The Dove Made Me Do It

By: Angie Sloan

True confession: I love dark chocolate. It’s a weakness for me. Knowing how quickly I could slip over the edge and overindulge, I limit myself to the occasional bag of Dove Almond Dark Chocolate Promises. Yes, I know there are many other brands out there, many of them a higher quality or better taste. But I like Dove, and here’s why.

It’s the little affirmations.

Dove’s marketing team had a genius idea when they came up with this. Each time you unwrap a square of Dove, there is a little message in the wrapper. Most of them are instructional: “Play a grown-up game of tag with your friends” or “Share your smile with someone” – the list goes on.

After consuming about a half a bag in a PMS-fueled binge, I stacked all of the wrappers together and came up with a plan.

  1. Stop eating the chocolate
  2. Pick 5 of the affirmations and actually do them.

The first affirmation:

Buy something frivolous. Who needs an affirmation to do this one? But I am in a minimalist mindset, so it was a bit more challenging than before. Frivolous? Hmmmm. What to get? New shoes? No, not it in the mood to try them on. Jewelry? No. Just because Dove said it, doesn’t mean I need to spend a ton of cash. I pondered and thought about it.  Chocolate should not be this hard. And then it came to me. I wanted a bouquet of flowers. Nice, bright beautiful flowers. Bought for me, by me. No occasion.

The Peace Palace

Happy Hour at Barbara’s

Call an old friend just to catch up. This was easy. I called my friend Barbara. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and it was great to catch up with her. Later that week, we met up for a relaxing happy hour at her house (what she refers to as her “Peace Palace”) and we talked for hours. It was great fun! (See pics below of the spread she prepared). Thank you, Barbara. (And thank you, Dove.)  

Quote your dad. I read this one and it hit me right in the heart. I’ve not reconciled my father’s death. I’ve not grieved as I should. I haven’t even written about him like I did with my mother.

My dad

With her, it was my coping mechanism. But for some reason, I couldn’t do it with my father. My father had so many wonderful quotes. He possessed a deep wisdom that he kept well cloaked underneath his larger-than-life exterior. He always told me, “Speak to everyone at work, from the janitor to the boss. It keeps you humble.” This little chocolate wrapper made me think back to his words. I could almost hear his voice. It was healing.

Give someone a compliment. I think as women, we should empower other women. So I didn’t stop at one compliment, I did it all day! A compliment should always be sincere. I didn’t just say something nice to fulfill my chocolate obligation, I made sure what I said came from a real place. And it felt wonderful! If I liked someone’s earrings, I told them. If I liked her hair, I told her. At the end of the day, my cup was overflowing with good feelings.

Learn something new about a loved one. My cousin Tammy told me a funny story about her mother, my Aunt Sis. “Sis” as she was called, was a fashionista back in the day. She loved having matching shoes for each and every outfit she owned. But times were tight and she couldn’t afford to continuously buy new shoes. To solve her dilemma, she befriended the guys at the local paint store and began painting her shoes to match her outfits. I laughed when Tammy told me. But it was quite smart. She was trendy like that until the day she passed.

In total….

I plowed through countless numbers of delicious chocolates. Got some flowers. Spent time with an old friend. Reminisced the good times with my dad. Made random strangers happy. Learned a great story to share about my aunt.

This was fun and I was on a roll! I decided to select one more wrapper from the stack. And it read: Why not?

And that was all the affirmation I needed. It was permission…permission to polish off the rest of the bag of chocolate. After all, it provided me with inspiration to write this post. Why not indulge a little more?

Rise Above!

By: Shannon Boatwright

How do you rise above? What does that even mean? To me it means that you be the better person in an ugly situation. You grasp hold of maturity, logic, empathy, intelligence, patience, bravery, kindness and love, as best you can in order to do the right thing. And you do this so that you can come out on top knowing that you approached the situation with a positive, thoughtful nature instead of falling prey to jumping to conclusions, attacking with negativity and getting tangled in unnecessary ugliness.

There are many organizations, schools, etc that use the slogan “rise above” in some manner. Why? Because it’s all about overcoming challenges.

Check out these definitions –

To rise above something:

  • to deal well with a difficult or unpleasant situation
  • to be morally good enough not to do something bad, especially something that most other people do
  • to be better than other things of the same type
  • to not allow oneself to be hurt or controlled by (something bad or harmful)
  • to be or become better than (something)

In today’s time, boy do we ever need to rise above! Seriously, things are getting rough!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on any kind of political or emotional tirade. I just want to put that reminder out there, for you, for me, for everyone, let’s make the effort every day, in every situation, whether big or small or colossal, to RISE ABOVE. Let’s consciously choose to be good and create positivity in our worlds, not negativity.

So how did you rise above today?

Making a List and Checking It Twice

By: Jeanne Reynolds

We recently had the inside of our home painted. When it came to the dining room, the project developed long tentacles: I had to move furniture away from the walls, which meant I had to empty said furniture of 20-plus years of accumulation, which then had to be sorted into keep/share/donate/discard piles and moved to other places … well, you get the idea.

When the work was finally done, the mess and stress was well worth it to have not only clean, bright walls and woodwork but also freshly organized shelves and drawers of only (well, mostly) those items we use and love. The room doesn’t just look better – it works better. And even beyond the physical benefits, the room just feels more peaceful and inviting.

The other day I read an article about applying this same decluttering power to your mental space. I find it hard to relax when my head is whirling with thoughts about what I really should be doing. At really busy times – around the holidays, or preparing for a vacation, for instance – I can become nearly paralyzed with plans and end up procrastinating, getting almost nothing done.

If you’re a list-maker like me, this simple mental decluttering concept will be almost-maybe fun. If you’re not, give it a try anyway. You might be surprised.

Just like a thorough closet cleaning, it begins with emptying out. This goes way beyond your basic daily or weekly to-do list. Make a list of everything – and I mean everything — you need to do: today, tomorrow, this week, this year or next, at home, at work, for family, for friends. Include things you want to do and things you think you should do and things you’d like to do someday. Don’t judge or edit. If it pops into your head, write it down. The idea is to get all the mental clutter out of your head and onto a list.

Next, organize your list. Create categories that make sense for you: personal or business, immediate or longer term, must-dos or bucket list. Put each item in its category. Prioritize the items if you want with numbers, stars or colors.

This list isn’t meant to be static, by the way. Add to it as you think of new things. For me, just the act of creating the list got my mind churning with even more things to put on it. For this reason – as well as the flexibility of reprioritizing – you might want to keep your list digitally.

Now, the really fun part is crossing off items as you complete them. Looking at that marked-up list visually shouting at you, “Done! Done! Done!” feels as good as looking at – gasp – extra shelf space after dropping off that donation of household items you’ve been hoarding for years.

Without the tax deduction, of course.

Daily Affirmations

By: Shannon Boatwright

Affirmation: Noun

  1. the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed.
  1. emotional support or encouragement

I recently took on a lovely challenge. A challenge to write daily affirmations. Seven straight days of writing and posting on Instagram my own personal, unique affirmations.

Author and poet, Alex Elle, inspired me to take on this challenge. I committed to it and tried to soak in the words I chose as my personal proclamation. An affirmation is something you pronounce to yourself, to your world. You make a declaration of support and inspiration for yourself.

I enjoyed this personal journey and experienced how it indeed provided personal encouragement as I made the most of each day, attempting to live it out with my own individual force, recognizing the magic within me. We really do have the grand opportunity and ability to build ourselves into truly incredible human beings. We have the power to tap into our inner strength and boost our natural abilities to make great things happen. Sometimes we just need to take the time to recognize our potential.  And, doing these daily affirmations certainly creates a moment for you to think deep on the capacity you have for success and happiness.

You are amazing, on so many levels. Allow yourself to tap into your inner magic! Take time for you. Add depth to your days! I challenge you to inspire yourself and do daily affirmations. Start with just one week of choosing daily affirmations. Write them in a journal, on a piece of scrap paper to post on your refrigerator, on your calendar, post on Facebook or Instagram, whatever, however you choose, it’s up to you. It only takes a few minutes. And those few minutes can lead to you feeling stronger, living each moment of your day with a sense of control and passion, and ultimately lead you to create personal success.

Here are just a few of my own daily affirmations:

“It’s never too late to decide to be more of who you really are. Bring the joy to each situation of life and you feel more like yourself.” – Brendon.com
7/18/17 – Today I affirm: To be my true self and find joy in being me. – Shannon Boatwright

“Look past your thoughts so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment.” – Rumi
7/19/17 – Today I affirm: To be in the moment and do my best to not let my stressful thoughts consume me. – Shannon Boatwright

“Protect Your Magic.” – GirlBoss
7/22/17 Today I affirm: Today I promise to recognize the magic within me. I vow to accept, celebrate & utilize my own unique sparkle that allows me to create magic for myself & others. – Shannon Boatwright

Unfortunately

By: Chaunte McClure

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and while some daughters were planning get-togethers, deciding what to buy Dad, or where to take him, there were also daughters (and sons) who were dreading the day’s arrival. Why? Because their father is absent, unavailable or unattached and they knew that day, like every day, would be a fatherless day.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 24 million children live without their biological father in the home. While some of them may have a relationship with their biological father, most of them don’t and the effects are alarming.

A few weeks ago I participated in a workshop for fatherless girls, where I shared my story of being a fatherless daughter. Through tears, I saw pain and through the words, I heard the pain loud and clear, coming from girls, mostly teens, who lack a relationship with their dads. When the facilitator asked one participant if her father is still living, her response: “Unfortunately.”

Unfortunately, too many children share this heart-rending sentiment. As a matter of fact, many adults do too.

It’s girls and women like these that I long to reach out to help. I was that angry little girl once and for years, she lived in me as an adult. Fortunately, in my twenties, I recognized her character and decided I didn’t want that angry little girl having a negative impact on my life, and as result, the life of others any longer. It is a journey, but a journey worth taking when that means having a more peaceful, purposeful life and bringing others along to join you on the journey to love, acceptance and forgiveness.

Though it does not fill the void, I usually honor someone on Father’s Day whether it’s a family member or someone I know and respect.

If you are a fatherless daughter, how do you respond to Father’s Day?

P.S. I’ve used the term fatherless daughter here, but I do understand that everyone has a biological father, but not everyone has the privilege to know their father or emotionally connect with him.

Love is …

By: Jeanne Reynolds

My husband and I just celebrated our 24th anniversary. Our wedding was traditional: I wore white, the processional was Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and the scripture was I Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

I’ve been to many weddings where those verses were read. They’re always beautiful, but perhaps even more meaningful now than they were 24 years ago. I think it takes awhile to realize how true, how important and how aspirational they really are.

It’s not as easy as it sounds to live up to these verses. Keep no record of wrongs? How many of us haven’t sighed in exasperation because we’re apparently the only one who can see the kitchen trash can needs to be emptied — again? Does not dishonor others? Ever heard someone making the person supposedly dearest in the world to him or her the butt of a joke? Does not delight in evil? Has a self-satisfied “I told you that wouldn’t work” ever crossed your lips?

My husband isn’t perfect, but he does a much better job of living these words than I do. I’m going to keep trying, and trust he isn’t keeping record of my wrongs.

Also, here are few modern translations I’ll add from our marriage:

  • Love is rooting for someone else’s birdie putt to drop even if it means you’ll lose the hole.
  • Love is spending time with each other’s sometimes-crazy families without complaining.
  • Love is saying thank you for every meal prepared, even the less-than-stellar offerings.
  • Love is commenting — or not, depending — on a new haircut.
  • Love is not commenting on the recently snugger fit of a favorite old pair of jeans.
  • Love is hours of yard work side by side when the temperature is exceeded only by the humidity.
  • Love is silently buying a replacement when someone accidentally throws away a piece of the lawnmower.
  • Love is letting someone else have the last Klondike Bar.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

When Are You Getting Married?

By: Chaunte McClure 

Single ladies, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. When are you getting married? By now, the words rolling off someone’s tongue sounds like fingernails across chalkboards in your elementary school classrooms. Like those chalkboards, you want the age-old question to be a thing of the past. While I’m a married woman, I can totally relate. It’s like when people would often ask: When are you having a baby? Are y’all going to have kids? What are y’all waiting on? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! I’m sure many of you want to marry one day; some more than others, and you’d appreciate if family, friends, and colleagues would just wait for the day when you’ll announce that you’re getting married. Better yet, they should just mind their marriage, right?

Why are we so interested in other people’s womb and marital status? Is it merely just a way to strike up a conversation? Just a hello will do and sometimes that is enough.

With the high divorce rate in the United States, people have the right to remain single until they find the right mate. If you matter, you’ll know when they do.

Most of my friends are single and I took some time to chat with one of them about this subject. Here’s what my 42-year-old single friend, “Karen,” had to say about her experience with the dreadful question from inquiring minds.

Q: What annoys you most about being asked when you’re getting married?
A: I feel like the person asking me thinks I am lonely, I am unhappy, I am of age and should be married by now. Perhaps they’re thinking I should be trying to find someone because my time is winding down.

Q: How often would you say you’re asked?
A: I would say that I am asked this question by one person in particular every time we talk and that is the reason I do not talk to her that often, because I get exhausted trying to explain my “singleness.”

Q: Who usually asks?
A: My friends normally ask me this question and they are not married themselves, so go figure. I have older friends in their 50’s that also ask me. ‘Girl, you’re not married yet?’ ‘What are you waiting on?’ ‘You’re going to be too old after a while.’ Well, I have never heard or read anywhere where it states a particular age range when not to get married.

Q: What is your typical response?
A: I am happy exactly where I am in life. I don’t need marriage to complete me and make me happy. Where I am in my life right now is where I need to be for me.

Q: Tell us about a time when it made you sad or mad?
A: I was at a point when I was going through some major changes in my life and at the time I thought I needed a man to complete me and make me happy, so I became anxious. I found someone and it was the worst thing I could have ever done to myself. I did not allow him to find me. In Proverbs when a man finds a wife he finds a treasure, so I am waiting.

Q: Why do you think it’s inappropriate to ask?
A: I think that it is inappropriate to be questioned about it because it is the same as asking someone who does not have children when they are going to have a baby. It is none of your business and it is not in my control.

Q: I have to ask, why are you still single?
A: I am single because I know for a fact I am not ready to date yet…when I am ready, He will send him.

Are you guilty of asking your friends when he’s gonna put a ring on it? Are you the friend who is tired of being asked? Let me hear from you.

Remember the Net-lace

By: Chaunte McClure

Many of us have dreams, goals, and desires and most of us will work to fulfill them. In the process, we might want to relinquish our efforts because of heartaches, illnesses, disappointments, slothfulness, and even death. I’ve experienced all those setbacks on my journey to earning a master of divinity degree, but I never quit; although there were many
moments when I was ready for the journey to end. I kept my focus on the end —graduation and the opportunities God has lined up for me. With just a few more weeks of
reading and writing assignments, I’ll finally graduate in May. Had I quit, I wouldn’t be turning the tassel during next month’s ceremony.

Dawn Staley, the head basketball coach for the women’s basketball team, shared a similar message with thousands of fans and other supporters who gathered in downtown Columbia Sunday for the team’s welcome home parade and national championship celebration. (Yes, the Gamecocks are NCAA basketball champions! Go Cocks!) The championship is a first for the University of South Carolina women’s basketball team and a first for Coach Staley. They had their almost-made-it moments, but on Sunday, April 2, they garnered a national championship title. Coach could’ve lost hope in 2016 after not making it past the Final Four. The team could’ve given up in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State, but they stayed focused, played well until the end and had the privilege of cutting the net. Coach Staley proudly wears that net, affectionately referred to as her net-lace, around her neck. To anyone who has a belief or hope, she urged them on Sunday during her speech to “take a piece of our net and reflect on what we were able to accomplish.” If you want to earn a degree, remember the net-lace. If you want to earn your high school diploma, remember the net. If you want a promotion, remember the net. Whatever you are seeking, dreaming or hoping for, don’t forget about the net. It’s a reminder that yes, you can.

Click here to watch Coach Staley’s inspirational remarks.

As a former student at the University of South Carolina, I remember when just a handful of fans supported the women’s basketball team on game nights and you could sit wherever you wanted. Now, the Colonial Life Arena is packed with loyal fans who purchase season tickets and next year they’ll watch national champions take it to the hoop. I’m proud of the program’s growth and I look forward to watching Gamecocks play in seasons to come. I am forever to thee.

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.