So Long, Farewell

This song has been running through my head for a couple of weeks now. Even before I officially knew I would have a new job.

It’s hard to believe, but the time has come to say goodbye. I’ve been having a difficult time putting into words what I want people to know. Wondering if anyone would even want to know or even care.

We do that, don’t we? We tend to romanticize our exit. It reminds me of a funeral, suddenly people say all of the nice things about you that you wish you had known while you were around. Life is funny like that.

Macon is my home. I was born at the Medical Center on February 16, 1973.

2

That’s right, during the big blizzard. (True Maconites know what I am talking about.)

I attended Union Elementary School, Ballard A Middle School, and Southwest High School. I grew up on the southwest side of town, just two blocks off of Bloomfield Road. Yep. I did. (Crystal Lake to be exact.)

1

I did not have a long line of royal family names Maconites love to drop. My mom grew up in what is now known as the Peach Orchard and my dad is from Indiana. He came to Georgia by way of Robins Air Force Base.

 

He 22later became a milkman and mom was a school secretary and art teacher. My sister went to what was once called Clisby Elementary School. She would go on to study theater at UGA and I graduated from Georgia College and State University. The first one in my immediate line to get a Bachelor’s Degree. I guess you could say, I defied the odds. So many of my friends from high school never even went on to college. Some didn’t even make it out of high school. But I did.

1579

I can thank the teachers at Southwest High School for that. Bibb County Public Schools take a lot of slack about the system. But I am here to tell you I got a great education from some passionate teachers. Some I am even still friends with today. I learned French, competed in the Model United Nations (Won Honorable Mention,) competed in Mock Trial Competitions (won Best Witness,) and somehow maintained my grades, worked part-time, and had a social life. It was the best of times.

As a child, I spent every summer at Camp Martha Johnston in Lizella.

40

9
I’m the kid looking the wrong way. Yep.

Girls Scouts taught me to swim, fish, play tennis, how to conduct a flag ceremony… and yes, I was able to cross that moccasin infested creek on the Monkey (rope)  Bridge walking backwards and blindfolded. I made a wish or two crossing rainbow bridge. It stayed my constant. Later, in college, I would go back and work every single summer at that camp. (Even during the Flood of 94. I remember watching the dam break and our canoes floating down the creek during breakfast. We had to be rescued by the Red Cross!) Camp Martha Johnston holds a special place in my heart forever.

23

I also was blessed to have the parents I had. They wanted so much for me. My mom would volunteer to keep the books at my dance studio and helped with costumes so that I could take ballet cl1380460_10151941061769929_2024344827_nasses. And take them I did. I took classes up to three times a week , for two hours at a time. I wanted to be a dancer. Until I had a few very painful procedures on my toes and that dream had to change.

Luckily, my mom entered me into the Community Children’s Theatre of Macon, where I was introduced to people like John Jones, Sylvia Haynie, and so many others. As well as Paige Henson. John and Sylvia taught me how to break out of my shell and perform on a stage, something that has made all of the difference in my life. Then later, I would take a writing class with Paige that would impact me in such a way that I would eventually choose that profession.

By the 6th grade, I was beginning to think about my future. I watched Fame on television and knew I wanted to go some place bigger and do something even more exciting. I remember watching Tina Hicks at 13WMAZ and I thought to myself…. “Wait a minute. I can do that.” So I polished my voice, relished every book report, and took every opportunity to learn to speak in front of a crowd.

When I graduated from High School, I entered Georgia College in Milledgeville and went into their Broadcast Journalism program. I worked for their television station, was a radio deejay, and everything else in between. I never once took my eye off the prize.

And Macon beckoned me back.

I started my internship at the very station that sparked my passion: 13WMAZ. I worked 40 plus hours a week for zero pay and trained under Dodie Cantrell and Raymond Tubb. After three months, my internship ended on a Friday, I was hired as the Midday and 5pm Producer on Monday. At the time, we were the #1 CBS affiliate in the country. I had one of the top shows and it was all mine. Working side by side with people I grew up watching: Frank Malloy, Tina Hicks, Bill Powell, Liz Fabian, and Dell Ward. After a few years, I got to be the Special Projects Producer on a Passion Project of my News Director- Faces of Freedom. I won an Associated Press Award for Best Public Affairs Reporting (as the Producer,) and we won a Gabby for that piece – Excellence in Broadcasting. That was 1999, I was 27 years old.

10415679_10153972727814929_8116689497409348089_n

I transitioned into Promotions and learned the creative side of things. But knew I needed something different. I was engaged and though my idea was to eventually leave Macon, it took a little arm twisting to stay. So I transitioned out of news, just like a lot of old journalists do and headed into Marketing and Nonprofits. I accepted a position as a Field Executive for the Girl Scouts of Middle Georgia. This new job had me moving back to Milledgeville. I covered 7 counties and hung in there for about a year, before an opportunity would open up that would also change my life. I ended up landing the Communications/Program Specialist position and moved back to Macon and continued to work for the Girl Scout for 6 more years.

154
My Dad & I at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

During that time I got married and hosted 14 exchange students over a span of 8 years. I brought kids from Thailand, Belgium, Australia, Moldova, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Iraq, Cambodia, Brazil and a few others to Macon. I got involved at my church (St. Joseph’s) and was living the “grown up” dream. Great house, great friends, great job – I lived in a little suburb in North Macon. It was all coming together. And it was my hometown that it happened in.

115

 

My husband got a job transfer to Birmingham, Alabama. I followed suit. And just as we suspected, we were worried the move would either make or break us. It broke us. After two long stints in the hospital with meningitis and a few other not so savory disagreements, it all come crashing down. We divorced after being together 8 years.

1932275_10152230012939929_832719754_n

 

While in Birmingham, I created another life. It was fantastic. I traveled all over the place (in my first year with the American Heart Association, I was on 27 different planes.) I made new friends, and was incredibly happy to be someplace much bigger and much more exiting than my hometown. I did it. I had moved on.

I was making good money, living in a fantastic city, surrounded by super professional & successful people.  I kind of went through some sort of transitional phase and eventually flew to Egypt, spent some time there and fell madly in love with this Mediterranean man. Came back home, and continued to work as the Marketing & Communications Director for the American Heart Association.

 


I went through this whole Eat, Pray, Love phase.

I went through the whole immigration process, brought my Egyptian boyfriend, Yasser, over and we got married in the states after a lengthy engagement.

Two years later, and after an really difficult culture fusion experiment, I lost my job.

Guess where I ended up? Back home, in Macon.

I fought so hard to find something in Birmingham, in New York, in Los Angeles – in any place Yasser and I had friends and family (and we were trying to go BIG!) But the money ran out, and so did my spirit. Macon it was, and Macon I returned.

It took 9 months to find a job. I cannot thank Andy Ambrose enough for believing in me.  I got back in the game and was working as the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Tubman Museum.

The hardest part was re-transitioning to a much slower pace. No longer were my events earning half a million to a million dollars, but now I had to focus on smaller fish and a much smaller pond. I fought it internally. I did not want to be here. Then something happened… I made new friends. These weren’t the people I had grown up with my whole life.. I had changed, I was not the girl I was when I left. I had been gone a decade and so much had happened and Macon looked different to me. There was more to do downtown. My calendar was always full. And suddenly, these people were making things happen downtown and they weren’t even from here AND they were getting it done. What was the shift? Planet Macon had.. somehow… aligned with the world and I was warming up to the idea of being home.

And then the flood gates opened: Board appointments, fun lunches with great people (#youcantsitwithus) and this new energy was flooding the streets of MY hometown. I was finally proud to be home and glad I was.

Trust me, I was shocked.

But then, I guess God had something else planned for me. My husband left me, my job was cut from the museum, and here I was right back where it all began and going through a very familiar experience. The difference was this time – I had a safety net. It was the people and places of my hometown. Opportunities almost immediately popped up – I landed the Executive Director position at the Cannonball House.  I picked up writing again (after years of pushing my journalism degree to the side.) I got to freelance for the 11th Hour and Macon Magazine.

And suddenly it happened. I was in love with my life. I quit wondering where I would go next and simply settled into this new life with a very strong group of new friends and old friends and made it work.

Then the blessing I had been waiting on for so long just snuck right up on me. Right when I just settled into who I thought I was going to be I met a guy. This time it was different.

This time it was right. And everything about the relationship has been incredibly easy and seamless. There is trust, there is communication, there is respect, and above all -there is love.

And the planets aligned. A job came available and I got it. It will move me closer to Tim and his girls. He sold his house. Now we can build on the farm.

It is simply all coming together.

I always believed that if you were patient and put your trust in God… anything was possible. Please watch the very short video.

And so it is, my friends. Lots and lots of ladybugs.

Incredibly good things can still happen later in life. I’m 43 and I feel like it is all just starting, for the first time.

It’s time to say my final goodbye to my hometown. This is it. I feel it in my bones, a feeling I have never known before. It’s time to plant some roots.

1549430_10152435111174929_3418069820260468857_nThis little girl made a wish to do big things with her life.

She wanted to see the world, write, and say some important stuff to a lot a people.

She worked hard. Nothing was ever just given to her. No silver spoon, no famous last name. Just hard work, determination, and a strong faith in God.


And with that Macon – I say So Long! Farewell!

Maybe you will miss me when I am gone. Regardless of whether my absence is ever noticed, you made an impact on my heart. You will forever be a part of me. Ciao!

 

Because I Knew You

I have only two more nights in Macon.

My hometown. A place I never thought I would ever return to.

I left in 2005, hoping to go on to bigger and better things. That road was long and twisted and tough. But I did it.

Then, I had to come home.

It was not in the plans.

But I am better for it.

From the people I have met along the way over the past 4 years, I thank you. For the good, for the bad. I didn’t do everything perfect (heck- I even got divorced during this 4 year experience.) But I did the best I could.

I plan to write a goodbye letter to Macon. But for now, this song from Wicked says exactly what I am feeling tonight.

Push play and read along below.

And know that because I knew you (yes, you!) I’ve been changed for the good. Thank you, Macon (My new friends I made this time around, and the old ones who actually stuck with me,) for being a shelter during the storm and allowing me to rebuild my life.

 

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

Like a ship blown from it’s mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

I have been changed for good.

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done,
You blame me for.

But then I guess,
We know there’s blame to share.

And none of it seems to matter anymore.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
(Like a ship blown from it’s mooring)
As it passes a sun.
(By a wind off the sea)
Like a stream that meets a boulder
(Like a seed dropped by bird)
Halfway through the wood.
(In the wood)
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.

And because I knew you…

Because I knew you…

Because I knew you
I have been changed…
For good.

Is This All Really Happening?

I woke up this morning and saw the following Time Hop entry from 5 years ago:

Screenshot_2016-05-10-20-07-36

Five years ago I posed the question – Is this where you hope to be?

Five years ago I lived in Birmingham, was married to the Egyptian, working for the American Heart Association. Today I am packing up my life in Macon to move into a cabin by lake with the most amazing guy, starting a fantastic new job (and leaving a job as a museum director (seriously!) and will be building my dream home soon.

Is this seriously all happening?

Great news! Tim closed on his old house today and we are free and clear financially to move forward with building!

These things are all happening!

I think I simply need to pinch myself to make sure all is well. 😉

 

Slats, Sheetrock, Plaster – Oh My!

We are at it again – trying desperately to design our future home in the woods. The whole Mars & Venus miscommunication took place just this past weekend over a simple little request.

Tim: Now we need to think coverings. What type of walls, floors, etc. do we want?

Me: I like the color blue. And neutral stuff. I think neutrals are cool. Plus, that Mexican tile for the floor in the kitchen, that is definite.

Tim: *sighs* Okay, the tile in the kitchen, I understand. But what about the rest of the house? And the other stuff you mentioned, that’s after the house is built.

Me: Right.. exactly, I want blue paint in my bathroom.

Tim: *sigh*

 

Okay, okay… for those in the know, I get it now. After a really loooooong conversation, and me asking 5 bazillion questions, I get it.

And apparently, I like sheet rock.

boring

Who knew sheet rock was considered boring? It’s really all I knew.

But now… oh now… the world has opened up.

c33d453e57aef55294d29316347f6101

Slates are THIS. It is a thin, narrow piece of wood, plastic, or metal, especially one of a series that overlap or fit into each other. Gives the interior of a house a very rustic, country, coastal-cottage feel. I like this, sort of.  I can see it in a bathroom or mudroom, maybe even the sun room.

d0402da505fd22f050903b172f682391

Sheetrock, also known as Drywall (also known as plasterboard, wallboard, gypsum board) is a panel made of gypsum plaster pressed between two thick sheets of paper. It is used to make interior walls and ceilings. THIS is sort of what I am used to, and automatically start thinking of color swatches.

171063685b5cbf21ee80e7d6ed5bfbf3

Finally, Plaster walls. They are very similar to sheetrock, but have actually been used since ancient times. It can give a more “worldly” look.

I really like this.

Needless to say, we went back and forth about what the “coverings” should be in each room. Though we want something that is different and interesting, we both agree that too much “different” could cause someone to have sensory whiplash, and that we should probably reel it in a little on ideas we had.

So far we agree on these ideas for covering:

Mudroom/Bathroom (or two)/Sunroom: Slats

Dining room/Kitchen/Master Bedroom/Living Room: Plaster

Girls’ Rooms/Gameroom/Upstairs in general: Sheetrock

Then as for flooring:

Mexican Traverse Tile: Kitchen

Barn/Stained Wood Flooring: Downstairs

Carpet: Upstairs

Again… Not final, but we are finally getting somewhere.

Coverings: Who knew there were so many options?

Then, I got this idea that I wanted a special handmade piece for the foyer. I want a compass made of wood. (Think – Destination Unknown.. I work in Tourism… I love to travel.) Get it? Get it? And happily, so does Tim!

 

Something like this… or like this.

We are doing our research now! (PS – Don’t you just love that door on the right?)

And as for flooring:

This is a perfect example of the hardwood floor I am interested in, as well as the Mexican traverse tile for the kitchen.

And ceilings? Oh boy. That’s a touchy point for Tim. He wants interesting, nothing plain, and definitely zero popcorn elements.

483914af7cb1e3132209eeeee2a97ef9

This has become the inspiration for the Master bedroom. This we BOTH agree on. (All aspects of its.)

So… as you can see, when it comes to coverings: Walls/Ceilings/Floors, there is a whole more than meets the eye.

Exciting, isn’t it?

Step-Parenting: The Furry Edition

1016880_10152796954444929_1530760002071487423_n

I have an awful habit of filling a void in my life with animals. Break-up from my college boyfriend? I bought a Siberian Husky. Divorced? Buy a cat. Get married? Get rid of cat. Find yourself divorced again? Buy two cats. And so on and so forth.

Speaking of the two cats… that’s them. Salvatore and Zen Kitty. It was almost three years ago today that I brought these beautiful babes into my life. The ink wasn’t even dry on the divorce papers.

946831_10151691676514929_1949202469_n

We were a trio for about a year and a half. These two little boys watched patiently as I dated half a dozen people during my “rebound” phase. (That’s the period of time after the divorce that I decided to go on a series of 1st and second dates with zero luck.)

1800294_10152201966104929_892733510_n

Tomorrow is a big day. They will be moved to their new “permanent” home. They will officially meet their new family, which includes: One man, two teens, and three dogs.

Did you read that?

Three dogs.

1175719_10151855170294929_697520456_n

I’m not as worried about Salvatore. He’s my love bug/love bully/snuggle bunny/Garfield. A big, fluffy orange tabby that is about as easy-going as they come. He’ll curl up with just about anyone, and perhaps (maybe eventually) the dogs. What I am worried about is his need to knock over trash cans, as well as eating anything not tied down or hidden. He’s a fatty boombalatty.

541795_10151861905614929_1330216610_n

Then there is Zen Kitty, who is sincerely, not very Zen. He’s a bit of a whack- job (my whack-job.) I’m fairly certain that Xanax was invented for cats of his demeanor. He’s shy, he’s jumpy, and he’s stealthy. I can assure you, the dogs will not be a welcome sight for him. THIS concerns me.

10710951_10152760795234929_5198661264017893113_n

But that is the future… I need to get through tomorrow afternoon. Imagine, if you will, taking a lion and panther into a car.

Just take a moment and get this image.

Yeah… it’s going to go over that well.

My cats have this terrible habits of screaming and squealing and hyperventilating as soon as they are in a car. I have an almost 2 hour drive. Just let that resonate for a minute.

Then there is the issue of getting the cats into the car. I might as well forget trying to get them into a carrier, it’s like.. well.. herding cats.

My hope is that I won’t have to stop (the thought of them running for their lives terrifies me) and I also hope that once I arrive at the farm that they will allow me to transport them into the cabin. (I don’t even want to have to think about the kids or Tim accidentally letting them out….)

1782410_10152245140504929_1085467893_o

I’m sending a slight plea out to the universe that Tim will be able to adjust to my children as well as I have adjusted to his dogs. Our Furry Babes are such a major part of our lives, and when you join two lives and two animal-cultures, the fusion will either be a happy little oasis or chaos of the worst kind!

Onward and upward!

Plans Versus Elements: Battle of the Sexes

It goes a little something like this:

Tim: Hey, Nicole. Send me some examples of floor plans that you like.

Nicole: Okay. But remember, all that is important to me is just a few things: a BIG closet, a nice bathroom, a BIG kitchen, and good outdoor entertaining space.

Tim: Just send me some examples.

So I begin to go on Pinterest (for almost two months now,) and I started to pin everything that I liked. I even pinned things that were sort-of my style, but I thought were pretty. I sent him the link to my “Dream House” board and then got the following text:

Clearly, somewhere we got our wires crossed.

Here I am envisioning paint chips and butcher block counters, and all the while, my Structural Designer boyfriend is asking for ACTUAL floor plans.

Originally, we were heading down a different path. He presented me with this really cool floor plan he had been working on for years, but wanted to change-up because his ideas had shifted over the decade. I liked it. But.. it wasn’t really a dream I was a part of. So we decided to go back to the drawing board. The next plan was (again,) something he envisioned. It was more rectangular and had more of a southwest/rustic/industrial element feel to it. I liked it. I could live there. But.. it didn’t make my heart flutter, and finally, after months of discussing floor plans, I told him.

I just didn’t want to disappoint him.

That’s where the above conversation came into play.

I’m assuming, if you have ever built a house with someone, you know where I am coming from. It’s a delicate balance of what makes sense, what gets you excited, versus what is affordable.

So he took my suggestions and came back with this:

20160501_102622.jpg This would end up with all of the basic elements I wanted, as well as his two kids. The idea is to draw a house that we would grow old in, the one that would support bad knees and everything! Not too much to handle as we age. (We are trying to be smart about this.) The girls both want their own bathroom, and we want to be on the bottom floor. Another idea is to use some of that “open to below” space that is upstairs and turn that into a loft/game room. We made all of our edits (all four of us,) and have sent Tim back to the drawing board.

One of the biggest problems with trying to come up with a logical plan is having to consider the future. The girls’ eyes are bright and excited to have “custom” rooms with all of the bells and whistles, while you know as well as we know that after college, 9 times out of 10, kids move on. Then what are you left with? But you want to make sure they have someplace to bring their future families back home to. Then there is the issue of having too much house when you are in your 70s, 80s, and 90s. The other BIG one for both of us is this: We DO NOT want a spec house. You know the kind? You drive into any cookie cutter suburb and all of the houses are basically the same. That’s not our style – at all.

Then the idea is for the house to be built on the farm. We would have to invest in a very long driveway (because you would enter the property through the blueberry orchard/patch and cross over a little creek. It needs to be rustic, but still have a bit of a coastal breezy porch. Then we saw this:

a3f0a661af73cc3902bed35301043e16

And I think it is a perfect look for the area.

Again, this is just draft #1, and as you and I both know, I’m ready to jump to the interior elements part, but I have to slow my horses and remember… it is a process.

The next step is to finalize the plans, then contact a local contractor and see what we are looking at financially. Not only do we have to consider the drive way, leveling of the land and knocking down more than a few trees, we are going to have to think about the pool and patio area we want and all of the things that go with that.

Decisions. Decisions.

And did I mention I’m startng a new job in 2 weeks? LOL

But the ball is rolling and THAT is exciting.