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!!!