I was contacted by Voyage Houston Magazine to offer up advice for their readers who may be facing insurmountable odds and my advice was published in the their #GirlBoss: Redefining What a Boss Looks Like column.
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Subsequently, they requested a full interview. I am honored to be able to share my story with this publication who makes a habit of sharing local (Houston) stories in their recent #Traiblazers: Rewriting the Narrative column! Check out my interview to learn more about my professional background + how I got to where I’m at now.
2019 began rather eventfully for me. Prayers were answered and I assumed new roles while letting go of others. I feel a new energy to go after the things I am most passionate about, that are aligned with my purpose. That is to motivate, cultivate and inspire girls and women. I use my platforms to do so and I plan to continue to develop as a blogger/ influencer to make a positive impact in the lives of those I connect with face-to-face and virtually.
Whether by inspiring them to take necessary risks in order to achieve their greatest potential, educating and opening up dialogue about things that affect our community and how we see ourselves, or simply by being a resource, connecting them to tools that ultimately enhance/ improve their life.
I have felt this calling for the past decade and have been intentional about walking in my purpose since God placed this on my heart. This awareness and set intention has allowed so many things to manifest in my life. Wonderful opportunities have been placed at my doorstep. While yet I had to work for them.. the work came easy, naturally. Opportunities that had I not trusted God’s calling for my life, I would’ve never experienced.
Some doors were closed. Doors that because I needed a security blanket, I chose to walk through. Doors that I’d walked through before the vision for my life became more refined. Ones that were meant for just a season. I thank God for opening some doors and for closing some doors, too.
Aligning with my purpose, becoming a business owner and serial entrepreneur, a wife and now mother… has been a whirlwind! There are truly NO DAYS OFF! Between maintaining the house, my baby, our businesses/ brands, my social life and MYSELF… whoo chile! lol
One thing I have come to accept is that “finding balance” is more a satire for me than an actual goal. I am getting my flow though! Some days, finding balance means literally balancing my baby’s bottle under my chin to feed her while wrapping up that email I needed to send… yesterday. Staying organized while keeping my family and our health as my top priority. Multi-tasking!
Other days, finding balance means cutting everything off but my music and taking a nice bubble bath. Even taking the time to wash, condition, and style my hair (a process that is somewhat extensive especially since having my daughter. I swear my hair is so much thicker than before).
Self-care is of the utmost importance. How can we be our best for those that depend on us if we don’t first take care of ourselves? I’m unapologetic about needing “me time”. Further, my husband and I make sure we get our “WE time”. As new parents, life is demanding and it can be challenging nurturing your relationship between work and raising a brand new human. Creativity is key! 😉
Also, understanding the power of “No”. Everything ain’t for everybody! Every single invitation and door that opens is not meant be walked through. Some are meant to distract. Having more discretion about how and where I spend my time has been something I’ve put into practice and it’s helped me out a lot.
All the hats I wear bring be great joy and fulfillment. Writing this almost feels like my declaration… but I choose to live a testimonial and triumphant life regardless of what I am faced with. I choose to design the life I want to live and share my journey with you as it unfolds.
I am here to remind you that YOU DECIDE. You decide what type of life you want to live. Embrace challenges, keep it moving and when it comes to finding balance, regardless of what hats you wear, just do your best. The rest is colored bubbles.
Thanks for reading! xo -Riss
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Watching my husband with my daughter while writing this feels surreal… here is my story which until now has remained very private but this testimony is one that I realize needs to be shared, in totality.
My journey to motherhood began somewhat unexpectedly January 2, 2017 when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. My husband and I had not been trying for a baby then, we were just having our fun, traveling and building businesses/ brands. That season we’d been focused on producing content for our YouTube series “Married to Business” and were very occupied with planning an EPIC New Years Eve party which was a huge success. Although unplanned, we were very happy with the news of expecting our first child.
As things in my pregnancy progressed… I had the usual first trimester symptoms like tender breasts, fatigue and some nausea. Despite pregnancy symptoms, I continued to focus on my brands. I was still very active, attending meetings and business lunches. I withheld the news of my pregnancy to the public until I reached 12 weeks gestation.
Then, at about 14.5 weeks gestation and at the beginning of the second trimester, I experienced pre-ruptured membranes (complete leakage of amniotic fluid after my water bag broke) following a stressful day. The water breaking and complete fluid leak led to an inevitable miscarriage as a fetus couldn’t be sustained without any fluid to develop in. Attempting to carry to viability with broken water would also put me at great risk of infection which could become fatal. Our hearts were completely broken.
The next few days, I carried a baby that I knew I would never get the chance to meet. I went in for my scheduled in-office procedure (D&C) and after no more than 45 minutes, the baby was gone. I saw nothing. There was no blood (that I could see), no pain… just an emptiness as I left that doctor’s office. At that time, doctors never pinpointed what may have caused the pre-ruptured membranes. I had no real answers and that ate me up. Physically, it was as if the pregnancy never happened. Emotionally… a different story. I mourned. I cried. I screamed. I have fallen to my knees. My world was grey for a moment.
I learned about a huge community of women who’d also experienced pregnancy loss and the outpouring was real. This helped me feel less alone in my despair. It had happened to so many women (many who I knew personally) but the topic just was not really talked about. I never realized how common it was until I myself went through it. According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage — most often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant. About 15-25% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. More than 80% of miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy.
I PRAYED for emotional healing and had a lot of people praying for me. Prayer works… because eventually I was healed and my joy fully and completely restored. I dried my tears and I pressed on. I learned to accept what was and that God had a plan. It was greater than I could understand at that time but I accepted His will and I trusted Him completely. Letting go and letting God was how I returned to ME.
BENT BUT NOT BROKEN
The duration of that year March – December ’17 was spent reclaiming my intrinsic love for life and developing a greater appreciation for my own strength. I traveled, I laughed, I created new and ever-lasting memories with family and friends.
I was productive with personal and financial goals. I’d finally decided to leave the corporate world for good and focus my professional skill set on helping grow the law firm that my husband built. Our new found financial situation made the decision a no brainier. Hurricane Harvey happened… which by the way, my first due date would have been right in the middle of the mess Hurricane Harvey made. Kind of scary considering we were stuck in our house for 6 days! God knew! I thanked God for my faith and the resiliency that He allowed me to have. I thanked God for His protection and loving me in spite of me. I thanked God for the lessons and the blessings. So much growth took place during that time period.
DANCING IN THE RAIN
Around the start of 2018, after reflecting on my life and realizing how strongly I desired to be a mom, my husband and I decided it was time to start planning for our family. We tried for months and I felt myself grow increasingly anxious and even impatient to get pregnant again.
Never-the-less, the year was off to an AMAZING start! Our company was growing leaps and bounds, we’d planned some travel and were in love more than ever before. After several months of a negative pregnancy test and disappointment in “Aunt Flo’s” arrival into town… we decided to take a break from the ovulation tracking. We chilled out some to avoid falling victim to being overly task oriented during love making. I never wanted to be that couple!
The summer rolled around and thus, my anniversary. I always look forward to my wedding anniversary and our annual anniversary trip! I had gotten back into really good shape and was feeling amazing. The plan was to travel to Cabo San Lucas for a week to celebrate. The goal was to not even think about getting pregnant and to enjoy paradise in marital bliss with the love of my life!
For the entire month of May, I actually didn’t think about getting pregnant not one time. We had too much fun on our anniversary trip and I had planned back to back trips that month. The second trip was a girls trip with my mom and sister to the Texas Wine Country. I was lit the whole month!
God is has a funny sense of humor. The moment I stopped trying to control the timing of everything was when we conceived. It happened ON our anniversary in Mexico. I know the exact day because we spent the first night alone in our 6 sleeper condo before being joined by fam/ friends that we’d invited the next day. When I realized I was ‘late’ sometime in near the end of May, we laughed (at the irony of it all)… and REJOICED! We were also met with some fear and apprehension due to our experience the prior year.
Excuse me while I take a break from writing to pump… #mommymode
I somewhat knew what to expect during the first trimester of pregnancy and was ready. This pregnancy, I was more nauseous than the first. I still worked as long as I could at the firm, closing my office door and taking naps when I needed to on my in-office couch. I took my time with everything. Made sure to keep my stress level down, ate like a champ and even picked up prenatal yoga. I’d learned the power of saying “No” to things that weren’t in the best interest of my pregnant state and felt like a woman empowered as I continued my journey to motherhood.
To a certain degree, I sort of held my breath until making it past the point that I had in my first pregnancy. Once I did, and with a new doctor and preventative plan in place, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My new OBGYN had diagnosed me with an incompetent cervix which is what caused the miscarriage in my first pregnancy. I had a cerclage placed during the first trimester. Finally, some answers and a plan in place to reduce the chance of the same thing happening again. The cerclage was to keep my cervix reinforced as the baby continued to grow and the pressure from gravity made it harder for my body to carry.
I never shared my pregnancy publicly until I was nearly 8 months pregnant. I had NO desire to. I didn’t care about putting the news on the internet. The people who are actually in my life knew and that was good enough for me. I ENJOYED my pregnancy out of the public eye for 8 months.
Following my fabulous yet high activity birthday weekend in September, at a regularly prenatal check-up… my specialist MFM doctor noticed my cervix had shortened, suddenly and drastically. The cerclage that had been placed almost 10 weeks prior was my saving grace. I was instructed to go straight to the hospital next door with only the clothes on my back as I were to be admitted to strict hospitalized bedrest for the next 10 weeks (at least). Needless-to-say, I was pretty much in shock for a few days. Those 10 weeks ended up being 12 weeks as my doctors are very conservative and regardless of how I felt about it at the time, would do everything to keep this baby in as long as possible.
So from mid September – mid December, I spent my days in a small hospital room laying down, incubating my baby girl. For three months I ate mostly hospital food, I got up only to use a bedside commode and I took bed baths the majority of the time. That little room was my kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.
Things in the hospital took some adjusting and some tears of frustration in the beginning. I’d missed one of my best friend’s weddings that I was a bridesmaid in and my sister had to fill in for me. That was one of the hardest things about being on bedrest. I missed other events and opportunities that were important to me and that I was excited about. I missed my sweet furbaby, Josie, tremendously but was so grateful to have a newly retired mom who gladly took care of her the entire time I was in the hospital. She got spoiled over there, enjoying her regular groomings and my mom’s two other dogs to play with.
I watched from my window as the seasons changed craving to feel the outside air. The corner shelving in my room served as my focal point for seasonal decor. I began to realize NOTHING else in the world mattered. Nothing that I could’ve missed was worth taking a chance and not giving my baby the best start at life possible. God had to clear my plate so there could be room to receive my greatest blessing of all in a way that could be none other than for His glory!
On Halloween I played dress up. I became a pro at doing my makeup while laying down in bed (though most days I wore none). The hospital invited all the expecting moms in the Antepartum unit to participate in trick-or-treating and true to form, I went all out. All of the children of the other bedrested mommies and hospital staff came and went trick-or-treating door to door. Social workers made sure the bedrested mamas got big bags of candy to pass out to the kids… the good, expensive candy too! It was a great night as we played Michael Jackson’s – Thriller and other fun songs in my room. (Picture my sister Amber doing the Thriller dance with those long legs of hers. #Priceless).
My family all came by and my mom brought party foods. The kids were so cute! Everyone from all around the hospital came to my room because they’d heard great things about the lioness costume in #3042 and had to come check it out. I ended up (the only patient) with my picture on the hospital news letter for that month. I’m so extra. lol
Ok, I need another pump break. Yea, so apparently I’m a #milkfactory!
I kept myself busy and entertained with new hobbies like crocheting, occasional business related phone conferences, lots of visitors, journaling, day time television, all the seasons of Game of Thrones lol, reading up on all the mommy/ parenting tips from books, apps and google searches, game nights with friends, taking good care of myself, and lots of reflecting, meditation and prayer. I can honestly say I never got bored… which amazes me.
“LET US NOT GROW WEARY IN WELL-DOING, FOR IN DUE SEASON WE SHALL REAP, IF WE FAINT NOT” GALATIANS 6:9
A peace which surpasses all understanding came over me during my extended stay at Hotel Woman’s Hospital of Texas. lol I experienced REST that I had never experienced up until that point. I am usually always so go, go go! Once I got over the surrender of my total independence, I could really appreciate everyone waiting on me hand and foot. Nurses and staff at the hospital were simply amazing. Ultimately, I came to realize being on strict hospitalized bedrest was a blessing in disguise. Better that than to not have caught the cervical shortening in time. I told God when I first got pregnant again that I would do anything for this baby that he’d blessed me with if he’d just let this baby grow to term and arrive healthy and beautiful. That prayer was put to the test, chile!!! So worth it and I’d do it all again for my Kamara… He is ABLE!!!
LOVE AT IT’S BEST
My husband Kenneth stayed in the hospital EVERY DAY. (Ok, here come my tears…) Living in the hospital to and from work, sleeping on the couch next to my bed, only going home on briefly on Sunday evenings to wash our clothes, check mail, check on the house and re-pack our things for the upcoming week. I could not have done 3 months in the hospital as happy and as comfortable as I did without my husband, my superman. He helped keep me calm and give me a great sense of normalcy in the hospital despite our situation. He made me laugh everyday, made me feel pretty when I know I was looking crazy, and comforted me during my sad and scared moments. All while having so much else on his plate. He is the real MVP!!! MY ROCK!!! I’ve really gotten to see the stuff our marriage is made of over the last couple of years and I am so grateful for my life partner who’s a reflection of God’s goodness, mercy and love for me. My daughter couldn’t have a more amazing father!!! #BlessedByTheBest
My mom, dad and my sisters would visit regularly. In fact, I think I saw my family more frequently being in the hospital than I had since being married. Mama Pam, Pappa Keith, Sista girls Amber and Kendra… thank you so much. You guys are the BEST! Other relatives that visited, Andre, David, Chrissy, Nicole, Madi, Aunt JoAnn, Minka and Ren. I love ya’ll!
The week of Thanksgiving, my in-laws, Kenneth Sr. and Esylen, came in town from Florida to surprise me and spend several days with us!! I am so blessed to have them in my life and my daughter has the most amazing grandparents there could be! While in town, my father-in-law who is also a Pastor, blessed the baby’s room in our home. Thank you for helping my Thanksgiving be the best and most memorable EVER and for praying over me/ us. I still can’t believe we got all that food in that room!! #OMG
To all my girlfriends who came to spend time with me in the hospital… Marj, Vorice, Free, Manda, Tay, Jenn, Angela, Shara… what a clique of phenomenal women you all are. You’ve all been rocking with me for so long. Kamara will know you each as her aunts. To homies who are more like family… Faran, Megan, Chike, Jeff, Bresha, Nakyia, Jay, Ike, Reggie, Gabby, LaDarien, Corlon, Chelsea, Devon, Sage, Isis, Sammy, Ogechi, Amber B., Nicole M., Brandon C., Symone, Princess, Avery, Rebecca, Karen… thank you ALL for taking the time our of your busy lives to come and visit me while I was on bedrest!! I have so many wonderful pictures and can’t wait to put them all together so I can someday show Kamara all the love that surrounded us while she was baking.
To the team at Woman’s Hospital who loved on me and took good care of me… Carol, Liz, Megan, Sherry, and my favorite nurses ShaRay, Dinah, Maggie, Comfort, Sarah, Chika… thanks for holding it down!! Of course my doctors, Dr. Robinson and Dr. Hare who are truly more like my Auntie’s now… thank you for the tough love. My doctors are already discussing ways we can try to avoid strict bedrest in my next pregnancy. Each pregnancy we learn more and more about my tricky cervix. The next time will be easier, in Jesus name.
I made sure to keep my hair and nails done in the hospital thanks to amazing people like Jennifer, the in-house spa technician and stylists, Brittany and Tiffany, who didn’t mind leaving their shop to come and tend to my head! It was important for me to keep a strong sense of self through all this and I’m so grateful for those that helped me.
I managed to take maternity photos and am so grateful for Kyiera Williams Photography for helping me feel more comfortable in my own skin despite having an entire photo-shoot while pregnant on bedrest in a hospital. I debated about whether to take pictures or not, but she kept me encouraged. I was so happy with how they turned out and proud of myself for taking lemons and #MakingLemonade.
I am so grateful for all the love, prayer and support shown by those who knew our situation. I’m grateful for my praying church, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and the Deacons who came to visit and made sure we got our communion every first Sunday while in the hospital. To everyone that visited me during my stay, those that made me for forget I was actually in a hospital, everyone who sent messages, everyone who came out to my husband’s Diapers and Cigars party, and everyone who bought from our online registry… thank you!! With my incredible support system, we all contributed to such a positive outcome. They say it takes a village!
THANK YOU GOD for keeping me, mentally and physically!!!
AFTER THE RAIN…
Two weeks before Christmas I got to go hooooommmeee!!! *Insert praise hands* This was an indescribable feeling. Since I was much further along and in the safe zone with baby (9 months pregnant), I was able to move around a lot more. I enjoyed the days leading up to Christmas, catching up with friends in the comforts of home and even taking a drive with my sister to Town Center to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday.
Christmas Day was magical and spent at my house with family. My mom made it happen in the kitchen and made sure her baby and her grandbaby ate #well! I got my Christmas wish and then some!! #AllIWantForChristmas
Kamara Michelle Stephens arrived on the eve on New Years Eve following intense contractions on December 30, 2018 at 11:23pm weighing 6 lbs, 7 oz. She arrived perfectly and beautifully. She spent every moment with us while I recovered and we brought her home on January 2nd, 2019. She surpasses all my expectations and we are enjoying her sooo much!! I can’t stop looking at her! My daughter is most definitely the #rainbow after the storm. She is our greatest work and our biggest blessing! I am so grateful to be her mama!!!
If you are going through anything that can be classified as a journey, remember that there are blessings even in the hard times. God uses our experiences to make us better and prepare us for our blessings! Trust Him and His timing. Embrace every challenge and handle it with grace. Praise Him even in the midst of your adversities. Take your lemons and make lemonade! Be encouraged to proclaim His goodness and share your story. Your best days are ahead of you!!!
“He that has begun a great work in you, is faithful to perform it.”
This is MY TESTIMONY! Share this story with someone it can encourage.
Soooo…. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me how truly cute and charming the town of Fredericksburg, Texas is? Fredericksburg is worth the trip! It’s a nice 4 hour road trip, just about an hour and a half past Austin.
In years past, I’d heard of the “Texas Wine Country” as an increasingly popular weekend getaway but it wasn’t until this past weekend that I had the opportunity to road trip there with my mom and sister…and I absolutely fell in love.
Although I am a born and raised Texas girl, visiting Fredericksburg made me feel like I was truly experiencing Texas for the first time! It was a nostalgic small town feel with an enormous personality. The southern hospitality was ON TEN. Everywhere we went we received the warmest greeting and service was top-notch.
There are cute bed and breakfast options if that’s your thing or if you’re looking for a different kind of experience. All of the hotels (even if a chain) are intentionally designed to give you that ‘sweet home Texas’ type of vibe.
We attempted a bed and breakfast but came across a few things while there for a short time that contributed to our decision to stay at the Best Western Plus instead. So cute and free, hot breakfast! We slept like babies there, and especially enjoyed waking up on Saturday morning to watch the Royal Wedding from bed. My recommendation is to book your room as close to main street as possible because everything in downtown Fredericksburg will be walking distance.
In total, we toured 3 wineries and 1 bourbon distillery. If you like bourbon, you MUST stop by Garrison Bros Distillery. I was fascinated by the process of how they make this Texas bourbon and the owner himself gives the tour. So much pride and passion behind what goes into their bottles!
Texas wine is AHMAZING! I am a fan! Although I’ve toured the hills of Napa and am even an amateur connoisseur, I must say that I am super proud of the wine made right here in my home state! And here is a little fact for ya… Texas Wine Country is well-known to be one of the best hill countries for wine touring in the NATION, 2nd only to Napa Valley, California. My FAVORITE vineyard was Grape Creek which is basically Tuscany in Texas. It was also the first Texas winery built in the hillcountry in the early 80s.
Beautiful grounds, soft live music on Sundays, awesome wine tour, exquisite tastings and its very own fine restaurant. Grape Creek Vineyards has won over 150 medals in the last two years from San Francisco to New York!
The tours were fun, interactive and informative. We learned so much and met some wonderful people along the way! You can book a day tour with a group, which will take you to a few vineyards by bus/ van or you can drive up and down the hill-side and visit vineyards of your choice at your own pace. We did both on different days.
The food was BAR NONE. I’m talking 5 star menus with new and creative takes on southern classics. Fresh, local sourced seafood, yummy desserts made from the finest Texas peaches. There were so many peach orchards in Fredericksburg!
Cross-Roads is a fine steakhouse by day and a saloon and bar by night. You have to make your dinner reservations FAR in advance. We booked our dinners a month ahead. Totally worth it!
Crab & Crawfish Cakes
Fresh Baked Peach Pie with Handmade Vanilla Icecream
P.s. The menu is all grass-fed, grade A beef and free-range chicken. I could TASTE the difference. Also, the Bluebell Icecream Factory is on the way to Fredericksburg if you’d like to make a pit stop there. The food is soooo legit!
Nightlife is crazy lit…I am not kidding. We went to Cross-Roads for dinner two nights in a row and we enjoyed incredible live music there as well. The 6 member bands featured mostly MoTown hits and Soul music with some Pop, Dance, Country, Line Dance, and even some unexpected Bruno Mars, Genuine (Pony) and Cash Money (taking over for the 99 and the 2000s) inbetween. I was pleasantly surprised. We danced each night away. lol
It was SUCH a memorable, relaxing and fun Mother-Daughter weekend! We will definitely visit again! Whether for another girls trip or even a romantic getaway. Have you been to Fredericksburg? Would you like to road trip there some day? Leave a comment below!
Thanks for reading! xo
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1.CAPITALIZE on your UNIQUENESS! Being unique is beautiful! It sets you apart from everyone else and makes you stand out in a crowd. Why would anyone want to get lost in a crowd? If you have radiant skin… wear hairstyles like buns and drop shoulder tops to showcase your gorgeous skin. Want more of a glow? Try bronzing the high points of your cheeks and collar bones. If you have nicely shaped lips, try wearing pops of lip color that accentuate them. No matter your hair type or texture, everyone’s hair is unique to them and them only! No two people have the EXACT same hair type, color, length, density, porosity, etc. Proudly wear your natural hair in a style that expresses your personality and display to the world your one-of-a-kind beauty! These are just a few of examples of capitalizing on your uniqueness.
2.CLAIM that today is going to be A GREAT DAY…EVERYDAY! The only thing more powerful than the tongue is your thought processes. Don’t worry about things you cannot control. Worse, don’t fear things that haven’t even happened yet or may never happen. Try not the carryover disappointments, fears or sorrows from the past into a new day. Every morning before you start your day literally say, “Today is going to be a great day.” Claim it!!!
3.RECOGNIZE your GREATNESS! You may not be good at everything, but I am willing to bet that you are good at SOMETHING! Focus in on that talent or passion and develop it. There is greatness within YOU!!
4.IDENTIFY your PURPOSE! There are 4 individual prongs that we can find ourselves in. There is that which we love, that which the world needs, that which we can be paid for and that which we are good at. If you find yourself in the very center of all 4 of these prongs, you have identified your purpose! Living a life that is purpose filled and driven by your passions will without a doubt have positive effects on you.
5.Be a part of something BIGGER than yourself! More often than not, as a society (and especially as a young modern day woman) we have seemingly become more and more focused on the image of self. Although it is very important to esteem yourself in the highest regard it can also become unhealthy. If we are only focused on ourselves, we could get lost in being aware of what is most important in the world as well as our place in it. Give back; join an organization that gives back to the community in some way. Offer your gifts to the world through service to others. It is ok to want to aim for self-improvement because we all have room to grow until God is finished with us. But it is also important to help others. “We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll
6. ACCEPT that you are not perfect! We are our biggest critics. Give yourself a break! Love yourself just as you are. Accept that everyday isn’t going to be a clear skin day and a great hair day. Everyone has those days! Take a moment to remind yourself that you are beautiful and perfectly imperfect no matter what. You are enough! As charismatic women, we may have a tendency to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves because we are always trying to be better than we were the day before. This is a great characteristic but be sure not to beat yourself up if you misstep and remember that life is a journey full of ups and downs.
7.UNDERSTAND that NOBODY else is perfect! The image of “perfection” is an illusion! Realize that after all the Hollywood money, Photoshop, plastic surgery and Instagram filters people can literally make themselves look like whatever they want to look like. Stop comparing yourself to what you see in the media and on social networks. Additionally, RELAX if you have a tendency to be hyper critical of those around you.
8. Do MORE of what makes you HAPPY! Taking time for yourself is not only a good idea but it is vital to your happiness. As I get older, I have come to realize I have what feels like an absorbent amount of responsibilities. I feel like I have to be everything to everyone almost all the time. I also realize that I put most of these pressures on myself. In the midst of your responsibilities be sure that you incorporate activities that genuinely make YOU happy. This could be anything from meditating in a nice bubble bath with aroma therapy candles and your favorite music or taking the time to get your nails done or finally taking up that painting class! Don’t forget to soak up some ever so often. Natural sunlight releases “feel good” endorphins. The chemicals that the body releases when we get a reasonable dose of Vitamin D from the sun are scientifically proven to enhance mood. Just be sure you apply sunscreen!
9. Write down your GOALS! Having an on-going sense of accomplishment does wonders for a happier, more productive life. Write down your short AND long term goals. Check things off of your list as you accomplish these goals and keep them in a place where you can see them and be reminded. Keeping a tangible list of your goals is not only good to remind you to continuously reach to achieve them but also, once you have crossed something off your list you will feel great! I have always and will always make written to do lists. Another tip about goals is to make sure they are SMART goals. S- Specific, M- Measurable, A- Achievable, R- Relevant and T- Time bound.
10. Surround yourself with POSITIVE people! Believe it or not, some of the world’s most beautiful and talented people are unhappy because they unfortunately have allowed others to tell them (whether directly or indirectly) that they are not enough. You are enough! Cut out the people in your life that drag you down, put you down or always have negative energy! Life is too short to surround yourself with negativity. Positive energy feels sooo good! Just make sure you aren’t that “Negative Nancy”! Be thankful for the things you have and always find the good in every situation. “Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe… Positive Vibes Only”
BONUS TIP:Laugh MORE! All the time… every day! Even at yourself!
Look at you honey…. On your way to a more happier more peaceful you already. 😉
Follow me on FB and IG: @shescharissmatic #SelfLove #ReflectionsWithRiss
(The following article was written as a press release for Stephens PLLC)
When you think “construction law firm” what comes to mind? How about the picture above? This is what we love about Stephens PLLC, a Houston area construction law boutique that is breaking the mold of minority law firms.
According to the American Bar Association “ABA” only 5% of all licensed attorneys are African American and very few of them practice construction law. In fact, recently the largest organization of construction lawyers in the world, the ABA Forum for Construction Law, came to the realization that only 2.5% of all of its members are African American and launched a diversity initiative to help increase overall diversity.
“I noticed after law school that many of my classmates and other alumni all seemed to practice criminal defense, family law, immigration law, and personal injury. Eventually, I realized I wanted to do something different….” -Kenneth Stephens
Kenneth did just that. In 2015, he began focusing all the firm’s efforts on construction law and it paid off. The firm now represents construction companies throughout Texas and their clients range from small contracting firms to Fortune 100 companies.
Kenneth Stephens, Managing Attorney at Stephens PLLC
Presenting for the National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) January 2018
More importantly, those clients are highly satisfied with the work that this firm is performing. Check out a quote from one of their largest contracting clients.
“Kenneth Stephens and his colleagues at Stephens PLLC have been a welcome addition to The Beck Group’s outside counsel group. The firm is very responsive, creative and hard-working and has developed an understanding of our contracts and business model. Additionally, the firm renders services at a very reasonable fee and is willing to consider flexible fee arrangements. I look forward to expanding The Beck Group’s legal counsel relationship with this firm in 2018.” – Tonya Johannsen The Beck Group
What is most surprising is that Kenneth believes one of the biggest barriers keeping minority law firms from entering this space is their own misguided belief that they will not be able to get work. When discussing the possibility of performing work for large companies, Kenneth would often find that minority firms simply believed they could not get the work and would immediately write the idea off. In fact, one African American actually told Kenneth that he was too small, too young, and too black to play in that pond.
“I am not saying that it is easy to get this kind of work. You have to put the time into learning a very complex body of law, be willing to work your but off and be patient. Sometimes it is tough but if you immediately write yourself off the answer is always no. We’ve been blessed with the ability to develop strong relationships with general counsels, many of whom do not look like us. We’ve also always had the humility to do starter projects because we understood it was a foot in the door and that our performance would make companies want to expand their relationship with us.”
Sometimes you just have to ignore the naysayer and bet on yourself. We did and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.
Stephens PLLC was recently featured in an article published by the premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans.
Hello love. If you follow my blog you know some of my story. You know that this year has been a crazy one for me. This notion holds true all the way up until weeks before my birthday (Sept. 14, 2017). So much has happened in just the past couple of weeks that I need to write a 3-part blog. Fitting… I guess seeing as how this is 30.
To ring in the big 3-0 I had the experience of enduring a natural disaster. Reminiscent of my 21st birthday (during Hurricane Ike) I found myself hunkering down in the midst of Hurricane Harvey.
On the Thursday of the storm we had a “hurricane party”. Daiquiris, music, games and lots of fun. My sister and her boyfriend came over to join me, my husband and my brother -in-law. The 5 of us had a great time!
The next day… things got REAL. I think we all underestimated the effects of this storm and even took certain warnings to be “alternative facts” as the local news advised. Nothing prepared my city (Houston, Texas) for the massive flood event that took place as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Within a day or two, Hurricane Harvey barreled its way through the gulf coast leaving an unprecedented amount of rain fall to coastal cities and all the way inland to Houston and surrounding areas. By Saturday… the city of Houston was under water.
My brother-in-law was visiting from Georgia and in town for his 21st birthday, ironically. He and my husband were planning to fly out to Vegas to celebrate his 21st which was also the same weekend as the Mayweather fight. Instead he took him to Top Golf. Houston airports were under water and closed for days so obviously they didn’t make it to Vegas. For my brother in-law’s birthday, I cooked a hearty meal and my husband made pancakes for dessert. We so wished we could’ve done more for him but he was so grateful for the little things.
I don’t know which was more terrifying, the tornado warnings which required us to take shelter in our master closet downstairs or watching the flood water rise up my driveway with each passing day of rain. If the house were to flood we would need to be upstairs…but if a tornado were to touch down nearby we would need to be downstairs. The whole ordeal was emotionally draining!
We elevated all the furniture on the first floor as best we could, packed bags, prayed ceaselessly then just hoped for the best while being prepared for the worst.
For 6 days we were trapped inside of the house which was surrounded by water on all sides. By day 5 our food supply was running low so my husband and bro-in-law trudged through the flood waters (in home made rain boots) to the nearest open store to get us some food items. They held it down!
Overhead, was the national guard and on the ground were huge government trucks sent to rescue people who had water rise to dangerous levels in their homes. It was a scene I have never witnessed first hand and will NEVER forget as long as I live. Miraculously… my home experienced no flooding and we did not even lose power, not once… #blessed.
[Press Play Below]
Fast forward. After about 6 days of being unable to leave our house, the waters receded enough for us to pack up and leave. My husband, brother-in-law, dog and I journeyed to the north-side of Houston to my parents house. We encountered a couple of close calls on the highway due to high standing water and the drive which would normally take 45 minutes took almost 2 hours.
Being at my parents house that night was overwhelmingly relieving. We enjoyed an amazing home cooked meal then drove out to Dallas the next morning. It was the nearest and safest city we could fly out of. We had to get my bro-in-law back home to GA and were also looking forward to our much needed vacation in the Caribbean which had been booked months before to celebrate my 30th birthday.
We took every pre-caution and called the cruise liner (Carnival). They informed that our trip was still on schedule even despite the tropical storm that is now brewing in the Atlantic. Tropical storm Irma was still several thousands of miles away at that time and they insured it would not interfere with the travel itinerary. Excitedly, we set sail from the Port of Miami to the Caribbean on Sept. 2….
The cruise was set for Sept. 2nd – Sept 7th. Just a quick little get away to the islands. What excited me most was that I would be seeing some places on this cruise for the first time; such as Halfmoon Cay Island (which is privately owned by Carnival) and Grand Turk Island in Turks and Caicos.
I felt so fortunate to be able to travel and have a ‘baecation’ especially with all that was going on back home. Hell, I was happy just making it out of the neighborhood! The cruise was EPIC!
We had soooo much fun on that boat!
From the casino, to the eateries, the clubs, the comedy shows, our live karaoke performances, learning about fine art and participating in our first fine art auction…
It’s a celebration!
We were big kids and had a chance to totally unwind!
The stops at the different islands, Nassau, Halfmoon Cay and Grand Turk… all had a different appeal to them.
Surprisingly, the waters were super calm and it was smooth sailing during the entire trip!
At our last stop, we could feel the locals in Turks and Caicos getting geared up for Irma which had become a Cat 5 Hurricane and expected to make land fall in the next few days. On the boat, everyone spent that last day at sea heading back to the states, still turnt but also watching the weather very closely.
Finally, we dock back in Miami. We disembark from the boat early Thursday morning and head straight to the airport to see if we can catch an earlier flight back to Dallas. Since no other flights were available, we sat at the airport ALL day anxiously awaiting this flight to fly us back home to safety. Harvey had moved on from Houston and now we are in Florida where Hurricane Irma is expected to sweep through and yield catastrophic damage.
From 10am to 9:30pm we waited. By this time our flight was an hour late due to waiting on the flight crew to arrive from their previous flight. We felt the nervousness creep up our throats as we heard other flights being cancelled while waiting and just prayed ours wouldn’t be.
The airports were like a zoo… literally. Tons of people with their dogs, cats, parakeets, etc! Everyone was flying out and evacuating Florida. Side note: Have you ever been on a plane with a ton of pets? I can’t recall a time that I have. Are there special aircraft for these types of flights? Leave a comment below if you have.
Finally, they board our flight (over an hour late) and he crew make it onto the plane… looking beat down. As I’m waiting on this plane to take off I doze off on my hubby’s shoulder. Several minutes later I am awakened by gasps, sighs, moans, outcries and curse words as a response to the heart wrenching news on the speaker that says, “Unfortunately, folks we have to cancel this flight. We can’t fly out.” (Insert expletives!!! %&@!$%)
The crazy part is, the weather directly overhead hadn’t even really gotten bad yet but apparently the pilot was about to go over his consecutive flight time limit. (Some law that makes it illegal for pilots to fly the plane past a consecutive number of hours.) Spirit Airlines (smh) offered no alternative for all of us that were on that plane to make it home and meanwhile a Cat 5 hurricane is coming straight for us. It seems that due to this technicality of not being able to fly, they should’ve known/ planned ahead and told us sooner so that instead of waiting at the airport all day for this flight that wasn’t even happening, we could’ve tried to book another one! We were sooo close to making it in the clear! Noooo……
Sidenote: Retelling this story exhausts me but writing is therapeutic for me and it is always good to get my thoughts written out. Thanks for reading… keep on reading.
So with the flight being canceled, I go into semi panic mode. I can no longer hold back emotion – tears run down my face. Everyone is looking crazy. Meanwhile my husband is trying to see if he can find any airline ticket flying ANYWHERE in the U.S. just to get us out of there!
Once I collect myself, I head to the airline’s ticket counter and begin desperately inquiring about what flight we might still be able to catch. NOTHING. No two seats were available and flying out from Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa or Miami to anywhere in the nation. My husband tried to get me out of Florida without securing a flight for himself and that just wasn’t gonna happen. I was not about to leave my husband! We were gonna ride this thing out together in the airport or nearby shelter if we had to!
We somehow managed to find a rental car and decided to drive out of the state from Ft. Lauderdale! We found ourselves on an evacuation route with the other Floridians and stranded vacationers.
Along the way, struggling to find gas stations that hadn’t ran out of gas, seeing a few car accidents, stalled cars.. surviving on chips and red bull, our bond was forged EVEN deeper. (Just when I think it can’t get NO MO REALER! lol) The drive took us about 17 hours to get out of Florida and to New Orleans. Many people headed north to Georgia (which Irma then went there too) so we were happy with our decision to just head west… closer to home. My husband didn’t sleep for 32 hours straight. Our last night of rest was the last day at sea on the cruise days before. Mind you, we partied that night. lol We were EXHAUSTED!!
By the time we got to New Orleans I’m sure we looked like zombies. We were most certainly refugees. Some kind of way, we mustered up the strength to go have dinner with good friends on Canal St. near Bourbon Street. When we got back, we passed out. Next morning, we had the hotel breakfast and went back to sleep. Finally, it was time to head to the airport and catch our flight to Dallas. Once we landed in Dallas, we took an Uber to our car which stayed in the hotel parking lot this whole time THEN… finally, drove to Houston.
Getting back home has never felt so good. The city was looking better but a lot of places were still trying to recover from the flood. I had never seen the sky so clear or felt such cool temperatures in September. We streamed church Sunday morning then slept the rest of the day. This past Monday was my first time seeing the damage Hurricane Harvey caused in my neighborhood.
Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath in a part my neighborhood
I still can’t believe that we went through all that! This is one hell of a way to bring in a birthday. Through it all, I feel EXTREMELY blessed and grateful that God has protected us and our home. Things could have been so much worse. Some of my neighbors have lost everything. I’m grateful for those people and organizations that have provided aid for my fellow Houstonians. God has seen me through so much ya’ll. I am praying for all those who have been affected during this hurricane season (including the beautiful islands we had the chance to visit just days before Hurricane Irma).
Anyway, so that is my crazy story. Lordt. lol I am praying that my 30s are really good to me. I feel like the best is yet to come. Cheers to the next 30!!! Thanks for reading. Peace, Love and Light. – The birthday girl. xo
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It is so important to surround yourself with positive people who uplift, encourage and inspire you to be the best version of yourself. With everything that I am striving to achieve in life, it becomes more and more apparent that energy drives progress.To be surrounded by ambitious people is important to me because I enjoy listening and sharing my goals and aspirations with people that I know and trust well. I enjoy listening and sharing for a few reasons.
Listening to others share their ambitions puts me in a position to be helpful. I enjoy helping people and contributing to a cause, project and/or goal when I see great potential in something or someone. This habit is not only genuinely enjoyable for me, but has also led to some amazingly productive conversations, outstanding collaborations, and long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
Sharing my goals with very select individuals that I know and trust well allows me to vocalize my goals. I always write my goals down (and this is advised for anyone) but when my tongue declares my goals aloud… it is powerful. There is POWER in the tongue. Especially when sharing with a like-minded, motivating individual because that energy can be reciprocated. You can tell if the relationship is healthy because you can express without fear of judgment, ridicule or unwarranted criticism from the receiver of your goals, dreams and ambitions.
I’m a conversationalist by nature. lol
As powerful as the tongue is, the mind is that times a MILLION. “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” – Gandhi
The ambitious understand, nothing is impossible… everything is reachable. I believe this so much and I am grateful to be a co-founder of an incredible professional networking organization that was founded upon these very principles!LeAunierallows it’s members the opportunity to network with other professionals and go-getters from all sorts of educational and professional backgrounds. This empowering membership based organization brings together a wide variety of people who may have never otherwise met.
Our membership consists of young African American doctors, nurses, lawyers, successful business owners, esteemed educators, city officials, financial analysts, HR professionals, etc, etc. We are a pretty mixed bag and that’s what makes us great! It’s about the collective!
We are establishing and fortifying long-lasting relationships, helping each other get to the next level and having FUN doing so! We believe in balance. Just as hard as we all work, we also like to play. LeAunier offers epic events such as yacht parties, group travel, holiday parties at beautiful venues, wonderful brunches and dinners where we fellowship and discuss our goals over great food, exclusive member only benefits, party bus events, community service events, opportunities for our members to become mentors to youth in the community, a private social platform where we encourage each other almost daily, and so much more!
I recommend that everyone become a part of a network/group that offers professional networking, positive energy, empowering tools, wonderful friendships and of course an opportunity to unwind and have a great time.
CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW to learn more about the organization and how to join!Follow @LeAunieron FacebookandInstagram to make sure you stay informed about our upcoming events!
Thanks for reading! xo
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