried to convince me that adoption was best for my child. I completely respect anyone who makes this sacrifice. I also know there are so many people who want to adopt & we need their love in this world for so many children.

Honestly, there have been times, in the middle of the night, when these thoughts attack my spirit, “Am I a selfish person for keeping my child?” “Does he deserve better than me?” Many times throughout my life, God was at work in my life and I knew he loved me, even when I couldn’t love myself. I know my son deserves ME & I offer him the best version of myself every day.

After all, my mother was adopted and my mom gave me up when I was a teenager because she chose her abusive husband over me.
And guess what? For some reason, I survived, thrived, and arrived!

Those tiny fists and little waves represent determination & success.

We are mother & child. We were destined for this journey together.

We are family and on our way to breaking the cycle of abuse.
I am not angry anymore about the people who told me to choose adoption. Life’s challenges changed me and made me the mom I am today. I am not perfect. My son will probably tell you that! He knows more than anything, how much I loved him from the start. I have self-belief & aspirations for an even brighter future; this didn’t just happen overnight. The irony is that the same people who told me to give up my son for adoption…they are the same people who told me when I was in fostercare, that I could change the cycle of abuse when I was 14 years old. My anger has transformed into gratitude & only strengthened my resiliency….


#resiliency
#thepathwaytosurvival
@soulinspiredkcr

Closing Questions:

  1. What are some of those negative thoughts you tell yourself and how can you change them into affirmations rather than self doubt?
  2. Where does your strength come from?
  3. What are you thankful for?
  4. What can you do today to express your gratitude?

Closing Affirmation:

Your life represents determination & success. You are destined for this journey.  You are on your way and nothing can stop you.

IMG_20190313_010808_285

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Make it Happen: Action + Reflection = Change

This year, I decided to choose a mission word for 2019. My word is action because dreaming big is just the beginning, but change requires so much more than a great idea.  We need a plan for action with results… No matter if we are 14 or 41….

Every month, I am going to complete #soulinspiredchallenges and make my goals a reality. I have chosen “action” as my mission because I want to demonstrate what can happen when you fully believe in yourself.

I am a former foster youth, survivor, warrior, and single parent. My story is about overcoming but it is also a story of choices – I choose not to be limited by failure. Throughout my life, I have struggled with self-belief and making the best choices.

Self-belief is the ability to visualize my potential instead of focusing on the pain of my past. Self-belief allows me to live and fulfill my passion and purpose.

Early on in my journey, I rarely opened up in relationships, mostly because I over analyzed and started to think that if I was completely honest, I would get hurt. In the past, I had reservations about being completely authentic because my fear would seem to get the best of me. I would retreat and let self-doubt take over. My anxiety told me that something would go inevitably wrong. Relationships were unsuccessful because it was easier to brainstorm all the things that could possibly go wrong than all the ways it could go absolutely right. I knew my disbelief kept me stuck when I knew I had every right to be free.

Why didn’t I self-correct? Why didn’t I try harder to become less defensive? Over time, I learned that relationships are hard work, but most of all, they just need trust, time and patience to grow. Action is required to progress and propel ourselves forward. This is for sure- we are constantly in flux.

I have found myself on the fringe,  and almost given up entirely, resigning myself to my setbacks. Fortunately, I eventually self-corrected and chose transformation. I emerged stronger and more determined to succeed.  I learned to overcome my fears. It didn’t happen naturally. It was difficult because I had to acknowledge my flaws and change my focus.

The irony is that I was hindering my own evolution because I  was fighting the woman I “could have become” if I hadn’t failed myself and others. It took me a while to realize that we have capacity for healing… There is not a special code for breaking through your pain to get to your purpose. Sometimes purpose is revealed in the pain. I have failed countless times in relationships because I built walls of steel or wore my heart on my sleeve.

Guess what? A few people actually stuck around to reveal unconditional and unrelenting acceptance. I have been fortunate to experience relationships that flourished because of compassion and grace. Thanks to them, I can write these paragraphs.

I have battled my insignificance and learned that my flaws are not a death sentence but an awakening to my own discovery. I am much more on my way to experiencing freedom than staying imprisoned by fear and anxiety. In the past, my fear of abandonment latched onto small indiscriminate facts and turned themselves into novels within seconds. These moments translated into self-hate.  I didn’t even realize I was struggling because I was in survival mode. I felt numb while trying to cope with loss after loss. I wasn’t living like my life mattered…and I was only susceptible to more ache and loss. I finally made changes in my life. . .

My Mantra.

Every day.

I will understand my value

In this world

and take action.

I will practice-

Self-care.

Mentoring.

Therapy.

Journaling.

Positive self-talk.

Forgiveness.

Self-acceptance.

I understand my value

in this world and 

 will love myself

Every day.

This journey affords many lessons to be cultivated- remnants of the previous seasons exist to provide my life with lessons not to be taken for granted.  I am very much that lotus in muddied waters. I am surviving and learning to thrive as a warrior.  I want to make a difference and  keep growing and expanding my understanding of myself and others. I want to show compassion and grace, but in reality – I need to offer myself compassion and grace each day.

I will live intentionally and take action. I embrace my full worth and will keep stepping into my future because I know hope through resiliency.

Finally, I am not ashamed  of my past. I claim my recovery.  I affirm how my action and/or inaction determine the outcomes for my life. There is a promise hidden in the muck, a pearl of wisdom waiting to be grasped-  Our trauma does not have to hold us back, if we understand how our healing can move us forward.

This year, I will be posting  #soulinspiredchallenges via @soulinspiredkcr

(Facebook, Instagram and twitter)

You are invited to follow me and take action in your own life. Together, we can make it happen!

#actionplusreflectionequalschange

#makeithappen

#yougotthis

#nevergiveup

#soulinspiredchallenges

#nomudnolotus

ripl_image_1549948226157

Resiliency Lessons in Action

#resilience
#mamapriorities
#nevernevergiveup

I recently attended the #ocpa2018 annual conference about Resiliency and was also scheduled to be a program session presenter on Friday at 9 a.m.!

Early Friday morning, I was getting ready when I got a call on my hotel phone at 6:30 am from my babysitter.

It’s not the call you ever want to get, but at this time, my babysitter told me that my son had a temperature of 102.

I made a few calls, one of which, was to my emergency contact who had a sick child of her own. I made the call to leave the conference and cancel my program session. I spent a great deal of time preparing and was going to share 15 resiliency practices.

I knew the workshop was just an hour but my son was every second of my life. I loaded all my stuff into the elevator and headed home.

I am thankful for the lesson about managing priorities and actualizing what is most important.

I reflect a lot (a resiliency practice) & knew there was also a secondary lesson in this!

In life, we are asked to prepare ourselves for the next step, even when it fails to send a formal announcement. Change just happens. Life precariously unfolds & we have to be willing to do the heart-work, the hard work of preparing and fulfilling our purpose in the midst of stressors and stress.

We never know when we will be given the opportunity to step into our future.

My session for others became a reminder & full-embodiment of what I need to practice in my own life, daily.

Resilience is accessible to everyone. We ensure our ability to cope when we welcome change, even when it is uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to try and fail and try again. It’s especially hard when we experience chaos. We can bounce back when we make the choice to lead with our purpose. Our attitude and choices are integral to how we move forward, through pain, loss, illness, trauma, abuse, disappointment, fear, hurt, etc.

Begin the heart-work today. Cultivate ways to stay viligant about caring for your own needs and the needs of those you love. Do not procrastinate or say, “I have plenty of time.” Start with a single step and another. Write down one goal today and do it. Never Never Give up!

IMG_20180123_234300_987

 

 

The Gift of Mentoring

In the fall of 1996, at age 19, I was a former foster youth and freshman at college. I knew I was financially on my own  but was scared about navigating life and so much more. There was so much unknown and I wondered many times, “Will I make it?!” In my first semester, I was designated a federal work study (FWS) student in my financial aid award package. I was offered a job in the college cafeteria and met my first job supervisor, Crystal Browning. She told me about my job duties; I was required to clean the waffle bar every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as, serve food in the buffet lines during the evenings. I remember being a little pessimistic- I knew there had to be better jobs on campus, but it all worked out! I am thankful that my student employment job led me to my life-long mentor and friend. (And I loved my job so much, I worked in the cafeteria all four years during college!)

My college didn’t offer a mentoring program, but I remember all the times that Crystal asked me about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish. I told her that I always wanted to get my driver’s license but didn’t have a car or lessons to drive. Crystal not only heard me, she responded. She taught me how to drive, with her three-old daughter in the backseat! When I look back over my time in college, Crystal was my “unofficial” mentor.

22555941_10102650317853760_1002799396_o

I remember when Crystal got another job on campus and she made sure to let me know that I was welcome to visit anytime. That might be an expected statement, but it meant a lot. No matter what story or experience I shared, she listened. During college, Crystal was more than my mentor and ally, she was my family. She not only taught me how to drive- she taught me how to believe in myself. Her faith demonstrated so much love and compassion. I have always admired how she lived with purpose and faithfulness. She is an example of a strong Christian woman and want to follow her lead and walk worthy in my own life.

Twenty-one years later, we still have a strong bond. Over the past seven years, she has helped me grow as a new parent, and has always welcomed her home to my son and I. In 2015, she nominated me for a Survivor’s Award from the Survivor Foundation. I was awarded the winner of the Foster Alumni and Educator Award. Once again, she impacted my life. Her simple affirmation helped me to actualize my purpose in life. I am an educator and advocate for foster youth.

(One more story, I promise!)

In January of this year, after a short battle, my biological father passed away from Kidney Cancer. I began a relationship with him at age 14, after I went into foster care. My dad didn’t gain custody, but we became a family, one day at a time. During my dad’s funeral, Crystal came up to me and hugged me. During my dad’s eulogy, I spoke about a gumball machine that my dad gave me for my birthday and how my dad visited my office every semester and dropped off gumballs. He was always being thoughtful. I spoke about how I recently visited the office and noticed that the machine was completely empty- which led me to tears. It also inspired me to ask everyone to honor my father by sharing a random act of kindness. When I returned to my office later that week, I found a package on my desk. I opened it and saw a box of gumballs from Crystal! She shared, “I hope these gumballs serve as a source of joy, rather than sadness.” Her act of kindness transformed a moment of ache into a memory of love. I am so incredibly thankful for Crystal and her role in my life. She made a heartfelt choice to support and guide me towards my dreams. She continues to be in my life and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without her mentoring and care!

Thanks for letting me share my story of mentoring. I hope that others will be inspired to think about the gift of mentoring and how we can make positive change in each other’s lives.

crystal

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!

Trauma, Resiliency and Change

FYI…this is a long post.

(Written at 5 a.m. on 8/26/17)
I have been trying to get stuff together for a yard sale….. I am still up…. really wondering if I am gonna have to pull an all-nighter.

I honestly didn’t think this week could get any longer, but it just did. Out of all the things we accomplished- my son and I went through all his toys and I organized all his clothes. 

We watched the Diary of a Wimpy kid too many times (4x) and he finally fell asleep while I finished up the organizing. He definitely has more than he needs; maybe we have to work on seeking less stuff and finding more meaning in the emergence of new beginnings.

This week had me curious about our future and my heart has been pulled drastically towards patience-

I have always earned about a B/more like a C average. 

Just saying…

There are too many tasks to get accomplished at this point- but I guess I can say that I have been waiting on a job offer (it hasn’t come yet). I have also been debating change and what it would mean for my son and I. Everything from packing and sorting to putting all of our stuff into a moving truck and moving away.

This is the most scared I have felt since I was pregnant with my son. And the truth is that I know God has been with me every step of the way. Especially on the days when my anxiety sky-rocketed & I couldn’t leave my house. when my electric bill arrived,  it was always  too high because I was assaulted two years ago &  I cannot find it within myself to turn off all the lights. There is real fear in my bones and I have to pray for peace and protection each and evèry day.

There is too much ache in this world- sometimes I feel that my inconveniences seem like just a loose thread on a favorite sweater.  “I am not going to fall apart,” I tell myself. “I am not giving up,” I pray to God. And “I will try to be the mom I always needed,”  I promise myself. 

All these feelings have consumed my heart-and I just wanted to make it clear that filters may make pictures prettier, but when it comes to writing… I just keep it brutally honest. 

So, here I am.

And suddenly  I am reminded about my memoir deadline; this week it was extended again. Ugh!

Again, Life isn’t all seemingly perfect  instagram photos. And I guess that is why I finally decided to work out this past week and join a gym. And the beautiful part of this post is that I worked out and felt amazing.  And I wanted to go back day after day. Even the guy at the gym said, “Hey, you are back!” 

This week, in the grocery store,  I almost picked up a box of swiss miss cake rolls. Every month I eat a whole box in less than a day. Yep, I feed my feelings. But this week, I put the box down.

Why? I remembered the two-day training I attended two weeks ago on “trauma-informed care” and recalled my “a-ha” moment- which at first, it felt like my adolescence was being poltergeisted through my chest. I remembered the abuse and what I would think about when my abuser was violating me.

 Food.

And then I would secretly go to the store before or after school and stuff my face with junk food… and swiss cake rolls.

Not kidding.

It all really happened 30 years ago and its still ripping my heart out of my chest? I just want to get over it!!! It happened so long ago. But that’s preicisely the myth of trauma. We have no control sometimes and the memories keep us stuck in the muck.

And so, what I thought was writer’s block, was really the process of unblocking. I also realized that I am in charge of creating new memories to reaffirm my pathway towards healing.

I couldn’t move forward with writing the next pages of  my memoir if I did not face my frequent binge-eating habits. 

And it happened- it all came to a point of convergence.  Tonight, I saw a professional portrait of myself  from last night’s Pecha Kucha. I thought how crappy it was that I spoke about resiliency and yet, the pain was still evident in my physical body. 

So that’s the beauty of the lesson…purchasing a gym membership and figuring out that my goal is to breathe and live more fully in the embrace of my purpose, which simply means to continue doing my best one step at a time, but making better choices along the way!

P.S.

About Columbus Pecha Kucha #42: A Night Under the Stars:

It was an honor to share my story alongside the other speakers of the night at Gallery 934. Pecha Kucha, in Japanese, means chit-chat. I had the opportunity to share 6 minutes and 40 seconds of my life. Each image was shown for 20 seconds and I spoke about my journey of resiliency and advocacy for foster Being an advocate for foster youth is my passion and purpose- and I want to help open doors and create community for foster youth. We really do need each other. 

I want to encourage you to start a conversation that matters-

Give people encouragement and permission to share their stories. Together, We can create a safer community that supports survivors to move from hurt to healing.

Making My Mess, My Message

As I near a milestone birthday this month (the big 4-0!), I want to share some personal memories from my life journey…I am going to quickly review each decade and close out this blog with a reflection & lessons about my story progressing this year.
My Journey: 1977-2017
Decade 1:  1977-86
Memories: Little sister, only daughter, foster care child, abused, beaten, survivor, moved three times in first grade, speech impediment, dyslexia, held back in third grade, constant earaches, trouble-maker, talker, class-clown, budding artist, class council member and spelling bee finalist in 4th grade, started a food fight and read 501 books in the summer after 4th grade.
Decade 2: 1987- 1996
Memories: 5th grade crossing guard and kindergarten class volunteer, sexually abused, emotionally abused, loved art and volleyball, science fair winner, artist and creative spirit, loved riding my ten-speed pink and teal huffy bicycle, started my eating disorder, wanted to die, wanted to disappear, moved four times and changed schools three times, began to love school and writing, developed my artistic skills, went into foster care again, never went home, abandoned and rejected, became a Christian, found my strength in Him, blossomed into  a beautiful butterfly, honors student, almost quit art, still a class clown, selected by peers to be the yearbook editor-in-chief,  voted most likely to cheer you up for senior superlatives, graduated from High School  in the top 15% of my class, and was accepted to college!
Decade 3: 1997- 2006
Memories: Attended college, worked in the college cafeteria, learned to roller-blade, had my gallbladder removed, volunteered each summer in DC, brooklyn and San Francisco, visited Italy, completed my senior art show, served with AmeriCorps, rejected from grad school, went back to college,  my maternal grandmom passed, accepted to three graduate schools, moved to New York with $100, baptized, participated in a graduate assistant-ship, lost my virginity, dated with a hole in my heart, walked away from God, and graduated with my MA degree in Creative Arts Therapy, landed a job in NY and stayed.
Decade 4:  2007-2017
Memories: Made art, made a difference, lost and dying inside, wore a mask, lied to everyone about my struggles, raped,  pretended I was okay,  unplanned pregnancy, became a mom, moved home, wasn’t received as a prodigal daughter, homeless-lived with a friend, got fired from a sales job, cleaned houses, my paternal grandmother passed, landed a job at a college, found my passion & purpose, received a $60,000 grant to support foster youth, became an advocate, accepted into four art exhibits-two with my son, my brother, mother and father died, depression and anxiety, assaulted, survivor, trainer and speaker, motivator and mama bear, became an entrepreneur, and resigned from my job a month before turning 40.
Reflection and Lessons: My progression in 2017…
A little over two months ago, I had this amazing experience in March of 2107. I presented a Pecha Kucha at the National ACPA Convention in Columbus, Ohio. PechaKucha (Japanese: ペチャクチャ, IPA: [petɕa ku͍̥tɕa], chit-chat) is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format, which keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, powers multiple-speaker events called PechaKucha Nights (PKNs).
My Pecha Kucha was called “Never Never Give Up: The Resiliency of Former Foster Youth” (visit the link to view the video).
I experienced something very empowering and had a “mountain top experience.” I  had the unique opportunity to live out my passion and purpose. The evening was extra special because I had two former supervisors present and two mentees present. I didn’t know then, that this precise moment would allow me to step into my future and fulfill a revolution (new chapter) in my life.
Just days ago, I returned from a conference in Henderson, Nevada. I attended a conference calledYour Real Success: Your Message, Your Brand, YOUR BOOK with Rhonda Sciortino! I have so much I want to say about this experience!!! We were a small but mighty group of women. I am so blessed because of this circle of visionaries and leaders. This retreat/conference truly impacted my message, brand and book. My purpose for going on this trip was to develop myself professionally, but I grew in confidence, self-awareness, purpose and wisdom.  A very special thanks to Diana Bowen-Moshier, Cheryl Alexander and Crystal Van Kempen-McClanahan! Thank you so much for sharing God’s love with me and your affirmations, gentle support, laughter and positive messages. I gained so much from being in your collective presence! I definitely feel called to help others step into their future!
Over the next 6 months, I will be writing My Soul-Inspired Story and Journal for Foster Youth and Survivors. During all three-days of the conference,  I gained traction to  fulfill my personal purpose; I was given tangible tools to implement practices to realistically reach my goals. I am ready!
At the last moment, I added two days to my trip and decided to visit the Grand Canyon. As I stood at the South Rim, my heart looked out over the canyon with a heart of gratitude. I saw the depths of the valleys and I was reminded about my journey in life… I survived and thrived throughout four decades of trauma, lessons, and blessings. As I stood on the mountain top, my eyes teared up.  I realized how the valley transformed my mess into my message and I will not be ashamed of my story! My life has a purpose and so does yours! Are you ready?
Join me! Learn how you can map your revolution and step into your future. Contact me at Kimberly.C.Rhyan@gmail.com or Facebook.
In closing, I am truly thankful for all of my supporters. I wouldn’t be ready for the next chapter without you. I appreciate y’all!