Well Done…

By Stacy Thompson

I apologize profusely to the administrators of this blog for my late submission, but those that read my last post will understand…a few days ago I realized a dream and made it to the Rooftop of Africa – and I will forever be changed for the better because of it.

After an exploratory day in Moshi, followed by a tour of a coffee and tea plantation, our group was hesitantly getting to know one another while already beginning the process of mentally preparing ourselves for the challenge ahead…which wasn’t too far from our minds or our sight (the view from our lodge made the challenge inescapable…)

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The following day we took to the trail and began the greatest adventure with three days of hiking, covering nearly six thousand feet and thirteen miles among a background that transitioned from bamboo rainforest to moorland.  An acclimatization hike to Zebra Rock took us from Horombo Hut and 12,340 feet to over 14, 000 feet and a taste of the heights we would soon soar to…

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Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards – Kierkegaard

Our hike continued forward and onward to Kibo Hut – 15, 520 feet – and a ride through “the Saddle” a wide, flat plateau with our destination peaks looming ahead and a light meal awaiting us in the final hours before the final ascent.  Our pace deliberately slow, we could see up ahead the challenge of the mountain ahead while our minds repeated the Swahili phrase “Pole, Pole” (“Slowly, Slowly”) to ensure we met our goal.

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We dined on soup and some bread around 5 pm before retiring (all 12 of us men and women together in the ultimate bonding experience!) to a room of bunkbeds and our sleeping bags to catch a few hours of rest – knowing that we were to be awakened at 11:00 pm to start the arduous climb.  Yes, we were told that the purpose of the late-night start was to reach our goal at daybreak, but in truth the journey through the scree slope is best taken without seeing the angle of the climb (pretty much straight up!) and the distance to be traveled (over 3,000 feet) – exhaustion and freezing temperatures tell the body to sleep, but the overwhelming drive to reach the top combined with the constant vigilance of the Tanzanian guides keep one foot in front of the other until the most glorious sight of an African sunrise is seen on the horizon – as said sun begins to rise, our goal becomes a reality; as the scree ends and the boulders are overcome, Gilman’s Point is reached…

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In the end it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years. –Abraham Lincoln

So Gilman’s Point (18,652 feet) is a legitimate summit, as is Stella’s Point (18,885 feet), however, just a few short feet (OK, about 500 feet, and with severely decreased oxygen levels) away is Uhuru Peak – the real, true Rooftop of Africa and the ultimate goal – I’m not going to lie, the last hour wasn’t easy, but was made infinitely better by the glacier view.  Looking out over the clouds is surreal and being surrounded by volcanic cones nearly overwhelming, but the focus to attain our goal remained (despite the oxygen-deprivation, sleep-deprivation and overall exhaustion!!).  After over eight hours of hiking, straight up, in mostly dark, we reached the highest peak…

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Yes, that’s me, celebrating the only way I know how – by displaying the garnet & black!!

 

Life is either a daring adventure…or nothing at all – Helen Keller

So six years ago my mother decided (after getting her Medicare card in the mail) that life was too short to just sit back and make a bucket list – it was time each and every day to live that bucket list.  So she climbed a mountain, with no experience, with no expectations, but simply because she needed to try and do it.  After she climbed Kilimanjaro, I admit that although I was unbelievably impressed, I didn’t really understand what drove her to do it.  Later that year I joined her in climbing a mountain (Machu Picchu)…and have done so every year since then.  Climbing the physical mountain is an accomplishment and our ultimate goal, but overcoming the physical challenge is so much more than that – even though I love our trips together and the days we spend on the trail, I enjoy even more the hours spent in the stairwells and trails (modest inclines that they may be) preparing for each trip.  The challenge my mother undertook to conquer the World’s Highest Free Standing Mountain was not just a jump-start to a bucket list, but a new progression of a mother/daughter bond that will only continue to grow in the years to come.

Well Done…

As I was descending and had reached the forest once again, I passed a Tanzanian guide with two very well-groomed (recently showered) hikers – as he passed, we greeted each other with the traditional Swahili “Jambo” (hello) – he then asked “So you climbed the mountain?” to which I replied “Yes, yes I did.”  He then asked “did you make it to the top?” and I replied “yes, yes I did” – there was a pause, and I heard him quietly say “Well done” – those two words filled me with so much pride and a sense of accomplishment I will never forget.  Well done – yes, yes indeed.

Social Security Disability Myths

By Stacy Thompson

As an attorney practicing in the area of social security disability, I often get asked “But what is it you DO, exactly?”  Many people are either unaware of the Social Security Administration program for individuals who are unable to work due to medical problems, or believe that the process to obtain benefits is simple, straightforward and quick.  I spend a lot of my time educating people on the program itself, but I make my living because the system itself is anything BUT simple, straightforward and quick.  In representing claimants for the last seventeen years, I’ve heard my share of myths involving the SSA disability process, so allow me to debunk a few –1200px-US-SocialSecurityAdmin-Seal.svg

  • If a doctor states I am unable to work, I will automatically be approved for benefits.

Having the support of your treating doctor in your application can be helpful, but does not guarantee that you will be awarded.  SSA will obtain medical information from all treating sources, including hospitals, clinics, physicians, etc., and will make a determination as to whether your limitations and restrictions would keep you from working.

  • I can’t return to my past work that I have been doing all of these years, so I should be approved for benefits.

The definition of disability under the social security regulations is an inability to perform any work due to a physical or mental impairment (or combination of impairments); the inability to do your past work is one facet of the determination process, but when taking into account age, education and any skills you have from past work, SSA must also decide whether you could perform any other work that exists in the national economy.

  • I have a terminal condition but it’s still going to take me months to be awarded benefits.

SSA has established a list of “compassionate allowances” – conditions which may expedite the processing and handling of benefits.  In compassionate allowances cases, benefits may be awarded more quickly and without the usual process involved in an application.  For a list of compassionate allowances, go to:  https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances

  • SSA denies everyone / SSA approves people who really don’t have anything wrong with them.

Yes, these two statements are contradictory, but are frequently believed – many claims are turned down initially (only about 30% of the cases filed are approved initially) and should be appealed.  Of the cases that are appealed through to the hearing process, about 45% are approved by an administrative law judge.

On the flip side, I run across those who believe that they have a friend, neighbor or acquaintance who is on disability but is not deserving. I always point out that the process is very thorough and arduous – SSA does not easily approve anyone, and sometimes there is much more going on medically than may meet the eye.

  • I must be out of work a year before filing for benefits.

Although the regulations do require that an individual have a condition, or combination of conditions, that has lasted or could be expected to last twelve months longer (or result in death), the latter part of that definition is important – if your condition may be expected to last a year or longer, then you may file for disability benefits at any time.  I recommend filing as soon as possible, given the average application time is between two and three years from filing to award.

  • I must have an attorney or representative to obtain benefits.

An attorney or non-attorney representative is not required to file for or obtain benefits.  However, an experienced attorney/representative can certainly assist with the development of your claim and in preparing you for your hearing.  The hearing itself will be before an administrative law judge, who is an impartial adjudicator, however, having someone who is knowledgeable in the applicable rules and regulations can certainly improve your chances of success.  Attorneys and non-attorney representatives who are eligible to charge a fee do so on a contingency fee basis, which means payment of fees comes from any back pay awarded (generally 25%).

The above are only a few of the myths surrounding social security disability and do not answer or address all questions/issues involved in these types of cases – for more information, visit the SSA website at www.ssa.gov.

 

 

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

By Stacy Thompson

As an obsessed Gamecock fan, the only thing I love more than the game itself is the tailgate before, and usually, after!  Even the set-up and take-down are entertaining, as I channel my inner ‘pit-crew’ to improve on my time from the week before, while doing my best interpretation of a real-life Tetris game as I methodically pack the tents, chairs, tables, more chairs and TV into the back of my SUV.  Although we take great pride in our tailgate food, my favorite part is the chance to catch up with friends and just enjoy the atmosphere surrounding the stadium.  Our tailgate invitations basically have no limits, and are usually RSVP’ed with the standard question – “What can I bring?”

Typically I reply and say, “Nothing, just yourself!” but recently I was a guest at another rabid fan’s tailgate and started thinking about all of the things I could have brought my host/hostess.  Maybe it’s the Southerner in us, but I think most people do not like to join a social gathering empty-handed, so here are some suggestions if you’re tagging along at a tailgate or possibly attending one of many holiday parties this season.

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Best to bring:

  • Cookies – (store-bought more than acceptable) – everyone loves cookies!
  • Brownies – same reason
  • Boiled peanuts – usually available around the stadium; mixed nuts or roasted peanuts are always welcome
  • Flowers – yes, I said flowers – I’ve only had one person bring these to a tailgate, but it really brightened my day – so I’m going to add flowers to this list even though it may possibly be in violation of the Official Tailgating Rules (I’m sure there are some out there)
  • Your own beverages – you know what you like and unless you are a mainstream water-drinker, then your host/hostess may not have something to your liking – this goes double if you are one of those “Cherry Vanilla Caffeine-Free Diet Coke” people
  • Nothing – yes, this is contrary to the actual point of this blog post, but sometimes it really is OK not to bring anything – but your empty hands can be put to good use in the set-up or clean-up! As a hostess, I truly appreciate anyone who will hang out before or after the game and help out!

Best NOT to bring:

  • Prepared dishes/dips/desserts, particularly if they have to be kept hot or cold – if the host/hostess has planned the meal, he/she has also planned how to keep each dish hot or cold – don’t add to it!
  • Dips without chips or crackers – if you make a dip, bring the chip/cracker that the dip is served with – I know that sounds basic, but I have several unused jars of salsa in my fridge as a result of that oversight
  • Competing dishes – by that I mean, if your host/hostess sends out a menu featuring chili, then for goodness sake, don’t bring your ‘world-famous, can’t-tell-you-the-recipe-or-I’d-have-to-kill-you’ chili – and while we’re on the subject, you can tell anyone who will listen how amazing your chili recipe is, just don’t do it in earshot of your host/hostess and certainly not while you’re stuffing your face with the ‘inferior’ chili

Happy Tailgating Everyone!

The Top 10 Sports Movies

By: Stacy Thompson

Three of my favorite things: I love sports…and I love movies…and I love lists, so what better way to celebrate all three than with my list of favorite sports movies!

  1. Seabiscuit – A little horse with a big jockey wins hearts and races. The book by Laura Hillenbrand was riveting, and the movie more than delivered.
  2. Bull Durham – Really just a good-ole rom-com with the backdrop of a minor league baseball team. The stellar cast, including Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner, deliver quotable lines galore. “Throw it at the bull.”
  3. Rocky – The ultimate underdog story set in an underdog town in the most brutal of sports. The original can’t be beat.
  4. Jerry Maguire – More about the sports agent than the sports, but a solid and entertaining story nonetheless.
  5. A League of Their Own“There’s no crying in baseball.” Seriously, is there a better quote in any sports movie???
  6. Hoosiers – Again, a classic underdog movie with a predictable ending that still manages not to disappoint.
  7. Rudy – I cry each and every time Rudy sits on the bench reading his letter of acceptance to his dream school…and then cry again when his teammates have his back…and then cry again when his dad walks in the stadium…and then cry again he gets on the field.
  8. Chariots of Fire – Of course the song is running through your head right now (pun intended) but the movie itself is a classic.
  9. The Blind Side – Some of the plot may be a bit overdone, but the genuine heart of this movie will leave you feeling good. Period.
  10. Miracle – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watch this move. The political climate surrounding the 1980 Olympic Games was intense enough – add to it a team of USA amateurs going up against the Goliath Soviet Union team and the tension multiplies. Even though you know the ending, hearing “Do You Believe in Miracles” is sure to make the goosebumps pop!!

What are your favorite sports movies?

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.

If You Can’t Win the Game, Win the Tailgate

By: Stacy Thompson

As football fans, we like to believe that we have control over the ultimate outcome of a game — gotta wear that lucky shirt, lucky hat or lucky socks; if watching on TV, gotta sit in the lucky seat. Obviously, the actions or inactions of the fans have little to do with the play on the field, but that knowledge doesn’t make losing a game any easier or tolerable. On the flip side, there are those that don’t really follow football or care whether the home team wins or loses but simply enjoy the great southern tradition of football tailgating. So whether you are an ardent fan or dedicated socializer, I hope you enjoy these quick and easy tailgate recipes to make your Saturday a blast. Just add burgers, dogs or BBQ and you’ll easily win the day regardless of the score of the game!

Southern Caviar

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas
  • 2 cans shoe peg corn
  • 2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can black beans
  • 12 small green onions, chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 16-ounce bottle Zesty Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. Serve with Tostitos scoops.

 

Sweet Southern Slaw

  • 1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix (finely shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Mix coleslaw and onion. Whisk remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill before serving.

 

Southern Deviled Eggs

  • 7 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper

Cut eggs lengthwise. Place yolks in a small bowl, mash, and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Fill egg whites with mixture and garnish with paprika or pimientos.

 

Krispy Kreme Casserole

  • 9 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, day old
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Cut donuts into 1/2 inch pieces. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over donuts. Let sit for 2 hours. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until middle is firm.

Podcast, Anyone?

By: Stacy Thompson

I’ve recently taken on a fairly significant physical challenge for the end of the year (more on that later) that will require me to spend a LOT of time in the pool, on the stairs and, whenever possible, on the trail. One thing that makes any training session much easier and more tolerable is music, a book on tape, or any other auditory distraction. I’ve downloaded a ton of music, several dozen books and was in search of something more when I recalled that little icon on my iPhone (you know, the purple one that looks like a radio signal). I started browsing around and found some nuggets that are truly worth a listen. So, if you need a distraction, education, new outlook or just have some time in the car to burn, consider the following:

  • This American Life The granddaddy of all podcasts, this public radio show carries news stories, personal interest vignettes, short fiction and humorous anecdotes – so much to choose from and only about an hour each, this podcast is definitely worth a listen!
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class From Jane Austen to Dunkirk and Copernicus to the Kentucky Derby, there is something for everyone and more than you ever thought you’d want to know about subjects you didn’t know you needed to know. If the last part of that sentence makes any sense to you, this podcast is for you and your inquisitive mind.
  • Stuff You Should Know Flea Circuses, poetry, Aurora Borealis, beer and the Beagle Brigade…what do these have in common? All are only a few of the varied topics covered in this podcast. Some topics may or may not interest you, but an entertaining way to spend an hour nonetheless!
  • Serial Season 1 explored the story of Adnan Syed, accused and convicted of killing his high school girlfriend back in 1999, who was recently granted a new trial based on information partially uncovered in the podcast. Season 2 explored the story behind the capture and return of U.S. Army serviceman Bowe Bergdahl. Catch up with one of the hotter podcasts on air, and await “something completely different” in Season 3, set to hit the air sometime in 2018.
  • Garden & Gun’s Whole Hog – A little bit of everything, with a whole lotta the South. From the editors of Garden & Gun, you’ll get the best of music, food, film, culture and travel below the Mason-Dixon.
  • Presidential – I’m a history geek and quasi-political junkie, so learning more about the 44 men who have served in our country’s highest office was fascinating to me. It includes behind-the-scenes stories from biographers, archivists and journalists that I never learned in history class.
  • Constitutional – From the same folks that brought you Presidential, this podcast delves into the drafting of the Constitution and crafting of our nation. Only two episodes in this year, and already I’m hooked!
  • 30 for 30 Podcasts – Of course I have to put something sports-related on this list! I have watched the 30 for 30 programs on ESPN for years, and having them to listen to is a real treat!

Happy listening, folks!