31 Days of Gratitude: Day 30

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Day 30: What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for? I would have to say the talent or skill that I have that I am most grateful for is the ability to write. But not just writing, I love to edit things – or what I like to call “word smithing.”

I think my love for words started early on, before I could really even write. It started with my love for reading. I was the kid who would be up until midnight reading a book instead of watching TV or playing video games. I LOVE to read. Unfortunately, I feel like I don’t do it enough or nearly as much as I used to, but there is something to be said for the feeling you get when you are completely wrapped up in a book. Basically obsessed with a book, not able to put it down and when you have to be pulled away from it, all you can think about is the next time you can sit down and pick the book back up again. I think that reading and writing naturally go hand-in-hand.

Growing up, I had big dreams of writing for my high school newspaper – I wanted to be a journalist. So, I took the AP English class that was taught by our broody Varsity basketball coach – man was he scary! BUT, if you took his english class as a Sophomore, you were guaranteed a spot on the school newspaper your Junior year. So, I did it. I remember my Dad coming home from back to school night and saying to me that Mr. Kendall seemed like a really tough teacher, and that I would probably learn the most from him out of any other teacher I would encounter in high school. My Dad was right. I strongly believe that Mr. Kendall instilled in me a lot of the perspective I still have today when I think about the audience I’m writing for, whether I’m addressing the who, what, when, where and how? and am I being clear and concise? I use all of those skills every day at work, and I learned those while sitting in Mr. Kendall’s class every day for 3 years.

I wrote for the school paper during my Junior and Senior years in high school, and then again in college. It’s interesting how my love for writing evolved. In junior high I wanted to be a novelist, then it morphed into realizing that I needed to pick a paying job so I wanted to be a journalists, but then I thought about how journalists are always traveling and chasing stories and that maybe that wasn’t necessarily the route I wanted to take in the long run. When it was time to decide on a major, I chose communications. When I looked at the course curriculum it still addressed a lot of the areas that I loved, media studies, editing etc.

I’ve been lucky enough to work most of my career in the communications field in one capacity or another, and this year I decided to start the blog. I don’t have a niche per say – but I’m hoping that eventually something evolves. Also on my list of ambitious plans is to write a children’s book. Not a lot of people know this, but it’s something I’m very interested in doing, and something I’ve been exploring with my artist brother Dustin. I’m hoping to start sharing short stories from that endeavor sometime in the coming year.

Needless to say, writing is not just important to me, but it is an outlet for me and it’s a way that I have been able to express myself and also make a living! For all of that I’m grateful and hope that all of my readers enjoy it as well!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Day 25

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Day 25: What moment this week are you most grateful for? I would have to say that the moment I am most grateful for this past week would have to be the time I got to spend with Mariana (8) and Ava (4) – my nieces. We had a “girls day” on Friday the 23rd and went to San Francisco for the day.

We took the train over – which was super cool to them (even though I do it every single day), and then we had lunch at Mel’s Diner. Ava excitedly ordered hot chocolate with her pancakes and Mariana ordered a grilled cheese sandwich (her uncle would be proud) that came in a super cool old school car. We then walked over to Macy’s at Union Square to see the puppies and kittens in the windows – it was hard to walk away that’s for sure! Once I pried the girls away from the animals we walked over to Union Square to check out the the huge Christmas tree and take a few photos.

This was my first adventure to the city with two kids – and one stroller. I was a little worried, but it’s amazing how quickly my nanny knowledge kicked right back in! I guess you never lose that type of skill! It was pouring rain that morning so I was praying to the rain gods that they would take a little break long enough for us to get some fun in. We were lucky! It started to rain fairly hard on our way to the Ferry Building (they wanted to see the Ferry’s come in an out of the dock and check out the Bay Bridge), but the rain won and we ended up taking shelter in a Peet’s (near my office) until it was safe to leave.

All in all we had a fantastic day out, and I would have to say it’s the moment this week that I’m most grateful for – though there were a lot with the holiday etc., but this one was special. And, I probably started a new tradition 🙂

Happy Holidays!

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31 Days of Gratitude: Days 7 – 19

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Holy moly! I don’t know where the time has gone, other than to say that a big IT project my team is working goes live on January 9th so needless to say tempers are high and the work is insane! However, that is NO excuse to neglect my 31 days of gratitude- because let’s be honest though I’m grateful, I need to make this a priority! With that said, here are days 7-19.

Day 7: What place are you most grateful for? I think I am most grateful for Disneyland. This may surprise people, but I have very fond memories of visiting Disneyland as a child, one of my best friends got engaged while we were all in Disneyland, I’ve celebrated birthdays and bachelorette weekends in Disneyland, and it’s been my escape a time or two to mend a broken heart. It literally is the happiest place on earth. If you don’t smile when you walk through those gates then you probably didn’t have a magical childhood like I did, and I can’t wait to do that with my kids someday!

Day 8: What memory are you grateful for? There are so many days I am grateful for, the day my Dad had his heart transplant surgery, the two days my beautiful nieces were born, the list can go on and on. However, I am going to go with a very memorable day…the day I passed my graduate oral exam. This was an interesting time for me because I had just broken up with my ex of 5 years, my parents were not living in California (they were in Nevada), and it was the middle of the day. I remember getting up that morning and trying very hard to not throw up because I was so nervous. I put on a nice sweater and a pair of black slacks. I took one last look at myself in the mirror and headed out to the college. I was going to be meeting with three professors who knew me very well (they had also been my professors while I was in school for my bachelor’s degree). I got there on time, sat down on one side of the long intimidating table and the three professors walked in, and sat down across from me. I had submitted a ridiculously long exam that I had written pages upon pages of answers for – which I was not going to be interrogated about. It lasted about 2 hours and when it was complete they asked me to step outside and wait while they basically sat there and decided whether I had passed. Literally, 3 1/2 years of work, the stress, the tears, the worry had all come down to a 30 minute deliberation between 3 of my professors.

They called me back in and before I could sit down one of my professors said “congratulations.” I barely heard him, and I just kind of stared at him dumbly. Then he said, “Nikki, did you hear me? I said congratulations, you passed.” I said, “Oh!” And everyone started laughing. The funny thing is that I don’t know what I expected, maybe balloons? A procession? No, that was it. Just a simple congratulations. So, that was it. I now needed to walk back to my car and do something. Anything? I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I walked out, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, it was a really nice day, and I had just passed my master’s oral exam. Naturally, I called my mom to tell her – and I can’t really even remember what that conversation consisted of. But, getting into my car and taking a deep breath, I began to cry. There was a lot behind those tears, and that day was the most anticlimactic day of my life, but also the most satisfying. I will never forget that day, and that day was 100% mine – and I didn’t experience that with anyone else by myself today, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Day 9: What book are you most grateful for? This is a hard one for me because I love to read, and have read more books than I can count, but I found a love for art history books my first year in community college. My bookcase today is full of art books and I cherish them and would never, ever, not in a million years get rid of them. My love for these books started when I was in community college. I had told my counselor in high school to sign me up for an art class. What I had meant was like a drawing class or something (my family, and myself at times included, is very artistic). She placed me in an “Art 1” class – cool with me. When I went to pick up my text books my art class had a book! I was slightly excited because I just love books in general, but when I saw it I was VERY confused. It looked like a history book.

Turns out it was Art 1 – history of art. Like, literally starting from the beginning of time art work. I LOVED it! I fell in love with the topic, and I fell in love with my professor – figuratively that is. I have always held my fantastic and passionate teachers on a pedestal. They inspire me and motivate me which I find admirable. And Professor Zuliani did just that. I had never met a professor who was as passionate about art history as she was. She inspired me to take all of her art history classes, and at times toyed with the idea of exploring a career in the area. Alas, I didn’t because my options were small – either teach it or curate it – but nonetheless Professor Zuliani ignited something in me that made me love and appreciate art, learn it’s importance in our world history, and how indicative art is of what is socially and politically happening in our lives at the time. So, having these art history books that remind me of that passion I discovered and still have is something I will always be grateful for.

Day 10: What taste are you grateful for today? Coffee – especially on the weekends. I LOVE coffee, but may no means am I a coffee snob. However, coffee on the weekends is one of my favorite things (and Ruby’s too). Ruby knows that if I get up and don’t hit the shower first, that means my next stop is coffee and then either climbing back into bed to snuggle up with Ruby, or to plop on the couch, watch HGTV, snuggle up with Ruby and my cup of coffee. Coffee is also one of those things that brings people together, or keeps people’s connections alive. Coffee – the taste of waking up, staring your day, and these days with uber cold weather – helping me keep warm!

Day 11: What holiday are you grateful for? My birthday (no, I am not being selfish – read the next line), and my mom’s birthday. I realize these are two holidays, BUT they are very important to me because I believe it is one of the things that connects my mom and I the most. I am born on July 11th and my mom is born on July 13th. Some might think, oh no what a nightmare, two cancers under the same roof? Well, yeah sometimes that’s it, but most of the time it just means that we say the same things at the same times and like the same stuff. To have a mom that I’m not just genetically connected to, but also emotionally and spiritually is something I am grateful for and I’m happy that we celebrate that connection every year when we celebrate our birthdays that are so close to each other.

Day 12: What texture are you grateful for? Anything soft and fuzzy – not only does it make your brain relax a tiny bit upon touching it, but it reminds me the fuzzy scruffy thing I call my pup – Ruby Sue.

Day 13: What abilities are you grateful for? The ability to write. I have always had a passion for words. I was the kid that would be up until 1am reading instead of sleeping. But when I discovered that I also loved to write, and that I actually wasn’t half bad at it, it became something I am grateful for. It is the thing that made me a good student and the thing that has given me a successful career thus far. I get complete joy from writing and it’s something that happily relaxes me.

Day 14: What season are you grateful for? The holiday season. It encompasses Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Fall/Winter. Thanksgiving is all about eating all day – who doesn’t love that? Christmas is about magic – and is just that much more fun now that my nieces are here and Fall and Winter just seem a little more relaxing, and the excuse to sit on the couch cozied up with blankets – watching holiday movies!

Day 15: What sight are you grateful for today? The sight I’m most grateful for was one I saw/created that was the pile of Christmas gifts I just wrapped up. I’m grateful for this because I am capable of giving gifts to my friends and family this year, and I’m grateful to be showing the people I love how much I appreciate them.

Day 16: What about your body are you grateful for? My legs. These legs have run a handful of 5Ks, one 10K and 3 half marathons (13.1 miles). I admit that I don’t use them as I should for 30 minutes every day 😉 But I am definitely grateful for what they have been capable of doing in the past, and what I know they are still capable of doing in the future. Full marathon someday? Hmmm…I’ll have to come back to that one.

Day 17: What knowledge are you grateful for? One of the key pieces of knowledge I took away from college (and ironically enough, not academic) was to always have my resume updated and ready to go – no matter how secure in your job you feel you are. The professor who shared this with the class I used to think was completely insane, paranoid, crazy tree hugger (mind you, I am and Independent, middle-of-the-road type of person), but he was a extreme liberal. He also said that I should always have my passport up to date and handy. I have since consistently strived to do both (despite how crazy he sounded when he said it). For that piece of advice though, I’m grateful.

Day 18: What piece of art are you grateful for? Oh boy – this one is hard. I can’t choose just one, but as someone who once wanted to major in art history  I feel like I appreciate art on many levels. For example, I am very grateful for an original piece of art that my brother made for me. My brother Dustin’s style of artwork is unique and so beautiful. I will forever cherish the painting of my pup Ruby Sue that my brother created for me and gave to me for Christmas last year. Best present ever!

Day 19: What touch are you grateful for today? Puppy kisses. Ruby doesn’t give a lot of kisses, but when she does it’s the best – love that pup to the moon and back.

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 6

What in nature are you grateful for?

The beach! The beach holds a special place in my heart because it’s my Mom’s FAVORITE place to go, and in turn it has become one of my fondest memories of my childhood, and also my favorite place to visit.

When we were younger (myself and my two younger brothers), we would often take day trips with my parents to Santa Cruz. We would spend the day at the beach, maybe hang out on the boardwalk until the sun went down! I was so little when we would do this, and don’t remember specifics of those trips, but I have that nostalgic feeling of having spent a lot of time there when I think about it now as an adult. Ironically enough, it is still one of my favorite day trips to take – and I know that my brother who now has two little girls does the same with his family. I think back on those times and they just seem so much simpler then. Dad wasn’t sick yet, mom was there to wipe our tears and give us the hugs we needed to make everything all better (and it actually DID make everything all better), and a day at the beach was just that. A day to hang out, run wild through the water and just be a kid.

Another instance of my life when the beach played a significant role was while I was in junior high school. On Wednesdays all of the kids got out of school a couple of hours earlier than the rest of the week, so my mom would pack up our 1989 Suburban and pick us all up to head out to Half Moon Bay to Redondo Beach. I mean, who had a mom as cool as mine back then? Absolutely no one! We would listen to the Beatles, or Counting Crows, sometimes even Blues Traveler and cruise over the San Mateo Bridge, and then through the mountains and dip into Half Moon Bay, with a couple of hours of daylight to spare. Our wiener/dachshund mix pup Cleo would run across my brothers’ laps back and forth with complete delight as soon as the truck hit the gravel road that led to our regular beach. She would get so excited, needed the windows down so she could smell the salt air, and she would be whining with excitement. Makes me smile just thinking about it. Cleo was also the first to take the hike down to the beach where she would diligently wait for us all to join her.

Once we were settled on the beach mom would head out on the hunt for sea glass. I would sit on the blanket and do my homework (probably not shocking to some of you), and the boys would dig in the sand or play in the water – we would occasionally join mom in searching for those little gems in the sand – and if any of us were in the water (and by “in the water” I mean maybe up to our knees) Cleo would run up and down the beach barking her head off. She was a little protective to say the least.

Once the sun was beginning to set we would pack up, clean ourselves up (sand everywhere!) and stop at Burger King before heading back through the mountain and into the East Bay. I can’t remember exactly how long we did these weekly jaunts to Half Moon Bay, but it is a great childhood memory that’s for sure!

While these are happy child hood memories, it’s also been a comforting place for me when times weren’t all that great. I know we all find ourselves in situations or relationships that aren’t right for us, and sometimes we let ourselves marinate in that bad situation for just a little too long. A handful of years ago I found myself in that exact situation. The beach was often my place to hide out when I needed to get away. Not only was the drive therapeutic, but so was physically being there. It helped me clear my mind and almost reset my feelings and emotions. The beach was also the place where I decided that the turmoil I was going through in that relationship would end. I wouldn’t give it one more chance, or time for him to change. That was it and I couldn’t keep letting myself be emotionally and verbally abused. I made a promise to myself on the beach one day, by myself that I was going to put an end to the chaos. A couple of short weeks later I had ended my relationship and moved out of the place I shared with my boyfriend of 5 years. If I hadn’t had that time to sit quietly and reflect, I don’t know when I would have made the smartest and bravest decision I’ve made ever in my life.

The beach helps you reset your thoughts. It brings life down to what it is really about – we are the sand, the waves are life and sometimes those waves hit us a little harder than others, sometimes the tide is out and life is boring, and sometimes the storm is raging and you can barely take a breath. Either way, this the one thing in nature that I have most gratitude for. It truly is nature’s gift. Now, who is coming with me to the beach!? 🙂

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 4

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What food are you most grateful for?

This one is a hard choice to make. I love a lot of different food – and if it’s fried or has cheese on it I’ll probably love it! BUT, there is a particular food that my world revolved around for a number of years while I was a teenager. That food is pizza. I worked at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace which was the local pizza hang out in my neighborhood. I worked there for a couple of years during my teenage years, and to this day I still say that it was my absolute favorite place to work.

This pivotal part of my life, the part of your life when you BECOME a true teenager, when you meet some of the best friends you’ll have for life, and when you fall in love for the first time, all evolved from Bronco Billy’s. It started the summer I turned 15 when I was working at a day camp. A majority of the counselors, as well as the director of the camp (all in their late teens and early to mid-twenties) worked at camp during the summer days and then worked at the pizza place in the evenings. It was my second year as a junior counselor, and I was well on my way to becoming a counselor in training the following year – it was everything I had strived for and I was loving it. The director was also a manager at Bronco Billy’s and asked if I would be interested in working a couple of nights a week at the pizza place. Heck yes! I was SO excited. I went in to fill out the application, met Tito the crazy Armenian guy who ran the place, and I was immediately put on the schedule. To say I was psyched and over the moon all wrapped into one is an understatement.

What I didn’t realize was how much that job was going to define that time in my life. I learned the worth of a dollar, how to support myself, how to budget my money, how to prioritize important things – I was working and in high school at the same time, and I made relationships that have spanned almost 20 years. I met a group of guys I can easily say are still like the older brothers I never had and I met and dated the first guy I ever loved during that time period (though he didn’t work at the pizza place). Not only was this pizza place impactful on my life as a teenager, but as a child we spent a lot of time there as well.

Behind the counter we would laugh and sing, and throw stuff at each other. Someone once threw a pepperoni at me and hit me smack in the middle of my forehead – a week before my Senior Prom. I freaked out and had to wash my face immediately. And, if anyone thinks I have really good slip reflexes, it’s because that floor at the pizza place could get unbelievably slippery. I laugh as I write this thinking about how may people fell and/or slipped. You may think it’s wrong to find this funny, but no one ever actually got hurt – and we all thought it was hysterical – it was a comedic break at a place that was slammed on Friday and Saturday nights, and since it is so close to Cal State East Bay, it was also a popular place on Monday nights after the fraternity’s and sorority’s had their weekly meetings.

I grew up while working at Bronco Billy’s and it helped shape who I am and who I have in my life, and because of that I am forever grateful for pizza! (As a matter of fact, that’s where I had dinner tonight) 😉