Friday, December 21, 2012

Celebrating Don

Don, a machinist at the Knoxville News Sentinel who has crawled inside or fixed just about every machine in that building (including the press), is retiring at the end of this month after 40 years of service.

I'm excited for Don because I know he's looked forward to this for a long time. But it's a little bittersweet for me. I'll miss seeing him when next I sneak into the building to have lunch with Jim, his fellow machinist and my friend, and visit other press guys.

I am so fortunate to have known Don and I'm blessed to be his friend. (And not just because he fed me a lot. Ha!)

I first met Don and Jim a few years ago in the News Sentinel's exercise room. We, along with our friend Mark, became the four-person crew who worked out every Tuesday and Thursday between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

Don and Jim went on to organize regular breakfasts in the machine shop, which was the envy of other departments. But they weren't stingy. They invited the building to partake. The machine shop -- located in the bowels of the building -- became the gathering place for many employees.

I loved machine shop breakfasts because the News Sentinel building smelled like eggs, pancakes, sausage and bacon all day. Even after I left the paper 16 months ago for a job at the University of Tennessee, Jim would still text me about the breakfasts so I could stop by on my way to work.

I enjoyed hanging out in the machine shop because it gave me the chance to spend time with Don and Jim.

I'm thankful that my eight and a half years at the News Sentinel gave me the opportunity to develop sweet friendships with amazing people. Don was one of those people.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Reason #672 why I love living in Knoxville: you see this kind of awesomeness while driving around town. Makes me wonder how many people have followed the sage advice upon seeing it. ;)

Happy Wednesday! Make your day great!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My new little guy

Say hello to Edgar, my new Compassion child.
It tickles me that such a little guy (he's 6) has such a grown up name.

Pardon the hair. Windy day.
He lives in a town with a fun name: Achacachi. (Why, bless you! hehe.)
I met Edgar during my trip to Bolivia last month. The cool thing was, it happened to be on my birthday.

Why was I in Bolivia? To meet Jhonny, my original little guy...who's not so little anymore.

My sister laughingly told me Jhonny and I are the same size. Ha!
I sponsored Jhonny through Compassion International for 11 years. He recently graduated from the Compassion program. He's now 19. For my 30th birthday, I got it meet him, which was such a gift.

While in Bolivia, I decided I wanted to sponsor another Bolivian child to keep my connection to the country and to Jhonny. The tricky thing was, I wanted to meet the child so I could take a picture with him or her. That way, when we started corresponding, I could send the picture to the child. (I was in Bolivia as part of a Compassion sponsor tour and we visited a number of Compassion centers. Most children at the centers already had sponsors. Some didn't but were enrolled in the program anyway to benefit from the services.)

My trip leader Sean did yeoman's work in tracking down children who needed sponsors. I met Edgar at the very last Compassion center we visited on our very last day in Bolivia.

Yesterday, I mailed him my first letter and our picture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The view from above

"Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;"
-- Psalm 36:5-6
I spied this beautiful sunrise over the Great Smoky Mountains last week during my red-eye flight to New York City.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seen in Brooklyn

I was in Brooklyn, New York, this weekend visiting my family for Thanksgiving. As with any trip to the city, I always spy the strangest, coolest or funniest things. Here's a collection from this trip:

It would have been hilarious if a white guy got out of this car...

Nice homage to the subway system. Funny interpretation.

And the final one: I turned on the laptop to search for wireless networks and it pulled up all the ones in the neighborhood. As I was about to log into my dad's, one down the list caught my eye. The name? "crip s**t." (Asterisks are mine.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turning 30 in Bolivia

Seeing Jhonny for the first time.
I turned 30 this month and celebrated by going to Bolivia to meet Jhonny, the boy I've sponsored through Compassion International, for 11 years.
I wrote about it and the story just went live on the Knoxville News Sentinel's homepage. YAY! (It'll be in tomorrow's paper, in the Faith and Family section.)

Here's an excerpt:

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — I imagined he would be this quiet and reserved teenager. I'd conjured that idea in my head, thanks to a decade of looking at his straight-faced photographs. But the 19-year-old who sprinted toward me earlier this month and threw his arms around my neck quickly dispelled that notion.

For my 30th birthday, I got to meet Jhonny*, the child I've sponsored through Compassion International, a child advocacy ministry, for the last 11 years. He was all smiles and questions and laughter — a flaming extrovert much like me.

Read the full story here.

Jhonny's mom, Albertina, me and Johnny.

For more Bolivia pictures, click here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

7 days before it's all over

The rest of my 20s, that is!
In a week, I'll say a final goodbye to being a 20-something and begin my third decade of life. I am so excited. I have a sneaky suspicion that 30 is going to be pretty, stinkin' awesome :)
Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The deed is done.

My year-old American citizenship culminated in a special event this evening: I voted in my first-ever presidential election. (YAY!!)
I now feel like a seasoned American even though I've lived in the United States for 21 years.

I'm thankful early voting began today in Knox County. This has been one of the most intense political seasons ever...or maybe I'm just really paying attention now. The vitriol has been a little too much for me.

I'm glad to be done with the voting and listening to the political wrangling.  I'll check back with you after Nov. 6.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Great Pumpkin Heist of 2012

There's a pumpkin bandit among us.
I woke up yesterday morning to discover the pumpkins had been pilfered from the harvest display in my yard. My scarecrow also had been beheaded and her corn husk arms ripped off. At least the interloper had the decency to leave part of her dress so I didn't find a headless, naked Ms. Crow.
(The punk was even brazen enough to steal the pumpkin that was sitting on my porch!)

After I got over being mad, I actually found it hilarious that someone was desperate (or drunk? or mean?) enough to carry off three sizable pumpkins, one head and two arms.

Looking on the bright side, I got to enjoy the display for six days. And I have pictures. Plus, a friend will be able to use the hay after she sows grass seed. So, all was not lost. (Also, I came home last night and found a small pumpkin from an anonymous neighbor sitting on one edge of the vandalized display. I very much appreciated the gesture of kindness.)

So much for trying to beautify 37917 ;)


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturdays are for thanks-living

What I've heard, seen, touched, smelled and tasted today:
--The twitter of birds during a quiet morning run
--The orange-reds of a backyard dogwood tree signaling the arrival of fall

--A perfectly crunchy bowl of corn flakes and smooth white milk
--The sweet face of a lovable companion

--These life-giving words: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

And all of this just from this morning. 12 hours and 55 minutes of wonder are still left in this day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Autumn = chili season

Cooler temps give me the itch to do two things: run and cook.
As such, I made my inaugural pot of chili this evening in honor of fall. (My inaugural run was Thursday.)

I decided on pumpkin turkey chili. Sounds a bit odd but it's quite tasty (and loaded with nutrients). I got the recipe from my friend and former News Sentinel colleague Megan. It's quickly become one of my favorites so I would like to share the recipe.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (I leave some of the seeds because I love the kick)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapenos and garlic and cook, stirring frequently under tender, about 5 minutes. Add turkey and cook until browned. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes more. And tada!

It should look something like this:

Happy eating!

Happy autumn!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sound wisdom for this evening...

What happened to civility and grace?

The University of Tennessee will continue prayers before home football games. This decision comes after a challenge from the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the prayers were exclusive and offensive. UT consulted with its attorneys and found that the prayers were not unconstitutional.

I must confess that I've been disheartened by the public's response toward this decision and especially the comments aimed at the Foundation. Many of the comments I've read on stories and posts have basically amounted to one big F you to the foundation. The tone of these comments have been astounding -- particularly coming from those who say they are Christians.

It is totally fine to disagree with someone's position on an issue and even debate them. What's not OK is tearing them down or essentially telling them to go to hell. How does this show the love of Christ? How does this communicate the truth of the gospel?

Granted, some folks who profess Christ don't actually know and walk with Christ.

For those of us who know better, please let us always hold fast to the admonition of Colossians 4:6: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monowi, Nebraska: town of 1

Today, I am writing about somebody else's adventure (and wishing I was the one who took the trip. Jealous!)
My oldest sister Yemi happened upon the town of Monowi, Nebraska, purely by accident last month. The coolest thing about this town? It has a population of 1.

My sister, a geography professor in Omaha, was making her annual summer trek through the state to discover hidden gems. (She had just returned from Latin America and decided to cap off the summer with one last adventure before the start of school.)

As she tells it, she was actually on her way elsewhere. But she couldn't resist pulling over when she spied this sign. Her curiosity piqued, she went in search of the sole resident.

In Monowi, she met Elsie Eiler, 79, the town's only resident, who also runs this restaurant.


Turns out Elsie has quite the reputation and has been featured in numerous newspaper articles and on TV. (Case and point: click here.)

My sister chatted her up over a huge ribeye steak, salad and fries. During her visit, she was surprised plenty of people came in and out of the restaurant. (Elsie told my sister she was never lonely and had plenty of company who checked in on her.)

After getting to know Elsie a bit and her curiosity satisfied, my sister hugged her and bid her farewell.

"Sometimes the unplanned trips are the best," she said. Ditto.

My newest nephew

I've been pretty stoked these last few days -- and for good reason, too.
I am proud aunty to this little guy, who has claimed the position of Nephew #3. He was born Saturday, Sept. 1, to my sister and her husband in New York City. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 1 ounce. He's already proving to be an eater just like his aunt.

What's his name, you ask? He does have one -- several in fact. But I can't tell you yet. In the Yoruba tradition, a child is given his or her names during an official naming ceremony. His is this Saturday.

Stay tuned :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Of lines and limericks

"There once was a nymph named Narcissus,
Who thought himself very delicious.
So he gazed like a fool
At his face in a pool,
And his folly today is still with us."
My friend Peter shared this limerick with me last week. I thought it rather funny and so true.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kids = good birth control

Jack, Plucky and Ryan saying one last goodbye
The pitter-patter of 2-year-old and 5-year-old feet running through my house all weekend confirmed one thing: kids are fun but they are hard work. (Throw a four-legged pooch into the mix and whew!)
It's not like I didn't know it. I have a niece and three nephews, and I worked in the 2-year-old nursery at my church for many years. The difference was, at the end of the day I gave the kids back.
This weekend, I was with two rambunctious little ones around the clock. I loved it. But I now understand why parents are often sleep-deprived :)
During breakfast this morning, their mom and my good friend Amy turned to me and said, "kids are good birth control, aren't they?" I laughed. Yep. I want to have (and adopt) children someday because I love and enjoy them. But I'm in no hurry.
Some observations from this weekend:
-- I discovered rather quickly that my house is not childproof. How children manage to find knickknacks that I think are well-hidden is beyond me.
--I learned the language of a 2-year-old. ("I need a tover up!" Jack said, as he lay in bed clasping his blanket. A what? Oh, right, a cover up.)
--Children take pride in their toots. The boys announced it every time they farted. They wanted the world to know.
--The boys were quite fascinated by penises -- theirs and others'. When Plucky was not chasing them (or them chasing him), he was relaxing on the carpet and grooming himself. All weekend I heard, "I see Plucky's winky!" giggle, giggle. "He's licking his winky!"
Amy, her husband, Kyle, and the boys went back home to Middle Tennessee this afternoon. My house feels strangely quiet. Ahem, if you'll excuse, I'm going down for a nap. I've got to catch up on some sleep :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Did you know milk had a booty?

Did you know milk had a booty? Me neither.
But a 2-year-old showed me this evening and I haven't looked at the bottom of my milk gallon the same way since. His words? "The milk's booty is like mine, it has a crack!"

My friends Kyle and Amy are visiting this weekend along with their sons, Jack, age 2, and Ryan, age 5.

Here's what my living room now looks like:

Monster cars have completely taken over. And the culprits responsible for this?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Academic reading is a good sleep aid

I really should have known better.
But I laid in the bed with my textbook anyway. I didn't last a page Sunday night before the sleeps took over. Alas, I gave in and saved the rest of the reading for another day.

Welcome to the life of a grad student. I'm totally enjoying it. But I'm also finding that this finicky thing called tiredness catches up with me a lot more these days. I find that laying on the couch while studying is a good medium. I'm comfortable but not too much.

Tonight, though, I had to keep it upright or it was all over. After about an hour and a half of reading at the dining room table, I felt a face plant coming on. So, I closed the book and went to the kitchen in search of dessert before calling it a night.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


 "People who love to eat are always the best kind of people." - Julia Child

Magpies cupcake. Mmm.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sarah Moore Greene has died

Photo by Clay Owen, Knoxville News Sentinel
Mrs. Sarah Moore Greene has died.
This was not unexpected. After all, she was 102. But it's still sad. Her godson sent me a text early this morning to share the news.

For those of you who don't know, Mrs. Greene was a beloved schoolteacher and an iconic civil-rights leader in Knoxville. She pioneered a lot of firsts.

I had the pleasure of interviewing her many times during my eight and a half years as a reporter for the Knoxville News Sentinel.

In 2010 when Mrs. Greene turned 100 years old, I did a four-part series about her life for the paper. Web producer Talid Magdy and I spent days with her. I interviewed her while Talid captured video.

I so enjoyed spending time with her that I visited with her a few times after the series ran. She told me she adopted me as her daughter. Mrs. Greene did not have biological children. It was especially meaningful to me that she took me into her heart.

During one of our last visits, I asked if I could pray with her. She turned the television down and she held my hands. I asked God to comfort during the times she felt lonely and that she would have a strong sense of His presence with her. I also prayed that she would be reminded often of how much God delighted in her and how precious she was to Him.

I'm honored and blessed to have known her. I desire to live my life fully and well like she did.

Here's the four-part series and videos on Mrs. Greene:

Greene recalls childhood as 'country kid'

A lifetime of learning for Sarah Moore Greene

Death inspired Greene's work

Sarah Moore Greene, 100, reflects on what's done, what's left

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

1 year at UT

Say what!?
I know, it's a jaw-dropper for me, too. Hard to believe it's been a year since I crossed over to "the dark side" of media relations and began working at the University of Tennessee. I'm thriving, I'm growing, I'm being challenged. What's not to love?

The honeymoon is over. But what's a healthy marriage without a bit of jostling every now and again? I'm thankful for these last 12 months at UT. And I'm happy.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kim + Erik

Kim and Erik's nuptials today capped a wonderful summer of weddings.
And a lovely ceremony it was. Friends, family and fans alike gathered at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church to witness the joining of these two amazing people.

With a whoop from the bridal party and a cheer from the congregation, the new Mr. and Mrs. walked into their new life together, hand in hand. But first, there was the matter of a proper celebration. Enter the reception. Just a short(ish) drive down Interstate 75 South and we found ourselves at Castleton Farms, where food was a-plenty and drinks a-flowing.

Kim and Erik's wedding was a like a giant reunion for our circle of friends. The three other newlyweds from this summer were also present and glowing with loooooooooove. (I wrote about their celebrations here, here and here.)

Some scenes from today:

Some of the ladies...

Some of the gents...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A deferred dream realized

I hopped and squealed through the hallway at work this afternoon.
Why, you ask? I got word that I've been accepted into UT's Master of Public Policy and Administration program. I officially start this fall.

This is huge for several reasons.
First, I can start my journey toward earning a master's degree -- for free. (Yay, job perks.) It's something I've wanted to do for some time but didn't have the time or money while I was a reporter.

Second, I've always had an interest in international relations and foreign policy and I'll be able to concentrate in this subject area. (What happened to my initial interest in exercise science? Taking statistics in the spring was a wake-up call that I needed to go in a different direction. I passed the class but I didn't enjoy it -- a huge no-no for the nerdy me. I've never really liked math and science. But I thought time would have softened the hate. Nope.)

The third and biggest reason is this: In 2008, I applied for the Ambassadorial Peace Fellowship through Rotary International, one of the most respected organizations out there. Their mission is service in the community, in the workplace and around the globe. In short, they're all about doing good at home and abroad to better the lives of others.

The fellowship would have allowed me to study and earn a master's degree in peace and conflict resolution and international relations at a university somewhere outside the U.S. I chose a university in Queensland, Australia.

It was a rigorous six-month application process and then another few months of interviews. Although I was competing with applicants from around the world, I felt confident that I had a good shot at securing one of the 60 fellowship slots. I made it pretty far along in the application process.

I got word in November 2009 that I had not been accepted. It was one of the more painful disappointments I've ever faced, particularly because I seemed to fit and exceed every qualification Rotary was seeking. What made it tougher was the disappointment of the regional Rotary folks who had sponsored me. It was so cool how they were pulling for me. The rejection honestly didn't make any sense. In effect, I was dealing with the loss of a dream. And. it. hurt. bad.

That was one of those times I had to put legs to my faith and truly live it. Did I really believe God's promise of Jeremiah 29:11-13 that he had good plans for my life?

So, I grieved the loss of this fellowship and then moved on. I figured God wanted me to stay put in Knoxville.

Fast forward to today. When I got word that I had been accepted into UT's program, I was overjoyed. How neat that God has given me back the dream of studying peace and conflict resolution and international relations. You know, sometimes God doesn't give back something we've lost because he typically has something better. In this case, he gave me back that dream although I'm not sure why.

I texted my dear friend Andy to share the news and he responded: "What do you guess God is up to? Time will reveal it."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A week of dresses

I've been shopping -- in my closet.
I'm in the process of cleaning out my wardrobe and I've discovered pieces -- dresses in particular -- that I love but haven't worn in some time. I also have dresses that my dear, fashion-forward friend, Chandra, recently gave me but I have yet to wear.

The purge is due in large part to a desire to be living more simply. I'm not going spartan or anything but I really would like to be using what I already have before I buy new things. There are plenty of clothes I don't wear and need to give away. Besides, the laundry basket-turned makeshift closet on my bedroom floor has been driving me nuts.

In the middle of all this, my friend Charles turned me on to the 100 Thing Challenge and to the blog of a guy named Dave whose motto is to live joyfully and thoughtfully simple. I like that.

So, after discovering all these finds in my closet, I decided last week that I would wear a dress every workday (even on Friday, which is typically my dress-down day!) I love girly stuff and getting dolled up. Dresses don't often make it into the mix, however.  I'm typically in slacks and a nice top. I also don the occasional skirt. (I've come a long way since my tomboy days. See No. 8 in this post.)

Apparently my co-workers noticed the dress initiative, too. On Monday, the first day of dresses, one guy said, "Wow. You're usually so casual." Others called it Fashion Week. Ha! :)

Here's how my experiment went. A BIG thank you to Charles for being such a good sport and for taking my picture everyday.






It was a fun week but by Friday, I was itching to get into casual clothes (and out of my heels). I had committed to wearing dresses the whole week, however. So my compromise was putting on a casual dress even though I had a couple of other fancy dresses I hadn't worn waiting in the closet. I might bring those out next week.

Who knows, maybe I'll have "A Week of Dresses -- Fall Edition" post come this winter. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On top of the world. Sort of.

My not-so-little Baby Brother and I went on an outing last Wednesday to the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. This was a first for both of us. The view of New York City was pretty spectacular. (I've been to the top of the Empire State Building, which gives a slightly different bird's eye view of this expansive city.)

Some of what we saw while 70 floors up:

Looking toward Central Park.

Looking toward the Empire State Building.

I love that guy to my left!

The view finder seemed to be smiling at us...

After our excursion to Rockefeller Center, not-so-little Baby Brother and I grabbed dinner and took it over to Bryant Park. We people-watched while we ate.

On our way to the train station later that night, we spied some students performing gymnastic feats on the steps of the New York Public Library. One of their t-shirts read "Penn State Gymnastics."
You never know what you'll see in New York City!

You can take the girl out of NYC but...

Even after nine-plus years of living in Knoxville, my heart is still very much in New York City.
Part of it, anyway.
I half-jokingly tell friends that my visits there remind me that I'm still normal. The diversity of people, looks, accents, food, thought, scenery, transportation, craziness all invigorate me.

I returned to Knoxville this weekend after eight days in New York City. It's where I grew up. During this trip, I was intentional about spending alone time with each family member. I was so thrilled it worked out. (We're usually in groups because there are so many of us.)

I also enjoyed time with old friends. I hung out with my junior high school pal Wendy who lives across the street from my parent's Brooklyn home; I met my friend Robert and his wife Rochelle for dinner at a cool Brooklyn diner; I visited the kid I babysat while in college (he's now 16.) And remember my friend Peter? He sent me back to Knoxville with another collection of books. (Sad face!!)

The trip wasn't exactly restful. But it was sweet.

Some scenes from last week:

In the Fort Greene neighborhood, Brooklyn.

My favorite landmark: Le Brooklyn Bridge.

Hot dog from a street vendor. Ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut? Yes, please.

I spotted this dude when Wendy and I were heading back from dinner. How he managed to ride this really tall bike with no seat was a mystery. But it was interesting to watch.
 I spent a day in Connecticut with my friend Peter and we stopped by the beach near his home.

Speaking of water, this is one of my favorite things to see in New York during humid summers.
By the way, I'm a light packer. I try to carry everything on board for domestic flights. It was pretty easy with summer clothes. I actually had room to spare. It's trickier in the winter and during the holidays. But I love the challenge.