There was never space PART 1

It is never easy coming into a new family. I don’t care how fantastic your in-laws are, the initial acceptance is always a little tricky. It is one of the few times in your life when you will question everything from the way you were brought up to every single stupid decision you have made over the past ten years. Ugh…

Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

For the most part, I’ve always gotten along with in-laws or my boyfriend-at-the-time’s family. Sure, there were quirky characters scattered here and there on the relationship road, but at the end of the day, I had very few scrapes and bruises.

I recently came across an article in Psychology Today that has really made a difference for me in dealing with my current situation. This situation is one that is causing a tremendous amount of anxiety and frustration for me, my husband, and the kids. It has to do with the in-laws. (Not all of them, mind you.)

The article is titled: Parents-In-Law Don’t Want to Play Nice? How to deal with your in-laws’ objections. It explains how to set healthy boundaries and to be perfectly honest with you, it sort of validated what I thought we should be doing. The question is… is it too late?

They recommend that you do not budge one inch when it comes to the decisions you make. In our situation, my husband and I are treated like children unable to make decisions for ourselves, and I assure you, I have been living my life just fine for 42 years prior to meeting his family. I find when people try to control behaviors and alliances, it is a sign of insecurity and a need to be in control – to keep you in check.

The next thing they recommend is to remember that we are the authority of our family. This I have no problem making happen, however, my husband is typically more of “go along to get along.” Our kids tend to spend more time with my in-laws and less time doing family activities with us. It is no wonder true bonding hasn’t taken place. We are put in a situation where my husband does not want to “make waves” with his mother and the others, so he lets his kids do whatever they want with the other family members, sometimes with no regard to any plans we may have made.

Then they recommend putting the in-laws in their place. I almost started laughing when I read that. Here again, if you know me, I have no problem putting anyone in their place, but in this case, it would isolate my husband from his family and that is NOT what I want. That one is a little tricky. I suppose being consistently firm on tolerated behavior is the key here.

Then the article suggests that you re-evaluate your boundaries. This is something I did about two years ago. I went to therapy for anxiety and uncovered it was my living situation. My husband and I were living in the family cabin on the family farm. We spent many nights and afternoons with his extended family and to be perfectly honest, it was smothering. We changed our eating schedule and did more things just the two of us, versus all of us. Then we moved in the house we built and this was a nice 9 mile padding.

The next suggestion is to keep your distance. THIS I think is important for me. Let me explain why: The loyalty is not there. The loyalty is with the first wife (the baby mama.. which I hate that term and feel it is trashy, but it fits her.) They constantly look and compare us. I believe you get a green light on behavior if you pop out a few kids, which I did not. Therefore, every move I make is evaluated. Every facial expression is dissected, and every word I utter is twisted to fit their dysfunctional needs. The best thing I can do is simply keep a polite distance to keep the peace. Show up at the big things, put on my vest of protection, and smile.

The next tip is a good one: Only spend time with your MIL if your spouse is present. I think this goes without saying.

I never considered the next tip, and that is to only meet on neutral territory. According to the article, “This gives you more control over the situation, and can help to keep their behavior in check. Your in-laws aren’t able to call the shots as easily in public as they can when under their roof. You’re also less vulnerable in not being a guest in their home.”

And it goes on to say things like: Don’t accept help or loan items, don’t involve other family members (like the kids, his sister & partner, etc.,) to evaluate how your spouse is handling the situation (which is something we are working on,) and finally to remind each other how you feel about one another.

The last two is exactly where we are at. By setting these new boundaries, some feelings got hurt and a mirror was held up to all involved. We have an ex-step daughter (who sees Tim as her father,) constantly stirring up drama via social media and gossip. He called her out on some of this and as expected, she reacted poorly. It made him feel terrible and he has spent many weeks since feeling bad, but also realizing he needed to put a stop to it. And finally, we are trying to remind each other that in the coming decade or two, it will just be us and to remember why we chose each other to grow old together and not let the behavior of others taint something so beautiful.

It is tough folks – dealing with people who may or may not have the skills or self awareness to make changes or see what is actually happening. It is also easy for people with very little outside activity in their life to want to spread gossip. Sticky situation all around.

At the end of the day, I wanted nothing more than to have a happy, healthy relationship with his family. I was hoping that when I left my family, friends, and safety net that I would be welcomed with open arms into a new family. They are so tight knit, I thought how beautiful this new situation would be. Yes, they are generous (financially,) because they can be, but there are emotional strings attached. No, I am not always included in plans and when I am there, it is as if I am just another guest. When I try to share my life by inviting them over or inviting them to see some things important to me, they have reasons or excuses not to participate. *Sigh*

So you see….  something has got to give.

More to come….

 

Seeking Peace

Has it really been July since I last wrote anything?

Apparently, it has. Sorry about that.

Sorry about not writing as much or writing about real things like I used to.

Sorry about all of it.

Come to think of it… who I am really apologizing to? I suppose… myself. I’ve sort of let myself down in this department and I truly wanted to be more consistent. Blogging used to be my therapy and was a wonderful way to put things in perspective. I have let that go because…

Life. Responsibilities. Fear of looking vulnerable. Fear of people judging. Blah.. blah.. blah.

But blogging/writing… it is so much a part of who I am. It’s sad that I put it up on a shelf.

If you have followed me since Destination Unknown 1.0, you know I used to write daily about EVERYTHING. When I say everything, I mean – everything. I lived in a much bigger city and had a sense of anonymity. When I moved back home, I remember sitting in a interview for a museum job and the director telling me that he Googled me and read my blog. I sat there with eyes wide open. I had written about my abusive relationship with my ex-husband and so much more. He let me know that because of  my writing, he actually wanted to hire me. However, he knew that the town would get nosy and it was best to probably hide or delete the posts. So I deleted them.

I needed a job. It was post recession and I was trying to climb back out of being let go from a job in Birmingham and needed a way to house and feed myself (outside of my parent’s charity.)

I deleted the good stuff. The heart wrenching stuff. The stuff that made my blog relate-able to thousands of women. (I’m not exaggerating. The amount of emails I received from women all over the world was amazing.) I shut it down. I canceled the reality show.

Then I attempted a softer version with this blog. And yes, I keep it semi-real from time to time. You will find more of what I am doing and less of what I am feeling. The jobs turned into awesome experiences, and the bad relationship turned into a healthy relationship, and I hate to admit it, but chaos and drama makes for some awfully yummy prose.

Here is the catch… a lot of that crap still exists (on a much smaller level,) but I have been trapped in the responsibilities/job/small-town/government life privacy trap.

*sigh*

Here is the thing – I NEED to write more. I keep so much more inside due to my age, my position, my location, etc. I have not developed a true tribe outside of work. I pretty much go to work, go home, cook dinner, go to the gym, then go to sleep. Only to get up and do it again – OR attend some event in an official capacity. It looks like a LOT of fun, and it is sometimes a lot of fun, and often if I describe it as fun, it means I probably (actually) did have fun. But it has NOT been easy.

I promised to share what it is like to move to a place where you know no one.

I also promised to share what it is like to live in South Georgia, become a step parent, and to navigate government life. (to a lesser extent/work-wise.)

I’ve decided to hold myself accountable and share those experiences with you.

Attempt: Daily. If I get at least 3 a week, I’m doing great. I won’t always post these on the Destination Unknown FB page. But you can subscribe. Most will make it there, others will just be here. (Unless you are a really, truly close friend and are on my private FB page – that page will see it all.)

Is it worth your time? It just might be!

I will be tackling:

  1. Moving to a small town and what that looks like for a girl that would thrive in a larger metropolitan area.
  2. Marrying someone with teenage daughters, when I never expected (or honestly wanted) kids.
  3. Building a house and what that means when you don’t entertain anymore.
  4. Navigating a super toxic in-law situation/ex-wife situation. DUDE… if you only knew.
  5. Building a relationship with an incredible man. Legitimately incredible and what I have learned this time around.
  6. Working in not just a small town, but sharing that space with a super power. Seriously!
  7. Wanting to be an agent of change, yet surrounded by people who are comfortable with the status quo.

    There is much more. A lot of good to. I promise there is good.

    The truth is, I’m in that not-so-good space right now. Somethings have transpired that were completely out of my control and really have very little to do with me, but it is affecting me. I have a tremendous amount of anxiety right now and have taken steps to set healthy boundaries. As for family: My family is good. Dad is sick, like (really) sick, but otherwise, my relationship with them is fine. My niece is kicking butt at life and I am watching it from a far. I call my friends back home from time to time to have a safe space to talk. Tim is wonderful and I am having to support him as he sets healthy boundaries with family members that have used guilt and co-dependence as a way to control behaviors. Our home is lovely and we are finally moving into the re-decorate stage. As for work, my numbers are awesome (but the support is lacking.) But folks, that’s just the surface stuff.

Nothing is perfect, right?

Here is a sneak peek at a few highlights since July to catch you up:

67694623_10157361093164929_9198225140775649280_n
Made time to hang out with people I really, truly adore. It is a tiny tribe, and we don’t hang nearly enough… but it does happen.
67955745_10157374194064929_2359513491775160320_o
One thing I love about living down here is the farm life. I got to see cows! We even played music for them!
68900553_10157399085374929_8656540236156764160_n
Cotton took ballet and I did get to pick her up once from class. Totally made my day! Full circle and all.
68976491_10157403828884929_8838221235427999744_n
I have been going to the gym regularly for about 4 months now. Very proud of this. Got a bazillion miles to go on this one, but I am attempting to be more active.
69026334_10157410523044929_4403866866099945472_o
I did attend the wine festival with my friend & co-worker, Haley. We had a nice girls’ day.
69465376_10157427344294929_1448679614103683072_n
Salvatore is still in love with me and I remain his very best friend.
69672959_10157478742159929_8736565131967725568_n
Tim and I have found a beautiful spot in our yard to catch the sunset over the farmland. It is our special spot and we sort of use the sun and wine and conversation to heal from harsh weeks.
69844018_10157478742459929_3053561781399060480_n
Still indulging in the good life.

I did attend the Georgia Governor’s Conference in LaGrange. Was so good to see my tourism besties, but totally sucked being in LaGrange. I’m willing to give the town one more shot, but um…

70783861_10157459869444929_1723820905622142976_n
Still indulging in Fall’s goodness.

Tim, Alex and I made it to a childhood delight – the Robins Air Force Base Air Show. Loved it… caused some issues later.. that’s a WHOLE other blog post. 🙂

71792948_10157509530094929_5508088531106398208_n
You know I love a good excuse for a theme party.

71916505_10157509531439929_625334224546693120_n

Don’t worry, all will be well. All IS well. Just re-shifting and trying to figure things out.

But that’s life, right?

Summer Is Not Subtle

66763399_10157311984999929_5362716055779147776_n
On a painting at Travis Jean Emporium by artist: Sheila Mae

Just when you think all you do is work and binge-watch Netflix, photos tell you another story.

This Summer has been slammed with really good stuff. Really good. And it takes me capturing it all to remember just how incredibly awesome my life is.

That is not a brag.

It is gratitude.

Something I am working very hard on.

This post is not going to be overly profound… but it is my life.

Sweet Basil in my Garden

One of the things I have been working very hard on is my little garden. I recently planted some pepper plants, basil. rosemary, cilantro, and dill right near the porch steps leading to the kitchen. Folks – the plants are flourishing. It makes me so happy to walk outside and see all of the green and to know that I have organic herbs to cook with.

66690465_10157313397634929_6744217218822701056_n
A zinnia about to bloom

One of my newest obsessions happens to be pollinator gardens. I have been incredibly passionate about #SavetheBees and wanted to do something about it. Not having a ton of extra money in my pocket, I drove up to our little Dollar General in Plains and bought a box of “pollinator” seeds. What came out were these beautiful zinnias.

66746617_10157313397729929_8530992342025371648_n
A zinnia

In my backyard, right below the bay window, there are about two dozen zinnias growing tall and glorious!

64736562_10157256825074929_7671209291742707712_n
Terri & I (a neighbor) enjoying her pool!

I took some time this Summer relaxing by the pool with one of my neighbors, Terri. We’ll spend about 3 -4 hours just floating and chatting the day away.

65414713_10157262530609929_2870620814816837632_n
Tim playing in his mom’s pool

Tim, the girls, and I have spent some lovely afternoons at the pool in Preston. (Which happens to be at his mom’s house at the family farm.) We’ve spent afternoon grilling, floating, and laughing.

64959818_10157262529614929_4588385657637830656_n

64995125_10157262530154929_3193210572854263808_n

65036624_10157259976449929_1720394496677511168_n
BBQ & Blues!

Americus Main Street threw a Red, White, Blues & BBQ party at our train depot in downtown Americus. I got to taste some delicious Q and probably lose about 10 pounds in sweat! It was super hot. The kind of hot that is so oppressive… right before a storm? That barometric-pressure-smothering-kinda heat.

65301384_10157259966274929_3621530154997645312_n

65311800_10157259965784929_6518052676331110400_n
Grammy Nominated BLUES Singer

Speaking of sweating…

65693511_10157267161844929_6894829051739897856_n

Yep. We have been hitting the gym consistently. My ability to diet is off and on, but my ability to life weights and feel the burn is spot on. I always did love physical exercise…

but my food…

66127064_10157289928839929_5073351529088417792_n

65811304_10157289928979929_7530337598544281600_n

Yeah… this Summer has been sweet!

66654367_10157302293174929_668751572200587264_n
Hanging out with the National Park Service

I got to visit the Carter Compound with employees from the Bill Clinton Boyhood Home and Eisenhower/Gettysburg National Historic Sites.

66296889_10157302769419929_6814804031374884864_n
Haunted House in Plains

I got to experience paranormal stuff at a REAL haunted house in Plains with some really cool people.

66593627_10157311983454929_6407135476624392192_n

Spent a little time with my family in Macon. We went for Chinese. 🙂

66414263_10157311983774929_8225331373678788608_n

Update on Dad: On the 29th he starts 44 treatments of radiation for advanced prostate cancer.

66642597_10157311985269929_361995236869668864_n

Spent a little time with my friends in Macon.

66513037_10157311985139929_59471299751182336_n

66058875_10157277450384929_6426347681383186432_n

Got to attend an indie movie premiere at the Historic Rylander Theatre with friends.

65997087_10157275244869929_3135199166846730240_o

Big group dinner with friends at The Station.

65975315_10157277450659929_2268077005297680384_n

Date Nights with my guy.

65865791_10157275244929929_1544364652165595136_n

Drinks with the girls at Floyd’s Pub at the Windsor Hotel.

65701601_10157280193774929_2338239518030692352_o

An ice cream social at Tim’s mom’s church.

67091915_10157311982494929_8247319982736670720_n

Hanging out at The Society Garden in Macon sipping on wine slushies.

66918617_10157311655109929_1774658749877714944_n

Blackberry Wine Slushies to be exact.

65644286_10157277449819929_8736885390499119104_n
Indie Film

65562390_10157275245089929_6634407991829331968_o

65516998_10157272900054929_5966159201385316352_n

65506951_10157275245344929_4577511556358602752_o

65447521_10157280194134929_8028755505134436352_o

Just lots and lots of good times with friends at cook outs, performances, and work-related activities.

65387717_10157269304324929_2229631816728313856_n

65386818_10157272900009929_7085884457084780544_n

Do you see what I see?

65373650_10157272899914929_8907001039274639360_n

65320471_10157277450744929_8202112320915111936_n

I dare say a tribe is forming.

65238279_10157269304864929_5432417907499859968_n

65202293_10157275244969929_8013498832111271936_o
Tim hanging out with the guys at the bar

65088941_10157269304684929_6720022701676691456_n

And Food….

65085416_10157269304374929_1728162636522061824_n

Lots and lots of food and good laughs.

64890097_10157256607819929_2551852100204101632_n
Old friends visiting!

64791243_10157259966529929_3664795903190892544_n

64562161_10157280193854929_745870016397705216_o

And at the end of the day, I can safely say – there was nothing subtle about this Summer.

There is still so much more to do this summer: Paula Deen  Murder-Mystery Train, my Tourism Retreat, First Friday events, and even more cook outs, pool days, and laughs.

How is you Summer shaping up?

I hope to have more in-depth stuff to share soon. This was more of a – “Hey there!”

Until next time…

 

A Tale of a Mermaid with Anxiety

64241666_10157249762609929_8177183811038085120_n
A Sensory Deprivation Tank at Float Robins

“I forgot who I was before the (space) suit,
before gravity was ripped from my vocabulary
and I mastered the art of drifting”
― Casey Renee Kiser, Way Out

I did a thing. Or… perhaps I un-did a thing.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

This past July, a few friends and I made our way down to Mexico Beach to our family beach house. Four of my closest (at the time) female friends and I spent a few days sunning, swimming, and having a few cocktails. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time talking about where we were in life, where we hoped to be, and all of the trials and speed bumps we needed to cross-over to get there. One friend was hoping her long-time boyfriend would propose. Great news: He did. They are married and are expecting their first child. The other friend was hoping to find some peace about some future transitions and that, too, has worked out in her favor. Another one needed to make some changes since her parents were aging and she was slowly turning into a caretaker, and I believe the universe provided a solution to some of her speed bumps, and finally, my oldest and dearest friend was trying to decide whether she should make a major career change. Which, let’s be honest, is not an easy task at 46.

This story is about the latter.

My friend of over 34-years was a teacher. Not just a teacher, but a really great teacher. One of those that took a lesson plan to the next level. She had been doing this for (I believe) almost over a decade and had reached that point in her life where she felt unfulfilled. She was juggling kids and husband and work and health and I could go on and on and on…. that’s really not my story to tell. Needless to say, she was at a cross roads. And just like the song, “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls, she had been to the mountains and the fountain, and everywhere else in between, looking for a little peace.

Nothing was working.

Until one day, she stumbled upon a sensory deprivation float tank. Just what is that, you may ask? According to Wikipedia, it is an isolation tank, usually called a sensory deprivation tank, and is a lightless, soundproof tank filled with salt water at skin temperature, in which individuals float. They were first used in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation.

She gave it a try and was a convert. It was better than the deep tissue massage and even better than any medicine she could take for anxiety. I listened to her as she went on and on about how amazing she felt, how clearer she was able to think… and most importantly, how she made a major life decision: To leave education.

WHOA! Leave education? Leave her safety net and steady income and all that comes with that? Yep. She knew she needed to try something else.

I have to say, I was skeptical. But I know Telisa and I know that when she makes her mind up, no matter how ridiculous the idea might seem, she IS going to do it – like a bull in a china shop.  (I say that with affection.)

I did a little research and chatted with my husband about what this sensory deprivation stuff was. He lit up and began to tell me all about the stories he had read about characters using sensory deprivation. (He is a huge sci-fi geek.) I got a little curious and watched a few videos, like this one:

Okay, now I was curious.

Fast forward several months and after dozens of conversations about loans, floor plans, and retail & promotional swag – she does it. She decides to open a Float Spa.

Float Robins became a reality! Telisa is now the proud owner of Middle Georgia’s first and only flotation therapy spa also offering infrared sauna and massage therapy! 

Lucky me, I got a sneak peek and FINALLY took my first float this past Tuesday. It was nothing short of AMAZING.

64325243_10157249759249929_4241221462532292608_n
Float Robins is located at 225 Smithville Church Road Suite 100 Warner Robins, GA 31088

My intern Haley and I were doing a tourism research trip of various small communities in Middle Georgia. We decided to drop by and see Telisa’s new facility in Warner Robins. We were thrilled to find out that, yes, we could indeed take our very first float!

64327697_10157249759929929_120127434950443008_n
Float Robins offers luxurious spa products! I opted for the car essential oil diffuser!

As soon as we walked in the door, you felt the vibe of the place: soothing blues and gray tones, the smell of essential oils, and zen-like music. Telisa greeted us and decided to give us a quick tour of the place.

64430245_10157249760514929_6184210215647313920_n
Candles glowing at the end of the hallway at Float Robins.

We were guided behind dark blue velvet curtains and entered what felt like another world. Candles were glowing at the end of the hall, beckoning you to just follow the light to relaxation! (This may sound dramatic, but seriously… I got the message loud and clear!)

64510601_10157249760154929_118389759901958144_n
Float Robins offers a dressing area to primp before you re-enter the real world.

I dropped my items off at the vanity area at the other end of the building. This is the perfect place to reapply makeup and fix your hair before heading back to work!

64454724_10157249761444929_5650655280392830976_n
A massage room at Float Robins.

What would be a perfect way to start off your float experience is to begin with a massage with one of two massage therapists on staff at Float Robins.  There are two different massages I am interested in: Deep Tissue and Myofascial Massage. Deep tissue massage can relieve chronic muscle tension, reduce inflammation, and eliminate scar tissue, while myofascial release is an alternative medicine therapy that treats skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.

64409392_10157249760974929_1325335016720302080_n
Peyton Cunningham’s Massage Therapy Room at Float Robins.

After all of those years of dance and let’s be honest here, entirely too much stress, I need someone to not be afraid to really tackle the cement that is masquerading as muscle tissue. The hour massage is $90, while the 90 minute is $120.

64348572_10157249760614929_4568673647534800896_n
Waiting area of the sauna room at Float Robins

Another added benefit prior to floating is the Infrared sauna. The benefits of using an infrared sauna are similar to those experienced with a traditional sauna including:

better sleep
relaxation
detoxification
weight loss
relief from sore muscles
relief from joint pain such as arthritis
clear and tighter skin
improved circulation
help for people with chronic fatigue syndrome

64564023_10157249760794929_2814664507710767104_n
Haley was trying on the sauna for size at Float Robins. It smells of Eucalytpus!

The experience is made even more powerful because it is spacious enough to stretch out and features chromotherapy lights and music options. You can bring your phone or other device to connect to the sauna’s speakers or listen to the soothing sounds Float Robins provides. Or you can choose no music if you’d prefer to read or sleep. Soft towels, soft body wraps with velcro for all sizes are available, as well as cooling cloths and cucumber water. A single session with the sauna will run $45.

Finally, the time had come to take the “plunge.”

64363657_10157249762129929_6110146386550849536_n
Inside of the Float Room at Float Robins

I entered a small-ish room (one of three) that holds the float pods. The first thing you will notice is how tidy and serene the room looks and feels. Green plants, soft white spa towels, and teak bathmat gives off a complete zen feel.

64905369_10157249760324929_8757694352429416448_n
Telisa explaining to Haley the rules on showering before and after your float at Float Robins.

I was given a quick demonstration of how to use the pod and the proper protocol for showering and then I was left to my own devices.

I felt both apprehensive and super excited at the same time.

64921001_10157249762014929_2916004643311976448_n
Shower is in the corner of the float room at Float Robins. This is the last float room, closest to the sauna.

I stripped down to my birthday suit and made my way to the shower. Basically, you are to shower off any excess oils your hair and skin may have, as well as dirt. I took a bath the night before and arrived with no makeup or lotions. However, our body does what it does and it is recommended you shampoo your hair before entering the tanks, as well as use their body soap.

65083384_10157249762339929_8558161716729348096_n
The shower at Float Robins

After you lower the lights to your float room, you heat the water up. The shower will show you a blue light, a green light, and a red light. You want the shower head to glow green – which is not too hot and not too cold. Why? Because the temperature of the float tank is the temp of your skin. If you take a hot shower, the tank will feel cold.

After a quick rinsing off, I made my way to the Pièce de résistance :

64241666_10157249762609929_8177183811038085120_n
A Sensory Deprivation Tank at Float Robins

I stepped in and realized immediately that I forgot to put my ear plugs in, so I crawled back out and put them in. Remember – this is SENSORY DEPRIVATION. No sound.

After I sat down, I immediately felt the effects of the 900 pounds of epsom salts. (Note to self: don’t shave the night before.) I took a deep breath and closed the pod. Only to immediately re-open it, because, well… I’m a chicken and a little claustrophobic.

After opening and closing about 3 times, I decided to lay down to see what that much epsom salt would do. WOW! You automatically float! It didn’t require any muscle use, except for my heart and lungs to do what they do. I decided to lay back and just get adjusted to being in an enclosed space with the pretty blue light on. It felt marvelous.

After about 3 minutes or so, I got brave and turned the light out. Only to turn it right back on. I thought to myself, “I’m not sure I can do this.” I  decided to just breathe and lay with the light on. Then I got mad at myself for being such a little chicken.

Finally, I turned the light off, but kept my index finger touching the light. I also noticed that my other index finger could touch the little basket that holds the spray water bottle (in case you get salt in your eye.) That sort of gave me a sort of “source of orientation.” Then suddenly I felt a wave of panic and I sat up quickly and flipped the light back on.

I was getting really frustrated with myself.

I took a few minutes, a few breaths and finally turned the light back off and just floated. I let go of the light and basket… and I simply… let go.

My brain sort of pinged all over the place. I was berating myself for being such a silly goose. I bounced from thought to thought and to all of the things I should have been doing or haven’t been doing…. and it hit me: I have so much negative self talk that it is no wonder I cannot relax. You think the stress of critical parents/bosses/husbands/kids/friends/life causes anxiety? Well folks, it has nothing on Nicole causing herself anxiety.

Epiphany moment.

Girl… chill the eff out.

So I took a really big deep breath and let my arms float above my head and I breathed. I breathed deeper and calmer than I ever had. I let my arms float forward and back, like a mermaid. I prayed to God. I asked hard questions. All I heard was silence. I think that is what I needed. SILENCE. God was saying: Nicole, chill out.

And I did. Finally.

Probably 30 minutes in (which, BTW, you have no sense of time or space,) I completely merged with the water. I did not (at least I don’t think) I entered the theta state that many, including my intern, entered, but I did reach a point of clarity and focus that I have never experienced before. I tried a visual meditation that I remembered from years ago and followed it all of the way through. I noticed that my neck muscles seemed to completely release, as well as much back muscles.

I could breathe.

I even let a few happy tears flow. (WTH was that about, I have no idea! The brain is a trippy thing!) I touched my stomach and the sensation of any feeling was like a zing of chills sent through your body. Fascinating stuff.

Finally, I began to feel energized. I was ready to get out of the pod, when suddenly, the music came on.

Then the funniest thing happened….

I am so short, that somehow, I floated in a circle and sat up at the other end.

The end where you can’t open the pod.

Ha! Did I freak out? You bet.

I sat up and was like, “OMG – I can’t get out.” But that thought lasted 5 seconds, as I slowly felt my way along the wall until I found the basket…. with the other hand. Which told me I was backwards. So I turned myself around and felt for the light and opened the pod.

One final shower with the hot water and I was off to the Glow Room.

64981291_10157249762409929_4793432563194527744_n
The wall of the glow room at Float Robins

I made my way to one of the chaise lounges and was handed spa water and a weighted blanket.

64666550_10157249761504929_9165963313543118848_n
Meditation corner at Float Robins
64430199_10157249761724929_2570767655866728448_n
Glow Room at Float Robins.

Before, between, or after your time in the float tanks  you can feel free to bask in the candle light of the Glow Room for as long as you’d like. They give you time to re-renter the world while sipping on hot tea or refreshing cucumber water. We listened to the soothing sounds of running water and zen music on the chaise lounges, but you also have the option of using the meditation floor space. This is free with each float.

64783167_10157249762249929_3819933021025337344_n
Haley & I feeling refreshed after our float at Float Robins

If you are interested in floating, a 90-minute float is $75. There are tons of really awesome packages and I recommend you visit their website for more information: https://floatrobins.com/packages-and-pricing

Now the experience was legit. Truly amazing. But what surprised me the most were the after effects. I slept deeper than I believe I ever have. I’m talking uninterrupted sleep. (I suffer from insomnia and bouts of sleep apnea from time to time.) I felt completely clear and focused and my neck muscles were completely relaxed. It is Thursday and I am still clear and focused and I simply…. am without words on how life changing it was.

I mean that.

Mind-altering – as if someone went into my brain (where my amydala and circuits are all connected) and sort of did a tune-up. Imagine if I did this monthly? Or even weekly?

I suffer from chronic panic disorder – something I have dealt with since I was 8 years old. THIS could be a game changer.

I challenge you to give it a try. Float Robins should be officially open by July. I plan to gather 7 other friends for a private party (includes float, massage, meditation, and sauna) for $125. If you want to be one of the 8 of us to go and can swing the cash, let me know. I will make it happen.

Let me know about your float experience and if you do end up booking Float Robins, let them know I sent you.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have!

Until next time….

 

 

 

 

Be Our Guest!

I love to host. Oh my goodness, do I love to host. Be it a party, a weekend guest, a foreign exchange student for a year – it doesn’t matter! I live for this stuff.

I recently had the honor of hosting two people who happen to mean the world to me…

Yet we had never met! Crazy, right?

Remember waaaaay back when, back when I used to write on the other Destination Unknown (on Blogger,) and had these Bloggy Besties that would always comment? Yep, two of those people actually made the trek from the suburbs of Chicago to little old South Georgia to spend a few days with me.

Guys – it was awesome! The best part? They are blogging about their trip over the next few weeks! I would love for you to read about it, it is a several part series, but start : HERE. Then, when you finish Leanne’s story, head on over to Peggy’s story HERE.

56405494_10157070334234929_5521326848673316864_n
Peggy on the left, me in the middle, Leanne on the right

To say we had a wonderful time would be an absolute understatement. Their visit was everything I had hoped it would be. Leanne is exactly the way Leanne writes: warm, thoughtful, funny, and just radiates love and light. Even when dealing with such tremendous loss. And then Peggy is exactly the way I imagined her: quiet, smart, kind, with a hint of snark which is exactly the way I like my friends to be! We had a really, really wonderful visit and I am so glad I got to show off Georgia’s Sumter County to two really awesome people.

I put them up for 2 nights at the Plains Historic Inn and 2 nights at the Bestwestern Windsor Hotel.

56162819_10157070327304929_3510553616022765568_n
On the 2nd floor of the Historic Windsor Hotel

We did just about everything you could imagine. We visited:

  • Jimmy Carter National Historic Site: Plains High School, Campaign Headquarters, & Boyhood Farm
  • Billy Carter Service Station
  • Our family cabin on the timber farm
  • Richland Rum
  • Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village & Discovery Center
  • Wolf Creek Plantation
  • Koinonia Farm
  • Americus Haunted History Tour
  • Had a latte art class at the Cafe Campesino Roastery
  • Had a glassblowing class at Mobile Glassblowing Studios
56447533_10157070334844929_7551413565706469376_n
Richland Rum Sampling Georgia Rum!
56279995_10157070328934929_877796740122542080_n
Leanne cracked us up as she learned to blow glass. She went from making a cup to a bowl, because man she could blow hard!
56268623_10157070328709929_1920899053411893248_n
Peggy ended up being our pro in this arena!
55942645_10157070327524929_5331408097833385984_n
Latte art class with Barista Extrodinaire, Hannah Mercer!
56214348_10157070327744929_472687762542166016_n
Leanne totally shined in this arena!

I took the ladies to a few fun places to eat locally:

  • Buffalo Cafe in Plains
  • 1800 Mexican Restaurant in Americus
  • Gladys’ in Americus
  • Koinonia Farm in Americus
  • Pat’s Place in Americus
  • Cafe Campesino in Americus/Sweet Georgia Baking Company
  • Rosemary & Thyme in the Windsor Hotel
56171669_10157070333779929_1707395163975843840_n
Tim & I at 1800 Mexican Restaurant

Not too soon after Leanne & Peggy returned home, we ended up having a grand time at the 3rd Annual Hot Glass Craft Beer Festival in Americus.

57577045_10157107498879929_6206735768631640064_n
Tim, his sister, and his oldest daughter & I at the Americus Hot Glass Craft Beer Festival.
57427481_10157107501904929_2189570719728271360_n
Tim & one of his close friends, Rob!
56462458_10157081231584929_2721104890049855488_n
Shawn, from the Americus Times Recorder serving up cocktails in the VIP Tent.

About a week or so later, I took off for the Golden Isles for the Regional Visitor Information Center Conference. If you can remember, I won that big award there last year! This year, I got the opportunity to present during one of the sessions.

58372654_10157105148064929_4204462108756148224_n
Me! Talking about how to create the visitor experience. Jekyll Island Club.

My administrative assistant, tourism assistant, our Main Street Director, and my hubby headed down on a Tuesday. I opted to rent an Airbnb to save a few dollars on our budget. Tim was simply going to chill on the beach and do whatever while the rest of us toiled away in a conference.

57232179_10157105210269929_4524043697469259776_n
I’m on a boat, bitch. WITH a disco ball. 😉

I look toiled don’t I?

58372849_10157105212664929_2016463596166316032_n
Tim repping with a little Wolf Creek Vino on the Dolphin Cruise

On the first night, Tim, Qaijuan, Carter and I met our other tourism friends at The Wharf on Jekyll Island for a Dolphin/Sunset Cruise.

57319713_10157105210364929_2084980071273070592_n
My tourism besties Steven & Becky! (From Macon & Statesboro.)
57798708_10157105212434929_3890934259266879488_n
Justin did a “calling of the dolphins.” it worked!
57546517_10157106107784929_2357862824174157824_n
I made friends with a shrimp boat captain!

Besides sitting in classes, drinking copious amounts of boat drinks, and networking all night – we got to choose FAM Tours. (Stands for familiarization tours.) I chose to go on an actual shrimp boat.

57608912_10157105150804929_9041895731429900288_n
Living my best life!

Yeah, baby! I held a shrimp!

57530955_10157105147894929_3466750262478110720_n
Lunch at the Jekyll Island Club Resort
57390017_10157105210884929_3548714443397398528_n
Dinner at The Wharf
57546470_10157106108009929_4998338739852804096_n
Lunch at the Marshside Grill.
57253340_10157105212014929_3355720504563466240_n
You simply have to know Nija and Justin to understand what is transpiring.

Folks – my life is good and full. I do have some really awesome friends – in Chicago, in Birmingham, in Statesboro, in Macon, in Atlanta, Bangkok, Milan, Iraq, Sao Paulo, and so many other places in between. It’s not like I don’t have a tribe. I do. They just live elsewhere.

This past weekend was super awesome. Again… I left town, but it was worth it. Tim’s best friend since the beginning of time is Tag. Tag decided to throw a Cinco de Mayo party on the fourth… so I guess it was a Quattro de Mayo party mixed in with a few Kentucky Derby hijinks.

59625224_10157141593114929_3663218786904834048_n
Tim & I in Columbus
59405267_10157141593724929_2756356890693730304_n
Needs no introduction

Three margaritas, 4 shots of tequila, and 6 hours later I can officially say that my laugh tank is full. It was so refreshing to be around people our age, people with our basic sense of humor, and people who are sort of… well.. been there done that.

59869779_10157141095184929_3334033964850479104_o
We all agree Maximum Security got robbed!

We watched the Kentucky Derby. You know, all 20 seconds of it and then sat through the controversy of whether a horse shoved another horse in the wrong direction.

59299148_10157141593264929_4329524920691195904_n
Tim, Tag, and Rob

We listened to good Classic Rock and 90s Grunge and I got to hum along as guys who actually know how to play guitars and can sing decided to belt a few familiar tunes out.

59295914_10157141593199929_3927563518483628032_n
Tag & Rob

And the laughter…. oh the laughter. All. Night. Long. It was refreshing and good. All of us have pretty much remarried and found happiness. We all were sharing war stories and next chapter stories. Every one had kids either out of high school or in and we were all rejoicing in how soon – FREEDOM is around the corner!

57155049_10157106108554929_6860504278700654592_n
My peeps at cocktail hour.

At the end of the day- 2019 is shaping up nicely. I’ve formed a new life and as I approach 3 years down here, I realize I probably would not change a single thing!

 

 

 

 

 

Times Keeps on Slipping

52724320_10156978541209929_2301801694096261120_n

Where did the past two months go?

And how did I allow myself to get roped into so many activities?

The truth is- I decided to live intentionally. I said No to the things I did not want to do and yes to things I did want to do.

Apparently I wanted to do a lot. 2019 has been better for it! I got so busy living life that I just quit worrying about keeping old friends up-to-date on my current goings-on and decided that if new friends wanted to know what was happening, they would need to make an effort. That’s right, dear readers. I, Nicole Kirksey, decided to stop being the one that tried to make relationships work. It took 46 years, but I am living my best life free of any entanglements that might not have my best interests at heart.

How ’bout dem apples?

For one, I have recommitted my life to seek spiritual matters on my terms. Yes, this means I have been attending a church. Not particularly my denomination, but it is nearby and I really, really like the congregation. I’ve missed a few Sundays recently due to travel, but for the most part, there is a definite improvement in this area. I like it. It feels right with my soul.

59674174_10157131972124929_6095905400278745088_n
District 2 Town Hall Meeting at Union Tabernacle Baptist Church

But I have also been very busy with work. In the past three weeks I have completed at least three speaking engagements. One: At the State of Georgia’s Regional Visitor Information Center Conference in Jekyll Island.

58372654_10157105148064929_4204462108756148224_n
Me! Talking about how to create the visitor experience. Jekyll Island Club.

I also got the chance to speak to the Presidential Pathways Travel Association about how to use strategic marketing to promote your destination or attraction. And just last night I spoke at the District 2 Town Hall meeting at a local church. Not too shabby for a kid who actually enjoys public speaking. (Though I have to admit, no matter how many times I do it, I get super nervous right before!)

At home, we have been busy landscaping our yard. We finally settled on gardenias, knock-out roses, and azaleas – all white flowers for the front yard. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labor.

58737464_10157116883929929_5674209984850690048_n
Karen-Ann, 16

I’m also proud to announce that Karen-Ann attended her very first prom! Isn’t her dress just beautiful?!

But wait… let me back up a minute. The last time we chatted I had just gotten back from my 46th birthday weekend in Atlanta. Well….. our 2nd Anniversary trip was the VERY. NEXT. WEEKEND. Yes, Tim and I have celebrated two years of marriage (with very few bruises.) And guess where we ended up? In my favorite town in Georgia – Savannah.

52596141_10156986694769929_5661768834688745472_n
First stop: The Paris Market!

We drove the 3 1/2 (maybe 4 hours) to Savannah, Georgia. We made a beeline for City Market and decided to wander down Broughton Street. It was sort of fitting that we kicked things off with a little Parisian Flair (since our Honeymoon was in Paris. Oh yes, it was! Want to read about that magical experience? Click HERE.) I sniffed and swooned over all of the beautiful items at the Paris Market. My main source of satisfaction came from a delicious assortment of macrons.

53070195_10156986694819929_8473417072766877696_n
Macrons. Delish!

If you will remember, I was in macron heaven in Paris… well technically Versaille, and I discovered the mothership- Ladurée. The one I am about to devour above was a rose flavored pastry. Sweet baby Jesus… it is worth the trip.

53330431_10156986695039929_6561125863960608768_n
Best. Lunch. Ever – Bernie’s Oyster House, Savannah, GA

We left Broughton Street and headed over to River Street to look for something a little more filling. It was about two in the afternoon and I could very easily eaten my arm. I went to my tried and true spot – Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street. Oh the stories I could tell, about 22 years of stories. But for now, I will tell you about the fantastic stuffed shrimp and great conversation with my awesome hubby.

52571332_10156986694959929_4827196078497464320_n
I may have snagged half of Tim’s peel n eat shrimp…

After lunch, we were in top spirits and Tim had one request – to visit Savannah Sweets. Well of course, I had to oblige him… and well…

53164941_10156986695169929_8709409827576610816_n
I may have bought the store. In turn, I have probably gained 10 pounds and 5 cavities.

I just noticed something on the ground. Look to the left of my purse. That, my friends, is a dangerous frozen concoction from Wet Willies.

52788247_10156986695124929_1254830869403664384_n
To say we were a little buzzed would be an understatement.

Okay, maybe my over spending in a candy shop had something to do with my lack of inhibitions…. or… anyway.

We left our little adventure and drove to meet two really wonderful friends of mine that happen to reside in Savannah: JJ & PC!

52596286_10156986696099929_3997322506154278912_n
We just love JJ & PC!

We enjoyed viewing their new home and catching up on the world. Around 7 that night we invited them to join us for our anniversary dinner. I mean, why not? It was PC’s birthday just the night before and honestly, isn’t celebrating so much more fun with friends? So we headed to Circa 1875.

52585279_10156986696129929_1715642918523371520_n
We found a French dining establishment in Savannah!

I opted for for the Steak Frites and a champagne cocktail. We dined like the bourgeoisie that we were pretending to be and had a marvelous time!

The next morning we went with JJ & PC to church then decided to find this little coffee shop I had heard so much about.

53022099_10156986695654929_3700077474684600320_n
This coffee shop stole my heart!

We found Bitty & Beaus.

It is so much more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee – it’s an experience. While the shop is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the customers really come in for the unique customer service experience. It made such an impression on me and I think it would for you also. Here is a little more about their mission:

Next time you find yourself in Savannah, do yourself a favor and check these guys out. #NotBroken

 

52699423_10156989028809929_546087473730551808_n
GREAT Sunday buffet!

We were very lucky to have acquired a $50 gift certificate to the Pirate’s House. The Pirate’s House does history and good cooking right! Yes, it is a bit touristy, but YES it was worth it. Situated a block from the Savannah River, this former inn became a rendezvous for pirates and visiting sailors from the Seven Seas. The building remained intact through the centuries, but lost its spark & had fallen into disuse after World War II. Finally, it was saved and now it is one of Savannah’s most famous landmarks and restaurants.

52595975_10156989121554929_1744001668455858176_n
Churchill’s Pub

After lunch we checked into our hotel and took a nap, only to head back out to wander City Market and finally head for a cocktail. We stopped by Churchill’s Pub on Bay Street and proceeded to indulge our fancy at the rooftop bar!

52766729_10156989029694929_3570815237001052160_n
Rosé all day.

We had a wonderful time sipping wine and beer and chatting about life in general. This was exactly what my soul needed.  After our cocktails we headed to Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub .

KB’s is my FAVORITE place to visit in Savannah. It has authentic Irish music every single night! Here we were on a Sunday night, having cocktails and fun. Gosh I miss living in a larger, more metropolitan city.

52598834_10156989121009929_2541837404700934144_n
Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

After drinks and dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest before our drive home.

52595712_10156986695319929_8529639139564322816_n
In one of the many park in Savannah

To say we needed to relax and unwind and not worry about family and children would be an understatement. We needed this. We needed this so very badly. Because when we got back to town, the whole world flipped upside down.

58380861_10157107497779929_6620335471354445824_n
Dad & I at the Spring Festival at Wolf Creek Plantation

For one, my dad’s diagnosis ended up being a little more complicated than we expected AND on top of the cancer, he now needs open heart surgery. In. The. Same. Year. Talk about a lot for one human to handle. He basically needed to clear his head and came down to spend the week with us. I’m glad he did and I am glad I was able to be a safe haven when in need. Keep him in your prayers. He’s my dad, and I’ve only got one. Our parents age and we all will have to deal with this… but…

57370840_10157110530079929_5276342571239473152_o
Happy Easter from the Thurston’s

And we celebrated Easter together as a family.

57395675_10157110530024929_6597270066750816256_o
Autumn turned 13!

Which just happened to be Autumn’s 13th birthday. Geez, Louise. She is a sassy 13 year old. I mean SASSY. Blue hair, alternative lifestyle… like… who is this kid? Where did my little Autumn go?

57504708_10157110530204929_8269692016409968640_o

But you know what? I love her. And I am proud that she is attempting to live her best life ever. She is smart, she is funny, she is kind, and she is a good kid. What more could you ask for?

58443111_10157107500834929_1617974116671815680_n
My great-aunt Sarah! 90 years old!

Tim and I took some time to visit with my mom’s side of the family. My great-aunt Sarah turned 90 years old! It was great to see her and the rest of our family.

57297740_10157107501334929_5076157680330997760_n
Generations

It is so strange seeing everyone. I rarely get to see them in person, which in and of itself is weird to me. We were all, or at least in my child’s mind, we were all so close when my Granny (my great-grandmother) was alive. I saw them so much more often and felt a sense of community and family. Now, not so much. It is a shame. I have always tried to keep a relationship, to the best of my ability, with cousins and aunts and uncles on both sides of my family. Can’t say I’ve been the most successful at it, but I have tried. It’s all any of us can do.

58383261_10157107499314929_27029113956990976_n
What I do when I am home – alone. Which is a lot.

Sooo… back to that whole friend & family thing. Yeah… I haven’t been as successful as I would have liked. My family lives farther away. That’s mainly my fault, I’m the one who happened to move. My in-laws include me, but it is sometimes hard to make new connections when there is someone else constantly standing in the place of where I technically should be. (The ex.) She’s not going anywhere. Blah.

The relationships are all pre-established and the kids are the link that keeps everyone together. I had hoped to move here and kind of have this ready made safety net of friends (my sis-in-law and her partner are close to my age,) and even my oldest step-daughter is at least an adult. Though they are kind to me, I am not really a person they call upon to go places or do things or anything like that. And you know what – that’s okay. I accept it and can create my own tribe. Though that has sort of failed miserably.

I have met a lot of really nice people. Honestly. I have been invited to group gatherings, and as much as I appreciate that, it is hard to create those personal relationships when surrounded by 50 other people that are already close. Again…. their dance cards are full.

I guess I am going to have to one day bump into another newbie in town. Perhaps that person can be my coffee & shopping & travel buddy. Yep.

Moving on…

I have a few more stories to tell, but honestly, I’ve run out of steam. This will give me more to share in the coming days as I TRY to get back to blogging. I haven’t really felt like it… since I spend more time alone or with Tim, I’ve learn to become a little more private (about the big stuff.) Or at the very least, more carefully curated. I decided enough was enough. Back to authenticity… because honestly, is anyone really noticing?

(See what I did there? I buried the lead. 😉 )

Love to all… more later!

This is 46

51751389_10156932627374929_3285370288874717184_n - Copy

Satchel Paige said it best, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” That Satchel knew what he was talking about. Unlike past birthdays, my sentimental recap of a year did not happen. I was not reminiscing about where I have been and what I was supposed to be. I think at 46, it is what is it and it will be what it will be.

We are half way finished with February and at least 3 people my age, who were very significant in my life at one time or another, have passed away. One from cancer, one from a drug overdose, and one from a heart attack. We were all around the same age.

You see…. it is what it is.

And it will be what it will be.

It took 46 years to accept that. I believe somewhere deep inside I used to think that if I worried enough about something and spent all of my energy & time trying to manipulate a situation, that of course, I somehow had control over it. I laugh thinking about that now.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

51187694_10156933414279929_38482627799285760_n (1) - Copy

This is 46.

I’m not sure what I expected, say, 20 years ago. 46 seemed so old. I look at that pic and I don’t see old, yet I don’t see young either. I see a woman, with a smile, and that is good enough for me.

That smile is genuine. That confidence is real. That woman is me.

This is 46.

51122997_10156936218559929_3812204721297424384_n - Copy

February has been super busy for the Kirkseys. We spent the first weekend traveling two hours South to Valdosta, Georgia – home of Valdosta State University. Our middle daughter, Alex, is 17 and a junior in high school and is exploring her options for the future.

51103790_10156936218804929_4597665149229203456_n - Copy

VSU was actually my second choice for a university. However, I ended up being accepted to my first choice. We had a very vivacious welcome from the recruiters: A stadium full of hopefuls, lots of cheering, lights flashing on and off, and motivational stories. There was a huge push with their athletics program and then we were off to explore the majors. The whole day was supposed to be from 10 am until 3pm, we left by noon. Alex had experienced enough. It was overwhelming and not a good fit for a studious-academic oriented kid. We didn’t care that they were national football champs in their division. We didn’t particularly like the main professor of biology telling us that if you are interested in Marine Biology that all you will ever do is teach at a university.

Eh.

So we went for Mexican food. And Valdosta got one thing right – El Toreo had the best salsa I think I have ever consumed.

So there is that.

51612696_10156943339154929_8656492901322194944_o - Copy

The next weekend we headed down to my alma mater – Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. Another 2 hours away, but this time, Northeast.

51612540_10156952525884929_3881403812736401408_n - Copy

Not saying my college is the right choice for Alex (eh hemm…) but it definitely portrayed a completely different vibe. Both schools had their pluses and both have their minuses. What GC&SU makes up for perks & academics, VSU makes up for in diversity and school spirit.

In walked kids  hailing from Buckhead, Roswell, Cumming, Savannah, Augusta, Macon, etc. Mostly private school kids. Valdosta had a different feel altogether. Most of the kids were from North Florida and had more of a relaxed feel.

Vibes and first impressions aside, one thing is for certain, academics were the main focus at Georgia College. According to US News & World Report, GC&SU ranked 28 in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges & Regional Universities in the South. They were also voted #10 in Best Public Universities. #5 in Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs worldwide, and it is the top nursing school in the state… among so many other distinctions.

51574557_10156952525724929_6021499623066042368_n - Copy

We toured the campus, the dorm rooms, and even checked out the downtown area. Alex seemed very pleased with the experience. It was more intimate, and luckily, I was there to affirm what the tour guide was sharing.

51499541_10156952526444929_2308739741316546560_n - Copy

There was no pressure to pick a major, but to actually explore her options (which is what a liberal arts education is all about.)

51760227_10156952525544929_5716261498544717824_n - Copy

As of now, GC is at the top of her list. *proud squeeee*

51297197_10156948821969929_4048650749775708160_n - Copy

The following week happened to be Valentine’s Day. And we knew we had the kids that night, so we opted for an early celebration – simple yummy food at The Fish House in downtown Americus. We sat outside (because it is Georgia and February – so we are warm. 😉 ) and enjoyed some shrimp and chicken tenders. Our hearts were heavy dealing with my dad’s prognosis. Tomorrow is his pre-op and we are sending prayers his way. We tried to celebrate and just enjoy being together. It was calm and it felt right.

51552733_10156962484149929_883625427355041792_n - Copy

The Kirkseys helped me celebrate my birthday the best way they knew how later that week: With tacos and cake. (You can’t go wrong!) It was a great night with family – lots of presents and laughter. (Exactly what I needed.)

51760239_10156962483819929_2570359586728968192_n - Copy

Cotton was a huge help. 😉 She insisted on helping me lick the icing off of my cake, as well as open all of my presents for me. lol Welcome to 3!

We also spent a lovely night at Plains United Methodist Church for their Sweet Heart Banquet, which is a fundraiser for the WOW women’s group (Women of Worship.) Steak & potatoes, a live auction, and lots of laughs.

52293337_10156971921184929_5851320533328592896_n

My actual birthday was such a treat! We left Plains around 6 pm on Friday and drove 2 hours and 45 minutes to Oxford, Georgia (South Atlanta area.) I went to spend it with one of my oldest friends (25 years now,) Mary Therese and her husband, Retired AF Colonel, Bob Griffin. MT and I worked in television news together.

She and her husband live in an amazing home with all of the bells & whistles and made sure I felt like a princess. As soon as we got there, we were given libations (me a glass of wine, Tim some bourbon,) and headed down to their movie theater to watch a hilarious comedy.

52365646_10156970115344929_19276959980716032_n

Yes, we said theater. Their basement if off-the-charts amazing. It would be rude to snap photos, but just trust me, this is just one of the many amenities they have.

We snuggled in for a relaxing night, woke up to an amazing breakfast and headed out to CANDYTOPIA. It’s a thing, look it up.

52366909_10156971907339929_5340039496039661568_n

This was such a fun way to celebrate 46! I embraced the 6-year-old in me! Like Willy Wonka? Like bright colors and everything girly? Yaaasssss, Queen. It was amazing.

52126782_10156970147309929_6641050828767494144_n

We went through psychedelic hallways and entered a land of bubblegum and pixie sticks!

52348567_10156970147039929_7582008086634692608_n

All of the art was made completely out of candy. Every single piece. Plus there were vats of free candy everywhere. I took full advantage of the sugary goodness and kept shoving handfuls into Tim’s jacket pockets. lol

Some of the art was really fantastic!

My favorite part was…

52642915_10156970103454929_6494297981016080384_n

When the pigs farted confetti all over me and it smelled like cotton candy.

I seriously cannot make this up!

All we needed was glitter and I would have been in girly/candy heaven.

52001219_10156970103384929_4729766712482725888_n

What a fun way to celebrate!

We left Candytopia (not without me purchasing a hot pink trucker hat, rock candy, cotton candy pop rocks, and Tabasco Dark Chocolate,) and headed over to Phipps Plaza for a few libations and snacks at the Tavern.

52527154_10156970113319929_3534294099291013120_n

Here we shared stories and laughed and took a little stroll down memory lane.

52403903_10156970113709929_2708135806802853888_n

After lunch, we headed to downtown Covington. Or was it?

52440797_10156970102884929_2070063868897394688_n

Are you a big Vampire Diaries fan? Well I am. So much so that I named my big orange cat, Salvatore, after the lead vampire brothers: Damon & Stephan Salvatore.

52071505_10156970102574929_3762891414338273280_n

I decided to be a good tourism director and stop by the Covington Visitor Center. Met some of the nicest people in there and discovered so much about this area. If you love shows like: My Cousin Vinny, Vampire Diaries, Dukes of Hazard, In the Heat of the Night, Footloose… and I could go on and on…. then you have to stop here. So much has been filmed in this area.

52523785_10156970103029929_8194344322804482048_n

I loved how all of my favorite characters were highlighted with a little stone in the pavement along the town square.

51968924_10156970101554929_3558835417866305536_n

It was such a treat! A little Southern Hollywood, if you will!

51940836_10156970103324929_4833970517528543232_n

I absolutely loved the town square. Everything that was significant for my little Vampire Diaries obsession was there! I love being a tourist in my little state!

52596505_10156970101994929_5507690323213549568_n

We stopped for coffee, chatted some more, and decided that this crew needed a nap. We headed back to Castle de Griffin and took a load off. After everyone was well rested we headed back downtown to have dinner at the Mystic Grill. This restaurant is the main “haunt” in the Vampire Diaries.

Well.. we thought we were going to eat there.

There was an 1 hour and 45 minute wait.

I mean… I am a fan girl.. but…

We ended up heading to the one restaurant everyone recommended:

The City Pharmacy.

51915543_10156970523079929_2750881408686751744_n - Copy

And it did not disappoint. I opted for the Kobe Beef Burgers and felt divine!

52466034_10156970523174929_3719718939949793280_n

After a lovely dinner, we headed back to the house to indulge ourselves in their jacuzzi tub outside (again… gotta love Georgia weather,) followed by a delicious night of sleep.

We left yesterday morning and headed out to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market.

OMG.

Just go. It is a spice, meat, cheese, veggie heaven. I don’t want to spoil it. Just GO and trust me.

So here I am, back at home, 46, tired… because, well.. I guess I am 46 and have been running nonstop, and it is time to get back to work.

Lots to do.. and still more adventures ahead this weekend.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

Interested in checking out the cool places we visited?

Here are the links:

Valdosta State University

El Toreo

Georgia College

Plains United Methodist Church

The Fish House

Downtown Covington

Mystic Grill

Bread & Butter Coffee

The City Pharmacy

The Tavern

Phipps Plaza

Candytopia

Dekalb Farmers Market

Aging Parents

A few nights ago, Tim and I were having a heart-to-heart about the fact that I never got to meet his father. Jerry Kirksey died almost a decade ago from Lymphoma. He was a well-loved man in his community (former mayor of Preston,) and apparently a jovial father. A super health nut that ended up losing a battle to his biggest foe – Cancer.

I told Tim that I felt like I would never truly know what I needed to know about him because I never met his father. He looked at me a little funny as I went on to explain that meeting a man’s father says a lot about the man he would one day become.

I have heard many stories about Mr. Kirksey- he was a scientist (plant pathologist,) a farmer, and an avid hiker. He made lots of silly jokes and had a very distinctive laugh. He was loved and respected by everyone.

I’ve never heard his laugh or his voice. I don’t know his mannerisms nor have I been the recipient of his sage advice. This is what happens when a father is gone too soon and the memories of him are shared with loved ones. These memories are all I have to piece together the type of man he was.

We chatted about the pain of losing a parent, something, thank goodness, I have not had to deal with. We also talked about what it is like to take care of a sick parent – something else I have not had to deal with.

Yet.

15672805_10154822426714929_2520222056370154751_n
My dad.

I called my niece last night to let her know that we would be driving through Gray on Saturday and we wanted to see her. Plus, we wanted to see my father, mainly because it will be his 73rd birthday. As she and I were chatting, my mom grabs the phone and leaves the room and begins to word vomit some not-so-great news. Dad’s PSA test came back bad. This is the 3rd one he has had recently and the numbers have tripled.

We are talking Prostate Cancer.

15978070_10154893547424929_8689661672725799744_n

Here is what we know: Some types of prostate cancer grow slowly. In some of these cases, monitoring is recommended. Other types are aggressive and require radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or other treatments. Looks like he is heading toward surgery. The doctor said it is best to tackle this quickly, considering his age, health status, etc.

45872145_10215149330317998_8744299345865605120_n

After his upcoming biopsy, we will know how far along and what we are dealing with.

I say we… I’m down here. He’s up there.

11904049_10153519957914929_7486110458770410675_n

I’m not sure what to think of all of this. I’m not sure I am ready to even consider what this could do. I know early detection is key.

If you happen to be a guy, make sure you get your prostate checked. If you love a guy, talk to him about screenings available to them and to know troubling symptoms. 

You can have no symptoms, but many people experience:

Pain areas: in the bones
Urinary: difficulty starting and maintaining a steady stream of urine, dribbling of urine, excessive urination at night, frequent urination, urge to urinate and leaking, urinary retention, or weak urinary stream

Here I am thinking…. what is causing all of this? Find the root and we can tackle the issue. According to the Mayo Clinic, unfortunately it is hard to determine what causes it. Doctors know that prostate cancer begins when some cells in your prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can also break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.

There are certain factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:

Age  – Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age.
Race  – For reasons not yet determined, black men carry a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
Family history – If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
Obesity – Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat.

So for my Dad,  what is worst case scenario? According to the Mayo Clinic:

Cancer that spreads (metastasizes) – Prostate cancer can spread to nearby organs, such as your bladder, or travel through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to your bones or other organs. Prostate cancer that spreads to the bones can cause pain and broken bones. Once prostate cancer has spread to other areas of the body, it may still respond to treatment and may be controlled, but it’s unlikely to be cured.
Incontinence – Both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence. Treatment for incontinence depends on the type you have, how severe it is and the likelihood it will improve over time. Treatment options may include medications, catheters and surgery.
Erectile dysfunction – Erectile dysfunction can result from prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation or hormone treatments. Medications, vacuum devices that assist in achieving erection and surgery are available to treat erectile dysfunction.

Where we are now is figuring out exactly what we are dealing with. When a biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, the next step is to determine the level of aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer cells. A laboratory pathologist examines a sample of the cancer to determine how much cancer cells differ from the healthy cells. A higher grade indicates a more aggressive cancer that is more likely to spread quickly.

The most common scale used to evaluate the grade of prostate cancer cells is called a Gleason score. Gleason scoring combines two numbers and can range from 2 (nonaggressive cancer) to 10 (very aggressive cancer).  In addition, genomic testing in increasingly being used to more accurately assess risk and detect aggressive prostate cancer.

We have the facts, now we need to know what level we are dealing with. Once we get past this part, we will deal with the rest.

Again, I said we. I am down here. He is up there.

This makes all of this even harder.

I’m a fixer, and I can’t fix this, nor is geography or time in my favor.

All I can do right now is ask for your prayers. Please place my father, Jack Thurston, on your prayer list. He’s my Dad. His birthday is Saturday and he will be 73. I want him to have the strength and courage to face what is to come.

Until next time…

11028016_10153518272699929_7530257350560670374_n

 

A Sense of Place

There has been a lot of talk lately about creating a “sense of place.” Maybe it is your community where people are coming together to install public art or create a business incubator. Maybe it is your church where the congregation is seeking to attract millennials with an in-house coffee shop and movie room or even your home, where you are trying to find a sacred spot in a corner to meditate. Whatever the case may be, the signals are clear – we are all in need of connection. We need to feel connected.

One of the many mindful practices I have incorporated in 2019 is devoting more time to connecting the dots for myself. I am attempting to treat my work space and my home space as a sacred spot to spark creativity and to energize. Even when it comes to groups I am choosing to devote my time to, I want to make sure that it resonates with my soul.

Sound corny? Probably.

But it is working.

50988166_10156926785169929_6828105570860400640_n

Just this past Tuesday I gathered together with 76 tourism stake holders in my community. My job was to create a retreat where we concentrated on team building and took time to network with leaders in our field. One of the speakers dealt specifically with Creative Placemaking. This workshop got participants thinking about ways to attract visitors and at the same time, create a sense of place for locals. Everything from installing public art or creative way-finding signs to re-purposing empty buildings and blighted neighborhoods.

At the end of the day… it got me thinking.

It made me think about my own life and how I could transform my personal space.

meditation-corner
Visit for more information: https://www.homeyou.com/why-poufs-are-awesome

It could be something as bohemian as a meditation corner. Or maybe even something like this:

f2acf0acbd38ca13cdd799d319b719e6
For more inspiration: https://www.hedonistit.com/pinspiration-cozy-decorated-reading-nooks-will-inspire-design-little-corner/

Or maybe a nice reading nook.

I think finding a space to decompress and recharge my battery is key. Afterall, I’m an ENFP. I may be an extroverted-intuitive-feeling-perceptive person, but I, too, need to find a place to leave that frantic energy and allow my brain to cultivate creative ideas to share.

I learned a few new ways to do just that at the retreat.

51502873_10156926786809929_3794116170177576960_n

We had a fantastic workshop on the DISC personality test. Here I am with my fellow extroverted people/people. We love to chat it up and are open to new ideas.

But then we answered a question that proves not all extroverts are alike. We were asked a simple question: If given a choice, would you rather finish a task or check in with people.

51121458_10156926786009929_59106506703896576_n

Our large group of extroverts suddenly divided. Across from me (you see in the photo above,) were our task-oriented outgoing folks. I am more of a “check-in” with people extrovert. Which means, if I like you – I will help you. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The folks across from me are not only single-focused, they are vocal about it. Which means we could butt heads even harder than with the people on the other side of the room – the introverted/Task oriented or the introverted/people-people. The Introverted-doers typically avoid my personality type (to the best of their ability.) And the relationship-driven introverts are the people my personality type would call, “Some of the nicest people we have ever met.”

FASCINATING stuff. I’m learning even more about what makes me tick and others around me. It’s like a huge self-awareness bulb just went off and I feel like I can function better.

Boy… it only took 45 years and 11 months. 😉

51078353_10156926785644929_2149281839137685504_n

Overall, the day went really, really well and I felt like I had accomplished a huge step in building my department.

51098877_10156934251339929_8524629141817917440_n

In the very same week we had a First Friday event in downtown Americus. Here you see our local organic/small market sharing a mini workshop on making your own bath salt. It was such a treat to go in and have this happening, plus a wine tasting right next to this table. Across from that a Georgia Grown cheese and jam tasting. Talk about a sacred space! I loved walking around and checking out the new products, learning about some of the local dairies, and sampling items. If you ever get to come to Americus, make sure to check out Center Stage Market.

51187694_10156933414279929_38482627799285760_n

And talk about the sacred – I got to address an old friend: the American Heart Association. Remember when I used to work for them in Birmingham? I traveled all around the Southeast spreading the importance of heart health. Well… Friday was National Wear Red Day and our staff decided to Go Red For Women. We had Phoebe Sumter (local hospital) provide blood pressure checks in our Visitor Center. Outside of the great community benefit, it was bitter-sweet for me, because it brought back those old feelings and my old life: living in Birmingham, married to someone else, a whole different set of friends and activities – it felt like a different Nicole. And each year I get to relive it…. even just for a day. It is not always comfortable…

51478177_10156933403044929_4779082063846309888_o

But the beauty is: it gets easier and easier. That whole life was 7 years ago, but feels like a lifetime. I’m assuming I’ll never really have positive closure, but the pain is not as extreme. Proof that time does heal all wonds.

51122997_10156936218559929_3812204721297424384_n

This weekend we got a glimpse into the future. Tim’s oldest, Alex, is a rising senior and is beginning to think about college. We started the first of what I assume will be many weekend trips to explore colleges and universities in Georgia. We started off 2 hours from Plains in Valdosta, Georgia at Valdosta State University.

The school put on quite a show! Their marketing efforts to attract students was very aggressive. Tim said they sent a text, just about every day, reminding us about the big Open House day coming up. This went on for several weeks. Even after the trip, they sent a survey with three options:

  1. Yes, your search is over.
  2. Maybe, VSU is in the running.
  3. No, VSU is not for us.

Poor Alex, she didn’t know what to think. We were afraid to respond, because we knew the hard-core text/sell would come after that. Not sure if it was a good method or a turn-off.

Needless to say, she enjoyed the visit. They put on a very exciting pep rally and allowed you to explore the different degree options.

In a way, this whole visit reminded me that Tim is about to enter a new phase in life and I need to help him create a sacred/safe space – An Empty Nest. I can feel his apprehension. I can feel his anxiety. However, the inevitable is coming. I need to make sure our nest is comfortable and designed with a new life in mind.

51265834_10156939153104929_830904549177819136_n

I think all of this pending change had Tim seeking something familiar. We headed out to the farm, and specifically the cabin. We took Cotton with us and I think I counted at least 4 times with him saying, “I sure do miss it here.” I felt like this was a sign and I realized I might need to step up my game as a supportive partner. Life is changing fast, and my introverted-task oriented guy is not a fan of change. Maybe… this is where I come in.

Maybe God puts us with people – in situations – in environments where we are the one that shines and where we might act as the anchor. Maybe my ability to travel the winding road with ease is just the security my big strong man needs in his life during this next phase.

As we sat in church on Sunday, I looked over at him and his youngest daughter and realized how precious this time we have left with his kids is. I also realized that life can turn on a dime. I know… I’ve lived enough and changed enough for 3 life times.

If the universe is constantly sending us signals and God is directing our paths, I think this past week was loaded with previews of what is to come. It is up to me to trust the path, create sacred space, and slow down just enough to savor what is now.

Until next time….

Hello, Old Friend

d8a242e12d2f3ae64a77fd75fc500282

On the 31st of January, in 2019, I am re-committing myself to blogging again.

I know, I know… I have said it before, and I will probably have to reaffirm again. But it is a start. A beautiful start to what is quickly shaping up to be a pretty good year.

I continue to heal from the surgery back in October. Yes, I am still healing. But it IS happening and that makes my heart happy. I’ve even made strides to get a little healthier by incorporating exercise back into my life. As for food, well, I have jumped on this culinary band wagon and have been attempting to cook my way through Julia Child’s famous cook book: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1 AND 2.)

I have a few more goals in mind for this year. I hope to take a photography class in the Spring that my husband purchased for my Christmas gift. It will be with the Atlanta School of Photography. FINALLY, people. I’ve been saying I wanted to do this for years. I’m also hoping to write again.

So here I am.

I also plan to reconnect with the people I love the most. Including old friends, as well as making sure I invest time and energy into growing the relationships that are newer. I even find myself attending church each Sunday, albeit not a Catholic Church. Tim & I decided to invest in our little town of Plains and we began attending a church just a few blocks from our home. It is a Methodist Church and the pastor is really good. I miss a lot of the elements of the Catholic Church, but unfortunately in South Georgia, the pickings for a church that fits my needs is not very strong. I cannot formally join the Methodist Church, because I do not want to part with the Catholic Church. However, my husband is a Methodist and it is simply having him transfer his membership. Good enough for me. It will serve my needs, for now.

Life has been moving along quite calmly – Tim and I have been coming up with house projects, as well as travel options for the year. The financial strain from building a house is easing up a bit and we are ready to move to the next phase.

The holidays were spectacular. I tried to attend every single event that I could. Here is a quick look at my year-end from November & December.

46798355_10156768651044929_6550492615857405952_n

We had a delicious and delightful Thanksgiving at my Mom & Dad’s house in Haddock.

46489598_10156766838869929_8304633422198865920_o

Spent some time visiting with Tim’s childhood friends. Apparently, it was such a momentous occasion that it made the local paper. 😉

45851570_10156742598659929_3896947647272976384_n

We spent a lot of quality time together. He did a great job taking care of me post-op.

47395357_10156799866859929_6085199975250132992_n

We spent a lot of time with our kids and grand.

45275152_10156725185354929_3701178493845897216_n

Isn’t she growing up so fast? And so, so, so beautiful. This is my grand-daughter – Cotton.

47193966_10156790724524929_3299719615696863232_o

This was my third year as the official light flipper during the Plains Christmas Tree Lighting. First time that it had rained. And.. um.. I was afraid I would electrocute myself. 😉

46370045_10156754598894929_3047000084983054336_o

We had a very successful Christmas Open House at the Americus Visitor Center.

47480397_10156802425219929_5397497087489212416_o

Tim came to support his sister & I as she judged the Americus Christmas Parade and I was the emcee.

47682358_10156792111139929_1686252882518605824_n

As a family, I introduced Advent into our home and all of the traditions that come with it.

47580616_10156807709804929_5176694231846092800_n

I reconnected with old & new friends in Macon.

48091179_10156807689159929_8068256546989015040_n

I even celebrated Hanukkah!

46801498_10156776003439929_6614004427567136768_n

We set up a cookie making night with the girls. They did a fantastic job!

48367853_10156821972634929_2290818315964121088_n

I got the wonderful opportunity to serve as an Ambassador for the Andersonville National Cemetery.

48365118_10156821972514929_7671552305010835456_n

One of the most moving moments during the Wreaths Across America.

48312898_10156820833929929_130816839751041024_n

I had my coworkers come out to my house for a little Christmas party!

48269029_10156814945819929_7384401769536684032_n

We celebrated Christmas in Plains with President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalyn.

 

We threw our very first Christmas party in our new home.

48384458_10156816439739929_4542290853141413888_o48393949_10156816490644929_6726522477549191168_o

 

Got to enjoy a fantastic Christmas party with my work.

48277592_10156816439914929_1602690686002397184_o

AND – I got to emcee it!!!

46906552_10156776003234929_5024639599155085312_n

Our tree went up. I did it by myself because Tim was super-duper sick!

48369724_10156820833489929_759739526653411328_n

And finally, I have been Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

And we are only on day 31 of the new year.

So much good is in store and I can’t wait to experience it all!

Here’s to 2019! I hope you embrace each day as a gift!