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It’s been so hard not having an iPhone for a few days… it’s going to be so wonderful to finally have my Instagram access back.  :D  In the meantime I bought a rinky dink $20 AT&T compatible phone just to get by.  Texting on that sucker is a real pain and I still find myself diverting to my phone to pass time only to discover that there is nothing even remotely entertaining.  I had no idea that I was so spoiled by my iPhone.  Only a day or two more before I’m back to real life!  I’m not sure I ever said on my blog what happened to my last one, but let’s just say that it fell into an undisclosed body of water on Sunday night.  Even after emergency rice support it died a painfully slow death.  I got several text messages that night saying that folks in  my contact list were butt-dialed, but alas, it was my phone saying it’s last goodbyes.  RIP iPhone 3.

My brother unfortunately sprained his ankle last night at the climbing gym, so I got the opportunity to babysit my little niece Lily Bean for about an hour or so.  I guess she’s recently learned how to play hide and seek because I spent the better of 30 minutes letting her hide and pretending to not know where she was.  The cutest place she hid was behind a long curtain… she was super still and I wouldn’t have ever known she was even there except for her legs and feet sticking straight out from the bottom.  So I kept calling her name and walking around, then eventually I yanked her feet which prompted hysterical laughter from her.  I don’t think she could be any more precious.  We spent the rest of the time chilling on the couch eating crackers and watching Ratatouille.

Sometimes we put our lives on hold waiting for big things to happen, while the most important moments are occurring when we aren’t paying attention.  Lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to notice the things I might be taking for granted.  There are some things in the very near future that I’m hopeful will happen, which will drastically change my day-to-day routine.  It’s a huge privilege to get to see my family as often as I would like, and to see my friends at the drop of a hat.  I have such important people around me every day who I love dearly.  I want to be sure that they know that while I have so many opportunities to express it.  They are a part of who I am and help define the amazing life that I get to live. Who are we without the love, support, friendship and comfort of others?  You get what you give.

We had such a wonderful weekend in Jacksonville, FL with my sister Rachel and her husband David.  It’s amazing where driving 6 hours in any direction will take you.  When I left Birmingham it was chilly and the trees were bright with color, whereas Jacksonville greeted us with warmer temperatures and palm trees.  It’s always so refreshing to go to the ocean… to take in the sounds, smell the sulfur and salt, and watch the gentle blue waves.  Our first night there we went to Rachel & David’s favorite little Mexican restaurant called TacoLu and had some tasty margaritas and tacos.  The next morning after my run on the shore, we drove 45 minutes to St. Augustine down a scenic beach road.   We passed some beautiful coastal homes and imagined the people living inside.  This was James’ first trip to St. Augustine, so I was excited to share that experience with him.  Once we arrived we enjoyed lunch at The Floridian, known for their regionally authentic cuisine.  Of course James got the burger, and I got a fresh fish sandwich.  After spending the afternoon strolling the shop filled streets, we headed back to their house for dinner where we were all assigned a course.  David did appetizers (crab-artichoke dip), Rachel and I made the main course (fresh flounder stuffed with Alabama Gulf shrimp and sweet potato fries), then James brought up the rear with homemade apple crisp with whiskey caramel topped with vanilla ice cream.  Collaborative meals are fun, affordable and memorable.  We ended our last night there playing 4 hours of Cranium on their living room floor.  It was the perfect quick trip!  Thanks for having us, Rachel & David.

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week… should be two weekends in a row full of family.  This Sunday is the Lily Bean’s second birthday, so everyone will congregate in Birmingham to celebrate.  Next weekend we will all head over to Columbus, GA to spend the holiday at Christy and Mike’s house.  Speaking of Christy, she just finished a Half Marathon on Saturday… only four months after giving birth to sweet baby Lucy.  Nothing short of inspirational!  Looking at her finish line pics made me crave competing in a race myself.  Nothing like seeing someone complete a goal to help fuel your own!

Christy after her Half Marathon with Mike & Anna!

Rachel & David on Jacksonville Beach

Jacksonville Beach

Baked flounder stuffed with Alabama Gulf shrimp and topped with asparagus sauce, side of sweet potato fries

St. Augustine

Cranium!

We have arrived in Jacksonville, FL via the MegaBus to spend the weekend with my sister Rachel and her husband David.  People look at me funny when I tell them that we travel this way sometimes, but it really is a super cheap, easy and fun way to get places.  The double-decker buses have wi-fi and outlets for each seat making it convenient to get some work done.  But don’t rely too much on the internet connection…it’s shady at best.

Besides the perpetual gum smacker that was a few seats back from me (one of my ultimate pet peeves), this day is starting off on a great foot.  I’m looking forward to exploring a new city over the weekend and enjoying some nice Florida weather.  I’m not sure if we will have time but I hope that we can skip down to St. Augustine at some point for a few hours.  That’s where David & Rachel met while they were in PT school, and I’m not sure they’ve been back since moving to Jacksonville over the summer.  It’s an awesomely spooky city with some great restaurants and pubs.  A super mini New Orleans in some ways.

One of my goals this weekend is to recruit David to join our Half Ironman team for next May.  Even though he hasn’t done the distance yet, he might as well be a professional…when he fell in love with the sport last year it was all or nothing.  He used to be an amazing soccer player and played for many, many years.  He had been looking for something to redirect all of that energy and passion to, and triathlon was a good fit.  We will see what he says!  If he is in, he will be our first dude on Team Half Crazy.

I will leave you today with a photo of brother-in law David (not to be confused with dad David, brother David or Uncle David) throwing kitty cat Owen on the sofa!  :D  It’s one of Owen’s favorite things.

Flying Owen!

A good friend of mine made an interesting observation recently… she said that I tend to default to exercise goals when I need an emotional or confidence boost.  That when other big focuses weren’t exactly going my way, running or triathlon was my fall-back plan to inject my life with excitement.  She is absolutely right, 100%.  Even though I haven’t participated in any major events in over a year and a half, it’s always in the back of my mind.  When is my next race?  What is my next exercise goal?  I think this is a positive thing, but it also makes me wonder why I place such importance on accomplishing physical goals.  A 5k isn’t enough,  not even a 10k… it has to be a marathon.  It has to be a Half Ironman.  I have to beat my old times.  Why am I so competitive with myself?  My friend thinks it is a control thing… being able to control something that has a process and a high probability of success.  You can predict a training schedule, you can mostly predict the weather, and you can predict that if you do x and y, you will get z.  There is comfort in a formula.  There is comfort in an end date for a definite result.  That is very rewarding for me.  I like that seemingly impossible distances can be conquered with enough will and determination.  That way of thinking can be applied to most other areas in life as well.  You do the work, you get results.  Training is also a great visualization exercise.  Envisioning yourself at the finish line is almost as rewarding as the real deal.  There is no other pride like it.

Alllllll that to say, I’ve formed an awesome team with some friends call Team Half Crazy and we will be participating in the Florida Half Ironman on May 19!  If anyone else is interested in joining our little team, let me know.  We have 5 members so far, all girls (myself, my sister Christy, Lauren, Hope & Wendy…holla!).  We are not all located in the same city, but will be tracking our training online together.  I will be following a 20 week training schedule which will start at the end of December… so plenty of time if you want to consider it.  My other goal in preparation for the Half Ironman is the Atlanta Marathon in March.  I’m already about 8 weeks into my training schedule, and so far it’s been clear sailing.  I literally found the easiest program out there to complete the distance.  :)  I’m not too concerned with my time, but if I can finish with 9.5 or 10 minute mile pace then I will be super happy. Honestly, just crossing the finish line of my first marathon will be awesome enough for me.

Today is an exciting day, though I usually keep who I’m voting for a secret for the most part.  Close friends and family know my beliefs, but I don’t feel like it does anyone any good to blast out opinions on social media.  But I do believe that being passionate about a candidate on either side is good, as it shows that we at least care.  The most frustrating part of the whole process is how scripted it all is, on both sides.  What I generally fall back on are my core values (for lack of a better phrase), and one candidate stands high above the other in that respect.  Now if there was a woman running in my particular party, I would probably be screaming her name at the top of my lungs as often as possible…which I realize is a little bit hypocritical with the social media comment above. :D  I am proud to say that I haven’t defriended or blocked one person yet this election season (though I came pretty close), but I’ve definitely wanted to shake some sense into a few folks.  It’s important to remember that we won’t always agree, that treating each other with kindness and respect is the ultimate goal.  We are all equals and deserve the same rights.   This is especially true in politics and religion, no matter how frustrating it may be to believe that you are right and someone else is wrong.  The world will always need cause warriors, peaceful protestors, passionate minds and most importantly a checks and balances system.  But above all these things, it needs harmony… and that only comes from caring for the earth and living creatures that inhabit it.

James turned me on to the deeper meaning of the word harmony.  Just a few weeks ago he did a beautiful set of prints from the word that he hand-drew himself.  This week I am painting on one of them as a collaborative piece, which I promise to share once it’s done.  Thinking about what imagery to choose from the notion of harmony has been a fun exercise.  There’s the perspective of the world revolving around us and how we fit in, then there’s the reality of us being one of the tiniest pieces of a greater masterpiece known as the universe.  We are so small, no doubt.  But as a human, it’s hard to imagine an existence without us.  We are itty bitty, but our reach goes far.  We have our own energy, much like the sun, that travels distances we have yet to discover.  Isn’t that an amazing thought?  It is therefore our responsibility to do good with that power as one unit.  We often teeter on the edge of destruction, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum from what we are truly capable of doing.  But we also do beautiful things.  Maybe harmony is the existence of both the good and bad, small and large, living together as one to make something truly unique within a universe beyond our own human comprehension.

Close-up of Harmony, photo and lettering by James Martin

 

I’m on another no-weighing streak, 13 days to be exact.  It is so hard to not step on the scale… I have no idea if I am fluctuating in either direction.  I definitely let the number affect my state of mind when I do know, and usually not for the better.  If I’m a few pounds heavier than I’d like to be, I feel down… if I am a few pounds under, then I think I can eat more than I really can.  Do you ever battle with that?  But now I find that if I don’t know at all then I assume the worst, which maybe isn’t completely terrible.  Hahaha.  I like the idea of judging by how your clothes fit, so maybe I will give that a shot.  All I know is that I’d love to be free of the worry caused by assigning a number to my self worth.  I could also spare to apply more discipline to my eating habits these days.  I vote to restore balance!  :D

Besides that small battle in my life, I am pretty happy all around these days.  I have a lot of things to look forward to on the horizon, I feel really fulfilled emotionally, and I’m overall heading down an exciting path.  There are so many possibilities for the near future, and I’m hopeful for how it will all unfold.  When you look at your life right now, do you feel completely deserving of all things wonderful?  I tend to be very optimistic, but sometimes I find myself looking at what is realistic as my only options.  Is the sky the limit?  It should be, though sometimes I forget.  As you get more life experience, sometimes you modify your expectations along with it.  But isn’t the joy of dreaming just that… that you can be anything you want?  Your imagination doesn’t have to follow any rules.  Maybe if we utilize that creative tool more, it will open up a whole new world for us.  We are all deserving of living the best life possible for ourselves.  The first step is imagining it to be so.

Lily was a fantastic Thomas the Train last night.  In fact she was so into it that she wore herself completely out before getting to trick or treat.  That was ok by us, it was a good night without it.  Mom made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for everyone at her house, which could quite possibly be a top-5 cold weather meal.  I ended the evening by watching a Halloween marathon on the AMC channel…had to get my last blood, guts & gore in before all was said and done.  :)

A family of trains!

 

Halloween is here!  One of my favorite days of the whole year.  October 31st marks the beginning of the holiday season for the next two months in a lot of ways, which means that we will all be a little overstimulated and hopefully surrounded by some extra love.  The end of October is the perfect storm between football, basketball, cooler weather, festivals and holiday excitement.  Some people don’t care for the commercialism of it all, but that part doesn’t really bother me.  Any reason to celebrate is good enough for me.

Tonight I’m looking forward to seeing my niece Lily dressed up as Thomas the Train, with my brother Dave as Percy and Amber as Emily.  To say that she is obsessed with that show would be a complete understatement… Dave says the first word that comes out of her mouth in the mornings is Thomas.  When the show comes to on TV, she yells Jen Jen, Thomas!  Mimi, Thomas!  Daddy, Thomas! Mommy, Thomas! Pop pop, Thomas! Everything is centered around Thomas.  She is so adorable.  Mom coached her last night on how to trick or treat, so we will see how that goes.  Little Lily Bean will be two next weekend!  Time flies.

I love to be scared.  I used to hate horror movies growing up, but now I can’t get enough of them.  There is nothing like the thrill of danger that doesn’t really exist. ;)  I watched a really great scary movie a few days ago called V/H/S co directed by Birmingham native Adam Wingard.  It’s the scariest film I’ve seen this year, and it’s brand new.  We watched via Movies on Demand, though I think most places are carrying it this Halloween.  If you love horror, you must watch it!  Be prepared to scream like a little girl.

Have a safe and fun night! I wish you lots of treats and smiles.

James and I as Black & White

 

Happy Tuesday!  What a crazy 24 hours for the weather, huh? I’m sending thoughts to all of our friends on the East coast who are having to brave the aftermath of Sandy today and in the days to come.

I am so superstitious.  I think a part of me believes that wishes can come true, and that some objects have special charms.  It could very well be that what you believe is more likely to happen in general, but I love to think that there is some sort of magic to it all.  At least on some level.  Halloween always makes me wonder more about the unknown, or the other side of this life here on earth.  Horror films are all based on the notion that spirits and entities exist, that there are good and bad things that can happen to us after we die.  Most of them are pretty ridiculous and impossible, but still, stories always make you think.  If you can imagine it, there will always be life to it…whether only in our minds or in another time and place.

Do you think that we will be able to record our dreams and thoughts in the future?  Beyond our conscious mind, there is another world of awareness that we can only tap into through specific means.  Most of us will never have access to what our brains are fully capable of.  There are two distinct sides to us: our physical side, then our internal world.  They both drive each other in different ways.  Experiences are usually documented by our senses, physical body.  Based on those experiences, our brain imagines new possibilities and scenarios.  It’s a continuous loop that propels us through life.  I think it’s strange that we can’t usually remember our dreams, and if we do then only for a short amount of time.  Dreams are so complex and revealing, almost like for 8 hours a day we go somewhere else completely.  I wonder what we’d learn about ourselves if we had the ability to study our sleepytime adventures.

I never really worried or thought about my age until a year or two ago.   I was even super happy when I turned 30, as I knew that the best of life was yet to come.  As a 33 year old, I am beginning to become aware that there isn’t endless time left to do all the things I want to do.  That may seem like a morbid thought, but it really isn’t.  I realize too that I could very well live until 100, especially if I have my Granmother West’s genes in me.  In that case, there is still 70+ years left to go.  I sometimes worry that I’m about to fall into a different category in life that is predetermined by others.  What does it mean to be in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, etc?  Nothing at all really, except that your body starts to age.  Does age mean that you become less attractive, less intelligent, less able?  Absolutely not.  But it sucks that sometimes we are trained to think that way.  Whenever I feel tempted to be afraid of aging, I just think of my Grandmother Edwards (Gayle)… my mom’s mom.  I won’t reveal her age, but you can probably do a little math.  James and I went to see her and Noble on Sunday at their new home, and they are more active than most people half their age.  They dance, perform theater around town, cook delicious meals and drink wine.  They truly have the life.  My grandmother is as beautiful as ever too, skin glowing and able-bodied.  Her mind is sharp and her soul is adventurous.  When I’m around her, I know that our souls know no age.

Remember that awesome pop-up supper club I talked about last week here in Birmingham?  Well, my friend Emily Self Brown’s Freshfully blog post is up chock-full of details about the experience.  Here is the link as promised!

Speaking of food, I had the awesome privilege this week to attend the Atlanta and Birmingham 6 month anniversary dinners for The Burger Coalition.  James and Dan worked really hard for a long time to make the dinners a special occasion, and no doubt they were both absolutely perfect.  The first dinner was in Atlanta where I got to meet a bunch of new folks, as well as see some familiar faces.  The three course meal was prepared by Chef Fraser from the Commune Supper Club at the Indie-Pendent, a local art boutique in a fun Atlanta neighborhood.  Honestly, when I saw them putting the burgers on the buns, I thought to myself that for sure they would be overcooked.  But alas, every single burger… all 30+ of them, were a perfect medium rare.  No words to describe how delicious they were!  Birmingham’s meal was last night at Jones Vally Urban Farm and was prepared by the amazing Chef Hansell from The Veranda.  I already knew about 80% of the people in attendance, which was a very different experience from the night before.  Imagine this: sharing a perfect dinner with some of the most awesome folks you know outdoors on a beautiful fall night.  That pretty much sums it up.  You must check out everyone’s photos from both dinners here on Instagram under the hashtag #burgercoalition.  Remember that the coalition will be going forward with more momentum than ever before, and you too can sign up for one at the first of each month in either city on their website.

An awesome week can only lead to an even more fantastic weekend, right?  Tonight is my beloved Rocky Horror Picture Show Masquerade Ball at The Alabama Theatre, which I never ever miss.  Their costume contest alone is worth the attendance.  James and I will be in full on costume, along with my regular RHPS partners Vero & Clay.  Tomorrow night is the absolute best annual Halloween party in town – the Magic City Choral Society’s Heroes vs Villains Bash at Avondale Castle!  I actually hate sharing that secret a little bit, b/c it is so fantastic and not overly crowded.  But it’s for a great cause, and if you’re looking for something awesome to do then this is your event.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Atlanta Class Photo – Six Month Anniversary of The Burger Coalition, photo by James Martin

Atlanta Burger by Chef Fraser, photo by James Martin

Atlanta Burger Coalition Menu, photo by James Martin

A Top 3: Jamie Golden :D, photo by Erin Shaw Street

My official TBC member card. :)

The Burger Coalition Birmingham Menu – Six Month Anniversary

Perfect burger by Chef Hansell from The Veranda

The Burger Coalition in Birmingham at Jones Valley Urban Farm, photo by James Martin

This week is already crazy!  I am so sorry for not posting in my normal fashion.  Then again, there is something nice to giving myself some flexibility with my frequency.

I know Halloween is technically next week, but it feels like it’s happening this weekend!  James and I literally just figured out what our costumes will be for Friday & Saturday night, so I’m excited to share photos with you to reveal this year’s theme.  It’s something that’s been done before, but will be easy to make original.  I love transforming the way I look once a year.

Speaking of transformations, have you ever wondered why colored hair (outside of the “natural” spectrum) is still so taboo for school and work places?  This baffles me.  Most people would say that it’s distracting, but to me it isn’t any more distracting than wearing a bright pink shirt or electric blue shoes.  It’s just a form of self-expression, and if color is a bad thing, then I’m not sure what is good in the world.  I think it’s becoming more and more acceptable, but at a turtle’s pace.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if Halloween, or something like it, were once a month… or even anytime you’d like it to be?  I guess it might take away the uniqueness of it all, but there is something to learn from freedom to express yourself.

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