The Magic of Christmas Delivered Via a Snow Man

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

It was a cold, rainy Christmas Eve, and I was more than a little down. It was our fourth Christmas season without Dad, but it seemed to be the most difficult one yet. The season seemed to sneak up on me, and I was totally unprepared. The weather was horrible. And Snowman feederquite frankly, I just wasn’t feeling the spirit of Christmas. All of that changed as I pulled into the driveway that afternoon.

Something on the front porch caught my eye. It was a large snowman bird feeder, complete with a large red bow. I figured someone had left a gift for us, and I walked in through the front door to check it out.

On the snowman, there was a letter to “The Baldauf Sisters” that read: “Yesterday I lived with another. Before that, I lived with yet another. Starting today, my home is with you. But only for the next 364 days. Why you? It’s because the place I lived before thinks the world of you. Next Christmas Eve, it’ll be your turn to share the spirit of Christmas with someone whose light shines as brightly as yours.”

I broke down in happy tears, touched that someone had thought of us in such a delightful way. Our anonymous Santa blessed us with magic of Christmas that we were so lacking, and to whoever they are, I thank them profusely. I can’t wait until next Christmas Eve to return the favor.

Hope

By: Leah Prescott

It’s New Year’s day here in the Prescott home and I’m sitting on my couch contemplating my New Year’s resolutions. I have always loved the idea of turning over a new leaf in January, giving myself a fresh start and a fresh perspective. As usual, it’s mostly a matter of whittling down the slew of things I need to work on into a manageable list. This year, my first thought was to focus on home management. As I have mentioned, staying organized New-Year_Resolutions_listis not my best skill. Throw in a part-time job, hobbies that have grown into responsibilities and that teeny-tiny task of educating the future generation…..let’s just say the dust to floorboard ratio is at an all-time high. And don’t even talk to me about the laundry. Unless you want to come wash some.

Or I could put my energy towards a less tangible goal. I’d love to make creativity a more pronounced part of my daily life. Although I’ve always felt God gave me a gift for creative thinking, it’s something that has sadly fallen by the wayside since motherhood and her responsibilities hit. (At least to a certain extent….there is an amount of creativity in trying to walk the dog in the rain, put a toddler down for a nap, empty a load of groceries, mop up spilled eggnog, and baste a turkey in the span of negative 10 minutes.)

On the other hand, maybe I will attempt to drink more water, get rid of all the clothes I don’t wear, learn a foreign language, expand my cooking efforts, buy more locally/organically/ethically food, or apply eyeliner. (Notice I don’t mention exercise. That’s right, it’s too unlikely to even make the short list.) All of these are things I’d love to make a part of my life. But the truth is, if I write them ALL down on the list, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll give up long before February and probably before this post even hits cyberspace.

I have certainly succeeded in discouraging myself, and you guys are probably not even reading any more. So where does that leave us? Barely into 2015 and already bummed about the New Year? No, because I have to remind myself of what is true. Truth: I can never live up to my own expectations. Truth: I will always disappoint. Truth:  I will make mistakes and I will fail again and again. But despite all this, there is very good reason to hope.

My hope is not in my performance. It’s not in miraculously renovating my home with $80 and sheer willpower. It’s not in discovering the best meal plan or the most effective cleaning methods. It’s not in training for a marathon, or reading more books in 2015. My hope, and the reason that I can joyfully enter the New Year, is in Jesus Christ alone. Because the truth is, without faith in Him, I would feel like a failure each and every day of my life.

So if you have already failed yourself this year; if you’ve already let down your family, and dropped the ball, please take heart. Perfection doesn’t bring peace. Faith in the Perfect One does. So I choose to place my hope in Him this year. I hope you have a peaceful start to the New Year!

Nine Days In

By: Lara Winburn

New Year’s resolutions make me tired. My inbox is filled with gym fads and diet meal planning ideas. My Facebook feed shows people organizing their linen closets and “junk drawers.” (I mean, doesn’t that make it a “neat drawer?”) It is all so exhausting before my New Year's Resolutionschampagne-filled head has even cleared. Don’t get me wrong, I love the optimism of a new year, clean slate and all, but honestly by the end of it all I feel like my resolution should be to nap more.

I have numerous self-improvement projects in process as we speak but all of this talk of “a new year, a new you” can be a little daunting for a pleasant mess like myself. I struggle all year to be a more organized, fun, sweet wife, mom, friend and daughter. In January, I find out that people are cleaning things I did not know were dirty and eating “clean” foods I have never heard of. I want to be neater, thinner, fitter, more at peace, really I do. But sometimes that first day of the year is just a reminder of how far I have to go.

So as I sign up for Weight Watchers AGAIN, I will not make that a New Year’s resolution but just another step in the process to be a better me. I will add to my calendar more volunteer time at my church and in my community but not as a resolution, just a part of my life. Seems to me resolutions often need a little more fun and probably would be easier to keep too, huh? Maybe my resolution this year will be to read more books or go on more dates with that cute husband of mine. One year my resolution was to go to the beach more. I kept that one and never once regretted it. We are 9 days in to 2015 and that means it is not too late to edit your resolution. As you are spending more time at the gym (I hope to see you there) or alphabetizing your canned goods (I would have to have a brain transplant), be sure to add some fun to your resolution list and just try to adopt that self-improvement stuff to your February, June and September life. I will resolve to add more play time, more kindness to myself and others, and maybe more naps.

2015: New Year, New You?

By: Lexington Medical Center’s Laura Stepp, MA RD LD CDE

Every New Year’s Eve millions of people think about or do make a resolution. But, what is a resolution? According to the Merrian-Webster dictionary, a resolution is “the act of new years resolutionsresolving” something. Resolving is further described as “the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.”

Often when people make a New Year’s Resolution they resolve to change something big or to do something great, better, or more. While everyone’s resolutions are genuine and meant to be helpful to either self or community, a resolution to do something big such as run a marathon, do a triathlon, walk 10,000 steps a day, or the #1 resolution – to Lose Weight or Be Healthier – often ends up unachieved. What starts out with so much enthusiasm at the beginning of the year generally fades by February or March. We see it all the time; the health clubs are crowded so you wait in line for the treadmill or stationary bike and the exercise classes are full.

Unfortunately by February and (definitely by March) the health club is almost empty. Why do we see this? What happened? Did everyone just give up on all those resolutions? Did they decide losing weight or being healthier isn’t important? Of course not! They likely forgot the definition of resolution: “The act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones”.

We have to be SMART about our resolutions in order to achieve them. Like everything we do, there are steps to achievement.

SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time Bound

Here is an example. You resolve to Change your Diet to Be Healthier:

Specific: What about your diet do you want to change or improve? Decide what this means for you. It could mean:

  • Cut back on portion sizes
  • Eat less processed food
  • Eat out less often
  • Eat less fast food
  • Eat more vegetables and/or fruit?

Then state exactly what you want to change. For example,

“I will switch my chips at lunch for vegetables”.

“I will eat fruit versus something sweet/candy for a snack”

Measurable: Give your goal a numeric value. For example,

“Daily, I will consume ½ cup chopped vegetables with my sandwich.”

“I will add one extra serving of vegetables to my dinner.”

“I will bring my lunch to work three times a week.”

Attainable: Think small – one change at a time. Work on one meal at a time, one day at a time. Making more than one change every 3-4 days can become overwhelming which can lead to all good intentions being abandoned.

Realistic: Honestly ask your self, “Can I do this?” And, state your change, your new habit in a positive manner. For example:

“I am going to eat one piece of fruit once a day for lunch or afternoon for a snack instead of chips or cookies.”

“I am going to add one new vegetable weekly.”

“Every week I am going to experiment with one new vegetable, preparing it in different ways to see how many ways I can enjoy it.”

Time Bound: Set a firm time limit to achieve a goal and gauge your progress. For instance, consider making one change a week. You could keep a food log for one week to check your progress. When you have accomplished the initial goal then set a new goal to build on the one you have accomplished.

Changing one’s lifestyle is a journey and must be treated like a long term adventure. Breaking down a goal into manageable parts makes it easier to see progress and stay motivated. It also allows to adjustments when necessary.

Be SMART and have a Happy New Year!

If you are interested in having help with your healthy nutrition goals, contact Laura Stepp, Outpatient Dietitian, at 936-4132.

I’m A Grateful Groupie!

By: Shannon Shull

One of my dearest friends that I’ve known since the first grade recently contacted me about starting a “grateful group” on Facebook. She shared a great article with myself and a couple of her other close friends. The article is called “Five Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal.” My friend, Michelle, is an accomplished writer and knew that I loved to write too, and she suggested that we start a “being grateful” group as a way of reminding us to look for the good in things. She admitted that most times she has a hard glass half fulltime remembering to be grateful. Maybe within this private Facebook group we could help encourage one another and allow this group to serve as a fabulous reminder to see the good in our lives. I totally agree with her and absolutely loved her idea to start this group! She named it, “Grateful Groupies.” Isn’t that fantastic!?! I absolutely love it.

As humans, we are all too quick to focus on all that is bad in our lives instead of focusing on all the amazing blessings that enrich our lives on a daily basis. The truth is, if all we do is focus on the negative things, or the things we don’t have and want, then that focus will rule our way of thought. Sure, there will always be things we wish were better or easier in our lives, but if we instead focus on fabulous things, the simple day-to-day pleasures, the everyday beauty that surrounds us, the precious gifts of life, health, joy and love, and create goals instead of fuss fests and pity parties, well… Needless to say, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be grateful! We will only lead richer and happier lives if we take notice of the things we are grateful for every day instead of just at Thanksgiving or around the holidays. Let’s make being grateful a daily effort, and we’ll reap the benefits of recognizing the day-to-day loveliness we are blessed with.

I’m proud to say that I am a “Grateful Groupie” and I hope that you’ll consider starting your own grateful group, whether on Facebook, Instagram or email. Whatever the platform, I think it’s a fabulous idea to join with others to declare and recognize the things, no matter how big or small, that we are ever so grateful for. And if you’re not up for joining a group, consider keeping a gratitude journal, similar to the one described in that fabulous article that inspired my friend. Either way, I challenge you to do your best not to let a single day go by without recognizing something that you’re grateful for! 😉 As stated in the article,

“It’s all a gift. In an interview with UC Berkeley’s The Greater Good, gratitude expert and professor Robert Emmons suggests thinking of each item in your journal as a “gift.” In his studies he instructs participants to “Be aware of your feelings and how you “relish” and “savor” this gift in your imagination.” It’s important to think deeply about what it is you’re thankful for, and why.”

So make sure to take notice of and relish all the gifts in your life, no matter how big or small!

New Year’s Resolutions

By: Chaunte McClure

The mere anticipation of a new year always yields the desire to start fresh, set goals, make improvements, and leave old habits behind. Many of us spend hours on New Years Eve, or the days leading up to it, cleaning our homes from the baseboards to the crown moldings and washing every single piece of laundry because according to tradition, the house must be clean when the new year arrives. Traditionally, we also (most likely) waste time deciding on our New Year’s resolutions. Not that I’m trying to be negative, but you know how it usually goes. When the newness of the year wears off, so do those resolutions.

Why do we get so excited about making a change for a new year when every day is an opportunity for us to break bad habits, shed unwanted pounds, use social media less, eat healthier, exercise, or fulfill any of the other multitudes of (broken) promises we make to ourselves?

But I’m not writing to bash anyone. I always strive to encourage and inspire and I’ll remain true to my effort here. Trust me, I know all too well how difficult it can be to make self-improvements.

It’s 2015 and the year is only one week old. How are you holding up to those promises?

new year

Wait. Back up and read that quote again. Have you stepped out of your comfort zone? If so, don’t make a u-turn. If not, it’s time to make a move.

Biggest Step

Where we are, whether professionally, physically, relationally, or emotionally, can make us feel safe because it’s what we know. It’s what we’re used to and we can become complacent.

comfort zone

All of us can stand to grow in an area of our lives. The most difficult part for me is getting started. Remember, the longer you delay, the longer it will take to get results. (Let me repeat that to myself.)

Never-do-tomorrow-what

I’d love for you to share your resolutions and how you’re progressing. Let’s hear them. I didn’t make any resolutions but I did set a goal. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it in a later post.

Happy New Year!

Like Mother, Like Daughter

As a teenager, like most other teenage girls, I insisted that I would not grow up to be like my mother, Lee Malerich.  I suppose that’s easier said than done.  I invited my mom, a local artist who blogs at Waste As A Way Of Life, to comment on our similarities and talk about her artistic perspective:

Where should we start?  The very big ideas?  OK.

Artists do not only make art, they live it and in it.  Serious art reflects the ideas, attitudes, experiences and style of the artist.  These things are interwoven and inseparable.  And changeable, but usually the change is slow.  At least that is how it works for me.

Premise 1: Creating a style:  Being an artist(s) we don’t have the money that more traditionally employed people do.  We frequent thrift shops and flea markets, looking for shapes and textures and things to repurpose to live in our home.  We sniff out free things in the wind.  We develop friendships with like people and fund each other’s eccentricities.  Old things look good to us.

Being an artist

For instance, to me, the base of this enamel table in our kitchen is awesome.  The lines and shapes scream 1930s.  This table base helped me solve a financial problem in buying the tile for the kitchen, if you will notice the floor.  I bought the majority of the tile at a sidewalk sale at Lowe’s, but there was not enough for the big space of kitchen and great room.  So I laid tile “rugs” in each room, one under this table.  The tile under the table is lighter than the surrounding, and at each corner of the “rug” is a corresponding black tile (you can only see two black tiles in this image).  The rug tile was free, and the problem was solved.  The four black squares used in the corners integrate the tile rug with the table base.  The “rug” under the table is much more interesting than had the floor simply been one broad ecru plane.  So my finances dictate another way to create and push a style forward with lifestyle needs.

being an artist

We needed a shed to house our pool equipment, pool pump, and machinery related to our sprinkler system.  My love of cheap metal (notice the lamp on the stucco column) led us to buying a used grain bin to satisfy these needs, and it was very inexpensive.  We love the little silo that has an apex that looks like the top of a Coke bottle.

Premise 2:  We live in a world that is using up all its natural resources.  This disposable society cannot thrive.  Many, many artists choose to make their work out of waste materials because they are available, beautiful, and otherwise would be in the landfill.  These artists additionally are making visual statements that describe our recent decades.

We built a barn.  Some restlessness inside of me accepted a whole group of wooden windows from a contractor friend.  I put them under a roof.  His work often was replacing old wooden windows with vinyl ones, and he kept bringing me the rejects.  He would have been charged to put them in the dump, so the solution was good for everybody.

Constructing a barn

33 old windows for this barn – everyone saved a lot of money.  Their glass is wavy and beautiful, and since this is studio and storage space and not living space, they do the job just fine.  And of course, this is South Carolina and we live in a temperate part of the world.  Glenn later added the cool awning above the entry door.

Building a barn

I hope the case is made for using old stuff.  Here is where our similarities start.

like mother like daughter

My daughter Brady, influenced by my love of old things, found this door of windows at the dump and brought it home.  Neither one of us are beyond “diving.”  She often donates at the Goodwill at the same time she goes in to buy.  She installed this on the wall,  and of course there it was for me to see.  A window on a wall as art.  Hmmm.

Some years later, here is my sculptural work.  Before now, the windows had many other incarnations as I tried to use them.  I was getting too fancy.  For me, for now, it is mostly about the interplay of the windows, and bringing these sculptures way out from the wall.  It takes some time to feel one’s way.

mother daughter similarities

Isn’t experience and influence wonderful?