Self-care and so much more…at Ohio Reach’s first College Retreat!

I have attempted to keep my writing separate from my work, but this week,  my professional career and personal journey of transformation blended.

This week, we conducted a week-long conference and  inducted new Scholars (former foster youth) into the Columbus State Scholar Network. We have nearly 20 students this semester! Yesterday, Columbus State Community College also hosted the first State-wide College Retreat coordinated by William Murray IV and Ohio Reach.

Ohio Reach improves post-secondary outcomes for foster care youth and alumni through leadership, empowerment, advocacy, research and networking (L.E.A.R.N.)

Thanks to William Murray IV,  Ohio Reach had six colleges in attendance including Clark State, Cincinnati State, Ohio University, Central State University, Columbus State, and Cuyahoga Community College.

In my own words….

Yesterday, I was honored to speak about practicing self-care while also sharing my story as a former foster youth.  Self-care is so important….there have been times that I wanted to give up but did not because I implemented practices in my life that sustained me and kept me on the right track. I focused on meditation and journaling as key ways to cope with stress.  I shared specifically about my journey, not just my life in foster care. I spoke of my desire to reconcile with my biological mother and the day I introduced her to my son. I shared about my emotional path from hate to love, and ultimately about the process of developing empathy and unconditional love for my mother- who died in 2014 from brain cancer.

As I opened my heart to future leaders, I felt this amazing energy in the room and it propelled me to push through to be open and vulnerable about my journey of transformation and impact.

Over the course of my life, I never once imagined I would be working in Higher Education – and I never ever thought I would be supporting foster youth. I always ran from my identity as a foster youth. I wanted to be more than a foster kid & I believed that I would be the one person in my family to change to cycle of abuse. And when I had an unplanned pregnancy….so much of my fear and denial made me come face to face with my past; I made a promise to myself to build a better future for my son and I.

So here I am…

I am blessed to be a collaborative partner in growing the next generation of foster youth into scholar leaders; I seek to cultivate a culture of mindfulness so they can make their dreams a reality!

Today’s retreat was a reminder that no matter life’s barriers and obstacles, we can all aim higher via education,  reflection and action. All of the speakers focused on moving forward, purposefully! Speakers for the College Retreat also included, Genesis Shine and Nikki Chin (Columbus State Scholars), Rayshawn L. Wilson, “LionHeart,” and Dr. Stephanie Krah (Central State). All of the students also received 10 Ways Anyone can Graduate from College Debt-free, by Kevin Brown (former foster youth), Amazon Fire tablet and a twin-sized quilt from My Very Own Blanket.

FINALLY, I am so incredibly thankful to be a member of the Scholar Movement that is spreading across Ohio!

Writing, Contemplation & Change

Over the past week, I started to write August’s post on three different days. I was torn because I have been asking myself (in the greater context(s) of both the election season and social justice), “What can I do- of significance- to make a difference?”

I do not write every day or every week – I simply haven’t had the time or space to dedicate at a micro level to write more frequently but I figured if I could just get into this writing zone once a month, then I would be able to establish consistency in my writing to progress my creativity for the long haul. But more than the practice, is the PURPOSE. I seek to write to reflect (and encourage others).

I spend a lot of time meditating and breathing purposefully; this is an intentional practice that I began in college that impacted my ability to cope with stressors. MEDITATION PREPARES MY HEART TO LISTEN. When I am at odds with the universe,  I find myself focusing on what I can change-ME.

The best way I know to change myself is to zoom in on “WDYDWYD?”  (Why do you do what you do?) For better or for worse, I think about my intent and the desired results of my actions. And meditation is my practice because I know that sometimes my intent becomes operationalized in a series of actions and reactions that can be misguided because I get caught up in the results- instead, I should stay longer in the PROCESS.  The motto of my alma mater (MVNU) states, “To seek to learn is to seek to serve (& understand).”

(BTW, I added, “& understand”)

I am a better learner when I become still. If I just slow down. STOP. And LISTEN. I become more aware and suddenly I begin to pay attention to the moment itself- which is usually focused on RELATIONSHIP building- and I become less distracted by results; only then do I  begin to realize the importance of my own role to “BE the change.”

AUTHENTIC change begins within; but every word and action says something about what we value or do not value. What do you value and reflect those values on a daily basis? We can embody change when we learn to open ourselves through contemplation, followed by action by giving our TIME to OTHERS; this is another way of expressing our vulnerabilities and learning to be more RECEPTIVE. Ask yourself, just as I have asked myself….”What can I do- of significance-to make a difference?” And then, take a step in your own life to  “BE the change.”

What matters more than ever to me? Relationships and RECONCILIATION

Please look for more  in September’s post!

Beyond the flower: #nomudnolotus

So…why a lotus? Since my arrival into this world, my beginning was a struggle of survival.  My parents divorced when I was just a baby. My dad was just gone. My mother was present but gone from my sight. She was addicted to drugs and abusive men. Trauma was my building blocks and it would impact my ability to speak and learn.

My beginning was planted in mud. I went into fostercare but my mother got me back. I had a speech impediment and dyslexia. My struggle to communicate was burried deep within a struggle.  My adolescence was turbulent and filled with detachment; I was molested and endangered. My mother chose to stay with my abuser while she let me go. She said, “Do not ask me to choose because I will always choose my husband over you. You see, I love him.”

Muddy waters was my home but it somehow provided what I needed to stay alive. My existence was harbored between angst and disgust. But there was just one place that I felt safe; between the pages of a book, I could be transported anywhere, with anyone. My love for books evolved into a love of writing. My closest confident was found between the lines on notebook paper, essentially my journal became my mother. I would fill page after page and begin to dig deep into my emotions and reasons for existence. I would figure out my purpose and begin to dream about my future. I would give my self pep talks and write that my life mattered.  This writing practice and relationship with pen and paper provided me with the ability to endure;  no matter what obstacle I would wrestle with throughout my life, I knew that as long as I believed I could make it, I would.

Ultimately,  I would grow up being a writer as I began a lifelong conversation with my Creator. Writing gave me the ability to lasso hope; beyond counseling and living out my faith, writing was my tried and true method to coping with abuse and fear.  Throughout my life, writing has kept me grounded and self-aware in determination to keep pushing through every battle. I choose to be authentic and open through my survivorship because vulnerability gives permission for others to see and feel what I see and feel, while learning to become each and every day.

As a survivor and lotus,  I am fully aware that I came into existence for a purpose and that is to let others know that life is messy, heartbreaking, and painful but it is also beautiful, healing and joyful.

Writing is the process of knowing my greater purpose and fulfilling my destiny through self-discovery. I am becoming through education, action, and reflection.  I teach and write about life’s lessons because I have the unique opportunity to help others understand their own journey of transformation too.  #nomudnolotus

digging deeper

Waking up in 2016, 20 years after I left the foster care system as a high school graduate, I have since earned my bachelor and my master’s degrees but accumulated 70k of debt. The burden of debt is an albatross around my heart, but I perist because I have a vocation, not a job, and that has made all the difference. I wake up as a single mom because I made some choices that made a lot of people doubt me and my spirituality, but I didnt give up along the way, even when many people that I loved the most told me that I should give up my baby. The trauma of my life impacted my belief in myself.

I didnt want to be a survivor of child abuse, rape, assault…. it’s been a hard life, my emotional scarring is continually healing; I have learned to love unconditionally; I understand that wisdom comes from knowing Him who is within me and practicing self-love, which is nearly impossible even when you have two degrees and knowledge not to mess up but the past always catches up and it purposefully suffocates joy and peace constantly. No one ever understands the daily struggle. Maybe I deserve it? because of my decisions?

I have to dig deeper. I have to accept grace.

It’s not that just some random day, I woke up and told myself that I’m not ever going to be worthy of being loved. That’s the messaging I recieved since birth from all the people that are suppose to love you no matter what. I told a friend of mine that I always become depressed in june and july…there is pain everywhere but it is crazy how we can put on a mask so we do not have to be completely authentic. We post pictures but we do not post our vulnerablities and our wounds…..What would really happen if we were exposed as broken and not whole? If people knew that we struggle just as much as we thrive, that we fear just as much as we hope, that we cry just as much as we laugh?

We have to dig deeper. We have to love wider.

I am progressing on this journey but it makes me angry that men who violate, traumatize, hurt, violate and downgrade women are being put in leadership roles and given less jail time…..I am afraid of the messaging of society and its impact on how women see their value.

We have to dig deeper. We have to lead differently.

writers block, sort of…

I just haven’t been posting and sometimes it feels like writer’s block. And I suppose I’ve been holding back – because this platform shouldn’t be my journal. After all, this is a blog – not a notebook of my private thoughts. Right? Agree? Disagree?

Well, this sounds reasonable, except my life has normally been an open book, especially when I’ve faced insurmountable odds. To put it in the most succint of terms -for me- writing is breathing, so what the “block” is wrong?

Writing is the glue that has held my heart together through all my years. The ability to reflect has kept my head above water, even though I’ve never learned to swim- my life preserver has been my faith- writing has brought me nearer still.

To write is to experience transformation. The ability to be changed is the result of knowing you cannot be limited by your experiences themselves. Sharing is the moment I can let it go and words mutate into something I couldnt have imagined – restorative knowledge.

So what gives? I have been writing and not posting because it hurts too (enter explicative here) much. Its like having your insides scraped during an annual pap exam. This past week my doctor said, you look nervous. And without hesitation I said, “ever since I was molested and was examined by a doctor invasively at 14 years old, I cannot help but feel nervous in an exam room. No matter how much time passes, I am still traumatized.”

Writing is figuring out that pain is temporary, and remembering that you are gonna survive.

Writing is a vehicle to transporting your thoughts to the field of dreams. There, I have found peace in the valley, daringly, even in the midst of doubt- somehow writing perpetuates confidence to begin again in reconciliation- with myself, others and God.

Writing has always been a way to create sketches in order to paint the masterpiece of knowing what matters most. There are linear thoughts that become twisted and knotty between the spine of my story but that doesnt mean my life has less value and that’s the chapter I’ve never been able to write until now.

Coming soon…

How I learned to love myself.Note121415_0.jpg

Exposing a redefined soul living for lasting change.

A couple weeks ago, I was in a car accident; the split second in which it happened, I heard the screeching and scraping of metal, which juggernaut-ed my soul to the equator of emergence; but get this, in that moment, I saw and felt nothing; somehow I pulled to the side of the road and I looked at my son. Ultimately, that single moment has replayed in my heart and mind for the past two weeks; I think about all the decisions I made that day, and  have replayed every second of that morning and perhaps the crash could have not happened if I had just made a different choice, but instead, I experienced a knee jerk reaction, it wasn’t pre-meditated; that’s what truly makes it an accident.

We cannot undo, what has been done, but we can try our very best to do things differently next time, right?

And then I think about this metaphor/exercise that I read during college; about listening and obeying to the voice of God; I think it went something like this, “Every time you listen and obey, it creates a pinhole through which you see and experience more of God.” For a long time in my journey, I lived through pinpoints in time, in which I purposefully listened and obeyed and life seemed sequentially and quintessentially fine.

However, not surprisingly, many singular happenings have occurred, in which my heart leapt or paused, just within a single breath of courage or fear; long story – very short, I know I haven’t listened or obeyed near enough in my spiritual journey, even when it made the most sense to do so…

This very sentence couldn’t be illustrated any better, than by telling you something that I have heard my four-year old utter, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Besides the obvious response, “Yes, you do, I’m your mother,” let me just say that his defiant spirit is not much different than my own, at 37, in which, I know I have refused to listen because guess what, “I don’t have to….”

Regardless of your beliefs, I write this all to explain another single moment.

A New Beginning. That’s the name of the book my foster mom gave me in 1993. It’s a book of daily devotions for women survivors of sexual abuse. That same year, when I was 15 or 16, I read every page prayerfully; through the years, I’ve bookmarked favorite devotions and written notes on the pages of the book.

After the crash, I started thinking about this book and I knew I had to find it. And one day, last week, I opened up a box and I saw it. I immediately picked it up and flipped through the pages until I saw it, the newspaper clipping of my abuser’s bond and arrest. And it hit me; I felt my adolescence crashing at 14, when my mother said that she would always choose her husband over me; that singular moment shattered an already broken heart and reinforced my walls.

October 7 (Paraphrased a little, A New Beginning)

He tells me that I am worthy, but I’ve always failed in accepting that  grace. It’s hard to believe that anything good can come from my past rejections. But I have heard God say that that my pain will help others on their path to healing. I choose to believe Him, not my fears.

For the longest time, I have desired to be a part of a faith community; I can articulate a lot of reasons why I cannot find a home church, but none of them ever included the fact that my heart was closed off because of my fears of rejection. My fear of rejection stems from abandonment, judgment and imperfections.

Vulnerability is this experience, where we choose to be welcomed and welcome others into our frayed lives. Honestly, I have walked through many church doors, but I didn’t really try to join a faith community; my walls prevented me from being my most authentic self; I just made excuses time and time again. I finally recognize that his has been my major operating system since I was young child. I have always looked for exits rather than pathways.

A few years ago, when I was living in New York, and I was at iHop with a bunch of friends; I was asked, about relationships and I said I didn’t believe in them; I was quite serious, but everybody thought I was joking, so I laughed too, but deep down, I knew I was being more honest than ever.  But more than that, I was still avoiding pathways to relationships.

So, what’s next?

I am choosing to expose a redefined soul living for lasting change.

I am worthy. I am on my way. My fears do not own me. I am breaking free.

Being loved.

It’s been a year, since I have been carrying her keys on my key-chain; there are days that I’m trying to unlock my door, and I mistake her keys for mine; I get so frustrated and I tell myself that I am going to take them off. But I refuse. I don’t take them off, they are a reminder of the door that opened when I knocked on her door for the first time in 10 years, almost to the day. I’ve read her journals several times over, and I know she suffered her own trauma, but I know she could have made better choices; she was still my mother. So I read in her journal, and found that date and read what she wrote on the day I came to see her; the day I introduced her to my son; she said it was the best day in her life, besides the day she was born.

It’s been a year since I sat by my mother’s side; every day for a month, I remember making that trip with my mom from the nursing home to the radiation treatment facility to treat her inoperable  brain tumor; I remember holding my mother’s hand; I remember the thin white sheet that covered her and the doctor moving in real close to hear her faint voice, as he asked, “Do you want anything?” And she responded, “I want one more day…with my grand-babies.”
It’s been a year, since I brought Carter to see my mom, they would draw together; artistic expression made all of our faces smile. Maybe my Creative Arts Therapy degree prepared me for those moments, in which I could clearly witness the power of healing that transcends pain. In those quiet moments, I felt more connected than I had ever felt before; these moments transformed my heart and life.
It’s been a year, since my brother became angry with me, since he quit talking to me, since I saw my nephews and nieces, since he stepped out of my life, for a second time. As teenagers, when i was in foster care, I could barely comprehend his words, “I want nothing to do with her.” But as a 30-something adults, his actions have severed the tie that bonds and that loss is the greatest loss of all.
It’s been a year, living with this ache….hiding, crouching, much like I did as an adolescent, in which I knew despair as the covering of my soul; this time around, my heart dropped and my faith was dismantled but it did not fade away. I’ve learned that it’s still possible to be suffering and to push the world through the eye of a needle just to try to prove that I don’t need anyone, but I do. Imperfect I shall remain. Striving for a better way; I seek the best path for my family, for our future, for whatever comes next. I stand up and walk out of the past and claim my life back, like never before to connect with others more purposefully and earnestly.

I can’t believe it took 365 days to get to this moment; to let go & to hold on; I have been avoiding this moment; I told my counselor that if I just had my “coming to Jesus moment,” I would be more whole.  I have sat in many churches this past year; sitting, waiting, contemplating, complaining, and sometimes fuming; and this past Sunday, the tears flowed but I did not move forward to kneel at the alter to say a prayer; rather, in the middle of the closing benediction/prayer, I wiped away the tears and stepped out into the foyer, into the beautiful vestibule and kept my eyes down, as to not make eye contact with anyone; I went into the bathroom, checked my mascara and gave myself one heck of a pep talk, prayed and walked out, chin up, to see familiar faces that did not really know me anymore.
Did I have my “coming to Jesus moment?” I think Jesus came to me; I don’t speak religion, I don’t quote the Bible, I don’t try to pry in the lives of others, because I don’t have the right to judge others and no one has a right to judge me.Over the past year – I have been in wrestling with my story, with my inadequacies and failures; the skeletons in my closet are strong boned, they have choked me in a mental head-lock; I know how important it is to move forward, but the loss of my mom and my brothers took a toll on my heart, and I have been experiencing great sorrow while facing my fears of abandonment. This has meant being reflective and really looking within to figure out what’s going to be next.

I have to accept being loved.

3/30 The Maybe Musings of an Artist, #napomo

There is a passageway

A darkened tunnel

filled with complete disaster

and breakthroughs

To create something new

is to unveil inner-most knowledge

In the midst of roadblocks

and life’s many responsibilities,

Including motherhood-

Space is pushed back from all sides

And compacted to clear the mental clutter,

to do lists, and piles of laundry-

Given permission to begin again

Consecutive hours in the zone

spilling out my soul

an undefined canvas given flesh

and breadth of life

to expose vulnerabilities

excavating underlying realities-

affirming the existence of flaws

and skewed perceptions-

actualizing layers of congruence

and resistance-

emerging to illustrate the narrative

of my combined life experiences-

posted via my digital thumbprint

on the world wide web-

to be seen and felt-

(or unseen and indifferent)

without ever being displayed

in the very formal space

of a galleria or book-

but maybe someday.



2/30, YMCA Sports camp, #napomo

My little athlete-

Always starts off resistant

From the moment

he passes the Pop-Tarts

in the vending machine-

They are always the worst possible distraction!

Today, for the first time in 7 weeks,

He had a male instructor

Who motivated my son

To stay in line, listen, run around and around-

catch, throw, and play flag football-

at the close of class,

my son walks up to the coach

(with a little nudging)

And says “Thank you”

And then it happens again,

We exit the gym doors….

And I hear,

“I am hungry, pop-tarts!!!”

My answer is still no,

His grumpy little face

Says it all.

My heart asks why?

But it takes just a few geese outside

To turn that frown around.

Until we return-

For the last class next week!