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.

Why We Need to Stop Calling for Anna Duggar to Walk Away

By: Crissie Kirby

By now there’s no point in recounting all the Duggar family has been faced with over the last few months; I have my own personal feelings and opinions about Josh Duggar and divorcethe situation, but, honestly, they have no bearing on what I feel led to say to in this post.

I cannot truly comment on the Duggar molestation scandal, other than to say that, apparently, and regardless of the public’s feelings and opinions on the matter, Anna Duggar knew about that matter before she and Josh ever married. She was not, if I understand correctly, blindsided with the information as the general population was. The more recent scandal, though, involving some type of unfaithfulness on Josh’s part is what has me heartbroken for Anna and her children.

When the whole Ashley Madison / Duggar connection came out, all I could think about was Anna and her children. Then the comments and articles came, as I knew they would, calling for her to leave Josh. Rumor has it that this has even been publicly stated by some of Anna’s own family members. Regardless of who says it, the comments that Anna should leave Josh need to stop; as a whole, our society needs to not call for Anna Duggar to walk away from her marriage. “But Crissie, you’ve walked that walk . . . why shouldn’t she leave Josh? After all that he has done . . .” Because, folks, it’s just not that easy.

Walking away from a marriage is never as simple and easy as it seems. The words roll out of our brains and out of our mouths and it seems like it’s an easy fix to a big problem. But, it’s not. No, I don’t know Anna personally and probably never will, but I know that the last thing she needs to hear is that she needs to leave her marriage. Our society has come to accept divorce as a commonplace occurrence, not much different than buying a new car or a new house. “This one just doesn’t suit me anymore, so let’s get a new one” appears to be the mentality that many have. But we need to stop encouraging that manner of thinking.

First, Anna is probably still in shock over learning about this indiscretion; she hasn’t had time to process the information. When I first learned that news in my own marriage, it took me weeks to process it and years, yes YEARS, to get over what I had been through enough to even desire leaving my marriage. Stop telling her to walk away when she probably still feels like she is in the worst dream she has ever had and cannot seem to wake up enough to fully function.

Secondly, we need to stop telling her to, essentially, cut off part of her body. When you are married and you truly take the words from your wedding to heart; you accept that “two have become one.” Her marriage to Josh is part of both her public and private identity. Imagine being in an accident, losing a limb, and then waking up to realize it’s gone. Pretty traumatic, right? I tend to think so. Stop telling her to cut off her arm.

Third, think about their children. I don’t advocate staying in a marriage just for your children; however, you have to take them into consideration before making any major life changes. How are they going to be affected mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually? Stop telling her to walk away before she has been able to give each of these facets the level of thought and consideration they truly deserve; this goes for her own personal well-being as well.

Fourth, remember that the Duggars are people of great faith and in those tenets we know that God does not advocate divorce. As a fellow Christian, I believe that even though God allows divorce on the grounds of adultery, He never says that one must divorce if that happens. Yes, adultery is a sin. There’s no getting around it. But do we always need to totally give up on sinful people?

Staying in a marriage where someone has been unfaithful is hard. Infidelity does great mental and emotional damage to the spouse who was cheated on. They are already reeling from learning that, in some sense, they have been replaced in the heart and mind of their beloved; the last thing that he or she needs to hear is that they need to immediately and completely cut their losses and move on. It was comforting to me to read this morning that Anna is seeking her own form of counsel while Josh enters some type of rehabilitation facility. She needs impartiality and comfort and guidance on what might be the best avenue for her and her children. It’s hard to hear from family and friends (who you know love and care for you deeply in truth) that you need to just walk away from a marriage that maybe you just aren’t ready to give up on yet. I know. I heard it from family and friends. It left me feeling isolated and like every decision I was making was being scrutinized by those who obviously knew better what my children and I needed. In the end, yes, I wound up divorced. However, I can confidently say that divorce was not my first option; it was the final option. For me, I needed it to be that way. I needed to know that I had done everything I could do to prevent a divorce. Four years later, I can still hold my head high and know that I made the right decision for me and my boys. Not everyone supported the decision I made to stay for 2 years; most people didn’t understand why I stayed; some probably still think I was crazy. I survived without hearing a lot of positive reinforcement for my decision, but it doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, be that way for spouses dealing with the knowledge that they have been cheated upon. Encouragement and support are what Anna Duggar needs now; don’t call for her to walk away from her marriage. Call for her to be lifted up mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally in such a way that she can make the best decisions, going forward, for both herself and her children.

Me? Running?

By: Crissie Kirby

A few weeks back an email came in to my inbox that has now made me question my sanity. Would I like to train for and participate in the Lexington Medical Center Heart and Sole Five Miler in late April? Immediately and without much thought, obviously, I answered back that sure, I would love to take part.

What was I thinking?

The most running I’ve done in my life was when I was in high school and on our softball team. I was not the star player by any stretch, but I spent a good deal of time during practices running bases.

I’m the one who will post those funny e-cards that say “I don’t run. If you ever see me running, you should run too. Because something is probably chasing me.”

I know that this event supports heart disease awareness and that is something that is never far in the back of my mind. As I have shared with you before, I have immediate Crissie and Momfemale family history of heart disease as both my mom and my grandmother suffer(ed) from heart disease. Exercise has not been a top priority in my life. I’m a woman. A mom. And a single mom. I don’t take care of myself as I should because, alas, even though I try at times to “do better,” the pressures of life push exercise to the back of my mind. Yet I know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. 1 in 3 women will die as the result of heart disease.

As women, we spend so much time focusing on female cancers, which are important and do not have the attention and funding that they should. But, for me and other women like me, ignoring heart disease is the equivalent of not having annual pap smears and breast exams/mammograms.

This is why I want to run. Do I think that I will finish first? Nope. Do I think I will finish? Yes. I hope and pray that you will support me as I train for this event and attempt the impossible (for me): a five mile run.

Lexington Medical Center Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler

LexMed Heart & Sole Women's Five Miler

Lexington Medical Center is pleased to announce it’s now the title sponsor of the Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler, which is set for Saturday, April 25 in downtown Columbia. As South Carolina’s premier all-women road race, Heart & Sole includes a five-mile run, and three- and five-mile walks.

For the past 14 years, the event has encouraged healthy lifestyles through physical activity and called attention to the issue of heart disease as the #1 killer of women. More than 2,000 women participated last year.

With a personal and supportive environment, the course begins near Finlay Park at Laurel Street, and winds through the Vista and the University of South Carolina campus before ending on the Taylor Street side of Finlay Park. This year’s event will begin with an opening ceremony at 8:00 a.m. featuring news anchors from WIS-TV, the co-sponsor. The five-mile race begins at 8:30 and the walk at 8:35 a.m. Top runners will receive cash prizes.

After the race, participants will enjoy special refreshments, entertainment and an expo featuring health screenings and local vendors.

We know you’ve got heart. And we know you’ve got soul. So, join us on April 25! We’ll see you at the start line!

General Registration

Registration is only available online.

For group of 7 or more people, registration is $23 before March 20. There will be no group registration after March 20.

Individual registration varies:

  • $28 before March 20
  • $33 through April 24
  • $45 on Race Day

Get Social

Learn more about the race on Facebook! LexMed Heart & Sole Women’s Five Miler

Follow Every Woman Bloggers, Sherree Thompson and Crissie Kirby, who are training for Heart & Sole here from now until race day!

What is Feminism, Really?

By: Shannon Shull

Shannon ShullThe great Maya Angelou once said, “I’m a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”

The definition of feminism:

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests

In going by the true definition of feminism, I am proud to call myself a feminist. I definitely believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Period. Like Maya Angelou, I, too, whole-heartedly believe that it would be stupid not to be on my own side.

But… and here comes the big BUT… today the word “feminist” has been skewed, distorted. People have taken the term and infused it with new meaning – and not in the best way…. Ladies and gentlemen, society needs to be reminded of the true definition of feminism and get back to the core, which is simply based on equality.

Beyoncé was quoted in British Vogue, hesitant to describe herself as a feminist, saying,

“That word can be very extreme. But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself as anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”

That was back in 2013. Now, Queen Bey is supposedly standing tall for equality, saying this past January,

“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet.”

However, according to her 16-minute performance on the MTV VMA’s it may NEVER be a reality. Yea, thanks Beyoncé, nice try, but you’ve missed the mark TOTALLY…unless the official definition of feminism has changed to the belief that women should act as sexual objects, demeaning themselves publically.

Sure, the image of a beautiful, tough woman in front of huge, glowing letters that spell “FEMINIST” is a powerful and even empowering visual. But cut to the earlier visual of her and her half-naked dancers gyrating onstage to highly suggestive lyrics (all while her precious toddler girl is watching on) and well, that tough feminist image is disgustingly tainted and so way off the mark it’s mindboggling. I bet those incredible women from history who risked their lives to stand up for women’s rights are literally rolling in their graves!

Most women are hesitant to speak of feminism, fearful of how people will take it and if they’ll suffer a brutal backlash. That’s because the meaning of feminism has become so skewed. This public display of supposed “feminists” is confusing our generation and the generations to come, I’m afraid. Blogger Mollie Hemingway nails it with this piece, “Feminism or Sexism,” in which she states, “feminism right now is an incoherent mess of double standards.” (Also, here is a link to Hemingway’s interview on Fox News. Start at the 25-second mark.)

I agree. Quite frankly, according to pop culture, being a feminist seems to equate with being promiscuous. Ugh, it makes my stomach turn just typing it, but gosh does it seem true. What it comes down to is knowledge, and right now it seems that our society is lacking that knowledge. We all need to be educated! Not just us women, but men too. We need to educate ourselves on what feminism really means. We need to look back at the women and men of history who fought for equality and stood for the true definition of feminism.

Recently, actress Emma Watson made headlines with a UN speech. She stated,

“Feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

It comes down to a fear of seeming unattractive and aggressive, even a man hater. She brings up some pretty crucial points on the issue.

I personally think she is a brave young lady and I applaud her. She has helped to get the conversation going and get people thinking. Unfortunately though, she is suffering the backlash of the ignorant people who choose to attack her. I believe, whether you agree with her or not, that she did not hurt the cause. Was her speech a game changer? I’m not sure. It may not be allowed to be because the media is too busy focusing on the drama instead of focusing on the positivity in her message and how it can empower everyone who is open to listen and take it in.

Freelance writer Clementine Ford brings up some very important points on the topic. She states,

 

“These are not facts that exist because men have thus far been “denied” entry into feminist debate and activism. They won’t disappear “naturally” when men are empowered to be sensitive. They exist because patriarchal power hinges on the subjugation of women, and anything that distracts from that is a liability to the cause.

I love that Emma Watson has bravely put herself on the line as a proud feminist. It’s wonderful that she may be instrumental in inspiring millions more to consider these issues. Bravo to her. But to be truly game changing, you have to actually change the game. And while it is important for men to choose to be allies, addressing actual systemic inequality through the funding of programs which empower and defend women’s sexual, economic and political rights is the only way to ensure women have a chance at winning.”

Wow. Yet another case of a writer nailing it, I think. Again, what it comes down to is education. And we should not stoop so low as to allow pop culture to define what it supposedly means to be a feminist. We have to truly educate ourselves so that as an individual seeking equal rights, we can empower ourselves to make our own decisions based on facts and truth, and wholly represent the meaning behind feminism.

It goes along with not being too quick to judge, which is an issue I’ve written about before. We must educate ourselves before we condemn or slam others. I will stand with Maya Angelou and say, yes, I choose to be on my own side. As an intelligent, strong woman, it would be silly not to. And I will back up that statement with an educated response, that I stand for, about what the true meaning of feminism is, which is simply the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. I urge you to take the time to check out my links and educate yourself on the issue. I know I am glad that I did.