Friday, September 30, 2016

September Midnight

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
Ceaseless, insistent.
The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
Tired with summer.
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.
Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
Lest they forget them.

– Sara Teasdale

Sunday, September 25, 2016


The autumn equinox has come and gone, and now we've entered the second (dark) half of the year. For about a week, the days and nights are roughly of equal length, and after that the year starts descending rapidly to its conclusion. It's bittersweet to me. I prefer the coming of spring and summer, but understand that we eventually have to pay for all those long, light summer days and short nights. The bill comes due in the fall. It's all about restoring balance to the year.

I've been regaining balance in my personal life, too. I realized yesterday that I've been feeling physically and emotionally better this past week than I have for a very long time.

I've been taking a very low maintenance dose of my antidepressant medication again. My dental drama that led to two root canals and $1000 in out of pocket costs this summer is finally over, dealt with, and paid for.  The cooler weather in September has meant more and longer walks (every day again!) for me and Gregg and the dogs.  I use a pedometer app on my phone to count my daily steps and aim to exceed 10,000 a day. More exercise makes me feel so good that I've found myself feeling motivated to eat better, too. I've been planning healthful meals, cooking more, and packing work lunches again. Every morning and night, I take vitamin D and fish oil tablets, and I'm drinking a lot more water. Taking better care of myself is something I've been neglecting for far too long. It's been kind of shocking how quickly just a little bit of effort makes me feel so much better.

Speaking of things that make my life better.....some of you who read here regularly may remember that I recently vowed to complain less about my job, and even occasional readers have probably at least figured out that I really don't like my job and have been looking for a new one. So I decided that I would try to not complain about it for a week (not even to myself). Well, a week turned into two weeks, and then continued on, and I'm finally learning to stop myself when I want to be pointlessly negative. I've starting trying to attract more positivity into my work life by being more positive whenever I can. For instance, I do meet lots of interesting people at my job, and I make enough money to live on, and my health benefits there are pretty good...there's plenty of nice things to say about it and I feel so much better when I focus on them rather than the dozens of things I hate about it. Complaining less and making the effort to be more positive has been like setting down a heavy load I didn't even know I'd been carrying. Now the search for a new job doesn't feel so urgent, and I've been focusing on finding something better rather than just something else. I'm still actively looking, but with a much lighter heart. Actually, I'm doing almost everything concerning work with a lighter heart these days.

Life seems to be regaining some balance for me this year as the autumn equinox rolls past. I hope that everyone reading is having an equally nice transition into fall.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nighttime walks

Often the best part of my day is the walk I take with Gregg and the dogs in the evening. Since moving into this house 6 years ago, by our own estimation we've walked the route around our neighborhood well over a thousand times. And we almost always go after dark, sometimes quite late. In the summer it's cooler then, and all year long it's when we're most likely to be at home together.

The dogs are always, always joyful when they see us get the leashes. Without a doubt it's the very best part of their day. They dance around, George jumps straight up in the air four or five times, Ginger grins (yes, dogs smile, and we're convinced Ginger even has a sense of humor. Call me crazy if you like) and there's a few minutes of general merriment between us all before we hook up the harnesses and leashes. Ginger, in deference to her age and position in our family, always gets to exit the garage first.

Then we're off. Gregg and I have our time to talk, and meanwhile the dogs trot along, side by side, occasionally veering off together to sniff something interesting or pee. We don't mind the occasional interruption, especially at certain beloved spots, because we figure the walk is as much theirs as ours. It's our family time at the end of the day.

There's a gray and white cat that waits for us once in a while in the church parking lot down the road. She's a sweet, slightly built little cat that we've been friends with for years now. Before we got George, she would meow and trot up to us, sniff noses with Ginger, rub against us all for petting, and then walk with us for a block or so. Then came George, the problem child, who would bark and growl at cats and other small animals and get way too excited for my peace of mind.  These days I've very nearly broken him of it with the help of the wise little cat.  She keeps a prudent distance from George, but displays no fear of him and still joins us sometimes for a portion of the walk. It's been so good for him. And it's always a special treat when she shows up.

Sometimes we get to see something special while walking. Last night was one example. While walking northward and facing an area of clear, dark sky, we saw the most beautiful shooting star. It was a pale bluish-green, large, and slow, and seemed to be falling straight down like a tendril of flame from a firework. How lucky! I immediately made a silent (and heartfelt) wish. Gregg told me afterwards that he did, too. I'm so glad we were both looking up at the right time! I hope both our wishes come true.

There are two neighbor men we pass on our nightly walk sometimes that we've never seen in the daylight. Nor do we know what house they live in. They're both...50ish?...60ish?...somewhere in there, and I think they must be a couple. They walk at night regularly, just like us. If it's a quiet night we might hear the murmering sound of their voices before we actually see them. The dogs barely look up. We all pass each other with a few quiet words of greeting, "How are you" or "Hello"...or, rarely, a "Have a good evening". We walk at different times (sometimes quite late) and so do they, so our paths only cross once or twice a week.

We have this thing we do with Ginger when we arrive back at home. I keep the remote to our garage doors in my pocket when we walk (we mainly enter and exit the house through the garage). When we get close to our house Gregg unhooks her leash and we let her trot ahead of the rest of us, towards the garage door. When she's almost there, I push the button on the remote in my pocket, and the door starts to lift. Oh, how we hope Ginger thinks she's doing it with the power of her mind! She never breaks stride as the door goes up, she prances up to and right through like a queen. We always say "Thanks, Ginger!" as we follow her through. Once we're inside, she turns around and grins at us. And then both dogs wait for their chicken jerky treats to cap off the walk.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm in the mood. . .

.....for fall!!

I was off work yesterday and today, and I went to the farm stand down the road and saw the beautiful flowers in the picture above for sale. The produce on offer is starting to reflect the changing season.

There were early mountain apples....

Muscadine and Scuppernong grapes (the only kind we can grow around here) and sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic.

I'm roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven along with some small russet potatoes I had left over from last week. The peppers, onion, and garlic pictured here got added to the crockpot....

....where I've been slowly simmering pinto beans all afternoon. You can't see in this picture, but I added meaty ham hocks for flavor, along with Cajun seasoning, a bay leaf, celery, and salt and pepper. We'll be eating the beans over rice with chipotle hot sauce tonight.

This photo is for Cro!

Our favorite hot sauce. Not too hot, so the flavor of the smoked jalapeno peppers comes through.

I made coleslaw to go with the pintos. Here are some extra things I added to the cabbage and carrot mixture.

Here's the finished coleslaw, ready to go in the fridge to rest and absorb the dressing.

When it starts to feel like fall outside, my first impulse is to cook. It's still warm enough that the air conditioner is running, but it's definitely cooler this week. It's also been delightfully cloudy and misty-rainy for the past two days. Here's a picture taken from my computer chair at midday:

The trees outside are just beginning to get a yellowish cast to their still-green leaves, but the cloudy weather looks like autumn to me. It's perfect weather for the book I just started reading....The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It's my smaller book club's selection for the month of September. We decided to read spooky novels from now to Halloween, and THOHH is first. I've read about half of it, being at home for two days, and I'm really enjoying it!

Are you ready for Autumn? Is it starting to look like Fall where you live? How do you get in the mood for the seasonal changes?

Edited to add: I've been drinking gin and tonics while cooking and reading. Perfect day.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Conversation at my house this morning

Sneaking around the kitchen when my back is turned.

Jenn: What are you doing, you crazy bird?!

Marco: ...?

Jenn: Back to the cage for you!

Marco: Wanna come out!

Jenn: Nope. In you go, mister.

Marco: come out....Baaabyy...I love you. I love you, baby.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

This and that on a Sunday afternoon

All sorts of things have been going on over in my little corner of the universe lately.

A friend of mine moved away yesterday. He's the one I've mentioned that I always practice my Spanish with, and we've been casual friends for a long time now. After a few years of really bad luck he got a wonderful job offer in San Antontio, TX--and he seemed happier than I've ever seen him when he stopped by the bookstore Friday night to say goodbye. He's a good and decent person and deserves such a great opportunity. Although I'm always sad when a friend moves away, I'm really happy for him! San Antonio is going to be a fun place to live.

As for work, in the past month three people that I like have found new jobs and have either left or given notice. Two more who haven't been there long enough for me to have an opinion about are also quitting. You'd think the level of turnover at our store would be a big red flag to corporate, but no one seems to care. And since several of the people who've left had full time, responsible positions, it keeps leaving me with a ton of extra work dumped in my lap. I can barely keep my head above water these days; I always feel hopelessly behind. For the next three Sunday nights I'm in charge of huge merchandising changes that will take place after the store closes (8pm on Sundays) and I'll be working until the early morning hours. I also have about 50 overdue projects in the store aside from that assigned to me, too. Then regular manager-on-duty tasks to carry out. Etc. Etc. Etc. I've told the store manager I'm drowning....she says she is too, and basically we all have to suck it up until we can find new jobs. Nice, huh? There's no fixing that place.

Speaking of which, I've applied for several more jobs. One bookkeeping position looked promising for a minute (good pay, a friend who knew somebody that could speak up for me, etc.) but then I got a warning that the there's funny business going on with money at that job and the two previous bookkeepers had been fired when someone needed to take the blame for said funny business. Someone who sits on the city council is over that department and could very well be a crook. No way will I even consider that job, and I sure appreciated the warning! I dodged a bullet on that one.
Something I'm considering starting next week is a free course offered at a local library in ASL (American Sign Language). I've heard there's a shortage of interpreters in the schools around here, and while I know that a course that's only a total of 8 hours won't make me proficient enough to get certified, having that class under my belt and a basic grasp of the fundamentals can only be helpful on my resume. We'll see--I have until Tuesday to decide.

The weather here is a little bit cooler and the humidity is down. The days are definitely shorter. I'm eagerly awaiting fall this year and some cool, crisp, sunny weather. Although there is change in the air, for the most part it's still like summer in northeastern South Carolina. How is the season progressing where you are? And what going on for you this week?

It will be another month or so before we have this much fall color in SC!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

No rest in this house!

After a very late night at work (I didn't get home until after 11pm) I set my alarm to sleep as long as possible this morning. I have to be back at work at 11am, so I set my alarm for 9:30. That would give me time to drink a cup of coffee, shower, and drive there. I didn't make it to bed until almost 1am, since I can't go right to bed when I'm keyed up from work, but that should have still meant a little over 8 hours to rest. Right? Wrong!

First Marco started to screech for attention. He's usually pretty good about being quiet in the morning, but not today. I think when Gregg left for work he decided it was time for me to come uncover his cage and let him out. Then my jerk neighbor started up with his lawn mower. This is a guy who regularly runs his lawn mower, weed trimmer, and table saw at the crack of dawn. In the summer, when it got really hot by noon, I could kind of understand him wanting to get an early start on that kind of stuff, but not now that the weather is much more mild. And even in the summer, it's pretty inconsiderate to crank up power tools before 8am! I don't think he has a job, at least not one that he leaves his house for, and you'd think that after 6 years of living beside us he'd notice that I often get home very late at night. I think he just doesn't care. He's never been very considerate, and neither is his wife. They don't bother to speak or wave hello if we see them outside, even after several years of close proximity.

Oh well. At least I have time for an extra cup or two of coffee. I'm going to need it!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Mornings in blue and gold

September is here, and the morning sun is golden and streams into our house from a different angle now. The weather is cooler since the storm blew through, the humidity is down, and the sky is much more blue. The days are noticeably shorter.

I love beautiful mornings like today. I brought my coffee and written journal to the dining room table this morning where the best windows in the house are.

Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.

Friday, September 2, 2016


The oddly named Hurricane Hermine made landfall in Florida this morning and since then has moved up the coast and passed over my city tonight. It (she?) had weakened and been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it made it to northeastern South Carolina. The mall where my bookstore is located closed early tonight, so we got to as well. I got home two hours early which was nice. Our Internet is down, and has been for hours, but we haven't lost electricity. (I'm typing this on my phone with the wifi turned off). A large limb broke off a tree in our yard and just missed our neighbors car, but besides that there doesn't seem to be too much damage here. I'll know more in the morning. We're lucky to have only been subjected to 30-40 mph winds and 4 inches of rain. A real storm (which I fear we're overdue for) like hurricane Hugo back in 1989 is a terrible thing. I was 14 when that happened and it's something I'll never forget.

I'm glad Hermine hasn't been too bad here. I hope everyone else who's been in her path have been similarly lucky!