Archive of ‘KB’s Journey’ category

Views from Miami

Over the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure to travel to Miami twice for work. Escaping the Chicago winter for sun and sand is always a good idea however, my trips to Miami provided me with much more than bronzed skin. For over a year, I have been working on putting together a plan for my company to celebrate and connect with those over the age of 50 who are living with HIV. Why this age group? Well, half of people living with HIV will be over the age of 50 in 2015.

My trips to Miami were essentially the culmination of all of that work. In December, I met the lovely ladies behind the incredible Graying of AIDS oral histories project. I joined them as they spent two days photographing and interviewing Miami residents who made the decision to join our campaign and tell their stories. When I returned last weekend, I had a chance to view the exhibit that our entire team worked to bring to life. Against the most gorgeous blue sky, we unveiled the beautiful and powerful Well Beyond HIV photo installation on a beautiful terrace facing the ocean.

Well Beyond HIV Exhibit at Miami Beach EDITION

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Photo Jan 18, 12 52 47 PM

For the participants, it was an incredible day. A day filled with triumph, celebration, and reflection for all those who have been living with HIV/AIDS for many years. For me, the day served as a reminder of my purpose and of what can happen when you follow your instinct.

I did a lot of reflection during both trips. I thought about how I could continue to influence my company, even as we undergo a significant transformation. I thought about how I strengthen my legacy with The Red Pump Project and our work around women and girls HIV/AIDS awareness. Most importantly, I just thought about balance. There is so much that I want to accomplish in this life, but I’m only one person. Balance is something that I struggle with (because Libra), so I always feel like my life needs to be recalibrated.

Photo Jan 18, 1 33 22 PMDuring last weekend’s trip, it was important for me to not only be focused on work, but to also take some time to smell the roses (or taste the mojito). What good is it to be the best and the brightest if you’re stressed and burned out? That’s not how I want my life to play out. I want my efforts to be significant, meaningful, and effective. I don’t need to be the star but I do plan to make big things happen.

I’m ready.

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P.S. This campaign launch was #5 on my January to-do list. CHECK!

New Year Wishes and To-Dos

Happy New Year! I know that we are a few days into 2015, but this blog post kind of makes it official for me. I’ve been spending the past few days basking in the new energy that a new year brings, and making more impactful and actionable plans. I want to steer my energy into specific buckets to make sure that I am efficient, effective, and not wasting energy in areas that don’t matter – at least not in this particular season. For me, there are five themes in which I want to see a drastic improvement. I’ve categorized them as “wishes” and listed them below.

This year, I wish…

… to reconnect with friends and family and reestablish all the love and laughter that I missed in 2014.

… to strengthen my faith through service and giving.

… to be a better wife/stepmother and continue to build the best foundation for our family.

… to be fearless in the pursuit of new business and career opportunities.

… to find a way to impact youth in my community through mentorship and career exploration.

Everything that I want to do and everything that I want to be really connects back to the five core statements listed above. As I meditated on my wishes, I reminded myself of the importance of setting goals and making to-do lists. I need to visualize what success looks like and be intentional about achieving it. To help me get started, I decided to make my first monthly checklist and share with you all. I got this idea from a post on Mattieologie, and definitely think this is something that I need to make a habit of doing.

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Is this everything on my January to-do list? Ha! Absolutely not. Do they perfectly align with my themes? Not 100%. However, these are some of the key things that I want to get done this month. I still have my weekly to-do lists which I divide up into four categories (home, personal, career, and passion) where I really tackle the nitty gritty of my life. I’ll blog about that another time!

So, now that we are five days into the new year, what are you focusing your efforts on and how do you plan to turn your wishes into realities? Let’s keep each other motivated!

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Background Image: Pinterest

Roasted Veggies: The Easiest (and Most Colorful) Side Dish EVER

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, friendsgiving, and potlucks. Lots and lots of potlucks. Every year, it seems that the number of potluck events increase. I’m not complaining because it gives me a great excuse to catch up with friends and co-workers. However, I always get a little anxiety while deciding what to make for these events. I’m usually up against some really talented cooks and I want my dish to be able to hold its own. Not that it’s a competition or anything ;-)

Yesterday, my co-workers planned a pre-Thanksgiving celebration and I decided to bring roasted veggies. Guys, this might be the easiest side dish of all times and it is delicious. For my recipe, I used broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, red onions, and red bell peppers. Below are the super easy steps for pulling it all together.

1. Wash and cut vegetables before placing in a large bowl.

So many colors!

2. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and Montreal Steak seasoning. (Thanks to The Pioneer Woman for the heads up!)

Veggies after a little oil and seasoning

Veggies after a little oil and seasoning

3. Place the veggies in a single layer on a thin baking pan. Broil on a high setting for 15-20 minutes. (Tip: Watch the broccoli to make sure it doesn’t brown too fast).

One of the pans that I used

One of the pans that I used

4. Remove the veggies and transfer into a serving dish.

Fresh out of the oven. Suh-woon.

Fresh out of the oven. Suh-woon.

Voila. Done and done!

Isn’t that easy? Aside from potlucks, this is also a great dish to make for community service projects, like preparing meals at a soup kitchen or for families at the Ronald McDonald House. Just remember to buy enough veggies!

If you are not crazy about vegetables, I’ve rounded up some other great recipes that I have tried (and loved) that you can take to your next event.

Sweet Honey & Jalapeño Corn Muffins

Charred Skillet Corn with Bacon

Bacon-Wrapped Green Bean Bundles

Salted Caramel Rice Krispies Squares

Cheesy Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

I am always looking for new recipes to master, so please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments. What’s your favorite go-to dish for potlucks and get togethers?

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In Support of Caregiving Youth

I was going through some boxes the other day and stumbled across a page in an old college notebook where I jotted down the contact information and notes for several Chicago nursing homes. Just looking at my handwriting transported me back to 2005. I had just graduated from college and had just returned to Chicago to begin my career in advertising. I was also trying to work through my mother’s recent stroke or severe multiple sclerosis exacerbation (depends on who you ask). Part of this included researching nursing homes where she could go and live once she was released from her acute rehabilitation center.

Me cheesing it up with my mama :-)

Me cheesing it up with my mama :-)

Being 22 and trying to juggle all of those decisions was difficult, but it was a lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. I played the role of caregiver for my mom for many years and made many decisions that affected her directly and indirectly. When I tell people my story, they tend to give me this sad look and offer comforting words. I accept and appreciate those words, but not for me. You see, my mother passed away in 2008, so I’m not a caregiver anymore. I accept these words on behalf of former and current caregiving youth.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor and celebrate the selflessness of family caregivers (read: not paid) who provide support to elderly and/or disabled loved ones. While much of this time is spent reflecting on adult caregivers, I always think about the more than one million children and teens who provide this type of support to a family member. Having to face adolescence while also balancing that type of role and responsibility is not an easy feat. Yet, we do it did it because it needed to be done.

On Sunday, the American Association of Caregiving Youth is hosting its first Twitter chat from 4p – 5p ET. The hashtag is #caregivingyouth. If you are a former youth caregiver, work with children and teens who are, or just want to learn more about how you can support this community, I ask you to join us.

To learn more, please visit http://www.aacy.org.

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Where Has The Passion Planner Been All My Life?

I like to make big plans. In fact, I make so many big plans that I actually have an execution problem. Meaning that, I probably only execute 25% of what I think about. This isn’t the blog post to discuss why that is. However, if you’re interested, you can read my post about my challenge with finishing what I start. Because of this issue, I’ve been trying all types of things to get me from the big idea to the actual “doing.”

I keep a day planner but have found that it doesn’t always help me work backwards from big idea to the little tasks that I need to complete. I keep a notebook for the doodling and idea brainstorms but then get annoyed that there’s nowhere to jot down dates and actionable timelines. I make weekly to-do lists broken down between home, personal, passion, and community but always end up with something falling through the cracks. So, here I am with one day planner, one notebook, one half-checked to-do list, lots of big ideas, and no true (paper-centered) way to keep everything together.

Until…

Last night, one of my Facebook friends shared a link to the Passion Planner project on Kickstarter. From the name alone, I was intrigued. I clicked the link and was led to the brilliant video below.

WHOA. My brain started shouting from the rooftops, “This is IT! You need this!” And, that brain shout was actually followed by a verbal gasp and loud “Oh my God. YES!” To break it down for you, the Passion Planner brands itself as “the life coach that fits in your backpack.” It is essentially a sketchbook, day planner, journal, and inspirational source all in one. For a notebook-loving, day planner-toting, scribbler queen such as myself, this idea is pure gold. I needed in.

Apparently, my reaction was not that uncommon considering that this project has received nearly $300K pledges and over 9,300 backers – including me. Last night, I immediately ordered one for myself and am anxiously awaiting its arrival in January 2015. I’ve never made small plans but I haven’t been to good about executing the large ones. I’m so excited to have this tool in my future world.

In the words of Daniel Burnham, Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.

Amen.

To learn more about the Passion Planner, you can head to the website. If you’re on IG, you might also be interested in their feed. There are lots of great motivational quotes shared on a regular basis (@passionplanner).

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Volunteering in the ‘Burbs

Six months ago, I swapped my Chicago (proper) address for a suburban one (*sobs*) and have been adjusting to life ever since. There are many practical reasons why I chose to move to the suburbs, but the most important one was my husband’s declaration that he would never live in the city of Chicago. I begged and tried to sell him on the virtues of my hometown, but it was a no go. I get it.

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So, now I’m out here and am trying to substitute many of my favorite Chicago (proper) activities with acceptable suburban versions. I know where I can get jerk chicken (25 minutes away) and found a great nail spa in town. One of the things that I was really concerned about was finding volunteer opportunities out here. While there’s a tendency to think that the suburbs are perfect, the truth is that many people out here need assistance as well. So, how could I help in my new neighborhood?

Well, the first sign that I received was the sight of a food drop-off bucket for the Self Help Closet & Food Pantry of Des Plaines in a grocery store across the street from our house. This is probably my favorite way to give back because I can just buy extra staples or canned goods on sale and place them in the container. I found out that the Food Pantry has regular volunteer opportunities so I hope to help out there one day.

Another opportunity that I’m really excited about is the Breakfast for Baby activity hosted by my local Salvation Army chapter. On the second Saturday of the month, families with little ones under a year old can come out for breakfast and the opportunity to “shop” for diapers and other baby supplies.

Between the above opportunities and the listings on the Hands On Suburban Chicago website, it makes me feel better to know where and how I can give back to my community. This isn’t to say that I won’t ever volunteer in Chicago (proper) again. I love my city too much to do that. Besides with my annual service challenge on the horizon, I need all of the service learning projects that I can find! More info on that to come. Until then…

 

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Image: Daily Herald

Nesting (Unplugged)

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Does fall automatically trigger the urge to nest? I believe that I fell down the domestic rabbit hole on August 15th. We’ve been in our new place since May and I just haven’t been in the mood to be a homemaker. That was up until a few weeks ago. Now, I can’t seem to pull myself away from Pinterest for decorating tips. I make stews and desserts. Oh, and let’s not forget the Powerpoint slides that I created to help guide my interior design projects.

Is this normal? Maybe I’m finally starting to settle into my reality that I am a suburban wife now and my single city girl days are done. *pours glass of wine*

So, let’s talk about the projects that I’m really looking forward to completing over the next month.

1. Reupholster two ottomans that I purchased about seven years ago. The fabric is beige microsuede and I’m over it. I’ve been scouting Jo-Ann Fabric for some great swatches and have narrowed it down to four patterns. Hopefully, I can make a decision. #LibraProblems

2. Find the perfect turquoise accents for my living room. My color palette for the space is brown/orange/cream with turquoise mixed in. I will probably kickoff my search at Home Goods and Goodwill. Both stores have a great selection of knick-knacks.

Room Inspiration (Source: Pinterest.com)

Room Inspiration (Source: Pinterest.com)

3. Let Pinterest guide me to the perfect apple pie recipe. My husband wants pie but this city girl has never attempted such a dessert in her life.

4. Track down my Moulin Rouge poster and (finally) hang it in my kitchen. The movers left my framed poster on their truck and they finally found it. It is the ooh-la-la piece that my kitchen needs.

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5. Set up the home office. Currently, our office is filled with boxes of books, office supplies, bins of Red Pump materials and the couch from my old apartment. I’m thinking that we will need lots of storage and a big bookcase to help us get started. I’m in charge of organizing the room. My husband is responsible for furnishing it.

There are probably other things that I could add to this list, but I’m trying not to overwhelm myself with the pressures of domesticity. Up until Monday, I kept experiencing minor anxiety attacks while trying to find the perfect dining room table. Luckily, we were able to snag a beautiful Ethan Allen table (plus six chairs) for an incredible price from a couple preparing for a cross-country move. #Blessings

I wish I could say that I was going to do some before and after shots, but I’m not that evolved. I will promise to snap some pics on Instagram. Who knew that I had a domestic side? My mother is probably in heaven grinning from ear to ear. We’ll see how this goes!

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Monday Motivation: Encourage Yourself

Every day, I make it a point to find something to motivate me to be better, smarter, and more productive than the day before. Whether it’s the latest Harvard Business Review blogpost or an energizing sunrise, I always manage to find something to remind me that I’m walking into a great day. Well, last night while thinking of today’s post, I asked myself, “What would I focus on today?” Ten minutes later, the answer was simple. “You.” Well, not me…But, you. Each one of us has a story that has crafted us into the person that we are today. Only you know what you’ve had to fight through and that story should propel you into each day.

Every day that we wake up is another day…another chance to do something great. One of my favorite songs is called “Encourage Yourself,” and the premise is so simple yet powerful. We need to encourage ourselves and remind ourselves that

“Sometimes you have to encourage yourself/Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test…”

A winning mindset is the key to prospering today, tomorrow, and years from now. So, how will you speak life into your dreams and goals today? Take some time to really think about the answer. It could be one of the most important thoughts that you have today.

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“Ain’t Nobody” Like Chaka Khan

Last week, I had the best week EVER. I hopped over to the West Coast for a work meeting with the Greater Than AIDS team, then went straight to Miami for the ColorComm Conference (recap here), returned to Chicago to participate in the 85th Annual Bud Billiken Parade with the Black McDonald’s Operators Association, AND *insert breath* watched the legendary Chaka Khan take the stage in support of my nonprofit organization, The Red Pump Project.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine certainly was by Saturday night. However, it was totally worth it. I mean, Chaka Khan?! She is every bit as fierce and fabulous as you would imagine her to be. Before the show, Luvvie and I had a chance to meet her backstage and thank her for agreeing to support our organization in this significant way. A few snaps are below.

Welcome to the Chicago Theatre!

Welcome to the Chicago Theatre!

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Red Pump posing with Chaka Khan and the Music is My 1st Love team

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Luvvie and I with the woman of the hour.

It was a night that I will definitely remember for many reasons. My favorite memory of the night? Singing “Sweet Thing” with my husband standing next to me. It doesn’t get any mushier than that, right? Don’t laugh.

We are so grateful to the Music is My 1st Love team for selecting us as recipients of their first benefit concert. They are doing incredible things and I’m looking forward to supporting their future shows.

To Ms. Chaka Khan, there are no words! From one Chicago gal to another, you are a powerhouse. Thank you for rocking the red pump with us.

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Recharging my Life at ColorComm #C2Miami

Last week, I attended the inaugural ColorComm Conference in Miami and it COMPLETELY recharged my life. The high-quality sessions and sisterhood among the attendees were perfectly framed against the beautiful backdrop of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. If you’re not familiar with ColorComm, it is an organization devoted to women of color in communications. The members of the organization are found in fields such as advertising, public relations, journalism, marketing and more. I’ve been involved with the Chicago group since last year and have met many great women as a result.

Highlights from #C2Miami

 

The conference kicked off with an awards dinner and keynote from Soledad O’Brien and just kept getting better. There were sessions about personal finance, the future of digital communities, mentorship, and integrated marketing communications. I loved the holistic aspect of the sessions and that the topics were designed to make sure that we are well-rounded communications professionals. During the closing luncheon, we heard from Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers and she shared five tips for us to always keep in mind. I listed them out below because they were too important not to share.

  1.  Carry yourself with confidence.
  2. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut.
  3. Opportunities to create change can be the most rewarding but also the most challenging. (Amen and amen.)
  4. Seek an opportunity that speaks not only to your intellect but to your heart.
  5. Savor every thing, every experience, every relationship.

I left Miami feeling recharged and renewed in my focus on creating and delivering impactful messages. If you are a woman in communications who is looking for a great (and growing) organization to get involved with, then I highly recommend ColorComm. You can learn more here. Also, for other highlights from the event, feel free to check out the #C2Miami tag on Twitter.

 

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