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

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.

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Just Keep Swimming

“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.

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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!

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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

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.

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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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