Tag Archives: inspiration

Weekend in Monroeville, Alabama

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“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”–Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books that resonates with readers in different ways. It’s one of those stories in which a reader might discover one meaning the first time they read it, and then discover another the next. Many of us have a favorite line or quote, and whether or not we’ve read it once or one hundred times, we can remember the first time we read it. It speaks to something inside of us, pulling on a memory, thought, or feeling.

The stories in this book have meant something different to me each time I’ve read them, but the quote above has always stopped me for a few moments before turning the page. It reminds me to take nothing for granted, and at the same time reminds me that I so very often do just that.

It has been more of a problem lately than before, and in the whirlwind that is graduate school, I know why. I blame this lack of appreciation for the small things on stress, and yes, I realize that is, as my mother would say, nobody’s fault but my own. My attention is on projects, papers, and presentations, and I forget to take the time to just be thankful for all I’ve been given. Deadline after deadline cause me to forget to stop, take a deep breath, and be proud of all I have accomplished so far. As this semester comes to a close, my classmates and I are constantly reminding each other that if we could make it this far, we can make it for a few more weeks. Even with those reminders, however, it is hard not to get caught up in the pressure of it all.

A weekend getaway without laptops and worry is the best medicine, and last weekend was a testament to that. Thanks to our wonderful professor Dr. Bragg, who snagged tickets to the sold out event for us months ago, a few classmates and I were able to attend the To Kill a Mockingbird play with her in Monroeville, Alabama. If you haven’t seen this play, I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, I’m sure you would agree with me. The amateur cast is comprised completely of volunteers, but they are extremely talented and passionate. Many of them have been part of the cast for years.

While I was blown away by the play, it was only one of the ingredients for the perfect weekend.

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We drove from Tuscaloosa to Monroeville on Saturday, giving ourselves enough time to visit the historic courthouse for a tour of the museum inside. After having lunch at David’s Catfish House, we visited the site of Truman Capote’s childhood home, and had ice cream at Mel’s Dairy Dream next door.

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Becky, Elizabeth, and I wanted to see as much history as we could while in Monroeville, and after ice cream, we set out on one of the driving tours we had learned of in the museum. We spent an hour or two just admiring old buildings and stopping to read the occasional historical marker. The only thing we had to do was make it back to the courthouse in time to get good seats for the play. Once there, we enjoyed cokes in glass bottles and a perfect spring night that ended with drinks and appetizers at the Prop & Gavel, a restaurant that is right across from the courthouse.

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What made this weekend so special, and maybe even healing, in my case, was the feeling of having nowhere to be and nothing to worry about. On Sunday, we drove back to Tuscaloosa feeling a lot less stressed than we were two days before. As we drove through the countryside, we stopped to take pictures of beautiful plantation homes, old churches, and wildflowers. We left the main road a few times just to drive through small towns we had never seen before. We stopped for ice cream in Marion and had lunch in Centreville.



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Like Harper Lee’s words, this weekend reminded me to appreciate the small things. It often takes losing something to realize how much it meant to you, but this was a different sort of wake up call. This was a reminder of the things I do have, and though I know I’ll probably forget to appreciate them time and time again, I’m thankful I remembered in Monroeville.

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Inspiration from the IMPACT group

IMPACT

A friend recently told me that the posts she enjoys reading most on my blog fall under the “current inspirations” category. If I were asked which ones are my favorite to write, I would say the same thing. I love writing about what inspires me, and my hope is that I will be able to tell a story in a way that inspires someone else.

During my time as a writer, I have had the opportunity to meet and write about some pretty fascinating people. I never know what an interview is going to be like until I’m there, and I have definitely interviewed people who weren’t passionate or excited about what they were telling me. As a journalist, you learn to move past those interviews, and you get through them just to get the story done. They aren’t memorable. The interviews that leave you feeling like you have the power to change the world, or that the person you just met is already changing it, are the ones that stay with you forever. They are the ones that remind you what it means to be passionate or to truly care about something, and they are filled with quotes that you couldn’t leave behind if you tried.

I interviewed a group of women for a story last semester, and while it might be a few months old, I consider it a current inspiration. The article was about a support group for breast cancer survivors in Tuscaloosa, and it ended up in the newspaper on Christmas day. It wasn’t my writing that made this such an amazing story. The three women that I interviewed are the reason it was so strong. My only regret was that I couldn’t take my readers to that morning at Chick-fil-a, where I sat down with three women I had never met, and listened as they poured out their hearts about surviving breast cancer, raising children, being young, and growing old. Their words would inspire anyone to keep fighting or just to be thankful for everything they have. All I could do was put them down on paper and hope that someone would read them. 

I’ve listed some of my favorite quotes from the article below, but you can find the complete article here.

1. “I was sitting there preparing to die when this little lady, as white-headed as she could be, came bouncing into my room. The only thing that I remember her saying was, ‘I was where you are now 16 years ago.’ Hearing her say she did this all those years ago was just a glimmer of hope when I didn’t have any.”

2. “I will honestly say from the bottom of my heart because of all the blessings, that even though I would have never wanted breast cancer and it sure wouldn’t have been on my prayer list, I wouldn’t give it back. I actually like the post-cancer me better than I like the pre-cancer me.”

3. “You can just live to get through the day, or you can live each day to the fullest, and I think IMPACT helps you do that. It makes you see each day as a gift, and it changes some of your priorities. I’m a better person because of it.”

4. “There is still somebody out there that needs that hope, and I still feel that pull to help someone else,” she said. “IMPACT has helped me to see that there is a happy, healthy, joyful life after breast cancer. I’m still here and I want to continue that encouragement.”

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You Can Always Start Again

Last week, I found inspiration in a place I least expected to discover it. Words of wisdom were shared with me in a time I most certainly needed to hear them, and I couldn’t help but feel as if they might help someone else.

I am currently working on a multimedia project focused on caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s for my master’s program. I will write more on the subject later, but to summarize for now, I will be telling the story of the day-to-day life of someone who cares for a family member with the disease. My plan is to follow multiple caregivers so that I can show this experience, while at the same time, create a community for them to feel connected to others who are like them.

I have been visiting Caring Days, an adult day care center in Tuscaloosa, in order to build relationships with the caregivers who bring their loved ones there. Clients participate in activities and exercises that help build and retain their cognitive and motor skills. On Friday, I was invited to sit in on an art therapy session with a group of University of Alabama Honors students who attend the sessions once a week for a class called Art to Life. (If you are interested in Art to Life or Cognitive Dynamics, please watch the video below.)

I watched as 95-year-old Mrs. Sarah, who used to paint before the disease stole her ability to do so, painted again. I listened as she recalled memories that she hadn’t visited in years. I had no idea that something so inspiring could come from something as simple as a cake pan filled with shaving creme and food coloring.

After filling the pan with shaving creme, the art therapist asked Mrs. Sarah to pour drops of food coloring over it. The talkative and outgoing woman asked one of the students to help her with the food coloring, a small sign that she was still hesitant. She repeatedly expressed that she missed being able to create art, and although she was very confident in the art therapist, she wasn’t confident in herself as an artist anymore. She was afraid that the skills she once possessed were gone. She feared she had lost them completely, just like many of the memories she longed to remember.

While one student poured the food coloring over the shaving creme, the others asked Mrs. Sarah to talk about her earliest childhood memories, her wedding day and her family. She was excited to share these experiences with the students, and would recall things she said she hadn’t spoken about in years. With each story she told, however, Mrs. Sarah would come to a point that she couldn’t remember, and would become frustrated with herself when she couldn’t bring the memory back or remember the words to say when it did. I watched as this very intelligent woman, who led a life well lived, began feeling insignificant and “not smart enough” to remember.

Mrs. Sarah was then asked to take a paint brush and drag it across the shaving creme, creating swirls and patterns of different colors. She wasn’t certain of herself, but kept “painting” at the encouragement of the others.

The next step in the process required Mrs. Sarah to take a piece of paper and lightly press it into the shaving creme. “Am I messing up? I hope I didn’t ruin it,” she said. When the paper was pressed to the bottom of the pan, the therapist gently pulled it back and scraped away the shaving creme with the edge of piece of cardboard. When the shaving creme was cleared away, the therapist revealed the finished product and asked the students to describe what they saw.

Happiness

“Happiness”

A dove. A flower. A butterfly. A party. These were the things the students saw in the abstract, and as they described them, tears filled her eyes. You see, there is something else you should know about Mrs. Sarah. Besides losing memories and mobility, Mrs. Sarah is losing her sight. She sees shapes, colors and outlines, but no detail. Yet, here she was crying because she had created something beautiful for others to see. That’s what art is after all, she said.

When the therapist asked her to name the piece, Mrs. Sarah said, “Happiness.” When the therapist asked her to describe how it made her feel, Mrs. Sarah said, “Like there is something there and you can start again.”

You can start again. How beautiful it was to hear those words from a woman who probably believed she would never get the chance to start again. She apologized for being emotional, but what she couldn’t see were the tears in everyone’s eyes. We all needed to hear that, and I’m sure we will need to be reminded of it again someday. At 95, Mrs. Sarah realized that she could start over, despite her age and her sickness. No matter what you are going through or what life throws your way, tomorrow is a new day, and you can always start again. 

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“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be led by your dreams.”

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