Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation. It's my favorite holiday of the year because it's a time when I get to reconnect with family and friends as well as begin my year-end reflection process. Despite the ups and downs I face in  life I am thankful for every day I'm granted on this earth. In today's post I'm going to share the five things I am most thankful for.

My top five list of what I am thankful for this year:

1. Karim HadjSalem (the hubby). He helps keep me grounded and tries to keep me focused on my personal goals as well as our goals as husband and wife. It's an added bonus that he's a programmer and handyman! I'm a very lucky girl.

2. My family and friends. I consider my friends a part of my extended family. I have a few special shout outs. My first is to my mom. Even though I'm grown, there are so many ways that she still helps me today and I know I wouldn't be the person I am without her love and support. Shout out to Dawn, my older sister! Growing up we were like oil and water, but today I can't imagine my life without her. She's smart, tough and keeps it real (sometimes too real, lol). I love that we both share a passion for interesting films and television shows that help expand our thinking. Smooches to my besties, you know who you are. You are the sisters I wished for growing up. I count my blessings that are paths crossed and that I have each of you in my life today. To Michelle, my mother-in-law; Salem, my father-in-law; and Faten (Karim's step-mom), thank you for all the dinners you host throughout the year and for your constant love and support to Karim and I. To the Thomas, Reeves and Rhodes families, although I don't get to see you all as much as I would like, I'm glad we are still connected and I love spending time with the next generation. I'm also very thankful for my writing mentor Louisa Burns-Bisgno, she continues to inspire and encourage me with her wisdom and ability to tell meaningful stories.

3. My blog. Sharing is caring, plus a writer needs to write. This blog is a reminder that I have stories I want to tell and share with others and that I have other vehicles I need to continue to hone and develop like my screenwriting. I appreciate all of you who read it!

4. Finishing my master's degree. I have one more semester to go and I will graduate Gonzaga University's Communication and Leadership Program. This two years program has helped me grow both professionally and personally. My final semester is going to be my hardest yet as I work on my thesis project, but I ready for the challenge and feel both prepared and ready.

5. My new job, although it's not so new anymore. This time last year I was preparing to leave the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Shout out to my Casey family)  and join UIL Holding Corporation. I was happy to have another job, but didn't know what to expect and had some anxiety about that. I jumped in ready to learn and a year later I still have a job. Yeah! I have a much better understanding of the utility industry then I did a year ago and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn as I approach year two.

I wish you and your families a happy and safe Thanksgiving and feel free to let me know what you are thankful for in the comments section! I want to know!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Dirty Dancing's Final Dance

Happy Friday everyone,

We made it through another week. Yeah. I don't know about you, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I'm looking forward to a short week that will officially kick-off our holiday season.

It's time for me to switch things up! You're going to get a flashback, just a different type of flashback video. Instead of picking a music video that I love, I decided to share one of my favorite movie scenes.This week's flashback is the final dancing scene in Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayzee (RIP) and Jennifer Gray. Remember Johnny's line, "Nobody puts baby in the corner!" How can you not? It's classic! 

When I heard Hollywood was remaking the film I was very disappointed along with many other fans of the film. If my memory serves me right, I believe there was some national outage, even if it was mostly on Facebook, lol. I felt the same about Footloose. I have yet to see either and am not sure if I ever will. I'm sure the casts were equally talented but some things should be left alone. On that note I wish you a wonderful weekend. Enjoy the scene. 

Don't be scared to sing and dance along!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Cyndi's Lauper "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"

Happy Friday everyone! My bad on missing last week's flashback post. Time got away from me and when I remembered it was Saturday. Glad to be back. I'm feeling upbeat this week and thought this week's flashback video should be also be. Before the Spice Girls indoctrinated a generation of tweeners and teenage girls with marketed ideas of girl power, there was a quirky, off-beat singer whose song resonated women across the globe and made them feel empowered. If it's not fun, then it's done and it's why I've selected Cyndi Lauper's, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" for this week's Friday Flashback.

I love this song because it makes me feel good from the inside out. I can be having the worse day, but when I play this song I seem to be able to let go over my negative feelings and remind myself to take a page from Ms. Lauper's book and try to have fun. The single was Lauper's breakthrough hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming a worldwide hit throughout late 1983 and early 1984.

Last week Lauper was in Connecticut and performed at the Ridgefield Playhouse. I'm sorry I missed that. This song and video is more than two decades old, but I find it timeless and a reminder that no matter what I have on my plate, I just want to have fun. Thanks Cyndi!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Where There is Breath There is Hope

Documentary poster
Where there is breath, there is hope. Today I was left with those words from Tonier "Neen" Cain, a trauma survivor that endured two full decades of sexual and physical assaults, homelessness, mental abuse and many other ills that come with being a part of our broken, social, mental health and criminal justice systems. She was the keynote speaker at Clifford Beers Clinic's 11th Annual Builders of Hope Breakfast. Even as I write this post, her words "Where there is breath, there is hope," still resonate with me. The short but powerful phase is a personal reminder to me why I love stories and believe in the power of one person's story.

I was invited to the event as a guest of a colleague and while I'm familiar with Clifford Beers and what they do, I wasn't sure what to expect from the speaker. I wasn't familiar with her story. The moment she stepped up to the podium she had a strong presence.  She captivated me, and I think the greater audience as well. 

On all accounts her story was a tragic one. She grew up in an abusive home with an alcoholic mother that was more concerned with getting her liquor fix and pleasing the men that came in and out her bed then raising the multiple children she birthed. Her mother's neglect also lead to physical and sexual abuse that would put a nine year-old child on a path to seek a temporary escape through alcohol that she found left over from her mother's parties and eventually to an addiction of crack-cocaine that would engulf her in life of crime, putting her in and out of our criminal justice system.

Her story is familiar, at least familiar to me. I've heard it before as it has become a common story within our urban cities. On occasion it may draw attention in a news headline or a segment on the five or six o'clock news as a breaking story. While her story is a tragic one as a society we have come to accept it as a norm and move on with our lives. The truth is that we don't really move on.

The destruction that drug addiction has in our cities and towns is epidemic and the connection they have to mental illness is often overlooked and not addressed and if it is, many times its too late. Luckily that wasn't the case for Tonier.

She stood on a stage, confident, engaged and despite the trauma she has endured she was able to talk about it. It took her more than 20 years to get the help she needed, but she got it and reminded the audience the need for change. In my short life I've come to learn that we talk a lot about change, but when push comes to shove, many people aren't willing or ready to embrace it. That's a major problem because if we don't change we become the victims of our own actions.

In Tonier's story I was also stuck with how she continued to slip through our systems. No one ever asked her why or what is going on? Where do the bruises come from, instead they checked off lists as if the job was done and she continued to spiral downward. To deal with her trauma, drugs became her outlet, her way to numb the pain. Can you imagine how different her life may have been if someone actually cared about a nine year-old black girl being neglected and showing clear signs of abuse and actually did something about it? I can.

I take solace in the fact that she made it from the darkness to the light and can share her empowering story with others. I commend the mental health practitioners that got it right after 20 years and helped her work through the trauma. 

In all accounts, she should have been a lost cause and as a society we would have accepted the fact that she is a crack-head that is never going to change. 

However, "Where there is breath there is hope." Tonier's words are a reminder that as a society, while it's easier to dismiss drug addicts and crazy people, as a society we pay when we refuse to help people deal with their trauma, mental health issues or drug addiction. It costs the individual, their families and has an even more devastating impact in our communities.

None of us in this world can fix our problems alone. It takes support. Our systems and services have to work together. We have to stop turning a blind eye and start asking the right questions. If we don't how can we expect to find the right answers. 

Below is Tonier's story and I hope it continues to have the power to inspire and give hope to others as it did me. Where there is breath there is hope!

Healing Neen - feature length from Gallery144 Productions on Vimeo.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday's Flashback: Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Under the Bridge"

It's late, but I wanted to squeak in this blog post. I'm not going to let Friday past without getting my flashback video out there. I really like this feature and sharing some of my favorite videos and songs with you. I feel like I bring you into the things that help to shape my opinions and how I view the world at large.

This week's Friday Flashback is Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Under the Bridge." I apologize for not sharing upbeat and happy-go-lucky video in advance, but I have to be real about why I choose this video to post.

When this song came out I was in eighth grade. I loved the smooth and calming rock melody, but at the time I didn't realize the song was about heroin use. Initially, I think I connected to the message of loneliness and wanting to be taken away. A few years later and wiser I got the song's real message about heroin, aka  H, white-horse, candy, an alluring and secretive killer drug. What I know realize is that the message of loneliness and the feeling of wanting to be taken away I connected to, is why many people try and then become addicted to heroin. It temporarily fills a void or the sense of emptiness the user feels. In recent months I've come to see the power of this addictive drug and its ability to rob an individual of their job, dignity, trust, soul, and by the grace of God not yet their life.

The drug deceives and makes those who fall under its influence deceptive. The drug offers the false illusion that it will take the pain away and when you think you can quit, you're hooked, you're and addict!

It's in our big cities, our suburbs, and our small and rural towns. All walks of life from business men to college students are seeking out the drug and fall victim to its deceptive allure. There are a lot of people who are "under the bridge" and struggling with heroin addiction. It's very unfortunate and sad, but it's a reality that is out there. If you know or suspect that someone your life is using heroin, try to help them get clean. You may be that individual's last hope.