Wednesday, March 30, 2011

::Sweet Growth - #BeautifulCrusade Check-In::

I haven't posted in a while... This feels semi-foreign to me. Then again, writing is like air and I haven't had a chance to breathe in a while.

There has been A LOT going on in my life lately and I'm unsure where to begin. Growth and change is happening right before my eyes and at times it gets to be overwhelming. It's a mixture of excitement, joy, nervousness and anxiety all wrapped up into this journey of the #BeautifulCrusade.

Career-wise, there is definitely a lot of headway being made for myself and those around me. In the almost 4 months that I have been back in Chicago, so many great connections and progress has been made. But I'm borderline riding the fence of reality and blissful insanity.

I've been pulling 37-hour days to make sure I get everything accomplished that my heart is set on. This past weekend was a big emotional roller coaster as I experienced something of the same caliber that I went through last year around this time. And at the same token, my body is feeling the effects of long days with little to no quality sleep time and recovery. I'm a ball of confusion as of late but, call me crazy, I kinda like it.

Last night, I had a great conversation with some close friends of mine and it really made me see that I have a lot of emotional work to do. I've come a long way thus far but I still am dealing with words left unsaid and feelings unresolved. It's frustrating to want to move forward emotionally knowing that all other areas of my life are moving forward at a rapid rate. I'm playing catch up and it feels like death in a box. lol

On the flip side of trying to move past emotion, I'm also learning a lot about people and how we perceive them versus who they really are. Again, I have met some AWESOME people who I wouldn't trade for the world. These people are right in step with me in this #BeautifulCrusade and are witnessing & supporting my journey. It's a new kind of friendship that I've formed with some of these people that is helping me day by day get through asking myself some of the toughest questions.

In the same breath, I'm meeting new people and trying to be a good judge of character. Just recently somebody showed me who they really are and I have chosen to believe them. I will say, who they've shown themselves to be is not the same as who I thought they were... I now know which file folder to save certain people in based on how they treat myself as well as others. (Word to @AfrosNBabyHair ;-D )

All in all, I'm struggling money-wise. No doubt about that. Actually, being back home this time around I'm struggling the most than I've ever been in that aspect. But, I am having the time of my life! I am genuinely happy and more focused on my journey rather than my lack. It feels good to know that the direction my life is taking is only upwards from here. I've lived another day to share my story and be better than I was when I went to sleep last night. That, my friend, is a beautiful blessing to withhold.

Thanks so much for reading and supporting my #BeautifulCrusade... I can't describe the feelings I have. I am so overjoyed by what's going on in my life and within myself as a young woman that it almost brings me to tears as I type. I'm deep in gratitude, humility, joy, thankfulness, faith, strength and dedication...

hope you all are having a great week. Holla at me on "The Twitter" lol ;-D

Much love,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

::Sweet Profile - The Wonderful Ladies of The Red Pump Project::

With March being Women's Appreciation Month, I have decided to profile different women making grandeur strides and differences in their particular line of work or organization. I am truly in awe of how I continue to be surrounded by great woman after woman since moving back to Chicago.

Before I moved back, I had heard plenty about The Red Pump Project but never knew the faces behind the work and the great details that makes The Red Pump Project what it is. The Red Pump Project does an awesome job of making people aware of HIV/AIDS through various forms of discussion, education and initiatives. The Red Pump Project is known for the Rock the Red Pump Campaign, The 2nd Annual Rock The Red Fashion show as well as a plethora of other projects and nationwide events.

I feel an urgent responsibility to share their work with anyone that will listen and that's the purpose of this blog post. Get to know all about The Red Pump Project as Karyn & Luvvie answered some questions below about what they do, why they do it and how you can help.

The Red Pump Project Founders
Karyn Brianne Watkins
Lovette "Luvvie" Ajayi

What inspired the Red Pump Project? Was it based on personal experiences or a general desire to educate and inform?

In February of 2009, Luvvie and I randomly had a conversation discussing how HIV was an issue that we cared passionately about. She mentioned that she had an idea to do a formal event centered around a red shoe, and that was pretty much the end of that conversation. I later learned that National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was approaching and reached out to her about creating a social media campaign to get the word out to our peers and discuss how this disease was affecting us as women. Luvvie designed a blog badge, I came up with the name, "The Red Pump Project," and we started reaching out to our blogging peers asking for their support. Over 100 blogs participated in the campaign and from there, we had to ask ourselves, "What's next?" That's how we decided to turn our "idea" into a nonprofit organization.

What actions were involved that brought the Red Pump Project from just an idea to a full blown movement including a successful blog, events, campaigns and ambassadors?

This experience has really taught us that nothing is random in life. After March 10th, we saw that there were people who were inspired by this movement and we knew that we had to keep the momentum going. We assembled a team of supporters and friends and started laying out the groundwork to evolve from "Red Pump" the campaign to "Red Pump" the organization. Luvvie and I both work full-time, and it hasn't always been easy. But, knowing that this is our passion and there's so much work to do, we realize that we can't give up. I can tell you this...None of this would be possible without our core team, our ambassadors in different cities, and people who believe in the greater cause of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Does the Red Pump Project target a certain age group of women?

No, Red Pump doesn't target any specific age group. Being so grounded in social media, we've found that our movement has really found a home with women between 18-30, but women of all ages support what we're doing. It's great to see young women and older women really unite around fighting HIV/AIDS. There's so many key lessons that both age groups can learn from each other.

Why do you feel that HIV/AIDS is still such a taboo topic in the black community?

There's this stigma attached to the disease that can be SO difficult to overcome and it's killing us. Although we represent only 12% of the U.S. population, we account for 45% of new HIV infections. That's HUGE. Our community is being disproportionately affected by this disease and our lack of education is really one of the things that serving as a huge disadvantage. So many of us think that HIV/AIDS is still a gay man's disease, but that's not the case. Black women and teens are making up a greater number of new infections. For instance, Black women account for 61% of new HIV infections among women while Black teens (who make up 15% of the US teens) now represent 68% of new HIV infections among all teens. We've been raised to think that sex is a taboo topic, so we brush things under the rug. Teachers, pastors, parents, neighbors...we all have to start talking about HIV/AIDS in an open and honest way. And, Red Pump wants to do our part to help start and maintain those conversations.

What does it take for us to open up the dialogue about the topic so that we can comfortably be informed and protect ourselves?

First, we have to let go of the judgement. Then, we have to start with the facts. There are many people in our community who don't talk about the issue because they don't know any of the facts. Even when we do those two things, I think that our community needs to accept that every conversation is not going to be comfortable but it will be real. And, real talk, real facts, and real action are exactly what we need to fight this epidemic.

What are the top three misconceptions about HIV/AIDS?

1. You can only get HIV/AIDS if you're gay or a drug user.

2. There's a cure for HIV/AIDS.

3. You can't contract HIV/AIDS from oral sex.

What are various ways that men and women can openly help the Red Pump Project? How can someone get involved?

For starters, just talk to your family and friends about HIV/AIDS and get the dialogue going. Anyone who knows us knows that we're some communicators and that's the base of this whole thing! When it comes to directly helping Red Pump, people can support us by "Rocking the Red Pump" badge on their websites, hosting a Red Pump event in their community, creating content for our blog, and supporting events held by our Red Pump Ambassadors. We are all over the web (literally) and encourage people to earn more about what we're doing and keep up with the events and programs that we're rolling out this year. Our website is, and we're also on Twitter (@RedPumpProj), Facebook, and Tumblr. People can also feel free to directly shoot us an email at or

I encourage EVERYONE to get in the know about your status and begin the dialogue with others in your circles. Change begins small and with you. We as a whole are definitely powerful beyond measure and have the ability to come to solutions regarding the hard conversation & issues of sex and HIV/AIDS.

I'm currently in the process of planning a #SweetheartConversation LIVE where we will have an in-depth, candid discuss about sex, STDs, HIV/AIDS, and how we relate to one another sexually. Until then, join me tomorrow on Twitter as a moderate #SweetheartConversation as it will pertain to the taboo topic of sex. I feel that this is a serious matter that we all need to discuss openly and respectfully. I hope you'll all join me.

March 17th, 2011
Use the hashtag #SHConvo to join in!

Much love,

Facts from HIV/AIDS 101 via The Red Pump Project

■Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the US will be infected with HIV.
■There are more than 1 million adults and adolescents in the United States living with HIV. Approximately one-fifth of them (21%) do not know that they have been infected.
■In 2006, women made up 25% of the persons living with HIV in the United States. Women also represented 27% of new HIV infections in 2006.
■High-risk heterosexual contact is the source of 80% of these newly diagnosed infections in women in the US.
■From the beginning of the epidemic through 2005, almost 86,000 women have died of AIDS and AIDS-related complications.
■The largest number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses during recent years was for women aged 15–39
■Seven of the 10 states with the highest case rates among women are in the South.
■In 2006, the CDC estimates that almost 46,000 young people, ages 13-24, were living with HIV in the US. Women comprised 28% of these HIV/AIDS cases among 13-24 year-olds.
■The rate of AIDS diagnosis for Black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

::Sweet Thoughts - Late Night Reflections::

So it's 2am and my mind is heavy w/ thought. Too late to call anybody so, I guess I'll blog.

I can't neglect my female tendencies. With all the drive and ambition that I carry, there is still a huge part of me that yearns for compassion. For emotional connection & attention from a male counterpart...

I've been alone for a year and a half. On this #BeautifulCrusade I've grown closer and closer daily to understanding my place & purpose as well as creating a definite path for my goals.

With all the busy details that my newfound day to day life brings, I still think about what its like to be in a relationship w/ someone... sharing moments, memories, laughs and feelings. And those feelings & emotions that are translated into a warm embrace and kiss... (Excuse my mushiness, but I did state that I'm a female, right? ;-D

It seems as if lately I've been surrounded by a good deal of relationship images and it makes me think about what I really want out of a man. Someone who I will enter into love & growth w/ as well as enjoy life with...

I miss cooking for someone, late night conversation, intimacy (no, not sex), etc. My frustration lies in the realization that I know exactly what I want for my life. And I refuse to accept any old proposition on my heart.

Single is good. It's teaching me to love me more and be patient. I'm sure it'll be someone great when love finds me.

Until then, I find myself daydreaming of the possibility of romance to come...

Much love,
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

::Sweet Objectives - Hydrate Yo' Hydration!::

I am so excited for this Sweetheart Health Challenge!

The challenge officially went underway last week and judging by my e-mails the participants will keep rolling in! I'm happy to see that so many people are making the commitment to take charge of their health and embark upon this health challenge with me!

This week we launch our inaugural objective which is to Hydrate Yo' Hydration! ;-D Water is a KEY factor in our overall health and wellness. It has so many awesome benefits such as aiding in the process of loosing weight, flushing kidneys, moisturizing hair (Woo woo woo to the #NaturalHair ladies!), as well as a plethora of other vital qualities.

As for the challenge goes, we need to make sure we are getting the necessary daily allowance for ourselves. Me, well, I don't really drink water AT ALL lol! I'm big on juice and tea and occasionally pop. I drink water when it's really hot, after a vigorous workout or if there are no other options. This is TERRIBLE! I gotta do better!

Two ways to measure our daily water intake that I learned from our Sweetheart Health Challenge guru @RenishaRenewed is that we either drink 8-10 glasses a day or drink half our body weight in ounces daily. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you'd drink 70 ounces of water. The latter form of measurement seems more doable in my eyes. 8-10 glasses just seems like so much! My plan is to drink bottled water and refill accordingly so I know my ounces after each bottle is gone.

My challenge for myself personally is having will power to break bad habits. Being a chronic juice drinker is one of them. So this week's objective is really going to push me to put old habits aside and form a new one!

Also, we are doing our first Fit'N'Fun Tweet-Up this week! We will be engaging in some awesome Vinyasa Yoga over at Core Power Yoga in the South Loop of Chicago (555 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60607). More details below!

I hope to see everyone come out to our fitness tweet-up this week and that we all try our best to adhere to the Hydrate Yo' Hydration objective! Remember that true change and results begin with the first step of commitment!

If you have any questions or need help finding a Yoga class in an area near you, please don't hesitate to contact me! E-mail me at or holla at me on Twitter: @CharriseRenee!

Fit'N'Fun Tweet-Up #1
Saturday, March 12, 2011
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Core Power Yoga
555 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60607
Class: Introduction to Core Power #1
Notes: Please arrive 15-20 minutes early for registration and instructions. Also, eat something a few hours before had and come hydrated as well as bring water with you. Vinyasa Yoga is set in a warm room, but not extremely hot. Come dressed comfortably in yoga pants, biker shorts, basketball shorts, t-shirts, sports bra, etc. See you there!

Much love,

Join me EVERY TUESDAY EVENING at 8c/9est (pm) for #SHC chat on Twitter to discuss our objectives, progress, etc! And don't forget to check out the Renewed Fitness Blog for more tips on this week's objective!