Thursday, December 31, 2020


I'm so glad that 2020 is finally over tonight! It's been a rough year.

2020 didn't win, though. We're still here. A little worse for wear, maybe, but persevering and looking forward to a better year to come.

Happy New Year to you all, my friends! May we all have the 2021 we deserve.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Blog post #127

 After I hit "publish" on yesterday's post I realized I had reached exactly the same number of posts in 2020 as I did in 2019, with two days left in the year. How's that for consistency? 711111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110

(That gibberish was Marco's contribution to this post. I went to the kitchen to get something to drink after typing that last sentence and he flew down from the top of his cage, landed on the keyboard, and was in the process of tearing into a package of Ritz crackers over beside my mouse. That bird loves Ritz crackers. And he's not shy about going after what he wants. Consider it a "Hello!" to you all from the Brat Bird).

So where was I? Oh yes. Today is post #127 for me this year, so I've officially exceeded my previous year total by one. Maybe I'll even feel a little wild and post again tomorrow!

Nothing much to say today. It's been gray and damp and chilly all day. The one worthwhile thing I accomplished was running to the drugstore to pick up a prescription. While I was out I called for curbside pickup at a newish Mexican restaurant nearby because I was craving a taco salad. I brought it home and ate it, and was not impressed. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't like meeting friends and eating it fresh and washing it down with a margarita and conversation. Sitting alone at home doesn't do much to improve the flavor of Mexican food.

I was nervous about the drugstore and even getting curbside pickup at a restaurant because Covid is exploding in this area. It's far worse than it's ever been. Our positive % is over 30% when we were told it would need to be under 5% to be considered even somewhat controlled. Our county seems to be averaging 4-5 deaths every single day now and from what I understand, both hospitals are at capacity and having to send sick people elsewhere. We're in trouble and if we had anything even approaching decent leadership we'd be in total lockdown by now. Instead, half the population is going around mask-less and fancy free, posting pictures of their holiday gatherings all over social media. It's kind of horrifying. Even going to the drugstore or grocery store, and despite being as careful as possible, I can't help but feel like I'm taking a grave risk every time I leave our house. I can only hope that the vaccine roll out starts happening more efficiently and we can get our jabs soon. Gregg has a routine follow up with his oncologist at the beginning of March and he's going to see if it's possible to get his vaccine then. That will relieve my mind somewhat if I can stop worrying so much about him, at least.

After eating my lonely taco salad I was cold and so I turned up the heat in the house, put on a large old t-shirt, and got in bed. I didn't really go to sleep, but somehow the whole afternoon slipped away after that. Just zero motivation to get up or do much of anything until now. Once I finish writing here I think I'm going to start taking down the Christmas tree. I like to have the tree and decorations put away and the house clean by New Year's Day and if I get the tree packed away I'll feel like I accomplished something. We shall see.

Back tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

What day is it?

 Anyone else having trouble keeping their days straight in this weird in-between-Christmas-and-New Year's time period? Yesterday felt just like a Sunday to me. Sunday felt like Saturday. Today just feels....weird. And aggravating.

I went online this morning to check the tracking information on Gregg's replacement phone. When I put the tracking number into the UPS website it said the package had just been delivered. To my front door. I hurried out there to check. No package. No package anywhere in sight. I checked in the bushes, the door to the back porch, the mailbox.....nothing. When I went back to the UPS website to file a claim, I was informed that the sender had to file the claim. Wonderful. Sigh. So I called customer service and after being on hold for about 10 minutes I got through to a nice woman who said they'd immediately send out another phone. They seemed awfully unconcerned about what had happened to the first one! But okay, whatever. Great. I told her that would be fine. Then she said I had to have it shipped to an alternate address! What?! I don't have an alternate address, nor do I know (right off hand) any of my friends' mailing addresses, and I'm not at work this week. The call center lady was adamant: they couldn't ship a second phone to the same physical address. After thinking about what the heck to do I finally made her hold on while I walked next door and asked my sweet 81 year old neighbor, Luella, if I could have it sent to her house. Of course she said yes and after I hung up with customer service she proceeded to tell me about all of her children and grandchildren having similar problems recently and having items shipped to her house. Thank goodness for good neighbors! 

After getting all that straight I drove down to the school to feed and check on the two aquariums. All of a sudden we've lost two goldfish in the lobby tank and a third looks like he's about to go, too. This year, when the custodians are doing a deep sanitizing of the school, no staff members are supposed to go into the building at all, but we're going to sneak back in this afternoon so Gregg can test the water and administer some antibiotics. (The principal knows we have to come up there briefly to feed and check on the tanks). I'm so upset at losing two of our beloved Shubukins! And after today the custodians won't be back for the rest of the week. Who knows what will happen by the time we go back to school next Monday. The aquarium is a much loved fixture of the school already and I just feel sick over losing some of the fish. And here's another irritating thing: the beautiful planted aquarium in the library is doing fine, but the water level has dropped. It needs to be topped off, which would be the simplest thing in the world to do except.............our school shuts off the hot water when we leave on break! Cold water straight from the tap is a big NO!! Arrggghhh! I was so damn frustrated when I went to fill the tank and discovered that there was no hot water. I'm sure they do it to save money but it really made me mad after just having had to net out another dead goldfish. At least the fish in that tank are doing well. I couldn't bear it if we were losing fish there, too.

So that's my Tuesday, friends. A whole bunch of unpleasantness on top of inconvenience. Maybe it's okay to lose track of the days when they're like this one!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas 2020

A cold front rolled into the area on Christmas Eve. After raining all day, it suddenly got windy with great big gusts rattling the house, and then the temperature started to drop. That night it got to just below freezing, with a stiff wind that would chill you to the bone. Yesterday the high temperature never got much above freezing, and our low last night was 22 degrees (-5.55 Celsius)! That's pretty intense for South Carolina! I've been afraid for the little fig tree I planted out in September so I covered it with plastic garbage bags yesterday afternoon. It's far too young and tender for such low temperatures.

I've enjoyed my low stress holiday although I do miss our family and friends. Gregg's sister Karen and niece Melissa arranged a Zoom meeting for the family yesterday, but since our desktop computer doesn't have a camera, it was just too hard for us to manage with a cell phone. We were content enough with phone calls and texts, and hopefully by next Christmas we can see them all again. On Christmas Eve my friend Marla did a front porch drop and left a package for us: homemade ornaments made by her and two year old Carsen. I miss seeing that little girl! A year is a long time to lose when a baby is that young. I hope by next Christmas we can safely have her (and her lovely mom and dad) over, too.

Yesterday morning we bundled up warmly (even George had on winter wear!) and went over to the park for a good walk. Afterwards we watched old movies and stuffed our face. I'd made way too much food, as usual.

Christmas day at the park:

Here's some of the food:


This wasn't all, there were also dates stuffed with toasted pecans and wrapped in bacon (Devils on Horseback), Watergate salad (terrible name, but it's delicious), fresh pineapple, and King's Hawaiian rolls to make ham sandwiches with. One thing we didn't have much of was sweets. Yes, I made cookies, but the recipe was for "tea cakes" which are very mildly sweet. The red sugar I sprinkled on top rolled right off so they looked kind of plain, too. I made extra of the cookies and the Chex mix so I could share with our nice neighbors. I'm actually relieved not to have tons of sweets left over this year.

George and Marco would like to announce that they both got new toys from Santa!

They both loved having something new to play with. In fact, George loved his new rope toy so much he's almost chewed through it on one side! Oh well. 

So that's been it. The only other thing of note that happened is that Gregg's cell phone started acting weird and then it died. I spent two hours this morning after he went to work trying to deal with that and get a replacement. First I went to the Verizon store, but they're only seeing customers by appointment and since it's the day after Christmas they were booked solid. So I came home and called a customer service number (or three) and finally got a claim in on it and a new one is on the way, set to arrive on Monday. Despite having a "protection plan", since the phone is unrepairable and over a year old I had to pay a $199 fee for a new one. Ouch! I should be used to it, that's just how things go around here when the holidays roll around. On a related note, we're still enjoying the new dryer we had to fork over for at the beginning of this month. Merry Christmas to us, I guess! :)

I hope you've all had a nice holiday. It's definitely been a weird one, hasn't it? 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 If Santa has made his list this year, and checked it twice, I have a feeling that somebody I know is on the "naughty" list. 

This guy:

Marco T. Barlow

In fact, he told me so himself. In that last picture when he was on my shoulder (and being pretty sweet for once) I said, "Marco, you're a good boy!" and after a two second pause he said, "He's a BAAAAAAD bird!" 

Merry Christmas from the "BAAAAAAD BIRD" to all his fans out in blogland!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Solstice Great Conjunction


That's a terrible photo of last night's Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. It was taken with my cell phone camera in "night mode" which is why the color is kind of weird. Sigh. One day I hope to be able to afford a nice camera capable of taking these kinds of shots. Still, I wanted a picture to remember the event by. People have called the conjunction a "Christmas Star" which seems kind of silly to me. It's obviously two planets that appear kind of close together and not a single bright star at all. For my money, sparkling Sirius rising in the East is prettier and much more deserving of the name. 

Whenever the sky is clear we enjoy looking up at all the stars when we're out walking at night. We made sure to go out early enough last night to see the conjunction and then took a second walk later, around 9pm. As often happens, we encountered a deer standing in someone's front yard. We always stop and look at each other for a few minutes, then continue on our respective ways. Seeing one on the solstice night seemed extra special!

Three days left until Christmas...

Monday, December 21, 2020

Covid test!

 Like a lot of bully breeds (or so I understand), our George tends to be.....flatulent. He's the first dog I've ever had who regularly passes gas so noxious it can clear a room. It's been worse lately, possibly due to extra bites of "people food".

George going through the Bojangles drive thru with me for breakfast last week. 

Yesterday was particularly.........windy. All of a sudden you'd smell something horrible and Georgie would look slightly guilty. The second time it happened and I said, "Whew!!!!" and went to leave the room, my husband started laughing and said, "Look on the bright side, since you can smell it you probably don't have Covid!" 

So now whenever George farts we yell, "COVID TEST!!"  like a couple of third-graders.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A little Christmas cheer

All of a sudden it's less than a week until Christmas. The longest year in recent memory suddenly ramped up and started moving at warp speed as soon as December got here--or so it seems to me, anyway. 

As of yesterday I'm out for winter break until January 4th. We had such a good time at school this week! Starting on Wednesday the principal would blast corny holiday music over the intercom every hour at the class change and then do a prize drawing. Almost two dozen staff members won small gifts like gift cards to local restaurants, sausage and cheese samplers, Christmas mug sets with fancy hot chocolate toppings, etc. Every morning classroom assistants would push carts around with juice, muffins, and fruit for anyone that wanted some. One of the gym teachers dressed up as a (sorry looking!) Santa/elf cross and walked the halls with the principal one afternoon handing out candy canes. We did a lot of laughing.

Several people in the office surprised me with little gifts. Homemade peanut butter balls from Lisa, the school nurse. A charm bracelet from the attendance clerk, a lady that until this year I swore didn't like me at all, certainly not enough to give me a present. A nice yeti cup with my name on it from the bookkeeper (the same person who gave me the tacky Christmas sweater). The annual ornament made by the adorable kids in one of the Special Needs classes and their sweet teacher. Two dozen freshly laid eggs from the bee and hen keeping science teacher. A wrapped gift card from the principal which he put on my desk in front of me yesterday morning and quietly said, "Mrs. Barlow, I sure do appreciate you." How very, very grateful I am for my job and my coworkers! This is my fourth holiday season there, which is hard to believe.

The best part about yesterday (besides the fact that it was the last day before the break) was I got to see my buddy Little P. and give him his Christmas present. He asked me if he could open it, and I sent him to go ask his mom. He nearly cried when she told him to wait until Christmas! Seeing how disappointed he was she changed her mind and let him have it. I really think he liked the paper airplane kit! He was so excited he insisted on tearing into the package and making a plane right then and there.

While he worked on it he sang a Christmas song (something about Santa) under his breath, completely absorbed in what he was doing. How freaking adorable is that?! He's such a joy, and I really appreciate his mom encouraging our friendship and letting me be a small part of his life. I'm not used to being around children much at Christmastime and I must admit, it really makes the holidays more special. 

Now I get to stay home and have as simple and quiet of a Christmas as I want. I'm actually looking forward to doing so much less this year. This is the least pressure I've felt at the holidays since.....well, maybe ever. I like it. I hope you're all taking it easy this year, too, and finding small moments of happiness in spite of  things like Covid and politics. 

Enjoy your Saturday, friends.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Tacky sweater day

I got a text from the school bookkeeper at 7am this morning:

Do you have a Christmas sweater to wear today?

The answer was "No" and so she said she had one for me....and here it is! Hahaha!

Later on when I saw the Spanish teacher walking past the office I called her over to see my "Feliz Navidad" sweater, and guess what?

We've been encouraged to wear tacky Christmas sweaters or holiday printed socks this week. I've never paid good money for a "tacky sweater" that will only get worn once a year, but since someone else bought this one I'll admit it's been making me laugh since I put it on this morning. 

And Señora and I get to be twinsies for today!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Pandemic Christmas

 It's shaping up to be the oddest holiday season of my life, and I'm sure it's the same for every one of you reading this. Yesterday South Carolina set a Covid record: over 3200 new positive cases and 49 reported deaths, and that's in a single day. Some counties in the state have hospitals at 100% capacity with no available beds, so the situation is becoming more dire by the day.

 At my school (and all the other schools in our district) the number of cases have also been going up and up and up, and that's not even counting the number of students and staff who are required to stay home and quarantine because of exposure to someone who's positive. It's a real mess. The school board announced that we'll get out earlier for the holiday break than originally planned, with our last day being the 18th instead of the 23rd. Even so, our (wonderful) school nurse told me yesterday that she's shocked that we haven't gone back all virtual given how bad the district numbers are trending.People are becoming frightened and even a bit paranoid, like a couple of teachers who've been going for weekly Covid tests despite having no symptoms and everyone taking rigorous precautions. I can't blame them. A few teachers across the state with no pre existing conditions have actually died. And far too many people in the community simply refuse to believe in the seriousness of this virus and continue to go about their normal activities, maskless and fancy free. They make me furious. If it were only their own ignorant selves they were endangering, that would be fine with me, but unfortunately we're all at risk because of them. Our current record breaking numbers are the fallout from Thanksgiving gatherings, and January is going to be even more deadly once we're a couple of weeks past Christmas.

As for the approach of Christmas, our already short list of people to buy gifts for is shorter than usual. We won't be seeing any family or friends for the foreseeable future to exchange presents, and the truth is that this has been such an expensive year for us, both in terms of lost income and emergencies to pay for, that we would need to curtail most gift buying anyway. I did buy a Christmas present for my buddy, Little P., though. 

That kid is forever making paper airplanes. He's fairly obsessed with them. Unfortunately, he doesn't really know how to make them properly so they never work very well and are kind of sad, but he remains undeterred. On Thursday afternoon he brought his latest one to show me. He threw it, and it went all of one foot then it hit the floor with a plop. He smiled. I said, "You really love paper airplanes, don't you?" and he replied "I was born to make paper airplanes!" Hahaha. That boy cracks me up! So when I saw this kit at the bookstore that evening (I had dashed in to buy Christmas cards) I knew he would love it.

I'm planning to cook and bake a lot less than usual this Christmas. There will still be a ham, and a few favorite snacks, appetizers, and simple meals. I may even bake a batch or two of cookies, but that's about it. We've had our tree up for a while now, and last weekend we strung some colored lights on the back porch, for fun. 

So many houses in our little neighborhood have lights and decorations up this year! We enjoy looking at them when we're out walking George at night. Even in pandemic times those simple pleasures can be enjoyed safely. Here are two houses I've gotten pictures of so far.

I should be finishing up my Christmas cards this weekend and getting them mailed out next week. I love sending them and I really love receiving them. That's another thing that can be enjoyed safely....reaching out via card or letter to friends and family. I sure will miss seeing everyone this year, but it's kind of nice in a way to have an excuse to do less and have a simpler holiday for once.

What kind of holiday plans do you have this crazy year? How do you feel about it all? 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020


 Got my test results and all is well. Back to work in the morning. Thank you all for the good wishes!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


 Stephen Colbert has had a segment on The Late Show called "Quarantine-while" that over the last several months has taken the place of "Meanwhile".....a short humorous roundup of news that may have escaped notice with so many big stories to report on. Here's a recent one: 

Meanwhile....I'm quarantining in my house for the next day or two pending results of the Covid test I had this morning. 

As an allergy sufferer I'm prone to a ticklish cough in my throat that usually doesn't concern me. Along with the occasional runny nose, sneezing, and puffy eyes first thing in the morning, it's just part of my baseline. I've had that kind of cough for a couple of days now, but have felt fine. Then this morning I woke up with actual congestion in my chest and some very slight wheezing when I breathe deeply. That's not a normal part of allergies. 

Although I feel okay otherwise, I called the school nurse and asked her opinion. Our school (as well as the district as a whole) has rising positive case numbers as well as a huge wave of students and staff who have been exposed to someone with the virus and must stay at home until they're tested. Our state, like much of the country, is suddenly experiencing record-setting case spikes and our hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. Out of an abundance of caution, the nurse and I decided that it would be best if I got a test and quarantined at home for a day or two in the meantime. The district has a testing agreement with MUSC here in Florence (one of our two major hospitals) and I was able to get a drive-up Covid swab for free.

The test was quick and easy, and except for the swab making my nose burn for the 10 seconds they had to leave it stuck up there it wasn't even very uncomfortable. What is uncomfortable is waiting for the results. I really don't think I have it, as I've been very careful about social distancing, handwashing, and mask wearing plus I don't feel very bad at all. No fever, no loss of taste or smell, no other indication of anything weird except possibly some extra tiredness and feeling chilled (despite warm clothes and normally running more hot than cold) very recently. 

I really hope this isn't Covid! More even than for myself I worry about giving it to my husband. We both have pre-existing conditions (mild asthma for me, a cancer history for him) so neither of us can really afford to catch it. I'll be isolating myself in the house as much as possible until the results come in, which should be in 24 to 48 hours. 

Meanwhile (quarantine-while!) I'm going to try to relax and enjoy the time at home since I feel okay. I'm re-starting a book I liked but never finished some years ago called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and cooking a crockpot full of pinto beans for our supper tonight. The weather has turned cold and I've been enjoying sitting by the fire in the evenings, with the Christmas tree lit. Hopefully this dreaded virus hasn't infiltrated our home--talk about spoiling the holidays! Wish us luck.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Not today

 This was the sensible lady ahead of me in line at Food Lion just now. I felt safe checking out after her!

                                                         "Not today, 'Rona!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Bringing in December

Our temperatures dropped quite a bit two nights ago, just in time to usher in December and the longest nights of the year. I'm glad for it. It doesn't seem right to have warm weather this time of year. Temps have been getting down to freezing or a little below, and that's set to continue for the next couple of nights. Waking up to frost-sparkled mornings, I've revived my recent tradition of sitting by the fireplace in the morning with the Christmas tree lit and a cup of coffee. It's such a nice, peaceful way to start the day and gets my morning off on the right note.

We're still walking George a lot more than we used to. Every morning we go out for two laps around the neighborhood, which equals one mile, and now that it's cold we've contrived a sweater of sorts for George out of an old vest of Gregg's. He seems to really like it. (He's a weird dog. He'll hold his paws up for me to put his legs through the arm holes!) Note the wagging tail-blur:

We've come to treasure our twice daily walks around the neighborhood. There are three deer that we regularly see hanging out together at night. We all stop and look at each other for a while whenever we meet up, and they don't seem afraid at all. Usually after a few minutes they'll just quietly disappear into the shadows. We also hear a pair of Barred Owls calling back and forth at night. And every morning, we hear and sometimes see a pair of Cooper's Hawks patrolling for breakfast. There's a big bare tree top jutting above the rest of the trees across the street from our house that makes a fantastic perch for them. The fact that they perch on that particular piece of wood so often is the main reason I got Gregg a new pair of binoculars for his birthday, so he could get a closer look at them. Another thing that happens in the morning: a huge flock of geese fly over (they return at dusk) and honk up a storm as they go. You can almost set your watch by them.

This place is wonderful for wildlife. Thanks to the proximity of a creek and a wooded nature trail, we see and hear all kinds of birds, deer, foxes, rabbits, turtles (in the summer), squirrels, possums, turtles, and I hear that there are plenty of snakes around although we've only ever seen one so far, and it was dead in the road. All in all, it makes for a perfect neighborhood for two nature loving people like us. Our almost nightly encounters with deer seem almost magical this time of year.

Speaking of magical, we have 13 (and counting) neighbors who have put up Christmas trees in their windows and/or lights out on their lawns. It's so beautiful at night! I expect there will be more as we get closer to Christmas. One neighbor in particular has a display that Gregg and I both thought was very good. It's a big bright star up high on the garage that shines a spotlight down onto a wooden manger filled with hay and a lifelike newborn doll nestled within. Although we're not Christians, the beautiful simplicity of it seems quite touching. We've never seen anything quite like it. I'll try to get a photo of it at some point to share with you all. In the meantime, here is George with our Christmas tree:

I hope you all are having a nice beginning to the holiday season!