2015: Looking Ahead

This blog is entering its 8th year (I started it in January 2007).  I usually write about goals and such between my birthday (in November) and the close of the year. This is Part 3 of 3 in my 2014 yearly review.


5 PLACES I WANT TO GO in 2015picjumbo.com_HNCK2304-40e
– NYC (I would have gone in October, but a race I scheduled there was cancelled)
– L.A. (to be on another talk show like Ellen, Wendy, Fallon or The REAL and be in the audience with my sister)
– EssenceFest*
– Puerto Rico* and/or Hawaii* (these have been on my list for years, as I’ve never done them)
– My hometown (I have not been to my hometown in 12 years, and there is a 15K race I want to do–it was even recommended as a go-to in Runner’s World magazine this month)

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Passion Points with Nicci Gilbert

Last night I attended the SWEET Group Atlanta launch event last night to hear Nichole “Nicci” Gilbert talk about female entrepreneurship and her evolution from being a singer (in Michael Jackson’s 90’s trio Brownstone) to becoming a reality TV executive producer (TV One’s R&B Divas) and plus-size fashion designer (Curvato Clothing).  SWEET stands for Successful Women Entrepreneurs and the Extremely Talented, and has chapters in Charlotte, NC and Richmond, VA. The event was sponsored by SMS Advisors in Charlotte (which Nicci uses).

Marshawn Evans, Esq., is an attorney, speaker, author, and former contestant on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice was the host and moderator. Lillian Lincoln Lambert was the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Business School in 1969. She is a partner with SWEET and has a fascinating story.

The word of the evening was “passion.” Everyone who spoke agreed that when it comes to your business, you have to be passionate about what you do or it won’t work.


Having it All: How Does She Do It?

Brownston-originalNicci started off telling us that in the past, she hasn’t always trusted her gut, but we should. In several episodes of R&B Divas, she told people that she’s really not into singing anymore, even though that’s what she’s best known for and people always ask her to sing. She’s able to do all the things she does now because she’s passionate, so it never feels like work. She admitted her difficulties: “I’m hard-headed, I hate to be told ‘No,’ or that I don’t have enough money to execute my plans.” She described herself as ‘crazy’ and ‘a space cadet’ and that’s how she can juggle so many tasks.

Nicci said, “The barter routine is the best ever (exchanging services instead of money). I choose not to focus on what is not right.” Lillian added that every obstacle has an opportunity attached to it. “I don’t like when people tell me I can’t do things.”

“Reality is Ratchet!”

R&B Divas Cast

Nicci: “I don’t know if ‘ratchet’ is a really a word, but everybody knows what it means so I’m gonna use it. Reality TV is ratchet! I thought about Claire Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad’s character on The Cosby Show) and others that helped me develop as a person. I wondered, where is that kind of TV today? Black women fighting each other seems to be a ratings formula that the reality shows want to stick with, but I wanted to show images of positive Black women with solid marriages and businesses.” Nicci is an executive producer of the #1 rated show on TV One ever (R&B Divas, whose first season aired last fall), said that spinoffs are coming, including an L.A. cast. Season 2 begins shooting on MLK Day.

Love and Hip Hop Atlanta (on VH1) had 5 million viewers, and we had 1 million. I don’t think we can get to 5 million because more people want to watch what’s wrong with people than what’s right.” She also added that “Branding is the key for reality TV to make sense.”

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“Live Full and Die Empty” – Seize the Day Recap #1

Discover Your Power Voice - Courtesy of LesBrown.com

The first speaker for the Seize the Day event last week was motivational speaker and author Les Brown. This post will summarize some of the points he made in his presentation, mostly in his words, but categorized by topic. (Any comments or clarifications I have are shown in parentheses.)

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Debt is Slavery: Notes From a Freed Slave

Make no mistake: debt is slavery. It seems that few of us have been untouched by debt in this economy.

Last night, CNN aired the special report, The Almighty Debt, hosted by Soledad O’Brien in Atlanta. It had me nodding my head in agreement with so many statistics and opinions mentioned by the experts, as well as the predicaments of the many ‘average Joes’ featured. It had me reflecting on the last several tumultuous financial years I have survived as a young adult.

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New Beginnings… (Or, 4 Steps to Getting Unstuck)

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m here. I made it.

Through financial challenges, family shifts, procrastination and back-and-forth feelings of self-doubt, I’ve started what some call “a new life.” A new beginning. But this was not a sudden decision.

I’ve played with the idea of relocating for four years now. Ever since the first time I visited Atlanta, GA in the summer of 2006, I relished the idea of a more affordable home, culture, and a change. What stopped me? I told myself I was stuck where I was because of these main excuses:

Excuse #1 :     I can’t deal with the traffic in a major metropolitan city, and Atlanta reminds of the last place I lived, in suburban Washington, D.C. Swapping the frustrations of I-495 and I-285 are all the same to me.

Excuse #2:    The real estate market is still too poor and I might not be able to sell my house. My neighbors who have sold took months, and some have just changed their minds and stayed put.

Excuse #3:    My family relocated to help me with my daughter when she was a baby. I felt like I owed it to them to stay put, even years after the fact. And as a single mom, could I deal with rebuilding a support system all over again?

Even with the validity of some of these excuses,  I evolved and became determined to refocus and literally move on with the following rebuttals for each one:

Rebuttal 1:    When I lived in D.C., I commuted, but since 2005 I’ve been working at home, so traffic is not a factor. Should I change jobs (which would be the first time in over a decade), I will have the flexibility move to a suburb that is conducive to a reasonable commute, since I’m not buying another house anytime soon.

Rebuttal #2:    Since I never tried to sell my house, how do I know how long it would take to sell? Yes, I’ve been in a position where I had to pay mortgages on two homes for a few months, but if I never put the house on the market, I’ll definitely stay stuck with it. You don’t know what will happen if you don’t try.

Rebuttal #3:    I have aunts, friends from high school and college, and ex-co-workers living in the metro Atlanta area. Even if they don’t all become my BFFs, that’s plenty to get me started. When it comes to making new friends, finding a sitter, or networking for business opportunities, I have the gift of gab.

That said, I made it “do what it do” and I’ve been in Atlanta now with my daughter for a whole two weeks. I love my apartment, she loves her school, and I’ve made several new friends (the gift of gab at work)!

I’ve gotten unstuck.
Continue reading “New Beginnings… (Or, 4 Steps to Getting Unstuck)”

Ladies, Put On Your Crown and Shine

Oscar-nominated, Grammy-award-winning actress and hip hop royalty Queen Latifah just released her second self-help book, Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom, last month (Ladies First was her first book, with Karen Hunter). In it, the first hip hop artist on the Walk of Fame takes just under 200 pages to discuss her career strides and life lessons as “a series of moments.”  I’ll highlight just a few here, but I have indicated a few spoiler alerts along the way.  If you don’t want to know too much detail, skip the rest of those paragraphs where noted and go to the next.

Latifah has been rhyming about empowerment since she was a teenager (“Ladies First”) and one of my favorite anthems from her is 1993’s “U.N.I.T.Y.”  She even starred in and sung the theme song to the TV show Living Single (a precursor to NBC’s Friends).  She released a new album this year called Persona, but the only song I’ve heard from it is the one she performed on The Mo’Nique Show recently—I’m not hearing the urban stations showing it any love. But I’ve always liked her and respected her for her classy,  positive image. If you follow this blog, you also know that I love her perfume, too!

But I digress—back to the book.

I read Put On Your Crown in a few hours, and enjoyed its conversational tone and simplistic chapter titles (e.g., “Beauty,” “Money,” “ Joy”). Latifah covers several topics, such as paying attention to your finances (SPOILER ALERT #1) Latifah went broke 10 years ago because she didn’t pay attention to bookkeeping). This story reminded me of when MC Hammer went bankrupt for “helping” so many people at the height of his “You Can’t Touch This”-ness (I think was coming from a good place, and Latifah echoed similar feelings about putting her crew on and supporting more people than she should have.)

Another year, after her parents separated, her family downsized and temporarily moved to the projects. (SPOILER ALERT #2) It was disheartening to read how her family’s things—everything—was stolen in broad daylight. And on Christmas Eve of that same year, all the presents that her mother worked 3 jobs to pay for were stolen from the trunk of her car. And unfortunately, material possessions and coping as a child of divorce were not the only losses she had to deal with.

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You Don’t Know Me, So Watch Out

When you’re shopping online or in person, you can’t be too careful. I’ll first discuss my experiences, then give you some information from some research that I’ve gathered (source references are at the end of this article).

My Experience

In October 2005, USAA bank called me to say that there was activity with my debit card in Rumania. I told the rep that I have never been there. She cancelled the card and issued me a new one.

In December 2005, I stopped at a gas pump and tried to use my Chase credit card. It didn’t work, and when I got home to check, my account had been temporarily disabled because of some large purchases that had been made on the West Coast by someone—but it wasn’t me. These purchases caused my account to go over the limit. I was charged fees, and when I disputed the charges on the phone, I was told to sign a form indicating which exact charges I did and did not authorize.

In 2006, my company sent a letter to me saying that they had lost a disk that contained the sensitive information of their employees, their spouses and dependents. They offered me 6 months of free credit monitoring.

In April 2008, I logged onto two different bank accounts and discovered that a strange electronic check had cleared both accounts, although they used my old name and my old address. The banks were unable to trace the source, but I checked the company name online and found that this company was operating under a few different names (“Three, Inc.” and “DCL ENV, Inc.” ), running a scam. The bank required that I file a police report and close my account. It was resolved on my end in a matter of weeks, but to this day, I don’t know where the crooks got my information from, or whether they’ll ever be prosecuted.  I documented this in a post at http://www.ripoffreport.com

Continue reading “You Don’t Know Me, So Watch Out”