We're gearing up for summer in LA!

Hey, friends!

We made it through our first winter in D.C. It was fun. It was busy. It was cold.

I had a birthday, woo hoo! For those of you who pay attention to me on social media, you know my party was Harry Potter themed. This, of course, made it AMAZING.

Do I look like Hermione?!

Do I look like Hermione?!

And earlier in March, I also attended law school prom with the husband. Look how fancy we look (bottom right)!

Obligatory group shot

Obligatory group shot

I will dress up and pose for photos any chance I get! 

I will dress up and pose for photos any chance I get! 

Aside from that, Robby's been busy studying and working really hard. I've been writing, writing, writing. I've kept up with the usual personal essays/listicles I do, along with writing for American Survival Guide magazine. You know my dream of being a big time, official published author? I am still working on that. ;)

I'm excited about some new fiction I'm writing and other projects I am working on with the help of my agent. Other than writing on my couch - remember my All the thoughts I have trying to reach 10,000 steps without leaving my apartment story on HelloGiggles? -  sometimes I go to the National Portrait Gallery with a friend to work side by side. I love how many Smithsonian museums D.C. has and that I can go whenever I want to for free!

Now that May is just around the corner, we will be heading to L.A. in about a month for Rob's summer associate position at a law firm downtown. I'm looking forward to exploring Silver Lake and am sure I'll have lots of pictures to share when I do. We will miss our friends in D.C., but other than that, summer can't come fast enough!

So that's what is going on with us. What about you? What are your plans for the summer? I hope they involve lots of sun and avocados (at least mine do). Thanks for reading!

What's new in D.C.

Hey there,

It's about time for a blog post, wouldn't you say? It feels like I blog more than I do, probably since my online writing is personal and also because I update Facebook so much! And yet, I realize I haven't given an official blog update since just after Rob and I moved to D.C. So, here goes.

We are doing really well here. Rob made it through his first semester as a 2L transfer student at Georgetown Law and is busy interning and studying all the time. I've been writing, per usual, and in addition to the magazine articles for American Survival Guide, I started producing much more online content. In September, I became a regular contributing writer for HelloGiggles, a women's entertainment website co-founded by "New Girl" actress Zooey Deschanel and recently purchased by Time, Inc. I mostly write about life lessons and relationships and have really enjoyed it (especially when Zooey shares my articles on Facebook and I get a bunch of likes! ha ha).

I also became a contributor for The Liberty Project, a resurgence of Liberty Magazine that focuses on personal essays and cultural commentary. I have been writing about foster care, so far, but also have several relationships and growing up-focused stories on tap, slated to be published soon.

To check out my HelloGiggles articles, click here. And for The Liberty Project, here you go. 

So, that's been fun. I started writing copy for foster-care organizations and nonprofits, too, which is pretty rewarding work. If you know anyone who needs a copywriter for their business, let me know! The freelance writing struggle is real!

Of course, I'm always working on my fiction, writing more and working with my lovely agent. One day I will be a children's book author, people! One day! 

Let's see, what else... We've traveled. In October, we went to a beautiful wedding in St. Augustine, Florida.

Lindsay was such a beautiful bride! Here's the family photo. Rob and I pictured, far right.  

Lindsay was such a beautiful bride! Here's the family photo. Rob and I pictured, far right.

 

In November, we met up with family in the Orlando area for Thanksgiving, and of course Rob and I had to visit the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios. I wrote a story about it months ago, and it will be published eventually. I will let you all know when it does. Until then, satisfy yourself with this photo of Rob and me in our wizarding robes drinking some Butterbeer.

So good!

So good!

And then, for the holidays we spent three weeks in Santa Barbara.  Time went by so fast!

Since moving to D.C., Rob and I have gone to several games at the Verizon Center, since it's so close to where we live. We've seen our first NBA and NHL games since we moved here, and we're also big Georgetown basketball fans!

Go Hoyas!  

Go Hoyas!

 

We also experienced the big storm that hit the East Coast, Jonas. Or Snowmagedden, Snowzilla. Whatever you want to call it, there was record snowfall in D.C. and we all got snowed in. Rob and I had fun playing in the snow, though.

You can't tell, but I'm on the left. ;)

You can't tell, but I'm on the left. ;)

That's about all that's new with us. Thanks for reading! 

We moved to DC! And other fun stuff...

Hi, friends.

It has been a while and a lot has happened since I last wrote one of these posts.

Robby and I moved from Seattle to Santa Barbara, for the summer, and then to Washington, D.C.

The summer was great. Nice weather, family, friends and all that. We visited the Reno area and spent the rest of the summer in Santa Barbara. Rob interned at the District Attorney's office and applied to Georgetown Law as a transfer student. He got in. Yay! So off to D.C. we went.

Rob and I will miss being so close to the ocean!

Rob and I will miss being so close to the ocean!

As some of you may know, I interned and lived in D.C. for two summers, one during college and one the semester after, before I moved to Santa Barbara to become a newspaper reporter. One of my internships was for a congressman, now senator, on Capitol Hill, and the other was for a news website. So I have lots of friends here! I've already spent lots of time with friends from our reporter days in Santa Barbara, Carolyn and Katie. It's great to be here with them. 

Robby is doing great in school, loving it already, and super, super busy. He's accepted a summer job position at a prestigious law firm in Los Angeles, so we'll see you again soon, West Coast! 

After moving into our fabulous new apartment in DC, we lucked out by finding some really nice furniture, including some stuff we bought from people leaving our building. We decorated intentionally and feel like real grown ups now! (Also, our building has a rooftop pool with a great view of the Capitol, so that's pretty neat.)

It matches!

It matches!

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Can't forget the rooftop pool

Can't forget the rooftop pool

We also went to Manhattan about a week before school started. Rob and I had a great time checking out Grand Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and seeing a Broadway show - Les Miserables. We hung out at this really cool rooftop lounge and ate fancy macaroni and cheese cupcakes. We enjoyed the amazing view of the city.

What a view!

What a view!

I also had the pleasure of meeting my literary agent for the first time in real life! Up to this point, we had only emailed and talked on the phone. It was a lot of fun checking out the Curtis Brown office and having lunch with her!

with Elizabeth at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

with Elizabeth at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

I've continued my regular magazine writing, so keep your eyes peeled for September's issue of American Survival Guide on newsstands. (They can usually be found monthly at Safeway, Smith's and those kind of stores, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Walmart.) I also have an article coming up next month in Doomsday, a magazine from the makers of ASG that focuses on major, end-of-the world-type scenarios. My article is on toxic spills that happen when trains derail or factories have accidents.

Be cool like Grandma and visit a newsstand near you! ASG pictured, bottom far left

Be cool like Grandma and visit a newsstand near you! ASG pictured, bottom far left

Speaking of end of the world - I'm completely obsessed with The Walking Dead. I started watching it and finished all five seasons in less than two weeks. I also started watching and am all caught up with the AMC spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead. I can't wait until October 11 when Walking Dead starts up again, so I also started watching The Talking Dead, in which, you guessed it, people talk about The Walking Dead. (Sometimes the actors come on the show and talk about it, too.) Oh, and I also went into a comic book store for the first time and bought The Walking Dead Volume I: Days Gone By. If you see me or talk to me, chances are The Walking Dead is the only thing I'll want to talk about, so start watching it immediately.

Rob and I are having fun, not just hanging out with our friends (did I mention our friend from Seattle, Jacob, moved here, too? Well, he did.). We've also been playing tourists. We checked out the National American History Museum and the Newseum. I enjoyed the Newseum especially, since last time I was there in summer 2011 I had no idea that the next time I visited I would have had a career as a journalist at a newspaper and become a freelance writer for magazines. Little did I know then that I'd soon meet a handsome photojournalist who would later become my husband and then take us to law school in D.C. 

at the National American History Museum

at the National American History Museum

We've taken selfies outside the White House fence and attended a political rally. This is a great place to be, and we are excited to see all the excitement continue as the presidential race nears.

White House selfie

White House selfie

Keeping up with a blog isn't something I hate doing - it's just that I don't know that anyone wants to read it. And I don't get paid to write this thing, so it's difficult to justify spending time on this rather than on other forms of writing. This is also why I don't journal (or do so only rarely), even though I think journaling is an important thing to do. So, it may be a while before I post again, but we can always keep in touch by text, phone, Facebook and a number of other ways. I'd love to hear from you!

Making it as a freelance writer

It's about time I update my blog. I'm sitting in a coffee shop with Robby and we look like we belong in Seattle. Robby is looking handsome and hipster (ironically or on purpose? Maybe we'll never know) and my hair is unruly and curly. I'd like to think it looks deliberately "boho," as I filed (writer speak for "sent to an editor") a story yesterday for New Hair Trends magazine about boho hair and am now am expert on the subject.

I've been writing from home full time for a just over a month now and am finally getting into the swing of things. When Robby and I first talked about me doing this, I was worried I wouldn't get enough writing jobs to make this sustainable. The funny (and great) thing is, I've been slammed with story assignments! I've been writing for American Survival Guide magazine pretty regularly and now New Hair Trends, too. My first personal essay published on xoJane.com and I started working with a new business client. The company had me rewrite a press release to give it a more news feel to it, which was fun. And I wrote a few stories for Foster Focus magazine, too; so stay tuned for those.

I've been hanging out with my friend Charyn, who has been a successful freelance writer for around 15 years and who I'm learning a lot from. Not to mention we have a lot in common and I looooove being able to meet her during the day for happy hour, when I'd usually be stuck at work if I weren't working from home.

Another plus about this working from home/focusing-on-writing thing is that I had the time to revise my newest manuscript and send it to the literary agent representing me. As all of you probably know, the publishing industry moves at a snail's pace, so it might be years before anything happens with it. I'm still excited, though.

I'm working on revising a personal essay I wrote for a literary nonfiction class I took in college. After my xoJane piece went live I had a difficult time dealing with some negative comments I received on the website, but the overwhelming response has been positive. In addition to visible comments on the site and social media, several people sent me messages telling me their stories and how me sharing mine helped them in some way. Huffington Post Weddings shared the story on its Facebook page and it continues to get more and more clicks.

I just looked on the website and it's been shared off of xoJane more than 1,800 times; that doesn't include people sharing off their own Facebook pages, Twitter, or even how many people read it without sharing. Several foster care-related organizations promoted the piece; FosterClub even shared it on its website. 

Since then (although not necessarily because of the post), I've been approached by two people who wanted to interview me. One was by a man who runs a podcast about people who have set and achieved goals. The idea is for listeners to learn from the people who are featured. I'll be interviewed for the podcast next week; the interview won't go live for a while, as the podcast hasn't launched yet, but I'll keep everyone posted.

The second person who approached me about an interview is the lovely Fiona Quinn. She runs a blog called ThrillWriting, which aims to help writers "write it right." For ThrillWriting, which I believe has some 150,000 readers, Fiona shares information from experts on the subjects writers might not know about but would want to include in their writing. In my case, that's the perspective of someone who grew up in foster care.

I found Fiona on Twitter because another writer recommend I get in touch with her regarding a story I'm working on for a magazine. I followed Fiona on Twitter, planning to message her the next day about my story, but she beat me to it asking if she could interview me! The interview can be found here.

That's pretty much all that's going on with me. Robby and I returned last weekend from a wonderful getaway along the Olympic Peninsula, hitting "Twilight" sights in Port Angeles and Forks, Wash. (I abbreviated Washington here because that's standard Associated Press style, but it feels kind of silly to use that in a blog; I'll take your thoughts on the matter if you feel so inclined to share.)

Forks!  

Forks!

 

Just hanging out at a rainforest, nbd.  

Just hanging out at a rainforest, nbd.

 

The weather was phenomenal; the sun was shining, the sky was clear and it was warm outside. Not bad for Forks, the wettest place in the continental United States!

"It's La Push."

"It's La Push."

 

I'm also planning  a trip back to Nevada to visit family and friends. I haven't been there for more than a few days at a time since I graduated from college and moved away in 2011. Another perk of the freelance writing life, ability to travel (if I have my assignments filed early and we have the money, that is). I think I can get used to this...

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New projects, writing and The Hunger Games: another blog post- woohoo!

It's raining. In Seattle. Big surprise. Robby and I are sitting in a coffee shop (another shocker!) and, as Robby takes artsy photos of the rain hitting the windows and I drink hot apple cider, I'm creating a Twitter account for Foster Care Alumni of America's Washington chapter. The group I've been part of since we moved here in June voted me as a board member to lead communications and marketing efforts. So follow us! https://twitter.com/FCAA_WA

Of course, it's been a couple of months since I've blogged.

The highlights:

I started a new job. I work doing PR (events, client relations and account management stuff) for an Internet service provider. So far, it's been fun. The company has been around for 12 years but feels like a start up, since it's just starting to grow and is full of young people. We have "kill the keg" parties at work, meaning we drink left over beer from parties we've thrown for clients. And the co-founders bring growlers full of beer for monthly meetings. We have lots of parties coming up this month, one of which I will likely get to dress up in a The Hunger Games costume.

Fallboots

I started freelance writing for magazines. A former co-worker, who is now an editor at a Beckett Media magazine, recommended me to write a story on the Hunger Games fandom. From our days at the newspaper together she remembered what a fan I was (I had a Peeta figurine on my desk and, until an editor asked me to remove them, Hunger Games movie posters on the wall behind my desk). She knew I'd written a few Hunger Games-related stories, as well, and told the editor I'd be a good fit to write a story about fans of the franchise. The article is part of a special fandom magazine coming out next month. It was so fun to write! I loved interviewing other fans and learning about the fandom. I loved journalism writing again. It's been a while since I left my reporter job. I'm still glad I did it, but I've always wanted to write for magazines. And this opportunity practically fell into my lap!

Go Giants! Writing

Less than a week after submitting the article, another editor for a different Beckett magazine emailed me asking me to write for a different magazine. The editor from before recommended me. So, of course, I said yes! This magazine is set to come out in February and is about love stories in movies. These write-ups didn't involve interviews. I watched a few of the greats, such as Titanic, and wrote about them. And then another editor emailed me and I wrote another article, this time about a natural disaster. I'm thrilled to add these clips to the resume and the experience has truly been wonderful. I hope to continue to be assigned articles, although I'm busy with my other writing and full-time job. And being a newlywed in a new city, of course! Robby and I continue to explore Seattle, make friends and hang out with our friend Devlin.

Devlin hanging out with us old-married-people

 

Robby is doing really great in law school and I'm proud of him. He has an upcoming conference for a law school club he's in and on the board of. The conference is in D.C. and I'm sure he'll love his time there. I've got four parties this month I'm helping organize for work AND a weekend trip to Reno to visit my best friend and her new baby and my family. The time I'm there is so short that I won't have time to do much else so if you're reading this and live in Reno, I'm sorry but I probably won't have time to visit. I don't want to stretch myself and my time there too thin. But I'm hoping to be able to visit more next year.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and this year will be the first for Robby and I as husband and wife. We are going to try to cook. It's very ambitious, I know. Also, we are going to have a Hunger Games movie-watching marathon before going to see the new one on Thanksgiving.

I'm starting to see a theme, here.

Got married, honeymooned, relocated to another state — all within 30 days

Last time I wrote a blog post, Robby and I were three weeks away from getting married and were visiting Seattle to decide whether we should move here so Robby could attend law school at Seattle University. Here we are, in early July, settling into our new apartment in downtown Seattle.

I know I need to get better at keeping this blog updated. Is the excuse I've been busy still working?

The wedding

(Professional photos to come, but here are a few cell phone shots:)

Married May 10; ceremony at Santa Barbara City College, reception at Hyatt Santa Barbara

The highlights:

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We wrote our own vows and said them to each other on the top of Santa Barbara City College's West Campus lawn, overlooking the ocean.

About 180 of our family and friends joined us. Robby's vows were so sweet and he and I teared up while he was reciting them.

The wedding reception was tons of fun. Robby and I stumbled a bit and left half the moves out during our first dance, because I didn't bustle my dress before the DJ announced us like I was supposed to. The dress was so long and I thought we totally messed up the dance by tripping on it, but no one could see our feet (benefits of super long dress, I suppose), so no one could really tell.

Barthelmess wedding dancing

At least that's what they told us.

We also had a couple's dance with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen (and woman). The father/daughter dance with my brother-in-law turned into a family dance when Robby and his mom joined us, and later his dad and sister.

The food was great and, unlike many brides, I made a point to eat it! We also had an open bar, which I know the guests loved.

Robby's dad - the FIL (that's what I call him, Father In Law, and I'm DIL) — gave a wonderful welcome speech and Rachel did great as a maid of honor in every way, but also when she toasted us. Brandon's best man speech was a poem. He had the crowd laughing the entire time.

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Robby and I snuck away to get sunset photos on the beach, which was tons of fun. Especially since we ran into one of our friends and incorporated her into the photos.

We had the usual bouquet toss, garter removal and toss, and cake cutting/feeding to each other.

Robby and I made our thank you speeches. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Robby brought a chair to the middle of the dance floor and sat me down to watch a slide show he made of photos of us, including the moment we first met when I was reporting on a walk for the Santa Barbara News-Press and he was shooting photos. He had the photo of when he first saw me.

I cried. So did a lot of other people. It was incredibly sweet.

We danced all night and didn't leave until the Hyatt staff started cleaning up (as a former events coordinator at a museum, I know how annoying that is, so we did leave pretty soon after). When we entered our honeymoon suite at the Hyatt, we were surprised to see our friends decorated the room. They strung red and pink crepe paper from the walls, placed rose petals on the bed in the shape of a heart, along with chocolates, and also blew up several balloons.

We had an ocean view room, and enjoyed room service for breakfast outside on the patio the next morning.

The honeymoon

Honeymooned on three Hawaiian islands: Maui, The Big Island, and Honolulu (Waikiki beach)

The highlights:

We spent the next day visiting with family and packing for our honeymoon, which started the day after that when we boarded a plane for Honolulu. From there, we hopped on a tiny plane and flew to Maui. I loved the Hyatt Regency in Maui. The pool was the biggest I've ever seen and it included a cave-bar (you can drink in the bar, located inside a landscaped cave INSIDE THE POOL!), waterfalls, basketball hoop, slide and more. It was awesome!

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Plus, the beach was just outside of the pool, so you could chill at the beach and the pool at the same time. We even rented our own cabana one afternoon so we could have more space. The hotel staff brought us drinks and we had a great view of sea turtles playing in the ocean.

The hotel had beautiful restaurants and a shopping mall. Outside, in the hotel's atrium, were tall trees and areas with animals I never expected to see in Hawaii. I couldn't believe they had penguins there and we would walk by and watch them. Also, the pond outside of the steakhouse had a swan that just kind of swam around and watched us as we ate. There were also some random exotic birds.

Our honeymoon suite had an ocean view and we were given free drinks by the hotel and guests to celebrate our wedding.

We enjoyed attending a luau.

Also, we went to Lahaina and went 130-feet deep into the ocean on a submarine. FIL knows the pilot, so we got to sit in the cockpit with him.

After three days, we boarded another plan for Kona on the Big Island. A wedding gift from a family friend was to use their house for free for the week while they were in Santa Barbara. They, too, had an ocean view and we enjoyed sitting on the porch appreciating the scenery. We had dinner with a few friends who were also vacationing on the Big Island, and that was fun. They recommended we attend a beer tour at Kona Brewing Co. and we did since Robby's quite the beer aficionado.

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We went snorkeling a few times. I thought I saw two sharks once but apparently they were just big fish. Robby found this funny. I did not.

We went on a helicopter tour over Volcanoes National Park and saw most of the island. That was an amazing experience I will never forget.

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Later that day, we checked out a waterfall.

We also enjoyed hanging out a beautiful white sand beach a few times.

After the week was up, we headed to Waikiki for our last three nights. We met up with our friend Jason-on-Vacation and got drinks. Robby and I spent most of our time hanging out at the beach and the bar at the Moana Surfrider, because his grandfather used to spend time there during WWII. We ordered the drink he used to have whenever he was there. Let me tell you, Papa liked his drinks strong!

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We really loved our suite, which Hyatt Regency Waikiki staff were kind enough to upgrade for our honeymoon. They gave us a room with the best view I've ever seen!

I'm sure I'm leaving some things out because it was over a month ago, but that, in a nutshell, was the honeymoon. We had an amazing time. Also, I didn't put as many pictures in here as Robby did on his blog so, if you feel so inclined, check those out.

After our thirteen days were up, we headed back to Santa Barbara, where I spent my last week at the maritime museum wrapping things up at work while Robby finished packing at the house. My last day working was May 30 and Robby and I left Santa Barbara June 5 for Seattle.

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We made it a longer road trip so we could see the coastline and ended up in our new apartment a few days later. A couple of days after that FIL and MIL (Mother In Law) arrived with a U-Haul full of our stuff. The next few days we spent unpacking, making trips to IKEA and building furniture. FIL and MIL went back to Santa Barbara and Robby and I have been getting settled ever since.

What we've been up to in Seattle

The highlights:

Robby started summer school last week and we've already met up with some of his new friends for drinks. He's been studying and I have spent my time searching for a job. I had an interview earlier this week for a communications position at a foundation that improves foster care. I've volunteered with this organization for years and even received a scholarship from it that helped me pay for college. I am a huge fan of this organization and would be honored to assist in the work it does. So, we will see what happens.

Robby and I have been attending Mars Hill church and have joined a community group. The woman who hosts the group is going to teach me how to make Shrimp Scampi next week.

I've been writing (and editing, lots of editing) an essay about challenges I faced planning the wedding while trying to navigate roles and participation of my family, adoptive and biological. A few publications have expressed interest and I'll keep you posted on how that goes. I'm also continuing working on fiction writing, but have nothing new to report there.

I recently got together with a few like-minded writers and we are forming a writers group.

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Robby and I love our apartment. It's located where three major areas — downtown, Capitol Hill, and "Pill Hill" i.e. First Hill — meet. And it has a great view!

We're near so many restaurants, shops, bars, you name it. The apartment building has its own dog park and many of the residents have dogs. We want a Corgi, but I definitely need to get a job first.

Also, the apartment has its own gym and rooftop garden. The rooftop garden has a fire pit and a couch and several other places to sit to enjoy the downtown view.

So far, so good, Seattle. The weather has been nice but I know that won't last. We should get out there and enjoy it while we can!

Until next time,

Nikki

I'm engaged!

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I thought Robby, my betrothed, would pop the question soon after he showed me a brochure of engagement rings and asked me which kinds I preferred, albeit it was only after I made a comment about how him proposing was probably a distant thing in the future that wasn't yet tangible. To prove it to me, he went and grabbed the brochure out of his car, showing me he was more on the ball with planning than I thought. But still, given that he was set to start law school in about a month (at the time) and we hadn't hit our one year anniversary, I thought we were a few months away from the proposal.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and Robby told me he was planning to drive his mom to L.A. to visit her "jewelry guy" in a few days. This wasn't odd in itself. Robby has a "guy" for everything: shoes, haircuts, suits, you name it. Once he or his family likes you, you're his guy and he shops only with you so you get the commission. His mom, Carol, had recently had a surgery so it made sense that she wouldn't drive herself. But the reason for going to L.A.'s jewelry district wasn't so clear. Robby had two stories: They were going to resize some rings for his sister, DeeDee, who was out of town at the time, and they were going to fix up some of his grandma's old jewelry. He went back and forth between the two stories. It seemed a little weird.

The night before they went to L.A., Robby and I went to his parents' house. Carol had a ring-sizer there, which seemed strange because DeeDee was out of town, so shouldn't they know her size already? And why would they have a sizer if she wasn't there? And wouldn't she want to go with them to L.A. — couldn't they wait for her to get home in a couple of days? I didn't want to sound crazy or suspicious, so I didn't ask any of these questions. Once I sat down, Carol wondered what ring size I am, so she asked me to try a few of the rings on the sizer on. I tried a couple and pushed it aside, saying they didn't fit, but she continued to have me try on different sizes and even suggested an eight because that's my shoe size. Robby then jumped in saying, "Why don't you try this one?" before choosing another one out.

Hmmm.

As we were leaving, Carol casually mentioned that Don, her husband and Robby's father, was likely going to join them on their trip to L.A. So why wouldn't he drive?

"Oh, he's probably not coming; he's not sure," Robby quickly said.

OK.

The next day, the three of them went to the jewelry guy while I was at work. Even though Don went with them, Robby said  he had to drive because Don is afraid to drive in L.A. This was the first time I've heard of this fear, and I was surprised that Don, who teaches deep-sea diving and is an avid New York Giants fan, is afraid of anything, no less driving in L.A. But whatever; to each his own.

During the early evening when they were all on the way home, I remembered some plans Robby and I had made with a friend and wanted to check with him that he was free later in the week. I called him, but once he answered I remembered he was supposed to be driving. So I asked him if he was, prepared to hang up and talk to him about our plans later. Robby paused for a moment before answering that his father, in fact, was driving. That night, I asked Robby why Don drove and he answered   "Yeah, it was pretty weird. He just offered."

So, that weekend, I did the only thing one could do in this situation: I got a manicure, just in case... and I told all of my friends and a couple of strangers, new hair dresser included, that I was pretty sure my boyfriend was going to propose soon.

A week passed. I started making a plan of what I would say to all of my friends if Robby didn't propose: "I swear I'm not crazy; I really did think he was going to do it!"

But then Robby starts acting strangely again. It was his last weekend before law school would start. Let's get dinner and drinks with my sister, he said. At the Boathouse, which is my favorite restaurant. Oh yeah, and we'll walk through the Wilcox Property, a nearby beautiful scenic ocean overlook, to get there. Even still, if he did propose, would Robby want to get drinks with his sister after? That's kind of a third wheel. If it was his whole family, I would understand, but just DeeDee (no offense DeeDee, I love you!)? And the scenic walk wasn't enough for me to be too suspicious, because we've done it before — Robby's quite the romantic! Robby said we could leave his car at the Wilcox, walk down, and if we had some celebratory drinks (related to law school, not me), DeeDee could drive us home at the end of the night and we could pick up the car the next day. It was all very practical.

Robby did a few other things to throw me off, like telling me had a gift to give me on Sunday (the dinner was planned for Saturday). Our one year of seeing each other had just passed that Thursday, and it was sentimental to me because from that moment on, I saw Robby and I as being together, even though he didn't officially ask me to be his girlfriend until September 8th of last year. Thursday was August 15, and that came and went without incident. Saturday was completely insignificant, or so I thought.

Robby continued acting strangely. Prior to all of this, I made plans to get my hair done. I told Robby the appointment was at 11 a.m., following my writers group that started a couple of hours earlier.

Robby said "Oh, so you'll be done by about 1 (he doesn't realize how long it takes girls to get their hair done) and we'll have from then until 4."

I asked him what would happen at 4, because dinner wasn't supposed to go down until 7.

"Oh, we'll just have time to relax," he responded.

It's not weird for me to schedule relaxing time, but Robby is just not like that.

Saturday rolled around, and I made sure to wear a cute summer dress so I wouldn't have to change for our dinner at the Boathouse. Robby asked me what he should wear. He only asks that if it's a special occasion.

Interesting.

Hand in hand, we walked around the Wilcox Property before said scheduled dinner/drinks was supposed to happen. Aiming to gauge Robby's state of mind, I began telling him how much I love him and how happy I am. He agreed, but quickly changed the subject to something random. At this point, I was actually a little sad. He is probably not going to propose; holy crap I made up all of this in my mind out of nothing. I really am crazy, I thought.

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Up ahead, a man on a bicycle stopped to look at something. Robby stopped walking, and said he wanted to pet a dog being walked that we just passed. He walked back as if to pet the dog, which was already quite a ways away with its owner. Robby changed his mind and we continued walking toward where the man on the bicycle was looking, but wasn't in sight anymore.

We reached the overlook, and there was a bouquet of flowers on a tree stump. On its left, some photos were tied to a string nailed between a couple of trees. At first, I thought it was a memorial and the guy on the bicycle was honoring a loved one.

"Is this a memorial; did someone die?" I asked, stupidly.

Robby didn't answer. We walked closer until I saw they were photos of Robby and me, some including friends and family.

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"Oh."

Robby turned me so I was facing the beach below. He got down on one knee and told me he's never been happier, he's never loved someone so much and he wants to spend his life with me.

"Will you marry me?"

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I cried a little and said yes, of course.

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And then we kissed, obviously.

After that Robby said, "Wait, there's more." And then he started looking around, as if he were waiting for something.

I saw a flash of red hair, hiding behind a tree across from us, and knew it could be only one person.

Behind that tree popped out my good friend, Laura Donovan, who lives in New York City.

And after that, came my brother-in-law Kevin, and sister Sumer, who live in Reno.

Next came DeeDee and Erin, a good family friend of Robby and DeeDee.

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All the girls: from left, Laura, me, DeeDee, Erin and Sumer.

Finally, I see Matt Wier, Robby's longtime roommate, and photographer, who had been snapping photos the entire time, and actually whistled at the bicycle rider to get him to leave in the first place.

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Me, with Sumer and Kevin
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So DeeDee rolled up in her PT Cruiser, fully decorated with Just Married drawn on and hearts, and Robby, Laura and I left with her. She took us to McDonald's (random!), because Robby was too nervous to eat all day. And then we took the long way to Robby and DeeDee's parents' house. I thought that was strange, but now I know they were just killing time so we didn't get there too early for the surprise engagement party they were throwing us! About 30 to 40 of our friends and family members waited on Robby's parents' front lawn and cheered for us as we arrived.

Robby, as we arrive at his parents' house

Hugs all around, and lots of photos were taken. Inside, pictures of Robby and I, along with Congratulations signs and a banner, decorated the house, and his parents and DeeDee even had a special cake and Champagne glasses with our names on them for us.

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Robby's parents congratulate us with hugs.
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That weekend went by in a blur, between having the best day of my life, with my wonderful new fiancé, and showing my brother-in-law, sister and friend around Santa Barbara.

Now, it's time for wedding planning. We are looking at a few locations and would like to have a Santa Barbara wedding in May.

This is the most exciting part of my life to date; I couldn't be happier or feel more secure in knowing that I get to spend the rest of my life with the most thoughtful, loving man I've ever met, who is also my best friend.

Are we defined by our professions?

I recently left my job as a newspaper reporter. I have been a reporter, through internships and then a staff writer position, since I graduated college a little more than two years ago. I was ready for a change and now have some exciting things coming up that I'll likely address in my next blog post. Before I jump into explaining what's next for me, I feel compelled to describe the initial fear of  change, even though it was a good one, I experienced several months ago before making my decision. My sister Sumer once warned me about defining who I am by success. I was in college and valued myself based on earning good grades, being accepted in top-quality internship programs, excelling in leadership and volunteer organizations and the like. Sumer told me there is more to a person than those things. I didn't listen.

I have wanted to be a handful of things "when I grow up." First, as a five-year-old, I imagined myself becoming a famous singer, and I wrote songs and sang them to my dogs in the backyard when my family wasn't around to hear me. As I got older, I realized I wanted to be a lawyer, and I saw myself winning trials and changing lives. The desire to be a lawyer stayed with me for years, until in college when I worked in a couple of law offices. I realized I didn't want to defend people who had committed crimes, deal with the loads of seemingly never-ending paperwork and not have as much time as I'd like to be a wife and mother when the time came. Next, I wanted to be a therapist, but then figured I might want more (or a different kind of) interaction with people, at least while I'm young. Finally, I set my sights on public relations and enrolled in the journalism program at my college, because it included PR classes. During this time, I started writing about my life, and then began writing a novel about something else entirely.

Still I planned a career in PR, hoping to work for a nonprofit. While interning on Capitol Hill for a Nevada congressman, I went to an event and encountered a few recruiters for another Washington D.C internship program, the National Journalism Center. I went, decided I could be a pretty good journalist and that maybe it would help me become an author. That internship in D.C., writing for a national news site, The Daily Caller, was fun, but I didn't think writing about politics full time was the right thing for me. So, I came to Santa Barbara, interned at the newspaper here, and was hired a few months later as a feature writer.

When I met people at dinners or parties, they loved hearing about my life as a reporter. Interviewing chefs, fashion designers and celebrities, what could be more fun than that? My grandmother wanted every article I wrote that she could get her hands on. She was so proud. A lot of people were. I didn't tell many people about my dream of being an author until I started making more progress, through showing my work to agents and working on it with my mentor. If becoming an author didn't work out, I thought, at least I could be some kind of writer at a newspaper.

Several months ago, I started getting antsy and anxious, for several reasons that I won't get into at the moment. While wanting to try something different, not to mention having a difficult time working on my novel after a full day of writing at work, I began to think of other options for employment. But I was scared. If I wasn't a reporter, what would I be? Would people not find me or my work impressive anymore? Would I miss my byline accompanying stories that thousands of people read?

I'm glad I finally conquered that fear and made some welcome changes in my life. So, I'm not a reporter at a newspaper anymore, but I'm still a writer. And even if I don't ever make it as an author (which, I still hope I will and am eagerly waiting on hearing from an agent about some edits I made to my manuscript, as well as attending a writers conference and spending time with my mentor this summer), I will still be Nikki. I am not defined by my profession, but by who I am.

I like being around people. I want to make others smile. I strive to inspire and motivate people, whenever I can, to make the most of their situations and believe in themselves.

I want to have a family of my own someday. I want to keep going to church. I want to make the world a better place, however I can.

I'm young, so I don't think I know entirely who I am yet, but I know the people and values that matter to me, and — no matter what I do or become "when I grow up" — that's good enough for me.

Words inspire

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The people behind the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" franchise knew what they were doing when they came up with the innovate way of compiling essays set to a theme. The books are about a myriad of topics and each essay is meant to fill the reader with some positive emotion. Hope. Happiness. Love. Words inspire.

At times when I'm feeling down, I read a book or, sometimes, watch a movie and feel better. More than escapism, words in books transport readers into another person's head, real or not. They can give us perspective and they can make us feel as if we aren't alone.

As I'm working on the edits for the first half of my manuscript, I'm remembering what it is that compels me to  read. I enjoy reading stories that have elements of fantasy in them, but also ones that have characters who are going through phases of change in their lives. Things may be difficult for a while, but the main character triumphs in the end and everything is OK.

I know life doesn't always work like that, but it would be nice if it did.

So I'll keep reading and writing, as well as hoping that  my words will inspire someone someday.

Getting notes from an agent

imageEarlier this week, I reached what I think is a major milestone in my writing career: I received editorial notes on my manuscript from an agent. A really great agent, I might add, who works for a top New York literary agency. I had been excited for this to happen for quite a while, but also nervous. What if my writing is terrible and I have mounds of work to do? Well, from what I understand, the agent wouldn't have read it or taken the time to make notes giving suggestions and asking questions if it was terrible, so that's a bit of an exaggeration. But the having tons of work to do part isn't. And I'm okay with that.

It's exhilarating to read these notes; I want to improve my manuscript to the point that it can be sold to a publishing house. I joked that it's a good thing I'm used to answering a bunch of questions/reading a ton of notes on my writing from editors, otherwise it might have been a shock. I really enjoy constructive feedback. I'm hopeful that I will rewrite well and bring the manuscript to where it needs to be eventually, but I imagine that will take time.

Many of the questions I received related to achieving clarity. I see the world I'm creating so clearly in my mind that it's easy to forget that readers don't have the same perspective. Some of the suggestions given were related to word choice; is that the best word I could use to convey my meaning? I'm eagerly awaiting my next phone chat with the literary agent so I can get further advice and feedback, as I continue working on editing. I'm also thrilled to spend time with my mentor later this summer to work on my book. I'm incredibly fortunate to have people in my life who believe in and want to help me.

Another writing thing that I'm eagerly anticipating is the SCBWI summer conference in L.A. I went last year for the first time and learned a ton. It was one of the first times the possibility of becoming an author seemed real to me. Established authors like my mentor mingled with and taught newbie writers like me and others trying to break into the industry. We heard inspiring and entertaining speeches and participated in educational workshops. It was great and I'm so excited to attend again!

Ironically my last blog post was about how I needed to be patient because it seemed so many things I wanted were moving at a snail's pace. I'm sure I'll feel impatient again sometime, maybe even soon, but it's wonderful to have so many positive things going on. I'm trying to enjoy the moment and not worry too much about what happens next, although there's a lot to be excited about!

Patience is a ... pain

It seems everything that is worthwhile also includes waiting for something.

Writing, obviously, is no exception.

During my senior year of college, my favorite teacher told me she thought I should seek a career doing something public relations-oriented in the child welfare field. She had good cause to give this advice: I showed an aptitude for public speaking and overall interpersonal communication. Take that and couple it with my background growing up in foster care and my experience in community organizing (volunteering through speaking, hosting events and running groups such as a foster youth advocacy board and leadership club), and it definitely made sense. But that's not what I wanted. Don't get me wrong; I wanted to help foster children, but I didn't want that to be my career at the time. To me, it seemed I could continue volunteering throughout my life and have a career in something else.

I wanted to be a writer.

Although I had been accepted to a journalism internship program in Washington, D.C. for that upcoming summer, I still thought my chances of becoming a journalist or author seemed pretty bleak. I knew writing isn't an easy business to get into. And so did my teacher. She told me I was good enough but she also thought my sensitivity toward rejection might make becoming a professional writer difficult for me. And I'd have to have patience.

I ended up becoming a reporter and I'm still working on that author bit. If you can't tell by now, the patience part has been a struggle. First, your book has to be good enough that an agent will be interested. That takes a lot of work, time and, you guessed it, patience. Next, you patiently wait to hear back from the agent. I haven't passed that juncture, but I imagine the process is similar when publishers get involved.

Through writing for a newspaper, I've interviewed several authors. They all are convinced that if you're any good, you're book will get published one day. Even if that day is years or even decades from now. Outside of interviews, I know a couple of authors who say the same thing. They say I have to just keep at it, keep working. They believe in me and, finally, I am beginning to believe in myself. I know I must be patient.

Mentors

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I recently interviewed a screenwriter and novelist and, like I usually do, I asked him about how he became a writer. After telling me about the creative writing he did in childhood, the future best-selling author told me he went to USC because one of his writing heroes taught there. At 19 years old, the writing idol became the future screenwriter's mentor, and has been for more than 20 years.

Most successful people I've met have told me they have or have had a mentor. Mentors groom you to become what they are. They see something special in you: Maybe it's talent, a willingness to work hard or possibly you just remind them or themselves when they were younger. But how do you figure out who should be your mentor? And, once you know who you want, how the heck do you ask?

I've heard a bunch of stories on this one. From those seeking mentors cold calling people and telling them how much they love their work, to an introduction by a mutual friend or just making a good first impression and having the guts to follow-up through email or a phone call.

It's scary but through what I've heard from others and my own experience, it's definitely worth it.

I have had several mentors in my life. In college, they were teachers. Now, I have a wonderful mentor who is a successful author. I have other advisers in my life who work in the business, but I also have people who I admire and respect for other reasons, professional and otherwise, who I have reached out to or vice-versa and thus made a connection. I'm so grateful to these people.

Through meeting for coffee and just talking, sending emails, Facebook messages or having phone chats, mentors have taught me so much and also helped me believe in myself. I still haven't figured out what mentors I've had have gotten out of the relationship, but am so grateful they took me under their wings. If not for them, I wouldn't be where I am.

So, mentors are awesome. Do you have a mentor or mentors? If not, what are you waiting for?

Writing: It's a journey

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I used to not tell people that I want to be an author. I saw it equivalent to when someone tells you he or she wants to be an actor. Most people awkwardly smile and say something nice about it but, much of the time, it's not something that many can succeed in and people think you're kind of crazy for even trying. Kind of like being a writer.

The funny thing is, once I started telling people about my dream, they started connecting me with people who could help me. I've met authors and corresponded with agents that I wouldn't have had I kept my mouth shut. But I didn't talk about it before because I was afraid of not being good enough.

Having other people read your work is scary. Really scary. When I first became a reporter, I was frightened that every time an editor would read my copy, he or she would think I was a talentless fraud. After getting used to the job, I became less fearful. Eventually I started to think that my writing wasn't that bad; sometimes it was even pretty good!

Sharing creative writing, in my opinion, is more tricky. Not everyone has the same tastes in fiction or non fiction. Maybe, no matter how good the writing or story is, some people won't like your stuff because it's jut not their thing. Not to mention many people think they are writers, too, even though they haven't really ever worked on anything seriously.

I feel like every time I show someone new my work, I have something to prove.

Some co-workers and I started a writers group more than a year ago. Our first meeting was at my apartment and we each read several pages of our work to each other. I brought my manuscript for "The Desirables." I knew an author who wanted to see my work and, if he liked it, he told me he'd show it to his agent. I was too scared to let him see it without letting others critique it first, so I started the writers group. I knew many of my friends at work had similar ambitions, so it was a good idea for all of us.

Even though I was nervous that my friends would laugh at me and think my young adult story was silly, I read it to them and I'm so glad I did. We've been meeting once a month since then. The agent ended up requesting my entire manuscript after reading the first ten pages the author friend of mine sent. Although she had several nice things to say about my work, she didn't take me on as a client. But that's okay, because since then I met another successful author who has become my mentor and friend. I've learned so much from her and can't wait to learn more.  I also have a different agent reviewing my book. Last summer, I went to a writers conference in L.A. put on by a group called Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and I plan to attend again this August.

Now that I've taken some workshops and have been critiqued and helped by people in the business, I feel more confident in my abilities (but I still have a long way to go!). It's also nice to get affirmation and have other people believe in me. I'm no longer ashamed to tell people I want to be an author. I wish I could have felt that way on my own, before getting positive feedback, but it's a process. If any of you are writers, where are you in your journey?