The Perks of Isolation

By: Summer Brons

Ever have those moments where two or three things have gone wrong throughout the course of your day and as you’re sitting there trying to figure out a viable solution to restore balance, suddenly the weight of EVERYTHING even slightly amiss in your life seems to come crashing down on you all at once? Those times where you feel like there is simply no way you’re ever going to catch up, let alone get ahead? Yeah. Welcome to the club.

It’s probably safe to say that most of us juggle some combination of responsibilities involving work, home, fitness, family, friends, hobbies and social endeavors. We have bills, we have schedules, we have people to please and duties to uphold each day. Toss in the occasional unexpected crisis or unsolicited obligation and we’ve got ourselves a three-course meal of stress, anxiety and headache.

One technique I like to try to employ during these lovely times – like when I’m contemplating, oh, let’s say, how my income is inversely proportional to my financial debts – is isolation. I’m not talking about hiding out in my house and avoiding interaction with society, I’m talking about isolating each situation for what it is. Breaking things down into manageable, bite-size chunks rather than attempting to navigate my way through the big picture makes it much easier to take it all in stride and develop a plan of action.

For example, let’s say I’ve had a rough day at work, I still have to hit the gym and I’m supposed to meet some friends out for a drink later that evening. I might leave work feeling frustrated from a project gone awry, then find myself feeling rushed to get my workout in before I need to leave to meet my friends on time, then I’ll start questioning whether or not I should really be going out in the first place. After all, I’m broke, right? The “I really can’t afford to go drink beer” thoughts then generally turn into analyzations of upcoming bills and anything that might be approaching past-due status, which inevitably leads me to tell myself that I really should try to pick up additional hours at my second job, which frustrates me because working extra hours will drastically cut into my training, which then discourages me because I’ll be that much further from reaching my fitness goals…on and on and on until I’m ready to start ripping out handfuls of my own hair. Oh, and did I mention that my laptop of six years unexpectedly died on me two weeks ago? All of my data from the better part of the past decade is sitting in the recovery machine of a computer shop downtown, waiting for me to scrounge up $325 so I can go retrieve it.

Fantastic, yes?

This is where that whole “isolation” game comes in.

  • Chunk Number One:   Work. Tackle work AT work. Once I’ve left the building for the day, it’s time to quit stressing over unanswered emails and purchase orders I haven’t received on time. Back at my desk the next morning, taking five minutes to jot down a to-do list helps keep me on track for the day and ensure I don’t overlook anything critical. But at 5, 5:30, 6pm – whenever I end up leaving – that’s that.
  • Chunk Number Two:  Fitness. I’ve recently started breaking up my workouts into two parts. I get up at 5am and hit the gym before work. My gym is quiet in the morning and I get a little “me” time before the craziness of the day begins. Plus, if something does crop up during the day that might prevent me from working out afterwards, I can still feel good knowing that I’ve at least done a little something. After work, I’ll go for a run. I’ve found that this split technique is a great way to balance weightlifting with half-marathon training; neither endeavor falls to the wayside in favor of the other.
  • Chunk Number Three: Friends. The nifty thing about friends is that the good ones tend to be pretty understanding. They won’t judge you for being a little short on cash one week or wanting to have a quiet night at home instead of bellying up to the bar. A quick “I really just can’t make it tonight” will suffice just fine. Rainchecks – use ’em!
  • Chunk Number Four:  Money. This is a toughie, especially for me. I am not one of those people who can just push their financial woes out of mind and happily go along on my way. What I have to do to maintain sanity in this department is to look at each bill as just ONE bill. If I sit there and contemplate all of them, I am easily overwhelmed. Dwelling on monthly expenses and paying down debts on top of day-to-day things like food, gas, etc. is neither productive nor beneficial to my mental state.

Basically, this all makes it possible for me to enjoy the small successes of daily life without being completely jaded by everything that isn’t quite where I want it to be just yet. Great workouts, a productive day at work, getting some writing done, even something as small as paying a $14 water bill can be looked upon as tiny victories. It’s all about perspective!

What are some of your own methods for keeping yourself sane when everything seems to be convincing you otherwise?

Clip and Save

By: Katie Austin

Life can’t be all serious and I truly believe that laughter, a great attitude and finding something positive in everything we do will help you overcome any life hurdles that come your way.  So with that said, let’s talk coupons!

Not sure if this is a good segway, but we’ll just think of it that way 🙂

One of the things I learned through the process of fighting my breast cancer is the value of the dollar. With my medical bills coming in with statement balances that would rival that of our government budget, I needed to find a way to stretch every dollar as much as possible.  So, I went back to something I used to do more in my younger years — coupons!!  Yes, coupons!  You can find coupon flyers in your Sunday paper and can download these precious gems from various sources that test your scissor cutting skills.  I find that after all these years I can still cut pretty well and not stray too far from the dotted lines… haha

Like several of the Every Woman bloggers have mentioned, couponing can really help you save money.  So, how can coupons help you save money?  I took to the internet to find modern ways of couponing and how to make it work for me. There is a show on TLC “Extreme Couponing” that can give you some ideas as well.  For me, I will never purchase the quantities shown on the show, but I did learn how to maximize my coupons and develop a strategy that would work for my family. I use the good-ole coupons in the Sunday paper, maybe purchasing 2-3 extra papers if the coupons are good, printing out additional coupons from internet sites, using smart phone applications and picking up store coupons that are available at most customer service desks.  A combination of all or some of these has cut our food bills by at least 50% and there are times that I only spend a few dollars on a bill that would have cost over $50!  If I can save at least 50% every time I go to the grocery store and sometimes get FREE items along the way, then it is worth the change.

Another thing I learned is that my local grocery store offers e-coupons that I can add to my store card.  This is a great way to take advantage of additional savings.  These e-coupons come right off your card and you can still use your clipped coupons as well!

There are many different ways you can save with coupons and you just have to find what works best for you.  A couple of good websites that I have bookmarked and found very helpful are listed below:

Enjoy and happy savings!! 🙂

“Mommy Guilt”

By:  Crissie Miller Kirby

Initially, I thought my friend, Lynne Rauton, was crazy for suggesting that I write about my “Mommy Guilt,” but the more I thought about it – I thought, and why am I afraid to write about it?  Do I really think that DSS might show up at my door?  Am I afraid of being judged by other, more “perfect” mothers out there?  Am I afraid to admit my shortcomings as a parent?  Honestly, I’d have to say, “Yes,” to all of them.

If you are a woman and have children, you know, without me saying anything more, what “Mommy Guilt” is all about.  For those of you who have not been stressed . . . oops, I meant blessed to have children yet, let me explain “Mommy Guilt” in a few short sentences.  “Mommy Guilt” is that feeling that you have where you question every single decision you make in regards to your children.  This feeling begins almost the second you find out you are pregnant (or adopting, as the case may be for some) and intensifies, oh, 100-fold, the second said child takes his/her first breath.  “Mommy Guilt” knows no boundaries.  The guilty feeling can be from something as simple as what socks your child has on to larger decisions about whether or when to go back to work after delivery or what childcare facility to use.

My most recent “Mommy Guilt” episode cropped up yesterday morning when I put my 3 ½ year old in the shower before church.  This was not the first time we’ve done this – he loves to get in the shower and use the handheld sprayer to play, dance, sing and whatever else 3-year-olds do in the shower, besides actually bathe.  For reasons unknown to me, my dear, sweet Smith has decided that showering, alone, is not enough.  Oh no, he has to also pull up the stopper and allow water to fill the tub, as he is continuing to run the shower.  Needless to say, yesterday morning, I was also in the midst of steam cleaning a late night vomiting issue (gross, I know, sorry – more “Mommy Guilt”), and my dear sweet little Smith flooded the bathroom.  I did not handle this well.  Out came 5 beach towels to soak it all up – very small hall/guest bathroom mind you – and I totally lost my cool.

And dear sweet little Smith got a spanking.  Yes.  I said it.  I admit it.  I spanked my child.

Then I proceeded to have a major breakdown of “Mommy Guilt” proportions and cried for 10 minutes.

Worse than buyer’s remorse is “Mommy Guilt,” in those minutes after the spanking, I knew that my little man would forever be emotionally scarred and would spend an eternity in therapy for that transgression on my part.

Wait a minute.  Really?  I’m feeling guilty for teaching my child a lesson about not wasting water (that we do have to pay for) and taking care of our home (my daddy always told me that if you let water sit on linoleum, then it will ruin it).  I’d like to lay the blame for this on being a single mom, but I can’t.  If I were still married, the same exact scenario could have, and probably would have, occurred.  I am a woman; I am a mother and I love it, even when it is hard, lonely, and thankless.  Yes, I would change some things I have done, but, mostly, if I could, I would completely and totally outlaw “Mommy Guilt.”

I must run now and check the weather forecast; otherwise, I might spend all day feeling guilty for not dressing my children warm enough.

So, now that I have confessed my transgressions, what about you?  Have you ever experienced “Mommy Guilt”?  How have you overcome it?

Memories, Traditions and Possibilities: A Deal At Just $5.99

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary Pat Baldauf

I bought a box of crayons yesterday. Not just any box of crayons, but Crayolas in that familiar green and orange box. A 64-pack. With the sharpener. When the clerk rang up the crayons, she shook her head, “5.99 for a box of crayons.”

Not being a regular crayon shopper, I don’t know whether that’s high or low or whether I could’ve gotten them cheaper someplace else. The way I look at it though, $5.99 isn’t bad for a box of Crayola crayons. 64 pack. With the sharpener. And that’s because in addition to housing 64 magical dream sticks, there’s a lot more in that box. A box of memories. A box of tradition. And a box of possibilities.

A box of memories? Yep. When I crack open a box of crayons, I get a neuron-splattering head rush. I am transported back in time to…

…the first grade, when we used those fat crayons that were flat on the bottom so they wouldn’t roll of our desks.

…to 208 Holly Avenue, where my sister and I made masterpieces with crayons and Fall leaves. You did these, right? We’d pick the most colorful leaves from the woods across the street and bring them home. When Mom was busy, we’d pull out her wax paper, fold it in half and place the leaves on one side. Then we’d take old crayons and use a knife to cut shavings onto the wax paper. We’d fold the wax paper over, and when Mom wasn’t looking, we’d iron the paper until it turned into a beautiful stained glass creation. We usually got in trouble for getting Burnt Sienna and Maize on Mom’s iron, but it was worth it.

…to summer YMCA camp when we made what I know as scratch art. We’d color a piece of paper with bright crayons, then cover it with black paint. When the paint dried, we’d use a toothpick to create a design. Those were the days.

A box of tradition?  Uh huh. Binney and Smith created Crayolas in 1903, and since then, generations of children have played with them. Crayons are universal; they are the great equalizer of humanity! Babe Ruth? Probably used crayons. President Obama? Bet he used crayons. Prince? Purple crayons, for sure. And then there’s little old me. I most certainly used crayons!

A neat thing about crayons: even though they’ve been around for more than 100 years, they’ve changed just enough to stay relevant. I’m a purist – I like the colorful wax sticks wrapped in paper, but today there are specialty Crayolas: twistable, washable, dry erase, even multicultural. And those big flat ones I used in first grade? They’re now triangular. (Easier for kids to hold.)

Lastly, there are crayons that mark changes in our culture. The crayon once known as “Flesh” was voluntarily changed to “peach” in 1962, partially as a result of the U. S. Civil Rights Movement. The crayon I colored with as “Indian Red?” It was renamed Chestnut in 1999 in response to educators who felt some children wrongly perceived the crayon color was intended to represent the skin color of Native Americans.

A box of possibilities? You bet! A new box of crayons is fresh and perfect. They’re all pointy, lined up in order, bright and, well, perfect. A box of crayons contains the colors of an eye popping sunset, the thousand colors of the sea, the brilliant colors of a rainforest.

Speaking of colors, do you remember the name of your favorite crayon? Mine was Carnation Pink, a color that was introduced in 1949 and is still in that orange and green box. I asked my sister this morning. Hers was Maize, which was retired in 1990.

A funny story about crayon colors. Through my work with the APWA, I travel to their headquarters in Kansas City once a year. Kansas City is also home to the country’s only Crayola Store, which is connected to the hotel.

On my first visit – I visit every year – I asked the clerks about their favorite crayon colors. The first one hemmed and hawed, then finally said that blue was her favorite.

“Blue?” I asked. “Cadet Blue, Cornflower, Denim?”

“Just blue,” she said.

The second clerk’s answer was no better. “Green,” she said quickly.

“Green?” I asked. “Asparagus, Fern, Blue Green?”

“Green,” she answered.

Not very good Crayola ambassadors, if you ask me.  If Crayolas are boxes of possibilities, they were a dead end.

I bought a box of crayons yesterday. Not just any box of crayons, but Crayolas in that familiar green and orange box. A 64-pack. With the sharpener. $5.99 for a box of crayons. And memories, tradition and possibilities. Not a bad deal.

The Unfriendly World of Facebook

By: Roshanda Pratt

Let’s face the facts; it can be a cruel and rather lonely in the world of social media.  In 421 characters or less you can get on your soapbox, becoming a “preacher” of sorts to an online congregation. People type in that little status box, hit the share button without even thinking twice. After all, it is our opinion, right? Well, I have heard it said best, “Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one.” Most recently, a friend of mine left the “happy” world of Facebook. Her reason: it was toxic. How can that be? It’s not like your status update is not being shared with people you know, these folks are your friends, right?  Well, not really.  Especially if you are going against the dominating thought of the person who posted or commented in that little blue box.

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard the stories of people being “unfriended” by relatives or longtime friends because of a difference in belly buttons, I mean opinions.  Most recently, a friend of a friend called me “a fool and ignorant” because of a comment I made about a politically charged situation.  Even as I write this, I have thought about saying farewell to my list of one thousand “friends” due to the negativity and downright silliness of it all. Then I thought, wait, I knew how these people were before I accepted their friend request. It should come as no surprise to their lack of dissection, character and so on. I allowed them to enter into my world. I have experienced people break-up, make-up, fall-out, and air-out (their dirty laundry) all in the sake of a “status update.” I can tell you now most of those people were “unfriended.”

However, not everything is bad out here in Facebook land. For example, on my wall I solicited prayer requests.  Emails from friend flooded my inbox.  Ah, yes, this was a good day as the Lord gave me the opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ.  Facebook has also given me the chance to stay connected with my family in the West Indies without picking up the phone. Yes, I think we can all name at least one good which has come out of being on social media.

Another one of those things are boundaries. I have found it pertinent in this social media realm to set “rules” of sort to deal with people who really try to “test” my Jesus. Here are my rules:

  1. Pick your battles: Before posting, I ask myself the following: Do I need to respond to this post? Often times you have to consider the source, the person who posted. Are they attention seeking, trouble makers or ignorant.
  2. Hide and Seek: There is a cool option Facebook offers where you can hide a person’s post. If you are passionate about certain issues and to see a certain person’s comments cause you angst, right-click and “Hide” the comment.
  3. Avoid, Avoid and Avoid: I have decided when a political debate, celebrity death or any other big news story is happening, I avoid Facebook. NO matter how tempting, I do.not.log.on!
  4. Consider the Friendship: I take full responsibility for the people I call my “friends.”  I hit the “confirm” button so I must take total responsibility.  Earlier this year, I had to “unfriend” a relative after some rather vulgar posts. I decided I could not just hide her post, she had to go altogether. I don’t use profanity, tell dirty jokes, and the alike and I will not tolerate it in my news feed.

Ultimately, we must have a belief system and never compromise it.  Since implementing I have been less stressed. Now, there are some things I rather do without, however, when someone breaks the rules, I am not afraid to stand up and speak.  After all, this is my space and I have a right to protect it.

Let’s hear from you. Do you have any recommendations on how to handle the various personalities of Facebook?   Please share.

Roshanda

The Beauty of Arts Integration

By: Shannon Shull

I recently have had the honor of teaching and leading arts integration at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary School. Can I just say – what an amazing experience and opportunity! Let me define “arts integration” for you…

Arts integration is the collaboration between the arts and other academic content areas resulting in a richer, more complete whole that fosters deep, connected, personal learning in both areas simultaneously.

Creating Tableaus with Teachers

I am what they call a “teaching artist.”  I am a trained performer, with a focus of acting and dance, that infuses the arts into regular school curriculums. I get great joy from being a teaching artist!

Me doing dance immersion with fellow teaching artists

So how does arts integration help me? Understanding arts integration helps round out my artistry.  Knowing how to integrate the arts and actually engaging in integrating the arts only enhances my pool of talents and allows me the precious opportunity to share my passions on a very unique level.  As a performer, you seek to entertain and gain great joy from entertaining — add teacher to that equation and you’re knighted with this priceless opportunity to let the arts lead the way alongside education, enriching everyone’s lives.  To me, arts integration means tapping into a student’s imagination and engaging them so much into the subject and art form, that they don’t recognize how very much they’re learning — due to the fact that they’re having so much fun!

Last summer I had the honor of training at Greenville County, Smart Arts, and Metropolitan Arts Council sponsored training institutes and I participated in Kennedy Center’s Artists as Educators Seminars. It was a total thrill for me! I seriously loved every bit of it. Working with school teachers and other teaching artists opened my mind and broadened my teaching horizons. Sounds cheesy I know, but hey, it’s my thing!

Dance Immersion

Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring school subjects to life. All that being said, I hope those of you who read this will also be supporters of arts integration and encourage your local schools to take advantage of the huge benefits the arts can have on education.  It’s a beautiful thing to see a child grasp the knowledge and have so much fun learning!

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

By: Brady Evans

Brady Evans

I used to get really stressed out about not having a ‘company ready’ home.  I mean really stressed.  In fact, I remember sobbing on the floor, sitting on my knees, scrubbing the moulding surrounding my entertainment center while my poor husband looked on, knowing he couldn’t say the right thing.

I hear women talking about how often their homes are ‘drop-in ready.’  Those that say it is always put together 100% I consider liars.  And then rest of us aspire to be like those Stepford Wives and drive ourselves bonkers in doing so.

We need to banish this idea of a ‘company ready’ homes.  Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens portray beautiful kitchen and living rooms.  The perfectionists that most women are take that scene and extrapolate it to their own lives.  We think that what we see in the magazines should be what we’re living.  But we need to remember – we LIVE in our homes.  Those magazine spreads aren’t lived in!

A few years ago I stopped caring.  I didn’t stop caring about my home – I have immense pride of home.  I didn’t stop caring about my visitors – I want to provide a hospitable experience for all.  I stopped caring about the ‘what ifs’ of an unexpected visit.  I mean, how often did it ever happen?  And if it did happen, that visitor should be ashamed of themselves if they judge my “lived-in” home.

Those who know me know that at the end of the day, you’ll soon find me playing laser tag with my car, Fahrney, than scrubbing grout in the bathroom.

You’ll sooner find me letting my horse fall asleep in my arms than doing a load of laundry.

You’ll sooner find me on my dirty floor, filled with dog hair and dirt, sharing a moment with my husband and our dogs than vacuuming said floor.

If you do find yourself in my home, don’t expect a spotless kitchen floor.  One thing you can expect, however, is a delicious meal like this one:

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas (adapted from How Sweet It Is)

Ingredients

  • 8 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup steamed cauliflower, mashed
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 14oz can mind enchilada sauce
  • 1/4 cup hot wing sauce
  • 2-3 ounces Gorgonzola cheese

Instructions

  • Mix together shredded chicken and mashed cauliflower in a large bowl.
  • Fold in cottage cheese, half the cilantro, and sliced scallions.
  • In a small bowl, combine the can of enchilada sauce with 1/4 cup hot wing sauce.
  • Pour about 1/2 cup of the mixed sauce into the bowl with the chicken. Mix thoroughly.
  • Spoon and spread a little of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  • Place 1/3 cup of chicken filling in each tortilla. Roll and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish.
  • When all tortillas are stuffed, pour remaining sauce over top of tortillas.
  • Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and top with gorgonzola cheese and remaining cilantro.
  • Serve with a wedge of lime.
  • Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
  • Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
  • Number of servings (yield): 4

For more recipes and chatter, visit my food blog www.brannyboilsover.com.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone – Part 2

By: Staci Rutherford

“Believe with all of your heart that you will do what you were made to do.” – Orison Swett Marden

I am beginning part two with a meaningful quote that sums up how I have been feeling since before stepping out of my comfort zone.  I spent the month of February on an emotional roller coaster.  At times, I was overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, however, my excitement and happiness outweighed those feelings and I came out on top.

The HandbagReport.com showroom officially opened its doors to the public on Thursday, March 1, 2012, which was also First Thursday at Tapp’s Art Center.  First Thursday is a big event that takes place every month at Tapp’s, where the work of different artists, photographers, and sculptors are featured.  It’s a fun, laid back atmosphere that is perfect for networking and connecting with kindred spirits.  I met some fantastic people and received positive feedback on the space that I worked so hard to make just right.

As I explained throughout the evening, the HandbagReport.com showroom is extension of the blog.  It’s a place to personally connect with my readers and customers, and to bring the blog from virtuality to reality.  I chose accessories from a local designer to feature in the showroom, Nana by Sally.  The collection is one-of-a-kind handmade clutches and handbags made from vintage, vintage-inspired and designer fabrics.  I also interviewed the designer of Nana by Sally, Sally Peek, which is currently posted on the blog.

The next few weeks will be spent continuing to decorate the space, and preparing for the official grand opening.  I look forward to sharing the showroom with my friends, family, and all of the women in town who love handbags.  I believe with all of my heart that I am doing what I am meant to do, which is an exciting and scary adventure!

The Whole Enchilada

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

My husband, Neil, has gotten really good at helping spot deals.  He called me last week, because he’d seen the sign at the Piggly Wiggly on Devine St. advertising rotisserie chickens for $1.99 with 1 Greenbax.  Luckily, I was right down the street from there and headed right over.  I picked up two of these little babies and spent the rest of the day brainstorming about what to do with them.

Obviously, that night, we had sliced roasted chicken.  Except the little one.  She’s a drumstick fan.  She devoured both of them and asked for another.  This turned into a “teachable moment” about how chickens only have 2 legs.  The next day, Neil was able to take the leftovers for lunch. And, we still had one chicken to go…

Enchiladas are what I came up with.  (By the way, I’ve learned that if you pronounce Mexican foods with an accent kids will dig it no matter what.)  I asked the Wonderkind if she would prefer enchiladas with green sauce or red sauce. She mulled it over and decided red was the way to go.

My sweet husband had been so kind as to cut all the meat off of Chicken #2 for me, so I just shredded it, mixed in some chopped green chilis and Monterrey Jack cheese. I sautéed onions with garlic and mixed those in too.  Rolled up all of this yumminess in corn tortillas, covered in enchilada sauce and some “Mexican blend” grated cheese on top and into the oven.  Quick, easy and muy bueno!

Now, kids always bring some sort of hilarity to meals.  I realized I was treading on thin ice with the onions and green chili, but if you don’t keep trying and introducing flavors, they’ll never develop a taste for them.  So, guess what the Wonderkind’s only objection was?  The corn tortilla. She’s “not used to it” she said.  She deconstructed the enchilada and ate the filling without any qualms.  Go figure!

The added bonus is that we got so much meat off that one rotisserie chicken that I was able to make a 2nd pan of enchiladas that are now sleeping soundly in my freezer.  I don’t know about you, but I actually get a sense of peace knowing that I have delicious food in that freezer.  And, it can be a true lifesaver on those nights when time is of the essence!

As I’ve told you all before, learning to coupon CORRECTLY has made a huge (positive) difference for our little family.  Knocking $4.00 off a freshly roasted chicken is a huge savings and a great way to have dinner and then some. Using coupons, shopping sales and training the husband to notice sales advertisements really adds up quick.  And, to think we got 4 meals from $3.98 as opposed to $11.98…priceless!