Why Are You in the Picture?

By: Chaunte McClure

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Killer Confidence

By: Shannon Boatwright

I was thrilled to come across this poignant article on Glamour.com about confidence. The article features an excerpt from Mindy Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me?. She brings up some very valid points that I think every woman should be reminded of.

confidencePeople tend to question Mindy’s confidence, and she offers some insight into her experience and why she believes confidence should be earned.

Mindy shares that she was a nervous wreck when she first started out as a writer on the hit show The Office. She had zero confidence, with nervous ticks and all. She said, “Years later I realized that the way I had felt during those first few years was correct. I didn’t deserve to be confident yet. I happen to believe that no one inherently deserves anything, except basic human rights….”

“Confidence is just entitlement,” Mindy says. She goes on to explain that entitlement has gotten a bad rap, always used in a negative way or used to describe a reality TV star. She says, “But entitlement in and of itself isn’t so bad. Entitlement is simply the belief that you deserve something. Which is great. The hard part is, you better make sure you deserve it.”

Mindy explains that hard work and confidence go hand and hand. Basically, in the professional world, you have no right to be confident if you haven’t put in the workload to deserve it! She brings up some points here that are worth paying attention to and thinking about.

The word “workaholic” has gotten a bad rap, too. But I can say, without a doubt, that I’ve never met or heard of any incredibly successful person that was not a hard worker. How can someone become truly successful without working really hard for their success? Kids these days need to understand this concept. We have to earn our success, which in turn means that we earn our confidence! We build it as we work hard to achieve that success.

Mindy goes on to say that as women, we need to be a little bit brave (I say be very brave!) and we have to NOT hate ourselves. Imagine that….Yep, it helps to actually like yourself!  I love what she says about fear: “People do not get scared when you’re failing. They get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding.”

So to add to Miss Kaling’s fabulous points, I think we need to remember to believe in ourselves. We need to use, build and strengthen our talents so that we can grasp onto that well-deserved entitlement gained from hard work and perseverance. Being secure in your own self worth and abilities will bring on confidence and allow you to shine.

I plan to check out Mindy’s book, and I definitely plan to work hard and contribute to my confidence! Because I don’t want just a normal level of confidence, I want killer confidence! 🙂 How about you?

Cloth Diapers

It is Sunday again so that means that it is laundry day. Doing laundry on the weekends is not novel to most families. It is a time for many mothers to catch up and do load after load after load in between the other tasks of grocery shopping, cleaning, and spending time together as a family. In between my loads of work clothes, toddler clothes, and casual clothes, though, I have another type of laundry going on.

Cloth diapers

Diaper laundry. A lot of people are surprised when they find out I cloth diaper. Some older people, somewhat familiar with the idea from generations past, ask if I have a diaper service. Hm. We can hardly get delivery pizza out in Gilbert, SC let alone diaper pick up and drop off.

I decided to cloth diaper my son when I was pregnant. It took a lot of convincing on the part of my husband to get him on board. Why would we do something so gross when disposable diapers are readily available? How could we dare wash bodily fluids in the same washing machine as our clothes? Are we really going to invest $300 in a stash of cloth diapers when we could just put some diapers on our registry and go from there?

Cloth diapers

So why was I so insistent on cloth diapering? First – it isn’t that crazy of a thing. Many of our parents and certainly our grandparents did it. Second – cloth diapers have come a long way. They aren’t the “plastic pants” of generations past.

Over the span of 2.5 years of diapering, these diapers are estimated to save us $1800-$2200 with an initial investment of only a few hundred dollars. They can be reused for subsequent children as well.

They are better for the environment. It has been estimated that it takes 250 years for a disposable diaper to decompose!

They are adorable.

Some people try to mention that I’m wasting water by rinsing and then washing the diapers. All they have to do is look into how much water is used in the making of disposables.

About washing them in my washing machine – if any parent thinks they’ll never be washing vomit or poop clothes in their washing machine at home they are sadly mistaken! And while we’re talking about poop clothes – in 16 months all of our “blow out” diapers have been disposable we’ve been using while traveling. We love how dependable our cloth diapers are.

cloth diapers

Having this cloth diaper chore probably adds 45 minutes to my week of “stuff to do.” The rewards are worth it, though. I feel good about doing another thing to help the environment, I’m never rushing to the store because we’re out of diapers, I’m not spending any money on diapers, and I can do less laundry on days where we let the diaper be our “pants” because they are so cute!

cloth diapers

If you are interested in cloth diapers, don’t be intimidated. They are easier than one would think! Here are some resources:

http://theartofsimple.net/cloth-diapering/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64os5I4_Z9Q

There’s Something to That

By: Chaunte McClure

Chaunte McClureWhile attending a housewarming a few years ago, I sat with two other young ladies and somehow we started talking about having kids. One of the young ladies who wanted a child asked me if I had children. When I said no, she asked if I wanted any. I think I shook my head and then she said, “there’s something to that.”

Well, little did I know, there really was something to that. In March, I was skimming through “Battlefield of the Mind” and meditating on some of the scriptures Joyce Meyer references in preparation for a series of life classes I co-facilitated that month. I read the book a year or so prior for our Sunday school class, but interestingly enough, God revealed something different to me about myself during my study time. In the book, Meyer wrote that Satan begins to deceive us when we are young, “waging war on the battlefield” of our minds.

God reminded me of a time when I said that I didn’t want children because I didn’t want them to grow up without a father like I did. I was probably a pre-teen or teen when that seed was planted in mind and out of it grew branches of distrust, insecurity and bitterness. As a child I began to believe that my children’s father would be absent, so to prevent abandonment or absenteeism, I decided (as a child!) that I wouldn’t have children. So the young lady at the housewarming was right, because there was something to me not wanting to have children.

I’m glad God revealed that stronghold so I could one, see how manipulative Satan can be and two, change the way I was thinking. My only regret … I wish I realized this sooner.

What kind of thoughts or past experiences are holding you captive? Ask God to help you discover them.

More ‘baby talk’ to come in my next post.

Kale Chronicles

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

kale

Earlier in the summer, I planted 3 kale plants. Several people questioned me about this.

“Isn’t it too hot here for kale?”

“Isn’t it really hard to grow?”

“How are you going to get that to work?”

Well, here we are mid-July and my tomatoes are over 7’ tall and producing next to nothing, my cucumbers are producing nothing but flowers, my zucchini is just toying with me as it slowly commits suicide, and the poblanos just flower away and laugh at the thought of actually putting out a pepper. But, my little kale plants just keep growing and growing and growing!

A few days ago, it was time to harvest again and from those three little plants, I got a gracious helping of fresh kale. Usually I just make kale chips for myself because every other time I’ve tried a dish involving kale, the husband and little one reject it. I’d pretty much just resigned myself to the belief that I am the sole kale consumer in this house. However, I stood there gazing at this beautiful, tender, fresh home-grown loveliness and thought, “How crazy is this? One of planet Earth’s superfoods and I’m the only one eating it? Not today.”

I’ve written before about one of the most awesome cookbooks in my collection, “How to Cook Without a Book” by Pam Anderson. I can’t remember where I found this book, but I truly love it and I recommend it highly. As you have surely gathered from the title, the point is to teach some basic recipes and techniques so that you can incorporate these standards into your regular life without having to put much thought into it. I often go here for inspiration and fresh ideas. On this day, I pulled the book out because Ms. Anderson has included numerous variations to the theme for each of her basic recipes. So for lunch, I turned our kale harvest into a simple pasta with leafy greens, bacon and crushed red pepper. I told no one what the greens were. I simply said, “Here honey, have some pasta” and down the hatch it went! I have been on a conscious quest to get more dark leafies into our household diet, so this was a big win.

If you don’t know much about kale, I’ll say this: it’s really, insanely good for you. If you’re like me and want to eat more of it and its other dark leafy cousins, you can get all the info you want online. Or, here’s another of my favorite cookbooks you may wish to seek out, “Leafy Greens” by Mark Bittman.

Elizabeth Akre is the author of “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef)”. Read, comment & be merry!  You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Presto! I Mean, Pesto.

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

If you enjoy growing plants, then you know how rewarding herbs can be. They grow fast and are easy to care for. Of all the culinary herbs, basil is probably the best known and can easily be crowned King. It’s ridiculously easy to grow, it’s packed to the gills with flavor and everyone likes it. You don’t really need a thumb of any shade of green to grow it. All you need to know is how to cut it back properly so that it will continue to produce all summer.

Fresh basilWe have a small kitchen garden this year. We have a beefsteak tomato, an heirloom “Mr. Stripey” tomato, cucumbers, zucchini, poblanos, jalapenos, habeneros, green beans, kale, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and of course, the basil. We both go out at least once a day to scrutinize the garden to see what has changed since our last inspection. About a week ago, my husband came in and asked me about cutting the basil. I was like, “yeah, yeah, I’ll go get some.” He kept on. He kept saying things like “Well, you better cut it before it goes to waste,” and “I think those leaves look pretty big; don’t want them to go to waste,” and “Don’t you think we should make pesto or something so that basil doesn’t go bad?” Finally, I turned to him and asked, “Why are you obsessing about the basil all of a sudden?”

Fresh BasilYou know how crazy it is that you can live with someone for (going on) 20 years and still learn something new about him? He proceeded to tell me that he’d never had fresh pesto until he met me. He loves it and just can’t bear the thought of the basil being right there in the yard and not in the form of yummy pesto (or anything else for that matter). Years ago, I taught him that when I have a good crop of basil, I make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays so that when summer is gone, I still have fresh tasting basil to add to any dishes I want in the doldrums of winter. Apparently, it registered and he hasn’t forgotten it.

So, I went outside, cut the basil and whipped up a small batch of pesto for him.  For Fresh Pestothose of you who are unfamiliar with making it yourself, let me assure you that it is the easiest concoction ever invented. You probably always have parmesan in your fridge, right? Garlic and olive oil should be in every house all the time. I keep pine nuts in the freezer. So, when you cut your basil, you just toss all these ingredients into the food processor, give it a couple of spins and there you go: pesto. It couldn’t be faster or easier.

So what can you do with it? The first and most obvious is to use it as a pasta sauce.  It’s great mixed into mayo for sandwiches or pasta salad. If you freeze into ice cubes, you can pop a cube into pasta sauce or minestrone to add that fresh basil flavor. It’s also wonderful to add dollops of pesto to a pizza. Or, make a simple béchamel sauce with pesto and serve with grilled tuna, salmon or gnocchi. Mix into some softened butter to serve over grilled steak or with fresh, crusty bread. I guess you’re getting my drift that you can do just about anything with pesto. It is the quintessential taste of summer, in my opinion. Herbal, fresh, light and invigorating. And that’s just pesto. Don’t forget Thai food, Caprese salads, drying basil for later use…

Since we’re moving into July, it may be difficult to find plants at Lowe’s or wherever you usually buy your annuals. But, don’t despair. A lot of grocery stores actually have potted basil plants in the produce section. It’s also super easy to grow from seed.  You could start seeds in peat pots and then just transfer to the garden or to a container on your patio. And, with our growing season like it is, you could have basil well into October.

mangiare bere e divertirsi!

Elizabeth writes “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-Be Chef).”  Please read, comment and be merry! You can also follow on Facebook & Twitter.

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.

Caulfredo

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!