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.

Finding Quiet Moments

By: Ashley Whisonant 

As I have written before, being a grown up is tough. I don’t care if you are a mom, dad, single, married, or none of the above! Worrying about bills, work, social life, family, and balancing it all… I have tried hard to find quiet moments to center myself and remember the important things in life.

christmasMaking time to take care for myself has now become more of a priority. I make sure to work out at least three times a week in the morning while my family sleeps. Thankfully, my neighbor convinced me to try an all-female work out group, FiA. We meet in the mornings, varying between 5:00 and 5:15, to work out and get better together. Those moments pushing myself and enjoying fellowship with other ladies has made me a better wife, mother, and employee at work.

Remembering the important part of the holiday season isn’t always easy. I get no less than fifty emails a day about a Christmas special or discount on something. Is that really what it is about this month? To refocus myself, my husband and I decided to make a commitment to going to church every Sunday. We are working hard to teach our boys of thinking of others this season. We found a quiet night after cleaning up from dinner last night. While listening to Christmas music, we wrapped presents as family. Did it take longer with a five and two year old? You betcha. Was it worth the extra time? Without a doubt, yes.

Work hard to find quiet moments this holiday season. In what ways do you find these special, quiet moments?

A Much Needed Special Day

By: Ashley Whisonant

Gray

Shortly after we became pregnant with my youngest, Gray, my husband and I decided we would complete our family with two. For whatever reason, I never imagined myself with more than two or even a little girl. Even looking at a family picture now, I feel we are complete.

I frequently find myself feeling guilty for my second born. With my oldest, Weston, we were mentality present for all his firsts. He had our full attention, all of the time. I remember the excitement of watching him roll over and crawl. The moments of him running to meet me at the door when I pulled in the driveway from work. He was our whole world.

Gray

Gray will never know the feeling of being the only one. He adores his older brother and thinks he hung the moon. I remind myself to take mental pictures of Gray’s firsts- crawling, walking, waving. I work hard to not let life get in the way and give him the same experience as his brother, but it is different.

I needed to do something special for my second. While Weston was camping with my husband, I planned a special day for just Gray and myself. One of his favorite places is the beach. He could run up and down, racing towards the waves for hours. I was determined to have a special weekend with him. 

Gray

When he got up, we painted and shared a breakfast laughing together. Our drive down to Sullivan’s Island was not filled with screen time, but real conversations with my two year old. He pointed out all the things he saw, colors he liked, and we sang Disney songs. We arrived to an almost empty beach-in July! It was as though someone knew how much we needed the time together. I truly lived in the moment with my second born. The laughing, playing, running, and swimming was just what we both needed.

After our day together I realized he is not missing out. My guilt is internal, not with him. He feels my love and knows how much I care about him. I need to let go of my guilt and enjoy the moments with him.

Monte & Misha

By: Shannon Boatwright

Ah the love of pups. The things we do for the animals we love. It’s an interesting, exhausting, yet beautiful thing. They can make for such an enormous undertaking of responsibility, yet they can bring such joy. Those odd, hairy, stinky animals that pee, poop, poot, slobber, barf, bark and cost lots of money….yet, so many of us adore these creatures and can’t live without them. 😉

Countess Misha & Count Monte

Countess Misha & Count Monte

Our precious Monte, a cocker spaniel like no other, an incredibly special dog that seems to sense when his loved ones are down, stressed and/or need love, a dog with qualities that I’ve never seen in any other dog…is such a unique little beast. He’s named for the Count of Monte Cristo. Which means naturally, he needed a Countess. 😉

New Pals

New Pals

We promised the kids we’d get Monte a friend. The kids were worried about him being home alone, and we agreed, though the thought of taking on another animal was daunting. A dreaded event on many levels, to be honest. But, I didn’t want to be a parent that makes empty promises, so I knew it had to happen and if it was going to happen, it had to be over the summer, because there’s no way this teacher could survive getting and training a new pet during the school year.

So it happened, the hubby and I were running errands in Harbison and we decided to stop by Pawmetto Lifeline and check out their pups and program. You know, just “check it out.”

The 1st time we met our lil Misha

The 1st time we met our lil Misha

Did we adopt a puppy that day? Of course. Yea, go ahead, insert the chuckle. We took the tour and saw this one puppy in the window. The darlin’ little thing was sound asleep and wouldn’t wake up for nothin’. I felt compelled… I needed to see this particular puppy’s eyes. So we had to get someone to come let us actually meet that ‘puppy in the window.’

Happy

Happy

And, yes, that l’il German Shepherd mixed breed dog looked into our eyes and grabbed ahold of our hearts. After a little playdate in one of the Pawmetto Lifeline meet and greet rooms, we were done for.

When you attempt a Selfie with a wild pup!

When you attempt a Selfie with a wild pup!

(I must interject here that the people who work at Pawmetto Lifeline are exceptional. They truly have a passion and love for animals and it shows. We were very impressed with how thorough they are and how well they take care of the animals. Truly impressive program they have there.)

The interesting thing about our experience is that we were specifically looking for a special friend for our Monte and come to find out, the Pawmetto folks were specifically looking for a family who had an older pet, because when this baby girl was rescued on the side of the road, it wasn’t until she was with a foster family’s older pet that she felt safe, came alive and began to thrive. And most ironically, our l’il pup was featured on the news that very morning. They thought for sure we’d seen her on TV and come to adopt her. Yet we hadn’t seen a thing, not even the features of her on Facebook. We simply stopped by chance and were led to this pup! And I’d like to think for a reason. It was fate.

Misha Puppy Love

Misha Puppy Love

Then came the challenge of naming this little girl. The Hubby and I knew we had to have a cool and special name for this incredible pet. A name that could somehow match Monte’s unique name. We could tell this puppy had a spark in her eyes, something really special about her, and spunky for sure. After going through a slew of ideas, my man suggests “Misha”… it hit me… brilliant, that’s it! One of my favorite dancers EVER is Mikhail Baryshnikov. My college dorm room door was covered in pictures of him. His nickname is Misha. He used to have a perfume of the same name that will always be one of my favorites. That was it. It was decided. Our precious rescue would be named Misha…Countess Misha. A beautiful Countess for our Count.

A precious pup present...

A precious pup present…

When I was a little girl, my first puppy ever, was given to me with a bow around her neck on Christmas morning. It was a kid’s dream come true. I’ll never forget it. So it gave me great joy to be able to present my own children with our new pup (that they just knew we’d never get!) in a wrapped box with a bow around her neck. Of course they were overjoyed, shocked and thrilled that we’d followed through with our promise and had finally gotten Monte a friend. (Maybe even as much as I was!) Fortunately, they fell in love with Misha instantly. We all did. And although Monte’s world has been completely rocked, I see the joy in his precious cocker spaniel eyes when he plays with her. She’s a wild, mischievous rascal! Let’s just say, her true colors have certainly come out now that she’s in a comfortable, loving home! We’re just praying that her smart German Shepherd genes shine and she’ll train easily. One forgets how hard it is to have a puppy in their home until they’re in the midst of it!

My sweet little girls

My sweet little girls

One more special addition to my story here before I close…

We knew our Miss Misha was special and certainly a force…I seem to have a knack for choosing pets with lots of personality! But one day, my son and I were sitting on the floor playing with our crazy l’il countess and my husband, says, “Look! A heart!” Sure enough, on her little belly, a perfectly shaped heart. How in the world we’d not noticed it before, I don’t know, because she loves to lay at my side and have me rub her belly. But, it was a most lovely discovery! It’s quite brilliant actually – this puppy, our little Countess, has a heart on her tummy!

Misha's Heart! Do you see it?

Misha’s Heart! Do you see it?

Meant to be indeed. She is in a home full of love and happiness, she has a best friend now, a Count to be clear 😉 and though she is a handful (what Countess isn’t?!) we adore her and she is a fabulous addition to our family. A huge shout out and enormous Thank You to Pawmetto Lifeline. They really do fabulous things there. I am proud to be a supporter of them and so thankful that we found our Countess Misha in their care.

Here’s to Monte and Misha, may they have a long life together, full of joy and fabulous fun in a loving, happy home, surrounded by those that absolutely adore them.

Biscuits, Tea Cakes & Neck Bones

By: Chaunte McClure

I can already visualize my sister facepalming after reading the title of this blog post, but don’t worry, I’m not about to embarrass you.

biscuitsI was just thinking about Grandma as I do from time to time, reflecting on fond moments. I miss that lady and sometimes I wonder what life would be like if she were still here. I’m not sure what I’d love most – just having her around or enjoying her good cooking. Surely she’d be disappointed that I spend more time at restaurants than I do in my kitchen. I wonder if I would have developed that bad habit of eating out with her here? Probably so. I’m not sure if she could change that, but I could be wrong. That woman cooked two or three meals every day and loved doing so. What’s more, we loved it too. We, the grandkids and grand nieces and nephews, were guaranteed a meal when we got in from school. An aroma met us at the door every single day.

Fried chicken made everyone happy, but my favorite was neck bones. Yes, country I am; country to the bone. I know there’s hardly any meat on neck bones, but they are good. It was something about the way Grandma seasoned them and that gravy . . . oh my goodness! I try my best to cook them like Grandma used to, but mine aren’t quite the same. I usually cheat by cooking them in the Crockpot, but that shouldn’t affect the flavor, right? Anyway, I always wanted seconds with that good gravy covering my rice.

And those Saturday or Sunday morning homemade biscuits. Oowee! Many times I watched her sprinkle flour over the counter and knead, roll and cut biscuits. It’s a shame that I can’t make them. Okay, I haven’t tried. But back to Grandma’s biscuits. When they came out of the oven, all I needed was that bottle of Cane Patch Syrup and I would dip and chew, dip and chew. (I think that Cane Patch also came in a can.) As kids we’d do the I-want-some-more-dance while holding our plate or bowl, asking Grandma for another biscuit. Even when her children were adults she’d make them biscuits and they never turned them down.

And they never turned down those old-fashioned southern tea cakes. I don’t know who was most excited, the grandkids or the adults. I was never really into sweets so I didn’t react to tea cakes like I did to a pot of neck bones. If she happened to bake them on a day when I had a taste for something sweet, then great, but they were always a treat for everyone else. If I just say “tea cakes” around one relative, it brings a smile to her face because she loved Grandma’s tea cakes as much as she loved the fact that Grandma would make them when she asked.

Those were the good ol’ days, as we like to say. It seems like you don’t realize how good they were until they’re gone or the people who made them special are gone.

So who wants to make biscuits, tea cakes and neck bones just for me? Not everyone at once, please.

Regular Joes

By: Brady Evans Venables

Well, we’ve finally done it. We just sold the farm. Moved into a subdivision. Downsized from 6 acres to .3 acres. We don’t see our horses every day anymore. They’re 2 miles away from our neighborhood being boarded. We’ve officially changed our lifestyle – we used to exude “horse people” status and now we are just regular joes.

The farm

The farm

Why did we do it? After quitting our jobs in North Carolina 5 years ago and giving up our nice, comfortable home to live on the farm? Why sell it and start all over again? It was the kid.

We used to work arm to arm on the weekends – we’d do some manual labor, hop on the horses for a ride, take showers, and head to town for a dinner out. The baby came along and with the baby comes a full time caregiver. We began tag-teaming farm work and parenting, passing in the night, doing “shifts,” barely connecting with each other. We felt guilty for not having family time, guilty for not having horse time, guilty for not having couple time.

Our family on the farm

Our family on the farm

It all started when my husband walked in the door and said “sometimes I almost wish we didn’t have this farm,” sighed, and collapsed on the sofa. I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my chest because I had been thinking the same thing for weeks but was too scared to say it.

We started talking about selling the farm, tabling the discussion, and bringing it up again. We started looking at the finances of moving and boarding the horses, perusing Zillow.com for houses in family-friendly neighborhoods, and crying.

Halloween outside our new home

Halloween outside our new home

We knew what we had to do. Sell the farm. Prioritize our family. Get rid of the guilt. About 15 months after our first discussion about giving up the lifestyle, I sit here in our new home with a tiny yard and neighborhood pool, having just visited the horses 2 miles away, and sigh. Relief.

Our son won’t grow up on the farm and learn “work ethic” like everyone claimed he would. But he will learn the value of family and he can learn work ethic like my husband and I did – in a regular suburban home. We miss it. We don’t regret it. Learning that missing something and regretting something are two very different emotions was an important step in this journey.

Grandmother Betty Blog Post

By: Leah Prescott

Grandmother Betty

My paternal grandmother, Betty Clayton, was a strong, independent, loving woman who constantly looked for ways to help other people. Widowed in her twenties, she raised her two sons alone and provided fully for their every need. She delighted in hospitality and was passionate about her family. She had a wonderful sense of humor, an amazingly sharp memory, and a perfectly honed rotation of well-loved recipes and traditions to share. She was honest to a fault, outspoken at times and always confident. When I was a teenager, I sometimes found it difficult to get along with her, but now I realize that was because we were very much alike in many ways.

It was impossible to ignore my Grandmother Betty, partially because her frank conversations were always studded with colorful and sometimes perplexing phrases and metaphors. Some were self-explanatory, like “mad as a wet hen” or “just as easy as falling off a log.” Others were more obscure and harder to define, such as “Katy bar the door” which clues everyone in that something bad is going to happen. If you were on the brink of doing something stupid, she would threaten, “Your name will be mud.” When circumstances were looking down, it was “too wet to plow.”

Grandmother Betty

Unexpected company was greeted with the ambiguous, “Well, look what the cat dragged in,” or, only slightly more complimentary, “I haven’t seen you in coon’s age.” When her grandchildren expressed dissatisfaction, she would respond that “if wishes were horses we’d all take a ride.” If she thought what you wished for was ridiculous, though, she’d say “You need that like you need a hole in your head!”

When someone was displayed particular stubbornness, she would declare, “You don’t believe cow horns will hook!”  She would express her own confidence by betting “five dollars to four donuts.” However, if things didn’t turn out like she expected she would be a “sick chicken.” Grandmother often told stories of her childhood when “pennies were scarcer than hens’ teeth.” If an individual were a particular tightwad, she would say he was so cheap he’d “chew paper instead of gum” or say he was “tighter than Dick’s hatband.” A lazy person wouldn’t “take a job tasting pies at a pie factory.” You could fit all she knew “about technology in a hollo’ tooth,” and if the said electronic device failed to operate at all, it was “as dead as Hector.” She scorned the latest “pure stupid” trends by laughing that she “wouldn’t give 5 cents for all of ‘em wrapped up in red paper.”

I miss my Grandmother so much. She left me with many of her recipes, a little bit of her sass, and only a few of her colloquialisms recorded. Maybe one day I can write a book  about all the wonderful memories she gifted our family. I guess I better start working on that book right now. After all, “maybes don’t grow on trees.”