Saturday, March 26, 2016

Things to be Excited About

This Holy Saturday, I have a lot to be happy/excited about. It's just a great weekend.

  1. It's Easter weekend! Holy Week. The Son will rise tomorrow. That's definitely something to be happy about. Plus, I'm home, chilling with my family and my dogs. I get to relax (kind of), read a good book, spend some time in the sun. I get to dye Easter Eggs, which, yes, I still love to do! Judge me if you must. I'm trying to shave back my consumption of Easter candy this year, so all I've asked for in the basket is the traditional chocolate bunny. Do you like the hollow or whole? 
  2. It's a beautiful weekend! It could be a bit warmer, but I'm not complaining. Everything's blooming here in East TN--Red buds, dogwoods, tulips. It's gorgeous, and I love it.
  3. My dad introduced me to a new place in Knoxville--Remedy Coffee and Makers Donuts. I mean...they're not new. But they're new to me. If any of you are in the Maryville/Knoxville area or are just passing through, I highly suggest this donut shop. They have different varieties all the time; they have a nice crunch to them; and the flavors are not the traditional flavors. To say the least, they are quite delicious. And Remedy Coffee makes a mean latté, if I do say so myself. 
  4. I cleaned out my desk last night and found a bunch of old notebooks from middle school and early high school. You know, I highly suggest going through your old stuff. It's kind of surreal and also hilarious. I was a weird kid who thought I was a lot deeper than I actually was--one of those kids who wrote "meaningful" lyrics into her notebooks and drew symbolic pictures that solved the mysteries of life. Plus, I found some embarrassing pictures of friends that gave me a good, long chuckle alone in my room. I'm pretty sure my mom thought I was crying haha. 
  5. And the most exciting thing, personally to me, is ASCENSION!!!! My copy editor has officially deemed the manuscript complete, and it has been sent on to layout. Soon enough, I'll have an arc copy in my hands, ready to send out to reviewers and promoters. (So if you know anyone who would be interested in promoting a book, let me know). Get ready for AUGUST 27TH. Some people plan their wedding. I'm planning my book release party, and it is going to be awesome! So keep your eyes open for more announcements on the book. I'm super excited, and I hope you are too. Tell everyone you know. 
Happy Holy Week!! Happy Easter Weekend!! Thank God for such a beautiful weekend and great reasons to be alive! 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Travel Lessons

New Orleans
I am very blessed in that I have been able to travel A LOT in my twenty years of life. When I was younger, I would get to go with my dad on a majority of his business trips, but as you get deeper into the institution we call secondary education, skipping school for adventures is severely frowned upon. So business meeting trips lessened, and summer, spring, and fall vacations became my only travel time.
      I've travelled with my parents; I've travelled with groups; and I've travelled with friends. Yet to go solo, but who knows what the future holds, right? But I thought I'd take a little time to think about what I've learned during my various adventures and share them with you wonderful people.

Lesson No. 1...People I 
This is the near perfect travel buddy!
I love people. I love my friends and listening to stories and learning about everyone. But let me tell you--traveling with people is hard. There is no such thing as the perfect traveling buddy, though I've found a few that come pretty darn close. Everyone has their own idea of what they want to do on their journey, things they want to see, places they want to eat, how much time they want to spend where. And people talk a lot. About absolute nonsense. And it can be the most annoying thing on this entire planet. So here's a few tips for traveling with people:
New York, NY 
          In Groups: 

  • Find someone in the group that you click with and have similar interests. That way, if need be, you can break off from the group and do your own thing. Plus, if you're like me, you can mock those annoying people. Yes, I'm a big enough person to admit that I make fun of annoying people. Honestly, who doesn't? 
  • Pack the necessity: earbuds!!! If you're going on a group tour, chances are there's going to be a lot of bus time, especially if you're going to more than one country/state. People talk A LOT on the bus. And for some reason, some of them think they are still outdoors or that other people want to hear their conversation. But we don't. We really don't. So to avoid overhearing these conversations, make a rockin' playlist and plug in those buds.
  • Practice your soothing breathing. I'm not kidding. It helps :)
  • Understand that everyone is different and that they don't all think like you. And that's cool. Let them be them, and you just do you. Everyone will be a lot happier. 
Portland, OR 
          With Friend(s):
  • Traveling with friends is awesome! Planning together is super fun, and the build up is too exciting. But no matter how great of friends you are, there is a such thing as too much time with someone. If you feel yourself growing agitated at ridiculous, little things, PLEASE take some time for yourself. It gives you time to cool down and not say something you'll regret later. 
  • Being flexible is key. Everyone has high expectations, and disappointment is really easy to reach when a plan doesn't play out. But you just have to go with the flow and try not to let the disappointment set the mood over the rest of the trip. 
  • Blue Ridge Mtns
  • Plan things that both (or all) of you want to do. Something for everyone keeps all travelers happy! 
Lesson No. 2...Planning
Maroon 5 in Nashville, TN
     I know I just said to go with the flow, but that doesn't mean there can't be a plan in place. You don't have to have every minute of every single day planned out, but you need to have an idea of what you want to do/see. Also, I highly suggest packing lists. I always make them ridiculously far in advance, and it just gets me so pumped. But don't be like me...I never fail to forget something even though I write it on the list. 
New Smyrna Beach, FL 
Lesson No. 3...Perspective
        Y'all...I don't know if you've noticed this, but the world is a HUGE place! There are so many fantastic people to meet, places to see, and things to experience. I beg you not to forget this. When you're standing in the throne room of some ancient Bavarian castle, please do not take advantage of it. Stop checking your phone. It can wait. Take a moment to think about where you are, the history surrounding you, the lives that lived before you. As much as we like to think it sometimes, the world does not revolve around us and our social lives. Also, if you're in a foreign country, PLEASE stop looking for a McDonald's. I don't care if it's familiar. Just don't do it. 
Paris, France
Lesson No. 4...Consideration
Amsterdam, Holland
         America, despite how much we brag about ourselves, is behind in the world in terms of education and consideration. How many people speak any language fluently? And I'm talking about more than Spanish. How many Americans can say that they speak a passable amount of French, German, Dutch, Italian, etc? It's a very slim number. Now let's look at Europe. How many Europeans can say that they can speak a passable amount of English? A LOT! Language barrier isn't really that much of a problem anymore in a majority of European countries because most of them learn English in primary and secondary school. They take the effort to try to speak with us in our language, so why can't we do the same for them? You know in advance if you're going to a foreign country, so why not try to learn a few basic phrases? If they see that you are trying to speak with them, they'll appreciate it and be much more likely to help you. Plus, they'll probably do it in English. Serait-ce si difficile? 
Charleston, SC
Lesson No. 5...FUN!
Juliette, GA (Friend Green Tomatoes)
        This is the last, and most important, lesson. You are somewhere new, whether that be a new city, state, or country. ENJOY YOURSELF!  Be a sponge. Soak everything in and let as little go as possible. Keep your eyes and ears open, camera ready. I always carry a notebook with me. People think I'm doing it for school, but it's just because I don't want to forget what I'm learning and seeing. Traveling is one of the best therapies in the world. It makes you a better person. And it's just so FUN! So don't let silly stuff ruin it for you. Make the most of every experience! 

I love traveling, and I CANNOT wait to travel to Canada with my best friend this summer. And I know I'll learn something else there, and we'll see what kind of travel buddy she is ;) I'll leave you with this quote to inspire some wanderlust: 
"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." -Susan Santay

Where's your favorite place that you've travelled?

Munich, Germany

Neuschwanstein Palace, Austria


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Good Travels

      Oh no!! Today was our final full day at the beach. I'm so exhausted from touring, but at the same time I don't want to leave. I'm sure you all know what I'm feeling. The Wanderlust is still very alive inside me. But all the same, it was a wonderful last day!
        To make up for yesterday's screw up, we went first thing in the morning to Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant. This is an absolute Must-see! You definitely get your bang for your buck--a house tour, a tour of the farms, a Gullah Theatre show, a lecture on the slave houses, and a walk through the gardens. Our bus driver's name was Bob, and he was the best tour guide to talk about the farm. I definitely want to come back to the plantation during the months of April, May, June, July, August, and then again in October. Starting next month will be their strawberry picking season. Then comes peach tree picking, then blueberry picking, then muscadine grape picking. THEN in October they have a giant corn maze and pumpkin picking. See? I just need to go back. Especially for the peaches and grapes.
          The Gullah Theatre was put on by a woman descended from a South Carolina slave. Her great-grandmother lived to be ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTEEN years old. Thats 117. Amazing. She was a slave as a young girl and spoke Gullah fluently. This woman could understand her great grandmother and learned a little from her before she passed away. But let me tell you, she has an amazing voice and is a wonderful story teller. Definitely something to see.
           Some facts about Boone Hall:
               ~It's been rebuilt several times, once due to a fire, once due to hurricane damage, and once because the new owner just wanted to. But a lot of the structures in the house were salvaged from the older versions
             ~A Russian man bought the house at the outbreak of World War II, and he was very invested in his race horse, whose bloodline eventually sired Secretariat.
             ~Boone Hall was a cotton plantation until after the Civil War. After slave labor was no longer an option, they switched to pecan production because it is not nearly as labor intensive as cotton picking. They still have Pecan trees, but a lot were destroyed during a hurricane in the late 80s.
              ~You might recognize the patio and backyard of the house from a certain famous movie called The Notebook. Yes, we stood where Ryan Gosling stood. The scene where Allie's parents completely reject Noah takes place on this property, along with the boat scene that takes place in the salt water marsh that borders the property.
                ~A family still lives in the house part time. They raise thoroughbred horses and use them to play polo. Definitely a little unique for South Carolina.
     After our tour of the Plantation ended, we drove over to Sullivan's Island and laid out on the beach (we found the other spring breakers) and proceeded to be covered with sand. Apparently, the wind decided to act up today. It was in every nook and cranny. I bit down on it several times. But the sun was nice, and the water was bearable. We jumped into the ocean a few times to wash off the sand, but not for too long. However, it was great to wave ride again. I even dunked myself in the water a couple times right before we left.
      The latter half of the afternoon was spent touring Fort Moultrie, which was the naval stronghold for a short time before Fort Sumter took over. It's a pretty neat place to tour--a nice view of the ocean, and some neat crevices. Side note, if you go at 4:00 pm, there's no charge for the tour because it closes at 5. So save yourself some money. It's definitely doable in an hour.
         Dinner commenced at one of my favorite places--Poe's Tavern! Yes, I returned and had the Amontillado burger. It's such a cool place. The burgers, all named after Edgar Allan Poe's stories or poems, are delicious, and the building itself is awesomely decorated. I suggest sitting outside, weather permitting, but definitely sneak inside to see all the neat decorations.
        And of course, it being our last night, we HAD to get dessert. So I stopped in Kaminsky's on N. Market St. in Charleston and got a huge piece of Spice Hummingbird Cake. And Emily, more of an ice cream girl, went to Peace Pie, an ice cream sandwich place that adds a layer of pie filling into the ice cream sandwich. She got triple chocolate, and it looked killer.
        Now, I'm going to go shower and attempt to get all the sand off my body. We'll see about that. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 14, 2016

What a Bust--learn from my mistakes

So this morning, I took a quiz of what kind of traveller I am, and as I expected, I got the planner. This is true, I do plan. I make packing lists (even though I always manage to forget something). I like knowing what I'm going to be doing on my trips, where I'm going. All that good stuff. And yet--I managed to muck today up!
      After the beach, which turned out nicer than we thought it would (I finally got to ride the waves), we were going to go to Cypress Gardens and take a swamp boat ride. If this place doesn't sound familiar, it is where they filmed one signature scene in The Notebook, where Allie and Noah are riding in a canoe in a swamp filled with swans. You pay $10 to get into the Gardens, and if you choose to do the boat ride unguided, then it's no extra charge. So we drive about an hour and 20 minutes from Kiawah Island, into the middle of nowhere. At first, my apple GPS took us to the wrong spot. Then, once we finally find the location, it's CLOSED!!! Not just for today, but because of flooding. So basically, permanently closed. We were soooo disappointed. I swear, when I looked on the website last night, it said nothing about this. It still has up all the information about tours. We planned to get there around 2, before the last entry at 4. But no. It was closed. I felt like such an idiot. So learn from my mistakes. Do your research. Make sure the things you want to do are available to be done! 
     But we tried to make the most of the day. Emily and I were both tired after driving about two hours there and back. However, we did get the chance to stop at the Angel Oak Tree, which is this amazing Live Oak that's over 400 years old. It has wooden posts holding up some of the gigantic branches. Some of the branches go down into the ground and back up again. I wanted to climb on it so badly, but I made sure to pay attention to the signs: "Please don't carve the tree or climb on the tree." But y''s literally the perfect tree to climb on. I could've found a place to sit and read for just hours and hours. It's such a beautiful place, and I promise, there's the magic of an angel in that tree. It's definitely a Charleston treasure--a must see. 
      We came back to the room, and I'll admit, I took a nap. I got a little more sun than I thought I did, and driving is exhausting. So, yes, I took a nap, preparing myself for dinner. And for some reason, when we were driving back into the city for dinner my GPS took us through the most trafficky area imaginable. Another lesson--use google maps, not apple maps. I've decided that if I ever live here (which I would love), I'm going to have to become very proficient at riding a bike. I just won't be able to deal with this traffic. Dinner ended up at Charleston Crab House, which is delicious. Definitely another suggestion. They have a cute little patio now, and the shrimp and grits are great. It's also one of the more affordable seafood places in the city. 
      Since we weren't on the beach for the sunset, we walked down the pier, and it was still beautiful watching the sun fall over the city. PLUS, we saw two dolphins swimming real close to the pier. I love dolphins--it's definitely on my bucket list to swim with dolphins. Or sea turtles. But more likely dolphins. 
     And now we've settled back into the condo watching the finale of "The Bachelor." So it wasn't the best day ever, but it was still a good day. I'm going to learn from my mistakes. But it was a beautiful day. I got some sun, saw a beautiful, old tree, ate some yummy food, and saw dolphins! Tomorrow, our last official day :( will be awesome! Plantations and a trip to Sullivan's Island. Stay tuned!!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bonjour, Charleston!

     So I decided that since this week is a special week (Spring Break!!), I'll be doing a post every day during my stay on Kiawah Island/ Charleston, SC! This way I don't have one MASSIVE post this Saturday that no one will likely read all the way through. Smart, right?
      Official Day 1--Today--was awesome! My travel buddy Emily and I are both pretty adventurous people. Don't get me wrong--we love our beach time. It's an absolute necessity. However, both of us are too restless to sit on the beach for more than a few hours at most. That's what is so great about being just a short, beautiful drive from an awesome city! For those of you who haven't had the chance to visit Charleston yet, put it on your bucket list now. It's amazing, beautiful, bustling, and historical. I don't think it's possible to get bored in Charleston. If you do, I'm impressed.
       We started off the morning a little slow, not making our way to the beach (only a five minute walk from the condo) until about ten am. We wanted to let it warm up a little bit because the sky was a bit overcast. We tried to just lay on our towels for a little while, but it was still too chilly, so we did what any normal people on the beach would do...go on a sea shell hunt! Except we found way more than just silly old sea shells!! Here is a catalogue (to use the scientific term) of our findings:
1. Sea shells (all but one are whole)
2. A horse shoe crab shell
3. 5 leopard spotted crab shells
4. A partial sand dollar
6. A sea horse skull!! 
This is not a drill. We really did find all of these awesome treasures! It was the best sea shell hunt I've ever been on. Emily's got a great eye!
        After lunch, we ventured into Charleston, my second favorite city in the country. An absolute must when visiting this city--The Historic Open Air Market. Here, you have a variety of different vendors--"Made in China" all the way to watching women weaving sweet water baskets right there in front of you. It's crowded; it's loud; and it's awesome. The market never fails to please. I think Emily and I walked the length of it at least three times in search of bumper stickers. Don't worry, we found them.
        If you have the time, we started walking around the surrounding area, stopping at St. Phillip's church which has an eerie ghost story to it. A picture of the ghost has actually been captured. But the church has a sign in their graveyard, denying the existence of any spirit on their property, with the exception of the Holy Spirit.
       It was my first time to take a walk down to the pier, from which you can see Fort Sumter. Unfortunately, we were too late to catch a boat out, which is okay. We had a great view, and we devoured some delicious Belgian gelato. I suggest chocolate orange--it's weird yet delicious. Give it a try.
       *Warning, eating in Charleston is not for the faint of heart or the weak of wallet. Finding an affordable place to eat is a chore, so this is why I suggest skipping down the road a ways to King Street, home to YALLFEST (the best weekend of the year). I gave Emily a tour of where the book festival hosts panels while we waited for our chosen dinner place to open. We also popped into Blue Bicycle Books, the host of YALLFEST. If you're ever in the city, go support this awesome business. Dinner, we ventured out of the country, and tried some Pad Thai and Chicken Fried Rice at Basil, which may be the best Thai place ever. I'm not kidding. Also, get their fried wontons. I would've been happy with that as my meal.
       The day finished with the beautiful drive through the Live Oaks back to Kiawah, watching the sun set on the beach, and trying the different flavors of macaroons from Macaroons Boutique on John St. The owners are the sweetest, and the pastries are literally delicious. I'm not kidding.
       Here's a summary of the places we've been today:

  1. Kiawah Island Beach
  2. Charleston Open Air Market
  3. Charleston Candy shop (they yell "Free Samples" all the time, and it's awesome!) 
  4. St. Phillip's Church
  5. Charleston Pier
  6. Blue Bicycle Books
  7. Macaroons Boutique
  8. Basil Thai Restaurant
Stay tuned for tomorrow when we dive into the world of the Notebook!!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Change is Now

Trigger Warning: This blog post touches on sexual assault and associated issues.

This semester, I am taking a Violence Against Women course, and after watching the documentary "The Hunting Ground," I feel like I need to speak out against the egregious campus sexual assault issue.
People have this misconception about sexual assault that the perpetrators are strangers who jump out of bushes and grab their victims, never to be seen again. While this does happen, the more common perpetrator is a friend, acquaintance, or someone talking to you at a party. They use alcohol as a weapon and they prey on people they believe to be weak or separated from people, someone who wouldn't be missed for some amount of time. One in six women will be raped in their lifetime. One in  thirty-three men will be raped in their lifetime.
As if the act itself is not horrifying and traumatizing enough, if a young woman or man finds the courage to tell someone about their assault, a majority of college campuses A) say they're lying, B) turn them away, C) blame the victim, or D) tell them not to report the rape. As I was sitting there watching the movie, I felt myself getting sick. How can a trusted adult figure of power treat a student like this? How can they accuse them of lying without hearing the facts? How can they just turn them away?
I am not by any means stereotyping right now, but a large number of sexual assaults are completed by fraternity brothers and athletes. This is not saying that all frats and athletes are rapists. This is saying that a significant portion of predators are fraternities and athletes. And on a college campuses, they are the most dangerous predators. Why? Because they are protected by the universities, especially at large, college town campuses. Universities gain more from fraternities, so there is incentive for them to protect them. And athletes, with sports also being a large form of income for large universities--what kind of university president would pull the QB off the team in the middle of a winning-streak? Do you see the problem?
Sexual assault cases are being thrown out to protect the school and its reputation. That's the school's job--to protect the school. Not the students. Let me rephrase that...NOT the students? I cannot comprehend this. School's are wrong. A school's job is to protect and serve its students, not just a small portion of students. By protecting their students, they are protecting their university. The school cannot control the actions of its students, but the one thing it can control is how it reacts to transgressions against its students. If the university can say that they take care of their students when something bad happens, then in my opinion, that's a quality university. Falsifying crime reports on campus does not make it safer. If a school cannot take care of its students, then they will lose more money rather than if they just try to protect themselves.
Students, change is in the air. Now is our time to make a difference. Get involved in the sexual assault revolution and help to change your university. Make them hear you. And don't be a bystander! If you see something not right happening, don't be afraid to help. But first, time to learn. Here are some resources to help you make a difference:

1. First, and most important, know your Title IX rights!
5. Also, if you have the time, I highly suggest watching "The Hunting Ground." It's hard to watch at parts, but it ends on the hopeful note of change.

Next week, we will have a more cheerful topic. But when I get something stuck in my spider web of a mind, I have to talk it out. This topic has been weighing heavy on my heart, and I hope I've done a small part in affecting change for this important issue! Now it's your turn. So what will you do?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Getting out!

Whoops! I guess I'm a little late this week. I was in the middle of watching Last Man Standing, and I realized, "I didn't write my Saturday blog post!" At least you know that I'm not a robot now.'re actually welcome!
      This weekend has actually been pretty full, which is why I want to talk about the importance of getting out when you're in college. I don't mean getting out like going to clubs and parties. I mean, sure that's part of the college experience, but it's not the defining characteristic. But just getting off campus with your friends is really important. It gives you perspective and takes your mind of the looming stress of Midterms.
         Friday night, the honors college here hosted a formal that was open to the entire university, but since they're advertising isn't on top of things, the attendees were mainly honors kids. If you haven't been to Chattanooga, you should come before it becomes a major tourist destination. This is the one time I will encourage you to be a hipster and do it before the crowd. But our formal was in Coolidge park in a pavilion that had an enchanting view of the carousel right next door. My friends and I looked super fly and were ready to dance until we dropped. Except the music at the beginning of the night wasn't exactly "bumpin." I don't know what it is about the 90s, but you just can't really dance to that kind of rock music. Thank goodness, a new DJ stepped in and hijacked the music or else that would've been a long night. I honestly probably would've gotten into it.  I can dance to anything if I'm in the mood. And college kids can be pretty harsh critics of lame dancing music, that's for sure. But once the night got going, there was no turning back. For me, there are few experiences that are more fun than just being crazy and dancing with your friends. There's no pressure to impress a guy. You know that really no one else is watching you, so you can be as weird as you want. Except when my roommate says to me "No, Hannah. Don't do that in public again. Ever." when I try to do the Apple Butt Dance from Sisters, but whatever. I did it anyways. The best part of the night was A) impressing everyone with my knowledge of "Hollaback Girl" lyrics and B) My roommate teaching me to swing dance. Yes, she got frustrated because I didn't pick it up IMMEDIATELY, heaven forbid. But I picked it up. That's a pretty satisfying feeling folks. So lesson No. 1, dance with your friends whenever you can, even if it's just a youtubed 80s mix in your living room. That can be fun too.
         Saturday, one of my best friends urged me to come on a hike with her, her boyfriend, and another couple. I know what you're thinking, "Hannah, why would you want to fifth-wheel?" And I really didn't, and yeah, it had it's awkward moments, but because Rachael's a great person, she made sure I wasn't ignored. We went to Foster Falls, which is about a 45 minute drive outside of Chattanooga. It's not really a hike to the falls...125 yards to be exact. But it's pretty gorgeous, and the landscape is awesome. But there was a trail that we took that goes around "Climber's Loop," so if you didn't get it from the name, there were a lot of people climbing the side of the mountain. It was terrifying. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack just watching them. We stood watching a couple of guys climb. He was pretty tall about and was trying to hook himself when he started to fall. Thank goodness his friend was paying attention and balanced him. (Sorry, I don't know climbing terms). But all of us were about to throw up. I can only imagine how he felt. Apart from that, it was an actual hike. We took a trail that went to nowhere, tried another STEEP trail that again led to nowhere, and I was the first and only to fall and slip. I knew it would be me, if we're being honest.
         But standing in this beautiful landscape where I actually felt like I was in a Twilight movie, it's just a reality check. If I can get out and do this, and I'm healthy enough to do it, if not coordinated, then life's good. All my stresses about relationships, grades, work, my book...they're not important. It's nice to just take a step back and take in the beauty that I'm surrounded by. Chattanooga is a beautiful place, y'all. Both the city and the mountains. So get out here.

**An awesome book to read about mountain adventures and romance is Kathryn Holmes's debut novel The Distance Between Lost and Found! Definitely need to add this book to your TBR pile!
How are y'all getting out?