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Let us know if there are topics you’re interested in learning more about or stories that would be helpful. We’re also looking for guest bloggers if you’re interested in contributing to the blog.
I began having little headaches in my early 20s. Small nagging ones that lasted an hour or so and eventually went away.
In my 30s, the migraines developed. They only came on occasionally but led to me seeing a neurologist and adding prescription medication to my over-the-counter relief regimen.
The pattern continued through my 50s. According to my neurologist, I was experiencing rebound headaches from all the medications I was taking.
I finally decided to take his advice in November 2011. I went cold-turkey and stopped taking everything. I had one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had. I missed a week of work—tossing and turning in bed, pacing back and forth through the house—until the headache wore off. It was one of the most miserable weeks of my life. But I did it.
The next four months, I had some headache-free and some not-so headache-free days. The days I struggled, I would fight through it without taking anything.
I became engaged to my now-husband, Charlie, and had a wedding to plan. Three days before our wedding, I gave in and took an Excedrin to get rid of a nagging headache. Unfortunately, that was all it took.
The same problem returned—infrequent headaches that intensified and drove me back to medication.
By February 2016—yes, this year—I decided enough was enough. I was going to try going cold-turkey again. I missed another week of work with an excruciating headache.
While I was in bed suffering, my twin sister Nancy, who is a nurse, came by to check on me. She was going over a list of other potential causes of my headaches and asked me how I drank my iced tea.
We grew up on iced tea, and it was my go-to beverage. Over the years, I switched from sugar to Sweet’N Low to Splenda. Being healthy wasn’t quite the fad it is now.
Nancy banned me from using artificial sweeteners in my iced tea, and I agreed. That’s the decision that changed everything.
I have been a headache sufferer most of my life. Now at age 61, I can finally say I am headache free.
Four months ago, I gave up Excedrin and stopped adding artificial sweetener to my iced tea. I no longer have daily headaches. I feel great and love life again!
I had heard through the years that sweeteners can cause headaches but never really put much stock in that. After all, if it’s on the market, it must be safe, right?
Wrong. I now firmly believe my daily use of artificial sweeteners was the main cause of my headaches. I am ever so thankful to my caring and knowledgeable sister who solved my headache mystery.
I hope this story helps anyone who might have a similar problem. Life is too short to not be enjoyed every day!
Beth was born and raised in Knoxville, along with her six siblings. She grew up an avid tennis player, following in the footsteps of her parents. She has also discovered pickleball with her new headache-free life and cannot get enough. Beth and her husband, Charlie, attended high school together and have a love for animals. Beth is an administrative support assistant in the UT Knoxville College of Law.
I’ve struggled for years to come up with some form of physical activity that I would actually do on a regular basis. Something that would permanently imprint in my brain and positively change my behavior.
Habit “You see the signs—but you don’t heed,
You’re walking at a different speed,
Your heart beats in double time,
A few more steps and you’ll be mine…”**
It started with a commitment I made to myself,
A significant change from far right to far left,
It was way past time to get out of my chair,
So I strapped on a Garmin and took off from there,
Slowly at first and then a pattern took hold,
Results of the day are synced to my phone,
Progress is made with daily routine,
Family and friends become part of the team,
Competition is fierce and we speak of steps,
How far and how many and who needs help…
To stay on track and remain in the game,
A challenge to us – never the same,
My cue to move is a scary red line,
That appears on my tracker when it’s time,
It’s almost insane – exciting and fun,
At the end of the day we’ve really all won,
A habit is forming and we’re all in line,
“A few more steps and you’ll be mine…”
**Adapted from “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer
The voice of Habit (subconscious) comes through at the beginning of my poem. At first, I was not interested in what this habit wanted from me. But, Habit was persistent—waiting for me to change from the same old way to a new way. Finally, I caught on and the “steps” are chronicled in my poem.
I’m not exactly sure when I decided that walking might be a good activity, but last year I purchased a small electronic pedometer that would fit in my pocket. I couldn’t be seen wearing one of those black plastic devices on my wrist—what if someone noticed? I might have to be accountable for how many steps and how far and how often I walked.
I was not a good steward of the pedometer. I ignored it and did not let it work for me—left in my pocket, it fell victim to the washing machine. My son purchased another pocket pedometer for me and the same washing machine got that one as well. I was not a faithful walker.
During a check-up with my internist earlier this year, he strongly suggested that I get more exercise. And I decided it was time for me to get serious. I needed to make a commitment to change my behavior and stick with it.
I purchased a Garmin Vivofit and Hoka walking shoes. The walking habit was within my reach—it was out there just waiting for me, refusing to give up even though I had ignored all the signs and made excuses for not fully participating. This time, I strapped that Garmin on my wrist and have never looked back.
One step at a time (documented) progress is being made. A friendly step competition takes place with family and friends. Co-workers have been interested and some who were reluctant to participate have been won over.
We talk about how far and how many steps and what we are doing to stay on track. We make an effort to get up and move during the day, and I think it makes us all more productive.
I use my lunch time to walk from Morgan Hall to UT Gardens and back—about 2,500 steps. I park my truck on the far side of the UT parking lot and walk 900 steps to my office. Now I park on the far side of any parking lot and am really happy when it adds at least 200+ steps to my trip to the store. In the afternoon when I get home from work, before I go inside, I walk on one of the trails near my home until a minimum of 10,000 steps per day is met.
Four miles a day! I love it and feel great. I don’t worry about not getting enough exercise these days because it’s something I want to do and plan for every day. My acquired behavior pattern has become involuntary…finally I have a walking habit to call my own.
Jane Barcroft is an artist, a poet, and a walker. She spends her workday as an accounting specialist for AgResearch at the Institute of Agriculture. She enjoys spending time with her son, daughter-in-law and three beautiful and energetic grandchildren. She also has found favor with her grandson’s hamster, Rory Jenkins and the family dog, Sky. Jane grew up, the oldest of five, in a military family where she moved all over the country and spent her high school years in Bermuda. You can follow Jane and her Bermuda-state-of-mind on Twitter at @1bdagal.
My wife of 30 years had always been pretty healthy. She didn’t engage in risky behavior, except to marry me, her brothers used to joke.
Jan was 50 when she felt a lump on her chest and went for her first mammogram. Later testing and biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer, stage III, including some lymph nodes. Treatment would involve 56 days of radiation, followed by surgery and chemotherapy.
This diagnosis seemed very surreal to both of us. We had faced many challenges during our three decades of marriage, and, with the Lord’s help, we committed to fight this new enemy together, too. Being people of faith, we prayed and engaged our church, family and friends to join us.
The doctors recommended a mastectomy. After considering the known facts at that time, Jan opted for a lumpectomy. She had weekly chemo treatments involving seven different drugs in different doses and combinations, and we reorganized our lives to adjust to the many side effects of treatment. Later, when she needed transfusions of red blood cells and platelets, we set up a system of donors to assure that she would have more than she needed at all times.
About 18 months into treatment, we discovered her cancer had metastasized to her lung lining and bones. Chemo continued, but we lost her in 2007.
The impact of her loss to me, our kids and other family members and friends was incredible. Thankfully, we had amazing support from our church and family, co-workers and friends, plus a loving God—though we didn’t understand the outcome.
I’m sharing her story in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day, and in hopes of encouraging you to be vigilant with your own health. More and more people are surviving cancer. The better informed you are, the more likely you are to be able to avoid it or beat it.
Earlier detection and an awareness of family history might well have changed our outcome. Following my wife’s diagnosis, it turned out that both her mother and grandmother had had brushes with cancer.
All along the way, we tried to learn as much as we could about her disease and treatment options. My advice to anyone facing a similar diagnosis is to keep digging. Insist on information and options, second opinions and treatment facility alternatives.
Congratulations to the survivors and their families! Rejoice in every day you are given. For others, be watchful, be informed, be proactive—see your doctor regularly and never delay annual screenings.
Life is precious. Protect it and cherish each moment and each person.
Don is director of development for the UT Knoxville College of Arts and Sciences. He enjoys helping UT alumni and friends find their passion to support at UT, whether that be students, faculty or other opportunities. Born in Nashville, and having lived in England, Africa and several states, he is delighted to finally live on the “peaceful side of the Smokies” in Townsend, Tennessee, with his cat, Lucy, and to share the grandeur of God’s creation with visiting family and friends.
I love to spend time in my garden. I find it doubly satisfying to share with others in need. With the Grow More, Give More (GMGM) program, I can do both.
GMGM and the UT Farmer’s Market opened earlier this month, celebrating the growing season and sharing with others. GMGM is a UT Institute of Agriculture and Society of St. Andrew service project designed to bring fresh, local produce to our neighbors in need. Agencies that feed the hungry indicate that their organizations have a need to supplement their canned donations with fresh veggies. A secondary aim of this program is to reduce food waste.
How do you GMGM? Each week, GMGM volunteers talk to market-goers about the program and collect produce donations. To participate in the program, plant a little extra in your garden or pick up an extra pound or two at the farmer’s market. GMGM has a booth set up where you can bring your produce, chat with volunteers and learn where your donation will go that night. At the end of each Wednesday, volunteers take the donated produce to local food banks. Examples of organizations that we have donated to include Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries, Love Kitchen, Salvation Army, Samaritan Place and many others.
Where You Can Find Us
GMGM runs in conjunction with the UT Farmer’s Market, each Wednesday from 4–7 p.m., May 11 through Oct. 19, 2016. You can find us under the big green tent. The market is held in the UT Gardens, the official botanical gardens for the state of Tennessee, 2431 Joe Johnson Drive in Knoxville.
If you would like to volunteer or learn more about the program, email us at email@example.com or like us on Facebook. You also can follow the GMGM blog to see where the day’s produce was donated and to see photo updates and the weekly total of donations received.
Let’s Work Together
No donation is too small because it all adds up! We’ve received donations from the most delicate of herbs to rare vegetables and handfuls of cherry tomatoes, up to bushel baskets of tomatoes, whole watermelons, bags of green beans and everything in between. Last season, we collected 2,230 pounds, which equates to 6,690 servings of fresh produce donated to our hungry neighbors. This summer, set a goal for yourself to spend more time outside, plant a little more in your garden for those in need and share the bounty of your harvest through the Grow More, Give More program.
Carrera Romanini Contact UT Institute of Agriculture
Carrera is a Grow More, Give More volunteer who likes to explore all that Knoxville has to offer and to spend time with friends. When she’s not out and about, you can find her in the garden or kitchen. She and her husband live with two, four-legged friends (a cat and dog), and they foster retired racing greyhounds. She currently serves as the communications coordinator for AgResearch.
As it is with most little girls, my dad was my first hero. I am the third of four children, and I always tell people I was my dad’s son before my brother was born. He taught me to throw a baseball, punt a football and even taught me to sew a dress for my Barbie doll.
My dad passed away in September 2012, but because of his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease in 2001, we gradually said goodbye to him over the course of 11 years. I lived out of state during that time but visited my parents at least monthly. And watching my father succumb to this horrible disease was one of the most difficult things I’ve experienced.
Most often Alzheimer’s is associated with the loss of memory. I never think it is funny when someone forgets something and then jokes, “I must have Alzheimer’s.” There is nothing funny about that disease. It truly robs sufferers of everything—from memory to the ability to speak to dignity. My father’s Alzheimer’s started with paranoia—thinking people were coming into the house and changing the times on the clocks or moving things from one location to the next. That was followed by the loss of his ability to process information and although he still remembered us, he often talked about going to see his mom and dad (who had both passed years earlier).
As with most Alzheimer’s patients, my dad started to wander. He would pace endlessly around the house all day and much of the night. One night he even climbed out his bedroom window and walked more than a mile to a nearby recreation area. Thankfully, some neighbors who had gone to the area to walk the next morning spotted him and brought him home. It was after that incident that my mother had all of the windows nailed closed from the inside. She also added alarms to each entry door so dad couldn’t go outside without her knowing it; and added baby locks on the cabinets after dad ate a dishwashing tablet thinking it was candy.
Alzheimer’s caused my dad to become very childlike. He liked playing with and holding toy cars. On one visit, I was in the backyard walking around with him when he picked up an acorn and threw it at me. When I turned around, he just grinned impishly. I was crying inside, but I just had to smile because that is something my dad would have done before the disease. While dad was very different and needed around-the-clock care, he was still very much my dad.
The disease also took a toll on my mother who was dad’s caregiver. Not only was it emotional to deal with the fact that your husband of 50-plus years was no longer the same, it wore on her to have to make sure she knew where he was 24/7. One of the things I say to anybody who is a caregiver is you have to take care of yourself! Stress plays havoc with our overall health. Mom finally agreed to have a home health worker visit three days a week, and one of my sisters moved in with my parents to help care for dad. My other siblings and I gave my mom and sister breaks on the weekend so they could be away from the house while we would watch dad. It only made sense that the weekends I was visiting, I would toss the ball with dad. It was just like old times—sort of.
I wish that no one would have to deal with this disease—no individual and no family. But the truth is that today, 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s; the disease is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.; and every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with the disease, all according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
My paternal grandfather and my father both had Alzheimer’s, so I’ve read a lot of research about how to prevent the disease. Unfortunately, no one can pinpoint the exact cause. Researchers have identified many things such as environment, diet, etc., but currently there is no cure.
It was about 10 months before my dad passed, Christmas of 2011, when I realized for the first time he didn’t know who I was. That was extremely tough to accept, but it was not about me. My dad was very different from the man I knew as my first hero, but in my heart he was still my dad.
Susan Robertson Contact UT Institute for Public Service
Susan handles communications for the UT Institute for Public Service. She enjoys spending time outdoors—hiking and documenting the natural beauty of East Tennessee through photography. Susan loves watching all sports, reading, cooking and fulfilling the needs of her demanding miniature dachshund, Wrigley.
As in the famous lyrics from Joni Mitchell, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” If my life had a soundtrack, that song would have been playing when I moved to Eastern Europe and had to bid farewell to the beloved beverage of my southern heritage.
Growing up, nothing tasted more like home than a glass of sweet iced tea from a Mason jar while sitting in a rocking chair. Rather than being defeated by the move overseas, this creative, transplanted southerner began to experiment to get just the right mix of home. I also discovered a few new recipes by adding a splash of fruit to my teas to go with the season.
My family’s last name is Sharp, but we’re a Lipton family when it comes to tea. I prefer Lipton for the classic tea experience. The recipes below come from several years of trial and error (I left out the error recipes), culminating in what my friends now refer to as “B’s Teas.”
I hope you enjoy them!
Classic Southern Tea Don’t mess with a good thing!
*Ingredients: Lipton tea bags (family size or individual), Optional: Sugar
Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add one, family size Lipton tea bag or four, individual Lipton tea bags.
Turn down the heat. Let the tea simmer until it’s a nice mahogany brown color. (Note: The darker the tea, the stronger the flavor.)
For sweet tea, add your preferred amount of sugar to a serving pitcher. (Note: Sugar In The Raw will give you a slightly earthier flavor, while regular granulated sugar will produce the usual, classic taste.)
Mix the tea into the serving pitcher—preferably over the kitchen sink—while the tea is still hot.
Place the finished tea in the fridge to cool. (Note: Tea must be stored in the fridge. If left too long in the sun or at room temperature, it will take on a slightly fermented flavor.)
Peach Tea Great for summer parties.
*Ingredients: 8 bags Twinings English Breakfast Tea (red box), 1 to 2 quarts peach juice (usually found in juice aisle) and fresh or frozen sliced peaches, Optional: Sugar
Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add tea bags.
Turn down the heat. Let the tea simmer until it’s a nice walnut brown color, slightly darker than mahogany.
In a serving pitcher, mix peach juice to taste. For sweet tea, also add sugar to taste.
Pour the tea into the serving pitcher while the tea is still hot.
Place the finished tea in the fridge to cool. The longer the tea chills, the better it will taste so it is best if made the night before or a few hours ahead of time.
Before serving, add some frozen peaches to the pitcher or serving cups.
Blueberry Tea Great for July 4, late summer or early fall parties.
*Ingredients: 8 bags Twinings English Breakfast Tea (red box), 1 to 2 quarts blueberry juice (usually found in juice aisle) and frozen or fresh blueberries, Optional: Sugar
Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add tea bags.
Turn down the heat. Let the tea simmer until it’s a nice walnut brown color, slightly darker than a mahogany.
In a serving pitcher, mix blueberry juice to taste. For sweet tea, also add sugar to taste.
Mix the tea into the serving pitcher while the tea is still hot.
Place the finished tea in the fridge to cool.
Before serving, add some frozen blueberries to the pitcher or serving cups.
Apple Tea Great for fall or winter parties.
*Ingredients: 4 bags Twinings English Breakfast Tea (red box), 4 bags Twinings Chai Spiced Tea (red box), 1 to 2 quarts apple juice, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and apple slices, Optional: Sugar
Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add Twinings English Breakfast tea bags and Twinings Chai Spiced tea bags.
Turn down the heat. Let the tea simmer until it’s a nice mahogany brown color. (Note: The darker the tea, the stronger the flavor. The apple tea recipe can handle a slightly stronger tea flavor than the classic tea recipe.)
In a serving pitcher, mix apple juice to taste. For sweet tea, also add sugar to taste.
Mix the tea into the serving pitcher while the tea is still hot.
This tea can be served cold or hot.
For a spiced flavor, add cinnamon sticks and a pinch of nutmeg before serving. Lightly coat some apple slices with lemon juice to prevent them from browning too quickly. Add apples to the tea.
Orange Tea Great for late fall, winter or early spring parties.
*Ingredients: 8 bags Twinings Lady Gray Tea (blue box), 1 to 2 quarts pulp-free or low-pulp orange juice and orange slices
Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Add tea bags. Lady Gray tea has hints of citrus that complement the orange juice.
Turn down the heat. Let the tea simmer until it’s a nice walnut brown color.
In a serving pitcher, mix pulp-free or low-pulp orange juice to taste.
Mix the tea into the serving pitcher while the tea is still hot.
You may chill this tea in the fridge or serve it hot.
Before serving, add some orange slices to the pitcher or serving cups.
Britton Sharp WebsiteContact UT Knoxville, Campus Ministers Council, Collegiate Abbey
Britton is an artist, writer, gardener, husband and father. When he isn’t chasing toddlers with his wife, Brooks, you can find Britton writing in a coffee shop or water color painting downtown. As vice president of the Campus Ministers Council and director of Collegiate Abbey, he works to provide self-care resources to UT Knoxville faculty and staff.
The documentary follows an Australian man as he travels across the United States. He juice fasts for 60 days and then adopts a plant-based diet. We had never made smoothies or juices but were inspired to give them a shot.
To Include or Not to Include Fiber
We didn’t have a blender or juicer and really didn’t even know the difference, so our journey began with research.
We found that blenders don’t filter anything out. Everything that goes into the blender ends up in the juice or smoothie. Juicers pulverize whatever you put in and separate solids from liquids, so only the juice comes out.
There really isn’t a definitive answer about whether blending or juicing is better. In my opinion, it’s best to do some research on blending versus juicing and make a decision based on your dietary needs or preference. My husband needs a high-fiber diet, so we opted for the blender. Plus, I have a beverage preference for frozen margaritas!
Vitamix was the most highly recommended blender at the time—and probably still is—but was out of our price range. The Ninja brand of blenders had great reviews, too, and my husband’s coworker vouched for its quality and reliability.
I waited patiently for a sale and finally bought a Ninja Mega Kitchen System. I chose the kitchen system over other models because it has a built-in food processor and includes a 72-ounce blender pitcher, eight-cup food processor bowl and two, 16-ounce blender cups.
The adventure really began once we got the blender. We began by blending random veggies and fruits and forcing ourselves to drink every gross concoction we produced.
That was a bad idea that led to a lot of gagging—but also a lot of laughing!
As a vegetarian and distance runner, I’m very mindful of my protein intake. I need to consume at least 60 grams of protein—especially on long-run days—so I have to be intentional about replenishing lost nutrients.
My smoothies always include a scoop of Garden of Life Raw Organic Chocolate Protein Powder. I like this brand because it’s vegan and better tasting than other protein powders I’ve tried. If you don’t need the extra protein, you can skip it or swap it for another supplement, such as flax or chia seed.
Put all ingredients in a 16 ounce blender cup. Blend. (Makes a 16-ounce smoothie drink.)
Veggie Juice Recipe
My husband loves chicken fingers, Taco Bell, Philly Cheese steaks and basically all unhealthy foods. He eats a vegetarian and (mostly) clean-eating diet at home, but he always splurges on meat and a deep-fried something-or-other side when we eat out. Since he’s prone to indulging in unhealthy foods, he likes to make veggie juices to ensure he’s getting essential vitamins—before he demolishes a large french fry.
He drinks each 72-ounce batch within 24 to 36 hours because there are no preservatives. Therefore, the juice can spoil. You can add most any veggies to this drink, but I caution against tomatoes, broccoli and carrots because the taste and/or texture gets funky. The sweetness of the apple and pineapple juice offsets the veggie flavors, so you don’t need to add honey, agave nectar or other sugar or sweeteners. Also, use natural apple juice and pineapple juice to avoid high-fructose corn syrup.
1 washed Romaine heart (can swap for kale)
1 washed green or yellow squash (or both if they are small)
1 washed cucumber
Put all ingredients in a 72-ounce blender pitcher. (You may need to give the veggies a rough chop to fit them into the blender.) Fill the pitcher ¾ full with apple juice. Fill the remaining space in the blender with pineapple juice. Blend. (Makes 72 ounces of veggie juice.)
An Ongoing Adventure
Blending smoothies or juice is now a staple in our weekly meal plan. Sometimes I toss in a random fruit or veggie just for kicks, but mainly we stick to our trusted recipes or new ideas from Pinterest. I hope you’re inspired to give them a try, too!
Lili’a Uili Neville is a runner, environmentalist and health nut. Lili’a is the communications director in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity at UT Knoxville. When she’s not at work, she is underestimating how long it will take her to complete a craft project, telling funny stories about her dog and cat or having a classy date night with her husband.
Our mailbox is overflowing. Six days a week our mailman brings a new batch of college recruitment material. We’re hearing from them all—big universities, small private colleges and all schools in between.
My daughter, Carson, is finishing up her junior year of high school and, perhaps like many of your children, planning for the next phase of her life. We are knee deep in the college admissions process.
It doesn’t seem possible. Our little girl has become a young woman overnight. Hollianne and I are trying to enjoy every day with her before she leaves for college in a year. I’ve realized how much I’ll miss having her in our home on a daily basis.
To celebrate this milestone, I’ve started collecting a list of the little things that I’ll miss about Carson. Included on my list are:
Watching her compete on the soccer field.
Enjoying her homemade chocolate chip cookies, often made late at night.
Watching her build the perfect s’more in our backyard fire pit.
Experiencing college football and basketball with her. Her commentary is always insightful and hilarious.
Seeing her enjoy her Bible studies with friends.
Hiking new trails as a family.
Attending concerts together.
I realized, however, that while this writing exercise is good for me, I need to make sure that I share these thoughts with Carson—right now.
While she certainly knows how much I love her, she also needs to hear it from me—right now.
Life is fleeting. We owe it to those we love to not only celebrate the big milestones in life, but the quiet, ordinary ones, too. These small moments and memories are what make our lives so special.
So, I encourage you to take time out of your day to share your thoughts with those close to you. They’ll appreciate it, and if you’re lucky…you might get a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies in return.
Keith Carver BlogContact UT System Administration
Keith is husband to an amazing woman and dad to three active children. He enjoys getting outdoors with his wife, Hollianne, fishing, watching his children play sports all over East Tennessee and reading biographies of historical figures. He currently serves as the executive assistant to UT President Joe DiPietro.
Do you have an artistic hobby you don’t want to keep to yourself anymore? Ever think about selling your artwork? Have you dreamed of seeing your art on the walls of galleries? How well do you handle rejection?
If you’ve thought through any or all of these questions, this blog post might be for you.
My medium is photography. For most of my life, I was pretty selfish regarding my work. There were several reasons for that. The process of taking photographs meant so much to me, not really the outcome of what I captured. Also, the outcome was mine, not something I wanted to explain to others. Finally, and most embarrassing of all, I was simply afraid of rejection.
Luckily, as I got older my conception of everything grew. I learned more about my craft by joining photography groups, taking courses and working for Austin Peay State University’s student newspaper as an undergraduate. I opened myself, and my work, up to criticism (both positive and constructive). And I began to see the benefit of sharing.
In 2013, after about a year of living in Knoxville, I took my next step by entering the photo contest at a local fair. I was extremely surprised and encouraged when I actually placed in a few different categories.
My best advice is to become involved. One way is to join interest groups related to your medium. Doing so will provide you with learning opportunities and a network of individuals who have experience. When you feel ready to start applying (whether it’s a contest, show, festival, etc.), start your research early, read thoroughly and don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you get rejected—which will happen at some point—remember all judging is subjective. Rejection isn’t an acceptable excuse to give up. Oh, and consider your schedule because the art world frequently conflicts with standard working hours.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is how different the process is depending on what you’re doing. Contests, juried art shows, festivals/markets—they all have different methods, rules, timelines and outcomes. I’m still trying to figure out where I want to focus my efforts.
The last couple of years have greatly damaged my bank account, reinforced my time management skills, taught me a lot of lessons and made me feel a wide range of emotions.
I’ve endured everything from utter, devastated resignation when I showed up three hours early to set up at a festival, only to immediately break my tent and not make a single sale all day. To absolute, prideful joy when I made my first sale to a complete stranger.
Ultimately, I’m gratified to be putting myself out there and giving all of this a shot. It’s not easy, but it is interesting figuring out what you really want and meeting so many people along the way.
Synthia works in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at UT Knoxville as an administrative support assistant and acts as webmaster, writer and photographer. She enjoys staying busy with hobbies like photography, travel and music.
Adam and Kate Brimer met while on assignment for the KnoxvilleNews Sentinel. He was the photographer, she was the writer—and it ended up being a pretty good collaboration, if they do say so themselves. After years of working in the communications field, they are now both employees of the University of Tennessee.
They chatted about what it’s like to be married in the workplace, with offices just floors apart.
Q: How have you handled transportation to and from work?
Kate: We are trying our darndest to carpool because we both work in Andy Holt Tower, and so far it has worked! There’s some planning involved—like when one of us has an off-campus meeting or needs to go in early—but it hasn’t been too complicated. Once spring comes around, Adam will probably get back into his routine of biking to work.
Adam: Biking into work is great when the weather is nice. That involves biking to a bus stop near our house in North Knoxville, loading my bike on the rack, riding the bus from there to a stop close to downtown and then biking the rest of the way to the office. It’s a great way to squeeze in a little exercise on both ends of the workday, and the bus ride provides extra downtime to get some reading done for my graduate program.
Carpooling is convenient, but we spend a TON of time together when you think about it. While it provides an opportunity to talk about work, we try to limit those conversations and be more intentional about our time together.
Kate: I think we both miss having time to independently prepare for the day and decompress at day’s end. I typically use my commute to catch up with friends and family, and that’s harder now.
Adam: And I usually sing in the car during my commute, so that’s out the window. It also affects our eating habits during and after work. Kate’s good about packing her lunch (and remembering to bring it), so that holds me more accountable. On the other hand, it’s easier to talk each other into grabbing takeout on the ride home. Maintaining our healthy eating habits is one of the hardest parts.
Q: What’s social interaction like in the workplace?
Adam: It’s funny having co-workers tell us that they just saw our other half, or the fact that they know a bunch of stuff about you and your spouse that they normally wouldn’t.
Kate: This really comes into play for us because I work in Adam’s former office—literally in his cubicle, which is now endearingly referred to as “the Brimer Suite.” Aside from providing some comic relief, having co-workers who know us both has been flattering and fun.
Adam: It’s a lot of fun getting to see Kate during the day. Every now and then, we’ll eat lunch together or take a walk.
Q: There are lots of perks to working at UT—what’s your favorite?
Kate: Access to University libraries, hands down. As a graduate student I studied in Hodges all the time, but I didn’t have much time to read for fun. Now, Adam and I walk over at lunch and check out books from the leisure reading section. Which reminds me, I need to scope out the Pendergrass Leisure Reading Collection.
Adam: Being able to pursue a master’s degree using the UT employee tuition waiver is a huge benefit to me personally and professionally. I’m currently working on my master’s degree in strategic communication through UT Martin. It’s all online and is completed during personal time outside of work hours. It’s already been a great benefit to my job as a communicator at UT. Studying does eat up time that we’d normally be spending together, but we work around it.
Kate: One perk that we’re both looking forward to is having the same holiday/vacation schedule. Or better yet—snow days!
John is a UT graduate and currently works in the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing as a project manager. When he is not enjoying time with his wife and two children, you can find him riding his bike or dreaming up big ideas.
Adam is a communications coordinator producing photos and videos for the UT System Office of Communications and Marketing. When he’s not at work, he’s probably baking bread, playing music or going for a run.