Tailgate Withdrawal

By: Stacy Thompson

For those that may be concerned about my lack of recent posts and a lack of sports-related themes…fear not!! I am merely a victim of TWS (Tailgate Withdrawal Syndrome) — a very real affliction that will likely play itself out in 120 days (or so). If you think someone you know may suffer from this same illness, read the warning signs below and have them contact me to assist in my endeavor to form a meaningful support group…

  1. You watch the sun come up over Williams-Brice Stadium from your tailgating spot and wonder why your friends are running so late…in May.
  1. You sit in your fold-out chair under your Gamecock tent on Saturday morning drinking a cold one and eating chili…at 8:00 a.m.
  1. You begin purchasing family-sized bags of Tostitos scoops during the week…and large quantities of mayo…and jumbo-sized bags of shredded cheese…
  1. You begin to tear up and jump up and down when you hear Sandstorm or cry like a baby and break out in goose-bumps when you hear 2001.
  1. You obsessively troll the food.com, recipes.com and cook.com websites for new ideas to fit with your tailgate theme menus for the upcoming season (which you already have marked on your calendar with the preceding day off to execute your masterpiece of a menu).
  1. You view utensils, food receptacles and serving ware at Target only for their value in terms of tailgate utility and aesthetic.
  1. You pack and unpack your car with tailgate gear, with the same rhythm and grace as a Nascar pit crew…while timing yourself to achieve maximum efficiency and speed.
  1. Your ears perk instantly when you hear the words “tail” and “gate”…even when used in a derogatory fashion to describe your rear-end’s inability to pass through an entryway (you may have to talk this one through, but eventually you’ll get it).
  1. You make large quantities of appetizers and sweets…just because.
  1. You watch and re-watch most every game from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 football seasons…remembering not only the grandeur that is college football but the amazing food and camaraderie that was had by all.

See you all soon!

Partnership Transforms Plastic Bags to Help Those in Need

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you start off with the best of intentions when it comes to using reusable shopping bags. You have a cute set conveniently tucked into your cargo area or trunk – my favorites are Queen of Green bags from Lilly Pulitzer. But if you’re like me, those great bags don’t always make it back into the car. Then, in a moment of eco-embarrassment, you end up using the plastic bags from the store, only to get home and find they seem to multiply tenfold in a matter of days.

Plastic bags may be “free” at the grocery store, but they have a huge cost for the environment. They:

  1. Litter our landscapes, clog waterways and jam expensive equipment at the recycling recovery facilities.
  2. Migrate to the ocean via local waterways, where some 100,000 marine animals ingest them and die each year.
  3. Waste energy and create greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing process.
  4. Jam expensive sorting machines at the recycling recovery and sorting facility.

What if you could use your plastic bags for good?  Thanks to Operation Bed Roll, you can. Operation Bed Roll is a local collaboration designed to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills, engage our citizens in a community-wide maker project and provide the chronically homeless with a better place to sleep. They transform thousands of plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn aka plarn to create crocheted sleeping mats that provide an insulated barrier for those whose circumstances result in sleeping on the ground.

Operation Bed Roll consists of ten partners: Sonoco Recycling, Environmental Education Association of SC (EEASC), United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, City of Columbia, EdVenture Children’s Museum, Art Ecologie Group and countless community volunteers: schools, retirement communities, churches, artists, Scout troops and more.  They adopted the project from a similar one in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The average American uses 500-700 plastic grocery bags each year, and that’s about the same number it takes to create a bed roll. And while a recycled bag might not be your idea of luxury, they are lightweight, easy to carry, dry quickly and don’t attract bed bugs and provide insulation for those who sleep on the ground. (A bed roll has been found to keep users 10 to 20 degrees warmer than sleeping on the bare ground.)

I participate in Operation Bed Roll as a bag collector and plarn maker. I love the diversity of volunteers and partners involved as well as the simple sustainability of the project. It takes something that’s designed to be used for a mere 12 minutes and creates something practical and lasting for those less fortunate. And when the bed rolls wear out, they can be recycled with other plastic bags at grocery store plastic bag recycling containers.

Since beginning in January of this year, Operation Bed Roll volunteers have created over twenty “plarn” sleeping mats, saving approximately 15,000 plastic shopping bags from the landfill. Those mats are being distributed to the chronically homeless by United Way of the Midlands.

Operation Bed Roll’s goal is to produce another 80 mats between now and the fall, when the weather will get cooler again. You can help in many ways:

  1. Donating your plastic bags (used only, please; getting new ones defeats the purpose).
  2. Cutting plastic bags into strips.
  3. Linking strips together to create plarn.
  4. Donating plarn to knitters.
  5. Using your crocheting skills to create bed rolls.

For more information, visit OBR’s Facebook page or email the group at operationbedrollsc@gmail.com.

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.

Leading Ladies

By: Chaunte McClure

With Women’s History Month coming to a close and the Gamecocks destroying brackets, I’m torn about what to write this week. I feel it’s necessary to at least acknowledge Women’s History Month and salute all the wonderful past and present, known and unknown women for their contributions to culture, history and society. Influential women like Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Ava DuVernay, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm, Marilyn Monroe and countless others across the nation. I have to  also salute the talented University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team.

The women’s team has made their way to the Elite Eight and the men secured a spot in the Final Four. What a great time to be a Gamecock!

Last week I wondered what it must feel like to be a USC student during these winning streaks. I’d imagine it would be quadruple the excitement experienced when I was student somewhere around 1996 or 1997 when the men’s team beat Kentucky. (That’s been a while, so hopefully I got that right. If not, sports enthusiasts and diehard fans, please, don’t attack me.) I was living in Capstone at the time and I remember students TP’d the trees in front of the dorm. What a mess for the grounds team to clean up the next morning. Surely the thrill from that win in the late 90s doesn’t compare to what students are experiencing now with two winning basketball teams. Hats off to both teams for a job well done. I’m bracing myself for tonight’s game when the Lady Gamecocks take on Florida State and hopefully they’ll advance to the Final Four for the second time in three years. Let’s go Gamecocks! Women’s History Month is a good time to do it again.

A Letter from USC Gamecock Fans

By: Stacy Thompson

As I sit here only a few hours removed from an impulsive trip to Madison Square Garden and only a few minutes removed from watching Dawn Staley lead our Gamecock women’s basketball team to another Final Four, I can’t help but think of Frank Martin’s open letter to South Carolina fans following an improbable win over legendary Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. The letter (if you haven’t seen it, please take the time to read it as it is everything that is good about college athletics) was heartfelt and heart wrenching, as it paid homage to long-suffering Gamecock fans and gave insight on the soul of a winner.  As soon as I read it, and because I’m a lawyer, I immediately thought of counter-points and arguments to convince Frank that he should not be thanking us, but instead, we should be thanking him.  And Frank is not the only one who earned our appreciation, but the missive below pertains to Frank, Dawn, Coach Tanner, Dr. Pastides and the other generally nameless, but vital, cogs in the wheel of Gamecock athletics.

Dear Frank and Dawn:

How’s everybody feeling?

Yeah, we’re feeling pretty darn good too. In the past 30 hours, much of the nation learned what I have known since moving here 39 years ago—what we have here in Columbia is very special. And recently, we happen to play some pretty good basketball (ask Duke, and Florida, and Florida State, and, well, I could go on…)

This didn’t just happen, and South Carolina basketball hasn’t always been so good. Frank, when you said this I thought back to the years of watching really good teams lose out in the first round to Coppin State, to days when the women’s team was only an afterthought, and to days when the best entertainment to be found was Cocky precariously hanging from a rope in the rafters to complete a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen dunk. Time and time again we were given hope that this year would be our “Wait ‘Till Next Year”-year only to fall short and be overjoyed with 2 NIT titles. Not to say that those titles were not hard-fought and earned, but falling short as a Gamecock fan became too much of the norm and reduced our dreams to little more than being satisfied with a win over that team from the Upstate and avoiding a forty point loss to the cellar-dweller of the SEC.

Yes, we are special for many reasons — we are 13th in the nation for attendance at the men’s games and 1st (2 years running) in attendance at the women’s games — not a fluke that this has happened given the outstanding product on the floor you both provide to all that enter Colonial Life Arena.

Frank, in your letter you cite three things you want from your fans — our time, our money and our passion. From a fan perspective, let me say that all we want are the same three things from you and your teams —

1) Your time — I have played collegiate ball and know the commitment and dedication it takes, so thank you for your time and thank your teams for the time they spend not only in practice, but in the weight room and study hall as well as the time not spent with family and friends in the pursuit of excellence on the court.

2) Your money — Let’s be honest, Frank and Dawn (as well as Ray, Dr. Pastides and scores of others within the athletic department) could make more elsewhere, and are worth more than they are actually paid. We are lucky to have them and should continue the trend of making sure that Gamecock Nation makes not only the best choice from the heart, but the wallet as well.

3) Your passion — Having been a fan all these years, and having received three degrees from this university, there is no doubt as to where my loyalty and passion lie. But you, Frank and Dawn, came here with no known ties, no reason to support us and without any inkling of the challenges that were ahead of you in basically building programs from the ground up. The fact that you both have embraced, encouraged and relished in the passion of our fan base is not lost on Gamecock Nation. We love you for it and we will continue to support you because of it.

Frank, you said you told your players the following: “If you want to get better, if you’re willing to listen and if you’re honest and fearless about how hard you want to work and how good you want to be, then playing for me will be a whole lot of fun.”

Frank, Dawn, Ray, Dr. Pastides et al: We want to get better, we are so willing to listen and we are absolutely fearless about hard we want to work. The past few weeks have been a whole lot of fun…here is hoping that the next weekend is as well. Good luck in Dallas and Phoenix!

January Blues

By: Azure Stilwell

This month has been difficult for me. I feel bad for feeling bad, but my posts are real so here it goes.

Sun will come out tomorrow

The high of Christmas and having my oldest home from college has passed and everyone has returned to a normal schedule. That is, everyone except me. My normal schedule has become a battle with depression and it is winning this month. Being Bipolar is difficult, especially during the lower times. My medications have been changed so many times I can’t even keep count anymore. I sit at home either giving into or fighting the urge to sleep my day away. I need a purpose, a reason to get up, and right now I just can’t find one, at least not until 3 p.m. – that’s when my youngest gets off the bus.

I have thought about volunteering somewhere but I don’t know where or how to begin to do something like that. I have a hard time with a set schedule. I never know when I will have a Bipolar episode, so having others depend on me causes anxiety within me. It’s really a catch 22. I need to get out to overcome my depression but I am too anxious to commit to any set volunteer time. I need a place that allows me to set my times or has short bursts of time available, say 1-3 hours, so I don’t get overwhelmed.

I have social anxiety which causes me to have a very small circle of people. Since I quit working, that circle in Columbia has gotten even smaller. I also want to feel needed and not just sitting around feeling like I am just there instead of at home.

I need suggestions on how and where to get started volunteering. Any ideas?

Pneumonia Weather

By: Chaunte McClure

One sure way to strike up a conversation is to talk about the weather. With this spring-like weather in the dead of winter here lately, it’s easy to do. I love it, although I have a few sweaters and scarves I haven’t worn yet. However, it’s nice when I can take a late afternoon stroll in the park without a sweatshirt, gloves or jacket.

Every Woman Blog - Pneumonia Weather

All the creepy crawlies must be confused. One weekend it’s snowing and the next it’s 78 degrees. This weather blows humans’ minds, too. That’s why you’ll likely find a photo on your timeline of a friend’s dashboard displaying today’s temperature. Grandma would call this pneumonia weather – when the weather goes from one extreme to the other and back again. Cold, hot, cold. I know some of you are bold enough to argue with Grandma and say the weather doesn’t make you sick, but uh ruh, nudge, nudge. Grandma is always right!

Let’s call this season “spwinter” – a combination of spring and winter. The time of year when you can wear shorts, flip-flops and wool coats in one week. And when you can light the fireplace and turn on the AC during the same week. Hey, we could have blistering cold weather like my friends in Washington and Wisconsin are experiencing. I’d say I’m happy to call South Carolina home, despite the pneumonia weather.