On Your 1st Birthday

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Dear Caleb,

Today is your 1st birthday. I hope and pray that this is just the first of many celebrations in your honor. This past year, you have taught me how to love, how to be patient, how to care, how to pray, and how to truly smile from my heart. You are the sweetest baby that I have ever met and I am not just saying this because you are mine. Your spirit and energy lights up any room that you are in. Your eyes remind me that God is real and so is a mother’s love.

The fact that you were born on World AIDS Day was by divine design. I know that you will be a God-fearing young man who thinks globally, acts locally, and always cares about improving your community.

I thank God for you everyday but, on today, I feel especially blessed to be your mother. It has been my honor to watch you grow and continuing on this journey as long as God allows.

Happy birthday, baby boy.

Mama loves you.

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Monday Motivation: Sticking with a Gym Routine

About three months ago, I walked into the fitness center at work, reactivated my membership, and started on a journey to a stronger and more confident me. Over the past few months, I’ve seen awesome weeks where I have gotten in five workouts and then I’ve had not-so-great weeks where I’ve clocked zero sweat sessions.

However, I never stopped. When I went in for my 90 day check-in last week, I was super happy to see that I was making progress. My body fat has dropped by seven percentage points and I lost fat and gained muscle. The overall number on the scale hasn’t changed but I’m stronger, getting leaner, and my capacity for cardio is getting better.

Yas!

With no travel on my schedule until December, I’m looking forward to consistently getting four 45-minute sessions in every week. I know that I can do it. Heck, I’ve been doing it off and on. It’s just time to be super consistent. These past three months, I’ve been tapping into different tips and mental tricks to keep me on the path to slimming down and dropping these last ten pounds of baby weight.

First up, accountability is key. I track my workouts using my trusted Fitbit. I rely on it to help me monitor my diet, my steps, calories burned and so much more. My current one is falling apart so I’m counting down the days until I get my hands on the Charge 2. Amen for the upgrade! Aside from the Fitbit, I find motivation in the form of my fitness coaches and my husband. My husband is always checking in like, “Did you get to the gym today?” It helps that he is on a similar fitness journey, even though his results are blowing mine away!

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Want to know another fun accountability tip? Try rewarding yourself with stickers. Yes, real stickers. Last month, I came across The Happy Planner Fitness Planner Stickers during a trip to Michael’s and have been hooked ever since. The stickers are a mixture of inspiration (“Strong is the new sexy”), goal-setting, and tracking. I usually place a gold star on workout days. It is so simple but it gets me hype!

Also, I buy cute workout gear and I keep my gym bag packed. At the beginning of the week, I place three workout outfits in my gym bag along with all of the other supplies that I will need. I leave the bag in my locker during the week and just bring home the dirty clothes each day. This helps me cut down on having to pack and repack a bag daily. I don’t get to wear all of the cute workout clothes to my work gym because I’m self-conscious about wearing sleeveless tanks and mesh leggings amongst colleagues. I like to save them for group classes, like Soulcycle (my new obsession).

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Lastly, I always visualize a strong body and connect each workout to a deeper purpose. If you read this post or follow me on Twitter, then it probably won’t surprise you that Kim Kardashian West is my #BodyGoals inspiration. Since giving birth to Saint, she has dropped over 70 pounds and she looks GOODT. Her VMA look is ingrained into my brain. My goal isn’t to get my body to look exactly like hers but I’m hella inspired by her fitness journey and she pops into my head when I’m tempted to jump off the treadmill 10 minutes early. Beyond my body shape, I also center myself to tap into my mental strength. Mind over matter is very real. During my initial evaluation, my fitness coach asked me to think of a motivational quote to channel during workouts. I chose, “You are stronger than you think.” What’s awesome is that I see these words when I log in to the machines so that I always have a reminder before I get to work.

There’s no magic bullet to the end goal but I feel more prepared for this journey now than I ever have in my life. Do you have any motivational tips that keep you on track with your fitness goals? I’d love to hear them!

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Cupcakes and Condoms Is Heading Your Way

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Last month, Red Pump announced that we are bringing Cupcakes and Condoms to ten cities this fall. The first stop will be in St. Louis on August 20th and will be hosted by yours truly!

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For those unfamiliar with Cupcakes and Condoms, it is our sweet spin on an educational townhall. We create a safe space for women and teen girls to get information about HIV/STIs, hear from a panel of women’s health advocates, and ask plenty of questions. Oh, and yes, there are desserts.

Over the past six years, we have hosted this free event in cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, DC, and Birmingham. It is always one of my favorite activities and has such a relaxed vibe.

If you are in St. Louis, you can RSVP here. To learn more about the other tour stops, please check out CupcakesandCondoms.org.

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I hope to see some of you on the road!

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Leave These Three Things Out of Your Donation Pile

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Everywhere I turn, it feels like there are just piles of stuff in my house. It has always been this way but the addition of baby items has just added to the collection. These piles aren’t unruly but I could stand to create a more organized home. In fact, that was one of the goals that I spelled out on my Powersheets. Over the weekend, I started with the room that I can’t keep organized to save my life: my closet.

My go-to method for clearing the clutter has always been to create three piles for the stuff: keep, donate, or trash. In the past, my “donate” pile has always been bigger than my “trash” pile because I have this thing about throwing away clothes. It has never felt right unless the item was totally destroyed. So that means that I have donated some things that weren’t in mint condition. It’s not something that I have done often, but I’m all about doing better as I get older.

This time around, I made sure to keep these things out of the donation baskets.

Any old college/event/freebie t-shirts – I should be ashamed of the number of t-shirts in my drawers. However, I know that I’m not the only one. Over the years, these have often been the first to go during a wardrobe purge. However, I skipped putting these in the donation pile for now and just trashed them. If you prefer to go a more eco-friendly route, you could always make a t-shirt quilt or use them as rags.

Shoes in less than ideal condition – “Less than ideal” means having damaged heels, worn leather, or stained suede. I’m not going to trash these shoes but decided that I would do my best to get them in better shape before donating. We all know that shoes can make or break an outfit so I want the recipients to feel that magic as soon as they receive a pair from me.

Clothes from the previous season – I’ve always been one to purge my wardrobe at the end of a season which means that I’m donating summer dresses while everyone is preparing for another Chicago winter. Given that most charity thrift stores and shelters have limited storage spaces, many of these locations do not accept items out-of-season. An easy solve for this will be to go through my closets at the beginning of winter or summer so I know that the clothes will be of use at that moment.

Do you have any donation tips that you want to share?

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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

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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