Summer Road Trip Series Part I: Go West Young Man

By Marianna Boyce

arizona sign (p1)Have you ever heard of Sierra Vista, Arizona? It’s a great little city in Cochise County about twenty miles north of Mexico, but 1,921.5 miles west of South Carolina. You’ll discover the reason Sierra Vista holds a special place in my heart as we travel west for my summer road trip series.

rocky wall w flag (p2)In a day where everyone is in a hurry to do everything, flying the friendly skies makes more sense, but my preferred method of travel is the traditional American ‘let the top down’ road trip to see the beautiful sights our country has to offer. Gerry and I have done both—many times.

We embarked on this long journey with our daughter Tiffany and her family in 2015. Our son Cody was unable to go with us, but he expressed interest in our taking the same exact route to this special little dot on the map the following year. He knew it wouldn’t take much to convince me of another opportunity to drive west.

I had kept a journal of our original trip, so we easily charted the same course in 2016. It was awesome knowing exactly where we were going and how long it would take to get there; but for this adventure, we made no hotel reservations. We threw caution to the wind and prayed God would protect and have us in the right places at the right times. Talk about faith. Be sure to read my future posts to see how that worked out for us.

Of course, as a woman, I packed everything but the kitchen sink days in advance. It was neatly organized in the dining room waiting for our departure day of June 8. I even packed lime green spray paint…

Gerry was slated to drive the first leg of the trip, so he took the day off to rest while Cody and I worked. Once I arrived home, Gerry neatly arranged everything in the trunk of my light sage-colored Lincoln MKZ. Over the years, I’ve learned this process is much easier when I’m not involved. His goal was to leave the backseat open for whoever needed to rest or just enjoy the ride. The only thing he tossed inside the car was a comfy pillow and my purse.

We planned to leave that evening in order to travel as far as we could while traffic was light. Have you ever driven through Atlanta at lunchtime? Exactly!

After a quick burger, fries, and frosty at a local fast food restaurant for supper, we embarked on our wind-in-your-hair road trip. I chose the backseat to start our journey, but took a silent vow to leave my backseat driving instructor mentality at home. I can’t express how difficult that was for me.

blinding sun (p9)The sun was blinding as it set in the western sky, so I put on my sunglasses, placed that comfy pillow behind my back, and propped my bare feet up on the console in front of me. “Go West, young man,” I recall saying to my husband. “Life is good!”

We drove west on I-20 all night and left South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi in our rear view. There’s not much to see at night, so Cody—being in line to drive—catnapped. My job was keeping whoever was driving awake, but I was still careful to leave my backseat driving wisdom at the house.

early morning sunrise (p11)After twelve hours, we decided to stop in Monroe. The sun was peeking over the eastern horizon, so we thought stopping for a hearty breakfast at Waffle House was a great way to greet the new day. Not to mention, we were also in desperate need of strong coffee.

For those who remember the television show, Duck Dynasty, the Duck Commander store was only a few miles down the road from Waffle House, so we stopped by to see if Phil, Willie, Jase, or Si were there. It was still very early, so their store was closed. We walked around in the parking lot for a few minutes before heading west again on I-20. It felt good to stretch our weary bodies after the long ride.

 

With the first leg of our trip in the books, Gerry took over the coveted backseat to get some much-needed sleep. Cody gladly took the wheel while I rode shotgun. I gave him a gerry sleeping (p13)tough choice between me or Siri as his trusty navigator. He chose wisely: Siri it was.

From Louisiana, we headed toward the great state of Texas. Of course,cody driving (p14) any amazing road trip wouldn’t be quite as good if you didn’t sing, “On the Road Again,” in your best Willie Nelson twang. In spite of mine and Cody’s bellowing, Gerry was asleep in mere moments…

*The photos used in this post are personal photos from my amazing road trip. They may not be the best quality, but they are all near and dear to my heart. Enjoy!*

God is good!

By Lisa Baker 

Hi everyone,

Yes God is so very good isn’t He. Let me explain…

 

With everything that has happened in the last few months there are still blessings to be had. Mom has passed and I have had some tough days almost immediately. About a week later was her birthday and then Mother’s Day. It’s been a hard few months. My son and his wife are expecting and their due date was May 19th.  My daughter in law started having high blood pressure, so they admitted her to keep a close watch on her. They decided to induce.  Their sweet baby boy was born in the very early hours of Mother’s Day.  What a blessing.  

pic with baby

No way can you top Mother’s Day with anything else.  Meet my handsome and very precious grandson, Baylor.  I’m so in love! God took a holiday that would have been very tearful and gave us a brand new reason to celebrate and give thanks! In other areas, dad yet again has been sent to the ER.  He was very aggressive, kicking and punching a few residents.  The ER basically just let him sleep and did not run any tests. They sent him back to his facility.  The nurse was going to try to get him to give her a urine specimen so it could be tested for a UTI.

 

dementia picWe are still having our own ups and downs dealing with the loss of Mom.  Some days are great.  Others not so much.  I’ve had a few dreams with her in them.  I have recently gotten her life insurance in and have paid her bill at the funeral home.  I have also gone to Probate court to handle her affairs and file her will.

 

Sometimes I will get ticked off easily over little things it seems.  Thank God for my amazing husband, Carl.  Somehow he knows just what to say or do to help me out.  He is a true blessing. Then my sweet new grandbaby, Baylor, makes all seem right with the world.second pic with baby 

So now our next step will be to pick out and pay for a headstone to mark Mom’s grave. One that will have both Mom and Dad’s name on it so later all we will have to do is get dad’s date of death engraved on it. I will let you know how that goes at a later date.

death changes nothing quote

 

So until next time, make memories!

 

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.

Easter Memories

Hello Everyone!

Easter Egg HuntEaster was this past Sunday, and as most, we had a special sunrise service at our church.  How wonderfully blessed I am to be able to worship and remember the ultimate sacrifice our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made for all of us.  I hope you and your family attended an Easter Service, too.  I am sure many new Easter frocks were worn and eggs and candy were in abundance. I can hear my grandmother singing the Easter Parade song, “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…”  Many probably participated in a church breakfast and/or family lunch, as was the plan for our day. Egg hunts (more like eggs just scattered all over the lawn) for the little ones took place as the adults cheered them on to “find” the plastic eggs with treats hidden inside. Lots of photos were taken and games were played, including croquet. However you celebrated Sunday, I hope you enjoyed and remembered the real reason the day is celebrated.

Last Easter (along with most other holidays and celebrations) was odd without my sweet husband. We were married on Easter weekend and always made it a point to celebrate our anniversary with dinner out, a trip to the beach, or a cruise like we took for our honeymoon and a few more milestone years following. The last cruise we took was in celebration of our 35th Anniversary. He was so proud and excited to tell me he had booked it himself…a suite with a balcony!  This year would be our 40th Anniversary.  I am blessed to have spent most of those years together, and that is a great testament to our love for each other. It is hard not to miss your best friend and soul mate.  Much “rain” has fallen along with the April showers. Without a doubt, we would be on a cruise in a suite with a balcony right now.

This year, the timing was off for my class to make and sell our hand-made and decorated peanut butter eggs. Our Spring Break came the week before Easter. The annual sale of 500+ of the confections preceding Easter was just not possible.  Many of our customers were disappointed, however my students were not. One class made a few batches, dipped them in chocolate and decorated them for both classes.  When we first started making the Peanut Butter Eggs years ago, I remember having some of the filling left over and bringing it home to make a few for my sweet husband who LOVED peanut butter eggs.  They were shaped and placed on the island in my kitchen to dry overnight so I could dip them.  He had already left for work early that morning before I came into the kitchen only to discover some were missing!  I called him to ask why he ate them before I finished them.  He replied that he had not eaten any of them. Puzzled, I turned around to see our Jack Russell and realized she had to have jumped up on one of the island chairs and helped herself to the missing eggs!  It was like she was giving me the, “I was just making sure they were fit for human consumption” look.  She was immediately banned to the yard for the day!

I am including the small recipe we have used for years to make the peanut butter eggs, though converted to make very large batches!

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Peanut Butter Eggs

@ 16 1.4 oz. (@ 3 T.) Eggs before dipping in chocolate

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. Softened Butter (3 sticks)Peanut Butter Eggs
  • 3/4 c. Peanut Butter, Smooth or Crunchy
  • 1 T. + 1 1/2 t. Light Corn Syrup *Tip-Spray measuring spoons with pan spray before measuring
  • 1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 lbs. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 package @ 20 oz. Candy Coating Chocolate, Ghirardelli Chocolate Melts or Wilton Candy Melts
  • Royal Icing or Fondant Decorations

Procedure

  1. In a mixer bowl combine butter, peanut butter, corn syrup and vanilla.
  2. Gradually add in powdered sugar a couple of cups at a time to form a stiff dough-like filling.
  3. Line a sheet pan with waxed or parchment paper.
  4. Weigh 1.4 oz. or scoop 3 T. together of the filling.
  5. Roll each portion into a ball and then shape into an egg shape.
  6. Loosely cover with a paper towel and allow to air-dry overnight or several days. The more dry they are, the better for dipping.
  7. Melt chocolate per package instructions.
  8. Dip each egg in chocolate and return to waxed or parchment paper to harden.
  9. Carefully trim any excess chocolate from bottom of each egg.
  10. Place each egg in a paper cupcake paper cup.
  11. Decorate as desired.
  12. Store at room temperature.

 

My Baby Boy

by Tina Michelle Cameron

On November 30, 1994, I had a scheduled c-section to deliver my second little boy. Well, there was nothing little about him. His name is Hunter Samuel Stout. He was two weeks early and weighed in at 9 lbs. and 15 oz., 22 inches long and 14 ½ inch head and chest. He had to be rushed to the Special Care Nursery because of a low blood sugar and the umbilical cord being wrapped around his neck. He was by far the largest baby in there! He was beautiful and perfect.

IMG_20181129_222114There are certain days that stand out when I think of him. One is the day I picked him and his older brother Corey up from daycare, and he started crying in the backseat. He was 4 or 5-years-old and was sitting in his car seat behind me, and I asked him what was wrong. He cried, “I don’t want to leave you when I go off to college.” How sweet was he?

Growing up he played soccer, and I was his assistant coach for several seasons. He looks just like me, however, he towers over me at about 6’3”. He loves to rest his elbow on top of my head when I stand next to him (I am 5’5 1/2”).

Hunter is smart and funny and loves music, movies and football. He is a diehard Tennessee Vols fan (I am from Knoxville). He is now 24 years old and has his undergrad degree from Winthrop University where he majored in history. He is also an alumnus of the Pike Fraternity. He is completing his first year of grad school at The Citadel in Charleston. He is getting his Master of Art in Teaching. His goal is to be a high school social studies teacher and eventually earn his Ph.D. to teach at the university level. He also has a part-time job at Groucho’s Deli as a server.

I love this kid more than he will ever know, and even though we may not always get along because we are both stubborn and just alike, I am so proud of the young man he has become and so proud that he wants to make a difference in a kid’s life. I cannot wait to see what his future holds for him.Screenshot_20190403-050746_Facebook

Sunsets

By Lisa Baker

Hi everyone.

If you read my last blog post, you know that my Mom passed away within a few days after I wrote it.  She has been gone over a week now. We miss her so much, but we know she is now whole and without pain.  Most importantly, she now has no dementia.

Funerals are not cheap.  I’m sure most of you probably already know this or have had experience with this.  We knew this.

Keep in mind that you most likely will be making these arrangements at a time when you are already very emotional.  I suggest that you don’t go alone.  Take a few trusted family members or close friends with you because they will think of things to ask about that you won’t.

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With every item, ask about the cost and if there is possibly a less costly alternative. The funeral home staff won’t mind you asking lots of questions.  That is what they are there for.

We could have gone cheaper on Mom’s arrangements, but we also could have gone a much more costly route too.  I think we are all very happy with what we picked out for her, and we feel that we went about middle of the road cost-wise.  Her insurance will cover over half of the cost leaving a couple thousand dollars for us to pay.  I would encourage people to check into making your arrangements ahead of time.

Yes, I’m changing the subject a bit, but last night Dad got very aggressive and angry.  He was turning over furniture and yelling.  Staff sent him to the ER after talking with his doctor.  They were checking for a possible UTI or other infection.  I haven’t gotten a report yet.

We decided not to tell Dad about Mom.  I know……I know, many of you will think that is just wrong.  He is far enough along in his dementia that we feel it will only confuse him to tell him.  We also asked staff at his facility what they thought about us not telling him, and they also felt that it was the best decision.  It’s sad.

I’ve got to tell you that for several weeks, Dad has not so much as asked about Mom, but Tuesday after she has passed, he told a staff member that Mom was sitting in the recliner in his room.  Some staff feel that maybe she came to tell him goodbye.  Some think that she may be visiting him and may possibly lead him home with her soon.  I guess only time will tell.

Mom loved “Japanese Cherry Blossom” scented items from Bath and Body Works.  She wore the scent often.  I am living in Mom and Dad’s house now, and there isn’t anything with that scent left in the house.  However, I have smelled that very scent in the house the day after Mom’s service and have smelled it a few times over the last several days.  You may call me crazy if you wish and may even not believe me.  That’s OK, but I know what I smell.  It’s as if she is passing through for a visit or maybe just checking on me. I think it’s a comforting thought and feeling.

I’m cutting my post a little short this time.  I’m still busy writing thank you notes to family and friends that have sent flowers and food during this time.  I’ll be back soon on a regular basis.

Until then, make memories, hug your loved ones, and tell them how you feel.  Have no regrets.  None of us are promised tomorrow.

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My DNA Story

By Janet Prince

DNAI know you have all seen the ads on TV for the Ancestry.com and 23&Me DNA kits, especially over the holidays.  In 2017, I had some family members receive an Ancestry.com kit for Christmas. They took the test and sent off the vials in January 2018 hoping to learn more about their ancestry, where they came from, and when. When they received the results, they were surprised!  A first cousin we had no idea about was a very strong match above all others throughout our family.

This is where my DNA story began, but before I go in to what we found, I want to share how I feel about DNA testing and why I feel that way.  Keep in mind that everyone has their own opinion, and that must be respected.

As most of you know, I am a 16-year breast cancer survivor, and I lost my mother to ovarian cancer.  Both of us were diagnosed in 2003 just five months apart.  We met with a genetics counselor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in November 2003 and began building a genetic tree of our family members that had any type of cancer.  We were able to determine that the cancer line came from my grandmother’s family where we found breast, brain, lung, cervical, and ovarian cancer.  Taking this test was very important to both of us because of my two daughters.  I have always been a believer in knowing your health history, and I especially wanted my girls to know theirs as they became young women.  Since we did our testing, many new breast cancer genes have been identified, so I will be having an updated DNA test this spring.

 

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My belief in DNA testing is very strong.  By taking this DNA test, I was able to rest at ease knowing that neither my mother nor I carried the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.  In addition, the results were something that my family members could use.  They learned the history of aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, and children that had all been diagnosed with a type of cancer.  Everyone accepted the results of this test and never questioned if they were true.

Now knowing how I feel about DNA testing, I want to share the story of finding our new first cousin.  When my family members received their results, someone was at the top of the list (meaning they are your strongest match) who they didn’t know and had never heard of.  This person reached out to my family to see how they were related, and at first, my family members seemed thrilled to have a new cousin. When they called me with the news, they were excited to learn more and to hopefully meet her because as luck would have it, she has a step-sister who lives in the Upstate of South Carolina, and she was planning a trip there later in the spring. Since my mother died, I have been the keeper of the trunks that belonged to my uncle as well as one that belonged to my grandparents. Both trunks were filled with letters, postcards, and my uncle’s US Marine uniforms with all his medals.  My family asked if they could go through the trunks to verify the connection between my uncle and her mother.  I was more than happy to do this because I was curious to know the connection myself.

Last spring, our new cousin, Linda, traveled to South Carolina from Nevada, and I was so excited to meet her.  Linda came and spent an afternoon with me, and we went through the trunks.  We were elated when we found a note with her mother’s name and telephone number on it!  It was the confirmation she had been looking for all her life trying to find out where she came from.  She had found “home.”  I knew when I opened the front door that Linda was a part of my family.  We have the same cheeks, her mannerisms are much like my mother’s, and when I hugged her, it was like hugging my mother again.  She is definitely a member of my family.  After looking through the trunks, I took Linda to visit her father’s grave and was honored to share this moment with her.

While she was here, Gary and I had a cookout for my other family members to come and meet Linda and her “sister” Kathy (Linda has four step or half-sisters, but they only call themselves sisters not anything else).  We had a wonderful time and even FaceTimed with another sister of hers who lives in Texas and loves genealogy.  She started asking about other names on Linda’s tree that they didn’t know, and when she started calling out names of my great-aunts and second and third cousins in Alabama, it sealed in my heart that Linda was a member of my family.  We hugged, cried, and laughed with joy.  I look at Linda as a gift and another connection to my mother.

Unfortunately, only one of my cousins came to meet Linda that night, which broke my heart for her.  Their once excitement had turned into not believing in the validity of the testing, and therefore not accepting Linda as part of the family.

UncleLinda, who is my first cousin, was the daughter of an uncle I had who was killed in the Korean War in 1950 at the age of 21. Linda was born five months after his death.  Because my family members chose not to believe the results, I took the Ancestry.com test in June.  When my results came in, my family member who had originally taken the test were first, and Linda came up next followed by both of her children who are my second cousins.  I was so excited to verify that Linda is a part of us.

Linda and I have hours-long phone conversations sharing what our lives have been like.  Like me, Linda is a cancer survivor having been diagnosed with multiple-myeloma in November 2013.  Linda’s mother was killed in a car accident when she was only 9 years old, and I have told her that I believe with all my heart that if my mother and father had known about her, they would have brought her here and raised her as their own.

I don’t know why God brought Linda into my life at this stage in my life, but I am just so Familythankful that He did.  I was so happy to have Linda and Kathy attend Ashlan’s wedding, and seating them with the family was a great joy.  This was the first big “family” event Linda had been able to be a part of, and I wanted her to know how special she was to me and my family.  Knowing she was there brought much comfort to me, and I look forward to spending more time with her and getting to know all her sisters.

DNA matches can either bring big surprises or things you already knew about but with the deeper story.  I encourage everyone to take the DNA test of their choice if nothing more than to know their family health history.  Remember, this is information that can be passed down through the generations. Be prepared for secrets the test may uncover, and remember the person on the paper who you didn’t know about has feelings and deserves to be acknowledged.  Whether you want to build a personal relationship with that person is up to you, but be mindful of your actions because they can hurt someone.