Saturday, January 28, 2023

Church ladies

There's a certain breed of little old ladies here in the South that are slowly going away, never to be replaced. I was thinking of this the other day when I read Tom's recent post titled "Vanished ladies". The women I'm talking about are very different in some ways than the ones he describes, but I understand his nostalgia when he thinks of them.

My friend Marla's grandma is a good example. Miss Mildred (around here we call elderly folks Miss or Mr. Firstname as a mark of respect) is 94 years old and the matriarch of her family. She's gentle, sweet, soft spoken, and in the old-fashioned sense of the word, a real lady. On the other hand, she grew up on a farming family of modest means (like most people of her generation around here) and knew all about hard work.  In her old age she's become one of what we call "little church ladies" because they're deeply involved in the workings of their church, doing lots of unpaid (and underappreciated) tasks behind the scenes. 

My neighbor was one such lady. She passed away unexpectedly last weekend.

Miss Luella was a couple of months shy of her 84th birthday. One of her daughters called me last Monday to give me the sad news and thanked me for being "a good neighbor" to her mama. I was shocked to hear what had happened to her. Apparently, she went out to get her mail on the previous Friday afternoon and stumbled coming back up the steps to her door. When she stumbled, she fell and hit her head on the headrail. She went inside and told her daughter (who had been staying with her for the past year) what had happened, and insisted she was fine. Nothing hurt, she felt good, and she didn't even have a bruise. She was fine all that night, fine all day Saturday, and Sunday morning drove herself to church, still feeling fine. 

On Sunday night, all of a sudden, she said she'd developed a bad headache. Her daughter asked her how bad, based on a scale of 1-10. Luella said, "Eight. I sure hope I'm not having a stroke!" Of course, the daughter called an ambulance. By the time it arrived, she was becoming unresponsive, and was brain dead within the hour. In the early hours of Monday morning. there was nothing left to do but take her off life support. She was gone.

You probably know where this story is headed. Miss Luella had an undiagnosed brain bleed from her fall two days prior. The doctors said that even had they known about it, they probably couldn't have prevented her death. The capillaries in her brain were thin due to age, and she was taking a lot of blood thinners.  

I've been so sad about this all week. The night after she died one of her young adult grandsons rang our doorbell to give us the news, not realizing his aunt has already told us. He cried and said that Gregg and I had been really good neighbors to his grandma and thanked us again for looking out for her. (We didn't do much; usually Gregg would try to roll her big garbage can out to the street on the morning of pickup and then back under the carport afterwards, and occasionally I'd stop by with tomatoes or lettuce from the garden or we'd chat over the back fence like neighbors do). She had a large, tight knit family that were always gathering at her house. She was lucky in that respect. I guess she was lucky, too, to live such a long happy life surrounded by loved ones, and then to die so suddenly and easily without any real declining health to make her last days miserable. 

She's going to be dearly missed as a neighbor. She bought the house next door to ours back in 1971 with her late husband, so she's been here longer than I've been alive. Her house is the one with the magnificent magnolia tree that blooms so beautifully each spring. It already has big fuzzy buds all over it, just waiting to burst into its spring finery. And for the first time in over 50 years, she won't be here to see it.

I posted this photo on Facebook last year and tagged Luella. I said, "Your tree is glorious, as usual!" and she replied, "Thanks! It is. Only God could make something so beautiful. Happy that you're enjoying the tree with me."

May she rest in peace.

 FLORENCE – Luella Morris Caulder, 83, died Monday, January 23, 2023, after a brief illness.

          Funeral services will be 11:00 a.m., Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Northgate Baptist Church followed by entombment in Florence Memorial Gardens Mausoleum.  The family will receive friends from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, at Waters-Powell Funeral Home.

          Mrs. Caulder was born in Lake City, SC, a daughter of the late Clarence Douglas and Eula Mae Morris Clark.  She graduated from Lake City High School as class salutatorian in 1957.  She was the attendance clerk at Savannah Grove Elementary School in Florence for 29 years.

          She was an active member of Northgate Baptist Church and sang in the church choir.

          In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her husband, Raymond Nathaniel Caulder.

          Surviving are her children, Wendy Caulder Davis, Jill Caulder, and Douglas Caulder (Kelly), all of Florence.  She is also survived by her grandchildren, whom she loved dearly, Johanna Davis Jones (Steven) of Darlington, Evan Caulder, Harrison Caulder, and Kathryn Caulder, all of Florence; her sister, Miriam Blackmon, of New Zion, SC; great-grandchildren, Gaven Yarborough, Bailey Yarborough, Carson Yarborough, Gavin Jones, and Kennedy Jones; a great-great-grandchild, Levi Felder; and a number of nieces and nephews.

          Memorials may be made to Northgate Baptist Church, 1217 N. Ebenezer Rd., Florence, SC  29501.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Dinner date

After work today I met up with my favorite kid (and his mom) for Mexican food. It was so good to see them both!

In the middle of dinner Little P. said to us, "You two sound just like the girls at my school. Talk, talk, talk....about other people!" I replied, "Are you saying that your mom and I are gossiping?" and he said, "YUP!"


I love that little boy to bits. He always makes me laugh!

Saturday, January 21, 2023

More work drama

Yesterday the school secretary/office manager was out sick. Again. Calling off work is a weekly occurrence for her, but unfortunately this time the bookkeeper and receptionist had also requested the day off, too, leaving the front office and lobby very understaffed.

The Student Data Manager graciously offered to sit in the lobby all day to fill in for the receptionist, and I (less graciously, though only on the inside) offered to fill in for the secretary and run the front office. The principal thanked me several times, so that was nice. 

And it was a day from hell, let me tell you. It started off with a teacher getting fired (and the police called!) over an unfortunate situation in the gym. This gentle giant of a teacher (almost seven feet tall, and big) was playfully roughhousing with some older boys.  One of the boys (still playing around) removed his belt and swung it at the teacher. In response, the teacher pulled the boy into a playful headlock, which was fine, but when he let him go, the kid stumbled, fell down the bleachers, and got a gash over his left eye. The parents were furious and are planning on pressing charges. The teacher was sitting in the office most of the morning, tears running down his face, while periodically having to go give statements to the police and our district HR person. I felt so sorry for him. The boy wasn't badly hurt, and no one meant for that to happen, but to be fair the teacher had no business playing like that with students. Anyway, he didn't get arrested, thank goodness, but he did get fired on the spot. 

The rest of the day was also chaos. Two big fights broke out and four more students will be getting expelled, making a total of 10 expulsion hearings I've had to schedule in just the last two weeks. Then at the very end of the day a kid waiting in the car line threw a cell phone at another boy's face. The boy that got hit in the face came running through the halls, sobbing, with blood streaming from his nose and mouth. What a way to cap off a Friday, huh?

I often say that there's never, ever a dull moment working in a middle school, but yesterday was a kind of extreme example. I jokingly said to the principal at some point that I had forgotten "how exciting" the front office can be! She responded that she was so grateful that I was the one up there taking care of everything, and how it made things easier for her. The secretary I was filling in for, while a nice woman, is young and immature for her age, has never had a job remotely like working in a school, and, if I'm being honest, has made very little effort to learn how to do anything. When faced with something she doesn't know how to do, she'll whine and complain and find someone else to help her do it, without bothering to pay attention so she'll know what to do next time. She was a poor choice for the position, and I'd be lying if I said I don't get a small bit of enjoyment watching the principal having to suck it up and deal with her after passing me over for the position last summer!

One of the last things the principal asked me to do yesterday was to draft a letter to parents of car riders who are chronically very late picking their children up, explaining the consequences of repeated late pick-ups. She was rushing to her office to take a phone call, and said, "Ms. Barlow, please compose a letter for me about this issue, bring me a copy to sign, and then make a few dozen copies on school letterhead." I said, sure, no problem, and had it done in less than 10 minutes. When she saw the finished product, she said, "This is fabulous. Thank you so much!" and since it was getting towards the end of the day I started to walk to my office to gather my things and go. She called for me as I was walking away and said, "Ms. Barlow, will you step in my office for a minute, please?" I had a funny feeling of what was coming. She shut the door behind us.

"Ms. Barlow, today has been wonderful having you in the front office. You made a hard day easy for me and handled everything with grace and professionalism. Even that letter I had you draft for me; if I'd asked Shelly (the secretary) to do that, she would have spent the next hour asking me so many questions about what to do that I'd have been better off doing it myself. It's just not working out with her. Would you consider taking her job next year?"

I wasn't sure how to respond. I asked, "What about the job I'm doing now? Attendance and keeping school records is a huge job, with lots of work and a lot to learn. I'm still learning, in fact. Who would do that?" and she sighed, and said we'd probably have to hire from outside to replace me, and that I do a great job in my current position, and "God, I really need two of you to do BOTH jobs haha..."  She said that it would make her life so much easier to have a capable office manager that she really hoped I'd consider it and they'd find someone else to fill my job if I agreed. I told her I'd need to think it over, and she said, "Go home and talk it over with your husband this weekend, and we'll talk again on Monday." 

Can you believe this crazy woman?! 

First, she asks me if I'm interested in the job (back over the summer) and then when I schedule a time to go talk to her about it, she hires someone else the day before our interview. Now she sees that it was a bad hire and wants me to consider the job again now that she sees that I'm capable and a hard worker (and the person she hired is a dud!). If she wasn't my boss, I'd give her a piece of my mind. Honestly, I feel like she owes me an apology for last summer though of course I'd never tell her that.


What I plan to do is just wait and see how things pan out. This woman is impulsive and there's a not-zero chance that when Monday rolls around she won't mention any of this again. I've learned that it's wisest to just take anything she says with a grain of salt and politely ignore the weirdness and drama. Of course, I want to make more money (and it would be a lot more) but the plan has been to find a place to do that in another school. I'm thinking that if I bide my time and think over any options carefully, everything should come right in the end. I hope so. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Girl Boss

When we adopted Poppy last spring, we thought she was going to grow up to be a small, sweet, and somewhat meek dog. We didn't hear her bark once the first week we had her, and she was so little!

Now she's a year old, and we couldn't have been more wrong. She's got a big personality (my husband calls her "bossy") and she's not one to take on a secondary role. When we first got George, he followed Ginger's lead in everything, but we thought that was just because of the age difference. He's such a big strong fellow that we just assumed that a new puppy, particularly a female, would fall behind him in the pecking order. Even though he's older, and a male, he pretty much always takes a step back and lets her go first in everything.  You can see it in pictures:   


Somehow, we've ended up with two dominant female dogs who think they rule the roost! George doesn't seem to mind, though. In fact, him and Poppy are now best friends!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Check your spam!

I think Blogger is acting up again. I found some friends' comments in my spam folder, and I've noticed some comments I left on other blogs this morning never showed up. 

If that's been a problem for you in the past, you might want to check!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Last Saturday

Last Saturday I met a friend early in the morning for a cup of coffee and a walk afterwards. There's a new(ish) coffee shop right around the corner from my house that has access to a hiking trail nearby. My friend and I settled down with our black coffees (we're both trying to cut down on sugar and lose some weight) in the bustling little cafe and had a chat before going on our walk.

Naturally, the subject of work came up. I confided that the day before I'd heard someone (who would know) mention that the school secretary makes $***** per year. This is the secretary whose job our new principal asked me if I was interested in, set up a time to meet with me and talk about it, and then hired the day before our interview. I'd gotten over not being given a chance at the job, but then when I found out what a huge increase in salary it would have been for me, I got mad all over again. It felt good to vent to a friend about it. 

But then, in the course of the conversation I mentioned how much of a difference making almost double my current salary would make in my life. My friend stared at me for a few seconds with something like astonishment (and horror) written all over her face and then exclaimed, "You mean you only make $***** a year?!"  Um....yes. 

She sat looking at me for a few more seconds, made a few halfhearted suggestions about asking for a raise, and then completely changed the subject. She spent the next 20 minutes or so talking about her upcoming trip to Mexico (her third international trip in less than two years). I finally interrupted to say we'd better start on our walk if we were going to get one that day. I didn't feel like listening to her talk anymore right then.

I'll be honest, the whole exchange stung a little bit. I know she didn't mean to hurt my feelings; she was just too surprised to be tactful. But here's the thing: wouldn't a real friend understand without being told that a school attendance clerk makes a whole lot less money than a university faculty member? And she's married to an engineer, to boot! It's hard to believe she's never noticed the difference in our lifestyles, but she does tend to be a bit self-absorbed. Well intentioned, but self-absorbed. 

I also know I'm a bit over sensitive where money is concerned. I grew up poor, and as a kid it embarrassed me. I guess that's what triggered the small wave of shame I felt when she acted so shocked that I don't make more money. I'm approaching 50 years old and I'm still dealing with emotional issues from my childhood, which seems ridiculous. Does it ever end?

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Frustrations abounding

What a week it's been! I guess you could say it's not been the most auspicious start to a new year.

My car, which wouldn't crank on New Year's Eve, had to be towed half a mile to the Toyota dealership for repair. This couldn't happen until Monday because of the holiday, so I took a personal day off work (the first day after the break) to deal with it. We thought it seemed like a dead battery, but we own an electric charger, and it showed the battery as being fully functional. That wasn't the case, though. Apparently, a battery can be so dead that it won't show as being bad on a meter and it can't be jumped off. Or so says one of the mechanics, anyway. After the towing fee and a new battery, I was out $350--but at least I'm back on the road again. 

I decided last month that I was going to attempt to eat better, walk a whole lot more, and give up alcohol entirely from now until my birthday in late March. I know I need to take better care of my health, and I definitely need to lose weight, so (as is my wont when I make up my mind about something) I jumped in whole heartedly last Sunday. Well, I haven't missed the alcohol, but the sudden change in my eating habits has been difficult. I'm afraid of developing diabetes; my mom did about 10 years ago, and it's been hard on her. With that in mind, I decided to cut way back on empty carbs devoid of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. No chips, sweets, wine, sodas, or meals heavy on pasta, bread, or white rice. I'm not doing the super low carb/keto thing; I think those diets are dangerous and not for me, but I'm still eating way fewer carbs than ever before. The first few days have been rough. Mild depression/flat mood, difficulty falling and staying asleep, vivid (and unsettling) dreams, and worst of all...bouts of painful diarrhea the past three mornings. (Sorry if that's tmi). I've been eating well but the changes to my diet have been so drastic that I guess it's been a shock to my digestive system....and all my other systems, too. Today seems a little better, fingers crossed that my body is starting to adjust. I want to feel better, not worse!

I've been looking forward to telling you about this next thing. Everybody seems to love my bird Marco, and I'll admit he's a real character. Everyone loves a good Marco story! Well, here's one for you.

Thursday afternoon I was on my way home from my weekly allergy shot, and I got a text from Gregg. 

Let me show you that picture close up. 

I was horrified, because I knew that meant that Marco had somehow escaped his cage while we were at work.* That's only happened once before since we've had him, and he'd gone on a rampage. I knew it was going to be bad. 

He'd started in the pantry. He tore into the bag of walnuts (his favorite) and made a mess all over with them. He also chewed holes in the bread bag and an oatmeal cream pie wrapper. At some point he hurled the chewed-on oatmeal pie, a can of salt, and some spices to the floor.

If the damage had ended there, we'd have considered ourselves lucky, but no. He moved on to the dining room. That's where he really did some damage.

Behold my (former) best orchid, the one that had a long stalk of flowers getting ready to open.

That was heartbreaking. That orchid was my pride and joy.

For his final trick, Marco had flown over to a floor lamp and knocked the shade askew. That actually turned out to be a good thing, because when Gregg went over to straighten it, it shot sparks straight up in the air. It was an old lamp and there must have been a short in the wiring, because the shade getting knocked around couldn't have caused that. Thank goodness it didn't start a fire**, or electrocute Marco, or both. At least something good came of Marco's adventures, but despite that Gregg and I were both pretty pissed off in the moment. 

So that's how 2023 has started for me. 

*Just like last time, the latch on the front door of Marco's cage hadn't been firmly closed, and he was able to push the door right open.

**Our second recent brush with faulty wiring that could have started a fire (last month it was the pre-lit Christmas tree). Could this be a sign?

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The last post of 2022

I decided not to end the year with the post from this morning, complaining. So instead, here's something better I found to think about as we come to the end of this sometimes-challenging year. 

Blog friends: I love you. Thank you.

Happy New Year!