New York State of Mind

“New York is a diamond iceberg floating in river water.” ~ Truman Capote

As is sit on my back patio soaking in a lazy Saturday morning…a moment I have no business slowing down to relish or ponder…I cannot help but think about where I was a week ago. When I put the hectic schedule on hold, let my to-do list sit idle, and just basked in the moment. Soaking in every nuance of a city that touched my soul in a way that I never expected.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep passion for the city of Charleston, S.C. There is something about her that resides in the depth of my soul…she has gripped me and her spirit mingles beautifully with mine. Yes, I am talking about a city. But Charleston is so much more…she speaks to me, refreshes me, gives my worn down self rest. I have to confess, last weekend I feel as though I was unfaithful to Charleston. I discovered that this indescribable feeling that lures me back to the Holy City is not reserved solely for her.

I can still hear it…the din of activity…taxi cabs mingled with the subway, combined with sirens, playing out a like a grand symphony. I was absolutely captivated by the fluidity of movement and the grandeur of bricks and mortar, steel and concrete, pavement and rail tracks springing to life with a vitality and vibrancy I didn’t even know existed.

“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” ~ Thomas Wolfe

From the moment the plane descended into La Guardia the excitement bubbled up in me. A glance at the skyline, a sighting of the Brooklyn Bridge. There is something so magical about New York City. It almost mythical, can a fairy tale really be set in a concrete jungle?!?! It’s as if the city has a life of its own, if gives off an energy like I have never before experienced and like a highly addictive drug I found myself wanting more.

From the lights on Broadway, to the grandeur of the Plaza hotel, the hustle of the city streets, and the serenity of Central Park. There were frantic walks to the theater and quiet strolls through TriBeCa. Art is everywhere…people are the art in New York. They play and they display…in formal institutions and in quiet, sleepy basement style jazz clubs in the West Village. In local restaurants you taste a flavor of the eclectic crowd that calls Gotham their home. Like vibrant colors on a canvas they create the beautiful masterpiece that I couldn’t help wanting to be a part of. I didn’t want to be a visitor, I wanted to be one of the charmed ones who understood the depth of all this city was because it was home. I felt like such a poser, such a tourist, in a place that seem to fit me like a glove.

“New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York, these streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you…” ~ Jay-Z (Empire State of Mind)

What happens when you have one dream for your life only to have it live out so completely different? As I melted into the frantic rush on the pavement an overwhelming feeling hit me…I was walking the steps of my girlhood dream. The culture, the elegance, the diversity, the activity, the power careers…this was my dream. I could see 18-year-old Nikki so clearly…so ambitious…so hungry to devour all that life had to offer. This is where she had imagined herself. I think she also saw herself married to John F. Kennedy Jr., just keeping it real. And as 40-year-old Nikki stood there she came face to face with her childhood dream meeting the reality of her life. First, let me say I hate people who talk about themselves in third person, so please feel free to make fun of me for doing just that. Second, don’t get too worried…this isn’t were I say “I’m living the wrong life and I’m leaving it all to pack up and move to NYC.” It’s okay, I know some of you were thinking it. Actually, after coming off the high of being in this very intoxicating city, I realize that New York, like Charleston has become one of the great loves of my life. How funny, because on paper Charleston and NYC are so very different yet they both speak to my soul. I predict that I will return to the city that never sleeps…often!!!! I want more of her and she has so much more to give. But she is not home.

“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

18-year-old Nikki hadn’t learned that valuable lesson yet…but she soon would. Home is not a place that seemingly fits like a glove or feeds a dream. Home is where love is. The beauty of age is reconciling what you desired with what matters. How much would I have missed had I followed my 18-year-old hearts desire? Had I not been derailed from chasing my ambition where would I be? This week I stood face to face with those very questions (maybe I had a mini mid-life crisis) and I have an answer…I don’t care!!! Now, I am all about transparency…that wasn’t my immediate conclusion…I had to reflect for a few days. But I choose not to live in the land of “what if?” How many people constantly look back at the paths not taken as failures to live the life that they dreamed? To what avail? Retrospect often opens the door for bitterness and discontentment to take root and it steals all the joy from the life we have been given.

We have been given this one life to live and sometimes the dream and the reality look quite different. That doesn’t mean the dream has died, it means a new dream has been born. I love that I get to go places like Charleston and New York City…places where my soul comes alive in new and fresh ways. But my heart will always be at home and home isn’t a place, home is where love resides. Where there is love there is contentment. Ahhhh…I am really loving the wisdom that comes with age. Did I just toot my own horn?!?! Possibly.

Contentment for me comes from a husband and soul mate who loves and respects me; My children that make me love deeper than I ever thought possible; friendships that champion me and love me regardless of my crazy; a family that is rooted in love and loyalty; a ministry that gives me more purpose than I ever thought was imaginable; and my God who loves me far beyond what I deserve and way beyond what I can comprehend. All the things that my 18-year-old self could have never understood, my 40-year-old self is humbly grateful for.

I guess you could say this homage to New York City is a long, drawn out thank you. How does one even thank a city? Maybe I’m the only weirdo who wants to know. Regardless, thank you for being everything I dreamed of and so much more. Thank you for allowing me to disconnect from reality and, for a brief moment, be a part of your colorful mosaic. You have reminded me that what is hidden in one’s soul is multifaceted and there are many layers. That excitement and elation can come from visiting places that touch your soul deeply but  true joy and contentment are always found at home.




My Golden

“Let yourself be seen. Love with your whole heart. Practice gratitude. Lean into joy. Believe you are enough.” ~ Brene Brown

It is the eve of my 4oth birthday and I find myself in a reflective mood. Over the last several days precious sisters in Christ have been showering me with love and thoughtful gifts that represent me and this milestone birthday. It has been a humbling and overwhelming experience that today left me in tears. Tears of feeling so undeserving and tears of gratitude that I get to call some of the most amazing ladies on the planet my friends. Tonight I sit back in awe as I reflect on just the last decade…not a single one of these ladies who have showered me with so much love have known me longer than 10 years. Yet, in the time since we have met these ladies have journeyed alongside me through my son’s autism, the death of my precious daughter, confessing my biggest fears and the road to conquering them, going back to school, and walking in the calling God has placed on my life. They have seen me on the mountain top and they have laid in bed beside me as I have wept. They have celebrated my victories and they held me up when the heartbreak brought me to my knees…sometimes all they could do is simply kneel beside me with a prayer on their lips and a soft soothing touch that remained until the wave of grief passed. They have championed me, encouraged me, challenged me to be stretched beyond my comfort zone, and they believed in me before I ever believed in myself. Some friendships have been years while others are newer but they are all precious in their own right. Over and over again each of these ladies have been the visible proof of my invisible God. They remind me that He is here…cheering me on…taking me places I never thought I could go. They say it takes a village to raise a child…well I say it takes a tribe to bring out the very best in us. The sisterhood in Christ is a strong and powerful force and I have been blessed with the most amazing sisters.

“The bread is so that you may never know hunger. The salt is so that your marriage will always have flavor. The wine is so you will always have something to celebrate.” ~ An Old Italian Wedding Blessing

This past weekend we celebrated my younger cousins marriage. I have to be honest, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is not fiction. Omit Greek, insert Italian and it’s a documentary of my family. Sure we live up to the stereotypes: we talk too loud and with our hands, we have a flair for the dramatic, we have hot tempers, and yes we really do believe that Italians do everything better. But take away the comedic value and the over-the-top stereotypes and what remains is a beautiful truth…growing up in an Italian family has always given me a sense of belonging to something special. We are a tribe that stretches far and wide.  I have cousins who aren’t my cousins at all and most of my nieces and nephews are actually my cousins kids. Many people don’t even have a relationship with their first cousins while I know and have relationships with my third and fourth cousins. My aunts and uncles have been just as influential in my life as my own parents and my grandparents were always the center of our family. The greatest part of being Italian is that you always have a ready made cheering section. Rooted in love we always have each others back. As a child you always fall naturally into the patterns you have always known and rarely question it. As you grow into adulthood you begin to realize that not every family is like yours. Many family’s don’t kiss hello and goodbye, most people don’t eat seafood only on Christmas eve, prosciutto and salami are not staples in every house, and most people don’t eat Sunday dinner at 1:00. All these things make us unique…we hang onto the traditions that followed my grandparents to the new world as they left their home country behind because it keeps their story alive. The legacy of the immigrant experience for Italians is a strong sense of loyalty and family and I was reminded once again this weekend how blessed I am that their story is a part of my story.

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”

As I turn the page to begin a new chapter of my life I can’t help but feeling like the best is yet to come.  God is stripping away all the things that have held me back from walking in the fullness of the life promised through His Son. I finally realize that I am a beautiful blend of my earthly family and my family in Christ. The two are meant to compliment each other. Like a symphony, they work together in perfect harmony so that I can become all that God has created me to be. Over the last several days I have been reminded that we are not meant to journey this road alone…that was never God’s design. He has strategically placed people in our lives to share our lives with. An earthly family bound together in love through a shared experience, history, and traditions and a family in Christ where we can celebrate all that makes us unique while knowing that we are bound together by the deepest love we will ever know, the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Months ago I started reading the book Brazen by Leeana Tankersley. The premise of the book is to find the you hidden deep inside your soul.I found myself identifying so much with the author. Maybe it was because as she wrote and I as I read we both found ourselves at the doorstep of 40…a turning point…or as Lenny Kravitz sings “old enough to see behind me but young enough to feel my soul.” Or maybe it was simply that my soul was just longing for me to slow down long enough to pay attention to its hidden desires.

It was one night as I was having what the author calls “Soul Time” that I discovered one chapter was ending and another was about to begin. The words flowed out of me and I closed my journal ready to embrace the new. Over the last several months I have thought about my late night “Soul Time” revelation but I never went back to read the words…until tonight.

Soul Time entry April 1, 2016

I sit at the dawn of a new era in my life. An era marked by the battle wounds and scars from times that have passed.

Sweet memories come with me and heartaches etched deep in the fabric of who I am becoming.

All things old have value in creating what will be…the new birth…the new life.

The old is woven with the new and the tapestry dances with the vibrancy of all the colors.

The contrast of the dark with the beauty of the light.

It all comes alive as God begins a new work in me.

The season of my golden begins…