Alright.

I’ve been working on some poems, short stories, and lyrics since I was in high school. Some of these “masterpieces” I’ve been silently married to for years. I am only posting them here because I always said I would make my work public. I’ve kept some of them locked up for years, months, maybe weeks… you won’t know.

“Alright” is a song I wrote. I’ll probably never sing it because the tune it plays in my head when I wrote it is sort of melodramatic. Embarrassingly melodramatic. Though I laugh at myself for my own dramatics, the words still bring me to my knees when I read them. The pain was unreal during this time of my life, and I used writing as a coping mechanism. It’s funny how you can look back on a heart break and still feel that twinge of sadness, even though you’re ok now. Let that be motivation for you, if you’re reading this and hurting. You will come out the other side stronger, just keep moving.

Please, if you’re struggling with depression or anguish, please reach out to someone you can trust. If you find yourself without someone to talk to, know that this is a safe place and that you can message me any time. You can find my contact information in the “Holla” tab in the menu.

These creations are my babies, please be kind when reading. I don’t claim to be a professional at this, just a professional at being emotional. *hair flip*

“Alright”

It’s raw 
It’s numb 
It’s bare 
It’s bleeding 
The newest wound 
Isn’t healing 
I can’t control what is spilling 
Onto the pavement 
All of these feelings 

Tortured
Scarred
Begging
Pleading 
Let me go
What’s the reason?

Your eyes, they’re glaring 
I feel them needing 
Digging deep to a place 
I cannot give freely 

I’m trying
I’m trying 
Can’t you hear me?
I’m screaming 
My mouth is open 
But the words are fleeting 

Give me your 
Heart 
I just want to fill up inside
Give me your 
Heart
I just want to feel alive 
Alive 
Alive 

Bring me down 
You barely knew me 
You tried to stop 
I fought 
You lost 
Now you’ll kill me 
You burn me alive 
While I’m crying from inside 
My bruises only show 
When you’re thinking
Homicide 

Gave you my 
Heart
Now I just want to fly
Gave you my
Heart 
Now I just want to fly 
Fly 
Fly 

You’ll move along 
The clean up seems easy 
Scattered pieces 
Ignite 
Now? I’m leaving. 
Gone, again 
They won’t see me 
Ashes to ashes 
Fallen completely 
I hate the cost we paid 
The time spent scheming 
I’m left with this pain
It’s debilitating 

Gone with my
Heart
Now I’m empty inside
Gone with my
Heart
Now I’ll be alright
Alright
Alright

Warrior.

As mentioned in the most recent post before this…. I’ve been working on some poems, short stories, and lyrics since I was in high school. I’ve kept some of them locked up for years, months, maybe weeks… you won’t know. You’ll just have the opportunity to tap into a time in my life where writing was therapeutic for me. A time where maybe I was hurting, inspired, happy, overwhelmed… depends on which little blurp I share. I’ll let you decide on the mood of the writing, too. Today I am sharing “Warrior” with you, enjoy! Or don’t, that’s cool too.

Again, note: Please, if you’re struggling with depression or anguish, please reach out to someone you can trust. If you find yourself without someone to talk to, know that this is a safe place and that you can message me any time. You can find my contact information in the “Holla” tab in the menu.

Warrior

Get up.
The world is anticipating your next blow.
Your audience is stuck
Somewhere between applause and sorrow.

Take a deep breath
Wipe the tears from your dirty face.
Notice your surroundings
Remind yourself that you’re not your mistakes.
Remind yourself that feeling things
Is not a sin.
There’s nothing wrong with you
For being broken again.

Tiny eyes look up to you
Searching for your safe embrace.
Every pain you carry?
All for their dreams you’ll chase.
They mustn’t know
You’re withering away inside.
You can do this, make them believe
Yeah, sure, …everything’s alright.


You push forward
You whisper to the fighter who’s down:
Get back up, get back up
Don’t let them see your falling crown.
You knew it wouldn’t be easy
You signed up, regardless
You forecasted this ache
Intuition foretold that it would end up like this.


From the depths of your insecurities
To the heights of your anxieties
The ride that you chose to buckle into
Hold on tight for the upcoming remedies.
They shout from the other side
Promise of their deliverance
Cover your ears in disbelief
Continue on with your own belligerence.
You know the power you have
Burning inside of you
Water yourself down for the masses
You know they can’t handle you.


Unsure of your purpose
You spread yourself thin.
Is it today or tomorrow that you’re supposed to be here?
You know you can’t ever win.
Chin up, darling
The strong don’t drop their head
Take this weapon heavy in your grasp
If you could run you would have already fled.
Spin, spin, spin
Spiral down til there’s nothing left
You look up to find peace
Only to gain a new scar on your neck.
They come for you
You knew they would
You’re done with being scared
Fight! Fight like you know you should.
Scream into the darkness
They really don’t have anything on you
You know you can overcome this
A loss can be a win, too.


There’s fire in your eyes
They only think they know your next play
They’ll try to figure you out
Your wild heart can never be tamed.
Dub you as weak
Let them assume your disposition
Surprise, she’s alive
Though bleeding from this new incision.
You can only keep down
What wishes to remain low
You’re free from yourself

A warrior is in you, I know.

This pain is just proof
You are surely alive
Your feelings do not make you weak
If they say they’re not scared, guess what?
They lie.
You are more than those voices
That call to you when you are low
You are strong, you are brave

A warrior is in you, you know.

Despite these falling tears
You pick yourself up from the ground
Step over the bodies that wish to pull you back
Surprised at the sight of the strength you’ve found.
You take one last look
From over your burdened shoulder
As it all burns to the ground behind you
Smile as you continue to move forward.

You see?
Your pain is but strength that you now choose to show.
A warrior is in you,

…and now they’ll always know.

Torn.

Took a walk.

Landed on her sandy shores where the tide calmly began to rise.

Her waves sang a sweet song that brought peace to my troubled, and heavy, soul.

As the wind pushed against my chest, I couldn’t help but feel like it was her way of hugging me tight. Greeting me, knowing how badly I needed to be in her presence. Engulfing me in her salty breath.

I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply. Drawing her into me. Finally feeling centered for the first time in months. Years.

I had to feel her warmth, so I walked down to where just my toes could get wet.

… it’s never enough.

Soon my ankles were submerged, then up to my knees. Stopping just as she gently brushed against my thighs.

I dare not go further.

If I walked much deeper, she would take me. I might would let her.

I looked up to the moon, and watched how the light danced along her surface. Found myself jealous. Jealous of the moon. Wishing I could kiss her the way it does.

I stood there alone in depths of her waters, allowing each wave to pass me by.

Peering out into the distance, I helplessly tried to see what was on the other side. I could feel her calling me to come in, to come ask her myself. She promised she would take me there.

My body began to shiver.

I began to feel myself lean into her warmth, she had begun to win an all too easy battle. Though, I could feel the constant weight behind me pulling me back, pulling me in to the shore.

I felt torn.

She knew she could have me, and I stood there with tears on my cheeks wanting to let go.

Let go. Let go.

The hardest thing I’ll ever do is turn my back on her, and step towards the weight pulling me away from the freedoms she whispered in my ear.

One more second. One more breath. One more promise.

I’ve dreamt of the way it must feel to be encompassed by her welcoming, wet embrace. Darkness beneath the surface. Silence. Breathlessness.

Would she, too, send me away after she’s had all of me? Would she, too, spit me back up onto the sand and wish that I would leave? Would I not be enough? Perhaps, too much?

She’s apart of me, as I breathe her deep into my lungs. My chest rises and falls. I feel her close to my heart.

My hands fall to my side, as I touch her softly with my fingertips.

The sand begins to crumble around my weight, and my feet sink softly into her. Is this her way of holding on to me?

Again, I can feel the pull of what calls to me daily. I stumble back. I know I cannot stay here with her for long. I cry softly knowing we cannot be together this time, & not knowing if we’ll be together at all.

She is my peace. She is my strength.

She is my way out.

I take that burdensome step away from her loving touch. I find the strength to climb out.

The waves continue to kiss my feet as she tries to change my mind, wishing me goodnight. I can feel her scorn, her hurt, her anguish.

Come back.

Sand clings to the crevices of my toes. I mustn’t return with the evidence of my visit. Washing off the last of her with shaking hands.

She almost had me this time.

Maybe next time I’ll stay, I say to myself as I keep her to my back.

Just before I return home, I turn around to see the moon still gleaming down upon me. Upon her.

I smiled as I caught the last tear rolling down my nose. I know she’s not alone.

I’m not alone.

I whisper the faintest words that I knew the wind would carry to her…

I’ll return. I’m yours, you know I’ll always be yours.

Into the forest I go….

… to lose my mind & find my soul.

Triple Falls in DuPont State Forest

Ahhh, nothing like taking a vacation…

… where you have to work harder than you would have had to if you just stayed home.

Giggle.

I joke! But, I will be honest, I initially hated …. *ahem* strongly disliked the idea of camping. Sleeping on the hard, cold ground inside of a flimsy tent? Cook our food over fire without running water?? Pee on trees?!

Lawwdhammercy.

Jesus, be a Holiday Inn.

My family and I didn’t really camp much growing up, unless it had to do with an RV. My mom and I share the same sentiment when it comes to bugs. Especially ones that fly. Eck! So, we vacationed elsewhere as kids, which did NOT prepare me for the adventure of marrying my husband. I honestly thought he was joking when he conjured up this idea our first year together.

Me?? The woods?? Overnight!

Me: Babe, you funny.

Babe: I’m not joking.

Me: …. oh.

So, off we went with the most loaded down car I’ve ever packed and a mind full of anxiety. It was the early stages of mine and Curtis’ relationship, so you know, I couldn’t be weak. I HAD TO ASSERT DOMINANCE. Those who really know me how funny, but true, that is. Also, I had yet to fart in front of him much less poop in the danged woods with him on the other side of a tree.

YOU GUYS.

(Listen, y’all came here for real… if you are just learning that girls poop? Or are just insanely offended that I said “fart”?? 1) get a life and 2) little boy, bye. Moving on.)

Again, let me say it…

YOU GUYS!?!


I won’t go into detail (you’re welcome) on how I managed that weekend & all the times thereafter. Needless to say, our first camping trip was a real doozy. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun. I learned A LOT about myself on that first trip, like how much I love hot showers and soft mattresses. WiFi… gosh, I love WiFi. As a matter of fact, I learn something new almost every year. My husband says that’s the whole point of camping, though, and I finally see it. You have a moment where you’re in the woods, there’s nothing to do. All the people who matter most are around you and safe. No one can call, email, Facebook, text. All that’s left to do is sit and relax, and just be still. You realize how blessed you are with modern conveniences, but you’re sort of relieved to leave your phone alone. Sometimes, you might even “break”, meaning that you find yourself feeling ….different. Free like. A load taken off your shoulders that you probably didn’t realize you were carrying, or maybe you do. It’s kind of beautiful, actually, when you catch yourself in full relaxation mode and not worrying about little things.

You’re in the woods now, leave those problems back in town.

The last day, like with any vacation, has that dark cloud of “ah, man, back to reality” lurking over it. It’s especially dark after a successful weekend of camping… when all the missed notifications come through on your phone all at once, all the emails hit, all the voicemails. But those few days when you’re able to leave them alone? Yeah, the hard ground and flimsy tent doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Feel talked into going next year with us yet?

Well, if you’re considering it or maybe even planning a trip of your own? Stay tuned for this next part. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, things that I found were absolutely necessary to pack, things that were not and little tips that are real life savers. Especially when it comes to camping with kids! Here’s my run down on things I’ve learned, and my camping hacks.

Camping Tips by Katie:


(all my camping buddies are giggling now…. y’all hush)

  1. Make a packing list. With any vacation, or extended period of time I’ll be away from home, I make a list. I start with writing down the days we’ll be gone, and then writing at the top of those days the activities we’ll likely be doing.

    example:
    Friday- Arrive to camp, set up and relax
    Saturday- Sliding rock or hiking to a waterfall
    Sunday- Day trip to Brevard, go home

    Why? This helps me determine what type of outfits I’ll want for each of those days.

    example continued:
    Friday- Arrive to camp, set up and relax
    Need: Comfortable clothes to wear for the trip; pajamas
    Flip flops
    Saturday- Sliding rock or hiking to waterfall
    Need: Bathing suit, shorts, tank; clothes to change into after waterfall; pajamas
    Water shoes, Tennis shoes (socks)
    Sunday- Day trip to Brevard, drive home
    Need: Change of clothes (nice for around town, but comfortable for the ride)
    Flip flops

    I also always pack some extra’s, just in case of any random occurrences. Would hate to be caught in the woods with only the clothes I accounted for, and not be prepared for a rain storm or whatever. Mostly, I just don’t like sitting around in wet clothes. Bleh. Also, especially in Pisgah National Forest where it stays cool even in the heat of summer, I pack a couple warmer things like long sleeved shirts, thicker leggings or sweats, and I always steal a few pairs of my husbands’ long socks. Ha!! They do the trick for cold feet.
  2. Fold & pack like a boss. Once I get it all figured out on paper what I want to pack, I go ahead and fold them or roll them up by their respective day. Then, I learned this little hack from Pinterest…..

LABELED PLASTIC BAGGIES!

I mentioned that I hate sitting around in wet clothes, right? BLEH!! One of my biggest worries is that water will leak in during a rain storm, soak the bottom of my bag, and all my clothes be damp (or worse, soaked). I honestly would rather sit around naked at that point, but considering the fact that no one should be subjected to that, I found this to be super helpful! It has other perks too for my organizing tendencies! I don’t have to rummage through my bag to find what I intended to wear for the day. I just pull the baggie out, take off the clothes I have on, put the new clothes on, place my dirty clothes in that now empty bag, seal it up and throw it back in the bag! When I get home, everything is considered dirty, and I just open up the bags and dump it in the wash! I’ll also have a “laundry bag” for things like towels or miscellaneous things, and it too will go right to the wash when we get home, but for the most part this helps me create the same amount of space taken up when I pack to go and again when we pack up to leave. Somehow, for some reason, it’s always harder packing up to leave. I call it “Adult Tetris”, every year is a new challenge. Can I pack the car with less? Can I pack it more efficiently?? I’m getting pretty good, if I do say so myself.

3. FOOD STORAGE! Speaking of packing, food storage and coolers are a MUST. Obviously, right? This year we brought along a game changer…

Hi, Meggin!

This large plastic storage bin was EVERYTHING when it came to keeping the non-perishable items out of bugs and critters hands. At night, we put the locked lid on, and didn’t have to worry about it! Made for really easy packing on the truck, too. We didn’t have to worry about the items inside squishing too bad. Win win.

As far as refrigerated items goes? We just load up coolers with ice, no real hack there. Except it is a cool idea to freeze water bottles and place them strategically inside the coolers so that things keep cold, and when they defrost? You have a cold bottle of water! Boom, bam.

One of my other pet peeves about camping is the cooler situation, as a matter of fact. The ice begins to melt, and items like the bacon package get slimy like or the baggies of shredded cheese get kind of weird. We try to keep the ice in baggies too, but when camping with kids who just have no ability to be gentle or keep the lids closed? Things just go to mayhem quickly in the coolers. We did wise up this year and made one of the coolers just juice pack and drinks as to avoid some of the opening and closing of the other cooler, but hey, nothing’s perfect. One year we tried using a cooling rack above the ice and placed things on top to keep things from getting down in the water that had melted, but like I mentioned… kids. Ha! They come in like a wrecking ball. You can try to stay organized, but ultimately you’re only there for a few days so as long as everyone is keeping the lid closed, the rest sort of just falls into place. If you have any cool hacks for coolers while camping, please don’t hesitate to send them to me!!

4. Meal prep and planning. Every year, we go with a group of friends. It’s way too much chaos and packing for everyone to bring their own family individual meals for each night, cook them over the same fire, everyone eat at the same time without whining, etc…etc. SO! Being the genius bunch that we are? We make a meal schedule every year. We’ve pretty much got it down to a science. Curtis and I are in charge of feeding everyone night one, Alexis and Nick feed everyone night two, and Aunty Meggin feeds everyone breakfast on the last morning. Lunches are usually just sandwiches and each family brings their own, as well as snacks and such.

Here is our “usual” meals that we pack…

Night 1: “Walking Tacos” (click the link for the idea and recipe we use)
Curtis and I are usually the ones in charge of the tacos. Duh, it’s me we’re talking about. Before leaving, I shred up the lettuce and place in a baggy, cut up the tomatoes and place in a baggy, bring along the sour cream in the “squirt-able” container (giggling at the word “squirt-able), salsa, shredded cheese, and the individual sized baggies of chips. You can usually buy the individual bags of chips at the grocery stores in variety packs or you can also find just the Nacho Cheese Doritos in like 10 individual baggies (something like that). We go for the variety, and try different combos with our walking tacos. This year I tried the Cheetos Puffs instead of my usual, the Doritos. I’ll be the first to tell ya, that -ish was delish. Food hits different when you’re out in the woods, but I think I would still eat that back at home. You mix up the meat and all the fixings inside the bag of chips and eat it from the baggy with a fork! It’s so so good! The kids really love it, too! Win-win.

As far as the ground beef goes, there are a couple avenues you can venture down:

A) Pre-cook it and season it with taco seasonings, and then reheat it on a cast iron skillet over the fire. This is probably the safest way to go if your “starting a fire” skills aren’t at my husbands level, because worst case scenario? Your meat just doesn’t warm up fully.

B) The way we go, cooking in the woods! We purchase some fresh ground beef when we first arrive in Brevard (to ensure the best food safety.) We then immediately put it on ice in the coolers. Once everything is all set up at our chosen site, we are usually pretty hungry and ready to dig in. Get your fire going, place that skillet in a trusty spot where it’ll heat up nicely without burning you or anyone, and brown that beef!!

C) Propane camping grill. We usually bring one or two of these just in case it’s raining, and a fire is damn near impossible to make. You can fire this bad boy up while under the canopy, and still get a hot meal in your family’s tummy. Always be prepared!!

Night 2: Hot Dogs/ Brats & Chips
This one is a lot of fun for the kids, if you’re feeling brave with them around the fire. Give them the metal poker typically used with marshmallows or a long stick, place a hot dog on it, and let them heat it up to their hearts desire. The likelihood of them eating something they got to cook goes way up! Even my picky toddler ate (most of ) his hot dog! Mom win!

Another “hack” for hotdog night, and cooking those brats or dogs over the fire quicker for the whole group is this fun tool:

You can usually get a whole pack of hot dogs on that, or brats, and get them done in one fell swoop. Here is a link for the one we got for Curtis as a Fathers Day Gift from Academy. It’s like $13.00, so it’s super affordable and can be used back at home also while on the grill! We like to use it when grilling small veggies!

Morning of Day 3: Fully Loaded Breakfast

My personal favorite, the home fries. Gimme all the taters.


We’re talking bacon, sausage, some years we do pancakes, eggs, hash browns, precooked biscuits, reheat pre-made gravy, and bagels. I will level with you guys… this is my favorite meal of the whole trip. I’m a breakfast person, through and through. I would eat it for every meal! We bring our huge cast iron skillet, brown up and heat up everything, and go to town.

Coffee while camping is a MUST. The jury is still out on what is “best”, because my husband prefers these packets of instant coffee:


… But I’m fine with any instant coffee, and you can usually find it in a medium sized plastic container down the coffee aisle. Buying it in the container rather than in the packets = a better deal, and less trash. You just scoop out how much you want (less for weaker coffee or more for “grows hair on your chest” strong type of coffee… I like the latter) and add it to boiling water.

We boil our water usually over the propane grill because it’s quicker and less fussy… who wants to fuss over coffee first thing in the morning?

Not I, friend, not I.

I prefer my coffee (like I like my women, ayyye) to be sweet, so I just add in some powdered creamer (you can bring fresh creamer, but it’s just something else you’ll have to keep cold) and voila! My morning go-go-juice is made and ready to be enjoyed by the morning camp fire! Next year I’ll be bringing along my french press and giving it a go, but I forgot to this trip. I’ll be sure to report back next year… I have a feeling that it’ll be a GAME CHANGER.

OF COURSE we bring stuff to make s’mores, sandwiches like mentioned earlier, general snacks and easy breakfast foods for day 2.

We might even get crazy and make pizza breads for lunch one day. Here’s a fun recipe you can try at home or while camping:

Pizza Bread Recipe:

You’ll Need:
French Bread or Sub Rolls
Pizza Sauce
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Desired Toppings
Aluminum Foil
Garlic Salt, Red Pepper Flakes, Seasonings (optional)

Directions:
Open up the sub roll, smother the bread in sauce and toppings, roll up in foil, slowly cook over the fire as to not burn the bread, and ENJOY!

NOTE: Oddly enough, this year our bread stuck to the foil but it did not last year. So, maybe bring along some cooking spray, just in case!

I think that pretty much covers what we bring for food, but just know we found these ideas all on Pinterest!! What do you usually bring with you while camping for food? We are always up to try something new, even though we absolutely LOVE these meals. If you send us something worth trying, I’ll be sure to shout ya out on the next post after we come back from our next camping trip!

5. Packing Down the Car:

Everyone packs differently. Some just do it better than others…

*dusts off shoulders*
*wink*

It begins to look like mayhem in my living room a couple days before leaving, as we tend to pile everything that needs to be packed into the car right there in the main space. It gives me a chance to eye ball everything, and come up with a game plan. It’s a lot of common sense, but a little magic and problem solving, too. Adult Tetris, see?! Obviously don’t forget the basics and the large items first, then make your way down to the small items and items that can be “stuffed” in-between items or used for cushion.

  • Tent
  • Pop up canopy
  • Chairs
  • Folding Table
  • Food Totes
  • Coolers
  • Duffle Bags of Clothes & Bags with Towels
  • Sleeping Bags, Pillows & Blankets, Sleeping Pads (you can shove these into holes)
  • Tarps (so important when keeping your tent dry!!)
  • ParaCord (to tie things up, like the tarps)
  • Flash Lights / Lanterns/ Head Lamps
  • Extra batteries
  • Dry Fire Wood (just in case there’s been a lot of rain)
  • Kindling
    – I tend to collect toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint all year long, these make for awesome kindling!
    – You can also use food boxes and some trash for kindling, just be careful with plastic. Super toxic and stinks!
  • Cooking pans and spatulas (we prefer the wooden kind for camping)
  • Metal pokers for marshmallows & hotdogs
  • Dish Washing set up
    ** This is a great camping tip for clean up! Obviously, for the most part, we bring paper products that we can either burn or just throw away. However, the skillets and spatulas still need to get wiped down for reuse throughout the weekend! Every year we bring a couple gallons of water, two medium buckets, a scrubbing wand, and dish soap. In bucket one you make soapy water, and in bucket two it’s just clean water. You scrub down the items in bucket one, and rinse in bucket two. You’ll have to change out the water between washes, so don’t use a ton. Conserve clean water, or you’ll end up using your bottled drinking water. Hand dry it with a tool and/or bring a cheap dish drying rack from Dollar Tree.
  • Door mat for outside the tent, trust me on this one!
  • Small, hand held, broom and dust pan for the tent
  • Trash bags
  • Other miscellaneous things like a Bluetooth speaker for music, solar phone charger if you’re feeling fancy, cameras, bug spray, sun screen, toiletries, and so on…

When I consider being in the woods, away from modern conveniences, I mentally go through my day and think about all the things I use regularly and would feel weird without. If I feel like I could go a couple days without it, then I leave it at home (my make up … although, I did bring some this year). If I feel like I could not go without it, then I pack it as lightly as possible (again, my make up… but just like foundation and mascara, ha!)

6. Setting Up Camp:

My husband, being the pyromaniac he is, swears that the fire is the most important thing to set up first. I can understand how he is right, especially if it’s later in the day and we need it for light/ cooking/ warmth. I still prefer to quickly have him help me set the tent up so that I can begin to “nest”, but maybe that’s just the weird natural tendencies that come out of me when wanting to set up a home base. It really just comes down to your preference.

Keep these things in mind when setting up your camp site:

A. Roll out your tent, figure out how it’ll fit in the designated camping spot alongside your friends tents before staking it in the ground. Be mindful of the ground, too. If there isn’t a designated spot to lay a tent down, be sure there aren’t any large rocks, sticks, or whatever under your tent that will make getting comfortable impossible. Keep your camp fire in mind, too, because you don’t want to be too far away or too close.

B. If you’re going to be using a pop up canopy like we do, be mindful that you don’t put it too close to your tent, also! If it rains, the rainwater will collect on the top and may spill over onto the top of the tent and cause flooding in your sleeping space. Big no no.

C. Once your tent is up, suspend tarps with paracord over the tent to help keep rain off your tent. Be mindful of the slopes of your tarp, you don’t want to create a pool above your tent! You can also just drape it over your tent, if it’s large enough and can cover the whole top! I would still advise to use paracord or other string to secure it.

Be mindful of the tent ropes that are hard to see at night that are secured/ staked into the ground. It never fails, every year our kids trip over these. I saw a cool hack where people will split a pool noodle down one side, and slip it over the cord going into the ground so that everyone can see and avoid tripping over them.

D. Once your tent is all up, go ahead and lay down your cushions or mattresses and get your resting area ready to go. It’s harder to do any of this once it’s dark, so do as much as you can during day time.


We use these foam roll up pads (blue in the picture), and this year I even had a blow up twin sized mattress. I prefer not to sleep inside my sleeping bag because I like to have my feet out at night, so I lay it flat, and pack a couple blankets. You see that old down comforter there too in the above picture? We were going to toss it when we got a new one, but it was so nice to have when the night got colder!

It’s nothing fancy, but our tent fits all 5 of us comfortably! We each have a sleeping bag, pillows, blankets, and something to cushion us from the gravel campground. Can you spot a sleeping Frazier in that last photo? He likes to sleep at the most southern point of his sleeping bag set up.

E. Set up of the canopy and “kitchen” area is pretty easy. We just pop up the canopy, set up the folding table, & get the coolers set up. The place we stayed this year even provided picnic benches!

You’ll notice a few things in this photo. The trash bag is off the ground, tied up to the opposite side of the food area. We tried a pop up hamper one year to help keep it sitting upright, and it worked pretty well! We just found this to be easier. The coolers are out of the high traffic areas but still easily accessible. Food bins are under the tables, easy for little hands to grab snacks when they want! I didn’t get a photo of this, unfortunately, but the underneath bars of the canopy can be used to hang towels up to dry, too! Having the table is nice, because it provides us an area to assemble meals and an area to wash any dishes. I declare it a “must have” for our glamping trip.

F. Set up your chairs around a safe area for a fire, and sit back and enjoy! We leveled up a few years ago and got these “zero gravity” reclining chairs. They are a little more difficult to pack, but they sure are comfy!

The babies enjoying their fire pit time, together!

G. I mentioned above in my list of things to bring a welcome mat, and I told you that you wouldn’t regret it…

Home sweet home away from home.

… because- KIDS, MAN! They love going in and out of the tent. I get it. It’s super cool. We have two rules, though! Shoes off & wipe your feet!! Having this welcome mat makes all the difference in making sure the majority of the dirty little toes don’t spread it to our sleeping arrangement throughout the weekend. You may spot my broom there at the bottom right of that photo. It’s for clean ups if the kids forget the rules. Ha!

CAMPING IN PISGAH

So, if you came to this blog post to read about all our recommended places to stay & see? Then you’re officially at that part of this post. I could go on & on about tips and tricks, but I feel like most of you were more curious about what to do and our favorites!

Typically we stay in these fun public camping sites just a short drive away from Sliding Rock & Looking Glass Falls. It’s always an adventure to find an empty spot, and a bit of a gamble, too. One year it did take us a couple hours to find one. A couple years ago, we even spotted a Mama Bear & Cub! It was a neat experience. We definitely kept our distance for obvious safety reasons, but nevertheless was neat!

This year, thanks to COVID-19, we made it there to find out that they were actually closed! Not my finest planning moment. We scrambled back to town, looked up some private camp sites nearby & found this gem about 20 minutes away from where we usually set up:

Black Forest Family Camping Resort

We were about to have to tell our kiddos that we made a huge mistake, and were going to have to turn around… when my husband and his friend, Nick, saved the day. After some quick Googlin’, they found this amazing campground just minutes away from where we were. Curtis jumps out of the truck, with a huge smile, and proudly announces that he has found a place! He called, the owners were allowing people to camp despite the current situation, and told us they have availability. We were thrilled!

Black Forest Family Camping Resort was our saving grace this year. Situated just about 20 minutes away from Brevard, it is a beautiful 65-acre wooded area with many “glamping” amenities. Level lots, water, bathrooms and showers, electricity, and even a pool!! They even had (drum roll…..) Wi-Fi!! WHOO! Ok, I realize that sort of negates what I was stating above about getting in tune with nature. Judge if you must. Check out their website and list of full amenities by clicking here, and enjoy some of these photos of our stay while at Black Forest.

Our 2020 Camping Crew
The heated pool!
A quick & beautiful walk to the bath house.
We loved having the pool!

Some of our usual stops when camping in Pisgah would include Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock. From where we usually camp, those two spots are just a 5-10 minute drive away. If you have never been to Sliding Rock, be prepared for the blast of cold water after you slide down the natural rock slide! You come out of the water changed, we all swear. It’s a must “go and see and do” if you’ve never been.

We were bummed that things were closed, but that left things open for a new adventure! That’s when we stumbled upon Triple Falls, and we are so glad that we did!

Don’t mind Theo’s face, he was tired!

Since Theo refused to walk up the more steep hike, we only made it this far on the trail. Just long enough to snap this picture, and then go back down to where a few people were swimming in the very chilly water. A few of our friends in our group did make the trek, and said it was absolutely beautiful. We hope to return and see for ourselves in the years to come.

At the bottom, there was an area where you could walk through the water and up to the actual bottom of the water fall! I would say it was pretty easy to make it over there, because even Theo was able to manage.

Honestly, the most treacherous part of this day was the parking situation! Go early or be prepared to wait for an open spot. Curtis actually ended up parking a little up the road and walking back.

Besides the parking, I would definitely recommend this spot! We sang TLC’s “Waterfall” song too much while we were there, and enjoyed all posing for Instagrammable photos. It was a great memory from this years trip.

Brevard, NC

After our fun camping experience, and per tradition, on our last day of our trip we made our way into the quaint city of Brevard. The kids are always excited to go to O.P. Taylor’s Toy Store, and us adults are usually eager to get a yummy meal at the Soda Shop.

O.P. Taylor’s

This place is probably the coolest toy store I have ever been to, and if you know me? You’ll know that stepping foot into a toy store usually gives me anxiety. I see a lot of toys in my future that I’ll have to clean up, a lot of money being spent, and tantrums being had when they leave without practically everything. However, it’s a very different experience when stepping into this family owned store. We can always expect the same smiling faces to greet us each year, and the kids love making their way around this multi-level store. There is so much to look at and experience, that we find a new nook or cranny every year! It really is “The Coolest Toy Store on the Planet.”

We walked up and down these stairs a handful of times to find just the right toy to take home! Theo loved every minute of his hunt.

I have pictures just like this of them playing in this store every year!

We also always snap a photo with the kids in front of this White Squirrel statue. Apparently there is a whole story behind the white squirrel in Brevard! You can read more about it by clicking here!

Our group really enjoys this trip every year! We have a blast planning for it, “roughing it” for a couple days (even though this year, we totally “glamped” or glam-camped), and then treating ourselves to a fun afternoon in the city of Brevard. If you’ve never taken your family camping, I hope reading this post gives you some confidence to give it a try!

Every year is a different experience, but the kind people at Black Forest Family Camping Resort really made it fun. That would be a good place to try for your first adventure into the woods! If you go, let us know how it is for you! We love hearing that our posts inspired your trips. I also hope that some of my camping tips were useful, but know that I am by no means an expert and am always up for some of YOUR tips, too! Head over to the “Holla” page at the top or comment on this post for some of your tips and camping hacks!

Until our next post, we hope that you all are staying safe and in good health. Take this time to soak up all the family time you can, and go for a (safe) adventure!

Much love,

Yum, fun & YAAS!

Photo taken by Jenny Linker in the most adorable salon, Maven Salon. Edited by me!

Yep! It’s that time! My monthly “Supporting Local” blog post.
(I only promised it approximately a good month ago -eek! Sorry for the delay.
I can blame COVID-19 still, right?!)

Every time I do one of these “Supporting Local” blog posts, I get so excited thinking about who I should highlight. It can be a tad overwhelming, in a good way, because there is so much around our beautiful city to get into!! Not just Concord, NC, too… in fact, two of the three businesses I plan to shout out today are located in Kannapolis, NC. I love bee-bopping between the two different areas, and I hope after reading about these fun places that you too will give them a try!! Let’s dive in…

Something yum:

Havana Carolina Restaurant & Bar

Photo taken from Havana Carolina’s Facebook page.

11 Union Street S Suite #108, Concord, NC 28025
Click HERE to be directed to their Facebook page!!

I have to give my husband props on this one! He was the one who introduced me to this faaaaabulous restaurant, tucked away in the heart of Downtown Concord. I believe I’ve mentioned that my husband and I are both “sandwich people”, right? Well, if you’re hearing it here for the first time, trust and believe, we live for sandwiches of all shapes and kinds. Feel like you’ve never seen this restaurant before? That’s probably because you haven’t looked close enough! Like I said, it’s kind of tucked away and to the unobservant eye, you may totally miss a Concord gem. There are a couple ways to get inside: Union Street side & Church Street side. Here are walking instructions for the Union Street side: If you’re walking along Union Street, window shopping through adorable Downtown, & pass Cabarrus Creamery on your right? You’ll find yourself in front of a building with two glass store fronts (one’s a restaurant called The Grille, and I believe the other one is retail. It recently changed, so I apologize for not being 100% sure… it may even be currently empty). You’ll walk through the automatic doors into the air conditioning , and you’ll see a long hallway straight ahead. Dead end at the back of that hallway, and you’ll have found yourself at the front doors of Havana Carolina!! You may be able to just follow the aroma and not need my instructions, but just in case. Now, for the Church Street side instructions: If you’re driving down Church Street, you just crossed over Cabarrus Ave E, and you can see the WhataBurger sign up on the right. BEFORE you pass Whataburger, there is a parking lot to the right. Pull in! Be careful, some spots are reserved and they don’t play when it comes to reserved parking in DTC. As you pull in, you’ll see a patio area for one of our favorite local bars, Lil’ Roberts Place, to the right you’ll see signs for Red Hill Brewing, and then there will be a building to the right of that. There’s a glass door, and usually a sign pointing you in the right direction for Havana! Through that glass down, down some steps, you’ll find the back entrance of this amazing restaurant. You’ll have to walk around the restaurant to the front entrance to be greeted by a host, but as you do so you can look into the windows and enjoy the decor and atmosphere of this Cuban themed restaurant. I hope that helped when it comes to finding this staple, and know it’s totally worth the hunt! Honestly, it’s not really even a hunt, but I remember thinking the first time eating there that I would have never thought to look here to find this level of deliciousness.

Here’s a shot from the Union Street side!! Photo taken from their Facebook page!

Now, let me walk you through what we typically order, and our review on their food!! The REAL reason you’ve probably read this far, right?! “Where’s the meat?!” Ok, ok. I shall deliver. If you have no idea what to get at a Cuban restaurant, you really cannot go wrong by ordering the classic: A Cuban Sandwich.

Photo taken from Havana Carolina’s Facebook page.

Check. Out. That. Beauty!

I cannot stress this enough: you need to try this sandwich. It really speaks for itself in just a photo alone, but do yourself a flavor and go order one TODAY! Ham… pulled pork… cheese… pickles…. that Cuban bread?! MM!

So, what should you get to go with it?? I mean, the safe choice is always french fries. Right? That’s my comfort zone, any way. But I decided “to hell with my comfort zone” and tried something new! Plantain chips or Mariquitas. I have tried sweet plantains before, they’re called “Maduros” (and are absolutely amazing, you have to get a side of those as well), but these were like fried little chips of plantain goodness, lightly salted, and addictive as all get out.

Photo taken from Havana Carolina’s Facebook page.

We like to dip them in the dipping sauce that comes with the Croquettes, it’s like a mayo-garlic-cilantro mixture (called Salsa de Cilantro) and it pairs very nicely with the crunch of the chip! Let me not mention croquettes and not explain to you how AMAZING these are! These are yet another item on their menu that you must try when you go to Havana Carolina. I’ll admit though, my first time going and trying these? I was skeptical. I googled what the heck a Croquette was, and found some interesting descriptions: Croquettes are simply a breadcrumbed and fried roll of food leftovers, usually bound with bechamel sauce or mashed potatoes. Um… what?! Leftovers? But, rest assured, they’re not using leftovers. That obviously would not be up to code. It kind of reminds me of finely chopped ham salad on the inside, and it’s rolled in a beautifully golden, deep fried & crunchy outside. Again, the dipping sauce that comes with it gives me LIFE and I want to marinate all my meats in it. I need to find out what it consists of, exactly, just so that I can do that! I’m a texture person, and if something tastes great but also, texture wise, is pleasant? I’ll become addicted, and sure enough, these are truly addictive for taste and texture both. You’ve been warned!

Havana Carolina has quite a lot more on their menu that I have yet to try, but I know that regardless of what you order that you will be pleasantly surprised and delighted! They’re a full bar restaurant, and their margarita’s are bomb! If you know me, I’m a bit of a margarita connoisseur. I can practically point you in the direction of the top 5 best in this area (light bulb: oooooh, that’d be a fun blog post!) Havana Carolina DEFINITELY makes the cut!!

Photo taken from their Facebook page!

My family and I love this Concord staple, and we hope that you are intrigued and plan to try it soon! If you try something not mentioned in this blog post, comment below and let us know what you think! Promise you won’t be disappointed, yet totally in love with the whole shebang. Enjoy!!

You can’t go without trying a Cuban coffee before leaving! Enjoy!! Photo taken from Havana Carolina’s Facebook page.

Something fun AND yum:

Lovely Lines Boutique

Photo of their storefront! Photo taken from LLB’s Facebook page.

2071 Dale Earnhardt Blvd Kannapolis, NC 28083
Click HERE to check out their Facebook page!!

Take a step into the most loving and accepting boutique you’ve ever been to: Lovely Lines Boutique. Seriously, though. Even before I got to know the two owners somewhat, they treated me like one of their life long girlfriends from the moment I first stepped into their space. Erica & Jess are always eager to help me find a special item, make suggestions based off what will flatter my “lovely lines” and always make me feel beautiful by the time I leave. The atmosphere is so positive and so loving, it’s almost like they have it in an air freshener plugged into the wall somewhere. Need a moment of chill and a moment of full acceptance for who you are? Drive over to Kannapolis and TREAT YO SELF.

Let me introduce you to these masterminds behind this lovely boutique!
(wording in italics are taken from their Facebook page)

This lovely photo was taken from their Facebook page.

Meet Erica… Mother of three – Lexia, Sybella and Emerick and wife to Jeremy! Full time digital artist at WE Creative. She’s the tech behind this duo.

Photo taken from their Facebook page!

Erica STAYS cracking me up!! She’s so down to Earth, easy to talk to, always makes me laugh and has a great eye for what fits my plus size body. If I can’t make a choice between two shirts, or two colors of a pair of earrings or clutch? Erica is the one I ask, and then she’s likely also the one to talk me into just getting both. I’m worth it, I’m supporting local, and the prices are that good that I can do that! MM! Erica is someone that I just want to go get pedicures with, and then a margarita. She’s someone who you can see yourself being friends with for a lifetime, and she truly cares about all the customers who comes into the boutique. I appreciate knowing that if I need to find a special item for a date night, or a gift for a friend, that her awesome personality will be there to fill up the room and absolutely make my day. Thank you Erica for being a girl’s girl, and for your contribution to making this boutique for us curvy girls.

Meet Jessica… Mother to Grayson and wife to Josh! Full time Designer at WE Creative. She’s got marketing in her blood and never stops plotting the next step to her dream!

Photo taken from their Facebook page!

Jessica is, without a doubt, the sweetest person I’ve met in a long time. She will totally captivate you with her smile, and her customer service as well. I remember around Christmas time of 2019, when they were temporarily also located inside Carolina Mall, I was trying to pick out a gift to personalize for my daughter and sweet Jessica took the time to help me make the best selection. My daughter and I LOVE our monogrammed crossbody purses, and every time I wear mine I am reminded at how truly awesome that experience was. That’s just one story of many, too, where Jessica helped me personalize or pick out an item. Jessica has always taken the time out of her busy schedule to chat when I come into their boutique. It’s so nice to feel like a priority when you come into their space, and feel surrounded by love and kindness the whole time. If I’m trying on a size, and it’s a little snug? There is ZERO judgement on her sweet face, and she’s super discreet in helping me grab the next size up. In fact, it’s almost like a celebration rather than a let down. Like, “ayeee, rock them curves you sexy beast.” Thank you Jessica for being so kind, and for being a part of this awesome duo who brought Lovely Lines to us!!

Was so much fun to watch them on a local news station talk about their boutique!!

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not a plus sized girl so this post is a little disappointing.” GIRL. If you think they only help women size 14 and up? You dead wrong. Their choices of one-size-fits-all accessories are to die for! They also are really great at curating other local small business items, like jewelry from The Little White Willow and apparel or novelty items from Dammit Boy, to name a few. So, please don’t feel like you can’t step inside this positive space just because their clothing may not be your size. They have something for EVERYONE and would be more than happy to help you!

Photos above are taken of family & dear friends of mine who were LLB models!
Are they not GORGEOUS?!

Body positivity and feeling good in clothes that make you feel empowered and HOTT is just the minimum of what you can expect to experience when you visit Lovely Lines Boutique. I can guarantee that you will fall in love with their selection, their atmosphere, and their loving personalities. Check out their Facebook page by clicking on the link above for store hours, more information, and even more photos of real customers and women who are totally rocking their awesome curvy figures!

One of my most favorite experiences at LLB was when they had a model call (they frequently do this so follow them on Facebook for the next event), and I had the privilege of being chosen to come model clothes for their online sales and photos for their social media platform! Speaking of EMPOWERING!? I left there feeling like a true model, like my plus sized body was important, and that I was a part of something beautiful. I was so nervous to step in front of that camera, but all of that went out the window as soon as Jess & Erica began to select an outfit for me.

Jess, Erica, and all the staff at LLB have been an integral part in me feeling comfortable in my own skin. You have got to go visit them in Kannapolis, and experience this for yourself. If you go see Jess & Erica? Let them know that Katie sent ya!!

Something fun, yum and YAASS:

Jenny Linker
Hair Stylist at Maven Salon

Photo taken from Maven’s Facebook page.

109 West Avenue Kannapolis, NC 28081
Find Jenny’s work on her IG: @nipperlinkerlynn
Visit Maven Salon’s Facebook Page by clicking HERE
Also, you can visit their website… here!

The cutest store front!! Photo taken from Maven’s Facebook page.

Where do I even begin with this sweet & fiery soul? How about with the fact that she does an amazing job on my stubborn head of hair. That’s probably the understatement of the year, to be honest. I have had many hair dressers, all have done a decent job. I’m not knocking anyone who used to do my hair. I’ve had some real talent all up on my head… but JENNY LINKER!! OOOH WEE!!! I’ve heard that finding a soul mate is hard, & that finding a true friend is even harder. No, no, no. I say that finding your soul mate hair dresser, one who colors your hair the way you imagined and styles it to perfection every. single. time. is damn near impossible! Well, I stopped saying that after I sat in her chair after the first time. And the second time. And the fifth time…. you get my point. You see, Jenny goes above and beyond every time I sit in her chair. This mop on top of my head is no walk in the park either. It’s long, it’s thick, it’s gray at the roots, it’s a weird funky wavy that has a mind of its own, AND I want one of the more complicated coloring styles possible: blonde balayage. You know, the intentional look of dark roots to light ends? Each visit we are bringing my hair up to go as blonde as possible, slowly, as to not totally damage my hair. Ohhhh that patience she must have to do one process for my grays and another separate process for the blonde. I know it’s a beast of a job based off the length of my hair, and how long it takes to cover it all. Here’s the thing: Despite it being an absolute JOB?! She never seems bothered, she never seems rushed, and she always tells me to relax when I apologize for the whole ordeal. I am, naturally, and “over-apologizer” any way, yet she consistently reassures me that I have noting to be sorry for. Even after the lengthy ordeal of two different processes plus toning, a thorough washing (probably my favorite part), trimming my dead ends, and THEN blow drying my hair to a smooth and soft blow out?? She still takes the time to put some curl in it & style it nicely. This is no “2 hour hair appointment” we are talking about, y’all. This is her putting in some WORK, and my goodness the end results are BOMB!! She always makes sure to educate me on how to take care of it in between appointments, and points me in the direction of what products I’ll love. She really covers all the bases, and all my grays. Hallelujah!

Going blonde, in the very capable hands of Jenny Linker! Loving these pink club chairs & the lighting in this large window! So much charm!

Besides being the best hair stylist I have ever seen, Jenny also has a banging personality. This chick just gets me. I can spill alllll the tea, and I know that it stays locked away in a vault where only her and I keep tabs on it. I have trusted her with some pretty serious stories, and I have never once worried if it would be repeated. That’s worth its weight in gold to me, y’all. Especially amongst southern women. HAA! We are known for our small town gossip. She doesn’t just sit there and “uh huh” me to death, either. She gives me real advice, applicable advice, loving and caring advice that really resonates with me. She doesn’t come across as a “know it all” but just instead like a therapist who points you in the direction you didn’t know you needed to go. Sitting in her chair is like sitting in a therapist’ chair, and I feel “mind-body-soul” taken care of after each appointment. That’s rare, chicas. That’s why I mentioned before that I no longer say that it’s damn near impossible to find a soul mate hair stylist, because I finally found her in THE Jenny Linker of Maven Salon in Downtown Kannapolis, NC.

If you’re looking for a hair stylist that not only will leave you looking like a million bucks, but make you feel worth that, too? Then look no further. Give this gal a ring, book an appointment, and let me know what ya think!

Maven’s gorgeous logo.

Besides, the new cute Maven Salon is truly a looker. The boho decor was something I took mental note on the entire time I was there, and plan to implement in my own home. CURTIS!! Get your paint brushes ready, babe*wink*. The salon fits right in with the newness of the Downtown Kannapolis area, and if you haven’t taken a stroll down the recently (and still, currently being) renovated streets of DTK, then I urge you to go. Like, now.

More beautiful “Maven’s”! Look at all that talent! Photo taken from Maven’s Facebook page.

Thank you so much for reading this months “supporting local’ blog post! It’s one of my favorite things to write about, and I really hope that you are eager to give these 3 spots and small businesses a try! If you have a small business and want us to give it a shout, go to the “Holla” page at the top and send us a message! We’d be honored to feature your business in our next post!!

Support local, support small, support your city!!

So much love to ya,

Mask On, Mask Off.

For starters, if you want the full effect of my head space during the creating of this post, you’ll need to listen to the song that I’ve had in my ears on repeat all day today. Have you heard that song by Natalie Taylor yet? “Surrender“. Give it a try, y’all. I’m not sure if it’s her voice and the calmness of it alongside the lyrics, but it’s something I turn on lately when I’m in my feels…. & that’s exactly what I would call this moment in time for me. “In my feels.” I tend to associate music to moments, and smells too but that’s besides the point. If you play the song from my very first high school break up that I placed on repeat for almost 2 weeks? I’ll feel that scar light on fire. If you play the song I walked down the aisle to at mine and Curt’s wedding? I’ll feel butterflies again. If you play the song “Amazing Grace” on a piano, I can smell the pages of an old hymnal book and feel old hard pews under my legs.

Any one else? …Maybe?

Any way, I digress. If you know me, like truly know me & my Cancer-Leo-cusp-baby super emotional sensitive self, you know how easy it is for me to get here. Here being a place where I’m out of sorts… adrift…. disconnected. Here, where I cry in private over simple every day actions or words thanks to the art of over-thinking. Here, where heart ache seems to magnet to me. Being someone who so easily feels, and feels everything so hard, I’ve had to learn how to hold it back. Filter it. Throw humor into the mix. It’s not something that everyone can handle. In fact, I’m not sure any one has ever fully been able to. I find myself letting go and letting it all free, only to quickly and frantically reel it back in. Like, “oops, your emotions are showing Katie, cover those up!”

Learning how to water myself down and become what others need me to be is a task that I have perfected so well that I like to think of it as having a collection of faces. Despite my feelings, despite my inner pains or even joys, I have this impressive assortment of masks that I can easily take off the wall and put on to accommodate those around me. I can’t say that I mind, most days any ways. You see, I fully enjoy making those around me happy with these unique set of skills that I have acquired. Don’t mistake it with me being less genuine, though. If I’m donning a mask to cover my needs or true feelings in that moment? It’s me being the friend, the listener, the sponge that you need me to be. It’s me trying to be there for you. It’s me loving or caring for you.

Empaths are highly sensitive individuals, who have a keen ability to sense what people around them are thinking and feeling. Psychologists may use the term empath to describe a person that experiences a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense…”
Definition found on www.psychalive.org, to read more click the provided link.

A good friend of mine was allowing me to release some of the tension and vent “mask-less” during my pregnancy, when my emotions were definitely out of whack and hormones to boot, and she said,

“Katie, you’re an empath.”

I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard anyone use that term before. I mean, I know what empathy is, of course, so common sense helped me figure out what she meant. Since then I have done some research about what it means to be an “empath”. It honestly seems pretty fitting for the predicament I find myself in all too often. I can feel vibes and can feel moods and underlying tones and typically don’t miss the unspoken need during conversations. Some people talk about having a third eye, but sometimes it feels like I have a third ear. Weird visual, I know. My husband is always getting on to me about allowing those around me to affect my mood and day, and he often doesn’t understand how that is hard for me to shed (he’s gotten much better over the years, so no worries). I simply cannot just listen to your story and take it at face value. I simply cannot just hear the words. I feel you from the across the room, I feel you when you’re texting me regardless of your physical location, I can feel you before you even make it to the topic of conversation. Our emotions and feelings put off energy that can be palpable to someone who is a true empath. It’ll sink in to my chest, and it’s as if I am taking it on for you.

Oh how I wish I had the super-power to take it from you all together and eliminate it for you, too.

*deep sigh*

Alas, I cannot. I can’t do much besides merely listen and offer myself to you. I can pray with you. I can lift you up and hype you up. I can bring you small gifts. I can offer you acts of kindness. I can hug you and hold you. I can create grand gestures. I can pick up this mask from my assortment, and offer you a smile. I can cry with you. I can laugh with you. I can get goofy and crazy and absolutely ridiculous with you (it’s kind of my favorite mask).

You see, friend? I can.
I want to.

Forgive me, though, if at times I drop the ball. It can be overwhelming at times, and I’m only human. There are many circumstances when dropping the ball is not appropriate and I apologize to you if I ever have let you down. I know there are many friends of whom I have totally disappointed. My mask slipped. My human flesh weakened. My inability to hold it together one hundred percent of the time failed you. My problems, my busy schedule, my loose sanity, my list of needs came bursting through the seams when I try so hard to keep them at bay. For you.

I failed you.

I am sorry.

This mask I’ve been wearing to help you carry your burdens is rather heavy some days. The weight of the mask has long lasting effects felt deeply in my soul. I carry your burdens with me sometimes for so long that I forget they weren’t mine to carry. I took them on for you because I love you, because I care for you, because I wanted to leave you better than I found you. I want to be the one who you go to because I know others can be so cruel. I know others only listen to earn ammunition. I know others only listen to be nosey. No, I want you to feel comfortable knowing that I will actually listen. I want you to feel safe with me, knowing your deepest secrets are under lock and key. You. Any one reading this. You! I may not even know you, but if it’s laid on me to give that part of me to you? I would. Without caution, without question, without discrimination, without judgement.

Quarantining in 2020 has been NO. F’N. JOKE. I am a social butterfly. Put me behind bars, and you’ll watch me fade. I know I probably shouldn’t use the hyperbole of my home being like a prison. I can hear how that sounds ungrateful or dramatic. Though, when you’re told you’re not allowed to leave it, isn’t that what it begins to feel like? Trapped behind these four walls of a 3-bedroom-2-bath home, and taking deep breaths every time I open my front door to the feeling of fresh air on my face. Taking it in like hoarders did with toilet paper and bleach. Frantic to feel freed. Praying like hell they won’t tell us we can’t even open those doors one day. They can’t do that, right?! …right? The worry of that keeps me awake at night. My day went from working with beautiful, amazing children in a “hands-on” capacity, to waving at them from behind a computer screen. Yet, despite my worry and my fears and my chaos in my chest, I pick up that mask and don it like their lives depend on it. Knowing good and well that I’m not reaching them like I want to, like they need me to. Knowing that I’m at a disadvantage, and not being able to squeeze the serotonin (quite literally) into their bodies. I struggle with how I am essential behind my lap top, staring into a camera and pleading with my WiFi to not buffer for the 1,000th time before 10am. Yet, I hang up my personal dilemmas and I pick up that face that helps calm their nerves in these trying times. I’ve had families that I work with thank me for still being available, and I hang up with a tear falling down my cheek. Hanging up my mask, finally letting go of my concerns behind the blank screen in a private moment, hitting me all at once like crashing waves. Thankful for a productive session, worrying it won’t always be easy each time. Praying for a skill set to appear almost over night. On the other hand, I’ve had families experience that the on-line services aren’t helping their child, not the way in person could, and they decide that they still need me physically. I hang up my concern of contracting COVID-19, and brave the germ infested world to rush to them (happily, honestly). I put myself and my family at risk to provide the care that is necessary to complete my job in the best manner possible (again, happily, I know what I signed up for and am forever grateful for my chosen career). I put on that usual mask of light-heartedness that children need to feel safe, and I set aside my anxieties for their hour. When it’s done I plop down into my car, begin the journey home, and find that I listen to nothing on the radio. I sit in absolute silence. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I make it almost home before I realize I’m still practically holding my breath. I open the door and hang up my heavy mask, and then fall apart at my husbands feet. Letting go of the weight of each family’s burdens, their fears or worries of their child’s progress and needs. Sorting through the ideas and the strategies that I can implement. Ideas firing away at me a mile a minute. Feeling the weight of their concern on their shoulders subsequently on mine. Gladly taking it from them so that they can breathe for a moment, knowing that I am one of the members of the calvary that has shown up at their doorstep to provide relief. Sometimes Curtis’ hold at the end of the day isn’t just a hug, but a moment of him collecting the scattered “me”. Allowing me a moment to ready myself before I let go of my therapy-mask and reach for my Mommy-mask. He hugs me til I’m ready to let go. And then, I go right back into it. He thinks he’s just hugging me.

Mask after mask, face after face. Holding back my selfish needs and wants, my anxieties, my inner demons. They have to sit down, silently raging in the background mosh-pit style, and grossly fester all day. I’ve learned how to quiet them by keeping busy. Ignoring them. The unfortunate truth about having these unpleasantries, though, is that it’s not as easy to hang them up on the wall and walk away from them like I can with a mask. No, these are a permanent fixture it seems. I have to surrender them daily at the feet of Jesus, but my idiotic-weak-human self picks them back up every day at approximately 11:00PM. You know, when the house is quiet. When there’s no one to need me. When the masks have been put away. When my “true face” is showing. When everything that has been silent all day is angry at me for “leaving them on read”. Yeah, that’s when they come out to party. That quiet moment that can be so metaphorically loud? It’s a moment for me to unpack the vibes, the feelings, the griefs, the joys, the angers of the day that you, my sweet friend, unknowingly (or maybe knowingly because I invited you to) put on me. Me, your empath buddy. It’s the time where I sort through my own dilemmas, after letting go of yours. It’ll be 2am before I realize I’m exhausted, desperate for rest, and sleep will finally overcome my body. My anxieties will fade into the darkness, resting up for another play date tomorrow.

Selfishly, at times, I’ll ask myself, “Who’s going to listen to me?” Besides my husband, my beautiful hair stylist, and only my closest friends and family: I don’t always feel comfortable giving it all away. Hell, even those listed above haven’t heard it all. It’s like hitting an artery, though. Once a topic comes up, once I let go of just a little bit, it spews from me like a bleeder.

Apply pressure!
Conceal, don’t feel (Frozen reference, for those non-parents out there).
Throw on a mask and entertain, quick.
This is NOT their burden.
This is NOT what they signed up for when entering this conversation with you.
This is NOT their weight to carry.

Hush.

It may sound like I’m complaining, please don’t misconstrue that. I’ve met other friends who are self proclaimed empaths as well, and they too can admit that it gives us a sense of purpose being there for our friends in this manner. This collection of masks that hangs behind me? I’m kind of proud of them. I’m happy to use them. I’m delighted to be of help to you in your time of crisis, need, joy, or whatever you are going through. But let me go ahead and get to the reason why I am writing about this tender topic:

I. Am. Not. Perfect.

Whew.

Thank you Jesus for taking that burden for me, because living perfectly is not something that I would want to sign up for. Like I mentioned above, my mask will slip. My imperfections will come out. Alert: even your friend who you vent to has things going on. These plates I’m spinning over here? Things like scheduling clients, educating clients, walking clients through their childs diagnosis, walking clients through how to use Zoom and how to be my eyes and ears and hands, documenting professionally and proficiently, adding goals, deleting goals, researching ideas and plans for best outcomes, taking courses to better my knowledge, practicing my Spanish to communicate in two different communities, juggling my clients needs outside of their children, being a leader, being a go-to person for over 20 different families… that’s just my Occupational Therapist plate. Then add in my Mom plate, my wife plate, my respite care job plate, my preschool teacher plate, my Aunt plate, my sister plate, my daughter plate, my best friend plate, each of my friends have their own plate, my church plate, my volunteer plate… I mean, I can keep going but I think you get the point. Making sure each of these are continually spinning, not dropping any of them, while donning the correct mask to appease their individual needs?

I do it.
I do it out of love.
I do it gladly…

… but let’s not play like it’s not work.

… but let’s not over-look the fact that the time for my self care is limited.

The way my heart’s set up? The way my intentions are built? The way my personality was designed? I just, genuinely, want to help others. I want my legacy to be that I listened. That I noticed your small squirm when you weren’t sure if I was going to judge you. I want my legacy to be that I gave you a safe space to be you. I want people to say good things about me when I leave a room. Yeah, maybe I shouldn’t care about what’s said about me. I wish I could turn that trait about me off. Those who have learned to not care about the opinions of others are my heroes and inspirations. But what I do? What I sign up for? What I gladly take on for you, dear friend or family… I do it for no applause. I do it for no reward. I do it with no expectations other than just with the hope of kindness in return. Simple kindness and maybe a drop of understanding. A drop of grace.

So, in closing…. be kind to those who are kind to others. Shoot, in general, just be kind. Probably be kind even more to those who are being sucky or having sucky moments. You have no idea what battles someone is facing, you have no idea what lies behind the mask they’re wearing today, and you have no idea what their journey has been like. I mean, unless you have a Joe-Exotic-style-camera-man on you. I’m just sayin’. Even then, I don’t think we got the whole story! [ We are on to you, Carole. ]

If you’re reading this and you’re saying: YES! THIS! ME TOO! Then I pray you know you’re not alone. Being the one your friends and family go to is a blessing and at times a curse, but I see you. I see you trying your best to take care of it all. I see you putting the needs of others before your own. I see you.

If you’re reading this and you’re thinking: Jeez, I don’t want to bother her anymore! Don’t. Don’t do that. This blog space is here for me to release some of this pressure that is placed on me (self inflicted, mostly) and if I can’t do it here, then where? Remind yourself of my above statement that I enjoy being there for you. This post is me seeking out your understanding that I am not perfect. I am asking for grace. That’s all.

If you’re reading this and thinking: I really want to pick her brain. I need someone to vent to. I need support. Bring it on, homie! Hit me up. There’s a “holla” button at the top of this page, shoot me a message. I am here.

Everyone else? Thank you for reading this entire post. For reading any of my ramblings! It really means a lot to me. I just sort of type out my feelings without really going back and listening if I sound contradictory or not, so my effort is truly natural and honest. I am eager to write about things that strike me and hang on to me, and I hope that something throughout my posts brings a smile to your face.

May your quarantine be full with laughter, love, and peace….

…. and if not, may you have plenty of wine to survive it.

Love,

Old Wooden Rocking Chair

Dear Old Wooden Rocking Chair,
May I sit down a while?
I would never want it to be any trouble,
But my soul feels truly tired.

May I place my weight firmly into your lap?
I know you’ll hold me steady regardless of the burden. 
We can rock and sway for hours.
I know you’ll feel my heart ache churning. 

I would caress your dry smooth handles,
Beneath my empty hands.
I would wonder who else has held onto you,
Who else has made these selfish demands? 

I’ll lean into your strong structure, 
I crave your unwavering protection.
I’d ease my head back into your rest,
You’ll catch me without question. 

Your old bones may creak beneath the tension
Still I know you can withstand it during our time.
So intricately, beautifully built.
Are you damned because you are mine? 

They wouldn’t believe me if I told the story
How I found you beside the road.
Cast out, forgotten, buried, rejected
Laid out to wither and corrode.

Surely it was a mistake that you needed my care.
Their reasons for abandoning you must have weight. 
Even as you sit here unrefined and bruised,
My only conclusion is that they were forced to vacate.

So now you are mine
Sitting in contrast of the chaos that surrounds you
Never quite sure of when the day will come
That I need to borrow your strength for a moment or two.


Only you, Old Wooden Rocking Chair,
It has only been you who has answered my every call.
I need not worry if you’ll receive my distress.
I need not worry if you’ll be there, at all. 

As we sit here together,
I feel entirely at peace.
I can hang up the anxieties of the day behind me,
I can lose track of the ones that are ahead of me.

I come to you on the days that I need you the most
We move back and forth effortlessly. 
Though the thought often crossing my mind
How you, too, may need me? 

I picked you up that day
With a promise in my heart.
I wanted to wash you, polish you, love you
I wanted to offer you a new start.

I’m beyond apologetic 
If your time with me has felt underwhelming.
I am working on being the best version of me,
Though I never mean to make you question. 

You must though, 
As you sit here alone on the cold floor.
It pains me to think that you feel unwanted
It pains me to wonder if you question if you aren’t worth more. 

I thank you for taking my body into your care
I thank you for giving me a place for my soul to bare. 
It is here I have planned my greatest events
It is here that I have even myself convinced

That one day you and I will make our great escape.
Just you and me
Old Wooden Rocking Chair, 
Yes… one day.

Hold onto this promise
I sing to you each time I come to fill your arms
The words leaving my lips are yours to keep
Forever engrained into your cold, rough columns.

Sway with me once again on this lonely night
Allow us to dance beneath the full pink moon
I’ll keep you company through the mundane
And pray the nightmares in my soul you’ll consume. 

You are beautiful, you are a blessing
You are so forgivingly kind
I’ll always know that I don’t deserve you,
I’ll always know that you are damned because you are mine.

|copyright © Katie Bailes – it’s complikatied blog|

Well, Shoot.

I made a mistake today.

…. & let’s be honest. Mistakes are kinda my forte. You see, if you know me for .023 seconds or longer, you’ll find that I’m this interesting mixture of

a) a people pleaser

b) easily excited

& c) that I can be too fast to speak

+ too slow to think.

* face to palm *

In fact, I catch myself with my foot in my mouth so much that I think I’ve actually tasted my own toes before. Gross, I know. Not as “gross” as my idiocy today. Man. I really messed up. You see? I was excited. I’m not defending myself. I’m just merely pointing out that is was my first mistake. I get worked up, flabbergasted, and discombobulated and whoooops: word vomit. I have the truest of intentions, I swear, but we all know what the road to hell is paved with. Right? Ugh. I fudged up what was meant to be a harmless moment of congratulations.

Hang in there with me…

You ever catch yourself too deep in a sentence? Like, there’s no turning back now!! Might as well make it to the punctuation. Then the sentence is out. BOOM. Quick! Scramble! How can I make this sound better?? Crap. Crap. Abort. Mission abort. You did it again, Kathryn. You can’t take back what you’ve started, the ships sinking. You either jump ship or stay & play with the band. Either way the picture ain’t pretty & they both end with a cold situation with likely drowning.

I’m stalling. I know.

I’m truly offended. Yep, I offended myself. I’m offended for the person I inadvertently offended. I’m mad for the one I unintentionally upset. I’m upset for the one who has rights to be mad. Who might that be?

My sweet, loving, hard-working, handsome husband.
(yeah, I’m buttering him up)

Hanging out at The Batch House. Our toddler was our photographer!

Quick side story: Curtis is and will forever be my knight in shining armor. This man saved me from a world of crazy, and I owe him my daily sanity. Hearing him say, “It’s going to be okay” speaks to my soul. Curtis calms me and provides me with a peace I’ve never known. He makes me a better person just by spending time with him. Simply sitting beside him and observing how he treats others makes me want to be a better person. He makes me want to be better, do better, act better. Listen, we fight & bicker like the rest of ya’s, trust me. But this sweet soul is the most forgiving and least-deserving-of-malarkey man I know. He truly loves me, for what reason I’ve yet to discover. Yet, here I go, making a comment he didn’t deserve to endure. My mouth simply opened up, and out spewed ridiculousness. Sigh. Deep sigh.

Ok…. I’ll stop stalling.

Today I was congratulating a sweet friend of mine on her recent engagement. She’s beaming with excitement and glowing with bride-to-be glee, and naturally I want to shower her in praise & love. It’s an exciting time! I’m truly excited for her! Yes, my excitement is my Achilles heal in this situation. This friend of mine deserves this happiness in her life & I’m geared up to dump more happiness in her lap. She would do the same for me! In fact, she did! She was over the moon excited for Curtis & I when we got engaged. She deserved that in return. Then the people pleaser in me went to work…. but so did my inability to frame my sentence with intelligible speech. My mouth worked quicker than my brain. My foot got ready to seek shelter in my mouth, per usual. My eyeballs land on her gorgeous engagement ring and *pop* out comes a very shallow comment. I have horrible retention for verbatim comments, yes even my own (especially my own), but it was something along the lines of how big the diamond was. Then, like an idiot, I compared it to my ring making me sound apathetic towards mine.

Holllllld up.
Wait just a damn minute. Katie!
What is yew doin’.
Trust me. I wanted to beat myself up.
That’s kind of what I’m doing now & did for the rest of the day.

Immediate inner thoughts:

Crap. What are you doing, Katie?! What are you even saying? Abort. Stop talking. Don’t look over at Curtis. (I look at Curtis) CRAP! I hurt his feelings, I can see it in his eyes. Save face, save face! Quick! Redirect the conversation elsewhere!!

I honestly cannot remember the 5-10 minutes after that, because all I could think about was how moronic my comments about my ring were. Especially because I have never spoken poorly about my ring. Never. Not once. I don’t have a reason to!

I. Love. My. Beautiful. Ring.

Photography by Ashley Ricci Photography.

Please re-read that last sentence as many times as it takes for you to believe that’s how I feel, because it’s the ever-loving truth. I absolutely love my antique-inspired, rose gold, perfectly symmetrical, unique, one-of-a-kind ring. It fit me the first time I put it on & it was exactly “my style”. You know why? Curtis LISTENED. He took every bit of advice I had ever given him, and there was a lot of “advice”. He brought my engagement ring dreams to life. He gave me a ring that I was so taken back by that I still cannot believe how good he did. Y’all, he did SO good. Then here I go, crapping on it.

Literal: face to palm.

Don’t worry. Since then I brought it back up in a private conversation between him & I. As I should have, I thoroughly apologized and leveled with him that I have no idea why I feel like I have to put myself down in order to compliment someone else. I also made sure he knew with every fiber of my being that I appreciate him and his unselfish purchase of my wedding ring & band. He purchased this for me with so much care & thoughtfulness. He surprised me. The fact that he surprised me alone is a huge feat, too, because it’s super duper hard to pull one over on me. He got down on one knee in front of all our kids. He vowed his heart & love to me. ME.

I’ll never really, truly, grasp why he chose me. Sigh.

Here’s my point though… in case you missed it amongst my stupidity & my flamboyant foolery:

I have no idea why I feel like I have to put myself down in order to compliment someone else.

When did that even become a thing? Look, I know I’m not alone in doing that, because I’m constantly getting onto my friends about not putting themselves down. Especially when it comes to comparing ourselves to one another. You know what the number one thief of joy is? Comparisons. It’s true that my friends ring is absolutely beautiful. So is mine. My friends ring sits on her hand as a sign of her commitment to her future husband no differently than mine does to my husband. Her ring has its story behind it just like my ring has a story, too. Each amazing. Each beautiful. Each unique. Not one less than the other. Not one better than the other.

Guess what?

Same goes for our bodies…. or our minds…. or our art…. or our talents… our skills… our parenting style. I have friends who are amazing business women, and I wish I were more savvy like them. I have friends who are thinner than me, and I wish I had their metabolism or their drive to exercise. I have friends who are more voluptuous than me, and I wish I had their sensual beauty and confidence. I have friends who can paint and do calligraphy with ease, and I wish I didn’t get so easily frustrated with my art. I have friends who have more eloquent speech and quick wit, and I wish I didn’t flounder around with my words. I have friends who have multiple babies, or even one baby, and I sit there wishing I could be a better mother like them.

The thing is? We are not less than one another. You may be a better business woman than me, but you’ll still catch me hustling. You may be thinner than me, but you’ll still catch me rocking a 2 piece on the beach. You may be more confident in your body, but you’ll still find me letting loose when I’m comfortable. You may have a beautiful eye and hand for art, but you’ll still catch me creating. You may be smarter or better equipped with fancy vocabulary, and quicker on your feet with your words… but you’ll still catch me writing & talking (but just maybe fumbling from time to time… a lot of times…). Your ring may have a larger stone than mine or a higher price tag than mine, but you’ll still catch me looking down at my left ring finger and admiring it. Watching how the sun hits all the smaller stones and how the intricate details on the side curl up to make cute mustache-like designs. You’ll never see it come off my finger, not even in the 50+ years to come. Some choose to upgrade theirs at certain milestones in their marriage, and that’s cool, ….but not me. I’ll die wearing this ring. I’ll pass this ring down to my granddaughter in my will. I’ll forever cherish what it meant and who gave it to me and the promise it stands for.

Ultimately this post is to point out one thing: stop comparing. Clap for your friends without putting yourself down. Build up your loved ones without tearing your own self down. Breathe life into your friends plans, but don’t forget to take breaths for yourself. Cheer on your beloved buds, but don’t forget to pat yourself on the back.

Celebrate your success.
Love yourself.
Choose happiness.
Choose to be kind AND exercise self-kindness.
Choose joy.

Side note: If you’re reading this, Curtis? I love you. Thank you for putting up with my painful awkwardness. Thank you for not damning me when I put my foot in my mouth. Thank you for understanding me better than anyone else ever has. Thank you for loving me for me, and all my imperfections. I’m sorry for my cringe-worthy craziness that gets me into more trouble than it’s probably worth. You’re better to me than I deserve, but I’m so glad that God put you in my life. I’m so blessed to be your wife.

Whew. Ok, now I can go to sleep peacefully. Having that on my chest was really weighing on me.

Ladies? Shoot, gentlemen too?? All y’all. You’re beautiful, you’re amazing, you’re capable, you’re smart, you’re funny, and you’re worthy of your own love. Be the start of a movement that inspires your circle. Shower you & yours with kindness & watch a beautiful, uplifting garden grow all around you.

Photography by Ashley Ricci Photography.

With all my love,

Concord, Raise Your Glass!

If you were so lucky to have joined in with me last week on Facebook live, you not only got to see me in all my glory, with a fancy Mary Kay Charcoal Mask adorned on my face, but you also were a part of a new idea that I conjured up to help me organize these blog posts for my local favorites. I originally was just going to write one large post about ALL my favorite places around Concord, NC, but when I began to make a list…

whew, chil’.

I realized that I really really love my city. There was absolutely no way to write a blog post about all my favorite places without it turning into a book. That’s when I thought that maybe just choosing 2-3 local establishments and business owners or small shops once a month would help me not feel so overwhelmed. Plus, it gives me a reason to eat, drink & shop around town for what quite possibly may be the unforeseeable future! Winning!

Also?

*clears throat *

*steps onto soap box*

I truly believe that it is so important to shop local and support small businesses as much as possible. Every time you purchase something from a local place, you’re supporting a family…. a neighbor… a dream. Our community! The dollars you spend go directly to their dinner tables and puts clothes on their kids backs. You’re helping a stay at home Mommy stay home with her babes, because (side-soap-box) maternity leave in the US can kick rocks. You’re helping a single parent make ends meet. You’re helping a Vet who’s having trouble finding work make their own way. The reasons and examples are endless, but mostly you’re supporting a dream. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that, if possible?! Because it’s such a passion of mine, and because I want to give my city as much help as I can, I thought this to be a fun way to give them just that! May these shout outs help local stores and hopefully, in turn, bring in YOUR business. For the record, these businesses had no idea I planned to do this. No one has asked me to review them nor have I received any type of compensation from them (nor would I accept any). You know why, though? Because supporting your local business does not mean hitting your friends up with their small business, and fishing for a discount or a freebie. Nope! Pay full price. Support the cause. Be the wind in their sails, er… the change in their pockets. Support them, fully. Sure, their product may be slightly more than the similar Amazon product in your shopping cart, but when you buy from a local small shop? You get local handmade goodness. You get customer service that no online service can beat. You get someone who truly cares about the quality of the product as much as you, the consumer, does. But hey, If you can’t purchase anything? Share their merchandise on social media, like their photos, refer more friends to them and their service. There are so many things you can do to help support local business, but asking for a discount surely isn’t one of them.

*steps off soap box*

So, without further adieu, I give to you this months three local businesses: Madelines Bath Magic, Groundwork Common & Southern Strain Brewing Co. I randomly chose these three one night in my Facebook live video, and I cannot tell you how excited I was about it. A good bubble bath, a craft beer, and then a latte?! YES. PLEASE.

Madeline’s Bath Magic

I first learned about Madeline’s Bath Magic because the owner, Melissa Protheroe, is also a Mommy at the school that my little one goes to & that I work at Part Time. I believe my initial experience with her bath bombs was from a special teacher deal she was running last summer as a “thank you” to those who had helped during the school year. I had heard nothing but amazing reviews from trusted friends, and had to take the deal while it was available. I thought “ok, Theo will like this because he really likes the little color tablets for his bath water” and was (of course) all about supporting a local Mama doing her thang. When we dropped that first bath bomb into our tub, I never realized how cool it would be to watch it fizzle out. Theo & I both were mesmerized. It took a whole lot of adult-like-restraint-and-responsibility to say “no” to my kiddo when he asked if we could toss in one more. Not only were they fun to watch fizzle out, but the tub looked like art!! And smelled ahhhhhmazing.

“That’s it”, I thought to myself, “I’m getting in, too!” and listen here, friends, I don’t care how weird you think it is! I got my over-sized booty right in that bath water with my tot and it was glorious. Granted, it didn’t last long because, before you know it , my legs were being used as car tracks and I’m like 102.5% sure I got peed on… Yay, #momlife. Bet you can guess what I did the following night, though! A L O N E. The essential oils and scents that Melissa chooses for each bath bomb is kind of like choosing a new story to read every night. It’s like being transported away, a mini get-away in the form of a bubble bath. All your senses heightened, yet, calmed at the same time. Each bath bomb different, rewarding, and each leaving you wanting “just 5 more minutes”. Unfortunately, the water grows cold, ten little fingers are wiggling at you from under the locked bathroom door and it’s time to come up for air from your mini escape. But those amazing 15-20 minutes feel like a little spa date with yourself and you just want to hug Melissa the next time you see her. I just might, you know… you’ve been warned, girl! I love the way they smell and feel, leaving my skin feeling silky and moisturized. I just love the whole experience. If I’ve had an especially difficult day? Her bath bombs are my go to special treat and self care essential. Can’t pour from a cup that’s empty, hunny. Soak them tired buns.

Melissa also offers other products besides bath bombs such as scrubs, lotions, lip balms, bath jelly & so so so much more. Click on the title of this section, or click here, to go to her website for a menu. You can also find her on Facebook or Instagram: @melissaprotheroe. There you can read more on her story, the sweet & beautiful reason behind the business, and reach out to her personally for any orders. The story and reasoning alone will make you eager to support her and her small business. She’s a super patient and understanding soul. I know this personally as she has handled Theo’s birthday gift favors, my wedding party favors, Christmas gifts, and various gifts for all sorts of occasions. She always works with me on my budget, and finds ways to make me feel special. You just can’t get that kind of service from big corporations. Thank you Melissa & “Madeline’s Bath Magic” for all you’ve personally done for me and for your kind & loving heart. Check her out, y’all!

Groundwork Common

Quick backstory of why I love GWC so so much… A couple years ago, my Mother in Law moved from WV to our sweet little town of Concord, just off of Church Street. Now, if you’re not familiar with Concord geography, Church Street is just one of the major bloodlines that will transport you to all the local spots around town. I’ve driven up and down this road a gojillion times since being handed my license, and have even had 1 car break down in the intersection right in front of Danny’s gas station. One of my first jobs was right off Church Street, my Dad’s accounting business. We watch the parade every year from Church Street. You can easily say that I am emotionally tied to this area and to the businesses on this road. So, can you imagine my excitement when I heard that we were getting a local coffee shop smack dab in the middle of it all??

I. Was. Thrilled.

I’ve been a coffee connoisseur since my sippy-cup days, no joke, and I don’t play when it comes to my morning motivator. I can’t start my day without a good cup of joe, and you can bet your sweet espresso that I don’t waste my time on a “bad” cup. I like it hot, iced, frozen, black, white, tan, tall, large, skinny, full fat, with or without cream… but for now? You can keep your decaf. Just sayin’. So, whilst helping my MIL move into her new humble abode and I saw the signs for the new place? Walking distance from her home?? I about called her realtor to buy the house out from underneath her…. but that’s when this beautiful realization hit my square in the face. “I can go drop off my crazy-crotch-gobblin’ at her house, and go enjoy coffee solo any time she’s available.” Anna, when I encouraged you to buy your specific house? I did it for the coffee.

I mean, look at that art work. Coffee is art, y’all. If you don’t agree with me, you don’t have to keep reading. That’s fine. Know you’re wrong, but that’s fine. My “go-to” coffee order is either a Mocha Latte or a Cold Brew. When I first started going to GWC regularly, I easily became addicted to their Mocha Latte’s. I basically judge coffee shops based off their Mocha’s. It’s my measurable way of having a ranking system. I think one of my favorite reasons for going to Groundwork Common is that their flavoring with the Mocha is consistent. I’ve frequented other coffee shops in my time & sometimes the consistency changes upon who the barista is that day. I’ve noticed, upon being mesmerized by the drink crafting process, that GWC meticulously measures and carefully weighs their syrups or ingredients when pouring a beverage. Their espresso is smooth, and in my opinion, does not have a bitter after taste like I have experienced elsewhere.

Need a place to sit and relax? Looking for a place that’s got a zen-like atmosphere to answer some e-mails? On the hunt for a location that you can sip away your stress? Look no further than Groundwork Common. Honestly, who ever chose their furniture and decor is going to be getting a personal call from me soon because mi casa needs some love, pronto. I would live in GWC if they would let me. I feel so at peace shortly after I enter their store, and the feeling lasts long after my final sip. Sometimes, if I’m feeling squirrelly, I’ll bring my little dude up there with me for a hot chocolate. Of course, he almost always knocks it on the ground and creates a scene (terrible three’s are so much fun), but the staff are always so understanding and friendly. They have never made me feel as though I’m an inconvenience, despite our clumsy ways. The next time you’re sitting on their comfy leather couch? The cool chocolate stain on their rug is from Theo. It’s barely there, thank goodness, but this Mama remembers. *palm to face*

They also now offer food!! I personally have only ever had their bakery items, like the above pictured banana chocolate chip bread which was (sorry, gotta say it) super moist. *shudders* I have craved it since my last time ordering it. It was a perfect pair with my Holiday Orange Mocha Latte. I can’t wait to go in and try some of the new food options at my next visit, but this last weekend I was only in the mood for my regular. I’ve been following them avidly on Instagram, and I think the next time I’m in there I’ll be trying the toast with strawberry chia jam and goat cheese. Does that not sound amazingly appetizing?! Well if not, crazy kids, they have various bowls, toasts and plates for anyones tastes buds. Honestly, I look forward to trying them all. All the ingredients are locally sourced, even their milk in their drinks! That’s just a win-win for me. Other items I’ve tried and can vouch for is the Cold Brew and the Maple Butter Latte. Their Cold Brew is a refreshing iced beverage that I prefer for an afternoon pick-me-up that is just sweet enough for my liking. I can also attest to their Maple Butter Latte. In fact, it’s always an internal battle for which one I’ll order when trying to make a selection between that and the Mocha. I would say it’s a good 50/50 for the frequency of which I decide upon. Either way, I don’t feel you’d be disappointed. In fact, I think you’ll find yourself in my predicament: hooked. So, the next time you find yourself making your gozillionth-and-one trip down Church Street? Stop in at Groundwork Common, and let them work their coffee magic.

Side Note & Ordering Hack: Cloosiv. This was a game changer for me! Sometimes as a busy Mama with three jobs and umpteen hobbies, I just don’t have time to sit in a relaxed atmosphere and soak up the espresso aroma. Boo. I forget how I stumbled upon this little nugget of golden information, probably somewhere in social media land… but Cloosiv is an app specifically for local coffee shops & online ordering. It’s super simple, just click on this link & download the app. I believe there’s a first coffee credit you receive for downloading, but don’t quote me on that. All I know is, when I’m in a hurry and need to order-pick up-run? This is my saving grace. After ordering online & paying through Apple Pay (or whatever you set up), you just run inside and they’ll have it waiting on you! No lines, no fuss, no gimmicks. Just coffee, and fast. Can I get a hallelujah!!!! Mmmm.

Thank you Groundwork Common for your dedication to our community, and for serving some of the best coffee I’ve ever had grace my lips. A trip to your establishment is never time wasted, and I will always look forward to my next visit.

Southern Strain Brewing Company

Dear Southern Strain, let me list the ways that I love thee:

Amazing drinks, memorable times with friends, fantastic live music on the regular?

S O L D .

In fact, I think I can blame, er… give credit to Southern Strain for my newfound love of sours. I’ve heard of people either loving or hating a “sour” beer, and I’ve tried a many in other breweries. Honestly? I’m not much of a beer drinker. Shocker? I’m a margarita, mimosa or wine lover. Not a shocker? #basic. I must say though that when I heard Southern Strain had a beer on their list named after one of my favorite local sodas, Cherry Lemon, I had to try it. I think the majority of Concord had to try it. Their information from the website for the Cherry Lemon is as follows:

“A nod to a local classic, this mixed fermentation sour ale uses copious amount of Montmorency Red Tart cherries along with lemon and orange zest. Fermented with Voss Kveik to emphasize the cherry flavor.”

Translation? It’s a glass of O-M-yum. It’s because of this sour beer that I decided to become more aware of sours, rather than just drinking them all willy-nilly-like, and have in turn become quite the sour snob. You can read about my husbands and my trip to Nantahala Brewing and Bryson City Outdoors in the blog post about Bryson City, and how there I tried almost ever sour beer I could get my paws on. I’m a sour beer believer and I blame Southern Strain and their Cherry Lemon. I think, or at least my justification for, I enjoy sours more so than the “hoppy” sort is because I’m so used to drinking more tart-like drinks (hint the margs or the mimosas). So if you’re at a brewery one evening, especially Southern Strain, and you’re not sure what to order because you’re typically a mixed-drink type of person? I feel like a sour option is a good bet. At 4.5% ABV, it’s not something that’ll hit you too hard (unless you drink them as quickly as I do…. and, well, if you’re a light weight like me).

I’ve tried other beers at Southern Strain, also. Like I said before, I’m not exactly a “beer drinker” so I’m probably not the girl who should be writing a review on the beer itself. BUT, I can say that the O.K. Lunch, Mello Morning, & Hop Helix are also ones that I could easily drink if they just so happen to be out of Cherry Lemon. Now, please don’t beat me up if I’m totally wrong on any of this. Especially if you actually know what you’re talking about when it comes to talking-ale. I’m just giving you MY review on the drinks through my eyes and taste buds. Shake ya heads, if ya wanna. I would compare the O.K. Lunch to a light beer, like a Bud Light. So if that’s your go-to on a night out, that’s one that I think you’d enjoy. My husbands favorite is one that they don’t actually offer anymore, the Double Hop Helix, but he seconds and favors the Hop Helix. You know, because of its hoppy-IPA-ness. I have tried it and, yes, I do like it… but at 7% ABV? This Mama wasn’t ready. Which means I really wasn’t ready for the Mello Morning, coming in at 7.5% ABV, but the coffee after taste on that was so smooth and easy to drink. I kind of wanted a Bojangles biscuit after sipping on that for a little while, and I couldn’t even tell you why. I guess it just reminded me of a good southern breakfast, and Bojangles is my hangover cure. I’ve given up the Bojangles on HWY 601/ HWY 49, and if you live in this area: YOU. KNOW. WHY. That’s just a side note, though. Carrying on.

Any hoo. Speaking of food? Southern Strain now offers their patrons “next level” bites. “Hot Box Next Level Kitchen” is literally just a hole in the wall inside the brewery, but is nothing small in regards to flavor. I personally recommend the Risotto Fritters. I’ll admit, I’m a little bit of a deep fried foodie. Ok, a lotta bit. One of my favorite seasons? Fair season. Yes, you will catch me standing in that Summer heat, in those long lines and paying admission fees just to get an overpriced corndog and deep fried Oreos. Y’know what? Happy as a lark. That’s besides the point. Hot Box is more than deep fried goodness, but I didn’t have to read much further down on the menu when I saw “fritter”. It’s literally the first thing on the menu, too, y’all. It ain’t always easy being this easy, ya feel me?

Photo by Alexis Hannah Photography

Southern Strain is not only a great idea for beers and yummy bites, but I absolutely love their set up. The way they re-did the space? One word. Beautiful. Whether you’re inside the Taproom, near the machines where the beer making goes down, outside on the pet friendly patio under the strands of lights, or even the bathrooms?? You’ll notice that every inch of the space was thought about, cared for, and brought back to life. I think my favorite feature is the bright blue glass-mosaic backdrop at the bar. We hear that it’s repurposed from glass that was strewn about on the ground when they first began bringing Southern Strain to life. How cool is that?! They could have tossed it, but they found a purpose for it. They used what they had and from that they birthed sophistication, uniqueness, and brilliance. Slow clap and standing ovation to this new local spot. I look forward to many more evenings and celebrations spent here and, of course, I look forward to my next glass of Cherry Lemon. Cheers!

Photo by Alexis Hannah Photography

So, dear fellow Concordians: this is my review of these three outstanding local places. Granted, I didn’t try everything on their full menus nor did I know all the ins and outs of their business; however, this is my experience and my choices that I would fully recommend to you to try!! Feel free to make your way to try them out for yourself, and let me know how it goes!! Maybe you have tried something there that you would recommend to me to try! That’d be awesome! Just leave us a message or comment below your suggestions from these places, or heck, any place around town!! As a matter of fact, any place at all! We travel!!

Raise your glass, y’all, even if its from your bubble baths!
Seriously? We have one cool city.

Get out there, shop small & support those big dreamin’ friends of ours!

With Love,

Some photo’s taken in this post were the amazing work of Alexis Hannah Photography. Click here for more information on her work, pricing, and ways to reach her for your family photography needs.

Local Favorites

2 Gals Kitchen & Catering

80 Union Street South Concord, NC 28025

Check them out here: https://www.2galskitchen.com

Review written January 2020 based on experiences from 2018-2019 as a loyal customer.

I cannot stress this enough… get up, right now, and go get you some Tarragon Chicken Salad from 2 Gals Kitchen in Downtown Concord, NC. Now. I order this stuff by the quart and it is G-O-N-E in 24 hours. Maybe I have a problem, I’m brave enough to admit that out loud, BUT YOU GUYS. You will understand my obsession once you go give it a try for yourself.

Ok, ok, let me back up just a little bit now that I’ve gotten that out of my system (whew). It was a no-brainer for me to spot light this absolutely adorable restaurant in my very first post under “Local Favorites.” Yes, partly because I am over-the-top in love with the food but also because the owners Mary & Belinda are among some of the most amazing women I’ve come to know and adore. Their customer service is impeccable, and their hearts are just some of the kindest and more sincere you’ll ever meet.

Our relationship started a few years ago when my husband and I were searching for a catering company for our wedding. We knew we wanted to support local, and we knew we wanted a sandwich bar. The theme of a sandwich bar really spoke to who Curtis & I are as a couple, we legitimately eat sandwiches at least 4 nights out of 7. Then there’s always taco night and that’s basically a sandwich if you think about it. Sandwiches were one of the details from planning our wedding that we both immediately could agree on. Boom. Easy. We sat down with a couple contenders, all of which were sublime (none of the local places around Concord disappointed), but from the moment we sat down with these two incredible women… We just knew! We didn’t have to explain the oddity of wanting a more casual dining option, they totally got it. Mary & Belinda took the idea and ran with it in the best way possible. Here, see for yourself… our wedding photographer really snapped some beautiful photos of their set up:

Every single person at our wedding reception RAVED at how much they loved the simplicity of a sandwich bar, and how wonderfully yum the food was. I wanted our guests to be able to create what their hearts desired but I didn’t want to lose out on the finesse and style that a wedding calls for. 2 Gals made sure it was a good mixture of comfort and beauty. Yes, I said beauty. Sandwiches are beautiful, people. If you disagree with me, this is not your blogger to hang with. If we had to plan it all over? We’d choose to work with 2 Gals Kitchen & Catering again and again, hands down, every time.

My Bridal Shower in July 2019 at 2 Gals Kitchen with all my bridesmaids.

2 Gals Kitchen was also the home for my Bridal Shower back in July of 2019. Mary & Belinda so graciously accepted my request to host it in their beautiful space, and it was perfect for the occasion. The artsy atmosphere and dreamy decor was absolutely dreamy and was everything I had really ever imagined (as cheesy as that sounds, it’s so true). I actually remember sitting down with Mary & Belinda at the restaurant for our wedding catering discussion and I struggled to focus the entire time. I could not stop thinking the whole time about how ideal their space would be for a Bridal Shower event. So, with that being said, if you need a space for your next event DEFINITELY reach out to 2 Gals, you honestly will not be disappointed. Their service, their food, the restaurant atmosphere: the whole package.

Momma & I in front of my non-traditional cake at my bridal shower.

Whether you’re in the mood for a hand crafted and well built sandwich or burger, homemade fries, crab pasta, mouth watering desserts or an adult beverage… 2 Gals Kitchen in Downtown Concord, NC has it all. Definitely check them out in person (duh) or check out their Facebook page for the latest news and hours:

Tell them Katie sent ya, and order the chicken salad and fries. Follow it up with some creme brûlée & *muah*… You’re welcome.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started