Getting Back to My Roots

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

No, I’m not doing one of those DNA “Who Am I” things that I keep seeing on TV. I have a cousin who does a lot of family tree researching, and that’s enough for me. Instead, I’m working on getting back to my hair color roots. I’m in the process of growing out the color and going back to my natural color – whatever THAT is.

I started coloring my hair as a teenager, starting with an innocent summer experiment with “Sun In.” It turned my dark brown hair a brassy orangey blonde. Next was my first professional “color correction,” and from there, I was hooked. I’ve been coloring my hair so long I don’t really remember the actual natural color.

After the aneurysm rupture, I said that if I’d had my head shaved for surgery, I would’ve started over with my hair color. I meant it, even though I continued to have it colored when I returned. I often admire and become a little jealous of friends who’ve bucked the temptation to color and sport their gray as it grows in. I also have a good role model; my mother has beautiful white hair (even though it took her some 40 years to flaunt it.)

After nearly 10 years with the same stylist – I’ll spare the drama – it was recently time to find a new one. Thankfully, I was able to get a quick appointment with my friend, Erin, who I’ve wanted to try for a while now. (I don’t know about you, but when I’m ready for a cut, I’m ready, and I don’t like to have to wait more than a few days.) Sometime during the haircut, I started telling Erin about my silver hair coming in, and before I left, we were talking strategies to go gray gracefully.

Because I’d already been a while without a cut and color, I had a good head start, no pun intended. And Erin went a little shorter than usual to give it another boost. To take the edge off the color and soften the contrast between the light and darker shades, she recommended that a glaze for my next appointment, which I made before leaving. After what seems like forever and a day, the appointment is next week, and I can hardly wait.

Right now, I still have quite a bit of blonde, so I’ve gotten no comments on the color. I’m waiting, though, and I’m sure as folks start seeing the gray, I’ll get plenty of feedback. Since I really want to do this, I’d like to think it won’t bother me. But society is so focused on youth and beauty, that I know not all of the comments will be positive. I’m determined to stick it out, though. (One caveat. If I get there and hate it, I won’t hesitate to have it colored again.)

Attached is a selfie after my cut with Erin. You can obviously see the darker roots, but the gray isn’t really showing yet. I’ll be taking pics throughout the process, and look forward to sharing one with more gray soon.  For now, I’m curious. Do you color your hair? Would you (or have you) decide to go gray? Any words of wisdom as I undertake this project?

Gluten-Free Traveling

By: Rachel Sircy                 

My last post was about some ways that you can stay gluten-free in an emergency. This post is going to be about a few things that I tend to do when I am traveling to help make sure that I don’t get contaminated.

Be Prepared: This is something that people will always tell you when you’re traveling anywhere whether you’re gluten-free or not. The thing is, when you have a severe allergy or intolerance, you really do have to be prepared to feed yourself. Never trust that you’ll be able to just find something to eat. Believe me, when I was first diagnosed I made the mistake of thinking that I could just “find something,” on a road trip. Those road trips were horrible and ended in tears. I’m not a person who does well when she’s hungry.

What do I mean by prepared, you might ask. Well…this is a picture of my toaster. It’s not fancy and it cost approximately $7 at Walmart.

This toaster goes where I go. It fits pretty well into the Aldi grocery bag that I use to carry my food for the trip in. If I am staying at a hotel where they serve continental breakfast, I will     sometimes check to see if they have any brands of yogurt that I know are gluten-free and I will perhaps take a banana, but mostly I bring my own bread and peanut butter (or Glutino toaster pastries if I don’t feel like being health conscious) and make my own breakfast in my room.

It’s also a good idea if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination to pack easy to eat non-perishable snacks for the trip like food bars (Larabar, Clif Organic Trail Mix Bar, etc) and high    protein snacks like gluten-free nuts and jerky (most flavors of Krave, Oberto All Natural and Epic jerky are gluten-free, but always read the labels because things that contain Teriyaki are usually NOT gluten-free). I’ve also heard of people who travel with cans of tuna and a small can opener and some crackers so that if they find that they have nothing else for dinner, they won’t go hungry. I personally don’t like fish so that doesn’t work for me. The tuna thing probably wouldn’t work on an airplane, but there are travel containers of both peanut butter and hummus. Some bananas, crackers, and vegetables could turn a container of either peanut butter or hummus into a small meal. Remember that it is never a good idea to just wing it when your health is at stake. Don’t allow yourself to get hungry out there on the road or you will be tempted to eat things that will make you sick!

2) Call Ahead: Anytime you’re staying with friends or relatives have a good conversation about what you can and can’t eat and also how your food must be prepared. Lots of well-meaning people don’t know what is or is not contaminated by gluten, so help them out. Make sure Aunt Susie knows that she can’t just pick the croutons out of your salad before she serves it to you and that the kitchen must be thoroughly cleaned after she rolls out pie dough on the counter before she cooks anything for you for dinner.

Once, my husband and I stayed in a bed and breakfast in Charleston and my husband had the foresight to call the owner when we made our reservations and tell him that I had dietary restrictions. He gave us leave to use the kitchen to cook food for ourselves and we also got to talk to the cook about what I could eat for breakfast. During that stay, we met a woman who also had to be gluten-free, but who hadn’t called ahead to let the owner know about it and, unfortunately, she had quite a time trying to eat around all the contaminated food on her plate. So, don’t be afraid to tell people up front about your needs and just let them know (gently) that if they are unable to meet those needs, you won’t be able to stay with them.

3) Try a Gluten-Free Destination: That may sound a bit out there at first, but there are two celiac friendly travel destinations in either direction of Columbia. Charleston is a pretty food-forward city and while the cost of its trendy restaurants may mean that you can’t eat there all the time, many of those restaurants offer gluten-free meals (it is still quite the fad in dieting to be gluten-free). If you travel in the other direction, Asheville, NC has been featured in Delight magazine and, most recently, in Gluten-Free Living as a gluten-free travel destination. I have mentioned before (and I will keep mentioning it) that there is a restaurant in Asheville called Posana that serves exclusively gluten-free food. Not only is their food (and I do mean ALL of their food) gluten-free, but it is also delicious. Seriously, I dream about their fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese sauce and also their lemon blueberry cheesecake sometimes. It is a bit pricey as well, but it is a great place for a special occasion or a treat. These cities are great if you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

These are just a few of the things that I have learned from trying to travel and stay safe. Life’s a journey. Travel with a dependable toaster.

Can You Change the Way Your Story is Told?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across an intriguing piece in my Real Simple, October 2017 magazine issue titled “The Power of a Story”.  The article specifically caught my attention because I’ve always thought of my life story as a novel – to be honest, a soap opera at times – but, an intriguing, entertaining story for sure. As a teacher of the fine arts, I teach storytelling, so I know the qualities of a good storyteller. I’ve lived it, performed it, taught it, reviewed and critiqued it. So when I read this article talking about how “we think of our own lives as stories”, I couldn’t help but see the benefit of taking control of the telling of our own life story.

The thought of taking control of authoring our own story, our own plot line, our own character traits, conquering the antagonists of our lives… Well, as an artist and goddess female human with a very vivid imagination, a ‘carpe diem’ view of life, and a passionate viewpoint on the world that encompasses me, being in control of and creating my life’s story is very important to me.

And there are the keywords – control and creation. As an individual, female or male, you have the power to write and tell your story. You create your world. You author your own tale. Whether it’s dramatic, boring, heartwarming, Oscar-winning or clean-cut all American material, you are ultimately the storyteller of your life.

The month of October is National Stomp Out Bullying Month and I took the opportunity to reach, teach and hopefully inspire my students. I put my normal drama lessons on hold and showed my classes some poignant, thought-provoking videos with the goal of getting them to think critically and engage in discussion. I told each of my classes that as a good teacher it is my job to get them thinking, and not just about drama and the fine arts, but really thinking about what kind of character they want to play in their life story.  I asked them, how do you want to be known? Which character will you be in the story that is your life? Will you be the bully? Will you be the bystander? Will you allow yourself to be the victim? Will you be the person that stands up for the victim? Ultimately will you be the change that helps to create a more positive story?

Think on this. What is your character in your life story?

As we live through the day-to-day normal nonsense of life, we experience incredible journeys of hope, faith, and love, and we experience battles. The narrative of our lives is sometimes mundane and sometimes that of award-winning film story success. Either way, as soon as you realize that you hold the pen, the sooner you can truly write and live out your story.

The most important thing to remember is that you have control. You have the power to create your adventure, your happy tale that leads to a happy ending. So take that opportunity, make it happen, take ownership in writing your life story – you are the author after all.

😉

How to Make Instagram Instantly Better

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I am not a social media maven. No, let’s be honest: I don’t even like social media. I just don’t see the fascination of wasting hours trolling through tweets or tracking someone’s every movement on Facebook. (Fair disclosure: I have Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, but only because I need them in my work.)

This blog and an Instagram account are as adventurous as I get in social media, and the Instagram account only came about more or less by accident. A conference I went to offered a drawing prize for attendees who posted throughout the event using its hashtag. I’d heard of Instagram but didn’t know much about it or why anyone would want to use it. But with that prize dangling in front of me — and a long trip with time to kill — I downloaded the app and taught myself how to use it.

Well, guess what? It was a ton o’ fun, and so simple even I could get the hang of it quickly. Just take a picture, type a short phrase about it, toss in a few hashtags and click share. I don’t have a lot of followers (you can be one: search for @jeannedreynolds) nor do I follow many people, but I have been able to connect with one or two long-lost friends and gained some insight into the personal lives of some of the creative, caring and really cool people I work with.

But — you knew there was a but coming, right? — the more experience I have with Instagram, the more posts I see that are, well, kind of annoying. Here, then, are my gentle suggestions for making the most of your Instagram posts:

  1. Post a picture of someone besides yourself. Of course I like you or I wouldn’t be following you, but your constant stream of selfies comes across a bit self-centered.
  2. Less is more. If you need to write a paragraph to explain your pix, try another social media platform. Don’t make me hit the “more” button and scroll, scroll, scroll to read your entire thought.
  3. Less is more, part B: Enough with the hashtags. I’ve read that posts with multiple hashtags are more widely viewed, but viewed by whom? Do you really care if you reach a tattoo artist in Alaska with your personal views? Two or three is plenty.
  4. Let’s see some variety. There’s one co-worker who I like and admire deeply, but 90% of her posts involve her drinking champagne, or her and her friends drinking champagne, or just two glasses of champagne by themselves. Two family members post mostly photos or videos of each other making puppy eyes or looking soulfully into the distance. OK, they’re somewhat newlyweds, but still.
  5. Save the sap. Related to #4, please save the long, heartfelt confessions of true love for your Valentine’s Day card. This person is a lot of fun to be around and has changed your life for the better, check. Ooey-gooey hearts and doves, check out.

If you haven’t tried Instagram yet, take a look at it. It’s a fast and simple way to vicariously share travel, meals, holidays and everyday adventures with your family and friends. Like me, you’ll probably gain new insights into how they think and feel and a new appreciation for how multifaceted each of us is.

It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words. Just be sure you’re only using a fraction of that on Instagram.

Remembering Hugo, Awaiting Irma

By: Chaunte McClure

Today reminds me of that warm, late summer afternoon in September 1989 when the threat of Hurricane Hugo had South Carolina residents on alert. I was in the eighth grade and vaguely recall standing in the courtyard in front of our high school as the light breeze brushed our faces and mangled our hair as my friends and I talked about little of nothing.

Fast forward 24, or maybe 48, hours and my family awoke to a quiet house with no electricity or running water. That was the state of our community for a few days. Bottled water was not a household grocery item in those days when scrunchies and leg warmers were accessories.

With Irma on the horizon, grocery stores are trying to keep up with the demand for bottled water. I’ve heard story after story and I’ve seen photo after photo of empty shelves where 24-packs of water are usually stocked. I’m sure my grandparents filled empty milk jugs with water in preparation for Hugo. When that stock nearly ran out, we journeyed to Mr. Howard’s house to refill our containers. Mr. Howard still had an old hand water pump. Though weathered from years of outdoor exposure, that rusty pump poured some of the coolest, best tasting water. I doubt anyone in my hometown still has one except for use as antique décor in their flower garden. Before Irma makes landfall in Florida and maybe Georgia and South Carolina, I’m sure many people will probably reminisce about that throwback water source.

I was in my garage Saturday and discovered three bottles of the water left from the 1,000-year flood experience of 2015 when we were without water for about three days. I’ll use those first (not for drinking), should circumstances warrant it. Unlike in 2015, this time, I’ll remember to fill the bathtubs with water in case we lose power.

I’ve seen a couple other good tips on preparing for a storm on Facebook the past couple of nights, neither of which I’ve heard of before. One of my friends shared a post from delish.com with a tip on determining if the food in your freezer completely thawed during a power outage while you were away. Here’s the tip: “You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer. That way when you come back after you’ve been evacuated you can tell if your food went completely bad and just refroze or if it stayed Frozen while you were gone. If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out. But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be ok.”  – Sheila Pulanco Russell

Another Facebook tip that has gone viral from a Facebook user is on substitutes for sandbags. Edward Sweat says, “Plastic bags [garbage bags] 1/3 filled with water make good substitutes for sandbags at doorways.” And in the event water enters your house, he advises using paint cans or five-gallon buckets to support and elevate your furniture.

At this hour, the path of the storm is still unclear, but the best advice I have for you is to be safe and be prepared when and if Irma arrives.

Back-to-School Excitement

By: Chaunte McClure

For the first August in seven years, I will not head back to (seminary) school. No more three-hour weeknight classes or eight-hour Saturday classes. However, I’m engaged in the thrill of gearing up for a new school year.

I’ve made a few trips to an office supply store to stock up on the one cent folders and composition notebooks. Last night I took advantage of the $5 uniform shirts and $6 uniform pants online. Because I waited until almost midnight to take advantage of the good deals, some of the items I planned to purchase were out of stock. Tomorrow I’ll rummage the rounders for the remaining items on my list, all in the name of being a blessing to some special little people in my life.

Besides the last day, the first day of school was probably one of the most exciting for me. The adrenaline rush usually kept me up late like Santa was coming to town.

I wonder if kids get excited about what to wear on the first day of school like we used to before school uniforms were required? I remember perusing the circulars for clothes I wanted (and almost never got) and planning my outfits. Uniforms must be a godsend for parents, and children too. Maybe it removes the peer pressure of having to meet others’ dress standards or being teased for how they dress or the clothing brand they wear. Based on my shopping experience, uniforms are certainly a less expensive option.

Moms, are you a fan of uniforms? Why or why not?

Solmates: The Socks That Helped Save My Life

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I was recently on a trip to Golden, Colorado and slipped away to see the charming downtown. After a day in renewable energy meetings, I needed a break and something different for dinner. I also wanted to get a surcie for my sister, who would face a crazy few days without me at the house to care for the menagerie and keep things in order.

As I walked into one store, I saw a rack of brightly colored mismatched socks and gasped in joy. The sales woman looked at me a little funny.

These are the fab socks I bought for myself in Golden.

“These socks helped save my life,” I said. “They’ll be the perfect gift for my sister, who is bravely caring for four crazy animals while I’m here in Golden.”

Flash back to a little over two years ago – March 18, 2015 – when I suffered my ruptured aneurysm. Sometime between midnight and 5 a.m., I either fell out of bed or tried to get up, but unbeknownst to me, passed out on the floor.

At 5 in the morning, my alarm went off. And off. And off. Sister eventually got up and came into my room, quite annoyed that I’d left for the gym without turning off my alarm clock. She huffed in, turned off the alarm and was probably cursing at me under her breath when an array of bright colors caught her eye. Because those colors were on my feet in the form of my crazy bright Solmate Socks, it called her attention to me, lying unconscious in the floor. Otherwise, Sister might’ve missed me and perhaps only found me when she went to work, which at that time was mid-afternoon. I may not have made it. (I tell you, those socks helped save my life!)

Coincidentally, it was Sister who started my affection for Solmate Socks. She put a pair in my stocking one Christmas, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Purposely mismatched Solmate Socks are whimsical, comfortable and downright cheerful. They’re so comfortable and great to sleep in, which is mostly when I wear mine.

Solmate Socks was started in the year 2000 by Marianne Wakerlin with the simple idea that “Life’s too short for matching socks.” As a lifelong textile artist with a wonderful eye for design and keen instinct for business, she knew there was a market for beautifully crafted, mismatched socks made right here in America.

The company quickly grew out of a small room in her house to three different offices in the US and the UK. Solmate Socks’ product line also expanded to include hats, gloves, and scarves in addition to mismatched, colorful socks.

After 15 years of hard work and success with the company, Marianne decided to put down the proverbial knitting needles and retire. But as it worked out, she kept the business in the family. As of January 2015, Marianne’s son, Randy, and her daughter-in-law, Lisa, are the new owners.

Continuously demonstrating a commitment to protecting the environment, protecting the health and safety of employees, and nurturing relationships with local businesses and communities, Randy and Lisa are firmly committed to keeping Solmate Socks an eco-friendly, American-made company with a focus on developing fresh designs and products and an emphasis on supporting local businesses.

Eco-friendly? Yep! All Solmate products are knit from the ingenious repurposing of recycled cotton yarn. (It was the recycled part that initially motivated Sister to buy my first pair for me.) Solmate collects remnants from t-shirt factories that would normally go into a landfill, grinds them down to basic material and re-spins that material into their own yarn. These recycled yarns are free from harmful substances, made with respect for the environment and respect for human rights. Using recycled yarns means that Solmate Socks decreases the amount of cotton waste sent to landfills. Their yarns also reduce the amount of water, land, pesticides and herbicides used to grow new cotton fibers as well as eliminates the need for harmful chemicals to dye virgin cotton yarn.

While I can’t guarantee that a pair of Solmate Socks will save your life, I can promise you that you’ll love these fun, funky socks. We’ve seen them in very few stores, but they are available online and on Amazon. Check them out today. They make great gifts, but you should also treat yourself to a pair.