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Chasing Sunshine

in Blog/Travel by

A single piece of snow, fluffed to the fullest, lands upon my nose/
Its brothers join any exposed skin seen peaking out of my winter garb/
While the crisp cold chases me indoors, my heart gladly goes/
To a place away from chilling bones and frozen roads; a place very far/

Plane doors open, and the sunshine welcomes my cheeks into a bright land/
Rain breaks up the rays, so we chase the warmth around the island green/
Chasing sunshine; never have I endeavored an adventure so grand/
Souvenir particles get caught in my skin, and behind my eyes freshened with a glean/

Now I remember the colors in the breaking of the waves which show their sheen/
And think that it might be the most beautiful light I have ever seen/

Or felt.

I Left My Ego in Tennessee

in Blog/Travel by

Do you ever have those dreams where you are flying? For me, it usually begins by jumping once, only to return to the earth. By

the third or fourth jump, at the height of my ascent, instead of sinking back down to the ground, I continue to rise, my sense of elation growing as I conquer gravity, breathless, my spirit soaring. The g-force pushes me through air like a smooth sailing roller coaster ride that is propelled by my belief in the fact that I *will* keep on going. The only thing that ever weighs me down is my ego, and I left that behind in Tennessee.

That is the feeling that accompanies me now, as I quite literally soar above the clouds. The initial panic of exhausted bustling from airport to airport is gone. From Knoxville to Chicago (where I had my first Chicago dog and deep dish pizza), and from Chicago to Denver, then the plane in Denver took me to this elevation, high above the ground. I am overcome with a sense of awe and gratitude for life and its wonders. Every new experience now is full of magic.

With this mindset, I humbly look forward to taking in the culture that I will find on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.


Though I love the mountains, the way that the sun heals my soul is like no other.

So may my heart stay humble and my spirit soar into the place where magic invites me to partake in it around every corner.

From Waves of Snow to Ocean Waves

in Blog/Travel by

The waves of big, fluffy snow which are falling upon our heads here in Knoxville, Tennessee are not nearly cold and wet enough to dampen the spirit of adventure which possesses our group of coworkers as we make our way to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. There, the ocean waves lap upon the shores, and both the air and the ocean are a sweet 75*. You had better believe that that warmth and sun are calling me; calling us.

It will be with no regrets that I wave goodbye to the coldest winter I have ever known for a whole week. Having been living on the top of a mountain in Sevierville, Tennessee for 9 months now, I have begun to understand why mountain people have a reputation for being so tough. Learning to live in such devastating beauty requires one to learn to prepare and plan. However, even the mountain veterans, the ones who have lived atop the beautiful, icy peaks for years do not attempt to drive down once the roads are covered in life-threatening ice. There is a difference between driving on ice in town where it is flat, and driving down a switchback where you look off of the side of the road and see down a cliff, as if you are coyote looking for road runner. But drive down the mountain in the snow I did, before it had a chance to stick and freeze, and now here I am at the hotel, wondering if sleep will overpower my excitement or if I will save my sleep for the 14 hour flight ahead.

I do not mean to say that the picturesque snow scenes in the Smokeys are not a vision out of a fairytale book. The mountains of Tennessee in the snowy wintertime are a winter wonderland of beautiful views that the eye can drink up forever and ever. But me; I am a beach girl. Give me that sunshine during the day, let me get lost in the waves, and set me loose on the shores, fire poi in hand at night, and that is all I need to be happy.

Waves, waves, I get lost in waves of enthusiasm for life as I embark on a new adventure, new camera in hand, ready to appreciate the beauty of a land foreign to me, surrounded by people that I love and will soon love even more. The distant shore will only bring me more of the happiness that I already harbor inside; may I appreciate it and share it more and more every second of all of the time <3 😊

New Beginnings

in Blog/Travel by

If I could choose a theme song for this article, it would be that oldy, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” by Neil Sedaka. Mainly because of the line that doubles as the song title. Also because it seems like it was a long time coming with that couple, and getting back together wouldn’t be best for either of them. Hearts, they do go on.

The next song I would pick would be, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” by Shania Twain. This song is a pretty fantastic diddy in the tune of being an empowered woman. I relate as I am in the midst of coloring my hair and I usually “do what I dare.” It just feels good to have some affirmation that you’re doing the right thing. Thanks Shania.

Well, it’s day seven of me being at my new, old home. I recently had a heart-wrenching breakup and had to have my folks drive from Tennessee to Texas to come get me so I can get back on my feet.

I.feel like I sound like a blues song. OoooOOOhh singing, we broke up, my car broke down, I had to move, I’m just a big ole mess.

While I am so grateful to have such a fantastic support system, my pride is taking a, probably needed, hit for having to move back home.

Normally, I would shy away from putting my personal life on this site, but I am learning valuable lessons which I would like to share.

Right now I’m at the gym (which happens to be the nicest workout facility I’ve ever been in), staring at the “Tiki Bar” wishing that it was an actual bar instead of a booth where you can sign up to win a trip to Hawai’i, and that I had a Sex on the Beach, but actually waiting for my mom to get done with her class so she can drive me to work, as a 23 year old woman. Oh independence, how I miss you!

Moving really is turning out to be the best thing for me. It’s allowing me to get a fresh start. My life right now is full of new beginnings.

Moving, man, moving can be a pain. I packed up my stuff and moved it into and out of houses 6 times before it was all said and done. I did have help some of those times, but you better believe that I slept like a baby for about a week after that. That was physically difficult. Good thing I have an awesome friend with a truck. I definitely recommend making sure that you have a friend to help you move before you just decide to do it.

What was difficult for my pride was quitting my job I had just got in Fort Worth. I had only been there about a month and a half before I quit. In that time, I was finding my confidence again, exploring bicycling as a hobby and passion, meeting people who I felt could be a strong part of my community, learning valuable information about bicycle components and repair.

It was really difficult to leave that job, but it had to be done. It is always best to have a job lined up before you quit the one you have, that way you don’t miss a paycheck, and therefore won’t miss a payment on any of your bills or food, so on and so forth.

Luckily, I won’t be missing a paycheck, because I went job hunting the day after I arrived in Tennessee, got three on-the-spot interviews, one job offer, and one invitation to come back for a shadow-day the very next day. I liked what I saw during that second interview that Saturday, and went in for my first day the next Monday. All I had to do was make the effort, the opportunity was obviously very much there.

Now I am working as a photographer in a studio doing portraits for couples and families!

Making getting a job one of the first things I did helped make sure that I am able to support myself financially. It also helped me with my self-confidence, since I got such a positive response from employers. That confidence will remain and spill over into other aspects of my life.

My to-do list from all the errands and paperwork I had to do has finally diminished! It really only took a week of non-stop driving and planning to get it done. Here’s something novel, it only took me half an hour at the DMV to get my license. I know, shocking right. That happened.

Getting your change of address taken care of is one of those boring adult things that you have to do no matter who you are because the government wants your updated address. I did find out that Tennessee allows you to get a replacement license sent to you and you can make this happen from your computer. It’s super handy if you don’t mind waiting a week or two in order to receive it in the mail!

Other things I was so satisfied to cross off of my list included getting my resume printed off, the hours of research into who was hiring that I did on my phone during the drive, going to the sheriff’s department to get a background check for my job, getting documents notarized, reading the policy book, and studying notes from work in order to get good at my job as quickly as possible. Taking it one thing at a time is really the only way to get it all done without pulling out my hair or banging my head on a wall.

New beginnings can feel good and bad at the same time. I left behind many things that I love, and that is difficult. I want to keep in touch with my friends and I can get overwhelmed by this, so I’m trying to make it a point to have a conversation maybe once every few days. I left part of my heart in Texas, but I know I will find the rest of the pieces here in Tennessee, if I let myself. One thing at a time.

For now, I am focused only on getting trained at work, getting there on time, and having energy the whole time I’m there. At home, the only thing I will do until I get the routine down pat is sleep, make food and get my clothes ready for the next day, and keep things neat and tidy. Whenever I’m ready, I will work exercise back into the mix. There are still a few things left on my list of things to do from my move, and I will do them one at a time, as I have time and energy for them.

I will admit, there are times whenever panic or sadness overwhelm me to the point where I have a physical reaction. My body tenses up, a sense of terror washes over me, and I will remain numb for a minute, an hour, the rest of the day, or for a couple days. I will have to fight so hard to pull myself away from staring at a wall. I will not be able to keep tears out of my eyes. This is heartbreak, and this is shame. I know it will pass. I know that depression comes and goes, and it will go eventually. I know that one of the best cures for depression is exercise, and keeping busy, so I will do those things until I find my center again.

Being in the Smokey Mountains sure helps. There is beauty everywhere that you cast your eye. Not only that, but the Southern hospitality runs deep here. If you need help, it is never far away than the next smiling face and twang-filled greeting from your neighbor.

Sleeping with the window open and feeling safe to go outside barefoot, having woods all around me waiting to be explored, the soft tone of the folks here, and fruit that grows wild in the mountain will surely heal my heart.

So here’s to new beginnings and making tbe most of them!

Monica Leigh Hooping in New Mexico

in Blog/Flow Arts/Media/Travel by

One simply MUST dance whenever they are traveling on the open road.

It does not get more open than the desert of New Mexico. With my friends at my side, the railroad tracks behind me, and the potentiality of the universe on my mind, I danced to my heart’s content till all I craved was the shade.

Thank you for watching 🙂

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