About Me

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Washington, DC, United States
I'm a naturalized Caribbean immigrant in the grand old U.S.A. I live in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Ward 7 and I'm a forever-journalist. I started my first career as a magazine editor and I haven't been able to give it up. When I started this blog, I was knee-deep into my fourth career as a government public relations specialist. However, I have been heading up my editorial staffing company, Invisible Colours LLC out of my Ward 7 neighborhood. I'm expanding my company's brand by offering video production and other social media technologies for clients. This blog follows my journey as a 40-something-year old in Washington, D.C. Married for several years, I have three kids--a boy and two girls. I am blessed, and I'm loving all that God has given me. I have a master's in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's of arts from the University of the West Indies. I hope I can offer a little insight into my life and my experiences. Writing serves as a catharsis for me. It is what I do best. It is what I love. It is who I am.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Life at 40 plus 7

I did not think for a while that I will ever get back to the blog I started to celebrate the dynamic 40s.

So many changes since my last entry in 2014.

On Life changes

  • My dear old father, Neville Phipps, passed away in October 2014. I've mentioned it in a post in my Vickey's Kitchen blog
  • My grandmother Adelaide Cupid, passed away July 16, 2018. She was a dynamo.
  • My girls are now in high school and middle school. 
  • My son is on the way up the aisle this fall
  • I am in the last year of my 40s and I am still always learning new things.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On Sowing What You Reap

For followers of my blog, if you remember this post, On Dealing with Sudden Life Changes, many of you will know that I had been relieved of a position that offered me significant autonomy, income, prestige, credibility and more within the DC government structure. It was something I enjoyed as it also allowed me to serve the residents of the District of Columbia in a way I thought to be full of integrity and transparency.

It wasn't the direction the last director wanted to go. Well, it seemed for him, his direction wasn't the way the mayor wanted to go either. He was dismissed and relieved of his duties November 2013 for making a decision that didn't seem to be in the best interest of the city. He also seemed to have bitten off more than he should have, especially since President Obama's signature law, came into question. Without delving too much into it, the director put out a statement on a Thursday. By Friday, he had walking papers. The Friday after that, his communications adviser was also dismissed.

The lesson I take from this--more than anything else--is there is no permanence in any situation. You can be the king of the world today. And tomorrow, you're the joker of the court. That's why I take pity on some people in other parts of the District government who completely believe their own hype, that they'll never be taken down.

The DC government is a fickle animal. Today's king is tomorrow's joke. If you believe you're a director's pet and get the perks, enjoy it for now. Tomorrow, that director's out and the new one sees you as a threat not a pet. It's so temporary. And people take it dead serious. It's a job, yes, A career for many of us, yes. But I will always believe in this--"In government, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends." I have always lived by this. I've been in government since 2004 and I've seen it firsthand.

The former director learned a difficult lesson as well. He probably would have liked an opportunity to explain his position further, to be given a second chance, to have a chance at a do-over. However, he had done the exact same thing by letting go several people who would liked to have been given the same opportunities to explain themselves, and to hold onto their careers. Being let go sets back your money-making goals, your career, your ego. This economy is not the best and to be put on the unemployment line is no joke. However, as you sow, ye shall reap.

On New Experiences

Today became a highpoint for me as I had an opportunity to chair and lead this month's Hillcrest Community Civic Association (HCCA)'s board meeting and general monthly meeting.

To understand the honor, one has to understand the power of the HCCA. This is the organization that has the power to make or break a political career. It certainly made Anthony Williams' win for mayor a possibility back in the early 2000s. Several members of the HCCA drafted Williams, then-Chief Financial Officer to become mayor. They rallied, fundraised and stood in his corner when he seemed like a longshot.

The organization will celebrate its 25th anniversary this September and for this month, I sat in the seat of the likes of former presidents, Paul Savage, Vince Spaulding, Franklin Senger, and more. The honor was mine. The current president, Karen Williams, was away so I sat in as the First Vice President. I was told that my demeanor was calm, and I was in command of the proceedings. It has been a long time since I've chaired or led anything. I've been on a hiatus relearning the essence of becoming a leader once more.

It was never lost on me. I have the temperament of a born leader. But I've also been a resistant one--some people are just difficult to lead--and at times I want to be comfortable following along. However I think God chooses leaders and He empowers each to make the best decisions. Today's experience was empowering for me. It was a fantastic way to mark the start of 2014--a year of prosperity and change. I know that I'll see significant and fantastic changes this year and I'll embrace each with humility, understanding and generosity.

Interestingly, our current Mayor Vincent Gray attended the meeting. He's also a longtime Hillcrest resident, and a quite affable and personable person. And Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser who'll be running against him at this year's primary election on April 1 also attended. Interesting dynamic from where I sat.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Moving Forward

One foot in front the next. One foot in front the next. That's how you have to keep it moving. Take a deep breath and keep your feet moving, one in front the next.

I write this post on the 12th anniversary of one of the most somber moments in this country--Sept. 11. I remember the madness of the day because I covered it for the Washington Afro. It was a day where Antonio's and my only thought was to be reunited, despite the gridlocked traffic. On that day, many of us felt discouraged and unable to make sense of it. Yet, here we are, 12 years later. The attacks led to certain actions and changes in the world that may have led to the election of this country's first African-American president.

Today, I was talking to one of my very young colleagues, whose friend was supposed to have been on the Pentagon flight. He was a student at Leckie Elementary (or Backus) and his mom was called to get him in, and she missed the call. When she returned the call, she was told that his slot was already taken. Note I wrote this in passive voice because I don't have first-hand knowledge but this colleague is a great source. But it's incidents like these that remind me that when things do not happen as I want them to, sometimes they weren't meant to be. Imagine if that child had gotten to go on that trip on that fateful day, Sept. 11. Imagine if his mother joined them? Devastating.

That's why my new attitude is "I'll do what I can do, Lord, the rest is up to you."
I refuse to keep fighting for what isn't for me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

As Another Big Day Rolls Around

Today, June 16, is the start of 40 plus 2. Or as someone told me yesterday, I turned 25 for the umpteenth time. I'm not really sure what to make of 42. It's not such a big special birthday to me as 40, 45 or 50. But it has its own special place that means I've made it through another year. That my life continues and that I'm able to continue making changes. Influencing others. And having those moments that take my breath away.

Last week at a kid's birthday party, some of us parents were musing on when we should stop birthday parties for kids. One mom said point blank, I love birthdays. I'm not stopping the celebration. Loved her attitude. So positive. So much possibility. So much money.

What I do love about having my birthday on June 16 is that I get to share it with the late Tupac Shakur, the superstar rapper-actor who was killed when he was in his 20s; and talk show host Joe Madison, the Black Eagle. And I get to share it with some other friends from Facebook. It's not mine alone but I do get to share. And that's what it's about. Having the ability to share and to give of your time and your efforts or your finances. What is the point of accumulating all this knowledge, grace or forgiveness and not sharing it with others. Earlier this week, I spoke to my priest, Father Jim and he said too many people are poor. They're poor in spirit. They are where they are but by the grace of God and we need to recognize that. Turn a blind eye to judging others. And open up to help feed the soul of others. I do want to come down on the right side of humanity, and give as I can give, and then some if I can.

So to my other June 16 birthday sharers, here's looking at you, kid. Have a great one.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Dealing With Anniversaries

My daughters are among
the reasons I have to keep
 moving forward.
I'm really going to have to do better about posting on this blog. Just noticed it's actually May 15 now not May 14, the anniversary of my leaving the government agency.
I feel stronger and more in touch with myself, my writing. However, it still tinges a little that I'm not part of that team. Every now and then I find myself reminiscing and kicking myself for mistakes that were made. Not sure this will actually do anything.
Well, here I am. I am woman. Hear me roar. Still writing. still standing. I've added the certificate of field technician to my DCTV television producer certificate earlier this month. Now's the time to return to that dream and goal of working in electronic media. The media landscape has changed since I earned my master's in 2000. Now, we're doing video on the Washington Informer and on Asian Fortune. More important, I can start something on YouTube. I want to explore them all. 
Lots of opportunities, many possibilities. But I feel stuck. Stuck on Stupid again. Not sure if I'm moving forward or if I'm moving back. The uncertainty is scary; but I have to keep it moving. 
Peace. One Love.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On Dealing With Sudden LIfe Changes

Ah, it has taken me a while to get to this. And even now, I don't think I'll be able to finish tonight because it's already 11:30 and I have to go to bed.

But a few days after my last blog on Muck Rack, I was hit with a very sudden life change. Lots of people say you shouldn't be concerned with externals but focus on your reaction to the externals. Well, lot harder to do than to say. On about May 14, 2012, I was called into the DISB commissioner's office and told, at around 3:15 or so, that it would be my last day. I would be put on administrative leave for 14 days and then that's it.

Interestingly, May 14 was the day after Mother's Day, when my daughter made her first communion, and Antonio and I had spent the afternoon with friends--really enjoying what life offered. We were enjoying dinner in our new kitchen and just being.....

Because my position with the government was Management Supervisory Service or MSS, and you're not in the union, there aren't as many protections in place as for union staff. Mind you, we're the ones with the higher degrees in some instances. Many folks said MSS meant we had more perks etc. However, I'm here to say that for the last four years, our perks were being eroded. I hadn't gotten a raise since 2008 when I first got my salary; we lost the subsidized parking under the building; there wasn't as much time to take advantage of many educational opportunities; and for some of the time, you're ensuring you don't cross the unions. Maybe it has changed but quite a few MSS folks said to me that it's not worth it anymore. On top of that, your employees could easily make more than you--if they have time in service--or not much less than you make. Now, on top of that, you don't get the protections union staff receive. It can cause burnout and disillusion for MSS staff, especially those who go after education in the belief you'll be protected. However DC government doesn't seem to offer that. Fortunately, it had begun to work out those kinks.

Well, getting back to my original paragraph, I was actually called out from a staff meeting with my then-team to meet with the commish. I felt like dead man walking--and I said as much to the staffer who was taking me to the office where I was greeted with HR, an attorney and other witnesses. Needless to say, it was a scene that should only be in a nightmare. I don't think I remember a thing I said. All I know is that I was told the agency was going a "different direction." I'm still not sure what that meant. I suppose in other words, I don't like you much; I have to find someone else I prefer.

I think the saddest part of it is that after a person, any person, spends so many years with the government or any other organization--when your tenure comes to an end--you can have your entire life put in a box. I think in my case, I must have had at least six boxes. I have watched several persons from that agency marched out by HR or police and I have never liked the practice. I think it's insulting, hurtful and for the most part creates a chilling effect for the bystanders and others left behind. It also puts a damper on their subsequent reaching out to the staffer.

In a recent interview with Councilmember Michael Brown, I did bring it up, and he said it's for the protection of the employee and the employer. One never knows how people react in certain circumstances. (After my May situation, I believe in other parts of the country, a couple of people reacted poorly by going after bosses and shooting them. That's just giving them way too much power in my view. Don't have time to waste and I have too much to lose.)

So, here I am Nov. 2, 2012, on my husband's birthday. I mark his special day as a day I think I'm open enough to write about this. This road was not easy. Change is difficult, especially when you are older. I had a terrific job--a job I loved doing. I was well compensated and I believe I had earned the salary after working for as long as I did and for the skill sets I brought to the table. One person made a decision that altered my wealth building process and the legacy building I'm doing for my children. There could have been alternative moves. There were differences in opinions yes, maybe even philosophies. But I'm not sure it was worth eliminating someone who really liked the work and more important, providing valuable work. And could have provided valuable work in other areas too; but as MSS, bosses don't have to do that for you. You can just leave and that's that.

But it's out of my hands. My control comes from what I do next. My control comes from my attitude. My control comes from the smile on my face and the big old grin when I realize where I am and what I'm doing now. My control comes from the strength God has given to me.

I'm now a freelance reporter for the Washington Informer, www.washingtoninformer.com, the Washington Afro, www.Afro.com, Asian Fortune, www.asianfortune.com and I continue to freelance for Capital Community News, www.capitalcommunitynews.com. Also, I've revamped by company, Invisible Colours LLC, to take it onto a wealth building path. My mom said one of her brothers said this may be a God-given opportunity for me to take the company--an editorial staffing and public relations firm--to build it into something magnificent. This is my uncle who had built up a simple office furniture company into an empire in Trinidad and Tobago. His word, I will hang onto it.

I'll stop here for now. I must continue later. It's really late and I'm crashing. But I did find some valuable things to do that helped me through the immediate moments after my job loss to now--the next few months later. Beyond one job, I haven't tried to jump right back into government. I wanted to reevaluate and see where my heart was, and find something I really enjoyed but which will allow me to live a lifestyle that shows progress--and the American Dream for an immigrant. I was heavily disappointed by some people I thought were in my corner and pleasantly surprised by others. One of my girlfriends said, it's times like these you see who the true friends are; and you lose some along the way. True.

But briefly couple of good things I did
  • Stayed For Seven Years at The Government Job --this helped somewhat with severance payments. However, recent legislation by the Council cut the severance payments from 26 weeks to 10 weeks, regardless of your length of tenure. I heard from one Council staffer that the law wasn't in effect until October. However, the last of my severance was late August. But  it shows how the law affects you even when you're not paying attention. The law was created to prevent people in the Gray administration from taking advantage of the payments. I'm not sure the Councilmember who did the law thought about people working the government for years will be affected as well. So, whether you work 5 years or 20 years, if you're MSS, you balance off at 10 weeks of severance. This is a story worth doing.
  • Took advantage of the government's deferred compensation, 529, and 401 (B) plans. These are my just-in-case I need to open up finances. So far, so good.
  • Brought a Whole Life Insurance Policy when I was 25. Smartest thing I had ever done
  • Got a Master's Degree. Lots of folks may say, it didn't help because you still lost your job. I'll say, yes, but it helped me with getting back on my feet. It offered options. It kept my dignity in tact. I buss my butt at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The writing was so different from anything I had learned. But that school was excellent.
  • I had put some good work in at the agency from 2005 when I first started where we had built an infrastructure under Lily Qi, and I continued it and created other sustainable programming and communications tools such as the newsletter, the press machine and of course the Facebook and Twitter. Some people don't realize the agency started in 2004, and Lily had to really build it from the ground. I took it to the next level and whomever has the reins will carry it forth. But I think the foundation has been set.
  • Not losing connections with old bosses and colleagues. Because of Lily, I am now writing for Asian Fortune. Because of my connection with Denise Rolark Barnes and Ron Burke, I'm a reporter at the Washington Informer. My former connections with Edgar Brookins with the Washington Afro got me in touch with the new editor there. I have other connections I haven't explored yet. But as I said, I want to take my time and get into something that I'm passionate about.
  • Kept my faith in God intact. I never stopped believing He had my back. I still believe He does. Even though at times, I feel things aren't moving as quickly, and many times I get into the "why me" mode; but I know the commissioner did me a favor. I wish the Lord's blessings on him and the agency. Even now, God's still whispering in my ear, don't worry, I got you. You'll be fine. So, I stay in faith.