University of Arizona – May 2017

IN PARIS

Last week I visited my big sister in Tuscon and decided to take advantage of the trip and visit U of A. My sister joined me along with two of my minions and a one month old baby who is currently in my sister’s care (more on foster care in the future!).

Needless to say, visiting a college with three kids in tow is tough but we made the most of it and I am so glad we did! U of A is amazing!

My college reviews are not comprehensive. School websites are good for learning about programs, faculty, statistics, etc. My reviews are a summary of my personal experience on the campus. I write about how the school made me feel that day, how my family felt touring the campus, how well we were received and what kinds of people I met. So this is a list of the four things that stood out to me about the University of Arizona.

Top 4 reasons I LOVED U of A

1. Size – While the number of students exceeds 30,000 the campus itself had a very intimate feel. Everything was walking or biking distance. Without feeling crowded, a student can get from one end of the campus to the other with little difficulty. Just off campus there was a cute little “downtown” area full of restaurants, shops, and basic student essentials. The dorms were nearby as well. I love visiting schools that feel like a small community… which leads me to my next favorite thing about U of A…

2. Comradery and School Spirit – I visited the week after graduation so there were very few students on campus. Of the handful of people I actually saw and spoke with, they all said the same thing: They love their school. This was clear all over campus. Students feel safe, connected, supported and in touch with their institution. The cute little campus town was full of school spirit, school colors, special deals and discounts for students. One student was very excited to share with me about her major in nutrition and the the fact that she only had a year left before she graduated. Another family was touring the school and I asked why they were interested in U of A. The father proudly shared that he was an alum and was there to show both of his teenage daughters his Alma Mater.

3. Kindness – maybe this was just a Tuscon thing? i am not sure but everyone everywhere was SO NICE. People were going out of there to show kindness, give compliments, offer help and share information. The staff I spoke with at U of A were thrilled to talk about their school and share interesting historical facts. They sure made this Southern California girl feel very welcome.

4. Digital Citizenship – It was very reassuring to hear from the admissions staff that their campus is very digitally friendly. Not only does the school actively use a variety of social media accounts, they also have their own mobile app to help students and visitors stay connected and informed. While I could not confirm that applicant social media was browsed as part of the admissions process, the admissions staff did share that students are encouraged to use their social media on campus to stay engaged and build their networks while managing a positive reputation.

U of A is full of progressive ideas and activities. They boast about their global reach, their community impact and their high rankings but what I saw and felt went much deeper than. The University felt safe, comfortable, and community-oriented. It felt modern but with a deep history. Most of the students are AZ residents but this is place where a California student can really grow into their independence without being terribly far from home. Everything is close enough for a student to not feel overwhelmed but there is still plenty to go do and explore.

I was very impressed with U of A and look forward to exploring it further and visiting again. The kids enjoyed their visit too!

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!@$&: You can be Authentic and still be Polite. 

I curse like a sailor. It is one of my favorite traits, nurtured by my mother, and a big part of “who I am”.

At the Digital Citizenship conference last week, on the topic of authenticity, a question arose about the difference between being “authentic” and being “too casual”. It’s important to be authentic in your online identity in the same way you want to have an authentic reputation among your peers and colleagues. There is a line, though, and many students struggle with it because they want to be true to themselves and the message they hear about being authentic conflicts with advice about being polite.

You can be both authentic and polite.

I can curse like a sailor with my friends, family and close confidants. I can also be polite with colleagues, peers, students and parents. It is a choice to behave either way. When we are online we have to decide with each post on each platform how polite we want to be. In any case we should be authentic; posting something that is a true representation of your thoughts, opinions, and what is of value to you and your followers. But authentic does not permit rudeness because “that is who you are”.

If you are posting to Facebook, Twitter, or any mass-audience channels, you should be polite. Avoid cursing, rude comments, or anything crude. In the same way you would not want to shout out obscenities in public, you don’t want to do it online. Your words, while they may be authentic, will be interpreted by the reader and you cannot control that. Your reputation can be affected negatively and you could lose opportunities before you even knew you had them.

In a private social channel, like messaging or Snapchat, you can consider your audience and determine how to communicate. Just remember that it’s never truly “private” because anything posted online, even SMS messaging, gets encrypted and saved. People on the receiving end of messages can also take a screen shot of whatever you send, turning it into a picture file permanently. Instagram now lets users know when someone has taken a screen shot of a private direct message.

Your Social Media is meant to bridge relationships with people. You will connect with more people and, more importantly, the right people if you treat your mass-audience platforms as a space for authenticity and being your best self.

For the mass-audience platforms, remember to THINK before you post. Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? Running your post through these questions in your head should, at the very least, make you pause long enough to decide if the post belongs on that particular platform.

So by all means – keep on cursing. Keep being politically incorrect. Be whoever you are in all your authentic glory. But please, don’t let your “authenticity” keep you from being polite.

 

Business Plan

As a lifelong learner, I am ALWAYS in school. Currently, I am working on a certificate in Independent Educational Consulting. I am in the second course of a seven-course sequence and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is 100% online which I am completely used to and actually prefer since balancing a traditional school program with my family and business would be too much for me. The program is offered by UCI Extension and classes are about 7 weeks. I LOVE IT.

Our assignment this week was to develop a business plan. I will admit, I have been putting off creating a plan because putting it on paper felt too concrete and I have been enjoying watching my business shape itself organically. However, I think this was actually the perfect time to write out a plan because I see now what my business is becoming and I can see how I want it to grow. Putting it all on paper and submitting it for a grade was reassuring and I look forward to the feedback.

In the plan, I included a mission and vision statement, objectives, strategies and action plans. So far, I am on track with reaching out to schools (high schools, middle schools and colleges) to get them interested in workshops where I teach students ages 13-20 about Digital Citizenship and how to use your online identity effectively. There are definitely some projects in the works and I will be thrilled to share when some official contracts come through.

In the meantime, I will continue to grow my business, develop my plan and bring this powerful message to the students, parents and educators of Ventura County.

One way I am tackling this message and building my own content was in participating as a panelist at the Digital Citizenship Conference in LA last week. I had so much fun meeting Josh Ochs of SafeSmartSocial.com and all of the other panelists and guests at the conference. The topic was how to have an Authentic Online presence. The conversation was interesting with various perspectives from law enforcement, educators, college reps and consultants. Once the link is available, I’ll share it!

Authentically Me

Despite all of the inspiration, I clearly failed to meet my goal of 30 blog posts in 30 days. But I have good news! It is for a VERY good reason that I have failed my own self-imposed challenge.

I have spent the last four months working very hard to get control of my mental health. Well, actually I have spent the last four years working on my mental health but in the last four months I have made drastic improvement.

I was brought up in a household that did not “believe” that mental health was worthy of exploration. Happiness was something you made for yourself and if you are not happy then you need to change your attitude. There would be no doctors visits, no medication, no effort to address the root of my “issues”.

At 30, I was diagnosed with ADD, OCPD, and anxiety. The way I see it, this is the sum of being raised in fear of what might happen if I do the “wrong” thing. I spent my whole young adult life trying to FIND happiness. Trying to IMPROVE myself. Trying to be a GOOD person by doing all the RIGHT things. I obsessed over self-improvement. Not physical improvement but mental improvement. I wanted to learn everything and apply all of my knowledge directly to my own life so I could be the best possible version of myself. But I was drowning in my efforts.

Trying to do everything RIGHT made me feel trapped. I wanted to dye my hair but I shouldn’t do that because it can damage my hair. I wanted to wear Converse shoes everyday but I shouldn’t because they do not look professional. I wanted to sleeve my arm with tattoos but I shouldn’t because I may regret it someday. I made sure that anything I bought was at the lowest possible price because it would be a waste of money if I over-spent. And I would have a panic attack anytime I spent money on things I did not NEED – like clothes – because if I had clothes fit I didn’t NEED more. Even if my wardrobe was dingy, well-worn, torn, stained, or a little loose-fitting, I still could not justify buying myself new clothes.

An ADD brain takes everything you have ever known and puts it into a channel. Then your brain spends all of its time channel surfing. External factors are always competing with the ADD brain for attention. This is why someone can appear totally normal on the outside but cannot pay attention to anything or anyone without a ton of concentrated effort.

Then I was prescribed Aderall. GAME CHANGER.

Medication combined with therapy has opened up a world of possibility. I find that I am not obsessing over my thoughts. My head is not channel surfing, looking for the RIGHT and BEST answer. In fact, the TV in my head is off and I am aware of my surroundings. Not just  aware… I am actually existing IN THE MOMENT. I have always tried to live in the moment and find peace in just focusing on whatever I was doing but the changing channels in my head were always a distraction. Then, whenever any external stimuli competed with the TV in my head for my attention, I would often explode, scream, yell, or turn into a “tornado” and try to control my surroundings (a futile effort).

On medication, I can sit have a cup of coffee while I engage in conversation with my kids over breakfast. I am listening to them, observing their behavior, enjoying the way their minds work, answering their inquisitive little questions. I can do this because the TV in my head is off. They are not competing against the other ten thousand things I have to think about. They have me. All of me.

This freedom from my mental prison is coupled with four months of very good therapy. I am finally (at 30) permitting myself to be authentic. Ironically, this is the very message I am trying to deliver to parents and teens. Be authentic and you will find more opportunities that suit your needs. Well, if I am going to make a living pitching this message, I had better be a living example!

Mermaid Hair

So here I am. Authentically me. Tattoos, nose ring, mermaid hair (as my daughter’s call it), Converse shoes, bright colored clothes and a vibrant (sometimes loud) personality. I also curse like a sailor and I’m not sorry. I’m embracing the alternative. I am making small choices each day based on what I WANT and not what is RIGHT. This is not to say I am making poor choices. I am just not making politically correct choices in order to avoid criticism. Avoiding criticism is exhausting.

While I may not have written 30 blog posts in 30 days, I am pretty damn proud of what I have accomplished. Taking control of my health and my authenticity is allowing me to be the best version of myself – which is all I ever wanted to be.

The Purge: Cleaning up my Social Media

twitter-292994_1920 (3) (1)Every couple of months I make a conscious effort to clean up my online identity to make sure it is a reflection of my true, authentic self. I also use this time to clear out my newsfeeds of information I no longer wish to see. This is important to do because we can get very carried away with what we THINK is important and it can get us off track from our digital goals.

Here is the process I use to ensure that I am making the most of my online identity:

STEP 1: Review my goals.

When I help people establish their online identity, I have them set some goals so they have a clear idea of what they plan to use their Social Media for. Whether it is for marketing, keeping in touch with friends, staying informed, fundraising, or expanding the reach of your digital resume, you need to have a clear goal in mind so that your SM does not go astray.

If you are a teen, this part is crucial. There are so many apps to play with these days. If you want to be able to play around, that is fine, but choose an app that makes sense for that – like Snapchat. Just be sure you understand how it works and still define a clear goal so that you stay within the boundaries of that goal.

You may have more than one goal, which is totally fine. In fact, having multiple goals is probably more realistic. That is why you can use different applications to meet different goals based on what those apps do.

Goals can change. In fact, it is good to evaluate your SM every couple of months in order to determine whether your goals have changed or whether your apps are helping you reach those goals like you had intended. Just as you grow and change in life, so will your online identity. And that’s okay!

STEP 2: Choose the right apps.

Once my goals are clearly defined, I can now choose which applications to use in order to reach those goals. If my goal is to stay in touch with friends and family, Facebook is a good application for that. The features and security make this a great application for sharing videos, pics and events in a semi-private and pretty secure environment.

Perhaps my goal is to expand the reach of my resume and network with people who may be interested in what I have accomplished. I should use LinkedIn in order to reach this goal. LinkedIn allows me to build a detailed profile that includes my accomplishments in the classroom and beyond. I can meet other professionals in my industry and connect with them on this respectable platform.

The point here is to identify which apps make the most sense for me to reach my goals on Social Media. If I am new to the SM world, I could ask friends to help me identify which apps they like and why so I can see what works, what is popular and how they can be of use to me. If I am not new to this, I can evaluate my current apps and decide if I need to expand. Personally, I am adding Snapchat to my repertoire of applications in order to meet my goal of reaching students under 18 with my message about the importance of having a positive and effective online presence. Snapchat is a leading, or shall I say, “trending” application among teens and tweens so it makes sense for me to understand and use this app effectively.

I am not using my Tumblr account as I have not been comfy with the type of content that is allowed on Tumblr, so I have recently closed my Tumblr account. If I find a reason to use it in the future, I can always go back, but right now it does not fit my needs.

Step 3: The Purge

Now that I have decided which applications to use in order to reach my goals, I need to start following people and organizations that will help me reach those goals within that environment. If I am using FB to stay in touch with people, I need to follow those people. If I am using LinkedIn, I need to follow people and businesses within my industry. If I am using Snapchat, I need to connect with teens and tweens that I know so that they are more likely to see my content.

For those who already have an established SM network, it is time to purge. In Facebook, I review my list of pages and groups that I have started following since my last purge or setup. I stop following the pages that no longer serve my goals. I leave groups where I am not a regular contributor. I unfriend people whose content does not align with my SM goals or hide them from my newsfeed.

I do not do this to be rude or because I no longer like those pages and people. I do this because it helps me maintain focus on my current goal and not get lost in the minutia of the internet. That can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety.

And that’s it! Just taking the time to rid your Social Media of unwanted content can feel like cutting off ten inches of unwanted hair. You will feel lighter and brighter and not so bogged down with the unimportant.

Happy Purging!

The Best Day of my Life

Today is a very special day. On April 3, 2011, my world changed forever. It is the day colors became brighter, smells became stronger and cries sounded like music. It is the day I learned how to truly empathize and be compassionate. It was the day I learned how to live with heart outside my body. It was the day I took on a new identity, a new name. It was the day I became Mom.

My beautiful, warm, funny, creative, vibrant little girl turns six years old today. In the last six years she has taught me, tested me, pushed me and challenged me. She showed me how to love harder than I ever knew I could and has forced me to dig for patience I never knew I had.

She makes me laugh so hard it hurts. She is sarcastic like me, theatrical like me and stubborn like me. She is a goofball who loves her family, loves to sing and loves to create.

These last six years have flown by so quickly. A cliche that will never stop being true. I guess that is what makes it a cliche. Still, I try to cherish every minute I can with her because I know it is just a matter of time before she starts asking for advice about college.

I love her so much. Happy Birthday, Bug.

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Oak Park Music Festival

IMG_2665Yesterday I did not blog. But I have a great reason! I spent the entire day at Medea Creek Middle School for the Oak Park Music Festival. Hundreds of Middle and high school students played their brass and wind instruments and there was an amazing choir performance. There were also some incredible solos. It was a fun, gorgeous, sunny day and I was so happy to be a part of it!!

Thank goodness I had done so many tabling events when I worked for National University  I was prepared with my table cloth, signage, flyers, packets and business cards. I was totally ready and totally excited.

This was my first opportunity to talk about my programs in front of the people who can benefit the most from them. I talked to students, parents, educators, and even an adorable 6 year old named Sterling (who is my new best friend). Not only were the parents impressed with the idea of learning Digital Leadership but the students were too! No one had ever been taught how to develop an online identity or what to do with it once they had one. The idea of being trained on the uses of social media to reach their goals was novel and intriguing.

So, clearly I am in the right place and doing the right things. Hopefully I will hear from one of those parents and start to get some clients so I can spread my message and support my family.

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This is Livia Averche. She was my table neighbor and is also a mama starting her own business. I got to meet her two sweet girls and learn about her amazing talent as a photographer. If you are looking for a family photo session or corporate head shots, this is your girl!!! http://www.liviastudio.com (858) 705-9234

 

 

Inspiration and Goal Setting

Like many women new to blogging, I have been afraid. Afraid to put my thoughts and ideas online. Afraid of rejection, criticism, harassment. I have been afraid to take the knowledge and experience I have and put it into a blog where other people can read it. And judge it.Image result for blog meme

Today I am going to be brave.

I was truly inspired yesterday for the first time in a long time. I was invited to an event because someone thought it sounded like what my business is about and I am SO glad I went! I have been trying to find my niche while also trying to explain to people what it is I do. It can be challenging to explain what “A College Consultant with an Emphasis on Social Media and Community engagement” really does. Then I went to a retreat hosted by Ventura College with Dr. Josie Ahlquist as the keynote speaker and now I get it. I get what I do.

After hearing Dr. Ahlquist address hundreds of staff and faculties members and articulate exactly what Digital Citizenship is, I understand my own calling a little better. It was not hearing her speak, though, that lit the fire under me to start blogging. It was her Blog!

She referenced her Blog and her podcast (Josie and the Podcast) in her speech so I followed up – because I am addicted to information. I started reading her most recent blog post and was getting all kinds of starry-eyed when it occurred to me, I should not read her most post, I should read her VERY FIRST post.

It read a lot like this post is reading now. Reading between the lines I saw her self-doubt and lack of experience but I also saw someone who knew she just needed to press “publish” and let the rest come as it may. It certainly worked out for her!

After reading more posts about Papyrus (the store) and her adventures in grad-school, I decided to take a very strong note from Dr. Ahlquist to challenge myself by blogging everyday for one month. That seems like both a doable and practical goal.

So, here it is, blog #1 on Day 1 of my 30 day Blog challenge. I am going to experiment with topics such as higher education, campus reviews, digital citizenship, social media, community engagement and building a business as mom of three kids under 6.

Wish me luck! And thanks to Dr. Josie Ahlquist for the inspiration!!