By: Lara Winburn

Have you ever stumbled onto your computer on a Friday night and realized that you were not having a girls’ night, date night or even a family movie night, but your 7,533 Facebook friends were? I have, and sometimes it can sting or at least give you pause about whether you are having enough fun and making enough plans.

I really do like social media-I love a silly survey, a funny post on Facebook, and I can’t resist a cute pic and a clever hashtag on Instagram. Occasionally, I will even tweet – though I often need more than 140 characters to express myself (as you can see). That said, it seems like in this “status-update” world when I feel that sting, all I need is a little dose of reality – not reality trash TV or a housewife from Fakeville (though I am not opposed to that, either).

FalsiesHere’s the little dose of reality that I think is worth remembering when the 13-year-old girl inside of me, and maybe even you, feels that “getting-left-out” sting:

There is a picture of me on Facebook, all lip gloss smiles and even a little eye make-up, too. I’m at a dinner party with a glass of wine in a real wine glass with a stem and everything. But here is what is behind that picture: The host of the dinner party burned a good portion of dinner (#theregoeshergoodmood); one couple had to leave early when the babysitter called with a sick child (#partysover); and it was an altogether underwhelming time (#exceptfortheeyemakeup).

I’m not saying that most life events shared on social media are not wonderful memories being made; they are. They are just are not ALL wonderful memories. Sometimes they are just a good camera angle and the Valencia setting on Instagram.

The truth is: we don’t put our frozen-pizza, park-in-front-of-the-tv, skip-the-bath nights out there for the world to see. You don’t want to see my 700 loads of laundry; you’ve probably got your own. (#whereareallthesocksgoing?!) And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We all have our own not-so-Facebook-worthy Friday nights. Or, better yet, we are having one of life’s actual precious moments and haven’t picked up the smart phone to share.

Maybe you have no idea about this false world that social media portrays and you have no idea what I am talking about and never felt the sting. If that’s the case, don’t mind me, just go back to your Pinterest-worthy parties and post some more really lovely selfies.

But we all know… most people crop out the not-so-pretty parts.

Monte….An Introduction

By: Shannon Shull

I had every intention of writing this blog entry on a different subject – one that I’ll have to save for another time, because I have been distracted and inspired by a unique creature that lives in my home. His name is Monte – the Count of Monte Cristo to be exact. Pronounced MON-TEE. I have a record of having dogs with an enormous amount of character. This latest precious pet of mine is living up to that record.

L'il Shannon &; her 1st cocker, Cookie

L’il Shannon & her 1st cocker, Cookie

When I was little, my very first official pet that was all mine, came to me Christmas morning in a wrapped box with a bow around her neck. My parents presented me, with total excitement and grandeur, with my last, but most special gift of Christmas morning. Out popped the little head of one of the most beautiful cocker spaniels ever. It was love at first sight. I was about 7 years old and I named her Cookie. I’ve had a love of cocker spaniels ever since.

Puppy Monte Saying Pick Me!

Puppy Monte Saying Pick Me!

So when it was time to get a new rascal to warm my heart and liven up my home after some big changes in my life, I thought it was time to revisit that love of a cocker. I contacted a family whose cocker had pups. They were looking for good homes for them and I lucked out…majorly. As I spoke to the lady on the phone, I asked if she could share a picture of the puppies. As we talked on the phone she took the picture – I remember this because she was talking to the puppies as we were chatting on the phone. Saying things like “Smile pretty! One of you is gonna get a new mama!” She emailed me the picture. Of course they were all precious. I mean they were puppies – what puppy isn’t super cute!? There was no way I could choose just by looking at the picture. I had to meet these little ones in person. When we met, I loved on those puppies and played with them all, but there was one that took to me. One that I knew I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t until months later, after we’d taken home our l’il Monte, that I looked back at that picture and realized the irony of the shot – it was as if he was waving at me, raising his little paw, saying “Pick me! Pick me!”

The day my babies met Monte for the 1st time...

The day my babies met Monte for the 1st time…





Monte is almost two years old now and has consistently proven to be busting at the seams with character. From destroying supposedly indestructible things – (like the Kong dog toys… yea, believe it or not, our Monte cocker spaniel, demolished the Kong) – to consistently displaying an array of quirky mannerisms to having so much love and devotion that he gives new meaning to the quote, “A dog wags his tail with his heart.” We are all in love with our Count of Monte Cristo.

2014 Shannon & her current cocker, Monte

2014 Shannon & her current cocker, Monte

Monte Man, Our Count

Monte Man, Our Count

For me especially, the quote, “I may not be perfect but my dog loves me,” hits home something fierce. This dog has helped me survive some really tough times. His undying love and sweetness has helped keep me from going off the deep end. There’s so much I could say about this precious pet.

But, I was inspired to write this blog post (instead of the original one) because of my Monte’s latest heartwarming quirk that would make anyone’s heart smile. Within the last month, Monte has started communicating with us on a different level – we sing together, we chat, we converse…yes, we howl. And it’s great fun! Take a look at this video and enjoy! 

Monte lovin' Mama

Monte lovin’ Mama

Stay tuned for more marvelous Monte moments… And if you have a special pet at home that truly is one of a kind, give that angel a hug and take a moment to let him or her make your heart smile. I know I will always be thankful for all the angel pets I’ve been blessed with so far in my lifetime.

“Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never owned the right dog.” 🙂

Tell Your Age – Proudly

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I celebrated my 38th birthday. Oops, did I just tell my age? Who does that? There are many women who won’t. Well, I’m not one of those women. I don’t quite understand why women (and I know some men do it, too) keep their age a secret. Does your age help crack the code to a master lock or a mind-boggling riddle? Could that number be the one to help the inquirer win the lottery? Or are you just ashamed of your age? Don’t be. Be proud of your age, whether you’re 18, 21, 50, somewhere in between or beyond. It’s great to age, you know. If you’re not getting older, you’re dead. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true. We should be grateful that we are living and have lived to see each birthday that has passed.  I’ve heard people say when their birthday comes around that it’s just another day. No, it’s not just another day. It’s your birthday, the date commemorating the day that God, who created you, allowed you to be a part of this world. That’s worth celebrating.

Happy BirthdayI usually don’t make a big deal out of my birthday, but this year was different. I wanted to do something for myself for a change. I wanted a change of scenery and to do something different. I decided to drive to Atlanta, even if I had to go alone. Fortunately, I didn’t travel solo. I was in good company with a friend I met in high school, whom I reconnected with last year. We had a ball! We shopped, ate, shopped and ate some more. I treated myself to a little pampering at one of the most popular salons in Atlanta, too. Besides, it was my birthday.

Well my birthday has come and gone, but I’m looking forward to turning 39, 40, and every age that follows. And every time I’m asked my age, I’ll proudly say it. Regardless of where you are in life right or how you feel about yourself, be proud of your age and be thankful that you’re still alive.

I’m Chaunte McClure, inspiring you to rejoice, be glad and tell your age.

Breakfast Potatoes

By: Brady Evans

A friend came to visit me and brought with her some eggs that her mom’s chickens had laid.

EggsI couldn’t think of anything besides eating these eggs for dinner, so naturally I planned our evening’s dinner around them.  Generally when I make breakfast potatoes I make a recipe that I remember from my childhood.  My mom would always make us rosemary skillet potatoes after chilly mornings browsing the local flea market.  And though I keep attempting to master the recipe, I just can’t.  I’m sort of a bad potato cooker and the fact that her recipe is cooked entirely stovetop means the potatoes, for me, never get soft enough before they get too dark on the outside (and by dark I mean burned).  Now, I can make do with an al dente potato.  My husband cannot.

This will be our family’s breakfast potato recipe.  It is cooked in the oven, which frees up the stove for egg frying, anyway.  The recipe calls for bell peppers and I think it is nice to add a little veggie to the potatoes when you can.  We loved this meal (partly due to these potatoes) so much that we had it two nights in a row for dinner.  The recipe as written makes a bunch but I just heated up leftovers on a sheet pan in the oven and they were good as new.

Breakfast potatoes

Breakfast Potatoes (adapted from The Pioneer Woman)


  • 4-5 pounds red potatoes, cut into chunks (1″ cubes)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 red bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, garlic, onion, red bell pepper, olive oil, butter, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper and some kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Pour potatoes onto two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, shaking the pan twice.
  4. Raise the heat to 500 degrees and bake until crisp and brown, 15 to 20 minutes, tossing twice.
  5. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper before serving.


By: Sherree Thompson

After my husband’s short visit to the emergency room with Cardiac-like symptoms, we opted to try an all carb-free diet. He had been reading a tri-athletes training guide and it just so happened that his symptoms matched what the book was saying in regards to having a Carb Intolerance. (The doctors ruled out anything heart related).

I had never heard of such intolerance and I didn’t realize which foods are considered carbs.  I’ve never really counted calories or been committed to specifically weighing meals and such. After all, I’m an “eat fresh and balanced” kind of girl.  Well, did I learn a thing or two. I had no idea how difficult it would be to totally eliminate a food group from our regular diet. Kudos to those who have to do so on a normal basis.

Anyways, we eliminated carbs for two weeks. We only did it to see how he would respond and to see if it was something we needed to adjust. Thank God it was not a permanent change, because I had already been cheating by day four. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was snappy, tired and downright hungry! And who really wants to live without sweet potatoes and corn? Not this momma.

At the end of the trail, my husband agreed that he felt tired a bit, but felt better overall. I really thought he would want to make this a normal thing, but he didn’t. Instead, he said that he thinks, for him, cutting back would be beneficial but that entirely cutting them out was not the answer. (Apparently he eats way more carbs than I do).

I am very thankful the carb-free-life is not for us and that I get to indulge in my beloved pasta! Okay, indulge isn’t the right word, but enjoy is.

Last night I made a simple Linguini and Spinach in a garlic cream sauce. All I used was fresh spinach, garlic, salt & pepper, about 2 table spoons of cream cheese and about a half teaspoon of real butter.

Steak with pasta

Several people have asked me for recipes for the dishes I cook up. The problem is, I don’t usually have one. I tend to use a pinch of that and a dash of this, so it is always a tough chore for me to get a precise recipe. I will, however, give you all the ingredients and hope that you find the blend that works for your pallet. After all, cooking is an art and only you can tell when it’s just right.

Here are a few of my recent combinations:

Poached Eggs sprinkled with Smoked Paprika and a dash of salt:


Chicken Salad Sammy: Roasted chicken breast, mayo, grapes, red onion, salt and pepper, and a dash of stone ground mustard. This is actually a really fun dish to make as you can play around with almost any ingredient combination.

Chicken salad sammy

Beer Bathing Chicken: Chicken, sweet onion, poultry seasoning, ground cardamom, salt & pepper and a bottle of beer

Chicken in the pan

In The Giving, We Receive

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As many of you may know, Columbia College is an institution that is very near and dear to my heart.  The years between August of 1996 and May of 2000 were life changing for me and I owe it all to those hallowed grounds. When I wanted to obtain a Masters degree, and after trying an “online program” from another institution, I migrated back to that same North Main Street/Columbia College Drive campus. I successfully completed the Master in Organizational Change and Leadership program in August of 2013.

In late October, I was contacted by the Director of Alumnae Relations and asked if I would be interested in speaking at Mom’s Day.  Mom’s Day is a tradition that dates back about 40 years and is a day on which Moms (or other important female influences) join their Columbia College daughters on campus for a chapel program, lunch, and other activities.

Unfortunately, I did not plan ahead well enough, so I do not have a live recording of my presentation. However, I would like to share with you here the written version of my speech: 

SONY DSCGood morning and welcome to Mom’s Day 2013.  It is such an honor and privilege for me to come and speak with you all today.

I am a Columbia College woman, twice over, in fact.  I’m a blogger.  I’m a daughter, sister, and friend.  But, my favorite job title is mom.  I am blessed to be the mother to two beautiful, precious, and mischievous little boys.  Yep, no little girls for me to groom and send to CC; but that’s okay, I am just trying to work hard and do my best to show my boys that the best women are Columbia College women.  So, maybe I’ll have Columbia College women for daughters-in-law one day, a very long time from now!

I have really struggled with what to say to you all today that will matter, that will make a difference to at least one of you sitting in the pews in front of me, and it is my prayer that you will be able to take a little something from the words I share with you now.

Then it came to me, just share your story. 

Last weekend, I attended a Christian Women’s Conference called the Magnificent Mess and the theme was “Embrace Your Story.” I firmly believe that we can learn a lot from each other when we share our stories. They can provide validation; they can provide comfort; they can provide inspiration.  I can only hope that you will allow me the indulgence of embracing my story and my prayer that you will find some measure of inspiration within my words.

Let me tell you how I came to stand before you today; it is probably not what you think.

5 ½ years ago, I thought that my world was pretty near perfect.  I was happily married, two beautiful children, a job I was happy with, a house, a few cats, and a couple of dogs.  What in the world could possibly go wrong with this story?

Oh what a difference about six months can make.

My world, as I saw it, started to crumble around me as my eight year marriage starting falling apart right in front of my eyes.  I didn’t know how to react.  I didn’t know what to do.  I begged, pleaded, and tried to bargain with my husband.  I begged, pleaded, and tried to bargain with God.  My marriage was part of my identity and I was terrified of who I would be, or really who I wouldn’t be, if I didn’t have that as part of my identity anymore. 

Everywhere I turned, though, God kept showing me a Bible verse: Jeremiah 29:11.  Many of you may know it.  “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you; to give you hope and a future.” 

Literally, I kept seeing this verse everywhere.  God was slamming it in my face to remind me that while I was in this mental and emotional turmoil, He knew already what I would face and He already knew the outcome.  But, even better was that He already had a hope and a future planned out for me and my children; and that He intended no harm to come to us.  But, I had to seek Him first. 

Not easy for someone who has always liked just a slight bit of control over her own life; who liked to plan things weeks and months in advance.  It was a little too “fly by the seat of my pants” for me, but in the end, what could I do? 

I recently heard, at the aforementioned women’s conference, the very best analogy for dealing with our lives when something isn’t going the way we want it to. 

Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie that has a twist to the plot that you just don’t really like?  Maybe things are going too slow in the story?  You are ready to close the book, put it aside; turn the movie off in the middle?  Yeah, sometimes our lives can be like that too.  Often, we find our lives at a juncture or twist in the plot that we, as humans, are not really very fond of.  Lord knows I was not really comfortable with where I was in early 2009.

But, who wrote our stories?  


And He reminds us at several points in the Bible that He knew us before he knit us together in our mother’s womb.  He reminds us that He already knows what is going to happen to us and that He has that future all mapped out.  We just sort of have to let go of that little issue of control.

Okay, so I tried to sit back and do what I thought God would want me to do.  While everyone around me pushed me to go ahead and end my marriage; I sat tight.  God impressed upon me the importance of not taking the easy way out; He impressed upon me the fact that I needed to wait and be confident in saying that divorce was a very last option for me.  I really felt like that is what I was supposed to do.  So, I did.  I tried to wait out the storm. 

Now, I’ll be honest, there were a lot of times that I thought by sticking it out, God would answer my prayers and heal my marriage. 

But, that didn’t happen.

I have been divorced for almost three years now.  My final divorce hearing was, literally, only three days shy of being two years from the date my husband first said he wanted a divorce.  Two years!

At that point, I had to make a decision: Would this bump in the road, this game changer, this plot twist – would it make me bitter or would it make me better?  Would I try and close the book or would I simply push through and keep reading the story until I could turn the page?


Now since we are in church, I am not going to stand up here and tell you an outright lie; that I was never, ever bitter.  My mama raised me not to tell a lie and since she’s sitting here with us today, I have to be honest; I was bitter at times; very, very bitter.  But, I did make the decision that even when I was bitter, I was going to learn from this experience; that some good would come of it; that it would not have been in vain; that I would become better and brighter and I would share my story and pray that if I could help only one person it would have been worth it.  I was so very fortunate to have had some wonderful friends and family who encouraged me, shared their stories with me, allowed me to laugh, cry, and rage on occasion during that time.  I wanted to pay it forward.

And in seeking that desire to help someone, God has really given me some wonderful gifts over the last five years.

He allowed me to reconnect with some old friends and make some wonderful new friends who have been so very supportive of me, even when they thought I was absolutely insane at points over those two years of waiting. 

He helped create a bond between me and my brother that had never really been there before. 

He created a bond between me and my in-laws that had not ever been present before during my marriage. 

He also gave me the courage and the tenacity and the drive to do things that I had long forgotten I could do or that I loved.

The first of these was writing; I have always loved to write. In the late summer of 2011, I decided to enter a blog contest being sponsored by Lexington Medical Center for a new blog they were creating; the EveryWoman blog, it would be called.  For women, written by women.  I took a giant leap of faith and even though I was terrified of rejection, I entered the contest.

And I was one of only 10 women chosen to be a featured writer for them.  And that has been a wonderful experience for me.  I have met some wonderful ladies from different parts of the Midlands and formed meaningful friendships.  I got to participate in Lexington Medical Center’s 2012 entry for the Pink Glove Dance, which they won for the 2nd year in a row.  Fortunately, you couldn’t see me in the video, but I was there and it was an awesome and inspiring event to be a part of. 

As the result of one of my blog articles, I was contacted by the editor of Mamapedia, which is a national online mommy network and was blessed to have written several articles for them, as well.  I gained a lot of courage and backbone through that process because my articles were seen by thousands of people. Not everyone agrees with what I think, and I’ve learned that’s okay.  I also gained new friends that I’ve never met.  We correspond through Facebook mostly, sort of like new age pen pals.  But, we encourage each other and pray for each other and empathize with each other over being single mothers of little boys.

Then, God renewed a drive and desire for education in my soul.  I had always considered going to back to school to further my education, but honestly, never really thought it was a possibility when I was a working wife and mother.  Oh no, I waited until I was a single, working mother to decide that it would be just the perfect time for me to get my Masters degree.  Brilliant move, right? 

I know, don’t say it.

And let’s not forget that not only was I a single working mom, I was also involved in our church and I was the Secretary and then co-chair of the Parent’s Association at my children’s school. 

Crazy, right?

Now, I’m going to tell you that graduate school here at CC is no joke and there were many nights that I thought to myself, there is no way on earth I can finish this program; I need to just drop out.

No, I couldn’t do that.  I had to finish the program.

God led me back to my educational roots for a reason; and I had to finish my Masters from Columbia College. 

You see, Columbia College is where I originally found my voice; nurtured by some of the very best professors, like Belinda Gergel, Anne McCulloch, Bob Moore, Seldon Smith, Tandy McConnell, and the rest of the folks in the History and Political Science department as it was known back then.  When I was allowed the chance to participate in one of the first Washington Semesters and this girl from small town South Carolina walked the streets of Washington, DC and realized that she could be anything and do anything she wanted.

And on August 4th, 2013, I walked up that aisle and across the front right here, received my Masters degree, and my children helped place the hood around my neck, with my parents, my brother, and my in-laws all sitting in these very pews to witness it. 

Never, when I was married, did I think that I could write on a semi-professional level. Never, when I was married, did I think that I had the courage or willpower to go back to school.  Never, when I was married, did I think I would have the courage and the confidence to stand before you today and share my story.

But, God knew that all of those things were important to me – recall His words from Psalm 37:4, “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And He granted them to me.

But, not in my time; in His time.

And that is what led me to stand in front of you today.

I had to persevere and push through, get through that trying period, finish that part of the book and get to a point where I could turn the page; and start a new chapter.  And what a chapter it has been for me.

But my story isn’t finished and neither is yours.

You might be facing a struggle right now; roommate or suitemate problems; problems with one of your courses; decisions regarding your major; boyfriend issues.  They all seem so major in the moment.  Not to diminish them at all; they are major for the point that you are at in your life.

But, never, ever put a period where God has only placed a comma.

Allow the mess you are in today turn into a message.

I just did.

And you can too.

Never before have I been so overwhelmed at the response to something I have written or spoken; mothers and daughters stopped me and thanked me for my words of encouragement, of perseverance.  I was truly touched and honestly think that I received more encouragement and words of affirmation and perseverance than anything I gave. I felt free; I felt invincible; I felt confident.  I finally felt like I had been able to give back to the institution that originally gave so much to me.

It is in the giving that we receive.

Be A Couch Volunteer!

By: Sydney Yarbrough

Sydney YarbroughVolunteering is very important to me. The act of selflessly doing something to help an organization in need reaps so many rewards!  Many think that volunteering takes up a lot of time and energy, or that they’re too busy to fit it into their schedule, but there are so many ways to volunteer and help people in need, even from your own home! Here are some easy ways that you can use your time to make a difference for a non-profit or cause that you support:

  1. Share their posts on Facebook. I don’t mean just “like” the post. I mean click SHARE, write a message to your followers, and encourage them to support your cause, too! Of course, not all of them will catch on immediately, but at least you’re helping to get the word out!
  2. Find Small Organizations to Support. There are plenty of non-profits that you see regularly in the media and on the news. Many hold events, galas, fundraisers, etc… The truth is, not every non-profit can afford to do these things. Many fund their causes from their own pockets, making an event nearly impossible for their budgets. I encourage you to find a lesser-known non-profit and follow their page on Facebook. Retweet them. Interact with them on your computer at least once every few days.
  3. Donate Your “Clutter.” When you’re doing spring cleaning, instead of putting everything in the trash, separate usable items into a bin and take it directly to a non-profit. Many animal rescues need items like blankets (or old clothes that could be used for blankets), detergent, cleaning supplies, etc. Coupons are a great thing to donate, too! Many assume that donating automatically means writing a check, but not always. Gift cards are also a big help.
  4. Reach Out. Wondering what the best way is for you to help? Pick a cause you’re curious about and send them an email or a Facebook message to see what they are currently most in need of. Ask if they have an Amazon wishlist that you could view and send them a gift, or if they need help hosting an information booth in the future. 

I like to encourage everyone to support smaller non-profits and rescues. Even if that just means “Like”ing their Facebook page. Every little act makes a difference and sometimes you don’t even have to leave your couch!