Always believe in YOU

By Crissie Miller Kirby

Recently I went digging through some boxes in my attic in an attempt to start a major clean out, and I came across a box of papers from my senior year at Columbia College. The box contained, among other things, numerous cards I received on my graduation day. The one from my parents stood out as particularly poignant and relevant for this current time of my life. On the front was the following quote:

Always believe in YOU. Listen to your heart.
Trust your instincts. Know you CAN.
See your own strengths. Dream it – dare it. DO what you are afraid of.
Keep the faith. Follow your vision.
Remember ANYTHING is possible if only you believe.

Even if we truly love our jobs, our customers, our co-workers and believe in the mission of our company, I think that deep within most of us lies a dream that we never fully realized, a dream that maybe we let go of at some point in life for some reason – family, more job stability, etc. For me, one of those dreams was to become a writer.

Not too long ago, I took a leap of faith and entered a contest sponsored by Lexington Medical Center for the Every Woman Blog, a new Blog they were creating as a resource for women of South Carolina. Their goal was to select eight women from the Midlands to become featured columnists. Although I knew I wanted to enter from the moment I read about it, it took me almost a month to muster the nerve to sit down and write my entry. Finally, I submitted an entry at 11 p.m. the night before the entry deadline, thus beginning the waiting game. After two weeks of waiting, while I was on a road trip to the beach, the email arrived: I had been selected as one of Lexington Medical Center’s Every Woman bloggers. I was humbled, to say the least. It was official! I had finally, in a roundabout way, attained an innermost dream I’d held on to since childhood.

I do love my everyday job, but loving my job doesn’t mean that I ever gave up on my dream of becoming a writer. I don’t know where this dream come true will lead me: nowhere, a Pulitzer Prize, a movie deal or just lots of extracurricular writing, but, in any event, it was a dream come true.

What dreams do you have? Starting or finishing a college education, learning to sew, owning a second home or a 400-acre farm, or do you just dream of a 45-minute peaceful bubble bath where no one is fighting or tattling or asking you something (yes, this would be another, slightly smaller, dream of mine). In the quote above, the words “You Can Do Anything” are bold. This was not accidental: this was copied exactly as it was written on the card. I didn’t catch this nearly twelve years ago when I got the card. Back then, the monetary gift inside was a little more important. However, when I found the card in the box and re-read that message, those four words stood out like a shining star. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. You can do anything.

We are all afraid of failure. A perfectionist by nature, failure of any kind is a difficult concept for my brain to adjust to, much less accept. But at the end of the day, do you let the fear of failure hold you back from fulfilling your dreams? Do you let it color the decisions that you make on a day-to-day basis? In February of 2009, when the reality of a divorce began to loom over my head, I began to feel like a complete and total failure. My marriage had fallen apart. My children were going to be shuffled between two homes. Everything I swore would never happen to my family was happening. Then, before any final decisions were made or court proceedings begun, my then husband volunteered for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. While I kept a happy face on for most of the world, inside, again, I felt like a failure. While most everyone around me smiled and encouraged me and stated how good it would be to have my husband home from overseas, I knew the truth; he was not coming home. Not to the home and family that had been ours. In those long and dark days that did finally culminate in a divorce proceeding in February of 2011, I learned a hard lesson – sometimes failure is not the option you choose, rather, it is the choice handed to you. However, did I opt to let a failure define me and my future, or would I learn from my mistakes and realize that one failure does not a person make? Would I take that failure and rise above whom I was, who I had been, and the events that had taken place and become someone better? Did I choose to crawl under a rock and pretend not to exist, or did I do everything in my power to give myself and my children the life that we all deserved? As my dear friend, Katherine Davis, put it to me, did I make the choice to just survive, or did I choose to thrive?

During that same time frame, as I muddled through my failed marriage, the deployment, working full time, single parenting two little boys, and not having taken a class in higher education in almost 10 years, I decided that I should add one more thing to my already overflowing plate and attempt the fulfillment of another dream, that of furthering my education by working on a Masters degree. Now, a year-and-a-half into my original program of choice, I have decided that I want to do something different, so, I’ve changed my Masters program. I don’t see the non-completion or change as a failure, but rather as a different path and possibly the fulfillment of a different dream. In the end, it makes no difference because I CAN DO ANYTHING!

In my postings you may find some brutal honesty (a characteristic for which I’m either famous or notorious, depending on whom you are), some tears, some joys, some funny anecdotes about my crazy life, and probably words about some wonderfully fantastic people I’ve encountered along my journey. I hope that you will come along and join me and help me show you that even in the darkest days, you can not only survive, you, too, can THRIVE!


by Staci Rutherford

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.

I saw this quote on a magnet, and it has stuck with me over the years. In life there are many choices we have to make in order to fulfill a certain desire to succeed. We find ourselves caught in a web of trying to follow our dreams while living up to society’s definition of what it means to be successful. Often times, we overlook what we truly love to do or what we are good at. Before I started blogging, I spent a majority of my time studying the pages of fashion magazines to learn about the latest trends season after season. I became a stylist to friends and family because I loved to make people look their very best and to feel confident.

When I graduated from Howard University with a (non-fashion related) degree in legal communications, naturally, there was pressure from my family to attend law school. As I began the application process, it became clear that I had no desire to study law. I decided to ditch law school, follow my heart, and pursue a career in the exciting world of fashion. I moved to Los Angeles to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), with the ultimate goal of traveling around the world to identify future trends, and to collaborate with aspiring designers.

After FIDM, I returned to the East Coast to be closer to family, and moved to Philadelphia to work in production for a menswear company, an opportunity I considered a stepping stone. I was unexpectedly laid off while I was five months preggers, which proved to be a blessing in disguise. The very next day, I started my blog,, and made it my mission in life to research and write about handbags. (More details on my handbag obsession here) Four years later, I still dedicate my time to blogging, running an online handbag store, and working a 9 to 5, while juggling the demands of motherhood. When you have an outlet that involves what you’re passionate about, it never gets old and there’s always time to do it.

The turning point of my blogging career was receiving an invitation to attend a Tory Burch fashion event during New York Fashion Week, and later being personally invited back to New York to meet the designer herself, THE Tory Burch. (Click here and here for the full details of each experience.) It validated my decision to stick with what I absolutely love doing. Another highlight of blogging is being chosen as an Every Woman Blogger. I am excited to have a place to share my fashion finds and shopping tips with you, and, more importantly, to inspire you to explore, to dream, and to discover.

My Love Affair with Cooking

My name is Elizabeth Webber Akre. I don’t hyphenate, nor do I verbalize all three names, but being from Columbia, I write all three so that people who have known me forever will realize it’s me. I am a wife and mom, I teach Sunday school, I love nerdy computer games like Mah Jongg, I like to write and I love to COOK.

I write a blog called “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef).” As I’ve been contemplating what to write to introduce myself to you, I started thinking back to when/how/why my love of cooking and food began. I guess it probably started with a Christmas present from my Aunt Donna and Uncle Bill; December 1975 they gave me Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Cookbook. I still have it and have now given it to my 5 year old daughter, who I like to refer to as the “wunderkind.”

Where all good cooks are born!

In the 5th grade, I tore a recipe out of a magazine for this beautiful Mocha layer cake. I was enamored by the chocolate dipped almonds that adorned this magnificent creation.

Yep, I still have that too!

Fast forward to 1979 when my mom got her real estate license. As mom’s business grew, so did the need for my dad to learn to cook (late evenings in real estate sometimes!) My sister and I started out observing, then helping and ultimately started cooking as we became teenagers. (I finally made that Mocha cake for my mom’s birthday when I was about 16). It got to the point that my sister and I took over the job of making the shopping list for the family and armed with a blank check would march into the Winn Dixie in Irmo to stock up for our week’s menus.

I think this is where it all got started. What do you think?

So, I’m now in my 40’s and I love cooking and food and all that it entails. Trying out new recipes on my family and friends is my form of entertainment. Reading cookbooks is bordering on addiction for me. Dining in restaurants, casual and fine, is my favorite pastime. And now, teaching the wunderkind to cook and enjoy the kitchen is a passion and a joy. My blog is my creative exercise in talking about successes and failures in the kitchen, sharing an occasional recipe, giving you my opinion on a restaurant or product and sometimes it is simply me reminiscing about my adventures in the (amateur) culinary world. I hope that you might enjoy some of my tales, maybe get some useful information once in awhile and perhaps get a little chuckle. Bon Appetit, Dig in, Happy Eating!

Summer Slow Runner: “Rack ’em Up!”

Summer Brons

I’ve always been a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none” type. With a vast array of interests and an occasionally questionable level of spontaneity, I tend to pursue my desires as they become apparent. Whether my scattered goings-on manifest themselves as hopeful career paths, entertaining hobbies, or turn out to be as fleeting as a fresh cup of coffee on a busy morning, one passion has always been at the top of the list: writing.

As I type this charming little self-introduction, I’m reminded of what an honor it is to have been selected as an Every Woman Blog contributor. Not only does this serve as a sliver of validation to my prose, writing for Lexington Medical Center gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts and stories through a trusted voice of the community. I love to network, so don’t hesitate to say hello! Although I’ve lived in South Carolina since 2002, I am originally from Oregon. My story of relocation is a long one (perhaps fodder for another blog post?), but let’s just say that it’s safe to file under the “life experiences” category. Fast-forwarding to the present, I


work in project management and own a home in Irmo with a furry Siberian Husky by the name of Skyy. In my spare time, you can probably find me out running or at the gym. Fitness has been a priority in my life as far back as I can remember, and today I integrate that love for a healthy lifestyle with the challenge of distance running. I’ve completed one half-marathon, am about to run another in November, and look forward to adding 26.2 to my race resume in 2012. If I’m not writing, working, running or tracking down more coffee, I’m likely shooting pool. I play on both 8 and 9-ball leagues each week. Rack ’em up. You can expect to see a smattering of topics for my blog entries here on Every Woman. I love to discuss work, life, the work-life balance, relationships, creative endeavors, recreational pursuits and just about everything in between. For more of me in the meantime, feel free to hop on over to my personal blog: ‘Til next time! -Summer

Dancing in the Rain

Hello there! My name is Katie Austin and I was recently selected to be a part of something special – the Every Woman Blog. I am still pinching myself that I was selected to be included with these amazing women! So much has happened over the last year but before I go any further, let me tell you a little something about me since much of what I will be blogging about will be my life experiences.

Katie Austin and her husband Mike

I am married to the most wonderful man and my soul mate, Mike Austin. We met over 10 years ago and he came into my life during a time when I thought that I would never re-marry again. I had convinced myself that I would be happier as a single-mother, working a full-time job as a computer programmer for a large utility company. But then he came into my life and all of that changed. We have been married for almost 7 years and we have one son from my first marriage. Brandon is an active teenage boy who accelerates in his classes, plays high school football and is taking an interest in girls. I will stop there as that could be a whole blog topic in itself! We are currently living just outside of Lexington in the West Columbia area. Both Mike and I moved south from northern states. I am from Bridgewater, New Jersey and he is from Buffalo, New York. I think we both wanted to get away from the snow-covered ground and enjoy the warmer weather. I never thought that I would have to move to the south to meet my soul mate from the north, but I did and I am so glad that we found each other.

Katie Austin, second from left, at a breast cancer walk

I recently met a milestone in July as celebrated my first birthday after beating breast cancer (applause much appreciated!). In honor of that milestone, I started my own blog Just a Walk in Faith as I thought it would be a great way to capture my breast cancer journey and how I found myself along the way. I didn’t blog while I was undergoing treatment as I found myself in a deep state of depression at times and it was hard enough just to motivate myself to get out of bed each day. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I felt up to talking openly about my journey with anyone outside of my family. I know that it might help other women (or men) going through their own breast cancer fight.

After completing my treatments in April 2011, I decided it was time to go back to school. Yep, I am a 43-year old college student at the University of South Carolina in pursuit of my Computer Science degree. Now you also know that I am a computer nerd and I am alright with that. I have come to embrace my geekness over the years.

So what topics can you expect from me? I would think that my blog posts could include breast cancer, the daily struggles of a single-mom, going back to school after the age of 40, anything geek-related and everything in between. I love to talk and I hope that what I share with you will make a difference in your life. I find motivation and inspiration in quotes so you will find that I include them in my blog posts. If I could only pick one quote to leave you with, then I would pick this one and my hope is that after you read it you will smile while dancing in the rain.

‎”Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

Watch Us Dance Cancer Away!

At Lexington Medical Center we’re passionate about our community; we’re passionate about our work; and we’re passionate about providing cancer care.  This year, as a new way to show our commitment, we’re participating in the Pink Glove Dance Competition for a chance to win $10,000 for the breast cancer charity our of choice – the Vera Bradley Foundation!

Screen shots from our Pink Glove Video

Produced entirely in-house, our Pink Glove video features hundreds of hospital employees, volunteers and chaplains to honor breast cancer survivors.  Everyone gathered at the hospital several weeks ago to tape the final segment of the video as they wore pink gloves and performed a choreographed routine to the Katy Perry song “Firework.”

We’re one of 135 hospitals nationwide to submit a video in the contest designed to educate communities about breast cancer and inspire patients as well as survivors.  However, we’re the only one in South Carolina with an entry in the contest!

Help us fight breast cancer by watching our video and casting your vote at  This will take you directly to the page with our video.  From there you can link to all of the other videos in the competition.  The last day to cast your vote for breast cancer is Friday, October 21!

Lean Green Mary Pat Battles Weight and Wins!

Mary Pat Baldauf

I recently celebrated my 45th birthday, and the biggest present was the number on the scales. A year after starting a wellness program through my employer, I was not only 83 lbs. lighter, but at the same weight as I was as a college freshman some 28 years ago.

So how did a forty-something year old woman lose more than 80 lbs. at a time when most experts say weight loss is even more difficult? That’s the story I will share with you on Lexington Medical Center’s Every Woman blog.

I was 44, overweight and out of shape, when the City of Columbia began a 12-week wellness program with a local health/wellness facility. The program included weekly nutritional counseling and biweekly sessions with a personal trainer. I was skeptical – after all, I’d tried to lose weight 100 times before to no avail – but decided to give it a try.

Mary Pat: Before and After

It took more than a 12-week session – I’m in the middle of my fifth and final session now – but I’ve made significant progress. I’ve completely given up fast food and processed food, and an avowed vegetable hater, I even eat small salads. I exercise daily, and I even have some muscle definition. My blood pressure has gone done, and I’ve gone from a size 20w to a 10p.

Despite my success, however, I know that a year doesn’t a lifetime make. These changes I’ve implemented don’t come easy, and every day I work to incorporate them into my life. Now that I’ve reached some milestone goals through lifestyle change, my challenge is to make them permanent and second nature.

Join me on Lexington Medical Center’s Every Woman blog as I share the successes (and struggles) of replacing the diet mentality with a lifetime commitment to improved eating and regular physical activity.

Hi, My Name is Ro — and you are?

Hello everyone my name is Roshanda affectionately called Ro by my close friends. Recently, I was selected as a winner for Lexington Medical Center’s Every Woman Blog — a selection in which I am very honored to be considered a part of. It was suggested that I should tell you a little about myself since I will be blogging about my life. So who am I? Here is the short story.

I live in the small community of Bishopville in Lee County. I am a city girl in thought but have really come to appreciate living in a small community. I am a former television news producer. Pause. What exactly is that you ask? We are the people who work behind the scenes doing all the real work. I tell people, basically, I use to write the news the anchors read on air. Just think, I traded in the fast pace world of breaking news, dumb criminals, and storytelling for baby spit-up, diaper duty, car lines, mom ref and coach. Ahh, my life so glamorous!

I have three beautiful children. I know every parent says that but really these kids are beautiful inside and out. Can you tell I am a proud mama?! They range in age of 5, 3 and 1yrs. respectively. Many days in our house it’s a circus with me as the ringmaster under the big top in which we call our home. I have been married six years to an all around great guy who I met in college. Interestingly, we could not stand each other in college, avoiding him every chance I could, now I can’t stand not having him around. I always say God really does have a sense of humor, who’s laughing now?

Besides raising children, I am building two businesses which I am very proud of. It has been a journey. I never even had anything such as a lemonade stand growing up. But somewhere I discovered, people will actually pay you for your gift if you let them. As it says in the bible in Proverbs, 18:17, “ A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” One of my businesses is handmade jewelry design business I call To Bead Continued, the other is a media consultant/public relations business which allows me to connect two of my favorite things: the media and people.

Like most moms, I stay busy but as I discovered through a friend I am blessed to be busy. Through all the busyness, I can truly say my life really is blessed. Although the start of my life may not have been so great, the Lord is certainly making up for that now.

So what can you expect from this blog, well a couple of things. First of all, I will be transparent. I believe the only way we can grow and move forward is by being honest, even at the sake of me being judged. Secondly, I will share my faith, not in an offensive way but in a pure, loving and true way. In all the things people call me or applaud me for, it is only because of the grace of God that has been given to me. I may not have all the answers but I certaintly know where to go to find them. And lastly, I promise to be humorous, at least make an attempt to. Sounds fair?

So you may be asking what do I want from you? Involvement. If I write something that uplifts or inspires or even strikes a nerve lets discuss in a kind, honest and respectful manner. I look forward to us navigating down this runway of life together. As I sign off on my personal blog, Supermomdel.
In His Super Grace,

Answering the question, “What do you do?”

By: Shannon Shull

ShannonUs Every Woman bloggers were told to use our first blog entry as an introduction to who we are. Talk about a loaded request! Because as you know, the amazing women of the world have no simple introduction, no simple description of who they are – because well, we’re all multi-tasking queens with responsibilities and duties out the wazoo. Those of us who are successful, involved and motivated have lives full of busy-ness that includes to-do lists, roles and goals galore. I like to consider us goddesses. Yes, I said it, I honestly think that the amazing women of the world should all be considered goddesses. And though we’re not usually treated like royalty, or pampered with the luxuries of the Greek gods, well, we darn well should be. (I’m hoping that sentence evoked a few “amens!” from my goddess blog followers.)

That being said, when people ask me that loaded question of “oh, what do you do?”, the thought always run through my head….should I literally take the time to list out all the things that I do and all the roles that I take on in my life? Or should I just cave in and give a boring, one word answer? I’ve discovered that the most entertaining yet honest answer to the question is this –I am a goddess.

My kidsWho is Shannon Elizabeth Vaughan Hutchison Shull? I’m a daughter, sister, niece, aunt & granddaughter of a most incredible family. Most importantly, I’m mother to the absolute most fantastically, amazing two children in the world. I am a true friend to a seriously fabulous collection of friends. I am a passionate lover and supporter of the Arts. I am a teaching artist that is constantly inspired by the enthusiasm and passion of my students. I am an entertainer that loves to sing, dance and act because it feeds my soul. I am a Zumba instructor because I firmly believe in the benefits of taking care of my body, not to mention I think it’s fun! I am a producer because I like to make things happen – events, parties, shows, you name it. I am a writer – simply because I enjoy it and consider it therapeutic. I enjoy making others smile and feel good about themselves because that in turn makes me feel good about myself. I like to consider myself a community leader, a champion of positivity if you will, because I feel life is too short to focus on the negative aspects of life. I’m also a student of the world – there are always ways I can educate myself, always something I can learn, whether it’s educational, spiritual or a life lesson. I love to read, I love great movies, I love to cook, I love to drink good wine…shoot, I could go on and on. Lovely readers, I am a lover of LOTS of things!

shannon-shull1I am a goddess on the go. I am not a desperate housewife, but a woman desperate to share her passion, her experiences, her advice, her knowledge, her friendship, her enthusiasm…to speak out and share. Whether your life is taken over by your children or your work or just the responsibilities of surviving in our world these days, we tend to forget to do meaningful things for ourselves. And I don’t just mean lounging on your couch watching tv or a movie. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a rare heavenly activity for me that I cherish but I’m talking about doing something for yourself that truly will enrich your life and who you are as an individual, doing something that taps into your own personal passions. I think that on many levels we’re all desperate to stay in touch with ourselves and the things we’re passionate about. So if you consider yourself a ‘desperate housewife’ let’s think of it as a positive desperation that means you don’t ignore your inner voice that is desperate to get your attention, saying “Hey You! I’m still here! Remember that ‘real you’ on the inside that has needs, desires and dreams!” Admit it, we all have that inner voice, just most of us are too busy or scared to listen to it. I say we finally pay attention to that desperation and instead of it ‘involving a sense of hopelessness’ we recognize hope in it and choose to make it impossible to ignore!

To close my loaded tale of who I am – I am your Every Woman blogger, a fellow goddess ready to start a lovely relationship with you that will consist of sharing, inspiring, surviving, learning and lifting each other up, hopefully with a lot of smiles, chuckles and occasional belly laughs along the way.


Don’t Take Away My Chores

Brady Evans

Hi!  I’m Brady Evans, a South Carolina native who has been blogging three years.  I’ve been a chatterbox since I was a toddler and that theme is seen in both my food blog, Branny Boils Over, and my horse and farm-life blog, From Hey To Horses .  When I’m not blogging you can find me pounding the pavement in training for a marathon, spending time with my husband, two dogs, one cat, and two horses, and convincing young high school minds that the stages of cell division and the anatomy of a flower really are important in the real world.

Early in our marriage, when I would get stressed out by my overwhelming to-do list, my sweet husband would take initiative and remove certain chores from my list.  I appreciated his concern.  I admired his motivation.  But I hated the result.

Without fail, he would say, “Hon!  I went grocery shopping so you don’t have to.” 


Grocery shopping is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  If you loathe it, I’m sure a bit of my perspective will change your mind about this chore. 

My journey to the grocery store is perhaps the only time of the week where I get two solid hours to myself.  I get to be alone in the car.  I get to listen to my guilty pleasure (country music) on the radio as loud as I want to.  I get to wear the comfiest of clothes.  I get to pop in my iPod and listen to tunes as I cruise the aisles of the store, picking the best produce, changing our week’s menu on a whim if an ingredient strikes my fancy or a deal is too good to pass up.

And it is not just the grocery shopping.  It is the ritual of making the list before the trip.  I sit down with my cookbooks and my computer.  I flip through recipes, glance at salespapers, and put together an efficient meal plan where cost is minimized, variety is maximized, and all the meals fit my schedule: Easy meals on Mondays, cook once/ eat twice for Tuesday and Wednesday, and more labor intensive meals towards the week’s end. 

The challenge that I love the most is using each and every ingredient.  In my naive days, I’d buy a tub of sour cream, for instance, to top a baked potato planned for the menu, and then the container went unopened again (thank goodness, due to the huge amount of mold that was surely growing) for weeks (::gulp:: months).

These days, though, that sour cream gets put to good use all week long.  And if a smidgen remains I make these cookies:

Chocolate Sour Cream Cookies

Chocolate Sour Cream Cookies(adapted from Taste of Home)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, sour cream and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in chips.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until set. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: about 3 dozen.

If you hate grocery shopping, I hope that my spinning it in a new light may make your trip a little more enjoyable.  What chores do you love and why?