Saved By the Bell

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary PatThis has been my first post in a while. On March 18 around midnight, I had a strange sensation in my head. It almost felt like lightning striking the center of my head and radiating down through all of the veins. I felt some funny sensations, dizziness and such, and it bothered me enough that I told my roommate just in case it “turned out to be serious.”

The next morning my alarm went off and off and off. My roommate came to turn it off and found me lying on the floor by my bed. She called 911 and this crazy journey started. I’d had a brain aneurysm burst. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, thus the perfect time to share this with you.

I’m still learning about aneurysms, and I’m anxious to talk to the doctor who worked on me those early weeks. But my mother and sister tell me that I wasn’t expected to live, much less recover. Today I am at a rehab facility in Atlanta relearning basic skills like walking. Being in a hospital bed for a month wipes you out. When I first left Columbia, I couldn’t walk, stand on my own or even sit up without falling over.

I plan to share more with you in coming posts. But for now, I want to say thank you.

Success in Entertainment

By: Shannon Shull

“I love watching school drama performances. I have seen many over the years at middle schools and high schools from many different districts. The drama performance from Friday was by far the best performance I have ever seen. It was so much fun to watch the performance, it was very creative, and I just didn’t want it to end. I was so proud of the students, but really impressed with how amazing this production was. I doubt any program in the state could compare.” 

It’s my second year of teaching in the public school arena and I somehow survived yet another enormous show. I took on the task of creating something truly entertaining while providing my 70 honors students with a fun learning experience. I about lost my sanity in the process, but hey, I guess any true, dedicated artist sacrifices their body and a level of sanity in order to create amazing things!

honors drama show

The quote above came from a respected fellow teacher that recently moved to our district. I was so pleasantly surprised to have him send this email not only to me, but to the principal of the school where I teach. Comments like these mean the world to me. Besides the standing ovation of an audience applauding your work, hearing the students brag about their incredible experience and listening to their parents thank you for all of your hard work, well…that certainly helps make the 70-hour work weeks leading up to the show a little easier to forgive and forget! And at the end of the show, upon completing all the bows of my young stars, a student proceeded to take the microphone from me and share lovely words about their teacher. Several of them passed the microphone around and spoke about how grateful they were for me – one even declaring that she was thankful that I taught her to embrace her weirdness and be confident in her talents. I cried as I felt validation for the hard work I’ve dedicated to teaching these kids!

Entertainment success

And the icing on the cake for me was the truly priceless gift of having my own children in the audience supporting me and seeing the fruits of my labor. Though I’m an artist and a teacher, I am a mother first and having my precious ones present to support me, well, let’s just say it helped to complete the moment. My babies know that I work incredibly hard on my shows and they adore my students, so it was important that they be able to see the finished product. Not to mention, I knew that this would be a show that they would actually like! This recent show was all about the 1980s and featured all sorts of 80s fun that is relatable to all ages. The thought of my own children not being able to come to my show was heartbreaking. My daughter had a make-up soccer game that threatened to keep her away. This was not easy on me, to say the least. Needless to say, when I saw my parents bring both my babies in before the show started, I broke down crying. It was a joyful cry at the sight of them, knowing my angels would be there to share this big moment with me!

Me and my girl, Mina

The greatest compliments I received all night, that truly made my heart swell, came after the show, when I asked my son what he thought of the show. My son, who is incredibly hard to please and typically has no desire to see any live show of any sort, responded with total enthusiasm. “It was the best show ever!!!!” And on the car ride home, my daughter said to me, “Mama, it was totally worth it.” I responded, asking her what was totally worth it? She said, “Missing my soccer game to come to your awesome show!”

Yep, gold…absolute stars and pixie dust… treasures. That was indeed the icing on the cake that took blood, sweat and lots of tears to create! It’s the little things, ya’ll. Entertainment success achieved. 🙂

Life Is Too Short

By: Chaunte McClure

Memorial Day weekend is usually a time to celebrate the start of summer and, most of all, to honor those who died while serving our country. We gather with family and friends for a backyard barbeque, a trip to the beach, a fireworks show. Or maybe to go to a small-town remembering a friendfestival, Memorial Day parade or wreath-laying ceremony.

For me, this Memorial Day weekend will include a celebration that I would have never imagined would happen so soon. I will celebrate the life a friend who died suddenly Sunday morning. I struggled with finding a topic to write about this week and I considered writing about her passing because that’s what I’ve been trying to cope with all week. For at least 24 hours I was in a state of shock and then I grieved. But I don’t want this to be a sad blog post and I’m not seeking sympathy or empathy. I just want to do two things: celebrate Nicole and remind you that life is short.

As I read the condolences on her Facebook page, these adjectives were constantly repeated: kind, sweet, humble, beautiful, and quiet. I would use the same words or words with similar meanings to describe her gentle soul. She was the kind of person who made a positive impact without being at the forefront. There are people who are often involved in the forefront and love the spotlight, but sometimes they are just getting the shine and not making an impact. Nicole had a servant’s heart, but she didn’t have to be on the front line. With a cheerful heart she served without the need to be noticed.

We served together Saturday in the Ronald McDonald Family Room at a local children’s hospital. Our church was scheduled to prepare and serve breakfast for families and patients and to do children’s activities. Because she was a teacher, I knew Nicole would be great with kids and when I asked her if she was available to help, she said “Yes, I am free.” She arrived Saturday morning with a smile, ready to serve. And she served well.

I was still excited Saturday night about our outreach ministry at the hospital, so I decided to text everyone to say thank you again. Nicole, the first to reply, said, “I really enjoyed it … great experience!”

Who would have known that that text would be last text I’d receive from her? Who would have known that would have been one of her last great experiences on this earth?

One week later, we’ll celebrate her life as a mother, daughter, sister, teacher, friend, colleague, servant and Christian.

Life is short and sometimes it takes incidents like Nicole’s to remind us of that fact. That’s why we should love more, serve more, and enjoy life more.

 A Message to Nicole:

Nicole, I’ll miss you at vacation Bible school this summer. We’ll remember you next time we go to the children’s hospital.

I’m grateful for the fond memories I have of you. We had the most fun when I hosted the online jewelry parties and you would have adrenaline rushes while trying to beat the other ladies to the accessories. Maybe I’ll host a party in your honor soon.

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate your life on Saturday.

Oreo Cake

By: Brady Evans

I made my own birthday cake this year and I am so glad I did. Usually I make a new recipe each year but this one was so great and such a crowd pleaser that it may just become my birthday tradition!

Not only does this cake use Oreos as an ingredient, but the cake itself almost mimics a giant Oreo, too. The whipped cream frosting was a nice break from the usual sugar-sweet buttercreams that dominate most cakes. It was also super easy to make but makes quite an impression. I recommend it for sure!

oreo cake

Oreo Cake (adapted from Serious Eats)


  • 3/4 cup (about 3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (about 3/4 ounce) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about 4 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Oreo whipped cream:

  • 1 18-ounce package Oreo cookies
  • 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract


To make the cake:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line bottom of a 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat the inside with non-stick pan spray.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, whisk sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake until cake is just firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to completely cool on wire rack, about 1 hour.

To make the whipped cream and finish the cake:

  1. Carefully cut 6 Oreo cookies in half; set aside. Chop remaining cookies into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside.
  2. Make the Oreo whipped cream in 2 batches:
  3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, spoon into large bowl and refrigerate.
  4. In same mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft peak.
  5. Fold into already whipped cream.
  6. Fold chopped Oreos into whipped cream.
  7. Slice cake in half horizontally to create 2 layers. Place bottom layer on serving plate. Spread about 1/3 of Oreo whipped cream onto cake. Top with second cake layer and use remaining Oreo whipped cream to frost top and sides of cake. Chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow cookies to soften.
  8. Garnish with reserved Oreo cookie halves. Serve.

Celebrate Memorial Day

american flag

Memorial Day is the unofficial start to the summer. We’ve rounded up fun events so you can enjoy the holiday weekend with your family.

Iris Festival – Sumter’s Iris Festival is South Carolina’s oldest continuous festival, and has even been featured in “Southern Living.” The 3-day festival includes concerts, an arts and crafts show, a flower show, a quilt show, car shows, contests, and children’s activities.

Friday, May 22 – Sunday, May 24
822 W. Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150
For more information, visit

9th Annual Jailbreak 5K – Family fun for everyone! People of all ages and fitness levels are invited to participate in the 9th Annual Jailbreak 5K for a morning of fun and friendly competition. All proceeds go to support professional law enforcement services in Lexington County.

Saturday, May 23
8:00am – 12:00pm
521 Gibson Rd, Lexington, SC 29072
For more information, visit

Palmetto State Chili Cookoff Calling all chili fans! Take a drive to Fountain Inn for the first annual Palmetto State Chili Cookoff. Sponsored by the International Chili Society, this event will bring together the best chili cooks from all over the country, as well as local cooks. The event will feature arts and crafts vendors, live entertainment, and fun activities for kids.

Saturday, May 23
102 Depot St. Fountain Inn, SC 29644
9:00am – 4:00pm
For more information, visit

Honoring the Heroes: A Memorial Day Concert – Join the Palmetto Concert Band as they celebrate and pay tribute to our veterans with a free, public concert.

Sunday, May 24
Koger Center for the Arts
1051 Greene Street Columbia, SC 29201
For more information, visit

Honor WWI & WWII Veterans  Pay tribute to Lower Richland-born Veterans of World Wars I & II at the Historic Barber House in Hopkins. This family-oriented event will feature a free buffet lunch, entertainment by Mike Stone Entertainment, the Gospel Redeemers and others, mule-drawn wagon rides and vendors.

Monday, May 25
1:00pm – 5:00pm
Historic Barber House
116 Barberville Loop Hopkins, SC 29061
For more information, visit

Celebrate National Chocolate Chip Day: May 15th

By: Morgan Robbins RD, LD at Lexington Medical Center

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Chip Day? Before you sit down with your glass of milk and cookie, take some time to read about how chocolate, in moderation, can promote health.

Chocolate, made from the cocoa bean, is rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are most commonly known for their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may prevent or delay cell damage by blocking free radicals.

cookies4Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in chocolate. Flavanols have multiple health benefits including lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the heart and brain as well as their antioxidant properties. Flavanols are also found in onions, apples, celery, red wine and tea.

Keep in mind, not all chocolate is created equal. Cocoa’s natural flavor is strong and pungent; the steps taken to process cocoa will reduce this taste. It used to be said the darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant properties. Research shows the more processed the chocolate is, the less flavanols the chocolate will have, meaning darker doesn’t always mean better. Commercial chocolate (i.e. Reeses, Snickers, etc.) are highly processed and therefore lack the heart healthy antioxidant properties.

For now, your safest bet is to stick with darker chocolate; it is too difficult to determine the exact path your chocolate has taken to arrive to your table. Additional sugar, fat and oils are added to milk chocolate, making it the less healthy choice of the two. Be mindful of the type of dark chocolate you eat, added ingredients (nuts, caramel, nougat) all mean additional processing. As with anything, moderation is key, keep your chocolate serving to one ounce or less, only a few times weekly.

In honor of National Chocolate Chip Day, try adding some dark chocolate chips or chunks to your yogurt, oatmeal or to a homemade trail mix!

This blog post originally appeared on the Lexington Medical Center Blog. To view more Lexington Medical Center Blog Posts, visit

Hosting a Yard Sale

By: Leah Prescott

It’s yard sale season! It’s time to drag out your whatchamacallit collection and finally say goodbye to the box of heirloom thingamabobs. Although I’ve only hosted yard sales a couple of times, I’ve shopped at hundreds. Here are my tips for a smooth, simple, successful sale!

  1. Plan ahead. The best sales are going to require some planning. Start making lists of large items you will be selling. Go through your garage, attic, and closets to drag out those hidden “gems” that eager Saturday morning shoppers will be seeking. Consider the date of your sale and start monitoring the weather. Decide whether you will re-schedule in case of bad weather or go forward “rain or shine.” Also, begin to ponder if your goal will skew towards turning a significant profit or clearing out the junk.planning a yard sale
  1. Advertise. Make a brief ad for your yard sale and start posting on Craigslist and Facebook groups for sale or trade groups. This will increase your traffic significantly. You’ll want to mention some of your items or categories of items (“TONS of kids stuff, great prices!”) as well as your neighborhood or street name (Forest Acres, close to downtown) and the date. Don’t put your address unless you want folks coming ridiculously early or even the day before. The night before your sale, post an ad with your exact address, or simply, “Main Street, look for our huge green signs.”image
  1. Gather Supplies. You are going to need SIGNS, STICKERS and CHANGE (along with a safe space for storing your cash).  I can’t tell you how many folks fail at this crucial step. People make their signs absolutely inscrutable or open up for sales without any change at all. Don’t make this mistake! I recommend the Dollar Tree for signs and price stickers. Also, half a dozen helium-filled balloons divided between your signs will draw people in. Use arrows and large bold text. Pretend an out-of-towner is looking for your sale; could they find it? A sign for every turn is ideal. Don’t forget the change. You can find recommended guidelines online.
  1. Make your “store” appealing. Every yard sale is different, but you can do a few things to create a more welcoming environment for shoppers. If possible, use tables and surfaces to display the products. If items are filthy, either clean them ahead of time or give them away. Everything doesn’t have to be priced, but at the very least hang a sign with some ranges (Clothing $1-$3). It’s nice to have old grocery bags for people to carry their items home. Use an extension cord so customers can test electrical items. Sort by type of item and put large items closer to the street to catch the eye of travelers. Also, a box of free items will free up some selling space and appeal to some shoppers.yard sale tips
  1. Be courteous. Above all, be friendly and kind to your customers. If I approach a yard sale and the sellers look like they just ate a lemon or they won’t even greet or make eye contact, I will probably leave. On the other hand, don’t act like a car salesman and hound your customers, begging them to “make an offer” or touting the merits of your wares like an infomercial. Both are a turn off! Just be nice and be willing to take reasonable offers.
  2. Don’t over-value your cast-offs. In general, keep your prices firm at first, then start to negotiate as the day goes on. When pricing items, remember: your front yard is not ebay or the mall, so don’t expect to charge ebay or mall prices! Be creative with pricing. If none of your clothing is selling, offer a grocery bag full for $5 or Buy One Get One Free.
  1. Wrap up your day. The last yard sale I hosted was slow in the morning and sped up towards lunchtime. I stayed open until 3 pm because folks kept coming. I won’t ever put an end time on my signs in the future, since you just don’t know what will happen. When you are finished selling, what do you plan to do with your remaining items? Palmetto Thrift Store on Fernandina Rd. will pick up donations! And whatever you do, please, please take down all of your signs.

Good luck with your yard sale! If you are a yard sale shopper, check out the Yard Sale Treasures app. It’s connected to Craigslist yard sales ads and gives you a mapped out route guiding you from sale to sale.

Mother’s Day Lessons

Here at The Every Woman Blog, we wanted to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to the women who have made us who we are today. To celebrate our mothers and thank peoniesthem for all they have done for us, the Every Woman Bloggers shared the most valuable lessons they learned from their moms.

Elizabeth: I think the most important lesson I learned from my mom is the power of positive thinking. She’s always said we should focus on what we want, not on what we don’t want. It’s more than mere optimism; it’s knowing, BELIEVING that we will get the positive result we want.

Katie: I learned a lot from my mom over the years but what stands out most are the following lessons:

  • Do what makes you happy. Only you know what that is.
  • Family will always be there for you, no matter what.
  • Anything is possible as long as you believe it’s possible.
  • And the most important lesson of all, every day is a walk in faith and everything happens for a reason.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today and wouldn’t have made it through my cancer battle without my mom. She, along with Mike’s mom, kept me focused, believing that better days were ahead even when I was losing hope. Love you mom!

Brady: Not only is it okay to be different, it is GOOD to be different.

Shannon: I have learned so many valuable lessons from my mother. My amazing mother has taught me the importance of using and sharing my talents. Through incredible example, my mother has shown me how much joy one can bring to others by sharing their God-given talents. I have watched her share her musical talents and fill a room with such love, joy and passion. To truly touch and inspire others is such a gift! I can only hope that my life will include opportunities to share my own talents.

Crissie: I learned so much from my mom. Much of it, I didn’t realize I had learned until I was older, as is often the case. It’s nearly impossible to pick the most important thing she taught me. Most of what I am most grateful for are the lessons I learned from her about being a mom, none of which came in the form of “advice” from her, but came from simply watching her and remembering how she handled many different situations while I was growing up.

She gave us freedom and let us grow. She watched, safely from a distance, never really sheltering us, but being close enough to help if we fell, both figuratively and literally. She still does this today with me, although she’s a bit more sheltering of her grandchildren. I think of my mom as I watch my two little boys climb high into our magnolia tree. I hear their laughter and see their happy faces, all while I am silently praying that they don’t fall, but knowing the experience and memories will last them a lifetime.

Another important lesson I learned from my mom is to not be late for anything. Ever. Especially church. While I have tried my best to apply this and, for many years, was able to put this into practice, admittedly, I am not as early as I used to be, though I do try to still be punctual. Especially to church.

Lastly, perseverance. I’ve watched my mom struggle through a number of heath issues in her life, but never shirk her duties in regards to her family or her job. No matter what she was going through, she never gave up. While I don’t know if I’m as strong as she, I do try to persevere and, even when I’ve had trying times, and have felt like crawling under a rock, I remember that there are responsibilities that must be taken care of.

I’m so grateful to God for another Mother’s Day with my mom!

What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from your mother? 

Flex Your Muscles

By: Lara Winburn

With the approaching Mother’s Day weekend, I know there is a lot of talk about how there is no greater love than a mother’s love. There are probably Hallmark cards and Publix commercials that could make me weep. I love all of that sappy stuff and gifts made with Mother's Dayhandprints. But I think Mother’s Day is also about some fiercely strong women.

Think about it. For me, the mom strength started early in pregnancy. I threw up every day I was pregnant – even the day my daughter was born. I could puke, brush my teeth, smack on some lip gloss and get back to work. Not to toot my own horn, but I was a bad mamma-jamma. I watch moms tote those leaden car seats, which we affectionately call “buckets” at our house, not to mention the diaper bag, pocket book, and breast pump they might have in their other hand. As our kids become toddlers, there is the physical strength of carrying a flailing 35-pounder that does not want to get in the car because the sky is blue and you chose the wrong color sippy cup. I am telling you that requires super human strength.

Then, there is the strength of restraint. When you hear a playmate say something like, “Let’s not play with so-and-so today.” And it takes everything you have not to tell said playmate that you are so-and-so’s mother and so-and-so is the most wonderful, kind precious child in all the world. There is restraint when you know that a good mother would discipline the child that has discovered a word like “shut up” and you bite your lip not too laugh because even though it is not a nice word, out of a toddler mouth in rapid fire succession, it IS funny!

Letting go also takes strength. I was recently talking to a new mom and we were discussing those first days of dropping a tiny baby off at daycare. There is strength in trusting caretakers with your most precious gift. My daughter recently wanted to sit with her friends at a play and not with me. It took strength for me to wave as she proudly sat a few rows back and beamed with independence. (Luckily, she returned to sit with me because I “had better seats.”) I can only imagine the strength it will take to let them go to kindergarten, their first sleep over, or GULP…

So moms everywhere, I hope this Mother’s Day you feel special and loved, but I also hope you flex your muscles and feel strong.

You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile…

By: Shannon Shull

smileI’m writing this current blog entry with a head and chest full of congestion. Severe bronchitis has rocked my world. My body is heavy with exhaustion. My mind is so overwhelmed I literally have a hard time seeing straight at times. Yes, I’m nearing the end of the school year. I have my big end-of-year show with my 70 honors drama students in just two weeks and I’m in the midst of surviving administering, for the first time ever, the monster within our public school system that is standardized tests. It’s a big awakening for this teaching artist…when one is hired to teach a specific subject within the public school system, one is expected to do much more… And yes, I stop there because I will refrain from diving into the misconceptions of the job I have taken on and committed to. It is not just a can of worms, it’s a pit of dragons and snakes.

Instead, I will focus on surviving the utter exhaustion, the overwhelming workload, and the sleepless nights during which it’s not the cough that keeps me up, but the fact that I cannot turn my brain off. I am committed to doing my best at my job and providing awesome learning experiences for my students, thus why I tend to struggle not to drown in the workload. I truly do envy those that go to work and then can just leave – their work does not follow them home and plague a majority of their thoughts. But as I sit here and think on how or why I’m tolerating these circumstances, all I have to do is think of the fruits of my labor. Those moments when I get to witness a student of mine experience an awakening, to see their minds light up with newfound knowledge and confidence, to watch their enthusiasm ignite others, to see them soak in the pure joy of creating and performing. Knowing that on the night of my big show, there will be an audience full of people who will laugh, applaud and have hearts full of pride for their young ones giving their all on that stage. Knowing that there will be a stage full of young artists who have worked hard to come together to entertain. Knowing that those brilliant young ones had fun while learning valuable lessons and applying tools they can carry on into other areas of their lives. Ah… for a teaching artist like me, it’s a dream come true to accomplish such a thing.

So it’s those huge, priceless moments that aid in helping me to survive. Plain and simple, it’s the only thing holding me together. Those big moments of achievement and those smaller moments, like a simple smile, help me get through the day.

A smile; something so simple, yet so powerful. The smiles from my students and precious colleagues as we all struggle to survive the end of the school year together. The smiles from my own precious children, my love, my mother, my precious family members, and my friends who give me support and love.

My latest pick-me-up song has been Sia’s “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” Check out these lyrics…

Ready or not
Give all we got
Yeah, you can’t deny
That baby, you’re never fully dressed without a smile
Don’t sink the boat
When you lose hope
I’ll keep you alive
But baby, you’re never fully dressed without a smile
Now look at us
We pick it up
We set it on fire
‘Cause you know you’re never fully dressed without a smile
We show it out
We’re playing now
We’re living the life
But baby, you’re never fully dressed without a smile

Good stuff, right? As I battle my way through the stress, sickness and busyness that is currently my life, I think about these things that fill my heart and I fully recognize that I am never fully dressed without a smile.

And now, as I take my second dose of antibiotics for the day and tackle my to-do list, I’ll do it fully dressed, because there is a smile on my face and a smile in my heart!