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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Midweek Check-In

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Please pass the coffee!

Hi, y’all! Things have been somewhat hectic on my end because the last ball to juggle (for now) has finally been tossed into the air.

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First day at daycare!

Today is my first day back to work and Caleb’s second day at daycare. This past week, I have been completely overwhelmed with creating a new routine for us and preparing for this big week. This post about Sunday night prep from Katie at Live Half Full has been incredibly helpful. Gone are the days where I could just figure out my life each morning. No, I need to have the majority of that done WELL in advance so I can just be on auto-pilot when I wake up.

In other news… Due to the fact that I have been SO focused on my return to work, I wasn’t “planful” in getting the rest of my 13:13 series blog posts up before my self-imposed February 13th deadline. So, I am going to share the remaining content out between now and the end of the month, including a (now late) post about DIY Valentine’s Day mason jar gift ideas. HA! I’ll repurpose that one somehow. I was so excited about starting that content series that I have to see it through. After all, it is one of my February goals so I have to get it done.

Last update before I go and get Caleb dressed for the day… Red Pump launched our eighth #RocktheRedPump campaign yesterday! I can’t believe that Luvvie and I started this journey in 2009. It is incredible to see how far we have come with our particular style and message around HIV/AIDS education. For the details on the campaign, head over to this dedicated page on our website.

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I’m off to get this day started… Wish me luck! I was promoted while on maternity leave so I’m just hoping that there is somewhat of a grace period to get me back up-to-speed. We shall see.

 

Xo.

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10 Ways to Do Good with Your Boo

A couple that gives back together stays together. While that may not be 100% true, there is something great to be said about couples who share mutual interests and activities. Giving back has a positive effect on us individually, so I imagine that doing good with your boo must double the benefits.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my husband and I haven’t had a date night in several months. However, that is something that I hope we turn around soon. While thinking of some outings for us, I started thinking of a few that have a charitable twist. If you are looking for some different date night ideas, I hope this list gives you some inspiration.

Date Night Ideas

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Monday Motivation: Focus on Real Love

Yesterday in church, my pastor started a new series focused on marriage and parenting. During the message, he walked us through several key points about marriage and shared scriptures related to love. One of those scripture passages was 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I love this scripture because it is a blueprint for how to demonstrate love through actions. As it was read in church though, all I kept hearing was “love does not keep score.” Argh. Guilty. I don’t mean to do it but I am no stranger to keeping a running list of who did what in my head. But, hearing that this isn’t love is so hard. I spent the rest of yesterday wrestling with this concept that you can’t keep score! What if the wrong was a big one? What if no one ever apologizes for the wrong? You just let it go? Argh.

To be honest, I’m still digesting this scripture. However, it made me realize that I need to ground myself more in what the Bible has to say about love and how we should be loving each other.

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15 Valentine’s Day Gifts Under $50

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Ah, Saturday. A day made for brunch, naps, and some (online) shopping. If Valentine’s Day is your jam and you are still shopping for gifts, let me help you out. I’ve rounded up 15 fab gifts under $50 to help you spread the love to the special peeps in your life.

Happy shopping!

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{Giveaway} Faith, Hope, and Love Prints

Happy Friday! Sorry that this post is getting up pretty late in the day, but Caleb just wouldn’t let me be great. Now that he has simmered down a bit, I felt like this was a good time to whip out my laptop.

In Tuesday’s post, I talked about why I love visual reminders to help me keep the faith when life gets challenging. I’ve never been big on prints and that was mainly because I didn’t get the point of them.

“So, I just frame paper?” Hmm.

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