America Reveals Itself

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Driving across the United States has always been on my bucket list. I have been fortunate in my traveling life thus far, and one thing I have learned is that people oftentimes overlook what the U.S. has to offer: national parks, changing geography, culture, music, delicious food, and great people!

I used to day dream of driving across this beautiful country with a handsome man holding my hand. Sometimes I would whisk myself away across America taking an entire summer to get from one end to the other, stopping at various mountains and wineries, all while eating the freshest dishes ever created. I would envision exploring quaint towns, pristine beaches, all the while meeting new people.

Well, I didn’t travel with a handsome man holding my hand or take an entire summer, but the rest of the day dream is pretty accurate. Let me take you back to the day I left Chapel Hill – January 10, 2015. Instead of the handsome man, I had a handsome dog, as well as Sabrina, my new found little sister. These two accompanied me on my cross country journey and I am blessed that I could share this amazing experience with a great friend and my best furry buddy.

IMG_0088Our first stop: Asheville, NC. If you have never been, it’s a great place to explore. Asheville is filled with an artistic vibe, a burgeoning beer scene, serene views, and out-of-this-world cuisine. We stopped at Biscuit Head to “put some south in our mouth” prior to leaving my home state. It was melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and I realized it would probably be the last time I had a real southern biscuit for a while.

IMG_0091Next stop: Music City – Nashville, Tennessee. IMG_0339

Nashville was our stomping ground for the first night on the road. Instead of staying in the heart of Nashville, we stayed right outside the city, thanks to my cousin Gordon who organized my stay. (Merry Christmas to me!) Sabrina and I ordered room service for our first night away from Chapel Hill. There’s just something about room service that is luxurious. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t above-and-beyond room service like you might expect at a grand New York City hotel, but it was totally worth it.

The next morning: January 11, 2015.  We ate at Sky Blue Cafe, the neatest cafe I have ever been to! It sat in the middle of the historic Edgefield neighborhood in East Nashville. Fun fact: the new hit TV show “Nashville” shot a scene at the cafe, and uses Edgefield neighborhood as shooting locations for Deacon’s and Scarlett’s house!

IMG_0101IMG_0106IMG_0104Do you see these pancakes?!? I ordered stuffed french toast pancakes with banana and nutella. I mean, have you even heard of such yummy goodness? I am not joking when I say that I have thought about this divine meal everyday since Jan. 11.

After experiencing Sky Blue Cafe, we were on our way to Arkansas, but first we had to pass through Memphis – Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll.IMG_0399

We didn’t have much time in Memphis, but we did see Beale Street and visited the historic Peabody Memphis Hotel. There is an old tradition where the whimsical Peabody ducks march through the hotel lobby and swim in the fountain.  Needless to say, Shadow made quite a scene when he realized the ducks were actually real! Before we left, we made our way to the rooftop of the world-renowned hotel where the Duck Palace resides, as well as a view of the entire city. IMG_0424

Night #2 (January 11): Fort Smith, Arkansas. We barely had any time in Arkansas, however we ate a delicious home cooked meal at Calico Country, a landmark in the Fort Smith area. Service was amazing and we met the sweetest couple!  Y’all know how loud I am and how much I like to talk. Well, so does Sabrina (in fact, she may be a tad louder than me). We ended up creating new friends over chicken & dumplings and homeade cinnamon rolls, which the restaurant is known for.  Sweet Pam was lovely, and Sabrina and I now follow her on Facebook and keep in touch.  It’s amazing the people I have met and great things I have done because of my extrovert personality.  IMG_0124

We departed Arkansas on the morning of January 12 and drove through Oklahoma,Texas, and part of New Mexico…all in the same day! Fun fact: the speed limit was 75mph and it was glorious! Let me be the first to tell you that America truly reveals itself in places that you would never expect.  Driving through the vast land and open country side was a type of beautiful that I had never seen.

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“Sabrina, I feel like we are driving on the road into Heaven.” That’s what I said as we passed the incredibly unique wind farms in Oklahoma and a random cross that perched in the distance of a Texas field.  The sunset at that exact moment was indescribable.  I remember thinking that Grandma, my angel, was by my side.  The wonders of that sunset made me smile…I had no doubt that she was speaking directly to my heart.  It was one of those moments that give you a closer idea of Him, a closer feeling to Him, and the recognition that there are heavenly places on Earth.

We tried making it to Amarillo as the sun went down to get a taste of the Old West.  Both Sabrina and I absolutely love photography and had a vision to take sunset pictures at Cadillac Ranch. Our timing was just a bit off, but we still managed to get a couple of great shots.P1120002

With that way too chilly experience in Texas behind us, I had no desire to spend the night in Amarillo, Texas. So, we made a pact to keep driving all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  IMG_0921

It couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 minutes after passing the state line when it started SNOWING! “What?!?,” I thought to myself.  Of all places, I didn’t expect a snow storm in New Mexico. As you can imagine, the frigid weather put somewhat of a halt to our drive, but we pressed onward and arrived to Santa Fe in one piece.

Hotel Chimayo could not have been more perfect! It was nestled in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. The decor and colors of the room created a perfect ambiance of New Mexican style. Stay tuned for more of Santa Fe, followed by beautiful Sedona. I will share even more heavenly places…IMG_0139

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Leaving my Southern Part of Heaven

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This is my 8th year at the University of North Carolina: my southern part of Heaven.  So, saying good-bye to this place (even though only temporary) was tough.  A true Tarheel, I bleed Carolina blue and my heart is bound to Chapel Hill.  My heart is also bound to friends and family in all three corners of the Research Triangle, and obviously my home town of Wendell.

Goodbyes have always been tough for me…just ask my exes.  In my mind, I prepared myself to stay strong and keep my emotions under control.  That is easier said than done. Prior to leaving, I was blessed to see many loved ones and grab extra hugs to hold me over until May.  I had a lunch date with one of my very best friends from home, Shellie, and found that it was actually one of my toughest good-byes.  I have always known how very special she was, but it slapped me hard in the face when I had to drive away.  Melani, one of my graduate school colleagues, true friend, and rock, organized a sushi dinner with more colleagues and bible study friends.  Spending my last semester of grad school without them by my side will be weird…lonely…different.

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Leaving Mama and Andy was not what I would call fun, but I have a bond with my mom that can never be undone.  Heck, we FaceTime, text, or chat on the phone everyday, sometimes multiple times a day.  Her and Andy will be visiting in March and I am already thrilled for them to arrive in Cali!

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Saying bye to my dad always provokes emotion for me.  We have overcome quite a bit over the past few years, and I will miss our life talks, lunches, laughs, tears, and hugs.  I wish that he could come visit and escape for a daddy-daughter vaca.  Another good-bye that stung was leaving my Aunt Bettie.  If you know me or anything about her, you know that she is more of a mom than an aunt.  She has given me strength, a sense of adventure, courage, and everlasting support in my decision to head west for this internship.  She also plans on visiting and I cannot wait!

Lastly, leaving romance behind is Tough, with a capital “T.” Lee has become a huge part of my life.  It is probably cliché to say this, but I will say it anyway: we have overcome more than the norm over the past year.  It’s public knowledge that Lee had a hard time fully embracing my cross country journey.  However, he grew leaps and bounds as the day grew closer for my departure.  We both know that my time in California will be an extra chapter in our story.  We’ll appreciate and embrace our time together with quick visits, but will learn how time, distance, money, and yearning will be totally and completely worth it.

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This is just a sneak peak into my good-byes, but how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?!?!  With my good-byes said and my car packed, may the journey from one OC to the next begin…IMG_3400

Pre-departure Photo Session

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Kisses for the baby.

Before departing for California, I had a last minute photo shoot done with Shadow.  For those of you who know me, you’ve often heard me say that Shadow has been the most consistent thing in my life for the past 7 years (other than family and certain friends).  I know that pet lovers share a special bond with their furry friends, but I must admit that my bond with Shadow is particularly one of a kind.  While my friends have gotten married and had children, I have just grown closer to my “lil man.”  I truly feel like he is my baby.

I booked a photography session with Lauren Soignet, a fellow Tarheel and talented photographer based out of Durham, NC.  She was able to capture beautiful moments…moments with Shadow that brought me pure joy.  I realize that good photographers are supposed to be able to capture moments like these, but Lauren’s skills made these moments become memories in an instant.  Many thanks go out to Lauren!  Check out her work at laurensoignetphotography.blogspot.com or on Facebook at Lauren Soignet Photography.

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Nobody can fully understand love unless they are owned by a dog.”

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Dogs teach us a lot of things, but none more important than to love unconditionally…”

Introducing JBH

Allow me to introduce myself: Jennifer Blair Harmon. I am not famous nor am I rich.  In fact, if you Google my name then links to Jennifer Harman, an American professional poker player, will pop up instead.  I have not done anything profound that changed the world (yet).  But what I can tell you about myself is that I have a huge heart for life, and I have the most important things I need: love from those who matter to me, an awesome education, and life lessons that have made me into JBH.

So, what will my blog have to offer? A beautiful depiction of life through the eyes of a born and bred Carolina girl.  I have lived in North Carolina all 29 years of my life.  Now, I am about to embark on a journey to the west coast.  My pursuit of a career in dental hygiene education landed me an internship teaching at West Coast University for the last semester of my Master’s program.  I am leaving Orange County, North Carolina for Orange County, California.

For me, writing and photography have always been the best way to communicate my thought process, ideas, and stories.  Even though I enjoy writing in solitude, this blog will give me the chance to connect with anyone who wants to join me for the ride. I encourage comments from all of you and look forward to this journey.

Novelist, Henry Miller once said that “writing is its own reward” and that is exactly what I want this blog to be.  Life is worth living y’all, and perhaps my beliefs will shine through this blog to help create that fact.

"What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls...no, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people." - Charles Kuralt

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls…our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people.” – Charles Kuralt