Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Beer and Skittles

A little while ago I did a Google search to find out when Chinese New Year falls this year. As of February 5th it will be the Year of the Earth Pig! 

While looking for the date, I ended up on a website with forecasts for every Chinese astrological sign coming up in 2019. Just for fun, I read mine and Gregg's. (I'm a Rabbit, he's a Dog). The horoscopes were awesome. Here's an excerpt from Gregg's:

you people under the Dog sign will be in good spirits, get more chances to beer and skittles and develop more consuming desires

Hey! I want more chances to beer and skittles! Doesn't that sound like a blast? :)

Here's a link to the website so you can look up your own forecast for the year ahead if you're interested. May we all have a year filled with chances to beer and skittles!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

For the birds

This neighborhood seems to be a haven for lots of bird species. Since moving in two months ago we've been astonished at the variety and sheer numbers of birds visiting the feeders. I think it's the close proximity to a creek and some wooded walking trails that make them happy here.

First and foremost, we see huge numbers of Northern Cardinals. One cold and wet afternoon I counted 19 males in our back yard, and I don't know how many females. The feeders are continually mobbed with these bright red feathered visitors!

The other frequent feeder guests are Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, and House Finches.

We also see quite a few woodpeckers. The Red Bellied Woodpeckers were a species we were familiar with, but the Northern Flicker pair are the first we'd ever seen:

So far we've also seen the occasional Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, Juncos, and American Robins. We've heard (but not seen) owls at night in the neighborhood, too. I'm anxious to see what species the upcoming nesting season/spring migration will bring!

Do you feed wild birds? And if so, what kinds do you see?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Just catching up

I've had a bit of a blogging dilemma since we've moved to the new house: our tiny third bedroom that we're using as an office isn't a comfortable place to sit and write. We have an old desktop computer, but no desk to put it on yet. At the old house we used an extra dining table we had acquired along the way, but I hated it and refused to put it in the new house (it's in the garage now where we're going to use it as a work table). For the time being our computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, the computer itself, the modem and wifi router, and two small speakers are all crowded onto three end tables that we intend to donate to charity or give away as soon as we buy a proper desk. The end tables are not meant to be used that way and it's uncomfortable to sit and type. Not only that,

but the room is very crowded and messy, as you can see. Marco's big cage doesn't fit anywhere else in the house (that works for us, anyway) so this is where it's ended up. We also had to find room for two 120 gallon aquariums, so one of them had to go in here. There's a pile of boxes behind the door that need to be broken down and taken off to the recycling center, and the list goes on. What we really need is to find a new desk and get rid of all the clutter, but money is tight and there's a list as long as my arm of things we need and want to buy for the new house! I'm hoping to go looking at the thrift stores and flea markets for a nice (and cheap) desk.

But I digress. The whole point of all that is to say that sitting there to write anything is uncomfortable right now. We don't own laptops, unfortunately. If I'm at home and want to do anything on my blog, it's either from this spot, or on my phone. And typing comments on my friends' blogs is aggravating enough when using a cell phone keypad, nevermind writing a whole post on it! I'm actually sitting at the computer you see in this photo as I type this, and while it's not the end of the world, it's definitely not comfortable. I'm spoiled with a really fast, nice computer at work (and two monitors!) along with a nice desk to work from, but I never visit this blog from my work computer. Our IT department can track every keystroke we make, and every website we visit, and it's better to stay away from anything that falls within the realm of my personal life.

But speaking of work....look at the craft some of the kids in the PMD class (profoundly mentally disabled) made and presented to me this afternoon! It was my favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr. printed on one side of a cut out heart, with some scribbled color on the other side and a piece of yarn for hanging.

 Oh, my heart.

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We just had a long weekend, with the MLK holiday meaning we had a day off on Monday. I couldn't help but think about those 800,000 federal workers going without pay for over a month now. I get so angry when I think about the government shutdown and all those poor innocent people working without pay and with families to feed and mortgages and rent to pay. And we have food banks being set up so that our federal workers can at least's just absolutely mind blowing. It makes me furious and I hate Trump and his supporters and all of the GOP with my whole heart. Just bitter black hate. And then I look at the words of someone like Dr. King and I think: how did you do it? How on earth did you manage to keep love and tolerance and hope alive in your heart when the whole damn country just seems like a nightmare of conflict and evil and the worst kinds of narcissism and corruption?

In any event, it seemed fated for me to receive this message this week, and from our most vulnerable students, at that. I needed the reminder.

Did you see the lunar eclipse on Sunday night? Since we had Monday off I was able to stay up late. Totality was around midnight. It was bitterly cold outside so we just walked out on our front porch,  looked at it for a couple of minutes, then went back inside. It was almost directly overhead and a rusty orange color. We've seen lunar eclipses before; they're not all that rare, but they always seem kind of special. Gregg and I had a rare day off together the following day, Monday. We're enjoying the new house so much! We can sit and discuss plans for the yard or paint colors or things we'd like to do for hours and hours. I have no idea when (or if) the newness of having our own home will wear off but the house is almost like a new member of the family right now. :)

The good thing about having a long weekend with Monday off is the fact that it's only a four day work week. Tomorrow is Thursday already. This week has been hectic and a little stressful at work, but at least it's a short one. I'm already ready for another weekend!

What are you up to this week?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sleeping in the Forest

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

from Sleeping In The Forest
© 1978 by Mary Oliver

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The weekend

It was a nice weekend, but it went by too darn fast (as usual). Marla and Martina came over for a while on Saturday night, and Marla brought the baby.

Just like other babies that have visited us over the years, Carsen is fascinated by the aquariums.

This afternoon I went to the movies with three of my book club friends. We saw On the Basis of Sex, which is about the early life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's a personal hero of mine. (And I couldn't help but wonder if her husband Marty was as handsome when he was young as the actor who played him....Armie Hammer!) It wasn't a great film, but was definitely entertaining enough for a cold, gray, rainy Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Limping into the New Year

This week has been all about trying to get back into the swing of work after all the holiday excitement and almost three weeks off. Oh, and hurting myself:

This was the back and side of my knee (I fell on the front of it) two days after my tumble on the nature trail. It's continued to darken since then and is now turning all sorts of lovely shades of yellowish green. The school nurse thinks the blood pooled in the bottom of my leg while the swelling was going down. Although the front of my knee is pretty bruised and scraped up, too. And it's been really uncomfortable to the touch. The other night George accidently banged it hard with his tail (he was wagging) and when I shrieked in pain, he licked it, which made me wince again, and poor George looked like this:

Only much more sheepish. Poor boy. He was only trying to help.

We had a good visit with Gregg's sister. Her lovely daughter, our niece Melissa, recently graduated magna cum laude from college, and her mother gave us the news that Melissa is newly engaged! Karen is thrilled about it and already loves the young man like a son, so it's all happy news on her end these days. Gregg was so happy to see Karen. Although he loves his brother, his sister is special to him and the sibling he loves best. He tried to talk her into staying an extra day or two (after clearing it with me first, of course) but she had obligations she had to get back to. And I had to go back to work the next day.

Work has been fine. I like my job, so going back after a long break isn't a big deal. It's been nice to see everyone. The bookkeeper told us all (first thing Monday morning!) that "We have 15 weeks until spring break!" which was kind of a downer! Haha. The upside of that is since Easter is so late, once we come back after spring break we'll only have 5 weeks of school left.

I had fun showing the school nurses my dramatic looking bruises! I had texted one of the them the night I fell and asked for advice. She told me she thought it was only badly bruised, but that I should get it checked out. She also advised me to ice it, elevate it, and to start taking Motrin immediately. She was right; it's only badly bruised, but it's been tender and I have to walk slowly and carefully.

Not the ideal way to start a brand new year....limping! But at least we also had a nice houseguest (and time with family) at the start of it, too.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Friday morning

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post with encouragement and advice. I'm pretty sure that I didn't break any bones, at least, so that's something. My knee is badly bruised but seems to be working just fine, although it's very stiff and sore. The real issue (much to my surprise) is all the other muscles I pulled during my fall falls. My left arm and shoulder and my right lower back area all hurt more than the knee at this point. I feel like I got hit by a truck! Last night I remembered some leftover muscle relaxers my doctor had given me for a pulled muscle, so I took one before bed. I had a pretty decent night's sleep after that and I feel a little better than I did yesterday.

My sister in law Karen is arriving this afternoon and will be staying until Sunday morning. Despite the busted knee and pulled muscles I managed to get a couple of things done around the house last night, most notably giving stinky George a bath. Gregg had to do the lion's share of lifting his 85 pound bulk into the tub, though. After a good shampooing Mr. Georgie smells nice for once and shouldn't be too offensive. I'm sure he'll be smelly again by the time Sunday rolls around, but at least he'll make a good first impression!

*Side note: why do some dogs smell and others don't? Our dog Ginger has the most wonderful, thick, luxurious fur and she never, ever smells bad. She rarely needs a bath. George was a real shock to us; a couple of days after a bath he'll smell like a dog again. He also has noticeable doggy breath and often farts, and his farts will clear the room. We never notice Ginger doing that! I don't understand how two dogs with the same diet can be so utterly different. Why is that?

He's a sweet boy. Smelly sometimes, but sweet!

I need to get off the computer and go get some things done. I still need to make up the guest bed with fresh sheets, tidy up and mop the kitchen, and clean the main bathroom. I've also got to go out back and clean up the big piles of dog poop around the back porch (George again. Ginger always goes to the furthest corner of the yard to do her business). I wish this visit had happened a little closer to Christmas. I feel like I've spent the whole break preparing the house for company, and I'm tired. It will be good to see my sister in law, though, and I'm glad Gregg will get to spend some time with her. They haven't seen each other since their mom's memorial service last year. Karen is due to arrive in about 4 hours so I need to finish up the last of my coffee and get to work.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What the f*%k is wrong with me?!

I joined two friends for a walk this afternoon through a wooded nature trail and managed to fall down....twice. The first time I tripped over a tree root, scraped up my palms pretty good, and got dirty...but was otherwise unscathed. You'd think I would have been more careful after that. But no.

We kept on walking, up and onto a paved path for about mile, and then somehow my left foot slipped off the side of the paved path. I fell down, hard, on my right knee. I was too stunned at first to do anything, then I started to tremble and cry. I managed to get to my feet and hobble the mile or so back to my car, sniveling the whole way with my knee swelling rapidly under my jeans. Bending my leg to get in the car hurt like hell, as did using the gas and brake. Now I'm back at home, with the knee elevated and a pack of frozen peas on it, wondering if I need to go to Urgent Care and get it looked at. It's swollen up to the size of a softball and feels tight and hot to the touch. The size of it is starting to alarm me.

Ms. Graceful strikes again! I need to find a way to work on my balance and flexibility when my knee gets well. This is ridiculous.

Welcome 2019!

Welcome to 2019! We saw the New Year in quietly at home on Monday night. I made homemade pizza for a late dinner and then opened a bottle of champagne to sip afterwards. We spent most of the evening watching NYE parties and fireworks all around the world on YouTube, and occasionally checking out CNN's coverage of the party at Times Square. I adore Anderson Cooper and he's become essential viewing on NYE around here. 

Yesterday was low key for the most part. My crazy Southern family have instilled the superstition about not washing clothes (or you'll "wash away" a family member in the next 12 months) in me and so all of our laundry was done and put away. I had also cleaned out the refrigerator--all those leftover scraps of Christmas food--and taken out the garbage, swept the floors, and wiped down the bathrooms. So we started out the year with a clean house, which is a nice way to begin, all superstition aside.

Oddly enough, Gregg and I did go up to the school where I work first thing yesterday morning. He maintains a 90 gallon planted aquarium in the library and needed to check on it since we've been on break so long. I have my ID to scan at the door so I was able to let us in, and just as we suspected, the water level of the tank was very low. If it had dropped much lower, the filters would have run dry and that will do them in, so going was a good idea. The hot water wasn't on (I supposed they cut it off during the break to save energy) so we had to stay for longer than we meant to, to give Gregg time to heat water with a submersible heater he carries with him for just such emergencies. We still finished up in about 30 minutes and came back home, and Gregg's mind was at ease about how the tank was faring in the absence of staff for nearly three weeks!

After we got home, I cooked the obligatory Southern New Year's Day meal that's supposed to bring us luck and money:

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Black eyed peas (made with the leftover Christmas ham and bone), rice, collard greens, and fried cornmeal cakes. My mom had brought me several Ziplock plastic bags of cooked collards at Christmas to freeze, so I only had to heat those up. She knows how much I like greens, but rarely cook them because they're so much trouble to make for one person. Gregg won't touch greens. Which is fine, because I ate a double portion to cover his share! We can use all the money we can get this year, and greens are supposed to be about money. The ham cooked into the peas is for luck, and the cornbread represents gold. I used Gregg's mom's recipe for hot water fried cornbread cakes, and although they were okay, they weren't nearly as light and crispy as hers. I did my best, though.

Today I'm working on doing some extra house sister in law is coming on Friday to stay over the weekend. Gregg is excited to see her and to have her see the new house, and I'm really happy for him to have some of his family come for a visit. So far over the holiday season he's not seen any of them, and so it will be very good for him to have his sister here. She will be our first visitor in the new year!

Speaking of visitors, I noted yesterday that I have three new followers--hooray! Welcome! Please feel free to jump right in and tell us more about yourself and the place where you live. I look forward to checking out some new blogs in the new year as well!