Friday, November 27, 2020

And it begins

 I decided to do most of the Christmas decorating today. I still need to get out the Nativity set and put it up, and I have a new string of snowflake fairy lights to put up over the front windows but I did most of the other things.

First thing was to do the exterior things - put up the wreath and change the little yard flag

That wreath was an Etsy purchase from last year; it is a smaller version of a plastic wreath my mom would put out on an outside door (and now, on the area between the garage doors). Hers had cracked and I thought she'd gotten rid of it but it turns out she found a glue that worked on it, so she fixed it.

I dunno; I just like it for nostalgic reasons and also it does hold up well to the elements (though I do have a storm door).

The yard flag is new this year; I got one with a cardinal and pumpkin on it for Halloween/Thanksgiving, and I have one with a cardinal in snow that would work when Christmas is over. (I will have to get spring and Easter ones, and maybe one with flowers on it for summer....)

I also changed the dolls' clothes: 

Olivia and Sam are wearing dresses from the Etsy seller Buttercup Dress Up - she makes new Barbie sized dresses off of vintagey patterns. Ginger has a green and white machine knit dress that was in a lot of vintage Barbie (or Barbie-sized) clothes, and Gabby has a pink and black party dress that is Barbie branded, from one of the fashion packs.

The Wonder Woman and the standing doll (her name is Camille) don't change their clothes as I bought them for the outfits they had on, but Cinnamon is wearing a Buttercup Dress-Up dress, this one was a bit looser cut so it fit "curvy" Cinnamon. 

And also I found things for my little group of Creatable World kids:

Left to right is Skye (who is Sam's little sister), Alex, Theophanie, Josephine (she is sitting down, she is the newest one I have), Ben (who is Theophanie's cousin) and Mary-Margaret. Ben is wearing a combination from the Creatable World packs, Sky, Alex, Theophanie, and Josephine have Barbie outfits (several holiday themed) on (And you can tell Theophanie's is too big for her). Mary-Margaret is wearing a vintage Barbie dress which is a little long on her but it works. 

After finishing my piano practice and doing a workout, I decided to have a go at putting up the tree. At first I was just going to stick the lights on it, but then I decided to do the rest.

As I was putting it up and putting the lights on, I wondered : could the reason we tell ghost stories at Christmas be related to the fact that as we do the old rituals and traditions, we remember those no longer with us? The ghosts of Christmas? I could almost hear my dad fussing about the lights not being " right" or it being possible to see the cords on them (and our response always was "when the ornaments are on, you won't see them anyway")

And of course this year will be different.

I was thinking of how in the past I would decorate the tree a couple weeks before Thanksgiving - because I'd be in Illinois this week - and also I thought of all the evening things I did in the run-up to Christmas and how some nights I really just wanted to sit home and knit and look at the tree.

Well, I got what I wanted, but I wish it wasn't like this. 

But anyway. I put the ornaments on. I can't quite fit all of them at this point but that's okay. (Every year I drop and break one or two anyway. This year it was one of the fairly nondescript balls so it doesn't matter). I have a lot of "figural" ornaments and added a new one this year, bought it when I ordered my cards from Hallmark:

Eeyore, with mistletoe.

The tree is a big mixture - some cartoon characters, some vintage things bought off Etsy, some felt ornaments with sequins, a few traditional balls....I like it that way, that was how we did it when I was a kid. (I think sometimes, if a person had a fundamentally happy childhood - and I did, at least as far as family things were concerned - you try to recreate that a little as an adult). 

New Applejack and original Applejack! The vintage-style one was the Hallmark My Little Pony ornament for this year. 

Eeyore, and one of the nice big Scandi-style balls I bought last year. You can also see the "gingerbread Snoopy house" that was a years-ago Hallmark purchase. Some of these ornaments are going on 20 years old now; a few of them are ones I bought back when I lived in the apartment here and had just a tiny little tree.

Some more vintagey ones; that blue Pegasus came from one of the antique stores in this area. I'm a little sad I'm not getting to do in-person antiquing this year but I think it's best to wait until after we can be vaccinated to do that kind of thing again, given how tight some of the quarters are in antique shops. 

Pusheen, and the pink toy shop I bought last year, and a bunny ornament one of my uncles gave me ages ago, and a sheep, and a little paper ornament I think I got last year at my mother's church and saved. 

I might do another short video, though since it's harder now (you can't go through Flickr like you used to, New Blogger seems to have taken that away) I'm not sure how easy it would be to upload. 

Tomorrow I might get out the Nativity and the other things (I have a Christmas Paddington that goes on the sofa....) and do the over-the window lights. And maybe put the one or two things I already have as gifts to put under the tree - I have a couple of "unwrap a thing a day" advent calendars (one which was a gift, a yarn advent calendar) and I have an unopened Gachapon crate, and I will save the December Doki Doki and Gachapon crates for Christmas morning....and my mom said she had some things she was going to send, they will go under the tree once they arrive. 

Yeah, this year will be different but I guess I try to make the best of it. I still am reserving the right to buy myself some indulgent thing - my mother sent a check to take the place of the "in the stocking money" she and my dad used to do for us.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

a dumb thing

 Someone reposted that "Prisencolinensinainciusol" song on Twitter - this is a song an Italian singer made up to sound like, but not actually be, American English, and it is weirdly convincing. The first time I heard it I felt like I was having an aphasic migraine: your brain tells you "you SHOULD understand this" but I cannot.

And someone else commented "yeah but the song still slaps" and he's right.

And then I had a thought, given the weird level of creativity in 1970s pop (perhaps Eurovision starting up was part of it - at least ONE of these songs was a Eurovision song) and I made a thing. And it was a thing that amused me too much for the ephemeral medium of Twitter, so now you have to see it, too:

(Caption: "Weird 1970s songs that still manage to slap" - three men shaking hands, one is labeled "Rasputin," another "Moskau" and the third "Prisencolinensinainciusol")

(Added: no, two. Rasputin was one, and Moskau was another. I don't know if the third was a Eurovision entry though)

A small offer

 I do this every year and I get a few takers, so I'll do it again:

If you - or a loved one who would like getting a greeting card from some random internet stranger* - would like a Christmas card, e-mail me with the address. I have a number of Snoopy cards and I think I will have a few of the Nativity scene cards I bought to send to my AAUW group (since we can't have Christmas party in person) left. 

Or, if you don't celebrate Christmas but would just like a random "we nearly survived 2020" type card, or a card where I write in a solstice greeting (or Hanukkah greeting; not sure when that is but I'm sure it's soon if not now), let me know, because I have blank cards and a few Totoro cards. 

(*And I will be nice. I will write a friendly greeting even to people I don't "know." You know me; I don't troll people with unpleasant things). 

I even have, I think, three uncommitted International stamps (I have a friend in the UK I will be sending a card to, better get that out soon) so if you or your loved one lives overseas, I could do a limited number of those. It will probably be one of the plainer cards (either the Snoopy one or a plain card) because of the weight - the fancier cards I have are heavier.

For close loved ones, I got some really nice BIG Peanuts ones that unfold out into kind of a banner. I am going to send one  to my mom, and one to my brother, and probably to each of the uncles, and to a good friend of the family who has helped my mom during this year and who is herself a single woman trying to navigate this pandemic world alone (though she has a cat)

I like sending cards - and I have a LOT of stamps and address stickers. 

That may be my Sunday afternoon thing - addressing some of the cards (especially the one that goes to the UK) and thinking about getting those out. I also have a few postcards if you would prefer a postcard to a full fledged card, but those won't be Christmas.

They will also be be-stickered, because I have many stickers. (And let me know if you have a child who likes stickers; I could slip in a few strips of my Mrs. Grossman's surplus)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Roger did it

 So I will, too.  He said he was thankful for a number of things, and I guess I need to enumerate them too:

1. I have managed to avoid catching coronavirus, despite teaching in person and doing my own grocery shopping. Moreover: my mom has managed to avoid it.

2. Even though I'm not traveling for Thanksgiving, I have family who understand that. It would be harder if my mom tried to make me feel guilty or overly-fearful for not wanting to get on a train for 16 (or more, if there are delays) hours around other people to go see her.

3. I'm figuring out an alternative. Today I'm going to make homemade cranberry sauce and  pumpkin custards for tomorrow's meal, and I'm supposed to have my frozen SeaBear order come today, which is the main dish. 

4. I kept my job, didn't face a pay cut, mostly made it through the semester. It was hard - this was the hardest semester I've ever taught, even considering this spring, even considering last fall after my father's death - but I have only two weeks (mostly: a lot of grading) left and then I have a longer break.

5. I have hobbies and interests to sustain me through this time. 

6. I can do some things virtually. I have been Face Timing with my mom and that makes a big difference; somehow it is better than just hearing her voice over the phone. I think my little knitting group is having Zoom meeting this Saturday even though it's a holiday weekend. I've been able to "attend" a concert that my friend Laura played in, and go to my first-ever evening Native Plant Society talk. (It would be really nice, once the pandemic is over, if they keep broadcasting the meetings for those of us who live far from OKC or Stillwater - Thursday nights are a terrible time to have to drive far when you have work the next day). 

7. At least thus far, I've been able to get what I need. Also my concern/worry about things served me for once....I remember back in February being at the Target and thinking "it's not quite time for me to stock up on tp yet but this virus might come here and might make it hard to get out, so maybe I better buy ahead" and that turns out to have been a solid decision - along with the one of keeping extra canned goods on hand.

8. Being able to shop online is a real blessing. Oh, it always has been, given where I live - there is no bookstore in town but I have when I want a new book. Or I can order from Folio if it's a book I want a fancy, expensive illustrated copy of. And this year - well, I've been able to get the pureed sweet potato I like and use a lot despite not being able to get to the natural-foods store that sells it, and I have a case lot of Golden Syrup sitting in my kitchen for use in my tea, and both of those were online purchases. 

9. There's a vaccine on the way. Oh, not as fast as any of us want it, and even once we have it we'll probably have to mask and distance for a while longer until the spread of the virus ebbs, but probably by this time next year? I will be in Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with my mom. And really, less than a year where it's bad enough that you can't circulate freely and work has to be very, very different - that's pretty amazing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Break is nice

 Yeah, actually. I thought I'd be lonesome but it's been good so far - Monday I cleaned house a little, today I went over to work (I was the only one there) and caught up all my grading, and posted the final exam for one class to BlackBoard (it doesn't come available right way). And this afternoon I wrote half of the last hourly exam for my intro class, will probably finish that tomorrow, along with clearing the space for my Christmas tree and then maybe Friday I decorate it and put the other stuff out. 

Also, I've been sleeping better: I haven't had any stress-dreams, and I wonder if I was really more anxious about being over at school during the pandemic than I thought.

Like, this is the notice I have had up inside my front door, as a reminder, since August:

All the things I needed for a given day. Well, also, my filled water bottle, but that also fitted with lunch. 

there's also a sheet just below it listing COVID-19 symptoms just so I could consult it if I felt unwell before leaving the house. But I guess I made it okay?

We have seen case counts grow much more slowly this week and I wonder if campus was driving a lot of the rapid growth....that's not great for the idea of us trying to go back in January, but it's good for us locally. And Grayson County seems to be doing better, which suggests to me that maybe one trip for "big shopping" would be okay during finals would be nice to get back to Kroger, there are some things I like and use that Pruett's doesn't carry. (And maybe? Maybe? If I go early on a weekday and it's not busy, a trip to JoAnn's? I can have little a trip to JoAnn's, as a treat?)

 I'm still working on the wombat for my niece. I ordered my sister-in-law's present; it is coming to me because I was able to get free shipping when I ordered a couple things for me, and I can just send it when I send my niece's gifts. (My brother's, I will have shipped directly. And part of my mom's will be directly shipped).

Yes, I still need to give my mom suggestions for me but it's hard to think of things that it would be easy for her to get (catalog shopping) and that I need. Honestly, there's not a lot I need; I might suggest some nice soap from Caswell-Massey and maybe some Aplets and Cotlets, as those are things you use up. 

She did say she was keeping up the tradition my dad started of "stocking money" though this year it will come as a check (traditionally he would put cash in our stockings, so we could buy whatever we wanted after Christmas). 

I did order myself a little present - well, I've ordered myself a few things, and also my Doki Doki and Gachapon crates are coming, and I am going to save them for Christmas morning so I have some other surprise to open. 

There's a company that makes some of the "background ponies" from MLP - they're not officially Hasbro licensed so I know it's a gray area, but since Hasbro seems not to Cease and Desist to the individual pony-makers, maybe it's OK? I don't know. Again, I think attitudes have changed over the years...But anyway, this is Snails

He is one of the schoolkid ponies. He's funny, sort of dumb but dumb in an occasionally-profound way (perhaps not unlike Jason Mendoza from "The Good Place") and his colorscheme is kind of nice.

And his butt symbol* is pretty funny

(*The technical term, I guess, is "cutie mark," but that seems not to fit a boy pony. I have used the term "flank insignia" but I think Lauren Faust, who actually helped develop the show, called it a "butt symbol" at some point)

This was one of those nervewracking packages - at first it looked on track for him to arrive Friday, then it was Saturday, then the package shuttled from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and back to Tulsa and I was fearful it got caught in the occasional package maelstroms that seem to have developed - but it worked its way loose and arrived today.

(And I was looks like my across the street neighbor witnessed a porch pirate at my next-door neighbor's house; I was eating lunch when I heard her yell "Put that back! I'll call the police!" and later on the police showed up and they talked for a while out in front of the neighbor's house (I'm pretty sure my next door neighbor is out of town; her job often takes her away from home for a while). Then I saw the police officer walking back with a box in his hands so I don't know if the thieves ditched the whole box or if they took whatever the item was out and dropped the box....but that tells me to try to be home at the time when I have stuff delivered as much as I can possibly be. I'm curious, but not curious enough to text my neighbor about it; I think getting involved is probably not a good idea here. I am still having my porch light set to come on at dusk and off at dawn, and have been turning on the big LED lights on the garage, figuring more light may mean fewer lurkers. Not that I go out at night, which would be the biggest concern (and anyway, the most likely think I'd run into going out at night was one of the neighbor's cats)

But yeah, maybe I needed a break, maybe this fall really was just too much with the pandemic.

Monday, November 23, 2020

On Thanksgiving break

 Unlike any other year, though: I'm here, and will be by myself. In a normal year, if for some reason I couldn't travel, I think someone would have asked me to their house. 

I'll be okay - I can face-time with my mom; her plans for the day are to talk to all the various relatives and neighbors of hers are going to share their dinner with her (she was invited over there but declined - because of wanting to talk to her own relatives). I have a Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese dinner on the way from SeaBear (I've ordered from them before, and I've already had word the on-ice shipment is on its way to be here Wednesday). 

I'm picking away at cleaning up the house (well, at least the living room, and redoing some of the kitchen) so I can to Christmas decorating later this week. I am going to (temporarily, at least) move the "work books" bookshelf into a corner of the dining room, and slide the coffee table over near to my chair, maybe for the nativity set, or maybe - if I can keep it far enough from flammables - for candles. 

I have one of my amaryllis out already because it seems to be making an early go of it:

This is supposed to be the pink and white striped one; there's also a red one and a pink one, but they're much less far along. I will find protective plates to put under them and move them there as they get more sprouted. 

I also started the little toy for my niece - I decided to make the wombat, because there is a Fun Wombat Fact I think she will enjoy: they poop cubes. 

Tomorrow I should go in to my office a bit but I want to get more things cleared up for the eventual decorating.

You need what you can do to stay happy in all of this. Oh, it helps knowing that probably by the middle of next year many of us will be vaccinated against this thing, but it's still hard.

And the news/stuff isn't helping:

1. This week is the one-year anniversary of my dad's memorial service, which....that means it's almost 18 months he's been gone, which seems barely possible. 

2. I mentioned, I think, the 18-year-old killed in an industrial accident? One of the young men at my church was a good friend of his and wound up as one of his pallbearers. I can't even imagine being 18 and burying one of your friends who is the same age as you. 

3. A friend of mine at church, her husband went into hospice this weekend (I am not sure what all his health issues were, he had not been well for over a year) died this morning. 

2020 has just been brutal and it keeps coming. And yeah, I'm trying to be resilient, but I do get caught up in sadness periodically - this morning I woke up, for some reason, thinking of the Ray Bradbury story "There Will Come Soft Rains" (and the *really* unsettling Uzbeck-made animated adaptation of it - it's on YouTube) and was sad for a while and, I don't know. (I do know I don't want a "smart house")

But I did get a lot of stuff put away today, and did all the accumulated laundry, so there's that. And I did the week's grocery run so I'm set until the weekend, maybe, or maybe even further out. And this time, I don't know if people are beginning to take things seriously or if a different crew shops Monday mid-morning than weekday afternoons, but about 90% of the customers had masks on. 

 And I don't have to get up at any set hour, which helps - I wonder if some of my distress is just that we all need more sleep now, and I was also staying up later than ideal for a 5 or 5:30 rise time - some nights when I got home I was just so frazzled that I had to do dumb stuff (phone games or hanging out on Twitter) first and then buckle down to do something more productive....and I sometimes wound up staying up past ten, which isn't good when you're getting up at five and also it takes you a while to fall asleep and you sometimes wake up for a while in the middle of the night....

 I also plan on watching a lot of cartoons and similar this week. I am hoping TCM starts their rotation of classic holiday movies soon, that will be good. too. I figure since I'm not traveling, not going out  anywhere, and we've now broken from in-person class until January at least, there's not that much point in me keeping up with virus news - I know it's bad out there but I know a vaccine is coming, that's probably enough to know. So maybe I just watch fun shows and knit or crochet and get a few projects finished between now and January.

(Next week there ARE classes, but in three of my four classes I've finished all the material and am just going to do a review in each one. I do have an exam to write but that's for tomorrow, and I'll have some grading next week to get done. Three of my four finals are ready; the fourth I need to type in. But not having to fight with the camera/microphone in different classrooms and remember all the things I have to do and bring and take care of (the seating chart. I think next semester I am going to use colored pencils and just code each day a different color - fills the chart less quickly and easy to see at a glance who was present on a given day).

I guess one thing to be grateful for? I didn't get infected this semester on campus, and there weren't outbreaks in my classes, and I didn't even have to quarantine. I wasn't expecting us to make it to Thanksgiving in person but we did - it was close a couple times (a colleague had to get tested but got a negative result, her office was right next to mine....)

Here's hoping by some miracle case counts drop by January...

Saturday, November 21, 2020

An Etsy purchase

 These came several days ago, but I didn't take the time to open them. This represents me "buying back" a part of my childhood, in a way.

I've taken to browsing the "vintage tree ornaments" pages on Etsy every November now, looking for nice, older ornaments to fill in on my tree (though now, I think I have more than I can fully fit on it anyway). And I saw these:

I remember these vividly from childhood. The seller claimed "they might be 60 years old" but unless the BEST store was selling off old stock I *know* they are closer to 45 or 46 years old. We bought a lot of our tree ornaments in the 70s from the BEST - they had a good selection and unlike their usual trade, these were out on display to be purchased directly. (BEST was one of those catalog-showroom stores: one example of the item was on display, and you filled out a little tag and gave it to an employee, who then arranged for the boxed-up item to be brought out from the warehouse). 

BEST was actually....a really good store in a lot of ways. My big Mickey Mouse cookbook came from there (also something my dad bought - he saw me looking at it in the store and asked me if I wanted one, and I said yes, and he bought it for me, I guess figuring I was the right age to start learning to cook. I think he did similar but with a different book for my brother a few years later). And they were where I saw the lady-in-the-rain lamps, which I simultaneously thought were kind of cool and also knew my classmates would find incredibly tacky. (But "tackiness" is fun some times! I don't like minimalism)

I think BEST was one of my dad's favorite stores. I think it was partly because the prices were good but also more that they had a really wide selection of things.

(Also, later - they carried some toys. I remember when I collected dolls, this would have like been in high school, and the 80s version of the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoons were on, and they had the "girl" versions - I bought a Jeannette Chippette doll because I always liked her. I still have the doll, too, up in my room at my mother's house)

Anyway. These came from there. They were on our tree for years, and I'm pretty sure at least one of them still exists in the boxes of ornaments at my mom's. I always liked them. I realize now that maybe they are supposed to be clowns? With the hats and the red cheeks? Weirdly, when I was a kid, I thought of them as fairies - they had magic wands (in this set, only one remains - and I think we lost a couple from the ones my parents had). And with the three of them - I guess I thought of them as Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather from "Sleeping Beauty," which I had seen with my parents at the "cheap theater" (on the Akron campus, one of the auditoria used to show family movies on weekends for a very inexpensive entry price - usually older Disney features - and we went A LOT. That's where I saw the Love Bug movies and I think the original That Darn Cat)

But anyway. When I saw them on Etsy it was like falling back through the years. And I decided even though they were imperfect and the seller noted that (two wands missing, one has lost her skates), I still wanted them. They have their original box, which I will keep to store them in...

But yes. My plans for next week involve spending a little time every day cleaning up, starting with the living room here, and towards the end of the week, I want to put up my tree. Oh, yes, I am doing it even though I know there will be things about this changed season that make me sad.

(Heh. I think of that bit from "Meet Me In St. Louis" where Tootie goes wild with anger and destroys the snow family she made, because she doesn't want to move. I feel that a little some days now). 

But maybe having a cleaned up house (I still need to attack my bedroom and the guest room, I think my goal should be to do a room or two a day - the kitchen and the dining room won't need much, nor will the bathroom and hall) and then have my decorations up might make things feel better. And also make a place where I can safely put out candles in the evening - I have a coffee table I don't use much - and that would be nice, too. And I have my little Moomin "spinning top" that spins in the heat from a candle. 

And maybe all that will help. I don't know. I also think I will try to watch all the light, fluffy holiday programming I can find, and also the vet shows, and maybe cooking shows. And knit, and crochet - already I am planning a toy wombat as part of my niece's gift (I chose that, because I can also share the fun wombat fact that their poops are square. Yes, they actually are, they make cubic poos. My niece is 8, she will probably enjoy learning that).

Friday, November 20, 2020

And learning stuff

 Holy cow, I have learned a lot about myself during this pandemic. Most of it not very good.

One big thing is related to something that happened yesterday: the director of the local Wesley center came over because she needed a couple paychecks signed. (I am the only official signer at the minute; we are working to change that). I signed them, and handed them back, and she said, as she was leaving, "Thanks, sweetie!"

And that hit me like a truck.

I mean, I am sure she didn't even THINK about it - she is that kind of a person - but it had been SO LONG since I had heard a simple affectionate word that it really struck me.

Most of my "business" these days is conducted over e-mail, which, I find professional e-mail to be a very cold medium. Ninety percent of the time when someone asks for something and I do it I don't even hear a "thank you" back,. and I have a few students who seem to think if I don't respond within 20 minutes of receiving an e-mail I'm ignoring them, and they e-mail me again, and I feel hounded and harassed. (No, we can't ask them to limit e-mails, and yes, I also recognize this is how anxiety comes out in people but heck, we're all anxious now, I wish other people would use a little care). 

But yeah. That's one big thing we've lost of late, and one big thing that as a solo person I miss greatly: the small nice interactions in a day. I mean, I am very pro-mask and all, I completely understand how they are literally one of the only defenses we have in this, but wearing a mask around other people means they're harder to hear AND ALSO I feel like talking less in one. And you can't see expressions. So conversations masked-up feel very unrealistic and stilted. 

And one thing I'm learning: I desperately need the validation of other people. If I don't get it, I'm not enough on my own. I'm not enough to believe my life is worth something without that being reinforced by other people. And I know that's a bad and dangerous thing, but, to use a phrase I now hate because of how it was used recently, "it is what it is." 

This is why I'm worried about the coming weeks with very, very limited human contact - oh, I made it through the summer, but that was somehow different. The fact that the big holidays of my year - Thanksgiving and Christmas - are coming and there is NOTHING I can do for them that is like how I did it before, and also it's now the time of the year when it gets dark very suddenly at about 4:30 pm, and the fact that I have restricted back down to grocery trips and maybe a monthly trip to either Walgreen's or Lowe's if I have the justification of something breaking or needing a medical thing..

I see in my Informed Delivery, for example, a JoAnn's ad is coming in the mail, and that makes me sad. Oh, there's nothing I NEED - if there were, I could mail order it, I guess - but it's the idea of being in a different place, somewhere not home/work/weekly church/weekly grocery store that I miss. I miss third places. I miss going places without weighing risk heavily. (And especially now, with talk of elective surgeries being cancelled, and ICUs filling up - I am not doing any extraneous driving because of the risk of a car accident. Already yesterday I got nearly run off the road on the way home by someone in a big jacked up pickup truck with what was probably an illegal deer spotlight on it)

It's just the Groundhog Day feeling of it. I woke up on Wednesday and for a minute could not remember if it was Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or even Tuesday. Yes, I know a vaccine is coming. But I estimate it will be at least another four months before the group I am in can get vaccinated (more likely: six months), and even after that we will still have to mask and restrict movement/travel for some time after that. Like I said before: if I had a set date I could start counting down the days. But I don't, and I find "indefinite waiting" incredibly hard and painful. 

I also kind of feel like what I am doing is useless - yes, staying home protects ME, not traveling for Thanksgiving protects MY MOM, but there are so many - to use a behavioral-ecology term - defectors in this situation that the spread is now uncontrolled and it's going to get markedly worse before it gets better. To the point where I'm looking at my stocks of food and going "do I have enough that I could manage for a month with no grocery trips"? Perhaps, if I restrict my milk usage to a glass a day (the unopened containers will stay good through January) and if I use beans instead of meat as my protein....but I also feel very much like It Should Not Have Gotten This Bad....and when I went to Pruett's yesterday and less than 20% of the people there had masks on....I don't know. 

I also admit I worry about indie restaurants and small businesses; it's almost like this would be the kind of thing an evil leader of Amazon or Wal-Mart would *plan* to kill off the remaining competition. Like I said early in this: I wonder if there's going to be anything left to come out TO when it's over. 

But yes. Having someone affirming that my existence is a good and worthwhile thing IN AN OBVIOUS WAY would help. I know, I know: "you should assume people love you unless they show you otherwise" and "you should assume you are doing a good job unless someone is screaming at you for having screwed up" but my brain doesn't quite work that way; I don't know why.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

It hit home

 One of my colleagues, whose main residence is some distance from here (and whose spouse lives there) and who did not teach Fridays this fall just left, and wished us a happy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and "Maybe I'll see you in January" (we know not yet if we are in-person or all virtual for the spring)

and that hit me. It hit me very hard. I have once again cycled into the "holy crap, how am I going to DO Christmas all alone?" feeling. Thanksgiving is one thing; it's one day and then finals come up and I will have grading and stuff to do next week as well. But Christmas - well, between us going all virtual and Christmas break I am looking at pretty much six weeks with almost no human contact outside of rare grocery store runs and church (for as long as we can stay in person, which may not be much longer).

I am telling myself I did this this spring and summer, and for a lot longer (from mid-March until mid-August) but I am also filled with the prospect of these weeks. 

Oh, I'll probably make it. I'm telling myself that between the grace of God and my own stubbornness I will make it., But I don't like it. I don't like the isolation, the endless sameness of the days, the prospect of never getting out to just do anything fun....especially now when it gets dark at like 4 pm. Standard time never bothered me before but WOW this year the earlier dark is hitting hard. 

I know people have always done this - there have always been forest hermits or park rangers living in isolated areas or people out on remote farms - but wow, when you're not used to it, it's hard. And I'm surprised at how much dread I have even given the knowledge that I weathered essentially 6 months of not going anywhere (well, 6+ if you discount teaching - I think my first trip back to JoAnn's wasn't until early October). 

But man.

If I weren't worried about posting it publicly and getting zoombombed or some such I'd say "periodically I will do at-home hours where you can drop in and say hi" but I suspect posting a zoom link would get me attention I didn't want. 

I may just have to watch every documentary I can find and all the seasons of both Parks and Recreation and The Good Place and just....maybe the equivalent of being buff and angry will be finishing a couple sweaters and quilts during this time....and yes, I have BBC 4, and except when they have depressing programs, that will help with the isolation somewhat. 

I just.....I will be so glad when this is over. I wish I had a more set date of when. I know the vaccine won't end it, but it will be a waypoint to the end and once I've been vaccinated I will feel more comfortable going out and doing things, even still masked, than I do now. But there's no real set endpoint and waiting in limbo is terrible. 

If I had some creative spark and felt able to write or paint or compose or SOMETHING I would feel better about this but I can barely even READ some days, and it's terrible. My brain is destroyed and I worry I will be worth nothing when this is over, that whatever ability I had isn't coming back.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Some better news

 * Both my mom and I had been concerned about my brother's apparent insistence on traveling (with his whole family) to her place for Thanksgiving - both the effort of "how do you drive 10 hours if some places have closed bathroom access" but also "what if states start 'requiring' quarantining/closing borders" and the biggest one - what if they pick it up and bring it to her, or get it when they go see my sister in law's other Illinois relatives?

Well, today he called her and said "You know, I don't think there's any way we can safely do this"

Which means not only does my mom not have to go to some extra precautions (she was considering trying to buy a HEPA air filter) but also some of the extra cleaning she would do is now not necessary.

Oh, it still sucks a lot, and I wish it were like a normal year, where tomorrow evening I'd be packing my bags to hop on a train Friday, but at least now one worry we had is relieved. 

They never travel at Christmas, and I suspect Christmas will be even more concerning than Thanksgiving but good grief, I feel better about this now. I think he made the right decision, and it helps that it was HIS decision and not my mom telling him what to do and finally wearing him down. 

I am very hopeful Thanksgiving 2021 will be more like they used to be. Well, they never really will be with my dad gone, but you know what I mean.

* I finished the long-on-the-needles Opal socks. I think I started these back in January, but it's not been a good year for me finishing things, I guess

I intentionally did not try to match the color patterning - it's a very long repeat and I was concerned I might run short, and I also kind of just randomly started them without a plan. The pattern is the Yarrow Ribbed Sock from the Nancy Bush vintage socks book.

I kind of want to just start another new pair of socks, except I have three on the needles I should finish. One is just simple stockinette stitch but the colors are kind of weird and I"m not sure I love them. Another pair is a complex slipped-stitch one that takes concentration, and the third one is a cabled one that I'm not sure why I never restarted it....

I do need to wash these before wearing them; brand new Opal is kind of stiff and unpleasant but it softens up with washing. 

* I am, uh.....treating the issue of the other day (mainly some dietary changes) and things seem to be improving a little. I guess I really did shift away from my more healthful fruit and vegetable heavy diet recently and that's been to my detriment. I probably need to clear the freezer out a little and reshuffle things and then get some more frozen veggies....

I will be happy when case counts go down locally and I feel more comfortable shopping more regularly. 


A while back - a previous trip to Walgreen's - I found this. It's a Squishmallow version of Chewbacca. It amused me and it's also cuddly, I admit I've been using him as a neck pillow when I read. 

* I had ordered some "Malted Milk Biscuits" (actually cookies, but less sweet than American cookies) from Vermont Country Store and Fed Ex seemed to do me dirty again - I saw the truck pull up, the guy got out, looked, then left, and then I got the message that it had been delivered. Except it had been not.

I waited a day. Nothing. So I called Vermont Country Store (because Fed Ex only would say "your package has been delivered, goodbye"). They said they'd send a new set out.

Well, then, a few days later, the cookies showed up....delivered SmartPost. I was not told it was SmartPost. And Fed Ex did not suggest that it would be. 

And THEN, then, I came home from church a Fed Ex box on the porch. Yes, more cookies. I now have a dozen packages of them (well, eleven and a half, I've eaten some).

I decided to do the honest thing, and I called Vermont Country Store about it, offering to pay for the second shipment. The person I talked to at first said "I've never had to deal with this before, I will have to talk to a manager!" and I gave her my number (as I was going off to class). Well, I got a voicemail: enjoy the second order of cookies, no charge, we're sorry it was a hassle.

I suppose it's possible they filed a claim with Fed Ex, but for $12 or whatever it was of cookies it might not be worth it. Anyway, I have many cookies, and ones that are good for dunking in tea. And if worse comes to worse, I could make crumbs and used it as a crumb crust for something. 

And my second case lot of sweet potato puree came, so I'm pretty well set for a couple more months on that. (It's too bad that I can't order groceries, like, fresh food, for delivery, but that's not a thing here. I would love to be able to get milk and fresh vegetables and everything and have it meet me at the door when I get home).

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Life goes on

 The good, and the not so good:

My friend Laura, who is a cellist, is performing (she also performed last night) some "modern" classical music - in a couple cases the composers were on hand to talk a bit about their pieces; it was all done as a Facebook livestream. It was nice to get to see her play; I normally would not as she lives five hours from me. While I can't deal with all-Zoom-all-the-time (gives me headaches), it is nice to have some selected things to participate in, makes a person feel less lonely than just watching tv does.Especially since I know the cellist performing...

I got to talk a bit with my second-newest colleague (he was new last fall), he wanted some advice on a couple things (I originally went to ask him about the final exam in the class we both teach sections of). Standing in the door of his office, both of us masked and six feet away but it was still a chance to talk, and I think I was able to give a little helpful advice and maybe encouragement (reminding him my evals were not good my first year; I don't think many people's are). And I talked with my chair, signing off on my annual report (not as good of a score as in the past but understandable why) and she's also not going anywhere for the holidays and I suspect a lot of us are quietly doing that, despite all the people who are being publicly upset about being asked to make adjustments to avoid spreading the disease. But it's the people quietly weighing the costs and saying "okay, not this year" who don't make the news.

But some sad news: a young man I remember as a kid from Youth Group (his family had moved a bit east of us and belong to a different church now) was killed in an industrial accident yesterday. It's kind of horrible. I first heard about it on the morning news and they gave his name and I thought, "please let it be another guy by the same name" although then that wouldn't be fair to that guy's family....but midday, the church secretary sent out the e-mail, yes, it was the Jared we knew. I'm most bothered by the fact that he was so young - 18 - and he was working at a job, he had all his life ahead of him. 2020 has been a terrible year all around.


I have the socks on the needles nearly done - working on the toe - and I might finish them tonight. I also think I need to go through the new "Edward's Menagerie" book I bought the last time I was at JoAnn's (almost a month ago now) and pick out one to make for my niece for Christmas; consulting with my mom, no, 8 won't be too old for a stuffed animal. (I don't always know; I know some eight year olds are very sophisticated and don't want "baby things"). I know I've got yarn on hand, either acrylic or Wool-Ease that would work. 

I also want to work more on the OTHER stalled projects; maybe the time at home over breaks will be spent clearing out some of the accumulated things - either unraveling things that seem unsuccessful or finishing things that will be. And then starting new things.

I also DO think I'm going to try to decorate for Christmas in the coming week, and go as all-out as I can this year - wreaths and twinkly lights (yes, I ordered some snowflake shaped LEDs to hang up over my front window). I don't have any outdoor power outlets (old house) or I'd consider net lights for the shrubs. I want all the twinkly and sparkly and bright things to try to keep myself happy and distracted during what will probably be a darker than normal holiday time. (And I am saving the Doki Doki and Gachapon crate that will be coming to open Christmas morning, and I might even consider if I can find some other fun/nice "surprise crate" item to order, just a one off, not a subscription, where I might get a little surprise). I'm also thinking of doing a second Folio Press order for myself - I see they have Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and it might be interesting to have a nice copy of that. 

Other than that, yeah, I am still a little worn and sad and tired. At night I get into my bed which I have transformed into a giant nest of stuffed animals because it gives me comfort to be surrounded by them. I never feel like I quite get to sleep *enough* but maybe if I can force myself not to stay up late over Thanksgiving break I can get a little caught up. 

I will admit, the other reason I called my mom this afternoon....I had a tiny little health scare. With out going into very gross detail, while washing, I found a bump somewhere you don't want one. But, after consulting with her and thinking about the thing - the itching and burning - adjacent to the bump, and the fact that I have been getting less fresh fruits and vegetables (not able to get out to the grocery store every 2-3 days like I formerly did) and drinking less water (I bring a thing of water from home but forget about it, and I'm avoiding the drinking fountains), it sounds like what I have is....well, a typical problem some OLDER people (I am now older) get from not drinking enough water and not eating enough fiber and also they used to blame sitting on cold concrete steps for it, so it's probably not a tumor but, uh, a "pile." Or I'm going to assume that unless it doesn't seem to clear up; I have a doctor's appointment in about two months and I figure if I just noticed it yesterday if it IS something other than a minor thing, I've got time.

 I'm probably eating too many simple carbohydrates, too.

But like I said: my dietary choices have become more circumscribed due to the pandemic and not being able to get out as freely as I once did.


But yeah, I am ready for 2020 to be done being 2020. 


Monday, November 16, 2020

And another thought

 This has just been a dreadful 18-ish months. The biggest obvious thing of course, but smaller things - losing a few friends to various deadly things, losing a cousin. But also: the minister of my church leaving, replaced by an interim, now replaced by another guy who wants to do everything differently. University president leaving and while his replacement seems good, still, it was a change. Losing two colleagues to admin, and as a result, having added duties myself. Having a health scare in January that fortunately turned out to be nothing. And then of course, everything that everyone is experiencing "together" 

(The only way we are in this "together" is like being in a public pool when someone urinates: there is no non-peeing section, just like in many restaurants, the "non-smoking section" was in name only.)

And I think my personality has shattered and collapsed. I saw a former student in the hall - I am pretty sure who it was from his eyes and hair - and greeted him and was immediately like "wait I used to be kind I guess?"

I feel like I am sorting through shards of who I used to be, and going, "do these two pieces fit together? Do THESE?" and I don't have any glue and I'm afraid some of them have got lost. And I feel like I've burned through all the goodwill/tolerance people had for me and I'm like "okay you absolutely need to stop whining now because everyone is Tired Of You"

Or, it's like that scene in "Inside Out," where the girl, after being moved across the country and losing literally everything she knew, even down to now being ridiculed in class, had all her "personality islands" start to collapse. 

I've never experienced this degree of extended upheaval/discomfort/isolation in my life, and I don't know how to deal with it. And of course, my brain goes to either "what lesson am I to take from this" or "what did I do wrong, that I should be so punished for it" and neither of those are helpful? Maybe? The only lessons I'm getting is that I'm a tiresome person and that life is harder than I could have hoped. And as for lessons: well, Thou Shalt Not Whine may be one. Or "You're in this all alone, so just deal with it"

Maybe eventually I'll be able to put the pieces back together? I don't know. I don't know if there's enough of the old me left, and I feel like any new thing I tried to construct now would not be as good as what was destroyed.

lost my ability

 I think I've lost my ability to communicate without stepping on toes/offending people. 

This has been the way for a few weeks - I left one online space because someone reacted very unpleasantly (?) to something I thought was fairly neutral, now I'm taking flak elsewhere.

I can only assume it's me. I probably need to take a social media break because everyone's tired of me and I have nothing useful to say

I'm broken.

I may not post for a couple days. I'm probably still here, just....nothing to say that anyone wants to hear. No one wants to hear me. I should have listened to the kids in seventh grade who tole me to shut up forever.

I wish I had someone nearby who actually loved me but I am one of the unlucky ones.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Some Saturday Stuff

 * I ran out to Lowe's (they are doing a reorganization at the local store and moving stuff around, and this seems like a remarkably bad time to have the aisle-tags NOT match what's there - I finally found what I needed). I bought a "Gonzo brand" odor-absorbing gel (it is in a small carton) that is citrus-scented. It seems to be doing the trick - I can't really smell the citrus unless I am close to it but I also don't smell the cat urine any more, and it was pretty strong. I also found a container of cat-and-dog repellent that is based on thyme and cinnamon oils, and figured it was worth a try, so I dumped a bunch of it near the opening to the crawl space. 

* It would be hard to block it off because some of the connections for the mechanicals of the air conditioner run through that space, so I'd have to find someone who could make a made-to-order cover that would fit on - and also, some way to attach it to the masonry foundation. 

* I got the accumulated grading done so that helps me feel better about things; I do not like feeling like work is hanging over my head but I just could not bring myself to grade last night. Also yesterday I got all the court cases scanned and e-mailed off to the students so they can start working on those. I said they would be randomly chosen but I admit in a few cases I put my thumb on the scales a little (giving an animal-themed case to someone who expressed an interest in veterinary science, a case about a sportsmen's club to someone I'm pretty sure is a sportsman....)

* Worked a bit more on the scarf (the Tailfeather scarf) during Zoom knit get-together today. I thought I had made a bad error (it's been a while since I worked on it and forgot where I was in the pattern) but in fact I had not. I should work on this more now, it would be good to finish it.

* I also need to think about Christmas presents. I have my brother's planned out (a sweatshirt from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park conservancy, they even have some that say "Established 1974" and that was the year he was born, so that kind of works). And I have the socks already for my mom, and she said she'd put together a list of books she might want and I could order a couple books to go with the socks.

For my sister in law, I'm not sure. I might ask my mom to see if she has ideas, or I might order her a sweatshirt (from another source; she has no ties to Ohio so a CVNP one would not make sense). And I need a few more little things for my niece - I am wondering if I could quick crochet up a small stuffed animal. (She is eight, though.....some eight year olds are very fussy about "babyish" things and I don't know if she'd find one babyish. I mean, I - at 51 - would be thrilled to get a stuffed animal for Christmas but I also know I'm a little weird that way). I will have to think on it more. Then again, she really loved the "crystal growing hedgehog" science thing I got her from Hearthsong for her birthday, so maybe a stuffed toy wombat or something would be welcome. 

* I also want to order a box or two of Christmas cards; I realized since my AAUW group is not doing the Christmas party this year maybe I send cards to all the members, if like me they are staying mostly at home "nice mail" would be welcome. (And the offer stands: if you want a Christmas card - and it probably will be Christmas from the assortment I wind up ordering - send me your address. I will have a LOT of time once exams are over and sending out a few cards a day might be good for me)

* I opened up my Amaryllis (they were already in pots) and gave them a little water and started them on the way to forcing for Christmas; I figured this was the year to do this - I've always wanted to force bulbs for Christmas but with traveling, have never been able to. 

*And now I do think I will put up the tree after all. Not this weekend, perhaps not next weekend (that time might be spent clearing up the living room more and especially getting the "work books bookshelf" out of here) but during Thanksgiving week, sure. I told my students I would be in town and would check my e-mail from time to time but would not be widely available, and I think I will stick with that. 

Having my house decorated for Christmas might help with feeling sad about not traveling. And I have the October gachapon crate I never opened - which I have now decided to save for Christmas morning - and maybe I save the December crates that come, also. And I have a couple advent calendars - I have the pretty Nativity one purlewe sent me last year, and she sent me a chocolate Hello Kitty one (made in Germany so it should be good chocolate). And I have the Schleich "Pony Club" one, so that will be something.

* And yeah, I have to thing of things to suggest to my mom as gifts for me. I will look in the catalogs I know both she and I get - she doesn't really use the internet despite having an iPad so saying "go to my Amazon list" or some such won't work. 

There's not a lot I need? I have a lot of books already, more than I will ever read, same with yarn, same with fabric. I could use some more clothes, maybe, a few more skirts, but none of the catalogs has anything I particularly like, and ordering clothes in the time of COVID means going with sacky, loose-fitting things because of inability to try them on. (I don't like fussing with returning things if I can at all avoid it). 

* I also ordered my Thanksgiving dinner substitute today - crab mac and cheese from SeaBear, and because you need $35 worth for the "ship on ice" of frozen stuff, a small quantity of smoked scallops for a later date. (The person I spoke to on the phone assured me everything came frozen, so I can just pop it in the freezer until I want it). I arranged for them to arrive early in the week of Thanksgiving so I will have them for the day's dinner. It seemed the best way to do it.

I mean, I'm still sad the damned virus makes it unsafe for me to go and be with my mom now, or at Christmas, but I'm trying to find small silver linings. I'm hoping the coming weeks aren't too bad, news-wise, but I fear they will be (then again: if I am not going out, is there any need to watch the news? Is there any need to know how bad it is if I'm just staying home?)

* One new book I just got - which I'm posting a photo of here because if you have someone who is a bit of a Tolkien fan and also likes cooking, it might make a fun gift:

There's a "smoky stewed bean" recipe in there (using canned cannelini beans, but surely would work with others) that I really want to try - maybe tonight, if I can motivate myself in the next few minutes to get up and cook them, I have everything I would need....

I like cookbooks like this. Granted, I'm not enough of an anorak to look at it and go "oh, that's not authentic" or whatever (which I suppose some hardcore fans might do; I have seen a strain in some fandoms that leans towards the intensely humorless and unwhimsical) but I love books like this - I have the Little House cookbook, and another Hobbit themed book, and Tasha Tudor's Cookbook, and a moomin cookbook, and the Nero Wolfe cookbook, and Mme. Maigret's recipes....and surely a few others I can't think of right now. No, I don't use them very often. But they make me happy and are fun to have around. And this one, I DO think I will use, some of the recipes look very tasty in it. 

The book itself is nice as a book - this is a hardcover edition (I think it's new this year) and there are really nice watercolors in there depicting either parts of Middle-Earth, or characters from the books, or ingredients (there's a nice one of cherries on one of the pages. Just generally a nice book, and I'm glad I ordered it. 

Perhaps another "make it through a hard winter" plan is, ability to get out to the grocery permitting, to make one new-to-me dish every week or so from one of my cookbooks. (And in some cases, it may be things I have everything on hand for already)

Friday, November 13, 2020

End of week

 Yeah, this was another challenging week and I feel all used up.

- Lots of students having lots of issues with BlackBoard, and the realization that BlackBoard might go offline tonight for the preplanned maintenance that happens every month, so I had to push due dates back a day for everyone.

- More administrative tasks being devolved on to us; I have to do some online training next week.

- I've been having muscle cramps thanks to trying to do more intensive and more exercise. I was able to get some coconut water at the grocery; maybe that will help. (I don't always tolerate the food coloring in sports drinks - the usual electrolyte replacement - all that well)

- Just....all the news. A number of local districts have gone to all online, and yet - one that is is still doing HS football. Priorities, I guess

- Came home and found one of the local tomcats had gone into the crawl space and sprayed. Have you ever smelled intact-male-cat urine? It's not good. And I can't reach it to clean it because it's in the crawl space, and even if I weren't too claustrophobic to go in there, the opening is too small for me and I'd be afraid of getting stuck. So I guess I make a run to Lowe's tomorrow for that zeolite odor-absorber stuff for in the house, and maybe get some of those anti-mouse sachets that have a strong smell to throw into the crawl space? 

- it makes me sad how excited I am to have an excuse to go to Lowe's for something. Given that I'm not going out for "frivolous" reasons. 


Not going in to work this weekend. I have work I COULD do, but I can do it next week. 

I was thinking about how in previous years, this was usually the weekend I put up my Christmas tree. When I was traveling for Thanksgiving, it made sense - do it the weekend before traveling, it's there when I get back. Now, this year? I don't know. Not gonna do it yet; don't have the motivation (and it's supposed to be nearly 80 F here tomorrow).

I do need to pot up the amaryllis I bought and get them ready.

I'm thinking maybe Thanksgiving week I get the motivation to put the tree up. I've decided I will mostly stay home that week and not work, and maybe I'll want to do that then.

My mother reported that she bought a small artificial tree for herself - last year she asked me if I thought it made sense (after we wrestled a probably-cut-too-long-ago fresh tree that dropped needles everywhere). Like me, she will be alone. She seems to tolerate it better than I do. 

Oh, maybe when I'm better-rested, maybe when I'm not dealing with being asked to do fifteen things every hour, I'll feel better about it. Maybe when there's some certainty about next semester (I am suspecting we go all online - a better option MIGHT be to push off the start date a month or six weeks, and go that much later into the summer, and dump a summer session this year). I will do it eventually, I'm sure. I actually ordered a couple more vintage ornaments from Etsy - a set of three flocked fairy skaters that are identical to ones we had when I was a kid (and I think at least one still exists in my mom's set of ornaments). The seller said "they might be as old as 60 years!" and I am like "lol I remember my dad buying these in like 1976 or 1978" but they were a good price, and I wanted them, so....

That's a very on-brand thing for me; wanting things I remember from my childhood and buying them if I see them on Etsy (or in the before-times, in an antique store). To me, these remind me of the happy times of my childhood - decorating the tree, lying on the floor in the evening watching the twinkle lights on it, wondering what I might get as presents, all of it.

This year is going to be very different. I haven't decided yet if diving deep into my childhood memories or trying to go a different direction and somehow make new memories (as much as I can, with not going anywhere) is going to be the most comforting thing for me.

I just want comfort. I want that cozy feeling again, that feeling that, even if the world as a whole isn't a friendly place, my little corner of it is. And my corner hasn't felt friendly for a while. Oh, maybe not actively UNfriendly, but certainly uncomfortable and awkward. And I don't like that.

(And I admit, I think of that gag I posted before about "No afflict! Only comfort!" and I admit I have enough of the Very Traditional Protestant in me to look at everything going on in the world and say "what have I done wrong and how am I to learn from this" and also recognizing that I was one of the comfortable, and in some interpretations, I would therefore be deserving of affliction, and.....I don't like that.)

So yes, I have my amaryllis, which I should pot up and start forcing tomorrow. And I am contemplating ordering some candied fruit and making the old white fruitcake recipe my mom always made and....I don't know what else. Cookies are only really fun to make if you can share them; for one person it's too much and it's a lot of work. (Fruitcake will keep for months and it freezes okay). But I don't know what else. I know someone told me years ago that I needed to create my own traditions, because I wouldn't always be able to go to my parents', and I realized that abstractly but never really thought much about it before last year....and now I think about it a lot. 

Too much empty free time weighs on me. When I go visit my mom, she's there, and there are also things to do. Me, alone in my house, alone too much, is not good for me - if there weren't a pandemic but I couldn't travel I could go out shopping and do things like visit friends. 

I admit it: I'm spooked about the dark places my mind might go to this winter stuck here alone. I'm hoping maybe books and documentaries on Amazon Prime and getting out in better weather to walk will help, but I'm still nervous. I have seen how fast my mood can sink in all of this. 

I'm also thinking about how last year I almost had a "I lived, everyone!" piece of jewelry made to exorcise the badness of 2019. I'm not thinking that this year because I feel almost like it's a temptation to 2021 to be even worse....

I also admit I was looking at good-luck charms on Etsy today and wondering, should I buy something? Even though I mostly don't believe in luck, and really, I shouldn't, for several reasons. But, I don't know. I feel like I'd like something to help things along, make them work out better. Because "being a good person" ain't it - either it doesn't work or I'm insufficiently good for good things to happen lately. 

Another thing I will have to do, at least, is move the little bookcase I loaded up with "work books" back in March, to make room for the tree. (I might just shift it to the dining room for a while; there's a place it could go. I'm hoping eventually to haul the books back over to school and replace the books in my bedroom - now stacked on the floor - onto this shelf).

Thursday, November 12, 2020

One silver lining

 I guess one good thing about These Unprecedented Times: a lot of groups whose meetings it would be hard for me to attend (because I am 2 hours at least from every major population center) do virtual things I CAN attend.

Tonight, the Oklahoma Native Plant Society had a program called The Greening of Oklahoma - it was on paleobotany and land plants invading the land, given by someone from the Sam Noble Museum. It was really interesting - I had a paleobotany class forever ago when I was an undergraduate but I didn't remember everything about it (and for some reason, I don't know why, the geologic time scale never sticks in my head and I always have to look it up).

Lots of cool reconstructions of freaky ancient plants - and talk about the seed ferns, which are a kind of mysterious group (I guess they class them most closely to the conifers now) that went extinct before humans were on the scene. 

The speaker also mentioned the osage-oranges and how their fruits are not consumed by anything (well, squirrels will pull them apart but they don't seem to be a major source of dispersal) and the hypothesis that either mastodons or giant sloths dispersed them, but now they're extinct. 

He also mentioned a book which I went over to after the presentation and ordered - it's called Ghosts of Evolution, and is about things like that, things that don't make sense now because of past extinctions.

I really enjoyed the presentation - and I got a bit more knitted on the ongoing socks, I am almost up to the toe of the second sock.

Maybe the problem with most tv is it doesn't hold my attention any more? Maybe I need things that are a little "mentally chewier"? And so I'm thinking maybe hunting around and finding either more things like this, or some good documentaries online - or even invest in something like "The Great Courses" - so I can watch and learn and maybe even knit. (I wonder if there's anything on probability, or on Bayesian stats, both of which I am weak on). Or maybe I consider a subscription to something like Britbox and watch a lot of BBC mysteries (which I love) while I knit. It does seem of late there's been precious little on "regular" tv worth watching. And I need stuff to watch; it's too quiet here for me in the evenings, and when I'm tired, I need something diverting like that.

It would be nice to get a few of the ongoing projects finished - I went through them this weekend when I cleaned up, and I put the patterns and required notions and all together with each project, and each in a bag. I'm thinking maybe after I finish the socks I shift to the vest - or to the afghan again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wednesday midmorning things

 * Still feeling "Groundhog Day" things hard. Yes, there's a vaccine likely coming, likely sooner than we feared it might take, but it's still gonna be months, and there's what feels like the eternal now to get through. 

It doesn't help that it's been persistently warm and dry. It feels like summer just keeps hanging on, like we're stuck in August (well, *OHIO* August, where it's in the upper 70s-low 80s, but still). I would like some changeable weather; that breaks the monotony of my days a little.

* No post yesterday, I was just too wiped out after grading the entire biostats exam in the afternoon. Grading is more arduous and more headache-inducing on BlackBoard. It may be better for the students - I'm sure my typed feedback is easier to read than the chicken scratches I usually generate, but peering at blurry cell-phone camera photos of their hand calculations gives me eyestrain and headaches.

* Today is Veteran's Day, formerly known as Armistice Day. I think we've largely forgotten that last part of it - in the US, World War I is pretty poorly taught in school (I don't know much about it, and I'd argue I paid better attention and had a better education than many). I guess at one time it was also a day to reflect on the horrors of war and to remind others that war is not something to be lightly entered in to? 

I also think of something that happened years ago now - I walked into my Biostats class to a lively argument. People were arguing if today was Memorial Day or Veteran's Day. I said it was Veteran's Day, and it was the marker of the end of hostilities in World War I, and I said "The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, does that ring a bell?" 

It did not.
I don't know if it was my unusual history (I was, at that time, 10-15 years older than my students; I am still older now) and I had family members (a great-uncle whom I never met was in the trenches in France; my paternal grandfather missed being sent Over There to be an experimental pilot by one or two days - he arrived in NYC on the train to get his marching orders and found everyone partying because the war was over, and I often wonder if I'd still exist if he had been a few months earlier or if he'd have died over France - or of influenza on the troop ship coming home).

But anyway, I learned about Veteran's Day - or as some older members of my family still called it, Armistice Day - from an early age. Partly because my mom started out as a history major (and had done something akin to a "senior thesis" in high school on WWI, perhaps because of her uncle) but partly because my grandmother and other relatives talked about it, and I tended to absorb things like that as a kid.

And I do wonder, how much of that sort of casual cultural transmission of all kinds has been lost? I've read about how some people never learn basic cooking because they're not taught it, and in some families, the parents' insistence that "learning is the school's responsibility!" means they don't work with their kids much. (My family was just the reverse. I would likely not have learned to cook from Home Ec in school, but  my mom and dad taught me lots - including my mom very patiently letting me bake endless cakes and cookies because I liked baking more than I liked chopping vegetables or some such. And I'd definitely not learned to sew, or some of the basic home-repair stuff, or some of the map-reading stuff...)

* I dunno. I wonder also if some of my malaise of these past months has been that my brain has been too idle. I should probably be reading more...I might try to read an article or two (soil invertebrates, probably) during the "supplemental office hours during lab time" this afternoon. And I've added a few historical documentaries* to my Amazon watchlist, including one on WWI and one on the 1918 influenza.


(*Yes, yes, I know: many of those are not good. But these looked like PBS branded or at least approved ones, so I expect there will be no references to ancient aliens.)

One of the ongoing questions I frankly have is: how did the 1918 pandemic manage to end? There was no vaccine, there were not good therapeutics....was this a case of the "wrong kind of" herd immunity, where just enough people got sick, and a lot died but enough recovered, that the virus quit spreading, or did nonpharmaceutical interventions manage to defeat it? (Masks, though there seem to have been as many vocal anti-maskers back then as now). I dunno, still looking for hope maybe even *before* next summer when supposedly we see a full roll-out of the vaccine.

I will say I am very tired of the disruptions, and I am very apprehensive about what's coming in the next weeks; Tulsa is already saying that they can't take any more ICU patients, and I know our hospitals are approaching capacity and I'm wondering if I'm going to have to once again trust Wal-Mart's curbside pickup. (Though Pruett's does it too, but they charge $5 a go, though I might be more prone to use them because that surcharge tells me they're probably paying their workers more fairly).

I usually do Christmas shopping mostly online but this year extra much. Though it makes me sad not to make my occasional trips to Target or elsewhere to see the pre-Christmas bustle. I think I'll have to cut that out for this year, though. Our case rate is going up alarmingly and while Grayson County is a little better, still best not to be out and about.

* Another night of bad dreams. I guess you'd say "bad" - in one, I had engineered a way to get up to my mother's for Christmas without coming into contact with other people, and I was excited to get to go, and then when I woke up and realized that not only was it not real but I couldn't remember what my idea for safe travel was, I was sad. And also dreaming about the people (and cats) I've lost in the last decade plus, having them alive again inside my subconscious and that made me sad.

Probably I don't have enough people in my life now and that's why I dream about dead ones :(

But I don't know how you get more people in your life, ESPECIALLY in a pandemic. I've never been good at making friends.

I just want to either sleep without dreams, or have dreams that don't leave me unsettled or unhappy. I think part of the reason I've been putting off bedtime later than is really healthy for me is that I want to avoid them. 

And nothing really prevents it - not light entertaining tv, not reading a diverting book, not exercising a few hours before bed. My brain is just gonna do this to me for some reason.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Monday morning hope

 For me, personally, the big news story that dropped this morning: the Pfizer vaccine (which I THINK is the RNA one, which is new tech) may be 90% effective and have few adverse effects.

I saw a hint of it early on Twitter, from the BBC. (I think I had dressed but not eaten yet?). I thought, "huh,potentially good news." As I checked more outlets I got more and more excited. They're saying "third week of November and we'll know for sure that there are few adverse effects" because apparently that's the two-month mark since people were vaccinated, and that's when most bad effects show up. That's next week...

(Also, not to give anything away I shouldn't, but we received a bit of news in my department last week that made me go "huh that is a weirdly optimistic thing to say" but would absolutely fit with this news now)

Dare I hope? Dare I be happy about this? Because 90% effective, if that's correct, is really, really, really good - it is as good as the Polio vaccine and we absolutely crushed polio once a vaccine became widespread. 

I admit it: I cried happy tears. And I put on the three happiest songs I could think of - Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," and ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky," and the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" and danced around the living room.

Ah yes, this is what being happy feels like, I remember this feeling.

I dreamed last night of traveling on a train, and I admit when I woke up I was sad because I wondered: will I ever do that again? or will this drag out so long that there will be no reason for me to travel again once it's over? But maybe not? Maybe next summer I can go see my mom without worrying about picking up the virus or taking it to her? Maybe in not so very many months I can go out shopping again without making it quick targeted trips where I am masked and use hand sanitizer and don't go in a store if it looks crowded or there are lots of unmasked people? 

I want to hope, but I'm also afraid to - so often in this I felt hope and then that hope got snatched away. 


Alex Trebek has died. This is sad and makes me sad, though it sounds like it was peaceful, and his family was around him, and I presume, knowing he had stage IV pancreatic cancer, he had a chance to make whatever kind of peace he needed. 

I never watched Jeopardy! much - not a fan of game shows though that was the one I would say I liked best if I were asked. Because of Trebek - he made being smart and curious cool, and he generally was pretty nice to the contestants, it seems. He also seems to have had a pretty quiet personal life (I did not know he had been married twice, for example) and sometimes it's just nice to hear about someone who lives their life without a lot of drama or messiness. 

I had also forgotten his involvement with the National Geography Bee, but they mentioned that. For years, my father was a local judge of the geography bees, he always enjoyed that. And you know? I like things like spelling bees and geography bees and math bowls and things like that - I feel like the little kids with a particular academic talent (or the time to develop knowledge in an area) should be celebrated too, just as much as the sports stars or the kids good at music or art. 


Didn't get the house as clean as I had hoped; I got the kitchen, bathroom, dining room, and hall as done as they could be, and picked up most of the living room and swept the floors there, but I ran out of steam. Maybe I can attack it a little more later this week, I don't know. Or next weekend. I am not going anywhere for a while because of the rise in cases locally. 

I knit a little bit on a simple sock and sewed a bit more of the binding down on one of the quilts. It seems hard to motivate myself to do things these days. But maybe with the news this morning, and the idea that eventually I can get a calendar and mark a day when vaccines should be available, and start crossing off days, maybe that will help. 

I will admit I'm slightly dreading the long empty stretch of Christmas break, especially if case loads here are so high that going out for anything seems inadvisable. I don't do well with isolation, that's one thing this time has taught me. I'm not the kind of person who can compose a symphony or invent a new way of doing mathematics or write plays. I suppose this means I have a very small mind compared to some, which is an unpleasant thing for someone once told they were a "'gifted kid" to learn.

(I think most of the "gifted kid" stuff is a lie; I think some of us were told that because we were unpopular kids who were compliant with what the teachers wanted, and they told us that either because they thought we were smart because we were obedient, or they told us that to keep us from despairing. I don't think I was particularly gifted other than maybe having a better memory than some people)


Slept badly last night - combination of reading unpleasant news before bed, going to bed too late, and then the jerks in my neighborhood driving their boom cars around shortly after 11 pm and again around 2 am, and there's no way, not even with ear plugs, to block out the bass, because I think it transmits through one's bones. 

I hope it gets cold here soon; that seems to cut down on boom car activity. It has been altogether too warm (nearly 80 many days lately) and that also adds to the feeling of "trapped in an eternity" that the pandemic has given me - not even the weather is changing.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Today I'm busy


The motivation and energy hit today so I'm doing it, instead of going back and sorting soil, which I can do next week. Already pretty deep into cleaning cabinets in the bathroom. My hopes are to have a really nice clean house after this, because stay-at-home-II (please no boogaloo) will be more pleasant if my place is clean.

If I get this done today and tomorrow I am going to sew on the new quilt top and maybe pull out the stalled scarf and knit on it

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Ups and downs

 Had a weird and slightly upsetting occurrence on the way home today. I turned the corner to get on to the cross-street to my house (I live on Fourth; this would be Mulberry I was turning on to) and I had to stop short: there was someone sitting in my lane. I guess they thought it was the left turn lane, though there's a marked left-turn lane there, I take it every morning going to work.

So there I sat, bewildered at first - wait, what? Could I be in the wrong somehow? Am I having a brain cramp and going the wrong way*?

No, of course it was that they were in the wrong lane.

(*One of my flaws is I automatically assume I am wrong in any situation. Like, I spend a lot of time double-checking the calculations I do on the biostats homework keys when the first person gets a question wrong, just to be sure *I* didn't make an error)

But I was stuck there, the butt of my car hanging out to where traffic would shortly be going, and I didn't know what to do. I desperately looked at the person - I couldn't pull back out and go another way, I wasn't going to go AROUND them (through the left-turn lane, which would me going the wrong way and would be bad if someone ELSE were coming to use that lane).

Finally, the person VERY SLOWLY backed up and VERY SLOWLY moved over into the lane but it was nerve-wracking and kind of upsetting. 

I'm going to be charitable and assume it was someone from out of town, who didn't know where they were going, or were worried about something, and they forgot and thought the street was one-way or something (A few of our streets are, but as far as I can remember, none of the east-west ones are, just a couple of the north-south ones). 

But little things like that get to me more now. I didn't exactly cry driving the rest of the way home but I was close. 


But then tonight was (virtual, over Zoom) AAUW meeting. Typically we have a program, often from someone providing a local community service, and tonight it was the man who heads up the regional Boys and Girls Clubs program - in the five or so years he's been here, they've gone from one club (I think here in town) to 14 spread across the region. They shut down (went virtual) for 2 months earlier this year but now have protocols in place to hae the kids back in. 

I wasn't fully aware of what the clubs did but they really do provide a service - childcare after school for working families, and tutoring for kids, and in some cases, support for kids coming from difficult family situations (something like 10% of the kids are in foster care). And they fed lots and lots of kids brown-bag meals during the lockdown period, some of whom might not have got such good nutrition.

And I needed to hear that. I need more stories like that to combat the bad stuff I see in the news - here is just this guy, a fairly humble man, just doing the job he feels called to do, probably not making a lot of money doing it. But he's making a difference and it's pretty clear that he is. 

It also seems like he's really added a lot to the program since he came - they have a gym for the kids, and a "teen hang out room" that is supervised, and a place where they can show movies. And like I said, the first thing they do when the kids arrive from school is set them up to work on their homework, and there is help available if the kids don't understand something or are having trouble with an assignment. 

And I realized now - I'm getting a Christmas bonus this year and my plan was to donate part of it to a good cause, well, here it is. I know they can always use funds for supplies. 

But yes: more of that please, I want to hear more about people who are just doing their thing and are making the world a better place, even if they're not widely lauded or famous for it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

And looking ahead

 For personal reasons, this has been an upsetting week. (Nothing to do with the wider world, but still: upsetting).

A couple of things I thought or read about, which led to other thoughts:

- Someone on Twitter commented that what they missed were not so much specific things - like dancing, or singing publicly, or whatever - but they missed the loss of POSSIBILITY and yes, that feels very much like it. I think of weekends in the before-times, I wouldn't necessarily be going somewhere every weekend - but there were possibilities. I didn't often go to restaurants, but it felt like a possibility. Now, when you have to weigh everything you do against a clear and present risk (as opposed to the more nebulous and easily-ignored risk of things like car accidents). Also, for me, knowing someone who died (my cousin) and another person who is ill (a friend from church, but hopefully she is on the mend now) makes the risk feel more immediate.

- And also, just the fatigue coupled with it - the wearing of a mask, the having to sanitize my hands, some places getting my temperature checked (the pharmacy where I picked my medicine up did that). And the vigilance - is the place too crowded? Are people distancing? Is anyone being a loud fool? 

It reaches the point where sometimes I've thought of going out, and have decided it doesn't feel worth the extra effort and worry, so I mail order whatever thing it is instead.

- An article I read, about how "fun" seems elusive these days, and yes, I've noticed that: the author wrote about how it was like the baby bird in the old "Are You My Mother" children's book (which I remember WELL, it was one of the first books I learned to read, and also I remember my mom found a French copy somewhere and it was my introduction to French). But anyway: "Is this fun?"

Or maybe, more, it's like that butterfly meme of a couple years ago:

I opined that maybe we will need "fun counselors" or "fun therapists" after this is all over to help us remember what fun was.

Though it's different for everyone. I never particularly found going out to movies fun; I'd find more fun in, like, hanging up a sheet in the backyard on a warm summer night and having friends over and playing one of my dvds projected on the sheet, almost like a drive-in movie sort of thing. 

Unnecessary shopping can be fun - I remember enjoying doing gift-shopping for people, or just roaming around antique shops, and while I suppose I COULD still safely go antiquing, again, it seems like kind of a lot of effort? 

Bell Choir was fun, and I hope that can start up again some time. 

The just-hanging-out sort of thing, whether a potluck with my colleagues, or meeting up with a friend, was fun. 

I guess for me "fun" also does somewhat involve other people. I can get a little fun from getting involved in sewing or knitting but I can also tell it's not as FUN fun as some other things.


But now, looking at the little things.

While teaching lab today - it was another one of those computer simulation things and dang, I will be glad when I can once again do real labs with people working together and interacting with each other - I was hanging around, using the classroom "instructor" computer, and because I didn't want anything too "personal" on there, I kind of browsed around for information about Cuyahoga Valley National Park (née National Recreation Area) and I found a "conservancy" site that apparently helps support the park....and they had cool merch. And I was in a nostalgic mood anyway; I really have no interest in going back to the town where I grew up but I would like to see the park again some day.

(The site is Conservancy for CVNP). I ordered one of the cool "Bridge" t-shirts (it's a rose-color and has an almost Civilian Conservation Corps style graphic) and a long-sleeved t-shirt with the park map on it. And a pair of the park socks to go in with my mom's Christmas present - she was a volunteer there years ago and might enjoy the socks. I might place a secondary order if my mom thinks my brother feels enough ties to the place that he might want a hoodie or something, it would certainly make for an easy gift, and it helps support the park). 

So I have those coming, and also that link to my past - and maybe a hope someday to travel back there to see it?

And I decided I am getting some amaryllis plants to force this Christmas. I've long wanted to but with traveling, I can't. But this year I can't travel so I guess one little way of making lemonade out of the giant lemon that is 2020 is to order some amaryllis and force them. (A tentative plan I have for Thanksgiving week is to deep-clean the house, do Christmas decorating, and then hopefully just be able to mostly enjoy my Christmas break as best I can here - maybe get a lot of sewing and knitting done? Maybe watch through the entire series of "The Good Place" which I plan to do eventually)

And I have a chicken roasting in the oven. That helps too. And I ordered some smoked salmon from SeaBear, it should be here maybe tomorrow. And I plan to splurge for Thanksgiving and order something from them, maybe fish, maybe crab. And maybe do the same for Christmas. I've spent more money on comfort things this fall but maybe that's okay? And maybe I get back into doing a little more baking? It's kind of hard right now because it's harder to share - in the before-times, people would often bake bread and take an extra loaf in, or bring cookies at Christmas, whatever, and that's not happening this year. (I'm not even sure we're going to do a Christmas party at church).

Right now I'm pinning my hopes on next year. It looks like the UK might be rolling out a vaccine soon, and we received some news in my department today that I'm not really at liberty to divulge but it suggests a vaccine IS coming here. No idea how effective it will be but that's okay too - even partially effective will help. 

I suppose the next hurdle for me is to make a small list of things I might want for Christmas that would not be too arduous for my mother to obtain - I know she gets catalogs and I guess this year that's how we do it. (I wish there were more of an element of surprise; it's the small nice surprises I miss)