Coffee, Love and Power

By: Leah Prescott

imageEveryone in my neck of the woods has been talking about Loveland Coffee. It’s a cute little stand in Murraywood Shopping Center in Irmo. As temptingly adorable as it is, with an equally adorable name, I haven’t sampled Loveland yet. I have to admit that I don’t really like to buy my coffee out. Strange, right? I love coffee, and I admit there are lots of restaurants that make better coffee than I do at home. So why not buy coffee out? It’s not just that I am incredibly cheap (although I am).

Upon reflection, I realized that it’s about my coffee philosophy. You see, somehow I believe that coffee is power. Heaven help us if the electricity goes out and disturbs my pre-programmed percolator that begins its magic at 5:52 AM.  I wake up each morning without the strength to face the day until….coffee. If I am out of coffee, I am powerless. If my coffee maker is broken (I’ve gone through many), I fall into despair.

image copyIf coffee is power, how can I relinquish this power to some unknown barista? I have to keep the power for myself. I have to retain the strength in my own territory. So there it is, the reason why I make my own coffee without fail every single day. And, the reason why my sweet husband, who strangely enough does not drink coffee, knows me so well that he gave me a new French Press for Valentine’s Day. There may be 5 Love Languages, but my love language is coffee. Maybe after my third cup of the morning, I will head over to Loveland and relinquish a little of my power in exchange for a spiced latte.

Deconstructing a Yes-Woman

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“Say yes more.” – Danny Wallace, Yes Man

Have you seen the movie Yes Man? Carl Allen (played by Jim Carrey) is stuck in a rut with his negative ways. Then he goes to a self-help seminar and learns to unleash the power of yes. Living in the affirmative leads him to all sorts of amazing and transforming experiences; he gets a job promotion, and even finds a new romance. But Carl finds that too much of anything, even positive thinking, is not necessarily a good thing. I have my own Yes Man experience.

The week of March 2015 was not unlike any other week for me. Easter was upon us, and people on Facebook were starting to post about what they would be giving up for Lent. After I saw a third friend giving up chocolate for Lent, it occurred to me that I wanted to give up something more meaningful than chocolate, something that could change my life. I decided to give up my comfort zone.

In true Mary Pat fashion, once I decided what to give up, I jumped right in. That week, I went out with a guy I would have never gone out with, to get out of my comfort zone. We went to a concert in Charleston, again out of my comfort zone, especially on a first date. We saw Modest Mouse, a band I was unfamiliar with, you guessed it, to get out of my comfort zone.

As I was thinking of more ways to get out of my comfort zone and eating way too many dark chocolate covered espresso beans, I had a strange sensation in my head. It felt like pins and needles down my part line. Then it felt like someone poured a Sonic slush on top of my head. Freezing cold sensation ran down the sides of my head. I told my sister that something was wrong, that I thought I may be dying. She asked about going to the ER, but I chalked it up to a caffeine overload from the espresso beans and chocolate. So I went to bed.

Two weeks later, I woke up in the hospital. I was told that I’d had a brain aneurysm rupture. I had a trach, and I couldn’t talk or walk. Y’all are familiar with the rest of the story. That was the beginning of a four month ordeal that included nearly dying, coming back to and then going to Atlanta for rehabilitation.

I could speak forever on the challenges I overcame and trials I experienced, but the point is this: it left me with a burning desire to experience life to the fullest in the second chance I had been given. And while many of you made resolutions to say no to more things in 2016 to preserve your sanity and your time, I made one to say yes more often, and I encourage you to do the same.

Mother Theresa once said: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

I am beginning by trying to say yes more often.

Before the aneurysm (B.A.), I was a bit of a homebody. If something occurred after work, I would either say no or wish I’d said no. You know the feeling. You agree to something Say Yes Santaafter work because it sounded fun at the time, but when the day rolled around, you just wanted to go home, get comfortable and enjoy your evening on your own time. You may’ve even told a white lie to get out of doing it.

Over the Christmas holidays, I was like the character in Yes Man. I could’ve missed Christmas 2015, so I set out to enjoy my second chance by experiencing it to the fullest. I don’t think I turned down even one party invitation. I saw the lights at Saluda Shoals Park – twice. I lit the Advent candle at church. I volunteered to help homeless children shop for their families. I went to tree lightings, holiday celebrations and wore seasonal clothes. I sat on Santa’s lap multiple times. (And I got pictures each time.)

It was a great holiday season, but by Christmas Eve, it had really taken a toll on me. I realized that unlike the character in the movie, you can’t always say yes. You have to weigh your priorities, health and well-being, along with some good common sense. I had a great holiday season, but by Christmas Eve, I was exhausted. And likely because I was pushing myself so hard, an infection I picked up in the hospital came back with a vengeance.

Now, I am in the yes mindset, but more reasonably. Hopefully, I still have plenty of time to experience the things I want to experience, so I don’t have to push myself as if it were my last month on Earth. But I am trying to say yes to more opportunities presented to me. I don’t want to miss anything.

Vanity Thief

By: Lara Winburn

Motherhood has stolen my vanity. (Vanity is only one thing stolen from me – sleep, abs, and my own beating heart are a few others.) But vanity is the one that occurs to me when mirrorI realize the only reflection I have seen all day is on the side of an SUV.

A friend hopped in my car last weekend, glanced down at my makeup bag on the console, and said, “So you put your makeup on in the car, too?” Every single morning. I’ve even considered having multiple makeup bags in cars, offices at work, the church nursery. Just in case I am having a hard time finding a few minutes to actually look in a mirror and apply a little blush. I started applying makeup in the car when the kids were babies because they would be safe in their car seats as I took my eyes off of them for 5 minutes. Now it just shaves time off an already hectic morning.

I cannot remember the last time I was fully dressed, mascaraed and standing at attention in front of a full-length mirror. I mean, to be honest, I have never been very impressive with an iron but I normally had time for a lint brush and mirror pause before racing out the door. I feel certain now that the reason I never look in a mirror is because I would not have time to correct the litany of things wrong – wrinkles, lint, bulges and pulls. You know, ignorance is bliss.

A friend of mine that is a stay-at-home mom was recently talking about her morning routine and like a strike of lightening she stopped and said “Oh my gosh – you have to put on real clothes before you leave the house every morning.” This is not a mommy war, stay-at-home mom vs. working mom statement, this is just the truth. I cannot wear yoga pants and a pony tail to my office. Just a fact. But I would venture a guess, that no matter where your morning takes you, most moms have lost the energy for a certain level of vanity along the way. Maybe that’s just fine. We are raising small humans and all – so lipstick on my teeth seems a little trivial. (But if you see me with lipstick on my teeth, will you please tell me?? It’s some kind of girl rule.)

Sometimes beneath my tall brown boots my socks don’t match because I am tired, they are clean and you didn’t know until just now. I have already admitted to wearing mismatched shoes. I realized the other day as my big, wild, curly hair whipped around, that I didn’t really know what my hair looked like to other people. I felt around and it “seemed” to have a part but I forgot for just a moment that I was not invisible and the people I work with are not blind. Who knows if I look like a lion or a Pantene model? I think I’ll just hope for the later.

I have never been particularly good at eyeliner or the latest Sephora find so this fall from grace was a short trip, but I hope as the kids get older I will reclaim a little of the style I once had. In this season of life, it is hard enough to make sure that my family is clean, fed, and clothed some mornings as we fly out the door.

Just maybe I am a visual lesson for those sweet babies that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. I can almost always promise I am clean, but after that all bets are off. I would like to believe that there are moms everywhere with makeup bags in their car and mismatched socks under their boots with the beaming beauty of love.

The Value of Creativity

By: Shannon Boatwright

Creativity. It’s the latest theme in education. I’ve studied it and have been given assignments on it in the latest graduate class I’m taking. Just this past week, for professional development in my school district, they had two speakers come speak to all of us teachers in the district. Their main topic? Creativity.

Watch the two short videos below. Seriously, take the time to watch them. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Sir Ken Robinson. I can say that this man’s brilliant, heart- and eye-opening words have impacted me on a level that words cannot describe. I am now an official and forever fan of this brilliant man, as his words have helped me to make sense of what I’ve been battling with since teaching in this warped education system. My heart and mind have felt a passion for exactly what he is talking about, I just could never quite put it into words in the eloquent and beautiful way that he has. On one level it fills my heart to have this confirmation that there are people out there that “get it.” Yet on the other hand, my heart aches because I feel the urge to spread this information and somehow figure out how to create a mission to help make this revolution a reality everywhere!

I feverishly took notes as I watched both videos, many times rewinding and listening again, letting Sir Robinson’s words sink in. I’m blown away by the way he has so simply and wisely shared this priceless information. I’ve been so inspired by some of these YouTube TED videos that I can honestly say that I think these videos have changed my life. A bit dramatic, I know. But this issue of recognizing our creative capacities and revolutionizing education away from an industrial model to an agriculture model is a part of my passion, a part of my talents and what I stand for. The thought of all the millions and millions of people in this world enduring what they do for a living, instead of enjoying it, breaks my heart.

The expectations, the wish, the absolute need at hand here is not something schools can do just by “differentiating,” “integrating,” “scaffolding”…. workshops, trainings, blah blah blah, are not the answer here. We need a total revolution. Like Sir Robinson says, we need to transform, not reform. We absolutely have to step away from this linear process and go organic! This is not a change that can effectively be made by throwing a few different teaching tools at teachers. In order for education to actually be effective and our bodies to stop being only a way to transport our heads, and escape this academic inflation that has gotten so out of hand, we have to radically rethink this!

So how can schools meet the expectations, the organic needs in order to infuse creativity back into the equation and keep education from being the industrialized, fast food model that it is? Well, this is where I am at a loss – due to the ridiculous nature of the system now, I feel like we hit a brick wall because the thought process is so ingrained with the higher ups. Very few seem willing to step outside of the current stifling lines. They’ll recognize how great the “concept” is and know in their hearts it’s the answer to making the world of education and the world as a whole a better place, but there are few willing to actually make the positive change happen. This is where I truly don’t know how to make this revolution a reality.

My mind races…. it would take a leader to gather the masses to force this change, to make it a requirement to change. But would any President take this chance? Would the masses come to their senses and support him or her? Would big money get in the way? What needs to happen to make a real revolution in education? I honestly don’t know. It’s going to take enough people taking a stand and insisting on change. At almost every turn at my own school, within my own district, we Arts teachers are given road block after road block. Everyone’s hands are tied, and everyone is overwhelmed and drowning in this fast food model of education. I agree with Sir Robinson completely, it is impoverishing our spirits and energy. I would love to know if Sir Robinson has or knows of a specific plan. I would love to pick his brain and find a solution together, a plan of attack.

For now, awareness is the key and the masses need to see, hear, and realize this killing of creativity that is so present in our education world today.

Here is a little short video I put together that highlights the topic.

 

Please feel free to leave comments here on the blog and share any brilliant ideas on this matter! What does creativity mean to YOU?

Keep Pounding

By: Chaunte McClure

I don’t take a liking to professional football or spend much time watching it on TV, but for Footballthe past couple of weeks I was well aware that the Carolina Panthers were Super Bowl bound to take on the Denver Broncos. And from all the social media buzz, I knew many fans in my social network who were ready for Cam Newton to dab on ‘em this past Sunday night. The Panthers didn’t have much of an opportunity because the Broncos’ defensive game was strong – strong enough to defeat Carolina 24 to 10.

I was hoping the Panthers would win simply because they are the team close to home. They had a great season, losing only one regular season game. They quickly bounced back after a loss to the Atlanta Falcons, taking a “W” one week later against Tampa Bay.

Last week’s loss was a blow for players and fans who longed for a win during Super Bowl 50. Just like in the game of football or any sport, in life, you win some, you lose some. Life happens. The good, the bad, the ugly and the indifferent. There are moments when we find ourselves doing well like the Carolina Panthers. The spotlight is on us and we’re dabbin’ with our team of supporters because we’re winning. Then those times come when we take a loss and sometimes it feels like a total beat down.

What happens when suddenly you’re not winning? How do you respond when it seems like you’ve been defeated? When you’re disappointed about the results, do you give up?

I encourage you to keep pounding. Don’t give up on yourself, your dreams, your life, your hopes or even your team. Naturally, we become sad, mad, discouraged, disappointed or maybe even outraged when “life happens,” but we can’t remain in that negative state because there is so much more still worth fighting for!

Regular Joes

By: Brady Evans Venables

Well, we’ve finally done it. We just sold the farm. Moved into a subdivision. Downsized from 6 acres to .3 acres. We don’t see our horses every day anymore. They’re 2 miles away from our neighborhood being boarded. We’ve officially changed our lifestyle – we used to exude “horse people” status and now we are just regular joes.

The farm

The farm

Why did we do it? After quitting our jobs in North Carolina 5 years ago and giving up our nice, comfortable home to live on the farm? Why sell it and start all over again? It was the kid.

We used to work arm to arm on the weekends – we’d do some manual labor, hop on the horses for a ride, take showers, and head to town for a dinner out. The baby came along and with the baby comes a full time caregiver. We began tag-teaming farm work and parenting, passing in the night, doing “shifts,” barely connecting with each other. We felt guilty for not having family time, guilty for not having horse time, guilty for not having couple time.

Our family on the farm

Our family on the farm

It all started when my husband walked in the door and said “sometimes I almost wish we didn’t have this farm,” sighed, and collapsed on the sofa. I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my chest because I had been thinking the same thing for weeks but was too scared to say it.

We started talking about selling the farm, tabling the discussion, and bringing it up again. We started looking at the finances of moving and boarding the horses, perusing Zillow.com for houses in family-friendly neighborhoods, and crying.

Halloween outside our new home

Halloween outside our new home

We knew what we had to do. Sell the farm. Prioritize our family. Get rid of the guilt. About 15 months after our first discussion about giving up the lifestyle, I sit here in our new home with a tiny yard and neighborhood pool, having just visited the horses 2 miles away, and sigh. Relief.

Our son won’t grow up on the farm and learn “work ethic” like everyone claimed he would. But he will learn the value of family and he can learn work ethic like my husband and I did – in a regular suburban home. We miss it. We don’t regret it. Learning that missing something and regretting something are two very different emotions was an important step in this journey.

Grandmother Betty Blog Post

By: Leah Prescott

Grandmother Betty

My paternal grandmother, Betty Clayton, was a strong, independent, loving woman who constantly looked for ways to help other people. Widowed in her twenties, she raised her two sons alone and provided fully for their every need. She delighted in hospitality and was passionate about her family. She had a wonderful sense of humor, an amazingly sharp memory, and a perfectly honed rotation of well-loved recipes and traditions to share. She was honest to a fault, outspoken at times and always confident. When I was a teenager, I sometimes found it difficult to get along with her, but now I realize that was because we were very much alike in many ways.

It was impossible to ignore my Grandmother Betty, partially because her frank conversations were always studded with colorful and sometimes perplexing phrases and metaphors. Some were self-explanatory, like “mad as a wet hen” or “just as easy as falling off a log.” Others were more obscure and harder to define, such as “Katy bar the door” which clues everyone in that something bad is going to happen. If you were on the brink of doing something stupid, she would threaten, “Your name will be mud.” When circumstances were looking down, it was “too wet to plow.”

Grandmother Betty

Unexpected company was greeted with the ambiguous, “Well, look what the cat dragged in,” or, only slightly more complimentary, “I haven’t seen you in coon’s age.” When her grandchildren expressed dissatisfaction, she would respond that “if wishes were horses we’d all take a ride.” If she thought what you wished for was ridiculous, though, she’d say “You need that like you need a hole in your head!”

When someone was displayed particular stubbornness, she would declare, “You don’t believe cow horns will hook!”  She would express her own confidence by betting “five dollars to four donuts.” However, if things didn’t turn out like she expected she would be a “sick chicken.” Grandmother often told stories of her childhood when “pennies were scarcer than hens’ teeth.” If an individual were a particular tightwad, she would say he was so cheap he’d “chew paper instead of gum” or say he was “tighter than Dick’s hatband.” A lazy person wouldn’t “take a job tasting pies at a pie factory.” You could fit all she knew “about technology in a hollo’ tooth,” and if the said electronic device failed to operate at all, it was “as dead as Hector.” She scorned the latest “pure stupid” trends by laughing that she “wouldn’t give 5 cents for all of ‘em wrapped up in red paper.”

I miss my Grandmother so much. She left me with many of her recipes, a little bit of her sass, and only a few of her colloquialisms recorded. Maybe one day I can write a book  about all the wonderful memories she gifted our family. I guess I better start working on that book right now. After all, “maybes don’t grow on trees.”