Monday, September 30, 2019


One of the guidance counselors at the school where I work has the sweetest little boy. He's in the first grade, and rides the bus over to our school every afternoon to meet his momma and ride home with her. He's forever asking me if he can "help" me, and I've taught him how to do a few simple tasks--dialing the extension for me when a call needs to be transferred, clicking on my "inbox" icon to check emails, operating the big copier in the mail room. He loves it.

The other day, I brought him a little bag of treats as a thank-you for being "my little office helper". He was so pleased with it, and immediately asked me what my favorite color was. I told him it was green.

The next afternoon, he ran to me when he arrived and gave me a big hug, and then he presented me with this:

I just love that little sweetheart!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Progress: an update

Thank you all for the wonderful comments on my last post. I know that many people might think it strange, but you all (my friends in blogland) and your friendship and support mean the world to me. I love you guys.

Ginger is improving a little each day. She still has a pronounced head tilt and some very minor balance issues, but every day she's a little more back to normal. She's eating well, drinking well, peeing and pooping well.... :)  Yesterday she started going back to her normal spot to sleep (on the rug beside my side of the bed) instead of staying in the den where she's been all week. This morning she made the first sounds we've heard from her since this all started--George ran to the porch door and started barking at the neighbor's Lab, and Ginger hurried over and joined in! She hasn't made a peep during all this ordeal, not even a yelp or a cry. That's one tough girl! She's even managed to give us a doggy grin or two when we've had to scold George for being too rough near her. She's always enjoyed watching George get in trouble! And she wags her tail at us sometimes in the circular motion she uses when she's happy. We're hoping she'll continue to improve and beat this thing altogether.

I had a great talk with Dr. Causey yesterday. First he gave Ginger a thorough exam and went over all her bloodwork with me. Then he closed the doors in the examining room and talked with me for over an hour about the situation the other day with Dr. Harper. He swore to me that it would be addressed and that something like that would never, ever happen at his office again. He hugged me three times and got teary eyed with me when I cried. He remembers Gregg having cancer 8 years ago and how much Ginger meant to us during that time. Then last year, Dr. Causey had cancer himself and had to undergo serious surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. So now those shared experiences are an extra bond between us and he's not just our vet, he's our friend. I feel so much better now that we've had that heart-to-heart! He made some good suggestions regarding Ginger's recovery, like feeding her lots of fish packed in oil to support her brain while she recovers from this (primarily neurological, we think) event. He then talked to me seriously about finding ways to ease the stress Gregg and I have right now and taking care of ourselves. He said that dogs are so naturally empathetic to their people that our stress and fear will easily rub off on them and that might impede Ginger's recovery. He advised cultivating a sense of calm, peace, and as much as possible, normalcy in our home to help her keep her stress hormones down as she recovers. Isn't that wonderful advice? I just love Dr. C. He's going to see us again in two weeks to check on Ginger's progress. We're hopeful she'll be almost totally back to normal by then.

As for me, the congestion in my chest is about 75% gone and I'm feeling better. I'm still tiring easily, and sometimes at work this week I'd break out in a sweat and feel kind of weird for a while, but all in all there's been a lot of improvement. It felt good to go back to work. Two days back to a normal routine were enough to banish the last of that awful, anxious, "end of the world" dark cloud that had been dogging me for days. Keeping busy is good medicine, and it's hard to be sad when you're surrounded by lively young teenagers all day. :)

Thanks again for all the kind comments and concern for us. I'll update again soon. In the meantime, please send our girl plenty of good vibes as she recovers!

Ginger relaxing on the porch this morning after breakfast. She was smiling at me. ❤

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Low point

The last few days, yesterday in particular, have been one of the low points in my life. I hope by writing about it here I can relieve some of the heaviness on my heart.

Let me begin by saying that I've been sick. My cough got worse and worse over the weekend and then I started running a fever, so I finally gave in and saw the doctor at Urgent Care on Monday afternoon. I had (and still have) a bad case of bronchitis, and the doctor said I shouldn't have waited so long to get some help. He started me on a strong antibiotic with strict instructions to see my primary doctor later this week for a re-check. My oxygen levels were a little lower than normal, not dangerously so, but enough to give him some cause for concern. I felt really, really terrible.

In the middle of all this, we found out that our home warranty wasn't going to cover the latest repair to our air conditioning. It was going to be a huge expense to repair it (in the neighborhood of $1000) which we would be nuts to do for a 36 year old unit. So on Monday we also called a man that was highly recommended to us, and had a whole new HVAC installed. That cost us several thousand dollars, but at least it's done now.

So then while the guy was installing the new unit (and I was at the doctor) Gregg happened to be outside watching the dogs running around and barking at the workmen. Suddenly Ginger fell over, and when she got up, she was walking funny. Gregg's initial thought was that she had stepped into one of the holes they're forever digging in the back yard and had hurt her foot. But no, it was so much worse than that.

For the rest of the night, Ginger couldn't walk straight. She kept losing her balance, tilting her head to one side, and her eyes were darting around in a peculiar way, as if she couldn't see straight. In the middle of the night she vomited a couple of times. We were so scared. Gregg slept on the couch in the den beside her and watched her all night. I didn't get a bit of sleep, myself, between being scared for her and sick. I was up, showered, and waiting with her at the vet's office when they opened at 8am.

Our regular vet, Dr. Causey, is wonderful. I love and trust him and he takes wonderful care of our dogs. But Tuesdays are his day off, and a new young female vet was working instead. They took Ginger inside, and by the time I got the car parked, they were already bringing her back up front. The young (looking) girl holding Ginger's leash said, "We took her temperature and it's normal. This must be neurological, either a brain tumor or a stroke. Can you take her to the specialty animal hospital in Columbia? They do neurology and oncology there and that's the best place for her." I said, "Can I at least see a vet here first?" And she said, "I am a vet. I'm Dr. Harper." Well, my bad. I didn't know. So I said that sure, we could take Ginger to Columbia or wherever we needed to go. My heart was breaking and tears were streaming down my face. Dr. Harper said, "We'll call ahead and let them know you're coming" as she handed me directions. And just like that, she walked off. The office manager wasn't even looking my way, so I got her attention and said, "You'll make sure Ginger's records go out ahead of us? And you'll let them know we're coming?" and she said, "Yes, we will" and went back to her typing.

Guess what? They didn't call ahead.

So anyway  I raced home, calling Gregg on the way and telling him that we had to take Ginger to Columbia Veterinary Emergency Trauma Surgery which is about a 90 minute drive from here. I pulled into our driveway in full crisis mode to pick him up, Ginger drooling and panting in the backseat. George barked and whined at the gate as we pulled off and I felt so bad leaving him behind. He's utterly devoted to Ginger and he knew something was very, very wrong.

That drive was one of the worst experiences of my life. We were both convinced Ginger was going to die. This is the dog that showed up as a puppy on our back porch the year after we were married, and adopted us. The dog that was by Gregg's side every minute of every day for the 6 months he was out of work undergoing cancer surgery and chemotherapy. The dog that's as beloved as any human member of our family could ever possibly be. We both cried the whole way there. I'm not exaggerating when I say that that drive was a traumatic experience. At some point I remember thinking how glad I was that we had never had children, because life is just a long series of heartbreaks, one after another, and I wouldn't want to inflict that on another human being. I was in a bad, bad place.

But the story has a happy ending. Something I had Googled the night before turned out to be what was wrong with Ginger: Peripheral Vestibular Disease. Apparently it can sometimes be caused by an inner ear infection, which wasn't the case here, or it can just happen for unknown reasons. But the key thing is that it usually resolves itself completely over a period of a few days as long as all the dog's bloodwork comes back normal. And Ginger's bloodwork showed her to be remarkably healthy for a 12 year old dog. The only thing that hasn't come back yet are her thyroid panels, but everything else was superb and the vet said she expects Ginger to do very well. They told us to give her an over the counter human medicine for motion sickness once a day for 5 days and to have our primary vet do a follow up at the end of the week.

CVET was an amazing animal hospital. It's state of the art, offers all kinds of specialty animal medicine, and is open 24/7/365. I'm really happy to have it as a resource for future reference. The staff was incredible. But it was expensive....$725 altogether for blood tests and some fluids to rehydrate her. We could have had all that for half the cost at home, not to mention the truly awful car ride.....for a diagnosis I had found the night before with a 10 second Google search.

All because it was Dr. Causey's day off and the
new vet in the practice couldn't be bothered to give us more than 5 minutes of her time. I plan to have a good long talk with Dr. C. when I take Ginger for her follow up appointment later this week.

Of course I'm beyond grateful that she's probably going to be ok. When we got home with her yesterday we were both exhausted. We've been sick ourselves, and we had missed a whole night's sleep, and then with all the stress and was a horrible, horrible day. But at least our girl is still with us and expected to recover.

And then, right after we got home yesterday, there was this....

Oh, my heart. ❤

Georgie had his Ginger back.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Fun times at my house

It's funny how the entire world seems to shrink and become smaller when you're sick. I feel as bad as I've felt in years right now. I'm pretty sure another trip to the doctor is in the cards for me tomorrow.

I have so much congestion in my chest that I've been getting short of breath. Friday afternoon I actually went and bought an over-the-counter emergency inhaler. I haven't had an asthma attack in years, and I was truly afraid I was going to end up in the ER for a breathing treatment. I also bought Mucinex DM, which is practically a miracle drug, and it's helped keep some of the worst congestion at bay. I'm running a fever now, too, and I ache all over. I'm pretty sure this is either the flu or bronchitis.

This whole weekend has been terrible. I've been feeling horribly depressed and sad. I'm sure it's just being ill that's making me feel that way but whatever the cause, it's awful. I cried when I got an email from a friend, checking on me. The dogs have been a big comfort. They both sit as close to me as possible, never leaving my side. Ginger, in particular, always makes sure she's touching me even if she's just sitting beside my feet. She's such a good girl. And Georgie looks so sad. He knows I don't feel well. I love those dogs so much.

I went ahead and texted the principal to let him know that I won't be in tomorrow. With a fever, I might be contagious, never mind  how awful I feel. I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Of course, Gregg has gotten sick now, too. That's always scary to me, since he only has one lung. We watch any respiratory infections very closely in case he needs to go to the ER. So far, he's sick, but not quite as sick as least not yet anyway.

How do you cope/comfort yourself when you're sick? I can't seem to concentrate to read for very long, and I have a bad headache to boot. I can't settle on anything to watch on tv, either. This is just the worst!

ps....Our a/c might really be dead this time. I think we're going to have to get some quotes on a new HVAC next week. Thank goodness it's cooler outside or I'd have to go somewhere else to stay. I couldn't cope with being hot on top of everything else!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Enough! Enough!

Somebody just take me out back and put me out of my misery!

I've developed a chest cold on top of everything else. I feel terrible. Terrible. Yesterday at work I just wanted to die. Aches, pains, sore throat, cough, chills, sweats, and the occasional back spasm to round out the fun!

Thank God it's Friday. 4:30 can't get here soon enough.

Sorry about a solid week of complaints. I just have to get it off my chest.

(Off my chest! Ha!)

Back this weekend....if I survive. Happy Friday, everyone.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Today has been a better day.

My back isn't hurting as much or seizing up, stopping me dead in my tracks, so the shot really seems to have helped. I've gotten by with only one dose of ibuprofen, which my stomach lining is thankful for. Too much of any NSAID and I have a stomachache to go along with whatever I'm taking it for.

The a/c guy will be here sometime on Friday. In the meantime, our temperatures have dropped into the perfect open-windows range so the wait isn't a hardship right now.

I finally accepted that the book club meeting I was supposed to host next week wasn't working out. I was already behind in household chores I had planned to do this week, and between the bad back and the a/c issue, Gregg urged me to try to trade with someone. He knows how nervous I am about will be my first time ever hosting the club and the biggest group (about 12) I've ever had over. I want the house to be sparkling clean and decorated for the season, and lots of great food. I texted Kathleen,  the group leader, and she readily offered to host next week. What a relief! In return I'll be hosting for her in December.

So that's another worry off my mind.

Here's a a couple of pictures from today to finish off this post.

First: these popped up in our back yard today. Hurricane Lilies!

Does anyone remember my friend Carol giving me fig tree cuttings to root in a bucket of water? It was the most wrong time of year for it and I never thought it would work. Well. Not only do these cuttings have small roots, but they're sprouting at the top and growing new leaves, too.

Sometimes it's good to be wrong.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Turns out I just have pulled muscles in my lower back. Had a cortisone shot in my hip, instructed to continue with the muscle relaxers at bedtime and Motrin through the day. The shot hurt like hell. Came home, still hurting, and discovered that our a/c has died again.


So much for that!

Well, I won't be getting that perfect attendance bonus this year at work. I had to leave early today. I have an appointment to see my doctor about my back at 2:15....yes, I finally broke down and called the doctor. I'm not sure what they're going to be able to do for me, since I already have muscle relaxers and no one ever wants to prescribe good pain medicine these days. I asked the school nurse (I have a lot of faith in her) if it was worthwhile to go, and she said yes. She said it wouldn't hurt to have an x-ray done to make sure something isn't really wrong.

I hate missing work and losing out on the bonus this early in the year, although honestly I suppose it's better that way. I'd really be mad if I struggled all this year to go to work, sick or not, and then was forced to call out during the last few weeks! Last year our band director dragged himself into work with the flu in early May because he was determined not to lose out. That's going too far, in my opinion, when you're risking getting others sick. He had plans to use that money for his honeymoon spending cash (he got married in June) and so I didn't blame him, but honestly he should have just stayed home.

Since sick time can only be used in half or whole day increments, I left work at 12 even though my appointment isn't until 2:15. If they make me do x-rays there's no telling how long I'll be there. I hate going to the doctor! I'd much rather still be at work.

Oh, well.....wish me luck. Hopefully it's just a pulled muscle or something equally minor, and hopefully they'll have pity on me and give me something decent for pain relief. Motrin just isn't cutting it!

I'll check in later. Thanks for all the responses on my last post!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Is there a cure for this?

I'm becoming one of the most clumsy, accident prone people I know. I keep hurting myself!

Remember how I thought I had a broken toe this summer? It was definitely broken. It took a full two months to heal and is still slightly tender to the touch. I did that by walking into the bottom of our exercise bike on the way back from the bathroom one night.

Two weeks ago I tripped in the bedroom again. I was walking into the room to turn on the light, and I didn't see Ginger lying beside the nightstand. She's a black dog, you know? So I tripped and went down hard, catching myself in the belly on the wooden corner of the nightstand. I hurt the big toe on my other foot that time (thankfully it isn't broken, just "sprained") and also got a big purple bruise right above my navel.

Last January I fell while walking on the nature trail with some friends, and hurt my knee. I also had extensive bruising on the back of that knee that worked its way down my calf over the course of the next month or so. That hurt a lot.

So what prompted this post? This morning I was messing around in the back yard and decided to plant something in the ground I'd had growing in a pot all summer. When I lifted the second shovelful of heavy, moist dirt, I felt a distinct "pop" in my lower back followed immediately by painful spasms. It was so bad I wondered if I was going to be able to get myself back in the house! I was soaked in sweat and trembling like a leaf by the time I managed to get inside. I immediately got an icepack (a big pack of frozen vegetables) on it and took 800mg of Motrin. I've been icing it all afternoon. It was so bad I even took one of Gregg's leftover pain pills in addition to the Motrin. All that seems to have helped a lot. Still, I'm dreading tomorrow morning and what it's going to feel like after sleeping on it. And I really, really don't want to miss work....the district is offering a $2,000 bonus at the end of the year for perfect attendance. I'd hate to lose out on that this early in the year.

What can I do to stop being so damn clumsy? I'm sure this happened today because my muscles and tendons were cold and I hadn't really properly stretched or moved around much prior to breaking out the shovel. I guess I could be more mindful of that in the future. And more careful when I walk in the dark. Sometimes I just fall out of sheer clumsiness, though, and I have terrible balance. Does anyone recommend anything to help with that? Some sport or exercise that will improve my balance and flexibility?

In the meantime...I'll keep you posted in the latest edition of Times When I Hurt Myself. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Book review: Hollow Kingdom

You guys, I read the most incredible book this past week. It's called Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton.

To start, here is a short summary from Goodreads:

One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle's wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim's eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn't quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies--from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim's loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis--fail to cure Big Jim's debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

Admittedly, this book might not be everyone's cup of tea. Hell, if the narrator hadn't been a crow I'd probably never have given it a second look (being a crazy bird lady as I am). S.T. (short for Shit Turd, named by Big Jim, his human) loves to swear, and then there are zombies. I know, I know...... it sounds absurd, doesn't it?

Here's a couple of excerpts from Ilana Masad's review from NPR books:

The novel is largely narrated by a domesticated crow named S.T. — short for something unprintable — who has spent his life with a beer-drinking, junk-food-eating, sports-loving, breast-obsessed man named Big Jim, who raised S.T. from a hatchling. A dopey, lazy dog named Dennis rounds out their little Seattle-based family. When Big Jim's eye unexpectedly falls out of his head, S.T. knows something is very wrong, but it takes him a good long while before he gives up on his beloved MoFo — S.T.'s term for humans, learned at Big Jim's bosom — and leaves home, accompanied by Dennis.

Soon enough, it becomes clear that humanity has been seized by something awful. The MoFos wander around aimlessly, their heads bobbing, their fingers swiping at objects without screens, their flesh rotting off them indiscriminately (honestly, don't read this book while you're eating if you're squeamish. Buxton is extremely talented at writing the more horrifying descriptions of the MoFos' physical condition). They don't seem very intent on eating or drinking, they've lost their language, and they become incredibly violent towards living creatures if disturbed — in fact, it's Big Jim's attempt to take a bite out of S.T. that sends the poor crow off to discover what's going on.

S.T. is a brilliant narrator, partially because he has reverence for human things like Cheetos and baked goods and football fandom, but also because he has only half a grasp on what certain human things mean. The book is laced with little jokes referring to pop culture and human idiosyncrasies and narratives...
But S.T.'s love of MoFos, and the deep ache he feels for Big Jim and the life he used to lead read as incredibly sincere. He mourns our loss like few other animals in the book do:
I thought about the other Dennises out there. How many more of him were there, creatures who'd been loyal and good to the MoFos? [...] Creatures with scales or bristles or down, slobbering tongues, good hearts, gentle souls, and soft mouths. Creatures who knew the magic of MoFos, what they give us in protection and affection, what it means to love them with all of your heart and nose and beak. The feeling of those funny bald fingers that can open books and cans of refried beans gently sliding down your back. MoFo is family.
Ultimately, though, S.T.'s real challenge is learning that wild animals, like the murder of crows that roosts at the nearby university campus, are just as creative, resourceful, and lively as the humans he loves. His identity crisis — he so wishes to be human, but isn't and can't become one — is never quite resolved, but he learns, slowly, how to work with his own kind, how to live in this new version of the world.
While it's deeply disconcerting, reading about our own extinction, there is a lot we can learn from S.T. and Dennis the dog's symbiotic relationship in this novel. There's a lot we can learn from S.T.'s getting over his own prejudices about other animals — like seagulls and penguins — in order to work with them. In his wholesale love of us, a species a fellow crow calls "a plague on the earth ... not able to control their numbers or their consumption of the land, and so Nature did it for them," S.T. ultimately gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, we still have a chance to turn things around before Nature is so fed up that she really does set her sights on destroying us for good.
I absolutely loved this book. I laughed literally out loud over and over, and cried several times, too. This book is incredibly touching at times. I fell in love with Shit Turd and the dog Dennis. Maybe it's because of my 12 years of living with a parrot, but S.T. and Dennis' longing for Big Jim and their old life with him really struck a chord. The author has a relationship with two half domesticated crows and has been surrounded by all sorts of other animals, both wild and domesticated. It really shows, too, especially in all the little vignettes told from other species' point of view that she scattered through the book.
If you don't mind a quirky read that's kind of a cross between The Walking Dead and The Art of Racing in the Rain, I think you just might love Hollow Kingdom! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Wednesday...still waiting

I got off work two hours early today because of the approaching storm. School is canceled for tomorrow, and the district is taking a "wait and see" approach to Friday. I raced around when I got off, going by the bank, the grocery store for some last minute supplies, and the ABC store for a bottle of Kraken rum. If we lose power I'll drink rum and Coke for as long as the ice lasts!

Once I got home, I spent two hours cleaning and finishing up the laundry so that if we do lose power for a few days, the house will be tidy and all of our clothes will be clean. Speaking of which, I had so much help!

Image may contain: indoor
Supervising the laundry of his joys in life.

Something funny happened with Marco this morning. We had the bathroom window open a few inches, and a small bird (a Carolina Wren) flew into the house. It buzzed past my head and made it all the way down the hall, around the foyer, and into the dining room. Gregg and I managed to catch it when it flew between the blinds trying to get out of the living room window, and took it outside and let it go. A few minutes later, when I was applying my makeup with Marco on my shoulder (he loves supervising all personal grooming, too) I said to him, "Marco! There was a little wild bird in our house!" And I kid you not, he replied, "I know!" Crazy!!! That's one of the phrases he knows how to say, obviously, but his timing is just too perfect sometimes. That's a smart little parrot!

So we're still waiting on Dorian to pass through. Late tonight and tomorrow are supposed to be the worst of it, so I'll let you know how we fare. At least we'll have a little feathered comedian to keep us entertained if we lose power!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Inching this way

What waiting for this current hurricane feels like:

No photo description available.

I wish it would just come on already and do whatever it's got to do. It stalled out as a Cat 5 over the Bahamas for a day and a half, unleashing hell on those poor people. Now it's finally moving northward, thankfully a good bit weaker now (although still a strong hurricane). I'm not really worried about it. The coastal areas are likely to get hurricane force wind and rain, but we're far enough inland that only tropical storm force weather is predicted for us. Of course, that depends on the current track holding true, and that's iffy at best.

Tomorrow is a half day at the school. We'll be dismissing 2 hours early ahead of the first bands of the storm rolling through. We've heard that we probably won't have school on Thursday or Friday, but that hasn't been officially confirmed yet.

Meanwhile we've had some beautiful blue skies and clouds lately. Yesterday was Labor Day and Gregg was able to take a rare day off with me. It was fun to be at home together with Ginger, George, and Marco. We spent a large portion of the day sitting on the back porch, enjoying the nice weather. We may end up having a day or two more off together this week, but if we do the weather won't be nice.

Take care, my east coast friends.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


That damn hurricane is actually headed this way. Instead of a direct hit somewhere in Florida, it's supposed to move along the coastline and threaten everybody between Florida and North Carolina. No one is sure yet exactly what's going to happen.

I've been saying that Florida is going to be mostly fine, and I stand by that prediction. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. Evil always seems to flourish. Trump's precious Mar a Lago is in Florida, and so is my brother in law's horrid evil shrew of a wife. They'll both sail through without problems, while good and innocent people everywhere else in the southeast will suffer. I've seen it happen time and again.

My husband texted me from work a little while ago and asked about the latest storm updates. I replied with a headline, "Dorian Crushes Bahamas". He texted back: those poor people. Yes. It's terrible to think of a Cat 5 storm (sustained winds over 175mph) leveling those islands. I'm fearful of how much death and destruction is going to be left in the wake of this storm.

And we have to wait to see where it's headed next. I'll keep you posted about South Carolina.

Oh, and happy September. Sigh.