Ten Ways to Travel Better! {Sarajane.}

I’m not by any means an expert on traveling. However, I do have enough experience with different types of trips that I’ve obtained some pretty good tips to pass out to you lovely blog readers! I’m hoping this can also be a jumping off point for you to share your favorite tip with us! We can all benefit from sharing our little tricks with each other right? So, get to reading and then get to typing your number one travel must-do in the comment box below!!

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Final Thoughts: A Response to the Response to Amendment One

For the past week I’ve been mourning.

As you may know {I’d be surprised if you didn’t}, the proposed amendment to North Carolina’s state constitution passed last Tuesday night during the states primary elections. The Amendment stated that “the only domestic legal union recognized in this state is that between a man and a woman.” For months North Carolinians from all walks of life had been working hard to ensure that this amendment did not pass. Even many of those who are opposed to gay marriage saw the harms of this amendment and campaigned against it. The campaign for the passage of the amendment was a powerful one as well and the many social conservatives in our state didn’t need a whole lot of convincing.

I was one of many who had been working against the amendment. In retrospect, I wish I had done more. But myself, and many of my friends, put a lot of effort into stopping this amendment from passing.

So, obviously I was upset when it did pass.

That first night though, I was still optimistic. I wanted to just look to the future. I’m certain that this amendment, along with those passed by 30 other states, will soon be overturned by a ruling at the federal level. Until then, I am determined to continuing working for equality.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the discussion.

In the days since the amendments passage those people that I believed to be on my side of the equality debate lashed out at my beloved state. Celebrities tweeted nasty things about North Carolinians. Internet memes began popping up about marrying your cousin. Articles came out about how North Carolina is just a bunch of backwards rednecks. People even flooded the Official NC Tourism Facebook page with hatred for our state saying that they used to visit but would never return to such an awful place.

This broke my heart. If you’ve ever met me, you know that I love North Carolina. I would challenge you to find a person who is prouder than I of their home state. I grew up on family land {I can trace it five generations back} in the foothills of NC. I’ve lived as far east as Wilmington and as far west as Waynesville and I’ve loved every inch of it. I know the hearts of the people in this state and they are not a hateful group. North Carolina politics is a very complex game. It’s not a state that could easily be summed up as a red or blue.

So, for the few people who are going to read this, I’d like to share the facts about the story of Amendment One.

Yes, North Carolina is typically a socially conservative state, but we’re also very progressive in a lot of ways. In 2010, the Republican Party took control of the NC Legislature for the first time in nearly a century. This allowed them to propose the aforementioned constitutional amendment. They had been trying to push such legislation through for several years and had failed time and time again. Now that they had control, they were able to push it through easily and put it up for popular vote. However, it wasn’t just put up for any vote, it was placed on the NC Primary ballot. At the time, the Primary ballot contained no significant Democratic race since the President had no significant challenger and our Democratic Governor, Bev Perdue, was also running for reelection. So, the plan was to put an issue that would be an easy decision for almost any Republican in our state on a GOP dominated Primary ballot.

I think that this alone shows that the state GOP knew from the start that they would have a fight on their hands.

We worked hard. We campaigned against this legislation. Gov. Perdue decided {mysteriously} to no longer run for reelection at a time when most folks favored her to win. We rejoiced. Now Democrats would have a reason to be at the polls that day.

Still, the vast amount of misinformation was too much. Many people didn’t realize what this amendment was all about. Polls showed that nearly 60% of North Carolinians were in favor of either gay marriage and/or civil unions, but the majority of voters didn’t understand that this amendment would ban both. Because it was on a primary ballot, many voters didn’t understand that this would be their only chance to vote on the issue – they believed that this was just to see if it would be included on the November ballot. Still more didn’t realize that the amendment would take rights away from not only gay couples, but straight couples that were unmarried and their children as well.

It was insane the amount of miscommunication and misinformation that was present in this debate.

Furthermore, only 14% of the North Carolina population turned out to vote by May 8. So, when the news reported that NC had overwhelmingly voted to approve the ban on gay marriage, what they should have said was that about 9% of the NC population voted to amend a constitution that affects 100% of the citizens in the state. It’s outrageous to me to think that that small a number could be allowed to change the constitution. Even the idea of a constitution being put to a popular vote should be ridiculous.

The whole point of a constitution is to protect the rights of a minority, so how can we let a majority vote decide it’s fate?

But even then, the thing that hurt most about the hateful words from celebrities and equality activists from out of state was that by condemning our state they simply brushed aside every effort that we had made to fight this amendment. When they called us ignorant hicks they completely dismissed the fact that North Carolina, unlike 30 other states that had passed these kind of amendments, had put up one hell of a fight.

To those people I would ask, Where were you before the vote? I didn’t see any of them down here on the ground working for equality. I didn’t even see them talking about it online until the day before. Many of us had reached out to various persons of influence for months with little to no response. Then suddenly the day after there they were. Condemning us. These were people who were supposed to be a positive influence in the world, but instead of helping out before hand they waited til the damage was done so that they could prove that they had been right about those Southerners all along.

Here in North Carolina we’re going to keep fighting. We hope you all will come for a visit, and next time maybe you can join us.

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What Might Have Been and What Still May Be {thoughts on American Indians and NC Amendment One)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how small decisions can change the course of history.

One tiny decision can have an enormous impact on our collective future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1830s. If you are not familiar with this time period in US History, this was the time when Native Americans east of the Mississippi River were fighting for their rights as sovereign nations. At the time, the biggest battle was being fought between the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation (which included what is modern day north-west Georgia, parts of Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina). Georgia had discovered gold in the hills in which the Cherokee lived and had decided that that land was rightfully theirs. They passed a number of state laws restricted the rights of the Indians, even going so far as to make it illegal for an Indian to testify in court (this literally made it possible for the white settlers to get away with murder).

The Cherokee were a “civilized” tribe and still believed in the inherent goodness of the US government to protect them from these wrong doings. Several young tribal members, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, among others, had been educated and received law degrees. They knew they’re rights and they challenged the State of Georgia in a series of legal battles going all the way to the Supreme Court. The tribe argued that because they were a sovereign nation that the State of Georgia had no right to pass a law to govern the actions of Indians or Whites on Cherokee land. {this is the greatly abridged version}

The amazing thing is that the Cherokee won.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the tribe. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the tribe was a “domestic dependent nation” under the authority of the US government, but that no state had any right to pass laws governing American Indian nations.

Essentially the court ruled that Indian Nations are US states. In the same way that Georgia couldn’t pass a law that governs North Carolinians, the court decided they could not pass a law that governed Cherokees either.

The Cherokees were thrilled. They had won. They would be allowed to keep their land in Georgia and govern themselves as they pleased.

Unfortunately, Georgia was not done fighting. They wanted the tribe gone. The Georgian militia was already pushing the tribe westward and in order for the Supreme Courts ruling to be upheld, the tribe would need the help of the US Military. President Andrew Jackson, who sided with the Georgians, famously said, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” Jackson decided to disobey the Court and withhold military support from the tribe.

Eventually, due to increased violence and pressure from the Georgians and the Federal Government, the tribe was convinced to moved westward to Oklahoma. The journey resulted in the death of around 4,000 members of the Cherokee population and became known as the Trail of Tears.

What I’ve been thinking about so much lately is how that one tiny decision by Andrew Jackson to not uphold the Supreme Court’s decision completely changed our nation. Imagine if the decision was upheld and the tribes east of the Mississippi River were allowed to stay. Many of the Nations (they may never have been called ‘reservations’) at that time would have been larger than many of the states in the North-East.

Then as America expanded westward, many of the Indian wars may have been avoided. We could be looking at a landscape to the West whose states and territories included not only Wyoming and Nebraska, but Lakota and Crow. Not only Arizona and New Mexico, but Navajo and Pueblo.

Instead of the near extinction of an entire race of people, we could be looking at a United States where the New World and the Old lived together peacefully and one was not dominated and devastated by the other. What a beautiful place it would be.

But one man decided to say, “No.”

__________________________________________

This brings me to the modern day.

Tomorrow, North Carolina, my beloved home state, will vote in it’s official Primary Election.

But this is no ordinary Primary Election.

This year, no matter which Primary Ballot you choose – Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Unaffiliated – one thing will be the same. You will be asked to vote FOR or AGAINST a Constitutional Amendment.

This Amendment reads, “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

There are so many reasons to vote AGAINST this Amendment and not a single reason to vote for it.

As far as gay marriage is concerned, there is already a law in our state making it illegal. This Amendment will not change that whether it passes or fails. In that regard, it is completely unnecessary.

However, this Amendment goes farther than simply being unnecessary, it is harmful to the families of our state. Because of the poorly chosen wording of this Amendment children of unmarried parents could loose their health insurance, women who have been victims of domestic violence could loose many of their protections under the law, and couples in domestic partnerships (both gay and straight) will loose hospital visitation rights, health coverage through employers, etc.

Lastly, this Amendment would codify discrimination into our states constitution.

It has always been my understanding that the Constitution was intended to protect the rights of the minority. This Amendment would do just the opposite; stripping rights from LGBT persons and straight persons alike. North Carolina, like many states, has passed laws like this in the past, and each time we have repealed them. We’ve been embarrassed by our ancestors treatment of Indians, of African Americans, and in time, we’ll be embarrassed of our treatment of our LGBT family.

Tomorrow is our chance to make the right decision.

Tomorrow we can vote AGAINST Amendment One.

Tomorrow we can avoid having to explain to our children why we thought it was ok to deny rights to loving couples.

Tomorrow we can vote AGAINST Amendment One.

Tomorrow we can make a small decision that could change everything.

We can never change the past, but tomorrow we can change the future.

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Christian.

Growing up in North Carolina, I went to church. I read the Bible. I had parents who were involved in church. I hung out with Christian kids. And I went to church some more.

When I graduated high school, I went to college. A Baptist college. Not a particularly strict one (by my standards), but Baptist none-the-less. At this college I studied the Bible. I hung out with Christian friends. I went to church.

All the while I had been learning about Jesus. My friends had also been learning about Jesus. We were told that Jesus loved everyone equally. Red. Yellow. Black. White. He didn’t judge us. In fact he loved us so much that he died to protect us. All of us.

So, my friends and I decided we should try and love everyone. Protect everyone.

We tried.

And we’re still trying.

But to our surprise, these same people teaching us about Jesus didn’t approve. They started to tell us we were wrong for trying.

Some people don’t deserve help, they said.

We disagreed.

They weren’t so sure we were Christians anymore.

We disagreed.

But after awhile we thought, maybe they’re right. After all, how could we both be Christians. We knew a lot of Christians who used the word LOVE, but didn’t act on it. We knew a lot of Christians who used the word FORGIVENESS, but didn’t offer it. We knew a lot of Christians who used the word PEACE, but called for war.

How could we call ourselves by the same name as they did?

How can we call ourselves by the same name as they do?

And why would we want to?

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Gypsies and the Meaning of Life.


A little over a year ago I was in Europe. I was with Sarajane and my brother, Tyler, on a backpacking trip across the continent. We had an awesome time on the trip and we got to see and do things that we had always dreamt of. Like most families, however, we had a few arguments along the way and on one particular evening I found myself walking alone through the streets of Paris.

I was in a particularly thoughtful mood that evening and was seeking a bit of spiritual direction. We had not been too far from Notre Dame when our little group split up and so I decided to head in that direction, hoping that it would bring me some peace and give me a place to sit and pray. I’ve always been drawn to tradition and the Catholic Church is full of it. I arrived at the cathedral and the building looked spectacular in the night, but it was a bit crowded. Nevertheless I sat down on a short wall and focused on the front of the building. I meditated for a bit on the carvings of Jesus and the saints above the door but was continually distracted by the crowds. There were vendors selling trinkets and performers twirling fire and asking for tips. It was not the sacred spot that I had hoped to find.

So, I decided to wander on back towards the hostel and see if I could locate Tyler and Sarajane. Walking around the back of the hostel I thought that the gargoyles kind of looked like demons trying to escape from the building – I’ve always though gargoyles were an odd choice for a church building. I continued on, walking alongside the river and finally coming to the small bridge that I needed to cross.

Here on this particular bridge was the strangest thing. A bearded gypsy looking fellow had set up camp. He was older, wearing a huge blue trench coat that fell all the way to his ankles and looked like he had patched it together himself. He sat on a little bench playing the flute and reading poetry, but not asking for anything in return. Behind him was his mode of transportation – some sort of motorized contraption made from old bike tires and what looked like the frame of a dune buggy. It also had large butterfly wings made from old pipe and canvas. Scattered all around him and across the bridge was his artwork; a large poster with some poetry he had written and five or six water fountains made from old soda bottles, piping, some sort of lighting, and a number of other items. They were really beautiful and I’m still not quite sure how they worked. All this was illuminated by the fountains and a couple of street lights.

I sat down on the sidewalk across from him along with a number of other folks. When he read the poetry there was a small group of girls who would interject with questions. I picked up that the poetry must have some sort of political meaning and that they were debating a bit. He laughed and was jolly regardless. He would answer there questions and from time to time look over at me, tell some joke (I assume) and laugh. I would nod and laugh in return, not having any clue what he was saying (since it was in French).

After a while the girls left and he spoke to me waving at me to come over and talk. I got up and he continued speaking to me. I finally admitted that I didn’t know a word of French and he laughed as if it was the funniest thing in the world. He introduced himself in English as Michael. He asked where I was from and what I was doing in Paris. I admitted that I was just wandering and taking some time off after school, but that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I returned. He seemed very concerned and offered up some unsolicited but very much appreciated advice. He told me that I needed a job – he believed it important for a person to have a job. But, more importantly it is important to find a purpose. Not just to work, but to work for something that can give meaning to your life. Life without a purpose, he said, can lead a man to a dark and dangerous place. Second, he told me to never stop learning, but to truly learn one must also teach.

I told him that I appreciated his advice and we said goodbye, shaking both hands in a criss-cross as was his custom. I made my way back to our hostel where I found Tyler and Sarajane who probably thought I was crazy and passed out from the exhaustion of the day.

I’ve never really shared that story, but I think about it often. We’ve finally settled down for a little while and I’ve found a job but I’m still looking for the purpose. I’ve tried to continue learning (not sure how great a job I’ve done) but I certainly haven’t done any teaching. So, I guess this post is mostly a confession. A confession that I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life.

Peace.

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American Roadtrip. (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Home!)

Hello.

Longest post title ever? We covered a lot of ground last week. We’ve been home in Lenoir for a few days now and are trying to get some rest. It’s been good to just sleep with no pressure to do anything exciting. We really enjoyed the trip, but now it’s time for rest.

This will be my last post of roadtrip pictures and then I’ll be taking a week off from blogging. I hope you will check back next week though as I will be starting a fun new photo project. For now, enjoy the last pics from the American Roadtrip.

**Also, forgive the quality of a few of these photos. I started having trouble with my camera and decided not to take it out as much, so a few of these are cell phone pics.

Seeing Boston firefighters is kind of like seeing famous people…

We walked down to the waterfront.

Ran into an Italian festival and they had several Italian made cars out for show. Couldn’t help but stop.

Sarajane loved the market.

We stopped by the capital building in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s a beautiful state.

In Connecticut we stopped for dinner at the Clam Castle. It was some amazing seafood.

Sarajane likes to color.

Sarajane took this shot on the way into New York!

In New York, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with our friends Logan and Robert. Rob’s favorite game is stand beside the Van Gogh and wait for comments.

View of Central Park from the top of the Met. Because of Rob’s connections we got to cut in line for the Alexander McQueen exhibit.

A few summers ago I worked as an intern at Graffiti and took Sarajane by to see the church.

On our way out of town we came out to load up the car and it was gone. Apparently, we parked less than five feet (I don’t think we did) in front of a fire hydrant (that was out of commission).

In Philadelphia we of course stopped in Love Park.

Played a game of rummy on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Abe’s House.

Parked across the field from the Washington Monument.

Saw these crazy clouds in Virginia on the way home.

My parents left us a bottle of champagne and some nice gifts for us as we arrived home at 4am.

48 States and I still think North Carolina is the best!

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American Roadtrip. (West Virginia, Ohio, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine)

Hello.

Well, we’re back from our trip. We finished up yesterday (got back at 4am) and have been sleeping a lot. It’s kind of bittersweet being back. It’s great to see all our friends and family, and it’s great to consistently know what surface you will be sleeping on. But, we’ll definitely miss the adventure. The past week was a real rush and we covered 13 states in 7 days. Here is the first half. Check back Monday for the final installment of the American Roadtrip.

On the way to Morgantown, West Virginia, we crossed over New River Gorge and stopped for a look.

If you remember my post from Kentucky, you’ll remember High Bridge in Wilmore is the highest bridge over water in the U.S. The bridge here, over New River Gorge, is second.

It’s a spectacular view.

In Ohio we stopped in Youngstown. It was not super exciting, but was our only stop in the state. Hope to make it up to Cleveland sometime.

We saw a few farms on our way through Ohio. Typical mid-west.

In Buffalo, New York we ate at the Anchor Bar – home of the original Buffalo wings. This is not undisputed however, so next time we’ll try their rivals.

Took this photo of Niagara Falls with my cell phone. It was too rainy to risk bringing the camera out.

In Burlington, Vermont we went for breakfast at this little bagel shop. They boil the bagels in honey water before baking in a large brick oven. It was fun to see the entire process.

Also, stopped in at Speeder and Earl’s Coffee Shop. Great chai, neat atmosphere.

These guys were rocking it in the streets of Burlington.

Burlington is a beautiful city and sits on a huge lake. If not for the winters, we might consider living here.

New Hampshire had unusually cool rest areas – they were all old historic homes. Rest areas mean a lot after driving this long.

New Hampshire also had quite a few lakes and rivers, which I particularly liked.

In Rochester, New Hampshire we stopped in at Mel Flannagan’s Irish Pub and Cafe. It was super cool – half pub, half coffee shop. The people running it were some of the friendliest people we’ve met. Definitely stop in if you are passing through the state.

In Maine, we met our friend Matt in Biddeford. It was quite foggy.

There are quite a few salt water marshes in Maine and Matt’s grad school friends study the wildlife that live in them.

It was hard to find a beach that wasn’t private property.

So we skipped the fence.

I know this is a terrible picture, but this was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It’s called a lobster roll and is made of lobster meat and a bunch of other stuff. Don’t ask me what, but it’s awesome.

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Music. (Avett Brothers)

Hello.

So, today is the final day of our five month trek across America! We’re in Virginia, our 48th state. Listening to the iPod and this song came on. I felt like it was perfect timing.

Enjoy Salina by the Avett Brothers.

Check back Friday for pics from our final week on the road.

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American Roadtrip. (Final Week)

Hey folks.

So, we’re finishing up our roadtrip this week. It has been quite hectic and we’ve hit West Virginia, Ohio, New York (Buffal0), Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusets, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and now, New York (New York). As you can imagine, I haven’t had much time for editing and uploading – I hope you’ll forgive me. I will plan on posting the final pics this coming week. For now, enjoy this cell phone shot of Hammonasset Beach, Connecticut. (We snuck into someone’s backyard for this one)

Also, I had no idea my cell phone would take this nice of a picture…

 

 

 

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American Roadtrip. (Pit Stop)

Hello.

This weekend we swung down to Boiling Springs, NC to shoot our second wedding of the year! It was nice to be home for a few days and visit with both our families and some really great friends. It was so nice, we almost didn’t want to finish the trip. But, we’re not quitters and we’re so close now. Today we are in West Virginia on the way to Buffalo, NY. I’ll have pictures from the last leg of the trip up next week, but for now – my favorite pet turtle, Ezekiel.

Sarajane got this little guy for me for my birthday last year… I might be the only person in the world who wanted a turtle for his birthday.

She loves him too!

Thanks to Chris and Joanna for watching him while we’ve been away!

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