Reminiscing about 2020

With the ringing in of 2021, our first full year in Chattanooga has come to an end. The obvious thing to say is that 2020 was a ridiculous year.

On the surface, things looked pretty bad. I had three jobs this year, which is two jobs too many. I lost a job, resigned from a job, and had to go see a doctor to get on depression and anxiety medication. Mechanic bills for our car and veterinary bills piled up. Our cat passed away two weeks before Christmas, too. Add that all up and … ugh.

But if you dig a little deeper, I’d say things were good.

I’m thankful that we spent the pandemic in the Scenic City. We got outdoors more than ever this year, which was the safest thing to do.

I’m an adventurous soul. Not being able to travel in the past year has hurt me the most. But instead, we adventured around Chattanooga, seeing and doing things (mostly outdoors) that I had never expected to do.  

I have a Chattanooga area bucket list, and the majority of it has remained untouched. For instance, “Seeing a Lookouts baseball game” was impossible to cross off, because the entire season was cancelled. Likewise, we still haven’t taken a train ride with the Tennessee Valley Railroad. Trains are running, but I don’t feel comfortable going quite yet.

However, I did have a list of hiking trails I wanted to tackle, and that got completed, and then some.

We have hiked more in the last six months than I have hiked in my entire life. Some of the paths and trails we have done — ranging from easy flat gravel paths to moderate mountain hikes — were located at Big Soddy Creek Gulf, Greenway Farms, Booker T. Washington State Park, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Moccasin Bend, Prentice Cooper State Forest and Cloudland Canyon State Park.

It seemed like every time we finished one trail, we found another that we wanted to hike, and that is still the case now.

Getting outside kept me sane. It felt good to get our heart rates up, stretch our legs, make it to a gorgeous overlook, and feel accomplished.

We continued to hike as it got colder out, and we found that we quite enjoy winter hikes. I do not like winter time, as I get cold easily, but exercising like this is a good way to offset how our bodies feel in lower temperatures, and keep us more active throughout these months. I hope that we will continue to hike throughout January and February.

Hikes aside, I got a lot more exercise than ever before. I was averaging about three or four walks a day around my neighborhood. In September, I participated in a virtual 5K, and got a medal and a t-shirt for it. Walks were calming, and necessary for me, while I was going through bad bouts of anxiety.

Quitting my job was a huge risk, but it all worked out in the end. I was unemployed for about five weeks. Since Derek only taught two days a week last semester, we did a lot during the week days, to avoid crowds. We visited Wildflower Tea Shop for the first time, and it was nearly empty! We also went ice skating — something we had never done together — and there were only about half a dozen other people at the rink.

I hated working from home for my old job, but now I am thankful that I got to spend all of those months with our cat while she was still healthy, and I was home with her when she did get sick. All of that time that she spent on my lap every day are precious memories now.

I started my new job in early December, and I’m the happiest I have been in a long time. I thought I had wanted to leave journalism for marketing, but I discovered that journalism is where I am meant to me. This has put a lot of things into perspective.

I am cautiously looking forward to what 2021 may bring.

Social distancing day…? I’m losing track…

It’s raining today, and I’m thankful for the excuse to be forced to stay inside. Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day. We’ve had a month’s worth of sunny weekend days, which is a joke when you can’t go anywhere. I’ll bet that once this is all done and over with, it will rain for a month straight.

Toward the end of the week, I started looking up possible parks we could go to. City parks are closed, but I figured that parks not in Chattanooga would still be open. People need to exercise and walk their dogs, so something must be open. This is going against what I said last week, that we would err on the side of caution and assume that we couldn’t travel anywhere for exercise. I learned my lesson. The park that we had in mind, Greenway Farms in Hixon, was closed. I was disappointed.

Derek could tell how upset I was, so he started driving around random streets, pointing out the nice architecture of the houses. Meanwhile, I got a bad anxiety attack. Have you heard stories about people thinking they were having a heart attack, and it turns out it was just an anxiety attack? Well that is what it felt like for me, except I am so used to these attacks that I know what they are. It came on fast and sudden, and it was hard to breathe. My chest hurt. I am a little embarrassed that I had a bad anxiety attack after finding out a park was closed, but this is just what my mental health is like these days.

After I calmed down a bit, I was able to enjoy the drive. We saw some beautiful houses, some with front porch columns and turrets with green ivy climbing on them. It almost made the afternoon feel normal, like old times.

Overall, the day was good. I had ordered photos for scrapbooking, so I got that started yesterday. I will work on that again today. During dinner we watched The Martian, a great isolation themed movie for these times.

Next week I will be at my new job for a month. Time flies even when you’re stuck inside and the days run together. It is the hardest job I have ever trained for. It’s not the work that is hard, it is learning the process in order to do the work. There are a lot of new programs to learn. Everyone apologizes to me because I am having to learn everything remotely, but nothing can be done to change that.

Sleeping is hit or miss too. I have work nightmares almost every night, including the weekends too, which is frustrating. When it’s not a work related nightmare, I still have vivid and weird dreams.

I am experiencing frequent headaches now, and my acne is back in full force, which always happens when I am experiencing high levels of stress.

Earlier this week, to add on top of everyone’s Coronavirus related stress, an EF-3 tornado hit Chattanooga. The tornado hit in the middle of the night, and due to a number of factors, the people had no warning. We were lucky because we were north of the path of the tornado. Our power did go out though, and was out for half of the day. Some people still do not have power.

One theme that I keep seeing throughout all of this is that, yes, we may be stuck inside, but at least we have our TV and Internet to keep us occupied. Now some of these people haven’t had that for a week, and that is if they are some of the lucky ones, who hadn’t sustained much damage to their homes.

I am just trying to take this day by day. Everyone is.

Visiting old friends, and getting a glimpse of the Smoky Mountains

One of my best friends Dawn, and her family, live in Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. We used to work together in Pennsylvania, and have stayed close. We moved to Houston in August, and her and her family moved to Tennessee that November, so it had been over three years since we last saw each other.

When Derek found out he got the job at UTC, I texted Dawn and said, “Best friends will be reunited again in the great state of Tennessee!” It is comforting to know that I have a friend relatively close by.

We spent the day with her two weeks ago, and we got a good preview of the Smoky Mountain region, and some of the things to do in the nearby tourist towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

We got there early in the morning and all headed out to breakfast at Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin. I had heard that this part of Tennessee was known for their pancake houses, so I was happy to experience one. I loved the decor inside!

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Dawn with her twin daughters at Flapjack’s. Not pictured is her husband Brian, who was also with us.
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Strawberry pancakes for breakfast.

Our first stop after breakfast was the Dolly Parton statue, in front of Sevierville’s court house. Dolly was born in Sevierville.

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We drove down the Smoky Mountain Parkway, on the way to Gatlinburg, and Derek and I were amazed at how many tourist attractions there were. Most of them looked quite cheesy! I knew that was what the area was like in general, but I didn’t expect so much of it.

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An example of one of the tourist attractions: The Hatfields and McCoy’s dinner feud.

We drove through Smoky Mountain National Park for a few miles to get to Gatlinburg on the other side, and we were shocked at how much traffic there was. We had thought we would miss the foliage crowd by going in November, but it was a sunny, mild day, so that was probably the last of the tourist rush.

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A quick shot through the windshield while driving through the National Park.

We were initially planning on finding parking in Gatlinburg, and then getting out and walking around for a little bit, but it was a madhouse. We quickly abandoned those plans. However I am glad that it ended up happening that way, because now I know what to possibly expect when we vacation there, hopefully next year.

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Scarecrows lined the streets in Gatlinburg.

We ended up going back towards Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg seems to be the most popular of the towns, so the traffic died down considerably.

While in Pennsylvania, Dawn and I would get together on Friday and Saturday nights at our houses, and enjoy cups of tea together at our kitchen tables, while chatting about anything and everything. Many, many hours were spent together with cups of tea. Therefore it was important to us, and symbolic as well, that we get drinks together during this visit.

We stopped at Espresso Yourself, a small coffee shop in Pigeon Forge. It was great to continue our chats as if no time had passed at all since we last saw each other.

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Chatting and drinks at Expresso Yourself.

Then we headed to the Apple Barn in Sevierville. It is a large complex that consists of two restaurants, a general store, a winery and more. What a nice store! I could have bought a lot more than we did. We bought red and white plaid table place mats with apples on them, plus some apple butter and a big jug of apple cider.

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Dawn and I at the Apple Barn.
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Inside the Apple Barn general store.

After that we got a quick mid afternoon bite to eat, and then we headed back to her house to say our goodbyes. We had a great day together. They will come visit us in Chattanooga next, sometime after the holidays.

Officially here

I left Houston on September 12, and I am now in Chattanooga for good.

I drove “home” for the last time on Thursday, and my parents drove from Maryland to visit us for a long weekend. We have not seen them for a year and a half. Driving to Tennessee is much easier than driving all the way to Texas.

Over three days, we saw and did a lot, some of which Derek and I had already done together in the previous month, but some things were new as well.

Some things that we did and went to included the Chattanooga Zoo, Coolidge Park, the carousel at Coolidge Park, explored the town of Signal Mountain and Signal Point park, Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, explored UTC’s campus, the Chattanooga Market, Moonpie General store and Clumpies Ice Cream.

Instead of posting hundreds of photos in one long post, please look for individualized posts about some of these places in the near future.

My parents’ first impression of the city was a good one. My dad said to me, “I think we are going to have a lot more fun here than we did in Houston.” Nothing against Houston, of course. I believe that Chattanooga is just a better fit for all of our interests.

In our exploring, we also discovered some things that we would like to do in the future. We would like to do a dinner or lunch cruise on the Southern Belle River Boat, go to the Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City and Ruby Falls. Mom and dad are closer now, so there will not be years between visits. I am sure Derek and I will also do these things on our own as well.

We had a good three days, but in the meantime, now I have to get back to “work.” Derek and I spend the mornings together, and when he leaves for work, I do chores around home, and apply for jobs. Hopefully something works out soon.

One week in Chattanooga, two more to go in Houston

I have spent the last week in Chattanooga. It was good to be back with Derek for a full week, and not have most of our time taken up by unpacking, which left more time for exploring.

The reason for my visit was twofold – of course I wanted to see Derek, because we had been apart for three weeks, but then I also set up a meeting with the Vice Chancellor of communication and marketing at UTC, and I registered for a job fair. I was trying to be productive in finding a job.

Unfortunately, nothing panned out. I knew that there were no positions available at the university to begin with, but it was still disappointing to hear that confirmed. The job fair was disappointing. I was in and out in 15 minutes. There were only 12 companies represented, and only one of them was looking for “resume writers.” I went to them first, feeling hopeful. The website that the job fair was listed on said “interviews and hiring on the spot.” Maybe I could land this job? Maybe not. The man barely looked at my resume, handed me a pamphlet about the company, and told me to check them out online. I felt pushed aside. I guess job fairs don’t really fit into this type of world anymore. I’ll stick with searching online for now.

Regardless, it was good to be here, and it was good to get those things done. I can’t say I’m not trying.

I worked remotely for my job in Houston for the week, from our home office computer. I shifted my hours a little later than usual so I was working when Derek was working. He teaches two night classes. One of the nights I went to campus with him and worked from the campus library. We spent the mornings together going out to breakfast, watching movies, and setting up the apartment a little more each day.

We checked out a few coffee shops and restaurants together, as well as a bakery. We went to City Cafe, which is a 50s style diner. The place was packed, which told us it was a good, popular place. I ordered Greek food: stuffed grape leaves, salad and pita bread, thinking it would be a light meal. The plates of food were enormous!

We wandered the Riverfront one afternoon and came across a Naval ship on display. We also saw the Trail of Tears fountain. We also stumbled across a little flea market.

I’m going back to Houston tomorrow and I truly feel stuck between two states. I am glad that there will only be 11 days more until I can drive home to Chattanooga for good.

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Working from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga library.
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A blueberry crumble from Bread & Butter, a bakery near our apartment.
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The massive plate of Greek food at City Cafe.
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Naval ship on display at the riverfront.
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Trail of Tears fountain and memorial, which doubled as a splash area for kids.
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Wandering through the flea market.

A New Home

Welcome to Seeing the Scenic City!

My name is Rebecca, and my husband’s name is Derek. We have spent the last three years in Houston, Texas, while Derek pursued a master of fine arts degree in graphic design at the University of Houston. Before that, we met and married in rural Tioga County, Pennsylvania, where we also received our undergraduate degrees at Mansfield University.  

Derek is a full-time lecturer of graphic design at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

We are both excited to explore our new home, Chattanooga. We are an adventurous couple, always finding something to do on the weekends. Neither of us had ever been to Tennessee before this opportunity.

Follow us as we see what the Scenic City, and surrounding areas, has to offer!