Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kaya the Wonderdog

My sweet Kaya staring at the front door, using her wonder powers to open it with her mind.

This is the face of one patient and persevering dog. She's ever loyal, incredibly funny, and about had it with me lately. 
Ever since we moved into our new neighborhood her patience with me has been tested. You see, this is well-fenced in neighborhood. Most houses have fully fenced in yards, but we do not. We are fenced in on three sides by the neighbors, but that all important fourth side is wide open. And therefore, Kaya the Wonderdog cannot be left outside. 
This bothers her to no end. She suffers from immense peer pressure. All the other neighbor dogs are allowed to hang out in their fenced-in yards, where they get to bark all freaking day long. But I'm the mean mommy who makes her dog stay inside while all the other dogs get to go outside and bark.
Instead, Kaya has nothing better to do than sit at my feet and whimper in horrible jealousy every time all the neighbor dogs start another rousing chorus of Irish drinking songs. (That must be what they are, because there are no other songs sung with such gusto that I know of.) 
I know, Kaya, life just isn't fair sometimes.

Why is my dog so awesome? Because she went to dog training at Balanced Canines!

Friday, October 29, 2010

How do you become a writer?

There are two questions I get asked more times a week than I can count. The first one is, "How do you get to be a writer?" The second one is, "How did you get to work from home?"
There are days when I'm truly baffled that I am a writer. Growing up that is all I ever wanted to be, but the problem always was- how do you get to be a writer. Sure, you have to learn all the necessary skills (grammar, punctuation, word flow, vocabulary, structure) but really, what matters most at the end of the day isn't any of those skills. What really matters is having something to write about!
There are so many dreamers out there who want so badly to be a writer. I can't blame them- I am one of them! Their heads are full of ideas, words, and stories. But nobody wants to pay them to be a daydreamer. It is a very sad reality. To be a writer (that actually makes money) you have to have something worth writing about that others want to read.
But here is the real secret about being a writer. It takes more work than any other job I have done. And you have to be prepared for more criticism than in any other job out there. I know you want to think that the words and dreams in your head are above reproach- we all do! But sadly, that just isn't the case.  Writing well means accepting edits and revisions up the ying-yang. It means looking at the baby you have poured your heart and soul into and having someone else tell you everything that is wrong with it. It isn't easy, but it is all apart of the job.
But again, above all, to be a writer, you have to have something to write about. It means becoming a subject matter expert in something else besides writing. So my real advice to the potential writers out there- don't worry about taking all of the writing classes out there. Learn about something else. Be able to write about something worth reading. Because the truth is, while you need to have decent mechanics to work with, the editors of the world will fix your mistakes for you. You have to know something to write something.
And that, my friends, is all I really have to say on the subject.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plentiful Pantry

A few weeks ago I got an email asking if I'd like to try out Plentiful Pantry in exchange for a blog review. And I am SOOO glad I said yes!
Plentiful Pantry makes all sorts of products- soups, bakery items, and more- but I got asked to try out the Roasted Red Bell Pepper Fettucine and the Meatball Mix. Now you know I love a good pasta. I am the carb queen! And this fettucine did NOT disappoint! I loved it! The one bag (that comes with extra virgin olive oil as well) of pasta was enough to feed both me and my sister 3 different times! It could easily feed a family of 4 for one meal!
I have never made meatballs before. And I didn't think I was much of a meatball lover. (After all, I always associate meatballs with Swedish Meatballs from Costco. So not the same!) However, I am now a meatball fan, and I am very much in love with this mix! The Meatball Mix was easy to make. You add the mix to one egg, a little water, and some ground beef. It was optional to add ground sausage to it. I did not add any sausage, and personally I don't think the recipe needs any sausage. It has just the right kick and zing to it. Not spicy, not tangy. Just really flavorful! I used half the recipe (because I was only cooking for 2), and still came out with about 16-20 meatballs! My sister and I liked them so much that we took to just eating the meatballs solo after dinner was over. We LOVED the meatballs! For $3.50 and I will be stocking up in this mix!

Now for some good news, last I checked, you could get a 40% discount for Plentiful Pantry on CityDeals. You spend $30 and get a $50 gift certificate! Not too shabby!

31 Days of Service - Day 26 Nutty Putty Cyclers

Last year there was a tragic caving accident in Utah. A man, John Jones, caving with his brothers, got stuck in the popular "Nutty Putty Caves." He died in the cave, leaving behind a pregnant wife and a baby. The story was huge in Utah, and well-known throughout the LDS world. It was also a huge story here in Roanoke. Why? This is the home of the John's wife, Emily.
It has been just short of a year since the accident. Emily is now the mother of Elizabeth (age 2) and John (infant). Emily's brother, Dan, along with some friends, have formed the Nutty Putty Bike Trip. This bike trip was originally intended to raise money for Emily's family, but has since transformed into a nationwide fundraiser to benefit desperate widows and widowers across the country. Beginning October 4, 2010, Eric Maughan (Emily's friend), Jonathan Miller (Emily's cousen), and Dan Petersen (Emily's brother), will bike from Virginia Beach, Virginia to the Pacific Coast of San Diego, California. The purpose of the bike trip is to raise funds for the Liz Logelin Foundation, a charity that supplies grants and support to widows and widowers who have recently lost a spouse.
These guys need help in their cross-country journey. All the money raised is going to the Liz Logelin Foundation, and not to them. What the guys could use is a free yard to camp in, or a guest bedroom, or a hot meal or two donate along their route path. They have traveled from Virginia to Florida, and will now work their way from Florida to California. Do you or anyone you know live along that path? Got some extra space in your backyard for some guys with tents? Contact them and help them out!

Here's their travel schedule-
25-Oct Tallahassee, FL
26-Oct Marianna, FL
27-Oct DeFuniak Springs, FL
28-Oct Pensacola, FL
29-Oct Pleasant Grove, FL
30-Oct Grand Bay , AL
31-Oct Theodore

1-Nov Perkinston, MS
2-Nov Bogalusa, LA
3-Nov Chipola, LA
4-Nov Baton Rouge, LA
5-Nov Simmesport, LA
6-Nov Lebeau, LA
7-Nov Opelousas, LA

8-Nov Oberlin, LA
9-Nov Bleakwood, TX
10-Nov Kountze, TX
11-Nov New Waverly, TX
12-Nov Burton, TX
13-Nov Austin, TX
14-Nov Austin, TX

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Online Dating and Me

Alright kids, I did it. I finally caved to my total lack of a dating life and joined an online matchmaking site (i really, really hesitate to call them "dating" sites. they are meant for meeting and introducing, not to take the place of a date.) I'm never going to meet people in my daily interactions, so it was time to do something, anything, to make friends and meet people.
So it is.
It has been a week, and thus far, I've found little to nothing to be glad I spent money about. (I'm broke people! I carefully spend every dollar. It was a risk spending $39 to meet people.)
So help me make the most of my $39. Help me write my profile. What would you say about me? Describe me to me.
The categories are:
"About me and who I am looking for" (let's find a way to make it clear I like smart guys who don't wear flannel)
"What I do for fun"
"my job"
"my religion"
"favorite hot spots" (kind of a joke seeing as i know nothing about this town)
"favorite things"
And I need a clever headline.

Get to it kids! Suggestions!! Best friend-made profile gets a $20 gift certificate from me to Cold Stone Creamery!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Political Attack Ads of Roanoke, VA

It's that time of the year again where we all start hitting the mute button a little bit more often. Political attack ads are in full swing. I am a registered voter in the little city of Roanoke, VA. I am one of the most likely individuals to get out and vote.
But here we are 1 week away from election day and I have a major confession. I have no idea who I am voting for. The local candidates, who I presume to be Tom Perriello and something or other Hurt, and I think maybe Bob Goodlatte? are slinging so much mud at each other, that I have no idea who stands for what, or which party they represent.
Here's what I do know- Perriello must have deeper pockets than the other guys. (Which doesn't make me like him. It makes me who funds him.) I see his commercials at least five times more often than the other guys'. In fact, I don't know what office Goodlatte is running for. I haven't heard or seen one ad for him yet, but my uncle has a sign in his yard for him. And I think I have a bumper sticker for him somewhere.
I'm sick and tired of Pariello's ads. In spite of the fact that they are everywhere, I have yet to figure out what he stands for, except "I stand for the little man." Maybe he likes midgets? I'm really not sure. And I have only heard attack ads on Hurt, so I really don't know what he's all about.
I'm tired of the ads! I don't read the newspaper, and I don't watch the local news. However, I am very well-informed on state and local issues. So Candidates, whoever you might be, take those 30 second spots and actually educate us about what YOU stand for and believe in. Tell me which party you represent. Tell me where you REALLY came from. And please, for the love, stop using slogans like, "John Doe is for Virginians." I KNOW you are for and from Virginia! DUH! Now tell me what you plan to actually DO for Virginia!
And to the candidate who is running the ad with the old lady sitting in the dark who says, "Poppycock!" (and you know who you are), please, I implore you, stop running that ad. I'm forced to mute or change the channel every time she comes on!
And you know what, if one of the candidate's staffers just happens to be reading this, feel free to leave me a comment and let's set up a chance for you to be my guest blogger. Seriously. But there's just one condition- you can't once mention the other candidate's name.

PS- in my research to get the links to the candidate's names I learned that Hurt's first name is Robert, and he's running against Perriello. I also learned that Goodlatte is running for a different district. Which begs the question- who is he running against?

PPS- What I think is funny and sad is that after posting this I will likely still get more information from RoxAnne and Karena telling me who to vote for than the actual candidates themselves.

PPPS- Also, now I have to figure out if I live in the fifth district or the sixth district!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Never give up hope

Twice this week I have read Facebook statuses from individuals going through extraordinarily difficult trials saying that they are turning against God, or have given up hope.
I don't speak much on this blog regarding my own faith, but have never shied away from sharing my faith. Today that will change.
I have faced and endured by own heavy trials over the past year. The life I have today would have been unimaginable to me one year ago. The past few weeks have been more difficult than most of the past year put together. But my trials are mine and mine alone.
Earlier this week I "hit my knees," so to speak. I knelt down to pray, more humble, more penitent, more heartbroken and weak than ever before. It was 1 a.m. I cried my heart out to the Lord, and begged for guidance and light. Something to get me to the end of this very long dark tunnel.
I tried to go to sleep. But I tossed and turned, and finally gave up. And then at 1:45 am I turned on my computer. Why? I didn't know. But it was what felt right. And then, at 1:45 am, a friend IM'ed me. It was the most unexpected conversation I have ever had after that. Nothing spectacular about it. And probably not even memorable to the friend. But one of the answers I was looking for was shared then and there- in the most unlikely of places.
Next I checked my emails. And again, there at 1:45 am there was an answer. But it was an email that required and immediate response. The good fortune that came to me from that email could not have possibly waited till the next morning. I found a wonderful blessing and opportunity there in the middle of the night.
It is no secret that many and most of my troubles are financial these days. I am trying to get by on half of what I used to get in unemployment. And yet, my expenses have more than doubled. It isn't easy. So you can only imagine the tears of joy I shed when my aunt called and said, "A check arrived in the mail for you." I laughed and said, "you must mean a bill!" She said, "No, I'm looking at it. It's a check made out to you." It was for something I could never have seen coming. A project I had started but not yet launched had already made me money. And there was a check for exactly the amount of money that I needed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

This week I received a comp'd ticket to the Grace Potter and the Nocturnals show in Roanoke. I had never heard of this band before, but I always welcome the chance to try new, live music. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were fantastic. In fact, I'd even go see them again! This little clip is my favorite song I've heard from her so far. The acoustic style is SO not what I heard at the very LOUD, rocking, lights and arts show I saw. But I love the a-oops in this song! So fun!

I was not compensated in cash for this review. I did receive a free ticket to attend. All opinions are mine and mine alone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You can find me next door--->

I blogged on my Cutting Back and Going Green blog today. You can find me talking about Adventures in Recycling there!
Also, my deal loving friends, be sure to check out CityDeals today! They have brought back the amazing 50% off AMC movie tickets (2 tickets for $13!!) and let's not forget you can get a $20 Cold Stone Creamery gift card for only $16. Seriously, I love CityDeals!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I want to join the Peace Corps

I'm joining the Peace Corps because I remember how happy I was when this picture was taken. I want to take hundreds more just like it.

I am happy to report that another round of the Peace Corps has been completed. And by that, I mean they have accepted my application. Now, I actually get evaluated and considered by them. Hopefully I will be interviewed in the next few weeks, which is really the most competitive part of the process so far.

I know most of you don't know much about the Peace Corps, so I thought I would tell you. If this doesn't interest you, mosey on. I'll see you tomorrow.
First, no, you do not get to pick where you go. As much as I wish that I handpick the program I want, that isn't the process. They actually take into consideration your previous language skills, your practical skills, professional background, and education. Even though they do accept applicants at 18, it is a competitive process, and therefore, having a college degree or applicable work experience, is in an applicant's favor.
There are 15,000 applicants a year, but they only accept 4,000 into the program. (Which is why I am so happy every time I find out I am still in the running. There is no word on how many of the applicants drop out during the extra-long process. Speaking of which...)
It takes, on average, 9-12 months to get into the program once your application is accepted. My application was only accepted today. I'm on track to get in for the May, June, or July programs. And I won't know where they are sending me until about 4-6 weeks before. So right now we're talking late March at the absolute earliest.
Where do I want to go? I've done a lot of research on the different programs in the different Peace Corps countries around the world. (click the link to see the map and learn about the programs) I am very  interested in a couple of different areas. One in particular is teaching business skills and computer skills. These programs are taught in the more industrialized countries, and in the bigger cities. Given my background in business and computers, I don't think it is a stretch to get assigned there. However, my second main interest is in sustainability, which is mostly found in African countries. And my last main interest is in health care, particularly for women and children. HIV education is a major program throughout Africa. So I'd love to go to Africa. Also, anywhere ending in -stan.
The Peace Corps has a huge number of volunteers teaching english, math, and science in schools around the country. If you look on the sidebar (-->) you will see "Peace Corps Blogs" towards the bottom. I've been following several volunteers (and even email with a few!) for a few months now. Most of them are teaching English, math, and science in high schools (and they are all in different countries). There is one man in Samoa who has a very modernized life, a cat, and blogs nearly daily. There is another girl in Madagascar who is living a VERY primitive life. How do I feel about living in a primitive culture? Honestly? I welcome it. I really would love it. Whereas I know some people would be freaked by the thought of living in a tribal area of Africa, far from any other English speakers and the internet, I am turned on by the idea! (Maybe that is just the 14 hours a day I spend in front of a computer talking, but seriously! I LOVE IT!)
A Peace Corps assignment lasts 27 months, including the first 3 months of training. No, you do not get paid for the experience. They pay for all of your living expenses and a stipend though. And when you get back there is a bonus of sorts to help you reintegrate into the world.
I am giving some serious thought to taking my EMT courses again to get re-certified. I learned all too well in Haiti just how rusty my skills are. When I talk to my recruiter next week (I hope) I will find out if getting re-certified would do me any good. If it will help me get a medical assignment (a medical assignment in Africa is pretty much the top of my list of ideals!), I will take the course. If EMT level training is of no interest to them, then I'm not going to do it. (Because I would get certified, go into the PC, and when I get back my certifications would have lapsed again.)  It is 4 months of hard work to get certified, so I am weighing my options.
Next is the biggest detail of the application process. Finances. You can have no debts, except for a student loan, in order to enter. Being unemployed right now, that is a tough one for me. My debts are fairly small, but after 10 months of unemployment, they are getting bigger, not smaller. Thankfully, I am in a good position with freelance work, and if all stays on track, and I'm not thrown any more curve balls, I will not have any problems in this area. 
Now for the "WHY" of it all. Why do I want to join the Peace Corps? I just always have. Just like I have always known that I want to adopt babies from Ethiopia, Haiti, and Vietnam, and be a foster parent, I have always known that I want to join the Peace Corps. In my younger, more daydreamy days, I used to fantasize about raising a family of little nomads who live a Peace Corps lifestyle. Its just who I am. I can't explain that part better than that! I can say that after going to Haiti I realized I had no interest in going back to a typical desk job doing the same old things. I needed my life to have a little more meaning than that. I could still be happy at a desk job if I was actively engaged in the right non-profit work. (Potential employers- please believe that!) But right now while the path is wide open and the future is uncomplicated, I'm taking this blue moon chance to join the Peace Corps.
And come on, admit it, you know you're looking forward to the blog posts from Africa! (or Kazhakstan, or India, or Antigua, or Micronesia!)
Oh and if you are wondering, YES, you can come visit me!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Dance Day!

It is the return of the HAPPY DANCE!! I had something great happen for me, plus I heard fantastic news from some friends! 2 pregnancies, a job, little Rylee is home from chemo round 1, and lots of other fun stuff! Therefore, I think it is time to HAPPY DANCE again!!!

Come on, get happy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

31 Days of Service continues

I've had one very long and busy week. So I am very grateful for the friends who did their acts of service for me! They all promise that blog posts are on their way, so we'll have real content to share soon.
As for me, I've been enjoying doing good deeds every day. It hasn't been as hard as I thought at all. One day this week I sent little care packages to a few people (who must remain nameless because I don't think they have received them yet). Today I helped clean up at the church for a few hours, and then came home to remember that Karen was going to do something today. (But if she forgot, she totally gets a pass. She volunteered BEFORE her daughter got diagnosed with cancer!) And I realized I would have done the good deed anyway.  I like doing it!

testing, testing,123

I just discovered the blogger app on my new android phone. I am curious to see how well it works! I love the new phone, but i am not as fast on it as i was on ny blackberry!
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.3

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

31 Days of Service- Days 6 and 13- Amanda reaches out!

Many thanks to my friend Amanda for taking on every Wednesday to do service!! This post was written by her!

About a year ago, I finished a Masters. Single and childless, I suddenly had quite a bit of free time. Not all the time in the world, but enough that I knew that if I didn’t do something productive with my time, I’d spend a lot of time after work sitting on the couch watching mindless television. Volunteering somewhere crossed my mind, but I didn’t know where or doing what.

So, I spent a lot of time sitting around watching mindless television until early this summer, when a friend finished his Masters in May and was already announcing that he’d found volunteer work with the National Park Service!

Inspired, I got off my duff (metaphorically, since I did this next step on my computer) and found an organization I could feel good about working with – Reach Out and Read ( &, which advocates literacy for children.

From their website:

Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.

Pediatric healthcare providers (including pediatricians, family physicians, and pediatric nurse practitioners) are trained in the three-part Reach Out and Read model to promote early literacy and school readiness:
• In the exam room, doctors and nurses speak with parents about the importance of reading aloud to their young children every day, and offer age-appropriate tips and encouragement.

• The pediatric primary care provider gives every child 6 months through 5 years old a new, developmentally-appropriate children's book to take home and keep.

• In the waiting room, displays, information, and books create a literacy-rich environment. Where possible, volunteer readers entertain the children, modeling for parents the pleasures - and techniques - of reading aloud.

Now, every Wednesday afternoon, I spend 90 minutes as a volunteer reader in a pediatric waiting room. I’ve armed myself with a variety of children’s books, mostly picture books and fairy tale anthologies. I sit on the floor, at child level, and spread out the books around me. As children enter the room and look in any way interested in the books, I ask if they would like to read with me. I let them pick out a book and I read to any willing to listen.

It’s so much fun! I’ve always felt drawn to the importance of literacy for all ages, and modeling good reading behavior is definitely a start. It’s fun to watch the kids get excited about a story or a certain book and to talk to them about as we read. I also keep an eye on the parents, and it makes me happy to see them interested in what their child is doing. Today, one of the boys I was reading to, picked up a book and took it back to his father, who read to him. That’s even better than me doing it!

One thing that’s a little different from most Reach and Out Read clinics is that I’m reading in the waiting room of a WIC clinic to underprivileged children, mostly minorities. They won’t grow up in the same kind of house I did, filled with wonderful books and making weekly trips to the local library. Most the kids I see are Hispanic, which is why I’ve started bringing in bilingual books in both English and Spanish. It gives me a chance to practice my second language and let them hear a story in their first.

I’m really enjoying this chance to serve, and it only takes a few minutes of my week, so I still have time for mindless television. If it’s something you might like, check their website and see if there is a Reach Out and Read center in your neighborhood!

Hooray for reading!

Check out Amanda's blog, the Book Guardian!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A writing fool!

This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just look forward to getting to post it every October.

I've said this on Facebook and Twitter already today, but I want to thank my blogger friends too. If you are annoyed by all the links to my writing projects, I apologize. I get paid for page views, so I do some self-promotion so that I can make more money! Make sense?
To those of you who ever so faithfully click on my links and read my articles, and even better SHARE my articles with others- THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! It really means a lot to me.
I'm on my way to making more money this month writing than I ever have before (which trust me, isn't all that much, but its more than it was!). I'd love it if someday I starting getting so much traffic to my writing projects that I didn't have to self-promote. It would also be a dream if someday I could just make money as a writer! But until that day comes, I must self-promote and hope for the interest and kindness of friends! (And the effectiveness of SEO!)

So without further ado (or is adieu? I can never decide!) here are the links I hope you will ever so kindly click on. Mama needs a new pair of shoes! (and by that, I mean, I could use the 2 pennies I make for every click!)
 In the order of what I think you might find most interesting first-

LDS Church response to the Human Rights Campaign petition
I'm pro-religion, pro-God, and pro-Gay
Facebook unveils new Groups feature - which potentially will change the way you use Facebook!
LDS Church official stance on same sex attraction (Pres Packer's revised words)
How to answer the forbidden question: why are you still single?
Can social media solve crimes? I say it can!
Mormons and Gays

Also, as you may know, I'm freelance contracting for Phase 3 Recruiting right now, helping other people find jobs! (While still searching for a job for me!) So if you know of someone looking for a job look here!

And last but not least, if anyone is interested in becoming a writer for the Examiner, let me know! I'd be happy to help you get set up and show you the ropes! You don't have to be an expert writer or journalist to do it. And it is a great way to get your first publishing credits that can lead to better writing jobs down the road! Talk to me!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ay yi yi and then some

It is 2:40 am as I start this. I am WIDE AWAKE. I've given myself permission to just stay up and get some work and projects done, rather than fight this. I waste a lot of time in the middle of the night just sitting around, trying to convince myself I should go to sleep.
Have you ever had the kind of week where you thought, "If I do XYZ on Wednesday, I better plan to see the chiropractor on Thursday?" because you know you'll be in pain? This week is going to be a killer. Seriously, if you could see my schedule you would understand why I support reproductive cloning. From writing projects to marketing freelancing to a job interview in DC to preparing lessons for church, I'm going to be going crazy. And let's not forget I have my 31 Days of Service to do too!
Which reminds me, I did do something on Saturday (Day 9), but I didn't do anything of significance for Day 10. I was having a rough and busy day and just completely forgot. (I think busy Sundays should be illegal personally!) I sort of did something (wrote up a marketing plan for a friend), but it doesn't feel legit. So I'm sorry, Universe, I missed a day. Good thing there are no judges and this isn't a competition. Its just me wanting to do something for others. I promise to make up for it tomorrow. How and where I will find the time amongst the 5 million projects I have going on, I will never know. But I will do my best!

Friday, October 08, 2010

31 Days of Service - Day 8

Me and my favorite little 5 yr old cousin. Picture taken back in August (pre-bangs).

For today's good deed I hand-sewed a cute little purse/bag for my cousin. The little bag took less than 1 hour to make, which I sewed while watching TV one night, and cost less than $1.
I put some Halloween candy in it and delivered it to my favorite 5 yr old. She was thrilled with the candy, and ran around holding it and showing it off. She gave me a great big hug, sat in my lap, took my face in her hands, and said, "Erin Ann, what happened to your beautiful face?" Apparently, she doesn't approve of my new bangs/haircut. She also said thank you for the present. But seeing her run around and twirling with it was good enough for me!

The one where I promote little things I have come to love, also, how my butt shrank

If I do get into Peace Corps, or get that job I haven't mentioned yet on the blog that is another country (and that's all I will be saying about that), I've decided I will be be buying all of the seasons of Alias to take with me. I only just barely started watching this show (that has been off the air for 5 years), and I LOVE IT. It is killing me that I didn't watch it years ago. I keep getting to big twists in the plot and want to call someone and talk about it, and then I remember nobody else is watching. Bugger! (and nobody ruin anything for me- I'm only in Season 3!)

Now, let's discuss the size of my butt.

Remember how a few months ago I bought these Avia iShape Toning Shoes?
I am now going to tell you they work! (And that the Amazon widget gizmo thingy has them for half the price I paid for them 2 months ago.)
Over the past 2 weeks I have noticed multiple times that my pants don't fit. As in, all of my pants are baggy in the butt. Also, they are all loose in the "saddlebags" regions as well. I've triple-checked, much to my dismay, and I haven't lost even one pound. (In fact, I've gained 2.) I couldn't figure it out at first, and I it hit me! Its the shoes!!
After 2 months of wearing primarily the iShape shoes, I can say that it has re-shaped my legs and butt! It isn't anything overwhelming, and it did take 2 months to even be noticeable. But they work! I'd really recommend them!

31 Days of Service, Day 7- Be The Match

These are the beautiful faces of Rylee and Karen Ewing. Rylee is Karen's baby. Karen is one of my high school BFF's. When I look at Rylee all I can see is a little tiny version of Karen. And I love it.
Rylee is 4 years old and has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. She has already begun chemo, and in a few more weeks will get a bone marrow aspiration and possible bone marrow donation.
I wanted to do so much more for Karen and her family. (Rylee also has a dad and 3 other siblings.) But what can a cash-strapped friend on the other side of the country do? What could I do to really serve or help them out? I really and truly prayed my heart out over this one. And the answer was plain as day-

Bone Marrow Typing

I had heard that it was expensive and painful to get tested to donate bone marrow. NOT TRUE!!
I found a foundation that makes it easy, pain-free, and FREE to test you for bone marrow typing! It took me less than 10 minutes to fill out the form on their website, and less than a week to receive the kit. And you can see in the video below just how quick and easy it is to actually do the test!!

Please watch the videos below to see how EASY it is, and to learn more about bone marrow type testing!! (forgive the crudity of the videos, i'm working on making them much better! but it may not be possible, so until then, watch, and then go donate!!)

This past year I have lost my grandfather to cancer, as well as Sandy Gresko just last week. And in the Spring, my 10 yr old buddy Oliver was also diagnosed with cancer (and he's kicked its butt! GO OLIVER!!)! And now Rylee is in for the fight of her life. I never would have imagined that I would know so many people in such a short time to get cancer.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE consider donating your bone marrow!! You have seen how incredibly easy it is to get in the database. It is just that easy to save someone's life!! And if for some reason you don't want to, please, please, please consider making a donation to either Be the Match or to Rylee's fun!


Love you Karen and Rylee!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Facebook unveils new Groups feature

Everything you need to know about the new Facebook Groups right here! (written by yours truly)

Dear Universe- I win, you lose

Dear Universe:

I'm having a day. You know what I mean. The kind of day where it feels like I can't win, and that no matter how hard I try, you are going to keep holding me under. But you've underestimated me. I can beat you. And I will overcome this bad day.
It all started when my mobile phone stopped working this morning. Just kaput! What was a perfectly good phone yesterday, today was only capable of dialing gibberish, and suddenly incapable of answering calls. As you know, I'm underemployed these days, and stretched thin financially. But thanks to the phone breaking down within 3 days of the warranty expiring (as in still under warranty), and an incredibly understanding sales lady, I have a loaner phone till my awesome new phone arrives on Friday. Oh trust me, you hit me where it hurts (the wallet) and its going to leave a mark, but I'm going to survive just fine.
And then, Universe, you decided to make my car break down. But again, I was saved by incredibly nice salesmen. I knew it was my car battery (3 yr battery had been in my car 7 years), so I went straight to a repair shop. The nice (and attractive) guys in there were honest, (flirtatious) and kind and admitted they would charge me more than Sam's Club. So I thanked them (and flirted a minute longer) and drove over there. Would you believe I saved 50% by driving the extra ten minutes over there? I'd say it was worth it. While I was there I also saved some money by eating in the food court ($2 for pizza and a coke!). Through an unexpected conversation I told the cashier I didn't have any change on me because I had just thrown it all in the fundraising bucket at the first car shop. Turns out the cashier knew who that money was going to, and was so grateful she gave me extra pizza.
You thought you were going to get me down today. But you were wrong. Did I mention my cousin even cut my hair for free this morning? And that it looks grrreat!! (and I like to think worked in my favor at that first car shop)
I'll be honest, I am stressing over the money situation. Having to spend $200 unexpectedly, when I only get $275/wk, is not easy. You almost could take me down on that one thing alone. But you know what? Erin: 1, Universe: 0.
Today I win. You can't beat me that easy. You fought a good fight, but you can't win them all. (But do me a favor and give me a break for a few days. I need to build my strength back up.)


31 Days of Service- Day 5

So Day 5 didn't work out as well as I had hoped. My plan had been to go over to my sister's and make her dinner and dessert, and clean her kitchen. I did technically do all of those things. However, she wasn't hungry, didn't eat the dinner, and claims she doesn't like brownies. (Who doesn't like brownies made with marshmallows in them??) (I also predict she eats the brownies anyway.) But the kitchen got cleaned, so that's something, right?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

31 Days of Service and Love Day 4

Day 4 of Service was done by my sister Natalie (and her husband, Steve, even helped out too)! As you may recall, Steve's mother passed away less than a week ago. I told Natalie that she was not at all obligated to do a day of service, given their situation. (Shouldn't I be doing service for them right now?!) But she insisted that she still wanted to. The following is the email she sent me about her day-
A fundraiser guy from came to my door asking for donations for the Care Package Campaign .  I donated to it just because it went towards my day of charity for your 31 days of charity. ( I am actually very worried now that it was a scam.)
I donated some clothes to the Boys and Girls Club.
While my family was in deep sadness, Steve's coworkers generously organized several nights of dinners for us. They also helped me with my babysitting needs.  These people went above and beyond with showing their love and concern for our family.  I thanked them today by baking a cookie sheet full of homemade cinnamon rolls.  Good karma all around. 

If anyone else is interested in doing a day, just look at the sidebar and pick a day. Leave a comment below telling me which day you want to do!

Thank you Natalie and Steve!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

31 Days of Service - Day 3- Brownies

Made brownies for the next-door neighbor. Planned more on my big service project that I will announce soon!

Favorite quote of the week, "a freaking shark!"

SharkBoy the day before he entered Air Force basic training. 3 years later, today the Air Force shipped him off the Germany for a month. Goodbye my little mancub sharkboy.

Setting: Friday evening. My brother calls to ask why I haven't returned his voice mail yet. "I called you Wednesday night, well, maybe Thursday morning. It was kind of late." We chat for a few minutes, and he tells me that on Wednesday he went to the dentist for a toothache, and they pulled 3 teeth while he was there. Thankfully, he also mentioned he was taking some painkillers after having his teeth pulled. Otherwise, the following voice mail would have been a little disturbing.

I never check my voice mails, but I made an exception this one time. And oh am I glad I did. Please make sure you read this in your very best, drugged up, freaked out, OMG, voice.

"Erin, this is your brother. This is Scott. I'm your brother. Erin, they pulled my teeth, Erin. They pulled them! And it hurt. Three teeth, three. I'm a freaking shark, Erin! A freaking shark!"

Oh, and he left the message at 4 a.m.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

31 Days of Service and Love- Day 2

Me and my grandmother back in early August.

One of the goals I set for myself as I began the 31 Days of Service and Love was that I wouldn't say no when others asked me for help. If it was inconvenient or difficult, I would try to find a way to be able to help. For Day 2 I had something simple planned. However, my aunt asked me to come and "sit" with my grandmother. It meant not having the time to work on my service project, and giving up some personal time. But I was happy to do it. After all, this is what the challenge is all about- putting my wants aside, and focusing more on other people.

Friday, October 01, 2010

31 Days of Service and Love - Day 1- HealthWell Foundation

Sandy and 3 of her cuter grandsons (my nephews)

Today was the funeral of Sandy Gresko, the mother of my brother-in-law, mother-in-law to my sister, grandmother to my nephews, and friend to my family. She lost a well-fought, but losing battle to cancer at the age of 60.

Sandy was kind to everyone. I have some very fond memories of her. A few years ago when I was plagued with [what we thought at the time were] kidney stones, and was stuck in bed, in massive pain and on all sorts of painkillers, she was my angel. I was new to the area, and had no friends or family to help me. My sister, Natalie, wanted to do something to help me. So she called Sandy and asked her to bring me dinner on Natalie's behalf. We both expected her to show up with McDonald's, or just a portion of her family's dinner. Instead she showed up with a month's worth of groceries and some fun magazines. She told me, "I thought 'what would I want if I was stuck in bed?' and the answer was tabloids! So here you go!" She insisted on making me dinner, tucking me into bed, and cleaning my house before she left. I was so sick at that point I couldn't even walk from room to room. She had to "tuck me in" on the couch, because I was in too much pain to walk up the stairs to my room. That night of kindness meant more to me than anyone will ever know.

Another time, years before that, a girlfriend of mine had a crush on a guy she met online. The guy got sick, and my friend wanted to do something nice for him. She knew his address, and we knew he lived near my sister. So we called Natalie to see if she would take him some chicken soup. She was too busy, but suggested that Sandy might be available, and called her. Sandy, the mother of 2 daughters, and the ultimate girlfriend, was more than happy to. She made some homemade chicken noodle soup and put it in a cute little basket and delivered it to a man she didn't know for a girl she didn't know. That's the kind of nice and fun that Sandy was.

Sandy's 60th Birthday- taken last week, just before she died
And so it is my privilege to be able to spend my first day of the 31 Days of Service on Sandy. On her behalf, I'd like to tell you about the HealthWell Foundation.

The HealthWell Foundation is a charity that helps individuals (with insurance) who are fighting chronic or life-altering medical conditions (like cancer) and cannot afford their copayments, coinsurance, and premiums for important medical treatments.They make sure people don't avoid getting the medical help they need because they can't afford it.

This organization paid for all of Sandy's co-pays during her nearly 2 year battle with lung cancer. Can you imagine being diagnosed with lung cancer (after several mis-diagnoses), not knowing how long you will be sick for? Not knowing how sick you will be? And not knowing how you will pay for it? For my act of service today I want you to know about the HealthWell Foundation and all of the good that they can do. And I want to thank them for all that they did for the Gresko Family, by covering Sandy's co-pays, and bringing her that peace of mind, in an already emotionally and physically difficult period.

The Gresko Family

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