Digging out of the Doldrums

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Sometimes it just all seems like too much.

Work projects I thought I had plenty of time to tackle are suddenly looming over me. I still haven’t painted the laundry room or cleaned out my closet. The pile of charity donations sits where I started it months ago. My office colleagues are quibbling and pulling me into the middle. A nagging hip injury caused me to miss a race for an important cause. My favorite football team lost. And I’m two days late turning in this blog post.

Yeah, I know, first world problems.

Still, all of us go through times when the stress of everyday life seems overwhelming. The list of things to get done grows faster than we can cross them off and molehill-size annoyances take on mountainous proportions.

As the joys – and chores, errands and demands – of the holiday season approach, this seems like a good time to remind myself of simple ways to keep perspective. Maybe some of these will work for you, too.

Take a deep breath. I recently started taking a weekly yoga class (see nagging hip injury above) and apparently, it’s all about breathing. It helps bring oxygen to your muscles and clears your mind. And it’s a concept I can use any time I feel things piling up around me. No stretchy pants required.

Get outside. I don’t know if it’s the aforementioned oxygen or just being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation, but going for a run or walk, playing a round of golf or even picking up pine cones and sticks in the yard (talk about your never-ending task) never fails to help me change my focus.

Write it down. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer – and old-school, too – but the physical act of writing things down helps me feel better organized. I wrote back in August about how making a master list of everything you need to do creates some mental space and alleviates some of the pressure. If that doesn’t appeal to you, here’s another idea: Keep a running list of the blessings in your life. Jot one or more on your calendar each day, then go back at the end of the week, month or year and read them. This is something your whole family can do. Start now and share around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Start anywhere. Can’t face cleaning out the whole closet? Start with one shelf, one drawer or the shoe rack. The sense of accomplishment will feel great and may inspire you to tackle another piece of the project. I often use this strategy to overcome writer’s block. I just start keying in phrases, bullets or ideas, then go back and cobble them together into a cohesive whole.

Let it be. Sometimes the best thing to do is … nothing. Taking time to think through a problem before jumping in likely will lead to a better solution. Give yourself permission to procrastinate. It may be good for you. (Note to my editor: This is my excuse, I mean reason, for being late this time. Is it working?)

Pray. This one should be at the top of the list instead of the end. I don’t know why it’s one of the last things I think of. I rarely pray for a particular solution to a problem. Instead, my prayer takes the form of thankfulness for my blessings and for knowing God is always there for me. It’s a reminder that no amount of list-making or closet-cleaning means I’m really in control. And thank goodness for that.

The More Things Change…

By: Stacy Thompson

My law firm has undergone some huge changes recently – two of our partners are moving on to great professional ventures and as a business, we could not be happier for them. Personally, however, the transition will be anything but easy. As consumed as we’ve been in the pragmatic aspects of the change (complete overhaul of letterhead, business cards, website…and the list goes on and on and on) I personally can’t help but get the feeling we all have when faced with a ‘goodbye to the old and in with the new’ life event. I know our firm will continue to thrive, as will the careers of both our colleagues, but we will miss their friendship and personalities as much as we will miss their legal guidance.

In times like these, it’s natural to reflect back on the beginning as we face the change. Seventeen years ago, I was a baby-lawyer fresh out of law school, looking to do good and hopefully make a living. I had taken the South Carolina Bar Exam, a grueling three-day marathon that I hoped to pass, not because of my immense drive to succeed but mainly due to my inability to fathom having to study for and take that thing again. I was pursuing a potential career in the military, but in the interim, was working at my brother’s sandwich shop. Yes, the girl with a law degree was getting drink refills, chopping vegetables and bagging to-go orders. I was happy to have the distraction and interaction with customers and really enjoyed the time with my brother and mother, who worked the cash register. One of the ‘regulars’ came in for his usual lunch and my mom asked him how his new law practice was doing. He had recently gone into practice with another lawyer and starting the business was hectic, overwhelming, but certainly exciting. He happened to mention to her that they could use a little extra paralegal help to handle some of the day-to-day stuff, and my mother, in true momma-bear-mode, pointed to me, the one in the apron, baseball hat, and sneakers, and said, “My daughter has a paralegal degree, well, and a law degree, but she’s worked as a paralegal and has some time on her hands.” As I was getting said lawyer’s drink, we talked about his new practice and I explained that I had experience in drafting pleadings, answering interrogatories and writing demand letters. He brought his law partner back the next day, and I moved to the other side of the counter (still in my apron, baseball hat, and sneakers) for my first job interview post-law school. They asked me to come to their office the next day and were a little surprised to see me in a suit – I had changed after leaving my ‘other’ job and wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to show them that I was serious about the part-time job they were offering.

Two weeks into the job, the work continued to flow and I was asked to come on board full time. A few months later, my bosses (by that time friends) asked if I would join them as an associate. The decision was an easy one – although I had other thoughts as to my future, I found myself in an office with people I respected and liked, doing work that I was proud of – truly, this was where I was meant to be.

Fast-forward to the present – I’m still in that same office with people I respect and truly like, doing work that I’m immensely proud of. I live close to my family and have the flexibility to balance my work life with travel, Gamecock games, and the occasional arts and crafts project.

Sometimes changes in our lives are intentional and other times changes drop into our laps or even blindside us. Regardless, change can be positive and may allow us the opportunity to reflect on how things were and how we want them to be. I’m grateful for the change that occurred seventeen years ago and look forward to the new change happening now. It may be that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ but sometimes it involves embracing a new ‘same’ and relishing the chance to create a new direction in life.

Why Are You in the Picture?

By: Chaunte McClure

 

With the convenience of having cameras built into cell phones, the world has become obsessed with taking photos. We take pictures of our food, plants, bare feet, shoes and my, oh my do we take photos of ourselves. Yes, the selfie has taken over social media timelines and feeds, but the ‘usie’ isn’t far behind. Of course, we have to snap a photo of our family and friends when we’re just hanging out; it’s all in fun and in the name of capturing memories.

I was warming up my pose and smile for a group photo recently when I was asked, “Chaunte, why are you in the picture?” For a couple of seconds, I second-guessed my position in front of the camera, knowing that I was invited to say cheese along with my friend and her friends.

Fast forward a few days, I thought about the question again during my commute to work. Why are you in the picture?

It’s a relevant question that we can ask ourselves regarding (the proverbial picture of) our conversations, settings, relationships, careers and other facets of life.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question before but perhaps formed it differently. Instead, you’ve asked:

What is my purpose? Why did God call me to do this? Why do I have this job when my career goals are totally different? Why did I meet him or her? Why am I going through this? Why was I born? What am I to learn from this situation?

Each of these questions, I believe, is another way of asking: Why am I in the picture?

Truth is, we should exclude ourselves from some “pictures”, but we tend to try to fit in someone else’s shot, even if it means photobombing.

When you find yourself in toxic relationships, the honest, well-thought-out answer to the above question, should urge you to walk away from that which is not good for you.

On the other hand, a reflection of your journey as you recall a time when you’ve asked yourself some form of that question, your response may help you appreciate where you are in life right now and have a better understanding of how God has ordered your steps. That’s my story because now I can see how my past two jobs prepared me for my current job.

At times, we are in the picture for a divine purpose – to provide encouragement, bring peace, make connections, share love, take a stand, be a witness, and the list can go on and on.

Other times, we are in the picture for our selfish reasons. We force ourselves to stay in the picture although God is ready to crop us out and place us in a different setting with our past in the background. Are you ready to change places?

Take some time to think about why you’re in the picture. You might discover that you should be where you are, but you’re not fulfilling your purpose. You might realize that it’s time to do more or it’s time to move on. It’s helpful to understand why you’re in the picture.

Good for the Soul

By: Ashley Whisonant

Friendship can take many forms. I find it so interesting how friends are almost categorized based on the time of your life. For example, I have childhood friends, college friends, work friends, school friends, and kid friends. Wherever the friendship originates from, it is important to make time for friendship.

Letting go and allowing yourself to relax with likeminded friends is so refreshing. Laughing until you have trouble breathing and encouraging each other through hard times, sometimes these moments get us through the darkest of times.

I have been lucky to have friends to lean on during specific times in my life – from new jobs, having babies, and getting married, different friends have been there to celebrate or commiserate with me. It is good for my soul.

Whoever your friend or friends are in this season of your life, give those thanks and appreciation. Friendship is truly a gift.

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.

😉

Tips for Staying Gluten Free in a Pinch

By: Rachel Sircy

My last post was about how to help those in Houston and Florida who are in need of gluten-free provisions. So, since hurricane season isn’t over yet, l thought I would dedicate this post to tips I have found online for how to stay gluten-free during a crisis. Mostly it means preparing ahead. So, here are 5 things that you can start thinking about or doing right now to make sure that you can be prepared to be gluten-free in a pinch!

  1. If you live in a place where there may be natural disasters (like hurricanes along the coast), it would definitely pay to have a gluten-free food emergency kit with shelf-stable foods such as dried gluten-free cereals, dried and canned meats, fruits and vegetables, and shelf-stable milk and things to drink (you may want more than just water). Remember to also have a supply of your medicines and gluten-free lip balm and toothpaste (you may not be able to purchase these easily after a storm). These kits are very handy especially if you have ever had to be moved to a shelter. Government agencies will feed you, but they don’t usually have gluten-free options available. It would also be a good idea to travel with a kit like this if you are going somewhere where there may be power outages or where you may not be certain to have easy access to gluten-free food.
  2. If you are prone to losing power for days in storms and such-like, consider buying a deep freezer and a propane powered grill. This tip never would have occurred to me, but I read about it on Gluten Free Society’s website. Dr. Osborne (the “Gluten Free Warrior”) said that having these two things saved him and his sons when hurricane Ike hit Houston in 2008. He said that the food in his deep freezer stayed frozen for about a week with no power and with summer temperatures of 90-110 degrees. Be sure not to open the deep freeze unless absolutely necessary and always have a couple of extra propane tanks on hand.
  3. Osborne also recommends having a large supply of nuts in the shell, provided you are not allergic. They are high in good fats and calories – which you may need if gluten-free food is scarce during an emergency – and are apparently shelf stable for 2 years (who knew?). Also, Dr. Osborne points out that if nuts are in their shells, they are less likely to be affected by cross-contamination with gluten, which is a big problem for buying nuts in general.
  4. Of course, gas-powered generators are always a good idea whether or not you are gluten-free, as are: extra cans of gas for the generators, a supply of cash in case you can’t pay for things using electronic methods, books, and board games to keep yourself and your kids entertained without power and a first aid kit.
  5. If you are willing and able to spend a bit more money and save yourself the trouble of getting together different shelf-stable foods to make a gluten-free survival kit, you can purchase individual meals from GoPicnic.com. They have meal options that are tailored for those with special dietary needs. You can choose from gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc.

We all hope that none of us will ever have to face a disaster, but it always helps to be prepared. In my next post, I’ll talk about traveling while gluten-free, what to bring with you, and what to watch out for.

If you have further questions about being gluten-free in a pinch, check out these websites where I got most of my information for today’s post:

https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/staying-gluten-free-during-a-natural-disaster

https://www.verywell.com/gluten-free-disaster-prep-562663

http://gopicnic.com

http://celiacmama.com/2017/09/gluten-free-hurricane-preparedness

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.