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Manifesting A Dream: Pur Noire Wines

CRAFTSMANSHIP YOU CAN TASTE

“A Passion for Wine and Experiences…”

In 2014, Carissa and Kenneth Stephens decided to “splurge” and buy a nice bottle of wine. After speaking with a sommelier, they opted for a Pinotage as it was vinted and imported by people of color. They found this interesting as they had not heard of minority-owned wine brands. After tasting the wine, the two were smitten. They began expanding their palates and deepening their passion for wine.

A year later, they traveled to Italy, one of their favorite wine regions, and had the pleasure of pairing great Italian food with excellent Italian wine, including some of the best Barolo and Chianti Classico that they’d ever tasted. Sipping glasses of fruit-forward Chianti Classico while being enchanted by the magic of the Venetian atmosphere and the beauty of the Tuscan landscape created an experience so sublime that it resonated within their spirits.  These unforgettable experiences deepened their passion for wine and piqued their interest in the wine industry.

In 2017, they were approached by an entrepreneur about an opportunity to be part owners in a luxury wine club that was sponsored by an iconic media brand. Despite being extremely excited to be involved in the launch of a business in the wine industry, putting up their capital, and publicly promoting the brand, they found themselves disappointed in the quality of the wine as well as the club’s overall operations.  They gave up their interest in the company and nearly decided to forgo the wine industry altogether.

However, a  little over a year later, the two decided to pull away from their personal entrepreneurial ventures to work together and develop their own wine brand. They knew that they wanted to create high-quality wine and combine it with memorable experiences. If they could create wines and experiences that helped give others that feeling that they experienced in Italy, they knew their wines would be a hit.

After selecting the varietals, vineyards, and winemaker they decided on the name Pur Noire to pay homage to Carissa’s French Creole roots and they began producing The Pur Collection.  The collection would feature their complex Petit Sirah based blend, Pinot Gris, and Tempranillo Rosé. They planned to release their first vintage of the Pur Collection on March 21, 2020, at a release event for 150 guests that had completely sold out by March 1, 2020.

Unfortunately, by March 16, 2020, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, both the CDC and Donald Trump issued guidelines limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. Also, many local government officials issued stay at home orders. It appeared that once again, the Stephens’ wine venture would be short-lived.

After much debate and careful consideration, they decided to launch the brand despite the global pandemic. They moved the launch event online and experienced great success! They nearly sold out of their proprietary Red Blend in their first 90 days of operation.

Although the pandemic has not allowed Pur Noire to create the kind of experiences it originally envisioned, the quality of its wine is praised by its customers and industry professionals. This validates the Stephens’s decision to persevere and continue to push their way into this industry. In the future, they look forward to combining their quality wine with unforgettable experiences to give others the euphoric feeling that they experienced early into their wine journey.

Source: Pur Noire

Visit Pur Noire at www.purnoirewines.com

Vision 2020

I typically don’t list out my goals for public viewing so just consider this a personal journal entry that happens to be on the internet. If nothing else, it will help me better visualize my goals for the year while also holding me accountable to them. Consider the context of these goals a life update. So here they are… in no particular order:

  1. Launch Pur Noire (Noire Wines LLC) to the public on March 21st and sale most if not all of our product within one year while planning and preparing for our future events and vintage releases.
  2. Positively change lives by exposing more people to the wonderful world of wine. Beyond just pushing my own brand and beyond merely getting people to say they “like” wine, but getting into the nuances and eccentricities of wine… cultivating experience through wine education.
  3. Explore my Masters program at Harvard (HES). I have been focused on my long term career more lately and have come to the conclusion that I want a long-term career as a journalist. I’d like to further my education in this field. Knowing this, I explored online journalism programs and of a short list of schools and after speaking with enrollment advisers, Harvard Extension School made the top of the list. So I took the Critical Reading and Writing Skills test which is a requirement to enroll in the pro-seminar courses, I scored well! I then made sure I enrolled in the spring term for my first pro-seminar course. In the weeks leading up to tuition being due, opportunities with my brands revealed themselves. I realized that my resources needed to be focused on the successful launch and sustainability of Pur Noire while the brand is still in infancy. I’d like to re-enroll in my pro-seminar courses which will be applied toward my degree at Harvard Extension School, after we’ve gotten a handle of things for Pur Noire and the ship can somewhat sail on auto-pilot. Maybe considering the Fall or Winter term and if not then, Spring of next year.
  4. Be more consistent with content for all of my brands on all platforms.
  5. Secure more public speaking and event hosting opportunities. I already have one event lined up which will be taking place on February 22nd and it will be my second time hosting Sip, Style & Slay for T&C Beauty Supply Store. With this goal, I’ll also include more (live) television opportunities. Last year, I was featured on live television for modeling or for leading beauty segments 5 times. In 2020, my goals is to obtain at least 4 new live television opportunities. I am most definitely on track to achieve this goal. Stay tuned 😉
  6. Find a mentor. So… I am a mentor. I mentor 3 women. I pour into so many around me, daily. But one of my goals is to identify individuals (at least two) who I can build a professional mentor/ mentee relationship with but actually be the mentee this time. I’d love to find a solid business mentor in the field of journalism and a solid one that is a seasoned wine maker.
  7. Join (re-join) a Houston area trade organization in my field. Houston Association of Black Journalists is of interest. I also need to find one as it relates to Wine and Spirits and/ or minority business owners. I’ve previously served on boards for the Houston Minority Supplier Diversity Committee and the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce for the law firm that my husband built when I was working for the firm as the Business Development Manager. Maybe I should make a reintroduction as now a wine maker. Hmm I’m literally just thinking out loud…
  8. Become active in a ministry at my church. In the spirit of keeping things consistent, I am interested in joining the Communications ministry at my church. I’d also really love to contribute to the church announcements, The Avenue News. I attend a large church with a large local and even virtual audience. We pay our tithes and are good parishioners, but I’ve been a member of my church for 7 years now and have felt compelled to join a ministry for quite a while now! I’ve sent emails to key persons, have attended a training and have been having the right conversations. Now I just need to be told when and where! I’m so ready for this. I think this would be a perfect fit because of my previous experience plus I’m passionate about broadcast and public speaking. It will also be a great learning opportunity.
  9. Better time management. My time is pretty divided and sometimes can lose track of time so a huge personal goal of mine is to achieve better time management skills. With that, I hope to have more productive days which allow me to crush my goals, keep my house cleaner, cook at home more often and work out at least 3x a week. I have bought a new planner that can hopefully keep me better organized with my daily, weekly and monthly tasks. So far so good! The planner I bought is AMAZING. You can buy it here: Law of Attraction Planner.
  10. Better overall health. Besides working out with some consistency as mentioned above, this also means making healthier food decisions more often, more consistent self-care activities including more quiet time, prayer and meditation, and leaving toxic relationships at the door. That last piece is a big one! No room for negativity or disruptive ENERGY in 2020! I’m planning on living my best life while striving for my goals.
  11. Support more black owned businesses. It’s important for future generations, the current state of the black community, critical to promote interracial unity AND I expect people to support my black owned business(es). Even when it’s a little less “convenient”. I can do better. You can too. We need to keep our hard earned dollars circulating in our own communities MUCH longer to support our infrastructure and other black families. Black people are reported some of the highest spenders but we give our money away to businesses that do not benefit our people beyond the often time frivolous items that we are buying. Let’s be more conscious about buying black. If you are a black business owner, please drop your business below in the comments!
  12. Continue giving my daughter and my husband the best of me every single day even though my plate seems full and my goals, tremendous.

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Be so encouraged friends! What is a goal that you have for 2020? Let me know in a comment below!

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7 Things I Learned During My First Holiday Season as a Mom

So I did it! My first Christmas in the books as a mama! With the season came so much joy and excitement but also so much to do! Most days during the season felt like a juggling act like never before.

With working to launch my new wine brand soon, fulfilling brand collaborations, traveling for work, juggling so many social obligations with family and friends, Christmas shopping and being a present wife and mama… whoo! It was a lot! Not to mention planning for my daughters 1st birthday which is the weekend between Christmas and New Years!!!

We had a huge birthday bash for her! Although I was extremely grateful for the level at which we celebrated her first year of life, the party planning and even day of had me feeling stretched thin and stressed out hunny!

Reflecting on the beauty of the season has me feeling so grateful that everything turned out beautifully but it also has taught me a few things.

Here are 7 things I learned from my first holiday season as a new mama:

1) Get each day started early. The days go by fast, it gets dark early and it’s best to have more time for relaxation in the evening.

2) Double check accuracy of mailing addresses and go to the post office early. I sent a gift to the wrong address and someone even sent me a card to the wrong address. Moral of the story, always confirm addresses before shipping off gifts or greeting cards.

3) The Children’s Museum is lit! We were invited to join my good friend and her son for a play date and I felt like a kid again in that place! Kammy got pics with Santa, we made ginger bread men and explored so many fun things!

4) Always anticipate plus ones… twos and three’s to your event and plan accordingly. We almost took major Ls with headcount at my daughter’s birthday party because our venue was very strict. Fortunately, everything worked out and she got to be celebrated by so many family members and friends.

5) Kids will be kids. They tear shit up. The toddlers tore up the play area I had at my daughter’s birthday party. Also, with my child’s birthday being so close to Christmas, I realized some of her gifts can be stored away and opened gradually. Kids have short attention spans so this way they are discovering new things overtime verses all at once.

6) Less is more. Don’t overload yourself and ask for help. Don’t try to be Martha Stewart, Misses Claus and Betty Crocker all at once. Also, my daughter won’t have another large scale birthday party for years to come unless she expresses that she wants one… and maybe not even then. It’s too much. lol

7. Wine down… often. Wine just makes everything better. It help take the edge off your day so you can de-stress. When I’ve had a very full and productive day, I often like to treat myself to a glass of wine while relaxing at home. Even better with a home cooked meal followed by Christmas movies. Try my wine when it becomes available direct to consumer on March 21st. Order here: www.purnoirewines.com

Here’s to a very memorable holiday season in the books and to a prosperous new year for all!

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My Top 5 Habits For Keeping It Sexy

I get messaged often about how I maintain my physic and what my fitness regimen is, especially after having a baby. I wasn’t sure if I’d “snap back” or how I’d feel about my body when I looked in the mirror postpartum. The God honest truth is… I don’t really have a regimen. What I do have is a few good habits that I strongly believe have helped me throughout the different phases of womanhood including now being somebody’s mama. With these 5 habits incorporated into my regular routine, I feel more confident and sexy in my own skin than ever before.

Here are 5 EASY habits you can incorporate into your regular routine!

1) Devote more time for yourself. Women are BAD ASS! We bear the weight of the world between birthing humans, raising and nurturing them, many of us while also working, being good and present wives, keeping ourselves up and contributing to society/ our communities in other ways. When our responsibilities tend to soak up our very last ounce of energy, we somehow find a way to keep showing up, pushing forward and making it look a lot easier than it actually is! No one can take care of you, like you! In order to be our best for our loved ones, we must prioritize self-care. It is mandatory that we find time to relax, de-stress and frankly treat ourselves to moments of doing whatever it is we need to do to feel more centered. Did you know that stress causes cortisol levels in the body to raise which can contribute to weight gain or the retention of fat? Particularly in our mid-sections?! Taking a moment for yourself to relax can not only lower measurable amounts of cortisol in your body but also reduce your risk for stress-eating which also causes weight gain.

2) Sleep more! Sleep studies show, that individuals who get the optimal amount of 8 hours of sleep nightly, weigh significantly less on average while also reducing their chances for certain ailments. We need to fully recharge our mind and our muscles with sleep. Personally, when I’m tired I’m cranky and it isn’t cute! Beauty sleep is a real thing!

3) Laugh more! It relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter boosts the immune system by increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Also, all that contracting of your abdominal muscles is decent core work! A recent study revealed that individuals who laugh often are perceived as more attractive and confident.

4) Expressive recreation! That is physical activity that doesn’t really feel like a workout to you. It can be ANYTHING that you love to do and gets your body moving. Dancing, park strolls, even MORE sex!

5) Drink more… wine! Did you think I was going to say water? Of course you should be drinking water as well. I have a new found love and appreciation for good wine. So much so that I’m launching a wine brand, Pur Noire. Healthline, among others, have reported on the potential health benefits of drinking wine and the run down is as follows: Wine is rich in antioxidants which promotes longevity; it may combat inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is harmful and may increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and certain cancers. Therefore, it’s best to prevent this type of inflammation as much as possible; wine promotes heart health, mental health and healthy gut bacteria which may improve metabolic syndrome markers in people with obesity. (Source: Healthline)

What things do you do to keep it sexy? Let me know in the comments below.

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5 Things Motherhood Has Taught Me About Myself

Last weekend I celebrated my 32nd birthday. A new year of life always brings much reflection. I realized how much I’ve learned about myself from my last birthday to now. A lot has changed in my life recently, thus changing how I operate in certain ways. Bringing my daughter, Kamara, into the world last year has helped me to learn a great deal about myself. Becoming a mom has clarified many aspects of my personality and perception of the world. Here are 5 things motherhood has taught me about myself.

I’m extremely protective. As a big sister, I’ve always known that I was protective to a certain extent. Even with my friends I’m somewhat protective. Since becoming someone’s mother, my need to protect is on a whole ‘notha level! At almost 9 months, my daughter is supremely ambitious. She is standing on her own, scaling the ottoman in my living room, expressing a curiosity towards the doggy door and reaching for EVERYTHING! I know I need to let her explore a bit, even stumble and fall… but her gentle topples and shaky stance rocks me to my core! lol I watch her like a hawk during playtime and try as hard as I can to prevent her from hurting herself. The same holds true for my view towards her contact with germs. I hate feeling like she’s exposed to dangers seen and unseen. She’s a tough cookie though so I’m trying not to be so type A when it comes to this.

I love to plan ahead but can thrive on the fly. The Virgo in me loves and frankly demands planning ahead. I need things calendared, to-do lists prioritized by level of importance and a general forecast for the weeks and months ahead. Since becoming a mom, this has in some ways heightened. Mostly due to the fact that I am now responsible for another human and I can’t just get up and go wherever I want to all the time. It takes a lot to make arrangements for the entire or get everyone situated for an activity. Not to mention sometimes calling in my sitter (ie. Mama Pam who is living her BEST retired life and tends to be booked and busy herself!) My house is child proofed and looks a lot like a daycare most of the time so random pop ups make me uncomfortable. However, I try to remain as flexible as possible because variety is the spice of life. I am still open to spontaneous flights of fancy and when called to it, I rise to the occasion.

I’m resilient AF. I have been through a few challenging yet defining moments in my life, but my JOURNEY to motherhood takes the cake. Having endured a pregnancy loss in the past, followed by a challenging pregnancy that left me in the hospital for three months and delivering via an emergency c-section, showed me that I am very strong willed and can handle whatever life throws at me. Did I mention I was admitted back to the hospital postpartum AFTER bringing my baby home?! I stayed overnight with my newborn and husband in the same room that I was an antepartum patient in one night as medical staff monitored my blood pressure because my body was retaining water like a puffer fish. This is caused my blood pressure to become elevated to the point of concern. Through it all, I give God the glory for an ultimately favorable outcome and for molding me through my experience. Of course I had my moments… but true to form, I maintained my joyousness and optimism throughout the most challenging time of my life. “God is with her, she cannot fail.”

I look on the bright side of everything. With my testimony above, I can honestly say that so much good came out of my journey to motherhood. My faith was strengthened and so was my marriage. I got to really see the stuff my relationship was made of. I got to see who around me was really supportive and I got to understand and better appreciate my own strength. I tried to find reasons to laugh and express gratitude as often as possible throughout. My friend said to me jokingly the other day, “Girl, it could be the end of days and you’ll be like – well we might as well enjoy it!” I look at each day as such a blessing, more than ever before. I’ll never take the way the sun feels on my face for granted because I know what it feels like to not have that feeling for three months straight. Watching the seasons change is probably one of the most subtle yet rewarding observations of nature in our human experience. I was in the hospital on this day (first day of fall) last year. If you know me, you know I’ve always been as festive as they come. Oh but now!…

I absolutely love being in my home. I have been intentional about creating a home space with my husband that is rooted in peace, love and joy. We have achieved such a space and I am very grateful for that. I don’t get restless or bored at home. I couldn’t say this about 6 or 7 years ago. Home feels so good. I’m able to entertain and be entertained in my home beyond what I could’ve imagined prior. I used to be such a busy body! I’m so glad I’ve matured to appreciate the little things like cuddling up under a blanket with my sweet little family to enjoy a movie or drinking coffee from my breakfast table while writing for this blog and enjoying the natural sunlight that enters my home. Or sitting in my backyard on the patio set and watching the sun set over our lake while enjoying a glass of wine. These have all become weekly objectives that I love.

Motherhood is everything I dreamed of and more. It has made me a better person. It brings and indescribable amount of love and joy into my heart and home.

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A Love Letter To My Younger Self

Dear Young Queen,

You are MAGIC.

You do not have to bend to anyone’s expectations of you, period.

You can thrive living fully in your passions and will someday be able to monetize them all.

You are worthy of a great love. A love that surpasses what you can even imagine right now… and that love is coming, I promise.

Your voice matters… now and always.

The girls in your circle that you call your friends, will always be your friends. Trust me, they’re as real as they come. You’re lucky.

The few disingenuous stragglers that share a moment of time and space with you will weed themselves out, eventually.

Always trust your intuition.

School is important… but don’t trip about perfect grades. Several of the worlds wealthiest won’t even have a college degree in the future.

Dream baby… don’t let anyone make you feel like being a dreamer is a bad idea.

Remain free-spirited.

Don’t choose things just because they feel like a “safe route.”

Life will throw you some lemons… I’m going to let you know that right now.

But you’ll make lemonade… every single time.

You are stronger than you realize.

Your potential is limitless.

I love you.

carissa

Feature: Carissa Stephens Voyage Houston Magazine Feature and Interview!

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.

(Press Play for Preview)

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.

Read how my interview went here: http://voyagehouston.com/interview/life-work-carissa-stephens/

I want to hear your stories as well! What field are you in currently? What do you love most about what you do? Leave me a comment below!

Thanks for reading! xo -Riss

carissa

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Reflections: Motherhood, Marriage, Multiple Businesses, Self-Maintenance… and Finding Balance??

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

carissa

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Reflections: My Journey To Motherhood

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.

THE UNEXPECTED

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!


FAVOR is when you don’t look like what you’ve been through!!!

God 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’ 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

PREGNANT… AGAIN

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.

BEDREST

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 desiring 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!

HALLOWEEN 2018

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

Hubby helping to keep me well moisturized

THANKSGIVING 2018

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

Kamara’s grandparents

OUR TRIBE

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!

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 out 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.

REMAINING CHARISMATIC ME!

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.

BTS

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 gifted 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!!!

When I first got wheelchair privileges shortly before being discharged

HOME…

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. My answered prayer. 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!!!

BE ENCOURAGED

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.

Thanks for reading! Love & Light xoxo -Mama Riss

#ShesChaRISSmatic #CarissaStephens #Pregnancy #Journey #Testimony #RainbowBaby #KamaraMichelleStephens #PrincessK #StephensPartyofThree #AnsweredPrayer #2017Lemons #2018Lemonade #2019LemonadeStand #ImNotCryingYoureCrying

carissa

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Travel: The TX Wine Country

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!

Brisket-Stuffed Jalapenos

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

carissa

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