Thursday, December 30, 2021

New Year's Eve Eve

 Today I took down the Christmas tree and all of the holiday decorations. I carefully packed away the delicate glass icicles first, followed by our most treasured and fragile ornaments, then the sturdier wooden/fabric/shatterproof ornaments, then the tree itself. Next came the candleholders, the decorative plates, the candy dishes, the lighted garlands and wreath. All that's left to do is to have my husband crawl up into the attic when he gets home tonight so I can hand the boxes up to him. Christmas 2021 will be in the books.

The house looks so dark and devoid of sparkle, now. It's a relief to get everything packed away, but I'll miss the warm light in the house. We still have the rest of the winter to get through. Speaking of which, it's been a freakishly warm Christmas this year. An old Southern (originally English) proverb says, "Warm Christmas, fat graveyard". With Covid cases spiking dramatically again it's (sadly) almost bound to come true next year. So many people still refuse to get vaccinated or to take proper precautions. Winter weather should return by this weekend, with below-freezing temperatures at night. I, for one, will be glad to see normal January temperatures. It just seems wrong to run your air conditioner over Christmas!

Tomorrow night will be our typically quiet New Year's Eve. We'll be at home, staying safe from Covid and drunk drivers, watching movies and maybe opening a bottle of champagne around 11pm. Since I'm the only one who drinks, part of the bottle will be saved for mimosas New Year's morning. I bought black eyed peas to cook (with the bone I saved from our Christmas ham) along with two large bunches of fresh collards for our dinner. That's supposed to take care of our luck and money for next year. 

When do you take down holiday decorations? Do you have plans for tomorrow night? I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Wrapping up the holidays

 Hello, friends, and Happy Holidays!

It's been a nice Christmas at my house, the best we've had in years. Gregg had four days off in a row starting on Christmas Eve, so we've spent a lot of time together just enjoying ourselves. There have been lots of friends around, lots of good food and good cheer, visits with family. Speaking of which, Gregg's sister Karen is here at the moment, spending a couple of days with us. Once she leaves tomorrow, we'll take down the tree and the decorations and Christmas will be put away for another year. It's been fun, but I'm ready to go back to regular life now that it's almost New Year.

One final thing I should mention about this holiday season: it's been a full decade, exactly 10 years, that Gregg has survived cancer! When he was diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer the week before Christmas in 2011, to say his prognosis was grim would be a bit of an understatement. Thanks to three wonderful doctors, determination to do whatever it took to fight, and, if I'm being honest, a whole lot of dumb luck, here he is 10 years later, cancer-free and healthy. I'm so very grateful!

Anyway, so my sister in law is here today and tomorrow. She's still asleep as I type this; she's a night owl who stays up very late and then sleeps late. This works out well for me. Gregg just went back to work this morning, and while she sleeps it gives me my first chance in a week to have a little alone time. Late this afternoon I plan to cook a nice dinner for the three of us, and that's going to be my last "hurrah" of the season. I've cooked and baked and cleaned, and cooked and baked and cleaned (wash, rinse, repeat!) over the last few weeks. I made cookie and treat trays for half a dozen neighbors, gave out small homemade fruitcakes to my book club friends, sent out over two dozen cards, wrapped a few small gifts, and made a big spread of finger food and a ham on Christmas Eve (to share with friends who stopped by). I'm happy Karen's here and happy to cook a nice meal for her visit, but when she leaves tomorrow it will be good to officially be done with Christmas. I'm tired. Luckily, I don't go back to work until next Tuesday so I should have plenty of time to rest and relax. 

 Here are a few pictures from the last week or so. 


I hope you all have had a very happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 18, 2021


Seeing my first ballet last night, Cinderella, was a real treat. The music, the dancers, and the costumes were just beautiful. And if I'm being very honest, the view from Prince Charming's backside while he danced was an absolute delight! Martina and I, as well as the two women from her office that were there with us, all agreed on this last point. 

Here are a few (not so great) photos I snapped towards the end.


And here's a playbill I picked up as a souvenir....

Afterwards Martina and I stopped for coffee and a light meal before heading home. What a spectrum of culture in one night....from the ballet to the Waffle House! :)

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Busy,'s that time of year!

For the last two weeks I've tried to make my desk at work a haven of festive good cheer for the school. The holidays are almost here, after all!  I'm in the front lobby, the first point of contact for parents and the public, as well as being situated right between the 6th and 7th grade halls. I've been using one of my computer monitors (I have two) to pull up a crackling fire and instrumental Christmas music on YouTube every day. There's a tiny decorated tree with colorful lights on the edge of my desk. Best of all (as far as the students are concerned) I've been filling a small red and green basket with Christmas candy each morning and being very generous with it. Ho ho ho!

Thank God tomorrow is our last day before the break, because the kids have been attracted to my candy bowl like moths to a flame and I'm about to go broke! :)  It's amazing what they'll do for a piece of cheap candy; one little boy who was always in trouble came asking for some early on, and I made a deal with him. If he stayed out of ISS (in-school suspension) and I didn't get any discipline referrals on him, he could come get a piece of candy between classes. It worked! Little Clarence hasn't been in trouble for two weeks, which is a major accomplishment for him. One afternoon he hesitated at my desk, clearly wanting something, so I said, "What is it, Clarence?" Of course, I was thinking he was about to ask for candy again. Instead, he gave me a huge hug, said, "I needed that!", and ran off to catch his bus. You could have knocked me over with a feather! So sweet. Lots of other kids have figured out that if they stop by and ask politely, I'll give them candy. All of a sudden I'm about 10 times more popular than I used to be! Haha.

It's been a busy, busy week. Our book club Christmas party was last night, George had a vet appointment yesterday afternoon (I had to rush home from work to make it). Today I had to leave work for a couple of hours to go to an eye appointment. I feel like I've been rushing around nonstop every day. 

Tomorrow night after work I have plans with my friend Martina. She had an extra ticket to an Ukrainian ballet performance of Cinderella touring the area, and she invited me to be her "date".  We're going to get a late dinner somewhere afterwards, too. I'm really looking forward to it, having never been to a ballet. Then there's a lunch with other friends on Saturday, more holiday baking Saturday afternoon (I made fruitcakes last weekend, now it's going to be sugar cookies) and then on Sunday we have a dinner party invitation from a bachelor friend of Gregg's. I haven't met this friend yet, so I have no idea what to expect, but it sounds like fun! 

Next week as we approach Christmas I hope to have more down time and solitude. I'm enjoying this week, but it's been a bit stressful too. At heart I'm an introvert (you'd never know it to meet me) and all this socializing is going to wear me out if I'm not careful. It's already a tiny bit past my comfort zone, but I'm soldiering on. 

Hopefully I'll have more time for blog reading and blog commenting after tomorrow, too. I can't wait to catch up with all of you! 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Gotcha Day!

Happy 8th "Gotcha Day" to our sweet, goofy, handsome boy, George! 

(Seen here patiently enduring being wrapped in tinsel garland and posed by the Christmas tree. Just look at that poor face!)

We love you, sweet Georgie! You're the best good boy!

Monday, December 6, 2021


On my way home from work today I stopped by the nearest liquor store and picked up a bottle of brandy. Christmas is coming, and I'm making fruitcakes!

I'd already been buying dried fruits to use: cherries, dates, apricots, golden raisins, black raisins, prunes, and pineapple. They're all chopped up now and marinating happily in the whole bottle of booze. These are going to be "spirited" cakes!  The nuts I'm using (almonds, pecans, and walnuts) won't get added until the last minute. After all, nobody wants soggy nuts!

Friday, December 3, 2021

One day we'll write a book

When you work at a school, you never know what the day might bring. Everyone knows the expression "kids say the darndest things" but parents can be pretty wacky, too. Yesterday was a case in point. I took a message that might be my favorite in almost 5 years of working there. When I shared it with the rest of the staff, hilarity ensued. We all needed a good laugh, I think.

Side note: thank you all for the good wishes and support on my last post. Everyone continues to improve, even my dad, who was released from the hospital on Wednesday

Thursday, November 25, 2021

From bad to worse (quick update in the comments)

It's the worst Thanksgiving I've had in years.

Not only are my parents ill with Covid (my dad seriously so), but Gregg woke up this morning with a cough, fever, aches, pains, a scratchy throat, and bad nausea. 

It's far too soon for us to have caught Covid from going to the hospital on Tuesday even if we were exposed. There's no way he would be symptomatic that fast, but of course he could have been exposed at work or somewhere else days and days ago. 

The soonest I could schedule a test for him is tomorrow morning at a drive through testing site. I went to the drugstore this afternoon looking for a rapid at-home test but they were sold out. The holiday, I suppose. I hope it's just some other bug and NOT Covid, but I have a bad feeling. He's isolating in the bedroom and I can hear him throwing up as I type this. 

I don't know what to do with myself. 

I went ahead and cooked the turkey breast that was thawed in the refrigerator and a few side dishes, but I don't feel like eating and Gregg is too sick to eat. At least there's enough food cooked for two or three days and I won't have to worry about meals while we deal with all this. 

I'm so lonely and scared. What a way to spend Thanksgiving. 

Part of the meal no one feels like eating. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A bad start to the holiday

Yesterday got off to a such a good start. It was the last day of school before Thanksgiving break and everyone showed up to work cheerful and excited. I was looking forward to getting through the day and the beginning of five days off. Even the "mean girls" were pleasant and friendly for a change. All seemed well with the world.

About 10:30 the direct line at my desk started ringing. I looked down and saw my dad's name on the caller ID, and immediately knew something was wrong. My parents never call me at work. I answered the phone with a great deal of trepidation, knowing that whatever they were calling for couldn't be good. 

It was my mom. "Jennifer, you've got to come home. Can you come home?" I asked her several times what had happened. All she would say is that my dad had been taken off in an ambulance and to please "come home" right now. She soundly oddly calm and but wouldn't give me any details.

I was sure my dad was dead. 

The secretary saw my face when I went looking for the principal to tell him I had to leave. She said, "Mrs. Barlow, what's happened?" "I think my dad may have just died" I replied. By then I was having a hard time breathing and was walking in circles, feeling confused and just in shock. I'll give the office ladies credit here. Even the two who have been so rude and unkind lately were immediately there, offering to drive me home or to call my husband to come get me, asking what they could do, telling me they would be praying for my family. The principal and one of the assistant principals reached out to offer support last night, too.

My mom called my cell when I was on the way to her house, and that's when I found out that dad (probably) wasn't dead, but had been close to it when the ambulance took him away. He had collapsed and was unconscious (he has congestive heart failure and several other serious health problems) after several days of being much sicker than usual. Then she explained that she couldn't go up to the hospital to check on him because she was sick too. Sick with a "chest cold", diarrhea, and a fever. (You can probably guess where this is going).

When I got to the hospital dad was still in the emergency room receiving stabilizing treatment. He really was on the verge of death when the ambulance picked him up. His blood pressure was bottoming out, his oxygen levels were dropping, and they suspected sepsis. He was slowly coming around when I got there, so I got to talk to him and tell him I loved him. I stayed for a couple of hours and then went home (after leaving my number with the ER nurse supervisor and getting her promise that they'd call if anything changed). They finally got him admitted to the hospital around 6pm last night.

When I first went in to see dad yesterday I was wearing a regular paper mask, but the first time he started coughing I went to the nurse's station and asked for an N-95. That turned out to be a good decision. This morning my mom called to let me know that he tested positive for Covid despite the fact that he got vaccinated back in March. When you consider that he's in end-stage congestive heart failure to begin with, this might be deadly. My mom is at home and almost certainly has Covid, too. She's diabetic so that's not good, and her cough sounds terrible over the phone. She's going to be lucky if she doesn't end up in the hospital alongside dad. 

All I can do is wait at home to hear any news. Dad won't be allowed any visitors and mom is going to have to quarantine for the next couple of weeks. It's all very worrying.

Happy Thankgiving.

Saturday, November 20, 2021


Since I was a little girl, I've lamented the fact that I have no siblings. My mother made it clear from my earliest childhood that there would be no brothers or sisters. All in all, that's probably one of the better decisions she ever made in her life. My parents were very young when I was born, and in those days they didn't have any business having me, much less any more kids! Still, it made for lonely growing-up years, and when my parents are gone I'll have few blood relations left. Cousins I have nothing in common with barely count, and I have no children of my own. Sometimes I think I was destined to be a little bit lonely in life.

One good thing about marriage, though, is that you get another shot at siblings! Also nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc. Gregg's family has always welcomed me with open arms, and it means a lot to me. His brother Gary and sister Karen don't feel like "in-laws" to me. They just feel like "our" brother, and "our" sister. I'm pretty lucky because I love both of them and I'm sure they love me back. I just wish I could see more of them!

I'm thinking of this tonight because Karen called me up a little while ago and we talked about the upcoming holidays. It looks as though she may be able to come down the day after Christmas and stay with us for two or three days! I'm really excited about it. We haven't seen her since June when she drove down here for a funeral (but had to drive back to Raleigh that very same afternoon). We love hanging out with her, and it will be a fun time if she's here on the week of Christmas. It's something I'll be looking forward to!

Do you have siblings? Or siblings-by-marriage? Do you like them, and like spending time with them? I'd be interested to hear about it if you do. Or don't, as the case may be. :)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Work-life stuff


The sunrise this morning was so beautiful. Since Thursdays are the day Gregg goes to work extra early, it was just me and George on our morning walk. 

Oftentimes these walks are the best part of my day. That's how it was today. What a long, busy, unpleasant week it's been at work! The teachers are joking about tomorrow's full moon and the lunar eclipse, saying it's making everyone act crazy, kids and parents alike. Even the school nurse, Lisa, who's about as sensible and anti-superstitious as they come, remarked on how aggressive and just flat-out weird people have been for the last few days!

Mostly students and parents have acted fine towards me, though. I try really, really hard to be the soul of patience and friendliness to them. No, it's those same old office women making me unhappy, along with a couple of members of administration who happen to be part of their little clique. To be fair, only a couple of the office women (I think) actively dislike me and are unkind. The rest of the "in crowd" just don't notice how often I'm excluded and probably don't realize there's a problem. And it's only a problem in that I get my feelings hurt.

Today was a perfect example. Our principal, Mr. Oates, and his wife welcomed a baby girl to their family early Saturday morning. He took the first three days of this week off to be with his wife and two little boys, and came back to work today. None of the "mean girls" would speak to me at all today, and wouldn't even look at me if they were walking right past my desk. It was odd and uncomfortable, but then by early afternoon I understood: I saw  two of the women quietly bringing in loads of pastel-wrapped packages, gift bags, and a cake and heading to the back office area. It was obvious that they had pooled money for gifts and a cake to surprise Mr. Oates on the day he came back to work after his daughter was born.

I would have loved the chance to contribute to the gifts and cake, and to sign the card I'm sure they had, because I genuinely like Mr. Oates and his family. I was flattered to be one of three coworkers who got an actual text from him around 8am Saturday morning with a picture of the baby and the news that she had safely arrived. (Later in the day he sent out a mass email to the rest of the school staff). I hate to think that he or his wife might think that I just didn't want to contribute! And it stings to realize you're being left out, disregarded. Things like this happen all the time these days.

There are other problems at the school that have nothing to do with me or the bullies. Some of the best teachers are leaving or retiring out of frustration. Lots of people are really unhappy. It's not just me, things We're not considered a great school in the district. Add it all up, and I've recently come to a decision. 

Sometime in the spring, when positions in the district start opening up (just ahead of everyone having to sign next year's contracts) I'm going to talk to Mr. Oates about either some sort of promotion at our school  or a transfer to something better somewhere else. Aside from the fact that I'm not enjoying my job the way I used to, after five years of hard work I'm ready to make more money and to do a little better for myself. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


A visitor appeared at the bathroom window this morning while I was getting ready for work. 

This tiny little squirrel was probably one of this fall's babies. It showed no fear whatsoever as I snapped a few pictures. We gently shooed it away and closed the window. The last thing that needs to happen is for George to notice a young squirrel hanging around!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Gnarly Toes

My bird Marco has grown some long, sharp, out of control dinosaur claws lately. They hurt when he flies to you and lands on bare skin, like around the neck and shoulder area. What's even worse is that the nails are so long that they're starting to interfere with his ability to perch easily. Something has to be done.

I've been afraid to trim his nails. The old man I got Marco from as a baby, a breeder with a lot of experience with several species of parrots, once told me a story about another parrot breeder he knew that made a bad mistake with his personal pet. Somehow the bird had a bleeding toe---I can't remember for sure if it was a toenail, but I think it was--and he wasn't as diligent as he should have been to make sure the bleeding had stopped. A tiny bit of blood kept slowly welling up all night, apparently, and the next morning the bird was dead. Moral of the story: birds don't have a whole lot of blood reserves, so any bleeding, no matter how seemingly slight, is a deadly serious matter.

Fast forward 14 years, and I'm terrified of trimming my bird's nails. I've developed a phobia that I'll cut too far and make him bleed, and aside from not wanting to hurt or traumatize him, bleeding in birds scares me.

Luckily, my plucky friend Martina is willing to do it for me! She a head technician at a veterinarian's office, has loads of experience with this kind of situation, and has all the tools to do a good job (mainly good cat-nail trimmers and styptic powder). All I'll have to do is hold Marco wrapped securely in a dishtowel while she starts the process of getting these gnarly dinosaur toenails under control! It's going to take a few weeks, and we'll have to start with just little bits to get the quick to recede, but I'm so grateful to have her help with it. I picked up a bottle of wine and some snacks to share after she's done tonight.

Wish us luck!

Friday, November 5, 2021


Shortly after I arrived at work this morning, the school nurse, Lisa, showed up at my desk and sat a gift bag down in front of me. 

"Mrs. Barlow, it's going to be cold today. I brought you this to help keep you warm."

A beautiful insulated mug and cocoa mix--for no reason at all except friendship and kindness!  I was touched.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Cold hands, warm heart

Winter has arrived in South Carolina, with blustery winds and gray skies and temperatures a good bit colder than normal for the early part of November. The high today was only 50 degrees (10 degrees for you Celsius peeps) and tonight the low is 39 (or 3.88C). I'm looking forward to lighting the fireplace for the first time this weekend, and also making the first batch of chili for the year. Yesterday afternoon Little P. was standing beside my desk at work, and he noticed the old, soft sweater I'd put on to fight off the chill. 

"You have a hole in your sweater" he said, pointing. 

I explained that what he was pointing at was just one of the buttonholes. He then proceeded to carefully fasten the buttons all the way down the front for me. I said, "P----, what are you doing?" 

"Buttoning you up. It's cold outside."

My heart melted. That little boy is such a gem. 

Speaking of Little P. hanging out at my desk, this week brought a big change to my work situation. The school principal and the man in charge of security for the district finally got a  front door camera/unlocking device installed in the lobby. A new, larger desk had been ordered and set up out there before Covid hit, but without cameras and a way to unlock the front doors no one could work from there. When I got to work on Monday morning, Mr. Oates told me that I'd be moving out there now that we had the doors and security sorted. I was really surprised. Within the hour, the technology department sent out a guy to move my computer, monitors, phone, intercom, and scanner to the new desk and I was ready to roll.

Which means, of course, that I no longer have to work beside the gossipy, backbiting, and lazy office women who were making me so unhappy! I'm now working from a spacious lobby area, with a view of the goldfish aquarium, and much closer access to teachers and students than I've ever had before. It's almost like those women who were driving me crazy no longer exist. They're hidden away inside the inner offices, and I'm fine with that. I'm so much happier! What a stroke of luck.

My new desk with the sweater Little P. "buttoned me up" into draped over my chair:

A few teachers and other staff members have hinted that they're happy that I've moved, too, and now they can bypass the main office and come straight to me when they need something. One even said, "You're the only one who ever made me feel welcome in there. The others are rude." So it definitely wasn't just me!

I like the change for more reasons than just being away from the office ladies, though. I've enjoyed having the custodians, students, teachers, aides, therapists, etc. etc. coming and going all day, being friendly and stopping to chat and making me feel welcome in my new spot. Two teenaged girls have been stopping by my desk sometimes to talk about the goldfish. They claim they can tell the boys and girls apart, and they've given five of the nine names: Vinny, Jacob, Kenny, Thelma, and Felicia. Haha!

 I have a feeling I'm going to have some fun in my new spot. I'm already enjoying myself out there, even if the lobby is a bit drafty and cold in the winter. I'll be keeping the sweater handy, and maybe I'll even get a small electric kettle for making cups of hot tea at my desk. 

November is off to a good start.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween

 We had a few trick or treaters tonight, but these were my favorite two:

(Look how Carsen has grown!)

Little P. loves Marco. 

There were plenty of treats for the kiddos...

We walked around the neighborhood with Little P. and a whole lot of my neighbors were giving out candy!  Everyone was very generous and his bucket was almost overflowing when we got back.  We had lots of fun.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2021

Monday quickie

 Apropos of my last post....

I would hate to leave you all with the impression that my book club has huge fancy spreads of food like that on a regular basis. Olenka is crazy--in the best possible way, of course! She loves to entertain, has free time and money to burn, and in this case she hadn't had a chance to host the group in almost two years thanks to Covid. So she did a little extra, even for her. It's definitely not the norm! Several members of the group (the ones who don't like to cook and aren't especially keen on entertaining) will empty a few bags of chips and crackers into bowls, open some jars of salsa and dip, and call it a day. We have fun either way.

What's not fun is that Gregg had to go get a big chunk of flesh cut out of his face today! He'd developed a small tan mole beside his nose that turned out to a deep (and wide) patch of skin cancer. There's a huge bandage on his face right now, and they warned him he'll probably end up with a lot of swelling and a black eye by tomorrow. He can't lift anything or do any vigorous activity for the next 5 days. In fact, the dermatologist told him to take the rest of the week off. 

I'm taking tomorrow off to be with him. His spirits are pretty low tonight, and I think he needs a little extra TLC. 

Back tomorrow...

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Friends and (work) foes

My book club resumed our monthly meetings Wednesday night. Covid infection rates are way down in this area, and once again it seems safe to do so. Olenka was the hostess this time, and while she always puts on a really nice spread, this time she really outdid herself. 

We read The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. I didn't bother to link to it because I thought it was a piece of crap. Everyone else loved it, or said they did, with the possible exception of my friend Marian, whose only comment was "Well, it's certainly no World According to Garp". I thought that a very apt observation, because the author really did seem to be trying to write a sort of John Irving-esc novel. Well, we can't all like everything. I borrowed the book from someone else so at least I didn't pay for it! 

Good book or not, I was grateful for the chance to get away for a couple of hours and spend time laughing with friends. We called Kathleen, our former group leader who moved away last month, and put the phone on speaker so everyone could say hi. We certainly miss her, and it was obvious she misses us too and is lonely. She's in rural New York state helping her (very) elderly mother at the moment. The only other member who didn't come was Sara, whose younger son has asthma and is still a year too young to get the Covid vaccine. We missed seeing her, too.

I'm feeling a little punky today. Yesterday I got a flu shot at work so I'm blaming that for the achy, tired, dragging feeling I woke up with this morning. I've also been under some stress at work which isn't helping. Two women who work with me in the office have suddenly turned into adult versions of middle-school mean girls towards me. I have no idea why.

 I've tried to think how I might have inadvertently offended them, but there really isn't anything. It would be easier if I had (offended them) because then we could talk about it and work it out. No, this is mostly a difference in personalities, but also something deeper. It's me. I attract bullies and always have. That's a hard thing to admit to, a shameful thing. Every day when these women ice me out, pretend I'm invisible, refuse to speak to me or make eye contact unless it's absolutely necessary (but then retreat to one or the other's office to whisper and laugh and gossip together for literally hours) I sit there feeling small on the inside. 

 This might have already been resolved if I were the type of person who could just walk up to them and have it out. That's really hard for me to do, though. I'm not very assertive, and to be honest, I'm afraid I'd cry, which would be humiliating. Of course, they save the worst of their behavior for when no one is around to observe it (particularly the administration) and I'm afraid to complain because of how popular they are with the rest of the staff. The principal is really nice, but he's a typical man in that he doesn't notice these kinds of subtle, catty behaviors. I can't help but wonder if he'll think I'm being overly sensitive or even paranoid if I say anything. 

I'm thankful they're not really creating any problems for me beyond hurting my feelings. The entire rest of the staff at my job is wonderful and I have plenty of good relationships. I might be overworked and doing the job of two or even three people, but I get a lot of respect from everyone except these two. I shouldn't let it bother me as much as it does, honestly. Most days I try to adopt a veneer of cool, distant professionalism and a blank face when they're around. You want to pretend I'm invisible? Ok, I'll ignore you right back. Since they only speak to me these days when it's absolutely necessary, I've starting doing the same in return. It's uncomfortable, but I'm not sure that there's a better solution at the moment.

With everyone else, the students and parents and the rest of the staff, I'm warm and friendly and welcoming. Helpful. Cheerful. I do still like my job, and I'm still very grateful for it. I just wish these two women would move past their (apparent) arrested development and start acting like they work in a middle school, not attend one!

File this under: at least some one appreciates me!  (Just kidding) :) The other day a really nice parent brought me a little Halloween treat as a "thank you" for always being kind and helpful to her and her daughter. It's a tiny s'more kit with a custom Halloween marshmallow on top! Isn't it adorable?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Hey, You.

There have been some big changes in our home aquarium situation. We've had a Blood Parrot cichlid for years that stayed in a 55 gallon tank in the office at the old house, and in a bedroom here. This wasn't a fish we intentionally kept; rather, it was getting beat up in one of Gregg's client's aquariums and he brought it home to save its life. We fully expected it to die, but thanks to lots of care and attention, she came back from the brink, grew, and thrived. (We know it's a "she" because for several years she laid eggs monthly).

Gregg's felt bad for a while now that she's had such a limited space to swim in, and very little attention beyond water changes and daily feeding. Being tucked away in the back of the house meant that she was mostly ignored. To make up for it, he spent this past weekend converting our 120 gallon tank in the den into a new home for her (and setting up another 55 for the smaller schooling fish and plants that had to be moved out). Now this big girl is right in the middle of the household action, and she has 6 feet of space to swim around in. She seems pretty happy with all the extra room and attention!

You can hear the other parrot in the house asking for attention in the background. :)

A couple of weeks ago we finished watching all six seasons of The Americans and really enjoyed it. I'd been looking around for something else to watch, and lo and behold, on Friday night the third season of You had dropped on Netfix! I was so excited! It's been good catch back up with cute-but-creepy Joe and his latest obsession. Lots of fun. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Another one of those days

 Lucky me! I started feeling the unmistakable signs of a UTI yesterday afternoon right before I left work. Talk about a miserable night! I went to the doctor this morning and had my self-diagnosis confirmed, and a prescription was called in for me. Hopefully I'll have some relief soon. In the meantime I have a massive headache, so along with the antibiotic I took some ibuprofen. In the next few minutes I'll be headed back to bed for a good long nap--if Marco will cooperate and stay quiet for a couple of hours, that is. 

Of course, I had to call in sick to work today. I'm sure the two most catty, backbiting, gossipy women who work in the office with me are having to help fill in, and I'm equally sure they're both complaining and trash-talking me. They do with everyone else, after all. Oh well. As long as I'm on good terms with the principal (and I am) then that's all that really matters. I almost never call in sick, and he knows that, but I still got a note from the doctor to excuse the absence.

To add to all this fun, last night we realized that the water coming out of our pipes is light brown! After getting in touch with a couple of neighbors, I found out that such was the case in the whole neighborhood. I called the after-hours emergency number at the water department last night, and then the regular number this morning. The woman I spoke with today told me that they're aware of the problem and would be coming out to fix it. In the meantime, we're using bottled water for drinking. Who knows what's coming out of the tap right now! 

What a day it's been, and it's not even noon yet!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

It's already Sunday

 I finally gave in to my compulsion to own a food dehydrator and ordered one from the bad "A" place (sorry, Maddie) after being unable to find one to buy in person here in town. It took three days to get here and when it finally arrived and I unpacked it, the handle on the door was completely broken off. Shame on Mr. Bezos and his minions! Now I have to return the stupid thing and wait up to a week for my refund. Sigh. So disappointing! I already had a big bundle of bananas and apples I had planned to dry for healthy snacks next week. That won't be happening any time soon, now, and to be honest once I saw how much counter space a dehydrator will take up I'm not sure I want to try to reorder at this point. All the wind went out of my sails when I saw that broken handle.

One thing that did arrive safely was a little red-haired girlie that was a gift from Fresca. She and Marco were instant best friends, and she's brought a little cheer to the house this week. She  hasn't shared her name with me yet, but Marco seems to know it. For the moment, they're keeping their secret.

The girlie was watching me make an apple pie the evening after she arrived. She says that Autumn is her favorite season!

My friend Martina works for a veterinarian. She was upset on our behalf about the puppy situation last month, and yesterday she sent me this via text:

A sweet, 5 month old spaniel mix that was an owner surrender and needs a good home. Martina is having this lucky puppy thoroughly vetted and vaccinated, and she asked me if I'd be interested in setting up a meeting with George. She knows I have a soft spot for spaniels, and this one has lovely, shiny, soft black fur and a nice temperament.

Although we're (once again) sorely tempted, this puppy is a male and we think George would do better with a female. Also, late May or early June would be the absolute best time to adopt a new dog, when I'll have the long summer break at home to help everyone acclimate. I'm afraid we're going to probably pass on this cutie. Martina assures me that they can find him a great home either way, and that we can have a little time to think about it. At least there's a zero percent chance that Martina would flake out on us! She's as trustworthy as they come, especially where animals are concerned. This dog is lucky he landed with someone like her to see to his welfare.

Well, today is the last of my week off. It hasn't been all I hoped for, but the break from the office has been very welcome. The four-day Thanksgiving weekend is still over 6 weeks away, but there's book club and Halloween and Gregg's birthday between now and then to look forward to. Going back is easier with stuff to look forward to.

Enjoy your Sunday, friends.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Family stuff

Yesterday was a tough day for me. Emotional and depressing.

I went to visit my parents for the first time in almost two years. The first year was mainly because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, but then last October we had a huge falling out. We've spoken since then, but the prospect of actually seeing them or going to their house was just too much for all these months. It's caused me a lot of stress and worry and depression, and I even briefly considered cutting all ties with them when things hit their lowest point. Even after they both apologized for hateful and hurtful things they had said to me, I didn't feel comfortable around them for a long time. I still don't, sometimes. Setting boundaries and protecting my own mental and emotional health has been so hard. I've felt really guilty about it all no matter how much I try to reason with myself that I'm doing the best I can. 

The main reason I finally decided to woman up and go visit them is because my dad's health is really bad. Really, really bad. My dad's basic personality is sweet and gentle, although rapidly declining health, myriad medications, and some mental health conditions have led to a few outbursts. Overall, he's still my dad though, and he wanted to see me. My mom and my relationship with her is much more complicated, and that's been the bigger source of stress for me. I was nervous about seeing her for the first time in so long but I decided it was time. 

Well, when I walked in the door my mom came and put her arms around me and started to cry. She held on to me for a long time and sobbed softly against my shoulder. It broke my heart. Just shredded my heart to pieces. 

My dad was glad to see me, too, and I'm really glad I got to see him. His physical condition is somewhat shocking. If he suddenly up and died today, I wouldn't be surprised-- that's how grim things are. What did surprise me is how much my mom's physical and mental health have declined in the past two years, too. They're both in pretty bad shape.

We had a nice enough visit despite how sad I felt the whole time. Mom cooked a roast and we had lunch together. Dad kept up a cheerful demeaner and made a few jokes. I admired the new fence they had installed outside and the neat, well-kept flower beds in front of the house. Then I told a lie and said that I had to be back in Florence at 3pm for an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. I'd promised myself that I'd find a graceful way to leave after two or three hours if I needed to, and I did. I intend to visit again relatively soon, though, and I told them so.

I didn't cry until I was in the car and on the road back home. 

Me and my dad, circa 1982 or so.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Tuesday ramble

The search for a crabapple tree was a total bust. Although there were two or three vendors selling good-size fruit trees at the festival, the only apples were standard size varieties, not crabs. One Asian family had the best selection of trees, but (and this shocked me) they had never even heard of crabapples! It made me wonder if they were just running the stall for someone else. They obviously didn't know much about trees in general. Their little son was adorable, though, and kept trying to help me (aka sell me something). After making calls to several local nurseries, it looks as though we'll have to order a crabapple tree online if we're going to get one. I'm surprised by that.

It was still fun to look around the Fall Festival, though. I had a corn dog and fresh lemonade for lunch, then bought a big bag of fresh apples straight from the North Carolina mountains to bring home. King Luscious, Rome, Granny SmithIt , Fuji, and Golden Delicious were the varieties I picked. I'm planning to make pie tomorrow, but I like them just as well fresh and eaten in thin slices. 

Speaking of apples, I've been on the hunt for a food dehydrator. No one around here seems to carry them in store so it looks like I may have to use Amazon to get one. I would love to start making apple and banana chips for healthy snacks among other things. 

Yesterday I began building a raised bed for next year's garden in my back yard with the border stones that were here when we moved in. There's still some work to do, but I'm excited with how it's turning out so far. You can see the bananas in this picture, and don't they still look good? That's because we keep trimming off all the yellow leaves! They'll be gone before too much longer. 

This afternoon I had lunch with two friends and that was really nice. I had a yummy grilled chicken Greek salad with pita bread and tzatziki on the side.

It was so good to see Marian and Paulette! We passed a pleasant hour, talking over our lunches.

Now I'm back at home, spending the afternoon with George and Marco. I'm making homemade soup for the first time this fall for our dinner tonight, and the house smells wonderful! It's not all that cool outside, but it is overcast, so soup seems appropriate. It's fun to cook and do things around the house on a weekday when one would normally be at work! I'm enjoying this little break.