Why Are You #DoingIt? [Video]

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Today is National HIV Testing Day. If you are unsure about your HIV status or if you are due for your next screening, there is no time like the present to get tested.

Getting tested for HIV on a regular basis continues to be a priority for me. I talk about in this video shot last year as a part of the CDC’s #DoingIt campaign.

To find a free HIV or STD testing location near you, visit GetTested.CDC.gov and enter your ZIP code.

I’m #DoingIt. Are you?

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The Bite-Sized Believer

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

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Faith is an incredibly personal journey and is something that I plan to instill in Caleb. Even with the selection of his name, it was important to me to call him something that had a spiritual connection and could help set the stage for the God-fearing man that I desire him to grow up and be.

As such, I’ve been keeping a running tab of items that combine style with scripture. Here is a round-up of my three favorites.

First Steps

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I was introduced to this brand of moccasins after Luvvie sent a pair to Caleb. I loved the style, but really swooned when I saw that the soles showcased Proverbs 22:6. With so many colors, these are the perfect accessory for a cool kid look.

Pintsizefaith

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Photo Cred: pintsizefaith

Caleb is too small for the pictured “Jesus Loves Me” tee, but trust that I will be buying one of these classic black and white designs as soon as he is a little bigger. Pintsizefaith was launched by the beautiful blogger behind milk n honee and her husband. She recently wrote about updates to the line and you can read all about it here.

The Talking Shirt

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Photo Cred: The Talking Shirt

While browsing Zulily, I was introduced to The Talking Shirt and their cute raglan tees. If you head over to their website, you will find this shirt along with several others. Bonus: They have shirts for adult men and women as well!

Honorable mention… Not an apparel line, but a book. God Is Watching Over You“has been in heavy rotation during bedtime for the past two months. It is seriously one of the cutest books from the visuals to the words. I can’t wait until Caleb learns how to read it on his own.

Do you know of any other cool faith-based brands or items for little ones? If so, please share!

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Just Keep Swimming

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I have been muttering those three words to myself over and over again for the past two weeks.

I have placed so much value on doing things perfectly that I often fail to celebrate the art of just getting something done.

However, I’m in the middle of learning that any forward-moving progress HAS to be celebrated. For many, this is such a “duh” concept but I’m a perfectionist-in-recovery. The fear of not doing something right (whatever the heck that means) would keep me paralyzed with anxiety for days, weeks, or even months. I would rather not do anything then to deal with feelings of imperfection.

Wondering exactly what that looks like? It is hiding from friends because life feels “less than” and I’d rather not sit in a group setting feeling that tension. It is avoiding my Red Pump inbox for days because I knew that I couldn’t accomplish 100% of my key tasks at that moment. It is leaving the 13:13 series unfinished because I realized that I couldn’t complete the challenge in 13 days like I wanted. It is walking away from fitness goals after two days with more eating that exercise.

So, I would stop moving. I would stop doing. I would stop connecting. I’d let the water rise to my eyeballs before “fight or flight” forced me to get busy and make something happen.

The issue is that I was sacrificing results at home, with Red Pump and with several other dream projects and the guilt would consume me. So, I started praying about it and God placed this idea of “progress” in my spirit. No matter how imperfect, messy, or slow I am, what matters is that I keep going and don’t stop.

Just keep swimming.

As Lara Casey wrote in this incredible blog post,

I will not “do it all,” I’ll simply do what God wants me to do every day.

Doing what God wants me to do every day means I have to listen, be open, and always do something to move forward. That is the only way that this works. The. Only. Way.

If you are feeling stuck or stagnate, you gotta get going too. Let’s chop up our big goals into tiny ones and start working towards the greatness that lies ahead.

You ready??? Let’s go!

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It’s All About the Lemonade, Baby

When someone brings up the word “lemonade” now, Queen Bey comes to mind. But, long before her album was released, a young girl named Alex started a lemonade stand to help raise money for childhood cancer research. In 2004, Alex passed away after her own battle with cancer, but left behind a legacy and an organization that is doing incredible work for this cause.

GapKids and babyGap have collaborated with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to create a line of tees that give back. When you buy one of these supercute onesies or t-shirt, 100% of the profits will go to the nonprofit.

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Why don’t they have these shirts in my size? Hey Gap, can you make this happen? I’ll be waiting patiently…

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Give This: Mama’s Morning Survival Kit

 

One of the things that has made my transition back to work easier is the support of a couple of friends who are in the same boat. Their babies are a few months older than Caleb and so they have been great about warning me what’s next (hello, sleep regression), celebrating small victories with me, and making me laugh with their tales of working motherhood.

While tackling a pretty demanding week recently, I decided that I wanted to send these ladies a little something to let them know how much I appreciate them. This care package is pretty simple but full of three things that working moms love and need.

  1. Words of encouragement
  2. An eye or face mask
  3. COFFEE… Well, a gift card for coffee

Oh yeah, there’s confetti too.

The best thing about this idea is that it is budget-friendly, cute, and personal. If you know anyone who is tackling long nights and early mornings, send this as a reminder that you are thinking of them and help make their day!

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Taking A Step Back to Care for Yourself

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Now that I am “settling” into my routine and new lifestyle, I have started to make a more conscious effort to prioritize my mental, physical, and emotional state – even if only for minutes at a time. After all, I have to look out for little old me because if I fall apart then I’m not going to be of much help to my baby boo.

While I may add in a massage here or aromatherapy session in there, the five items below are the core of my self-care routine. Meaning that without them, life would be a little more bleak for your girl!

Coloring Book

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When I was in college, I would buy kids’ coloring books from Walmart and just fill the pages for fun. I didn’t intentionally do it for the therapeutic factor but that was a welcome outcome. These days, my go-to coloring book is “Color Yourself Happy: 100 Positive Passages to Color.” In addition to intricate designs, the pages are also filled with quotes designed to inspire and uplift. That is so perfect for days when I’m feeling less than my best.

Therapy

For the past year or so, I’d been thinking long and hard about seeking out a therapist but I never pulled the trigger. Until motherhood. Becoming a mom was the life change that finally pushed me into therapy. Let me tell you something, guys. If you are thinking about therapy, DO IT. Your mental stability is so important and many of us take it for granted. My appointments have been nothing but a blessing to me and give me the space that I need to open up and develop the tools that I need to juggle all of my current responsibilities. Therapy doesn’t make you weak. It makes you smart (and brave).

Taking Walks

I’m still easing back into exercise, but I have started taking walks as a way to quiet my mind AND meet my daily steps goal. Whether it is a stroll around the office or an evening stroll through the forest, this activity is exactly what I need. Of course, you can substitute walking for any physical activity that centers you.

Bubble Baths

When we first moved to our current place, I was so excited that there was a jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom. “I am going to take baths all of the time,” I exclaimed. It took my two years, but I am finally starting to take advantage of the soothing abilities of that tub. My girlfriend, Arionne, gifted me with a lavender bubble bath from Shea Moisture after Caleb was born and it is my go-to when I need to “whoosah.” Add a little Erykah Badu into the mix and I am good to go!

Coffee

Coffee isn’t just about the caffeine for me. During maternity leave, Starbucks was one of the first places that I ventured to by myself. Even now, coffee runs feel like one of the few “acceptable” solo outings that I can take without the baby. Every time that I take a sip, I am fully embracing the moment to prepare for the day, reflect, and catch my breath.

Am I perfect about doing them regularly? With the exception of my (almost) daily cup of joe, not at all. But, I’m trying.

How do you take time to show a little love to yourself? I’m always looking for other ideas. Share!

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Yellow Blooms

This is my first Mother’s Day as a mom (yay) and the ninth time that I am marking this occasion without my Katy. In the days leading up to today, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my mom.

What was her first Mother’s Day like? What did my Dad get her? How did she feel?

Among all of the thoughts was this story that she often told us about Mother’s Day growing up. Every year, her church would ask people upon entry if their mother has passed or if their mother was still alive. Based on your answer, they would give you either a red carnation (alive) or a white one (deceased). My maternal grandmother passed away when my mom was young, so she would get a white flower. And, while the flower was no doubt beautiful, it made her sad. She wanted that red flower. As an adult and as our mom, that painful memory always stuck with her.

And, now, it sticks with me.

Can you imagine? Mother’s Day is filled with so many triggers for those who have lost a loved one. Her carnation story has always filled me with such sadness but that isn’t what I want to think about today. So, I decided to buy myself a bouquet of yellow flowers. That was my mother’s favorite color and one that makes me think of her fondly. When I look down at my flowers today, I will feel happy as I reflect on the good times shared and not of the years lost.

No shade to white carnations, but I don’t want to see you. Not today. Not next Mother’s Day or the ones after that.

To me, yellow blooms bring the sunshine and who doesn’t love the sun?

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Yes, Flint Still Needs Our Help

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Earlier this year, we all found ourselves in shock as news of Flint’s water crisis hit the mainstream media. It was (and still is) hard to believe that residents of an American city were exposed to contaminated water while officials seemed to turn a blind eye. As the news broke, so many people mobilized and donated bottled water, money, and other items. While the media focus has shifted, help is still needed. Here are three easy ways that we can all show our continued support for Flint:

1. Help purchase water and water filters. The United Way of Genesee County established the Flint Water Fund to cover the purchase of bottled water, water filters, and provide emergency support services to those in need. To date, this fund has helped source more than 11,000 filters systems and 5,000 replacement filters, while providing bottled water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

2. Break out your phone. Last month, AT&T launched a text-to-give campaign to benefit local children affected by the water crisis. Donations collected during the giving campaign will support the Flint Child Health and Development Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. The fund will provide early literacy programs, school health services, and nutrition education for local children. To get in on the action, all you have to do is text FLINT to 27722 to make a $10 donation to the fund.

3. Go see Beyoncé. No, seriously. When Queen Bey announced her Formation tour, she also committed to using the city stops to raise money to help provide long-term support for the children affected. While the specific details are still to be announced, we know that she is leading this effort through her #BeyGood initiative and we can keep an eye on that Twitter account for more info.

Aside from the above, you can still donate bottled water and can find those guidelines here. Let’s continue to keep the residents of Flint in our thoughts as we look for ways to support both now and in the future.

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Why HIV Testing Should be on Every Woman’s To-Do List

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a campaign shoot for #DoingIt, the CDC’s latest campaign promoting HIV testing along with Rae Lewis-Thornton and Charreah Jackson (ESSENCE Magazine). In support of the campaign and National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I shared this post today on The Red Pump Project‘s blog.

If you are like me, then you know that life can be incredibly busy. From family to work and beyond, it seems like there are always more tasks than there is time. As a new mom who works full-time and helps lead The Red Pump Project‘s incredible mission, my life is hectic, fast, and overwhelming. With so many items that must get done and so few hours, it is VERY easy to push self-care to the bottom of my list. Taking care of my body and mind becomes a last priority. We are all guilty of it.

However, there’s no time like the present to change that for the better.

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day of education, empowerment, and action. We should also use this day to take a step back and think about our health and how we take care of ourselves. We only have one life. It is worth protecting and you must be the one to do so. The best defense is a good offense and HIV testing needs to be part of your strategy.

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HIV testing is free, fast, and confidential. And, almost everyone should be #DoingIt. In fact, the CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that people with certain risk factors get tested more often. If you aren’t 100% sure of your HIV status, then you need to add “get tested” to the top of your to-do list.

Write it down NOW. 

Always make time for HIV testing, girlfriends, and cake. In that order.

Always make time for HIV testing, girlfriends, and cake. In that order.

Getting tested is the first step to protecting your health. If your test reveals that you are living with HIV, it is important to get connected to a care team, which can include doctors, a case manager, peer supporters, and a specially-trained pharmacist. Available treatments are very effective; can prolong life; and may also reduce risk of transmission by reducing the amount of the virus in your body. If your test is negative, you can take action to continue to protect yourself and your status.

The great news is that new HIV diagnoses declined 40% among women from 2005 to 2014, with the greatest decline seen among African American women (42%). But, this doesn’t mean that our work is done. We must continue to talk about HIV with our loved ones and peers. If it is one thing that I have learned through my years leading Red Pump, it is to never underestimate the power of a conversation. Talking about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment is key to fighting stigma and ending this epidemic.

To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636); visit cdc.gov/DoingIt; or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948).

Today’s to-do list: Know my status (check). Talk about the importance of HIV testing (check). #RocktheRedPump (check).

I know what I have to do today. Do you?

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Learning to Love Motherhood

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As I shared last week, I returned to work after almost three months on maternity leave. I am still settling into my new routine and lowkey struggling because it isn’t as easy of a transition as I hoped that it would be. Two things that I have discovered about myself during this past week? I hate rushing now and I am slowly starting to love motherhood.

Slowly.

I love being Caleb’s mom, but I haven’t been as open about “motherhood.” It may seem strange to some people but there is a difference. Trust me. It has been hard to embrace certain elements like the sacrificial nature of this whole thing or the fact that the definition of “success” as a mom is pretty ambiguous. Being back at work has reminded me just how much I love SMART goals and having a clear picture of—and path to — success. Motherhood comes with no such blueprints, but I’m slowly starting to become comfortable with that.

Slowly.

When I get confused or frustrated about what to do next, I remind myself that, quite simply, motherhood is love. Love is an action so as long as I give my heart to Caleb, I have won half of the battle.

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Last night while washing bottles, I focused on the wall art above our counter that sums up 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I let the words sink into my soul, I started replacing the word “love” with “motherhood” and it began to calm my stressed out spirit.

I won’t always get it right or know it all but as long as I am patient, kind, protectful, trusting, and hopeful, I know that I can’t fail. I can do this. I will survive motherhood because it is love in action and I love my little Caleb with all of my heart.

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