Part 2 of the Make America Great Series. My friend Alexa and I decided to continue this project by posing this question to individuals on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall, a little over a year since the riots occurred in this exact location. This is how people responded to the question: "What would truly make this country great?"
"Respect for humanity."
"Everybody needs love of each other + open mind."
"I think America is already great."
"Smile. Smiling causes an actual brain chemistry change in you and the person you smile at."
"More king cobras, except their all nice pets."
-Matthew (older boy)
-Alex (younger boy)
-Olivia (young girl)
"People being willing to put themselves out there for love and trust."
"No more guns."
"Impeach Trump; I don't want any harm for the guy he just needs to be out of office."
This year for our birthdays, one of my best friends Maria and I wanted to celebrate with an experience rather than material goods. So we packed our bags and headed to Nashville, TN for Memorial Day weekend.
This definitely was one of the most fun weekends I've had in a while. I don't think I've ever laughed so much in my life. Here are a few highlights of our favorite things we did in the city.
Taking pics by one of the I Believe in Nashville murals at Marathon Music Works.
The Nashville What Lifts You Wings by Kelsey Montague Art.
Exploring the Gulch neighborhood area
Went to see the Parthenon, Nashville's little slice of Ancient Greece.
Maria and I had both been wanting another tattoo for a while now and decided that our trip would be the perfect time to get them (no photo proof yet of Maria's tat).
Flash City Tattoo was the bomb.com. Rawn was an incredible artist and dude and really wanted to make sure we loved the tats we were getting.
My tattoo: XXI:XXV = Proverbs 31:25 "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come."
Maria's tattoo: "Speak Friend and Enter", a quote from Lord of the Rings. Plus some cute little Harry Potter stars on either side.
Saturday evening, Maria and I forced ourselves not to be grandmas and got ready for an evening out on the town.
First, we stopped at the super cool Up Rooftop Lounge that had incredible views of the Nashville Downtown skyline.
Next was Party Fowl, for one of the city's specialities, Nashville Hot Chicken.
After a lot of encouragement (I'm not used to staying up this late lol), the last stop of the night was the Florida Georgia Line House, right in the heart of Broadway. So much cool live music and awesome people (we actually ran into so fellow JMU Dukes!).
It's safe to say we were pretty exhausted after everything we did on Saturday, so Sunday was definitely a lot more relaxed.
We started off the day by going to the Nashville Farmers Market and Market House. So many fresh, and tasty treats as well as cuisine from all around the world!
We completely forgot to take photos, but we also looked around the Hillsboro Village and checked out some local boutiques and shops.
Some of our favorites:
Native + Nomad
Hey Rooster General Store
Maria and I also stopped by the Grand Ole Opry but only stayed for about 10 minutes after realizing it cost over $40 to get in and being overwhelmed by crazy tourists.
That night we stopped by Pinewood Social, a restaurant with a bowling alley, bocce ball, a swimming pool and so many other fun, aesthetically-pleasing features. So fun just hanging out and feeling like a 20-something Nashville native.
Maria and I ended the trip by walking the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge to see this incredible view of the city. A great way to end the trip and ring in our 23rd year.
Today I got back to my car on the top floor of the parking deck right after turning in one of my last assignments. I could see that there was a storm coming so I decided to wait, sit in my car, and watch it (there's a great view of Harrisonburg from this spot).
One. two. The first drops of the storm appeared. They came quickly after that, my windshield now covered with rain drops. Then came the storm. A downpour, almost impossible to see anything through the window. There was no end in sight.
Then slowly, I was able to see out the window again. The raindrops stopped falling as heavily, and I could look up and see the clouds moving quickly away.
Then it stopped. The storm was over and the sun shined its rays once more.
These next few months won't be easy. In fact, they will probably suck. All the people you got so close to over these past few years will be spread out all over the country, even the world. Our casual schedules will become 9 to 5s. This place of comfort will no longer be our home.
But as these storms come, look at the moving clouds. These seasons of our lives are temporary. Christ will shine through in these situations. He will show you all the glory that will soon be revealed to you and all the goodness that is to come in your life. It is absolutely terrifying, and sometimes we can't see what's next, but we need to place our faith on his sovereign plan.
One more thing has been checked off the senior bucket list... seeing Reddish Knob at sunrise. On the drive up we were getting nervous because the valley was covered in a thick fog. But once we reached a certain altitude, the fog broke to reveal a beautiful sight: The mountains in eager anticipation for the glorious light about to come.
I wouldn't call myself an early riser but this is something so special about waking up with the world. The stillness as the sun reveals itself and floods the world with warmth. There's nothing like it.
This semester is all about making memories with dear friends. Here's another one in the books.
God, I come to you today in complete shock. A year and a half ago it all seemed like a joke. The idea of Trump as president seemed ridiculous. What could he possibly know about leading a country?
And yet here we are. The day when all this craziness becomes reality for this country.
Many people say that this is crazy that our world has come to this point. I believe that these feelings at the heart of these issues have only been suppressed and are now bubbling back to the surface.
Abba, I give this day to you.
Keep the people from all around the world in Washington DC safe. Let their fear not turn into anger, hatred, and violent acts.
Father, keep Trump safe. You are putting Trump in power for a reason. Keep reminding him of the immensity of the position he is stepping into. Use him to shine a light on the reality of our divided country. Help him use his power wisely to better this nation.
God, help the United States not lose hope. Continue to spread the message of hope and acceptance. Let this message be what makes America great. Help us see that your law is far greater than any law one man could make. Your love never has and never will fail us. Light a fire in our hearts to stand by our hurting and oppressed brothers and sisters. Let your justice rise.
Going to Canada has always been on my bucket list. The incredible landscapes, the friendly people, and specifically Niagara Falls. Its a place I have seen pictures of hundreds of times and just the thought of seeing that amount of water rushing off a cliff has always excited me. This winter break was one of the last chances I had to do a spontaneous trip with good friends. So we hopped in Maria's station wagon and went!
After a series of slightly unfortunate events I created the motto for our short trip: Not what if, what's next. Instead of wondering what certain outcomes would have been if we had done things differently, we had to refocus ourselves on whatever the next adventure held.
The cutest little air b&b their ever was.
We also got the chance to explore the butterfly conservatory
The cat. The myth. The legend. Chicken (the cat at the air b&b)
the one group picture we took the whole time was this selfie
Lake Anna has always been a place of rest and solace for me, especially during the winter. The only sounds to be heard are fish jumping in the distance and birds flying by. The water is still and it seems if the whole world is paused. In this silence I was able to reflect on the year of 2016 and look forward to 2017. Here are my intentions for this year:
1. Fewer Screens, More Paper: Whether it be reading, journaling, or even creating things, I want to spend less time looking at screens (it will be difficult considering I'm a student and the majority of my work is online) and more time spent learning and growing through more tangible outlets.
2. Philippians 4:6-7 Lifestyle: A lot of change is coming up soon in my life. Graduating JMU, leaving Harrisonburg, and going to whatever the next step is, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future. I often find myself getting caught up in worrying about what the future will hold and trying to make plans for the worst possible scenarios. This year, especially in these coming months, I want to remember these words from Philippians, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." God has a plan and a purpose for my life and though I can't see too far down the road yet, I know he will protect me through all of it.
3. Become a more Conscious Consumer: In the past 4 years I have learned a lot about where the clothing, products, and food we buy comes from, who creates it and what it is made of. After becoming aware of these factors I have started to try to make certain changes in the products I buy but there are still so many changes to be made. This year I am seeking first of all to spend less money on things I don't need, and really focus on only purchasing things that will benefit my life and everyone who was a part of the process of creating the product was treated and paid fairly.
4. Adventure More: For so much of my life I have allowed my fear of failure get in the way of me trying new things. I set up limitations for myself on what I can and cannot do because something so radically new would often result in failure. This year will be different. I want to try new things. EXPERIENCE new things. 2017 I will be more present in what is going on around me especially making memories with the people around me. There is not much time left living in Harrisonburg, constantly surrounded by so many incredible friends and such a beautiful environment, so in 2017 I will take it all in.
5. Create Differently: I have had a love for art for as long as I can remember and most of my artist career has consisted of photography and graphic design. This year I want to challenge myself with new mediums, paint, sculpture, videography, and possibly even illustration (yikes). I don't really know where to start with all of this but through my classes and learning from other talented artists around me, I hope to pursue these means or artmaking.
I would love to hear your intentions for the new year!
Also please enjoy these fun images I took with my sister, Kayla, and our dog, River! (I know, who would name a dog River and then take him to a lake. He came with the name lol)
gotta love a good croc and pup shot am I right?
About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go take some photos with my friends Mary and Julia. We celebrated the end of our last fall semester with a drive around one of our favorite areas, the Shenandoah Valley.
This area has become a home for all of us in our 4 years at JMU. We all love to go on drives and explore the beauty of the area around us.
It may have only been 14 degrees with a setting sun but these images turned out great and it was a good time of reflection for us all.
Last week was pretty difficult for me and some of my fellow JMU students. Countless hours studying, writing papers, and working on group projects. Very little sleep. Large quantities of caffeine. It was rough.
At some point during that time, I had the chance to get away from it all and go on a little photo adventure with my friend Alexa.
I've known and walked beside Alexa for 3 years now. I have always cherished the times we have spent together immensely.
I can now say that Alexa is one of the most fearless people I know.
1. She is the first person to climb up the tall tree or scale the unsturdy fence. I cannot count the times that she has said I could get to the top of that and I can totally make it over.
2. She is not afraid to talk about the tough parts of life. Last year she suggested that we study all of the major world religions just so we could better understand our neighbors around us. She is constantly asking apologetic questions and doesn't take the first answer she hears without researching it herself.
3. She has a fearless faith. She knows who her God is and his purpose for her life and she constantly seeks to serve him through her relationships and leadership goals.
I was so grateful for this opportunity to catch up and escape the hectic JMU campus. Here are some of my favorite photos I took of our little adventure!
(Also we found these super sweet cows and couldn't pass up the chance to grab a few shots of them as well)
Part 2// Where I'm From (Mom's story)
This past week has been really hard.
My heart is heavy. So many tears have been shed this week between me and my NYCUP sisters. Next week's blog post will be a reflection of all of the things going on in this country right now.
Interview with my Mom
Where/When were you born?
I was born in Heidelberg, Germany on April 18 while my dad served as a computer specialist in the US Army. When I was about a year old, my mother and I flew back to the states. We flew into New York and after holding me for the entire flight, apparently my mother’s first words to my grandparents were, “Take her!”
Where did you grow up?/ What was your neighborhood like?
I have no memory of living anywhere other than 73 Woodland Rd., but I don’t think we moved in there until my mother was pregnant with Uncle Mark. Nanny and Grampy Hover lived in the next neighborhood over from ours and up the hill. Aunt June and Uncle Dick lived in Bedford the next town over. The Montagues lived across the street from us and we did everything together. They had a pool and we spent our summers in the pool and playing kickball or some other game in the street. We were at the top of a hill and if there was a lot of snow we’d go sledding down the street. Karen, Kathy O’Keefe, and I used to spread out an old bedspread in one of our yards or in the Montague’s basement and play Barbies. All the kids in our neighborhood got along for the most part. Everyone was middle class and white. The only diversity in our neighborhood was protestant or catholic.
Where did your parents work when you were young?
My father worked for an electronics company as a computer specialist. My mother didn’t work outside the house. She and her friends were all housewives and stayed home while we went to public school.
What were your favorite hobbies/sports/ classes in school?
Karen, Kathy O’Keefe, and I used to spread out an old bedspread in one of our yards or in the Montague’s basement and play Barbies. When I was in high school I really loved writing my "novel" and English class.
Any important stories that defined your childhood?
When I was fifteen I went to summer camp at Camp Wilmot for the first time. We had a guest speaker one night at camp who had served as a missionary. I was very moved by what the missionary said and I just felt overwhelmed with emotion. I went back to the cabin crying and Pam, my camp counselor, followed me. I was sobbing and said I feel like God is trying to talk to me, but I don’t know what he’s saying. Pam asked me if I had ever asked Jesus into my heart. I had never heard anyone talk about such a thing before. She told me all the steps and quoted Bible verses and I prayed that Jesus would enter my heart. I was on such a high after that and I felt so strongly connected to Camp Wilmot because of that experience.
How did you view your parents as a child/teen/adult? What did you admire the most about their character?
As a child, I loved and feared my father because he would have fun with us and chase us around the house playing hide and seek, but he was also the disciplinarian and gave the spankings. As a teenager, I always felt like a disappointment to my dad. Although I worked since I was 15, I never earned enough money according to him. My dad didn’t graduate from college, so I think he was proud when I did as I was the oldest and first to graduate and he had provided for my education. As an adult, my dad and I grew closer. He moved to Florida before my mom was able to move down, so we went house hunting for them and we met for dinner and things during that time. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the week before your dad and I got married. His greatest joy the last couple of years of his life was you. He just adored you and giggled as you learned about the world. His last visit to our house, he couldn’t remember the way to the bathroom and you would take his hand and say, “Come on Grandpa!” and lead him to the bathroom. I think you were only 2 ½ at the time. My Dad was a very passionate person—quick to anger, but also quick to laugh. He grew up in Massachusetts and lived there most of his life, but what he really liked about Florida was how friendly everyone was. He loved talking to people. My mom was the kind of mom who cut sandwiches into hearts for Valentine’s Day. As a child, I don’t think I realized everything she did for us, but as I became a mother, I realized it more. As a teenager, we were buddies and would watch the soaps when I got home from school. When I was a teenager, my mother had several injuries and broken bones and I learned a lot of cooking and cleaning skills as she gave directions from the couch. As an adult, we have gotten closer as I married and had children. My mother taught me how a good meal can be a gift and from her I learned how to become a wife and mother. Both my parents were always active in church as I was growing up and they encouraged my faith and my own church involvement from choir to bell ringing to teaching Sunday school and other roles. Both of my parents grew up in the Boston area of Massachusetts and they met at church youth group.
When did you know what career you wanted to pursue?
As a young girl, I went to school with my Aunt June who was a teacher and that planted a seed. I would play school with my brothers during the few years that they were young enough to listen to me. I went to college as a creative writing major, but switched to education during my freshman year. (My dad convinced me I’d never earn money as a writer, so I became a teacher instead, thinking I’d have summers off to pursue writing.)
Was race a factor in your decision to marry the other person?
No. When I met your dad, I met the nicest man I ever knew. He treated me with love and kindness in a way no other person ever had. I felt treasured. The shade of his skin just meant he tanned and I burned if we were out in the sun together. I never thought of us as any different in God’s eyes.
How do you feel about the current state our country is in?
Have you ever experienced/seen racism during your time?
I felt people staring when Dad and I were walking hand in hand in Atlanta in 1993, but no one said anything to us directly. When Dad and I went to his aunt’s funeral in North Carolina, we went out to eat and to the movies with Towanda and Forrest and I was the only white person in the group that night and at the funeral. I felt people staring at us while we were out, but again no one made any remark that I heard. At the funeral, I was the only white person there, but everyone was very welcoming and nice. It was the first time I had been the only white person in the room and it gave me some understanding how Dad must feel in some situations.
Do you believe racism is more prevalent today or is it just now being shown more in the media?
I’m not sure if racism is more prevalent or if the media has the power to bring people’s opinions to the forefront with the blank-faced audience of Facebook and other social media. There seems to be a lot of “sharing” of “thoughts” that don’t seem to have much thought behind them!
What is your definition of justice? How can justice truly be served?
Justice is the fair treatment of all people and correcting behavior when fair treatment doesn’t exist. Justice can only truly be served by people getting involved and watching out for one another.
If you could be remembered for one thing you’ve done in life/ one thing about you what would it be?
I would like to be remembered as a good teacher, but the most important teaching job I ever had was being Mom to you and Kayla—so I pray I’ve done that well.
What is the most important thing in your mind that you have taught and/or have yet to teach Kayla and I?
I hope I have taught you to use good manners, say “I love you” to the people you love, and cling to God in all you do.