Good morning from beautiful (and humid) New Orleans! I’m down here for this year’s United States Conference on AIDS and am super geeked for two reasons. First, it is my first work trip. That’s right. I’ve managed to complete the “elusive” task of landing in a job that I’m passionate about. Second, the conference is in New Orleans and I LOVE NEW ORLEANS. The music, the food, the people, the culture… Sigh. I could go on and on. Not only do I plan to get married here but I also wouldn’t mind setting up a part-time residence here later in life.
Enough about my future plans for NOLA. Back to the now. During my time here, I’m looking forward to learning some very useful information that I can apply on the job and with my work with The Red Pump Project. In case you have been living in a bubble, HIV continues to affect people of color at devastating pace so any and all solutions are always needed.
When I’m not at the conference, please know that I will be doing my best to completely pig out on NOLA goodies. I am obsessed with New Orleans cuisine and can always find a Creole/Cajun restaurant no matter what city I’m in.
My first stop when I got in yesterday was Café du Monde for their world-famous beignets. Oh. My. Gawd. They were so so so so good and didn’t last more than seven minutes. All I want to do is stuff my face with them.
As far as my other plans, here’s my NOLA checklist.
- Have a cocktail in the courtyard of the W French Quarter. I mean, look at this place.
2. Try a piece of alligator.
3. Complete an early morning jog around the Garden District.
Anything else that I should do while I’m down here? Let me know! I’m taking any and all suggestions. Just leave me a note in the comments or shoot me a quick tweet!
I have an announcement to make…
I’m excited to share that I am currently working on a new project called “Real Women Give.” Over the past five years, I’ve met so many women who have a desire to make a difference. We have shared tips for cause efforts, cried over inspirational stories, and built a network to encourage and motivate each other. Then, it hit me. Whether it’s tips on supporting a girlfriend battling breast cancer or how to plan a high-profile charity event, this same sphere of influence should be available to women everywhere on a broader basis.
On October 5th – a week before my 30th birthday – I will make a long-time dream a reality by officially launching Real Women Give at a breakfast event in Chicago. I’m so grateful (and excited) that Diane Latiker, the Founder of Kids off the Block and a recent CNN Hero, will deliver remarks about the difference that just one woman can make when she takes her power and decides to use it for good.
Check back on Monday for more details about the breakfast and how to purchase tickets. As I embark on this new journey, please continue to send your thoughts, prayers, and ideas if you have them
Have a FAB weekend!
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or starting to nest, but I’ve decided that I am going to adopt a dog. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a few years now, and I think that now is the time! I’m obsessed with pugs (proof) so my original plan was to buy an adorable pug puppy. But, after talking it over with a few friends, I realized that 1) Puppies are WAY too much work for me and 2) there are so many great shelter dogs that need homes in Chicago.
So, I’ve been doing my research at on the sites below and I even got a chance to experience life with a dog this past weekend. As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed my precious time dog-sitting Marley. My planned timeline has me finalizing an adoption in mid-October. Have any of you ever adopted a dog before? Do you have any tips to share with a soon-to-be dog mommy?
Chicago-Area Pet Shelters
PAWS Chicago – http://www.pawschicago.org/
Chicago Canine Rescue – http://www.chicagocaninerescue.com/
Animal Welfare League – http://www.animalwelfareleague.com/
Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago – http://www.anticruelty.org/
It’s hard to believe that Labor Day has come and gone. It is officially time to start talking about football, pumpkin spice lattes, and knee-high boots. No matter which topic of conversation you choose, don’t forget that there’s always room to chat about volunteering. Or better yet… There’s always time to actually get out there and volunteer.
I haven’t done one of these in a couple of months, but here are four volunteer opportunities that you can sign up for this month!
Cheer on Half Marathon Runners
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is assembling a team of volunteers to help cheer on and hydrate runners during the 17th Annual Chicago Half Marathon. Helpers will staff the info tent and guide runners at the end of the race.
Date: Sunday, September 8th
How to sign up: Send an email to volunteer_ILC@lls.org. (Volunteers must be 16 and older)
Serve Lunch to Veterans on September 11th
As a special thank you to those in the Armed Forces and to commemorate National Day of Service and Remembrance, the Chicago White Sox have partnered with USO of Illinois to host a lunch for vets.
Date: Wednesday, September 11th
How to sign up: Head on over to the Chicago White Sox Volunteer Corps page and sign up.
Grocery Shop at Vital Bridges Groceryland
Vital Bridges runs four grocery centers across Chicago that cater to the specific dietary needs of people living with HIV. After clients fill out their grocery menu, volunteers shop the food pantry for the items. I’ve done this service project before and it’s actually is one of my favs!
Date: Saturday, September 21st
How to sign up: Register on the Chicago Cares website. Note: If you don’t have an account already, you’ll need to sign up for one.
Volunteer at the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago
From packet stuffing to race day support, there are a couple of opportunities to help out with this signature event that benefits the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and several local HIV/AIDS service organizations.
Date: Saturday, September 28th
How to sign up: Visit the race site to sign up.
P.S. I love the photo above. It perfectly represents fall in Chicago. If you like it too, you can order a print here.
Lately, I’ve been all about creating lists and mapping out my life. Things can get a little chaotic, and I like to make plans (even if I change them later or never get started on them). The other day, I was thinking of the various volunteer activities that I would like to do one of these days. So, that inspired me to create a “do gooder bucket list.” It may sound odd, but I think it’s a good idea! I’m still in the process of adding things, but here is where I’m at so far.
Before I kick the bucket, I hope to…
1. Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans
2. Volunteer at a Special Olympics competition
3. Complete the two-day Capital Challenge Walk for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
4. Make care packages for our troops
5. Read to a group of children at a local children’s hospital
6. Run in a charity race (10K or longer)
7. Sing carols at a nursing home or hospital
8. Spend a week at an AIDS orphanage volunteering with the children and learning from the medical staff
9. Serve as a volunteer baby rocker and feeder for infants in the NICU.
10. Host an amazing conference for teen caregivers.
Some of these things are probably going to happen before others, but at least it’s a start. What service project would you like to complete before you kick the bucket?
SALE alert! Today only, you can save 20% AND score free shipping on the FEED x Target collection online only. I’ve been stalking this collection for a while now and have chosen my four things that I want right now.
Have you snagged any items from this collection yet? If not, better get on it soon! This is a great way to help provide meals to families in need while getting some cool pieces for yourself, for your home, and as gifts.
Newborn Bib Set, $12-$15 (Provides 12 meals)
Orange Polka Dot Scarf, $14 (Provides 14 meals)
Fabric Storage Bins, $30 (Provides 24 meals)
Large Bakeware Dish, $30 (Provides 25 meals)
Does being selfless and doing good work wonders for your well-being? Well, according to a recent article, it does. I can’t verify the science but I can tell you conversely that being selfish makes me feel awful. And, BOY, have I been selfish lately. It usually starts with a desire to self-preserve and then I look up and I feel terrible. Last night, I had a come-to-Jesus (or whoever you choose to reckon with) meeting with myself and was able to clearly link my anxiety, stress, irritability, and overall bummed out-ness to the fact that I had tipped the scales between an outward focus and an inward focus. I stopped really thinking about anyone but Karyn. No volunteering, no blogging, no do-gooding. Just doing me which usually meant that I was doing nothing.
Do you remember my post about the book “29 Gifts” and the author, Cami Walker? That was essentially the premise of the book. She was so focused on herself and in the throes of her own pity party when it was suggested that she give gifts to friends for 29 days. It worked for her, lifting her spirits and reminding her of what was really important in life.
I had entered that space that gives me the willies. I was being “The Selfish Giver.” It felt good at first to be a little self-involved, but that quickly faded. I need balance. I need to be altruistic. Helping others is a reminder that this world is much bigger than me.
Does giving back or volunteering help you balance your moods?
P.S. Need more healthy reasons to give back? Check out this article.
I think about caregivers on a regular basis. I think about their strength, their sacrifice, their service, and their spirits. So, when my friends at the American Cancer Society asked if I would join in their 100 Caregivers Stories series, it was a no-brainer! I’ve never been shy about talking about my caregiving experiences with my mother and am currently working on a webinar series to address the unique needs of youth caregivers.
Although I have since transitioned out of that role, I’m still honored to be surrounded by so many amazing people who have stepped up to provide care to a loved one battling cancer or another disease.
I think of my bonus mom, Angie, who somehow is able to juggle her career with caring for her mother who is living with Alzheimer’s. I think about friends who recently lost parents to cancer after lovingly (and sometimes painfully) watching their superwoman succumb to the illness. And, I think about a young woman that I know who not only cared for her sister with cancer, but also stepped up to support her sister’s daughter.
Caregivers are so incredibly valuable for so many reasons. There are economic, societal, and health benefits to caregiving but, above all of that, caregivers remind each of us we are all connected. To every person who has ever been a caregiver or is one right now, here’s a short quote that will breath a little life into you on your worst days…
Patience and fortitude conquer all things. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Would you like to honor a caregiver? You can sign up here to share a blog post.
As a part of the American Cancer Society’s 100 Days/100 Stories series, the 100 Caregiver Stories series wants to shine a light on 100 amazing caregivers by the end of 2013. I am a member of the ACS’ Blogger Advisory Council. No financial compensation was received to publish this post.
No words from me. Just an image. Enjoy.
As news stories continue to pour out of Oklahoma, it’s clear that the this ordeal is far from over. It’s such a sad situation and I am sending much prayer to everyone affected by the tornado, especially to the families of those who have lost a loved one as a result.
Huffington Post has compiled a list of ways that you can help. Check it out here.