Saturday, August 18, 2018

One week down

I slept almost 10 hours last night, and woke up at the newly-late hour of 9am this morning. It was the first week of school for all teachers and staff members, and I had a really hard time falling asleep before midnight every night. Next year I'll make an effort to start going to bed early a couple of weeks prior to our start date, because I was increasingly tired as this week wore on. I slept like a log last night and felt so much better when I woke up today!

It was a fun week even though we all worked hard. The students in this district don't start school until this coming Monday. This week was devoted to late registration for office staff like me and the guidance counselors, and meetings, workshops, and classroom prep for the teachers and administrators. Our school has almost 1000 students, and we're one of three public middle schools in Florence, so the amount of work it takes to get everything ready for the new year is considerable. Still, we had fun. Our APT (parents' organization) provided us with a nice lunch one day, a nearby church (that some of our students are bused to for an elective religion class ) sent over a couple of sweet little old church ladies to cook us a wonderful breakfast in the school cafeteria one morning, and our new principal and a couple of the male teachers grilled out yesterday afternoon. We had a picnic of hotdogs, potato chips, baked beans, coleslaw, watermelon, and lemonade. New staff t shirts and collared shirts had been made for us all, and everyone was in a good mood and excited for the new year.

The last few days of this week the work really amped up for me and the rest of the office staff, as well as our two wonderful guidance counselors. So many parents waited until the last minute to come get their kids registered, and there's a lot of necessary paperwork to be dealt with, particularly if the student is new to the district or needs to be assigned to a bus route. Then there are the schedule change requests, which too many people waited until the last minute to address and must be a huge headache to the guidance department. Those ladies earn every cent that they make!

Speaking of guidance, the 8th grade counselor is my favorite of the two. She's been in education in this district for almost 40 years and she's really good at what she does. My major in college was Human Services, and I've always had an interest in social work. I've been watching Ms. Long for over a year now and I've been incredibly impressed by her skill in interacting with middle school kids. I also admire her compassion for them, even the troublesome ones, paired with a good dash of practicality and humor.

Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Long actually asked my advice about a situation with a student she was grappling with, citing my experience as a Guardian ad Litem. I was incredibly flattered! We sat in her office for a half hour at the end of the day and talked. It was a serious situation which involved her role as a mandated reporter, and she wanted another opinion about the course of action she was planning to take. It had never occurred to me that my experience in helping see minors through the family court process might be valuable at my job at the school! I'm really glad to know that I have something small to contribute beyond my role as receptionist.

Monday is going to be a busy, tiring day. I'm going in an hour early, because the first few days are always chaos. This weekend is going to be devoted to catching up on laundry, shopping for and prepping food for lunches next week, and a whole lot of relaxing.

One week down, thirty seven to go!


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Are we done yet?

They say things happen in threes. Good luck, bad luck, visitors, coincidences. Well, I hope that's so, because if things keep breaking around here I'm going to run away from home.

First our dryer died,  so we immediately called around and found a repair service to come out and look at it. The service call plus the repair, although minor, cost $300. Okay. Well, at least it's working now and we got it done quickly and easily, we said. Haha!

Our washing machine stopped working (mid load, full of water and soap) less than 48 hours later! We couldn't do without a washing machine for long, so we had to go right out and buy one, which meant spending another nice chunk of cash. I prayed to all the gods and saints that nothing else would break, but deep inside I felt that it was just a matter of time before one more thing would happen. I'm not generally a superstitious person, but for some reason the rule of threes (things happening in threes) has always held true for me. So I waited, and watched, and after a week or two went by I forgot about it.

Yesterday Gregg decided it was (past) time to cut the grass. We've had a lot of rain and all of a sudden the grass is getting out of hand. So he went out, filled the machine with gas, and began to mow...

and the lawn mower CAUGHT ON FIRE. As in, flames shooting out of one side, cut off the mower and somebody run for a fire extinguisher (or in Gregg's case, the water hose because it was closer). Luckily the fire went out on its own when the engine shut off. We dare not try to crank it again.

There you go; appliance #3 has broken or died. All three were items that we own, as opposed to most of the appliances in this house. Since we're renting almost anything else would have been the landlord's responsibility. Lucky us! And check this out: we lost our dryer (Air), our washer (Water), and our lawn mower (Earth), and the lawn mower died by way of (Fire). Maybe this means the circle of bad luck and breakage is now complete? I hope so!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A good day

Today was my first day back at work. My first official day back will be on Monday, but teachers and other 190 day staff (like me) had the option to work today and/or tomorrow to help with registration and to accrue some "comp time". I volunteered to work both days; since personal and sick days can only be used in half or whole day increments, it's handy to have a bank of hours to draw from if you just need an hour or two off here and there. 

I'm really glad I decided to go in today. I was reminded again of how lucky I am when I got there this morning and saw so many friendly faces--I genuinely like most of the teachers and staff and it was a pleasure seeing everyone again.** When I saw the new principal I congratulated him on his promotion (he was the 8th grade assistant principal last year) and told him how glad I was for him. He thanked me, hugged me, and said, "Mrs. Barlow, I think we're going to have a really good year!" The staff thinks so, too. Everyone was happy when we got the news that he had been offered the job; he's universally liked and respected. I enjoyed chatting and catching up with some of my especial friends among the staff this morning, and I have an easy job these two days: sitting at a table selling t-shirts with school logos to the students getting registered for classes. Easy, easy. The volleyball coach and the music teacher sat at my table most of the day today and we all talked in between selling shirts. It didn't feel like a work day at all, really.

I did see lots of returning students, now 8th graders, who astonished me with how much they had grown and matured over the summer. At my age, 10 weeks or so feels like nothing, gone in the blink of an eye. I had forgotten how much you can change over the course of a summer when you're around 13 years old. It was all interesting and the time went by quickly.

Tomorrow will be the same thing, selling t-shirts and hanging out, and then I'll have a three day weekend to close out my summer. I'm trying to think of something fun to do this weekend to mark the end of my vacation. And after that, it's on to another new (school) year!

** One of the best parts of seeing everyone again after so many weeks was how many of them noticed my weight loss! I don't think it's all that noticeable if you see me every day, because I've been losing at a slow (albeit steady) rate. I asked Gregg early on if he could see a difference and he admitted he couldn't, and I've not asked him again. It felt so good to have person after person say, "You look great! Have you.....?" One of the career counselors, who has been working on losing a lot of weight herself this year, approached me with a big smile and her arms out for a hug, saying "Look at you! Look at you!"  I still have a good bit of weight left to lose, but today was a huge morale boost!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bright spots

Lest anyone think that my summer has been all bad (see my last post), I present to you a few bright spots from my last several weeks off:

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This plant lived in a pot in the window behind my desk at work last year. It was there, drying up and dying, when I started the job last August. I watered it and looked after it all year, and brought it home with me in June and potted it up outside on the patio. It's bloomed continually since then. I love the fiery red flowers!

I made two homemade chocolate cakes at the end of July--one for practice (that Marla and Martina helped me eat) and the other for my dad's birthday celebration. They both turned out great and everyone at the party loved the rich, chocolate-y goodness (especially my cousin's little granddaughter)...

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I'm glad I didn't have to clean that child up afterwards!

Speaking of children, my friend's new daughter has been a wonderful addition to my (heart, not blood) family this summer:


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One last bright spot has been my diet. I've lost nearly 30 pounds, which is a significant portion of the total amount I need to lose. I'm pretty proud of that!

What have been the bright spots of your summer so far?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cruel Summer

I took George to the vet this morning for the swollen spots that appeared on his legs and chest over the weekend. They think he's had an allergic reaction to something or other, and that it's not too serious. He got two different steroid shots and a 10 day supply of an antibiotic to take care of any infection that may be settling in to the sores that formed on the oldest spots. I was seriously relieved! It was also time for his 6 month heartworm prevention shot, too, and altogether the visit cost almost $200. That's in addition to the $30 allergy shot Ginger got Friday morning. These dogs are breaking the bank!

Actually, it's not just the dogs. I swear we've been hemorrhaging money all summer long, for one minor crisis after another. It's been stressing me out to no end, and as hard as I've tried to not spend any unnecessary money this summer it's not made much difference. We can barely keep up with all the extra expenses and in order to avoid tapping into our savings I've had to watch every dime and postpone paying some bills (like the ridiculous amount of money I still owe the dentist). I hate it.

Last night when Gregg and I sat down and had one of our bi-monthly household financial meetings, we discovered that several of his aquarium clients have been falling behind in paying him for his work, and what's worse, falling behind in reimbursing him for supplies that he bought for them out of his own pocket. In a couple of cases it's just due to the time of year; he has accounts at several schools and typically the bookkeepers are off for the month of July. Usually he will get a couple of bigger checks at the end of August once the financial people are back at work, and that's fine. But in two cases it's sheer carelessness and he intends to have a talk with the financial people at both places. They both owe him 2 or 3 months worth of back pay as well as money for the supplies he's been buying for them. Thank goodness he keeps good records. The delayed money will come in very handy....hopefully soon.

In addition to being stressed out about money, I've been a low mood for other reasons. There's been a lot of family stress and drama this year. It started, of course, with losing my beloved mother in law before Christmas. After that, Gregg had a few health scares over the next several months that turned out to be nothing (thank goodness!) but he's had to have a ton of extra tests and scans to make sure that the cancer hasn't returned. Then my grandma died at the start of the summer. Regular readers here will know that her will left some bad feelings and resentments in the family that are just starting to subside. Then two weeks ago I got the news that a former coworker of mine, a woman in her mid 60s that I worked closely with for years, had died suddenly in her sleep at the end of June. She had had a lot of health problems, but it still shook me to find out that she had died like that, too young. And THEN, on top of everything else, I found out the other day that my mom's sister, my aunt Shirley, has had a terrible accident. She was at home alone (and suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis and slight dementia) and she fell. When she fell, a large television fell on top of her, breaking her leg and pinning her to the floor. She laid there for 5 hours before her husband got home from work and found her, and the circulation had been cut off from her leg for so long that they ended up having to amputate it. Isn't that just awful? I wasn't close to this aunt; in fact, I'm certain I haven't seen or spoken to her in at least 20 years. She and her husband were not kind to my grandparents, which is why there was a rift between her and my mom (and why I didn't care that she dropped out of my life long ago) but I still feel terrible for what she's going through.

Every where I turn right now, it seems there's death and dying and illness and injury. Or the threat of those things. Are the planets aligned oddly this summer or something? And come to think of it, why is everyone so angry all the time? Gregg had a large woman threaten to "knock you on your ass!" yesterday for asking her child to stop banging on the glass of a fish tank! And I can't even talk about the political situation these days, it makes me feel even more hopeless. Talk about ugliness! And the awful heat outside is just the icing on the cake.

I hate to say it, but I'll be glad to see the end of this summer. As hard as I've tried to be happy and grateful for all the time off, I just haven't been able to enjoy this one. I'm going to work two days this week (Wednesday and Thursday, registration days) and then next Monday is my first official day back. I can't wait. This summer was a bust.


Saturday, August 4, 2018

It's time.

You all know that I love my pets. Our two dogs and our bird bring lots of love and happiness and fun to our home, and I wouldn't want to live without them. However....

They're driving me crazy this summer. If I don't go back to work soon I'm going to lose my damn mind.

First there's been keeping the dogs in the house this summer. It's too hot for them outside, so we've allowed them indoors since I'm here to keep an eye on things. With Ginger, that's no problem. She's good as gold and would never think of peeing in the house or chewing something up. George, on the other hand....well, he's been mostly good, except when he's not. We've caught him chewing up two paperback novels and the cover of a heating pad I'd left on the side of my bed. One night I fell asleep with both the dogs still in the house, and I woke up at 3am to find that George had peed and pooped in the hallway. I was not a happy camper cleaning that mess up in the middle of the night! Since then we've had to make sure they go outside at night to sleep. Ginger has gotten spoiled, though, and now she has to be forced out at night, which makes me feel terrible. And of course, Marco deserves time out of his cage and that has to be when the dogs are out of the house. It's been a constant struggle accommodating all three of them this summer.

The other night Ginger was having a terrible attack of seasonal allergies. Once or twice a year we have to take her to the vet for an allergy shot to make her feel better. On Thursday night we had made a vet's appointment for the next day, because she was miserable. Her eyes were red and swollen and she was rubbing the fur off her nose. Well, George did something to piss her off (we didn't see what) and she snarled and jumped on him and bit him on the side of his mouth. Poor George was bleeding and cowering in a corner, Ginger was sulking, and the whole house was in an uproar. George is always pestering Ginger to play, and sometimes when she's not feeling well she lashes out at him. I imagine that's what happened. I took her to the vet yesterday and got her a shot, and today she feels much better....

but now something is wrong with George's skin. We noticed the other day he had a couple of swollen red spots on his legs that looked like mosquito bites. All of a sudden there are several of them and they're turning into small sores. I freaked out this morning when I saw that and called the vet to see if they could see him. Well, they're only open a half day on Saturdays and they said they're booked solid this morning, and also that they have an emergency surgery. The receptionist said that unless something life threatening was going on, they couldn't see him until Monday morning. They advised me to give him Benadryl in the meantime. My friend Martina  who's a vet tech (and also happens to be out of town this weekend, of course) also advised me to pick up some antibiotic spray to put on the sores to get him through until Monday.

I swear, if it's not one thing, it's another.

I told Marla the other day that I can't wait to go back to work. These pets are driving me nuts!! It's definitely time.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Shelter

My sweet Ginger girl hates thunderstorms. Really hates them. I went out to lunch with a friend this afternoon, and while I was gone it started to pour rain, thunder, and lightning. I had left Ginger inside the house, and when I got home I couldn't find her...at first.

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She had taken refuge inside a closet we had left open! Poor baby!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Pets and babies

Saturday night my friends Marla and Martina came over to hang out, and Marla brought baby Carsen so that Martina could meet her.

Little Carsen was fascinated by one of our aquariums and kept gazing at it:


No matter which way Marla held her, she turned her head for a better view. That little girl may have to have an aquarium in her nursery one day soon!

Marco, as always, wanted to be in the room with the company. He watched the baby carefully, with a great deal of interest, and then started talking to her! We were puzzled at first by what he said. He kept calling her "Chip". 

"Chip? Hey Chip! Heeeyyyy Chip...hey Chip-Chip! Wha cha doin'?" 

Chip, as some of you may remember, was a tiny sparrow that lived with us for years. I think that Marco was looking for a way to refer to the baby, and the best word he could come up with was the name of a small bird that he used to know! How smart is that? He does that kind of thing very often; I was mopping the kitchen floor the other day and he said, "Take a shower? Gonna take a shower?" because that was the closest word he had for something that involved cleaning with water.

Life with a parrot (much like life with a baby, I imagine) is never dull!

Marco perched on the shower door the other day, waiting for me to get in!