Category: worthy causes

Primrose Hill: ‘Made better by our story’

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Psalm18-16You don’t have to be a former meth addict to appreciate the words of David in Psalm 18.

David was running from a human enemy, and the Psalm is one of thanks for God’s rescue. At Primrose Hill Teen Challenge, you’ll hear stories of rescue from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, fears and failures.

So many stories of second (and third) chances …

Jenn, who survived a methamphetamine addiction, divorce, jail, loss of family relationships and more, quotes Psalm 18:16 and says that’s exactly what God did for her.

He took hold of her:

“God’s grace and mercy started working miracles in my life. He restored my family and transformed me into a beautiful and loving woman, mother and child of God.”

Jenn is just one example of the power of transformation that begins at Primrose Hill.

PrimroseHillGraphicAt the recovery center (located in north-central Missouri), the women learn life skills, social skills, parenting skills and work skills. GED classes are available for those who didn’t finish high school, and the women are discipled in their faith.

Benefits to the children include in-home care, learning and a loving environment, according to the organization’s website.

One way the residents help the organization pay for their care is by making soaps, lotions and lip balms.

The tagline on every label: “Made better by our story.”

The folks at Primrose Hill sent me a gift set, a brochure and a newsletter telling stories of women formerly in bondage and now free from addictions because of the love of Christ and the care of those at the recovery center.

Primrose sent me a box of goodies recently in the hope that I would like them, talk about them and spread the word to my peeps (that’s you). Each woman involved in the production hand-signs each bottle, jar, bar and tube. (Lindsey, thank you for the lotion and the sugar scrub. Stacie, thanks for the hand and body soap. Krista, the Sweet Dreams bar of soap smelled … sweet and dreamy! And the Honey Bunch lip balm? Well, I guess the label was too small for a signature, but, to the young woman who produced it: hugs and kisses from me to you!)

I can’t squirt out a dollop of liquid soap or lotion, or run a bar of the Sweet Dreams soap along my arms as I sit in the bath, without thinking about the women who made them … without praying with every breath for each resident, each child, for each beautiful soul at Primrose who cares for the women and their kids, without thanking God for such an organization.

Places like Primrose change lives.

I am grateful for the soaps, lotion, lip balm and body scrub, but I’m even more grateful that Primrose invited me to be a part of its story.

So, whether you need a Primrose Hill product (no synthetic ingredients, and includes a fragrance-free option) or simply would like to make a donation and/or say a prayer for the ministry and those involved, please visit the website and look around. You’ll be encouraged and enlightened.

It takes about $2,000 per mom and $100 per child each month to operate the Primrose Hill recovery center. I hope you can help, and I know the families will be eternally grateful.

Click here to visit Primrose Hill’s website.

To Well With You Suzy O signature - Sacramento font




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A farewell and a fresh start

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It’s been a crazy week, and it promises to be a busy weekend. A few highlights:


Thursday was my last day at First Community Bank, where I had worked since moving back to Batesville in 2010. It was a tough decision because it’s a great place to work, but I’m going back to another awesome company, Edward Jones, so all is well. I was working at one of the North Little Rock branches of Jones when Bruce and I decided to move to Batesville, so I already know that it’s a fabulous place to work. Only the location and the boss-man have changed. Plus, I’ll be working with another office administrator instead of being the only one (this is very helpful when I need a bathroom break – someone to cover the phones for a minute, right?).


Monday will be a new beginning (again), so I’m using it as an opportunity to restart my aborted Whole30 challenge. I started it in August and had been on the plan two weeks when I had a weekend conference out of town, and, people let me tell you, conference food is typically not Whole30-friendly. I tried, but by Saturday night I had caved (when we ate at a German restaurant).

It may be a little crazy to try to start a clean-eating plan the same day I start a new job, but I have a couple of things in my favor:

  • I’ve done Whole30 before.
  • I’ve worked for this company before.

I’m choosing to look at Monday morning as a fresh start on all counts.

Also, if I wait any longer, what will fall in the middle of the schedule? Thanksgiving and my birthday.

If I start Monday (Oct. 26), the 30-day plan will end two days before Thanksgiving, so I’ll be able to reintroduce a food type the day before the big holiday. I think I’m going to start with grains and save dairy for last.

This isn’t about losing weight (although I certainly do need to lose the weight I’ve regained recently). This is about clearing up some minor health issues that are dragging me down. I’ll tell you about those over the next month.

One thing I won’t do: journal this daily on the blog, as I had planned to do last time. Ugh – what was I thinking?

I’ll give you weekly recaps.


Also to come: recaps on my decluttering project around the house. I wrote about my bedroom closet declutter in July, and I’ve been struggling to find the time and energy to finish the bedroom. I gave away a ton of books, so my big bookcase isn’t about to collapse anymore, but I still have to sort through the dresser contents and make some donations to the new resale shop in town. (I’ll tell you about Hidden Treasures soon.) And then there’s the kitchen. Don’t make me talk about that today; our kitchen is poorly laid out – nothing I can do about that right now – and I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to organize it. It stresses me out. Our two office workspaces will be last (unless I still need to procrastinate about the kitchen).

I also owe you a couple of book reviews, but I was waiting to present those until I finished the whole-house declutter. But, in case you’re interested in reading these life-changing books in advance, they are:


One final thing: I realized after Monday’s post that I had already talked a lot in the previous post about Project STIR. But I hope you’ll forgive me for one more mention, because Sarah’s fundraising deadline is a week away and I hope you’ll consider making a small donation. This is such an awesome project, and your donation will help Sarah tell families’ stories through their recipes. Heck, she’ll even let you write about your own beloved family recipe if you want to. Watch the 3-minute video (so sweet – a young woman learning a recipe from her Mamaw), then scroll down to the Kickstarter section, click and donate. Sarah will be so appreciative of your help!


I wrote all of this in a hurry because I have to head over to Mom’s to watch a football game, so forgive any typos.

Go, Hogs! And …


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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 10/19/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful, inspirational or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:


When someone follows me on Twitter, I don’t follow back automatically. There are just too many people out there cluttering up my feed in an effort to get attention, and I sometimes scratch my head and say, “Why in the world would that person want to follow me?”

But if the person looks semi-legit, I usually check out his or her website, if there is one (bonus if it’s a personal blog with something human to say), then I decide whether to follow back.

When Stefne Miller followed me a couple of days ago, I knew almost immediately that I would keep going back to her website. In this link, she writes about the “F” word: forgiveness. I really like her writing style, and I hope her post will speak to you as it did me.

Check it out: The “F” Word



On my other blog, Suzy & Spice, I wrote recently about Project STIR, my friend Sarah’s documentary film project in which she highlights family recipes around the globe.

This has been tremendous fun, and I’ve “met” lots of people all over the world who are as sentimental as I am about preserving family recipes. Many of us are “Project STIR Ambassadors,” which just means we love this project and want to help Sarah spread the word so we promote the project online. (Sarah spotlighted me on her blog here, and I wrote about my Nanny’s Pickles here; my cousins and I had a grand time with our family memories.)

Sarah launched her Kickstarter (fundraising) project with a video of “Mamaw’s Chicken Dumplins,” where she films a dear family friend, “Mamaw” (who in some ways took over for Sarah’s deceased grandparents), showing granddaughter Rachel how she makes chicken and dumplings. The video is just over 3 minutes – well worth your time.

Sarah has less than two weeks to raise the rest of her funds on Kickstarter, so please consider making a donation – nothing is too small to help her reach the goal, which will help her film the families and their recipes. This project is so wonderful, I know you’ll want to be a part of it.

Also, another blogger friend, new mom Paige, who recently started a podcast, features Sarah and Project STIR on this episode of Hear Motherhood (who is not a mom yet, but the project is about family, so it counts!). Sarah tells how she came to know Mamaw, how Project STIR came about, and where it’s going. Take a listen.

Sarah also created a Project STIR page on Facebook. And if you’re interested in being an ambassador (share a food memory on your own website), click here for details.

Another great thing about this project is that Sarah has partnered with The Pack Shack! Keep reading …

Check it out: Project STIR


thepackshack-logoGIVING BACK

I wrote about my first experience with The Pack Shack on the Arkansas Women Bloggers website in September, when I was Blogger of the Month.

I say “my first experience,” because I’m not finished yet. I came home from Arkansas Women Bloggers University determined to spread the word. I had heard about The Pack Shack, a new-ish organization based in northwest Arkansas that helps feed the needy, but until you experience a Feed the Funnel party firsthand, you really have no idea.

After everyone else had left the party that August weekend at AWBU, I talked to Pack Shack co-founder Bret Raymond, and I was struck by his humble spirit and his desire not to shine a light on himself or even the organization but to bring glory to God.

I took the Feed the Funnel idea to my running club and my small group at church, and I also plan to present it to my new employer (I start next week). Stay tuned; I’m sure to be talking about it again in the coming months.

Click below to see what a great time we Arkansas Women Bloggers had serving such a worthy cause. It includes a fun video that I shot on Periscope.

Check it out: Giving Back with The Pack Shack


That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …


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Inspiring stories: Shawn Mastrantonio

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Go to and vote for Shawn Mastrantonio to be on the cover. You can vote every day through July 22. The link is below. Now, go!

If you’ve known me for two minutes, you know I’m a sucker for a worthy cause.

A few weeks ago, on Self-Promotion Monday (a weekly feature on the certified RRCA coaches Facebook page), Shawn Mastrantonio posted a link to a photo of him that’s in contention to be a Runner’s World cover shot.

I pounced on it: I read a little about Shawn on his Facebook page L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now And Run), Liked the page and headed straight to the Runner’s World site to vote. And, because I could vote daily through July 22, I set up a calendar pop-up to remind me to vote every day until then.

Last I knew, Shawn’s photo was third overall and No. 1 in the “inspiring” category (you have to click whether you think the subject is “passionate,” “athletic” or “inspiring”).

No, Shawn and I have never met. We first crossed paths on the coaches page.

But when I see a good cause and someone asks me to vote for it, I vote. (I also vote daily for my local humane society to win cash through Shelter Challenge contests.) I feel guilty if I don’t.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about Shawn.

Here’s why I want him to be on the cover of Runner’s World:

Shawn has a rare cancer syndrome called Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL). I had never heard of it, and to raise awareness for his cause (and his RW cover), I asked him to share his story here on To Well With You.

Through illness, surgery and everything else he’s had to contend with, Shawn also BQ’d (qualified for the Boston Marathon, which has strict requirements). That is no small feat!

But I’ll let Shawn tell you the rest of the story in his own words (edited a bit for length):

“I had brain surgery in 1993 to remove a brain tumor from my right cerebellum. In December 2009, I was told that I had a tumor recurrence and two new tumors. I started running as an escape and ran my first half-marathon in 2010. I continued my running journey until I had my second brain surgery to remove one of the tumors on Jan. 31, 2012. In October 2012, I ran the Wineglass Half Marathon in Corning, N.Y., in a PR (personal record) time of 1:30.41.

I have continued running because, to me, running is a metaphor for life. In running, as in life, you gain strength from the challenges you face. Running continues to help me both physically and mentally get through the challenges of living with VHL.”

“Within my own family, I come from a legacy of VHL WARRIORS, including my dad, uncle, cousin and most recently my brother, who have lost their lives to this disease. We believe that there are other family members [who had VHL], but too little was known about the disease when they passed away.

“My dad passed away when I was 10. He passed away on May 15, 1980, my mom’s 43rd birthday. I am the administrator of a Facebook page called L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now And Run), and in some of my posts and T-shirts that I design I include “5/15” to signify the date and to honor both my mom and dad.

“My brother passed away in August 2013. During his battle with VHL, he endured over 30 brain surgeries. I never once heard him complain or ask, ‘Why me?’ My dad and brother are the sources of my strength, faith and inspiration.”

What is VHL?

In this 90-second video, actor Willem Dafoe explains what VHL is.


And back to Shawn’s story:

“Von Hippel-Lindau is a genetic condition involving the abnormal growth of blood vessels in some parts of the body that are particularly rich in blood vessels. It is caused by a flaw in the VHL gene, on the short arm of chromosome 3, which regulates cell growth. Having an alteration in the VHL gene is what is known as a predisposition factor to certain kinds of tumors, including some specific cancers.

“I continue to get monitored for the existing two brain tumors and any new ones along with screening for my kidneys and pancreas as I currently have tumors in them, as well.

“My running journey has been such an amazing experience. It truly has given me strength and often is therapy. I have had so many great people enter my life brought together by the gift of running. These new friendships are such a blessing. My rock is my wife, Kimberly; she has encouraged and supported, and her love is never-ending. She has been there through thick and thin. She has remained strong for me in the difficult times and never left my side.

Shawn and Kimberly Mastrantonio after his first full marathon and her first half-marathon.

“2014 was a great year of running for me as I set a new PR in the half marathon of 1:28.56, a 10-mile PR of 1:06.12 and a 5k PR of 19:00.08. I ran my first full marathon in 3:09.48, qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

“2015 started out just as well. I set a PR in the 10k of 39:56 and was feeling strong as I headed into the Seneca7, a 77.7-mile, seven-person relay around Seneca Lake in Geneva, N.Y. After completing my second leg, I suffered a ‘moderate’ heart attack. I was rushed to the hospital, and a stent was put in. The heart attack was caused by a 100 percent blockage of the right coronary artery. The heart attack put an end to my 557-day running streak, but I hope to be able to start a new streak soon. In the meantime, I am concentrating on my health and looking forward to representing the VHL community in 2016 at the Boston Marathon.”

I don’t know about you, but in my book this man still has plenty of heart.

Now, don’t you want to go cast a ballot for Shawn Mastrantonio, and maybe make a donation to the VHL Alliance in honor of him and all the other folks affected by VHL?

Now, go vote!

If you Tweet about this, please use the hashtags #‎RWCoverSearch and #‎VHLWarrior.

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