Sunday, March 31, 2019

Catching up at the end of March

This month seems to have flown by at the rate of January and February put together. March is my favorite month of the year, and it's almost gone already!

I realized I never posted pictures from my little birthday get together(s). It was such a lovely weekend that I want to blog about it to remember it.

First up: I decorated the dining room with paper flower garlands purchased years ago from the dollar store, no doubt for one of my "girls' night" gatherings. I made lots of party food, which included ham ranch pinwheels, raw spring veggies with dip, strawberries and grapes, a fruity white wine sangria flavored with apple brandy, and of course the carrot cake I had bought for my birthday.

And Marla brought this little sweetie along with her, which was fun for us all. Martina gave the baby a tiny stuffed turtle, which she loved:

I got a lovely gift from Martina: a pretty basket with gardening cloves and wooden cooking spoons, which were handmade by a local artisan. Aren't they pretty?

The birds are Carolina Wrens, which is our state bird and also a species we see frequently at our backyard feeders. I love these and can't bear the thought of actually using them, even though they're supposed to be fine for use as long as you're willing to do a little extra maintenance. Carolina Wrens are also on one of the mugs I bought myself as a birthday gift earlier that day from the Wild Birds Unlimited store (I dropped in to buy seed in bulk for the feeders).

I love these bird mugs and want the whole collection. I started with these two.

The day after my birthday, I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant with some of my book club friends: Marian, Rita, Karen H., Karen R., Paulette, and Kathleen. The place has wonderful margaritas and fresh tableside guacamole. I got a bunch of cards, and one gift of a tiny stuffed narwhal from my friend Karen H. It puzzled me at first.

Then Karen reminded me of something I shared on Facebook the other day that she particularly enjoyed:

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When she saw the tiny pink narwhal, she thought of me. I love my friends!

After the birthday weekend fun it was hard to go back to the grind of work last week. We still haven't had our spring break yet, because it's tied to Easter which is very late this year. We also had a few long weekends taken away since Christmas because we had to make up some of the days lost to Hurricane Florence. The kids are wilder than ever and everyone is fed up and sick of being at school (the staff too!). Good Friday (our first day off) can't come soon enough!

I start a conversational Spanish class on Tuesday. Keeping up with my lessons on my own has proved challenging to say the least and I think the structure of taking a course will help me reignite some enthusiasm for continuing to learn. We have lots of parents at the middle school who only speak Spanish so there's a real need for it at work. The adult education center connected with our school district is offering the course for only $35. Classes are from 5-7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays for all of April and May (with the exception of the week of spring break). I'm really looking forward to it!

That about finishes up what I've been doing/thinking about this month! It's so beautiful outside right now. Our screened in back porch has become my "happy place" and I spend hours every day sitting out there, enjoying the mild spring weather and watching the birds at our feeders. Spring in South Carolina is something to see.

The view from our driveway.

Our neighborhood is filled with blooming wisteria.

Our dogwood tree out front is blooming.

View from our front door.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Saving the bees

Yesterday I decided to try something new at work. I get so tired of sitting at my desk all day that instead of sitting in the lounge during my lunch break, I went for a walk around the campus. (I ate my sandwich sitting at my desk prior to that). It was a beautiful day and a walk seemed like just the thing. As I blogged last year, one of our science teachers got a grant to establish a honeybee colony for our school. It's been doing really well, in fact, that the colony is growing by leaps and bounds. When I walked past the hives, I noticed a loud buzzing over my head up in the limbs of a pine tree. I looked up and saw a huge cloud of bees buzzing around up there. I don't know much about beekeeping, but I did know that that seemed odd. After lunch I saw the science teacher and told her what I had seen. She immediately said,  "Oh no! They're swarming!" and after asking me exactly where I had seen them, she rushed outside. I didn't think too much about it after that.

When I got to work this morning, there was a carton with 18 fresh eggs on my desk for me. Sometimes I buy eggs from Mrs. Howard (the beekeeper) so I emailed her to ask her how  much I owed her for them. She replied, "Not a dime. You saved the day yesterday. If you hadn't noticed the swarm and let me know we would have lost half the colony. I was able to call in another beekeeper friend of mine and we caught them and have started another box to accommodate the separate group!" Later she emailed me pictures of the swarm up in the branches of the pine tree and the friends in their gear who helped capture them. When I saw her later on in the day I thanked her for the eggs and she said it was "the very least I could do in return for you saving the bees"!

Omelets for dinner tonight! 
Good thing I decided to go for a walk yesterday!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"Every year is a blessing"..

Yesterday I bought a cake from a woman in the school district who bakes as a side income. Martina and Marla are coming over tonight to help me celebrate my birthday and I wanted a carrot cake to serve. "Aunt Connie" as she calls herself delivered it to the school early in the morning and it was sitting on my desk in a box with a pretty bow for the rest of the day.

One of the guidance counselors walked past about an hour after the cake was dropped off and asked me about it. She said, "What's the occasion?" and I told her that tomorrow was my birthday. She wished me a happy one, and then asked me how old I would be. I kind of smirked and said, "Forty four." I've had some mixed feelings about entering my mid 40's and it plainly showed. The counselor then asked me, "Why are you frowning?" and I felt a little sheepish then and said something to the effect of, "well, you know, time is just moving so fast, and I'm not really young anymore..." and her reply gave me something to think about for the rest of the day. She said, "No, you should be happy. Every year is a blessing..." then she smiled at me, patted my shoulder, and went on about her day.

I thought about that all afternoon. I thought about my friend Michael, who died when we were both 31 years old. What wouldn't his friends and family give for another 13 years with him? One of my girlfriends from high school lost both of her sons to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy when they were teenagers. Those boys never got a chance to whine about reaching middle age. Another woman I went to high school with never made it to work one morning, and they found her dead of a brain aneurism on her kitchen floor that afternoon, dressed in her work clothes. She was 42. I could go on, but you get the drift. That one small comment from my coworker really changed my whole perspective.

 When I take stock of my life at this point, I realize how much I've accomplished in my 44 years. I have a husband that I adore and love to pieces. We work hard to make each other happy. I have a home of my own, finally, which was something I spent years hoping for. I have wonderful friends, two of whom will be over tonight to drink wine and eat cake and celebrate with me, and we'll do it all again for them when their birthdays roll back around. Tomorrow another group of my friends (from my larger book club) are going out to eat with me to mark the occasion. I am rich in friendship! I have two sweet dogs that I dote on, and a sassy shit-talking parrot that makes me laugh every single day. I like my job, and my coworkers. I have a good life, and every single year I get to spend enjoying it really is a blessing. Thank you, Mrs. Betty Lawrence, for reminding me of all that!

Now I'm off to enjoy my day....and to be thankful for it! Have a good one, everyone!

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43 years ago's always been all about the cake!

Friday, March 22, 2019


My sweet husband sent these to me at work this morning  (a day early). Aren't they beautiful? He knows how much I love roses!

They're going to look so pretty on the table tomorrow when I have friends coming over!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Pictures from the Peddler

For absolutely no reason at all, I feel a bit of the old Sunday afternoon gloom coming on. I'm not sure how I want to spend the day. I'm feeling bored (unusual for me) and a little bit restless. I wish Gregg had the day off too but he always works on Sundays. Nothing I can think of to do seems appealing.

I'm also feeling a tad bit irritable.

Oh well. At least I seem to be over the worst of the stomach bug that tormented me last week.

So that reading this isn't a total waste of your time, I'm including some photos I took yesterday at a big giant flea market here in Florence called Palmetto Peddlers. I enjoyed looking around at all the crazy stuff, but didn't end up buying anything.

Have a good Sunday, everyone.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sick day

I took a sick day today. Yesterday I got a terrible stomach ache as soon as I got to work and ended up leaving at noon. I can't be away from my desk for more than a minute without getting someone else in the office to cover for me, since I have to answer the front door (the camera and speaker are on my desk) and buzz people in. It's a constant job at a big school like ours, and it's embarrassing to me to have to let someone know every time I have to go to the restroom. Not on a normal day, of course, but when there's an upset stomach involved.....let's just say that by 10am my coworkers were encouraging me to leave. It was painfully obvious that the best place for me was at home.

When I woke up this morning I still had a bit of a stomach ache. I decided not to risk a repeat of yesterday and just stay home. I haven't used all the sick days I had left over from last year, and it looks as if I'll carry over all 10 of the days I got this year, too. So there's no issue there.

I actually feel better now that it's approaching lunchtime. It's warm and I'm sitting outside on the porch with Marco, typing this on my phone. It's another beautiful spring day, and it feels good to spend it at home.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Beautiful Sunday

It's as beautiful a day as we've seen in months. Blue sky, sunshine, warm breezes. Spring is here.

The weather is so nice, in fact, that I put Marco in his tall skinny cage and wheeled him out to the porch to sit with me and the dogs and soak up some sunshine and fresh air. It's his first visit to our new screened porch. Every time one of the dogs walk past he says "Hey Georgie! Hey Gingerbread!" so I think he likes it out here! Getting outside every now and then is going to be so good for him.

This sunshine is good for me.  A local meteorologist posted on Facebook yesterday that since September it's rained 18 out of 25 weekends!  All I want to do today is sit outdoors and bask. And now that the time has changed we'll have much later sunsets to enjoy from the porch. If today is any indication, maybe the time change is heralding the arrival of better (drier) weather and more of these beautiful spring days.

The view of the porch from the back fence. Just look at that blue sky!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Easy Friday

Today should be a relatively easy day at work. We have parent-teacher conferences at the school and so the students have the day off. The conferences are only scheduled until noon and then the principal said that the teachers and other staff can leave early. I'm thankful for that.

Yesterday was a bad day. I nearly cried at work. This week has been super stressful, what with the guidance counselors and half of the office staff being off at professional development conferences leaving me almost totally alone to run the front office. I was already feeling pretty browbeaten by endless phone calls, answering the front door, and basically putting out one fire after another, and when I asked one of the assistant principals for help (two sets of parents had called who needed an administrator to call them back and help them with situations) she totally blew me off and was quite rude about it. I felt like I was getting zero support all while trying to deal with stuff way above my pay grade. My feelings were already a bit tender, since it's almost "that time of the month" and I was completely overwhelmed to begin with. I had to fight with myself to hold back the tears. Luckily there was plenty of distraction and I was able to swallow them down, but I spent the whole day feeling unappreciated, worn out, and just....tired. I made the mistake early on taking on extra tasks for my coworkers and instead of appreciating it, they just ask for more and more. I'm going to have to go to the principal about it at some point, but I recognize that while I'm feeling emotional it's not the proper time, and he's been overwhelmed himself, lately. Maybe next week.

In the meantime, I should be off by 12:30 today and can come  home and get an early start on the weekend. It's sorely needed.

Have a good day, everyone.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


Although I'm not a Catholic, for years now I've been inspired to observe some version of Lent thanks to an article I read years ago by the wonderful Waverly Fitzgerald called Pagan Lent. Here's a small excerpt:

If you think about what’s going on in the natural world, these food deprivations make sense. This part of early spring is the most hazardous time of the year for people living close to the earth. The first bitter greens (so prominent a part of spring equinox feasts like Passover and Easter) are just emerging. Fresh eggs, also associated with these feasts, are not yet available; birds are just beginning to nest. The foodstuffs, particularly the salted and smoked meat, that were stored to carry the family through the winter may be giving out. The potatoes and apples left in the cellar are getting soft and of dubious quality. The deprivation of Lent may not be voluntary but a necessity imposed by nature. As Caroline Walker Bynum points out in Holy Feast and Holy Fast, “Fasting is in rhythm with the seasons, scarcity followed by abundance.” By choosing lack, people believed they could induce God to send plenty: rain, harvest and life. As Gregory the Great said, “To fast is to offer God a tithe of the year.”

There is a long tradition of spring purification. Cleansing is part of the action of the tonic herbs of early spring on the body. Also think of spring cleaning. Those who planned to be initiated during the Eleusinian Mysteries in the fall participated in purification ceremonies in the early spring, which included bathing in the sea. When the world is being made anew, we wish to make ourselves new. Yet any change is fraught with danger and difficulty. As a friend of mine said while we were on our way to a ritual, “There is no transformation without change.” Gertud Mueller Nelson in her wonderful book on Catholic ritual comments, “which of us...does not know we must change and fear it, and in that fear come face to face with the mystery of death.” She believes that “conscious engagement of suffering and death forces us to take stock of our gift of life and consider ways of reforming and living our lives more fully and passionately.”

Waverly's website School of the Seasons is a treasure trove of seasonal lore and ideas for celebrating holidays.

Today is Ash Wednesday (this year I'm aligning my "pagan Lent" with the Catholic church simply because I couldn't muster up the self discipline to start back in February) and so I've committed myself to 40 days of logging all of my food intake into my Fitness Pal app. I've gotten out of the habit since November; first we moved, then it was the holidays, and then I couldn't seem to stop with the holiday eating! I haven't dared step on the scale yet but I'm sure I've gained a few pounds back...and losing 35 pounds was too hard to allow backsliding! I plan to use this 6 weeks to get back to where I was pre-Christmas, and then I need to lose 35 more. I know I can do it. Losing weight last year just  took daily calorie deficits (modest ones) that I did about 80% of the time. Since the other 20% of the time I allow myself treats or to have something for a special occasion, I don't feel all that deprived. It's a slow process, but do-able. I just need the kick in the pants to begin again, which is where my Lenten challenge comes in this year.

Do you observe a traditional Lent or similar periods of self discipline? I'd be really interested to hear about it if you do!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Spring is coming

I paid a visit to Forest Lake Greenhouses on Saturday afternoon and spent a happy hour browsing and dreaming of my future garden.

There's nothing like a trip to a plant nursery in late winter/early spring to lift the spirits.

Today my friend Martina stopped by for a couple of hours and she left a seed/plant catalog she saved to give to me. Our first thunderstorm of the season is on its way and I'm settling in like this tonight:

I love a good seed catalog this time of year! 

Anyone else ready for spring?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Why did I say anything?

Yesterday might have been the craziest day of the whole crazy week at the school where I work. I shouldn't have said anything here on the blog about hoping for a calm Friday. It was nuts!

Cro asked me in the comments on the last post why we had to have police come to our school multiple times in one week. Well, to begin with, we have an SRO (school resource officer) at our school every day unless there's a shortage at another campus in the district. This is an armed sheriff's deputy with his own office, where he can sit and monitor the cameras stationed all around the school. We all really like the officer they've assigned to us this year. He's a young guy that has a great rapport with the students, in fact, lots of kids try to hang out in his office between classes because he enjoys talking to and joking with them. When there's a fight or a student gets in trouble he's always a voice of calm reassurance to the parents, and he's well liked by them, too. Some of the troubled bigger boys really seem to crave his attention, and it's good for them to have a positive male role model.

Both times when the police were called to our school last week it was when our SRO was off campus, having been sent to other schools for the day due to absences. Both calls came from pissed off parents whose kids had either been in a fight or were having mental health issues along with a discipline referral and they disagreed with how the school was handling it. One father was ranting and raving at me in the front office and I was actually glad when he called the police! 

There was actually a third case of the police being called to the school, on one of the days that our SRO was actually there. This time two extra officers had to be called in because a student disclosed serious physical abuse that was happening to him and his siblings at home. After DSS came out and investigated, they had to come take the student into emergency custody. Thank goodness the boy didn't have to go back to his house--I heard that under his shirt sleeves and pants legs he was just covered in bruises.

In addition to all of the above drama, we had at least four serious fights between students this week. Serious as in bloody mouths and noses and, in the case of two sisters, cold calculated pre-planned attacks where they jumped two other girls unprovoked, at lunch and in a classroom. 

Yesterday morning I was greeted first thing to a private message on the school's Facebook page (which I manage) from a parent alerting me to the fact that anonymous students had created an Instagram page filled with videos of fights at our school! So two of the administrators had to spend the morning figuring out who was responsible. They did eventually catch him. If we could somehow ban cell phones (which all of the kids have) at school  it was save a ton of trouble, but parents would be outraged. They think their kids "need" those phones for safety reasons, but they do nothing but cause trouble. (Side note: one tiny little 7th grade boy got written up this week for having his phone out in class, and when the teacher took it from him he turned to his closest seatmate and said, incredulously, "That bitch took my phone!") Then all morning long I had calls from classrooms asking me to get an administrator for the teacher because of outrageously bad behavior. It was so bad, you guys, that a teacher walked out and quit at lunchtime yesterday! Walked into the office, threw her lanyard and door key fob on my desk, and announced to us all that she was headed to the district office to resign!!!

I don't know what in the holy hell has gotten into the student body at our school, but I really hope they got it out of their systems this past week! It was absolutely nuts! I should never have said anything yesterday morning. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

More rain

It's Friday! It's been another long (and stressful) week at work. I'll have to blog about some of the craziness later this weekend, but there's still one more day to get through. So far we've had the police called to our school twice this week, a "Showcase of Schools" open for the public to come visit, a vote on Tuesday for a contentious local referendum (our school is a polling place so the band room had to be blocked off from the rest of the school) that failed to it's been another wild and crazy week. Everyone is ready for a rest.

I would love to have some sunshine this weekend, but no, it's going to rain....again! It's done nothing but rain every single weekend all winter. Sometimes the sun will peek out for an hour or two but always on weekdays, it seems. I'm so tired of gray skies and rain! I've started taking vitamin D supplements again to try to get some energy back. I'd rather get it the old fashioned way.

Well, off to the jungle  middle school. Wish me luck. Here's hoping that the drama stays at a minimum and we can end this week with some kind of calm!

Have a great day, everyone!