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.