Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I Marinate

People often ask me to pray for them. 
Sometimes, people ask me to share my thoughts on a subject.
And sometimes... I simply do not have an answer.
Sometimes... I forget to pray.

I get caught up in the day to day grind just like you do. I'm trying to run this historical house museum, write stories for two local publications, and do some copywriting for a PR agency. I'm trying to be a good pet mom to my cats, spend time with my niece and family. I'm juggling travel every other weekend to see my guy. 
I'm trying to keep my house clean, eat right, and make at least four trips to the gym each week. Somewhere in there.. I try to make time for me.

My S.G. teases me about reading the same book since December. Normally, I rush through a book a lot quicker, but with everything else going on, I'm lucky to finish a chapter a night. To be perfectly honest, I'm lucky to finish a few sentences before my eyes shut.

I'm tired. I'm stretched a little thin right now. But I am trying desperately to fit it all in. (Heck - I don't even have kids!) It's just a lot right now.

So how am I able to slow my mind down long enough to make some real decisions. 

I marinate.


I go into my bathroom, run the hottest bath possible, and soak until the water is too chilly to deal with. Then I wrap in my fluffy robe and lay on the couch and stair at the ceiling. Once I did that for over an hour. Just staring. Maybe it was a form of meditation. Who knows? Sometimes I start off with.. "Dear God.." Then I sit there, and honestly.. I say, "God, Ive got nothing." It is sort of like having that best celestial friend, just asking him to sit there with me.. because sometimes there is really nothing left to say.

Right now I need a good marinate. I'm drying out. I'm burning out. I need to pull it together. 
Too much going on, and I need to regroup and re-prioritize. 

How do you regroup?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Don't Rain On My Parade

It is not easy being the happy one.



I know I bitch, whine, complain, and moan in this blog. However, that's where I like to leave it.

For the most part, I am a happy person. I like to laugh and I like to see the good in most situations. Not all the time, but even for those bad times, they only last a day or two at the most.

I try to work things out and just LET IT GO. I don't hold onto anger. I don't seek revenge. I don't dwell. What's the point? It is simply a waste of time.

But not everyone is wired like this.

I'm of the philosophy that is life is entirely too short. Where did the time go? It freaks me out to think that in less than 10 years, AARP will be knocking on my door. WTH?

With that being said - what if we all just tried to be a little bit happier? Stop wasting our time with sadness, worrying, and misery. It is what it is.. and this too shall pass.. and all of the other stuff?!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Since You Asked...

I had a conversation with a young lady yesterday, maybe about 17 years old, and we got to talking about our life's purpose and what not. Somehow, we ended up discussing the paths I chose to take and what advice I was given when I was younger. Of course, I only remember a few things a few people said along the way, but I made a point to recall those particular stories. Then she asked, "Well... what advice would you give me?"

I got to thinking about it. If I had a daughter, what would I want them to know. What have I learned that has proven to be true? I am only 42 years old, but in that time, I think I have figured a few things out, at the very least.

With that, I think the following list are my definites.  Things I hold to be true.

Here's goes nothing:

Nicole's Definites:

1. Drink lots of water. (Seems silly to share that, but it is true.) Will solve a ton of headaches, bad skin, food cravings, and whatever else that ails you. 

2. Stay out of the sun as much as you can. Or at the very least, wear sunscreen. I have so many people say to me, "You look so young for your age." Well... the truth is, for the most part, I don't get a sun tan. I wear strong spf and I wear a hat at the beach or pool. Anywhere I ever got a sunburn, that is exactly where fine lines are showing up. Simple as that.

3. Figure out what you enjoy and are good at, and find a way to make money at it. It is the only true way to happiness. I feel like I am lucky; at the age of 12 I knew the field I wanted to work in. I'm 42 and I have not strayed from that course.

4. Go to school. I don't care what type of school it is: University, tech school, an online course in basketweaving.. whatever. Be an expert at something. It will set you apart. Learn a trade. Apprentice under someone. Whatever you choose, be the best at it. 

5. I know I go back to this a lot, but take care of your skin. Wash your face every morning & night. Exfoiliate your skin every morning. Moisturize morning and night. It is that simple. I think you are never to young to learn to do this and make it a habit.

6. Take care of your teeth. 

7. Always go for your regular doctor's check ups. Early detection of anything is the key to health and happiness.

8. When an adult tells you something is a bad idea. Listen. Trust me on this one.

9. Practice safe sex. Too many diseases out there and waaaay too many people having babies who have no business breeding. 

10. On that subject - don't have kids if you are not ready. Mentally, financially, whatever. I think having a child is the single most important job you can have. When you screw up, you are screwing up generations of issues that are hard to erase. 

11. Marriage. Lord have mercy. Look - just wait. Get your education finished. Seriously. Start your first job. Get some money in savings. Then get married. 

12. When it comes to work - be careful of gossip and jealousy. If you are a star student at a job, people may very well try to sabotage you. Be friendly, but at arms length. You will rise faster and do better. 

13. When it comes to friends, the really good ones will love you regardless. When you have tough times, you will be able to sort out who is in it for the long haul, and who is a fair weather friend. Don't be bitter. Just know people will come into your life, and they will fall out of your life. It's no big deal. Cherish the good times, and close chapters as needed.

14. Spend as much time with your grandparents as possible. Get their stories. Write them down. This is their legacy to you.

15. Travel. Travel as much as you financially can. You get an opportunity to leave the country - DO IT. Or pick someplace you have always wanted to go and save up for it. Do it and do it often. 

16. Try new foods, new music, new cultures, expose - expose - expose yourself to everything. Remember, if we say we don't like something and we've never tried it - it usually means we don't understand it. You can understand something without choosing something. 

17. Do not EVER judge someone because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. That just makes you a very bad person. That is between them and God. Not for you to decide if they are bad people. Your job is to be kind and show compassion. And for God's sake, stand up for those being chastised. Sometimes not saying anything is worse than being the ignorant person.

18. If you can help someone, do it. Don't expect a thank you. Just do it. It's good for your soul.

19. Be kind to animals. Take care of your plants. Take care of your body. Exercise. Talk to someone when you are sad. Don't isolate yourself.

20. Finally, always wear your seat belt. Face your fears. Laugh as much as possible. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Feeling The Love

Needless to say...

My luck has turned around in 2015.

Work? Love it.
Home life? Peaceful.
Love Life? Terrific.

Gosh... it feels good to be in a good place. It has been so long, and finally I can just enjoy the ride for a little while.

As you may be aware of, I just passed another milestone. Birthday #42. 
My birthday falls just two days after Valentine's Day, which makes for interesting dilemma for the guys in my life. ;-)

My guy rose to the occasion.

I drove down on Friday afternoon and stopped by the main house at the farm. I spent about an hour chatting it up with his mother. She is a such a hoot to talk to. Very dry sense of humor. If this gives you any insight, my S.G. has her contact pic as Grumpy Cat. lol

S.G. arrived after work and we transported all of my stuff down to the pond cabin. This adorable cabin is one he and his father built together. It is located deep within the woods of the farm. As soon as I walked inside I broke out into the biggest smile. This is what I saw:

He and his daughters decorated the main room. Streamers, cut out glitter hearts, and dark chocolates were all over the place. It was the sweetest thing I had ever seen.

I was just so excited, I insisted on giving him his "man basket" I made for him. I also gave him a beautiful card with some very heartfelt sentiments written in it. After he read the card he insisted on sharing his card and gift with me. 

Well... I had a beautiful letter written by him that was hands down the most touching letter I have ever received. Yes. He said those three little words. Little did you know, we have not been moving overly fast with the sentiments, but he finally said it. He grabbed my face and said, "Nicole... I. Love. You." 

It was wonderful.

Then he whips out a small box. What he does next cracks me up.
"Now, just so we are clear, this is not a ring."

I died laughing right there. 

However, I opened and found the most beautiful necklace I have ever seen. It had belonged to his grandmother. How wonderful was that?

We ended the night by watching a mini marathon of True Blood.

On Saturday morning, I awoke to him cooking a wonderful breakfast. This man made me a recipe I had pinned on Pinterest. Yes - he picked something I wanted to try. WOW.

Then he got in the car and headed to Providence Canyon - also known as the Little grand Canyon. We were going for a Valentine's Day hike. 

After the hike - we headed over to the river for a picnic. 

Following the picnic - we headed out to Plains, Georgia and I got some delicious hot boiled peanuts.

That night for dinner, he spent four hours cooking Duck a l'orange. Seriously. 

Valentine's Day... as you can tell... was delightful!

Then that Sunday, we headed into Albany and saw the movie 50 Shades of Grey. (BTW - meh.)

Then we shot on over to his ex's house (who btw, was very gracious and kind to me) to pick up his kids and then we scooted over to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. That night we basically all crashed at the cabin.

On my birthday morning, his oldest daughter and I went out and bought sausage biscuits for everyone and just relaxed and talked. Later, the girls and I did what I call - Birthday Yoga. Everything was birthday this or birthday that. 

That afternoon the girls and I got into a hard core UNO marathon, complete with Sangria. (Just for me, of course.)

Then the surprise birthday dinner: The dining room was decorated and all of my favorites were served. Grilled beef hotdogs, a special marinated salad, s&v chips, etc. Complete with a delightful raspberry cake.

As for presents? Holy moly - I struck the mother load! 

Then of course I had to come back to reality! 

Check out my two latest articles in Macon Magazine:

And of course we had a wonderful event at the Cannonball House. My dad even taught calligraphy for the kids!

Finally, don't forget about Beards, Bourbon, & Bacon happening here on April 11th. Here is the inspiration for the event (yes.. one of our volunteers decided to pose with the book.)

Finally, I want to say...

I am happy.


Just happy.

The. End. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is It Possible To Change?

My friends and I have debated this subject over the years, so much so that I am pretty sure it is like beating a dead horse.

Most people would say, "No, people don't change." 
That seems like the most logical answer.

But I disagree. I think you can change. However, that does not mean the desire to do it the old way has gone away.

Many years ago I went into therapy. I spent a couple of months sharing information about my past to a complete stranger. He would listen, take notes, and give feedback. After the hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours later, the only thing I really remember him saying was this:

"Nicole, there is no real cure for anxiety. Or any problem that the human mind has created. At the end of the day, it is all about being self aware."

What he meant was, sure, you are going to feel/think/desire/fear the thing/person/place/whatever always. That really doesn't go away. But what you can do is recognize when it happens, then make a choice. 

Do we respond the way we would like to live, or do we repeat old behaviors.

I learned to respond differently. Granted, I used this technique to mainly deal with my Panic Disorder, however, it has paved the way in a wide variety of areas in my life.

For example, I will be the first to admit, I have a very quick temper. I get mad, and then I get fired up. I'm talking heart racing, quick breathing, adrenaline flowing - anger. My natural response is to react and go on the attack. Boy oh boy, it is within me to be verbally vicious. Instead of flying off the handle (the way I did in my teens and 20s,) I stop, I breathe, and I try to see where the other person is coming from. It is a choice. It is not a natural response. 

I've gotten so good at it that you won't even recognize the pause. But this was a learned behavior.

Same goes for anything else. When I grocery shop, I choose organic and local if possible. It would be easier to grab whatever I want, especially finding something cheaper, but I don't. It was a decision, though not a natural reaction.

Now I am trying to learn new habits. Like healthier food choices (struggling,) and exercising several times a week (winning!) 

What about you? Do you believe people can change? Why or why not?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ode To Valentine's Day - Valentine Ideas for HIM

Though I often think cupid was drunk a few times when he shot me in the arse, the truth is, I've never had a problem with Valentine's Day.

As a little girl, I loved the color pink. Not hot pink, but that powdery carnation pink, also known as, girl pink. I also found hearts to be the prettiest doodle known to mankind, second only to the flower. 

I also have always been boy crazy. 

Needless to say, I love to be in love. Maybe it is because I am an Aquarius. We don't love many, but when we love, we tend to do it with a fiercely loyal passion like no other. Or maybe it is because I like myself better when I am in love. I've had numerous crushes throughout my life time, dozens of boyfriends, and heck, just toss two husbands into the mix. Yes, cupid's arrow has found its way into my heart a time or two.

I've always found Valentine's Day to be a very cheeky holiday. Fun, flirty, and full of surprises. Perhaps someone reveals their undying love for you, or maybe it forces you to make that certain someone feel special again, even if for only a day. I, for one, can't remember a Valentine's Day that was horrible. Sure, I've been single during the holiday before..


 Haven't I?

Well.. regardless, it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom for the single folks out there. Nor does it have to be redundant and cheesy for the lovers. 

I found a few cool ides for all of us, regardless of your plight!
Valentine for Him - The Sensual Gift/Senses
 Here is a fantastic idea from the blog: What's On My Porch. (You can click through from the picture.) It's sort of a flirty, fun way to get your guy something unique that you can both enjoy! Make sure to click through and see the suggestions. 

The next one I found is really very cool and I think something most guys would enjoy: A Boudoir Book.
Boudoir Book
 I got this idea from My Bridal Pics (click thru for details.) This website shows a complete tutorial on how to create one. What a fantastic idea... if you are brave enough!

From the blog - Frugal Maine, another cool idea (especially if you are on a budget,) is to create a "love variety pack" of letters, coupons, etc. I find this gift in particular to be very thoughtful. Very nice idea, and would definitely set you a part. 

Ever read the book, "The Five Love Languages," by Gary Chapman. Here is a great idea if you guy's love language is "Words of Affirmation."
Words of Affirmation
 This idea comes from the blog - Life Lives Here. Another very sweet and thoughtful way to honor your guy.

Finally, I have one little idea left. 
Super Savings Blog
 This one would work well if you live together. It's a wipey board - one you could fill out daily or weekly and looks super simple to make. Just click through for more details.

That's it - just a couple of ideas to help you do something really unique and thoughtful. I'll work on one for the guys next! 

Now get to work - you have less than a week left!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Here Comes 42.

I am creeping up on the year 42. On February 16th, it will be here, and I have to admit, I am not even the least bit freaked out or disappointed. It seems like this decade is one that is setting me on my path. Back in my 30s, I thought I had it all figured out and was on my way to be where I was supposed to be. I think I made some decisions in my early thirties that sort of took me off my path, taught me a few lessons, then politely dropped me on my ass. At 38, I had hit the bottom (as close to the bottom as I can be,) and I had to regroup.

Who knew when I turned 40, that my life was about to be flipped upside down one more time. I sort of view the series of events like something I saw in a video recently. I went to Plains, Georgia, and later researched how people grow and harvest peanuts (a crop they are known for.) Here is this plant that looks nice and lush on top, and has deep roots. You pull the plant out of the ground and under caked on dirt, you see the fruit of your effort - peanuts. The farmer shakes the dirt until the peanuts are free. I feel like my 40s is the shaking process. Everything is sorting out and there is an incredible sense of peace enveloping me. 

No doubt, the growth and adjustment can be overwhelming from time to time. Things keep shifting, but at the same time, once the peanut has been dusted off, I find that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, with the people I should have on this journey, doing what I am meant to do. 

As I head into 42, I have been looking back over my year. Then I looked back another year. This has been my favorite decade thus far. I like who I am, I like what I am doing, and the best part of all? By the time you hit 40ish - you are typically accomplished career wise, have a solid group of friends you have known 20+ years, and you just don't give a damn what other people think.

Bring on 42! I can't wait. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Did It For The Beard

A few weeks ago I was scanning one of those publisher's catalogs that gift shops and museums get. You know the kind, one peddling the wares of this company or that. As I was checking out the various entries, I came across one book in particular that caught my eye: "Bad Ass Civil War Beards" by Anna Hider and Julia Hider.

I stopped.

I laughed.

You see, I run a historic house in Macon, Georgia that happens to be an homage to life during the Confederacy. The home was built in 1853 and belonged to a plantation owner and probate judge, Judge Asa Holt. The home is a planter's townhouse and absolutely the quintessential antebellum home.

One of the goals I have set for myself is to really increase their  bottom line. I noticed the home/non profit did not have a true signature fundraiser. Then it hit me - why not do something that will celebrate beards. They are all the rage these days with younger, hipster type guys. Not to mention, most of the volunteers of the house are Civil War reenactors and a majority of the men have burly beards.

Okay.. now that I had the idea of celebrating the beard - but what else? It hit me - A Gentlemen's night. But what else do guys enjoy down here? Well.. hello! Bourbon... and BACON.

Boom - Now I have a fantastic fundraiser called Beards, Bourbon, and Bacon: A Gentlemen's night at the Cannonball House.

Let me tell you - it is coming together so nicely! There is a fantastic barbershop in town called, "The Gentry."

photo found on the Gentry's website
The gentleman you see in the picture is going to lead a discussion on the proper growth of a beard, how to maintain and care for your beard, and what face shapes work best with different styles.

Then... I figured, if you are going to celebrate the beard - we should have a BEARD contest. Softest/longest/bushiest/most unique stash, etc.

Plus - we will have a local historian and author, Wayne Dobson, share the history of the styles of beards. Apparently the 1850s - 1860s were considered the "Golden Age" of beards. 

As far as bacon goes, the house is super lucky to have the United Daughters of the Confederacy involved with the home. The ladies of the UDC plan to create a large variety of bacon inspired dishes!

Finally, how do we do the bourbon? Oh boy - this is a good one! Ryan Smith is a mixologist at Dovetail restaurant in Macon. Ryan is known for his extensive knowledge about bourbons/whiskey.

Photo credit: From Ryan's Facebook - Jessica Whitley

Ryan plans to share about four different bourbon options: high grade to mid grade. He is also working on making some bacon-infused bourbon in a barrel that he plans to sell.

We will have the tasting back in the old kitchen that is basically lit with soft lighting and candles. It will be incredibly authentic.

To top it all off - CIGAR GROTTO in the beautiful garden - complete with reenactors singing songs.
The event is going to be Saturday, April 11 from 7 - 9pm. Tickets will be $20 a person.

I am sooo excited and hope that we are able to secure some good sponsors and have a great turnout!

Any of my friends or readers that have ever considered visiting a southern town - this may be the perfect trip for you. No beard required and yes, ladies are welcome!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Heading South-West

I've had the best time getting to know a certain part of Georgia. Even though I grew up in this beautiful state, I'm really only familiar with central Georgia, coastal Georgia, north Georgia, and the Atlanta area. Now that I have started dating a guy from southwest Georgia, I'm getting the opportunity to explore little towns that dot that portion of the state.

This weekend was a wonderful op to see the treasures surrounding Preston, Georgia. Yes - he lives in a tiny little town called Preston. (A place I had NEVER heard of.)

Friday night we drove about 20 minutes to Americus, a town that has about 19,000 people. Americus has beautiful historical homes and fantastic architecture.
We ended up at a fantastic restaurant on the main strip in downtown Americus called, "The 1800." It was a delicious Mexican Restaurant in a beautiful historic building. The food was delicious and my margarita was divine! After dinner, we walked up to The Windsor Hotel. This hotel was built in 1892 and it is very much Victorian. Absolutely beautiful. Here is a blurry photo I took of the lobby:

On Saturday, we headed 9 miles over to Plains, Georgia, population: 683. According to their official site, "The town is both old and new.  It existed in the 1840’s but was not established on its present site until the 1880’s.  When the Seaboard Railroad came through the area in the late nineteenth century, a depot was built and the people flocked to it, relocating their town."

We ended up wandering through the downtown area (which is one block,) and found ourselves in this little antique/political memorabilia shop. The quirky owner told unlimited jokes as we perused the aisles of Jimmy Carter stuff. (Yes, President Jimmy Carter is not only from Plains, but still lives there.) Apparently, Amy Carter, Jimmy's daughter, spends many Saturday afternoons sitting on the floor of this shop reading comic books. 

  We ended up trying some DELICIOUS homemade Peanut Butter icecream. Peanuts are a HUGE product in Georgia, and specifically are grown in this region.

 After we wrapped up our Plains visit (going through all of the shops,) we headed over to Albany, Georgia, population: 77, 434. My guy knows how much I am interested in industry/economic impact/downtown revitalization - so he went through the downtown area there. There were a few flags on street lights mentioning something about "Restore Albany," but honestly, the town has a long way to go. We stopped at the RiverQuarium - right there on the Flint River.

The aquarium was decent - I am assuming their education programs for kids are probably their key to staying alive. The museum was not curated very well, and half of the time I was not making a connection between what I was seeing and what they were trying to educate us on. Aside from that, I enjoyed this "Blue Hole" - the photo above. There were some crazy looking fish that live fairly deep in our rivers down here, and it was fascinating to check them out.

After the aquarium, we walked over to the River Walk - which was really quite nice.

The Ray Charles exhibit was very similar to what Macon did with the Little Richard exhibit. Very well done, and I really enjoyed the large playground and chair swings for adults. Definitely a great place to spend the afternoon.

Before we headed out of town, we stopped by Buffalo Wild Wings, and I do believe the bartender there made the perfect margarita. I bought their Primo Margarita (with Patron,) and I have to say - it was worth every penny!

That night we wrapped things up back at my guy's house and enjoyed a fire and champagne.

As for Super Bowl Sunday, we ended up grilling Tbone steaks and watched "Lucy" a new sci-fi thriller that was FANTASTIC! I highly recommend it.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend! Hope you guys get a chance to explore these little communities. If you live in Macon, we are talking only an hour and a half drive south through some beautiful countryside!

Here's hoping for more small town adventures!


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