Tuesday, July 30, 2013

not as exciting as you'd think

I am so tired.

My brain is 100% empty and devoid of any interesting thoughts. I think two nights of terrible sleep + last night's 'MOST DRAMATIC EVER' Bachelorette episode, which actually was extremely dramatic and emotionally draining, are taking their toll. I apologize if I'm not up to my normal extremely high level of entertainment (ha) today.

Yesterday my friend Diana emailed me this screenshot of an ad she noticed on my blog:

Feel free to notice the time of this screenshot and comment about how strange Diana is that she CHOOSES to wake up at like 4 a.m. to go running, be productive, and read blogs before work.
Her email simply said "Your blog was advertising this. Thoughts?"

Yes, I have thoughts. All The Thoughts. Of course.

What the heck is wrong with the internet ad robots? They have really been off their game lately!

I spent some time pondering the meaning of this ad. This is what sleep-deprived and delirious people do, apparently. Bodies? Transferable? Space?

This obviously is some sort of alien body-transferring thing. They take your bodies back to their own planets? How did aliens manage to get a Google ad? Do they have human advertising executives that they work with? Why don't they speak better English? Why did they start their body transfers in 1972? Did it coincide with the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich? So many questions.

At any rate, I eventually decided it was worth checking out the webpage. If these body-transferring shenanigans are being advertised right under my own nose, I better at least know what's up.

Turns out it's super boring.

Something to do with pickup truck camper top things ("service bodies"). Boring boring boring. What a letdown. No aliens. No bodies being transferred. Ridiculous.

And thus concludes the most anticlimactic story ever. Another alien story that didn't pan out. One of these days it will, though. And on that day, I will shout in my husband's face "BOOYAH!!! I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!"...because if there's anything we disagree about, it's the existence of body-transferring aliens. I can't wait to win that argument.

Oh look, I'm reaching new lows here. Help. Send Starbucks!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

pass the sunscreen. and another mojito.

 I knew I liked you people. I mean, that's why I invited you all to join me on an amazing blog-friends non-conference vacation, after all. And then you all (well, 55 of you. That's legit in my book.) played nice and voted in my survey? AND THEN YOU ALL PRETTY MUCH VOTED FOR THE SAME THING??! I knew we were BFF for a reason.

 Apparently we can all agree that being lazy, tan, and responsibility-free in the sun is the best way to spend a vacation, judging by the vast majority of you choosing either the all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or (and) the cruise in the Bahamas. A few of you ambitiously selected a few other places as well (or just picked ALL, which is also legit)...and for awhile, actually, the DUDE RANCH was in 2nd place to the resort!! That was cracking me up! Apparently you cowgirls get up and vote early, since you were ultimately surpassed by folks preferring cruising and museums tours. Which...you museum people? Yeah. Sorry, but that was the WRONG CHOICE. Unless you want to hear me whine and complain for endless hours, or watch me disappear into the coat room with my Kindle. Just send me a text when you're ready to leave and do something fun, like eat. Or watch paint dry. The only thing worse than going to a museum on vacation is going to tour a battleship. And I speak from personal experience. Many times. It's a miracle I survived my childhood, actually. No wonder I watch so much reality TV. I'm still trying to balance out all those educational vacations.

This drink is for YOU, boring Battleship Texas tour! May my feet never cross your threshold again!

I drink this in remembrance of the Museum of Boring-ass Space or whatever it's called. Washington DC, you stand for everything boring in this world. Boring museums and politics. Mark my words: I will never waste another second of my life within your zip code!!!

Anyways. Sorry for the digression. You should be glad you're not Matt: I regularly decide to vent all of my pent-up museum and walking-tour and battleship aggression on him. Poor guy. I wonder if there is group therapy for this sort of thing? Never mind. We can discuss while we're laying next to the pool in the Dominican Republic or something. Free therapy! (Except, not free...but whatever)

Other folks made some great alternative suggestions which I will take into account for our next blogger getaway:

1) Yes, my house IS basically a resort. You've seen my pool, and you know I make a mean cobbler and strawberry-coconut soda. What else could you hope for?

2) This is a fabulous suggestion. I totally didn't even consider this, but I've seen gorgeous pictures of such places (in what, like Arizona or something? California? Some other place I've definitely never been?) and would be all for hitting up such a place!

3) ONE HUNDRED PERCENT YES. Whoever wrote this, I love you and how you are keeping my best interest in mind. 

4) Ummm...I'm going to have to go Google a map to see where the heck Ottawa even is, but since all of my Canadian blog friends ARE totally awesome, I'd say this is a possibility! Is there a hockey game we can go to while we're there? How about a battleship? HAHA DON'T ANSWER THAT.

So anyway, I'm glad that at least most of us can agree that resorting in the Caribbean is the way to go. I think that those of you who voted for the cruise can be easily convinced: the all-inclusive is exactly like a cruise except that you don't get seasick, the booze is free, and you can't possibly get stranded in the middle of the ocean for a week with no electricity, pooping in a bag. Sooooo....yeah. That should be all the convincing you need. Plus your dinner can look like this every night:


So thank ye kindly for voting. If you were hoping to discourage me from obnoxiously creating surveys and begging you to vote, you have basically accomplished the opposite by being such good little voters. I'm already scheming what my next riveting survey topic will be. Get excited. Or offer suggestions. Also good.

 A couple of weeks ago, after my friend Kristin scored some amazing deals at Old Navy and then I went to ON to try to get the same things but the SALE WAS OVER and it was too late and I chastised her for not telling me about the sale BEFORE the sale (or at least on the same day) and she said 'don't you get their emails?' and I said 'probably, yeah, but they either go to my spam box or I ignore them cause don't nobody have time to actually LOOK AT all the store emails they get' and she probably rolled her eyes and I said 'next time just TELL ME when there's a good sale' and she said 'okay'...WHEW, take a breath. Sorry, I didn't want to make a semi-unimportant story longer by including punctuation...SO, now Kristin dutifully (and by 'dutifully' I mean...she is totally an awesome friend and this is above and beyond the normal call of friendship duty) forwards me any PARTICULARLY GOOD Old Navy sale emails WITH her own notes at the top of the email about which items she thinks I might be especially interested in. I KNOW. Don't you wish you had a friend like that, to personally curate sale ads for you? (Jealousy is appropriate here) So that is how I knew that on Saturday, I needed to be hitting up the $5 swimsuit sale at Old Navy! I am a huge fan of ON bathing suits, and what with my *ahem* all-inclusive resort vacation quickly approaching (my real one, not the distant-future one I'm planning for blog friends!), I have been needing to add a few more bathing suits to the collection. I didn't have time to actually go to the store, but I own enough of their suits that I'm confident shopping online...and THEN I discovered that online ONLY yesterday, you got 25% off your whole order!! So basically what I'm saying is...I cleaned up at Old Navy (dot com) yesterday. Two bathing suits, two shirts (one chambray button down...FINALLY, maybe I'm the last person on earth to get one?, one fancy tank top), and a pair of khaki shorts...I am about to have a happy mail day sometime soon!

Alright. That was a boring story. Sorry. I'm just really excited because VACATION CLOTHES mean vacation is SOON! Now that the Bathing Suit Situation is pretty much set, I'm moving on to finalizing my sunscreen selection. And I need help. I typically use a separate/different sunscreen for my face (usually advertised as a 'faces' sunscreen, or oil-free, or something)...but I'm not loving my current one. Anyone have a face sunscreen that they particularly love? Not an everyday moisturizer with SPF...a legit beach sunscreen. Do you use separate sunscreen for your face, or have I fallen prey to a marketing scheme? Also, bonus points if your sunscreen recommendations do not include oxybenzone, as I'm not especially interested in enhancing my endometriosis. That's like...the opposite of vacation. Something more on par with battleship touring. And now we all know how I feel about that. So! Recommendations! Go!  And Happy Monday!

Friday, July 26, 2013

the next great debate: blogger vacations ed.

First things first:

Last night I made blackberry cobbler from scratch (don't worry, there are only like 4 ingredients, so you don't have to be too impressed). A co-worker brought in tons of blackberries from his yard, so it seemed like the right thing to do. There's nothing that makes you feel quite as stereotypically 'Southern woman' as whipping up a cobbler in the evening. I felt like I needed a corset and hoop skirt and to ramp my (mostly non-existent) Southern accent up about 12 notches. But anyway. It was good, and I did the right thing and brought it to work today so that I don't polish off the entire thing all by myself. 

So. You may or may not be aware of it, but right now the BlogHer '13 conference is going on in Chicago. And if you have no idea what that even is, I believe it can be summarized as lots of (female) bloggers paying a nice chunk of change to go to a 4 (or so, don't know) day conference with lots of other bloggers, where they'll hear speakers (both bloggers and regular ol' non-blog celebrities), network with each other and brands that sponsor/advertise with bloggers, go to workshops, try to take pictures with super famous bloggers (like Pioneer Woman), and just generally blow up Twitter with preppy pictures and 'swag' they collect from companies trying to woo them. Oh, and then party and drink all night. 

I'm neither pro- nor anti-blog conferences, but I can guarantee you that it's not 'my scene.' I hate big crowds of people, especially when I know no one or very few people. I'm not much of a networker, my blog isn't huge or money-making, and I have no desire to stalk down blog-celebrities and beg for a photo with them. So I'm not really 'blog conference material,' exactly. Especially when you have to pay a crapload of money to do it. Plus get to Chicago and pay to stay there for several days.

HOWEVER. I do love my blog friends! And I often find myself thinking that if I were to spend a lot of money to do something blog-related, I would much rather just have a big meet-up with bloggers I care about and have personal relationships with...the celebrities can stay home with their perfect kids and perfect wardrobes and perfect lives...I wanna hang out with yall.

That led me to today's task: clearly, we need to decide where to have our big blogger vacation meet-up. Naturally, it will be all-expenses-paid (don't ask how, leave the details to me!). It's gonna last for a week, and magically, the exact same week is going to work out for everyone!!! Also magically, during that time your kids/house/dog/job/normal life responsibilities will all be taken care of, so don't worry about that either. All you need to focus on is where we should go and what we should do

So I made another one-question survey. Told you I was gonna make more surveys!! Only this topic actually is super important, so I hope you consider the choices carefully before picking one (or 3). You can assume that if you're reading this, you're invited and expected to attend, so...let's get to voting and discussing. Remember, it's important to have made these choices early, so that if one day one of us wakes up and discovers we've won the lottery or inherited a billion dollars, the biggest decision will be out of the way and we'll be a few steps closer to a really fabulous vacation with all the people we've never met in real life. YAY! Also, no matter where we go, I'll bring some cobbler. So don't stress your pretty little heart about that one.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

explain THAT.

This'll have to be quick.

We've had about 12 hours with our first visitor, L. I must say-- things are off to a great start! He is very easy to talk to, curious, helpful, and kind. There's been nonstop discussion ever since we picked him up, and I suddenly feel like I'm uneducated (or at least, unable to formulate coherent thoughts and explanations) about basically everything in America! In case you were wondering if there were any social, cultural, or political differences between China and America...let me be the first to tell you: there are. And if you want someone to really explain those...I'm probably not your girl. But I'm trying anyway!

Topics we've hit on already:

(Oh, and please note-- none of these were remotely contentious or 'debate'-ish, just very civil discussion/question answering. Lots of laughing and smiling throughout!)

1. Differences in educational systems/philosophies of China vs. USA. (I did okay here, give myself a B)

2. The 'gun culture' of/in America, including questions about how hard it is to get guns, where you get guns, how much they cost, and what kind of guns people are allowed to have. Oh, and why it was so important to the country's founders that they put it in our Constitution. (I struggled here with trying to present a balanced perspective. D.)

3. Related to #2, but slightly different: Hunting. Primarily: how do hunters not all kill each other accidentally. Thankfully I have a lifetime of living in Georgia and a redneck brother, so I was a little better prepared for this topic. A-.

4. Slightly related to #3- wild animals, and are there any in the woods in our backyard? (A+. Nailed it.)

5. Homelessness in America- why are there people sleeping on the porches of buildings, can they get jobs, does the government help them, will the police make them leave? (C, but since I'm pretty sure my bleeding heart was visible through my shirt, I'll bump myself up to a B+)

6. What does it mean that UGA is a "party school", what are parties, how do we feel about that reputation? (B.)

7. Population density of various places- for example, L said that he comes from a 'small town' in his province in China. Wikipedia reveals that his 'small town' has over 1.5 million people. We explained that that is larger than most of the 'big cities' in America. Then he wondered how many people were in Athens: 119,000. For giggles, we looked up how many people live in the city WE live in: a few over 2,000. He was dying laughing. I helpfully added that there are also 2,000 cows, so let's not discount that. (A+, since most of this discussion was aided by Google and Wikipedia)

8. Beaches of the East Coast, Florida, Mexico, and the Gulf- how far away from Athens they are, how good the beaches are (A+ I WAS BORN FOR THIS CONVERSATION) (except for when he asked WHY the beaches of south Florida/Mexico have clear blue water and the north FL/GA/SC beaches tend to have murkier, non-blue water...totally failed there. Magic was the best I could come up with, which isn't really impressive to people getting their PhDs in physics. F.)

All in all, we're off to a great start. Obviously I need to do some more research about...you know, everything in America, but other than that we're good. On the plus side, he declared both Matt and I to be 'warm-hearted,' complimented my cooking many times (it is the best food he's had in America!....so basically, I just beat out airplane food in a competition. YES!), decided that Lola is very smart, and said that the bed was very soft. I can only hope that those things count for more than my explanations about gun control, homelessness, and the fact that his cell phone bill will be 8x more expensive than it was in China ($6/month!!!!). 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

the people. they spoke.

Alright...guess it's 'bout time to wrap up my week-long 'comment-gate,' eh?

We discussed. I surveyed. You responded. I experimented and soul-searched. I lamented having to make a decision. But I tried to make one anyway.

First: the survey results!

As you can see (if your vision is awesome), 45 people filled out the survey. Or well...there were 45 responses. I suppose it could have been 20 really zealous people doing it multiple times. But since I said that was okay, I can't really judge you for doing that...and I'm too lazy to go examine all of the IP addresses (the only identifying information I can glean from the responses) to even see if that happened. SO! 45 people. And such a close race! Basically a 3-way tie between liking pop-up, liking threaded, and not caring at all. So thanks for nothing there! Ha. I was really hoping for a landslide one way or the other...but that's okay. Democracy is democracy.

Then there are 10 people who will be receiving checks for millions of dollars in the mail because they are so awesome they took the time to check the suck-up box ("I love commenting so much I'd do it via smoke signals and carrier pigeons if that were the only option!"). And there are 2 people that should be sleeping with one eye open because they took the time to check the hater box ("I would never, ever, under any circumstances leave a comment here, not even for a million dollars"). I mean, just kidding. I'm a pacifist. I think.

Four people took the time to leave additional commentary, which is always commendable:
The conclusions I drew from the survey are:
1) Making surveys is super fun and I'm going to start doing them a lot more often about things hopefully just as important and life-changing as comment systems.

2) Most people are amazed, and not necessarily in a good way, by how much time I've spent thinking about the whole thing. Which is understandable. I kind of amazed even myself. And not necessarily in a good way.

3) There is no clear-cut winner in the 'commenting system' debate.

In the two or so days that I fully embraced the 'threaded' thing, posting almost all of my comment responses back on the blog, threaded in the comment section, it was fun to see more reader interaction with each other. I liked the little sub-conversations that developed. BUT. It was extremely time-consuming for me. Because instead of simply replying to you via email, which I can do anywhere at any time from my phone, and takes probably 2-4 seconds depending on what I'm saying...I had to actually GO to the blog and write the comment there. Which sounds dumb, but I know I'm not the only one that hates commenting on blogs from my phone. So I had to be at a computer. And then there was this added pressure to respond to every single comment really quickly because like...everyone could see if I had or not? Does that make sense? If I'd responded to 5 comments and then left the room for an hour (or had to like, actually WORK) and came back to find 5 NEW comments that it looked like I was publicly ignoring...I felt really bad! Versus when I respond through email...I can do it when I have a chance and no one knows whether or not I've responded to all the other comments. I don't know. Maybe nobody cares about that except me, but it stressed me out. I also didn't like that you wouldn't get an email notification that I'd responded to you unless you 'subscribed,' but then you'd get notifications of EVERY SINGLE COMMENT...which...let's face it, one of those posts had like 51 comments (with half of them being from me). I cringe to think of how annoyed I would be if I got 51 email notifications about people commenting on someone else's blog. So then I would try responding via email AND on the blog, for the people that I know probably won't come back to see it later, and like...whoa. I work full-time. Don't nobody have time for dat.

So then for the last few days, I've left the comments open as 'threaded,' but gone back to my old way of only responding via email. So a few of you have still taken advantage of 'commenting on comments' or whatever and keeping conversations going there, but not a whole lot. So it seems like if I'm not going to be responding there, it doesn't really make much of a difference whether I leave it as threaded or go back to pop-up.

So I'm going to go back to pop-up commenting. I just like how it looks better, honestly (and how you don't have to lose your 'reading spot'). I'll continue responding to comments through email (and now that a lot of you have fixed your no-reply status, you won't be left out of THAT massive privilege...haha) because I just like that better. I feel like I've built so many good friendships through the conversations we get going through email, and due to the sometimes-sensitive nature of the topics here, a lot of those conversations would not happen out 'in public'...the privacy of email conversations is pretty useful sometimes.

HOWEVER! Since I have discovered that it's extremely easy to switch back and forth between the two systems, I'm not opposed to switching to threaded for an occasional post that is particularly conversation-worthy. As some folks pointed out, sometimes threaded commenting is extremely valuable for something like a food/recipe blog (not that I'm going in that direction), where people ask questions, offer tips on a recipe, etc. I also like it for when people are recommending products or something...so, it may happen that sometimes I'll switch it over for a particular topic or something. But for the most part, I'm going back to pop-up. And I can certainly still respond IN the pop-up commenting (if there's a question that needs clarifying, or if I really want to reply to someone with no-reply status whom I can't reach by email), it just doesn't LOOK like a nice little indented response...but that's okay. I guess if people ARE checking back later to see if I've responded, they'll see it whether or not it's 'threaded' or not.

And THAT is, I believe, all that I have to say on the topic. I know. You thought I'd never shut up. I promise to never overthink something this much again. Haha that's a lie. But hopefully it won't be something as trivial as blog commenting next time.

I can't have another entire post solely devoted to this nonsense, so I have a final thing to share before we leave.

If you were to stop by my office over the past few weeks, you would have found me slowly being driven insane by fruit flies. WHY? I don't know. It's an office. Not a commercial kitchen. Not a peach tree farm. A stinkin' office that I keep really clean. So why I've been suddenly inundated with fruit flies, flaunting their astonishing ability to rapidly procreate in my face, I don't know. But I've tried a few different methods of getting rid of them, and I wanted to share the winner (wait- can you believe I didn't create a survey about fruit-fly-killing-methods and bug (HAHA PUNNY) you for a week about what I should try? PROGRESS!!!).

This is the 'bait in a cup covered with plastic wrap with a tiny hole' method. As the name suggests, put your 'bait' (a tomato here...I've also used syrup and peaches) in a cup, cover the cup tightly with Saran wrap, poke a tiny hole in the Saran wrap, and wait. The flies will find their way in through the hole, as they smell that tasty (molding) tomato. Then once their in, they can't find their way out. Except for one of mine did, once. He was an industrious little fella. But for the most part, they can't. I pretty much wait til I have a few flies trapped and then tape over the little hole and throw the whole thing away. And set a new one. It's not the most beautiful decoration for my office, but it's a heck of a lot better than having swarms of flies in your face all day.

So there you have it. If you have any other fruit-fly tips, feel free to share. This method is working for now, but I fear that the next generation (in about fifteen minutes, I guess) may have evolved to be even stronger and smarter and maybe they won't fall for the ol' 'bait in a cup covered with plastic wrap with a tiny hole' method. I need a backup plan in my arsenal.

Happy Wednesday! Our first Chinese student arrives this afternoon...I'm nervous and excited!! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

how to be the favorite

 In addition to our synchronized sneezing accomplishment, we actually had a fun weekend. Lots of Matt's extended family came into town to visit for the weekend, so we spent our days surrounded by people and food and fun.

And, most importantly, Baby Timmy. (Relatedly: he is going to be turning 2 in a few weeks...at what point will I have to stop calling him Baby Timmy? Age 12? Great.)

I'm pretty sure I'm still Timmy's favorite person on earth (besides his parents, I will reluctantly concede).

I've done a lot of soul-searching trying to figure out what it is about me that makes me so awesome in Timmy's eyes. I think I've identified a few key things. Take notes if you're hoping to win the heart of any toddlers in your life.

1. I let him wander around with my phone. I think this is key. No one else lets him do this (or at least not as often and on-demand, like I do). When he sees me, his typical reaction is "EHH-KUH!" and a big smile, followed quickly by "picture Timmy? cow? puppy Lola?" (which is why he wants the phone-- pictures of himself, various farm animals, and Lola, of course) as he reaches for my phone (if visible in my hand) or pats down my pockets/purse. Even though most people seem to think that handing a 2-year-old your expensive phone is a recipe for disaster, I try to convince myself that nothing too bad can happen. He just looks at pictures and randomly swipes things, right? Oh, but then I heard the tell-tale clicking of typing, so I hunted him down to investigate. He was just doing a little Tweeting, NBD! 140 characters of mmmbbbRRRbsohooooo or something. Which is about the most intelligent thing to come across my Twitter screen in a few days, so really...no biggie.

2. I read him lots of stories, even the really boring ones (which I make up new words for so that they're less boring/way shorter). He likes looking at the pictures and turning the pages and naming things on the pages. I like cuddling with him. Everyone wins.

3. I am really fun.
I mean, I'm a party and a half in the pool. Who knew I was capable of anything other than laying out? I know. It came as a surprise to me, too. Also my pool-related double-standards don't seem to bother Timmy and he catches on to my rules pretty quickly (such as: splashing Erika is NOT OKAY. Splashing everyone else is fine and encouraged).

4. If I'm around, Matt is usually nearby. And since Timmy's a pretty huge fan of Mat-chew...it just works out really well for him.

Much like I suspect Timmy really likes me because of my phone, I think half of Matt's appeal is in his sunglasses that he frequently wears like in the picture above. Timmy is big on sunglasses, so Matt's habit of keeping his easily accessible is rated highly by the Timmy. But hey, whatever it takes, right? 

5. I encourage his artistic pursuits.
Many people may be annoyed to find their iPad photo galleries filled with hundreds of photos like this. I am not. This is also probably helped by the fact that it isn't my iPad...but instead of being annoyed by the 15 seconds it will take to erase all of those pictures, I instead compliment the photographer on his unique sense of perspective and focus. I suggest possible new subjects for his next photo series (for example, the corner of the couch was really neglected here. I feel like there's a lot he could do with that). 

So these are just a few of the things that I think are key to becoming the Favorite Person of a toddler. See if you can start incorporating them into your own life...satisfaction guaranteed. (Unless you are actually LIVING with said toddler. In which case you may find it highly annoying to have a kid always hitting you up for a phone or sunglasses or swim. So maybe these tips are best reserved for Favorite Aunties who live 300 miles away.)

Unfortunately, sometimes Timmy has to sleep. Luckily there were other people around to entertain me during those time periods. My sister-in-law Jess and I amused ourselves by going to the local discount movie theater to watch The Great Gatsby.

Loved it!!!

I should probably give a disclaimer: I haven't read the book in like...13-ish years? It was in high school. And subsequently I remembered very little about the story, other than that I'd liked it at the time. So I'm not the person that's going to be able to say "well, I didn't like how the movie portrayed _____...the book did so much more with ______..." or whatever. I barely remember the book. So I just enjoyed the movie for what it was: a glamorous, glittering sparkle-fest of decadence and love and hope and deceit and tragedy. It was 100% Baz Luhrmann, which is a very good thing in my book. I love his style and this movie did not disappoint. 

On Sunday, Jess surprised me with a sweet gift-- a copy of the book! And she wrote on the inside, which is 100% my favorite part of receiving a book as a gift. So now I can re-read it and maybe then I can intelligently compare and contrast book v. movie. And also, you can thank me for cropping the picture. I basically looked like an Amazon in this picture and your eyes might have started bleeding, so...you're welcome.

And a mere hour or so after the picture above was taken, Matt and I found ourselves doing some synchronized sneezing in a grocery store...which means we're all up to date. Have a great day-- I'm off to hunt down Bachelorette Men Tell All recaps because I'm just dedicated like that.

Monday, July 22, 2013

the MOST twinsy twinsies.

We had a pretty great weekend. I was planning on telling you all about it, but then something so amazing...so awe-inspiring...so life changing...happened. And I couldn't dare lump it into a post with other such inconsequential events and pictures...this thing truly deserved a post all unto itself. Today. Monday morning. The 'prime time' of blogging, if you will. (Actually, is it? I will need to study my Analytics to determine what is actually prime time. I'll report back.)

You are probably already aware that Matt and I like to be 'twinsies.' We like to coordinate our outfits (exhibit A, exhibit B). We get really excited when we say the same thing at the same time (preferring to exclaim 'TWINSIES!!!' instead of 'jinx,' because we think it is a good thing and we don't like owing Cokes. (did other people treat 'jinx' like that or all you all confused?)). We like to eat the same things and often order the same meal in restaurants. If we both under-sunscreen our left shoulders and have pink left shoulders, we high five because TWINSIES. We like sports where people do synchronized things because we can talk about how we would do it better because WE ARE BETTER TWINSIES:

(Like, their ponytail curves are atrocious. If Matt and I were both girl divers, we would have the same haircut so that our ponytails would line up better. Also we would be the same amount of tan. Truly, these ladies are appalling. Have they no dedication to their sport?) (Sike, seriously they are badasses. But there's always room for improvement!)

So yesterday afternoon we are innocently doing our grocery shopping. We're in the produce aisle and I'm selecting peaches while Matt guards the cart and scrutinizes the price of grapes. We're standing right next to each other but not interacting at the moment. 

And then it happens.

With no buildup and no warning, it happens.

We both sneeze.

At. The. Same. Moment.


Exactly the same moment.

And of course we both realize it at exactly the same moment. Synchronized sneezes?? You couldn't make that happen if you TRIED!

Our faces and exuberant high-fives announced our excitement about this Ultimate Moment of Twinsies:

WE ARE SO FREAKING AMAZING!!!!! TWINSIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And we spent a good 15 seconds just being in general awe of our own awesomeness and twinsieness. And it would have been a great moment, but then it got better.

We had an audience.

Apparently we weren't the only people that witnessed the Miracle of Synchronized Sneezing. A fellow shopper had the privilege of seeing/hearing it as well, and suffice it to say...I think it changed her life.

I base this assumption on the fact that she was doubled over laughing. Like, couldn't catch her breath laughing. At us. And then when we saw her laughing, she gave us a thumbs-up and nod of approval. And then she couldn't STOP laughing. I know it was amazing, lady, but now you're causing a spectacle. Pull yourself together, woman! I guess when you witness something like that, you can't really control your reactions because she seriously lost it. After we finished exchanging smiles with her, we moved on because like...seriously. Enough is enough. But then every time we passed her in the rest of the store (going up and down the aisles) she started laughing again. 

I bet that if she has a blog, she's telling this story today, too. I wouldn't be surprised if she sneaked a few phone pictures of us, either. An eyewitness to the world's first (and only, because I mean...for real.) synchronized sneeze? At least she appreciated the miraculousness of it.

And with that, Matt and I have solidified our position as the World's Most Twinsy Twinsies. Everyone else who was hoping to compete...well, thanks for playing. But the competition is over.

Friday, July 19, 2013

updates, and my first screenplay

I really appreciate yall humoring me this week. Who knew I would launch Comment-Gate on you without any warning like that? Ha! Anyway. Let's be honest: commenting systems are like...extremely low on the list of Things That Matter in the World. And actually even pretty low of list of Things That Matter in My Life. But thanks for joining me in over-thinking it to death this week. And for VOTING!! So far 43 people have voted, which I think is more than turned out for the last presidential election in America, so I'm pretty happy about that! The vote is way closer than I had anticipated, so I'm going to not call this race just yet. Perhaps I'll reveal the results over the weekend. In the meantime, feel free to keep voting!

Let's see. In other, non-comment-system news...

-One of our Chinese visitors emailed us back last night! He seems very sweet (?? that is probably not okay to describe a man in his mid-20s, is it. Kind? Friendly?) and his written English is fantastic, so that's good! (Then again, not surprising. He's coming to grad school in America...where classes will be in English...so if you can handle graduate-level physics in English, I'm guessing a friendly email is fairly manageable) He is going to be arriving even earlier than we'd expected- Tuesday! Like, the one that's next week! Yikes! So now we have even less time to prepare (our other student is arriving on Friday the 26th). He did, however, comment that Lola is 'lovely' (we sent pictures) and that he looks forward to meeting her, so I think we are all gonna get along juuuuust fine.

-Guess what coffee-table book I got for free yesterday?

Oooh yes. Indeed. I found it in the little free book exchange thing in downtown Athens. I'm sure you're familiar with the blog, but apparently they turned it into a book (which then someone gave away to the free book exchange, so do with that what you will). So obviously I snatched it up and brought it back to work where we proceeded to waste a nice chunk of time laughing at people. I generously donated the book to our break room so that people have something hilarious to look at while they eat their lunch. Also, it looks like they seriously published this book on Shutterfly. It looks exactly like the photo books I've made of vacations and family weddings. Then again...well, yeah. I don't know what else I'd expect from a photos-with-captions blog trying to write a book, so whatever. Do whatcha gotta do, I guess.

-I have turned into a terrible wannabe triathlete-trainee. Seriously. You have probably noticed that I have the sports-commitment of a flea (I think that metaphor is going to start catching on...) and currently tri training is not NEARLY as fun as tennis, so it's taking a backseat. Which is dumb if I think I'm still going to compete, but there you have it. I like to do what's currently most fun to me, and as long as I can limit that tendency to the exercise arena (versus using that philosophy with, say, jobs...money...relationships...things that MATTER...), I don't really see a problem. I felt a tiny bit guilty going to the tennis court yesterday afternoon when it was finally sunny and I really SHOULD HAVE been riding my bike or running...but whatever. Tennis is my favorite sport du jour and so maybe I'll do the tri and maybe I'll punk out. At any rate, my knee is still giving me too many problems to run, so this is probably better than just doing nothing, right? (Well, unless resting would allow it to actually get better...but that's just not an option.)

-I watched the last half-hour of SharkNado last night. It was as ridiculous as I had anticipated. That kind of laughter is good for the soul.  I wish I had been in the meeting where they thought of this whole concept. "Alright, guys...what are two REALLY SCARY things that we can blend together to make THE SCARIEST THING EVER? And then we'll get a fourth grader to do our special effects using Microsoft Paint and IT'S GONNA BE AWESOME!!" If it were me thinking of the things I'm most scared of, you woulda been watching BirdHotelBeds. So just be thankful I wasn't in the meeting, because NO ONE could handle that scary of a film.

The skinny, vapid blonde girl and her meathead husband enter their luxurious hotel room, giggling and flirting as they unlock the door and stumble through the doorway, dropping their luggage. As they lay down to sleep off their jetlag (my movie is PG, guys), Blondie's hair fans out on the pristine white pillowcase. As the first snores escape Meathead's mouth (nostrils?), we glimpse the sheets starting to move strangely. As the violin music crescendos, we see the sheets transform into a giant flock of birds. Blood splatters the IKEA wall art as the birds mercilessly peck Blondie and Meathead and savagely touch them with their wings. And feet. Blondie's shrieks drown out the violins as we fade to black.

And with that, I'm gonna get back to my day job. Have a good weekend. Good luck sleeping, and may God help any of you who might find yourself in a hotel bed...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

let the people speak!

There's been a lot of good dialogue about commenting systems the past two days. I appreciate everyone's feedback and passion about the topic! Unfortunately, so far all of that dialogue has only served to muddy the waters for me as far as which system to stick with. Therefore I thought that the best thing to do would be to utilize that most democratic method of making decisions and put it to a vote.

We've had a few days to test it out. Hopefully you had a chance to respond in a thread and hit 'subscribe' and see what happened. Maybe you discovered that you were previously a 'no-reply' person and you've fixed that! Wherever you are in your personal blog commenting journey, I hope that you will take your experiences and beliefs and VOTE! Because we all know I can't just make a decision on my own. That would be insane.

So here's the one-question survey I created! Lucky for everyone, you can check as many boxes as you feel you need to. I know it can be really limiting to only be able to choose one thing, so I wouldn't put you through that. Also, I'm guessing you could vote as many times as you wanted (don't think there's any way to limit that?). I would ask that you keep your number of votes proportionate to your passion for that vote. If you really don't care, vote once. If you have a REALLY HUGE AMOUNT OF LOVE for one side, you probably should vote a couple extra times. Isn't this the fairest way? Per this system, I would have voted zero to one times in each of the last 10 elections about politicians and eleven times to legalize Sunday alcohol sales. Same thing. (Which even with me only voting once, Sunday sales passed, so BOOYAH. But I've digressed.)

Now, vote! Let your voice be heard!! Be the master of your own commenting destiny (here, anyway)!! And may the best commenting system win!

Also, as a reward for voting, I'm not going to give you something lame, like a sticker...come on, seriously? I feel really confident all of you are older than three and are basically not impressed by stickers. I think your prize will be some kind of awesome neon workout clothing. And some Mexican food. Basically two of the greatest loves of my life. Am I generous or what?

PS. I love surveys. I think I need more surveys on this blog. What do you want to be surveyed about next?

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

the visitors are coming!

First, some brief updates:
1) THANK YOU for your many comments and feedback on the the commenting system debate of yesterday! It was a long day of replying, replying, fiddling, and trying to figure things out. I'm not sure how much progress I made, but I can say it was WAY MORE TIME CONSUMING than normal, so...there's that! Keep testing things out today (try hitting the 'subscribe' button if you weren't getting notified of comments posted here...although sources say that may actually mean you get notified of EVERY new comment and not just ones in a particular thread, so...beware, also!) and tomorrow we will settle this thing once and for all by means of a most American institution. Be ready!!

2) Amanda S. generously and hilariously took a picture of her Shetland Sheepdog running ensemble, complete with detailed commentary about each trendy item in the outfit...all of you who plan on running in our 7th-grade-tshirt-themed 5k (1k) seriously need to check it out and get inspired. And laugh your face off.

3) An astute blog reader (and fellow Athens-dweller) informed me that she SAW THE MASCOT for the Brazilian wax place and it is a PINK PANTHER. Seriously. I laughed my head off, while simultaneously pondering the connection. I don't get it. Anyone wanna help me? Pink panthers and Brazilian waxes? Help!

Alright. Enough updates. On with things...

We are currently both nervous and excited about some visitors that will be staying with us at the end of the month. As you probably know, Athens is home to the University of Georgia (obviously my alma mater!), which is a large research university (with a pretty awesome football team). As such, people from all over the world move here to study/teach. So late July tends to be when a whole bunch of smarty-pants foreign students arrive each year, and as it turns out, most of them take a few days or a week to get their American lives really going...and that is where we are going to come in!

The International Student Life office at UGA (not sure if that's the official name, but something like that) networks with a whole bunch of local churches and community groups in order to wrangle a bunch of volunteer 'host families' who will host the foreign students for a week or so when they first arrive in America. The students will have plenty to do on campus during the days, as they get oriented to life both on and off-campus. They'll go to meetings and orientations, as well as get help doing things like setting up bank accounts, getting phones, and finding apartments. In the meantime, though, they need a place to stay-- and two of these very lucky students are going to get the fantastic privilege of calling MY house their home.

Isn't that fun??!!

When we heard about the opportunity (the group basically goes to a ton of churches and makes a presentation and gives people a chance to sign up if they're interested), at first I was like no way. What on earth do I have to offer foreign students? We live out in the sticks...we're boring...we eat really American (and Mexican) food. But after thinking it through for about 4 seconds, I changed my mind. We have guest bedrooms and bathrooms and really that's the main thing they need. We drive to campus (campus is in downtown Athens, where both of us work) every single day, so it doesn't matter that we don't actually live there...the students will still be able to get to UGA. And I have a lifetime of Southern hospitality training and a pretty firm grip on the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself and I know that if myself was being plopped into a new and strange country, myself would be very happy for strangers willing to open their home and show me the ropes a little. And so we said we'd do it. 

And they're coming!! In a little over a week, our two students (one actually a 'visiting scholar,' so maybe he's a little older than typical 'student' age?) will be here! We have two males, both from China. We are nervous and excited. A lot of our friends and other families in our church are also hosting and so it's fun to be nervous and excited together. We're planning things as a group so that our students will get to a) meet other new foreign students, and b) get to experience a bit of the community we love so much and so that is getting us pretty excited. One of our students even specified in his information that he likes playing tennis, so...HOLLA! If all else fails, we can play tennis every night. :) 

The group that is organizing the host families and students sends us information about how to prepare, what to expect, etc. They also send similar information to the students (copying us on the emails) telling them things about what to expect in American homes, what things are culturally acceptable/not acceptable, etc. These emails are SO fun and a wealth of information to me! Here are some of the most interesting tidbits I've learned:

From the email to the visiting students:
-US Americans can seem foolish about their pets. Dogs and cats are often treated like family members, and go throughout the house. Your host(s) may even kiss or hug their pets (UGH)! These pets are tame and (usually) clean and pose no danger. Pets are not eaten in this country.   If the pets make you feel really uncomfortable,  let your host(s) know. Usually the pets can be kept elsewhere for a while.

-US Americans are open about disagreements on particular issues. If they disagree with you about something, it is not considered wrong for them to indicate so.  Again try not to be offended.

-It is not usually acceptable to ask about their ages, how much money they make, how much does the home cost or why they have no children. [HALLELUJAH!!! I think we should send these tips to ALL HUMANS...well, the last one anyway.] 

 -In order to make you more comfortable, your host(s) may joke with you. Try not to be offended by this. If it bothers you, let your hosts know you don’t understand this joking. [Oh God help me. I am the WORST at making awful jokes when I'm nervous. Bless these students that have to live with me....]

In the email to the host families, they give us helpful tips about what kinds of foods to maybe keep on hand, what household things to explain (apparently the American system of shower curtains and sheets/blankets on beds can be particularly confusing to Chinese students?), and other things like that. I love reading through the emails, but I can't decide if it makes me more or less nervous!! I feel like a have a lot of research and planning to do before they arrive...I want to make their stay as comfortable and fun as possible, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about things. 

Anyway. So...if you happen to be Chinese, or know a lot about Chinese culture...give me your tips!! Also, how do you think the Chinese men will feel when they are subject to watching the Bachelorette finale (or second-to-last show, can't figure it out right now) on their 3rd night in America? WELCOME TO AMERICA, BOYS! HERE'S HOW WE ROLL!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

a civil debate

It's true. Today I call for some civil debate. But don't worry. It's not about anything controversial. Well, scratch that. Maybe it's controversial. But it's not like...emotionally-charged, morally-driven debate. If this were Facebook, you wouldn't be feeling the need to hide me from your newsfeed. No one's gonna make any groan-inducing memes out of this topic. It's fairly inconsequential. But before we get to it, first I must share something else.

Last week on my earth-shattering revelation post about workout fashion Amanda S. left a comment that got me all puffed up with happiness and pride: she said that over the past few months, with all my talk about tri training and silly fitness blabber, I have inspired her to start running for the first time in years! She even compared me to a personal trainer!! And after I pulled myself off the floor and dried my laughter-sourced tears, I felt really happy because hey! I inspired someone to do something actually good! Normally I feel like my inspiration is limited to like...telling you about ridiculous TV shows and other such inconsequential things. But somehow the extremely un-athletic ME inspired someone to get fit! And so I was really excited. So I replied to her and we went back and forth, but then she sent me this email last night and people-- I died. So with Amanda's permission, please enjoy her detailed description of both the inspiration I provided AND way more importantly, her current workout fashion choices:

I'm sorry, but if you don't keel over with ridiculous laughter as you picture her in her 7th grade shetland sheepdog t-shirt, you're doing life wrong. That is amazing. I think I want to start my own What Not to Wear show focusing solely on workout fashion, and Amanda is going to be the subject of my first intervention. :) But at least she recognizes her questionable choices. That's like 80% of the battle, I think. But anyway. I did reply to her that I am now going to plan my own nation-wide tour of 5K races that have a shetland sheepdog t-shirt theme. I expect to see all of you there. 

Anyway. That was too funny to not share, so many thanks to Amanda for a) making those amazing fashion choices and b) letting me blab them to the whole interwebz.

And this is somewhat slightly related to my debate topic for today. Ready for it?

Blog Commenting: Pop-up Window versus Threaded Commenting.

If you're unsure what either of those things means, then please dash off and do some quick Googling before we proceed. Or just look at two examples (whom I did not ask for permission to use as examples, but I trust that they won't care): Allison uses pop-up window commenting. Kara uses threaded.

Up until yesterday afternoon, I've always used pop-up window. I've argued on behalf of pop-up. I've rolled my eyes, sighed heavily, and judged people for not using pop-up. And then yesterday I changed my own blog's commenting to threaded. Here's my issue/thinking.

I like the interaction that comes with commenting. Love it. I love how thoughtful and funny and amazing yall's comments are and I love the conversations they inspire. I try very hard to respond to most comments whenever possible and appropriate. And then sometimes you email back and the conversation continues and it's so much fun and I feel like I've built so many good friendships out of this back-and-forth exchange. 

But here's the thing. I respond to comments via the email notification I get. I do not spend all day staring at my own blog-- but I almost always have access to my email, so when I get a notification, I can easily hit 'reply' and respond, answer your questions, or whatever. But only if I know your email address. Otherwise you are what is known as a 'no-reply blogger.' I've ranted about this before-- please go here to find out more about this phenomenon and how to fix it. Hint: if you almost NEVER get email replies from other bloggers, this is most likely the reason why. Go investigate. Now, if I still really REALLY want to reply to you and I have the time, I might investigate further: if you have your own blog linked to your profile, I might go to your blog and hunt there for an email address (like on your Contact Me page). But if your email isn't easily locate-able on your blog (or you don't have a blog linked to your profile), then I'm pretty much stuck. And I'm sad! Especially if your comment was a question, or a good insight, or whatever...I feel bad that I can't respond! But oh well. 

SO: some bloggers choose to just respond back in the same comment section of their own blog. I get that. But here's the thing: I never, ever go back and re-read the comments on a blog I commented on. I comment on dozens of blogs every day. Don't nobody have time to go back to dozens of blogs and look at dozens of comment sections to see if people responded back in the comment section! If you respond to me and it doesn't get delivered to my email inbox, I'm never gonna know. And I assume most people are similar to me in that fashion. I would never expect you to come back to my blog AGAIN and re-read all the comments just to see if I might have answered a question there. That just seems weird to me. (But correct me if I'm wrong and people DO do that!) (Doo doo. Heh heh.)

So here's where threaded commenting comes in handy: If you enable threaded commenting, you can choose to be notified if someone (not just the blog author) responds to a comment you made. You better just go check out Kara's blog to see what I mean (well, you won't be able to see that these people are ALSO getting email notifications of responses to their comments, but they are). So when she responds to a commenter, a) they find out, b)it posts for everyone to see (so like, if she's answering a question that many people might be thinking, everyone sees the answer at once and doesn't have to keep wondering), c)commenters can interact with one another and ask each OTHER questions and be notified of it (versus being able to directly interact with ONLY the blog author), and d) the whole thing is way more fun. I love reading her blog and like 50% of the reason is that reading the comments is so much fun. I don't know how she finds so many funny people to comment, but dang-- it's just enjoyable. 

So yesterday, when I received a very kind comment and thoughtful question from a commenter, but was unable to find a way to respond, I got mad and changed to threaded commenting. Since I made the change after the fact (that is, after the person had written the comment), I have no idea whether it still notified her that I responded. But now I find myself pondering which way to leave the comments. There are pros and cons to each method.

Pros to Pop-Up Commenting:
-#1 pro is that you don't leave the page you were on-- comment box appears in a new window, you comment, close the window, and are exactly where you left off. This is really great if you're reading through a bunch of posts...you don't lose your spot! 
- I feel like it loads faster. You just load a tiny little box, not reload the whole page you were on.

Cons to Pop-Up:
-Not much interaction between commenters. Sometimes one of you will say 'like So and So said, I think _____' and So and So will never know that you agreed with her. Or if you have a question for why So and So thinks that, she'll never know you asked. 

Pros to Threaded Commenting:
-Basically the opposite of the Cons to Pop-Up. :) Interaction between all parties
-Can acknowledge/respond to people that don't have blogs/email addresses linked to their profiles

Cons to Threaded:
-MAJOR CON: Artificially inflates the comment count. It will count MY responses as 'comments' as well...so basically if 3 people comment and I respond to each comment in the thread, it looks like I got 6 comments. That's stupid. I didn't get 6 comments. And that would just really bother me.
-not sure about this one, but I think I would have to go TO my blog to respond in the thread? I could be wrong though (haven't tried yet)...maybe if I responded from my email, it would appear in the thread? Once yall start commenting today, I'm going to try both ways and see what happens. If I had to go back to the blog to comment, that would be a major con.

Okay. Sorry for all of the words today. Obviously I've been thinking about it a lot since changing it yesterday. What are your thoughts? Why do you have your comments threaded/pop-up? Which should I do? Will you race in my shetland sheepdog-themed 5K? Do you feel lied to if you see someone has 42 comments and then discover that 30 of them are actually their own? HELP ME PEOPLE.

PS. I have zero interest in installing Disqus or any other kind of third-party commenting system. Unless you have some life-shattering revelation about those things...I pretty much hate them and typically avoid leaving comments on blogs that use them because they annoy me so much. So there's that. (And if you have a blog that uses Disqus and I've commented on it...consider yourself very, very special.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

that timely morsel of Spanish

 We had a pretty solid weekend, despite the OMG WILL IT EVER STOP RAINING THIS SUMMER weather.

No, but seriously. This is the least Georgia-like summer I have ever experienced. It rains ALL OF THE TIME. Every single day. And it's barely even hot. At least it's still super humid. Otherwise I might think we had actually all been transported to some weird alterna-universe or something. The humidity is the only thing normal and comforting about the weather so far. But anyway.

We kicked off Saturday morning with a couple hours of athleticism. I was so pumped about my outfit that I took a picture. I was going to get you to guess what sport I was participating in (based on the clues from my sports fashion post), but then I realized that I very un-subtly included a couple big ol' clues in the picture. So basically, if you can't guess what sport I was playing, I will have to declare that you are Not Smart.

 My game was crap, but at least I looked legit, right? I think I trick people at the tennis court. "She looks like a contender. Look at her smart outfit! She must be really goo--OH GOD LOOK AT HER TRYING TO SERVE!!!!! THE HORROR!!!!" It's pretty great. Not.

We've been playing tennis at a covered court, which is convenient since it typically rains about 80% of the time. Despite the relatively cool weather, we still get pretty hot and sweaty running around, so we decided to keep our pre-planned pool date with our friend Kristin afterwards.

It was around this time (noonish, on a Saturday in July) that the un-Georgia-ness of the weather really hit me. I was shivering in my bathing suit. There were chill bumps involved. It was ridiculous. But even though it wasn't hot (and barely warm), we still enjoyed a few hours of reading, relaxing, and good conversation. And floating...which was surprisingly non-miserable, since the water was warmer than the air.
I've been reading Peace Like a River for several weeks. It is SO GOOD...the writing is absolutely beautiful, and the story is excellent. But for some reason I'm reading it really slowly. This is very unlike me-- normally I DEVOUR books, even crappy ones. They last me like...a day. Two, tops. When I start a book, I just don't stop reading until it's done. So I've never had a book like this where I'm content to read a few pages and put it down. Pick it back up a day or two later, read for half an hour, put it down. Normally I would only do this if it were a book I really wasn't enjoying, and eventually I'd quit trying, but that's really not the case here. I love it. So I have no good explanation. But I seriously find myself getting obsessed with random sentences every few chapters or so...Leif Enger is obviously a poet at heart. But this particular sentence I read at the pool wasn't especially poetic, but it was super funny and true and I've been stuck on it all weekend.

 ...nothing expressing contempt like a timely morsel of Spanish. THAT. That is genius. And true. And if I ever write a book, I want to write amazing sentences like that.

Now that I've probably 90% blown your mind with literature, I'm going to finish off the last 10% with something else rather amazing I came upon this weekend. A sign in a store window:
And...yes, you read it right. This was a sign in the window of a Brazilian Wax store. Sooooo...yeah. Matt's thinking about applying...in addition to earning some extra fun money, can you imagine how good that would look on his resume? Exactly. Happy Monday, peeps. And if you're not satisfied in your current career...there's always this. Ay yi yi.