I’m A Mutt

By: Stacy Thompson

People like to say that a person takes on the physical or emotional embodiment of his/her dog—if that were true, at one time or another I would have been described as a stout, menacing, but sweetheart of a Rottweiler (OK, so not far off); a placid, neurotic, scared-of-everything Lab-mix (way far off); and a Cheeto-lovin’ doe-eyed, gotta-follow-you-everywhere-you-go gangly Rottie-Lab mix (yeah, well, I’m OK if you want to go into a room unattended, but I do love some Cheetos). I’ve been the happy Mom to both pure-bred pups and mixes; and although we share the same penchant for unconditional love, I can say with assurance that it ends there—but with both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in my rear view mirror, I am proud to say that I am a mutt in the best sense of the word.

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From Mom I have gained the desire to make a list and check things off, while going off-list and doing (climbing, jumping, running, hiking, venturing) beyond that which is expected. She taught me to plan ahead but to never be afraid of the unplanned, as that is where life is lived and loved. She taught me that even if you follow a guide you can pave your own path and attain more than what even you think is possible. This was a woman who upon receiving her Medicare card decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro—pretty big accomplishment, for sure, but only one adventure in her many roads and paths (stay tuned, she’s not done yet!). And most importantly, she showed me that everything is possible; and in case it’s not attained, she will always have my back!

From Dad, after my teen-year eye-rolls were done, I learned what compassion, patience and hard work can bring—not just financial security but a soulful peace and satisfaction of a job not just well-done but a job done well, for others. I learned from him that laughing at yourself can be the funniest and most stress-relieving act ever, while laughing with someone can bring the greatest joy. I inherited his corny sense of humor, terrible knees, gonna-burn-before-you-tan skin and his need/drive to help whoever and  wherever possible—not just to accomplish a task, but to create a vocation, a calling, that makes each day worth it.  And finally, I know for sure, to paraphrase his own words, “I may not know where I’m going, but I’m making good time.”

So this mutt wants to spend this post thanking the two most important people in my life—they make it fun and fabulous not only to work hard but to play hard, while enjoying each equally. Every day is a treat when they simply walk into a room, and, much like my pups, I get excited every time!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Father’s Day from your Mutt! Love you both!

Love is …

By: Jeanne Reynolds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through the Eyes of Love

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Mom is turning 85 in a couple weeks. My siblings and I, our spouses and assorted offspring are using the occasion to gather from three cities in two countries for a mini-reunion. It’ll be the first time we’ve gotten together that doesn’t involve a funeral in many years. So, long overdue, and likely to be a lot more fun.

Mom isn’t too Internet-savvy so I feel pretty sure I won’t blow a surprise by telling here about the birthday box. A couple months ago, I wrote and emailed a bunch of far-flung family members and friends, inviting them to send a card, letter, photo or email to celebrate her birthday. I’m putting these in a large decorative box I got at the Dollar Store (hey, it’s really pretty — don’t judge) that we’ll present to her during the trip.

I haven’t opened the sealed envelopes, but the notes that came through email I kind of had to read so I could print them out nicely. Which gets me, finally, to why I’m talking about this.

I’ve learned things I never knew about my mother. One of them is how many people think she’s a ton of fun and admire her brave spirit and sense of adventure. Well, OK, it’s her 85th birthday and nobody is going to send the written equivalent of a bouquet of dead roses, but still.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I appreciate about Mom. I bake great cookies because of her, and nobody outdoes me with curling ribbon and a pair of scissors. Weekly trips to the library as a child instilled my love of reading, which I think has everything to do with my love of writing. Classical music and Broadway show tunes are — thanks to her — part of my repertoire, too.

But reading about her solo trip halfway across the country to meet the family of her brand-new groom who had just shipped out to Guam, or the stories she made up with my cousin Rob about the unidentified couple in a mysterious family photo, helped me see a new side of her.

I guess this must be a little how parents of a wild child feel when they hear the teacher or his best friend’s parents rave about how well-behaved, polite and helpful he is. Huh? Are you sure we’re talking about the same person? I mean, this woman can drive me nuts, rendering me speechless with some of things she says, her alternate-universe “memories” and her rapid changes of plans.

Mom will probably still drive me batty sometimes (and no doubt I’ll return the favor). But this experience has encouraged me to look at her a little differently. Maybe I could try taking off the daughter glasses now and then, and seeing Mom through clearer eyes — eyes of love.

Happy birthday, Mom!

The Joy of Pets

By: Stacy Thompson

I’ve been a rescue mom for many years now, and I have brought into my family too many dogs, cats, hermit crabs, fish, gerbils, etc to count. Anyone who has ever had a pet may have multiple reasons for sharing their space with something other than a plant or a human, but know that there are many more reasons to get a pet, beyond the obvious:

  • Pre-wash—No need to rinse a plate when a slobbering tongue can take care of it!
  • Electric blanket—Mounds of fur much warmer and cuddlier than anything requiring a plug!
  • An ear…but no mouth—Pour your heart out with no judgment and no talking back!
  • Alarm clock — Best way to wake up in the morning!
  • Alarm system — To secure the perimeter and warn of impending doom (real or imagined!)
  • Foul weather warning—Retreat to the walk-in closet when the clouds appear!
  • A reminder to take naps—We all should take naps, multiple naps…
  • Validation that sometimes just walking back into a room is an event—Even if you just left two minutes ago.
  • Knowledge that there is pure joy in simply running around a yard…not to reach a destination, but because it’s there.
  • Reminder that even though that squirrel may never be caught, it can still be chased— or, although some goals may never be realized, they can still be chased.
  • Unconditional love

Spring Must Do List

By: Ashley Whisonant

With Spring officially here, I have been dreaming of flowers blooming, warmer temperatures, and outside fun with my boys and friends. In honor of my favorite season, I have created a short to-do list to help keep my priorities in check!

Spring Must Do List

  • Set up a mini Easter Egg Hunt in our backyard. Fill up eggs with little treats, stickers, and Lego people.
  • Clear out a small patch of grass for a *few* veggies to grow
  • Sit on the back porch, reading a book and watching my boys play
  • Walk the neighborhood after dinner three times a week
  • Clean out the playroom
  • Visit Saluda Shoals Park to bike or trail walk
  • Make a day trip to Charleston to walk The Battery and Rainbow Row
  • Have a picnic lunch at Virginia Hylton Park
  • Meet girlfriends for Happy Hour at a restaurant with an outside patio
  • Drive home with the windows down
  • Walk Lake Murray Dam during my lunch break
  • Attend an event at Icehouse Amphitheater

What am I missing?! Post your suggestions for spring below!

To Move or Not to Move

By: Azure Stilwell

The last few weeks I have been struggling with my depression. I am still doing the ECT treatments but my energy level has been zapped. Since my oldest left for college I have felt lost here in Columbia. I feel like I want to move back to Augusta. When I lived in Augusta before, I had a great psychologist. My parents also live there so I had family support that I don’t have here in Columbia. The problem is, my husband hasn’t gotten any good job leads and we cannot move without a job in place.

I wonder if my reasons for wanting to move back to Augusta are right for my family. We have a good life here but it just feels incomplete. I am very family oriented and not having anyone here is hard on me. It was easier when my oldest was in high school because we wouldn’t move him away from his friends, but now that he’s gone Columbia feels so lonely. My youngest is still in elementary school so we don’t have the same reasons holding us here that we did with my oldest. I feel like it would be good for all of us to get a new start but I don’t know if that’s selfish thinking. We have a lovely home, my son is in a good school system, and we all have friends here that we would miss. Is it fair to ask them to give these things up so I can be near my parents?

I am not in a good place right now so maybe a move would help me find myself again. Wouldn’t it be better to move and be me again than to stay and be a shell of a person? The struggle is real and I pray every night that God will give us the answer but so far that has not opened a job in Augusta. I just don’t know why I feel so strongly that we are meant to move if we really aren’t? I’m so desperate to feel whole again I would do just about anything at this point if I thought it would help.

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.

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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.