When a writer loses their joy

It happened in late October.

A new job, my dream company, and a lack of time to focus. For 6 months I pushed myself to excel at my job. For 6 month I struggled financially hoping to reach the light at the end of the tunnel. For 6 months I invested my soul into trying to force a career to work that just didn’t. After 6 months, I left.

So here I am, on the cusp of 26, wallowing in student debt and adult responsibilities, working two jobs just trying to keep up. Here I am, engaged to the man of my dreams, surrounded by steadfast friends, and living with a complete lack of joy. Here I am, now 7 months after October, writing for the first time.

So what really happens when a writer loses their joy? In my case, a loss of joy led to a loss of creative expression and ultimately a loss of my true identity. I am a shell of my former self. The passion that I once felt for life has flickered out. In a place of complete desperation and depression, I have decided to come back to this. Writing. Allowing a stream of thoughts to fall out my swampy brain onto my computer screen. It’s not perfect, or even great, but it’s an attempt to regain my creative outlet…my hobby…my joy.

My lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression is a topic that I tend to stay away from out of shame or embarrassment but it is something very real to me. It is the reason that I stopped writing last October and it is the reason that I feel empty today. But the reason I am once again choosing to write is so those issues can live on a screen rather than within my heart or my mind. This morning, in the calm that I finally feel, I am reminded why I began writing almost 20 years ago. It is my safety net. It is my outlet. It is the sponge that absorbs the bad so I can feel the good. It is my source of joy.

At last, my soul feels ignited.

 

fearless

 

Apple Cider Shine

When it comes to Fall I am straight up your A-typical white girl. I enjoy the occasional pumpkin spiced latte, I get cuddly in my oversized sweaters, and I count down the days until Hocus Pocus comes on tv! I go apple picking at Carter Mountain or search for the perfect pumpkin to carve at the Ashland Berry Farm, and I hate myself for admitting this but I secretly love having an excuse to break out my ugg boots.

Although, above all else, my most yearned after seasonal novelty sits on a pedestal of autumnal glory. I absolutely can not live without pumpkin and apple flavored adult beverages! I’m talkin pumpkin beer, spiked cider, and all sorts of drinks that will keep your belly warm in the cooler months.

After many weeks of tasting dozens of different pumpkin beers, we decided to switch gears a bit. Jonathan had the great idea to make an apple cider shine using Belle Isle Moonshine which is made right down the street from us here in Richmond, VA! Not only does this recipe include an excellent local, artisan ingredient, but I guarantee that the scent of brewing cider will fill your heart and home with the spirit of the Fall season! Drink up my friends!

Apple Cider Shine

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon apple juice
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider
  • 750 ml moonshine
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 tsp apple pie spice
  1. Combine all ingredients except moonshine in a stove-top stock pot
  2. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for approximately 45minutes to 1 hour or until liquids have reduced by 15-20%
  3. Once liquids have reduced, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Once cooled, add moonsine
  5. Drink up and be festive!

French Macarons

For the past 25 years I have been baking and eating sweet confections on the regular. Cookies and cakes and ice cream, I love it all! Although, there has been one dessert that I have stayed away from out of sheer intimidation and misunderstanding. I must admit that I have never cooked, or eaten, a french macaron…..until now.

I had Columbus Day off work last week and decided that I was going to attempt to bake the one dessert that has never even come in contact with my taste buds. I began researching online and came across horror story after horror story of macaron fails. Clumpy batter! Broken shells! Deflated egg whites! Right before I began crafting my own french treats, I was terrified.

After some meticulous whipping, folding, piping, and baking, I will admit that making french macarons was not as difficult or scary as they previously seemed. In my opinion, they turned out great! So cute and super sweet! They were the perfect little dessert for when I needed to cure my sweet tooth. Follow this recipe to make your own! Bon appétit!

French Macarons

Supplies:

  • Food scale
  • Hand or countertop mixer
  • Flour sifter
  • Parchment Paper
  • 2 Baking sheets
  • Piping bag or gallon size ziploc bag

Ingredients for shells:

  • 4 oz (115g) almond meal or almond flour
  • 8 oz (230g) powdered sugar
  • 5 oz (144g) egg whites
  • 2.5 oz (72g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 7 drops red food coloring

Ingredients for chocolate buttercream:

  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Mix almond flour and powdered sugar well with whisk
  2. Sift flour/sugar mixture to eliminate clumps which can cause cracking in the shells
  3. Throw out any flour that was too large to go through the sifter
  4. Add egg whites, granulated sugar, and salt to a bowl for mixing
  5. Beat mixture until egg whites are frothy, about 5 minutes on medium speed
  6. Once mixture is frothy, turn up the speed to high and whip until egg white create stiff peaks like so…

7. Add food coloring and vanilla extract and whip until ingredients are integrated into the egg whites

8. Add dry almond mixture to egg whites mixture and begin the macaronage. This is the process of incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a folding technique.

9. Using a folding motion, begin incorporating the wet and dry ingredients. Continually scrape any batter from the side of the bowl during this process. Fold ingredients until egg white are slightly deflated and the mixture looks like magma. Be careful not to over mix.

10. Take a piping bag, or a gallon size ziploc bag, and fill it with the batter. If you are using a piping bag, use a single opening tip. If you are using a ziploc bag, just cut the corner of the bag to create a small opening.

11. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. While holding bag  at a 45 degree angle, pipe batter onto pan using a continual squeezing motion to create 2 inch round cookies. Do not directly lift up bag in between each cookie. Instead, quickly swipe bag up and to the side to keep cookies flat and without peaks. Keep creating cookies until batter bag is empty.

12. Once you finish piping, pick up baking sheet and his against the counter top a few times to release any air bubbles.

13. Allow cookies to dry in the open air for approximately 1 hour to 1.5 hours until tops of cookies are no longer sticky to the touch. When you touch the top of the shell, no batter should stick to your finger. This step will help the shells have feet and will prevent air from cracking the cookies by escaping out the top during baking.

14. While cookies are drying, preheat oven to 300 degrees and begin to make buttercream.

15. Beat butter in bowl until creamy. Add sugar and cocoa, mixing well. Stir in milk and vanilla. Place into piping bag or ziploc bag and allow to cool for 20 minutes in refrigerator.

16. Once the cookie shells have dried, Place in oven  and bake for 15-20 minutes or until shells come off parchment paper without sticking. Do not overcook or brown.

17. Allow cookies to cool. Pipe buttercream frosting onto the bottom of half the cookies. Then place another cookie on top creating your completed, sandwiched macaron!

18. Allow cookies to age in refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

You did it! You made French Macarons! Enjoy!

Nuts about Castanea

As a multi-year Shockoe Bottom dweller, I am privy to the fact that the area is in need of, and is slowly going through, a revitalization. Old businesses are moving out to allow new businesses to move in. An exciting, diverse crowd is starting to influx into the formerly run down, often dangerous, part of the city. It’s an exciting time for the place that I call home!

Being the foodaholic that I am, I’m always happy to see new restaurants popping up every couple months. The Fan and Carytown had their fun, it’s the bottom dwellers turn now!

A few weeks ago I was stoked to learn about yet another new eatery opening up a few blocks away from my apartment. Behold Castanea, a quaint little Mediterranean spot located at 1814 East Main Street! Named after the beloved chestnut, Castanea brings bold European flavor to a market that desperately needs it.

After initially visiting the establishment for late night drinks and house made gelato with friends, my fiancé and I were so impressed that we decided to go back for dinner a few nights later.

We started out with some drinks. A Hardywood draft beer for Jonathan and one of the new signature cocktails for me. I present to you the honey, lemon, and basil mojito. This was one of the best cocktails I have ever had in my life, no exaggeration, and at only $8 it was a steal! Fun fact: the dust around the rim is bee pollen which added a pleasant, natural sweetness to the beverage. I can’t stop thinking about this drink.

For our appetizer, we decided to split the Arancini ($8) which were two large, breaded, fried saffron rice balls stuffed with buffalo mozzarella. They were moist and flavorful with a delightful punch of saffron throughout. The only thing lacking was the amount of mozzarella. Maybe it’s just because I’m a huge cheese gal but they could have used a bit more in the middle in my opinion. Delicious start to our meal though!

For our entrees we went in complete opposite directions. Jonathan ordered the Tallegio pizza ($13) which boasted a whole wheat sourdough crust covered in stinky, creamy Tallegio cheese. It was greasy and delicious! I opted for the Mahi Mahi which was served with sautéed veggies and zhug sauce on the side ($10). The fish was cooked perfectly, the veggies were way overcooked but the zhug sauce blew my mind. I would compare it to a chimichurri but 100 times better! Jonathan even ended up dipping his pizza in it. That sauce made the dish.

Keep in mind that the entrée plates, unless you get the pasta, lean more on the side of tapas and are probably not enough to fill you up. That being said, my ever looming hunger led me to order the Panzanella Fruit de Mar ($8). This was everything. If you are going to try one thing on the menu, this should be it. The salad boasted mussels, calamari, shrimp, sardines, toasted Billy bread, red onion, tomatoes, olives, cheese, and seafood drippings as the dressing. It was fresh, flavorful, and a huge portion for its meager price tag.

All in all, Castanea was great! We look forward to going back and trying more of their unique menu. And don’t even think about stopping by there without trying their gelato! It will knock your socks off.

Liebster Award!!!

liebster

I am so excited to announce that I was nominated by the fabulous Norwegian queen Ingvild for the Liebster award!! As a new blogger it is very exciting to be recognized by other talented people from around the world for simply doing what I love. Thanks Ingvild!

Here are the answers to the 11 questions that I was given:

1) What made you start a blog?

-I started my blog as a way to continue developing my writing skills after graduating with an English degree from college. It allows me to flex my creative muscle.

2) Would you consider yourself as a sensible person?

– I do! I am very much so a 60 year old woman trapped in a 25 year olds body. I don’t buy clothes unless they are comfortable, I don’t spend money unless it is necessary, and because of my indecisiveness, I don’t make a definitive choice unless it has been thoroughly thought through.

3) What attracts you to a blog?

– I am attracted to blogs with great photography, whether it be of people, food, places, etc. and blogs that have a playful vibe about them. I love lots of bright colors, humor, and subject matter that doesn’t make me think too hard.

4) Are you a doer or a thinker?

– I am a combination of both but tend to lean on the doer side of the spectrum. I enjoy being a person in motion. I am always bustling around being productive, running errands, visiting friends, etc. I am an active participant in life!

5) What are your two best qualities?

– I am loyal to the ones that I love and I am a passionate person! Passionate about food. Passionate about traveling. Passionate about life. Passionate about my friends, my family, my fiancé, and my cat!

6) Are you an organized person?

– YES! A big resounding yes!! Organization brings peace and harmony to my life. It is something I could not live without.

7) What is your favorite thing to watch on TV?

– Currently I am really into Master Chef! I love any sort of cooking show. I also like comedies such as Modern Family, New Girl, and Portlandia.

8) What can you not leave the house without?

– As embarrassing as it is to say, I can’t leave the house without always being connected, not necessarily with social media, but with my family/friends. I am a natural born communicator and can’t stand the thought of not being able to get in touch with someone if I want to.

9) How do you deal with a stressed situation?

– I have lots of emotions and I handle stress differently depending on what is going on in my life at the time. Sometimes I face the stress head on and conquer it like a lioness. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, cry, and let it wash over me until I feel better. Sometimes I drink a beer cause I’m a grown ass woman and I can do what I want! Mainly I rely on Jonathan, my fiancé, to calm me down when I’m stressed. He’s good at that.

10) Have you proved someone wrong about something they didn’t believe you were able to do?

– In college I decided to become a vegan and for two years my family and friends continually told me I couldn’t do it. For two years I proved them wrong.

11) What season is your favorite and why?

– Fall is my absolute favorite season! I have lived in Virginia my entire life and have been spoiled by the crisp air, colorful foliage, and apple harvest that comes along with Autumn.

DRUMROLL PLEASE!!!!! I now nominate the following outstanding bloggers for the Libester Award:

Stylize and Budgetize

In The Food Lab

Katherine Trame

Michael Hippchen

Violets for Vivien

Food For Thought

Nourished Peach

Here are the rules to accept the award:

Once you are nominated, make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you. Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too. Nominate 5 -10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award. Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. You can also nominate the person who nominated you. Ensure all of these bloggers have less than 200 followers. Answer the eleven questions asked to you by the person who nominated you, and make eleven questions of your own for your nominees or you may use the same questions. Lastly, COPY these rules in the post.

Here are your questions! Happy blogging lovers!❤

  1. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
  2. Who is your blogger crush?
  3. What is your favorite movie and why?
  4. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  5. What is your guilty pleasure?
  6. Who is the person that has most influenced your life?
  7. What do you like to do in your free time?
  8. What is your favorite season and why?
  9. What is one thing you would like to do before you die?
  10. What is your favorite thing about where you live?
  11. What is something that many people don’t know about you?

Homemade All-Natural Electrolyte Drink

Things have been weird for me lately.

In the past month I have visited 3 different doctors, had 5 different tests performed on me, and have been diagnosed with 2 different health conditions. My heart has a leaky valve and I have a nervous system disorder. Shit is weak.

Fortunately, my doctor has given me instructions on simple things that I can do to combat my symptoms. One of them being “drink Gatorade” to increase my electrolyte levels.

Don’t get me wrong, as a lifelong athlete and consumer of delicious sports beverages, I like Gatorade just as much as the next guy or gal. Although, as I have gotten older and turned into a bit of a natural food nut, I try to steer clear from things containing ingredients that I can’t pronounce and artificial food dyes. If I am trying to live until I’m a hundred, these things won’t get me there.

So when my doctor told me to drink store bought sports drinks, I was a little hesitant. Just then the creative part of my brain spoke up. What if I could make my own electrolyte drink?! Something that would give me vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes from nature rather than a factory. Something that would be tasty and refreshing. Something that would improve my health.

Making said beverage was much easier than expected! I introduce to you my faux-Gatorade! An all natural drink containing 100% of you daily vitamin-c, 84 trace minerals, and so much more! You’re welcome leaky heart and weak ass nervous system!

Bonus note for all you fun loving people out there: my drink ended up tasting slightly like a margarita! My inner alcoholic just had to come out and say “heyyyy!”. You’re welcome for that. Enjoy getting healthy party people!

Homemade All-Natural Electrolyte Drink

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 liter coconut water
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 3 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 2 Tbps honey
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (to taste)

  1.  Cut fruit in half to prepare for juicing

fruit on cutting board

2.   Juice the fruits

3.  Add fruit juice, coconut water, filtered water, salt, and honey to blender. Blend until combined.

4.  Cheers to health and drink up!

P.S. Add the juiced fruit rinds to a pitcher of water and let sit overnight for a fruity, refreshing beverage! or make them into a citrus tower like we did! Whatever tickles your fancy.

Thrifty Threads

Anyone that knows me knows that I would rather spend $50 on craft beer than dresses, shoes, accessories, etc. I don’t wear my money, I drink it. Though I do enjoy dressing like a lady, I get really uncomfortable when I am faced with the prospect of spending more than $30 on an article of clothing. I blame this on my parents, god love ’em.

Growing up, my family was not wealthy and therefore I was never given new, name brand clothing. I was raised wearing hand-me-downs from my older cousins or second hand Limited Too gear purchased from Ebay or the local consignment shop. I was instilled with the idea that frugality was more important than fashion.

As I have gotten older, I have realized that I don’t want to sacrifice the way I dress in order to save a buck. And honestly, I don’t! I rarely spend more than $50 on anything but am still able to dress in a manner that makes me feel comfortable and confident. My secret to saving money and not dressing like a hobo is one of my favorite stores, Clothes Mentor!!

It is a consignment shop for gently used, name brand clothes which targets the twentysomething demographic. Think Platos Closet for grown ups. Boasting brands such as J-Crew, Ann Taylor, Michael Kors, and more, Clothes Mentor is the perfect place for spending savvy ladies to boost their wardrobe!

Today I am wearing one of my favorite Clothes Mentor Short Pump finds. This dress cost me $7! What a steal! Added bonus, it has pockets!

Check out their website for hours, address, and other information: http://www.clothesmentor.com/stores/short-pump/

Happy shopping!!

Richmond, the rhythm city

I like to consider myself a person of constant change and growth. In my short 25 years on this earth I have gone through many phases which were all heavily influenced by the music that I was into at the time.

Between the ages of 14 and 18, I dressed in black and neon, wore studded belts and pony bead necklaces. I had a Xanga account where angsty music played in the background to convey all my juvenile feelings. I listened to a LOT of Blink 182, Sum 41, and Dashboard Confessional. I was a scene girl.

Emo

I was 18 and stupid, don’t judge me

From 18-21, I got really into screamo and metal music. I wore lots of black, rode lots of bikes, was vegan, and was not adhering to a strict bathing schedule. I was a dirty, hipster, bike kid and it was a blast. I started going to see my favorite bands play at local venues such as Strange Matter, The National, and Canal Club. This is when I really started to realize what an epic music scene Richmond had. One could find a show to attend almost every night of the week and ticket prices wouldn’t put you into debt.

Since fading out of my Richmond hipster, scene kid days, I have widely expanded my taste to include all types of music. One day I might be listening to Jay-Z and the next I might be pumping a little Zac Brown Band through my car speakers. I have evolved.

In my later years, I have come to appreciate Richmond not only for the events that I am interested in but for the musical diversity that the city offers to its residents. From jazz to country to rap to folk, there is something for every type of music lover in the area. It is a true harmonic melting pot.

This Summer, I decided to take advantage of the many live music events taking place across the city. I attended the Richmond Jazz Festival which was, in my opinion, incredibly overpriced. Fortunately I did get to see a performance by one of the greatest saxophone players in the world, Joshua Redman, as well as the Grammy winning artist, Anthony Hamilton. It was a once in a lifetime experience and ultimately, I am happy I went.

In June, I attended Friday Cheers on Brown’s Island. Though not a free event, tickets were cheap and the bands were above par for who I would expect to play for a smaller crowds. I was lucky enough to get to see, for the 3rd time in 2 years, The Wood Brothers. This trio is one of my favorite bands out there right now. Boasting a mix of southern rock, folk, and county, these guys are lyrically brilliant and all three are incredibly talented instrumentalists. Everyone should check out their newest album called The Muse and if you ever get a chance to see them live, you must go. They put on one hell of a show.

The Wood Brothers (from left: Chris Wood, Jano Rix, and Oliver Wood)

The Wood Brothers (from left: Chris Wood, Jano Rix, and Oliver Wood)


The Wood Brothers

                                           The Wood Brothers

This past weekend, I went to The National, which was built in 1923 and has been a host of musical acts for almost a hundred years. I attended the show with Jonathan and a group of his friends who are all huge fans of the night’s performer, Chris Stapleton. An established songwriter with decades of experience, Stapleton has recently started making a name for himself beyond writing hits for other country artists such as Kenny Chesney, George Strait, and Darius Rucker. His powerful voice brings soul to the masterfully crafted lyrics of his songs and breathes new life into Bluegrass music that in my opinion, tends to sound very one note. His wife was on stage with him singing harmony and their rendition of “You are my sunshine” will linger in my memory for years to come. Here is my favorite song from his first solo album that was released earlier this year.

As an up and coming artist, Stapleton is still an affordable act to see. Although, I don’t foresee that being the case for long as the world is introduced to his talent.

Chris Stapleton, certified badass

Chris Stapleton, certified badass

Long story short, this summer has reminded me, once again, why I love Richmond. The diversity of the music scene is unmatched and I am grateful to have the opportunity to witness the talent of so many different artists that pass through. Many thanks to the rhythm makers and shakers of RVA for allowing me to grow as a listener and a human being throughout the years.

I came, I slammed, I conquered at the 5th Annual Cape Charles Clam Slam

There are many things I love about my fiancé. He’s smart, musically inclined, a hard worker, and can make a mean banana bread. He also comes with one other huge perk. His family has deep roots in the eclectic little beach town of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

A humble town with a few restaurants, a couple shops, sparsely occupied beaches, and a bounty of fresh seafood sounded like paradise to me when I first found out about it a few years ago. Even though it may not be the most exciting place in the world, there is a certain charm that keeps drawing us back for late nights hanging with his family and warm days sitting by the bay.

Last weekend we decided to make the trek over to the Cape for the 5th annual clam slam. I just couldn’t resist the idea of a festival solely dedicated to this succulent little crustacean. Three hours and a $15 toll later, we had made our way across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and had arrived in Cape Charles! We were ready to slam some clams!

To our surprise, an influx of people had made their way into the usually quiet town. There were food trucks, beer trucks, and even carnival rides! Almost immediately we sought out the star of the show, clams! They were everything I had hoped for. Sweet and briny, dredged in butter, and devoured in less than thirty seconds, I was a happy girl.

After a long night of cousin hangs, beer drinking, and a regretful McDonald’s trip, the town awoke with excitement for it was the day of the boat docking competition. I will be honest, at first I didn’t understand the hype of watching an aquatic parallel parking competition. I soon found out that my preconceptions were dead wrong.

Thanks to Jonathan’s uncle, we managed to score some tickets to sit in the VIP section of the boat docking event. Not only did we have front row seats to the show but more importantly there was an endless supply of free oysters, clams, barbeque, and beer from none other than Wendell Distributing, Jonathan’s family’s business! I was pretty convinced that I had in fact died and gone to heaven.

For the next few hours we watched boats fly across the harbor, whip into reverse and get tied up like baby calves at a rodeo. It was absolutely incredible! With a belly full of beer, seafood, BBQ, and boat docking bliss, I had a newfound appreciation for the cherished pastime. I’m now a believer in the glorious sport of boat docking.

I can honestly say that for a tiny little beach town festival, the clam slam and boat docking competition was a hit. I already can’t wait for next years festivities. Keep it up Cape Charles, this event was awesome!

The pride and shame of growing up southern

Today for lunch I had a tomato sandwich. Although, this was not just any tomato sandwich. Between two slices of honey wheat bread I slathered on Richmond’s very own creation, Duke’s mayonnaise, right before I stacked my sandwich a mile high with slices of a Hanover tomato that I hand picked from my dad’s garden. A little dash of pepper and lunch was served. What can I say, I’m a sucker for these things.

Homemade Hanover Tomato Sandwich

Homemade Hanover Tomato Sandwich

Mid-sandwich my mind starting trotting down memory lane. I remember being introduced to these by my grandparents whom I adore. My grandpa grew the tomatoes and my grandma made us the sandwiches at lunch every day during the Summer. I was lucky to grow up in a state with the perfect soil to cultivate such ripe, delicious tomatoes and the manufacturing power to create one of the greatest sandwich spreads known to man, Duke’s mayo. This dish will forever remind me of home. It’s Southern comfort food at it’s finest.

My mind began to drift away from my personal nostalgia and into what it means to grow up in the South. For me and many of the people I grew up with it meant home grown veggies, hard work, fishing, nature, wide open spaces, fresh air and hospitality at it’s finest. It meant having strong morals and close knit family ties. It meant having pride in where you came from. I will never be persuaded that there is a better place to grow up than the South, especially Virginia.

Unfortunately, as I have grown up and especially in recent times, I have become disappointed in my home region. It is as though pride in our culture has taken a great and mighty downward turn. It has become a place where people use God and the bible as a crutch on which they stand to justify their disdain for anyone different than themselves. It is a place that is rarely tolerant of people from different races, genders, sexual orientations, etc. It is a place that uses our history to drive their hatred. It is embarrassing. Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing anytime soon but I will continue to cling onto the hope that people will remember what it truly means to be Southern before it is too late.

It means being kind to your neighbors and loving them as if they are family. It means helping those in need even when you barely have two nickels to rub together. It means working hard, providing for the ones you love, and letting the rest fall into place as you enjoy peaceful nights surrounded by stars and fireflies. It means being proud of ones heritage and culture. It means being a decent human being.

I want to go back to Summers with my grandparents, eating tomato sandwiches, loving where I live with every ounce of my being. I want to be proud of where I am from and the positive heritage that comes from the beautiful state of Virginia. I know that I will always be a proud Southerner but until some of this hatred dies down, I think my pride will have to stay closeted only to reveal itself through food induced nostalgia. I finished my tomato sandwich and was grateful for the memories that came from growing up in the South.