Garden State Love

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Two LOVES for Jersey.


First of all – Wawa.  Amazing. I used to be a self-proclaimed Sheetz lover, but I have firmly switched camp and now pledge my undying devotion to Wawa (they’re both competing gas stations up in the northeast).  I hesitate to even call Wawa a ‘gas station’ because it’s more like a mecca of awesomeness.  I went back twice today for coffee.  So much coffee.


And decent food, too!


Are you Team Sheetz or Team Wawa?  Or Team 7-11? 


Second item on the LOVE LIST today:  Egg Harbor Township High School.  I spoke about Operation Beautiful to two assemblies this morning… and seriously, the school blew me away.  I’m not kidding when I say that today was in my Top Ten Best Days Ever.


Why was today so great?  Well, Egg Harbor has their very own Operation Beautiful club, started by the Spanish teacher, Vanessa, and her two teacher friends, Sara and Lauren.  Vanessa was headed out on a camping trip last year when she popped into the bookseller and randomly came across a copy of my first book, Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One-Post It Note at a Time.  She thought, “Hmm, maybe my students will like this idea,” and returned to the school to eventually mobilize a group of sixty students.  They call themselves the Operation Beautiful butterflies (well, the guy members are ‘caterpillars’).


The group meets twice a week for an hour each time, and they do a variety of things.  They watch and discuss movies and music videos, volunteer at nursing homes, participate in walks and parades, and – of course – write a lot of Operation Beautiful notes. I literally saw THOUSANDS of notes scattered throughout the school, and they weren’t up just because I was visiting – they were duct-taped to the walls.  Little messages of joy and hope, all over the school.  The principal and the rest of the staff are very supportive.



Vanessa is, truly, one of the most awesome people that I have ever met.  She runs the club with zero funding (budget cuts), pays for a lot of the supplies out of her own pocket, and spends her evenings and weekends (for free) working the students.  Many of her butterflies told me that Vanessa is their light, their rock, the one person that they can count on.  Vanessa is so energetic, genuine, and kind.  I wish every single high school student had a teacher like Vanessa (and Sara and Lauren, who are equally wonderful).


YAY TEACHERS.  If you’re a teacher and you’re reading this, I love you, too!


By the time we finished touring the school, I was feeling rather overwhelmed by the group’s support of Operation Beautiful.  I burst into happy tears when I entered the auditorium.


They even thought to leave me notes at the edge of the stage in case I needed a little boost mid-presentation. Winking smile


After the event was over, I went out with the teachers for lunch.  We had a bangin’ meal and laughed and laughed.  I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time – good times!


In the evening, I spoke at the nearby Stockton College. I love speaking at middle and high schools, but they rarely have the budget to bring me out.  So if a nearby college agrees to bring me out, I speak at the middle or high school for free. 


Three events in one day was pretty exhausting.  It was a happy kind of exhaustion, but still – major yawns.


So that’s two big LOVES for Jersey.  Here’s a BOO.  I somehow managed to book some of the creepiest hotel rooms in the entire state for both nights of the trip.  My last one had a frosted mirror above the bed (I was scared it was a two-way mirror and got undressed and dressed in the dark).  This one has cigarette-smelly towels.  I kind of want to sleep in all my clothes to minimize body-to-sheet contact. 


Well – I better hit the (creepy) bed.  Two more presentations tomorrow.  I hope you are having a LOVE-worthy day, too.



  • Ashley Y March 21, 2013, 10:50 pm

    Team Sheetz! I definitely think they are superior to Wawa, and they just keep improving every year. Have you ever been to the original Sheetz store in Altoona? It is quite impressive (or at least it was 6 years ago when I was last there).

    • Caitlin March 21, 2013, 11:24 pm

      Yes! My BFF is from Altoona 😉

  • Katie Moore March 21, 2013, 11:05 pm

    That gas station looks amazing!

  • Caitlin March 21, 2013, 11:23 pm

    That’s awesome Caitlin! I’m so happy to see your vision spreading like wildfire! I hope it takes over the world soon.

  • Emma March 21, 2013, 11:41 pm

    This is completely unrelated to this post, but I just wanted to share this article with you- it seemed like something you would be interested in.

    And thanks for the teacher love! 🙂

  • Deanne March 21, 2013, 11:51 pm

    I stayed at a hotel in Golden BC while on bacation with my mom, grandma and sister that was really creepy. When my sister and I were exploring the room we found a door in the back. When we opened it we found a little kitchen like area (no stove just sink and counters) and it was filled with pop cans. No joke the floor, counters, everything was covered a foot or so deep. There was another door on the other side of the pop can room but we didn’t dare climb over everything to find out where that went. Also been to a creepy hotels in North Bend Washington and Medicine Hat Alberta. So gross.

  • Emily@2:DESIGN:CENTS March 21, 2013, 11:55 pm

    I love that Vanessa started an Operation Beautiful “Club”, do you encourage that? I read about it sporadically through this blog, but I think Operation Beautriul defined into an actual club setting/program at schools, (or even at YMCAs) is a fantastic idea…

  • Hilary March 22, 2013, 12:04 am

    That’s creepy about the bed. that’s why I want to start bringing my own sheets when I go to hotels. there are way too many bed bugs and cases of scabies out there.

  • Sarahf March 22, 2013, 12:31 am

    I have to send this to my brother, we have a standing family joke about Wawa. When he visited me in Japan last year, he told my friends about it, and they thought the name was hilarious. Last week, I went to visit him in Delaware, and Wawa was at the top of my list of things to do (along with Target and Trader Joes…. maybe my holiday plans are odd… but oh, so fun!). I LOVED it, the sandwich order on a touch screen had me mesmerised (we have touch screen ordering for sushi in Japan, but not sandwiches with their endless choices, I was like a small child pushing all the buttons!). And all the differnt lunch choices, so good! So, yeah, I’m little bit of a Wawa fan…
    It’s so great that you make time to go to middle schools, you’re making such a difference to young peoples’ lives, even if the schools’ budget can’t stretch to pay you.

  • Colleen @ Wide Eyes Quick Feet March 22, 2013, 1:39 am

    I’m so jealous of you North Easterners and your Wawa coffee. My only option for gas station coffee is 7-11 (bleh!) so I just skip it.

  • Becky March 22, 2013, 1:48 am

    Our high school students need the Operation Beautiful philosophy so desperately! Those teachers sound amazing. Fantastic of you to let the high school piggy back the colleges, the budgets are so tight now. Cudos to the students encouraging one another!

  • Laura March 22, 2013, 1:49 am

    That made me tear up…so sweet! Students like that give me hope for the future :).

    And ugh, the frosted mirror thing is super creepy. I don’t think you were overreacting at all!

  • Shannon Baker March 22, 2013, 3:15 am

    That is really awesome! It is great to see teachers take initiative like that to impact students lives so positively despite facing such hard economic times. Truly inspiring 🙂

  • Mary March 22, 2013, 3:52 am

    This is amazing! I love that Operation Beautiful has had such a big impact on so many students and that they wanted to show you this. I would have been in tears the entire time!

  • Emily March 22, 2013, 5:45 am

    As a “Yinzer,” I’m Team Sheetz all the way! Who can take a store that’s called “WaWa” seriously?

    That is so wonderful to hear about Operation Beautiful alive and well at a high school! I’m student teaching at a high school right now, but somehow it never occurred to me to tell my students about Operation Beautiful. I hear so many of them, guys AND girls, saying some pretty depreciating things about themselves. Once I find a job, I’ll have to take a page out of Vanessa’s book!

  • Jessica R @ From the Kitchen to the Road March 22, 2013, 7:08 am

    What you are doing with Operation Beautiful sounds fantastic.

  • Caitlin March 22, 2013, 7:09 am

    Creepy hotels are the WORST!!

    We stayed at a hotel in KY and it smelled like cat pee + cigarettes. Awful! When I stay places like that I won’t let me feet ever touch the floor and I want to be wrapped in plastic- I’m not a typical germ freak but I quickly become one.

  • Andrea March 22, 2013, 7:46 am

    Team Wawa all the way! I heart Wawa’s subs and stuffed pretzels.

  • Shari March 22, 2013, 7:50 am

    Wawa all the way! My all-time favorite is their chocolate-banana smoothie.

  • Hope @ With A Side Of Hope March 22, 2013, 7:52 am

    Wawa is the best! I seriously don’t know how I could survive without it. It’s been a staple of my childhood. I really love when they have their coffee specials, $1 for any size! 🙂

  • Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health March 22, 2013, 7:55 am

    That is soooooo amazing! You should be super proud of yourself <3

  • Candice March 22, 2013, 8:14 am

    Wawa 100%!!!!! I used to live in Philly and now live in Ohio where there’s no Wawa’s. Besides family and friends obviously, Wawa is what I’m most homesick for. Whenever we go to Philly to visit, I get coffee about 100 times a day. My husband gets so sick of me stopping at Wawa… lol…

  • Melanie March 22, 2013, 8:20 am

    I LOVE WAWA!!! We only have a couple here in the DC area so I try to stop at one when I am driving out in the ‘burbs. My husband is from Philly so we’ve been to a bunch of Wawa’s in that area too. Good food, snacks and cheaper gas!!

    So glad you had such an awesome day! That high school is pretty amazing!!

    Hey by the way I have a 4 month old named Henry too! Have really enjoyed reading about your updates about Henry and motherhood. This is my first too and it is quite an adventure! I am still trying to find my way back to the gym but I am determined to get there and lose these 15 lbs hanging on….

    Travel safely!!


  • Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie March 22, 2013, 8:28 am

    Team Wawa all the way! There’s really no comparison. Now I’m thinking about their egg salad sandwich. Mmm.

  • Sara March 22, 2013, 8:34 am

    Yes! Wawa is amazing, so is Philly. I try to tell people of the greatness that comes out of Wawa, and no one believes me. I describe it as a 7-Eleven on steroids. Whats actually really really cool about Wawa they only use local farmers, that’s why there are only Wawa in New Jersey & the Philadelphia area.

  • Kristen March 22, 2013, 8:38 am

    Team WAWA all the way!!! I grew up in Ohio – Sheetz only. So I was all about Sheetz when I moved to Philadelphia 4 years ago. But it doesn’t take long for Wawa to win you over. It’s awesome! And their coffee is totally addicting! I’m back in Ohio now and I seriously need a Wawa fix . . .

  • Meghan @ Rhymes with Dots March 22, 2013, 8:39 am

    Team QuikTrip all the way! Where my QT fans at, hollllllla?

    • Brigid March 22, 2013, 2:55 pm

      Holla! QT is headquartered in my hometown. I miss them out in LA.

      • Nikole March 22, 2013, 8:23 pm

        Love QuikTrip! I go out of my way. They have the best crushed ice.

  • Lisa March 22, 2013, 8:40 am

    Team Wawa! This post made me tear up too. That’s amazing! 🙂

  • Elizabeth @ Positive Change March 22, 2013, 8:50 am

    That is amazing. Made me happy just reading your post! (Sheetz all the way!)

  • JuJu March 22, 2013, 8:55 am

    So happy to hear of the school program, that sounds amazing and its great the so many young adults are supporting each other in their school!
    In addition…WaWa is AMAZING…when I lived out west for 4 years I would honestly talk about it daily..the pumpkin coffee! The hoagies!!!

  • Abby March 22, 2013, 9:03 am

    Team Sheetz all the way! Sounds like an absolutely amazing day- congratulations! 🙂 Those kids are so lucky to have all of that happy energy at their high school.

  • Lauren March 22, 2013, 9:08 am

    I went to EHTHS!!! You’re in my hood!

  • Mrs Type A March 22, 2013, 9:14 am

    Um. Wawa is heaven. I grew up outside of Philly in Delaware and going to Wawa was a daily occurrence. Turkey hoagies. Tastykakes. Coffee. It’s all amazing!!!! I miss it so much living in NC.

  • Julia March 22, 2013, 9:16 am

    Team Wawa all the way! I grew up not far from Egg Harbor Township, so it’s really cool seeing that you presented there!

  • Tori March 22, 2013, 9:18 am

    As a Texas resident, I have to vouch for Buc-ee’s! They are HUGE! One location is actually the largest gas station in the world!

    • Jennifer March 22, 2013, 1:31 pm

      I was just thinking, “I wonder how these places compare to Buc-ee’s!”

  • Katie March 22, 2013, 9:22 am

    This post gave me goosebumps! Those girls are spreading some serious love with all your inspiration!

    We are team Wawa at my house! My husband is ADDICTED to Wawa- for birthdays and Christmas all he ever asks for are Wawa giftcards!

    Keep spreading the love and inspiration you are awesome!

  • Kristi March 22, 2013, 9:30 am

    I’ve done a lot of international budget travel- 6 weeks in Peru, lived 2 years in Central America, and 3 months backpacking in South America. So I’ve stayed in my fair share of creepy, cheap, not all that clean hotels/hostels! One tip is to take a full/double size top sheet, fold it in half, and sew up the open side 3|4 of the way – the result is a lightweight sleeping bag. You can use this under hotel covers or if you have packing room bring your own blanket and sleep on top of hotel sheets. I also always travel with a Thermarest stuff pillow. Its soft on one side and smushes down really small and of course can be washed. Seeing new places is fun but unless you can afford fancy hotels the sleeping in a stange bed thing gets pretty old!

  • Carly March 22, 2013, 9:32 am

    Wawa is awesome. Almost as awesome as Quick Check.

    But both are far better than 7-11. And I’ve never gotten the Sheetz love.

  • Melissa March 22, 2013, 9:43 am

    This Jersey girl is Team Wawa for sure. We used to hang out at the wawa in high school, before I discovered the magic of their coffee. But the sandwiches were and are the best! It’s no gas station… it’s a m*therf*n destination! (whoa is my Jersey showing or what?!)

  • Lauren March 22, 2013, 9:45 am

    Love them both! I live in NYC, and 7-elevens are just starting to pop up everywhere (there used to only be two or three in the whole city) so i take what i can get, but i LOVE Sheetz and Wawa. I went to Penn State, so Wawa was always on the drive out, and Sheetz is what we had near campus… Sheetz has better prices, Wawa has better coffee and sandwiches- but they’re both great! More places should offer the awesomeness that is touch screen ordering.

  • Jacquelyn @ justjacq March 22, 2013, 9:46 am

    Hey you’re near me… well kind of! Jersey is a little scary at times… should have stayed in PA 😉
    Oh, and definitely a Wawa fan. We don’t even have Sheetz near me. In my parts we call the Wawas with gas stations Super Wawas. And my favorite thing at Wawa? Their french vanilla creamer. I buy that stuff like woah. And in my opinion their coffee is far superior to Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Starbucks, and anywhere else people get less superior coffee.

  • Ashlee@HisnHers March 22, 2013, 9:51 am

    My hubby and I are both Texans – born & raised – but when we travel we argue over those 2 gast stations! haha. Im die hard Wawa and he’s die hard Sheetz. He even has a Sheetz tshirt that he sports around 🙂 Here in Texas it’s Race Trac all the way!

  • Coco March 22, 2013, 10:03 am

    Wawa is the besssst! I live in the Baltimore area, and when one opened downtown right by work, I spent so much money there…worth it though haha!

  • Liz March 22, 2013, 10:04 am should be your best friend. I NEVER stay at a hotel without reading the reviews first and I always leave reviews after. I hate crappy hotels and they are totally a waste of money. Check it out next time before you make a reservation.

  • Sara March 22, 2013, 10:14 am

    Loved hearing about the presentation and school. How heartwarming! I think I like Sheetz best. But we have more Wawas near me than Sheetz. I can’t believe that Wawa has that many coffee urns! WOW!

  • Claire March 22, 2013, 10:19 am

    Caitlin, this is awesome! You are spreading such an incredible message, and you should feel so proud. This post brought tears to my eyes. You are an inspiration to so many people including me.

  • Emily March 22, 2013, 10:19 am

    Team Sheetz all the way! My bff is from Philly (I’m in Pgh), so we constantly argue over this. I will admit that I finally liked a WaWa trip over the summer, but Sheetz still wins for me.

    Those post it’s on the stage are SO cute…what a sweet idea! Hope your next two go as well as these two did.

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed March 22, 2013, 10:46 am

    Yes, Wawa for life!!!! Hehe. Sounds like an awesome trip (minus the hotel)!

  • Rebecca March 22, 2013, 10:53 am

    Never heard of either of those gas stations. (Well, 7-11 I know of.) Must be an East-Coast thing? Out here it’s Casey’s and Super America and some others. One of ours is my-hometown-specific, actually–a local guy started his own car wash a bazillion years ago and as far as I know it’s only in my hometown. Come to think of it, there’s a restaurant and a coffee shop in my hometown that are specific to my hometown, too… Guess we’re special. 😛

    So cool that OpB is having such an impact like that!

  • Katie March 22, 2013, 10:56 am

    My family is in the gas station business, so I totally understand the “team” mentality. Some stores just feel better than others! I’ve heard of Sheetz but haven’t been, I’ll need to go on a road trip and find a wawa, that food looks awesome!!!

  • Andrea March 22, 2013, 11:07 am

    I grew up in Jersey. Wawa is the BEST! When I go home to visit my family, I always make them stop on the way home from the airport. The iced coffee and the hoagies are my favorite.

  • Joy March 22, 2013, 11:11 am

    Your post gave me the goosebumps! I’m so happy to hear that your Operation Beautiful message inspired those teachers and to have a club with that many members is amazing. I love, love, love the fact that they left messages for you on the edge of the stage. Those are some caring kids!

    Sorry about your hotel stays…that sounds just awful. I’m sure your own bed will be that much more welcoming when you get home.

  • Natalie @fitjamericangirl March 22, 2013, 11:54 am

    Team WaWa! I’m a New York transplant living in Maryland and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a WaWa. I am so impressed by the sandwiches and the coffee selection, and I’m a picky, jaded New Yorker. LOL.
    I also really want to commend you on your practice of speaking at the grade schools for free when the local college brings you out. That is very altruistic of you, because I know these public schools especially are struggling.

  • Kim March 22, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Yay for the nice shout out for Vanessa and teachers. I’m a teacher and it is a joy, but a challenge to help students shine through the awkward middle school years.

    P.S. I’m Team Casey’s. I think that is just a Midwest thing.

  • J March 22, 2013, 12:19 pm

    This post put tears in my eyes. Vanessa seems like a truely awesome person. Her students are blessed.

  • Elisabeth March 22, 2013, 1:06 pm

    This post seriously has me tearing up! Those students, teachers and whole school sound like a seriously great group of people 😀

  • Rebekah at Another World is Probable. March 22, 2013, 1:20 pm

    This could be because I am so freaking tired but I’m seriously TEARING UP reading this. I find it so incredibly sweet and heartwarming how your book touched someone else who then created their own thing and it came full circle with you coming to speak with them. *sniff*

  • Regina March 22, 2013, 3:00 pm

    Team Wawa all the way! I grew up in Maryland, with wawas and no sheetz but once my parents moved to South Carolina I’d stop by sheetz while in between. Wawa has some of the best coffee I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting at a gas station. And their breakfast sandwiches are to die for!

  • Jennifer March 22, 2013, 6:06 pm

    You were right near me!! You didn’t stay in a hotel on the White Horse Pike (rt. 30) by any chance did you? Lotsa creepy ones there. That’s too bad cause there are some nicer ones in the area. So glad you do the freebie for the high school students. I would think that age group needs the OB message just as much (if not more) than the college kids.

  • Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} March 22, 2013, 8:28 pm

    I have to say SHEETZ! You are doing amazing work and making a huge impression on so many people. I have the utmost respect for teachers who obviously love their jobs as well.

  • Amber K March 22, 2013, 9:21 pm

    There are no Sheetz or Wawa’s near me, but I’d also never be Team 7-11. Any gas station/convenience store (whether it is 7-11 or AM/PM or some random one) here is always full of homeless people and/or shady people that cause me to hold my purse tightly. Thus…why I never go to any! Besides the fact that whatever they have to offer is like triple the price of a grocery store.

  • Tiff March 22, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Omg I graduated from Stockton last year!!! Hope u had a great visit!! Wish u spoke there while I was still there! Enjoy jersey 🙂

  • Andrea March 22, 2013, 9:33 pm

    I’m a teacher in New Jersey, I was born and raised near Altoona, PA, AND my dad works for Sheetz, so this is by far my favorite post!!! I will always love Sheetz! I have fond memories of late night runs to Sheetz, their MTOs, and delicious coffee!!

    Also, Glen Rock is the town closest to my school district too! So crazy! Sounds like you had a great visit! Thanks for the teacher love. We appreciate it!

  • Cait March 23, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Wawa is my favorite!! I go to Sheetz too..but Wawa wins!

  • Cassidy March 23, 2013, 3:26 pm

    No way! Sheetz for life! 🙂

  • Vicki March 23, 2013, 4:36 pm

    Team Wawa!!!

  • Steph @321delish March 23, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Whoot! Yeah for South Jersey!! It’s fun to read about your trip to my part of the state (though I live in Florida now)! I have friends who went to Stockton and EHT was a rival high school:)

    I’m totally a Wawa girl and can hardly wait til the construction is over on the one up the street from here!!

  • LSandoe @ The Bright Side March 23, 2013, 10:02 pm

    Oh my goodness I’m a Spanish Teacher too, and I’ve seriously considered starting an Operation Beautiful club 🙂
    How inspiring!

    • Caitlin March 24, 2013, 8:15 am

      Email me if you wanna talk it out!

  • Kathy March 23, 2013, 10:52 pm

    Frosted two way mirror for sure! I once stayed at a hostel in Ireland where they locked us in the room for the night and a hotel in Costa Roca where we last for all of 5 minutes on the prison grade cots until my friend saw something large skitter across the floor and we beat it to the luxury of the Best Western.
    Those teachers sound like the best!

  • Michele March 24, 2013, 4:51 pm

    Yikes, those hotels sound creepy! Always, always always read the Trip Advisor review for hotels before you book them!!! I wonder how long Wawa has been around? I was born and lived in NJ years ago and have never heard of it. I hate all convenience stores and try never to go to any unless I absolutely have to!

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