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.

The Dove Made Me Do It

By: Angie Sloan

True confession: I love dark chocolate. It’s a weakness for me. Knowing how quickly I could slip over the edge and overindulge, I limit myself to the occasional bag of Dove Almond Dark Chocolate Promises. Yes, I know there are many other brands out there, many of them a higher quality or better taste. But I like Dove, and here’s why.

It’s the little affirmations.

Dove’s marketing team had a genius idea when they came up with this. Each time you unwrap a square of Dove, there is a little message in the wrapper. Most of them are instructional: “Play a grown-up game of tag with your friends” or “Share your smile with someone” – the list goes on.

After consuming about a half a bag in a PMS-fueled binge, I stacked all of the wrappers together and came up with a plan.

  1. Stop eating the chocolate
  2. Pick 5 of the affirmations and actually do them.

The first affirmation:

Buy something frivolous. Who needs an affirmation to do this one? But I am in a minimalist mindset, so it was a bit more challenging than before. Frivolous? Hmmmm. What to get? New shoes? No, not it in the mood to try them on. Jewelry? No. Just because Dove said it, doesn’t mean I need to spend a ton of cash. I pondered and thought about it.  Chocolate should not be this hard. And then it came to me. I wanted a bouquet of flowers. Nice, bright beautiful flowers. Bought for me, by me. No occasion.

The Peace Palace

Happy Hour at Barbara’s

Call an old friend just to catch up. This was easy. I called my friend Barbara. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and it was great to catch up with her. Later that week, we met up for a relaxing happy hour at her house (what she refers to as her “Peace Palace”) and we talked for hours. It was great fun! (See pics below of the spread she prepared). Thank you, Barbara. (And thank you, Dove.)  

Quote your dad. I read this one and it hit me right in the heart. I’ve not reconciled my father’s death. I’ve not grieved as I should. I haven’t even written about him like I did with my mother.

My dad

With her, it was my coping mechanism. But for some reason, I couldn’t do it with my father. My father had so many wonderful quotes. He possessed a deep wisdom that he kept well cloaked underneath his larger-than-life exterior. He always told me, “Speak to everyone at work, from the janitor to the boss. It keeps you humble.” This little chocolate wrapper made me think back to his words. I could almost hear his voice. It was healing.

Give someone a compliment. I think as women, we should empower other women. So I didn’t stop at one compliment, I did it all day! A compliment should always be sincere. I didn’t just say something nice to fulfill my chocolate obligation, I made sure what I said came from a real place. And it felt wonderful! If I liked someone’s earrings, I told them. If I liked her hair, I told her. At the end of the day, my cup was overflowing with good feelings.

Learn something new about a loved one. My cousin Tammy told me a funny story about her mother, my Aunt Sis. “Sis” as she was called, was a fashionista back in the day. She loved having matching shoes for each and every outfit she owned. But times were tight and she couldn’t afford to continuously buy new shoes. To solve her dilemma, she befriended the guys at the local paint store and began painting her shoes to match her outfits. I laughed when Tammy told me. But it was quite smart. She was trendy like that until the day she passed.

In total….

I plowed through countless numbers of delicious chocolates. Got some flowers. Spent time with an old friend. Reminisced the good times with my dad. Made random strangers happy. Learned a great story to share about my aunt.

This was fun and I was on a roll! I decided to select one more wrapper from the stack. And it read: Why not?

And that was all the affirmation I needed. It was permission…permission to polish off the rest of the bag of chocolate. After all, it provided me with inspiration to write this post. Why not indulge a little more?

When Are You Getting Married?

By: Chaunte McClure 

Single ladies, if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. When are you getting married? By now, the words rolling off someone’s tongue sounds like fingernails across chalkboards in your elementary school classrooms. Like those chalkboards, you want the age-old question to be a thing of the past. While I’m a married woman, I can totally relate. It’s like when people would often ask: When are you having a baby? Are y’all going to have kids? What are y’all waiting on? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! I’m sure many of you want to marry one day; some more than others, and you’d appreciate if family, friends, and colleagues would just wait for the day when you’ll announce that you’re getting married. Better yet, they should just mind their marriage, right?

Why are we so interested in other people’s womb and marital status? Is it merely just a way to strike up a conversation? Just a hello will do and sometimes that is enough.

With the high divorce rate in the United States, people have the right to remain single until they find the right mate. If you matter, you’ll know when they do.

Most of my friends are single and I took some time to chat with one of them about this subject. Here’s what my 42-year-old single friend, “Karen,” had to say about her experience with the dreadful question from inquiring minds.

Q: What annoys you most about being asked when you’re getting married?
A: I feel like the person asking me thinks I am lonely, I am unhappy, I am of age and should be married by now. Perhaps they’re thinking I should be trying to find someone because my time is winding down.

Q: How often would you say you’re asked?
A: I would say that I am asked this question by one person in particular every time we talk and that is the reason I do not talk to her that often, because I get exhausted trying to explain my “singleness.”

Q: Who usually asks?
A: My friends normally ask me this question and they are not married themselves, so go figure. I have older friends in their 50’s that also ask me. ‘Girl, you’re not married yet?’ ‘What are you waiting on?’ ‘You’re going to be too old after a while.’ Well, I have never heard or read anywhere where it states a particular age range when not to get married.

Q: What is your typical response?
A: I am happy exactly where I am in life. I don’t need marriage to complete me and make me happy. Where I am in my life right now is where I need to be for me.

Q: Tell us about a time when it made you sad or mad?
A: I was at a point when I was going through some major changes in my life and at the time I thought I needed a man to complete me and make me happy, so I became anxious. I found someone and it was the worst thing I could have ever done to myself. I did not allow him to find me. In Proverbs when a man finds a wife he finds a treasure, so I am waiting.

Q: Why do you think it’s inappropriate to ask?
A: I think that it is inappropriate to be questioned about it because it is the same as asking someone who does not have children when they are going to have a baby. It is none of your business and it is not in my control.

Q: I have to ask, why are you still single?
A: I am single because I know for a fact I am not ready to date yet…when I am ready, He will send him.

Are you guilty of asking your friends when he’s gonna put a ring on it? Are you the friend who is tired of being asked? Let me hear from you.

Becoming a Runner

By: Ashley Whisonant

Exercising was something that never came easy to me. I hated going to the gym. This dates back as far as high school gym. We had the choice to walk 7 laps or run 3…guess which I would ALWAYS choose? You got it. Seven laps here I come.

Hitting my thirties was a wakeup call to me. I wanted to exercise to be around for my boys. Having two active boys under 5 made our Saturdays full of soccer, bike riding, and outdoor fun. Momma needed to keep up!

After joining FiA, Females in Action, I felt more energized and overall happier. The early morning boot camps started my days with laughs and fellowship.

I was ready for a new challenge: running! I began training with a good friend to prepare for our first 5K. We were both non-runners working towards the same goal of completing the 3.1 miles. We pushed each other in the cold, rain, early morning, and nights. We sacrificed sleep and time with our babies, but we did it to prove something to ourselves. Pushing ourselves to reach a goal was healthy. It was healthy for us to have time away getting better – better together.

We successfully finished the Hot Flash 5K in Timmerman Trail. Did we come in first place? Not even close. But we did reach our goal and pushed ourselves further than we ever imagined.

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

By: Ashley Whisonant

book recommendation_Every Woman Blog

Looking for a great book? I recently enjoyed reading “The Dry” by Jane Harper. Here’s a quick synopsis:

Aaron Falk has not returned to his hometown in Australia for over twenty years. After being run out of town as a teenager, Falk vowed to not return to the small farming community. Only after receiving a note in the mail did he find out that his childhood friend, Luke, was murdered.

Word spreads quickly through town of his arrival. From that moment on, incident after incident happens while he works to investigate who killed Luke, his wife, and young son. As you meet characters from all over town, it is hard to pin down exactly who killed the Hadler family. Could there be a connection to a death of young Ellie so many years ago? Ellie was part of a close group of friends that included both Luke and Aaron.

This page turner will keep you guessing! One second you think you have it figured out and then a curve ball gets thrown.

What are your favorite recent reads?

Unrealistic Expectations?

By: Chaunte McClure 

Sun will come out tomorrow

With conviction, I watched an update to a news story from last fall about a young mother who allegedly put her infant in a dumpster. In between late afternoon breaking news and the evening newscast, I occasionally wondered what would drive someone to make that decision. Shame, rape, manipulation, fear, a breakup, depression, and high expectations were among my speculations. The one that brought conviction to my heart was high expectations. Can fear of disappointing an influential leader force one to make a poor decision or even withhold information?

I’ve had the privilege of mentoring and teaching many young ladies over the years – including family. I always want the best for them in every aspect of their lives, and share with them mistakes I’ve made in hopes that they won’t make the same ones. I am confident that they want to make me, their parents, their teachers, themselves and others proud, but I wonder if we apply too much pressure? Actually, this is personal; I wonder if I apply too much pressure. In my conversations with these young ladies, have I left any room for error? Have I failed to teach God’s grace? Have I put myself on a pedestal and  made them feel like they can’t reach me?

As I grieved for the baby and the young mother in that news story, I wondered whether any of those young ladies believe they have to “hide” because they think they’ll disappoint me or perhaps they think I’ll be judgmental. I can’t deny the disappointment, but I will love the same. I didn’t have a perfect young life. I don’t have a perfect not-so-young life.

I think part of my problem is I want to be everybody’s savior. There have been times when I’ve felt like I’ve failed when a mentee does wrong, but I had to realize that I can’t be with her 24 hours a day and I can’t make anyone do right. On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to lead anyone to do wrong.

Is this just self condemnation or do we set the bar too high?

How to Help a Grieving Parent

By: Jordan Tate

As an infant loss mother who has lost two littles ones far too soon, I’ve learned a whole lot about the process of grief and the way this process relates specifically to those parents who have lost a child. It is an incredibly difficult road to walk, but I have found that having comfort-grieving-parentsothers walk alongside of us can be more helpful than anything else.

That being said, there is a reason that parents who have lost children tend to look for other parents who have also lost children as a means of support and encouragement. The reason is that there are some popular habits of well-meaning individuals that can actually trigger great pain for a grieving parents and, because of this, many end up choosing to retreat to a community of people (even across the internet) who they know will be a “safer” option to process with.

I fully believe that knowledge is power in these situations, and I have seen first hand the encouragement and comfort that can come from a group of people who are determined to be courageous in walking this road together, whether they have experienced child loss or not! I wanted to take some time to talk about some of the most popular mistakes individuals can make in trying to comfort a grieving parent and instead offer alternatives that could be much more healing. It is my hope that nobody reading this would ever have to put these four tips into practice, but I know that if the time ever came this advice would be useful.

Tip #1: When in doubt, ask questions.

It is a natural instinct for individuals in our culture to meet traumatic events with logical conclusions. We are a society of problem solvers. I can’t count the number of times people have started infant loss conversations with me by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” It is immensely difficult to process, as a grieving parent, that your child must have died for a reason. Regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof, this is a comment that many grieving parents talk about as being very difficult to swallow. There is no question that anyone who says this is well-meaning. You’d be hard pressed to find an individual who would maliciously speak to a grieving parent about their loss in hopes of causing further pain. My advice, though, is to ask questions rather than offer conclusions or comments about the loss of life. Try opening the conversation by asking, “How are you feeling today?” or “Is there anything I can do to help?” This will put the ball into the court of the parent and allow them to share (or not share) what’s going on inside and any specific needs they might have.

Tip #2: Don’t make assumptions about practical ways to help.

This is similar to the advice above, but relates more to the “do something” friends who feel like they are helping most when they are actively serving their grieving friends. These friends are the friends that make the world go round. They are absolutely necessary and they have hearts of gold. If you want to do something to help ease the pain, ask your friend the best way to go about doing that. When we lost our first daughter, our friends started a meal campaign for us where people signed up to bring us food almost every night for a few weeks. The gesture itself was so heartwarming, but I started to realize that I had a hard time getting the meals down, knowing they were brought to me because my child died. On a second note, not everyone feels this way, but cooking is very therapeutic for both me and my husband. I missed working with my hands and I missed how my mind could take a break from the reality of grief as I would delve into a new recipe or experiment with ingredients in the kitchen. When we lost our second child we actually requested that people not bring us meals. We had a few meals show up, but only for the first week or so, and from people who didn’t know we felt this way. Again, the gesture was comforting, but in the end we decided to be vocal and admit that we would rather cook together than be brought a ready made meal. What’s great, though, is that there are so many out there who might love this gesture and everything about it. That’s why my best advice is to ask!

Tip #3: Whatever you do, don’t bring up the conversation about future children.

It’s a natural inclination to wonder what’s next for the grieving parent. This may come as a surprise to you, but we had countless individuals ask us within the first few months of our losses what our thoughts were about moving forward (i.e. with expanding our family). Throughout my experience in processing with other infant loss parents, it seems to be split pretty much down the middle regarding how people feel about timing future children after loss. Some want to get pregnant or adopt right away because it feels right to them to do so, knowing their other child can never be replaced, yet longing to bring another child home. Others want to take their time in the grieving and healing process and wait years and years before even thinking about having another child. Both of these are okay, but this is an extra sensitive topic for the grieving parent. Post-loss, many parents feel a lot of guilt regarding this topic. If they want to get pregnant right away they fear people will judge them for “moving on” too soon, and those that want to wait fear people will judge them for not processing fast enough. Either way, allow the conversation to unfold naturally from the parents’ side, and if it doesn’t, don’t push the topic.

Tip #4: Don’t disappear for fear of doing the wrong thing.

I know these tips can make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around a friend or family member who has recently (or not so recently) lost an infant or child. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable in these situations. Everyone processes loss so differently, and it’s okay to feel like you have no idea how to help. The worst thing you could do is to disconnect from them for fear of hurting them further. When in doubt, tell them how YOU are feeling! Tell them you want to help but you don’t know what to say. Simply tell them you are so sorry and that you wish you had the words to say to make it better. Sharing YOUR heart with them will help them to feel more comfortable sharing these hard moments back with you. My family is far better off because of our friends and family and their willingness to be vulnerable with us as we were vulnerable with them.

There is much more advice I’d love to give, but we’ll wrap it up with these four tips for helping a grieving parent. Whatever you do, just remember that it takes an entire village of people to support an individual or a family going through infant loss or child loss. It might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but it will be worth it. Your friend or family member will always remember those who did everything in their power to make an ounce of positive difference.