Married to Technology

By: Chaunte McClure

Despite having a never-ending to-do list, I always seem to, unfortunately, make time for social media. Why is this thing so darn addictive? I attended a marketing conference in February and in a social media session, the presenter stated teens check social media 100 times per day. A hundred! One zero zero. I shared that number with a colleague, who is a baby boomer, and his response was “No way!” Yes way. I’m far from being a teenager, but using myself for comparison, I knew that was realistic.

There are days when I’m constantly grabbing my phone, not because someone’s calling me, but I’m somehow drawn to accessing a social media app or two, or three. I can be in the middle of reading or writing then my mind, and my hand following will gravitate to my phone. Thankfully, sometimes I realize what I’ve done and I immediately place the phone back down and force myself to focus on my current task.

I wish I had a counter on my phone that tracked the number of times I access my phone. Is there an app for that? Maybe cell phones should come with this on a warning labels: This device is habit forming. But is it the phone or the apps? You can’t have one without the other, unless of course you have a tablet. This perfection union between mobile devices and apps has countless humans married to technology and the level of commitment is astounding.

How can you translate the commitment to your smartphone to your marriage? To God? To your family? To self-improvement? Or any other area in your life that’s receiving less attention because more of your attention is devoted to technology?

Expect separation anxiety, similar to what you experience when you misplace, leave, or damage your device. However, the greater rewards of stronger relationships and a better you are priceless.

How much time do you spend on social media? What will you do with that amount of time?

On Being a Caregiver

By: Chaunte McClure

At some point in life I realized that one day I will have to care for my mom, but I honestly never considered the day I’d care for one of her siblings. That’s been my reality for the past 11 months. About a week after I turned 40, my 50-something-year-old aunt suffered a stroke while visiting my sister.

caregiver

I was sitting nervously, waiting to give a presentation in my African American Church class. Then my phone vibrated and I saw my sister’s name displaying. I knew she was aware that I had class, so I thought she must really need me. The conversation went something like this when I stepped out of the classroom to answer:

“We’ve called the paramedics for Aunt Jane,” she said.

Doing my best not to panic, I calmly asked, “What happened?”

After she explained my aunt’s symptoms, I told her to keep me posted and I’d head to the hospital after my presentation. That wasn’t soon enough. It’s not easy to keep track of time during emergency situations, but what seemed like about 20 minutes later, my phone vibrated again. This time I heard a very concerned voice almost begging me to get to the hospital. My aunt had coded.

My classmates were taking too long to present. I finally interrupted and explained that I had a family emergency. My professor excused me and began to pray before I could even exit the classroom.

Thankfully, the hospital was only about two miles from my location. I hurried in to comfort her daughter who rode in the ambulance with her mom, my aunt.

After asking more questions when I arrived, finally, the staff rolled my aunt’s weak body back into the emergency room.

She was admitted into the hospital and stayed there just a few days before going to a rehabilitation services provider for a few weeks. Still needing additional therapy, because she lost mobility on her right side, we found an inpatient rehabilitation facility with 24-hour skilled nursing care. After about three months there, her care became our full responsibility.

While I was trying to be fabulous at 40, I was also 40 and worn out at times. We’ve been a caregiver team, but the responsibility is still challenging. From organizing meds, to coordinating medical appointments, to understanding insurance, to running errands and doing chores – it can all become taxing, especially when we each have our own personal responsibilities.

If you ever become a caregiver, here are few tips to help keep you from getting overwhelmed:

  • Make sure each caregiver is carrying his or her load. That takes the burden off one person. You can’t do it all by yourself.
  • Take time for yourself. While caring for others is important, self-care is equally important.
  • Organize your responsibilities. Choose what tasks or chores will be done on specific days and by whom.
  • Seek outside resources. Consider hiring someone to do what you can’t or ask responsible family members and friends.

To protect her privacy, my aunt is referred to as Jane in this story.

Unrealistic Expectations?

By: Chaunte McClure 

Sun will come out tomorrow

With conviction, I watched an update to a news story from last fall about a young mother who allegedly put her infant in a dumpster. In between late afternoon breaking news and the evening newscast, I occasionally wondered what would drive someone to make that decision. Shame, rape, manipulation, fear, a breakup, depression, and high expectations were among my speculations. The one that brought conviction to my heart was high expectations. Can fear of disappointing an influential leader force one to make a poor decision or even withhold information?

I’ve had the privilege of mentoring and teaching many young ladies over the years – including family. I always want the best for them in every aspect of their lives, and share with them mistakes I’ve made in hopes that they won’t make the same ones. I am confident that they want to make me, their parents, their teachers, themselves and others proud, but I wonder if we apply too much pressure? Actually, this is personal; I wonder if I apply too much pressure. In my conversations with these young ladies, have I left any room for error? Have I failed to teach God’s grace? Have I put myself on a pedestal and  made them feel like they can’t reach me?

As I grieved for the baby and the young mother in that news story, I wondered whether any of those young ladies believe they have to “hide” because they think they’ll disappoint me or perhaps they think I’ll be judgmental. I can’t deny the disappointment, but I will love the same. I didn’t have a perfect young life. I don’t have a perfect not-so-young life.

I think part of my problem is I want to be everybody’s savior. There have been times when I’ve felt like I’ve failed when a mentee does wrong, but I had to realize that I can’t be with her 24 hours a day and I can’t make anyone do right. On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to lead anyone to do wrong.

Is this just self condemnation or do we set the bar too high?

Pneumonia Weather

By: Chaunte McClure

One sure way to strike up a conversation is to talk about the weather. With this spring-like weather in the dead of winter here lately, it’s easy to do. I love it, although I have a few sweaters and scarves I haven’t worn yet. However, it’s nice when I can take a late afternoon stroll in the park without a sweatshirt, gloves or jacket.

Every Woman Blog - Pneumonia Weather

All the creepy crawlies must be confused. One weekend it’s snowing and the next it’s 78 degrees. This weather blows humans’ minds, too. That’s why you’ll likely find a photo on your timeline of a friend’s dashboard displaying today’s temperature. Grandma would call this pneumonia weather – when the weather goes from one extreme to the other and back again. Cold, hot, cold. I know some of you are bold enough to argue with Grandma and say the weather doesn’t make you sick, but uh ruh, nudge, nudge. Grandma is always right!

Let’s call this season “spwinter” – a combination of spring and winter. The time of year when you can wear shorts, flip-flops and wool coats in one week. And when you can light the fireplace and turn on the AC during the same week. Hey, we could have blistering cold weather like my friends in Washington and Wisconsin are experiencing. I’d say I’m happy to call South Carolina home, despite the pneumonia weather.

Back-to-Work Blues

By: Chaunte McClure 

How many of you spent Sunday evening dreading the fact that you had to go back to work this week? I wasn’t exactly dreading it, but the extra hours snugged in bed for the past week were much appreciated, and I’m not opposed to having more of those opportunities.

back to work blues

Remember how the week before Christmas you could hardly wait for your week off to begin so you could complete your Christmas shopping, run last minute errands, leave for vacation or just enjoy some time off? Then in seven, six, five, four, three two, one . . . it was time to prepare your mind for your normal routine of waking up to an early morning alarm and pressing snooze time after time before finally making your way to the bathroom.

With the rain pounding on the roof Tuesday morning, that made getting up a little harder, but I rolled out of bed, determined to get to work on time. I knew wet roads meant a higher possibility of accidents and traffic delays, so I made sure I had extra time for my morning commute.

With about eight minutes to spare, before walking into the building to unlock my office door for the first time since 2016, I skimmed my timeline and read a few posts from friends who had back-to-work blues. I think most of them started sharing days-off memes as early as last Thursday as the week gradually ended.

I survived the first day back in the office after the holiday break. I had meetings the first half of the day and I spent the second half responding to requests. Let’s see how these next three work days of the new year pan out.

O’ (Half) Christmas Tree

By: Chaunte McClure

Grandma always said put the Christmas tree away before New Year’s Day, but there was really never a conversation about when to put it up. Some families decorate their tree Thanksgiving night or the following weekend. There are enthusiastic Christmas lovers who pull it out of the attic and make it pretty before Thanksgiving. In my book, that’s too soon. Half Christmas TreeThis is probably my third year putting up a tree and like the past two years, I’ve had good intentions of having it on display all of December. Again, I’ve failed.

This year is the first time I’ve had two trees and I’ve been looking forward to adorning them with the ornaments my friend gave me. I came home Friday night, after leaving work and stopping by a home decor store, ready to at least decorate one tree. I started with the no-assembly-required, pre-lit I bought after Christmas last year, and to my disappointment, after inserting the plug into the outlet, the tree did not completely light up. I finally figured out that a bulb on top was broken and I replaced it. Voila! The top of the tree lit up. I thought, now, what about the lower part? I searched and searched for broken bulbs and hidden plugs that I might have overlooked, but to no avail. I called the store where I purchased it and they allowed me to return it. I really liked the faux fir and I especially loved the price I paid for it during the after-Christmas sale. After lugging it back to the store in the cold and rain Sunday night, the friendly associate searched online for a replacement comparable to the damaged tree because that style was discontinued. She found what she thought was similar to it and showed it to me for approval. She placed the order and told me it would be delivered in three to five business days. I was happy until I looked at the receipt a few hours after returning home. It read: Pre-lit artificial half tree! I gasped. Half tree? Oh no! I realized that the store was closed and it was too late to call customer service. (In case you’re wondering: A half tree is flat on the back side and can be placed in a corner or against a wall. I didn’t even know there was such thing.)

I called customer service at 9:03 Monday morning but because the order was in process, I couldn’t cancel it. My options were to not accept the delivery or return the package to the store after receiving it. I was disappointed, but then I decided I was going to make this half tree work. It was created with small spaces in mind — perfect for our modest abode.

I found a spot for my half tree and, one-by-one, decked it out with an assortment of blue, silver, turquoise, and white ornaments just 15 days before Christmas.

The other tree finally made it out of the box on Sunday and now I’m ready to have a merry little Christmas.

Celebrating 40

By: Chaunte McClure

Amid my excitement about turning 40, I created a short list of ways I wanted to celebrate. I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I usually don’t make a big deal out of birthdays. That’s just the way it was in my family, but I’m changing, because now I have a greater appreciation for life and I’m grateful for every single day, no matter what’s packaged in it.

During my thirties, darkness seemed to hover over me; even when there were rays of sunshine, they seemed to quickly find a hiding place behind the clouds. Many days it seemed I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but it was just a shadow and I’m still walking – walking in victory.

So, yes, I ought to celebrate and enjoy life and so should you. Go places you’ve never gone and do things you’ve never done. It’s my desire to accomplish both every year. This time, I went to DR, but you don’t have to travel to a Caribbean nation. I wanted to, in honor of the big 4-0.

Here’s a peek at what I did:

Flying High

parasailing

While relaxing on the beach and hiding from direct sunlight under the resort’s palapa umbrellas, I had an impulse to fly high. I watched other tourists take flight and from below,  it looked so fun. My husband didn’t even take me seriously when I said I wanted to parasail. After inquiring about the cost, he hurried back to the room to get money before I changed my mind. There was no turning back though. This 40 year old had the audacity to sail through the air while attached to a boat. I guess if I was really daring I would’ve gone solo, but the tandem ride put me at ease. I was a little nervous on the way up, forcing myself not to look back for fear of having a nervous breakdown. Once we got to the highest altitude, I was fine, even looking down to see what I could identify below in the beautiful, clear blue waters. If you ever decide to give it a try, remember, it’s mind over matter. Just enjoy the flight and the views!

Getting Dirty

celebrating 40

We also had some dirty fun while riding the countryside trails in a dune buggy, splashing through mud and squinting through the occasional dust clouds. It certainly was an interesting way to see the authenticity of the Dominican Republic, passing modest, colorful homes, the cutest kids waving hello, farmland, and makeshift roadside stands while making stops at Macao Beach and a natural cave. Minus the fumes we inhaled from the other dune buggies, this was an awesome experience. By the way, ladies, no need to shampoo or curl your hair before this ride.

Horsing Around

horseback riding

I expressed interest in going horseback riding a few years ago, but I never really pursued it. Fortunately, it was an activity offered with one of our excursions. After saddling up, I was praying the horse didn’t detect my anxiety or take off galloping around the ranch without the rest of the group. Thankfully, they were obedient to their trainers. While making our way around the ranch, somehow, perhaps because of the peaceful ride, my mind drifted to the 23rd Psalm. In between hearing the Spanish dialogue between the two guides, I kept thinking about the shepherd and green pastures. I never made the connection between it all, but I’m sure it’ll come back to me in the form of a sermon, or maybe a blog entry.

Making Memories

celebrating 40

That vacation is in the books, but it was fun making memories and sharing some of them with you. I have one more month in 2016 to celebrate turning 40 and four more before I turn 41.

I’m fabulous at 40, and I’ll still be fabulous at 41. Oh, I had a birthday photo shoot, too.