Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017


The best parts of the new job, so far:

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One photo from yesterday.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Postscript: Apoceclipse!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Carolina Total Solar Eclipse!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eventful week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not her real name, for obvious reasons.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mean Face

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The face of feathered terrorism.

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

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

 The little shit.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Social Media Sabbath

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

First Day

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


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

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Surprisingly good

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Nervous and emotional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Early August

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

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

Hal Borland
"Twelve Moons of the Year"
August 1964

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ups and Downs

Today was a bit trying.

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

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

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


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

We've both had better days.