Why I Stride

Since today is World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness day, I thought I’d write about why I stride.  Stride of course refers to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s annual 5k called Purple Stride.  This Sunday, as we’ve done since 2015, Team Deb Force Five will be off to the races at the Broward-Palm Beach Purple Stride.  While it will be my first as part of the event team, it will also be our second Purple Stride without Debbie, which brings me to why I stride.

I remember the day clearly.  I had travelled with work to Orlando to present for the first time as part of our Military Roadshow. It was a pretty big deal and I was super excited.  We were driving up as a group and heading back that evening.  The presentation went swimmingly, so I spent my afternoon getting caught up on work.   And then my husband called, hysterical..   I was convinced something had happened to one of our kiddos.  When he finally calmed down, he told me the devastating news that Debbie had been diagnosed with stage iv cancer.  Instantly, my knees went week and I started to slide down the wall as I too started to cry.   At that point, the origin of the cancer was unknown, but the prognosis was dire.

At the time of her diagnosis Debbie was 40 years old.  She wasn’t a smoker, she ate exceedingly healthy and was an avid runner.  She didn’t fit the profile for a pancreatic cancer patient, but I think that’s the message.   According to a a recent study, pancreatic cancer will be the 2nd deadliest cancer by 2020.  Lung cancer is projected to remain the deadliest cancer.  While other cancers have seen a decrease in mortality rates, pancreatic cancer has not.  Researchers pointed to a combination of factors as to why mortality rates for pancreatic cancer have not declined.   Risk factors including an aging population, the relative growth of high-risk minority populations (African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews) and the underfunding of pancreatic cancer research.

Debbie was committed to finding a cure and research for better patient outcomes.  She was an avid supporter of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the work they do to drive pancreatic cancer research.  Unfortunately, this can’t be done without money.   Pancreatic cancer patients and their families, like Debbie and her family, deserve better outcomes.  They deserve a survival rate well over 9%.

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We lost Debbie almost two years ago, but some days it feels like it was yesterday while others it feels like it’s been years.   Even still Goalielocks asks why they couldn’t do more for her.  I stride because I’m committed to ensuring that pancreatic cancer patients and their families have better outcomes.  I’m committed to helping drive research forward.  This disease has stolen so much from so many.  It certainly has from me.

You can support PanCan and Team Deb Force Five in Debbie’s honor: http://support.pancan.org/site/TR/PurpleStride/PurpleStride?team_id=14831&pg=team&fr_id=1573

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Amazing Art

Last night, I had the opportunity to view some amazing art at an art gallery opening in Wilton Manors.  The gallery, Negril Art Gallery, was holding its grand opening complete with wine, hor d’oeuvres, music and great company.  This event was made even more special as my employee was one of the night’s featured artists.  It was an awesome opportunity to enjoy some art while supporting a colleague.

Honestly, I had an inkling that his work would be great, but I had no idea just how amazing they would be.   Consequently, I was completely awestruck by his work.  His portraits were sublime.  If you asked me which one was my favorite, I wouldn’t be able to pick just one.  They were that good!

I really enjoyed the gallery opening.  First of all, it was the first time in a long time that the Hubby and I were attending something that wasn’t hockey related.  Secondly, the art was utterly sublime.  Lastly, it was amazing to see our team there to support their colleague.  Truly, it was incredible seeing all the people form work that went to support Kwame.   It was a great event!

Afterwards, several us went to Padrino’s for some Cuban food and more drinks.  Oh yes, the vodka and long islands were free flowing as we waited for the others.  I enjoyed Arroz Con Pollo, while the hubby had lechon asada.  Fortunately, both of our decisions were pure perfection.  Both the chicken and the pork were cooked perfectly and were full of flavor.  We will definitely be back!  Moreover, our bill was only $200, which for 8 adults that are all drinking is pretty darn cheap.

After Padrino’s, we headed over to Cafe Vico for some more drinks and live music.  Unfortunately, the band had finished playing by the time we got there.  They had music playing, but the song choices were not fantastic.  Fortunately, the DJ/Chef/Owner let us start playing the music from his iPad. We had a fabulous time and shut the place down.  We ended our night by committing to go to Reykavik or Zurich for a girls weekend.   All in all , we had an amazing night out on the town.

Tonight’s song performed by Prince is “When Doves Cry.”

Choking

Well, it was a day full of choking.  When I say choking, I don’t mean the kinky 50 Shades stuff, I mean sports teams utterly out performing.  Once could say shitty decision leads to shitty outcomes, but that seems a bit obvious.  As a hardened Vikings fan, I knew tonight would be disappointing.  Consequently, I spent the first half of the game working out.  Fortunately, while they gave up touchdown after touchdown, I burned 632 calories.  (At least there was some winning today!)

 

My kids, however, have not yet accepted what it truly means to be a Minnesota fan.  You know, the team will build up your hope only to choke in dramatic and devastating fashion.  Come to think about it, I probably should have used disappointment or today’s title, however, that would be redundant.  Nevertheless as a consequence of the Vikes’ epic collapse, I have one kid in a full on melt down.  Truly, I think he thought the world was truly ending.  Like many fans, I would have loved for my team to win, but hey reality is reality.  I simply don’t get my hopes up anymore.

Despite their epic loss, I love my Vikings and fellow fans.  How many organizations have a fan base that would raise well over $200,000 for an opponents charity? Not many.  At least the Vikes are honorable, which is more than I can say about many people.  I actually had some tell me today that they have a sliding scale of accountability and were proud of it.  Things to keep to yourself..  If you are in charge of anyone and have a sliding scale of accountability, you should probably quit your job.

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Unfortunately, the highlight of my day was the awesome chili I enjoyed at Culver’s between games.  When the chili was the highlight of the day, you know it was a bad sports day.  Additionally, I started reading Sun Tzu’s TheArt of War, which was quite enjoyable.   If you lead people, in any capacity or environment, you need to read this book on military strategy.  While this book was written with a military audience in mind, its principals are applicable across all industries and all leaders. In fact, I’m pretty sure its the first time in recorded history that a leader referred to a style akin to servant leadership.

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Ultimately, win, lose or draw, I love spending time with my family.  In that regard, today was a total win.  The Vikings’ season may be over, but I still have my Wild and soon the Twinkies will start spring training.  In short, soon the other sports teams from Minnesota can break my heart.   Lastly, if you’re looking for a good book to read on strategy, pick up a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Tonight’s song performed by Minnesota’s own Soul Asylum is “Runaway Train.  I know, I know it is a bit melancholy, but after the drubbing my Vikes endured it seems apropos.  Of course, it also happens to be a great song and a great video.

Realities of Mom Life

The realities of mom life aren’t nearly as glamorous as Gloria from Modern Family would have you believe.  In fact, they can be quite the opposite of glamorous unless you include cleaning up vomit in your definition of glamorous.  I know I don’t!  In the 18.5 years of motherhood, I’ve learned the key to motherhood is the learning to be agile in your planning and expectations.

While I would love to have nice things and perfectly clean house, I’ve found with three boys in the house it is darn near impossible.  When the boys were younger, we removed all of the toys and furniture from our upstairs loft.  At the time, and still to this day, my boys use the space as their mini hockey rink.  Yeah, it’s crazy.  Yeah, there’s damage to the walls and floor.  I mean, who doesn’t love when the kids take permanent markers to their new wood floors?  But you know what, my boys have had a blast spending their days/nights playing mini-hockey.  Moreover, it is much better than video games.  As a mother, you quickly learn which battles to fight and which ones to let go.

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I always have high ambitions for my weekends. I’m going to go to the gym, run all my errands, hang our with friends, organize my closet, etc.  The reality is again I have to be agile in my expectations and planning.  My plan may be a bit grandiose given my hockey mom schedule.  While the reality of what I’m able to accomplish, in my own mind, is quite paltry compared to my ambitions.  I guess when my kids reach 18, I’ll have time for all of those grandiose plans.

Moreover, this weekend in Chicago I had hoped to see downtown and eat relatively well.  I can’t say that ate completely poorly, but Giordano’s -while amazing- is not anti-fat ass compliant.  Fortunately, we only ate there two out of the four days.  As for the sight seeing, our hockey schedule simply didn’t allow for it.  I had planned to do this Monday before heading to the airport, but this plan was derailed by both boys’ teams making the semi-finals. It wouldn’t have been nice to see downtown, but truth be told I’d rather be watching my boys at the hockey rink.

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While we were in Chi-town, the hubby installed the yoga silk.  Initially, I had envisioned that I’d be the only one using it while the rest of my family made fun of me for it.  Oh how I was wrong.  Surprisingly, my younger two boys (in particular) love doing inversions in the silk, swinging on the silk and laying back in the silk relaxing.   I’m not mad that they love it, but I’m definitely going to need to buy another silk for the house.  I had hoped that the boys would use it post-hockey practice to help decompress their backs while opening their chest and shoulders.  Thankfully, they’re doing this, but I think they want to live in it.

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Meanwhile it was back to work for me with a sinus headaches courtesy of the cold weather and flights.  Fortunately, I only came back to 1,000 emails.  That made for a fun morning. Truly, it was nice to be back at work and back into our regular routines.  My body was clearly still on CST as I woke up way later than I had hoped.

We’re back to a daily song and tonight’s song performed by The Cranberries is “Dream.”  I was devastated to read that we had lost yet another amazing musician, Dolores O’Riordan, from my formative years.  One of the first albums I bought was The Cranberries album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?.  It was also an album that both my dad and I were really into.  For me, it was one of the first times my dad’s and my musical tastes aligned on music.  Of course, now it is a much different story with a lot of my musical preferences heavily influenced by my dad.

What a Week

What a Week

What a week!  Our Angel Tree events were an absolutely success!  I cannot get over how amazing it is to witness these precious children receiving their gifts.  Moreover, I beyond excited to grow our partnership with ARC through various volunteer opportunities.  Admittedly, I was proud of the team’s efforts and how they pulled together the drive, but I think we’re all exhausted.

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In the holiday season being able to help others even if it is in meager amounts is a gift.  It’s funny how as we get older Christmas morphs from a holiday about receiving gifts to a holiday about giving gifts.  They’re is truly more joy in giving than receiving. However, I do think its important to give ourselves gifts from time to time.

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For example, the last time I received a raise, I wanted to buy a nice pair of red bottomed shoes.  I think you know the shoes I’m talking about, but instead I bought a membership to the local fitness studio.  First, it was significantly cheaper than the red-bottomed shoes.  Secondly, there’s nothing better than little yoga or barre to get oneself re-centered.  I don’t do many things for myself – I drink my DD and I go to the gym, the rest is for my boys (all four of them.)  Seriously, I haven’t had pedicure since SAHOF (state hockey tournament), which happened in March.

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Of course, the hockey mom life entails acceptance of the fact all of your money, and I do mean all, goes to hockey  My boys, again all four, would have it no other way and truthfully nor would I.  Tonight my boys headed to practice as the Piggie and I headed out for a run. As I embarked on my run, one phrase kept running through my head “I’ll remember this.” There’s no need for a backstory here only the reminder that words can cut like a knife.

Tonight’s song performed by Michael Buble is “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

 

 

 

Magical Moments

Magical Moments

Our morning was filled with magical moments as we joined Santa to deliver gifts to the beautiful kids at ARC Broward.  This is my second year leading the initiative with my incredible partner in crime MK.  Consequently, it was also my second time attending the gift delivery.  Last year,  the event blew my away.  When I left last year’s event my heart was full after watching these kids and their parents relish their moment with Santa and their gifts.  I couldn’t wait to go back!

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This year ARC Broward’s preschool is under new leadership, so we’ve been working with new people.  Can I just tell you how amazing these people are?  They do an incredible job educating, advocating and creating futures for people with disabilities.  When we first arrived,  Shawn ushered us into a room where ARC’s Culinary program had catered in breakfast.  Their culinary program provides post high school education via a certificate to adults with disabilities.  The food was absolutely amazing!

As we finished our amazing breakfast, ARC’s high school class came into the room to visit us.  They performed a couple of songs and posed for pictures with all of us and Santa.  It was magical.  These high schoolers had incredible energy and were filled with joy. ARC’s commitment to these teens and young adults is to give them the skillset to find a job they want in the community.  Indeed, it’s all about creating opportunities for these students to excel.

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Afterwards we headed over to the preschool to start handing out the gifts. I struggle to words that adequately describe how beautiful and amazing it is to watch these kids receive their gifts and see Santa.  While some were afraid to sit on Santa’s lap, many were excited beyond belief.  They bounded with joy to get their presents and see Santa.  Their innocence, excitement, happiness and gratitude were overwhelming. It’s hard to watch without getting misty.

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I was so excited to buy for my angels after having met them both last year.  These two girls are incredibly sweet and full of energy.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to give one of my angels her gift today.   Moreover, I was able to meet her mom (who’s incredible) and chat with her for a bit.  Many times we donate to charities or toy drives and don’t have the luxury of getting to witness the child receiving the gift. I can tell you that there is nothing better than watching a child receive that gift.

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It’s no wonder that we left today’s event with a full heart and complete joy.  There’s something beyond gratifying in making someone’s world a little better.  As we go on our journey around the sun, it is easy for us to get stuck in the rat race.  We don’t have to be stuck!  We can live our legend, even if we’re punching the clock at a 9 to 5.  Sure we’re not crossing the Sahara looking for an alechemist, but we can find ways to fee our soul.  For me, it’s paying it forward via Angel Tree or raising funds an awareness for pancreatic cancer research.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose to be magical.  It would be a small, purple pony that you give to a little sister who didn’t think she’d be getting a gift.  Sometimes it’s all about the small things.

Tonight’s song performed by U2 is “Christmas.”

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Serving Others

Today was all about serving others – literally.  As a thank you to our staff and business partners, we threw a BBQ for our entire South Florida team.   While this wasn’t our first rodeo, it was our third, our last two BBQs have been for a team of 40-50.  Comparatively, today’s BBQ was for a paltry 450 people! For the majority of the team, leadership included, this was their first offsite BBQ.

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Our day started early with a trip to Sam’s to pick up the food we had pre-ordered.  While MK and I got the food, the rest of our crew headed to the park to start the grills.  In order to serve by noon, we started grilling at 10.  Our chefs, as always, were fantastic. When I finally got a chance to eat a burger, it was incredible.  By the time our teams showed up to eat, we were more than ready to go.

For the next three hours, my team and I served our employees burgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers.  It was an amazing opportunity for us to interact with our teams and build new relationships on our expanded team.  We spent the entirety of our day preparing for the BBQ, executing and cleaning up the park.  Unquestionably, it is hard for us to be away from the laptops for extended periods of time, but it is worth it to serve our teams.

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Some leaders fall into the trap of getting caught up in titles and even self -importance.  True leadership, however, is about serving those that report to you.  I privileged to be part of a team that espouses the servant leadership philosophy.  After I left the insurance industry years ago, I never wanted to be in a leadership position again.  Surprisingly, here I am in a leadership position again.  What drew me back into the leadership role was the commitment to servant leadership.

Today was an exhausting, but rewarding day.  The opportunity to meet and celebrate the people that make an organization successful was amazing.  I look forward to our next event celebrating the team’s success and our employees.  In the interim, I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve my team as a servant leader.

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Lastly, I’ve been handling my iPhone X gingerly, so as to not drop it.  I’m acclimated slowly to the major changes on the phone.  Truly, the facial recognition piece is amazing. Once I’ve gotten accustom to it, I will post my review here.  

Tonight’s song: “Mr. Jones”  I’m totally on a 90s music kick this week.  Can you tell?  What’s your favorite 90s tune?

My Thursday

My Thursday

My Thursday started with a longer than normal commute down the turnpike courtesy of a wreck and some rain.  It is a proven fact that rain will jack up your commute.  Oh and it did! It jacked up my commute both coming and going today.   The sad, sorry fact is that it isn’t even snow bird season yet, so traffic is only going to get worse!  By the time I got to work, I was feeling beat up.  Obviously, it was a namaste in bed kind of day and I got the memo too late.

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Nevertheless, I grabbed my Dunkin’ and headed to work.  Thank God for coffee and the many hilarious memes popping in on a fantastic group chat.  These definitely brightened my Thursday.   I can’t say that every meeting was awesome sauce today, but I had a few their complete gems.  I’ve been a director for quite awhile, but seeing people develop and come into their own never gets old.  I freaking love it.  I can’t even express how happy it makes me feel.

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Over the lunch hour, we threw an impromptu birthday party in a team meeting for one of our very tenured employees.  When I first started in my current department, this person took me and my colleagues under his wings.  He made sure we understood the process and helped us in anyway he could.  Today we celebrated him and he was blown away.  Afterwards, you could see how much he appreciated the gesture.  Above all, it was a poignant reminder of how important it is to make sure your employees feel that they are important to you and appreciated.

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One of my last meetings of the day was invigoratingUn.  I love finding ways to make organizations better through collaboration and teamwork across departments.  Who needs silos anyway? Am I right?  At any rate, I look forward to seeing how the fruits of our labors can make a difference.

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On the home front, my brother sent a picture to the group text of the Mayorworking on the car at my folk’s house in Minny.  I can’t believe how young he looks in the picture and how old he is now! Unquestionably, I’m not ready for the boys to grow up.   The fact that my youngest is in middle school in mind blowing.   Undeniably, I would really appreciate if someone could figure out how to slow down time.  It is going far too fast for me.  Moreover, I know I’m not alone here.

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I’m a mere 8 years from kids being out of the house.  I know it sounds like a long time, but I also thought 18 years was an eternity.  Turns out it’s not.  Jake is now 18 years old and the hubby and I still can’t figure out where the time went.  It’s seriously profane how quickly the time has gone.  It seems like it was just yesterday, I was a kid watching Madonna on MTV and choreographing awesome routines to her songs.  Now she’s oldest to carry an AARP card and I’m old enough to have a kid in college.    #mindblown  In honor of today’s daily prompt, enjoy Madonna’s Express Yourself music video.

 

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Boy Mom Life

Being a boy mom is not for the tentative or faint of heart.  Unequivocally, it takes a tough gut, a tough mind, a strong will and the flexibility of a yoga master.   My oldest son was and is a saint.  He was easy going as a baby,  a child and remains easy going as an adult.  He was definitely God’s way of tricking us into having more kids.  Its not that he didn’t have the requisite trips to the urgent care or ER that come with raising kids, but they were in frequent.  If we were at the doctor with Jake, it was because he picked up something at daycare.

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My younger two are strong willed as Jake is easy going.  Oh boy….  The thing about strong-willed children is that they can drive you absolutely mad.  Strong-willed children can absolutely change the world, however, if you don’t try and tame their spirit as is often the case.  It is tempting because it can be maddening.  While Jake spent no time in the urgent care due to accidents or sport injuries, Goalielocks and the Mayor are on a first name basis with the local Urgent Care staff.  You know you’re a hockey mom, when the Urgent Care practitioner knows you, your child and their hockey position.  They even remember to ask how they did at their last tournament.  The urgent care really should have a frequent flier program.   I’m hoping now that the boys are older, our visits to the urgent care center decrease.  Wish me luck on that one!  

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As a child, Goalielocks used to ask us deep philosophical questions while we drove.  These were not easy questions either.  No, Goalielocks wasn’t asking questions about Barnie and Friends.  He was all about the meaning of life as a toddler.  What’s worse is that he would call us out if our answers were inconsistent or changed.     Who expects to be called out on the meaning of life and the origins of the universe by their preschooler?

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Women,  well at least I can speak for myself, tend not think in a linear fashion.  Men tend to think more linearly.  I try to think more globally.   As a young mom, I assumed that my boys thought in a similar fashion.  Oh boy, was I wrong.  I didn’t realize that their thinking was quite singular and linear.  For example, when I told my kids to take a shower, I didn’t realize I would have to specifically tell them to also shampoo their hair and wash their body.  Lesson learned.

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A more recent, and perfect example of this, occurred during Irmageddon.  For some unknown reason, my hubby had brought in a work light from the garage.  The light was unbalanced as it’s legs hadn’t been fully extended..  Goalielocks accidentally knocked into the light knocking it over sending glass shards everywhere.  My hubby and I did our best to vacuum up all of the glass shards, but we clearly missed some of them.  As I swept and vacuumed this weekend, I found more shards of glass.

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I walked into my bathroom noting droplets of blood across the bathroom floor and into our hallway.  As it happens, Goalielocks stepped on a shard of glass cutting his foot.  He had tended to the cut by removing the class, cleaning the wound and covering it.  I asked that he clean up the blood stains he had left in my bathroom. Goalielocks cleaned up the blood stains in the bathroom.

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I took the picture above last night of a blood stain Goalielocks left the day he sliced his foot.  It is important to know that the stain is in our master bedroom hallway about an inch outside of the master bathroom.  As I was taking the pictured, annoyed that the stain was still there,  I asked Goalielocks why he didn’t clean this stain up.  After all, he had cleaned all of the others.  His answer was simple.  “Mom, you asked me to clean up the stains in the bathroom.  This one isn’t in the bathroom.”   I was incensed at myself and him all at once, myself because I should have known better and him because he should have known better.

I brought this picture out at work today.   As it is truly a perfect example of how people that think differently perceive different situations.   When you know that someone is a linear thinker, like my kids, you know you need to be very specific in your communication. In contrast, with a global thinker you wouldn’t have to be as specific.  If you tell me to clean up the blood stains, I’m going to clean up the blood stains even those outside of the bathroom.  On the other hand, a  linear thinker speaking to a global thinker may want to be very specific in their communication leaving no room for misinterpretation or broadening of scope.  

I love how this interaction with my teen turned into a lesson on interacting with different types of thinkers.  Life has a funny way of teaching us when we least expect it.  At first, I thought it was about a male and female brain, but it is not that simple.  Not all women thinking globally and not all men think linearly.  The important take away is that people think differently and we need to communicate accordingly.

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The Genius of James Joyce

When life is perfectly imperfect, literature like the genius of James Joyce provides the perfect remedy and wisdom for the moment.  Life will always throw curve balls at us no matter how much we plan or how hard we work.  We will fall, we will make mistakes, but we must pick ourselves up and recreate life out of life.

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It certainly isn’t easy.  How can one expect someone, who is continuously marginalized to stay in their current role?  I love the quote from Joyce above about people trampling flowers to go embrace a cactus.  Too often people are enticed by the cactus or the sheep in wolf’s clothing over the flower.  It doesn’t make sense, but there is something in human nature that draws us to people who may hurt or disloyal to us versus those that our loyal.  Failing to recognize the people that have made an organization effective, while recognizing others is a death nail to a team.  Unfortunately, this could leave to the demise of an organization.

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At the end of the day, words are meaningless.  It is actions that speak volumes.  People have made numerous promises to me over my career, but promises mean nothing without action.   Once, after six years, someone made good on the promise they had made.   When giving me the good news, however, they lied.   They flat out lied.  Again words are meaningless.   When I speak to my employees about their futures,  I’m honest in my timelines and in setting expectations.  It isn’t always what they want to hear, but at least they know my word is good.

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Falling is optional, but rising back up is not.  So rise we must!  We have an obligation to ourselves to give our best each and everyday regardless of our circumstances.  If you’re in a situation where your continuously marginalized, then it is time to move on.