Your Pace Doesn’t Matter

This week is the first week of official training for my half-marathon in November. In seasons past, I’ve been good about starting my base training a few months early, getting into the routine of running a couple times a week and building my strength. This year, however, was not the case. I ran once a week, sometimes twice in a week, but have generally been slacking. I have been struggling with loving my body. I am sure it hasn’t helped that I’ve been watching gymnastics Olympic Trials and seeing these incredible athletes with incredible muscles and dedication….I admire these athletes for their passion and dedication and drive to be the very best. I can only hope to have an ounce of that in my training.

I watched Shawn Johnson’s I Am Second testimony and it’s incredible.She shares about fear and failure with hope and honesty.

This morning as our team in purple started our first long run from Isabella’s memorial site – I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. We are a team of all races, genders, ages, body types, athletic backgrounds and none of that matters. How fast or slow you run doesn’t matter. Our purpose for running is so much more than just to get in shape, or an excuse to eat a lot.

It’s about the 43 children that will be diagnosed with cancer TODAY.

As we took off and our sea of purple streamed down the road, it was a powerful reminder to me that we are running for something bigger than myself. I am running as part of a community that is working to end childhood cancer.

Step up. Take part. Crush cancer with me at  https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/juliaesmith15/2016-isabellas-dream-team

 

#isabellasdreamteam Year 3. Ready. Go.

This will be my third year running and fundraising with #isabellasdream for the Isabella Santos Foundation to fight pediatric cancer. So if you are sick of hearing about it, #sorrynotsorry for all the hype, social media posts and talking about it from now until November. If you want to support me, visit: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/juliaesmith15/2016-isabellas-dream-team

I’ll be honest, I debated whether or not I would be part of the team again. The first year, it was amazing to be part of this new grass roots organization, full of heart and hope. The second year, I was excited about the growth of the team and being seen as an “original” team member. This year, the team has exploded to over 100 people. It’s gotten so much bigger than me. Hard to remember all the names of the people part of the team, and hard to believe our goal is to raise more than $150,000. It seemed like my small part of that could go unnoticed, that someone else could easily raise more money than me.

Plus the running aspect is no longer a new challenge for me, this will be my 6th half-marathon. I’ve proven to myself that I can conquer 13.1 miles — flat miles in Disney, hilly miles in Charlotte, and in DC. So what was the point of committing to run another 13.1 mile race and raise $500 for ISF this time?

Isabella and other kids fighting cancer. 

That’s what it says on our shirts. But, it is so much more now. I never met Isabella, but through the stories, videos and pictures, I can see an amazing, spirit-filled girl. While I don’t pretend to understand why God would allow her life to be cut so short, I know that she made an impact on this world. Look at what has happened in her memory? Clinical trials have been funded, we are making strides to finding a cure and I want to be part of this team, this family, this small group of people that change the world and end childhood cancer for good.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Earlier this summer, Erin (Isabella’s mom) asked us, more like invited into a sacred space, to come on a Saturday morning to Isabella’s memorial site at Calvary Church. I had never been to their memorial gardens, and it was an emotional experience. We took photos in our purple shirts as a way to honor Ibby. I don’t know how Erin kept it together, because on the inside I was shaking, so I can’t imagine the flood of thoughts going through her head as we were all there. In those moments, it became more real to me of who Isabella was, and that this group of people were all together to fight in her memory so that no more families have to go through the pain of losing a child like Erin and Stuart.

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This second photo came almost by accident when Erin was sitting looking at Isabella’s name and the photographer asked some of us to move so we weren’t in the reflection. Then we decided we wanted to be in the reflection on purpose. Erin is not alone in this fight. She has a team behind her. 

Then, I had the opportunity to take a couple of photos individually with Isabella. This was the first time that I had ever ‘met’ her, but not the first time I’ve ever talked with her. I feel her presence when I run, especially  when Taylor Swift comes up on my playlist. So I decided I wanted a photo of not just remembering Isabella, but of me taking action, me doing something about it.

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Tying my laces, going for a run, on a purpose. To end childhood cancer.

 

Summertime in Charleston

This weekend my brothers and I took our first “siblings vacation.” I was so excited to go to Charleston, I consulted several friends and blogs about where to go, what to see and where to eat and I compiled a rather large list. I felt like there was way too much to accomplish in one weekend without running ourselves ragged or eating 17 meals a day, but we set out and checked many of the item off my list.

I arrived early on Thursday to take in some sights on my own — mainly shopping along King Street. After a quick lunch at Jestine’s Kitchen, I found an amazing shop on the second floor called Be the Change Boutique where every piece has a story. I even recognized some items from my Sevenly Causebox. I spoke with the owner Ashley, who moved from Hawaii to start the store. I loved everything inside from bags to candles to jewelry and clothes.

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Thursday started at the Rooftop at Vendue for drinks – I had the strawberry basil lemonade, and it was quite tasty. Then we walked to dinner at Poogan’s Porch. Even though it was early, there was already quite a wait, so we chose to sit at the bar to eat. I had the special which was a snapper featuring bbq and pimento cheese and it was delicious.

Then we decided to walk around, so we walked to the Pink House — one of the oldest buildings in the city and it was on a quaint cobblestone street. The only thing that ruined the old city charm was the cars parked along the road. The house is actually for sale for  a pretty penny — nearly $1Million! We continued our stroll to Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row.

Friday was our walking downtown day. I chalked up over 22,000 steps! We started off at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit for a yummy breakfast including peach jam on my biscuits. We set out and walked all the way down King Street to the Battery and relaxed at White Point Gardens. Then we walked up Meeting Street to the City Market. I saw some great art including sand dollar ornaments, historic bricks painted with iconic Charleston scenes, lots of sweet grass baskets that were gorgeous and paintings/photography.

We continued our tour, walking through College of Charleston’s campus and down to the aquarium. That was pricey, but well worth it. For an additional fee, you can see the sea turtle hospital, but sadly we missed the last tour of the day. But, I did see a couple sea turtles in the big tanks.

Next, was our Sunset Tour of Fort Sumter. The ferry ride over included some history of Fort, then we walked along the Fort — which is where the Civil War started. Since we were the last tour of the day, the park rangers asked us to help take down the flags and told us about the history of the 4 flags that were showcased there — the 33 star flag, the stars and bars, another confederate flag, and the 50 star United States flag. It was a unique experience to have people from our boat, from all across the US to help and share as we are “United.”

 

Our ferry ride back included some great photo ops of the Ravenel Bridge.

For dinner we stopped at Queology, a bbq place we had seen during our walk at the City Market. For drinks and dessert we walked to the Gin Joint. I ordered from the bar tender’s choice and picked 2 words “sweet unusual.” I have no idea what was in it, but it was good — tasted some cinnamon…. but the dessert was the best. We ordered 2 chocolate peanut butter bars and carrot cake for the three of us and contemplated ordering it again.

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Saturday we crossed the Ravenel Bridge and started at Charleston Cafe with a  delicious deep fried cinnamon roll. We continued our journey to Boone Hall Plantation. We took in a carriage tour, home tour of the 1935 plantation home and explored the slave cabins. The Notebook and North and South were both filmed there. It was stunning.

 

The we traveled across the city to see the ancient Angel Oak Tree.

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We came back home to relax for  bit before meeting up with friends Brad and Kendall at Hominy Grill, where I ate a “Wreckfish” with mashed sweet potatoes, yum! Then we went to a local dive bar, Tattooed Moose for the chocolate and bacon pie. Really it was rich chocolate pie with bacon crumbles on top, and it was awesome.

Sunday morning we woke up early for breakfast at Eli’s Table and then the boys headed home. I went back downtown and met up with my friend Kelly at Kudu Coffee Bar and then headed back to reality. It was a wonderful vacation! Can’t wait to come back with some girlfriends to include more shopping and eating….

 

Pizza Taco

I am always looking for quick and simple recipes that I can whip up for an easy dinner. I’ve mastered scrambled eggs, cheese quesadillas, baked potato and pasta dishes and now’ve added another recipe to repertoire. I call it the Pizza Taco. It’s perfect for those who are too impatient to actually bake a pizza crust (like me).

Ingredients:
tortillas
pizza sauce
cheese
toppings of choice

Directions:
Butter the pan on the stove, set on medium-low
Place tortilla shell in pan
Cover with sauce
Add layer of cheese
Add toppings of choice
Wait for the cheese melt then fold taco in half, flip when edges are golden brown
Enjoy!

 

Living Solo

So….It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.

Let’s catch up. I’m 27 years old, still enjoying my job in the pr/marketing world, still running for Isabella’s Dream Team and still eating my fair share of chocolate.

Two weeks ago my roommate for the last 2.5 years, left me and got married. I love her and miss her so much. Mainly, because she was a great cook and we had a deal going where she made food and I ate it and cleaned up. Together we were fat and happy. Leading up to the wedding, I was excited at the idea of making the space my own, but now I realize just how much growing up I have left to do.

Adulting is hard. After the wedding I started cleaning, rearranging and buying furniture….okay confession I’ve procrastinated buying things like a coffee table. Then I realized that I have never lived alone and haven’t mastered the whole cooking thing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy baking and am quite good at that, but cooking is a different animal. So after “cleaning out my pantry” (or eating all the crap I had left), I began to meal prep for the week,  grocery shop and actually make real food. My first attempt at making a new recipe went real well, so I wanted to share:

Baked Spaghetti

12 oz cooked spaghetti
12 oz marinara sauce
parmesean cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese
pepperoni (or other topping you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350. Place cooked spaghetti in an oven-safe baking dish. Cover with marina sauce. Top with parmesan cheese, a layer of pepperoni and plenty of mozzarella cheese. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

Somehow I’ve survived 2 weeks without someone to help me zip up dresses, decide what to wear when going out, and show me how to use the coffee pot. Let’s see what the next adventure holds….

Also open to ideas for names of this blog, so let me know.

 

Restless

This weekend I attended the women’s retreat with Forest Hill to Lake Junaluska. The title of the retreat was the same as the book by Jennie Allen (who was the guest speaker), “Restless.” I am still processing a lot of things, but wanted to share some takeaways!

  • You have a great responsibility to live out your calling because no one else has the threads of your life.
  • Holy means set apart, exclusively God’s
  • Every human has a threshold of threat and safety and everyone reacts high or low.
  • Say yes to the next step of you calling — it doesn’t have to be some big plan!

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Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are you made to do?
  • What keeps you from dreaming?
  • What are the 5 moments you have been most fulfilled?
  • What are the 5 darkest moments of your life?

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Solo Vacation at the Beach

This weekend, I went to Wilmington and Carolina Beach for my first vacation solo and it was wonderful. Here are some tips and things I enjoyed along the way:

Find a place to stay through airbnb or another local space. You can stay with someone local and have more of a connection with the people than staying at an hotel, plus you can get some real feedback about what to do/see/eat around town.

Go to a local coffee shop, get a drink and read the local paper. Get to know a place, find out about events/concerts and things going on while you are there.

Plan one thing you want to accomplish that day, anything else you get done is just bonus. My brother would tell us that during family vacation, and I think it is a good rule. That way you get something done, but you also can relax!

Strike up conversations on your way. Ask questions, or for recommendations, ask about how long they have been in town, etc. It’s fun and if you are traveling solo, it is the only way you will get interaction — you must create it!IMG_9911