Fear is a Four Letter Word

By: Angie Sloan

I grew up in the Seventies. Which means…we played outside with our friends, there were no video games. We knew who lived next door to us and often borrowed sugar or eggs, always returning the favor with a sweet treat our moms had baked. We used rotary phones and we actually knew our friend’s phone numbers (a lost art these days). We ran with scissors and we ate dirt, because back then, there were no warning labels and “breaking news” conferences to advise otherwise. There was one television in the house, which meant you watched whatever your parents watched.

And when The Shining came out on HBO (around 1982), Mom wanted to see it. She had heard that it was really frightening and she loved a good scary movie. It was the summer and I was allowed to stay up to 11:00 one night a week. Hearing all the buzz about the movie, I chose that evening as my late night.

Mom popped Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove and we turned out all of the lights in the house. I can still smell the aroma of that popcorn. My dad didn’t take part in the hoopla, and went to bed because he had an early morning the next day. The movie was a bit slow to start, but there was this overwhelming sense of dread from the beginning. I watched it all. Sometimes through the safety of my hands as they covered my eyes. It terrified me.

I will never forget that feeling of fear. Looking back, I think it was the first time I truly felt terrified in my young life. I was nine years old. My mother probably didn’t have the best Fearjudgement when it came to filtering what we watched. But it was done and there was no turning back. Again, times were different then. Parenting was different.

The reason I reference that movie and that time in my life is because we all have felt fear at some point in our lives. And for me, that marked the first time I really felt fearful. It’s a common emotion. It’s healthy and normal to be fearful of certain things or situations. For example, being fearful or nervous when moving out on your own is warranted and healthy. It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time. You are suddenly responsible for everything without a safety net. There are bills and responsibilities. It’s a big scary world out there. And on the flip side, there is freedom in being independent and making your own way (my oldest son is about to experience this). There’s a tinge of fear the first time you drive a car, but that often fades with experience. There are a number of other things we do each and every day that may scare us. Being a parent is a scary endeavor. Interviewing for a job can be intimidating. Moving to a new place and meeting new people can be scary. But when you look at all of these scenarios, it comes down to fear of the unknown. The “what-ifs” that exist out there in the abyss. The questions we can’t answer. The scenarios we cannot predict or forsee.

And there’s that old nag, the Fear of Failure and his first cousin the Fear of Success. What? You’ve never heard of the Fear of Success? He runs in the same circles as the Fear of Failure. It’s that unsettling feeling of doing something really well, and then having to raise the bar. Having to outdo what you’ve just done. It’s not the worry you will fail, but rather, you fear that you may not have it in you to keep succeeding. There’s a distinct difference. And I find myself faced with this albatross of an emotion more times than not. It’s that little voice that questions my direction. It’s that feeling that I am not worthy of success. It’s that whisper that says, “You’ve done well enough, why don’t you quit while you’re ahead?” Sometimes the volume is deafening and I find myself questioning my next steps. Worrying. Wondering if I have what it takes to keep achieving.

And then, when I am at the brink of giving in, I find the strength and courage to quiet the noise. I evict that negativity from my thoughts and I keep moving. I keep swimming. Because I am willing to do the work and I am worthy of the success.

And so are you.

I write this to remind us all to “keep swimming” regardless of what scares us. Don’t allow Fear’s ugly stepsister, Insecurity to buy property in your mind. That’s prime real estate! And it’s not for sale to her or any of her shady relatives.

On a side note, I write this as a public service announcement: don’t let your kids watch scary movies with creepy twins and isolated hotels. But do try the Jiffy Pop! It will take you back to childhood with the sound of the first kernel popping!

Endurance

By: Jordan Tateenduring pain

I honestly remember the day I became sick of hearing the word “endure.” I had been reading so many articles about motherhood and grief that the word itself became a frustrating concept that nagged me for days on end. Hearing it made me cringe and I could never pinpoint why. I finally figured it out, but let me rewind a little bit first.

My husband and I have the type of classic love story like the kind people write sitcoms about. We were next-door neighbors, and then we fell in love. We ran into each other in the hallways, shared flirty banter, and slowly but surely transitioned from a purely platonic friendship to spending every ounce of our free time together. Soon after that we got engaged, and then we got married. Our desires and dreams were like those of most of our peers; we hoped to fill our home with little feet and live to serve the people around us as we built our family.

I was on my way to motherhood a year and a half into marriage when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. It was a girl and her name would be Ellie and she would have been our sassy one, I just know it. The problem is that she never got to live past her birth day because she was given a fatal diagnosis at our twenty week ultrasound. She would live until I delivered her and then she would take her first and last breaths within moments of each other.

This was not how it was supposed to be. The last half of my pregnancy was filled with a will to endure. I would endure and press on and try to nod and smile when strangers verbally noticed my belly in public, never knowing she was unwell. Never knowing I was unwell. If I could just endure through the pregnancy, if I could just make it to the next step… these were the thoughts that filled my mind those last four months. But the next step was just as challenging, as I knew deep down it would. Saying hello and goodbye to your first child all at the same time requires more than endurance. It requires mercy and grace and the steadfast love of the Lord to keep your mind from falling away. But we did survive. We survived and we endured and we cried gallons of tears. All of the sudden, the reality of my life was different than the one I grew up imagining. It was now tainted with death and a life’s worth of robbed memories with my little girl.

 

We are not promised a life void of pain, but what I do know from experience is that if we let it, every unexpected trial can be used to tell the story of a life made stronger.

 

My marriage now had a layer of grief and sorrow that was never present before all of this. But people continued to encourage us to endure and to hope and to seek joy. And we did. Slowly but surely we lived through each day without our Ellie. Always missing her but always looking to the good ahead. We took great solace in the fact that all of our doctors knew Ellie’s condition to be an anomaly, at least based on all of the evidence at hand. Nine months later, we got to the point where we could dream about another baby, a healthy baby, and we conceived during our first month of trying. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified after my first experience with pregnancy, but I pressed on and I dreamt of the blessing our second child would be after such great loss, knowing I would never take this little life for granted.

All of the sudden, we found ourselves at our twenty week appointment with baby number two, and we stared forward with blurred vision and shattered hearts as the doctors repeated the exact words we had heard the first time around, “Your baby cannot live outside of the womb. Her diagnosis is fatal.” I will spare you the details of the next four months and what it was like to say hello and goodbye to baby number two after thirty-six challenging hours of labor. What I will say about it, was that it was full of inexplicable pain.

So back to the word “endure.” Can you see why I was sick of reading it, hearing it, and thinking about it? What was life even like before I was enduring this kind of hardship? I honestly couldn’t remember. So one day, in my frustration, I looked up the definition of endure. It’s almost humorous. We think sometimes that to endure means to stay strong and to pray and to put our best face forward as we trudge through the mess. But the definition is actually much more simple:

(1) to suffer patiently

(2) to tolerate.

That’s it.

It may sound pitiful, but that definition brought me so much comfort. Because you could not have paid me enough money to muster up any amount of “strength” in this. People kept telling me I was strong, but I felt the opposite. What does it mean to be strong in the midst of loss and heartache? I mean, I didn’t opt out of living, so there’s that, but I wouldn’t consider that fact to be a marker of personal strength and great endurance. What I could do is just be. I could tolerate. People would tell me I was strong and courageous for walking through this, and that they could never be strong enough to face such loss, but that never made sense to me because there wasn’t a way I could snap my fingers and turn off the suffering or change the outcome. I was merely surrendering because I had no other choice. I didn’t ask for this. I had no way out. We don’t get to decide we aren’t strong enough to handle something and then have that situation not happen to us. The pre-infant-loss version of myself could never have fathomed I would watch my children die, but what that really means is that I didn’t ever want to imagine a life where that would or could be my reality. But now that I have experienced it, I know that we, as human beings, are capable of staring fear and loss and heartache and devastation in the face and not having it wreck us. Nobody welcomes hardship or pain to take over their lives. We live in a broken world where all is not as it should be. But what if we were more aware of how capable we are of walking through the valley and still being alive on the other side to talk of our battle? I don’t mean that we should invite danger and reckless behavior into our lives to test our ability to survive, but rather that we live bravely and boldly, unafraid of what lies ahead, and unafraid that our reality may look different than the one we grew up imagining. We are not promised a life void of pain, but what I do know from experience is that if we let it, every unexpected trial can be used to tell the story of a life made stronger.

Carpe Diem!!

By: Shannon Boatwright

Seize the day and make your lives extraordinary!

The great Robin Williams spoke these incredible words in a brilliant film called “Dead Poets Society.” What a gem that piece of art was and still is. See the short movie clip below of our brilliant and gone-way-too-soon Mr. Williams giving this priceless piece of advice to a group of young men.

I actually use this saying in my middle school drama classes. It serves as a great way for me to hopefully inspire these kids and it helps me gain their attention. The students can be engaged in group work or pre-class chatter and I will yell “Carpe Diem!!!” and they will all respond, with passion, “Seize the Day!!!” It’s quite the empowering, cool experience. As soon as they finish saying the word “day”, the room is completely silent – which creates this really cool vibe in the air, especially after we’ve just yelled something so powerful, in unison.

I show my students the clip from the movie and use it as a way to inspire them to make the most of their time with me and throughout their day. Let’s face it, like Robin says, we will all one day be dead, it’s an inevitable part of life. So why not make the best of life while we’re living it? I encourage them to make a real effort, give everything their best shot. Life is too short to waste it away and be unhappy. Let’s make it count while we have the opportunity.

Now many of us, young students included, often see motivational videos about pursuing your dreams, getting out there and making great things happen – seizing the day! And a lot of these videos feature superstars, Olympic athletes…individuals who are exceptional and seem super-human. In my classes we discuss how these kinds of videos can indeed be very motivating and inspirational, yet it’s not always necessarily what the real world looks like for most of us. We can’t really stop everything we’re doing and go rule and rock the world. It’s just not quite that easy. We have responsibilities, requirements of life. In the real world, it’s not always feasible for anyone, much less a kid, to drop what they’re doing and suddenly reach for the stars, climb the tallest mountains, make a hit record overnight, create cures, or become president. It’s a process, succeeding at life. Seizing it takes hard work and effort. And I can guarantee a lot of us don’t look like visions of superhuman perfection while we’re making that effort. So…I make it a point to explain that when we use “Carpe Diem” in my class, we are using it as a means of gathering focus and reminding ourselves to make our best effort in that moment. Together we seize our day, making the best of the small moments that will lead us to do great things, big and small.

Here’s to making our lives extraordinary!

Carpe Diem!

Putting My Aneurysm Behind Me

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Of all of the experiences, emotions and excitement I’ve had in the past 17 months, this past weekend was a personal milestone in my recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm. What started out to be a simple “rehab reunion” in Atlanta turned into a turning point for me in so many ways.

Putting My Aneurysm Behind Me

Sense of Closure. When we got to Atlanta, especially Shepherd, I felt like I was home. For over two months, it was my “safe place.” You tend to get very attached to people who help you eat and shower and take your first steps after being in bed for six weeks. It was so wonderful to reconnect with the doctors, nurses and therapists who helped me regain normal. I was able to thank them, hug them and show them how far I’d come. Then, I was able to leave.

I also visited a lot of places that were significant during my rehab, including R. Thomas, home of my first non-hospital meal; Menchies, the frozen yogurt shop I visited with my rehab team; Shorty’s, the pizza place where I ate on “graduation day;” Shepherd Cafeteria, where when I wouldn’t eat anything else, I feasted on their tator tots; the Secret Garden, where I took my first steps outside, planted flowers as part of therapy and visited with friends from home; Sam Flax, my happy shopping place; and the Buckhead Publix, where I did my first “test drive.”

Shepherd, Pathways and Atlanta were shelters during the storm, but now that the sun is peeking out, it’s time for me to “go forth and set the world on fire.” The next time I go to The ATL, I want to visit the Botanical Gardens, see the Braves and enjoy all of the wonderful things there are to do there.

Perspective. When it comes to my recovery, I haven’t been able to see the forest for the trees. I’ve been lamenting my quiet voice, aerobic limitations and loss of muscle tone, all of which have taken a toll on my self-esteem. But just seventeen months ago, I was bedridden, unable to breathe without assistance and unable to walk. This past weekend I came to the conclusion that if given the option of not surviving or surviving as a quieter, less toned person, I would’ve taken alive any old way I could. The voice, the flab, the lesser workouts? Just challenges to keep me honest.

Timing. It’s only been a year since I left rehab, 17 months since the aneurysm rupture. Doctors say that rupture patients continue to heal and improve for up to five years. The most dramatic changes occur in the first six to 12 months, but I’ll be getting better for years to come. What I complain about today – the soft voice, the fatigue, the awkwardness – may not be here tomorrow. When I would complain to my wonderful neuropsychologist, Dr. Brown, he wrote the word TEMPORARY on my white board to remind me.

Self-confidence. With all I’ve been through, I’ve got to kick this self-doubt to the curb. If I survived the actual rupture and overcame the setbacks I encountered with MRSA, pneumonia and c Diff, I should feel unstoppable, not unsure of myself. A soft voice and a few extra pounds is child’s play compared to the past year. And to feel nervous about a date or lack thereof? Nahhhhhh. That’s just crazy!

Friendship. There was great comfort seeing those people who helped me on my journey. With friends. People who had seen you at your absolute worst, but still love you. We all looked a little different than we did in rehab. A little more polished, a lot more refined. We cleaned up well. We had some deficits, most of which weren’t apparent from the outside. We swapped stories, talked about the crazy things that happened in rehab and hugged. There were a lot of hugs.

Besides my rehab cohorts, I also saw a friend from high school who was very supportive during my stay in Atlanta. We grew up in the same church. Most of my memories of him are on a church bus. I hadn’t seen him in some 30 years, except on Facebook, but he visited, brought a plant, brought brownies, took Mom and I out to dinner and more. Although it took a ruptured aneurysm for us to reconnect, I realized at brunch that he (and his dashing partner) are now forever friends.

When I returned from Atlanta, I declared that I was ready to put my aneurysm behind me. My aneurysm rupture will always be a part of me, I suppose, and I can’t really change that. And I don’t want to totally forget it. It helped me become a better person – an MP 2.0, so to speak – and allows me to help others going through a similar situation. I’m thankful for the many blessings and great people that the aneurysm brought into my life, which I am now ready to live fully.

Tough Love

By: Crissie Kirby

tough love
“Ms. Kirby”, the voice said, “guess what?” I cringed a little when I heard the voice; it was one of the directors of the SC National Guard Youth Camp. My fear was that, after only a day, Pierce had gotten injured. The words she uttered were honestly more difficult for me to hear.

“Pierce is homesick and wants to come home”

UGH. That was honestly the LAST news I expected to get from camp. I suppose I went into the whole sleepaway camp idea a bit naïve. My children spend a week to ten days away from home with their grandparents. We are a family that does sleepovers for crying out loud. BUT, this mom totally failed to take into account that Pierce had never been away somewhere with people he did not know. And when he went to camp, he, literally, knew no one. No other campers. No counselors. No one.

I was at a loss. Pierce is my independent, never-meet-a -stranger kid. Even as a two or three year old, he would stand on the balcony in Hilton Head and talk to every random person that walked towards the pool. But, oh the tears that I knew were falling and the despair I could audibly hear in his little voice rocked me to my core. However, my core told me that going to pick him up, to rescue him, was not the lesson we sent him to camp to learn. I told him that I wanted him to stay at least one more night. The director and I spoke again and we agreed that maybe it was a combination of just adjusting and being tired and that staying was to his benefit. We made the decision to talk on Tuesday. On Facebook, I posted a passionate plea for prayers of peace and comfort . . . for both Pierce and me!

Tuesday rolled around and I thought we were in the clear. I posted a grateful message of thanks. At about 7:45 p.m. my phone rang. My heart sank as I heard my son’s tears before I heard his voice. He begged and pleaded with me to come pick him up. He declared that he could NOT stay one more night. I tried being nice. I tried being stern. Finally I spoke with his head counselor who relayed that Pierce had had a good day, until he got mail from home. I got my ex-husband on the phone because frankly, I was cracking. The weight of the tears and the despair was weakening my soul. Still, I didn’t feel “right” about picking him up early from camp. Together, the adults made some tough decisions that night. We decided that unless Pierce was injured, there were to be no more phone calls home. That ability was totally taken off of the table. We also made the seemingly cruel decision to withhold ALL of his mail for the remainder of the week. He would get his mail on Saturday after graduation when we were there to pick him up. I asked his counselor only one small favor . . . could he just text me and let me know that Pierce was ok at night. He was immediately receptive and followed through with this and Pierce was none the wiser.

tough loveSaturday morning rolled around and the two hour ride to Summerton and Camp Bob Cooper felt like it might as well have been ten hours long. We arrived and gathered Pierce’s belongings. We waited on the graduation ceremony to begin. My son beamed when he saw us. My heart swelled to see that other than having a little tan, he looked no worse for the wear. The campers marched in and performed their group cadences. As the sun rose higher and the temperature crept up, the ceremony began to draw to a close; there was only the awarding of the two camp awards left. The first was the MVPeavy award (camper of the year). As the description was read off, Pierce’s dad and I looked at each other and whispered that it sounded like it was Pierce they were talking about. What? It was Pierce. Tears fell from my eyes as my ten year old’s name was called out as having been chosen as the MVP of the entire camp. My child, who had called home twice, adamant that he could not spend one more night there, had just been called out for displaying notable assistance to other campers during activities and for having a positive and helpful attitude. Suffice to say, I was, and am, proud beyond words of my son.

However, my pride is not rooted so much in him having received the award as it is in his overcoming a challenge that seemed insurmountable. What would have happened had I caved on the first night, or even the second, and gone and picked him up? I would have sent him a solid message that I would rescue him at any point in time when life gets just a little tough. Make no mistake, tough love is HARD; I cried that week; I barely slept that week; my concentration was at an all time low that week. Every day it seems that we hear, see, or read some article about the increasing role of helicopter parents in today’s children. We see parents who constantly rescue their children from any level of difficulty or disappointment in life, whether it be in school, on the playground, or even in college of all places!! Was Pierce disappointed in my not coming to pick him up? I’m sure that he was. Was being away from home with no familiar face difficult for Pierce? Again, I’m sure that it was. But, when my son looks at me on a regular basis and tells me “thank you for sending me to camp” and how excited he seems to be about attending camp next year, it makes the tears, worry, sleeplessness, and, most importantly, the tough love completely worth it. Are there some situations from which we, as parents, need to rescue our children? Certainly. But there comes a point in time when we, as parents, must learn what is really helping them out of harm’s way and what is just interfering with a part of growing up and requires just a smidge of “tough love”.

Introducing Our New Every Woman Bloggers: Meet Jeanne Reynolds

Jeanne Reynolds

I’m a writer, runner, golfer, reader and musician. Also a wife, daughter, sister and friend. But I notice whenever someone asks who I am, I start with what I do. Because after being in the work world full time for 38 years, that’s how I identify myself.

 And that’s changing.

I recently transitioned to part-time hours, with the goal of — eek, kind of afraid to put it in writing — retiring in the next year or so. I’m excited about the new adventures I’ll now have time for, but also nervous. Who will the “new me” be? How will I keep the wonderful friends from work? Where do I want to use my experience and talents outside a cubicle? Am I doing the right thing, and is it the right time?

 Maybe you have some of these same questions if you’re changing jobs, leaving the work world to care for family, changing relationships or becoming an empty-nester. I’m looking forward to sharing what I discover, and hearing your advice, too.

Introducing Our New Every Woman Bloggers: Meet Stacy Thompson

Stacy ThompsonAs I sat watching the Rio Olympic Games, several things occurred to me – for one, I’m thrilled that people had a chance to see the beauty of one of my all-time favorite cities in a country that I consider my second home (more on that later). Second, I’m in awe of all Olympic competitors – those we see on the podium and those who may only swim, run, flip, twist, ride or shoot in one event for a few brief minutes, but nonetheless will (and should) forever be known as an “Olympian.” Third, I wonder how many kettle-bell, barre, pilates, spin and hot-yoga classes I would have to endure to look half as amazingly strong as multiple-gold-medal-winning, mother-of-three Kerri Walsh Jennings? And finally, how do I possibly introduce myself and my upcoming musings in one brief paragraph??

I’d like to say that I threw my name into the hat to join this cool, diverse and really REAL group of women bloggers because I had something important or profound to say or contribute. But truth be told, I just have some pretty unusual, remarkable and sometimes amusing stories to pass along. I’m an attorney, but won’t be giving legal advice (goodness knows there is enough of that to go around); I’m a daughter, but won’t be complaining about my nagging mother (as she is one of the most inspirational, awesome people I know, I’ll be bragging instead!); I’m a mom, but to fur-babies only (so you’ll get amusing anecdotes and I don’t get any back-talk or eye-rolls); I’ve traveled the world (touched them all – all 7 continents, that is) but am a proud long-time resident of Lexington County and an even prouder South Carolinian, so get ready for unusual travel tales interspersed with some crowing about our county/state while bestowing a few “Bless their hearts,” for those who haven’t had the pleasure of savoring sweet tea or boiled peanuts and for some reason think that a proper tailgate consists of buying a bucket of chicken, bag of Ruffles, pre-made pimiento cheese (oh, the humanity!) and a roll of Bounty to “enjoy” while milling about next to the car (with no team tents, myriad tables, assortment of chairs, et cetera, et cetera) – seriously, let me enlighten you on how we roll in SEC/ACC country!  And yes, that last sentence was stream-of-consciousness and such a run-on sentence that I shudder to think of diagraming it! (For those born in the 90s or later, back in the olden days, that is, in the mid-1900s, children were forced to diagram sentences, an exercise designed to infuriate and frustrate middle-schoolers throughout the nation, serving no actual purpose but satisfying to the OCD-inclined Grammar Police – and as a result, I not only know what a gerund is, but thanks to my 6th grade English teacher I can confidently state that you must diagram those bad boys on steps!)

I hope you enjoy reading all of the contributions on this blog – there are some amazing women that I now have a chance to be associated with, and I’m excited to see what they all have to say.  Many thanks to Lexington Medical Center and the Every Woman Blog – grateful for this opportunity and the weeks to come!