Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Celebrating Annaka

I always find the humor in my life. I had to laugh at the excitement I felt when I woke up that today is my dog Annaka's 6th birthday. In order to appreciate my joy, you have to understand what happened to my first pet Cotton who fell two weeks shy of his 6th birthday.

When my husband and Cotton were attacked by pit bulls during a normal routine walk, it was the kindness of a brave and beautiful stranger named Annaka who pulled over and rendered first aid to my bleeding husband until the paramedics arrived. It was one selfless act that provided a little bit of calm and comfort during a very frantic episode.

For the past 4 years, every time we have spoken or loved Annaka, we are honoring a stranger who gave of herself to our family. We are subconsciously reminded that someone you have never met can have a positive and meaningful impact on your life and heart.

Our dog Annaka went blind last summer. She may not be able to see all the beauty in this world but she represents the beauty of the world. Yes, I am wishing my dog a Happy Birthday! I am celebrating the promise that comes after the pain.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Beware of the Organizational Cowards

"Only cowards hide behind silence."  Paulo Coelho

In any organizational structure, there must be leaders and there must be followers. If you're lucky, those who are most capable and competent are leading the way.

The recent events at OU with SAE fraternity were disturbing to say the least. The poor actions of a few have tainted the public perception of the group and University at large. Several of the young men caught chanting that horrible chant claim they were bullied into it.

Organizations (companies, fraternities, sororities, unions, social groups)  must be careful when appointing leaders and managers because their actions, or lack of, can not only jeopardize public perception; it can make the entire entity liable for wrongdoing.

We've all been there. The manager who harasses, demeans or bullies the new person in an attempt to exert power that they have never had before. The President of a group who rules with an iron fist and presides over meetings by tuning out the suggestions or thoughts of others seated around the table.

Real leaders aren't afraid to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. They embrace the background, knowledge, experience, diversity and skill sets that every new person brings to the table.

Look around your organization and look closely at those in top leadership. Do they resemble you? Do they share common interests? Do they make you feel like a valued team member? If the answer is "no", be grateful for the transparency and plan your exit strategy towards a better fit for your personal growth.

Weak leaders funnel down to those they manage. People who once held justice, truth and morality close to their heart turn a deaf ear and blind eye to wrongdoing. When faced with the opportunity to do what's right, they avoid conflict and let fear govern.

I've always chosen to be highly selective of who and what I dedicate my time to. I'm also fortunate that I can walk away from any situation that is not aligned with my moral code. It doesn't behoove me to be part of an organization where I am constantly fighting to prove that I belong there. If the structure has already been built to ensure that only a chosen few will have power, bow out gracefully.

Remember that you are operating WITHIN their framework and while that person may be your leader, manager, President, etc., in the real world they are not better than you. They know it too because they would not spend so much energy trying to bring you down if you weren't already elevated.

You shouldn't have to sacrifice who you are to be who they want you to be. A lion doesn't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Misplaced Elitism and Criticisms on "Empire"

Fox's runway show "Empire" features the acting talents of two Academy Award nominated actors and a slew of guest appearances by celebrated actors and musicians. With a highly dramatic story line reminiscent of the great shows from the 80's like "Dallas", "Falcon's Crest" and "Dynasty", each week those seeking pure entertainment are well served.

I was pleasantly surprised when a White female colleague told me that she loved "Empire" and particularly liked Cookie's character. She said that Cookie was a "strong woman who would do anything to protect her family." It got me to thinking that my colleague saw a positive character while social media tends to see the show as "buffoonish" or "coonish." While Cookie may not be presented in Claire Huxtable fashion, she is a strong mother character. We often see what we open our minds to accept.

Black communities are the only communities who collectively get in an uproar over television shows with less than ideal characters, story lines, and plots. With the release of each new Black produced show or heavily Black cast such as "Scandal", "Power"  "How to get away with murder", "Being Mary Jane", "Empire", etc., we seem to be seeking saviors and role models in televisions while ignoring that the impetus for these shows often are born in real life.

Successful shows like "Prison Break", "Breaking Bad" and "The Blacklist" don't have the White community in an uproar over the portrayal of White criminals so why do we point fingers and yell stereotyping at every Black drama that comes out? Why do we look down at the stories being told through Urban narratives or imperfect character narratives?

The problem is in the denial of such characters and the refusal to honor the stories of people who live like these fictional characters. We degrade television shows for their portrayals of "ghetto" types and drug dealers yet we do nothing in our own lives to address these social ills. We put down our friends for indulging in entertainment that may not be entertaining to us setting a false premise that their choices are less than.

Initially, even I rolled my eyes at the premise of "Empire" but when I gave the show a chance, I found the dramatic story line fun and entertaining and if you truly look at the lead characters, you can find their strengths outweigh their perceived weaknesses.

Television is entertainment. Televisions still have channels that are most often controlled with a remote. If you want to exercise your freedom of speech, you might want to warm up with respecting the freedom of choices of others. I promise you that there are more important things to be concerned with than what your friends are watching on television.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Don't poke the bear!

"The puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators."                                  Thomas Babington Macaulay

Deep within all of us lies a ferocious spirit. Most times, it is dormant and at other times it is like a beast startled in the dark by a sudden twig snapping.

For most of my life, I have had to struggle with anger issues and a constant need to battle.  As a child, I had a lot to be angry about. As an adult, I fight for what I perceive to be righteous and I go to war for those who can't fight for themselves. I have a fundamental desire to do what I feel is not only right for those around me but a desire for truth, equality and fairness in the world I have no choice but to live in.

This past week has been a tremendous challenge to my inner warrior. My father instilled in me repeatedly that sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut and choose your battles carefully. An interesting paradigm because often keeping silent in the face of injustice makes you just as bad as the oppressor. Turning a deaf ear or holding your tongue has never solved a problem and it has never righted a wrong.

When the time comes for you to truly step up and fight for yourself, I challenge you to give it your all. Don't back down once you prepare to battle and come armed heavily with all the facts, knowledge and supporting evidence you need to support your battle. Your opponent has already created their blueprint for your take down. Plan heavily and be smarter.

It takes great courage to challenge someone who may be above you in an organizational structure especially when that person, in a cowardly fashion, uses that structure in an attempt to antagonize, intimidate, demean or even bully you. Day after day, you sit quietly; taking it all in......learning.......simmering.

Be careful when you constantly poke a bear. While each playful jab at the bear's flesh may seem entertaining, eventually that bear is going to wake up and fight you back. And you will be in for a war that you never should have started.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Gift of You Never Stops Giving

Happy Holidays 2014! This has been one of the most relaxing and stress free holiday seasons that I can recall from recent years. I stopped buying into the pressure of quantity of gifts and excessive shopping and stayed within budget and spent time and money making memories with the people high on my priority list.

This holiday season and moving into the new year, I encourage you to give the gift of YOU! You are a valuable commodity and you are a gift in itself. I used to spend all my time, energy and resources running around like crazy buying gifts for people who never showed appreciation or reciprocated my efforts. While the spirit of giving should not be met with the expectation of return, it is not unreasonable to want to be acknowledged, appreciated or shown gratitude for efforts that you did not have to do. A lack of gratitude results in diminished blessings.

The best thing that you can do for those in your life this holiday season is to be your best self so that you can add value to their lives without minimizing your own. You don’t have to set yourself back financially, emotionally or physically trying to meet the demands and expectations of others when you haven’t given yourself all that love.

At the end of this life, few people will remember the tangible gift that I may have given them for Christmas but they will remember the time spent together; laughing, enjoying a good meal and making cherished memories. A photo from time spent will be treasured longer than a gift that sits on a shelf.

Don’t underestimate the gift of you. No one will ever take care of you better than the care that you can dedicate to yourself. Your presence is the present. Give carefully.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

21 Years of Parenting

I've been selfishly depressed this month about my only child turning 21. I mean, let's face it.....her turning 21 means that I'm officially getting older. And who really likes growing old?

But then it dawns on me. It is nothing short of a miracle and a handful of blessings that I am here to see this day. Diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer in 2007, I was given three years to live when my daughter was 13 years old. It was her harsh words to me that motivated me to undergo grueling chemo treatments.

When faced with an unplanned pregnancy my second year of college, my love for my unborn child motivated me to do better and be better. My own traumatic childhood forced me to do whatever it took and to the best of MY ability to ensure that my child never felt motherless like I often did.

I was never a perfect mom but I did strive to make sure that she never went for anything that she needed. For the first thirteen years of her life, I had to do it alone and did it by any means necessary with no apologies. I always wanted to be her role model in case the world around her was disappointing. I learned early on that those entrusted to care for you can and will let you down. I was determined for her NEVER to be a victim.

I truly am grateful that I have been able to watch this little premature infant in NICU develop into a self assured, sometimes OVERLY confident, talented, intelligent and beautiful young woman. There were times that we couldn't stand one another but I hope she realizes that every mistake I made was done out of a deep desire to push her into making good decisions and developing her own potential. 

I am grateful for the girlfriends along the way, beginning in labor & delivery, who stood by my side, provided support and resources and loved us both unconditionally. I am grateful for a loving husband who would treat my child like his own and take care of us both when I battled cancer. I'm even grateful for the men along the way who took more than they left because they taught me resilience and strength.

Twenty one years can seem like a lifetime and if mine ended tomorrow, I would have experienced a love that I never imagined or had. I gave my daughter everything that I would have hoped for in a mother and that is everything I was capable of. She will never second guess whether I love her and when the chips are down, she knows she can count on me to pick them up and count them. Twice.

Being a mother to this beautiful little girl has made me a complete person in so many ways. My life is truly better because she called me her mom and I responded.

Happy Birthday Jaclyn! 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Re-entering the workforce-On my own terms

I recently accomplished something that I set out do back in June of 1996. After I graduated with Honors from The University of Houston, I just knew that I would secure that high paying dream job that I worked so hard for. Sadly, it never quite happened that way.

As a single mom of a then three-year-old daughter, I was forced to secure full-time employment immediately and settled into an administrative role; always keeping the hope alive that I would eventually work my way into marketing. Years passed and I found myself stuck in the admin/receptionist role despite doing a good job and working hard. My self esteem was at an all-time low.

There is NOTHING wrong with these career roles but it is not what I set out to do. After a brief stint as an investment banker and after dozens of admin jobs at Fortune 500 companies, I became an entrepreneur out of a desire to survive. I never set out to have my own business but I got lucky with a generous severance package and former corporate clients who were impressed by my creative work.

For the past decade, I have worked hard, managed employees, billed more than $1 million dollars and won several affluent awards for Texas businesswomen including Blazing Star Award from the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Texas, Woman on the Move by Texas Executive Women and Emerging 10 Award from Houston Minority Business Council. And then breast cancer hit.

I had no choice but to take a considerable amount of time off and lost some key accounts (understandably) in the process. I focused on my health and well being but always had that desire to work hard and be compensated well for a job well done.

I was raised in a household with two highly educated parents who worked hard to provide for our family. My parents rarely missed a day of work and I would even get to go to work with my mom and watch her in action as a nurse. My father was a medical examiner so there was no way he could take me to work with him! We had a comfortable life and I wanted to give that to my daughter. There are few things more rewarding than for a daughter to want to mimic a hard working mother who is doing what she set out to do through her educational pursuits. 

An opportunity presented itself for me recently to secure a corporate marketing manager position and I seized it. I don't see it as a failure that I re-entered the workforce nor do I see it as abandoning my own dreams. I see it as proving to myself that I have what it takes to work in marketing on a global scale as well as an outlet for me to grow my interpersonal and business skills. I can work hard and be well compensated and well respected by my peers.

Life has its ups and downs and one must truly learn when and how to ride the waves if they want to experience smooth sailing. When you define your own definition of success, your dreams will come to fruition.