Participated in NanoWrimo

When I was younger (middle and even through my early highschool years) I thought that I would be a writer when I grew up. I was always an avid reader adoring the times that we went to the library during class, and when the scholastic book fair was at our school! Let alone dying to drive across the bridge to the giant bookstore which I would inevitably use all the gift cards and then some for stacks and stacks of books. 

During high school world history class I would write in my notebooks, one story specifically I wrote more that 200 handwritten pages for. Several friends in my group also wrote stories so we’d trade them and edit each other’s work. The summer after 10th grade I even went to a two week pre college program at Hollins University to and took a 2 week long class on “Politics in Literature” and “Creative Writing.” I loved it!
Then all of a sudden I just stopped writing. I didn’t even really notice it at first, not until I had graduated and realized that I’d spent so much time writing yet never finished any of my stories. I just got busy with classes, clubs, and a high school social life, and I had decided that I wanted to do Youth Ministry instead of writing books/ being an English teacher.
Earlier this month a friend of mine was saying how she wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. For those of you who don’t know this is an event of month long writing. From Nov.1st till Nov.30th groups of people sit in libraries, cafes, or their home office and start from scratch to meet a 50,000 word count by midnight.  
I’ve always wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo its just been the story of not having enough time, and for the past few years I’ve had classes to go to. However, this year I am in a unique position this year as I am currently unemployed with loads of free time on my hands and likely my internship won’t begin until December, maybe late November. I’ve been feeling discouraged not having a job to succeed at and feel good about myself on a fairly regular basis so I think participating in this could be really good for me. I am notorious about starting things but never finishing them. I started so many stories and would start the sequels before I ever got anywhere near to completing the first story.
In deciding to participate I immediately hit the road block of “what on earth do I write about?” I looked back at all my old stories and felt embarrassed by their lack of originality and the flat prose. I realized that I wanted to keep it simple. I didn’t want to create a new fantasy world because that involves a lot of work, creativity, and details. Plus, every fantasy oriented idea that I came up with I recognized a movie or book with that plot the next second in evaluating the idea. 
Then, I thought maybe I should try to write something fan fiction oriented where I could just write and not have to develop the characters or the universe. I realized that Disney Princesses/Fairytale princesses would be the fan fiction that I would most be able to write. My internship should be starting soon, so I need to be studying anything counseling related in preparation. Suddenly, an idea was born. What if the Disney princesses had their happily ever afters and then real life happened and they weren’t happy anymore? How would they handle that? What would happened if they went to Group Counseling together?
The working title is “Disenchanted” and it is about 5-6 fairytale princesses types who are real people in our world and how they struggle with their lives. For example, Talia met her husband while role playing as “Briar Rose.” When he rescued her from a fire breathing dragon in the online virtual world it was love at first sight. But now marriage and 2 children later she’s not so sure that she has her happy ending and she wants her fairytale. 
The purpose of this story is really about exploring the ideas of what brings happiness. Is it about getting those fairytale endings? How can we experience more acceptance, happiness, and joy with the realities of everyday life? I’m really excited to see how this unfolds! Despite that making my characters go to counseling means ton of detailed character development in preparation. 
The hardest part of this endeavor, besides completing the 50,000 word count challenge, will be not editing myself throughout the way. However, this is all the more reason why I think its really necessary for me. 
I’m really looking forward to the write-in that I’ll be having with my friends the first weekend of NaNoWriMo to get our word counts off to a great start!
You can stay up to date with my progress through my username Ciao_Erin at, but it’ll also be posted in a picture widget on the side of the blog! 

Dressed as Combat Barbie

Each Halloween we usually have a few friends who host a costume party or at least a fall party. This year I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to the parties we were invited to because I couldn’t come up with a clever costume. Husband had already decided that he wanted to dress up as a terrorist and a few other friends had convinced him that he needed to be a zombie terrorist.

Originally, I thought that I could dress up as “Jenny” from Doctor Who…I figured that I had the blonde hair and pink combat pants, and AR-15 to make it work. The only problem was that likely no one would guess who I was and I didn’t feel like having to explain my cleverness all night since it kind of defeats the point. 
In thinking further about the pink camo pants I realized I could still use the AR-15 and the blonde hair to my advantage. Duh! I’d dress as “Combat Barbie” who shot the now zombie terrorist. We’d having a “couples” costume that husband would actually APPROVE of. Since in 2009 we were Princess Daisy and Evil Luigi (he wore a Bowser Tshirt), in 2010 I was Princess Daisy again at work party, and then last year we were Hunger Games Tributes. 
I purchased cell phone bling stickers that I planned on attaching to dog tags that I never found, and Husband actually agreed to let me put them on his AR-15 pistol magazine so I could “bedazzle” it! It was hard to make a signature “B” but we did it! I’m not gonna lie I really enjoyed the pink heels with the pink camo pants :0). 
We wore the outfits to a party thrown by people that husband works with, then to a “fall party” by friends of mine from Xtreme Impact. Last year the Fall party was a dress up event and we won the award for best couple costume. Just as we headed out the door I realized that I couldn’t remember anyone discussing their costumes, nor were there details about it on the facebook invite page. Whoops! We arrived there and realized that no one else was dressed up. 

The fall party was a lot of fun, the food was AH-mAhzing, and we played this really fun and slightly dangerous ice breaker game. There was a ball of thin string and you had to share something about yourself and then toss it (while holding on to part of the string) to someone who shared the same trait. This meant that there was a tangle of thin string across this entire living room. It was disconcerting being in the middle as all of the string ran across our heads and next to our throats! 

Happy Halloween everyone! Watch out for the Frankenstorm! So far we are good, but we are supposed to have worse weather tomorrow. I can already hear the wind picking up this evening compared to earlier today!

Been a Dislocated Worker

According to Encyclopedia of Counseling by Howard Rosenthal, a “dislocated worker is a term that describes a person who is unemployed due to downsizing, a company relocation, or the fact that the company closed the business” (603). 

This is the book that I’ve been compulsively reading/studying in preparation for my Competency Exam in order to graduate from my Professional Counseling Master’s program. I take the exam this Saturday the 20th at 8 am. I hate these types of tests so please be praying for me. 

This quote hit home for me. Many of my blog posts have been about the amazing organization known as Xtreme Impact. We would take high school and transfer students on missions trips overseas and they would earn a college scholarship equal to the cost of the tuition. It was honestly a really sweet deal and I had an easy time promoting it.

I received my first acceptance to Xtreme Impact to be a college mentor on the Thailand trip on my birthday in 2008. For the Youth Ministry program I needed an internship and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to travel (and work with youth) again since I was getting married the following October and likely would have to quite my traveling. That first trip was a ridiculously hard trip for me, showing everything that I didn’t know about Youth Ministry.

 In God’s humor He allowed me to continue with this organization volunteering in the office doing filing and finances and earning trip credit towards the Jamaica and Italy trips in 10,11. Then in January 2011 I was offered a position as an office supervisor i.e. a student worker! I was so grateful to God for the opportunity to do His work throughout the world, learn about youth, and to be involved in such an incredible ministry. After graduation and getting married I really struggled with the “what next” phase of my life, but being able to continue in Xtreme Impact God showed me purpose and meaning. 

This job has been one of the most difficult that I have ever faced due to the amount of work, lack of workers, and limited resources. However, I have been blessed to be surrounded by some of the best people in the entire world. These people have taught me the true meaning of working at everything as if working for the LORD. It is them that I have to thank for teaching me amazing skills that eventually led to me finally finding an internship. This job has by far been the most meaningful of my life so far.

In May, right before our beach vacation I found out that the program would likely no longer be continuing. Throughout the summer I had to troop and not say anything to some of my very best friends while processing bitterness and a broken heart. August 31, 2012 was the last day that I worked at this beloved organization. 

Since then I’ve been at home trying to figure out how to be a housewife, desperately trying to find and internship and struggling with various things. I miss seeing people constantly in the office, I miss feeling productive and realizing that my self discipline is less than ideal. I miss that feeling of absolutely rocking at something.

In Sunday School we were encouraged to participate and help out more in class by talking to new people, and I was depressed by my initial reaction. I didn’t want to talk to anyone else, I just want to sit with my Xtreme Impact friends and be a click. I wanted it to be my safe zone. This lead to more questioning of myself wondering why I don’t feel the drive to participate in their Saturday ministry to a local apartment area. Its just simple “show up” play with kids, talk with people, and I’ve had no real desire to go. It makes me feel bad wondering if I’ve kept up doing missions trips because I care about ministry or if its just because I care about traveling. Questioning is painful, but questioning is also good because self discovery means that we can change. 

I’ve found a way that I think I can make all of this better. One of my close friends from middle and high school years has recently launched an Etsy business called The Running Stitch. This opening week she is offering a 50% deal on ordering a tshirt quilt. I’ve been dying to do this with my old tshirts for years, but have no idea how to sew and do not own a sewing machine. If you place an order between now and Friday and pay with paypal you can order a tshirt quilt with 25 shirts for only $80. Trust me that is a great price, starting prices for 20 shirts can often be $100-$150 dollars if not much more. 

I thought that I’d get her to quilt my oldest shirts since they’re the ones I’ve been saving the longest. However, I realized that I want my Xtreme Impact shirts to be memorialized. I’ll hate not wearing them as much but I have several duplicates. This is a way that I can hold on to them in a more tangible way, and they can cuddle me in the cold months ahead. :0) This is an example of what my quilt could look like. She’s even promised to send me pictures of her quilting process to post in a future blog! (call me sentimental ;0) )

I really like these verses Isaiah 43:18-19
A)”>“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
19 B)”>Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
C)”>I will make a way in the wilderness
    D)”>and rivers in the desert.”

God is so good, and I know that He has a new future for all of us. There will be other ministries, and we can be proud of the work that we’ve done. We’ve invested our hearts, time, tears, sweat, and probably blood into something eternal and we’ll never regret that time spent. 

In the meantime my new thing is my internship that I’m set to begin in December or January (depending on when the office approves me). I may be starting with 8 clients. I’m so excited and scared about this new thing. After the interview I actually was semi certain that I may have gotten the position because I became afraid of the fact that I’d be working with people and hoping to actually help them with their problems. Crazy!

Co-Hosted a Baby Shower

Just yesterday I had the honor of co-hosting a baby shower for one of my best friends who is due in December! Another friend and I were excited and have been working on this event for weeks. The three of us (and our husbands) are part of a larger group of friends who have been best friends since our time at college (we are just the one’s still living locally in the area together). The pregnant friend is the one who recently moved back around March surprising us during Spring Break. Through this group we’d celebrated many bridal/bachelorette showers together, but only with our group of 5-6 so really, previously, we were just hanging out in a bridal theme fashion. This time we were responsible for throwing an awesome party for moms, aunts, and friends we didn’t know as well!

*Cue intense party planning* The party planning itself was really fun, thinking through tons of fun games to do, and developing a theme. My cohost and I think and approach things very differently which was a little difficult at first, but definitely made for planning the best party.

Our theme was “cute as a button” and this decorated the invitations, which were then lined with ribbon by my co-host and partner in party planning doom.

Games included: Taking Care of Your Baby (plastic egg game which lasted for the duration of the event, in which your baby could be adopted from you!), Guess Mom to Be’s Cravings, Give the Pacifier to the Baby (pin the tail on the donkey), Name the Baby Animal, and Gift Bingo.

Food included: Chicken salad and Ham sandwiches  apple and caramel dip cups, vegetable and dip cups, cheese and crackers,  and for dessert a very yummy chocolate cake Oreo cherry trifle!

To begin the party and help filter the guests as they arrived we developed these two “activity stations.” One of these was an Encouragement Station where guests would write the Guest of Honor a note which she could read over the next few months and once her baby was born. The second station I was ridiculously proud of and excited for. I’d seen fun “photo booths” at weddings and bridal showers so we made this one baby themed! We bought baby things like bottles, bibs, books, and toys to use as props for the pictures. We planned to purchase things that we could then give to the Mommy. We even purchased ring pops to be used as pacifiers and used an apron and balloon combo to help people look like they had a pregnant belly.

That morning bought actually present for Mommy of Honor, because I’d neglected that in the party planning process and then headed over to lovely co-host’s apartment to set up for the party! Her husband was lovingly slaving away helping with final preparations like printing, preparing/cooking food, and rearranging their furniture. It came down to the wire and we were still setting up a few more things as the time came for the party to begin. We chugged away wondering where the guests were at 10 past 2pm. Then, all of a sudden all 7 of them arrived with our Mommy as they’d met first at her house.

Cohost and I were not expecting that but ran with it. My co-host finished up preparing the trifle as the cake had just come out of the oven, while I helped to introduce the guests to how the party would run and acted like a hostess. I announced that they could eat food, and use the activity stations, and described the plastic egg game. Afterwards, they still just sat around in the main party area, a few of them grabbed the apple and caramel dip cups, but NO ONE moved to use the activity stations. I sort of felt like panicking as my cohost was still in the kitchen and I started worrying if I was failing horribly. However, I controlled these thoughts and just let everyone mingle, since they were comfortable.

Once cohost was done with the trifle she had the bright idea of enlisting one of the other party guests our age to take pictures with us to help get things moving. Only a few of the guests participated in the picture taking goofiness, but you could tell that they all enjoyed watching. I donned the ginormous pregnant balloon apron belly to pose with my best friend, and she did several poses with her guests. Even though this activity station was used less than I imaged, it still helped IMMENSELY for opening the guests up to the party. It really loosened everyone up watching and laughing at the goofy ones, and they were enchanted by the Mommy’s amazing giggle.

We then launched into the official structured part of the party with all of the games. These went really well. I think everyone really enjoyed the Give the Baby the Pacifier game, I mean how can you not like tying a bandanna around your friends, turning them around, and watch as they stumble towards a poster and stick a pacifier on the baby’s arm? After a few more games we announced dessert and present opening time. The Bingo Present Game is a really great one to help take the attention of of the Mommy if that would make her uncomfortable, but may loose its pace. This happened for us when the first few presents had like 10 baby outfits in them! Such a generous person, but we did enjoy awwwing over the cute clothes!

After the end of the gifts we thanked the guests for coming, and said that they were welcome to hang out for a while longer as they wished or were able to. At that point many of them congregated around the food bar and dug into the sandwiches and dip cups. I guess it makes more sense that they’d be hungrier around 5pm instead of 2pm. Interestingly, people didn’t get the food and go back to the couches, instead they picked at the different finger food cups and stood around the food chatting away.

It was such a fun event! Even if some of the things didn’t go as planned it was a successful because our friend and her baby were celebrated and it seemed like everyone really enjoyed themselves. After we helped move her hoard of presents to her car we returned to the apartment. I knew that I should begin the clean up process, but all I wanted to do was just sit down for a second and maybe eat some more. I knew that I should hurry up so that way she could enjoy the rest of her day with her husband, but that was all I was capable for a moment.

As a current Counseling major and a former Psychology major we ended up just sitting, eating, and processing the event for an hour or so afterwards! This really helped me just to talk though I think mislaid expectations of some aspects. A lot of it was just due to unpredictable things, and the fact that since everyone arrived as a group they were more hesitant to do things individually, instead of just sitting and talking. We realized too that maybe people would have participated more in the activities if we would have brought the things to them. For example, I could have just brought the bibs and bottles and gotten pictures of people posing while sitting on the couch. By starting there I could have moved them over to the window area where there was much better lighting.

After vegging clean up was really simple. I’d really recommend putting the vegetables and fruit in a cute plastic cup on top of whatever dip you are providing for them, it makes clean up SOO much easier! Once clean up was done we decided that we needed to take some photo booth baby pictures! I’ve since decided that I’ll leave the party planning to the event coordinators, but my cohost and I feel pretty proud of ourselves.

Here is a summary video comprised by my Canon sx260’s Movie Digest feature. A lot of it is just funny comments without the context and giggling :0)

Dined at Texas de Brazil

Oct. 3 the husband and I celebrated three years of marriage! To celebrate this he surprised me with dinner reservations at a Brazilian Churrascaria the Sunday preceding!

The first international mission trip that I went on was to Curitiba, Brazil. While on this trip in 2006 I had the opportunity to go to one of these Brazilian steakhouses. These are incredible buffets which usually over a giant selection of salads and other sides items.

However, the real magic happens at your table. The basis for these steakhouses is modeled after the slow roasting of meat over an open fire by the cowboys in Southern Brazil. This means that you get all of your side items and then you sit at the table and wait for the main courses to be brought to your table. Generally speaking there is sometimes a ball in a cup, an hourglass, or a card that you could flip on your table. One side is green and the other is red. The green side means that servers will bring about different selections of slow roasted meat cuts (in Brazil this will often include chicken hearts, which is a delicacy there) on a stick, where they cut you off a section.

Ever since I went to Brazil for the first time I’ve been talking non stop about returning to a Brazilian restaurant (I really do tend to fall in love with any food that I eat in a foreign country!). This was doubly bad since I passed a sign for a restaurant traveling on the way to college from where I used to live. I mentioned my desire to visit one of these restaurants so much that no only did the husband get sick of it, but his friends that we hung around were familiar with the phrase. So much so that the first time we participated in Lobby Day when we were wandering around looking for lunch our friend said, “Hey this says Dora’s Brazilian Grill…isn’t Erin always talking about eating Brazilian food?!” lol.

Therefore, the husband decided to cave and take me to one of these fancy steakhouses for the specific rodizo style buffet. The closest one is in Richmond, and it was hilarious to me that we were driving so far away simply for dinner. Husband was surprised to find out that Texas de Brazil was actually located in a mall. I was trying to describe the Short Pump outdoor mall to him a couple of weeks ago when we were in Richmond visiting the Lewis Ginter Garden.

When we pulled up, he said, “This place better not be in a mall food court with the price I’m paying!” lol. We were early so we walked around a little bit.

Finally it came time for our reservations! I was excited to see that the slow roasting was located in the center of the restaurant and surrounded my glass. I got a few pictures, though blurry since they were without flash.

The buffet had a generous selection of fine foods from around the world. Including fancy cheese, and prosciutto. One of my favorite surprises was getting classic Brazilian bread cheese rolls. During the baking process of these small rolls cheese is added so its actually baked within the bread…sooooo delicious!

During the Rodizo buffet we were severed various selections of pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb. Husband was proud of all of the animals that he sampled! The lamb selections were not cooked enough in his opinion as they still tasted gamey, but the other selections were simply melt in your mouth delicious. Seriously, the in house special not only had a savory taste when you first bit it, but the after taste was still flavorful! My favorite meat selection of the night (which I sample several and ate about half of each piece!) was the bacon wrapped chicken!

The largest blessing of the night was that someone had a VIP punch card that expired tonight so he gave it to the couple seated next to us. However, because she had a birthday coupon (shout out: if you sign up with Texas de Brazil you can receive a free meal on your birthday!) she gave the VIP punch card (with only two punches left to receive a free meal) to us! We saved $42.99! :0)

Can’t believe its been 3 years, or that we’ve known each other for 6 years! We ended up spending our actually anniversary Oct.3 watching the Presidential Debate at a friend’s house. Through this event I learned that we share our anniversary with the Obamas, and I already knew that we shared the date with our school chancellors! #entertained

Attempting to take a picture with the “smile” setting on my new Canon, basically you cue it to take a series of pictures when you smile at it…we found it a little challenging!