Technology and Me, Part Two: Taking a Stand

By: Marianna Boyce

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Nowadays, technology is used for most everything we do. If you read Part One of Technology and Me, I shared the love-hate relationship I had with Siri. Of course, I love my iPhone, but hate the intrusiveness that comes along with having one.

On a more positive note, Siri has helped me out of a tight spot on more than one occasion, making her an unlikely hero.

This was especially true as I navigated my way through a serious health issue that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere just a few years ago. It turns out, I was suffering from horrible symptoms similar to those of rheumatoid arthritis.

RA is a life-altering illness where the immune system and brain gets their wires crossed. The immune system sees healthy cells as foreign invaders and literally fights against itself. This autoimmune disease targets and breaks down the lubricating fluid surrounding the joints, setting off a terrible chain of events. The intense chronic pain, inflammation, and swelling makes it impossible to lead a normal life—or it did in my case.

RA packs the kind of pain that changes people from the inside-out. It doesn’t take long for it to physically and mentally take its toll.

I work in a cushy office environment for a large insurance firm. One might think sitting behind a desk all day wouldn’t be difficult, but with RA, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is difficult—even the smallest of mundane tasks. Sedentary work, or doing nothing, is actually the worst for an RA sufferer.

In my case, it always felt as though cement was hardening around my joints, making it excruciatingly painful to stand up from a seated position. I had to keep moving for the pain to be tolerable. Counterintuitive—I know, but that’s how RA works.

I desperately struggled. My confidence level plummeted and I could no longer keep up the facade of a happy, thriving employee. I was absolutely miserable.

One particular morning, I allowed the pain get the best of me. I vented my seemingly endless list of frustrations to Mr. Wine, my district office manager. Fortunately, I had a great boss that allowed me to rant in order to get things off my chest. What neither of us knew at the time was that Siri took note of my every word, and it was Siri that would be the driving force that kept me from temporarily leaving my cushy office job.

As I wrapped up my itty-bitty pity party with Mr. Wine, I continued to mumble as I walked away. Under my breath I uttered, “My life would be so much easier if I could just stand up all day.” Just like that, Siri chimed in on our ‘private’ conversation—only she didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. Siri’s suggestion spoke for itself.

After Mr. Wine’s iPhone ‘dinged’, he looked at it with a surprised look on his face. He said, “You’ll never believe this,” When I looked at his phone, I was speechless, and thought to myself, “That’s so weird!” I unconsciously snatched Mr. Wine’s phone and began perusing the website so brilliantly displayed on the screen.

It was an advertisement for Varidesk, and I was like a kid in a candy store.

Varidesk, (now simply Vari) is a company that makes adjustable workstations where one can choose to sit or stand—all while maintaining a productive workflow. Also included is a convenient cushioned mat to help alleviate pressure on knees an ankles.

I was sold! I wanted one—like yesterday.

An adjustable desk was exactly what I needed, and there was no doubt my husband would purchase one to aide in my fight against RA. Gerry is just amazing like that, but Mr. Wine wanted to approach from a different angle.

He contacted the ‘powers-that-be’ at our home office and asked them to invest in Varidesk on my behalf. They surprisingly agreed, but only if I could get a letter of recommendation from my rheumatologist. Of course, that letter would be obtained within days, and the rest is history.

For me, unless I’m experiencing an RA flare, sitting down on the job is simply not for me.Thanks to Siri, Mr Wine, and the powers-that-be, I don’t have to sit all day anymore. I can take a stand against this debilitating disease instead. Sometimes I just have to remind myself: I have RA—RA doesn’t have me.

I have not been paid or given any special services for Vari’s mention in this post.

Technology and Me: Part One

By: Marianna Boyce

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Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

While many of us are unapologetically addicted to technology, we should also be leery of the intrusiveness that comes along with it. I’m not the most computer savvy person in the world, but I certainly know how to power off Siri so she doesn’t listen in on conversations. I also go the extra mile to switch location services off to keep the phone from tracking my every move. If you like them on, that’s okay too. It all boils down to personal preferences.

With that being said, I wonder how ads have popped up on my Facebook feed after only a ‘POOF’ of a thought in the back of my mind. Apparently, Siri is not only a tracker and an eavesdropper, but she’s also a mind reader. Yet, in her defense, she has helped me out on more than one occasion.

In a cleaning frenzy in 2016, I wondered what to do with the outrageous number of band t-shirts my son accumulated during his high school and college days. I knew he could never part with them, but also knew he would never wear them again. I don’t recall ever discussing with anyone that I was looking for a solution to my t-shirt dilemma. Imagine my surprise when an advertisement for “Project Repat” popped up on Facebook a day or so later. I’d never heard of this company before, but was quickly drawn in by the fact that they make quilts out of old t-shirts. Wow! I’d never entertained the idea of a quilt, yet the answer was staring me directly in the face.

As I apprehensively clicked on the link, I was thinking, “how in the world did Facebook know?”

Needless to say, I loved the idea and ultimately ordered the quilt. I shipped Cody’s shirts to North Carolina, and ‘POOF’—a few weeks later, he was wrapped up in a queen-sized commemorative t-shirt quilt (which is super-cool by the way). Thanks to Siri for suggesting this phenomenal idea to preserve these amazing memories.

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The second time she came to the rescue was an entirely different scenario altogether.

Early one morning at the office, my boss and I were having a serious conversation about my issue with rheumatoid arthritis. Siri was eavesdropping in on our conversation through my manager’s smart phone. I believe the buzz word picked up at the end of our conversation was in my last statement to him…“I wish.”

It turns out “my wish” prompted an interruption from Siri that ultimately changed my work environment for the better. In this case, I’m glad she was listening. Be on the lookout for my next post to hear about this game-changer in my fight with RA.

I am not being paid by Project Repat, or receiving any goods or services for their mention in this post.

Anyone Else Stuck in a Rut?

By Tina Cameron

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For the past month, I have been stuck in a rut. I’ve been unmotivated, a little sad, eating my feelings, and the scale showed it today when I went in for my yearly cardiology appointment. I did so well last year and lost 26 pounds. Well, I have gained 29.5 since this time last year. This is completely unacceptable. I am an emotional eater. I can admit this and I know what I need to do to lose weight, but I was not motivated until I saw my doctor. He politely said, “Yes, you do need to lose some weight.” He did not give me a number. He just said not to buy the junk and added, “there will not be anything bad to snack on if you don’t buy it.”

So, after I finish writing this blog, I am taking the dogs on a walk. I am a little nervous about this, as the last time I took all three for a walk, one got loose and ran away. Then, the other got loose, but (thank goodness) she sat down when I called her name. The third dragged me until I was physically worn out. Chasing one and trying to control the other two was already a workout.

If anyone wants to jump on the “healthy eating, no more snacking, feel better, get off the couch and out of your pajamas” pandemic train, please send me an email at the address below. I am going to go through my pantry and freezer tonight, and make a list of goals, meal planning, and exercises to start. I have an app on my phone to keep track of my meals, water, and exercise. I plan to start tracking again, too. I would love to have someone do this journey with me. So, if anyone is interested, we can do this together. I am tired of being in this rut.

I am wishing everyone the best. Stay safe. Email me at tmcameron@crimson.ua.edu.

The Little Country Church on the Side of the Road

By Marianna Boyce

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Growing up in the Bible Belt, there was never a question where my family would be every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. It was important then, and even more so today. However, with all the social distancing, slowing the spread, and flattening the curve, I’ve been staying home to live-stream church services instead.

This past Easter, as I laid in bed with my eyes wide-open, many thoughts filled my mind. Realizing this would be the very first time I physically wouldn’t be at my home church for Resurrection Sunday, I had a tug to visit a notable place from my childhood.

My little journey required an early morning drive across Lake Murray Dam. I turned onto Highway 176, and plotted my course for a small town about thirty miles up the road. As a child, my family traveled this route often—at least three times a week.

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Old barns still stand along the two-lane country highway. The dilapidated storehouses intrigued me as a young girl, and, as much as I wanted to stop and explore some of them, today was just not that day. Instead, a small country church on the side of the road was beckoning for a visit. This special place holds some of my earliest childhood memories. It was the church my dad pastored for much of my young life. My siblings and I recently talked about Victory Baptist Church, which is probably why I had such a desire to go.

When I spotted the white cinder-block building in the distance, I slowed my car to a crawl. There were no other cars out that morning, so I stopped on the road just before turning into the deserted churchyard.

Once I entered what used to be the driveway, my car sat idle on the overgrown weeds and grass, I allowed my mind to wander. I thought of nothing in particular, but everything in general—all at the same time.

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Nostalgia got the best of me, and I was immediately transported back in time.

My dad’s ministry started the year he married my sweet mama in 1956. I was born twelve years later. Since I was the baby of five, my memories are vague at best, but I know this little church will always be an integral part of my Christian heritage.

When it was organized, there was no running water—which meant no indoor plumbing. Kids weren’t constantly going back and forth to the restroom during the preaching hour. They simply had to wait. If they couldn’t, there was a bush behind the building. The church underwent a remodel years later and small restrooms were thankfully added.

The children all gathered in one Sunday School class. That’s all we had. We squeezed into that tiny room to learn about Adam and Eve, Noah and Jonah. Most importantly, we learned about Jesus. My brother, Lewis, also learned the books of the Bible here. He felt incredible when he was able to recite them all from memory.

On hot summer days, we’d open the windows in hopes of feeling a gentle breeze from heaven. Since none of them had screens, that gentle breeze periodically brought in a wasp or a bee, but we’d fight ‘em off with those old-fashioned funeral home fans with the wooden stick handles.

In the winter months, gas heaters were fired up to warm the cold air. By the end of the sermon, we were always toasty and warm. It could’ve also been the convicting power of God. Who knows? At the time, I was too young to understand, but I totally get it now. Conviction can certainly make anyone a little “hot under the collar.” My brother, Tommy, recalls one particular winter day in 1962 when he experienced that true power of conviction. He knelt at the alter with my dad’s sister and Aunt Emily led him to the Lord. It was a wonderful day, indeed.

Mom played the piano while Uncle Ralph led us in songs from yesteryear. We didn’t need more than “Amazing Grace,” “Victory in Jesus,” and “Sweet Hour of Prayer,”—my Grandma Caldwell’s personal favorite.

My sister, Beverly, held me on her lap until mom finished playing the piano. There was no such thing as a nursery in this little church. If children misbehaved, their parents would simply take them out and “have a little word of prayer with them.” Many times, the kids would start crying before that “necessary prayer” even took place. We knew what was coming. It didn’t take long for us to learn to sit up and behave for an hour or two…ish.

As the preacher’s kids, my siblings and I always ran the risk of being called down from the pulpit. Don’t worry. None of us bear permanent scars created by the embarrassment of our childish misbehavior. We’re all thankful for parents that made us mind. Discipline never hurts anyone. It only hurts when there’s none.

My sister comically recounts a story when she decided to rest on the front pew during dad’s sermon. This was okay given Cindy’s age, but when she raised her arms and legs straight up in the air, she garnered more attention from the preacher than those sitting behind her. I’m not sure what she was thinking, but immediately sat back up when daddy called her out. Needless to say, she never did that again.

After church, we’d all run outside to play chase, red rover, or mother-may-I until it was time to head home. The older kids would stand by the road waving at the occasional passerby. Of course, no one would hear of allowing this today—and for very good reason.

We had some good times at this small country church on the side of the road, but as you can see from the photos I recently took, this building sadly sits empty as it gives way to the elements. The green grass and beautiful wild flowers I remember have been choked by weeds and suffocating vines. Those weeds are now taller than me and my sister when we stood in the churchyard proudly holding our umbrellas so long ago.

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I’m not sure why I needed to visit this special place from my past. Maybe I just needed to reconnect with a time and place that anchors my Christian heritage. Living in an unprecedented day of change and uncertainty, there is one thing that is still abundantly clear—God is in control of it all. I continue to find much comfort in that.

Mixed Emotions

By: Marianna Boyce

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For now, the thought weighing heavily on my mind is staying healthy. It’s not a selfish thought. We’re all working diligently to fight this invisible enemy. Other than the obvious—overall good hygiene, washing hands, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or bend of our elbow—the bottom-line answer to this situation is to simply stay home.

But what if your place of employment remains open for business? What then?

It was a sobering thought as I read the memo given to me Friday afternoon before my commute home. I received my “authorization to travel” in the event the surrounding areas enforced a “shelter in place” order. The top line of the memo reads, “Critical Industry Employee, Authorization to Travel.” A statement in the body of the memo reads, “if you work in a critical infrastructure sector as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

As crazy as it seems, my plan is to do just that.

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’m the senior administrator for a large insurance company. Working for such a firm guarantees I’ll have plenty to keep me busy while others are hunkered down at home. Don’t get me wrong. This makes me happy, but extraordinarily sad at the same time.

I’m not particularly fond of being considered an “essential” employee. In my opinion, everyone’s place of employment is essential. I truly hate for any business to be closed. What makes my job more important than yours? Nothing, my friend, absolutely nothing. It’s as frustrating to me as it is to you, but while many of you wish you were able to go to work, I secretly wish to be hunkered down at home.

Before Coronavirus, my mantra was to crawl in sick as opposed to call in sick, but since COVID-19 entered the scene, I’ve totally changed my opinion on the matter. So far, I’ve been well, and taking extraordinary precautionary measures to stay that way, but the mental battle to choose work over home is still grueling. I have plenty of PTO time I could take, yet I’m more inclined to work.

My coworkers and I have put many social distancing rules in place. We wash our hands constantly. Hand sanitizer and latex gloves are always within reach. Lysol wipes and spray are always close by for us to use; although, the rationing has begun…

Watching the world being brought to her knees in a matter of a few weeks is surreal. The entire ordeal feels like a terrible movie, and we’re all the stars of the show. Public enemy number one is on the rampage, and no one has the answer in combating such a vicious virus. I think we’re close, but not quite there yet.

When the worst has passed (and it will), we will never be the same. As a people, we will be different. In my opinion, we will be greater. As was the case of September 11, 2001, America will adopt a new normal—but what will it be? That remains to be seen.

All I know for sure is, God is good all the time. He’s never surprised by anything, and always in control. We’ll make it through. Stay strong my friend, and if at all possible—stay home!

Quarantine Creativity with a Musical Twist

By Shannon Boatwright

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In these uncertain times, sometimes you have to get a little creative! I teach drama and musical theatre at Beechwood Middle School. While we are all sequestered at home, I was inspired by a young man named Colin O’Leary who created his own funny videos using Broadway songs. You see, I normally teach 382 kids a day – yes 382! Reaching out to them online has been a really fun challenge and has definitely opened a lot of opportunity for getting creative! So, in the spirit of Mr. O’Leary, I made my own video for my students!

Needless to say, my students have LOVED it. It has been a wonderful thing. The video was even featured on WIS-TV last week. Even better, I’ve challenged my students to get creative and make their own videos to share with me. This eLearning thing is a new adventure for sure, but I’m enjoying being able to connect one on one with my students in really unique ways.

A Strong Southern Woman

By Tina Michelle Cameron

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I began working at Lexington Medical Center on the inpatient oncology unit in September of 2014. This is where I met Hannah. I want to tell you a little bit about my friend and former coworker. She lights up a room when she enters it. She is strong, down to earth, easy going, funny, caring, smart, and an all-around beautiful person, both inside and out. I admire her for so many things, but what I admire most is that she has no fear in standing up for herself and in her ability to speak her mind. My blog posts lately have been about the strong and caring women that I have in my life. I am proud to call them friends. I hope you enjoy reading about Hannah.

Hannah draws you in with her southern accent and beautiful smile. She is a nurse, wife, mom, daughter, aunt, and sister. I asked Hannah to answer some questions for my blog and, even after almost six years of knowing her, I found out some new things about her. She comes from a large family, including four brothers, three sisters, three nieces, and nine nephews. Wow! Both her parents are recipients of the Order of the Palmetto, which is the highest civilian honor bestowed on a South Carolinian. Double wow!

Hannah is 31 and graduated from Clemson University with her BS in Nursing. She is also certified in Oncology. After passing her oncology certification, she decided to apply to grad school. A few years ago, she graduated from Francis Marion with her MBA. She currently works at the Michelin Family Health Center in Lexington. When asked why she chose to be a nurse, she said it was because of her desire to make a difference. Hannah believes in supporting in-state schools, which is why she chose to attend Clemson University and Francis Marion. She is also a die-hard Clemson fan.

Hannah is married to Jeremy and they have two children. Harper is 8 and Brantley is almost 4 months. They also have two dogs, Marley and Bear. Hannah has a huge heart and loves to help veterans. In fact, she is a nurse for the Vets to Washington project. Her hobbies also include spending time with family, watching Clemson football, and watching Harper play softball. She is a Lexington Girls Softball board member. Hannah also is a Civil War reenactor. She loves her country, sweet tea, family, and football.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Hannah. In my opinion, she is a strong southern woman. I have enclosed a few photos of her and her precious family.