Happy Mother’s Day, Pattycakes!

My mom has taught me many lessons throughout my 23 short years, but there’s one in particular that rings true in almost every situation in which I’m placed.  A story that exemplifies this lesson happened about 6 years ago before I started my freshman year at Clemson University.  I was so excited to head to orientation to meet my future classmates, visit the campus and schedule classes.  My mom and I made it through the first day with no glitches- everything was perfect. I spent the night in the dorms and my mom headed back to Greenville with the intent to head back to Clemson in the morning to finish walking through orientation with me.

The next morning, my mom picked me up from the dorms and asked if I was hungry. Of COURSE I was! We were forced to eat in the dining hall and I hadn’t gotten used to the cafeteria food, yet- so I didn’t touch it.  We decided to grab bagels at Einsten’s in the Hendrix center around 10 a.m.  As we were sitting down, it seemed as though everyone was scurrying around the campus with a look of purpose on their faces. I asked my mom where she thought they were going and she said, “Pshh they’re probably just going to see the dorms and the dining hall, and you’ve already seen them so we’re fine to just stay here.” My response? “You’re right! Ok.”

My mom suggested that we look through the course catalog and pick out my classes for my Communication Studies classes.  We looked at the general education requirements, electives, and major-specific classes and planned out my first semester as a Clemson Tiger. I was super excited.  When my time came to register for classes in a building across campus that afternoon, my mom and I headed that way with confidence and determination.

Well… when I walked into the room by myself to register for classes, all hell broke loose. I had no idea what I was doing and all of the classes that I thought I needed were no longer open.  When a volunteer came over to help me, she asked how my advising meeting had gone that morning at 10 a.m. “What advising meeting?” I asked.  “Oh my gosh did you skip your meeting today? Sorry I can’t help you,” said the volunteer as she walked away.

We had completely overlooked the advising meeting that apparently the rest of the orientation class had participated in while my mom and I munched our plain bagels with cream cheese.  I finally figured out my classes with the help of another volunteer, but it was probably one of the times that I’ve been most stressed in my life.

But guess what? I don’t regret skipping my advising meeting.  There’s no way in this world that I would give up the hour and a half that I spent with my mom talking about classes, my future and laughing about random things.

Lesson learned from my mom?

Cherish the time that you get to spend with the ones that you love because it beats everything.       

I’m so lucky to have my mom. She’s the first person that I want to call when I’ve had an exceptionally good day or a really bad day. She’s the person that I go to for advice on anything and everything. She’s the person who I know will share smiles, tears and laughs with me at any moment. I see a lot of my mom in myself and I love it.

Happy Mother’s Day, Ma!

My Family

Baby Girl Is Graduating!

As I sit in Tampa wide-awake when I should be getting rest for my early media briefing tomorrow morning, I can’t help but think about how excited I am to see my baby sister, Merrick, graduate from Clemson University on Friday.

My sister is my best friend. We understand each other on a level that no one else possibly can. Our phone and text conversations would seem as if they’re in code for anyone else listening or reading them. It was a big adjustment for both of us to part ways when I moved to Atlanta after spending almost every waking moment together for our overlapping two years at Clemson. But, we’ve made the best of it with in-person visits, Facetime sessions, 5+ phone calls a day and 15+ texts a day. As Merr embarks upon this next chapter in her life, it will again be a big adjustment, but I’m confident that our relationship will grow even stronger (and the text message correspondence will most likely increase).

On Friday, our family will be attending Merrick’s graduation ceremony at the beautiful Littlejohn Coliseum and Robert and Sam will join us for dinner afterwards at a nice restaurant in Clemson.  Then… it’s celebration time at a Clemson staple, The Esso.

Merrick’s worked so hard over the past four years to make good grades, learn through internships and apply to top medical universities to reach her final goal of getting into the Medical University of South Carolina.  MUSC is in Charleston, S.C. and Merr will be heading down there for good on Sunday.  She’ll be living with her best friend/next-door neighbor/fellow Bramblewood Monkey, Ansley in a cute apartment within walking distance of MUSC.

At MUSC, Merr will be studying physical therapy and will ultimately end up with a doctorate degree after three years of schooling and rotations combined. It’s going to be weird to hear people refer to her as Doc, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly.

Words can’t express how happy and proud I am of my sister. She is the smartest, most put-together, beautiful young woman thatI know and I know she’ll rock it at MUSC. I can’t wait to visit her. Watch out Chucktown, Little Blondie is going to take over!

Madison and Merrick

The One Away Campaign Featured on Clemson’s Web Site!

Dr. Novak’s senior seminar class was featured as one of Clemson’s three major feature stories on its Web site!  You can read the story here.   Fellow members of our class, Kelly Smith, Tee Hassold, and Tiffany Sellers, were interviewed and gave great insight on the Upstate Homeless Coalition.  Check out information about the One Away campaign and my classmate’s thoughts.

Updates with Social Media Group

Even though the semester is winding down, our social media activity is picking up!  We’ve had and increased amount of views to the blog and more tweets and re-tweets on our Twitter account!  From reading what my classmates post on the UHCSC’s blog, I’ve learned new homeless issues that I hadn’t before.  I’ve also learned about different groups who are fighting homelessness along with the Upstate Homeless Coalition.

Dr. Novak sent us group evaluation forms yesterday to rank the effort of our group members.  It’s not going to be hard for me at all to give all of my group members 5’s (the best you can get) under every category.  My social media group has worked very effectively and efficiently.  We set our goals in the beginning of the semester, and I personally think that we’ve reached them.  We’ve introduced the Upstate Homeless Coalition to social media!  Even Linda has started participating and has written a comment on our blog.  I’m really proud of the social media group and all that we’ve accomplished.  I hope that the UHCSC will continue to use the social media networks that we’ve established.

Just keep hiking. You can do it, you can do it.

On top of the 2nd tallest mountain in Georgia!

One of the many pretty sites we saw.

This past weekend, my backpacking class hiked the Bartrum Trail in Georgia.  I can honestly say that it was the most mentally and physically draining experience that I’ve ever put my body through.  I consider myself to be athletic, but hiking 28 miles up a mountain in the snow is something that one cannot easily prepare for.  We hiked a little over 2 miles on Friday evening before camping.  We hiked over 17 miles on Saturday before camping, and we hiked over 8 miles back to the van on Sunday.  We did this while wearing 25-30 pound backpacks atop snowy and icy ground.  This experience was a true test of courage and drive- and I have the blisters to prove it. 

Our backpacking group!

 I enjoyed getting to know my classmates better throughout the trip.  I learned all about their significant others, fun facts about their lives, and (much to my dismay) their bodily smells.  I think my favorite part about the trip, though, was getting to see a different part of nature- apart from my Clemson backyard.  We saw waterfalls, experienced beautiful sunsets, and looked out over Georgia at the top of the 2nd  highest mountain in Georgia.  

Yes, there were times that I wanted to call Jake from the Bachelor to fly in on his helicopter and pick me up, but that wasn’t an option.  I hiked at a medium pace, and sometimes found myself alone with part of the group 5 minutes ahead of me, and the rest of the group 5 minutes behind me.  It was then that  I had to continually motivate myself to continue to hike.  With every step I took on the snowy, icy uphill trail, I would chant in my head, “Just keep hiking, you can do it, you can do it.”  Hiking to the top of the mountain was an exhilarating feeling, but getting back into the van was even more incredible.    

I found that my can-do attitude came out on this trip.  Even though numerous things that were unplanned happened, it kept us on our feet.  Literally.  Like I said- I have the blisters to prove it. 

No Day Like Today…

I recently went to the play Rent because it was performed at the Brooks Center at Clemson University.  It. Was. Amazing.  My friend, Bradley Zellars, played Angel in the play.  I had to write a feature for my feature writing journalism class, and I chose to write it about Bradley.  Below is a picture of Bradley dressed as Angel, and the story that I wrote about him based on our interview and my viewing of the show…

Bradley Zellars as Angel in the play Rent

A Tree Turns to Angel

Last weekend at Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina, a tree turned into an Angel.

 Bradley Zellars, a senior performing arts major at Clemson University was shy when he started school as a young boy.  He didn’t like hanging out in big groups and he would have a panic attack if he was asked to read aloud.  Zellars had so much to say, but couldn’t get a word out.

 So he tried out for a play in the fourth grade as an outlet for his thoughts.  His first role as an actor? A tree.  “I had to stand there the whole time with my arms stretched completely out!” said Zellars.  “It was a small part, but it’s gotten to me where I am today.’”

As Zellars continued to grow into an actor, he realized the magic that actors were given the chance to experience.  “I thought it was magical how actors could become someone or anyone completely different from themselves.”

During his first trip to New York City in high school, he saw the play Rent on Broadway.  “As soon as the character Angel appeared on stage, I immediately said to myself, ‘I am going to play him one day.” 

And that’s exactly what he did.

The Clemson Players decided last semester to put on Rent during the first part of this Spring semester.  Zellars tried out for the part and was named Angel, one of the major leading roles.  Angel is a drag queen who wants everyone to live like “there is no day but today”.  He is homosexual, lives with AIDS, and dies during the last scene in the play.

The cast and band members were asked to learn their lines and music over Christmas break and started rehearsing right as the Spring semester started.

In addition to studying for difficult senior-level classes, Zellars also had to practice his lines hours after he finished classes.  Along with seven hours of school, Zellars would also practice at the Brooks Center for another five hours at night. “It was important to stay healthy during this time by getting enough rest, eating properly and dressing weather appropriate,” he said.  “By conserving my energy, staying healthy, and managing my time differently, I was able to keep up with my school work while rehearsing for Rent.”

To prepare for the role of Angel, Zellars had to work out and do breathing exercises to help increase his lung capacity.  Because he had to dance and sing simultaneously while wearing high heels, Zellars admitted he had to, “work on really being able to take control of his body.”

And what about those high heels that Angel wore in the play? “I don’t see how girls do it,” said Zellars.  “I had to submerge my feet in a bucket of ice after every show because my feet would be swollen and throbbing by the end of the performance.”

Zellars looks up to Angel because Zellars describes Angel as strong, courageous, and compassionate- characteristics that Zellars also strives to possess. “Angel ends up being a real testament to love and life,” he said.  “Angel breaks your heart. Angel inspires. And that’s why I loved playing him.”

Zellar’s favorite scene of Rent was the last scene when Angel walks into “the light”.  He emerges in a red kimono dress and high heels and lets “the light” take him with him arms stretched completely out.  Just like a tree.

Who’s Calling the Shots?

I’ve never been in a class like my senior seminar class.  On Thursday, Dr. Novak stood at the front of the classroom, let us ask any questions that we wanted about factual information about the Upstate Homeless Coalition of South Carolina.  After a few questions had been asked, Dr. Novak walked to the back of the room and was silent for the rest of the class.  As a class, we wrote a mission statement, appointed class liaisons, organized ourselves into three main groups (fundraising, media, and social media), and decided on tasks and duties of each major group. 

We then broke up into the major groups.  I chose to be in the social media group along with Erin Sanders, Beckman Perry, Katie McKenzie, and Lauren Patterson.  We plan on helping update their Web site, start blogging for the UHCSC, help update the UHCSC Facebook page, and tweet under a username for the UHCSC.  After working on these social media networks on behalf of the UHCSC, we are also going to write a social media plan that the UHCSC can use after the semester is over. 

In our blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts, we want to connect with homeless people who use social media sites.  Part of our job this semester is going to do research to reach out to homeless people in the upstate who use the sites and let them know the services of the UHCSC. 

This class is by far the coolest class that I’ve ever taken at Clemson University.  It’s student run and we are getting to call the shots.