Thursday, April 22, 2010

Funny Thursday Story

This morning I rushed out of the house to get to work on time.  Once in the car and down the street a bit, I realized I had left my cell phone at home.  I did not want to be without my cell phone all day, and since I noticed I had the time, I turned around and headed back to my house to pick up the phone.

When I went in, turned off the alarm (yes, we have to have an alarm here) and went into the bedroom to get my phone, I noticed my cat, Squeebles bent over something on the carpet that I couldn't see.  I went to investigate and found he was eating a Band Aid wrapper.  

Yes, we have weird cats.  I had to use a Band Aid this morning, and from prior knowledge of my cat's fetish, I always make sure to put the Band Aid wrapper in the garbage and cover it up.  Ahhhh, but my cat Squeebles isn't as dumb as he might appear.  He has figured out how to knock the top off the garbage and fish inside for the delectable Band Aid wrapper he so desires - and that is what he did this morning.  

I ripped the wrapper away from him, all soggy and half chewed - and dispensed of it in the kitchen garbage which he cannot get into.  Squeebles looked mighty guilty - he had waited for me to leave before digging through the garbage for his "treat".  Sneaky cheater. 

What the heck is it with Band Aid wrappers anyway????  Oh - he also likes to lick photographic paper and Consumer Reports magazine, both of which we have to put away so he can't make himself sick.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quick Backyard Snaps

He's cute, isn't he?  The sun was shining on him, so it's too bright - but you can still see his smiling face.

This looks like he's smiling with teeth.....

A Dwarf Poinciana flower just beginning to open.

An open Dwarf Poinciana flower.

The little orange balls above and below are tiny Dwarf Poinciana budlets getting ready to open into flowers.

Above is an orange-red Gerbera Daisy

Don't know what the orange flower is, but it sure is pretty!

Above is a purple and blue Dahlia bud with the rest of the open flowers blurred behind it.

Another Dahlia bud.

A volunteer sunflower from the bird seed we put out - the geometric center is endlessly fascinating.

Another view of the sunflower center.

A different, more advanced sunflower center.  The buds are bursting with pollen.

And finally - another volunteer birdseed plant/flower.  I have no idea what this is, but maybe once it goes to seed I'll be able to figure out what it is.  Meanwhile, the leaves look a little like lettuce leaves.  I love yellow.

Monday, April 19, 2010


How do you all feel about doctors with whom you schedule an appointment at, say, 10:00am - and you don't get in to see him until 11:00am.  You are forced to sit in a waiting room for an hour with a TV blaring at you usually stuck on some obnoxious morning show program - or worse, a soap opera.  You are a captive audience.  I once turned the TV off - a verboten action, which caused all the other waiting patients to look panicky but relieved.  I actually broke the group mold, got up, asked everyone if they minded if I turned the thing off (none of them did).

I think maybe the receptionist should give you one of those beeping things that restaurants use - and let you wander around, provided, of course, there is a place you actually might want to wander around, like a store or library or something.

How about when you have lab work done and you get a call on a Friday afternoon that the Dr. would like to schedule an appointment with you to discuss your results.  What is your first reaction?  There MUST be something wrong!  Oh my gosh!!  What could it be?  And NOW you have to wait until at least Monday to find out what it is.  In my case, this happened the first time I had lab work done at this office until I realized that this Dr. ALWAYS makes you come back in to discuss your results - it means another copay for him.  I told my gynecologist about this practice of my general physician and she immediately said - "He just wants another copay.  He should respect his patient's time - it's valuable, too."  Amen, sister (she is a woman)!!  So the Dr. just wants to collect - not just another copay - but the full office visit amount which will be billed to your insurance - for nothing, really.  AND they scare you into the bargain.  How rude, how inconsiderate, how arrogant.  

This is what happened to me today for the last time.  About 6 months ago after I had lab work done - to test my thyroid because I take Synthroid for an underactive thyroid - I gave them such a hard time that they gave me the results over the phone and called in a new prescription for me.  But this only occurred after I got, let us say, forceful and then the office person got positively nasty - and then I got nasty back and demanded that I get my results without further ado.  For some reason, that worked.  Seriously, I didn't think demanding would change a thing, but it did in this case.  

Well, a week ago I had more lab tests done - primarily to test my thyroid again, but other blood tests were included also.  All was back to normal as far as policy was concerned.  I got a message on my answering machine at home on Friday afternoon saying that I needed to call the Dr.'s office to schedule an appointment to discuss my lab results.  Despite my knowledge that this is their policy no matter how normal the results are, a little voice in the back of my head said, "what if something is wrong??"  Luckily, there was still time to call the office back before they closed for the weekend.

The young man I spoke to put me on hold when I told him I was calling about my results - and then he got back on the phone and said I would have to schedule an appointment, that the Dr. wanted to go over the results with me.  I asked him point blank, "is there anything serious?"  He said no - and so I scheduled for this morning at 10:30am.

Today came, I got busy at work, I looked up at the clock and saw that it was 10:25 and remembered.  Aaarrrgh!!  I drove as quickly as I could to the Dr.'s office and arrived 20 minutes late.  I went to the receptionist and apologized for being late (the first time I ever have been) and expected to just be told to wait a bit.  I know the Dr. is only going to take about 5 minutes MAX to go over the results and issue a new prescription strength for Synthroid, if necessary - so he could probably cut away to see me quickly.

But no.  The receptionist looked at me and said, "you're 30 minutes late," and proceeded to write this condemnation on my test results in my chart.  I told her it could not be helped and she, looking annoyed, turned to the Queen Receptionist (the office manager I think) and said, "she's 30 minutes late - what do you want to do?"  Queen said with disdain, "Reschedule."  The attitude was palpable.  How DARE I be late.  And how DARE I even imagine that I'll be seen at this late time.  

Let me tell you something about the Queen Receptionist.  She calls older people, including myself, "sweetie," or "dear."  That may not seem bad to you, but it's the tone in which this is said.  It is patronizing and condescending.  The older the patient, the more saccharine sweet the "Dear, please sit down and we'll be RIGHT with you" is.  The "dear" has been sitting in the same chair in the waiting room for about an hour before she finally and slowly gets up and shuffles over to the receptionist and asks in a quiet, private voice, "how long do you think it will be?"  The answer comes in a voice calculated to carry to the parking lot and beyond from the Queen Receptionist, "The Doctor is VERY BUSY today, sweetie.  Why don't you just have a seat and we'll be RIGHT WITH YOU."  What Queenie really wants to say is "Sit down, shut up and wait until you're called," - and it shows.

So, to make a long story short - I told Queenie that I would not be rescheduling and that I wanted a copy of my test results so I could look them over myself.  Queenie, in a tone designed to intimidate, said, "Well, I'll give you the copy, but if you have ANYTHING you want to discuss, you MUST reschedule to see the doctor."  The fact that I certainly had better not try to call in and TALK to the Doctor about any test results was understood.  

I got my copy, went to my car and read my results.  My LDL cholesterol is a tiny bit higher than it should be, although the overall cholesterol is fine.  My thyroid is still underactive, since the high edge of normal is 4.5 and mine was 4.89.  I'm taking 100mg a day of Synthroid now, so I guess it will have to be "upped" a bit.  I feel fine, though, so it can wait until I see my new Dr. in May.  

Of course, the new Dr. will want - most likely - to do their own lab work, but that's ok.  Maybe they will surprise me and accept the lab results I have right now.  

The whole reason I have been seeing the Dr. with the Queen Receptionist is because my insurance changed and my old Dr, (actually, his Nurse Practitioner - loved her!) whom I had seen for years and years, did not accept the new insurance.  I called my old Dr's office and asked if my old Nurse Practitioner could recommend someone.  The office staff there were always nice and today was no exception.  The lady who answered the phone put me on hold for several minutes while she spoke to Laurie (the Nurse Practitioner) and got the information for me.  I have called this new office and already made an appointment.
Wish me "luck".

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yard Sale Angst

I collect old books.  This is not a money making venture;  first, because I LOVE my books and, second, there really isn't much of a market for old books, believe it or not.  Those who are interested only in the financial aspect will buy first editions of famous books, hoping to make a profit.  To them, it doesn't matter the title or subject or author - all that matters is that this item can bring them some $.  I pick old books in the subjects I like - mostly history, Christianity and vintage travel - because I want to keep them, read them and love them.  

Since this morning was Saturday, my husband and I have a regular ritual.  First, we go garage saleing - to see if there is anything we might make money on or anything we could use.  Since we're not up on the latest collectibles, it's hit or miss.  A few weeks ago, we went to a flea market held by our local city.  I happened to find a camera lens that looked a bit old and still in it's original case.  I paid $3.00 for it.  My husband put it up on Ebay and we received a little under $80.00 for it.  That's a gift and it doesn't happen often.   Usually after we spend about an hour and a half running around to available yard sales, we head off to the local deli for breakfast.  I do believe this is the high point of my husband's week.  There are other places I would prefer to eat actually, but his soul is tied to this deli for some weird reason, so that's where we eat every Saturday morning unless one of us is dying.

This morning was no exception.  My husband had already cased all the local garage sales.  He knew where to go and so we drove off.  It was a pretty bland morning - a few tchotchkes (pronounced "chochkees" for those of you who aren't familiar with Yiddish words.....growing up in New York, near the City - I know a few Yiddish words, but that's another story).  We finally wound up at the last grand garage sale.  It was in a very nice neighborhood of large, lovely homes under shady trees with manicured lawns and orderly landscaping (they would NOT want to see my back yard).  It looked promising as we pulled up and parked.  

The first thing we head for, if there are any, are books.  This garage sale had a few books.  There were 5 old books there which immediately drew my attention.  There was a 3 volume set of Presidential speeches from either the late 1800's or early 1900's (I wasn't interested in this one - if I want to read Presidential speeches, I can find them on line).  There was a 2 volume set of a Civil War history from 1906, which was interesting, but the piece de resistance was a Civil War history from 1868.  The book was worn, of course and the front cover binding was beginning to separate from the book itself.  That never stops me.  There was an inscription inside the front cover from someone who had purchased the book in Georgia in 1870 - that adds to the charm, for me.  

I picked up the 1868 book and looked immediately for price.  There was a penciled price on the inside cover - a common practice in antique book stores - of $25.00, which was the price paid for the book.  The woman who was standing by the books and whose garage sale this was, had attached a yellow sticky with the price of $45.00 and the words "This is a COLLECTIBLE".   Hoo boy - this was no ordinary garage sale.  These people were out to make MONEY.  

Now I have a few ideas about garage sales and I've hosted my own, in which my husband accused me of selling EVERYTHING for a dollar - I'd have probably given things away to those whom I thought were needy anyway - and that included a good twin mattress and a working electric typewriter, so we don't make much money at our own sales. Most of the time, when we can't use something anymore - if it's perfectly good - we give it away using local FreeCycle.

To me, if you are having a garage sale, you should not be pricing articles as if this is an antique store, complete with rental overhead and ambiance and several hundred feet of shelves of books to look through and choose from.  When your household articles are spread out all over the grass of your front yard and people from all walks of life are picking them over, this is not reminiscent of an antique shop atmosphere.  People come to garage sales to find bargains.  If they wanted to pay antique store prices, by golly they'd go to an antique store.  If someone who is hosting a garage sale really wants to make top dollar on certain items, they should choose Ebay or try to sell to an antique dealer (good luck on getting full price from them!!).  Ebay is probably the best bet.  I've seen - to me - priceless old books - on Ebay going for $5.00 and staying at that price to the end of the bidding because not that many people really want musty, old books.  The money just isn't there.  I attended a yard sale once where the seller had a musty, mildewed box full of glass doo dads - he must have cleaned out an old warehouse or something.  He absolutely would not sell single items out of the box. - and what he was selling was not a set.  He insisted that you buy the entire box for $50.00 or some crazy price - or nothing at all.  So guess what he got?  Nothing at all.  

Secondly,  yard sales are the bottom of the sales heap.  There are fancy stores and exclusive stores.  Next are mall and specialty stores like Pier One. Next there are antique stores.  After that there are thrift, second hand and charity stores.  And finally, at the very bottom, is the garage, a.k.a., yard sale.  Prices at a yard sale should be the cheapest of the lot.  Period.  That's why people shop them and that's what is expected.  If the seller charges too much, he will be left with a yard full of the same stuff he dragged out that morning.  He's going to have to drag it back in or take it to Good Will and get a tax deduction.  AND he had to pay a city fee to hold the garage sale.  Last time I looked, it was $25.00 here, but that was a while back and it has probably gone up.  To make money at a garage sale you have to be reasonable.  You can mark high - sure - but be ready to negotiate on price, and you'll get your sale.  You'd think this would be a no brainer.

I held up the book and looked at the lady whose garage sale this was - and asked her (not having seen the sticky with the $45.00 price tag at first) how much the books were.  She looked at me with disdain and pointed out the sticky - "They are priced as marked.  They are COLLECTIBLES you know.  The 50 cent book table is over THERE," she snooted.  

I was immediately miffed.  How dare she ask such a ridiculous price at a garage sale. - AND she was rude to top it off. I knew she would be left with that book at the end of the day - no one would pay that price, and I was right.  My husband and I drove off with me steaming in the front seat.  How uppity, how pretentious, how dare she try to get more than even charges for this volume???  And she would not negotiate.

So off hubby and I went to breakfast.  We made a few stops here and there for various necessities and finally, a few hours later, we again pulled up in front of the snooty garage sale (she was selling baskets that I've seen for fifty cents at other yard sales - for $6.00 - funny how there wasn't much sold in the few hours since we'd left).  My wonderful husband told me to stay in the car and off he went to try to pay a reasonable price for the book or books.  We were in luck.  Mrs. Garage Sale had disappeared somewhere and Mr. Garage Sale, the henpecked husband, who, according to my husband, had the limp handshake of a Walter Mitty, was watching the goods and collecting money for any sales.  

My husband negotiated with the man and told him he would not get the price that he was asking for the books and if he wanted to sell them, we'd give him $40.00 for the 2 volume Civil War history from 1906 and the 1868 book together  (the 2 volume set had been marked $35.00 - another ridiculous price for a garage sale, and of course you know the 1868 book was marked $45.00 by itself).  Mr. Garage Sale, looking around quickly to see if there was any sign of the wife, hurriedly agreed to the sale and looked relieved as we paid the $40.00 for the 3 books.  Hubby told me all this because I was waiting in the car and I couldn't see the proceedings - I figured he would strike out, since Mrs. Garage Sale seemed so set on getting her price.

Keep in mind, too, I have overpaid the asking price at garage sales in the past also.  If someone asks a ridiculous price for something - like a quarter - and I think it should be more, I give a dollar and won't take change.  It's a trade off and a judgement call.  One woman was having a sale because she had to leave her house - foreclosure - you can bet I paid more than she asked for her items, and she wasn't asking much.  

When having a garage sale, if you have really valuable merchandise - DON'T sell it at the garage sale.   Sell it on Ebay, sell it on line at or an online store for the type of item you have  - the fees are often negligible.  You can sell your own items on Amazon - I believe Amazon sells everything these days.  You will more likely get the price you want if you don't try to command top dollar at a yard sale. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Monarch Birth

This morning I noticed a Monarch chrysallis that was ready to open, so I got another cup of coffee, my camera - and I sat down to wait for the magic moment. 

I picked up the stick that had the chrysallis attached and looked at it closely.  I could see where the bottom looked like it had begun to crack open....

Next, I took a picture of the chrysallis from each angle...

Isn't it wonderful how you can see the wings through the clear chrysallis?  Originally, the chrysallis is a light green with gold dots - like a little Japanese Lantern.   When the butterfly is ready to come out, you can see it right through the chrysallis - as you can see above.

I waited and waited.  I had to go to work by 11:00am and it was 10:00am.  Time was moving on.  I decided to take the chrysallis with me into the bedroom so I could watch it while I got dressed.  Just as I had one shoe on and was getting ready to put the other one on, I noticed the crack in the bottom get noticeably wider.  Aaaaaarghh!!!  I grabbed my camera and the chrysallis stick and ran back out on the porch in the sunlight - one shoe on and and one shoe off.

As I held the stick in my hand, I watched the butterfly emerge......

First, the head, legs and antennae begin to emerge.  Next the body moves down out of the chrysallis a bit and then the abdomen drops down from it's position at the top of the chrysallis.

As the butterfly emerged further, his wings became free of the chrysallis entirely, but they are wrinkled at first.  The Monarch moved to the top underside handle of a basket and hung there, letting his wings spread out and dry. 

I think this is a male because he has a "smudgy", darker orange area on the 2nd stripe from the bottom of his wing - see it?  Click on the picture and look closer.  Those are "scent glands" - or so the butterfly book says, and only the males have these. 

Here's a bit better picture from the other side.

Below is a picture from this blog, "Lettuce Share" - this is NOT my photograph.  I noticed "Lettuce Share" is about butterflies and gardening, so I have bookmarked it so I can check back there often.  Go there yourself and see the beautiful Monarch butterflies in ALL stages.  This blogger has photographed the caterpillar stage and when the caterpillar forms the pupa, two stages I have not captured yet.  Notice on the back of the Monarch's wings there is a little "blob" on the first stripe over from the abdomen - those are the "scent glands".  I couldn't wait for my Mr. Monarch to open his wings all the way - I had to get to work......


The next to last picture is Mr. Monarch resting on the underside of a branch, shaded by a leaf and protected from the wind until his wings are completely dry and he can fly off.  I left him there reluctantly - it's tough being a mom and letting your baby go out into the world.....

Meanwhile, I have to go to work!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend Rest

I have a couple of pictures to share.  Two are from Friday evening, just as it got dark.  We have a Cuban Tree Frog ( I think that is the species) living in a small decorative ceramic bird house hanging outside the screen on our back porch.  In the effort to identify him/her, I discovered that, of course, he is an invasive species.  Unfortunately, most of what I run into in my backyard is of the invasive type.  Racing lizards, a.k.a., whiptail lizards that start out striped, then, as they mature, their head is a dull beige, but their bodies are a combo of neon green and blue with a spotted pattern.  They are beautiful when the sun hits them.  I thought the extra cold winter we had this year might have knocked them off, but they have reappeared throughout the yard, flicking aside the leaf litter and dirt with their front "hands" and zipping up uncovered bugs with their forked tongues. Here is a picture I took last year sometime of the whiptail.

Green Iguana baby

The fellow above is another non native species - a green iguana.  They can get to 6 feet long and once they get to be that size, they are no longer a pretty green, but a kind of brownish orange.  This past winter DID decimate the iguana population from what I can see.  I've only seen a very few iguanas on Griffin Road, where there used to be literally hundreds by the canal there.

Now for the little cuban tree frog.
Cuban tree frog gearing up
Cuban tree frog about to take off


Right after I took the above two pictures, he hopped off the bird house and went off to start his night of feasting.  I did catch him eating a moth, but I hadn't gotten the camera out yet,  so it went unphotographed.

On a different note, the mulberry tree that my husband wanted us to plant last year because of his nostalgic memories from childhood is doing VERY well.  There is a passion vine planted next to it that is climbing it, creating big purple and white flowers that peek out from the branches laden with various stages of unripe/ripe mulberries.  

Passion flower on mulberry tree

Mulberries in stages of ripeness

Mulberries wrapped by passion vine

I picked a handful of ripe mulberries this morning and they were yummy!  I never thought that in sultry South Florida I could have fresh berries.  I know that strawberries will grow here - that's true - but I've never planted them.  My favorite berry - raspberry - will not grow down here - it's just too darn hot.  Happy Happy Joy Joy - I have mulberries - yummmmmmm!

Fresh Mulberries - YUMMMM!  

I don't think I'll ever pick enough at one time to make a pie - and I'm not as ambitious as that - but some sort of cobbler could be manageable.  
Now for an update on the butterflies.  Since the last of the cold weather, the butterflies have been out like gangbusters.  Monarchs laid so many eggs on all my many milkweed plants that they are decimated.  I'll have to go out during the week and purchase some more plants to feed the voracious little guys.
Only a few leave left!!
These guys are going to have to duke it out....
Purple flowers of one milkweed species before it gets eaten
Beautiful green lantern monarch chrysalis

And of course - above is the "finished product" - a beautiful Monarch butterfly on yellow milkweed.