Whirlwind (kind of) beach weekend

The last 7 days of my life have been busier than I can remember being for a long time, and to be honest, that is saying something. This past weekend I went on a whirlwind weekend trip to St. Simon’s Island, GA for a beach weekend. A wedding beach weekend. And I’ll be honest, I stuck to my eating plan fairly well, but the wedding was off limits. I enjoyed the food without guilt, and I drank for the first time in close to 3 years (ironically, at the last St. Simon’s wedding…)

For those of you not from Georgia (and those who are, but who have been unfortunate enough not to discover St. Simon’s Island), SSI is one of Georgia’s “Golden Isles” (categorized along with┬áJekyll Island, Sea Island, and a privately owned “Little St. Simon’s Island.”) It is off the coast of Georgia outside of Brunswick just over the F. J Torras Causeway.

I love everything about this island. I’ve been several times for various events, vacations, and weddings, and I absolutely love going there. It is one of the few vacation spots that I’ve been where everytime I go, I feel like I have come home rather than gone away.

The island is small and easy to navigate, and there are lovely views, sites, shops, and, of course, restaurants. This past weekend I carpooled down with 4 other sorority sisters and had the pleasure of staying at the St. Simon’s Inn by the Lighthouse, which is a quaint little hotel just across the street from one of the Island’s main focal-points, the lighthouse.

It was the first time I’ve stayed on the main part of the island, right in the heart of things, and it was perfect! We were a stone’s throw away from the walking path along the beach, the pier, the shops and center of town, and of course, beautiful ocean views.

When we first arrived on the island and unpacked, we headed up to the village to hit up The 4th of May Cafe for lunch (aptly named because the three best friends who opened it shared the same birthday, May 4th) and I had the singularly most delicious grilled chicken salad I have ever had. I know that sounds insane, to rave over the flavors of a salad- but seriously. Their “Southwest Chicken Salad” included a bed of crisp romaine, a black bean and corn salsa (almost more like a pico de gallo w/ corn and beans,) tomato, cucumbers, and the juiciest, most flavorful grilled chicken I have ever eaten. Chunks of charred flavoring just coated the salad from the delicious and mildly spicy marinade on the chicken. It was topped off with some crispy tortilla strips, a pinch of cheese, and some ranch dressing on the side. Y-U-M.

After that we searched high and low for a shrug that fit me and wasn’t “Island priced” (things on the Island all appear in little boutiques and shops, and are definitely priced for its more affluent community…) and finally settled on a lightweight, light brown shrug from Roberta’s.

Finally, it was time for the wedding. Anna and her wonderful husband Brandon got married just behind the St. Simon’s lighthouse, using it as the perfect, most beautiful backdrop for their nuptuals. Anna was, of course, a most stunning bride, and they were so kind to include us in this most special of days.

After the ceremony we enjoyed cocktail hour just off the beach, behind the lighthouse, followed by a beautiful reception where I caught the bouquet for a second St. Simon’s wedding in a row. (Told you, there’s just something AWESOME about this place!)

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I’ll leave you with a few pictures (some incriminating, some just beautiful…)

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me (A review)

One of my first great loves is reading, followed of course by writing (a close second.) Since one of my resolutions for this year is to get back to the things that I love, it is only natural that I write a book review. To make things an even better fit, the books are primarily Christian-themed, and exploring my spirituality is something I am working at diligently right now. The book that I will share with you today is called Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, by Ian Cron. This book was provided for me free of charge by the publisher (through BookSneeze, a blogger book review program), in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was in no way encouraged to write a positive review. Without further ado, here are my thoughts:

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me (Ian Cron)

Cron’s story is what I would consider creative non-fiction. The story of Cron’s life unfolds in snippets of stories from his childhood, and catalogs his reactions both then, and now. The story is one of family, struggle, growth, and a slow acceptance of God and his role in our lives. Cron shares the shocking revelation his mother shares with him at age 16: that his father works for the CIA. The rest of the tale unfolds in present reflection, emotional flashbacks, and the real, raw emotion of a child growing up with an alcoholic father, a slightly dysfunctional family, and a constant struggle between loving and hating God.

If I were to some up this book in just one word, it would simply be “good.” There were several things that I loved, and a couple that I really, really didn’t. Unfortunately, one of the particularly displeasing things occurred very heavily in the beginning of the book, which made it difficult to get into. In the first 1/4-1/3 of the book, Cron uses an incessant amount of pop-culture references. I can appreciate a reference here or there, but there were so many littered throughout the story that it became distracting. This did taper off some as the story progressed, but it definitely took away from the beginning.

One of the aspects that I loved about this book is Cron’s ability to really bring a reader in to the pain that he feels throughout the story. The emotions he felt, the thoughts in his mind, the atmosphere of a room, the tone of a conversation- he draws the reader in with beautiful descriptions, vivid language, and a personable tone until you literally feel the pain and fear along with him.

Lighter moments, such as arriving early to be an altar boy will simultaneously make you shake with laughter and shudder in fear. Darker moments, especially in confrontations with his father, literally made me pull the covers up closer around my shoulders, hiding from a man in someone else’s house 30 years ago.

As a general rule, I tend to gravitate towards books like Cron’s. I love stories of struggle, not because the person had to endure that struggle, but because of the bravery required to share a story like that. If you, too, enjoy a deeply personal, increasingly intense, and reassuring tale of struggle, love, loss, and growing both in age, experience, and faith, then I would definitely pick up a copy of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me.

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