Spicy Romance Set in the South from Lexington Resident Synithia Williams

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

As an environmentalist for a local government, I work with all types of people, but none as awesome as my colleague and friend, Synithia Williams. By day, she is Lexington County’s Environmental Coordinator, a fabulous “partner in grime.” By night, Synithia is a romance writer, and this woman is going places! She didn’t start until 2010, and she has already published two books and is working on more. Synithia is a great local success story, as well as an inspiration to anyone working to make a dream come true.

From her official biography, Synithia Williams has loved romance novels since reading her first one at the age of 13. It was only natural that she would begin penning her own romances soon after. It wasn’t until 2010 that she began to actively pursue her publishing dreams. Her first novel, You Can’t Plan Love, was published in August 2012 by Crimson Romance. When she isn’t writing, this Green Queen, as dubbed by the State Newspaper, works to improve air and water quality, while balancing the needs of her husband and two sons.

Synithia Bookmark

I recently interviewed Synithia about her writing, how her day job sneaks into her novels and what her husband thinks about those steamy love scenes, among other things…

By day, you’re an environmental coordinator; by night, a romance writer. What, if anything, do these two have in common?

Not very much! I did use my experience working in water quality to create a career for the heroine in my first book, You Can’t Plan Love. In my attempt to “write what you know,” I made her an environmental consultant. I also sneak in sustainable habits with some of my characters. The hero in YCPL drives a hybrid, and the heroine in my second book, Worth the Wait, recycles and grows her own vegetables.

Have you always wanted to be an author? How long have you been writing? How did you get started?

I wrote my first book when I was 6 and made a cover for it out of wall paper. So I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I always considered it a hobby and never pursued it seriously, until I saw a co-worker make a big career jump to follow her dream. I figured if she could do that, then I could finish a book. So I made it a goal to complete my novel by the end of the year (2010). I did, and then spent all of 2011 getting feedback, researching the publishing industry, and taking workshops on writing. I started querying e-book publishers in 2012 and couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to have Crimson Romance offer a contract for my first book in May 2012.

Who inspires you, authors or otherwise?

Inspiration is everywhere. When I see people go after their dreams it inspires me to keep writing. When I’m reading a book and the phrasing an author uses or the scene they wrote gets an emotional response out of me, I’m inspired to do the same thing in my writing. I even get inspiration sitting in staff meetings. A random phrase can give me an idea for an entirely new story. I hope that I serve as an inspiration to my boys. I want them to know they can achieve anything they want if they work hard.

What does your husband think about your hot romance novels?

He wants every man I write about to be him! But seriously, he’s very supportive. I could not do this without him. He doesn’t mind me going to writing conferences, or serving on the board of Low County Romance Writers of America. He puts up with my babbling about book ideas and marketing strategies. I’m very lucky to have him.

What is the first thing people want to know about you when they find out that you write romance novels?

If the stories are about me. I think that’s crazy because as open as I can be, I couldn’t put my love life out there like that. I do draw on some life experiences when I write, but all of my stories are from my very vivid imagination.

What is the first thing you want people to know about you as a romance writer?

That I don’t write “typical” romance. Love isn’t easy, so I don’t make falling in love easy for my characters. They all have flaws, some that are hard to overcome and don’t always make my characters likeable. I think this realism is the reason people like my novels. The best compliments I get are from women who can relate to my heroines or when they say my heroes are realistic. But even though I show how hard love can be you will get a happy ending.

What are your plans and/or goals for the future?

To write 2-3 books a year. It seems impossible with a day job and kids, but when I’m focused I can write 2,000 words in one sitting.

What is the greatest misconception about romance novels?

That they are full of weak women and unrealistic storylines. That may be true of romance novels of the past, but today the stories reflect real life. Yes, they are about love and yes everyone ends up happily matched, engaged or married. But what’s wrong with that? There’s too much sadness in the world to shun books that provide a few hours of happiness. They aren’t all erotica as some like to believe. Romance runs the gamut from inspirational stories with just hand holding and a kiss to the more explicit 50 Shades type. If you’ve never read one, find the genre that you’re comfortable with and give it a try

What advice do you have for someone who wants to publish a novel?

Keep writing! I wrote my second book before I had a contract for the first. If you’re researching about writing and publishing, your writing style should improve, and if your first book doesn’t sell then your second or third might. Learn everything there is to know about publishing (traditional, e-publishing and self publishing). There are a lot of options for writers now, and there’s no reason to enter the field without any knowledge.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I appreciate the chance to connect with your readers and hopefully introduce them to my corner of the world. People can connect with me on line on my website www.synithiawilliams.com, Facebook (www.facebook.com/synithiarwilliams) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/@SynithiaW).

For more about Synithia and/or her books, visit www.synithiawilliams.com.

How Is Your Mental Health?

By: Shannon Shull

An incredibly loaded question, I know. The idea of mental health is such a weighty subject. But lately it seems it has been forced into the forefront of my complicated life. Whether in the news or close to home, precious people have been so mentally tortured, they’ve taken their own lives. Some of us cannot fathom ever getting to that level, but for others, it is a harsh reality.  It is so unfortunate that a person can consider themselves so Mental Health Woeshelpless and hopeless that they would take their own life, but it happens all too often. Even those of us who would not consider ourselves on a tragic life or death level can endure an amazing amount of mental suffering, whether depression, anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, OCD or fear issues. It’s a tough, complicated part of human nature that we cannot escape.

How you face your mental demons varies from person to person. What works to help me keep a slight grip on sanity might not work for others. We have to find our own individual sanity savers and accept the fact that it’s ok to say, “Yea, I need some help!”  Whether that consists of relying on medication, talking things through with a therapist, going for a run, having a long, tear-filled conversation with your Mom or dear friend, attending a powerful church service, watching one of your favorite movies with a tissue box in your lap, singing along with Adele, going out shopping or dancing, or making a date with a bottle of wine, a big plate of pasta and watching your Sex in the City DVD collection. To each her own, I say. Even if you have to commit yourself to an institution, the important thing is that you seek help, understanding and relief from the mental pain.

Sex in the CityIn my own extremely complicated life lately, I have to admit, I am thankful for amazing therapists, the ability to work my body as I teach Zumba, priceless hugs and kisses from my babies, the support of family, close friends, the love in my life and (yes, I’m showing my age here) my friendship with Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. Without some of those saving graces in my life, I feel sure that I would’ve gone off the deep end. And who’s to say, I won’t have a couple to a hundred total meltdowns in the near future. But the fortunate thing for me is that when I get so mentally low, I usually have enough sense to seek help. But, in some cases, we don’t have the psychological make-up to know how to ask for help. Or, sometimes we seek help and still feel helpless. So then what? We need to increase awareness about the fact it’s ok to struggle and seek assistance for our mental and emotional issues..

Mental Health AwarenessThe truth is, we spend a whole lot of time focusing on our physical health, which, don’t get me wrong, is an imperative part of living an all-around healthy life. I’m a huge supporter of physical fitness. However, you could be in top-notch physical shape and if you’re suffering mentally, it won’t matter a hill of beans what you look like, how toned you may be, or how low your cholesterol is. We get our check-ups – our yearly physical, our annual pap, our teeth cleaned every six months, our eyes checked, etc., yet what do we do for a mental check up?

For any of you suffering mentally with a heavy head and heart, please make the effort. Do something, anything, to boost your mental health.  Because, here’s the deal – I can guarantee, if you just open yourself up, express your mental anguish and seek guidance and relief, you will very quickly discover that you are not alone. Whatever your mental health challenge and inner life battle may be, it is important to always remember, you are never alone. And it seems cliché, but it’s so true. Though in the moment we may feel like we are the only person who has ever experienced this sort of mental anguish, the inevitable truth is, we are not the only ones. But we have to be willing to open ourselves up and seek help to find that out.

I Will SurviveSo, in closing my mental health soap box here, I challenge all of you amazing people who might actually be reading this blog entry of mine, to take that positive step to improve your mental health. Add a mental health check up to your to-do list, seriously, do it right now!  Consider what you truly need to make sure you never get close to going off the deep end and feeling helpless. Human nature can really kick ya in the pants sometimes, so hit back and show life that you are in control of its craziness and declare to the world, with its imperfectness and complexities, as Gloria Gaynor professes, “I will Survive!”

Braised Pork Ragu

By: Brady Evans

I’m not really a flower person. They don’t last. In theory, they are probably bad for the environment (The energy and packaging it takes to deliver flowers?? Growing things and killing them while only benefiting from their aesthetics?? I don’t know.) They are expensive.

However, I did gasp in delight when I came home from work on Valentine’s Day and found a beautiful bouquet of red roses on my kitchen island. Then, I gasped even bigger when I saw a second set of flowers on our kitchen table. My husband, who was eaves dropping from the other room, politely informed me that the second bouquet actually did not belong to me, but to our very good friend who had recently broken up with her boyfriend. In any case, his gesture was super sweet.

I then walked into the bedroom to change into something more comfortable (i.e. ragged jeans, a sweatshirt, and boots for horse chores) and noticed that my entire closet was torn apart. Stacks of hangers weighted with clothes were everywhere and boxes of shoes were strewn about. The closet door stood wide open and the closet was completely empty.

Bundt Cake & RosesYet, I jumped up and down with happiness. My love language is definitely ‘acts of service.’ So, although my husband destroyed the bedroom and the closet in the process of hanging a brand new closet rod for me, it was the BEST gift ever. As a result of his gifts, I immediately went to the kitchen and made him a bundt cake.

This meal was one we enjoyed the weekend prior to Valentine’s Day and I declared it our Valentine’s Dinner. Delicious pork ragu with homemade pasta, if anything, is worthy of a special occasion. It is rich and different from the norm. Just don’t wait until next Valentine’s to make it. Make it now!

Braised Pork Ragu (adapted from Dinner a Love Story)

Ingredients

  • Pork Ragu1 1/2-pound boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small pat butter
  • 1 large (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs fresh oregano
  • Freshly grated Parmesean (for serving)

Instructions

  1. Braised Pork RaguPreheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Liberally salt and pepper the pork.
  3. Add olive oil and butter to large Dutch oven and heat over medium-high until butter melts.
  4. Add pork roast to pan and brown on all sides, about 8-10 minutes in all. Remove from pan.
  5. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  6. Add pork roast, tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, bring to a boil.
  7. Cover, and put in oven. Braise for 3-4 hours, turning every hour or so. Add more liquid (water, wine, or tomato sauce) if needed. (The liquid should come to about 1/3 of the way up the pork.)
  8. Meat is done when it’s practically falling apart. Put on a cutting board and pull it apart with two forks, then add back to pot and stir.
  9. Cook 1 to 2 pounds pasta according to package directions for serving.

Rose Ceremony

By: Roshanda Pratt

Rose CeremonyIf you have ever watched ABC’s The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, you are familiar with the rose ceremony. It is often filled with drama, tears, and one of the cast-offs saying something along the lines of, “He/she does not really know the people in the house. I had their best interest. I really loved them.” I have never been a fan of the show. I am really not sure how you can “love” someone you barely know. Or even tolerate spending time with someone who was with another person the night before. Just call me old fashioned, I guess. I never did like to share my crayons when I was a child.  Do you understand where I am coming from?

Today, I want to talk about one of Mama’s Losin’ It writing prompts. Here it goes:

Welcome to the most shocking rose ceremony.  Please award roses to the ten people or items in your life that you’d like to continue a relationship with?

My first rose goes to Christ, the rose of Sharon.  Today, I give Him a rose because Christ is constantly showering me with gifts. His bouquet has added a sweet spot to many of my cloudy days.  His bouquet has never died or wearied, but with each passing tear with Christ the more it blooms.

My second rose would be handed to my husband, JacobeeSeriously, this guy has patience. I am not an easy woman to live with. I have many imperfections, yet he loves me as if none of them matter.  Now, he’s not perfect either (I had to put that in there haha!). But we are perfecting imperfect together. Thank God for grace.

My third rose is handed to my three blessings, my children who keep me honest and make sure I have a daily dose of laughter.

My fourth rose goes to my parents & in-lawsAn African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and there is no truer saying as it concerns my parents and in-laws. They have been a huge support system to my husband and me. They have rearranged their own schedules so my husband and I have time to reconnect. I am eternally grateful for them.

My fifth rose is for my Pastors who are great examples of leadership, faithful stewards in their family.  They have encouraged me and my family to be 300% in all facets of life.

My sixth rose is for my extremely worn and extremely tattered sneakers.  I recently took up running and have found that these are oldies but goodies. They have proven to be more supportive than the “newbies,”  which showed me sometimes older is better. (smile)

My seventh rose is handed to old friends. You know the friends who have seen you at your worst and at your best and choose to love you anyway?

My eighth rose is awarded to Veggie Tales, a quality message communicated in a humorous way. Much of our sweet family time together has been shared singing to “Lyle the kindly Viking.” Matter of fact, even when the children are not in the car, my husband and I can be caught jamming out. Don’t tell the kids!

My ninth rose goes to my laptop, the late night companion who has helped me through many proposals, research, and yes, even social media.

My last and final rose goes to all of you who are making a difference in the world.  If no one told you today, I say thank you for making the world a beautiful garden in full bloom.

My rose ceremony ended with minimal tears. How would your rose ceremony go? Who would you give a rose to?

Roshanda

Chicken Salad: The Food With 1000 Faces

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

You know how certain regions have specialties like barbeque, chili or crab cakes? Each version of a dish is different. It all depends on where you are and who’s in the kitchen.  Chicken salad is one of these foods.  The first time I went out to Colorado, my sister’s friend asked me what I’d like to do for lunch.  I casually said something like “Oh, you know, something simple like where we can get a sandwich or some chicken salad or something.”

<<crickets and tumbleweeds>>

I was quickly informed by my sister that “out there” nobody knew what chicken salad was. I found that so curious, but it caused me to start observing where, when and how I saw chicken salad prepared and served.  And, like barbeque, chicken salad is as varied as the people who make it.  Here in the South, it appears on almost every menu that serves lunch or casual dining.  We make it for our picnics, church gatherings, bridal showers and a quick weeknight supper.  You’ll find it on crackers, in a half of a cantaloupe, stuffed into a tomato, on a croissant, on lettuce, on bread or in a phyllo shell.  But the real diversity involves the ingredients.

Here’s something you may not know about my sister and me.  We hate celery.  We have a seething loathing for celery.  Unfortunately for us, the rest of the world seems to think these heinous stalks are a requirement in many dishes, chicken salad included.  I was in a nice restaurant in the Vista for lunch one day.  They had a chicken salad croissant on the day’s menu, and I asked my waiter if it had celery in it.  He didn’t know, so he went to the kitchen to ask.  He came back and very excitedly said “Yes!  It does!.”  Oh great, I’ll have the turkey reuben.  But, I get it, most of you like the stuff, and I’ve learned that I just have to ask and see if it’s in there.  Another common ingredient is onion.  I’m not a fan of this one either.  Raw onion just seems too “in your face” for chicken salad. There are some, like my mom, who will take one bite of raw onion and not finish the sandwich.  So, she’s learned to ask.

One of my favorite preparations includes tarragon mayo, pecans, green grapes and, occasionally, some pineapple.  Other times I like a simple chicken salad with mayo, salt & pepper.  But over the years, I’ve had some really creative ones, as well.  For instance, curry, apple and raisins are nice complements to chicken.  Or, slivered almonds added to the simple salt and pepper variety.  Or the old fashioned kind with pickle relish and hard-boiled egg mixed in.

The point of all this is that to me, chicken salad has always been a mainstay “around here.”  I love the fact that no matter what restaurant you choose or whose house you might be visiting, it’s going to be different every time you have it.  It’s the perfect salad for a light lunch, an elegant finger sandwich, a dip for crackers, or to roll up in puff pastry and serve as an hors d’oeuvres. I hope this simple little dish has finally made its way out West.  Those Coloradans would gobble it right up.  They’d probably dig some Southern mustard-based barbeque, too!

Elizabeth writes Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef). For more thoughts, stories, musings, and opinions about food, please visit and subscribe.  Eat, drink and be merry!

Saint Valentine

By: Katie Austin

452631_97838694It’s that time of year when heart-shaped candy boxes and the color red are all over the place. Originally, I was going to write about Valentine’s Day gift options, since there are so many to choose from; whether it’s an object you can find in a store or a token that you make at home! However, I found myself wondering how and when this holiday began? I just had to know and I thought some of you might be interested too.

Before I started my research, I thought that there was only one saint associated with Valentine’s Day.  However, I was wrong! The Catholic Church recognizes at least THREE different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. He defied Emperor Caludius II by performing marriages for young lovers in secret. According to another legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him while he was in jail for helping Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. Before his death, he is said to have written her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.

Candy heartsDo you know how the tradition of passing out valentines started? The first known written Valentine appeared sometime in the 15th Century. In Britain, by the middle of the 18th Century, it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.  As technology advanced, printed cards began to replace written letters by the turn of the 20th Century. I had no idea that printed cards dated back to 1900! Fascinating!

For more Valentine’s Day information, visit Wikipedia (I love this site!) and history.com.

As always, I will leave you with a related quote.  Nothing like a little Shakespeare on Valentine’s Day! 🙂

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” – William Shakespeare

Wishing my Every Woman Blog family a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

~ Katie

Lexington Medical Center Leads “Green” Health Care Movement in South Carolina

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

What’s the first thing you notice when entering Lexington Medical Center’s Medical Park Two? Perhaps it is the rich woodwork or the beautiful steel and glass stairway. Or maybe you notice just how many people come in and out of that building, as evidenced by the bustling parking lot. But one of the most fascinating things about Lexington Medical Park Two isn’t the grand design or occupancy rate, but the round glass seal designating the building as a LEED Silver Certified facility.

lmp2

As a sustainability professional by day, I hear a lot about LEED, but don’t often see it put into practice. I recently visited Lexington Medical Park Two for the first time to see my ob/gyn, who recently relocated his practice to Lexington Medical Center. While it’s hard to get excited about those annual visits, I was thrilled to see the LEED seal as I headed upstairs. I knew immediately that I wanted to feature this building in an upcoming blog post.

For those of you who may not be familiar with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), it is an internationally recognized green building program that provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED allows building owners and operators to impact their building’s performance and bottom line, while providing healthy indoor spaces for a building’s occupants.

So what exactly does this mean for Lexington Medical Park Two? For starters, it boasts the following eco-friendly characteristics:

  • More than 75% of construction waste was recycled instead of sent to a landfill.
  • Construction materials had a high recycled content, including fly ash for concrete in the parking deck, reinforcing steel for concrete, structural steel in building framing and metal studs to support walls. And, materials came from regional suppliers to reduce emission caused by transportation.
  • Energy-efficient white roofing that reflects the sun, improved building insulation and energy-efficient windows reduce the amount of heating and air conditioning needed by 30%.
  • The building uses an existing retention pond to minimize the impact of storm water runoff into rivers and streams.
  • Bike racks and showers encourage workers to bike to work.
  • The building has water-conserving plumbing fixtures in restrooms.
  • The air conditioning equipment uses refrigerants that are less damaging to the earth’s ozone layer.
  • The project used paint, carpets, adhesives, sealants and composite wood products that cause the least amount of chemicals to be emitted.
  • Janitor closets are specially sealed to ensure cleaning chemicals stored there don’t get re-circulated into the building.

And you think that is impressive? How about this: Lexington Medical Park Two was the first LEED-certified health care building in South Carolina.

If you’re like me, you’re usually in a hurry when you’re headed to an appointment with your doctor. But if you have a few extra minutes, take a look around Lexington Medical Park Two; it’s as attractive as it is sustainable. And while you’re there, thank your doctor for practicing in a LEED-certified building. It’s not only a more environmentally-friendly building; it’s a healthier building for staff and patients.