All posts by Shay

I am simply just me. I am an open book ready to be read by those that are interested.

Flaws in the System

When it comes to taking care of children, there is not an amount of money that can actually be validated as fair. Granted, there are some people who get excessive amounts of money due to the fact that they have a child or children with someone who is wealthy. Nevertheless, it baffles me how some can go to unbelievable lengths to stop support for their children even when they are not in the children’s lives. It confuses me even more how the government supports such behaviors.

Let me explain.

In 2011, my marriage dissolved completely. My ex-husband became a completely different person. He was angry and started to become physically abusive. We were married for close to 7 years at this point. He began to get more comfortable with pushing and shoving. He was verbally abusive for years prior. I left a few times but I did not have anywhere to go so I returned and finally, he agreed to move out.

Until one day in July.

He had the Durango that was purchased to accommodate the children and left me and the children with his vehicle which had an oil leak and no AC. A friend and I had a garage sale to earn money. I had to make money quickly. I stayed at home and raised the children without working most of the years we were married.

He came to the house after the garage sale demanding that I give him half of what I earned. I refused and sat in the garage listening to music. He then picked up my phone and slammed it on the pavement of the driveway. I remained calm and asked him to leave. He instead went into the house and started to destroy everything. He pushed the microwave off the counter, he smashed my printer, he slammed my netbook, he broke the landline phone, and just as the kids came around the corner from their rooms he flipped the glass coffee table over and nearly hit all three children. I rushed the children back into the room and told them to stay there. He left shortly there after; when he felt as if he proved his point.

He came back later.

The kids were asleep and I was lying in bed. I heard the garage door open and hopped up. He came in and said that he wanted to talk about the divorce. I told him there was nothing to talk about. He said, “Talk to me or I’m gonna start tearing shit up!”. I stood silent. He grabbed a knife and began to cut my sorority jacket. He came into the bedroom and grabbed my sorority bag with my purse in it and attempted to cut it up while I tried to grab my purse from the inside. He walked out of the room when he saw that I wasn’t phased by his actions. He came back into the room as I stood watching tv and said, “I probably bought that too” and doused me with bleach. I left and went to get help while he cut up and bleached all of my clothes, shoes, purses, etc.

He was arrested.

His cousin bailed him out of jail and came to see me. She then contacted his immediate family. A few days later his siblings were on Facebook making comments instructing me to “kill myself” because “I’m weak”,”fat” and “unworthy of the last name”. They have not talked to myself nor my children since. They never once asked what happened or if I was ok.

Unbeknownst to me, he was living a double life. He and I had three children together. He and his now wife (who was his then subordinate in the Air Force/mistress) had their first child during the early stages of our divorce. Although I did not find out about the wife and the baby until the baby was roughly about 6-8 months old. His wife came to my job allegedly to purchase a vehicle for him. This was just a few months after the divorce was finalized.

During the divorce, I was awarded the Durango.

I was also awarded full custody of the children due to his remarks to the judge regarding custody. He said, “I don’t want them. She can have them. I’ll pay whatever you tell me to pay.” The judge was shocked and asked him to repeat himself and he did. That is when the judge issued the permanent restraining order.
The final hearing was in April. It was finalized in May.

By October there were more issues.

The Durango was set on fired a few days after my ex posted a picture of he and I on fire with the caption “Death to Dishonor”. I later learned that he was indicted on the initial battery charges a week prior to the photo fire and was facing felony charges. He was then ordered to give me back the car he left us with before.

This is where it started to get really interesting.

While he was in the military he was ordered to pay $1200 per month for all three children. He hired a lawyer at the last-minute and pushed the final date back for the divorce hearing (TRICK #1). After he accomplished that, he was within his time frame to leave the military without losing time or benefits but was unemployed. His financial obligations were then reduced by over 50% and he decided that he would pay when he wanted to (Trick #2). He then filed Bankruptcy to avoid having arrears taken involuntarily from tax returns and other lump sum payments (Trick #3). During this process, he was also filing for disability (TRICK #4).

I have had to file orders of contempt against him multiple times in order to get him to pay. According to Section 228 of Title 18 of the United States Code, it is illegal to willing neglect to pay child support, but he seems to be rewarded more than punished.

In 2014, I received a notice from Social Security stating that my daughter’s SSI payments would be reduced due to her VA benefits she receives. I called VA and checked into the matter and they confirmed that my children do not receive benefits but their father receives benefits for them (TRICK #5). I have had to produce a letter showing that she does not receive benefits every other month or so since.
I asked VA if there was a way to get the benefits to go directly to the children and I learned about an apportionment. I filed and waited and waited and waited and waited.

I even reached out to my congressman to assist in expediting the claim.

Finally I received a response stating that my children would be denied benefits because they live away from him and he is ordered to pay child support. (TRICK #6)

I appealed There has still not been a decision made on behalf of my children. When I called into VA to determine how he could get benefits for children who are not in his care, the VA representative informed me that VA only cares about biology. They are not concerned with what the veteran does with their benefits or if they are in arrears for child support. He gets paid an extra $240 per month for kids that he doesn’t have anything to do with and is not obligated to pay the money to the children (TRICK #7).

He was over $16K in arrears and we were in the process of taking him back to court. That is when he had his lawyer contact my lawyer and notify us that he was awarded full VA disability. He agreed to pay his arrears using the money he received from his back pay checks from VA and SSA. We had to threaten court again before he followed through with his agreement.

March 2017 he held up his end of the bargain and paid his arrears up. He also agreed to start paying child support regularly. In June I received notification that my children were eligible for benefits from SSA (Social Security Administration). I completed the application and two of them were awarded back pay for benefits from 2012 to the present. My one daughter did not receive back pay because Social Security has to determine how much she should receive because she gets SSI also. They all received their regular payment in July. When August came and there was no payment for 2 of the children, I contacted Social Security about what the issue was. I was told that my case could not be discussed because he could not verify my address.

I was confused and went into the office the following business day. The rep told me that someone changed my address and the checks were rerouted to his address in San Antonio, TX (TRICK #8). I had to file a police report for possible fraud due to the change.

Then, there was the letter that topped the cake. According to the letter, my children have been overpaid child support… (TRICK #9)

Now it is time for a modification. I am not sure what tricks he has up his sleeve for this. It appears that nothing will stop a man trying his hardest to be a deadbeat if that is what he wants. It is also evident that nothing will stop a mother from seeing that her children receive what they deserve and what is due to them by any means necessary.

Pushing Past Frustrations

When I started my business, I knew that there was going to be a lot of long nights, early mornings, and valuable lessons. Although I knew that there was a lot that I had to do, I was not prepared. I jumped in head first after I lost my job. I did minimal research and made a lot of mistakes. Nevertheless, I keep going. I am still learning what it takes to start and maintain a successful business. I am also still making mistakes.

For example, I started my business with raw passion. However, passion is not enough to maintain a business. I had all of the intangible stuff, like a vision and a dream. I even had goals written eloquently in my head. Unfortunately, none of that was helping my business. I was spending so much time focused on the non-beneficial things that I was suffocating my business. I had no direction. I had so many ideas and things that I wanted to bring to life, but no mode of transportation. I was just moving aimlessly.

I had to learn how important it is to have goals written on paper and a plan to achieve them. With that, I also learned how important planning and balancing my time is. I am even learning how to make those non-beneficial things beneficial. I am learning how to work harder at working smarter. The secret to all of this is research.

There is so much research that goes into starting a business. You have to research EVERYTHING! There are plenty of times that I got stuck on something and just moved on to something else instead of asking for help from someone who I know has already been through this. This makes a lot of sense because one of my biggest challenges was asking for help. I say was like I am no longer doing it but asking for help is still a bit of a struggle for me. Asking for help only reveals that you are interested in growing and getting better. I am actually learning how to trust this idea but changing my thoughts is where it starts.

Resetting my mind and learning all that I need to learn about running a business is my goal. This is how I am getting over the frustrations that come with getting started. The learning curves, the bumps and bruises, the setbacks, and the poor decisions are all a part of my journey. Of course, success, accomplishments, transitions, and growth are along for the ride. I am not the first person who feels this way and I am sure that I will not be the last. As I learn I share so that others may be able to avoid some of my mistakes. I have switched gears from being passion driven to goal driven. I do not neglect my passion, nor do I ignore it. I have, however, learned its place.

My business is only one year old and I am certain that I will have many more years of growth and lessons. I am confident in this because I want more than what I have now. With that, I am determined to make sure that I accomplish my goals. I have learned and still learning so much about being an entrepreneur. I have been exposed to a wealth of knowledge, some amazing connections, and some dope opportunities.

My unorthodox journey concerns my loved ones and even myself at times. The concern does not arise from the lack of faith but from the state of society. I have always been out-of-order and my colors have often gone outside of the lines. It has been a struggle and it will turn into a memory. I have been one to defy odds and change opinions because I am the change that I want to see. I cannot allow the struggles of being an entrepreneur deter me from living the life that I want and feel I deserve.

As I stated, I had to change my mind in order to change my outcome. What I mean is, I cannot believe that I will be successful if I am too afraid to do what it takes and make it happen. My circumstances cannot change if I don’t believe that I can change them and work towards making the change. This journey will continue to reveal adjustments that need to be made in order to accomplish my goals. I have to be willing to push past the frustrations in order to take the next step.

My day with SBA

Last week I attended a seminar sponsored by the SBA in conjunction with a job fair created by Congressman David Scott. When I signed up for the event, I did so in order to increase my knowledge regarding entrepreneurship. I attended webinars from SBA the week prior and that sparked my interest to go learn more in person. The webinars that I attended were about women-owned businesses and how to gain access to Government contracts. So, I knew that I would need to take my notebook and be prepared to take a lot of notes for the seminar.

The seminar was held on a Friday from 9 am until 2 pm at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park, Georgia. There were two tracks of the seminar. Track 1 (Go From Unemployed to Self Employed) was for people who have been in business for 2 years or less. Track 2 (Take Your Business From Surviving to Thriving) was for businesses that have been up and running for more than 2 years.

I went to two of the 3 sessions in Track 2. Although I have only been in business for 1 year, I felt that I could gain more information from the more experienced groups than the beginner group. My decision was based on the offered sessions and I cannot say that if the Track 1 sessions were more beneficially appealing to me that I would not have stayed there the entire time. Nevertheless, this short day only gave brief insights. You could easily spend an entire day in each session as its own seminar.

Doing Business with the Federal Government Track II.

Tanzee Hall-Jones gave the presentation on this topic. She discussed the need for market research, the award process, negotiations, contracts, and execution. Basically, the Government has money already set aside to spend with small businesses. The 2015 Federal Government Spending information is available in the Federal Procurement Database System. Within that 23% of Government spending, 5% is allocated for Women-owned small businesses.

Tanzee shared with us that all businesses need to be registered with the Secretary of State, have a D-U-N-S number, register with SAM, DSBS, agencies (as necessary), FPDS, and Fed Biz Opps in order to have full access to Government contracts and information regarding them. She talked about getting certifications, self certifying, and how certifications help acquire contracts. SBA provides a great deal of FREE training on certifications. They do not give you the information and tell you to figure it out, they walk you through the process.

She also mentioned that you still have to market your business. You will need to research the agencies that would need you. After that, you need to identify their procedures, develop your marketing strategy and go from there. Know who needs you and who you need.

Start Up Basics Track I.

Nakia Melecio was the presenter here. He works directly with S.C.O.R.E.. He gave a slew of information and knowledge. He suggests that we join a trade association. He broke down the difference between a business plan and a business model. The business plan was described as the “how” and the business model as the “branding”. He encourages us to set money aside for growth and prepare to go global. He discussed the need for self-care for entrepreneurs. He made mention to building a network of people who will hold you accountable for the things that you don’t want to do.

He briefly touched on non-profit organizations and the best way to start one. Here is a clip of his advice for non-profits.

He had more information than time. There was so much that he touched on quickly and had to move on from before we could really dig deep into it.

Opportunities in Film and Entertainment Panel Track II

This was the session that I was most excited about honestly. I am very interested in learning more about writing scripts, screenplays, and so on. I have written a few songs but I want to expand and learn how I can really break into Entertainment industry as a writer.

Juddifier Pearson moderated. The panel consisted of Craig Dominey, Nelson Burke, Jim Tripp-Haith, and Winsome Sinclair. One of the main reasons that Georgia is the third location choice in the industry is because of the tax credit that production companies receive to shoot here. There are opportunities for dry cleaners, caters, lumber yards, hotels, animal breeders, car rental locations/dealerships, photographers, casting directors, actors, and so on and so on. The panel said it more than a few times, it is a network. You have to be in to get in and you have to get in to be in.

Some tips and gems that were dropped were to become very familiar with the literature. Production weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Reel Crew, Georgia Film and TV Source Book, are just a few. They encourage you to learn where shoots are happening and how to get your foot in the door. Be sure to have professional headshots and professional websites. Learn who the production coordinator is and how they can help you. Learn the various roles behind the scenes that directly connect to what you are trying to do and find out who they are. Reach out to the or arrange an impromptu, “run in”.

The revenue from films and entertainment in Georgia topped 7 billion dollars and the fiscal year has not ended yet. Your business has to be in a position to rake in some of this dough. The budgets for some of these movies is well over half a million dollars for a “small” film and over one million for “large” films. In order for the major production companies to receive the credit they have to utilize Georgia residents and businesses. What do you offer that can be added to the vendor list of the next big production?

How to Manage It All

I guess it is safe to say that I am a blogger. (I mean, I have a few years of blogging experience now so I think that qualifies me to say that I am a blogger.) However, when I started this process I had no idea how much time and effort it would take to maintain it all. I did not take into account the amount of time that I actually had to devote to writing. I seriously thought that because writing is like drinking water to me, that it would be easy.

I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I did not start blogging to become the next big celebrity blogger. I don’t even like attention like that so becoming famous was the farthest thing from my mind. I came into blogging with the idea that I was simply sharing my thoughts with others. More than anything I wanted to help people move through life with as much free knowledge as possible. I blog about real life and give real reflections so that others can learn from some of the things that I have experienced. I feel that some lessons can be learned vicariously.

Again, I was not anticipating turning my blog into a business. I just wanted a place to lay my words. Within my first year of blogging, I did not do any serious research about the process and what it entails. I was still oblivious to the fact that you could earn money blogging. My life started to shift and I actually took a couple of years off from it. When I came back to it, I wanted to do it differently. As I learned more about blogging, I learned how easy it is to convert my blog into a business. During this process, I also learned about time management in a new way.

I knew that I wanted to share my thoughts about various experiences and spread knowledge at the same time. I did not think about creating a plan to accomplish this feat. I figured I would just write as things happened. I soon realized that operating this way is not conducive to the blog I envisioned. I had to create a method in the midst of my madness.

I began researching plug-ins, automation, and content mapping. I wanted to know how to make this as easy as possible. Especially since I still have to be mommy to my three little people. All of this was overwhelming, to say the least. This is also when I learned a great deal of information about scheduling meals, daily activities, and even downtime.

The importance of planning was revealed. I had to designate writing time in order to post as frequently as I wanted to. In addition to that, I had to learn how to schedule my post so that they would post without me having to sit and write every single time that I wanted to share something. At first, I was still a bit ambitious and wanted to post long post 2-3 times a week. I later scaled back to 1-2 post per week. Each blogger has to decide they posting schedule. Checking analytics for my blog helps me decide which days and times are most popular to post.

When it comes to being a mommy, I will never get out of doing what needs to be done for them. I started making them individual frozen meals so that they can simply warm up some delicious home cooked food even while I am wearing my writer hat and preparing my posts. They like to eat quick meals, so I started making them their own version of “canned pasta”. I also include them in my planning so that they are aware of which days are devoted to writing. I make sure that they have engaging activities to occupy their minds.

Just as I had to schedule a time to write, cook, and prepare a post, I also have to schedule exercise and down time. I even have to schedule a time to mingle with friends and family. Scheduling and planning are a major portion of blogging and that was the part of my life that was still in disarray when I became a blogger. I was all over the place and all I knew was writing. That was it.

Although I have learned a lot of the course of the last few years in relation to blogging, I am certain that I will continue to learn more. I am looking forward to sharing my lessons along the way.

What are some important lessons that you have learned while blogging?

Fear Didn’t Win

Last night I went to an event at Barnes and Noble for local authors. I was so nervous and almost pulled out of going to the event.

I am not sure how many of you know this but, I am extremely shy when it comes to meeting new people. I understand that some of you are reading this and giving me the “whatever” or “yeah right” face but it’s true. I have been in positions that forced me to come out of that comfort zone, like direct sales. I have sold cars, candles, and even food for other companies but when it comes to me talking about me for me, it gets so hard.

When I first received the email for the event, I was so excited! I started sharing the information with my circle of people and I started promoting. I had a plan as to how I wanted things to look. I knew that I wanted things to be a certain way. I wanted my version of perfection. As time moved closer to the date of the event, my plan crumbled. This is the point where I almost pulled out.

My books were delayed and would not arrive in time for me to be able to have them at the event to sell. The bookmarks that I wanted to give as a gift were not ready. People that contacted me saying that they would come to support started contacting me to tell me that they could not make it. I was concerned with how I would be received by not having inventory for patrons to view. I even emailed the facilitator and looked for a way to get out of going to the event because I didn’t have books available. The way that I wanted things to go, was not how things were going.

The fact that I am reserved made this a perfect opportunity for me to retreat! I was ready to step in my own way and avoid overcoming this hurdle.

Then I thought about what I would be walking away from. I thought about what I would not be showing up to. I thought about the message that I would send to my children. When I stepped back and looked at it, I noticed that I was only feeding into whatever negativity that caused me to feel this way in the first place. It was in that moment that I committed.

I searched for copies of my books that I could use for the purpose of this event. I found a copy of my first book that was faded and appeared less beautiful than what is being shipped currently. I also found a copy of my second book that had fewer cosmetic discrepancies but still was not up to par for my standards. I grabbed them both and said to myself that I would make these work.

The bookmarks that I wanted to make were not ready and I did not want to go without anything for patrons to take away from me. So, I made a few bars of shea butter and peppermint soap and put my website on the back of the bag. I created a shirt with my slogan on it so that when I took pictures it would be visible. I did my hair, put on some makeup and decided that I was going to walk forward, buckling knees and all.

I took those fears and discomforts with me to the event. I even showed a few of those insecurities to the other authors. I showed up with one copy of each book from my promo inventory (these are the books that I kept in the car when I drove for Uber). I didn’t want to put my books on the table because of the slightly used condition.

My gently used book
I shared this with one of the authors at my table and she encouraged me to still place it up there and reassured me that I was focused on the wrong thing as far as the book is concerned. I listened and still placed my book on the table (well, one of them anyway).

I was approached by someone who was initially captured by my appearance and used that as an ice-breaker to segway into collaboration opportunities, speaking engagements, and more. I spoke to another person that described some of the pain that her family has endured for the past few years. She told me that she would go online and purchase both books based on my description and some of what she read in the gently used sample. I spoke to other authors and learned about new ways to market my books and how to be prepared for or organize an event such as this in the future.

When I stepped forward in spite of my fear, I broke a piece of my mold. I shattered the fear that almost stopped me from moving closer to my dream. This event made me realize how much work I have to do in order to build my confidence in me. My confidence in my gift is unwavering but my confidence in myself is where I struggle. I had to change my mind from “everything is going wrong” to “let’s enjoy this for what it is and make the best of it”. I was making a bigger deal in my mind about something that did not even require that type of attention.

I hear people say it all the time, but I realized it while I was at this event…your comfort zone can cause paralysis in your dreams. If you want more you have to reach out, speak out, and move out of your own way to get it. We keep ourselves stuck in positions and situations because we are afraid of a possibility that we create in our minds due to our fears.

I am happy to say that when I stepped into Barnes and Noble, fear didn’t win.

When was the last time you defeated fear?