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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Art of the Biscuit

John Gray over at Going Gently asked me about a recipe for biscuits when I posted this picture of my breakfast on Facebook.

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For my friends across the pond, our biscuits are nothing like yours. What you call a biscuit, we call a cookie. What we call is a biscuit is a soft, savory bread that's a staple food in the southern states of the USA.

Not many people can make a good homemade biscuit. It's a dying art. The ones pictured here were bought as frozen dough and baked, and they're pretty good, but nothing like a real honest-to-goodness homemade biscuit.

My maternal grandmother made the best homemade biscuits ever. There was never any recipe involved. She would pour a bunch of flour in a bowl, scoop a handful of lard (yes, lard) on top, and with one hand would start kneading the dough while slowly pouring in buttermilk with the other. When the dough was smooth and elastic, she would deftly pinch off the perfect amount, roll it between both hands, and put it onto a greased baking sheet. She would keep on doing that until the sheet was full, and then pop it into a hot oven. A few minutes later, you'd have a dozen or so perfect biscuits. They were heavenly.

No one could cook like my grandma. And no one makes biscuits as good as hers. I'm terrible at it, and my mom isn't much better. I must have watched my her make biscuits hundreds of times as a child, but I've never been able to master it.

John asked me for a recipe. I don't really have one beyond what I just described seeing my grandmother do. I'm sure that a Google search will bring up many different recipes and techniques for making a biscuit, but take it from me, it's more difficult than it looks. That's why I stick with the frozen and ready to bake kind!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Afternoon mischief

As soon as we get home in the afternoon, we try to let Marco out of his cage for some free time. Unfortunately, he immediately looks for trouble. Usually it starts with him flying over to the computer and walking across the keyboard. He did that just now and I shooed him away. So he pranced over to where we keep some fish food and started trying to bust into the bag. Brat!

When I shooed him away from that, he flew into one of the bedrooms and spent some time hanging out on the bed. He refused to step up on my hand when I tried to make him come to me. You can't leave him unattended (unless you want to return to a disaster scene) so I finally had to grab him and make him go back to his cage. I took another picture first.

He doesn't care what you think.
Life with a parrot can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a real pain in the a** sometimes!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Hounds

I took Ginger and George for a quick walk this morning before the wind and rain from (now tropical storm) Irma began. We won't be able to go tonight at our ordinary time. I think they appreciated a quick stretch of the legs--those two are always down for a walk.

Image may contain: dog, grass, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: dog and outdoor

What they don't appreciate is having their pictures taken. Look at this close up of Ginger's face!

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Image may contain: dog and outdoor

I'm beginning to see reports of power outages around town, so who knows if I'll have power much longer. But we're all safe and well and for the most part, out of harm's way.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Dodged a bullet.

It looks like we're not going to feel very much of an impact from hurricane Irma beyond some strong gusty winds tomorrow and heavy rain. It's such a relief, and we still have supplies if another storm comes this way. Hurricane season is only half over so it's still a possibility. We got lucky this time.

Now I'm worried about our friends and family in Florida. Thank goodness that evacuations and preparations started early. With the devastation in Houston still fresh in everyone's mind, people have been taking Irma seriously from the beginning, which can only be a good thing.

We had such beautiful weather yesterday that I almost felt guilty about it. It was windy and cool, with a bright blue sky and almost no humidity. Today is cloudy and still very cool, and starting tonight there is a wind advisory in effect for about 24 hours. The maximum gusts should only be about 50mph, and combined with heavy rain we'll probably have some spots with power outages, but nothing approaching a real storm's destruction. We appear to have dodged a bullet, and I'm very thankful.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

State of Emergency

The governor of South Carolina issued a "State of Emergency" this afternoon after hurricane Irma started veering slightly eastward. By 5pm all the stores, big and small, were out of bottled water and there are long, long lines at every gas station in town. I've heard you can't find a parking spot at the big box stores. People are panicking. And they kind of have a point.

This is a record-setting storm that has the potential to be utterly catastrophic. I've seen some real no joke hurricanes in my life, including Hugo in 1989, but I've never seen anything approaching 200 mph sustained winds (with higher gusts). And Irma is big.. I heard today that it's the size of the state of Ohio. Ohio! A storm that big will end up being felt in several states no matter where it initially makes landfall.

Last weekend when the storm was still far away, we went ahead and bought some supplies. We reasoned that even if Irma didn't end up being an issue, it's still the middle of hurricane season and we might need them later. We have four cases of bottled water, plenty of nonperishable food and sodas, extra tp, batteries, candles, lighters, and matches. We filled up our cars with gas. Thank goodness for preparing early! I still want to top off the gas in my car tomorrow if I can, and we need to pick up an extra canister of fuel for the camp stove, but that's about it. We're ready. Or as ready as we can be, I suppose.

To my Florida friends and anyone else in the path of this storm: please do whatever you need to do to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe. Let's all check in as we can, ok?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Red sky in the morning...

This morning I was awake and having my first cup of coffee when the sun came up. The light streaming in an east facing window was a strange shade of red; it reminded me of dried blood. What's that old weather saying.....?

Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.

It all seemed slightly ominous given the monster hurricane that's out in the Atlantic right now.

I took a picture of Marco facing the sunrise. It doesn't really capture how odd the light was, though.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Tiny Treehouses

I read an article online this morning about an artist who builds tiny, intricate treehouses in houseplants. Some of the photos made me squeal, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I've never seen anything like these little fairy dwellings built inside of common potted houseplants. The attention to detail is astonishing. And they're just!

There's a link embedded below if anyone is interested in reading more about the tiny treehouses. Enjoy! And have a happy Sunday!

Los Angeles–based artist Jedidiah Corvyn Voltz is a prop-maker for TV and film by day who has a charming side business making tiny treehouses for potted bonsai trees, cacti, and succulents.......


Saturday, September 2, 2017

September's arrival

I'm enjoying the arrival of September in my part of the world. It's been a little bit cooler, a little less humid, and the dogwood trees are already beginning to show some very early color. I read an essay this morning about early September that I wanted to share with you. Of course it's by my favorite nature writer, Hal Borland. As always, he captures the mood of the season so beautifully!

September 2nd and 3rd


"September is the year at the turn, a young mother sending her children off to school and wondering if she can ever catch up with Summer tasks unfinished. It is Autumn at hand and Summer reluctant to leave; it is days loud with cicadas and nights loud with katydids; it is beets for pickling and pears for canning and apples for pies and sauce and cider. It is hot days and cool nights and hurricane and flood and deep hurt and high triumph.

September is both more than a month and less, for it is almost a season in itself. It is flickers in restless flocks, readying for migration; it is goldfinches in thistledown; it is fledglings on the wing, and half-grown rabbits in the garden, and lambs in the feed lot. It is the gleam of goldenrod and the white of lavender and purple of fence row asters, with the bright spangle of bittersweet berries.

September is fog over the river valleys at dawn and the creep of early scarlet among the maples in the swamp. It is bronze of hillside grass gone to seed. It is walnuts ripening and squirrels busy among the hickories. It is late phlox like a flame in the garden, and zinnias in bold color, and chrysanthemums budding. It is a last gallant flaunt of portulaca and petunias defying time and early frost.

September is the first tang of wood smoke and the smolder of burning leaves. It is bass and perch revitalized in the chilling waters of pond and stream. It is the hunter's dog sniffing the air and quivering to be off to the underbrush. September is time hastening and days shortening, it is the long nights of Autumn closing in with their big stars and glinting moon. September is the wonder and fulfillment and the ever-amazing promise of another Autumn."

Hal Borland

"Sundial of the Seasons"
September 1955

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The one downside.... my new job has finally popped up today. I was afraid this might happen....

I'm sick. I woke up at 4am this morning with terrible stomach cramps and diarrhea. I felt a little better by the time I had to leave for work, so I went in. (Calling out sick after only three weeks isn't the impression I'm trying to make). After a couple of hours, I started feeling bad again. I went to see the school nurse for some anti-diarrhea medicine, but even after taking it I couldn't stay out of the bathroom. Finally the other people in the office insisted I should go home. They were very nice about it, but I hated to leave. I told them that in the past I've very rarely called out sick, and they all smiled and said, "Honey, you work in a school now. You're going to get sick. It comes with the territory. That's why we have paid sick days!" It turned out that leaving was for the best, because as soon as I got home I started throwing up, too. What a morning I've had! I feel pretty awful right now.

I knew that I'd be exposed to lots of germs working around children at a school, but I didn't expect to get sick this soon. So now I've found the one downside to my (almost perfect) new job!

One of the office helpers started spraying down
my desk area before I had even left the building!

Saturday, August 26, 2017


The best parts of the new job, so far:

  • Regular hours! I go in early-ish but not too early (8:30am) and get off just after the rush of school dismissal is over for the day (4:30pm). No more crazy changing retail shifts. No more working nights. No more weekends or holidays! I can't believe how much having regular working hours has reduced my stress levels. Life feels so much easier now. It's great having regular, set times for meals and sleeping. Physically, I feel better.
  • The atmosphere of respect and professionalism among the staff. One thing that was strange at first was being called "Ms. Barlow" instead of "Jennifer" and calling all of my coworkers "Mr. or Ms." instead of first names. Everyone is careful, polite, and somewhat formal in their interactions with others....but they also manage to be friendly and warm at the same time. It's a wonderful change from the last place!
  • Looking forward to the upcoming holidays (even the small ones like Labor Day) and the time off I'll have. Gregg and I have even started planning a camping trip with the dogs to Huntington Beach State Park over the Thanksgiving holiday in November!
  • Seeing my husband at work when he comes to take care of the aquarium. Finding out that the library staff (the tank is in the library) and the custodial staff all love him and think he's a great guy. (He is). The aquarium itself is beautiful, about 90 gallons of water full of vibrant green living plants and small schools of colorful tetras. I'm proud of it, and proud of my husband for being the "fish guy" who cultivates it!
  • All the little surprises that come with working in a very visible, important part of the community. For instance, during the week before the students came back to school, two separate churches came out and provided large, delicious breakfasts for the staff. On the first day of school, the office people (I'm the receptionist) got a huge edible arrangement of fruit from a fancy shop in town. A local greenhouse/nursery emailed all district employees discount coupons. The State Fair in Columbia will be giving us each two free tickets for admission next month, and on and on. All of my coworkers who have been at the school for any length of time are used to it all and take it in stride, but I can't help but be delighted each and every time! 

A little surprise handed out to new staff members yesterday. 
So cute!! And ironic, since I'm married to the "fish guy".

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One photo from yesterday.

I took this photo as the eclipse was about to reach totality yesterday. The cloud in front of the sun helped me to safely look up and get a picture. It was quite dark outside, as you can tell by looking at the tree branches framing the picture. I'm glad I got to see it!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Postscript: Apoceclipse!

A woman who lives in Columbia, SC named Margaret Murphy posted this on Facebook today. It's too funny (and spot on) not to share. It's APOCECLIPSE, y'all!!

Y'all. Our city is in The Path of Totality for this eclipse thing, and let me tell you what. IT IS SO Y2K UP IN HERE! The public schools arranged the school year calendar around it, so my kids haven't started yet and will probably be blind by Monday at 2:45 in the afternoon. It is all the news people can talk about, second only to moronic white supremacists. "Treat this like a hurricane. Do all of your shopping ahead of time. Stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary (if you need Krispy Kremes or nerve pills, this is always acceptable), and stock up on staple items. Prepare for 700,000 extra people in the city and plan for 9 football stadiums' worth of traffic." Chaos and recalls related to eclipse glasses on the daily. Are they safe? Are they not safe? Has NASA approved your exact pair? ARE THEY COUNTERFEIT? 👀 Eye doctors are saying don't look under any circumstances. Other eye doctors are saying it's fiiiiine with correct protection, but some of them wear glasses and therefore I am suspicious. Do they have holes in their own personal retinas? They don't say. 

Eclipse parties - YES PLEASE! Basically like a hurricane party with less wind. Eclipse-related things to do all over the city. I hope there are bounce houses, pony rides, bobbing for apples, free Moon Pies and Sun Chips for everybody. Definitely a few keggers on campus at USC. Or at my neighbors' house; they like to party. If you don't have anything planned, just stand outside and sweat. The heat index is between 105 and 110 degrees. "Nocturnal animals will likely emerge," so SURPRISE, here's a pack of rabid wild coyotes that you'll never see coming on account of the special glasses. Don't mind these owls that hoot while your legs are getting chewed off. Bless. Restaurants are staffed to the max and every hotel within a whatever-mile radius is fully booked. If you want to leave your spouse, you'll have to pick a different weekend. 

But, my MOST favorite thing about the eclipse has already happened. I was passing by my TV the other night while the news was on, and a local reporter had just finished a segment about the eclipse. She was holding up a large photo of the human eye. Do you know what she did next? She SET IT ON FIRE, y'all. On actual fire. And she held the burning eyeball and was all "back to you in the studio, Judy." My life was complete at that very moment and I hope she wins an emmy award for best actress in a daytime drama.

Columbia, SC is SO EXTRA, and I am here for it, every single bit.

#apoceclipse2017 #columbiasc
#famouslyhot #famouslyextra #eclipse2017 #xanaxandjesus

*THIS JUST IN: The Publix on Forest Drive is a madhouse, as well as the neighborhood branch of the public library. THE LIBRARY, y'all. This is next level.

**Eclipse Eve Update: Just a suggestion, but if you are coming to our fine city for the apoceclipse, don't bring jeans unless you want to spontaneously combust before it happens. Please do not wear your eclipse glasses in church.
This is the south and we don't do that here. Also, y'all flatter me. Your comments, stories, and pictures are the most! Thank you! Anyone can share this post, as it is set to 'public.' You can subscribe to my public posts by simply clicking "follow" on my profile. Stay tuned for an amazing story involving Jesus, WalMart, and a sandwich. 🌒

South Carolina Total Solar Eclipse!

A grand celestial event is coming to the United States tomorrow: a total solar eclipse that will sweep across the middle of the country, starting in California and ending in South Carolina! This has been a very big deal for months now all over the country in the states where the 70 mile wide band of totality falls. People are flocking to areas where they can experience an eclipse at 100% totality. I live in Florence, SC, where the sun will "only" be 99.5% eclipsed. I don't think we're going to bother driving the 30 minutes it would take to get to Kingstree (the closest town to us to achieve totality) for less than 1%  gain.

A total solar eclipse is a truly rare event in any human's life. I can't wait to sit outside tomorrow afternoon and experience one! Ancient humans would have thought the world was ending....the religious down through the centuries have considered them mighty omens of a king dying or a nation being destroyed. Astrologers believe that eclipses bring endings, beginnings, revelations, change, and upheaval.  It's seems awfully ironic that this eclipse will go right through the middle of the USA in 2017 given our political climate!

Superstition aside, I'm especially interested in the science of it all. My very limited knowledge of  astronomy comes from things like watching Cosmos with Neil Degrasse Tyson (a personal hero of mine) and years of getting a Skywatch weekly email. I try to get outside during the big annual meteor showers, I can pick out most of the major constellations, and I try not to miss lunar eclipses. So tomorrow is going to be a real treat for me--and one that won't occur in this area again until sometime in the 2070s. I'll be almost 100 years old then if I'm still alive. I'm not counting on making it to that one!

The schools here (as I mentioned yesterday) are closed tomorrow so the students can enjoy the eclipse with their families. Gregg will be at home with me because Monday is one of his regular days off. It feels like it's going to be a special day and it will most definitely be a memorable one! I'll report back Tuesday.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eventful week!

My first full week at the new job is done! And I'm happy to report that I'm still just as pleased as I was on the first day. I've only worked 8 days so far, but I have zero complaints...about anything. I can't imagine how I've gotten so lucky! On the first day back for the kids (Thursday), a busing fiasco left dozens of students without transportation to and from school. While that played out, a sewage backup that required an emergency crew of plumbers left over half the school without useable toilets!  It was chaos for awhile! In the midst of all that the principal apologized and handed me a list of parents that needed to be called and who weren't going to be happy--their children, who should have been on buses, had no way home and arrangements had to be made to get them picked up. Most were obviously blue collar hardworking types that needed to be at work and/or didn't have reliable transportation themselves. The rest of the office knew that I had been given a tough task, and I knew they were watching to see how I'd handle it. So I did my best. I accepted the task with a smile and pleasant attitude. I made one call after another, and tried to be as empathetic and professional as possible. I didn't complain. And do you know--not a single parent blasted me! Most were gracious and understanding.

That afternoon, before leaving for the day, the principal (a sharp and efficient middle aged woman) complimented me on how calmly I had handled an especially trying first day of school. That was my biggest highlight of the week! She's not a woman who's given to compliments, certainly not if she doesn't feel they're deserved.

This week I also met the teenager I'm a new guardian to! I was really nervous about it. She's living with foster parents in a really poor part of town, and I had no idea what to expect when I knocked on their door. They're all African Americans, and with the way things are going in our country right now, I couldn't blame them if they didn't want a strange white woman over. But they turned out to be a sweet elderly couple that were very kind and gracious. They remind me a little of my grandparents: the wife has flowers and plants everywhere in her tiny front yard and on her porch, and they were watching The Andy Griffith Show when I arrived. My grandparents watched that show all the time!

After I introduced myself, they called *Kay from her room. She was another pleasant surprise. I expected her to be unreceptive to yet another adult sent from "the system". I expected her to possibly be sulky or difficult. In fact, she was none of those things! She was shy and had a sweet smile. She seems young for her age. I had a new book bag filled with school supplies to give her from the GAL program director, and she seemed very happy with it. We talked about the upcoming school year and what classes she's taking. I admitted I had been nervous to meet her, and she laughed. We made a plan to see each other again in two weeks, and she seemed impressed when I took out my planner and wrote her in for the afternoon of the 31st. All in all, a great first visit and I feel good about this assignment! I'll be with Kay until next summer when she turns 18. She's been through a lot of trauma and deserves a shot at a decent adult life. This year is going to be crucial for her.

I met with Kay after work on Wednesday, and that night was book club. I was so happy to see my friends! I had to miss last month's meeting, and I've been too busy with the new job to see much of them lately. The book we read this month was In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume. It was a quick and easy read, and not bad for a summer selection.

It's been an exciting week. Now I'm ready to relax! And guess what? It's a three day weekend, because a total solar eclipse is happening here on Monday (!!!!!!!) and the schools are closed. A three day weekend already--I think I'm going to enjoy being "back in school" and following a school schedule! Tomorrow, I'll write more about the grand celestial event that's about to take place over South Carolina on Monday. Until then, enjoy the weekend!

*Not her real name, for obvious reasons.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mean Face

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The face of feathered terrorism.

Marco insisted on coming out of his cage as soon as I walked in the door today. He got on my shoulder and was good for a little while...but then I sat down at the computer for a little bit of relaxation. That's when the devil came out to play. He jumped down onto the desk and started flinging crap to the floor (including a half full bottle of ginger ale) and making a huge mess. When I went to stop him, he actually growled at me and wouldn't let me pick him up! I took this photo right before throwing a dish towel over his head so I could take him back to his cage without getting bitten.

As soon as I put him in there, he climbed up to the front corner, looked me dead in the eye, and said "I love you. I love you, baby."

 The little shit.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Social Media Sabbath

Now that I have regular weekends off, I'd like to try taking a break from social media on Sundays. A weekly Social Media Sabbath, if you will. A chance to turn off the computer, put down the phone, and spend time doing things that refresh my spirit. Like a lot of you, I spend plenty of time every single day checking in on Facebook and Instagram, reading news articles, reading and commenting on and reacting to silly Internet junk, and watching YouTube. I also spend a big chunk of most days worrying over politics. Since Trump took office it's been one terrible situation after another, and people are full of hate for each other and arguing bitterly on social media. (Speaking of hate, I can't even talk about what's going on right now in Charlottesville, Virginia. I don't have adequate words to express my feelings about a situation this awful). It gets exhausting, and isn't conducive to peace of mind. Not to mention how much time social media wastes, even the entertaining parts of it.

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I've decided that from now on, Sundays shall be a day of rest (from social media) for me. No Facebook, no YouTube, no idle messing around on the Internet. I have 7 hours to myself on Sundays, because that's one of the days Gregg works at the pet store.  I want to spend time with the dogs, cook nice Sunday suppers, get together with friends sometimes, read, and write for this blog (which is the one social media activity I want to keep on Sundays). I want to make a conscious effort to not think or talk about politics or the news. I need a regular break from the Internet, if only once a week!

How about you? Do you set limits on social media consumption? Do you take a personal Sabbath day for religious or secular reasons? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

First Day

I started my new job today. Everyone was so kind and helpful and welcoming! I don't think I've ever had such a warm, friendly reception at a new job!

And the school itself is gorgeous!  It was built very recently and everything is new and shining and spacious. The school mascot is a Squire (a young knight) and there is a suit of armor in the main lobby!!! Haha! (I'll  have to take a selfie with him at some point and post it here). There are skylights with living plants, and an incredible library, and oh....just so many things to like and appreciate.
The teachers and staff that I've met so far all seem very positive, enthusiastic, and genuinely happy to be there. The bookkeeper, who started just last October, told me it's the best environment she's ever worked in.

I think I'm going to be very happy with this job.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


It's official! I went to court this morning and was sworn in as a Guardian ad Litem.

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I've also been assigned my first case, a 17 year old girl in foster care. I plan to try to meet her and her foster mother this weekend. I'm terribly nervous, but I'm looking forward to it, too. Wish me luck (I'm going to need it!)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Surprisingly good

Well. I feel surprisingly good considering I drank a whole bottle of champagne last night to celebrate my last day at the bookstore!

I didn't intend to drink the whole thing. Gregg doesn't drink so I didn't have anyone to share it with. I popped the cork around 8pm and sipped until midnight, at which point the bottle was empty. I was a little worried about how I'd feel this morning, but besides a slight headache (easily solved with two Ibuprofen) I feel fine. Thank goodness.

Yesterday went by in a flash. Right before I left, my coworkers surprised me: they had pooled their money to buy me going-away gifts and a cake! They had also signed a sweet card for me. Between the card and the gifts and the hugs and the kind words, I had to fight back tears more than once. I never expected such a wonderful send off! Then at 4:30pm a couple of my book club friends showed up at the store to see me "dance your way out the door" as they put it...and one of those crazy women filmed me clocking out and leaving! Hahaha! That made me laugh so hard! I have some wonderful friends.

It feels really weird this morning to be between the old job and the new....but surprisingly good, just like my (mostly non-existent) hangover!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Nervous and emotional

Tomorrow is my last day at the bookstore. I'm really happy about that, but it feels weird. After 6+ years in one job, no matter how much you dislike it, there is a certain comfort level. My job before that (that I loved) was as a store manager for Pier 1 Imports. I was there for almost 8 years and it was a sad day when our store went out of business. Now I'm going to be doing something completely different than what I've done for over 15 years. I expect it will be much easier and less stressful than retail management, but in any job you have to learn the ropes and adapt to a whole new atmosphere and new people. I hope it will be okay.

One thing I'll remember fondly about this job I'm leaving is all the wonderful friendships I've made there. All the women in my two book clubs (with the exception of my friend Marla) are people I met through work. I've gained several new friendships because of the bookstore, so it hasn't been all bad!

Then there are the regular customers that have come to mean a lot to me that I'm going to really miss. Some of you may remember me talking about an older couple originally from Colombia that shop there and help me practice my Spanish, Mr. and Mrs. Sarmiento. Early on, I accidently told Mr. Sarmiento in Spanish that my husband and I eat our dogs! He still laughs about that to this day! They are the sweetest people, and I was happy to see them come in the other night so I could tell them about my new job and tell them goodbye. They were so very sweet, and happy for me...they both hugged me, and kissed my cheeks, and said so many very nice things to me that it made me cry. I sure will miss them, and a handful of others like them.

The district manager for our store visited yesterday, and asked me about my new job. He's been kind and helpful and we've  had a good relationship. I always knew that if the HR problems at the store ever got out of hand, that I could go to him for help. I never did, and probably should have a few times, but at least I knew it was an option. He was also very, very kind to me yesterday. He shook my hand, said some really nice things about my service to the company, and told me that if he can ever do anything for me in the future to please not hesitate to call and ask. That choked me up a little bit, too. It's nice that at least one higher-up in the company seems to appreciate me and the work I've done!

My coworker, John, has a little daughter (3 years old) that started calling me "Aunt Jenn" last year. It was completely her own idea. I'm going to miss her, too. John is off today and tomorrow, but he told me he's planning on bringing her up to the store today to see me before I go. I expect to get teary eyed again when I see her. So many farewells this week....

In addition to the new job that I'm starting next week, I'm also going to be starting my work as a Guardian. The program coordinator emailed me this morning about my first assignment--a teenage girl living in a foster home here in Florence. I'll be going to meet her one day next week after work--so now that's two things to be nervous about next week! I actually had hoped that my first case would be a younger child, but I had to be given an ongoing case that doesn't have any court appearances scheduled in the very near future since I can't take time off work right away. So it's going to be a teenager--meeting her is almost more scary to me than the new job.

Well, off to my next-to-last day at the bookstore. These are scary (but exciting) days!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Early August

It's been a while since I shared an essay from my favorite nature writer, Hal Borland. The start of a new month seems like a good time for it. Enjoy.

"August comes with hot days, warm nights, a brassy sun, and something in the air, perhaps the season itself, that begins to rust the high-hung leaves of the elms.The listless leaves of the maples have a dusty look and the sycamores and basswood are hung with seedy fruits. Sumac holds its candle-flame clusters, red as the sumac leaves will be in September.
First goldenrod comes to bloom along the roadsides, and early asters appear, lost in the clouds of Queen Anne's... lace. In damp places the purple vervain leads the parade of darker color that already begins to show in the first flower heads of Joe-Pye weed. Thistles flaunt their thorny tufts of deep lavender, and tick trefoil is in weedy bloom, its small lilac flowers preparing stick-tight pods. Bur marigolds, masquerading as roadside sunflowers, come to blossom, and great Lobelia lifts its blue spikes above the podding milkweed.
Brooks languish in their stony beds. Only the grandfather frogs groan and rumble in the dusk. The Whippoorwills are less insistent, and now a Barred Owl is heard questioning the night. The big, dark moths haunt the flower garden's deep-throated flowers, gleaning nectar the August-lazy bumblebees overlooked. The night still twinkles with fireflies but the day's heat lingers and the air has a dusty August scent, the smell of languid summer. And overhead the warm air touches the treetops, rustles the rustling leaves in the broad-tipped elms."

Hal Borland
"Twelve Moons of the Year"
August 1964

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ups and Downs

Today was a bit trying.

I had an appointment for my yearly pelvic exam and pap smear, which is never much fun to begin with. Then while the doctor examined me I saw him get a funny look on his face and he started pressing down hard on my abdomen. It hurt! And then he informed me that I've developed uterine fibroids.

It nearly scared me to death, but he quickly assured me that they're very common and almost never anything to worry about. Especially since I've not experienced any symptoms. He did an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. He then went on to talk to me about menopause which I can expect sometime in the next 8-10 years and how the fibroids will likely shrink on their own after that. And if I start to develop problems before then they can be removed.

 I expected a normal easy-breezy yearly checkup and instead there was all this talk of benign tumors and menopause and alternative birth control measures I need to start thinking about because "at your age continuing the pill probably isn't a good idea". I also got the lecture about how I really need to schedule my first mammogram.


I hate to complain because my life is so good right now, what with the new job and all, but today really was a downer. After my appointment I had to dash home and pick up George for a vet appointment. I can honestly say he hated going to the vet almost as much as I hated going to the gynecologist, poor boy! He was only there for routine stuff but that dog hates getting shots.

We've both had better days.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A note of thanks, and other stuff

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you all for the positive comments on my last post! I've been overwhelmed with good wishes both online and in person since I accepted my new job, and I feel very loved....and very lucky. I have so many wonderful friends, both on this blog and in "real life". Thank you for listening to me complain about the job I'm leaving for the last few years and the difficult (and often discouraging) job search. I look forward to regular blogging again now that the search is over and finding a new job is no longer something I have to worry about!

I have one week left at the last day is next Friday. Yesterday I finished my Guardian ad Litem training, and I go to court to be sworn in on August 8th, the day before my first day at my new job. Our GAL trainer, Kareem, told us yesterday that if we're ready we can be assigned our first cases next week. I took him aside after class and explained that I'm starting a new job and would like to hold off until September if possible. The newest cases all have preliminary court hearings on August 22 and I simply can't ask for time off a week in at my new job! He was wonderful and understanding. I explained that when I signed up for the GAL class I had been job hunting for years and had no idea that I would find a new job this summer. He laughed and said, "That's how it works. When you open a new door in life, other doors start to open, too!" He also suggested that for my first case it might be best to take over one that's in "monitoring mode", where another volunteer had to leave the program mid-case but all of the initial court hearings are done. He said he has a few like that and there probably won't be court dates for them for at least 90 days. That sounds like a good plan to me! After 90 days, I'll have accrued some personal leave time and won't mind asking for a morning or afternoon off to appear in court. Visiting the child can happen after work or on weekends, and I can write my monthly monitoring reports anytime. So by the end of this month I should have my first Guardian assignment, too! New doors are indeed opening for me all over the place!

Life is pretty exciting right now. After months and years of feeling stuck, it's exhilarating (and kind of scary, too). Thanks again for all your encouragement and support!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pure Joy

The day I've been looking forward to for years now is finally here! I've accepted the job at the school!!!!!!!!

The pay is a tiny bit more than the starting pay at my current job, which is better than I had hoped for! Much to my relief, I won't have to have a second part time job to make ends meet. This is a relief since my volunteer duties as a Guardian Ad Litem will be a second (unpaid) job in itself.

I'm just thrilled. Can you tell?! Haha!

I've been so unhappy at my current job, for years now. And for years I've been looking for a new job and a way out of retail management. My job at the school will give me state benefits: health insurance, retirement, etc. Not to more working nights, no more working weekends, no more working holidays..........! I'll be on the same schedule as the teachers: two weeks off at Christmas, a week off at Easter, and two months off in the summer. I still can't believe it!

Thank you all for your kind words, good wishes, and support. Today, I'm the happiest blogger in blogland!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A pretty picture, and another update.

This beautiful creature was fluttering around my backyard the other day. I ran for my phone but only snapped this one picture before it flew away.

I've been too busy to post much. Tomorrow I plan to call HR about the job I'm being offered and finding out how much money they're offering me. If it's acceptable I'll turn in my letter of resignation at the bookstore and begin working out my 2 week notice. Tuesday I'll be in court all day as part of my Guardian ad litem training. My classes will be done next week, and I'll be back in court getting sworn in on August 8th, the day before my first day at the new job....provided I accept it. It's been a busy, but productive, month.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quick update...

I'm this close to having a new job. In fact, the school called yesterday to tell me that I'm their pick (!!!) ....the only hurdle left is that I'm waiting to hear from the HR department what salary they can offer me. I can't say yes until I have that crucial bit of information! I know that even the best case scenario is going to be a pay cut, but as long as it's not too drastic I'm going to go for it!

Please continue to send good vibes and positive thoughts my way for an offer I can live with... I really, really want to say YES to this job!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The "Green Thing"

I saw this on Facebook, and wanted to share it with you all. I think some of my older readers especially will appreciate it! It made me laugh.


Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for ...the environment.

The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."
The older lady said that she was right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day. The older lady went on to explain:

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn't do the "green thing" back then.

We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the "green thing" in our day.

Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
But that young lady is right; we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a r azor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family's $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the"green thing." We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person.

We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off... Especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced smartass who can't make change without the cash register telling them how much.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The fish guy

As I've mentioned before, my husband sets up and maintains aquariums for a living. He has accounts at nursing homes, hospitals, doctors' offices, and schools...including the school where I had a job interview last week.

When the interview was wrapping up, I mentioned to the principal and assistant principal that I'm married to the guy who takes care of their aquarium. Their response was gratifying:

"You're married to the fish guy?! We love the fish guy! He does such a good job and our aquarium is beautiful!"

They went on to add that if I start working there, we'll be able to have lunch together on the days when Gregg is there cleaning the aquarium. I took that as a good sign!

Speaking of "the fish guy",  he helped me set up a new (bigger) aquarium for my African cichlids a couple of weeks ago. I showed you a picture of the bigger male a while back. They were outgrowing the 30 gallon tank they were in originally. Now they're in a 55 gallon and doing great!

Arranging the pieces of coral during set up.

He's an artist! :)

The biggest male.

It's hard to take good photos of fish!

A breeding pair swimming in the filter flow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A really good day!

I've had a wonderful day!

First, I got a call yesterday for a job interview this morning at 10am. It's for a secretary position at a middle school. I don't want to jinx myself, so I'll just say that the interview went really well and no matter what happens, I'm satisfied with how I presented myself. I'm cautiously optimistic, and I definitely think I would love the job. And if it doesn't work out, that's ok too!

Then as soon as the interview was over I had to dash across town to my very first training session to become a guardian ad litem. I'm super excited about the work I'll be doing with abused and neglected children in our community! The people overseeing the training are wonderful and I know I'll be learning a lot in the weeks to come. We've worked out a schedule to complete our training (including one full day spent in court observing hearings) by the end of July. By early August I should be sworn in and ready for my first assignment. 

All in all, it's been a good day!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

Jumping in on a work break to wish my American friends a Happy Independence Day!

Yes, I had to work today, but it's dead slow. The mall we're attached to closed early, and I don't understand why we didn't, too. Oh well. We're making time and a half (along with holiday pay) to basically do nothing. There's over an hour left to go and I think there are maybe three customers in the whole store. We'll be done and out of here fast as soon as we can lock the doors.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Taxes and Flowers

I had to go to our city-county complex building yesterday to pay the property taxes on my car.

When I got there I saw that the landscaping crews have planted loads of summer flowers all around the multiple entrances. There were roses, zinnias, daisies, and several flowers I didn't recognize, but my favorites were these gorgeous red hibiscus.....

I'm sure some of the passers-by thought I was crazy, standing there snapping pictures with my phone, but I didn't care. The flowers were too pretty for me to resist! How pleasant for people headed to the tax offices (or to court!) to have something beautiful to see on the way in.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer in a bookstore.

Every summer at the bookstore it's the same old story. People drop off their kids and let them roam around the mall, unsupervised. I guess they either can't (or don't want to) pay for daycare and think a bookstore is an appropriate alternative. (It's not). We can't be responsible for unattended children. Mall security (or police officers, if it happens to be a weekend when they're on duty) are going to be called to handle the situation if the parents can't be located within 10 minutes or so. We're not there to babysit. As a wise woman once said, Ain't Nobody Got Time For That.

So today a little girl was wandering around the store for hours, playing with our display tablets, picking up books and then laying them down just anywhere, moving toys from the children's department, running, etc...and this behavior went on for hours with nary an adult in sight. I finally got fed up with the situation and went to talk to the child. And this is how it went.

Me: Hey, there. How old are you?

Girl: ..........Um.... twelve.....

Me: Is your mom in here with you?

Girl: Yes. (This was a lie).

Me: You need to go find her. Where is she?

Girl: .....................

Me: You can't be in here without your mom. Let's go find her.

Girl: Screw you, lady!


Being told off by a tiny 12 year old girl is a new one even for me, the veteran of six summers at the bookstore. Whew!

School can't start back fast enough.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The devil on my shoulder...

Marco likes being with me every second of the day when I'm not at work. He's usually perched on my right shoulder like this:

What a pretty bird!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pond Visitors

Blue Dasher - (Pachydiplax longipennis)

This little guy was hanging out around our container pond yesterday. Isn't he cute? Blue Dashers are friendly little beasts and will let you get close enough to take pictures. I like this one where he was perched on one of the Blue Pickerel flowers.

The bees like our pond flowers, too.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer is Evil

I've decided that summer is my least favorite season. It's just awful here in South Carolina.

I know that many parts of the country are having unusually high temperatures, and even parts of the UK are experiencing an unusual heat wave, but it's downright miserable here. Not only are temperatures in the upper 90s every single day, but the humidity is so bad (especially after it rains) that walking outside is like walking into a steam bath. It gets hard to breathe.

Another issue this year in this area are the pests. Thanks to a  mild (almost non-existent) winter and a whole lot of rain, mosquitoes, ticks, and snakes are having a bonanza year. On the way to grandma's last week I listened to a local NPR segment about how this is the worst year for ticks we've ever had. Not only that, but they're carrying a new disease that's as bad as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme, and all three diseases are being reported in high numbers all up and down the East coast. Our veterinarian has been warning the community about the number of snake bites that he's seen in dogs lately, and how frequent poisonous snake sightings have become. I can't stand the thought of a snake--I screamed like a child the last time I saw one--and I dare not take our dogs anywhere where they might be lurking. Copperheads are particularly bad in this area.

The weeds and poison ivy and quick-growing vines that have sharp thorns are taking over our fences and the sides of the house. The more evil the plant, the more it seems to love this awful summer heat and humidity. Our yard looks like crap. And who wants to do more than mow the grass in weather like this? Not us. We're considering hiring a yard crew to come for the rest of the summer just for the sake of comfort. It's probably not a bad way to blow some money.

How do you feel about summertime? I hope that for most of my readers it's a better experience than what I've described here!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day, and an anniversary

Tomorrow is Father's Day, and the day after, June 19th, would have been my paternal grandparents' 69th wedding anniversary. I promised you all some more family photos, and what could be better than vintage wedding pictures? Grandma gave me copies of all of these to keep forever.

June 19, 1948

The bride and groom with the maid of honor, grandma's cousin Clara, and the best man, grandpa's brother Johnny.

You guys.....wasn't my grandmother beautiful? And her dress...!!! Just lovely.

I also got a copy of their wedding announcement that ran in the newspaper. Back in those days, they spared no detail when describing a wedding in the society columns. Here are a few excerpts I thought you might find interesting:

Miss Margaret Martin Weds Mr. Czmiel in Rites at St. Louis Catholic Church, Dillon

In an impressive service on Saturday morning, June 19, at the St. Louis Catholic church in Dillon, SC, Miss Margaret Martin became the bride of Joseph Stanley Czmiel of Chicago. Rev Lawrence Sheedy of the Dillon church assisted by Rev. Maurice Shean of Rock Hill officiated........

......The lovely little chapel was decorated with tall floor baskets of white dahlias and gladioli. Sprays of ivy entwined the altar rail, where burning candles were placed..........

....The lovely young brunette bride, given in marriage by her father, was beautifully gowned in white slipper satin, with sweetheart neckline and long fitted sleeves ending in points at the wrist. Her full skirt, attached to a fitted bodice, ended in a wide cathedral train. She wore a fingertip veil of bridal illusion edged in rose point lace and caught to a halo of tiny beads. The bride carried a white prayer book topped by a white purple-throated orchid, and showered with satin ribbons.....

The bride had as her only attendant her cousin, Miss Clara Lou Hardwick of Aynor. She wore a blue taffeta dress fashioned with sweetheart neckline, fitted bodice and full skirt, and carried a colonial bouquet of yellow rosebuds encircled by Shasta daisies. She wore matching taffeta mitts and, on her head, a bandeau of roses and daisies.

Mrs. Martin, mother of the bride, wore Eleanor blue crepe with softly draped hipline and self embroidery, and on her shoulder, a corsage of pink roses.

Mrs. Czmiel, mother of the bridegroom, was gowned in beige. She also wore a corsage of pink rosebuds.

Immediately afater the ceremony the bride's parents entertained with a wedding breakfast at their home on Marion street, which was made attractive with numerous arrangements of white gladioli, dahlias, and snapdragons. The bride's table, centered by a triple tiered wedding cake tipped by a miniature bride and groom, was especially lovely, decorated with gardenias tied with maline and white satin ribbons......

.....During the afternoon, the bride changed her wedding gown for a dressmaker suit of white gabardine with which she wore black accessories and the orchid from her prayer book. Following a brief wedding trip the young couple will be at home in Chicago.

There was plenty more I left out, like who provided the nuptial music and the pieces they played ("Oh, Perfect Love" by Gurney and "Ave Maria" by Shubert, as well as the traditional marches), the usher/groomsmen names and where they lived, and who greeted guests, worked the bridal register, presided over the dining room and "assisted with hospitalities" at the reception. There was also a bit about my grandmother being a recent graduate of Winthrop University, and my grandfather being a veteran of WW2 and serving in Europe.

Clearly, wedding announcements were a big deal back in those days!

A year later, on June 12, 1949, my grandparents' first child was born, my uncle Paul.

A perfect picture for Father's Day: my grandpa with his first-born son.

Grandma was a pretty young mother. And look at the telephone in the background!

Grandma sewed all the fancy lining and ribbons on this bassinet.

My great-grandmother, Emma Martin, visiting Chicago when my uncle Paul was born. She's on the left, and my other great-grandmother, Angeline Pierog, is on the right. Can anyone guess what kind of car they're posing beside?

My grandfather's sister, Ann Czmiel, and his brother, Johnny Czmiel, with their new nephew.
I hope you've enjoyed these old family photos! I had so much fun looking through them and picking out ones to share here!

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Go show your family some love, especially the older generations if you're still lucky enough to have them in your life. I feel very fortunate to still have grandma around at her grand old age of almost 90 years old.