Our Support of the Fort ROCKS!

By: Shannon Shull 

Oh friends, am I ever so excited and so proud! If any of you happened to check out my last blog entry, you know that I was trying to help rally support to Save Our Fort. The goal was to try to get close to 10,000 signatures in support of Fort Jackson staying open and active in our community. Not only did they meet their goal, but they’ve exceeded it! As of August 25, 2014, they already have close to 13,000 signatures! Many thanks to the tremendous effort put forth by my amazing aunt, Susan McPherson, Director of Public Policy & Military Affairs at the Greater Columbia Chamber, and the team of fabulous folks who rallied our community in support of Fort Jackson and all the positive opportunities it provides for our state. So for those of you who have stepped up to support the Fort, THANK YOU! You rock!

Save Our Fort

Please read on below for details of the good news. I promise to keep you all posted on this mission to Save Our Fort.

Columbia Chamber Exceeds Goal with Support of Community

The Save Our Fort initiative, an effort started by the Columbia Chamber to gain community support for Fort Jackson, has exceeded its goal by gathering more than 12,300 petition signatures. “We greatly appreciate the overwhelming response on behalf of Fort Jackson” stated Carl Blackstone, president & CEO of the Columbia Chamber. “This is a critical demonstration to the U. S. Army on how valuable Fort Jackson is to our community and to our partners.”

Save our Fort

MG (Ret.) George Goldsmith, chairman of the Columbia Chamber Military Affairs Committee shares, “We hear it again and again that the Columbia region is the ‘most military friendly community in America’. The collected signatures are a strong indicator for the U. S. Army and sets the stage for our community listening session that will be held in early 2015. We appreciate our community’s support and encourage continued involvement as we fight to save our fort.”

The packet of support letters will be sent to the U.S. Army in response to the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment (SPEA) on August 25th. We encourage the community to continue sending in petitions until Monday. The next phase of the SPEA will be in early 2015 with the U. S. Army community listening session. Additional details will be shared closer to the date.

Save Our Fort

Columbia recognizes Fort Jackson as a major economic engine. We are proud of our talented men and women who produce excellent soldiers for our country. We want to continue to work with the U.S. Army to grow and expand the mission of Fort Jackson and make it a center of excellence for Initial Entry Training soldier training/production.

For more information about Save Our Fort visit ColumbiaChamber.com or contact Susan McPherson at 803.733.1148.

Some People Say the Darndest Things

By: Chaunte McCLure 

people say the darndest thingsAs if hearing the question ‘When are you having a baby?’ isn’t annoying enough, the unwanted responses I get about being without a child, especially at my age, make me cringe.

I thought I’d share the top 10 statements people have made to me as a childless woman. Trust me, there are more, but I’ll stick to 10. Let me warn you, some of these will either make you LOL, say O-M-G or cause you to ask, SUP with that?

  1. Your babies are going to look old. You can thank my almost 80-year-old great-aunt for this one.
  2. When you visit your child’s school, their friends will ask, “Is that your grandma?” Now this one actually made me laugh.
  3. You need to have a child to complete your family – one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure of the theology here, but an old lady sent that message to me. Each member of the Trinity is to represent a member of my family.
  4. You ain’t gettin’ no younger. Well, obviously not!
  5. You better hurry up or your eggs are gonna be rotten. Really? Ma’am, do you have a brain? Is that even biologically possible?! I’m sorry, but that one really disturbed me.
  6. You need to have at least one so you’ll have someone to take care of you when you’re older. That makes sense, but there’s no guarantee there. Besides, that would not be my reason to procreate.
  7. If you wait too long, your children are gonna be slow. SMH! Gee, thanks. That’s very encouraging.
  8. I know it’s really none of my business, but do y’all want to have kids? With all due respect, you’re right; it’s not any of your business.
  9. Let me rub you (or touch your stomach). Yeah, that’s to supposedly give me good luck. Actually, ma’am, I feel violated.
  10. Your husband must be sterile. Yeah, and that’s the “G” version.

Well, I warned you. People really do say the darndest things. If you’re one of those people, perhaps after reading this you’ll keep your comments to yourself.

What are some comments people have made to you about being child-free or about waiting until later in life to conceive? How do you respond? I’d love to hear from you.

There’s more baby talk to come next month. I hope you are enjoying this blog series. In case you’ve missed the previous posts, be sure to check out There’s Something to That and When Are You Having a Baby?

Sopa de Pollo

By: Brady Evans

I adore going out to eat Mexican food. My husband, on the other hand, does not. For the majority of our relationship he would flat out refuse. His excuse is that I make good enough knock-off Latin food at home. Drives me up a wall!

The Spanish teacher where I teach high school turned me onto Sopa de Pollo at a local Mexican restaurant. This girl has traveled all over the world to many Spanish-speaking countries, so if she endorses the meal I know it is good.

Sopa de Pollo

Finally, with my insistence, I was able to get my husband to try this soup. And he became obsessed. He started asking to go to the Mexican restaurant on his own initiative. He began ordering other things on the menu (but always ordering a to-go container of this soup as well). He began to LOVE Mexican food.

And then I ruined it. I ruined it by making a delicious version of Sopa de Pollo here at home. It is so delicious and so fresh that now he has no desire to go out to eat Mexican. This soup is the best thing on a cool fall evening or warm summer night. It is hearty and fresh. Filling and light. PERFECT.

Sopa de Pollo


For the broth

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • water
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tomato, cut in half
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dried herbs (I used herbs de provence)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • handful cilantro

For the soup

  • 4-5 cups chicken broth (see above)
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • shredded chicken from two breast halves
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 red small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly slice
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 package Goya Sazon con Cilantro Y Tomate
  • diced avocado
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro


  1. Prepare the broth first. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.
  2. Fill with enough water to cover all ingredients by about 2 inches.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce a simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from stockpot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones and shred finely. Discard skin and bones.
  5. Pour stock through a sieve to remove solids. Discard solids.
  6. Skim fat off the top of stock. You may do this with a shallow spoon or by preparing stock in advance, chilling it, and removing the solidified fat from the top.
  7. You should have 4-5 cups of stock for the soup.
  8. Combine water and stock in a large stock pot and add rice, red pepper flakes, and ground cumin.
  9. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes.
  10. Add chicken shreds and cook an addition 20 minutes at a low boil. Add Goya Sazon packet. Taste for salt and season as needed.
  11. Add diced carrot, diced bell pepper, and most of the sliced onion, reserving a small amount for garnish.
  12. Cook 20 minutes or so until vegetables are tender and rice is fully cooked.
  13. Ladle into bowls and top with sliced onion, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and squeeze of lime juice.

Snacking Portion Control Made Easier

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Portion control bag

These vertically oriented, snack-sized bags with volume markings are a game changer when it comes to snacking.

The volume markings provide portion control, while the vertical orientation of the bag makes it ideal for on-the-go snacking. I got mine at Kroger, but have also seen them at Target and Wal-Mart. INGENIOUS, don’t you think?

Beating the Early Morning Rush

By: Leah Prescott

Now that school has started again, many of us moms are cross-eyed from all the schedules, to-do lists, activities and just keeping it all together from one day to the next. To quote a previous blog post, I often feel “stress-paralyzed” just from writing my to-do list. As I am learning to homeschool, I’m finding ways to help keep things going smoothly and save my own sanity. Whether you homeschool or not, hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you in streamlining your morning routine!

Speed chores

Speed chores

1. Speed-Chore System: Our mornings were getting off to a slow and frustrating start because my definition of “clean your room” was very different from the seven year olds’ definitions. I created a series of index cards with various lists and tasks for the kiddos to complete. For example, each child has a card for their own room which includes tasks such as: “make bed, close all drawers and closet door, neaten dresser, put laundry in hamper, return toys to bins, place books on shelves”. This helps them to check over the details and be more thorough. They are faster and more motivated now that they have a list to go by. We have a card for each room of the house, as well as a general chore card for each child that they can complete each morning. Cards are laminated and kept in an index card box. (I included a motivating phrase like “Great job!”, “So much neater!” or “Thank you for being such a big help to me!” on the bottom of each card because I know my girls respond well to written praise!) We also have optional “extra chores” that can be completed after the school day and we plan to pay them for these small jobs.

Outfit organizer

2. Outfit Organizer: Of course, I found this handy organizer second-hand, but it can be purchased from Amazon. The girls and I attacked their closet this summer and purged any worn-out or too-small clothing items. We like this outfit organizer because of the large pockets which we filled with multiple outfits per day. Now, instead of searching out matching pieces, they can easily grab a whole outfit first thing in the morning. They won’t be stuck with one choice, but have several options per day. The girls are taking over putting away laundry so that they are able to pair the pieces back together before they are returned to the closet. As a mom to twins, with clothing and closet co-ownership issues always facing me, this has made a huge difference.

Frozen sandwiches

Frozen sandwiches

3. Frozen sandwiches: Some of you could share some amazing lunch ideas that would put this tip to shame, but it helps me on the busy mornings when we are rushing out the door. My kids like frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you can buy at the store; however if I make them myself I can control the ingredients (think whole wheat bread, homemade jam, nut-free butters) and save money. I have two different sandwich presses that I like for this, one from Pampered Chef and one from Amazon. The trick is to flash freeze all the sandwiches before placing them in a large zipper bag, so that you can remove them individually as needed. They stay nice and cool until lunchtime when they will be perfectly thawed. We like to use Itzy Ritzy sandwich bags to carry these along with us. There are plenty of other ideas that could work well for this including: hummus with meat, chicken salad, peanut butter & honey, and fresh fruit with cream cheese. I still make fresh lunches for my kids a lot of the time, but it is great to have a rush-morning option in my pocket (or freezer).

Frozen sandwiches

Frozen sandwiches

If you have tips to help me keep things going smoothly each day, PLEASE share them in the comments! I am the poster child for disorganized and need all the help I can get. Here’s to a fabulous, low-stress, high-learning and fuss-free school year for us all!

The Joneses Had a Baby

By: Lara Winburn

I am not very cool. I want to be, but I am often late to trends if I know them at all. Case in point. Years ago, I kept hearing my friends talk about David Yurman – I finally asked one of them whether he was someone we went to college with.

Therefore, I do not keep up with the Joneses. Even if I wanted to, I would always be a few steps behind. Don’t get me wrong, I often want to, but the Jones’ seem to have more time and money than me. But I was really surprised when I noticed it seems some folks are now keeping up with the Jones’ baby.

Since having children, I have learned there are cool daycares, the right dance studio, popular parks, and even strollers that are up to par for the Jones’. I mean -even I have a particular luxury stroller with a certain man’s name (thank you brother-in-law)….but I would venture a guess that Steve’s stroller for $200 less dollars may be just as good (sorry brother in-law). My stroller might be equipped for a marathon or off-roading, but this driver is not.

I recently heard a mom talking about where her daughters would debut. In the small town where I grew up, I did not know anyone who debuted. (That might have changed since I’ve moved away.) In my early college years, I had a lot of fun at parties watching my friend’s debut. Who knows, maybe one day I will really want my daughter to debut? I am all for a good ball. But you know what, this girl talking about where her daughters will debut has a two and four year old. Heaven, help me. I am not yet thinking about debutantes and white gloves-I am still stuck on pampers and white bows.

Don’t even get me started on the Jones’ and their birthday parties. They have “pinned,” smocked and cake-popped us a birthday heaven. I attend these parties, I ENJOY these parties, but I know I cannot keep up. I am okay with that. Why should I try to keep up? Like I said, I am not cool.

sophieI do want my babies to have the best. I want them to have wonderful friends, a good education, themed birthday parties and even cute clothes. That means that sometimes we need to be at the popular park, which is probably the safest. And even if I don’t always know exactly how to get there, I have a fast and very maneuverable stroller for the trip. Maybe I will see you and the Jones’ there.

But this is what I do know: this parenting thing is hard enough without feeling like we need to keep up with the Jones’ baby. For now, you will find me at home with my family and a very popular French giraffe named Sophie. (One thing the Jones’ and I probably have in common.)

Come On, Take Action and Help SAVE THE FORT!

By: Shannon Shull

american flagAs a supporter of our great country’s military, I urge you to please read on and help make a difference for our great state! As a professional who used to work for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, I support their mission to SAVE THE FORT. I want to make every effort to help them spread the word about the importance of keeping Fort Jackson thriving in our community.

My dear Aunt Susan is at the helm of this great effort and she has been working endless hours to drum up support. I’m so proud of all the work she is doing! And I’m proud of the Chamber for taking a stand to support the Fort. If our community lost Fort Jackson, we would suffer an enormous blow in so many different ways. Please take a moment to educate yourself on the situation, go to the website and take part in supporting our mission!

Columbia Chamber Leads Petition Drive In Support of Fort Jackson

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Columbia Chamber has announced a ‘Save Our Fort’ petition drive in an effort to protect our local military installation. The chamber will collect petition signatures, letters and cards in support of Fort Jackson through August 20, 2014. The online petition can be found here.


“Protect the Mission. Grow the Fort. Promote the Partnership is the message we want to send to the U. S. Army,” remarked General George Goldsmith, chairman of the Columbia Chamber Military Affairs Committee. “It is critical for us to show them just how much a military friendly community cares about our Fort, our soldiers and the tremendous economic impact we derive as a result of our long-standing partnership.”


As part of the U. S. Army SPEA (Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment), General Becker has been asked to prepare for a worst case scenario of a potential headcount reduction of 3,100 civilians and soldiers.  A loss which could mean a change to the Fort’s mission.  A response to the U.S. Army’s SPEA is due by August 25th and will include detailed information on Fort Jackson’s economic and social impact on the greater Midlands community. 


The Columbia Chamber is working with numerous partners throughout the region to generate a groundswell of support for Fort Jackson.


Local support is requested to demonstrate our military friendliness by signing the online petition, writing letters, or sending emails of support. The deadline to be included in community response is August 20, 2014


Sign the petition here

Email letters of support to saveourfort@columbiachamber.com.


All handwritten petitions should be mailed/delivered to:

Columbia Chamber
Att: Susan McPherson
930 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29202

We need your help with our SAVE THE FORT effort! We want to send in as many (10,000 or more) signed letters, cards, petitions, emails, etc. on why Fort Jackson is important to the Greater Midlands community and why we want to “PROTECT THE MISSION, GROW THE FORT, PROMOTE THE PARTNERSHIP.” We all win with Fort Jackson and our military community.

Please let me know if you have questions or would like additional information.  The impact of our military is critical and assistance in generating support for this effort is crucial to our response.

We can help make a difference!

When Are You Having a Baby?

By: Chaunte McClure

Last year, after learning that local police found the body of a missing child, I said, “If I ever become a mom, I will give my child countless hugs, kisses and I love you’s.” I still stand on those words, although I sit here without a child in my womb or in my home. Pregnancy testI’ve accepted the idea that I may never become a mother. And I think I’m okay with that. I think.

For some couples, deciding to have children is a no-brainer because they mutually agree before even tying the knot. Others want a family, but they’ve had the unfortunate experience of their baby dying in the womb. Some couples are trying to have a child and have spent hundreds of dollars on pregnancy tests that always give them a negative result. Then there are couples like my husband and me who haven’t decided to have children.

Having children has never been a priority and it’s not something I talked about much. But when I did, I got strange looks because I wasn’t saying what people wanted to hear. When you get married, family, friends, and others expect you to have a baby and when you do, they want to know when you’re having another one. When you don’t, they constantly want to know what you’re waiting on.

I know people mean well when they ask, but they tread a thin line. If you’re one of those people who get excited about babies and look forward to couples starting or expanding their family, think before you ask, “When are you going to have a baby?” That very question could trigger a dreadful reminder or lead to frustration, sadness or anger.

Next time you want to ask a woman when she’s having a baby, consider these things:

  1. She could have had a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages.
  2. She could be frustrated because she wants to have a baby, but her husband doesn’t.
  3. She’s been unable to conceive because of health challenges.
  4. She desperately wants a child, but her spouse has health challenges.

You can pierce the heart of the woman who has experienced any of these situations when you ask her about having a baby. Consider the thin line next time you’re tempted to ask. Besides, it’s a personal decision between a husband and wife.

Before I go, let me acknowledge my familiarity with Genesis 1:28, a scripture that has been shared with me numerous times by those who insist that I have a baby.

Look for more ‘baby talk’ from me soon.

Traveling With An Infant

By: Brady Evans  

Flying with a babyBenjamin (3.5 months) and I just returned from our first solo trip traveling cross-country by air. Although it is intimidating to think about carrying luggage, parking in long term parking, and going through security solo, we did it!  Here are some tips from our trip.

  1. Plan flights during normal nap times.  I choose a morning flight that coincided with his morning nap for our flight out west.  On our trip back east we took the red-eye and he slept the entire way.  Not a single person could complain about the infant on the plane because no one knew he was there!  Benjamin was also able to sleep during layovers (albeit in unconventional positions).  I preferred the cross-country journey in two flights versus one because it was well worth it to be able to change diapers during layovers rather than in the cramped airplane bathroom.
  1. Nurse or bottle-feed baby on take off and landing.  This forces baby to swallow which helps clear their ears.  No discomfort due to pressure changes!
  1. If possible, have a car seat shipped to your destination. This way, the car seat was installed prior to our arrival and I didn’t have to deal with checking it.  I did, however, check it on our return flight home. Car seats do not count as “checked luggage” and travel without a fee!  I purchased a $38 convertible car seat (Cosco Scenara) from Wal-Mart and had it shipped to our destination (friends we were visiting).  I highly recommend this car seat as a dedicated travel car seat.  It is cheap, so if it gets damaged in transit you aren’t out too much of a loss.  It works from 5 pounds to 35 pounds, rear facing and forward facing so it will last a long time.  Remember, all car seats must comply with government safety standards, so it is just as safe as the $300 car seat sitting in my car in my driveway!  Also, your baby’s diaper bag does not count against your “1 personal item” carry on rule.
  1. Ship diapers to your destination.  We use cloth diapers at home but I wasn’t going to burden my friends with washing diapers while we were visiting.  So along with the car seat, I shipped a package of diapers.  This was a great idea, but not without complications. We had never used the brand I decided to ship and baby Ben had a slight reaction to the scent or dye.  Be sure you do a test drive with your diaper of choice if possible.
  1. Wear your baby!  I already wrote about how helpful I find baby wearing, and it was essential for the airport when it came down to eating, standing in lines, and keeping the baby happy.  I was able to wear Benjamin through security and in Atlanta they put me through an expedited security line because I had the baby.  That was great!  While traveling solo I found it convenient to be able to wear Benjamin on my back when I was pulling luggage off the baggage carousel, so I traveled with my buckle carrier and a woven wrap in my carry on.  I saw moms pushing strollers throughout the airport and it seemed bulky and cumbersome (pushing the stroller and dragging a wheeled carry on).  Plus, you’ll have to gate check your stroller and I imagine some of them get damaged in transit.

We had a great trip and flying with a non-mobile infant was totally easy.  Good luck on your travels should you choose to travel with your baby as well.

In The Garden

Every time I get the chance, I head to the garden. Or what’s left of it. I like to look about and see what’s new. I find the typical things like new blooms, remnants of pests, and on occasion, I find a sweet treat in the form of a friendly bug.  I recently found not one but two mantices. One was on the heirloom tomatoes and the other was in the basil. I was seriously so giddy and excited that I did a little happy dance. I’m sure my neighbors got a good laugh, but it had to be done.

Praying Mantis

With this growing cycle coming to a close, I took some time to reflect on how this year’s garden has progressed compared to last year’s. I must say, I have come to think that at this point one must just be flexible with their expectations. I say this because, as I look back, the only real thing I can control is the soil, location, seed type and how I deal with pests. The rest is up to God himself. I mean, it’s not like I can say, “Today I’m going to make it not rain for the rest of the summer,” which was the issue last summer.

This season has been challenging in its own way. We started with new soil, a hardheaded, I-can-figure-it-out-on-my-own gardener (aka: me), and of course the weather. Ah yes, the weather. This has been some trying weather, hasn’t it?

As you know, I started planting in February. Mostly to keep the kids interested and get things geared up for outdoor planting in mid March. Yup, that sure worked out real good. I think we shocked the heck out of them because these tomatoes have just started to ripen and the zucchini, squash and corn didn’t make it. I did manage to rehabilitate two sweet pepper plants, but they still don’t have any blooms. The Amish Peas did okay, but the yield was minimal. Honestly, I think I’d be in shock to if I lived through a crazy ice storm, was shoved into raw soil, and had inconsistent sunlight. Really now, who wouldn’t want to freak out at that point?

Anyways, the things I have learned over the past few months really can be compared to real life. For example; would you plant yourself in a life setting (the soil) you know nothing about? How can you flourish and grow in the unknown? Having yourself planted in a fertile foundation is instrumental in how you grow. If all of your roots are shallow and parched from lack of nurture, how can you produce fruit that will survive the storms? From now on, I will take the time to learn what is in “the soil.”

I always struggle with relationships. Mostly because, well, I think everyone is good. When I discover they are not, it shocks me. Even though I know better, I still get heartbroken. At church this past Sunday, a young man spoke about his mission trip to Honduras. He read from his journal, reciting things he had learned. It was really beautiful to see him grow in his faith. As he read his writings, he recited a message from God that “he will build us up and use us. Then break us down so he may rebuild us for another use.” I’m totally paraphrasing, but my take away was this: I will always struggle with relationships. I will because I am not in control. I am a tool that He uses to do His work; therefore, He will build me, mold me and break me down. I will learn new things along the way, some good and others…well, not-so-good.  Being God’s awkward tool sounds way better than being “shallow and parched.” With each changing season, I will learn how to grow and sow with the elements. I will plant myself in nutrient-rich soil. I will learn from the paths I am taken down, and hopefully do what it is I’m supposed to with those pests that pop up. Lord knows I’m not a good listener. It usually takes some blatant situations for me to “get it,” but when I do, there is no stopping me.

Now that it’s time for re-planting, I can apply these simple lessons. I will take a soil sample and head to the Clemson Extension to find out what’s needed to balance the soil. I will plant ornamental flowers that draw good bugs, and most importantly, I’ll have faith that with the right soil I can have a full harvest.