Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Santa? I KNOW him!!!"

I have a lot of fairly vivid memories of the years of Christmas that I have seen in my 24 years. There was the year I got a bike... the year my sister was sick and didn't open any presents... the year my dad was sick and didn't open any presents (Easter has always been my holiday for getting sick)... the year I got the talking parrot (I know I was like 3 but I swear I remember being excited over the "talking bird")...

The one I remember best happened the year I was in the first grade. Remember how Christmas Eve felt like the longest day EVER back when you were a kid? We always went to bed early so that we could be asleep before Santa arrived, but I remember being in the bed for what felt like hours trying to fall asleep and being too excited to do so.

That year I heard Santa's sleigh bells. They were loud. They were outside my window. I sat up. I heard them again. I knew it was Santa so I buried under the covers and squeezed my little eyes shut. I didn't want Santa to know I wasn't asleep yet and decide to go on to the next house.

I remember going back to school and standing in the hall outside of my class room and telling some kids in line all about hearing Santa's bells. One of them asked why I didn't look out the window, and I can recall that feeling of stupidity as I thought, "yeah. Why didn't I look?"

WARNING: Do NOT keep reading if you are under the age of 12.

When the day came that I learned the truth about Santa (a day I don't really remember), I had a really hard time accepting it because I had heard those bells. I couldn't put it together. What had I heard if it wasn't Santa? It wasn't until a few years later that my dad finally admitted to getting out of bed and jingling some bells under my window. He still gets a laugh over this story everytime. I think he was rather pleased with his ability to keep the magic alive for me.

I suppose I'll be likely to someday be standing under my child's window ringing some bells to get them all the more excited over Santa's gifts. But that's going to be a while from now...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Carols, Part 2

I just needed to say that if you're looking for something a little different for your Christmas cd collection, then you need to check out Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas. A friend of mine had introduced me to his stuff a while back and I absolutely loved it. So when Danielle told me she bought the Christmas album, I had to get it from her.

There are 42 songs (wow, right?)... some being classic favorites, some being new songs, and some being traditional hymns. I only had a chance to listen to a handful of songs last night, but I am definitely digging it so far and eager to hear the rest on my ipod at work today.

I also thought of my favorite "non-traditional" Christmas song... It's called "Christmas" by Leona Naess. It's worth the $0.99 download, promise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Carols

I really enjoy the Christmas season. I love the trees and lights. I love seeing all the red and green. I really loving giving people gifts that I know they'll enjoy. And I definitely love Christmas carols.

I've already busted out all my Trans-Siberian Orchestra stuff the other day as I was decorating my house. I'm especially eager to get the Sufjan Stevens Christmas cd from a friend of mine later tonight. I don't complain that Mix 92.9 plays all Christmas music between Thanksgiving and Christmas day. I enjoy bee-bopping along in my car listening to all the festive tunes.

(A side note: Someone actually said to me the other day that she was sorry I had to be alone during the holidays. I suppose being single is interpreted as being alone? It's true that I can find a lot of joy out of having a significant other to share major holidays with, but not having one does not mean I'm alone. I do have friends and family and other would-be suitors, people. Just needed to throw that out there for anyone else who may be concerned. Glad we've got that settled, thanks.)

Back in my choir days, I loved when we did "O Holy Night" in the Christmas concert. There's just something about that song that is amazing. I heard Celine Dion's version in the car the other day and must say that my attempts to sing like her are often in vain, but when I turn the radio up really loud you might be convinced that I can hit those high notes, too.

My all-time favorite Christmas song? "Carol of the Bells." I have never heard a version I didn't love.

My least favorite? "Last Christmas." I first heard this song back in college when I worked at the mall during two Christmas seasons. We had a cd with about 4 hours of music, so I was guaranteed to hear every song once or twice during a shift. Those songs become permanently engrained in your head. This one just especially drove me nuts. The chorus is something like, "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart/ But the very next day, you gave it away/ This year to save me from tears/ I'll give it to someone special..." Why is this person only giving away their heart on Christmas? Did they not think the first person was special? I don't forsee this song becoming the next best classic Christmas carol anytime soon.

I know not everyone enjoys Christmas tunes. My sister always complains when I want to listen to them despite my best efforts to point out that we only listen to them for a month out of the year. I'm considering an intervention... how can anyone not like the occasional round of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas?" Ok, maybe that one I can understand...

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'll take a simple life...

It really is the little things in life that can make a day all the more enjoyable.

After a productive second two days of the long weekend (finishing Christmas decorations, moving my winter clothes into my closet and the summer clothes out, organizing and cleaning, and a little more Christmas shopping), it was time to head back to the office this morning.

I didn't really mind having to go back to work, but it's all rainy and gloomy out so it made it a bit harder to drag myself out of my warm, cozy bed. It's been a fairly slow morning, and when Danielle called to see if I wanted to meet her at Chick-fil-A for lunch I didn't hesitate.

Right after we met up, I noticed Brett and Gary walking in. These guys went to high school with us back in the day and while I see them fairly often, Danielle hadn't seem them in a while. So we decided to all eat together. Or maybe we kind of just joined them anyways... but they didn't seem to put up a fight. :) It also occurred to me that I've now seen Brett on four of the five past days. These sort of things sometimes happen in small town Tennessee.

We had a really enjoyable time laughing and talking. It's not like it was anything all that exciting, but I find that it's the simple things like running into a friend and sharing a meal that can really make a day even better.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Any of you who know me at all know that I did not get that shopping gene that most women seem to possess. However, I always enjoy buying gifts for people. So I take advantage of the holiday deals and head out every year on Black Friday with my mom to try to knock out as many presents as possible.

Today was rather successful. Not only did I find at least 75% of the gifts I need to buy this year, I came up with some really good ideas for the rest of the people on my list. I'll have to go back out once or twice more to make it all happen. All in all, I was fairly pleased with some of the things I came across.

Another good thing about the Black Friday shopping is that it's a good time for me to find things to point out to my mom as things I'd like. As we've gotten older, my grandmother in particular has had a hard time shopping for me and my sis. Something in her thinks we're still budding teenagers instead of gals in our 20's. It's always good when mom can show her specific things that we'll like on Christmas morning.

I don't mind the Christmas shopping. The crowds don't really bother me. I don't mind parking a mile away. There's something about all the decorations and the Christmas music in every store that is so festive and makes it all more enjoyable. And the deals... I just can't help it. I like bargains. IYou get the same thing but for less. It's fantastic.

It was a long day and I'm glad to have it behind me. Now I've just got to get this Christmas tree up... and then watch Elf!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Boulevard Bolt

Today I joined some friends in a new Thanksgiving tradition - the Boulevard Bolt. Apparently this 5-mile race has been happening on Belle Meade Blvd. for years, but this was the first time I've done it. I think as long as I'm in Nashville, I'll keep running it.

My sister and I headed out there with the Bob to meet up with Amy and Mark, Clint, Erron, Rachel, and Brett. We had some pretty serious storms come through here last night, and we were all thankful the rain stopped before the run. It was cloudy and cold, but really it ended up being pretty perfect weather once you were running.

Around 8,000 people came out for this 5-miler, including one couple dressed as a giant turkey and Pocahontas. The first mile was a little tough because there were so many people, but once we broke through the initial crowd we found a good pace and glided along.

I was really proud of Meredith. She's been running a little here and there but was less than thrilled about letting me talk her into running this one with me. But she kept up until right at the very end, coming in less than a minute behind me. I managed to complete the run in 42:05. To give a little perspective to my non-running readers, this isn't especially fast in general (the winners did it in under 30 minutes) but it was REALLY fast for me. I averaged an 8:25 minute mile. Wow.

It was a really fun thing to do on the holiday. Even Meredith said she had fun. We got home fairly early so I headed to Cracker Barrell with mom for some hot chocolate and the holiday breakfast sampler. I love me some cinnamon biscuits. I caught the end of the Macy's parade and enjoyed a little nap before catching the Thanksgiving episode of The Cosby Show. (I laugh every time Cliff comes back from the store in the storm only to have to go back for a forgotten item.)

I ate way too much at dinner tonight (my tummy still hurts a bit), but when you run 5 miles in the morning doesn't that make it ok?! I tried deep fried turkey for the first time and it was amazing! All in all, it was a good Thanksgiving. And to top it off, my cousin came over and was able to fix my computer. I was excited about that, too.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to take a few minutes to wish you all a very happy turkey day! I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday weekend with your family and friends. Be safe if you're traveling and don't feel guilty if you eat too much. It's one of those days when calories don't count!

This year will be a little different for me and my family. We always did a big Thanksgiving lunch at my grandparents' home. My family definitely knows how to make an exceptional buffet of turkey, ham, casseroles, and desserts galore!

The whole family will still be getting together and bringing the usual spread, but this year we're having dinner at a community center where one of my grandmothers now lives. It'll be different, but I'm sure still just as good as usual.

I certainly have a lot to be thankful for... my life is definitely blessed with a lot of good people between all the family and friends I have. I have a great job, a nice home, a sweet kitty cat, and nice belongings. I am thankful for lessons I've learned and this journey that I've been on in my life. I'm thankful for my health and for the ability to go after my dreams. I'm thankful for the opportunities and freedoms that I have. But most of all, I'm thankful for the people. My relationships make my life more fulfilling than anything I own or anything I could do. Thank you all for being a part of my life in some way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dreams

I dream a lot. I'm talking like it's unusual for me to wake up and not remember at least one of my dreams. And I dream in color. I read somewhere that most people dream in black and white. I can't remember what it says about me that I see colors, but I hope it's something good.

Anyways, I usually dream about people I know or something that happened or that I'm anticipating happening. If I talk to someone right before I go to bed, I often see that person in my dreams. Same thing goes if I spend time with anyone in the last few hours before bedtime.

Last night I had a bunch of dreams. I kept waking up and thinking, "Wow, that was weird." The only one I remember though was about wasps.

I've been finding a lot of wasps in my house lately. This doesn't really please me, especially since I know Tucker is likely to play with them before I find them and I don't want him to be stung. Most of the time they're laying on the floor but aren't quite dead yet. They meet their doom when I flush them down the toilet. One day one was still crawling around, but he couldn't fly so I squashed him with a fly swatter. It gave me a real "protector of my territory" sort of feeling, ha.

So last night I dreamed about going after a wasp with a fly swatter that was still in flight. He landed on my shoulder (almost like a bird might) and out of the corner of my eye I could see him getting ready to sting me. In the dream, I have a flash back of the time a fly landed on my leg when I was at Opryland and I got really scared because I was like 8. It didn't sting me, but I didn't like having a wasp touching me. Anyways, then I grab my shirt to pull it away from my body and he stings but it doesn't get me since my shirt is lifted off my shoulder and his stinger isn't long enough to reach my skin.

Next thing I know I'm awake and I have flung my covers off of me, I suppose in some subconscious attempt to swing the wasp away. Tucker was curled up beside my legs so I'm sure he was a little confused when the comforter was suddenly thrown over him. I realized I was awake and there was no wasp on my shoulder and promptly went back to sleep.

I guess maybe the wasps in the house were bothering me more than I thought, haha. It's crazy sometimes what's in my dreams. I think the old tale is that if you tell about your dreams before breakfast, they'll come true. Don't worry... I've already had my cereal.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pet Peeve

I don't have a ton of pet peeves. Most of them are pretty logical things, in my opinion. My biggest pet peeve? When people don't do what they say they're going to do. Absolutely drives me nuts.

Tonight I had to drive out to Belle Meade to pick up race packets for the Thanksgiving Day run my sister and I are running. It's not really that far, but it took me forever and a day to get out there and back since I had to go in rush hour traffic.

Bad drivers are another pet peeve of mine. I don't really have road rage. I kind of like having some peace when I'm in my car. I put on some good tunes on the ipod and start singing along, making my merry little way to wherever I'm going. But there are moments when my peace is interrupted by someone who doesn't know how to drive.

Aside from slow pokes and people weaving in and out all over the place... or aside from the people who almost hit me because they're doing something dumb... the thing that irritates me most are the people who brake and practically come to a complete stop and THEN turn on their blinker as they start to turn. If you're braking, you probably know you're turning so I don't really see the problem with turning on the blinker. Anyways, it's a little thing, but one that almost always solicits a little "blinker and THEN brake!" comment off my lips. But then I get over it.

I guess we all have our little nuisances in this life. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Perfect Weather

We could not have asked for better weather this weekend in middle Tennessee. This is what a fall weekend should be like. Not too cold, but no longer warm. Just a pleasant, crisp chill that makes any weekend activity all the more enjoyable.

I had a chance to go to Gatlinburg this weekend. I'm sure it's absolutely gorgeous up there right now. I opted not to go for several reasons, but I couldn't help but remember hiking out to a waterfall up in the Smokies when I went last year. I might just have to try to put together a weekend girls' trip out there sometime soon to get a good dose of the mountains.

I ran my last long run of 17 miles yesterday morning. Both the Bob and my friend Michelle joined me for the last 10 miles. I had pushed myself to run the first 7 at a 9-minute mile pace, thinking I'd take it a little slower the last 10. Well, Michelle typically runs around an 8-minute or so mile, so we all compromised and ended up doing 9-minute miles the whole way. I have never run 17 miles in 2:35 before. I could definitely feel the difference! But I know that training on the faster side this whole time is definitely going to pay off in 3 weeks.

I'm actually kind of ready to be done with the training and just go run the race. I love to run, and I like having a goal and something to work toward. But it never fails - about this time in the training I start feeling ready to not be following a training plan. To be able to just run what I want to run and when I want. To not schedule other plans around my training runs. To have more flexibility in doing other workouts at the gym. It's always better when I rotate between having a race to train for and having a more "la-ti-da" type workout schedule. I'm really looking forward to going to more of the classes at the gym in lieu of some of my runs.

Then again, there's some things about training that I always miss, and I guess it's part of what makes me go back for more of it after a while. Like eating 5 meals on a Saturday because I burned ALL my calories for the day in the first 3 hours. Or seeing people freak out when they ask what I did that day and I tell them. Or all the little eccentric things that happen that give you good running anecdotes. I actually had a first last week... I was running along and suddenly heard a loud honk that literally made me jump. When I looked, it was a fire truck with five firemen smiling and waving with fervor. I smiled and waved back. I'm sure they were laughing at my jump, but seriously... those fire truck horns are loud!

I've enjoyed a lazy weekend after my run. I visited my grandparents. I did some reading. I made a trip to the scrapbook store to get some needed supplies. I'm spending this afternoon working on the album for my junior year of college. If I could ever catch up it'd be easier to keep my scrapbooks more current. I don't take near as many pictures now as I did in college when something was going on like twice a week. My friend Danielle is about to join me. I've found that scrapping with a friend is always more fun... you have someone else to bounce ideas off of... and make a quick Starbucks run with for something yummy. Oh how I love going to Starbucks this time of year. It's so festive.

I'm seriously just babbling on now. The point is that it's been a beautiful weekend. Sure, it's been a little cloudy. But I'll take cloudy and 65 with a breeze any day. There's just something about the fall. I love the way the leaves crunch under my feet and being able to wear sweaters and just the way it smells outside. I hope everyone is having a pleasant weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Memory

At one point during my freshman year in college, I had an interest in this guy that I'll call Ted for the purposes of this blog posting.

Ted and I had met at some point in our high school years, but out of nowhere we started spending some time together freshman year. I wouldn't call it dating or anything at first. It was very sporadic in the beginning, but it was enough that I knew I kind of liked him and wouldn't have said no should he ever ask me out.

One weekend I went home, and my mom talked me into making a late night Wal-Mart run with her. Since I'd been hanging around the house all day, I wasn't really fixed up. In fact, I recall looking pretty rough. I had dirty hair in a ponytail, wore my glasses (that were not cute at the time), and had on an old t-shirt with baggy, holey jeans. I'm not the girl who has to fix up to go to the grocery store, but I must have appeared more unkempt than usual because my mom asked if I didn't want to change or something. I said no and how I didn't even care if we saw anyone. I remember adding, "Well, the only person I wouldn't want to see me looking this bad is Ted."

Guess who I saw at Wal-Mart that night? Yep. Ted. There was no slipping down an aisle to hide. I came around a corner and found myself face to face with him. I remember pretending like I didn't know how bad I looked as I exhanged some chit chat and headed on my way feeling mortified. I think my mom laughed pretty hard. What were the odds I'd see the one person I didn't want to see? I suppose he wasn't scared away at my rugged look that evening because we did go on to date for a bit. He wasn't a shallow guy. If there's one thing I know I want, it's a man who can appreciate me for me, regardless of how I dress or if I wear make-up all the time or if my hair is perfectly coifed.

I remembered this story because I saw Ted the other night. I had showered after my run and pulled my wet hair in a ponytail, threw on some clothes and headed out for the evening. I felt just fine about how I looked even though I wasn't especially fixed up, but I couldn't help but laugh when I saw him just because it reminded me of that Wal-Mart encounter. Don't get me wrong, I like to take care of myself and look nice... but who can look like a million bucks 24/7? It's too exhausting. Going out au natural can be rather liberating, especially if it's just to run some errands or something. Why do I need make-up for that?!

But don't let me mislead you... I like to take the time to get all dolled up just as much as I like being comfortable going out in my own skin. That's just the woman in me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Half-Birthday

So today is my half birthday. It's exactly six months since my last birthday and six months until my next one. I'm really not sure what made me think about it when I was dating a bill this morning, but nonetheless... it's true. I am exactly 24.5 years old today.

This realization also prompted me to start singing that song from the cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland. You know the one... "The Unbirthday Song." Granted, I had it in my head for at least an hour before I remembered it's not a half-birthday song, but I suppose the exchange of words still works.

24 has been pretty decent so far. It's still a little strange at times when I think that I'm technically in my mid-20's now. (When did that happen?) I'm feeling good about my life. I've done a lot for a gal who is exactly 24.5 today, and I know I still have a lot to look forward to in the coming days, months and years. I think that's something worth celebrating.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Running Anecdote

I suppose it's only appropriate to share a few running stories of old on occasion. Let me take you back to the beginning. Ok, so not the VERY beginning... but back to my earliest memory of competitive running. (Ha, I say that like I'm some racing star. I assure you - I am not.)

I'm sure my actual earliest running memory is of running around in the backyard. Always the imaginative child, I made up games with imaginary friends and ran or biked around the backyard like I was a world traveler. I'm sure this somehow stemmed from all the reading I would do curled up with a flashlight in my closet (this was because I didn't want to be found and interrupted in the middle of a chapter, I think). Regardless, I am a world traveler now and intend on seeing more in the future, so I reckon things turned out somewhat as I dreamed.

Anyways, in elementary school we had to go to gym class once a week. At the end of every gym session, we lined up on the basketball line at one end of the gym. Boys were on the left side and girls on the right. The idea was that the first boy and girl would race to the other side of the gym, tag the blue mat that was on the wall, and race back. Then they'd go to the end of the lines, and the next two would be up.

Boys used to scramble to change their position in the line to race me. I don't remember if it was that some were afraid to go against me, or if some wanted a chance to try to beat me. I may not be a sprinter now and I may not have really been one back then either, but for whatever reason I could always outrun the boys until about the 6th grade.

I don't remember feeling especially competitive with them about it, but I think it provided me with some sort of satisfaction that no boy would ever be able to torment me on the playground... he wouldn't be able to catch me. In fact, I remember a boy named Michael who was in another class and had heard about my speedy ways. He challenged me to a race on the playground. I'm pretty sure he cried after he lost.

I don't usually outsprint any guys these days, but I don't guess there have been many to challenge me to a race lately either. Wait, I do recall a few years back a boyfriend daring me to race him across a bridge. He didn't cry after I beat him, but I think I still felt a little bad about it after seeing the look of surprise on his face. But I'm not one to "let" someone win either. :)

When I run races, I really don't concern myself with who I see in front of me or behind me. My joy comes from the challenge I give myself. And I'm certainly not out to make anyone cry over it all. I believe running is physical, mental, and emotional. It's symbolic of our life. And the pleasure is in knowing you gave it your all. I guess technically everyone's "all" has a place in the race. But does that number really define you? I don't think so.

But Michael, if you're reading this... don't worry. I'm sure you'd beat me now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Taking It Back

I had an interesting experience last night. Yesterday was Homecoming up at MTSU, and since I couldn't make it to the game I headed up there later in the evening to spend some time with my sister around town.

We headed out with some of her friends to stop by Greek Row and meet some of her favorite SAE boys. I can't even remember the last time I was in a fraternity house, but I've been out of college for 2 1/2 years so it's been sometime longer than that. I honestly don't remember spending a lot of time over there during my senior year other than Homecoming. I guess when you date someone not in a fraternity, you find there aren't many reasons to hang out on the row. I don't think I missed out on much, but then again, sometimes I wonder...

It was really kind of strange walking in there. I knew I wouldn't know a soul, but I immediately felt a bit nostalgic. It felt odd to walk past rooms where I used to drop in and visit friends. It seemed like at any minute a familiar face could walk around the corner. None did, of course.

One thing I don't remember is how bad the houses smell. It was terrible! I guess maybe they smelled like that back in the day, but I certainly don't think they did. Maybe when you're in college you're immune to the smell. I told Meredith that she should use her power as SAE sweetheart and help get the place cleaned up. Her response? "I'm SAE Sweetheart, not SAE mom." She makes a valid point.

I do remember that when I was there, Homecoming night was a big deal. You could always count on something happening that night at almost every house. But apparently that's changed, too. The best thing we could find was a field party for $10 a person, regardless of if you wanted a cup or not. We didn't go. Who wants to pay to party in a field when it's 30 degrees outside? Apparently, none of us. So we ended up at IHOP instead where I ate some chocolate chip pancakes that were delicious. Yes, if you read yesterday's post you'd recognize that this was yet another meal within a few hours of dinner and some Dairy Queen. What can I say? Girl's gotta eat...

I don't typically feel especially old or anything. There are still people at MTSU who were there when I graduated. But boy... everyone looked so young last night. Except this one guy I met who turned out to be the little brother (in the fraternity, not real life) of my pal John who I used to hang out with a lot back in the day. I guess he loved college so much he decided to stick around a little longer than the rest of us. It was a good reminder than I need to give John a call.

It was fun to hang out with Meredith and meet some of these boys she's always talking about, but it definitely is a strange experience to be back on campus after being gone for a while. It's like it's the same, but everything's different.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The 20-Miler

I'm not going to lie. Sometimes when I wake up at 6:30 on Saturday mornings to get ready for my long run, I feel really nervous. It's not a mental thing. Mentally, I'm ready. But it's like my body heard a rumor about what's about to happen and my stomach gets that nervous, sick feeling.

Today was my 20-miler. I won't do anything longer than this until race day when I go the full 26.2 miles. It was pretty cold so I had to bundle up a bit more than I prefer, but I run so much better when the weather isn't blazing hot and sucking out all of my body's salt through all the sweating.

It went well. My body quit being all nervous by the time I got to the park and turned on the ipod. The Bob joined me for the second 10 miles which was incredibly helpful in keeping me going when I started to feel tired. It's harder to quit when you've got someone around to hold you accountable to your goal. I never felt like quitting today, but I think I would have slowed down a lot had I been alone the last few miles. Instead, I ran the last mile or so faster than the 19 before. I was kind of ready to be done I suppose. :)

20 miles in 3:10 today. This is VERY exciting. 4 weeks until Huntsville. I think I'll definitely be ready.

After 20 miles, a girl's gotta eat... so I stuffed myself full at the Olive Garden. Then I napped like all day. And then I stuffed myself again at Demos'. And now I'm eating Dairy Queen. Ah, the joys of running...

Friday, November 9, 2007

Busy Bee

I've been a bit MIA the past few days. My apologies for neglecting you, dear readers. I really have no excuse other than I've just been such a busy bee this week.

Work has kept me constantly busy. I'm not complaining. I was bored out of my mind at my first job out of college. You might think it'd be kind of cool to be paid to sit around and do a whole bunch of nothing all day, but it's not. Trust me. I'm a million times happier being productive all day.

Today I got to go with the Bob to see one of the homes where we recently installed cabinets. This house is literally smack dab on top of a hill out in Franklin. The house is one of those ridiculous mulit-million dollar homes (not that I wouldn't live in one given the opportunity, of course), and the coolest thing is that it's so high up you can look out and see for miles. The view was gorgeous, especially with all the colors of the tree leaves across the hills. Tennessee can be so freaking beautiful sometimes.

I've also been busy with my runs (no surprise there, right?) and some other social engagements. I honestly feel like this week has absolutely flown by, and I'm not quite sure where it all went. It's crazy how quickly time seems to go as I get older. Or is that just me...?

Anyways, I promise to get back to it for you guys. The biggest reason for my blog absence is my computer hasn't been working since Monday evening. It's rather annoying, but I know a guy who knows a lot about computers so I'm hoping he can fix it. As much as I want a Mac, I'm really not feeling the hit on my bank account that such a purchase would make right now. I guess we'll see.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This Thing Called Life

Some of you may know that back in April my boss and I raised money for a local non-profit called Mercy Ministries when we ran the Country Music Marathon. To offer a very quick background, Mercy is an organization that helps young women with addictions, eating disorders, a background of abuse, and other issues that affect their self-esteem and ability to live a fulfilling life.

I certainly have never been through anything even remotely similar to what the girls who come through the program have experienced, but I do think we are all on a journey to become the best versions of ourselves that we can be. I think we live in a time where it's like second nature to be critical of ourselves and others around us. It's true that we're not perfect. It's true that we all have fears and weaknesses and insecurities. But in the end, I don't think any of us want to be defined by those things. And we shouldn't be. They're part of human nature, but they shouldn't control our lives. The program at Mercy works to help the girls alter their habits and their approach to this thing called life so that the negative things are not what's controlling them.

I think that's what any of us are ever trying to do. I know that I'm trying to live a life of beauty. I have my own doubts and fears and insecurities, but I don't want to let them hold me back from going after the things I want... from living a good and fulfilling life.... from giving of myself to the people around me. I want to be good friend, a good daughter, a good employee, and someday a good wife and maybe even mom. I think I've realized somewhere over the past couple of years that I used to be really hard on myself. And maybe I still am in some ways because I push myself to give my best to what I'm doing in my life. But I think I've also grasped the truth that I can never please everyone. I can never be perfect. And there will always be moments of fear or insecurity. But somehow I've learned how to not let those things rule my life.

I've been spending time down at Mercy weekly since learning more about them through the marathon fundraising, helping with the organization of other volunteers for various events and some other odds and ends. With the holidays coming, there are a handful of fundraisers and activities for the girls in the home on the calendar. It's exciting to give some of my time to this organization because I know that there are young women who graduate from the program with more confidence in themselves than they ever dreamed they could have. They're able to walk out and refuse to let the negative things in life control how they live. They learn how to handle both the ups and downs that life throws at all of us.

I realize this is a slightly deeper post than I usually make and maybe somewhat evasive, but I was driving home from Mercy today thinking about how much I have grown and changed in the past 10 or so years. I used to be so shy and so unsure of myself. I think we all dealt with a decent bit of insecurity when we were young and figuring out who we are... it's part of youth. And I'm still young. And I'm still trying to figure it all out. And I know there's still a lot in store for my life. But I feel like I'm living with a smile. I feel certain that lessons I'm learning are shaping me into a better woman. I know that I feel good about who I am. I'm still going to keep working on those weaknesses. I'll still admit to a few fears and insecurities. But they don't define me.

I want a life of joy. A life of compassion. A life of giving. A life of honesty. A life of fulfilling relationships. A life of embracing the good things. A life of gracefully dealing with the bad things. Like I said before, a life of beauty. Dreams. Struggles. Victories. I want to be like the beautiful butterfly.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Another Beautiful Saturday

I have really been fortunate to have some fantastic weather for my Saturday long runs these past few months. I of course hope to keep seeing them over the next 5 Saturdays.

Today I met up with the Bob at the park for a 10-miler. I decided that I should pick up with what I skipped last week and keep going from there. I'll probably cut out a 14-miler from the schedule instead. We ran fast. Not like Kenyan fast, but 9-minute mile fast, which is kind of like an endurance sprint for the Melanie. This is the part of the training where I start getting antsy for race day, but I'm doing my best to stay focused so that I can reach that 4:30 (or maybe even faster!)

It'd been a long week at work, so it was nice to head out for a run instead of heading to the office. I certainly enjoy my job, but this week I had to spend hours on my computer doing some very tedious work. We realized that the way we thought a certain group of bills should be posted was screwing up the financial reports, so I had to go back and change the account they posted to. We're talking 100's of bills from this one vendor. All the way back to June. Like I said: tedious. I have felt a bit restless everyday because of it. So it was nice to get some of that built up energy out today with a solid run.

Just past the old base is another path that circles around the lake that we've started using more frequently. You guys, I felt like I was in a movie this morning. First, there was this really heavy fog coming off the lake. It made everything feel somewhat mysterious. As we came around the lake, we were running over tons of leaves that had covered the path. The fog looked misty over the water and accentuated all the colors of the tree leaves that are finally changing colors. It looked like a painting. I think it actually took my breath a bit. (Or maybe that was the cold air that I haven't adjusted to yet.) And then as we turned to head back, we could see the rays of sunshine breaking through the trees. It was perfect. This is one of many reasons why I run. I think it's easy to overlook what a beautiful world we live in... what a beautiful life we have. We get caught up in the day-to-day activities and the errands and the work and our feelings and our entertainment. Not that any of that is bad... but sometimes it's just really nice to get outside and feel the wind on your face and let the cold air rob you of warmth and just soak in what's going on around you. I've seen numerous deer on my Saturday runs. One day there was even a flock of wild turkeys. I don't know what the words are right now to explain why it's so fantastic to me to be out there running through all this life... but maybe you know what I mean.

It's just a beautiful day. I grabbed some breakfast at Chick-fil-A (mmmm, chick-n-mini's) and stopped in the new Kohl's. I'm now contemplating watching a movie and maybe even a little nap before getting into anything else later this evening. I know things mean different things to different people, but I hope that everyone finds their own way today to appreciate being exactly where you're at... whether it's outside in the sun playing, inside doing some reading, hitting the town with friends... I hope you enjoy this beautiful Tennessee autumn day.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Weekend Visitors - Story

I mentioned in a post a bit ago that this past weekend I'd be having my first house guests since I moved to the new place. Stephanie and Patrick landed in Nashville to attend Spoon and Nicole's wedding on Saturday. And yes, Spoon is a nickname. :)

Steph and I always talk about how we don't see each other often enough, and you can only imagine how important it is to us to make the most of our occasional weekends together. We certainly made sure this one was up to par, though I'd say we were a much more tame version of The Wrecking Crew without Amanda around. It was however great to see Patrick this time since he wasn't with us in Chicago and I hadn't seen him since New Year's. I've always liked him, and I'm definitely thankful that he respects the position of best girl friend that I hold and that he's willing to share his wife with me. We're guilty of chatting on the phone way too long sometimes...

After dinner at Demos' on Friday (always Steph's fave, and I'm pretty sure I first ate there many years ago with her and her family), we headed over to Spoon's house to hang out with old friends. There was drinking and dancing (kind of) and standing outside where it was way too cold and all sorts of good catching up until 3am when the guys were quite dismayed we were ready to call it a night. Steph grew up with these guys and I managed to get grandfathered in when we attached at the hip in high school.

We spent a leisurely Saturday around the house playing MarioKart (Patrick loves video games; I do too, but I only know the old school ones). I was also ever so grateful that Patrick took the liberty of changing things on my computer to make it faster. I've been wanting a Mac for ages, but this one is still running so I guess I should make the best of it for now.

Ben (one of Patrick's friends from back in their high school days... I think we figured out that Steph and I met shortly before they did) joined us that evening to head to the wedding. The pictures below show off the happy bride and groom as well as the four of us (though not all together because we forgot to ever take that one).

It seems like the more weddings I go to these days, the more that they're kind of like mini-reunions. I always see at least a handful of people that lead me to a "I remember when..." sort of thing. I had seen and reminisced with most of the people I knew at this wedding at Spoon's the night before, but I did see a guy that I had dated for all of 30 seconds back in high school as well as a guy that I know went to Acclaim with us but his name I couldn't remember. The reception was full of good food, dancing, picture taking and a truly patriotic moment when we held hands and sang "God Bless the USA." (Yes, we really did.)

Post-wedding we all headed back to my place where I sadly lost my crown as the queen of MarioKart. But good times were had by all, and Steph was certainly proud of my valiant efforts since MarioKart is like the one game I'm actually competitive with. I would also like to point out how proud she was of the way my shoe collection has grown. I hate shoe shopping. And I'd be happy wearing sneakers, flip flops, or Sperry's on any given day. But a girl's gotta have more than that to go with the variety of outfits she likes to wear, and I'd recently made a few new purchases. I noticed her eyeing some red ones... I was eyeing her to make sure they didn't fall into her suitcase. ;)

Weekends with Steph always fly by way too quickly and require a few days to rest back up. I think it's safe to say that we all had a terrific amount of fun and will be looking forward to next time.

Weekend Visitors - Pictures