Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book club, medical stuff, and the longest week ever...

This week has seemed really, really long. It's hard to believe it's only Thursday.

Sunday was my last day off from work and my smaller book club met up at my house to discuss The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I had to confess: I didn't finish reading this book. Since I can't very well review of a book I read less than half of, here's a quick summary from Goodreads:


The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way--a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved--the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them--are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

Each chapter of The Night Circus reads like a short, interesting little vignette, so the book is easy to pick up and put down. Which is good, because since going off my anti-anxiety medication a few weeks ago I seem to have the attention span of a gnat. I've gone from easily reading a book or two a week to never finishing anything. I just can't seem to concentrate for long periods of time right now. I surely hope that this is just a temporary side effect--I don't like it at all.

Luckily for me, Marla and one other person didn't finish the book either. Our discussion was somewhat limited since only two people did finish, but we all had fun just the same. I didn't have the time or the energy for a big production this month, so everything was kind of simple. In keeping with the theme of a circus, we had circus-type snacks and beverages: corn dogs, popcorn, peanuts, salted caramel cupcakes (purchased at a fancy bakery by one of our group), cotton candy brought by Marla, and I had cooler iced down and filled with assorted hard apple ciders and hard root beers. There were five of us again, but a sixth member is coming on board next month. And lucky for me, I've already read (and love) the next book so even if my weirdo brain chemicals haven't settled down by then I'll still be prepared. (July's selection is one of my all-time favorites, Neil Gaiman's American Gods).

Then on Monday morning Gregg had his 6 month checkup with the oncologist. He was really nervous about it, more so than usual because his yearly CT scan was two weeks ago, in time for the doctor to go over any results with him. I'm thrilled to report that the scan was clear, all of his blood work was perfect, and once again my good man was pronounced perfectly healthy! What a relief that was to both of us! And once December arrives this year, Gregg will hit his 5 year mark of being cancer free and will go to only having yearly check ups with the oncologist--and barring any future problems he won't have to have any more CT scans now that he's reached this milestone!

This Christmas is going to be especially joyous. I've told Gregg that we're going to have a big, blow-out celebration this year to make up for that December 5 years ago when he got his earth-shattering diagnosis of stage 3 lung cancer on the 19th of the month--one week before Christmas. I'm sure there's no need to describe how awful that holiday was for us, or how wonderful this one 5 years later is going to be!

The week got off to a great start, and I shouldn't complain about anything. So I won't. I was going to write about my ridiculous (as usual) annual review at work, and how a couple of great coworkers (the few that there are at my awful job) have given notice and are moving on to better jobs, and how sad and apprehensive that makes me, and how I had to go back to the dentist on Tuesday for a permanent filling in the tooth that had the root canal, and so on and so forth, but suffice it to say that this has been a looooong week, and it's only Thursday. Thursday!

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, though. I have to work all weekend, but I have Monday (the Independence Day holiday) and Tuesday off. Gregg will be off on Monday too, so we'll have a little cookout and feast at home. There won't be any fireworks, though, at least not purchased by us. Our Ginger hates the sound of them and will sit in the laundry room, her face to the wall, the whole time they're going off around the neighborhood. We certainly won't be adding to her fear by buying and setting any off, but we have neighbors down the street that usually put on a decent show that we can watch from our front steps.

So as the weekend (slowly) approaches, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish my fellow Americans a very happy Fourth of July. Stay safe on the roads this weekend, and have fun! I'll catch up with you all next week.

Friday, June 24, 2016

ImPEACHable Trump

This was my submission to John Gray's novelty fruit and vegetable contest for the Trelawnyd flower show. I call it "ImPEACHable Trump". I was inspired to create a Trump effigy from peaches when I realized that a bowlful of them sitting on our dining room table were starting to go rotten.... that, and their vivid orange color.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Gifted Art

That last post was a depressing piece of crap. I've already deleted it once, then revised it, and just now I wanted to delete it again. Instead of that, I'll just follow up with a post that's bound to be of more interest. Even mild interest.

My husband has been the lucky recipient of many gifts of art work over the years. I've never seen anything like it...and I'm not sure why it should be so, except that he's always had very diverse kinds of friends in his life, many of whom were/are artistic types.

There was an elderly lady named Margaret Joy (now sadly deceased) that was an especial friend of his. She was an artist with a lifetime's worth of watercolor and oil paintings in her home studio, and she gave him three of her paintings which now hang in our house. We count them as some of our most cherished possessions. One is a still life of vegetables in a bowl, another has birds sitting on a flowering tree branch, and one is of brightly colored koi fish. It's wonderful to have such lovely keepsakes from such a dear woman as Margaret. One of these days I'll post photos of them.

Then there was a young guy friend of Gregg's named Matthew, who painted two big canvas pieces as a gift for him. They're of the discus fish he was keeping at the time, and among his favorite things. The two paintings hang in our living room.

So then yesterday, Gregg came home with a small framed print given to him by the secretary at one of the elementary schools where he maintains aquariums. It's by a local artist and it's called "Wrapping the Palmetto". I believe it's supposed to be a South Carolina take on a Maypole, because the Palmetto is our state tree. I thought you all might enjoy seeing it.

What a nice little gift from an appreciative client!

Bad day

Yesterday was a bad day.

To begin with, I woke up sick to my stomach (nausea and diarrhea) for no good reason. But what's worse, I also woke up filled with anxiety and sadness. I don't talk about this much (especially not here on the blog) but for years I've taken a maintenance dose of an SSRI to treat OCD and depression. Last year, my regular doctor who prescribed my medicine changed practices and was no longer covered by my insurance.  I haven't gotten around to finding a new doctor yet (my husband's GP isn't taking new patients) and my prescription for Zoloft ran out two or three weeks ago. I decided to try going without it to see how it would be, and now I'm beginning to think that was a mistake. I've not had any OCD symptoms yet (thank god) but my emotions are all over the place.

When I first felt a knot of anxiety building deep inside last weekend, I thought it was just due to my dread of going back to a job I hate after vacation ended. And I definitely think that was part of it. Unfortunately, there's a strong possibility I have some withdrawal from the Zoloft going on, too. I keep crying over the smallest things, and I'm not sleeping well, and then there's the stomach trouble this morning....I suppose I should be thankful that at least I'm not checking that the stove is off 50 times before leaving the house, or feeling compelled to drive around the block over and over again to make sure I haven't killed someone with my car. OCD is a terrible disease. I really would like to try life without medication for awhile because I've been mostly symptom free for over a decade now. But I guess it depends on how bad the side effects of quitting get to be.

Gregg was alarmed today when I told him I wasn't taking the Zoloft anymore. He remembers the 6 months or so in my mid twenties when I was on the verge of a complete breakdown. And it wasn't pretty. I'm not sure I would have survived those days without his love and support. He made me promise to get my gynecologist to write me a new prescription when I go for my yearly pap smear next week. That way, if I decide that quitting isn't working out, I'll be prepared. In the meantime, I'm just over here trying to ride out the storm.

Then I checked Facebook last night before bed and found out that a woman who was a friend of mine in high school had just lost her 17 year old son to cancer. So then I cried again, this time for her and her family. How utterly devastated they must be. That makes three friends of mine who have lost children this year. Talk about putting a little mild depression and anxiety into perspective.

Life seems awfully hard sometimes, doesn't it?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Club Fails (and Wins!)

The bigger of the two book clubs I belong to have read a couple of real bombs lately. In a totally uncharacteristic move, I haven't finished either of the last two selections. In May, we read The Given Day by Dennis Lehane. Or rather, we didn't read it. Only a couple of people out of the 14 or so regular participants finished it, and only one or two more made it past the first chapter. I must admit to being in the latter group. The first few pages were lists of characters and their relationships to each other, and I thought, "Uh oh." Then it launched into a thoroughly boring description of an afternoon on a train with legendary baseball player Babe Ruth. I think the novel is supposed to be about organized crime in the early twentieth century, but I'm not even sure of that. I read a grand total of 13 pages and decided life's too short to read something you hate. I just went to the discussion meeting for the margaritas (we met at a Mexican restaurant during a Wednesday night Happy Hour), and everyone else did, too!

For June, we read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I thought it was going to be quietly good, as it won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered thoughtful literary fiction. It's an old man's (third generation Congregationalist minister John Ames) meandering thoughts about his life and the lives of his father and grandfather that he's writing down for his very young son. John is over seventy and in poor health, and since he married a much younger woman very late in life, the boy is only 6 years old. He knows he won't live to know his son as an adult, and so it's important to him to write down things he wants to tell him. Gilead is said to be "transcendent" and to have "spare, spiritual prose in the style of Walt Whitman" and I can see that, I really can.......but it bored me to tears. I forced myself to read exactly half...and then I quit, again.

I'm two for two right now. How embarrassing!

There were two consolations to giving up on this second book in a row. First, only about half of the members finished it, and only one person liked it, so I was in good company. And second, my friend Marian hosted this month's meeting at her house, and turned it into a pool party! Her husband (who's retired and has free time) cooked fajitas and mixed drinks for us and brought it all out poolside.

Now that's the way to host a book club party! We had a grand time.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer vacation at home

Sometimes a thing just isn't meant to be. The trip that I'd been looking forward to and was so disappointed to have to cancel is a prime example.

The trouble I had after some dental work was the main problem, of course. I still need to have a more permanent filling put in the tooth that had the root canal, but that issue is slowly resolving itself. But then some other things happened that made not going seem like the best thing that could have happened. First, Gregg got an unexpected call from the hospital on Saturday morning informing him that he had been scheduled for a CT scan today (Monday). He couldn't put the scan off, because he has a 6 month follow up appointment with the oncologist next week. Once a year they do a CT scan with contrast to check for any recurrence of cancer. They schedule the scan a week before one of his regular follow up visits, and we had forgotten it was time. So had we gone on our vacation, we would have had to cut it short and drive the 6 hours back home after only one night! It would have been a shame and a waste.

The weather hasn't been so good, either. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, and it set some records up and down the East Coast. I think the temperature topped out at 103F with ridiculously high humidity. Being outside, even at the beach, wouldn't have been fun. Some of the things I'd hoped to do up at the OBX, like going to the Lost Colony outdoor drama, and visiting the Elizabethan Gardens, would have been awful in such heat. Our plan to reschedule in the fall is looking better and better!

So what did we do instead? Well, we stayed home to celebrate our anniversary. We slept in, ate bacon and eggs for an early afternoon breakfast, looked at houses for sale on the Internet (we're going to look at a couple of them later this week!) played with the dogs, let Marco hang with us (out of his cage) most of the day, ate some delicious grilled pork loin with wild rice, and along with the dogs took a nice long walk after dark when it finally cooled off a little outside. We watched a movie on Netflix, I drank strawberry-vodka-lemonade, and it was a nice day. Oh! And I wore my new skirt which is cool and comfortable in the summer heat. When Gregg saw it, he said, "Hey! That's pretty!" which made me very happy. Meike asked to see the skirt, so I snapped a photo of it sitting under one of the walnut trees in our backyard.

I don't wear skirts or dresses very often. I liked it.

Today is going to be a relaxing kind of day. Gregg is taking a nap, which is something he hardly ever does, but he got up really early to go for the scan. I'm headed outside with a book for my 15 minutes of vitamin D sunshine therapy. I'll probably be dripping sweat when I come back in, which isn't a bad thing. I've been drinking a lot of water lately (tracking it, even) which is my other self prescribed summer therapy. A good sweat and some sun followed by a nice cool shower feels great this time of year. Maybe I'll even take a nap of my own later. We have the whole week free, still stretching before us, and that's the best feeling of all!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Ten years on--I still do!

I tried my best to come up with something memorable to post today on the occasion of mine and Gregg's 10th wedding anniversary.  But the harder I try to come up with something profound or moving to say, the sillier I sound to myself. So I'll just say this:

There's nothing better than being married to your best friend. I never expected to find such a good relationship and to be so happily married.

When I asked Gregg this morning what he thought the next 10 years might bring, he said that as long as we're as healthy, wealthy, and happy as we are right now that it really doesn't matter. And he's right! We're probably the most contented married couple I know. ♡

Here's to the next decade together! I love you, Gregg!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summer afternoon scenes

These photos were taken in my backyard yesterday afternoon.

Anole resting in the shade of the jasmine hedge.

The potted miniature rose bush is reblooming. 

Happy George says "hello!"

Friday, June 10, 2016

For John--not all Americans!

Sometimes I'm ashamed to be an American.  My friend John Gray's latest blog post is a perfect example of why--he's responding to what I can only assume is an American bigot who had the audacity to email him an awful anti-gay tirade criticizing his blog.

Oh, John. I'm so sorry. A whole lot of my fellow citizens here in the USA believe some despicable things. I put a lot of the blame on Fox (Faux) News.

Recently I've fallen in love with comedian Trae Crowder, or "The Liberal Redneck". People assume that if you're from the South here in the USA then you're an ignorant, inbred, conservative, Jesus-fetish-ing jerk. And I'll admit, we have more than our share of people like that. But not all of us, by a long shot. That's why the video rants Trae Crowder shares on YouTube are so hilarious to me--they tap into a whole under represented population of liberal, humanist, civil rights defending, free-thinking people who call this part of the USA home.

Here's a nice example of The Liberal Redneck's viewpoints. Enjoy! And remember, there's more of us than most people think!

The Liberal Redneck--Belief don't matter none!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Day one of ten!

Well, dental drama notwithstanding, I'm off work for the next 10 days! Yay me! Gregg has to work late today, but then he's done, too!

Last night I woke up in pain, again, and finally had to break down and start taking the antibiotics the dentist prescribed. They said that I would only need to take them if I noticed pressure or swelling....well, I had both. And some pain, too.

I had hoped to be able to pass on the antibiotics, because I always have not-so-pleasant side effects from them, but my cheek was swelling and every time I bend over I feel this throbbing pressure in my gums above the root canal site. I called the dentist this morning and they confirmed that I need to take the antibiotics.

I'm so glad we decided to postpone our trip. Ongoing pain and swelling is not a recipe for a happy vacation. Hopefully the antibiotic will soon work and the last of this pain will be over. I really want the chance to enjoy next week, at least. Thank goodness I have pain meds to help me through!

Edited later to add: after two cups of coffee, another antibiotic, and some pain medicine, I feel like my normal cheerful self again. It's a gorgeous day outside...and I suddenly got the idea that I want to go shopping for a new summer dress to wear on Sunday for our anniversary. So I'm going shopping. :) Have a nice day, everyone!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Change of plans, need ideas!

I mentioned the other day that my husband and I were planning to spend our 10th wedding anniversary at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In my opinion, it's one of the most fascinating places on the East Coast. Gregg has a soft spot for the Outer Banks, having spent a few years in his 20s living just north of there, in Virginia Beach, VA.

There are beaches, obviously, but it's also the site of the Wright brother's first human flight (at Kitty Hawk), the lost colony of Roanoke, old haunts of famous pirates like Blackbeard, several shipwrecks to explore if you're into diving (the coast up there is called "The Graveyard of the Atlantic"), and if you're lucky you might get to see wild horses that live on the beach that are the descendants of horses that swam ashore after Spanish shipwrecks long ago. Here's a link to tell you more:

Wild horses of Corolla

I was soooooo looking forward to going.....and then, my dental drama begin. Two simple fillings turned into two weeks of pain, and an expensive root canal yesterday, and I'm still not entirely sure the problems are completely fixed. So we decided to postpone our trip. I'm terribly disappointed, but I just don't want to take a chance on not feeling 100% well on our trip. It takes 5-6 hours to drive there, and hotel rooms are terribly expensive from mid May until mid September which is the height of the tourist season. It would be a shame to go to all the trouble and expense and then to feel bad. So we're thinking of taking a long weekend at the end of September and going then. The trip will cost less and the weather won't be so terribly hot, which are the two consoling facts about waiting for me.

But, Gregg and I still have more than a week off together! Our vacation starts this weekend (Friday) and lasts through all of next week. Now I have to think of some alternative ways to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary a little closer to home.

(I cried the other night because I felt so bad about my teeth being the reason we're missing our trip, and Gregg was so sweet about it. He says he's just thrilled we're celebrating ten years of marriage, ten happy years, and that he feels lucky that we can take time off together no matter what we end up doing, and even if we stay at home the whole time. He says just being together is enough for him. Of course, that really made me cry. What a good man I married!)

I have no idea what we should do to celebrate now that we're not going anywhere special. I had hoped to spend our anniversary on the beach and sitting on our private balcony overlooking the ocean...but now that's out. I thought about some sort of picnic close to home, but it's so hot was 95F and humid. I suppose there's always the beaches closer to home....and there are several public gardens I've always wanted to visit....not that gardens are terribly appealing to Gregg.

I'm open to any ideas for marking our special day that my blog friends may have. I'd love to hear from my readers in relationships about how you celebrate milestone anniversaries!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tucked in, and resting....finally.

I called my dentist's office first thing this morning and told them I needed some help.

The nerve pain from the dental work I had done two weeks ago wasn't getting better. They sent me straight to a root canal specialist for a consultation this afternoon.

To my surprise, the doctor offered to perform the procedure right then and there. I emerged 45 minutes later (and $350 poorer) with a prescription for Percocet, a note excusing me from work for the day, and a tooth that I hope is done hurting!

So now I'm in bed, relaxing. I took a Percocet and it's pleasant to just lie here listening to the rain and enjoying the feeling of not hurting anywhere for the first time in two weeks!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pond plant surprise

We have a 300 gallon plastic vat in our backyard that's serving as a makeshift container pond. It's home to some small native fish, a pair of bream and a few baby catfish. A couple of weeks ago an aquarium customer of Gregg's give him this potted pond plant. It's thriving in its new home. Early this morning I went out to say hello to the bream (they're tame enough now to swim up and greet you) and I discovered the tiny purple flower that had opened overnight! I texted this photo to Gregg at work to show him. What a nice surprise!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dirty rotten awful luck!

Remember last week when I took a personal day off work to go to the dentist? And how I said that "even being at the dentist is better than my job"? Well the joke's on me!

I had two fillings done that day, and one of them was much deeper than the dentist originally thought. It had to be filled very close to the nerve. And ever since that day, I've had pain in my upper jaw that radiates up into the sinus cavity behind my right eye. After giving the filling a few days to settle, and still having pain, I went back to the dentist on Tuesday so he could check things out.

Turns out the nerve is unsettled because of the filling being right alongside it. The only advice they could give me was to wait another week or so to see if it settles on it's own....and if it doesn't, I'll have to have a root canal.

Now, that's bad enough, but there's another problem: Gregg and I are supposed to go on vacation next weekend to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We have a week off work and were planning to go to the Outer Banks of NC. I kept meaning to blog about what an amazing place this chain of barrier islands off the coast is, and how much I've been looking forward to the trip, and then the dental drama began to unfold!

Now I'm afraid to reserve the hotel room we want (and possibly lose a good bit of money) because who wants to go on vacation with a toothache? I'd rather reschedule the whole trip than to be in pain while we're there. And there's not time to get a root canal appointment beforehand, not to mention how much a root canal costs (even with dental insurance covering half ).

When I left the dentist's office, I sat in my car and cried. It wasn't a good day.

We're being forced to take a "wait and see" approach. My tooth was a bit better yesterday, giving me some hope that it's settling on it's own, although it was aching again when I woke up this morning. If we end up getting to go on our trip, I'm afraid that postponing reserving a room may mean we don't get the one I had picked out. It's the height of the summer vacation season, after all, but who wants to risk losing a room deposit?

To top off what a lovely week I'm having, when I got home last night we discovered that our air conditioning is broken again. The repair man is coming out later today, but we had a rough time trying to sleep last night. I think yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far.

So that's been my week.