Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Craft Room: Coming Soon!

I have created a separate blog titled "The Craft Room" for all of my crafts and DIY tutorials.  Although I still plan on using my current blog as an outlet for life through writing (typing), The Craft Room will specifically be an outlet for my crafty side to share.

The blog will include weekly craft tutorials in areas of:
  • repurposing
  • refurbishing
  • upcycling
  • re-styling
  • recipes and cooking
  • decorating
  • and craft inspiration from other places and people
  Every Monday, I will post a blog about a recent craft I have made in my own time, and I will list tutorials on each craft I make so that you can also make it for yourself.  Some of the crafts you will see are ones that I have thought of on my own.  Others have been inspired by another's craftiness!  I will be sure to give recognition where credit is due. 

  At the moment, I am looking at August 6th as my first posting date.  I already have a few tutorials set up and ready to go, and I will continue posting weekly as more people become interested.  So please share my blog with your friends and family!!  I will be sure to share on this page (The Craft Room page for Fly From the Highest Swing) so that you will be updated here every time I post a new article in The Craft Room.  My current blog (Fly From the Highest Swing) will still remain available for everything else in my life - so you can stay tuned!

  Thanks for the support everyone has given me through your viewing and moral support of my talent in actual life.  I hope you look forward to doing some crafts as much as I look forward to sharing my talent!

The Craft Room page on Fly From the Highest Swing

Monday, July 23, 2012

Playlist and Featured Artist: Matrimony

Starting today, every other Monday, I'll add a post featuring an artist you may or may not have heard of, followed by a Jessica-made playlist based on the cool sounds of the featured artist.  They will be called "Music for the week" maybe...

So kicking off today's Music of the Week!


Our featured artist hails from Charlotte, North Carolina.  The oddball group calls themselves Matrimony, based off of the co-front people, Jimmy and Ashlee Hardee Brown.  Also in the group are Ashlee's brothers, Jordan and CJ, as well as friends Alex Watson and Shae Wooten.  Together since 2009 as the duo, Matrimony has traveled all over the Southeast  sharing their folktone music.  Jimmy Brown is straight out of Ireland, and adds his homeland Irish flair in vocals and instrumentation.  Overall, Matrimony is an energetic and enthusiastic folk band from the Southeast, anyone who matches those characteristics would enjoy a listen to them.  The featured song to give you a taste of the group is below, titled, "Obey Your Guns" -

Like them?  Check out their website at http://matrimonyband.bandcamp.com/ - the song you just heard is a free mP3 download!  Or you can follow their blog at http://matrimonyband.blogspot.com/!

To keep in the Matrimony-style spirit this week, my playlist for the week is as follows:

  1. Obey Your Guns by Matrimony - FREE DOWNLOAD!
  2. Shallow Grave by Tallest Man On Earth
  3. Emmylou by First Aid Kit
  4. It's Time by Imagine Dragons
  5. The Light Is You by Said the Whale
  6. Little Lie by Lindi Ortega
  7. The Eye and the Storm by Matrimony
  8. If I Ever Leave This World Alive by Flogging Molly
  9. Ireland's Call by Celtic Thunder
Thanks for listening this week!  Some of these songs are very catchy, so enjoy them this week, and feel free to dance!  The weekly playlist will vary in length from week-to-week depending on what music sounds best together.  As I said first, this will be bi-weekly.  What will fill the space in-between for the meantime?  I will be opening The Craft Room before the start of school in August ;)  Bi-weekly, you will either get a featured artist and playlist, or will find inspiration in upcycling old materials and being crafty with things you may not ever think of!  Be on the lookout for the links to my craft posts!

    Sunday, July 22, 2012

    Google+ ...

    In trying to set up a few tutorials (later to be posted) using Picasa, I accidentally signed up for Google+ without knowing it...

    I have used Picasa for a long time now, but never have I thought to upload them to a web album - that may be a good idea, right?  Well especially since I was having such a hard time uploading photos from my computer to my blogs, I decided now would be a good time.


    A certain question box kept coming up that didn't appear to have an "x" to "x" out of it with, and I tried clicking on the gray area around it to make it disappear, but nothing changed so I figured it must be something I need to do to set up a web album in Picasa.  I went along with it... The strange thing was, I had to re-enter my password and upload a picture of myself (which I did not) and all sorts of stuff like I was signing up for an account.  I thought that I might have been, but it wasn't until I was done when I was welcomed with something saying Google+ on it, and I was told that I was a new member of the Google+ family or whatever.

    I was pissed.  Needless to say.

    I didn't want a Google+ account!  It's a knock off of Facebook, and I have thought this whole time that it's a lame idea!  I did not want a Google+ account.  Did not.

    So I started trying to figure out how to delete my Google+ account without deleting my gmail or Picasa accounts - that would be bad.  I figured out how via other people on the internet asking the same questions, and I followed the steps as they displayed.


    Well as I was reading the things Google would delete for me, and what I was going to be able to keep, I heard a voice in the back of my mind saying, "Give it a chance, it might not be that bad, and no one says you actually have to use it..."


    I gave in to that little voice.  I will give this dumb idea a chance and keep you update4d on whether it's worth it or not to try.  I really don't want to, but why not?  I at least know where the delete button is if ever I need it.  I have a feeling it will be one of those things that isn't all that bad because you get news from it or something like that, but you don't use but maybe once or twice a week to read that news.

    I don't know.

    So keep a lookout for my upcoming tutorials on DIY projects, and also look out for my response to this darn Google+ stuff - I might change my mind about it.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    To Truly Know God - Hebrews 6:1

    "So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again.  Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding."  - Hebrews 6:1, NLT

    Simply said. 

    I often feel that when I listen to certain pastors speak, or when I, myself, am speaking to a crowd for the sake of God, I repeat the basics over and over again.  Recently, I thought about why I did this, and I realized that it's because I have a passion for people to truly understand and be amazed by the love God has for us, for them to be moved by His calling on our lives!  But I feel that our cultural Christianity is filled with so much generic content that most of our population only knows about.  They don't have anything further than that...

    There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God.  Often times, people get the two mixed up - or worse, combine them as being one in the same.  They are definitely not the same.

    At times, it is hard for me to not repeat myself on issues like, "God is against [this]" or "what does [this] mean" as well as the more encouraging things like "Jesus loves you" and Jesus saves you."  A lot of people would say, 'that's not a bad thing' - which I'm not saying it is.  While these things I often say are truths in our faith, these same people are missing is the fact that we are all called to radical living under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to a life that is worship for God and brings glory to Him in every way.  We are not called to a life of generic responses and half-hearted prayer and worship once a week. 

    You may have heard it said: Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.  I love that phrase for the comic relief it halos over the serious and honest undertone.  So many people go to church on Sunday mornings; they bow their head when the pastor prays, they sing along to whatever song is playing, and they are involved in a Sunday School group.  So few of those people actually have a true relationship with God.  The generic impression most people have in their minds is this: if I believe in God and know that Christ died to save me, I am in a relationship with God and I am going to heaven."  That is the 'truth' so to speak, but that mindset does not quite cut the picture of a relationship God had in mind. 

    Imagine this:

    There is a party hosted with a good number of people - most of whom you don't know.  You go to this party with your spouse and kids and meet the host there, one of those you have never met.  "Hi my name is [your name here]," as you shake hands with the host.  The host smiles, shaking your hand and replies, "I know who you are, I'm glad you came!"  Loosening your grip on the hand shake, you smile again at the host and say, "Thank you for inviting me.  This is my spouse, and these are my children," as you gesture towards your family.  The host again replies, "Yes, I know! I know each of you individually, and I am so glad you are here!  We should consider talking regularly and get to know one another really well!"  You agree saying, "Sure, sure!  That sounds great," and noticing the other people invited you say to the host, "Well we'll go ahead and see who esle is here and maybe make friends with some of these others."  Understanding, the host smiles and say, "Sure thing, enjoy your time here - but please find me again so we can talk more."  

    You and your family disperse into the crowd of people and meet some who are like you; the ones you are most fond of are involved in the same sports that you like, listen to the same music, maybe even have the same habits.  As you get to know people, you make plans with them to get together outside of the party, and exchange numbers.  When the party is over you leave, and you think you faintly hear the host calling out to you saying, "I'm glad you came, [your name]! Come back soon!"

    For weeks and weeks to follow, you and your family are invited back to parties hosted by the same man as the first.  All the same people are invited too, some of them are now your friends so you're really looking forward to it.  However, as you come more often, you talk less to the host than when you first met him.  Instead, you and your family immediately find the friends you have made with the other party guests and talk the night away until it is time to leave.  You can see the host from across the room, and a time or two you see him waving you to come over.  Those times he tried to get your attention, you were in the middle of some important conversations so you gestured for him to wait just a minute.  However, when you finish talking to one person, you forget about the host and go to the next conversation ready for you to jump into. 

    At the end of this night's party, you remember that you have come to these parties for months now and haven't talked to the host since the first time you came.  You walk over to him and say, "Thanks for inviting me to all of these parties, by the way, I'm really getting to know some great people."  The host smiles and says, "I'm glad you have been coming.  But my purpose of inviting you each time was so that you can get to know me more since I already know you so well.  Why have you been avoiding me?" 

    Befuddled by this response, you reply, "In meeting these great people, we have been able to get to know each other and make plans to spend time together.  You are one of the reasons we met, and you are something that we all have in common - you invite us to your parties every time. We even talk about you when we get together!"  Although still understanding, the host says, "You are missing the point, [your name here], I invited you here - I invited you all here - because I wanted you all to get to know me, and make plans with me, and spend time with me as well as  with each other.  However, no one has really said much to me, or tried to make plans with me, or even spent much time with me the entire time you all have been coming.  I'm glad that you are here, and I am glad you all share a common interest in me, but what I really want is for you to know me."

    This is what MOST of our Church looks like today.  We share the common interest of Christ with those we go to church with.  We make plans with those people and really spend time getting to know those people, and God seems to stay at a distance even though we think that there is nothing wrong.  We are stuck in the baby steps of our faith and we do not progress any further because we think that baby steps is all it takes.

    So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ over and over and over again.  Let's stopped meandering in the same generic phrases we learn as kids and teach our children.  Yes, they are very important and crucial to our understanding of God and our relationship with Him, but we are to not only say them, but understand them, and grow in their meaning.  Jesus loves me.  Yes He does, but why?  Do you really understand the depth of His love?  Can you fathom the meaning of His sacrifice and what it meant for our relationship with God?  Does His love move you to share with others everywhere and leave behind the menial human-made purposes of life?  Does the love He have for you make you want to praise Him even more with teaars in your eyes, wondering why He would ever love someone like you?

    This time will come at some point in most of our lives - some sooner than others.  It is hard for me to not want to rush through that time of growth and getting there because I really really really really really want to share this very feeling that I have with everyone I meet.  However, rushed timing is not God's timing.  Procrastination is not God's timing.  Waiting on God is God's timing - and He has always been faithful. 

    Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding of God's love for us, the salvation Christ has paid for, the truth that should change the very way we live, and the meaning of a true relationship with God.  Once we have come to the place with God where we can really realize the depths of these things, we are able to come into a true relationship with God, not just a right one.  From there, God has the power to grow us and change us from the inside out as we learn to praise Him from the inside out.  This peace surpasses any relationship we could ever find on earth and it is the only peace and beauty we should find ourselves falling for.  We, as a body of believers, need to start taking seriously the reason we exist; we need to allow God truly come into our lives and start preparing us for maturity in Him.


    People and Panic Attacks

      I have dealt with anxiety disorder since I was around the age of 12 when I experienced my first panic attack.  I remember it very clearly; walking into the dining room, suddenly feeling light-headed and weak thinking that my blood sugar had dropped so I should get something to eat.  Suddenly, I felt the urge to cry and I had no reason to do so.  I then began feeling a little depressed and a little scared and my chest tightened as I knelt down, still feeling a bit weak.  I began to breathe uncontrollably and tears came out of my eyes as I gasped for breath.
      Slowly, I lost feeling in my hands and feet, then my arms and legs, and I fell over from my kneeling position.  I was shaking and I was a bit scared, not understanding what was happening.  I tried to get myself back up, but I felt immobile; my limbs wouldn't move and I felt so heavy.  I wanted to call for someone to come get me, but it was so hard for me to speak.  I started thinking the worst, that maybe I was having a seizure, or a heart attack, or worse.
      This went on for a good 15 minutes until I started to calm down, realizing that I was okay.  I felt very weak and I could feel muscles in my lips and face and limbs spasming a little.  I was still shaking, but my breathing was starting to slow down.  After a few minutes, I started to get feeling back into my hands and legs, but I still felt too weak to move, even though I did not feel as heavy as I did just a few minutes before.  I lay there for a few more minutes wondering what on earth just happened, my face still wet with tears.

      That was the first time I experienced a panic attack.  Since then, I have dealt with these suckers regularly.  There have been times in high school where I would have them multiple times a week for months.  At other times in my life, I would go months without having one, only for one to sneak up on me without a reason.  Luckily, there have been a few people I can trust that have been able to sit by me while those happen and help me recover quicker than usual.  There is a way to help people who have panic attacks - regularly or not - and even though they are not life threatening, it is important for someone to be there for the person who needs help.

      More people today suffer from anxiety disorder like I do.  Some other may not have the actual disorder, but have experienced a panic attack before.  It's a frightening experience when you don't know what is going on.  You may have heard people describing an attack as a feeling of dying.  Well like I said, I can assure you that a panic attack has never led to someone's death.  However, for those of you who have experienced a panic attack before, and for those of you who might be around when someone has one,  you may or may not know the signs, or what to do to help.  Here, I will explain some basic pointers on how to recognize what is happening and what you can do for yourself to stay calm.  I will also inform you on how you help somebody else when they are experiencing a panic attack - all are very simple.

      Panic attacks are caused by a broad range of things, from depression to smelling a flower.  These are most reasons why an individual might have a panic attack:
    • People who have suffered depression are more likely to have problems with a disorder such as this because of the chemical changes in the brain made from depression. 
    • A constantly stressed place (maybe a rough home life, or a tense workplace, etc.) and feeling the need to release that stress and not knowing how can prompt a panic attack. 
    • Chocolate and caffeine!  It sucks!  If you have the actual disorder, staying away from these things help tons!!
    • Lack of sleep (proper sleep) does not help at all.  Especially if you are stressed out on a regular basis, getting at least eight (8) hours of sleep every night can reduce your chance of having sudden panic attacks.
    • Unfortunately, there are times that absolutely nothing seems to prompt a panic attack - it just happens out of nowhere.  These are, without realizing it it, probably caused by something you see/smell/or hear that prompts a stressful memory that you couldn't handle, and your body goes into panic mode.
      It is important to understand that you cannot control a panic attack once it starts.  However, you can tell the warning signs for when one might be coming.  Here are some ways you may feel right before a panic attack occurs, and what you could do to help yourself stay calm:
    • You may suddenly feel light-headed or dizzy, maybe even a little nautious.  When this happens, sit down and rest your head in your hands and try to keep you breathing steady.  Don't get back up for another 20 minutes, or however long it takes for you to feel fine again.
    • For a good half hour (or maybe more) before you start feeling light-headed, you may feel extreme emotional change within yourself.  This might mean that you suddenly feel really depressed and can;t explain it, or you may feel really crabby, or get easily frustrated - a number of drastic mood changes that are all negative.  Make sure you are aware of this sudden change in your mood so that you can brace yourself (and others) for what's coming.
    • Right before an attack, you may feel a bit jittering, and you may shiver lightly from feeling cold - even if you aren't cold where you are at.
    • When any of these things happen, the best thing to do is to sit downn somewhere and focus on keeping calm.  Keep your breathing slow and steady, and think about positive things about yourself.
      Although you cannot necessarily prevent a panic attack, you can control its severity and longevity if you stay calm right before one comes.  When it finally comes, though, think about what you are about to expect: crying, shivering, tightening chest, tight breathing, loss of feeling in your hands and feet, and so on.  It might seem a little scary at first, but preparing yourself mentally for what is about to happen makes things a little easier.  Panic attacks usually last no longer than 20 or 30 minutes at the worst.  You will be able to tell that you are calming down because your breathing is becoming easier, your fingers and toes start tingling, your hands may feel like they are locking up, and the tightening in your chest is going away.

      When it's over and your breathing has regulated and your sensations have returned to normal, stay sitting still for a few more minutes, and try not to move too much.  When you feel that you are mobile enough to lift a glass, it is a good idea to drink some water, and also some sprite - NOTHING CAFFEINATED (you can trigger it again because it is still too soon after to have caffeine!)  For the next few hours, or maybe even the rest of the day, you may still feel just a tad weak, and you will more than likely feel tired - that is normal.  Take a nap if it is possible; if not, go to bed very early that night so that you can get the rest you need to recover.

      It is very important for you to have someone near you when all of this is happening.  It may be a bit embarrassing but, you should be safe about it more than you should worry about embarrassment.  Although panic attacks cannot kill you, you have a great possibility of falling on something that breaks a bone or cracks your skull, and so on.  You will not be able to control your mobility for some time, so anything can happen.  In the worst cases - rest assured, it is very rare - if a panic attack lasts too long and gets to be so severe, you could have a seizure.  This is so rare that you may never ever hear of this happening, but it is still possible.  For those who don't know what do to do to help, it is simple.  When you see someone having a panic attack, or someone tells you that they are, here are things you can do to hepl them:
    • Help them find somewhere they can sit down.  Try to keep them sitting up, not falling forwards, or to the side - they may not be able to hold themselves up.
    • Stay quiet for the most part, at least not yelling at them or talking loudly.  Instead, say encouraging things to them, reminding them of how good a person they are and letting them know that what is happening is not their fault, that everything is going to be okay.
    • Whatever you do, do not leave them!  If something bad happens, make sure you have a phone nearby to call someone, or call an ambulance.
    • You need to stay calm!  They are the ones panicking, and they will be just fine in a few minutes.  If you stay calm, you can help them start to feel calm too.
    • When they are able to move their hands again and their breathing has slowed, ask if they want some water, or see if there are any non-caffeinated sodas around, like Sprite or Ginger Ale.  Help them take little sips as they are able to breathe regularly again.
    • Even after the attack is over, stay with them and make sure they are okay.
      Being there for someone is a simple enough job.  And ultimately, how you react to their panic effects a lot in how their panic attack happens. 

      One more thing to understand is this: there is a difference between having a panic attack, having anxiety disorder, and having panic disorder.  They act as three different levels.  The most common is the panic attack.
      Anyone can have a panic attack, no matter what.  Some people might even have a handful of panic attacks throughout their life.  However, this does not mean that they have a disorder.  Panic attacks are common ways for our body to relieve stress when we don't know how. 
      A person who has consistent panic attacks - in other words, someone who experiences multiple panic attacks every couple of months or less for a long period of time - has anxiety disorder.  These people have a disorder because the chemical makeup in their brain has changed a little from some outside stress.  They experience a panic attack often enough to be able to tell and expect when they might have one.  Less people have anxiety disorder than there are people who have had panic attacks (if that makes sense).
      Someone who experiences emotional, mental, or even physical damage from recurring panic attacks has panic disorder.  While very similar to anxiety disorder, having panic attacks often on a regular basis, people who suffer from panic disorder are crippled by panic attacks.  They are emotionally unstable as they experience more panic, they can have slightly impaired thinking at times, and in the worst cases, they can have physical crippling, such as muscle growth issues, incontrollable twitching, and abnormal sweeling (as in lymph nodes).  These people also live in constant fear of having a panic attack because they have panic attacks more often thatn anyone.  Walking outside, for instance, can immediately trigger a panic attack.  This is the worst of the level of panic, and is less common than anxiety disorder, but it is still common enough to be aware of.

      If you treat yourself well by sleeping apporpriately, eating correctly, avoiding caffeine, and exercising, you reduce your risk of experiencing a panic attack to relieve stress.  However, it is possible for anyone to have a panic attack, and when it happens, it is good to understand the signs, and how to help.


    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    Prayer In a Coffeeshop

      As of today, I have learned that I will not be receiving as much financial aid for school next year as I was promised over the past year.  It really upset me in the fact that money is the only way to get around this menial world.  If it weren't for money, we wouldn't have to worry about things like "affordable" and "debt" and there would be so much less stress on everyone as a whole.  We would have no more worry for "poor people" or third-class, there would be no more homeless, there would probably be a spike in murder and theft, but that's a cultural change, not a government change.

      Walking up to the Rooster, I felt the presence of God around me; it was like I was in a bubble looking at the world that frolics after degrading things that please man's eye.  Even now as I sit here and type in the coffee shop, I feel like everyone sitting in front of me does not realize how hopeless they are - surrounding themselves with good and rich things that are clean and hard to get.  I am not bashing on them morally, but as far as materials go, I feel that we are all the same to some extent.  Everywhere, though, it's like there's something missing and people are just oblivious...  But I can feel God right hear, surrounding everyone while they talk and eat and laugh and drink, and it's like He's sitting beside us like an old friend, but no one is paying attention...

      I asked a few of my strongest prayer warriors to pray for me today in means of needing provision and discernment for the direction I am to be going.  I will be going back to school in the Fall, by the grace of God.  I will be getting married in January.  Because of this, I will be an independent and a new rent fee will come casually into my life.  I am called to Sweden.  Frank and I are working towards a short-term missions trip to Sweden to start us out on our service in missions.

      When I talked to Frank this morning about the surface of everything going thrugh my head, he told me how he felt after his time with the Lord this morning.  Maybe this is a way God is telling us that things aren't going to go as we had originally expected.  He provided for us different opportunities to meet each other, as well as provide some experience in education and learning more about Him.  So we took for granted that this is the complete direction that we will be going in - started college, so we'll probably finish college.  That's where we become human again: things flow naturally in our world, either one way or another.  Each way life flows, we expect there to be a follow-siut.  With God, He may take the beginning of a flow and redirect it, like train tracks, and give a 'mismatched' ending to our path.  You will be accused by everyone around you of doing life 'wrong' or by making 'not-wise decisions.'  It may not always make sense.
      Maybe what we are called to is this: get a Bible certificate out of our Bible degree this year, get married, then go out into the mission field - go to Sweden.  Work at odd jobs because He will provide and take care of us.  But an encouraging word Frank said this morning was something like this: "I read an article from one of the missionaries in Sweden; he said that more missioinaries are making their way to Sweden recently (because there used to not be that many missionaries there).  At first I thought, 'great, now everone's going there and we were going to go there...' but then I realized, 'God is orchestrating this... Sweden needs Him there, and He is preparing and sending...' and I feel that maybe God is saying that we have learned enough, we need to get our Bible certificates, get married, and head to Sweden..."  And that is when the presence of God really hit me.

      I looked up, and then looked at my hands, and I told God that I trust Him.  My hope for His provision and guidance is there, and I know that He has always been faithful. 

      On my way to the Rooster, I remembered that a Sister worked at the coffeeshop and I prayed that she would be there today.  Something I am so thankful to God for is the fact that He is in so many of my friends - He uses you all in ways that you will never know, I promise.  And I felt God saying that I should talk to her, and maybe ask her to pray for me.  I wasn't sure that she'd even be there, but I said okay.  Sure enough, the first person I actually see behind the counter is my friend.  It was really busy - they had a lot of good business in the eatery, and people were sitting everywhere.  I still felt God.  So I asked my dear friend if she could pray over me... And God was still there.  Even in the rush and busy-ness of that crowded eatery, God was still there.  And it was amazing...  Now is the wait, the quiet before the storm - that is how my life feels right now.  And I was reminded by that prayer in a coffee shop that God is above all, above everything that could stand in my way.  If He has a plan for His kingdom and it is through me, then He will move mountains to make it happens.  I was reminded that He is orchestrating my life, and He installs His teachings through many ways, and introduces me to people whom He has built for me (and others) to rely on.  And in doing so, I am relying on Him.


    Students Disheartened: the Commoner's Reality on College

      College.  Is it worth it anymore? Is it a worthy investment?  Is it worth the years of burdening debt and strife?  Give me some good reasons why I should stay in college.  Give any of us any really good reason to continue pursuing a college education other than the same and lame excuse of, "it will get you places" or "you need it to get where you want to be."  Where I want to be is not stressed out with no job worrying about how I'm going to pay student loans back to investors who charge rediculous interest and won't ever leave me  alone until I'm in my retiring age.  Do you really think that's what I want? If so, I think your version of my reality is a bit scued, or at least lacking knowledge.

      Like most of the popluation my age, I am in college, aspiring to transcend my upbringing and make something of myself that is seen as worthy of respect.  According to our over-domesticated society, going to college and "getting and education" is the surest way to attain that goal.  We are pushed to our breaking point to make and keep good grades, get involved with all sorts of clubs and organizations that will bring recognition on a resume, told to start learning how to work while maintaining an academic life, and then encouraged to make sure we have a well-rounded social life.  All of this - just to get ahead of a percentage of the crowd. 

      Now what does it take to be able to participate in these "life-changing" events?  MONEY.  I cannot stand money.  As a college student, I'm sure most can relate when I say that money is the root of all evil when it comes to school (however I do understand that the verse reference says that the love of money is the root of all evil).  Yes, because of money, we get to go to school and  get a "well-rounded education" - but it is also because of that same money that we suffer a lifetime of student debt, grief while finding a job that take an over-qualified candidate, and hesitance to settle down and start a family. 

      Student loans are the primary source of financial aid for students today.  There are grants and scholarships available to those who meet certain standards, and yet those who fall just slightly below the line are the ones who need those opportunities the most.  However, all those students qualify for are student loans - and man are those are big debbie downer. 

      Decades ago, young adults were able to enroll and go to colleges and universities for a very reasonable price; think about how much you would pay for a used car off the lot - that's how much you would have to pay for a four year college, IF that.  Now, instituations will charge anywhere from between $15,000 and $70,000 per year JUST to go to school and get an education.  On top of that, there are more college students graduating each year than there are job opportunites of any sort available to them once they leave the stage.  The amount of student loan debt used by college students each year are higher than the amount of credit card debt in the entire United States.  And since 1978, college tuition has gone up by over 900%!  That is rediculous!  What exactly do college institutions need that much money for?  Sure, you need to pay professors, and keep up your landscape, and kind of pay attention to the rooming facilities, but that much?????? For real?????? 

      This is unfortunately the reality I have to look at.  My parents cannot help me in any way, and because of certain family situations, I do not qualify for as much government aid as I possibly could.  My lifeline to college is this: if grants and scholarships can't pay for my $26,000 tuition fee, then I have to figure out a way to take care of it.  What is that way, you might ask? Student loans.  Why is it that in the three years I have been in college, tuition at my own school has gone up three different times?  Because the Board of my school decided to make some "great" changes and decisions that MOST of our student popluation were against.  Because these "wonderful" and "spectacular" ideas have been put into place, our tuition has gone up to help pay for it.  Really?  And it is so disheartening to learn that certain scholarships have stopped being funded because the state doesn't think that it's necessary for students to use anymore.  I have lost 2 scholarships for that exact reason.  All you hear from the state and government is that it is important for all students to attend college, and they encourage all of us to go by luring us into the freshmen year of college.  They do a really good job at making it possible for most students go for their freshmen year; after that, they kind of dump us on the side of the road and say, "Now fend for yourself," smile, and drive off.  Nobody really cares about any of us making it through all four years of school. 

      This blog is partly a rant of my own, and partly informative.  I speak from experience in the light of having to deal with the stress that money bring when it comes to school.  There is nothing wrong with going to a school that is affordable - even if it's not the flashiest school out there.  I encourage all of you soon-to-be college students to really consider the path you have in front of you.  I encourage you to follow where you are called to and work diligently once you get there so that you cannot be blamed for any disheartening circumstance you come to.  I encourage everyone else to support students you know - yes, morally, emotionally, and with prayer and petition - but consider giving financially as well.  Don't drain your pockets, but words of 'good luck' only go so far when the people you bid luck to fall into a whirlwind of mental and emotional stress from the unknown of what college is really all about. 
      If you would like to read complete statistics about college tuition and education, you can read this blog - it is very informative and adds to my point.  Understand that I am not trying to encourage by-passing college as an option in life, nor am I encouraging anyone to quit it.  I am not quitting, I'm hanging in there.  But I do encourage everyone to seriously consider whether what they're doing is worth all the money, burden and stress we'll have to deal with to pursue it.  Our economy is not getting any better, and all of the crap from this recession is going to be falling into the hands of our generation - are you willing to take the less traveled route? Or are you willing to take the more complicated route? Tricky choice.


    Monday, July 9, 2012

    A Fine Day In Hartsville, SC

      This past week, in the nice breezy 80- 90-degree weather, I walked into town from my work a few blocks away for my lunch break.  Breezy? We're expecting between 102 and 107 this weekend........  So I'm enjoying the time in the low-heat environment while I can.. O.o
    Hartsville, South Carolina
      In my wanderings downtown this week, I was reminded for the billionth time of all of Hartsville's small-old-town charm.  It's amazing how much you miss when you're constantly focused on going to the coffeeshop - and that's it.  There's nothing wrong with the coffeeshop, but there are so many more things to be doing aside from that one individual place in a town so charming and historic!

      I decided that I would take a mini-adventure through my little downtown Hartsville and share with the world a few wonderful local (non-franchise) places you can go to enjoy a nice relaxing day in a laid-back little town.  For starters: we don't have parking meters, and we have tons of free public parking lots - they're not hard to find, you just gotta find 'em.  For this adventure, we will be parking behing the pawn shop on Carolina avenue!  So imagine your car parked there...

    Let's say you have Friday off :) [or this could be Saturday, if you'd prefer] But I like having Friday off ;)
    The Midnight Rooster Coffeeshop and Eatery
    For a good ending to your week, and a good start to your weekend, you wake up later than usual.  You want to have breakfast, but you don't want to make anything.  It's almost 9 o'clock, and you get showered and ready for the nice day away from the office (or wherever you work).  Who would be open for breakfast this late in downtown Hartsville? The Midnight Rooster Coffeeshop and Eatery!

    Breakfast at the Rooster!
    The Midnight Rooster is a home-grown, locally-owned coffeeshop and eatery that has served our town since 2002.  Inside, you will find yourself homely welcomed by a staff that is just as eclectic as their surroundings.  Take a seat on the various couches and randomly collected chairs and look at the menu offered.  I personally recommend the Tree Hugger crepe - a delicious thin pancake batter wrap stuffed with grilled mushrooms, savory pesto saice and creamy chunks of goat cheese, topped off with fresh diced tomatoes.  Of course, their menu, otherwise, is outstanding!  While you wait for your food, you can help yourself to a number of books - old and new - lying about, waiting to be read.  Magazines litter makeshift coffeetables, independant artwork by local aspiring artists clutter the walls for your enjoyment, and a slugh of independent music carries in the background.  To compliment your savory breakfast, you can also select from their many flavors of fruit smoothies, caffeinated beverages, and also side dishes and cheescakes.  Once your food arrives - bonne appetite!

    Minnie's Giftique
    Finishing up your late refreshing breakfast, you decide that you would like to take a look at some local shopping venues - maybe you deserve an update to your wardrobe!  Next door to the Rooster is Minnie's Giftique.  Around since 1979, Minnie's Giftique serves Hartsville with admirable fashion, and giftware for women.  Home decoratives, such as handmade pictures frames, scented candles, stained glass centerpices, and locally-blown lemonade glasses, are laid elegantly across the stoor.  Mixed within are beautiful dresses and blouses - often on-sale - from respected designers like Eva Franco, Free People, and Cape Madras (the Free People selection is usually my favorite!)  Hand lotions are opstions for the dry days, and perfumes of many scents are available for all days.  Take a look around and see if anything catches your fancy!

    Leaving Minnie's, you want to enjoy a little walk to the next block before the sun gets too high in the sky.  You walk towards the corner of East Carolina and South Fourth Street and turn onto Fourth Street going behind the string of buildings.  Up ahead, and as you draw nearer, you notice an old building that is a church.  This is Welsey United Methodist Church - one of the oldest church buildings in Hartsville!  The church body was organized in 1893 when Hartsville was rapidly earning the title of 'city.'  As you marvel in its glamour and beauty (and maybe consider visiting on Sunday) you come to the next corner.  Looking to your right, you see the entrance to Hartsville's hometown (and international) college - Coker College.  Coker was founded by the Major, James Lide Coker in the later part of the 19th century.  It's roots were that of a Baptist High school for girls, and became a co-ed college in 1903.  Several of the Georgian-style buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Looking to your left now, you see more stores tucked away into College Avenue.  Follow this sidewalk to these stores!
    Lulu's Boutique
    Walking past one of the many free public parking lots, you can see the back of the buildings you were just in.  Many of the buildings have appartments attached, and you can often see their residents coming and going, or talking on their iron patios.  Neat, right? Well look across the street; there's a sign that says Lulu's - and you see another chance for some shopping!

    Lulu's is a rad-fashion boutique for (particularly) juniors, and other women of any age.  Inside, you will find high-class style, and a cozy atmosphere to experiment with.  Although prices are usually a bit high, they often have sales that are amazing!  And the clothes you'll find are just plain great!  The attendants are very stylish as well, so if you need a second opinion, they'll be happy to help!  Spend some time adding new additions to your wardrobe if you haven't already - it's your day off, right? You deserve it!

    Vintage Wine Boutique
    When you're done fitting into a new dress, you walk outside Lulu's and the first thing to catch your eye is across the street in a purple building!  You are looking at Vintage Wine Shop.  Although this proper hangout has not been here long, I have heard many good things about it, and have also known of upstanding people to visit it on occasion.  Inside, the owners of the boutique keep good aged and new wine ready for you to sip throughout a hot, sunny day.  People of all sorts come through and join you in a delightful experience of tasting wine.  Although you may not be hungry just yet after your hearty breakfast, you figure a little wine sipping would help keep you cool and refreshed.  Take your pic!  And enjoy the light atmosphere!

    After spending some time resting in the cool air of the Vintage Shop, sipping on some cool wine, you step out into the more heated part of the day.  As you make your way towards the stop light at the end of the block, look left and see Fifth street go back down to the street you first started on.  Walk that way!

    Indigo Salon and Day Spa
    Walking down fifth street, you can see some shops lining the sidewalk, shaded by purposefully planted trees.  Among them, you will seethe Playzone, for kids, Hughes Photography, and Juice - a children's boutique.  Among these little attractions, there is a spa - it is called the Indigo Salon and Day Spa.  Step inside!  It's hot out, and maybe a nice manicure or pedicure, or a haircut to let some breeze on your neck, or even a little massage might be a good way to relax a little more after the wine you had!  Lucky for you, you called them yesterday to schedule an appointment!  (*Be sure to schedule an appointment at least 24 hours before you go!!)  Specialists will revamp your mood and attitude about the weather and you will surely be pleased with the way you look and how relaxed you feel!  Once you're done here, you feel like it's time for a late lunch.  Where should you go to eat? When you leave the salon, turn left going towards Carolina Avenue!

    Hobnob Gourmet
    When you get to the stoplight, cross the street heading towards the old classy building known as the home of the J.L. Coker Co.  Next, head right up Carolina Avenue, you'll see a little garden and fountain!  This garden belongs to the city of Hartsville, it is called Centennial Park.  Look closely as you pass: names of people who helped this part of Hartsville to grow are on the bricks you walk on, and surrounding them are the blossoms of constant hard work and care in each flower bed!  The first little shop you'll find is Hobnob Gourmet.  Although Hobnob is not necessarily an ideal place to eat a big meal, it can definitely be a satisfying small appetizer!  Typically a gift registry, guests are welcome to sample types of coffee and little pastries to satisfy an empty stomach and a sweet tooth.  Since 2003, Hobnob Gourmet has been open to Hartsville and her visitors to enter a dainty, aromatic atmosphere in Southern hospitality.  Pick up some feshly baked cookies, and maybe a bag of coffee beans to take home for later!

    The Village Cafe
    Moving on down Carolina Avenue, you come to a little gap in the wall where a fresh aroma carries out to the street.  What is this place you're beside?  The Village Cafe!  With Daily Specials, the Village Cafe is a newer excitement of Hartsville with the familiar friendly environment.  They serve fresh cut deli sandwiches, and pannini's to satisfy your craving.  Go on in and take a seat at their quaint comfy tables and wait to be served a fresh and refreshing lunch!  Their menu is full of surprises and delectible food - so many that it's hard to pick in this mid-day meal!  But as you wait for your sandwich, you are helped to drinks and coffee of your choice, and a good window view of the theatre across the street... maybe you'll go there next? ;)
    Burry Bookstore
    Once you have finished your tasty late lunch, you step back out into the hot Southern summer air.  Whereto next? Turn left and continue walking down Carolina Avenue.  Soon you will pass City Hall and the Hartsville Police Station, both naturalk landmarks in our heritage.  Beside that, however, is a large opening where a building once stood... however, the building has been replaced with a garden!  This is a small piece of the Hartsville Community Garden!  In an effort to encourage community bonding and in an effort to promote being "green," the city of Hartsville has been planting and growing gardens in various places throughout town to encourage fellowship among its people.  This is simply the fruit of it!  Looking across the street, you can see a longer piece of building that says, "Burry Bookstore" - you can guess, that is our bookstore!

    Carmike Cinema Twin
    Burry Bookstore, serving the city of Hartsville and surrounding area since 1975, has been a beacon of literature provided for local and national authors to meet with fans, as well as provide a great opportunity to find a great book!  Whether for school reading, informational education, or mere pleasure, Burry Bookstore has a little bit of everything for every age.  Go inside and see what book might spark your interest!  You never know when you might find a book that really makes you think!  Leaving the quiet atmosphere of the bookstore, you make a left and find yourself smelling freshly popped popcorn.. where is this coming from?  As you walk further down, you realize that you saw the theatre from across the street! 

    The Hartsville Carmike Cinema Twin is a larger hangout and attraction in Hartsville!  It is the only theatre, containing two cinemas, that the people of Hartsville can enjoy at the most affordable rate - possibly in all of the Pee Dee!  Well, again, it is hot outside (probably over 100 degrees by now!) so let's get back into the cool air again!  Check and see which movies are playing!  Matinee shows are usually only $2.00 and if you get drink and popcorn, they should be $5!  Amazing, right?  So let's spend a few hours letting the rest of your food digest and enjoy some entertainment!
    Wow! It's already the late afternoon!  That was a good movie!  What else can you see in Hartsville to wrap up your day off?  You'll need food again soon - but not yet.. Maybe somewhere you can sit for a little while and enjoy a small crowd... Turn left out of the theatre and walk mack towards the stoplight. 

    Frets and Necks Guitar Repair
    and Lutherie
    Before you reach the corner though, you look into the window shop on your left - the smell of fresh cut wood, and old metal lingers lightly outside the door.  Do you own a guitar or a wooden instrument of that nature?  Do you want to? Or do you want lessons??  This is Frets and Necks Guitar Repair and Lutherie!  It might not be open this late ofter the movie, but you can always check it out!  Frets and Necks is operated by people who are skilled in the art of making guitars, as well as playing them and teaching others how to play!  When you walk in, wood shavings are everywhere behind the counter, and if you ever need your guitar, mandolin, ukelele, or banjo fixed - these guys got your back!  The people here are experts at the guitar trade. 

    After crossing over Fifth Street, keep walking back to your familiar starting point, the Midnight Rooster.  Boy, has a crowd gathered!  Inside, you can hear some singing and guitar playing. Local artists and independant artists and musicians from all over come to the hometown coffeeshop and use the stage inside as a revenue to advertise their music and art!  People come from all over to play, so people come from all over to see.  So many interesting people!  You wait around for a little while and enjoy some live entertainment, and maybe even meet a few people who are enjoying their time as well.  Pretty soon, you decide you're hungry for dinner.  You would love to eat at the Rooster again, since they serve dinner on Friday nights, but you want to keep up your trend of trying new thigns.  Across the street is a blue building that also booming with night life.  You can smell the thick fragrence of freshly cooked food lingering across the street to where you stand.  Welcome to the smell of Bizzell's!

    Bizzell's Food and Spirits
    Always sparking conversation among locals, and a regular meeting place for thousands of people every week, Bizzell's has gained a reputation for its outstanding service and even more outstanding food!  Home grown straight out of Hartsville, Bizzell's Food and Spirits has been serving the community of Hartsville for over a decade.  Go in and take a seat at one of their comfy booths or chairs and enjoy the light, talkative atmosphere.  Take a selection from their pastas and salads, or maybe a nice appetizer or sandwich.  Ranging from everything, you have a wide selection of homemade foods made as soon as you ask for it!  Enjoy your evening with the nightlife crowd, and maybe sip on some beer too! 

    Once you are stuffed with your delicious dish, you think it's about time to head back home.  Leaving Bizzell's and heading for your car parked across the street behind the pawn shop, you look down the street to your left and think about the amazing day in Hartsville you have had, remembering every place you've gone to try new foods, and find some comfort and relaxation.  Ah, what a day it has been and you are glad you had the opportunity to experience Hartsville's small-old-town charm.  All it's charm has worn you out and now you're already thinking of returning agin soon!