Friendship and Goodbyes

As a Student Affairs professional, I sometimes believe that I am horrible with goodbyes because they happen so frequently.  It is a function of my job each year to see people graduate and move on with their lives.  At some point it should get easier, right?  Turns out….it doesn’t.

It will be impossible to speak to everyone individually, so I’m going to try with this post to address just how important you have all been in my life.

A little over 2 years ago, I started here at Butler University after almost 2 years in Northern California, 2 years in Denver at Graduate School and 4 years working at a non-profit in Chicago.  What I’m trying to illustrate is that I was old…or at least older.  When I began my career at Butler, I was already past the 30 threshold.  I have lived and experienced my 20’s and am always open to share my life lessons and advice.  I expected to continue to advise students, to wow them with my insights on life, to guide them through college and their transitions and be considered a wise mentor.  What I didn’t expect was friendship.

As I approach my own 10-year college reunion, it seems crazy to think that I can look at individuals crossing the stage, receiving their diploma as true friends…but there you are.  You have been there for me, helped me through tough times, provided me incredible insight on life, built a chicken run in my backyard, trusted me, listened to my stories about creepy online dates, advocated for me, called me out on my bullshit, actually found my advice useful, complimented and praised me when you didn’t even know that I REALY needed it that day, and provided more joy and laughter than one may deserve in a lifetime.  Thank you for being such a huge part of my life.  Thank you for being a friend. (You’re a pal, and a confidante)

As an advice giver, I feel that I cannot end this being just about me…so here is my advice for goodbyes.

  • Tell people you love them
  • Give people hugs
  • Love and appreciate each other
  • Live in this moment

Love you.



Landing Pad for your Helicopter Parent

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I read this fascinating article on HuffPo ( posted on FB by my dear friend Christian P.L. West and it sent me into DAYS of reflection.  We’ve had a number of protests and lists of demands on campus from groups that feel marginalized.  My Higher Ed. Degree and training sent me in to a bit of a tailspin about advocating for those that are marginalized, respecting the feelings that everyone comes to the table with, and feeling the need to not label a generation with another think piece on how their lives are going to be miserable because they aren’t tough enough.

Enter: John Sullivan

If John Sullivan were a character in a movie, he would be the male version of Mary Steenburgen in Elf.  You know her, the wife of Buddy the Elf’s Dad.  She can be both very traditional and very accepting at the same time.  A person who listens to the argument and doesn’t judge you for it.  We do not always agree, but John Sullivan is the type of person who will listen and understand.  I called him up to ask about how his parents viewed his parenting style.  The child of parents who lived through the Depression (I capitalized that for a reason), he guessed their viewpoint would have walked along the lines of his generation being too easy on kids.  Sound familiar?

In attempting to gain perspective from a baby boomer, I instead gained a question for those recently graduated, currently graduating, and close to graduating from college.  How long can we look to blame helicopter parents if their adult children remain landing pads?

You’re graduating from college…are you still a landing pad for your helicopter parent?

We all are out in the world on our own at some point.  We can have the most support that one or two people can give, but when you start making these big, real world decisions…it’s just you.  You can’t have your parents step in for you. At what point do you say, this is my decision and not yours?  At what point do you stop being the landing pad for their helicopter?

Now, deciding to stop being a landing pad does not mean you can’t rely on your parents for support and guidance.  Parents are an important part of our life through adulthood.  They help mentor, coach and guide us into the next generation of people who are going to rule the world.  I quite literally talked to my Dad for an HOUR about this post.  I also speak to my Mom on a weekly (or more than weekly) basis about everything from home mortgage refinance to what is going on with the Kardashians.  The choice is not between your parents being a part of your life or not, but rather when do you take their advice as…advice.  When do they become a factor instead of the decider?

I do not claim to be an expert in advising and coaching emerging adults of helicopter parents, but I think it’s worth a moment of reflection.  As a fiercely independent child, my parents may not have been able to hover.  I was their 4th of 5 children who insisted on going away to camp for weeks and months on end in the summer, and then 4 states away for college.  I always felt independent, but how much of that was their choice and how much was mine?  We may never know, but as we look to our graduating generation I think that it’s time we stop talking about how they were raised, and start looking to them for answers.

How are we going to live?  How are we going to define our generation?  How are we going to take the amazing lessons our parents gave us and turn it into a generation that does better than the last?  How do we stop letting our parents land, but rather let ourselves take flight?





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Here is a list of things that I’ve done to avoid writing my weekly blog post:

  • Made a grocery list
  • Went grocery shopping
  • Checked Facebook (x100)
  • Change my Twitter profile picture
  • Signed up for a dating app
  • Caught up on Broad City
  • Went for a walk
  • Listen and cried to Adele’s 25 album
  • Searched and deleted un-needed selfies on my phone
  • Took more selfies, just in case.
  • Saw an ad for Chasing Destiny, the new Kelly Rowland-hosted reality show for the search for the next hot all girl musical group!
  • WebMD’ed several issues, all answers are related to seasonal allergies
  • Bought a chicken coop
  • Started 2 other blog posts
  • Visited my aunt and uncle
  • Cleaned my entire apartment/house (I have both right now…long story)
  • Met a guy at a bar who is giving me 5 chickens
  • Sat down to write a blog
  • Turned on Gilmore Girls
  • Gave up on all former ideas
  • Searched for procrastination gifs.
  • and then finally…wrote this list.

The lesson?  Procrastination is a part of everyone’s process, in one way or another.   If you are currently putting something off, it’s ok. There are SO many reasons to:

  • Sometimes you need the time to process
  • Sometimes you need a break
  • Sometimes you need some sunshine and fresh air
  • Sometimes you need a good cry
  • Sometimes it’s better to leave the house and end up as a chicken mom then get that work done right at this moment
  • Sometimes you need to do laundry.

And when it’s all said and done…it will be time to get back to work.  The trick is to learn about yourself each time you go down this path.  What works, what doesn’t, and what gets you back on track.  You’ll learn something new every time.  I know that music helps me, but now know that Adele-inspired tears are not good for blogging.  I know that a Netflix binge will get me no where, but cleaning gets me on the right path.

So, the next time you start to procrastinate you can take some more time to think about WHAT you should do in order to waste your time most effectively.  You’re welcome.



Dear Millennials…

My dearest Millennial Generation,

I’m not exactly sure how to sure to break this to you…but it has finally happened.  Think pieces are being written about a NEW generation, and we are about to be old news.  They are called Generation Z, and we are about to hear ALL about them.

As an elder member of the generation, I would like to provide you with some advice and guidance on how to make it through the transition of being the “IT” generation.  It’s going to be difficult, because I’ve heard that we are more narcissistic than any other generation.  This will hit you HARD.  I know what you’re thinking…there is NO WAY that anyone would forget us.  They care about what we buy, how we vote, how we are changing the workforce, what we are in to, and how much we talk about ourselves.  That’s the thing about generations though, they keep moving on, getting older, and for a few decades no one talks about them.  Ever heard of Generation X? I barely remember them and I was almost one of them.  I remember flannel shirts, the show My So Called Life but nothing about them as a group of people and how they impacted society.  That is about to be us, and we have to prepare.


  • As you leave college and become independent, you will quickly see that products are no longer made or marketed for you. You do not have the purchasing power of those younger, parent-funded generation.  Don’t panic.  You won’t have any money to pay for new stuff anyway.  Put extra money in savings or a retirement account (you can Google what those are).  In 5 -10 years, all your friends will be jealous of your financial stability.


  • People will stop talking about us as a generation. They will only talk about Gen Z. Articles, how do we support them in high school, Gen Z at college, Gen Z in the workforce.  It will be Gen Z, all day and every day.  Generation Z are the new Plastics.  We will wear army pants with flip flops because they do.  We will not know the name of the cool, new thing they are downloading/uploading/flashloading* and you won’t know about it until about 3 years after they do.   You will have to accept that this will happen, but you will find ways to still appreciate life even though you won’t know anything about trends.

*flashloading is a made up term but sounds like some future thing we don’t know about yet.

Feeling about the Next Generation

  • Good news! You will also get to JUDGE the new generation!!  One of the greatest parts about reading about Gen Z is that you get to compare you’re amazing childhood, work-ethic, values, morals and memories with theirs. They won’t remember a time when their parents weren’t on Facebook. Gen Z will not get to experience Saturday morning cartoons.  They will never understand a world in which you couldn’t pay for HBO Go, Hulu, Netflix and how you just had to watch what was on TV at the time.  It’s a great opportunity to reflect on how good you had it and how it made you the person you are today.

All-in-all, I think we are ready for this.  We are ready to stop being called lazy and to get out in the workforce and show Gen Z what it’s all about.  We are ready to follow in the footsteps of Gen X, and move into a little obscurity for awhile until we need to start tapping into Social Security.  We may not be the “it” generation anymore, but we brought Snap Chat into this world and they can never that away from us.

The 7 Stages of Big Decision Making

The 7 Stages of Big Decision Making

March Madness has hit…but not the madness you may think. I’m talking about the epic transitions that happen during the spring.  The acceptance to college or graduate school, the realization that you’re graduating and moving on, or the random job offer that comes out of the blue.  The birds are chirping, our clocks have sprung forward, and you are being asked to make a HUGE decision.

After careful consideration and cultivation of advice I’ve received after several cross-country moves, I present to you “The 7 Stages of Big Decision Making.”

Stage 1: The Opportunity

xtk9ztoggl1w84vx7qEvery big decision made begins with an opportunity.  These present themselves in many ways both big and small and your job is to be ready for them.   I’ve made a number of big decisions in the last six years and they have come in the following forms:

  • A well researched and years long decision to pursue graduate school
  • An e-mail requesting an interview without a job description or details
  • A moment of kismet where I found the perfect job when I wasn’t ready for it
  • Straight up asking for it

Sometimes we feel ready.  We’ve prepared for it, we’ve researched it, and we knew it was coming.  Other times, it was thrust upon us in the most unexpected way.  The first stage is accepting that this is ahead of you.  No matter how far-fetched or logical…this is for you. And you’re going for it.

Stage 2: Complete Panic


This is the moment in the Big Decision making process where your chest gets a little tight, sweat starts forming on your brow, and panic sets in.  Much like when you realized at the age of 32 that you like Justin Bieber, you start having thoughts of doubt about yourself and your life.

Thoughts form as:

  • There is no way that I can do this
  • This doesn’t work in with my current life plan
  • What was I thinking?
  • This is crazy…I can’t [fill in the blank here]
  • How do I love every song on this album even though he seems like he’s the WORST?
  • What about my dog/cat/fish, how would I ever move with them?
  • Can I even afford this?
  • Is this the right move for me?

I haven’t met a person yet who has skipped this stage.  It’s important and healthy for us to reflect on what we have, what we want, and how we are going to get there.  This panic is just your brain helping you reflect on the new and exciting life that lays ahead of you.

Stage 3: Dreaming


DREAM BIG!!! This is the stage in the decision making process where your heart sings and all of your hopes are possible.   You take the time to daydream about what could be.  Imagine your life on the beach with all your new friends, impressing your new boss, becoming best friends with your favorite celebrity, answering all of your professor’s questions in your classes, making tons of money and being happy forever.  Whatever your dream is, this is the part in the decision making where you embrace those dreams as your potential future.  We are living in a Taylor Swift song…one of the happy ones. Enjoy!

Stage 4: Just Wanting To Know


Waiting. Is. The. Worst.

At some point in the process, you just want to know.  Am I getting a new job or not?  Am I going to grad school or not?  Am I pulling off leggings as pants or not?  You keep telling yourself to be patient, practicing the new mantra you learned by Googling “mantra” and trying not to think about it.  But it is ALL you can think about.

The easiest way to get through this stage is to keep yourself busy and positive.  Find your happiness and cling to it with all of your might.  Spend time with your friends, enjoy the positive parts of your job, and go about your life as best you can.  If this doesn’t pan out, it’s the same life you’ll keep living, so why stop now?  You will have the answer soon enough, but this stage is about surviving the wait.  You can do it!

Stage 5: The Plan


Opportunity presents itself and low and behold…you GOT IT!!  CONGRATULATIONS! OMG! THIS IS CRAZY! I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

Now, we move on to the plan.  You must make a plan. You have to have a plan. Plan to have a plan.  Even if you’re not a “plan” kind of person, it would be hard to resist the urge at this point in the process.  Who do I know that has done what I’m about to do?  What resources can I find? How quickly can I get to Target to buy cute planning stuff to plan?!!?!

My advice at this stage is to take a deep breath, utilize your networks, connections and resources, and resist the urge to spend money on anything until you have the whole picture.  Buying a completely new wardrobe for the new weather, an entire apartment of furniture for an apartment that doesn’t exists yet, or spending a ton of cash planning your epic goodbye/hello parties would be a mistake.  You’ll be getting a lot of information, and it’s always better to wait, get your info and make a realistic plan.  Sorry for more waiting, but it will be worth it.

Stage 6: What Have I Done?! (or Complete Panic: The Sequel)


You’ve made the decision, you’ve made a plan and now it’s time to freak out again (see Stage 2).   This stage has the slight twist of you having actually taken steps towards something.  Your thoughts this time include, but are not limited to:

  • What was I thinking?
  • My roommate already found a new person to live with, how do I sabotage this so I don’t have to leave?
  • I immediately regret this decision
  • You’re telling me I have to spend how much on books to go back to school?!
  • Why did I quit my job? Can I get it back?
  • Why did I ever think I was talented enough to open for Kanye? Why did he pick me?!  I’m not even that good at playing the harmonica!

The imposter syndrome will work on you HARD in this stage.  Your brain will tell you that you are not ready for this, but you need to ignore it.  Take a deep breath, get some fresh air and sunshine, and get back to your plan.  You are moving forward with your life in a new, exciting and scary way.  Don’t be afraid. Embrace it.  You’ve worked really hard for this, you’ve thought through it all in the complete panic stage, you’ve seen the possibilities in your dream stage, and you have a plan.  Just keep remembering that it will all be OK.  Even better, it will be great!

Stage 7: The Reality


When my cousin came to my sister and asked advice about how to handle moving to a pig farm, my sister said, “You can do anything for a year.”  Even though that advice wasn’t for me, I think about it all the time when something big presents itself.  A year can seem like forever, but look at your Facebook Memories, or go back 52 weeks on your Instagram.  Doesn’t that feel like yesterday?  That’s the great part about opportunity and time.  For better or worse, this year will fly by for you.  Ultimately, you will realize that it was worth it, either because your dreams have all come true or because you understand now that becoming the next American Idol just isn’t in your future.  Regardless, you will never have to look back and wonder “what if…”  You said yes, you panicked, you made a plan, you did it for a year, and you survived.

I’m so proud of you!





The Best Advice that I Can Give


Since July, 2012 I have been proud to call myself the Join Us Making Progress (JUMP) adviser.  I recently accepted a position at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana that takes me home to the Hoosier State.  It also means that I am leaving my wonderful students mid-semester.  This is an open letter to them.

Dear JUMPers,

I do not know if I have the words to express the sheer joy it has been to work with all of you over the last 20 months.  20 months seems like such a short time, but that short time has had an incredible impact on me.  My heart has grown with your love and support, and you have taught me how to be the best advisor I can be.  You have challenged me and inspired me.  I cannot thank you enough for everything.  I am sorry to leave you so soon, and I hope that writing down all of the advice I have within me may soften the blow.

When I talk about my job, I tell people that I’m a professional big sister*.  It is the easiest way for me to describe my work, which is often difficult to explain.  I advise college students in leadership development through their participation outside of the classroom.  In my case, that is working with a volunteer organization.  It’s not a job to be taken lightly, and the master’s degree that I hold in Higher Education is meant to show this seriousness.  This degree is required for many positions on a college campus, but is largely unknown by the outside world.  I received a great deal of training for my job, but when I think of my relationship with my students I think, “what would I tell them if I were their big sister?”

I am leaving you all before I get to give you some of my best advice.  This advice has been carefully thought out and curated from my professional experience and the best advice that I’ve received from others.  You will have another amazing, new advisor by July, but just in case something comes up between now and then, here goes:

  • Life is long, and you are young.  You have a lot of time to figure out what you want to do, where you want to be, and where you want to go.  Take your time and enjoy figuring it out.
  • Your first job is to get a job and keep it. Don’t worry too much about the larger implications of your choice.  It can be hard enough to figure out how to get up every day and make it to work in your first year out of college.  One step at a time.
  • Even the people who you think have the coolest job in the world have to eventually sit at a desk and answer e-mails.  Every job is a desk job.   Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can find someone to pay you to travel the world, because they will still want you to answer your e-mail and fill out reimbursement requests.
  • Building trust takes a lot of time, energy and effort.  Trust first, and then see if people break that trust.  You will be surprised at how much less energy you waste and how much people can surprise you.
  • Be good to people and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Most of the time when people are rude to you, it’s not because of you but because of something else going on in their lives.  Everyone carries around a so much worry and fear.  Forgive them if they are occasionally an asshole.
  • Some friends can be toxic.  Let them go, forgive them, and waste no more time on them or their legacy in your heart.  Focus instead on the friends that will be with you for a lifetime.
  • People who love you will challenge you sometimes.  You will know the difference between someone who is challenging you and someone who’s just being a jerk.
  • Surround yourself with those challenging people and get rid of the jerks.
  • Do not be afraid to take chances. Move away from home, travel the world, apply for that job that seems out of your league (the worst they can do is not hire you, which is where you started).  Do not be afraid to say YES to an adventure.  Whatever your age, it will always be worth it.

I will miss you all dearly.  The chats we’ve had in the JUMP office, the moments of silliness and laughter, and the inspiration that you all give me daily to do a good job and help others are all memories that I will cherish.  Because of you, we have over 25 volunteer projects a week, which provide meaningful service to Sonoma County.  Because of you, we provide thousands of Sonoma State Students opportunities to give back.  Because of you, we have made a difference.

Thank you for everything.

I love you, and I will miss you.


*I would like to thank my big sister Mary Ratliff and the rest of my family (Mom, Dad, Tom, Kevin, Stephen, Greg, Meggan and Leanne) for all of the amazing advice I have been able to pass along to others over the years. I would also like to thank my big sisters in spirit, Megan Pendley Pickett, Carl Johnson, Kerrie Montgomery, Kate Stearns, Angela Tovar, Adam Orlovich, Carrie Phillipchuck, Nancy Heffernan, Molly Rager, Amy Reynolds, Justin Gomez, Erik Dickson, Stacie Colston Patterson, Megan Osberger, Molly Osterle D’Avria, Mike D’ Avria, Cate “Locky” Byers, Sara “Sliv” Sliver-Lee, Sarah Ferry, Buffy Hoyt and Lucy Francis.  I am the best big sister that I can be because of the love, support, guidance and advice that you have given me.  As HRC would say, it takes a village.

Coming Out as an Ally and Protesting Russian Vodka

I decided to write this post today because simply posting a link on Facebook about the importance of Russian Vodka didn’t seem like enough.   Hopefully this will give my friends and family a little more insight on my stance, beliefs, values and why I think that regardless of how they feel about the word “marriage,” they also should think about the vodka they drink and how a choice they make may actually make a difference.

First, it is now important for me to come out as an ally for the LGBTQ community.  For those keeping track, that is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and occasional has other letters the represent Questioning, Intersex, Ally and changes frequently.  In short, I am an ally of individuals who do not identify as straight.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I know how my heart and my soul feel when I see things like what is currently happening in Russia happen.  I think, this is important enough that I need to let others know it is happening and stand up for what I believe is right.

Second, this is a post about people and safety.  As much as we debate rights, institutions, words, labels and phrases here in the United States, I truly believe that my friends and family who disagree with me on those points do not believe that individuals should be physically harmed, bullied or jailed for their beliefs and for who they love. Honestly, conversations I have had with individuals who express the most resistance to those do not identify as straight talk mostly about prayer and love for those individuals. I believe that we are all working from the same base, that people have a right, as humans, to be treated as humans. I am giving everyone the benefit of the doubt on that one, and if that is an incorrect assumption then I would love to discuss that with you in a different context.

So, Russia…what’s going on there?

It is getting increasingly scary for the LGBTQ community in Russia:

Not only that, but now the government has passed legislation that allows individuals to be arrested for spreading “gay propaganda.” This definition is broad and allows for prosecution of individuals not causing any harm to others.

Why does it matter: Besides for the people in Russia, there will be a lot of people heading there for the Olympics soon. What if your brother/sister/co-worker/friend/aunt/uncle/cousin/person you know/friend of a friend was there and this applied to them?

Protesting Russian Vodka:

What started it:

Why it can work:

Why it matters: Because it is something simple we can do, and information we can give to others.  We can stand up and say that regardless of how I feel about someone’s personal life, they do not deserve to be beaten, bullied and jailed for it.  When was the last time you wanted to argue that Russia was on the correct side of anything? Haven’t you seen Rocky IV?

Plus, most of us don’t need an excuse to upgrade to Grey Goose.  Tell your friends, and your local watering holes.