I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with our three yorkies, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just us two (five with Rusty, Lucy, & Ethel) - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with something warm and delicious and begin reading. Enjoy, friends!

the blog!

If I had to choose:

Quitting and Starting

It’s my first official week of working back at home. The week after the end of school was used strictly for recovering, the week after I was out of town enjoying the waves of Lake Superior on the North Shore, and so I’m marking today as my first official day. In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m taking a step back from classroom teaching.

No, it was not the kids and their behavior, no it wasn’t because of politics or parents; it just became too much, and I hit a burnout somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years. I would wake up almost every night at 3am with my mind racing, I would randomly get pounding headaches, bouts of crying happened all too often (and would unfortunately happen while teaching – my poor kids did all they could to help me), I was incredibly irritable, and just had no passion for life. I didn’t even see it coming. It came at me like a 10 foot brick wall – I loved my job and I thought I had found my glorious calling in life. (Ever since my surgery and when I decided I didn’t want kids, I have never been able to pinpoint what it is I should do with my life. Teaching was the answer.) Perhaps it still is my calling and the universe is just simply telling me to take a break and breathe for a bit. So, that’s what I’m doing.

Henry David Thoreau

I still love to teach, I still love my students, so I won’t go too far. They’ll be seeing me soon when I get the itch to come back and substitute. I could never truly leave them — I gained about 80 new nieces and nephews; lucky, lucky me.

Our cozy, magical classroom.

So, here we are, back where we started all those years ago. Back to depending on my brain and creativity to lead the way to some version of success, back to summoning the confidence when no one is there to sign my paychecks and evaluations, and back to sifting through the mundane to find the everyday romances in life.

Back in the day, when I started this blog, I thought I needed a blogging schedule. I needed to be consistent and only post helpful posts. I needed to post at specific times because that’s when the most people would be reached and therefore the algorithms would be in my favor. I needed to have catchy titles and engaging questions to make sure people left comments because it would boost my views. I needed to have the perfect photo to go with my awesome catchy title.

There I am, circa 2012, trying to be the best blogger and photographer and website designer. (Take a break, Nikki.)

I’m exhausted just thinking about that. I write this to simply write to you, and come to think of it, write to myself. Writing has always been a form of therapy. My 21 completed diaries would agree. I’m currently on number 22. It’s a beautiful, leather-bound book with recycled unlined paper inside. I got it at the Renaissance Fair last year, and the owner of the shop told me that whenever I fill it up she’ll remove the pages, bind them, and add new pages to the leather book. Sold! I like the feeling of writing on old paper – it makes me feel as if my words have more meaning than they actually do.

We’re back to taking daily walks, something Paul and I have been looking forward to doing ever since I hit the brick wall months ago. Walks are another form of therapy, both for myself and for Paul. We’ve come to the conclusion, after 15 years together, that I’m officially an introvert and he’s officially an extrovert. I am totally fine staying home for multiple days in a row, whereas he needs to leave the house in some way at least once a day or he goes stir crazy. I, on the other hand, need a full day of nothingness and quiet after multiple days of plans and talking or I get irritable.

He is the person that makes 20 new friends on the first day of our vacations, whereas I just like to hide behind my book and hope no one sees me. He is also notorious for getting me out of my shell on vacation; he’s pulled me into the pool to play volleyball, pulled me on stage to help him show the resort’s audience the “perfect first kiss” (I wish I could say I was lying, but I’m not), and even pulled me back into the pool to join the water aerobics classes with the other vacation goers. (I act annoyed, but really, those were some of my favorite vacation memories – I need him to pull me out of the shell every now and then.)

Yep, that’s me after finishing the water aerobics class while Paul relaxed on the sidelines…

Now that we know this about each other (yes, I agree, why did it take us 15 years?!), we can communicate much better. Just last week, I was feeling annoyed and acting irritable. I snapped a bit at him, he got a bit defensive, and then we just looked at each other and said, “Oooh. I know what’s going on.” We had had a weekend jam packed with plans and visiting and I just needed some space and quiet. Problem solved! I went out to the porch with my diary and coffee, he gave me a squeeze and kiss on the forehead, and that was that. (That’s not to say I don’t love visiting and making plans – I do! I’m just learning I need a break to recharge my batteries. My batteries just don’t last very long. Boo.)

Where was I? Oh yes, walks. We’re taking them again and revisiting our favorite spots; through the cottage-lined streets, down the wooded path with wildflowers within reach, to our little lake with the Minneapolis skyline in view. We stop to see if there’s any wildlife on the shores or within the marsh just off the lake (we’ve been lucky to see all sorts, including deer, heron, turtles, ducks, frogs, bats, and of course, fish), we make our way out to a peninsula to get a better view of the city, we walk by our favorite houses with the best garden ideas, and then as we come up our driveway we hear the incredibly loud barking coming from the three balls of fur with the biggest hearts and littlest paws.

Can you find all three?

Can I be honest with you? My biggest urge to blog comes from a selfish need. I’m so sorry, but it’s true, dear friend. I’m writing a book and I’m in need of some practice. Yes, I write in my diary, but who are we kidding? That’s all drama and very poor grammar. (Although I have uncovered some of my wit in there when I reread them sometimes – some lines I can’t believe came out of my own pen!) No, I want to practice my writing and you are just the delightful people I can push that onto. :) (Am I kidding? Yes. Slightly.)

I’ve been wanting to write a book for as long as I can remember. I can recall talking about it in a paper I wrote freshman year of high-school. For my senior project, I turned my diaries into a book to explain the trauma that comes from being incessantly bullied by your own best friends and then some. (As a 34-year-old, it can still be triggering. Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me…who came up with that phrase?! Wrong. Bullying scars last.) I must have had a desire when I was younger. Or I just wanted to be an artist/illustrator. I remember sitting upstairs for hours at a time, listening to my mom’s Beatles records, and drawing person after person after thing after thing in my sketchbook. There was no rhyme or reason, I just drew. And drew. And then I randomly stopped. Perhaps I had listened to as much Beatles as I could? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I drew for weeks, months, days…but I loved it. And then in 4th grade, our teacher had us answer journal prompts each day. I loved it. I loved not having to write about a school subject, I loved writing just to write. I was also notorious for writing very long papers in school. Writing was fun for me. And now as an adult, it’s for medicinal purposes, too.

But mostly my time will be spent on the next calendar. 2025. Ooofta. I’ve already started the design process and for the end pages I have to know the dates for 2026. I’m in my own version of a time machine disguised as a blue and white striped office. I also want to improve my digital illustrating skills and I want to confront my perfectionism with drawing, so I’m attempting to draw something per day. It might be a digital illustration, it might be a watercolor painting, or it might just be a sketch. I just want to draw for the sake of drawing, and I want to leave the perfectionist out of this activity. I set up a stopwatch and see how long it takes me. Out of 3 drawings I’ve done in the last 3 days, the longest took me 47 minutes. The shortest was 22 minutes. The goal is not speed, but often when I let go of perfecting something, the speed comes naturally (as does the fun). We’ll see how long this lasts. (Hopefully a long time. I’d like to say I can stick to a bit of a routine.)

Day 1

And then I’d also like to add some more art prints to my Etsy store, learn the ways of creating stickers to sell (I’m addicted to them – they’re all over my water bottle, thermos, iPad, laptop, you name it), and explore some more avenues to create art. Acrylic painting on canvases has proven to be another form of therapy – it’s the one time when my mind totally relaxes and all sounds of my life are shut off and all I hear and see are brushstrokes going back and forth. It’s meditation, it’s serenity, it’s bliss.

And that’s where we’re at, dear friends. Took a break from teaching and am walking more, doing art more, communicating more, loving the pups more, meditating more (something I had to start in December when I truly felt like I hit rock bottom), gardening more, and I might even start cooking more. I used to love all of these things years ago, but work sucked it out of me. I’m slowly regaining it all back – Paul’s even said I’m a completely different person from just a few short weeks ago. Huzzah. :)

Here I am, just the other night. :) Everything’s gravy, baby!

Off to walk and talk and look at flowers and blow kisses to the wildlife! Cheers to you, to summer, to all things great and small, and to finding romance again. Sending love to you all.

  1. Patricia Conway says:

    Good for you, Nikki! Most people never take the time to stop and see if they are happy or unhappy with their life and what they are doing. Keep exploring! It’s working for you.

    Have you thought of designing writing paper? A friend sent me a letter on beautiful parchment paper with flowers all over the top. It was like a treasure. She said she found the paper in an antiques store.
    I think we need more writing paper like that.

    Enjoy your summer!

  2. Missy Madigan says:

    Hello, dear friend. I am so happy for you. You’re living the happiness you bring to others. Enjoy every simply moment. You deserve the stars, the moon, and all the Disney-esque magic this world has to offer.

    Be well, Nikki.

  3. Traci says:

    Love this and so glad you are taking the time to care for you and get to know you again. I love whatever “you” you are….can’t wait to read more blogs and see more creative work from you!! Traci