Monday, October 25, 2021

Monday quickie

 Apropos of my last post....

I would hate to leave you all with the impression that my book club has huge fancy spreads of food like that on a regular basis. Olenka is crazy--in the best possible way, of course! She loves to entertain, has free time and money to burn, and in this case she hadn't had a chance to host the group in almost two years thanks to Covid. So she did a little extra, even for her. It's definitely not the norm! Several members of the group (the ones who don't like to cook and aren't especially keen on entertaining) will empty a few bags of chips and crackers into bowls, open some jars of salsa and dip, and call it a day. We have fun either way.

What's not fun is that Gregg had to go get a big chunk of flesh cut out of his face today! He'd developed a small tan mole beside his nose that turned out to a deep (and wide) patch of skin cancer. There's a huge bandage on his face right now, and they warned him he'll probably end up with a lot of swelling and a black eye by tomorrow. He can't lift anything or do any vigorous activity for the next 5 days. In fact, the dermatologist told him to take the rest of the week off. 

I'm taking tomorrow off to be with him. His spirits are pretty low tonight, and I think he needs a little extra TLC. 

Back tomorrow...

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Friends and (work) foes

My book club resumed our monthly meetings Wednesday night. Covid infection rates are way down in this area, and once again it seems safe to do so. Olenka was the hostess this time, and while she always puts on a really nice spread, this time she really outdid herself. 

We read The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. I didn't bother to link to it because I thought it was a piece of crap. Everyone else loved it, or said they did, with the possible exception of my friend Marian, whose only comment was "Well, it's certainly no World According to Garp". I thought that a very apt observation, because the author really did seem to be trying to write a sort of John Irving-esc novel. Well, we can't all like everything. I borrowed the book from someone else so at least I didn't pay for it! 

Good book or not, I was grateful for the chance to get away for a couple of hours and spend time laughing with friends. We called Kathleen, our former group leader who moved away last month, and put the phone on speaker so everyone could say hi. We certainly miss her, and it was obvious she misses us too and is lonely. She's in rural New York state helping her (very) elderly mother at the moment. The only other member who didn't come was Sara, whose younger son has asthma and is still a year too young to get the Covid vaccine. We missed seeing her, too.

I'm feeling a little punky today. Yesterday I got a flu shot at work so I'm blaming that for the achy, tired, dragging feeling I woke up with this morning. I've also been under some stress at work which isn't helping. Two women who work with me in the office have suddenly turned into adult versions of middle-school mean girls towards me. I have no idea why.

 I've tried to think how I might have inadvertently offended them, but there really isn't anything. It would be easier if I had (offended them) because then we could talk about it and work it out. No, this is mostly a difference in personalities, but also something deeper. It's me. I attract bullies and always have. That's a hard thing to admit to, a shameful thing. Every day when these women ice me out, pretend I'm invisible, refuse to speak to me or make eye contact unless it's absolutely necessary (but then retreat to one or the other's office to whisper and laugh and gossip together for literally hours) I sit there feeling small on the inside. 

 This might have already been resolved if I were the type of person who could just walk up to them and have it out. That's really hard for me to do, though. I'm not very assertive, and to be honest, I'm afraid I'd cry, which would be humiliating. Of course, they save the worst of their behavior for when no one is around to observe it (particularly the administration) and I'm afraid to complain because of how popular they are with the rest of the staff. The principal is really nice, but he's a typical man in that he doesn't notice these kinds of subtle, catty behaviors. I can't help but wonder if he'll think I'm being overly sensitive or even paranoid if I say anything. 

I'm thankful they're not really creating any problems for me beyond hurting my feelings. The entire rest of the staff at my job is wonderful and I have plenty of good relationships. I might be overworked and doing the job of two or even three people, but I get a lot of respect from everyone except these two. I shouldn't let it bother me as much as it does, honestly. Most days I try to adopt a veneer of cool, distant professionalism and a blank face when they're around. You want to pretend I'm invisible? Ok, I'll ignore you right back. Since they only speak to me these days when it's absolutely necessary, I've starting doing the same in return. It's uncomfortable, but I'm not sure that there's a better solution at the moment.

With everyone else, the students and parents and the rest of the staff, I'm warm and friendly and welcoming. Helpful. Cheerful. I do still like my job, and I'm still very grateful for it. I just wish these two women would move past their (apparent) arrested development and start acting like they work in a middle school, not attend one!

File this under: at least some one appreciates me!  (Just kidding) :) The other day a really nice parent brought me a little Halloween treat as a "thank you" for always being kind and helpful to her and her daughter. It's a tiny s'more kit with a custom Halloween marshmallow on top! Isn't it adorable?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Hey, You.

There have been some big changes in our home aquarium situation. We've had a Blood Parrot cichlid for years that stayed in a 55 gallon tank in the office at the old house, and in a bedroom here. This wasn't a fish we intentionally kept; rather, it was getting beat up in one of Gregg's client's aquariums and he brought it home to save its life. We fully expected it to die, but thanks to lots of care and attention, she came back from the brink, grew, and thrived. (We know it's a "she" because for several years she laid eggs monthly).

Gregg's felt bad for a while now that she's had such a limited space to swim in, and very little attention beyond water changes and daily feeding. Being tucked away in the back of the house meant that she was mostly ignored. To make up for it, he spent this past weekend converting our 120 gallon tank in the den into a new home for her (and setting up another 55 for the smaller schooling fish and plants that had to be moved out). Now this big girl is right in the middle of the household action, and she has 6 feet of space to swim around in. She seems pretty happy with all the extra room and attention!

You can hear the other parrot in the house asking for attention in the background. :)

A couple of weeks ago we finished watching all six seasons of The Americans and really enjoyed it. I'd been looking around for something else to watch, and lo and behold, on Friday night the third season of You had dropped on Netfix! I was so excited! It's been good catch back up with cute-but-creepy Joe and his latest obsession. Lots of fun. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Another one of those days

 Lucky me! I started feeling the unmistakable signs of a UTI yesterday afternoon right before I left work. Talk about a miserable night! I went to the doctor this morning and had my self-diagnosis confirmed, and a prescription was called in for me. Hopefully I'll have some relief soon. In the meantime I have a massive headache, so along with the antibiotic I took some ibuprofen. In the next few minutes I'll be headed back to bed for a good long nap--if Marco will cooperate and stay quiet for a couple of hours, that is. 

Of course, I had to call in sick to work today. I'm sure the two most catty, backbiting, gossipy women who work in the office with me are having to help fill in, and I'm equally sure they're both complaining and trash-talking me. They do with everyone else, after all. Oh well. As long as I'm on good terms with the principal (and I am) then that's all that really matters. I almost never call in sick, and he knows that, but I still got a note from the doctor to excuse the absence.

To add to all this fun, last night we realized that the water coming out of our pipes is light brown! After getting in touch with a couple of neighbors, I found out that such was the case in the whole neighborhood. I called the after-hours emergency number at the water department last night, and then the regular number this morning. The woman I spoke with today told me that they're aware of the problem and would be coming out to fix it. In the meantime, we're using bottled water for drinking. Who knows what's coming out of the tap right now! 

What a day it's been, and it's not even noon yet!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

It's already Sunday

 I finally gave in to my compulsion to own a food dehydrator and ordered one from the bad "A" place (sorry, Maddie) after being unable to find one to buy in person here in town. It took three days to get here and when it finally arrived and I unpacked it, the handle on the door was completely broken off. Shame on Mr. Bezos and his minions! Now I have to return the stupid thing and wait up to a week for my refund. Sigh. So disappointing! I already had a big bundle of bananas and apples I had planned to dry for healthy snacks next week. That won't be happening any time soon, now, and to be honest once I saw how much counter space a dehydrator will take up I'm not sure I want to try to reorder at this point. All the wind went out of my sails when I saw that broken handle.

One thing that did arrive safely was a little red-haired girlie that was a gift from Fresca. She and Marco were instant best friends, and she's brought a little cheer to the house this week. She  hasn't shared her name with me yet, but Marco seems to know it. For the moment, they're keeping their secret.

The girlie was watching me make an apple pie the evening after she arrived. She says that Autumn is her favorite season!

My friend Martina works for a veterinarian. She was upset on our behalf about the puppy situation last month, and yesterday she sent me this via text:

A sweet, 5 month old spaniel mix that was an owner surrender and needs a good home. Martina is having this lucky puppy thoroughly vetted and vaccinated, and she asked me if I'd be interested in setting up a meeting with George. She knows I have a soft spot for spaniels, and this one has lovely, shiny, soft black fur and a nice temperament.

Although we're (once again) sorely tempted, this puppy is a male and we think George would do better with a female. Also, late May or early June would be the absolute best time to adopt a new dog, when I'll have the long summer break at home to help everyone acclimate. I'm afraid we're going to probably pass on this cutie. Martina assures me that they can find him a great home either way, and that we can have a little time to think about it. At least there's a zero percent chance that Martina would flake out on us! She's as trustworthy as they come, especially where animals are concerned. This dog is lucky he landed with someone like her to see to his welfare.

Well, today is the last of my week off. It hasn't been all I hoped for, but the break from the office has been very welcome. The four-day Thanksgiving weekend is still over 6 weeks away, but there's book club and Halloween and Gregg's birthday between now and then to look forward to. Going back is easier with stuff to look forward to.

Enjoy your Sunday, friends.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Family stuff

Yesterday was a tough day for me. Emotional and depressing.

I went to visit my parents for the first time in almost two years. The first year was mainly because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, but then last October we had a huge falling out. We've spoken since then, but the prospect of actually seeing them or going to their house was just too much for all these months. It's caused me a lot of stress and worry and depression, and I even briefly considered cutting all ties with them when things hit their lowest point. Even after they both apologized for hateful and hurtful things they had said to me, I didn't feel comfortable around them for a long time. I still don't, sometimes. Setting boundaries and protecting my own mental and emotional health has been so hard. I've felt really guilty about it all no matter how much I try to reason with myself that I'm doing the best I can. 

The main reason I finally decided to woman up and go visit them is because my dad's health is really bad. Really, really bad. My dad's basic personality is sweet and gentle, although rapidly declining health, myriad medications, and some mental health conditions have led to a few outbursts. Overall, he's still my dad though, and he wanted to see me. My mom and my relationship with her is much more complicated, and that's been the bigger source of stress for me. I was nervous about seeing her for the first time in so long but I decided it was time. 

Well, when I walked in the door my mom came and put her arms around me and started to cry. She held on to me for a long time and sobbed softly against my shoulder. It broke my heart. Just shredded my heart to pieces. 

My dad was glad to see me, too, and I'm really glad I got to see him. His physical condition is somewhat shocking. If he suddenly up and died today, I wouldn't be surprised-- that's how grim things are. What did surprise me is how much my mom's physical and mental health have declined in the past two years, too. They're both in pretty bad shape.

We had a nice enough visit despite how sad I felt the whole time. Mom cooked a roast and we had lunch together. Dad kept up a cheerful demeaner and made a few jokes. I admired the new fence they had installed outside and the neat, well-kept flower beds in front of the house. Then I told a lie and said that I had to be back in Florence at 3pm for an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. I'd promised myself that I'd find a graceful way to leave after two or three hours if I needed to, and I did. I intend to visit again relatively soon, though, and I told them so.

I didn't cry until I was in the car and on the road back home. 

Me and my dad, circa 1982 or so.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tuesday ramble

The search for a crabapple tree was a total bust. Although there were two or three vendors selling good-size fruit trees at the festival, the only apples were standard size varieties, not crabs. One Asian family had the best selection of trees, but (and this shocked me) they had never even heard of crabapples! It made me wonder if they were just running the stall for someone else. They obviously didn't know much about trees in general. Their little son was adorable, though, and kept trying to help me (aka sell me something). After making calls to several local nurseries, it looks as though we'll have to order a crabapple tree online if we're going to get one. I'm surprised by that.

It was still fun to look around the Fall Festival, though. I had a corn dog and fresh lemonade for lunch, then bought a big bag of fresh apples straight from the North Carolina mountains to bring home. King Luscious, Rome, Granny SmithIt , Fuji, and Golden Delicious were the varieties I picked. I'm planning to make pie tomorrow, but I like them just as well fresh and eaten in thin slices. 

Speaking of apples, I've been on the hunt for a food dehydrator. No one around here seems to carry them in store so it looks like I may have to use Amazon to get one. I would love to start making apple and banana chips for healthy snacks among other things. 

Yesterday I began building a raised bed for next year's garden in my back yard with the border stones that were here when we moved in. There's still some work to do, but I'm excited with how it's turning out so far. You can see the bananas in this picture, and don't they still look good? That's because we keep trimming off all the yellow leaves! They'll be gone before too much longer. 

This afternoon I had lunch with two friends and that was really nice. I had a yummy grilled chicken Greek salad with pita bread and tzatziki on the side.

It was so good to see Marian and Paulette! We passed a pleasant hour, talking over our lunches.

Now I'm back at home, spending the afternoon with George and Marco. I'm making homemade soup for the first time this fall for our dinner tonight, and the house smells wonderful! It's not all that cool outside, but it is overcast, so soup seems appropriate. It's fun to cook and do things around the house on a weekday when one would normally be at work! I'm enjoying this little break.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Intercession, Fall Festival, Trees

This is the first day of our school district's "fall intersession" which means I'm off work until October 12th! Hooray! It was definitely worth going back to school a couple of weeks early this summer to get some time off now. October is one of the best months of the year in eastern South Carolina. The weather is usually perfect--warm days, cool nights, low humidity, bright blue skies. Autumn color in the trees is just starting to show, and won't reach its peak until mid November. The first frost is likely still a month away.

The annual Fall Plant and Flower Festival is at the Pee Dee State Farmer's Market this weekend! After I finish up this blog post and take a shower, I'm going out to have a look at some of the trees and perennial plants offered for sale. It's a good time of year to plant, and we want to find a small tree for our front yard. The little dogwood that's currently there is succumbing to some sort of disease, and 3/4 of the branches are totally dead. I haven't had the heart to chop it down yet, so I'm hoping that buying a replacement will be the motivation I need to go through with it. Cutting down trees, even for the best of reasons, makes me sad. 

The new tree won't be a dogwood, but we're not sure yet what to choose. We're thinking of a crabapple, one of the larger varieties that will grow into a good size (but still smallish) tree. They're pretty during spring flowering, summer fruiting, and in fall when the leaves turn colors, and better yet the birds and deer will appreciate the new food source. We're trying to make our small property as attractive to wildlife as possible so a crabapple seems like a solid choice. 

If nothing interesting is available at the market today, Gregg and I will probably take a day trip to a tree nursery on Monday to look around. I have several projects for the house I want to do next week, too, stuff it's hard to get around to after work and on weekends when basic maintenance and chores have to take priority. Also on the agenda is lunch with a couple of my retired (lucky) friends, Paulette and Marian. I haven't seen Marian in a minute now, so it's going to be good to catch up with her! 

I'll leave you now with a few pictures that were shared of the Fall Festival on the market's Facebook page. I should have some of my own later this afternoon!

Enjoy the day, friends.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

So long, September (don't let the door hit you on the way out!)


It's the last day of September and I, for one, am happy to see the end of it. It's wasn't a total bust as months go (I've definitely had worse!) but overall it was just one irritating thing after another. Here's a quick recap of some stuff that happened in September:

  1. We finally, after two months of phone calls, text messages, and threats of small claims court, got our fence repaired. Remember the neighbor's landscapers who felled a tree that broke our fence? That happened back in July and it's taken this long to get it done. I was not a happy camper.
  2. I screwed up a deposit at an ATM early in the month and it's taken all month, and several calls to the bank's customer service, to resolve. Oh, the pain. 
  3. The puppy that we hoped to adopt ended up getting offered to us again when the person fostering her decided they didn't want a new puppy after all. We were upset by the way we were treated, and decided to decline. It's a good thing, too, because today that person finally got around to taking her to the vet and the puppy has parvo
  4. Gregg's referral to a dermatologist for some mysterious itchy skin that his regular doctor couldn't diagnose yielded no answers. What it did yield, however, was a diagnosis of another spot of basal cell carcinoma on his face. He has to have it removed next month and he's dreading it. This makes the third one he's had in the last few years. Too much sun exposure on his fair skin in his youth, I suppose. 
  5. Gregg's old work truck broke down again after we just spent over $1300 to replace the clutch. We were so stressed out at the prospect of spending even more money! Lucky for us, it was a faulty part and the repair place honored the warranty and did the next repair for free. But we had a week of sharing one car and aggravation over it all, and that was no fun. 
  6. You all read about Marco's Great Outdoor Adventure last week. Enough said about that. 
There were other things, but I'll stop there. That's enough complaining! I've decided that October will be better. It's going to get off to a great start tomorrow afternoon--next week we're on fall break, and going back to school so early this summer will finally be paying off! After tomorrow I don't go back until October 11. I'm really, really, really grateful and looking forward to it!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

I've had better weeks.

Sunday afternoon was a day to remember. Marco got away from us, flew up into a tree, and refused to come back. We were scared that he was gone for good!

The way it happened was like this. Gregg was on the back porch working on some projects with Marco riding around on his shoulder. After a while, he forgot he was on there, and without thinking walked out the door to the backyard. Mistake. Marco immediately took off and ended up in a big tree on the edge of our yard. We spent an hour and a half trying to coax him down, to no avail. We offered him his favorite treat (walnuts), we called his pal Georgie to come out to stand with us under the tree, we pretended to start walking back to the house while cheerfully calling for him to come with us, we demanded he come down, we shouted. We even threw a rope over the branch underneath him and shook it to try to scare him down. Nothing worked. The little bastard crawled around on his branch, chewing on leaves and occasionally responding to us with "Hey baby!" "Whatcha doin'?" "Woooo!", and, infuriatingly, "C'mere! C'mere Marco!" I swear he even laughed a couple of times. It started to get dark and he seemed to be perfectly fine with the idea of sleeping up in the tree with his newfound freedom. 

Finally, out of sheer desperation I took a chance on a pretty extreme solution. I went and got the hose, turned the water all the way to the "on" position, set the flow setting on the nozzle to "jet", and I blasted his ass out of the tree with a mighty gush of water. He fluttered down to the ground at our feet, dripping and stunned, and we grabbed him up and took him inside. I couldn't believe it had actually worked. So Marco is still with us, safe and sound, and having learned nothing.

                                          The next day, stealing a sip of my wine.

The rest of this week so far hasn't been much better. Gregg had to visit a dermatologist recently and he found out he has another basal cell carcinoma on his face that must be removed. It's right beside his nose whereas the previous two were on his forehead. All those years of sun exposure on his fair skin are catching up with him. He's been pretty bummed about it. 

Work continues to be busy and stressful with Covid still spreading like crazy around here. Another friend of ours got sick this past week and felt like he had a horrible case of flu even though he's vaccinated and very careful. In fact, it's the friend that helped us get our vaccines relatively early on. He works in a hospital so I guess he's exposed to Covid more than most. At least since he was vaxxed he didn't get sick enough to end up in the hospital himself, though. Just last weekend, an unvaccinated young mother who teaches in the school district next to mine died from it. Her reason for not getting the shot was that she was breastfeeding her youngest child and was afraid it might hurt him. Now he and his three siblings are motherless and her family is begging the community to get the vaccine so no other family will have to go through the pain they're experiencing.  This teacher was healthy and active (she coached volleyball) and was only 28 years old. When are people going to wake up and take this virus seriously? How many more people need to die first? 

Speaking of illness, you might notice I'm posting this at an odd time of day for me. I'm at home taking a sick day. Last night out of nowhere I started feeling like I had the worst heartburn of my life. I was walking around, trying to get my stomach to settle down, and all of sudden I started throwing up violently. It was really strange and upsetting. I feel better today except for a bad headache, but decided to stay home just in case I have a stomach bug. I hope that's all it is. This Delta variant is known to have some unusual symptoms sometimes.

What a week so far, and it's only Thursday!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

How it went..

It didn't. 

The young woman who manages the pet store where Gregg works has been fostering the puppy. She's flakey and unreliable. After confirming with her last week that Sunday would be a good day to introduce the dogs, she quit returning Gregg's texts yesterday.

We think she went to Charleston for the weekend to see her boyfriend, who's been showing interest in adopting the puppy. 

Here's a Facebook post he shared the other day.

I can't think of any other reason for her to disappear over the weekend and stop returning texts. I'm sure she'll have excuses when Gregg sees her at work again. 


I suppose it wasn't really meant to be this time. I'm disappointed, but it's okay. I'll get over it.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The family pack

Thanks for all the nice comments on the last post. It's been a busy week and I've had very little time for blogging over the last few days. When I posted those puppy pictures neither of us had met her in person, but we have now and oh my goodness! What a sweet little baby! She has the softest fur, and she already shows signs of being a very smart dog. We've decided we want her, but there's a problem. George.

George has never been around any other dogs except Ginger. Of course, he adored her and they had a tight bond, but he was a youngster and she was a steady, responsible adult dog when he came to live with us. This situation is different. George can't see an unleashed dog or a cat approaching him without going nuts--barking and growling and lunging at them. He's very excitable and has a high prey drive, and this puppy is little. We'll have to be very careful about introducing them and I hope we can navigate it successfully. Honestly, I have my doubts.

We're going to try to have them meet up this Sunday at the park (neutral ground) and walk them together to see if we can help him make friends with her. I really think that if George can get over the initial meeting and can calm down enough to sniff her and get to know her that she'll be the ideal second dog for us.  I'm afraid to get my hopes up though. I don't want to be disappointed, and when I picked the puppy up for the first time and felt her soft, soft fur (so much like Ginger's!) and saw her serious little face, I was on the verge of falling in love with her. That would be a mistake at this point so I'm trying not to think about it too much just in case it doesn't work out. 

The good thing is that everyone who sees the puppy immediately wants her. She has no shortage of offers to take her if we decide we can't, so I'm confident she'll get a good home either way. The manager of the pet store is keeping her at the moment and takes her to work every day. She's getting well socialized to other animals, other dogs, strange people, and new experiences. After Sunday we should know whether or not we can keep her, so please wish us luck! It's all up to Prince George at the moment. Of course, he comes first and I won't make him miserable for the sake of a new puppy. So, we'll see........please wish us luck!

If you've had any experience introducing new dogs or puppies to a resident adult dog (especially a difficult adult dog) I'd be very grateful for any tips or ideas. 

"How dare you?!" -George

Sunday, September 12, 2021

In search of a home...

This little girl is in need of a family.  We're very tempted, but trying not to rush into anything. Lots of serious discussions will be going on this week!


Saturday, September 11, 2021

A lovely afternoon

A friend from book club came over to visit this afternoon. This was only the second time she'd ever been to my home, the first being Christmastime two years ago when I hosted the holiday book club meeting. Paulette is a widow in her early 70s that I really like and admire. She's a retired nurse practitioner from Philadelphia who spent many years working for Planned Parenthood. She attended the Women's March on Washington in 2016 which I really admired at the time. She's one of the kindest people you'd ever want to meet, and I always enjoy seeing her. I invited her over for a glass of wine and some conversation on the back porch, and she seemed happy to accept!

 I was a bit nervous about inviting her over. I love to entertain but do it so seldom, and have people over so rarely, that I freak out and try to make everything perfect. Even a casual invitation to a friend to come by stresses me out for days beforehand. I want the whole house to be spotless, and the food and drink I serve to be beautiful and delicious, no matter how simple the get together might be. The upside to all that craziness is that if I invite friends over semi-regularly, the house stays relatively clean all the time. Today I worked for about four hours getting ready: cleaning and mopping the kitchen, scrubbing both bathrooms, cleaning and mopping the screened porch, arranging a vase of grocery store flowers. I was pleased with my efforts. The house looked good, and the cheeses and crackers and fruit and wine I had to serve were delicious. I think my friend enjoyed herself and the conversation. I hope so! 

A photo of the banana flower I took the other day after a rain shower. Today I noticed that the little yellow parts in the center are growing tiny banana fruits! Paulette and I sipped wine and nibbled cheese on the porch and watched hummingbirds hovering around the banana plants and this flower. It was a lovely afternoon.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Morning Misadventures

Do you ever have mornings where everything seems to go just right? Where you wake up feeling rested, your morning routine goes smoothly, and it seems like your day is getting off to a great start?

That was me this morning. Gregg leaves super early on Thursdays to receive a fish shipment at the pet store, so I had the house all to myself. I drank a leisurely cup or two of coffee while reading blogs, ate a bowl of cereal, and fed George and Marco. I took a nice long shower and put on one of my favorite outfits. I packed myself a nice, healthy lunch to take along, and still had a few extra minutes to tidy up the house a little before leaving. I was even having a good hair day! I felt so nice and put-together for once. On top of things. A professional woman going out to seize the day!

Just as I was about to head out the door, I grabbed a travel mug and poured myself the last cup of coffee to take along to the office. It would be a pity to let good coffee go to waste, right? Right. Feeling on top of the world, I went out to the garage, opened my car door, and sat down in the driver's seat......

......and the lid of the travel mug I was holding came off in my hand and the entire 12 ounces of blazing hot coffee dropped into my lap, bounced, and ended up at my feet. Coffee went everywhere. Everywhere. It splashed my face, left arm, the steering wheel, the windshield, the dashboard, and drenched my clothes. I was too stunned to move for few seconds.*  And then (sorry Weaver!) I cursed and swore like a sailor! It was like a coffee bomb had gone off in my car! When I called the principal to tell him I'd be late, coffee was dripping from the tip of my nose. It was almost surreal. So much for my morning getting off to a lovely start!

I ended up thirty minutes late to work, smelling faintly of dark brew. 

*I was lucky in that I only had some stinging on my bare arm that got the brunt of the deluge. No serious burns.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Last of the garden

 This morning I finally pickled the last bagful of jalapeños from my garden. I had picked them a week ago just before we tore down the garden for the year, and they'd been sitting in the refrigerator since. I'm glad they won't go to waste. I've already dried more than I can probably use.

We ate the last tomato (a Brandywine, my favorite) with supper a couple of nights ago. I didn't get a picture of that. What a sad thought that we won't have another for at least 9 months!

Here are the pretty little pomegranate fruits growing on the dwarf ornamental tree. Since they're not for eating, I may make them into clove studded pomanders for hanging on the Christmas tree. Maybe.

Our big pomegranate tree that's supposed to have edible fruit only ended up with one single fruit this year. It had a lot of flowers but they apparently failed to get pollinated, or something. I still haven't picked the one. How do you know when they're ready?

One other thing of note is happening in the last of the summer plants. One of the banana trees has the beginning of a flower!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

At least August is over

September is very, very welcome this year. I can't tell you how happy I am to see the back of August. It was a particularly bad one, and then it felt like it dragged on and on and on. I didn't have it in me to post very much.

Everything seems to be all pandemic, all the time again. The delta variant of this virus is running rampant in this state and our local community. At my school, the principal, his family, the bookkeeper, her family, about a third of the teachers, and dozens of students have gotten sick. And every time a student tests positive several others who have desks near him/her have to go home and quarantine for 10 days. That really pisses parents off, as some kids are on their third quarantine after just a month of school! The nurses get cussed out at least once a day. They're so overworked and worn out that I'm surprised they're still showing up, honestly. Anti-mask parents have been protesting at the district office and at the schools while we do the best we can to keep ourselves and our students safe. Two parents acted so crazy in the office this week (one of whom was a big redneck dad with what looked like prison tats on his neck and arms who took the mask I tried to hand him, threw it to the floor, folded his big meaty arms, and glared at me threateningly) that I felt the need to call for the school resource office to come down there and lend me the support of his presence. People have lost their damn minds. 

And you know what's scary? Most of the staff that have gotten sick in the last two weeks are fully vaccinated. Granted, they're not in the hospital and they're not deadly ill, but they feel like they've caught a bad case of flu. It's beginning to feel like a matter of when, not if, I get sick myself. My friend Karen from book club caught this delta variant despite being vaccinated. She tested positive last weekend after running high fevers for a couple of days. Things are so bad in this area that we're canceling book club meetings for the next couple of months out of an abundance of caution. A couple of days last week South Carolina surpassed Florida for per-capita new infections and deaths. Florida! One of the hotspots of the country!

Meanwhile, over half the people in this community act as if nothing is happening. They're off traveling over this Labor Day weekend, and the town next to mine, Darlington, is hosting their annual big drag race weekend which will bring over 40,000 people to the area. The beaches are packed. Most of the people participating in this stuff are anti maskers and anti vaxxers, of course. They don't give a damn about anyone but themselves. Last week, my husband came close to quitting his job over the fact that most of his coworkers refuse to wear masks and the owner of the business won't do anything about it. Honestly, we were both so fed up with the state of things last week that we both wanted to quit our jobs. 

Here's hoping that September will mean the return to virtual school, at least for a while, and I can work from home again. Everyone in the district think it's a matter of time. At least the weather's nice. We've started off the month with a small dip in temperature and a big dip in the humidity, and those are very welcome developments. Also, it's a much needed three day holiday weekend. I'll try not to think about what all the holiday travel is going to mean for our numbers in the next couple of weeks.

Stay safe, friends. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Just a Thursday update

 Thanks for all the positive feedback on my last post. It made me feel better about how busy I've been just recently. 

Things are still crazy at my job. Not really my job per se; so many students are out due to either having Covid or quarantining because they've had close contact with a person who tested positive that it's almost like last year with the A/B cohort days and some students using the all virtual option. I'll bet anywhere from a quarter to a third of our student body is out right now, and at the rate things are going I don't see how we'll manage to keep the schools open until Christmas break. A kid at one of our three public high schools actually died last week. It was a 15 year old girl who had some pre-existing health conditions, but it was Covid that killed her. Several staff members at our school have been out sick, and a couple ended up going to the hospital. This includes my teacher friend with MS. I've been so worried about her. She wasn't able to take the vaccine due to her MS treatments and it's monstrous that she had to come to work with the Delta variant raging in this community. I saw the other day that the ACLU is suing the state of South Carolina over the ban on mask mandates and virtual options for school, saying that it denies medically fragile students their rights to a public education. And it damn well does! We'll see what happens.

But my job is okay. I'm staying as safe as possible. Without the awful coworker from last year around things feel much better and the work is a little bit more fairly divided. And hey! I get a lunch break now! That's progress. 

Not much to report on the home front. I picked the last four (half green) Brandywine tomatoes the other day and now the garden is ready to be torn down and cleaned up. I harvested an astonishing 53 pounds of tomatoes this year and more jalapenos than I know what to do with. The last of those (the jalapenos) need to be picked and pickled if I can manage to find any canning jars to put them in.  I'm out and they're hard to find this year. I'm currently drying two massive ristras of peppers and don't need any more of those. I can't believe how much four plants have produced!


Saturday, August 21, 2021

My apologies

My job has exploded since the end of summer break. Covid is spreading like crazy through our school (and all the schools in the district) and hundreds of students are being forced to go home and quarantine for 10 days due to a close contact with someone who tested positive. Parents are angry. The phones ring off the hook. So many teachers and bus drivers and substitute teachers and other staff are out sick or quarantining themselves that everyone is run ragged. I don't have much energy left when I get home each day. And of course there's the minutiae of daily life that must be attended to, and my husband and pets needing attention.  After all that, I'm falling into bed totally worn out most nights. Saturdays finally roll around and I sleep a lot and not much else. Sundays are family time since Gregg and I are off together on Sundays.

With all that being said, I feel like I've been a really bad blogger.

So many of you have become real friends over the years, and there are several more of you I wish I could get to know better. When time and energy are in short supply, though, reading and (especially) commenting on blogs seems to be one of the first things to go out the window. I feel bad about that. Please know that it's not you, it's me. 

Here's hoping things calm down a bit soon and I won't leave work every day worn out and with my brain fried. (Sometimes I could swear I hear my office phone ringing faintly in the distance when I'm at home!) All I seem to want to do after work is sit on the couch with a glass of wine, have a simple supper, watch some good escapism tv or read a book, and get in bed early. 

Since I don't have a great way to end this post I'll leave you with a video I took the other night when we were having some incredible looking heat lightning. Happy Saturday, friends, and I hope you're all doing well.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

August in the countryside

This morning I went to a see a friend who lives out in the country. It's a pretty highway and I often want to stop and take pictures on the way. Today I noticed bales of hay all rolled up in the fields as well as soybeans and corn ready to be harvested, so I pulled over onto a dirt road and took a few. 

It's sweltering hot again today, a typical August afternoon. I can't wait for September to get here.

Thursday, August 12, 2021


 Yesterday South Carolina hit a grim milestone: 10,000 people in this small state have lost their lives to Covid-19. It's hard to fathom the true cost in suffering of that number. Not just the physical suffering of the people who died, but the emotional cost to the loved ones left behind. 

It didn't have to be this way. But here we are.

Here's where we also are: the Delta variant is spreading like wildfire in South Carolina and our infection rate, hospitalizations, and death rates are skyrocketing. All while half the population (at least) act like nothing is happening and the pandemic is over. It actually was almost over at the beginning of the summer, but with the variant out there now and such a huge percentage of the population acting like it's their God-given right to go around unvaccinated and unmasked, we're as bad off now as we were back in February. Misinformation about vaccines is rampant here. A local doctor (a guy I went to high school with) said the number one reason his patients give for not getting vaccinated is that they feel it's not "loyal to the GOP". It's maddening that a virus that threatens our very lives has been turned into a political issue.

 Speaking of which, I'm beginning to wonder if governor McMaster (nicknamed, fittingly, "McDisaster") is trying to kill us all off. He's joined other Republican governors in the South in making it illegal to require masking in schools or to offer a virtual option this year. Yes, friends, you read that right. It's illegal and we'll lose our federal funding if we require students and staff to wear masks, and we're not allowed to have a virtual option this year, either. Several school districts in Texas and Florida (two states with governors almost worse than SC) are openly defying these laws and filing lawsuits. All while our schools are a hotbed of Covid transmission.

The students at my school will have been back for two weeks tomorrow. Several students and a couple of staff members have contracted Covid already, and as of early this morning we had over 50 students who have been sent home to quarantine for several days because of close contact with an infected classmate. The number was probably more like 70 by the end of the day. Our school nurse, Lisa, is being run ragged trying to keep up with the tsunami that's her workload this year. She has to document everything, explain the quarantine process to scared parents, finish reports for the county health department, in addition to the normal middle school nurse duties. Normal duties like the little girl that had an accident in gym class and broke her arm this afternoon. It's a giant mess. Pretty soon so many kids are going to be at home quarantining that I'm not sure how we're going to continue to have normal school days. It's that bad.

Needless to say, it's back to masking and being super careful for me. I worry about the kids too young to get vaccinated, and the ones who are eligible but whose parents won't do let them have it. And then there's the teachers and staff: one teacher at our school has Multiple Sclerosis and was taking a type of treatment for it back in the spring that meant she couldn't take the vaccine. She has a choice: come to work,  unvaccinated out of medical necessity, and risk her life with the highly contagious Delta variant that we KNOW is all around us, or stop working to protect herself and lose her career and income. 

What the hell kind of place do I live in to allow such a thing to be possible? 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Beautiful bird

Marco's a great example of what a male eclectus parrot should look like when they have access to plenty of unfiltered sunlight. Isn't he gorgeous? ❤

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Little boys

Returning to work and to a more normal workload these past two weeks has been exhausting. Last night I was in bed sound asleep by 10pm and didn't get up until 8am, so I had ten solid hours. Then this afternoon, after watching the first few cheesy episodes of that old 60's gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (feeling like I ought to be smoking Virginia Slims and sipping a Tom Collins the whole while), I took a two hour nap. It felt great.

Prince George was super happy to come lie at the foot of the bed and take a nap, too. I think he probably misses our daily summer afternoon naps together as much as I do. In fact, I just miss him, period, now that I'm back at school. I mean, look at this face. How could I not?

He sure has come a long way. Next week will be a full year since we lost Ginger, and he's finally settled into being the only dog and soaking up all the extra attention. He's better behaved and more mature now. A thoroughly good boy. 

I miss this rascal while at work, too. My most troublesome son. He'll be fourteen years old next month.

The one thing Marco likes about me going back to work is helping me get ready in the morning. Sitting on my shoulder and "helping" me put on makeup is one of his favorite things. Sometimes he preens my hair while I do it, which is kind of adorable. Another good boy (most of the time).

Here's my final picture to share with you today. Meike asked if I'd seen Little P. yet this year. Yes I have! How I'd missed that little boy! Even with only a two month break, it looks like he's grown some. I was so happy to finally see him again this week and give him a big hug.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

A pretty good start

The kids came back to school this week, and the office has been hopping busy. Now that we have no virtual option and all of the students are physically back in the building, it's been a wild few days getting everyone properly (and completely) registered, bus transportation routes settled, a new phone system to learn about and adapt to (it's fancy and high tech: zoom capabilities are built in) and finally, a transition to a real middle school model that includes 6th,7th, and 8th graders instead of just 7th and 8th. I've been exhausted every afternoon upon arriving home and so haven't had the energy to read many blogs and certainly not to comment much. I'm sorry! I miss you all when I'm too busy to be here. 

The year has gotten off to a good start. The woman who caused me so much stress and irritation last year was apparently not invited back. What a relief! In fact, not a single person has even mentioned her name. It's kind of weird, but I'm okay with it! I have some new reports for the state department I'm responsible for this year, and there's a learning curve with that, but I don't mind. Already the year feels easier and better. Best of all, the principal had a meeting with the office staff yesterday and the first thing he addressed was everyone doing a better job of offering me support.....including a rotation schedule of who's responsible for covering a real lunch break for me this year! Things are looking up.

Here's a picture of some zinnias I cut for my desk at work. They reseed themselves beautifully in the garden bed at the entrance to the school.

Zinnias always look as if you've used some crazy Instagram filter. But no, these colors are natural.

I hope you're all having a good week out there! I'll be back over the weekend to catch up with you all.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

My pal Hal

 For a couple of years now I've occasionally shared an essay by the late naturalist writer Hal Borland here on the blog. Yesterday I got a comment from Neil (Yorkshire Pudding) asking me if there was any evidence that Borland was strongly religious as he had such a feeling for Nature and the passing of the seasons. I had never considered the question and my first impulse was to say no, that he was not, but I decided to do a little internet research to see. I didn't recall ever seeing any mention of religion in his writings. 

Here's the quick Wikipedia summary of his life and work:

Harold "Hal" Glen Borland (May 14, 1900 – February 22, 1978) was an American author, journalist and naturalist. In addition to writing many non-fiction and fiction books about the outdoors, he was a staff writer and editorialist for The New York Times

Borland was born on the plains in Sterling, Nebraska, to Sarah M (née Clinaburg) and William Arthur Borland. When Hal was 10, the family moved 30 miles south of Brush, Colorado, where his father staked out a homesteader's claim on the prairie. Hal later detailed his experience on the homestead in his book "High, Wide, and Lonesome." After proving out on the homestead claim, his father sold the homestead and bought a weekly newspaper in Flagler, Colorado, where Hal finished his school years. This experience is detailed in his book "Country Editor's Boy." After attending local schools, he studied at the University of Colorado from 1918-1920, majoring in engineering. While there, he held jobs at the Denver Post and the Flagler News. It was during this time he realized his true calling was as an author, and he soon moved to New York where he studied journalism and graduated from Columbia University in 1923 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature.

Borland started writing as a journalist for publications such as The Denver Post and the Flagler News. While attending Columbia University he wrote for the Brooklyn Times, the United Press, and King Features Service. After graduation Borland worked for a variety of newspapers across the United States, eventually settling in Philadelphia and working for Curtis Newspapers, the Philadelphia Morning Sun, and the Philadelphia Morning Ledger from 1926 until 1937.

In 1937 Borland began writing for The New York Times, first as a staff writer for The New York Times Sunday Magazine (1937-1943) and then in 1942 as an editorial writer for The New York Sunday Times, a position he held until his death in 1978. While at The Times, Borland began writing about his experience as an outdoorsman in a series of editorials that were later compiled into two books. He wrote similar pieces for the Berkshire Eagle (1958-1978), Pittsburgh Press (1966-1978), and Torrington Register (1971-1978).

Borland also wrote short stories, poetry, novels (including westerns under the pseudonym Ward West), biographical novels, non-fiction, articles for a variety of magazines, and one play.

Awards and honors

Borland was married twice, to Helen Alice née Le Bene until her death in 1944, and to Barbara Ross née Dodge until Borland's death in 1978. Both of his wives were also writers. Borland and Helen had three sons, Harold Glen Jr. (1925-1963), Donal William (1929-2017), and Neil Frederick (1929-1944).

In 1952, Borland and wife Barbara moved to a 100-acre farm in Connecticut, where they lived and worked until his death in 1978 at the age of 77 from emphysema.

Here's something about his career he wrote for a brief biography in World Authors, 1950-1970.

"Early engineering training taught me to respect facts and logic. Newspaper years taught me to write straight sentences and build logical paragraphs, and fostered my work habits. A bent toward poetry gave me a sense of words and language that helped shape my style."

Here are a couple of excerpts from his obituary published in the New York Times in February, 1978.

Hal Borland, writer and naturalist, died late Wednesday at Sharon (Conn.) Hospital after a long illness from emphysema. He was 77 years old.

Author of 30 books and hundreds of articles and columns, Mr. Borland was celebrated as the writer of editorials in The New York Times that have chronicled the seasons for 35 years. The final two of 1,750 appeared Tuesday, the day before his death, and on Feb, 13....

The editorials were unsigned, but their authorship was no secret. A typical Borland, as they were called in the trade, would greet the arrival of spring in the still snow‐dappled Berkshires:

“The violets will come, in their own time. That is all that was written in the sky by Friday's equinox. The sun's summons will not be answered overnight, but the answer is inevitable. The first hungry bee at the first crocus hums of June, and the first green leaf forecast cool summer shade. All is in order. Spring is the earth's commitment to the year.”

‘The Voices of Frogs’

On the wall of his study in the farmhouse near Salisbury, Conn., hung a New Yorker cartoon showing a man angrily waving a copy of The Times and telling his wife: “Here's another of those crackpot editorials about the voices of frogs shattering the autumn stillness!”

Actually, Mr. Borland’ was a conservative and a conservationist who decried “sentimental or anthropomorphic drivel” in nature writing, Thus, he said, when wildlife appears to stocking up more than normally in the fall, it does not mean that it knows a lean winter is ahead, but a lush summer is behind...

In his gentle style, Mr. Borland appealed to gardeners and farmers to restrain the use of pesticides and save the birds—not, he said, for their song but for man's safety. “As far as I am concerned,” he said, “I am fighting for life, and a brown thrasher may eat up to 6,000 insects a day.”

Mr. Borland frequently wrote about the West, and recalled his boyhood years in a memoir, “High, Wide and Lonesome. In returning on a visit, he decried the encroachments of superhighways, and throwaway cans. His own refuge in the Berkshires was far from there, but he once described it as “the perfect world—a home at the end of nowhere.”

“This is the only way to live,” he said, “'waiting for the vernal equinox, seeing an apple tree blossom or coming on an old coon and her kits fishing for clams late at night.”

To protect his privacy, his mailbox bore no name. But nature lovers, among them Justice William O. Douglas, found their way there, and were welcomed warmly. Mr. Borland won the John Burroughs Medal, considered the country's highest award for nature writing, in 1968. Two of his books, “Sundial of the Seasons” (1964) and “An American Year” (1973), are collections of his editorials. His latest books were “A Place to Begin: The New England Experience” (1976) and “The

Golden Circle” (1977), writings for children, arranged by months of the year.

To his biography in Who's Who in America, Mr. Borland recently added:

“I am a fortunate man. I grew up on a frontier, escaped early success, had things to say when I matured. I have been able to make a living at work I wanted to do, to write what I believed and find an audience. My purpose has been to write at least a few paragraphs that will be remembered after I am dead. I have enjoyed life. I still do.”

In all my looking, I've seen no evidence of religion playing a huge role in Borland's life. To me, his writings speak of a great love for the natural world and the eternal cycle of the seasons. I first discovered his work among the dim, dusty shelves of a small town library probably twenty years ago. I was wandering around, pulling out old volumes at random and perusing them whenever a title looked interesting, and was immediately charmed with the 366 essays (one for each day of the year) in Hal Borland's Book of Days. They also had a copy of a compilation of his work published by his wife after his death, Twelve Moons of the Year. Both of these books have been recently been published again after being out of print for decades, and as a matter of fact I ordered a copy of Book of Days this morning! The essays I share here are from a Hal Borland fan page on Facebook. 

I'll wrap up this post with some well-known Hal Borland quotes. Enjoy!

* “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

* “Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.”

* “In a painful time of my life I went often to a wooded hillside where May apples grew by the hundreds, and I thought the sourness of their fruit had a symbolism for me. Instead, I was to find both love and happiness soon thereafter. So to me [the May apple] is the mandrake, the love symbol, of the old dealers in plant restoratives.”

* Trees are the oldest living things we know. Rooted in the earth and reaching for the stars, they partake of immortality.

* Life persists, and so does its ultimate source, call it what you will. Man is a unique form of that life, but not alien to it. He happens to live in the midst of life on this earth, this particular small unit of a universe about which he actually has only a smattering of knowledge.

* Consider the wheelbarrow. It may lack the grace of an airplane, the speed of an automobile, the initial capacity of a freight car, but its humble wheel marked out the path of what civilization we still have.

* The earth's distances invite the eye. And as the eye reaches, so must the mind stretch to meet these new horizons. I challenge anyone to stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see a new expanse not only around him, but in him, too.

* Man is wise and constantly in quest of more wisdom but the ultimate wisdom, which deals with beginnings, remains locked in a seed. There it lies, the simplest fact of the universe and at the same time the one which calls forth faith rather than reason.

* Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.