Friday, March 29, 2013

the locusts

I heard something yesterday...a sentence. And it's stuck in my head, yall. I can't get it out. It's taken root and it's growing and with it comes hope.

Let me paint a picture first. Imagine a low-tech agrarian society-- it could be one you're imagining from years long past, or the one that still exists in many parts of the world today. A people who solely depend on the land and their crops and animals for survival. A society that will be literally decimated- by hunger, disease, and eventual civil war- if the rains don't come, or the plants don't grow, or anything happens to the crops that provide nourishment, stability, and the hope of a future. Imagine the fear that must come with being so utterly dependent on something you literally have so little control over: I mean, you can plant your seeds and pull the weeds, but if the rain doesn't come, or the birds eat the seed...what're you going to do? This isn't a society that has advanced irrigation or airplanes that can spread fertilizers and pesticides-- this is a people that are utterly at the mercy of the weather and God.

And imagine, if you will, that right when your crops are budding...right as the green sprouts start poking through the black soil, right as hope starts to build that maybe this year there will be plenty. Maybe this year we will have enough to sell, to trade, to build a new barn, to save for the future. And right as the hope starts taking root, the locusts come. They come from the sky, zillions and zillions of them, and they swarm and cover and eat and destroy everything. I don't even understand these plagues of locusts that are not just legend, but a real thing that happened 'back in the day,' and even yesterday, in Madagascar, as this newspaper reported. Can you even imagine the utter despair you would feel as you watch stupid ugly bugs eat your food that you planted, that you worked for...the food that will now not be available for you, your children, and your community?

I can only imagine how angry, how betrayed, how hopeless I would feel. How could you face the morning, not knowing when the locusts would leave, what you would eat until they did, whether your family would survive? What if you managed to make it through this year and muster up the hope to plant again next year, and then they came back? What a cruel existence. And the sad thing is, it happened. It happens. The locusts came, and they will come, and they will destroy everything.

And I read this yesterday and I can't stop thinking about it:

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." (Joel 2:25 NIV)

You will what?

"Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." (Joel 2:25 NASB)

Come again, now?

"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten..." (Joel 2:25 KJB) 

He will repay. He will make up. He will restore.

The years of devastation. The years of hunger. The years of hopelessness. The years that the locusts stole...they will be redeemed.

And sometimes I feel hesitant to just pick a random promise or covenant out of the Bible and stake a personal claim on it, you know? Like...okay, so God made that deal with Abraham or whoever. It doesn't necessarily mean he's making the exact same personal pledge to ME, okay?...and so I sometimes don't know where I fall as far as claiming another person's promise from God for myself. And I don't mean that in a hopeless or faithless way, it's just is what it is, for me. 

But what I do feel confident in is this: the character of God. That His character and his heart and his intentions never change. That since the beginning of the world, He has been a God passionately in love with his people, a Creator that is for us. And while we live in the world that He created, we live in a world that is fallen and full of our own free will that doesn't always make the best choices, and it's definitely not always a pretty place. And terrible things happen-- illness, hurts, broken dreams, abandonment, infertility, betrayal. And we wander through years of wondering what happened, why our perfectly-laid plans have been been eaten by the swarms of locusts, and we're scared to plant new hopes lest they fall victim to the locusts again.

But I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten.

That's the heart of our God. He longs to restore to us. To redeem. To repay. He doesn't always stop the plague of locusts. He could. I don't know why He doesn't. But sometimes the locusts still come, and their destruction is vast. And God says I will redeem that. The locusts will not have the final word. Those years will not be forgotten. Our God is so, so good-- and he longs to restore whatever has been stolen from you. 

And I can't get it out of my head. He wants to restore the years that I count as wasted. The years that I've been so anxious to see end, to rip off the last page of the calendar and wad it up and say good riddance to, the ones that have been full of anxiety and tears and broken hopes and struggling faith and absolutely swarming with metaphorical locusts. Those years?

"The LORD says, 'I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts...'" (Joel 2:25 NLT) 

How can I not cling to hope when those words are stuck in my head? I don't know what this redemption, this restoration will look like. It might not look the way I imagined. But He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. And my heart rejoices. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

good news thursday

Tomorrow's Good Friday, which makes today Maundy Thursday, which I will commemorate by sharing good news. Not THE Good News, of the Gospel variety, just...ya know, some regular ol' good news.

Yesterday we had Matt's post-surgical follow up Live Results Reveal (so what if I like to title things in my life with reality TV show-esque titles?) (I hope you all voted for us- (#mattyerikaneedgoodnews), which could otherwise be known as the Fastest RE Appointment in History. According to our parking fee, we were there less than 40 minutes. Three hours of driving for less than 40 minutes of waiting/appointment-ing...crazy. Luckily I had enough time in the waiting room to browse the latest RESOLVE magazine and learn nothing new about endometriosis and infertility (this just in: they both suck!).

So, the Surgery Results.

Ultrasound-wise, the surgery was very successful. Prior to surgery, his 'sperm-production suppression' (or something, I was writing very quickly in a made-up shorthand that now I can't decode) was in the 10-15% range. Now the suppression is less than 1%. So that's great news and means that THAT part of our sperm problems should not longer be a problem. The chances of this reversing (like, going back to the way it was) are something like less than .00001%, so we'll consider this one permanently fixed.

So. Now we've had roughly one 'sperm life cycle' (~3 months) to see results. Some of the results are really good: his total count has more than doubled. The 'active' count, while HUGELY less than the 'total' count, is still three times what it was, so that's encouraging. The morphology improved from 1% to 2% (4% or greater would be considered normal/ideal) there's improvement there, but not really enough. The penetration count (what percentage of sperm are actually capable of penetrating an egg) went up quite a bit (from 47% to 66%; over 80% would be considered normal), which is good. And then the most discouraging news: the 'survivability' rate is unchanged and still really, really bad. So that was depressing. Meaning that even though there's a lot MORE sperm now, and some of them (2%) are the right shape, and of THOSE, about 66% are even capable of penetrating an egg...before all of that happens, they have to be able to survive long enough to GET to an egg. And only 10% of ours can ('normal' would be more than 50%). There was no change from pre-surgery to now. So that's a big ol' sad face. Because it doesn't really matter how many sperm you have and how fast they swim and how strong they are...if they die the minute they encounter a 'foreign  atmosphere,' then they're...just...dead. They can't do anything. 

SO. Dr. W said he would expect each subsequent 'sperm life cycle' to have better and better results, so we will go back for more monitoring every other month. In the meantime he put Matt on some prescription meds and supplements that should help speed things up (and hopefully help with the 'survivability'). I think that overall Dr. W was pleased and encouraged, and we were too. It's easy for me to focus on the one or two negative things that DIDN'T make huge leaps and bounds, but I'm trying to think about all the things that DID get so much better. Oh and not focus on the fact that it doesn't matter how great Matt's sperm are if my stupid ovaries and tubes can't get with the program. Grr. As for ART, Dr. W said that IVF is still our best option, especially since some of the DNA issues in the sperm are better now. IUI, he said, would give us worse odds than just timed intercourse due to the fact that the washing process kills all of our low-survivability sperm. No kidding. I remember that during one of our IUIs there were FIVE sperm left in the post-wash count. FIVE. Out of a couple million??! Hahahaha. No wonder our doctors kept recommending we cancel the cycles. Five sperm aren't gonna get anything done (PS if you believe the myth that it 'only takes one,' please do some research kthx? The only time it 'only takes one' is if you're doing IVF with ICSI).

So. Despite the whining tone, we're calling yesterday's appointment Good News. Plus, we followed it up with a trip to the Mall of Georgia and I got an Easter dress and some pink shorts and makeup and a soft pretzel and sushi. Which is clearly good news.

On to Good News #2. Did I ever mention that a few weeks ago our credit card number got used fraudulently? I'm pretty sure I didn't talk about that here, mainly because it wasn't really a big deal. I happened to log on to our CC account one Sunday afternoon and noticed that the day before someone had charged $900 to Delta Airlines on our account. After confirming that Matt wasn't planning any surprise vacations (or planning to escape from me), we called up ol' Chase Freedom and inquired about the offending purchase. And I'm gonna be honest: They were awesome. I was totally freaked out and dreading the call. I mean, we hadn't lost our cards. What if they didn't believe us? What if they made some big complicated deal? What if we had to pay for the bill while they investigated? And none of that happened. They were super cool, asked maybe like three questions, and immediately arranged to close our account and have new cards overnighted to us. It was seriously the most painless customer service experience ever. We were inconvenienced for like 30 seconds, plus the 24 hours it took us to get new cards. 

So yesterday while I'm trying on dresses at Nordstrom Rack (ALL TOO SHORT, what's up with the dresses this season?) Matt gets a call from ol' Chase Freedom (I'm using the technical names here because I think companies deserve credit when credit is due, and I've been nothing but impressed with how Chase handled this situation) and they're like "hey, just following up on that fraud from last you know someone by the name of Casdiobwh Bviwohg?" (not actual name, just random letters I smashed out-- Matt didn't remember the person's name) So Matt says "no" and they're like "okay great, well, that's who stole your CC number and used it. Just wanted to let you know we investigated and will be taking care of everything!" And we're like...sweet, thanks! And that's that. I just wanted to share. Chase totally took care of their customers and made this a painless situation. More companies should be like that. The end.

Well, two pieces of Good News oughta get you through the day. There could be a third piece, if the weather warms up the way it's supposed to, but I suppose that only time will tell. Have a good one!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

unsolved mysteries

I've got a few very important unsolved mysteries to discuss today. Except that by "very important" I actually mean "probably not important at all," but who would keep reading if I just said that up front? Exactly.

Unsolved Mystery #1: The Case of Missing Bloggers

Amanda and I were discussing this one the other day. Isn't it strange/annoying/scary/weird when a blogger just...disappears? Stops writing, stops commenting, just all of a sudden stops? Personally, I find it disconcerting. Now, if you're a blogger and you decide you're tired of it, or you want to stop participating, or whatever-- that's totally fine. Totally your choice. I respect that. I know tons of people who just gradually drift away...posting and commenting less and less frequently until finally they stop altogether-- that's not that bad. What's creepy is when it's ninety-to-nothing cold-turkey. Like they post 4-5 times a week, comment on everyone's blogs all the time, and then one day just NOTHING. No posts again, no comments...nothing. Ever. And it's, where'd she go? You want to start scanning the newspapers of the area you think she lived in, looking for news of freak accidents. It's scary, okay, ladies??! So don't do that to me. That's the bottom line. If you want to stop blogging/commenting and go totally cold turkey, then you should post something on your blog (like "I'm not blogging anymore, peace out yall!") so that at least we don't have to worry that you got murdered or something. 

So here is where we all make a pact to not be creepy disappearing bloggers. No cold-turkey quitting without proper notification. Thanks so very much.

Unsolved Mystery #2 Aly Raisman's Boobs

Did you watch Dancing with the Stars last night? It was a good one. It's not hard for me to get sucked in to a show, and despite taking lots of seasons off on this one, I'm definitely enjoying this season. You may recall that last week I commented that it appears our beloved gold medalist Aly Raisman had a little boobie work done to prep for her sparkly dresses. Well apparently I'm not the only one thinking that-- last night while the show was on, I happened to check out my Real Time Analytics (one of my most favorite features of Google Analytics) and noticed that I was getting dozens of hits on my blog from people Googling some variation of "did Aly Raisman get a boob job?" HA! I only feel bad that I can't provide any definitive answers for all the inquisitive masses. But at least they know they're not the only ones thinking it. Help the people of the Internet out, Aly: are those things new and improved? Or were you keeping them under wraps (literally) throughout the Olympics? No judgment either's just the kind of thing people really need to know. Because it's totally our business.

Fake boobies or not, Aly did a great job last night. I think it's so funny how hard she has to work on her facial expressions, and I loved her partner's attempts at mimicking her 'gymnastics face.' I think she's going to do extremely well, but I'm pretty sure the two to beat (calling it now) are Zendaya (Disney girl) and Kellie Pickler. Those girls are GOOD. Kellie seriously looked more like a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance. I kind of need to hate her. I think Sean did a much better job last night, but he's not knocking my (or the judges') socks off the way Zendaya and Kellie are. So that's my early prediction. We'll see how it goes.

I'm not entirely sure how I can possibly be this tired on a Tuesday night, but lemme tell ya. I'm tired. So instead of rambling on further, I'm gonna peace out and probably (shamefully) tune in for another episode of Splash tonight because that show is just begging to be mocked and I'm totally up to the task. If I can stay awake that long. So there ya go. Peace, yall.

Monday, March 25, 2013

on cleaning and art shows

It was a low-key and very rainy weekend. By Saturday afternoon I felt a lot better, so we spent pretty much the whole day doing some serious cleaning around the house and watching basketball (slash reading, if you're me). I must admit that my commitment to deep-cleaning my house has totally slacked the last few months. I would like to blame it on the new job...???...except that that really isn't fair, since I'm not working any more hours and really love what I'm I'm not sure how that could have affected my ability to scrub toilets and showers (and work out), but I have nothing else to blame. Except maybe increased laziness? Maybe I'm too productive at work and so I need to slack off a lot more when I'm at home? That's probably it. At any rate, I have been seriously contemplating hiring someone to come do the dirty work for me. Mainly bathrooms. And mopping. Let's talk about how we've lived in this house for almost four years and I could probably count the number of times I've mopped on an embarrassingly low number of my appendages. Sick. Tip: Check your 'five-second-rule' at the door if you're at my house!

After our ambitious cleaning-fest, we got dolled up (well, more dolled up than wearing our PJs, which is what we had been wearing up until 5pm) and went to an art opening in Athens. This is totally not my normal scene, but something Matt really loves doing, plus a friend from work is on the board of this art group and invited us, so...we went! It ended up being fun because the art was ridiculous (well, some of it. Some of it was cool. But art is...well, art, and I just really don't get it in general) but no one was taking themselves too seriously, so we could enjoy it.

One of my favorite exhibits was this sort of interactive one where the artist just made a bunch of faux cinder blocks. They were made out of some sort of...substance...that was extremely light and foam-y, but they looked JUST like real cinder blocks. So everyone (you know, all the two year olds and me) was having fun building things, playing with them, and accomplishing amazing feats like balancing them on our heads.

And even though they weren't heavy, it was still quite challenging to balance them up there. It requires having achieved like Level 10, Gold Star status in Being a Lady (you know, having such excellent posture and balance that you can walk with anything balancing on your head?), which I clearly have.

Here I am with Katherine, my co-worker/artiste friend. The exhibit behind us is juxtaposing the American anti-union sentiments of textile workers in the early 1900s with the factory conditions of textile workers in China...or something like that. Oh yeah, throw in the word 'ideology' in there, too, because I think that was a really important part of this piece. Clearly I am very educated.

So that was a fun and different way to spend a Saturday night. You're lucky I'm not re-telling the tale about the amazing, life-changing performance 'art' we witnessed. If by 'amazing' and 'life-changing' you mean 'OMG do people get paid to be this weird?' and 'I can never have those minutes of my life back' and 'I need a lot more wine to begin to think this is worth watching.'

Yesterday afternoon was spent the way I spent my childhood dreaming 'grown up life' would be. As in, after church we went to the library. We came home, and I did not move from my reading on the couch until 10pm. Well, except to get food. And it was glorious. Now it's back to work for a short week (we get Good Friday off, what-what??!) and in the middle of the week there'll be an appointment with the RE (follow-up for Matt's surgery, and MAYBE I'll make myself an appointment while I'm there....we'll see) that I'm looking forward to slash dreading. So despite the fact that it's late March and still freezing cold outside, I'm hoping it turns out to be a good week. If not, I'll probably just look up some 'performance art' on YouTube and have a good laugh at something that isn't supposed to be funny. Cause that's how I roll. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

rainy saturdays & endo ranting

Morning (um- afternoon...) folks. Lest you think I brag about the lovely spring weather in Georgia too much, here's what we're looking at today:

Yeah. Nothing to write home about. So it looks like instead of a day spent in the garden, at the dog park, or reading on the porch, it'll be a day spent darting between indoor activities. Boo.

Yesterday started off with great news-- After the first day of March Madness, I was in SECOND PLACE in my office pool! That's right, I was one of the only people in the universe with the foresight to pick Harvard to win their game. You call it lucky. I call it obvious. I mean, hello. HARVARD. Buncha nerds, right? You gotta root for nerds, people. You just gotta. Give them some respect- they made it to the tournament. Give them something to brag about and get excited about (other than curing diseases, brokering world peace, or whatever it is Harvard students are normally doing during March). 
You notice I did not pick Harvard to win their next game. Let's not be crazy. Basketball's great, but they need to get back to doing Nerd Stuff. I'm sure there are some diseases that need curing. 

I got 13 out of 16 for Day 1. I know I need to go in now and update it with all of yesterdays games, which will probably be significantly less exciting since I've already heard about a few of the teams I picked losing. Oh well. One day of triumphant glory and unashamed gloating was awesome. 

Also, I arrived home from work yesterday to this lovely piece of mail:
 Apparently that love-child I had at age 12 isn't such a secret anymore? Ha. I had a good laugh over this one. 

Last night I had an exciting first-- I received an email from a blog reader (whom I've never 'met' before) to tell me that she saw me at Target! Ha! She said she's been reading my blog for several months but has never commented, etc., but she knew she lived in the same area as she saw me at Target yesterday, but then didn't want to say anything because she thought it would be weird. But then she thought I might have seen HER staring at me, and maybe I would have thought that was weird (for the record, I didn't notice anyone staring or acting strangely at all...apparently I should not be a cop or a spy), so she emailed to let me know it was her. Anyway, I thought it was very sweet and very funny and very crazy. And I was like "oh dude, what was I wearing? Was I acting like a dork? Was I whining at Matt? This is so embarrassing..." but upon retrospect, I think I had a very normal Target trip (albeit with some slow limp-walking; explanation to follow) so I think we're good. For the record, the trip was solely to purchase Les Mis on DVD (WOOO!) and get appropriate snackage for the evening (Oreo Blast ice cream). In other words, it was a very wild and crazy Friday night.

So did you know that March is Endometriosis Awareness Month?
If so-- let's be honest, it's probably because you have endo and are already aware of it all the months, not just in March. But for everyone else-- well, news flash! I hope you don't hold it against me that I waited until the month was almost over before I informed you about it. I mean, just think of all the festivities you could have had all month long...?? Okay, no. I probably wouldn't have even said anything at all except that yesterday had me extremely AWARE of my own endo issues...and by AWARE, I mean I spent most of the day thinking I would die slash crying hysterically slash frantically Googling slash drugged up. So here's your Endo Awareness PSA from me:

ENDO SUCKS. It really does. It hurts. It makes it impossible very challenging for you to have babies. And that hurts, too. It can be (lucky for me!) extremely aggressive- meaning you go from being undiagnosed (not to say that I didn't have it then...just that it wasn't diagnosed) to being a major component of your life and identity. And because it's invisible and not something that anyone can see, and because many people don't understand it and think you just have 'bad cramps' suffer in silence. You sit at work, wrapped up in heating pads, unable to walk due to the pain in your back and thighs, and you cry, praying that no one will come in your office, that no one will need you to come upstairs. You make your husband come over from his office to fetch you the things you can't move around to reach and you really should just go home, but you need to save your sick leave for your next inevitable surgery that will hopefully provide you a few months' respite from the pain. You Google and obsessively read endo message boards so that you feel less alone, so that you know you're not the only one suffering, so that you can get advice about how to deal with the pain, how to get by on those days when this disease sucks the life out of you. You find your mind going very quickly (and probably irrationally, but pain doesn't lend itself to rational thinking) to worst-case scenarios... I know I need to call Dr. S and make an appointment. I know I do. The pain in my legs means there are probably new adhesions in my bowels. What if the pain in my chest and shoulders means I'm one of the really rare ones where the endo has spread into my lungs? I really need to call. But then I'll have to have another surgery. And this time I probably won't get out with both ovaries and both Fallopian tubes. The left side was so, so damaged last time-- he's already said they're essentially useless. As horrible as they're feeling now, it's probably not even worth keeping them. So if I let him go in again, I'll probably leave with only half of my not-so-awesome reproductive system left in me. And even though that might not be what happens, probably isn't what will happen...well, it could be. It's what happens to a lot of other girls in my shoes. And even though my left ovary and tube aren't really doing me any good, I still sort of WANT THEM, you know? I mean, I wish they didn't cause me a hell of a lot of pain. But the thought of losing them makes me a little hysterical. And so I put off making the appointment, because maybe if I can make it through today and tomorrow and this week, maybe it won't be this bad next time. Maybe I'll get tougher. I tell myself that. I also tell myself that I should go ahead and get an appointment now, because if I really do end up needing surgery every 6 months, it'd be better to get the first one of 2013 over with now so that the next one will be in the same calendar year and basically free, since I'll have met my out-of-pocket max already. I love when money and insurance become the main factor in making health decisions, don't you? 

Endometriosis sucks, people. The's almost too much. When your greatest fantasies involve going to the ER so that they'll give you morphine so that you can quit shaking from the know your life is something special. When your greatest fear is that your husband will get tired of taking care of you all the time and having to cancel plans because you can't walk or stop's tough. It's really, really tough. And I'm not the only one dealing with this. RESOLVE says that there are over 176 million women globally that suffer from endo, with the societal costs totaling over $100 BILLION per YEAR. And there is no cure. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. (And nerds at Harvard-- put down your basketballs and get back to curing diseases. Some of us could really use some hope.)

I didn't mean to be such a downer, but you is Endo Awareness Month. I don't want to present too rosy a picture of how life with endo is. You know, on the good days, it's not so bad. It's the bad days that count. And the fear of the bad days that seems to permeate the good days. And the fear that like many women, someday my bad days could start outnumbering my good days-- I am so thankful that right now, they definitely do not. But they could. After my surgery in August, Dr. S said that he was concerned with how aggressive my endo was-- there was marked growth in the month between my last ultrasound and surgery. He said he wouldn't be surprised to see a significant amount of re-growth within six months (which woulda been February). At the time, I thought he was crazy. Right now, I'm pretty sure he was right. I could make an appointment and find out. Maybe I will. Maybe I'll try to tough it out a bit longer.

 Aren't you glad I'm not always this depressing? Blame it on the rain. For the record, I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday, although my legs and back feel really...weak...trembly...for lack of better descriptors...from the cramping yesterday. Mattie is taking good care of me and I'm hoping to feel better enough to go to an art opening tonight with Matt and some ladies from work. And I own the Les Mis DVD now, so I probably will need to watch all the special features (we watched the movie last night-- although the smaller screen (than a movie theater) was a downer, there are distinct advantages to watching it at home, such as you can pause the movie when you need a mental or potty break). So it's going to be a good day, I think. Oh, and I just had some bacon. So...there's that. Have a good Saturday, yall.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

yikes! stripes!

Am I the only one that can still recite/sing the entire Fruit Stripes Gum commercial from 1980 or 90something? Seriously? That is valuable Brain Real Estate, and I'm filling it with advertising jingles for disgusting discontinued bubble gum? Shameful.

But anyway. Yikes! Stripes! is exactly what I find myself thinking every time I walk into my closet. Could you possibly diversify a little, Erika? I don't know, some plaid, maybe? Floral? Dots? Solids? MUST EVERYTHING BE STRIPED? Apparently...yes. IT ALL MUST BE STRIPED. I think I have a problem. My love for stripes is too abundant. So sue me.

I wasn't planning on any outfit pictures yesterday. But then it was like 4:30 and Diana wanted me to take a few pictures of her outfit for WIWW and she was like "you're cute, let's get some of you!" and you know, twist my arm. I'm sure I was a hard sell. But just so you know- I didn't even look in a mirror or put on lipstick. Because all I was supposed to be doing was snapping a pic for Diana.

So here I am in my Tuesday late-afternoon-at-work yikes-stripes glory.

 Shirt: Loft | Jeans: TJMaxx | Sandals: Target (similar) | Earrings: Sam Moon | Bracelets: Wrapp'n Fun | Nail Polish: Sally Hansen

Well that was loads of fun, right? But not as much fun as your comments about bracket-picking yesterday. Holy crap. You folks had me busting a gut. I'm really glad to know I'm not the only one using such creative reasoning during March Madness, and when the dudes at work were mocking my picks yesterday, I felt a lot better knowing yall had my back. 

In other pressing news: anyone else watch Dancing with the Stars? I made it through most of it, although I definitely fast-forwarded the people I didn't know (and didn't even watch their sobby backstories because I don't NEED to know them...what I need is to not be glued to the TV for two full hours every Monday) and just watched the folks I cared about. But then I did have to go back and watch the Disney girl since she did such a bang-up job and I felt dumb for skipping it. And yeah, she was pretty fantastic. But anyway. Here're the folks I originally cared about:

1) Sean Lowe- cute as ever, but quite an awkward dancer. I had figured he'd be highly trainable since he's athletic, but maybe he needs a few (hundred) hours of ballet lessons or something so he doesn't move so...stiffly. Still, I liked him and hope he sticks around.

2)Aly Raisman- GOT A BOOB JOB? I mean, at least I think she did. Or something. Anyway, I tried to concentrate on her dancing, but all I could think about was how her boobs are going to crash into the parallel bars now...but I think she will do well here.

3)Wynonna- She did fine, but was kind of 'meh' for me. I wanted to love her more. I wanted to love her as much as I loved her songs in the 90s. It just didn't happen, though. I hope she's able to stick around because I'd love to see a Kirstie Alley-like transformation, but who knows.

4)Lisa Vanderpump- Love, love, love. As fabulous and hilarious as I'd hoped for and YES she brought Jiggy out, so I totally win for predicting that. I hope she stays for a long time.

5) Dorothy Hamill- LOVED her! Of course, I think being a figure skater gives you quite an advantage, but that advantage is probably almost cancelled out by the disadvantages of age and surviving breast cancer, so I was super proud of her. I hope she stays!!

Person I didn't care about but loved anyway: Kellie Pickler. She was adorable and a REALLY good dancer! Who knew. Kinda love her now.

I'm pretty sure that's the closest I've ever come to a TV show re-cap, so now I better get to work. Oh, and I'm pretty sure I neglected to fill yall in on our latest house-mate. I'll give you some clues as to his/her identity: Small. Furry. Fast. Likes cheese. And the garage, apparently, since he/she seems quite cozy in there. Right, so, isn't that fun? I'm all about extending hospitality to folks, but this one's gotta go. Wish us luck: Matt as he actively sets traps and checks them, me as I SPRINT between the door and my car, convinced that if I stall for a single moment the thing will waltz over and bite my foot off. Good times.     

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

let the madness begin

You probably wouldn't peg me as someone who gets excited about the NCAA March Madness hoopla. I won't hold it against you. You've never heard me talk about basketball. I don't really seem like the type to get all enthused about a big testosterone-fest competition. All signs point towards Erika Doesn't Care About March Madness. But here's the thing: Despite all of those facts being true, I still like it. I like the orderliness of it. I like the brackets. And I like the opportunity to win stuff. I like that you can know NOTHING about basketball, teams, colleges, the rules, or anything, and still play and maybe even still win. It's so awesome to me! Therefore every year I join in the fun and fill out a bracket or three. I have never, ever won a thing. But that's okay. It only takes about 5 minutes to fill it out, and then it provides me with entertainment for a few weeks...totally worth it. Please note: I do not care enough to actually watch a single game. I just check back later to see who won and whether I guessed better than Matt at picking my teams. That's really all it's about.

But I always enjoy the bracket-filling-out part. I have different approaches every year. Let me tell you what NEVER plays a role in my bracket-filling: anything that actually has to do with basketball. I don't know who's good or bad. I didn't find out that those little numbers next to the teams actually meant anything until like...recently...and even still, I don't really understand them enough to let them influence my picking. I don't look up teams' win-loss records or find out who they've already played this season or whether their offense is good or whatever. I could care less. I pick based on way more interesting factors. Sometimes I will actually do research and pick based on mascots. But that's a lot of Googling, let's be honest. Sometimes I'll pick based on team colors. Or I'll write out the team names in pretty handwriting and judge based on which name looks better. I know. These are some really scientific judgment calls I'm making. Try to keep up.

When the business manager at my work sent out the bracket yesterday for our office pool, I got right on it. "You have until Thursday to turn it in!" he said. But why would I need to wait until Thursday? This year, my bracketology requires no researching. It's all gut feelings. And  my gut tells me it's a winner.

Therefore I present to you: Erika's Bracket Plan of 2013. Behold!
This year's choices were even more subjective than normal, if that's even possible. This year it was all about gut feelings about a team/place/name. No research allowed. I looked at the two teams and thought about my first impressions of each one. Some of them are schools I've actually heard of: how do I feel about that school? The city it's in? The reputation of the school/state? Do I know anyone who went there? What kind of food do they serve in this place? How positive do I feel about this place? is really what it came down to. I picked the team (city/region) that I felt the most positive about. 

In the event that I had no idea who a team was or no impression whatsoever of a place, I would pick based on some other factor: how much I liked the name. This explains why Gonzaga makes it so far in my bracket every year-- it reminds me of gorgonzola cheese, which I love. Clearly that makes for a winning basketball team. Or if the team's name reminded me of a real person I know (like Davidson- one of my favorite people's last name is Davison, which is almost the same as Davidson) then I would probably be predisposed to liking that team a bit more than the competition.

After completing a few rounds of my bracket, my prejudices about our country were pretty evident.

Places I Have Good Impressions Of, As Evidenced By Any Teams from These Places Going Really Far In My Bracket: North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, places with warm climates, places notorious for good BBQ, places I associate with this season of The Bachelor, places there are cowboys.

Places I Apparently Got the Wrong Impression About: the Midwest, anywhere it snows a lot but there aren't mountains, teams that are represented by initials that mean nothing to me (VCU? MTSU/SMC? LIU Br/JMU? note: Matt has now informed me that the LIU Br/JMU means that those are 2 separate teams and the game hasn't been played yet. Well SO SORRY LIU Br/JMU, I am still judging you for being a bundle of meaningless letters. Whoever you are, you lose to Indiana, causing Indiana to be pretty much the only Midwestern state that makes it out of the first round.)

How very fair and scientific of me, right? Well, it is what it is. My final bracket tip would be to fill yours out (if you're doing it on paper) in a bright and happy color. Brackets that are beautiful are bound to go farther, just like people that are beautiful are bound to go farther (on reality TV shows and presidential elections-- and don't think that a bias towards beauty is the only thing reality TV and elections have in common!). 

Now I suggest that you get right on filling out your bracket so that you can be the first to turn it in and get that extra day of mocking derision out of the "serious" bracket-filler-outers in your office. You picked ______??!?!?! they will say, implying that choosing a team based on the BBQ reputation of its city is a somehow inferior method of picking. And you will smile sweetly back at them and LAUGH IN THEIR FACE when your team actually DOES win...because sometimes, they will. And it'll all be worth it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

gardens, spiders, and ham. oh my.

It's been a great weekend. I have a whole brain full of random thoughts just dying to escape, so let's get right to it.

1. First of all, no one should be a bit surprised to hear that I spent 85% of my waking hours either shopping at nurseries (the gardening variety) or digging in the dirt. It's a tad early for me to plant veggies and such with full confidence that we won't get a late freeze, but certainly not too early to prep my beds and plant a few things that won't be upset by a little cold. Therefore Matt and I spent quite a long time yesterday hoe-ing our gardens. And now I'm really sore. And you should take a minute to try to guess how many different jokes I've made about hoeing and being sore. If you guessed a million, you're probably on the right track. Don't judge me. Hoeing is harrrrrd. Also, want to know how awesome it feels to spend your hard-earned money on crap? I mean, really. Crap. Literally. I parted with what probably amounts to an hour's pay on a few bags of COW POOP to dump in my gardens. It made me laugh and wonder what kind of person I've grown up to be. And it made me wrinkle my nose, cause that stuff is stinky. Shocking, right?
Try not to be too excited about this extremely underwhelming picture. Here's one of our beds prepped and semi-planted. You can see our parsley that decided to not-die and keep on growin' through the winter...random, but convenient and tasty! So we left him alone and gave him some new neighbors: three strawberry plants. In the middle of the bed (after the strawberries) are six...things...(sticks? bulbs? plants? stalks? no clue how these things grow or what they're called) of asparagus! The growing part is under the soil. You can barely see the grass-like sticks sticking up above, but there they are. Hopefully somehow some edible asparagus will grow, but I have no idea what it'll look like! Isn't gardening fun? You just never know what to expect! And after the asparagus are lima seeds (in the dirt, you can't see them). They're just leftover seeds from last year. There's a really good chance they're too old and won't sprout, so if we don't see anything in about two weeks, we'll just plant something else over them. Won't hurt to try, though! So that's all we put in the ground yesterday. I planted some mint in a pot (it's very invasive, or so I hear, and best kept OUT of the ground) so that I can have mojitos every single day occasionally this summer.

Today I planted some annuals (dianthus and snapdragons) in the front beds, plus some bulbs for dahlias. And some other random stuff. I LOVE SPRING!!!!

2. On a completely different note, yesterday I worked a little side job. The place I used to work (until 2008) calls me sometimes to come in for a random shift...typically when they're REALLY short-staffed, like they were this weekend for Spring Break. Usually I say NO, but sometimes I feel nice and/or want some cash and agree to go in for a few hours. That's how I ended up working for three hours on my Saturday night. The work itself was not terribly fun BUT I got a fantastic tip (plus regular pay) that made it a very lucrative three hours. Since this is clearly my own 'hustle money' that I gave up my valuable free time for, I am determined to spend the money however I feel like it. Normally that means clothes, accessories, and/or overpriced makeup (my personal trifecta), but today I had a stroke of genius and am thinking I may spend this money a very, very different way: on a HoneyBaked Ham. Have you ever had a HoneyBaked Ham? I defy anyone to tell me it's not the most delicious thing on earth. And also NOT the cheapest. But hey- it's my hustle money, and if I want to buy a delicious ham with it, who's to say I shouldn't? Anyway. Please don't judge me for my deep love of pigs. I can't help it. They're just so good.

3. I spent some of my time digging yesterday thinking about another very important topic. In case you can't tell, digging and gardening give you LOTS of quiet time to get wrapped up in your (deep, extremely important) thoughts. So I started thinking about what kind of cosmetic surgery I would get if I were to get cosmetic surgery right now. Which I'm not. But you know, what if someone was like "QUICK-- TELL ME WHAT KIND YOU WANT AND I'LL PAY FOR IT NOW! TEN SECONDS! GO!"...I would want to have an answer ready, obviously. And I decided that I would definitely go for one of the vein treatment options. I have awwwful spider veins in my legs. It's so sad. It's so genetic. My legs look JUST like my mom's and aunts'. It's so not my fault, but it is what it is. And I'm only 30, dangit. I'm not ready to give up on my legs just yet. (Side note: and I REALLY love it if/when I'm complaining about this and someone points out that "you haven't even had kids!! Just wait til you see what happens to them once you have kids!!" and I'm like THANKS FOR REMINDING ME, BUTTHEAD. YOU AREN'T MAKING ME FEEL BETTER ABOUT ANYTHING, ACTUALLY, BUT THANKS.) So anyway, I think it would be really sweet to get some spider vein surgery.

And for the record, I would gladly have my legs turn entirely blue from toe to thigh AND actually have spiders CRAWLING ON MY LEGS if it meant I had a kid. So there, helpful advice-givers.

4.  I'm thinking I'm going to watch Dancing with the Stars this season. I know. I know. I am officially a senior citizen. I haven't been a regular watcher in years, but there are too many intriguing people this season for me to not watch. People I Want to Watch: 1) Ali Raisman-- OBVIOUSLY!! Hello, she's a gold-medal-winning Olympic gymnast. From six months ago, not sixty years ago. I'm pretty sure she has this one in the bag, but I need to watch to know for sure. 2) Sean from The Bachelor. Obviously. I'm guessing he has some sweet white boy moves, but he's clearly athletic and I'm guessing ABC will use this as an opportunity to swizzle some more shirtless photo ops out of him, so...yep, I need to tune in just to make sure. 3) Lisa Vanderpump from RHOBH. I'll admit- I've fallen way, way behind on this season (hello, The Bachelor came on the same night. And now DWTS will. Soo...) but I love me some Lisa and I'm guessing she'll be full of English-accented sass and hopefully bring Jiggy along for the ride, so I need to see that. 4) Wynonna Judd. Forgive me, yall, but I've loved country music for a long time and Wynonna was a major player in my foundational years, so...gotta cheer her on. Alright, now I feel totally lame, but at least I'm not fessing up to watching that show about Z-list 'celebrities' learning to high dive, so...there's that.

That's enough from me. Back to your regularly scheduled programming- and happy St. Patty's Day!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

georgia love & subjective guess who

Yesterday ended up turning into a gorgeous spring day and evening (and the rest of the weekend promises to be even BETTER), so after our 5:00 FREEEEEDOOOOMMMMM!!!!!! battle cry, we embarked on a rather typical-and-wonderful Matt y Erika Friday evening.

Not surprisingly, we started off with dinner on the porch of our neighborhood taqueria. This is how we start off 75% of our weekends (and 50% of the remaining weeknights) (we really like Mexican food) (and really don't feel like cooking usually), so nothing new here to see...except it was nice to be outside again finally! 
  After dinner we decided to enjoy the weather a bit more by walking around our downtown. Since it's been warm for like two days, a few things have started blooming, so we spent plenty of time investigating all plants and flowers and planning what we'll do in our yard and jealously coveting the beautiful landscaping and porches of some of the turn-of-the-century houses downtown. Our downtown is tiny, but we LOVE walking it and haven't been able to in a few months, so it was a very happy time.

And...then there was this spot where the sidewalk was broken. Instead of fixing it or leaving it be, someone opted to place two floor mats from a car in the gap. Made sense to me. (And by "made sense to me" I mean that I almost peed myself laughing so hysterically. Let's hope the homeowners weren't looking out their windows.)

Back to the serious stuff. Georgia beauty. Behold my favorite type of tree EVER:
I nearly lose my mind when I see these gorgeous tulip trees. And lucky for me, they're pretty pervasive 'round these parts, so there's a lot of mind-losing in late March. If there aren't tulip trees where you live, I suggest you move immediately. I recommend Georgia. But keep it north of the Gnat Line cause don't NO ONE wanna be swarmed by gnats 10 months a year. Ick. (Sorry South Georgians. True story, though.)

After it became too dark to enjoy nature anymore, we trekked on home and busted out one of our favorite games that we haven't played in way too long.

I'm sure that Guess Who is a familiar game to most of you, but we don't play it the normal way. May I present to you Guess Who's saltier big brother: Subjective Guess Who.

In Regular Guess Who you ask objective (read: boring) questions. Does your person have red hair? Does your person wear glasses? Does your person have a mustache? As your partner answers, you flip down your tiles until you've eliminated everyone but 'their person.' It's easy. A 6 year old could play this game.

In Subjective Guess Who you ask subjective (read: super fun) questions. Does your person use Twitter? Did your person vote for Romney? Does your person like cats? and then you have to think lonnnng and hard because truly, determining some of those things about a cartoon person can be very challenging and you're relying on a lot of stereotypes and such to make these tough judgment calls. But you press on and usually at the end of Subjective Guess Who no one guesses right to win and you spend 10 minutes fighting over whether Maria is pro-life or pro-choice or if Chris feels insecure in a crowd. I know. Ridiculous. But way more fun. This version of the game is even better when played with teams, because then you can get a whole BUNCH of people yelling about whether it's fair to assume white-haired people don't have iPods or if it's sexist to assume that no men want to attend a book club about 50 Shades of Gray. I mean, don't you just want to go play a round right now? That's what I figured. So now the next time you're at a yard sale and you see Guess Who for a yourself a favor and pick it up.

So that's life out here in the sticks. Try to contain your jealousy and also try to work on your people-judging-skills if you ever hope to beat me at a game of Subjective Guess Who. I'm awesome.

Have a happy weekend!

Friday, March 15, 2013

the red carpet

Too bad my outfit isn't really paparazzi-worthy today (although my polka-dotted wedges are springy and cute)...Hollie at Blog-o-Hollic rolled out the red carpet for me and invited me to guest blog for her today!

She's doing a special series this month for moms, but she graciously invited me to spice up the party with my trademark weeping and gnashing of teeth and whining. Just kidding. I tried to keep those things to a minimum. Don't want to scare the strangers away, ya know. Anyway, head on over and check it (me) out!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


So in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that my brief-but-triumphant return to the world of gymnastics on Saturday left me in a holy crap I think I might die amount of pain on Sunday through...present. Right. So, that's certainly special. It's a good thing I got it on video, because it's probably never going to happen again. Unless, of course, Cirque du Soleil catches wind of my skillz and asks me to join one of their shows. Obviously I would make an exception for them. But

Other than that it's just been the same ol'. Watching 3-hour Bachelor finales. Wondering how I will fill the void in my Monday nights now that it's done. Working. Reading. Moaning about my broken body. Eating Mexican food. Life as usual.

I've been working on a guest blog the last few days. So it's weird-- I feel like I've been blogging a LOT, only I got nothin' to show for it here. :) Oh well. I'll let you know when and where it posts. Maybe. If I don't chicken out. It was a bit of a heart-wringer, that one. I had to hurry up and hit 'send' before I deleted the whole thing. So we'll see.

Remember how I planted my seeds to start indoors a few weeks ago? I'm planning on posting a super-amazing tutorial about that at some point. The only problem is...only ONE of them has started actually growing/sprouting. Out of TWENTY pots with two seeds each. Ummm...oops? I obviously cannot post a tutorial if I failed at my own project. So join me in praying that some more freakin GROW!! It's a pretty depressing sight at this point!

It's going to be in the 70s this weekend. I don't plan to go inside at all.

I read this verse today and it really encouraged me:

 It's in Isaiah. I could go look it up to tell you what chapter, but my Bible is like 30 feet away and obviously I am too broken for all that. Actually, rereading the verse now, out of context, it seems kind of random. But it had me really fired up earlier, so that's good I guess.

Shower and bed time. Sorry for the random pointlessness of this blog, but you know how it goes sometimes. Plus, I gotta finish reading for my cry-fest of a women's group tomorrow night. Half the time I'm the only slacker who didn't finish the reading. That's so unacceptable for someone who spends as much time reading as I do. Of course, if we were studying a book that involved a lot more murder, romance, and unreliable narrators, maybe I could stay more on top of I'll just blame it on that.  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

still got it

Matt and I are visiting my parents in Augusta this weekend. This morning my mom introduced me to the wonder that is Ulta...I must say...Sephora, you may be taking a back seat in my heart. Ulta is even bigger and has better prices. I was in hog heaven for well over an hour, and my wallet was noticeably lighter upon leaving, so...yay?

We spent a few hours doing some other shopping, but after we came home, I decided Matt and I needed to get some exercise and enjoy the weather. We went on a jog/walk around my neighborhood and I pointed out all of the important landmarks: where my friends lived, where cute boys lived, which houses gave out the best Halloween know, the things that are important to know about your spouse's childhood neighborhood. It was good times. Upon arriving back home and heading to the back yard where my dad was grilling, I decided to continue the themes of exercise and childhood memories and do what I spent most of my childhood doing: gymnastics in the backyard.

First I wow-ed Matt with my handstand and round-off. Easy. Child's play. Then I decided to try out a few of my more impressive moves. They weren't particularly impressive back when I was 10 (and 10 feet taller than all the other 10 year olds...and let's face it, added height is a huge disadvantage when it comes to tumbling. Ever see a 5'7 Olympic gymnast? Don't answer that if you have), but I figured if I could still do them as a not-particularly-in-shape 30-year-old, I could consider it quite an accomplishment.

After successfully completing these stunts a few times each, I decided it would be best if we videod me doing them for posterity. For proof that even at age 30...I've still got it.

Please behold, if you will, my Amazing Feats of Athleticism.

Erika Does a Backbend:

Erika Does the Splits:

You can trust that I'll be walking with my head held a little higher the rest of this day. If, that is, I can walk at all.

Friday, March 8, 2013

the internet is creepy

Sometimes it's creepy how stalker-ish the internet is. And I'm not talking about people using the internet. I'm talking about like...programs. Or robots. Or something. Today's example:

The other morning, Mollyanne was in my office and we were talking about a recipe I was giving her. The recipe calls for Heath Bit o' Brickle toffee pieces, and I was trying to explain what they looked like. Obviously pictures are worth thousands of words, so I did a quick Google Image search and showed her what to look for. Great. Done and done.

So explain to me why this morning, the ads on the side of my Facebook are all for Heath Bit o' Brickle baking pieces? Those ads have never been there before. But now they are. And dang they look tasty. Obviously the Google robots chat with the Facebook robots and that there is straight up creepy.

Incidentally, the Heath baking ads are by Now I love me some We've discussed that before. But who does their grocery shopping there? That would just be dumb. But maybe the Computer Robots are just smart enough to figure out ALL of my favorite things. "She likes Heath bits? She likes SHE WILL LOVE BUYING HEATH BITS AT DRUGSTORE.COM!!!" Apparently the robots lack common sense, cause don't NO ONE wanna buy baking bits at Sorry, robots.

Anyway. One last thing. This is a question of computer/email etiquette. Say you send me a (work-related) email like this:

Hey Erika, I wanted to RSVP for _____ and had a few questions.... and then you asked your questions.

I respond to you: 

Hey Person (except I would use your name, of course), blah blah blah (and I answer your questions). Thanks for touching base, let me know if I can help you with anything else!

And then you respond back:

Perfect, thanks so much! I appreciate your help! or something along those lines.

Here's the question: Should I respond again with a 'you're welcome' or 'no problem' or something? Or is that just annoying? Personally, I would not necessarily want/expect a final one-or-two word response. But would you? Is it polite or annoying? Help a sister out!