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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Fine Line

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Every Woman Blog_The Fine LineIt was just before 10 p.m. on a cold Thursday night when the doorbell rang.

I had already gone upstairs to get ready for bed. My husband was in the living room watching college basketball on T.V. Most of the downstairs lights were on, so it was obvious someone was home and up, but still … 10 p.m.? That’s never a good thing.

“Maybe you shouldn’t open the door,” I called down. Our front door doesn’t have a chain, so it’s kind of all or nothing.

But he did, to see what he later described as a soft-spoken woman in her ’30s or ’40s wearing a white coat.

“I was led to come here,” she told him.

“Are you in trouble?” he asked.

She said no, and when he gently pointed out it was 10 o’clock at night, she replied, “I understand,” and walked away down our front path. We didn’t see where she went, and didn’t notice or hear a car nearby.

The whole thing was a little scary, so we called the sheriff’s department that serves our rural northeast Columbia community. A short while later, an officer arrived to check around our home and the neighborhood. He saw nothing then, and we didn’t hear anything later.

The officer agreed we’d done the right thing. Maybe the woman was only a well-meaning religious evangelist with poor time management, but then again maybe she was mentally unstable or on drugs, or had a weapon in her pocket or an accomplice waiting out of sight. For perhaps the first time, I could understand why people keep a gun in their homes. At the very least, I thought about getting the old aluminum softball bat out of the garage to keep under the bed.

But as we settled somewhat uneasily into bed later that evening, we also felt some doubt. We wondered where the woman might have gone on such a cold night and if she was OK. We hoped the officer found her and was able to help her. We also hoped God would understand if one day we stand before him and he says, “I came to you when it was cold and dark, and you turned me away.”

I’ve had similar thoughts when driving down the road and seeing a motorist in apparent trouble, but haven’t stopped for fear of becoming a victim myself. A woman alone just can’t take that chance, I reasoned. It’s sometimes a struggle finding the line between wanting to do the right thing and wanting to be safe.

Once – just once – I did give a ride to a man I saw walking down a rural road in the rain. He had no umbrella because both hands were in use holding what appeared to be a cake box. Indeed, it turned out to be a birthday cake for an elderly relative. I was on my way to church that night, and maybe that was why I stopped. Or maybe I figured he couldn’t easily attack me with his hands full, and anyone carrying food in the rain couldn’t have much ill intent.

I’m not sure I believe God sends us tests, but I do know life brings events that can test our faith. Yet if I had it do over, I still wouldn’t have invited that woman in. In fact, if my husband wasn’t home, I wouldn’t have answered the door at all.

But I’m also still not sure I’m right.

(INSERT LOUD NOISE HERE) Have Your Resolutions Hit the Wall Yet?

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Every Woman Blog - stay motivated to accomplish goals

Did you hear that loud thud this morning? I think it was the many resolutions made in the heat of the New Year that finally hit the wall. Surprisingly, 75% of resolutions will be continued through the entire first week of January, but only 46% make it past six months. University of Scranton also stated that 39% of people in their twenties will achieve their resolution each year while only 14% of people over 50 years of age will achieve theirs.

As one in that final 14% group, it shouldn’t surprise me that even though I picked a word and not a resolution, per se, that I’m feeling a little flat and discouraged. I was encouraged, however, to read the following tips to stay on track from LearnVest. In case you need a lift, too, I wanted to share them with you. Whether you’re trying to save money or lose a little weight, they apply to nearly any resolution(s) you might have made:

  1. Start small. You can’t do it all at once. It took you more than a month to acquire said issue, so you won’t solve it in a month, either.
  2. Celebrate every milestone. That one pound may not be the 22 you want to lose, but it’s a lot better than gaining it. And 21 lbs. sounds better than 22, doesn’t it?
  3. Don’t get discouraged. Old habits die hard, but putting this off forever is only going to make it worse. Be nice to yourself. You’ve totally got it.
  4. Stay Motivated. Change ain’t easy, but you can do it.

I recently tagged the following on my vision board, and it’s a good reminder:

Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year. Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get you closer to where you want to be.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Unrealistic Expectations?

By: Chaunte McClure 

Sun will come out tomorrow

With conviction, I watched an update to a news story from last fall about a young mother who allegedly put her infant in a dumpster. In between late afternoon breaking news and the evening newscast, I occasionally wondered what would drive someone to make that decision. Shame, rape, manipulation, fear, a breakup, depression, and high expectations were among my speculations. The one that brought conviction to my heart was high expectations. Can fear of disappointing an influential leader force one to make a poor decision or even withhold information?

I’ve had the privilege of mentoring and teaching many young ladies over the years – including family. I always want the best for them in every aspect of their lives, and share with them mistakes I’ve made in hopes that they won’t make the same ones. I am confident that they want to make me, their parents, their teachers, themselves and others proud, but I wonder if we apply too much pressure? Actually, this is personal; I wonder if I apply too much pressure. In my conversations with these young ladies, have I left any room for error? Have I failed to teach God’s grace? Have I put myself on a pedestal and  made them feel like they can’t reach me?

As I grieved for the baby and the young mother in that news story, I wondered whether any of those young ladies believe they have to “hide” because they think they’ll disappoint me or perhaps they think I’ll be judgmental. I can’t deny the disappointment, but I will love the same. I didn’t have a perfect young life. I don’t have a perfect not-so-young life.

I think part of my problem is I want to be everybody’s savior. There have been times when I’ve felt like I’ve failed when a mentee does wrong, but I had to realize that I can’t be with her 24 hours a day and I can’t make anyone do right. On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to lead anyone to do wrong.

Is this just self condemnation or do we set the bar too high?

Try a Guiding Word Instead of Resolutions

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Resolutions are for the birds. Until last year, I made them every year, and like many of you, had abandoned most by the first week in February. Last year, I decided to select a single word that summed up the essence and focus for the next 365 days of my life.

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My guiding word for 2017 is “simplify.” The textbook definition is to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier. It literally applies to nearly every facet of my life that I would once try to tame with a resolution: my weight, my finances, my house, my health, my relationships and more.

Simplifying isn’t as easy as I thought; I really have to re-think things. I keep the word on the top of my mind, and try to use it when applicable. Here are just a few examples:

  • After searching high and low for a lost FSA card, I simply requested a new one. Most things can be replaced easily and with little hardship. Simpler and much less stressful, for sure.
  • When I have a store return, I keep it in the car until I pass the store I need to visit.
  • simplify-mugInstead of keeping a travel cup whose lid has a design flaw and leaks, even if it does keep my water cold for 10 hours, I gift it to someone who will appreciate it and get one better suited for my needs. (Stanley has a great one. The lid shifts shut AND has a straw hold!)
  • When I couldn’t find my Just Wanna Melt scrub bars at the usual spot, I just ordered them online instead of making additional stops. (Sometimes a shipping fee is worth the time and money you’d spend on an extended search.)
  • When I get a new coffee mug, I get rid of an old one to make space for the new.
  • Instead of taking time to search for a “legal” photo of a pause button, I make do with two images of my own. (See what I just did there? Simplified when writing a blog post on simplifying.)

What can you do to simplify your life in 2017? Any tricks or tips to share?

Feeling Grateful in 2017

By: Ashley Whisonant

The beginning of a new year is exciting. I love the fresh start and new beginnings. Instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions of losing weight, saving money, eating better, etc.….I decided to do something different than I have ever done. I want to focus on being grateful for the blessings in my life. This certainly does not mean everything is wonderful and picture perfect 24/7. We are all dealt tough hands and have not-so-great-things happen. My goal for this year is to change how I view the negatives in my life.

While getting ready for work this morning, I noticed my few gray hairs. They were shining so proud in my mirror under the bright fluorescent lights. Old Ashley would have freaked out and made the fastest hair appointment. With my new outlook, I tried to focus on the positive. Having gray hairs means I am getting older. Look at all the amazing things getting The Gratitude Diariesolder has given me: financial security, a strong, healthy body, a loving husband and two great little boys. Getting older is not too shabby.

I recently finished reading The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. Her year of grateful living has been an inspiration for me. She has seen improvements in her marriage, work life, and health. This book is certainly a must read for the New Year.

Will everyday be perfect? No, impossible. But in 2017, I am going to focus on making my outlook more grateful.