Stepping out on Faith

There have been so many times that I have struggled and stressed in a full-time job that wasn’t what I wanted to be doing or around the people that would inspire or motivate me as a Christian or as a woman. I told myself that the only reason that I stayed was because I had no choice, the benefits were good, it’s too hard to find another job, or some other mundane reason. I know now that the real reason that I stayed locked in a dead end job that almost drove me to insanity and serious health issues wasn’t trusting in the Lord. Let’s break it down…

When my beloved mother passed away, I found myself lost for a little while. I had an Associate’s Degree and leadership skills, and four small children. Since some of my older siblings had a history of wanting to see me fall down and not get back up, I decided I wouldn’t let my mother or my children down by giving in to my siblings’ spite. Ironically with one of my sister’s help, I started my own dessert catering business. The business started to take off faster than my sister’s salon as more people loved the taste of my homemade desserts. Soon, I was getting requests for high end tea and garden parties. I was ecstatic and stupid. My prices were too low and my profit was too. I made a bad decision to get a part time job and leave a jobless family member in charge of some catering jobs. It didn’t take long before I had to dissolve the business due to bad customer service and tasteless product going to repeat customers. The family member had helped me in my greed and naivety to ruin a growing business. I swallowed my pride and disappointment and stayed on at the part-time retail job.

After awhile, I used my fast learning and leadership skills to promote to the low commission shoe department at the retailer. I was relieved because now, I had a more set schedule, but the majority of the staff were women who immediately felt intimidated by me. The drama began and ended finally when I was upgraded to the high commission of appliances. Older people, less drama, and more money; at least that is what I thought. The older people were sharks with sharp tongues and equally intimidated because I was Black and spoke Spanish. I persevered and lasted long enough to become a manager with stable hours and stable income. Little did I know that the demands of that position would lead me to want more for me and my children. I wanted more time with them and more time to really find myself, but I kept coming up with more excuses to not leave. Finally, I got a side job as a business consultant for a established business that needed exposure. I jumped at the chance even though I made up most of what I needed to do and it was largely successful. I helped them and they helped me. They took me and my children under their wing with more business knowledge and a generous salary with benefits. My life began to settle into a pattern, and I felt less like I was lost without my Mama.

It wasn’t long before a friend of mine reminded me that I had promised my mother that I would get my four-year degree and proceed to law or graduate school. I shrugged off the reminder until God gently nudged me until I stopped in to Dallas Baptist University one day and found out that I could finish my degree faster than I had thought because of my Associate Degree credits. I enrolled and proceeded to take classes with my demanding retail schedule. I kept this up until God opened up a door for me to leave the retail world behind and concentrate on just my studies. I still felt lost because I was an older college student without a job and trying to care for my four children. God laid His Mighty Hand on the situation again and sent me my wonderful and supportive husband who began shouldering my burdens and sharing my triumphs. I obtained a job as a home health administrator and lost it six months later to internal conflict and jealousy. Again, I felt lost, but God provided me with income, and I was able to walk with my head held high and tears flowing to receive my B.A.S in Criminal Justice and Business Administration. I felt so complete that it took me a week to come down from that natural high.

The problem began when I came down from the high to accept a job with the State of Texas that gave me the fulfillment of client service but didn’t value my skills and intellect. So many of my coworkers would be baffled as to why I stayed in the job when I was so smart and commanding. Some of them ridiculed me severely when I finished my first two books (www.breakingthelinebooks.com) and still remained employed. I got several puzzled looks from them when I founded the anti-bullying nonprofit (www.stoppingthemadness.org) because they couldn’t understand why I was about to kill myself with a nervous breakdown and heavy stress filled workloads as I remained employed as a caseworker. I would just shake my head because all those excuses were running through my head. Yes, the job was stressful to the point that I would sit in my car breathing heavily everyday because I just didn’t want to log into the system and see the workload. Panic attacks and stress pills filled my day until I knew that I couldn’t take it anymore. It was just too much for any human to try to do, so I prayed for peace. Well, that didn’t happen because I just got more cases, so I prayed for understanding. Yep, didn’t get that either. I was at a loss and started to feel myself drifting, so I prayed for guidance and wisdom. It was then that I felt the not-so-gentle nudge to trust and believe that My Father God had a different path for me. It was time for me to step out on faith. I talked to my husband, and we prayed that it was time. When I handed in my resignation, the weight that I had been feeling lifted, and the path that God had for me opened in so many ways.

Stepping out on faith is what drives me to be the best self-employed minority business owner and nonprofit founder this side of the Mississippi. Breaking the Line Books will publish several books in the next year including the last two of my Victoria’s Journey series. Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation will be a nonprofit that will bring an end to bullying and provide resources and tools for families that need it. I realize that now I have truly found my faith because all I had to do was trust in God.

Customer Service, Part 3

Last week was an extremely busy week. Preparing for the upcoming Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation’s First Annual Festival in the Square has been a happy exhaustion. Vendors have been inquiring about spaces, and parents have been inquiring about our program. I couldn’t be more excited. The problem is as I went through the correct channels to solicit sponsors and donation, I ran into the old problem of customer service. i couldn’t understand some people’s negative reactions, but one bright thing made my weekend better and productive…Maria Delgado of the Buckingham Wells Fargo. I bet y’all are thinking that I blog a lot about Wells Fargo not to be on their payroll, but it just goes to show you how your interaction with one business can affect your whole life. Let’s break it down…

Last week, I ventured into an Office Max in the Arlington, TX area to make copies of flyers and other promotional materials for the Festival. I also had a radio interview with a fellow host, so I was in a hurry but needed those flyers. I ran into the front of the store and saw quite a few store staff milling around and chatting. This wasn’t a bad thing, but it kept them from speaking to me and as I turned around in a circle looking for the print counter, no one came to assist. I walked up to one gentleman and asked about the flyers. He had a smirk on his face as he looked me up and down before pointing to the printshop at the rear of the store and with derision in his voice told me, “It’s right there.” His tone suggested that I was stupid for not noticing that the print counter was all the way at the back of the store. Since I had never been in that store, I thought his attitude was bad, so I asked for the manager to which he replied that he was the manager. I gave him a skeptical look, shrugged my shoulders, and proceeded to the print counter to get my flyers. The only thing that made my visit better was the helpful young print shop expert. When I left that store, I knew I wouldn’t be going back. Like ever. Another example of giving everyone good service because you never know who a customer really is. Anyway, I had a couple more bad experiences later in the week including one from a store that told me that they never help non-profits. After being appalled at the store manager’s attitude, I thought to myself, “I cannot wait to blog about this” It wasn’t until Friday that I knew my blog wouldn’t be about all negative customer service.

Friday, I received a call from a vendor, Sanando Sports Massage and Wellness, telling me that being a vendor isn’t enough, that they wanted to become a Diamond Level Sponsor. I almost dropped the phone! A Diamond Level Sponsor could help us do so many things for the kids and parents in our program! I wanted to scream and shout, then, I remembered that SMAF(www.stoppingthemadness.org) didn’t have a bank account for that kind of money. Paypal is great, but cash and check donations, we needed an account badly. I thought about Chris Binion’s branch, but something told me to pick up the phone and call Maria Delgado. Maria has been amazing in taking care of my business banking needs since she helped me open the account last year. In fact, I can say that without Maria, Breaking the Line Books, http://www.breakingthelinebooks.com, wouldn’t be on the road to being such a reputable business or employer. She even made sure that I knew about merchant services and I definitely needed that information. Anyway, I digress. I called Maria and a young lady answered to say Maria was busy and I’d have to leave a message. I took a deep breath to tamp down my excitement and left a message. After playing phone tag for an hour, I finally got to speak with Maria who told me to come see her with all my paperwork and she would see what she could do! It was late and almost closing time, but she said to come see her! She didn’t blow me off with a ,”Come in on Monday, and I’ll help you.” She said come see me now, so I grabbed my purse, briefcase, and headed to Wells Fargo at Buckingham. I got there, signed in, and sat down to wait. A couple of other bankers came by to ask me if they could help, and I let them know that I was there for Maria and only Maria. They let Maria know and she came out, greeted me like a long lost friend, and proceeded to take me to her office to hear what I needed. Our conversation centered around my program and how bullying affects everyone of all cultures while Maria looked over my paperwork. Before I knew it, I was signing the signature card! Maria had made me so comfortable and at ease while she worked, that SMAF’s account was ready for deposit. For the second time that day, I wanted to shout, but I kept calm and wished Maria a good weekend. As we walked out, Maria wished me success on SMAF’s Festival and pledged to help out when she could, as well as, connecting me to nonprofit assistance within Wells Fargo because she believes that our community need the SMAF program! All I could think was Wow! As with Chris Binion and his team, I couldn’t help but be amazed at this phenomenally busy woman who cares not only about my business but about her community. Well done, Maria, well done. 

Antibullying “Festival in the Square” Community Event

smaf FLYER3

Come on, come all, to help us Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation stop the madness of Bullying!! The “Festival in the Square” will be held June 28th, from 9 to 7! SMAF will be celebrating independent talents with a talent contest for adults and children! Prizes, food, games! Our sponsor Sanando Sports Therapy and Wellness will be out to relax those body aches! Join us in the Historic Downtown Garland Square!! Don’t miss it! For more details, visit http://www.stoppingthemadness.org

School community liaisons and community/parent services

In the progress of SMAF, my nonprofit anti-bullying foundation, http://www.stoppingthemadness.org, I approached the community liaisons of my children’s school district to establish a rapport to work with them. It was an experience that I knew that I needed to blog. I felt that I needed to address my interactions with them as representatives of the school district. In approaching both of the liaisons as a anti-bullying nonprofit founder and a parent of children within the school district, my anticipation was that both of the liaisons would be willing to assist in an organization like the Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation. Especially, since as a parent, I know that it is a situation that the district needs proactive assistance. I have to say that only one was so extremely helpful that I knew that I needed to give her kudos in my blog. It puzzled me as to what I did to cause such negativity and distance with the other community liaison, so I’ve decided to record both experiences and let y’all figure it out for me. Let’s break it down…

When I decided to establish the anti-bullying nonprofit, SMAF, I knew that we needed to work within the school administration to educate them about our program and see if they can utilize it. My Director of Education, Dr. Donnamaria Culbreth, and I have developed an adult advocate anti-bullying certification course that can be added into any curriculum for teaching or as an inservice workshop. SMAF also holds community rallies and events that are free to the public with children aimed activities unless they want to purchase items from our sponsors. Wait. Free to the public? Children’s activities? Those words alone should make any community liaison anxious to know more and help spread the word. At least that’s what I thought.

I looked online and found that the school district has two liaisons, one for the Hispanic people and one for the Black people. Now, as a race relations advocate, I don’t think that it should be separated by race, but that’s just my opinion. Anyway, I decided to call the Hispanic community liaison first because he was listed first. Let’s just call him, J. J answered the phone as if he had swallowed a prune. I didn’t let this deter me from my course, and I gave him the run down on our fundraising event. J responded with a negative tone that reflected his answer, “School is out next week, and I don’t see how that’d be possible”. I persevered and made my request of giving flyers to the schools three days before school is released to which he ho-hummed and rushed me off the phone. I had to stare at the screensaver on my phone for a moment to get a grip. I shook my head at the experience and said a prayer for J. I hope his day went better after that call.

Before I dialed the Black community liaison, I said an extra prayer for wisdom, guidance, and patience. It turns out that I had to leave a message, but the pleasant voiced secretary took the message and gave assurance that the liaison would call me back. I disconnected the call feeling a little bit better about the situation.

After lunch, I received a call back from the liaison. Let’s call her M. M was so nice and positive when I explained the nonprofit’s mission and the community event. She listened, gave input, and provided me with useful information for the future. She also pledged her assistance in finding the correct contact to assist in information and possibly implementing our free SMAF advocate certification program! Wow! I almost couldn’t believe the complete turnaround from my experience with J! In my opinion as a nonprofit director and a parent, I would want someone like M to be a liaison between me and the school district. Her attitude is positive and willing to help while J’s was negative and distant. All I know is that a school community liaison is supposed to work with the community and build positive bridges with foundations that will last. Their attitude becomes a reflection of the school district, and what school district wants that kind of negativity connected to them? None, because parents would withdraw/transfer their kids in droves to more progressive and upbeat districts. I guess it goes without saying that J could use a few lessons in optimism. I can only thank God that M’s encouragement and advice carried the day. It will also make me more likely to want to deal with only her in the future. Kudos to you, M!

I have said it before and I’ll say it again…you never know who you might be talking to, so leave a positive impression because first impressions really are important. If J had known that I was an author who actively blogged about her experiences, would his attitude have changed? Hmm…Nah, I get the feeling that it wouldn’t have mattered. Will I be able to have a constructive conversation with J in the future? I’d love to, but not before I remind him that you attract more bees with sugar than vinegar.

Customer Service, Part 2

As most of you know, I have worn several hats and still do as a wife, mother, CEO, nonprofit founder, author, editor, motivational speaker, radio show host, advocate, and mentor. Whoo, that’s a lot. However, no matter which hat I’m wearing, I always use The Golden Rule, “Do unto others…” I apply it to everything that I do and teach my children to do the same. My expectation is to receive that same Golden Rule principle whenever I come in contact with others. Whether it’s during a personal or business contact, I examine the way that I am treated. If it’s negative in any way, I rarely deal with that individual or business again, but if it’s positive, I always make a point to mention the interaction in person and various social media. I also will go out of my way to revisit the contact. I can honestly say that there are some who live and work by the “Do unto others…” rule and some…not so much. One particular group of people embody this principle and I am blessed to know them personally and professionally. Let’s break it down…

Lately, I have been struggling to think of more ways to promote my nonprofit, Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation(SMAF), http://www.stoppingthemadness.org. There is the GoFund Me account for Stopping the Madness, and there is also online donations taken on the website, http://www.stoppingthemadness.org. Also, during our last Board of Directors meeting, the attending Directors and I came up with several promotional solutions and summer fundraising events, but I still felt like there could be more. I took a step back, put on my author hat, and concentrated on Breaking the Line Books current projects. (www.breakingthelinebooks.com) I still felt that nudge that SMAF needed something else. I couldn’t sleep because my mind was like a train on a circular track. I threw my hands up, prayed about it, and gave it to God. Well, He showed up and showed out, again. I feel so foolish now for not allowing God to bless me in His time instead of trying to rush Him. Ha! As if I could do it on my own. Ha! Ha! Silly girl! As I stood contemplating a few ideas during a former coworker’s retirement party, I looked down to see a missed call. I was about to ignore it until later tonight, but I felt that nudge to listen to the voicemail that accompanied the call. As soon as I heard the gentle, Southern accent of Chris Binion from the Casa Linda Branch of Wells Fargo, I knew that God had sent me a blessing.

For those of you who don’t know who Chris Binion is, he is the branch manager from my Customer Service February blog post. He and his team saved me a lot of trouble by fixing a problem with my account. The experience was totally positive and will stick with me and my husband for a long time. Anyway, I digress. Chris left a message inviting me to a business mixer and to say thank you for being a small business owner. I checked my schedule and saw that it was full during the time of the mixer. My heart sank for a moment, then I almost kicked myself. I’m the boss, so I can move a meeting around and edit a project the next day! Yes! I cleared my schedule within a couple of hours, called my husband, and left the retirement party to get ready for the mixer. I knew that God had blessed me with Chris’ call, and I wasn’t going to miss that blessing!

We arrived promptly to the mixer to be greeted by Chris himself and two lovely young ladies, Mariah and Monica who I know from visiting the branch. You see, I had visited the branch earlier in the week to make a quick transaction, and Mariah had taken care of me swiftly and efficiently with incredible politeness. Ah, customer service at its best. I could tell when I met her tonight that she didn’t remember, but it’s okay because I did. I also met the rest of the banking team, who took the time to get to know me personally and my various professional hats. David, the customer service manager introduced himself in a very courteous and friendly manner, and during the initial meet and greet, Chris introduced the rest of the staff, San, Esperanza, Andrew, Jose, and Sarah(I apologize if I read any of your name tags wrong, I didn’t have my glasses). They were as I expected, a reflection of their leadership in Chris. I also got to meet Olga, the district manager, who is more than a Wells Fargo district manager. She is well spoken and a community leader. To see her thank her team and the small business owners gathered in such an eloquent manner made me feel welcome and glad that I had cleared my schedule.

After introductions, I met several of the business owners, spoke with Olga at length, and discussed possibilities of networking with them on projects for SMAF. I almost hooped and hollered with the opportunities presented from Olga, Putting on the Ritz Catering, and the Alligator Cafe. I laughed to myself knowing that God had opened the door, and I ran through it. I almost didn’t want to leave because the whole experience was so positive.

Anyway, I can’t say what the future holds for SMAF, but I’m leaving it all in God’s Hands. It looks pretty promising from where I’m sitting now, though. He placed Chis Binion and his team in my path for a reason, and I’m so very thankful. I was able to make strides that I wouldn’t have even thought of for SMAF, and I have never felt so positive as I do when I walk into the Casa Linda Wells Fargo branch. I guess it all goes back to excellent customer service. Well, actually, it goes beyond it. Chris and his team provide more than excellent customer service. They make you a part of a family.

The Village

Recently, I blogged about the progress of my anti-bullying organization, Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation, http://www.stoppingthemadness.org. We are not only addressing bullying in schools, but we are actively developing a program to train parents and teachers to address bullying when it happens with respect to students’ privacy. Now, I know that some of you would say that if a student decides to bully doesn’t deserve privacy, but do we really want the victim to be put on the spot too? I have been researching material and the behaviors of students and you will not believe what parents and students revealed that most teachers don’t think twice about doing. Let’s break it down…

In addressing Andrew’s bullying, his SMAF assigned advocate and I spoke to him extensively about his daily school activities. Leading us through his day, we found several common denominators. One, the teachers are not really paying attention during the passing period. Two, the teachers have a habit of calling out a students’ issues in front of the class. Three, the teachers say that they want the parents more involved, but when a parent contacts them, there is almost guilt or defensiveness to their response. It was an “ah ha” moment. Could it be that in during the education, training, certification, and hiring process a breakdown of the increased responsibility for teachers is missing? Don’t get me wrong, I respect the teaching profession because I know that I would not be able to do what they do. There’s the flip side that a lot of teachers apply and are hired that don’t like kids or it was easier to get a teaching job than anything else with a Bachelor’s degree. That’s a problem to me because as a parent and an advocate, I know that those kinds of teachers don’t have a care for how children are educated or treated…it’s just a job. However, with the increase of bullying incidents in schools and homeschooling, we have to examine that common denominator and find a solution. As a parent, I try to work with the teachers and administrators to help my children succeed in school with the least amount of direct involvement. In other words, I am involved without stepping on toes or interfering with my children’s education, but lately, I am forced to step on toes because there’s something missing. As an advocate for SMAF, I am more involved in the education of all children and parent involvement. It is a necessity as I interview other children that have been bullied for my book, The Faces of Bullying, Vol. 1. What I found is that this younger generation just needs someone to have their back(www.breakingthelinebooks.com) at home and at school. Does that make them needy? In my opinion, no, that makes them a child. I have begun to meet with parents to understand their parenting goals and teach them how to be an effective advocate for their own children. My goal is to partner SMAF with school districts to provide a solution to the growing chasm between parents and teachers. The PTA just isn’t enough anymore.

In order for us to have a successful and driven young generation, parents and teachers need to have a bridge to cross without any communication becoming negative. Mutual respect is definitely necessary, and the question becomes with all of the negative press about students and teachers lately, how do we reinforce that respect in the classroom? Do we allow a teacher to berate a child in front of their peers just so that their peers can tease and harass that child about it later? Do we keep allowing bullies to get away with their actions because there is a fear of repercussion from the parent or just too much paperwork to deal with during class time? When corporal punishment was taken out of schools, did that tie teachers’ hands to what they think they need to do to make sure that all of the children in their care receive an education when they have a disruptive child in the same class? Is this method of teaching effective or does it create bullies and victims outside of the classroom? Can parents and community organizations provide more than moral support with the stressful lesson plans that teachers have to provide to their districts to ensure their employment? Can we provide other avenues of employment for those teachers that are just there for the paycheck?

All valid questions, but it’s going to take time, money, and patience to find the answers. I’m not saying that teachers are bad; please do NOT think that I am saying that. As parents, it is our job to make sure that the teachers that educate our children have as much support as possible from us. As teachers, parents entrust the care and minds of their children for seven hours of the day. It’s so important in this day and age to fall back to the old saying, “It takes a Village”.

Stopping the Madness Antibullying Foundation’s motto is “Stopping the Madness of Bullying, one client at a time.” At this time, we provide tele-counseling with State of Texas Certified Counselors, SMAF advocate certification training, motivational speeches by me, and a bullying support group. I created this foundation because as a parent, I was tired of the breakdown of communication between me and my children’s school. Please feel free to share this blog and donate to our cause because we have to start paying attention to what goes on in the “Village”.

Progress to Address

It’s been awhile since I have blogged because I have been extremely driven to create the anti-bullying foundation that I mentioned in my last blog. I have missed sharing my ups and downs in the publishing and writing business, but it has been more than worth it to accomplish what I have so far with the foundation. I’m exhausted with my efforts, and more than a little drained at the negativity thrown my way from friends, relatives, and strangers who don’t understand my passion for putting a stop to bullying. The great thing is that I’m not giving up on anything. Tired or not, this will move forward. Let’s break it down…

After trudging through the administrative bullying red tape at my son’s school for months, I have found that the school policies say one thing but really mean another. I had been able to reach the counselor set aside for only bullying issues, but as I advocated for my own son, she was noticeably missing. I found this to be an issue because what if a student needed to talk to her about an incident? What was more effective, having her traveling to workshops during the school day or being at school in her office ready to outreach with bullying victims? Don’t get me wrong, the counselor has been more than cooperative and willing, but the problem is availability. When I approached the subject with one of the administration, I was told that her department was school based but operated by another department. I had to do a double take. Really? School based but not operated by the school? More things that didn’t add up began to weigh in with my anti-bullying agenda. I realized that it was time to move forward a few steps.

Stopping the Madness Anti-bullying Foundation, http://www.stoppingthemadness.org, has been registered with the Texas Secretary of State as a non-profit as of April. I have formed a Board of Directors, bylaws, a first year business plan, and a 12 step program for all participants including the parents of those bullied and the bullies. I am currently seeking funding from grants and donations in order to establish the crisis/community centers and get them into operation by the upcoming school year. I know that I need help, and money is always an issue. The thing is that this program is worth stepping out on faith and donating money. After all, it’s for our young generation to be safe and succeed in school. I am extremely excited about the foundation because I can see some of the results when I am contacted to become an advocate for a bullying victim. The progression is real.

Most of you know that I am the author of the Victoria’s Journey series, http://www.breakingthelinebooks. I decided while I am writing Book 3, Victoria’s Joy, that I need a book that can be picked up by an agent to help fund my foundation until I get a big grant or large donation; and one day, the thought came to me to write about my other passion which is my foundation. My son began writing a journal about his everyday life at the start of his bullying, and I had the idea to expand his objective into true stories about bullying. The reaction and response of the project has been awesome. I put it out there on social media sites that I am looking for stories, and people began volunteering to tell me their story. The Faces of Bullying, Vol. 1 is shaping up to be a phenomenal book especially since we are adding photographs of the bullies and the bullied from all ages. I still need brave souls who are ready and willing to share their pain and their triumphs with bullying. The statement that I usually make is that in telling their story, they are helping someone else find a light in the darkness. I like that…a light in the darkness. Half of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the foundation. Let’s face it, bullying is not about sensitive kids, it’s about an epidemic that no one wants to deal with until some poor lost teen or adolescent kills themselves or others. We don’t want another Columbine or other school related violent episode if there are people ready to act and advocate for the victims and the bullies. 

I’ll leave you with this thought. My son was one of the first people ready to tell his story about bullying. It wasn’t because I made him do it; it was because he felt that if he shared his pain, someone else may be able to deal with their own. It was the hardest thing for me to do as a mother to listen to Andrew tell me about his bullying. Tears fell as I listened to him recite how many times that he was pushed or shoved, how bad it hurt when he was punched in the stomach after his IBS and acid reflux diagnosis, and how embarrassing it was to be called names that some adults never even hear. I can’t say that I didn’t run back up to the school with Andrew in tow the next day demanding answers because I did. What I can say is that when I play back the video, the relief on my son’s face is worth everything that I am crusading to stop.