Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween

 We had a few trick or treaters tonight, but these were my favorite two:

(Look how Carsen has grown!)

Little P. loves Marco. 

There were plenty of treats for the kiddos...

We walked around the neighborhood with Little P. and a whole lot of my neighbors were giving out candy!  Everyone was very generous and his bucket was almost overflowing when we got back.  We had lots of fun.

Happy Halloween!

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.