Sunday, July 31, 2022

This is why

When I talk about my garden, people are always surprised at how many tomatoes and peppers I plant. This year I ended up with 14 tomatoes and 15 peppers (cayenne, jalapeño, and sweet banana). I realize that's a lot for two people!

Once again, it's been a hard summer to try to grow a garden. Weeks upon weeks of unrelenting heat and humidity, long stretches of no rain followed by too much rain all at once, and the ever-present insect pests have severely impacted productivity. Despite all that, though, here are pictures of what I've harvested in the past three days:

It pays to have extra plants to make up for the inevitable losses!

Saturday, July 30, 2022

How it's going

 Happy Saturday, all! 

Thanks for all the encouraging comments on my last post. I've been wanting to respond to them all individually, but this week has been extremely busy, and I'm just plain worn out! Know that I read and appreciated every single one of them. 

Work has been okay. Except for physically going into the same building each morning, I feel like I have a completely new job. Well, I suppose I do. After five years of being the receptionist, the first point of contact for everyone coming into the school and surrounded by people all day, every day, now I'm tucked away in the back by myself with totally different responsibilities. My new job title is Attendance and Records Clerk. Both of those things (attendance and records) are enough to be a whole job in themselves, but I'm used to having a large workload. At least now I can work all day without interruptions, which should really lower my stress level once I'm fully trained and know what I'm doing. 

No one besides me (and occasionally, the guidance counselors) is even allowed in the room with students' permanent records now. Things had devolved last year into kind of a free-for-all where teachers and other staff just came and went in there whenever they felt like it or needed something from a file. This is a major breach of confidentiality and actually illegal under SC state law! I spent the last two days this week beginning an audit of every single record, and they're an absolute mess. I only got as far as finishing the sixth grade, so it's going to take at least two (maybe three) more days of work to complete the audit. That's not counting the work it will take to resolve the problems I'm noting.  All told, we have about 800 students enrolled this year, so you can imagine what size job I'm talking about.

I'm also newly in charge of record requests. Scanning records and sending them out to other schools via email isn't that hard, but it is time consuming. The same goes with requesting the records for students new to our school. Since it's the beginning of the year, we're inundated with requests right now and I have a huge pile of them to take care of next week. Thank goodness they'll slow down to a trickle after the first few weeks. Or so I'm told.

The students come back on Monday, so in addition to the stuff I've already mentioned, my role as the attendance person will begin. There's a lot of record keeping involved in that, too. Mountains of it, in fact. Some of it I'm already familiar with, but most of it is new to me, too.

It's all kind of a lot.

The first part of the week I felt completely overwhelmed. As busy and stressful as my previous role was, after five years at it at least I knew what I was doing! There's a certain comfort in that. Now everything is new to me, and I have a lot to learn, and it's all stuff that's important to get right. I want to do a good job, and I plan to try hard. If nothing else, I'll gain really valuable skills for transferring to another school (or even the district office) down the road if I decide I want to. The principal has been very nice to me and has had nothing but good and encouraging things to say so far. She asked the head of the records department at the district office to come spend a day training me, and that was really helpful. I'm still wary of trusting her too much, but so far, so good.

So, I survived week one. I've been really tired and I expect that to continue for the next few weeks, but after that everything should settle down. And can you believe it's almost August already?

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Tears over toast

It's my last weekend off before returning to work. I plan to spend today and tomorrow at home, reading and puttering around my garden and spending time with Marco, George, and Poppy. All the things I'll be missing next week.

Over breakfast the other morning, my husband and I were talking about problems he's having with one of his more difficult aquarium clients. My return to work has been looming in the back of my mind all week, so I said to him, "If it makes you feel any better, I'm dreading next week" and before he could even respond, to my surprise, my eyes filled with tears.

Yes, all of a sudden, I was crying at breakfast over going back to work. 

Gregg was kind of alarmed. I had to assure him that I was okay, and not nearly as worried and anxious as all that. I'm sure everything is going to be alright. Maybe things will even be better than I expect! One can hope, anyway. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Party recipes

The food I made for last night's book club was a success! Everyone seemed to enjoy it, but nevertheless I wondered why I went to so much trouble when everyone would have liked simple food/store bought stuff almost as much. Still, I host the group so rarely that I wanted to go to the extra trouble and make some good stuff to share.

I started the night before and grilled fresh corn. After it cooled, I cut it off the cob and added drained and rinsed black beans, diced red and green bell peppers, red onions, and halved cherry tomatoes. I made a salad dressing to stir in with lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, garlic, salt, and cumin. After refrigerating it overnight, I added soft crumbly Mexican cheese to the salad and it was ready to go.

Next, I made guacamole, which I'm known for in our group. It's very simple: mashed avocados*, finely diced red onion, minced jalapenos, lime juice, and sea salt. It's so simple to make, and there's never any left over. I like to serve it with both white and yellow corn tortilla chips. 

I also made a faux Boston Creme Pie. The recipe called for making a yellow cake from a boxed mix in a 13x9 pan, letting it cool, and poking large holes all over the surface. Then you mix up instant vanilla pudding, and before it sets you pour it over the cake so that the pudding seeps into the holes. The cake (it's called pie but of course it's really cake) sits in the refrigerator until cool, then you add the chocolatey topping. The topping is made by bringing heavy cream to a simmer, pouring it over chocolate chips and a tablespoon of corn syrup, and stirring it all until it's smooth and glossy. This gets poured over the custard-y top of the cake and then you pop the whole thing back in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. It was delicious, and probably the biggest hit of everything I made. It tastes just like a classic Boston Creme Pie.

Yesterday I made the other two things I planned to take. BLT pinwheel sandwiches made with crumbled bacon, romaine lettuce, diced heirloom tomatoes from my garden, and a spread made with cream cheese, mayonnaise, and chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil with herbs. All these ingredients were rolled into sundried tomato wraps. They were a lot of trouble, but scrumptious. 

The last thing I prepared was a medley of melons: cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, cut into balls and using half of the watermelon rind for a bowl. It came out really nice and the cool melon was perfect for a hot day. 

*Anyone else having trouble finding good avocados these days? No matter where I shop in Florence it seems like they're slow to ripen, somewhat hard even after they turn dark, and just not good quality in general. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Tuesday miscellany

It's the last week of my summer break. This hasn't been a very good summer, I'm sorry to say, with the exception of having Poppy this year. She's such a sweet girl!

This was her in the car on the way home after her spay surgery on Wednesday. She was groggy and out of it for the rest of the night from the anesthesia.

After that first night she was mostly back to normal. I was supposed to keep her still and quiet for the several few days, but that's been a joke. She's a really active girl and it's hard to get her to settle down when she's feeling playful. George was so sweet when Poppy went to the vet that day; he whined and moped when I came back without her, and when she got home that evening he stayed by her side until bedtime. It makes me happy that they love each other.

Yesterday Gregg and I removed the last aquarium from the school. He'd been maintaining at least one of them for over 10 years! It's disappointing that it ended the way it did. Moving them out was a lot of work, and he didn't get so much as a "thank you" for doing it. If not for the fact that I have to work there and I don't want any trouble, he'd send them a big bill for all the hours of work it took.  Plus, we're stuck with all the fish from both aquariums at our house, in temporary tanks set up for them, until we can figure out a good place for them to go. There's also one of the tanks sitting empty in our hallway. It's all been a really big hassle and a lot of inconvenience. It stings that there hasn't been one word of thanks for any of it.

Tonight, I'll start making food for our book club meeting tomorrow. I'm the host this month, but Sara offered to have the meeting at her house so we could all use her pool. We decided that I'll make the food and take it over, and she'll supply the beverages and the pool.  I'm so behind on housework that it would take me the whole day tomorrow to clean enough for company. I don't mind cooking, but cleaning is another story! And I've been so, so tired lately.

 I don't know if it's the heat, the stress, or simply hormones (or some combination of all three) but despite sleeping a lot I'm having a hard time dragging myself out of bed in the morning. All I want to do is lie around and read a book. (I bought a lot of good reading material at the used bookstore in Raleigh). Also, did I mention that I've done something to my back? I've had lower back pain for almost two weeks now. It's been too painful (not to mention too hot) to walk very much, and that's probably part of the reason for my energy slump. 

That's all for today. I hope you all are well and keeping cool if you're in the grip of a heatwave. That includes most of my blogger friends, I think.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The weekend and other stuff

 Our girls' weekend in Raleigh was a lot of fun. If you get the chance to visit the Van Gogh immersion experience, do it! It was gorgeous, particularly the "immersion room" where it honestly looked like the paintings were coming to life, and the lights and music and narration were...*chef's kiss*. If anyone is interested, I posted 5 very short videos from inside on my Youtube channel which should give you an idea of what it looked like. Here are three of them:

We had a nice room with comfortable beds at Hotel 83 . We also had some wonderful meals in downtown Raleigh. We visited a used/rare bookstore after Van Gogh on Saturday, and that was a genuine pleasure  (we all spent too much money there!) It's so nice to visit a real city with lots of diversity in its people and lots of things to do and see. I did miss Gregg and the puppies, though. While we were waiting for a table to eat brunch just prior to leaving on Sunday, we browsed a nearby pet store, and I bought the dogs a new toy and some treats. They were so happy to see me when I got home! So was my husband. We're not used to spending any time apart, and it felt good to be home.

Gregg's sister Karen joined us for the Van Gogh Experience since she lives in Raleigh.

While shopping at the pet store Sunday morning we met a sweet dog named Edith! Which is funny because that's my late mother-in-law's name...and she lived in Raleigh, too.

The tug-o-war toy and treats I brought home for George and Poppy.

The weekend away was really good for me. I'm trying my best to keep my anxiety about the new school year at bay. I've had some more interactions with my new boss since getting home, and they weren't very reassuring. For someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, this kind of stress can quickly overwhelm me. I'm keeping a close eye on my symptoms so I can see the doctor if things start to escalate. But enough about that. 

Today Poppy is at the vet getting spayed. I've gotten two texts from Martina letting me know that she did fine and is resting in their recovery area. I can pick her up between 3 and 5 this afternoon, and they'll be sending her home with pain medication. My poor little girl! George is so worried about her. When I came back from dropping her off, he whined and whined when he saw she wasn't with me. He's moping around the house and looking miserable. My sweet boy! He'll be so happy to see her this afternoon!

Friday, July 8, 2022

The weekend is here!

 Martina, Marla, and I will be leaving for our fun weekend this afternoon! It's going to be good to get away for a couple of days, and I'm especially looking forward to our Van Gogh immersion experience. I'm going to do my best to forget about work and to enjoy myself and the company of my friends.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I'm sure I'll have lots to blog about when I get back.


Thursday, July 7, 2022

Job responsibilities (update in the comments)

 I'm getting pretty tired of going up to the school during my summer break. It's been necessary this year because there's no one working through the summer that can (or would be willing to) feed the fish and put fertilizers in the planted aquarium. I've been going up at least twice (sometimes three times) a week to do those things. It's less than two miles from my house and it only takes a few minutes, but after getting let down over the job promotion my heart just hasn't been in it. Then on Tuesday afternoon I had to go up there with Gregg. The principal wanted the big aquarium in the lobby moved to an inner hallway of the office area. It was a big job, but he's a professional and he had it done and looking great in just over 2 hours. I mainly just hung out with him and watched.

I also had another talk with the principal while I was there, at her invitation. When the secretary position didn't work out, I had had a long discussion with her about my current job responsibilities and how overwhelmed I was. How there wasn't adequate staff to cover me when I needed to take a sick day or even a lunch break sometimes. How I had gradually ended up doing the job of two or even three people. So when she asked to speak with me while Gregg worked on the aquarium, she wanted to run some ideas past me for making things better. 

First of all, she told me that she couldn't get the district office to approve an addition a dedicated secretary for the guidance department, at least not at this time. That was her first thought for me. Instead, she's giving me a private office and my job description is going to change and I'll be responsible for attendance and discipline record keeping, as well as conducting truancy interventions with families. I'll be the person that helps the guidance department with their records, too.

I'll no longer have to be in the main lobby by the front door, monitoring the camera and who to let in. At the end of last year, they installed weapons detectors and those have to be monitored now, too. I won't have to sign out students, or answer the main phone line, or be the first point of contact for all visitors. Some of that I'll miss, but I won't miss the feeling of juggling dozens of tasks all day long and barely able to keep up. It should be less stressful, and I can take a day off without worrying about anyone having to cover for me. Most of my daily work is about to become much more tedious and pretty boring, but it's essential stuff for the running of the school, and a private office makes up for a lot. It's no extra money, beyond the "step" increase we all get this year, but my stress level should go down after the initial learning curve of my new responsibilities is over. 

While I was typing this the principal called me and asked if I'd be willing to work the student registration days, July 18th and 19th. Of course, I said yes, but........damn it! Two more days chipped off my much-needed summer break. Sigh. I will get extra pay for those two days, though, since I'm not under contract to work them. My first official day back at work is July 25th. It's going to be a very different school year. I hope it's better.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

That face!

These photos were taken the moment after Poppy took a running leap up into the hammock beside me the other day. How adorable is this little girl?! 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

July plans

I'm feeling rather flat today. I can't seem to muster motivation to do much besides sitting around around watching tv or taking naps. I did download a couple of new e-books to read yesterday: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and My Real Children by Jo Walton. I love both these authors, so I expect the books to be good. Maybe something entertaining to read will help me shake off the despondency I'm feeling. I only have three weeks of summer vacation left and then it's back to work (which I'm suddenly much less excited about).

Next weekend should be good, though. Marla, Martina and I will finally be taking our trip out of town. We settled on Raleigh, NC because of the Van Gogh Immersive Experience. Marla's husband booked us two nights in a really nice, modern hotel that looks wonderful. We're also making plans to have a couple of nice meals, since the area is known for lots of great restaurants. Gregg's sister Karen is going to join us for the Van Gogh thing, since she lives in Raleigh. We've agreed not to mention to Lou (my step father-in-law) that I'll be in town. I would love to see him, but since we're only there for a couple of days I'd feel rude leaving my friends during our girls' trip to visit family. I can always drive up to Raleigh another time for that. 

The week after we get back, we've set an appointment to get Poppy spayed. I've tried to put it off as long as possible, since too-early spaying or neutering can have negative health consequences for a young dog. Now that she's around 8 months old, though, she could go into her first heat at any time. The vet assures us that it's safe and a good time to go ahead. Plus, if I do it before I go back to work, I can be home all day with her while she recovers. 

The last week before I head back to work will see me hosting my book club for July. I'm actually providing all the food and drink, but the actual meeting will be at Sara's house. She has a pool, and we like to meet at pool owning member's homes during the summer. I was thrilled when she suggested her house because I won't have to go into a frenzy of house cleaning ahead of time! It's always so stressful to me to have lots of people over, even if they are my friends. Since we'll be at Sara's, I can concentrate on the part of hosting I love: preparing the food! I have lots of ideas about good stuff to make, and I'm looking forward to it.