Sunday, July 14, 2019

Helper

This bird loves nothing more in the whole wide world than "helping" with laundry.


He loves it so much, in fact, that he'll scream with outrage if you dare to turn on the dryer or fill the washer without his Feathered Highness in attendance. If you want to preserve the peace in the house you have to let him come into the laundry room and supervise every step of the process.

Life with Marco.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Junk out, junk in

The campaign to organize and pare down the stuff in this house continues. I didn't know we had so much pure junk stashed away! Yesterday I pulled everything out of the closet in the office to try to get a handle on it, and I quickly realized I wished I had never started! What a mess! Holiday decorations (not just Christmas), gift wrap supplies, old coats and sweaters, framed awards received from my job in 2009-2011, old calendars I kept for the artwork, 10 years worth of Gregg's aquarium job receipt and record books, knick knacks, and on and on and on. I was overwhelmed. But I got most of it sorted and there's three boxes of stuff to either donate or take to the dump today. There's still more to do: we have stacks of old CDs and DVDs in the office that need to be sorted, alphabetized, and either stored someplace handy or donated. Then there are two more closets in the bedrooms that need the same treatment, and lots of stuff in our laundry room cabinets too. Arrgh!!!! I've had enough for the moment, though, and I'm taking a break from it today.

Ironically enough, what I plan to do today is to go start scouring thrift stores for some items we need for our house. I know, I know: didn't I just complain about all the junk I had (and still have) to sort through? Yes, but there are items we need and I've resolved to shop at thrift stores to try to find treasures for cheap. We need things to hang over our mantle, above our sofa in the living room, and something for the wall in the foyer. While we have several small pieces of art painted by friends that we intend to get matted and framed, none of it is large enough for those three spaces. We also need lamps, and we'd like some that are both interesting and inexpensive. It would be great if I could find a few larger items, too, as we're still looking to add two barstools to the kitchen counter and a real desk here in the office. I kind of doubt I'll find big items like that in thrift stores, but you never know: a new Habitat for Humanity home store just opened right down the street. I resolved at the beginning of the summer to browse some of these shops at least once a week or so to be on the lookout for all the things we want. I hope I'll get lucky and find a few good pieces! I'm not usually one to find the really great deals in thrift stores so we'll see. I wish my mother in law was still alive. She was the queen of thrift store/yard sale/discount shopping and could find really good stuff for a song--and she wasn't afraid to haggle over the price, either! Part of the reason she was so lucky at it was that she was retired and had lots of time to look. Right now, I have way more time than money, so starting today I'm going to go do the rounds of treasure hunting.

Hey, part of the reason for cleaning out the old junk was to make room!

Do you like to go thrift shopping? And if so, what kinds of good stuff have you found? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, July 8, 2019

The bounty of summer

I went by the school where I work the other day to drop off some honey and egg money. I buy them from the 4-H Club leader, one of our science teachers who not only keeps lots of hens at her home, but she's also a certified beekeeper who maintains our school apiary. Yes, our school has our very own honey to sell! Here is a picture of our "Spring Honey" (on the left) and "Autumn Honey" (on the right). Check out the difference in color!


While I was there dropping off the money, I observed that several of the small pollinator gardens scattered around the campus (planted by the 4-H Club and Environmental Action Club students) were blooming like mad. Here is one of them, right in front of the entrance to the school.

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There were several bees buzzing around, and if you look closely you'll see a butterfly sipping nectar from the coral colored flower just left of center.

Last week Marla called me up one afternoon and said her husband was coming by to give us something. I knew right away that her grandma must have sent us some fresh vegetables from her garden, and I was right! Look at these beauties!

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There's nothing like fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, and honey in the summertime!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Coming around

Good morning everyone! Thank you all for the supportive comments on my last post. I started back on my medicine a few days ago and I already feel a whole lot better. I've been trying to decide if the meds can really make a difference this fast or if I'm experiencing a placebo effect. After trying hard to be objective about it, I really think the meds are doing the trick. Within two days of taking the Zoloft I lost the emotionally fragile feeling I'd been walking around with for the past month. I'm also sleeping much better now and finally feel like I'm shaking the fatigue that's been dogging me so far this summer. Yay! I won't be so foolish as to simply stop taking the meds again without consulting my doctor.

Speaking of doctors, I probably should go see one about my foot. Specifically, the middle toes on my left foot---I think one of them may be broken. Yep, Miss Graceful strikes again! I got up the middle of the night last week to use the bathroom, and on my way back to bed I smacked my toes on the bottom of the exercise bike in my bedroom. Holy moly, did it hurt! And when I woke up the next morning the top of that foot underneath the toes had swollen and turned blue. I can't bear to touch the middle toe, and walking hurts pretty bad. I'm limping along taking Motrin and trying to walk on the side of my foot to accommodate the hurt toes. I hope it's just a couple of sprained toes and not a fracture, but even if it is a fracture I'm not sure there's much a doctor can do. Gregg suggested maybe I need one of those boot things. Wouldn't that be funny? A real summer fashion statement!

Today I'm going to work on starting some of the home projects I've got planned for this summer. Until I started back on the medicine I just couldn't muster the energy or will to do much of anything. All of a sudden I'm a month into my vacation and if I don't get a move on the summer is going to slip past. I'll be disappointed if I don't accomplish my list before going back to work. I've been making that list since we bought the house in November.

That being said, it's time to slurp down the last of the coffee and get to work. Today, reorganizing the kitchen cabinets is on the agenda. Everything got kind of crammed in willy-nilly when we were moving in last fall. Now that I've had time to use the kitchen I have a better idea of how things should be stored for maximum convenience. Another thing I need to do today (the first thing, in fact, before it gets too hot) is go out front and finish trimming the hedges. Gregg had the afternoon off yesterday so we did some yard work together, but it started raining when I was about 3/4 of the way through trimming the wildly out of control bushes in front. It shouldn't take over 30 minutes or so to complete.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Withdrawal

It's been almost a week since I posted here, and now June is just about finished. I wish this summer would slow down. It's passing by at lightning speed and I'll be back at work in no time.

I've been in a weird place, emotionally, for a couple of weeks now. Remember how I said I couldn't stop welling up with tears at our niece's wedding? I've been like that pretty much nonstop, over everything, recently. I alternate between tearful and emotional and irritated at the world. I'm not sure what's wrong with me, but I have an idea. About three weeks ago I stopped taking Zoloft. I've been taking a maintenance dose of it (50mg) for almost 20 years now. I think that's what's wrong.

I began Zoloft in desperation in my mid 20's after a particularly terrible, long lasting episode of OCD symptoms, crippling anxiety, and black depression. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) can be a horrible, debilitating mental illness although very few people take it seriously. I still have to bite my tongue when people say, "I'm so OCD!" when what they really mean is that they have a penchant for order or cleanliness. It's so not that. And it's not a joke, believe me.

 It would be painful and embarrassing to describe my symptoms here, and so I won't, but I'll leave you with just one example of what the hell of OCD is like. One time when in the throes of it, I hit a pothole in the road while driving my car. I could not (could not) shake the irrational fear that I had hit a person. I drove back around the block probably dozens of times, trying to reassure myself that it wasn't a human being and just a pothole that I had hit. No matter how much my logical mind told me that it was absolutely ridiculous and irrational, my anxiety was kicked up to a level where I was powerless to stop myself. When I finally managed to get myself back home that day, I spent hours obsessing over that damn pothole, still trying to reassure myself that I hadn't killed someone. Imagine this scenario, and now imagine dozens of scenarios just like that happening every single damn day....for months. I was a wreck, y'all. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep more than a couple of hours a night, just.....couldn't. Couldn't function. Couldn't shake it. Add in the fear of losing my job, exhaustion, unrelenting emotional misery....well,  those months were hell. I've had OCD since I was a small girl  (my dad has it too, it's a genetic thing) but never like that. I finally had to go to the county department of mental health (I couldn't afford a private psychiatrist and had no health care coverage at the time) and get myself prescribed something to try to crawl back out of the hole I was in. Eventually, slowly, over a period of two or three months, my symptoms subsided, my depression lifted, and I became a normally functioning human again.

Eventually, I cut the dose down to only 50mg and fast forward to now, almost two decades later. I've been (mostly) symptom free for years. I like to think I've found other ways to cope with my weird brain chemistry. I began to wonder if such a small dose as 50mg was really making much of a difference. I still have no psychiatrist; my family doctor (and in years past, my gynecologist) will happily write the script for my refills. While I appreciate the refills, I've started to think maybe I need to speak to someone who specializes in mental health before I continue to take SSRIs. A couple of weeks ago, I ran out of pills, and had not taken them for a few days before realizing it. I considered getting reupped, but then thought maybe a break (just to see how things went) wouldn't hurt anything, especially now since I'm off work for the summer.

Well, I haven't had any OCD symptoms (yet)  but I'm definitely experiencing withdrawals. There's the overly emotional responses to everything, like at the wedding. There were very vivid, weird, sometimes frightening dreams most nights for a week or two. There are the "electrical brain zaps" that you sometimes read about, the momentary dizziness that comes and goes, and worst of all there have been two instances where I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. Both times I woke up from a sound sleep feeling a strange tightness, a panicky fluttering, in my chest and the feeling of not being able to breathe right. It was scary.

Today I'm just feeling irritable and out of sorts. It's why I've been mostly absent from blogland this past week, since I have nothing good or positive to say. I'm wondering now if this is still withdrawals from Zoloft (how long could those possibly last, you know?) or if I'm just starting up my PMS week. Hormones and brain chemicals can be hell to deal with.

And I wonder if I should call in a refill of the meds, or if I should give this break from them a little more time to see what happens? Overall the worst of the withdrawal symptoms seem to have subsided a little. Of course, I worry about the return of the old OCD monster and depression, but I'm trying hard to be vigilant about that. Maybe I need to find myself a psychiatrist. Maybe I'll get lucky and Dr. Spo will read this post and give me a word of advice.

I'm not quite sure where to go from here. If anybody reading this has any experience with stopping SSRIs, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, June 24, 2019

A lovely day

Our niece's wedding on Saturday was simply beautiful. I've only ever attended a handful of weddings in my life, and I never considered myself the kind of person who would get emotional at them, but I surprised myself and my husband by brimming with tears over and over again. The first time was when we arrived at the venue, and I went into the dressing rooms with my sister in law to speak to the bride a few minutes before the ceremony. She looked so beautiful that the tears started right then and there:

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This picture wasn't quite as in focus as I would have liked, but it's one of the few
 I got before the ceremony. Isn't that a gorgeous wedding dress? 

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Examining Roxie's gift.
The couple had insisted that their little dog, Roxie, was going to be a part of the wedding. They had a tiny little veil that attached to her collar and a box that she was to carry in her mouth that contained the wedding rings. She sat in the front row with the bride's family, with the mother of the bride holding her leash. We had heard about this plan last week, and the manager and staff of the pet store where uncle Gregg works were delighted when he told them about it....and so they assembled a huge bag of expensive treats and toys for the "bridesmutt"! I made up a pretty gift basket....for the dog....complete with a tiny pink toy tiara I found at the dollar store. (The bride and groom had requested "no gifts" for themselves, but I knew that they'd be thrilled that we had a present for Roxie!) After I snapped that photo of Melissa looking at the basket, she gave Roxie one of the toys, and Roxie ran over to an upholstered settee, jumped up on it with her prize, and proceeded to shake and chew it. It made the bride and the girls in the wedding party laugh. 

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Roxie at the reception with the father of the bride.

I didn't take any pictures during the actual ceremony, of course. It was held outdoors by a small pond in front of a simple woven wood arch decorated with small bundles of pretty wildflowers. 

There were humorous moments, like when the nervous groom was asked, "Will you take Melissa to be your wife..." and he jumped the gun and said "I will!" before the officiant paused, smiled, and then continued "..........to love and to cherish her...." and all of the assembled guests laughed. Jay blushed adorably and laughed, too. It was so sweet. At least twice during the short ceremony I was helpless to stop the tears, and Gregg was surprised. He hadn't thought to bring a hankie, but when he noticed the tears rolling he smiled at me and gently squeezed my hand. I had to laugh at myself a little. When did I become such a softie?!



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The bride and groom. 

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I thought Melissa's hair looked lovely. I love the flowers tucked in at the back. This photo also shows off the back of her gown. 
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I can't believe that the tiny 3 year old girl with big eyes that I met when I first started seeing her uncle 20 years ago has grown up into a beautiful woman (beautiful on the inside as well as the outside) and is now a married woman. Where has the time gone? I hope that they will be happy, and that their marriage will be a long and a good one. It's clear to see that Jay is utterly besotted with and devoted to Melissa, and she's lit with happiness when she looks at him. May it always be so!        

       
            

Friday, June 21, 2019

Help me choose

A couple of you asked to see the dress I bought for the wedding on my last post. Here's a picture of it on the hanger, followed by the two pairs of shoes I bought. Which ones should I wear with it?




And here's the dress I got really cheap to begin with as a backup in case I failed to find anything better. I'm glad I found something else, to my eyes this looks too dark for a summer wedding, although the material is light and gauzy and cool. Maybe I can wear it to work sometimes in the fall. We'll have summer temperatures right through September at least.


Off to finish a few last minute chores around the house, and to sit outside for a few minutes for a little bit more sun on my legs, arms, and shoulders. There's not a whole lot left to do, thank goodness.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Getting ready

You'd think that a one night trip out of town would be easy enough to plan for, but I haven't found that to be the case. Of course I'm referring to our niece's wedding that's coming up on Saturday. I feel like I've done nothing but get ready (and spend money) for the past two weeks.

First there was finding a decent hotel room, which was expensive considering it's wedding and graduation season in a college town. The one I reserved is nice, but nothing fancy, and it's expensive enough that we could only afford one night after all the other costs of the trip (clothes and shoes for me, gas for the 12 hours of driving we'll be doing, a check up on the car that ended up costing us for a minor repair on the tire alignment, dry cleaning for the suit Gregg will wear, a gift card for my friend Martina who will be pet sitting, and on and on).

Then there was the aggravation of finding a dress. The first day I went shopping I found an inexpensive navy blue dress with gray and white trim on the bottom that would do if all else failed. Since it was so cheap on clearance, I bought it as a backup, but I wasn't altogether happy about the sober colors for an outdoor wedding in June. I continued to look and ended up finding a cream colored, floral patterned summer dress that I like much, much better. Despite how much I like it, I did have a moment of disgust with myself while trying it on, though. I hate the lighting in dressing rooms; when you're overweight it shows every flaw in your figure and every single ounce of cellulite. I would so love to be slim and to have a pretty silhouette. Sigh...

I'm never going to have a graceful figure; even at my lowest adult weight I was still tall, with broad shoulders, large breasts, and thick, muscular legs and arms. And I'm far from my lowest weight, even after the 30 pounds I lost last summer. It makes trying on clothes a chore to be dreaded, not a fun activity. But the dress does show off my body's few good features (I have some curves, at least, and my weight is distributed evenly) and it looks as nice as anything is going to look on me, I think. So that's okay. I was also pretty disappointed with the appearance of the skin on my ankles. I have terrible eczema, and I've been working hard for weeks to get the skin as well as possible to avoid stares and comments. I've been slathering on steroid cream several times a day, and making a huge effort to not scratch. It's hard. Eczema is a miserable beast. Right now my ankles look the best they've looked in years, but in the dressing room lighting it was still obvious that the skin is scarred. Oh well. I've done my best to minimize it.

Do I sound terribly vain yet? Probably. I'm sorry. Moving on....

Speaking of ankles, I finally found shoes to wear this morning. I went out shopping without my dress and had a hell of a time deciding what shoes would look best with it. It took over an hour and I finally ended up buying two pairs in hopes that one of them would work. And I got lucky, because they both look great! Now that my outfit is complete, and everything is done except for packing, I can relax a bit until we leave (really early Saturday morning).

I'll try to take a few pictures at the wedding and of the mountains where we'll be staying to share here next week. I'm sure it's all going to be lovely and we'll have a good time. It will be nice to finally meet our niece's new husband, and to see Gregg's family, but I'll be glad to get back home on Sunday evening and have it all done. Then I'll feel like my summer break can really begin.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Friday, June 14, 2019

Dragonflies, bats, and flowers

One of the classroom assistants at the school gave me a tray of  rooted gardenia cuttings on the last day before summer break. They're very small yet, so they're still in the tray they came in, sitting in filtered sunlight on the back porch. This morning a single, perfect gardenia blossom had appeared. It smells like heaven.

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The Brandywine tomato plants also have a few tiny yellow flowers, but they seem disinclined to actually turn into fruit. I remembered why I always got so frustrated growing them in the past; even when the weather is tomato-growing perfect (as it's been here for the past week or two), and even when the plants themselves are huge and green and healthy, they're stingy with their flowers and slow to set fruit. I won't be growing them again, no matter how good they taste. It's just not worth it.

Last night as we sat out on the porch enjoying the pearly-pink sunset and the unseasonably cool, pleasant weather, I noticed bats flying in curlicues in the air above our driveway. When I stepped outside to get a better look, I discovered that there were only three bats, but several large dragonflies were joining in with them in their sunset sky dance. Despite being less than 100 yards from the creek, we've seen very, very few mosquitoes at this house. I suppose the bats and dragonflies have a feast of them every evening in the summertime.

And have you ever noticed that dragonflies are companionable little creatures? They always seem to hover close when you're outside. Just this morning I was sitting in the back yard soaking up a little sun, and a dragonfly landed on my big toe and stayed there for a minute or two. What friendly little animals! 

Ah, June.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Talking to a bird (and a special day)

I was going to write about my wedding anniversary today, but we're putting off our celebration until we go to the mountains for our niece's wedding later this month. Gregg has to work today, and Wednesdays are his long days so he won't be home until at least 7pm tonight. We'd have been celebrating late in any event. But I do feel so very fortunate to be so happily married, 13 years today, to a good man, and usual I want to wish him a very happy anniversary here on the blog! :)

Instead of writing about all that, though, I thought I'd share a video I uploaded to YouTube this morning. Marco was in the mood to talk and I actually got him on film saying some of his catch phrases to me. Several of you have expressed interest in hearing him speak, so turn up the volume and listen carefully to this:


Have a good day, everyone!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Wedding season

We've been invited to three weddings so far this year, more than in all the years we've been a couple combined. Two are on the same date, June 22. The first (and the one we're attending) is our lovely niece Melissa's. The other is the music teacher at the school where I work, a young guy I get along well with and so he surprised me with a "save the date" card followed by an actual invitation. That was really nice of him because I don't have the impression he invited very many of our coworkers. Of course I had to decline since he picked the same day as Melissa, but he understood. 

I had to talk Gregg into going to the wedding. He's really introverted and hates big social events to begin with, and then it's going to cost us a nice chunk of money to attend. The venue is a 6 hour drive away, in the mountains of North Carolina, and requires taking two days off work for him. Then there's the cost of the hotel room we booked, and since it's a university town and the height of wedding and graduation season the prices are double what they should be. I have to buy a new dress and shoes (not that I mind that!) and we'll have to get a suit of Gregg's dry cleaned. Thank goodness Martina and/or Marla will be looking after the dogs and Marco while we're gone and we won't have to pay for boarding, but everything else is costly! But, all that being said, it means a lot to Gregg's sister, and her daughter is our favorite niece. We couldn't bear to miss the wedding and let the family down. 

I can't believe that the serious, bookish, introverted little girl I first met almost 20 years ago is going to be married! It makes me a little tearful when I think of it.

One of the bridal portrait photos...her mother sent me this earlier today.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

New friends

I've said it here before, I think, but it bears repeating: I'm rich in friendship. When I was in my 20's it seemed difficult to make new friends, but now in my 40s it seems to be a regular occurrence in my life.

This  morning I'm meeting a new friend for coffee, a woman named Norma. I met her at the school last week when she stopped in to pick up her son early for an appointment. She's from Mexico and her English is still rudimentary, so she brought her older son along to help translate. Since I'm trying to learn Spanish, I made an effort to speak it as much as I could, and she tried to hold up her end in English. (The older brother finally grinned and stepped aside and left us to it). Norma speaks English about as well I speak Spanish, which isn't saying a lot (ha!) but we had fun. Before she left she got my whole name, and when I left work that afternoon she had sent me a Facebook friend request. Which led to an hour of messaging back and forth and we've decided to get to know each other and help each other with our language lessons! How cool is that?

I have two Starbucks gift cards so I suggested meet up there this morning and get free drinks. (I don't care for Starbucks, but I appreciate the gift cards which were end-of-the-year presents from a couple of students and their families). Besides learning a new language, we discovered that we share a love of cooking, and last night Norma sent me a picture of the dinner she was making and this sentence, "You will learn to speak Spanish and you will learn to cook Mexican!" which made me laugh right out loud.

I'm looking forward to this new friend! Lucky me.

Friday, June 7, 2019

School's out

Today is the last day of school!

Actually, yesterday was the last day for students. Today is a "teacher's workday" and I'll be answering phones in the front office and cleaning out my desk for the summer. After today, I'm free until August!



In other good news, I'm mostly well again after that awful virus. I still have a little congestion in my chest, but overall I feel human again. About time, too.

Have a great day, everyone!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Random Sunday

I'm still sick. I thought by this point in the weekend I'd feel better, but this cold is fierce and refusing to let up. So in lieu of a real post, here are a couple of pictures and random tidbits.

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When I got home from work Friday afternoon this creature was  hanging out in our front yard. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Gregg found a turtle just like this one (maybe the same one) in our driveway and carried him back across the street to the ditch that leads down into the creek. I did the same thing in hopes that it would save it from getting squashed by a car if he headed back across the street on his own. It was about the size of a dinner plate and surprisingly heavy. See him peeking out at me? Pond sliders like this are common sights this time of year.

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One of my orchids is reblooming. This is the first time I've ever had one to rebloom. It sure is pretty!

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This is my latest Philippa Gregory read. I'm tearing through these novels about those wacky Tudors and Yorks during the Wars of the Roses. It's just like Game of Thrones, only without dragons. Great fun.

My last week of school before the summer break starts tomorrow! Here's hoping I'm over this damn virus by the time Friday gets here.


Friday, May 31, 2019

Summer cold

Two types of cold going on at my house:

1. The a/c is repaired....Hooray!!!! The best thing that's happened around here in weeks.

2. We're both sick with heavy colds. Is there anything more miserable than a cold virus during hot weather? Probably not much.

Yesterday at work I just wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere and die. I was miserable, what with sneezing, coughing, sweating, and body aches all while having to put on a pleasant face and run the front office. It was simply awful and the day dragged. I'm hoping today isn't just a repeat of that, but so far this morning I'm not very hopeful. I woke up feeling the same as yesterday.

At least it will be cool and pleasant in the house when I make it back home to collapse on the bed.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Warning: nothing but negativity today.

We're still waiting for our air conditioning to be repaired. I blew up at the person on the other end of the phone when I called the home warranty company for an update yesterday and she acted like she had no idea what was going on. After she refused to put her supervisor on the phone and told me to "call back tomorrow morning during business hours" I lost my cool and told her that if her supervisor didn't call me back first thing the next morning I was going to report them to the Better Business Bureau. Then I hung up on her and stomped into the kitchen.

Gregg: "Everything okay there, baby?"
Me: "I'm fine. Why?"
Gregg: "Because you never raise your voice like that."

Everyone always thinks that I'm "too nice". When I get mad and stand up for myself, people are usually shocked. Yes, I have a lot of patience. Yes, I'm very easygoing and it takes a lot to piss me off. But when I've had enough, I've had enough.

And it must have worked, because first thing this morning I got a call from the HVAC service the home warranty people are using, advising me that the parts to do the repair had arrived and someone will be out first thing tomorrow morning to finish the repair. Success! But I admit I spent hours stewing in my anger and frustration last night over this whole ordeal. It was 101 degrees again today, as it has been for almost a week now. I almost danced a jig right there at my desk when I got the call that the repair should be done tomorrow.

Add to all this that Gregg caught some kind of virus and was very sick over the weekend. He finally went to Urgent Care yesterday because he had a terrible sore throat, loads of congestion in his chest, and was running fevers. Not a good time to be stuck with barely functioning a/c. They gave him a strep and flu test (both negative) and decided that even though it's probably a viral thing, you don't take chances with someone who only has one lung and so they prescribed him antibiotics just in case. He has an appointment with the urologist next week to try to figure out what the "kidney blockage" is, and did I mention that they found something weird going on with his heart? "Systolic dysfunction" they're calling it, and we still have no idea what that even means. It definitely wasn't a good time for the home warranty/air conditioning people to blow off my repeated calls and emails! I was so mad! Sometimes you've just had enough.

Today I woke up with the beginnings of whatever Gregg has.  I've felt like total shit, with a raw feeling congested chest, body aches, chills, the whole nine yards. At the very least, it's a fierce summer cold. That phone call was the only good thing that happened to me today. Now that I'm home I want to crawl into bed and die. Thanks for sharing, honey!

Oh well. At least we should have a functioning air conditioner tomorrow, right? :)



Saturday, May 25, 2019

Memorial Day weekend

It's a holiday weekend, which means a three day weekend. Memorial Day. I'm grateful for the extra time off and a chance to relax a little. Also, the house is messy and needs some attention.

The heat wave, and the barely functioning air conditioner, continues. Sitting in an almost-too-warm room with the blinds drawn isn't very satisfactory, but at least it's comfortable enough to get by. I'm trying to avoid cooking and we're taking cool showers, but I finally had to break down and put on a load of laundry this morning. All of my shorts and tank tops/thin short sleeved shirts/camis were filling up the laundry basket and I've got to have some clean clothes. I plan to run the dryer on the coolest setting for the shortest possible amount of time, and the laundry room will be closed off. We're still getting periodic blasts of cool air from the a/c vents thanks to the misting water hose I have positioned in front of the unit, but I hate wasting the water (and dread the next water bill).

I did call the home warranty company for some kind of update yesterday, and the person I spoke with said that she could see that parts had been ordered the day after the technician came out. I'm taking that as a good sign that maybe the unit will be repaired, although I don't think there's a chance in hell that will happen until after Monday. It's a holiday weekend that happened to fall during a record-setting heat wave. The few technicians working will have their hands full, and probably charging holiday rates to boot. So we have to limp along as best we can. We do have a portable a/c on wheels that will cool a single room nicely if worse comes to worse. It was used for the dogs in our last garage when they lived outside. They're mostly indoor dogs these days, especially when the weather is bad. Like today...almost 100 degrees in the shade!

A couple of weeks ago at the big library sale downtown I bought my first Philippa Gregory book, The Red Queen. I liked it so much that I read it in about 3 days.  After having such a bad day on Wednesday (after meeting with the a/c technician I went back to work only to get yelled at and harshly insulted by a parent) I decided I deserved a small treat so I went by the bookstore, got coffee with friends, and bought a paperback copy of The White Princess. I'm finding that these books about the warring cousins trying to claim the throne of England is a good substitute for Game of Thrones! It's also nice to discover a new author to enjoy. She seems to be a most prolific writer so I'll have plenty of entertainment to look forward to. Are you reading anything these days? If so I'd love to hear about it.

For the long weekend, we'll probably do the traditional thing and grill out--a lot! It's no good heating up the house with the stove, and cold salads go great with grilled meats and corn on the cob. I may even try to get some strawberries, if there are any left after the heat we've had this week.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

     

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Being hot doesn't help

We've already set a record this week for high temperatures in May. On Tuesday it was 97 damn degrees and it's not even June yet. Early next week the high temperature is supposed to be 103F. It's ridiculous.

And to make matters worse, our air conditioning isn't working properly. When we were in the process of closing on this house, we discovered that the HVAC is 36 years old! Since it was still functional, the seller wasn't compelled to do anything about it, and we were too far gone in the closing process to renegotiate anything. Because of that, primarily, we purchased a home warranty so that if it (or anything else) broke in the first year it would be covered. Well. All good, right?

Wrong! We put in a request for a service call, and when the technician arrived yesterday he found that the previous owner had rigged something up to make the a/c work...and a fan in the motor is not diverting hot air away from the unit. So when the temperature rises during the day, the motor shuts down because it's overheating. And since it's a rigged together "fix" the technician is doubtful that the warranty company is going to cover the repair. Which will be in the $200-$300 range for another pieced together fix because the unit is so old that original replacement parts are hard to find.

I have a feeling we're not going to have any choice but to dip into our savings to purchase a whole new unit. That will easily be several thousand dollars, at least. We will, of course, wait for a decision about the repair from the home warranty company before we do anything.

In the meantime we have a temporary fix....a water hose positioned in front of the unit with a fine mist of water spraying on it. It keeps the unit cool enough to work. Who knows what our water bill will look like though.

It's bad enough to be stressed out...but to be hot too....it's just too much!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Plenty of reason to be happy....

My sweet little niece at her birthday party...
The first taste of birthday cake was a hit!


A rainbow appeared above our house last night. The colors were impossible to capture with my phone camera. It was much brighter and more colorful than it seems in this picture. 



One of my orchids actually rebloomed for me. I found this flower early this morning.
Despite all these good things, I can't seem to shake this low level sadness I'm feeling. Is it my husband's continuing health concerns, the political situation, the advent of blazing hot summer temperatures (and our a/c breaking already.....a repairman is coming tomorrow), work stress, or all of the above? I don't know. It is what it is, I suppose. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A whole year already

I'm off to a birthday party this afternoon!


It's hard to believe, but little Carsen will be a year old on Tuesday! We all love her to pieces. I'm going to be the boring auntie that always buys books for her. Luckily her mommy and daddy read to her every night, and her nursery has bookshelves with her very own collection of books being built. I do hope she will love reading as she grows! I have a couple of books here at my home that I plan to read to her when she's big enough to stay over: The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, The Velveteen Rabbit, a beautifully illustrated hardback copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a first edition of Dinotopia. I also have the first 5 books of the Little House series in one hardback edition, but once she's old enough to read I plan to buy her a set of those of her own. A child that loves books is always my favorite kind of child!

Carsen's main gift today is a beautiful hardback book of Mother Goose rhymes. I spent the better part of the afternoon at the bookstore yesterday looking for just the right thing. The illustrations are gorgeous in this book and I hope they capture Carsen's imagination as she grows!


And so that she would have at least one book that she can hold (and drool on) right away, I bought her another book made for toddlers. It features squishy, crinkle-y sea animals: turtles, crabs, sharks, whales, and sea horses. I chose it since her "uncle" Gregg is known for his love of animals found in the water.


As I wrapped the books yesterday Gregg remarked on what a lucky little girl she is--to have so many people that love her and want to make her happy. I suspect today's party will be extra nice. For one thing, Marla and Toyo wouldn't agree to any kind of baby shower or party before Carsen was born. As some of you may remember, their first baby only lived a few days and never got to come home to the fully furnished nursery and the dozens of gifts waiting for her. Their caution during the next pregnancy was understandable, and so there hasn't been any special event for Carsen until now. Marla and (especially) Toyo have large families that dote on the baby, and lots and lots of friends, too. In addition, they just bought a new house last month and will be eager to show it off. Their move was so recent that I haven't even seen the place yet.

I'm so happy for their little family: a beautiful little girl with a first birthday to celebrate, a new home with space for their growing family where they can make a fresh start, and lots of friends and family to celebrate their good fortune with.

So I'm off to a birthday party! Have a great Sunday, everyone.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Crazy neighbor strikes again

Yesterday morning after I left for work, Gregg put the dogs outside and fed them their breakfast. Then he got in the shower. When he got out, George was barking at the back door to be let back in. Gregg let him in after what could NOT have been over 10 or 15 minutes of barking, and 5 minutes after that Crazy Neighbor showed up at the door, ranting and raving and screaming about our dogs "who have been barking for 2 hours!!!" Gregg was still in his bathrobe, not having had time to get dressed. He got right in the guy's face and told him that we've already spoken to the police, that he's not welcome on our property, and the next time he steps foot in our yard we're calling the police on him for trespassing and harassment. He finished by saying, "We're done here" and the Crazy Neighbor snarled, "Oh, we'll see about that!"

Gregg was furious. I'm pretty mad, but I'm starting to get nervous. The old man is clearly unhinged.

I spoke to another police office last night about the situation (we have Spanish class together) and he said to not answer the door next time....just call the police immediately.

I'm afraid he's going to do something to hurt our dogs. We're starting to consider buying a camera for the back yard to keep an eye on things. What do you think?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day

I drove the 30 miles or so today to have lunch with my parents. Here's what I got my mom for Mother's Day:



Speaking of Mother's Day, look what my parents found buried deep inside one of my dad's rose bushes:



Those are mockingbird eggs. Just before I took this picture we watched the parent birds join forces with a gang of blackbirds and chase off a large hawk. That kept them distracted for long enough that I was able to snap a couple of pictures. Talk about a safe nest-- it's surrounded by wicked sharp thorns!

I hope all the mothers out there reading have had a nice day!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Letting off some steam!

I was set to write a post today about the two male pets in my house--George and Marco. They both misbehave so often that I sometimes mix up their names when I'm yelling at them. It's probably a funny sight--me calling a bird by the dog's name and vice versa like a frustrated mother whose kids have pushed her to the edge! Ginger, of course, is the perfect dog and never does bad stuff but the boys in the house are troublesome. Ah well. I wonder what people without pets do for entertainment? There's never a dull moment around here!

Instead, I'm finding myself still stewing in irritation from the work day. It was 50 shades of chaos in the office and by 9:30am I was ready to strangle some of my coworkers. It was the same old thing: too much stuff going on, too many people needing too many things at once, phones ringing off the hook and parents cursing at whoever happened to answer the phone (me), half of the administrators and one of the guidance counselors out sick, and me being by myself handling everything because the two or three people who could've pitched in to help had either disappeared entirely, or were sequestered in their (private) offices with the doors shut. I was so damn mad.

I'm going to have to have a sit down with the principal in the very near future. I've had enough.

I'm also irritated as hell at some of the medical care my husband has been getting recently. He finally saw his doctor friend, a prestigious pulmonary specialist who now sits on the board of the hospital, and he immediately questioned the diagnoses and treatment Gregg's been getting. The good news (and I am grateful for this) is that it's looking less and less likely that he has a blood clot on his kidney and the testing they've done so far has concluded that his heart is fine. The problem is that there's some sort of obstruction in the kidney and they have to get to the bottom of it still. And our doctor friend was very upset when he found out that our family doctor and the kidney specialist she sent us to failed to contact Gregg's oncologist right away. When a patient has a history of stage 3 cancer, the oncologist should be notified immediately of any new health concerns, particularly a kidney blockage. Gregg's been wasting time and taking medication he doesn't need, as well as having lots of expensive and uncomfortable tests run that were probably not necessary. And to top it all off, no one thought to share his information with his oncologist! Unbelievable. And the nurse at our family doctor's office had the nerve to get defensive when Gregg told her that he needed to make an appointment to discuss these new findings! She's probably afraid that they'll be in trouble with our friend since he has so much power and influence at the hospital. And what about people who don't have a great doctor friend looking out for them? What happens to them? I'll tell you what--substandard care. It's despicable and it just burns me up. Not normal "everyone is human" mistakes, but mistakes that come from carelessness. Medical people need to be held to a higher standard.

But anyway, enough with all that. It felt good to type it all out, but I'm not going to let the rest of the evening be ruined. I'm home now, the sun is shining, and the screened porch (and a glass or three of wine) await. Maybe Marco won't screech at ear splitting levels (which he did yesterday when we had him out on the porch) and George won't bark like a crazy dog if the neighbors walk by with their little anklebiter dog on a leash (which also happened yesterday).

Oops...too late. She just walked past, and of course George barked like a hellhound. I went out back and yelled at him to stop. Hey, at least I didn't call him Marco this time!



Sunday, May 5, 2019

The weekend in pictures

The view from our local library's entrance. Three friends and I went to the annual "Big  Book Sale" first thing Saturday morning, then had breakfast afterwards.
Friend Karen waiting for me to finish taking a few photos.

Martina came over Saturday night, and here is some of the food we had. She brought the gorgeous berries.

Food sent home with Martina for her husband, Will. Two kinds of cheeses, guacamole, chicken salad, and fruit.

Having drinks on the porch with me last night!

Ginger loves Martina and hated to see her leave.

On the porch this morning with one of the books I bought at the sale yesterday.

A few of the herbs and flowers I'm growing on the porch.

On March 10th, I planted the pomegranate that had been living in a pot for years beside the window looking out from our den. It's been growing noticeably since going in the ground. I took that picture this morning.




Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Happy May Day!

I didn't want to let the first of May go by without wishing you all a happy day (and month!). I also wanted to share an essay from my favorite nature writer, Hal Borland, to commemorate the holiday.

May 1st
May Baskets
"Do youngsters anywhere still hang May baskets, or has May Day become wholly a date of social significance?
There was a time when May Day meant sentiment. It was preceded by a busy week when young fingers were weaving baskets and small cornucopias out of colored paper. Between spells of basket-making, scouting expeditions were made to the woods and fields, to see how the season went with wild flowers. And at least one trip was made to the candy store.
On April's last day, as late as possible, the scouting expeditions were followed up. Purple violets, preferably those big, dark, long-stemmed ones which grow at the edge of the swamp, were picked. Dogtooth violets were gathered. And windflowers, if any were to be found. Spring beauties were sought, and Dutchman's breeches. And the most delicate of young fern fronds were gathered for garnish. All were carried home in the dusk and stowed carefully in cups and glasses of water.
May Day morning called for early rising. In the bottom of the basket or cornucopia were put a few jelly beans left over from Easter, a few gumdrops, and at least one heart-shaped wafer candy printed with coy words of affection. Then the flowers were added till the basket brimmed with beauty. And at last, before breakfast if possible, the trip was made to Her house, where the basket was hung on the doorknob. The bell was rung and the basketeer ran like mad, to hide around the corner until She came and found the tribute.
That was May Day, in the morning, when there was sentiment in the date. The candy might be cheap, the flowers somewhat wilted; but the sentiment was real. What ever happened to it, anyway?"
Hal Borland
"Sundial of the Seasons"
May 1949

I remember having a Maypole and some kind of "May Queen" thing at school when I was a young girl, but I haven't heard any mention of such things in many, many years. I would love to revive the old custom of leaving little posies for the neighbors on their doorsteps, though. Well, maybe not for Crazy Neighbor but the others I've met have been nice. Especially the sweet 80 year old lady who lives next door--I like her a lot. Maybe next year I'll remember and buy her a little bouquet of daisies to leave on her steps.

We're doing okay here. Gregg isn't hurting quite as much and he got the pain medicine he needs just in case. He goes for a stress test (for his heart) on Friday and then he has some more tests later this month. Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of things and get it all resolved.

Going back to work after spring break wasn't too painful. It really helps to like your job, not to mention the fact that summer break is only 25 (school) days away. This morning the principal called out from his office, "Mrs. Barlow, can you come in here, please?" and when I went it he looked grim and told me to shut the door and sit down. I felt dread creeping all over me and braced myself for whatever was coming. Then he smiled broadly and told me that classified district employees get an evaluation every two years, and he had just completed my first one. He rated me as "Exemplary" in all categories, which was the highest rating, and wrote some really nice comments at the end. I nearly cried--evaluations were always traumatic at my old job. Not only were they often very unfair, but they were always slightly demeaning. (It was that way for all the employees, the company made a practice of never giving very positive reviews in an effort to keep the yearly raises small). It's so nice to work in a place where you feel valued! I told Mr. Oates that I love my job, and he replied, "We love having you here." Wasn't that nice of him? :)

Anyway, it's been a pretty good first of May. How has yours been? Did you give anyone flowers, dance around a Maypole, or somehow mark the occasion? I hope everyone has had a good one!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Well, damn.

Gregg's appointment with the kidney doctor on Friday didn't yield much new information. He basically repeated what we had already heard: yes, a renal blood clot is rare; the most important thing is to figure out why it happened; blood thinners are the main treatment. They've scheduled him for some heart tests starting May 3rd to see if there's an underlying condition there, and then he goes back to the nephrologist in four months for a checkup, barring anything else happening to his kidney in the meantime.

The only good news was that the affected kidney may not necessarily have permanent damage after all this is over. When Gregg asked why it's still hurting so much, the doctor said, "Think about a heart attack. This is basically the same thing, but in your kidney. Yes, it's very painful." Gregg then told him that he was almost out of pain medicine, the guy told him to see his regular doctor, since pharmacies will "flag" pain prescriptions from more than one doctor. Okay, fine, Gregg said, and then went by our family doctor's office right afterwards to ask for a refill. And guess what? The doctors at her practice take half days off on Fridays, and there was no one there to give him the refill. He asked the nurses: "So what the hell am I supposed to do this weekend? Go back to the ER and spend another $10,000 if the pain gets bad and I run out?" to which they replied "Probably."

Can you believe that? It all makes me so mad!

And then, of course, the pain has been getting bad again. He's down to his last couple of pain pills and they probably won't last until tomorrow when (hopefully) his doctor will be back in her office. In fact, the pain was so bad this morning that he seriously thought about going to the ER again anyway.

This seems beyond ridiculous that he's still hurting so much and no one seems to have any sense of urgency about helping him. Maybe we got spoiled when he was going through cancer treatment....you always have access to your doctors and to pain management drugs when you have cancer!

He plans to have a serious talk with his doctor tomorrow about his medical needs and whether or not she's going to be taking them seriously enough to continue to serve as his GP. I realize she's not a specialist,but after the serious health issues he's had, he deserves better care than this and when he has a problem it needs to be given more urgent attention than this. I hope she apologizes and tries a little harder. Finding a new GP is another headache we don't need right now.

This morning Gregg apologized for "ruining your spring break" which made me feel terrible. I don't care about spring break, there will be more. I just wish he could start to feel better. It scares me when he's in pain and I'm feeling a constant low level anxiety that I'm doing my best to keep under control.

Not a great way to end the vacation, though. Wish me luck that we don't end up in the ER tonight.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Solution

I hit on an idea for blocking Crazy Neighbor's camera just by chance this morning while messing around in the garage.





My big, tall, plastic jack o lantern has been called into service this morning--during the month of April, no less! He's currently grinning directly at the camera while blocking most of the view.

Take that, creeper!