Why Are You in the Picture?

By: Chaunte McClure

 

With the convenience of having cameras built into cell phones, the world has become obsessed with taking photos. We take pictures of our food, plants, bare feet, shoes and my, oh my do we take photos of ourselves. Yes, the selfie has taken over social media timelines and feeds, but the ‘usie’ isn’t far behind. Of course, we have to snap a photo of our family and friends when we’re just hanging out; it’s all in fun and in the name of capturing memories.

I was warming up my pose and smile for a group photo recently when I was asked, “Chaunte, why are you in the picture?” For a couple of seconds, I second-guessed my position in front of the camera, knowing that I was invited to say cheese along with my friend and her friends.

Fast forward a few days, I thought about the question again during my commute to work. Why are you in the picture?

It’s a relevant question that we can ask ourselves regarding (the proverbial picture of) our conversations, settings, relationships, careers and other facets of life.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question before but perhaps formed it differently. Instead, you’ve asked:

What is my purpose? Why did God call me to do this? Why do I have this job when my career goals are totally different? Why did I meet him or her? Why am I going through this? Why was I born? What am I to learn from this situation?

Each of these questions, I believe, is another way of asking: Why am I in the picture?

Truth is, we should exclude ourselves from some “pictures”, but we tend to try to fit in someone else’s shot, even if it means photobombing.

When you find yourself in toxic relationships, the honest, well-thought-out answer to the above question, should urge you to walk away from that which is not good for you.

On the other hand, a reflection of your journey as you recall a time when you’ve asked yourself some form of that question, your response may help you appreciate where you are in life right now and have a better understanding of how God has ordered your steps. That’s my story because now I can see how my past two jobs prepared me for my current job.

At times, we are in the picture for a divine purpose – to provide encouragement, bring peace, make connections, share love, take a stand, be a witness, and the list can go on and on.

Other times, we are in the picture for our selfish reasons. We force ourselves to stay in the picture although God is ready to crop us out and place us in a different setting with our past in the background. Are you ready to change places?

Take some time to think about why you’re in the picture. You might discover that you should be where you are, but you’re not fulfilling your purpose. You might realize that it’s time to do more or it’s time to move on. It’s helpful to understand why you’re in the picture.

Playing the Numbers

By: Chaunte McClure

While some of you were trying to figure out the winning numbers for the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot last month, I dreamed of what I’d do with the money if I won. Oh, I’d pay off every bill we owe, invest in a new home and other real estate and, of course, save, save, save. I never dreamed of which numbers I’d choose because of greater importance to me the numbers are displaying on my brand-spanking new wrist blood pressure monitor.

I don’t even play the lottery and I decided not to gamble with my health after being diagnosed with hypertension in July.

I went to the doctor for unrelated symptoms and as soon as the doctor walked in he asked, “What’s going on with your blood pressure?”

I had no idea. I would normally blame my high numbers on the stress of seminary, but that was two months behind me and at the time, I didn’t have much work stress.

My doctor asked me to monitor my blood pressure for 10 days, then come back and he’d decide if I need a prescription.

I hate taking medicine. I mean, really hate it.

It was easy to start my on-again, off-again relationship with morning or evening walks. I was determined to do whatever it took to get my number down, but nothing worked – at least not immediately.

I borrowed a blood pressure monitor and every time I checked, my numbers were still too high.

I recorded these numbers: 162/ 99, 141/105, 135/95, 157/107. (The optimal numbers are 120/80 or less.)

Sure, anxiety contributed to some of that because I kept thinking about a first cousin who died of a stroke less than two years ago and he was only about 35 years old. Just a few months later, one of my aunts suffered a stroke. Then I remembered Granddaddy had at least three strokes. That’s enough to send anyone into a tizzy.

I decided not to wait the ten days and go to my family doctor before the worst happens. I got an appointment within a week of my previous doctor’s visit. I was expecting exactly what I was told. After sharing my family history, the doctor said, “I’m going to put you on a blood pressure medication.”

I had to ask, “How long do you think I’ll be on the medication?”

He said, “For the rest of your life.” (Insert eyes emoji here!)

That’s not what I wanted to hear and honestly, I thought, “That’s what you think, doc.” I was about to put my faith into overdrive when the truth of the matter is I need to listen to my doctor.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or if your doctor has asked you to monitor your numbers, please, listen to your doctor.

High blood pressure affects your health, leading to stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease.

Get into the habit of checking your BP at home or at a local pharmacy. Your life is worth it.

Remembering Hugo, Awaiting Irma

By: Chaunte McClure

Today reminds me of that warm, late summer afternoon in September 1989 when the threat of Hurricane Hugo had South Carolina residents on alert. I was in the eighth grade and vaguely recall standing in the courtyard in front of our high school as the light breeze brushed our faces and mangled our hair as my friends and I talked about little of nothing.

Fast forward 24, or maybe 48, hours and my family awoke to a quiet house with no electricity or running water. That was the state of our community for a few days. Bottled water was not a household grocery item in those days when scrunchies and leg warmers were accessories.

With Irma on the horizon, grocery stores are trying to keep up with the demand for bottled water. I’ve heard story after story and I’ve seen photo after photo of empty shelves where 24-packs of water are usually stocked. I’m sure my grandparents filled empty milk jugs with water in preparation for Hugo. When that stock nearly ran out, we journeyed to Mr. Howard’s house to refill our containers. Mr. Howard still had an old hand water pump. Though weathered from years of outdoor exposure, that rusty pump poured some of the coolest, best tasting water. I doubt anyone in my hometown still has one except for use as antique décor in their flower garden. Before Irma makes landfall in Florida and maybe Georgia and South Carolina, I’m sure many people will probably reminisce about that throwback water source.

I was in my garage Saturday and discovered three bottles of the water left from the 1,000-year flood experience of 2015 when we were without water for about three days. I’ll use those first (not for drinking), should circumstances warrant it. Unlike in 2015, this time, I’ll remember to fill the bathtubs with water in case we lose power.

I’ve seen a couple other good tips on preparing for a storm on Facebook the past couple of nights, neither of which I’ve heard of before. One of my friends shared a post from delish.com with a tip on determining if the food in your freezer completely thawed during a power outage while you were away. Here’s the tip: “You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer. That way when you come back after you’ve been evacuated you can tell if your food went completely bad and just refroze or if it stayed Frozen while you were gone. If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out. But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be ok.”  – Sheila Pulanco Russell

Another Facebook tip that has gone viral from a Facebook user is on substitutes for sandbags. Edward Sweat says, “Plastic bags [garbage bags] 1/3 filled with water make good substitutes for sandbags at doorways.” And in the event water enters your house, he advises using paint cans or five-gallon buckets to support and elevate your furniture.

At this hour, the path of the storm is still unclear, but the best advice I have for you is to be safe and be prepared when and if Irma arrives.

Back-to-School Excitement

By: Chaunte McClure

For the first August in seven years, I will not head back to (seminary) school. No more three-hour weeknight classes or eight-hour Saturday classes. However, I’m engaged in the thrill of gearing up for a new school year.

I’ve made a few trips to an office supply store to stock up on the one cent folders and composition notebooks. Last night I took advantage of the $5 uniform shirts and $6 uniform pants online. Because I waited until almost midnight to take advantage of the good deals, some of the items I planned to purchase were out of stock. Tomorrow I’ll rummage the rounders for the remaining items on my list, all in the name of being a blessing to some special little people in my life.

Besides the last day, the first day of school was probably one of the most exciting for me. The adrenaline rush usually kept me up late like Santa was coming to town.

I wonder if kids get excited about what to wear on the first day of school like we used to before school uniforms were required? I remember perusing the circulars for clothes I wanted (and almost never got) and planning my outfits. Uniforms must be a godsend for parents, and children too. Maybe it removes the peer pressure of having to meet others’ dress standards or being teased for how they dress or the clothing brand they wear. Based on my shopping experience, uniforms are certainly a less expensive option.

Moms, are you a fan of uniforms? Why or why not?

Rooted in Bringing People Together

By: Chaunte McClure

I would often hear Grandma say to family and friends, “I was thinking about you not long ago.”  My cousin and I would low-key think Grandma was just making conversation. Now that I’m older, I find myself often thinking about others and the good ol’ days. Like the ones we spent under the tree, just a stone’s throw from my grandparents’ house, where we made mud pies, let our imaginations run wild, and played all sorts of traditional and made-up games during the summer.

When we’d visit my great-uncle Fletchie in what we called the backwoods, most times we’d find him tending the garden or sitting under that old pecan tree. Air conditioning was a luxury in the 80s and folks knew how to take the heat. Others would probably argue that it wasn’t that hot back then. Regardless of opinion, that ol’ pecan tree was the setting for many conversations shared by family and friends. It’s still standing and family and friends still gathered there until recently.

I started thinking about those trees after a recent visit to Angel Oak, the famous tree on Johns Island that’s believed to be around 400 years old. I’m amazed that thousands of people travel near and far to see this tree. Though the Angel Oak just isn’t any tree, like many others, it’s rooted in bringing people together to make new memories and share old ones.

Every small town has a tree where friends, family, or old winos meet to shoot the breeze. Where is, or was, that tree in your community?

Penny Candy, Souse Meat, Liver Pudding & Bologna

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I took a trip down memory lane, making a stop at the cinder block pale yellow or beige building on the corner of Highway 908 and what is now Paul Richardson Road. It was one of the mom and pop stores in Britton’s Neck where residents could conveniently buy general grocery items locally, since the nearest grocery store was almost 30 minutes away.

I spent many childhood summer days riding my bicycle to the Richardson Store, as my family affectionately called it. Grandma rarely sent me to buy anything, but I wanted to go sometimes to rack up on penny candy. I shamefully admit that I used to rob my aunt’s Maxwell House jar of the old pennies and other coins she collected in it. (I confessed my theft to her years ago, but it’s not like she hadn’t already figured out why her penny jar was dwindling.) I would take the time to count and wrap those pennies to present them to Ms. Mary or her husband, owners of the Richardson Store, to pay for my penny candy, Now & Laters and other cheap sweets that, over time, contributed to my cavities. I’d buy as much candy as I could for a dollar and share with the other grands at Grandma’s house.

I miss stores like the Richardson’s where you could go to the counter and ask for $2 dollars worth of souse meat, liver pudding or bologna. Let me tell ya, the pan fried bologna cut in the center would make for a good bologna sandwich. I remember for supper some nights we’d have just grits and bologna. It was filling and something quick and easy for Grandma to prepare.

Curious of whether my Facebook friends remember the mom and pop stores, I invited them to share in my nostalgia, posting a related question one night and surprisingly, many of them replied with places in the Columbia area where one can find fresh cut souse meat, liver pudding and bologna. Places like Conwell’s, Caughman’s and Mr. Bunky’s made the list. One day I’ll make a stop at one of those community staples and share my experience with you.

What were some of the mom and pop stores in your community?

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.