Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Photo Montage: My Year in Review

Another year bites the dust. This is my final blog post for 2013! I’m happy to have made it through another year. I thought it would be both fun and reflective to recap with photos of some of the people, places, and special events that made my year memorable. They say pictures say a thousand words. Enjoy the montage and feel free to post a comment on one of your special moments in 2013! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where's the Money?: My Personal Gripe with the U.S. Department of Education

Today I must vent! I'm pretty pissed with the U.S. Department of Education at the moment. Why? I'm pissed because they have no record of my $5309.00 loan repayment that I made last January, I had the blessing to be able to repay my undergraduate and graduate loans thanks to my severance from my former employee. While I wasn't have to be leaving the organization, it was a definite plus that I could be college debt free as a result of it.

I paid off all my loans in January of 2013. I made the payments online through Chase Bank and have the transaction statements to prove it. Thank goodness I do because a couple of months ago the U.S Department of Education sent me a letter saying I owed interest on a loan of $5,200.00. That caught me off guard because I had paid it with the accrued interest back in January. I do my due diligence and call them to find out what is going on and to my dismay they have no record of my payment. I don't understand how this is possible when a check was sent from my online banking account and there's a record from Chase that the payment was received. How does that amount of money get lost?

I call and open up an investigation with the Department of Education and they ask me to send them documents from my bank that I made the payment. I send them the forms over a month ago and no word from them about the investigation, instead I get a bill with a total principal interest of $432.73 due. Since I took this semester off, the customer service rep explained that my loan would have to go into forbearance, while the department was investigating. Going into forbearance means I'm still accruing interest on the loan, the loan that I paid in full! Can you say hot mess?

Since I received a statement with a principal interest of $423.73 I decide see what's the status of the investigation and give the department a call. Long story short there is no change since I last called.

The customer service rep tells me that the information I faxed was not enough. Although I faxed a bill confirmation from Chase that states the U.S. Department of Education received the payment, they need an AC ID or trace number to track the payment and that wasn't on the document. As the rep is explaining this, I feel like I'm about to explode. I want to scream but of course I keep my composure. I was then told I need to get this number from my bank and send it to them via fax to move my investigation forward. What I find really frustrating about this process is that I wouldn't have found out this information if I didn't call. Glass half-full, at least I know my next steps.

Before I get off the phone the service rep asked my if I'm satisfied with my call. I know she's doing her job, but it felt like a slap in the face considering I paid my loan in full. Unfortunately for me the department has no record of it. No, I'm am not at all satisfied with my call! I'm now wondering who else this may be happening to!

I went to a Chase branch and explained my problem. The Chase representative helped me file an online bill payment inquiry for proof of payment. I should have it in 24 to 48 hours. I will then need to fax that back to the Department of Education and hope the tracking information they need is there. I'm not sure what I will do if it's not.

One thing I am certain of  is in my next follow-up I will request a supervisor, but for now I have to accept although I paid the U.S. Department of  Education they have no record of it. I'm grateful for the help I received from Chase and while  I'm not at all happy about the situation venting does help.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why? Because Ben Righter's Single Has Dropped

Yesterday my cousin Benjamin Rhodes III aka Ben Righter dropped his single WHY! Congratulations are in order! I would be remiss if I didn't plug him and his hard work as a singer and songwriter.

He has been singing all his life and I've watched him grow as an artist over the years. It's really impressive to see his evolution! I also admire the fact that he hasn't giving up on his gift, passion for music and continues to hustle! The writer in me can identify with that struggle.

I love the single and just had to share it with you! Check out his video below! If you like it, you can download the single on iTunes and Spotify. It will make a great gift for the holidays, trust me and don't ask why!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday's Flashback: A Christmas Story

Are you in the holiday spirit with Christmas only 13 days away? Despite the fact that I don't celebrate the religious parts of the holiday, I do enjoy holiday commercialism. Funny how that works out. I'm happy to report my holiday shopping is almost done. I'll be wrapping and mailing out packages next week. While I'm wrapping and bagging gifts I enjoy watching holiday films too. One of my favorite Christmas films is The Christmas Story. Absolutely classic!

I can watch it again and again and again. Today's Friday Flashback is a short clip from the film. In the scene below Ralphie proves he's no punk. Enjoy and happy watching!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Aaliyah's Top 10 Selfies for 2013

The term "selfie" made a big splash in 2013. It was officially anointed when the Oxford dictionary added it this year. Pope John Francis may be Time magazines man of the year but I would have to say "selfie" is the word of the year, even if my spell check doesn't recognize it. The Oxford Dictionary and Lakeshore Public Media made it their word of the year. Everyone from your average Joe to President Obama is snapping one. It's the in thing.

I've done my share. Have you? With my personal need to reflect as this year comes to a close I've decided start my process with a fun "selfie" recap. I've to combed through mountains of "selfie" photos online and bring you my top ten. The word is here to stay but I'm already wondering what next year's created word will take us and the media by storm.

Aaliyah's Top 10 Selfies for 2013

10. Kim Kardashian. Where would my list be without the infamous Kim? I'm no fan but this selfie did catch my eye. Sorry Kanye, you're not on my list. Please don't hate.

9. Geraldo Rivera. I can't believe I once interned for Geraldo's daytime talk show. People used to think his talk show was bad. I find this selfie much worse. Hot mess!!

8. Mom and I at the 2013 New Haven Open at Yale women semi-finales. (Yes, I decided to add my own, lol!)

7. Pope Francis with teenage travelers. This Pope has been a game changer for the Catholic church I wasn't expecting. Enough said!

6. Malia and Sasha Obama. I love these two and they make the list because they are too cute.

5. Madonna. Definitely not the icon at her best, but she gets a pass due to her iconic status. Courtesy of her Instagram :)

4. A father from Ontario with his 4-week old daughter. I'm still puzzled on how the baby made that face.This is one of my favs.

3. Snoop Dog. Snoop makes the list because he was bold enough to take a selfie with a hair bonnet on his head, but then again he's that type of guy.

2. John Hodgins. My former Casey colleague and friend. I'm normally not into beards but his is a list maker.

1. President Obama. No explanation needed!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering Mandela

Yesterday the world lost Nelson Mandela. He was an activist, freedom fighter, father, humanitarian, leader, who was also pragmatic and a forward thinker. These past couple of years he had many health struggles and although I wasn't surprised by the announcement of his passing, I still felt a tremendous sense of loss. I believe Mandela was an exceptional human being. I would place him on a humanitarian list that would include Mother Theresa, Oskar Schindler, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and others. This Flashback Friday I'm remembering the life and accomplishments of Nelson Mandela. A 1961 video interview with a young Mandela is at the end of the post for your viewing.

I get angry when I think about his early life and the pain, suffering and injustice he and many other black and colored South Africans endured for more than 40 years because of apartheid. It reminds me of the United States "Jim Crow" days in the south. The two discriminatory systems are practically brother and sister. Architects of apartheid visited the United States in the 1940s and based their system off our "Jim Crow" laws, but made it much more heinous in its implementation and practice in South Africa.

If I grew up during apartheid I would have had to carried an ID card that listed my race as black. I would only be able to live with other blacks. I wouldn't have had white friends, nor would I have married my husband who would have been classified as colored. No one should have to live under such conditions.

I understand why Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid and at times used violence to combat violence. What still mystifies me about him is that he served almost 30 years in prison for his convictions and was willing do die for it, even die in prison. He's beliefs and his convictions about freedom and democracy for all South Africans did not waiver and he didn't give up. When Mandela was released from prison he wasn't angry and vengeful, he believed the only way to move himself and his country forward was through forgiveness. I find that astonishing and tells me a lot about his character.

Like King, his vision of democracy and freedom isn't fully realized. The remnants of apartheid still linger in many areas within the country. I think economic disparities between whites and people of color are a result of the inequities apartheid created. The country has faced its demons through the reconciliation process, but the struggle continues. It's a global struggle. Injustice in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Saudi Arabia, the United States and others parts of the globe matter and we need to make others aware of these struggle. Like it or not, we are all connected.

Over the next few days much will be said about Mandela as he is remembered. There are so many things to take away from his life, but for me one of the most important was his ability to forgive. There are many horrible things happening in our world, but we all have the capacity to forgive those who wrong us. To be able to forgive requires a great inner strength. Mandela had it and I will never forget it.