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Sadness and Gratitude (but Mostly Gratitude)

This past weekend was one of great joy peppered with moments of sadness. It was my birthday weekend, but it was also the weekend I had previously planned to be in D.C. to run the Marine Corps Marathon. While I'd somewhat made peace with the fact that I wouldn't be able to run the marathon, due to injury, I knew that the actual race day, the same as my birthday, would tug a bit at my heart strings. But I was lucky enough to stay occupied with birthday activities all weekend long, with only a couple of intermissions in which to take my quiet time to be alone and just feel sad.

The weekend started off with birthday coffee with a friend at the Oxford Exchange. This is a new venue in Tampa, basically downtown, that houses a coffee shop, a tea shop, a bookstore, a home goods store, a restaurant, and rentable upstairs meeting space. The building is historic, located across from the University of Tampa campus.

The coffee and tea vendors that occupy the building just happen to be two of my favorite local businesses: Buddy Brew Coffee and TeBella Tea Company. So I was happy to indulge in coffee at this beautiful location and catch up with a good friend.

My Friday work day was full of stress, but I was able to make it to a hot flow yoga class at Bella Prana right after work, and then finish up another high-stress editing job after that--I really wanted to get it done before the weekend, and I did, barely.

Saturday morning, I woke up early enough to get in a brisk walk in the delightfully cooler weather, and I even attempted to run. I managed to get in two half-miles, with walking in between. My leg didn't feel too bothered by these attempts, but it did hurt later in the day. So I knew I wasn't healed just yet. But I wasn't too discouraged by that, as I was about to go meet my family at the zoo!

My mom, dad, older sister, and two nieces all came in from Orlando to meet me, my twin sister, brother-in-law, and another niece. I was really happy to be able to have all three of my nieces together, but also just to have my family with me on my birthday. I only wish my other brother-in-law could have made it, but he was home sick. 

While parking at the zoo, we noticed a large crowd before the entrance. Apparently there was an all-day dance recital going on, with dancers of all ages taking to a stage to perform their numbers. The girls were mesmerized. 

The nieces, getting a lift to see the show

Of course, we rarely manage to get an entire group shot, but here are a few pictures from the day:

The Tutu Gang

Evie loves to find acorns and show them to you.

Evie, keeping up with Tita Lee and "Brahma" (Grandma).

While observing the orangutans, one of the babies went over to its mama for milk time. We were all in awe at the sweetness of this image.

I fell in love with this wonderfully soft and sweet llama, Angie. Elisabeth wasn't so sure about her, though.

October birthdays!

After a day of walking, playing, chasing, eating, and all-around celebrating, the Orlando family said their goodbyes and headed back home. I went home to rest for a bit, and then cleaned my home (happy birthday to me!) and got ready for my dinner plans later that evening.

I decided that, for my birthday, I wanted to have a ladies' night out with a couple of close girlfriends. So I made reservations at Boca for three--my twin sister, Anna, my friend Shannon, and me! I was hoping to have one more friend join us, but she wasn't available. The restaurant was wonderful, though a little crowded while we waited for our table. But once we were seated, the food, wine, and especially the conversation were priceless--except, when it came to paying, I sort of inadvertently stuck my sister with the wine bill for us all--happy birthday, Anna!

(Shannon was dressed as a ghost for Halloween. Just kidding. I was dressed as a carrot. Just kidding.)

After such a fun, late (11pm) night, I barely woke up in time the next morning to get ready for the birthday brunch that my brother-in-law had planned at the beautiful Vinoy Resort in downtown St. Pete. This was a tradition from when we all first moved to the Tampa Bay area, over 10 years ago now. We would come to this extravagant brunch for special occasions, but it's been years since we've all gone together, and it was the first time Evie would experience the Vinoy. So it really felt like a special treat. 

After stuffing ourselves with fresh seafood, a wide variety of perfectly cooked vegetables, sushi, olive bar goodies, fresh fruit, specialty cheeses, French toast, and Halloween-themed desserts, we went outside and let Evie run around in Straub Park.

Sometimes she takes some encouraging to get going, but if you continually say, "run, run, run," and run in front of her (or pretend to chase her from behind), she gets this giddy expression starts running like it's the most thrilling thing in the world. Entertainment for us all!

During brunch, I was handed a birthday card from my sister, which got my eyes teared up, and then one "from Evie," translated and written by her papa:

And then my birthday was complete. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

Afterward, I went home for some downtime. I knew the Marine Corps Marathon had been going on all morning, and I was able to push off thoughts of it with the lovely distractions of fancy food and family. But I knew that once I got on Facebook, I'd see posts from friends who'd likely finished the race, and I'd have to deal with that. And I did--I saw a couple of posts, but what I overwhelmingly felt was happiness and pride for them. For a couple of friends, they were running their first marathon, and I remember what it felt like to finish my first (it was only a year ago), and I could only be happy that they got to experience that same feeling. For another friend, one I'd trained with earlier, I saw news of her PR, which was faster than her goal time, and I again felt tremendously proud of her. I had my moments of sadness for myself, for my loss of the experience, but I was okay with that. Sadness is not necessarily a bad thing to feel; it reminds us of our vulnerability and of our capacity to care about things, even if it's because of the loss of those things. So I didn't mind experiencing this very human emotion, mixed in with other "happier" emotions. I was reminded of what I would once again strive for when I'm healed.

I finished off the weekend with yoga in the park, which provided the perfect setting to reflect on the current state of my life and the many wonderful people and things I'm grateful for, and the mere fact that I'm here and capable of feeling both sadness and gratitude. Thank you to everyone who made my birthday so special!


Thanks for sharing the great photos, Lee! And "happy birthdays" all round.

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