Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shifting Gears on the Job Front

The welcome sign at my desk.
This week I wrapped my first week at the new job. From my view point it was good. I met new colleagues and quickly began to get acclimated to my new environment. I was treated to lunch with my new communications team, which I really appreciated. I still have a pretty big learning curve ahead of me but I'm confident that all I need to know will eventually become second nature once I get used to the new company policies and procedures.

In retrospect I'm glad I had last week off to mentally prepare for the change. I was in my last position for seven years. That was my longest work stint with an organization and leaving the position was bittersweet. Despite having time off, I still had work to do. I had to finish an assignment for my strategic communications class, an exit interview with my previous employer, concluded personal professional coaching sessions (also very helpful), attended a social media training sponsored by PRSA in New York City facilitated by Eric Schwartzman. The social media workshop with Eric was intense (in a good way) and I found it very helpful. Even though I've been using social media, it was good to drill down and see how experts use it strategically in public relations and media work. I highly recommend the training.

I'm in an optimistic zone at the moment. I feel good about where I am at in life and where I am going. I'm thankful that I'm in a place where I can embrace the changes that I'm personally experiencing. I have a lot to be grateful for. The fact that I landed a job before I was laid-off is a real blessing. I now have the opportunity to learn a new area of work and enhance my skill sets as a communications professional. As 2012 comes to a close I'm energized about 2013 and what it will offer. I have a lot planned by professional and personally. My gears on the job front have shifted and in review I had a good first week on the job.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Getting More Social Media Savvy: Day One

prsa-logo Months ago I signed up to take PRSA's Social Media Boot Camp with Eric Schwartzman. While I've been using social media for a few years,  I'm not a social media expert.  Today, I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to catch the New Haven line Metro North train to New York City for a two-day workshop that will hopefully put me on the path of being a more social media savvy communications professional. I was ready to engage and dig deeper in the subject of social media.

After an eight-hour day, I'm still trying to process all the information I received. Did the rubber meet the road? Yes and no. Some of the main concepts in Eric's overview I already knew and those I didn't I grasped fairly quickly, which was a relief. However, the nitty gritty of how to strategically incorporate social media in communication and media relation outreach efforts remains a challenge. It will boil down to applying what I've learned and retained. 

There was a lot of information to digest, but my main take-a-way was from this morning.  Moving forward I will embrace Google Reader to aggregate and monitor my news, not just Google alerts. Do you consider yourself social media savvy? If so, any tips you want to share?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reflecting on the ProduceHERS Women Artist's Showcase

Q&A with the artists.
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind for me. I'm glad that hosting my first Thanksgiving is behind me. It was small dinner, which is fine by me. Thanks go out to my mom and mother-in-law for helping me prepare the staple items such as the turkey and the stuffing.

I've been running on close to empty going into this holiday weekend. It was filled with travel to Baltimore for a training on Results-based Facilitation and then a trip to St. Louis to record interviews for an anniversary video. I also finalized my team's script for the 2012 Action on Film Writers' Room Invitational and said good-bye to one job as I prepare to start another.

Halima rehearsing with the actors.
During this time I also squeezed in coordinating the second ProduceHERS' event, a Women's Artist Showcase with partner Halima Flynn. The  Showcase was held at the downtown New Haven Public Library and ran from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Although we got off to a late start, it didn't take away from the creative aura that was in the room. We had a small attendance, but I'm a firm believer in quality over quantity. I am proud to say those who were in attendance were engaged in the event. There were also some familiar faces. A special shout out to my friends ChaChanna and Carmen, who always manage to come out and support me. I'm so grateful to have you both in my inner circle.

I also have to to thank all the women who participated in the event. I was engaged in each of the presentations. Dana's photo presentation took me to countries in Europe, Asia, and the middle east. Hearing the actor's read my dialogue brought me back to my mid-twenties, and the essay Anne read from her anthology Press Pause Moments  brought home the theme of women empowerment.  The program was powerful. Our communities have a wealth of talented, strong and passionate women and the ProduceHERS aims to continue to tap into the creativity, engage and share it with the community. I'm proud to be a part of this community and a messenger in getting the word out about creative women.
Dana's photo presentation.

As the end of the year closes, I like to take this time to reflect on all that I have done and what I wanted to do in 2012. Launching The ProduceHERS was on the list. So much energy went into getting this collaborative effort off the ground. However, I also realize moving this community-focused effort forward and sustaining it overtime is going to take a more focused and strategic effort in 2013.

I have so many things to reflect on in 2012 and I post is just one of a few you will see with a reflection theme. The time to think about what worked, what didn't, and then begin to plan for next year is here.

With Thanksgiving day gone, the Jewish and Christian holiday season is officially here and although it is easy to get sucked into the commercialism I will stay the course on reflecting for 2012 and count the many blessing that I have had this year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Canvassing for the First Time

Many in the Northeast are still recovering from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. I'm one of the lucky ones. I have a roof over my head, heat, and luxuries such as cable and Internet. My heart goes out to my fellow neighbors both in and out of state that are still trying to get back to their  pre-hurricane lives.

I was getting a little bit down on myself because I haven't posted a a blog or restaurant review in a few weeks. I have eaten out at a couple of local New Haven restaurants, but between starting my next class, gearing up for a job transition, and life in general, I've dropped the ball on the writing front. While I have my regrets I realize there are more important things to consider. The most important thing for me at the moment is tomorrow's election.

It's been a grueling campaign on both sides and I think it's an illustration of how high the stakes are for all Americans, no matter what side of the political aisle you may fall. This past Saturday, I canvassed for the first time with Planned Parenthood Votes CT and Naral Pro-Choic Connecticut PAC in Middletown. Both organizations are supporting pro-choice Democratic candidates Dante Bartolomeo (D) for state representative of the 13th district and Christopher Muphy (D) for U.S Senate. I signed up for a morning shift. It was great to meet other volunteers and see people engaged in the political process.

When we were getting the dos and don'ts of canvasing we received a surprise message that Sandra Fluke would be stopping by. We were already charged up, but that added fuel to our political fire. I was hoping I'd get to meet her before I hit the streets. Just as I was stepping outside, she pulled up to our location. I managed to get out a hello, introduced myself, and thanked her for dropping by. She thanked me for canvassing. Later that day, she also favorited my tweet which made up for the missed photo opportunity. Hopefully our paths cross again.

Jen, my canvass partner and I knocked on 48 doors. Most of the people weren't home. I was bummed by that. I caught one women getting out of the shower and she just took our fliers and closed her door. Jen spoke to a 34 year-old women who said she wasn't going to vote. This was a reality check about young voters in our country who are not engaged in politics. I realize this fact, but it's an eye-opener when you hear a person tell you they don't plan on voting.

Her reasons for not voting in this election were that she didn't have time and that she was disillusioned by political ads on both sides. I hope that we left enough of an impression with her that she does go out and vote and if not, what a sad state of affairs.

In this country I feel we take a lot for granted at times. The election process is a personal reminder of how fragile our system is and how easily the scales can tip in another direction. Please VOTE TOMORROW! Our future depends on it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Nini's House of Tapas

I'm getting ready to head out to Salute's for Karim's birthday dinner. But before I go here's my restaurant review of  Nini's House of Tapas, located at 40 Orange Street, in downtown New Haven.

This past Wednesday, I was busy at work and stopping to eat lunch wasn't a priority. Before I knew it, it was 2 p.m. and I still had not had lunch. I was hungry. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful fall day, I felt the need to take advantage of it. I walked by Nini's quite a few times but never dropped in. Back in the summer, there was a Nini's restaurant takeout menu hanging in the Casey lunch room and I remembered that they offered $9.95 pasta and pizza lunch specials that come with a house' salad and beverage. I said to myself, "Today is the day, I try Nini's. Jessica, one of my department colleagues also worked through her lunch and decided to join me. It would be two for lunch.

House salad that comes with lunch.
Nini's serves lunch from 11:30 to 3:30, Monday through Friday. When I sat down I learned their entire dine-in lunch menu is $9.95 or you can take it out for $8.95. They offer an array of personal brick-oven pizzas, sandwiches, soups, salads, and pasta dishes that they coin pastabilities. When you order pastabilities you get to pick your 1) Choice of Pasta: fettuccine, penne, rotini, or cheese tortellini; 2) Choice of Sauce: Alfredo, marinara, mushroom cream, pesto, garlic extra-virgin olive oil (EVO) sauce; and 3) Choice of three items to add to your pasta and sauce which includes an array of different meats and vegetables.

My cheese tortellini. Yummy!
I decided on pasta and went with a cheese tortellini with artichokes, white beans, and broccoli in the garlic EVO sauce. Jessica ordered the rotini pasta with meatballs on the side, bacon in pesto sauce. Before our pasta dishes arrived we received a house salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The salad was a good warm-up and it hit the spot. I was ready for the main dish. When it arrived I went to town. My pasta dish was light and flavorful. I really enjoyed the white beans because it is something I only get when I eat out. Lunch was good and I felt re-energized and was ready to face the rest of my work back at the office.

Nini's House of Tapas lunch won me over. The restaurant ambiance creates a relaxing and comfortable setting. As I was leaving with my left-overs I thought to myself I'm gonna have to come back for their dinner menu and try their international tapas. Something to look forward to and I can't wait.

Here are my final ratings based on a scale from one to five:

Food: 4
Price: 4
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 4.5
Overall dining experience: 4

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lunch at Temple Grill

This week's restaurant review is Temple Grill, located at 152 Temple Street, New Haven, Connecticut. It's just a couple blocks walk from where I work and close to the green, the center of Elm city's downtown. I have been to Temple Grill before, but it's been  a while. Since I was having a lunch with my colleagues, I'd thought I take advantage of the outing and make it my blog post this week.

The Grill has a steady lunch crowd and for me that is a good sign. However, one of the downsides is that their dining area is fairly small and gets packed quickly. Although they have a patio for outside dinning, this is not an option when it rains. Be prepared to wait during the lunch rush if you plan to dine-in. Lucky for us our wait was only five minutes.

They provide American-style entrees with an international flair and a homecooked feel. You can create your own salad or pasta, a popular choice for their lunch crowds. I like that they offer half  portion sizes for some of their entrees and feel like their menu offers something for everyone which is good when you are dining in a group.

During my lunch visit with my colleagues, I started with a Caesar salad and opted to be bad for my entree selection. I ordered the fried clamstrips platter (comes with coleslaw and waffle fries). Other orders for the table included sweet potatoe fries, Gazpacho soup, a chicken wrap, and grilled meatloaf with mashed potatoes. I loved their sweet potatoe fries and highly recommend them. My fried clamstrips platter could have feed two people. The fried clamstrips had a light and crunchy batter that I thoroughly enjoyed. These were some of the best friend clamstrips I've had in a long time.

I was the only person who didn't finish my lunch and had to take a doggybag home, which was fine by me. It saved me from having to cook something when I got home, a win-win in my book.

The Grill also has a full bar and if you're dining solo, it's a great option for a sit-down lunch. Another plus is that they take reservations and their waitstaff can get you in and out within an hour, which is why I think they also have strong lunch crowds.  If you are larger than a party of five you may want to rethink the location for space concerns.

Here are my final ratings based on a scale from one to five:

Food: 4
Price: 3.5
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 3
Overall dining experience: 3.5

If you're in downtown New Haven, Temple Grill is worth a visit.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Coffee Break at Willoughby's

Greetings from Atlanta,

I had the wonderful opportunity to come south for a work-related project and have decided to chill for the weekend with a bestie that lives in the area. Before I flew to Atlanta, I made my first visit to a New Haven food establishment. Wanting to be budget friendly since I was traveling I opted to check out a coffee shop. My choice was Willoughby's Coffee and Tea shop, located at 258 Church Street in downtown New Haven. It's right on the corner between Church and Groove Street.

Willoughby's window display
Around three p.m. Monday afternoon I was ready for a caffeine pick-me-up and headed to Willoughby's. When I arrived in front of the building I was drawn to their window display. It was very decorative and I instantly learned that they were voted "Best Place" to buy coffee beans in the New Haven Advocate's 2012 Reader's Poll.  They roast their own beans.

Upon entering the building I saw that it was standing room only. That's a promising sign I thought to myself. All their tables were taken with customers either engaged in conversations, working on their electronic devices, and reading books. I felt like I was in the midst of a friendly, community coffee shop. I noticed a community info board behind the counter. They also had a plethora of coffee beans on display that one could order by the pound and Willoughby's t-shirts or coffee travel mugs.
Got Coffee? Something for everyone Willoughby's.
I scanned through their menu. I wanted a something that I wouldn't find on the menu at Starbucks or another coffee shop. I choose a chai latte with soy milk. I've always seen chai tea, but this was the first time I've seen a chai latte. I was excited. In addition to coffee you can order baked goods like muffins, cookies, scones, etc. They also have cups of chopped fruit and yogurt parfaits.

After a few minutes, my chai latte was ready.  Two people got up from a table and I snatched up a seat and sipped on my latte. It was good, very good. When you look at their coffee container, it says, "Dedication to Quality." I have to agree, you can taste it.

Next time, I visit I'll buy a pound of their beans to talk home for Karim and I. I really enjoyed my chai latte and recommend you give one of their coffee blends a try if you in downtown New Haven.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tasting and Reviewing New Haven's Restaurants

Pacifico's Paella
I'm still adjusting to the fact that the drive-in I've grown accustomed to these last seven years will be over on December 21, 2012, maybe sooner, if I can manage to line up a new job. Traveling to New Haven takes me about an hour, if the merge onto Interstate 95 isn't backed-up due to an accident or everyday traffic. Since Gateway Community college re-opened downtown, I've added another 10 to 15 minutes getting off the highway and into the parking garage.

New Haven is more than one of Connecticut's largest cities and home to Yale University, the prominent Ivy League college. It's a cultural center with a rich history, that boasts diversity and character that makes it unique. Although I have been driving to and from New Haven for seven plus years, I have to acknowledge that I haven't taken full advantage of all the city has to offer. Especially when it comes to all the great dinning options. That's going to change.

Sally's famous pie. Can't wait to try!
With less than 90 working days left in the "Elm" city I've decided that I'm going to taste my way through the city and visit restaurants that I haven't been to before. From now until the end of year I will dine-in or order take-out from one of New Haven's many restaurants, coffee-shops, and cafes. I will then write a review of my experience for In the Mix.

There are more than 50 ethnic restaurants to choose from which is nice since I have a divers palate. I get to try new food and also will have content to post for the blog every week. It's a win-win situation. I'll probably also post some of my reviews on websites like Chowhound, Yelp, or Urbanspoon.
Tandoori shrimp from Sitar Restaurant.

I'm traveling and out of the office most of next week so I'll have to make my first restaurant visit on Monday. If you have a restaurant recommendation, leave it in the comment section. I'm looking forward to getting my taste of New Haven on. It's going to be a yummy endeavor.

Friday, September 7, 2012

TGIF and Week in Review

TGIF everyone,

So glad it's Friday. I'm looking forward to the weekend. Tomorrow Karim and I will be heading to the city to see Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway. Shout out to Travelzoo for their entertainment discount on Broadway tickets. The shows aren't typically Broadway's best sellers, but the shows are popular with good reviews and one can save from 30 to 50 percent off standard ticket prices.

I remember when the Spiderman preview week was the talk of the town and not in a good way. Julie Taymor, the show's original director was forced out of the production after actors injuries and a slew of bad audience and critic reviews.  Despite the rough start, cast and crew managed to turn it around and word on the street says it's a spectacular show.

This week has had many national news highlights. Trending topics on Twitter included the passing of actor Michael Clark Duncan, the US Openhurricane Issac, Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta's reunion special (Stevie J is still a hot mess), MTV's music video awards, and last but not least, the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

I don't know about you, but I've was glued to my television and twitter from 8 p.m. until around midnight during the three nights of the DNC convention. The hour of power was the 10 p.m. time slot with the night's most anticipated and watched speeches.  Strong speeches from Michelle Obama, former President Clinton, Joe Biden, and President Obama gave the party a much needed lift that reinvigorated the base. The diversity in the audience provided a stark contrast to what I saw in last week's Republican National Convention (RNC) and not at all a surprise.  Compare the DNC and the RNC's official websites and one can see the DNC's site is more engaging.

A personal highlight for me came when I heard Karl Rove give our first lady her props. His remarks were a powerful validation of a good first night, but the convention was not without its critics, rightfully so. Fox News commentators played down many of the good speeches and the impact it will have for the party. I expected this, but I also listened to David Brooks and he laid out areas that are still struggles for the president and the reality is it still remains an uphill battle due to the state of the economy.

Overall, this was a stellar week for the DNC's convention. Here's John Stewart's highlight of former President Bill Clinton's speech. I know people were worried about Clinton's remarks. I wasn't. I knew he would hit his mark and set the stage for President Obama. For the most part the commentary for the DNC has been more favorable than that of the RNC's, especially if you compare objectives and goals for both parties.

Now the fanfare is over. Reality has set in. Today's jobs report wasn't the best of news for the President and his campaign. Romney and the Republicans are going to continue to use these slow job growth numbers to hammer away at him. However, if I see the glass half-full, rather than half-empty and look back to the speeches I heard at the convention, I realize that although it's slow, job growth is happening in our country.

In my review the Democrats had a good week, they needed it. The base is re-energized, the case for four more years has been made, and I can go into this weekend feeling some optimism about the state of this election and the future of our country.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saying So Long to Summer

Classes have officially started.  For some reason I had it in my mind that classes didn't start until after Labor Day. Wishful thinking on my part. I'm glad I decided to check my Gonzaga email yesterday. Class introductions on Blackboard are off my to-do list. I'm kicking-off this semester with a course in organizational leadership. I find it ironically fitting considering the transitional phase I find myself in.

Being focused on the subject of leadership for the next eight weeks is a good thing. After all, a critical election is less than three months away. My mind is made up, but many independent/unaffiliated voters in swing states are still up in the air on if they should throw in the towel with President Obama and give presidential candidate Mitt Romney an opportunity to lead the United States back in time. Even if Obama squeaks out a win, the GOP still has a shot at taking back the Senate. While many pundits and political strategists think Rep. Akin's "legitimate rape" comments make a GOP takeover unlikely, I'm counting him down and not out.

Sunday's season finale of True Blood, the kick-off of the Republican convention this week,  cooler evenings, and back-to-school sales reinforce that it's time to prepare to say so long to summer. Of course summer isn't officially over until September 21, 2012, but I might as well start mentally preparing for the seasonal change and whatever else life holds.

This summer will be a memorable one for me. It won't be because I took a fabulous, exotic vacation. The pride and joy of home ownership has turned vacation funds into home improvement funds. Luckily, Karim and I still managed to take a couple of long weekend getaways. Instead, I'll remember the summer of 2012 as the year when I a chapter in my life closed and I prepared to say good-bye to colleagues I've worked with for the past seven years. Those good-byes have already started and will continue until December 21, 2012. This summer also reminded me that there are No Guarantees in life. My life will be what I make of it, even if I get thrown a curve ball.

This fall will mark a somewhat somber period of time for me. The cool nights become cold nights. I dread the first frost and having to warm my car up in the morning. Since my car is a manual transmission, I don't have the luxury of an automatic car-starter. Fall also begins the last quarter in the year where I begin the process of assessing what goals I accomplished and which ones I didn't.

Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for the quote, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." I believe this notion to be true even though there are times when I find it hard to accept.

I'm still alive, I'm in good health and now I have an opportunity to reinvent myself. Everyday I'm reminded of the possibilities, despite the fact that I face uncertainty in some areas of my life and that I go through periods where I have more questions than answers. I'm not going to stress, not yet anyways.

For now, I'll just say, "So long summer."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Being My Own CEO and Building My Brand

How do you define brand? A couple of months ago I would have given you a list of products and organizations that reflect a distinct brand in the marketplace.  Today my answer is different. I am my own brand. When I was acting in and/or producing video, film, and theatre projects I was more inclined to think of myself as a brand because I was either pitching a story or auditioning for a part. I needed to sell my skills and ideas. Now that I'm in a transitional employment stage I've been reminded that my individual brand identity and how I promote myself is just as important  today as when I was  acting.

I've been working with a career consultant and have been reading a lot of articles related to the job search process, career development, and resume writing. There has been common threads through all of my research and reading. They include defining goals, focusing on core strengths you bring to your work, and highlighing when and where you've added value to an organization or company. These tactics were reiniforced this weekend as I read Sunday's Hartford Courant Career Builder section. The cover story written by Emily Hughley Quinn was entitled Build A Brand. Even if you're not looking for a job it's worth reading.

Today I came across another positive take away about brand when I read, Revisiting the Chick-fil-A and Chapstick Incidents: The Ethics of Transparency and Authenticity in Social Media. According to Ric Dragon, CEO of Dragon Search Marketing and author of The Dragon Search Online Marketing Manual and Social Marketology, "With the rise of social media, brands have the opportunity to assume that role of an individual with a brand voice and personality, and have one-on-one conversations." Idividuals are also branding themselves and their skills by tapping into social media. Those who are successful at their personal branding have a leg up against their competition. When I was a kid, my mom told me, "That if I don't think much of myself, no one else will." My mama didn't know it then, but she was helping me to recognize and build my brand.

I have also come to realize that confidence is important, but an employer wants to see more than confidence when he/she brings you in for an interview. The interviewer wants you to demonstate how your current professional strengths will be an asset to their organization or company. One must be able to articulate the value he/she brings to a position.

I recently took the Birkman examination, a  personality assessment and a series of related report sets that facilitate team building, career counseling and interpersonal conflict resolution.  It helps to assess an individual's work style, interest, and strengths. I learned that my leadership style is that of a delagator. That is one thing I want to change.  I need to be my own CEO that recognizes my value, knows my strengths, as well as my weaknesses.

Initially, I wasn't excited about having to look for a new job, but as I think about my brand, the job search process presents me with an opportunity to self-assess and think about what I want the next chapter of my life to read.  My brand and how I promote it is up to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Final Days of Fasting for a Non-Muslim

I really try not to think about food during Ramadan but it's tough. Tick. Tock. Tick Tock. That is what I hear as I get close to the time when Karim and I can break fast. For seven years I've been fasting Ramadan with him and have acclimated myself to the routine. However, now that its taking place during summer and one of the hottest summers on record, it feels like more of challenge than past fasts.

Ramadan is the most sacred month for Muslims and takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The month of Ramadan is when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). During the month, Muslims stop eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. They also abstain from sex during the day. The act of fasting is meant to bring one closer to Allah (God) and redirect his/her attention away from the daily worldly focuses to embracing empathy for those who are less fortunate. It also teaches self-discipline, self-control, and encourages charity.

There are some exceptions to fasting. Young children don't fast. One begins to fast when he/she reaches puberty.  Other exemptions to fasting include illness, disabilities, pregnancy, breast-feeding, menstruation, and travel. I suspect that the Muslim athletes at the Summer Games used their travel exemption so that had the energy and strength to compete. Outside of the exemptions, fasting is an obligatory tenet in the religion so long as a person is of age, healthy, sane and able.

Muslims in prayer.

My first day of fasting was rough. I didn't get enough sleep that night before and had a migraine the following day. I've had a few other tough days since, but I manage to make it through each one. I'm at the point that it doesn't bother me to see others eating when I don't. My sense of smell brings me joy. It's the little things. These days the hardest thing for me is breaking up my sleep to wake up at around 3:30 am to eat breakfast before dawn.

However, I am humbled. Somewhere in the world, in this country, in my community is a person who is hungry and it is not their choice. The fact that I have a choice reinforces how blessed I am to not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.

Although I'm not religious, I have come to appreciate what Ramadan means for my husband and the millions of other Muslims throughout the world that embrace this tenet of their faith. It's an individual sacrifice in honor of Allah. The final days of fasting will soon come to a close. Eid ul-Fitr, "the festivity of breaking fast" will either be this Saturday or Sunday. I have two calendars that claim both days as Eid. I wonder which mathematical calculation will be right.

It will be nice to get back to my old routine of eating and sleeping. It's a routine that I have come to take for granted until I started fasting.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Time for a Refresh and More Summer Olympic Games Chatter

In most cases change is a difficult process, however I was ready for a face lift to In the Mix. Do you like it? Eager to hear your thoughts in the comment section, Facebook, or on Twitter @dirtywater22. I opted to go with an orange design template since it's my signature color. I love orange! It makes me pop and stand out. I'm hoping it works for the blog as well. I do wish Blogger offered more template designs in my signature color that were customizable. I didn't have much to work with. This is one area where WordPress has them beat.

I'm feeling especially upbeat today. Not sure why either. I don't have any really great news to share. I have met a few goals this past week like finalizing my resume, finishing the latest draft of Quarter Year Dilemmas, submitting it to a play competition, and I've finally started reading Harry Belafonte's memoir, My Song. I received it as a holiday gift this past December and just haven't made the time to read it. Glad to make that change.  I'm going to try and finish it in the next two weeks and then hopefully start the The Help. I refuse to watch the film until I read the book.

I don't know about you all but I've enjoyed watching the Summer Olympics, not so much listening to the American commentary. The commentators have really gotten on my nerves this time around. I'm used to the back story highlights they give on athletes but their unnecessary hypotheticals and criticizing comments of athletes when they falter is unnerving.  In my opinion sports commentary for the Olympics has room for improvement. The television commentators should listen to a professional sports journalist like NPR's Mike Pesca. He knows sports and keeps it simple for listeners.

My viewing was much more robust during the first week and has tapered off a bit, but thanks to Google and social media I've stayed in the loop on the main new stories. If you were wondering the United States is in the lead in the overall medal count, but China is head by two in gold medals. I will be sad to see the summer games go and hope to catch the closing ceremony.

Watching the games all these years has made me realize that I need to add attending the Olympic Games to my bucket list. I would love to be at Rio in 2016! My preference is summer, but I'm open to the winter games too. let me know if you know anyone who is also looking to take it off their bucket list.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ready for the London Olympic Games

The Summer Olympics, also known as the Games of the Olympiad grace us with its presence every four years. It's finally back and set to kick off this Friday, July 27, 2012 with what I expect to be a fabulous opening ceremony. I'm not sure if it will top Beijing's 2008 games, but I'm ready to watch them try. I'm ready for the Games of the XXX Olympiad (the official title).

When I was a kid I used to think four years was forever, not these days. I always look forward to the summer games and my anticipation for the March of Nations continues to grow now that we are just two days away. When Karim and I break fast this Friday, we'll be watching opening ceremonies.

I'm not sure why I have such a fascination with the games, but part of me believes it's because we get to see the best athletes compete on a world stage representing their country. Go team USA!! Although U.S. athletes are my top priority, I am also inspired by the story profiles I see of athletes from other nations. So much personal sacrifice goes into being an Olympian. The work to get there is admirable and I consider all of the athletes winners even if they don't medal.

I'm glad to hear that Saudi Arabia will include women athletes for the first time. With this change, every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Olympic games. It's progress. Maybe this will encourage the women of Saudi Arabia and of other nations to seek the rights they deserve in their home countries - it does for me.

I wonder if it's coincidence that the summer games always fall during an election cycle in the U.S. It's only July and I'm pretty fed up with the election media coverage. The summer games are a welcome reprieve. My favorites to watch are gymnastics, diving, beach volleyball, tennis, basketball, swimming, and track and field. However, I'll also check out some of the more obscure sports like hurling, polo, synchronized swimming, power lifting, and bowling. I plan to get social with updates and posts on Facebook and Twitter.

If you don't plan to watch, you should. Oscar award winning director Danny Boyle is the artistic director for the opening ceremony and is called "The Isles of Wonder" (had to squeeze in a film tidbit). Wikipedia also notes that Sir Paul McCartney will perform toward the end.

Records will be broken, while memories and history will be made. May the games bring out the best in all of us. Enjoy. I know I will.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gearing Up for Grafton, Vermont

The Grafton country side
Since my last post I've been trying to adjust to my new reality of being laid-off. One new development is that I can keep my job, but in order to do so I have to relocate to Baltimore. Just as I got used to feeling one way about this transition a game-changer comes into play. At this point I'm still considering my options and am trying not to stress out to much.

On a more positive news front, I'm excited to report that I'm done with my summer courses. I don't have my grades yet, but I think I should be getting an A in both courses. I should know for sure in a little over a week. I am so relived that I have five weeks without reading course materials, posting to Blackboard, and writing papers. IT FEELS GOOD! I will get to read books and watch television shows and films for enjoyment and enteratinment. Netflix is about to get kicked into high gear.

To celebrate and recognize this small achievement, I will be having dinner at Puerta Vallarta in Southington with my husband, sister, and mom tonight. On Sunday, Karim and I will drive to the village of Grafton, Vermont to enjoy a few days away from life as we know it. No home renovations, no school, just the two of us. While we're away we'll be staying at the Grafton Inn. It's one of the oldest inns in America, established in 1801. I got a killer deal for two nights through the shopping website Rue La La. You can get deals on clothes, shoes, home decor, luggage, spas, and even travel. Let me know if you want a friend referral to the site.
The Grafton Inn

The inn is also a member of Historic Hotels of America and is noted as being a sanctuary from the everyday world. This is just what the doctor ordered.

I really to take some time to relax and recharge. I'm gearing up from Grafton, Vermont, and couldn't be happier. Stay tuned for highlights from the trip! Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Emerging Women Series: Interview with Kimberly Wilson

Kimberly Wilson
Courtesy of Anthony Cork Photography
Back in February, I had the privilege of meeting and working with Kimberly Wilson for the ProduceHERS'  staged reading of Quarter Year Dilemmas. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, Kimberly first pursued theater while in high school, after studying Theater at Howard University, she returned home and continued her acting career performing in plays and television commercials. Wilson has written a one-woman show, "A Journey..." which she tours in and around Fairfield county Connecticut.

Q: Where did you receive your acting training?
A: My acting 'training' continues to come from unique and diverse forms and experiences.  When I was nine years old, I took drama at Cultural Arts Center in Minneapolis. I later attended the Minneapolis Children’s Theater School Summer Institute. In 1976, I was a founding acting company member of Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis. More 'training' was hands-on experience performing in the Minnneapolis Community Theaters: At the Foot of the Mountain, Brass Tacks Theater, Illusion Theater, Minnesota Festival Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Park Square Theater, Theatre in the Round, Penumbra Theatre, and Shoestring Playhouse. And these Connecticut theaters: Collective Consciouness Theater, New Haven Theater Company, and Theatre Artists Workshops. I believe acting training and education is lifelong; not only through my personal life, but also learned through the many opportunities and experiences of working with a myriad of actors, directors, producers, designers, technical crews, costumers, musicians, theater administers, and the viewing audiences as well.
Q: How have the fundamentals you learned served your career as an artist?
A: The 'fundamentals' are a relative term. I feel the best lessons I've learned are to truly listen, observe and receive people and environments and experiences to there fullest. These lessons not only serve me as an actress, singer, writer and director but also in everyday life.

Kimberly performing in "A Journey...".

         Courtesy of G. Anthony Cork Photograph
Q: Where did you get the inspiration to write, produce, and direct your one-woman show?
A: The past four years I found the urgency to build a performance piece that would incorporate more of my acting and singing talents so I added historical narratives of an African Queen, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and my own personal story and thus began "A JOURNEY..." by Kimberly Wilson. I decided to write a play with music that would provide educational and entertainment value.  I included historical narratives of an African Queen, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Sojourner Truth and her work fighting for the rights of slaves and women’s rights, Rosa Parks and her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott; Maya Angelou and her struggles and legacies as an artist, teacher, poet and historian; and I include facets of my own story, my journey of how I got here.  “A JOURNEY…” is now a full-stage production that normally runs about an hour and a half. My show mixes movement, recitation, singing, dancing and audience participation as well.This full-stage production is an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half integrating movement, recitation, performance, singing, dancing, and audience participation. I premiered it last year at the Theatre Artists Workshop (TAW) in Norwalk, Connecticut and performed it again this year during Black History Month at TAW. This year my effort is to continue touring my one-woman show and not limit this wonderful story to just one month of performances. My additional effort is to continue researching historical African American women and weave them in and out of "A JOURNEY..." Prayerfully I will be able to write, sing, dance, and perform throughout my 'retirement' years.

Q: How do you sustain your creative motivation?
A: This is a good question. I truly feel what sustains me and motivates me is not limited to one simple explanation. I truly feel and believe that I have a gift to give and a song to sing and a story to tell. I also feel that my unique style and voice and welcoming way with my audiences, all help explain what motivates me. I have a passion that is in my heart. I love to sing... I love to act... I love the 'stage'... I love the theater... Deep down I am at peace because I know that this is what I'm supposed to do. I love my life...God has blessed me and I'm grateful.

Q: Can you share a creative challenge that was a worthwhile learning experience?
A: Life itself is a creative challenge - don't you agree? Living IS learning. And all of it is worthwhile.

Q: How do you define success?  
A: Success is such a personal term. What may be deemed successful to one person may not be considered a success for another. Personally and professionally I find the more I mature, the more I live, the more life obstacles I overcome, the more joys I share, the more blessings I receive, the less I try to define my life.  I'm happy. I'm working to really uplift what I believe is good and great in my life – family, faith, community, hope, service, and love.

Q: What key piece of advice would you give to aspiring artists? 
A: I think the best advice is: Make the choices and receive those opportunities that reflect what is true and real in your heart, in your spirit, in your soul. This will reflect in your everyday commitments and passions and will shine upon everyone whose lives you come in contact. 

Q: Tell us about any upcoming project(s) we should be on the look out for. 
A: My one-woman show "A JOURNEY..." by Kimberly Wilson. I recently performed “A JOURNEY…” at the Walter’s Memorial AME Zion Baptist Church in Bridgeport, CT.  It was an awe inspiring experience, truly a journey that I will never forget. The next scheduled date is Friday, August 3, 2012 at The Capri Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The tour continues and I welcome booking dates. Feel free to contact me via email; or 203.571.7709. My new website is www.thewilsonproductions.comAaliyah, again thank you for this interview opportunity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Guarantees

There are no guarantees in life. I was reminded of this fact yesterday when I received news that I will be getting laid off along with some of my fellow colleagues.  I can't say that I'm 100 percent shocked. However, even when you a hunch it's coming, it doesn't make hearing the news that much easier. It's hard. It hurts. It's devastating.

During my drives to work I listen to WNPR 90.5, my local NPR station. The news they report covers so many issues. There are stories I hear there that I know I won't hear anywhere else. Right now, I'm thinking about the stories that gave me a look into how our nation's economic crisis impacted families.  I heard stories from across the country where people shared their personal experiences about losing their jobs and the impact it had on there families. Some of the stories made me cry. Today I empathize that much more.

It's not the first time I've been laid off. I've traveled this road before and I did bounce back. I know it's cliche to say, but,  "when one door closes, another one opens." Although I'm disappointed and still processing yesterday's news, I realize that it's not the end of the world. When I shared this news with my husband, sister, mother, and some close friends, I realized how much love and support I have. I also received a wealth of encouragement. I have options. I'm going to have to regroup and figure out my next steps, but all isn't lost. I'm healthy, I'm in school (which is a very good thing considering), and I believe in the cliche.

The next few months will be tough. It's hard to move on. The people I've work with for the past seven have been like a second family to me. This tenure was the longest one I've had in a job. It's the exception in the marketplace not the rule. I'm still processing this news, this entry is a part of that process. I feel slightly better now that I'm almost to the end.

I wouldn't take back the last seven years. I've come to met some really great people and have been personally changed by the work I do. I believe my work experience has made me a better and stronger person in so many respects. This chapter will soon be over and it's up to me to write the next one. Remember that there are no guarantees in life, live your life to the fullest. No regrets.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Emerging Women Series: An Interview with Joan Verlezza

I'm pleased to feature my interview with colleague, friend and author Joan Verlezza in this week's blog. Verlezza has been researching and collecting family anecdotes since childhood. She believes every family has stories worth telling. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Romance Languages, and has worked in law and communications. Warming Up is her first novel.

Q: Why did you write Warming Up? Where did you get your motivation?
A: A few years ago a friend told me someone broke into her uncle’s house and took a valuable harmonica. A few days later he thought he heard someone playing it in the neighborhood and was sure it was local kids who were responsible for the break-in. I thought it would be a great story and I tucked it away. When I sat down to write I asked myself the logical questions: What could an old man do about that? Who’s telling the story? Where does this all take place? Why would someone steal an old man’s harmonica and refuse to return it? I decided to place the story in my old neighborhood and use the people I knew growing up as types for the characters.  After that the story took flight. I knew the characters so well they sometimes told me what they were going to do. Then it was working away page by page.

As for motivation, I was the little girl in the story who always wanted to travel the world and write stories.

Q: How many pages did you write a day? How long did it take to complete?
A: There were times when life intervened, as it can, and I didn’t write much at all. There were also times when I would wake up, start writing first thing in the morning and keep going until lunch time. That was great! Once a story gets to you, you’re never satisfied until it’s done, so I just kept going, whatever was happening. I would say I worked off and on for about three years.

Q: Did you spend as much time editing the book as you did writing your first draft? How was that process different?
A: This was my first time tackling a full length story so I learned a lot about the revision process. You edit for two things: Is what’s down on the paper what I meant to say? Am I satisfied with the way I’ve said it? I read as much as I could find by writers talking about the craft. There’s some very good advice from wonderful writers. I tried to apply what I could and, at a certain point I felt the need to work with a professional editor.  

Verlezza's book cover
Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: It’s about access. It’s very difficult to break into the ranks as a first time author. Also, as I wrote, the publishing business changed so much. In the May 20, 2012 New York Times Sunday Review section Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, talked about the digital revolution “eliminating all the gatekeepers”. That’s exciting. I think there are a lot of talented writers out there who simply have no access to the traditional publishing world. Bezos also pointed out that “Sixteen of the top 100 best sellers on Kindle today were self-published.” Access is just about universal now.

Q: How are you promoting Warming Up?
A: After some research, I chose to go with Book Locker to publish Warming Up. One of the reasons was their experience in marketing. The company is run by Angela and Richard Hoy, who have published and marketed several of their own books. They generously provided a copy of their book 90 Days of Promoting Your Book Online. I’m following their plan. One of the first steps is to create a blog, Second Avenue Story Club where I have an excerpt from the book and link to Book Locker. At Book Locker you can purchase an ebook or hard copy of Warming Up

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to write and publish their stories?
A: GO FOR IT! If you’ve ever wanted to write you know it just doesn’t go away. You’re compelled to do it. Take a course and/or read up on the craft yourself. Find a good editor, and most of all, don’t let anything  or anyone stop you.

Q: What's the next story you plan to write?
A: I have a few stories percolating. It’s going to be fun to put what I’ve learned from this experience to use. I like stories that are transformational. I like to see a character learning and growing. It will be another story with that kind of theme.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spokane Check In

Hello all,

It has been raining for the last two days, but despite that fact, I've been enjoying my trip out here in Spokane. I should have been prepared for this weather, but some how I neglected to remember how much rain this region gets.

COML Summer Students (June 3-6)
Flying into the city was a breath taking experience. I highly recommend it if you have the chance to come out west. I'm actually looking forward to coming back to this area one day, because I haven't really had the opportunity to experience the city. I've spent the majority of my time on campus in classes and working on my group multimedia project.

Gonzaga's campus is beautiful. Both staff and my fellow students have made this a memorial experience. Tonight, Gonzaga program staff hosted a dinner where I got to let loose and talk about subject matter not related to our course work. Boy, did that feel good. I also had the opportunity to visit the Zag's home court, the McCarthey Athletic Center or "MAC," a 6,000-seat multipurpose arena. My group project is also on the MAC.  I will post the video soon. Enjoy the pics.

Also stay tuned for my next blog entry. I will feature an interview with Joan Verlezza, author of the book, Waking Up.

A Zag motto that resonated with me.

Dr. Hazel facilitating the campus tour.

Posing on the court, but I still have love my UCONN Huskies!
The campus tour stops in front of St. Ignatius dedication.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gearing Up for Gonzaga

Just a little over a week ago I was celebrating the fact that I completed my first year in Gonzaga University's Communication and Leadership Program. I still remember the semester's intense moments. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to manage my course load with work and becoming a new homeowner, but I managed. Spring has finally arrived and while many students across our nation have graduated, or are looking forward to graduation, I've already started my next two courses in Diversity and Leadership and a Communications Practicum.

Gonzaga's campus as the sun sets.
Initially, I wasn't looking forward to summer courses, but as part of my course work I get to visit the university. That's a definite plus in my mind. I love to travel and see places I've never been. This Sunday I will fly to Spokane, Washington. It will be my first trip to the state. I will also get to step out of the virtual world of learning and finally meet some of my professors and fellow students face to face. While I do enjoy the flexibility of online classes, I can say I look forward to the "old school" way of learning, even if it is just for a few days.

While I'm on campus I'll be attending classes for my Communication Practicum. During my stay on campus I will engage in a series of intensive speaking, writing, and multimedia modules. There will also be time set aside to explore the campus and the beautiful Spokane countryside. I'm ready to take pictures. Over the next couple of days I'm gearing up for Gonzaga.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Signing Off Facebook

I'm trying to stay focused and make sure I stick to my one entry a week. Considering it's Wednesday I figured I get a post up. I'm in the home stretch for my course and am working on my final paper that is due Friday. I look forward to the sense of relief I will feel. I hope to celebrate by seeing the Avengers with the husband by the end of the week. 

Karim and I are also making progress on the painting front. We have two walls finished and our accent wall primed along with the trim in the room. A YEAH is in order!! In other news in my life I've also decided to sign-off of of Facebook.

Although Facebook continues to be one of the fasting growing social networking platforms where you can catch up with your friends, share news, post pictures and videos, share/receive status, play games, and last but not least, get a slice of what's happening in the lives of your frienemies. There's a lot to do and I've come to realize how much a time drain Facebook has been in my personal life. I'm not blaming Facebook for my lack of focus and my inability to write my page a day. That rests with me, but I can say that the time I spend catching up on other people's lives takes time away from me doing what I need to do in my own. There's also a lot of drama on Facebook. Reminds me of high school in some respects. I've come to expect that people grow up after high school, but when I see some people's post I realize that is not the case. Old habits die hard.

It's been almost a week I think. I've actually lost tract of the day I deactivated my account. I thought I was going to miss it, but it's nice. In some respects I do feel like I'm a girl in the room that's not part of the conversation and I have made my peace with it. It's not like I've completely given social networking up. I haven't. You can still find me on LinkedIn, Twitter @dirtywater22 and on Google +. There is also email, which seems to be so "old school" these days.

My hope and plan with this change is to get rid of the unnecessary in life. While I enjoy Facebook and sharing with others, it's not absolutely necessary that I do it. It's not like air, food, and water. Those I really need. I have quite a few writing projects that I need to work on. The dust that has settled on them needs to brushed away. I won't be gone forever, I'm sure there will be a time when I reactivate the account, but I don't see that happening in the near future. I plan to stay in the mix and you keep you in the mix through this blog and the other social networking platforms I continue to use for now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Long Over Due Post

This post is long over due. Yet again, I've fallen off my writing horse and feel the need to own up to my lack of focus on the writing front. I'm not going to beat myself up like I tend to do, instead I just need to break the pattern. I'm not sure if it is because spring is here and I have this need to spring into some writing action or it's the realization that I'm half-way through 2012 and I'm not making the progress I envisioned back in January. Truth be told, I think it's a bit of both.

I've come to see that even the layout for Blogger has changed. I'm not sure if I like it, time will tell. Since I've starting blogging I have noticed a few individuals that I follow have switched their blogs to Wordpress and have been contemplating the change myself. I'm still on the fence about it. If you're a blogger who has made the switch from Blogger to Wordpress I'd be interested in hearing you feedback on the transition.

In some more promising news, I'm happy to report I'm almost through my first year with Gonzaga University. My final paper for the organizational ethics class I'm taking is due next Friday, May 11, 2012. YEAH! It will be a short lived celebration because 10 days later I will be back to the books for the next course. I'm taking two courses this summer with just a week break in between them. No summer vacation this year. I'm slightly bummed about that, but then I remind myself I working hard now in hopes that it will payoff later. As part of my first course I will get to visit Spokane, Washington. It will my first visit to the state and I'm looking forward to seeing the campus and the area. During my stay I'll be living the no frills campus life, back to the basics. I won't be surprised if I have a flashback from my undergrad campus experience. It will be a humbling experience.

I manage to keep myself busy, which is a good thing, but to keep things feeling good on all fronts I will need to get my mojo back on the writing front. It's back to the basics, and get back to goal of writing one page a day for my feature script and also making time for revisions to Quarter Year Dilemmas. See you back here next week.