The Kindness of Strangers

By Shannon Boatwright

At this point in my life many things have occurred that remind me of the great importance of never passing judgement. The saying, never judge a book by its cover, is one of the truest statements ever. I think the more a person matures, the more accepting they can be of others and the less ignorance gets in the way of reason. It’s a beautiful thing to be in a place in which you’re not so quick to judge and instead open to genuine kindness, care and generosity.

I’ve had the blessing of being able to stay with my parents while my husband and I save up and search for a house that will best suit our family’s needs. Though it is indeed a blessing, it does come with some hardships. One hardship being that whenever it rains, because their home is on the lake and the sewer system needs updating, we have to do laundry elsewhere, otherwise the toilets won’t flush. The quickest, most efficient thing to do is to take our laundry to the laundromat.

My first time taking about 4 loads of laundry to the laundromat was quite the adventure. It was pouring rain outside and I had no idea how the whole process worked, much less how much it would cost. As I struggled to get my loads of stuff into the door, there was a kind man there who held the door open for me each time I floundered in. As I struggled to figure out how to work the old change machine, in which all the directions had worn off because it was so old, there were two incredibly friendly ladies there who guided me through the process and even gave me change. Fortunately I’m not afraid to ask questions and there was always someone willing to help guide me through how to operate the machines.

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Once I finally got settled and the laundry started, I looked around at all the different people in the laundromat and thought about what brought each individual there. Everyone has different circumstances, but we all had the same need – clean laundry! I had been afraid that I wouldn’t have enough change for the dryers. A lady nearby was finishing up folding her laundry and apparently had overheard me talking on the phone about my possible lack of quarters. She came up to me and placed a roll of quarters in my hand, saying, “I heard you mention you might not have enough money to dry your clothes, please take this. I don’t want you to have to go home with wet laundry.” By the time she’d come up to me, I had indeed figured out that I had enough money to dry everything. I thanked her profusely and insisted she keep her money. I left that laundromat with a full heart and a genuine, renewed sense of admiration for the kindness of strangers.

Now I look forward to the people I will meet whenever I have to go to the laundromat and I look forward to the opportunity to give back, pay it forward and be a light of nonjudgmental kindness to others. There is a great life lesson in being a light in other’s lives – a simple smile and a helping hand can go a long way in making someone’s day, not to mention your own. 🙂

The Screen Door

By Shannon Boatwright 

The South. The South in the Summer.

Heavens to Betsy, the SOUTH IN THE SUMMER…!

Imagine those words literally melting off the screen here. Imagine a summer drenched in such raw heat and humidity that when you step foot outside, you literally feel like some dark witch has enveloped you in some evil spell meant to drain every ounce of water from your body, thus melting you to the core.

Welcome to the South in the summertime!

My Uncle Wayne always said, “South Carolina is the screen door to hell!”

If you’re from SC or have spent any decent amount of time in SC during the hottest days of the summer months, then you would totally relate to this statement and laugh as you shake your head in agreement.

I should be used to this heat. I grew up here in SC. I have survived many a summer here at the devil’s front door. But, I tell ya, every year I am astounded at the intense heat. Every year I find myself saying, this heat is just flat out ridiculous! How much longer until Fall?

It’s funny how us South Carolinians seem to easily forget how intensely hot the summers can get. We make it through the coldest months of winter, which mind you, are nothing compared with the cold that the northern states endure, and all we can think about is summertime. Days on the lake, days on the beach, or by the pool, the lovely warmth that envelopes your body like a picturesque postcard from the South of France. It’s something we crave during the cruelty of winter. Yet, if you live in the deep South, it’s something that once it’s here… you say to yourself, what the heck was I thinking?!

lakeI have the glorious privilege of living on Lake Murray in SC. Unless you live on one of the many beautiful beaches of SC, I have to say that days on the lake in SC are always better than days anywhere else in the deep South without water nearby. If you’re close to the lake and blessed to have the benefit of the magical weather that happens when you’re that close to a large body of water, then you know that there is this lovely misconception that it’s always cooler on the lake. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say misconception, but it seems that just when you think it should be cooler on the lake, you’re still really right there at that screen door, like a dog panting, drooling, very impatiently waiting for the next cool breeze that might soothe your misery for one second.

The Southern heat does not discriminate. A majority of the summertime, it’s just flat out HOT, and our kind of humid heat can zap you good, stealing all of your energy, draining you to a worn out crisp. I can’t help but think of all those who have jobs that require them to work outside. I hate it for them. These are people are incredible human beings that obviously have to condition their bodies to survive this type of heat. My poor husband endures this heat daily with his job. As a UPS driver he has conditioned himself to survive working right at the screen door. And yes, those trucks have NO air conditioning. Daily he has to carry a cooler full of waters and use a hand towel to wipe all the sweat not caught by the layers of his uniform. He comes home from a 10 to 14 hour day and is literally soaked through with sweat.

Think of the soldiers that come to SC to train in this heat every day at Fort Jackson, and in full uniform at the weekly graduations from boot camp, in which thousands of family members come to town to experience the southern hot spot that is Columbia, SC. Not only do these soldiers accomplish conquering basic training, they also accomplish literally surviving training at the screen door to hell!

Bravo to all those that are able to successfully survive the South in the summertime!

heat mapThe word “oppressive” has been used so many times by our local weather men and women, that my family and I stopped counting. The words “oppressive heat” are used VERY often around these parts. And of course, SC is not the hottest place in the U.S., but as you can see by this map, we’re still in an area with a very high percentage of oppressive heat.

So as you live out the rest of our summer days, while you’re standing at the screen door, by all means do it with an ice cold drink in one hand, a fan in the other and a really good air conditioner ready to rescue you.

Role Models…

By Shannon Boatwright

We’ve recently celebrated Mother’s Day and I’ve just started a grad class.

These two things got me thinking…

For Mother’s Day, I had the privilege of enjoying a whirlwind of a weekend full of special time with family. I consider my greatest accomplishment ever, that of being a mother. My two incredible children never cease to amaze me and the fact that I carried them, survived giving birth to them and get the honor of helping raise them, well, it seriously blows my mind.shannon

The day after Mother’s Day I began a grad class on the nature and needs of gifted students. One of my first assignments was to take a quiz about Distinguishing Myths from Realities concerning the nature and needs of gifted students. It was definitely an eye opening little quiz.

So between celebrating Mother’s Day and then reading this grad class material, it got me really thinking about the role models in my life. Within the quiz, one of the statements that I had to choose whether I thought it was a myth or reality, stated, “Primetime, commercial television offers inadequate and inappropriate role models for gifted children.” In the response for why this is a reality, it is stated, “Reality: Only 9% of all the new programming during the past decade has had one or more children in the starring or title role, despite that over 17% of the nation’s population is under 13 years of age. Gifted children are also highly underrepresented and typically depicted as social misfits (Ableman, 1992).”

Interesting indeed and definitely thought provoking. Today’s primetime television is definitely VERY different from the days when I grew up watching television. I feel like there were WAY more positive role models on television back when I was growing up.

But instead of battling my way through a discussion on this topic of the current lack of role models on television, I’d like to focus on what this topic stirred in me. This issue, along with Mother’s Day, made me think about all the amazing female role models I have in my life. When I stop and really think about it, I recognize how truly blessed I am to have so many strong, super and spectacular female role models in my life. Ranging from the incredible women in my family, to close friends, to colleagues, to mentors, even iconic leaders, actors and other famous female warriors who inspire me.download

In an age when equality is still a prevalent issue, having positive female role models should be a very important part of your life. We need positive examples that lead the way and inspire us ladies. As a mother, I know I make it a goal that my children see me being a good person, doing extraordinary things, contributing to society, bettering myself and making a positive difference in others’ lives. Like the pride I have in my own mother for being such a strong force of a woman, having a beautiful teacher’s heart and for sharing her awesome talents with others, I want my own children to be proud of my accomplishments and what I do with my own talents and strengths. My prayer is that they’ll be inspired and admire. I could write a book about all the outstanding, female role models in my life and I am ever grateful to be blessed with so many super women to have been influenced and inspired by throughout my lifetime.we can do it

Take a moment to think of all the positive female role models in your life. What have you learned from them? How have they inspired you? Then ask yourself, how am I a role model to others? As intelligent, incredible and strong women, we owe it to ourselves and to those we love, to be a shining light for others.

Personal Professional Development

By Shannon Boatwright

I’m not big on shopping for clothes, shoes or make-up. Do I like fashionable clothes and shoes? Of course. Do I like good make-up? Sure. Do I spend tons of money on them? Nope. I love a good deal – at Goodwill even. I get myself a good Kohl’s coupon, and I am on it!

My favorite mascara is a Wet n Wild brand and costs $3 at Family Dollar. I use it because I discovered it actually does not smudge, unlike every other mascara I’ve ever tried. The point is, great stuff doesn’t have to be costly.

With all that being said, I do have a confession…

I LOVE to grocery shop. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is my downfall. Heaven forbid I aisle-business-cart-1005638.jpggo grocery shopping while hungry. I still of course use coupons and search for the best deals, but there’s just something about shopping for food. I know all the best places in my area to get certain foods. It’s a daggome shame I have to work full-time, cause I’m telling ya, I’d be a grocery shopping, cooking planning master. I’d be whipping up incredible meals daily and become the ultimate chef for my family because I love to cook a fabulous meal. But alas, for now I dash in and dash out of the grocery stores that have the best deals and try to make the best of my time while I’m there. You gotta do what you gotta do when you’re a super busy, nonstop lady.

 

That brings me to the whole getting the nails done thing.  For me, if I ever get my nails done, it is a luxury. Sure, I’ve gone through phases in my lifetime thus far in which there were a few times I got my nails done regularly. That occurred mostly when I was young and single. I’ve been more of a once in a blue moon kind of gal since having children. Let’s face it, getting your nails done costs A LOT. It’s not a cheap luxury.  Literally until this past week, I had not gotten my nails done at a salon in over a year. And guess what, now I’ll be good for another year! 😉 It’s honestly hard for me to justify paying money to have someone else do my nails, when I know I can do it myself (although not as well of course and certainly not as relaxing). Especially when I could be spending that money on grocery shopping. 😉

beautiful-cleaning-fashion-332046.jpgToday though, I had a gift certificate to get my nails done at a local, really nice nail salon. It was a lovely birthday gift. It was awesome. I feel like a new woman. It’s like when you get your hair done – as a woman, you just feel refreshed and fabulous. I can totally see why there are women who get their nails done regularly, whether they should be spending the money on it or not. It’s what I like to call female personal professional development.

We’ve all read inspirational quotes and such about the importance of taking care of ourselves. Along with taking time for ourselves as busy women, it’s crucial for us to individually do what it takes to help us feel fabulous! Professional development, babes. That’s it.

Will I start getting my nails done regularly? Absolutely not. But that’s me. I can’t justify spending that money on a regular basis, and honestly, I flat out don’t have the time to do it, so I’ll continue to do it on a once in a blue moon basis.

When my schedule, finances and reasoning allow, I’ll definitely engage in some personal professional development and get my nails done.  I’ve always been about developing myself professionally, but guess what, I’m discovering more and more how important it is to make sure to develop myself personally too. It’s an individual thing for us ladies, and as far as I’m concerned, you do whatever it reasonably takes to develop yourself personally! It’s ultra-important. By all means, don’t forget to tend to yourself in all the busyness of your responsibilities.

Make You a Priority

Confidence Builder

By Shannon Boatwright

One of my very favorite things in life is witnessing another individual gain confidence.

Inspiring others has always been part of my drive as a performer, producer, director, as a human in general, and certainly as a teacher. Right up there with inspiring others is seeing someone’s confidence grow and shine before your very eyes as a result of your own influence. Being a teacher definitely gives me an open sea of opportunity to attempt to build confidence in the young adolescents I have the honor of teaching.

lights-951000_1920The past two weeks I’ve been holding auditions for my honors drama program. I see tons of kids come in busting at the seams with nervous energy. Sometimes their nervous energy is crippling, creating a bumbling mess that physically renders them unable to speak straight, stand straight, or even think straight.  I make it my mission, whether there’s outstanding talent present or not, to create an environment that makes them feel comfortable. I truly make major efforts to let them know I’m on their side. I want them to shine and enjoy the moment, just like they do when they’re privately practicing the art they’re intrigued with.

We all are superstars in the comfort of our own homes, cars, or showers. We work it and envision ourselves just like the celebrities we idolize on the big screen. When we’re in our own space wrapped up in our intrigue and passion, we let it go, shine, and rock it out with everything we’ve got, so why is it when most of us get in front of others, or in particular situations, we suddenly become unable to produce anything even close to worthy of sharing our passion, much less our talent? We all have the potential. Again, whether true skill is present or not, we have the potential to let loose and share our love for whatever art form fills us up. However, it’s difficult for a hardcore, nervous person to truly have fun in the moment that they’re auditioning for anything.  It’s real life. It’s nerves. It’s utter fear in some cases.

Confidence - Own it

Whenever I’m able to actually provide comfort and encouragement for someone to shine, whether on a small or large level, it’s truly a priceless and beautiful thing to witness if that person’s confidence comes forth. To see an individual reach a level in which they feel OK, capable, successful, and self-assured, is a lovely thing to witness – sometimes so much so that it’s a real heart filling moment that brings honest joy.

I had a young man come in to audition and he obviously had a spark about him. He had pizazz. It was in him, and I could see that he knew he could do it, but he had not had the time to memorize his monologue and the memorization part was totally holding him back. I could even tell he was trying to improvise his way through the monologue but just got hung up on flat out not remembering the words. He began saying, “I can’t do it, I just can’t do it…” I couldn’t tell if it was part of the monologue or him actually giving up. I had to ask, “What’s happening here?” With tears in his eyes, he proceeded to declare, “I just can’t do drama; I couldn’t memorize it!” I then asked him how long he’d had the monologue, in which he replied he’d just gotten it that day. Which means he’d memorized half of the long monologue in a very short amount of time and even seemed to capture the character as well. I applauded him on doing as well as he did in such a short amount of time and let him know I could tell that he was talented, totally capable of doing this monologue, and that I was going to need to see him do his thing! I let him hold the script in his hands, gave him direction and had him re-audition. The kid proceeded to nail it. He connected with the camera, he showed character and in turn felt great about it. Due to my encouragement, he was able to share his love for acting and give a really great audition. I was able to watch a child’s confidence literally soar right before my very eyes. Priceless.

Spread Confidence

It just goes to show that if you respond to others positively and provide a little encouragement, you can really help another individual shine. The really beautiful thing is that as I dedicate time towards building confidence in others, my own confidence grows. Being a confidence builder is a priceless thing. How do you help build confidence in others? What elements help to build your own confidence?

30 Years Ago…

By Shannon Boatwright

“In one year, 1990 will be 30 years ago.”

Let that thought settle…

If you’re my age, a child of the 70s (or older), really thinking about this fact will make you speechless. I still think of my Mama as being in her 30s, and I’m still in my 20s, and my sisters are still preteens. When I think 30 years ago, I think of it being the late 60s, maybe 1970.

I mean, come on! How does life go by so fast?!

In 1990, I was a freshman in high school. I teach middle school now, and these adolescents I teach think that the 90s were the ancient days way before they were ever born. Mention the 70s to those kids and they look at you like you’re crazy – to them the 1970s are prehistoric.

When I saw this quote:

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it certainly hit me hard, and it hit me during a time when aging had started to really hit me and my comrades of the 70s. My bestie and I had been texting commiserating about how suddenly hormones and age are creating weight gain and a whole host of problems for us, and it’s more frustrating than words could ever express. In the real world for hard working, incredibly busy people, it’s a huge endeavor to be healthy and fit. Huge.

At times, it’s mind blowing, totally disturbing, and flat out ridiculous the things that happen to your body as you get older: things that you never had to worry about when you were younger. You have kids, yet you still feel like a kid in your own mind, but your body is taking you on a roller coaster ride of ailments. It’s just NOT FAIR. And yes, I say that as I stomp my feet like a toddler.

My parents and I were having a discussion with my kids the other night about the first time we ever used the internet. I was a junior in college the first time I ever sent an email! Can you believe I survived the main bulk of my education career without the internet?! I mean, to today’s generation, that is unfathomable. All the information they could ever desire to gain is right at their fingertips. I went to the library.

UGH….ARGH… and…

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Ok, let me be perfectly clear, there are parts of getting older that I truly love:

The wisdom that comes with experience, the positive realizations that come with knowing better, the joy of personal growth, accepting yourself, the recognition of who you are and who you want to be, the beauty of becoming, time allowing you to find yourself and what truly makes you happy, and an appreciation for the people and things around you.

BUT, on the flip side, let me be perfectly clear:

Physically getting older SUCKS.  It’s scary. It’s ridiculous. It’s brutal.

No one ever thinks of themselves as being “old.” In our hearts and minds, we’re still youngins living it up and learning about the world.

Take a deep breath with me.

We can do this. Let’s choose to stay on top of life and not let it or its heavy all too quick turning of time weigh us down. We’ll relish the memories. We’ll laugh at the current youngins in their childlike glory & cluelessness.  We’ll embrace this life that we’re blessed to be living. And let’s choose to do it all with a declaration of acceptance, love, and joie de vivre – never letting go of our own childlike wonder. Instead of letting the idea of “30 years ago” scare the hell out of us, let’s smile at the craziness of life and let the memories fill our hearts.

Through the utter brutality of aging as the younger generations flaunt their innocence, idiocy, and tender youth, let’s stand tall, fight back, and make the most of this journey. As I like to say, let’s carpe diem ya’ll. We must seize the day and make our lives extraordinary, no matter how daggome old we get!

 

Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

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Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

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This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

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Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!