Sunday, September 25, 2022

It's always something.

This weekend has brought the most wonderful fall weather we've seen so far. The temperatures are in the upper 40's at night and the mid 70's during the day, just perfect. It's so nice to be outside.

The dogs think so, too. Poppy loves spending time outdoors, but George has preferred the air-conditioned house all summer and would rarely venture past the back porch while it was so hot. All that changed on Friday afternoon. It felt so good outside that George actually went out into the back yard with Poppy and wanted to play! They ran and wrestled and acted like two puppies together. We were amused, watching their antics, and happy to see George being so active. 

Well. Turns out, we should have discouraged George's boisterousness. He rounded a corner running at full speed, stumbled slightly, and let out a small yelp. He's been limping ever since. Martina came over the next morning to have a look at him (she's a vet tech) and she thinks there's a strong possibility that he ruptured his cruciate ligament. It's common among bully breeds because of the way their knees and hips are built. 

We had some pain/inflammation medication for dogs on hand, thank goodness, so I've been giving him a dose each morning. He's getting around fairly well, but he puts very little weight on that one back leg. I'll be taking him to the vet when I get off work tomorrow afternoon. Worst case scenario (if it's a complete tear of that ligament) is that he may need surgery. I dread the idea of that! My poor Georgie.

Please send all your best positive thoughts for a much less serious diagnosis when he sees the vet tomorrow! Any dog owners out there who have dealt with these kinds of issues? I'd love to hear about it if you have.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

This week

This week is flying by. Tuesday was another day off work, this time to take Gregg to have another endoscopy. They wanted to do an ultrasound of the lesion on his duodenum. The initial biopsy tested negative for cancer cells, but they wanted to look deeper and more closely just to make sure everything was okay. It turned out to be a totally benign cyst and nothing else. What a relief! I felt pretty sure it was going to be something like that, but Gregg had been worried for weeks. I'm so glad he can put that particular worry behind him now.

All the new asthma meds the doctor gave me have me feeling so much better. I have more energy than I've had in months, not to mention sleeping better and just generally feeling like my old self again. The only hiccup in the medication regime was that they forgot to tell me to rinse my mouth out after using a new inhaler medication each morning. I developed oral thrush, which is no fun at all! Of course, the doctor called in a prescription for something to fix it, and now that I know to rinse after using that inhaler I should be okay going forward. That's a small price to pay to be feeling so much better.

Poppy went to the vet this week for a weigh-in and she's up to 48 pounds! We're really surprised she's turning out to be such a big girl. She's double the weight she was when we adopted her back in April, and since she's not quite a year old yet she may still hit 50 pounds. She's a total delight, although I will admit she's a little bit bossy and stubborn. She's definitely no shrinking violet, that's for sure! She's carrying on that fine tradition of tough women dogs that Ginger started. :)

Work is going fairly well. I'm finally getting used to all my new job responsibilities and I'm feeling more and more capable as the weeks roll on. Although I'll never trust her, my boss has been nothing but complimentary about my work so far, so as long as I stay out of her way and keep my head down, it looks like I'll be able to cruise through this year with a minimum of trouble (fingers crossed). Fall break is coming up at the end of the month. A week off in early October is going to feel wonderful!

It was hot today, but tonight the weather is supposed to take a real turn. The lows will suddenly go down into the 40s and 50s over the next few nights, and the highs are only going to be in the mid 70s. Fall is definitely here! Speaking of which....

Saturday, September 17, 2022


 Today, the one and only Marcoman is 15 years old! Happy Hatchday, Marco!

I decided to make today festive so I invited Marla and Martina over to help us celebrate. I sent Marla the following text last night, and her reply made me laugh.

We had a tiny little party on the porch this afternoon with lots of good treats and hard apple cider!

I even made Cajun spice boiled peanuts in the crockpot overnight. Marco loved those the most!

Many happy returns, buddy!

Monday, September 12, 2022

One thing after another

 I had today off for my appointment with the allergist. They did the allergy tests and here are the things they found that I'm allergic to: dust mites (this was apparently the thing I reacted most strongly to), two types of grasses, two types of outdoor mold, cats (which I already knew), and to a lesser extent, dogs. I'll be starting a weekly regime of allergy shots soon and I've been given a list of things to do in the house to help. Things like getting rid of any rugs too big to throw in the washer with hot water, buying a mattress and pillow covers for the bed (and instructions to wash all bedding in hot water weekly), giving the dogs more baths, and keeping the dogs off the bed and (this will be hard) out of the bedroom. Eventually the immunotherapy shots should either cure (or really improve) my allergies, but it's going to take years.

The real surprise I got at the doctor was when he tested me for asthma. Years ago, I was told I had "mild, intermittent" asthma that flared up along with my seasonal allergies. Well, today I found out that there's nothing mild or intermittent about it. My lung function when I first arrived at the office this morning was only 55% of what it should have been! After giving me some medicine via inhaler they only got it up to about 70%. No wonder I've been feeling bad for months now! Then there's my eczema. It's going through another bad flare and they believe there's also some infection going on with it. So that's another issue we're going to have to tackle.

The doctor assured me that we're going to get all this stuff under control and soon I'll be feeling much, much better. He comes very highly recommended locally, and my visit today went well, so I think I'm finally on the right track to get my health under control. I hope so. The asthma thing is scary.

After I finished at the doctor, I had to go by the dentist. Last Friday afternoon before I left work, I grabbed a piece of hard candy from the bowl in the front office, and when I bit down on it and felt (and heard) a loud crack. I thought, "Uh oh." 

Uh oh was right, a crown had come off one of my molars. On a Friday afternoon with no hope of getting seen until today. So I carefully put the crown back on the tooth, and it fit down snugly with no problem. It felt fine, so silly me, I decided it wasn't going to be a big deal, that I could just breeze into the dentist's office and get it glued back down again. WRONG!

They did an x-ray and found that I'm once again the victim of the horrendous dental care I got a few years ago at another practice. This particular crown was attached to filling material, not the actual tooth, and a crack had formed and decay got inside. It was shoddy dental work, no question about it. Now I have to have a whole new crown, to the tune of $860. And that's after my insurance pays half! (It's going to be the second time I pay for a crown on it). They wanted to do the work today, but I just couldn't handle that on top of everything else. We scheduled it for the first week of October, when I'll be off work for fall break. 

What a depressing day it's been. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Book sale and breakfast

This morning was our local library's annual book sale, an event eagerly anticipated by the bibliophiles in our community. I met up with three of my book club friends there at 9am, which was when the sale began. There was already a large crowd.

Before I left, you know what my husband said to me? "You realize you have stacks of unread books all over this house, right?" The nerve! :)

I did promise to try to rein myself in as much as possible, depending on what I found. We do have a problem with overflowing bookshelves and random piles of books in almost every room! Luckily, this year I didn't find all that much of interest. Two fiction novels in hardback, Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and a nonfiction directory of herbs with beautiful photographs. All three were only a dollar each! That's a great deal.

Afterwards I went to Venus Restaurant with my friends for breakfast. It was nice to sit and drink coffee and talk over a meal after book shopping. We discussed the death of the Queen, naturally, and politics. Everyone agreed that it was so sweet to see Steve Bannon in handcuffs yesterday! We even clicked coffee mugs in a toast over it! 

When we finished breakfast Marian and Karen decided to go back to the book sale. Volunteers were continuously putting out more books as the tables cleared off, and they were hoping to find some more goodies. I opted to go home instead, as did Paulette. I've been here ever since, relaxing with George, Poppy, and Marco. It's been a gray, rainy, cool day...perfect for reading!

Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Queen's passing

I was so sad to hear of the death of Queen Elizabeth II this afternoon. I would like to offer sincere condolences to my friends in the U.K. What a remarkable woman your late Queen was; what a remarkable life. 

May she rest in peace.

I, for one, will miss her bright, beautiful outfits with matching hats! They never failed to make me smile. 

The next photo was shared this afternoon by a friend on Facebook, along with the caption that follows. I think it's a fitting way to end this post. 

May her journey be joyous, and may all who love her be comforted by the memory of a long life well lived.

(This photo was taken earlier this year, and I am envisioning it as her otherworldly escort.)

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Finally, September

Maybe it's just me, but this August seemed like the longest month ever. I blame work stress; a lot of teachers and other staff members have told me they feel the same way this year. In any case, I'm so happy that September has finally arrived! No matter what the temperatures are like, once September begins it seems like fall to me. 

I've been waiting on Tom to make his annual comment about "mists and mellow fruitfulness" but unless I've missed it (which is possible) then I've beaten him to it!

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
  Steady thy laden head across a brook;
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

-John Keats

Now I'm in the mood for changing leaves, cool nights, camping trips, soups and chili instead of salads and grilled meats, and mountain apples arriving in the farmers' markets. Speaking of apples, this showed up on my Facebook "memories" from four years ago today:

My first (and so far, only) attempt at making baked apple roses. I wasn't entirely satisfied with how they ended up looking, but they tasted great! I think slicing the apples thinner before wrapping them in pastry would result in a prettier rose shape; maybe I'll try making them again later this month. It was fun to do. 

Another thing to like about September is that it's time to start decorating with things like pumpkins, gourds, colorful dried ears of corn, and those ubiquitous flowers of autumn here in the south: mums. The farm stand I like to visit (it's only two miles from my house) just got in their first shipment of them yesterday.

Of course, lots of flowers do well around here during our slow, long, mild South Carolina autumn. Even roses often rebloom (after the awful summer heat subsides) this time of year.

Next week middle school and high school football resume. Although I couldn't care less about the actual sport of football, there's something about a game that stirs old, old sense memories of growing up for me. The sound and feel and smell of a football stadium on a chilly autumn night. Bright lights, school band playing, climbing up high to the top of the bleachers for the best view, the smell of popcorn and nachos, then the excitement when the game starts and the announcer calls the plays. My house is close enough to one of the high schools that we can faintly hear the distant sound of the home games while they're going on. It always makes me smile.  Also, in the five years that I've worked at a middle school, I've occasionally stayed late to watch one of our team's home games. It's a fun seasonal activity to do occasionally, like watching one of little Prophet's baseball games in the spring! 

What else? There's so much to like about the arrival of fall!  Since next Monday is Labor Day, there's a three-day weekend coming up. That's going to be a really welcome rest. Then at the beginning of next month we'll have a full week off for fall intercession. I'm really looking forward to that! 

What do you like about the arrival of September?

Saturday, August 27, 2022


The weekend is finally here again! This has seemed like the longest month ever at work. I can't believe we haven't even made it to September yet--the year is practically still just starting. If time flies when you're having fun, I guess the opposite is true, too.

I'm keeping my head down at work. I've seen a few friendly faces from the district office who've visited the school for one reason or another, and that's been a comfort. I'm well-liked by a handful of higher-ups in the district, so hopefully they can vouch for me if I ever need it. I checked into the transfer process, and that's a process that the district doesn't allow to begin until January at the very earliest. So unless something dramatic happens (and I hope it doesn't) I'm stuck for this year. Next spring can't get here soon enough!

We're still waiting on the results of Gregg's biopsy.  He was at the hospital cleaning aquariums yesterday and got someone to call and check, and they were told that "Dr. Wofford has a pile of test results sitting on his desk that haven't been read yet. He won't be back at work until Monday so it will be a few more days". Monday will be three weeks! That's just ridiculous. I still think everything is going to be fine, but I know it's a nagging worry at the back of Gregg's mind and he won't rest easy until he gets some answers. 

I'm tearing down the summer garden tomorrow. I think the tomatoes are pretty much played out (so are the peppers) in the raised bed, and it's time. I also want to start planting fall vegetables next week. I'm thinking of trying more lettuce, spinach, turnips, mustard greens, and maybe a very early (quick) variety of carrots. We have a long growing season and our average first frost isn't until early November so there should be time for most of it. The zinnias in the bed in front of the porch are still going strong, and the butterflies and hummingbirds are still having a very good summer.

Since yesterday was National Dog Day, I tried to get a pretty picture of Poppy standing by the zinnias. She was not impressed with my efforts. None of my dogs ever have been!

There's little chance of getting a picture of George by the flowers. Unless we're hooking him up for one of his twice daily walks around the neighborhood, he prefers to be either inside with the a/c or on the porch under the ceiling fan. George is definitely an inside dog!

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Oh, deer!

Regular readers of this blog may remember that I bought a crabapple tree late in the winter and planted it in our front yard. It arrived as a bare stick (dormant) and for a while this spring we were beginning to wonder if it was really alive. Then, finally, hurray! A nice flush of tender new leaves popped out and we knew it was alive and growing. More and more leaves started to pop out and I was so excited!

Then one morning I got up and all those pretty new leaves were gone--had just disappeared overnight. We'd been seeing a couple of young deer hanging out in our neighbors' yards and I couldn't think of anything else that would have stripped the leaves from a waist high tree like that. I was upset, but I could see new little buds further down the stem getting ready to open. And open they did! Another flush of leaves opened up and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Until about a week later. The same thing happened--all the new growth disappeared overnight.

This has happened three or four times now. Every time the little tree struggles to put out a few new leaves, they promptly disappear. I read somewhere that apple tree foliage is a favorite among deer. What on earth am I going to do? I don't think the little tree will continue to survive if it can't keep leaves for photosynthesis.

I wish I could think of a solution. I'm considering putting some kind of wire cage around it or some netting over it, but of course that's going to look ugly as hell in the front yard! If anyone reading this has any suggestions to deter hungry young deer (that won't look too ridiculous) please share them with me!

The ironic part of all this is that part of the reason we decided on a crabapple tree in the first place is so that the fruit could one day be food for the local wildlife! At the rate things are going, those deer will never see an actual crabapple...and neither will we!

                                              Centurion Crabapple Tree

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Rescued goldfish

 Here's a video I shot this morning of the goldfish we brought home from school a few weeks ago. As you can see, they're enjoying their vacation on the porch!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Forget I ever said anything

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou

Forget every good and positive thing I said about my job and my boss in my last post.

The woman has issues. Clearly.

I (along with three of my colleagues) were subjected to a tirade yesterday the likes of which I haven't seen since I was a manager at Pier 1 Imports and the regional manager would get drunk and call the store and rant and rave and curse if our sales were down. I never expected to be treated like that at this job.

It was so bad one of my coworkers (I'm not sure which one, I only know it wasn't me) called the district office to complain. They sent someone from HR to try to diffuse the situation. It was honestly the most terrible day I've had since I started working there 5 years ago. One of the people subjected to the same treatment later told me that in her 21-year career with our district, she had never been attacked like that. It was all seriously unhinged.

One of the outcomes is that I won't be doing two jobs anymore. The HR person they sent to diffuse the situation confirmed that other schools always have at least two people doing the work I've been given. My boss asked (not me) and that was the answer she got. Sounds good, right? Now I can relax and do one do-able job, right? Wrong! 

Last night I got copied on email sent to someone in personnel, asking her to start "looking for alternative placements and possibilities for Barlow". Then my boss called me at home just to say, "Are you okay, Ms. Barlow?" in a sticky-sweet, fake voice. This was all beyond bizarre. When I insisted on clarification about the "alternative placements and possibilities" line, she seemed embarrassed and finally said I'd stay on to do one job and they'd hire someone else to do the other, but I don't believe her. I think she wants me gone. 

I've already started reaching out to friends in the district, looking for a new school to transfer to. Even if I can continue where I'm at, I don't want to. I can't work for someone who behaves like this. I can't have my job threatened on a whim when I haven't done anything wrong. I can't take that kind of stress and I know I deserve better! Yesterday I couldn't eat all day, couldn't sleep last night, was just consumed with anxiety. I can't live like that long term.

So yeah, forget all the good stuff I said.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

This and that on a Thursday afternoon

Happy Friday Eve! (As a coworker of mine used to say)

It's been another long and busy week. My new job is absolutely crushing me at the moment. There's so much to do, and not enough hours in the day to get to everything. Most afternoons I end up staying over anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour beyond when I'm supposed to get off. I don't get paid overtime, either. 

On the bright side, I'm learning a lot, and my new boss has had nothing but praise for the job I'm doing. She's been very friendly and kind, which is saying something because most of the staff is terrified of her! She's already demoted and fired some people and threatened to fire others. It's obvious she came to our school with the intention to "clean house" so to speak, so I'm grateful that I keep getting more responsibilities, not less! She's told me that I'm valuable to her and that she has faith in me to do a good job. She shows she means it by leaving me strictly alone to manage my own workday and tasks. So far, so good...although I'm still nervous about her. It's hard not to be when almost everyone else walks around on eggshells all the time! Hopefully she'll settle into her new job soon, and then everyone will be able to relax a little. 

Gregg had his colonoscopy on Monday, and it turns out his oncologist had also ordered an endoscopy to be done at the same time. The colonoscopy was all clear, but the endoscopy showed a "nodule" on his duodenum. The doctor took samples to biopsy and we probably won't hear anything until the middle of next week. That's kind of scary. The doctor was careful to not say much of anything about it one way or the other, and was out the door in less than a minute. There's nothing to do but wait and see. 

What else? I spoke to Prophet (Little P.) and his mom the other day! They're both doing well, and we've made plans to have dinner together one night next week. I sure miss seeing them both at work, though!

I don't know how to end this post so I'll just sign off with a picture I just snapped of Marco T. Barlowamusing himself with chewing on an ink pen while I type away at the computer. He's still up to his devilish bird business, just like always! 

* Marco will be 15 years old next month! I was thinking of having a little hatchday party for him...but would that be too weird?! I could invite all his favorite people over, and we could have birthday cake and deviled eggs (hahaha!) and wine, which he also likes. What do you think?

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Three days off

 A good Sunday evening to everyone! I'm right in the middle of a three-day weekend, so I've been pretty lazy. I've messed around in the garden, cleaned and refilled the hummingbird feeder, and spent some time in the hammock with a book. As of 4pm I haven't even gotten around to taking a shower yet. It's been nice!

The reason I don't have to work tomorrow is because I have to drive Gregg to a colonoscopy appointment. Since today is his "prep day", he isn't having nearly as nice a time as I am! At least he's no stranger to the procedure. He's had at least three others that I remember so he knows what to expect. 

I was pleased that my boss didn't seem to mind me taking the day off. When I sent her an email reminder of it the other day she responded by wishing Gregg well and by saying that I would be missed at work. I still can't figure her out, but so far so good.

I took a few more butterfly and zinnia photos today. 

We have seen other types of butterflies, but I never manage to get good photos of any of the others. I'm in love with zinnias this summer; I'll definitely plant more next year (and I hope some of the current ones go to seed and resprout, too). The butterflies and hummingbirds and bees all seem to love them.

I'm off now to figure out what to do about dinner. I hate the thought of eating in front of Gregg, since he can't eat anything today. I may see if a friend wants to go out and grab a bite later, or I may just go get some Chinese takeout (not Gregg's favorite) and eat at the table by myself. 

I'm really glad to have tomorrow off work, even though it's too bad that it's at Gregg's expense! I'm going to take a book with me to read while I wait. Hopefully, we'll be home by early afternoon and the rest of the day will be free. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022


 Martina got a new puppy! Today she brought him over for the first time so that he could meet Poppy. His name is Harker, and we hope they can be good friends. (I kept George inside for this first visit, but later on we'll work on introducing them, too).

I took this video within a few minutes of Poppy meeting Harker. They liked each other immediately and spent a good hour and a half playing! Isn't he a cutie?

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Week two: settling in

Week two of work is now done. Despite the fact that each day flew by (there's so much on my plate now) the week seemed terribly long. The students came back to school on Monday, so the new year started for real.

I still don't know what to make of my new boss. On Monday afternoon I noticed that three of the office women had little arrangements of flowers delivered and sitting on their desks. I asked the secretary, "Those are so pretty! Who sent them to you?" and she said, "Miss (principal's firstname)!"  She had flowers delivered to the secretary, the bookkeeper, and the student data manager/registrar. Guess which "office lady" didn't get any flowers? Yep. I was the only one. I didn't know what to think. It's weird for her to send flowers for no apparent reason to a few staff members in the first place, but then to leave me out was not only strange, but rude. My feelings were hurt. I wondered what it could mean. Then I decided, to hell with it. If she wants to be weird and rude and to play favorites, I guess that's her business. My business is to do the best job I can, to learn a lot of new skills, and then to move along at the end of the year if I'm not valued where I am. I let it go, but I still think it was shitty of her. 

Then, to really make things confusing, on Wednesday night she sent me an email. She said, "I just wanted you to know how proud I am of the wonderful job you're doing getting the permanent records back in order. Excellent work!" Honestly, I'd rather have validating words like that than flowers, but it sure seems like a lot of mixed messages. I guess time will tell.

I do like the challenge of my new job duties. By the time I left yesterday I felt like I was finally beginning to gain my footing a little bit. I've made a good start and I've learned a whole lot already. I miss working closely with the students and really getting to know them, though. A few kids asked what had happened to me (since I'm no longer at the desk in the lobby) and came and found my office to give me a hug. One was a trans boy named Nick who's living in a foster home. We've been special friends since last year and I try to be loving and accepting to him--something he desperately needs.  I was genuinely so happy to see him, and he knows it. We spent a good ten minutes catching up before I sent him on to class. Another day, I was in the cafeteria at lunchtime and heard someone say, "Hey Ms. Barlow!!" I turned around and it was another boy that would sometimes stop by my desk and talk last year. He'd grown a tiny little wispy moustache over the summer (!!) so when he came over to hug me, I said, "Caleb! Look at you! You've grown about a foot taller over the summer and you have a moustache now, too!" He smiled shyly and said, "I have a beard now too! But I shaved it." Haha! Judging by how wispy his little moustache was, I doubt he has any serious need to shave. I pretended to be impressed, though, because he was very proud. Isn't that adorable? So, I'll definitely miss the close relationship with kids after this current batch of returning students move on to high school. That won't happen while I'm  tucked away in an office somewhere, of course.

So that's it for me this week. I've been reading blogs on my lunch break and sometimes after work, but now blogger won't allow me to comment on most blogs when I'm using my phone. I still regularly have to go retrieve "good" comments from the spam folder, too. I know blogger is a free service, but I really wish some of theses issues would get resolved. I've been really tired these past two weeks but that's starting to get better. When I left work yesterday, for the first time this year, I felt like I was finally starting to get my footing a little bit with my "new" jobs. I'll try to *blog about something else besides work going forward. I'm sure it's getting boring.

Have a nice weekend, my friends!

*Tuesday will be my blog's 12th birthday!! I can't even believe I've been at this blogging thing for that long! Read my very first (very short) post here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


 We're having a surprise for supper tonight! 😁 

I pulled this frozen entrée out of the freezer (because there's nothing else to eat in the house at the moment) and I have no idea what it is.

It might be chili! It might be spaghetti sauce! Hell, it might even be beef stew!   Only time (and the defrost function on my microwave) will tell. 

This passes for excitement in my house these days. 😩😅

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!