Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Recap

Just a little post-Christmas update here—the last couple weeks have been crazy in my house. It seems I haven’t stopped shopping, baking, wrapping, cleaning—basically MOVING—for days. However it was all worth it to be able to spend some time with my family and Erik’s, share holiday traditions, and just enjoy each other. We spent Christmas Eve with Erik's family and had a fantastic time (Erik's mom outdid herself with the food and Erik's nephew got a visit from Santa) and Christmas Day was at my house with my parents who drove all the way from St. Louis to be with my brother and I.  The only people we were missing we my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew who were up in Ohio celebrating with my brother-in-law’s family, and Erik's sister Lori and her girlfriend (both of whom I haven't met yet) who were vacationing in Ireland. <---ugh, can we say jealous here??

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about hosting my first family Christmas at the house—mostly because my mom broke her arm a few weeks ago and wasn’t going to be able to help me with cooking and baking which meant Christmas dinner was up to me. Yikes! I wanted everything to be perfect for a couple of reasons: 1. My mom always makes Christmas so special for us at her house and I wanted to do the same for her and my dad, and 2. Erik’s parents were going to be joining us for dinner and it would be the first time our parents would meet. All in all I think everything went very well. Dinner was pretty easy-- I bought a Honeybaked ham (always delish), cooked green beans,  a squash casserole, an orange jello salad (a traditional Christmas dinner item in my family), and my mom was able to throw together her yummy scalloped potatoes. Erik’s mom brought dessert—an amazing white chocolate bread pudding that was too tasty for its own good. Everyone ate and chatted and seemed to have a great time.  The parents got along well (which I wasn’t too worried about if I’m being completely honest) so I was really happy about that too.
The only misstep that occurred this Christmas was mostly my fault. I made the mistake of giving the same Christmas list to my mom and Erik’s mom. As a result we got 3 immersion blenders (Erik bought one for me having not even seen the list—he just knew we needed one), 2 griddles, and 2 blue-ray dvd players! Admittedly this is not a bad problem for Erik and I as the receiver of these gifts but I did feel bad for both moms. Next year I guess I will need to focus on preparing 2 different lists. Lesson learned.

(Oh and just so you readers know the immersion blender was not the only thing I got from Erik. He also gave me an awesome Kindle Fire. Just felt he might want you to know that.)

So with Christmas behind us Erik and I are looking forward to celebrating the New Year together (god, can you believe it’s almost here??). We’ll be partying with my brother and some friends playing games, eating finger food, and praying that 2012 will be full of jobs, good health, and lots of love for everyone.  Oh and did I mention it will also be Erik and I’s one year anniversary? That’s right—we had our first date New Year’s Eve last year. Can I get a collective awwwww? It’s almost hard to believe because I feel like we’ve known each other forever. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found such a fantastic, sweet, wonderful, loving, and caring person. You know it must be love when you can’t even think about the person without smiling to yourself…but enough of this gooey gushing. I only wish that everyone could feel as loved as I have this year. 

And with that, I hope everyone out there has a fantastic New Year! See you in 2012! : )

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Up In Here


As promised here are a few pictures that capture the Christmas spirit I have tried to invoke at the house. My apologies for the picture quality--it is taking some practice to get good indoor shots. Hopefully this will improve will time and practice (and taking the time to learn Photoshop--sigh). Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!

Mantle

The Christmas tree--an eclectic blend of
ornaments from my mom and grandmother. Interesting fact:
the icicles were my grandmother's from the 50's/60's and
they glow in the dark . Random and a little creepy, I know.


Ornament my mom gave me to commemorate the first year
in the new house.

Table Decor

Side note--the contraption to the left is a stove top espresso maker
that I found at the local Goodwill. Haven't tried it out yet but I love the
way it looks with my vintage Santa Christmas card!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Project

Today I decided to tackle a project that I have been avoiding for weeks: cleaning out my linen closet. Check out these before and after pictures:
Before: an embarrassing disaster.

After: All fixed up!!
All it took was a few storage boxes I picked up from Target and filling up 3 bags of old linens to donate to Goodwill. I'm so glad its all finished though--no more panicking every time I open the door! Hooray for small victories!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'm Baaaack!

Hello blog world! No I did not fall off the face of the earth--let's just say I took a little breather from writing to tend to what has been an interesting (but ultimately good) fall.

So what I have been up to lately? Well a lot of work, shopping, decorating, and a little vacationing. I had 3 big projects going on at the same time for work all of which needed to be completed by the end of October and 1 report that needed to be sent out before Thanksgiving. AND my department held a company wide meeting where each member of our team was responsible for a presentation. In my case I had two, both of which were updates on programs I have been working on for the company. Now, generally I will avoid public speaking like the plague (I hate getting in front of a crowd) but since I had no say in the matter I put on my big girl panties and rocked the heck out of my presentations (my boss actually complimented me afterwords--score!). So, yes work has been busy.

In terms of the house, the small budget has limited me from doing any big projects but I have my sights set on purchasing a leaf blower for Christmas (woo-hoo for grown-up presents) to tackle the insanity that has become my backyard. I've decided I hate trees--but only the ones in my backyard. However, in my attempts to forget about my yard I did get the inside of my house ready for Christmas. I'll post some pictures of my tree and mantle later (they're nothing fancy, but I think it looks pretty). Erik keeps joking that I have too many ornaments on the tree. Since when can you have too many ornaments on a Christmas tree??? I have also been hard at work making some homemade Christmas gifts which I am very excited to handout (hopefully the recipients will love them too)! I'll be sure to blog about them after Christmas because they're super cute and very easy.

In other news Erik and I went to my parents house in St. Louis for Thanksgiving. It was the first time he was exposed to my family for an extended period of time with no escape (haha) but I think it all went well.  Lots of good food, football, and sleep. Oh and this insanely cute little human being to entertain us all:
Regan!

We weren't able to take Lulu with us (due to many factors) so we boarded her at this local doggy daycare called Bark ATL which offers cage-free boarding, 24 hour staffing, and web cams. The webcams were great for us because even though she didn't know we were watching we were able to get some comfort by checking in on her everyday. She was a little confused when we picked her up and brought her home ("what did you guys just put me through???") but after slipping into a doggy coma (I am not kidding when I tell you she pretty slept for the next 3 days) she was her old self again.  I guess I can't blame her though-- she had never spent the night away from us before and with all the constant stimulation of being around other dogs 24/7 I know she had to have been exhausted. She was a trooper though and it's hard to believe she is going to be 7 months old next Monday. She is definitely getting big--33 pounds at her last doctor's appointment--but she is very tall and lean. It's amazing that she has gone from this:


 To this in only 4 months:


Sweet Girl!
      
So that's my life in a nutshell right now. I promise I will try and check in more often (since I know you all missed me soooo much-hehe). My goal for the New Year is to concentrate on my photography so I am going to try and accomplish various photo assignments--playing around with shutter speed, aperture, and all that good stuff so stay tuned if you're into that sort of thing. I also hope to blog more about DIY projects since I have become addicted to Pinterest and what's the point of pinning all of these awesome ideas if I am not actually going to try some of them?  Bring it on 2012!



Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween and The Walking Dead

So yeah, I've been horrible about blogging this past month. Sorry about that. I wish I had a good excuse but alas, I don't. We'll just call it a combination of laziness and being a glutton for perfect fall weather.

That being said, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Halloween is one of my very favorite holidays of the year. I love the magic of it all--especially the fact that it's the one day of the year it is socially acceptable to be someone (or something, hehe) else.

In the past, Halloween has always meant dressing up and parties for me but this year has definitely been more low-key. Yes, I've decorated the house and bought some candy for any potential trick-or-treaters (since this is my first Halloween in the new house Im not sure if we'll have any kids come by so I was kind of conservative in my candy purchase) but I didn't get a costume and did not attend any parties this past weekend.

Instead, Erik and I decided to thoroughly creep ourselves out by watching the first season of The Walking Dead on AMC. If you don't know about this show, I'll try to give a basic summation without giving too much away. Basically the show follows a group of people who have banded together outside of Atlanta, GA mere months after the Zombie Apocalypse. The city has been overrun by "walkers" (a.k.a zombies) and those who have survived are either hiding out in abandoned houses/buildings or camping in the woods. It seems as if no one really knows what has caused the zombie epidemic and there is definitely no known cure at this point. All the characters in the show know for sure is that: 1. don't get scratched or bitten. This leads to a fever, which leads to death, which leads to reanimation, which equals zombification. 2. The zombies are attracted to light 3. The zombies are also attracted to loud noises which means gun shots, yelling, and screaming are all bad ideas when trying to stay hidden.

The first season of the show is only 6 episodes and they are gory (do not watch if you have a weak stomach). The main characters find themselves in numerous terrifying situations including being trapped in a department store with the "walkers" breaking down the doors, and the infiltration of their safe camp in the woods (because of course the zombies are hungry and having eaten everyone in the city are now migrating to the country). Now I am no zombie apocalypse expert but I do have a few issues with the show thus far:

1. How are the Zombies able to rip into animals and humans with so much ease? Does zombification include superhuman hand and jaw strength?
2. In the first episode of season 1 (spoiler alert) the characters cover themselves in zombie guts in order to escape the city. It seems to work until a pop-up rainstorm washes the dead smell off of them and the "walkers" catch on. Rainstorm aside, this method seemed to work pretty well yet the main characters never really use this tactic again to escape from any other close calls (ok yeah I realize its horrifyingly disgusting but its called SURVIVAL right??). What's up with that? If it works it WORKS.
3. There isn't enough backstory on the characters themselves. The show gives snippets here and there of some of the characters pre-ZA life but not enough to make me really care about what happens to any of them. This is especially true in season 2 so far. Watching the characters get out of run-in after run-in with the "walkers" is really starting to get old. Also 3 episodes dedicated to a missing girl and a boy needing surgery for a gunshot wound is a little much. This is the Zombie Apocalypse for goodness sake! There is no time for that!! There needs to be more substance.
4. Finally I must mention the Farm of Doom in Season 2 (a.k.a the Greene farm out in the GA countryside). Something weird is going on here. How do they still have electricity and hot water? And how are the zombies not attracted to the lit up house at night? And what's with the fat guy? We're talking several months of scavaging for food and running for your life--how is this guy still overweight?

I know this is just a show and for entertainment value purposes (and a good Halloween scare) I would definitely recommend it. However, can those of us who are watching agree that there needs to be some plot movement (and answers) soon? Things are getting just a bit ridiculous...

Speaking of ridiculous (and scary tv shows) who out there has been watching American Horror Story?? It's a train wreck but I can't stop watching!

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Welcome Fall!

If you know me then you know that I live for this time of year. I love fall--especially the month of October. The weather is perfect, the leaves are beautiful, pumpkins are in season (which means pumpkin pies, breads, coffee...), and there is nothing better to come home to than a cup of hot cider. Oh and it is also the month of one of my favorite holidays--Halloween!

So in honor of my fav time of year here is what my house is looking like these days:



Mums, pansies, and pumpkins!


The Mantle
 

Love these retro Halloween greeting cards!



Couldn't pass up this cute little sign I found randomly at Barnes and Noble



The Dining Room--my pumpkin tea light centerpiece is from Home Goods


My cheap (but effective) candle decorations




Pumpkin candle and Haunted House luminary I scored from
Bath and Bodyworks last year







Friday, September 30, 2011

Lulu Update

It's been a few weeks since we started Lulu on antibiotics for what we hoped was a UTI so I thought I would give you all an update on how the little girl is doing.

After we finished her medication a week or so ago she started peeing in her sleep again. Of course this was very frustrating for both Erik and I. Since we definitely couldn't afford a $500 test to determine whether her incontinence was due to a birth defect or something else I decided to call up the Humane Society, plead my case, and hope that they would help us out. Thankfully they offered us assistance and told us we could bring Lulu in and they would run some tests for us. The doctor I spoke with at the Humane Society clinic seemed pretty confident that we didn't have anything to worry about.

Erik took her in on Wednesday and left her for most of the day. When he went to pick her up he was told that they did not see anything that would indicate she had an ectopic urethra (yay!) but that she did have a significant UTI (apparently the drugs we were giving her didn't complete knock the infection out). She also said that size-wise her bladder was pretty small in comparison to other puppies (like her I guess?). At any rate they gave us some steroids called Proin to get rid of the UTI and strengthen her bladder muscles. We are supposed to continue this treatment for 20 days so hopefully she will get better. Poor girl--a UTI for over a month?? Ouch!

So it was definitely good news for us on the puppy front--no more worries other than trying to teach her to walk correctly on a leash and not to jump on people (which we still haven't mastered). I think I'm going to sign us up for obedience classes at Pet Smart because I know that I could use some instruction on how to get her to respond better to my commands. I'm hoping it won't be a total train wreck because she is always great at home but once we leave the house all bets are off.

In other Lulu related news, she weighed in at 24 pounds at the doctor's office on Wednesday (that's up 14 pounds from when we adopted her 7/31)! She has added shake and wait to her repertoire of tricks and has developed a lovely singing voice. No really...she talks all the time. And howls, and yips. She'll have a whole conversation with you especially when she has misbehaved. It is the oddest thing. Even the vet told Erik we had a very vocal dog. The good thing is that she doesn't really bark a lot, except at the cats who still see her as the antichrist.

So that's it for now. Here are some 4 1/2 month pics for your enjoyment:

Sweet girl

With Erik

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Life is Funny

In the last year I’ve had a lot of change in my life. I went from being in an 8 year relationship to being single to meeting a wonderful new man. I became a homeowner for the first time. I sold my old car and bought a new car—on my own—for the first time. I adopted my first puppy.

There has been so much new in my life lately that I feel as if I’ve hardly had time to reflect on how these changes have affected me emotionally. It almost feels as if I started running last October and haven’t stopped.  And while this past year has been in many ways one of the best years in my life it has also been very, very tough. I’ve struggled financially—trying to balance living on my own with homeownership has not been easy. I’ve struggled with letting go of a past relationship and opening up my heart to someone new—also not easy.

So yeah, there have been some major challenges for me this year. Deep down I knew I probably wasn’t dealing with all these changes in the most up front manner but I was coping. I would handle the situation at hand and then move on. Until this past weekend I thought I was doing okay and then I had an unexpected run-in with my ex and his girlfriend.

It was Sunday afternoon and Erik had picked me up from a girlfriend’s house (I had spent the night with some good friends after a girls night out on Saturday) and wanted to stop by the pet store to get Lulu some dry food. The pet store we go to is a small locally owned business in Grant Park. As we walk in the first thing I notice is a chow dog staring me in the face. I look up and immediately recognize the person attached to the chow dog as my ex. I look further beyond and see my ex’s girlfriend chatting with the store owner.

Now, you may wonder how I know that this is my ex’s girlfriend. Well, funny little side story. The ex’s new woman used to be good friends with my brother. When my ex and I were together we would hang out with this girl for game nights, drinks out, and other such festivities. This continued, at least for my ex, the entire time we were trying to work things out in our relationship. He would go out and spend weekends and evenings with this girl, sometimes not coming home until 2 am, and wonder why I would be upset. On one occasion he actually blew me off on a Friday night to hang with her. He said they were “just friends.” Which, to give him some credit, I’m sure that nothing was going on between them physically at first but if there was such a thing as cheating on someone emotionally I would say he had hit the nail on the head. I mean what guy goes and hangs out with another single woman until 2 am and expects their ex to believe that nothing is going on—even if it is just "intellectual conversation"?

So at any rate, they were together pretty much the second our break-up was official which I gleaned from Facebook--pictures of road trips to Charleston, Ohio, and kissy pictures from Curacao were dead give-aways. I was not “friends” with him at this point but I think we all know how things get around via friend of a friend comments—someone that we were mutually friends with would comment on a photo and then it would show up on my newsfeed, etc, etc. But back to my original story…

When I first saw them I didn’t know what to do. My first instinct was to run to the car and hide. Then I thought better of it and decided that I was bigger than running away and hiding and that I needed to confront this situation head-on. Yes, I know this wasn't entirely necessary but did I mention that this wasn't the first time I had seen them out and about together? Atlanta isn't that big and it was bound to happen sooner or later so why not get it over with?

We were the only 4 people in the store and the ex’s new lady was getting the low down on products from the sales clerk. Erik and I were ready to check out almost immediately but had to wait for the clerk to finish. Eventually my ex and I made eye contact, there was an awkward smile and nod of acknowledgement but I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say. Should I say hello? Should I introduce Erik? No that would be weird. We hadn't communicated with each other since March and I can't say that converstaion ended well. This internal debate raged for what seemed like hours (but was probably minutes) and then the clerk finally came over, rang Erik and I up, and we walked out.

After we left I felt a whole range of emotions. First I was angry—why did this have to happen? Isn’t the city big enough that we should never have to see each other? Then I was sad, but only because of the situation. I mean I was with this person for 8 years—we lived together and loved together and yet we couldn’t even look at or speak to each other? Very sad. Finally I was relieved. Relieved to have had this run in past me and know that I am better for it and that I am happier now and in a better place (and I'm sure he is too).

***
On a side note (if I am being honest) I didn’t know whether I should write this post because I didn’t want to come across as the bitter ex-girlfriend because I am most definitely not. There is no part of me that wishes I was still with my ex or that wishes him ill will. I was hurt by someone I loved and trusted and (sadly) that takes a while to heal. I lost a family and friends when that relationship ended and I don’t know many people who can fully recover from that type of loss in a month, 6 months, or even a year.

Luckily for me I found a very understanding guy when I met Erik. He knew that I was carrying along some baggage and he respected the fact that I had just come out of a break-up. He gave me the space to figure out that I could fall in love again and the courage to trust my gut feelings, which were huge steps in my personal recovery process. Oh and he also has a wonderful family and friends who have so lovingly embraced me so that helps too.

In many ways it has been a year but it has only been a year. So long that I feel as if my ex and I broke up years ago but so short that I have to remind myself it is okay to still grieve a little and continue to let the past go.

Life is funny like that.

Seeing my ex this weekend was a small reminder that I am still healing and that every now and then you have to stop running, reassess, and move on. It’s okay to be sad—acknowledge it, don’t beat yourself up, remember what has come from that sadness, and embrace all that is currently good. And there is a lot of good in my life and a lot to be thankful for even if it is sometimes easy to forget.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Enough

This is going to be a short post—a quick rant if you will—to say that I’m exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally—you name it. A lot has been happening in my life recently and it seems like none of it is good. Every time I turn around something terrible is happening to someone that I know or love. Job losses, premature babies, divorces, and even the death of a 9 month old to brain cancer—the bad news just keeps on coming. I feel like I’ve been living in an alternate universe, kind of like in Back to the Future 2 where Marty goes to the alternate 1985 that Biff has created and everything is completely trashed and wrong.

Where did this black cloud come from and can I go home yet? Please?

I hate that not only have things been kind of shitty in my life but that my friends are going through such difficult times a well. I wish there was something I could do to make things better for all of us. It just doesn’t seem fair. I'm well aware that we all face hardships and that things could always be worse, but is it really necessary for everything to happen all at once? I mean really???  So, I’d like to take this moment to say please, if there is a God out there who cares at all, can you give my friends and I a break? I've had really difficult winters the last couple of years and was sort of hoping this one would be different.

Thanks. Pity party over.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Today I'd Rather Be...

Here:


"Here" is Isle of Palms, S.C--the beach my family has been visiting for many, many years. In fact, we love this beach so much that my grandparents decided to buy a beach house here about 25 years ago. I was little, but I remember the excitement of having an actual house to visit and the thrill of knowing my family owned a little piece of an island.

Our beach house

Throughout the years I've seen the island change and the city just across the bridge (Mount Pleasant) grow into a popular tourist retreat because its right in between the beach and Charleston. I remember when there was only one way to get onto the island--an old school draw bridge--and how it took a beating when hurricane Hugo tore through South Carolina in 1989 (thankfully our little beach house was spared, and along with some other minor damage only lost a portion of the roof).

The whole fam circa 1987-1988
I remember taking trips every summer no matter where we lived, often meeting up with my other set of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins (who made the drive from Kansas City). I loved these summers because we so rarely saw the KC family and they always made everything so fun. I remember taking trips to the old Slave Market in downtown Charleston, visiting the Yorktown submarine (and the Hunley when it was discovered), taking sunset cruises on the intercoastal waterway, playing card games into the night, and of course having at least one big shrimp boil. I remember the many times we had to board up the beach house and "evacuate" due to a tropical storm or hurricane and how much fun it was to go down to the beach and let the wind whip our hair and the water knock us down.

My brother and I--we look so innocent but don't be fooled
With the KC grandparents
My brother and I with our mom (this looks like about '98 or '99)
My sister and I looking hot in 2004
I remember taking friends for weekend trips and spring break getaways in college, and then later bringing a special boyfriend or friend along for family vacations (which I'm sure they loved but only because they wanted to be with me--hehe).

Ahhhhhh...relaxation
The beach is my retreat both mentally and physically. It's the place I think about when I am anxious or stressed out, but also the place I know I can always run away to if I need to get out of town for awhile. It reminds me of my family who I constantly miss and all of the past summers we spent together laughing and having fun. I'm so lucky that my family has this special place and I hope that someday my kids will get to create memories there with their aunts, uncles. cousins, and grandparents.

Nephew Regan's first time on the beach

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

Like everyone else in America I am sitting watching the TV and remembering the events of September 11, 2001. I can't believe it has already been 10 years.

10 years ago I had just started my sophomore year at Mercer University. Tuesday, September 11, I woke up early to make it to an 8 am class (a religion class studying the New Testament with Professor Wilson). Class went by as normal and I remember being excited that we got out early--I was tired and wanted to take a nap before my afternoon classes. I left the classroom and headed over to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat before heading back to my room in the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house. The Mercer cafeteria had TV's which were on all the time but there was no sound. I remember glancing up and seeing a skyscraper burning and thinking "Oh man. That really sucks." I am ashamed to admit that I didn't recognize that the building was one of the twin towers and since there was no sound I had no way of knowing what caused the fire--for all I know it just looked like a really bad accident.  Today I wish that I would have gone back to my room, turned on the TV, and gotten more information but since I didn't realize the significance my desire to sleep trumped any curiosity I might have had. So off I went to curl up and go to bed.

The next thing I knew one of my sorority sisters was waking me up saying, "Ashley, we're under a terrorist attack." I jumped out of bed and ran to the common room to watch on TV with the rest of my sisters as both the Twin Towers collapsed. I was shocked and stunned. Surely this wasn't happening. It was so surreal.

The University cancelled classes for the rest of the day and students gathered in groups to mourn the terrible loss of life and the great tragedy that had befallen the country. I remember the day as being very somber and sobering.

Seeing the coverage today still makes me tear up. I can't imagine how it must have felt to have lost a family member or friend to the greed of heartless terrorists. I hope those people can find some comfort in the fact that we all grieve with them and know they aren't alone.

Although I don't necessarily support the idea of war or all of the politics that transpired directly after the attacks, I appreciate those men and women who have fought and given their lives to protect our country. I don't understand the logic of terrorists or why men like Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein felt the the need to take innocent lives to push a certain agenda. It's sick and I feel so sorry for those who continue to be brain washed into believing they are dying to serve some greater good.

Today I remember with the rest of the country and mourn for those who gave their lives. I continue to wish for peace, believe in the good in people, and hope that someday we can find a way to not hurt each other out of spite or greed or hatred.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A little Perspective

A lot of really crazy things are going on in my life right that make me want to hop in the car, drive to my parents house, curl up in my mom's lap, and pretend I am 10 again. This is probably greatly illustrated by the strange dreams I have been having lately where I have been running away from evil beings like bloodthirsty aliens and deranged video game characters (please, don't ask). The internet says that dreams like this indicate there is some problem or issue that I don't want to face and that I should think about what the things chasing me symbolize. Bloodthirsty aliens=something foreign I have no control over? Deranged Mario Brothers=your guess is as good as mine.

Of course I don't put too much stock into the meanings of dreams because there are so many things that can influence our subconscious. However, given the way things have been going lately in my life maybe the dreams I've been having aren't too far from the truth. Maybe there are some things, past and present, that I just need to embrace and not be afraid of.

To put this into perspective I offer a conversation I overheard at the doctor's office today (where I was diagnosed with stress-related stomach issues, go figure). First let me say that I really love my doctor. She is always very nice and personable and so easy to talk to. Her specialty is family medicine (as are all the doctors in the office) but when I go in there I never see families, or young people, or anyone under the age of 65 for that matter. I feel like I somehow picked the geriatric doctor and everyone is secretly laughing at me when I walk in thinking "bless her heart, she doesn't know." I've tried to convince myself that its the time of day that I'm going or that maybe there are just a lot older people in that particular neighborhood but really, I think its's the doctor's office for old people.

Not that I have a problem with old people at all. Some people are squemish and don't know how to act around the elderly but I still have 3 out of 4 grandparents, knew both my great grandmothers, and have happily visited many a nursing home in my day. The only thing that does make me feel uncomfortable is that I feel like these people are looking at me all young and (relatively) healthy and that I am somehow making them feel sad because they no longer have their youth. It's silly but I actually feel guilty about this even though I know that there is probably a 95% chance that these people are perfectly happy and are glad to have lived long and successful lives (at least I hope this is the case).

But to get back to that conversation I overheard...

I was sitting in the checkout area of the office waiting for the woman behind the desk to call my name so I could pay my co-pay and get back to work when I began to listen to the conversation of two men next to me.  One of the men was 79 (we'll call him Man B) and Im not sure how old the other man (Man A) was although he said he had a brother who was 88 so Im guessing late seventies, early eighties as well. Man A was discussing a recent episode where he temporarily lost his mind and had to be hospitalized. Apparently he was lashing out at nurses and doctors and didn't even know where he was. Man B was listening to his story and commented about how he was glad that medicine was able to bring Man A back to life. Then the men started talking more about their health and this is when Man A mentioned his 88 year old brother and how he was in such great shape for a man his age. Man B mentioned that at 79 he was grateful that he was in the shape he was in and that anymore, a man who can live past 75 should be grateful because he's made it past the average life expectancy. All the while here I am, this 29 year old trying to pretend like I'm not listening to these men while on the other side of me there is this older woman clutching her diabetes testing monitor and smiling at me like old people do when they see a young person, and all I am thinking is that things could be worse in my life. I could be these people, sitting in the doctor's office, discussing how I am lucky to have reached greater than average life expectancy, be in good shape, and thanking god for all of the medicines that are keeping me kicking.

Well played God. Well played. Way to give a girl some perspective.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

That Lulu Pup

As of today Lulu has been in our lives for approximately 1 month and 1 week. She will be 4 months old next Monday and is weighing in at a healthy 18.6 pounds (according to the vet's scale last Friday) which means she has gained about 8 pounds since we got her. She is getting so big, so quickly--I can't believe it!

Since coming home with us Lu has been a typical puppy--bouncy, playful, full of mischief, cuddles, and curiosity. However she has also come with a lot of ailments. At her "wellness" appointment 3 days after we adopted her from the Humane Society the vet found that she had both hookworm and ringworm. A few days later she developed a nasty upper repiratory infection. Luckily all of this was covered through the Humane Society (who apparently partners with a local vet and will cover certain common illnesses that come with their animals for up to 2 weeks after adoption). This was fantastic for us because as most all pet owners know, these friends don't always come cheap.

One of the issues that we asked the vet about on our initial visit was about Lu's tendency to pee--a lot. We realized that she was a puppy and not house trained yet but it seemed like she was going every 15 minutes. Initially the vet told us not to worry--it probably wasn't a UTI becuase that is uncommon in puppies and she was probably just learning to control her bladder yadda, yadda. But even weeks later Lu was still having accidents and some of them were happening when she was dead asleep. Admittedly this was kind of funny at first because the first time she did it she was sleeping on Erik and it got all over him (sorry honey) but once it  got all over my new couch (!!) among other places we thought there had to be something else going on. Erik immediately made the phone call to the vet and they told us to bring her in.

Once at the vet they did a UTI test which involved using an ultrasound to locate Lu's bladder and a needle to extract some urine. All the while Erik and I were keeping our fingers crossed that this was the problem because we had admittedly committed a cardinal sin by reading about all kinds of dog incontinence issues on the internet. The doc came back with some mixed results. He said that he wasn't 100% sure that what Lu had was UTI because he didn't really see any blood or protein in her urine but he did notice something else that was a bit strange.

He said that while looking at the ultrasound to locate the bladder he noticed what he thought might have been some fluid outside of Lu's bladder. The fluid could indicate a condition called an Ectopic Urethra which is a birth defect where one ureter attaches to the bladder and the other one connects somewhere else. He proposed that if Lu has this condition it could explain why she has been having incontinence issues and has been peeing in her sleep. However, since he wasn't entirely sure this was the problem he proposed doing a radiogram (x-ray) of Lu's belly and sending it to a specialist to diagnose her properly. According to his estimate this would cost us around $500. Then, if the specialist confirms that she does indeed have an Ectopic Urethra we could opt to have it surgically fixed which would require what the vet described as a very tedious and delicate surgery (i.e. very costly). I think he could tell by our deer-in-the-headlights eyes that we were both freaking out a bit and mentioned that we could always try to seek financial help from the Humane Society but that since we were most definitely out of their 2 week care window he wasn't certain that they would help at all.

After taking a few breaths we asked the doctor if this was a life threatening condition. He assured us it was not, and that if Lu was diagnosed with it and we decided not to do surgery she would be fine and we would just have to deal with her being incontinent the rest of her life. Great. In the end we left the doctor's office with some antibiotics to treat a UTI in the hopes that the doc was wrong and that she would be better soon.

Since we've been treating her the last few days we have seen a noticeable spike in her energy level (she went from crazy to crazier within hours it seemed) and she hasn't had any accidents in her sleep. We are taking these as good signs and hope that the problem has been solved, with this whole Ectopic Urethra thing turning out to be nothing more than a one time scare. I love Lu and would never want to give her up but I have to admit that having a dog who leaks urine all over the place does not exactly thrill me (because lets face it, I hardly have $500 to diagnose her let alone pay for a costly surgery). So, fingers crossed that everything turns out okay for Miss Lu and she feels better soon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The New Ride

Many of you may have guessed by the last post but in case you weren't sure, I sold my old car last weekend. I have been thinking about getting a new car for awhile (as evidenced by some of my earlier posts) however I really wanted to try and hold off becuase: A. the car was running okay and B. I didn't have a car payment. All of that changed while I was on my way to the beach with my mom and sister and my radiator blew leaving me on the side of the road waiting for a tow.

Although this wasn't the total disaster it could have been (luckily I was following my mom and sister who were riding in my mom's car and my mom was able to use her AAA membership to get me a tow) it still put a damper on my vacation and raised new worries about the reliability of my car. Although my car was fixed by the time I was ready to drive back to Atlanta ($469 later) the repair facility warned me that when my car over heated it could have done damage to the engine so I needed to pay attention to the temperature gauge on the drive home. If the gauge even moved a little to the hot side I was instructed to pull over and have someone look at it immediately. Thankfully, this did not happen and I was able to make it safely home. However, even though the car was technically "fixed" I decided it was time to sell it and look for a new ride. I was tired of taking chances.

I sold the Vitara privately through Craigslist. The ad was posted late Thursday night and the car sold on Sunday afternoon for $3,300 (I originally had it listed for $3,500). I was very, very pleased with this number especially considering that a dealership I visited was only going to give me $1,000 for it. Score!

On Monday Erik and I headed over to a local mall to check out some cars I had researched on Autotrader. I really loved my SUV so I wanted to try and find something similar. My mom drives a Nissan Rogue which I really liked, but I also decided to check out the Honda CR-V, the Toyota Rav4, and the Hyundai Santa Fe. We went to the Hyundai dealer first where I test drove a sweet 2010 Santa Fe. It had a lot of really nice features for only being the base model, including bluetooth, a wireless mp3 player (connects with your iPhone), XM radio, radio/cruise control buttons on the steering wheel, and a 4 year factory warranty. The salesperson we talked to was very nice and not pushy at all (which I greatly appreciated) but since Hyundai was only the first place I had looked I wanted to check out a couple other cars before making my decision.

So we headed over to the Honda dealer. I know that Honda has an excellent reputation and that their cars have great resale value. Unfortunately these things make them a little more expensive than similar vehicles and I had a pretty strict budget. After scrounging around their lot, this particular dealership was able to find a 2009 CR-V that had just been traded in that was within my price range--it hadn't even been detailed when I test drove it. It was the base model and was just kind of average in my opinion--nothing fancy or really special about it. It drove well and had a decent amount of space but after driving the Santa Fe it just seemed really plain and boring.

After driving the CR-V I had planned on heading over to the Toyota dealer to try out the Rav4 but it just so happened that Honda had a Rav4 on the lot. I took it for a drive and was really unimpressed. In my opinion the Rav4 was louder than the CR-V and the Santa Fe and I didn't like the interior at all. After the test drives I told the rep that if I had to choose I would pick the CR-V over the Rav4. He worked some numbers and was able to fit the price of the CR-V into my budget. It seemed that I had decision to make: the CR-V or the Santa Fe.

The CR-V had a clean car fax, 50k miles, no warranty, and all the "reliability and resaleability" that comes with buying a Honda. The Santa Fe was a year newer, 37k miles (which is a lot for a 2010 model), had a 4 year warranty, and one front end collision that showed up on the car fax (I was told that the damage appeared to have been only cosmetic--I know this could have been a sales tactic, but things under the hood looked good to me and this was a pretty reputable car dealership). The Santa Fe had a lot of really cool features and the CR-V was just kind of basic.

Can you guess which one I chose?

I picked...the Santa Fe. To me it was a no brainer. The Santa Fe was bigger than the CR-V, had a much nicer interior and lots of cool features, plus that 4 year warranty (which made me feel a little better about the whole front end collision thing). Sure Hyundai may not have the reputation of Honda yet but everyone I know who has driven a Hyundai has loved their car. I'll be honest when I say that before I drove the Santa Fe, I really thought I would end up with a CR-V or Rogue but I was very, very impressed with Hyundai. And I love my car. I mean I LOVE my car! I got a great price and it is so fun to drive. Plus I got an extended warranty (on top of the 4 years) which gives me 100% coverage on my car up to 97k miles. Can't beat that.

So without further ado, my new ride:


The front seat
So pretty!

Back seat--the seats recline!

Lots of awesome hauling capacity

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ode to the Vitara

**my apologies to any writers or poets out there**


Oh my sweet Suzuki Vitara--

You have been a good car for the past 10 years;
You've carried me safely through college and graduate school, countless moves,
and several ex-boyfriends;
Some people lovingly called you the "Atari,"(BeacausewhoknewSuzukievenmadecarsin2001?)
But to me you were always reliable transport
and never really let me down

Until this past Sunday when your radiator could go no more
And you broke down on our way to Charleston,
leaving me on the side of the road.

I understand my little Vitara
that you are old and that our time would eventually come to an end,
I have replaced all I can afford to replace
and have decided you must find a new friend.



I will be sad to see you go
but hope your new owner will put you to good use--
For I know you still have a few good miles left
before you drift to that big garage in the sky.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Weatherizing 2011

Hey there! Sorry for the silence last week but things have been really busy for me at work and at home especially with little miss Lulu. Speaking of the pup, she turned 3 months old on Friday so we are now in the "terrible two's" phase according to the puppy books. So far, the little miss has been pretty good. She likes to bite a lot but isn't much of a chewer per se. We are trying to teach her biting is only for her toys but she isn't quite getting it yet. I have high hopes though considering she was so quick to learn sit, stay, and lay down. Not to mention we have been pretty much accident free in terms of peeing/pooping in the house for the last week (yay!). In terms of other "firsts" this week Lulu got her first bath (which she did not like at all) and we also made our first trip to the park on Sunday morning. We had a nice long walk and Lulu loved meeting new people and making friends with other dogs. She was so tired when we got home that she slept the rest of the afternoon.


She's getting so big!

But enough about the dog. I know you all are dying to hear about weatherizing (I mean that is the reason you clicked on this post, right?).

Unless you live on the west coast I think everyone can agree that this summer has been H-O-T hot! Since moving into my little house I've been curious about how terrible my bills were going to be during the summer and winter months. Since my house is older construction I wasn't expecting much in terms of the house being well insulated but was still taken aback when I got my last power bill and it read $213 (this for my 1100 sqaure foot, 2 bedroom house)!! Yikes.

I immediately started trying to figure out how why it was so high. The bill for the previous month was $160 (high, but not ridiculous) and it didn't seem to me that the temperatures for the current month were that much different than the last month. I have a programmable thermostat that never changes (78 during the day, 76 at night) so I figured my bills would stay somewhat the same. Since I was obviously very wrong about this I decided that I needed to figure out a way to not have a repeat $200 bill and the most obvious solution was to try my hand at weatherizing the windows and doors.

After reading some tips on the interwebs, Erik and I headed off to Lowe's to pick up some weather stripping materials to seal the front and back door as well as the windows in the front and back of the house. We got several different kinds of stripping because we really had no idea what would work best and we knew for certain that the doors had different frames which would require different styles of stripping. For example, in the back door we were able to use a V-shaped rubber strip just popped right in the frame. However, the front door was a little tougher since it didn't have an inset in the framing that would accomodate the V-shaped stripping.

Easy pop-in V-shaped stripping in the back door
The first type of stripping we tried in the front door was vinyl and had to be nailed into the frame. But before we attempted to put a million little nails in the door frame, we tested the stripping by only nailing a few nails at the sides and the top of the frame. I'm very glad we did this because when we tried to close the door, we found it would not shut (the rubber stripping had made the door too "big" for the frame). We tried various methods of cutting the stripping to help the door close but we eventually had to give up on this type of weather strip. Luckily we had purchased a third kind of weather stripping to use on the windows--a kind of foamy strip that has a sticky back. Theoretically all you are supposed to have to do is peel the backing off and stick to your door frame, however we found that the stickiness was just not powerful enough and every time we tried to press it on the door it would peel right off. We tried cleaning the door frame really well thinking this might help the adhesion but no luck. We ended up having to nail it in which (thank god) worked pretty well.

Vinyl Stripping was definitely a no-go on the front door

Adhesive weather stripping

The final solution on the front door
By the time we were finished with the front door I was done weather stripping for the day (yes, I can be a bit ADD when it comes to home improvement projects) so the windows have been put on hold until we get around to it. So far I have been able to tell a big difference in the way the doors close and seal so I'm hoping this registers into some saved money in next month's power bill. We'll see. All I know is that I cannot wait until the fall weather arrives. I don't know about anyone else but I am officially done with 104 degree weather. Bring on the pumpkins, falling leaves, and apple cider! I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sit Lulu

Just a little video of the smartest puppy ever! : )

(Apologies for the quality--I took it on my iPhone)

video

**Remember we've only had her 3 days!! I'm a  proud mama!

Poop and Pee Times Three

We are on day 3 of puppy ownership and little Lulu is doing well. I stayed home from work yesterday to be with her and Erik and we were able to get in some quality time. There was lots of playing, sleeping, and our smart pup has even learned her first command: sit. Erik and I also found a ginormous crate someone was offering on Craigslist for $55. She looks a bit ridiculous in it right now, but it will be big enough that we should never have to buy a new one. It even came with a nice fluffy dog pillow that the previous owner had kindly washed for us (we found out later that her dog had been hit by a car--so sad).

Lulu's Puppy Condo
Of course there is the other side of puppy ownership that I have never had to deal with which is the oh-so-fun potty training aspect (cats are pretty much litter trained from birth and are good to go once you show them the litter box and what its for). Since Erik hasn't had to work the last few days we have tried to be very diligent about taking Lulu out every couple hours to pee and also making sure she goes after she eats and right after she wakes from a nap. We've definitely caught her a couple of times going in the house but we always gently scold her and take her right outside. The good news is she seems to understand exactly why we go outside. She doesn't mess around in the backyard and immediately finds a spot to do her business. I can't help but think that this is a good sign (wishful thinking?). When she goes potty outside we praise her and give her a treat when we come inside.

I realize that Lulu isn't going to be potty-trained over night and that there are going to be lots more accidents and clean-ups in my future until the little girl gets her tiny bladder under control. I expect her to not understand quite yet because she is a baby, my two adult cats on the other hand should really know better.

This morning I woke up to the smell of cat urine in the bedroom and I thought for sure that Zeke (who has been camping out under my bed since the puppy's arrival) had had an accident on the floor under the bed. I proceed to move the bed and pull everything out from underneath and can't see any puddles or wet spots. Confused I sit on the bed and that's when I find it--a huge yellow, wet spot all over my white duvet and comforter. The same duvet and comforter we had been sleeping under just 10 minutes earlier.

Now, there are probably a few contributing factors as to why my cats decided they needed to defile my bed. First, Im sure they are pissed about the dog (obviously) and second Erik and I did have the door to the bedroom closed last night because of the puppy crying (therefore the cats could not make it out to the litterbox which is in the laundry room). The thing is, I know my cats can hold it for 6 hours (Jezebel has locked herself in the closet and held it longer than that) and while I am sure fear of the dog and the door being closed are part of the reason for the pee on the duvet I can't help but feel they are making their feelings known.

Either way, the litterbox is now located in the bedroom for easy cat pee/poop access so we'll see if this solves the problem. If I find pee on the bed again, well, I guess I'll know what's up. As for the duvet, cover, and sheets--they got a thorough washing and will hopefully be salvageable.

As if dealing with the cat pee incident this morning wasn't enough, I walk into the guest bedroom to get something only to find both poop and pee on the floor (pretty sure this was miss Lulu's doing although I am not sure when she had a chance to do this as we have been watching her like a hawk). So poop and pee times three this morning all before 8 o'clock. Thank you kitties and puppy for starting the day off right.

Although it's hard to be too upset when you come home to this:


And this:

Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm In Trouble

This weekend Erik and I adopted a puppy. Actually yesterday at apporximately 5pm we adopted a puppy. We named her Lulu.

Before I go any further I feel like I need to give a little background on my relationship with dogs. First,  I have never owned a dog, grown up with a dog, and have never lived with a roommate who had a dog. I have friends who own dogs and my sister has a dog but other than occasional visits my time spent around dogs has been limited. Second, I know absolutely nothing about training them or caring for them other than the basics like taking them for walks and giving them food. Third, I have never been what I consider to be a "dog person." Sure I think they are cute and I have known some really sweet ones, but I have never dreamt of owning a dog or even pictured myself as a dog owner.

Now that I have said that, you are probably wondering (given my past history) how the heck I ended up with a dog this weekend. Well, in a way this was an unplanned pregnancy. Erik and I have been discussing getting a dog for awhile. He grew up with dogs and his parents have 3 at their house (who Erik is crazy about). I was amenable to the idea because I thought having a dog around the house would be good protection. My neighborhood isn't bad per se, but there are the occasional break ins (I do live in the city of Atlanta after all) and I felt like a dog would be a good deterrant to potential criminals.

We had a lot of discussions about what kind of dog we would want to get and I was pretty insistent that if we got any dog it would have to be a rescue. For awhile we were looking online and checking out the dogs up for adoption at the local Petsmart or PetCo on weekends when I would need to pop in and buy food for the cats. I don't think either of us ever saw animal that particularly struck us so we would move on and that would be that.

Yesterday we were out running errands and I noticed Erik driving a different way to get out of the shopping plaza we were in. I asked if he needed to make a stop by Target (which was the direction we were headed) but he said he just wanted to drive by PetCo to see if there were any dogs outside waiting to be adopted. I'm not sure what made me say it but I blurted out, "well you know if you want to look at dogs we can always go by the Atlanta Humane Society." I fully expected him to say something like "yeah,we could but not today" but instead he put the address into his gps and off we went.

Of course the conversation on the way over there went something like this:

Erik: "You know we can't adopt a dog today."
Me: "Yeah totally. We do not need to get a dog today."

Chuckle, chuckle.

So we get to the Atlanta Humane Society (which is very nice by the way) and head over to look at the dogs in the kennels. Talk about heartbreaking. It was like walking through puppy jail. Don't get me wrong, the dogs were well taken care of but they all just looked so lonely and sad. Then we went into a separate room, which I'll call the "puppy room" where there were all kinds of little guys playing and waiting to be adopted. This room was a much happier place. Erik and I made our way over to this one bin where there was a litter of about 6 puppies. I had looked online prior to our arrival and had taken a liking to one puppy in particular and I saw her amongst this litter. Sadly, she was adopted just minutes after we had first walked in the door.

As we were studying the other pups from the same litter a couple walks over to put one that they were holding back into the bin. They asked if I wanted to hold her and I took one look at her sweet face and said of course. She was the only brindle-coated puppy of the litter and she immediately began licking me all over and curled up in my arms. Needless to say, I didn't want to put her down. It wasn't minutes later before Erik was filling out the paperwork for adoption and an hour or so later we were walking to the car with our new puppy.

Talk about an unexpected afternoon!

So here are the basic stats on our new dog:
Name: Lulu
Sex: Female
Birthday: around May 12, 2011 (which means she is a little more than 2 1/2 months old)
Breed: American Pit Bull Terrier/Labrador Retriver Mix
Weight: 9 pounds
Coloring: Brindle (black/brown/tan zebra-like pattern)

She has been really sweet so far. She's definitely had a few "accidents" in the house but that's to be expected until she is potty-trained. She slept pretty good last night--only cried for a little bit and then was out for about 4 hours. Erik got up around 4:30 to take her out and neither of us could go back to sleep (even though she did) so I am pretty exhausted. Erik stayed home with her today and I feel better knowing that he is there as she adjusts to her first full day in her new home.

All in all I would say I am excited for this adventure. I'm still very nervous about being a dog owner (I have these fears that my dog is going to be that bad dog that everyone hates to be around) but I've been reading a lot about lab/pit mixes and everyone says they make great dogs--very loyal, loving, and smart--so that makes me relax a bit. I was also worried about how my cats would take to the new addition but they seem to be doing better than I expected and, with a bit of adjustment, I think everything will work out okay in that department.

So that's that. I have a dog and her name is Lulu. She is adorable, sweet, playful, and has definitely captured my heart. So yes, I'm in trouble. Big trouble.


Meet Lulu!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend Review and Antiquing

It's another Monday and despite the heat of summer and the drag of being back at work I'm determined to make it worthwhile. I mean, I'm thinking this will be the last July 18th I will ever spend while I am 29--and even more mind boggling the last in my 20's. So why not enjoy it, right?

You can all roll your eyes at me (it's Monday, Im turning 30 soon, who am I really kidding with that last statement?).

But I do have some adventures to share from this past weekend that will help with the Monday blues. First I got to go and see the new Harry Potter movie at midnight on Thursday (for those who don't know I am a gigantic Harry fan). It was epic. And beautiful. And I might have teared up just a little. If you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend it, especially in 3D if its in your budget.

My T-shirt for the Harry premier. It says:
"Make Love Not Horcruxes"
I also got to spend some time with my mom who was passing through town on her way to visit my grandparents at the beach in South Carolina which was really nice even if it was a short visit. We had a nice dinner, went out for ice cream, and made a trip to the Dekalb Famer's Market so she could bring goodies to my grandmother. I also got to drive her new Nissan Rogue (a car I believe I have mentioned I would love to own) and totally fell in love with it. I keep telling myself that I need to wait another year for the new car but that is really becoming difficult.

Keeping up with the theme of family time, Erik and I made a visit to Monroe and hung out with Erik's parents and his sister and her fam. We made a special trip to this gigantic flea market in downtown Monroe and had a blast checking out what people call "antique." If you've ever been antiquing before you will understand what I mean by this. I can't tell you how many times I have walked through an antique store and found items that I have seen being sold in department stores for half the price the antique store is selling them for.

Historic Cotton Mills Antique Mall in Monroe, GA
This antique store was no exception. As Erik's sister Kimi, her husband Paul, and I were walking around Paul happened upon this:



With this note attached:



But if you turned it over, you saw this:



Nice, right? Those antique people are sneaky!

Despite some "misses" there were a bunch of "hits" that I would've loved to take home. I've always wanted a Hoosier cabinet like this:



I would also love some chairs like this to put in my backyard, but sadly their $100+ price tag is a little too steep for my budget.



I have these exact same dishes at home that came straight from my grandmother's basement (2 sets in their original boxes). Check out the price tag at the antique mall:

$115!!
Craziness!

All in all, it was a fun trip and a great weekend. It included some of my fav things: antiquing, good food, and family. Now I just have to get through this week...