Charlotte Smarty Pants

Charlotte Smarty Pants – Daily Scoop for Savvy Charlotte Moms

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March 5, 2018

Approaching Life Five Feet at a Time

Imagine you’re standing at the top of a 10,000 foot mountain, struggling to see the bottom. The distance from where you are standing now, to the base, is frightening—from your mind’s eye, it’s way too steep and treacherous to safely get down. Now imagine that you’re standing at the base of the mountain looking up, getting ready for the climb. From this perspective, the trek seems even more insurmountable—you might even need gear in order to safely ascend the mountain.


Whenever my family begins to plan a ski trip out West, the seed of panic begins to grow within me. I feel sprouting roots grip my gut before the plane even takes off. The fight or flight response activates and I take flight by avoiding all thoughts of the mountain until I absolutely have to, until my boots are clipped into my skis. I dread the first run. I dread that first run because I sat in a gondola while staring down the whole mountain, seeing the entirety of what I have to ski to safely reach the parking lot.

I grew up on cross country skis. Since I can’t remember when I first skied, I must have been very young. The landscape of upstate New York provided hours and hours of cross country terrain. It was heavenly to anyone dedicated to fitness in the winter months. My legs moved swiftly to keep up with my six-foot-three father. And I thought I was so brave skiing down “steep” hills with my brother.
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February 5, 2018

Greg Olsen is our Walter Payton Winner

This post is dedicated to Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen, who has been named a Walter Payton Man of the Year Award finalist.

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award

In 1970, The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award was established to recognize an NFL player for excellence on the field as well as excellence in the community. The recipient of this prestigious award receives $500,000, half of which goes to the player’s charity of choice while the other half is donated in the player’s name to expand Character Playbook across the country. There are 32 nominees in total, including the winner and two finalists, each of who receive $100,000 to donate to their charity of choice, with a matching amount donated in their names to the Character Playbook. The remaining 29 nominees each receive $50,000 to donate to their charity of choice with a matching amount donated in their names to expand Character Playbook. The NFL Foundation, Nationwide, and United Way Worldwide make these donations possible. Greg Olsen Feb 2018

So what exactly is the Character Playbook?

The NFL and United Way Character Playbook is important work that was launched nationally in 2016. Fourteen NFL teams initially launched and locally funded the playbook program, including our very own Carolina Panthers who partnered with United Way of Central Carolinas. The initiative was established to guide students during some of their most impressionable and vulnerable years, the middle-school years, to establish and maintain healthy relationships. The online graphic novel format holds the attention of students so that they can navigate the course topics without difficulty: Read More →

January 22, 2018

Glorious sleep

“For those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired!” – Arianna Huffington

Do you remember the last time you weren’t tired? If you truly want to thrive, sleep is a nonnegotiable. When our babies enter our world, we focus on their sleep, our sleep, and then sleep becomes a continual subject, even battle in some households, with night terrors and bedtime disasters. A new reality of thinking about sleep all too much is born and reborn with each baby.

Once upon a time sleep was revered. Now it seems there is so much pride in how little we sleep, stamping emails at 3 AM to show how vested we are in our work. Netflix and iPhones invaded some of our bedrooms, keeping us up longer than we often realize (hello blue light and active brainwaves). Oftentimes, I stay up later than I should to have my own time to read or to just savor the stillness to decompress. IMG_0105

In my last article, I shared a little about my decade long battle to sleep well. I often wonder if I have created a self fulfilling prophecy, putting sleep up on a pedestal while fearing it at the same time. Perhaps I think about it too much? Maybe if I just stopped worrying about not sleeping, I would, well, sleep. Gosh I love sleep. So how do you love something so much and then fail at it? I have some work to do…

While searching for a few book club titles through the Mecklenburg Library app, I felt like someone from above was trying to get my attention. I have never read a book about sleep, however, I have read more sleep articles than you can imagine. When Arianna Huffington’s book The Sleep Revolution appeared in my queue, I borrowed the book immediately. Read More →

January 13, 2018

Smarty Mom: Tricia Sistrunk


Smarties, meet Tricia Sistrunk, a mom on a global empathy mission! I met Tricia through The Lunch Project, immediately relating to her vision, while being drawn to her down-to-earth intellect and humbleness. Tricia sees life through an authentic lens and Smarties, I know that’s how you will see her too! This is a good one!

Smarty Mom: Tricia Sistrunk

Name: Tricia Sistrunk
Married to: George
Mom of: Garrett, Luke, Eliza
Alma Mater: Ohio State University and Wake Forest School of Law
Profession: Executive Director for The Lunch Project
Years in Charlotte: 20
Originally from: Ohio

Motherhood and life often take moms on career journeys. Where did you career originally begin?

I started my law career as an Assistant District Attorney. It was the job that I was most afraid of, but one that taught my naive, young self so much about human nature and the value of thinking through things from different perspectives. I also learned to think quickly on my feet. It was probably the most stressful job I have ever had but, in hindsight the perfect place to begin my career. Tricia Sistrunk-10_WEB

Did you always know that you would become a lawyer?

Not at all. I was a business major in college and thought I would start my own business one day. No one in my family was a lawyer, so I really had no idea what it meant to be a lawyer. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year of college that I thought about going to graduate school and I began researching law schools. I still didn’t really know anything about the day to day job of being a lawyer, but I liked the idea of being an advocate for people who needed help. Read More →

January 8, 2018

My Sleep Journey

Sleep and I were once in love. We spent hours together, sometimes half the day. Judging from the amount of time we were together, you would think we were forever inseparable. It was glorious looking back; I was really, really good at sleeping. Then everything changed about ten years ago forever (prior to that, my sleep was poor but I didn’t need as much).1920

Since that dreadful first night of poor sleep, tossing and turning, I have always maintained that “tonight will be the night I sleep really, really well.” I mean this certainly can’t go on forever. While ten years is not forever, it is forever to an insomniac. You see, when you don’t sleep well, your brain mashes everything up into a giant brain game where you have to sort everything out.

About a year ago, I made the concrete decision to not talk about my poor relationship with sleep anymore. I didn’t want to be labeled or known as “the poor sleeper.” I also recognized how I was overstaying my welcome with all my sleep talks with friends. It’s not that they weren’t concerned, rather they were tired of my conversation being set on repeat. And by talking about it so frequently, I was in a way creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Obsessions are only productive when it applies to vocations. I even decided to halt telling my family how truly tired I was most days, continuing to try to “fake it until I make it.”

When doctors ask me if I have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, I answer “C, all of the above.” I may not fall asleep until 2 AM, I may fall asleep at 10:30 PM and then be wide awake until 2 AM, or I may never get into a deep sleep at all. The irony is that despite how tired I am during the evening, once I go to bed, I am wide awake. Why does my brain want to be so productive during the evening! Doesn’t my brain know that I have to be a mom the next day, work, and be on 100% all day! Read More →

December 11, 2017

Time and the teen years

With the door to 2018 opening wider each day, I find myself thinking and daydreaming about what I would like to see beyond that door. What do I want 2018’s story to be? While I don’t have the title finalized just yet, there are certain chapters that I already have written. Here’s a sneak peek into a couple of entries:th-1


If you don’t have tweens or teens yet, stick this chapter in your back pocket. Right now is the time to start emphasizing family time is the most important time. Equip yourself for the independent years – by the time they are 12, they’ll be asking to hang out at the mall with friends every opportunity they have. The prep work you do now will set you up for less of a fight when you say the dreaded word “no” and insert family plans. Read More →

November 27, 2017

Golden Gratitude

Gratitude is growing in popularity and I like it. Go into any store and you will see the word gratitude stamped on items from notebooks and mugs to shirts and workout gear. While some may say this is merely a trend that will soon move on, I prefer to think that these mindfulness reminders are here to stay. Beyond material reminders, more and more books, talks, and lessons are further embedding the benefits of gratitude, reminding us all to be actively grateful.Gold heart

I have also noticed the font color most often used to inscribe the word gratitude is gold, as it should be – gold is bright, happy, shiny, and doesn’t go unnoticed. Traditionally, gold signifies the best of the best. Like the properties of gold, gratitude makes life happier and shinier, nor does it go unnoticed. Expressing gratitude is like pressing the pause button on life – with gratitude we see more to be thankful for.

I remember pressing down the five corners of the gold star that my teachers placed on the top of my papers with pride. The act of giving that shiny gold star represented the gratitude that my teacher had for my hard work. That gold star also represented so much more, something that my subconscious understood: when we do well in school or in anything for that matter, we unknowingly express gratitude. Our attitude for gratitude improves our mental strength. I was grateful to learn and for the relationship I had with my teachers, to be recognized (not that I had the insight to completely frame it this way as a child).

There is a quote that reads: gratitude turns what we have into enough. Instead of seeing our worlds riddled with shortcomings and emptiness, lacking this and that, we simply have enough. We are enough. The corners of our mouths turn into a smile, followed by feelings of wholeness and serenity. We are okay, more than okay. Not only does gratitude turn what we have into enough, it feeds our soul, empowering every cell in our being. Read More →

November 13, 2017

What we focus on expands; a story of hope

One tiny red leaf and a three inch stem was all that was left of my mini poinsettia last January. As I approached the trashcan with plant in hand ready to toss, I felt a pang of guilt: how could I throw out this plant who was still trying to live? Instead I decided to repot the scrappy plant and placed it by a sunny window.image1

After a week or so, I saw the poinsettia express gratitude through a new leaf at the top of the stem. I could almost hear the plant say, “I think I can, I think I can.” The plant stood humbly in it’s new gold pot with a total of two green leaves. Still scrappy, yet growing stronger. As the weeks went on and then months, my little poinsettia grew taller, displaying pride through many new leaves. And I enjoyed being attentive, watching the slow but steady progress.

Fastforward to last week, when I heard my first Christmas song on the radio and decided that I just wasn’t ready and turned the radio off. On the drive home, I thought about “the rules” for the holidays. Halloween once rolled into Thanksgiving, with the Christmas season beginning on the heels of Turkey dinner. Now Halloween is like the forward to Christmas; as kids count their Halloween loot, retailers put up Christmas trees and lights. Read More →

November 4, 2017

Smarty Mom: Deni Pifer

Photo Credit: Banner Adams Photography

Photo Credit: Banner Adams Photography

Smarties, I would like to introduce you to a very smart, witty, friendly, down-to-earth Smarty mom, Deni Pifer. The story of how I met Deni a little over 12 years ago makes you wonder about the magic of the world. While living in Myers Park and having not met yet, we both delivered babies in Pineville on the same day. My midwife only delivered at CMC Pineville and Deni’s doctor only went that far north from South Carolina. There was a baby boom that day in the hospital, so Deni and I were transferred to the overflow rooms. We had the chance to officially meet and put it all together once our babies started daycare at the same church back in Myers Park. My daughter and Deni’s son then exchanged a few bites and were sent home with “bite reports.” Needless to say, the Universe said we should know when another. The biting stopped long ago but our friendship continues. Enjoy getting to know Deni!

Smarty mom: Deni Pifer

Hometown? The BIG CITY of Rock Hill, SC
Neighborhood? Myers Park
Married to: Bobby
Kids: Marshall, 12, and Sydney, 10
Alma Mater? BS and MBA from Winthrop University and JD from University of South Carolina
Career? Attorney

What kind of law do you practice and why?

I handle estate planning which is wills, trusts, powers of attorney etc. as well as estate administration which is helping folks after someone passes away. I went to law school specifically to practice in this area after my mother died from cancer at the young age of 51 and her estate wasn’t as she and my father had thought. I have an ability to really connect to people because I really do care and I’m great at putting together the puzzle on the front end. Hopefully, all our clients have smooth sailing after one of them passes, but we also are very good at cleaning up estate planning messes left to deal with by others. Read More →

October 23, 2017

Judgement: a lesson from the athletic field

When I recognize an opportunity for a teaching moment, I take the stage. My kids often look at me quizzingly, not understanding how the podium and mic suddenly appeared. The words “I know mom” roll off their tongues before I can get ten words out. I know they often genuinely know, but I also know there are some lessons worth repeating and getting into two way conversations with more than once.

Judgement: a lesson from the athletic field.

My daughter overheard a conversation I had with another mom recently. This mom, who I like very much and have met on the sidelines of numerous games, expressed how grateful she was to have met other moms who are nice. Another mom turned her head and replied with a surprised voice, “What did you expect us to be?” The transparency of her unguarded answer then took me by surprise, “Other moms sometimes don’t talk to me because I am a little overweight.”11407236_1096173940397714_7979396265321143654_n

This interaction opened the door to what I call “car talk.”

Car talk: one-on-one conversation between parent and child within the safe, intimate, confidential confines of a car with no other distractions. I have written an entire article on how a one-on-one drive can take you to amazing places with your child, especially when they graduate to the front seat. These conversations are most definitely two-way; I certainly don’t want my kids to associate the car with a lecture like a dog might with the vet. Read More →

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