I like going just a little overboard with things. If life is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing, right?
But I don’t mean striving for perfection. I mean taking regular life and making it a little more fun. I mean picking specific candy to go with a TV series we’re watching. Having a playlist for going to town. Making cookies the first real snowfall of the season. Just little things that make daily life “extra.”
Is it necessary? No. Is it frivolous? I used to think so, but now I realize it isn’t. It’s embracing life. We know how to live in stress, we can now live in delight.
Y’all know I work in tourism. I love my job. I want visitors to come enjoy their stay. I know it brings revenue for y’all, and rest and delight for our guests.
But my heart isn’t just with the tourists. My heart is with YOU. I want your regular days to be happy and delightful too, even as you work or go to school.
So I think it’s time that we don’t limit our restful, engaged life to just two weeks out of the year. We can live life now. Let’s start by thinking about why vacations are different (this IS a tourism article, after all).
Vacations aren’t about the destination or the travel (Did I really type that in my out-loud voice? Why yes, yes I did.) but are more about being in the moment, about tuning in, not out.
When we’re on vacation, we change our mindset, our intent, our deliberate excitement about having the same chicken sandwich. We let ourselves have a little fun. We give ourselves permission to breathe and think and sleep and do.
Honestly, we’re still the same person. We brush our same teeth, are still vaguely lactose intolerant, and still stay up way too late. It isn’t that food is free or the traffic is light or that airlines never lose tourist luggage.
But because we’re on vacation, we love it. We decide to enjoy ourselves. We decide to be deliberate. We act instead of react. We kiss on the beach, play family games, put our phones down, and watch the moon rise.
The thing is that we can do that at any time! Oh, we can’t fly off to Aruba any time, but we can take a moment to get a little excited about lunch, about bedtime, about the moon, about 5 minutes in the bathroom alone (unless you have cats like mine who like to stick their paws under the door like preschoolers saying “Mom! Mom! Mom! Can you see my fingers wiggle?”).
Just think…have you considered that your “quick meal while shuffling the kids home from practice” is the exact same food that the people at the next table are lingering over because they are “on vacation”? Same burger, different vibe. They’re excited to be doing exactly what you are doing.
One of my best friends, as a full grown adult, has “Scooby Doo” nights. She loves that show and instead of just flopping on the couch and bingeing it for hours, she takes the time to put on special pajamas, make cocoa and snacks, and truly enjoy herself. She turns television into an event. Every time she does that, she has a little mini vacation. She rests. She delights. She takes the time to be deliberate.
What if we could have that enjoyment in our daily lives? What if we delight in the “mundane miracles” of the life we are given? What if the hard times could also be times of peace? What if we don’t need to escape, we just need to adjust?
That’s what we at the Athens-Limestone County Tourism want to introduce in 2024. We want ‘vacation’ to mean everything from “Big tour bus coming in from some far-off city” to “I have an hour to kill before my haircut.”
We are starting a new campaign of “’Cations.” These are going to be mini-plans that you can use to be deliberate in your everyday life. They will based on theme and will have a few ideas to get you started.
These are also going to be excellent ideas for when you have visitors. Or if you want to have a girls’ night or a guys’ night. If you need some bonding time with a loved one, or just need an “excuse” to focus on something in your life.
So put your arm in mine and let’s stroll down the rest of our lives with intent. Let’s take a moment to look, to pause and enjoy, to rename our brief minutes from “have-to” to “GET-TO-AND-I-HAVE-THIS-AWESOME-PLAYLIST-AND-I-CAN’T-WAIT-TO-GET-STARTED!”
Stay tuned, your ‘cations are coming.
All across the nation
We are running out of patience
Stress is high
Days go by
We all need a vacation!
Doesn’t need to be a week-long
A little peace can never go wrong
Deep breath in
Within our day to get our rest on.
Plans for you or out-of-town guests
Finding time to learn, play, and rest
Calm your heart
Wake your mind
Our life is not just one big, huge test.
So let’s all stop to make some spaces
Relax our shoulders, slow our races
Your ‘Cation guide
Is here inside
Let’s get some smiles on our faces!
IT’S HERE! Finally our ‘Cation Campaign is launching! And it is launching for YOU! This is for YOU!
Why? Because we all need rest. And fun is not just for two weeks out of the year. Because rest doesn’t just happen. It isn’t a crumb that maybe we get to lick off the plate after we have served everyone else. It’s a thing we need to seek out.
Because life is hard but a gift. Because even in hard times, there can be peace. We all have to work, we all have troubles, but merely having work or trouble doesn’t mean we can’t also laugh and relax. Anxiety is like rocking really fast in a rocking chair—we feel like we are doing something, but it gets us nowhere and doesn’t change anything. So let’s replace stress with rests (Get it? The same letters just rearranged? We can do the same thing with our lives!)
Because we all need ideas for date nights and girls/guys night out. Because sometimes the kids are out of school. Because if you are new or just visiting Limestone County, you may not know what fabulous things we have to offer! These are excellent mini-plans that you can use to make your days, weeks, and months just…more!
Let’s take a tour of a ‘Cation Mini-Plan:
Theme: Often built on an event like the Christmas Parade or Sheriff’s Rodeo or a local class. There are a ton of themes we’ll be doing from arts to sports.
Playlist: List of theme-related songs from various genre—everything from Charlie Daniels to K-pop (You gotta hear some of the Canadian hockey songs—what a trip!)
What to eat: Suggestions for local foods, stores, or restaurants (Our folk sure know how to keep our tummies full!)
What to wear: Theme related clothing ideas that you can put together at home or support local. Dress to impress, my peeps!
What to do: Theme related activities including everything from visiting local sites to journaling.
We are going to release 1-4 ‘Cations per week. Check our Facebook page (Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association) or our Instagram (@athenslimestonetourism), email us, or visit the office to find out what each theme entails.
Here are the guides for the ‘Cations Mini-Plans:
1. They are for YOU, so do whatever parts you want to. You don’t have to do the whole thing, but we suggest you try—the more you do, the more fun it is!
2. If you are into social media, take a photo of yourself doing any part of any of the ‘Cation plan, tag us in it, tag the store or locale or restaurant you are at, and tag any top sponsor. If you tag all three, you get a point!
3. At the end of the campaign, we will figure out who had the most points and who had the best presentation and give prizes! (Local influencers, this is your time to shine!)
4. You can do ANY part of ANY released ‘Cation throughout the campaign. So for example, if you couldn’t make it to a restaurant that we named on this week’s ‘Cations, you can go some other time and it still counts as long as you tag us, the restaurant, and the top sponsor (if there is one). The campaign should last about a year, so you have plenty of time. But don’t put off the fabulousness too long, we have a year of fun planned!
Are you ready?
Our first 3 themes are:
1. Powerplay-cation! (Hockey! For our “Life is a full-contact sport” folk!)
2. Payday-cation! (For all you entrepreneurs! Time to get your hustle on!
3. Everyday-cation! (For our “Trying to be everybody’s everything” folk! Starting every day on the right foot, learning to find the moments in your day to be calm, restful, thankful!)
Come get the details on our Facebook page, Instagram page, or office! Check back often.
“Sounds GREAT! I want my business to participate. Are there still spaces left?”
Hon, we’re Southern; there’s always room for one more at our table! Simply contact me and let me know what your business is. If you are a merchant, locale, activity, or food service, let’s see how we can make you part of a ‘Cation Mini-Plan. Even if you are a home-based business, we should be able to get something cool going.
If you are not really a “vacation” type business (insurance, roofing, accountants, etc), you can be a Top Sponsor! Contact me at the Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association for more details.
So now you know what all is in store
To make an awesome 2-0-2-4
The time is right
Let’s start tonight
There’s no better time for us to wait for!
Someone come, tell me a story
About the past all filled with glory
Bold young bucks and bolder lasses
Inspiring the timid masses
Spin for me a clever yarn In colored threads to keep me warm -
In heart and mind, when I remember,
Every word a glowing ember.
Build for us somewhere to rest
In a feather-worded nest.
With tranquil tidings tuck us in
‘Til we can face the world again.
Carry me along your path;
Make me cry, then make me laugh.
Then make me do them both again
With merry eyes and quiv’ring chin.
We forget our history,
So bind to us the mystery
Of cruel humanity, and love,
The worm below, the Lord above
Let’s not foolishly dismiss
Such a vital role as this -
Evincing in the fable dweller
The power of the storyteller
“Third-graders are an ALIEN ARMY!” Bil Lepp’s awed voice rang over the tent of fascinated school children. I, having just slipped in the back late in the story, wonder what I missed. I mean, as a mom of two grown children, 3rd graders being aliens isn’t exactly news to me, so I felt he must have been making another point.
He was: How to best the teacher’s pet by throwing rocks into the woods to prove that your teacher is really Wonder Woman in disguise. You’ll need helium, purple chalk, lungs, and the horror flick The Blob.
Ah, got it. Check.
I am on special assignment. A special, OFFICIAL assignment given to me by a REAL LIVE editor to cover a BREAKING EVENT like an actual SEASONED JOURNALIST (not like a newbie tourism assistant who needs to submit an article by Friday).
I think I played it pretty cool, though, as I walked up to the tent and introduced myself with a purposefully level gaze to the security guard. “I’m Stephanie Reynolds. I was asked to cover this by my editor Ali Turner for the Athens Now newspaper. I’ll only be a few minutes.” Brisk. Professional. Nailed it. I wished I had a badge to oh-so-casually flash, but I think pushing my sleeves up to my elbows made me look journalist-y enough. In any case, he laughed and waved me in.
It had been a minute since I had spent an afternoon with grade-schoolers. To be honest, I thought it would be more chaotic and jaded. We get the impression that kids nowadays are even more disaffected than GenX, and as someone who was dark and brooding at 17; wearing black, stonewashed jeans; and listening to The Cure, that’s saying something.
But let me tell you what made my heart grow two sizes this afternoon. The second storyteller, Josh Goforth, regaled us with a tale about the Irish potato famine, a stag who grants wishes, and a poor farmer. The farmer asked his father what he should ask the stag for, and the father said, “GOLD! You must ask for piles of gold!” Then the farmer went to his blind mother who said, “My sight! If I could see the green hills of Ireland again, the blue sky, and your smiling face, that’s all I could wish for!”
Then the storyteller asks (rhetorically, in the voice of the farmer), “Should I do what my father wants and ask for gold or what my mother wants and ask for her sight?”
Y’all, I didn’t hear one child say the gold. I heard many insistently holler that he should ask for sight for his mother.
<Insert jaw drop here>
It occurs to me that, being half-blind myself, I might be just a leeeetle close to this. But as the OFFICIALLY ASSIGNED JOURNALIST that I am (…pretending to be today), I can keep my objectivity, as is fitting for one with newly-discovered Pulitzer aspirations. Plus, I often forget I can’t see till I run into something on my left.
So, much like the obvious aim of the Fiddler’s Convention was “excellent music” but the heart of it was how jam sessions made pockets of safe spaces for people to try regardless of skill level, the Storytelling Festival also has its own much deeper subtext: getting people to think and feel. Gently and disarmingly ducking around preconceived notions and stony walls to help the listener be inherently more than they were that morning.
I mean, think about it—there probably were children who said “GOLD!” when the farmer was deciding his wish. But they heard other children mention the mother’s sight. That had to make them pause, putting themselves in the position of a child of blind mother, or perhaps the mother herself.
And even better, the wish the farmer eventually told the stag was clever and crafted. The story not only reminded the children they have a heart, but it also helped for an actual new thinking pattern in the brain.
To hear the children literally gasp in an “OH! RIGHT!” moment when Bil Lepp mentioned that Wonder Woman would park her invisible jet on the roof, not the woods or parking lot, was delightful. At that moment, they GOT IT. They now know to “Think up,” to look around, to deduce. That little moment is a synapse-seed that will bloom into new intelligence.
On a mild fall afternoon, between aliens and a round of “Turkey In The Straw,” children were strengthened in both heart and mind.
That is the power of a storyteller.
By: Stephanie Reynolds
Athens-Limestone Tourism Association
How does one even begin to introduce oneself in print?
“Hello Athens!”--Eh, generic
“My fellow Athenians”--Entirely too presidential (but putting it in my pocket for later. You never know.)
“Hajimamashite...Hola... annyeonghaseyo...hafa adai!...”--Hmm..fun or pretentious?
Hey! I know! Maybe I should write a poem! --Yeah. No.
I sigh and take a sip of too-hot coffee from a handmade copper tumbler.
“Maybe,” I think hopefully, “That itself was enough of an intro, and I can just move on. People know the first sentence is the hardest. It’s like the first workout or the first date—everything is slightly awkward and official. But once you get past the ‘first’, you can go forever. Or till you hit your word count.”
I’m Stephanie. I just started working for the fabulous Athens Limestone Tourism Association. I have met fabulous people and ate fabulous cake (twice!) in just the first week I was here.
(Why yes, I do own a thesaurus; it’s on my phone. Why do you ask?)
How might I describe myself? Hmm… I think “interested” is pretty fitting. I love to learn and teach. I love to help and explore. I like to think and do. I like to try to relate to everyone in some way. There really is very little I am not willing to try.
And I really love to see what makes other people light up. When someone is in their zone and starts talking in animated rushes, that is one of my absolute favorite things. If you want someone to geek out
with you, I’m your gal.
Some of the things that make me all happy include: teaching (anybody, anything), sitting in quiet thought, swimming, archery, philosophy, Haribo gummy bears, researching anything at all, k-dramas, crocheting, airports, ducks, trail running, rucking (walking with a weighted backpack), cosplay, video games, theology, reading, public speaking, pets, Ani-ramen days (where we have a bunch of folk over to watch anime, win prizes, and eat ramen), YouTube wormholes, sci-fi, fishing, home improvement, emergency management, personal challenge, poetry...honestly, there is very little that I don’t have at least a passing interest in.
I have one degree in psychology, two dogs, three cats, and an assortment of chickens, ducks, peafowl, and homing pigeons. I homeschooled our 2 incredible children, which was positively delightful. We ran our house like a little Renaissance enclave where everyone had their studies and art and research and projects. I also worked in emergency management, mostly doing plan writing, which I love.
I am a third-generation military wife. My grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, father, cousin, aunt, brother, husband, other grandfather all served. I like to say “National Security Is Our Family Business”.
Being military, I never lived anywhere longer than three years and a week until we moved to Alaska in 1999. We spent almost 14 years there until my wonderful husband retired and we knew we needed to come down south to thaw. I LOVE heat and humidity. August in the south is like getting to be in a high class nature sauna, dripping with flowers and fruit and green--but for FREE! I love it.
Quickly we settled on Alabama, then Athens, which brings me to this article...
See, we’ve lived here for 10 years, yet often I hear about some local place or event I haven’t been to.
Not only is that embarrassing as a resident of this wonderful county, but also a little humbling for a budding tourism professional.
It might be the same for some of you. I remember a quote from one of my favorite books “If you visit (a place) for a week, you will see some of the things you want to. If you visit for a month, you will see all the things you want to. But if you live there, you never see anything at all”.
So let’s change that, you and me. Let’s look at Athens and Limestone County with a fresh eye. I’m going to start visiting local events, organizations, areas and report back to you. YOU can help me by bringing me Haribo gummy bears--um, I mean, recommending any organization, artisan group, event, nature place, meeting, etc that you think is a hidden gem.
Stop by and say hello or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Huh. This reminds me of the time I learned how to firewalk...)
Don't miss the Singing on the Square this Friday night, August 5th, with Randy Waller and Company. Randy is the son of bluegrass legend Charlie Waller (Country Gentlemen).
Like his daddy, Randy’s robust, stately baritone lends itself ably to mainstream country, folk, blues, bluegrass, and any other genre he chooses. Inspired by to all types of music and teaching guitar in Richmond, Randy developed his singing, song writing and musical skills into a solo career, opening for major acts and fronting regional country and country-rock bands.
The band features Randy Waller, Guitar/Vocal, Phil Riddick, Banjo
Russ Holder, Dobro/Vocals, Dustin Young, Mandolin and Adrienne Tabor, Fiddle/Vocals
We would like to welcome our new employee, Tina Morrison, to Athens Limestone County Tourism. Tina was born and raised here in Limestone County and is a graduate of West Limestone High School. She moved away from North Alabama in early 1990's and traveled, lived and worked in London, Australia and Mexico while employed with a global engineering construction company. She found her love of tourism while serving as the Director of the Perdido Key, FL Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center for 7 years. During her tenure there, she obtained a one million dollar tourism promotional grant to bring visitors back to the beach after the 2010 oil spill. During covid in 2020, Tina returned back to Limestone County to be closer to family and is absolutely thrilled about her new employment with Athens Limestone County Tourism. "My world travels help me relate to what visitors are looking for. I've sang the praises of Alabama all over the world and the chance to promote tourism in my hometown is simply a dream come true." Tina has 3 grown children and 3 granddaughters and her hobbies are music, camping, hiking, biking and kayaking. She will be assisting the Tourism President, Teresa Todd with Marketing, Events, and day to day operations of the Athens Limestone Visitors Center at 100 N. Beaty St. in Athens.
We welcome Tina to the team!
A note from Athens Limestone Community Association...
Athens Limestone Community Association is proud to celebrate the 2022 Black History with a film remembering the achievements of Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, a 1941 Trinity High School Graduate and his central role in U.S. history. We were honored to be contacted by Clark Atlanta University and Mrs. Lucy Lincoln to create this film for the 39th Annual C. Eric Lincoln Lectureship Series for the Clark Atlanta University under the leadership of Mr. Frank Travis and associates.
We ask the Trinity alumni and friends to pay their $100 annual pledge and we gratefully accept other donations. We are eagerly awaiting your assistance in raising the $98,000 needed in matching funds to apply for a $490,000 grant to complete the Fort Henderson Memorial and the Trinity History Center at the Trinity-Fort Henderson Complex. The ALCA has already begun to memorialize the service of U.S. Colored Troops in Athens by beginning to create the Fort Henderson Memorial, which ultimately will feature a park with monuments, historic interpretive markers and a well-lit walking trail and stone wall around the fort outline. The historic interpretive markers were created and installed in 2020, with many thanks for your support in partnership with the American Battlefield Trust.
If you are unable to be with us for this great celebration, please mail your donations to ALCA P.O. Box 1476, Athens, AL 35612, a 501 (c) (3) organization. We look forward to your support for these historic projects.
Athens Main Street - Chocolate Walk
Do you love all things chocolate? Do you love great places to shop and dine?
If so, you will not want to miss Athens Main Street’s popular Chocolate Walk. The Chocolate Walk will take place on February 5, 2022, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The self-guided event will start at...
Calhoun Brews Up Apprenticeship Course For