Married to Technology

By: Chaunte McClure

Despite having a never-ending to-do list, I always seem to, unfortunately, make time for social media. Why is this thing so darn addictive? I attended a marketing conference in February and in a social media session, the presenter stated teens check social media 100 times per day. A hundred! One zero zero. I shared that number with a colleague, who is a baby boomer, and his response was “No way!” Yes way. I’m far from being a teenager, but using myself for comparison, I knew that was realistic.

There are days when I’m constantly grabbing my phone, not because someone’s calling me, but I’m somehow drawn to accessing a social media app or two, or three. I can be in the middle of reading or writing then my mind, and my hand following will gravitate to my phone. Thankfully, sometimes I realize what I’ve done and I immediately place the phone back down and force myself to focus on my current task.

I wish I had a counter on my phone that tracked the number of times I access my phone. Is there an app for that? Maybe cell phones should come with this on a warning labels: This device is habit forming. But is it the phone or the apps? You can’t have one without the other, unless of course you have a tablet. This perfection union between mobile devices and apps has countless humans married to technology and the level of commitment is astounding.

How can you translate the commitment to your smartphone to your marriage? To God? To your family? To self-improvement? Or any other area in your life that’s receiving less attention because more of your attention is devoted to technology?

Expect separation anxiety, similar to what you experience when you misplace, leave, or damage your device. However, the greater rewards of stronger relationships and a better you are priceless.

How much time do you spend on social media? What will you do with that amount of time?

Hit and Miss

By: Rachel Sircy

Well, it is the Lenten season – a time for all Christians to reflect on our own frailty and to understand how much we need the Lord. My church doesn’t follow the liturgical calendar, but I’m starting to reflect on my own frailties this season. Especially because since my last post about sticking to a strict diet and loving plain, toasted walnuts – blah, blah, blah – I’ve fallen off the wagon. It all started with an innocent trip to Aldi. I was picking up some food to take to a party when a box of dark chocolate sea salt caramels caught my eye. I thought that I would just take them to the party – but I didn’t. Once I brought them home, they never made it back out of my front door. And it only got worse from there. I’ve had more bacon, sausage, cheese, chocolate, and cake in the past couple of weeks than I have in the past couple of months. It just proved a point that my pastor often makes – if you preach about something, you should prepare for a test on it the next day. Well, I failed my test, of course. But the wonderful thing is that if at first you don’t succeed, there will always be another test.

Gluten free muffin_Every Woman Blog

This is a picture of a cinnamon streusel muffin. My mother-in-law made it, and it’s gluten free. AND it’s delicious. I know that she meant well when she dropped these off yesterday, but it’s calling to me. The voice of a cinnamon streusel muffin sounds a lot like those friends you have in college that come to you right before a huge test and ask, Do you have to study? Well, ok then…we’ll think of you while we’re out having fun…

I mean, which would you rather have for breakfast – a delicious, cake-like muffin, or this:

Kate_Every Woman Blog

If you said you’d rather have the kale and flax seed, you’re lying. Come on, you know you’re lying. But I didn’t totally fail the test this time. I compromised and had a bit of both.

Breakfast_Every Woman Blog

I think that means that I got a straight C on this test. I’m okay with that for right now. When I first started to go gluten free, I had a whole lot of stops and starts. Once, shortly after I was diagnosed as a celiac, I broke down and ate almost an entire package of Chips Ahoy cookies. The next day the pain in my stomach was so bad that I could barely move off of the couch. It was a lesson learned. I didn’t ever do that again. And so, even though my breakfast wasn’t the healthiest in the world, it was sort of healthy. And that’s a start toward something better.

A NOTE ABOUT GLUTEN FREE STUFF:

Occasionally on here I rant about how the food industry is riding out the wave of enthusiasm over the gluten free diet fad. I don’t mean to try to tell anyone how they should eat or how they should live, it’s just that I think that there is a lot of information out there that is really misleading about this diet. And, as a celiac, I firmly believe that anyone who thinks they may have a gluten allergy/intolerance or celiac disease should seek a medical professional’s opinion. Well, I’m getting preachy again. I don’t mean to, I just hate to see people being purposefully mislead about their health. If you don’t have your health, not much else matters. Your health is important to me, so I’m going to share something that has recently come to my attention.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a container of disinfectant wipes that are supposed to be 99% natural (or something like that). I prefer to use natural cleaners around my house and often times I make my own cleaning solutions. I’ll have to write a post about that sometime. Making your own solutions, though, can be time consuming and a bit of a pain, so I wanted something that would help me when I just needed to do a quick cleanup. About a week after I got the wipes home, I noticed this on the back of the container:

gluten free wipes-Every Woman Blog

That’s right. Apparently, my disinfectant wipes are gluten free. Do you know what this means? It means that this company is shameless. I guess because most people don’t know much about gluten, manufacturers of all kinds of products are using the gluten free label to sell their stuff. Now, I don’t mind buying a cleaner that happens to not have gluten in it, but I would never purchase a cleaner because it didn’t have gluten in it. The thing is, gluten only affects you if you eat it. No one, not even celiacs, need gluten free cleaners, shampoos or soaps. I mean, if you really think that your disinfectant wipes or your shampoo looks tasty then you have a problem, but that problem isn’t your gluten intolerance. According to Mayo Clinic’s website (the Mayo Clinic is where I get a lot of my information, I trust them as a reliable source), true celiacs only need to make sure that their toothpastes, mouthwashes and lip balms, etc. are gluten free. The reason for that is pretty obvious. You’re probably going to ingest some of your toothpaste and mouthwash and lip balm even though you don’t mean to. According to Dr. Picco of the Mayo Clinic, if you develop a skin rash from touching a product that contains gluten or wheat, you should see your doctor. It could be a wheat allergy (which is not the same as celiac disease) causing an allergic reaction. Also, there is a skin condition that sometimes accompanies celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis, but this is not caused by skin contact with gluten, it is only caused by eating something contaminated with gluten.

Well, that was a long rant. I hope it was helpful!!

Are You Exhausted?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I’m exhausted. I’m so tired, it hurts. Why is this? I ask myself all the time, why does it seem that I’m always so worn out physically and mentally? It’s that time of year for me, when my world is rocked by deadlines, school requirements, performances,…some of my greatest career accomplishments tend to happen during this time of the year, so yes, I’m overwhelmed and overworked. But after so many years of feeling this way, I’m beginning to get really frustrated about it. Is it just the fact that I’m a teacher? Or is it just me? Is it because I’m an over-achiever?

sleepless_every-woman-blog

I have a terrible time sleeping. I literally cannot shut my brain off. I don’t take medication to sleep, and I probably should, but I’d really rather not! I’m sure if I could actually get good, restful sleep and a decent amount of it, I’d feel so much better! But heaven forbid I actually be able to achieve that. Most unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is totally foreign to me these days.  I live in constant fear that I’ll get sick because I know my body and mind need rest. But I’m stumped when it comes to figuring out the right formula to actually achieve this.

So I decided to do some research. A healthy living article in the Huffington Post called “How To Shut Your Brain Off When You Just Can’t Sleep,” by Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D. gives several tips for those of us with an overactive mind. The problem is, I’m not so sure these tips can or will work for me. For example, one of the tips is to “not worry in bed.” Yea, um, not an option for me! I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife…worry is something I will never be able to get rid of. I try not to let it rule my world, of course, but worrying is a fact of my life. The article suggests that when you can’t calm the worries that plague your mind, to get out of bed. Getting up and going to another room, doing a simple chore, etc may help someone else realize how sleepy they are and enable them to go back to bed and actually sleep, but I guarantee you that WILL NOT work for me! Not only would that wake up the pets and truly give me more to deal with, but if I get up out of bed and start doing something, my body will think it’s time to get stuff done! Sadly, that is a technique that will not work for me in my circumstances.

On a plus side, the article mentions “mental imagery.” Now this is something I do try to attempt when I can’t shut my brain off. They say there’s a reason why people say to count sheep. Something about the repetitive, soothing nature of it. I’m not a math person, so that would just aggravate me, but I do like to use visualization. So I’ll try to envision myself getting a massage or floating on a cloud, or lounging weightless in a glorious, hot tub. Sometimes I am able to actually do this and it helps me get back to sleep. Yet sometimes I work so hard trying to focus on relaxing imagery that my brain engages and leads me to other thoughts that keep me awake. Though it doesn’t always work, it’s definitely worth a try!

They say to write things down, create your to-do list so that you don’t engage in “unproductive worry.” I am a to-do list maker, something major! And, fortunately, this past year, I have found my go-to solution for helping me remember to do things. In addition to hand written to-do lists, I create alarms on my phone to remind me of things that I need to accomplish, whether it’s a simple daily task or something major. That alarm going off on my phone is my little savior at helping me not to fret about forgetting to do something on my list. And I don’t have some annoying alarm noise go off, I use a song that will make me smile or do a little dance as I’m reminded of what I need to do. My family, students and fellow teachers know that if they hear a song start randomly playing from my pocket, there must be something Shannon needs to do. It’s funny, but hey, it helps!

sleeplessI wish I had the time and energy to create an official daily wind-down, decompression time that could allow me to engage in some honest relaxation, distancing me from worries and to-do’s, but some days I don’t have the energy to make that bubble bath. Sadly, sometimes I think of a soak in a bath as more work ‘cause I’d have to prep and clean the tub and in the end, use up more time that I could’ve/should’ve just been in bed sleeping. Pathetic, I know. Ever feel like you put yourself in a position where you just can’t seem to win? Yea, me too.

There are many tips and techniques to help one get better sleep, ranging from drinking a warm glass of milk to turning off the TV and any other stimulating gadgets. I’m a firm believer that the TV should be off and the room dark and calm, but… and yes, another BUT…some days when I have had a really tough, stressful day, I need that TV on, at least for a bit. Watching something light and fluffy can help keep my mind off the stress, so that I
can indeed eventually get some sleep instead of letting the stress consume me. That’s what good stories, whether from a book, magazine, the television, etc., are wonderful for – helping us escape! I could write page after page of tips and techniques. Ha! I wish I had the time and energy to do so, but who am I kidding, my phone alarm has already been playing a Bruno Mars song repeatedly, reminding me of yet another thing I must accomplish on my fat to-do list.

So what are the techniques that work for you? After doing my research, I know that I’ve got to make more of an effort to get more exercise, create a solid routine for winding down at the end of the day and some way, somehow find more ways to simply relax. If I ever figure out the winning equation for shutting my brain off at night, I’ll definitely share. In the meantime, please do share what works for you. It might just be something that could actually help create some zzz’s for us overactive brainiacs!

Here are some links with more info on how to get better sleep.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/shut-off-brain-cant-sleep_n_5161774.html

http://www.youbeauty.com/life/habits-for-better-sleep/

A Shocking Experience

By: Azure Stilwell

Sun will come out tomorrow

I have debated with myself about whether or not I should blog about my newest treatment against Bipolar Depression. After much thought I have decided to go ahead and share my experience with ECT, also known as electro-current therapy.

Unlike the treatments given 50 years ago, today’s ECT treatments are quite civilized. I haven’t had to shave my head or scurry into hospital backrooms for my treatments. I walk into outpatient services like anyone else having an outpatient procedure done. I am given an i.v. and then some anesthesia. A box is placed over my head while I am under, and a seizure is caused using electro-current. I have been doing this 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks and though the results have been slow, I have had some improvement. I am feeling less sad with each treatment.

The thing I am struggling with is not being able to drive. My family has had to rely on extended family to help me get to and from my treatments, which has been more difficult since we have no family in the Columbia area. We have had to ask family to come from the coast, Georgia, and Florida. They have all come without hesitation and it has truly been a blessing seeing how much our family cares about us.

My hope is that ECT will help me get back to the person I used to be or at least close to her. Bipolar depression has robbed me of so much of myself. I am tired of feeling sad and tired all the time. I take so much medication with little results that it would be nice to finally find a fix for what ails me. I want my life back and ECT may be the closest chance I have to a cure. Surprisingly, I am not alone in my search because the waiting room is always full with people going through the same or similar ailments as me. We have all decided to try ECT, in spite of its stigma, as a way to get back to ourselves.

Disclaimer: It is essential that you seek professional advice for all issues concerning your physical and mental health. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new health treatments. 

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

By: Ashley Whisonant

book recommendation_Every Woman Blog

Looking for a great book? I recently enjoyed reading “The Dry” by Jane Harper. Here’s a quick synopsis:

Aaron Falk has not returned to his hometown in Australia for over twenty years. After being run out of town as a teenager, Falk vowed to not return to the small farming community. Only after receiving a note in the mail did he find out that his childhood friend, Luke, was murdered.

Word spreads quickly through town of his arrival. From that moment on, incident after incident happens while he works to investigate who killed Luke, his wife, and young son. As you meet characters from all over town, it is hard to pin down exactly who killed the Hadler family. Could there be a connection to a death of young Ellie so many years ago? Ellie was part of a close group of friends that included both Luke and Aaron.

This page turner will keep you guessing! One second you think you have it figured out and then a curve ball gets thrown.

What are your favorite recent reads?

It’s All About the View

By: Jeanne Reynolds

In just a few hours, I’m leaving work a little early (Boss, if you’re reading this, I worked through lunch today for this very reason) and heading to our dream someday-to-be-retirement home near Beaufort for the weekend.

I love that house. I love the barely-there moss green walls offset by bright white trim. I love the soaring ceilings with exposed beams. I love the speckly gray granite countertops and the mixed-width natural finish wood floors. I love the tabby fireplace that opens on three sides so we can enjoy a fire inside or out. I love the walls of windows that look out onto the marsh because most of all, I love the view.

cat-i-view

Ah, the view. It’s why we bought that particular lot and why the house is designed the way it is. When anyone who’s never seen it asks about the house, I whip out my phone and start scrolling for a photo that captures its essence … and always end up showing a picture of the view.

We’re about 25 feet from the marsh (elevated, of course — we do have hurricanes with those pesky tidal surges around here). The water and grass change constantly with the tides and seasons, and the sky changes with the time of day, so the view does, too. Many kinds of birds whose names I don’t yet know visit frequently. We’ve seen a family of raccoons and small herds of deer, too, but those are sprinkles on the icing of the cake that is sky, water and grass.

the view_Every Woman Blog

As much as I love how the inside of our home turned out, it’s when I look at the world outside it that I truly appreciate its serenity and beauty.

And suddenly it occurred to me life is like that, too.

When I stop paying so much attention to what’s going on inside of me and raise my gaze to the world around me, that’s when I can see — literally — the bigger picture. Like looking at the stars on a clear night, it makes me feel incredibly small and exponentially expanded at the same time. I’m a part of this. A very small part, but a part. And it’s so beautiful out there.

What a view.

On Being a Caregiver

By: Chaunte McClure

At some point in life I realized that one day I will have to care for my mom, but I honestly never considered the day I’d care for one of her siblings. That’s been my reality for the past 11 months. About a week after I turned 40, my 50-something-year-old aunt suffered a stroke while visiting my sister.

caregiver

I was sitting nervously, waiting to give a presentation in my African American Church class. Then my phone vibrated and I saw my sister’s name displaying. I knew she was aware that I had class, so I thought she must really need me. The conversation went something like this when I stepped out of the classroom to answer:

“We’ve called the paramedics for Aunt Jane,” she said.

Doing my best not to panic, I calmly asked, “What happened?”

After she explained my aunt’s symptoms, I told her to keep me posted and I’d head to the hospital after my presentation. That wasn’t soon enough. It’s not easy to keep track of time during emergency situations, but what seemed like about 20 minutes later, my phone vibrated again. This time I heard a very concerned voice almost begging me to get to the hospital. My aunt had coded.

My classmates were taking too long to present. I finally interrupted and explained that I had a family emergency. My professor excused me and began to pray before I could even exit the classroom.

Thankfully, the hospital was only about two miles from my location. I hurried in to comfort her daughter who rode in the ambulance with her mom, my aunt.

After asking more questions when I arrived, finally, the staff rolled my aunt’s weak body back into the emergency room.

She was admitted into the hospital and stayed there just a few days before going to a rehabilitation services provider for a few weeks. Still needing additional therapy, because she lost mobility on her right side, we found an inpatient rehabilitation facility with 24-hour skilled nursing care. After about three months there, her care became our full responsibility.

While I was trying to be fabulous at 40, I was also 40 and worn out at times. We’ve been a caregiver team, but the responsibility is still challenging. From organizing meds, to coordinating medical appointments, to understanding insurance, to running errands and doing chores – it can all become taxing, especially when we each have our own personal responsibilities.

If you ever become a caregiver, here are few tips to help keep you from getting overwhelmed:

  • Make sure each caregiver is carrying his or her load. That takes the burden off one person. You can’t do it all by yourself.
  • Take time for yourself. While caring for others is important, self-care is equally important.
  • Organize your responsibilities. Choose what tasks or chores will be done on specific days and by whom.
  • Seek outside resources. Consider hiring someone to do what you can’t or ask responsible family members and friends.

To protect her privacy, my aunt is referred to as Jane in this story.