Saturday, February 26, 2011

Michael Jackson Experience Makes Our Staycation!

President's Day weekend 2011 was the first weekend that we have not travelled on the February holiday weekend since 2004 when I was pregnant with my youngest, Evan.

We had no plans and it was delightful. Our super busy family never "staycations" and here we were with three consecutive days together at home.

It was delicious.  Sleeping in. Big breakfasts. Sleepovers in the living room in front of the fireplace. Impromptu city trip with lunch in Chinatown. And Michael Jackson.

Yeah, MJ (the original MJ - sorry, Michael Jordan - you are da bomb but he was my original "MJ") was an integral part of our family bonding weekend. We played the Michael Jackson Experience on Wii every chance we got starting Friday night through Monday night.

It was an instant classic in our family. I mostly watched the first night but was captivated by the music and movement before I ever attempted to join the fun.

Dancing. Sweat. Singing. Tears. In no particular order were the menu each time the game was on.

My favorite part about the game is the music - for me to be able to "mirror" MJ's moves while belting out my favorite tunes was fun but killed my chances of winning.  It's bad enough that my 30-something year old non-fit body was doing moves it hasn't done in a decade but trying to sing while doing it.

No dice.

My husband, Isael usually passes on the Wii unless it's the street basketball game in Wii Sports Resort. He jumped in right away to play with the kids as soon as they started and sweated through 4 songs before reluctantly giving me the remote. After sitting for only two songs - he wanted back in. Clearly, we need the fourth remote.

Funny, we've had the Wii for four years and did not "need" the fourth remote. Until now.

My little guy is the resident Michael Jackson super fan before this game and the game made it worse. He knows almost all the words to all the songs and now with the "official" moves - he feels unstoppable until the scoring happens. Poor guy has yet to win. Getting better but I cannot explain his inability to win because he truly has the heart for it. Watch our video to see what I mean. I think it's because he's smaller and possibly his moves don't register like the rest of us.  He is certain to give us a run for our money soon. Especially since he asks to play it almost every day.

My nine year old, Emma gives her own take here:

"I think it is very fun, very exuasting, and tiring but it is by far the best Wii game I have played. To tell you the truth, I have played many! It is so tempting to just start singing but once I start, I lose my breath! Very fun and the whole family loves it! When I started, I was just not winning. But when I kept going, I became the champion(oh yeah!).  MICHAEL JACKSON EXPERIENCE ROCKS!!"  

So, my Emma is a little humble - she is the ALL-TIME champion in our house - no one has beat her for one dance. Not once. She is such a hard worker on every move and she's right on point with the singing - that is my Achilles (see the video -even when I'm not playing) and she does me in, every time.

So we recommend this game to any family who owns a gaming console. There is nothing better than an impromptu competition to bring a family closer.  Nothing gets people moving more than Michael Jackson music. Plus - I think I've found my new workout routine. 3 MJ songs on the Wii Experience twice a week and I'll be back in shape in no time.

You can get it here at today!

While Ubisoft provided me with this game to review, the opinions I've expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Ubisoft, Clever Girls Collective and I promote Blog With Integrity.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dear Mr. Slagle, There is SOMETHING You Can Do to Help Your Employees With All The Relationships In Their Lives

Slick Mack Truck Logo
Sunday night found our family taking in TV that we don't normally take in with the whole family being off for President's Day and us not traveling anywhere for the first time since Evan joined us in 2005.

We were quickly captured by the drama of "Undercover Boss" the CBS breakout Emmy-nominated, hit reality show where CEOs go undercover within their companies to see firsthand the inner workings away from the comfort of their corner office at corporate headquarters. I've always been interested but the time slot just doesn't work for us until now. And I am certain why I had to see this episode.

The 2/20/2011 episode, which can be seen in its entirety here, featured Mack Trucks President and CEO Denny Slagle. I really loved the set-up - they made the workers believe that they were on a "reality show" to pick a contract worker to get full-time work at Mack. Brilliant.

Even more brilliant was the fact that many of the folks he worked side-by-side with admitted on camera that they would not pick him. He was so likable as a CEO and seemed to truly want to know what he could do to make it better for his workers. I was particularly struck by his interactions with one  employee who was faced with some extenuating circumstances in his personal life specifically his relationship with his grand kids. The emotional moment climaxes with the employee stating that "management" should take the time to know people and their stories because of what some people "carry" with them every day.

"I wish we had ways to help people, like a little sign that says 'Hey, I need help today or I need someone to care for me today,' '"was the suggestion of the clearly shaken grandfather of two.

The cut away shot had CEO Denny Slagle talking about the experience with this employee on camera, "...we don't always recognize that people need help - There is probably.. something we can do to support one another and build on the family atmosphere." He seemed visibly shaken and was truly moved by the story of the relational difficulty that this employee faced.

I was moved, too. Moved to write this open letter to Denny Slagle.

Dear Mr. Slagle, 

You are right. There is something companies can do to support their employees with the types of difficulties faced by the brave and courageous grandfather who shared his story with a potential co-worker.  You can invest in relational wellness programs.

You may ask what is "relational wellness"? Simply defined, relational wellness is the proactive care of all the relationships in one's life. Relational wellness is as critical for an individual's success as physical, mental or emotional wellness. Relational wellness will be one of the next aspects of the healthcare discussion. Further, relational wellness can be a key to increased profitability because it directly impacts the relationship your company has with it's customer. People don't buy from companies. People buy from other people.

Right now, I am leading the discussion about relational wellness and getting great traction in the non-profit sector, municipal government and start-up businesses but no luck in bigger corporations where I believe we can have the biggest impact on society as a whole. 

Won't you be different and consider relational wellness programs as part of Mack Trucks benefit package? Why "wait and see" where this movement goes? Follow the lead of companies like Zappos, Google and Netflix and blaze a trail in the way you care for your associates. My company Relationships Matter Now, LLC. can help.

It will be an investment that pays in dividends - both material and intangible.

Thanks for your time, 

Denise W. Barreto
Managing Partner
Relationships Matter Now, LLC.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Apologies From A "Different" Black Woman

This cartoon from a show in Nigeria is exactly how I drew myself growing up.

Celebrating Black History Month for me is also a time to celebrate what makes me unique among my people. Not a month goes by, that I am not reminded of how "counter culture" I am in the black community. Ironically, it was a comment from a melanin challenged co-worker/friend a few weeks ago, that started the latest episode in this saga.

He greeted me in the cafeteria at work with a loud "No you didn't go all 'NeNe' on us. Love the color!" I was sporting a new lighter color in my natural fro and took the compliment vowing to myself to know who 'NeNe' was the next time we saw each other. I looked her up and found that 'NeNe' was NeNe Leakes from the Bravo show "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and my new hair color is in fact one thing I have in common with her. Upon sharing this story with several friends, quickly I noticed stark differences in how my friends reacted to my lack of knowledge about NeNe. My black friends laughed and threatened to revoke my "black people card" while my white friends just laughed at my ignorance of both the show and one it's most famous characters.

And this is the story of my life.

Like clockwork, several times a year, my 'blackness' is challenged by friends or family members and it used to bother me. No matter that my skin tone, features and for the last three years my natural (code: super kinky) hair scream "Black Woman", they are segments of black folks who just don't get me. For a long time, I'd try to convince these people in my life that we were alike and that I could relate to them on other things besides what the world tells us is 'black culture.'

I'd do that dance that until I came to terms with a simple truth: I am who I am and part of that is a Black Woman. No apologies necessary.

No apologies for not watching BET.

No apologies for loving only old school R&B and having no interest in any today's R&B.

No apologies for loving Christian Contemporary Music  - mostly sung by melanin challenged folks although Mandisa, Nicole C. Mullen, Ayiesha Woods and TobyMac help me stay connected to my musical roots.

No apologies for having birthed "blaxicans" with my handsome Mexican husband.

No apologies for feeling at home in any country where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken.

No apologies for never seeing a Tyler Perry play on stage but only discovering Madea on the big screen.

Today, I assert that I am black culture, too. And should be celebrated as much as Ms. Leakes

This post is a SALUTE to all us black women who walk to a different beat.

Just as there are many different shades of black people, there are as many experiences that we as a people embrace and call our own. I don't question what others choose as their experience nor do I judge. I accept and champion all people and their experiences.

Let's start celebrating our differences! Isn't that what we are asking the rest of the world to do?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reconcile Black History to World History & We Can Do Away With The Month!

Black History is all our history as this drawing depicts

The last few years, I've heard, seen and participated in the debate - "Is Black History Month Still Relevant? I've seen the Morgan Freeman clip with Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes a few years back where he says that and I quote "I don't want Black History Month" Many people have used this as the 'smoking gun' for why BHM is no longer relevant. And if you haven't seen it - you should and be sure and read some of the comments below it.

While I love Morgan Freeman, the actor, and I really respect his opinion on the subject - especially the line about not wanting his "history relegated to one month of the year"- I believe Black History Month is needed until we fundamentally reconcile Black History to American History. or World History for that matter. Same can be said for Hispanic History Month that spans Sept and October.

I am fascinated at the thought of revamping all history books to include a full account of all the contributions of all people to the world we know today. It would be an expensive task but worth every cent. And can you imagine the impact?

Actually acknowledging the colonization of African empires in Africa by Europen nations and connecting that to the modern day Africa and it's challenges. It would make it a lot less easy to turn our collective heads and wish "they'd get it together" on that continent.

Reconciling our relationship with our collective past as a whole is the only way to ensure we can forge into the future with a unified hope to keep the world progressing forward in a peaceful manner.

We celebrate Black History Month and Hispanic History Month every month in our house and do our best to spread that into our community. But until we see that done, by everyone - we will continue to "turn up the volume" every February.

Morgan Freeman 60 Minutes Clip - check it out!