Scoring a Seat at “The Cool Table”

I’m just going to ignore the fact that I haven’t written on this blog in almost 5 months, and pretend like no life has passed since then.

[A special thank you to that blogger friend of mine who e-mail me this past week asking if I was still alive, since there has been no activity on this little blog since April... yikes! ]

We’re going to skip over our trip to the Middle East and our tour of the Holy Land. Or the part about my parents selling my childhood home and moving to Minnesota. Or us having to put our old yellow lab down. Lets also quickly fast forward over when I moved into a wonderful apartment in Arlington with two dear college friends. Or when I finally worked my last day as a full-time nanny, having logged well over 10,000 hours in the last 3 years. Or when my best friends became pregnant, and then became moms [someone please pinch me!]. Yes… lets skip over ALL of that. And arrive at life as of now.

Nursing. School.

Five weeks down, fifty-one weeks to go. I overheard some classmates already starting the countdown, ha.

I don’t remember the last time I was this busy, or overwhelmed with my schoolwork. But the wonderful thing is, I am loving it!

I’ll be honest, the last few months I have had my doubts as to whether or not nursing school was truly for me. Perhaps I should just move back to Europe once and for all. Or to Minnesota with my parents. Or to the Middle East and work with Muslim women there (story for another time). I began wondering if I was really cut out for nursing- I mean come on’, I just got over my fear of vomit less than a year ago! I began wondering if returning to school for 15 months would really be worth it in the end. Who wants to go back to the life of a student?

But then orientation came. Free newspapers for students, social gatherings, a gym with fitness classes, a library full of resources, professors with office hours ready and willing to pour into you, the health clinic… I mean come on! What’s not to love about a student’s lifestyle?

The first week of school crept up on me rather unexpectedly, and before I knew it I was sitting in my first 8am class. All by my lonesome self.

Okay, now I know I have a tendency to be shy at times, especially in rather large group settings- but for the most part, I think I’m a pretty outgoing person. So for me to find myself sitting by myself was terrible. Especially when overhearing lots of laughter coming from the tables behind me. Now bear in mind, this is my first day of class. AKA, one of the most crucial times for a student to make friends and not be termed “loser” from the get go.

Class started at 8am. I arrived to the classroom at 7:45am. Decent time, I thought with enough wiggle room to get settled.

Wrong. 

The classroom was packed. I quietly grabbed one of the only seats left at the tables we were allowed to sit at, which just happened to face the back wall with my back towards the professor. Having to contort my body to maintain eye contact with the professor during a three hour class? Who wouldn’t enjoy such an awkward position? Back ache, anyone?

My next class day, I told myself I would arrive even earlier to get the “prime seat”  I was hoping for, and to save my poor back from another painful three hours.

I arrived at 7:40am this time. And guess what? The classroom was just as packed.

As I slouched into the same seat as last time, I vowed to do whatever necessary to not only score a seat that faced the professor, but that also included others whom I could befriend.

Coming home to my roommates that night was tough when, after hearing my saga from the previous day, made me vow to arrive extra early to make an effort to not only score a great seat, but make friends in the class. Sadly, I came home with no new news to report. Sarah asked, “Dom, part of the ‘cool’ kids now?” Just then I saw Lis, my other roommate, quickly make eye contact with her, attempting to communicate “shhhh… sensitive topic.” Ha! At the time, I was still sitting by myself, leaving class by myself, with no friends to form a study group with.

Day three I finally got my prime seat. I didn’t arrive any earlier than the last two times… probably later actually. But I managed to score a seat at an empty table in the front row that faced the professor. Score! I also had one girl from my clinical rotation sitting with me. Even better! Things were looking up, folks.

Five weeks later and our little table of two has grown to four. Rumor has it, a few other girls are trying to find a clever way to sneak their way out of their table to join my table. Looks like we have regained the name, “the cool table.”

That Time I Was Scammed

Folks. I became an ebay seller.

And then I deactivated my account only four days later.

Yup.

I have horrible luck.

I take that back- there is no such thing as luck. At least that is what my mother has told me for the last 24 years.

But whatever is the alternative, that is me.

You see, I made myself an ebay account for the sole purpose of selling my Nikon D90 camera. I don’t even know what prompted me to sell it in the first place. Perhaps it was after I took my camera to a repair shop last week to get my camera lenses fixed (you know… after both broke in Europe… yes, I did just get them fixed one year later). After a long conversation with one of the employees, I held in my hands a more professional camera that did everything my current camera could not do. I was sold.

Now, I know there is a lesson in this story. The lesson goes back to one of the ten commandments- though shall not be envious, or covet your neighbor’s wife (or camera, in this instance). I made it up in my mind, however, that I would find a way to purchase this camera.

This is when ebay comes into the picture. I noticed that I could probably get the best bang for my buck if I sold it through this site, and so I tried to take some professional looking pictures of my camera with my iphone, I wrote a detailed description of the condition of the camera, and then I listed it.20140406-105319.jpg

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Sixteen hours later it sold.

I was shocked. Through a family strand of text messages, my sister said “it must have been Daddy-O’s shirt.” Yes, that white background was in fact computer paper and my father’s white shirts (oh, the things you do to get a good photo!).

Then I became all sentimental and sad. This was the camera that first made me passionate about photography. It traveled the world with me. And I hated seeing it go to some guy named Mike Harvey from Alabama.

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Are you concerned that I just posted the buyer’s name? Don’t be. Because the truth of the matter is, Mike Harvey does not even exist.

So fast forward three days. Mr. Harvey had requested that I gift wrap the camera and prepare to ship it internationally for his cousin’s birthday. I received confirmation that he paid me last Friday morning, and that he also gave me an additional $150 to do expedited shipping internationally.

What a kind man, I thought to myself. I even considered writing a happy birthday note to his cousin Leo, since it was his birthday and all.

After I received an e-mail from ebay confirming that he had paid me, I received an additional e-mail from Mike with the address on where to ship the camera.

Nigeria.

Okay… so its not France or Denmark, as I had been expecting, but I guess that is a cool place to study abroad?!

Friday I went to the post office and after filling out customs forms galore, I sent off my beautiful camera and one of my most prized possessions to Nigeria.

[fast forward four hours]

I sign on to ebay, only to see that the message FROM EBAY that I had received in my personal e-mail was not visible on my ebay account.

Hmmm… that’s weird, I thought.

Then I checked my bank account.

No money.

Panic began to set in and I felt sick to my stomach. I called ebay and after about an hour’s conversation, it was determined that I had been scammed.

That e-mail I had received in my personal e-mail account was forged, and made to look as if it came from ebay.com when in fact it came from ebay@mail.ie

Guess this is why it is important to look carefully at the e-mail address. Note to self for the future!

Once the pieces of the puzzle began to come together, I knew I had to make sure my camera was not in transit to Nigeria… because then it would be too late. My mom got on the phone and called the post office immediately. Although she was calling after hours, someone answered. It is an act of God that someone answered. At first the man thought it was already in transit; but after a lengthy search, he had located my camera!

The next day, the camera was back in my hands. The post office was so gracious to refund me the cost of shipping; and I told myself I would never be so ignorant (Nigeria… come on!) again.

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Sunday morning, however, I had a message from ebay saying that I had sold my camera again.

What??? 

Turns out that ebay had relisted my camera once they realized I had been scammed the first time.

This man seemed much more legit, however he also wanted to gift my camera to his son for his birthday. And kept asking for personal information (like my paypal e-mail address).

As I began to package my camera to sell once more, I was very careful to ensure that this man did not act in a suspicious manner, and that he first and foremost paid me.

The money never came…

And I had been scammed yet again. Thankfully, I had learned from my previous experience and kept that camera in my possession! So folks, how on earth are you supposed to become an ebay seller if these scammers can point out the newbies, and take advantage of them?

All I know, is after my first experience with a “Mr. Mike Harvey” I was ready to send him the angriest e-mail saying some not very nice things, however my mom (once again, always right… but still bothers me) reminded me that this man is clearly sick and if I would choose to write him back, perhaps I should extend love and challenge the man, rather than lash out at him.

So there you have it. Anyone else have any crazy “scammer” stories?!

PS- you’d be happy to know my camera is now in the hands of one of my dearest friends in the world, and I couldn’t be happier.

My One Ski Day of the Season

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I’ve been skiing since the day I took my first step. That is probably the one sport that The Coulter Fam has done together since Rach and I were toddlers. We used to rock climb all the time when we were younger, however that is a sport we no longer share together. Backpacking is another constant for us, however never something we’ve done every year until recently. But skiing… every year we aim to take a ski trip together. Sadly it hasn’t happened in the last two years. I was in Spain, then my dad got a new job (more on that later!)…

So I just accepted the fact that this year would be my first year without skiing since I was maybe one years old? Ha… literally. Isn’t that crazy!?

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Now for those of you who haven’t heard, Virginia has had psychotic weather lately. Watch this video to get a better idea of what it has been like living here this winter. Hilarious, huh?

Well after a weekend filled with hiking at Great Falls and outdoor fun due to the glorious 60+ F degree weather… a psych snow storm hit. 6am Monday morning I get a text that I didn’t have work due to all of the snow; and a few hours later friends and I had arranged a day skiing in the mountains of Pennsylvania. We headed out around noon to White Tail Resort and got in a solid five hours of skiing.

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First off, skiing with friends is a blast. Add in a few hours of night skiing, and it was all the more fun. In all my years of skiing, this was my first time every skiing at night. And I loved every minute.

Night Skiing at White Tail, PA

It helps to have crazy friends with you, to make the day more memorable. We called ourselves ‘Team Instafit’ and had fun being obnoxious all day.

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This photo came out SO bizarre, but awesome.

I was trying to think why I love skiing so much, as I was doing various runs down the mountain. Because when you are taking the ski lifts up, or stalling on the mountain– you are freezing! But then when you are skiing down the mountain, you are sweating and “feeling the burn” in those muscles. I think skiing is so great because it boils down to a) the amazing scenery, b) snow, c) the adrenaline rush when you are flying down the mountain, d) okay… I don’t think skiing needs to boil down to anything. It is just one of the greatest sports and something I will forever love doing with family and friends.

An Apology Note to My Father

Dear Daddy-O,

I want to remind you that I love you lots. As you have been touring the islands of Hawaii with the Mammacita, I have been busy at work maintaining our homestead. Shoveling the driveway…

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Taking care of the dogs…

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Picking up (said) dogs poop around the clock…

Dropping off your laundry at the cleaners…

Keeping the house nice and orderly…

So when you come home on Thursday and see your driveway, please extend grace to your daughter. I mean, I know we’ve had this talk a million times… but our driveway is NOT easy to back out of. Especially in a Ford Explorer.

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So, again… I’m very sorry for tearing up your lawn like this. Please accept my apology, and the bar of chocolate that will be awaiting you upon your arrival home.

All my love,

Your Holly

The Quirkiness of Asheville

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Asheville is a quirky city. Hipster people e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e., tons of mom-and-pop type shops, and a city where every restaurant and grocery store seems to be organic especially embracing the local, farm fresh kind of foods. We certainly liked that aspect. Out to breakfast one morning, my mom was struggling to find something to order. “Everything has bread in it!” she exclaimed, just when the waitress seemed to come over and inform us that the entire restaurant is gluten-free. Wow. I have never heard of a restaurant serving strictly gluten-free foods. That is when my mom nearly hugged the lady, then followed her to the pastry window and bought 60% of their fresh pastries for the day to “freeze for later.” Ha!

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I won’t say I loved Asheville enough to want to live there, but it was quite the experience getting to walk its streets, eat its local foods, soak up some of its glorious sun and warmer weather, and stare at its mountains in the distance. If you are ever in Asheville and need of a great restaurant or two to try, check out Cúrate (yes, a Spanish Tapas Bar) and Posana Café (100% gluten free!) for breakfast or lunch. Or The Chocolate Fetish for some t-a-s-t-y chocolate. Awesome food overall. So awesome, that you’re sure to put on an extra pound or two by the end of your time there. ;)

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DSC_0706We had a great time in Asheville and look forward to venturing back there at some point again in the future.

Remember “That” Dinner… [Asheville, NC]

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The main reason for our little getaway to Asheville was to celebrate my mom’s big 5-0 birthday. Since this is kind of a big birthday, we knew we had to make it extra special for her. So after a day spent touring the Biltmore Estate, we returned late that evening to dine at a fancy restaurant on the grounds.

After the hostess seated us, she asked my mom, sister, and I if we would prefer to use a black napkin rather than the white napkin that was currently adorning our plates. Huh? We looked at one another with confusion before quickly saying that the white napkin on our place setting was just fine. She walked away, and we burst out laughing.

What in the world? My mom was the first to speak, slightly insulted that the hostess had offered her a black napkin which she assumed was done on purpose, since it was her 50th birthday and all. Rach and I were then only further confused as to why we were offered a black napkin as well. We got such a kick out of this whole napkin ordeal until my dad who is far more cultured than us, informed us that this is typical at extra fancy restaurants. A black napkin is offered if the woman is concerned with getting white lint on her dress.

Ummmm… excuse me? Why didn’t Barbara Hinkel ever teach me this in her infamous Cotillion Class way back when??? Who knew?!

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We began eating our dinner, and questioned my mom to reflect on her last fifty years- the highs and lows, and to tell us what she was looking forward to in the future. After thinking awhile, she began to share how precious family time is to her- weekends like these when the four of us can enjoy one another’s company… and then her eyes began to well with tears.

Now quick pause- anyone who knows me knows that “crier” should really be my middle name. Even worse is when someone begins to cry around me- no matter at home in private or in public, I begin to cry almost instantaneously. So I did just that. I began to cry hard. For goodness sake, my mom should know better than to talk about time and family and how quickly time has seemed to pass as of late with me around… that just seems to flip the switch inside of me. I turned towards the window while trying to contain my tears and not embarrass myself. My dad, however, was slightly yelling at me to go to the restroom (and fast!) while Rachel was ordering me to not let out one of my every so famous guttural cries.

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This sadly continued for awhile as my mom would not stop being all sentimental which only made my puffy, red eyes and tears streaming down my face even worse. It did make me feel better that she was crying too! Rach was just laughing hysterically while my dad kept trying to tell “his women” to get our acts together! 

Eventually, when the dinner course came, we had pulled ourselves together. Sure, we were still just as loud… telling stories, and laughing obnoxiously at one another, but at least the crying had stopped.

When our bottle of wine was almost at the end, my dad poured my mom the last few sips. As she reached for her glass, she made one of her loud, giggly screeches. She showed her glass to my dad, pointing at what appeared to be a dead bug at the bottom of her wine glass.

This was the icing on the cake.

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At this point my dad made a comment that had us all laughing. Sadly I cannot remember it word-for-word, but it went something like this. “Wonderful. I bring my family here, trying to make my wife’s 50th birthday extra special, and you guys laugh at the black napkin ordeal, cry hysterically at the table, and then there is a da** bug at the bottom of this expensive Argentinian Malbec.”

Priceless.

It wasn’t a bug but just some nasty residue thankfully… but still… makes for a good story.

Here’s to more family dinners and excursions in the future. Because they are always so memorable.

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*Sadly no photos were taken at this oh so memorable dinner, so photos from Waking Life Espresso will have to do instead.

A Day at The Biltmore [Asheville, NC]

I remember learning about George Vanderbilt and the infamous Biltmore Estate while in high school, and was excited to explore its grounds with my family a few weekends ago. The entire Coulter Family loves watching Downton Abbey, and let me just say… it felt as if we were walking on set of Downton, only we were in North Carolina rather than England. It was fascinating to learn about the family fortune of the Vanderbilt Family, and how through a simple $100 loan from his mother, George’s grandfather started a small ferry business in NYC before investing and making it big in the railroad industry.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have that many pictures of the Biltmore House- mainly because I was not allowed to take any pictures while touring the home. It was gorgeous though. George had an eye for decorating his home and made many trips to Europe to gain further inspiration. It is an absolute MUST see if you are ever in the Asheville area. Plus, the home has over 250+ bedrooms alone! Too bad we couldn’t stay there… now that would’ve been cool! DSC_0517

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Beyond that, the grounds of the estate are gorgeous. On over 2,000 acres, Biltmore House is the largest residence in the USA. They have hundreds of acres of gardens, vineyards where they make their own wine (which was wonderful, might I add), lakes, trails to run or hike on, fields to horseback ride or hunt in, and the list goes on…DSC_0482 DSC_0481

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In one sense, it felt as if I were back in Europe touring the grounds of a castle dating back hundreds of years. Only, Biltmore House was built in 1889. Besides oohing and aahing over the stunning banquet hall, the gorgeous wallpapers used in each room, the antique furniture sets from France and England, and marveling over the thousands of old books in one of the most gorgeous libraries I’ve ever seen… I probably most enjoyed learning about the hospitality among the Vanderbilt Family. From the tour, I gathered that everyone in the community adored them. They loved to host guests at their home year round, and they were always finding ways to serve their community. What a treat it was to visit this estate and learn about the Vanderbilt Family!

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Stay tuned for more stories from the Coulter’s adventures in Asheville soon!

A Cottage in the Woods [Asheville, NC]

The Coulter Fam decided that lately, Northern Virginia has been seeing FAR too much snow, so we decided to take a few days off and head south for a long weekend in Asheville, North Carolina. Only a seven-hour drive, we were able to enjoy 2 ½ days in the beautiful North Carolina countryside while also getting to enjoy the city of Asheville and its many quirks.

With all there was to do in Asheville, it is surprising to hear that it was tough pulling us away from our charming cottage only thirty minutes outside of the city. For a very reasonable price, we stayed in a home that shared 200 acres of land with a few other houses. It was a pity the weather wasn’t warmer, however if it were… we never would have made it into the city. With a large river perfect for fly fishing or swimming in, a swing set, hammock, pavilion with corn hole and a volleyball net- this home was in the perfect location for a family reunion or weekend getaway with friends. The only slightly concerning part was every night we heard the howls of a coyote that seemed to lurk a little too close to our little home. But the incredible views of the stars made up for it.

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Meet Mrs. Napkin [and why I am NOT a candidate for LASIK]

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Ever so often, I whip out Mrs. Napkin for the kiddos. I wish I could say this was a Dominique Original, however sadly I stole it from Jude Law in the movie, The Holiday.

My kids love Mrs. Napkin. They eat it up every time. I only save her for special occasions though when there needs to be some added reinforcement at meal time. This evening, Mrs. Napkin showed up and encouraged the kiddos to eat all of their carrots by telling jokes and doing a chicken dance. Within a minute, the kids were scarfing down their carrots.

I do wish I could say Mrs. Napkin was outta here though. Because the glue that makes Mrs. Napkin work is well, my glasses. I have been pursuing LASIK for the last few months, and after not wearing contacts for 3 weeks to prep for my eye consultation, I was sad to learn that I am not a candidate for LASIK. It was such disappointing news, because contacts and I do not get along. Especially after my last eye appointment, when I learned that not only do I have chronic dry eye, but also severe allergies on the surface of my cornea. Top it off with two different sized pupils, and you have someone who could use LASIK sooner rather than later (in my opinion!).

The LASIK doctor encouraged me to wait until after I go through nursing school, because she is concerned that my eyes will digress while I am in school studying. At the end of the day, I respect her decision.

So, perhaps in a year or two I may finally be contacts + glasses free, but until then…

The kiddos I get to nanny and babysit for will continue to have the privilege of meeting Mrs. Napkin every now and then. :)

Scary photos, huh?

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Snow Day… and the Random Happenings of Life

Well it’s a snow day here. The kind of snow day where you are trapped in your home, get to sleep in until an ungodly hour, and do nothing all day long except attempt to be productive while staring out the window at 15+ inches of snow.

So I thought I should write a blog post where I share random facts about my life as of late. From a broad point of view, I feel as if lately my life has been boring… confusing… overwhelming… but nothing “blog post” worthy. So I thought a life latelies post could be fun to do, to summarize some of the more hilarious/interesting parts of my life right now.

//I am realizing that the more I nanny, the more I am convinced I only want to have boys. Little boys are the funniest. Recently the 3 year old I nanny, upon passing gas, said “Dominique, that was a burp from my bottom. I just burped from my bottom.” I proceeded to hear (and smell!) these said burps for the next thirty minutes, and died of laughter every time.

//I had yet another “throw up” incident a few weeks back. I didn’t even flinch. One of the littles was eating his meatloaf at dinner, and took too big of a bite and began choking. My mind was racing, as I desperately tried to recall how to do the heimlic maneuver on toddlers, when he began puking everywhere.

//I debated for over an hour at Costco the other day if I should buy a $1 churro on the way out. I felt like I was Kronk in Emperor’s New Groove with an angel on one shoulder, and a demon on the other. I knew how unhealthy those pieces of fried dough were, however my salivary glands reminded me that it would be worth it. It was.

//Lets return to the churro incident. The lady at the cash register’s name was Domonique, not with two i’s like my name. Anyways, we hit it off because we pretty much had the same name, and it is a rarity to meet a fellow Dominique these days. The difference is, she’s black and I am not. Although everyone thinks I am black before meeting me, so same thing. Well, Domonique is a twin. Her sister who was born first has the name Monique, thus when numero dos came out… it only made sense that her mamma name her Domonique because she has two daughters… dos Monique’s. Get it? Haha, I nearly died. 

//My life seems to revolve around dinosaurs these days. Do you want to know about Ankylosaurus? Or Apatosaurus? Or Tyrannosaurs Rex? I took the littlest one to a Dinosaur Expo last week and my goodness, the child was in heaven. So much so, that when it was time to leave… I had to drag him out of there screaming and fussing the entire way. I probably would’ve done the same if I were his age. I mean, live dinosaurs around every corner? It doesn’t get much better than that.

//I have spent the last few months watching How I Met Your Mother while folding laundry. I took a hiatus from the show for a few seasons while in Spain, but have returned. I just love Ted too much, and the storyline between the characters. Now I am upset because the last show doesn’t air until May. I mean, come on!

//I miss Spain. Oh so much. A girlfriend called me the other day to inform me that she may move to Madrid to teach English for two years. She asked me to join her. I am considering it.

//My mom told me I need to shower more frequently. Something about me no longer being in Europe, and wanting to spare my poor husband one day. I didn’t understand. I mean, if the dogs only need a bath once a month, why can’t I? ;)

//I spent a few hours with some dear friends a few nights ago. They have missionary friends of theirs currently staying with them, who are from Argentina and France, but are currently pastors in Portugal. Anyways, we sat and spoke Spanish, and sang Spanish worship songs for a long time. My heart was full.

//This article is pretty incredible for anyone who has/or ever will live abroad for a time. I am a triangle.

//I am currently in love with all of Passenger’s music. His lyrics are beautiful… passionate… raw… full of emotion and life. I think I may hop on a plane to the UK and see if he will marry me.

//I have been getting into cooking a lot lately. Soup Sunday’s have become one of my favorite (new) traditions. Although I have slacked the last few weeks.

//I still haven’t decided on a nursing school. Something about lots going on in my family and feeling as if I’m on an emotional roller coaster has left me paralyzed with making a decision. And more attached to the state of Virginia. Wise words a friend of mine encouraged and challenged me with a few weeks ago continue to ring true in my head, “The world is your oyster, Dominique. Do not turn your blessings into burdens.”

//I got a job at Anthropologie. Probably not the wisest decision as any money I make there, will most likely be further invested in clothes, candles, and home decor… but I am so excited. First day of work will be soon, and I cannot wait. Now to try and be a little more fashionable on a regular basis…. errr, this is going to be tough.

//Turns out one pupil in my eye is larger than the other. After a friend pointed out this flaw, I went home and googled it. Let just say when brain aneurysm and/or tumor is the first thing to pop up on WebMD, panic began to set in. I was even more anxious when I showed up and my optometrist began to make a homemade eye drop in front of me while saying how this is something she rarely sees, and how we need to ensure that there is no additional pressure on my brain. After a very long appointment, it turns out I most likely have had this “condition” since birth. Something about me being a c-section baby. I could be on a prescription for the rest of my life that would keep my pupils the same size for aesthetic purposes, but I said no. Time to embrace this uniqueness! Now I want to know how many other people have noticed this difference in my eye but never thought to say something?!

//It’s official. I want to be a professional ice skater. Or skier. Or snowboarder. Really, I just want to go to the Olympics. I laughed when my girlfriend named Tiina wrote me last night asking if I saw the tie that happened between Tina and Dominique in downhill skiing. The rest of our texting convo was us pretending that we were in fact the winners.

//I am wracking my brain trying to think of other things going on in my life right now. Really, I am just trying to avoid the inevitable. I am being summoned to either a) go and shovel the driveway or b) go and do a T-25 exercise video. Ummm… come again? Neither sound very appealing Mammacita.

Well, there you have it. Life as of late.

Now grab some spiked hot chocolate, grab a good book, and sit in front of the fireplace. Well, that’s what I’m about to do anyways.

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