Tag Archives: birmingham

give. shop. my birthday wishlist for others.

I enjoy a lot of things. Traditionally, my birthday has not been one of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m immensely grateful for my parents who brought me into this world (and the amazing parties they have thrown for me), for every day I get to live and breathe, and especially for the abundant and eternal life God has given me.

My dislike of the birthday celebration boils down to two things.

1) I do not like to be the center of attention. This has been true since…well, even before that seemingly traumatic incident at Disney World when I was picked out of a crowd and serenaded. Oddly, I’m perfectly comfortable performing or teaching. Otherwise, please focus your attention elsewhere.

2) I just don’t like getting older. No, I’m not looking for the fountain of youth or hunting for hallows. It’s just that at age 6 I declared I was done growing up, and not much has changed. (I think I just loved life the way it was.) In recent years, I have learned to better cope with this fact of life (permission to hum a theme song granted). Still, I declare my spirit to be younger than I am in years.

Recently, I have decided that perhaps the best way to address these issues is by changing how I celebrate a birthday. With a new perspective, the focus can be shifted away from me and to leaving a legacy. 

I’m starting small. To celebrate this year, I have made a different kind of wish list. There are organizations to give to if you are the donating type and items to buy if you are the support-a-business type. What better way to celebrate life than to give or support these life-giving efforts.

Noonday Collection
My friend Paula is an ambassador for Noonday Collection. This past weekend I had an unexpected opportunity to hear from her about this business and see their products. What began as an adoption fundraiser for one family has grown to a fair trade business supporting artisans and their communities across the globe. If you like accessories of any kind, you can find something in this collection whether for yourself or as a gift.

My current favorites:
Brightly Wound Bracelet
On the Mark Necklace 

Video about Noonday Collection

Free Set
Freeset, another fair trade business, is committed to offering employment to those who have been enslaved by human traffickers and part of the sex trade industry in Calcutta, India. There story is best told on their website. Read their story and about their philosophy full of mercy and justice. 

My current favorites:
Teacup Tee
Farmhouse Bag  

Not Forgotten
Passion lights up a face like nothing else. Tyler, Allison, Kristen and any other who left a piece of their heart in Iquitos, Peru will light up like the sun when they talk about their boys. This began with a couple college kids keeping promises to some previously forgotten little boys and has grown into a non-profit currently building their first family-style bungalow for these kids where they will be loved and nurtured.

These guys periodically put on art and jewelry shows to raise funds (as they happen to be talented and have talented friends), but you can make a donation any time via the website. Don’t you want to be a part of breaking a cycle and building hope?

Video about Not Forgotten

Urban Purpose
Again, a couple people with a heart for sharing the life-changing power of God recognized a need and saw way to meet it. A few people partnered with them, volunteered with them, and ministered alongside them. Then a few more did the same. And a few more. Lives in need in the Birmingham area are being changed by the love and grace of God through faithful relationship building. Here is the idea.

Read more and watch the videos that tell their story. Urban Purpose is a non-profit supported by donations. Consider giving them a one-time gift or supporting them with an on-going monthly commitment.

Video about Urban Purpose

That’s the wish list for this year.
Happy Birthday to all!

P.S. If you decide to gift anything in celebration of my birthday this year, please leave a comment, send me an email, or let me know somehow. I want to be able to say thank you!


watch. abide with me.

I need a forum to express something. Since I don’t have a soapbox to stand on in Speaker’s Corner, I am turning to this blog of mine that has been on accidental hiatus. At the moment, it comes in handy.

If you are just joining me here, please note that I have loved the Olympics for as long as I can remember the Olympics. This basically means that since the moment Mary Lou Retton vaulted a perfect 10, I’ve been hooked.  Or perhaps, it was even before that, when my family stood on a sidewalk in Birmingham, AL to cheer on the passing torch relay runner. And every 2 years (yes, I love the Winter and Summer events) I give 2 weeks or more to Team USA.

As with most events, sport or performing art or concert, my favorite moments are the first moments. Everyone is full of hope and expectation. I know. It’s entirely too diplomatic of me when the point of a competition is to discover the fastest, strongest, best. But as a spectator, I cannot help but sense the excitement of every competitor. I hope for them all. The Olympic Opening Ceremonies is the ultimate and literal parade of that anticipation.

I love the Opening Ceremony for more than its display of expectation. The host of the Games opens my eyes to a culture – familiar or foreign – and I learn something. Admittedly, the Ceremony can get long. To those who make this argument, feel free to get a snack or work on a project. This only happens once every couple of years; let us enjoy it.

On Friday, I signed off social media early in the afternoon to avoid spoilers. I turned down invitations to viewing parties, in part, to ensure I would hear the back-story of each flag-bearer from Bob Costas. And I watched the cast of volunteers display some of the contributions Great Britain has made to the world.  Giant Casper-like baby and my unrealized dream of an ensemble performance by Adele, Leona Lewis, Emeli Sandé, and more aside, I believe the show to have been a good one. It is the broadcast that bothered me and continues to with each passing day.

I am not so naïve to think that we could air this ceremony uninterrupted. In fact, I’m incredibly appreciative this week of the fact that sponsors have made it possible not only for the team to get to London but for me to watch the events practically around the clock. This is not my complaint.

I do not expect commentary to be perfect. I expect it to be informative most of the time and entertaining some of the time, yes. But not perfect. This is not my complaint.

I even extend grace to the producers who continually chose the tight shots of choreographed “Brunels” in top hats (see link to ceremony guide) over other pieces of the action, mid-range, or wide-angle shots of the show. Perhaps there were technical difficulties.

My disappointment is over what could be called a simple edit – a 6-minute piece following the message typed by Tim Berners-Lee, “This is for everyone” omitted from the NBC broadcast. “Abide With Me,” a hymn linked in history to the sinking Titanic and royal weddings and to sport in the UK, was beautifully sung a cappella by Emeli Sandé while dancers with choreographer Akram Khan performed a work depicting a struggle with mortality. The heartfelt lyrics, written in 1847 by Henry Lyte at the end of his life, ring so relevant.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;

shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Ironically, NBC decided this portion was not for everyone. In fact, it seems their only response to inquiries for a reason has been that it was tailored for and American audience. I beg, wholeheartedly, to differ.

Regardless of the direct, indirect, or accidental tribute this paid to the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London, this piece could have played an important part in the grieving process for the American audience that empathetically reacted to those attacks and most recently suffered great and inexplicable loss in Aurora, CO.  I learned long ago that mourning turns to dancing. “Abide With Me” was yet another example of how we grieve and celebrate, a reminder of how those who have gone before make us who we are now.

In my opinion, isolated and different though it may be, this was not a simple edit, but the denial of a gift for the American audience. I will not quit watching the games. I will still cry and cheer and laugh and cringe with Team USA and with NBC. I would just like to know the real answer to the question, “why?”

I’d like to thank BBC One and Deadspin.com for sharing this skipped segment of the show. Cheers!

Watch it HERE.

By the way, if you were completely baffled by elements of the Opening Ceremony, here is the official Opening Ceremony Guide, which explains in detail the significance of seemingly disparate ideas.

If you have read this far, thank you for tolerating me. Now you can continue your Olympic viewing schedule.

read. night night birmingham.

In the years before college and those following, I often thought I would move away from Birmingham, at least for a season of life. A decade has past and that season has yet to come,  but I love my home. The more I learn and experience, the more I appreciate it. In quite the opposite way, Birmingham has been home for very little of my brother’s adulthood. After a year or so here, he and his family moved oceans away (for really great reasons).  Most likely, my nephew will not remember much of his first year and time in Birmingham, but my family wants him to feel at home whenever they visit – few and far between those visits may be.

As I was walking the blocks of Artwalk a few months ago, I found a great way to send him Birmingham.  


Written by Laurel Mills and illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde, Night Night Birmingham takes its readers on a virtual tour of area landmarks and activities. I love the color scheme suggesting twilight. It’s calming. Yet, these illustrations depict children exploring the city in a fantastical way, and I am ready to join them. While I have been to or seen most of these sights, it’s time to visit the rest.  

Birmingham was not the only thing I wanted to send my nephew. I wanted to send hugs too. You can only hug your laptop while on Skype so many times before it gets weird, so I set out to create a huggable companion to this book. Inspired by a certain owl keeping an eye on the adventure, I made this little guy.

If you are a professional procrastinator, you might still be able to get this book at a local business as a gift for Christmas! Check out the website MyNightNight.com for a list of sellers. If you have finished your Christmas shopping, good for you! You now have a great item for birthday gifts in 2012.

eat. urban cookhouse.

The Scouts are once again selling trees a stone’s throw from my front door, and, thanks to my allergies and a Black Friday special, my full size artificial tree is up and decorated. Also, snow is falling on WordPress. These are just a couple of the many signs screaming out how much time has passed since I last shared with you. But instead of bringing attention to the great lapse, I’m just going to ignore my tardiness and pick right back up.

A favorite restaurant of mine has opened a second location, and I should probably seize this opportunity to tell you the many reasons I love Urban Cookhouse.

I’ll start with the obvious. The food is excellent. Rarely do I look at a menu and think, “I’ll have one of everything.” But on reading the UC menu for the first time, I knew I would return to explore it all. I have liked everything I have tried. This is no small feat considering I am a lifelong hater of slaw, and I even trusted them to leave their turkey crunch sandwich recipe intact – slaw and all – and I enjoyed it! (P.S. It is not the slaw you are imagining.)

The portions seem right-sized. I leave full but not overly so. And, I do love to finish my meal off with their perfectly light and sweet orange roll. Unless, of course, I splurge on the mouthwatering dessert that is the Half Baked Cookie.

The service is lightning fast. I dare you to find a shorter wait between order and service with the same caliber menu. I frequently wait longer in a drive thru lane. This makes lunch hours somehow longer and errand-running perfectly possible. Who couldn’t use a little extra time?! In case you don’t want to take my word for it, readers of Birmingham Magazine voted the staff the best in the city (and best kids’ menu). No big deal.

To Do Tips/Notes for your first visit:

  • At both locations take a left at the door. This will put you in line to order your food.
  • You may need to pick up your own utensils depending on the establishment.
  • On most occasions, you will bus your own table.
  • The ingredients are local. The philosophy is green.
  • The Strawberry-Lemonade is a perfect summertime (or maybe anytime) treat.

Tonight is the grand opening event of new Summit location, benefitting Cornerstone Schools of Alabama. It’s the perfect time to sample the menu and determine what you will order on your return visit.

give. shop. not forgotten.

It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned this special organization, so if you remember Not Forgotten, but still haven’t read up, here is yet another chance. I am especially excited that Not Forgotten has undergone some great growth recently and is looking forward to seeing some dreams realized in the near future. This is your opportunity to be part of it.

“Not Forgotten is an organization that is compelled by the love of Christ to provide for the physical, educational, and spiritual needs of impoverished, abandoned, and oppressed people of the world so that they may improve their quality of life, find salvation through Jesus Christ and be empowered to affect change in their communities.”

Visit their spiffed-up website for more. (Or read my past post here.) Better yet, come tomorrow to the Birmingham Art For a Cause event, benefitting Not Forgotten, and hear the story straight from those whose passion and love started this whole thing.

Thursday 11.03.11
7pm – 9:30pm
Historic Cahaba Pumping Station Museum
4012 Sicard Hollow Rd, Birmingham, AL 35242
(click here for a map)

I should also mention that there are a few products available for purchase contributed by yours truly. Don’t miss a great opportunity to get started on your Christmas shopping with the confidence that your making a difference.

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