Saturday, February 29, 2020

Primary Day, Leap Day, weekend stuff

Happy Leap Day! And it's the day to vote in the Primaries here in South Carolina. As soon as I have a cup or two of coffee, and take a shower, I'll be going out to do my civic duty. But I'm not excited about it. All of the Democratic candidates have flaws and I've had a hell of a time trying to decide which one to vote for. In fact, I'm still not 100% certain. I've been thinking hard about it all week and wishing the Democrats could get their sh*t together and put forward better candidates. No matter who I vote for, Biden is almost certain to win SC. The African American community (the biggest Democratic voting population in this state) strongly back him. I like Biden okay, but he's just too old in my opinion. (I say that not because of his biological age, but due to some of his debate performances early on. He just looked kind of lost and confused, and it made me cringe). He should have run last time, and now I fear it's too late for him. Ah, well. I'm used to my vote not making one iota of difference. When you're liberal and progressive and live in South Carolina, even if the candidate you vote for wins, it won't be because of good ol' SC. We're one of the reddest of red states. I still go vote my conscience every time though and have done since I turned 18.

My dad finally got to come home on Thursday afternoon. He's better than he was, and I'm glad he's home and feeling better, but he's in bad shape. He's wearing a LifeVest, which is a wearable defibrillator, until they can decide if he's going to have a pacemaker put in or an ablation of one of the valves in his heart. He has congestive heart failure and a very weak heart muscle as well as pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure, and terrible venostasis in his lower legs and feet. They had to send him home with oxygen, too. My mom's been having a hard time coping with it all, and since I was there when they brought in the LifeVest and explained all the (relatively complicated) ins and outs of it, I had to teach her how to use and maintain it. I drove dad home when they released him (45 minutes away), showed mom how the vest worked, and met with the man delivering the oxygen to their house and helped get it set up. Mom was very, very grateful for all of the help, and dad too, of course. I'm worried about both of them, but hopefully things will settle down a little now that he's at home. I missed a good deal of work this week. My coworkers and the principal were very understanding and accommodating, and I'm very grateful for that. To say it's been a stressful week would be an understatement.

On Tuesday our school district's Superintendent put out an open letter for parents, students, staff, and the community about steps being taken to prepare for Coronavirus. Holy hell. I didn't quite realize things had gotten to that point. Here's a copy of the letter:

Dear Parents,
With all the recent influx of information regarding the Coronavirus and flu, we wanted to assure you that F1S is monitoring the situation closely, implementing a plan and taking initial precautionary steps, with continued guidance from SC DHEC. The school district has purchased disinfectant wipes for all classrooms; hard surfaces and commonly used objects will be vigilantly cleaned and disinfected. All custodial staff are aware of our increased efforts and will implement them into their duties as well.

School nurses will be monitoring students who present with symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath and coughing. Any student with a fever will be required to leave school and will not be allowed to return until fever-free for 24 hours without any fever-reducing medicine, as is required under normal DHEC guidelines.

We also wanted to share some simple ways to prevent the spread of illness including:
• Washing hands often
• Avoiding contact with sick people
• Staying home while you are sick
• Covering mouth/nose with a sleeve or tissue when sneezing or coughing
• Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces
• Avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose

Florence 1 Schools also has an e-Learning protocol in place in the event that the district has to close for any reason. If an e-Learning day is required, students will be able to complete assignments on their district-issued Chromebooks. Information regarding e-Learning can be found on the Florence 1 Schools website at

If you have any questions, DHEC has a Care Line available at 1-855-472-3432. You can also talk with the nurse at your school.

Richard O’Malley, Ed. D.
Superintendent, Florence 1 Schools

After watching news reports about global disruption in supply chains due to the virus, Gregg and I decided to be proactive and we're stocking up household supplies, medicines, and non perishable food. That's something we like to do when hurricane season approaches anyway, and we have plenty of pantry and storage space to store some extra stuff. I'm not too worried about it, but a well-stocked larder is peace of mind when any kind of emergency comes up, so I'll be doing some extra shopping this weekend.

Well, off to finish my coffee and hit the road. The polling place for our new house is actually at my school! So I'll be going to work on a Saturday. :) I'm still pleased that we bought a house less than 2 miles from where I work.

What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Shout-out to the talented Anne Marie!

When I arrived home this afternoon a prize I won over at Anne Marie's blog From My Brain to My Mouth had arrived! And just look at it---a gorgeous hand knit shawl!! I can't begin to tell you how much this lifted my spirits today. 

The color in the second photo is more true-to life.

Thank you so much, Anne Marie! I'm wearing the shawl as I type this and it's so warm and light, just perfect for a cool day. I absolutely love it and will treasure it forever!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Hospital waiting rooms....(updated)

My dad had another life threatening health event yesterday. He's been in the hospital three times in the past month. Yesterday his heart rate was way, way out of control (180 beats per minute) and after 3 injections failed to slow it down, they had to resort to electric shock to his heart to restore a normal rhythm. Then they transported him here to Florence from the little community hospital ER he was at.

Right now I'm with my mom in a waiting area while they do a heart and lung catheterization. We'll see what that shows. I hate waiting in hospitals....there's been a lot of it in my life over the last 10 years.

Sunday, February 23, 2020


I want to tell you about Marco's latest shenanigans. Yesterday morning there was an empty wine glass from the night before sitting on an end table in the den. Marco flew over there, marched up to the glass, and knocked it over before I could stop him. The glass cracked. And when I yelled at him, you know what he yelled back?


"No, that wasn't George, that was you, Marco..."


That crazy bird has now taken to blaming the dogs for his misbehavior! There was nothing to be done for the glass. It was one of a set my friend Marla had given me one year for my birthday, and it had my initials on it. I hated to lose it. Of course, Marco didn't give a damn.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wednesday photo

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This is the little potted pomegranate my husband's friend sent to me. Beside it is the fig cutting I've been growing out. I hope to plant both outside later this spring (or maybe in the fall).
That picture was taken a couple of days ago. Now it's cold, wet, and gray outside and there's even a (tiny) chance for a little bit of snow tomorrow night. I'll believe it when I see it, though.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday morning this and that

Friday morning at work I buzzed in a delivery person who had two Valentine's Day arrangements of roses. One of them was for me! I assumed at first that they were from my husband (this particular florist has the nicest roses in town and he always uses them when he sends me flowers) but I was wrong. They were from my dad! How sweet was that?!

Since I'm an only child, my dad always got both me and my mom presents on Valentine's Day--we're "his girls". Usually when I was growing up it was candy, a similar (but smaller) box to what he would buy for mom. These days, I'd much rather have the flowers. Thanks, dad!

I wanted to cook a special dinner for Gregg for Valentine's Day but didn't feel like it on Friday night after a long day at work. So I did it last night instead. Homemade spinach lasagna, a nice loaf of Italian bread, salad, and a cherry-topped cheesecake for dessert was what I came up with. It was all delicious!

One of Gregg's oldest friendships is with a Vietnamese guy named Thanh. He invited Gregg over  this weekend to see his greenhouse and to give him a couple of items to give to me (he knows how much I like flowers and gardens). The first is a small potted pomegranate that has two tiny fruits on it. According to Tranh, these fruits are strictly ornamental and too bitter to eat, but he grows the plants because they're so pretty. He also gave us a large concrete planter--he had salvaged 6 of them from a business that was getting rid of them--and something  up to the size of a small tree could easily fit inside. It's attractive but it weighs a ton, and so far I have no idea what to use it for. I'm glad to have it, though! I'm sure I'll figure something out.

I'm participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by Cornell University this weekend. What I seem to be seeing the most of at the feeders right now are tiny little song sparrows. There's a flock hanging around this weekend gorging themselves on the good quality seed we buy. The pair of Carolina Wrens I keep seeing at the suet feeders are still around and starting to grow plump! All that rich suet and mild winter weather, I guess. I'm hoping they have a nest nearby. Speaking of which, the Red Bellied Woodpecker that visits those same suet feeders has turned out to be two separate birds--a male and a female. (I learned how to identify the sexes recently.) I really hope they're getting ready to raise a brood of baby woodpeckers close by this spring. I'll bet they'd be adorable when they started to fledge and follow their parents to the feeders! We shall see.

It's another long weekend (President's Day! yay!) and I don't have to go to work tomorrow. My friend Marian has invited me and a couple of other friends over tonight for wine, food, and the premiere of the new season of Outlander. I'm looking forward to it! I'm making a nice batch of guacamole this afternoon to take along. I think Gregg's planning to invite his friend Ben over tonight while I'm away. They'll have a good time talking about aquariums--Ben's a fish nerd, too. I like it when Gregg has time with his friends, which doesn't happen nearly often enough.

What's going on with you this weekend? I hope you're all having a good one!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Good news

Yesterday was a good day.

It started off with me spotting the first Goldfinch of the season on one of the feeders. I took that as a good sign.

Mid morning I sent my husband a text, asking how his bi-annual check up with his oncologist had gone. He still gets nervous before his appointments even though it's been 8 years now. His response was:

"All good. You're stuck with me for awhile. Less than 1% chance of lung cancer recurrence at this point. 10 to 15% chance of other cancers, statistically. So says Smith" (Dr. Smith is his oncologist).

What great news, huh?! He's been so lucky. The overwhelming majority of stage 3 lung cancer patients aren't even around 8 years later. So far he's defied the odds and I'm so grateful. So very grateful.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Weekend joys

Waking up in our new house is always pleasant in one way or another. Right now, the neighbor's tree is especially beautiful first thing in the morning with the sun rising behind it. This is a view of it just outside my front door.

A sweet pair of Carolina Wrens have started visiting the bird feeders hanging in the Crepe Myrtle tree outside our bathroom window. They're our state bird here in South Carolina. I hope they have a nest started somewhere close by.

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This house has proven to be a great spot for birds. The feeders are always busy with lots of different species.  With all the bird calls and singing, our yard reminds us of a campsite sometimes. The screened in back porch is one of my favorite places to spend time during the weekends.

Last summer I made a new friend, Norma, the mother of a student at the school where I work. Norma  and her family are from Mexico, and while she's working on learning English, I'm trying to improve my Spanish. We met up for coffee a couple of times and did our best to have conversations (sometimes we both have to use Google translate on our phones to get more complex ideas across!). Well, last weekend Norma invited me to her house and she and her husband cooked for me!

Everything was delicious, including the Ceviche I tried for the first time. I didn't get a photo of that, but I did sneak one of the next dish.
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Small beef quesadillas covered in delicious!

Time with friends, wild birds, beautiful weather, it doesn't get much better than that. I hope you've had a good weekend, too, friends.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Early dismissal

I got to leave work 2 hours  early today! Woo hoo!

We had early dismissal due to a line of very heavy storms moving into the area. The forecast is calling for 60mph winds starting around 3pm, which is too dangerous for school buses to be driving around in. I'm sure we'll get some downed trees as well, especially since we're to have flooding rains, too. This is crazy weather for February.

I feel much better than yesterday. Work felt rewarding again this morning, albeit in a small way. My favorite guidance counselor told me that one of our Hispanic students and his mother were in her office and didn't know they were eligible for free lunches. The student had racked up over $100 in lunch debt that will be erased if they apply for and are approved for free lunch. The mom doesn't speak any English, and the family doesn't have a computer at  home to apply online for the lunch program. Ms. Long (the counselor) said, "Mrs. Barlow, can you help them?" and I told her I sure could! While Ms. Long covered the phones and door buzzer for me, I went online and filled out the application for the mother for both of her kids, the one at our school and  his little brother in the fifth grade. Between my mediocre Spanish skills, and the son to help with translating (plus a couple of phone calls to get the little brother's student ID number from his school) we managed pretty well and got the application submitted. The mom was so grateful for my help and it made me feel good to make a small difference for that family.

Then we got to leave early, which was a surprise. I do hope the storms aren't bad and no one has any property damage, but when we get to leave school early, I feel a little bit like a kid again myself! I wish we'd have a snow day off, too, but I'm losing hope that we'll see any snow this year. It is supposed to be back down to freezing tomorrow night, which will wreak havoc with the trees blooming so early around here:

Not the best photo, but it's the only one I have of our next-door neighbor's beautiful tree.
 It's dripping with gorgeous pink flowers right now! That's our house behind it (photo was taken from my car).

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

In a mood......(edited)

What a week it's been. I've left work annoyed every day so far. First it was listening to the gossipers in the office speculating about how some of our office staff may be moved to other schools because of changes going on district-wide. The last thing I want to do is be forced to change schools, but if it were that versus losing my job, well, I guess I'd  have to make a change and try to accept it with good grace. Hopefully that's just gossip and rumors. (I think that's likely). Next, I found out about some changes at my school that have already happened and no one bothered to tell me. It's nothing major, but it was annoying and I felt slighted. I left work every day this week feeling underappreciated, overworked, and just generally annoyed.

Then there's the sham impeachment trial that I knew, just knew, would end exactly how it has....but it still feels like a punch in the gut. To add insult to injury, Rush F*cking Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by our POSPOTUS last night. What a sick, despicable joke that is.

 I don't care that Rush was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer; as a commentator somewhere else noted, if any person had told him that THEY  had advanced lung cancer and no health insurance, his immediate response would have been "tough shit". He's a horrible, horrible human being, and while I wouldn't have wished cancer on him or anyone else, I have trouble summoning any sympathy for such a vile man. He said nasty, horrible things about John McCain when he was dying of brain cancer, he's a raging racist, he claimed Michael J. Fox was faking his Parkinson's disease symptoms (and proceeded to mock him) and he advanced the whole Sandy Hook conspiracy theories that all those little children hadn't really died, that it was a left-wing hoax to take away peoples' guns. I could go on and on and on. He's caused (maybe) irreparable harm to our country and has gotten wealthy from it. There are thousands upon thousands of other people suffering from cancer (many of whom can't afford treatment so will just have to die) who are much more deserving of our empathy. To hell with him. *****

But yeah.....that whole Trump giving him that medal really burned me up and I've been feeling pissy all day about it. There was a 100 year old Tuskegee Airman at the SOTU speech...why not him? Oh, yeah, because Donald Trump is just as despicable as Rush Limbaugh.

ARRRHHH!!!!! Some days I feel like my head will explode.

Sorry to dump all that on a blog post. Hope you didn't pop in here for cute Marco doings or food photos or "beautiful moments in an ordinary life". What can I say? Some moments fall far short of beautiful.

*****Before anyone says it, I am not gleeful or happy about Limbaugh's diagnosis. He's a human being and still deserves the dignity he never afforded many others. But I'd be lying if I said my heart bleeds for him.