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Archive for October 2014

Halloween Starts the Countdown to Festivus

It feels weird saying because I'm such a spring/summer person, but we're actually going into one of my favorite times of the year - holiday season.  For me, it starts with Halloween.  I feel like despite its dark disposition, it still has the ability to bring friends together for happy times.

This year, I had a small, Halloween-themed football get together with my girls on Monday for the Redskins vs. Cowboys game. 

I had a lot of fun pulling this together, because as many of you may remember, I'm pretty festive.  Here are some of the decorations:

And of course, as the new girl in the crew, Nellie decided she had to be the center of attention.

So as you can probably tell, we had a lot of fun made even better by the fact that the Redskins finally beat the Cowboys :-)  I definitely look forward to happy times like this to combat the routine of everyday life.

~ With ♥ from Halima

What are you doing for Halloween?  What are some things you do to make special occasions special?

The Power of Saying What You Want

I sent a three-word text message this weekend that reminded me of the power of words. What could I have said that was so powerful, you may ask?? To which I would answer, none of your dang on business; I gotta keep some things for myself ;-) What I can tell you is, I expressed exactly what I wanted.

And as you all know, I think too much. So I started thinking about how simple it was to have said what I wanted and wondered how the world would be if everyone stopped beating around the bush. My first reaction was, the world would be pure chaos because everyone would do any and every thing they wanted. But then I remembered everyone would have the power to accept or not accept things with which they were presented. In short, you can ask and the worst that can happen is someone says "No."

So what would be the downside to living in a world like this? I think most indirect speak happens because for the most part, people try to spare others' feelings. Can you imagine how awful it'd be to have anyone say whatever they wanted to you? Everyone would probably be walking around with either no self confidence or so insensitive from having developed tough skin, you wouldn't be able to have a meaningful relationship with anyone. And that's the power of words - as much as we hate to admit it, they can make or break us.

So yea, I think I'll leave things as they are, deciding when it's necessary or beneficial to be straight forward and choosing words more carefully when my words have the power to hurt.

And with that I leave you with the video below. Every time I'm having a conversation where I know my direct input is needed, but I'm hesitant to give it, I think of this, it makes me laugh and I can just come out with whatever needs to be said. Enjoy!!

~ With ♥ from Halima

What tricks do you use to say words that are difficult to say?
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Monday's Muse: The Cost of Devalued Lives

Last week when I ran across the story of Lennon Lacy, a young man found hanged near his home in North Carolina, I was overcome by so much sadness.  Stories of people losing their lives or going missing without much mass, public outrage have become more and more common. Is this what our society has come to? The value of life has been so diminished we think it's okay to numb ourselves to stories such as this?

And even worse than public response is police response.  One of the main sticking points of this story is Lacy's family continually mentioning how excited he was for the start of football season in the face of authorities being ready to write this off as a suicide.  Last time I checked, people who are preparing to commit suicide tie up loose ends, they normally don't display excitement over starting new endeavors.

This story struck close to home because I've personally known a family whose 20-something son was found hanging from the loft in his condo.  The police ruled his death suicide as well even though things surrounding his death did not add up.  One example was two wine glasses found at the scene -  the young man did not drink.  Even if he did drink, the second glass suggests someone else was at his home around at the time of his death.  So, either someone else caused it or at the very least, they have information on events leading up to the time of his death. But police never even looked into finding that other person.

The difference between this young man's story and Lacy's story is the latter was romantically involved with a white woman while living in a community that is admittedly unfriendly to minorities.  I'd love to know what really happened with Lacy, but because it doesn't look like his death will ever be seriously investigated, all I can say is, this sounds like a dead ringer for a repeat of Emmett Till's story. This terrifies me as I move forward in my adult life and consider marriage and a family.  I'd love to give my future husband a son, but nearly 60 years after Till, I can't believe part of my life plans are troubled by the same issues my ancestors faced - how to raise a boy child in a world where his life unfortunately holds little value. And this is the true cost of inhumanity and subsequent disregard - people not being able to fully live their lives for fear of losing them.

~With ♥ from Halima

Do you think there is a resurgence of unchecked violence in our nation or do you think it is simply receiving more media (whether mainstream or social) attention? Why do you think either or both are happening at this point in time?

Does Life Imitate...Chess??

Lately I've been looking at the characteristics of my professional role models. The one thing they all have in common is the ability to think strategically, an area where I can definitely stand to improve. So, I've been asking myself, how can I think more like them??

And as the universe would have it, I was provided two things. The first was a renewed interest in chess. My father always had an interest, so there was always a chess set in our house when I was growing up. Of course it only attracted me because the pieces could be used as little dolls. But it's funny how genes work; in my mid 20s the same desire my father had to learn the game awoke within me. I'd like to say it was because of classic movies like Fresh, the story of a young New Yorker who takes down a drug dealer and escapes the lifestyle by using a chess-like strategy. But in reality my interest was probably more fueled by pretty things again; I bought a mother of pearl, inlayed chess set with wooden pieces. Hey, a zebra can't change its stripes. Anyway, I started learning the game and talking about it with people. The one thread of thought that ran through all of the conversations was that chess develops life strategy skills.

I got it, but I didn't really get it until the universe provided me with its second gift in response to my question of how I can be more strategically effective. A couple of weeks ago, I checked my inbox and an email with the subject "How to think strategically" was sitting there. It contained a link to a Harvard Business Review blog titled, Strengthen Your Strategic Thinking Muscles. Perfect, right?? Except the article didn't contain anything groundbreaking. What I will give it credit for is making me think about if I am a planner or proactive and if there is a difference. I decided there is. Not saying this applies to me but, a person can make plans all day but it does no good unless action is put behind it. In my case, I am at my best when I have the luxury of having time to thoroughly plan something. In contrast, when put in a situation where I have to move quickly from one task to another AND be ahead of the learning curve, situations that call for being proactive, I sometimes drop the ball.

And so, when playing chess on my tablet today, I had that proud moment when I was able to anticipate my opponent's goal three moves out while also developing my strategy. That's like thinking of six things at once - not only how to stave off something conducive to someone else, but harmful to me (reactive), but also how to position myself for my best end result (proactive). It was my aha moment.

~With ♥ from Halima

What is something you need to work on? What steps are you taking to improve in that area?
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Monday's Muse: Wanted - Robin Hood

Has anyone else heard about this JPay scandal that is ripping off the families of inmates nationwide? Apparently there has been some focus on it for the last year or so, but it didn't reach my radar until I ran across The Center for Public Integrity's feature story, Prison bankers cash in on captive customers. It follows the story of a woman, Pat Taylor, and many other families like her, who because of fees to send her incarcerated son money, now has to choose between that and going to visit him. She can't afford to do both.

In short, JPay has taken exclusive control of depositing funds into prisoners accounts at most prisons nationwide. But they've made any form of money transfer, such as money orders, so inconvenient that families are pushed into using their high-fee electronic transfer method. The cost to utilize this method can skyrocket up to 35 percent of total amount of money sent in Virginia. It's as high as 45 percent in other states. To make matters more complicated, the funds are put into an account that basically has a lien against it for such things as intake fees. To grasp how problematic this is, think about this - one family in Florida was trying to get underwear to their incarcerated son, but once fees to JPay and the prison were added onto the cost of the underwear, it would have had to send $100. Makes trying to help your family member in need a hassle, right??

To add insult to injury, JPay's CEO Ryan Shapiro basically holds the belief that despite $50 million in profit last year, the company is largely charging to cover overhead expenses. So this isn't about business, huh?? Except that according to CNBCs article, The big business of selling apps to prison inmates, America's nearly 320 million people only make up about 5 percent of the world's population, but our prisoners make up 25 percent of people incarcerated worldwide. With 6.94 million people (1 in 35 adults) being supervised by the U.S. adult correctional systems in 2012, it was only a matter of time before someone recognized these intended rehabilitation facilities as cash cows.

Listen, I firmly believe that if a person does something wrong he or she should be punished in hopes of correcting behavior. I even think part of the lesson should involve a portion of the financial burden of doing so falling on the person who did the crime. What I don't agree with is people getting rich off of poor families and calling it justice. Because let's be honest, poor criminals go to prison while rich ones get probation and move on to find new ways of exploiting our consumerist society. And this JPay scam falls right in line with that; they're the real criminals here.

~With ♥ from Halima

What do think it will take for this country to reverse the trend of gaining riches at the expense of the less fortunate?

Hindsight is a B*@%h

The picture to the left is me at my first ballet recital.  I was 6 years old, and if you can believe it, a mere 7 to 10 years from making some life changing decisions. It ties into the story I've been dying to tell you all because honestly, I've never told it full out, in its entirety.

Recently I was talking with one of my co-workers about light-weight regretting my decision to enter the world of business. He asked what I meant and I explained that I had the opportunity to be a professional ballerina. I went on to say that because I'm still dancing, it would've been so much better to have been in that world while being paid to be there.

But it goes so much deeper than that.

When I was 13, I was offered a scholarship by Dance Theater of Harlem to go to New York and study ballet at their school. From there, I would've moved into their professional company. At the tender age of 13, I was standing at my career's metaphorical fork in the road. My mom made the decision that I should go left because I was too young to go to New York by myself. And you know what?? Although there are times I wish I had gone into dance as a profession, I don't blame her for making that decision for me; I was way too young to make career decisions.

At 16, I came to another fork in the road, this one of my own making. I was preparing to enter the "Release" level at my ballet academy. This literally means my school was preparing me for release into the professional dance world by doing things like teaching me famous choreography. I was also enrolled in a college preparatory high school. So again I felt the need to make a career decision - continue dancing or focus on the steps necessary to pursue an academic-based profession. Again I went left.

I didn't do ballet for at least five years after that.

And now here I am, taking ballet classes three times a week, rediscovering pointe and laughing at how truly young I was when trying to make life decisions. People always say you can't have your cake and eat it to, but at 16, something about that just doesn't ring true. Thirty-two year old me knows I could have had a dance career, retired and had plenty of time left over for the cube farm. It definitely would've made for some much more interesting stories. But I couldn't see that then, at a time when 23 seemed old and 32 unfathomable.  I guess that's just the nature of life - racing the clock so you don't miss out on something only to look back and realize you had all the time in the world.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Looking back, can you think of a time when you were in no place to make a decision? What was the outcome and are you okay with it?

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