Sometimes I Hate Technology

As I was returning from a restful vacation with my girlfriend, I looked into my bank account to discover that I had been a victim. A victim of folks scamming my bank card and making fraudulent charges. Shopping and making purchases to stores that I don’t shop at and taking my money. Money that I worked hard to earn to be able to buy school supplies/clothes for my munch. They took it. So, yep…sometimes I hate technology.

I had dinner with my cousin, Friday night while in Tampa and his card got declined as he paid for our dinner. I offered to pay and he said, “No.” His wife covered the bill and then he discovered that someone had made a clone of his card and was making fraudulent charges in California. He posted this on Facebook the next day:

“To whoever stole my identity…I hope those couple of transactions were worth it!!! I don’t wish bad on anyone but I hope and pray that you receive the same profiling, racism and horrible customer service that comes with being a black man!!! Middle finger to all those who would rather steal than to work hard and make money!!!”

As I arrived home Monday night and was perusing Facebook, another one of my Facebook friends reported that they had been a victim too. It was this post that had me wondering what happened:

“Today I wish that the person who keeps hacking my online bank account will see his entire family die in a fiery ball of twisted metal and glass leading him to a failed suicide attempt that will leave him suffering miserably alone and in pain for the rest of his useless life.”

Today, I can truly say that I understood their pain. Looking at my empty bank account and wondering what did I do to deserve this? I had to pay bills, buy school supplies, pay before and after care tuition and buy food. I wanted to cry. You know that deep down earth shattering wounded animal type cry? The cry that wracks my body as I try to pick up the pieces of my life after being violated. But, I didn’t. I let the tears slide gently down my face and do what I do best. Research and write.

In February, Fox Business reported that every two seconds someone becomes a victim of identity theft in the U.S. That is ridiculous! I guess it’s no wonder why I was chosen. Every two seconds? That’s 30 people a minute. Unbelievable! What is going on people? I’m sure the money you spend to scam hardworking individuals can be better used to enroll in college and get a job than shopping at Lord and Taylor and Victoria’s Secret.

So, I’m calming down and I am thankful that it wasn’t a credit card too. I monitor those just as closely. Minor inconvenience aside, I’m fortunate that it wasn’t worse. But, here’s what the Department of Justice is recommending should you become a victim of identity theft.

To reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, there are some basic steps you can take. For starters, just remember the word “SCAM”:

S Be stingy about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are:

At Home:

1. Start by adopting a “need to know” approach to your personal data. Your credit card company may need to know your mother’s maiden name, so that it can verify your identity when you call to inquire about your account. A person who calls you and says he’s from your bank, however, doesn’t need to know that information if it’s already on file with your bank; the only purpose of such a call is to acquire that information for that person’s personal benefit. Also, the more information that you have printed on your personal bank checks — such as your Social Security number or home telephone number — the more personal data you are routinely handing out to people who may not need that information.

2.If someone you don’t know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a “major” credit card, a prize, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data — such as your Social Security number, credit card number or expiration date, or mother’s maiden name — ask them to send you a written application form.

3.If they won’t do it, tell them you’re not interested and hang up.

4.If they will, review the application carefully when you receive it and make sure it’s going to a company or financial institution that’s well-known and reputable. The Better Business Bureau can give you information about businesses that have been the subject of complaints.

On Travel:

1.If you’re traveling, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask someone you know well and trust ­another family member, a friend, or a neighbor ­ to collect and hold your mail while you’re away.

2.If you have to telephone someone while you’re traveling, and need to pass on personal financial information to the person you’re calling, don’t do it at an open telephone booth where passersby can listen in on what you’re saying; use a telephone booth where you can close the door, or wait until you’re at a less public location to call.

C Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn’t:

What Should Be There:

1.If you have bank or credit card accounts, you should be receiving monthly statements that list transactions for the most recent month or reporting period.

2.If you’re not receiving monthly statements for the accounts you know you have, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and ask about it.

3.If you’re told that your statements are being mailed to another address that you haven’t authorized, tell the financial institution or credit card representative immediately that you did not authorize the change of address and that someone may be improperly using your accounts. In that situation, you should also ask for copies of all statements and debit or charge transactions that have occurred since the last statement you received. Obtaining those copies will help you to work with the financial institution or credit card company in determining whether some or all of those debit or charge transactions were fraudulent.

What Shouldn’t Be There:

1.If someone has gotten your financial data and made unauthorized debits or charges against your financial accounts, checking your monthly statements carefully may be the quickest way for you to find out. Too many of us give those statements, or the enclosed checks or credit transactions, only a quick glance, and don’t review them closely to make sure there are no unauthorized withdrawals or charges.

2.If someone has managed to get access to your mail or other personal data, and opened any credit cards in your name or taken any funds from your bank account, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately to report those transactions and to request further action.

A Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.

Your credit report should list all bank and financial accounts under your name, and will provide other indications of whether someone has wrongfully opened or used any accounts in your name.

M Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.

Even though financial institutions are required to maintain copies of your checks, debit transactions, and similar transactions for five years, you should retain your monthly statements and checks for at least one year, if not more. If you need to dispute a particular check or transaction especially if they purport to bear your signatures ­ your original records will be more immediately accessible and useful to the institutions that you have contacted.

Even if you take all of these steps, however, it’s still possible that you can become a victim of identity theft. Records containing your personal data — credit-card receipts or car-rental agreements, for example — may be found by or shared with someone who decides to use your data for fraudulent purposes.

Now that we all know what to do and I have calmed down, I realized this fundamental truth:

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I choose to become a VICTOR. How about you?

Education Chronicles: First Day of School

It’s that time again and munch is headed to first grade. I’m not as weepy and depressed as I was last year. (I cried for almost a month). I have assimilated into being one of those annoying parents who can’t wait for school to start because I’ve run out of ideas, activities or money for the rest of the summer. I loved his teacher last year and I’m hoping that I will love his new teacher. By all accounts, the parents that have had her said she is compassionate, a great teacher, but really serious and never laughs. Ahem, I will make sure not to break out my comedy routine during our parent/teacher conferences. LOL.

So, I decided to share some “Lessons Learned” for parents who are releasing their children into kindergarten for the first time ever or for those who are enrolling their children in an immersion program.

▪ It’s okay to cry the first day of school AFTER you drop the child off and they can’t see you. Be strong and know that they will be fine. Your reaction is what they will emulate. Play it cool and fist bump them out the door when you drop them at their classroom.

▪ Read all paperwork daily and sign the daily or weekly progress card from the teacher. Teachers don’t just fill out paperwork for their health. They truly want you to know what’s going on with your child and in the classroom. They are only one leg of the education stool.

▪ Buy school supplies. I am adamant about being able to purchase the things that my son needs for school. I hate when teachers have to spend their own money for school supplies or beg the parents to please purchase paper, crayons or pencils. Go to the dollar store. It’s not the cost of the item, just the fact that children should have them. If you can’t afford them, please look in your local newspaper to find out about organizations that do Back-to-School drives. A lot of the bags include school supplies.

▪ Talk to the teacher and get their contact information. Find out what their philosophy is on education and what they expect from both the students and parents.

▪ Attend back to school night and all parent/teacher conferences. Make time to show up and be present in your child’s educational activities.

▪ If they are in an immersion program and you don’t speak the language…Relax! Understand that it is a process and your child will get it. One thing I realized is that the school is teaching munch to read in French and I needed to teach him how to read in English, so this summer we spent time reading books. He’s not completely reading on his own, but he can read a lot of words and sounds out those he doesn’t know. He also asks questions for difficult words.

▪ Reinforce what is learned in class. Math skills, reading, science or PE. Spend time reinforcing the lessons learned.

I think that’s it, but if you think of some other things, please feel free to add them to the comments. Also, check out some of these great first grade photos of my love.

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Vacation Chronicles: Tampa

I returned from a great weekend in Tampa bonding with my best friend yesterday and I wanted to share some things that I’ve learned about me on this mini-vacation of self-reflection. As many of you know, I’m doing a lot of soul searching during this time to try and find out what my needs are and what my wants are. Apparently, they’re not the same. LOL. So, I started from the minute I got to the airport and decided to jot down a few things that I learned or rediscovered about myself.

▪ I like flying. It’s only when I am taking off and my stomach does that flip and I think “Oh God, please don’t let us crash” that I truly realize what a blessing it is to be able to fly in an airplane. The best part about flying? When your airfare cost $2.10.
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▪ I can travel with one carry-on and not the whole world. I’m trying to downsize my wardrobe when traveling and only packing the essentials. This Tampa trip allowed me the opportunity to see if I could do it. You know what? I could and I did.
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▪ I like hotel living. Even after living in a hotel earlier this year for 4 1/2 weeks, there is something sweet about not having to make my bed or pick up my towels, wash clothes, cook or clean. Yep, I’m spoiled.

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▪ I can relax. I can actually sit back, relax and have a vacation without planning out every single aspect of the trip. I am letting go of my controlling tendencies and just going with the flow. Taking the road I think I should travel. No matter the length, I’m enjoying the ride.
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▪ I love sisterhood. My best friend and I have known each other since we were 13. This was the second time that we have traveled together and the first time for us traveling by ourselves. (not counting when she visited me almost every weekend when I lived in NYC) to sort of commemorate and renew our friendship. We had a very relaxing time.
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▪ I love the beach. I love water and I love sand. I love the feel of the sun kissing my skin so gently that my skin color turns a golden brown or as my friend described “a pretty orange color”.
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▪ I love trying new drinks that I’ve never tried. Especially when they’re cheap. I am a nerd with cool tendencies and I love it. Check out this cool drink I had called the purple nerd.
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▪ I’m simple. I like good food, family and friends. I also love a good book. Finished reading the entire Divergent Series. On to the next one. I think I’m going to read Black Women in White America by Gerda Lerner next.
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▪ I’m sharing. I’ve always been very private in my writing and sharing of information about myself, ideas and family and through encouragement from my bestie, I’ve learned to open up and let people in. This blogging and writing has become real and I love when people say that they can relate. It means you get me.

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This year has been one for the books. But, my faith has been strengthened and I am taking charge of my own destiny. I am looking into my future with courage instead of despair and believing, no knowing that I will be fine.

Ferguson – Day 12

The community of Ferguson, Missouri is still experiencing civil unrest and my news and social media feeds are being dominated by all the activity. One of the things that I feel has occurred is that we keep forgetting the reason why we are protesting… The death of an unarmed young man. There are too many unanswered questions and journalists want to sensationalize the actions of a few misguided and misinformed protesters than focus on this issue. Ask the questions. Why did he die? Why did Officer Darren Wilson shoot him when he said he was unarmed? Why did his body lay in the streets for four hours? Why did the police chief release footage to try and discredit or taint this man’s reputation? Why did the governor allow tear gas and smoke bomb canisters to be deployed? Why did the governor issue a curfew? Why are people trying to say that because Michael Brown attended an alternative school he was somehow shady? Why haven’t the police interviewed Michael Brown’s friend that walking with him? Why are there conflicting stories about what truly happened?

You see? A lot of unanswered questions.

Please read the timeline by USA Today and watch the video below in which Jessie Williams, actor, discusses his outrage over the media’s coverage of Michael Brown.

And I think this tweet explains how I feel at the moment…

Competing Women

I’m like that old cartoon Pinky and the Brain where every time the show ended, Pinky would ask the Brain, “Brain, what do you want to do tonight?” The Brain would always smile and say “The same thing we do every night Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

I grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s where sisterhood seemed to go together like pop rocks and soda pop. My girls were the ones that I would whisper my secrets too, share my clothes and my dreams with. Girlfriends were essential to my development. But, something changed. Girls became competitive and we stopped wanting each other to win. We became catty women and clique-ish. What happened to this sisterhood? Was it just a part of “getting older”?

Early on, I learned to realize the true meaning of a friend. It was at the precious age of 13, when I commented to my girlfriend that I was jealous of another girl in our class. She was prettier, thinner and all the boys seemed to like her. My girl replied (in her 13 year old logic), “There is never reason to be jealous of another person. No one has something you can’t get on your own.” I loved that. True, simple and to the point. That has been one of my guiding principles. Making sure to never be jealous of anyone else, much less my girlfriends who provide a circle of love around me.

That guiding principle never sheltered me from the fact that there were and will always be “mean girls”, but when did the mean girls become the norm? Has the evolution of social media allowed the “nice girls” an opportunity to come out of their shell and display their true characteristics? Over the years women have gained an independent and competitive nature when it comes to dealing with each other. That nature is seemingly disintegrating the bonds of sisterhood. We are no longer concerned about making it collectively, but rather individually. How many times have you looked in on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or read the latest social media posting about women and their catty comments? There are all kinds of memes dedicated to disrespecting women, like this one here:

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Women have become back bitters and cunning in our desire to destroy each other. Oftentimes it is over a male. Think back to your high school years when girls would use passive/aggressive techniques to try to win the eye of a particular boy. What about the fights that broke out at school over boys? What about the “slut shaming” women do to each other now? How many times have women created rumors to try and demean and demoralize other women? The advancement of social technology has allowed the anonymity of girls who just want to be mean. But why the competition?

In a New York Times article, John Tierney said “intrasexual competition” is the most important factor explaining the pressures that young women feel to meet standards of sexual conduct and physical appearance.

So, women are pressured and that allows us to react as such? Isn’t pressure just a part of life? Why do we continue to drive a wedge between each other in hopes of getting noticed? I don’t buy it. Are we really that desperate that we don’t realize the fundamental truth that we are only in competition with ourselves? Why are you trying to compete with other women? Compete against yourself to be the best you that you can be. Learn like I did, “No one has something you can’t get on your own.” Hard work, dedication, determination and drive are words that should be placed in your own mental vocabulary and applied to your own quest for world domination.

Last year, my niece was a victim of the “mean girl” mentality when she was three way called and said something about another girl. My sister told her that it was her fault and that she was wrong because she shouldn’t have said anything about anyone on the telephone that you wouldn’t have said in person. My niece was hurt and my sister said, “You can’t trust females”. I was mortified. I told my sister that you can’t tell her that. You can’t tell her not to trust women. Women are the backbone of this society and your girlfriends are your biggest supporters. I simply told my niece that you have to be selective in the women that you allow in your circle, but friendships take time to develop. Observe and evaluate a person’s true motive and understand that EVERYONE has an agenda. Your charge is to find out if it is FOR YOU or AGAINST YOU.

But, I questioned whether or not I was hurting or helping her with my advice? I have been the recipient of friendship from some incredible women. We laugh, cry, drink and share. It’s a bond that has evolved over time. We are there for each other and they encourage and listen to me. There is no jealousy, envy or hate towards our success. There is no competition. Just acceptance. Whether it be “My marriage is ending, I need some advice? to “OMG, Infertility treatments worked! I’m pregnant!” They have been the rock in which I’ve leaned and relied on. Good times and bad they are the reason that I’m not in a mental institution now. Love. They love me and I love them. So, truth: We need each other. We need our girlfriends. Stop competing and start developing sound friendships.

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Is Ferguson a case of class warfare?

Ferguson, Missouri the scene of Michael Brown’s death last week has been put on the map. The New York Times reported that Ferguson has about 21,000 residents, in which 63% are black. There are 33% white and 3% other. What is interesting about this town (which is 20 minutes outside of St. Louis) is the fact that 92% of arrests are black residents and 86% of all stops are black residents. Astounding statistics, but I’m not surprised. In any small town populated by majority of blacks you probably will see the trend where the color of the police force doesn’t match the residents. With all the things that have happened and continue to happen in Ferguson since Michael Brown’s death, I’m left wondering is the bigger issue more of class than race?

The situation in Ferguson has escalated since the August 9th shooting. Last week the police chief released a video showing a “robbery” that the victim, Michael Brown, allegedly committed before he was shot. Michael Brown hadn’t even been buried yet. The police chief was trying to show cause for the officer shooting Brown. But, that video did nothing but escalate the tensions in an already ticking time bomb city. People were angry. The fact that the police chief seems incompetent has furthered their rage. So, in comes the governor trying to restore the order of things and he in fact makes it worse. He decides to set a curfew. He wanted to curb the civil unrest. But, tear gas and smoke into the crowds only made matters worse. On Sunday night, some protesters became violent and attacked the officers with firebombs and gunfire. Why? Don’t we need to focus on the issue? So, of course the governor announced yesterday that he will deploy the National Guard to restore order.

Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and I asked the question, what do you think about the situation in Ferguson? I told him, that I dread having to teach my son that he should always be respectful of others, but especially officers because I don’t want him “viewed as a suspect” and gunned down. His response…

“The problem with the “making sure our young men are respectable” argument is that Police target Black youth regardless. In fact they are targeting anyone they don’t think comes from wealth. While the media has made many of these incidents simply about race it points to a bigger problem of class warfare against lower income citizens. It just so happens that in this country the Black community for the most part is on the low end of the economic scale. This is why many Police have little regard for us. They’ll think someone White is more likely to have a higher income than a minority regardless of appearance. Go to any country and the citizens the Police abuse the most are poor people.

The only way Blacks can help stop these attacks and protect our civil rights is to have a greater economic base as a community that wields more influence on the Political Landscape and Legal system. The community is always so divided and selfish on so many levels that anything that would require cooperation and sharing is virtually impossible for us.

I just had a debate with a young guy on twitter. He doesn’t agree it’s about economics and thinks it’s just about skin color. I tried to explain that it’s deeper than that. If we had more power as a community then police would have to reform 1.Hiring practices 2.Police Procedures 3.Punishments for misconduct. A community only can push to get reforms through if they have economic weight. We don’t have any. We’re still the red headed stepchild of the US. We just have sprinkles of wealth among a few individuals but that’s it. We have trillions of dollars in spending power but it gets wasted on short term materialistic nonsense instead of being put to long term viable use. We’ve been playing Checkers for years and reacting instead of playing Chess and thinking steps ahead trying to proactively nip things in the bud.”

Deep huh? I thought so too. Another conversation with my girlfriends last night about Ferguson had me thinking that maybe my friend’s point of view had merit. She said, “The situation in Ferguson is being tainted by all the looters instead of the real issue which is the fact that this young man was shot. These people are not exercising their judicial rights of voting the people that they want in office. They can always write a letter to their attorney general for all the problems that they are facing with regards to the police.” I pondered her statement and then responded, “But how many black people know that?” I told her what my friend said, “This is a bigger issue than race, it is a class issue and how many of us in the middle class are doing enough to educate the lower class on their rights?”

Black people have gotten away from the grassroots efforts that we use to utilize in the 1950’s and 1960’s when we were fighting for Civil Rights and fair housing in our own communities. We began to create silos and sectioned ourselves from those who didn’t have as much as we did: money, education, connections. We became the haves and have nots. Our education became the fundamental difference between us and others. We moved into our big homes in neighborhoods that weren’t predominately black and started going to exclusive black clubs. We became bougie and disengaged from our brethren who couldn’t move out of the hood. Whether it be lack of economics or education, we didn’t try to bridge the gap of each one teach one.

Ferguson is not just a race issue but one of class warfare. Class warfare is defined on Dictionary.com as “the struggle for political and economic power carried on between capitalists and workers.” Isn’t this what my friend was just saying? Isn’t that the point of my girlfriend’s argument? Deeper than race. It’s economics and politics. Just last week, Peter Mccoy, wrote an article for Bloomberg Businessweek in which he said

“The map of St. Louis County, the home of Ferguson, looks like a shattered pot. It’s broken into 91 municipalities that range from small to tiny, along with clots of population in unincorporated areas. Dating as far back as the 19th century, communities set themselves up as municipalities to capture control of tax revenue from local businesses, to avoid paying taxes to support poorer neighbors, or to exclude blacks. Their behavior has ranged from somewhat parochial to flatly illegal.”

Class warfare right? But is there anything that we can do to change this? Probably not, because the issue is deeper than the poor blacks or poor whites in this country but one that unites us based on income levels. The richer have better opportunities to ensuring that their voices are being met because more money = more political power. I read this great article by Bill Moyers titled “The Great American Class War” whereby he talked about interviewing former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan about a documentary that he was doing for public television and how Justice Brennan worried about the “looming size of government”. This quote in the article about a speech that Justice Brennan made that went to the heart of the matter. He said:

“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses… Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”

So, can anything be done? Are we stuck in a class war that is brewing over and showing its ugly head in small town America? In an area, like Ferguson, will we continue to see the problems that America keeps trying to sweep under it’s rug because poor blacks don’t have the financial backing to ensure that their government elected officials are working for them? In an urban area, do we have to institute more grassroots efforts to educate the poorer classes on their rights and not just during election time?

We can’t let what we know and perceive to be true push us as a community to loot or be involved in illegal activities in spite of the misguided efforts of the elected government officials. Don’t resort to violence or you will forget that the point of the peaceful protests is to shed light on the injustices that occurred in that small town. The wheels of justice are slow, but they work as long as we are diligent and active and not combative to law enforcement. Remember, united as one, we shall overcome someday.

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