Author Archives: Maximizing Character

Unsocial Media

Yes, yes, yes! Great observation. Reblogged on Maximizing Character!

Journey through my Journal

Social media – “connecting” you to people on the other side of the world but not in the same room.

When did we start living through a screen? When did we start placing more importance on our social media “presence” than our actual presence? Our filterless, flawless and fabulous selves. Our lying on the couch in our sweatpants eating sour lollies loveable selves. The answer is irrelevant, what matters is where do we go from here? We weren’t taught how to cope with this devotion to self-promotion at school. There was no “how to survive without social media 101” or “how to love and accept yourself as a real person, not a profile 102”.

Do we continue to scroll through mindlessly judging, regretting, wishing and fantasising while staring blankly at a screen? With no external expression of emotion visible beside the occasional LOL from a good meme. We all do it…

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The Death of Courtesy 

I wake up each day to a beautiful quiet, morning with the joy of a new beginning. I prepare for work and to take my son to school, meditating on God and quickly scanning my memory for the tasks of the day. My son and I make our way downstairs where we gather lunch and a quick snack. I start the coffee and share a short conversation with my husband while he roughhouses our son. Once the coffee is brewed and I grab my travel mug, my son and I are off to school and work.

Depending on the time of year, we clear the foggy windows, covered by the dew, turn on the music, or not, and settle in for the 45 minutes to and hour commute. Sometimes we converse about the day ahead. In typical “Mom” fashion, I share encouraging words with my son or, from time to time, we recap the events from the previous day. During this early morning commute we encounter all types of people, vehicles, behaviors and events: a disabled vehicle, a police bust, impatient and distracted drivers and the, slow-moving, “I’m still not awake,”drivers. Needless to say, even at the start of a new day, courtesy is not at the top of everyone’s daily to-be list.

All seems to be smooth sailing until we approach my son’s school. A magnet high school of almost 2,000 students in an urban community. The school with the highest enrollment in the city becomes a parking lot of sorts just before dawn. We come to a halt as hundreds of cars and a few buses line up to make their way to the front of the school to drop off students. I check the clock on my dashboard. Please Mr. Policeman. Please be on post to direct all of this traffic.

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Patience and courtesy are key during this daily exercise. But each day brings a different set of events. School administrators established drop off protocols at the beginning of the school year to address the notorious traffic congestion of the past years. School staff guided us through the school parking lot and waved us along, urging students to get out of the cars to keep the flow of traffic going. After the first two weeks, as parents were just settling into the new pattern, the teachers and staff disappeared. We were left to keep the pattern going with a little assistance at one end of the street from Mr. Policeman.

Each morning I follow the leading of the officer and make my way to the second school entrance for drop off. At this entrance, other students and families are entering from the opposite direction and are at the mercy of the drivers on my side of the road. It is the duty of those on my side of the road to alternate the cars entering the parking lot so that everything moves seamlessly. Unfortunately, that is not what happens. Inevitability traffic is gridlocked; at least for 5 to 10 minutes.

I watch as car after car turns into the second parking lot, the one way into the school lot at this time of day, leaving cars in the opposite direction helpless and backed up to a main highway. A car, three cars ahead of me, pauses to let someone from the other side turn in. “Yes” I cheer in my mind. The car itself proceeds into the lot and the next two cars on my side of the road turn in too. It’s my turn. It would be easy to just turn the corner to keep my side going, but instead, I too pause to let someone else turn in. I smile and look behind to see if others will get it. Nope. Four more cars quickly turn into the parking lot. Finally, I see another pause and turn from the other side.

As we approach the front of the school, my son and I say our goodbyes and well wishes for the day. I notice a few cars deviate from the pattern to cut through traffic only to get stuck by the line of cars pulling up to the drop off points. I observe and move on, letting others drop off their children and wondering to myself, what goes on in people’s minds. I get it, everyone is headed to another destination. However, it’s the start of a new day, another opportunity to shine your light, make a difference, be kind, respectful and responsible. I wonder, as Mr. Policeman waves his fluorescent wand for me to go on my way, what happened to common courtesy?

30 Days of Gratitude 

As we welcomed sweet November last week, we were reminded of how blessed we are to see another month, holiday season and our 5th year of public service as Maximizing Character in the coming year. We decided to celebrate gratitude throughout the month. Gratitude, from the Latin gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful, is a feeling of appreciation. It is often shown through kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity. 


During the first six days of our Gratitude celebration we were grateful for life, family, opportunities to achieve our goals, our supporters, good teachers and the ability to help others. Imagine life without these things. 


As we move forward through the month of November we hope that you will check back and join us as we reflect upon the many wonderful blessings we have to be grateful for. Obviously gratitude is not just a once a month or time of year observation. It is a daily habit that, if exercised, has the potential to bring so much joy into one’s life. So, until we blog again, here’s to Maximizing Character and Gratitude!

Celebrating Good Character 

Celebrate character with us! During the month of October we focus on bringing awareness to various causes as well as celebrate Character Counts! Week. During CCW2017 we highlight values that we all share called The Six Pillars of Character. The six pillars are; Trustworthiness; Respect; Responsibility; Fairness; Caring; and Citizenship. Each Pillar is consistently identified with a color: Trustworthiness – Blue, Respect – Gold/Yellow, Responsibility – Green, Fairness – Orange, Caring – Red, Citizenship – Purple. YOU can join the celebration by demonstrating these values at home, work and in your communities and by sharing them with others. So c’mon…spread good character all around! #CCWeek2017 #MaximizingCharacter #votd #WhatsGood #CultivatingCharacterMXC #character4life #nonprofit #youth #kids #groups #school #education #community #service #causes #charactereducation

We’re BACK!!

It’s been a long time since we posted here but we’re back! Well, we never really left, but things just got very busy with Maximizing Character…Yay! Since we left off in 2014, we’ve been busy cultivating character in our local community. We’ve facilitated after-school character development programs in the school system for two years, had three annual youth fashion shows, and for the first time, facilitated a life skills course during summer camp at the College of William and Mary! Can you say…Go Maximizing Character?! In 2016 we officially became a non-profit youth organization, a huge achievement for us, and we are not slowing down! We are looking forward to ending 2017 on a positive note and entering 2018 with exciting new initiatives for youth and families in an effort to cultivate character in every arena–home, schools, our local community and around the globe.

Speaking of around the globe, last month Maximizing Character participated in its 4th International Character Day! This year we decided to take the advice of the founders/organizers, Let it Ripple, and do a social media campaign featuring the hashtag,  Cultivating Character. This month we are spreading awareness about bullying prevention, breast cancer, domestic violence, juvenile justice and of course, the importance of good character during Character Counts! Week.

We hope that you will join us on this journey to do What’s Good by Maximizing Character! Until next time…Here’s to Character!

Self-Care: My Journey to Peace and Joy

I’ve come to a point in my life where I am learning to value self-care. I’ve also come to realize the value of time, vacations as well as the value of building solid relationships. For years I thought that it was selfish and unproductive for a person to focus on themselves… indulging in weekend getaways, lengthy visits to the spa or salon, shopping sprees, regular Girls Night Outs or simply going off to a quiet place to enjoy a good book, write or enjoy some good, soothing music. I thought, “How can people do those things when there is so much work to do in the world?

I had been told that I was selfish a few times as a teenager and I guess it stuck for about a decade or two. I had also been taught to stay busy… to not just sit and be a spectator but to get involved in life, events and relationships. At church and school I engaged in everything from singing in the choir, ushering and leading the youth group to cheerleading, volunteering and leading my senior class as President. Keeping busy and living a full, productive life was not bad advice, but it’s how a person maintains balance throughout life.

I never really understood why I was this so-called selfish person. The only thing that I can remember about this “selfishness status” was that I recognized early that I wanted a better life for myself. Even after unexpectantly becoming a young, single, mother, I refused to remain on government assistance, accepting the short-term help and then quickly moving on to work three jobs to support my child. As a youth, I pursued education, saved my small allowance to purchase things that I really wanted and later worked part-time so that I could help out at home and still engage in extra-curricular activities. I was always drawn to the finer things in life. Although I could not yet afford many of the things I wanted and my environment was not desirable, I had some very good dreams and goals as a teenager and young adult. Those dreams and goals were my imaginary friends and I could count on them to get me through some tough times. They would wisp me away to other worlds as I read a book or comfort me as I wrote in my journal or listened to music. This, in essence, was my self-care. Somewhere along life’s journey I forgot about them.

I spent years pursuing status, seeking things, helping others, pleasing others and in the meantime, I forgot about how to care for myself. Yes, I obtained the education. Yes, I got married. Yes, I secured the job I desired. Yes, I have two beautiful children. Yes…I have been fulfilled by so many dreams that have come true. However, in the course of obtaining all of those beautiful blessings there were times when I thought I would lose my mind. The busy schedules, the numerous activities, full-time wife and mother, full-time work, full-time school…there were not enough hours in a day to do everything that I felt I needed to do and I had forgotten how to slow down and take care of myself.

Today I find myself looking at life very differently. I appreciate the years of hard work and service to others. I admit…I enjoyed it the intrinsic rewards. I’m not saying that I have simply become a spectator in life. That is far from the truth. I am still young and very involved in life…eager to make my mark in the world. I have, however, learned the art of prioritizing. I focus on my passion to work with youth, teaching them to live with integrity and to create positive change and experiences in their lives and in the lives of others. The best part of this journey is that I have reconnected with the things that provide me the care that I need to thrive and continue to serve others. Music, writing, reading, exercising and spending time and getting away with my family to reconnect and recharge are all a part of my self-care plan. I am experiencing abundant peace and joy.

Celebrating Family and Community Engagement

Family Learning Project

Family Learning Project

Recently Maximizing Character teamed up with the local public school system and local businesses and programs for the Annual Title I Family Learning Project. The event was held at the Air & Space Center. The objective of the event was to expose families to various educational opportunities within the school system as well as in the community. Goals of the event included emphasizing the importance of parent and community engagement and its impact on student success as well as provide a meaningful educational experience to the families, showcasing community resources and fun learning activities.

Families were also afforded the chance to tour the entire museum at no cost that evening. According to Ms. Epps, Title I Coordinator – Family Engagement, many of the families had never visited the museum or other community attractions possibly due to a lack of funds or knowledge of such places. Hosting the educational event at this popular area attraction was deemed a success according to the post-surveys that were completed by the participants.

Maximizing Character leaders and Character (Youth) Ambassadors attended the event, providing information about character education, life skills and community service opportunities with the program. The leaders and Youth Ambassadors greeted the children and their families, shared information, answered questions about Maximizing Character services and engaged the youth in an activity called “Know Your Character, Show Your Character”. Youth participants also had a chance to engage in coloring their own “All About Character” poster or take it with them. The children and families were encouraged to “Do the Right Thing, All Day… Every Day!”

The event proved to be a success and Maximizing Character was proud to be a part of the school system’s efforts to promote parent and community engagement! In a statement made during the event summary, Coordinator Ms. Epps said,

“Thank you all for another successful Title I Family Learning Project Event (this was our 8th year!) as we took over the Air & Space Center! The families were engaged with wonderful activities and resources and were VERY excited about exploring the exhibits. We had 739 participants! We also had 26 community vendors! Thank you again for all that you did to make this event a success.”

Be Health-Wise

Most of us know that the best way to maintain physical health is to exercise regularly and to eat nutritious foods daily. However did you know that the foods we eat also affect our mood and overall wellness? Poor diets contribute to weight gain, obesity, a plethora of medical problems, lack of energy and often times, stress, worry and a bad attitude. A good diet, including a balance of fruit, vegetables, proteins and grains, maintains blood pressure, contributes to good cholesterol and energy levels and even helps to maintain clear complexions. Healthy eating and engaging in regular exercise can also put you in a positive mood, fostering optimism, productivity, focus and overall physical and emotional wellness. So…Here’s to your health! healthy-33

G.I.R.L.S. (Giving Individuals Real Life Solutions)

This past school year Maximizing Character had the opportunity to help establish a Girls Group with a group of energetic middle school girls. It was a pleasure to work with them as they were transitioning from childhood into adolescence. These young ladies were selected for the group based upon academic and behavioral challenges they had experienced. The objective of the girls group was to empower these future leaders, helping to keep them from “falling through the cracks” academically and socially. I had the opportunity to share my passion for character building while also teaching the girls to love themselves, enjoy their youth and invest in their education and future success.

Each Monday afternoon I would travel to the school, greet the girls who were usually finishing up their tutoring with college students from the local university, and begin our group session together. During G.I.R.L.S. Group, we engaged in activities and discussions about character development, boys, effective communication, self-esteem and other topics critical to this age group. I was truly “in my element” during those sessions. The girls asked questions about relationships with peers, boys, how to communicate with fussy parents and how to envision a successful and fulfilling life. Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group projects and activities included developing a “vision board”, role playing scenarios about bullying, communicating with peers and adults, drama-free living and open discussions about self-worth and how to interact appropriately with boys.

The program started off slowly, canceling a few of the first meetings due to low attendance and attempting to build new relationships with the diverse group of girls. However, after the Christmas break, the program seemed to take off, allowing me to interact more often with the girls and build camaraderie with school staff and the girls. By the end of the ten weeks, the girls appeared to be more comfortable with initiating discussions and activities with me, had improved their grades and behaviors and were eager to exchange social media information in order to keep in touch with me and the Maximizing Character Ambassadors.

On April 30, 2014, Maximizing Character graduated its first G.I.R.L.S. Group! The group had a small ceremony in one of the classrooms at the school where Mrs. Manning, the Student Advancement Coach, who implemented this program, the boys’ group, parents and volunteers joined together for a light dinner and awards ceremony. The Maximizing Character G.I.R.L.S. Group graduates were presented with a certificate of participation, a “Character Couture” bracelet and a bag of goodies. It was a great school year and I wished the girls well as most of them would advance to high school. As a result of the success of the M.C. G.I.R.L.S. Group, we were asked to facilitate the program again during the 2014-2015 school year! I am so excited about the opportunity to mentor a new group of girls!
Girls

Creating Balance

It’s been months since I took the time to express my thoughts in writing, aside from a “to do” list or random ideas for my business. It definitely feels good to be back! This year has been amazing! I have had the opportunity to grow my business as well as develop professionally and spiritually. However, as ecstatic as I have been about my youth program expanding, I have experienced a great deal of stress. I’ve had to learn to create balance in my life in order to maintain my health and wellness and so that I can be the best wife, mother and servant that I can be. I realized that in order to sustain my energy and to develop personally and perhaps professionally, I would have to find ways to relax and steal away to a peaceful place or state. Me

Writing, listening to music, dancing and singing, engaging in creative thought and arts and crafts had always been my go-t0 activities in the past. Nevertheless, I strayed from many of those activities as my priorities as a wife, mother, daughter, employee and servant increased over the years. This year, despite some successes professionally, I experienced severe fatigue and developed  a medical issue as a result of keeping a busy schedule and my propensity to worry and overthink everything. I decided several weeks ago to create some peace in my life.

I resolved to renew my mind and I developed a “toolkit” to help me to decrease stress and experience peace and wellness. Prayer, meditation, scriptures, affirmations, music, reading and yes…writing are included in my “go-to toolkit”. I am enjoying the opportunity to “breathe” again and to engage in self care. I even turned on some upbeat, “old school” jams and danced myself happy as I cleaned my house today! I’m delighted to be writing again and I’m looking forward to enjoying future successes in my life without all the added stress. Here’s to good health, wellness, peace and success.