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.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Marianna Boyce

Breast Cancer Awareness is highlighted in October to bring attention to one of the most diagnosed cancers in women. One of every eight women is diagnosed in the United States alone. Chances are, it’s likely you know someone who has fought or is currently fighting this vicious disease. Men can also develop breast cancer, but their odds are much lower. If you or a loved one have been affected, I’m sure your awareness extends well beyond the devoted month of October every year.

The exact cause of breast cancer isn’t known, but one thing is clear: this global issue is non-discriminatory.

ribbon.jpgAccording to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, approximately 41,760 women, and 500 men will die each year in the United States alone; however, this same website reports that death rates have also steadily declined since 1990. Contributing factors to this trend are increased awareness, early detection, better screening, and improving treatment options.

We should be aware of risk factors, along with small steps we can take in order to fight against breast cancer. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as alcohol intake, but other factors like family history cannot be. A monthly self-exam is a step in the right direction to detect issues early.

According to the American Cancer Society, current guidelines for breast cancer screening is as follows:

  • Women ages 40-44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women ages 45-54 should have a mammogram yearly.
  • Women 55 and older should have a mammogram every two years, or continue yearly screening if they wish.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live ten years or longer.

Every woman is unique. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel. Remember that your monthly self-exam is the most powerful tool in early detection. If you feel a lump, or something that doesn’t feel normal, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Visit www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam to learn the proper way a self-exam should be performed.

Life is busy—I get it, but something as simple as a buddy system to help remind one another to self-examine each month could potentially save a friend, loved one, or even your own life. Set a recurring reminder on your phone for a time you can take a moment and devote it to your health.

When’s the last time you did your breast exam? Don’t wait ladies. Do it today.

Lake Livin’

By June Greenlaw

Hello, everyone!  I know it’s been a long time since my last blog.  I apologize.  My husband and I have been on the hunt for a new house and just got moved in a few weeks ago to what we hope will be our forever home on Lake Wateree.  I have to mention that I’ve never lived in the country or on a lake, so there are lots of things that I have to learn out here such as – there is no city trash service!  We have to separate all our trash in preparation for the dump. Very new for this city girl!

IMG_3228I want to share with you a funny story about another lesson I’m learning about living by the lake.  First, let me say, I am truly blessed to be able to work from home and to live on the lake!  Second, glory day, I never would have guessed that THIS would be a new challenge in my life.  Keep reading.

So, during my lunch break today, I placed my leftover spaghetti in the microwave to warm up and put the leash on my baby dog to go out for a quick walk in the yard.  The yard has three levels because of our retaining walls, and we usually walk back and forth on each level.  The baby dog is slower than the big puppy, and she is on a leash (rethinking the big puppy not being on one as I type this).  We walk the first level. It’s a beautiful day, uneventful.  Bentley, our big golden retriever puppy that’s nine months old, trotting a short distance ahead of us on the second level.

Baby dog decides to do some “business” while we are on the second level, so I patiently wait for her to finish and look up to see where Bentley is headed.  He’s on the third level having a great time running in the grass.  He looks a bit intense though – like there might be a squirrel he’s chasing.  I look just ahead of him, and I see what he is after!!!  I promptly start yelling “NO BENTLEY! STOP BENTLEY! SIT BENTLEY!” and probably a few words that made me thankful I don’t have neighbors during the week!

In the distance is a large, dead fish with only the head left on its body.  Of course, I’m afraid he’s going to eat it because this is a dog that will eat anything!  But no, instead, while I’m screaming for him to “leave it,” a command learned from my friend Pam recently, he promptly goes up to the head of the fish, lowers his head down, and begins to rub his face against the face of this dead fish!  As if that wasn’t gross enough, while I’m running as fast as a girl can run downhill without falling on her face, he proceeds to snuggle up his entire body and roll back and forth over the bones and head of this fish.

So, for those of you that have me as a friend on FacebooIMG_3226.JPGk, you may have seen my comment yesterday on my friend Dawn’s post.  It has a picture of us riding in her boat on a beautiful, sunny day with my comment reading, “lake life doesn’t suck.”  I’ll amend that now to say, “until your dog rolls around on the dead fish that some disrespectful bird dropped in your yard!”.

Oh, and did I mention my husband is away on a hunting trip, so I now have to go pick up this dead fish AND wash the dog that reeks of dead fish.  I just need to take a deep breath and remember I still feel thankful and blessed for the opportunity to experience lake life.

 

My New Family Member

by Tina Cameron         

20190928_110613 On September 19th, 2019 I went into our local pet store to buy some things for my new turtle tank. I happened to notice that they sell Red-Eared Sliders which is the type of turtle I have. Incubus is fourteen and a half years old. I saw the cute, little babies and one that was a little bigger. I just thought, no one wanted to buy him. Fast forward a week, and he was still there when I went back.

I spoke with the manager about him, and he had been surrendered by the “owner.” I use that term loosely, as the lady that brought him in told the manager that if they wouldn’t take him, she was going to “put him down.” I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My heart broke, and I knew I had to have him. Unfortunately, I had somewhere to be and told them I would be back to get him.

On Saturday, September 28th I stayed up after working all night waiting on the store to open and prayed that he was still there. The employees knew that I was coming and seemed happy that someone was saving this poor little guy. See, he was neglected and apparently mistreated. He was not properly cared for because his shell is bubbled in places and misshapen. He is very nervous and appears to not trust humans. He tends to hiss if you go to touch him. It is so very sad that this poor innocent turtle was mistreated. So, once I signed the adoption papers, he was placed in a transport box. I about cried in the store because I was just so relieved to know that he was going to a loving home. The salesperson said the vet thinks he is about eighteen months old and was told the “owner” never named him. He did check out healthy except for his shell. His first outing was to The Dollar Tree and then to Wal-Mart.

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Introducing him to Incubus was interesting. Incubus couldn’t him figure out—he does seem a little bit jealous and well, the new baby is still adjusting. I was told it would take him a few days. Incubus let him know that he was boss (he stepped on our new addition while swimming by). They are now swimming in the tank in sync with each other, and he is warming up to me. He now swims to me when I stand at the tank, and he has not hissed again. After deliberating for days, I have decided that his name will be Crimson Tide and will call him Crimson for short. He is a Red-Eared Slider, so that is why I chose Crimson. After all, I love turtles, and everyone knows I love the Crimson Tide.

 

How to Navigate Trick or Treat Time with a Gluten Free Child

by Rachel Sircy

image1It’s that (frustrating) time of year again when everyone in the world seems to want to give our kids candy. The thing is, this candy-giving-extravaganza seems to start at Halloween and doesn’t seem to really end until after Easter. Besides the fact that candy is unhealthy and can cause dental problems, diabetes, etc., those of you out there who have celiac or gluten-sensitive children probably dread this time of year because the likelihood that your child will be given something unsafe to eat goes through the roof. Trick-or-Treat has a whole different meaning to those of us who have (or whose children have) food allergies and intolerances. While it may not be possible for every parent to monitor everything that your child is given to eat during this candy-crazed time of year, there are some preventative measures that you can take to ensure that your child is as safe as possible.

The first thing is for you, as a parent to make sure that you know what candies/treats/etc. are safe for your child to eat. You can begin your research here. Once you feel certain that you know what is and is not safe for your child to eat, you can decide how to proceed. My family doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but if yours does and you plan on trick-or-treating, you have several options to try. If your neighborhood has an HOA or a Neighborhood Watch, this might be the place to bring up the fact that your child has a food allergy/intolerance, and to request that your neighbors try to pass out safe candy. Be sure to have a written list prepared for the HOA or Neighborhood Watch to pass out. If you’re in a community where you know your neighbors, you can personally give them a list of the safe treats for your child and ask that they be mindful of what they give your youngster. Another thing to keep in mind in HOA and Neighborhood Watch communities is the possibility of having a different night for allergy sufferers to trick-or-treat on or creating a different neighborhood-wide activity that would be inclusive of everyone. Consider this zany alternative to Halloween trick-or-treating that has been in place in Des Moines, Iowa since the 1940s.

If it’s not possible to pass out a list of safe treats, or if you will be trick or treating in an area where you don’t know the people who’ll be passing out the candy, you can speak to your child ahead of time and let them know that they will have to give you any unsafe candy that they receive. You can then decide what kind of treat you’d like to replace it with, whether you pay them a penny for each piece of unsafe candy or replace the candy with safe choices that you have already stocked at home. You can also take all of the unsafe candy and either find a local business (these are usually dentists, so check with your dental office first) who will buy the candy back from your child, or you can donate the unsafe candy to anyone who was unable to go trick-or-treating.

If you need to have even more control of what your child eats, as in the case of a severe allergy, it may be best to avoid trick-or-treating altogether. To make sure that your child doesn’t feel left out, you can (if time and money allow) throw an allergy-friendly party yourself for your child. If parties aren’t your thing, but you don’t feel it’s safe to allow others to give your child candy, why not try to adapt classic kid-friendly activities, such as Easter egg hunts. Why not do a candy-filled egg hunt in the fall and allow your child to dress in costume? Just remember to keep it fun!

As is the case with all food-allergy sufferers, it’s important that close friends and family understand, in detail, what your child can and cannot be exposed to. Make sure to share this information with your child’s school as well, just in case there are any parents of other children who may want to provide treats to the class, or in case the school has its own trick-or-treat or holiday party.

Safe eating, everyone!

Summer Road Trip Series: Part VII “You Have Arrived at Your Final Destination”

By Marianna Boyce

Our departure from Sedona took place on a beautiful, sunny day—quite a contrast from the turbulent weather we experienced the previous night. After driving 2,100 westward miles from the Palmetto State of South Carolina, it was time to turn south toward the U.S.- Mexico border. Phoenix and Tucson stood in the way of our anticipated destination.

The thriving metropolis of Phoenix covers about 519 square miles, making it physically one of the largest cities in the United States of America. The layout is incredible and easily navigated, but there’s no gentle transition when exiting this urban complex. One moment, the view is grandiose, architecturally interesting buildings. The next, it’s back to a vast, inhospitable desert. The abrupt contrast is startling. We were suddenly left with nothing to see but swirling dust devils in the distance as we continued our remaining three-hour sprint to the finish line.

Sierra Vista, our ultimate destination, lies seventy-five miles south of Tucson and about twenty miles north of Mexico. This little dot on the map was our prime location goal for one reason only: our precious family lived there.

Tiffany is my bonus daughter (I’m just not fond of the term, stepdaughter). She married Bill, an Army Major at the time, now a Lieutenant Colonel. In 2015, Bill received orders to report to Fort Huachuca (pronounced wah-CHOO-kah) for a two-year stint.

image 4Abby, Emma, and Avery are our precious granddaughters. We also have a beautiful Belgian Malinois (pronounced mal-un-WAH.) grand-puppy named Leo.

As we turned onto their street, the gorgeous mountain range behind their house majestically stood in the distance. Situated on the opposite side of the mountainous terrain lies Mexico.

Little Avery is three. When she spotted us entering their driveway, she rushed outside immediately. Her arms flailing with excitement, along with her pretty blonde hair bobbing up and down as she sprinted toward us, was a wonderful sight to see. Many amazing landmarks we’d seen on our road trip were extraordinary, but this little princess took the prize. This family reunion was sheer bliss.

After a tasty spaghetti supper, we enjoyed each other’s company as we caught up on everything going on in our lives. The girls were thrilled to have an extended bedtime that night.

The following day, we ate lunch in a small town about twenty miles northeast of Sierra Vista. You may have heard of it…

image 3Tombstone is pegged as “The Town Too Tough to Die.” About 450,000 tourists visit each year. Its dusty streets are lined with rustic buildings and landmarks from the 1880s. The infamous gunfight at the OK Corral is re-enacted daily. It’s quite a surreal experience wandering the streets where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday roamed—two of Arizona’s most popular “ghosts of North America.”

We spent one more night in Sierra Vista before embarking on our journey back to South Carolina. The most exciting news was all our girls were traveling back to the Palmetto State for a two-week stay. Bill remained in Arizona with Leo.

Tiffany drove her garnet-colored Explorer packed with enough stuff for a three-month vacation. Cody was in his comfort zone driving my light sage-colored Lincoln MKZ, so we let him drive. He’d passed the test a few nights earlier after driving in the monsoon weather from Flagstaff to Sedona.

I traveled with Tiffany, Abby, and Avery. Gerry and Emma rode with Cody. It was the perfect setup separating Abby and Emma. They were nine and seven at the time, so sibling rivalry was intense.

A year had passed since Tiffany had been home, so she was anxious to get there as quickly as possible. There would be no cool stops along this route, but the fun was just getting started.

Our travels took us about 1,050 miles that day, a little more than halfway. The decision to stop for the night on the outskirts of Houston was a good call. We were all exhausted, but I was one proud GiGi. We heard no complaints from any of the girls.

We departed the western edge of Houston early the following morning with the potential of being home by midnight. We had 1,000 more miles to go, but our aggressive plan just wasn’t meant to be. After an extended traffic delay, our plan simply fell apart. The back of an overturned poultry truck was on fire blocking all lanes on I-10. The driver was fine, but I’m sorry to report that many of the chickens didn’t make it.

image 1We exited the great state of Texas at mile-marker 880 later than we’d expected, and only traveled 400 additional miles after our long delay. Our sibling drivers, Tiffany and Cody, were both exhausted. Tensions mounted, but they merely needed to rest, stretch, and relax. Abby and Emma weren’t the only rivals in the bunch.

We stopped to eat supper in Slidell, Louisiana. We should’ve found a great Cajun restaurant, but Southern homecookin’ at Cracker Barrel is what we chose.

There was no need to push the envelope, so I devised a new plan. As I ate my chicken fried steak, rice and gravy, and fried okra, I made what my bonus daughter calls, a “Mama Bear” move. There was a newly built Hampton Inn and Suites directly across the road, so I asked Tiffany to book two rooms for us, and she did.

image 5The heated, salt-water swimming pool was calling our name. We basically all stepped into a nice, long, Epsom salt bath. This place was perfect, and exactly what “Mama Bear” ordered. Everyone loved each other again.

The following morning, June 16, 2016, was a Thursday I’ll not soon forget. Eight more hours would officially end our remarkable road trip. Unknown to me, at the end of this time span, I would begin my next journey deep into a dark, unfamiliar place that I often refer to as my alternate universe.

We quickly left Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia in our dust. We crossed the South Carolina state line about 3:00 p.m. About thirty miles from home, Avery began crying uncontrollably. She told me her tummy was hurting, so I cautiously removed her from the car seat and held her tightly in my arms. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did it anyway. Any great GiGi would’ve done the same.

As I silently prayed for her, a tingling sensation started in my feet. I thought they were asleep, just as Avery now was. As we got closer to home, a perplexing coldness began to overwhelm them. Trying not to disturb her as she slept, I haphazardly tossed my sweater over my feet. An odd gesture, given South Carolina in mid-June, is usually a hot, humid, 100-degrees.

Tiffany drove to her Mom’s house where they’d be staying for the next several days. She hadn’t seen her in a year, so it was reasonable for them to spend time together before heading back to Arizona in two short weeks. I jumped in the car with Gerry and Cody anticipating the arrival at our final destination. Bill selflessly planned to fly to the Palmetto State and drive back with them so they wouldn’t have to travel cross-country alone. I know—he’s great, right?

Four-thousand, six-hundred, and fourteen miles after our journey began, Gerry, Cody, and I pulled into our driveway and opened the garage door—home sweet home!

As soon as my feet touched the ground, the intense cold sensation in them immediately changed to insanely hot. It was as though a high fever spiked, but only in my feet. I stopped dead in my tracks not knowing exactly how to react. I’d never felt that type of pain.

My new journey had officially begun.

image 2I told my husband I couldn’t walk on my own, so he assisted as I hobbled along beside him. I literally watched my feet and ankles swell beyond recognition. Gerry instructed me to sit, relax, and prop up my throbbing, fiery-hot feet. I was horrified at the time, but we actually had a good chuckle about it later in the evening. In our infinite wisdom, we thought riding in the car for an extended period contributed to this unfortunate event. Were we ever wrong!

I am; however, thankful my symptoms stayed at bay until our arrival home. Leaving my driveway eight days earlier, I didn’t realize a life-altering illness was lurking inside my body. Stepping out of my car ignited a chain of events that maniacally unfolded and completely unraveled life as I knew it. Not only was coping with extraordinary pain physically debilitating, but it was also mentally grueling. I didn’t recognize myself after two short weeks.

My 2016 summer road trip served as the catalyst that ushered me from my normal life into an alternate universe. I straddled two worlds on a mission to control them both. Horrible symptoms relating to rheumatoid arthritis ruled my life for an extended period, but I was determined not to go down without a fight. I had a great life. I wasn’t willing to give it up to this vicious disease.

All our circumstances differ, but one thing is constant for everyone: change. Life adjustments are constantly transforming our lives. Many changes are subtle and can easily be absorbed with our fighting human spirit, but as in my case, significant negative transitions create utter chaos.

As I conclude my lengthy road trip series, I want to express my gratitude for those who chose to ride along with me. Enjoy your ride in life. What you don’t enjoy—endure. Remember who’s in control of it all. Come what may, God is good, all the time.

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!