Wednesday, October 25, 2017

checking things off my 30 before 30 list

I have to say, I am really proud of myself.

I have already taken care of FOUR of my goals on my 30 before 30 list! And here I was thinking I wasn't going to be able to get everything done and I've already checked off some. Look. At. That.

1. get another tattoo

Well, that didn't take long! After almost 7 years since my last tattoo (yes it's been THAT long), I finally got another one!

(Parks and Rec forever)

We say this to each other practically all the time, and it'll probably (definitely) show up in our vows in a few weeks. Took maybe 15 minutes and was pretty painless too, but I definitely have the bug and want some more very soon if possible.

Shout out to Greg at Oak City Tattoo in Raleigh for working with us!

2. be a published author


In Holl & Lane magazine, for their 14th issue appropriately entitled 'The Heart', I have a published piece! 

The little girl inside of me that made books for fun in my free time and wrote any chance I got in every journal I've ever owned is doing the biggest happy dance at seeing my name in print.

Holl & Lane is a rare publication where women can share their honest stories without judgement, and I am so incredibly proud to be part of this amazing community of female contributors. This magazine is content created by women about women, and is one of the most refreshing representations of women in the media I've seen in a long time. Here you won't find tips on loosing weight so you can look better naked or lists of ways to improve yourself just to be loved by your partner; instead, Sarah and her team of creatives welcome you as you are, exactly as you are, in whatever season of life you're living in. Each issue focuses on another theme that affects women, be it mental health, matters of the heart, or the physical and metaphorical body. Within its' pages instead, you'll find stories about miscarriages and loss, abuse and recovery, love and light, the human condition and the female experience, and more. 

Holl & Lane has limited quantities of print issues, so PLEASE head over to the link above and snag yourself a copy of this fantastic publication, and read my piece featured within it, 'Unexpected Reassurance'.

3. do a 30 day challenge

For the month of August, I went 30 days without Red Bull AND beer.

As a former server and bartender, this was a little hard but mostly, I was perfectly fine. I'm used to grabbing caffeine on my way everywhere I go, and when coffee isn't nearby, I grab Red Bull like water. Since going without, I have been a lot less likely to grab it, but I still love it.

(first beer flight after 30 days)

And thanks to the 30 days without beer, I lost a few pounds and I was able to feel a bit better about myself. We of course had beer and wine at our wedding, but going without it for 30 days was a nice reset. I love trying new brews so I missed that, but honestly, I'm just not 21 anymore, so I was happy for the break.

Speaking of wedding...

4. get married to the love of my life

I can OFFICIALLY say that I am FINALLY a married lady.

I can not even describe how incredibly happy Sunday, October 22nd was for both Ashley and I. We were surrounded by our community of family and friends that are our chosen family, crying through the ceremony and laughing and dancing our asses off through the reception. From the fantastic vows to the sentimental and heartfelt speeches to my new wife's killer dance moves, Sunday was the best day ever, capping off such a phenomenal weekend. We cannot thank everyone enough for that day.

More to come later on wedding day, but for now, here's a shot from my best friend Rebekah's boyfriend Devon that he got that is my new favorite until we get our photos from Kat back...

More to come soon!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

an exhausting, annoying, ridiculous, and heartbreaking circus

I'm not really sure how many more times I can do this.

Don't worry, I'm not being melodramatic.

I mean the news. Keeping up with it, reading it, getting upset over it, dealing with it, and trying to move forward only to be knocked in the face with a 2x4 yet again with the next idiotic, traitorous, and horrible banner notification from various news sources on my phone.

I'm fucking tired, y'all. Aren't you?

After the tragic events of that fateful weekend in Charlottesville, VA, I feel at my wit's end. Let me explain.

I grew up in the South, in the metro area of Atlanta. I grew up in a small town, where there were churches upon churches on every corner of every denomination. Those churches that levied their influence on the little town we lived in, even to decide what kind of play the high school theater could put on. My father was a bit racist and homophobic, and a few of my relatives growing up who were very opinionated about anyone different from them. I'm no stranger to hearing others judge and criticize, masking their subtle racism with "But I have black friends..." and "I'm not racist but..."

As a native of metro Atlanta, I spent summers watching the laser show on old comforters on the lawn, eating KFC and Dippin Dots, while the fantastical light display played out on Stone Mountain's Confederate carving. I can still hear those rednecks with their whoops and hollers when the lasers depict the surrender of General Robert E. Lee while Willie Nelson played in the background, before Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American began to play. As a child, I saw 'Dixie Flags' and heard 'It's heritage, not hatred' more than a few times. As a teenager, I remember when it was cool to wear Dixie Outfitters with your cowboy boots from Horsetown East, shirts with what appeared to be harmless displays of Southern pride in the shape of Confederate flag bandannas on golden retriever puppies and such. We have streets, roads, bridges, memorials, schools, and monuments devoted to the mythology of the Lost Cause of the Boys in Grey.

If you live in the South, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Symbols of the Master are all over, a false idol to an idiotic belief system.

So it doesn't surprise me that a group of Neo-Nazis, Alt-Righters, White Supremacists, and members of the Klan descended upon Charlottesville, VA this past weekend because one of their precious statues were threatened. In reality, Christopher Cantwell and Jason Kessler, among various others who ascribe themselves to the morals of the KKK, paraded into a Southern town with tiki torches, bats, and shields, and protested, to "unite the right" and take back America. They were wearing white power shirts, chanting 'Blood and Soil' and 'White Lives Matter', and were performing Nazi salutes.

It doesn't surprise me, but I have some news for you all.

This goes for you too, you who defend white cops who kill black Americans, you who utter the words "All Lives Matter" at a BLM protest, and you who hide behind your keyboards criticizing and denouncing all who are different from you:

There is no America that belongs to strictly white Americans. There never has been and there never will be. Our country has been built on the backs of slaves and immigrants. Our country was created on the basis of religious persecution and the genocide of Native Americans. For the massive amount of prejudice, racism, and hatred our country has perpetuated, I want to apologize to every immigrant, black American, and Native American who has ever been hurt by those of us with paler skin.

And another thing, the Confederate army went to war during the Civil War to maintain their way of living. That way of living was a booming economy of slavery, not state's rights. Understand history and come to realize that holding a Confederate flag is in absolute violation of the United States and what it stands for. Confederate monuments and artifacts belong in a museum and in history books, not outside courthouses that stand for justice and equality.

I am so tired of the white-washing of history that is happening in this country. The parents in Tennessee who want to remove learning about Islam in school because of radical terrorists. The Texas schoolboard who calls slaves immigrants and wanted to airbrush history with a wide white brush by removing civil right's leaders. And I sure am sick and tired of the white people who think America is some heathen shithole because my community can get married and black Americans deserve the same equal respect as anyone.

The dehumanization that is happening in this country is alarming. The outright hatred that others believe is acceptable to now flex because we have an imbecile in office who couldn't even properly condemn the violence that occurred that weekend in a timely fashion because he benefits off the David Dukes of this country. How much more do we need for this country to wake up?

To my fellow white friends: It's time to step away from the keyboard and step outside of the house. Start protesting. Start standing up to the racists and the bigots and the people who continue to perpetuate hate in this country. Stand beside your friends at a Black Lives Matter event.

The world is changing and you have to change with it. We are a multicultural melting pot of diversity and equality for all, and it's time to get onboard with that.

To all my black friends: Whatever I can do myself to show my support as your ally and friend that I am not already doing, I would love to do it. I know I have privilege because of the color of my skin and I hate that I am afforded certain rights due simply to the lack of melanin in my outer layers.

This country is so broken, the pieces fractured and split across party lines, voting districts, and county limits. I was so afraid in November post-election of this kind of environment seeping into our country like a pandemic in the dead of night.

There's been a lot we have been able to criticize, make jokes out of, and try to dismiss, holding onto the hope that impeachment or something else would break us all from the bonds of this punishment. I'm about done with the jokes, and I'm ready for this country to be what it should be.

Aren't you?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

crafting my own 30 before 30 list

I'm going to be honest. Turning 30 in a year and a half both terrifies and excites me.

There's a huge stigma in our society about growing older. It's like we celebrate the idea of turning 21, and then once you reach that goal, it's human nature to begin hating your birthday every year following that pivotal age of finally earning your right of passage to drink alcohol outside of your parent's house.

I however would like to change that. My birthday is usually what I consider my own personal holiday (I typically take it off from work, sleep in, drink something bubbly, and treat myself to something I enjoy, whether it be lunch, a new outfit, or getting my nails done). While I enjoy this kind of attitude about my birthday, as I get closer to that apex of ages, 30, I really want to change how I approach that birthday. I want to begin a list of all kinds of various goals I would love to actually accomplish by 30.

I have a confession to make though: I have this horrible habit where I start a project and unless I finish it in one sitting, I almost never finish it. Oops. So part of me is a bit hesitant because I actually want to finish this list and I don't want to go to sleep on my birthday still not finishing what I set out to do. So to be perfectly honest, I crafted this bad boy to make sure I would want to finish it. And I admit, some of these goals I know I'm going to accomplish, like that wedding I've been planning for two years. But these goals are still important ones I want to accomplish by 30.

Much like Alaina, one of my favorite bloggers from alainaisbouts, states on her blog from when she did her 30 before 30, it's more about greeting this birthday with joy, not dread, and making it a happy occasion to look forward to. Also, she had some really great goals, and I might have borrowed a few for myself (hope that's ok!)

So here it is, without any further ado:

props to Canva for the graphic help

Let's break it down now:

1. Go somewhere new with Ashley: We have been craving a trip together for a while now. Grad school wears on us both, even though she is the student, and we have been tossing around some short trip ideas for possibly later in the year or the beginning of next year. Vegas? West Coast? DC? At this point, anywhere will do.

2. Make new friends in Raleigh: Y'all, making friends as an adult is hard as shit. When you no longer work in a restaurant, no longer are in school with peers, and work remotely, there's only so many people you come across that are friend material. Raleigh hasn't really felt like home since we moved here, and I blame having no real friends to hang out with, so this needs to change.

3. Take myself on a spa date: I am almost 30 and I have never experienced what a massage or a facial feel like, and I'd love to pamper myself a little. Honestly too, it'd be great for someone to get those knots out of my shoulders and the blackheads out of my face.

4. Become financially literate: I have no clue what IRA, stocks, bonds, or investing really means, and as a feminist lady, I think it's about time I learn what all these mean, how they pertain to me, and how to have a better handle on my financial future. I'd really like to feel like I know what's going on with my money.

5. Unplug for an entire weekend: I am a Millennial and damnit, I love the Internet. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google everything... I am constantly connected to it all. For 72 hours at least, I would like to not have to even look at my phone, let alone post or check anything at all.

6. Have an entire day with just Mom and just Sarah: Living 2 states away from my favorite people sometimes really, really sucks. Both my mom and my older sister, Sarah, are phenomenal women and just the best to spend time with, so I'd love to have a day with each of them to reconnect, hang out, and just in general get some time together.

7. Cook 5 meals from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: I blame Julie & Julia for this one. One of my favorite books and movies, it's given me inspiration to branch out and try something different. I could do Italian or Mexican food allllllllllllllll day long, but I've never really tried French food. Julia Childs is the expert, so let's give it a shot, eh?

8. Experience something marvelous: Amazing life event, glorious sunrise, breathtaking sunset, feeling infinite in a place I've never felt that way in before... something to just marvel.

9. Visit a local winery and buy a bottle of my favorite wine: Being in North Carolina, there's actually quite a few wineries nearby that I've been interested to branch out and try. I love wine, ask my best friends/fellow wino's, and to go to the source and find a new favorite sounds like an excellent way to spend a day.

10. Stop biting my nails: I've literally been biting my nails since I can remember. Let's just cut that out already, shall we?

11. Write 30 thank you cards: I love to give and receive snail mail. Packages, letters, postcards, you name it, I love it. So I want to send out some to any and everyone I can.

12. Build something with my hands: Puzzles are, like, my thing. And I love being crafty, so let's combine the best of both worlds, and make something amazing. I'd love to learn how to use real power tools, cut wood, and make something I'm proud of. Maybe get ambitious and make a bed frame for our bed and not buy one from the dozens of places I've searched?

13. Read 20 novels I've never read: I was an English major in college, and I've enjoyed reading longer than I remember being able to talk. When I am interested in what I'm reading, I just fly through it all. Right now, I've got Scrappy Little Nobody and Big Magic I'm starting from the library. Any book recommendations would be much appreciated (I love fiction, not corny love stories, fantasy/sci-fi, epic literature, gothic classics...hit me!)

14. Devote time to creativity: Working a full-time job can be energy draining when you come home and just want to decompress with a drink and yet another show on HGTV about renovations. I'd love to redirect that attention to doing more creative things again, like writing and creating.

15. Attend a class I like, be it yoga, cycle, dance, etc: You know, I've been telling myself for years that I was going to take a yoga class or do something active and fun. I still haven't. Time to change it up!

16. Protest / Rally / March: There's so much bullshit happening right now under this regime president that affects me that I have to find a way to express my frustration and anger. I'm a Millenial lesbian cisgender woman who depends on Obamacare for health insurance with a 5 figure student loan debt. I'm literally hit on all sides, minus the fact that I'm not an immigrant or a Muslim. I would like to get more involved and help out anywhere, whether it be for my LGBTQ community, my Muslim friends, my fellow Millennials, my immigrant neighbors, my vagina-owning sisters, Mother Earth, or all of the above and more.

17. Be a published author: I have always wanted to have my work published in a publication of value, be it a poem or a story or an opinion piece. Stay tuned on this one...

18. Get married to the love of my life: I know, I know, easy goal to put on the list since October 22, 2017, THIS WILL HAPPEN. (Thanks, Obama.)

19. Add another stamp to my passport: Whether it be on our honeymoon or beyond, I am itching like a fiend to whip that baby out, hop on an airplane, and experience a new land of culture, art, and overall fantasticness.

20. Create a living will: So this one is a bit morbid, but you never know what could happen, on any given day, at any given time, any given place. I'd like to make sure things are taken care of the way I want them to be, god forbid, if something were to happen.

21. Love my body for exactly what it looks like: Look, I was almost never negative about my body much growing up. Somewhere between adolescence, my college years, and now, I've become a bit of a bully to my body, and I need to quit. Time to start loving what I see and how I feel and look, and not rag on myself all the time for it.

22. Drastically downsize my closet: Hi, my name is Nikki and I like to hoard clothes for 'someday'. Enough is enough. Time to get rid of the pieces I never wear and never will, only keep the key pieces, and invest in the quality pieces I will wear over and over again for decades.

23. Pay it forward to someone who can't return it: I've always wanted to pay for someone's Starbucks order or cover their check at a restaurant, or do something to help out someone else. No longer am I going to just think it's a nice idea, I'm doing it sometime before 30.

24. Get another tattoo: I've been telling myself for years I would be getting another tattoo, and here I am, still with just the two I obtained between 18 and 21. Granted, I love them, but I'd love to have some kind of fantastic art on my body. Like they like to say, if my body is a temple, I should be able to decorate the walls.

25. Have only my student loan debt to pay off: Only recently have I obtained credit card debt, but I've been on top of paying the minimum payments on the two I have. Time for some next level shit and really make my student loans the only debt left to pay.

26. Become more involved with my physical health: I've been slacking hardcore on being more active. I blame not having a job between January and April, when I quite literally played Candy Crush on my ass, drinking coffee in my yoga pants on the couch watching yet another Netflix marathon of Law & Order: SVU. If I'm pissed at how I look, I can change that and be a healthier person. Not looking to become a gym rat or that girl that drinks smoothies for 2 out of my 3 meals, but maybe the woman that chooses water over a 3rd glass of wine, or maybe some damn exercise over hitting 'Continue Watching' when Netflix asks if I'm still there.

27. Visit every single brewery in Raleigh: I warned you, I'm a craft beer aficionado, and North Carolina is known for its' craft beer scene. I've visited a few so far, but I want to see all the ones I can near me here in the Triangle. This is another reason I'm stepping up my gym game, to counterbalance the beer intake.

28. Go away for a weekend spontaneously: I have always wanted to do this and I have never had the time/funds/means/partner to do so with. That's about to change. Watch out, Ashley!

29. Do a 30 day challenge: Blog everyday. Yoga. Bullet journaling. Give up alcohol. Try meditating more than once a week. I will do something for 30 days, and I expect some results, damnit.

30. Visit Caitlin Austin: Ever since my childhood best friend of 18 years and counting moved to Austin, Texas with her husband, the Caitlin void in my life is real. So at some point in time before 30, I'm jetting off to Austin for a girl's weekend of tacos, margaritas, Magnolia Market, and weirdness. Come on, Southwest, throw me a good deal!

So there it is. My masterpiece bucket list for beginning my 30's off in a fun, fabulous, and thrilling way.

God, when did I become an adult?

Friday, March 24, 2017

an interesting twist in the career path

You know, it's funny how things can change at the drop of a hat.

I had recently accepted a position with a company I considered a dream company of mine. One that is a well-known and prominent fixture in the publishing world. The position itself was not quite where I wanted to be, but it would have been a foot in the door to possibly where I would want to get to. I wasn't quite sure if it would have been the best role for me, but I wanted to give it a chance, with the understanding that there would have been growth within the company.

When I first began my job search, I immediately jumped at the chance to apply for the position with my former company that stood out and made me excited and hopeful. At the time, it was a position that had not been created yet, and I wasn't sure if it would be. For months, there was no news and while budgets were still being decided upon, as it goes when companies create positions.

Once I knew things were not progressing the way I needed them to for my own personal life, I amped up my job search, my follow-up became persistent to a fault, and my phone was consistently in my hand, applying to every job I could and reaching out to as many contacts as possible. This is where my contact with the 'dream company' came into play. After months of connecting, we finally got to a point to where I was offered a role.

Literally a few days later, my former recruiter with my former company phoned, with the unbelievable offer I had been waiting for. Doing the pros and cons, I came to the difficult decision that my best choice, professionally and personally, was to accept the offer that came from my former company. It offers great work-life balance, the pay makes my life much easier and much more stable, and the job itself does offer a more independent and social aspect that I feel I will really enjoy and do well at.

Throughout my career search, I have come to the realization of the intersection of my interests and goals quite often. Part of me still dreams that one day I will be some phenomenal editor of a publishing house or magazine empire, crafting publications that impact and offers pieces that provoke conversation. And a big part of me is coming to the realization how much I love helping people, communicating with them and making them feel that they can depend on me. I ADORE that feeling. It was one of the most enjoyable parts of my last position, and I loved every time I would be reaffirmed that my work ethic was coming through.

I graduated college barely less than a year ago. I know I am still in the infancy of my career choices, and I have plenty of time to figure it all out. But right now, I'm so excited to tackle this next hurdle. It's quite a curious thing when you go to school for one thing, and once you're out in the professional world, those goals can shift. And that's perfectly ok. You never know what amazing opportunities might happen when you start looking beyond the comfort and limits of your degree. Taking that job that might not necessarily be in the field you went to school for could end up being just as much of a dream, if not, better than what you originally thought it would be.

I hope I'm not the only one who thinks this way! Let me know if anyone out there has had a situation like this!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

filling in the blanks / 002

Since my time being unemployed with a wide-open schedule is coming to an end, I figured why not have some fun and do a post of some good ole fashioned fill in the blanks.

1. Something near and dear to my heart is the desire to do something good, whether it be for a person, an animal, or an organization.

2. A promotion, a beautiful day, or even just because is good cause to celebrate.

3.  The most fun I ever had was studying abroad in London for a summer semester, experiencing the places I've always wanted to go and seeing all the art I could have dreamed of seeing in person.

4. True friends are the kind of people who, no matter what's going on, you can call up even if it's been a while and they'll be there for you as if it's been a minute since the last time you spoke, the kind that let you be your messy self and yet still think you're amazing, and definitely the kind of people who you can pour a glass of wine for and share a laugh with always.

5. Something that makes me terribly happy is when I get to spend time traveling and adventuring with Ashley, bonus points if it's a beautiful day and I get to be creative at some point.

6. A good way to spend a sunny day is having a beer with friends outside on a patio somewhere, be it a restaurant with a rooftop deck or a brewery with dogs and cornhole. I advocate for sunny days to be celebration days.

7. My favorite celebratory food is pasta and wine, particularly anything with bubbles. I've been on a rosé kick lately, and I have to say it is a delightful and splendid way to celebrate anything!

8. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is look at my phone. It's awful, I know, but if Ashley isn't awake yet or she's already left for class, I like to catch up on the news and my notifications. When I have work in the morning, however, I usually hit snooze once or twice before hopping up and quickly getting ready for the day.

9. I can hardly wait for my sister's baby shower next month and my wedding in October! It keeps getting closer and closer and while we have a lot of things accomplished, we still have a lot to polish off in terms of contracts. Hopefully within the next month or so, we will have everything signed, sealed, and ready. My sister, on the other hand, is due at the end of May, and I've been a busy bee over here trying to finish making her decorations and presents.

10. The quickest way to my heart is by making me laugh because I feel laughter is absolutely the best medicine. Of course, sharing similar world views is also important, but having someone who can brighten the room with a laugh, good mood or not, is key.

11. A little known fact about me is the fact that I've broken my left thumb before. The day of 2nd grade orientation I stuck my thumb in our faulty dryer (it would still spin if the door was open), looking for a towel for our above-ground pool (we were really cool in the 90's, guys) and my grandmother's Japanese quilt caught my thumb, wrapped around it, and I completely destroyed my nailbed and broke it in three places. I had to have reconstructive surgery on it, including having a pin put in it, I wore a cast for 6 weeks from knuckles to biceps, and then had to undergo PT to regain mobility in my thumb. All because I wanted to grab a towel to go swimming.

12. Something I just couldn't live without is music. I've been to numerous music festivals, plenty of concerts, and I maintain a subscription to Spotify. It speaks to my soul in ways other things just don't do. It's the motivation that gets my creative juices flowing easily. And there is still nothing better than driving somewhere with the windows down and the music way up.

13. Something useful I wish I knew how to do is speak a second language fluently, or have the talent to successfully cook a grilled cheese sandwich without burning it. My timing is awful. As for the language, I took many years of Spanish, and I understand it enough to get me by somewhere, but I'm not fluent in the least.

14. If I had to classify my interior design aesthetic, it would be eclectic with hints of rustic and modern. My brother-in-law made our coffee table, it's stained reclaimed wood with black pipes for the legs, and I adore it so much, I want to design our entire household around it. But I also love IKEA, those clean lines and if it's grey in any way, done. Ultimately, if Joanna Gaines and Jillian Harris could design my house for me, I'd be sold.

15. If I had an extra $100 to spend on whatever I want, I would buy a bottle of rosé, an item or two off my closet wishlist to wear to work, and probably spend the rest at Target buying myself whatever sounds wonderful.

So there you go! I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and enjoy your St. Patrick's Day weekend! I know I'll be having a cold Guinness tomorrow to celebrate :)
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