Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It looked like Christmas was going to be a big downer for me this year. There was drama at my parents' house and Andrew woke up feeling very sick on Christmas Eve. Insisting it WAS NOT a hangover, he got my sympathy and I went to the store for supplies to nurse him back to health. I waited on him throughout the afternoon, as he
laid on the couch swaddled in blankets.

After he threw up "a little bit" it became obvious to me that he was too sick to leave the house, I called my parents to tell them Andrew wouldn't be joining us for Christmas Eve dinner.

When I told Andrew I thought it was best he stayed home so he didn't get my family sick, he gave me the puppy dog face.

"I want to be a Christmas person," Andrew pleaded.

"Well how do you feel?"

"I haven't thrown up in hours."

"That's not the same as feeling well. I'm not sure it's a good idea..."

While I still believed it was a hangover from staying out late with the boys the night before, he claimed it was food poisoning from eating ham and potato salad that was sitting out for six hours at his office Christmas party.

I thought that sounded pretty believable.

And so (after a few shots of Pepto-Bismol) we met my parents, sister, and her friend at my family's favorite Asian restaurant for our traditional Christmas Eve meal.

Afterwards, my mom talked the family into skipping church to go home and relax. (Bad Mommy.)

We exchanged gifts, watched a movie, and played a game--which Andrew, my mom, and I dominated, thank you very much.

The next morning, we were off to Andrew's parents' house for merriment and gifts with his sister and her boyfriend.

Andrew and I were both slackers this year and did not give his parents a list of things we wanted. It turned out to be one of the most magical Christmases ever. They really shot themselves in the foot, though, because we're sure to never give them another Christmas list again. (Sorry, Susan!)

The first gift I reached for had a pteradactyl ornament taped to the box. (How could I not go for the bait?) Well... does this look familiar?


I think I squealed upon seeing "Origami Ink" on the box. Oh, and then I made out with the bird. So what?



How unbelievably awesome does this thing look on our mantle? I have a problem with breaking fragile things, so Andrew made me promise him that I'd never touch it again. It's for the best. I love love love it! Thank you so much Jack and Susan! You are both very sneaky Santas.



Snuggling with our new handmade Steelers blanket.



Meet Smuckers. She's kind of a brat.


Andrew's sister and her boyfriend gave me a rockin' cupcake book, so be on the lookout for some photos of the craziest cupcakes you've ever seen in the near future. (They also gave me salad hands. If you don't know what those are, your life is incomplete.)

After we opened gifts, we ate a delicious french toast casserole. There was also LOTS of bacon. And I think we can all agree (except you veggies out there, of course) that bacon is the true meaning of Christmas.

Much more Christmas fun in the evening followed; we had dinner at Andrew's aunt's house. (That's right, I used a semi-colon. I haven't blogged in ages, so I feel compelled to bring out the big guns.) I met some of his relatives from Nashville for the first time, and they all lived up to their reputations as being "the cool cousins." Oh, and I'm not just saying that because they all admitted to reading my blog after getting e-mails about the proposal video on Glamour. Yes, Andrew's entire extended family has now viewed Andrew ripping a bandage from my arm on the Internet. And that's what I love about techonology, people. :)

There were three new babies at the dinner festivities, and I did manage to make one cry when I asked to hold her. In my defense, I think she was incredibly tired. I swear babies like me!

The highlight of the evening, for some, was cocktail hour--featuring pomegranate martinis. I stuck with wine, and I'm very thankful for my decision. It was later revealed that each martini contained a half a cup of vodka. Oh, yes. That's about four shots of liquor. I can see how that would have gone... me hugging the toilet for Christmas dinner. Not exactly the impression I'd like to make.

Not everyone was so lucky. Uncles slurred their speech. Aunts let curse words flow from their tongues. The term "tea bagging" was used--several times. Ben? I think that at least ties your Hummer experience.

Christmas continues Friday when we celebrate with the other side of Andrew's family. Bring. It. On.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm such a fool...

Chatting with Andrew online during my lunch break, he told me how angry people get at his job when people call. I (half-jokingly) replied oh, me too! I get so angry when people call me. I have to take a deep breath...

That's when my phone rang. Suspicious of the timing, I answered expecting to hear Andrew cackling on the line.

I said my first and last name, my standard phone greeting at work, and listened for a reply. Nothing.

More certain than ever that it was Andrew messing with me, I said "HELLO?" It was then that I heard a small strange voice say "Helllllloooooooo."

Immediately recognizing the weird voice as one Andrew's goofy voices, I yelled, "I KNEW IT WAS YOU!"

Um... yeah. That's when a very confused reporter asked if he had the right person, and proceeded to ask me a question about a story he was writing. Ooopsie...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meet the creature

Critter control set some traps yesterday. When Andrew came home from work, guess who was waiting for him in the trap? (P.S. They caught two others in traps in the attic!)

The landlord brought the trap outside for the critter control people to come and pick it up. They are supposed to release it to the wild (at least five miles from our house) tomorrow morning. My heart was breaking for the little guy, as it was freezing outside. I brought the cage inside and put some nuts and peanut butter filled pretzels through the bars. He's too scared to eat anything, but at least he's warm.

Want to see him for yourself?



It's not all flowers, squirrels, and gingerbread...

Dear Blog,

Despite the flurry of excitement surrounding my life lately (read: engagement, squirrel, etc.) I have been feeling rather down. It's not the holiday blues, or the bronchitis that refuses to leave my lungs in peace. Nope. It's something else. Something that I've dealt with my entire life--but only recently had a name for.

It's the narcolepsy.

I was so relieved after receiving my diagnosis--finally having an explanation for why I never had the energy that others around me seem to possess. Blog, you probably remember the hope that glimmered in my eyes as I recounted my conversation with my sleep disorder specialist. I had to restrain myself from giving him a big old bear hug, you know? I was going to be able to sleep. Really, honestly, sleep. All the appropriate sleep cycles, and not just all that dreaming crap I've put up with for 25 years. I couldn't believe it.

Well, blog... that hope isn't sparkling in my eyes anymore. After discussing the prescribed medication with my mom, a registered nurse, she raised some serious concerns. The medication, which I will not refer to by name, has some side effects that are potentially deadly. Among them: seizures, severe difficulty breathing, confusion, depression, loss of consciousness, and even death.

Side effects aside, the real reason I'm putting this drug on the back burner is that it alters brain chemistry, which I worry can potentially cause a trigger of mental illness. Because bipolar disorder runs in my family, brain chemistry is not something I want to fool around with. The consequences could turn my world upside down. And a good night's sleep? No matter how much I ache for that very thing... risking my mental health is just not worth it.

So I guess I'm holding out for plan B. My doctor tells me new drugs tailored for narcolepsy are coming down the pike in the next 2-3 years. These new drugs will target hypocretin, a hormone that is thought to be responsible for narcolepsy.

I've gone this long without real sleep. What's another 2 or 3 years? Well, I asked myself that very question last night, and the only response I could muster was twenty minutes of crying and feeling sorry for myself. I know there are people going through much worse right now in their lives, so I'm going to try to suck it up and wait patiently. In the meantime, I'll be napping and going to bed at obscenely early hours.

Love,
Mermanda

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Monday, December 15, 2008

What I've Been Up To: A Photo Essay


Engagement flowers from my future sister-in-law



Engagement celebration dinner kiss



Engagement Squirrel Surprise



Not so engagement cozy handmade scarf from Sarah



Engagement gingerbread house, assembled with love by my future sister-in-law, Andrew, and me

Friday, December 12, 2008

Creature update

E-mail from landlord:

The guys from Critter Control will be there on Monday. That was the earliest they could come. In the meantime, we are going to buy and install a trap downstairs. Sorry for the inconvenience.

--------------------------------------------------------

This could be a long weekend, you guys. ::scratch scratch::

Harboring a fugitive creature

About a month ago I was kept awake late at night by the scurrying and scratching of a creature in our attic. I contacted our landlord and told him something--something possibly quite large, from the sounds of it--had made a home above our bedroom.

Our landlord wasted no time, cautiously exploring the attic for the suspect. He found the place where he assumed the critter had made his entrance, and sealed it up. There was no trace of any animals, so he assumed it had exited the way it entered.

Fast forward to yesterday evening. I went to the bathroom to primp for our engagement celebration dinner with Andrew's family. Upon entering the bathroom, I noticed something peculiar. Our shower items (shaving cream, razors, face wash, etc.) had been knocked from the window sill and side of the tub. Everything was laying in a pile in the middle of the bathtub.

"What did you do in here?" I yelled to Andrew.

When he had no idea what I was talking about, I screamed, "We have poltergeists!"

Andrew came in to survey the scene.

That's when we noticed the paw prints. Black dirty prints, about the size of squirrel's paw, were on the sides of the tub. "Uh... oh.... We have a CREATURE!!!"

"I hope it didn't lick my soap!" I cried.

"I bet it did..." Andrew said certainly.

I called the landlord and told him the creature had returned, and this time, it means business. He said he'd come check things out the next day, and set some traps.

Well, people. Let me tell you about this morning. As I was collecting our recyclables to take to the curb, I heard violent clawing at the basement door. There was also some audible screeching. Of course, when I heard this, I did what any sane person would do. I screamed bloody murder and ran far away from the door to the basement.

I quickly dialed my landlord and told him of the creature's location.

"Well, at least we know where it is," he said. "I'll call a guy and get him to trap it today, and maybe set a few more traps, just in case."

"Okay," I said. "Be careful. It sounds really BIG."

"It's probably just a squirrel. They always sound big," he said.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

That explains everything.

Oh the anticipated sleep study blog! It's heeeeeere...

I went to my appointment at the sleep disorder center to review my results this morning. First, we reviewed the night sleep study results. For the night sleep study, I was at the lab at 9 p.m. and by 10 p.m. I had wires attached to multiple points on my face, head, chest, and legs. It was only mildly uncomfortable. But I did look like a strange creature in my flannel pajamas. The worst part of the night was the tube-like thing they insert into both of your nostrils. My nose was itchy and ticklish all night. Very unpleasant. Oh and the glue! The GLUED sensors to my scalp. The glue continued to flake off for several days afterward. Very sexy.

They gave me a snack (juice and graham crackers, if you are wondering) and sent me to bed at 11 p.m. It felt like I hadn't slept at all when I pressed the nurse button to help me use the restroom at 4 a.m. (There were no clocks in the room, but I peeked out into the hall and was put into a panic over the thought of having to come back and do this all over again.) After the technician plugged me back into the machines, I think I fell asleep pretty quickly. They woke me up a little past 6 a.m. and told me to change into my regular clothes and stay awake until my nap portion of the sleep study.

Results of the night portion:
The doctor told me I have no breathing issues while sleeping, though I do have mild snoring. The snoring was news to me. Anyhow, I don't have apnea which means I don't need to wear a CPAP when I sleep. Awesome.

The nap portion of the study tests for narcolepsy. I didn't understand why my doctor thought I had narcolepsy, as I always imagined narcoleptics as they appear in movies. Falling asleep mid sentence, or while eating their soup. Turns out those are extreme portrayals of narcolepsy, and only a very small percentage of people with narcolepsy have such drastic symptoms.

The doctor told me narcolepsy affects sleep cycles, and can cause you to feel unrested, as people with narcolepsy do not spend enough time in the restorative stage of sleep. Interesting...

The technician put me down for my first nap around 6:45 a.m., and four more naps followed--approximately every two hours. It was so hard to stay awake in between naps, as I felt like I didn't sleep at all during the night portion. I did manage to keep awake, and subsequently finished reading three plays between naps. (Still haven't reached 50 yet...)

The technician would wake me up (what felt like mere minutes) after I had fallen asleep and asked me if I thought I had slept, how long I thought I had slept for, and whether or not I had any dreams. She said my perceptions of the nap were very important for the diagnosis.

Results of the nap portion: On average, it took me five minutes to fall asleep for each of the five naps. This is " very abnormally" fast. A "normal" person will take more than ten minutes to fall asleep. So, it turns out my blog name is incorrect. On the scale of "very abnormal," to "abnormal," to "normal," I am officially "very abnormal" when it comes to sleeping. Cusp of Abnormal, anyone?

The doctor also told me I had dreams during the third nap, and "normal" people do not dream until much later into their sleep cycle. I think it took me less than ten minutes to have my first dream. "Normal" people take about 80-120 minutes to fall into the dream stage.

So what does this all mean? I've been diagnosed with narcolepsy. I always knew I did not sleep like a normal person--but this confirms what I've known all along. I can sleep for 12 hours straight and feel like I haven't slept a wink when I awake. It is so hard always feeling like I'm running on fumes, but I can see hope in my future.

My doctor prescribed medicine for me that will help me get to and remain in the restorative stage of sleep for longer periods of time during the night. There are some draw backs to the medicine though. First, I have to set an alarm for 3 hours after I go to bed to take the second dose of the medicine. With this dose and one right before bed, I should be able to get 6-8 hours of quality sleep. When the doctor told me it could help me feel "ready to go" in the morning, I wanted to cry. "I've NEVER felt that way in my entire life!" I exclaimed--wanting to give the doctor a giant hug.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hah!

I take it all back.

This is going to be a rough 9 months.

The date is changing. Should have consulted the Jewish calendar before I set a date--as half of my family is Jewish. Of course, the date I picked falls on the first day of one of the highest holidays.

I guess this is when you are supposed to say, "oy vey."

::deep breaths::

Thanks for bringing me back down to Earth, Dad....

I don't see what all the fuss is about... this is easy

So listen up, blog buds. I'm not turning this train into the chronicles of a crazy bride to be/wedding planning mania. I'll update you when big decisions are made, or ask you to weigh in when Andrew and I are on the fence about choices. So don't fret about me going on and on and on about the whole wedding business. Deal?

So... as for big decisions... WE'VE ALREADY MADE SOME! Quick, right? Hey, we are people who know what we want.

The date is set for September 19, 2009. The festivities will take place here:



Andrew and I visited the site yesterday and fell in love instantly. It is very close to where we live, and it has an incredibly whimsical feeling to it. I love the dark wooden beams and high ceiling. There is even outdoor space included in the rental, so we have many options when it comes to how we want to set up the venue.

The guy in charge of the special events at the venue is great. We clicked with him instantly, and he's going to be such a fabulous resource for us. He didn't want us to sign a contract with him until we looked at other sites, but Andrew and I know what else is out there. And this place is definitely for us. We're paying the deposit tonight. Love!

I know I promised a recap of the sleep study, and all this excitement has pushed that to the back of my mind. But I'm seeing the sleep doctor tomorrow to go over the results of the study, so expect a full report tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Glamour calls Andrew "Adorable" and I'm going to agree




See Andrew's proposal featured on the Glamour blog "Smitten," written by Joanna Goddard.

AHH! This is all so exciting! Going to call the venue of our dreams later today to schedule a showing.

xoxo

Monday, December 8, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The very first thing to be crossed off my list...

Is number 72!



Last night, Andrew proposed while we were decorating the Christmas tree! He was handing me the ornaments and I was strategically placing them on the boughs. After I had hung what I thought was the last ornament, I stepped back to admire my work. That's when he, on bended knee, held out one last ornament. A peacock with a diamond ring around its neck!

We even have the moment caught on tape. Andrew told me he wanted to make a video of us decorating the tree and then speed it up and put it to music. Always on the lookout for blogging material, I thought this was a fantastic idea. But who knew I'd get to later rewind the video to watch my jaw hit the floor as a diamond-studded peacock was presented to me!? I'll share the video once Andrew edits it for me.

Yay! We're engaged!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The girl who cried wolf

Ok. A month ago I was all like, "Halp! I have stupid hair!" But then, after making you guys tell me which haircut you liked best, I flaked out and canceled the hair appointment. I decided I wanted to let it grow a little more so I'd have more options when I did finally get it cut.

Well, now it's a half inch longer, and I cannot have this mullet around for Christmas. I'm going to be meeting some of Andrew's out of town relatives for the first time, and I can't have them thinking that I always look like this. Not happening. Also, I try to look good for the office Christmas party, and right now that is just not possible. I've tried.

So. Tomorrow I am going to the salon--and when I leave--I will look like this:



Details on the sleep study to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

May your days be merry and bright

Tonight is my sleep study. I am a little more nervous than I thought I would be about sleeping hooked up to a bunch of sensors. I have to be at the facility at 9 p.m. I wonder if they will send me straight to bed. I'm allowed to bring my laptop, so maybe I'll live blog my sleep study, if that's even possible.

What I'm most curious about is tomorrow's half of the study. I will be put in a sleep deprivation situation where they will see how long it takes me to fall asleep for three consecutive naps. I think the sleep deprivation part will be that as soon as I fall asleep, they'll be waking me up. Someone might get punched. They better be careful.

And now, a little dose of Andrew on the holidays:

Andrew: Someone set up a stupid fake plant covered with blinking colored lights right next to my desk. It's driving me crazy. There are also 3 six inch tall singing mice in hats. I hate working in the hallway :(

Me: Tell me about the singing.

Andrew: I haven't heard them sing yet--but I've been warned that they have the ability to sing.

***************************

So there you have it, folks. I hope your holidays are full of mice wearing lots of nice hats and absolutely no vocal chords.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Phlegm and Cider: My Long Weekend in Asheville

Well, I survived the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina... and I'm officially a quarter century old. Thanks for all of the birthday wishes while I was away. They certainly put a big dorky smile on my face last night as I attempted to catch up with Twitter, Facebook, 20SB, and my reader. You kids have been busy!

My viral cold lingered on throughout the entire vacation, and like my ever-enchanting mullet, is still with me today. Luckily (?) the virus is just in my lungs, so other than a sexy phlegmy cough and zero energy for anything other than sipping spiced hot apple cider and napping in front of the fireplace, I was/still am pretty much the picture of health.

Our cabin, Rhododendron Cabin, was seriously adorable. I took very few photos on the trip due to general laziness. These photos were borrowed from the rental company's Web site:






There was no hiking on my part--but Andrew, his parents, and their dog Smuckers, did take an excursion while I napped. Now, I don't want your sympathy. Don't misunderstand. I am very fond of napping. I don't mind being forced to nap in a cozy cabin in the mountains while everyone else is traipsing about in the 40-degree mucky muck.

I napped Friday away, and by Saturday I was ready to face the streets of Asheville. We visited a bunch of adorable shops and had lunch at Bistro 1896.

One shop in particular, Origami Ink, stole my heart. Packed with beautiful stationary and other treasures, I lusted for many items that my wallet couldn't afford. But none were as stunning as the artisan bird figures that were scattered around the store. Completely out of my souvenir price range, these birds will be something I will probably regret not splurging on for many years to come.






While exploring the town, I was constantly blown away by how friendly the locals were. I've heard of southern hospitality, and don't get me wrong, Pittsburghers are lovely people. But dang! I felt like hugging everyone I encountered. There was door holding, "excuse me's," "sorrys," "pardon me's," and genuinely warm conversation. Shopkeepers spoke to me like we were old friends, and guess what? They loved the Obama button. I felt truly at home.

Saturday evening, Andrew, his parents, and I went to the Biltmore for a candle light tour. If you're not familiar with the Biltmore, it is a mansion that boasts more than 250 rooms. Are you dying? Ready to die again? It was built by 25-year-old George Washington Vanderbilt--completed in 1895. Truly incredible. (Again, photos borrowed from the Biltmore's web site.)



The house was all done up for Christmas--complete with a choir of carolers. Roaring fireplaces in almost every room and countless Christmas trees gave the largest home in the United States a romantic glow.



The house never ceased to amaze me--it even has its own bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, and "state of the art" gymnasium. (Of course, "state of the art" fitness equipment in 1895 consisted of medicine balls, parallel bars, dumbbells, and very little else.)

We planned to go back the following day to tour the grounds and winery, but the weather and my lingering illness caused a change of plans. Instead, Andrew's parents explored neighboring communities while Andrew and I had brunch and hunted for antique treasures. In the end, my eggs were inedible and it turns out antiques bore me. Oh, well.

With many more hours of daylight to burn, Andrew and I set out for an adventure to Black Mountain--a town a few exits from Asheville. We arrived to find Black Mountain is pretty much closed for business on Sundays. We peeked in one more antique shop before deciding to return to the cabin to watch the Steelers game in front of the fire. With one speeding ticket under Andrew's belt, we made it to the cabin $150 poorer.

An afternoon of football watching, book reading, and fireplace napping, led to an evening of Yahtzee, chocolate eating, and more cider drinking.

All in all, I have to give my Thanksgiving/Birthday weekend getaway two thumbs up. A big thanks to Susan and Jack for inviting me to be part of their mountain escape.

I hope you all had a restful weekend.