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Happy Friday to all of you! Yesterday was my dad’s 59th birthday, so we gathered at my parent’s house after work to celebrate. Mom made the most delicious side with blueberries, peaches, cucumbers, avocados, sweet onions, jalapeños, parsley (you can sub cilantro) and a little fresh lime juice. For the main entrée she tossed a light salad with pieces of lean steak and parmesan cheese. She is the amazing Chef Mimi.
Tonight I am heading to Atlanta to see James for the weekend. I really enjoy the drive to and from… it is just the right amount of time to relax, think, and get in some good music time. Going there has become something that I look forward to, as there are so many new things to discover and explore. When I lived in Atlanta about 8 years ago, I didn’t know where the interesting places were to hang out, so my recent experiences have been very enlightening as to what the city really has to offer. It also helps that I have a pretty amazing tour guide who knows the neighborhoods so well.
Since Vero has been out of the country on a European vacation, I’ve been doing solo runs in the afternoons. It is so nice to get out and let your mind clear by doing some solid exercise. I rarely have a run where I don’t feel at least 50% better afterwards. I never regret running, instead I only feel regret when I choose not to. My mileage is still pretty low, only 3-5 mile per day three to five times a week. But honestly that is just fine for me right now.
Speaking of running, I’ve been considering some new athletic adventures for 2013. I think I would like to do another Half Ironman, but maybe in a different location other than New Orleans (since I’ve already done it twice). I’m thinking maybe the one in Augusta, GA or Haines City, FL. Another fun event that I’d like to do is the Hood to Coast 199 mile relay in Oregon. That sells out really really really fast though, so I’m going to try to pay attention to when registration opens for 2013. If you are interested in being on my team, let me know! You need a minimum of 8 runners, and a maximum of 12. HTC has filled the team cap on the opening day of registration for the last 14 years straight! Another run that interests me is the “Run to the Clouds” Mt. Washington Road Race. It only has one hill…..for the ENTIRE run (7.6 miles). It is the steepest road race in North America.
Whenever the Tour de France rolls around each year (starts tomorrow morning!), my brain immediately starts dreaming about all of the races that I want to participate in. It is so much fun to watch those men chase their dreams across Europe for almost twenty days straight. Some just want to win individual days or trials, while others want to win the whole thing. I love watching their strategies unfold, while working as a team and also for themselves. There are so many elements that they can’t predict like weather, injury and mechanical malfunctions. Those dudes are machines with incredible focus.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend… see you on Monday!
Does everything really happen for a reason? It’s hard to justify that statement to the loss of something or someone significant in your life. Maybe it is to learn a lesson greater than we can comprehend on this earth. I find myself saying that statement to others, and even to myself from time to time…. but almost always think – is that really fair? How can you tell someone who has lost a child that it was for a reason greater than their comprehension? Nobody wants to hear or even think about that in a situation of loss. It’s almost as bad as saying I was blessed that the tornado didn’t destroy my house, but it destroyed all the ones around me. Sometimes shit just happens for no reason at all…and it’s the way we handle it that makes or breaks you. Sure, there are things beyond our realm of understanding, but that doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is fair or predetermined. Instead we should think about what we do when those unwanted things happen to us. How do we look at the situation and react to it? I think that is where the learning comes in, and the ability to eventually find peace.
While I do believe that things just randomly happen to us from time to time, I also personally believe that there is a map-like structure in each of our lives. That there are things that are meant to be, and people that we are supposed to know and love. That there are souls that match perfectly with our own. Sometimes we even experience a feeling of doing the same thing twice, and maybe that’s not by chance. There is certainly more to life than any of us can pretend to know. You can’t predict highs and lows, or what tomorrow may bring. That’s why there is beauty in all things, and in every moment.
Every now and then, it is really difficult to find the words to say for a decent post. I have been struggling most of the day to think of a topic that inspires me to write, but alas, I have nothing. Zip, zero, zilch. So instead, I’m going to make a love list! Just for you.
1. The Olympic Trials… and the Tour de France!! (starting this Saturday, swoon)
3. A Baby Kitty
4. Popsicles (coconut or strawberry cream from Steel City Pops in Bham, or chocolate sea salt from King of Pops in ATL)
5. Chrissie Wellington
7. The Sidewalk Film Festival (just around the corner!)
8. A good summer run
9. Patio/porch lounging
10. Eating with James
11. Water activities
12. Sleeping in
14. Hammock time
15. Local beer
16. Summer hats (that fit my head)
17. Being pale
18. Large glasses of water
19. Light fingernail polish
20. My Livestrong bracelet (and my homemade Courtney bracelet!)
21. Weekend brunch
22. Feeling confident
23. My future niece that will be born in 6 days
24. Ollie Irene
25. Annnnnnnnd…. you.
Happy Monday! This weekend one of my favorite friends got married to an equally beautiful person. The wedding of Charles and Carrie Beth was a special one, full of love and happiness. They asked me a while back to read during the ceremony, which I gladly accepted. I didn’t really start getting nervous until Thursday or Friday, but it was more excitement than anything else. One of the readings was a Shakespeare sonnet (116), which I had to practice a lot to get right. It was very helpful to read the analysis to understand exactly what I was saying. Have you ever gotten so nervous that your knee caps start to shake? This is exactly what happened as I was reading in front of the 200+ in attendance. But from what I can tell, no one else seemed to notice, thank goodness. I tried to remember that it wasn’t about me, it was about the celebration of two dear friends coming together in love. And they couldn’t have been more happy. It’s people like them that stand as a constant reminder of what true love really is. I remember the first night that sparks started to fly between them – it was two years ago at the Artwalk after party. Charles walked up and introduced this glowing girl, and I could tell instantly that there was some magic happening. The rest is history, as they’ve been inseparable ever since. They both share a passion for adventure, food, music and travel. It is truly a match made in heaven. Congrats to you both!
Last night while trying to go to sleep, I couldn’t help but think of what a wonderful weekend it had been. Getting to spend time with James, hanging out in hammocks with Micah, and enjoying the company of friends almost every day made my heart smile. I just can’t seem to get enough of the people I love the most. Even my sister Rachel and her husband David came out on Saturday night for a few hours. They will be moving soon to Florida again, so it was nice to get to love on them a bit before their lives start to get busy with the transition.
I am in serious awe of this year so far. I would like to bottle it up and send it to myself in the future whenever I might need a smile. The note attached would read as follows: Hello from 2012! This has been one of the best years of your life. You love others equally as much as you are loved in return, and life has given you many gifts. Remember the moment when you met that special someone at Rojo? Or when you shared Gulf shrimp with a dear friend on a summer evening? Not to mention your sister’s wedding in Greece, or skinny dipping in the Cahaba River. Kisses, kitties, Atlanta, family and friends….this is the way your life should be every year. And if it isn’t, then eat a coconut popsicle and call me in the morning (after your 5 mile run with Vero, of course). This will get you heading back in the right direction.
Last night I went with my mom and dad to see my grandmother West for her 94th birthday! It seems old age can bring back a child-like quality, as you start to need help from others again and your view of life changes. I say that as if I’ve been old before… but I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to near the end of your time here on earth. My grandmother isn’t afraid of dying either, she’s had such a wonderful life full of love and adventure. Her husband Howard died when I was about 10 or so, and she’s never loved another again. She can’t wait to be reunited with him, she firmly believes that she will be with him and her sons who’ve passed away once her life is over. I believe she will as well.
My grandmother is extremely Catholic, in fact the majority of my West side is. My dad and his six brothers went to Catholic schools and were taught by nuns for their entire education. I too was brought up in the faith, going to a really small church in Warrior, Alabama (St. Henry’s) for most of my life. We were the odd ones out in high school being one of the only few Catholics in our school system. I think the only kid who had it harder was the Jewish boy. I say that with humor because looking back it is all very comical now. There were so many false ideas about what we believed since we were a minority, and for those who actually cared to listen we had to educate a great deal on our faith. For a long time I was a little bitter with the way we were treated by some, but in the end I think it was a good experience to know what it feels like to be different. I think it gave us a greater acceptance of others and the ability to deal with being unique. As for my current faith, I wouldn’t say that I have one. I do not feel like I am Catholic, though I do find comfort in a few things from the practice. Most of my immediate family still belongs to the church, which I respect. At this moment in life I just want to learn about everything, and be open to new ideas. I do the things that make me feel happy and bring me comfort. Those things usually involve being kind to others and living the best life I can.
The thing that I love most about my grandmother is her purity of spirit. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, and she is so giving at all times to anyone who needs a little extra love. She is also hysterical and is guaranteed to make you laugh at least a handful of times each visit. Even when she is feeling pretty bad, which has been the case as of late, she will always try to crack a few jokes. What’s even funnier is that her jokes are so rated G, but she manages to pull them off anyway. Most people can’t be funny without dropping a few eff bombs here and there, so it is great to see that she doesn’t need any shock value to make someone smile. She always ends each visit by saying something like this, “I pray everyday that your life is wonderful and everything you deserve. You are so beautiful.” She’s the one who is beautiful.
Last night I got to spend a few hours with my dear friend Brandi at the screening of Up at the newly renovated Avondale Amphitheater as part of the summer movie series. I have always been so in love with the amphitheater….it is nestled back along the corner of the woods in Avondale Park away from the street and it has curved grassy sitting levels edged with large stones. It so unusual and beautiful. Just on the hill above it (and through the small patch of woods) is the Avondale Castle (or pavilion) which is also a super place to do something special. Those two treasures really are underutilized as event spaces in town… but maybe that is a good thing for those of us in the know. With Avondale blowing up like it is, I’m sure it will become more popular in the coming years. I’m glad, because I want to go to the amphitheater as often as possible!
Just 9 or so hours later Vero and I did our morning run right through the park, and I began to realize what a staple this part of town has become in my life. This is also the park that I love to relax in on my Sidewalk Film Festival blanket and just gaze up at the trees. There is a good energy there…. one of mystery, history, excitement and community.
Rebecca and I have some exciting news to share tonight about Crush that we will be announcing on Facebook and Twitter later on this evening! I have a feeling that we will have a good run with our short film this fall, or here’s hoping at least. I think it deserves to be seen as often as it can, because we are both very proud of the work we put into it. We were very lucky to have such great talent helping us as well through every bit of the process.
Happy first day of summer!!!! Summers are meant to be spent with the people you love, enjoying a cool drink in the sunshine, playing in the grass and enjoying everything you have.
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” ― Charles Bowden
“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” ― Russel Baker
“Love is to the heart what the summer is to the farmer’s year – it brings to harvest all the loveliest flowers of the soul.” ― Author Unknown
“Summer afternoon…Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.” ― Henry James
Last night was my monthly “drinks with Debbie”, and we couldn’t have had a better time. It makes me so happy to see her happy, and she was beaming from the inside out. We have an interesting relationship, as we don’t really hang out outside of our dates, and we don’t share many close friends. This actually makes us feel more comfortable to share personal information, and makes our time together very special since it doesn’t happen very often. She has several wonderful things going on for her right now, and they are all greatly deserved. I see so many good things coming for her in the near future too, which makes me want to do a little happy dance. I think I will do one now! If you’ve never checked out her blog, you should do it now. We’ve been doing our monthly dates for a little over a year now, so that’s something to celebrate.
Today is the last day of spring! Seems like summer already, doesn’t it? I am looking forward to many days poolside or beachside with my SPF 1,000,000 and a cold drink in hand. I also love running in the heat, which I think I’ve mentioned before. I’m always really careful about hydrating before and after a hot run…as I know it is tough on the body. I feel like I’m a little behind the pack these days, as Vero & Brandi have become superstar runners. I have been there before as well, and I know that I can return to that state of fitness when I am ready to mentally go there. But it’s been nice for a change to run just because I want to, and to relax a little bit when it comes to my fitness goals. I do get the itch when I hear about someone’s amazing 7 mile run and how much faster they are getting, but I also enjoy going at my own pace right now. Luckily, Vero doesn’t mind going my speed when we do our runs together, as she really appreciates the social side of it. I am very thankful for that! What I do need is new running shoes, as the ones I’ve got now are about to bite the dust. And that’s not good at all for your joints….so hopefully this weekend I can make that happen.
What I put in my body makes such a big difference in how I feel. Eating too much can make you feel heavy and bloated, while not eating enough can make you feel a little cranky and irritable. There are only a few people who I know of in this world that don’t have to watch their diets at all…. and even they aren’t 100% carefree. Athletes have to eat more than the normal person to keep their weight up. Overweight folks have to eat less in order to shed the pounds. Even people who are at their desired weight have to periodically keep an eye on the scale in order for it not to move in one direction or another. Even the luckiest of us still have to deal with age at some point, which inevitably brings new body challenges. I think this is important to remember when you feel like you are alone in your weight struggles, because you certainly aren’t. We all have to find the right balance for our individual lives, and the correct perspective for our own happiness. Food is a significant part of life, we should be able to enjoy it while also keeping our bodies healthy. It is supposed to taste good and make us feel alive. As I’ve gotten older I have a greater appreciation for vegetarian and vegan cuisine, while not necessarily always eating that way. By learning how to live off of fresh ingredients from the earth you become a more creative chef overall. You can make a deliciously satisfying meal without even touching a meat product. It is a little harder for me to go without dairy, not gonna lie, but that is also possible. Food is an adventure, and our bodies are a reflection of the journey.
This weekend I went to Columbus, GA to spend time with my dear sister Christy and her family before she has baby #2 in exactly two weeks. She amazes me with her ability to keep up with a two-year-old while being 9 months pregnant….makes me think about how my mom did it with four children. I wonder if by the time Rachel and David came along, Christy and I were old enough to help a little? But still, four kids is a lot to take on. Then I begin to imagine having seven boys like my grandmother West did, whose 94th birthday is this week. That woman needs to be made a saint, and stat. Hearing about Birmingham when she was younger sounds like a whole different world. She talks about riding horses up and down Lakeshore Drive when it was a dirt road, and about how her first house with my grandfather was appraised for $75 in scrap lumber when they first bought it (which is the second oldest in Mt. Brook). She loves to say that the only time she went against her own father’s advice was to keep the house instead of tearing it down. Instead, they just added compartments on to it as their family grew. It still stands to this day, but probably not for much longer. It will be sad to see a part of our family history go away. Maybe a piece of it can be saved somehow by the next owners of the property.
I got the honor of being present when Anna Banana was born just a little over two years ago. I’d never witnessed a birth before, except for on the TLC channel. It was so surreal…. Christy was such a trooper, and the doctor was so calm. Anna came out very peaceful, eyes wide and taking it all in. It happened much quicker than I thought it would, and without any real drama. It was such a beautiful thing to be able to witness, an experience that I will never forget.
Speaking of beautiful moments, this weekend is the wedding of my dear friends Charles and Carrie Beth. I’ve known Charles for many, many years…we met back when I did my short film Piece of Cake in 2006, and he wrote a semi-review about it on his blog. We discovered that we had several mutual good friends, and the rest is history. Charles and Carrie Beth officially started seeing each other a few Artwalks back, and I think it is fair to say that they hit the ground running almost immediately. They have an amazing connection that is immediately apparent to anyone who lays eyes on them. Since then, I have spent many dinners with the two of them talking about life, hopes and dreams. A few months back they asked me to do a few readings at their ceremony, and I gladly accepted. If I can manage to hold back the tears, I know I will do a good job for them. Cheers to you both!
Yesterday evening while doing a short Sunday run, I ran up my last hill to the top of Cliff Road which overlooks the city. The sun was setting behind Birmingham, and there was a beautiful light surrounding the city. I stopped for a moment to absorb the beauty and take it all in. That’s when I began to imagine loved ones gone in the light itself, and felt a strange comfort. Birmingham looked so small in comparison to the sky surrounding it, this beautiful wash of bright colors constantly changing as the sun was setting. I thought about all of the people underneath the sky, and all of those who were now in it. I wonder what they know that we don’t….and if they can hear our thoughts and questions. It was an amazing sight to see and made me think about what might happen to our spirits when we leave this earth.
It is fair to say that a lot of meaningful life moments are coming up in the next few weeks, and I am completely and utterly grateful for each one of them. Thank you to whoever is looking out for me in the sky.
Last night while hanging around, I went through some old family photos from when I was a little girl. It’s hard to comprehend that I was ever the size of an Anna Banana or a Lily Bean, but we all were at some point in our lives. I kept looking at my face trying to connect to the little person that I used to be, trying to remember some of the moments in the photographs. Some things I vaguely recall from under the age of 5, like sitting in the dog bowl eating dog food (haha) and playing with my little sister. For everything else I rely on photos and video, which my parents were really good at taking. I thought I would share some of them with you today, so they are below for you to giggle at.
Since Father’s Day is coming up, I’d like to wish all you dads out there a great weekend! Happy Father’s Day especially to my own dad, brother Dave, and brother-in-law Mike. I hope you all feel as appreciated and loved as you are.
Yesterday I received an authentically moving comment on how to find hope in what may seem like a hopeless situation. If you have any thoughts or ideas on this topic, please see the post from yesterday and maybe offer your own words of wisdom.
Last night a really special thing happened – my Facebook status changed to “in a relationship.” Believe me, that wasn’t something I was going to do lightly… I’ve even wondered if it would happen at all, as I was very sensitive to the idea of being public about that part of my life again. I still won’t say too much about it, but I have indeed found someone very wonderful and for whom I care about a great deal.
Don’t you wish you could have a life snapshot of yourself at the same point every year, just to see how much you’ve grown and changed? 2011 was pretty monumental in a lot of ways, and not all happy stuff…but yet necessary. 2012 is turning out to be of equal magnitude, but through the roof positive. I’d like to stay in this mental place for a while. I’ve learned my lessons and have grown from past experiences. Now is the time to savor the rewards of coming out on the other side after a lot of hard work. I have not wasted one single moment trying to heal my spirit and return to the Jennifer that I’ve always been. I feel that she is back, and ready to appreciate every second of happiness that is given to her. I am full of gratitude for that.
Have you ever noticed that when you are grateful, that you want to push that energy forward to others? That you find yourself smiling a little more and sharing the vibe in other ways you probably don’t even notice? When you find little nuggets of joy, that little extra bounce to your step is apparent. Your aura changes. On the flip side, joy can be addictive. Sometimes you start to chase bigger and better highs, and you all of a sudden stop seeing the small wonderful things around you all of the time. Big life moments are always fantastic and worth celebrating, but I never want to forget the things that are constant. Like the comfort of having my kitty sleep by me at night, or the simple pleasure of spending time alone in a park dreaming of the future. True happiness is everything wrapped up into one pretty little package – big and small alike.