Me? Running?

By: Crissie Kirby

A few weeks back an email came in to my inbox that has now made me question my sanity. Would I like to train for and participate in the Lexington Medical Center Heart and Sole Five Miler in late April? Immediately and without much thought, obviously, I answered back that sure, I would love to take part.

What was I thinking?

The most running I’ve done in my life was when I was in high school and on our softball team. I was not the star player by any stretch, but I spent a good deal of time during practices running bases.

I’m the one who will post those funny e-cards that say “I don’t run. If you ever see me running, you should run too. Because something is probably chasing me.”

I know that this event supports heart disease awareness and that is something that is never far in the back of my mind. As I have shared with you before, I have immediate Crissie and Momfemale family history of heart disease as both my mom and my grandmother suffer(ed) from heart disease. Exercise has not been a top priority in my life. I’m a woman. A mom. And a single mom. I don’t take care of myself as I should because, alas, even though I try at times to “do better,” the pressures of life push exercise to the back of my mind. Yet I know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. 1 in 3 women will die as the result of heart disease.

As women, we spend so much time focusing on female cancers, which are important and do not have the attention and funding that they should. But, for me and other women like me, ignoring heart disease is the equivalent of not having annual pap smears and breast exams/mammograms.

This is why I want to run. Do I think that I will finish first? Nope. Do I think I will finish? Yes. I hope and pray that you will support me as I train for this event and attempt the impossible (for me): a five mile run.

Lexington Medical Center Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler

LexMed Heart & Sole Women's Five Miler

Lexington Medical Center is pleased to announce it’s now the title sponsor of the Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler, which is set for Saturday, April 25 in downtown Columbia. As South Carolina’s premier all-women road race, Heart & Sole includes a five-mile run, and three- and five-mile walks.

For the past 14 years, the event has encouraged healthy lifestyles through physical activity and called attention to the issue of heart disease as the #1 killer of women. More than 2,000 women participated last year.

With a personal and supportive environment, the course begins near Finlay Park at Laurel Street, and winds through the Vista and the University of South Carolina campus before ending on the Taylor Street side of Finlay Park. This year’s event will begin with an opening ceremony at 8:00 a.m. featuring news anchors from WIS-TV, the co-sponsor. The five-mile race begins at 8:30 and the walk at 8:35 a.m. Top runners will receive cash prizes.

After the race, participants will enjoy special refreshments, entertainment and an expo featuring health screenings and local vendors.

We know you’ve got heart. And we know you’ve got soul. So, join us on April 25! We’ll see you at the start line!

General Registration

Registration is only available online.

For group of 7 or more people, registration is $23 before March 20. There will be no group registration after March 20.

Individual registration varies:

  • $28 before March 20
  • $33 through April 24
  • $45 on Race Day

Get Social

Learn more about the race on Facebook! LexMed Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler

Follow Every Woman Bloggers, Sherree Thompson and Crissie Kirby, who are training for Heart & Sole here from now until race day!

An Every Woman Blog Reunion

Every Woman BloggerLast week, we hosted a dinner for the Every Woman Bloggers to celebrate the holidays and thank them for their dedication to our blog! It was a fun evening full of delicious food, wonderful stories, and a fun ornament exchange.

Our bloggers provide us with inspiration as they handle being mothers, wives, professionals, sisters, friends, and providers. Please join us in thanking them for sharing their lives with us!

Feeling Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! Here on the Every Woman Blog, we wanted to slow down for a moment in order to focus on what Thanksgiving is really about – appreciating all of the wonderful blessings in our lives. We asked the Every Woman Bloggers what they are most thankful for in their lives. Check out what they had to say and then tell us about what – or who! – makes you feel thankful.

Shannon: John Wooden once said, “If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier.” I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing this incredible man back in the day when I was working in Los Angeles, and I plan to take Mr. Wooden’s words to heart because I know that I will be much happier if I magnify the many blessings in my life. I have so very much to be thankful for, so my personal goal this holiday season is to focus on all of my many blessings!  😉

Brady's son

Brady’s son, Benjamin

Brady: My son! He has totally changed my life and made me value things differently.

Chaunte: After having the privilege to help serve hundreds of homeless men and women recently, this holiday season I am thankful for everything and everyone God has blessed me with. Sometimes I have a desire for more, but that experience made me realize that I really have enough, and I’m grateful.

Elizabeth: Every Thanksgiving I am most thankful for my family and the fact that we are all healthy and together.

Crissie: This year was crazy busy. I am so grateful to God for sending me on a new path in my life ~ becoming a teacher. It has been one of the hardest, but most rewarding, jobs I’ve ever held.

Lara: I am most thankful for my family – the family that raised me and taught me what was important and the family that raised my husband and taught him what was important – so we would be able to pass those same lessons down.

Leah: We just wrapped up our semester with our homeschool hybrid group, and I am overwhelmed with thanks for all it means to our family. I am thankful for every single teacher and staff member as well the many volunteers and our host church. For me, it takes a village to be a homeschool mom and my village is fantastic! And I’m thankful every day for God’s mercy through each season of life. I feel like I need that mercy more each day. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Katie: For me, Thanksgiving is a time to slow down, soaking in time with family and friends. I love this time of year! Life seems to slow down long enough to get together and create new memories. Many of my memories are with family and I am so incredibly thankful to have them in my life!  Family is there to celebrate your successes, laugh with you, and lift you out of your darkest corner. My family is my rock and I couldn’t imagine the holidays, or my life, without them!  Wishing each of you a wonderful, memory-filled Thanksgiving. 🙂

Mary Pat:  After my father and grandmother passed away, Thanksgiving wasn’t the same. I’m so thankful for The Elliott family, close friends who’ve adopted us as part of their Thanksgiving family. We enjoy traditions similar to the ones that were part of our Thanksgivings – like great food and a kids table – but have also started some new ones, including a mid-afternoon walk and movie.

Sherree: I’m so very thankful for a community that supports me even when I fall. The love that has been shown to my family since moving to the area is just overwhelming. That is something I treasure and I’m so happy to have found. From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Characterizations

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As I sit here tonight, grading spelling tests, homework assignments, and creative writing pages, I reflect on my new position and exactly what wisdom I am trying to convey to “my kids.”

BooksWhile my official title and role is an English Language Arts teacher for middle and high school, I want to be much more than that. I want to be a champion for them. I want them to learn that education is more than a number in a grade book. While I have admitted that I, myself, was overly concerned with my numeric grades growing up, the extra lessons were not lost on me either. Little did I know that those people who taught me English and Grammar and Algebra would, in fact, be educating me on how to be a better person in the world; and, ultimately, they have taught me how to be an educator as well.

Do I set out to impart important life lessons on them? No, not exactly. Certainly they are always in the back of my mind, but I don’t structure a lesson plan around them. This week’s lessons with my oldest students, my ninth and tenth grade English I and English II classes, have offered me an opportunity to share something I feel is important as we move through our lives: how to see the good in others and how our thoughts can be used to uplift others instead of drag them down.

Our focus right now is Literature, and, in doing so, we have discussed characterizations of some of our texts’ main and secondary characters – characteristics that are both plainly stated and others that are inferred from the story and setting and actions. How has this played out into a life lesson, you ask? As we were writing, on the board, characterizations of fictitious people, one student half joked that we should do a characterization of another student. That student actually agreed and a new, better homework assignment was born in that moment. I had my students write their names twice on a piece of paper. Each name was put into a bucket and each student drew two classmates for whom they would do characterizations. I gave only one stipulation: the characterizations had to be positive. If a classmate had a seemingly negative trait, think on it. Could it be positive in some manner?

Initially, I thought that I would just have them turn their characterizations in and at first that is what I did. But, as I began to skim over them in class, I decided that this might be a perfect opportunity for these students to see themselves as others see them, and to see that, even when you don’t get the grade you thought you would get, the day your best friend is upset with you, the day you get into a fight with your parents, that you have value. You have worth, and others see positivity radiating from you.

So, this afternoon, I took some time and compiled the characterizations and have prepared a page for each of my students. And I can hardly wait to hand them out tomorrow and talk with my students about the information they see in front of them.

When was the last time you told someone about the positive characteristics you see in them? Have you ever? I know that I have not done this well. I challenge each of you to take time out of your day to think of someone who might need an encouragement boost today, write out some positive characteristics and give it to them. It may just be the encouragement that he or she needs.As I sit here tonight, grading spelling tests, homework assignments, and creative writing pages, I reflect on my new position and exactly what wisdom I am trying to convey to “my kids.”

While my official title and role is an English Language Arts teacher for middle and high school, I want to be much more than that. I want to be a champion for them. I want them to learn that education is more than a number in a grade book. While I have admitted that I, myself, was overly concerned with my numeric grades growing up, the extra lessons were not lost on me either. Little did I know that those people who taught me English and Grammar and Algebra would, in fact, be educating me on how to be a better person in the world; and, ultimately, they have taught me how to be an educator as well.

Do I set out to impart important life lessons on them? No, not exactly. Certainly they are always in the back of my mind, but I don’t structure a lesson plan around them. This week’s lessons with my oldest students, my ninth and tenth grade English I and English II classes, have offered me an opportunity to share something I feel is important as we move through our lives: how to see the good in others and how our thoughts can be used to uplift others instead of drag them down.

Our focus right now is Literature, and, in doing so, we have discussed characterizations of some of our texts’ main and secondary characters – characteristics that are both plainly stated and others that are inferred from the story and setting and actions. How has this played out into a life lesson, you ask? As we were writing, on the board, characterizations of fictitious people, one student half joked that we should do a characterization of another student. That student actually agreed and a new, better homework assignment was born in that moment. I had my students write their names twice on a piece of paper. Each name was put into a bucket and each student drew two classmates for whom they would do characterizations. I gave only one stipulation: the characterizations had to be positive. If a classmate had a seemingly negative trait, think on it. Could it be positive in some manner?

Initially, I thought that I would just have them turn their characterizations in and at first that is what I did. But, as I began to skim over them in class, I decided that this might be a perfect opportunity for these students to see themselves as others see them, and to see that, even when you don’t get the grade you thought you would get, the day your best friend is upset with you, the day you get into a fight with your parents, that you have value. You have worth, and others see positivity radiating from you.

So, this afternoon, I took some time and compiled the characterizations and have prepared a page for each of my students. And I can hardly wait to hand them out tomorrow and talk with my students about the information they see in front of them.

When was the last time you told someone about the positive characteristics you see in them? Have you ever? I know that I have not done this well. I challenge each of you to take time out of your day to think of someone who might need an encouragement boost today, write out some positive characteristics and give it to them. It may just be the encouragement that he or she needs.

As I sit here tonight, grading spelling tests, homework assignments, and creative writing pages, I reflect on my new position and exactly what wisdom I am trying to convey to “my kids.”

While my official title and role is an English Language Arts teacher for middle and high school, I want to be much more than that. I want to be a champion for them. I want them to learn that education is more than a number in a grade book. While I have admitted that I, myself, was overly concerned with my numeric grades growing up, the extra lessons were not lost on me either. Little did I know that those people who taught me English and Grammar and Algebra would, in fact, be educating me on how to be a better person in the world; and, ultimately, they have taught me how to be an educator as well.

Do I set out to impart important life lessons on them? No, not exactly. Certainly they are always in the back of my mind, but I don’t structure a lesson plan around them. This week’s lessons with my oldest students, my ninth and tenth grade English I and English II classes, have offered me an opportunity to share something I feel is important as we move through our lives: how to see the good in others and how our thoughts can be used to uplift others instead of drag them down.

Our focus right now is Literature, and, in doing so, we have discussed characterizations of some of our texts’ main and secondary characters – characteristics that are both plainly stated and others that are inferred from the story and setting and actions. How has this played out into a life lesson, you ask? As we were writing, on the board, characterizations of fictitious people, one student half joked that we should do a characterization of another student. That student actually agreed and a new, better homework assignment was born in that moment. I had my students write their names twice on a piece of paper. Each name was put into a bucket and each student drew two classmates for whom they would do characterizations. I gave only one stipulation: the characterizations had to be positive. If a classmate had a seemingly negative trait, think on it. Could it be positive in some manner?

Initially, I thought that I would just have them turn their characterizations in and at first that is what I did. But, as I began to skim over them in class, I decided that this might be a perfect opportunity for these students to see themselves as others see them, and to see that, even when you don’t get the grade you thought you would get, the day your best friend is upset with you, the day you get into a fight with your parents, that you have value. You have worth, and others see positivity radiating from you.

So, this afternoon, I took some time and compiled the characterizations and have prepared a page for each of my students. And I can hardly wait to hand them out tomorrow and talk with my students about the information they see in front of them.

When was the last time you told someone about the positive characteristics you see in them? Have you ever? I know that I have not done this well. I challenge each of you to take time out of your day to think of someone who might need an encouragement boost today, write out some positive characteristics and give it to them. It may just be the encouragement that he or she needs.

Welcome to My “New” World

By: Crissie Miller Kirby 

Classroom

By the time you read this, I will be firmly entrenched in my new routine and my “new” world. I use the term “new” loosely because while the job and position are new, the location is not new at all.

As many of you know, I have spent the better part of the last year searching for the “right” job; one where I could be challenged daily and where I could make a difference in this world. After applying for I’m not really sure how many jobs, interviewing for a few, and not being selected for them, I was beginning to become downtrodden. I was frustrated. I was beginning to get angry.

Then, shortly after the 2013-2014 school year ended for my children, I received the email that would change everything for me. In a very sad turn of events, my children’s school had two beloved, and long-time, members of the faculty pass away last year. To help fill those positions (along with a few additional ones), the school was seeking a number of new teachers for the 2014-2015 school year.

Did I really want to be a teacher?

Could I be a teacher?

I cannot explain the drive and desire that came from within me to become a member of the faculty at W. Wyman King Academy. There were the obvious benefits of being on the same holiday and vacation schedule as the boys and not having to wonder how they would get to and from school; but that was only the tip of the iceberg for me. It was more than just a random teaching position; they needed an English I and II teacher. English . . .  And what position in the world allows a person to make a difference more than being a teacher?

Hmmmm . . .

I thought about it. Constantly. I could barely think of anything else.

I’ve always admired teachers. I’ve long been grateful for teachers, professors, and other faculty/staff members I’ve had in my life during my educational career; but, I just didn’t think I could actually be a teacher. I was unsure of my abilities. I was completely sure of my desire to make a difference and my love of English and grammar.

So, I did it. I applied for the English position.

And, I interviewed.

And, I was offered the position.

And, I accepted it.

Me? Be a teacher? And I was over the moon excited about it?

Yes, I was.

I mean, I am.

Our school year officially started on August 14th, so I have been filling my days and nights and weekends with school work.

And, you know what? I love it. I love the challenge that each new day brings.

In addition to English I and II, I am also teaching three middle school grammar courses, so I have 5 different sets of students each and every day. Teaching 6th through 10th graders provides an almost hourly change of pace, as each group has their own dynamics that are special and unique. There is definitely no monotony here! Being in an independent school setting provides me with relatively small class sizes that range from a low of 11 to a high of 17; it also affords me an opportunity to really get to know my students.

We are already moving in to our 3rd week of school, and the excitement has yet to wear off for me. I love being in my classroom, books and chalk (or dry erase markers) in hand. I love to see the looks on “my” kids’ faces as we work together and those light bulbs begin to flicker on. I love reading their daily “bell work” musings. I look forward to seeing what this coming year will bring and being able to share it with you. (Some of my kids want me to put them into my Every Woman blog postings!)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I commented that the location of my new position was not new. There is something a little bit surreal (and more than a little bit funny) every time I unlock the door to room number 7 at W. Wyman King Academy; a room in which I, myself, was educated less than twenty years ago. Rooms that, in a few short years, God willing, will also hold my boys, as they each have attended WKA since 4K.

You see, my new world is only “new” in theory. My journey has led me to a place that is as much like home as any other. Life has truly come full circle.

South Carolina’s Hidden Gems

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As you have no doubt come to realize, the boys and I do a good bit of traveling to the Lowcountry.  A self proclaimed history buff (okay, nerd), I like to share my love of times gone by with the boys while we are also making memories.  One of the activities that I love to do with the boys (and anyone else who will go along for the ride) is to share some of the hidden historical gems that South Carolina has to offer.  Like gold or gems long hidden from the naked or untrained eye, these places are ripe with beauty, history, and emotion.  Please indulge me, if you will, as I share two of our more recent discoveries.

Fort Fremont

Tucked away on a narrow dirt road on Saint Helena Island lies a fortification that, until recent years, was almost an unknown.  One day late last summer my in-laws and I decided to take a little ride over to Beaufort and head out to Saint Helena and to Fort Fremont.  Over the last few years, the Friends of Fort Fremont Historical Park has been formed and extensive work has been done revitalizing the fortifications and cleaning up the area around the fort to include fencing and beach access areas.

Fort Fremont

The first time I visited Fort Fremont was probably ten or twelve years ago and I’m not even sure that we should have been on the grounds.  Abandoned and covered in graffiti, it was a little bit unnerving and probably a little more than scary. With my vivid – and sometimes exaggerated – imagination, I remember thinking that it was just the type of place where someone would take someone to harm them or to conduct some type of scary initiation/ritual.  Today it is a great place to go visit and learn a little bit of South Carolina history.

Fort Fremont

The Friends of Fort Fremont has a fantastic website where you can gain tons of information on the history of the fort, visiting the fort, and making donations should you want to help preserve a part of not only our state’s rich history, but also that of the United States.

Old Sheldon Church

Another favorite spot that I like to visit, even when I am alone, is the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee.  Set among massive Spanish moss-covered oaks, the ruins consist of the red brick columns and portions of the walls.  The church has borne witness to the bulk of United States’ history having been first constructed in the mid-1700’s.  After being burned during the Revolutionary War, it was rebuilt during the 1820’s.  However, the Civil War and General William T. Sherman proved too much for the hallowed grounds, and after being burned once more, the ruins and grounds were left unrepaired; a monument to times gone by.

Old Sheldon Church

Today, the grounds are well maintained (by the Parish Church of St. Helena) and are open during daylight hours for visitors to tour.  It is still considered sacred ground and much can be learned by walking the grounds and viewing the headstones of those who have been buried there.  An Easter service is held each year and weddings can also be held on the grounds with appropriate approval from the aforementioned church.

I love to walk the grounds and just be alone with my thoughts.  When the boys are with me, I love to share with them the history and see their faces as they try and drink from the old hand pump on the grounds.  Even more, I love when, months later, they ask questions about these places that we have visited; sometimes they even ask to visit again. And I long for the days and times when we can yet again search out and uncover these South Carolina gems, and those yet to be uncovered.

What are your favorite South Carolina gems?

Chinaberry Dreams

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Growing up in rural Aiken County, we had lots of different trees that would sprout up here and there.  They would just take hold of the soil where they were dropped and they would grow and flourish. One of these trees was a Chinaberry Tree.  I can’t recall anyone ever actually planting one. They seemed to just appear, take root, grow and flourish, carried here, there, and yonder by the birds visiting within her branches.

Chinaberry Dreams

Much like the Chinaberry Tree, Trina Floyd has flourished where she was planted and, like the Chinaberry Tree, has offered up pieces of herself for folks to carry near and far from her store, “Chinaberry Dreams Soapworks, Gifts, and Artisan Marketplace,” which is located on Main Street in Leesville, South Carolina.

Trina comes from a long line of women who valued handmade items, from handmade lye soap to beautiful, but functional, quilts.  From a young age, Trina watched her mother, grandmother, and other family members make all of these items, and in doing so, she developed a strong desire to be a part of, and to carry on, those talented handiworks.

Chinaberry Dreams

Her strongest desire was to hand make bars of soap and when her sister, Frana, began building a herd of Nubian goats, Trina gained ready access to fresh goat’s milk with which to begin “Chinaberry Dreams Soapworks” in about 2006.

Finally, in 2009 Trina was able to secure a small location on Main Street, Leesville in which to open a part-time shop while continuing her day job with Lexington Medical Center.  The shop began to grow past simply soaps; she began accepting other items from other local artisans and eventually she outgrew the space she was renting.  Fortunately, in 2010 she was able to secure a new location across the street from the original location.

Chinaberry Dreams

Again, the shop and customer base continued to grow and Trina longed to open her shop as more than just a storefront, but to also be a place where artisans could come in and actually teach classes in their medium.  Trina dreamed of and prayed for a location that would not only support her dream, but also would assist in supporting her family by allowing her to be in the store full time.  For nearly four years, this was her dream, her prayer.

In late 2013/early 2014, Trina’s dream began to come to fruition and in February of 2014 (delayed slightly by the crazy winter weather we experienced this year), she moved into her new, much larger location on Main Street, Leesville.  In this new locale, Trina is able to offer more space for not only her own soaps and other wares, but also for other local artisan booths and space to host various art classes. Already she has hosted art classes for children and beginner’s quilting classes, with many, many more on the horizon.

Chinaberry Dreams

And it’s more than just a personal endeavor for Trina – it is a family affair.  It’s not unusual to find her sisters, her parents, and other family members helping out in the store and helping teach classes.

To step into Chinaberry Dreams is to take a peek back into the past, while still being very much in the present.  For me, it is a unique opportunity to capture a part of my own heritage, as Trina’s grandmother and my own were sisters. Every time I step into the store, there is something there that reminds me of my own childhood and those wonderful memories of playing under quilts stretched out on frames and women talking and catching up with each other.

Chinaberry Dreams

So, if you are ever in our little neck of the woods, stop by Trina’s store on Main Street and, as Trina is fond of saying, “take a little Chinaberry home with you”.

Stop by and check out Chinaberry Dreams Soapworks and Gifts on Facebook for information on hours, current artisan work, and upcoming classes.

One Cat Away

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

In keeping with the animal theme that we have seen of late, I figured I might as well fess up…

I have become the crazy cat lady.

Ok, maybe I haven’t completely become the crazy cat lady, but I’m pretty close and I seem to be getting closer with time. I have no shame. I love four-legged animals.  Puppies are cute, but a kitten will suck me in. Every. Single. Time.

Truthfully, any cat will suck me in. I would take in every single stray cat if I could afford to do it. If love could feed them, I would have far more than I have now. Our number of cats, for several years now, has been three and I was adamant. No more cats.

Well, until I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page . . .

Adopted cats“This is Teenager Tom, formerly known as Tom Kitten. (My husband) recently caught all the neighborhood strays and got every one of them fixed with the helpful low cost at Pawmetto Lifeline. Tom is a lovely but skittish boy, has had all his shots, but the female cats don’t like him and smack him if he tries to eat or get any attention. He is used to small dogs. Will you help me find Tom a home? I don’t want him to go to just anyone. I am thinking of asking for a $20 donation to Pawmetto Lifeline for him but if I know the person I would be just fine with giving him to you.”

You need to understand something here – my first cat, when I was very young, was a white male tomcat named Snowball. He was a scruffy, scraggly-looking critter, but I loved him and carried him around everywhere. I’ve had more cats that I can count. I can wrangle a stray kitten like a boss and barely wince when they bite me or leave a menacing scratch on my arm. When I was pregnant with Pierce, I owned a male tabby cat named Beau who was the most loving cat (He was also the biggest cat I have ever owned, weighing in at 26 pounds).

Unfortunately, after getting sick numerous times over a few months, he was diagnosed with severe kidney failure, from which he was unable to recover.  I swore that one of my next cats would be a male.  Life happens and I didn’t fulfill that promise to myself for over eight years.

Childhood pet

So, I was sucked in by a handsome face and the fact that I wouldn’t have to fight off tiny claws and sharp kitten teeth in the middle of the night. So, we went and undertook the task of trapping this cat because he wasn’t too keen on being picked up and taken to a new home. But trap him we did, and we took him home.

Cat

He is christened Thomas Rhett Kirby – keeping his original first name, but changing his middle name to be called name to “Rhett” to fit in with the Dixie and Scarlett that we already own.

At first, he spent all of his time hiding in my bedroom closet, all of us too afraid to let him out into the general craziness of my house. Afraid of what the other cats would do. Afraid he would run out the door. Afraid that utter chaos would ensue. He was skittish at first and would only allow us to pet him for short periods. The littlest noise sent him running for the depths of darkness beneath my dresses.

But, over that first week or two, things began to change and he began to venture into other parts of the house. First my bedroom, then the boys’ rooms, then to the den and kitchen, and then, finally, into the mudroom where the other cats are fed.

Rhett after his arrival at his new home

Rhett after his arrival at his new home

Nowadays, Rhett splits his time between eating, sprawling on the floor begging for someone to pet him, weaving himself between our arms and legs whether we are standing or sitting or lying in the bed, and playing chase, tag, and hide and seek with the new dog, Knight (another story entirely).

Proof positive that a little bit of love by a crazy cat lady really can go a long way.

In The Giving, We Receive

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As many of you may know, Columbia College is an institution that is very near and dear to my heart.  The years between August of 1996 and May of 2000 were life changing for me and I owe it all to those hallowed grounds. When I wanted to obtain a Masters degree, and after trying an “online program” from another institution, I migrated back to that same North Main Street/Columbia College Drive campus. I successfully completed the Master in Organizational Change and Leadership program in August of 2013.

In late October, I was contacted by the Director of Alumnae Relations and asked if I would be interested in speaking at Mom’s Day.  Mom’s Day is a tradition that dates back about 40 years and is a day on which Moms (or other important female influences) join their Columbia College daughters on campus for a chapel program, lunch, and other activities.

Unfortunately, I did not plan ahead well enough, so I do not have a live recording of my presentation. However, I would like to share with you here the written version of my speech: 

SONY DSCGood morning and welcome to Mom’s Day 2013.  It is such an honor and privilege for me to come and speak with you all today.

I am a Columbia College woman, twice over, in fact.  I’m a blogger.  I’m a daughter, sister, and friend.  But, my favorite job title is mom.  I am blessed to be the mother to two beautiful, precious, and mischievous little boys.  Yep, no little girls for me to groom and send to CC; but that’s okay, I am just trying to work hard and do my best to show my boys that the best women are Columbia College women.  So, maybe I’ll have Columbia College women for daughters-in-law one day, a very long time from now!

I have really struggled with what to say to you all today that will matter, that will make a difference to at least one of you sitting in the pews in front of me, and it is my prayer that you will be able to take a little something from the words I share with you now.

Then it came to me, just share your story. 

Last weekend, I attended a Christian Women’s Conference called the Magnificent Mess and the theme was “Embrace Your Story.” I firmly believe that we can learn a lot from each other when we share our stories. They can provide validation; they can provide comfort; they can provide inspiration.  I can only hope that you will allow me the indulgence of embracing my story and my prayer that you will find some measure of inspiration within my words.

Let me tell you how I came to stand before you today; it is probably not what you think.

5 ½ years ago, I thought that my world was pretty near perfect.  I was happily married, two beautiful children, a job I was happy with, a house, a few cats, and a couple of dogs.  What in the world could possibly go wrong with this story?

Oh what a difference about six months can make.

My world, as I saw it, started to crumble around me as my eight year marriage starting falling apart right in front of my eyes.  I didn’t know how to react.  I didn’t know what to do.  I begged, pleaded, and tried to bargain with my husband.  I begged, pleaded, and tried to bargain with God.  My marriage was part of my identity and I was terrified of who I would be, or really who I wouldn’t be, if I didn’t have that as part of my identity anymore. 

Everywhere I turned, though, God kept showing me a Bible verse: Jeremiah 29:11.  Many of you may know it.  “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you; to give you hope and a future.” 

Literally, I kept seeing this verse everywhere.  God was slamming it in my face to remind me that while I was in this mental and emotional turmoil, He knew already what I would face and He already knew the outcome.  But, even better was that He already had a hope and a future planned out for me and my children; and that He intended no harm to come to us.  But, I had to seek Him first. 

Not easy for someone who has always liked just a slight bit of control over her own life; who liked to plan things weeks and months in advance.  It was a little too “fly by the seat of my pants” for me, but in the end, what could I do? 

I recently heard, at the aforementioned women’s conference, the very best analogy for dealing with our lives when something isn’t going the way we want it to. 

Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie that has a twist to the plot that you just don’t really like?  Maybe things are going too slow in the story?  You are ready to close the book, put it aside; turn the movie off in the middle?  Yeah, sometimes our lives can be like that too.  Often, we find our lives at a juncture or twist in the plot that we, as humans, are not really very fond of.  Lord knows I was not really comfortable with where I was in early 2009.

But, who wrote our stories?  

God. 

And He reminds us at several points in the Bible that He knew us before he knit us together in our mother’s womb.  He reminds us that He already knows what is going to happen to us and that He has that future all mapped out.  We just sort of have to let go of that little issue of control.

Okay, so I tried to sit back and do what I thought God would want me to do.  While everyone around me pushed me to go ahead and end my marriage; I sat tight.  God impressed upon me the importance of not taking the easy way out; He impressed upon me the fact that I needed to wait and be confident in saying that divorce was a very last option for me.  I really felt like that is what I was supposed to do.  So, I did.  I tried to wait out the storm. 

Now, I’ll be honest, there were a lot of times that I thought by sticking it out, God would answer my prayers and heal my marriage. 

But, that didn’t happen.

I have been divorced for almost three years now.  My final divorce hearing was, literally, only three days shy of being two years from the date my husband first said he wanted a divorce.  Two years!

At that point, I had to make a decision: Would this bump in the road, this game changer, this plot twist – would it make me bitter or would it make me better?  Would I try and close the book or would I simply push through and keep reading the story until I could turn the page?

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Now since we are in church, I am not going to stand up here and tell you an outright lie; that I was never, ever bitter.  My mama raised me not to tell a lie and since she’s sitting here with us today, I have to be honest; I was bitter at times; very, very bitter.  But, I did make the decision that even when I was bitter, I was going to learn from this experience; that some good would come of it; that it would not have been in vain; that I would become better and brighter and I would share my story and pray that if I could help only one person it would have been worth it.  I was so very fortunate to have had some wonderful friends and family who encouraged me, shared their stories with me, allowed me to laugh, cry, and rage on occasion during that time.  I wanted to pay it forward.

And in seeking that desire to help someone, God has really given me some wonderful gifts over the last five years.

He allowed me to reconnect with some old friends and make some wonderful new friends who have been so very supportive of me, even when they thought I was absolutely insane at points over those two years of waiting. 

He helped create a bond between me and my brother that had never really been there before. 

He created a bond between me and my in-laws that had not ever been present before during my marriage. 

He also gave me the courage and the tenacity and the drive to do things that I had long forgotten I could do or that I loved.

The first of these was writing; I have always loved to write. In the late summer of 2011, I decided to enter a blog contest being sponsored by Lexington Medical Center for a new blog they were creating; the EveryWoman blog, it would be called.  For women, written by women.  I took a giant leap of faith and even though I was terrified of rejection, I entered the contest.

And I was one of only 10 women chosen to be a featured writer for them.  And that has been a wonderful experience for me.  I have met some wonderful ladies from different parts of the Midlands and formed meaningful friendships.  I got to participate in Lexington Medical Center’s 2012 entry for the Pink Glove Dance, which they won for the 2nd year in a row.  Fortunately, you couldn’t see me in the video, but I was there and it was an awesome and inspiring event to be a part of. 

As the result of one of my blog articles, I was contacted by the editor of Mamapedia, which is a national online mommy network and was blessed to have written several articles for them, as well.  I gained a lot of courage and backbone through that process because my articles were seen by thousands of people. Not everyone agrees with what I think, and I’ve learned that’s okay.  I also gained new friends that I’ve never met.  We correspond through Facebook mostly, sort of like new age pen pals.  But, we encourage each other and pray for each other and empathize with each other over being single mothers of little boys.

Then, God renewed a drive and desire for education in my soul.  I had always considered going to back to school to further my education, but honestly, never really thought it was a possibility when I was a working wife and mother.  Oh no, I waited until I was a single, working mother to decide that it would be just the perfect time for me to get my Masters degree.  Brilliant move, right? 

I know, don’t say it.

And let’s not forget that not only was I a single working mom, I was also involved in our church and I was the Secretary and then co-chair of the Parent’s Association at my children’s school. 

Crazy, right?

Now, I’m going to tell you that graduate school here at CC is no joke and there were many nights that I thought to myself, there is no way on earth I can finish this program; I need to just drop out.

No, I couldn’t do that.  I had to finish the program.

God led me back to my educational roots for a reason; and I had to finish my Masters from Columbia College. 

You see, Columbia College is where I originally found my voice; nurtured by some of the very best professors, like Belinda Gergel, Anne McCulloch, Bob Moore, Seldon Smith, Tandy McConnell, and the rest of the folks in the History and Political Science department as it was known back then.  When I was allowed the chance to participate in one of the first Washington Semesters and this girl from small town South Carolina walked the streets of Washington, DC and realized that she could be anything and do anything she wanted.

And on August 4th, 2013, I walked up that aisle and across the front right here, received my Masters degree, and my children helped place the hood around my neck, with my parents, my brother, and my in-laws all sitting in these very pews to witness it. 

Never, when I was married, did I think that I could write on a semi-professional level. Never, when I was married, did I think that I had the courage or willpower to go back to school.  Never, when I was married, did I think I would have the courage and the confidence to stand before you today and share my story.

But, God knew that all of those things were important to me – recall His words from Psalm 37:4, “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And He granted them to me.

But, not in my time; in His time.

And that is what led me to stand in front of you today.

I had to persevere and push through, get through that trying period, finish that part of the book and get to a point where I could turn the page; and start a new chapter.  And what a chapter it has been for me.

But my story isn’t finished and neither is yours.

You might be facing a struggle right now; roommate or suitemate problems; problems with one of your courses; decisions regarding your major; boyfriend issues.  They all seem so major in the moment.  Not to diminish them at all; they are major for the point that you are at in your life.

But, never, ever put a period where God has only placed a comma.

Allow the mess you are in today turn into a message.

I just did.

And you can too.

Never before have I been so overwhelmed at the response to something I have written or spoken; mothers and daughters stopped me and thanked me for my words of encouragement, of perseverance.  I was truly touched and honestly think that I received more encouragement and words of affirmation and perseverance than anything I gave. I felt free; I felt invincible; I felt confident.  I finally felt like I had been able to give back to the institution that originally gave so much to me.

It is in the giving that we receive.