Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beyond My Profile

My name is Nicole, but my college and Internet friends know me as Nicki, my husband and sisters call me Nick, and I'm Mama to my two beautiful kids. Together, hubby and I have lived on three continents, and we currently reside in a small city outside metro Atlanta, Georgia.

I grew up in rural New York State, dreaming of the big world beyond the horizon. After college, I set out to discover it. In true Kerouacan fashion, I headed west to crash the party of life. After two years in Los Angeles working for Chiat/Day Advertising (creator of the Energizer Bunny campaigns), I was restless. I'd stand on the beach and look out over the Pacific, wondering what it would be like to interact with the world beyond that horizon. Too poor to realize any travel dreams launched from LA, I headed back east and lived with a sorority sister in Washington D.C. It took another two years, but I submitted my application for Peace Corps service, and it was approved. In 1994, I was stationed in the Central African Republic where I worked as a Community Health Extensionist.

I lived outside the U.S. for a total of seven and a half years, and during that time my life changed forever. Besides meeting my husband, I learned two foriegn languages (French and Sango) and acclimated to cultures that challenged my view of the world and my place in it. Today, I describe myself as a free-spirited woman, trying to live each day with arms wide open -- and most nights I go to bed content that I did.

I love to write lists (although I forget them on the kitchen counter when they consist of grocery items I mustn't forget to buy), so I thought I'd introduce myself to you in that format. The following are ten things that describe me. Here goes:

10 Things To Know About Me

1. I LOVE my family~

After 14 years of marriage, Christian and I still love and laugh like when we first met. Our kids, Cody (age 11) and Sidney (age 9), fill my days with sunshine that dazzles my soul and warms my heart. I am truly blessed.

2. I'm a writer ~ I used to think I was overly dramatic, listening to my internal dialogue as I took in the world aound me. Riding the Metro back and forth to work, I'd pull scraps of paper out of my bag and sketch the characters I saw on the platform or sitting across the aisle from me. In the Peace Corps, I dealt with homesickness and culture shock by scribbling emotional entries in my journals. In 2007, I discovered and for the first time I wrote stories with an audience in mind. My life changed. I became an author, passionate about the craft. Now I write everyday, and I love it.

3. I crave a technicolor life ~ Bright hues lift my spirits, so I surround myself with them. Christian and I painted the boring beige interieur of our new house in vivid sunset shades and ocean blues. Even when we entertain, we eat on the oversized country table in the kitchen. The formal dining room is our family art studio furnished with easels and cabinets of painting and drawing supplies. I frame our artwork myself and hang them, splashes of our colors, on the walls. If money were no object, I'd have stained glass in all the rooms.

4. The gym is my sanity ~ Four to five times a week for the past eight years, I've met my best friend Lorri at the gym. We arrive early, unfluffed and bare-faced, and get our sweat on. Our workouts aren't for the faint-hearted. We start with cardio, usually a forty-five minute-long combination of jogs, hills and sprints. Next we hit the weights, often scaring and sometimes inspiring newbies in the room. Of course, we talk about food the entire time we're exercising. What we ate the day before, what we wished we hadn't, what we plan to eat later on... But more than that, we just talk. We've exercised our way through pregnancies, fights with our husbands, boob jobs, problems with friends and neighbors, fortieth birthdays, moving into new houses. We've cheered each other on through good times and encouraged each other over the rough patches. My body and spirit are stronger thanks to her.

5. No recipe scares me off ~ I learned to make a mean pot of (spaghetti) sauce when I was growing up. In Africa, I befriended women and children who taught me to prepare their country's dishes, cooked over three-rock fires out in the yard. But it was when I moved to France with my new husband and became my mother-in-law's star pupil that I really learned how to cook. Watch out Julia Child, you got nothin' on me!

6. Cake Artistry is one of my hobbies ~ My creative side fears no medium, including buttercream frosting. As soon as my kids were old enough to ask, I've been making their birthday cakes. I raise the bar each year, and here are the two most recent cakes I made.

I made each rose by hand with Royal Icing -- everything on this cake was edible!

I crafted the palm trees with pretzel logs and fondant, and the monkeys with Royal Icing. Only the zebras, lions and giraffes were not edible.

7. I read tarot cards ~ A reading doesn't predict the future in any traditional sense. The tarot's power lies in the fact that while I meditate on a question or quandary in my life, I'm drawn to certain cards. I fan them out face down, close my eyes, and choose the number of cards needed for the reading. As I turn each over, one at a time, reading the card's interpretations, it mirrors a quiet truth I hold in my heart. Sometimes the truth is so still I can't hear it, but when it resonates loudly in the days that follow, the card's meaning is revealed. It never fails to astound and inspire me. I also like to pull a card in the morning, to give focus to that day.

8. I have a word box ~ My mother has a small stained glass workshop in her basement, and one Christmas she made me a gorgeous box of light pink and white glass. She soldered the joints and affixed the lid with hinges. Inside, I keep short, narrow strips of card stock, on which each I wrote a noun, verb, or adjective. When I'm feeling uninspired to write, I sometimes pull ten or fifteen words out at random and compose a poem. My daughter and I often pull two words out each and they become our names for the afternoon. One day she was Polite Lovely Green, and I was Pristine Flabbergast. Another day, we could be Sudsy Ricchorchet and Faucet Fade.

9. I love board games ~ There's something relaxing and nostalgic about playing games. Maybe I find comfort in the fact that everything you need comes out of the box, and once you've finished it all stores neatly back in the box. I love playing with the kids -- Monopoly is one of our faves. And my son is an excellent chess player. My all-time favorite, though, is Scrabble. When my sisters and I get together, you can bet the Scrabble board will be out the entire time.

10. I'm an idealist ~ I believe the world is as it should be, disasters and heartbreak and all. If life were easy and our challenges minimum, there would be nothing driving us to improve. Each of us has a responsibility to be the best human beings we can be, to spend our energies invoking positive change in the world, one person at a time. The soul is eternal; its journey continues. I want to make the most of my time here and grasp the lessons I set out to learn.

So now you know a bit more about me. Do we have anything in common? Tell me, leave me a comment!


Phivos Nicolaides said...

You have a beautiful family Nicki. God bless all of you. Sending kisses and hugs especially for your family from the Nicolaides family! I have added your blog to my traveling blogroll.

Kristin Rae said...

Thanks for following me!
Your family is precious!

Let's see what we have in common... I am also a writer, I wish the gym was my sanity, but it's my h.e.doublehockeysticks (and I'm so glad I read your post because I had just talked myself out of going to the gym, but now...I'm going to go as soon as I submit this comment), I also love board games!!

Nice to meet you!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Philip! I loved your email today :))

Hello Kristin! Thanks for visiting my little corner of BlogSpot. Have a great workout!!

((hugs)) to you both,

Sarah Ahiers said...

the word box is a genius idea!
Also it's so cool that you were in the peace corps!

Unknown said...

The word box is SO much fun! It's always on the coffee table. Friends love to stir the words with their fingers and see what they pull out. And the ways to draw inspiration from the box are endless.

Thanks for stopping in!!

Katie said...

That's very cool that you worked for the peace corp! I've thought about doing that. I love traveling and humanitarian work. And thanks for following my blog! :)

Unknown said...

Hi KM! The Peace Corps was a wild experience -- and gave me a LOT of material to use in my stories!

Thank you for following me, too!!

Summer Frey said...

I love the description of the paint in your house! I'm wild about color; I think my hubby and I would probably also do stained glass everywhere if possible.

I also read tarot cards, and I love your description of how you go about it.

Of course, I'm a writer, too. That's what My Documents tells me, at least.

And wow! Those cakes are amazing!

Luna said...

Wow! You are a very fascinating person. I really enjoyed learning about you! I wish you all the best with your writing.

I love your blog and look forward to stopping back often.

Take care,

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adriana Noir said...

Hmm. Let's see. I, too, am a writer and a mean chef! However, your cakes are absolutely GORGEOUS! Oh my. They look like prizes you would see in display windows, Nicki. Fabulous work. As for the others, I don't go to a gym, but I live for my walks and jogs that my future sister-in-law and I take. Excercise and fresh air, not to mention the bonding really do wonders for the soul. My family (the gypsy-blooded side) reads tarots, but I do not. I do like to have them read, along with my palms and the occassional rune casting or tea leaves. :)

Eyz said...

Wow!! You are sooo much more talented than I ever realized! You know I think your artwork blows me away but cake decorating? That flower cake was too beautiful to cut! Is there anything you can't artistically do? :-) I stumbled upon your blog on WDC and saw your link here and I am so glad I did! Your family is beautiful Nicki, just like you.

Peace corps? Bet that was an experience. Of course after reading your workout regiment, I went and got a cup of ice cream and toasted you gals ;-)

Catcha soon!!


Erin Kuhns said...

Again, great read. I am supposed to be writing but between the beautiful, alluring layout of your webpage and the eloquence and honesty with which you write, I was drawn into reading more.

I can identify with many of the things you talk about: cooking (gorgeous cakes by the way!), board games, tarot cards and even the way you state that you believe the world is as it should be--disasters, heartbreak and all. I really do get that.

I love the word box idea and I'm going to make one with my son this weekend.

YOU are inspiring.

Thank you!

Unknown said...

We do have something in common. We lived in CAR from 1966 until 1973. My husband was a missionary mechanic, and I worked with the ladies and children, and also did a bit of writing in Sango. We lived at Yaloke, Bata (near Bozoum), Bossembele, and Boguila. Bossembele was our favorite. When we were there the country was so poor we thought things couldn't get worse, they just had to get better. Unfortunately that's not what happened. We keep in touch now through ICDI, an NGO that drills well, and tries to help in other ways.

Unknown said...

"Tom" ~

Bara mo! Tongana nye?

It's so exciting to hear from someone who has seen the CAR with their own eyes! I lived in Bambari, and though I travelled to several other places in-country, I never visited the villages you mentioned. I suspect the country I got to know was very much as it was when you left in '73. Then, when I was two months shy of finishing my service and returning to the States, the mutant rebel uprising of '96 took place. It was fascinating and terrifying to see the political climate change so radically and so quickly. I and the other PC volunteers were evacuated from the country, though I went back a few months later with my now husband, whose work had not been terminated.

If you blog anywhere or have a web site, please leave the link. I'd love to hear from you again!

Thanks so much for dropping by!

Unknown said...

Those palm tree cakes are so cool!

I also love board games, and I also am a writer.

I'm excited to snoop around your blog ;)