Flip Flops and Smoothies for a Cause on June 17th

Flip Flops and Smoothies for a Cause

Are you looking for a way to kickstart the upcoming summer season and contribute to a great cause? You are in luck because Tropical Smoothie Cafe is hosting its 10th Anniversary of National Flip Flop Day, June 17th. The company will also run a charitable campaign benefitting  Camp Sunshine from June 17–31, 2016. Camp Sunshine is a Maine-based organization devoted to providing an enriching and fun camp experience to children with life threatening illnesses and their families, completely free of charge. Tropical Smoothie Café started its annual National Flip Flop Day to solely support Camp Sunshine.

On June 17th, locations across the country will offer a free 24 oz. Jetty Punch smoothie (its signature strawberry and banana smoothie) to any guest visiting a café location while wearing flip flops between 2:00PM-7:00PM. During this one day, Tropical Smoothie Café will give away over 250,000 bananas and 63,000 pounds of strawberries. In addition, the company will give patrons an opportunity to donate to its annual campaign for Camp Sunshine and nominate eligible families to attend Camp Sunshine.

Jennie Hong, Senior Director of Brand Marketing and Strategy for Tropical Smoothie Café says National Flip Flop Day is the single most important day of the year to the company. “We’ve seen first-hand how much Camp Sunshine means to the kids and families who attend, and we want to provide that opportunity to as many people as possible,” Hong continued. The average cost to send a family to a one-week camp is $2500. The camp has provided free services to 47,000 families since 2006.

How To Support Camp Sunshine

  • Drop by for a Jetty Punch smoothie free of charge and also make a charitable donation to the campaign in your local area. The are two locations in the greater Birmingham, Alabama, area including 3049 John Hawkins Parkway in Hoover and 1350 Inverness Corner South in Birmingham.
  • Donate $1–$4 for paper flip flops (A paper flip flop sign that will hang in the restaurant, and can be customized with guests’ names.)
  • $5 key fobs (provides 30% off Feel Goodz flip flops through an annual Flip Flop Key discount code to be used at feelgoodz.com – an all-natural flip flop company that is partnering with Tropical Smoothie Café for 2016.)
  • $10 Tropical Smoothie Café National Flip Flop Day Mugs (A limited-edition re-usable mug, featuring artwork designed by a previous Camp Sunshine camper.)
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Recap of the 2015 Inaugural Sloss Music and Arts Festival

Sloss Music and Arts Festival (aka Slossfest) was held July 18-19, 2015 at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama at the height of the summer’s sweltering heat! Despite the heat, Slossfest proved to be an awesome and unforgettable event. It was a two day event that spotlighted everything from great music, art, food, drink, and the Birmingham area in a way that I never thought I would see! It featured 30 plus artists including: Primus,Tyler the Creator, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Modest Mouse, The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, Cage The Elephant, Young the Giant, Lord Huron, Manchester Orchestra, Sturgill Simpson, The New Pornographers, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Kaleo, LANY, T. Hardy Morris, Muddy Magnolias, and many more!

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Day I of Slossfest

Aside from the great music, I enjoyed sampling the great craft beer from Alabama in the various bar areas at Slossfest. The Starr Hill All Access Area was by far my favorite and featured the Siren of Sloss Summer Pale Ale collaboration beer with Trim Tab Brewing along with their Belgian Witbier with Cherries, Soul Shine Summer Pale Ale, Reviver Red IPA, Keller Czech Pils, and Jomo Vienna-Style Lager. The Siren of Sloss Summer Pale Ale was something special and tasted like a refreshing and crisp IPA disguised as a pale ale! Cathead Distillery of Mississippi also hosted a cocktail lounge that featured mixed drinks. Piggly Wiggly hosted the Craftly Beerly Garden that featured the following Alabama breweries: Trim Tab, Druid City, Cheaha, Old Black Bear, and Singin River.

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Siren of Sloss Summer Pale Ale

The food selection was also pretty impressive and included Jim ‘N Nick’s, Cantina on Wheels, Philly Connection, Shindigs Catering, Jalapeno Corndog, Repicci’s Italian Ice, Flaming Wok, Mexi Grill, Choice Burger, Phat Daddy’s, Sprout & Pour, and Efe’s. I enjoyed the insanely delicious Phat Daddy’s alligator tenders and hushpuppies and a solid Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich by Philly Connection while I was at the fest.

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Phat Daddy’s alligator tenders and hushpuppies

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The fountains of Sloss Furnaces

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The New Pornographers

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The Blast Stage and Sloss at sunset

In addition, the Sloss Metal Arts Program hosted Hands-On Iron Pouring demonstrations for attendees and allowed them to buy one-of-a-kind iron souvenirs from the demos. Various art vendors and local mixed media artists (Yellowhammer Creative, art by Kunkle, Anne Coneway, Feather wild, etc.) had booths where patrons could purchase unique art pieces. Patrons stayed hydrated by MailChimp’s  convenient and free water filling stations on-site, Alabama Power offered free charging stations, and Yelp had a great water misting tent to cool down from the festival’s crazy heat during the day! Overall, Slossfest was a special moment for Birmingham and I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival despite the crazy heat of this year’s fest!

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Day II of Slossfest

Until The Next Post,

Janece

P.S. Who was your favorite artist of this year’s Slossfest or favorite memory?

Wanderlust in Bham: 7/21/15-8/4/15 Edition


This week’s Weekly Wanderlust in Bham spotlights a multitude of events that offers an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the community, support a local cause or business, engage with the fabulous citizens of our city, or enjoy an evening of fun. The Weekly Wanderlust in Bham feature is dedicated to sharing information about exciting, creative, and innovative happenings in the Greater Birmingham, Alabama community. This week, I am featuring the following events:

  • The See Jane Write Bloganista Mixer presented by Collage Designer Consignment – 7/23/15
  • SNL’s Sasheer Zamata with Special Guest Liza Treyer – 7/27/15
  • Secret Stages 2015 – 7/31/15-8/1/15
  • The 2015 See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Con – 8/1/15
  • SchaefferCityFest – 8/1/15

The Bloganista Mixer presented by Collage Designer Consignment – 7/23/15

Are you interested in meeting Birmingham area bloggers and writers or thinking about attending the See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Con? Join local bloggers, writers, and some of the See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Con conference speakers at the Bloganista Mixer presented by Collage Designer Consignment. It will be a fashionable evening of mixing, mingling, shopping, and delectable hors d’oeuvres. The event is free event but registration is required. Register at bloganistamixer2015.eventbrite.com


SNL’s Sasheer Zamata with Special Guest Liza Treyer – 7/27/15

Birmingham area Goulash Comedy Presents Sasheer Zamata Whiskey on the Rock Tour at The Syndicate Lounge in Birmingham, AL on Monday, July 27th, 2015 for a special evening of comedy with special guest, Liza Treygor! Sasheer is currently featured in the Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast. Sasheer Zamata is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in Drama and started her career in New York’s improv and sketch Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. She is also the creative force behind highly praised web series “Pursuit of Sexiness”.  This will be an intimate show with limited tickets available. Tickets can be ordered at https://www.facebook.com/TheSyndicateLoungeBham/app_154926464573917


 Secret Stages – 7/31/15 – 8/1/15

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Secret Stages is a unique annual two-day walking music festival that is hosted in downtown Birmingham, Alabama every first weekend of August over a two-block area near local restaurants, bars, shops, and parks.  Festival attendees embark a musical discovery journey that includes over 60 up-and-coming bands and artists from various genres of music (including everything from acoustic, alt. country, alt rock, Americana, blues, folk, folk rock, funk, hip hop, indie, jazz, metal, pop, punk, rock, singer/songwriter, southern rock, and much more) gracing the stages of local Birmingham spots. Secret Stage is must see event that every music enthusiast should make plans to attend. This year’s line-up is comprised of artists from all across the nation, southern region, and within Alabama! Past artists who have graced the stage at the event include the following: St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Shovels & Rope, G-Side, Robert Ellis, Jacuzzi Boys, Banditos, Fly Golden Eagle, Lambchop, Hiss Golden Messenger, Futurebirds, Belle Adair, Barton Carroll, Pujol, Ponychase, Shonna Tucker and Ear Candy and many more. Visit http://www.secretstages.net  for more information and http://www.secretstages.net/tickets/ to purchase advance tickets.

  • When: Friday, July 31 at 3 PM – Saturday, August 1 at 11:45 PM
  • Where: Morris Ave., 1st and 2nd Ave. North, between 22nd and 24th St., Birmingham, Alabama 35203
  • Cost: VIP Passes are $50 in advance ($75 at event gates) and Weekend Passes are $25 in advance ($35 at event gates). Tickets will be available for pick up at the festival Will Call starting Friday, July 31st.
  • Website: www.secretstages.net/tickets

The 2015 Bloganista Mini-Con – 8/1/15

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Are you a blogger, writer or simply an aspiring one? Make plans to join the women of See Jane Write for the 2nd Annual Bloganista Mini-Con presented by Laura Vincent Printing & Design. The one-day blogging conference is billed as a game changer for any writer looking to start a blog, grow their audience, launch a writing business, or learn more about blogging. This year’s conference will cover the following topics:
  1. How to build a better blog
  2. How to increase your blog traffic
  3. How to turn your blog into a business
  4. How to create and promote your personal brand
  5. How to best use social media to promote your blog and your brand
  6. How to write for your favorite magazine
  7. How to get featured in your favorite magazine
  8. How to start a magazine of your own
  9. How to handle the not-so-glamourous side of fashion blogging

Each tickets covers breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon sweet treat! The event will feature coffee from Church Street Coffee and Books, free chair massages by LightWorks Chair Massage, Insomnia Cookies, Full Moon Bar-B-Que, and an opportunity to talk with panelists and speakers. Confirmed speakers and panelists include:

Order tickets online at www.eventbrite.com/e/the-bloganista-mini-con-presented-by-laura-vincent-printing-design-tickets-17350767613


SchaefferCityFest – 8/1/15

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The Schaeffer Eye Center CityFest returns this year on Saturday, August 1 at Railroad Park and features an eclectic music lineup including the Grammy Award winning hip hop band, The Roots, hip hop artist, actor, and poet, Common, and Alabama’s own, Taylor Hicks, will return to perform that evening. The Schaeffer Eye Center CityFest is presented with  Birmingham Mayor, William Bell, and the Birmingham City Council. The free event will begin at 3 p.m. and features local music, food trucks, an AlaBev Beer Garden, cultural, art and family activities. Visit www.schaeffercityfest.com for more details.

  • When: Saturday, August 1 from 3 PM until the close of the event
  • Where: 1600 1st Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35233
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: www.schaeffercityfest.com

Until the Next Post,
Janece

Eat Drink Birmingham 2015: Recap

 

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“Wine is wonderful. But let’s be honest – it can’t do everything. Real beer can do everything. Beer has bitterness to slice through fat, carbonation to refresh the palate, carmelized flavors to match those in your food, and sweetness to quench the fire of chilies.” – Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster, Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Last month, I attended Eat Drink Birmingham at Rosewood Hall in Homewood’s SoHo Square on March 12. According to the event’s website, Eat Drink Birmingham is a beer and food pairing experience created by the Alabama Brewers Guild and the Birmingham Originals. The afternoon proved to be a fun and fantastic sampling journey for foodies and brew enthusiasts of all levels. The event was a unique pairing between various Alabama’s craft breweries and many of Birmingham’s best independent restaurants. In a nutshell, Eat Drink Birmingham was a hybrid mix of a traditional beer festival and food fest that featured souvenir sampling glasses, unlimited samples for each attendee, and music from the Steel City Jug Slammers.

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St. Stephens Stout: An Alabama Collaboration aka the prize gem of Eat Drink Birmingham, Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The event allowed attendees to check out the rich culinary flavor of the city by way of expertly curated dish and beer pairings from Alabama breweries and local restaurants. The afternoon was full of many great pairings of craft beers and dishes. I attempted to check out each of them. Honestly, I only sampled about one-third of the event’s menu pairings but enjoyed each sip and bite. The festival was also the first stop of the new limited edition St. Stephens Stout. The St. Stephens Stout is the creation of an Alabama collaboration between of all of the state’s breweries and the Alabama Brewers Guild. I am a huge fan of stouts and it is a phenomenal beer. I was lucky enough to receive a bottle to take home after receiving  the gift from a representative of the Alabama Breweries Guild after chatting about the festival. The crowd of taste-makers were also entertained by the sounds of the Birmingham’s own Steel City Jug Slammers. Make sure you check out this stellar band’s music via their website or on Facebook.

(Ratings of the Craft Beer and Local Dish Pairings)

Bellini’s Filet Fricasse and Fairhope Brewing Co (Take the) Causeway IPA

  • The Filet Fricassse and Fairhope Brewing (Take the) Causeway IPA was oh so good! The filet was tender, juicy, and full of so much flavor. In addition, it was served with savory roasted potatoes and corn. The IPA was delicious although I’m honestly not a fan of this particular type of beer. I am more of a porter and stout kind of gal. The pairing was OK but I felt like the filet would have benefited from another type beer that did not overpower its rich flavor. The IPA was good but the strong complex hoppiness of it felt more like a palate cleanser than a complement to enhance the dish. Overall,  both were great alone and just OK together.
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Bellini’s Filet Fricasse and Fairhope Brewing Co (Take the) Causeway IPA, and a second helping of Silvertron Cafe’s White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Raspberry Coulis, Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Jackson’s White Chicken Chili with Cheaha Brewing Co. Old Reliable Ale 

  • The slightly spicy white bean chili was served with fresh cilantro and paired well with the Old Reliable Ale. The yummy chili was full of spicy notes from jalapeno peppers and cumin seasoning. It is definitely comfort food for a cold day and will leave you satisfied. I was more of a fan of the Old Reliable Ale that is a unique blend of an amber ale and a pale ale.  The ale initially strikes your palate as hoppy but finishes with the smooth subtle flavor of a good standard ale. According to the beer server this is a common California beer blend and I agree that it works well.

Ted’s Restaurant Souvlakia with Greek Slaw with Black Warrior Brewing Co. Black Warrior Blond 

  • The Ted’s Souvlakia and Black Warrior Brewing American Blonde was quite a pair. The subtle sour notes, rich lemon and oregano Greek marinated meat, and juicy flavor of the pork was enhanced by the refreshing and slightly sweet blonde beer in a way that complemented and highlighted both.
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Ted’s Restaurant Souvlakia with Greek Slaw with Black Warrior Brewing Co. Black Warrior Blond, Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The Silvertron Cafe White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Raspberry Coulis with Avondale Brewing Co. Spring Street Saison 

  • I could seriously eat this all day but I am certain it would be a bad idea for my waistline. The white chocolate bread pudding with raspberry coulis was divine. I’m still craving another taste of this sweet pudding along with the refreshing taste of the crisp Spring Street Saison. This was my favorite pairing of Eat Drink Birmingham – hands down!

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Homewood Gourmet Crawfish Tasso with Straight to Ale Monkeynaut IPA, Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Nabeel’s Greek Penne with Vegetables with Back Forty Beer Co. Naked Pig Pale Ale 

  • The Greek penne with vegetables was a tasty bowl of veggies, cheese, and a light sauce that balanced well with the acidic, hoppy, and malty goodness of Naked Pig Pale Ale.

The J. Clyde Fatso Pudding with Good People Brewing Co. El Gordo Imperial Stout 

  • The Fatso pudding and El Gordo paired well.  The nice smokey taste of the stout was full of fruity notes and balanced well with the rich chocolate, honey laced, and slightly nutty flavor of the pudding. I plan to revisit the pair the next time I visit The J. Clyde.
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The J. Clyde Fatso Pudding with Good People Brewing Co. El Gordo Imperial Stout, Photo Credit: Janece Maze

 Festival Verdict: 

  • Eat Drink Birmingham is an outstanding event that features some of the best bites in Birmingham, craft beer in Alabama, and entertainment for its attendees. It is a great way to explore local restaurants and beer for anyone with a passion for food and drink. I had a great time mingling, eating, drinking, chatting, learning more about local restaurants and breweries, and listening to the sounds of the Steel City Jug Slammers. The only suggestion I have is to find a larger space for the event (in the event of rain) so that guests are not constantly bumping shoulders with one another. Other than that, I am looking forward to checking out Eat Drink Birmingham next year and you should too!

Photo Credit: Janece Maze

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Until the Next Post,

Janece

Day 9: Let Go of Fear to Find Peace and Purpose

 “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” – John Lennon

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Can I be honest and let you in on a secret of mine? I am terribly afraid of heights despite my love of flying in planes. If you place me on a high balcony overlooking a scenic view, I will likely proceed to feel sick to my stomach and potentially pass out. However, I decided to go zip lining with my brother side by side from the 50 mph, 82 feet tall and 1,300-feet long Kaul Adventure Tower zipline at Red Mountain Park. 

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The hardest part of this adventure was letting go. I really wanted to climb back down the tower after making it to the top but something in my gut told me to go for it. The 82 feet drop from the top of the tower zip line was the most exhilarating and freeing experience that I have had in a long time.

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Despite my apprehension, I found the internal strength to abandon my fears to literally take a leap of faith from the zip line platform. In my opinion, faith is the most powerful thing to embrace in times of uncertainty. Fear should never drive our actions. Anytime fear strikes me, I find a way to muster the audacity to move pass it to find peace and purpose  in the midst of any challenge I face. Letting go from an 82 feet tall tower only reaffirmed my personal faith and determination. It reminded me to continuously challenge myself each day and to embody the positive force that I hope to see in the rest of the world.

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Until the Next Post,

Janece

P.S. Check out Red Mountain Park’s website if you want to find information about the attractions and hiking trails at the park: http://www.redmountainpark.org/

Day 7-Weekly Wanderlust in BHAM: My Top Birmingham Event Picks [11/7/14-11/12/14]

This week, I am introducing the Weekly Wanderlust in BHAM feature. The recurring installment will feature information about exciting, creative, and innovative happenings in the Greater Birmingham, Alabama community. This week I am featuring the 30x30x30 Project, Seasick Records 1 Year Anniversary, and Got Your 6 Gala To Benefit The Wounded Warrior Family Foundation Of Alabama.


The 30x30x30 Project

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The 30x30x30 Project is a non-profit organization led by Vikki Willard (a former curator of InstagramBHAM) and Antjuan Dewandae Oden. In addition, the collaborative creative project will spotlight local, national, and international artists from Birmingham, various states, Europe, and Asia.

The 30x30x30 Project operated with an ambitious goal of selecting 30 plus artists who were provided with an artist kit (that included 30 small panels) and each artist was asked to complete the panels in 30 days. The exhibition will spotlight over 900 pieces of art that will be offered for sale at $30 each.

In addition, the proceeds generated from the sale of the artworks go toward a scholarship for a local high school student to use for artistic enndeavors. Each artists will also recieve half of the sale of each work of their art and the remainder will go to cover expenses incurred by the project. Moreover, the project also plans to complete a documentary narrating the entire process. The ambitious duo plans to enter the in the Sidewalk Film Festival and other international film festivals as well. 

The exhibition begins on Nov 7th at 7 p.m. at 2threefive Studio in Woodlawn (located at 5512 1St Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35212) and will feature music from various artists. The two day event will include a Preview/Artist Appreciation Party on November 7th and the official opening day is Nov 8th. Check out http://www.facebook.com/pages/30x30x30-Project/774052592616455?pnref=story for more information about the project.

The 30x30x30 Project 2014 Participating Artists include the following:

SBTT/Studio by the Tracks
Jared Ragland
Doug Baulos
Joshy Josh
Brian Alves
Clay Stembridge
Vicki Chikpea Willard
Josh Vaughn
Jillian Woodruff
Marty Balencie
Rachel Hornaday
Pam MacDougall
Daisy Winfrey
Jess Marie Walker
Mary Fehr
Joshua Raymond
Susan Shoemaker
Brandon Watkins
Danielle Franklin
Greg Mega Bernhardt
Safety First
Erlin Kreyola Kool Kidd Gefrand Danielle Calibird Fernandez
Tommy Fox
Blake Carroll
Alyssa Rosev
Jonathan Purvis
Beth Stringer
Christina Daniel
Cecily Lowe
Melissa Gilmore
August Fischer
Clara Høhre
Malvina Pukuluk
Tyler Sanford
Keslie Watts
JW Potts
Dale Duke
Antjuan Dewandae Oden


Seasick Records 1 Year Anniversary

Seasick Records 1 Year

 

The Seasick Records One Year Anniversary event will take place on Saturday, November 8th at 8:00 PM (located at 4513 5th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35222). Make plans to stop by if you are a local music lover vinyl record enthusiast. The event is free and open to the 21 and up crowd.

The party will include various guest DJs spinning records all evening. Guest are also encouraged to bring any records they want the DJs to play. Good People is providing free beer (while it lasts) for the party and Seasick Records will give out free cake.

The one year celebration also features 15% off everything in the store all weekend long! The sponsors of the event include Good People Brewing, Tom’s Sound, & Substrate Radio. Check out http://www.seasickrecords.wordpress.com/ for more information about the event.


Got Your 6 Gala To Benefit The Wounded Warrior Family Foundation Of Alabama  

The First Annual Got Your 6 Gala to Benefit of the Alabama based Wounded Warrior Family Foundation (WWFF) will take place at Good People Brewing Company’s taproom on Veteran’s Day, Tuesday, November 11th 2014 at 6:30 pm. The WWFF helps the spouses and children of veterans killed or wounded serving in uniform by providing encouragement and financial support to deal with the devastating consequences of war.

Tickets are $ 25 each and the proceeds from admission and the silent auction will go directly benefit the WWFF. Todd English Pub is sponsoring complimentary hor d’oeuvres and Good People will have beer flowing from its taps. Alabama recording artist, Kip Traylor, will also perform during the event. Check out http://www.woundedwarriorfamilyfoundation.org for more information about the event.

 

Until the Next Post,

Janece

P.S. I know that I skipped day 5 and 6 of #bloglikecrazy. Hopefully, this post can make up for it!

Day 4: Weather the Storm – Part II


“The foreseeable future equals today with open eyes,

and whenever I am blessed to awake and see the sunrise.

Nothing more and nothing less, just to be kissed with mere presence.” – Janece Maze

Embracing my sister on a lone slab of concrete remaining in my apartment community one week after the Alabama tornado outbreak on April 27, 2011. Photo credit: Michelle L. Carter of The Tuscaloosa News

I attempted to contact my family members and friends to make sure that everyone was ok. However,  my phone would not dial out to complete a call. Soon someone in the parking lot area of Starbucks received a call that came through stating that another tornado was coming. We all ran over to Longhorn in the shopping center to seek additional cover because Starbucks was already damaged from the first one. People began pouring inside for cover and a handful came with sad news of loves ones who were killed by the tornado in the same places they fled. We sat in the freezer area of the restaurant for about 30 minutes and next were informed that we would have to leave because there were several gas leaks in the shopping center. On the way out, a woman ran up to me and threw her arms around my body and hugged me as if her life depended on it while yelling my name. She finally let go and I discovered that it was a classmate of mine that I barely knew from school. She sat in front of me in Property class and we exchanged notes in class maybe twice over the course of the year. She told me that her house collapsed around herself and young son while they were huddled in a closet about two blocks from where I was at Starbucks.

The intersection of 15th Street and McFarland Blvd. immediately after the tornado passed. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The intersection of 15th Street and McFarland Blvd. immediately after the tornado passed. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Thankfully, I finally was able to speak to my twin sister to learn that she was ok and not impacted by the tornado. Next, I began trying to call my aunt and her husband and could not reach anyone. All the while, I was informed that everyone would have to evacuate the Midtown Shopping area because of gas leaks. I huddled into my damaged Chevy Cavalier (it had glass everywhere from the windows being blown out and my driver’s door would barely open up) along with my classmate and her four year old son to find my aunt’s family. Looking across the street from Midtown and seeing nothing distinguishable in the direction heading to my apartment and my aunt’s home in Alberta City going up University Boulevard almost gave me a heart attack. I drove my car with the three of us in it around debris, fallen trees, and collapsed powers lines across 15th street, Kicker Road, and finally at the bridge that crossed over into Alberta City on University where I was stopped by the police.

15th Street  Photo Credit: Janece Maze

15th Street
Photo Credit: Janece Maze

I left my classmate and son in the car and began walking up University to find my aunt, uncle, and two cousins while I was completely disoriented. In the dark and among flashing ambulance lights, police sirens, and leveled buildings, I could not tell where I was and felt like I was in a nightmare just hoping to wake up. By the time I found myself in front of 25th Avenue, I could not see anything but darkness and shadows of people. Unconsciously, I began running up the street for several blocks while praying that my family members were safe. Somewhere in the darkness, I heard my aunt’s voice and started yelling her name. Somewhere in the darkness, we eventually found each other after someone flashed a light towards me for her to recognize my face. I was so thankful to God to find my aunt, uncle, their two little girls, and my uncle’s sister safe. We made the long walk back to my car in the darkness, among the crowds of panicking people, police sirens, flashing ambulances, and devastation safely. That night my little broken compact car carried all of us along with my classmate and her child safely across town to my aunt’s in-laws home. I am certain the eight of us spent the night trying to mentally register what happened to our community.

Part of the Tuscaloosa Alberta  area in the dead of night after the storm. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Part of the Tuscaloosa Alberta area in the dead of night after the storm. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The next afternoon, my aunt, uncle and I made our way back to Alberta to survey the damage in the daytime. What we found was utter devastation. Entire homes were gone with just foundations intact, houses were piles of rubble, and some homes remained but were badly damaged. We eventually made our way to my apartment area to see if anything was left. What I saw made my heart drop. My gated apartment community was completely leveled with very few exceptions. I walked over the wreckage and what was left on my side of the complex was merely rubble stacked over smashed cars with debris thrown everywhere.

The remnants of my apartment community. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The remnants of my apartment community. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

At that moment, I was thankful to God that I made my way to Starbucks when I did because I have no doubt that it saved my life. 51 people died in Tuscaloosa as a result of the tornado and numerous more were severely injured. I know that I could have easily been one of them. Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” Living through this ordeal changed me forever and challenged me to eat, drink, and savor life every day as if it is my last.

Photo of me surveying the area that previously housed my apartment home. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Photo of me surveying the area that previously housed my apartment home. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

I know that life has no guarantees and that each day is gift. There comes a time where we all feel like enough is enough when it comes to harboring materialistic values. After the storm, I found fulfillment through simplifying my life by removing non-essential things and vain ideology. The intangible and valuable things remained and  I discovered the importance of eating, drinking, and savoring life everyday with the people I love without reservations.

Until the Next Post,

Janece

P.S. Tomorrow’s blog post will cover my top Birmingham event picks for the upcoming week.

Day 3: Weather the Storm – Part I

My mother always jokes that I spend more time and money at Starbucks than I do anywhere else. She is telling the truth to be perfectly honest. I was a law student at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa at the time of the storm. During the week, I preferred being at Starbucks whenever I could afford it and avoided sitting in my apartment or the library at school to study.  My addiction to Starbucks is something I will be eternally grateful for as a result of events that occurred on April 27, 2011 because it saved my life.

Miraculously, l lived to tell the story. The coming days of literally losing all of my material possessions yet gaining a fresh perspective on life changed me forever. I had an epiphany after the ordeal and have used each day that I am blessed with to eat, drink, and savor life – fully and freely.

I woke up on April 27, 2011 with the immediate inclination to go back to sleep for a few extra hours.  Classes were out for final exams and sleeping was a real option at the time. However, my next urge nudged me to get up for a caffeine fix at Starbucks to refocus my energy to study for my upcoming final exams. Unbeknownst to me, I would make it to the McFarland Boulevard Starbucks branch just in time before the devastating state-wide tornado outbreak began. I sat in my usual comfortable corner of Starbucks with my headphones on and my computer in front of me trying to review for my exam for about 45 minutes. While I was sitting, I noticed the sky getting extremely dark and cloudy. Instinctively, I started to head back home but something in the pit of my stomach told me to sit still.

My view of the mile wide tornado after glancing out back of the service door of Starbucks.

My view of the mile wide tornado after glancing out back of the service door of Starbucks. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Next, one of the employees let me and the only other customer in the store know that there was a tornado reported in Mississippi that was coming directly toward Tuscaloosa. Fifteen minutes later, we pulled up streaming internet video of the live footage from The Tuscaloosa News that showed the tornado on the ground in downtown Tuscaloosa. Shortly after, we found ourselves looking out the back of the shop with our eyes fixed on a mile wide F-4 tornado making its way directly for our direction. Some of us, including myself, foolishly took pictures of the approaching funnel.

Quickly, the service door was shut and we ran toward the bathrooms in the middle of the store. Before we could close the door, the windows began to violently shatter and everything inside of the shop flew into air.  I ran for cover in the innermost part of the room and realized that my final moments of living could be drawing near. My awareness of the windows blowing from the wind speed, glass flying everywhere, and the sonic landscape sounding like a train derailing caused me to become paralyzed with helpless fear. The store walls soon began to shake and the ceiling insulation started to give way. I immediately started praying, “Lord, let me live,” over and over with my computer held over my head.

The inside of the partially collapsed ceiling inside of Starbucks. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The inside of partially collapsed ceiling inside of Starbucks. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

We opened the bathroom doors after it felt like the storm passed and stepped out to see the damage. The wind was still blowing and there was glass, debris, and furniture scattered everywhere. Upon stepping out of the store and looking towards 15th street, nothing seemed recognizable.

The intersection of 15th Street and McFarland Blvd. immediately after the tornado passed. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

The intersection of 15th Street and McFarland Blvd. immediately after the tornado passed. Photo Credit: Janece Maze

I was completely disoriented and could only see a collage of flipped over cars, rubble where houses and buildings once stood, debris, and a violent path where the tornado ripped through the heart of my town’s bustling center. The sight was simply terrifying and my next instinct made me reach for my phone to call all of my family and friends.

15th Street  Photo Credit: Janece Maze

15th Street
Photo Credit: Janece Maze

Until the Next Post,

Janece

P.S. The photos included in this blog post are from my personal footage from the April 27, 2011 tornado. Stay tuned for Weather the Storm – Part II to read the second half of the story.

 

Day 2: Thankfulness and a Preview to the Background Story of Eat Drink Savor Life

It has been over three years since my life changing experience of surviving a tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama occurred.  It is definitely an understatement to say that the F-4 tornado shook up my life – literally and figuratively. April 27, 2011 changed me forever and there is no way to separate this truth from where I am today. Up until that series of terrifying moments, I always found myself so busy that it was a rare occasion for me to truly embrace little and big life moments with myself, my family, my friends, or my extended community. I usually found myself rushing to the next appointment, commitment, or thing without giving much thought to residing in the present moment before one thing ended.

There is a line in Just Barely Breathing, one of my favorite songs by Killswitch Engage, that asks a monumental question, “Are we alive or just breathing?” Take a moment to genuinely reflect on this question. Now silently answer the question. I honestly think most people are guilty of breathing and rushing from minute to minute rather that basking in the present moment.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Hemingway and have been hell bent on being alive fully since this life-changing experience. Stay tuned to read my next blog post tomorrow to find how Starbucks saved my life and how a tornado challenged me to eat, drink, and savor life every day.

Until the Next Post,

Janece

P.S. The personal pictures below provide a glimpse of my life-changing experience. I look forward to sharing the extensive story tomorrow.