Wednesday, September 25, 2013

All About Amy - She's 31 Ya'll!

On September 25, 1982 my beautiful sister Amy was born and I had an instant best friend. Thirty-one years later, I still consider Amy to be one of my absolute best friends in the entire world and a woman that I aspire to be like. Today is Amy's 31st birthday and I am super bummed that I am not going to be able to spend the day with her. To make up for my lack of birthday fun, I am going to share 31 random facts about one of the coolest girls I know.

1.) Amy absolutely hates her middle name. Like for real, legit hates it. Personally I think it is cute but I can't seem to convince her of that. I know that you are probably curious now about what it is but I'm going to keep it a secret for least for today anyway.

2.) My sister becomes friends with literally everyone she meets. For real, that girl can walk into a room, smile that huge beautiful smile of hers and instantly have ten new bff's.

3.) She is a group exercise instructor who has a way of making you feel like you are not working out but rather hanging out with 30 of your best friends in a hot sweaty room. Her energy is contagious!

4.) Amy tells a lot of dirty and inappropriate jokes! I like it!

5.) She is a military wife who supported her husband through two tours of duty and also gave birth to one of their children while he was deployed. I am constantly amazed by her strength.

6.) Since her husband wasn't around during her first pregnancy, guess who was in the delivery room? Yeah, ask me again why I don't have any children!!!

7.) Amy is a breast cancer survivor!

8.) If you asked me what my sister does for a living, I'm not sure I could really explain it any other way then to say that she is a Fitness Guru. She has her hands in a million different projects and is always adding something new.

9.) Amy is the mother of two amazing, brilliant and gorgeous girls. They are so lucky to have her for a mom!

10.) In 2011, Amy and I ran the Richmond Marathon together and had an absolute blast. I'm pretty sure we laughed and talked the entire 26.2 miles.

11.) In 1998, Amy and I went to London, Liverpool and Wales together. I have so many great memories from that trip.

12.) Amy is a huge Steelers fan. I don't understand her love of football or Pittsburgh but it makes her happy.

13.) My sister is absolutely beautiful...and I'm not talking about on the inside! Seriously, she is one hot mama! Total heartbreaker!

14.) However, she is also really beautiful on the inside. Her heart is HUGE!

15.) Amy, our sister Mel and I all have matching tattoos...well, sort of matching but with our own unique twist.

16.) I have learned more about forgiveness and unconditional love from my relationship with Amy, than I have with any other person in my life. She has stuck by me through some really horrible situations and has loved me even when I didn't deserve it.

17.) I love that I get to share being a middle child with Amy...she feels my pain!

18.) That girl can dance! From twerking to line dancing and everything in between, she has rhythm and isn't afraid to use it.

19.) I have always been jealous of the way Amy can handle stress.

20.) Amy writes a really cool blog called Fit To Grow. You should totally check it out.

21.) As adults, Amy and I were roommates for three years in RVA. That was an interesting time in our lives and it was filled with drama, fun, arguments, giggling and very little sleep.

22.) One time at band camp...


23.) I feel really lucky that Amy is my sister because it means that she is sort of forced to be my friend. I feel like the dorky kid who hit the friendship jackpot because she is so much cooler than me.

24.) Our mutual love for Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon proves that intelligence runs in our family!

25.) The first time Amy and I ran a race together was in Virginia Beach at the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. We had a great time until about mile 8 and then one of us became a little testy and started calling the other one bad names!

26.) If you know Amy, you just can't help but love her.

27.) Besides the "sister tattoo", Amy has two additional tattoos of her daughter's footprints. She is bad ass in a tender, loving sort of way!

28.) The girl has got some guns on her! Ask her to flex sometime...go ahead, I dare you!

29.) You will never catch Amy in mom jeans or looking frumpy. She is definitely a MILF!

30.) I love that Amy is always up for an adventure. No matter what kind of crazy plan I come up with, she is always willing to be a part of it and that is sort of awesome!

31.) Even though she has seven toes on her left foot, she still manages to walk in a mostly straight line. Ha ha ha!!! Just kidding...she totally walks crooked!

Happy birthday Amy McNeil! I love you so much more than I could ever explain and I miss you every single second that we are apart. I hope you have the most wonderful birthday imaginable. Tell Jack I said hi! Love you sister friend!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sometimes I Just Don't Want To Run

I'm not sure when it happened but recently I just haven't really felt like running. Every single morning when my alarm goes off, I hit snooze at least once and then lay awake in my bed wishing that I could blow off my run. Usually, I lay in bed a little bit too long and end up having to sprint in order to get in a few miles before work.

And by few, I mean just that. My mileage has decreased quite a bit. I went from running 115 miles a week to about 45 miles a week and although that is still a decent amount of running, the decrease in mileage has left me feeling slow, sad and out of shape. I am just burned out on running and I can't figure out why. I'm not injured and there is no physical reason for not running but my mind and my heart just aren't in it.

Running has always been my way of dealing with life and the obstacles that come along with living but I can't figure out what I am supposed to do when running is the obstacle. I have been practicing a lot of yoga, riding my bike and going for long walks on the beach but none of that is giving me the endorphin rush that I used to easily access with only a few miles of running.

I am hoping that this is only a phase and that my passion for running will return in time. Maybe this is simply one of the natural ebbs and flows of life or a way for my body to spend some time recovering from all of the pounding I have put it through. To be honest, I am really afraid that the lazy, fat kid who hides deep inside of me has finally found a way to sabotage all of my efforts to live a healthy life...and for the record, yes, I do realize how crazy that last sentence makes me sound.

I went on Pinterest today to try and find some sort of motivational quote that would inspire me to shake off the lethargy and overcome this setback. There were quite a few running quotes, some mantras telling me to push myself and even a few reminders that discipline will lead to success but the only thing that I walked away with was this:

"What matters most in life is not how much money you have. It's about quotes and stuff that tell you what life is really all about and here is a picture of a cat."
Pinterest is silly! For real though, have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? What did you do in order to motivate yourself? Am I just getting old and lazy? Will I ever feel like running again? How do you tell the lazy, fat kid inside of you to shut up? Should I "Just Do It"?
 I am open to any and all advice at this point...although I feel it is only fair to warn you that according to Billy, (my favorite but kind of mean brother-in-law) I am a complete askhole. What is an askhole?! Leave it to Pinterest to have the answer:
Askhole definition
Alright...this is just getting weird! Good talk! Let's do it again tomorrow.   

Monday, September 23, 2013

Note To Self!

- Driving in six inch stilettos is much more dangerous than texting and driving. Attempting to do both at the same time, while your heel is caught between the clutch and the floor mat, well that would be called a death wish! (Note to self: Put your phone down and buy some flats!)

- For the past two weeks, I have been convinced that I am allergic to something at work. Every single time I sit down at my desk, my eyes get extremely watery and then my head starts to hurt. I finally realized today that there is no allergy, I am just crying because I don't like to work. The sniffling should have given it away a long time ago. (Note to self: Stop being a crybaby!)

- I attempted to ride my bike three times over the weekend. The first time, I got a flat tire and had to turn around to take care of it. Once I had fixed the tire, I went out for my second attempt and was caught in a miserable thunderstorm. After a scary but extremely fast ride, I made it home and cleaned up myself and my bike. Once the storm had cleared, I tried again to get a few miles in on my bike but before I could even get both feet clipped into my pedals, a dog ran into the side of my bike and knocked me over. Thankfully, I managed to walk away with only a few scrapes and bruises but I'm kind of concerned that my bike is trying to kill me. (Note to self: Perform exorcism on your bike!)

- This morning I discovered that I have pockets in my dress! I love pockets!!! I was really excited until I discovered that one of the pockets had three pennies, a Lifesaver and an old movie ticket stub for Argo. I have never bought Lifesavers and didn't see Argo...I'm a little bit confused. (Note to self: Don't go sticking your hands in pockets unless you are prepared for the outcome!)

-  Last night I was asked out on a date by a nineteen year-old guy. I tried to explain that I was quite a bit older than him and his response was, "That's alright, I like my women a little bit ripe." I really couldn't help myself and busted out laughing because let's be honest, that's a pretty funny line. However, by the look on his face and the way he quickly disappeared I don't think he was joking. Oh well, at least I didn't have to tell him no. (Note to self: Laughing like a maniac may be a useful exit strategy in the future.)

Happy Monday my friends! Don't let anyone steal your sparkle!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Adventurous Spirit Is No Accident

It is often said that we are a product of our environment. We grow to reflect and imitate the behaviors that we have seen demonstrated in those around us and I am no exception. I have a wandering, adventurous and extremely independent spirit and I know exactly where it came from. 

I was raised in an extremely non traditional home by parents who believed in taking chances and trying new things. Don't believe me? Well, pull up a chair my friend, it's story time with Stacy.

This story begins in 1981 in the beautiful deserts of Tucson, Arizona; my birthplace and more importantly the place where my parents met and fell in love. (That second part is only more important because without their love making, I wouldn't be here to tell you this story and trust me, you want to hear this.) My parents had been in Arizona for a few years enjoying desert living and starting their family. My older brother, Shane, was born in 1978 and I quickly followed just a couple of years later. There we were, a young family of four living the typical American dream when all of a sudden my parents came up with a rather interesting idea. My dad had recently heard about a job opportunity in Texas at a working cattle ranch and it piqued his interest. Now, most normal people would interview for the job, start looking for houses in the area, rent a U-haul perhaps but where is the spirit of adventure in that? What fun would it be to handle things in a logical and predictable way? No fun at all if you were to ask my parents!

That is why, at the tender age of not quite 2, I found myself  in a child safety seat on the back of a bicycle headed towards Texas. Yes, you read that right! My parents loaded their toddlers and all of their belongings onto the back of two road bikes and set out for an adventure through the desert. The plan was to ride from Tucson to the small Texas town of Jacinto - just over 1000 miles- but of course, even the best laid plans never turn out quite the way they are supposed to. While I personally have no recollection of the actual trip, I have seen pictures and heard the stories that my Dad has told me over the years. Stories about hitching a ride with strangers in order to avoid traveling through an Indian Reservation, exploring abandoned mining towns and being diverted due to flash floods. I have to be honest, if I hadn't seen the pictures of this trip, I probably wouldn't believe it to be true. The whole thing just seems so far fetched or like a Hollywood script. Can you even imagine what it would be like to ride a bike with your children and all of your possessions through the middle of the desert? Where did my parents get the balls to take on an adventure like this? How did we all manage to survive and actually arrive in one piece? And most importantly, how am I ever going to top them and their completely bad ass ways!?!

This is my legacy and to be honest, The Bike Trip (as it is known in our family) is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the stories I could tell. Although my upbringing has been far from normal, I appreciate the lessons it has taught me and the courage it has given me to try new things. I am not afraid to push my limits, dare to dream or embrace the unknown. I will be the first to admit that these adventures don't always turn out well and there are a few times I have found myself in positions that I would prefer to forget. However, I would rather look back on life and have great stories to tell, than to look back and wonder what might have been if I had only taken a chance.
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde #quotes #inspiration
And just because we were really adorable kids and it happens to be throwback Thursday:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Well, Hey There Stranger!

So, apparently I decided to drop off of the face of the earth for a few days and completely abandon my two loyal readers. Actually, I lied, there may only be one loyal reader. (Hi Mom!)

Anyway, I have a good excuse for disappearing and that can be summed up in two little words: Food Poisoning. Any guesses on how much fun my weekend was? Thankfully, I am feeling much better and I was even able to run a few miles this morning. My legs felt horrible and I feel dreadfully out of shape but even the bad miles make me smile.

I don't have a lot of time to write this blog today because I am behind on everything and my to-do lists are sort of out of control but first I have three quick things to tell you:

1.) Stacy's Tip Of The Day: Want to cut way down on your electric bill? Start going to Hot Yoga classes on a regular basis. For real, it is still averaging 85-90 degrees here in Charleston during the day but my air conditioner has been off for the last 2 months. After hanging out in a hot, humid 9,000,000 degree room for 90 minutes, my 85 degree apartment actually feels really cold. Savings on your electric bill, flexibility and exercise...why aren't you practicing yoga?

2.) I need to change my blog name and I am open to any and all suggestions. Apparently, Just a Girl in the Arena is some sort of vampire book or series or something. I have been receiving quite a few strange messages from people who are looking for vampire information and although I am thankful for all of the vampire lovers who have taken the time to read through my blog, I am just not feeling the blood sucking vibe. I need a cool name! Let's hear your suggestions...and go!

3.) My two gorgeous sisters went hiking today in  the beautiful mountains of Charlottesville while I am stuck at my desk working. I wish I could tell you that I am happy for them but if I am being honest, I am just insanely jealous and feeling sorry for myself. I absolutely adore Charlottesville and I really miss my sisters. Do you want to hear the worst part of the whole thing? They are taking along our friend Casey to replace me! I love Casey to death and miss hanging out with her but just because our names sound similar doesn't mean that she can take my place. (I'm totally just kidding about most of this paragraph...sort of ...I guess. Well, at least the Casey part. Love you Casey!)

Alright people, that's all I've got for you today. Please, please, please send me your name suggestions. I need all the help I can get!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Stuff I Don't Hate

Hi guys! I'm kind of picky about well, everything! So when I find something that makes me smile, I tend to be kind of all about it! These are just a few thing that I am not hating right now:

This Book:

Jeannette Walls is one of my favorite authors and her newest book doesn't disappoint. This story, about two sisters who find themselves living in rural Virginia with an uncle they have never known, is heart warming and tragic all at the same time. My sisters and I just finished reading this book together and all three of us loved it. Check it out...and then when you have finished reading this one, you must read her first two books: The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses.

This Nail Polish:

I know fall is basically here but I just can't seem to switch over to my typical fall nail colors. I am currently rocking this gorgeous hot pink and can't get enough of it !

This Food:

I have a new found obsession with avocados. I have been eating them daily for the past few weeks and  I still can't get enough. Who knows how long this obsession will last but I'm loving every second of it. Have you tried putting avocado in your protein shake?! MMMM! You must try it! Really. Trust me on this one!

This Drink:

I have been drinking at least one of these a day for the past few months and have noticed a huge difference in my recovery time. I used to wake up in the middle of the night with horrible leg cramps and these have really helped me to balance out my electrolytes, stay hydrated and sleep through the night. Plus, they taste amazing, have zero calories and are easy to just toss in your bag. I always carry a few with me and just mix them in my water bottle. Vega products are kind of expensive but I am kind of in love with them...too bad my wallet isn't.

This Lady:

Emeli Sande is gorgeous, has an amazing voice and can totally rock short hair! What's not to love?

These Guys:

Jimmy Fallon & Justin there a better combination? I honestly think they make peanut butter and chocolate seem lame. Justin will be on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon every Tuesday during the month of September for Timberlake Tuesday. If you missed their Evolution of End Zone Dancing, you should do yourself a favor and check it out on youtube! Total man crush x's 2!!!

These Shoes:

I love everything about these shoes. Total shoe porn right there. I think I need these.

And finally, this:
Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends. ~William Butler Yeats  #quotes
I was reminded this week of just how lucky I am to have friendships that endure time, distance and the ebbs and flows of life. They may never realize how much I value their love, support and encouragement but I hold them in my heart. Always!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Just Because It's Good For You?

It seems to me that every single time I turn around, there is new information coming out about the latest food or drink that will perform nutritional miracles in my body. Coconut water, kombucha,  chia seeds, bison, vitamins, juicing, acai, green drinks, coconut oil, coffee enemas, placenta, goji berries and the list goes on and on and on. I will be the first to admit that I have used and enjoy some of these products. However, I use them with the understanding that the majority of their health claims are based on consuming ungodly amounts of the suggested product.

For example, green tea is said to boost metabolism and provide antioxidants but what they fail to mention is that you would need to drink 6-10 cups a day in order to see even minute changes. I don't know about you but that seems almost impossible to this coffee loving girl. I could possibly choke down two cups of tea a few times a week but 6-10 cups a day just isn't practical.

Or maybe we should discuss coconut water. Have you ever actually tasted that stuff? I know that there are plenty of people who claim to enjoy coconut water. However, I can only imagine that their taste buds have been destroyed at some point because coconut water literally tastes like licking the inside of a jellyfish. Just thinking about it makes me want to vomit. I have tried, God knows I have tried, to learn to like coconut water but I can't even choke that vile stuff down. A few times, I have been able to mix it into a smoothie with success in order to help with electrolyte replacement but to be honest, I think I would rather just stay dehydrated.

How about chia seeds? Those little magical seeds have been everywhere the past few years and they are in everything from beverages to protein bars. There are literally tons of recipes online for chia this and chia that...and of course who can forget the loveable chia pets? Too far? Sorry, sometimes I get carried away. Back to the subject on hand. Chia seeds are huge in the running community and are often given the credit for the success of the Tarahumara runners. Over the past few years, I have eaten tons of chia seeds  and although I have never noticed a difference in my running, I have spent way too much time picking those little suckers out of my teeth. I mean, let's be real, for every spoonful of chia seeds I have eaten, I have probably turned around and flossed 80% of them out of my teeth. How am I supposed to reap any benefits from that kind of a ratio?

Kombucha...should we talk about kombucha? Anything that is made to breed bacteria seems like a bad idea to me. And scobies? Really? Have you seen what those things look like? Go ahead google it and then try to tell me you want to drink kombucha. (Sorry Mom. Please don't take that personally.)

I could go on: Green drinks - taste like you just licked the bottom of a lawn mower. Goji berries - wish they tasted half as good as raisins. Coffee enemas - are an insult to everything that makes coffee wonderful. Juicing - An expensive, albeit delicious way to starve yourself into your skinny jeans. Placenta - I mean really? Do I need to say anything about this one?

So what is my point to all of this? Well, to be honest, I don't really have one. I sort of just like to rant about things that interest me. However, if I was forced to come up with something to glean from all of my complaining it would be this: Don't buy into a fad or look for a quick fix when it comes to taking care of your body. You only get one of these things. Find ways to exercise that make you feel alive. Seek out foods and beverages that nourish you. Give your body the rest it deserves and most importantly live a life that makes you feel proud.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Living Life As A Stigma

Stigma: sign of social unacceptability: the shame or disgrace attached to something regarded as socially unacceptable.

On April 19, 2011 a judge signed his name to a stack of paperwork and my marriage was officially over. I never imagined that I would be divorced. (In fact, I really never thought I would ever be married but that's a story for another day.) You hear all of the statistics about how common divorce is but no one ever wants to believe that it will happen to them. The sad truth is that 45% of marriages in America, end in divorce. I honestly believed that with how common divorce is, that it wouldn't be such a big deal to join the millions of other people that have ended their marriage and lived to tell about it...but boy was I naive. I see the way people look at me when I mention the divorce, it is a strange mixture of curiosity and judgment, pity and superiority. Most of the time I can shrug it off, knowing that the circumstances surrounding my marriage made it impossible for me to stick it out but sometimes, I want to try and explain that I am not a failure and I didn't just throw in the towel when things became difficult.

  Recently I was on a date with a guy and the topic of our past relationships came up. I am a very transparent and honest person, which may end up being my downfall one day, so I opened right up and admitted that I had been married for seven years. I didn't say anything more about the divorce or my ex-husband, it was literally a 30-second mention and then conversation moved on. As far as I was concerned, it was nothing more than stating that I prefer Mexican food to big deal. However, about 30 minutes later, this "southern gentleman" says to me, "You know that I could never have a serious relationship with you, right? You have already been through a divorce which means you can’t keep a promise and I could never be with a girl like that.” If I am being honest, it took everything inside of me to not stand up and punch him in the face. However, I have never really been the violent type and do my best to avoid confrontation. Instead, I simply agreed with him that I didn't see this going anywhere and went home.

 I would be lying if I didn't tell you that I cried myself to sleep that night because the truth is that I didn't just "give up" on my marriage. I didn't walk away when things became difficult. I have no anger towards my ex-husband, in fact we have never even had an argument. Yes, you read that right, I am divorced from a man who I have never argued with. I wish that there was an easy way to explain how my marriage fell apart, how addiction can destroy not only an individual's life but also everyone around that person. If only there was a way to express what it feels like when the people who are supposed to be providing marriage counseling, spend their time trying to seduce you instead. (Apparently we paid extra for the 3:00 am bootie call package. No wonder it was so expensive!) Or maybe, if I could find the words, I could tell you how heart wrenching it is to watch the man you love fight a battle that slowly destroys everything you once loved about them. Perhaps, you would feel differently if you met the other woman...the one who could help to support a habit when I refused. Would any of that change your opinion? Would it change that guy's opinion or make me "worthy of a second date? Who knows? Even after two and a half years of trying to sort all of these questions out in my head and in my heart, I still don't have an answer. Maybe I never will. Perhaps I will always just be a stigma, which is why I have to remind myself daily; to give love when I feel empty, forgive when I feel unable and to embrace when resentment swells. Go give someone a hug!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

You Can Learn A Lot About Life From Running

At my gym, they show music videos during spin class. Usually the videos are simply a nice distraction while trying to not think about how uncomfortable bike seats are. However, I recently took a class and when this video came on, I was completely blown away! I sat on my bike just spinning away and crying like a baby. The tears were literally dripping all over my bike. I'm sure I looked like a freak but there is just something about running & life metaphors that tug at my heart. Check out this's definitely worth five minutes of your time.
Life, just like running, is a battle between
who you are and who you can be..." 

Friday, September 6, 2013

It's Fabulous Friday! - Let Your Freak Flag Fly!

So, my morning definitely wasn't fabulous. I woke up with a start, feeling completely confused and disoriented. You know that strange feeling when you can't figure out what you forgot or where you are supposed to be? Just me? Hmm...anyway, I rolled out of bed and stumbled through my very dark room looking for my phone, when it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks, I had completely forgotten to set my alarm clock. I grabbed my phone, looked at the time (5:03 am) and went into complete panic mode. I was supposed to be up and out the door for an epic hill run at 3:45 am. I should have been finishing up my run and starting on a shoulder workout but now I would be cutting it close to get a few quick miles in and still make it to work on time. UGH! I am so happy it is Friday because apparently my brain has just decided to stop working this week.

Anyway, on the drive to work today, I was sort of in a bad mood. Well, okay there was actually nothing "sort of" about it. I was just grumpy and frustrated with myself for making such a silly mistake. If you are a type A personality, then you know how much something like this can throw your entire day off. If you are not type A, then you are probably just thinking that I am a complete weirdo and reevaluating our friendship...and I can't say that I blame you. Do you know what it is like to recognize the fact that your behavior is far from normal and yet there is nothing you can do to change it? My idiosyncrasies drive me crazy and yet I honestly believe that they are what make me the fabulous person that I am. So, with that in mind, I thought I would share three of my weird habits and then ask you to share something that makes you unique, yet ever so fabulous. Deal?

1.) I adore to-do lists. I have daily, weekly, monthly, work, morning, evening, running, workout and so many other to-do lists. I literally have to-do lists for my to-do lists. It is a strange, sick obsession but it makes me happy.

2.) I can never stop a run on a random number, it has to be a complete mile. For example, if I am running and my Garmin is at 8.83 miles, I will continue running, even if it means circling a parking lot over and over again, until the Garmin hits 9.00 miles. Luckily, I know a few other runners who feel the same way so this one doesn't make me feel quite so unusual.

3.) I firmly believe that your bra and panties should ALWAYS match and should also color coordinate with the rest of your outfit. This is not an opinion, this is a rule to live by. Please do not argue with me about this because I will simply tell you to march your mismatched bootie down to Victoria's Secret and sort yourself out. (Just kidding...sort of...but not really!)

Alright, it's your turn! Let your freak flag fly! You can leave a comment, send me a message on Facebook, text me or send a note via carrier pigeon but I want to hear what makes you fabulous! Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Charlestoned - 1 Year and Counting!

Dear Charleston,

Exactly one year ago today, I packed my entire life into a teeny tiny moving truck, said goodbye to Richmond and began a new life in this beautiful city. I cannot believe an entire year has passed since my big move and yet in other ways, it feels like you and I have been friends forever. I have absolutely fallen in love with so many of your wonderful attributes. Your beaches have stolen my heart. I could literally spend countless hours just soaking in your beautiful South Carolina sunshine and listening to the waves crash. Your historic charm and southern hospitality make me appreciate the fact that I live in one of the most coveted cities in America. I love to stroll through Waterfront Park and across the Battery, take a picnic out to Isle of Palm and run across the Ravenel Bridge. Your shopping is fantastic, you have a weird hipster vibe that I adore and the entire city smells like sage and rosemary in the Spring. An amazing farmers market in Marion Square, the creepy driftwood on the deserted parts of Folly Beach, dance parties at Kiawah, watching people kite surf around Sullivan's Island and the West Ashley Greenway are just a few more things that I have grown to love. The yoga scene, the active vibe, Theatre 99, the Riverdogs, all of the fabulous restaurants...I feel like the list could just go on and on and on. I'm completely Charlestoned, in the very best way possible and living a life that puts a smile on my face.

With all of that being said, can I now address your less than charming altar ego, good ol' Chucktown?
There are a couple of things that could be improved upon in this gorgeous city of ours. For example, the traffic. I don't understand why people drive so poorly in this city. Leaving an entire hour before I have to be somewhere is just silly and sort of a waste of my time. Can we work on this? Second on my list would be the beautiful streets of Crosstown. After being stuck in those flooded streets one too many times, I am now officially scared of flash floods...they kind of suck. Finally, one last thing I think could use some improvement is the insane snake population. I have seen at least one snake a day for the past six months and most days, it is five or more. You would think that I would be used to it by now but unfortunately, I still freeze up every single time I see one of those nasty, slimy creatures and I'm just over it! If you wouldn't mind working on those few little issues Chucky, I think we could be friends for years and years to come.

This year has been SO incredibly challenging but I am proud of myself for taking a chance and daring to dream that I could live a better life. I am a stronger woman than I was a year ago and although I am still hopelessly flawed, I can't wait to see what the future holds.

With a happy heart,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's NEVER Too Late

I'm sure by now that you have heard about Diana Nyad, the 64 year-old lady who swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. Her story has been all over the news and is incredibly impressive. Last night, I watched an interview with her and she absolutely blew my mind. There were two things about her story that have stuck with me all day long:

1.) Diana trained her 64 year-old ass off in order to prepare for her swim. She swam anywhere from 6-10 hours a day and transformed her body into an endurance machine. Can you even imagine how hard it would be to swim for ten hours in a lap pool? When I was preparing for Ironman, there were times when I would swim  for 2 hours in the pool and by the end of the swim, I would be dizzy, disoriented and exhausted. Swimming is ridiculously hard and lap swimming is almost as bad as Chinese water torture. I am positive that I couldn't survive a single day of Diana's training!

2.) Diana attempted this swim from Cuba to Florida five times. After swimming from the Bahamas to Florida at the age of 30, (just a short little 98 mile swim) Diana walked onto the shore and abruptly stopped swimming for 30 years. She didn't swim a single stroke for 30 years. Then, as she was approaching her 60th birthday, she began to think about her life and the dreams that had never been fulfilled in her life. So Diana started swimming again. She decided to chase after a dream that had been in her heart for more than 35 years. After four unsuccessful attempts, Diana saw her dream come true and made history. I needed a reminder like this that it is not too late for me to make amazing things happen in my life. It's not too late for you to see your dreams come true. Go for it! Live your life! Don't settle for a life of mediocrity. Dream big my friend!

I will leave you with this:

"For what it is worth, it is never too late, or in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be. There's no time can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before...I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."    F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thoughts On The Treadmill

For the last eight years or so, Tuesday mornings have been reserved for speed work intervals on the treadmill. I really love to do speed work outside on the track but it's good for me to do intervals on a treadmill because it forces my legs to run at a specific speed for a set amount of time. The treadmill holds me accountable when I would prefer to be a slacker. Speed work and I have a real love-hate relationship. I love that it makes me faster but I hate pretty much everything else about it. Intervals are no joke my friend! As hard as it is to push my legs to run fast, at ungodly o'clock in the morning, it is even harder to mentally stay focused. Don't believe me? Here are a few of the random thoughts that ran through my mind while on the treadmill this morning:

-  Why did Miley Cyrus have to ruin Blurred Lines for me? That was my jam and now every single time I hear it, I feel like I need to rescue a teddy bear.

- Did I pack a bra in my gym bag? Darn it...I knew I forgot something. No, I packed one. Did I? Maybe I should go check. No, that's just an excuse to get off the treadmill. I hope I packed one. I did right? (This internal struggle lasted for two miles and then I decided that it really didn't matter too much because I packed a baggy shirt and ehh, it is what it is!)

- I wonder what it would feel like to be attacked by a shark? I bet it happens so fast that it doesn't even hurt. Or maybe it hurts like hell. Maybe it's like a million paper cuts all at once. Paper cuts are the worst. Why do they hurt so bad? I don't understand it.

- I am definitely going to get a Venti coffee at Starbucks this morning. I wonder if they have anything bigger than a top secret coffee addict size. Probably not. Maybe I can just get two Ventis. That would be awesome but then I'm going to have to pee all day. I wish they could just hook me up to a coffee IV at my desk. I bet I would get so much work done. I wish I had some coffee right now.

- Yoga is going to feel so wonderful tonight. My hamstrings need a good stretch. Oh crap, its hot yoga night. That means I have to sit in chair pose for a long time. I wonder if anyone will notice if I just skip that part.

- Oh my god I'm going to die!!! There is no way I can finish three more intervals!!!!

- Hey smelly guy...why do you ALWAYS have to get on the treadmill next to me? Why? There are 8000 other treadmills in this gym!!! Why?!

- This is SOOOOO much fun! I love running! (This is called an endorphin rush...and it was over much too soon.)

- Is it MackELmore or MackLEmore? Maybe if I just say it fast, no one will notice that I don't know.

- I wish I could do Reiki or Acupuncture after this run. Or maybe the same time! I bet that would be awesome, or weird. Probably weird. Maybe I should just get a massage. Oh wait, I'm poor. Being poor is dumb.

- I can't believe this is my last interval. That was fun! Maybe I'll just do a couple more cool down miles.

All of my best thinking is done while I am running!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Real Joy Is Independent Of Circumstances

I promise that at some point there will be some direction to this blog and a few big announcements regarding future plans and goals but for now I just want to share something that I learned today in yoga.

My relationship with yoga has always been a sketchy one. I have a hard time focusing and an even harder time sitting still and just being quiet with myself. It is almost impossible to shut off my mind. If you don't believe me, you should ask Melissa Matheny how horrible I was at Yin Yoga. Seventy-five minutes of relaxation and reflection!?! Oh my god, I thought I was going to die!!! The instructor kept telling me to stop fidgeting and I honestly tried...I mean, for real, I gave it my best shot but it seriously hurt, deep in my bones, to sit still. I literally spent all seventy-five minutes of that class trying to not cry. (Ok, that was a random tangent...focus Stacy.)

Anyway, a few months ago I challenged myself to do 60 days of yoga and to try every type of yoga that was available to me. After a week, I was hooked! Absolutely, 100% hooked and constantly craving more. I found instructors who inspired me and classes that became fixed on my schedule. I may never be great at yoga but I think that is what keeps me going back. There is something that I love about the challenge of making it through 90 minutes of hot yoga and keeping a smile on my face the entire time. I absolutely adore the double vinyasas that we practice in ashtanga ...even on days when just thinking about chaturanga makes my triceps hurt. I enjoy the chanting and the balancing and the sense of community that can only be found when standing in a quiet studio, listening to the sound of sweat droplets hitting thirty other yoga mats. Umm, yeah...gross but true.

Alright, I promise there is a point to this yoga love fest. This morning I woke up on what can only be considered the wrong side of the bed. I was tired, sore, grumpy and completely unmotivated. I wanted nothing more than to turn off my alarm, pull the covers over my head and sleep until noon. Unfortunately, I had this really great idea of putting my alarm in another room so that I would have to get out of bed to turn it off. Well, one thing led to another and before I knew what happened, I was outside running. Now running may be stretching the truth a little bit because what I was doing really looked more like a shuffle. My hamstrings were not very happy with me this morning and I guarantee that anyone who saw me "running" was probably horrified by the scowl on my face. The entire time I was running, I was having an internal conversation with myself that bordered precariously on the verge of a pity party. I was whining about all of my health issues, about the things that have been taken from me and  most of all about the fact that no matter how hard I push myself, it never feels like quite enough.

I finally made it back home after 10 painful miles and jumped in my car to head to yoga. I REALLY didn't want to go to yoga but there was only one class offered at the studio today and I knew if I missed it, that I would regret it. So, I rolled out my yoga mat, brought my hands to heart center and tried to not scowl through class. After about 30 minutes of flowing, our instructor began to talk about something that really put me in my place. As he was teaching a class a few days ago, he was making corrections on a few students and helping them into poses. As he approached one woman, she cautioned him that she had broken her neck. The teacher proceeded to ask her when she broke it and she replied, "Nine years ago." Although shocked by her decision to continue to nurse an old injury, he moved on to the next student and continued the class. His challenge for us today was to examine which old wounds and injuries we are still allowing to have control in our lives. These "injuries" could possibly be physical but more often than not, they are emotional, mental, spiritual and internal. It reminded me of something I read last week that really challenged me, "No one wants to continue to dress old wounds for you. Are you holding on to pain simply to have something to hold on to? Don't allow your identity to be tied to your pain or circumstances." What a reminder to me that real joy is independent of circumstances. Despite my pain this morning, both physical and emotional, I have the option of allowing it to control me or choosing to let it go. It's not really a tough decision when you put it that way, is it? Namaste.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

In the Arena...

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

Starting a new blog is always a strange process for me. There is always the question of how much I want to reveal and who, if anyone, will actually take the time to read my rambling thoughts. Recently, I have found myself at a crossroads in my life. A place where decisions must be made and goals set. Those of you who know my backstory, understand that the past few years have been hard on me. I'm not the same person that I was three years ago...which is both good and bad. I plan to share some of my history but for now I just wanted to start this blog by sharing the above quote which was the inspiration for the blog name. This quote has been one of my favorites for years because although I have never been extremely talented or accomplished anything great, I am always willing to take my place "in the arena". Failure doesn't scare me. I have failed at so many things in life. I am the person in the above quote who, "comes short again and again." No, the thing that scares me more than failure, is the failure to try. I want to make a difference, leave a legacy, have an impact, inspire someone...take your pick. There are so many people in this world who are able to accomplish these things without a second thought or really any effort. I am not one of those people and probably never will be. I have had to fight for every single thing I have accomplished. Every race I have finished, every goal I have conquered, every tragedy I have survived; they have all been accomplished only through blood, sweat and tears. These are things that I am willing to spend in order to see my dreams come true. So here I am; just a girl with no talent, natural ability, money, beauty or strength, standing in the arena with a dream of spending myself in a worthy cause. Follow me on my me, this is going to be interesting!