Old Friends

By: Ashley Whisonant


I recently read a quote about friendship on Pinterest that spoke to me.
“In the end, you always go back to the people that were there in the beginning.”

Wow. It was right on target for the weekend reunion I had with a close childhood friend.

I have many people I would call a friend. Different friends have come in and out of my life, during the times I needed them most. God works mysteriously that like. He knows exactly who we need and when we need them. The special thing about old friends, they are know where you are and where you came from.

My oldest friend to date, Shelby, has been around since third grade. Ya’ll – that’s over 20 years of friendship. We have known each other from the very beginning. Bad boyfriends, laughs, cries, silliness, and stories fill our memories. Luckily, we have recently reconnected.

Spending a night visiting with her in Charleston has made my week such a bright spot. The laughing and dancing we did Saturday night was as though no time as passed. I would go back to our friendship over all the others. The ease and comfort is like none other.  The quote rings so true for me.

Christmas in July

By: Leah Prescott

Christmas in JulyI am not sure who started the “Christmas in July” trend. I assume it was some kind of retailer just looking to boost their summer sales, but I’d like to go on record by formerly endorsing Christmas in July as a fantastic idea. By mid-summer things are really heating up here in South Carolina; kids are getting bored, mamas are getting cranky. December is a season that many of us look forward to all year long, but the holidays can also be a remarkably stressful time for many families. Using July as a time to plan ahead for the holidays is a great way to keep the angst down and enjoy the Peace & Joy once December actually rolls around. Here are some ways I am hoping to make this happen for my family:

  1. Organize Gift Lists. Many of you true planners started doing this in January and I commend you (and sort of hate you). For the rest of us, there is still time to get great deals on thoughtful gifts without wandering the aisles of Target in a panic on December 23rd. (Not that I’ve ever done that.) Check out The Christmas Gift List (free in the App Store) if you want a countdown to December 25th while also keeping track of what you have or have not purchased. If you have a gift in mind and want to find a deal, try setting up a free account at www.slickdeals.net where you can set deal alerts for keywords such as “Tickle Me Elmo” or “Cabbage Patch Doll.” The website will email you when these words appear in posts compiled from contributors across the web. No excuses for throwing together last minute baskets of bath and body products or handing someone a gift card with a bow on it. Unless that’s what you really want to buy them, in which case, by all means go ahead.
  2. Budget your time, ahead of time. If your goal for the holidays is to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, then full speed ahead. I can give you home videos of me circa 2008 for tips. But if you’d prefer to have a softer, slower holiday, there are steps you can take to keep things a little more laid back. Start by making a list of goals for the holidays. Rather than focus on tasks to be accomplished, think about the overall picture you want to create. My list includes things like: more quality time with family, less focus on “stuff,” sharing meals with neighbors, visiting friends, giving to those in need. When creating your list, you may realize there are things that should be dropped from your yearly agenda. Holiday cards are fun, but if making and sending them is cutting into family time, this might be the year to share a Facebook greeting and let the snail mail slide. No one will judge you. Or at least they shouldn’t.
  3.  It’s always Christmas on Pinterest. My point is, if you want to make everyone on your list a Mason Jar Snow globe, or create elaborate holiday decorations from coffee filters, or finally bake the perfect carrot cake from scratch (this is the one you want- AMAZING) now is the time start pinning those recipes and tutorials. It’s such a bummer when the ideal project idea pops up on Instagram on December 26th and you realize that you should have made it. I am just trying to spare you this pain! This past year we made a lot of crafts for friends and family members and it was so much fun. The fact that we started early kept it stress-free. I tell myself, if I start pinning ideas now, it will give me time to shop for supplies, conduct a trial run, and accommodate all the mistakes and miscalculations I will undoubtedly encounter. If you’d like projects that the kids can help create, take a look at http://martha.ms/1skRyuW.
  4. Pre-post-holiday Dieting. That’s right, I mean eat healthy now. Rather than facing the holidays with pounds to lose, why not get ahead of the game by changing up your eating habits or adding a new exercise class to beat the January blues before they happen? There is plenty of time to make progress towards improving your health, and you’ll have yet another reason to celebrate once the party season starts. Once you have made progress it will be easier to moderate over the holidays. I started a new diet a few months ago and I am determined not to let things slide, so that I can have control going into November. I have used www.myfitnesspal.com and the My Fitness Pal App. It combines calorie counting with social media to help you meet diet and fitness goals. I have had great luck with it in the past and you can get your friends to join you, making it fun like Facebook (well, sort of).

In December 2013 I made a radical (and fairly spontaneous) decision NOT TO SHOP over the holiday season. I realized that my hobby of recreational shopping was cutting into time with my kids, putting stress on my relationship with my husband and jeopardizing our budget as well. December seemed like the perfect time to put all that aside and really focus on the true meaning of this special season. It was hard for me to stop shopping and there were some tricky logistical issues (did I forget my sister’s wedding was in January? Hello, shoes, gifts, accessories?). But I definitely achieved my goal of having less stress, less spending, and less focus on STUFF, and the results were much better than I imagined. The bottom line is, for our family, a December without shopping was a great choice. I’m not suggesting that everyone quit shopping in December. Instead I am saying that you can take control of the holidays by changing the game plan. You can write the story you want to tell next year and now is the time to start.

Only 162 days to go!

LMC Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Doula Program

Lexington Medical Center has a history of innovative firsts for women’s services. It was the first hospital in the Midlands to allow husbands in the delivery room, give epidurals
and offer Doulas to women in labor. In fact, Lexington Medical Center is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Doula program this year!

A doula is a birth coach who offers mothers comfort and reassurance during labor and delivery. In 1994, Lexington Medical Center began an innovative Doula program that was the first-of-its-kind in the Southeast. The program has received national recognition and serves as a benchmark for programs around the country. Thanks to support from the Lexington Medical Center Foundation and its donors, Doulas are a free service for any woman having a baby at Lexington Medical Center.

“Lexington Medical Center’s Doulas have been invaluable to the women of the Midlands,” said Nydia Harter, MSN, RN, NEA, BC, director of Nursing at Lexington Medical Center. “Over the past 20 years, they have supported thousands of women and families during one of the most important times of their lives – the birth of their babies.”

Doulas are experienced professionals who undergo training specific to assisting pregnant women and newborns. In addition to understanding the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of women in labor, Doulas also facilitate communication between parents-to-be, help prepare birth plans and provide information about birth and delivery options. Postpartum Doulas offer education, support and assistance to the new family. A Doula brings much-needed confidence to a new mother through breastfeeding support and advice, newborn care and assistance with household duties.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation sponsors the hospital’s Doula program. LMC’s Doula program is based on the highest standards of care set by Doulas of North America (DONA), the largest doula association in the world.

Lexington Medical Center’s innovative Doula program has earned the prestigious Annie Kennedy Award from DONA. The award recognizes LMC Doulas for excellence and dedication to their community as well as growth and teamwork in their program.



Lexington Medical Center has 16 Doulas on staff and almost half of the Doulas have been with LMC for ten years or more. Since the LMC Doula program began, it has assisted more than 8,400 families.

Lexington Medical Center will recognize Lexington Medical Center’s past and present Doulas at a special reception on July 29th on the hospital campus. Former Doulas can contact the Lexington Medical Center Foundation at 791-2540 for more information on the event.


To learn more about LMC’s Doula program, visit this link on the hospital’s website, http://bit.ly/1qrAIXl, or Lexington Medical Center’s Facebook page.

For information on training to become a doula, visit www.dona.org.

Better At The Beach

By: Lara Winburn

I recently read a satirical article from The Onion about how a vacation for a mom Beach vacationis really just the same old chores in a new locale. I have also heard many moms say “it is not a vacation, it is just a trip.” Though I agree with some of these observations, last week I was pleasantly surprised by the benefits of a beach vacation/trip that are often overlooked.

There was a definitely a time when my trip to the beach entailed multiple books, the latest celebrity gossip magazine, and not a care in the world. With children, as many of you know, that has all changed. However, I am not going to wax on about the tan, napping beach bum I once was. This year, I discovered something new. I noticed a few differences from our regular routine that I was particularly thankful for. We might be getting better at doing the beach.

  1. On the beach, there is nothing to climb. There are no ladders, slides, straight back chairs, or (even in the case of my one-year-old) coffee tables that one can venture on top of and proceed to fall off of. Except for maybe a low-riding beach chair, there was nothing for my adventurous toddler to climb. On the glorious sandy beach, I was not constantly “at the ready” to catch someone falling. I got a break from being full time “spotter.”
  2. After a trip to the beach, hosing your children off outside is not only accepted, it is expected.  An outdoor shower at our beach house was the only cleaning our kids got the entire time. There have been many times when I have looked at the kids after an afternoon in the backyard and wished I could avoid dragging their little dirty selves inside. You know, I wanted to “hose them off in the yard.”  But here, in Columbia, outdoor showers are rare and hosing them off seems a little pet- like (and may be against a city ordinance for all I know.)  At the beach, there may be sand, sunscreen and saltwater, but there is also outdoor showers. Suds up in the great outdoors and track nothing in for mom to clean up later.
  3. Beach play often equals very heavy sleeping. (Steady-breathing, possible-slobber kind of sleep.) We didn’t have a strict schedule at the beach, but when it was time to sleep it was some serious REM. Those little legs had carried the kids back and forth to the ocean to the sand castle back to the ocean again all day long. My husband said he thought our three-year-old walked miles on the same stretch of sand back and forth, but at the end of the day, her tired and clean (from the outdoor shower) self SLEPT.

So, I may not be the tan, well read or well rested beach girl I once was. Kids or not, my beach days were changing.  I have become more worried about sunscreen than tan lines. I worry more about what imperfections a bathing suit covers than the any assets it might have accentuated. But there are the things that I have and still embrace about being on the coast. On a beach trip, I still love salt air, no make-up, freckles popping up, and food tasting better than it does at home – whether it is a PBJ or fried shrimp. I maintain that the beach brings out the kid in most of us. I am happy to daydream and stare at the water, dig my feet in the sand, and even dig holes and build castles that I know will be washed away. With the discovery of these new beach perks and the constants of the beach I will ALWAYS enjoy, I think you will find me with my toes in the sand, watching kids play, and maybe even flipping through a gossip magazine before heading to the house to hose off and nap all together.

Supporting a Friend in Need

By: Chaunte McClure

June was a popular month for some rather interesting Facebook challenges. I have friends who warmed up to the idea of participating in the cold-water challenge. Though not everyone followed the rules, here’s how the social media dare worked: Decide which charity you want to support. Record a video and call out your friends you’d like to participate in the challenge. Have someone pour a bucket (or a cooler in some cases I saw) of cold water over your head. Upload the video to Facebook, tag  the friends you’ve challenged. They have 24 hours to create their cold-water challenge video or they have to donate to a charity. If they accept the challenge, they donate $10 to the charity, if they don’t, they donate $100 to the charity.

I saw other variations, too. In some videos, if you did the challenge, you didn’t pay anything. (Still doesn’t make sense to me.) Participating in the cold-water challenge seemed to be more about having fun than actually supporting the charities. I have to admit, some of the videos were quite entertaining.

The gospel challenge soon followed and some Facebook users showcased their vocal talent while others … well, let’s just say, they were a little off key. With this social media fad, people challenged their Facebook friends to upload a video of themselves singing a gospel song. Joy Cover’s rendition of “God’s Trying to Tell You Something” from “The Color Purple” was one of my favorites.  If I had a voice like Joy’s, I would have taken anyone up on the challenge.

Needless to say, I didn’t take part in either challenge, but I felt compelled to reach out in the name of helping a friend in need. After learning of a friend’s sickness and her family’s plea for help with medical expenses, I posted a challenge to some of my Facebook friends to donate to a fund for Felicia Moore.

Who is she? She’s not famous or anyone I expect you to know, but you don’t have to know someone in order to help him or her. I will say that she is one of the few people I’ve encountered in life that I couldn’t truthfully say anything negative about. She has always been such a humble, kind, smart and loving and helpful young lady.

Felicia is a kindergarten teacher who has been diagnosed with stage 5 kidney failure. Just a few months after starting dialysis, she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult some days probably are for Felicia and her family, but I want to help and I’m extending an invitation to you to do the same.

How you can help:

  1. Pray. No explanation needed.
  2. Sign her online guestbook. Share a few encouraging words.

I’m Chaunte McClure, challenging you to help someone in need.

Pondering and People Watching…

By: Shannon Shull

There can be an art to people watching. If you are a non-judgmental people watcher, then you watch and you ponder. You ponder why they are where they are, what they do for a living, what hardships they may be going through, what heartbreaking or joyful things may be lying under their surface, what their real lives are like. You don’t pass judgment based on how they look; you just ponder what their world might be like.

In working my way through SC’s PACE Program to get my teacher’s certificate, I have spent my share of time in public places like Starbucks, the library and even poolside as I attempt to read all the required material and write the many required papers and journal entries.  These public places help hold me accountable to get my work done and not fall asleep, but they also provide a sometimes welcome distraction to people watch.

The key to people watching is to not judge the person by their cover. I learned that lesson long ago during my days of living in Los Angeles. At times, you could walk into a restaurant and the fella dressed in sweats and sneakers would be the wealthiest and the fella with the gold Rolex and sharp suit would be the most hard up for money. In my lifetime, I’ve met some men and women who were literally covered in tattoos who had hearts of gold and would give you the shirt off their back. And on the flip side, I’ve met straight laced, preppy, supposed Christian folk who, underneath the façade, were the most hypocritical, messed up people I’d ever met. I have friends of all shapes, colors and sizes and they are all beautiful in so many different ways, inside and out.  So throughout my almost 40 years of life, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: that to pass judgment without knowing a person’s story is an incredible injustice.

If done from a non-judgmental point of view, the art of people watching can bring a smile to your face and warm your heart if you allow it. Consider what special talents these people may have, what they offer the world, what their passions or dreams may be. There are benefits to people watching – you may be inspired and reminded of just how precious and short life is. And, the best benefit of all, you may just make a friend.

One day during one of my intense teacher training, I had to read a torturous book. We’re talking material that could easily help you fall asleep. One of those books in which you find yourself having to read a paragraph 4 times before it actually sinks in.

PoolWell, staying at home was not going to get me anywhere with that book except with my face flat in the book, sound asleep, so I decided to go to the neighborhood pool to read, in hopes that the activity at the pool would help keep me awake. As I watched the people at the pool – the mother fussing at her daughters for playing too rough, the two older women reading books that were clearly giving them a fabulous escape, the mother struggling to wrangle her toddler and keep him happy, the father constantly on his phone, the teens chatting about tans and boys, and the older gentleman splashing about having a blast with a group of young ones. I sat fascinated by the life happening around me.

My insecurities got the best of me and I wondered what these people may be thinking of me. Eventually a lady came by and said to me, “So what college do you go to?  What are you studying there?”  She thought I was a college student! Woo hoo! Now she could’ve assumed that I was an older college student, but nonetheless she thought I was a student. I smiled and told her I was a teacher and attempting to do the required reading for a big training. She had made an assumption based on what she saw. Our conversation led to a friendship. She too was a teacher. It was a lovely moment. I later saw her at a different pool visit. I had four kids in tow, two of them my own, and she definitely saw me in a different light.

Life is interesting. And people watching can be an experiment to challenge you to think the best of people, trying not to make negative assumptions or pass judgment too quickly. And, if you’re lucky, it can provide an opportunity to be pleasantly surprised by another human being and you might even make a new friend.

Wearing Your Baby

By: Brady Evans 

If my husband and I had to give one piece of advice to new parents, I think we’d unanimously say “learn how to wear your baby.”

Baby carrying

We have been wearing Benjamin since we brought him home from the hospital and have found that babywearing has so many benefits. I think the first and most important benefit is that being close to your heartbeat, your breath, and your skin calms a new baby like no other thing. Your gentle motion is exactly what he is used to from his life in the womb and replicating those feelings outside the womb will make for a calm and “easy” newborn.  Baby wearing is especially wonderful because it allows mom to get back independence and full mobility of her arms!

There are a wide variety of carriers out there that you can choose to wear your baby with. If you are like me, though, you’ll find that different carriers serve different purposes! These pictures demonstrate the types of carriers we use in our household. Ring slings:


Soft structured carriers:

Baby carryingWoven wraps:

Baby carryingYou can see that even at Ben’s young age of 11 weeks, he can be worn safely on my back using a simple woven tablecloth.

Baby carrying

I easily grocery shop and run errands without lugging a stroller, have gotten back into the swing of things caring for the horses here on the farm, and am back in the kitchen easily all with the help of my various carriers.

The Midlands has a fantastic resource in the group Baby Wearers of the Midlands.  The woman here are incredibly knowledgeable about matching your needs to the right carrier and helping you hone your skills as you explore wearing your baby.  If you are interested in baby wearing I suggest you find this group of Facebook and jump in!

Chinaberry Dreams

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Growing up in rural Aiken County, we had lots of different trees that would sprout up here and there.  They would just take hold of the soil where they were dropped and they would grow and flourish. One of these trees was a Chinaberry Tree.  I can’t recall anyone ever actually planting one. They seemed to just appear, take root, grow and flourish, carried here, there, and yonder by the birds visiting within her branches.

Chinaberry Dreams

Much like the Chinaberry Tree, Trina Floyd has flourished where she was planted and, like the Chinaberry Tree, has offered up pieces of herself for folks to carry near and far from her store, “Chinaberry Dreams Soapworks, Gifts, and Artisan Marketplace,” which is located on Main Street in Leesville, South Carolina.

Trina comes from a long line of women who valued handmade items, from handmade lye soap to beautiful, but functional, quilts.  From a young age, Trina watched her mother, grandmother, and other family members make all of these items, and in doing so, she developed a strong desire to be a part of, and to carry on, those talented handiworks.

Chinaberry Dreams

Her strongest desire was to hand make bars of soap and when her sister, Frana, began building a herd of Nubian goats, Trina gained ready access to fresh goat’s milk with which to begin “Chinaberry Dreams Soapworks” in about 2006.

Finally, in 2009 Trina was able to secure a small location on Main Street, Leesville in which to open a part-time shop while continuing her day job with Lexington Medical Center.  The shop began to grow past simply soaps; she began accepting other items from other local artisans and eventually she outgrew the space she was renting.  Fortunately, in 2010 she was able to secure a new location across the street from the original location.

Chinaberry Dreams

Again, the shop and customer base continued to grow and Trina longed to open her shop as more than just a storefront, but to also be a place where artisans could come in and actually teach classes in their medium.  Trina dreamed of and prayed for a location that would not only support her dream, but also would assist in supporting her family by allowing her to be in the store full time.  For nearly four years, this was her dream, her prayer.

In late 2013/early 2014, Trina’s dream began to come to fruition and in February of 2014 (delayed slightly by the crazy winter weather we experienced this year), she moved into her new, much larger location on Main Street, Leesville.  In this new locale, Trina is able to offer more space for not only her own soaps and other wares, but also for other local artisan booths and space to host various art classes. Already she has hosted art classes for children and beginner’s quilting classes, with many, many more on the horizon.

Chinaberry Dreams

And it’s more than just a personal endeavor for Trina – it is a family affair.  It’s not unusual to find her sisters, her parents, and other family members helping out in the store and helping teach classes.

To step into Chinaberry Dreams is to take a peek back into the past, while still being very much in the present.  For me, it is a unique opportunity to capture a part of my own heritage, as Trina’s grandmother and my own were sisters. Every time I step into the store, there is something there that reminds me of my own childhood and those wonderful memories of playing under quilts stretched out on frames and women talking and catching up with each other.

Chinaberry Dreams

So, if you are ever in our little neck of the woods, stop by Trina’s store on Main Street and, as Trina is fond of saying, “take a little Chinaberry home with you”.

Stop by and check out Chinaberry Dreams Soapworks and Gifts on Facebook for information on hours, current artisan work, and upcoming classes.

Cauliflower Alfredo – How’s THAT for Change?

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

A few weeks ago, my boss and I were coming back from a lunch meeting when he chimed in about change.

“Nobody wants change. They all want to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them,” he said. “I give you credit for changing from an iPhone to an Android, but you don’t much like change either.”

Hold the phone! Granted, my boss only sees me at work, but I would say that I, especially over the past few years, have embraced change. I’ve changed my entire lifestyle to add early and regular exercise to my life. I’ve all but given up processed and fast food, and I’ve learned how to cook clean and healthy. And even now that I’ve “taken the leap,” I continue to experiment with new foods, recipes and healthy changes.


Speaking of change, this weekend I tried a great new recipe from one of my favorite blogs Oh She Glows: Vegan Cauli-Power Fettuccine Alfredo. The base of the sauce is cauliflower, and it was delicious. I highly recommend it! Its a change you’ll love to try!

Please Pass the Magic Eight Ball

By: Lara Winburn

Recently, a friend said that she hated deciding what her family was going to eat for dinner. I concurred that when I win the lottery that is the first order of business- someone to make that decision every day. (Yes, I said when because, well you know, decision makingpower of positive thinking.) Anyway, I started thinking about why I hated this part my day so much. My family is not picky and they do not have high expectations…here’s to setting the bar low.

I hate this decision because it is the 9,742,303rd decision of the day.

I am exhausted by these decisions we are faced with from the time we get up to the time our decision-making, weary eyes finally shut. All of this decision-making is my least favorite part of being a grown-up…that and putting away laundry. (I mean, I am totally fine with washing and folding but why is there never room for it in my drawers?)

For me, decision number one starts with what my daughter is going to wear to school that pleases the fashion sense of a three-year-old and meets the weather predictions of the day. These decisions continue until those precious minutes at night when all is quiet and I must decide whether I should do a little joy reading or throw in a load of never ending laundry. This may sound small, but it is taxing all the same. I want to make the right decisions as an employee, wife, daughter, mom and heck, even a productive member of society. Should I work through lunch at work? Is it better to spend some time at the gym? Or should I just go ahead and make my way over to the grocery store to try to avoid that “hardest” decision at the end of the day? Is a chicken nugget bad for kids if it means we get more play time? Does the baby need to go to the doctor or is that rash going to go away before I make an appointment? Trying to make many decisions and all the while, just trying to cause the least damage to my family, my job and anything else in my decision wake.

So my husband suggested a way to deal with this “decision crisis,” to possibly avoid guilt, apprehension, and second guessing. Unfortunately, he did not suggest eliminating the decisions all together. Instead, he suggested trying to determine with each choice what is the worst thing that can happen? Now this may sound pessimistic, but truly it is not. For example, if I choose that book I have been wanting to read over laundry – will everyone have clean underwear or, worst case, will we be looking at bathing bottoms as under garments? If we wear rain boots to school and it never rains, worst case scenario – we have sweaty feet but not a complex. You would not believe how liberating I have found this to be. I mean, most of these decisions will not result in ruined childhoods or therapy sessions.

As some of you know, most of the time I am trying to embrace the chaos. So in that chaos comes these grown-up decisions, some trivial and some life-changing. As I weigh my options, I will continue to think through the worst thing that can happen. Guess what? Most of time that worst thing really isn’t that bad. Who knows – it might even be one of life’s happy accidents. Or if the decision making process and the worst case scenario doesn’t work, you may just hear me say “please pass the Magic Eight Ball.”