It is Well with My Soul

It. Is. Well. With. My. Soul.

These six words took me a long time to finally understand their true meaning and I still struggle with it daily. I have learned that pray and trusting in God can relieve some of my anxiety. My goal is to be able to pray about a concern and then quit worrying about it and let God take over. During this upcoming week, take those six words to heart and know that whatever happens, God is in control and knows the bigger picture.

xoxo,

Megan

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Faith in Humanity

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The year 2017 has been one for the history books. This year has been full of hurricanes, horrific mass shootings and bombings, and historic earthquakes in California and Mexico. However, one thing has remained the same throughout the year. Whenever disaster strikes, people come to the rescue and offer their assistance to others. Why did people from across the nation come to help Houston residents after Hurricane Harvey? Why did people shield strangers from gunfire in Las Vegas? The answer is because we are all humans and know it could have easily happened to us.

Researchers have discovered that many of the helpers have suffered and survived the same or similar disasters themselves. There is a human desire to help those who are suffering and a psychological need to find meaning in a disastrous event. People are either glued to their televisions or springing into action to give back. People want to understand why an event happened and how they can help “fix it.” When a person volunteers or comforts people affected by a tragedy, they are psychologically being extrinsically and intrinsically motivated. In their book, Social Psychology, authors Elliot Aronson, Timothy Wilson, Robin Akert, and Samuel Sommers explain that altruistic motives – motives that are selfless and done out of the concern for others – are the reason why people help in their communities while fulfilling a social-psychological need every human being has. Basically, everyone has an internal desire to do good in the world.

In addition, different areas of a person’s brain are affected and trigger a feeling of compassion. Research shows that the amygdala, a structure located in the limbic system of the brain, is put into use when a catastrophe happens and a person’s body is trying to figure out how to deal with the emergency. For example, at the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, once people heard gunshots, they began to run and duck. Their body goes into the fight or flight mode and reacts to the situation. The same happens when people see disasters on television. Their body is giving the victims sympathy and compassion and their mind is trying to understand what they are watching unfold. People will also ask themselves how they would survive that horrific event, and what they would they do if they were put in that situation. Lastly, psychologists have found that when a person sees others overcoming adversity, they become more confident in their ability to succeed. This action is known as vicarious reinforcement.

We also live vicariously through disaster victims and their pain by feeling sad and empathetic towards them. When a person sees another human being harmed, their brain will react in a similar way as if it was them being harmed. The theory of mind comes into play and a brain’s cortex will start analyzing others’ behavior. We remember the times when we were affected by pain and how we felt during that time. Then, our brain takes that memory and lets us reflect on how the victims might be feeling at that moment.

The next time a tragedy strikes and your body goes through all of the psychological effects, think about how you can make a difference. It is important to find a productive and valuable way for you to assist others. Think about your abilities and the best way you can be helpful. Some ways to give back are through donating money or supplies to volunteer agencies, such as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and FEMA. Other options include giving blood, hosting a blood drive, or fundraiser for the victims. If you are interested in going to the disaster area, always make sure you are working with a relief organization and follow their agency’s or disaster area’s guidelines for volunteering. Sometimes only first responders are allowed in the location before volunteers are able to come.

Unfortunately, no one can predict when the next tragedy will strike. But we can predict that there will be people stepping in to assist others. As Mister Rogers once said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

xoxo,
Megan
Article published in Forsyth Woman Magazine. 

Unique Holiday Hostess Gifts

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You have just been invited to your best friend’s Christmas party, a weekend at your aunt’s, or need a gift on hand for the last-minute dinner at a friend’s house. When someone has welcomed you into their home for an event, it is always nice to bring a small gift to thank the host. However, it can sometimes be hard to think about what you should give someone. Do they like a certain type of food? Are they allergic to various smells? Don’t stress, because I’ve done the hard work for you by creating a list of unique hostess gifts below. All you need to do is choose which one you want to use.

  • Sangria in a Jar – All you need to do is take a mason jar and place the items needed for sangria inside. Along with the jar, include a bottle of wine and a selection of fruits to complete the present. Another option is to use a drink dispenser instead of a Mason jar and tie a wooden spoon to the outside.
  • All-One-Color Basket – Use the host’s favorite color and turn it into a basket with only items of that color. For example, if they love yellow, all gifts would be yellow. This gift doesn’t have to be huge and can include their favorite candies, drinks, lotions, etc.
  • Frames with a Picture Inside – This small gesture will be meaningful for you and your friend. Purchase a few pretty frames and then place a favorite photo of the two of you behind the glass. What better time to remember fun times than during the holidays?
  • Cranberry Orange Stovetop Potpourri – This present takes a little more planning and assembling than others, but definitely worth it, and you can also make one for yourself! All you need is:
    • 1–16 oz. Mason jar with lid
    • ½ cup fresh cranberries
    • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
    • 2 slices of an orange
    • 23 cinnamon sticks
    • Nutmeg
    • Water
    • Burlap
    • Ribbon or twine
    • Gift tag

Then, fill the jar with the ingredients and immerse in water. Decorate the outside with the burlap, ribbon or twine, and add a gift tag with instructions on how to use. The instructions should say something like: “Pour contents into a small sauce pan and simmer over low heat. Add water as needed. Enjoy!”

If you are looking for hostess gift ideas that can be purchased in a larger quantity and take less time to prepare, try one of these ideas below.

  • Cloth Napkins and Napkin Rings – This present can be used year-round. Choose a style that will match the hostess’ kitchen, dining room, etc. Make sure to purchase at least four napkins and rings to provide the gift-receiver with a set.
  • Funny Dish Towels – Another gift that will keep on giving the whole year. Consider your friend’s personality and what type of towel they might like. Then, every time they see the towel, they’ll think of you.
  • Coasters – Always a necessity, coasters are a great way to fuel the host’s love for their favorite sports team or school. Not sure what they prefer?  You can’t go wrong with a design or colorful set.
  • Cheese Board Set – I love gifts that are usable and have many purposes. A cheese board, complete with a set of cheese knives and even cheese, is a perfect present. The board doesn’t have to be huge and can also be used as a cutting board.
  • Utensil Set – This is a great item, especially for people who are newly married or have moved into a new home. Choose a cute container that matches their style and fill it with common kitchen items. Take it a step further and tie a kitchen dish towel (or a funny dish towel) around the utensil set.

Whenever you’re invited to a holiday shindig this season, always remember to bring a hostess gift. The host will appreciate your taking the time to think of them.

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Family Magazine. 

Going Device Free

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It’s the norm now—most people always have some sort of technological device in their hands, most of the day. Whether it is a cell phone, iPad, laptop, or anything else, technological devices are a part of everyday life. People have grown accustomed to using them, and to an extent, are dependent on them. There are many benefits to technology and using these devices, such as writing this article on my laptop. Yes, I could write it by hand, but using a laptop is less time-consuming (and easier to delete mistakes). Other advantages are improved communication. Many people have a cell phone and can easily call family and friends, or call for help, if necessary. Also, technological devices give us instant access to news and information, an opportunity to network socially (individually or for businesses through social media and websites), and the ability to share ideas, pictures, and more through various apps and websites.

However, even with all the advantages of using cell phones, iPods, and other devices, there are also disadvantages. These drawbacks include a feeling of social isolation and distraction when you’re with loved ones, at work, or watching an event. They can also put a strain on your eyes, especially when looking at the screen’s lighting in the dark. While it is always tempting to use some sort of electronic device, it is good to give them a break now and then. Going device-free can be a challenge. You might have to find new ways to communicate and watch movies, for example. However, you’ll be glad you took this challenge and spent some time away from technology. Don’t know how to get started? Below are some ideas for going device-free.

  • Start small and have a device-free meal with your family and friends. Everyone involved makes a commitment to laying down their electronics and putting them in a space away from the table and kitchen. Place a basket or designate a spot for all the devices to go. Then, start talking to get people fully distracted from their devices. Ask questions, play games, or share ideas to get the conversation going. In addition to meal time, take this idea a step further. Try having device-free holidays, device-free small trips, and more. This simple act can help family members and friends get closer and spend more time together.
  • Another tip to easily break up with your device is by seeing how many times you use it. Apps, such as Checky, keep track of how often you use your device. This app helps prevent people from looking at their phones, because it drains the phone’s battery. According to Dr. David Greenfield, with The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, it can seem counterintuitive to check your phone when you are trying to use it less. However, recording how much time you are spending on your phone and how many times a day you’re checking it lets people become aware of how problematic their cell phone use is. Set limits for yourself and your usage. Try to spend no more than 90 minutes per day or 15 minutes at a time.
  • Also, set limits on social media. Determine a time, day, or a full weekend when you don’t post or check your social media accounts. This can be hard at first, but soon it will become a habit. Dr. Greenfield states, “There’s this idea that if other people don’t know you’re doing something, it has no value. This means we spend more time documenting what we’re doing, instead of living our lives.” Instead of Snapchatting your trip to Disney World and Facebooking your pictures of your Friday night concert with friends, take a few pictures to remember the moment, but don’t spend the whole time with a phone in your face. As Ferris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” If you’re feeling extra daring, delete your social media apps for a full-on break. Reactivate your accounts when you feel as if you are relaxed and reenergized.

Going device-free gives you the opportunity to focus on things that are important in your life. It gives you the chance to reconnect face-to-face with family members and friends, and experience moments in life through your eyes, instead of a screen. Going device-free will become a habit, and you’ll learn to depend less and less on your electronics to get you through the day.

xoxo,

Megan

Originally published in Forsyth Family Magazine. 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

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This past weekend, we decorated for Christmas. Our trees went up, wreaths were hung on doors, and music played through the house; all to welcome in the season. I love this time of the year! The colors, the sounds, and the smells are all a part of what makes it…wonderful.

After all, who doesn’t love spending time with their family and friends, shopping for the perfect gift, or baking their favorite holiday dessert? Yet, during all of this merriment, I can’t help, but feel sad. Is the Christmas season really the most wonderful time of the year?

For me, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is bittersweet. There are many things that make me happy, but there is also a somber feeling in the air. Maybe it is knowing another year is almost over and that I’m year older. As I reflect on the past 12 months, I think about the loved ones I lost and the loved ones I gained; the good times and the bad; and the struggles I overcame. While Christmas decorations do bring a smile to my face, they are also melancholy. The various ornaments, garlands, and more remind me of past trips, special moments, and childhood.

Christmas may be bittersweet, but the season gives me a chance to look back and reminisce. In addition, it is a sign that we survived another year and that we are stronger, braver, and hopefully more caring. To me, Christmas will always be the most wonderful and saddest time of the year.

xoxo,

Megan

Giving Tuesday: Helping Others During the Holidays

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Every year, a lot of people spend the days after Thanksgiving shopping ‘til they drop and checking items off their holiday gift lists. Of course, turkey day is on a Thursday, then there is Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but it doesn’t stop there. The Tuesday following Thanksgiving is now known as “Giving Tuesday” with the purpose of giving back to others. Since originating in 2012, this day has gained popularity and support with every passing year. This year, Giving Tuesday will be celebrated on November 28th, this upcoming Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday was created by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation as a way to kick-off the charitable season through holiday and end-of-year giving. According to givingtuesday.org, the internationally recognized day brings individuals, communities, and organizations together for one purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. On this Tuesday, the hashtag #GivingTuesday, is used around the world on various social media platforms to promote change and volunteering in one’s community. This hashtag inspires people to donate their time, resources, and talents. In addition, online donations are encouraged. Giving Tuesday exemplifies the influence families, individuals, nonprofits, organizations, and businesses have in turning small acts of kindness into powerful change and making the world a better place. According to USA Today, in 2016, over $168 million dollars in charitable donations worldwide were made during Giving Tuesday, breaking the 2015 total by 44%, and online donations increased by 31%. Lastly, since 2012, the popularity and presence of Giving Tuesday increased by 317%. Sounds like this day will continue making a greater impact on everyone as the years go by.

Looking for ways you and your family and friends can give back on this Tuesday? Read below to get inspiration.

Online Donations:

If you are in a pinch for time, online donations are one of the quickest ways to participate in Giving Tuesday. Most charities and nonprofits have links for donating on their websites and many will have special Giving Tuesday campaigns. Another way to give back is by choosing your favorite charity on Amazon Smile. For every eligible purchase you make on Amazon, 0.5% will go to the organization. Visit smile.amazon.com to learn more.

Volunteering Your Time:

One of the best parts of volunteering is actually spending time at the organization. This is a chance for you to meet the workers and sometimes the people receiving the charity’s assistance. Set aside a portion of time during Giving Tuesday to volunteer. This could be done in the morning, lunchtime, afternoon, or evening. Maybe it is helping serve dinner at the local soup kitchen or playing with the animals at the Humane Society? Again, decide on an organization that is personal and impactful for you and contact them to see the best way you can serve them. Volunteering doesn’t have to be an all-day adventure; it can only be a few hours. Get your family and friends involved and see all the ways you can make a difference.

Volunteering Your Resources and Talents: 

Maybe it’s through having a bake sale for the hospital or knitting blankets for hospice; whatever activity you choose to volunteer, you are using your resources and talents. Think about your hobbies and skills and how you can turn those into helping others. Other ideas include having a donation/collection drive for supplies, food, books, and more, writing cards to veterans and active military members, delivering special treats to police officers and firefighters, or running errands for elderly neighbors. A simple Google search can bring up multiple ideas for ways to volunteer your resources and talents.

Spread the Word:

The power of social media is huge in today’s world. Every day, there is something new going viral. One of the quickest and biggest ways you can make an impact on Giving Tuesday is through promoting it on your personal social media accounts. Send out save the date reminders using the hashtag #GivingTuesday. Then, on November 28th, use your voice to get others participating in the movement. Share how you are giving back and ideas for others.

Giving Tuesday doesn’t have to be a one-day only event; it is something that should happen every day of the year. Mark your calendars and start planning on how you and your family will help others in your community on this important day. For more information, visit: givingtuesday.org.

xoxo,

Megan

Article published in Forsyth Woman Magazine. 

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

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Still stuffed from yesterday’s feast? This delicious recipe is perfect for a light lunch or dinner.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
2-3 Tbs sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
2 (10 3/4 oz) cans of condensed tomato soup
2 cups half and half
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 whole 9 Oz package of cheese-filled tortellini
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Saute garlic with the olive oil and sun dried tomatoes, onion powder, and Italian seasoning in a large  pot over medium heat.
2. Add tomato soup, half and half, and chicken stock. Bring ingredients to a simmer.
3. Once simmering, drop tortellini into the soup.
4. Cook according to the tortellini’s package directions.
5. Top soup with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan