There’s nothing like a warm and delicious pot of chili to help mark the transition to the fall season. Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili will take you into autumn and boost your enjoyment of this festive and colorful time of year.
Food was such a large part of my family traditions while growing up. Whether we were making by hand homemade Italian rice balls or cookies at Christmas time, German kolaches, PaPa’s pound cake at Easter (always shaped into a lamb, of course), I learned that each food meant a season, and each season was meant to be celebrated. And celebration meant food!
These homemade meals and many more remain a large part of my family traditions today. And as I now find reason to celebrate most anything and everything in life, there is always a food or dish that I can easily match up to help mark any occasion. Whether celebrating a milestone or accomplishment, a season, birthday, or holiday, these events in life go hand-in-hand with appetizing food that’s good for the soul.
And with good food comes... Chili! Plus, to make it even better - Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili is part of my healthy lifestyle. I’m a firm believer that any food, dish or recipe can be made in a healthy and satisfying way. My husband and I cooked this chili recipe many times during the year of my weight loss journey and we continue to cook it today. Protein and fiber were my best friends while losing weight, and they remain my best friends now that I am maintaining weight loss. And this recipe is loaded with both protein and fiber. Check. Check. Hooray!
Why do protein and fiber make me so very happy? I believe both are key ingredients to help me maintain a healthy weight. Both help my stomach feel full - and feel full longer, and both take time and energy to digest. And the feeling of fullness and not overeating to feel that sensation of being full is key; making both protein and fiber crucial components to not overeating, and thus, not gaining weight.
After losing weight I’m very aware that when I’m very hungry now my goal and focus is not to eat more than I should be eating to maintain my weight. If I did eat too much in order to feel that full feeling it can lead to weight gain, even a tiny bit of weight at a time. That seemingly tiny amount of weight gain can add up fast when multiplied meal by meal - real fast; meaning just one meal at a time can lead to weight gain down the road. So, I believe it’s vital to feel satisfied after a meal. Consistently eating a meal and feeling satisfied is important with each meal, every day, and that consistency is key to weight maintenance. And this recipe is well balanced and will help to counteract all those hunger signs. One bowl of this chili for dinner, with a small and sensible dessert, and my stomach is not hungry all evening.
How is Chili a part of my family and food traditions throughout the year? I make this chili recipe guaranteed on three specific dates, plus any other time of year we simply have a taste for it. But these three dates have become a food tradition in my home. I make Chili on the first day of autumn, and I always make chili every year on Halloween, as well as every New Year’s Day. Some of these days are times when we tend to be home… chilling out, reading a book and burning a pumpkin scented candle, or watching a good film. It’s just an absolutely lovely feeling to know that a good and healthy dinner is simmering on the stove top, with not much prep work at all, and helps boost relaxation. So go ahead and make a nice hot pot of chili and sit down with a good book while it simmers.
1.5 LBS lean ground beef
1 sweet onion - chopped
1 large 28 OZ can Cento tomato purée
1 15 OZ can tomato sauce
1 15.5 OZ can dark red kidney beans
1 15.5 OZ can light red kidney beans
1 15.5 OZ can navy kidney beans
1 tsp McCormick Chili Seasoning
1 tsp Peppercorn from a freshly ground peppercorn grinder
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of sea salt to taste
*Pour olive oil into large pot.
*Put ground beef in pot and start simmering.
*While ground beef is simmering chop onion.
*Add peppercorn and sea salt while simmering.
*Continue cooking beef low to medium heat and as simmering ground the meat with wooden spoon into smaller chunks - not too fine, just small chunks.
*Pour chopped onion into the simmering beef and continue simmering low to medium.
*When ground beef is browned, add all cans of beans, then tomato purée and tomato sauce.
*Add chili powder seasoning.
*Add about one 15 OZ can of water.
*Put lid on pot and simmer on low about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.
**Optional: Serve over pasta shells and/or add Parmesan cheese on top.
Now it’s time to feed your soul! ~~
For more of Beans’s recipes, click below:
Beans’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
*Part of - Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge - series
Just opened this week!
Yay! I absolutely love trying new coffee shops! There is definitely something exciting and intriguing to me when I hear news that a new coffee shop is opening up in the neighborhood. What’s on the menu? How’s the variety and selection? What’s the vibe like inside? Do they keep good and flexible hours of operation? And most importantly, are the drinks delicious enough for me to come back?
The answer is yes. On a hot Florida afternoon, my iced latte was cool and delicious; and yes, I will be planning a return visit quite soon. Sago Coffee is simply a fun, upbeat, and modern coffee house instilled with local charm.
I must admit that a personal goal and challenge to myself at least for a couple years now has been to visit and try as many different coffee shops as I can in my daily adventures and travels. I call it ‘Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge.’ And this hobby has only grown and strengthened due to how much fun and enjoyment I’m having with it. Don’t get me wrong - I’m still quite a fan of the big chain coffee shops and I do frequent them, but I’m attempting to give at least equal time and money to those non-chains… those hidden gems of the towns I visit and drive through. Those coffee shops that locals frequent and tourists and visitors are lucky to find either with a Google search or through word-of-mouth. Small business coffee shops have become very intriguing to me, and I haven’t met one yet I didn’t like.
Sago presents a very simplistic menu of hot and cold coffees - including espresso drinks, pour overs, and hot teas. Plus a basic seasonal drink menu as well, with three autumn themed drinks currently being offered. Served in the most adorable glass cups that remind me of an old fashioned mason jar with a modern twist, each glass means one less to-go cup being tossed after a single use. If you are dining in you can request glass - and they still have to-go cups available if you are taking your drink with you.
Visiting in mid-afternoon, the first thing I noticed was that the entire place was packed. A good sign? Parking is certainly at a premium and we parked down the street as the lot was entirely full, with cars waiting for open spots in the small lot.
The first feature I notified was the massive and fun garage style windows - and lots of natural light flowing inside... this presents a very warm and open, breathable feel. Edison style lighting throughout and upbeat and lively modern music playing on loud speaker, the vibe is definitely beachy - modern - friendly. Coffee shop chic.
Sago offers a variety of seating options. I chose the comfy leather couch to sit and work on my iPad, but there were also single chairs with end tables for drinks to rest upon, long tables, high-top tables, and an entire different seating room off to the side as well. This adjacent side room flows nicely into the main seating area and could easily be utilized for business meetings or study groups, set up almost as an office conference room, but very multi-purpose. In today’s modern age, business transactions of all kinds occur daily at coffee shops, and Sago Coffee is most certainly aware of and prepared for those business meetings to succeed in a warm and friendly environment.
The price was fair and average to all the other surrounding local coffee shops - nothing too extreme at all. Merchandise was offered for sale on a shelf adjacent to the cash registers, including bags of coffee for home brewing. I’m already considering taking a bag home with me on my next visit.
And lastly, I love the hours of operation. Sago is open for all the early birds such as myself, who wake up daily before the sun does. And they are open for those who need that quick late afternoon and evening energy zap and WiFi after dinner. Students will appreciate they are open evenings as a great place for studying as well as meeting for group projects.
So come on out to Sago for your next coffee outing… I would definitely recommend trying Jax Beaches newest coffee shop in town. You won’t be disappointed; and you will leave awake, energized, and ready to take on the rest of your day with a smile. ~~
Yes! Autumn is here! I wouldn’t really know it by glancing at the environment around me though. The seasonal changes I’m surrounded by are very difficult to notice within my natural environment. It does not cool down outside - I don’t bring out my favorite warm blankets from the back of the linen closet. I don’t unload my bin of clothing for colder weather; in fact, no such bin exists in my closet anymore. And I haven’t ordered any pumpkin spice lattes yet this season either. I’m just waiting for even one slightly ‘cool’ day to order a hot drink; for now I’m sticking with my usual iced tea.
When I first moved down here a few years ago in the springtime, I was very curious about how I would witness the seasons changing in Florida compared to experiencing four very real and legitimate seasonal changes that take place annually in Illinois. That first spring here was heaven on Earth. Sunny every day - perfect weather - blue sky. I was outside all the time. The funny thing was that everyone, and I mean everyone I met during that first season here said that they hoped the weather would improve for us to enjoy it. I was sooooo very and desperately confused. Here I was in perfect weather - it was still snowing in Illinois. I really didn’t know what these people all meant??? It took time for me to understand. Time, and experiencing the seasonal changes for myself. What was there to improve? The weather was literally perfect!
It was then that I learned about Florida cold fronts. If it was a nice 85 or let’s say 86 degrees outside, and then a cold front came through, dropping the average weekly temperature to a very low and very cold 83 degrees, everyone hoped for a warm front. Everyone spoke of the cold front. Everyone talked about hoping the weather would improve. When will the weather improve? That’s exactly what was happening during my first season here, it was a perfect and ideal temperature, calm weather. But maybe it was 83, instead of the more ideal 85? It was enough for me to be drinking coffee outside, when in Illinois I still would have been wearing winter clothes. But to Floridians, it was cold out.
After three years, if the wind is blowing just right I too get cold now sometimes when the dashboard reads 85 degrees... and I laugh every time… Never thought it would happen to me. I’m truly acclimated to the Floridian climate, and it happened quite fast too. So during that first year living through fantastic and then even more fantastic weather, the seasons blew in and out barely even with me noticing a change.
So how does one mark all the seasonal changes in a place where the weather stays practically perfect in every way, year round? The seasons were always tied to weather for me in the past; now, I relate seasons to the events themselves that take place during and within a season.
I learned real quick that if I wanted to enjoy fall in the Sunshine State, the best way for me to acknowledge such a seasonal change living in my new home was to put out a pumpkin scented candle… and maybe some autumn themed dish towels placed strategically in the kitchen. That way, every day when I walk in the kitchen, I look at a pumpkin towel and say to myself, oh yeah, that’s right, it’s Fall. Other than that, I could still drink my coffee outside, swim in the ocean, and drive with the windows rolled down, even though the autumnal equinox could be long since passed.
Maybe I could change the color or style of my swimsuit instead of getting out some autumn sweaters? Should I change the color of my purse, or the style of wreath hung upon my front door? Some or all of the above do help the transition. Today I put out my favorite ceramic white and orange pumpkin candle holders on my kitchen table. I even purchased a burnt orange tank top to wear this season instead of buying a burnt orange sweater.
Back in Illinois I thoroughly enjoyed the changing color of the leaves and then the falling leaves later in the season. I loved fall. Sometimes I thought it was my favorite season? I embraced the warmer days and cooler evenings. Evenings cool enough at the beginning of autumn to leave the window open at night. But later in the season the windows were closed, and then remained tightly shut for the remainder of fall and winter. And every year, usual mid-to-late fall, there reached a point where it always became officially much too cold in the house. And then, just like clockwork, the annual debate began of discussing how long can we last until we turn on the heat for the first time that season. It was a running joke, how cold can we sleep at night? At what point before it becomes unbearable and much too cold in the house to focus on anything else but how cold it is? I’d pull out layers upon layers of blankets to place upon the bed to help prolong our time in a house without the heat running. And we tried to function in the house during the day. It was a test of will, and stubbornness. I would not want to give in first. Like a child trying not to blink in a staring contest, sitting across from my friendly opponent, who is also trying desperately not to blink. Who will blink, my husband or me? Which one of us will be the one to turn the heat on? Who will break first? Usually my stubbornness would win out and my husband would be the one switching the heat to ON. His excuse would be that he wouldn’t want the pipes to start freezing. And that is exactly where my love of all things fall end. And I’d think to myself, is fall really my favorite season? Forget the cold, I’ll take the Florida sun any day.
I recently heard someone say that Florida is ‘Bizzaro World.’ And that only in Florida do we celebrate Halloween in August (at Walt Disney World). And that as fall comes round every year how else would we even know that autumn has even arrived unless we ‘force the sh*t out of fall’... I laughed hysterically and could not agree more with that statement. Maybe fall still is my favorite?...
So, in honor of acknowledging and celebrating the changing of the seasons, I’m ‘forcing the sh*t out of fall’ today with my pumpkin decor and pumpkin scented candles. I even hung an autumn themed dish towel in the kitchen. There - I’ve done it. Box checked. Season changed; season acknowledged. Time for people to keep on swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, and soaking in that sun. Enjoy the morning coffee outside on the front porch, eat dinner outside at the local fish camp, watch the turtles, gators, and snakes enjoy their natural surroundings. The globe will keep spinning and rotating onward. And we can all acknowledge and celebrate its angle of rotation once again during the winter equinox come December, on the beach, maybe with a peppermint latte sitting next to me in the sand. ~~~
9/13/2019 0 Comments
Well I never thought I would have a weight loss “before and after” — but here I am with my very own story to tell. Including the photos that I am now plastering onto the internet, with no shame, no remorse, no guilt, and no regrets. I share it with the hope that it reaches even one other individual who may benefit from my journey in some positive way.
I never thought this would be me at 38 years of age, having a personal weight loss success story, mostly because when I was younger I was always very athletic during my entire early and young adult life. I was a runner, and played lots of different sports in school and all the way into college with two-a-day practices. Weight was nothing I ever, and I mean never, ever, needed to worry about. I did not gain what they then called the ‘freshman fifteen’ at college. And I ate ice cream every darn day in the university dining hall. Sprinkles ALWAYS included.
After college I started working, and still my weight was just fine. Then, at about thirty years old, everything changed. I fought the change hard, and even tried to run through it, literally. My entire life had changed, slowly by the day, and yet, overnight as well. Running came to a dead halt - in fact, I honestly thought I would never run another step in my entire lifetime. I had some extremely complicated health issues come up; and I no longer felt in control of my own life. And on top of it all, I started to gain weight.
The weight slowly crept up and up for most of my early thirties. I watched all of this change happening to me and felt truly and completely helpless to it all. It wasn’t a good life change. It was bad change. And change is the singular reason I gained weight. I could be ashamed of it and regret it and hate myself for it… but I’m not ashamed, and I don’t regret it, and I definitely don’t hate myself for it. ZERO shame, ZERO regrets. And ZERO embarrassment either. Because if I did I wouldn’t be able to get past it all and change my life for the better. No regrets, because if I didn’t live through what I lived through I wouldn’t be living my very best life — right here, right now.
Below = Me - Before (at my heaviest):
Weight gain and weight loss is as simple and as complex as any and all change really. It can happen fast; it can happen slow. And how an individual responds to any change can help develop their character... Their character that can continue to mold and change and grow a person further into who they are meant to be.
In August of 2018, my family in Chicago came to visit me and my husband down in Florida. They took the long two day drive down, and with that drive came their car stocked full of supplies for the road, including a cooler and snacks of course. On the first full day they were down here, we all went on a wonderful mini road trip up north to Amelia Island for the day. And not getting to see my nephew very much, since our move away from Illinois had occurred just before he was born, I embraced riding in their car with them for the day. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with my newest family member; every time my nephew said ‘hi’ over and over again on repeat, and ‘big truck’ for every large vehicle he saw on the road, I laughed.
While enroute to Amelia Island and taking the car onto the auto ferry and out across the St. Johns River, my brother-in-law was kind enough to offer me a can of Lime Bubly to drink that they had stocked in the car. This one pure and simple act of kindness and generosity really can ripple effect and change someone’s life forever. I had never found a sparkling water brand that I liked. And I LOVED Coke. I always knew if I wanted to be really and truly healthy I needed to say goodbye to Coke and soft drinks from my life. I gladly took the Bubly from him and embraced trying this different brand of carbonated water for the first time.
Later that weekend at the grocery store I stocked up my cart with Lime Bubly. I devoted an entire shelf in my refrigerator to those bright green and happy looking cans. The cans have the words ‘oh hi’ printed on their cap… I thought of my nephew… oh ‘hi’ on repeat. Every time I wanted pop or that distinct feel of carbonation and bubbles in my mouth I took out a Lime Bubly. I stopped buying pop. I promised myself that much… that I could stop drinking pop. Even if nothing else changed regarding my health, I was going to be healthier for that one singular change.
And with that one act, between August and into September, I lost seven pounds. I was utterly and truly amazed! I was absolutely fascinated that I could lose weight — even if it was just a few pounds in the bigger picture — without pills or any other strange and unnatural concoctions. I was truly shocked with each pound that had come off... And with that initial accomplishment, the thought then entered my mind that maybe I could actually lose the weight I had gained during this tumultuous past decade of my life...
I became determined. I had given myself the momentum I needed, and was ready to take massive action. You see, momentum doesn’t just occur, or happen on its own, it has to be propelled by your very own initial movements. And once momentum is gained, it then becomes ever and increasingly difficult to stop once you’ve taken off and started the ride. I had the keys in my hand, I had started the engine, and now I had just hit the gas.
I accelerated… it had just taken me a very long while to know that I was the one who was sitting in the driver’s seat all along.
Being a very visual person, I knew if I stood any chance of success that I would need a way to track my progress, and track my food. I needed a way to see those seven pounds and the unknown number of future pounds in a graph format. I wanted to see the speed and rate of pounds lost. I needed to see it written down or visualed somehow to grasp the concept of the weight lost. And most importantly, I needed to understand how much energy (calories) to take in every day for success with both weight loss and weight maintenance. I had started traveling down the road; I now needed to know what lane was best for me to get into for safe travels on the journey.
Being a runner, while growing up I had counted and logged every mile I ran throughout high school. I logged so many darn miles run that when I graduated my parents put that crazy number on my graduation cake written into the frosting: 2,551 miles run in high school alone. If I can track thousands of miles run over the course of my early life, without the internet, then I can track the calories I ingest every day, today, with all the technology of the world at my fingertips, no problem.
I remembered my dear friend talking about MyFitnessPal a couple years ago. My perception was that she really embraced the use of that app and had molded it into her lifestyle very nicely to help her track her calorie intake, accurately, and with great success. In the back of my mind and in the front of my mind I knew whatever I was going to do from there on was going to have to be a lifestyle change. Not a short stint. No 21 Day Fixes for me. I needed routine and craved routine and needed to make gradual lifestyle changes, nothing abrupt.
So on September 12, 2018, and seven pounds down, I went ahead and downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. For the first time ever I typed my own weight into a digital database. It was NOT a good feeling. But I fought the horrible feeling and continued onward. I followed all the prompts. I read all the articles. I read all the notifications. I did what it said for me to do, and in my own way.
I wanted MyFitnessPal to be a tool, and not in any way for it to ever become a necessity or a hindrance in my life. And by this I mean I wanted to utilize MFP and other such tools to help me reach my goals, but for these tools to not become something I depended on for the rest of my life.
Unless I really wanted to, I didn’t want to need the app to be successful in my journey. I didn’t want to become addicted to it for the physical changes to happen or stay with me. If the Internet ever went down, I wanted to still be able to know how to eat and intake a healthy amount of fuel each day. I told myself whatever change I made had to be a change I could do every day no matter the circumstance. No matter what technology provides us in the future, and no matter what food inventory was being sold at the grocery store on any given day. I never once told myself that I needed the app or that I would gain a ton of weight without access to that app. Thus, I chose to remain on the free version of the MFP, and still have never once enrolled and paid for premium access. The only thing I truly needed - was me… Me, and my knowledge, and experience, and the correct use of tools, to appropriately help me get where I wanted to be.
I logged everything into MyFitnessPal for one single, solitary day. The next day the app suggested I take a picture of myself. Aghhhh!! The picture, it emphasized, would be to show my progress. At this stage I was absolutely mortified of a starting picture. Or a ‘before’ picture. Before WHAT??? I thought. Before. What. What is going to happen to me that I would progress from that point? I was honestly scared. The thought was almost too much to handle. I nearly quit the app right then and there. I could barely even stomach the thought of telling my husband that I had joined what I thought was a calorie-counting app, let alone take a photo of myself at the beginning of this - whatever ‘this’ was.
So I was about to log out of the app and not take the photo. Go ahead Christine! - Delete your newest online account. Unsubscribe. I had horrific, fearful thoughts of not succeeding in any way. It would kill me, I thought, to not succeed at such a large and monumental task. I was on the verge and ready to give up. As I was contemplating these actions, I remembered that I had already given what I deemed at the time the most important of important information into the app the day before. I had already told MFP my current weight! If I could do that, then I could take a picture of myself, right?
Movement. Action. Momentum. Action. Massive action.
So, before going any further in either direction, I decided to do some initial and brief reading on weight loss before and after photos. I was absolutely and positively mesmerized! Wow! People took photos of their weight loss journeys and posted them online?! It was shocking and very motivational. There’s an entire online industry of weight loss and health and fitness individuals who inspire people to change their own lives! This is a big, and I mean BIG, industry! I just didn’t know how big, and was never even aware of it, because I was never needing to even be aware of it before then in my life. So after some initial perusing online, I said, omg, what the heck, I’ll take the photos. Go ahead Christine, follow the prompts. Take the darn photo.
My God in Heaven, what in the world was I doing? What was I getting myself into?!
One photo can help change your life. Take that photo. Do it. Embrace it.
On September 13, 2018, one solid day into MyFitnessPal online, I took what would become my official ‘before’ photo.
And that initial photo now stands in contrast with me, present day, September 13, 2019. And a loss of 77 pounds. My very own “Before & After” weight loss success photo.
How did I lose those 77 pounds? Through much patience, discipline, routine, and logging. I also got over my fear of even talking about the process and told my husband right away when I got started. For some reason I thought he would be mad at my attempt - but he wasn’t. Quite the contrary - he has been immensely and extremely supportive. And this entire past year of the process he has been with me and encouraging me every step of the way.
I also lost the weight through the use of great tools. I successfully molded MyFitnessPal into my newly embraced ‘Lime Bubly Lifestyle.’ The cool green cans and the app were great TOOLS for me. Tools I could utilize, but tools I made sure I never NEEDED to survive. I would go days or weeks WITHOUT the Lime Bubly just to prove to myself I didn’t need it to lose weight. But gosh, the weight was falling off me. I tracked my calorie intake with MFP and ate the amount of calories it told me to eat.
And yes, I made plenty of mistakes. I just didn’t let those mistakes derail me or my progress. I embraced each mistake and learned from it. This made my drive and determination and motivation grow even further to succeed. I read. I watched videos. I listened to podcasts. Lots and lots of podcasts. Some of my favorite online health and fitness humans are Corinne Crabtree of ‘Phit & Phat’ on podcast, and John Glaude of ‘Obese To Beast’ and Alan Roberts of ‘Every Damn Day Fitness’ on YouTube. I really resonate with these three amazing individuals the most, and highly recommend listening to them or watching them or following them if you want to lose weight for real, for good, and to help you change your life for the better. They are as real and as raw as me and my story. They are honest and truthful. They can act as that extra ‘push’ you might need every day to keep going.
With the help of those weight loss rockstars, and many others, I really educated myself on the process of losing weight. I came to understand that weight loss is math. It’s mathematics - and it’s science - and it’s physics. Weight loss is simply eating less fuel than your body needs to maintain its current weight each day. So with MFP helping me add up the daily math, and my grasping and understanding of that simple scientific concept, nothing could stop me from succeeding. I lived and breathed and ate and logged and ate and logged. Repeatedly. Repetition. Routine. And now today I have reached a one year milestone achievement of this newly embraced, and most welcome, healthier lifestyle.
It’s all real. It’s untouched. And it is my sincere hope that this story, and with associated visuals to coincide, may help you, or someone you know… Someone who may be in the initial stages of weight loss; someone you know who is well into their weight loss journey but isn’t finished yet, or someone so lost and so far back behind the starting line that they’ve never even seen the internet world of “Before & After” yet - someone just like I was a year ago when I didn’t really know that there was a whole world out there of people who struggled with weight gain just like I did.
The weight has been coming off for over a solid year now, falling strategically and healthily into a range I am so very happy with. I loved myself before, but I love myself more now. It’s not because I look different; I love who I have become and am so very happy with ME. The physical pounds coming off my body have changed my life both physically and mentally. I have made lots and lots of life changes since I moved across the country a few years ago, but so very many of them have grown and magnified and developed into a life all their own during this past year of weight loss. My confidence is intact and strong and growing stronger every day. I spend money differently now, and am very strategic and responsible with every penny I spend (and I had kept a budget for years before this change too). Plus, I’ve really embraced minimalism, even more so now than when I started seeking a minimalist lifestyle a few years back.
Below = Me - During ~~~ Enjoying the ride...
And finally, I’ve joined the 5am Club. Yes, that dreaded nightmare of a club, where I wake up every day at five o’clock. And by doing it every day, I am an official card-carrying member. I recommend it highly — Do it. Join it. It may just be the single best card you carry in your wallet. And yet, gosh, I tell you, it’s not an easy club to join. And the membership fee is pretty steep. But if you join, it will change your life in ways you never dreamed of.
In this past year of journeying through seventy seven pounds leaving my body, and waking before the sun rises, I am happy to report that my health is improved, I published my website, started my very own Etsy Shop, make tee-shirt designs, have a fully functioning art studio in my home, and am writing my own lifestyle blog. But joining the 5am Club gets a big bold bullet point of emphasis all its own. Waking that early - on purpose - and even many days before five in the morning, is literally the swift kick in the BE-Hind that I have always needed to push myself beyond my limits. And at 38 years of age, I love that push, I embrace that push, and I love who I have become because of that push. I love challenging myself every day, and I wouldn’t change a thing… Although I do fully embrace any change coming my way.
And yes, I still do eat ice cream — sprinkles included — just not every day.
So with all that being said, I do hope by sharing with you the story of my journey, that any one part of it may have resonated with you in a change you have made or are looking to make in your life? Please let me know in the comments down below your thoughts, and what steps you are taking daily to improve your own life? But most importantly, let me know if you also like a nice, cool green, icy cold can of delicious Lime Bubly.
Every year, on this day, when I wake in the morning and look at the calendar, it's just another day… but then I see my phone screen displaying today’s date to me. The phone tells me that it’s Nine Eleven, and I get a sinking pit of a feeling in my stomach. A feeling of doom and gloom. It feels like in a nightmare when I am falling and there is no end ever to the fall; and then wake up scared to death. But that feeling stays with me all day. It’s a feeling of aching and utter real, raw, sadness. And I feel it every single year, without fail, on September 11.
From that point forward in the morning it becomes a very different day than any other of the calendar year. It becomes a very difficult day for me. A day I push myself forward with an extra amount of force. Force necessary to complete my tasks and go about a normal day of activity.
Saying good morning to my husband. And then our first words to each other this day: ‘It’s Nine Eleven.’
Talking on the phone.
Reading and watching the news.
Going to the library.
Tipping the barista a bit extra today at Starbucks.
Crying as I write this.
Choosing a very happy comedy or adventure-filled film to watch this evening with my husband, and my dog-who didn’t live through that day upon this Earth. Choosing a comedic film to not add any more sadness to my day than necessary.
Saying goodnight to the most solemn and somber day of the year.
On Nine Eleven, 2001, I was at the very beginning of my junior year of college. I abruptly quit the cross country team at the start of that school year, after two years of running NCAA Division III collegiate athletics. I always thought it was a rash decision, but I went with my gut, and my gut feeling does not fail me. I also quit winter and spring track, right then and there as well. Fiercely independent - I had always wanted and craved to run on my own; and this decision allowed me to give more time and focus toward my very expensive college education. My grades were not where I wanted them to be. I only had so much time and energy; I was spreading myself too thin. I was confident in my decision and never wavered from it.
My grades immediately improved with that action. I knew I made the right decision. I made a lot of important life decisions during that school year. I became engaged to be married. I moved off campus and into the condo my fiancé and I purchased in the spring of junior year. I continued onward with my schooling. I worked. I planned my wedding. But when I think back on my junior year of college, I always remember that it began with Nine Eleven.
On Nine Eleven I was safe at college in Illinois, tucked far away from the terror taking place to my East. Being in the Midwest, I never happened to know anyone directly affected by the attacks on America that day. And I spent most of that day in the dorm rooms of my friends, watching coverage on tv. That was all you could watch. Everything else stopped. Not being directly affected by the attacks at all, and feeling the way I do each year on Nine Eleven... I cannot even bear to imagine the pain and suffering of people who were directly affected in any way by the attacks.
Being of college age when the terrorist attack upon America occurred, I believe I am a member of the in-between generation. Or, what I am calling the “Floating Generation.” Listen up if you are about my age and ever wondered what generation you fall in. Are you a millennial? Or a Gen X’er? I used to question my generational status all the time. Some days I thought with 100% certainty that I am a Millennial. Then, other days, I think, those silly Millennials!!! I canNOT relate to them at all! There’s no way I am a millennial, am I? I realized that people my age have our very own and very distinct generation. I hover. And float. The Floating Generation. I hover and I float between generational skills and beliefs. I float back and forth and go where the waves of time take me. I can balance that paper checkbook very easily if the internet went down. I can use Apple Pay at McDonald’s in an instant if I forget my wallet. Maybe someday I won’t even carry a wallet? I am a ‘Floater.’ Everyone is born into a distinct generation. It’s up to you to decide which one that is, though, and which one you will put yourself in - even if that means creating your own generation.
I had grown up prior to Nine Eleven. Nine Eleven occurred when I was a very young and very new adult. A young adult making very important life decisions for the very first time. For me and many others, there was life before Nine Eleven and life after Nine Eleven. Just like there was life before smartphones and life after smartphones were invented. And there also existed for us life before social media and life with the advent of social media. Or “Life Before Facebook” as I commonly say. I am of the American generation who has experienced both eras. I lived and survived life before the internet and now live with the internet a part of my life every single day. I know how to live with Facebook, although I have chosen to now continue life without a Facebook account. I know how to balance a paper checkbook, and will be forever and eternally grateful for the banking app on my phone home screen that keeps track of everything for me now. I float back and forth between the two eras, quite easily adapting to any situation on hand, maybe easier than others can adapt. We are adapters. Adapters to the continual and quick-paced changes taking place around us. This Floating Generation appreciates those little things like a bank app more so than any other generation potentially can appreciate it. Because we have seen, experienced, and know both ways of life. Generations coming up and being born now will have those pieces of technology molded into their lives from as long as they can remember back. How will they relate and study and know their past?
At some point in the unknown future, will there exist a generation of humans who don’t know how to live life without a smartphone? Or live life without the internet? I question if the internet will become classified as a public ‘utility’ in the future?... As imperative to life as gas and electricity and air conditioning and heat are now to our way of life? I compare and contrast my life before and life after in my head all the time, as only ones who really and truly experienced both can do so. And I also see life before Nine Eleven, and I see life after Nine Eleven. We are definitely a different nation today than we were before the attacks. Just as the entire world is different today directly because of social media’s never-ending presence, as well as the invention of the smartphone.
On future Nine Eleven’s, there will be more new and innovative inventions that will have changed human behavior and communication yet again. When I go to sleep tonight I will know that this day will come again 365 days from now. The world may be far different again next year at this time. And years into the future. One thing will remain the same though. That feeling inside my stomach. That pit. Because all the technology in the world cannot change the real and raw feeling inside a human heart. And stomach. It will be like the ‘Groundhog Day’ film, I think to myself. The same day all over again. Just 365 days apart, not the next morning. Except this year, 2019, there was one difference for me. Today, this Nine Eleven, 2019 - eighteen years later - I came to the realization that an entire generation of Americans are now legal adults who never lived through that horrific day in America. They don’t know what waking on this day feels like to some. They need to know our history. - how and why things can change in an instant. I pray they are taught what happened.
My dad is a World War II history buff. That’s how I have always thought of him. And when I think of his history knowledge, I then think of the show Seinfeld… The episode where Jerry and George see Keith Hernandez. And Jerry tells George that Keith Hernandez is a big Civil War buff. George is fascinated by the statement. He says he’d like to be a buff. What does one have to do to become a buff? He contemplates. My father is one of those such buffs. Sometimes I think he knows more about WWII than some of the generals who fought in the war.
Recently, June 6, 2019, marked the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. I like to educate myself about WWII. I like knowing as many details as I can. I’d like to someday know all that my father knows about WWII. Yet, I know I will never know as much as my father knows. He knows things that WWII movies get factually wrong. When this past 75th Anniversary came and went, I couldn’t help but think at the time, that someday, it will be the 75th Remembrance of Nine Eleven. And then the 100th. Whole generations come and gone. What will American’s think that day, Nine Eleven of the distant and unknown future? Will they be watching television that day, on some strange futuristic device, and see world leaders from all over the globe come together to remember the fateful day of the past? Will people put flags up and wear American flag tees and pins to remember 9/11 that far into the future? They might, and they will, if future generations are taught what happened. A history which is forgotten is a history that may be repeated. If something is forgotten, how does one learn anything at all from that something?
To the new and waking and growing generations of American’s out there - this is what Nine Eleven feels like to some of your fellow Americans. And next year, on Nine Eleven, Twenty Twenty, we will feel this way again. This is why the American Flag is brought out specifically today, hung proudly outside homes and businesses and in window displays and waving from vehicles all across the country. This is why news coverage is different today. This is why when you Google something today on your smartphone you will see a sad and somber black ribbon just below the search bar, draped gently over the American Flag; a Flag who mourns a loss from 18 years ago today.
And next year, on Nine Eleven, I already know on that morning I will again wake and I will again look at my calendar and see the date; and a sinking pit of a sad and heartbreaking feeling will fall upon my stomach. That Groundhog Day repetitive feeling will come upon me again. Reliving the day with heartache and a profound sadness. And I will go out into society to get coffee, and I will tip the barista something extra that day - whether I can afford to or not. Living the same day, with the same feelings and emotions, again. And tears will come again. Without end on that day of the calendar, Nine Eleven. For the rest of my life. I will never forget.
On a hot Florida summer day, also our 16th wedding anniversary, we took a drive down south on A1A to have dinner at The Reef. Having driven this state route between Jacksonville and St. Augustine numerous times, I consider getting to The Reef a treat in and of itself. A quick glance out of the car window and I am treated to some of the most scenic coastal views around the entire southeast United States. Pelicans flying overhead, waves crashing on the shore line, much of the road bordered by a coastal reserve––it’s a breath of fresh air to drive through so much nature at its absolute finest.
Besides Vilano Beach, The Reef is one of the very few eateries to stop at when enroute between Jax and the nation's oldest city. There’s only about one other place to dine (Cap’s), which requires a turn off of A1A heading toward the intracoastal, as well as a gas station and convenience mart. So naturally, The Reef is in quite an ideal location to catch all of the many passersby and tourists who are hungry and aching for a break from the car.
Pulling off of the coastal highway and into the sandy parking lot overlooking the dunes and straight out onto the Atlantic, it never really gets old to see such a sight. The ocean water was changing color quickly that afternoon, along with the abruptly changing weather. Then, gazing upon The Reef, one must not be fooled by its low-key and rough exterior. The weathered, gray board and batten structure's exterior provides a casual, laid back and beachy vibe; however, walking in was a different story. The interior is really a place much fancier than I expected. The hostess took us to our seats and we walked past tables adorned with cloth napkins and table cloths, and for a moment wearing my sundress, I didn’t know if I was dressed appropriately? Was I underdressed?
We were seated at our table outside, as requested, on the waterfront. The location: most ideal. Service was quite normal––no rush, and not too slow either. The views: priceless.
I quickly stopped worrying about what I was wearing once outside. As more people were seated, some were dressed up a bit, and some dressed very casual. We began our meal with drinks and a shrimp cocktail. Cheers to another year of marriage!
While sipping our drinks the weather turned very quickly. The skies darkened and a brief late afternoon Florida rain storm came upon us. The staff suggested we move inside before dinner and right as our meal was served it started pouring.
We watched the storm chase people off the beach from the window of our new candle-lit table. Our main courses were steaks with seasonal vegetables. The meal itself was a bit pricey to me for what we got but no real complaints at all. We ended with a very tiny vanilla ice cream scoop and a key lime pie tart to share for dessert. While sipping our coffees we witnessed the sky turn blue and clear up just in time to watch the sun go down.
While the restaurant was a little expensive in my view, the drive to get there was definitely worth it to pull over and enjoy a meal on the coast any day. And sometimes a restaurant experience actually isn’t about the food itself or how much we paid, or how good the meal was; it’s about the experience of getting there after sixteen years of marriage and dreaming of what’s to come next after that shared meal together.
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