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The last few years have been pretty tough on the family – we lost so many in so little time and unexpectedly. It almost seemed like we were cursed with all the tears and so many hearts to heal. This year was a bit different and we are all still here, and although there are those who continue to cope with different ailments, we are pretty much okay.
This year was a big one for my Nick. This year he finally “got” the whole birthday thing and he enjoyed Halloween and was the cutest Superman I have ever seen. The words started flowing and he is communicating so much better. Just the other day he said “good morning” to a neighbor who was in the elevator with us. I had to prompt him, but he looked at her and said it. I don’t think she realized what a big moment that was. He uses “I want” when he needs something and he is doing great in school. My Facebook cover page says “Words Will Come,” but I think I have to change that now.
I have met and become closer to new friends who are on the same journey as Nick and I. These women who understand what it means to raise a child with Autism. We laugh together over a meal and drinks or just talk about our children – sometimes we shed tears of sadness but mostly of joy. As an adult I can’t remember the last time I met someone who I can genuinely call a friend. I have never been the type to give anyone the title of “best friend” and I still don’t because my real friends are more like family. These new friends – and you know who you are – are a blessing to me and they are now and will always be my family.
On Thanksgiving night when we sit around the table with my family and share the amazing meal prepared by my dear mother, I cannot help but feel blessed to still have her and my father here on earth and hope that we have many more years together.
Health, Words, Family.
And for that I am grateful.
Marisol Vendrell is a life-long New York City resident and works as a legal assistant for a midsize Manhattan firm. She is the single mom to a seven-year-old boy named Nicholas who is diagnosed with Autism. She is the co-founder of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, a parent support group for Bronx parents, and is a CUNY SPS student working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Disability Studies.
When it comes to women there are some misconceptions. For instance, there are those who think that women do not support one another. We are all competing with one another over a job, a friend, or a romantic interest. Women are all catty. Right? Wrong.
I had the privilege of attending the 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference hosted at Hunter College. Female students from all of the CUNY schools were invited to participate in a day that was all about girl power. Talk about your rah rah women or your girls rule and boys drool. Ok, well, maybe not the boys drool part but women certainly ruled at the WLC.
Marissa Job and Kelsey Richardson, representing CUNY School of Professional Studies, greeted me when I arrived to let me know what the day’s agenda would be. It was a nice way to begin the day. CUNY’s support system is amazing.
One thing that I couldn’t help but notice when I walked in was the diversity. I come from Long Island and Long Island is not known for diversity so it was wonderful to see African American, Muslim, Asian, and white women all there. And I will own up to one of those woman stereotypes. Those girls all knew how to dress. I resisted the urge to tell one woman to forget school and get on a runway.
There were so many remarkable speakers but let me give a glimpse of some of the highlights. Rosanna Rosado, publisher and CEO of El Diario/La Prensa brought tears to my eyes. Through her story of a five year old dancing on a table she made me go back to my five year old self on a table dancing for a room full of grown-ups who made me feel like a star. I was a star. So where did I lose that star power? What made me move from center stage to mixing in with the scenery?
We spend so much time trying not to appear vain or full of ourselves that we forget to acknowledge all that we are. What’s wrong with knowing we are strong, beautiful, smart, capable human beings who also love shoes? What’s wrong with putting on a tiara, even if it’s imaginary and knowing that we have a star power, that we are worth the glitter in our crowns? Listen to Rosanna and straighten your tiara and dance on a table, maybe not literally, but why not?
Joanna Barsh, Director of McKinsey & Company and creator of the “The McKinsey Centered Leadership Project,” gave the first presentation. She had our full-attention. She used exercises that enabled us to get to know the people sitting around us in a way that didn’t feel forced. By the end of the presentation I had learned some interesting things about the woman sitting next to me. I also felt invested in her and wanted to see her succeed.
More important was Joanna’s message to us about all of the self-talk that we do and the way that some of our negative thinking becomes obstacles, obstacles of our own making. No. She didn’t give some power of positive thinking talk that inspired us only to be forgotten later on. Through examples and demonstrations she showed us the small ways that we psyche ourselves out, small ways that can become paralyzing.
I especially loved her tip on thinking of a few good things that happened during the day and one bad thing. It was, according to Joanna, a way of retraining your brain to sort through the bad and recognize the good. It is a way of building confidence and through that building, you become your best self, a leader.
There were other inspiring women. Whether it was City Council Member Gale Brewer talking about the importance of community building and having a voice, or listening to Joyce Moy, Executive Director of the Asian/American Research Institute as she talked about overcoming shyness after witnessing her parents eviction being the catalyst that made her realize how important her voice was; there were women, strong women there throughout the day to provide guidance and support.
It was a day about women. It didn’t matter what ethnicity, religion, or age. We were all women there with one common goal–supporting one another and forming an unbreakable bond. We were colleagues, peers, mentors, and sisters.
I’ve never been a fan of the stereotype that women cannot be friends. My closest friends and supports are women. It is something my own daughter has grown up knowing. Women rock!
The 2013 Women’s Leadership Conference was a day that was all about us. I looked around the room and thought about the United States being so far behind other countries when it coms to women as CEOs, holding political office, being President. I looked around that room and felt such a sense of hope. Maybe somewhere sitting in that room was the future first female President. I just hope at her inauguration she will dance on a table or two and be sure to wear the most blinged out tiara.
Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.
Let’s talk about the Freshman 15. I know we have all heard about the extra pounds that college students tend to gain during their 1st year, but what I don’t understand is why am I gaining weight. Technically I am not a freshman and isn’t the Freshman 15 for students living away at college, in a dorm?
Or so I thought.
I really believed that because I am an older college student who is online and not on campus that I was immune to it.
The Freshman 15 is real and it is not partial to any particular age, sex, or college standing.
I have officially gained 10 lbs since August 28th. So my message today for my fellow older classmates is the Freshman 15 is real and it applies to all college students not just the young ones who live on campus. I am finding that I have to make exercise a priority again because since starting school I traded regular exercise for homework, computer research, and Oreo cookies.
I’m almost back on track. I started going back to Bikram yoga and I walk 2 miles during lunch twice a week. So far I have lost about 4 of the 10 lbs I gained. I have not officially given up the Oreo cookies but I have been incorporating more proteins, fruits, and veggies back into my diet and I use exercise as comfort, not food.
Xan Bullock is student in the HIM program. She is 40+, loving life and surprisingly school too!
How connected are we? Take the survey and share your thoughts!
I recently watched the African Day parade which traveled down my street in Harlem, and attended the festival in Marcus Garvey park. It was a paradoxical experience for me. On one hand, it felt familiar, and I felt connected. I saw familiar skin tones that spoke different languages, and heard rhythms that I felt on a cosmic level. On the other hand, I felt as if I were in the midst of distant relatives that I had never seen and may never really know. And this, in a nutshell, is the relationship between Africa and her diaspora as I see it in America.
Having been raised in the Bronx and Harlem and living in Harlem now, I have been and continue to be nurtured by the spirit of a rich diversity whose foundation is rooted in African culture, and expressed through African, African American, Latino and Caribbean presence and culture. I am a child of the 70s, and Africa was infused in the soundtrack and landscape of my upbringing. Black was a beautiful desire to connect to the continent, almost as a respite from the deterioration of the Bronx and Harlem at that time.
I have also, unfortunately, witnessed divisions and misunderstandings. From overheard negative statements and to conversations that I have witnessed over the years among my older relatives, there is a definite distrust of the unfamiliar, and a fearful unwillingness to become familiar that exists even to this day.
This country is becoming more polarized with each passing day, so it is increasingly important to examine the sources of all of our divisions and close the gaps where possible. I have decided to start with my own community.
So where do you think Africa and its diaspora stand – are we united or divided? Take this survey and add your voice to the conversation.
Miriam Moore is currently enrolled in online courses at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. Follow her on Twitter.
It’s Friday night and I am on a date. Yeah!
Don’t get me wrong most people who are on a date are probably having dinner and taking in a movie. Guess what y’all? My date night is me sitting on a computer while my date watches old boxing matches on cable. But I am a college student and as much as I complain, I am really enjoying it.
I just had to post two initial discussion boards and since my date is enjoying watching old boxing matches, I also decided to post my responses to at least two fellow classmates. Oh the joy of being an older college student… Maybe next week I will do something more college oriented and buy some beer and have some friends over and let them drink while I post my discussion boards.
I think I am getting the hang of this whole school thing.
Xan Bullock is student in the HIM program. She is 40+, loving life and surprisingly school too!
As I write this I am sitting under a hooded dryer, 10 minutes into a 40 minute process involving 2 steps and 3 chemical mixtures to achieve one result: hide my gray hair. To be a successful magician I have to do this every 4 weeks and I am not alone; I am a hairstylist and all but a handful of the color clients where I work come in to get rid of their grays. In fact according to Professional Consultants and Resources’ 2012 research Americans spend $756 million to color annually—as a beauty professional, I can’t say I mind.
I started coloring my hair when I was 13 and have never thought much of it. In my mid-twenties, my want became a need due to the little crop of silver that had sprouted on the top of my head. Again I didn’t think much of it and went about coloring with the same fun and creativity as I had for over a decade, until about two months ago.
My life started getting pretty hectic at the end of August 2013. Classes started and the summer lull at work came to an end. My mom’s 60th birthday was coming up and my 33rd was 5 days later. I held off coloring my hair until the end of the month because I wanted the color to be fresh for our birthdays. But things got hectic and it never happened. Then I pushed it a little further because I was going on vacation and wanted it to be fresh for that, but things were crazy and I never got a chance. Before I knew it, 2 months had gone by! Looking at the top of my head, I had so much more gray than I realized. And then it hit me: I don’t know what my hair looks like; I don’t know how I look—naturally. That really messed with my head. I toyed with the idea of letting my hair grow out to see what I look like in my natural state. In a way it was kind of exciting. But could I do it? No, obviously not or else I would be sitting somewhere else right now. I thought and thought, constantly checking out other woman’s hair color. I had thoughts like, “She colors, and she doesn’t look too high maintenance,” and “She doesn’t color and she looks really good.” But ultimately, it came down to looking at gray haired people and asking, do I want to look like them. The answer, for me, was no.
Recently, many women have decided to give up coloring their hair—this emboldened my hemming and hawing about my own color. Less chemicals on your skin, less maintenance and an “I’m beautiful, accept me for who I really am” attitude that seems empowering. People have been coloring their hair for millennia; the cult of youth is nothing new. Ancient Egyptians used henna, and American woman began to color their hair late in the first half of the 20th century when hairdressers started working with caustic chemicals. A quick Internet search shows two distinct points of view: tips on how to be a silver fox and tips on the best ways to hide the ugly, wiry truth. It’s great that we have so many choices, but what are the consequences of this choice?
Apart from social pressure, there is professional pressure to look young. Even in my own hair debate I wondered if a hair stylist should have gray hair. Could it be done? In a world where our personal brand is increasingly more important, and people are staying in the workforce longer, both men and woman feel added pressure to artificially turn back the clock. This is an especially important thing to think about for people returning to school as many of us are entering our second careers and will be competing for jobs against traditional students that are a decade or more younger than we are. We need to look hip and contemporary without looking like we raided a Millenial’s closet—a tricky balance.
What I learned from my great hair crisis of 2013, as I now call it, is that what’s truly important is my ability to be confident and comfortable in my own skin. And right now, part that confidence comes in a bottle, and that’s okay.
Sarah Chalmers graduated from the CUNY SPS MA in Applied Theatre program in 2010. In 2012 she started her own company, Civic Ensemble, and was recently awarded the Civic Leader Fellowship from the Cornell University Public Service Center. She will teach applied theatre techniques to Cornell students and engage them in the community-based play process. Below is a reflection on her road to success:
My life since completing the MA in Applied Theatre with SPS in 2010 has been a whirlwind. I promptly left New York City for Ithaca, NY for what many might think would be a quieter life. While we certainly drive slower up here and, unlike NYC, it is against the rules of decorum to honk at someone sitting still at a green light, we do keep busy. My son was born in July of 2011 and I spent a glorious year almost exclusively hanging out with him. In June 2012, ready to scratch my applied theatre itch, a few colleagues and I started a new theatre company, Civic Ensemble. The theatre scene here is thriving and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
While Ithaca has many small community theatre companies and two well-established regional theatres, there was an opening for a new company committed to engaging communities in theatre-making as well as theatre-going. Civic Ensemble is focused on just that. In our first year, in addition to producing a reading series of new plays by women, we implemented several applied theatre programs which we put under the heading of Civic Engagement.
We were commissioned by the Sciencenter (a children’s science museum) to create an interactive theatre workshop about hydraulic fracturing for young children which included debate on both sides of this contentious issue. This workshop was conducted throughout the summer of 2013 and continues into the fall. We also conducted a free two week summer youth theatre for teens ages 13-21 to explore topics of importance to them. This project was in partnership with the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and was funded by the City of Ithaca. We hope that becomes a year round program in the future. Also this summer we implemented a program at a detention center for young men in Lansing using Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques to provide a structure for participants to step back and think critically about their lives and the external forces that shape their circumstances as they explore the ways that they can effect change in their lives. For this project, funded by the State of New York Office of Children and Family Services, and for the Youth Theatre, we hired my fellow MA in Applied Theatre alum Ernell McClennon (’10). It was a wonderful reunion and chance to work with someone who speaks my language completely!
The cornerstone of Civic Ensemble’s season every year is a community-based play. The play tells our collective story as devised by the participants with the guidance of Civic artists. All members of our community are welcome to participate in these plays. The topic of our first play was parenting and resulted in a production called, Parent Stories. Our topic this year is Safety: Community-Police Relations in Ithaca. This is a hot-button topic here in Ithaca, as in many communities in America. Through the sharing of personal stories and perspectives, participants can examine this challenging topic and potentially rethink entrenched positions. We will take these personal stories and craft a play that we will then rehearse and perform for the broader Ithaca community.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the response to Civic Ensemble and the work that we do with communities. When I look at what we’ve done in one year I am convinced that the applied theatre techniques we bring are needed by our communities. People are hungry for a way to connect and having the tools to facilitate that connection means I am able to create the life I want, doing work that is meaningful to me.
This is my second post. I had to work through the kinks. Well it’s officially week 5 and although it’s a lot of work but I am actually loving school. I feel so academically inclined these days. Tonight I am going to rush home to do some schoolwork and get ready for the season premiere of Vampire Diaries and Scandal. Two of my favorite shows. I have to admit I am a television enthusiasts. Thank God for DVR, now I tape my shows just in case I am too busy to catch them.
I don’t know about other working adult students, but I’m so busy. Dinner will be Cap’n Crunch cereal. Speaking of cereal. For those of you who don’t know, since starting school my dinner options have been pared down to cereal, canned soup, and the occasional sandwich with a protein shake. I have to admit school is giving me more of a reason not to cook (I hate cooking). It’s just easier to say I’m a busy college student and I don’t have time, then to say I hate cooking and I have always hated cooking. LOL! That may be one of the reasons I am still single but OH WELL, I AM A BUSY OLDER (but fabulous) WORKING COLLEGE STUDENT. As you can see I am going to milk this older college student excuse for all it’s worth.
Pssst… Gotta go and do some work, work. I don’t think the whole college student excuse is going to fly on the job. So goodbye for now. Stop by and say hi, and if you have any other easy dinner ideas feel free to share.
Until next time!
Xan Bullock is student in the HIM program. She is 40+, loving life and surprisingly school too!