The Special Privilege of Attending an HBCU

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Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. Learn more HERE.

It’s been 17 years, but I still remember the royal blue package and colorful African emblem on the Howard University School of Law (HUSL) application.  Something about just the application itself let me know that this place was special and was where I was meant to go.  Following the prudent advice that I was given, I applied to half a dozen other law schools, but deep down, I knew I wanted to go to Howard.  After growing up in a suburb in Canada and spending 3 years in North Florida at a college where only 2,000 of the 52,000 students were African-American, I was ready for some diversity.  More than that, I was ready to be in an environment where my skin color and rich heritage was honored and not an afterthought.  While on the tour of the law school, I was bowled over by the friendliness of the student body, the faculty and the history that was woven into every turn, including the murals on the walls. Everything about it screamed “PRIDE” and it was love at first sight.

HUSL Mural

Historical Mural in the Moot Courtroom Foyer at HUSL

The first week of class was not what you’d expect.  Instead of diving right into the substantive material that we had to cover (and my WORD was there a lot), we spent hours watching the PBS series from the late 80s Eyes on the Prize, an award-winning, 14-hour television series that tells the story of the civil rights era through historical footage and contemporary interviews. Being the excited, anxious and somewhat naive first-year law students that we were, there was some eye rolling and eyebrow raising when we learned of our agenda for that week. But let me tell you – by the end of the series, we were all emotional, fired up, resolute and clear on our mission and purpose for being in that place and what was sacrificed for our privilege to sit there.  I’ll never forget it.

My mother has been in education as a teacher, admissions officer and associate dean for decades. During the law school application process, she advised me on the importance of selecting an institution that would not only challenge me academically, but that would support me emotionally. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the cutthroat law schools where students hide books from each other or rip pages out of textbooks that others need to complete an assignment (I’m guessing a lot of that is gone now that everything is digital!). I knew that I needed a place where I would feel nurtured; law school is hard enough without any drama.  I knew I had made the right decision when, at the end of that first week, one of the faculty members said to us: “Look to your left and look to your right.  At other law schools, they will say that one of those people won’t be there when you graduate.  At Howard, it’s your responsibility to make sure those colleagues graduate with you.”  And that’s the best way that I know how to communicate what it was like to be at that school.

By now, you can feel the sense of community, sacredness and responsibility that was an integral part of my 3 years there.  I felt it in the study groups – I stuck with the same study group from Day One. We looked out for each other, lifted up one another and challenged ourselves.  One of my study group colleagues is one of my closest friends and was a bridesmaid at my wedding. I felt it the week before classes began, when I learned my apartment wasn’t going to be ready for another 2 weeks, and a 3rd year law student (Hi Tsahay!) let me crash on her couch.  As a student body, we felt bonded together, and I had the opportunity to experience everything from my very first march for justice – in support of Mumia Abu Jamal - in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with them, to feeding the homeless in Washington, DC with them (we spent hours making as many bag lunches as we could!).  The social component was, I think, what sets HUSL apart from other law schools.  I guarantee you that every single student who graduated from there can recite this quote from civil rights activist, legal strategist, mentor to Thurgood Marshall, and former dean of HUSL: “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.”  Charles Hamilton Houston’s credo guides the Howard University School of Law’s mission to this day.

20150127_100337 Me and Hubby on My Graduation Day

 

Here’s why Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are so special:

  • You stand out because of your abilities and personality, not because of your color. This is huge, because you are immediately a person from Day 1, instead of: That Black Girl In My Contracts Class.
  • You’re immediately a part of a family.  If a family is considered as a group of things related by common characteristics or a group of persons of common ancestry (as defined by Merriam-Webster), then sharing a life experience as unique as law school, with people to whom you are culturally, ethnically and historically linked, is a genuine familial experience.
  • There is a larger purpose at stake.  We were not there “just” to study and get good grades or land a respectable job. Because we represent a specific people who have faced and continue to face specific challenges, we were there, and are still here, to effect change in our communities, society and, the world.

Of course, attending an HBCU isn’t all roses, but I know I’m better for it.  It’s the reason why I was able to begin my career at an Am Law 100 firm; to transition to a top federal agency where I honed my expertise; and why I have The Best Teach Ever to thank for my blogging, social media and community leadership career.  I always knew deep down that the security of our little bubble wouldn’t last, and what (mis)perceptions others might have of our education (i.e. “Howard Law? Do you guys learn law for black people there?” – true story), but when you’ve been at your law firm for 2 years and a partner calls you “Wanda” because he mistakes you for the secretary (even though there is exactly ONE African-American female attorney in the entire office, and that’s you), you can brush it off and think of those faces on the mural in Houston Hall and know that what you are doing, is being a social engineer.

Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored series commissioned by Wells Fargo as part of its #MyUntold Story Campaign. Learn more HERE.

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announcing life is the party :: #booksies ~ an unconventional book club

never-stop-learning

Tell the truth! Is your nightstand (or Amazon shopping cart) overflowing with books that you’re dying to read “when you find the time”? It took an ultimatum from my husband to clear off the avalanche of books on my nightstand that have been accumulating for about 2 years before I actually decided to go through them and create a “To Read” bag (everything else was donated).  The thing is I love to read. And I love learning new things and getting lost in stories, whether fact or fiction. But lately, finding time for reading has been nearly impossible…because I haven’t been intentional about it.  I was lamenting my situation to a friend of mine who mentioned that this article on HuffPo inspired him to read an entire book each week in 2014.

I’m about that life!

And because I don’t like to do anything by myself, I want to invite you to read along with me. This is going to be an unconventional book club in that we don’t even all need to be reading the same book at the same time (or ever for that matter).  The point is that we are all encouraging each other read whatever it is that floats our boat. The only guideline is that the books be related to the goal of Living Richly (my blog tagline!).  Each month we’ll have a different Action Item: it might be a blog post or a Hangout chat or creative exercise to bring our learnings to life.

We still have a week left in January so there’s plenty of time for us to get one book in before the month is over!  Don’t think about it too hard, just reach over to that stack of books that have been collecting dust and pick one out.  Drop me a comment below to let me know that you’re in and request to be added to our #booksies discussion group on Goodreads.  And, if you’re on Pinterest, let’s each pin the titles that we’re reading on a group board. {just request to be added to the board to pin}

This past week I read The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau*. It was really great for anyone starting out in the entrepreneurship game, and I highly recommend it.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll be reading How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits

 

How to Be Parisian

Don’t forget to join our discussion group HERE.

*affiliate link

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5 Days to More Revenue, Impact & Purpose Telesummit: 1/19 – 1/23

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I’m declaring 2015 the year for clarity and expansion in my entrepreneur community. As I’ve grown my own purposeful business and platform I understand how imperative creating new habits and implementing new strategies are to my business. I’ve teamed up with my sister in success, Aprille Franks-Hunt in her 5 Day Revenue, Impact & Purpose TeleSummit that starts on Monday (1/19).

You can have the success you’ve been dreaming about – you just need to know what you don’t know and what few tweaks you can make to change the trajectory of your future. We’re here to help you increase your brand profile, create more possibilities with your purpose and learn how to make more money than ever before!

Sign up today
 and I’ll see you next week :) Lock in the details below.

Event: Revenue, Impact & Purpose TeleSummit
Dates: January 19-23
Times: 2 per day | 12pm cst / 1pm est AND 8pm cst / 9pm est

What we’ll be discussing over the entire week:

  • Lining up your purpose to create more possibilities
  • How to add a ZERO to your bank account every month on a consistent basis
  • Importance of your sales funnel & how to build it
  • Two methods to increasing your FOLLOWING by thousands within 30 days (without breaking the bank)
  • How to attract and keep the right coaching clients
  • Gaining more speaking engagements that pay
  • and many more tools, nuggets and strategies you can use immediately!

Reserve your seat here!

This is the last year you’ll claim this year as “your year” to make radical changes. This year, it’s real and we’re leading the charge. See you on the summit!

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my “get right” plan to kick off 2015

2015

It’s the first full week of the new year and the Internet streetz are all abuzz with motivational quotes and inspiring images and the usual rah-rah-rah. Here’s the thing – I’m determined to make this year different.  I haven’t come up with resolutions or my One Word for the year or Personal Theme, not because there’s anything wrong with those approaches but, because, I know me and, at the the end of the day, my number one obstacle is consistency.  I start off strong but taper off, as many probably do, within weeks.  My change has to be internal and it has to run deep.  To that end, I’ve embarked on transformational journeys in three areas of my life:

Mental Health and Wellness

Thanks to my friend, Kailei Carr, I’ve committed to being intentional about my morning routine  - which I have struggled with for years! – because I know it will help with so many things: productivity, anxiety, time management, mood and so on.  As part of Kailei’s Goal Crushing Morning Masters group, I’ll be take the 30-day Morning Miracle challenge along with 200+ accountability partners.  Today was my first Day on the challenge and I can already feel a difference in my day.  My mood was definitely better than my typical morning cranky, and I feel like I got a jump on the day by not flying out the door to get a kid to school while in my pajamas.  Because I was actually showered and dressed, I was able to stop at the grocery store and get that errand out of the way. I learned that I likely often wake up with a headache because I’m dehydrated from my slumber and perhaps the dry heat of the furnace too.  Also? I have trouble breathing. Not in a medical, alarming sense, but in a rhythmic sense.  During the meditation part of my morning, it took me several minutes of shallow, jagged breathing to finally get to a place where it wasn’t labored or erratic.  It all sounds real crunch granola, I know, but starting my day with quiet thoughts, exercise and positive affirmations actually has me looking forward to all that awaits.

Business Success

Thanks to 3 friends of mine: Monica Barnett, Lamar Tyler and Cheryl Wood, I’ve committed to be intentional about my business revenue goals.  I’ve always worked hard and had the blessing of being able to grow my businesses by leaps and bounds, but for the past couple of years, I’ve not achieved the revenue goals that I would like – or that my family needs – for lack of measurable deliverables and diversity of business strategy. I’m so glad to have these minds as accountability partners and have already seen the benefits of strategic planning and not-so-gentle pushes outside of my comfort zone pay off!  I also am formalizing my mentorship role and limiting my attention to two wonderful mentees with a formal structure and gameplan. All of these things are aided by the fact that I FINALLY HIRED AN ASSISTANT!! After way too long wishing for one, and countless remarks from people in disbelief that I didn’t have one, I’m ecstatic to say that now I do.  She’s already helped to create a weekly work schedule for me that regulates my calls and meetings (halleleujah!) and carves out 1 day devoted to creativity and 1 morning devoted to personal development. It feels good.

Relationships

This is the next frontier of my 2015 plan.  I miss my friends. I want to make sure that my husband feels special.  I want to spend quality time with my kids.  There has to be a way to do all of these things, and not to the detriment of others.  And there has to be a way to unplug and spend time with those I love without having the constant feeling of guilt or anxiety that I should be working or that I’m wasting time or being a slacker.  If anyone has any suggestions or tools to help on this front, I am all ears.  For starters, Hubby and I are scheduling in monthly date nights and I’m taking copious notes from my friend Pamela and her husband Stephon and their Still Dating My Spouse brand.  As far as friendships go, I’m going to make sure that my besties and I actually schedule that Girls Weekend we’ve been talking about for at least 3 years.  I also have had “Friendkeeping” in my Amazon shopping cart for months and need to go ahead and read it. It occurs to me as I write this that maybe making the time for Kid QT is as simple as scheduling it, the way I am for the other folks in my life.  Mommy Date Days on deck!

And so maybe what I do  have for 2015 are areas of focus. Here’s to maintaining that focus for 12 entire months.

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An Encore of ‘Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown’ #HolidayResponsibly

Keep Calm Countdown

It truly doesn’t make any sense that, for many, The Holidays are synonymous with Stress.  I mean, isn’t it the time of year when we come together with family and celebrate love and peace? Several years ago, after being caught up in the holiday frenzy, I realized that our condition is largely self-inflicted.  Personally, my stress stemmed from my desire to recreate The Perfect Christmas from my childhood, which probably never actually existed anywhere but in my head.  The baking, the annual trips to see The Nutcracker, gift exchanges, the decorations, and a Santa Claus who does not disappoint — these were all December staples in my mind, that had to get done, by hook or by crook.  And so, since my children were born, it’s been Operation Holly Jolly starting right after Thanksgiving.

Until I realized we could celebrate Christmas without going overboard.

That’s when I decided to enlighten those around me with “Justice Fergie’s Happy Holiday Countdown” – a weekly guide to simplifying the holiday season, right in line with my blog motto of living richly. It’s been a couple of years since I created my Countdown, so I thought I’d share them again this year, in the event it might save someone from being driven to drink.

Speaking of which.

Responsibility.org conducted a national survey on parents, the holidays and stress and found that Americans, especially parents with kids ages 18 and younger, report higher levels of stress during the holiday season. Fifty-one percent of parents with kids ages 18 and younger report stress due to holidays, which isn’t surprising because: Class Parties! Teacher Gifts! Santa!  The survey revealed that 22% of us drink to cope with holiday stress, with over 1/4 of dads reported managing stress with alcohol.  Since, for 60% of us, alcohol is a part of our family traditions around the holidays, it’s important to remember that our kids are watching us and taking cues on what it means to celebrate and how to cope with stress.

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So have the occasional glass of bubbly to toast the year behind you and the year ahead, and even take advantage of Eggnog Season by spiking your mug, but if it’s stress driving you in that direction, consider some other ways to handle it.  In fact, I’ll break down some of the most common stressors and what quick and simple strategies you can implement over the next couple of weeks:

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To start, compile your Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanzaa or New Year’s Dinner recipes and create a menu board. This should be quick and easy – not a major project.  I’ve been doing a mix of tearing out recipes from my fave food mags and gathering some on my Gourmandine and Fete boards on Pinterest.  Now it’s time to pull them all together.  It will help us see what gaps need to be filled, whether everything we had in mind actually goes together, and let us know if we need to pare down some (much to my dismay, we probably don’t need 4 potato dishes. Haterz.).  Read on here.

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This week, find a half a dozen (or more if you’re popular like that), gifts that you can quickly grab and take with you to the slew of holiday gatherings in your future. You could even use these to give to unexpected visitors or invited guests as they’re leaving your place to send them on their way with some holiday cheer.  Remember, it’s the thought that counts! These gifts don’t have to be expensive or one-of-a-kind; the best gifts are those that are thoughtful.  Seeing as how we’re trying to simplify and streamline our holidays, it’s totally ok if you get 6 of the same item – just choose something that has wide appeal.  And, if you’re up to it, you could even make the gifts yourself. Then again, if you’re making your gifts, then you’re one of those completely organized types who has it all together and you probably don’t need these tips at all. I love you anyway.  Read on here.

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TIP NO. 1: PARE DOWN YOUR LIST OF GIFT RECIPIENTS

This is hard, I know.  But just think about it for a moment: if you didn’t get a gift from everybody you knew, or even everyone in your family, you’d probably not mind one bit.  Before we get swept up in the materialistic madness, let’s remind ourselves what the season is all about. Love and family and kindness…and those can all be shown in ways beyond a wrapped package.  So take a moment to think about who you really and truly need or want to purchase a gift for (as opposed to bake some cookies for or send a card with a thoughtful note or treat to lunch) and write their names on a list. Read on here.

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Pull Out Your Calendar and Take Stock.  Perhaps you’ve already committed to some events.  Take note of those.  Then, take a look at the invitations you might have received but have not yet RSVP’d to.  Choose only those events that you would really love going to.  Hopefully that will help you whittle the list down a smidge.  And, if you realize that you’ve already said “yes” to an event that isn’t on your Would Love To Attend list, no worries.  You can always decline, politely. Explain that you’ve had a change in plans and that you are sorry to miss it. You could even send over a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet for the event.  Party hosts at this time of year understand that folks are overloaded and they’ll understand if you aren’t able to make it.  Trust me, that 30-second feeling of guilt for turning down an invitation will be instantly outshined by the feeling of joy now that you’ve freed up an evening or two to take time for you and/or your family. Read on here.

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Admit it. The cutesy cards from friends and family have been landing in your mailbox since darn near after Thanksgiving. And it makes you feel…pathetic. December was here before you had a chance to throw away the leftover Halloween candy and you fully intended to have your family’s holiday photo taken – with the kids in matching outfits against a seasonally appropriate background – but you had to reschedule the photo session more than once and eventually gave up.  But now you wish you hadn’t! The truth is, a part of you actually likes mailing out holiday cards and you know how much your family members across the globe like receiving them.  Read on here.


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What a concept! But sometimes even the best of us need to be reminded.  Most of us social media types, moms, entrepreneurs and what have you are highly productive overachievers who take advantage of every waking moment to “get stuff done.”

This holiday season, please please please take a day or two – or more if you can swing it – to give it all a rest.

Even if you’re not miles away from home on a sunny beach (like I may or may not be, ahem), you can still use this down time to relax, rejuvenate and reconnect with yourself.  Here’s a few ideas on how you can capture that vacation feeling amidst the holiday hustle and bustle: Read on here.

Hopefully these tips can provide a little relief to what can be a crazy, crazy time of year.  Even if you just try three of these strategies, I guarantee you’ll feel a little lighter – fruitcake notwithstanding.

This post is part of a #TalkEarly series sponsored by Responsibility.org.  To learn more about the #HolidayResponsibly initiative visit them online.

It’s not too late to join an important and ongoing discussion about alcohol responsibility by sharing your thoughts and opinions about how to have or start conversations with your children around alcohol responsibility.  Participants will be entered into a drawing for more than $5K in prizes.  Click HERE to get started.

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DC Families: Make Meaning Bethesda Has A Super Deal for Gingerbread Decorating!

**Updated to add that their special is running through January 4th! Click HERE for details.

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If there’s a crafting place in town, you can bet that my family knows about it because Giggles is a craft fanatic! Our house is full of everything from beads to yarn and I’ve run out of room to house her creations. In fact, she even dressed up as “Pop Art” for Halloween. I’m telling you, the girl has a knack for the creative.

popart

Before she started her new school this year, a couple of the moms in the class suggested a playdate to get our girls acquainted with each other. The place we decided on was Make Meaning in Bethesda, MD.  We hadn’t heard of it before but Giggles was thrilled to try it out – after all, it has the word “MAKE” in the name! Sure enough, she was in artist heaven upon arrival.

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Make Meaning is an art activity place with projects for children AND adults.  There’s paint-your-own pottery; decorate-your-own cakes and cookies; make-your-own soaps and candles; and even glitter tattoos.  We’ve since been back twice – once for another playdate to make soap and last weekend to decorate gingerbread houses!

Each year we decorate a gingerbread house at home, using the regular old kit from the grocery store.  So, when we were invited to a Gingerbread House Decorating Party with a few of our closest friends at Make Meaning, we were super excited (no one more than Giggles).  When you arrive, the houses are pre-made and assembled for you – let’s be honest, the best part is decorating it.  And the spread of candy that they had was out of this world!  The candy lover in me was on cloud 9 and the kids went hogwild grabbing handfuls to: (1) decorate with; (2) eat; (3) shove in their pockets; and (4) eat.  They had such a great time – and truthfully, so did the adults – creating their masterpieces in a such a fun environment.

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Here’s how you can get a piece of the merriment:

From December 15 – December 24, Make Meaning Bethesda Row is running a special promotion for one Gingerbread House Decorating Activity for $9.99 (regularly $49.99).

No schlepping to the store to find a kit.  No worrying about icing in your living room carpet.  And no mess to cleanup! That’s truly a steal. Just download the coupon and head over to the store during the specific days and hours it’s valid:

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The Fine Print:

  • Limit one per person and while supplies last. Space is limited. First come, first served. No reservation necessary.
  • Valid weekdays only. Monday 10a-5p, Tuesday-Friday 10a-7p
  • Note: This is special just for you, but you can share the coupon link with others.

 

Give a Gift to The Children’s Inn at NIH:

When a Make Meaning activity is purchased during the weekdays between 12/8 – 12/24, an activity is also provided to a child at The Children’s Inn at NIH, a private, non-profit residence for families and their children who are participating in pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center.

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Disclosure: I participated in this sponsored campaign on behalf of One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.

 

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Fergie’s 2014 ‘Feel Good’ Holiday Gift Guide!

Gift Guide 2014

1. Zumba Harem Pants // 2. Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo // 3. Monster DiamondZ Rose Gold On-Ear Headphones
4. Poppin Metallic Gold Soft Cover Notebook // 5. Tieks in Lovestruck // 6. O Courses
7.  Instinct by T.D. Jakes  // 8. Soybu Carolyn Wrap

affiliate links included

This was a grounding year for me.  I spent much of it trying to grow my businesses but also cater to the growing demands of my family (read: tween girls!) and not lose myself in the process.  I’ve been toying with the idea of putting together a Holiday Gift Guide but didn’t want to share a bunch of random items with you; after thinking about it some more, I’ve decided to share a few of the things that made me feel good in 2014 – literally and figuratively – with the hopes that they may be able to help you to live richly too.

Feel Good for My Body: Zumba

Starting in January – along with the rest of the planet – I re-committed to self-care and re-joined the gym.  What made the difference for me this time was that I joined a health club that feels less like a gym and more like a wellness center; because of how it looks and feels, I was actually motivated to go and considered it a treat to trek up there and pamper myself with fitness, massages and pineapple-spinach smoothies.  But what changed the game for me in 2014 was discovering my Zumba class, thanks to my friend Danielle.  I’d done Zumba before but this class gives me life! The instructor, the music, the moves – it’s to the point that I’m upset when I miss it.  Finally, a workout that doesn’t feel like work to me.  If you haven’t tried it, do! And if you need some fun gear, check out these Zumba Harem Pants. They’re for sure on my wishlist.

Feel Good for My Tummy: Nescafe Dolce Gusto Piccolo

Thanks to some cruel trick that the universe is playing on me, I can’t drink coffee – let’s just say it doesn’t sit well with me.  But I’ve always loved enjoying a hot beverage and the feeling of calm it brings me.  I found my home in a good cup of chai and usually have one of those when the mood strikes but, of course, regular trips to the coffee shop are impractical on a number of levels.  So when I received a discount coupon to try a Nescafe Dolce Gusto single-cup coffee machine at BlogHer this summer, I decided to gift myself with the Piccolo.  You buy the cups (like a Keurig) and it makes you a cup of whatever you want in under a minute. Score! So far I’ve tried the Cappuccino, the Hot Chocolate and the Peach Iced Tea…and I have my eye on the Choco Caramel.  After I drop everyone at school, I’ve made it a practice to sit in my favorite chair with a cup of something and start my day with a pause.

Feel Good for My Ears: Monster DiamondZ Headphones

And then there’s these Monster DiamondZ headphones.  They were a generous gift from my friends at Monster after their sponsorship of this year’s Blogalicious Weekend conference.  It took me awhile to even take them out of the box because they are SO AWESOME.  My kids already know that these are MOMMY’S and they are not even to look in their direction. Ahem.  Since I’ve started walking regularly and listening to my meditations, it’s only fitting that I have fabulous headphones to go along with my self-care routines.  But these babies are more than eye candy – the sound quality is great and they fit sungly, which is very important to me.  They also come with cleaning supplies and a ControlTalk cable that lets you control volume and advance tracks just by clicking, in addition to a cable to use for calls on an iPhone.

Feel Good for My Creativity: Poppin

I learned about Poppin at SXSW Interactive in the Spring.  The instructor of the workshop I attended brought up the company as an example of a brand that really pays attention to their customer experience – of course I had to check them out.  Being that I’m a sucker for paper products, it was a wrap! (pun intended) I ordered a bunch of different journals and notbooks for all of my notetaking, planning, journaling and the like.  But my favorite is the shimmery gold notebook! Makes writing down anything feel good – even if it’s what invoices you need to pay next. Sigh.  [TIP: Use code 'SURPRISE' for $10 OFF orders $60 or more and $20 OFF orders $100 or more!]

Feel Good for My Feet: Tieks

Oh how I love my Tieks. I first tried them a few years ago after receiving them as a gift from attending Mighty Summit, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  They are so comfortable but still luxurious. I was so excited to see a discount for them in our gift bags at Oprah’s Life You Want Tour in October – I was able to upgrade my pair to these.  Given that the daily glamour of my life involves A LOT of carpool and grocery store runs, I’m also happy to throw a little fabulousness on my feet.  I’ve got my eye on the Lovestruck pair, for when I fall into money. Ha.

Feel Good for My Soul: O Courses

Speaking of Oprah’s Life You Want Tour – it had a major impact on me.  I have yet to write a recap post on it because there was just so much goodness to digest.  I really enjoyed the event and each of her featured speakers – while I can’t include her Tour on my gift guide, I can encourage you to check out her online courses given by her experts. You can even gift one to someone for the holidays.  Rob Bell was so full of energy and warmth in-person that I bet his online course is equally powerful.  It’s called: Finding Joy and Meaning In Everyday Life – we could all use a bit of that, yes?  There are several others too: on Forgiveness, Meditation, Imperfection – find your need and dig in.

Feel Good for My Business: Instinct by T.D. Jakes

Books! I am so happy to have gotten back to books this year. I missed them.  I read many – business-related, fiction, chick-lit – but the one that sticks out is Instinct by T.D. Jakes.  I actually have a post in draft mode about it that I promise to finish in this lifetime.  He really has a gift with words and breaks down very simply the concept of finding your place in the universe and listening to your gut and allowing that to guide you.  There are SO MANY nuggets of wisdom in the book, but the one that was most helpful to me was to identify my leadership style; I am apparently a Democratic Leader, meaning I want the members of my team to take a participatory role in the decision-making process. I see this trait permeate all areas of my life and, while I used to think it meant I was ‘weak’ for seeking buy-in and/or approval, I now know that it’s one of the most effective leadership styles. So YAY ME. You’ll enjoy the book. Promise!

Feel Good for My Zen: Soybu Activewear

In August I was introduced to the Soybu brand of activewear at BlogHer 2014 where they co-hosted a party.  As one of the party ambassadors, I got to try out a few of their pieces and I’ve been hooked ever since! The fabric feels so, so good and there is just the right amount of stretch in the pants that works for this curvy girl in her power yoga and Zumba classes. But I need to talk about this wrap for a minute.  I could literally wear it everyday.  It’s both heavy – meaning a strong quality, but also so lightweight and soft. WINNER. I have it in white/gray but would also not be mad if Santa left me the black/gray one underneath my tree.

And there you have it. A few things that made me feel good in 2014.  Of course, my husband and children top the list, but you can’t have them – they’re all mine.

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Celebrate The Holidays In Style w. Tervis {+ a GIVEAWAY!} #ad

Most Wonderful Time Tervis

The first week of December is in the books and judging by the difficult time I had finding a parking space at the mall this past weekend, the holiday season is in full swing!  Ever since we had had our first child, Hubby and I joke that we lost our cool points because we rarely get invited to any holiday parties that aren’t associated with our places of work.  Our last hurrah was a bangup New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31st, 2003, when we had over 100 people in our new house, an excess of food catered by my mom, a bar tended by our friend and DJ ColdFusion on the 1s and 2s (aka Hubby the web developer).  Ironically, that was the same week that I found out I was expecting – I didn’t even sip champagne during the midnight toast!  After that, the holiday party scene came to an abrupt halt.  I even remember one year being bummed because I didn’t get one invitation to any holiday anything and you know that was a damper for me because LIFE IS THE PARTY, yes? So I decided to take matters into my own hands and be intentional about things.

When the girls were big enough to care, I started hosting cookie decorating parties with our friends who had kids; I think we managed to do it about 4 years in a row, which was great. We eventually graduated to actually baking the cookies with the kids (both fun and disastrous).  And then, a few years ago I convinced my girlfriends to have an Annual My Favorite Things gift exchange party.  Not only did I get to have my holiday party, but a supper club was born out of it and we’ve been going strong quarterly ever since.  Really, I just love any excuse to entertain, usually with the goal of celebrating my relationships with those that lift me up.  I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to entertaining and more ideas for parties than I can count, so when Tervis asked me to offer some of my tips for casual holiday entertaining for the December issue of Southern Living magazine, I was more than delighted to oblige.

Tervis launched a good-looking line of Entertaining Collection Tumblers that are fit for any kind of gathering.  They’re study, they’re pretty, they come in two different sizes and five different colors.

product-overview-entertaining-collection

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The possibilities for incorporating lively tumblers like these into your holiday entertaining are endless.  In the Southern Living magazine piece, I suggested filling them with candy or chocolate as a party favor or hostess gift.  If you have a bar at your event, consider matching up the colors of your drink to a complementing tumbler color.  [Mom sidenote: these tumblers will withstand the kid abuse, so they can feel like they are part of the party too. Just don't serve them Bourbon.]

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In the spirit of the season, I’m giving away TWO FOUR-PACKS OF ENTERTAINING COLLECTION TUMBLERS, one in each size, in the color of your choice, to one lucky winner.

To enter, just leave me a comment with you favorite way to celebrate the holidays here, and make sure you “like” my Facebook page. Deadline to enter is Friday 12/12 at 11:59pm PST.

Even if you don’t win, you can still visit SouthernLiving.com/gifts every day through 12/24 to enter the Great Big Christmas Giveaway for a chance to win great prizes, including a set of Entertaining Collection Tumblers.  They also have some great ideas for gift-giving and entertaining on their blog – check it out!

Here’s wishing you a season filled with family, friends and fruitcake (knowing they may be one and the same).

 

Disclosure: I received complimentary product from Tervis as well as a feature in Southern Living in exchange for this post.

 

UPDATED TO ADD:
Congratulations to Lisa @lisapizzeria!! You’re the winner of the giveaway – drink up lady ;)

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It’s #GivingTuesday! Favorite Picks for Meaningful Giving

Giving-Tuesday
Are you all worn out yet from the holiday shopping bonanza that was Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday? Have no fear, #GivingTuesday is here and it will rekindle your excitement for the holidays just as you were experiencing burnout. This campaign is so in line with my mission – giving is a surefire way to guarantee that both the gift-giver and the recipient are uplifted. Love that!!

#GivingTuesday™ is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.

And there’s so many ways that you can get involved! The GivingTuesday.org community site is chock full of information, ideas and inspiration to assist businesses, individuals, and families give back. Take a look here. Below we share some charities that are dear to me and to my team over at Blogalicious.  If you’re excited about Giving Tuesday and are looking for gifts that give for the loved ones on your list, consider these meaningful ones:

Read on over on the Blogalicious blog…

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5 Tips for Getting Back to Life When You’re Thrown for a Loop

TipsGettingBacktoLife

I’m not a brain surgeon or a humanitarian worker or a teacher. Most days, I’m writing blog posts or working on marketing campaigns or planning an event.  So this morning, when I woke up to bloggers friends’ posts on social media that they felt lame writing about lipstick or family meals or Black Friday deals on their blogs as scheduled, I totally understood where they were coming from.  My plan was to go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving – a process that I normally look forward to – but this morning, after the decision in the Ferguson, MO case (or non-case), I was deflated.  I had stayed up the night before watching the post-announcement coverage, and woke up listening to the commentary on my regular morning radio shows.  At one point, my daughter told me to turn the radio off, “because it’s making [you] BLAH.”  I dug deep and found a burst of energy to get us through our shopping list but, once I got home and logged onto Facebook, things didn’t get much better.

About an hour had passed before I literally made myself logout of Facebook on my phone so that I wouldn’t be tempted to check it.  Then I realized that I was letting the conversation consume me.  I had deadlines to meet and a house to clean and a daughter off from school early for the holiday to spend quality time with.

Just 3 weeks ago, at this year’s Blogalicious Weekend conference, we had a Community Conversation on the first day entitled: Get Right Within: Learn to Manage the Emotional Ups and Downs That Affect Your Blog and Your Business presented by Ekene Onu.  We chose to make this topic a Community Conversation because it was a topic that was overwhelmingly represented in the 90+ speaker topic submissions that we received.  And so, today I thought – this is exactly the kind of situation that Ekene’s presentation was meant to address.  I sent her a quick note (on Facebook, of course) and asked her for a few tips that she would share with all of us struggling to get back to our daily grinds after being impacted by something so emotional as the Ferguson grand jury decision.  Here is what she offered:

In my talk, I spoke about putting things in a box and creating some walls around it, so it doesn’t overwhelm you.  The emotional tide of a day like today after the Ferguson verdict, can literally pull you under.   So here’s what I suggest:

1.   Be mindful of how much news and social media information you take in.  The news on loop is no longer about informing you and it can elicit a stress response.

2. Gain some perspective.  It can feel like the lives of black boys are at risk and if you are the mother of a black boy or the aunt, grandma or sister (and who isn’t), that can suck you into a vortex of pain and anger, but black boys will still be born. Black boys will still graduate school. Black boys will still run for president. All hope is not lost. Yes, there is an incredible amount of work to do and we have to change culture and laws and more but the sky is not falling, we are able and good still does exist in the world.

3. Make a plan. Planning is a powerful tool of empowerment. Answer three questions. What can I do? What will I do and when will I do it?  Write down the plan. Make a commitment and breathe. You will find that even as you do that, the feeling of helplessness and fear than manifests as unchecked anger will begin to dissipate. If necessary have some conversations around the plan. {I said conversations around the plan and not the pain. The pain can be like quicksand. Don’t get stuck there.}

4.  Prepare to persevere. This is not a quick fix situation. This will be a “hang in there” for the long haul.  This will be a “in my children’s generation” kind of thing.  The tide will turn but in time and if you don’t prepare to persevere, you may give up and lose hope.

Finally…

5. Find something to be grateful for today. There is always one thing.
I quickly took care of her first suggestion – I took a Facebook break and we left the television off all day.  The perspective piece was looking me in the eye when my other daughter came home from school giddy because my sister had spent the morning with her for Special Friends and Grandparents’ Day. And then, again, when my son came home with my husband from his school fundraiser at Chuck E. Cheese’s, all smiles and hugs.  On my To Do list is still: Make a Plan.  But I am definitely prepared to persevere.

And today, in addition to my family, I am grateful for my little piece of the Internet and the bonus gift of smart and compassionate friends that come along with it.

TIP: Get to know Ekene.  Not only is she completely connected with her purpose of inspiring others to live successful lives, but she’s a warm and genuine spirit whose energy you can feel from a mile away. I <3 these kinds of people.

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