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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Medical matters

Gregg got a call from the dermatologist yesterday. The spot they biopsied on his forehead is indeed basal cell carcinoma, and will need to be removed in the next week or two. The doctor also wants to examine him all over for any other suspicious skin sites. Gregg spent many years getting lots of sun, and as a fair skinned person, that's a really bad idea. Although he's known better (and done better) for the past decade or so, these things take time to pop up. The good news is, they're usually slow growing and when caught early have a super high cure rate. The treatment is likely to be a simple outpatient procedure, thank goodness. He says he's not really worried, and I believe him, but I can tell that the "C" word has cast a pall over his mood. I don't blame him; I don't like it either. I'm just grateful that it should be easily fixed and forgotten this time.

This has driven home the point for me that I need to continue to be picky when looking for a new job. We would be in trouble without proper health insurance, and I carry it through my job. Gregg's work doesn't have the option. So any job I consider has to come with a decent benefits package. I have to say, despite how much I've disliked some parts of my current job, the health coverage has been pretty good and I'm grateful for it. It will be an essential part of my next situation--it has to be.

Speaking of medical matters, Ginger had to go to the vet yesterday for her bi-annual heartworm prevention shot. She's such a good girl. There's barely a need to put a leash on her; she'll almost always do exactly what you want her to do in any situation. The newer vet in the practice saw her, and had the nerve to say my perfect little girl needs to lose some weight!



Ok, maybe a little bit of weight.

The vet suggested a 10% reduction. She's 67 pounds and so about 60ish is what we're shooting for. On the way home I told Ginger not to feel bad. I need to lose 10% of my body weight too! We can do it together! I've been considering taking her for slow jogs when I go for bike rides, and we can both cut back on treats and meal portions. Look out world, the Sparrow Tree Girls are going to get in shape this summer! Haha.

In addition to taking Ginger to the vet yesterday, I had an eye exam. I needed new contact lenses and the clinic I use requires a yearly exam to make sure the prescription hasn't changed. A new eye doctor, who looked about twelve, examined me and said, "You don't need bifocal glasses yet....but maybe by next year. You're in your early 40's now, you know." Jerk!


Happy (belated) birthday Joanna!


Today I'm taking a sick day off from work. I've had colicky pain in my stomach for the past two days, and the over the counter medicine I took for it had an unpleasant (ahem) side effect. (I can't stray far from my bathroom). I have episodes of pain like this every few months. The doctors I've seen have run all sorts of tests, but they can't seem to pinpoint a cause. My gallbladder has been removed (I had terrible gallstones) but it feels a bit like a mild gallbladder attack. Not fun. I'm hoping it will pass very soon this time.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fish and Chips--South Carolina style

Since seeing a meal of "fish and chips" over at Yorkshire Pudding's blog the other day, I've had a craving. So today I went to Tubbs restaurant for lunch to satisfy it.

Delicious fried flounder, waffle cut fries, hush puppies, coleslaw, and (un)sweetened iced tea. I cleaned the plate!
Tubbs has the best seafood in this whole area. Lucky for me, it's only a few blocks from my house!

I might be slightly traumatized

I woke up yesterday morning from a dream where I was at work, talking to my boss, and my teeth were crumbling to pieces in my mouth. I kept having to spit them out. (Ugh!)

My boss didn't seem to notice and kept talking to me as if nothing was amiss. It was all slightly horrific.

No more trips to the dentist for me anytime soon! And I
think it's past time for a good long vacation.

What do you think? 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

An unsettled kind of day

Today was somewhat unsettled at the Sparrow Tree house.

Gregg had an early appointment with a dermatologist to get a weird, colorless mole that popped up on his forehead examined. His regular doctor said it didn't look like much to her, but since he has a cancer history it would be a good idea to have it checked out. The dermatologist said he's pretty sure it's a common basal cell carcinoma, but the biopsy they did today will tell us for sure. As cancers go, this is about as "good" as it can get. It will be easily removed, and is unlikely to have spread or to recur. We're not particularly worried--after surviving stage 3 lung cancer, a pea-sized clear dot on the surface of the skin doesn't seem as scary as it might otherwise. We are taking it seriously, and will of course treat it immediately when the biopsy results come in, but I don't think it's going to be too traumatic. I sure hope not.

Late yesterday afternoon I was on my way to meet some friends for dinner before our April book club gathering, and I got a phone call. My phone is connected to my Scion via Bluetooth, so I was able to answer even though I was sitting in traffic. It was some lady with the Department of Social Services asking me if I was going to make it to my job interview in the morning? And I had no idea what she was talking about. She said something about an email that went out on April 11th about a group interview of several candidates for a job. I never got said email.

I was totally confused, and trying to navigate 5:00 traffic (not pretty in downtown Florence) and the woman on the line was obviously bored and checking off a list of people to expect, and pretty much said something like "Check your email. All the details are there. The interview is at 9am tomorrow. Bye."

I didn't know what the *&!% to think.

I sat in the parking lot of the restaurant where I was meeting my friends, and tried to remember which state job I had applied for that this could be. There's been a handful over the last two or three months, and I couldn't remember. When I got home after book club, I looked for the email. I finally found it in the "trash" email folder, not my regular inbox. It didn't mention what the job was for, but it said it was a group interview with about 8 other people, and to bring a "handwritten (not typed) statement about why you're the best person for the job", as well as photocopies of a picture ID, three references, and to come prepared for the interview to last from 2 to 3 hours.

There was no way I could prepare all that in less than 12 hours, especially without knowing what job exactly I was interviewing for! I talked to Marla, who works for the state, and she said she had never heard of an interview process like that. Just......bizarre. So I decided not to go. I sent a reply to the email and explained that I had only just received it and couldn't alter my schedule with such short notice. I apologized and stated that I would be happy to come for an interview if they were interested in rescheduling. I didn't hear back. Oh well.

It was a strange day, and not in the good 4/20 kind of way.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I've got my smile back! (finally)

After months of work and waiting, and a lot of money spent, I'm finally done with dental work for a while! (Knock on wood).

Yesterday I got my three crowns and one bridge tooth put on and they're a perfect fit. Ever since the one tooth broke in January, it's been an ordeal. First I had to have the tooth surgically removed, then I had to wait for the socket to heal, then I had to have the three teeth behind it prepared for crowns. The lab that creates the crowns, and the bridge, normally takes two weeks to complete their work. The first time they were done I went in, but one of the crowns wasn't a perfect fit, so everything had to be sent back. It took three weeks the second time, but yesterday I went to the dentist and everything fit just right. What a relief!

My smile looks and feels completely normal again, for the first time this year. Everything looks great--which it should considering that all this work cost me $3900, only $1000 of which my insurance covered. And that's not counting the money I spent at the oral surgeon's office in January, or the cost of the two root canals that led to all this misery last June. Still, who can put a price on a big, happy smile? I might be broke, but at least I can smile with confidence again!

And I don't want to see the dentist again for at least another year.

Early morning, just-crawled-out-of bed selfie.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

I'm just popping in to wish you all a very Happy Easter. I have to work. We have regular hours today and there won't even be any holiday pay or time and a half. Oh well. At least I'm not religious.


Enjoy the day, those of you who will be celebrating!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Little Girl / Old Lady Flowers?

My African violets are blooming again. I shared these two photos on Facebook a little while ago.

Image may contain: flower, plant and nature

Image may contain: plant, flower and nature

My friend Meg commented, "Aww. I remember those from when I was a little girl!"

And it brought back a memory for me. When I was very little girl, someone gave me a potted African violet. I had heard that if you talked to plants, they would grow better, so I named it "Rosie" and talked to it every day. It lived in an East facing kitchen window, and it thrived. I remember my grandma saying "I've never seen one bloom like that.." So was it my grandma that gave it to me in the first place? I can't remember, but it's very likely. She loved flowers and I remember her making that comment about them.

Plus, don't African violets just kind of seem like a grandma flower? They do to me. I'll bet one of Meg's grandmas grew them, too....


Rosie looked like the second picture.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Discouraged

I'm beginning to feel like I'm never going to find a new job. I'm so discouraged.

On my birthday last month I found a job opening online that would have been ideal for me. A job that I'm uniquely qualified for, a job with good pay and benefits, and most importantly, a job I think I would love. Seeing the opening on my birthday felt like a sign. I was convinced this was it.

So I went back over my resume, making sure everything that made me the perfect person for the position was mentioned. I wrote a very nice cover letter to go with it. I even wrote an email to the person who would be in charge of the hiring process, introducing myself and asking for an interview. After submitting everything I called around to some of my contacts (I have a lot of great contacts in this community) and discovered that a woman in my book club volunteers at this place. I reached out to her and told her about the position I was applying for so she could put in a good word for me. In short, I did everything I could think of to try to get a foot in the door. Then I waited.

And waited.

And........nothing. Not an email, not a call, nothing.

Which is just par for the course. I've applied for three jobs with the state (at DHEC and DHHS) over the last couple of months and haven't heard anything back from them, either. Then there was the job as a secretary at one of the high schools I applied for and got really hopeful about....because they checked my references...but then I didn't hear anything else until I found out through a friend that they had filled the position. I never even got an interview. Why they bothered to contact my references is a mystery to me. Every day, I check the online job postings, and there's rarely anything worth applying for. On the rare occasion that something seems promising, I do whatever I can think of to get noticed, but it's just not happening.

I'm so unhappy at my current job (anyone who's been reading here for any length of time knows that already, and I apologize for sounding like a broken record) and I've been searching for something better for so long, that I'm getting depressed about it all. Everything is great when I'm off work, but whenever I'm about to go in (like tonight) the dread settles over me like a dark cloud. 

The only thing I need to make my life completely happy is a new and better job. Everything else is great, and I'm grateful for all the good stuff in my life, but I'm so ready to have this job search behind me.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

My daiquiri recipe

My friend and partner in crime, Marla, came over today and I made this year's first batch of strawberry daiquiris. We spent the afternoon watching funny YouTube videos and getting tipsy.

Here's my method for making daiquiris :

First, I wash and stem fresh strawberries and lay them on paper towels to dry completely. Then I put them into a Zip lock bag, squeezing out as much air as possible, and pop them into the freezer.

When it's time to make the drinks I juice several limes and lemons. For each pitcher full of daiquiris I fill a blender with approximately 1/2 cup citrus juice, 4 cups of frozen strawberries, one generous cup of white rum, 1 cup of cold filtered water, one cup of raw (turbinado) sugar, and a few fresh chopped strawberries. Amounts don't have to be too exact, you can add a bit more or less of any of the ingredients. Blend, taste, and adjust.

I like to rim the glasses with lime juice and raw sugar. Add a whole strawberry for garnish and a straw for sipping and ENJOY!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weekend off

I have the weekend off, and I didn't even ask for it. It's so nice to not be at the mall on Saturday night! I could  get used to this schedule.....

Today was somewhat productive, but nice too. The weather was perfect--blue skies and mild temperatures. I slept late, rode my bike, spent time with the dogs, and did a little bit of housework (the kitchen was downright grubby but an hour or so of scrubbing made things better) and shopping. Besides a typical grocery store trip, I checked out a new butcher shop that's opened up in Florence. A couple of my friends have been raving about the wonderful locally farmed meats for sale there. I'm so glad I went! The selection is wonderful and very reasonably priced. I bought some bacon-wrapped steaks and two pounds of shrimp for the grill.

This is what our supper looked like:

Image may contain: food
Bacon wrapped sirloin and shrimp marinated in Cajun spiced lime butter, cooked on the grill,
with brown and wild rice and mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes on the side.

While preparing our meal I had several mixed drinks, Diet Coke with lime and rum. (Skinny Cuba Libres). I bought a big bottle of rum and a bagful of limes because tomorrow Marla is coming over and I'm making us strawberry daiquiris!!

Speaking of which, I went back to the strawberry farm today and bought another big box full of beautiful strawberries. I didn't want to risk running out.

Image may contain: fruit and food
I'm known for my strawberry daiquiris...it takes a lot of berries to make them right!

I also saved back a lot of grilled shrimp to make a cold pasta salad for our lunch tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing Marla and catching up over food and drinks.

It's shaping up to be a nice weekend!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pretty pictures

First, my sweet girl Ginger. I wish you all could feel how wonderfully soft and luxurious her coat is; everyone remarks on it when they pet her. Our vet says she has the nicest fur if any dog he's ever seen. And she's a sweetheart, too.


Next up: some flowers blooming in my yard.



And last, a couple of photos taken as I drove home yesterday. The first one is beside my house. Spring is my favorite season, and I just love bright sunny days like these!



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Easter trees, strawberry fields

A neighbor has decorated her blooming dogwood tree with Easter egg ornaments. I stopped in the middle of a bike ride this morning to take a picture to share here:


It's weird, but kind of cute.

After lunch I paid a visit to one of our local strawberry farms. The berries are ripe a little early this year. Several people were out in the warm sunshine letting little kids pick strawberries. I was in a hurry so I decided not to pick my own. Maybe next time.


I bought a big basket of beautiful berries. They're so sweet and delicious. Just look at them:

I've been eating strawberries all evening!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bright shiny day

The last few days have been so wonderful for me! I have so many kind and generous friends who made sure I felt special on my birthday. There were dinners out, cards and packages, texts and phone calls, and so much more.  





My birthday gift from Gregg was a bright yellow cruiser style bicycle! It's the perfect bike for riding around the flat, smooth roads in my neighborhood. I love it!


And finally......

March 23, 1976

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mistletoe in Spring

Yesterday I saw something fairly unusual in my backyard. There's a tree with low hanging branches way in the back, and on one of them is a bunch of mistletoe growing only 6 feet off the ground. I could easily have picked it if it was the right season for such things.


Today is the Equinox, and I'm so happy it's Spring! This is my favorite season. I took the dogs for a good walk this morning  (I have to work tonight) and we saw masses of white blooming dogwood trees, irises, and even a couple of bluebirds flying around in the stand of old pine trees behind the corner church. It's a beautiful day!

Have a good one, my friends!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday, Sunday

It's a beautiful sunny day at my house and I'm off work! Yay!!!

I decided against attending this afternoon's meeting of Action Together, a local progressive political group that I belong to. Although it's always heartening to spend time with like-minded community members trying to address issues going on in our government, I feel like today I could use a mental rest day. So I'm staying home. All that's on my agenda for this sunny Sunday afternoon is to go food shopping, do some cooking and maybe baking, and hanging out with this guy:

Image may contain: dog and outdoor
That sad face behind the fence as I was leaving for work yesterday....!

And Ginger and Marco too, of course.

Have a great Sunday, my friends!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Typical weekend


It's a typical Saturday night for me: a busy closing shift at the mall. Sigh.

Back tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Canine compassion

My dental appointment this morning took three hours. I ended up getting three teeth prepped for crowns instead of two, and impressions made for a bridge to fill in the space where one tooth was removed. (I got temporary crowns and a temporary bridge to hold me over for the two weeks it will take to get the permanent ones back).

The work wasn't too painful, but there was a lot of blood because of having three teeth cut down around the gumline.  I have a headache now, too, which is typical for me whenever I get the numbing shots dentists use. Since I knew the work would take hours and I wouldn't feel great afterward, I took the day off work.

When I got home just now, the dogs were thrilled to see me. George was his typical boisterous, good natured self. He jumped up and down and wagged and ran around in circles in his excitement. Ginger reacted much differently.

As soon as I entered the gate she knew something had happened. I kneeled down to pet her, and she sniffed my mouth very, very carefully and then looked into my eyes with warmth and concern. She's been subdued and by my side ever since.

My Ginger is such a good dog! Intelligent, protective, and full of more compassion than most humans I know. She does her best to take care of us. I love her so much.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Flowers for Tom S.


Tom's post this morning reminded me of a funny article I read just last night about how florists in Colorado and California have started to offer "cannabis bouquets" for sale. What better way to say "I love you" to your stoner sweetie than with an arrangement of pretty marijuana flowers and buds?

What's that old song with the line about..."Your love....has lifted me higher....than I've ever....been lifted before....." 

Hahaha!






Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winter came back!

So after weeks of crazy warm temperatures and everything blooming a month early, this happened today:



It snowed for about 4 hours this morning--the first snowfall of the year. It melted away almost immediately, though.

This week is supposed to have a few nights that get down to well below freezing.

Crazy weather!

Snow and pollen. Winter in South Carolina!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Probably a really boring post.....

The dogwood tree out back is blooming...


and the violets under the walnut tree.

We have blackberry flowers by the backyard fence....


and the blueberries are in bloom.


Spring is well underway in South Carolina.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gifts in the mail

I bought myself a little early birthday gift this week. A friend of mine has an Etsy page where he sells homemade jewelry. His "Tree of Life" pendents caught my eye, especially the one made with amethysts. Since he offered me a good "old school friend" discount, I bought two....both the amethyst and rose quartz pendents. 


Aren't they pretty? I wish the picture had turned out a little better, they're much nicer looking than they seem here. 

On the day they arrived in the mail, I also got a birthday card from my grandma with a check for $100 inside! That was so sweet of her. My birthday isn't for another two weeks but she likes to get ahead of things.  My grandma is so good to me! 

I wore the rose quartz necklace to work that day, but I'm saving the amethysts for my actual birthday. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: Big Little Lies

It's been a long time since I read a book that I could barely stand to put down. It's always pure pleasure to find something to read that grabs you so hard that you race to the finish despite wanting to slow down and savor the ride. I found a book like that this past weekend: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.


Big Little Lies

I have to admit that this wasn't something I was ever interested in reading until I saw the first two episodes of the limited HBO series adapted from the book. It's been on the bestseller list at work for ages, but it didn't look at all like the kind of book I would enjoy. It just goes to show that you should never discount something out of hand like that! I'm not much a mystery fan, either, but this mystery had an intriguing twist: from the beginning of the book (and the tv show) you know that someone has been murdered--but you don't know who or how or why. You do know where it takes place, though, and it's the unlikeliest of places--a primary school parents' event, a trivia night/costume party fundraiser.

The plot is told from the point of view of three main characters: Madeline, the 40 year old, sharp mouthed and witty mother of two whose ex husband (and his new younger yoga-loving wife) drives her crazy; Celeste, whose seemingly perfect life and storybook marriage to the handsome, rich Perry is covering up a dark secret; and Jane, a struggling single mother of a little boy named Ziggy who just moved to town. Jane's past is a mystery, as is the identity of her child's father. When little Ziggy
is accused of trying to strangle another child in his kindergarten class (which he denies doing) it
sets off a chain of shocking events among the parents. But could playground bullying between little children really lead the adults to commit a murder? That's the question at the heart of the book.

From the first episode of Big Little Lies I watched, I was intrigued. Who on earth could be dead, and how, and why? And the actors in the show are superb: Nicole Kidman as Celeste, Reece Witherspoon as Madeline, Shailene Woodley as Jane, Alexander Skarsgard as Perry, Adam Scott as Madeline's current husband Ed, and Zoe Kravitz as the new younger wife of Madeline's ex. Since only two episodes have aired so far, I had to know what happened next, so I bought the book the next day at work. And I couldn't put it down!

I read Big Little Lies in 24 hours, that's how enjoyable it was! I had no idea who had been murdered until I started the last chapter, and then it turned out I was wrong. And the threads of the plot are all tied up so skillfully that I wanted to give the author a round of applause at the end! It's about secrets and gossip and the big little lies we sometimes tell ourselves just to get through life.

It's been a while since a book gave me so much pure enjoyment. I still plan to watch the rest of the series, too. Read this book, guys....I think you'll like it too!




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In like a lion

This morning I woke up on the first day of March from a dream that my neighbor had adopted two lions and was keeping them in his backyard. I was scared of them and afraid that they were going to jump the fence and hurt my dogs or else a person. I called the police but they refused to do anything about the situation. Weird.

So it's the beginning of my birthday month! I was hoping to plan a small trip to celebrate but guess what? Dental drama strikes again! Remember the tooth I had surgically removed in January?  Now it's time to have the empty spot filled with a porcelain bridge. They're going to attach it to the crown that the tooth behind it needs, and they have to crown one extra tooth for added strength. My out of pocket deposit for all this work will be $800....the week before my birthday. Damn it.

There goes the trip I had hoped to take! But at least I'll be able to smile comfortably again....I've been self conscious about the empty space behind my right eye tooth and have tried not to smile too big for fear of looking like a jack o lantern. Everyone says it's not noticeable but I feel like it's glaringly obvious. So at least my smile will be fixed for my birthday.

Happy March, everyone. Did it come in like a lamb or a lion for you?




Monday, February 20, 2017

Diversions

It's been a quiet week or two here at Sparrow Tree Journal. I imagine the sound of crickets when I check in here. I've not been feeling much inspiration to write, what with the wall of ice that's now up between me and my parents, and the death of little Chip. (Thank you all for your kind words on both subjects). Mostly I'm just marking time over here waiting for things to develop.

I have applied for three jobs, any one of which would be satisfactory. I have people speaking for me and putting in a good word at all three places--I hope I can at least get an interview for one of them. I'm still trying to eat better and exercise more. The results of that are still lackluster (as far as weight loss), but physically I feel pretty good. Life is just pretty ordinary right now.

I have had some fun diversions in the past couple of weeks. I finally found and read The Black Narcissus by Rumor Godden. I'm a bit disappointed to report that the movie was actually better. I re-read The Greengage Summer, also by Rumer Godden, and that one was better than I remembered so I can recommend it if anybody is interested. My current read is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders:

Lincoln in the Bardo


And because I'm lazy (and only halfway finished with the book) here is a review from the NPR Books website by Jason Sheehan:

It begins, like so many simpler books before it, with a party. And with a death.

But this is no simple party. It is a state dinner at the White House, hosted by Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln — a lavish, decadent state dinner thrown in 1862, as the meat grinder of the Civil War is just beginning to churn.

And it's no simple death, because it is the death of the Lincolns' beloved young son Willie, of typhoid fever, at age 11. He lay sick upstairs while below, the party went on until dawn. It was thought, in that moment, on that night, that the boy would recover. His mother saved him candies from the elaborate dessert display — a chocolate fish plucked from a pond of spun sugar, a bee made from honey — and told him she would keep them until he was feeling better. Knowing what comes, what history has already told us will happen (must happen), it is the first of a hundred or a thousand small heartbreaks in George Saunders's long-awaited first novel, Lincoln In The Bardo.

And then Willie dies. There is a funeral (glossed over) and an interment in a borrowed crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. Willie Lincoln's body goes into its box and the box goes into its hole in the wall.



At which point the story begins in earnest.

"Bardo" means limbo, a liminal place, between worlds, between lives. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is the bodiless state that exists in the lag between one incarnation and the next, full of unquiet spirits tethered by ... guilt? By rage? By unfinished business, traditionally, or a simple unwillingness to move on.
And Saunders's novel is full of ghosts. Soldiers and children, rapists and virgins, slaves and fools and drunks and a hundred others, including Willie Lincoln, stuck in the bardo and surrounded by a chorus of spirits all urging him to move on or to stay; all giving conflicting, contradictory advice because "These young ones are not meant to tarry," according to one regretful suicide, even though some do — the why of it always a small story, crafted here by a master of small stories.
So for one night in 1862, Saunders uses his ghosts and his historians to build a tapestry of grief. While his sources cite the weeping in the Lincolns' residence, the fury of a nation divided and the petrifying misery which Willie's death provoked in Abraham Lincoln, his ghosts have a worm's-eye view of death and the beyond. In them lives all the pettiness of life (a debt owed, a love unstated) umbrella'd over by the inconceivable horrors of war. While Lincoln has lost one son, he exists in a world overspilling now with lost sons, and soon to be choked with them. While he slips down to the cemetery in the middle of the story's single night to open Willie's casket and hold his boy's body — to mourn in private and feel the weight of his son one more time in his lap — he stands also at the threshold of a war which will snuff hundreds of thousands of lives.

"No one had ever come here to hold one of us, while speaking so tenderly," says one of Saunders's ghosts.

"Ever," says another.

"Young Willie Lincoln was laid to rest on the day that the casualty lists from the Union victory at Fort Donelson were publicly posted," Saunders quotes, from the Journal of American History, then, "More than a thousand troops on both sides were killed and three times that number wounded," from Dolores Kearns Goodwin.

And so these two events, one small, one large, become forever linked. Lincoln's grief, as witnessed by the ghosts, as experienced by Willie, is enormous. The pain of it radiant as the President languishes in his own private bardo. In comparison to the grief of America at war, it is infinitesimal, but at the same time, no less potent or real. And in the friction between these two true things, Saunders finds his terrible, brutal truth: That all lives end too soon. That no one leaves complete. That letting go is the best, hardest thing anyone — even the dead — can do.

So far, this book is touching and unlike anything I've ever read. A great diversion, and I highly recommend it.

Another diversion I enjoyed was a trip to the movies yesterday afternoon with two of my book club pals. We went to see Lion.

image

I should have taken a handkerchief. This film tore me up inside, especially the acting of the young Sunny Pawar as the child Saroo, separated from his mother and brother and lost to them for the next 25 years, and then the final scene when the actual man and his two mothers (birth and adopted) that the film was based on were shown together. I had to sop up my tears on my t-shirt. I thought the film was very good, and recommend it to anyone who might appreciate the release of a good cry. I did, although I'm always embarrassed to weep in public.

There's nothing like good books and good films to divert yourself from the ho-hum of everyday life. Have any of you seen or read anything lately that you'd like to recommend?



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chip

Image may contain: plant



Our little House Sparrow, Chip, died Monday morning. She was 10 years old.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the story of Chip, let me explain.

Years ago I was an aviary keeper for a public exhibit of lorikeets (that's a whole other story in itself) and I was responsible for the handfeeding and care of around 2 dozen parrots, which consisted of mostly lories and lorikeets as well as 3 macaws. I also did some work for the pet store where Gregg still works to this day, handfeeding and socializing baby parrots. I got a reputation at the "bird lady" around town and would often end up with orphaned wild birds to rescue and release.

One day, a friend of a friend found a nest of baby House Sparrows that had been blown to the ground after a storm. Only one of the babies was still alive. It didn't even have feathers yet. The guy heard about me from our mutual friend, and brought the bird to me for help.

I hand fed the little sparrow, as I had done dozens of times before, and got ready to release her, but there was a bit of a delay. Gregg and I were preparing to move that spring. I wanted to be available to offer her food for a few days once she started living outside. Oftentimes young newly released birds will hang around for a week or so, for security and food while they're learning to live in the big wide world.

Once we got to the new house, I started taking her out every day to fly around. She lived outdoors for about a week, but two nesting mockingbirds started to harass her. She would frantically land on our shoulder every time we came outside, so we starting bringing her back in to keep her safe. We thought that as soon as the mockingbirds finished nesting, she would happily adjust to life outdoors....but she didn't. She would fly around for a few minutes when we took her outside, but then would cheep and cry and every time we walked in the door she would land on our shoulders and hitch a ride back inside. After a while, it started to get cold outside....so we kept her inside where it was warm and safe. And after that first winter, we had a pet sparrow. She didn't know how to live in the wild and we didn't have the heart to try to force her.

A few years later, we moved into our current house, and Chip came with us. She had a whole bedroom to herself, with a large potted ficus tree and a window looking out onto our bird feeder. We often opened the window in the warm months, so she could have left at any time, but she never did. We didn't keep her in a cage. She lived in her ficus tree, and we kept newspaper down on the floor in her room to keep it clean.

We grew very attached to Chip over the years. (A coworker of mine named her for the sound she made as a baby.....in those first days I had to take her with me to work so that I could feed her every couple of hours). In addition to the fresh seeds and water that were always available to her, she loved bread. Every single morning for years, Gregg would take a tiny piece of bread in to her room and she would hop on his hand and nibble it. We noticed over the past couple of weeks that she was slow to wake up and get moving in the morning, and it would take her a few minutes to come around. She was extraordinarily old for a House Sparrow. And on Monday morning, when Gregg went in with her morning piece of bread, he found her little lifeless body underneath her ficus tree. We both cried.

Chip as a baby.

If you've ever wondered how my blog came to be named "Sparrow Tree Journal" now you know...it was a tribute to Chip and the tree where she lived.

We're going to miss that little bird.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unprovoked attacks

It's been quite a morning for me. I woke up feeling good and looking forward to having the day off.
I made coffee and breakfast and sat down to eat with Gregg before he had to get ready for work, and everything seemed right with the world. Then my phone started to "ping" with private messages. They were from my mom. Here's the first one:

Jennifer, do you have to use such vulgar language on Facebook,? I haven't ever known you to talk like you do now, what's wrong with you?

I had no idea what she was talking about, and told her so. I don't use "vulgar" language on Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter. She went on to say:

Yes you have and you know you do...... I've always been proud of you, but since this election, you are just really something, you need to move on.

Again, what??? I've never used vulgar language on Facebook, and I'm fairly careful about what I share on a public forum concerning the election. Granted, I'm very opposed to Donald Trump and his administration, and I occasionally share legitimate news articles about current events, but I never attack anyone and I certainly don't use foul language. So I told her, again, that I had no idea what she was talking about. And this was her response:

Well.... Fuckbuck, and such words.....

What the heck does that even mean?! (That's what I asked her). And then I suggested that someone maybe hacked into her page, or mine, and left offensive remarks.

No, I'm not hacked it's about Ivanka Trump's line of clothes, and you made a comment, you know what I'm talking about and there has been other things too. don't play dumb with me .

Well, I started to get pissed off at that point. I've never said a single thing about the current controversy over Ivanka's brand of clothes. Not one single thing. And the whole "don't play dumb with me" was just a little too much and I told her so. How dare she basically accuse me of lying over something so stupid?

It's not just today, over months you have used bad language and you know it. I'm not as stupid as you take me for. I thought I knew you better, but I don't know any more.  I have never accused you falsely, I have never been disappointed in you until I got internet and have seen things you say, I hate people seeing you talk like you do.

I went back over my Facebook page at that point, looking for something that I might have said that would have set her off, and found nothing. There are mostly pictures of the dogs, flowers, sunsets, etc. And occasionally a news article critical of Trump. And oh, yeah, and this morning I posted a "Happy Birthday Charles Darwin" meme............

So here's what I think. My parents (mostly my mom, my dad is gentle and sweet and doesn't have a mean bone in his body) are conservative Trump supporters and evangelical Christians. I get the feeling that the fact that I'm a liberal atheist is what my mom really means when she says I'm "vulgar" and that she's disappointed in me. It's not about Facebook, it's about differences in our fundamental life values. She went on and on in the same vein, though, telling me that she's ashamed of me. Although we don't have a very close relationship (she was emotionally abusive and an alcoholic when I was growing up....although thankfully the Evangelical Christian part didn't come along until later, after I had left home) that still hurt my feelings so bad. 

I've never called  her out on how ashamed of her I was growing up, or how much her behavior in those days hurt me. I decided a long time ago to forgive her and move on with my life (even though she never asked for forgiveness) and to go my own way. But even at the age of almost 42 years old, her words still have the power to hurt me so much.

This is how I finally ended our conversation today:

This is ridiculous. If you can find something specific on my Facebook page that you take issue with, I'll be glad to discuss it with you. Otherwise, I'm done with this conversation.

Because mother or not, I'm not allowing anyone to talk to me that way. I deserve better.

So as I was sitting there, still feeling stung over what had just happened, my bird Marco flew over onto the couch beside me. I absent-mindedly picked him up and out of habit went to kiss him on the beak....and he bit the @#$! out of my lower lip. I burst into tears, both from the pain in my lip and the pain in my heart.

So now I have a cut and swollen lip to go along with my bruised feelings. How's that for a nice morning?


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Scenes from a morning walk

Daffodils are beginning to bloom beside my house.

Beautiful sky on a windy February day.

Yet another blooming tulip magnolia in my neighborhood.

The dogs just finished leaving "pee-mail" for their buddy Bob the German shepherd.

It's a beautiful day outside, windy and cool with lots of sunshine and big fluffy clouds. I'm still struggling a bit with depression, but time spent outdoors with Ginger and George helps.

(Also, I finally found something new I want to read! Rumer Godden is one of my very favorite authors, and I've never been able to find a copy of  her book "Black Narcissus" which was made into a movie a long time ago. Last night I typed her name into a search engine on my Nook, and several of her books are now available for download...including Black Narcissus! I'll be reading for the rest of my afternoon off!)

Have a good one!