Oh Stop It! Not 40! Seriously???

By: Shannon Shull

Ok, so I admit it, when people say to me, “Oh stop! You are not turning 40! Seriously!?” well, I secretively like it, even if they are totally faking their sweet shock. Of course, it’s only after I’ve broken in and divulged the information to some endearing person that can relate, that I ever tell anyone my age.

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don't tell anyone

Sssssshhhhhhhh!!!! Don’t tell anyone

I quite enjoy not letting anyone know my real age. In fact, I refuse to tell my students how old I am. Kids can be brutally honest, so when my students discover that I have kids of my own and make claims about how they can’t believe I have an 11 and 9 year old, then proceed to guess my age in the 20s or early 30 range, well, let’s just say I prefer to keep their thoughts thinking just that! Suits me fine, I’m won’t lie about that.

So why is that? Why am I literally dreading turning 40?!? Ugh… I get a bad taste in my mouth when I even think about it. Sad, I know. It’s just that I eternally think of myself as a young person. I can’t help it. And now the harsh reality of life is smashing a pie in my face and it’s not funny. How can I seriously be entering my 40s? I mean, I still think of my own mother as being in her 30s!

My Mama & Lil Shannon - Oh to just be a child again!

My Mama & Lil Shannon. Oh to just be a child again!

It’s been an interesting adventure witnessing other friends turn 40. Everyone seems to have a different take on some level. Some, like me, dread it. And, some even go so far as to refuse to talk about or even dare celebrate it. Others go all out and throw down, rockin’ the town with their besties. Some take it very seriously and torture their bodies so that they can enter their 40s with a bod they can also celebrate – we’re talking botox, liposuction, harsh diets and exercise, the whole shebang. And then some let the day pass like “it ain’t no big thang,” it’s just another birthday to them.

…insert deep breath accompanied by a dramatic moan…

I’m thinking I may be a combination of all these different takes. If money was of no concern, I would go full out with body improvements and take myself on some fabulous trip in which I’d do nothing but eat, drink and live up every moment celebrating my grand entrance into the 40s. But alas, my busy schedule will not allow for that. Not to mention, anyone who has an inkling of how us teachers get paid for all our hard work… well, you get my drift. So no fanciness for me, but I do have all the things that money can’t buy!! And that, my friends, is what makes life worth living! All these beautiful things in my life, for which I am ever thankful, will make entering my 40s not-so-bad after all.

I came across this fabulous article written by a lady who has quickly become one of my favorite writers. Christina Vuleta has a fantastic article on the Huffington Post called, “15 Things to Love About Turning 40.” I’m really thankful I came across this article. Let’s just say I needed to read these wise words of hers at this time in my life! I want to share some of the incredible points that she brings to our attention because, well, they’re pretty priceless.

Some things to love and embrace about turning 40…

“You realize that all those people you think are so confident and lead perfect lives… are just as screwed up as everyone else. 

You learn that it’s a waste of time comparing the worst of yourself (your insecurities and flaws) with the best of others (their Facebook profile, family pic, etc.). And on top of it all you realize your flaws may just be assets.”

You know it’s true! People put their best on Facebook and all those other social media sites. Can’t blame them and I’m not slamming anyone, but it’s certainly not fair to compare ourselves to others, ever, because the truth is, we all have our issues! No one is perfect and if they claim to be, de-friend them and RUN – cause they’re not living in reality.

“You ask.
You know your worth and you aren’t afraid to ask for it. You realize that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” and there really is nothing to lose.”

I can relate to this one because I have certainly learned by this age that we might as well reach out for what we want, reach for those dreams and take chances, because gosh, what in the world do we have to lose!?! The worst we can be told is NO. Better to have tried than to regret not trying.  

“You get your silly on again.
You learn not to take yourself too seriously. You really do dance like no one is watching. You are like a teenager again… but less loud. It’s not for show. It’s for smiles.”

I LOVE this one. Get your silly on! For smiles, NOT FOR SHOW. Amen to that, heh!? The more I’ve learned to just let go and have fun, the more I benefit from it in so many ways. There’s no need to take everything so seriously. If only everyone could just loosen up, the world would be a much better place. 🙂

“You have resilience.
Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Life is long. Time heals. So just give yourself time… and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.”

Oh do these words ever warm my heart. “Life is long. Time heals. Give yourself time and accept your sadness. It’s part of life.” Man, that’s beautiful.

“You respect yourself.
Meaning you can see when someone else isn’t respecting you and value yourself enough to form an escape plan. Get a mantra. Remind yourself daily of your worth.”

Whoa, now that one is deep and so incredibly true. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. But that mantra worked and I do try to remind myself daily of my worth.

“You are more beautiful.
Any 40-something woman who decides to eat well and find one exercise they like to do, looks better than they did at 20. Yes, you may lose the baby fat or spring, but there is beauty in living a full life. You see yourself more kindly. You feel at home in your body, and it shows.”

Oh what a lovely one to wrap this up with! I look back at old pictures and yes, my lines are less deep, there are no grey roots… but I do indeed feel more beautiful now. I’m working on getting back to exercising again like I should be to feel and look better. But, I am more comfortable in my skin. I have a confidence I never had when I was younger and it feels so good. Sure I might be tempted to try out Botox and such if I had the fearlessness to actually try some medical procedure! But for now, I have decided to embrace my lines, imperfections and effects from age. I guess I don’t have much of a choice! Ha! But hey, it sounds and feels better to declare that I am embracing my age.

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

The 40-year-old happy Shannon

So there you have it. I’m going to decide right now that my 40s are going to rock. I am making a promise to myself right now that I’m going to make the best of it. To the best of my ability, I’m going to live my life to the fullest! Daggomit, I’m 40! Just don’t tell anybody, ok? 😉

Goodbye Winter

By: Chaunte McClure

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to say goodbye to Old Man Winter! Enough of the snow threats, frigid temperatures, boots, winter coats, sweaters and gloves. I’m ready to trade it all for warm weather, flip flops, tank tops, maxi skirts, dresses and sandals. Oh yes, and a much needed pedicure. Ahhh…


Okay, now back to reality. That furry little prognosticator, I’m blaming him for the additional layering, bundling and snuggling. That’s right, Punxatawney Phil, it’s all his fault. Earlier this month he saw his shadow. Maybe he should have chosen a different time of day to leave his burrow. But I guess that wouldn’t have been convenient for the media because surely there wouldn’t be breaking news to announce the rodent’s prediction.

Moms, I know you’re tired of the two-hour school delays and school cancellations. I’ve read some of the rants online recently. Admittedly, I was looking forward to a snow day last week, but to my disappointment, the lack of the white stuff and the inaccurate forecast rained on my parade.

I did get to drive to work in snow and sleet Tuesday morning, while thinking, I can’t believe I’m driving in this. I’m not supposed to be driving in this. There should have been a delay. I’m sure many of you shared my sentiments. This state has us spoiled because with a threat for snow, we expect a day off from work or at least a two-hour delay.

Speaking of delay, Spring, please don’t. You don’t have to wait until March 20 to visit us. Your moderate temperatures, colorful blossoms, and longer days are welcome now. (I can live without the pollen, though.) I am longing for your presence.

Let me hear from you. Have you had enough of winter? What do you love about spring?

First Steps

By: Crissie Kirby

An old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

And so, it would seem preparing to run a five-mile race also begins with one step.

training for a race

I was overwhelmed by the support I received after posting my initial blog post about running in the LMC Heart and Sole Five Miler. I’ll be honest, even after posting that I was going to do it, I questioned whether I could really do it. Did I really want to do it? But, as anyone who knows me, once I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, or die trying. Ok, maybe that’s not the best saying for right now.

The training guide said to start the week of February 15th. So, I set my sights on 2/15 and tried to mentally prepare for battle.

The 15th dawned cold and I had started coughing a few days before. (For me this almost always is a sure sign that bronchitis is on the way.) I honestly just didn’t want to do it. But I knew that if I made an excuse one day, I’d find reasons to keep making excuses, and April 25th would come with disastrous results.

training for a race

I journeyed to Aiken for my first run. Why? Well, one of my dearest friends and supporters, Ivy Harmon, lives in Aiken and I knew that she would make me run. And she did. Fortunately, Ivy lives near beautiful and historic South Boundary, so we had a wonderful place for my inaugural training session. Fortunately, Ivy is more active than I am and she was able to really help and encourage me along the way.

training for a race

training for a race

For anyone in Aiken during my initial run, yeah, I’m sorry. I doubt it was very pretty, and I’m pretty glad that there wasn’t anyone who could hear some of the things running through my mind (yes, bad pun intended) during my initial run. But, you know what? I did it. I made it. I ran those six one-minute intervals. And I didn’t die.

So, on to the next steps.

training for a race

LMC Heart & Sole Five Miler Training Tips – Nutrition

Whether you are training for your first race or are an experienced marathoner, just about everyone has questions about running. Our Every Woman Bloggers training for the LexMed Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler, Crissie Kirby, Sherree Thompson and Lara Winburn, will share their questions about how to best prepare for the race. Here’s our first question, from Sherree:

Question: I was wondering what types of food I should be eating so I have appropriate fuel. Is there a calorie count I should am for? 

LMC _133Answer: When it comes to nutrition and running, it is not only a matter of what you eat, but also when you eat. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), lean protein, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado) is key in properly fueling your body for running. It is also important to stay hydrated throughout the day with a recommended daily intake of at least 64 ounces of water.

Planning the timing of your meals is also crucial. Just like a car, when your body does not have enough fuel, it cannot perform properly. Likewise, too much fuel or eating too close to the time of your run can interfere with your performance. Establishing a healthy eating pattern of smaller meals more frequently throughout the day will help to keep your blood sugar levels regulated and your metabolism stimulated.

 – Amanda Castles, Health Directions Wellness Coordinator

Jumpstart Your Journaling with 10 Questions

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

In December, I rededicated myself to writing. Not for work, this blog, or a freelance assignment, but writing for myself. I struggled a bit to get started. A blank page can be intimidating, and I’m not one to recap my day diary-style. But thanks to a recent post from MindBodyGreen (MBG), I found the solution to get my thoughts and pencil moving: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day.

how to start a journal

According to MindBodyGreen:

It’s all too easy to measure yourself by how much you’ve achieved or how much money you’ve earned, or how many Facebook likes or Twitter followers you have. It’s so easy to start rushing to earn more, do more, be more, that we fail to notice the simple blessings that we encounter every day. The questions you ask yourself on a daily basis will create the person you become.

Each night, I take a few minutes to answer the questions in a fun Live-Inspired journal. I have the ten questions written on a sticky note, which I use as a reference. And I love to write with a pencil, always one with .9mm lead and a good eraser. These questions have given me a guide to use as I journal, and often spark additional ideas or feelings with I also record. Following is a list of the questions and some of my observations about them.

  1. WHAT DID I LEARN? As MBG explains, we can learn something from everyone we meet and everything we do. This question has become both my most challenging and most motivating. Sadly, in the course of a day, I don’t always learn something new, so I’m often challenged to seek out new knowledge. Two of my best sources? The Wall Street Journal and Today I Found Out.
  2. WHO DID I LOVE? Actually, I answered this question the first couple of weeks, but the answer was generally the same. So I changed it to “HOW DID I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?” This challenges me to continue healthy habits and develop new ones.
  3. HOW WAS I VULNERABLE? I am a recovering Type-A personality who loves control, so vulnerability has always been a no-no for me. Yet a recent experience with an old friend taught me that I needed to be more vulnerable, otherwise, I’m going to miss a lot of the good stuff life has to offer.
  4. WHAT AM I GRATEFUL FOR? Studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful. My answers range from the silly to sublime, but it’s generally my longest entry.
  5. WHO DID I LISTEN TO? I talk a lot, but don’t listen enough. This question encourages me to be a better listener.
  6. HOW WAS I CHALLENGED? This is another question that I never struggle to answer, and interestingly enough, it often includes some of the same answers I use in the question about vulnerability.
  7. WHAT MADE ME LAUGH? It only took me a few entries to realize that I don’t laugh enough! Having to answer this question each night encourages me to find opportunities to laugh, whether it be more conversations with friends or light-hearted sources of entertainment.
  8. WHO DID I CONNECT WITH? MBG says that connection provides us with a sense of belonging that helps us to realize that we are not alone. My connections aren’t always traditional conversations. I’ve included Facebook conversations, texts and other non-traditional communications. My connections aren’t always with people who can talk back either; I also regularly connect with nature, myself and my sweet animals.
  9. HOW DID I GROW? I’m definitely a work in progress, and this is a nice way to track my development. (Or on some days, lack thereof!)
  10. WHAT DID I SHARE? MBG says that we should never underestimate our ability to inspire someone, to teach someone and/or make someone else’s life better. Sometimes my answers include such lofty entries, but other times, it may just be lunch or a chocolate bar.

If you are interested in journaling, but don’t know where to start, I would encourage adopting a similar format. You could use these questions or create your own, but either way, it will give you a good starting point and ease the intimidation of a blank piece of paper.

Do YOU journal? Do you use a template or format? What inspires you to journal? What kind of journal and/or writing instruments do you prefer?

DIY Liquid Soap

By: Leah Prescott

As always, I am trying to make adjustments in the products my family uses as I learn more about what may be safer and healthier. I used to buy whatever soap was on sale or the one that smelled the best, but I’ve started to take a closer look at the products we are using all over our bodies and home. Since then, we have switched to Dr. Bronner’s Castile Liquid Soap. This stuff is amazing, very safe and natural, and has tons of uses. Because it is so concentrated, I have found that a gallon lasts our family a very long time. However, a gallon costs over $50 so that’s pretty spendy for my budget. So, I started reading up on making liquid soap from bar soap.

Now, a lot of you may say this is crazy and you could be right. But before you give up on this tutorial, take a quick look at the cost breakdown:

  • 1 gallon of liquid Castile Soap from Amazon= $59.99 list price
  • 1 gallon of liquid Castile Soap made in my kitchen= 1 gallon distilled water for $1.19 + 2 bars of Kirk’s Original Coco Castile $2.40 = $3.59

Even if you add in the costs of equipment or a container or jar to store the final product, you are still looking at a huge savings. I was done with this project in about 20 minutes tops (not counting leaving the soap out to cool). So the time investment was very minimal and there was nothing complicated about the process at all. (Please note this recipe will yield a little over a half gallon of soap, so what you see here cost me about $2.40). Now that I’ve convinced you, let’s get to the tutorial.

Make your own soap tutorial

DIY Liquid Castile from Bar Soap

  • 8 cups of distilled water
  • 1 bar of Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Soap (I was delighted to find a three pack at Publix for only $3.49)
  • Cheese Grater or Knife
  • Large Bowl
  • Funnel
  1. Boil eight cups of water while you grate up the bar of soap. I used distilled water to cut down on the risk of bacterial growth. I am not a scientist but it seems to me that boiling the heck out of tap water would be just as good. My guess is you could bring your cost down to $1.20 by skipping the store-bought water. I was happy to find that Kirk’s soap has a really nice scent and shaved up into lovely little flakes with minimal effort. The finished product looked like a nice big bowl of coconut and smelled just as good.Make your own soap tutorial
  2. Pour water and soap flakes into a large bowl.  Allow this to sit for a few hours, covered. My soap immediately started to dissolve and after about 30 minutes looked totally clear.Make your own soap tutorial
  3. Evaluate the consistency of your soap.  I read multiple tutorials and this is where quite a few people had problems. Depending on its thickness, your soap might be ready to go. If you feel it needs longer to thicken, you can leave it for another day. If it seems to be separating, you could choose to whip it up for a smoother consistency. Once it seems like the right thickness, you are done!Make your own soap tutorial

Make your own soap tutorial

The first time I tried to do this, I poured my soap immediately into a narrow neck bottle, only to have it later solidify and become difficult if not impossible to remove. This time, I left my soap overnight to see what consistency it would take before proceeding. The next day, when I realized it was fairly thick, I took my hand mixer and whipped it up into a smoother consistency. Even so, I found that my soap later separated slightly. This isn’t a problem for me, but I wanted to mention it. Remember, the final product is concentrated, so you will find it can be diluted for cleaning or hand soap. I used about one part soap to four parts water for our soap dispensers. This is working great for handwashing and also in recipes for cleaning products calling for liquid castile soap.

Make your own soap tutorial

Extra tip: I have seen many tutorials on Pinterest and across the web for DIY Mason Jar soap dispensers. I’m not sure if it’s the nostalgia of homemade jam or just the endearing quality of being staunchly non-plastic that appeals to me, but I just love Mason Jars. I liked the idea of Jar Soap Dispensers and tried to make one. Not a week later, I saw this cute little number at Target. For $3.99, it looks like a great way to “DIY” without the angst I had trying to punch a hole in a jar lid with an ice pick on a Sunday afternoon. You can totally afford it because of all you saved on making your own soap. Pair it with a vintage pale blue Ball Jar and your whole family will be begging to wash their hands!

My Forever Valentine

By: Katie Austin

It’s that time of year when heart-shaped candy boxes and red is in abundance. It seems everywhere you turn there is something to be purchased to show your loved ones you care.

Is it just me or does this year seem to be flying by? It seems like yesterday I was celebrating the holidays with family and friends.

By the time February rolls around, I am looking forward to warmer days. We do see those periodically in the south but I want to see them stay longer. I think because of that, Valentine’s Day sneaks up on me. I am already looking forward to spring and then summer.

So, now that Valentine’s Day is here, what do I write about?

Two years ago, I wrote about the meaning of Valentine’s Day and how this annual tradition began. As I sat at my desk pondering ideas for this blog post, I thought above love, family, friendship, and how very blessed I am in all of these categories. Then it hit me: an opportunity to turn this article into something special for someone special.

There are so many wonderful people in my life and I could easily write about how each one of them has impacted my life. But there is one person who has truly stood by me and picked me up when I was down. For better or worse he has been there every step of the way.

My valentine

My husband, Mike, has been with me through the many highs and lows in my life. He was by my side as I battled cancer and all of the side effects that come along with it. He told me I was beautiful when all I could see was a bald, frail woman fighting cancer. He has been right by my side through this journey and the many other times that I have tripped and fallen down. And not just figuratively – I took a spill at the Avon Walk and he helped dust me off and asked if I was ok!

I love that he is honest when I ask for feedback. Yes ladies, he does repond honestly if I ask whether or not an outfit looks good on me. LOL.

I love that we find the craziest things in a commercial or in real life to make us laugh. I laugh the hardest when I am with him.

I love that he is an amazing cook. He can cook just about anything (and without using a recipe)!

I love that he cares as much as he does for Brandon, myself, and our family and friends. There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for any one of us.

I love that he is smart. Really, this is an understatement.

I love him more with each passing day. He is more than my husband. He is my best friend, confidant, the person I look forward to waking up next to every day. I love spending time with him! He is my soul mate and I am incredibly blessed to be his wife.

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