Words That Changed Me

_a record of the process_

Easter Things 2014

Posted by on Apr 20, 2014 | 0 comments

If I was 14, I would have spent this Easter at Cape Hatteras, NC with my mom’s family. I would have slept on one of the top bunks in a bunkroom full of cousins, and even though we would have stayed up talking until midnight, I would have woken up before the sun. I would have slipped on jeans, a Hatteras sweatshirt, and flip flops, and I would have sat in the backseat of one of the cars (my mom’s, my aunt’s, my uncle’s) to ride over to the lighthouse where we’d enjoy a Sunrise Easter service. I would have sat on a big blanket with my cousins, and I would have sang off key until my sweet and honest cousin, Ryan, told me to just listen for a minute and get the tune of it before I sang anymore.

After Sunrise Service, we’d come home. Well, “home” to the Hatteras Haven. We’d run up the steps because we knew we could finally open our Easter baskets! There would be chocolate and candy and things to read. Then, there would be brunch and Apple Uglies (the most delectable fried apple pastries in the world). And then, there would be family. We’d talk. We’d play. We’d hide Easter eggs in the dunes – the same ones my Grandparents had been hiding for generations.

Gosh, I miss that.

Lately, I’ve been really aware of the physical distance separating me from my Virginia friends and family. And there are plenty of excuses reasons why spending Easter at home wasn’t feasible:

  • I don’t have any days off from work
  • Plane tickets are expensive
  • etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah

But still.

It just makes me grateful for the holidays I DO get to spend with my family. I know some grad students who have spent Christmases and Thanksgivings all alone in their one bedroom apartments and I’m so glad that we have been able to travel and we have parents who are happy, able, and willing to come visit us.

Just for memories sake, this is what my Easter 2014 looked like.

  • On Saturday, I hung out with this guy at an Art Festival. We almost saw Island of Lemurs at the IMAX.

my husband madagascar

  • We watched a Scary Movie on Saturday night. Before I went to sleep, I searched around for some similar beachside sunrise services near Tallahassee.
  • My heart wanted go to an Easter service, but on Easter morning, I woke up with a terrible headache that made me nauseous and dizzy and I couldn’t even get out of bed. It was a bad one.
  • When I finally felt functional around 10, I felt sad because it didn’t feel like Easter. I told Bret I wish we’d made each other Easter baskets or hid Easter eggs around the apartment.
  • Bret went to the gas station and bought me a peppermint patty and a Reese’s Peanut Butter egg because he loves me.
  • We made sweet potato hashbrowns with ketchup for breakfast.
  • I wished my parents “Happy Easter” through a text message
  • I wished my sister “Happy Easter” through a text message
  • I wished my parents-in-law “Happy Easter” through a text message
  • I wished my Hatteras family “Happy Easter” through Facebook
  • I saw that my California cousin will be in Virginia next week through Facebook
    • Isn’t Technology great?!
  • I also saw lots of cute pictures of young parents and their babies.
  • Naturally, I wanted to take an Easter picture with my baby:

me and princess cat princess cat

  • Bret and Sadie declined the opportunity for an Easter picture.
  • We went for a walk. Gosh, I’ll never ever get tired of these paths.


  • I made blackbean and corn salad for our impromptu 4:00 poolside Easter picnic.
  • We went to the picnic. We grilled veggie dogs on my George Foreman grill.
  • There were Easter cocktails with Peep garnishes. My friends are awesome.

easter cocktail poolside

  • I wrote letters to a couple friends that I miss. Writing letters just makes me feel good. I’m going to do this more often.

I can’t believe Easter is already here and gone. I can’t believe we’re moving into the last full week of April. I can’t believe that lent is OVER — that I’m no longer obligated to write daily blogposts! But I will try to write 2x/week.

For those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope you had a wonderful time with your friends and family. Easter always makes me feel renewed and passionate about life. And even though it’s been a cold and gloomy weekend, it’s SPRING. Spring is good.

Read More


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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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).


Read More