Tuesday, December 31, 2013

the year-end blog analysis: 2013 ed.

Well, 2013. What is there to say, really? You were the best of times and the worst of times. I hate to think that all of the good parts will be forever overshadowed by the one bad thing, but I have a hunch that that's the way it'll go. In 40 years, when I try to think back and remember 2013, losing Ellison is probably the first thing that will jump into my head. But maybe if the internet still exists and I can track down my ol' blog, I'll poke around and remember that there was really a lot of good in 2013, too. That's the plan, anyway. 

I don't need to recap what happened this year-- it's all there in the archives. But I love analyzing my blog itself. What happened on the blog this year? Now that's good times, right? I used to do much more frequent posts and updates about the wealth of info that Google Analytics provides, but I actually don't think I've done one since last New Year's Eve-- a tragedy!!  But a tragedy I can work towards fixing today.

Between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 (at 9:20 a.m.), this blog had...
-87,207 visits (a 76% increase from 2012!)
-132,366 pageviews (a 96% increase from 2012!)
-an average visit duration of 1 minute and 54 seconds (that's over 30 seconds longer than in 2012...exciting!! You can deal with me for ALMOST TWO MINUTES at a time now!!! Doesn't this make you feel like Matt is a saint for living with me?)
-912 visits that lasted for more than 30 minutes-- these visitors get the 'quality time' award. (And don't worry, those of you fretting that you might be skewing the very important numbers here because you sometimes just leave the window open with my blog pulled up...Google is smart and it only counts your time for as long as you're 'actively engaged' with the page- clicking stuff, scrolling...it won't count your time if you leave the computer on my page for 2 hours while you take a nap!)

In terms of "Referrals"-- sites that send traffic my way...
(I'm not including feed readers this year, though the various readers together combine to make up the vast majority of my 'referrals.' But they're boring, so we'll skip them.)
*I'm including the number of visits and number of 'new visits' because that's really interesting to me. 'New visits' means it's the first time Google has recorded that person (IP address, really) ever coming here. If you return again, even via the same referring site, your visit gets recorded, but you're not a 'new visitor' anymore.

#1- Kelly's Korner; 7,005 visits; 44.9% new visits (which means that over half of these people return to the 'show us your life' link-up where they found me in the first place and continue navigating here via that post of hers. So interesting!!)
#2- Blogger; 6,859 visits; 8.78% new visits (this makes sense, since this means that over 90% of these visits are from people's Blogger dashboards...and the only way you got me to appear there was to have visited me at least once before and 'followed' or otherwise subscribed to my feeds. The other 9% must be from the 'next blog' button on the top of every Blogger blog.)
#3- Meet the Joiners; 6,582 visits; 7.41% new visits (this means that there are a couple very regular blog readers who only come here via my link on Amanda's page!)
#4- Facebook; 2,357 visits; 36.91% new visits (Facebook is a relative newcomer to my 'top referrers' list. I attribute this mostly to a few of my posts being shared and re-shared on FB, which brought in some modest new traffic.)
#5- E, Myself, and I; 2,209 visits; 18.29% new visits

-In all, there are 383 'referring sites.' That seems like a lot, but it's a little misleading because of the way Analytics breaks down the sites now. For instance, if the referring website was being viewed as a .ca or .uk (as opposed to .com), it counts it separately. So (for example) it has my referrals from Aubrey's blog, which I and most (all?) Americans view as www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.COM (except we wouldn't capitalize the COM, but it's there for emphasis), broken down into like 10 different things. There are thousands of referrals from the address I just wrote, but then a couple hundred more from www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.CA (I guess those are Canadian referrals), more from www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.AE (no clue), more from www.aubreyandnick.blogspot.DE (no idea)...and more and more and more. You get the idea. Even though Aubrey only has one blog and REALLY all of my referrals are all coming from that one place, it's broken down into at least 10 different sub-referrals and I'd have to pick through and add them all up to find out how many people Aubrey REALLY sent my way. Make sense? It's dumb. And this is for EVERY referring webpage, not just Aubrey's! So...that's why I know there aren't really 383 DIFFERENT referring sites. End of rant.

5,928 people found their way here by Googling something. 44.52% of those were first time visits.

There are 829 different words/phrases that people searched on that brought them here. Sadly, of the top 10, 1-9 are boring and predictable combinations of my name, 'matt y erika,' 'something beautiful,' and other normal things like that. However, we should definitely pause and look at #10:

"aly raisman boob job" brought 58 people here!!! HA!!! Obviously I wasn't the only person wondering about that situation during Dancing with the Stars last spring!! Sadly, it appears the 98% of those people didn't stick around and become repeat visitors. I guess I failed them since I didn't have the answers to that important question. Oh well.

My 10 most popular posts/pages, by number of pageviews:
-my homepage (78,780)
-Infertility (3,555)
-Chosen (2,712)
-About Me (1,928)
-Infertility Link-up...and some Serious Man Fashion (1,581)
-Devastating News (1,431)
-Two and a Half Days (1,019)
-A Christmas Grammar Intervention (985)
-The Money Tree (809)
-Wow. Just...wow. (743)

My personal favorite posts of 2013:
-the locusts
-o my soul
-today I woke up crying
-a Christmas grammar intervention

Other noteworthy blog milestones of 2013:
-I started creating reader surveys regarding any number of ridiculous topics. Those are some of my favorite posts!
-We had some lengthy discussions regarding blog-related topics, such as threaded commenting and blog Facebook pages. Normally there was no clear consensus that came out of these posts, but they were a lot of fun!
-I started a blog Facebook page. I kicked it off with Twelve Days of Ridiculous and Unnecessary Gift Ideas and that was loads of fun. 
-I got my first extremely hurtful anonymous comment. I seriously considered quitting blogging altogether for about a day. I've since decided not to, obviously, but I still feel panicky every single time I see an anonymous comment come in. 
-I was completely overwhelmed by the love, support, and kindness of the blogging community during the period of time surrounding our adoption match, birth of our daughter, and failure of the adoption. BLOWN AWAY. I couldn't (and can't) fathom the love and generosity that yall poured out on Matt and me. It has challenged and encouraged me to be a more generous and caring person myself, and that is my one goal (or 'resolution') for 2014: to pay forward the kindness that was extended to me during my hour(s) of need.

With that, I'll close the books on another year of blogging. It was a really good one, to be honest. I'm incredibly thankful for the friendships I've formed, for the soul sisters I've found, and for the opportunity to bring even a little bit of humor and silliness (and/or tears, depending on my mood) into your days. Thanks for everything...see ya next year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

going big

Before I start, we need to discuss the latest obnoxious issue Blogger is evidently having: the search widgets. Ummmm...they used to work. I'm talking about the little search box (on this particular blog it's on the left-hand sidebar and says "Search My Blog" above it) that used to be the HANDIEST THING EVER because if I were, say, wondering whether I'd already used a particular blog title before...or wanted to find the post where I showed my most embarrassing middle school pictures, but couldn't remember when I shared it or what the title was...well, it was so handy to just type in a few words in the box, hit 'enter,' and VOILA-- Google magic once again gives me exactly what I'm looking for. Or well...it used to. For the last few weeks it hasn't been working. Not mine. Not yours. I mean, probably not yours. I've made a point to test it out whenever I see another blogger using the same (standard-issue, not fancy) widget. None of them are working. Anyone know why or if there's another one I can get in its place? Because I'm fairly dependent on it and rather panicking that I've already used the title 'going big' before and HOW CAN LIFE GO ON IF I HAVE TWO POSTS WITH THE SAME TITLE??! Exactly. I'm glad you understand the seriousness of the situation here.

So I've probably mentioned this before, but I can't exactly tell you when or where *ahem*, but I seriously lack self-control when it comes to my birthday and Christmas money. I'm a great budgeter and responsible spender of income. I'm a reckless teenager when I get an unearned dime in my paws. It's just who I am and I'm mostly okay with it at this point in my life. However, the fact remains that since my birthday and Christmas are so close together, this means I go all year long being Fiscally Responsible Erika and then I have this two week SPEND ALL THE MONIES!!!! orgy in late December. So guess what this past weekend was??

(I should note that Matt still has Christmas money from LAST CHRISTMAS. And it's not like he (or I) started with like...thousands of dollars. It was a very moderate sum, but for some reason his genes don't compel him to spend it as quickly as possible, so he actually still has some. One of these days he's going to wise up and learn to spend it faster because eventually he's going to get tired of me bugging him to buy me stuff with it when I have no Christmas money left (which is by December 28, typically).)

(Actually, I think he holds onto it just to bug me. It's not that he's particularly thrifty or that he doesn't want anything. I think he just likes being able to make statements like 'oh, maybe I'll get ____ with my Christmas money' in July, when I'm stuck living on a boring ol' budget with no hope of free money for six more long, hot months.)

On Thursday I mentioned that I was contemplating getting some new shoes. You guys weighed in and seemed generally supportive of both the idea in general and both pairs of shoes I was considering.

On Friday I convinced Matt that we should wander over to a local shoe store during our lunch break so that I could try on the Toms wedges. You know, to see if they were as comfy as everyone said. For research purposes, you understand?

But there was Christmas money (technically half-Christmas, half-birthday...but I call it all Christmas Money) in my pocket, and Christmas money leads to greatly accelerated decision making. Whereas I would normally contemplate a Major Shoe Purchase (meaning anything that costs more than $30) for months (Exhibit A: running shoes)...when Christmas money is involved...it goes a little bit differently.

Obviously, I bought the shoes on the spot and wore them out the door. And then gleefully ran into every single co-worker's office and squealed "LOOOOOOOKKKK!!!! I GOT NEW SHOES AT LUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!" and forced them all to ooooooh and aaaahhhhh over my purchase (which they did just beautifully). And took pictures and put them on Facebook. And I am really quite obnoxious when it comes to Christmas money-fueled shoe choices, apparently. I don't think I knew this about myself before...apparently with advancing age comes great self-awareness.

I will not be wearing socks like that with these shoes in general-- it's just that they were the socks I was already wearing on Friday and the choice was either to keep them on with the new shoes or go back to wearing my OLD SHOES for the rest of the day, and Option B was obviously unacceptable. Or I could have bought new (shorter) socks, I guess, but my Christmas money is reckless-- not insane.
So the Toms wedge booties (I cringe to call them 'booties' because there are so many hideous booties out there and I hate to put these in the same category, but...it is what it is) were the first Christmas money casualty. I was so excited. I went home and tried on a million outfits, excited by how new shoes suddenly make your whole wardrobe more glamorous. If you'd seen me and my little fashion show in my bedroom, you would have thought it'd be months before I would get bored of my new shoes and start thinking about more new shoes. And normally you would be right. But then you need to take into account the Power of the Christmas Money.

You see, it wasn't gone yet. 

And by Saturday afternoon...less than 24 hours after purchasing the new wedge booties...I had made TWO MORE SHOE PURCHASES.

Apparently the idea of Minnetonkas was still embedded in my brain somewhere. And then I came across awesome sales (at two different stores!). I mean....really awesome. I ended up getting the next two pairs of shoes for less than half of what the Toms cost (partially due to the fact that I had a gift card that helped significantly with one pair, but still!). So you can see that this really wasn't reckless at all...you'd be silly to pass up such legit deals, right?

Someone (my mom? Matt? Don't remember who, actually) commented that they didn't realize I liked moccasins so much. Neither did I. But apparently on Saturday, between the sales and the free money in my pocket...apparently I became a huge fan.

So this is the true story of how I spent almost all of my Christmas money on shoes in a 24 hour period. I tell it to you now so that in March...or July...or September...when I'm whining and complaining about having to save my spending money for six weeks to buy a lousy clearance-rack tank top, you will say remember that time you blew all your money on winter shoes and you were really excited about it? and hopefully it will ease my pain. And hopefully moccasins and Toms wedge booties stay in style for at least another year or two. 

When my parents came this weekend, they came bearing gifts. We had lots of fun having a second Christmas and birthday celebration (on two separate nights, of course, because I'm nothing if not angsty about people lumping my birthday and Christmas together). My sister gave me a really fun blue dress. I love when she picks out clothes for me because they're typically nothing I'd ever pick myself-- but they almost always end up being super fun! This one has an exposed area in the back. I'm sure that's really fun if you're 22 and super skinny, but I am neither of those things. Since I can safely assume no one wants their retinas scarred by seeing my back fat squishing out of a blue dress, I put a black cami on underneath it for church yesterday. With my new moccasin boots and some leggings...I gotta admit...I felt cute.  

Mom was trying to take pictures of the back of it so that she could show Sarah. It was a little hard to capture the gap thing, but it's right beneath the lace you can see across the back.

This is probably going to become my new go-to outfit for the rest of the winter, so get used to seeing it in pictures (or real life, if you happen to see me there).

This will be another weird, broken-up work week with two vacation days in the middle. I have big plans to take down the Christmas decorations (and a very crispy Fred Roger...may he rest in peace in our fire pit for the remainder of his days). Other than that, I'll probably just be spending agonizing hours debating which shoes to wear every day...so thanks for keeping me in your prayers. Have a great week!

Friday, December 27, 2013

all about you (part 1)

Alright!  I've crunched the data (yeah right) and it's time to release the fascinating (not an exaggeration if you're me!) results of this week's Reader Demographic Survey! Haven't you always wondered who else all the other fabulous people reading my blog are? No? Weird. Well, at least now you can find out about 100 of them. As I explained yesterday- I can't see more than 100 responses, so...boo. (But thanks for all the advice-- I can't believe there's a way to make surveys using Google Docs! I will definitely investigate using that for my next scientific survey.)

I figured you'd get bored if I showed all the results today, so I won't. I'll just do two of them: one straightforward demographic, one 'fun.' 

Where do you live?

In summary: mostly in the southern U.S. Not terribly surprising. Whoever my two folks living in Awesome Vacation Places are...let's make sure we become best friends, okay? No particular reason why.

Five people left comments/clarifications in the 'other' box:

I stated this on Facebook the other day, but as I was setting up the survey I just knew that someone from Texas was going to feel that they couldn't be lumped with any other states and that they needed their own special box to check. I knew they would write it in!! And alas-- I was right! So thanks for being predictable, oddly-state-pride-filled people of Texas! I hadn't, however, anticipated it from a 'snobbish' (their words, not mine!) citizen of Seattle! You learn something every day!

Alright. So now we know where everyone's from. Now let's talk about something less cut-and-dried...and also something with no pretty graphs (since it was all text box responses).

What qualities/features increase your enjoyment of a blog/blogger? What kinds of things do you dislike?

(Before I get to your responses, I'm going to interject a pointless picture. But as you'll see, many of you emphatically and repeatedly stated that you really like pictures, and since I haven't used any pictures thus far in today's post...I wanted to remedy that. So here's a previously-unshared shot of my coworkers and I on my fancy birthday!)

Alright. Moving on to the responses! I thought about just retyping all these out...maybe organizing them into the likes/dislikes...then I decided to just stick with my MO of being super lazy and do a bunch of screen shots. So kick back and enjoy-- 61 of you had a lot to say about your blog likes and dislikes!

If you made it through all of that-- congratulations!! If you're wondering who is the suck-up who said "I like it when the blogger's name is Erika. I dislike when their name isn't Erika," you should know that Lauren has confessed to writing that nonsense (and I didn't pay her or anything). Were you surprised by anything here? I'll confess: I had no idea so many people disliked giveaways! That's actually pretty handy...now I don't have to feel guilty that I never do them, ha. I will feel guilty anytime I do a post without pictures, though. Yikes. Maybe I need to make a new survey: is it better to have a post with NO pictures or a post with a really lame selfie taken only for the purpose of having a picture on the post? If any of you pick B...you're weird. :) But we can still be friends.

Alright. That's a lot of info to digest, so I'll shut up. Feel free to defend your position, posit theories about other people's responses, or make fun of people from Texas in the comments-- I'll work on taking some extra-lame selfies to pad future posts with!! Have a good weekend- my parents are coming up tonight to stay for the weekend so that we can have Christmas (and my birthday, actually!) with them...last night my mom was like "what were you thinking for meals?"...and I was like...oh, I'm an adult now. Am I supposed to do things like plan meals when I have weekend visitors? Because in my mind, it was like "mom's coming, I'm freeeeeeeeeee!!!!!" and consequently I haven't grocery shopped in a week. Am I the only one still living in this mindset in my 30s?? Oops.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas, surveys, and shoes

What is there to say about Christmas? We came, we saw, we conquered? Or something like that. And now it's back to work and regular life. Weird. It's weird to have Christmas be this like two-week-long event in your brain...when in actuality, now- as a grown, non-school-district-employee adult- it's two days off and done. Oh well. 

We started the day having a little Christmas in our own house with just the two of us and our girl. She enjoyed the new toy Santa brought her. Actually, she hasn't acted this happy in months...which means we should probably stop being jerks and get her new toys or something else brain-stimulating occasionally. 

Despite her best efforts yesterday, the pink piggy still has all four appendages, two ears, and a curly tail-- which means I must once again commend Kong for their awesome toys. This one is totally legit by our standards.

We opened our presents to one another-- as usual, Mattie did a great job. He went about even thirds on the makeup-jewelry&accessories-ridiculously soft PJs breakdown, which is just great in my book. Ulta and Target appreciate Matt in December-- as do I. You'll note my new mustard scarf in most of the rest of the pictures today...it is super soft and awesome.

Exhibit A: on the way to work this morning

We spent the rest of the day with Matt's family. There were presents, food, naps, and games. And games and games. And I may never need to ever play another game for the rest of my life. I've used up my lifetime allotment.

An old-fashioned game of highly competitive Monopoly was the first (and favorite) game of the day. And I tried my best to prove that socialism was a viable economic system that we could all operate under (and convinced 3/4 of my fellow competitors to join me in the system) and DAMMIT IF CAPITALISM DIDN'T WIN THAT GAME AGAIN. So sad. Next time I'll know better.

We're back to work today. I anticipate it being an extremely slow day, as most people will probably assume we're not even open today. Therefore I have a few things on my mental agenda to think about when I have downtime:

1. The survey results from Tuesday's poll. I had SO much fun watching the votes come in (this is politics I can get behind!) and trying to blow up your FB newsfeeds with the compelling trends and anecdotes. Now I need to organize and analyze the data-- and also consider my relationship with SurveyMonkey. That's who I've always used for these silly little blog surveys. But the problem is that since I only have a free account, they limit me to viewing the first 100 responses. I didn't used to care, since I'd only get maybe 50 people participating. But the last few surveys have had well over 100 respondents and I hate that numbers 101+ don't count, since they're hidden from the data I can access. But the cheapest plan for SurveyMonkey is $17 a MONTH!!! Umm...from free to THAT? I was thinking there was some $10/year or something thing I could scrounge up some change for. But $17/month?? Do they think I'm Bill Gates or something? Anyone know of any other similar survey companies that will let me view more than 100 responses for free and/or way cheap? 

2. Shoes. I'm contemplating getting some fun little wedge boots with my birthday/Christmas money. But I can't decide what kind. Or if I really want them, because maybe they won't ultimately pass the All Day Comfort test? These are the two kinds I like the best:

Minnetonka (source) | Toms (source)
Anyone have any personal experience with either of these shoes? My other top concern, besides the comfort, is whether or not these shoes get stinky quickly. I don't think I'd wear them barefoot, so that should probably help, but in my personal history, both Toms and moccasins are extremely likely to stink to high heaven long before I'm tired of wearing them...and I hate that. So I don't want to drop cash on shoes that are going to be a Stinky Situation before their novelty has even worn off. And if you weren't around when I shared the True Story of one of my most humiliating life experiences ever (and yes, this relates to stinky feet....), you should do yourself a favor and read it. Have a good laugh at my expense. I insist. 

That's actually all I can handle contemplating right now, so we'll leave it at that. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

(P.S. You should know that of the 100 survey responses that I can see, exactly ZERO people indicated that they like blogs about politics. Obviously, that's why I'm including a 'politics' label on this post-- I included the words 'socialism' AND 'capitalism' in today's post, which means this is about as political as I get. Hope you don't hate me too much for it!!) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

enough about me, let's talk about you.

Can I just say-- I felt a lot better after dumping my sadpants emotions all over here yesterday. Your kind comments and emails definitely helped-- but like...there's just something about getting it all out that helps so much in the first place, you know? Like...I said it, now I can move on. It's great. I can't believe I wasted so many years of my life bottling up all of my emotions and thoughts. Here's your emotional health tip for the day: don't do that. It's much better to tell someone-- or the wide, vast internet, as the case may be.

So now it's Christmas Eve- yay!!! I've got a full slate of present-wrapping, eating, and nephew-playing on my agenda today. You're probably busy too. BUT-- in the event that you have a minute to spare...I have an exciting task for you!

Yesterday I enjoyed doing the Dialect Map quiz/survey thing that everyone was posting on Facebook. I shared the link on the blog FB page and got a kick out of seeing how some of yall scored...and also realizing that there are so many different words/phrases for things! (For the record, my 'personal dialect map' pegged me as Jackson, MS, Birmingham, AL, and Columbus, GA. Pretty close!!) Then I started thinking about the varying demographics of all the people I've met through this blog-- for instance, Candians. I really had no idea there were so many cool people in Canada before I started this thing. My loss for sure-- at least I've remedied that situation now. And now I have friends all over the map! And the globe! And it's pretty fun. So I want everyone to fill out that dialect thing and report back your results, but I really wish I could SEE everyone's answers...especially for some of the questions that are like "what word do you use to describe ______" and there would be like 10 different phrases and I would have to admit that I DON'T EVEN HAVE A WORD FOR THAT THING/SITUATION/PLACE!!! And that's saying something, because I have a lot of words. You may have picked up on that at some point. Anyway. I would love to know who calls a traffic jam around a car accident a Lookie Lou. That's hilarious. I'm definitely going to start calling it that.

SO. I can't see your answers to the dialect map thing. But I CAN make my OWN survey to get the scoop on the demographics 'round here!! Won't that be fun? I just assume everyone's like me...but I bet that there's really more diversity than I think! So if you're bored and/or need an excuse to tune out your family for the next 5 minutes, have fun enlightening me with your personal demographics (and some information about what you like/dislike in blogs...why not? The more info, the better!). 

I know that lately I've been terrible at sharing the results of surveys, but I promise to do better this time. This will be fun!! Also, I may share particularly funny 'other' remarks and/or data trends in live time on the blog FB page. You know I can't keep funny stuff to myself. So...GO!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, December 23, 2013

blame it on the rain.

The weekend had some high points. Let's focus on those first, shall we?

On Saturday I met up with my friends Laura and Elizabeth for brunch and a few hours of hanging out in a town midway between where we all live. 

We've started doing this every few months and it makes me SO happy. I am TERRIBLE at keeping up with friends and maintaining long-distance (if 75 miles can even qualify as that) relationships (unless they blog, of course!), so this is a happy rarity. It was cloudy and drizzly and quite warm, but we had fun shopping and laughing-- truly a high point in the Christmas season, although the visit had nothing to do with Christmas. 

In spite of the cloudy drizzle, Matt and I decided to capitalize on the warmth and take a run sans ear warmers and sweatshirts. I'd forgotten what it was like to actually SWEAT while running! We got rained on a few times, but all in all it was highly preferable to running in the dark cold the way we do most days.

We did a lot of shopping on Saturday and Sunday (and we're still not done...high five for procrastination?). Most of it was for other people, but I'm certainly not above buying things for myself if the mood strikes. I mean, I spent my entire Sunday afternoon shopping in the pouring rain yesterday. I deserve to be rewarded for that, right? My jeans were SOAKED.

I found the cutest cutest cutest ponte knit blazer on the mega-clearance (70% off!) rack at Target!

This picture looks super weird- you can't even see the navy stripes! Click on the link to see it on Target's webpage. It's almost like sweatshirt material, so it's REALLY comfy and stretchy-- but it looks classy and work-appropriate! And it was $8, so like...come to mama. Anyway. I actually got on the webpage this morning to see if they had it in any other colors...and then realized that on the Target webpage they are still listing it at full price??! So while I definitely think you should get it, I do NOT think you should pay $29.99 for it. Go to Target and find one for $8. Well worth it. And if you see the black and white one in a medium, send it my way.

So the weekend definitely had some good stuff. Buuuutttttt...yeah. Also, it was hard. It was pouring rain and gross outside and it just looked like the whole world was crying and then so was I. Crying because this is our fifth damn Christmas of infertility (technically sixth, but since we'd only been 'trying' for about 2 weeks on that first Christmas...pretty sure you can't count that as knowing the struggle). Crying because I miss my baby. I try not to think about her. But sometimes it really kills me. Every baby I saw in a store, every happy, stressed out family...that should be us. And yet here we are. Again. And again and again and again. I was re-reading old posts of mine from years ago over the weekend and when we'd been struggling with infertility for *only* three or so years, I was saying that I just couldn't imagine making it through another holiday season childless. And yet I did. Three more times. And counting. And I still can't imagine it and I can't imagine surviving it next year. But I probably will. It's weird to keep living a life that you can't imaging living...even while you're doing it. Does that make sense? Very meta of me. Blame it on the rain. AND FIVE YEARS OF STUPID DISAPPOINTMENT. 

I just miss our baby. This stupid failed adoption has royally screwed me up. If we hadn't gone through that, this year would be no different than the previous 4 holiday seasons: sad, but bearable. But this was supposed to be different. This could have been different. We held our baby. I watched her being born. I was her mother. And then...I wasn't. And I'm not. And I don't know where she is, and I pray she is loved and cared for. I hope a dozen people fight over holding her at Christmas, that she has a pretty Christmas dress and that someone bought her a Baby's First Christmas ornament. Not that any of those things really matter, but I just want to believe that she's as loved and cherished in her family as she would have been in ours.

Today would have been Matt's first day back at work. If we still had our baby, Matt's seven-week paternity leave would be ending. It would have been a hard day, watching him go back to work. But I would have been home with my baby. That's the life I should be living.

But instead we both got up. We got dressed, we walked the dog, we got ready for work. We commuted through the pouring rain and it's just another day of being Matt and Erika, the perpetually childless couple with a freaking fabulous nursery and no baby to reside in it. We're like the opposite of the Christmas story. Plenty of room in the inn. No occupants. Miraculously un-pregnant and childless for the millionth year running.

It isn't that I've lost hope. I haven't. I have so much hope. But holding out hope can grow old. I've grown weary of it. It's still there, but it's not new and shiny and fun, the way it was years ago. When we were still relatively fresh on this journey...when we'd 'only' been trying for 2 or 3 years...when infertility was still sort of a gross novelty. You know what's funny about having been on the journey this long? People have run out of stories to try to encourage us with. When we'd been trying for 2 or 3 years, people would tell us stories of friends of theirs who got pregnant/adopted after some horribly long wait (like 4 or 5 years)...and to some extent it was encouraging. Like people have done this before, people have waited this long and longer and had a happy ending. But now those stories have pretty much dried up. It's a little harder to find stories of people who've been waiting as long as us that still end happy. Your brother's co-worker's cousin's story is years shorter and happier than ours is at this point, so there's no point in sharing. And that's kind of a relief. After awhile, other people's happy-ending stories hurt more than they help. Our infertility isn't caused by a lack of hope or trust or belief. We fully believe that God can do immeasurably more than we can imagine. We would die if we didn't believe that. But I guess I'm at a point of diminishing returns or something...encouragement isn't encouraging anymore. I just want people to say "I'm so sorry. It sucks. I would be sad, too." Oh and then to stop getting pregnant and having happy bump and baby and kid pictures on their Facebooks. Is that too much to ask??!

Sorry for being a downer. It's definitely the rain. But it should stop later today, and so too will my sadpants mood, hopefully. I have so many things to be thankful for-- it ticks me off when I let myself get bent out of shape because one aspect of my life hasn't gone according to MY (emphasis on MY) plan. 

Hope you have a good Christmas Eve Eve. Wish me luck as we try to finish our shopping this evening, ha. And next year-- someone remind me in like November that maybe you should start shopping a little sooner. This is ridiculous!

Friday, December 20, 2013

the important details

Well, well, well-- apparently my rendering of the Pukey Puppy story yesterday was not wrapped up to everyone's standards! Let me fill in the key missing details for ya today.

For starters: I do not have any photographs of the adorable wiggly itty-bitty. I KNOW. Failing at life/blogging. In my defense, we were a little bit distracted by...I dunno...OCEANS OF VOMIT. But I don't want to let you down, and I certainly don't expect you to just take my word for it that the puppy was cute. So I contacted a renowned local artist* and had her render a drawing of the puppy. 

Presenting: The Cute Puppy (or maybe a grown small dog) from the Garage!!

To answer your newest question: Yes, the art community in Athens is beyond blessed to have artisans of this caliber.

Now for the sad news. The puppy left us. After he gobbled down some food, we made him a little home in the garage-- we set up Lola's crate, filled it with (non-vomity) towels, and put it all in the back of the garage (closer to the house, further from the outside). We wanted to help him through the night, but really couldn't justify keeping him in the house. There's like a 1% chance he's housebroken...not to mention the puke issue...and if we kept him in a cage in the laundry room, he probably would have just whined all night and driven us (and Lola) crazy. So we figured that if he's used to roughing it in the woods at night, then upgrading to a pad in the garage (at least out of the wind and with some warm blankets and food) would be better for a night, until we could figure out a better plan. 

We left the big garage door (the one that the cars drive through) cracked at the bottom so that he could go outside to potty...or escape. We knew it was a possibility. But it's also a possibility that he has a HOME (that he escaped from...multiple times, because this ISN'T the first time he's come to hang out with us) that he would return to at some point. So we left him with a cozy little garage nest. 

And in the morning he wasn't there. So we don't know when he left or where he went, but we haven't seen him since Pukegate. But like I said, we've seen him before. Actually, the last time he dropped by and visited for an afternoon (and then left when Matt was running errands), Matt had said "if he comes back, we're keeping him"...because that man was SMITTEN, let's be honest (hi Matt! Puppy lover!!). So this was the "OH HE'S BACK, HE'S OURS!!" night...but...I guess it wasn't meant to be. But if he comes back AGAIN? Then he's really really really ours and we're not gonna let him escape again. (But before unnecessarily aggressive anonymous people call me an unfit puppy mother, disgusting, and a dognapper, please know that we will make every effort to locate his rightful owners, if they exist. We've done this three times in the past, with a 100% success record, so we're well-versed in posting signs, notices on Craigslist and at the dog park, and having a vet check for a microchip. SO THERE.) (Sorry, am I still a little bitter and scared of the anonymous people? Maybe yes.)

So the tragic conclusion to this chapter of the Pukey Puppy story is that he has returned to the wild (or a loving home)...but at least now you know how cute he is. Thank God for amazing artists, right?

I can't leave you on this sad note, so I'll share a more uplifting story of wildlife and jewelry (my two passions, evidently). Yesterday Diana graciously gifted me with these bad boys:

Handcrafted (because the artiste copyrighted and signed her name/date on the back!! In silver pen!!) blue mouse earrings?!??! Yes. They exist, and they're on my ears. Well, they were for the 40 seconds it took to snap this picture. I'm not sure I can handle the overall majesticness of such earrings, so I had to take them off. Now they're staring at me with beady little fake mouse eyes from the side of my desk, which isn't creepy at all. Anyway. Thank goodness for friends willing to pass on gems like this, right?

Have a good weekend! If you happen to be in my neighborhood and you notice a puppy matching the picture above wandering around, lemme know! Our towels are all freshly laundered...we're ready for Pukegate 2.0 any time!


Thursday, December 19, 2013

fighting fatigue with gold jewelry and other nonsense

I'm tired this morning.

Last night was a late night. Just your typical, run-of-the-mill tired that results from finding an adorable stray puppy at 11:00 p.m., playing with him in the freezing cold for half an hour until you decide to bring him inside, playing inside for a few minutes until he suddenly and without warning starts spewing the foulest-smelling chunky vomit you've ever experienced in your life EVERYWHERE on your floors...over and over...while you and your husband panic and try to figure out how to get him out of the house, while simultaneously gagging over the disgusting and putrid fumes filling your house...and then trying to figure out how to care for the dog and keep him warm at night but also how to do that without subjecting your house to further episodes of Death Vomit. And then having to clean up your whole house, using every last towel you possess, and then having to immediately start laundry because the stench of the towels was more than your poor sensibilities could handle. Oh but also continuing to play with the aforementioned adorable (but pukey) puppy in the garage...while trying to figure out how to keep him off the streets and out of the cold overnight...and MAN that dog was cute...oh and then he puked on my robe. And my slippers. AND OH THE SMELL.

And this was concluding somewhere around midnight.

So today I'm tired. But sometimes cute puppies are worth it.

To combat the tiredness-- and the fact that this week is draaaaaaggggggging on and on-- I pulled out my favorite weapon: gold jewelry, and plenty of it.

I even resurrected a long-unused ear piercing (the cuff of my left ear)...because MORE GOLD JEWELRY. So between my five gold earrings, the gold studs on the collar of my shirt, my grandmother's gaudy gold cocktail ring, and some red lipstick for good measure...I think I'll survive the day.

Random other factoids you probably don't need to know but I'll tell you anyway:
-I'm up through Season 2, Episode 13 of Scandal. That show is ridiculously awesome and the only reason we're doing insane things like staying up til 11pm on a weekday in the first place. 
-I discovered an awesome new blog yesterday: Brightest Bulb in the Box. It's a makeup blog, which I normally don't get really into, but this girl is hilarious. I almost totally disagree with her review of the Naked3 palette but I also don't care because she's funny and entitled to her opinion. And also she knows way more about makeup than I do, so I'm going to stick around and learn something.
-Buying gifts this year is insanely stressful for some reason. That's sad. I'm never a SUPER enthusiastic Christmas-present-shopper...I don't look forward to it all year or start shopping in June or something...but I don't normally dread it like this year. Oh well. Sorry everyone. Enjoy your gift cards...maybe I'll feel more inspired next year.
-I've gone on 3 runs with the new shoes now. I still hate running. I think next time I'm going to skip out on expensive shoes and just save up for liposuction instead.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

easily excited

I'm the type of person that enjoys life the most when I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I think I enjoy anticipating things/events even more than I enjoy the thing itself once it comes or happens. Like if I have a gift card for a massage...I will hold onto that sucker for MONTHS (sometimes they even EXPIRE) because the joy of just HAVING it and knowing how awesome the eventual experience will be is just SO GREAT...I want to hold onto it forever. In other words, I get way more than 1 hour's worth of enjoyment out of a massage gift card. I get more than a week's pleasure out of a vacation. I love to anticipate.

And I can see where that puts you in a precarious position sometimes. I have certainly been guilty of living in the "when ____, then I'll be happy/fulfilled/complete" mindset. When I graduate. When I get married. When we have a baby. But our inability to complete that last one has all but cured me of this issue. After a few years of that nonsense, I realized if I kept waiting for ____ to be happy, I may never get there. So I stopped, and I'm glad for that. There's been a lot of happiness in the last five years...I'd have hated to miss it just because I hadn't accomplished one thing. So the kind of excited anticipation I enjoy living with is not necessarily for the 'big' things like babies and careers. I like having smaller, predictable, somewhat controllable goals to look forward to. 

Last week I was chatting with a girlfriend (in REAL LIFE! I know, this really never happens) and she was expressing how she felt kind of sad right now because she had nothing to look forward to. No vacations on the horizon. No engagement (or any of the things that follow). Just...nothing big to look forward to. Because I love her and we are basically twins, I totally understand where she's coming from. But apparently I've come up with the solution, by getting overly excited about smaller life events. I whipped out my little countdown app to show her all the things I am currently looking forward to-- the little, silly things that I deem exciting enough to put their date into my app. She laughed at me (so what if most of them are movie, TV, and book releases/start dates?), but she agreed, too. In the absence of impending Huge Life Events, what's wrong with getting jazzed about the small things? The good news there is that if the small things don't end up happening or being as great as you'd hoped...well, they're small things. It won't even hurt that bad.

So here's a few of the things on my mental (and electronic) list of Things I'm Looking Forward To:

1. Divergent movie release- March 21

2. A fun long weekend trip to the second-best state (nickname: The Lone Star State) in early 2014!!

3. Using a Fandango gift card at the fancy new movie theater!

4. Seeing the bulbs I planted in the fall come up in the spring.

5. A new season of The Bachelor in January and the ensuing Twitter fun and silly drama.  
6. Using an Ulta gift card I got for my birthday.

7. A fun weekend getaway in Atlanta that some friends generously gifted us.

8. Making and accomplishing my New Years Resolution (more to come on that!).

9. Celebrating my one-year anniversary at my 'new job.' And knowing that going into the next year, I will have a MUCH better idea of what's going on, what's coming next, and how to do what I'm supposed to do!

10. The Winter Olympics!!!! I looooooove Olympics...maybe I'll have to schedule myself another surgery/bedrest so that I can be as dedicated to this Olympics as I was to the 2012 Summer Games!!

11. Receiving the copy of Jesus Calling I won in Caroline's giveaway and starting it on January 1.

12. Continuing to get better at running. I'm hoping to be able to run two miles without stopping to walk by...I don't know. February? 

So...not really huge or life-altering things, but nonetheless-- things I'm looking forward to. Things that give me something to be excited about when life feels really sad. Anything you can think of I need to add to the list? And please feel free to share your most mundane personal thing you get excited about. Make me feel like I'm not alone here!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

tales from a genius: perfume ed.

Over the weekend I managed to accomplish my weeks-long goal of coming up with a better organizational system for my makeup. And yes-- I actually make goals like this. And I thrill in accomplishing them. What's it to you?

Anyway. Suffice it to say that the makeup storage system I've been using for the last 7 years was NOT sufficient anymore. Back then I probably owned like...6 cosmetics. And half of them were hand-me-downs from my mom or sister. Theseadays my collection is a bit more...extensive, you could say. Also: expensive. But that's neither here nor there. Our bathroom has very limited cabinet space (and NO drawers), and so I've been doing the best I can, but it was definitely time to re-think things.

This was the approximate state of things last week. Naturally, it all stays in the cabinets during the day, but when I'm trying to get ready...things get messy quickly. All of the various small items (compacts, liners, tubes) go in the box, I have a cup where I stand up all of my brushes, and all of the palettes just get stacked on top. It was precarious...like an expensive and beautiful game of Jenga.

Then, much to my delight, my 31st birthday brought some new makeup friends into the fold:

Namely, an amazing collection of Tarte LipSurgences (and I can no longer find the exact set on Ulta's webpage?) and NAKED3 which is mind-blowing and makes me weep every time I pull it out. Good weeping.

Anyway, these new editions did me in: I needed a new organization system. So I spent some time at Target on Saturday and came home with a great new plan (and a few more of my favorite storage boxes). A delightful hour of sorting, tossing, and organizing later, I had a WAY happier and more effective makeup storage solution.

Weird aerial view, sorry.
For the record, 90% of my lip products are stored elsewhere (*ahem*inmypurse*)...lest you think I'm somehow a minimalist in that department. I'm not. And all of my brushes are still in the pretty cup. But this is pretty much it.

ANYWAY. In the midst of my organizational frenzy, I threw out a lot of old stuff and/or stuff I just don't use anymore. And I also discovered, buried deep beneath half-used bronzers and mascaras, some long-forgotten tiny things that had fallen to the bottom of the heap. Like those little fragrance samples that Sephora throws in your bags/boxes. I moved them to my counter top, right in plain view, so that I'd remember to use them.

So this morning, I finish getting dressed and dolled up. I'm about to call it quits on the bathroom when I notice the perfumes. Oh! Today is my office Christmas party. I should wear some perfume! What a nice touch that will be, I thought to myself. 

I grab the first one I see and give my arms a spritz. Rubbing my forearms together, I turn off the bathroom lights and head towards the kitchen.

Halfway through my bedroom I notice something strange. A smell. I pull my wrist up to my nose and take a whiff.

Yeah. Yup. Definitely MEN'S COLOGNE. 

All over me.


I mean, I'm dressed. Hair done (relatively speaking), makeup set, clothes on...and we have 10 minutes til we leave the house. This really isn't the time to be, say, COVERED IN MEN'S COLOGNE. What a genius move.

In my flusteredness, I call out to Matt. He comes in as I explain my conundrum. He comes closer. He busts out laughing. "Ummm...yeah...you pretty much smell like a man." Well...thanks. 

What do you do, people??! I didn't have time to shower, or change clothes, or even Google! Somewhere in the back of my mind I had this idea that rubbing alcohol might help, but sad for us all-- I couldn't find any in the house. So I scrubbed my arms with handsoap and water and hoped that Tom Ford Noir would not prove to be a particularly long-lasting cologne.

That about brings us to present. I'm here at work, cute makeup and dress, smelling like a man. GOOD TIMES!! I'm thinking that if I don't say anything (not likely, I'm more the type to blurt out "I ACCIDENTALLY PUT ON MEN'S COLOGNE THIS MORNING HAHAHAHAAHA!!!" to everyone I see) maybe people will just assume Matt and I spent some time making out in the car before we came in to work today and his cologne smell rubbed off on me? That seems likely. So anyway. Have a delightfully man-scented Tuesday.

Monday, December 16, 2013

reality check

Remember a long time ago how I said I was going to go to one of those cool running stores and have a legit shoe assessment/consultation and then buy REAL running shoes based on science and fit and not price and cuteness? I know. It was a long time ago-- September. Ancient history. Well, I like to accomplish things at a snail's pace, what can I say? (Actually, I can say that a lot has happened since mid-September and buying fancy running shoes somehow fell really low on- and then off- the list of things to do.) 

Gosh. Thinking about how ridiculous life has been since mid-September is actually really mind-blowing and awful. I just glanced back over the titles of my posts...from then til now...AND LET'S MOVE ON BEFORE I START BAWLING.

So!! On Saturday Matt and I were having a little 'continue the birthday fun and let Erika pick whatever she wants to do all day long' day (my favorite kind of day) and so I decided we would go to the running store and both have our feet/strides/styles assessed and get ourselves some new kicks.

WAIT! Back up. Relevant rabbit trail about what suddenly made new running shoes so important first:

Leggings, yall. Leggings. Leggings are so fun! So cute! So comfy! So easy!! I fully believe in and subscribe to all of those thoughts about leggings. But here's the truth about leggings-- I'm gonna be blunt. Leggings lie to you. Leggings tell you "go on, eat your fourth dessert of the night! I'll still feel great!" Leggings tell you that it's okay to eat your feelings for two months, to watch 18 episodes of Parks & Rec every night while you mindlessly munch on popcorn. Leggings don't bat an eye if you skip your morning workout...for three months. The leggings are still gonna fit. They'll welcome you every day, never breathing a comment about your slowly-but-steadily-expanding derriere. Leggings are an enabler. They're the friend you call when you just want to feel better about yourself. They're the worthless accountability partner who will never, ever call you on your crap. Leggings are awesome.


Jeans? Jeans keep you real. Jeans don't lie. Jeans say "hold up, sistah-- ain't NO WAY you can button me today! You tryin' to dump 5 gallons of ice cream in a 1 gallon bucket??! AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!!!!" Jeans will remind you constantly, all day long, that no, maybe you should NOT have had two lunches plus extra dinner every day last week. Jeans will leave marks all over your body so that when you're disrobing, they're still silently mocking. Jeans make you feel bad about your awesome accomplishment of watching 9 episodes of Scandal in one afternoon. Jeans are that really blunt grandmother who calls it exactly like she sees it. Bless her heart...and my vaster-than-ever posterior. 

SO. Let's just say that post-failed-adoption-mourning and a steady wardrobe of leggings hasn't done my body any favors. My jeans called me out on it and I'm heeding their advice: step it up. Step up the exercise. Step away from the holiday-treat-filled-break-room at work. 

Which brings us back to the running shoes. It was time. Now that I'm 400 years old and I have a broken (but healing) back, shoes are more important than ever (???? I don't know, they seem correlated in my mind). So to the Athens Running Company store we went. We did the assessment and fitting thing and it was super fun. And then I tried on 80 pair of shoes and jogged around the store and totally looked like an idiot. But I probably wasn't the first one they'd seen, so I tried to get over it. And THEN-- miracle of miracles-- I picked new shoes and did NOT take the colors and overall cuteness into account.

I think I surprised us all. 

So I'm now the owner of these:
Yes, I wear a size 10. Large and in charge- that's me!
  They look kinda funny and the lacing part goes all curvy and I don't know why, but dangit-- I picked the ones that are scientifically proven to make me a way better runner and lose 10 pounds immediately!!!

Or that's what I thought, anyway. I mean-- when you pay three times as much as you've ever paid for tennis shoes before...your expectations go sky high. I had such visions for my first run!! It was going to be so easy!! So pain free!! I'd barely even know I was exerting any energy...after a period of time I'd glance down at my GPS and realize with shock that I'd gone 10 miles-- and barely feel winded!!! This was how it was supposed to go down.

Guess what?

Running still sucks, even with nice shoes. Bah. Life-- why so harsh?? 

I mean, I'm sure they are better. I will admit that at least my feet and shins weren't hurting as much as usual. But I could definitely tell I was running. I definitely still hated it. It was still freezing. I couldn't breathe. I felt every single inch of those 2.75 miles. I'm already making a list of excuses for why I don't want to go running again this afternoon. Also, since I'm wearing leggings today, I forget why it is I wanted to start running in the first place...

It was a harsh-lesson-learning weekend, I guess. Sorry to hit you with it on a Monday, but I felt like you deserved to know. Nice running shoes are...nice, I guess...but not as nice as leggings. THE END.