Saturday, December 31, 2016

Random pictures to finish out the year

I won't recap 2016, because it was a less than stellar year on many fronts, but I will say that I'm really looking forward to 2017. I have plenty of plans for the new year which I'll tell you more about later. I hope it's a good one for us all!

Here are a few pictures I wanted to share for my last post of 2017.

The sky on the last morning of the year.

The camellias are blooming like mad.

Marco is always up to no good. Here he was yesterday stealing nuts from the can beside me on the couch. This morning I caught him crunching on a coffee bean that had escaped the grinder. I'm surprised he's never made himself sick.

Another new fish. This little betta charmed Gregg at the pet store and found himself a home. We put him in a 2 gallon tank with some live plants, and it gets good sunlight in the afternoon. I wish this picture did his amazing color more justice!

George made me late to work yesterday. He ran into the back yard when I was attempting to put him on a leash (which is the only way I can back the car out of the garage without him escaping and running all over the neighborhood) and would not come to me for hooking up! He thought it was a fun game, and I ended up 15 minutes late for work.

Ginger being silly.

That's it for me! See you all next year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Preparing for a new year

Do any of you have any superstitions surrounding the arrival of a new year?

My mother never fails to warn me to get our laundry caught up. My grandmother always said that washing clothes on New Year's day would "wash away" a member of the family. I know it's nonsense, but who wants to tempt fate over something like that?

Grandma, my mom, my baby cousin, and me circa 1993. I was 18 years old.

Grandma always insisted on "Hoppin' John" and greens for dinner on New Years Day. The black eyed peas were for luck, and the greens for money. I had neither on New Years Day this year. No wonder I've been unlucky and broke! I'm buying black eye peas today to put on to soak tomorrow, and I saved the bone from our Christmas ham to cook with them. I have cooked collard greens in the freezer ready to be reheated. My mom made some for the meal we had together right before Christmas and I brought some home in freezer cups for later. (Gregg won't touch collard greens, so I rarely bother to cook them for just myself. He'll have to have green beans for the "money" portion of our meal on Sunday.)

Today I'll be giving our house a thorough cleaning in addition to doing laundry. I like the idea of starting a new year with a clean house. A work friend who grew up in the same little town as me (we went to high school together) told me that her family always puts a dollar bill under the front door mat on New Year's Eve to bring money in the new year. I had never heard of that, but I may do it! What could it hurt, right? Honestly, I want a new job in 2017....maybe I should put a copy of my resume under the mat along with the dollar!!!

Anyone here have traditions for welcoming a new year and bringing luck that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Another good one

It was a nice (if quiet) Christmas at my house. I have no complaints whatsoever!

Christmas Eve I had to work, of course, but I have to admit that the three merchandise managers (of which I am one) didn't do much at all. The store wasn't terribly busy, there was a lot of staff on hand, so we spent the day casually scanning the stockroom for clearance, taking breaks to go out into the mall for last minute gift shopping, eating cookies and treats in the break room, and generally having a good time together. I am so very grateful for the other two merch managers this year; we all get along great and help each other deal with the stress of a generally bad work environment and a difficult ASM and store manager. I got them small gifts, and also one for the full time Children's Lead because I like her a lot, too. I got the idea for them from Pinterest:

Canned Starbucks Expresso and Cream drink with Bailey's Irish Crème and a  "Merry Xmas" glass mug.

Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum with Coke.

These gift bags with bears wearing scarves made me laugh, so that's what I put the gifts in. I added the conversation bubble with "Cheers!" and each person's name.  These drinks were a big hit!

I got home just before 8pm and Gregg was already here. We had a ton of food, most of which I had bought ready-made. Every year I get a small mini ham from Honeybaked Ham, and it's delicious. We also had veggies and dip, crockpot meatballs, an assortment of nice cheeses and crackers, fresh pineapple, deviled eggs, homemade cranberry sauce with mandarin oranges and walnuts, pickles and olives, assorted cookies and candies, benne (sesame) seed wafers, sugared pecans, and on and on. We always eat well on Christmas Eve!

I only got a couple of pictures of the food but we had loads more. That last photo was of my third rum and Coke of the evening. I had bought wine, but never ended up drinking it, so later today when Marla comes over we'll get into that!

Christmas Day was nice, too. We had loads of leftovers (we still do, in fact) and Gregg had brought home a huge bagful of dog treats from the pet store on Christmas Eve for Ginger and George. Marco got a big shiny toy with a bell on the bottom that he loves. I had gone to see my parents a few days before Christmas so there was no need to leave home, and we didn't. We stayed in pjs until early afternoon, ate, watched movies, played with the dogs, and then went on two long walks with them. The weather was unseasonably warm that afternoon. Although I prefer cold weather on Christmas, I had to admit that walking around the neighborhood park in short sleeves was kind of nice.

A mild winter day at the park.

Ginger and her favorite human. Look how happy she is!

Getting the dogs to look at me for a photo is hard. They don't like my camera nonsense!

After another walk when the sun went down, we settled in for the evening. I had to go to bed early; my wake up time for the 26th was 4am! The other two merch managers and I had to go to work at 5am to take down all of the holiday promotions and set up the clearance sale. I know that sounds horrible, but it wasn't too bad. The store didn't open until 9:00, and didn't get busy until noon, and we were all off at 1:30pm. I came home, had a ham sandwich, took a long nap, and then had another good evening with Gregg and the animals. I'm off today. Marla is coming over later this afternoon for wine and talk. She's always so busy with family that we always wait until a day or two after Christmas to get together. I'm looking forward to seeing her!

So it's been a good Christmas! I hope it has been for all of you, too!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A wish for all of you

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! Thank you for being here. Thank you for being my friend.

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

With love from our home to yours,

Jennifer, Gregg,
Ginger, George, and Marco

No automatic alt text available.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Solstice Day

This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the years's threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.
                                       Margaret Atwood

Happy Midwinter Day! The Solstice is here. It's a time to be still, to reflect, and then to celebrate the return of the Sun. May we all find comfort and joy during the long nights as we await the return of the light!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Thank you all for your kind comments on my post yesterday. I appreciate all of your well wishes and support more than you know. I wish I had known you all back when my husband got sick. I was blogging then, but had very few followers and had yet to meet most (all?) of you in late 2011/early 2012. It would have been a wonderful source of support during the darkest time of my life. At times I felt very, very alone in those days.

I didn't want to mention this yesterday until Gregg got the "all clear"....but it was exactly 5 years ago that he got his cancer diagnosis. That means he's passed what I consider a very important milestone, and one I secretly feared he would never see. The 5-year survival rate for stage 3B lung cancer is a dismal 5%. I found that statistic early on and nearly despaired. My husband is a lucky, lucky man. Lucky to have as a long-time personal friend the head pulmonary specialist at McLeod hospital here in Florence, who pulled out all the stops to get the cancer treated quickly and aggressively by the best doctors, surgeons, and oncologists in the area. Lucky that he was relatively young and in good health (except for the giant tumor in his left lung, of course) and could stand an aggressive course of treatment. Lucky to have good health care insurance that paved the way for any and all tests and treatments to be done immediately. He may have lost an entire lung, and chemotherapy was hell, but he's here today and healthy. Nothing could be luckier than that!

I expected yesterday to feel momentous, but it was strangely anticlimactic. The oncologist didn't even mention the 5 year thing. Gregg will still be on a 6 month follow up schedule, at least for now, because they made an appointment for next June. After seeing the doctor yesterday, he went back to work and it was just a regular day. When I mentioned the milestone to him last night, he kind of shrugged it off and changed the subject. It didn't feel all that momentous to him.

But to me, it feels like a miracle.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The day may never come.....

.....when my husband getting a check up at the oncologist won't be a frightening prospect.

Today is his 6-month follow up, and while I'm sure everything is okay, I've learned that you never can know when your life is about to come crashing down around you. He texted me while waiting (they always draw blood and then he has to hang out for an hour or so while it's tested) to tell me that he's lost 4 pounds. That's since June, and I'm sure it's probably no big deal.....but it still scares me. Significant weight loss is a red flag. Not that 4 pounds is significant, but still. He just had a scan in June, and everything was perfect, so today they're just doing the blood work. I'm sure he's fine. But I'll feel better when I get the "all clear" call or text.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday Cheer

Today I dove into the closet where our holiday decorations are stored, and set out to give our house some Christmas cheer. I had a fun afternoon going through stuff and picking a few items to put out on display.

First up, I moved the lighted wreath from the table to the front door. I added a few ornaments and a big silver bow, but kept it relatively simply, as you can see.

It's much prettier after dark. Here's a shot I got from inside the house just as the sun was setting.

Once I moved the wreath, our table looked very bare. I'd forgotten about the small tabletop tree  stashed away in the closet, and with the addition of some multi-colored copper wire string lights and tiny little colored balls it looks kind of cute up there. I still need a topper for it and maybe some other small decorations, but this is it so far.

And as the sun was setting....

For the den I dressed up the mantle above the fireplace with a lighted pine garland, some strands of shiny red beads, and holiday candles. We've gotten three Christmas cards so far and they're up there, too.

Now I'm sitting back with a glass of ice-cold eggnog (liberally spiked with rum) and getting ready to watch a movie. A beef pot roast has been simmering in the crockpot all afternoon and our house smells wonderful. Tonight is forecast to be the coldest night of the year so far. I like for it to be cold at Christmastime. Maybe later I'll light the fireplace for the first time this year.

I'm beginning to feel a tiny bit festive! How about you?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Catching up (or, why I hate this time of year)

Christmas is only 11 days away, and as usual, I'm way behind. Retail jobs are the worst when the holidays roll around and there's precious little time or energy left over each day to prepare. Even with the modest little celebration that we have in my house, getting ready for it is always a struggle.

Today is my first day off since last Wednesday. Every single day at work has been between 10-12 hours long, often not ending until midnight. We're super busy; we have four or five times the numbers of customers shopping, needing assistance, placing orders, wrecking the store (the recovery each night is a nightmare) and spending money. Then all that extra cash flow makes balancing tills, safe drops, bank runs for change, and sorting out discrepancies that much more work added to the day. For fun, add in all the big events, like the Harry Potter winter ball we hosted on Friday night (over 100 people showed up for that). We're all run off our feet. My pedometer shows that I'm walking 5 or 6 miles every shift!

After all that work, guess how much energy I have left to prepare for Christmas once I get home....I'll tell you: not much. All I feel like doing is eating a sandwich, drinking a glass of wine, and zoning out over an episode or two of Game of Thrones. And then collapsing in bed!

But the holiday is coming whether I'm prepared for it or not, and I need to do some stuff. I'm off today and tomorrow and the majority of the shopping and the last of the decorating have to happen now if they're going to happen at all. It's going to be a busy two days.

Honestly, I'm just ready for this all to be over.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Flowers in Winter

I have a soft spot for neglected houseplants for sale. Usually you can get them dirt cheap (pun intended) when you point out their sad condition to a sales person.

Two years ago I bought two pitiful looking African violets that were almost dead at Walmart. I only paid a couple of dollars each for them. I took them home, gave them lots of tender loving care, and just look at them now. They live beside a sunny window in my bedroom.

Two weeks ago I rescued two dried out, drooping Christmas cactus from the produce section at the grocery store. They were the last two that looked salvageable. I brought them home and potted them up together in a medium size pot. They perked right up and are looking nice.

This last photo is of flowers I can't take any credit for. I picked these camellias in my back yard. They remind me of winter roses and are brightening up my kitchen window.

It's nice having flowers in December!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ready or not..

Christmas will be here in no time flat. Only 18 days left. This month will fly by, as it always does, and as usual at this point in the year, I've done very little to prepare.

I guess it would be different if we had a bigger (or closer) family, if there were any kids involved, or if we were religious. Since it's just me, Gregg, and our houseful of pets the celebration is usually pretty limited. Buying and putting up a Christmas tree seems kind of pointless, since no one will see it but us. I had looked forward to my friend Marla's baby this Christmas. Little Alice would have been nearly a year old by now had she lived and I had made plans last year to put up a tree and lots of lights just for her. It's strange to miss someone that you never got a chance to know. How I would have spoiled that little girl! And of our nieces and nephews, the youngest just turned 21 years old and is away at college. I doubt we see her at all this holiday season, or her brother and cousins. Too much decorating just seems like a big drain of time and resources under the circumstances.

I did go through the closet where we store holiday stuff and pull out a few things that were easily set up (and will be easily taken down) yesterday. Here's one of them: a lighted wreath for our dining room table:

I also strung a big string of colored lights above the dogs' bed in the garage for fun. We always use the garage as our main entrance so it's cheerful to see the lights once it gets dark. Ginger, George, and Marco all have stockings that we will hang up by the fireplace on Christmas Eve . (Their daddy always brings home tons of treats and toys from the pet store to fill them with). Gregg and I usually try to buy one big mutual gift together at Christmas to save the extra stress of shopping for each other--this year we're planning to buy a new, nicer tv. We always do small gifts for friends and coworkers, something inexpensive and preferably consumable like wine or cookies or a candle. One good morning out, and I can get all of our shopping done relatively easily. And I just picked out our Christmas cards and started preparing them to send. That's one holiday tradition I enjoy and wish more people took part in. I love holiday cards!

How are you all preparing for the big day?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Work stuff

This month started on a sour note. I almost quit my job last week.

Quit as in, throw my keys down on the manager's desk and walk out in the middle of a shift without a new job to go to. Which is completely out of character for me, but there's a limit to the emotional abuse one person can or should take at a job.

I won't go into details, but the assistant manager (one step above me on the chain of authority) is the most narcissistic, awful bully I've ever had the misfortune to know. I'm not exaggerating when I say he's probably leaning towards being a sociopath. The general manager, the one person in the store with authority over him, is a weak, easily influenced woman who avoids confrontation and ends up getting railroaded by this guy, too. A group of us, myself and the other merchandise manager, the community relations manager, and a handful of other people have started taking actual written notes of incidents when he mistreats us so we'll have documentation if we eventually end up going to HR. That's how bad things have gotten.

But back to last week. I experienced some really awful treatment and suddenly I was at the end of my rope. Just......done. I called my husband in tears and told him I was about to leave, that I had had enough of this shit and didn't plan to take it for another minute. He talked me down by saying that I shouldn't make such a huge decision when I was so emotional, and advised coming home and sleeping on it for a night before deciding. It was sensible advice and saved me from making a mistake, but a tiny part of me regrets not walking out in a blaze of righteous fury, never to return to that hateful, toxic environment ever again! But I'd have regretted being without an income and health insurance even more. Not to mention it's just not the right thing to do.

I did go confront the store manager that next time I saw her, and informed her that half the staff are documenting the ASM's abusive behavior. If it's not addressed, we'll have to go to HR. I told her how close I was to walking out the other night, and she stared at her feet and said, in a small voice, "Please don't do that." Since then, the jerk's behavior to me has been cold and aloof, which is just fine with me. He's leaving me strictly alone and that's a huge relief. And since I have the support of over half the staff who get treated the same way (the other half are too new to have experienced his should be no surprise that we have huge employee turnover) I don't feel completely powerless. Still, I dread going to work every single day and so do several other people there. It's such a shame, too, because we all agree that as retail jobs go ours can be pretty fun at times and most of us like each other.

Oh well, as Gregg keeps reminding me, if I keep up the serious job search, sooner or later the right position will come along and I'll get it. Then I can close the door on this chapter of my life and move on. What a happy day that will be!

Speaking of the job hunt, I'm about to begin a volunteer position with a non profit organization that I'm super excited about! It's called Reach Out and Read Carolinas. On Wednesday I'll be attending my first meeting of the Community Advisory Board for ROAR at McLeod Hospital here in Florence. McLeod pediatricians work with them to promote early literacy (reading with babies and toddlers) for improved cognitive development of their patients. Not only do I have a lot of affection for this organization and will be proud to do volunteer work with them, but I'm hoping to make my resume a bit more attractive and to demonstrate that I'm more well-rounded than my many years of retail management would suggest. I have a degree in Human Services, after all, but haven't had much opportunity to use it. And who knows where a volunteer position doing something I love might lead?

Somewhere good, I hope.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November sunset

November has been coming to a close with some beautiful sunsets this past week. A couple of days ago at work I stepped outside to snap a picture of one. We have a good view of the western sky above our parking lot.

 It's nice to take a moment to stop and appreciate something pretty for a few minutes.

Can you believe that tomorrow is the first of December already?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Puppies, Parrots, and Peacocks

I have the sweetest puppies in the world. And yes, they will always be
referred to as "puppies" no matter how old they get! Just look at these two....


My parrot, Marco, is a real character. Yesterday morning he took a shower with me. When I put him back in his cage, I covered it with a drape so he could dry off without a draft from the ceiling fan above him giving him a chill. One corner in the upper left was open. A little while later, when I was about to leave for the day, Marco was hanging out there watching me gather my things. I said to him, "Jennifer's gotta go to work."
He looked me dead in the eye from the top corner of his cage and replied, 
"Alright. You be a good boy, ok?"

The pirate himself eating breakfast this morning.

A few weeks ago Gregg brought home a beautiful little baby African cichlid for me!
He's a Red Shouldered Peacock, and although he's still a baby, check out the awesome color he's already got!(And please excuse the quality of these photos. Aquarium fish are notoriously difficult to photograph, even for someone trying harder than I was).

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Oh, the pain!

It's been a rough week.

Thanksgiving morning began with me waking up to a stomachache that lasted all day. It felt exactly like a gallbladder attack (pain under my ribs radiating to my back) except I no longer have a gallbladder. I couldn't eat anything I had prepared for our holiday meal--which this year was a big crockpot full of homemade chili, and two pies. I drank water and ginger ale all day and had a can of chicken noodle soup for supper, but I was still in a lot of pain.

The next afternoon (Black Friday) I had to go to work at 2:30pm. I was still hurting, and when it got so bad that I was crying a little bit, I asked to take a long lunch break and go get checked out at Urgent Care. The doctor there was very nice. She checked me out thoroughly (even doing bloodwork to check for elevated white blood cell counts) and couldn't find any reason for the pain. She gave me some minty, awful tasting liquid to drink which numbed my stomach lining and made it feel better temporarily, and a prescription for a stomach acid reducer. I went back to work after that and toughed out the rest of my shift.

Yesterday was the same. I haven't been able to sleep at night and so I've been tired on top of the constant, dull ache in my upper abdomen. Last night at work I started getting a sharp pain in my left side whenever I breathe in deep. It got so bad I had to leave early. I slept on a heating pad to try to soothe my belly but it didn't help (nothing has helped).

This morning I called out of work and went back to a different Urgent Care center. Once again, they couldn't find anything wrong. Since I'd already had a CBC on Friday night, they didn't draw any blood (thank veins are a nurse's worst nightmare and I always end up getting stuck a bunch of times) but they did do a urinalysis to make sure I didn't have blood in my urine, which would indicate a kidney stone. The urinalysis was all clear. No blood, no signs of infection, etc. The doctor felt around where my abdomen is tender and asked me a bunch of questions, and ended up without any clear answer for why I'm hurting like this. How frustrating! His only advice was to relax, rest, drink lots of clear liquids and eat only bland foods, to take Motrin if the pain is too bad, and if it doesn't resolve on its own in a couple of days to go to the ER and let them do some scans. I hope it doesn't come to that! Both the doctors who have examined me this weekend think everything is okay. I hope they're right.

It wasn't a very good Thanksgiving, that's for sure! I never tasted a single bite of the food I had cooked. The day after Thanksgiving my coworkers all brought dishes for a potluck lunch, and some of the food looked so good....and I didn't get any of that, either. It just doesn't seem fair!! Haha. But all joking aside, I'll just be grateful if my stomach will just stop hurting soon. It's funny how a few days of constant pain can shrink the whole world down to the small space the body inhabits.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I need to get this off my chest.

I would just like to remind everyone that behind every blog is a person with feelings.

When someone becomes a friend to me through this blog, I consider them true friends, even though we may never get to meet in person. I share tiny little bits of my life, and you do the same, and we get to know each other, and there's a certain level of trust and respect that I try to maintain. And of course, the real story of me, of Jennifer, is a whole lot bigger than what I choose to write about here. And even though to most of you I just exist as some words on a screen, let me assure you that I am a real person with a heart. When there's sudden silence here, or when I'm unfollowed by people without a word of explanation, it hurts.

I obviously disagree with some of my readers about politics and religion, among other things....but I try not to let those kinds of differences get in the way of friendships, online and in "real" life. It seems that a few people here just couldn't do the same. So be it. But don't think I don't notice, or don't care.

So let me just say a few things, loud and proud, and then nobody can say they didn't know what they were getting when visiting Sparrow Tree Journal:

I'm a liberal, a freethinker, a feminist, and an atheist.  I call myself a secular humanist, and to quote the Dalai Lama, my only religion is kindness. I love my gay friends, my brown and black friends, and my immigrant friends. I believe in science and reason and progressive ideals. I consider myself a citizen of planet Earth, and I think my responsibility to be a decent human being should take precedence over my nationality or race or culture. I do the best I can to treat others gently, overlooking their faults whenever I can, because goodness knows I need the same forbearance in return. I fall far short of perfect every day of my life, but I do the best I can. I try to assume most other people do, too.

If any of the above offends you, please feel free to click the "unfollow" button now and I'll know why. And that's fine. But don't be my friend for months or possibly years, and then suddenly disappear without a word of explanation, leaving me fearing I may have inadvertently said something that was taken the wrong way or out of context.

Now that that's off my chest, and to offset the negativity of this post, here's a pretty camellia blooming in my back yard:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Finally, some color

Fall never comes early in this part of South Carolina, but we're finally getting a little bit of color in the trees. Thanksgiving will be over in a few days and then we'll be gearing up for Christmas. We still haven't had our first frost, but it's gotten down into the high 30's a couple of times. It won't be long now.

This is what my back yard looks like today.

Have a good day, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Can't catch a break.

Yesterday I decided to call out sick from work. I've been self-treating a urinary tract infection, which is almost better, but mostly I simply felt I needed a mental health day. The past week has been hard for a whole host of reasons.

I decided that I'd go grab a taco salad for lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant and then spend the afternoon at the public library. It was a nice plan until I got about halfway through my salad and suddenly felt a pain in my gums--kind of like when you get a hard piece of tortilla chip stuck up beside a tooth. But this was no tortilla chip. It turned out to be a giant crack (to the gum line) in one of the teeth that had a root canal this summer. I knew that the two teeth that had root canals were weakened and needed crowns, but I was putting it off until January as my dental insurance is maxed out until the end of the year. I already had to spend over $1000 out of pocket after the second root canal. Crowns are super expensive and I was trying to just be careful and wait out the year.

So I rushed to the dentist and got bad news: I'm going to lose that tooth altogether-it cracked in half--and even worse, I have to have an oral surgeon remove it. Once it's out, I'll have to wear a fake tooth in the spot for 6-8 weeks while the socket heals, and then they're going to have to crown the tooth behind it with a permanent bridge tooth attached to the crown. Even with insurance, between the oral surgeon and the dentist it's going to cost about $2000 more dollars out of pocket. There goes any Christmas shopping I'd planned to do, just like we missed out on our vacation in June because of dental expenses and the pain I was in. I feel so guilty about how much this is costing us. We keep having to dip into savings to pay for it all.

The dentist was very sorry. I embarrassed myself because big tears started flowing when he explained everything to me. He had to pull the broken bit of tooth off (thank goodness it's on the inside of my mouth so it doesn't show when I smile) and I trembled all over and cried as he did it. I was horribly embarrassed. I used to be a great dental patient, but a few years of bad experiences has left me with almost a phobia. At least now nothing hurts, and they said that if I'm very careful I can probably put off doing anything until the beginning of January. I have an appointment on Monday with the oral surgeon, but that's just for a consultation and to set a date to have the work done.

I just can't seem to catch a break. And I wish this shit year would just hurry up and end, already.

Here's a recent clip of John Oliver's 2016 season finale show, which sums up exactly how I feel about this terrible year. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  (Warning....language.)

ps....I adore John Oliver. This whole show, from last Sunday, can be found on YouTube and is worth watching, especially if you're still reeling from our recent election and wondering how to get through the next 4 years. Inspirational.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Silly pet stories

This is my parrot, Marco.

Marco has a big personality despite his small size. He talks really well, and he loves to sing. Early on, I taught him a silly song with some slight modifications to fit him.

"Marco, Marco man...
He's gonna be....a Marco man!
Marco, Marco man....
He's gonna be...a Marco man!"

It's pretty funny to hear him if I do say so myself!

(I thought we could all use a laugh today...I hope this worked for you.)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Comfort to be found

I won't even try to pretend that I'm not absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to somehow endure the next four years. President-elect Trump (how bitter it is to type that!) is already appointing white nationalists to his transition team, and the names of candidates for top cabinet positions being floated are a list of truly deplorable thugs, racists, idiots, and ultra fundamentalist Christian conservatives who deny science (climate change, evolution) and want to roll back civil liberties for almost everyone. People like Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani. And of course, worst of all is his VP pick, Mike Pence. It's an utter nightmare. These people have no decency, no honor, and no scruples. Trump's campaign manager went on record yesterday telling the press to "watch what you say or else".  Hate crimes against gay people, people of color, and immigrants have broken out all over the country in the few days since the election.

I'm scared to death. But there is still comfort to be found if I look for it and refuse to give in to despair.

This is Edward Rogers, a WW2 navy vet I met at the bookstore last Thursday night. We discussed his service to our country, and how my grandfather also fought in WW2 as a sergeant in the U.S. air corps. Mr. Rogers told me he had served in the Pacific; my grandfather, Joseph Czmiel, served in Europe. (I have a great photo of him wearing a kilt while in Scotland!)  It seemed fitting to meet him on the eve of Veteran's Day, and I thanked him for his service. How remarkable that he served our country in that terrible war 20 years before the Voting Rights Act came to be law, a young man from the segregated South.

When I asked this good man what he thought of the election, he took my hand in his soft, wrinkly, weathered old hands and replied simply, "I cried."

I cried a little bit then. I couldn't help it. But Mr. Rogers held my hand and very gently explained that we have to keep trying to do the right thing, to keep voting our conscience, and that "this too shall pass"...he said we've seen hard times in this country before, and we survived, and we will again. What a balm to my troubled soul it was. Being of my grandfather's generation, he knew what he was talking about.

Then on Saturday, I was scheduled to lead the 11am storytime for little kids at work. The story was called Penguin Problems and it was about a young penguin who is sad because he has all sorts of things troubling him. Then an old walrus comes to him, introduces himself, and proceeds to share these words of wisdom about dealing with problems with the youngster. I'm sharing them here for anyone that might need them today like I did.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Every birthday is a good birthday

Yesterday was my wonderful husband's birthday. I feel so bad that it fell on the day we woke up to a new president that we both despise. But as Gregg pointed out, at least he was here to see it. Less than 5% of people with the kind and stage of cancer he had are alive five years later. His five year check up is next month. I don't care what happens in Washington as long as he's here and healthy.

 I love that man to pieces...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A morning after post for John Gray

John Gray will appreciate what I'm about to say. I woke up this morning, the day after the US election, feeling exactly like Rick in this scene:

Yes, the Orange Apocalypse has begun. And it's terrifying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day Blues

I don't think I've ever been this terrified of the outcome of a presidential campaign. Or more disgusted with at least half of the people I know.

This election has brought out the very worst in so many people. I've never seen so much racism, misogyny, and intolerance openly on display. It's so....ugly.  People I thought were good, decent people are clearly not good nor decent. I'm not sure how to go forward with people (some in my own family!) who care so little for others, for the welfare of their fellow human beings. Many of the "Christians" I know are some of the worst of the lot. How am I supposed to show respect for people that clearly have none for me or for my values? The outcome of this race will be decided tomorrow, but I'll never forget some of the things I've seen and heard. It makes me despair of ever feeling at home in this country again.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I guess I'll go shower and head to work. I wish I could just call in "depressed" and take the day off, but maybe distraction will be better. I don't even know anymore.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Snuggling a lizard..

We had a big event at work today and a woman from Gregg's pet store brought some animals to talk about. This is a selfie I took of me and a new little buddy of mine!

All in a day's work!

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Today I went in to work at 7am and worked until 11 on what was supposed to be a day off. It was overtime pay, and I could wear jeans and comfortable shoes because I was working at processing return shipments in the stockroom with the funny stock room guys. Getting to be that relaxed at work was a refreshing change of pace! I brought along earbuds and listened to 3 episodes of  This American Life with my cell phone. So for a half work day when I was supposed to be off, it was unexpectedly nice!  Getting off at 11am was pretty great, too. I got a lot of stuff done.

First I ran to Office Depot and got Gregg's main birthday present that I'm super excited about! He's been taking on more and more aquarium design and maintenance jobs....several school and hospital tanks, three nursing homes, the mayor's office, and a couple of individual family aquariums, like at his doctor friend Vinod's house. He still manages the aquarium section at a local pet store, too, and so people regularly approach him there and ask about aquarium services. All of his tanks in public places are beautiful and speak for themselves, and people ask about the person who cares for them. Until now, he's not had any business cards to hand out or leave, and he's mentioned that they would be helpful. So for his birthday, I designed and printed 150 business cards for him! They're a pretty generic template with a little stock drawing of two fish in the upper right hand corner, but I'm still proud of them. I think he's going to really like it that I got that done for him! I'll probably end up buying him an item of clothing or a book as well, but that's his main gift this year.

After getting the cards printed, I went by a store to exchange an item of clothing that didn't fit, then stopped by a little cheap-but-good Mexican restaurant for lunch. They make great taco salads and margaritas, so I had one of each. I really never have a drink at lunchtime on a weekday, so that was a special treat for my productive morning at work and getting the two errands done!

I did one last thing before heading home: I stopped by the voter registration office and did my bit for democracy. I voted early:

I love the sticker. The sticker is very important.

 Funny story: When I stepped up to the smiling young woman behind the counter who had to check my ID she said, "Reason for voting early? Vacation next week?" And I launched into my whole "I'm paranoid there might be trouble on election day" spiel and she was like, "NO, you're on vacation next week" and I was all, "No, seriously, people are being incited to make trouble at polling places next week, it's been on the news, and they're talking about voter intimidation....." and slowly I realized she was trying not to laugh  and nodding to a posted list of acceptable reasons you have to pick from for voting early. She was waiting to make a note in my file.

I felt like a total dumbass.  Ha!

So that was my day. How's your Thursday going?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


There's always a big turnout of trick or treaters at the mall where I work. It's fun seeing hundreds of little kids and their families dressed up and having fun. Here are some of my favorites from last night!

Queen Bee, Baby Bee, Beekeeper Dad. 

Cleopatra and her parents.

Death came calling!
Baby Unicorn


Micky and Minnie

The scariest sight of the night!!!