Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Tapestri Human Trafficking Event

tapestri-trafficking-evenJanuary was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, so there were a number of local and national events in which to attend. It was a goal of mine to be at more slavery and trafficking events in 2017, since I feel that has been lacking from my schedule over the past couple of years. It is a subject near and dear to my heart, and was my first, formal introduction to social justice in 2006.

I was privileged to attend my first event by the local organization, Tapestri. They do outstanding work here in Atlanta, and while I’ve heard of them for a number of years, I’ve never actually participated in any of their events or programs.

This turned out to be rather different than things I’ve attended in the past because I was one of the few people there that wasn’t with the government or other nonprofit. That made it really fun and interesting as I got to know the people around me.

Outside of Tapestri, most of the presenters were with the FBI, so it was also incredible to hear about their involvement. There were also several lawyers speaking, so we were able to hear about their work and the state and national legal system as it pertains to this issue. So, there was a huge focus on the legal and law sectors, and how all those worked together and separately to combat this issue. Those weren’t topics I get to hear a lot, so it made for a really fascinating day.

Here are my notes:

FBI

  • The FBI has 122 victim specialists in 56 field offices, and works with 41 Indian reservations, across the US.
  • The Trafficking Victims in Persons Act (TVPA) passed it 2000. It provides protection, prevention and prosecution. It also includes both sex and labor trafficking.
  • One of the new trends is that victims could be the kind of kids that you see selling candy in public places. This is another form of revenue.
  • Exploiting transgender kids and adults is also a new trend.
  • The T-Visa (trafficking visa) is only one year to start. Their the victim’s lawyers and reps petition for them to stay.
  • Proactive: federal, state and local partners working together.
    • Task forces and working groups
    • Non-governmental meetings
    • Events and partnerships
  • The FBI has special people trained to work with youth and get their testimony so they don’t have to be in court.
  • The FBI has to follow the legal definition rather than how a victim self-identifies with the issue. (Sometimes they don’t even see themselves as victims.)

Homeland Security Investigations

  • They fall under ICE.
  • They are an investigative department of Homeland Security.
  • They are similar to the FBI but it involves immigration as well.
  • Trafficking effects every people group.
  • HSI also puts victims in touch with resources like Tapestri.
  • Referrals come from raids, partners, civilians and professionals like doctors who come in contact with victims, schools, other NGOs, and hotlines like Polaris.
  • There are not enough beds, so sometimes HSI has to rely on domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters, especially for men. There are no places for men or labor trafficking victims, in particular.
  • They also provide training for law enforcement at all levels.

US Department of Labor

  • Enforces legal compliance for welfare of citizens, and includes some immigration. (ex: migrant workers)
  • Priorities include agriculture workers, food services, hospitality industry, construction, etc.
  • Doesn’t investigate but protects and refers to other agencies and service providers.
  • Also provides back wages owed to victims.
  • Participates in task forces.
  • Can also issue U (abuse victims) and T (trafficking victims) Visas.
  • Usually dealing with labor victims (including seasonal workers) that are recruited under fraudulent circumstances.
  • Often the victim’s families are threatened to keep them in line.
  • Provides training for industry groups like hospitality, nurses, etc.

Breakout: FBI Advanced Training for Working with Victims

  • Mostly works with sex trafficking girls from other countries.
  • First case study is in Suwanee, GA, a suburb about an hour north of Atlanta.
    • The woman perpetrator was wealthy and connected.
    • She was from Nigeria, and went back there to find a girl to come back with her. The pretense was as a nanny, and she said she’d also put the girl in school.
    • The girl was mistreated every day: beaten, made to cut the grass with scissors, bleach the fence. Wasn’t given a proper bathroom, just a bucket to go to the bathroom in, despite the large house.
    • The first girl ran away, and the woman did the same thing to a second girl.
    • The woman told her friends the girls were her slave and she could do whatever she wanted with them. The friends sometimes gave the girls gifts behind the woman’s back. Neighbors sometimes saw the girls being mistreated, and so did people, including government officials, who attended her parties. Finally, her best friend turned her in because she couldn’t take it anymore. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!
  • Second case study is an international sex trafficking victim.
    • Started in Tenancingo, Mexico, which is notorious for this crime. Families are raised to be victims and perpetrators. Kids even aspire to run these types of businesses because they see that money can be made.
    • A guy made a girl (“Tere”) believe that he was her boyfriend. Bought her things she’d never had, acted innocent for her, and convinced her to come to the US with him on a fun trip. There, he trapped her in a brothel.
    • The perp family had brothels in Marietta and Norcross, Georgia, suburbs outside of Atlanta..
    • Typically girls work in the brothel or are driven to the John.
    • Charged $30 for 15 minutes with the girls, and they may see up to 50 Johns per day.
    • Tere worked for two years and was forced into almost 1,700 sex acts.
    • She was beaten, threatened, put into deprivation, etc.
  • Sometimes victims families are brought to the US and protected if it looks like the family in another country will be threatened or harmed.
  • They return to a lot of the same places. Gwinnett County is big and growing.

Prosecuting Trafficking Cases

  • Federal case study:
    • Found girls with similar tattoos on Backpage.com
    • These girls were recruited by pimps because they already had Backpage profiles.
    • The pimps also recruited  girls that were down on their luck. (ex: abused, poor, bad home life, addiction – all teens and young adults, various races)
    • Guy said he was a party promoter.
    • Bought things for them, and then later said they owed him for these things, and that he owned them.
    • Also recruited girls on Instagram and Facebook through long-term cons.
  • Sex trafficking of a minor is one of the easiest charges to prove, and it carries a 10-year minimum sentence.
  • Second federal case study is international:
    • Mexican men recruited women to come to the US.
    • Only the main guy was tried and sentenced to 40 years.
  • Third case study pertains to the state:
    • Georgia doesn’t have to prove knowledge of age. A perp doesn’t have to know she/he is underaged. If she/he is, then that punishment is carried.
    • Prosecuting pimps: 10-year minimum for adult victims and 20-year minimum if victims are juvenile
    • Georgia has good prosecuting laws. Teams try to work together to see if state or federal has the strongest conviction changes, and the one with the harshest convictions takes the lead.
  • Had another case of a pimp who got life + life + 114 years. Sadly, this is rare.
  • There are apps that allow pimps to track ALL phone usage on his account without the girls’ knowledge so they are tightly monitored.
  • Victims stay with them out of shame, personal threat, violence, family issues, threats to families, they don’t feel like they have other options, money, “love,” legal threats, drugs, blackmail, and loss of freedom. And younger victims just have less knowledge about the world and legal systems to understand how things work.
  • Victims are usually young, come from a dysfunctional family, have a history of abuse, etc.
  • Trauma victims often form bonds like Stockholm Syndrome.
  • Georgia also has an added mental disability clause for harsher sentences.
  • There are international treaties for gathering evidence and seizing assets abroad.

Legal Remedies

  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN) referrals come from law enforcement, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and sometimes people inform them directly.
    • Free for clients.
    • Represent immigrants and trafficking victims who have little ties to their current location or families.
    • Work in partnership with others to make sure all services are covered.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) works for the rights of vulnerable populations, mostly hate crimes.
    • Distributes free education and literature.
    • Fights for justice in legal system.
    • Have now worked with a number of trafficked victims.
    • Civil litigation can also prosecute for pain and suffering, unlike criminal law, for higher victim payouts. Restitution is tax-free money.
  • Visas are non-immigrant status that allow you to stay in the US. They can also sometimes apply to families.
  • T-Visa: Only 5,000 per year allowed
  • U-Visa: Only 10,000 per year allowed
  • Trafficking victims must be willing to cooperate with the law/investigators.
  • U victims must also be helpful to law enforcement during cases and suffered in some way.
  • No statue of limitations on trafficking crimes, but not enough people come forward.
  • People coming from other countries, especially third-world countries, often mistrust law enforcement and don’t come for them for help because their own legal systems are corrupt.
  • Can take up to five years to obtain a T- or U-Visa. But victims can apply for work authorization in the meantime, but that can also take one or two years. Minors, however, can work regardless.

 


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My Word for 2017

vertical-logo-w-taglinelargeThis year’s word was easy, peasy! I saw it coming from miles—actually, months—away, and I’ve been very excited to share it with you. But it took way more prep work than usual.

The word, you ask? SIGNIFY.

And that is because it’s my new business name! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I left my full-time job last May to start my own company. Now, I serve cause-focused organizations through writing, consulting and strategy. I want to help these purpose-driven companies improve their marketing and business communications so they can focus and shine. And I especially love helping small businesses get noticed and grow. You can read more about the background of my business here.

Since I’ve been practicing a word for the year tradition for a number of years, I used the same criteria to choose my business name: I like single words with multiple meanings in the form of a verb. It took me several months to figure out my organization’s name, but I’m very happy with it. And the website just launched yesterday, which is the prep work I mentioned. It’s been quite the adventure so far, and I’m sure that will continue!

So, basically, even though I had this business the latter half of 2016, this means that 2017 will be focused on getting this business off the ground and running. I have been very blessed to have spent the first seven months working for friends, and that sustained me. But I knew that wasn’t realistic for the long-haul, so that meant building a website and all the bells and whistles that came with it.

My verse for the year is one I hold very near to my heart. It’s one that continues to inspire me, has influenced my business, and especially seems like a good motto to live by these days.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

There you go! That’s it. My word for the year. As always, I can’t wait to see what the year has in store, and how I’ll view it through the lens of SIGNIFY.

You can read about last year’s word, RENEW, right here, if you’d like.

Did you choose a word for 2017? If so, I’d love to hear it!

___________________________________________________

If you’re new to this whole word for the year thing, it is basically a way to take a proactive stance to the year. Instead of just arriving in December and taking stock of what happened, having a word of the year is a way to be proactive. We all have goals, wishes and hopes for our year, and sometimes those happen, and sometimes life gets in the way. Having a word for the year helps me to be intentional with my days and my time, and sometimes it also helps me make decisions that help to define outcomes. It’s a practice that some of my friends and I have done for probably almost 10 years now, and it is always a highlight of my year, especially when we’re able to discuss them together.

If you haven’t done this before, and want a little more guidance, here are a couple of resources to help you out:

One Word That Will Change Your Life

My One Word

Wishing you a joyful and productive 2017!

 

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)


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My Second Annual Personal Retreat: Parts 1-3

fullsizerender-14If this post had a subtitle, it would be something like, “A Solopreneur’s Guide to Flexibility.” Like many of you, I had big plans for the New Year, and also for my second annual personal retreat. Plan A was to head to Tennessee to hang out with some of my best friends to ring in 2017. After leaving there, I was going to head to a hotel somewhere between my house and theirs to hole up for a few days to enjoy my retreat. I did this for the first time last year because I wanted dedicated time away from my house to plan and dream for the year ahead, especially for my business. I had another big list of tasks to accomplish, articles and posts to read, homework from my business coach, 2017 planning to do, and of course, a bit of relaxing needed to be thrown in.

PART 1:

But if there is any lesson you’re doomed to repeat as a self-employed entrepreneur, it’s one in flexibility. About two weeks prior to New Year’s, my friends needed to cancel. It was a good reason, but I was disappointed and so were they. So, I decided to move up my personal retreat to New Year’s Eve. But, no problem, Plan B kicked in. #flexible

Then I got another call.

I thought the first week of January was going to be really slow, and I was okay with that so I’d have plenty of time for my retreat and to finish up any additional items upon returning home. But my contact at my largest client called to say that he’d just accepted a new job, his two weeks notice had been turned in that morning, and we needed to finish our current project within that timeframe—which wasn’t originally due until March.

Hello, Plan C. Now it was two days until New Year’s Eve. So, I decided to cut the retreat down to one night since I’d be working hard over the weekend on my retreat, and needed to jump into client work first thing Monday morning. Additionally, due to this hiccup and the fact that I’d just be returning from Christmas travel as well, I decided to stick super close to home. Technically, I can do my work from just about anywhere, but I didn’t want to use a bunch of hotel points on a local hotel, especially if I wasn’t even going to be doing my own planning.

Ok, so I found a place that looked great, was close by, and had a kitchen so I could bring groceries to cut down on food costs. #budget So, now New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were now officially planned! Additionally, to add some of the relaxation element, I made the decision to kick off my retreat with Rogue One.

So, I went to the movie (which was fun!), packed up, and headed to the hotel. And then plans fell apart again . . . womp womp. I did manage to get a few things done, but way less than I thought, and as the day went on I felt progressively worse. Then I discovered that while my kitchen looked adequate, it didn’t have an oven despite saying it had a full kitchen. And, you guessed it, my Trader Joe’s appetizers needed to be cooked in the oven and not by microwave or stovetop. So, because I wasn’t feeling well, I ordered room service rather than going out to pick something up—which was terrible. Therefore my big New Year’s Eve plans included sickness, a tasteless hamburger, and flipping between bad countdown shows. Ah, the glamorous life of an entrepreneur! But before I checked out, though, I eat get a fairly good (and free) breakfast buffet, and managed to check a big planning item off my list. So, I put the rest of my personal retreat on hold . . . because it’s mine and I can do that. And since I was feeling better, I decided to bookend the retreat with a movie, La La Land.

Just a couple of days later, my friend Katie came into town, and we got a group of girls together for brunch. I was feeling much better, so this was a welcome respite and mental break to some of the crazy that just happened.

PART 2:

I’d been emailing a bit with my aforementioned Tennessee friends, Daron and Margaret, and found out they had a long weekend for MLK Jr Day. So, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to continue my retreat now that the client work was finished, and I was originally supposed to start my retreat with them anyway! Plans made. Bags packed. Headed north. This was a great weekend! On the way to their house, I was able to meet up with two other friends, Amy and Rhonda, one of which I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Awesome start!

Then Saturday and Sunday were spent entirely with Daron, Margaret and their boys. It was fantastic to catch up with them, and see how much the boys have grown (4-years-old, and 2-years-old)! And Saturday night, they hired a babysitter, so just the three of us had great, quality time out on the town. We shared our words for the year (coming soon!), and oh so much more. The three of us always have great conversations, and it was a real life-giving experience, which we all needed. Sunday was mostly about relaxing, which was also needed by all of us.

Monday morning on my way out of town, I met another friend, Jana, for brunch in Nashville that I hadn’t seen in a year or so. Again, more great conversation. We even ran into a friend from our old church, so that was a fun surprise as well. So, overall, it was just an amazing weekend of nothing special and everything special, all at the same time. It put the “treat” in retreat. 🙂

PART 3:

This past week was full of completely unexpected gifts, which is why I’m considering it an extension of my planned retreat. It was already going to be a short week due to MLK Jr Day and returning from Tennessee. But it was packed full of goodness!

I did manage to get some work and planning done on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday night I had dinner with my friend Michelle, and our other friend, Rocio, whom neither of us had seen in years while she lived in Indonesia. Lots of laughing was involved!

Thursday, I attended an anti-trafficking conference put on by a local organization, which involved speakers from the FBI, Homeland Security, and other non-governmental orgs. (Notes coming soon.) While this may not sound very retreat-ish to you, it was for me. My mom once asked me how I could handle being around the terrible stats and stories that came with increased knowledge about trafficking and slavery. It is awful. But I told her, and still believe, that is how I know I’m called to it. Ever since I first heard about this issue in 2006, it has rooted itself deeply into my heart. So, while there is a lot of horrible-ness to it, I loved hearing success stories, being informed of laws are making it tougher for perpetrators (especially in Georgia), and meeting those on the front lines of this work. It was a great event.

Thursday night, my friend, Jen, and I attended a local networking event. These kinds of things aren’t usually our scene, for many of the same reasons you’d probably list, but Jen’s friend told her these are really low key and not insane or competitive. And she was right. This chapter nearby is just getting started, so there were only a handful of us at a local coffee shop, and we were able to hear from and encourage each other in our different work. It was nice.

Friday included my monthly chiropractic and massage appointment, so enough said there. Great way to end the week. And Friday night, another friend, Katrell, was in town, so I had dinner with her and our other friend, Stephanie. This included meeting Stephanie’s new baby, which was fun! He’s a keeper. Katrell and Stephanie are the friends I went to India with in 2015, and it’s been a few months since I’ve seen them. More good conversation, some baby talk, and figuring out what 2017 looks like for us. Of course, like many of you, most of my conversations have been focused on that topic over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, this also included an update that one of the girls in Katrell’s program has recently been tricked by her family and sold into marriage in India. It’s heartbreaking, and we are all hoping it doesn’t turn into a trafficking situation, which it easily could. We’re trying to get more information about the situation that’s going on thousands of miles away. Lots of praying there.

This morning I had coffee with Jen again, and was introduced to another freelancer, Robert. It was a time to meet in person, learn what projects we were all working on, and if there are ways to connect and encourage each other. I also stayed a few hours to catch up on the mound of emails in both my business and personal inbox that have been piling up over the past week. The rest of the day has pretty much involved catching up on Hulu and napping!

CONCLUSION:

So, despite some ups and downs, I had a very interesting personal retreat, and in some ways a very long one! It has also made for a super interesting January, and who knows where the year will go from here.

But there are a few things I am reminded of:

  1. Personal retreats are well worth the effort.
  2. I have amazing friends who keep me sane.
  3. Businesses are built on who you know.
  4. Flexibility is key!

I hope this encourages you to take a personal retreat! It may look very similar, or very different, for you, but the investment will pay off. I’m already looking forward to my next one! 😉

And if you’ve done one, let me know how it is or offer suggestions!

 


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Business Boutique: Notes & Quotes

fullsizerender-14I totally forgot to post about this event after attending in November. Maybe that’s because I feel like I sat with it so long, which is a good thing. One of the facets that I really liked about this event was that the notebook also served as a workbook. So, I’ve had it sitting out since coming back from Nashville just waiting to finish my homework. I’d intentionally set it aside for this year’s personal retreat (more on that soon!), so really, I think my conference experience just ended.

Christy Wright’s Business Boutique is a conference aimed for Christian women entrepreneurs. She started as a Dave Ramsey coach and speaker, and has now moved into this niche, which I believe will thrive. Business Boutique is extremely practical, which I appreciated most of all. And one of the most interesting pieces of the event to me was that it’s aimed at dreamers, starters and builders. The “dreamers” were the people I found most fascinating. I’d never seen a conference aimed at people who had no idea what they want to do! I talked to several of these ladies, and they confirmed that they either had a super vague idea (“I want to sell something online.”) to no idea (“I am open to anything. I just want a change.”) There were also a wide variety of women there from young moms looking for a career or something to contribute to their family, to new or established business owners, to retirees looking to begin again. It was kinda fun to hear the range of stories, backgrounds and ideas.

Outside of this two-day annual event in Nashville, she also has a really good podcast and a series of one-day events around the U.S. during 2017. Her events are extremely affordable, and a lot of fun. I’d definitely recommend this conference to other Christian women entrepreneurs!

But for now, here are just a few of my take-aways:

Christy Wright:

  • Your dream should be so big that if God’s not in it, you’ll fail.
  • If you set your goals before the why, dreams, vision, and mission statement, your goals have no soul.
  • You’ll be the most successful when you stay in your strengths.
  • Stay true to yourself by building your business around your personal values.
  • When talking about your business, focus on the benefit to the customer, not the features of the business. Start with why.
  • If you don’t believe in the goodness of business and making money, you’ll never have a good business or make money.
  • Turning your hobby into a business requires a mind-set shift. Its no longer a part of you. The business is its own thing.
  • You teach others how to value you. If you don’t value your work, no one else will.
  • Faith and fear require you to believe in something that hasn’t happened yet.
  • Fear doesn’t mean you’re doing something bad. It means your doing something bold.
  • Anything that tears you down is not from God.
  • Creating balance in your life comes down to what you spend your time on.
  • Stress and anxiety are caused when there is a disconnect between our values and our behavior.
  • Life balance is simply living from your values.
  • Jesus wasn’t focused on the need. He was focused on the assignment.

Dave Ramsey:

  • Goals must be specific.
  • Goals must be measurable.
  • Goals must have a time limit.
  • Goals must be yours.
  • Goals must be in writing.

Rachel Cruz:

  • Quite the comparisons.
  • Steer clear of debt.
  • Make a plan for your money.
  • Think before you spend
  • Save like you mean it.
  • Give a little…until you can give a lot.
  • Talk about money, even when its hard.

Christine Caine:

  • Impossible is where God starts.
  • You can’t change your past, but you can change your future.
  • Just be willing.
  • God has a plan, purpose and destiny for your life.
  • God always uses unlikely people.
  • It’s the job of the people of God to carry the message of God to their generation.
  • You’ve got to make a decision that what God did for you is bigger than what someone else did to you.
  • A word you’ll never find in the Bible is retirement.
  • Leave a gap in your business that only God can fill.
  • You’re going to have to take a step of faith to step into your God-given gifts.
  • Do not say no when God says go!

Hillary Scott:

  • One door closing is not all of them closing. Resilience and perseverance are required.
  • Have wise counsel and mentors.
  • Be humble enough to ask questions.
  • Remember you’re defined not by others, but by Who created you.
  • “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – CS Lewis

Amy Porterfield:

  • Social media works when you know your ideal customer identity.
  • Social media works when you create original content that serves your ideal customer.
  • Your content should be aligned with, but separate from, your product.
  • Social media works when you ignite action.
  • What does your ideal audience need to experience, be aware of, or believe in in order to want or need your product/service?

Nicole Walters:

  • Sales is not about pushing; it’s about influencing.
  • Sales comes from confidence and confidence is like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
  • Be kind, but firm. Be specific.
  • It’s your God-given duty to share your gifts with the world.

Donald Miller:

  • Demonstrate empathy and authority.
  • Solve internal and external problems.
  • Give customers a plan.
  • Make your call to action clear.
  • Define how you will improve people’s lives.


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Happy New Year!

Happy 2017 to you! Before I move on to this next year, I’m taking a moment to look back at the past 12 months. Here are just a few of my highlights!

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