Be a Strong Woman!

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about how hormones affect muscle growth or if you are thinking about starting a new exercise program.

By: Lydia Scott

The Struggle is Real

I have a struggle. The struggle is real. The struggle is kind of a pain in the patootie. See, I’m a big supporter of strength training. I can’t recommend it enough. Strength training is fantastic! I tell everyone I know who asks what kind of exercise I do. And when I tell them lifting weightsthe different things I do, and I get to the part about “strength training” and “lifting weights,” nine out of ten of the women respond exactly the same: “What? Lift weights? No way! I don’t wanna look like a guy, ewww!”

Then you hear the loud, frustrated sigh slipping from my lips. DUDE! Why in the world do you think working to be stronger is going to turn you into a, well…a dude? Really? You think some 100-lb leg presses are going to give you Mr. Universe thighs? Some 15-lb Preacher Curls are going to send you to the guys’ clothing section for white tanks so you can “kiss those guns?” Weekly 70-lb deadlifts are going to have you in a sumo-style diaper on the Power Lifter channel?

That’s not how the female body works. Unless you have a major hormonal imbalance, or you train for years specifically to be a competitive body builder through extremely intense diet and targeted training, you will not look like a dude. Or even dude-ish. You need higher levels of testosterone to really build bulky muscles. The physiology that makes you a female also directs your muscles to keep themselves on the long, stretched out, and softly sculpted side. Whereas, the physiology that makes a guy a guy directs their muscles to grow big and bulky, fast.

Don’t take my word for it though. Let these fitness experts share their insights on women and why weight training shouldn’t scare them:

“Muscle burns fat. All you need to know!”

– J’Aimee Mechling, Personal Trainer and Wellness Director

“Strength training accentuates your natural silhouette. Once you burn the fat, you build up the muscles that were hidden and naturally create a beautiful shape. You determine how muscular you want to look, and cater your workout regimen towards that goal. Hourglass or body builder? It’s up to you!”

– Miriam Smith, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, AMPS Lifestyle Change.

Burn it!

Did you notice? Muscle burns fat. Yes. Muscle takes more calories to keep it going than fat does. If you weigh 150 pounds with a good supply of muscle, your body will automatically burn more calories just existing than if you weighed 150 pounds but have little muscle.

And me? Why do I do Preacher Curls, Romanian Deadlifts, standing kickbacks, chest presses, and an assortment of other strength-building exercises? For all the reasons J’Aimee and Miriam listed, plus I’m just sick of being weak. I mean, don’t you want to be able to toss that 20-pound bag of dog food in your grocery cart like it’s a sack of feathers? Or swing your 40-pound toddler around without getting sore or breathless? Don’t you want to be able to eat more without gaining a bunch of extra fat? Don’t you want to burn lots of calories all day and all night, instead of just the 45 minutes while you jog/row/bike/walk/dance? I do! I don’t like feeling weak when I know I don’t have to be. I love seeing my pants getting baggier, my legs and booty getting smoother and more shapely, and yet…I am not starving and I’m not slowly looking more dude-like.

Give it a try. Here’s a challenge to everyone whose doctor has approved them to engage in an exercise regimen like this: Twice a week, spend just 5 minutes lifting something. Your leg, the milk jug, the full laundry basket, a backpack. Then the next week, do it a little longer. Check back in a few weeks to let me know how it’s going!

Be a strong woman!

Being Eeyore

By: Lydia Scott

Poor Eeyore. He has such a reputation of being the slow, draggy, down-in-the-dumps kill joy of the Hundred Acre Woods bunch. Was he clinically depressed? Socially awkward? A chronically exhausted insomniac? Or was he simply an introvert with “resting angry calm face” entrenched in the loud, overly-active, bouncy, extroverted Tigger world?

I propose the latter. I mean, he always wore the cutest pink bow on his tail, and sad people just don’t wear cute pink bows. He was always willing to lend a helping hand to his friends and never expected a thing in return, which also goes against the grain for negative Eeyorepeople. Plus, more importantly, I can totally relate to Eeyore and all I am is an introvert with that permanent disinterested expression.

My slow and steady pace often comes across to Tigger-people as fruitless, draggy, and being annoyed by everything. My quiet, often-somber demeanor elicits inquiries of: “Are you okay?” “Are you sick?” “Is something wrong?” or apologies from bouncy extroverts (Tiggers) for being too happy. *insert-Eeyore-groaning-here*

Eeyore was neither sad, nor negative. He was a loyal, hard-working, loving creature who just needed to be left totally alone every now and then so he could recover from the intense, and often overwhelming, in-your-face energy of all those Tiggers and their world. I’ll bet he felt most connected to everything when he was in a place devoid of any other living thing that wanted to interact with him. Empty meadow at midnight? Middle of the stark desert? Heavenly, and completely recharging for ol’ Eeyore. Big room with Tigger and all his family? Pure exhaustion. Fun…definitely! But I guarantee you that Eeyore would need a 12 hour self-imposed solitary confinement after all that stimulating interaction, whereas Tigger and his posse would be more hyped up than ever from it.

The thing that makes Eeyore sad is that Tigger starts to feel sorry for being his energetic, in-your-face, bouncy self around the quiet, reserved, Eeyore. But ya know what? Eeyore really needs him. Eeyores need Tiggers, and Tiggers need Eeyores. Can you imagine a world with nothing but Eeyores? Aliens passing through would think Earth is a deserted planet! Without Tigger’s gregarious, extroverted, company-loving nature, Eeyore could forget that he needs people too. The more Eeyore slinks away into his cave, the easier it is to stay there. Thank goodness for Tigger, who will oft come drag Eeyore out for what (almost) always turns out to be a bouncing good time! Eeyore is a little jealous of bouncy Tigger, and even when he is at his quietest, is extremely grateful for all the Tiggers in his life reminding him that he is not alone.

And yep…Tigger needs Eeyore too. Dude, can you imagine a world full of Tiggers gone wild? Mayhem, I tell you. MAYHEM! Eeyore has a soothing, grounding effect on Tigger. He keeps him from wigging out over everything and teaches him that solitude can help him grow. Plus, it helps Eeyore be nicer. HAHA!

Being Eeyore in a Tigger world is exhausting, you know. I’m going to shuffle off to my cave for a nice nap now. You Tiggers play nice!

Traveling From the Sofa

By: Lydia Scott

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I don’t know about you guys, but I often dream of picking up all my junk and all my people and moving to a quaint little cottage on the side of a hill in Scotland. Heck, I’ve never even been over the big pond, so who knows – I might hate Scotland. My responsibilities keep me from visiting any time soon, so like a lot of us, I settle for day dreams and Google tours. I will also gladly settle for Asheville, NC, which I have visited and 100% ADORE. Have you been? Gah! It’s heaven, and all the angels eat at the Admiral after having beignets at Mayfels. But I digress…

And y’all…guess what I stumbled upon recently? A new website that’s the equivalent of going to Asheville, NC and asking where the locals go so you can get the real flavor of the town. It’s called Findery. Findery is like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Blogger, Google Earth and a history buff had a baby. It’s really new, so there’s still tons of room to grow, but what a fantastic wealth of non-polished, down-to-earth information there is! I’ve already started perusing my favorite places and checking out their Daily Challenges.

Check it out and look me up while you’re there! www.findery.com

The Art of the Haggle

By: Lydia Scott

Both in my job and in my home life, haggling happens. At work, I help customers looking for used pieces, and I used to work with vendors as the buyer. At home, my husband and I run an eBay business. Nothing fancy, but it helps out when we need it to. Truth be told, dollarmy honey does most of the real work and I just take care of the financial red tape. In both situations, we come across the need to negotiate for something. Usually it’s prices for goods, but sometimes it’s services.

Here are a few tips we’ve learned when it comes to trying to negotiate to get what you want. These may not apply to all situations, but so far they have applied to smaller negotiations like eBay sales, small furniture sales, yard sales, thrift store shopping, and even vendor negotiation. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to the provider of goods or services as a “seller.”

1. Don’t low ball.

Insulting the seller by starting off with a low ball offer is a bad idea. Why? Because it insults the seller and shows a lack of concern for their need to make a profit. Basically, giving you what you want is purely a matter of whether the provider actually wants to, or not. It’s your job to make them want to help you out by selling their goods for less than the asking price. See #4, below. As the seller, we’ve had potential customers offer half (or less) of the asking price, and when we come back with a price that’s only a few dollars less than the original price, they stick with the low ball. That’s when the negotiations stop, and if they try to continue with the low ball, our offered price will actually increase. You wanna save some money, and we need to make some. Be fair or move along. Offering $100 on a $200 item is not a fair start in most instances. You’ll have more success by starting at a price that’s 10% to 30% lower than the asking price than you will starting at 50% lower. You want room to negotiate, but that does not equal half price.

2. Listen.

When the provider says “that’s the lowest I’ll go” the first time, feel free to come back with an offer below that number once more, but still higher than your last offer. But if he repeats that X dollars is the lowest he can take, either match it or walk away because you’re wasting time and increasing the chance that the seller won’t accept any offer from you later on no matter how much he wants to sell. Which bring us to….

3. Timing.

Pay attention to when the goods were put up for sale, and don’t be one of the first few responders unless you’re willing to pay close to the original price. Wait until your seller starts to get nervous. Once some time has passed and they still haven’t gotten the interest they hoped for, they are more willing to say goodbye to a higher amount of their profit than risk not selling their goods at all. Yes, that means you may lose out on your item, but really, if you weren’t willing to pay the asking price to make sure you got the item, was it that important to you? If your answer is “no,” then give it some time, and try haggling or try haggling again if you’d already been to the seller once before. (See how not insulting him with a low ball can work in your favor now?)

4. Make them like you.

This goes back to number 1. If you approach the seller with a smile (or if online, a friendly, caring, respectful attitude), and you keep the banter friendly and light-hearted, you’re more likely to make the seller actually like you, and then want to say “yes” to your offer. You draw more flies with honey than with vinegar, so be real, and be real friendly.

At the end of the day, both the buyer and the seller have the same goal: to make a profit. The seller needs to rid himself of goods for a price that helps him pay his bills. The buyer needs to obtain goods for a price that helps him keep his bills paid. See? Same goal. With a smile and a reasonable expectation, you can both go home happy and with some change in your pocket!

What about you? What techniques have you helped you save some cash when haggling for something you needed (or wanted)?

Not the Same Ol’ Gifts

By: Lydia Scott

I love Etsy. I can find pretty much anything on there – and not the same ol’ big box, mass-produced junk, either. The majority of the vendors on Etsy are small, local businesses who are either selling items they have custom-made or are reselling vintage items. Right now it’s especially my favorite, because…it’s Christmas. I also love that they accept Paypal, which christmas shoppingmakes my budgeting and shopping easy! Below are some of my favorite finds on Etsy, but this list is nowhere near complete. Oh goodness, no! Etsy is the place to go to in order to find those super-cool, “Where in the world did you find that??” gifts.

Know a jewelry fan who seems to have everything? I guarantee you can find jewelry on Etsy that your jewelry fan does not already have and will love! Some of my favorites: Sydney Elle Designs, Whittlers Roost, and Moonshine & Pearls. Most, if not all, of these jewelry artisans can make custom pieces for you, and I promise it is not nearly as expensive as you might imagine.

And for the folks who love their lawns and gardens, one of my favorite go-to Etsy artisans is aDOORnaments. Again, if you don’t see a garden flag or accessory that is exactly right, just email aDOORnaments. She can work with you on a custom piece that doesn’t make your wallet starve.

Have a craft beer lover on your Christmas list? Check out these personalized beer flight paddles. They make me want to become a craft beer fan! I could so see these paddles being used for serving anything from liqueurs to parfaits to shrimp cocktail at a fun dinner party!

Not sure on the specifics of what you need to buy, just that it needs to fit your cousin’s “bohemian” style? Or it needs to be a “wood gift for a man?” Or maybe you have a teacher who is a “dog lover” to buy for? Let the Etsy search engine pull up items for you that you never even thought of!

Give Etsy a try. Or, even if Etsy is not your thing, make a promise to check out some of our wonderful local businesses during your Christmas shopping this year. Go by Soda City Market one Saturday morning and peruse the goods there while you sip hot coffee and munch on breakfast made by local hands.

No Regrets – Who You Are

By: Lydia Scott

I am really bad about wanting to be helpful. Therapy has taught me about my “helper” persona and how it’s a blend of being a little bit of a hero and a little bit of a victim all rolled up into one. Helpers, like all the other personality styles out there, are awesome and important to have in our lives. Helpers want to make a difference, find the solution, make life easier, make things happen, and help you excel. We don’t want our needs to be ignored; yet we will be the first to turn down offers of help, questions of “are you okay?” and depressionsuggestions of rest. A little bit hero, a little bit victim. There’s not a thing wrong with our helpful ways, but it can cause us to crash and burn when life gets mean. And I’ve done that – crashed and burned. I was ashamed of it every time, and every time was really unpleasant, but I don’t regret any of it.

On three occasions in my life, I’ve crashed and burned to the point of having to take myself to what I call “the happiness hospital.” Behavioral counseling centers, psychiatric hospitals, inpatient stability centers…whatever you call them, they are where people go to get concentrated, inpatient help for addictions, suicidal issues, severe depression, or even just sheer emotional exhaustion. During one of my stays, I met a lady who said she admitted herself because she needed a vacation from her life and needed to be forced to take care of herself. It can be a really humiliating experience to take oneself (or be taken to) the happiness hospital, even though it should not be humiliating. While none of these experiences were high points in my life (and in fact occurred during the worst times of my life), I don’t regret any of them.

A middle class, stay-at-home mom “shouldn’t” have debilitating depression and severe emotional instability. Looking back at all three instances, I totally see what lead me to lose my grip on myself: feeling completely alone AND not taking care of myself on the inside. I was going and going, losing one thing or person after another, and never stopped to deal with any of it. I didn’t feel like I had anyone who could wrap their arms around me and help me feel stronger and not alone, even when I was married (the first time) and had family trying to support me.

It just snowballs until one day you physically can’t stop crying or you’re researching just how many pills you would need to take to not wake up tomorrow. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize you need help and you’ll stop the world in order to get it, even when the person who should be your biggest supporter responds to your plea for him to take you to the “mental hospital” with eye rolls, protests of “Why did you let yourself get so bad?” or, “Your problem is you need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and try harder.” You keep trying, even when that person instructs you to not “come home until you’re well” when you ask what will happen to your marriage because of this. (Big hint…my first visit resulted in the staff psychiatrist telling me the primary cause of my issues was my marriage.)

Each of my stays at the happiness hospital lasted from five to ten days, and I was on suicide watch for all of them. I learned how to make do without a lot of comforts (my regular deodorant, shoelaces, shaving alone, eating what and when I felt like it), and I learned a lot about both myself and humanity in general.

There was the heavier set lady in her 50s who came in straight from home, had no one to bring her any of her things, and was in tears because she had no bra and was humiliated to be walking around with the girls swinging free. (We happened to be close in size, so I gave her one of mine). There was the elderly lady in a wheelchair who adopted me as her confidant, and would sit next to me for hours telling me about her life and sobbing over everything and everyone she’d lost. There was the high-powered, well-known attorney in the robe and slippers pacing the hallways, who turned himself in for drug and alcohol abuse that resulted from the horrors he dealt with in his cases.

There were wealthy people, homeless people, drug addicts, alcoholics, sad people, exhausted people, confused people, young people, old people, employed people, jobless people. And we all had common ground…we were all here because something wasn’t right and it wasn’t getting better. We didn’t need a new kidney or stitches. We needed teachers, guidance counselors, and friends to lean on, talk to, cry with. We needed to learn who we were and how to live life.

When I had to give up my kids and the alcohol and nightmares took over my life, leading to my last happiness hospital trip, I especially needed an identity and a purpose. I felt useless, worthless, lost, and like the biggest failure to ever exist. That visit helped me learn who I was, deep down inside, regardless of what role I was playing in life at any given moment. I was no longer a wife. I felt like I was no longer a mother, no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, no longer Daddy’s girl (he had passed a few years earlier), no longer had a home, and no longer had my friends. The counselors helped me figure out WHO I was, not just WHAT I was. They taught me to identify people who always wind up hurting me and how to keep those people from hurting me again.

Most of all, although it took three times, I finally learned how to say “I need help” before crashing and burning. I can never regret the incredibly human people I got to know, and the glimpse into the rawness of what really being a human being is built of. It’s built of pain, smiles, and hugs. And it’s built on not being alone.

Have you ever really identified WHO you are, rather than WHAT you are? How hard or easy is it for you to say “I need help?” Did you go through something extremely hard and unpleasant, but don’t regret it? What did you learn?

No Regrets, The Early Years

By: Lydia Scott

Lydia ScottI guess at the age of 42, I can consider myself middle-aged. 42 years is plenty of time to make a bunch of decisions that don’t turn out too well. It’s also plenty of time to be able to find the silver lining among the dark clouds of bad ideas. There are things I fully regret, like that time I drank way too much at that party out of town. Ugh. Or going to work for that horrible man who felt I was too fat to work out front where his clients could see me. Or not gassing up my car that dark night when I was 16 and out past curfew. These are all insignificant events that lead to nothing but pain and humiliation. I could have matured without those, thank you very much!

On a larger scale, I’ve been through some things that I did have a choice in, but either didn’t go well or weren’t, in general, a happy experience. But I don’t regret them. This blog will focus on something that took up a lot of my early life and wasn’t the right thing for me. But I definitely don’t regret it. Even when I get mad about it, I still don’t regret it.

I spent well over 30 years as a very devout member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sure, I got into it because my parents were Witnesses, but in my mid-teens I made the conscious choice to stick with it, to the fullest extent possible. Now, I have to say first, this way of life works wonderfully for millions of people, and in no way am I knocking it. For me, however, it resulted in a lot of issues that lead to unhappiness, more bad decisions, and denying the mind I was born with. Eventually, in my mid-30’s, I did move on to a way of life that fit my persona better – agnosticism. For me, being a devout evangelical Christian in this religion was not a good idea. However, there were good things I learned and experienced from it, like:

  1. I learned how to thoroughly research an assigned topic; devise an outline for a 5 minute dialog about that topic; create a skit between me and another assigned person that had to be within 30 seconds of the 5 minute limit and accomplish the task of getting the point across with a defined beginning, body, and conclusion; then perform said skit on stage (with real microphones!) in front of about 100 other people, afterwards being critiqued on it and informed of what needed improvement. I did this as a preteen and continued on as long as I was a Witness. It has served me well in my career, without the “formal” education.
  2. I learned how to stand up for what I believed was right, even when every single other person around me, every single day, thought I was an idiot. Do you know how hard it is to have the last name of Valentine, but not celebrate Valentine’s day? I can’t tell you how many times, even as a grade schooler, I had to to say “no, thank you” to people who just felt sure I really needed cards, presents, and parties for all the holidays and birthdays they enjoyed and I didn’t. Did I feel left out? Absolutely. Do I now have a hard time knowing what to do for all these celebrations, yet have an insane need to participate in the fun? Absolutely. Am I glad I learned how to stand up for my beliefs, even though I eventually outgrew them? Definitely!
  3. I learned discipline. We had meetings three days a week, every week, plus the “field ministry” (going door to door to talk about spiritual topics with strangers) a minimum of one morning a week. So yeah, even as a child, I was well-behaved and spiritual with a bunch of other people on at least four of the seven week days. I had to get dressed in fancy clothes (basically Sunday church-going clothes) for everything. I had to make sure I had all of my materials, like a Bible, a song book, publications we’d be reviewing, and a book bag. I had to study the assigned materials before each meeting so that I could participate. Participate, for the general audience, meant raising your hand to answer the questions voiced by the conductor of the meeting (usually provided in the assigned study material). If you could read, you could study and prepare your comments. If you weren’t old enough to read, mom and/or dad would help you practice giving a simple one or two word answer to a question they felt would work well for you. The conductors of the meetings would make a point to look for the tiny hands being held up amongst the 100 or so faces in the audience.

All of these things played a major role in many of the positive habits I have as an adult. Granted, there are parts of what I experienced that played a negative role, but hey…nothing is 100% positive, right?  And this blog series is focusing on the good stuff.

My next blog post will deal with my experience later in life with psychiatric treatment facilities, which was not fun either. But I learned some things from my experiences there that I didn’t expect.

I’d love to hear from some of you. What things did you experience that weren’t positive, or weren’t good ideas, but  taught you some valuable lessons?

Love Grows Love

By: Lydia Scott

Humans are strange creatures. We revel in food that’s not even real food. We love to interact with others, but often prefer it to be in any form other than face to face. And when someone we know passes away, we rush to leave them messages about how awesome we thought they were, how much we’re going to miss them, and how sad we are that we never got the chance to tell them these things before.

Why? Why do we do that? Why wait until someone has passed away to stop and tell them how cool we always thought they were? I’m not talking about your family and your really close friends. Most folks do pretty well at telling the people they’re really close to how much they love them (or at least I hope they do!). I’m talking about your neighbor; your lovecircle of Facebook friends that you occasionally meet for wine and a chat; your co-workers; your fellow PTA members you enjoy seeing at meetings; that coffee barista who always remembers how you like your coffee and keeps her cool with the rude folks in line; that teacher who takes the time to really work with your child during class; your pastor who’s always there to listen when you need guidance. Why don’t people tell any of these acquaintances that they admire and appreciate them until they’re gone?

Think about it…do you know a mom who inspires you to work a little harder? Does your garbage collection technician go out of her way to pick up the trash that blew out of your can, and always has a smile for you? Do you often find yourself thinking “Gosh, I didn’t know that person very well in school, but they seem to do so well with making people feel appreciated!” Do you have a co-worker whose poise, grace, and kindness are at a level you strive for? Yes? Have you told any of those people the things you think about them? No? DO IT. Right now. Text her. Call him. Message her. Post it on his Wall. Mail him a card. Invite her for coffee. Mention it at the next meeting. However you tend to communicate with any of those people, make sure you tell them now, and regularly.

The truth is, with people we know but don’t “really know,” we fail to say any of the good things we think of them until we hear about the car accident, the heart attack, or the cancer. But really, so many of these people are going through life barely holding it together and possibly with no one telling them how witty or compassionate or creative they are.

Be that person. Be the person who, when you think something positive about someone, TELLS THEM, while it can still make a difference in their lives and minds. Let them know their goodness is noticed and influences someone. Love grows love. Go ahead and plant that seed now.

The Simple Life

By: Lydia Scott

I remember my daddy as if we’d just finished grits and eggs at the kitchen table this morning. If we could find a clear spot on the table, that is. My daddy was his own boss who ran a successful insurance, estate, and financial planning business here in Columbia for decades. Most of that time he worked from home, and the kitchen table was his favorite spot to bury himself in his paperwork and phone calls, much to the chagrin of my slightly neat-obsessed mama.Me and Daddy

The kitchen table was positioned in front of a large sliding glass door that led out to the six-foot-high cement patio, and overlooked our tree-riddled backyard and our 2.5 acre squarish pond. He had our pond built when I was 8 years old, and it’s now one of several on Rimer Pond Road in Blythewood. Before the pond, that space was a mucky swamp, home to many rattlesnakes. But Daddy transformed it into a beautiful watery oasis, stocked with bass, bream, catfish, and carp. Nature made sure to move in turtles, herons, bullfrogs, dragonflies, and countless woodland creatures who came to drink and socialize. Daddy loved that pond, and being able to look out at it every day gave him a lot of happiness amongst his disheveled stacks of papers and waiting problems.

My father was an overall-wearing, corny joke-telling, poetry-writing, Bible-teaching, problem-solving, engine-diagnosing, sales genius; a 6-foot, 2-inch, 270-pound, booming baritone-voiced, oak tree of a man. And by oak tree, I mean that he embraced people, sheltered people, stood his ground on his beliefs, and influenced people far and wide. A devoted Jehovah’s Witness minister for his entire adult life, he ran against the grain by studying all he could about all other religions, and refusing to shun his family when they didn’t do what the religion said was right. He taught me that I have to get on other people’s levels if I want to reach their hearts, and that meant I had to understand their thinking.

When my teenage stupidity took hold and led me to do something rude or senseless, he got mad, yes. But he would also calmly ask me, “What were you thinking that led to your decision to do that?” And not in the “you’re an idiot” kind of way (most of the time). He genuinely tried to understand the process that had occurred in my head just before I decided to do something dumb. And it would make me CRAZY!!! Because usually there wasn’t really a thought process, which was why I did something dumb. (Duh, Daddy!) But it made me stop and think, and helped me stay on a better path.

me and daddyMy daddy should have been a psychologist. He was a master at reading people and getting them to do things differently, and he was constantly fascinated with why people do the things they do. Which is why he was so good at sales. His downfall was that his expansive imagination meant you could sell him sand in a desert. He was always looking for the next big breakthrough and saw potential in just about everything.

Constantly brimming over with ideas and solutions, his mind was only quiet amongst the artistry of nature. He woke up before dawn every morning so he could bask in the quiet, therapeutic beauty of the little paradise he’d built at our edge-of-suburbia home. Nature often inspired him to write, as it did not long before he died on August 30, 2003:

The Simple Life

What is life?

Surely not just strife.

Can you see the smile

That will make everything worthwhile?

A child at play, having fun

A cat or dog, scampering in the sun

The cells of our brain may die

Our experiments in life may make us cry

We will not despair

About complex things, don’t care

Give me the Simple Things

My heart goes ka bump ka bump

Over a rich clammy soil clump

Soil that will make beautiful flowers grow

Among which fireflies will glow

A big bass jumps in the pond

To bait my hook I am so fond

To sit in the shade on the dam all day

To fish for fun, not something to eat, I pray

To laugh, to sing

And watch what a shower will bring

There goes a waterbug, a frog

But I’d rather sit than jog

Give me the Simple Things

I have everything I desire right here

For riches, for wealth, I won’t cheer

Give me the Simple Things

To love and care for others is best

To invite others to be our guest

Will give us renewed zest in our life

And chase away the blues and strife

Give me the Simple Life!

He used to joke that he’d be happiest going off out west and living in a cave on a mountain. I think he was only half-joking. He loved family and loved people, which meant they held power over his heart, and caused him a lot of pain. Always coming to him to fix their screw-ups, and he never turned any of them away. We often didn’t see much of Daddy because he was off helping someone right a wrong, fix an error, overcome an obstacle. He wasn’t a perfect man…sometimes his patience failed him and his words were especially harsh to an overly-sensitive, chubby little girl. Sometimes he wasn’t as approachable as he could have been, so we wrote him notes and left them on his bed pillow when we wanted something. He had a white belt nicknamed White Lightnin’ that he used on your behind if you were really out of line. I think I felt its sting only twice, being a people-pleasing below-the-radar type of kid. He had a weakness for sweets, and to this day, I get teary-eyed when I see a box of Hostess Raspberry Zingers and a six pack of Blenheim Ginger Ale.

Daddy was a simple man with a complicated life who was loved deeply by a ridiculous number of people. He died the way he had expressed would be worst for him: trapped inside a body unable to express anything in his mind or move anything on his own, even his eyelids. Life’s cruelest irony for him. Not one to be beaten down by anything, my sister, who was dozing in his room early on his last morning, says she heard him humming one of his many nameless tunes in the wee hours before dawn, his favorite time. Doctors said it had to have been a reflex, since he could not have done it willfully. But we all knew better. Just like I knew, a few days before when I told him the doctors’ prognosis that he could live in that state for years. I told him we knew he was the one in control and he could decide to stay or go, and the tears rolled down his cheeks. It was not a reflex. He was in control, like always.

And that last morning, he hummed an unknown tune in the dark before dawn, and took his last breath…his choice, his time…just the way he’d lived.

SSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!

By: Lydia Scott

As some of you may know, I work for a great office furniture dealer and do-it-all business. I’ve been here over six years. Why? Is it because office furniture is the most exciting and life-enhancing thing ever? Uh…no. It’s because the people are awesome and I really like having a hand in helping things grow, whether it’s a plant or a business full of good folks.

As an office furniture dealer, potential clients like to see examples of the things they can get. Everybody wants to test drive something before they buy it, right? Office furniture is no different. But, it does mean the furniture dealer needs to have a pretty darn cool and current showroom. And ours was well overdue for an upgrade. I mean, it was certainly nice, but in a 2002 boxy brown kinda way. Add to that the fact that our office is housed in the super historic 100+ year-old former mill and Palmetto School of Aeronautics located on Rosewood Drive, and showroom feng shui can be a challenge on a good day. I mean, it looks like an old and possibly abandoned warehouse on the outside, so we’d better have a darn good game going on when you open the door!

But our wonderful team did an update, and we now have a fresh, happy, and OPEN office plan. Open means there are a lot less walls and barriers between everybody, and it’s the way the majority of businesses are leaning now. It makes collaboration and team-building easier by utilizing the space. But it also means you become one big ol’ close-knit family. And you know what my friends ask me more than anything (knowing I’m in office furniture)? They ask: In the name of all that’s good and quiet, HOW CAN I GET SOME QUIET AND PRIVACY in these new-fangled open offices???? And because they don’t know how to make it happen, they hate their workspace. And that just ain’t nice, y’all. It ain’t nice at all!

So, I’m gonna give you tips on how to not hurt your co-workers after your boss calls us to come put in a fresh and modern OPEN office.

Open office

First, you can go for the gusto and see if the company decision-makers will agree to install a sound masking system. That’s basically a room-wide white noise system with a handy dandy loudness dial ranging from dull whisper to IS THAT A JET ENGINE IN THE CEILING!? We have one, and I sometimes crank that puppy up to Delta 787 when there’s a lot going on. It helps drown out the annoying (albeit fun) chit chat, the private phone conversations and client consultations, and the constant sniffles and snorts coming from across the room.

White noise

But, we’re going to assume you have to stick with stuff you buy and use on your own, rather than requesting to be installed as an office purchase. Below is a list of three of the easiest, cheapest, and least obnoxious ways that I have found to get a little quiet and me-time in your “open as a desert” office. As always, make sure you aren’t violating any kind of company policy before you do anything. And if you’ve found some cool hacks of your own, by all means, share!!!

  1. Desk-top fan. I’d call this the single best weapon against annoying noises and conversation privacy. For under $20, you can have your own personal white-noise machine making your noises and others’ way less noticeable. And if you can get your co-workers to get their own, it’s a total score! If you don’t like wind in your hair, you can easily turn the fan so it blows against your wall, tilt it up to the ceiling, or in the direction of that guy who eats the sardine and onion sandwich at his desk everyday…

Desk top fan

  1.  A screen. No, not like the one grandma has on her front porch. More like the ones below or found on Pinterest. If you want a screen that blocks a little noise as well as blocking prying eyes, definitely buy or make one that has a solid core (i.e. plywood) and is covered in a heavier fabric. If you can get padding under that fabric, even better. (Both fabric and padding absorb sound before it hits your ears.) And no, it doesn’t have to be big. A desk-top screen works, or you could even use pieces of fabric-covered foam board assembled in an L-shape to stand up on top of your desk.

ScreenScreen

  1. Earbuds. Now, assuming your job does not require you to constantly answer phones and/or other people, employing earbuds and some favorite tunes or peaceful ocean sounds can help you shut out everything else around you when you really need to focus. Just try to make sure you get the kind that can’t be heard by everyone else when Snoop Dogg comes on and you just have to CRANK. IT. UP. *ahem*

Now, if y’all excuse me for a bit, I need to pull my mobile screen to the front of my desk, turn on my fan, put in my earbuds, and pretend I’m on a warm and sunny beach when I’m actually being uber-productive at my desk! Seriously…I am. Totally! Oh, and while I’m working hard, y’all feel free to leave some tips of your own for getting peace and quiet in a room full of people!