It is Christmas. ▲

Wednesday, December 25




It's Christmas today.

I wrote this villanelle in October of 2009 for a poetry class.  I originally posted it here.  I know it's not great. I don't remember the grade or feedback I got on it. But I like it and it's the time of year when you should appreciate the small things that make you smile. Like silly poems.

Christmas means red and green,
the scuffling of tiny feet on hardwood floors
and shiny ornaments which reflect the light
from the blinking bulbs on the Christmas tree,

and sugar sprinkles melting on cookies
next to the glass of milk waiting for Santa,
and listening for the sounds of reindeer hooves all night.
Christmas means red and green,

and sitting on the couch warm and toasty
in front of the fire burning gold
on frost nipped fingers and wiggling toes
while the light bulbs twinkle on the Christmas tree,

and hidden presents and popcorn strings
and dreaming about everything Santa might bring
While Sinatra sings, “… merry and bright …”
Christmas means red and green,

snow on the window panes melting
and steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows as white
as Santa’s beard and wide smile,
and the blinking bulbs on the Christmas tree,

and waking up to the smell of turkey
on the type of morning when the cold feels right.
Because Christmas means red and green
and light bulbs blinking on the Christmas tree.

I hope you are spending today somewhere you enjoy - like wrapped up warm and cozy in the arms of the man you love, or saying goodbye to old grudges, or burning your impatient tongue on bubbly hot chocolate.  If there's ice skating involved, count me jealous.

Anyway, maybe save the presents for later.  Remember what's important.

Merry Christmas.

Merry Today ▲

Tuesday, December 24





Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2014, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country). Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, or religion of the wishee.

* I don't remember the original source for this - I found it on Facebook a few years ago.

The Countdown to Christmas ▲

Wednesday, December 11




I got our tree up the weekend before Thanksgiving, so we've had plenty of time to enjoy it.  This year I stuck with my red/white/gold theme, but also added a few rustic touches.  There are a few antler ornaments and the bow on top is made of burlap.


I think it came together pretty nicely, though one my favorite ornaments is not rustic at all.  I found it at the Hallmark store (there were about 3226141 I wanted to buy), but I thought it was too sweet to pass up.  The most annoying part about the tree this year is the way I decided to arrange the furniture.  I'm ready to get the living room back to its normal set up.



Gratitude ▲

Wednesday, December 4



I missed the "gravy boat," so to speak, on expressing my gratitude Thanksgiving Day.  I have no real excuse other than I've been lazy.

I woke up this morning, after almost 10 hours of sleep, and crept out of bed to plant myself on the couch.  Mike is still sleeping after a 12 hour night shift in the cold and crazy dark of Aiken County.  The house is warm - the heat is on full speed.  I bundle myself up in a blanket anyway, and sink deep into the cushions.  The cats are running around, chasing each other, rocketing off pieces of furniture and bounding down the hall after one another.  The dogs take a more melancholy approach to the morning, curling up for naps after their breakfast.

There is some studying I could be doing, but I don't want to.  I feel happy this morning.  It may have something to do with FSU's 37-7 win over in-state rival, UF.  Alabama's loss to Auburn may also be a contributing factor.  The sex scandal looming over our star quarterback, Jameis Winston, surely has nothing to do with it.  It's fall, so football is on the mind.

But the house is toasty.  My tree is lit and the living room is glowing.  I've got most of my Christmas shopping done, at least for the important people (family).  Mike and I are already filling up our calendar with fun things this December.  We are fat and happy and I have nothing to complain about.

This year, that's what I'm thankful for.  We have nothing to complain about.  We are together and working (some days more than others) on strengthening our marriage.  We have four crazy/annoying/hilarious/loving animals to keep us entertained and warm our laps.  We laugh a lot.  We drink a little.  We're here now.  And that is plenty.

Disclaimer: I wrote this on Sunday and scheduled it for later in the week

The Puppy ▲

Tuesday, December 3




My puppy is turning into a dog.  I barely even recognize him any more.  He weighs about 25 pounds now and is quickly gaining on Bella as far as his height is concerned.

But he's sweet as ever.


How to Get Rid of a Tree Stump ▲

Monday, December 2




Yes, this is a blog post about a stump.  Before I moved in with Mike, this stump was a giant pine tree.  Shortly before I moved in, Mike and his roommate had it cut down.  They decided to cut it at this height and leave it in the yard because they thought it'd make a cool outdoor high top table...yes I'm being serious.

Anyway, four years later we finally decided to do something about it.  Initially we were going to carve it into a snowman for the holidays and deal with it in January.  Nature had other plans.  The stump was completely rotten and ant infested, so the executive decision was made to burn it.

If you ever plan on burning a tree stump in your yard, here is a comprehensive to-do list.

1. Drill holes into your stump.

2. Pour gasoline into the holes and all over the stump.

3. Soak the grass around the stump with water to avoid accidentally igniting your yard (and other basic safety reasons).

4. Light it on fire.


Eventually it burned down quite a bit and we were able to sit by it that night and enjoy a little bonfire.


5. Once it burns down a bit, shovel the charred pieces into a wheel barrow and soak them with water.  Pile them off to the side.

6. Drill more holes into the core.  Soak with gasoline.

7. Light it on fire, again.

Unfortunately, even after letting the stump smolder over night, we still had quite a bit left the next morning.   Most of the tree was rotten but the core was pretty solid.


We let it burn all day and finally by the afternoon it broke up into two pieces.  So then we had a baby stump.  On the Saturday after Thanksgiving we got some diesel (because it burns slower) and we lit it on fire twice more.  The roots finally started burning and disconnecting from each other, slowly but surely the stump lost its strength.  It's still holding on and not quite small enough yet.  Once it's no longer poking up above the grass line we can just fill the hole in with dirt and call it a day.

I'm not sure what the game plan is right now - maybe Mike will attack it with an axe and dig it up.  Maybe we'll burn it a few more times.  It's been pretty handy having a giant fire pit to toss our paper trash into, though.

So perhaps this wasn't a very good "how to get rid of a tree stump" post...because we still technically have a stump.

November Instagram Update ▲

Saturday, November 30




Yep. It's December. Well, tomorrow it will be.  Thanksgiving is over, so I can officially full on celebrate the Holiday season.  All you whiners no longer have any room to complain about me rushing the season.  We've got the inside and most of the outside of the house decorated and my countdown is on.  I'm ready to see snow, drink lots of hot chocolate, and other stereotypical winter things.

This past month has been a lot of animal pictures, like usual.  I also got dressed and put on make-up a record four times this month.  Considering I rarely even get out of my PJs, this is a big deal.  Mike is such a lucky guy.

Heroes Behind the Badge ▲

Monday, November 25




I've written about Law Enforcement a couple times on the blog, most notably here, about Scotty Richardson, and here, about my husband.  One of Mike's friends and coworkers created an event on Facebook for a documentary viewing in January here in Aiken.

Disclaimer: most of this information is stolen verbatim from their website.  The documentary is called Heroes Behind the Badge and was created to honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed as members of law enforcement.  It provides a powerful and emotional glimpse into the lives of those who have worn the badge in service to society.  It has been an effective tool to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community and strengthen relations between the two.  Heroes Behind the Badge donates fifty percent of its net proceeds to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 20% of the proceeds from this showing will go to the Richardson/Rogers endowment scholarship at USC-Aiken and 10% to the J.D. Paugh memorial fund. 

In October 2011, our area was shocked to learn Deputy J. D. Paugh of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had been shot and killed as he stopped to check on a disabled vehicle on Bobby Jones Expressway in Augusta, GA.  Less than two months later the community relived the horror when Master Public Safety Officer Scott Richardson of the Aiken Department of Public Safety was killed after being shot while performing a traffic stop in December of that same year.  In January, 2012, just one month later, tragedy struck again when ADPS Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers was shot and killed responding to a suspicious vehicle call in Aiken.

On January 23, 2014, Heroes Behind the Badge will be coming to the Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina-Aiken Campus.  It will be part of a continuing memorial to our local law enforcement heroes with a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales going to support the J.D. Paugh Memorial Fund and the Scotty Richardson/Sandy Rogers Scholarship which assists Criminal Justice majors attending USC Aiken.

I will be photographing the event as a sponsor and am excited to be involved.  I'm posting the information here in an attempt to spread awareness, not just for the Aiken showing, but for the documentary.  I hope you'll take a few minutes to learn more.




If you're unable to attend a screening, order your own copy on DVD or HD Blu-ray today and support a great cause.
Visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website for more.

Our House: Vol 20 ▲

Wednesday, November 20



Well, the master bathroom overhaul is officially complete.  Aside from some re-organization and final decorative touches, we're all done with the house...for now.  The bathroom ended up taking about a full month to complete.  We started with a blank slate and the final product is more than I could have ever imagined.

Here's what we were working with before:

And here's what we're working with now!


I would sleep in there if I could.

When we combined the two back bedrooms to make one large master bedroom, Mike built the walk in closet and bathroom.  The "new" bathroom was a hybrid of the bedroom and original bathroom that was already there, so we had two spaces to transform.  The original plan was to keep the existing water closet as it was, and then just add a vanity and shower to the bigger space.  We were having some issues planning the layout for that configuration until Mike had the idea to tear out the old toilet and sink and make the smaller room into a giant shower.

So that's what we did.  We were also just going to tile over the hardwood floor, but discovered some pretty serious water damage that required total floor removal and replacement.

Here's what went down:
  • The boys pulled out the old dry wall and tile in the existing bathroom.  That's when we found the water damage.
  • We frosted the glass and then covered up the window so that we'd have more wall space to play with. 
  • We turned the original bathroom into a shower. 
  • The space by the toilet got a knee-wall for a little bit of privacy.
  • We put down wood grain tile in the big room.  I seriously love that stuff. 
  • We bought a 60 inch double vanity, matching mirrors and a storage cabinet for over the toilet.
  • Paint.  Paint was the hardest part of this whole thing for me.  We must have bought 45 samples before I finally decided.  We considered greys, reds, coppers, blues, pretty much everything.
  • We ordered a custom granite counter top and knee-wall topper.
  • We bought a small linen cabinet for the space by the door.
  • Behind the door we hung a huge full length mirror.
  • Mike also had to completely re-do all the plumbing under the house which was a huge project.
Plus a seemingly endless list of little mishaps and annoyances, but it's finally finished and now we get to enjoy it!

The Sleep Study Conspiracy ▲

Tuesday, November 12




This post was contributed by my fabulous mother, Pat Rice! 

This is Anna’s mom and I snore. Loudly. As in roof rattling, clear the room, wake the dead loudly.  Or so I’ve been told.  I happened to mention this to my family practice doctor during my recent physical and the next thing I knew, I was scheduled for a sleep study.  Based on this experience, I am now convinced sleep studies are mostly a scam designed to put everyone on earth on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilation machine, and thusly, line the pockets of the doctors who obviously receive kick-backs for prescribing them.  I shared this with Anna who asked me to write a “Guest Blog” about what happened.  Here goes.

I proceeded to the initial consult with an open mind.  Well, fairly open anyway.  I was pretty sure a CPAP would not be in my future regardless of the outcome of the study.  I can’t sleep with any noise or lights and I’m claustrophobic when it comes to having my movement (or escape route) restricted; so I am convinced I would never sleep another night if I had to wear an elephant mask.  People say you get used to them.  I honestly don’t see how.

I was given a questionnaire to answer about my health background and my sleep habits which I answered honestly.  One set of questions was to rate from 0 to 3, with 0 being never and 3 being probable, how likely I was to fall asleep in certain situations.
  • Watching TV = 1 (I admit I may fall asleep watching TV IF it is in the evening after getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working all day. I think most people would.)
  • Reading a book = 1 (Same reason and circumstance as watching TV.)
  • Laying down on the couch = 2 (If I lay down on the couch, I’m doing so with the express intent of taking a nap, so…)
  • In class or a meeting = 0 (Not saying I’ve never wished I was somewhere else, but I’ve never fallen asleep in class or during a meeting – though I may have put people to sleep.)
  • Stopped at a traffic light = 0 (Never!!!)
I was then interviewed by a Nurse Practitioner who went over my answers and who looked in my throat and declared I had a very narrow airway and it was probable I had sleep apnea as a result.  I explained my trepidation about coming in to do an overnight study and she responded I could do the “at home” test.  I was happy there was an alternative.  Turns out I was WRONG!

An appointment was made for me to return to pick up the home monitor and to be taught how to use it.  I dutifully returned on the appointed day and met with a Dr. Z (Ph.D) who then proceeded to explain how the home monitor would only check for four types of hypopnea and oximetric measurements, but that the sleep center tests would check for 20.  I was okay with this.  However, he went on to say if the home test showed I had any hypopnea and/or oximetric episodes, I would need to come in for the more involved (read “more expensive”) sleep center study.  I asked what would happen if it came back with none of these.  He replied that I would still have to come in for the sleep center study, because the home test only tested for four types.

Okay, so why am I paying $145 for this home test?  If I have to come in to the sleep center regardless of the results, isn’t this home test pretty pointless and a waste of time and money?

Obviously disappointed with this new bit of information (and starting to feel more skeptical), I asked that question and never got a satisfactory answer.  So I asked what percentage of patients who do the sleep study are not diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Response – less than 1%.  Why is the number so low? He said it is because patients wouldn’t have been referred for the study if they did not already have all the symptoms of sleep apnea.  What are all the symptoms? All I told my doctor is that I snore – that’s just one symptom.  This is where it gets interesting.

He pulls out my chart and says, "well you answered yes to this health question."

I looked and said, “no, I didn’t.”

Clearly my “no” had been scratched out and changed to a “yes.”   He goes on and says, "well you scored a 10 on the risk questions related to your likelihood of falling asleep in certain situations."

I looked at my chart and saw all of my “0s” had been changed to “3s.”  Who changed these answers and why?  Now I’m more than skeptical, I’m starting to believe there could be some fraud going on.  Dr. Z says, "well I think you need to discuss that with Dr. K when the results of the home test are provided."

Okay, I will.

Now to make this story a little shorter, I’m going to summarize the next evolution.  I took home the sleep monitor, set it all up according to instructions (checked it twice), went to sleep, returned the monitor to the office the next day.  Dr. Z downloads the data and says, “Wow – the oximeter wasn’t working and there is no data, but you had zero hypopneas and breathed regularly throughout the night.  The oximeter must be faulty.   I will talk to Dr. K about this and the issue with your records and get back to you on the next steps.”

One week later, still no word.  I finally call the office to follow-up and the next day I get a call from the elusive Dr. K asking to see me right away.

My meeting with Dr. K went well, but did nothing to assuage my skepticisim.  Summary of what I was told:
  • Record change was an inadvertent charting error on the part of the Nurse and an accurate copy was sent to the insurance company.  (I accepted this, though I didn’t really believe it.)
  • He is sorry the home monitor did not work and will refund my $145 for the test. (Okay, thanks – I like getting money back.)
  • No need to do another home study, but I should do a sleep center study.  (Why if I showed no hypopnea on the home test?)
  • Studies show most people have sleep apnea and doctors are encouraged to diagnose it to the maximum extent possible much like advocating for getting flu shots because apnea leads to stroke, heart attack, diabetes, weight gain, and I think hang-nails.  (Yes, he really said that! – well I added in the hang-nail part.) Also, don’t get me wrong – I truly understand the seriousness of these conditions and don’t dispute that sleep apnea, along with a lot of other risk factors such as diet, obesity, smoking, etc., increases the chances of experiencing or developing these health issues.
  • If the first sleep study shows no sleep apnea, it will need to be repeated so that we can take measures to ensure you sleep on your back the whole night.  “Why is that important?”  “Because people are most likely to have sleep apnea when sleeping on their backs.”  Well of course they do! It’s gravity.  When your tongue relaxes when you fall asleep, in what position are you most likely to have it fall back and obstruct your breathing? On your back. “Well, what if I never sleep on my back?” “You usually don’t know when you are sleeping on your back.”  What I am translating this conversation to mean is - we are going to keep testing you until we prove you have sleep apnea and can force you into a CPAP, a mouth guard (which I am told doesn’t work for individuals who already have a narrow airway), or surgery.
I finally had enough and told Dr. K I would like to discuss it with my family practice doctor before proceeding with any further testing and I would like my refund now, thank you.

I’m not sure I’ll go back for the overnight study.  I’m just too skeptical at this point and knowing my records were changed (inadvertently or not) just makes me too suspicious.  Plus, I cannot think of one single individual I know who has had a sleep study and been told they do not have sleep apnea and do not need a CPAP.  (Well I do know one, but she is pretty much a nut-bucket anyway and probably didn’t need the sleep study in the first place!)

I know there are folks out there who swear they’ve never felt better since they have their CPAP to keep them company at night.  Good for you – I’m happy that works for you.  As for me, I’m still leaning towards SCAM.

Engagement Photos • Flat Rock, NC ▲

Monday, November 11




On Friday I headed to North Carolina to take engagement photos for my cousin-in-law and her new fiance! They got engaged in August and I offered to take some pictures for them as an engagement present.  We met at April's office and then headed to the Carl Sandburg House and Farm in Flat Rock.  Western North Carolina is so scenic, especially this time of year.  The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and everything feels more romantic.


It was a lot of fun.  April and Brian were a bit nervous about being in front of the camera, but their playful laughter made for some great photos.  You can see the more from the shoot on my Facebook page!

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