Words That Changed Me

_a record of the process_

Asheville

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 | 0 comments

When Bret first applied for a job in Boone, he sold me on the fact that it was only about an hour away from Asheville, NC.

We’d been to Asheville once before with friends in grad school, and it was a blast. I remembered a champagne bookstore, a chocolate lounge with all of the chocolate you could ever want, and just a generally fun and pleasant atmosphere.

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Here’s a picture from our first trip to Asheville in 2011:

Asheville_2011_7

 

It’s a fun, young, hippie town with an active downtown life and tons of local stores and restaurants. I don’t know what is so captivating about it exactly, but I love it, and since we moved to Boone (no less than TWO months ago), we’ve had three different friends contact us to let us know they were going to Asheville and that we should meet up. Asheville is like a magnet pulling our Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina friends in our direction. I love that.

Asheville_2011_5 Asheville_2011_6

Bret and I decided to take a little “staycation” a few weeks ago to get to know the area, and we spent a night in Asheville. I loved it just as much as I remembered, and the weather was a lot nicer than our first visit.

We went to the champagne bookstore and to a Tapas (appetizer) bar and sampled lots of good food and drinks. My favorite was the house cocktail with cucumber vodka and watermelon lemonade.

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We saw this little cart that you pedal down the street while drinking beer. And we went back to the Chocolate lounge and got some yummy chocolate milkshakes! Mine had coffee in it.

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We went to the aSHEville Museum. Loved it. Bought a present.

Asheville_2015_5 Asheville

 

And if you haven’t gathered this already, we ate a LOT of yummy food:Asheville_2015_6

Boone has it’s charms, but being near Asheville really makes me love it so much more. And there’s plenty I haven’t done yet, but I like having something to look forward to. I really want to go back and tour the Biltmore Estate when it’s decorated for Christmas!

Asheville 2

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The Shortest Sign of Spring

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 | 0 comments

This has been the longest spring of my life. In Tallahassee, spring began at the end of February with the first sign of budding flowers and pollen. Pollen completely took over our screened porch by March, and then different flowers continued to bud and flourish through April. Of course, flowers bloom year round in Florida. I remember these beautiful red flowers that came up each December. But there was definitely an early spring season. When we moved to North Carolina at the end of May, it was still cool here (58 degrees our first morning!) and our  landlord told us that these beautiful pink flowers would bloom “soon” on our back porch. I had my doubts. By the first week of June I thought surely they had already bloomed and disappeared by now, but, sure enough, come mid-June mountain laurel type flowers began opening up on all of the bushes around our house and bright orange flowers sprouted by our mailbox (clearly, I need to learn the names of flowers). Spring continued in my world 6 months after it began. It still feels like spring here.

Anyway.

Every spring in Tallahassee, I looked forward to April when these purple and white flowers bloomed outside of our apartment. They are buds with tiny petals that seem to multiply magically. My sister would always visit in April or May and I’d point them out – it’s like they bloomed to welcome her. I don’t even know what they’re called, but these beauties were EVERYWHERE in Tallahassee.

During my last April in Tally, I was sad when I noticed these flowers popping up everywhere BUT our front door. I thought maybe they had accidentally gotten uprooted during our roof repair, and I was sad to think about them not being around anymore. But then, during my last month of Tallahassee – in MAY – I saw a bud.

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I was so happy. And I decided to document it’s growth so I could always remember this beautiful process.

Every day when I walked outside, or each evening when I returned from yoga and the lighting was perfect, I snapped a picture.

Flower 2    Flower 3

I loved watching the first clusters expand and open.

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I got all sappy thinking about how this flower would reach full bloom right around the time we moved out. I was giddy – honestly – about documenting this process.

Flower 5 Flower 6

And then, it snapped.

Flower 7

I don’t know what caused it to happen, but when this stem broke, my heart basically split in two, too.

Flower 8
I just couldn’t believe it. I remember when I stepped outside – I don’t even remember where we were going – but let out a half laugh half yell, “NO!” and then yelled at Bret to go get me some tape. I found a stick.

I made a splint.

Flower Splint 1 Flower Splint 2

I thought, maybe, that would fix things. Maybe I had saved this little flower. I hoped that if the stem was upright it would still be able to do it’s job and pump nutrients to this flower from the earth. Please stay alive I thought.

Flower Splint 4
I kept taking pictures. And I was hopeful, but I noticed some of the younger blooms were doing better and this one was kind of wilting. It was a really sad, miserable feeling – watching this flower die slowly. Bret suggested I start photographing another one, but of course, I couldn’t.

Flower Splint 5

This story does not have a happy ending. The flower died. One day I finally cut the tape off, tossed the stick away, and just let it go. It’s time in Tallahassee was shorter than anticipated. And by the time I moved out, it was gone.

Flower Splint 6

I guess it just proves you can’t predict everything. Or control everything. Or fix everything.

I do miss these Florida flowers, though. And I wish I had a million pictures of them. I hope I can figure out what they are and maybe I can try plant them here next spring.

Otherwise, I’ll have to remember them by this short-lived documentary.

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A Few Days in DC

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 | 0 comments

I’ve spent the past few days waking up in Stafford, VA around 5AM and commuting a full two hours to my DC office by train and metro. That, in itself, would be exhausting for some, but I also spent my evenings exploring DC and getting back late. Really late. I rarely made it to bed before midnight and then I’d sleep for a few hours and do it all again. Needless today, “sleeping in” until 7 today felt amazing.

Yesterday, I was really feeling exhausted. I woke up early after another late night, drove a full SEVEN hours from Stafford, VA back to Boone, NC, and then after saying hi to Bret, climbed the stairs up to my home office to to login to a meeting and finish up work for the afternoon. It’s a lot. I definitely couldn’t do it every week. But I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about the past few days. I got to see my family. I got to stay with one of my very best friends. I got to SEE my co-workers in person which always makes me feel more connected to them.

I’m going to split this trip into a few blog posts, but here’s a preview:

1. I took a train to work every day

Train

2. I got to go to a NATS (Washington DC Nationals) baseball game:

Baseball 1 Nats 1

3. I went “swimming” in an awesome indoor beach exhibit at the Building Museum

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4. I fell in love with a dog named Gertie. I honestly have not stopped talking about her since I got home.

Gertie 1 Gertie 2

Boone isn’t exactly close to DC but it feels so much closer than Florida. Today, I just feel incredibly fortunate to live close enough that I can now DRIVE up to DC for a few days when I need to. Being allowed to telework is such a blessing, but sometimes it can feel pretty isolating. Just a few days in DC left me feeling so grateful and so energized. Now, I’m grateful to be back home.

 

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Another NanoWrimo Update

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 | 0 comments

Back in November, I started writing a brand new novel from scratch. At the time, I had a few different writing on-going projects that I was working on, but I decided to follow the NanoWrimo Rules (National Novel Writing Month) and I just started writing. I aimed for 1,500 words a day and usually came up short. By the end of the month instead of being at 50,000 words, I lingered just above 25,000. So, I made it halfway. Even though I didn’t hit the 50,000 word mark, I didn’t write this off as a failure. I was proud of myself for composing 50 single spaced pages of original fiction.

After November was over, I kept working on the same story that I’d started. I hoped to maintain a 1,000 words a day goal, but, as expected, fell short. It’s not that I wasn’t able to write 1,000 words a day, it’s just that I’d either write 1,000 words or 0 words a day. I was only actually writing for 1-2 days a week, not 5-7 as I’d hoped. And so, come December, I checked in and set a new ambitious timeline:

  • 50,000 words by the end of January,
  • First round of edits by the end of March,
  • Second round of edits by the end of June (we’re moving in there so I’m giving myself some extra time)
  • Query letter written by July 31
  • All materials/agent contacts formulated in excel sheet by August 31
  • Submit my manuscript by September 30

I was convinced that I would have a complete draft by the end of January, a complete edited draft by now, and that I’d be ready to write my query letter by the end of this month. Well, I’m not there. In fact, I’m still under the 50,000 word mark, but I’m close!

As of today, July 17, I’m at 47,240 words or 88 single spaced typed pages. I’m not where I wanted to be, and I’m beginning to think it’s going to take more than 50,000 words to wrap up the plot, but I’m SO CLOSE to a complete draft. I have a rough outline to carry me through, and now I’m just filling in. It’s no where near perfect, but it’s something. I’m writing. And I want to keep writing.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this is something Bret told me from the very beginning. Don’t aim to write 1,000 words a day, aim to write something. If I just say, okay, I’m going to open up my laptop and write a paragraph, that usually ends up being a page or two, or more. And one paragraph a day would really add up if I would just do it consistently.It’s so true. For the past week or so I’ve been back on track: waking up early, working on my novel for about an hour, and then I’ve even come over here and written a blog post. It’s such a good routine!

I took a peak at the timeline I built in January this morning, knowing that I’d need to revise my goals. I still want to get my manuscript in before this next round of NanoWrimo starts, so I’m revising my goals a bit:

  • 50,000 words by July 31,
  • First round of edits by August 30,
  • Second round of edits by September 30,
  • Query letter written by October 1,
  • All materials/agent contacts formulated in excel sheet by October 15, and
  • Submit my manuscript by October 30.

It’s ambitious. But I still think it’s do-able. I may fall short, but I still want to try.

In addition to making a point to write even the smallest bit every day, the other take-away I’ve learned during this process is how important it is to be proud of what I’ve accomplished instead of focusing on how I fell short. No, I didn’t write 50,000 words in a month. I’m still proud of myself. I was proud of myself for writing 3,709 words in two days, and I’m proud of myself for writing 47,240 words in 8 months. It’s a slower pace than I’d hoped for, but it’s progress, and quite frankly, I’ve wanted to write a novel since I was 8, and I’ve made more progress in the past 8 months than I made in 20 years.

Here’s hoping I can finish this draft by the end of the month!

 

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A Dream Come True in February 2016

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 | 0 comments

I have some exciting news!

Feb 2016_Cropped

Last year while I was in Orlando with Bret, my sister, and bro-in-law, we walked into an arcade and I felt compelled to win this princess crown. I can’t really explain the force that came over me, but I had to have it and I was convinced that whack-a-mole was my game. I played like a champ, and I won. I won, like, a hundred tickets. And the crown was mine.

May_Universal

Since then, this tiara has been sitting on my dresser with no real function… but that will all change in February.

Why? Well… I am over the moon excited to announce that… I am training to run a half marathon! The Disney Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World to be exact!

Disney 1.5 Marathon LogoWhen one of my very best friends and Snack Time Co-Founder invited me to do this, our 6AM conversation went something like this:

B: I think I’m signing up for the Disney Half Marathon in February. You should too!

N: I would love love love to but I don’t think there’s anyway I can run 13 miles.

B: You could totally do it! There are a lot of stops on the course (photo ops with Disney characters!) And we have plenty of time to train.

N: It would be pretty cool. And I could wear a TIARA?! And a TUTU? Okay. I think I want to do this.

I haven’t run competitively since 7th grade, but I love a big challenge. I talked it over with Bret who was completely supportive and obviously on board for a Disney trip, and then I registered. I was lucky enough to snag a spot with Bret’s help on my lunch break. (I had no idea how tough it would be to secure a spot – they sold out within a couple of hours of registration being open!)

This is something that I never even thought I would attempt, but since committing, I feel ridiculously excited and empowered. I am going to do this!

running tutuDisney Tshirt

I’m stoked for so many reasons. First, I love Disney. For the three years that Bret and I lived in Florida, we were spoiled Annual Passholders who took day trips to Disney every chance we got. You think we’d be over it by now, but Bret talks about how much he misses Epcot all the time. In fact, he may be more excited than I am. We’re so happy to have an upcoming trip on the calendar. After a cold winter in Boone, it will be the PERFECT time for a vacation.

Disney Pass

Secondly, I’m especially grateful to be running alongside two of my best friends. I recently wrote about the challenge of maintaining close friendships with long-distance friends but how it’s so worth it. Brandi is one of those friends. We are such a good team and we dream the biggest dreams together. Even though we live pretty far apart, we manage to see each other several times every year, and I look at her picture on my desk every single day:

brandi

We do a pretty good job about carving out time for each other when I’m in DC for work, and we text a lot, but working toward this goal together and then meeting up in the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH…?!?! I’m pumped.

My wonderful and original long-distance friend, Kris, is going to be running with me, too! We were JMU friends for one short year and since then we’ve maintained a long-distance friendship mainly through old fashioned letters. We’ve only seen each other THREE TIMES in the past eight years: once in Colorado, once at my wedding, and once in Florida for Harry Potter. She’s way more fit and a better runner than me, so it’s going to be great to be able to train “together” from afar. I just can’t wait.

Kris

Last but not least, I’m stoked that Bret is going to be my in-person training partner. We both enjoy running, but we are out of practice. Seven months is the perfect timeframe to realistically be able to build up to the full 13.1 miles. He’s not actually running in the race, but he’s going to be capable of it by the time February rolls around. We started off by walking/jogging for 4 miles under one hour on Tuesday. For the half marathon, you’re supposed to aim for 15 minutes/mile so we’re right on target! I just need to do that two more times and then one mile to the finish line. Easy peasy, right?

I couldn’t do it tomorrow, but by February, I’m going to be so ready. (Truthfully, though, I have no idea what I’m doing, so any advice/tips from fellow runners is appreciated!)

I’ll blog about our training updates periodically. And I’m looking forward to being able to post some epic running pictures in seven short months. How wonderful is it going to feel to cross that finish line and then be able to celebrate in the Happiest Place on Earth?!

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Let the countdown begin! 216 days to go!

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Just Another Post-Grad Struggle

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 | 0 comments

I’m not good at goodbyes. It’s not that I usually break down and cry or avoid them at all cost, it’s just that I tend to not realize the fullness of something being over until, well, it’s gone. I was all smiles saying goodbye to my sister in a Mexican restaurant parking lot in May of 2012 until she said, “Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll see you before you move to Florida…” and I LOST it. I honestly had not grasped the fact that I was moving 14 hours away until that very moment.

I’m a post-griever.

I remember being at one of my first JMU football games and it hit me SO HARD that I wasn’t in high school color guard anymore. I cried. Where were those tears during my last color guard performance? It just hadn’t sunk in until months after the fact.

Throughout college, every summer, and in grad school, I lived within a few minutes of all of my friends. I saw the same faces on a regular basis: in class, for lunch, at work, in the library — and that was just a typical week day. If I was lonely, I could almost always find someone to meet for dinner or coffee or a drink on the Dave’s rooftop. It was so wonderful to have that built-in community for so many years.

Everyone was so emotional at graduation; they “couldn’t believe it was over,” but I don’t think I really got it. Part of the reason was because while most of my friends were moving away for jobs or moving back home, I had the pleasure of staying in Harrisonburg for work and grad school for a couple more years. Still, even though I wasn’t saying goodbye to the JMU community just yet, I don’t think I really considered how I would not be seeing my friends on that regular of a basis again. Ever. I remember reassuring everyone, “I’ll see you again soon! Really!” But, of course, six years later, I’ll be the first to tell you that wasn’t true. I haven’t seen some of those people since graduation day.

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Don’t worry. That’s my sister and my favorite person in the world. We’ve managed to stay in touch :)

It’s one of the unexpected challenges of post-graduation “adult” life: keeping up with your friends. It’s been ten years since I graduated from high school, six since I graduated from college, and four since I graduated from grad school. In those years, I’ve lived in Harrisonburg, VA, Washington, D.C., Florida and now North Carolina. With every move, I’ve struggled to stay in touch with my long-distance friends and family.

I say struggle because it’s been a struggle. While some people kind of passively let friendships go (which I think is fine and healthy in a lot of cases) I have done pretty much everything in my power to keep these old friendships alive. I schedule regular Skype dates (or Google Hangout dates!), I’ve write hand-written letters, I’ve implemented text-a-day communications with various groups of friends, and, occasionally I make a good old fashioned phone call. I love getting a letter from a friend I haven’t seen in years. I love hearing how someone’s day is going via text or through a catch-up phone call. It helps, but nothing can replace that neighborly love of being able to knock on a door and grab food together. Life keeps happening even though we’re apart, and sometimes, I really do wish I could live in the same town as my friends and family.

The best catch-up time is always in-person. It just is. That’s why I love weddings. That’s why I love reunions. That’s why I’m so excited for my annual girls weekend that’s coming up in a few weeks!

balcony pic

It’s also why I’m so happy to be living within a few hours (approximately 6) of my hometown. Within the past few years, a lot of my friends have re-migrated back to our hometown and living in North Carolina allows for spontaneous weekend trips which is so different from my Florida life. I’ve only lived here for a month, but in that time I’ve grabbed lunch and dinner with friends I haven’t seen in YEARS and it’s been fantastic.

Christy2  Sindhu

How do you keep up with long-distance friends? How do you make new friends? It was so much easier in school!

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