What’s in a name?

By Jeanne Reynolds

If you’re like most of us, you’ll probably spend more time than usual with extended family this month: aunts, uncles, grandparents, in-laws, parents of old school friends.

Have you ever struggled with how to address them — especially as you get older and are no longer one of “the kids”?

This came up the other day when I stopped by a friend’s football tailgate and the conversation drifted to the topic of their parents — former neighbors of ours — and then on to the names by which we address our in-laws.

I became really intrigued by this, and started a sort of informal survey of other friends and family members. Turns out this is a tricky issue for most of us, and goes beyond family to pretty much anyone a generation older than us. If you’ve spent the first 20 (or more) years of your life calling someone Uncle Joe, it feels weird to start saying just Joe. And if your high school BFF’s mom was Mrs. Smith, how old do you have to be to call her Mary?

In-law nomenclature seems to bring its own set of unwritten rules. If you started out from day one calling your intended’s parents by their first names, no problem. But if they were Mr. and Mrs. Jones when you were dating, when is it OK to segue to Bob and Judy? Does it depend on how long you’ve been married, or your age, or your relationship with them? I’ve been married for almost 25 years, and am just now experimenting with first names for my in-laws. It feels a little odd but seems to be OK. It’s certainly less confusing when there are several Mrs. Reynolds in the room.

I experienced another spin on this generational name-calling last year when a friend’s daughter came to work for me as a summer intern. Like most companies, we’re all on a first-name basis from the president on down, so Mrs. Reynolds wasn’t going to cut it if she wanted to position herself as a capable professional. (Also out: “Yes, ma’am.” Not sure which was harder for her, being a good southern girl.) It was probably even more confusing for her when she went home in the evening. I imagine this:

Her mom: “How was work today?”

My intern: “I got a great new project from Jeanne … I mean Mrs. Reynolds … I mean … oh heck.”

Yes, the names we use for each other do matter. They can indicate respect, professionalism, status and intimacy. It can be annoying when someone takes the first-name liberty inappropriately (think telemarketer) and a slap when someone refuses that permission. And it’s very much a personal preference. An online search found numerous articles offering advice on when it’s appropriate to use first names, but mostly for business situations. When it comes to personal relationships, we’re kind of all on our own.

If in doubt, you could always just ask. More likely than not, most people are just happy to talk with you and really don’t care that much. So don’t be surprised if you hear some version of that old joke: “You can call me whatever you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner.”

 

December Wish List

By Ashley Whisonant

December is a month my family and I wait for all year long. I especially love the excitement it brings to my little ones, not just on Christmas morning. I am making an effort this December to focus more on family time together and not get wrapped up in having a “perfect” Christmas.

Here is my top ten list for things to do together as a family:

  1. Bake Christmas cookieschristmas-cookies-553457_1280
  2. Watch at least one Christmas movie a weekend
  3. Visit Santa as often as possible
  4. See the lights at Riverbanks Zoo
  5. Volunteer twice before Christmas
  6. Surprise Elf one of our neighbors
  7. Stroll through Saluda Shoals Park
  8. Decorate an ornament
  9. Send a surprise package to a friend
  10. Attend Christmas Eve mass

I hope this list is just the tip of the iceberg for my family this holiday season. I want us to focus on the times together and not the things we receive.

Happy Holidays, friends!

Wear Your Pearls, Girls, on National Wear Your Pearls Day

By Chaunte McClure

Just over two years ago I shared my story of dealing with and overcoming depression in a post titled I Survived, Part 2. That’s definitely not a period of my life that I’m proud of; however, I am glad that I came out of it.

About halfway through 2015, I was in that dark place again after a traumatic experience in February of that same year. This was my second encounter with depression, but this time, I sought professional help.

During my first visit, the counselor read off a list of symptoms and after each one, I acknowledged whether or not I suffered from any of them. There were enough yeses to determine I was in the right place at the right time to get the service I needed.

For many reasons, people often don’t seek support, but it’s necessary. Untreated, my mild case could’ve turned severe.

Because of the stigma of depression and mental health disorders, patients hide in shame and secrecy.

The first time, I was unfamiliar with depression and it was not until I overcame it that I realized I was depressed. Little did I know I was flirting with danger and literally putting my life at risk. Knowing the signs of depression and understanding that it’s a serious illness helps.

Thanks to local author and motivational speaker Deanna Bookert, December 15 is National Wear Your Pearls Day, a day designated to bring awareness to depression and anxiety. National Wear Your Pearls Day Dec 15

Besides her love for pearls, Deanna chose this bead because it represents a process and struggle. She wants sufferers to understand that “although we have hard times in our life, something valuable will come out of it.”

Millions of Americans suffer from depression, including children. Though it’s not a disease to be proud of, it’s definitely not one to be ashamed of either.

Join other women across American on December 15 and wear your pearls, girls, in support of National Wear Your Pearls Day. National Wear Your Pearls Day Proclamation

 

Social Security Disability Myths

By Stacy Thompson

As an attorney practicing in the area of social security disability, I often get asked “But what is it you DO, exactly?”  Many people are either unaware of the Social Security Administration program for individuals who are unable to work due to medical problems, or believe that the process to obtain benefits is simple, straightforward and quick.  I spend a lot of my time educating people on the program itself, but I make my living because the system itself is anything BUT simple, straightforward and quick.  In representing claimants for the last seventeen years, I’ve heard my share of myths involving the SSA disability process, so allow me to debunk a few –1200px-US-SocialSecurityAdmin-Seal.svg

  • If a doctor states I am unable to work, I will automatically be approved for benefits.

Having the support of your treating doctor in your application can be helpful, but does not guarantee that you will be awarded.  SSA will obtain medical information from all treating sources, including hospitals, clinics, physicians, etc., and will make a determination as to whether your limitations and restrictions would keep you from working.

  • I can’t return to my past work that I have been doing all of these years, so I should be approved for benefits.

The definition of disability under the social security regulations is an inability to perform any work due to a physical or mental impairment (or combination of impairments); the inability to do your past work is one facet of the determination process, but when taking into account age, education and any skills you have from past work, SSA must also decide whether you could perform any other work that exists in the national economy.

  • I have a terminal condition but it’s still going to take me months to be awarded benefits.

SSA has established a list of “compassionate allowances” – conditions which may expedite the processing and handling of benefits.  In compassionate allowances cases, benefits may be awarded more quickly and without the usual process involved in an application.  For a list of compassionate allowances, go to:  https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances

  • SSA denies everyone / SSA approves people who really don’t have anything wrong with them.

Yes, these two statements are contradictory, but are frequently believed – many claims are turned down initially (only about 30% of the cases filed are approved initially) and should be appealed.  Of the cases that are appealed through to the hearing process, about 45% are approved by an administrative law judge.

On the flip side, I run across those who believe that they have a friend, neighbor or acquaintance who is on disability but is not deserving. I always point out that the process is very thorough and arduous – SSA does not easily approve anyone, and sometimes there is much more going on medically than may meet the eye.

  • I must be out of work a year before filing for benefits.

Although the regulations do require that an individual have a condition, or combination of conditions, that has lasted or could be expected to last twelve months longer (or result in death), the latter part of that definition is important – if your condition may be expected to last a year or longer, then you may file for disability benefits at any time.  I recommend filing as soon as possible, given the average application time is between two and three years from filing to award.

  • I must have an attorney or representative to obtain benefits.

An attorney or non-attorney representative is not required to file for or obtain benefits.  However, an experienced attorney/representative can certainly assist with the development of your claim and in preparing you for your hearing.  The hearing itself will be before an administrative law judge, who is an impartial adjudicator, however, having someone who is knowledgeable in the applicable rules and regulations can certainly improve your chances of success.  Attorneys and non-attorney representatives who are eligible to charge a fee do so on a contingency fee basis, which means payment of fees comes from any back pay awarded (generally 25%).

The above are only a few of the myths surrounding social security disability and do not answer or address all questions/issues involved in these types of cases – for more information, visit the SSA website at www.ssa.gov.

 

 

Becoming a Better Adult by Taking Baby Steps

By Mary Pat Baldauf

Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU)? It’s a nine-lesson class on money management taught by financial guru, Dave Ramsey. The class focuses on the basics of budgeting, dumping debt and planning for the future. My boss had referred to it so much over the years that when my church offered it, I registered right away.1000-dave-ramsey-quotes-on-pinterest-dave-ramsey-financial-176713

Financial Peace University is offered nationally at different locations, many at churches and faith-based organizations. I was a little skeptical of a money class offered at a church, but it’s a non-denominational program offered at different churches in the Midlands, from my Presbyterian USA church (Eastminster Presbyterian) to United Methodist with a lot of churches in between.

Our class met on Wednesday evenings, and consisted of 10 people: three couples, a mother and son, and me. We met from 6:15 to about 7:30, where we watched DVDs and then held group discussions. For the $99 course fee, we received a book, workbook and a year’s access to a website featuring the video lessons, budget sheets and other online resources.

Ramsey breaks his class into the following seven baby steps. None of these steps are anything new or earth-shattering, but he presents them in such a way that really motivates you to think about things differently.

  1. $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund. (This was the hardest step for me, and I just completed it.)
  2. Pay off all debt using the “Debt Snowball.”
  3. Three to six months of expenses in savings.
  4.  Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.
  5. College funding for children.
  6. Pay off home early.
  7. Build wealth and give.

One thing that wasn’t a baby step was the recommendation to use cash to “feel” your purchases. Ramsey says, and I agree, that when you use cash, you tend to be more careful of your purchases and automatically spend less. Still, it’s taking some time to get used to using cash. (Thankfully, you can also use checks and/or a debit card for those purchases that don’t work as well with cash.)

The hardest part of the course for me was committing to nine Wednesdays in a row. Going to class every Wednesday decreased my eligible gym days by one, which most weeks left me with no “rest day.” I ended up missing two FPU classes, but was able to watch the videos online at my leisure.

Another hard part, I’m embarrassed to say, was saving $1000. I’d started an emergency savings account a few months before I took the class, so I had a small head start, but it’s not easy to find additional money in your paycheck. I played games with myself to find it: if I passed on spending anything, such as a new lipstick or dinner out, I’d transfer an equal amount to savings.

Completing baby step one, the $1000 savings, has been quite empowering. I know that if I have a true emergency, such as car trouble or a leaky toilet, I will have the money to cover it without having to use a credit card or ask Mom or Sister for help. It’s such a relief to know that it’s there, and thankfully I haven’t had to even think about using it yet.

I completed the class just before Thanksgiving, but I already feel so much better about things. I feel like a grown-up, in a good way, being prepared and thinking toward the future. I’ve now started on Baby Step Two, paying down debt with the snowball method. You rank your credit cards from lowest balance to highest, and start on the lowest one first. As you pay one off, you add that money to the next account, and so on until the debt is gone. Dave recommends starting with the lowest first to have some successes and build on that momentum. This will take longer than a couple of months, but I’ve budgeted to pay off one credit card by the end of December. (YAY!)

 

Confetti

By Shannon Boatwright

DSC_0301

Life is crazy. Like, super crazy. It can be overwhelming, full of busy nonsense and before you know it, time has flown by and the buzz of this nonstop life seems to take away your time. In a flash.  Your day is gone. Your kids are grown. You might find yourself saying, what have I done?

Are you spending all your time focused on thinking you won’t be happy until you reach the top? Are your eyes so busy being set on the prize that you forget to live for the now and bring a little happiness into others’ lives?

All the awards, prizes and recognition won’t mean a thing in the end, because love is bigger. Happiness doesn’t come from “the stuff”, it comes from within.

We all know this. We know better. We’ve heard and read these types of words before. But do we make an effort to truly make it happen? Are you going to live your life always waiting for the confetti to fall or are you going to recognize that tomorrow may never come and you should live for right now?

So much in my complicated life lately has reminded me of the importance of NOT waiting for the confetti to fall.  I don’t want to be distracted by the noise of this ridiculous game most people play in this crazy life as they focus only on the hype, instead of the happiness. I want to cherish every precious moment and opportunity that I receive. I want to live, be happy and spread happiness to others.  I’d like to believe that when we genuinely live life and appreciate every moment, we’ll see that recognition and prizes aren’t a requirement and thus when we do receive them, they’re even more greatly treasured.Confetti

Singer/Songwriter Tori Kelly’s song, “Confetti” is beautiful and brilliant. I’m a big fan of hers and while listening to her station on iHeartRadio, this song recently played. It struck me immediately.  I took a screenshot and went straight to iTunes to purchase it.   If you have the time to take a listen, it will brighten your life. Really listen to the words and hopefully they’ll inspire you as they did me. We can always use a lovely reminder to live our lives – to really live our lives. 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjaaZ-0D2CI

Experimenting with Tradition

By Rachel Sircy

I spent the better part of Monday driving to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My mother is, like me, a celiac. Each holiday ends up being an adventure in trying to figure out how to enjoy all the traditional foods that we miss. One that we have been working on for a number of years is a sort of Midwestern favorite, chicken and thick egg noodles. This dish is similar to chicken and dumplings, except that instead of dumplings, the dish contains homemade egg noodles which are wide and thick and puffy like dumplings. The first Thanksgiving after I was diagnosed as a celiac, my mother attempted to make these noodles for me, but because we didn’t know much about how to work with gluten free flours (and because at that time there weren’t very many all-purpose gluten free flour blends available) the noodles didn’t stick together well once they were in the liquid. They disintegrated into mush and I was left holding a bowl of chicken flavored goo. It was so gross and so disappointing that I cried.

My mother has always been famous for her version of these noodles. The week of Thanksgiving always found my family having to eat dinner in the living room because our kitchen table was covered with stretched out egg dough and then by cut and drying noodles. A few years after I was diagnosed, my mother found out that she also has celiac disease. She continued to make regular egg noodles for everyone else while she and I sat back and had to watch everyone else eat what we wanted so badly.

This year, my mother made her classic noodles for everyone else, but she also made a small batch of gluten free noodles from an all-purpose gluten free flour for us. The brand of flour that she used was actually the Walmart Great Value brand. I had no idea until this year that Walmart made its own brand of gluten free flour.

Walmart Great Value brand gluten-free Flour

Below are the resulting noodles which have been dried and which my mother has frozen. We are hoping that the drying and the freezing will help the noodles to withstand being in the chicken soup base. Even some of the best gluten free noodles will disintegrate if left in liquid for too long. Whenever I make chicken noodle soup, for example, I always try to buy Tinkyada pasta (available at Walmart and other grocery stores) which have a great ability to stay solid even when surrounded by liquid. However, even when I undercook these noodles, they eventually become pretty mushy after a day or so.

Dried and frozen noodles, ready for cooking!

Our other plan for these noodles is to add them to the chicken soup base shortly before they’re served. My mother (who is notorious for cooking too much food) also refrained from making a ton of noodles and just made what she thought that she and I could eat on Thanksgiving day. Unfortunately, a lot of gluten free foods at this point aren’t good when leftover. They just don’t last well. So, we’re trying to make sure that don’t leave them in the soup long and that we eat the entire batch quickly.

I would love to share the recipe but, to my surprise, my mother doesn’t use one. I am ashamed to say I have never actually helped her or watched her make these noodles before. My great aunt taught my mother to make these noodles when she was a young woman and the recipe is simply this: think about how many people you want to serve and crack one egg per person into a mixing bowl. Add a little bit of salt (Salt to your taste since there is no measuring in this recipe) and add flour and mix until the dough feels ready to roll out for cutting. The dough should feel dry (doesn’t stick to your hands) and slightly stiff when it is ready to roll out. Roll the dough out on whatever surface is large enough to contain it. For the whole Thanksgiving crowd, my mother has to use the entire kitchen table. Let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes and then use a pizza cutter to cut into strips for noodles. At this point you can cook the noodles right away or you can dry them over night and store them in the fridge for a few days if you want to make them ahead of time.

So, in my next post. I will update you to let you know how this year’s experiment went. Here’s to experimentation and innovation!!