Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year's Resolutions? What about Last Year's Reflections? 2016 Edition

I have been working on an origami crane for several years now. In fact, I have been unfolding and refolding that same damn piece of paper in all different ways since I graduated from college.

 2016 was the year when all those creases started to make sense. By December, I had a bird in hand at last. Now,  I am watching it fly.

When I reflected on 2015 (I can't believe this is my FOURTH year doing this post!), a lot of the echoes of immense struggle were there. Thankfully I don't seem to be Sisyphus because this boulder I have been pushing up a mountain has actually gone somewhere.

A quote comes to mind--and I'm going to butcher it, but bear with me: "Walk to the farthest distance you can see. Then you will be able to see even more." I feel like a mountain climber who is finally enjoying the view.

I dubbed 2016 the "Year of Me." I vowed to be kinder to myself, to treasure my solitude, to face some of those icky spaces inside myself that I was way more prone to run from (I mean, if you have the opportunity to run from a spider, instead of kill it, then that's what you do, right?) rather than deal with.

Clearly ending sentences with prepositions on occasion wasn't on the list. Maybe this year!

But so many other things were:

1) I traveled outside of the country for the first time (to Ireland)!
2) I worked at summer internship at a local community college and nudged my foot back inside that sector after a two-year hiatus.
3) I had my second collection of poetry accepted for publication by my editor!
4) My first book, THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT TOUCH, was nominated for a national award!
5) I spent around two months at home, catching up with friends and family--and that time grows more precious to me every year.
6) I reconnected with some important people who filled spaces in my heart that I'd grown used to being vacant.
7) I started running again--this time with a buddy (safety and accountability ftw).
8) I applied for a Ph.D. program.
9) I finished my next to last semester in my graduate program.
10) I completed a practicum that turned into a wonderful full-time position!

I'm not sure how 2017 can top 2016, but as I keep climbing to new heights, I keep repeating that sentiment. I guess there are worse things in life than that. ;)

Check back for upcoming blog posts! You'll see a book review from me the last Saturday in February, so definitely drop by for great upcoming reads!

Wishing you a happy and safe 2017!

Until next time.

Monday, August 29, 2016


This month, it's back to good old book reviews for me! I couldn't be happier to be reviewing HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (Don't all of those names sound lovely together? It must be the alliteration).

Before I jump into the review, here is the beautiful cover art:

If the cover art alone doesn't make you want to grab up the story, then I'm not sure what will. But in case you're not gripped yet, here is the synopsis of the play (Yes, I should probably mention that this is written as a stage play, in case anyone wasn't aware.):

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.


So I'm going to start my review by saying that I LOVED the story, which, I know, is contrary to a lot of other opinions. I gave HP AND THE CURSED CHILD a 5-star review on Goodreads, and those who have kept up with my reviews probably know that a 5-star review from me doesn't come along every day. 

I admit that for me a lot of the reason I loved the story was the nostalgia factor...Being back on the train to Hogwarts, reading scenes between Harry and Dumbledore, tasting Chocolate Frogs. I didn't mind that much of the play borrowed from scenes already written in previous books. In fact, I thought time-traveling made the other stories seem richer. 

And honestly, the read brought me back to my own fledgling storytelling days. I couldn't have asked for better role models in my youth than J. K. Rowling, Tamora Pierce, Tanith Lee, Suzanne Collins, etc. Their influence shows in my work to this day. 

I also loved the story because the tension between Harry and his son hit home on SO many levels that both time and the personal nature of them forbid me from naming them all. But seeing the transformation from son and father completely misunderstanding one another, resenting one another, then growing to see how alike they truly are had me crying buckets of tears. Do I think that a process like that really happens as quickly as it happened in the story? No. But this is fantasy! Let's suspend reality for a bit and pretend that perhaps life-long wounds really can be healed in a few hundred pages!

As someone with a history memorizing lines to later perform on stage and with writing my own urban fantasy screenplays (how weird that that's a term that seems so out-dated now), I had no issue with the format of the story. Dialogue is nearly always my favorite part of stories anyhow, so I enjoyed the presentation, unlike a lot of readers I know. To them I have to say go read bunches of screenplays and stage plays! A lot of them you can find for free online. I promise you might grow to at least appreciate the art form (though I admit I could never get into the graphic novel/comic book scene, even after years of trying).  

My biggest issue with the play was the whole Voldemort has a daughter, and she's been in hiding all of this time. With Voldemort's inhuman form, the splitting of his soul, etc, I find it hard to believe that he wouldn't be completely sterile. I also have a hard time believing that this chick would have hidden away until this magic moment in time--but I guess that's what prophecies are for?

Had she been portrayed as ANYTHING else? Even another Death Eater's daughter, then I could have gotten behind the idea of this character and the prophecy. 

But other than that ringing entirely false, I truly enjoyed the story. I read it like my eyeballs were starved--finishing it in a partial afternoon. I fully recommend HP AND THE CURSED CHILD to all HP fans. Just do what I did. Go in with NO expectations and enjoy what the story churns up. 

Did you love HP AND THE CURSED CHILD? Did you hate it? Leave your reviews in the comments below! I'd love to see what you thought of the book. 

Until next time!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 10

For my last blog post for my summer internship, I would like to share a few memories and stories that have stayed with me. They may be snippets, instead of fully formed stories, but that is the way that memories often shape up.

1) During training, we threw a gigantic ball of yarn to each other, appreciating one another. I don't remember the color of the ball of yarn, but I remember how many smiles there were and how much appreciation there was between the professional staff, the student staff, and the interns.

2) The Northeast MTC campus was absolutely stunning. I loved the gazebos, the space-age technology and furniture, and the plush chairs in the boardroom we advised in. I could feel the air in the campus change. There was so much pride at advising in a place like that campus. It amazed me how much location can change attitudes. (There was also free coffee.)

3) Outside of work, a bunch of the student staff and interns went to dinner and to see The Secret Life of Pets. We had so much fun getting to know one another better, laughing at the movie, bonding. That was one of my favorite experiences of the summer.

4) I've had some incredibly special experiences with students. One student told me that she'd moved from Virginia for a fresh start. I could see a story unfolding in her eyes. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to hear all of it. I remember another student telling me his dreams to work in film in L.A. and about the contacts he already had there. I had many students come through with excellent grades from high school who wanted to save money by attending a two-year college. Many students knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives and knew that their goals could be achieved through a community college--saving them time and money. I met with a student who wanted to pursue English and reminded me of myself when I was first headed into college. The stories and memories are endless, and even long after their faces may have faded, I know I'll still see the smiles.

5) My favorite memories of all are of spending moments sharing one-on-one conversations with different staff, student, and interns. As an introvert, I love one-on-one and small group interactions. I've made it a point to try to travel between the people that I work with to develop stronger relationships. Many of the conversations are too personal to share, but I know that they're engraved in my heart. It's been a wonderful summer of building new relationships and has reminded me how important that part of the human experience is.

It's been a wonderful summer, one that has flown by. In just a couple of weeks, we will be back in classes and 2nd years in our Master's program!

Though I may forget details and colors from the summer, I know that I'll never forget the warmth I feel for Midlands Technical College.

Until next time!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 9

I'm veering away on reflecting on my summer internship at Midlands Technical College for this post. In addition to working my internship, I have also been the summer graduate assistant for the College of Education.

Before I transitioned into the Student Affairs side of the collegiate world, I worked for the Academic side--first in a writing center, then in the testing and proctoring center. Working for the College of Ed. has been a great way to reconnect to the other half of college operations.

I've worked on several projects specific to my Master's program, including to help redesign our Practicum I course, build a new program manual for incoming first-years that focuses more on academics, and work on finishing our new comprehensive exam, which will be a portfolio of student work. In addition to these large projects, I worked on the orientation manual for PhD students in our higher education program, and I oversaw a lot of day-to-day administrative operations for the whole of the College of Education.

I've learned so much about what it means to have a long-term vision for a program. I understand far more intimately how all of the individual pieces--decisions, faculty weigh-in, program alterations--fit not only with a department's vision, but also the institutional mission and demands.

Though some of my days may consist of answering phone calls and emails, at the College of Education, I have always felt like my opinion has been valued. I've been on the ground floor of massive changes that will not only impact my last year in graduate school, but will leave their impact for years to come.

Working for HESA (my cohort) and closely with our education faculty has been an incredibly rewarding and--honestly--fun way to spend my summer. A large part of me wishes that I could continue the work that I've started over my last year of graduate school. However, I know that when I turn the position over to the new GA, I'll have done all that I can to improve and care for the program and that I'll leave it in capable hands.

Everything I've done for the College of Ed. this summer has reminded me of my years as an AmeriCorps VISTA--lots of strategic planning, lots of goal planning, lots of project implementation, but little contact with students. On the other hand, everything that I've done at Midlands--high student touch, little connection to long-term planning, day-to-day impact rather than multi-year planning--has resembled my earlier years in the world of higher education.

This summer has been a good balance of two very different worlds and very different jobs. I'm thankful for the opportunity to have pursued both of these jobs.

Until next time!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Let's Get Technical: Post 8

As we are entering the final weeks of the summer as advisors at MTC, I've been able to do a lot of reflecting on the kind of supervisor I see myself being in future positions.

Because I have worked in a college setting since 2009, I have had the opportunity to supervise others many times at this point in my career. As such, supervision is always on my mind--what I can learn, what I would do, and what I wouldn't, based on my bosses.

From the leadership course that I took in my graduate program, I know that one of my main leadership styles is Authentic Leadership, meaning who I am at work closely mirrors who I am in the rest of my life. I chose to embody this leadership style because I consistently hold myself to higher and higher standards both in my personal and professional life--and I like to think that I encourage others to do the same.

Likewise, I strive to be someone with whom others feel safe both in my personal and professional life.

I also believe that you should be comfortable being the person you are no matter where you are--and if you aren't comfortable, you should seek out why.

Of course, MTC has given me insights to how others lead, encouraging me to once again examine how I see myself as a supervisor in future workplaces.

Everyone on the professional staff at MTC is incredibly warm and personable. I feel like I'm surrounded by family. This is the kind of office environment that I want my future students and staff to walk into. Like in a real family, there may be ups and downs, but above all, I want to support and challenge each individual with whom I work.

On the flip side, MTC has enforced that I truly want to ensure that with that challenge and support aspect, I also want to be as transparent as I am able to be. If I see work done incorrectly, I want to pull the individual on the project aside and have a conversation. If I see conflict between employees, I want to confront it early. If there are any policies or procedures that need to be addressed, I want to do that as soon as it becomes apparent.

While overwhelmingly my experience at MTC has been positive and affirming in every way, I have learned from the staff's decision to make broad observations in group meetings about problems seen (for example, filling out an advisement sheet with incorrect numbers for a class or for the number of credits given) that I want to address things not only in a group setting when appropriate, but I also want to pull individuals aside and give guidance on how they can approve their work.

I received a half a point off for professionalism on my final evaluation, based on the fact that I have back tattoos that may show when I wear sleeveless, business casual attire. I wish that this was a matter that had been brought up with me early on by a supervisor during a one-on-one meeting, instead of showing up on my final evaluation.

Personally, I take great pride in my ink and everything that my tattoos stand for--and I find that it makes a great conversation starter with students or staff who also have tattoos--but I also respect that some workplaces still see ink as a negative, instead of a positive. (Here's to hoping that we continue to break that negative stigma!)

Happily, I would have covered up the tattoos (I have them in places that are easily concealed for this very reason) had the issue been raised to me in person or talked about during our training when we went over MTC policy and procedure. Unfortunately, the issue went unaddressed until appearing on my evaluation where it now affects my grade for my internship class.

As a future (and past) supervisor, I have learned a lot from this experience about how I want to address issues. Being up front and honest with my employees ties into my Authentic Leadership style. I want to be able to balance appropriate discipline and difficult conversations with a caring and warm environment where individuals are unafraid to be themselves.

I have learned a great deal from this experience and plan on taking it into future workplaces!

Until next time!