Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Eve Before The Eve

It's 2:30 in the morning and the sound of thunder rolling in doesn't seem to lull me to sleep.

The truth is, I'm not fighting it. I think somewhere deep down inside of me, I am savoring what is left of one of the best years of my life. Think about it: I'm in a cabin over looking a beautiful pond, with the rain pounding a tin roof, with the man I love just in the other room. I'm sitting here in the living room, with my new laptop he bought, and just loving my life.

I assure you, I don't mean any of this in a boastful way. I'm just happy. Flaws and all.

I think now is the perfect time to set some intentions for 2016.

For one, and this is going to be a super tough one, I am disconnecting a little in the new year. Not here, mind you. But definitely on Facebook. I think any random thoughts that come to my mind are just fine to be shared here in a daily post. As for my page, I'll post from time to time, or maybe even just once a day - but for the most part, this and instagram is where you will find me. I want to keep some of my more precious moments for people who genuinely want to know what is going on with me. I think sometimes FB is a cheap substitute for friends keeping up with friends. Big news I see sharing, but some random stuff, maybe less?

Speaking of instagram - I want to participate in the 1 picture a day for 365 days. I want to share that significant moment in a single pic each day! I like the challenge!

Health is always a must for any new years intention. Continue on with my Weight Watchers and increase my gym time (BTW - I fell off of the wagon.)

I also want to cut down on the tv shows and increase my reading. I bought abut 20 books to get me started! Old fashioned books, not downloads for my Kindle. However, my non fiction/inspirational books are all downloaded. (A variety for me to read.)

I think I'm going to stop there. Disconnect a little online (outside of my two loves: Photos and writing,) read more, and continue to follow the healthier lifestyle path.

Sound like a plan?

On this New Year's Eve Eve, I invite you to set your intentions for 2016. Don't over do it. Pick two or three things and go for it!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas and All That Jazz

Merry Christmas! We made it through yet another holiday season, fairly unscathed!

I have to admit, I really had a wonderful holiday. Between spending time with my family, going to church on Christmas Eve, and then wrapping it up out at the farm with my S.G., everything went swimmingly!

Guess what I am typing this on? My brand new laptop bought by my guy! Whether you know it or not, my personal laptop that just about every post has been written on since the beginning of my blogging days died a year ago. Perhaps now I will spend a little more time spreading my dribble to your news feed.

Back to Christmas...

I made a point (right after Thanksgiving) to have the Best Advent Ever! (and I did!) I followed two different Advent devotions and made a point to read them, watch the videos, and I even bought the book that went with one. It's a new liturgical year, and according to Pope Francis, it is the Year of Mercy. I am working on incorporating acts of mercy into my day to day activities. Not an easy task, I tell you!

On Christmas Eve, my SG drove up from the farm and joined me at my sister's home. We spent that afternoon consuming some yummy Chinese Food and simply relaxing. Later, we drove to my parent's home and opened presents and had a delicious dinner with my people. Simply a lovely time! SG really was spoiled by my parents with some great gifts! 

We made it back to my house to prepare for that night. I took him to my church for Midnight Mass. 

We gathered there at 10:30 that night and did not leave until 1:30 that morning! Drove back to my house, slept like logs, and got up and drove down to SG's house.

Another great dinner followed by more presents and something called Christmas CRACK!! (Google it.. you'll love it.)

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I'm sure I will have better stuff much, much later!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Too Blessed to be Stressed and other figures of speech I detest.

But the truth is:

It appears the blessings are just pouring out.


Well.. let me back up.

I'm BUSY. We are all. But I've made a point to truly say yes to the season and make the best of it.

I think the karma points are adding up! Let's just say today could have turned into a tremendous issue (car wise,) but not only did it work out, it was free. But that's for another day.

Now what have I been doing?


This is where I work. It's the Cannonball House, a historic house museum and I happen to be the Executive Director. As with all beautiful homes, the holidays draw tourists from all over. That translates into hours of decorating by volunteers and staff. 

Once that was finished, we decided to throw a Christmas party. It was a Turn of the Century Christmas (as in 1900s) and we had a pretty decent turn out.

Of course I selected my faves - Snickerdoodles and Gingerbread men!
I even spent some time with my dearest guy friends and their dates. We had a lovely dinner at Parrish and a great evening of Bourbon and Gin cocktails at the Bourbon Bar in downtown Macon.

I made time to visit my one of my favorite galleries for holiday shopping - Macon Arts Alliance's shop. I even enjoyed watching the glassblowing demonstration. It was really cool: You could select your sand/colors, put into a container, turn it into the guy and he would blow your glass ornament for you right there. Very cool!

One of my dearest friends moved into an amazing loft in downtown Macon. I had to stop by and see all of his amazing Christmas trees!
I even attended an art exhibit that was also a salute to Star Wars at the SoChi gallery in downtown.

Then, as always, I had to throw a kick ass tea party at the museum. It was well attended!

And just last Saturday night I celebrated the 7th night of Chanukah with one of my Jewish friends. We ate beef brisket, lit the menorah and played spin the dreidel!

To wrap up the past week, I even attended the Jones County Christmas Parade in the tiny community of Gray!

I hope you holiday season is just as full as mine. Say yes to the invitations, stop by the parties, get lost in the crowds at the mall. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Things I've Learned This Week

Remember this?

Here we go:

1. That cutting carbs is the only way to real weight loss for me. Apparently Weight Watchers agrees. I went to input my numbers on Monday and the app had changed to a whole new system with new points and everything. More protein and less sugar is what they want. Yes is the answer. It works.

2. I am a planner up to a point. I hate flying by the seat of my pants, but I really hate not following through. If I make plans, I have to keep it simple. Period.

3. I am still sensitive to folks bashing Muslims. I suppose my exposure to that way of life is deeply ingrained in me and it is what it is. I deleted 4 people from Facebook this week.

4. I need a REAL vacation. It's time to get away. I'm tired.

5. I love cheese.
No seriously.
I have to eat cheese every day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

An Open Letter To Those Who Hate and Are Hated

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

When I ask someone why they don't like a certain thing, I often hear about a negative experience they may have had.

For instance, playing softball.

I, for one, will not play it to this day. All because I had a bad experience. It was the 5th grade and I was at Union Elementary School here in Macon. It was PE class, and Mr. Campbell was teaching the little 9 and 10 years olds how to play baseball. I was on 1st Base. Jeremy Braswell (who would go on to play baseball (for real, for real.)) threw the ball to me.
I saw him rear back his arm and throw it so perfectly, almost at, well... at eye level. All I had to do was hold up my glove and catch it. Instead I panicked.

It hit me right smack dab in the eye instead. To this day, I have never felt such pain. It felt as if the ball lodged itself into my eye cavity, carving out a spot right next to my sinuses. The sound was deafening, at least to my inner ear.

I dropped the ball. Everything and everyone froze in time, and I did the one thing I feared the most at 10 years old- I burst into tears in front of the whole grade.

I never picked up a ball again.

Sports were really never my thing. I was semi decent at tennis, and for whatever odd twist of fate, I can typically shoot a basketball into a basket. I am fairly decent at serving a volley ball, but running, jumping, blocking, etc, I am not. So I stay away from sports.

I have some friends who were either born into a bigoted family or experienced some sort of less than pleasurable experience with people who are different from them. Unfortunately, they, like my issues with a softball, prefer to throw themselves in a bubble and point their finger and cry out about the dangers of associating with riff raff.

To my friends who harbor these ill feelings and to my friends who happen to be the target of these attacks, please know, I am not one of them.

I think as a member of the human race, we have to embrace each other. Isn't that what started this whole mess in the first place?
Matthew 25:40-41 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

As a Southern Catholic (Christian) Woman who happens to run a Confederate Museum - I do not support hate of other people due to their religious beliefs, their cultural norms, or who they choose to serve. I do not judge you by the color of your skin. I am for uplifting of all people. As a woman who was married to a Muslim man, who happened to not be the nicest to me, I do not judge the rest of the batch based on a few bad apples. I will not support the ban, detaining, spying on, or hurting of people who are different from me. I welcome the refugees with open arms. Would I take one into my home? You bet I would. Did I not shelter children from all over the world for over 10 years?
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ~ Catherine of Siena
Isn't there something about you that people do not quite understand? Has anyone ever taken something you love so much and twist into something dirty or hated? How many times have you shaken your head and said, "That's not what that means?"

To my friends in Kurdistan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, and Turkey. For my former Egyptian family (ex inlaws) and to the dozens of Muslim friends in Birmingham and Macon... This is for you.
Aside from those who spew hate about your beliefs, and for those killing in the name of your Prophet, I hope this little piece of spoken word gives you hope.

“Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out and help. This week reach to someone that might need a lift” Pablo

For the people that post items in their effort to fulfill some showcase social media activism, I dare you to actually spend a little time getting to know someone you are condemning or defending. Either way, expose yourself.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If you say you are a Christian, then ask yourself that super popular question, "What Would Jesus Do?"

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Writer's Woes

Yeah, that's me this morning. Lots of junk surrounding me, because we had a big event this past weekend and my office looks like a tornado went through it.

I run a museum during the day, but I freelance write in my spare time. I will typically get to work an hour or so earlier to check my "freelance" email.

This morning I did just that and what did I find? Something writers often find after doing an interview....

The subject of the interview wanted to review the copy I wrote on him. Before it goes to print.

Uh... yeah. Not gonna happen.

Here's what basically happens: I'm asked to meet with someone and do a feature profile on them. I enjoy these for the most part, because I genuinely enjoy uncovering someone's story. I like to just hit record on my phone and have a conversation. It usually takes about 15 minutes before the subject actually loosens up, and after that, the flood gates usually open. By the time I am finished chatting with this person (and spending a small portion of that time putting them at ease,) I have enough to fill a whole publication. I always end with: If you have anything else you want to share, simply email me by xyz and I can see if I can include that information. It tends to give them a sense of comfort and an opportunity to send me a tid bit of info they forgot to mention. Rarely, if ever, do I get that email.

But every once in a while I will receive the insecure subject. The one who desperately wants his or her name to shine brighter than anyone else's, and feels like they know what the story needs to say. (Typically these people are trying to promote something.)

I always tell my subjects when my deadline is. I submit and that's that. The only way I will contact my editor (and I better have a damn good reason after deadline,) is if I find a fact that is incorrect due to my error. And it happens.. believe me, it happens. Heck, sometimes there are errors or typos that I did not even do and that has to do with the person transcribing for the publication.

So this morning, one of the people I interviewed sent me a quick email (sent from an iphone, because, well, it tells you it was sent from one,) and it simply said:

 Send me a copy of the story to review. Thanks. 

I sat there for a minute. I took a deep breath. Then I remembered the lessons of freelance past. I made the terrible mistake of sending my copy over after I finished it to at least two different "subjects." Granted, both were very much the "real deal." One was a Grammy nominated person and the other was the relative of a major music legend... and yes... that was a HUGE mistake. Why? Because no one actually sees themselves as they really are.

Here's why:
I'm in the interview with you. Maybe we are in your office or at a coffee shop or in your home. We sit down and begin to chat. I get the formalities out of the way quickly. It's what I do. As a journalist, my job is to get you to talk. Sooo... remember.. not only am I a trained journalist, I've worked in public relations for almost 20 years. I'm really good at disarming people. So we talk.

I give you the email bit and go on my merry way. I sit and replay our entire conversation, capturing and transcribing each quote: word for word. Then I have to create your persona based on our conversation. Report the facts, certainly. But also interpret, ever so slightly. I have to decide which way I am going with the story, who is this person and what do people need to know.

Then I write. Then I reread it. Then sometimes I read it to a friend, because I typically catch issues by reading aloud, then I read it again. Then I trim. Then I read. You have to remember, I typically only get 800 to 1200 words per story. Not 1250, not 760.. whatever number they give you, it has to fit to a T.

Then the magic is done.

I hit submit.

Then of course I reread and reread again. Then I let it go.

When I get an email asking me to share the copy it does one of two things:
1. Shows me either your ego is large or you are very insecure about what you said. Perhaps both.
2. Tells me you want to put a spin on the story.

The typical rule of thumb is NEVER SHARE YOUR COPY WITH THE SUBJECT. You can send over quotes that you use for verification, but never the entire story. You lose some type of journalistic integrity when you do that.

Ah... the woes of a writer.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Are you new here?

Welcome! Are you new to Destination Unknown? If so, I hope you will take a moment and explore the site before passing on to the next blog. There are multiple ways to follow, just take a glance to the left hand side bar. If you are on your phone, try to access the full site from your mobile browser. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Here is the problem with my blog. You will probably find a complete lack of consistency. Yep, that pretty much describes me in a nutshell. I've been at this site since 2009, and try as I might to get it right, or set a schedule, or whatever I try to do, it doesn't always stick. But what does stick is my passion for story telling.

This is a personal blog. Not a fashion blog, or a cooking blog, or a travel blog - though all of those subjects may get tackled at some point. Nor do I specifically try to be a local blogger or a person who reviews products. I don't want to limit myself.

However, you will get my thoughts on many issues. Sometimes they are more personal in nature, oftentimes it is simply me recounting something that happened. Sometimes they may become political and sometimes they may be religious in nature. The subject doesn't really matter, my only desire is that it is relevant. To me. So yes, you are a voyeur into my little world.

Now internet trolls, unless I ask a direct question at the end of the post, attacking my point of view will simply be ignored. I'm just going on record for that one. ;-)

Now you may have seen that first pic with quote and thought.. Whaaat the?? Don't worry, I'm not trying to shove God down your throat. That quote kind of explains what I think blogging does, truly authentic blogging. It's a connection. A way to heal myself and others through writing. I've covered everything that has happened to me in my life RIGHT here. From wedded bliss to the ending of a very emotional abusive relationship, to my big move back home after losing my job, to rebuilding my life... and yet again, to dating in my 40s, to celebrating life and love. It's all here. Every single detail.

Warning: I'm a bit sarcastic (most days.) But don't let my dry sense of humor scare you, I'm a real softie... really. ;-)

Now who am I? I'm in my 40s. I'm obviously a straight woman. I'm single-ish. (In a committed relationship of over 1 year.) Oh yeah, a long distance relationship, which adds for all types of adventures in dating. I run a museum. I freelance write for some local publications. I am Catholic and embracing my Southern identity more and more. I'm a bit of a crazy cat lady and yes, my I want to be Wonder Woman when I grow up.

Make sure to click on the tabs above to learn more. I'm sure we have lots in common, and if not, isn't it fascinating to peek into someone else's mind?

Oh yeah.. one last thing.

Be nice to me, or I will blog about you.


Thinking About 2016

"Some fleeting moments pass by-
             like golden hues
                     carrying magic
that is only felt
              when all comes to an end."

There are only 24 more days in the year 2015.
As I sit here, pondering what that really means, I am a little apprehensive. Unlike 2014, I am not in a hurry to move forward. I want to appreciate every beautiful waking moment in this year and give thanks to God for all of my blessings.

Oh, and they are many!

2015 has shaped up to be one spectacular win! My pie of life is basically full, and has remained so for quite some time.

A new year can bring a wide variety of adventures, and I am currently trying to decide what my theme will be. Last year it was "to Live." And I did. I took time away from my writing to actually go out there and live. I discovered that my writing was suffering because, whether I like it or not, nothing was really happening worth writing about.

I've kept a quote on my desk ever since I started working in television over 20 years ago:

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~ Benjamin Franklin
I decided it was time to figure out what was going on out in the world and I filled my soul with all of the good I possibly could.

Now... what is going to be the theme of 2016?  I think in order to continue this journey, I need to look at years past. 

Back in 2011, I wrote in one blog post:

I think if I find balance I will end up living more authentically and not allowing my high emotions to rule my life. I swear, the older I get - the more "emotional" I get.. something that was unheard of as a child. Lately I wear my heart on my sleeve, and even though it has made me kinder in certain arenas, the truth is - I need a little shell of armour. With that.. balance. I can still be me, yet create that sense of calm that is needed.

I saw a painting recently that read "Keep Calm and Carry On."

With balance... I can do just that.

I went on to list the following New Year's Resolutions:

Nicole's New Year's Resolutions for 2011

1. Most important one of the year - practice Trust. I will make a promise to myself to learn to be more trusting of the process, of advice, of the universe.

2. Get back into my exercise routine at the Y. Head back to my Body Jam and Zumba classes. *Perhaps talk to my personal trainer about weights 2 x a week (start that one in Feb.) Did it!

3. Find a few free lance writing projects.  Did it! (Well.. it would take a few years. 2014 to be exact)

4. Study arabic at least once a week. Did it!

5.  Pray daily. Did it!

6. Continue to write daily on my blog.

7. Reopen my personal journal (leather book here) and begin the more personal items for private writing.

8. Declutter - sell my dining room furniture, the twin bed, and the desk. Donate items in storage. Did it!

9. Stick to my Mediterranean diet plan the cardiologist gave me. Working on it!

10. Find a new volunteer opportunity. Did it!

11. Show compassion. (Better yet, learn to be compassionate.) Doing it!

12. Listen more.

13. Turn my sunroom into a ZEN room. Practice meditation. Did it!

In 2012, I took a different approach. One blog post said:

New Years Resolution?


Authentic Living.

Allowing myself to seek absolute happiness.

Those are some pretty tall orders, and just 4 months before my divorce. Who knew? But then again, I did achieve those BY divorcing my egyptian. 

In 2013, I wrote:

At the end of the day, it was a good year. Yes, I got divorced. But that's not exactly a bad thing. (It's not a good thing either.) However, we all know it was necessary. Yes, I lost a few friends (as in death,) and that's always tragic. But I also believe they have served their purpose on earth and it was time to move on. I stayed fairly healthy, no major concerns. I met a new guy and things are going well. My social life is full, my family life is good, and all of my needs are met. 

Then at the end of 2014, I wrote this:
What it boiled down to was that I just don't care about the things I once did. It is not that these things aren't important, it is just that I don't feel the need to be the one to make these changes happen. I don't have to say yes to every committee, or even every board request. I can pick one or two projects within my community and concentrate on quality versus quantity. Which lead me to the word balance. 

And finally, I did find one more listed New Year's list. It was from 2013:
I, Shauna Nicole Thurston, do solemnly resolve to do the following in 2014:
1. I have a blue jar. Next to the blue jar I will have a post it note pad and pen. Each night, before bed, I will write one thing that was simply amazing about the day. I will then fold the piece of paper and place it in my jar. On New Year's Eve of 2014, I will read each one and realize what an amazing year it was! This jar will have to be by my bed. I understand that I may not always be home, but I will try to remember to bring a post it note pad with me wherever I travel.
**did not happen**

2. Rosetta Stone. Picking it back up. Even if it is only one day a week - I will study my French.
Did it, want to do again. 

3. Ballroom Dance classes start back in mid-January. I bought ballroom dance shoes. I am so ready to commit to more classes! 
Did it, want to do again.

4. Yoga. I have all of the gear I need and some good DVDs. I would like to try and practice at least once a week. (Now it's time to purchase a new DVD player.)
Did it. 

5. I have a whole three book course on living a more creative life. I would like to actually follow the books and try some of the tips. Who knows what will come from it!
Never finished

6. Mass. I want to be more regular with my attendance to mass. Also, I have signed up for the Adoration Chapel every Wednesday night from 9-10pm. Should be a nice time to meditate. Mid-week. 
Did not do it. Boo. 

7. Drink more water. Eat more fruit. Eat more veggies. It's simple, really.
Totally rocking it!

8. Take a pottery class.
Did it. Never will again. 
9. Cook more.
Did it

10. Take a photography class.
Still on my list

11. Purchase a bike, a helmet, and get a bike rack installed.
Still on my list

12. Unplug daily. This is a BIG one for me. I have a plan to disconnect in 2014. It's going to be awesome! (Don't worry.. I'll blog, just won't be online "playing" as much.)'
Totally doing it

13. Conquering clutter. I plan to simplify even more. 

14. Start saving the old fashioned way. I plan to budget with cash. (What a concept?!) I will get a small safe and have envelopes and mark them and budget accordingly. Once that "topic" is empty.. that's all I have!

15. Take a gun safety course. Purchase pepper spray. I work on a fairly deserted corner of downtown, and sometimes leave work late. It's time to arm.
I think I will pass. 

16. Prioritize Sleep. Take naps. Rest. Rest. Rest.
Did it

17. I'm going to attempt to kick the diet soda habit. I typically only order them when I go out to eat, or maybe pick up one a day, however it's time to stop it once and for all.

18. Quit saying I'm sorry.
Hmmm.. Sorry, it did not happen. 

19. Do one pampering thing a month for myself (facial, massage, etc.)

20. Finally, to Pray more. 
Work in progress. 

Simple as that.

So now what? Where do I go? What do I plan to do?

Decisions.. Decisions.. 


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