Taking Time to Be Grateful

By Shannon Boatwright

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As we enter Fall, life seems to be going nonstop.  I find myself exhausted all too often – actually, on a daily basis. The work I do as a teacher is rewarding, so most of the time, the exhaustion is worth it. But the days when the weight of work that has to be done is too much. Sometimes it feels like a constant race, and I can’t ever seem to get in the lead and stay there.

As I write this, I am actually in a precious moment of taking the time to slow down and be grateful. After a long, hard and busy week, when my mind, body, and soul are ready for a much-needed break and some actual real sleep, my duties as a mother kicked in. There was no Saturday sleeping-in because both my children had a 7AM cross country practice. So, after yet another restless night of attempted sleep when my brain won’t shut down and the worry of not waking up in time to get my kids where they need to go, 6AM came all too quickly. But I got up, got the kids out the door, and we made it on time. I was able to drop them off and come back home before having to be back out to pick them up at 9AM. As I drove home, the beautiful sky caught my attention. Seeing the sunrise made me take a moment to appreciate being up early and being a part of this quiet morning. As I parked in the driveway and caught a glimpse of the sky over the gorgeous lake, I knew I needed to enjoy this moment. I fixed my cup of coffee and parked my tired rear end on the back porch. Just sitting, listening to the birds and the sounds of the morning is truly lovely.  As I sat there, being a witness to the environment around me transitioning from night to the morning was priceless. And the most beautiful part of it all is that it made me think of all the things that I have to be grateful for. To be alive and well, to be loved. Life is not perfect and there are certainly a lot of things I wish I could change, but taking the time to just sit, to just be, to witness the world around me, to watch and hear nature in all its glory. Well, that is a blessing and very much worthy of being incredibly grateful for.

So, no matter how busy life gets, take the time to be a part of and a witness to, the world around you. Let nature amaze you – notice it, appreciate the simple, yet amazing beauty around you. It is so refreshing! I am ever grateful that I took this time to count my blessings and to be a part of the world around me.

While We Have Time, Let Us Do Good The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in Columbia, SC

by Shannon Boatwright

image 1I had the honor of being a part of this most incredible event on September 20th, 2019.  My aunt Susan Vaughan McPherson, who is the Director of Public Policy & Military Affairs at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, works with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and helped to organize this event. She invited my family and me to participate last year, but due to a hurricane, they, unfortunately, had to cancel the event. So, this year, we really looked forward to being a part of this special event. And when I say special, goodness do I ever mean it! To understand the impact of this event, you really must be there in person.

A little info on the meaningful purpose behind this event…

The info below is taken from the Tunnel to Towers website.

image 4“Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was the youngest of seven children born to Mae and George Siller. At the age of eight, Stephen lost his father, and a year and a half later his mother passed away, leaving him an orphan to be raised by his older siblings. For a while, Stephen went through a period of struggle, but thanks to the love of his siblings, and the values instilled in him by his parents, he grew up to be an extraordinary individual and dedicated firefighter. More than most, he knew that time was precious and accomplished much in his 34 years.

On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.

Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he lost his life while saving others.

Stephen had everything to live for: a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase, “while we have time, let us do good,” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.”

My daughter, Mina, who is on the cross-country team at her high school, ran the Tunnel to Towers for the first time this year. She ended up doing an amazing job, coming in 64th out of 1278 people total who ran and 11th out of all the women who ran, placing 2nd in her division. She had the priceless opportunity to run alongside our firemen and first responders. Words really cannot describe how inspiring and motivating it is to run for such a great cause and in memory of so many precious people.  To recognize and applaud the people who fight for our country and help to keep us safe, to run alongside and cheer on all the first responders, military and fellow supporters, well, to say it fills the heart is an understatement. Let’s just say, we plan to be a part of this truly special event every year and I encourage you all to do the same!

Stephen Livingston, Lexington Fire Department, Station 2, congratulating Mina, my daughter, on placing in her division.

 

Please do check out the website https://tunnel2towers.org/ and mark your calendars for next year’s run!

 

 

Football Fandom. To Be or Not to Be…

By Shannon Boatwright

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

 

There is no question for me. I end them. Yep, I could not care less about football. Heavens to Betsy, what is wrong with me!?!?!!!???!!!! I’m a Southern girl and deep down I could not care less about football????? Oh, the horrors!

Ok, so I’m getting a bit dramatic here by using a Shakespeare soliloquy from Hamlet to reference my disdain for football season. But bear with me, ‘cause I know I am not alone. I may not be surrounded by people who are in my camp of dislike, but I know they’re out there. I have internet, I’ve read blogs. There are other people out there who share in my suffering. Yes, I know Hamlet is contemplating life versus death in this gorgeous, deep soliloquy, but work with me here. I’m looking at it from a different point of view and well, I AM a drama teacher so excuse me for not being able to resist integrating a little Shakespeare, as I do think he’d consider the whole football shebang absolutely ridiculous.

Cheerleader

Now, all you football fans, the psycho ones included, don’t get your panties ina wad, I have respect for the sport and am not trying to diss anyone. I’m just simply stating that IT’S NOT MY THANG. And nowadays, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was a cheerleader in high school and I loved the environment of cheering on others. As I grew up, I recognized I love the coming together, the passion, the partying. Would I rather tailgate than actually watch the game? You betcha. I’m not gonna let a bunch of 20 something year-olds ruin my day because they couldn’t complete a truly complicated pass to win a game.

That daggone game they’re playing is HARD. So, when relatives and/or friends are screaming at the TV because their player did not succeed in whatever play…let’s just say, it’s all my sarcastic self can do not to yell in their obnoxious face, “You get out there and do it yourself, you overzealous dingbat!”  Sorry, it’s just one of my pet peeves when it comes to humanity. Of all the things to fuss about and most humans waste their energy on something they themselves could never do, something that is literally just a game.

And let’s just consider for a quick moment the fact that I’m a teacher and the reality that football players (college and professional especially) are treated like absolute rock stars, yet teachers – THE ANGELS WHO GROW, INSPIRE, REACH & TEACH ALL celebrities and rock stars – don’t get paid squat compared to these football people. We don’t get a quarter of the notoriety, AND we are grossly underappreciated… well, it’s enough to boil my blood. Do we sacrifice our bodies like a football player? Not necessarily, but we certainly sacrifice our sanity, our health and time with our families.  Those of us who give over 100% to the profession of teaching absolutely make incredible sacrifices. So why is the world so backward? Why are teachers not being interviewed at press conferences and being hailed as superstars? Why aren’t teachers being paid millions for literally growing and inspiring good humans who contribute to society?

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. A society of backward nonsense. That to me is the world of sports to a degree. No one in their right mind can deny the ridiculousness of it. Again, does this mean I have any disrespect for the people of sports and their awesome hard work? Absolutely not, my admiration is huge. I just wish teachers were awarded the same respect, admiration and monetary worth.

Carolina FootballSo… back to my point, do I personally enjoy the football fandom? Not really, nope. Do I sometimes laugh at it? Yep, can’t help it. But hey, to each her own. If getting all worked up, raising your blood pressure and screaming at the tv or field brings you joy, then I’m all for it. If the Gamecocks are playing the Tigers, will I hoot and holler for the Cocks? You betcha. Will I enjoy the drinks and food more? Probably. I admit it, my world will not end if a team I like loses a game. As I lose my husband, my best friend and other people in my life to football fandom, I’ll keep moving forward and enjoy the passion in the game, and try to keep the big picture from completely ticking me off and instead, just let it continue to be a character study in the absurdities of humanity.

Shakespeare QuoteDo I take arms against this sea of troubles? Nope! Totally not worth it. There are too many humans who are completely and utterly taken with the game. Instead, I stay nobler in the mind and just suffer a bit.

Here’s to surviving this season of football fandom and here’s to hoping the food and drinks are really darn good! As Shakespeare says so well, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…”   😉  😉

Go Team!

 

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