My Birthday Bash Day 13: Birthday Traditions

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Erica and her parents.
And into the world arrived awesomeness. That'd be me (and my parents).

Today is my actual birthday. I am 27-years-old, and I am thankful for each and every one of you who’s donated to my birthday fundraising goal. I hope to round out my goal today. I am so close.


Every year on my birthday…

● I rarely have a bad birthday and am usually happy all day. The only really horrible birthday I remember was when I turned 18 and was super sick.

● I eat homemade buttermilk pancakes with chocolate chips on my birthday. The recipe is from my paternal great-grandma Peggy, and my grandma made it a family institution and famous through her log cabin bed and breakfast where she cooked them on her firewood oven and in antique cast iron pancake molds.

● I open my gifts carefully. This drives all the onlookers crazy. Or to “help” me rip the paper faster. Since I’ve been with Jason, there are many times where my presents magically opened themselves. Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 13: Birthday Traditions”

My Birthday Bash Day 12: The Necklace

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Erica and Jason at the Space Needle for dinner late that night.
Me and Jason at the Space Needle for dinner later that fateful day.

About six months after I started dating Jason, his parents, Jimmie and Jeanette came out to Seattle to visit from Virginia. Neither of them had ever been to the West Coast and Jason had only lived here for a short time, so it was a big tourist experience, along with me meeting his family for the first time. Part of their trip included going to Pike Place Market. What I love about Pike Place Market — and probably any Seattleite will tell you — is that while the Market is a tourist destination, it is not a tourist trap. Locals, both with our tax dollars and supporting the merchants, especially the farmers, keep the Market in operation. Without locals, some cold-hearted developer would’ve mowed down Pike Place Market a long time ago to put in condos with a waterfront view with a Louis Vuitton store below. (Now you have to walk five blocks to get from Pike Place Market to one.)

As we strolled through Pike Place Market, looking at the various vendors’ tables, I kept my eye for a necklace. I’d been wanting a new necklace for a while, but hadn’t found the right one. I don’t traditionally wear a lot of jewelry, and because of my petite frame, I find that many necklaces overpower me. I also love supporting local artisans.

And there among the booths, I found it: a beautiful, hand-crafted aquamarine and silver necklace. The artisan could tell that I loved it as he had me try it on and held a little oval mirror for me. But of course, when I asked him how much it was, I decided I really couldn’t afford it on a web producer’s salary.

But Jimmie saw me admiring the necklace. He came over and told the merchant that he wanted to buy the necklace for me. I tried to stop him. He had no idea how much the necklace was, and I attempted to do the hand-waves and verbal mutterings of ‘no, really this is very expensive and I just met you like 24 hours earlier.’ Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 12: The Necklace”

My Birthday Bash Day 11: I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Deschutes River by Lucas Jans
Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon by Lucas Jans

A single phone call leveled my life. All my relationships, all my goals changed in an instant. I was 17-years-old, and it was Valentine’s Day.

It was also below freezing, and my mom, almost-aunt Buffy, and myself were out in the snow. Not by choice, but because sheep give birth regardless of weather. And I was so excited.

The day had been circled in red specifically for my sheep Starkisses to give birth. I’d already trimmed her thick black wool away from her rear end and udder in preparation. And my mom and I brought her and the other expecting ewes into a small corral. In their time of vulnerability, even normally skidish sheep make peace with human intervention.

Starkisses, Emma, and another ewe decided to give birth, all at the same time. Buffy always joked that one sheep gave the other the idea as if labor was the latest ranch fad. At these temperatures, our jobs were to get the moms and babies inside, get the babies warm and dry, and make sure they were eating. Newborn sheep are all limbs and no coordination.

The phone rang across the barnyard, and my mom answered it. Usually, it was just my younger brothers calling from the house. But it was for me.

Specifically, it was my ex-boyfriend, a pudgy boy, and a misogynist asshole prone to guilt-trips and tears. I figured he was trying to get back together with me. Again.

Jeremy had called to tell me that my best friend Charlie died of a heroin overdose. Later, I found out Jeremy told all my friends that I didn’t cry, that I didn’t care. That I was cold and politely told him my mom wanted me to get off the phone. Of course, the most powerful lies have some truth in them.

In that moment, a piece of permafrost laid itself in my soul.

I didn’t cry at that moment. The freezing temperatures helped; they shielded against every emotion cracking to the surface. And my mom did need my help to clean the wet, bloody placenta off newborn sheep. I had something that needed me more than my grief at that moment. I wouldn’t let my day be marred by more unnecessary deaths. Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 11: I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day”

My Birthday Bash Day 10: I want a pony

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Erica rides on Crisco with dad leading and Jonathan checking things out.
I ride on my pony Crisco at my grandma's house.

On the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy, the interns are put into a contest and the winner gets to perform a surgery. When talking about how she’s going to win, one of the interns April, who grew up on a ranch like me, puts it like this:

“When I was little, I wanted a pony too, and you know what happened…I, uh, worked really hard, and I got one.”

As a young child, I also won the pony lottery. When I was 4-years-old, my paternal grandpa died, and my grandma soon decided that she could no longer care for her pony Crisco. (Yes, my grandma named the pony after shortening.) I loved riding Crisco. It was by far my favorite thing to do at my grandparents’ house.

Around the same time, my parents purchased 20 undeveloped acres outside of Bend, Oregon. They put some cows on it and built a barn. Knowing my love of Crisco, they decided that a little girl needed a pony. So we loaded him up and took him home.

Crisco was a black Shetland Pony and as stubborn as hell. He hated men, and he hated to run. Crisco was fat and would literally eat anything in front of him to the point of foundering. My parents then moved him from the pasture with the cows to the natural high desert landscape. But Crisco loved sage brush, cheet grass, and Juniper trees just as much as grass. He foundered again. The only solution was to lock him in a corral and feed him a highly-monitored diet. (He even stripped the bark from the one tree in his pen.)

I wasn’t allowed to ride Crisco on my own. So anytime I rode him, it was a big ordeal that involved getting him bridled and being led around by an adult on my pony.

One fateful summer day, my parents decided to throw a barbecue at our newly built house and invited friends, neighbors, and my dad’s employees. They also decided, perhaps at my begging, that pony rides for all the kids (or just me) would be a blast. Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 10: I want a pony”

Birthday Bash Day 9: Let’s talk about sex, sex education

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Christmas 1985, Jonathan's first and Erica's third.
Mommy, did Santa bring me a brother? I asked for a sister. (Check out my rocking Rainbow Bright nightie.)

Warning: This post is about sex. It is not about anyone’s sex life, but it is about sexual education and erotica.

When I was a little child, my mom had a medical reference picture book which talked about how babies developed. I assume she bought it so I wasn’t shocked when my brother Jonathan was born. I remember laying on the living room floor, in front of the TV, pouring over the illustrations of what a developing baby looked like inside its mother’s womb.

Besides this, my parents left sex education up to the schools. For three years in public school, 4th-6th grade, I received lectures about the changes happening in my young body. How babies were actually made was glimpsed only long enough so we knew you couldn’t get pregnant via kissing. (Jason informs me that this is what he thought after watching Look Who’s Talking.) After the first lecture, my mom came into my bedroom and asked me if I had any other questions. I told her no. And I guess this made her confident that the school did a good job. Especially when I mailed away for a ‘my first period’ kit that the school had given me a coupon for.

In 6th grade, things got a little more complex. For starters, sexual education was co-ed. Which meant immature boys. I was always a good student, and I remember being so mortified when I had to report 100% on my label the genitalia on this diagram tests.

However, when my period did come later that year, I calmly informed my mother and used the supplies in the kit. My only embarrassment came when we went to my maternal grandparent’s house that weekend, and my grandma and other female relatives made such a fuss over me growing up. (I was the oldest grandchild, and at the time, the only granddaughter.)

For 7th grade, I was moved to a Lutheran middle school, which I’ve already written a little bit about. Lutherans would rather do anything than talk about sex. Continue reading “Birthday Bash Day 9: Let’s talk about sex, sex education”

Birthday Bash Day 8: You have friends on the internet?

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

My cat Winston converses with his internet friends.
My cat Winston converses with his internet friends. They make cat macros all day.

“But they’re your internet ‘friends,'” my maternal grandma said to me after I visited her post-WriterCon in 2004 and I showed her the photos of my fellow fangirls. “They aren’t, you know, weird?”

While my grandma only has my best interests at heart, her line of inquiry is one I’ve heard a lot. Yes, I have friends on the internet and the vast majority I met on the internet. And yes, I’ve met around 60% of them face-to-face. No, they’re not any more weird than I am, and *knock on wood* none of them are serial killers. But with shows like How to Catch a Predator spinning around in the zeitgeist, I’m not surprised I get these question.

True fact: the one and only time I’ve ever been cyberstalked was in college and it was an ex-boyfriend that I’d had in high school. I imagine this is true of most cyberstalking cases. Heck, look at the current cyber bullying problem; it’s all done by people the victim knew “in real life.”

Social networking, blogging, hanging out on these intertubes, it’s what I do, and naturally, I’ve made it a place to find friends. It’s certainly easier to find friends interested in the same things I am — Captain America, fluffy bunnies, and Lost Girl — with the entire world as my oyster. I’ve found that once you’ve met a handful of your online friends, from them on, one person knows another, who knows another. The world is far smaller than you’d think.

My internet friends aren’t just internet friends. They are my real life friends. They are the ones who cheer me up on a bad day with e-mails, photos, and silly stories. My “internet” friends let me and Jason crash at their homes when we went to the Olympics in Vancouver and when we went to DC this past fall. Some of them are acquaintances; some are good friends; and some are like family.

In 2004, I met my friend Jess online. I’d left her a comment on a piece of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fanfiction she’d written about Willow/Tara, and whatever it was, we struck a cord together. We started e-mailing and im’ing back and forth. Jess lives in Boston, but was unemployed at the time, and when we started co-writing stories together, she started living on West Coast time. Eventually, we started talking on the phone. (Both of us can be talkers, especially if we start going on about our stories.) And in 2005, Jess made a trip out west to visit me and her siblings.

Explaining how a co-writer fits on your family tree is next to impossible to a non-writer. Continue reading “Birthday Bash Day 8: You have friends on the internet?”

My Birthday Bash Day 7: Hair Monster

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Erica with a shaved head
This was about 1 week after I shaved my head. From my family Christmas photos.

When I was 16-years-old, I shaved my hair down to a quarter of an inch and bleached it. I’d skipped out on school to visit my friend Justin, who’d run away from home. While talking with Justin and his friend Michael, the two flamboyantly gay boys convinced me that I needed to cut my waist-long hair off. Michael kept telling me that I was hiding my beautiful face from the world with the unruly rat’s nest I combed maybe once a week. For a moment, I was a gorgeous woman surrounded by my stylists.

I followed Michael up to his bathroom and braided my hair. Then we cut it off. Justin was laughing the whole time. Michael did the cutting and brought out the shears. When it was all done, I was disappointed. Disappointed because my hair naturally lightens in the sun and near my scalp, my hair was dark. So we solved that with bleach. They both pronounced me as fabulous as Annie Lennox.

Moral of the story: boosting my self-esteem in a non-sexual way is the best way to convince me to do about anything.

When I got back to school, for creative writing club, my friends thought my hair was great. My mother, however, did not. Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 7: Hair Monster”

My Birthday Bash Day 6: Choose Your Celebrities Wisely or Baby’s First Convention

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

James Leary and Erica
James Leary (Clem from Buffy) and myself at my first convention. You'd think I would've at least smiled for my photo?

I love going to geeky conventions. Heck, I’m helping put on a fan-run geeky convention. My favorite part of going to conventions is meeting other fans. I’d far perfer to go to a small, intimate fan-run convention than one headlined by celebrities. Even celebrities and creators I adore like LeVar Burton, Claudia Christian, Gail Simone, Jane Espenson, and Greg Rucka. I’d much rather sit in a room with 25 other fans and watch an episode of Stargate: Atlantis then discuss it to death like I did at WriterCon in 2006. (Although I do love the quarter comic bins at Emerald City Comic Con…)

Due to growing up in rural Oregon, I did not get to attend conventions when I was younger. My mom may have gotten me hook at many of my fannish obsessions, but we weren’t running around the state in our Star Trek uniforms. (No, instead, we were running around showing rabbits.) When I moved to Tacoma for college, I took the opportunity to attend more geeky conventions.

So my friends — Pearl, Katelyn, Jessica, and Jen — and I went to Bellevue’s Creation Con 2003 as a group outing because James Marsters (Spike from Buffy: the Vampire Slayer) was going to be there. Along with some villains from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a couple of other Buffy and Angel people. But let’s face it, despite the other talent, we were there to see Spike, whom we all had a giant crush on. This was my first official convention.

For those of you who’ve never been to a Creation Con, I can tell you, they’re about one thing and that’s making money. You shell out for a ticket, then autographs (sometimes individually), and then photos (individually). I feel like this post should be littered with dollar signs at every fee I paid. Creation Cons were also pretty much set up to filter through Star Trek actors in various cities. I see their banking on Twilight now.

Rabid Buffy fans were not what this convention was prepared to deal with. The best way to talk with fans is in their language. The best MC’ing I ever saw at a convention was at Con Con (Leverage) where the host, he knew exactly what to say to keep the fans in line. Creation Con’s host, however, had no clue even what Buffy was about, beyond that a lot of women where there to see a skinny dude with bleached blond hair. Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 6: Choose Your Celebrities Wisely or Baby’s First Convention”

My Birthday Bash Day 5: Dear NASA, find me some aliens

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

Erica on her 13th birthday with her Star Trek Barbie dolls
My 13th birthday present: Star Trek Barbie Dolls. They looked awesome next to my X-Files ones.

Warning: In this post, I discuss religion. Personally, I don’t care what religion you practice or don’t practice. I *know* not all Christian churches have the same philosophy, and I am writing about my formative experiences, not debating theology.

My 7th grade science book had an entire section on how aliens weren’t real and shows like Star Trek and The X-Files were just lying to me. The book went on to disprove the existence of aliens because God created the universe in less than a week and created human beings in the image of himself, a unique creature. Plus, Jesus couldn’t travel in space and save all beings’ souls. (Except an all-powerful being could totally do this.) I sat there reading this page in my science book while wearing a Babylon 5 t-shirt.

And that, my friends, was the moment I lost religion.

I probably should mention that this wasn’t a textbook butchered by the Texas Board of Education. I actually attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran middle school, and my 7th grade teacher, Mr. Young, is something an infamous Creationist theologian. Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 5: Dear NASA, find me some aliens”

My Birthday Bash Day 4: Icon of Everything, David Bowie

For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.

David Bowie
Anyone who can pull of both looks unapologetically in his lifetime and be an all-around awesome and talented person is my hero.

When it comes to my heroes, I’m a bit compartmental. I want to write like Margaret Atwood. I want to create amazing art like J.H. Williams III. I want to play the bass guitar like Kim Deal. But since I was about 13-years-old, David Bowie has been my icon of everything. I don’t just want to sing, write songs, be outspoken, dress lavishly, etc. like him. I want to be like him. (Okay, I would also totally have sex with him. Which those “want to be” and “want in my bed” circuits in my brain have always cross-fired.)

But back to Bowie, what I like best about him is his attitude. A principle of living life to the fullest in all aspects. I love life as a performance, while managing to have an actual life. I love that, even as an older artist, he is who he is at that very moment. He’s confident in both his talents and his life. And especially when I was younger, struggling with my sexuality and being a “weirdo,” I felt a great kinship to Bowie and his story.

The summer before I went to college in 2002, I lost my mind and went to see Bowie perform at Moby’s Area2 concert at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington. All summer, I should’ve been preparing and packing for college as I was moving to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, which was about 6 hours away from my hometown. But no, I was obsessing about David Bowie. I read at least two biographies and everything I could find on the internet and watched Ziggy Stardust and Labyrinth over and over.

If you’ve never been to the Gorge Amphitheater, I highly recommend it. The stage backs up right to the Columbia Gorge so the performers are set behind perhaps the must beautiful natural setting possible. (Sadly, I seem to have lost or misplaced the few photos I had. Though I don’t remember clearly, but we may not have been able to bring cameras to the concert.) Continue reading “My Birthday Bash Day 4: Icon of Everything, David Bowie”