Archive of ‘KB’s Journey’ category

Finding My Way Back

In case you missed the previous post, I stumbled back into blogging after a six month absence. For those of you who have kept up somewhat with this site, you know that tends to happen often with me. Something happens in life and I just find myself feeling a little uninspired or, in this case, too blue to really find anything interesting to say.

After learning that I was expecting in late-March, the world really shifted for me. I’m sure that every expecting mommy says that, but I really felt it… hard. I’m not going to get into the details in this post, but I’ve been working through pre-natal blues, insecurity, anxiety, and plenty of excitement (of course). Don’t ask me how all of these feelings have been co-existing in my body because I couldn’t tell you. But, when you combine those emotions with a busy work schedule and somewhat of a personal life, it leaves little room for blogging. I just wasn’t there… My heart wasn’t here. Hell, I didn’t even know that my site looked CRAY for the past few months because I wasn’t staying on top of theme and WordPress updates. When I’m checked out of something, I am CHECKED OUT.

So, what changed? Why am I back now?

Good question. In the past couple of months, I’ve been on this quest to connect with my most authentic self in an effort to usher a lot of fear out of my life. Fear of always saying the right thing. Fear of being perfect. Fear of not doing things the right way. I realized that I had packed myself into a box of my own doing as a protective measure but it no longer served me any good. As I move closer and closer to bringing this baby into the world and being on the other end of one of the purest and truest relationships in this world, I have been craving authentic connections.

I decided that I would eventually make my way back to the blog but not until I was ready to start keeping it incredibly real. So, what will The Fabulous Giver talk about now? Anything. Everything. Life and such.

Don’t worry. I still believe in brand voice/tone and content themes… As such, don’t expect to log on one day and find 600 words on why the Republicans’ view towards women’s health are incredibly dangerous. I’ll save that one for someplace else.

Just know that I’m finding my way back to this blog, to my voice, to the real me.

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With These Red Shoes

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Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and will mark the sixth year that I have rocked red pumps for the occasion.

With these red shoes, I have encouraged women to start important conversations about their health and making informed choices.

With these red shoes, I have welcomed hundreds of women to events designed to inspire and educate them about HIV.

With these red shoes, I have presented at national conferences about the role of online communities in mobilizing people around HIV.

With these red shoes, I will remind my sisters that one in five new HIV infections will be women.

With these red shoes, I will advocate for women of color who are disproportionately impacted by HIV.

With these red shoes, I will continue to educate myself on related issues that put women and girls at risk for HIV, including partner violence, lowered self-esteem, and mental health.

With these red shoes, I will stand alongside thousands of women across the country to #RocktheRedPump today, tomorrow, and moving forward.

Rock the Red Pump

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Multiple Sclerosis & HIV: An Unlikely Connection

This week, I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot. Mainly, I’ve been thinking about how proud she would be to see how far I’ve come with my career, my personal life, and with Red Pump. We started Red Pump a year after she passed away and I can’t help but to wish that she was here today to gush over my photo in Essence or to reassure me when I’m too exhausted from juggling so many hats.

For me, my mother was the prototype for fabulous giving. As a teen, she volunteered with different groups and also taught a Sunday school class at her church. When she moved to Chicago, she continued her season of service and found groups to devote her time and attention. I’ll never forget how she would take us with her on Monday nights when she tutored foster children at the Harold Washington Library. Her commitment to that role landed her a Volunteer of the Year award from Volunteers of America. I still display that award proudly in my home as a reminder of how far doing good can take you.

Living with multiple sclerosis inserted many challenges in her (and our) day-to-day life. I’ve shared before about my experience as a youth caregiver but that is only part of the memories. For every challenge, there were plenty of happy moments. I just wish that her MS wouldn’t have gotten in the way of us creating so many more.

 

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This week is MS Awareness Week, a time where we are asked to take action to help others learn more about MS and what they can do to make a difference. One of the asks of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is that we spend this time “creating connections stronger than the ones that MS destroys.” For me, the connection that I have to health education and activism is far greater than anything that this disease could EVER destroy.

The fight against multiple sclerosis was the first cause that I’ve ever rallied behind. In high school, I volunteered at the annual MS Walk, did multiple presentations on MS, and racked up service hours after school in their office. I continued that commitment in college and in the years right after my graduation. At this point in my life, I don’t have as much time to physically devote to MS and it would seem that HIV has “stolen the show” so to speak. That’s not the case. I will never forget (or forgive) how multiple sclerosis has impacted my life, or the role that the disease played in my mother’s passing.

Without a life impacted by multiple sclerosis, I don’t know if I would be as passionate about causes or service. I don’t know if I would have the tools or desire to be an advocate. I don’t know if I would have ever started The Red Pump Project. So, as I recognize MS Awareness Week, I will make a donation to my local chapter of the MS Society, but I will also raise my voice louder for anyone who needs a champion. From MS to HIV, it is my sincere prayer that my efforts make an impact.

More importantly, I pray that I continue to make my do-gooder mother turned angel proud.

To learn more about multiple sclerosis, a debilitating neurological condition, check out this helpful section on the National MS Society’s webpage.

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Red Pump Rocking with Essence Magazine

“This is incredible! It’s like a Black girl’s dream.”

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When I told my best friend that The Red Pump Project was featured in the March issue of ESSENCE Magazine, those were the words that she shared. Well, that was after a lot of “OMGs,” “I’m so proud,” and “I’m not going to cry.” I totally knew what she meant though. Essence is such an incredible magazine for Black women and to be included for my passion project is incredibly empowering.

When Luvvie and I first started Red Pump in 2009, we just wanted to make a difference and BOOM. Here we are. It hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s been a worthwhile one. I am over the moon about this article and have not stopped swooning over the red heels/red ribbon image. Dear Essence fashion team, y’all did that. So fabulous!

Next Tuesday, on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Red Pump will head to New York City for our first event in the Big Apple. In partnership with Essence, we will host Red Power Conversations, a free evening of powerful dialogue about the issues that affect HIV & Black women.

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Our lineup of panelists is incredible:

  • Hydeia Broadbent – renowned AIDS activist
  • Deborah Levine – Executive Director of Love Heals and the President of the National Black Women HIV/AIDS Network
  • Dr. Rowena Johnston – Vice President of Research at AmfAR
  • Charreah Jackson – Lifestyle & Relationship Editor at ESSENCE and our new Red Pump NYC ambassador (whoop whoop)

If you are in NYC, I would love to meet you at this event! You can find all of the details and RSVP information here.

Also, if you would like to stay in the loop on Red Pump happenings and our #RocktheRedPump campaign, check us out on Facebook and/or sign up for our newsletter.

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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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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

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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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

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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