Queen City Quirks : Carolina Thread Trail

Welcome to the first edition of Queen City Quirks: a (hopefully) regular series where I share some of my favorite things – ranging from outdoor adventures to foodie finds – about Charlotte. Lord knows I take enough pictures and can ramble on long enough about things I enjoy!

While I may not come across this way in my everyday life, I am one who quite enjoy being outdoors and being active! While I’m no wilderness woman, nor am I an Olympic athlete (or, quite frankly, an amateur athlete #nocoordination), I have found a variety of activities that I enjoy partaking in – that require little (to no) skill.

This past Tuesday, my mom invited me to go on a bike tour sponsored by Carolina Thread Trail. Carolina Thread Trail is “a regional trail network that will ultimately reach 15 counties and more than 2.3 million people.” The trail network prides itself on being more than just a spot to be active, but on being an area to preserve the abundant nature and history of the Carolinas.


Truthfully, I had never heard of the Carolina Thread Trail, but I am huge fan of the Four Mile Creek Greenway in South Charlotte, and I love hearing that the area will be expanding its paths! According to our tour guide on Tuesday, Mary Ann, the trail system will eventually span about 1500 miles – unbelievable! But, like me, very few others have heard of the incredible work that the Carolina Thread Trail is doing, so the organization has been offering free, yes FREE, hiking, biking and paddling events led by their amazing team members!


My mom and I participated in the group’s monthly Queen City Joyride – where a guide leads you along one of the area’s existing greenway paths, stopping along the way to discuss the area, as well as its history. This past Tuesday, the ride was held at Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which will eventually link over 19 miles of trails.

We started the ride at the Metropolitan shopping center, where we picked up our free B-Cycles to use for the ride. In case you’re wondering B-Cycle is, it’s an urban bike sharing system located in Charlotte, with over 200 bikes parked near Center City. All are available for public use, with a small fee. It’s a great way to get active and try something new, without a full purchase commitment.


We then rode from the Metropolitan all the way down through Freedom Park, eventually making our way to Park Road Shopping Center. We stopped along the way for small snippets of trail knowledge, and history lessons, and were able to bike at whatever pace we pleased. It was great to connect with fellow Charlotteans we didn’t know, but who, like us, also wanted to learn more about the city they call home. While the Greenway did have some sharp turns along the way, the views of Uptown Charlotte, as well as the bustling Sugar Creek, were spectacular. It was a peaceful ride during which we passed many smiling faces of walkers and runners, all itching to take advantage of this beautifully restored pathway.


I really can’t say enough about this event, and not just because I am a broke twenty-something. I honestly could not believe it was completely and utterly FREE, but because it was a great communal activity. I enjoyed meeting fellow “neighbors” and taking in the brisk fall air as we explored Charlotte’s lesser known attractions. I can’t recommend enough that you all check out the Carolina Thread Trail events calendar (see link here) and partake in one of their many free activities! Because with word spreading, I’m sure a deal like this won’t last forever. Enjoy!

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Charlotte’s Got A Lot

There’s nothing like a long car ride (or shower for that matter…) to really get you thinking. This past weekend, I had the pleasure (seriously) of babysitting my adorably wonderful niece, Avery. During my 2-hour journey home, my mind wandered, as it so often does.

I thought about how absolutely flipping grateful I was to be able to drive not too far to be able to spend the weekend with Avery. How down to my core, I could not be more thankful to be a car ride away from all of my favorite human beings. Seriously! I’ve got my parents and one sister (and her fiancée!) in Charlotte, and another sister, her husband and their sweet angel baby just down the interstate. I’ve got my closest friends around the corner (or quite literally, in my apartment). Life is pretty dang good.


I had been thinking, as well, about my blog and how I haven’t written here in quite some time. I mentioned this to my girlfriend, Kenan, and she suggested it’s because I’ve been too busy enjoying and living my life to want to sit down and document it. And admittedly, I think that’s exactly the reason. I find it easier to express myself in written word when I am down, and perhaps I don’t even find any need to express myself when “up!” I know I appreciate these “ups” because of all my “downs,” but I think it fair to myself to document the highs as well.

I won’t say that getting to this point of sheer gratitude and overall happiness has been a walk in the park because it certainly hasn’t. For those of you who know me, or perhaps have even just had the slightest of interaction with me, you know that I tend to be an anxious individual. And by “tend to be anxious individual” I mean I am probably one of the most anxious people you’ve ever had the joy of encountering. So, for me, being content and having a true sense of peace may look a little different than others, but gosh it’s a welcome frame of mind…that’s taken work to get to.

After college, I had an incredible job with Comcast/NBCUniversal. I lived in two incredible cities and made countless incredible friends. In addition, I had a plethora of incredible opportunities at my fingertips from this job. On all logical accounts, I had it made and I was set. But, I found it next to impossible to connect this logic with my emotion. At every turn, with every new and exciting development, my heart was still pulling me far away from this incredible job in these incredible cities. Once my emotions took hold of me, my mental health suffered, my eating disorder crept back and my heart felt as if it were shattered. I no longer even felt like myself.

Truth be told, and again from a logical standpoint, it makes NO sense. Even to me. How could I be unhappy with all that I had? I was not without – not without employment, shelter, food, love, friendship, etc. I had it all, but something about it was not right. But in order to make things right, I had to make a difficult choice – to leave the incredible job in the incredible cities with the incredible people. Let me tell you, it hurt. It stung like hell. I’m an overly self-critical person, and this was a blow to my pride. I had given up. I was weak. I was stupid. I had let go of the greatest opportunity I’d ever been give because, plain and simple, I was a frickin’ baby. Or, at least that’s how I felt.


When I arrived in Charlotte, I was unemployed and felt life had beaten me at the ripe old age of 23. Wonderful. I managed to pull myself up by the boot straps (barely) and set out interviewing and found a new job that was just as incredible, with equally as incredible people. I still judged myself, though. This wasn’t Comcast/NBC, and Charlotte isn’t NYC or Philly. I let self-doubt creep in. I worried others must be thinking the same – what a loser that girl Katherine is. Blah, blah, blah, on and on and on.

I don’t know when it hit me though – when it hit me that #1 no one gives rat’s behind what you’re doing, Katherine and #2 you don’t give a rat’s behind what other people think about what you’re doing – but whenever those 2 things clicked inside me, I felt pure contentment. So content, in fact, that I didn’t even realize just how content I was…know what I’m sayin’?

I made, in my opinion, some pretty tough choices and took, for me (aka one of the most risk averse humans to walk this planet), some pretty big risks to get to this point. I worked hard to settle back into Charlotte, to reintroduce myself to my beloved hometown and to get involved with people I loved so dearly, but hadn’t regularly interacted with in person in years. While making these decisions and doing these things wasn’t always easy because of my self-doubt and quite frankly, self-pity, doing them is what got me out of my rut, and got me to believing in myself.

And, even though I keep telling people “I just moved back to Charlotte,” I’m coming to the realization that it’s almost been an entire year. An entire year for which I am utterly, unabashedly grateful and have become utterly, unabashedly happy.

Charlotte, you’ve really got a lot, and for that, I am thankful.

 

But This Wasn’t The Plan…

Sometimes, there’s nothing like a nice, long drive alone to fully immerse yourself in your thoughts. So, today, as I drove home from visiting Megan + Rusty + Avery in Greenville (well, technically Taylors), I was flooded with thoughts – and suddenly flooded with tears.

As I drove down I-85, I let the tears fall freely. Certainly I was sad to be leaving their cute little family after a great weekend, but I realized these tears were representative of so much more. And one word kept resounding in my head: GRATITUDE. Unspeakable, unfathomable, overwhelming gratitude.

 

The majestic Queen City #704

My move back to Charlotte in December wasn’t planned. I was a part of a (wonderful) two-year rotational program with Comcast/NBCUniversal. I had completed my first rotation (a year in NYC) and was about to finish my second (6 months in Philadelphia), and head off to my third. I would move back to New York for my third rotation, and finish off the program at NBCU, where I would then transition into a full-time role. That was the plan.

But, my heart was hurting. And as a result of my heart hurting, my health (both mental and physical) was suffering terribly. My anxiety had peaked, and my eating disorder had me strangled in its grips. Every thought of mine was filled with paranoia – from work to relationships to food. I worried I wasn’t performing at my job, I worried people were mad at me, I worried (and obsessed) over every calorie that entered my body.

With the flare in my anxiety, and with the constant thoughts about food (and the, more often than not, daily bulimic episodes), I slowly felt myself losing it. I was sleeping 11+ hours a night and yet, unable to get out of bed. I was mopey and sad and hurting. And worst of all, I was scared.

I was scared as I witnessed my eating disorder creep fully back into my life. It had overtaken me – every bite, lick, taste and thought was consumed with terrible eating disorder behavior. I tried to brush this aside, I tried to quietly take control of things on my own, but with each day, I was further gone.

I knew that if I didn’t make some kind of a change that this would destroy me. So, I resigned.

I left behind my first job out of college, in the middle of the prestigious program I was a part of (and had become a part of me), with an amazing company (and amazing people). It was terrifying, but I knew I had to, because truly, my life depended on it.

I needed my support system, and I needed them at my side. That’s not to say I didn’t have a support system in NYC or Philly (I did – and I love them all!), but I needed my family. I needed my very closest friends. And, I needed my doctors. I needed the people who knew me down to my core, because I was drowning.

Nick Nick Nick Nick


Kat & Cat


To tell your employer and your coworkers that you are resigning is probably the scariest thing ever (especially when you don’t have another job lined up). And it wasn’t the plan. This was going against everything my Type-A, perfectionist self stood for. How could I leave a job, mid-commitment? How could I let down this company? How could I let down all of my fellow program mates (who had become my closest friends)? As a person who has high standards for herself (and who is very hard on herself…), I struggled, but the voice inside my head, and every fiber of my gut, told me I had to do this. I had to do this, but doing so meant going against “the” plan.

The plan I had worked hard for – late nights at the college library, interview prep, 2 big city moves. I had planned my life around this plan (for lack of better words), and suddenly I was going astray. And I was scared.

But, as I sat today on I-85 in tears, it hit me – I had gone against my plan, but I had listened to, followed and trusted in God’s plan. Of course! Why hadn’t I realized that sooner?

Gal Pals!


Avery is everything.

 While it wasn’t my plan to leave my job, God knew that this move was just what I needed, and he planted the idea in my head and lead me to act on this. He was the voice inside my head telling me to return home, because He knew that it was what I needed. And, He gave me the strength to talk to my employers about all of this. He redirected my plan so that I could follow His.

Family.


Since moving back, I have made strides in my health – first in freely discussing it, but second in gaining control back from my eating disorder. I’m not perfect (and never will be), but I am making progress, and that’s all I can ask for.

Most importantly, though, I’ve been reunited with my people. And, while I knew I missed them when in NYC and Philly (hello FOMO all the time), being back has made me realize how much I must’ve missed them, and how many milestones I would have missed had I not come back. Kelley & Matt’s engagement, Megan & Rusty moving into a new house, Panther tailgates with my parents, every second of Avery’s life – all things I wouldn’t have been able to actively participate in had I been home. In addition, I’ve been reunited with some of my best friends from high school and college (and found a job I enjoy!) – what more could I ask for?

Just missing Rusty and Avery 😦


A huge, huge part of me felt like I was letting so many people down by moving (namely, my employers/coworkers…and myself). I was embarrassed. I felt like I was being judged. I felt like a failure for not sticking to the plan.

Hindsight is 20/20, though, and while I didn’t stick to my plan, I listened to God’s voice in me and rewrote my plan, according to His direction. And for that, and so many other things, I am grateful.

XOXO

Movie Theater Forecast: Snow and Strength

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Walt Disney‘s latest animated film, Frozen. If you haven’t had a chance yet to see it, STOP ALL THAT YOU ARE DOING AND GO TO THE MOVIE THEATER IMMEDIATELY. Ahem. 

In my humble opinion, Frozen is Disney’s most progressive film to date. While most Disney movies focus on a princess hoping to be saved by her knight in shining armor, Frozen takes a different approach. In Frozen, a lead female character is the heroine, and she is able to save herself. 

This movie is the ultimate portrayal of girl power, and it also shows that the bond between sisters is one that can never be broken.

The movie turns the typical fairytale story on its head, and portrays a female character who is real to the core, and who at time is a bit awkward, but who, in the end, proves that she is brave and valiant.

If you need some empowerment in your life, especially all you ladies out there reading this, go see Frozen – you will not regret it!

I’ll end with a sappy quote that has inspired me this week, and that I hope will serve to empower you until you are able to make a trip to the movie theater.

Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think & twice as beautiful as you’d ever imagined.

Uplift Monday: Texas Neighbors Trick or Treat for 14-Year-Old’s New Heart

anna king
Photo via http://gma.yahoo.com/photos/texas-neighbors-trick-or-treat-for-14-year-old-s-new-heart-photo-1383240566718.html

Halloween is such a fun holiday, particularly for children, as it allows people to let their imaginations run wild (and it’s an excuse to eat tons of candy). While Halloween at twenty-one has certainly lost some of the childhood charm, I was so pleased to read this article from Good Morning America about a Texas Neighborhood Trick or Treating to Save a 14-Year-Old’s Life.

Anna King, 14-years-old, from the Woodlands, Texas, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy in 2012, which has left her heart swollen and unable to pump properly, inhibiting her from attending school and participating in typical teen activities. Anna has been waiting for a heart transplant for 538 days, for far too long.

A local mortgage broker, Jason Higham, learned of Anna’s condition, and he decided to step up to the plate and make a difference. He arranged an event, “Halloween for a Heart,” held last Thursday in the Woodlands, to raise money to help with Anna’s medical bills. He set up an online fundraising page (DONATE HERE), which at the time of GMA’s original article had raised over $10,000. Additionally, the town held a costume contest, a silent auction and a special trick-or-treating event with the specific purpose of raising money for Anna’s care and treatment.

Anna is said to have a positive attitude about her illness, and her optimism is clearly contagious, and it has inspired her community to rally around her.

So on this Monday, while I complain about a dull headache and having a day full of glasses, everything is put into perspective when hearing this story about Anna King, a young girl facing a difficult battle with a smile on her face. Keep smiling this week, my friends!

smile

Happy Monday!

Fall Break in Clemson

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Death Valley!

This past weekend, I headed down to Clemson, South Carolina for my fall break. While the Tigers took a beating from the Seminoles, overall it was a fabulous weekend spent with my wonderful family and friends.

On Friday morning, my boyfriend Aakash and I headed to Charlotte where we met up with my oldest sister, Kelley, and her boyfriend Matt. The four of us then hit the road for our final destination – Clemson!

On the way, we stopped in Greer, South Carolina to see my sister, Megan, and her fiance, Rusty, and their new home. It is absolutely breathtaking! I am very proud of the two of them, and excited to see what the future has in store for them.

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Megan and Rusty’s new house!

When we arrived in Clemson, we headed to my best friend Nick’s house. Nick lives in an amazing new town home complex and was kind enough to allow Aakash, Kelley, Matt and me to crash on air mattresses in his living room. After a night out at a couple bars in downtown Clemson, we went to bed and prepared ourselves for the big game day ahead.

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Found Maclin at Tiger Town Tavern!

Chapel Hill tailgates pale in comparison to those at Clemson. The gang and I started tailgating at 11 a.m. for an 8 p.m. game. Talk about aggressive! We munched on tailgate food and drank (in moderation, of course) all day. The tailgate scene itself was wild. Our group had a flat screen TV and satellite so we could stay in tune with other college football games. We were one of many groups doing this in a sea of orange.

After visiting some other tailgates and seeing some friends, Aakash and I made the trek up to our seats – we were nearly at the top! After watching the Seminoles destroy  the Tigers, we headed back to Nick’s house for some rest. It was hard to leave on Sunday, but the weekend was the perfect mixture of friends, family, football and fall!

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The gang’s all here.