Thursday, July 7, 2016

My Time at Hickory High

Two and a half years ago, I closed a chapter of my life and started a new one. I started a whole new career in a place I didn't know a soul. I was desperate for change and eager to learn. I traded in my DSM as a mental health counselor and entered the school counseling world! I still had to travel half an hour to work everyday, and I had to get up earlier, and I couldn't wear jeans anymore. I didn't know how much I'd love it, but like I said, I was eager and ready!

Graduation 2014
I joined the staff at Hickory High School mid-year, which I don't ever recommend for a brand new school counselor. I had a lot to learn and asked my team members a million questions. I learned quickly and there was a handful of students who I gained actual relationships with who I was able to help in my short time with them before they graduated that June. That felt nice!

The next two school years I had the wonderful experience of working with some of the best in the business, seeing how things really work in a school, gaining some unforgettable relationships with some of the most amazing young adults, and doing what I could to help my team, my students, and my school.

Graduation 2015
Graduation (morning) 2016
Growing up, going to Lincolnton High, I had Wolfpack pride! Especially after my years at Appalachian State, my "pride" colors were black & gold! For a few years I will admit that I cheered for North Lincoln High School, but that was only because my brother was playing football for them. After he graduated, that wasn't a thing. I luckily got to put my black & gold back on for a couple years when my cousin Nick played football for LHS. That felt good to pull for my home team again! (If you know me, I'm not usually at sports events unless I know the players. I'm their fan, not really a "sports" fan, ESPECIALLY if it's cold out.) So when I joined the staff at Hickory High, I have to admit, it was weird. I have never been "a part of" another school before, aside from Lincolnton High. I didn't own anything garnet & gold... sounded like Redskins colors to me!!

Slowly my wardrobe grew and I now have approximately 700 Hickory High t-shirts and random garnet & gold wardrobe staples and accessories. When people around town (Lincolnton) would see the magnet on my car of the Hickory High logo, they'd ask, "Why do you have THAT on there?" and my reply would always be "That's my school!" and I meant it. Hickory High had become my new home. I was proud of my school and my students. I loved my job. I didn't love the commute, but I loved working in Hickory, you know, near Hobby Lobby & Target. If I'm going to live in Lincolnton without sufficient shopping, I might as well work in a town that I can shop in, amiright?!




I gained some close friendships at Hickory High in  my coworkers, but what I value the most is the relationships I formed with students who (I feel) really needed me and I was able to help. I know I didn't get to "save" them all. Heck, I know some of my students didn't even graduate. But don't think I wouldn't stop on the side of 127 if I saw them walking down the road to ask them why their butt isn't in school. I love my kids. I truly care about my kids. I will be in their corner, root for them, advocate for them, and do whatever I am able to see them succeed. Trust and believe that. I love working in such a diverse environment. Hickory has it all. The low of the lows, the high of the highs. (Is that a saying? If not, you get what I'm saying.) I mean that in academics, as well as in socioeconomic status. It has students who can't read on a middle school level. We have students who can get into whatever college they want. We have homeless students. We have students who live in mansions. I LOVE the diversity at Hickory High. I think because it reminds me so much of the diversity at Lincolnton High. I'm a sucker for oneness, living together, and learning from each other.








I have learned through my time at Hickory High School that I can. I can learn. I can try. I can do. I will fail. I will learn lessons. I will succeed. I also learned that home is where you make it.

My HHS baby shower in January 2016

June 14th was my last day as a Hickory High Red Tornado. It was a very sad day for me, but it helped that I was hurrying to pack up and head out because the building didn't have air conditioning, haha!! I will obviously miss it, but am excited to start a new chapter in my career, as a Fred T. Foard Tiger! I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me there. I've heard nothing but great things about the school. Hickory will obviously hold a special place in my heart, but home is where you make it. :)


*See story below :)
*Funny story: Returning from maternity leave, I needed to pump at work to continue to breastfeed KJ. Twice a day, I had to go in my office, lock the door, pump, and pretend I wasn't there. The first time I did, I must have forgotten to put a sign on my door, so my amazing pal, Frank Pait, put this sign on my door. Now that's love!! I used it every pump session for the rest of the year. :) I am going to miss the friendships and moments such as this-- just simple signs that say, "I got your back." Poor Mr. Pait, surrounded by all those women!! Haha!! 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Becoming A Mother

A year ago today.
A year ago today my life changed forever.
A year ago today was one of the most exciting days of my life.
A year ago today I found out that I was a mother.

I am a firm believer that I became a mother when Karis was formed in my womb by our wonderful Creator, God Almighty. But once you KNOW you're a mother, everything changes. Your mind changes, your anxiety level changes, your body starts to change, your priorities change, your eating and drinking habits change, your prayer life changes, your marriage changes, your conversations change... you get my point.

A year ago today was one of the best days of my life.

A few weeks before this, my gal pal, Becky, was over and (of course) talking to me about babies, pregnancies, and whatnot. That was the topic of conversation 99% of the time those days. She must have been newly pregnant, because she was telling me that she found out she was pregnant with both of her pregnancies four days early (pp) on a $1 Dollar General pregnancy test. I was shocked! I don't know why, but I just always (wrongly) assumed you had to pay $10+ for a test to tell you accurately if you were pregnant or not. Well, once I found out you could accurately find out for $1, it was game on!

I knew I would be getting a visit from Mother Nature soon, so I thought, "What the heck!" For months I had been thinking I may be finally pregnant and then wasn't. If you haven't experienced this, you don't know how frustrating it can be. And annoying. And does all kinds of crazy things to your mind. I thought if I wasn't pregnant, then I wasn't pregnant, and nothing was new. But if I WAS pregnant, then I could potentially find out EARLY. For just a few dollars!! Why not, right?!

So, every morning, my ritual was to get up and take a pregnancy test. And if it didn't show pregnant, I just told myself that it was too early to tell, and I didn't get upset. It wasn't even "time" yet. I started 7 days pp, and by 5 days pp, I squinted, went a little cross-eyed, and shook it off. I'd try again tomorrow.

It was one of my first days of my summer vacation. I woke up and took a pregnancy test. It was becoming a part of my morning ritual, haha. (Call me crazy.) On this day, 4 days pp, I saw something! A super faint line. I had never seen a positive pregnancy test before, so I thought it was potentially a dud. I texted my gal pal Whitney, who knew what craziness was ensuing, and Becky. I asked Becky, "So...when you said you found out early...was it obvious or a super faint line?" I didn't even think I was telling on myself, I thought I could get away with "just asking." HA! Becky's immediate response was, "Did you get a faint line?? If so, you are for sure pregnant!!" Ummmm..... what?!?! I texted Whitney, freaked out, and went out to get a "real" pregnancy test. I needed to see the word "Pregnant" spelled out for me. I had used those expensive tests before. It's clear as day, usually that I was "Not Pregnant." I had previously vowed that I wouldn't spend money on one of those expensive tests again unless I really thought I may be pregnant. Well, today was that day.

I got home, took the test, and that was the longest minute or so of my life. I didn't want to look. It was like one of those scenes out of a movie. What if I wasn't pregnant? Now I'd really be sad. But what if I was?!?!?! I hadn't really processed what I would do or how I would feel if I WAS pregnant.

When I saw the word "Pregnant" on that test, I literally just started crying and praying - thanking the Lord for this blessing and praying for protection over this child. I had heard tons of horror stories of miscarriages and health problems and I just wanted a healthy baby.

I was expecting a child! [Enter Freak Out Mode] Only two people knew, and none of them were my husband. Oops! I had a good reason for that though. I wanted to think of a super cute way to tell Alex. No better way to brainstorm than to go walk 6 miles on the rail trail with Whitney. She had been there with me through my emotional roller coasters in the past months and was great at these kinds of things! I just knew I had to include our dog, Chloe. We decided I could go get a dog shirt, or infant shirt, and Whitney could quickly embroider it. We'd put the shirt on Chloe and the shirt would somehow tell Alex I was expecting!! I also was determined to find a way to video the interaction. Fool proof, right?? Ha....

Side note: I have to give many many thanks to Whitney. She listened to me yap about baby stuff, followed by pregnancy stuff, stopped what she was doing to make me an impromptu shirt for this momentous occasion, and just has gone above & beyond in the friend department through it all. Love ya Whitney & THANK YOU !! 

I wish I could show you the video. But if I did, Alex would kill me. He's super private that way. But I can tell you that it went a little something like this: Chloe wore her "BIG SIS" shirt, walked right up to him and sat on his lap, it took him a few seconds to even acknowledge she was wearing a shirt, then he told me she hated her shirt (he's anti-dogs wearing clothes), and didn't even acknowledge what the shirt said. It took him a few more seconds, and he read the shirt. He asked if we were getting another dog. (Ha!!) While I continued to be sketchy and video him, he asked "Why you gotta play games?" and then asked me if I was pregnant. When I said yes his first words were "That's awesome." and I said "Good answer." He was then sketched out by the camera and I respectfully quit recording. LOL





Telling everyone was so fun and memorable. I will have to share other videos in a future blog post. I videoed as many as I could. :) I will always cherish those videos... and that's why I am always shoving a camera in my loved ones' faces, to later have memories of a lifetime!!

I just can't believe a whole year has gone by that I've been thinking of this baby, praying for her, and doing what I can to be the best mother I can. She now comes first. She's so precious and dependent and seriously the best baby that I could have dreamed of. I now can't imagine my life without her. The Good Lord surely knew what He was doing when He picked her for me, or me for her. Either way, she's an awesome baby who loves to eat, sleep, smile, and be happy. Just like her Mama. :)

A year seems like such a long time but I can remember this day like it was yesterday. It was one of the best days of my life and I will never forget it!!

Pregnancy blows my mind.
When you think about it, something this small...

...turned into this 7 lb. 14 oz. bundle of pure love. 

Praise the Lord!!






Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Karis Jane: 3 Months!

I gave you all a little update at one month, and here we are, two months later. Time is FLYING by and it's super bittersweet. While I can't wait to do certain things with KJ once she's older and more able, I also am going to, and already, MISS MY BABY! I swear she grows every night in her sleep.

I can guarantee you the Lord knew what He was doing when He made me her mama. He knew I had no idea what to do with a baby and gave me as low maintenance of a baby as possible.

Karis Jane is such a happy go-lucky baby. She is happy from the moment she wakes up and will just sit happily, kicking her fat little legs around, in her crib for a while before crying for someone to come get feed her. This may or may not happen in the middle of the night since, you know, I'm sleeping. Speaking of sleeping, Karis is still doing a lot of it!! While she is definitely awake more than she was, she still loves a nap! She get it from her mama! Since I returned to work, we tried to move the time we put her to bed from 10:30-11:00 to more like 9:00-9:30. Again, she's a super easy baby so we just put her pajamas on, nurse her, and she's out like a light 99% of the time. Thank goodness that cluster feeding has calmed way down! While she's nursing before bed, Alex reads her a Bible story & we pray over her. This is probably my favorite time of the day.  She'll sleep for about 5-6 hours before she wants to eat. Not bad! Since returning to work, Alex shares some nighttime duties with me, which is definitely helpful. I wake him up (do men not hear crying babies?!) and he goes and gets her out of the crib, changes her, and brings her to me in bed. I'll nurse her for about 20 minutes and she'll pass out again. Then she'll sleep for another 3-5 hours! I'm telling you, my baby loves her some sleep. Dear Lord, please let this last. 

I returned to work after 13 weeks of maternity leave. Going to work wasn't THAT bad. Knowing me and my love for my job and my work ethic, there's no way I wouldn't be making appearances at the end of the school year anyways, so I might as well be getting paid for it, amiright?! I had to return to work with two more school weeks left, then work the following workdays. Again, not bad. God DEFINITELY timed my pregnancy & subsequent maternity leave PERFECTLY. Alex's mom could watch Karis Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and my mom graciously took off work Mondays and Tuesdays while I am back at work a few weeks. Then I'll have my summer off with my baby girl!! I am super excited to spend the time with her. She's growing like a weed & is such a joy!

3 month stats:

  • Size 2 diapers
  • Wearing 0-3 or 3 month clothing
  • Probably 13ish lbs now... She was 12 lbs 1 oz at her 2 month appt. 
  • She has been sleeping in her crib full-time for a couple weeks now. 
  • She can ALMOST roll over. She sleeps on her side. :) 
  • Starting to use her hands for things.
  • Still sticks that tongue out for pics and smiles A LOT. :) She is starting to baby laugh too and it's THE MOST precious thing. 
  • She doesn't gag EVERY time we offer her a pacifier. She prefers her hands right now!
  • She loves bath time, watching the ceiling fan, to ride in the car or just basically always be moving, and her swing! Her swing is still her favorite thing. (That was the best investment.)
  • She still hasn't lost her hair & her eyes are still blue. We may end up with a blue-eyed baby after all! 
  • Still nursing! Getting better all the time... but still takes a bottle like a champ! Woo-hoo! 
  • Usually just cries when hungry, but starting to teethe and fight sleep a little... Nana purchased an amber necklace in hopes it helps!
I get it now. The overload of pictures. The missing your baby. The pure pride and joy. The bittersweetness. I get it. Motherhood is going to wreck me, but it's a pretty awesome job! Again, thanking God Karis is who she is. While I can, I also can't wait to see her grow into the little girl and later young woman God has created her to be. 

7 weeks old - first REAL smile caught on camera :) :)

8 weeks old

2 months old

11 weeks old

11 weeks old

12 weeks old - Mama's last day of maternity leave

Memorial Day 2016 - 12 weeks old

still loving that swing!!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

1 Month Into The Best & Hardest Job Ever

While I have the house to myself for a little while I wanted to go ahead & jot down some thoughts I have. As important as I think journaling is, I certainly don't take the time to do it enough. That, among a million other things.

But here I am. Today marks 1 MONTH! One month of my most important job ever. One month of long nights and days flying by. One month of the biggest emotional rollercoaster I think I've ever been on.

Side note: This blog takes me back to the year 2005. Almost 11 years ago! I was just starting college & I'm pretty sure some of those early blog posts were copy & pasted from my MySpace account to preserve them forever. Which was a good idea because after a little investigation, my MySpace account is restricted & the good Lord above only knows that old account information! BUT MY POINT IS... This blog & I go way back. I really need to keep cleaning it up, just to keep what's here relevant, but - over 38 THOUSAND people have viewed my blog over the years. And I just can't bring myself to start a new one. This is me. This is my life. Hence, the name of the blog. :) 

So, this blog's hopefully going to help me document this new job of mine: motherhood.

This has been the best and hardest month of my life. ... "The things they don't tell you..."

I mean, they let me bring a BABY home, y'all. A real-life CHILD. And trusted me with it!!! For years I always said, "I don't know what I'd DO with a baby." Not like, I don't know what I'd do if I got pregnant, but like LITERALLY- when *this* happens, what do you DO?! How do you know it's okay? How do you know you're doing a good job? How do you know what you're NOT supposed to do? I had no idea what to do with a baby.

If you're like me and currently pregnant, thinking of/worrying about getting pregnant, or just think you MIGHT be a mother someday, don't worry. Luckily they do teach you a couple things in the hospital. And offer you some reading material. And offer you some classes before you go into labor. And there's some WONDERFUL Facebook groups of moms who just let you post completely random questions & they will answer you in an attempt to help (Shout out to my 16 Clovers!). And for the love of the Internet! There's YouTube videos and websites (www.kellymom.com) and anything you want to know out there. MORE than you'd want to know! Oh and there's your people. Mamas all around you will offer you support & advice....whether you want it or not. Just take it ALL in & use what you want. Everyone has a different opinion but man, I'm glad I have the love, support, & advice from all that I do. I've learned so much & still have approximately two million questions, but that's okay. I'm learning. WE are learning!

I say we because I have come to learn that Karis is new at this too! For almost 10 months she was packed tight in a warm space & didn't have to worry about or work for a thing. Now we put her in this world with all these lights and people and noises and smells and sensations and expect her to just adapt. While babies are surprisingly resilient, and some things ARE natural, but she's on a learning curve too! She is learning, and improving, and surprising me every single day. She's pretty great. :) But also Alex. While he probably does a few Google searches a day himself, he knows I've done some research & listens when I suggest new things. He's learning. He's a new dad & I am in awe of how amazing he is at it. Not that I didn't think he would be, but, you know what I'm saying.

I ended up having an unplanned c-section & was out of commission for a while after the birth. I think 2 or 3 days went by in the beginning when I didn't change a diaper, or her, or anything actually other than hold and nurse my baby. Alex did EVERYthing. And didn't bat an eye. He gets all the awards for being so awesome then and now. God surely blessed me with a wonderful husband and father to Karis!

My people have also been the best. Shout out to Danae for coordinating meals for us while we came home & adjusted to life. I can't begin to tell you how extremely helpful that was. Shout out to our friends, family, and neighbors who have provided the meals and the company. And when I say Karis has some amazing grandparents, I mean it. They are there at the drop of a hat if needed & have supported us in ways I can't even begin to name. She is already spoiled rotten & so, so loved. My gal pals have been absolutely wonderful: Coming by to bring me sanity, monogramming Carolina onesies on demand (that was all Alex's doing, y'all), wishing me well, asking me how I'm doing, and offering me support when times got tough. I truly appreciate each & every one.

While it's been so awesome to see everyone come together to help us introduce this little lady to life, it HAS been an adjustment and honestly so hard at times. I am thankful for tough times because that's when I can just cry & pray & have faith that the Lord will provide. And how He has! He always does. And I have faith that He will continue to do so. The Lord knows just what you need, when you need it. The Lord has provided me with a child who loves to sleep as much as her mama, all the support mentioned above, improvements in our breastfeeding journey (LORD, GIVE ME STRENGTH), and countless other things I do and don't even realize. It's by the grace and mercy of God that I can CELEBRATE making it to this one month mark!!

Happy 1 Month Karis Jane!! You are loved!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015's Goals: Where are they now?

2015 has come & gone and man, what a year it was! Remember when I made some goals for myself for 2015? (Probably not.) Well, here they are with some updates... Just wanted to give MYSELF an update & also remind any readers that it's okay to not fulfill every promise to yourself. Did I set myself up for failure? Probably NOT, but, I definitely needed to be reminded more often of my goals in order to maintain them. I think I did okay! I'm not beating myself up at all and you shouldn't either.
Here's what I plan to do in 2015... Wish me luck!
  • I want to have technology-free evenings with my husband. At least one a week. Doesn't happen. Don't even know if I brought this up to him. Maybe I should? 
  • I want to stick with Weight Watchers and lose at least 25 pounds to start with. I worked my butt off with my gal pal Whitney & only lost 10 lbs. Then I lost another 5 lbs during my first trimester (gotta love morning sickness!) Either way, I did lose some weight, which I was thankful for when I started packing on the pregnancy pounds. 
  • I want to sew/hem all my clothes that need it, and get really good at doing it so that maybe I can hem for others in the future. Okay, I don't foresee me doing much for others, considering I currently have a growing stack of to-hem clothes. Seriously every pair of bottoms I buy (pajamas included) need hemming and it is so annoying! I promise I'm getting around to that. 
  • I want to get rid of all my clothes that are really too small. Some things I envision fitting back into in the near future, but some stuff I just need to kiss goodbye and donate to someone in need. Done and done. I am so not a packrat. 
  • I want to keep growing my hair out. This will be a challenge, as I get easily annoyed & tend to just chop it off on whims. I have not cut the front of my hair at all this year!! The back grows so much faster than the front. Am I the only one whose hair does this? I think it has to do with me wanting the front more perfect, and using heat, etc. more on the front. I did chop like 4" off the back to make it a longer angled bob. The back caught up to the front.... the cycle continues. 
  • Keep my new car clean. Inside & out. Not a chance. I am who I am. 
  • Find a way to organize all my jewelry laying around. I did but I'm not loving my system, and it has currently failed me at the moment. Or maybe I failed it? Either way, I need to find a better home for my jewelry. 
  • Create a 2014 photo book on Snapfish. Forget scrapbooking. I ultimately want to make photo books for every year and occasion I can. That'll have to be a summer project. Didn't happen. Still want to do this. 
  • 100% housetrain Chloe. She is good most of the time but if it ain't 100%, we need to work on it. Sometimes we take her out in the mornings & she won't go, but then she's stuck inside all day while we work, and of course she goes inside then. Ugh! Somebody just come take & train my dog & bring her back all obedient and well-mannered. Chloe's good 99% of the time. If she messes up, it's typically our fault. She's great, really. :) 
  • GO TO NEW YORK CITY. FOR THE LOVE! YES YES AND YES! I did it! FINALLY! I've only been talking about it for 10 years! I'd like to say I'll blog about it, but I think I know myself better by now. I'd still like to though! To sum it up: I had a wonderful time with my gal pal Elizabeth & her sister, Emily. It was 3 days of awesome. 


  • Go on a fun beach trip. HAHA!! So, I totally went to the beach. While I was about 7 weeks pregnant, and SO sick. Worst idea ever. Remind me to never do that again. Alex can leave my butt at home next time. Wait though.... we DID go on a cruise to the Bahamas this year for our anniversary!! That's a fun beach trip!!!! I totally didn't forget about that. I just hear "beach" and think of all the yuckiness from this summer. Sorry, Bahamas! 
Cruise to the Bahamas in April 2015
  • Do more couples devotions and praying with my husband. While we have improved in this area, we have a long way to go. 

You win some, you lose some. With a baby on the way, the amount of things I'm trying to improve is seriously so overwhelming. I am just trying to take life one day at a time and hope for the best!

Until next time, readers... here's a pic for the road!
Christmas 2015 & 30 weeks along with Baby Mullen

Wishing you all a very happy & healthy 2016!

,
Nicole

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Confident Heart: Chapter 1

Our church has recently started a Wednesday night series for women geared towards the book, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. The cover says the book's about how to stop doubting yourself and how to live in the security of God's promises.

As I read I like to highlight things that stick out to me. I'd love to share those with you in case the words also resonate with you, and also share bits and pieces of my heart as I go along. If you like what you're reading, then I encourage you to read the book!

Some of my excerpts will just be quotes I like, Bible verses to read, or passages that really spoke to my heart. Some I'll elaborate on, some I just want to share for quick readings.

I think the whole point of reading a book like this, or being in a small group, is learning that you're not alone. So many of us feel the same exact way, for many different reasons, but feel as if we're alone or the only one going through a certain situation or emotion. Know you're not alone!! Whether you're willing to open up to a confidant or not, you're never alone. Jesus has seen it all, knows it all, has been there with you through it all, and has never left you and will never leave you. You aren't alone! But I know sometimes it makes it a lot easier to know you're not the only visible being feeling the same way... so hopefully that's what this book and/or blog post(s) will do for you: Let you know you're not the only one!

Now... here we go...

Foreword
"Why do we look to things of this world to give us security, self confidence, and fulfillment? I think it's because the message that wordly things can fulfill us is all around us. It's on TV, it's the focus of countless songs, and it dominates advertisements. We can't even stand in the grocery store checkout lane without being bombarded by empty promises for a more fulfilling life. A better husband. A better body. A better career. A more beautifully decorated house. The magazines seem so slick, their promises so enticing. They sneak into our thought processes and make us think, 'If only I had _____, I'd be so secure and fulfilled.'  But the reality is, every single thing the world offers is temporary. No person, possession, profession, or position can ever fill the cup of a wounded, insecure heart -- not my heart, not your heart. It's an emptiness only God can fill. Only God can give true confidence." 
"[God's] truth waters us, sustains us, breathes new life into us and remakes us into the women He always intended us to be."
Those actually came from the foreward from Lysa TerKeurst but still... that really resonated with me. I don't know about you. I never thought of advertisements being advertisements of things to FULFILL you, but I guess they really are. They are marketed to show how your life will be better, more satisfying once you have this worldy thing, or that worldy thing. We buy, try, and feel so discouraged when the As Seen on TV item isn't what it seemed, or doesn't seem to work FOR US. We think it works on others, but not us, because we're just lucky like that. Or we think: If only I could get that promotion, or that new job, or that car, or those abs... life would simply be so much better! If this is our thought process then A) we aren't content with what God's blessed us with already and B) we are looking to things of this world to make us genuinely happy, which will never permanently work. Keyword there: permanently. I'm sure whatever it is you're willing to put time and money into will improve something for a short time, but it's never enough, is it? There's also more you want, more you need.

Chapter 1: Discovering the Shadow of My Doubts
"So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised." (Hebrews 10:35-36)
 "You can only see the shadow because you have turned away from the light. Turn back towards the light."
Never have I ever thought about this. She spoke about how her shadow seemed so much bigger. Our problems (shadows) can often overwhelm us, because they often times look so much bigger than what they represent. Never would we even know this if we had not turned away from the light. I'm sure she meant this as a metaphor to Christ (the Light) but that's totally how I took it. If we continue to face the Light, we will not even see the large shadows behind us, ready to overwhelm and discourage us, keeping us from his Will and purpose for our lives.
"Have you ever agreed with the whispers of doubt and found yourself living with a sense of discouragement and defeat? Have you felt paralyzed by insecurity, and let it stop you from living confidently? If so, you are not alone."
I know I have often let doubt and overwhelming feelings keep me from doing things. Like sharing with you all, for example. Or completing a large task. If I can't convince myself that it's worth it, or that a large task can be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks, then I say "Forget it." Which usually turns around to bite me at some point -- whether it's physically, emotionally, or spiritually. So yeah, you're not alone.
"Perhaps you are good at hiding your doubts and no one but you knows the paralyzing power they have on your life." 
I am sure SO many of us hide what's REALLY going on in our minds and spirits for whatever reason. I hope that we can all grow to confide in at least one person. Not just any person, but someone who will not judge you, or shame you, or break your trust.
"Doubt keeps us from believing things can get better. Doubt convinces us that it's not worth the effort. Doubt shouts from the sidelines. 'It's too hard.' or 'You might as well quit.'"  
AMEN! Doubt stinks. It really is convincing at times. Doubt comes in all kinds of voices and can really deter you from living up to your full potential, or living in the blessings that Christ has planned for you. When you hear doubt in your mind, think about the potential that God has something great planned for you, and this may be the Devil trying to keep you from having that blessing.  
"Don't listen to those thoughts, my friend. God doesn't want us stuck in a cycle of defeat or living in the shadows of doubt." 
Again, because there's that chance He has something great planned for you, if you only listen to HIM and not that stupid doubt.
"Doubt and hope cannot live in our hearts at the same time. As God's girls, we need to know and believe that change is possible. We need to hope that life can be different. Otherwise, doubt will win every time and our hearts will be eroded by attitudes and emotions of defeat--but it is not supposed to be this way."  
We are never stuck in our ways. The great thing about Christ is that He makes us NEW. He renews our mercies every morning. He doesn't hold our past against us. He loves us NO. MATTER. WHAT. and that's just a hard thought to grasp sometimes. We cannot be held back by doubt and also hoping that Christ is making us new. He did not create us to live a life of self-loathing and discouragement. We are made to live joyful lives, serving and worshiping our Creator!!
"God has led me beyond believing IN HIM to really believing HIM by relying on the power of His words and living like they are true no matter what my feelings tell me. Some days I do better than others, and you will too. But I've found that when I choose to dwell in the assurance of Whose I am and who I am in Him, I have a confident heart."
This is a true task....not only believing IN GOD, but BELIEVING GOD. Believing what He says is true. About you. About Him. About others. Sometimes our feelings tell us one thing, but it's the opposite of what God tells us in his Word. We need to train our minds to recognize when we're thinking the opposite, and shake those thoughts and believe what God says is true.  
"We can be confident that we are praying God's will when we pray God's Word!" 
This is kind of a "DUH" statement but I can't say I have thought this thought one million times in my life. I'm sure I've heard it somewhere before, but it didn't really stick. But this is such a GOOD POINT. If we are praying for things that God promises us in His Word, or praying for us to transform into what He says we are meant for, then we can't go wrong! We aren't being selfish. We aren't cheating. We aren't praying the wrong prayer! We are asking for exactly what God wants for us in our lives, and He won't let us down.

I hope some of these things resonated with you like they did with me. I'm digging this book so far & can't wait to see what else it shares.

,
Nicole
 
 
 


Thursday, October 1, 2015

I Think I'm Back

Every so often, I try to give this blog thing another go'round! Well, here I am again. It's not really that I haven't wanted to blog, but that I've really wanted to give my blog a major makeover, and just never did it. I spent some time this winter going through this blog. I really do a horrible job at consistently blogging but this blog is an interesting "journal," if you will, documenting my life since 2005, my senior year of high school. And for that, I am thankful. I am super into nostalgia and reminiscing, if you didn't know. :)

I don't know what all purposes this blog has served. It looks like in the beginning I just copied & pasted some blog posts from my MySpace since that was becoming a thing from the past. Then I used it as a place to store quotes I found online that I liked. Then I would update about life (procrastination and grad school mostly).

I ended up going through all my posts and cleaning up the tags, deleting pointless posts, and deleting posts of videos that you could no longer access. (Stupid, YouTube.)  It was all fun and games until I got to the year 2010, when I guess I really started blogging. I had 156 posts that year. So that took a(nother) backseat. I'm still not 100% done cleaning up the place, but I did give her a little plastic surgery. I am growing as a woman and sometimes just crave the simplicity. My blog was stimulus overload and it was time she looked her age.

Funny story: I think I attempted a blog post 1/31/2015 and it just never got published. Just found it in Drafts, actually so... just for kicks... this is what it said:

I literally have so many things I'd love to blog about. But-- I'll be realistic, and maybe skip all that I wanted to say I'd been thinking or up to, and say this:
2015 is here and  technically, at this point we're are 1/12th of the way done with it already! SERIOUSLY!
 
I saw a blog post that listed goals for the year & then at the end of the year, relisted those goals & stated where the blogger was in meeting those goals. Seems a bit far-fetched for me to think I'm going to remember to revisit this in a year, but why not try? Amiright?! 
Here's what I plan to do in 2015... Wish me luck! 
  • I want to have technology-free evenings with my husband. At least one a week.
  • I want to stick with Weight Watchers and lose at least 25 pounds to start with. 
  • I want to sew/hem all my clothes that need it, and get really good at doing it so that maybe I can hem for others in the future. 
  • I want to get rid of all my clothes that are really too small. Some things I envision fitting back into in the near future, but some stuff I just need to kiss goodbye and donate to someone in need. 
  • I want to keep growing my hair out. This will be a challenge, as I get easily annoyed & tend to just chop it off on whims. 
  • Keep my new car clean. Inside & out. 
  • Find a way to organize all my jewelry laying around. 
  • Create a 2014 photo book on Snapfish. Forget scrapbooking. I ultimately want to make photo books for every year and occasion I can. That'll have to be a summer project. 
  • 100% housetrain Chloe. She is good most of the time but if it ain't 100%, we need to work on it. Sometimes we take her out in the mornings & she won't go, but then she's stuck inside all day while we work, and of course she goes inside then. Ugh! Somebody just come take & train my dog & bring her back all obedient and well-mannered. 
  • GO TO NEW YORK CITY. FOR THE LOVE! 
  • Go on a fun beach trip.
  • Do more couples devotions and praying with my husband.
Maybe we'll talk more about that later? Again, not making any promises! Haha! But, life is taking a major turn and I have been having the urge to document again. I hope I stick with it. I find it stress-relieving and always love looking back at where I was mentally, physically, and spiritually during certain points in my past.

Stay tuned...


Monday, August 4, 2014

Sharing & Reviewing My Premier Lay Flat Wedding Photo Book from Snapfish

FYI: this blog post is serving 2 purposes... 1) to share with you my wedding book, and 2) to kind of give a review of Snapfish's Premier Lay Flat photo books since there are ZERO online with pictures. {I know, I looked.} So, this might be a doozy...get ready!!

Last summer, one of my items on my Summer To-Do list was to make my our wedding photo album. For various reasons {#1 being I'm a slacker} it just didn't get done. Fast forward ten more months, and summer is fortunately here again! I've been out of work for about 6 weeks and finally I can say that our beaUTIFUL wedding pictures are displayed to my crazy OCD standards in a photo book that I made my very own self!!

I have previously used Snapfish to make our wedding guestbook. I used pictures of me & Alex  from the very beginning {2002!!} to our most recent engagement pictures. Instead of having all our wedding guests sign a book with just their names, they got to sign our photo book and leave a note if they wished! It turned out wonderful and I still look at it from time to time. It makes my heart smile. It's a great little treasure of mine.




Wedding pictures were SUPER important to me. I had a great photographer, Kerri Crutchfield, and from the moment I saw her sneak peek on Facebook I just knew I was going to love my wedding pictures!

This is what I knew:
-I wanted a {nice} photo book
-I couldn't dare pick out "just" 100ish pictures for my book
-I am too particular and would be super annoying to someone if they were trying to make a book for me
-Therefore, I wanted to design the book myself
-I hands down prefer Snapfish's photobook-making software over any other company's
-I needed to make this happen for as cheap as I could... {do y'all know my husband?!?!}

So obviously the thing to do was make another Snapfish book. I knew I wanted a 12"x12" book. I wanted it bigger than my 8"x11" guestbook and thought 11"x14" would be a bit "much." Luckily for me, Snapfish just came out with their new Premier Lay-flat Photo Books, which apparently is different from making a custom book and upgrading to have the pages lay flat. This new book is described with the statement, "New seamless lay-flat binding, extra-thick premium pages, and a deluxe matte cover make these books perfect for celebrating weddings, vacations, and life's sweetest moments." Sounds good to me!! I just wanted thick pages and lay-flat binding in a 12"x12" book so this worked perfect for me!!

Anyways, I worked on my book when I felt like it and got it all nice & finished. I had a question because I was being super particular, wanting to make sure the cover would be perfect. I used Snapfish's "Chat with us Live" online customer service option {which I always use with companies...way more efficient than calling a toll-free number!} and after chatting with the representative, they gave me a coupon code for 50% off my book!! A previous rep had told me you can only get 20% off the Premier Lay Flat books, and typically 50% off coupons I see do exclude those. I was SUPER happy to see that the new coupon code worked and I saved **$82**!!

Don't tell Snapfish, but I would have paid the full price for the book, I love it that much. ;) I was happy with the 20% off coupon. So yeah, ecstatic about the 50% off!

Anyways, I ordered my book July 28 and received it in the mail on August 2nd... that is a FAST turn-around time! My tracking showed an expected delivery date of August 8th, so my package was 6 days early! Just another reason I love Snapfish.

So far, in looking at my book, there are only two tiny issues. One Snapfish can work on in the future, and one I am currently chatting online with a customer service rep about.** My one beef is that there's nothing to keep it in. I know that's not included in the price and they never said it did. I just wish I had something to kind of wrap it up in or keep it from wearing with time. Y'all know what I'm saying?! I might have to make something. {HAHA! Just kidding!}

And my other beef is that my book preview showed that I filled all the pages up, but when I received my book there is a blank two-sided page in the back (shown below). It doesn't look too bad, just looks like I didn't put anything on 2 pages. And I would have, had I had known the page was added. Just sayin'! {SEE THE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST REGARDING THIS ISSUE!}

Okay, so, now for the big reveal...
Happiness Within is right!!

the front cover

the back cover

A piece of tissue paper/vellum/whatever it's called in the front

Page 1 :)
One thing I will say is that I knew I was gonna be pushing it with fitting all my pics on 100 pages. {I am not crazy. I promise.} I didn't want to smoosh all my beloved pictures onto a small amount of pages. I wanted the photos enlarged so you could see all the smiling faces, little details, and the beautiful backgrounds. Surprisingly, I actually ended up fitting almost all my wedding photos on 85ish pages, which saved me a little bit of money! 

nice & thick :)

trying to get a good pic of the thickness of the pages

And here's just a couple snapshots of some of my favorite pages...
{excuse the blurriness of my photography!}

the details

the dress

"what might have been" / our "Plan A" ... thanks, rain! 

Pawpaw got a full-page spread!! 

me and my beautiful bridesmaids
love the pops of yellow all throughout the book!
special moment with my Dad

the kiss

Will cherish these pictures of my Pawpaw crying happy tears forever

"and they lived happily ever after..."


As you can tell, I ended up not going with any single picture full-page spreads. That's probably the purpose of the lay-flat books, but I did not necessarily have any picture I wished to enlarge to 1 ft by 2 ft. Haha! I did do several pages with just one picture, and that was big enough for me and my book. I personally just wanted the lay-flat pages to keep it clean and professional looking, as well as to be able to see all of any page that had pictures right up to the edge. 

**UPDATE: I chatted with "Yeshwanth" online, telling him/her about my issue. At first, they said it was "just the cover" or something like that. I was politely adamant that no, this was an error. I did not ask for anything specific, just wanted to make them aware of the issue and see if there was anything I could do about it. Yeshwanth had me upload pictures of my issue with the book {shown above} to confirm it. After confirmation, the conversation went a little something exactly like this...

Yeshwanth: Nicole , I have just now checked the snap shots and i see that the extra page has been added to the book . Please accept our sincere apologies for the extra page.
Yeshwanth: Shall i resubmit the order for you for free of cost?
nicole mullen: Would I need to send the 1st book back
nicole mullen: ?
Yeshwanth: No need of sending the book back to us.
nicole mullen: Oh my gosh, well then Yes, that would be marvelous!
Yeshwanth: Please give me a moment.
Yeshwanth: Just now I have re submitted your order with 2 day shipping to the above address at free of cost.. You will receive a confirmation e-mail from us within few minutes.
nicole mullen: I appreciate it so much
Yeshwanth: It was a pleasure assisting you. Is there anything else I can help with today?
Now how is THAT for customer service??? 100% customer satisfaction is what I am talking about!! That right there is what keeps customers coming BACK. Can I get an Amen?! 

So, as you can see, the photo books are definitely worth their price, especially to commemorate such a special occasion. I think the cost right now is $79.99 for the Premier Lay Flat photo books. However, that's just for their standard 20 pages! I think it's $2.79ish for a set of two extra pages {so 4 pages including front & back} after that. My book ended up being like $164 in the end, but remember, there's usually a 50% off coupon you can find/use! {Try retailmenot.com or chat online with a customer service rep ahead of time to get a code!}

Hopefully this post will give future photo book makers a better idea of what they're doing and investing in. If you have any questions, leave a comment! :) 

At the end of the day, I just loved the thing & wanted to share my great experience doing this! Now, onto the next thing on my summer to-do... only 2 weeks left of summer! {OMG!}

,
Nicole

Oh, and in no way did Snapfish ask me to do this or pay me to say these things. But I'd so advertise their stuff {obviously} ;)
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