Monday, May 31, 2010

The Swell Season

I promised myself that I wouldn't do what I did last Summer and neglect to blog! It seems that during the warm months we stay so busy and time slips away. The past two weeks have done just that! I have moments where I make a plan to sit down to blog and then I get busy doing things and next thing I know I have a ton of stuff on my "list" of things I want to write about! Ugh!

Last Saturday Robin and I went to see The Swell Season at the Performing Arts Center at the North Charleston Coliseum. I saw them a couple of years ago in Louisville and it was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever been to. It was right at the time that my then-relationship was falling apart and most of The Swell Season's songs are about relationships, loneliness and pretty sad in general. I was able to meet Glen and Markéta after the show and that night was a turning point for me. On the two-hour drive home I did a lot of thinking. The Swell Season helped me make a lot of decisions that night.

Several years later, I'm in a much better place and am still a big fan. When I saw that they were coming to North Charleston I was so surprised because all we ever get are totally lame country concerts. I bought tickets the day of the pre-sale and was able to get great seats in the orchestra. I found out later that my friend Beth also bought tickets and happened to get them in the same row that I was in. I asked her if she bought them during pre-sale and she said that she bought them during the regular sale. Later they were selling tickets as buy one, get one free. I just can't understand why people in Charleston do not attend concerts like this. I know The Swell Season isn't Lady Gaga or anything (not that we are even getting her!) but why do ticket sales for this type of concert always sell so slowly? It's always been this way. That's why we always have to travel 3-5 hours to see anything decent. Sad.

So, I was happy that The Swell Season was coming and it looked like the theater sold out, BOGOF, or otherwise. I must say that the first time I saw them was much better than this time. Glen seemed to engage the audience more in between songs with his funny stories and anecdotes, but this time it wasn't that way. I thought the audience in Charleston was kind of obnoxious and kept talking to him so maybe that ticked him off or something. Also, when Marketa walked on stage and up to the mic, some jerk in the audience yelled out "nice tits!" I was so pissed off. Who says that sort of thing? Obviously this person has no idea who The Swell Season are. Markéta is so soft spoken and seemingly meek and very shy. She looked out at the audience confused and said "Excuse me?" Thankfully, she didn't hear what they said. The show was great, nonetheless and I was thankful that a band that I actually liked came to the coliseum for once.

If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing the music of The Swell Season, or if you haven't seen the movie 'Once', do yourself a favor and seek them out! The chemistry that Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová has is so amazing! Also check out Glen in the 1991 film 'The Commitments' and his other band 'The Frames'!

Markéta Irglová

Glen Hansard

The Swell Season

The 20+ year-old guitar Glen bought from the money he made in the movie 'The Commitments'

I love Markéta's new haircut!

The look on her face makes me wonder who broke up with whom.

Friday, May 28, 2010


When I came back to Charleston last year after my Mother passed away I took a month to get situated and then had to find a job because bills were due. At the time I had 13 years of medical billing experience, including managing a two doctor, one nurse practitioner practice. I've done it all... from checking in patients, billing, coding posting payments to sending patient bills just to have them call back to yell at me. I've done physician credentialing, hired, fired, kept the doctors from going crazy, kept the staff from going crazy... the list never ends.

While looking for a job I wanted something that was going to be challenging and paid well. It didn't take long before I realized I was back in Charleston and that position was rare... especially the salary part. After looking everywhere I finally succumbed to the pressure and took a position at my former company that I left 10 years ago.

When I left 10 years ago I was put in medical coding classes and was soon take out and told that there were "more important" people that needed the classes and that I was needed on the floor. After that I went to the local technical college, took the coding classes, as well as medical terminology and anatomy. After getting my certificates I left the company and went to work for a doctor across town.

Long story short, due to moving around I've worked at several billing companies and have pretty much worked in every field of medicine. I'm good at what I do and I love to be challenged.

When I came back to this company I soon realized it was the same crap that I left all those years ago. The same people were in management along with some of my former teammates that had been promoted. When they offered me the position they actually offered me less money than what I was making when I left. I laughed out loud, but wasn't shocked. After I left, the company was bought out twice and is now owned by the largest healthcare company in the world. When they bought us, they really didn't want our office, but we were part of a package deal so they didn't have a choice.

I have a strong opinion about office management here. Most of supervisors and managers started with this company and have never strayed. They have no idea what's really going on outside of these walls in the medical billing field. The way they run things is horrendous and I honestly can't believe they are still in business. They gain a massive client that signs a contract for several years, "we" totally screw up their billing, they lose money and we lose their contract when the time is up. For a while we struggle until another big client comes along and it's the same thing. I've seen it happen over and over again and in fact, it's what's happening right now.

We just lost a huge client and gained two big, but smaller clients. Our team was big and they have already done initial layoff's. We whisper amongst ourselves about different rumors going around regarding the client, layoffs, management, etc. and some of us have cleaned out our desks down to the bare necessities. I know I have.

Yesterday, eight of us were called into a meeting with our manager and two supervisors. In a nutshell, while trying to be as nice as they could, they told us that positions have been filled with the two new clients and that she would fill positions with us "as they become available." Until then, we are to work down the client that is leaving. So, basically she said we are the bottom of the barrel and weren't given priority positions and now we get to do the shit work. Nice.

I was looking around the room asking myself, with my resume why am I sitting here? I then realized that for the past year I've not used any of the skills I have worked so hard to obtain. All I do all day is write off charges because the doctors were never credentialed with Medicaid. So, because someone else failed to do their job, I'm unable to really do mine. There's no money coming in on Medicaid (which is my entity) so that reflects on me. Everything I have worked so hard for in the past 14 years is going to waste at this company. Why do I want to sit here and bust my ass for them when they have not invested in me?

To be honest, for the last few months this whole field of billing has left a bad taste in my mouth. I make $5 less an hour in Charleston than I did in Cincinnati. That's really sad. I want to do something new. I miss working with people and having contact with patients.

I realize I'm eventually going to get laid off along with some of my other co-workers, but I'm not sure how soon. The really sad thing is that before they called us in they did our annual evaluations earlier in the morning. I got a 2.5% raise. Wow.

Today I'm going to write a list of things that belong to me in my desk. Their way of doing things is to call you into HR while someone cleans out your desk for you - those scissors are mine! How classy. After they clean out your things they bring it to the front and hand it to you.

I laughed when I heard that one of the people that they recently laid off refused to carry their box to their car and made the supervisor do it. I like that. I think I'm going to use it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hidden in the Woods

Robin had to work all weekend and I really didn't want to sit at home so on Friday evening I went to pick up our prescriptions and then got a call from Samantha asking if I wanted to go to Formosa for some lumpia. Uh, yeah!! She met me at the pharmacy and we headed over to the restaurant where I had the vegetable lo mein and 4 pieces of lumpia. Delicious!

After eating we headed over to Bed, Bath and Beyond so I could pick up some coffee for the Keurig and Tassimo machines and also look at spice racks. I was looking for a spice rack that didn't have spices in it already and weren't labeled. I wanted to add the spices and label them myself, which is apparently unheard of because I can't find one anywhere! What's up with that?

Of course, while I was at BB&B I had to go to the cookware section to gaze longingly at the Calphalon set that I highly covet. After BB&B we went next door to Ross, which I haven't been to in years. I forgot how cheap their stuff is! I found a nice, big, red stock pot for only $21! I also bought a little KitchenAid whisk that was less than half the retail price. I liked it because it didn't have one of those skinny little grips that are hard to hold when whisking away!

After Ross we went to Target... again, no spice racks that would suit my needs. After Target I was ready to go home, but remembered that I had to go to the "Devil's Playground" - I loathe having to go there. I dragged poor Samantha along with me and bought some things we needed for the house. It's never a fun trip.

Yesterday I made plans to exploring with Patrick. He keeps finding these places that I've never even heard of, even after living here for 25 years!

Before heading out I decided to prepare myself a little better than I did for our last adventure. I wore shorts because it was supposed to be 90 degrees out, but I also brought some jeans and tennis shoes in case we were walking in tall grass. I also brought a couple bottles of zero calorie Life Water by Sobe, which is my new favorite addiction, and also a face cloth in case I had another one of my flash sweating episodes.

We left around 11:30 and headed out to Awendaw to the Sewee Visitor Center to get a map to the Francis Marion Forest. I called earlier to see if they had them, but apparently I called the wrong office! We got our map, took some photos of the gators in the pond next to the center and then decided to walk the Nebo Pond Trail, which is about a mile. The first leg of the trail is a boardwalk and then turns into a trail covered with pine straw that kept getting caught in my sandals! Ouch! It was a pretty boring walk and the only thing we saw that was noteworthy was an owl. There was also a large fenced in area with endangered red wolves. I always feel sorry for animals that are confined. I can't even go to the S.P.C.A. without tearing up!

After I sufficiently sweated up a storm, we headed out to Tibwin Plantation in McClellanville. The house was built in 1805, but as you can see from the link, there isn't much known about the plantation. Before we drove out there, Patrick sent me a couple of links and I did some research myself, but couldn't come up with anything. I was really hoping that we could at least find a photo of what the house looked like before it fell into disrepair.

When we turned off of Highway 17 we were on a little dirt road and drove about 1/4 of a mile before coming to a fence with a lock on it.

Patrick has way better common sense than I do because I was fully preparing to climb the fence to get on the property. The next thing I know, he is coming out of the woods saying that there is a makeshift path and a sign that says no motorized vehicles. There were no signs saying "no pedestrians" so it was game on!

Before we started our hike I did change into my tennis shoes because we couldn't see the house and we had no idea of what was in store for us. We walked through the woods, around the fence and down the path to the plantation house. Thankfully the road was well maintained and not overgrown. Of course, as usual, I was constantly on the lookout for our slithery friends and thankfully the only one we saw was dead.

After a good walk, I heard Patrick say "There it is!" Of course I didn't see it first because I was looking down to make sure I didn't step on anything! I was having issues with my camera so I stopped for a minute to mess with it. Patrick asked if I minded that he walked ahead and I said no. When he was about 20-30 feet away from me I was attacked by bees. I have no idea how many of them there were, but later on Robin counted 7 stings on my back. I only saw one of them - the little bastards. When they stung me I could feel it and I pulled my shirt away from my back to get them off of me. After that I could feel the venom travel across my back and it burned like crazy. I knew that there was really nothing I could do so I carried on. Luckily I'm not allergic. I found that out a couple of years ago after being stung by two bees.

When I caught up to Patrick we walked through the tall grass across the field in front of the house. It was amazing! While taking pictures we heard this loud bang and it took us a couple of second to figure out what it was. The shutter on the side of the house wasn't secured and every once in a while it would slam against the house. It was one of eeriest things that I have ever heard. Here we are on this centuries old plantation near the coast with no one around. It's quiet as can be and the only thing you hear is the band of that shutter. So haunting!

After several photos we walked back to the side of the house and I told Patrick that I was going to go up to the porch. We walked through more tall grass (I really can't believe I didn't see a snake!!) The porch was in horrible shape but I really wanted to see if the front door was unlocked. Patrick went up first and then pointed out where I needed to walk on the beams. When I made it up there I took several photos and then tried the door. It was locked! I looked in the window and was amazed that there were curtains hanging in every window! How incredibly odd. I really wish I knew what year the last residents left.

After exploring the front porch we walked back to the side of the house and then to the back. There was another door and when I turned the knob and pushed it opened. I think I actually gasped. The door was open a bit and I looked at Patrick... he said "I'm not going in there!" I told him to come with me and he kept saying he wouldn't. I finally said that this might be his only chance to go in. We don't know how long this building would be here and there weren't any "no trespassing" signs. I also told him that I didn't want to go in alone... it freaked me out a bit. He finally gave in after I promised not to go upstairs.

I can't even begin to explain the feeling of being in that old, abandoned, falling apart plantation house. I tried to walk slowly while testing each step before taking a whole one. The fire places with their centuries old bricks, the molded cornices, the curtains still hung... it was overwhelming and a total imagination stimulator. I was in heaven!

The front stairs.

Going in the back door, take a left. This is the first room.
Take a right and you are in the main room.

The main room ceiling.

The main room.

The doorway of into the hall - gorgeous molding!

The stairwell

The curtains and a little birds nest.

Wallpaper in the main room.

The door leading to the back yard.

The back door

After a walk around the bottom floor we decided to head out and back down the trail. There were other buildings to explore but the brush was so overgrown that you could barely see them. We'll have to go back in the Winter when everything has died down and all of our slithery friends (and the bees!) are in hiding!

Hidden buildings on the property.

View from the road.

From Tibland Plantation we stopped for beverages and gas before moving on. Our next stop was the St. James Santee Church, which I have been to many times and wanted to show Patrick. After spending some time there we headed to Cainhoy to the St. Thomas Church. The last time I was at the church was over a decade ago when I did a volunteer job for RAOGK. At the time the only thing I had was a 35mm camera to my name so I really don't have any good photos from there.

We walked around and took some photos and then as we were getting ready to leave I decided to see if the door just happened to be open (imagine that!) When I pulled the (very cool) doorknob the door opened. Huh? Really? WOW!

We entered the church and again, what an amazing place! I can only imagine what the congregation was like in 1819. I would love to go back one day and just sit there in silence and listen!

The back of the church

The front of the church

Side of church

Interior of St. Thomas Church

Heading out to the church yard

Heading down the stairs

A view from the balcony

Such a great door knob!!

Later on, when I got home, I relaxed for a bit and struggled to stay awake. My friend Devin called and wanted to know if was up for watching a movie. I was about to fall out so I took a rain check. I finally succumbed to a nap and woke up around 10pm. I was exhausted. My body is still getting used to physical activity but it feels so good to get outside, walk around and be in the sun.

After my nap I started uploading my photos. All day long I wasn't very satisfied with how the pictures were turning out and as I was sitting there that night thinking about it I finally realized why. The last time I took photos was at night and I had my ISO turned to high and I forgot to switch it back. Saturday at the plantation all of my photos turned out grainy and out of focus. I was so mad!! Hopefully I can go back one day and re-take them soon!

While writing this and uploading photos to the blog I hated picking and choosing what I wanted to include. The places we went to are so fascinating and I want to share it all, unfortunately I can't, but you can find all the other photos on My Flickr Page.

Tonight Robin and I went out for dinner and then headed over to Barnes and Noble. I have always loved the Arcadia Publishing books so while Robin was checking out The Nook I was checking out the local Arcadia books and ended up buying the one on McClellanville and St. James Santee Parish. There is a photo of Tibwin Plantation from it's earlier days when it had a fence and gate around it in the book. I'd love to have all the books in the Charleston and Lowcountry series eventually! There are so many of them!

I guess I better get a part-time job to support my hobby!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shirt du Jour

When I lived in Dayton I worked at a place called HealthServe that we all still call "HellServe". I made a couple of really good friends when I worked there and we still keep in touch even though I moved back to Charleston. Two of those friends have come to visit me since I've been here.

Tanya and I on on The Battery - December 2009

Noelle, Robin and I on Sullivan's Island - May 2010

The last time we were together in Ohio - December 2008

The whole gang - Tanya, me, Noey, Teresa and Tina - December 2008

Speaking of Healthserve, I was sitting at work yesterday and had something pop into my head out of the blue - Shirt du Jour!! There was a guy named Chris that worked with us that used to wear a different Jesus shirt every single day. At first I marveled at the shirts silently and then I just came out and asked him if I could take photos of them for a daily blog. Chris would come to my desk first thing every morning for our daily photo shoot. I still can't believe he agreed to do it.

After several years I totally forgot about the blog and I can't believe it's still there! It lasted only a short while and I'm not sure why we stopped. Perhaps it was that our company was bought out and we all moved on to bigger and better things (Haha!)

Robin and I are trying to come up with some dollars and coordinate a trip to Ohio to go get my things (I REALLY want my stuff!!) so hopefully we can have another mini reunion with the girls soon!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Painting Room

I keep waiting for the day when I'm no longer tired and feel very much awake and alive! When is that going to happen? It's so hard to wake up in the morning to go to work. I mean, it's hard enough that I don't like my job but after being sick it's twice as hard to get up! Sigh!

Tonight's dinner is Spaghetti Pie... thought I'd blog while waiting for it to cook. Since my cookware (which is not the best) is in Ohio I'm using my Mom's old pots and pans, which are really quite old. They consist of odds and ends from different cookware collections. Basically, they suck. Both my parents were amazing cooks but they never had a really great set of pots and pans. In our current collection Robin and I don't even have a regular frying pan or a stock pot. I love to cook but this makes it really hard to do so! I've been salivating over this Calphalon cookware at Bed Bath and Beyond. Now I just need to come up with the $300 to buy it!!! Being poor sucks! One day it will be mine!

I've been working on Mom's painting room this week. I tell people about how much stuff she had and how incredible overwhelming it is. I'm not sure people believe me so I decided to take a couple of photos. Keep in mind that the room is a total wreck right now because we have used it for storage also. It used to be quite organized and tidy!

Mom has tons of BRAND NEW gift items bought with the intention of using them for her secret pals in the painting group.

Boxes, boxes and MORE boxes of craft items!

Need some tulle? I have multiple rolls in every color! Never opened!

The general mayhem of the room! Ugh!

Don't you love the border? Note the billions of art pens and pencils on the right, the patterns on the bulletin board and the painting palette collectibles. There's more where those came from!

Sprays for painting, crafts and whatever else!

Paintbrushes, albums full of photos of Mom's crafts, misc. craft and painting items and her old dog and cat's ashes on the third shelf down!

Need some craft wood? I have so many pieces that have never been used! The boxes are photos of Mom's painting club, The empty shelves had those expensive painting magazines from craft stores, which have already been boxed up.

Got paint? I have HUNDREDS of these bottles!

The black binders have tons of painting patterns cut out one by one by my Mother and put in sheet protectors. They are arranged by type of pattern... still life, holidays, flowers, etc. The blue thing on the left (there are 3!) have little craft items in each drawer. The top left are sketch books and also notice the hundreds of vinyl albums on the bottom. What do I do with those??

See what I mean? Mom also had a bunch of those plastic storage units with drawers with every kind of craft item you can think of. Scrapbooking stuff, watercolor pencils, bags of feathers, dozens of craft doilies, stickers - so much stuff!

One thing I did find was one of my Mom's painting aprons. I don't think she did the lettering or even painted the picture of Rainbow Row. A lot of the women make aprons as secret pal gifts... I'm thinking this was one of them. What IS hers are all the brush strokes that were made on the bottom of the apron. It just seems so fresh... like she wiped that brush full of paint on that apron yesterday. I must say that finding this made me a little sad. I folded it up and put it in the "keep pile".

My friends Carol and Dave came over the other night to pick up the first of the paint give away stuff. Dave is a great artist and I gave him some sketch books and a bunch of oil paints with the promise of painting me a picture. I can't wait to see it!

I'm thinking I might even paint something. Unfortunately I did not inherit my Mom's talent and I totally have ADD when I have to sit there and do something like that... I'll save some paint and canvas in case I find some inspiration later on.

I did do a small project in the bedroom. I painted the windows. It's kind of a ghetto stained glass effect. It looks totally tacky, but it's really quite beautiful in the morning when the sun shines on the window. I like waking up to it!

One day the painting room project will be done! My goal is to make it partly usable by the end of the month!!

Oh! I almost forgot!

When I posted the blog about my Father's roses the other day I emailed a copy of it to my Grandfather's wife, Mil to show to Grandpa. This is what she wrote back:

Grandpa and I were elated with your note and the picture of the rose. Grandpa was so happy. I printed it out to an 8x10 and have it sitting in the living room where he can see it all the time.

So sweet!