Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Basements don't fix everything.

I never thought I would say this.........but I really miss Midwest weather.  It is a thought that has crossed my mind over the past few weeks when I would briefly step outside to go to the car and would feel like I was drowning due to the humidity.  It was like atmospheric water boarding.  But this week is for an entirely different reason.

There is a hurricane scheduled to make it's way up the coast towards the end of the week.  I should say up front that by all accounts of every forecast I have seen (and there have been several), right now Charleston does not appear to be in the path of this thing.  Which is super awesome.  To say the least.  I have to admit though, I am both super annoyed and fairly confused about the whole hurricane process.

I grew up in tornado alley so every spring there would be epic thunderstorms that shook the entire house and they actually grew to be fairly endearing.  Sometimes they would get super nasty and you would have to keep an eye out your window and check for hail.  If things REALLY went down hill you would pack everyone up head to the basement for like an hour or so and hope there would still be an upstairs when you emerged.  But you were comforted to know that the sheer probability of that amount of destruction is, on the whole, quite unlikely.  That's it.  No preparation.  The entire thing is over in a matter of a few hours.  Wham.  Bam.  Thank you ma'am.

But I have been glued to the weather for the past few days on this thing.  Will it change course?  Could I ride it out?  Will I have to hightail it out of town?  (Which let's just all pause and recognize that there is the possibility that I could get run out of an uber southern city by a storm named Earl.  That is far to Dixie Chicks for me to even handle.  Totally ludicrous.)

Then I get on the computer cause I have heard that there are emergency kits we are supposed to make up for just such things as hurricanes.  We are supposed to have extra water etc. etc.  The list, or should I say booklet, made me even more confused cause the emergency item list was like 5 pages long.  All of a sudden I am envisioning this bomb shelter we are going to have to build to contain all this emergency stuff, 90% of which we have floating around the house already. (You know, things like: salt, sugar, flour--they were on the list).  But the bomb shelter idea is totally counter intuitive cause it would be underground and that would be the first thing to flood.  So scratch that plan.  This led to more questions: If I have it in my house right now, do I need to buy extra to fulfill this kit?  (I am just type "A" enough to be compelled to do something like that)  Do I need to stash all of this together in a safe place like the basement (no Erika, no basement, I need to break that instinct)?  If I have to evacuate, surely I shouldn't have to bring my salt and sugar with me right?  Or will there be a shortage in the Western portion of the state, or wherever I end up?  I don't even know!!!  

Don't get me wrong we are prepared, well, as prepared as one can really be.  It is just the whole experience is really foreign to me.  Like I said, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms involved no preparation and had the same rules as the cold war, stay away from windows, duck and cover.  I miss that simplicity

The whole thing made me think of the "Slap bet" on "How I Met Your Mother" and the discussion on whether it is worse to get slapped out of the blue, or to know when you will get slapped so you can prepare/agonize to ridiculous lengths over it.  I have discovered I prefer the first.  This whole, having time to prepare a.k.a having a whole week to spas out, is for the birds.

I hear there is another tropical storm forming that should be moving toward land like next week?  So I have to deal with this whole will it/won't it thing again?  Cause I needed something else in my life to senselessly obsess over.  I can just feel my hair turning even more gray as I type this.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I don't think there is a 12-step for this.

This past week I developed an addiction to audio books.  It's bad.  Really bad.

Audio books are not totally new to me.  In fact they have frequently been a source of annoyance between pterodactyl an I on road trips.  We will pick up a good one before a long trip and no matter how much I like the book I am just not mentally stimulated enough to stay awake.  So within about 20 minutes of hitting play I am passed out in the car, mouth hanging open, most likely drooling.  I will stay like this for another half hour.  When I come to I promptly hit the power button on the radio and ask pterodactyl to summarize what I have missed.  Understandably this makes him crazy.

However, a few weeks ago I thought maybe I should try listening to a book while running.  I don't like talking to anyone while running but sometimes music makes me a little bored, so an audiobook made sense.  So I bought "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", threw it on my ipod and it was really good.  So I thought I would try listening at work being that the projects I have prioritized on my desk right now are little more than glorified data entry.

The workday just flew by.  My eyes and fingers and one tiny portion of my brain went on auto pilot while the rest of my brain and my ears took in the story.  At one point I had to run to the bathroom so I paused the book, pulled the earbuds out of my head, and then had to remember where I was.  It was AWESOME!

Although I have discovered a few flaws in this my new metaphorical workplace heroine.  First, it can get a little awkward when the book suddenly takes a turn in a racy direction.  "Dragon Tattoo" gets a little messed up at times and I found myself remembering where I was and start looking around to make sure no one was standing behind me, only to remember that I am wearing headphones and no one else can hear what I am listening to.  Second, when it comes to books and movies I am kind of a sensitive little snowflake.  Last week I also listened to "Water for Elephants" which is the perfect flavor of melancholy to entice the most bitter of sobs from me.  So here I am, at work,  trying to be all professional and what not, typing away at the keyboard, looking straight at the computer screen, hoping against all odds that my cube-mate will not need to grab my attention for at least another 5 minutes cause I am choking back tears like a champ.  I am prying my eyelids open and wide as I can and looking through my top lashes so the tears won't actually leave my eyes.  I am carefully controlling my breathing through my mouth so no one will hear how sniffly I have suddenly become.  It was truly pathetic.

Now running out of audio book at work is like the worst thing that can happen to me.  I get bored and drowsy immediately.  I get super distractible.    All of a sudden I need to check my email and my calendar every five minutes for NO REAL REASON.  I also get so anxious to go home that my skin begins to crawl.

So I did the only thing I could do.  I got a library card (I buy lots of books instead of borrowing, hence not having one previously).  Sadly, the closest branch of the library does not have a very good selection so I am going to have to relearn how to request book transfers etc.  But that also means I need to develop a list of books to "read."  So I am open for suggestions.  Right now I have some random FBI thriller and "Light on Snow" by Anita Shreve.  So that should get me through this week.  Any other suggestions?  Please pass them on......

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


We had good friends come into town early today!!!!  So instead of writing a post I would like to divert you to my photo blog and a photo of my husband looking all badass.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Who killed Laura Palmer?

NOTE:  My husband started reading one of my posts over my shoulder the other day and decided he didn't like me using his first name in this blog.  He said, "Don't you call yourself 'the fish'?"  (I don't, I use my first name.) "So why don't you call me, like, I dunno, the pterodactyl."  To which I promptly responded with, "Ok, yes, yes I will."  To which, he winced and said, "Oh shit."  So from henceforth my husband will be referred to as pterodactyl.....well, at least for the next couple weeks.

I think I have previously mentioned how exhausting pterodactyl's work schedule is.  It sucks, it really does.  Out of every month, he has two legit weekends off.  And by that I mean, not only are his days off actually on Sat and Sun, they are also days where his primary goal isn't to shift his sleep cycle to accommodate his next rotation.  So every couple weeks, like clockwork, two days before his first weekend off, he gets exuberant.  There really is not other word for it.  It is just like the most ornery, sugar coated, high-as-a-kite optimism one could ever have.  You could probably punch pterodactyl square in the mouth on that one Thursday every month and he would thank you, hug you, and tell you how good it feels to be alive.  It's ridiculous.  

As a result, he takes all this joy out on me.  Which, if that meant he cleaned the house, cooked me dinner, learned various DIY projects, developed a 12-step plan for world peace, or found a cure for diabetes....that would be super.  Instead, like a kid that pulls the hair of the girl he has a crush on, he develops the quickest and most efficient ways to get under my skin.  This past week, that included trying to scare me.  (It should be noted, I grew up with a father who was a notorious prankster as a child, and would frequently jump out from behind open doors to scare me when I was about 3 years old.  To this day, when coming home late in the evening, I steal a peek in that small crevice between the door and the hinge to make sure no one is waiting for me......I do not scare easy.) 

So let me paint a scene for you.......

On Thursday I came home late in the evening, fairly-zened out after yoga.  We eat dinner and I want to hit the rack early.  As per usual Nick beelines it upstairs while I buzz around playing slave to what constitutes my late night, borderline ADD and OCD.  (Is the stove off?  Where are my glasses?  Did the dog go out?  Is there water in the Brita filter?  Is there still wet laundry in the washer?)  After running around the main floor of the house for 10 minutes I round up the 2 cats and one dog to make our way upstairs.  I walk into our bedroom and out of the corner of my eye I see pterodactyl, standing stalk still in the corner behind a dresser, eyes like that of a deer caught in headlights, eating a drumstick ice cream cone.  After quickly checking over my shoulder to make sure there were no red curtains or little people speaking backwards, I critically looked at him, "What the hell?  It's like a freaking David Lynch film in here."

"I was gonna try and scare you....."

*sigh*  He's going to have to try harder than that.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I know I won't, I know I won't, I know I won't.......

My husband Nick finally broke down and joined the gym that our good friends go to.  It is a CrossFit gym, and for those of you who may be unfamiliar with that particular line of gyms you will generally get two responses from people who go or know someone that goes.  1.  "Oh my gosh, it is so awesome.  Just incredible, you wanna go?" or 2.  "Oh my gosh, that shit is crazy."  And on occasion you find someone who will combine both of those responses into one like, "It is totally awesome.  I almost die every week." 

The gyms, from what I gather, are designed around minimal equipment, a good deal of personal training and developing a social culture and a healthy competition between the people that work out there.  Which is awesome, totally up Nick's alley.  The second workout he attended caused him stumble out of the car once he parked outside our place and promptly vomit.  I called him from work later that afternoon and he was an odd blend of super pumped (that he worked so hard) but also really embarrassed (that he puked in our parking lot in broad daylight).

So now that he has joined I have had to dodge another round of "So when you joining the gym?"  Which I just can't make myself do.  I could barely get up the guts to use the YMCA membership we had a few years ago and work out in front of the overworked moms and senior citizens.  Can you imagine me trying to saunter in and count out loud the number of squats, push ups, dead lifts, or whatever I manager to do in the allotted amount of time?  Hardly.  I once looked Nick dead in the eye and said, "Nick if I ever went I would stop half way through and run out crying."  He laughed, cause he knew I was right. 

But that is really only half of it.  As I have gotten older I have realized that I kind of have an issue with authority.  Not across the board, just in particular circumstances.  For example, if you are paying my salary, hand me an assignment and say have this done by next week and then leave me the hell alone,  we are fine.  In fact you might become my favorite boss ever.  However, if you in any way shape or form make things personal, as in you presume to know and understand exactly what I am capable or incapable of doing, I don't handle that well.  It doesn't even matter if you are yelling at me or cheering me on, the second I hear "You can...." and the sentence doesn't end with permission to get a piece of cake, then I start putting forth less effort on purpose.  It is like my basic mode of operation is, "Oh you think know I can do what?  I'll show you what I can do, I can stop" and then, in the most passive way possible, regain control and authority over any situation. 

Moral of the story.  Any sort of boot camp would be the end of me.  I would get pissed and just to be spiteful go home, eat everything in my freezer, and not leave my couch for 3 weeks.  Basically, I would turn into a Cathy cartoon and no one wants that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stop what you are doing, read this book.

I grew up in the Midwest.  Well, in the Kansas City area to be specific.  Growing up I really did not like it.  It wasn't cool, there wasn't anything to do, it was totally lame.....insert generic whining of a 15 year old here. 

Then I attended college at a small liberal arts college in Northern Iowa (Wartburg, for those of you who care to stalk me later) which was in a pretty college town surrounded by farm communities and the fairly, industrial city of Waterloo 20 minutes away.  When I attended school, the town had a 24 hour Hy-Vee and a WalMart that closed at (I think) 11pm, maybe 10pm.  I became the girl that came from a city to many of the kids who grew up on a farm or perhaps one generation away from one.  I occasionally went home with them on weekends and learned how to catch chickens and run in cornfields (which, if you have never wandered in a cornfield in the fall, I highly recommend it).

Then I got married and moved away.  Since then, my husband and I have buzzed up and down both coasts like a 5 year old that has had too much soda.  Some places we have fallen in love with and have landed on our "let's consider retiring here" list. Other places have made us angry, subversively, hostile individuals that will fantasize about shanking you bic pen should you rub us the wrong way. 

But one thing I never expected was how terribly defensive I would get about home.  And not home, as in tarnishing the good name of Kansas City, truth be told it is a GREAT city and all but we have the Royals and the Chiefs, that doesn't leave much room for bragging rights.  I mean home in terms of the Midwest as a whole.  Cause, well, I am just going to say it.  To many people on the coast the Midwest is America's redheaded step child.  Seriously. 

I once had a janitor in Waterford, Connecticut condescendingly say to me upon finding out that I was (at the time) 23 and married, "Oh, God bless you, they do marry young out there."  You know, cause apparently no one in Connecticut gets married until they are like 35 even though there is a GIANT MILITARY BASE in Groton which means several married 18 year-olds? 

Or, my fave, a gentleman in Seattle that found out I was 25 and married (maybe I need to start lying about my age, seriously, what is it with guys asking how old I am because I wear a ring?) who said, "Oh well you are from a small town, right?"--"Well I grew up in Kansas City"--"Well that's a small town"--"No, not, really"--"Yeah, it is."  On the off chance that you are laughing at me and agreeing with the numb nuts that argued with me in Seattle, I would like to refer you to this Wikipedia entry.  No, we are not New York, LA, or Chicago, but you can hardly refer to us as a "small" "town". 

So here's my point.  Despite the fact that the first time I was ever on a working farm was in 6th grade on a field trip, despite the fact that any goat or sheep I ever touched before that field trip was at the zoo, despite the fact that I grew up within walking distance of a sizable mall, and despite the fact that my parents can barely grow the most low maintenance of house plants much less anything resembling actual agriculture, I am still lumped in with a whole small town, farming culture that was never my own.  Why?  Because I grew up in fly-over country.  I grew up in a part of the country that is frequently dismissed as a bunch of undereducated, under cultured, hicks that should be hidden away in the prairie and forgotten about.  And frankly, it pisses me off.

And FINALLY, here is a book that stands up for us.  In addition, to being super interesting, probably one of the creepiest (not like Stephen King creepy but more like they blended the movie Traffic and The Green Zone creepy) books I have read in a long time.  The author, Mr. Nick Reding, is and incredible writer who seamlessly weaves the argument that what happens to middle America happens to the rest of America and as such the Midwest and it's problems shouldn't be swept under the rug.

So do me a solid.  Check out this book!   

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


While I was on hiatus from writing we accidently got another cat.  This is him. 
We named him Bingley.  Which, naturally, has been shortened to Bing when we are yelling at him not to scratch the couch, jump on the kitchen counter, scale the curtains like a ninja, or blitzkrieg our other cat, Lizzy.  "Bing" in turn, then lead us to calling him "Los Links" due to this commercial...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33FVUJJyJqA 

So please, go ahead, imagine my husband and I shaking our fists in the air, exclaiming, "LOS LINKS!!!!" while this tiny little orange cat immediately drops what he is doing, gives us a WTF look, then prances off.  Never a dull moment here I tell ya.

I say we accidently got him cause, in classic Nick and Erika fashion, we never intended to look for another cat.  In fact, we had talked about how we had the freedom to get another pet, now that we owned the condo, but maybe it would be best to simply leave it at two.  So much for that.

I had taken our cat, Lizzy, to the vet and here was this little orange cat in a cage behind reception.  In passing I asked about him fully expecting him to be waiting to be picked up by owners or some such thing when the receptionist said that he was the last in a litter of strays that was adopted out and that he had been the last little guy for a few weeks.  Cue the sound of shattering glass that was my heart falling to my feet. 

Ever the rationalist, though, I left him there only to immediately put on pouty face and little kid voice (you know the one, every girl has her own version) when Nick got home.  And how does Nick respond when I tell him about this cute little kitten?  Does he reinforce my mature decision?  No.  He looked at me with a great deal of scrutiny and said, "Well, why didn't you bring him home?  Major fail, Erika."  The next morning, he looked at me and said, "What was the name of the other guy in 'Pride and Prejudice' cause you know the new cat will have to stay in theme with the pet names.  Oh!  It was Bingley, wasn't it?  So when we going to go get him?"  And as soon as Nick had named the cat it was only a matter of hours until we were back at the vets office filling out adoption paperwork.

And that is why my husband and I might be good people, but really shouldn't be taken seriously as adults.   

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Today I am cheating.....

Today, in lieu of a new post I would like to redirect you all to a new blog I am starting.  I will still be writing this one, however, I am also adding a photo blog to the mix. 

Please stop by and let me know what you think!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

They are testing the perimeter.....

This is our first full summer living here in Charleston part deux and I have clearly forgotten what summers here are like.  To give you a bit of an idea my runs are miserable due to the fact that I just plain over heat.  My legs are fine, my lungs are fine and I am sweating like a pig but it doesn't help because running in South Carolina during the summer is like trying to run through a steam dryer.  It is so stupid humid that my little herb garden is getting mildew and I am hoping against all odds that my little basil and rosemary will pull through.  But as cranky as the heat and humidity makes me that is not my biggest issue.

I had sort of forgotten what it is like to live in both a part of the country and a part of town that facilitates the growth of devil spawn, mutant-sized insects.  Seriously.  We live right off protected wetlands.  And when I say we live right off of them I don't mean that they are like across the highway, I mean you head to the back of our building and there is 4 ft of grass then, BAM!  Trees, brush and, presumably swamp, or something, I don't really know, you won't catch me heading back there.  My friend, Amy, as nicknamed our complex Jurassic Park.  If you hang out at the pool (which faces the wetlands) it doesn't take much imagination to see the trees shake a little then T-Rex spring from the woods with Laura Dern in his mouth or something.

Needless to say, this whole situation has turned me into a giant moron.  I look like a fugitive every time I step out my front door.  Eyes darting everywhere, hyper alert, doing everything but carrying a mirror on a stick to peer around corners.  I took the dog out a few days ago and a frog jumped on my (oh yeah, there are frogs and lizards too but they don't gross me out as much) and I just assumed the frog was a moth (basically my kryptonite) and I screamed, loudly, at like 11 pm.  That wasn't the first time something like that has happened either.

This has also caused several odd phone calls to my dad.  Growing up in the Midwest I have a very justified paranoia of spiders.  Not scared of them in principal, but convinced that each and everyone I see is a brown recluse.  Some of you out there should be familiar with that.  The ritual of shaking out your boots the first time you pull them out of the closet each season to make sure there weren't any recluse spiders hiding in there waiting to take off your foot.

There have been two great variations of these phone calls.  The first where I wouldn't get out of the car due to the fact that there was an unrecognized (and still unknown) spider the size of a damn golf ball in my garage.  Car door open, pulled in the garage, totally hot outside and I freeze.  You know cause spiders are like T-Rexes, their vision is based on movement.  And with my eyes not leaving the spider I reach for my phone. 

Then, after meeting up with the Andre the Giant of spiders in my garage the smaller ones that made it into my house lost some of their intimidation so I now whack them with shoes.  But I am still convinced that they might be poisonous so I do they only sensible thing and carefully collect the little spider corpse in a bag so that I can text a photo to my dad and/or save it till my husband gets home to verify that no, it is not full of deadly venom and no, we do not need to have the condo fumigated.

Oh, I am so, so ready for fall....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Crime Report

I had planned to pretty much never write about my job, but this was too good to pass up. 

Now, it should be noted that I really like my job.  It is flexible, low key and frequently challenging in one way or another.  One thing it is not, though, is exciting and ripe with great stories the way it was working in retail.  So when I stumbled across this little gem last week it pretty much made my day.

Last week my boss had asked me to poke around on our server at work and search out a document that he needed and had trouble finding.  Now the server is frequently cleaned out with the exception of a few folders, our tech writing folder being one of those.  So I am running all sorts of searches in one window and in another window I am absent mindedly sifting through the titles of documents when I come across a document titled "Crime Report" which has been stashed away on the server since like 1999....this is obviously not what I am looking for but my interest is piqued nonetheless.  I open it up to find a short anecdote written by, what I can only imagine, is a former employee.

I quickly minimize the window and glance around making sure that no one is lurking in the aisle behind me. Instantly became thankful that my cube mate was out that day. I then pulled the window back up and began reading as quickly as I could.

"Crime Report" is a simply story.  It is a narration of an employee (the author) who is clearly disgruntled, going out to eat Chinese food and then upon return finding the project manager's car parked illegally and then somehow running into the car!  The rest of the "story" is diatribe on how worthless and out of touch the author thinks said project manager is.  And the best part?  Names were named, kids!  There is a byline for the story, the project manager is called out by name, and then it was saved on the networked work server.  Seriously?  Has anyone else ever stumbled across something like this at work?  I couldn't even believe it.  How dumb can you be?

Needless to say I did what anyone would do. I very quietly closed the document and kept it on the server.  It is always good to know that it is there in case I have a bad day and need a laugh.