Beyond Work-Life Balance: Leaning In & Daring Greatly

For several months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a team of outstanding women to prepare a session for the ACPA Indianapolis Convention. We have pulled together a combination of current literature and research to take the oh-so-common “Work Life Balance” conversation a few steps further.

ACPA Program: Beyond Work-Life Balance: Leaning In & Daring Greatly

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 1:30-2:30 PM EST – Indiana Convention Center, 238

As women in student affairs, we regularly challenge others to grow, to be comfortable with the unknown, and to be empowered to make tough decisions.  We continually practice empathy and vulnerability within our profession, but often struggle to practice those lessons with regard to our own professional growth.  Grounded in the work of Brené Brown (Daring Greatly) and Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In), participants will identify and develop steps to address congruence and dissonance between the authentic self and professional identity.

Women have made strides in education, outnumbering men in college enrollment for more than 30 years – and yet – women still hold only 45 percent of tenure-track faculty positions and 31 percent of tenure positions (Branch-Brioso, 2009). Administratively, women hold just 23 percent of college and university presidencies (Branch-Brioso, 2009). Knowledge, skills, and reflection on leadership development is needed for women who aspire to leadership roles, and men and women who can sponsor and mentor them. While all women may not aspire to the presidency or to be a Senior Student Affairs Officer, the ability to create and implement a professional development plan, goals, and a support network are critical for all women in higher education.

 Presentation Team

Becca Obergefell, Ohio Dominican University, Kelley Stier, Purdue University, Melissa Robertson, Purdue University, Valerie Heruska, Indiana University (from l-r)

Melissa, Val, Kelley, and Becca have each read the related literature, participated in small group discussions, and/or facilitated book clubs discussions relating the texts to Higher Education. Additionally, each has presented at a regional or national conference(s) on women’s leadership and/or using technology to develop mentoring and support networks for women in higher education.


Follow the conversation around this presentation with #ACPADare on Twitter from wherever you are. Get general program updates from Twitter: follow @ACPAConvention, visit or download Guidebook, the conference app. Follow all convention conversations on Twitter using the hashtag #acpa14

Further Reading

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW Brown is a world-renowned Social Work professor who researches shame and vulnerability. Her extensive research and practice come together in this book, exploring the way authenticity, perfectionism, resiliency, and gratitude can help and hinder our desire and ability to cultivate meaningful work.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg combines anecdotes, research, and powerful data to paint a portrait of women in the workforce, and the lack of women in leadership roles across multiple industries. Her work challenges the myth of “Having it All” and accepting a standard model of Work-Life-Balance. In exposing these myths, Sandberg opens up a dialogue for women on career development, sponsorship, and self-advocacy.

Branch-Brioso, K. (2009). Keeping pace, but not catching up. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(2), 14-16.

Madsen, S. R. (2007). Learning to lead in higher education: Insights into the family backgrounds of women university presidents. Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, 5(3), 183-200.

How to Live-Tweet an Event

Live-tweeting happens all the time – from major award shows, tv shows, product launches, and press conferences. It’s also a great way to share new ideas and take notes at a conference. As with any new adventure, I learned things along the way through lots of practice. For anyone who is thinking about live-tweeting their first event, or doing a better job next time, here are my suggestions.

  1. Give Credit – When you are tweeting another person’s words, give them credit. Use quotation marks or something else to show attribution. The best way to do this on twitter is to include their Twitter handle in your tweet. This lets others connect easily with the speaker, honors their words, and lets the presenter see how their message was heard. This can be difficult to do in 140 characters, but make it a point to honor this as often as possible. To make this easier, look up the Twitter Handles of conference headliners in advance.
  2. Give Context – Your message should make sense to people in the room and people following the backchannel. A great quote can stand on it’s own, but taken out of context, a lot of live-tweeted lines just don’t make sense. One of the reasons people live-tweet an event is to share the content – do your best to think about how your tweet would read to someone without access to a live-stream of the event. Including pictures of slides can add a lot of content and context quickly.
  3. Listen – It can be tempting to tweet every inspirational thing a keynote speaker says. Listen carefully to get your quotes as accurate as possible. Beware, these are the same things everyone else is going to be tweeting – let someone else say it and Retweet it if you want to add your own emphasis. Having a column set up in TweetDeck or Hootsuite (or any other social media management system) of the event hashtag will give you an idea of what everyone else in the room is saying.

    Create columns for mentions, event hashtag, and direct mentions

    Create columns for mentions, event hashtag(s), and direct mentions to keep up with conversations.

  4. Know the Hashtag – If you’re tweeting #Event2014 instead of #Event14? People following you will still see your messages, of course, but you won’t be contributing to the conversation.
  5. Take Notes – Live-Tweeting is for you and your followers. It’s a great way to take notes that you can reference later. Like any notes taken at a conference though, it’s easy to forget to come back to them. Storify is a great way to compile your thoughts (and those of others too), include links, tweets, pictures, and commentary after an event. Here’s an example of how I used it for the 2013 Women’s Leadership Institute. 
  6. Bring Power – Pick a device you’re comfortable typing quickly on and can support your constant usage. For me, this is usually an iPad. Laptops make typing easier and faster, but I find they’re also larger and clunkier to handle – especially if there isn’t a table during the presentation. Whichever device(s) you choose, bring an extra battery, power cord, and/or power strip. Bonus: Power strips are a great way to meet new people at a conference. A power strip clusters 5 or 6 people together while their devices charge – and you’re the hero!
  7. Be Honest - but resist the urge to bully, complain, and heckle. This happens a lot during award shows; it’s easy to make fun of Jennifer Lawrence for tripping (again) and Miley Cyrus for whatever she’s done this time. Disagree vehemently with points the speaker makes, but give him a break if his tie is too short or you don’t like her dress.
  8. Be Considerate - To many people, you’re going to look like some punk who is texting during the whole presentation. Having your screen lit up and your head down for an hour can definitely look rude. I try to find a seat in the front corner of the room or the very back to deflect some of this. The front row also makes taking pictures of the presenter and his/her screens easier too.
  9. Add Value - Don’t try to tweet a play-by-play of the entire conference or keynote; you will exhaust yourself and your followers. Listen for things that are useful, provocative, and interesting. Include links, videos, and pictures when a speaker mentions them (a laptop makes this one much easier). If you see others have already tweeted something, retweet it and give your fingers a rest.
  10. Connect - Remember the social part of social media. You already have something in common with everyone in the room and even more with those who have their heads buried in their screens. Follow these people on Twitter, or maybe to the nearest outlet or Starbucks line and introduce yourself. Take this opportunity to take your connections beyond 140 characters and get to know people.  Don’t be surprised if they ask if you’re that girl from Twitter.

BONUS: Check your spelling. Watching your errors get retweeted stinks.

What else would you add to this list? Connect with me on Twitter @OberBecca

Maximize Your Break: 5 Reflection Questions

We all have busy seasons at work and we’re flooded with meetings, appointments, interruptions, and reports to deal with. We’re also usually gifted a week of respite here and there. For me, those weeks are Spring Break, Winter Break, and most of the summer. I tend to use this time to dive deep on projects and tasks that require a lot of focus. As much as I enjoy working with people – I also know that these uninterrupted blocks of time are a gift for doing some of my most thought-intensive projects.

It’s also a great time to stop and reflect on our lives, our jobs, and our happiness. I’ve borrowed some questions from a HuffPost article (5 Killer Life Coach Questions You Can Ask Yourself) and added some of my own thoughts and resources to the mix.

How happy am I overall, today, out of 10? 

Let’s start off easy. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you today? What can you do to bump that number up by 1?  If you haven’t already take it, check out Gallup’s Wellbeing Finder and the accompanying book, Well-Being: the 5 Essential ElementsThe wellbeing finder assesses your wellness in 5 areas: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community. After taking the initial assessment, you’re prompted to retake it periodically to track your progress over time. It’s a great way to set goals for yourself and suggests ways to improve your well-being in each area.

Wellbeing book cover

Well Being: The Five Essential Elements

Fore more inspiration, check out Ann Marie Klotz’s Wellbeing series of guest posts on each of the 5 elements.

What type of life do I want to lead?

In the context of your work – what kind of a team do you want to lead or be a part of? How does the life you lead with your family and friends fit with the work you do? What changes can you make to move more seamlessly between these realms? When people talk about your leadership or life – what do want them to say about you?

What does success look like to me?

Is it being promoted to a mid-level position? Acceptance into a PhD program? Submitting an article or program proposal? Showing up to work on time? Success looks very different for all of us. Start by envisioning your success and developing a road map to get there, one small step at a time.

What brings me joy?

I spent last year searching for and celebrating joy in my life. While you may not dedicate a year to it, spending your morning coffee time thinking about it is absolutely worth it. Maybe it’s wrestling around with a new puppy, or savoring the last few pages of a good novel.

What can I do in the next 2 weeks to bring more joy, passion, and purpose to my life? 

Think about the last time you stopped worrying about your inbox and felt fully present in your life. What can you do to make time for more of those moments in your life? What mindless, meaningless task can you replace with something purposeful? Maybe it’s reading a devotional first thing in the morning instead of scrolling through Facebook. Or catching up on your DVR/Netflix cue while doing laundry or running on the treadmill.

What question(s) are you going to reflect on this week? What answers have you found?


Video Book Review: Women’s Leadership & Empowerment

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, my first video book review includes three of my favorite books on the subject. The review includes Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Gail Evans’ Play Like a Man, Win Like a Womanand Brene Brown’s I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t)These three books have challenged me to think about my place in the world, how I work, communicate, live, and play.

Recording this video was difficult for me. Not for a lack of technology, time, or interest – but out of fear. I had planned to start the Becca’s Bookshelf* series in January, but sometime’s life has other plans. As Brene Brown writes in Daring Greatly, 

“To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas into the world with no assurance of acceptance, or appreciation – that’s (also) vulnerability…We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid that our truth isn’t enough – that what we have to offer isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing, and impressing.”

And so I give you this first video without the bells and whistles, without editing, and without impressing. This is the first and only take of the video, complete with glimpses of my notes on the back of the book, ums, and slightly awkward pauses. I will get better at this as I go, but for now I’m going to at least start putting my thoughts out more boldly into the universe. Enjoy.

For more reading recommendations, see my full book list from the Women’s Leadership Institute: Smart Women Read Books.

*I’m not entirely committed to calling it From Becca’s Bookshelf. Let me know what clever title you come up with. The wining name will receive a prize!

What do you think of these books? What three books would be on your short list for women’s leadership?

Book Review: Miki Agrawal’s Do Cool Sh*t

I picked this book up in the new arrivals section of my local library – the one that only lets you keep a book for two weeks. I didn’t get around to reading it right away, but finished it in two sittings once I finally did. Miki Agrawal’s Do Cool Sh*t promises to teach you how to Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business & Live Happily Ever After. Whether you’re looking to actually quit your day job or just spend more time doing something you enjoy – there is a mix of motivating moments and reflection questions to start you on your way. 

I tweeted some of my favorite passages as I read and gathered them all in a Storify story. I’ve chosen some of my favorites to use in this post, but the full list is worth referencing.

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And last, this book will remind you that you have a backbone and that you are inherently strong. It will remind you that it’s cool to care and be excited about an idea, it’s cool to be proactive, it’s cool to mess up, it’s cool to work your ass off on something that is meaningful to you, and it’s cool to keep trying when the odds are stacked against you.

If you only take away one thing from reading this book though – let it be this:

No matter how good your ideas are, your success is not really about you.

Every piece of advice I took away from this book centered around building and cultivating relationships. Do you have to be bold and committed to your project? Absolutely, but your success does not happen in a vacuum. And you don’t just succeed because you want to.

Return on community, How will your idea have a direct impact on your community?

Return on community, How will your idea have a direct impact on your community?

We’re all familiar with the concept of Return on Investment (ROI) – but Miki introduces the idea of Return on Community (ROC). It’s a term she picked up from her friend and business partner Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. President Clinton calls this idea “doing good and doing well.” Others call it Social Entrepreneurship.

You will get more from your community if you seek to help others before trying to get others to help you.

You will get more from your community if you seek to help others before trying to get others to help you.

I used to keep a quote like this on my vanity mirror as a teenager. It read, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Wise words from Dale Carnegie (I had no idea who that was when I was 13, I just knew I wanted to make more friends). People are going to help people they like and people they trust – spend time building these relationships and offering your own help first.

And when you do ask them?

If you give people the opportunity to be an expert, prepare to be delightfully surprised.

If you give people the opportunity to be an expert, prepare to be delightfully surprised.

And….when they delight and surprise you?

Recognize your peers when they do cool shit. They will want to keep doing it.

Recognize your peers when they do cool shit. They will want to keep doing it.

When she talks about community and ROC she doesn’t ever mention Social Media. I love this. Miki builds community by hand delivering invitations to her new restaurant to her neighbors, journalists, food critics, fitness instructors, and friends. She invested serious sweat equity into her farm to table pizza restaurant WILD (originally called SLICE). She doesn’t tell you how to GET MORE FOLLOWERS NOW! Or how to maximize your Search Engine Optimization. She tells you about how she created press kits, strapped them to her bicycle, and rode around NYC dropping them off anywhere she could get in the door.

Although she mentions websites like Kickstarter, she gathered people for dinner parties to pitch her ideas. She met them for coffee. She got certified as a cycling instructor so she could host pizza tastings at local gyms (don’t worry, they are healthy pizzas). She put herself out in her community and built relationships.

Speaking of local gyms? I lost interest in a few of the chapters near the end. The chapters on physical fitness and finding love just felt out of place with the rest of the book. They seemed to be included to fulfill the last part of her tagline - & live happily ever after. I’m sure others may find value in them, but if you’re picking this book up to learn about entrepreneurship you can skip over them. She starts mentioning her website ( pretty frequently toward the end too.

Feel free to gloss over her ivy-league education and powerful circle of friends too. Her parents worked hard (and so has she) to afford some of the opportunities – but they are unrealistic for many readers lacking access to NYC and friends at MTV studios.

Overall I give the book 3/5 stars. If you only read the 150 pages it’s closer to 4 stars.

If you had the freedom to quit your day job tomorrow, what would you do instead? 

Stop Ranting and Start Creating

Sometimes we don’t get what we want – in life, in love, in our work – and we have to stop and decide how we are going to respond. It’s okay to be disappointed, hurt, frustrated, devastated, angry (and a host of other emotions) when these things happen to us. To a point.

And then we have to decide what we are going to do next. I’m not interested in wallowing, complaining, or negativity. The internet and all of its social media outlets have normalized public processing venting; it’s easy to shoot off a passive aggressive Facebook status or a few ranting tweets.

A panelist at OCPA last week said “It’s ok to not get a job you want. It’s an opportunity to reflect and show what kind of a professional you are.” She carried this theme through a lot of answers – sometimes you get what you want, other times someone else gets it. The only thing you have control over at this point is yourself and your response to the situation. Are you going to be the candidate who complains? Bad mouths the institution? Scales back your involvement in a professional organization? Or are you going to gather yourself and figure out your plan B?

It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do. – Jane Austen

So your conference proposal didn’t get accepted? Your article didn’t get published? Publish it yourself. It’s never been easier. Social Media is so much more than a sounding board – it’s the ultimate self-publishing platform. If you are so committed to something that you are willing to invest this much emotion in it – find a way to share it.

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The difference between a dreamer and a doer is the amount of action that follows their vision. – Fabienne Fredrickson

Want to write a book? Check out Matt Bloomingdale and Amma Marfo’s Thoughts Self-Publishing for Beginners. Want to share a presentation – but don’t have a conference? Learn the 9 Simple Things Great Speakers Always Do. Upload an Ignite or Ted style talks to Youtube. Want to teach people how to use technology? Use Jing to create a video tutorial with photos and videso from your screen. Post your presentations to Slideshare. Record a video to share tips and tricks you’ve picked up. Create an infographic of your research. Gather a few colleagues or friends and have a Google+ Hangout to discuss something. Submit a post to the Student Affairs CollectiveStudent Affairs Feature, Women in Student Affairs, or Student Affairs Fitness.

So you got rejected? Revise your proposal (or resume, or presentation, or whatever it is), ask for feedback from trusted mentors and colleagues, find a different platform, learn from those who were accepted. Make a plan B.

As my dad (and The Rolling Stones) liked to reminded me as a teenager, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

One Word Resolution: Dare

Choosing my One Word resolution for 2014 wasn’t easy this year and in fact, I feel like I chose it on a whim. Though this is the fourth year I’ve chose a resolution like this (see also…Move, Celebrate, Joy) and I’ve given plenty of advice on How to Choose your One Word Resolution, and yet, I feel shakier than ever in my word choice. This year, I’ve chosen to Dare. 

Starting a blog post exposing my uncertainty and anxiety doesn’t feel daring, but I suppose that’s the point. The planner in me is floundering right now. An important part of learning to dare is acknowledging that I am starting the year in a place of discomfort. I look back at Joy and think it would be an easiest resolution in the world right now. This, of course, overlooks the fact that I’ve spent the last 12 months mindfully living this word.

Daring means accepting challenges and facing them head on when they appear. It means sometimes choosing courage over comfort, stepping away from reactions and fears I have learned to trust. It means wearing red lipstick, trying new things, hitting the publish button, and letting adventures happen.

I’m planning to reread Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly again this year as a part of my resolution. This books (and all of her books really) have profoundly changed my life and the way I think about myself. Her research focuses primarily on shame and vulnerability and the way they show up in our lives. If you don’t have time to read a book, or want something to smaller to learn more about her work – check out her TED Talk. And if I’m going to dream big this year, I am going to do what I can to find a way to meet her when she keynotes at the ACPA Convention this year.

While I’m at ACPA, I’m also going to give my first Pecha Kucha talk (20 slides, 20 seconds, 6 minutes and 40 seconds of passton-fueled presenting). I’ve committed to creating video book reviews this year and have plans to run 750 miles, publish a book, learn to sew, finally read 52 books in 52 weeks (4th attempt!), and to submit some of my writing for publication.

The Daring Interview Series: Meet Elizabeth Gilbert - Brené Brown

“I live a creative life, and you can’t be creative without being vulnerable. I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both. And you don’t want to murder creativity to just to destroy Fear! You must accept that Creativity cannot walk even one step forward except by marching side-by-side with its attached sibling of Fear.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

That’s the thing about daring though – I have a feeling 2014 is going to look at my plans, frown and say “ok”, and then push me to think bigger, bolder, or about something else entirely. I’m nervous and excited to see where this year takes me and to wonders the universe is going to unveil.

So here goes… something! Here’s to Daring in 2014, living boldly, acting with conviction, exploring the unknown, making mistakes, failing spectacularly, and celebrating every step of the process.

What is your One Word Resolution? How are you going to Dare this year?

Joy: A Year in Review

A OneWord resolution is a twist on the New Years resolution, more like an intention or self-fulfilling prophecy. In years past I have chosen to Move and to Celebrate; this year I chose JoyInstead of writing a list of things you want to do in a given year, a OneWord resolution asks you to consider who and where you want to be at the end of the next revolution around the sun. (Tips & Tricks for Finding Your One Word Resolution.)

Writing this post is trickier than I thought it would be. Reading through blog posts, flipping through photos, and reading the memories in my joy jar has overwhelmed me with gratitude for the the year that is behind me. As the year progressed I tried to be mindful, constantly asking myself “Does this bring me joy?” and answering with the reminder to “Find what brings me joy and do more of it.”

January · New Years Day with Friends · Skyline Chili · Snowy Hikes · Visiting friends in Colorado · Ice Skating with my nieces · February · Held a tortoise · 26th Birthday · OCPA Conference · ACPA Travelling Scarf · Picture with ACPA President · Reconnected with college friends · March · ACPA Convention in Las Vegas · Family time with 3 generations of women · 90s themed birthday party ·April · Easter · Delta Zeta State Day · Run for Boston · ODU Runs for Boston 5K · ODU Day · Jessi & Caleb’s Engagement Photo Shoot · May · Vince’s going to Spain party · Parallel parked an F-150 downtown in 3” heels · Girls on the Run 5k · Clippers Baseball game with family · Walleye Festival · Learned to Grill · June ·Niece’s Kindergarten graduation · Driving range with Kristen · Grumpy Cat painting class with Sister-In-Law · Made Freezer Jam with Mandi · Run for Boston 5-miler with Erin · Rode bikes to downtown Columbus · Visit from Phillip · ComFest · July · Girls night with my nieces · Fourth of July Fireworks with friends and family · Jimmy Buffett concert · Jessi’s Bachelorette Party & Bridal Shower · Met baby Cora · August · Black and Gold Auction with Chris Spielman · Bought a parachute for work · Weekend Put-In-Bay vacation · Sharkando! in theaters · Clippers Baseball Game #2 · Mead Tasting · Cirque Du Soleil show · September · Battle of Lake Erie re-enactment · Installed closet shelves · Author Wil Haygood & the Butler screening · Pumpkin party with Kristen · Crow pose · Twin Day · Kristen’s Birthday Dinner ·October · Jessi & Caleb’s wedding · ODU played in nationally televised football game · Cedar Point boat trip with family· Nationwide Children’s Half Marathon · Delta Zeta Founders Day · Certified SCUBA diver · Val visited · 3 year wedding anniversary · November · Sarah’s Birthday · Movember · Winter Wheat Writers Conference · Hot Chocolate 5K · Bryan Adams concert · Donated Thanksgiving Meals · Baked 6 pies · Turkey Trot 5K with family and friends · December · Father-in-Law’s surprise birthday party · Jon’s Birthday · Bonaire Dive Trip · Helping Jessi & Caleb move · Hosted our first Christmas · New Years Eve with Friends

While this may read as a list of events and memories  to a stranger, I’m filled with gladness as I recount each of these memories. In between each of these banner events were inside jokes, quiet nights in front of the fireplace, silly snapchats, giggles with my nieces, cards from friends and family, bursts of creativity, a clean house, a happy dog, and a home filled with love. These small moments amounted to as much joy as any single event did – sometimes infinitely more.

It is not joy that makes us grateful., it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

It is not joy that makes us grateful., it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

In 2013 I fell in love with yoga (and the joy breath!) and running, growing stronger mentally and physically through practicing both. I ran 320 miles in 2013 including 4 5Ks, a One Run For Boston 5miler, and my first half marathon. I became a part of the running community after the Boston Marathon when thousands of us started Running for Boston. I brought my family and friends along too – running with colleagues in Las Vegas at ACPA, a Girls on the Run 5k with my Big, and my final 5k of the year with an old friend, my husband, and my 60-year old father-in-law.

Despite running through much of the year, I also learned to Slow Down and Enjoy the Ride – and to Run my Own Race. I shared my joy with sporadic Follow Fridays this year, acknowledging and appreciating the influence friends and colleagues have had on my life. I sent more handwritten notes than in years past – and even squeaked out a few Christmas cards.

I spent more time reading, though I didn’t reach my goal of 52 books in 52 weeks. In the past three years (since starting this challenge) I’ve read over 100 books – I’ll consider that a win in itself. Instead, I pledged not to buy books in 2013. I shared books with friends, reread old favorites, visited the library, and dusted off the unread books on my shelf. I learned to stop reading books I wasn’t enjoying and to linger in the pages of books I might otherwise speed through.

In the same vein, I decided not to buy new clothes for the last six months of the year. With the exception of some winter running tights – I succeeded. The challenge here wasn’t so much about budget reduction (though it helped) but rather on spending money on experiences rather than things.

It’s one thing to feel blessed by this life, but to truly stop and recognize the small moments along the journey has amazed me, brought me to my knees with gratitude, and given me the strength to dare in 2014.

How did you OneWord Resolution change you? What plans do you have for yourself in 2014?

Announcing My New Project: From Becca’s Bookshelf

I’ve loved reading since I picked up my first Golden Book and memorized every word of it. That copy of Katie the Kitten still sits in Grammy’s living room, in the pint sized rocking chair where I read it. As a little girl, I dreamed of a library like Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast. Truthfully, I still long for a library and reading room in my house. I competed in Power of the Pen writing competitions in junior high and soaked up every lecture in AP English. When that wasn’t enough, I added a European Literature class as an independent study course. My college years were iconically Liberal Arts – I spent four years reading the classics, analyzing the texts, and wearing my thrifted oxford blue button down shirt. 

Since completing graduate school and spending a few years on the job, I finally have the time to read for pleasure again. Admittedly, I enjoyed reading my grad school textbooks too – but it’s just not quite the same as reading something unassigned. I’ve been on a quest to read 52 Books in 52 Weeks for the last few years and am determined to accomplish it before I turn 30 (I still have a few tries left).

Because of my love of books (and tendency to talk about them to anyone who will listen) I often get asked for book suggestions. I’ve documented some book reviews here (2011 and 2012) and on Goodreads, but am going to make it a point to consolidate these review and make them easier to share with people who are looking for recommendations. Now we’re getting to the meat of this post!

Peak into one my office bookshelves

Peak into one my office bookshelves

Starting in January, I’m going to start posting a series of book reviews and recommendations more frequently – From Becca’s Bookshelf. My reading list is constantly growing – but I am always looking for recommendations. Feel free to add your favorites to my list and connect with me on GoodReads. My reviews will reflect my reading – so look forward to a variety of fiction, self-help, business, poetry, and creative non-fiction reads.

I’m sharing my plans a month in advance to allow myself some planning time – and to hold myself accountable for them. The most challenging (and exciting!) part of this project is going to be the video component. I’m a writer who loves to write, but I’m going to dabble in video reviews as well. I’ve done a few videos, but on the whole, this is going to be a new adventure for me.

As much as I love getting lost in books, talking about them with other people can make the experience so much greater.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Share in the comments and/or add them to my crowd-sourced Google Doc. What would you like to see From Becca’s Bookshelf?

Healing and Helping – Taking Care of Ourselves Too


One of the blessings of working at a Catholic, Dominican university is the ability to talk about faith and to contemplate truth and meaning in our work as Higher Education administrators. We open each Student Development Team Meeting with a prayer and a reflection led by volunteers from our staff. Most of the reflections are on the history and mission of the university – snippets of information from the archives to give us a richer understanding and appreciation for our university. This week’s reflection examined the role of the Catholic church in our mental well-being as professionals. We heard the following passage from Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love:

You are very concerned with making the right choices about your work. You have so many options that you are constantly overwhelmed by the question “What should I do and what should I not do?”  You are asked to respond to many concrete needs. There are people to visit, people to receive, people to simply be with. There are issues that beg for attention, books it seems important to read, and works of art to be seen. But what of all this truly deserves your time?

Start by not allowing these people and issues to possess you. As long as you think that you need them to be yourself, you are not really free. Much of their urgency comes from your own need to be accepted and affirmed. – (See the full section, entitled Give Your Agenda to God)

Regardless of your own position with the Catholic Church and spirituality, there is a lot to be gleaned from this reading. The line that felt like the biggest sucker punch? “Exhaustion, burnout, and depression are not signs that you are doing God’s will.” Sit with that for a moment.

As if the fates were yelling at us to pay attention, the reflection coincided with the Huffington Post article posted yesterday: Student Affairs Administrators Get Suicidal Too. I’ll be honest that I let this one fly by in my social media feeds a few times before actually reading it. It’s a difficult and scary thing to talk about, but Renee Piquette Dowdy articulated it perfectly in What Breaks Us:

I contest that many of us don’t break under the hard times or the big challenges. We rise to them… What breaks you are the tiny fractures that start small and grow when not given time to heal with the weight of one little thing after another creating more pressure, adding more weight.“

Like my resistance to reading the article, Ann Marie Klotz points out that we’re hesitant to talk about our wellness in general – and our mental wellness is even less acknowledged. We have to start talking about this more openly and addressing our needs before they become full-blown break downs; we need to address the important things before they become urgent things.

Whether you say you are passionate about this field, called to do this work, following your vocation, or just doing your job – your mental well-being did not sign up for the tumult and stress the job puts it through. If we are truly going to serve our students, we need to take care of our selves first. As caretakers and problem-solvers, this is not where we feel most comfortable, but it is essential. Nearly as important as taking care of ourselves, we need to be able to support both the students AND staff around us and help them see the value in meditation, prayer, disconnecting, counseling, and rest as a part of the healing and helping processes.

What are you going to do to take charge of your mental health? To care for the well-being of those around you? How can we create systemic change?