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

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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.