Sunday, July 27, 2014

Keep Swimming

I have spent a majority of my life trying to rise above the negativity that will inevitably try to sneak in. 

I know you can relate.

We all go through it.

Regardless of whether or not you and I agree on politics, or religion, or how we live our lives, the truth of the matter is - we all just want to be happy.

I had a decent enough weekend. Equal parts love and disappointment. Saturday I had to work, and I was lucky enough to have some super nice visitors that were wonderful to talk to. Then that night i enjoyed a little music festival that happens each summer in my hometown - Bragg Jam. Saw so many good friends, hugged my favorite people, and danced the night away to some great "Yacht Rock." 

I slept in this morning, and decided to reach out to a friend that is going through a whole lot. He's been up and down (well.. he IS bipolar,) and I wanted to make sure he got through the weekend okay. Needless to say he snapped at me and really bit my head off. Unfortunately, I reacted poorly. Sooooo poorly. I've been doing that a lot lately. Snapping at all of the people who like to try to push my buttons or even remotely put me down. I'm sort of at that point in my life where I just don't care what people think, and I only want to be left alone and just be happy.

We all get this way from time to time. 

When I was younger, I had the tongue of a viper - and it seems to be rearing its ugly head again. I need to check my attitude at the door, or should I? Maybe I'm just tired of putting up with crummy attitudes. 


Then I had a fun little convo with my ex brother in law. Umm.. it went something like this:

Me: Sorry you are going through a hard time.
Him: It's okay. Now, why have you not found anyone yet?
Me: **being silly** Oh you know, men want someone who is tall, blond, thin, and dumb. I'm the exact opposite.
Him: Oh.. just go to the gym and you will be perfect.





I'm tired. But I have to keep swimming. Some days we are the bird, and others we are the wormy. Today was a wormy kinda day. I'm hoping for a better tomorrow. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sleep Walking

I woke up sleepy. 
That is never a good sign for the day.

My wave of good luck sort of over slept too.

While stepping into my bedroom to pick something up, I accidentally left my last diet coke on the coffee table. For most people, this would be a very normal occurrence - in my home it is an opportunity for my big orange tabby, Salvatore, to play "King of the House," and he knocked the drink right off the table... onto the floor.. the beige carpeted floor... that was just professionally cleaned two weeks ago.


Of course, none of this has to do with luck, but with the fact  that I was tired. I was simply not paying attention, and unfortunately something happened. 

That's how life goes for the most part. We find ourselves on autopilot, trying to get through the day. I have spent the past year like that - on autopilot. That's not a good feeling when I look back, but I think it was a necessary feeling.

It is fascinating to me look back at how I dealt with the blows of 2013. Divorce - Dating - Finances - Work - Sick Cats -  it was all a heavy load to carry. I fumbled through it, and from time to time, when I wasn't paying a whole of attention, a mini crisis would happen. I handled it, like I handle everything else. Every time I caught myself in the middle of the storm, I remember something one of my old managers, Erica, said to me many years ago, "Nicole, life is really simple. It's all just a series of fires that you will have to put out." When I decided to treat my life this way, it made it so much easier to roll with the punches. 

I've learned to forgive. I think that is one of the biggest lessons. Like this morning, my cat sat there, looking at me, and I am pretty sure he realized he messed up because he cowered down when I discovered the spilled coke. I yelled a little about the stain on the carpet... but then in less than 2 minutes I had calmed down, grabbed the stain remover, and I began cleaning up the mess. This is exactly what I have been doing with my life for the past few months - just cleaning up the mess that someone else left behind.

After I was able to see that not too much damage was done, I made a point go over to Salvatore and assure him that he was loved. He seriously looked sorry. Maybe I'm delusional... but the truth is, I needed to follow through on this act. 

Next major lesson I have learned is patience. I've learned to trust with my whole heart that everything is going to be okay.... and it is. I've learned to "Let go, and let God." There is power in that act.

Finally, I have learned follow my heart. TRULY ask for what I want out of life. An ex boyfriend of mine came over last night, he needed to talk. He is going through some things, and he and I spent about 5 months together at the end of 2013/early 2014. I listened, I gave advice, I commiserated... we talked about the past, and we laughed. It is good to be at a place of forgiveness, to exercise patience, and to still be able to show compassion. I told him plain and simple what I wanted out of life, and that having him as a friend was as far as we could ever take it. It felt good to say what I knew I needed to say, and not hold onto something that in the end is not good for me (just because it is there.) 

I have successfully freed myself from all things that were holding me down - some I did for myself, and some an outside force severed ties that needed to be severed. (I call that divine intervention.)

Life is as it should be. Simple fires that need to be extinguished. Right now, I have a space full of cinders and I'm ready to rebuild from the ground up. :-)

Monday, July 21, 2014

And Moving On...

It is time to make some incredible changes in my life! (Again.) 

I am actually thrilled to have this opportunity. 

Can you believe it? 

I don't know what has gotten into me, but I am in a good place mentally, and I want to ride this wave of possibility out. 

What's next for me?

Well.. that all depends on what the world has in store.

New work opportunities... new potential love interests... new friendships to form - so many fantastic things are in store, it feels like Christmas time!

I have always sort of seen transition a little like Christmas night. Each new piece of my future life is wrapped very neatly under the tree. As the months unroll, I will get to unwrap a new present, some of these may be exactly what I have always wanted, while other may take some adjustment to. 

The best news? I am a blank slate. I can't remember the last time I could truly say that. I am in a much better position to create the life I want to lead, than say back in 2011. I have two options to continue my education (still trying to decide.) I have the Peace Corps recruiter's phone number (been toying with that one!) and I have some contract work flowing in! Working for myself is incredibly liberating! 

Then when it comes to new people - I am going to be afforded the opportunity to meet so many new people this year! Just think, new friendships, new experiences, and new interests to share. PLUS - I'm not currently seeing anyone, so THAT is wide open too.

I like this... this little journey I am on. Who knows where it will end. Heck, who cares! I'm set up to succeed, now let's watch as God shows up and shows out! ;-)

Photo credit: 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Don't Underestimate Me

Sun Tzu once said, "Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of your opponent's fate." 

Sun Tzu was a military general, strategist and philosopher who lived in ancient China. Around these parts, we know him as the author of, "The Art of War," which was an extremely influential book about strategy. I read this book several years ago - and so many incredible nuggets of truth have stuck with me. These lessons have helped me rise above any adversity I might experience. 

In "The Art of War," Sun Tzu explains how to manage crisis, strategize conflict, and win battles. 

Some of the key points I took away are:

1. “All warfare is based on deception.”

You have to be aware of your capabilities and your surroundings. What I did was make a checklist of everything I was capable of, had experience with, and was known for. That is the first step.

Granted, sometimes you have to adjust your plans according to your resources. Location can play a big role in this decision making process, but once you do that, you should act quickly. There is a very short window of opportunity. 

With that being said, you have to outwit the competition. You can do this by subtlety staying the course and moving in one direction. 

For me, it might be a dollar amount, or skills I want to utilize. Once I hone in on what I want - then I plot the course. The funny part is, most people will expect you to crumble. However, a warrior's attitude does not allow that. Gracefully glide across the pond, but be kicking up a storm under the water. 

2. “Let your main object be victory, not lengthy drawn-out campaigns. "

The next step is all about decisive behavior, and time management. You have to focus on the end result and set a time line for yourself. (ex. - I will accomplish this goal by this date.)

It is important to keep your morale up. (Think "keeping the troops happy.") This is important in your personal relationships. Do not let the burden of what you are enduring seep into the lives of people you love and want to be around. Also, if someone is trying to help you, then you show appreciation and provide encouragement. 

Of course, Sun Tzu recommends shining the light on your competitor's weaknesses, however, I am not a fan of that tactic. However, there are ways you can do that without doing anything. If you know for a fact you are more qualified, then stand next to the other person. Give them a little rope.... it all works out in the end. 

After all, you are waging a war of sorts. 

3. “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”

I think this is the best advice for life in general. It is all about knowing yourself, knowing what you are capable of, and understanding the same of your opponent.  Don't use up all of your energy trying to go on the attack, but instead, yearn to excel and succeed at everything you do. Your work will speak volumes. Put a focus on your strengths, especially the ones your opponent does not have. ;-)

Take initiative. This is no time to hesitate. If you find some holes in your strategy, then take the time to fix what needs to be fixed, and move forward as quickly as possible. 

In the book, there is a basic formula for a "Strike." There is:
- The preemptive attack. 
- The divide and conquer
- Siege mentality 
- The retreat

Hopefully you will not be on the side of "retreat." With a proper plan, and the right qualifications, you can move forward. 

4. “One may KNOW how to conquer without being able to DO it”

Just because you have the books, have the paper, and can technically do what is required, does not mean you have the talent. Be efficient. Be honest with yourself. 

5. “The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.”

Sun Tzu has two ways to outsmart and take down your opponent (the competition.) 
Tips on how to “win” the battle include:

- The Element of Surprise
- Deception: Masking your true strength when trying to outflank or outwit your  “opponent”
- Using Bait to outwit your opponents and draw their true intentions and positions.

- Not relying on any one person but instead focusing on the discipline and unity of your support system

6. “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

Next you have got to learn how to spot your opponents weaknesses, and position yourself in the most advantageous way. 

Fairly simple process:
- Take initiative 
- Be aware of your opponents weaknesses, and make sure you are even better at them
- Be aware of the competitive advantage
- Be a moving target; Make sure your next move is hard to predict
- Remember: timing is everything

7.  “The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.”

Keep your current relationships, support system, and other resources in good standing. Make sure you know the market, and understand what your odds are. Most important - DO NOT ENTER INTO AN ALLIANCE UNTIL YOU KNOW YOUR OPPONENTS MOTIVES. Hands down - the single MOST important piece of advice I could ever give you.

8. “In the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.”

One writer on the subject states, "A great leader has the ability to  read the signs around him, track history and therefore be alert to deception or sudden changes by correctly extrapolating future behavior."

Sun Tzu gives an acute reading of human behavior here:

 “When envoys are sent with compliments in their mouths, it is a sign that the enemy wishes for a truce.”

The truth is, there are dozens and dozens of nuggets of truth for setting your goals and achieving them. I think the biggest mistake people make is that they underestimate their opponent. Not me.... I think anyone is capable of anything, and in hard times, it is every man for himself. 

If you get a moment, watch this fantastic video. You might walk away with a few golden nuggets to live by. 

Remember this can be applied to all areas of our lives.

I'll leave you with this last quote...

“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .” 

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I wish each of you success in your future endeavors! :-)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Things I Have Learned This Week - Staycation Edition

Remember these? Yep - It is time to take a look back over my week. I used to post one of these each Saturday, and if I can remember to do it, I hope to try this again.

So... Here we go:

Things I Have Learned This Week
The Staycation Edition

1.  Staycation can be a trap. Work knows you are home. Friends and family know you are home, but they all also know you are on vacation. However, somehow the typical rules of vacation do not seem to exist to them. Calls and requests, people. Calls and requests. Just know - I'm not responding until Monday.

2. White girl by pool for one week = Freckles. Just lots and lots of freckles with a splash of pink.

3. I got a lot accomplished in my home. Things I simply did not have energy for any other time. That was worth 500 emails on Monday morning.

4. I don't know why I thought I would be able to sleep in. I have two cats. Cats = furry toddler-like behavior for the rest of your life. 

5.  When you are interested in someone... and they know you are on vacation.. and you are staying in town.. and they make no effort to see you - #DoNotPassGo 

6. Mopping with bleach water turned me into a screaming banshee. Cats + Bleach Water is like a moth to a flame. Stop! You're going to kill yourself! You are using up all of your nine lives!

7. I never once turned on the cable tv. Why? THERE IS NOTHING ON THE NETWORKS. Why am I paying $156 a month for this shit?
8. For the past couple of weeks, I have been watching LOST. I'm on the second season. This thing is like an onion that just won't peel!

9. At night, I am rewatching True Blood with my roomie. She is a True Blood virgin. I think I have officially gotten her into vampires. 

10. You will NOT believe what I am reading. It's terrible. Absolutely terrible writing, but because I bought/download all three books onto my Kindle about a year ago, I thought I should finally read it - The 50 Shades of Grey series. Total rubbish. Crap. But damnit, I'm going to read it and see what all of the fuss is about. S&M doesn't do it for me. Nor does this stupid chick in the book. *gag*

11. First World Problems - Keurig bit the dust - again. Thank God I had a back up espresso machine this morning.

12. I am a restless spirit. Period.

13. I reorganized my closet and realized that I have entirely too many clothes. Yes, it is possible. 

14. Also - staying home has afforded me the opportunity to plan out my life. I think I know what I need to do. Now, let's see how bad I want it. 

15. I am not sure how my roommate is able to live strictly off cereal. lol (I've never seen someone eat so much cereal.) I've also added this line to see if she even reads my posts. Ha!

16. Going down water slides repeatedly can cause your ass to ache for a week. 

17. I think I suffered from seasonal depression yesterday. Tis the season for fireworks and cookouts, and no one invited me to one. That in turn made me depressed. lol 

18. Naps are delicious. Yes, I only just learned this in my 40s.

19. I actually wore flip flops this week and I did not die. 

20. And finally, I made my peace with God. We had a long talk about how tough the past 5 years have been. I think we are back on better speaking terms. ;-) 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It's a Woo-Saaa Kind of Day



So that was intense! Yes, the vote ended favorably for the museum, and we received all but $12,500 in funding. Not bad, not bad at all. 

There are many more hurdles, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

I'm on Day 4 of a 9 day vacation. Almost 1/2 way done. 

I've decompressed and feel pretty darn good, considering how keyed up and stressed out I was. 

Even though I was super tired and anxious, Friday night I joined my friends Angel (and her boyfriend,) out at Historic Luther Williams Field for an outdoor movie. The Parks & Rec Department with the city puts on Friday night flicks. Basically, you bring a lawn chair, blanket, snacks and enjoy the show. We watched "Armageddon," sipped margaritas, and snacks on small sandwiches and chips. 

Saturday morning my roomie and I headed to the pool. We brought all of the essentials - magazines, snacks, (more margaritas,) and just soaked up the sun. Luckily, no one else was there. We talked about all of the stress and pending bills and just life in general. I think between the water therapy, the tequila therapy, and the chatter, we sort of talked each other "off the ledge" so to speak. We got so much accomplished that morning - we resigned our lease. (Yes, I have committed to Macon one more year.) I was thrilled to do a little grocery shopping, simply because I am back to cooking. I made a delicious Cheesy Chicken Casserole that afternoon, and so far, I have gotten 7 meals out of it, and you guys know how I hate leftovers. I simply can't get enough of this stuff. It was so simple, I have to share the recipe with you. (At the end of this post.) Later that night, we both went into our separate "caves" - She watched "Orange is the New Black" and I watched a little more of "Lost."

Sunday was another fantastic day. Spent almost four hours out by the pool, most of it in the pool. Again - no one was there! We chatted, snacked, and tried to put some color on our white bodies. lol Let's just say I got a LOT of sun. Oops. After a delicious, long nap, a guy I know called and we went on a dinner date. I was home by 9:30 and all was well. 

Yesterday was an incredible day of cleaning. I organized my pantry, scrubbed the kitchen floors, organized the linen closet, the storage/coat closet, cleaned the balcony, washed my car, and even managed to get my hair colored! It is amazing how relaxed I am and focused. Today I hope to spend a little time at the pool, and organize/clean my bathroom/bedroom/closet. Then I can just breathe the rest of the week. My niece is coming over this afternoon, and as always, I am sure she will either make me laugh or drive me insane, heck, maybe both!

So yes - I'm woosaaing all over the place. Focusing, breathing, and enjoying the journey. I have to tell you, I had one of those "Come to Jesus" meetings with .. well.. Jesus. I prayed Monday morning; It was one of those prayers where you just lay it all out on the line. One of the biggest pieces I was able to release was the fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being alone. Fear of how tomorrow will look. I've replaced it with trust and faith - only through the grace of God that's for sure. 

Getting through to the next day is not where I am anymore. Savoring this very day - that's what I needed, and that's what I am experiencing.

Now.. about that recipe:
Nicole's Cheesy Chicken Casserole
1 rotisserie chicken
1 (10 3/4 oz) can chicken & mushroom soup
1 (8 oz) container of sour cream
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (8 oz) pkg shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
25 round butter crackers, coarsely crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350 f. Remove chicken from bones; discard bones and skin. Shred chicken. Stir together chicken, soup, sour cream, pepper, and 1 1/2 cups cheese; spoon mix into a lightly greased 2-qt baking dish.

2. Combine remaining 1/2 cup cheese and cracker crumbs; sprinkle evenly over the top.

3. Bake casserole at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 



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