My Not So Great Christmas…

By Marianna Boyce

This blog post was initially going to be about delightful Christmas memories.  When I walked up the sidewalk at Salon on Main for my hair appointment before Thanksgiving, I knew I had to change direction.  Maybe I’ll reminisce about my childhood another year.

The statement on my salon’s marquee outside read, “Where God Guides He Provides.”  Of course, this sent my brain firing on all cylinders.  I could hardly wait to pen my thoughts onto paper.  Their messaging was great!  The memories it stirred?  Not so great!  Just stay with me a minute y’all.

My two adopted granddaughters, now ages 11 and 13 came to mind.  Their young lives have not always been merry and bright. Seven years ago, God saw fit to remove them from the hellish situation they were living.  Even though they now have all the love, care, and attention any child could ever hope for, they are both still haunted by their past.  Material gifts cannot give back the formative years that were lost at such tender ages.  My prayer is they both learn to depend on God in a mighty way and not allow their unfortunate past define who they become in the future.

My next thought reverted me to 2016…a year I will never forget!  This was the year I had a not so great Christmas!  Okay, it was really quite depressing, and to be totally honest, it was the most horrible holiday season I had ever experienced in my entire life!  All I remember was the excruciating joint pain riddled throughout my entire body.  All I could think of was myself!  (Selfish much)?  Indeed I was!  My exhausting experience was dreadful!  When heartache, pain, and sorrow come knocking at your door, nothing else really seems to matter.

During that time, not only did I begin shutting out family and friends, I also left out God.  Miraculously, God never left me!  It was just little ‘ole me…and a very big God.  He was still faithful to guide me through some of the darkest days of my life.  He strategically and sporadically placed those precious family members, friends, and even strangers in my life to push me over the numerous hurdles I so painfully endured.  Thankfully, I am much better now.

Maybe you haven’t yet crossed that threshold.  If not, just know that God cares for you too.  If you’re looking for Him, He’s not hard to find.  Just listen for that still, small voice.  He will never barge His way inside your heart and life.  He must be invited.  His timing is always perfect though.

quoteWhile many people are decking their halls, trimming their tree, gathering around a warm cozy fire, baking sweet treats, etc., there are also many that cannot merrily go about their business.  Maybe you are missing your military husband, wife, son or daughter halfway around the world.  Are you a single parent just trying to make ends meet?  Maybe you’re coping with the loss of a loved one or caring for elderly parents.  Does something just seem to be missing?  Do you just simply dread this time of year?  My prayer for you is to  find comfort, peace and joy this holiday season.

For those who can be someone’s Christmas cheer this year, you may very well be an answer to a simple prayer!  A smile and a kind word goes a long way!  If you can do more, feel free to do so!  Remembering the Reason for the Season and also, wherever God guides, He will indeed provide.

May God bless you and your family this holiday season!  Merry Christmas!

Treasured Traditions…Fire It Up & Pass The Biscuits!

By Marianna Boyce

It’s that time of the year when many of us may experience feelings of nostalgia.  I love reminiscing about holidays past.  pic 2On Thanksgiving Day, rest assured, my Daddy will be outside raking and burning leaves in his brick fire pit.  (He will probably also be sporting a tie!)  I adore watching him stand there stoically with his hands propped up on the rake while he watches the leaves burn.  It always sparks great conversation when my son and I smell a fire off in the distance in crisp autumn air.  I’m thankful God has blessed us with another year for Daddy to light his traditional Thanksgiving bonfire.

I also need to introduce you to my maternal grandmother (Maw).  She was the only one of my grandparents that I remember.  She was no bigger than a minute but she owned a large personality.  She passed away many years ago at the tender age of ninety.  One thing I always loved watching her do when I was a child was make homemade buttermilk biscuits.  She would scoop out a handful of lard and circle it around the huge mound of flour in her “magical” wooden bowl.  She would “squish” flour and lard as she slowly poured buttermilk into the bowl with her arthritic hands.  She would incorporate and knead it until it possessed the consistency of perfection. That small handful of lard “magically” transformed into a large ball of dough.  Maw would then pinch off a bit and roll it in her tiny hands.  As she placed that ball of dough on her baking pan, she would gently place her knuckle prints across the top of each biscuit.  This was a must!  She often remarked without the knuckle prints, they just wouldn’t taste as good!

pic 3My precious Mama has continued making these biscuits after Maw passed away.  I had always wanted to learn but it just looked so daunting.  Every Thanksgiving at Mama’s house, I watch her in action.  She always makes it look so easy!  Last Thanksgiving (2017), she just wasn’t herself.  She was experiencing a great deal of pain in her back and could hardly stand, but she just HAD to make those biscuits.  I told her to sit next to me in the kitchen and teach me to make them instead.  It was time to pass the torch!  Mama didn’t realize I was also experiencing an excess of pain in my body related to RA, especially in my hands; however, I was willing to suffer through the pain for my sweet Mama!

pic 1I grimaced when I started pouring cold buttermilk into the bowl incorporating it with the lard and flour.  After a minute or two, a Thanksgiving miracle happened!  It turned out, this was VERY therapeutic for my hands.  Once I finished, I felt fantastic!  The smell of freshly baked biscuits wafting through the air was enough to make anyone’s day!  I could hardly wait for both of us to taste one piping hot from the oven!  My oldest brother Tommy was certain we would be using them for weapons, but I’m happy to report that my first batch of biscuits turned out quite good.  I had a great teacher, but of course Maw AND Mama’s biscuits remain unmatched!  Maybe this year she will teach me to make her homemade giblet gravy.  I’ll be making the biscuits!

We truly need to pass on precious memories and treasured traditions to our future generations.  I’m wondering if we should even revive some that we’ve “forgotten.”  So much seems to get lost along the way.  When did we get in a big hurry to do everything?  The answer is…just one moment at a time!  Let’s just slow down this holiday season and simply enjoy the journey.  God bless you and your family!  Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

  •  I have lost one additional pound since my last post (for a total loss of 5 pounds). I hoped to be further along by now, but you know…Halloween candy and all.  I have a fondness for Reese’s cups!  (Who knew?)  Only 15 more pounds to lose!

Know…Listen…Act!

By Marianna Boyce

It’s never a good time for a life-altering illness, so when I read Janet Prince’s blog post, “The Whispering Signs of Ovarian Cancer – Do You Know Them,” it made me sit up and take note!  At the time, I was experiencing many of the very symptoms she had mentioned in her post.

stethoscopeSince my annual checkup was just a few weeks ago, I discussed the matter with my gynecologist.  He shared my concern and ordered an ultrasound of my ovaries on that very day.  I am happy to report that it revealed no signs of ovarian cancer.  Although he thinks I’m a few years away yet, my 50-year-old body is merely preparing for the inevitable.  M-M-M-Menopause!  Yay me, but in all seriousness, the peace of mind I had leaving his office that day was truly awesome.  (Thank you, Janet.)

I’ve barely gotten used to dealing with daily chronic joint pain over the last two years.  Of course, with the right medication the pain is better, but I haven’t had a completely pain free day since June 15, 2016.  I was actually healthy and fit when my unfortunate situation reared its ugly head.  The onset of my symptoms could’ve broken a world record how quickly they spread throughout my body.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, this issue fell in the “autoimmune” category.  This is when your immune system “misfires” and sees healthy cells as foreign and it begins attacking itself.  Weird right?  I thought so too!  Some believe autoimmunity stems from diet.  Some feel it may be linked to environmental elements.  Some disorders may be genetic.

The list of autoimmune illnesses is quite lengthy.  This list includes, but is not limited to, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, etc.

handsRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is when the immune system attacks the joints causing redness, swelling, warmth, and debilitating stiffness.  RA is often mistaken for an “old person’s disease” which is not the case.  (That would be osteoarthritis which is degenerative, not autoimmune.)  If you spoke with Emily, my 13 year old niece, she could speak first hand what RA feels like.  She is a precious soul!  She was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) at the age of 18 months!  Click this link to read the Q&A interview blog post that I shared on my personal website a few months ago.

For many issues that we all face, it is important to act quickly.  If you suffer from one of these autoimmune illnesses, all we really wish for is a quick diagnosis and a plan to manage the symptoms as soon as humanly possible.  RA is sometimes difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic so many other illnesses.  Oftentimes, these must be ruled out before receiving a definitive diagnosis.

If you’re an RA warrior patient, you must have RA warrior patience.

Just know your body…Listen to it…Be prepared to act…

P.S.   An update since my “Weight It Out” post,  I’m down 4 pounds.  I have 16 more to lose.  If you are joining me…keep it up!  If you messed up like I did today, start again immediately, not tomorrow.  The brownie that I ate was worth every calorie.  I jumped right back on the wagon, and no…I didn’t feel guilty!  Again…worth every calorie…and I still lost 4 pounds.  I will share more on this in the near future.  I appreciate our readers and always welcome your comments!

“Weight” It Out?

By Marianna Boyce

scaleWeight is an issue that most every woman deals with at some point in life.  As we age, it tends to find a way to hang on for dear life!  It seems that the determination to maintain a healthy weight and consistent exercise routine is now a thought bubble somewhere in the back of my mind.  That thought bubble is filled with excuses, but none better than “I just can’t because my entire body hurts!”  Although this is a very good excuse in my book, I still need to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Before widespread joint pain aggressively reared its ugly head throughout my body, I was happy and healthy at 135 pounds.  These unusual symptoms suddenly took complete control of my life within a time span of merely fourteen days.  Diet and exercise was no longer a priority.

saladIn the kitchen, I was unable to cut, chop, peel, slice and dice, so preparing healthy meals at home was placed on the back burner, (no pun intended).  Fresh fruits and veggies were definitely off the menu.  I couldn’t do anything that required fine motor skills and dexterity due to the incredible pain being experienced in most every bending bone in my body.  In my unwanted new season of life, take-out was my “go to” because that was truly the best I could do!

Also prior to my unfortunate situation, I enjoyed a good workout several times a week but my exercise routine was also stopped dead in its tracks.  My knees, feet and ankles were very swollen and in excruciating pain so I could barely walk, much less exercise!

In an instant, my life was yanked from peaceful tranquility, and tossed into a horrible abyss that I refer to as “my alternate universe.”  I eventually saw an amazing rheumatologist here at LMC.  He helped me regain a somewhat normal life.   Praise the Lord for that!  He is my hero!

With the upcoming holidays, the comfort foods we have all grown accustomed are filled with more calories than our bodies know what to do with on any given day!  I also have two family reunions to attend before the end of the year!  Lord have mercy!  I cannot “weight” any longer.  I have to do something about it now.  I keep saying I’m going to but my “motivation meter”  is not set on high like it used to be.

stretchingI need to lose 20 pounds.  What about you?  Whether we need to lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds, let’s not “weight” it out!  Hopefully by the time we ring in the new year, we will already be on course. The hardest part is simply getting started!  I’ll keep you posted on progress or slip ups along the way.  Maybe sharing this with you will help me in my motivation department!

Visit my personal website, myalternateuniverseonline.wordpress.com to read about trying to reignite my exercise routine in 2016.  This story took place before I knew what was wrong with me.  It’s aptly titled, “It’s Time To Exercise the Demons!”  (Its about the fifth blog post down on the website.)  I would love for you to check it out.  It’s actually quite comical.  I will go ahead and share with you…it was a complete failure!  Pray for better results this time!  I am definitely going to need it! 

 Best of luck to you if you are planning to join me!

FOCUS!

By Marianna Boyce

I loved reading Jeanne Reynolds’ Every Woman blog post in August called, “Going retro: In praise of the pencil”.  I thought I was the only person left on the planet still using a paper calendar and pencil.  With a new app for this, and a new app for that, who keeps up with life the old-fashioned way?  I at least know of two people!  I love my iPhone, iWatch, and iPad, but not to keep up with various appointments and routine daily life.

ducksI recently left from work in a rush.  I drove through that wonderful rush hour traffic on I-20 heading toward Lexington.  I had a hair appointment at Salon on Main.  Of course, that also entailed the blissful and always uneventful traffic flow into the town of Lexington.  I actually made my 5:30 appointment on time.  I was waiting for Brittany to call me back to her magical salon chair.  At 5:31, she entered the waiting area with a warm smile on her face.  She looked at her watch and said, “I’m sorry I’m late”.  I laughed knowing she was being facetious.  I was the one that was late…by an ENTIRE WEEK!  I somehow got distracted and my original appointment was lost somewhere in my brain fog.  I looked at my calendar that particular morning, but by the afternoon, I was mentally done.

Battling daily chronic pain is exhausting.  Although my pain is mostly now under control, clearing the brain fog has been a bear.  Before my “mysterious illness” began, focusing on many tasks was easy.  Now, it’s a struggle to even focus on one!  I cannot go off on a tangent trying to tackle a second task when the first one is not yet complete.

Driving through Texas in 2015, our oldest granddaughter Abby and my husband (Pop) had a deal where she would listen to her music for an hour, and Pop would listen to his music for an hour.  During Pop’s radio time, he would educate Abby on the nuances between today’s music and the music of his generation.

grand canyonAbby devised a way to “distract” us so she could change the station to suit her.  She excitedly pointed to the vastness of Texas and said, “SQUIRREL”!  We went along with her shenanigans for awhile and looked out of the car window for that elusive rodent.  After a couple hundred miles, I believe 70’s music started growing on her.  Once we made it through Dallas, she stopped changing the station.  By the way, we never saw a squirrel in Texas but once we got to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, what do you know?  A little squirrel scurried past Abby’s feet and hung out under the fence behind her.

Some may reference being constantly distracted as “chasing rabbits”.  Me?  I say “SQUIRREL” like Abby.  Some days I can make fun of myself and laugh about it.  Other days, it is quite bothersome.  I continue finding new ways to stay focused.  How do you do it?  I definitely need help in this area!

 

 

 

Change Is In the Air…

By Marianna Boyce

As days get shorter and nights get longer, you can rest assured the leaves will soon begin their amazing transformation.  Of course, they eventually fall to the ground and leave the trees bare waiting for another spring.  Until then, we will soon be making our favorite chili recipes to share with friends and family.

Whether you are a Carolina or Clemson fan, you are enjoying this time of year.  Although I love the Gamecocks, my favorite team is the rose between those two thorns.  I’m a Furman Paladin through and through.  furman

My husband, also an avid Gamecock fan, purchases Furman tickets and a parking pass for me every year.  He attends all the games he can, but working swing shifts, he cannot always go.  My sister Cindy is always “on call” to use that extra ticket.

We started attending in 2006 when our son chose Furman University as his first (and only) choice after graduating high school.  His band director attended there and Cody wanted to follow in his footsteps. We tried getting him to apply to other schools, but he (and God) knew Furman was “the one.” It was indeed the perfect fit for him.

drum

Being a music education major, he was in their marching band.  I miss seeing him on the field, but I love when he’s able to come to a game with me when he’s not working.  (He’s not only a middle school teacher, he’s also a percussion instructor at his high school alma mater.)  Currently, many of his Saturday’s are spent at marching band competitions in our local community.  If you ever have an opportunity to support one in your area, you would certainly not be disappointed!

Our youngest granddaughter Avery also enjoys the day trip to Greenville, SC.  We love the personal touch of a smaller university.  When she’s there, she absolutely owns the place!  cheerleader

Last year at one of the games, after she had two snow cones, she asked for a third.  I said, “Well sweetie, that may not be a great idea.”  She shrugged her shoulders and replied in her confident, perky voice,  “It’s okay GiGi.  It’s only ice.”  The “snow cone man” adamantly agreed!

We laughed and thought, with that kind of logic, why not!  It was an early game anyway. She had time to play on the hill with other kids before we left.  That “ice” sure did give her a boost of energy!

If you’re a grandparent, you understand right?  It is difficult saying no to her, although sometimes I do.  Okay hardly ever, but she never asks for much.  She really just wants our time.  How much money and effort does that take?

The autumn equinox is upon us.  If autumn and football are not your “cup of tea”, hang in there.  With time, there’s always change.  Whether it’s the astronomical seasons, or the seasons of life, try to enjoy them all.  If not?  My daddy would say, “What we don’t enjoy, we endure.”  I enjoy each season for different reasons.  What’s your favorite?  Happy fall y’all!  lake

Our Fleeting and Pivotal Moments…

By Marianna Boyce

We all experience them.  More fleeting moments may be the first day of school or becoming a teenager.  Ahh…we knew it all then, didn’t we?

What was your first job?  Mine was working at Hardee’s in Lexington.  It was there that I learned the value of an honest day’s work, and I actually had some fun along the way.

I also recall the purchase of my first car. My daddy wasn’t sold on it but I HAD to have it. It was a yellow Pontiac Sunbird and it was also a lemon!  My daddy was right…again.  Yellow was indeed, the perfect color.

The next car I bought was a brand new Mustang.  Working at Hardee’s actually did pay my bills.  It was my car payment, insurance, and gas money.  I lived at home until I was married.

As for my first date with Gerry, he invited me to his ten year high school reunion. It was 1986 and I actually had just graduated high school myself.  I probably should’ve been intimidated, but I wasn’t.  I had a blast!

More pivotal moments…IMG-0623

Gerry and I married the following year.

I also became instant mom to a pretty, blonde haired, blue-eyed, independent, headstrong little girl.  I was nineteen and she was eight!  We both grew up together…God bless my sweet husband’s heart!

Pictured is Tiffany and me on my wedding day.  I don’t recall if this was before or after we told her she couldn’t come with us on our honeymoon.  Based on her stuck out tongue…probably after!

IMG-0622

I gave birth to my son Cody nine months after Gerry and I were married.  Yes…that was a close one!  He was indeed a honeymoon baby!  This is a story all in itself.

My promotion from mom to “GiGi” is a phenomenal moment in my life. Avery is now five and she is the mirror image of that pretty, blonde haired, blue-eyed, independent, headstrong little girl that Tiffany was when Gerry and I were first married.  This is Avery sticking out her tongue too…just like her mama!

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I’ve taken several amazing road trips across the United States of America. The most pivotal one was our Arizona adventure in June, 2016.  This was the full-out, purely unadulterated, top down, wind in your hair, road trip!

 I experienced an unforgettable pivotal moment the instant I arrived home from this whirlwind trip.  I stepped out of the car and onto my driveway.  My body immediately told me something was wrong.

My pain began in my feet and ankles.  Gerry and Cody initially thought it was from being in the car for extended periods of time.  Although that idea was worth entertaining, this pain was much different.  Within two short weeks, this pain would quickly spread and intensify.  I was completely blindsided.  My life would never be the same.

It’s not so much the fleeting moments, but the pivotal moments in life that define who we are…good and bad!  I do not want to forget my very humbling and intimidating journey, but I will not allow it to define me either.

No one has a perfect life, but life itself…It is a gift.  God gives me breath, therefore I breathe, therefore I live.  I will live life to the fullest!