Back to School

By: Lara Clark

I spent a lot of time this summer at my desk, at work, in front of a computer. Our summer trip was in early June and my feet will not hit the sand any time soon. I enjoyed ALL of your trapper keepervacation pictures streaming through my Facebook feed, really I did. But I had to find my joy in other things as we ease back in to the school year.

I have found a few things that are putting pep in my step and maybe they will yours too.

1. The show Unreal. I may be late to this party, but there is a chance if your television watching time falls after the kids go down and before your eyelids go down then you may be late to this party too. UnReal is a fictional show about the making of a reality show. It feels like a behind the scenes look at the making of The Bachelor. And since I believe reality is stranger than fiction, I gotta think this show might be giving us an inside look into what makes those hot tub, smoochie girls cry buckets of tears when they do not get a rose. There is one season of this on Hulu and the second season is currently on Lifetime. If you have a Roku there is a free Lifetime app so you can catch up on any episodes you miss or fall asleep during.

2. Okay, so this one might be a stretch. These are things that are making my back to school days a bit brighter. This one is a little more literal. Last summer we renovated our kitchen and chose a porcelain white sink. Now, like everything white in my life, it does not have the same sparkle and shine it once had. A wise friend suggested I buy some Soft Scrub….in all my maidless days I have never used this thing called Soft Scrub. Well, let me know tell you- our sink is as white as the teeth of the model in a whitening strip commercial. I would say pearly white. Though this may not be a photograph of my feet propped up and a glass of wine on a porch overlooking the ocean, I might still put it on Instagram. #nofilter #lilywhite #cleansinkhappyheart

3. Saving money is not the easiest thing for me to do. Mostly because it seems like you have to have extra money to save and I am not in the business of extra money but a few months ago I signed up for Digit. Basically, you give Digit your banking information. (It is legit I did my research.) They study your account and develop an algorithm (don’t ask me?) and determine how much of your money they can shift into a savings account without you even really noticing. Sometimes it is 54 cents and sometimes it is 38 dollars all the while you don’t really miss it and the best part is when you want to withdraw your money for a little vacation you text them withdraw and ta-da it is in your account. My plan is to keep using Digit so I can afford more vacations next year and spend more time posting pics than drooling over yours.

So that’s it for me, looks like most of my back-to-school favorites are just my favorites, because let’s be honest, back-to-school hasn’t looked the same since there was a new outfit, a shiny Trapper Keeper and someone else paid the bills!

Do We Need a Serving of Humble Pie?

 

By: Lara Winburn

pride

In recent weeks, I have noticed a lot about ego. The good news about writing this is folks with a mega-ego (in politics or otherwise) never know they have one because the mega ego has blinders. First of all, a little ego goes a long way. In my opinion, most everyone with a healthy dose of self-worth also has a healthy dose of ego, self-confidence, whatever you want to call it. I am even attracted to folks that let their ego flag fly – often they are not afraid to try new trends, laugh too loud, and be the center of attention. (If you have ever heard me laugh you know this rings true)

But here is the truth. Humility is the stuff true rock stars are made of. Give me an anonymous donor or a secret Ivy League graduate any day. There is a balance. As I raise both a son and a daughter, I want them to be brave and confident, self-aware and proud of their little individual spirits. But more than that I want them to be kind and thoughtful, patient and loving, and humble.

I do not know whether a yearly helping of humble pie can be mandatory. But I am always striking a balance between building self-confidence without creating a cocky monster. I mean y’all- I have a friend that we have literally joked for years that her momma spent too much time building her up. Her momma must have gone to some “Self-Esteem 101” class but slept through “Nobody likes a Bragger 102.” It is a delicate balance indeed. The best I know is to continue to praise my children for all of their many talents and gifts while also pointing out that this world is full of people walking around with crazy cool talents and gifts. I do not think it is healthy to compare ourselves to each other but it is healthy to look around sometimes and say “Wow – that person is an amazing writer” or “Darn – that girl is so organized, she makes it look easy” or even better to recognize that humble servant that is rarely recognized and seems to be at peace with it all.

This world seems to be screaming: post that awesome thing you did on Facebook, take a picture of that dinner you just slayed, or add another skill to you LinkedIn profile. I think I will try to give as many high fives as I do pats on the back. And as for that humble pie, I promise to choke it down when the time comes to tell myself that I’m only awesome 85% of the time.

Inventors Wanted

By: Lara Winburn

hulahoopAs summer is upon us there are many things I celebrate. Time outside, time in the pool, time at the beach. I love lightening bugs and snow cones and lazy summer days but there are brief hiccups in these idyllic summer days when I wish I had some summer survival inventions. When we are not Instagramming our perfect S’mores or finding the most perfect seashell on the seashore, there is the occasional short fuse and too much togetherness. For those times, dear friends, please make me one of these.

First of all, I would like a personal space hula hoop – you know, like a parent perimeter or a baby barrier. I love hugs and kisses and snuggles but sometimes I need a little space, particularly in the summer when it is hot, sticky and humidity reaches 198 million percent. I could slip on my breezy hula hoop that would prevent anyone, particularly of the toddler variety, from making contact with me. Maybe a little something pleasing to look at like a hula skirt just with a larger more rigid rim – let’s say a hoop skirt meets impenetrable force field of personal space or a mote around this fortress called motherhood.

The other thing I would like as we hit some summer boredom or one rainy day too many is a recording of my own voice. My voice repeating the phrases that it seems I say over and over again. Maybe if it was a little like the Easy button from Staples except when you push it says things like, “Keep your hands to yourself.” OR “Put on your shoes.” OR “Wash your sticky hands.” You know sometimes it is physically exhausting to utter even another word especially when it is the same word you have said 9 million times. See a squabble between siblings – just hit the “hands-to-yourself”button. Finally ready to leave the house and realize someone is still bare footed? Just slam on the “shoes-now” button! Push it 100 times without ever raising your voice. There is a chance you could look at a magazine and regulate behavior at the same time….maybe.

The other thing I would like to own, while maybe not a new invention, is just not in my possession. I would like the darkest, thickest blackout curtains known to man. You know, nothing makes bedtime easy and breezy like daylight savings time. I need these curtains to provide the pitch-black trickery necessary to put small children to bed before everyone runs out of patience. (And before the go-to-bed-now button doesn’t work anymore.)

So happy summer to all of you out there! I hope your days are filled with smiling freckled faces, ice cream sundaes and daring dashes through the sprinklers, but when things get real – I’ll let you know when these prototypes are ready!

Vanity Thief

By: Lara Winburn

Motherhood has stolen my vanity. (Vanity is only one thing stolen from me – sleep, abs, and my own beating heart are a few others.) But vanity is the one that occurs to me when mirrorI realize the only reflection I have seen all day is on the side of an SUV.

A friend hopped in my car last weekend, glanced down at my makeup bag on the console, and said, “So you put your makeup on in the car, too?” Every single morning. I’ve even considered having multiple makeup bags in cars, offices at work, the church nursery. Just in case I am having a hard time finding a few minutes to actually look in a mirror and apply a little blush. I started applying makeup in the car when the kids were babies because they would be safe in their car seats as I took my eyes off of them for 5 minutes. Now it just shaves time off an already hectic morning.

I cannot remember the last time I was fully dressed, mascaraed and standing at attention in front of a full-length mirror. I mean, to be honest, I have never been very impressive with an iron but I normally had time for a lint brush and mirror pause before racing out the door. I feel certain now that the reason I never look in a mirror is because I would not have time to correct the litany of things wrong – wrinkles, lint, bulges and pulls. You know, ignorance is bliss.

A friend of mine that is a stay-at-home mom was recently talking about her morning routine and like a strike of lightening she stopped and said “Oh my gosh – you have to put on real clothes before you leave the house every morning.” This is not a mommy war, stay-at-home mom vs. working mom statement, this is just the truth. I cannot wear yoga pants and a pony tail to my office. Just a fact. But I would venture a guess, that no matter where your morning takes you, most moms have lost the energy for a certain level of vanity along the way. Maybe that’s just fine. We are raising small humans and all – so lipstick on my teeth seems a little trivial. (But if you see me with lipstick on my teeth, will you please tell me?? It’s some kind of girl rule.)

Sometimes beneath my tall brown boots my socks don’t match because I am tired, they are clean and you didn’t know until just now. I have already admitted to wearing mismatched shoes. I realized the other day as my big, wild, curly hair whipped around, that I didn’t really know what my hair looked like to other people. I felt around and it “seemed” to have a part but I forgot for just a moment that I was not invisible and the people I work with are not blind. Who knows if I look like a lion or a Pantene model? I think I’ll just hope for the later.

I have never been particularly good at eyeliner or the latest Sephora find so this fall from grace was a short trip, but I hope as the kids get older I will reclaim a little of the style I once had. In this season of life, it is hard enough to make sure that my family is clean, fed, and clothed some mornings as we fly out the door.

Just maybe I am a visual lesson for those sweet babies that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. I can almost always promise I am clean, but after that all bets are off. I would like to believe that there are moms everywhere with makeup bags in their car and mismatched socks under their boots with the beaming beauty of love.

Candlelight, a Foot Massage or a Complete Sentence

By: Lara Winburn

candelight

Sometimes when I write these blog posts I feel like I might have something to share, an observation or a tiny nugget of wisdom. Sometimes when I write them I might have an amusing anecdote or I am seeking a little advice or help with a problem. And sometimes I write something and feel like it can only end with, “Can I get an AMEN?” You know, preaching to the choir, commiserating with my people? This is that kind of blog post.

As most of you know, I have small children. I think they are relatively well-behaved for 2- and 4-year-olds. They are learning manners, saying please, thank you and even yes ma’am. But for the love, my husband and I have not finished a sentence – much less a conversation – in the presence of these two little chatter boxes since 2011.

Verbal skills are a wonderful thing. I love the conversations I can already have with these darling babies. But seriously, the stop and start of any form of communication between me and my main squeeze is truly painful! Finish a sentence? No way, no how. We are working on not interrupting. It is not going unaddressed, but I swear even if they are not intentionally interrupting, the constant peppering of “sit on our bottom, that chair will tip over” to potty breaks to legitimate requests for juice, a napkin, the Heimlich maneuver. We may never finish a sentence again, or at least not for the foreseeable future.

I see articles about “making time for each other as a married couple”, “really connecting with your spouse”, “candlelight and foot massages”. All I want is to string seven words together in a coherent manner. My husband and I do to try to spring for the occasional date night, but what about a regular Tuesday? Luckily, we have been together so long we can normally finish each other’s sentences. Mostly we finish each other’s sentences now because we have moved on to bath time or untied shoes before the sentence was actually complete. Or sometimes I think we just finish each other’s sentences in the way we deem most appropriate.

Husband:” I would really love”….(interruption)

My finishing it in my head: …”to buy you a new pair of shoes.”

OR

Me: “You know what you should really do”….(interruption)

His finishing in his head: …”Go fishing more.”

I know this is just our phase of life. I love being a parent and try to remember my many blessings. But I have a lot to say to that nice man I live with and sometimes I would like to get an entire thought out.

Can I get an AMEN?

Not “The Talk” But a Conversation

By: Lara Winburn

The talkOctober is “Let’s Talk Month” and when I say talk I mean, yes, that talk, the awkward-for-most-everyone-participating talk. But the truth is, it isn’t just a talk – it is a conversation. Now, I do not remember much of “the talk” when I was growing up. Maybe I have blocked it out of my head or learned everything from Salt-N-Pepa, who knows? One friend said her mom never had “the talk” with her. She just handed over a book for her to read and then suggested she pass it down to her younger sister one day. “The talk” has had parents and kids blushing for years, but I am willing to blush for good reason.

I work for the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and because of that there are a lot of office conversations that are not your typical water cooler talk. (On my first day here, I heard the word “sex” enough times to make even the most comfortable person cringe in a staff meeting.) But that’s our business. We are in the business of preventing teen pregnancy and we have to talk about real issues – and yes, that includes love, sex, and relationships. Our mission is to improve the health and economic wellbeing of individuals, communities and the state of South Carolina by preventing teen pregnancy. We work with youth serving organizations, teachers, counselors and parents to implement appropriate teen pregnancy programs. These programs educate young people about waiting to have sex (the only 100% reliable birth control) and empowers teens to think about love, relationships and IF they are going to have sex – are they protecting their bodies, their hearts, and their futures?

I have little kids, so NO, I am not having “the talk” with them about sex, but I have started the conversation. Part of the conversation that starts even with my sweet toddler is knowing about good, healthy relationships. I want them to understand all kinds of love: between mommy and daddy, between friends, and my endless love for them. I want them to know about bodies all sizes, shapes and colors, and appreciate how wonderful and beautiful and strong and important our bodies are. Unfortunately, we live in a world where I need my children to know the difference between a “right” touch and a “wrong” touch. Do I fumble through this? Absolutely. Do I hope they never need this information? Hope is not a strong enough word but I do it all the same! This is all part of that early conversation.

If you start this now, October 2015 –  Let’s Talk Month, then even if you are talking to a toddler like me, the conversation has begun. In 2 years, 5 years and even in 10 years I know this conversation will change drastically but they already know that I am here. I am here to talk.

You can stop blushing now, too.

If you need some age appropriate talking tips, visit http://www.notrightnowsc.org/parent-teen/age-appropriate-guidelines.

Home

By: Lara Winburn

Columbia was not supposed to be my home. I grew up in the Upstate, went to Clemson, married a fellow Tiger and don’t even look particularly good in garnet. But here I am 11 years later.

Our bridge

Our bridge

Over the weekend, the rains came down and the floods came up. The bridge closest to our house simply disappeared. Trees around us fell to the ground, the soil so wet that they just tipped over, roots and all. Friends who I hold dear and have collected here in this town suffered devastating loss. They swam away from their homes even though they were never really waterfront before. Friends I don’t know well (more the wave-to-at-Publix variety) have left their homes barely saved by boats. The stories of devastation are too much to bear sometimes, but there is another story too.

The aftermath

The aftermath

In the days since, all I have seen has been warm and loving neighborly assistance. We are new to our neighborhood (hence my absence from the blog), but Sunday night as we all feared evacuation and the creak of falling trees, we gathered in one kitchen. I watched as a full meal for a dozen neighbors suddenly, out of thin air, appeared. Straight loaves and fishes. Once it seemed the threat had passed for us, I gathered in my cow’s neighborhood, one of the worst hit in floodmaggeden.

There, I have witnessed men ripping their neighbors’ houses apart with their bare hands. My husband and his friends have emptied houses, all worldly possessions covered in something that can only be described as insulation/drywall mud (because the ceilings gave way and the insulation ended up on the floor). We have done loads of laundry in an effort to preserve everything from winter coats to smocked dresses that still had a chance against that sludge. We have spent hours delivering lunch, dinner, cold drinks, and the occasional beer to groups of helpers- their sole purpose to serve the need…whatever that need may be. Donations poured in. We mentioned we were making sandwiches or hot dogs or lasagna to serve to those whose stove was now sitting on the side of the road, and the deliveries rolled in. “I can bring salad, I can bring bread, I can watch all 11 kids,” were the words that rung out. As we walked these streets, armed with nothing more to offer than a cold drink or a sandwich, we were called “a blessing.” We encountered gracious families who had lost everything and were watching years’ worth of photographs dry on their lawn. With a smile and a thank you, those same people would point to other homes and ask, “Would you make sure they got some?” just as concerned for their neighbors as themselves.

The aftermath

A lasagna run

I tell you all of this to say, we were not alone. This was the norm. This is what the masses were doing to serve their neighbors and town – the people of Columbia and the people of South Carolina together.

I know this is not an unusual tale. We have all seen it on Facebook and even the nightly news. But this is not a story that gets old. Community should be celebrated again and again.

And with all of this, I know these are my people, my neighbors. This is my tribe. This is my town. And this is my home.