Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Random Wednesday tidbits

 I took this photo in my backyard the other day. We had no idea they were growing here, so they were a nice surprise in all their spidery glory:

I had to put my phone on the ground to get that angle. In case you were wondering.

For those of you who responded to my last post, here's a photo I took of me and little P. this afternoon in front of the aquarium:

Can you tell he's laughing in this picture? That's because he'd just asked me "how do fish go to the bathroom?" and I responded, "They just let it rip!" and he thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He kept saying, "When are they going to let it rip?!" and cracking up. I'd forgotten how much little boys love potty humor, even potty humor as mild as that! This kid always makes me laugh. When he got to school today I was standing at the front door speaking Spanish to a family I'd just called a taxi for (they're from Honduras and don't speak any English). He asked me, "Mrs. Barlow, was that real Spanish?" I told him it was, indeed, real. Probably not very good, but real. Ha!

I'm cooking the first batch of homemade vegetarian chili of the season. I put the pre soaked beans (black and kidney) on to simmer slowly in the crock pot first thing this morning. As soon as I got home from work I added chopped purple onion, red bell pepper, jalapenos, two big cans of diced tomatoes and plenty of seasoning spices. I made a lot of it, so after we eat it for a few days this week there will be a lot to freeze in individual portions. Chili is so versatile that I love having plenty of it on hand in the freezer once the weather cools down. Which it has been.

It's a pretty day outside, and tonight it's going to get down into the low 50s. I love this weather! The leaves are just starting to turn a little and the sky is so much bluer when the heat and humidity go away. We've been taking George for an extra walk early in the mornings these days, and we made a nice discovery last week. One of our neighbors has a clearing in the woods behind her house, and just as the sun comes up she comes outside and feeds a family of deer! We saw her the first day tossing ears of corn over the fence and what looked like two does, a small buck, and a baby standing there, tame and looking for their breakfast. Now we see the deer every morning as we walk past, and we stop and stand there and watch the neighbor bring food out to them. We haven't met her yet, but she must be a good sort. And it's a treat to see those deer as the sun comes up and we're out walking around the neighborhood. George is quiet and patient while we watch.

I didn't watch the debate last night. I knew all the highlights (lowlights?) would be all over the news and social media today and I knew I'd never sleep a wink if I got myself all worked up over politics right before bed. I see that 45 called on the Proud Boys (a far right, violent, white supremist group) to be on "stand by" for the upcoming election. I want to throw up when I think about what might happen in the next few weeks. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm frightened. I can't wait until this election is over no matter what comes of it. I've decided the best thing right now is to try not to think about it too much, and to go on with life like normal. Look for the good. Try to be an example of decency and kindness and not contribute to negativity any more than I have to. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Today's post brought to you by the letter "P"

The Password

My 8 year old buddy, little P. (another "P") is the son of one of the counselors at the school where I work. His elementary school dismisses an hour before we do, so he rides the bus over in the afternoon to wait for his mom. We've been good friends since the start of last year. Prior to Covid, he would hang out by my desk and if I wasn't too busy and I'd let him use the copier, shred papers that needed it, and compose emails to his mom. He's a darling little kid. This year, due to Covid restrictions, he can't hang out in the main office. He has to go to his mom's private office down the hall and wait for her in there by himself. We still manage to have some fun, though. One time last year when he was typing an email on my computer he was acting silly and typed in a bunch of gibberish letters. I told him to "erase all that gobbledygook!" and he nearly fell off his seat, laughing. He had never heard the word "gobbledygook" and it tickled him to no end. It became one of his favorite words! So this year when he arrives at our school and rings the front door buzzer (which I man), and I see that it's him on the camera, I say "Hello young (insert Jedi, Hobbit, Astronaut, whatever springs to mind) what's the password?" and he jumps up and down and yells "GOBBLEDYGOOK!!!!"  This is usually one of the best parts of my workday, being silly for a minute with an 8 year old. 

The Present

Little P. loves the new aquarium in our school lobby. He's fascinated by the goldfish and asks really good questions about them. Gregg was so impressed with him showing interest that he picked out a book to give him from his own small library of aquarium reference titles. It had lots of information about recreating water habitats from around the world and lots of photos. Obviously it's not meant for such a young kid, but he reads far above his grade level and we're pretty sure he'll get something out of it, even now. 

The Prayer

Last week little P.'s mom came by my desk and said, "Mrs. Barlow, you've done it now!"**  She said that of course the boy now wants "a fish" for a pet and has been needling her about it. Of course, she's wisely hesitating to agree for the moment. Then the other morning they were having their "morning devotions" before leaving for school/work and when P said his prayers he added at the end: "....and please God, let me get to have a pet fish. Amen."

**I've explained to P that an aquarium is something that requires some regular chores to maintain and it's a real responsibility. I told him that if he really wants an aquarium, that the best way to convince his mom will be to keep learning about the two at our school and proving that he won't lose interest in the next few months. There's no hurry. And I didn't tell him this, but of course Gregg could help him get started with something small and manageable for a kid if we're sure he'll take care of it. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

This past weekend

This past weekend got off to a terrible start. The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit me like a ton of bricks Friday night. I burst into tears, which alarmed my husband, and couldn't stop crying for a good half hour. Not because of her dying (although that in and of itself is sad enough) but because I knew that the Trumpers would be rubbing their hands in glee and would immediately pounce on the opportunity to fill another SCOTUS seat with a religious extremist. (I was right.) And it fills me with despair to think of that iconic woman battling to her last breath to hang in there until after November. She deserved so much better--a chance to rest and enjoy a few years of retirement, at least--not to feel compelled to leave a message with her granddaughter that her "last, fervent wish" was to not be replaced until after our election. She knew what her passing at this particular moment would mean. As my friend Marian so succinctly put it in a text she sent me later that night: WE ARE FUCKED

It's almost too much to bear. This whole year has been nothing but fear, despair, loss. I'm not sure how I'd cope if I didn't have a strong, happy marriage and several like-minded friends to share my anxieties and heartaches with. Marla and Martina came over for drinks on the porch Saturday night, and our first order of business was raising a glass to RBG. This was followed by hours of wine, food, and talk. It was exactly what I needed. The next morning, Sunday, I met up with some other friends, Marian, Paulette, Kathleen, and Karen for coffee at a cafe with outdoor seating. They're all having a tough time with everything that's going on, just like me. Again, it was good to be with like-minded, sympathetic people. We all had a chance to do some venting and blowing off steam. Then I came back home and made a strong effort to forget about the outside world for the rest of the day.

The weather was beautiful. It's finally turned cool, and the nights have been getting downright chilly. Hummingbirds have been sucking down sugar water at the feeder furiously for the past week or so. It's got to be about time for them to depart. I wonder what things will be like here when they return next spring? 

So that I don't end on a sour note, here's a little video of Marco on his porch swing the other day. Gregg said, "You shouldn't put that on your blog. He looks ratty right now!" and he does, but that's all part of molting which he's starting. He's growing new feathers, so I'm sure you all understand. :) Everyone likes a good Marco post, so this should make up for the lack of those lately and all the doom and gloom. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020


 Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away, and I, along with thousands of others, am mourning this giant of a woman, this hero for Equality, this American icon. There will never be another like her. What a devastating loss for our country.

May her memory be a blessing. May her passing inspire new generations of women and men to stand up and fight for Justice and Truth. May she rest in Peace. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Doozy of a Day

I had a blog post planned for today, but this isn't it. I'm too tired to give that post the justice it deserves because today was one for the record books.

Our school phone started ringing off the hook around 10am with parents wanting to register complaints about a certain teacher. It quickly became apparent that something was really, really wrong.

This particular teacher was on my Facebook friends list up until a couple of months ago when I got sick of the utter trash she posted and deleted (and blocked) her. She's a die hard Trump lover, believes Covid 19 is a "liberal hoax to bring down Our President" and everything she posted was so negative and mean that I decided I didn't need that in my life. Sometimes she would share memes that I thought were borderline racist, and I considered reporting her to administration or the district office a bunch of times. I wish I had, instead of just deleting her on social media and forgetting about it. Here is the post she shared to her (public!!!!!) page that caught the attention of one of our parents......and then it went viral.........

Here comment on this disgusting trash she shared was "hahahaha!" And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the kind of memes she enjoyed sharing. 

Posts about this teacher's racist posts were shared thousands of times within a few hours. Our phones blew up. Our social media blew up. The district office's phones blew up. The local media was contacted. Television crews showed up in our parking lot a few hours later. It was a damn circus! Some of the teacher's virtual students got wind of all this, logged onto her Google classroom, and started giving her hell before she even knew she was in trouble! Can you imagine? Finally, after an hour or two, our Superintendent showed up. (Turns out the delay was while he talked to our district's legal counsel). Around 2pm he had a meeting with that teacher and her ass got FIRED. And rightfully so!!! And then he released the following statement on social media:

Everyone on social media is praising the quick response of the school and Dr. O. I don't see how things could have been handled any faster or better, so I'm glad for the support. And thank goodness this horrible trash person will no longer be teaching!

So onto the other crazy part of the day: the weather from the hurricane that's traveling over South Carolina spawned three separate tornadoes in our area this afternoon! We had to go into tornado lockdown three times, all in the midst of the personnel crisis. The first time was while the Superintendent was at the school firing the racist teacher! When the shelter in place was lifted, and the teacher was gone, Dr. O looked at me when he was leaving our school and said, "...and the day started out so calm!"  The next two tornadoes caused us to go into lockdown DURING DISMISSAL and instead of sending kids to the car lines or the buses, we had to shelter in place for another 30 minutes after school was supposed to be done. 

I tell you what. I was happy to get home and pour a glass of wine! 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Stroll

We had a nice walk around the neighborhood with George this morning. It was relatively cool outside and the skies were bright blue. It was a gorgeous autumn morning. I took a few pictures to share. 

This little tree frog watched us leaving through the back gate. Isn't he a cutie?

Interesting shadows of the boys.

I meant to zoom in on this a little--the neighbor that lives here has a large grapevine beside his house, and it's always neat and well tended. If you zoom in some you can probably see it.

Lots of tall pine trees...

And finally, back around and at our driveway. I love our little house. 

Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

A return to (relative) happiness

It's almost been a week since I posted anything here on the ol' blog. Being back at work really cuts down on the time available for blogging activities. How is everyone? I've tried to snatch a few moments here and there to read your blog posts but I haven't been able to keep up very well. Nor have there been many opportunities to comment on said posts. Usually when I have a few spare minutes to read I do it on my phone, and typing comments on it is a real pain. I've missed you all!

Last weekend was a long one because of Labor Day. Gregg and I had Sunday and Monday off together and it was so nice. The weather cooled off nicely and we did a fair amount of work in the yard. Sunday was exciting because I planted a tree in the back! It's a fig tree that I grew from cuttings given to me by a friend from her massive, old Brown Turkey tree last July. I had potted it up a couple of times and finally deemed it big enough to put in the ground. Of course, if we have any truly cold weather this winter I'll take steps to protect it because it's still young and delicate.

We also finally thought to bring one of Marco's long, twisty rope perches out to the porch and hang it out there. He loves being out there on it. We should have thought of it sooner.

We did a bunch of other small things around the house, and in the yard. I baked another apple pie on Monday. We've enjoyed several short walks around the neighborhood, looking at the changes fall is bringing. We grilled out Sunday night, and I cooked the best potatoes we've ever had over the coals,  along with bourbon marinated pork chops. George got a slab of pork ribs all to himself. We've never cooked on the grill without making something just for the dogs, too.

At some point over the weekend, just spending time at home with Gregg and the boys, I realized that, for the first time since the end of July, I was feeling pretty happy. Of course I realize that coronavirus is still out there and very dangerous, 45 is still POTUS and every day is a fresh hell in that regard, California is on fire and there are riots all over the country. All of that is still terrible. The only real difference is that my grief over Ginger is beginning to lighten and now home feels like a happy place to be again. The new normal is beginning to feel....more normal. 

Work is weird. We have so few students who are physically in the building that the halls are eerily quiet. My job is really different this year, but honestly I'm one of the few people in the building actually having an easier time than usual due to all the Covid restrictions. Speaking of the school, here is a short video of the new aquarium Gregg set up in the lobby! The last 5 goldfish will be arriving this week, so for now there are only 7 fish in the tank. Doesn't it look good? 

So that's where I'm at today, friends. I'm looking forward to spending some time catching up with all of you soon!

Thursday, September 3, 2020


 For someone who's only had to answer a few phone calls at work all week, I sure do feel worn out. Tomorrow is a half day (all staff leaves at 12pm) and then we have a three day weekend for Labor Day. The extra day off will be more than welcome. Two weeks back, and already I'm craving days off. Sigh. My job is fine, I'm just so tired. And I sure wish the heat would break.

I took George to the vet this afternoon right after work. It was time for his heartworm preventative shot, and he also needed an allergy shot. The poor boy has been miserably itchy for a week or two and can barely stand to be petted. He's chewed his paws and butt until they're red and irritated and sometimes he whines in frustration because he can't reach some areas that itch. He'll feel much better now that he's had the allergy shot. A heartworm preventative has been developed that can be given as a shot only once per year, and he had that too. I don't know if heartworms are a thing in the rest of the world, but here in the southern part of the USA they're rampant and will kill your dog. I'm glad they've developed the once a year thing, it's so much easier than having to remember a pill every month. It's expensive, though. The two shots today cost $250, and I know that the allergy shot is less than $50 of that. We've spent a small fortunate at the vet in the last couple of months. 

Today George saw Dr. Causey's wife (also Dr. Causey, but she's called Dr. Re') instead of him. I like her a lot, she's a sweet lady and a good vet. I found out that she's the one who made the cast of Ginger's paw print (I had assumed that the cremation place had done it) on the morning three weeks ago today when we had Ginger put to sleep. We both teared up and she asked if she could hug me. Of course I said yes, social distancing be damned. (We were both wearing masks, though). I told her how much that paw print means to me and thanked her for doing it. I also brought along some super expensive heart medication that Ginger only took a few days' worth of, and asked her if she could give it to another client. She offered to refund our account for it. I told her no, that I didn't care about the money, but that I'd feel good if she could give it to another dog owner who could use a month's break on the price of treating their dog's heart disease. Dr. Re' teared up again and told me that she would be glad to do that for us. So that made me feel good.

I finally made it home after that and I'm sitting here unwinding with a gin and tonic. Of course, that's probably going to make me even more tired, but I don't care. It's been a long day and a long week. Actually, scratch that, it's been a long few months! I'm ready to see 2020 out, folks. How about you? 

Hope you're all having a good week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The return of Hippo, and other miscellany on a Wednesday afternoon

 Oooh, the excitement in blogland today! Tom Gowans from A Hippo On the Lawn has resurfaced after going missing almost 5 years ago (with only one short cryptic post in 2018 that left many of us wondering if it was even him at all). After posting a video this morning that had everyone abuzz over whether he had really returned or not, he followed up with a current picture and a quick note to confirm that yes, indeed, he's alive and well! I sincerely hope he begins to post regularly again. We've all missed reading about his wild adventures in faraway Angola. Please don't ghost us again, Tom! :)

It's hot as hell here this week. Far, far too hot for the beginning of September. The heat index when I left work at 4pm was hovering around 104 degrees. It's so swampy that sometimes it almost takes your breath when you first step outdoors. Getting in the car is like sitting down in a furnace. Wearing a mask for 8+ hours a day means that my face sweats constantly even inside the air conditioned building. Speaking of face masks, we got new ones with our school logo on it the first day back:

The district is very serious about everyone wearing masks. We also have these temperature monitoring devices set up in the lobby that all staff have to pass through in the morning. You stand in front of it (it looks like a large camera up on a tripod) and it does a body scan and displays your temperature. Anything more than a point over normal body temperature requires a trip to the nurse's office. The health room has had a super sophisticated UV light sterilizer/filter installed in the ceiling, there's plenty of PPE for everyone, and there's an isolation room set up in case a student or staff member has a temperature and needs to wait for a ride home. With the students split into two cohorts and having virtual instruction every other day, as well as parents having the option to do virtual learning only, the class rooms will not have over 12 students at one time. In a normal year we have almost 1000 students every day; in the time of Covid there won't be over about 180 physically present in any given day. 

Will it be enough to keep us all safe? Who knows. A mother called today and asked about picking up her son's in-person schedule....getting to the school is a problem for her because she's sick with Covid....and it sounds like her son is coming to school next week! How are we to know if they've taken all the precautions at home that are needed to keep her son from being a carrier? We can't. There's all these gray areas, and it's truthfully very worrying. But I feel like the district is doing an outstanding job controlling what's within their power to do, and I feel as safe as I'm going to. We'll just have to see how things go. The teachers are under unbelievable stress, trying to prepare for the start of school next week with all these new challenges and a doubling (or tripling) of their normal workloads. I feel so bad for them! 

Back at home, I decided to welcome September by making an apple pie from scratch late Sunday afternoon. I'd never made pie crust before, always opting for the easy way out and buying premade crusts, but this time I decided to try. It turned out to be much easier than I expected! The crust turned out great for a first try. I even rolled out some of the leftover dough and cut out little tiny leaves to decorate the top.

Actually, the crust turned out to be the best part. The apples themselves were kind of bland. I grabbed a cheap bag of small Granny Smiths at the grocery store and they didn't have much flavor. Nor does the recipe I used call for very much sugar: only three tablespoons tossed in with the apple slices. With flavorful apples that would be nice, and I plan to try again this weekend. North Carolina mountain apples should be starting to arrive at the farmer's market by now.

We saw a beautiful full moon rising last night. We were out walking George just as it started to come up above the trees, and the three of us stopped and took in the sight of it for a few minutes. It looked so big and golden when it was only just above the horizon!

As for George, he's a little more sober these days, but he seems to be beginning to adjust to all the changes around here. And he's still such a handsome guy!