New site

As a graduate student studying community journalism, I’ve built a website profiling a community mental health center in Birmingham, Ala. called Piper Place. is a storytelling website that allows people with serious mental illnesses to speak out against stereotypes. Please visit the site here, and let me know what you think here.

Let’s work together to dispel some of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 7.13.46 PM


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Confessions of a white kid and the terror of the tanning bed

I’m a white kid. I’m not talking Rory Gilmore “peaches and cream” white. I’m talking transparent legs in the winter white. 


As a dedicated pale kid, I’ve stayed away from the tanning bed. I’ll admit, I’ve tried my fair share of sunless tanners and ended up looking like a Doritos locos taco and smelling like a bag of pretzels (scent-free Jergens natural glow, you lie).

But I’ve always stayed far from a tanning bed. Sure, sometimes I’d wear SPF 30 at band camp instead of my usual SPF 50, but I know my limits.

Earlier this week, I thought my fear of the tanning bed had subsided. Maybe I’d even give it a go, with the proper sunscreen, of course. After all, my apartment complex offers free tanning. And who am I to turn my nose up at anything that’s free 99?

Leave it to my big mouth to spoil my well-rationalized plans for a bit of bronze. As soon as I mentioned it to my fiancé, he hit me with this gem, “You’re pale. You’re going to get cancer. It’s free now, but I don’t want to pay for your cancer later. I’ll buy you a fake tan instead. It’s cheaper.”

I’m not sure if that’s love or not, but I’ll take it.

Magically, he managed to find an article recently published by USA Today about a woman said to be “too fat to tan.” 


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Kelly McGrevey of Norton, Ohio was turned away from a tanning salon because of her weight. At 230 pounds, the salon would only allow McGrevey to use the standing bed, which was out of order at the time. The kicker? They wouldn’t refund the money she’d already spent on a month’s worth of tanning.


Welcome back, perfectly rational fear of the tanning bed.

So, I guess I’ll remain a white kid for the time being. But if you catch a whiff of Snyder’s or Rolled Gold with no pretzels in sight, you’ll know I’ve gone back to the bottle. Of self tanner, of course. 


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Thank you, morning news programs, for the YouTube videos

I don’t watch morning news programs frequently, usually because I’m running so late in the a.m. that I’m lucky to put on two matching shoes.

Yesterday, however, was one of those rare mornings where I had a full 15 minutes to eat breakfast and watch a little T.V. Being a journalism student, I thought it’d be most appropriate for me to watch the Today Show or some other morning news staple instead of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

It’s no secret that morning news programs produce a blend of hard and soft news. Most people don’t want to wake up and hear bad news. We’d rather watch animal talent shows (the horse that played basketball totally should’ve won) or our favorite Today Show anchors learning to do Gangnam Style.


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So, since it seems we’ve been waking up to a lot of bad news lately, here’s a roundup of morning news-inspired clips. Because sometimes you just need a little good news.

Take it away, cat licking a vacuum cleaner!


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Not to be outdone, here’s Boo, the world’s cutest dog.


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This duck following a puppy.


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This baby in a bathtub laughing hysterically at a dog.


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This puppy who just can’t handle this dandelion right now.


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And, finally, these otters holding hands.


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Bless it.

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The face in the courthouse window and Honey Boo Boo’s momma: An analysis of Southern culture

Like most fourth graders in Alabama’s public school systems, I was subjected to a haphazard attempt to teach Alabama history. We had a textbook and everything. It lived in the milk crate under my desk up until the last two weeks of the school year, when my teacher finally remembered it (in her defense, we had also been learning American history and social studies all year long).

Needless to say, we didn’t make it very far in those to weeks. We learned about some of the state’s Native American ancestors and were tested on the names and locations of all of Alabama’s 67 counties (I can remember about 10 of them, on a good day). What stuck with me most about Alabama history, and I’m confident most fourth graders would agree, was reading The Thirteen Ghosts of Alabama and Jefferya book of folklore by Katherine Tucker Windham. 

The story about the face in the courthouse window was my favorite. Set in the 1870’s in Carrollton, Ala., the story tells the tale of Henry Wells, a former slave who was accused of burning down the Pickens County Courthouse. Legend holds that he peered down from a courthouse window onto an angry mob and promised that his face would haunt them forever. As he cursed the mob, lightning struck the courthouse, etching his image into the window. No matter how many times the pane is replace or the window scrubbed clean, the image remains.


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It was just about the coolest thing I’d ever heard. 

Fast forward 13 years. Last month, my dad emailed me a ticket to see The Face in the Courthouse Window–The Play at the Pickens County Courthouse. I get the feeling that my dad thinks I’m still nine. He’s right. I was pumped.

So, we drove four hours round-trip to see the play, put on with the help of the University of West Alabama as a fundraiser for the maintenance of the courthouse. The stage was set up in the old courtroom. It was one of those tiny, small-town performances, the kind where they handed out paper fans because the air conditioner had to be turned off in order to hear the actors and a little old lady gets up to greet the audience. She told us she loved us all.

The UWA choir shuffled out onto a too-small platform to the side and started belting out hymns and spirituals. It’s been a while since I felt that southern.

The stage, sets and costumes were simple, there were no costume changes or special effects. But the music and the actors were incredible. It’s tough to get chills in an Alabama courtroom with no air conditioning in April. I did.


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There are lots of great things about seeing a small-town Alabama play, the passion, the music, the emotion. And then there are the accents. Southern people should not force southern accents. We already have them, for the most part. I could understand Honey Boo Boo’s family (without subtitles) more easily than I could understand some of these actors.

Still, I left feeling rather cultured. 

So, bravo to the people of Carrollton and their efforts to preserve a landmark to our southern lore. Also, to Honey Boo Boo’s momma, lest we forget that she has a boyfriend. 


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Detective Milledge and the case of the mysterious woo

I do not like wooers. They live and work among us, hiding their secret passion for yelling out “WOOOOOOOOOO” at ear-splitting decibels and inappropriate times. They woo during sporting events, at concerts and any other time when extreme levels of excitement need to be expressed. It is most apparent after said wooer has consumed copious amounts of alcohol, and it is amplified around other wooers.They pretend they cannot hold in their woos, but I know better.

The woo is most commonly known as the mating call of drunk girls, crossing the street from bar to bar on Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Mondays, depending on the time of year).


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It is rare to find a woo in the wild and born of natural, non-alcoholic circumstances.

And so began the case of the mysterious woo.


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No one speaks in Pure Barre class. It’s one of those social norms that never needs to be addressed because rational people instinctively know. Occasionally, someone will let out a grunt or a moan. Even a toot is acceptable every now and then. It’s a tough workout; these things happen.

But there has never before been a woo.

I thought I’d imagined it, that first woo. It was faint, half-hearted. But then I heard another, then another, then three more during the first exercise. Where were they coming from?

I looked around, surveying my surroundings for the most probable wooer. I decided that it was the college-aged girl in a baggy sorority t-shirt covered in a jumble of Greek letters. She was the prime suspect.

But I heard another. The sorority girl’s mouth never moved. My prime suspect had an alibi.

I finally caught her, the mysterious wooer. I would have never suspected her if I had not seen the woo escape her lips with my own eyes.

The case was cracked.

She was tall and lean, with toned arms and the hips of a 12-year-old boy. She looked the part of a yogi, but she wasn’t fooling anyone. Yogis do not woo.

Still, she persisted, wooing a total of 37 times during that 55-minute class. My eyes were tired by the end of it all; I had been giving her the stink-eye for nearly an hour.

I’ll concede that there is a time and a place for wooing. Perhaps at a dance competition, a bachelorette party, or a Jersey Shore nightclub. An early morning ballet-inspired fitness class is not one of them.

So wooers beware. You can disguise yourself in Lulu Lemon and carry around a sports bottle. But we know. We always know. Because you can’t keep those woos in forever.

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That guy stole my face: An exploration of doppelgängerdom (predominately in the form of Disney characters)

I have been told only twice in my life that I looked like someone famous. The first was in college, when my physical therapist told me I looked like Mandy Moore (I don’t, but I’ll take it). She subsequently diagnosed me with “cockeyedid knees.” I’m still searching WebMD.

The second was this summer, when a sweet first-grade girl wrapped in a giant pool towel told me I looked like Merida, the heroine of the Disney movie Brave.  Having experimented in my bathtub with a bottle of red hair dye a month earlier, I guess I kind of did.


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But no one has ever mistaken me for the president of the United States (although, I have been working on my triceps, so I’m a dead ringer for the first lady).

Louis Ortiz has been mistaken for President Barack Obama. In fact, he’s made a living as an Obama impersonator. Ortiz was featured on last week’s This American Life with Ira Glass (the interview was actually recorded in February of 2012, but seeing as how I’ve been living under a rock for the past 21 years, it was news to me).

In the interview, Ortiz, who had lost his job in 2008 and was playing pool in the Bronx to make ends meet, said he decided to wear a suit to Yankee Stadium, just to see how people would react. His face was on the jumbotron in no time, and mothers were handing him their babies to be kissed. No lie. He actually kissed babies. But just look at him, I would’ve thrown my first born his way, too.


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I love it. So, I turned to my trusty sidekicks, Pinterest and procrastination, to find more doppelgängers. After a very respectable and intelligent amount of time spent on the Internets, I present my findings:

The kid who looks like Linguini from Ratatouille 


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This chubby boy scout who looks like the kid from Up


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Chuck Norris and Vincent Van Gogh


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Justin Timberlake and this old-timey criminal


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Jack Black and the Barber of Seville


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and, wait for it…

This old man and Carl from Up


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Flat Christy blogs: The joys of kindergarten and the wonders of the U.S. postal system

It’s not every day that a supermodel-skinny, blonde bombshell dressed in a hot pink bodysuit ends up on your doorstep, willing to follow you to the ends of the earth. Unless, of course, your 5-year-old niece’s kindergarten class is doing a Flat Christy project. Check out that bod.


I’m guessing this femme fatale is somehow related to the less-glamorous Flat Stanley, a project started by a Canadian schoolteacher in 1995. For those of us who did not experience the glory that is Flat Stanley, like my poor, childhood-deprived fiancé (I sent him one in college, turns out the things that are cool when you’re 5 are just weird when you’re 19), the project involves sending Stanley, the unfortunate victim of a bulletin board accident that leaves him completely flat, to friends and family members. The technical purpose, if I remember correctly, is to learn letter writing and about creating community. Of course, the real thing students learn is whose flat friend travels the farthest, making them the most popular kid on the playground for at least two whole days.


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So, when Flat Christy arrived on my doorstep, complete with a journal and the request to take lots of pictures of the two of us having excellent adventures, I got a little nervous. The excitement of a super cute, towheaded 5-year-old rests in my hands. After all, what adventures does a worn-out grad student have? Um, tons, obviously. Flat Christy and I have big plans. A blog or two, perhaps an all-nighter and, of course, a week’s worth of classes. Hold on to your pink jumpsuit, Christy.

Flat Christy is perhaps the most tangible example of the awesomeness that is kindergarten. As a child of the 90s, most of my fondest memories of kindergarten center around Knex and the newest Disney VHS, a joy today’s iPad-wielding 5-year-olds will never know. But our flat friends have stood the test of time. So let’s raise our Capri Suns to Flat Christy; may her travels be safe and her postage adequate.

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