Words That Changed Me

_a record of the process_


Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 | 0 comments

I have a new favorite restaurant in town! It’s called Burgerfi.

You may be thinking, “Nicole – you don’t eat meat – what appeal does a self-proclaimed burger restaurant/hot dog joint have to you?”

I could go on for hours, days, weeks, forever about the reasons I refrain from eating meat. I’ll leave that for another post, but just know that even though meat used to be raised like this:


The great majority of the meat consumed in this country is from factory farms where animals are treated horribly, injected with hormones, fed corn instead of grass.

factory farm_2

And they usually never see the light of day. Don’t google “factory farm” images. Just know it’s worse than that.

In short, it’s way cheaper to produce meat this way, but it’s bad for you, it’s bad for the animals, and it’s SO BAD for our environment. The concept of eating meat doesn’t necessarily go against my morals, but the way these animals are treated and handled does. Especially considering the pigs we farm are as smart as the dogs we keep as pets. They nuzzle their people before they slaughter them. I’ll stop but just know, this country used to farm animals in a more sustainable, kind way. There are a lot of farmers who still do this, and it’s worth supporting them and the restaurants they sell their meat to.

Even though it cost more to eat meat that is grass fed, humanely raised, hormone free, and sustainable farmed… it exists. And it exsits at Burgerfi! 

And they definitely care about their impact on the environment. Stuff like this?…

More than just great food, dining at BurgerFi® is a unique experience- one you can feel good about. Each BurgerFi® store is built according to environmentally sustainable best practices, and includes earth-friendly elements, like chairs that are made from recycled Coke bottles, tables made out of compressed recycled wood, and large fans that use 66% less electricity. BurgerFi® maintains a low carbon footprint, and maintains strict recycling programs for oil, cardboard, bottles and cans. 

…It just makes my heart happy.

IF I ever decide to eat meat again, this is the kind of meat I will eat.

For now, I SO enjoyed their VegiFi quinoa burger:


Crisp quinoa burger, white cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and BurgerFi® sauce served on multigrain bun. DELICIOUS. 100% meat-free. And oh-so-healthy.

My friend ordered the “Breakfast All Day Burger” which is a Natural Angus burger with American cheese, hickory bacon drizzled with maple syrup, fried egg, hash browns, grilled diced onions, and ketchup. It sounds intense, but it has HALF the fat and calories of McDonalds burger. So worth it, y’all.

They also have beer on tap, wine, frozen custard, you name it. I can’t wait to go back which I’m sure I will soon because Bret is jealous that I went without him.

This  post was not sponsored by BurgerFi. Or cows seeking a better life. These thoughts are mine.

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7 Years

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 | 0 comments

Seven years ago today, while I was sitting in my Art History class in Burruss Hall at JMU, I received a text notifying me that at least twelve students had died at my sister’s university.

I remember placing my finger over my bottom lip and just staring at my desk. I couldn’t hear the lecture. I felt like all the air had been taken away from me. My thoughts returned to earlier that morning when I’d sat in my tiny half-sized RA dorm room. There had been a news story about murder, and I talked to my mom on the phone. It sounded like a sad, isolated event, but I thought only two students had been involved. Twelve?

My lecture ended, and I didn’t talk to anyone.

I grabbed my things and walked outside into the crisp April day, and I then I saw my boyfriend. He had walked all the way across campus to see me. He looked worried. He said another number. A bigger number. Twenty. My heart sank.

I graduated from a Pre-Engineering high school and the majority of my classmates were now at Virginia Tech. I needed to hear from these friends. He asked me if I had talked to my sister and I said, “She’s okay.”

Earlier, my mom had told me my sister was walking to class and it was snowing …but then I realized how much time had passed since that conversation. It occurred to me that students who were alive two hours ago weren’t alive anymore. Tears welled up in my eyes, but I remember thinking she’s okay, she’s okay, she’s okay.

Thankfully, within seconds, I learned she really was okay. My mom and dad were at home. My mom was on the landline with my sister, and my dad was on his cell phone with me. My sister was safe and with her classmates. I was so sad, I was hurting, I was fearful of the unknown, but mostly I was relieved to know my sister was okay.

Thirty-two members of the Virginia Tech community were killed.

I have a lot of memories and feelings about that day and that tragic event. It’s not my story to tell. And my experience is so removed.

I always spend some time on April 16 thinking about how any conversation you have could be the last. How long-distance friends mean so, so, so, so, so, so much and are worth keeping in touch with. How love overpowers hate. How love keeps communities strong. How blessed and lucky I am to have my sister in my life.

My sister has had a profoundly positive influence on my life. We talk pretty much every day. She’s talked me through migraines, broken hearts, and tough decisions. She texts me happy things and funny things and always sends me me comfort and encouragement when I needed it most. In short, I don’t know what I would do without her. She is such a beautiful reflection of this powerful, united, positive Virginia Tech community.


Be kind today.

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Emergency Weather Survival

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 | 0 comments

This morning Bret and I both woke up around 4AM because there was a loud crash of thunder outside.

I can sleep through almost anything – even really loud thunderstorms. What I can’t sleep through, though, is a scared cat who runs and jumps on our bed. (Hi, Sadie).

Despite the constant lightening and thunder battle, I teetered in and out of sleep until my alarm went off at 5:30. When I turned my light on, it flickered, and I realized we may lose power. My first thought was getting a shower in while the lights were still working. Bret’s main concern was the toaster oven. It was completely dark outside so we scrambled to find a couple of flashlights.

  • I checked my nightstand – nope.
  • Dresser? Nope.
  • Closet? Nope.

This should NEVER happen.

You see, every year around June 1, Bret and I get a notice and packet on our door making us aware that Hurricane Season has begun. We’re encouraged to make a survival kit with food, water, a radio, batteries, and, yes, flashlights. We’re also supposed to have extra cat food and things around in case we get evacuated in a hurry.

I peaked in last year’s Emergency Survival bag only to find the American Cross crank radio (yes, we bought one of those) and a couple of stale granola bars. Where the heck is my flashlight?!

My mind raced back to our first (and only) Tropical Storm scare TWO summers ago. We woke up to a storm. The power was out. I mentioned that I heard the tropical storm “may” reach Tallahassee today. We were COMPLETELY unprepared. Fortunately, we were able to brave the rain and wind, pick up a few essentials from Publix just in case, and make it home …just in time for the power to come back on. The storm passed and we escaped with nothing more than a flash flood warning in the surrounding area.

You think that would be enough to kick our emergency prepared-ness into gear.


I mean, we did make a bag, but as the weeks went by, if I needed a flashlight, I’d grab it out of the bag. Hungry and low on snacks? I’d grab a granola bar out of the bag. In about a month, it was depleted.

This year, I’m going to try to stock up early. Luckily we have a super cool flash light/tool kit that Bret won at our cousin Christmas gift exchange last year – that should make a good emergency survival kit edition!

We’ve been lucky. Tallahassee has been lucky. But it’s good to be prepared.

We still have 6 weeks until hurricane season 2014 to get our act together.

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Surviving the Mud Slide at Summer Camp

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 | 0 comments

When I was ten-years-old, I wanted to go to summer camp.

I did eventually find a wonderful camp called 4-H camp where kids are given real beds in real cabins with connecting bathrooms, provided with three meals a day, and encouraged to do typical healthy camp things like swim in a pool, canoe, shoot a bow and arrow, and learn the Cha-Cha-Slide.

Before I discovered 4-H, though, one of my friends suggested I go to this OTHER camp with her. This is a series about this OTHER camp. I hated this camp so much for many reasons including…

The Mud Slide.

One of the most infamous and I do mean INFAMOUS icons of this camp is the Mud Slide. It’s a steep hill with a hand carved dug-out that empties into a pool of, well, mud.

The camp boasts that campers will: Delight in the slippery ooze of mud between your toes after a ride down the mud slide.”

…followed so quickly by this disclaimer,

“The Mud Slide is a classic camp activity that has been a popular fixture at Camp for over 50 years. For your ride down the Mud Slide, you’ll want to pack shoes, shorts, and a shirt to wear that you can toss afterwards. The mud (and the somewhat unpleasant smell of the mud) will never come out, no matter how many times you run your clothes through laundry.”

I am NOT making that up – I just copy and pasted it verbatim from the camp web site.

I had heard tale of this mud slide. I think I understood that it was supposed to be some kind of thrilling right-of-passage experience. I was not interested. I couldn’t imagine enjoying it.

The night before I was set to explore the mud slide was probably my least favorite night of camp for several reasons:

  1. It was my cabin’s turn to clean the bathrooms. During the process, I found my shower towel which had gone missing. It was bunched in the corner of the bathroom floor. It was caked in dirt and gross gross gross, so I just left it there and decided my chlorene-drenched pool towel could double as my bath towel for the last two days of camp.
  2. I was STARVING. I was used to my mom cooking healthy meals with lots of salad and vegetables. I couldn’t handle the camp food. I thought it was disgusting. And the spoons tasted like soap. Just like our chore was to clean the bathrooms, it was another cabin’s chore to wash the dishes. I still shudder when I remember how that soapy, metal spoon tasted against my tongue. Needless to say, I hadn’t been eating much.

So, I was starving, and I smelled like chlorine. I remember this combination made me feel a little woozy during our nightly sermon. I remember watching a skit about a bad child falling asleep at church. The skit concluded with our counselor teaching us that the only way to go to Heaven is to ask Jesus to come into our hearts before we die.

I remember laying in my sad little cot that night. While my fellow campers asked Jesus to come into their hearts, I prayed that I wouldn’t have to go down the mudslide in the morning.

In the morning, we went to breakfast.

I usually ate breakfast, but on the morning of the mud slide, we were served under-cooked scrambled eggs. My counselor lifted the spatula of eggs onto her plate and the watery egg mixture drained through the slats. I put some egg on my plate, but the smell made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t eat breakfast. My counselor told me I should eat because we were having our charity event – an Empty Bowls Dinner that evening – so I would only have a cup of rice. It didn’t matter to me. I just couldn’t stomach more than a spoonful of the eggs. I was completed grossed out by the water eggs and slimey forks that also tasted like soap.

The day I was forced down the mud slide was also the day that I thought I may keel over from starvation.

All morning I anticipated the mud slide and thought of ways to get out of it. Maybe I could say I was sick? Maybe I could say I was homesick again?

I tried to be courageous. I stood in line, reluctantly. I watched the brave kids plunge down the “slide” swishing and sloshing into a deep, smelly puddle of mud and leaves. I watched a fellow camper scream in pain because the mud had splashed into their eye. I winced as I watched them to try clean their face with muddy fingers.

I shook my head when it was almost my turn, and I told my counselor I would not do it.

She asked if I would do it if she did, too, and I still said no.

Then, she encouraged all of the campers to cheer for me from the bottom of the hill. This is the second time she did this, and I was not amused. The first time was when we completed the ropes course and I was afraid of the tight rope. I was the last one to cross, and it took me forever because I was shaking and afraid, but I did it anyway because she had everyone cheer, “YOU CAN DO IT!” obnoxiously.


Eventually, when everyone else was covered in mud from head to toe and screaming, “YOU CAN DO IT!” from the bottom of the hill, I reluctantly gave into peer pressure and sat in the nasty butt-shaped dirt at the beginning of the slide.

I pushed off and closed my eyes.

I probably should have kept my eyes open so I could lean with the turns, but I did not want to end up with mud in my eye like the other kid. The edges of the slide crashed into my hips. I knew I would have bruises. A tree root scraped my leg. I thought for sure I was going to be infected.

My “splash” in the puddle was an unpleasant abrupt stop. I closed my eyes and mouth as tightly as possible, and felt the loose grimey pieces of leaves and hair brushed against my arms and legs. I stood up immediately. Some kids liked to splash around and celebrate, but I didn’t care to sit in that swirling pool of grimey goo any longer than I had to.

While standing, I could feel the hard pieces of dried dirt slide down my legs. Everyone cheered and all I could think about was a shower and how my soggy chlorine towel was still wet from the pool.

I HATED it, but I did it. I was officially a camper.

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DIY: Spring Wreath

Posted by on Apr 13, 2014 | 1 comment

Oops I forgot to write a blogpost on Friday! I skipped my early morning writing routine because I had to be at work at 7AM, and I spent my lunch break going for walk instead of blogging. I thought about writing a quick post when I got home, but instead, Bret and I went for a walk, got some sushi, and headed downtown for Tallahassee’s Downtown Getdown event!

downtown 2 downtown getdown

This was a HUGE event in anticipation of Florida State’s spring game this weekend. We thought it was going to be just the two of us, but we ended up running into some FSU grad students and alumni which was a fun surprise. We listened to live music, checked out some food trucks and vendors, and walked around downtown.

On Saturday, we had some friends over to watch a movie. In preparation for their visit, Bret made the best vegetarian chili…

chili_0 chili_1chili_4chili_3

…and I made a  Spring Wreath!



It was REALLY easy, so I wanted to share my process.

First, I went to Michael’s and bought:

  •  Spring-colored baby yarn
  • Three sticks of flowers (60% off!)
  • A cute little baby blue bird


Everything I bought was on sale except for that cute little bird, and my total came to under $15. Actually, I had a gift card (thanks, Mom!) so, for me, it was free.

I had decided to re-purpose the Thanksgiving wreath I made in November, so I didn’t need to buy the actual wreath part. I just cut off the leaves and fall-themed ribbons. I decided to leave the twine, though. I thought it would complement the spring colors really well. It did!

This is the yarn I used. It worked perfectly. It’s the “secret ingredient” if you will.



Step 1: Yarn it up

I wrapped the yarn over the twine somewhat evenly. I still wanted some of the twine to poke through:





I thought about leaving it like this, but I added one more layer of yarn.

Step 2: Add Accent Flower & Bird

I used a wire cutter to trim some of the flowers. I poked them right into the styrofoam, and I used a stem to secure the bird:


Step 3: Add Flowers

I used the wire cutters to trim off some of the smaller flowers, and I alternated between yellow and white. Sometimes I poked the stems into the styrofoam wreath like the accent ones, but I usually just tucked them under the twine and yarn depending. I noticed that a lot of the stems were visible, so I went around with a third layer of yarn in those areas. This covered the stems and secured the flowers.




It’s so pretty. And easy. I love it.



Best of all I have TONS of left over yarn and flowers to do things like this:

yarn_extra yarn_extra3



When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to hang things from the fan. Being an adult is so much fun! (Don’t worry, mom, I’ll take it down before we turn the fan on).


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The Stuff Dreams are Made Of

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 | 1 comment

Last night, I had a dream that an earth worm had crawled into my office. I didn’t want to kill it, but I also didn’t want to pick it up and take it outside, so I ignored it. The next time I noticed the worm, it had manifested itself into a long, gray snake. I was afraid of the snake, so I left the room and hid from it until I worked up the courage to direct it outside with a broom. Terrifying. Later in my dream, I was having lunch outside with my friends. While everyone was talking and enjoying their lunch, I was distracted. I was looking around and wondering if that snake would show up again. It did. But it wasn’t a snake, it was a HUGE alligator hanging from the tree! Even though I’ve learned that gators are not aggressive unless you provoke them, this one was swinging on a tree really close to my picnic table.

At the time, I was afraid. It sounds quite comical now that I know it was a dream.

I have irrational but chronological dreams like this all the time. I feel pretty lucky to be able to remember such vivid dreams. I always wonder what they mean. Sometimes my dreams inspire my writing. Sometimes I learn from them – I think about them after and consider how I should/not handle a future situation based on the way I reacted in my dream. I believe this dream was highlighting how I should NOT handle fear and worry.

I believe that worrying is one of the worst things we do to ourselves. A few disclaimers:

  • Taking some time away to think about your future and some different possible outcomes – that’s not worry. That’s consideration.
  • Weighing the pros and cons and wondering where today’s decisions are moving us. Are you on the right track? Are you happy with the state of things? That’s not worry. That’s assessment.

Steering away from worry doesn’t mean you have to be happy-go-lucky all the time. I think it’s good to be thoughtful and aware and present even if those thoughts are not necessarily positive. It’s good to care about your friends and family and wonder how they are doing. Those kinds of thoughts can propel you to make a phone call, reach out to someone, make life changes. That’s productive.

The worry that I’m talking about is not productive. It’s the kind where we wonder – irrationally – what if I get in a car accident today? What if my house catches on fire? What if so-in-so secretly hates me? What if this doesn’t work out the way I’ve imagined it would? That kind of worry – it fixes nothing. Worrying that way just pulls you away from the joys in front of you, and, instead, pushes you into a feeling that is uncomfortable and negative.

When I feel worried about those things I can not control, I take comfort in this mantra:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

And, yes, you did see this same quotation in a similar blog post that I wrote about a month ago. It warrants a second thought, for me.

…I’m wondering what the worm/snake/gator I dreamt about symbolizes. I wonder if it represents the things I CAN change, but choose not to. Things I put off and away and allow to fall down on the priority list while secretly knowing they are just getting worse. Hoping someone else will take care of the problem, but not taking responsibility for it myself… things like world poverty, factory farming, and human trafficking.

Or, maybe a third thought.

…I wonder if the snakegator represents my internal monologue. The one that gives in to worry. I think the way we talk to ourselves is so important. I know I can make myself feel better by thinking good things. I also know, when I’m at a low point, that I try to distract myself by organizing reasons to be out with other people. I try to keep my mind in happy places because I knew if I was home alone and left to my own thoughts, I may cry.

Is that the worst thing, though? To wallow? To get all your feelings out so you can make sense of them? In some cases, I feel like I’ve let myself believe that FEELING those feelings was a bad, scary weakness. Sometimes I was afraid of FEELING those feelings so, I made them out to be monsters. Or, you know, alligator snakes. Maybe that alligator just wanted me to acknowledge it so my friends could put  it in perspective for me, ya know?

I believe in the power of meditation and prayer and positive thinking. I also believe in the power of self-pity, doubt, and worrysome thoughts. Based on this dream that I had, I’m going to do my best to be aware of my fears. To acknowledge them. To talk about them. To give them some thought, but then accept the things I can not change and instead put my energy into changing the things I can for the better.

Happy Thursday, y’all.

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