It’s been a year in the making, but it’s officially here. My daughter has published her first children’s book titled, Bailee’s Nail Box. And she didn’t stop there, but she published a coloring and activity book to go along with it as well.
Why did it take so long? I will be honest, it was me. My daughter wrote this book in 2021, but then I had to find an editor, which was actually easy. The hard part was finding a good illustrator. After searching high and low, interviewing people, etc., we found a great company. They captured the essence of Bailee perfectly (and I even make an appearance or two in the book), but the process was just way longer than I expected. There were just so many approvals, changes (if something wasn’t right), but it took months longer to get this book in our hand.
Originally, I wanted this book as a surprise for her 8th grade graduation. Here we are in August, in full swing into her 9th grade year. However, we’re here!
Bailee’s new book, Bailee’s Nail Box, is for children ages 4-8 and based on Bailee’s journey with her love for nails and starting her business. She shares how going to the nail shop as a little girl transitioned into her own nail stand outside, to a full blown box that shipped all around the country.
It’s also about how she learns that change can be sad and hard, but can also be full of good surprises.
Read here to flash back when Bailee first started her business, and here we are today. I am proud of her for finishing this project and pray this is the first of many books for Bailee.
May is National Foster Care Month. Started in 1988, The U.S. government has issued annual proclamations in recognition of National Foster Care Month, celebrated in May, to show appreciation and gratitude to foster parents across the nation. Although we are grateful for foster care parents, we also honor foster youth and support them as they age out of the system.
In honor of National Foster Care Month, Saturday, May 14th at 6pm we are hosting our First Virtual Wine Tasting Fundraiser and you’re invited! The tasting flights are $59. It includes a $15 credit towards 4 or more full size bottles from One Hope Wine.
10% of all sales go to our nonprofit The Knighten Project to aid in the purchase of new suitcases for teens aging out of foster care.
Purchase your wine flights by April 30th to avoid shipping delays.
Share the link with friends so they can join the wine tasting fundraiser and support The Knighten Project.
Join the event via zoom on 5.14.22 at 6pm Zoom link: Meeting ID: 867 9634 8377 Passcode: 023387
** FYI ** If you want to purchase additional wines, or don’t want to attend the virtual wine tasting, but still want to support via this fundraiser, you can still order any wine off of this site and will still receive 10% of the sale. ** Link for all other orders: https://www.onehopewine.com/event/127552
Who is One Hope Wine?
A Winery That is Built on Hope and Rooted in Purpose. Like most stories worth telling, theirs begins with a group of friends, humble beginnings, and a skyward vision. They were working for some of the world’s largest wineries and they all felt an undeniable calling to do good. What started with 168 cases and a white pick-up has grown to become a state-of-the-art flagship winery in the heart of Napa Valley.
Their founders saw firsthand just how much impact a bottle of wine can have. They began hosting wine tastings to raise money for important causes and encouraged and inspired others to do the same. Today, ONEHOPE is one of the largest direct-to-consumer wineries in the world and has proudly donated over $8 million to local and global causes.
Our Goal is to provide teens aging out of foster care with brand new suitcases filled with everyday essentials as they transition into adulthood.
FYI – 5 Facts about Teens Aging out of Foster Care
400,000 children There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States on any given day.
Less than 3% earn a college degree by age 26.
Only 50% find employment by age 24. Half of all foster youth who age out of the system are able to find a job that can support them. Those who do find employment tend not to earn much money.
60% of young women who age out end up in the sex industry. With low prospects of employment and few career skills, many turn to the sex industry to support themselves. Sex work is a familiar avenue for many of these young women; 60% of all sex trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system.
25% of youth who age out are dealing with PTSD. Compared to 4% of the general population, 25% of foster youth who age out of the system are dealing with unaddressed PTSD. The vast majority of foster youth enter the system because of abuse or neglect, but even for those who have not been exposed to trauma, the foster care system can be an extremely traumatizing place. Uncertainty, a lack of healthy and stable relationships with adults, and the risk of abuse within foster care leaves many children with untreated PTSD after leaving the system.
if you offer any resources that will help these teens who are aging out, please let us know. We’d love to add your business to our resource list that goes in each one of our suitcases.
This past Saturday night I experienced my first Mother Son Dance. It seems like I’ve been waiting his whole life for an experience like this. My son is apart of Gentlemen’s Quest, and they held their first Queen’s Ball which was SO Memorable for me for a few reasons:
I’ve never been to a mother son dance (while the hubs & Bailee have been to countless father/daughter events)
My son was excited to take me and had so many hidden surprises.
Earl read a beautiful poem to me, he blessed the food for the room & he lead their dance performance (singing to ME) Boys to Men, Mama! Tears!! Really, I cried tears.
All of the sons read their moms a poem too btw.
We danced, ate good, laughed at the comedian and just made a beautiful memory.
Check out our IG video of my son and I getting ready
Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa Inc. is dedicated to helping our program participants realize their full potential as students, make positive choices regarding their academics and behavior, and equip them with the skills necessary to become productive citizens after they graduate. To accomplish this mission, we host workshops and activities that will provide students with strategies to be successful in difficult situations. Students attend meetings that are structured and targeted. The academic and behavioral progress of the students are monitored regularly. Throughout this process, their intellectual, emotional, and relational capacity expands by providing key experiences that contribute to their developmental growth.
Here are a few pics and videos from the event. Get your tissues ready!
I promise Boys II Men song, Mama, will forever have a whole new meaning to me. I probably won’t be able to listen to that song without crying now. Have you ever been to a Mothers Son dance? How was your experience?
They called me a Valrico mom on a mission. I was so excited and grateful that abc action news covered our story. Our charity, The Knighten Project is currently in the middle of our holiday donation drive, Packing with Purpose.
The goal is to collect at least 25 suitcases or enough money to purchase what we need for teens aging out of the foster care system. We plan to fill each suitcase with everyday essentials that they need as they transition out of foster care system before Christmas.
We actually collect items and give out filled brand new suitcases all year round now – which I’m so happy about. But our big give is December, with the collection period Oct. 15th – Dec. 15th.
Please share this video/article and learn more about The Knighten Project, our mission and donate if your hearts leads you too.
More that 24,000 kids age out of U.S. Foster Care each year. Without that support that comes from an adoptive family or permanency connection, these kids face instant homelessness. Every donation towards our Packing with Purpose Donation drive will make sure these teens are not forced to carry their personal items in a trash bag. No Trash Bags here!
I promise, I thought we made it. Meaning, we had went over a year without being personally impacted by COVID. Then it paid us a visit.
My daughter and son went to teen night at the skating rink one Friday in July. Then they went to teen night at the church the following night. A few days later (Wednesday), Bailee just wasn’t looking right. It was a look in her eyes. A look of tiredness. I touched her and she was HOT! I took her temperature and it was 102.6. That night her temp got as high as 104.
The next day we got her tested for COVID and it was positive.
I was so scared. SCARED!
There were so many questions about what will happen next. Then came my tears.
The doctor at urgent care told us to give her vitamin D, vitamin C, super B Complex, Zinc and Tylenol. We also added elderberry. We all started taking it, just in case it was coming our way. Two days later, my oldest son had a temperature of 102. And was in the bed all day. We tested him the next day. Positive.
Bailee was down for about 4 days. Earl was down 3. Once that fever broke, they were feeling better and quickly got back to normal. At the same time, I started to feel weird. Oh no!!!!!! Please don’t tell me I have COVID.
I never got tested, but as soon as they were feeling better, I got a fever and felt so weak. I was in the bed for 3 days and lost 5lbs. Day 4, I could hardly walk but it wasn’t because I was sick, it was because I hadn’t eaten. I was weak. After I started eating more, my strength came back and I started to feel better. I only had a fever on day one. I had a headache and just tiredness. Towards the end of the week, my taste and smell left for a few days, but came back. Day 5, I was taking my first walk around the block (with help).
My husband started feeling sick the same day I did (Monday), but unfortunately had a fever for 9 days. The fever lingered between 99 – 102. We were still giving him all of the same vitamins, medicine and even tried some other things people told us to try. Still, a fever for 9 days. I was TERRIFIED! I called his friends and ask them to PRAY! They did.
The fever finally broke on day 10. Currently, we are day 14 with my husband. He is on the other side of it but trying to get his energy back. I’m grateful through it all, he could still breathe and didn’t have any major pain. Just tired and weak. He lost 10 pounds!
I think our cases were still very mild compared to others and for that I’m grateful.
I’m sad that my daughter missed the Jr. Olympics in Texas. She was devastated, but we reassured her she still had an amazing track season, and we will go for it again next year. It was the first week in August, and although she was feeling good – she missed a week of practice and we know she wouldn’t have been competing at her best. Also, because her dad was still recovering, we couldn’t have went anyway.
I took off work to go to Houston, but I spent my vacation nursing my husband back to health and getting my children ready for school. I do not wish Covid on anyone, and that’s even the mild case. The scariest part is not knowing how it will affect you. You just don’t know. Taking care of 2 children COVID, trying to prevent your 3rd from getting it, then nursing yourself back to health while trying to help your husband and still make sure the kids are ok is ALOT!!
Can you say this woman needs a break? Friday, I left and just went to treat myself to a crab boil. It was delish! And next month, I will be headed to Arizona for the first time with friends. I can’t wait. I need this!
Eight means new beginning (August) Sixteen mean love (Year) I am confessing that today starts a new beginning that I will love.
When they say time flies, it really does. It has really been five years since we’ve move to Tampa and oh what an experience it has been for us.
We decided to move to Tampa from Atlanta so I our children could enjoy growing up with their extended family. My husband’s parents are both 1 of 10 and of course they have many many aunts, uncles and cousins. Well, five years later we’re no closer to his family than before we moved here. In the beginning, it just seems like we were trying so hard to be around them but it wasn’t being reciprocated. Have you ever had a friendship where you stopped communicating and realized that you were the one doing all the communication in the first place? That was us. We were doing the most and when we stopped trying to be “apart” of the family and get to know them better – crickets.
The blessing has been that we do live just 6 minutes from my inlaws. I’m happy that my husband is now so close to his parents and 1 hour from his brother. It’s been a great having them up the street and it’s also strengthened the relationships between them and the kids.
When we moved my babies were 3, 8 and 11. They are now 8, 13 and 16!
Lived in a suite for [the first] 2 years while paying off debt. I didn’t know it would be that long.
Trying to make new friends as an adult can be … interesting. Some flourished, some didn’t. Life.
My dad died.
Finding new doctors for family and type 1. We’ve always loved the kids doctors, but ours … whew!
I’m sure I’m missing a few things here and there but overall, it’s been a blessed experience. I miss my friends from Atlanta the most. I also miss the culture in Atlanta. Atlanta’s atmosphere is definitely unmatched. I’m just happy, that since my mom lives there, it always gives me a great reason to go back and visit.
I do not have any regrets about moving to Tampa. We actually don’t live in “Tampa” but a smaller city right outside of it. We can get to Tampa in 15 minutes without getting on the highway. We can cruise out of Tampa and because it’s a city on the water, there are always amazing things we can do on the water. It’s a beautiful city with beautiful weather and I always feel like I’m living in a vacation. I love our neighborhood and we have great neighbors.
I look forward to seeing what the next five years have in store.
Yes, I’m still in shock that we have our own swimming pool.
[VIDEO BELOW] I’ve included a video of the pool process if you’re interested in getting one built. My tip is – buy a house with a pool instead.
Growing up (in a north Chicago suburb) I didn’t have a swimming pool. I didn’t know anyone who did. A pool was for people on TV. It just wasn’t my reality. The only pool I saw growing up was at the YMCA (and that was about 2-3 times). We just went to the beach.
Even when we lived in Atlanta (no one had a pool) and started our family and bought a house, a pool never entered my mind. However, my husband did grow up with a pool and always talked about the good ole pool days! I was still like, “That’s cool – but whatever.” (My mind still couldn’t get there, it was too big for me. Out of my reach).
Well, when we moved to Florida – he said when we buy a house he wants a pool. I told him, “I don’t NEED a pool!” I was serious. I just wanted a screen because bugs run this state! He kept saying he wanted a pool. We then agreed that if we pay off all of our debt, we will get a pool AND PAY CASH FOR IT.
Welp!! We paid off our debt December 2019. I promise, I thought he forgot about that pool nonsense! LOL!! In June 2020, he started inviting people over our house for pool estimates. He was ready. Well, we signed our pool contract in July 2020, they didn’t start construction until November 6th and are finally finished now (around the 1st week of February).
It was an emotional process for me because as I child, I couldn’t conceive this so as an adult I was still not able to. (If that makes sense). However, since my husband did have one – it was no big deal to him. A pool for me was far fetched, out of my reach but as I stand on this deck – it just reminds me how good God is and how he can bless me really give me more than I can ask or think. I did NOT want this pool, but NOW I’m so excited to have it and glad my husband kept going for what he wanted for this family.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood on this patio as it was being built amazed. I kept saying, “I have a pool! My kids will have a swimming pool!” And it’s PAID IN FULL! This is big for me.
We used Tampa Bay pools. What would normally take 4-6 weeks to build a pool, took 10-12 weeks because of COVID and a huge demand for pools. We had 3 other people in our community getting pools at the same time. Everyone used different companies.
Would I recommend Tampa Bay Pools? I would. I give them a solid B. Why? Because we learned later that the gentleman who sold us the pool gave us options he gave everyone and left things out (that we actually wanted and would have paid for) that he also left out with others. There was also a period of time when no one did any work on our yard for 4 weeks with no notice, calls or updates. I actually thought they took our month and dipped. I called up there and they showed up the same day.
The left our yard a complete mess. The man they sent to clean up mentioned that it’s never that bad. Other than that, the end result was beautiful. After it’s over, you have to attend pool school – they teach you how to take care of your pool.
My favorite part
The screen. I love it. I’ve wanted a screen since I moved to Florida. It keeps the bugs, frogs, mosquitoes and the lizards out. Also, its a few degrees cooler under the screen versus the direct sun light. I can sit outside in the morning now and drink my tea or at night and sip on a glass of wine and still enjoy the stars! OMG, I can’t wait.
We’ve already been in the pool (it’s winter, but we have a pool heater and it’s in the 70s and 80s here). Everyone is loving it.
This October (2020) we started the campaign Packing with Purpose Suitcase donation drive. The purpose of the campaign was to give fully packed carry-on suitcases to foster children aging out of the system here in Tampa and other parts of Florida.
Why give suitcases? Many times when children age out of foster care (age 18), they leave with their things in a plastic bag. If they do not have housing available when they age out, they immediately become homeless. We wanted them to at least have a new suitcase to carry their things in and everyday essentials to get started.
Our goal was to pack 25 suitcases.
Thanks to the generosity of so many people, we raised enough to pack close to 100 brand new suitcases! 100!!!!!!!!!!! That is 4x the amount of our goal.
We were able to donate to:
Camelot Community Care – 58 Suitcases
Project Bridge Central – 20 Suitcases
Grow into You Foundation – 5 Suitcases
MaRae’s House – 2 Suitcases
360 Center for Chance – 2 Suitcases
Mending Hearts – 4 Suitcases
Thank you to everyone that donated to Packing with Purpose. These teens were so blessed by everything that you gave. Unfortunately because of privacy concerns, I wasn’t able to actually get pictures with the teens but I did get a few pics with the caregivers as they accepted the suitcases. They shared that as the teens get their suitcases and want to take pics, they will send them our way.
Check out the video of the entire process:
What I’m Most Proud Of
We did this entire campaign with the donations of everyday people that care about the well-being of these teens. We didn’t get any donations from big brands (well, one big brand), stores, or companies. Just amazing everyday people who care! Thank you again!
Shout out to Izzy & Liv! Izzy & Liv is a major brand that did donate 25 each of 8-9 items from their store. It was the only brand that donated. The items are amazing. Unfortunately, they came after the suitcases were packed and already given away. So, we plan to partner with another organization and give them away to some amazing teen girls.
If you want to donate cash towards the next Packing with Purpose Suitcase donation drive & The Knighten Project please donate here.
A big thank you to my team Shatavia Elder, Nadine Samardzija & Aseelah Knighten. These three ladies met and helped me throughout the entire process. We could not have completed this project without their ideas, time, input, and suggestions. Thank you, ladies!
I’d also like to thank Fox News Tampa for featuring us on What’s Right in Tampa. Being on Fox News helped us go beyond our goal and will allow us to make even more dreams possible in the near future.
I’m sure no one in December 2019 knew what was coming in 2020 (well, Trump did) when we all made plans, goals, and resolutions.
2020 changed everything. 2020 changed me.
This year has certainly been a roller coaster in every meaning of the word. A year unlike any other. I am sad that over 300,000 in the US & millions worldwide who died of COVID and I feel for the families who also lost loved ones.
I’ll share some of my lessons at the end of this post, but first I wanted to share some personal highlights for me in 2020.
In March, we were put on lockdown and no one knew what the next few days, weeks or even months were going to look like. As I stand here on December 30th writing this post, I can say I’m grateful to be here.
January – My birthday always starts out the year. It always gives me time to reflect on where I am and make new goals. I started out 2020 with my best friend, Aseelah, in St. Augustine, FL. Her birthday is 3 days later so we decided to do a girls trip and explore somewhere new.
Traveled to Atlanta (little did I know this would be my last plane ride for the year) to the Game Plan 2020 conference. A great boost to jump start my year with business goals.
February – Kobe Bryant passed away and shook us all. I think we all felt like we knew him personally as we watched him grow into an amazing athlete and father over the years. This tragedy put some things into perspective and even made it more apparent to make sure the people I love know I love them.
During this month, I also had the opportunity to speak to over 100 high school students about Financial Literacy at PwC in partnership with the Junior Achievement.
I attended my first Podcast conference in Orlando (thanks to Dani Faust) in anticipation of my own Podcast, Dream Girl, Dream!
Virtual school started this month after spring break. It was our new reality because of the pandemic. I have children in elementary, middle and high school, so having all three at home and managing it all was a real experience. 9 months in, I think we finally got the hang of it.
April – 1st Viral Video – I put together a group of amazing women 40 and over to do a Don’t Rush Challenge Video. 82,000 views!
A few of my closest friends came to Tampa and we rented an Air BNB downtown. We had a ball just exploring Tampa and catching up. It was a much needed Girls Trip.
More renovations were done in our home, this time it was our cabinets.
Cut my hair and went blonde. I wanted it shorter actually but this will have to do.
I signed a contract to work with a major company in the Diabetes Community to create content, videos, speaking engagements, and media opportunities.
We completed Packing with Purpose. Our goal was 25 suitcases, we raised enough for 91 suitcases and gave them to 6 local Tampa organizations. (Click the video to see our experience)
Brand partnerships for 2020:
Abbott Freestyle Libre
Oh, the hubs and I joined a property investment group, with hopes of buying our first property in 2021. I also started trading options this year. Wow, that experience has been full of ups and downs, but I’m learning new things with each trade. I’ll write a separate post on that.
A few lessons I learned this year:
If you love someone, tell them. Say everything you’ve ever wanted to say because you may never get another opportunity.
If you want to do something, do it. What are you waiting for? The power of now has never been more important. I’ve started eating on my wedding China. I’ve had it for 17 years and it just sat in the cabinet waiting for “that special occasion”. Well, lunch became special enough for me.
Love shouldn’t hurt. If a friend or someone special tells you that they love you, their actions shouldn’t show you the opposite. Someone that loves you should NOT hurt you on purpose.
Social media is too much. Although I’m on social media often because I’m an influencer (and I get paid to post things), I’ve actually slowed down posting. I don’t have to show everything, tell everything, or comment on everything. This year I’ve concentrated on putting the phone down and being more present in the moment.
Family is everything. During this pandemic, families spent more time together under the same roof than ever. It either brought you closer together or tore you all farther apart. The time together definitely deepened my relationships with my children. I’m grateful for that because my oldest will be off to college in 2 years, so this time is precious. Oh the conversations we’ve had.
Health is wealth (although I knew this before the pandemic).
Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to something that is no longer good for you or to you.
Would you rather live an uncomfortable truth or a comfortable lie?
I’ve always been a fan of movies that are based on true stories. When I was given the opportunity to screen Safety, a true story, and a football movie, it was a win-win. My family was all in as we gathered in front of the tv.
SAFETY is a drama inspired by the empowering story of former Clemson University football safety Ray McElrathbey (Jay Reeves), a young man facing a series of challenging circumstances, whose dedication and persistence help him to triumph over repeated adversities.
Aided by his teammates and the Clemson community, he succeeds on the field while simultaneously raising and caring for his 11-year-old brother Fahmarr (Thaddeus J. Mixson).
Check out the SAFETYtrailer below:
What a major decision to make. This movie is about this life-changing decision and how the school rallied behind him. During the movie, I kept asking my family what would you do if this were you. There were some very long pauses.
3 Major Life Lessons from Safety:
Stand for something. Ray was at a crossroads where he had to choose between his school, education, scholarship, future, and his brother. It was one point in the movie that the coach told him that he was going to be shot down if he went before the board.
Ray said, “Well, I’m still going. I need to them tell me to my face!” I loved that because he could have given up right there, but he activated his faith and spirit of “It’s not over until it’s 100% over!” You have to see the movie to see what happens next.
Family is everything. When his mother went away for drug rehabilitation, his brother would have no one because Ray was away at college. He couldn’t bear what could happen to his brother if he became a child of the state, so Ray became his legal guardian and more like a father than a brother to him. His life was changed forever. He also holds no regrets.
Friends are everything too. Many times we keep secrets because we believe we can do everything (or many things) by ourselves or without help. In this case, Ray needed his friends to keep his secret. Not only did they stand by his side, when more people found out about his situation, they all also pitched in. It was a literal saying come true, “It takes a village to raise a child.” He learned that when someone wants to help you, let them. This story is funny, emotional, and inspirational. It really is a great family movie. It’s the kind of movie where you talk to the screen and you really want the main character to win big.
“Safety” will debut exclusively on Disney+ on Friday, December 11, 2020
We are knee-deep in upgrades. We moved into our home 2 years ago and once we finished paying off our debt, our next step was getting things done we really wanted to be changed in our home.
When we bought this house, the kitchen was red, the floor was tile, the countertops were old black granite with a Santa Fe backsplash. The cabinets were light brown. After changing the floor, countertops, backsplash – the cabinets needed to flow. So, we gave them an update throughout the house.
In August, we changed the floors. Now we’ve finally completed our kitchen.
Here are some before and after pictures:
Before. This is the kitchen when bought the house.
Before Bathroom. This is half of the master. I love my bathroom because the sinks are on opposite sides of the room. This is one half.
Desk area inside the kitchen
The boys’ bathroom
We love the look. Now the company we hired to actually do the cabinets gets a 2 star for all of the things we had to go through to get the final look. I’m not even going to blast them here. #growth
Our next project is our home office. We both work from home so we hired a designer to help us make this space special for both of us. I can’t wait until it’s done.
This holiday season my nonprofit organization, The Knighten Project, is hosting a suitcase donation drive. It’s called Packing with Purpose.
Check out the segment Fox News Tampa did on our organization. Click on the picture or link below.
Our goal is to provide a suitcase filled with basic necessities to 25 young adults who are transitioning out of the foster care system in Tampa, FL
We will be donating these suitcases to these young adults who are aging out before Christmas. We want to be a blessing and let them know that someone cares for them.
These young adults are just as special and deserving of gifts, blessings, and surprises and we want them to feel that way this Christmas.
We are asking for donations for suitcases and all of the items that will go inside of it. We’ve also created an Amazon Wish List page (that we are constantly updating) for you to purchase items and send them directly to us. Please contact us if you want to donate a suitcase or any of the items in person.
Please send all donations by December 16th. If you have any questions please email us at Dream@TheKnightenProject.org or comment in the section below.
Please share this link on social media, emails, and to friends – SHAREABLE LINK