Paws and Effect, Planet Weekly

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I was honored to be on the front cover of Planet Weekly. Who could resist those puppy dog eyes? This was a deeply emotional story about the staggering animal overpopulation in Alabama. For many animals, their choice is to either die in Alabama or to be driven thousands of miles to other states where they can be more easily adopted. The shelter workers and volunteers I interviewed were truly awe-inspiring folks, people who know the meaning of sacrifice. Here’s the online edition of Planet Weekly, check out page 14.

http://issuu.com/planeteditor/docs/planet_weekly_455

Bama Art House Film Series Negotiates Challenges of Changing World, Planet Weekly

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This story was on the Bama Art House film series and the historic Bama Theatre, a place which holds many fond memories for me. The feeling of watching the big screen underneath its twinkling star lights is absolutely magical. This story focuses on how the old-fashioned theatre is changing in modern times. Here’s the online edition of Planet Weekly, check it out on page 13.

http://issuu.com/planeteditor/docs/planet_weekly_453_4c15164cf4b86d

Left Hand Soap Company: Washing Away Last Night’s Sins, Planet Weekly

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This was a profile on Soapy Jones, a local entrepreneur with the Left Hand Soap Company. I like to refer to Left Hand  as, “easily the most controversial soap company in Alabama.” Soapy is hilarious, and I learned so much about soap; for instance, soap was discovered when people washing their clothes downstream from burned sacrifices noticed their clothes got cleaner, as the ash and fat mixing with water made a basic soap.  Here’s the online edition of Planet Weekly, check it out on Page 9.

(I also did a story on the local Young Professionals group in this issue, page 14.)

http://issuu.com/planeteditor/docs/planet_weekly_452

Man vs. Machine, Planet Weekly

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I wrote an article about the school board election controversy in Tuscaloosa, and the history of the notorious Machine. After reading dozens of articles for research and interviewing a former Machine member, I feel fairly confident in saying that this group has been controlling Alabama politics for decades. Here’s the online edition of Planet Weekly, check it out on page 5.

http://issuu.com/planeteditor/docs/planet_weekly_447

2013, You Sly Dog

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I feel that 2013 was a strange year for everyone. It was the, “13,” part, wasn’t it? We can’t quite trust that number, no matter how much we protest that we’re not superstitious. And if you have synesthesia like myself, 13 is a number to be side-eyed while you cross to the other side of the street. I’m looking forward to 2014. A standup number, that gal.

Despite my wariness of the year, 2013 has been a milestone. The deepest thanks to all of my loved ones who made it extraordinary. Here’s 13 of my most precious accomplishments, magical moments, and so forth.

1. Taking the Southeast by storm! I took road trips to Athens, Nashville, New Orleans, Gulf Shores, Florida, and many trips to Birmingham and other parts of Alabama. Spending Halloween in New Orleans was like visiting a faerie kingdom (with many drunk faeries) and was absolutely magical. Gulf Shores was the perfect beach getaway, and I swam with wild baby dolphins, stared out the window at pecan groves, and cruised on a pontoon boat. Nashville was a whirlwind of eateries, and a memorable trip to Santa’s Pub, which is exactly what it sounds like. And Birmingham is so much more than the black and white videos of protests I saw in 5th grade.

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Gulf Shores! Dolphins in background.

2. So many concerts. Going to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. We were front row. We touched people.

I also saw Adron (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7QIjomsyOo) Judy Dunaway playing balloons with vibrators (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWpqZckpsUY), Them Natives, and various holiday concerts.

3. Pulling off the Druid City Arts Festival 2013. Met so many wonderful people, and it was another high-five-yourself achievement. At my internship with Creative Campus, I continue to achieve more than I thought possible. Now I’m learning how to do projection mapping and 3-D printing as part of a project. It makes me feel like a mad scientist in the best way possible.

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Projecting an artist’s painting of stylized afro picks onto his sculpture

4. Spent the summer interning at a newspaper in the Bahamas. I pulled off the ultimate college feat, getting class credit while living in the Bahamas. I’ll never forget Junkanoo, swimming with eagle rays, fresh-baked Bahamian bread and the stunning scenery that surrounded me on a daily basis. I will forever hold dear the freedom to watch NCIS for a month straight.

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Dancing the night away at Junkanoo in a traditional costume

5. My last year in the education system. I haven’t dropped out to herd goats in Andalusia yet. My senior year has been filled with incredible teachers, in all senses of the word. Maybe it’s because I’m finally realizing the luxury of learning.

6. Became a Zombie extra.

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Grr. Argh.

7. Stood in scenic places by water. This includes standing underneath Noccalula Falls. I also stood on a cliff above the Atlantic ocean as the sea spray made a never-ending rainbow in front of me.

8. Started my freelance writing career.

9. Visited like four different goat petting zoos. Priorities, y’all.

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Goats are a superior animal

10. Went on the Quad for all of Alabama’s home games. Crimson-dyed ferrets and camaraderie galore. I’ll miss it dearly.

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LS-who?

11. Became a cook. I am now that wonderfully hateable person who makes kale chips from farmer’s market produce. Other specialties include Thai salads, and every kind of delectable soup you can dream up. Learning how to cook is an incredibly empowering act…though in my case, learning how to to make food was kind of like giving a methamphetamine addict a DVD of Breaking Bad, engine fluid, and Vick’s inhalers. CAN’T. STOP.

12. Continuing the ideal relationship with my boyfriend, Kurt. He has made many of the above goals possible, and, “has been my friend through many dangers,” (Yes, I just quoted Gandalf talking about Shadowfax. I think it’s a flattering comparison.)  A good man is hard to find. I wish that short story by Flannery O’Connor with the same title weren’t so brutal, because it’s a catchy phrase.

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He’s in front of the love shack

13. Growing up. Oh, the dreaded phrase. 2013 has taught me a lot of mildly difficult lessons. All of them have allowed me to become a strong, responsible, independent person.These all sound like extremely boring qualities, but a former doormat like myself is quite proud of them. This year showed me that once you gain the audacity to even attempt to make dreams reality, the rest is easy.

Here’s to 2014, and that double-wide bottle of wine I’ve been nursing.

Dinner With Strangers

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526936_10201775552209109_1038666332_nChit-chatting in Athens, Ga.

 Dinner With Strangers is an innovative class at the University of Alabama, which I am currently enrolled in. DWS is designed to have students talk with community members about different issues facing Southern cities such as Athens, Ga., Birmingham, Al., and Tuscaloosa, Al. The students are bussed to each location, where they talk about various issues with about 20 community members. Through this program I have met the most extraordinary people, individuals that give me hope that adulthood will not crush my soul in its iron fists.

The class is impeccably organized, and one of the most genuine learning experiences I’ve had at the University of Alabama. If you’re a UA student interested in community engagement, local food, a city’s story, the arts, or simply your fellow man, I encourage you to register for next semester. This class consists of electrifying conversations combined with delectable free food. Much better than my freshman year astronomy class.

In addition, there is often a keg.

Here’s a video, in which I make strange faces and hold animated conversations: