One of my favorite things is to be a tourist in my own town. It's why I started the series #SnapshotsOfMobile that I hope to revitalize this year! Yesterday, I learned about a walking tour around downtown Mobile that highlighted some Mardi Gras spots. It's been a long debate as to where Mardi Gras actually began -- Mobile or New Orleans. I lived in New Orleans before I ever lived in Mobile, so I have a big place in my heart for both. They share so many similarities in architecture, food, music. I've done Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Mobile and one year, hope to experience it in both cities in the same year. So, where do I stand on the debate of the first beginnings? I say it began in Mobile, but New Orleans made it famous. But, that doesn't mean that Mobile doesn't know how to throw a party, because it does. And the party starts this Friday! Here are some photos from our tour yesterday. Cooper even came with us and he was quite the trooper and made lots of new friends!
Yesterday at work, we all watched the radars and alerts to see if another round of "snow" was coming for us. I use snow loosely here, because it's always almost a dusting this far down South. We got word that work would be canceled on Wednesday and I even braved Walmart after work. Not to get bread and milk, because, well I'm not eating either of those right now (hello again, Whole30), but to get a few things for the next week's meals. I survived and made it home. No sign of ice or snow yet. Just cold wind. Cold, cold, cold wind. Usually it is wet down here, but this felt drier, almost like the Tahoe cold I remember. I thought about staying up and waiting to see flakes, but when nothing was still happening at 10:00pm, I decided to call it a night. Maybe I would wake up to a bright lit room, a sure sign that snow had fallen and covered the ground, like I remembered from when I was little in Memphis. Something woke me up around 3:30ish and I peaked out the window. A 29 year old, desperate to see snow falling, like a little kid. Nothing. I curled back up under my layered blankets and went back to sleep. I woke up again around my normal time, looked out the window sure that something was covering the ground. And I was met with disappointment. No snow covered trees. Just spots of white sprinkled around and ice more than anything. This isn't what I wanted! If I was getting a freebie day off of work, I at least wanted something fun to look at. Nothing. I laid back in my bed and soon started seeing all the other pictures of snow. And from those who had a snow day just weeks before! It seems like a silly thing to be jealous for, but I just want to live somewhere that gets to experience actual seasons. All four of them. Not just one extreme or the other. Alabama weather literally seems to be either extremely hot or terribly cold. I decide to get out of bed and make breakfast. After all, there aren't many mornings that I get to take it slow and not rush. Making breakfast, I realized that today is now an unexpected sabbath. Far from a disappointing day, this is the day I've been asking for. The past several weeks have looked nothing like my normal routine. Over Christmas, we moved into a new house and so it seems that my days have been full of staring at boxes, unpacking, cleaning, piles of trash or donation, work, sleep, and repeat. Things aren't where I expect them to be, my mornings have been off since moving, and I haven't yet felt completely relaxed in our new place. Throw in a couple days of feeling sick and literally sleeping for 13 hours at one point, I just feel out of whack!
So, today, when I woke up to what I first saw as disappointment, really it's the day that I've been wanting. A day where I could wake up slowly and literally just start there. I was able to establish new routines that I've been thinking about. My brain finally felt organized and I rejoiced when I realized that today was the unexpected Sabbath I've been wanting. I had my prayer time, I did some Cover to Cover Bible reading, I wrote, I'll start a book later and hopefully finish one. I listened to a podcast while making breakfast. I still have piles of things in my room, a trunk of things in my car to donate, and dishes to do. But most importantly, I said yes to things today that I needed to say yes to and no to the others. I don't want disappointment to rule, when something unexpected, yet needed, is waiting at the same place. So, while snow didn't blanket my part of the world, the unexpected, yet needed, rest and new routine did.
If you know me, this is of no surprise to you. NEEDTOBREATHE is my favorite band. I frequently joked that if I could follow them around forever, I totally would. Well, this year, I did that in my own way.
For the past couple of years, I have missed these guys when they have gone on the road. Due to different reasons, it always seemed that whatever show I was planning on going to, something would happen and I ended up not being able to make it. Instead, I would cling to the memories of the times that I had seen them and stalk the social media of all my friends who were lucky to be in attendance. And of course, listen to album after album non-stop.
This year, they went on their ALL THE FEELS TOUR. Which was three different legs: Under the Stars, Electric, and (for the first time ever) Acoustic. I knew I had to be at every leg to make up for the lost years of not seeing a show. I've never splurged so much on myself and had a slight panic attack the moment I paid for all those tickets. But, the day of fan pre-sale, I did it. Two tickets for each leg of the tour. (All I can say is thank you for tax refund and a paycheck in the same week!) I got tickets to the first show in Memphis, a show in my town, Mobile, and the last show of the tour, Nashville. Each was incredible and better than the one before it. Each literally gave me all the feels. I'm not sure how they will top it, but I'm sure they will probably find a way. Here are some of my favorite photos and moments from each show.
Leg 1, Under the Stars | Memphis, Tennessee at Mud Island
To have Memphis be their first stop on the tour was awesome for me, because it's where I'm from. My sister joined me for this show at an awesome venue on the Mississippi River. Also fun, because our parents used to see shows here all the time! Outdoor venues are always some of my favorites. Put that venue also on a river, in my hometown, I can't not love it. Gavin Degraw was set to be with them on this leg of the tour, but ended up having to cancel a part of his tour. This would be redeemed before the tour actually finished though, stay tuned for how that happened (or just scroll if you can't wait). The New Respects and The Lone Bellow stepped in as openers and in November, I went to Birmingham to be front row for The Lone Bellow. Also an incredible show.
Leg 2, Electric | Mobile, Alabama at The Saenger Theater
I was so excited to see this show on the list of places they would be touring! They haven't been to Mobile on a major tour ever, so to be coming to the place I now call home and literally ten minutes from my house, I wasn't going to miss it. This was also my first show to see at the Saenger here. It is such a beautiful place and I hope we hosted them well enough that they come back to see us here.
Leg 3, Acoustic | Nashville, Tennessee at The Ryman Auditorium
Today is a major day in the state of Alabama. It seems the whole nation is watching what we do. Today, someone will be elected to a seat on the Senate. During the last election, our local mayoral elections, I reflected about how only recently I've realized what a privilege it is to vote. And that many people, especially women, have fought hard for me to even have the right to vote. As of writing this, I still have not gone to vote in the Senate race. I've constantly been going back and forth, weighing all options in my head, praying about what is "right". I've looked to see what friends have done (peer pressure, y'all and curiosity), read countless articles, and still, I just go back and forth. There are only certain things I know to be true and knowing anything about politics is certainly not one of them. I don't see myself as a traditional Republican, nor a Democrat. Like many other areas of my life it seems, I struggle to figure out my place and where I belong. Despite my stubbornness, I've never been one to argue (sorry discuss) anything political. I hate listening to it on the news, because instead of actual conversations, it becomes person after person yelling over one another. If I have to yell over you to try and get my point heard, it's not worth my time. I'd rather have a legitimate conversation with you and learn from each other, rather than get spit in my face from you trying to convince me you are right and I'm wrong. I live in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism. I want to believe that everyone has some good in them, that they are looking out for others and not just themselves, but I know it's often not the case. We are a selfish people. One of the fights of this world today is serving the self, finding out ways to only satisfy us and not serve our neighbors. While I want to believe in and find the good, I tend to hold people at arms length. My lack of trust in others makes me need them to prove to me that they are capable. To do what they say they will. To stand behind who they say they are. Even if there is doubt on my end, part of me is cheering for them, wanting them to succeed and prove to themselves, to me, to everyone, that they are who they say they are. That they can do it.
That is what makes elections hard for me. I want to vote for the one who has proven to do right. For the one who stands entirely behind what they say they do. To not back down at every turn, but to remember who they said they were during the campaign. To actually be for the people who voted for them. For the ones who depend on them to be their voice when theirs isn't always heard. I want to build trust, not fall into pessimism over and over again. Voting today is often about choosing between the "lesser of the two evils." That's not what I wish voting was like. I wish I could walk confidently into my polling place, cast my ballot, and be perfectly okay with what I just did. I honestly can't say that I have ever had a voting experience like that. I'm not sure if I ever will.
Living in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism, trust is hard to find. And though I will carry out my right to vote today, after lots of prayer and back and forth, I'm quick to remember that ultimately all authority belongs to God. Whoever fills the seat, this year, and the elections that come after it, He reigns. All powerful. All authority. Almighty. There is no voting to take place, no questions to ask, no worries to wonder. His seat is one that is already filled and will never be filled with another.
Snow in the South is something that doesn't happen often. So, when it does, everyone stops and stares. Schools close, bread and milk disappear, and social media becomes a virtual winter wonderland of picture after picture of snow covered trees and bright, white scenery. While many of my friends woke up to white, fluffy stuff (or let's be real, maybe more ice), here in South Alabama I woke up to another rainy, cold day. Basically, every other day here in Mobile. Looking at the radar, the line goes from blue to green right about where I am. Typical. No winter wonderland here. But, with each picture I see, it reminds me of the snowy days spent in Tahoe. Shoveling more snow than I've ever seen in my entire life. Watching it blow from the tops of the pine trees. Attempting to learn how to ski on the same mountains that the professionals do. The stark contrast of the blue skies against the white ground. That's my favorite. So, while a lot of central Alabama and parts of Mississippi and Louisiana and Georgia all enjoy their wonderlands today, I'll just be staring over these pictures and more while remembering those quiet, peaceful hikes through snow covered trails.
September has come and gone (and I can't believe it). That means fall has started, Alabama Football is back, my best friend became a mom, and I completed my full first round of Whole30 (and I can't believe it). It was great and will definitely be happening again. But, right now I'm tired of meal planning, so I'm just trying to eat as best as I can and will get back on that train again soon.
With September being gone, that means October is here! Fall is in full swing, pumpkin patches are everywhere, the fair is coming, and the Write 31 Days Challenge is here! Last year was my first year to participate and I made it about halfway in my writing on finding rest. I learned that that series was much more for me and what the Lord was wanting me to see, rather than writing for others. I also learned to give myself grace in my writing. So, with taking those lessons, I'm joining in Write 31 Days again this year...but on Instagram! Every day (hopefully), you can head there and find some short mini essays. I'll be updating this post by adding each day, but honestly, it may not get updated quickly or every morning. If you don't want to miss a day, make sure you check out my Instagram account, as well as my Facebook page. You will for sure see the latest writing there! The writings will vary in different subjects, but I hope by the end of them they will have you thinking about what you will simply choose to do next. "Simply choosing" is a phrase that the Lord brought to my mind last year around Advent. There is so much going on in the world around us, we constantly have things thrown at us from every direction, our feelings alone make us crazy sometimes, and it's hard to step back, quiet down and simply choose the Lord above all of that. I realized that I had a choice. Either choose the world or choose Him. What was I simply choosing to do? Always I want the answer to be the Lord, above everything. When I think about all I have and all that I want, I realize that He is literally everything I need. I simply need to choose Him. So, over the next 31 days, I'm writing about that. Hoping to point you, and keep reminding myself, to simply choose Him. Above all. I hope you join in.
A couple of years ago I attempted the Whole30 and didn't succeed. I made it about halfway through and quit it. I don't remember if I got sick, just sneaked something and completely ruined it, or it was just my horrible ability to follow through on something that caused me to quit. But, I did. Today, I began Whole30 again. It's been around for a bit now and it's a big trend that many people follow. If you aren't familiar with the program, check out their website for SO MUCH information. The ground rules are: whole foods only...which means eliminating sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from your diet. A.k.a. taking away all the good things, most would say.
The last time I attempted Whole30, I'm not sure I was as prepared as I am this time. Although, there are still moments where I'm like, do I really want to do this or can I do this? And I'm only halfway through Day 1. But, the reality is, it's only 30 days. Breaking it down into weeks and meals makes it seem much more doable. Will it be hard? Yeah, probably. Will I miss some things? Most definitely. I love food you guys. It's not a secret. But, I also think I have a problem with food. I definitely don't eat as I should. I eat crappy 85% of the time. I eat out for MANY of my meals, which I feel leads me into spending more money. One thing many people say is that Whole30 is expensive. And while it's true that it can be, I honestly think I spend more money eating out than I do buying groceries and cooking for myself. So, why not take all that money I would use to eat out and buy things that actually help me? I will probably end up eating a lot of the same things and I won't be buying everything organic or grass-fed. I'm single and work in ministry and have student loans to pay. I don't have money to buy different aminos or flax seed everything. Meat and veggies? Possible and doable. Doesn't have to be crazy.
Also, I know that because I have it in my head to do it now, I NEED to do it now. Despite September being the start of college football weekends (Roll Tide), an out of town weekend trip, birthday celebrations, and a wedding at the end of the month. I could find an excuse for every month of the year. So, I'm stopping the excuses and I'm doing this!
My Whole30 Guidelines*:
*These are guidelines I set for myself after I read It Starts With Food. It helps me reach other personal goals, not all are actually set by Whole30.
Are you doing #Whole30September?
Have you completed it before and doing it again or is this your first attempt?
I'm up for any and all helpful tips and recipes!
I don't know that I've ever posted any fiction writing on here. And if I have, it's been forever and I don't remember. It's not something that I write often, so if you find some and it's horrible, just keep scrolling. With that being said, today you get fiction. I found this piece below on my computer that I wrote back in 2014! I searched the blog and didn't find where I had ever shared it. So, here ya go!
Casey definitely could not see herself living here permanently, for the small town life didn’t suite her well at all. But, she didn’t mind visiting every once in awhile. She adored her parents, but could only put up with her Mama for a short period of time, and her Papa was her best friend.
“Friday night in a small town, so it makes sense that everyone and their brother is in this place.”
“Well, you know, if it isn’t football season, there isn’t anything to do here.” Mama replied.
“Do you even remember the name of this book?” Casey asked, trying to sound helpful and not at all annoyed.
“It was either ‘She Remembered Everything’ or ‘She Taught Him All.’"
Casey continued running her hands up and down the spines of books, looking for what seemed to be the needle in a haystack. There were tons of mysteries at her fingertips, her Mama’s favorite genre nowadays. She could never get into them, maybe because they all seemed the same. Or maybe she just got enough of that at work. Casey's whole week, day in and day out, revolved around mysteries. She spent sixty hours a week hunched over reams of paper and drawing on whiteboards piecing together clues. Missing children, missing wives, missing husbands, possible drug cartels; she has worked them all.
Casey pulled another book from the heaping pile, “Is this it?” she asked handing it to Mama. Mama opened it up and began reading the first few pages. Casey looked back to see Papa who was propped up against a shelf reading the newspaper. He had tuned everyone in the store out. Turning back to Mama, she saw she had put the book down.
“It sounded very interesting, but that wasn’t it.” Mama said unsatisfied.
“Well, why don’t you get that one? We may never find the other one in all of this mess.” Casey encouraged.
Mama looked up at her, about to reply, but then was suddenly looking past her.
“Jason!” she yelled throughout the store.
No one seemed to notice, as they were busy searching for their own hidden treasures. Mama dropped her book and ran past her. Casey picked up the book and swiveled on her feet, stopping when she finally spotted Mama and Jason. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t quite place him. High school? Rivaling high school? Elementary school? Casey had lived here her whole life, but she managed to escape without fully knowing everyone. She kept wondering where she had seen him before. Mama may have remembered him from long ago, but she felt like she had only recently met him. Work? It was possible, but she had been working so many cases lately that she had been introduced to so many people. He didn’t look like a detective or a cop. He was tall and dressed casually in jeans and a button up. A normal, small-town guy, boy next door type. Casey heard her name as she snapped back into reality.
“Do you remember Casey? She is here for a visit and you must come say hello! Come, follow me.” Mama ordered.
Casey turned around and looked at her papa who was observing the whole situation from the top corner of his paper. Her eyes met his and she gave a pleading look of help. He just smiled and went back to reading his paper. Thanks, she thought to herself and off she took. There were plenty of people in the store, so she could easily escape and hide to where Mama couldn’t find her. But, she hadn’t been in this store forever and was forgetting how it all connected. Plus, the people! There were so many of them. Why had everyone decided to come here tonight? She couldn’t complain much right now though as they were helping to hide her from Mama. Mama always did this when Casey came home for a visit. She would magically find someone that Casey hadn’t seen in forever, or someone she thought was nice, or someone who was new in town, or someone she thought was very handsome, or someone that was all of the above and single. It was the game to play. Casey comes home, she visits for a while, let’s find her a husband, Casey runs away. Casey ducked down an aisle just as her Mama turned right after her.
“Casey, where are you? I have someone you need to meet!”
“I’m coming down the aisle Mama, be right there.” She lied, as she was really going to get out of this aisle and then bolt to the front door. As she got to the end of the aisle and could see the door in her sights, Mama stepped out in front of her. Defeated, Casey let out a sigh and straightened her dark jeans and blazer. She has won again, Casey thought.
“Jason, I found her.” Mama said as she reached for the man’s elbow, pulling him along. Where did she know him from? It was killing her that she hadn’t figured it out yet.
“Hi, Casey.” Jason said, like speaking to an old friend.
“Hi, Jason, was it?” Casey retorted.
“Yes, that’s right. Enjoying your visit home?”
“Sure, as much as you can enjoy being in a crowded store on a Friday night with the rest of the town.” Mama gave her a look of “be nice” after that one.
“But, yes, I am enjoying it. It is a nice change of pace from work.” Casey said, as she reluctantly changed her tone.
“It definitely is that!” Jason replied in agreement, like he knew exactly what she was talking about. She had to have seen him around work. She still just couldn’t place him.
“I’m sorry, Jason. I’m just trying to place how I know you and I just can’t seem to figure it out.” Casey questioned.
He shifted on his feet and looked at her Mama, then laughingly asked, “And you say this is her eighth year in Intelligence?”
Then, it clicked. Casey finally knew where she had seen him.
He was a cop.
I don't know if anything else will get written about Casey and Jason, the cop. But, hope this was a fun read for you on a Monday!
The older I've gotten, the more I've gotten excited about the idea of settling into one area. My college summers and the year after graduation were all spent in different places. I know I was meant to be in each of them. And when memories come flooding in from all of those places, when the faces I remember come back to mind, a smile comes on my face, followed by a sweet sadness.
When the memories flood in, I realize how fast time truly went. I immediately want to go back, to remember.
I want to snap my fingers and be back in the ice cream shop in New Orleans, that one night when camp was over, and we would all be leaving soon. I want to stay in that space, laughing forever. I want to hop a plane and be back on the shores of Lake Tahoe and I want to walk the Rim Trail knee deep in snow for just a mile longer. I want to always be among the snow covered pine trees when the wind blows and snow falls gently to the ground. I want to go back and sit with all the kids I've met for a little while longer. Read one more story as they sound out words, color one more picture. I want to go back to that one hill in Arizona, and sit there every night as the sun sets in the desert. I want to go back to the first time I saw the Grand Canyon and sit on the edge for just a little longer.
I want to go back. I'll trade my days of being settled and in routine, to go back to the days that I want to last just a little bit longer.
Like the college nights spent sleeping over at a friend's house when we watched nothing but The Office and made pallets in her living room. Or the nights spent cheering on our favorite football team. The nights we would fill up our favorite restaurants and stay until they turned out the lights. Those nights we made blanket forts and ordered way too much pizza. When we would push together the tables in the dining hall, so we could eat as one big family, going back for countless bowls of ice cream. The time we crammed more than enough people into a beach house. The night we went looking for a meteor shower and never found it, so we turned on music and just danced beneath the clouds.
I want to go back. I want to make myself stand back for just a minute longer and take it all in a little deeper and longer. To remember the smells of the summer night, how the water felt when I ran through it, the excitement of family all around, the breeze as it gently went by, the smiles and laughs of friends who wouldn't be friends always...
I've become used to the idea of being settled. But one thing I will never be completely settled in doing? Saying goodbye.
Saying goodbye to family, to places, to friends. I never want my best memories to become hazy, or worse, lost.
It's true that each day there are new memories to be made. God has written this incredible story that only He could write. The only thing I can do is walk into the new page each morning and see what He has written. I've walked quickly through some of those chapters in the past, barely stopping to see what He wrote on the pages beneath my feet. And that's why I want to go back, that's why I want to trade my settled routine. I want to go back and see those pages again. I want to go back and read them a little slower, as my feet move from one word to the other, syllable by syllable. With each step I want it to be stamped into my memory bright and full, like I'm living it again.
But, with the turn of each page, it becomes just another memory. Another goodbye. Another part of a chapter, filling a book, with a story where I vaguely remember the beginning and don't know the ending. Memories don't keep the goodbyes from happening. But, I have to look for the greetings of each new day.
I have to look down at the words on the next page. Because new memories are unfolding and, for today, I can be settled. Today I can walk the pages a little slower, take in the words a little slower. Because in another five years, ten years, twenty years, I'll look back and want to come back to this chapter. I'll want to come back to lazy rainy days, to the nights spent on roofs, to the sound of waves rolling in from the Gulf. Back to the moment your best friend finds out she's having a baby boy, when you watch a friend graduate, when families invite you into their homes.
I need to read these words slowly, Lord. Don't let them pass until I've taken all of their meaning in. Keep the memory bright and full. Keep me settled in today, so I'm always looking at the pages that You've put under my feet.
While in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to do a little exploring. We either were heading to The Hoover Dam or Red Rock Canyon. And although I hate that I missed out on making dam jokes, I'm so glad we chose Red Rock Canyon! After leaving California about three years ago, I have missed getting outside everyday and hiking outside in the beautiful west. While the South is beautiful, the West is equally breathtaking! Red Rock is about 30 minutes or so outside Las Vegas. Huge rocks with red stripes plopped down in the middle of the desert. Put it against the backdrop of a bright, blue sky and it's magnificent!
Have you ever been to Red Rock Canyon or Las Vegas? Where is your favorite place to get outside?
Check out more photos from this trip here.