When Self-Care Starts With A Bottle Of Nail Polish

At the recent self-care retreat, our Sunday speaker Mia Redrick talked to retreat attendees about the concept of “blending”—where you fit in your me-time throughout the day. It was like a light bulb went off. When you think about it, waiting until the end of the day to feed yourself sounds foolish and a direct path to failure.

I immediately tried to think of ways to include myself more fully into my day. Mia recommends looking at all the errands you have to run and the extracurricular activities you end up taking your children to. How can you fit in some self-care while your child has soccer or karate practice? If you have to go to the grocery store, can you also pick up a magazine for yourself?

For me, my hands tell my stress. If I’m overwhelmed or not taking good care of myself, the first place it shows up is on my hands. If I’m struggling, my nails are brittle and peeling, my cuticles are peeling and all my nails are different lengths.

I used to be one of those women who thought regular manicures were a waste of money. Who cares what your hands look like? But I do so much with my hands. I make a living with these hands. I raise my children with these hands. I depend on them to do so much and I need to make it a habit of caring for them.

This is why I’m so thankful that Dr’s Remedy Nails signed on to sponsor the 2015 Self-Care Retreat. Their line of podiatrist formulated, vegan nail polish has been designed to promote healthy nail growth as well as give you beautiful color. The polishes do not contain formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, camphor or pthalates or DBP. As an “empowerment coach,” I also love that each shade is named with a wellness word.

remedy nails

This past weekend, I decided to incorporate a little “blending” in my life. My kids asked me to take them to the park and since it was still warm, I agreed. Normally, I either play with the kids or sit on the bench in the shade and wait for them to tire out.

But that day, I packed a good book and my Dr’s Remedy Nail Polish and made plans to do my nails while they played. I was overdue to spend some time on myself.

remedy nails 1

And it was great. The polish has a rich color—even one coat gives great coverage—and I love how the polish has tea tree oil and other vitamins in it to not only make your nails look good but actually become healthier as a result.

remedy nails 2

When it was time to go home, I felt immensely better. Instead of grumbling about how I had so much to do once we got home, I felt relaxed and ready to take on the second half of my day.

TIP: Try “blending.” How can you take care of yourself while taking care of your children as well?

[2015 Self-Care Retreat] Lessons On Living Boldly With Esther Boykin, LMFT

Over September 18-20, 20 women gathered in Alexandria, Virginia for a weekend of rest and relaxation at the first annual self-care retreat. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing some of the biggest lessons and aha moments we all felt as we gathered in a no-judgement zone. 

Esther Boykin and Tara Jefferson at the 2015 Self-Care Retreat

Day 1: Lessons on Living Boldly, by Esther Boykin, licensed family and marriage therapist 

I met Esther in person for the first time 30 minutes before her presentation at the self-care retreat began. We had been online buddies for months and I was love with her message and delivery (have you signed up for her 14-day love challenge? It’s awesome!). So when she said she had the day available to speak at the retreat, I jumped at the chance.

Esther challenged us in the most glorious way possible.

As a therapist, she’s great at handing people a shovel and getting them to do the hard work of digging deep. It felt like a group therapy session, with each of us working on our own “stuff.”

We had to confront what parts of ourselves we had been hiding and what behaviors we had engaged in that kept us from being seen as we truly are. Why do we have these perfectionist tendencies? Is it because we truly care that things should be perfect or is it because we don’t want people to think we’re somehow not smart enough to think of all the little details?

Esther Boykin speaking at the 2015 Self-Care Retreat

One mom shared that based on her views of what a “good mother” should do, she feels immense guilt when she does anything for herself. Esther’s counterpoint? “What if we reframe the situation? What if, instead of thinking about the guilt, we think about this: If we ask your children, as adults, what lessons they learned from their mom, what do you want them to say?”

The room went silent. What do we want our children to remember about us and do our actions today align with that?

My other big “aha” moment came when we discussed not taking ownership of other people’s feelings, particularly when we are in the midst of pursuing something that feeds us. This even extends to your children’s feelings. (I very vividly remember all those days when I would attempt to leave the house and the kids would claw at my ankles to get me to stay. Esther reminded us that, “It’s okay to have free time and it’s okay if the kids don’t like it.” They’ll learn to accept mommy’s free time.)

Esther’s encouragement to “be the star in the movie of our life” resonated with me and the other attendees.

Too often we shrink and hide who we are and why? For what reason? Fear, doubt and uncertainty can derail us from our goals if we let them. But I know attendees at the retreat have the armor they need to push forward.

The Bonds Made And Stress Released At My First National Self-Care Retreat

At the beginning of this year, I decided to lift my foot off the brake. You know how when you’re first learning to drive and you slam on the brake at completely unnecessary intervals because you’re scared and you don’t quite know how to maneuver and focus and you don’t want to crash? That was me, but with life.

I was scared of fully going after the things that I wanted, not because I could fail but MY GOD, what if I succeeded?? Then what?? People’s expectations would rise and what if I can’t keep up?

But I made the conscious decision to take my foot off the brake and step on the gas.

It was a necessary decision, as 2014 was a pretty bad year, personally and professionally. I lost about 40% of my income due to forces outside of my control, my depression was getting worse, and we got into an accident with a drunk driver.

I was determined to have 2015 be my year and I realized I had to get out of my own way to do that. So I thought to myself, “What does my community need?” It needed the same thing I needed—time to myself, away from everyone else and all my responsibilities.

So I began planning the 2015 Self-Care Retreat. I put together an amazing three days of girl talk, soul searching, great food and authentic community.

Now it has happened. This past weekend, 21 women joined me in Alexandria, Virginia for what I had been billing as the “best weekend of the year.”

self-care retreat group photo

We cried. We hugged. We laughed (and got security called on us—oops!). We ate good food and explored a new city with new friends. We enjoyed swag bags from generous sponsors ranging from Dove to Younique Cosmetics.

In short, we did exactly what I hoped we would do—came together for a life-changing weekend, filled with “aha” moments and lifestyle shifts, that leave us with the space to become those women we always dreamed of being.

I have a few more posts that will go more in-depth on the major takeaways (and man, they are extraordinary), but I wanted to write this brief post to share how incredibly grateful I am to the women who decided to join me for this first retreat. I had no track record of successfully executing an event of this magnitude, and yet they came. They arranged for someone to watch their kids, to leave work early, to get a plane ticket or a rental car and join me as I pursued my goals. There are no words to express this gratitude.

More posts on the weekend are coming, but for now, check out the #HereWeGrow15 hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for a peek into the magic. All I have to say is, You gotta be there next year!

Tara Jefferson at the 2015 self-care retreat



What’s Your Superpower (And Yes, You Have One)?

What's Your Superpower?

For a long time, I used to feel self-conscious about how sensitive I am.

I cry at the drop of a hat over good and bad news (I bawled when my husband told me his co-worker proposed to his girlfriend). When someone I know has a bad day, I will spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how I can make it better. Violent movies and TV shows make me physically sick and unable to sleep. (I still don’t think I’m over Mufasa’s death in The Lion King.)

My son jokingly calls me a “leaky water bag” (which he coined after I broke down in the theater while watching Big Hero 6 with them), but now I accept the label with pride. I understand that it’s my superpower.

You see, I’m an empath. I’m a highly sensitive, finely tuned emotional thermometer and thermostat. It’s very easy for me to be affected by someone else’s mood and I can alter the energy in a room quite easily. I’m one of those “love hard” people, but I feel everything very deeply.

I used to wonder, Why was I made like this? Why do I care so much? Why can’t I be like normal people and just move through my day without hitting all these highs and lows? 

But now I know that “caring so much” is my superpower. I can’t fly, I can’t turn invisible and my muscles don’t do much other than open jars of salsa. But I can “care” you under the table, without even thinking about it.

My superpower allows me to do what I’m doing now. If I say so myself, I am great at creating community where none previously existed and drawing the best out of other people. That is now my full-time job.

Understanding the ways in which I am exceptional helps me remember that yes, I am exceptional.

And so are you.

Dig deep: What is your superpower? What gives you an edge over other people? What is that one thing that is so YOU, that you can use to excel more quickly?

Is it:

  • Your ability to come up with solutions to problems other people are stuck on?
  • Your tendency to give good advice, no matter the situation?
  • Your knack for soothing and calming people when they’re in a bit of a downward spiral?
  • Your ability to see the bigger picture and not lose sight of the small details?

Once you figure out what your superpower is, tap into it. Learn how to harness it and concentrate its power. Superheroes aren’t just in comic books. You and me? Yeah, we count too.

3 Big Myths About Self-Care That Are Keeping You Stressed

3 Big Myths About Self-Care That Are Keeping You Stressed
1) Self-Care involves spending money

Do a simple Google search and most self-care tips and advice do indeed have some type of financial cost attached. But to think that taking care of yourself costs always money is to do yourself a disservice. Self-care, in its simplest definition is “care of self” and you can do that no matter how much is your bank account. Self-care is about honoring yourself—your mental state, your physical condition, your emotional needs.

2) Self-Care isn’t something you need to do daily

You should do at least one act of self-care per day. Monthly manicures or massages sound great and I say, go ahead and do that. But you should also be waking up with intention. Simply going through the motions and swinging from item to item on your to-do list leaves you without space for yourself.

When you wake up, ask yourself, “What do I need today?” Some days I wake up and I just know I need to give myself extra time to get things done because I’m sleepy and probably not on top of my game. Other days I wake up and I know I will need some physical comfort later on (AHEM). Think about what you need (every day!) and make sure you find a way to get it.

3) Self-Care must be done by yourself

Just because it’s called “self-care” it doesn’t mean it needs to be a solo activity. Hanging out with friends or spending time with family certainly qualifies if it is something that refreshes you and honors what you need at the time. Remember, the “rules” of self-care are yours to create. Whatever YOU need is what qualifies as self-care. Feel free to disregard everything I said if it doesn’t fit what YOU need. Honestly. That’s how all of this works. :)

It costs nothing to move yourself up on your to-do list, but the rewards are immeasurable.

The Seven Rules Of Happiness According To My Seven-Year-Old Son

During one of our random “What do you want to be when you grow up?” conversations, I told my son Thomas that he would make an amazing teacher. And I fully believe it – he’s energetic and always looking for the “funner” way to do something. Kids would love him.

“I’d be a happy teacher!” he told me.

“Oh yeah? That’s great that you’ll enjoy teaching,” I told him.

“Nooo,” he corrected me. “I’d be a happy teacher. I’d teach people how to be happy.”

I smile big and wave him closer. “So what would you teach them? What are your rules for being happy?”

He thought about it for a minute and gave me these seven rules. It is times like these that I am so glad I am a blogger.


Thomas’ Rules of Happiness

1) Run out all your energy
When you wake up, you’ll have more energy to do it again.

Adult translation: Go hard, every day. Whether it’s at the gym or when playing with your kids, go all in. Sometimes you have to create energy by working hard.

2) Always play, all day.
That’s how you’ll be happy. You’ll feel happier when you’re moving your body. If you have a bike, ride it a lot (make sure it doesn’t get a flat tire).

Adult translation: Similar to #1, always look for the opportunity to have fun.

3) If you have a brother or sister, play with them.
It’s more fun to play with someone than playing alone.

Adult translation: Have good people around to keep you company.

4) Take a nap or sleep when you’re feeling sad.

Adult translation: Well, no translation is necessary. Go to sleep!

5) Gum makes you happy. 

Adult translation: Enjoy the little things in life.

6) Do a lot of crazy things. (“Do stuff like this,” he says, as he intentionally rolls off my four-foot high bed.)

Adult translation: Don’t be so boring and stiff. Lighten up.

7) Ask your parents to cook a lot of your favorite foods and that will make you happy too. 

Adult translation: Eating great food with people you love is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Make A Stop At The Walgreens Wellness Tour

Disclosure: I partnered with Walgreens to provide an overview of the 2015 Wellness Tour. All opinions are my own, as always.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare that finally scared me enough that I went to see an urgent care doctor. He checked me out, gave me a prescription for a steroid and sent me on my way, but not before encouraging me to get myself a primary care physician.

“Do they have a pediatrician?” he asked, nodding at my two kids who happened to accompany me on this visit.

“Of course!” I said, taking his question as an insult. “What kind of mother do you think I am?” I thought to myself.

“But you don’t have a physician?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as he finished jotting down something on my chart.

“No,” I said sheepishly.

His question made me feel horrible. I wouldn’t dare let my kids go without a doctor to make sure they are healthy, so why did I think it was okay for me? I’ve since gotten a primary care physician and plan to see them before the year is out for my physical. Even as “young moms,” we’ve still got to take care of our health and make sure we are around to take care of those who depend on us.

In case you are between doctors like I was or have gone too long without a checkup, the Walgreens Wellness Tour might be just what you need. Now in its ninth year in partnership with the National Urban League, tests and screenings available include total cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, body composition, skeletal muscle, resting metabolism, visceral fat, real body age and body weight. Collectively, the health tests are valued at more than $100.

The health tests are administered by certified wellness staff and are available to those 18 and older. Afterward, a Walgreens pharmacist or certified wellness staff will talk to you about your results. You can get in and out in about 20 minutes and it is completely free. Your insurance company will not be billed.

The Walgreens Health Tour is a successful collaboration with the National Urban League to empower individuals  for the prevention and early detection of today’s leading chronic diseases (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) Together Walgreens and the National Urban League are committed to providing urban and at-risk communities access to valuable health tests that deliver key insights and assist individuals in the pursuit of happier and healthier lives.

Since 2007, Walgreens has financially contributed more than $2.1 million to the National Urban League for continuously providing health services and awareness to their Urban League affiliates across the country. In total over the last eight years, the tour has administered more than 570,000 health tests valued at $12.8 million to communities throughout the United States.

I say, you should go and bring a friend! When it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss! It can actually cost you more than you think.

Take advantage of the free testing opportunity when the tour visits a city near you. Plug in your zip code and make plans to visit the nearest stop at Walgreens.com/tour

#StudentParentSuccess – Know Your Rights As A Pregnant Or Parenting Student


When I discovered I was pregnant during my spring semester and that my due date would fall in the tail end of my fall semester, I didn’t know what to do. Do I sit out a semester and just take care of the baby? Do I attend classes anyway and just cross my fingers that, I dunno, I give birth over a long weekend? What was the proper thing to do?

I tell this story often and whenever I’m in a group of parenting students, they nod their head and tell me they struggled with the same decision. But it’s hard to make the decision that is best for you if you don’t have all the information, and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of pregnant college students don’t know about the federal legislation that is Title IX.

In short, Title IX prevents your school from kicking you out, treating you unfairly or otherwise stigmatizing you for being a parent. Let’s take a deeper dive:

According to the National Women’s Law Center (a great resource for all things Title IX):

Does my school have to excuse my absences due to pregnancy, childbirth or abortion?

Your school must excuse your absences due to pregnancy or any related conditions for as long as your doctor says it is necessary for you to be absent. This is true even if there is no leave policy for students with other conditions. When you return to school, you must be reinstated to the status you held before your leave. The school can require you to submit a doctor’s note from you only if that is required of students with other medical conditions.

My professor adjusts grades based on class attendance. Can she lower my grade because of the classes I miss?

You cannot be penalized for pregnancy or related conditions. If a professor provides specific “points” or other advantages to students based on class attendance, you must be given the opportunity to earn back the credit from classes you miss due to pregnancy, so that you can be reinstated to the status you held before you took leave.

Does my school have to let me make up the work I missed while I was absent?

Yes, your school must let you make up the work you missed while you were out due to pregnancy or any related conditions, including recovery from childbirth. For example, if you have a doctor’s note that excuses you from class for several weeks because you were on “bed rest” before giving birth, your school has to provide you with the appropriate assignments and information to make up all of the work you would have been required to complete while you were out. For an extended absence, it is best if your school provides you with the work you miss regularly, so you do not fall far behind.

But what if my school says that absence/make-up work policies are up to each individual professor?

While that may be the school’s practice, the school administration and professors are bound by federal civil rights law. Title IX requires that schools ensure that all faculty and staff comply with the law and do not discriminate against pregnant and parenting students. An individual professor’s policy is not okay if it breaks the law.

Does my school have to provide special academic services to me, like tutoring?

Title IX requires that schools provide pregnant students with any special services they provide to students with temporary disabilities. If students with temporary disabilities get at-home tutoring to help them keep up with work they miss when absent, the school must provide students who miss class because of pregnancy or childbirth with the same benefit.

For students in high school, the same laws/rules apply. Schools can not force you to go to an “alternate” high school and they must allow you to make up any work you missed due to pregnancy or childbirth.

Did you know about Title IX? What can you do to spread the word to pregnant and parenting students?

Welcome To #StudentParentSuccess Week!

I can finally reveal the big news I’ve been sitting on for a month: I was tapped to write an article for the September issue of ESSENCE magazine on — what else — student-parent success! See my emotional video HERE (viewed more than 1,000 times!) on why this meant so much to me.

This was a full circle moment for me, as I was a scared, unwed, broke college student with big dreams when I found out I was pregnant. Seeing the positive pregnancy test made me feel like I’d have to give up my dreams of moving to New York and having a fabulous Sex and the City lifestyle because I had been too busy living out Sex in the Dorms. Ha.

To celebrate my first ESSENCE magazine article,  I’ve dubbed August 17-21 Student Parent Success week!


This week we’ll be sharing tips and advice from student-parents and for student-parents about how to have the best year ever — from where to buy textbooks, to how to find a great babysitter, how to study with kids around you and more!

We’ve been writing about the student-parent life for quite a few years here and the archives are full of advice to get you going!

Follow the #StudentParentSuccess hashtag and join in with your own experiences! :)

[GIVEAWAY] “The Date Deck,” A Must-Read Book For Couples Stuck In A Date Night Rut

date deck collage

For a strong four years after we had our two kids back to back, my husband and I rarely had date nights. Sure, we’d sometimes find ourselves on the couch together at the same time on a Friday or Saturday evening and we’d pass the time by watching a movie together, but that wasn’t “date night.” That was “I’m tired and you’re tired and these kids wore us out and my God why did we decide to have two of them” night.

It wasn’t until 2014, honestly, where we took a good hard look at our marriage and realized that what we were doing (having honest to goodness date nights only on anniversaries or birthdays) was killing us slowly.

See, date night tends to get neglected when you’ve got so many other responsibilities vying for your time and money and energy. For many couples, it’s just plain ol’ expensive to go out on regular dates. Once you factor in the babysitter and the actual date itself, it definitely seems easier to just stay home and relax on the couch.

We could have benefited from a book like Esther Boykin’s “The Date Deck. 

In the few short months that I have been reading her site religiously, I have become a huge fan of Esther and all she represents. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship coach who is passionate about helping people build healthier and happier relationships (AND she will be speaking at this year’s self-care retreat!).


In this book, she not only gives you ideas for date night, but she also explains why each date has significance and when you might want to put it in rotation. (For example, when you’ve been fighting and bickering, staring deeply into the other person’s eyes on the lake might not be the best idea.)

It’s a quick read and gave me ideas to spice up our dates. But most importantly, reading the book reminded me that I have a good thing in my relationship and it’s important that we recognize date night for what it really is: an opportunity to connect with each other. Her book is a must-read, not just for the date night suggestions, but also for the fact that she has given you an easy-to-use tool to create a more intimate relationship. (I also recommend her 14-day love challenge, as it helped me create a stronger relationship with my husband in just two weeks.)

I’m giving away a copy of The Date Deck to one lucky reader. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below on how often you date your significant other (once a week? a few times a month?). I’ll pick one winner on August 14 at noon. Good luck!

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