Saturday, September 22, 2018

Change of plans

Yeah, no Sherman for me because we got dumped on yesterday and today, rainwise. Lots of bad flooding, a number of the roads up around Tishomingo and Ada had to close. So I stayed in town and went to Wal-mart (organic milk, the rye bread I use, more tinned smoked trout, oatmeal, more of the finely shredded cabbage for yet another run of those cabbage pancakes*,eggs....) and later, the Pruett's (hambuger meat, an onion**, some grapes, frozen raspberries)

(*I like them, they're fast, they're reasonably nutritious - pretty much cabbage, eggs, a little flour, some green onion, plus ginger and coconut aminos (which I use in place of the saltier soy sauce) and then the dipping sauces)

(**I keep green onions on hand because I use them a lot but usually only buy regular onions as needed because I sometimes go long stretches without needing them, and few things smell worse than an onion that's gone off)

I did get a surprise in the mail - my friend Anj (Purlewe) sent me a couple of things, including GLOW IN THE DARK NAIL POLISH which is wonderful because in normal light it just looks like a normal clear topcoat but if you expose your nails to some minutes of fairly strong light (for the test I held my hands under my reading lamp) they DO glow in the dark and for some reason I find that very deeply amusing...I may use it at some point as a topcoat on my toes over another color, see how that works. (I am hoping I can get enough light so they will actually look glowy in class when I shut off the lights whenever there's a slide I'm showing that's a dark photograph or a graph that doesn't show up well in the bright)

There was also one of those mini Funko My Little Ponies (I got Princess Cadence, whom I did not have in that form) and some alpaca stickers and some Snoopy erasers and a postcard advertising the Mr. Rogers documentary that says "A Little Kindness Makes a World of Difference" and I think I am going to take it over to my office and put it up somewhere where I can see it when I sit at my desk because (a) It is something I need to be reminded of some times and (b) it will make me think of Anj when I see it (she lives in Philadelphia, where Mr. Rogers worked out of) and it's good to be reminded of your friends.

(My mom's best friend, who still lives back in Ohio, once said she liked the small handmade gifts we had made for her because she would have them around her house and when she would look at one, like something my mom had made, she'd say "Hello, Gail" and think of her...)

And speaking of Mr. Rogers, there is a nice essay in "Christ and Pop Culture" (an online magazine I like) called Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and the Fragility of Hope and it references two things - the PSAs he made (not long before his death, actually, he died in 2003) about the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and how he didn't really know what to say or how to say it (I think a lot of us face that problem in the face of great horrors, and Mr. Rogers was one of the more eloquent people, I think, in recent years).

But also, this struck me a lot, and I find it humbling:

Fred’s wife recounts one of the last conversations she had with her husband before he went into a coma. Referring to a passage he’d been reading in Matthew 25, he asked her if she thought he was a “sheep.” Her answer: Fred, if ever there was a sheep, you’re one

Yes, apparently even Mr. Rogers had self-doubt. (And yes, though I tend not to be one of those "I know the chapter and verse" type Christians, I know exactly what passage he had been reading there, and it's one of my favorites, and it's one I try hard to work into my life but don't always succeed at)

I find that humbling because, well, he's Mr. Blessèd Rogers, and if ANYONE on this earth in the past 100 years had a right to feel like what he did helped people, he would be one. And yet, he doubted if he was "enough," if he "did enough." (Honestly, if any mortal person's soul got to hear "Well done, my good and faithful servant" as he entered the afterlife....)

Ironically (because I know I'm not that good and I will never do as much as he did to help so many people), that makes me think, "You know? Maybe I am a little too  hard on myself. Maybe what I am doing is "enough," since I try to do it with a good heart and with love for others"

And the answer to the unspoken question in the essay: yes, for people of faith, there are ways to hold on to hope. And even in one of the darker recent hours (after September 11), Mr. Rogers was able to hang on to that hope....

But other than that - quiet weekend at home, which probably was actually what I needed MORE. (I joked on Twitter that maybe this rain was a bit of God going, "You must think of your budget and not be tempted to spend more money!")

I also caught New Pony and I forgot (or maybe didn't see of all last week's episode) about how Rockhoof wanted Twilight to turn him into a statue and while the implication was "but it wouldn't be forever," still that's frankly a....kinda dark thing for a kid's show, when you think about it. (Luckily, he found a reason to stay un-turned-to-stone before the end of the episode). This week's new episode was the Student Six, and you know? I do kind of like their interactions. This week's episode was them being tested by the Tree of Harmony (? could the alleged "Generation 5" that is coming after this one closes down maybe be something to do with these characters and their journeys? Though that's not really My Little PONIES, very much, is it?) and it involved them confronting their biggest fears in a way - so Yona's was pretty simple (spiders, and she realized that "spiders can be our friends") and Ocellus' was "but what if I still have badness in my heart, what if my Changeling Heritage comes out?" and Gallus is claustrophobic, and Sandbar is....afraid of letting people down, I guess? But the two that struck me were Smolder and Silverstream.

Silverstream's was pretty simple: "What if the evil creature that oppressed my people comes back" (even though - and I've still not taken time to watch the movie, but apparently he could not come back) but what got me was when Gallus told her she needed to "confront" the shadows scaring her and oh, Silverstream getting angry is both cute and funny and touching and she reminded me a little bit of me when I have to work myself up to confront someone over something - the near-tears, the funny facial contortions. (I really wanted to hug Silverstream and tell her it was going to be all right, and please Aurora or someone, make plushies of these guys? I want *at least* a Silverstream and a Yona, and now probably a Smolder too, because....)

Smolder's fear was looking ridiculous or other creatures laughing at her because she secretly likes girly stuff. (her " test" being a tea party where she "had to" put on a dress and make up, but secretly she really enjoyed it, and admitted to....Gallus, was it? Or Sandbar? that she "liked cute silly stuff" and also swore the character to secrecy over it....

(Are all girl dragons in this universe kind of tsundere? I mean, it's a cute character trait and all (and Ember was kind of that way). And yeah, I like Smolder even better now... because I really do like cute and silly stuff, though I am not nearly as secretive as she is about it, I do also kind of fear people laughing at me because I do, and sometimes I wonder when I get that odd student who doesn't seem to respect me if it's that they think I'm too girly or something)

Right now I am working on the current simple socks, being made of yarn I bought in Shreveport when I visited Laura. It's an odd striping pattern but I kind of like it. I am debating tomorrow starting another sweater that would be simple enough as a "carry along" project for invigilating (or perhaps a simpler shawl - Celestarium, as nice as it is, is not a good carry along project - too much attention and then all the beads, and I'd hate knocking over the bead box and losing all the beads on the classroom floor....). I have a couple sockyarn sweaters that might fit the bill, and possibly Flax would work if I could get the neckband part done before the next big exam...I know I've got a bunch of others and really if I had the time and motivation it would make sense to sort my stash and have containers for sweater yarn (plus the patterns, keep the pattern with the sweater) and one for shawl yarn and one for sock yarn and one for "other" (like the yarns for my amigurumi) but of course that's less fun to do than other things, so I likely won't get to it any time soon...

Ooh, I also have Anaheim and that green yarn the lady in AAUW gave me, and it would be nice to start that some time so I could tell her the next time I saw her that I started a sweater out of the yarn...also Anaheim might be a fast knit as it's a smaller, more fitted sweater, with half-length sleeves....It's a simple lace pattern but probably not too complex for invigilating....

Maybe some in-progress shots tomorrow, of the socks, and Celestarium, and if I start Anaheim...

Friday, September 21, 2018

"To the good old days"

Not gonna like, I like this version a lot better than the Twenty-One Pilots' version (I have friends who are fans of them, so, yeah, sorry, but...the more jazzy style is more me).

But yes. This has been a stressful week. Heck, it's been a stressful MONTH - just a bit over 30 days ago now was when I first got the call from my mom about my dad being in hospital and things looked really bad that Thursday night into Friday, and I remember having a small freak out in the first faculty meeting of the semester because I was worried and someone was telling me something I thought was another office's over-reach really wasn't, and fundamentally I heard "just suck it up and spend more of your time doing this task that isn't that meaningful to you anyway).

He's doing better; the insurance approved a few more days at the rehab place and (surprisingly, 'cos I know he's sick of it) he took them - I guess he really does want to get as strong and mobile as he possibly can before going home. (Good for him. And good for my mom, too). I really hope this is the "scared straight" thing that gets him to (a) keep up with his exercises at home (he loses mobility fast when he does not) and (b) use his spirometer so he can see if his asthma is getting ahead of him.

And also friends having problems this week, that was concerning. And it just so often now feels like the whole world is burning down and the lessons my parents taught me about being kind and being fair and treating other people the way I would want to be treated don't apply any more, and I'm not sure I know how to negotiate the newer, more cut-throat type of world without winding up prey.

I had to laugh today after being referred to as "unflappable" because wow, that person does not know me at all, and does not realize that much of the time I'm holding it together through a supreme force of will, and perhaps the reason I lack willpower for dieting is that it all goes into me keeping myself calm.

I will say exercise seems to help; I was pretty calm and focussed in classes this morning, but that wore off around noon. I think all the people get to me, and the fact that I have a couple people who just seem monumentally unconcerned about the class and are only doing the barest of bare minimums, and act like it's all a big joke. And I know, not my circus, not my monkeys, I can't control how others act, but as someone who's always given a hard damn about everything, it bothers me to make an effort when there are people who don't (Like: grading their stuff, as much of it as they do). But the "it's a big joke" attitude REALLY gets to me because I dislike being disrespected, I dislike being taken not-seriously when I'm serious, and it's also possible this is just my PERCEPTION so maybe I'm just over interpreting and so I can't SAY anything to them about it. But it's giving me bad flashbacks to that bad Soils class I had one semester where people were outright rude to me - to the point where a couple of the Conservation majors took the guys in question aside (without my knowledge, I only found out a semester later) and told them "Knock it off. She works hard, she's a good teacher, you're being a jerk." Sadly, it didn't help much. And the damage was done....

And yeah, I just kinda hit a wall at the end of class. But I'm home now, with lunch, and a bit of a break (I have to go back around 2; meeting with my research student.).

My plans for this evening are simple: it's a wet cooler day, so I'm going to wash up a set of sheets, change the bed, clean my bedroom a little, do some knitting, go to bed early. Tomorrow if it's not bucketing down rain I'm going to JoAnn's and the bookstore and maybe the yarn shop but also the natural-foods store and the Kroger, and maybe Sunday I do from-scratch baked beans.

More and more, I find I need the weekends to recuperate from the week. This week was harder in part because I didn't really get that last weekend.


Change of plans: my student just called. (This is an interview for dental school for either the spring or next fall, I don't know which) and they asked her for a sample resume and "evidence of her hand skills" so she's got extra things to do PLUS there is flash flooding and she wanted to leave earlier so as not to drive in the dark (and I don't blame her, not at all) so I told her we would reschedule the meeting and....I have nothing I have to do now, no need to go back to campus. There is one tiny thing I could do but it is not *crucial* and also I could do it on Monday, so....(Or I could go back for a bit and get even MORE ahead for next week, which is tempting, given it's not raining right now)

But at any rate: gonna throw the sheets in the wash so I can change my bed, and then figure it out.

But yeah, I feel happier and calmer again so I do wonder if either it's some weird allergen at my building or just those couple of problem people in my class (and really, I need to remind myself: You are teaching for the woman who said she wants a teaching career like you have, and the guy who is REALLY into herps, and the people who said 'this class has more interesting labs than my other lab class' and not for those twerps who figure they can skate through on, I don't know what, youth or something Or maybe they think they're good-looking? I don't know. I don't particularly notice that in young guys 'cos in students my brain clamps down and goes THEY ARE BABIES and anyway I am more attracted to guys who are a little more "weathered" and craggy-looking, and these guys really ARE babies so I couldn't tell you if they're handsome or not, they really aren't to me)

But yeah. Maybe I practice for a bit and then run over and put every last thing I could up on BlackBoard for the coming week, and then come home and feel free to knit and take a nice soaky bath in good conscience.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

New little friends

My Doki Doki crate for September came yesterday (this is kind of late, but it was sent out kind of late - October's crate is already on the way. And I'm hoping the Gachapon crate I decided to try and that was allegedly sent out on the same day comes very soon....I'd be worried if it was too much longer)

Anyway, this was back to school, so there's a Sumikkogurashi pencil case:

I already have one, but of a different design, and they're handy to have. (My other one holds tools in one of my knitting bags).

And there's a My Melody shaped onigiri-maker. I don't really make onigiri but maybe I should start? (I already have a panda one from an earlier box). I don't often have tiny bits of leftover meat or fish to tuck in them. But maybe I make sweet ones and put either almond butter or Nutella in them? I don't know.

And a fancy little pen that claims to have scented ink (I haven't tried it yet). And this:

It's a plastic Jinbesan folder. Very nice, I'm thinking it would be a good way to carry a printed-out knitting pattern because it would be kept together and protected.

But the best thing is this:

One of those tiny "backpack mascots" (it has a ball chain so you can attach it to things) of Aggretsuko. The only drawback is they missed a trick - it's not reversible, with her ragey-heavy-metal face on the other side. Apparently you randomly got "Sweet Retsuko" or "Ragey Retsuko." (And I got the sweet one, though maybe that's more me anyway).

I don't carry a backpack so I don't have anything to attach her to (and for traveling, I'd be afraid of her getting lost or damaged or even stolen off my bag).But still a nice little mascot.

I also mentioned I bought the two Equestria Girls "switch and mix fashions" mini dolls - Twilight (I guess it's Sci-Twi, the one who in the series is the girl-Twilight rather than transformed-pony-Twilight, because she has glasses) and Rarity. I am guessing they chose those two because Rarity is the fashion designer, so she's perfect for it, and Twilight is probably the most well-liked/main character. But also their colors coordinate, so they can swap clothes.

The clothes are super cute. There are three outfits for each (a dress, and Rarity has two tops and skirts, and Twilight has two dresses and a top and skirt). They also each have two wigs and two pairs of shoes, and a few little accessories (like: Rarity has her eyeglasses and a purse and a mirror and a book of fashion ideas....) I love little touches like that and I would have loved toys like that as a kid.

I had to unbox them and play with changing the clothes. So here is each in a favorite outfit:

I will say the thought of a caffeinated Twilight Sparkle is maybe a little scary. At least when she's in one of her anxiety spirals.

And here's Rarity, in a dress inspired by the classic tomato pincushions, which is just SUPER cute:

She also comes with a fancy formal dress (because of course she does):

You can also see her second wig there.

So I dunno

Got up this morning and did the dvd workout (even though one ankle was bugging me a little, but now it seems to be better. I can never tell these days if I low-level injured myself or if it's just stiffness/age - which often gets better with movement).

I am currently less anxious.

So maybe I need morning exercise? (Yesterday I didn't get up early to do it on the grounds that (a) I was mowing the lawn Tuesday and Wednesday and (b) I had done two days in a row and probably needed a rest day). As I joked on Twitter: crap, does this mean I'm now addicted to my own endocannabinoid system?

Or it could be the hardest lab (logistically) of the semester is now behind me, and also I know today I can go home for lunch (AND YES THAT MATTERS) and if I can get my rear in gear and finish this grading I won't have to take anything home with me...and my exam for next week is done.

(And yes, I know: there are "helps" if one isn't currently producing those natural "feel good" chemicals, but one of the simplest, and now-legal-here ones - CBD oil - is *probably* off-limits to me given some of my allergies to some of the things I think cross-react with hemp. Oh well. If exercise does it, then I keep up with the exercise, I guess, even though it kind of sucks to have to go to bed by 9 pm in order to get in enough sleep.

And yeah, just another reason I'm apprehensive about the increasing legalization/mainstream acceptance of pot, esp. pot smoking: sensitivities. I already really notice it when I'm somewhere around cigarette smoke (I think I've become more sensitive over the years, or maybe I've become less tolerant of it because most of the spaces I'm in are smoke-free). I'm hoping there's not a going-backwards where smoking becomes more common again because it's weed and not tobacco, and that maybe some of us have to curtail some of our social activities because of that.)


I am looking forward to the weekend, though. Today and tomorrow are comparatively easy days, teaching wise, and I have Saturday off (provided I plow through the grading) and my tentative plans (provided it's not Ark weather) are to go to Sherman after New Pony and run to the JoAnn's and maybe the bookstore and the natural-foods store and the Kroger. A quick run, this time, I think. (Though if the weather is actually favorable, I reserve the right to run to the yarn shop as well). I should go and get some cash today so I am supplied in case my credit cards crap out again, though I strongly suspect that was a Target thing and the claim of "oh, your cards must have gotten compromised/Oh, the issuer must think it's unusual activity because you're out of state" was a covering-their-butts because I've now heard of other people who've had issues using their cards at the local Target. (And, gah, does everywhere have to have awful customer service now?)

Am thinking of getting some ground beef and maybe making meatballs for the coming week. More and more, I find "cook something big on Sunday afternoon that you can eat for much of the coming week" is the best option for food. For one thing: I prefer home-cooked food, and with my allergies/sensitivities/salt restriction, it's best for me. (Also, I dislike most frozen dinners, and there's a limited choice of restaurants here that do carry out - and I am enough of an introvert to feel discomfort going to a "nicer" restaurant alone for dinner. I'd go if a friend or colleague asked me to come with them or if a group were going, but alone - not so much)


One of the things that came across Twitter this morning from one of those "positivity" accounts (Erin Ruberry): "Treat yourself as you would treat others" and that's an interesting thought to those of us who were raised strongly with the Golden Rule and who also tend to be our own worst enemies.

I tend to cut other people more slack than I cut myself. And maybe I need to cut myself more slack - like, if I just can't get some grading done right away so I hand the thing back the next class, handing it back in the class after that is okay. I know there are some nights these days when I sit down at home with my grading and my brain just rebels and my inner toddler lies down on the floor and starts to kick and scream because I DON'T WANT TO. I usually make myself (my Inner Adult is stronger than my Inner Toddler) but maybe I'd be happier if I didn't grade stuff the day I took it up (when I'm tired) and used that time to knit instead? I don't know.

I do know I need to be better about "speaking" to myself kindly and also sometimes giving myself permission to "flake" a little on some things. And to less try to soothe myself by buying stuff - I need to watch my pennies anyway (don't we all) and buying myself stuff is probably less restorative in the long run than taking that 30 minutes to either knit, or read, or just go to bed a little earlier when I'm tired.

Though my latest little treat does please me: I had heard the "Mix and Match Fashions" Equestria Girls mini dolls of Rarity and Twilight were out - and Amazon had them, and amazingly I got in before they were all bought up by third-party sellers, so I got each one for a decent price (probably about what I'd have paid at the wal-mart, if they ever got them - their toy-section stocking is mysterious; some weeks they have cool new stuff, and then they go months with nothing, and the section gets sad and messed-up as kids and parents plow through looking for what they want). I still haven't had much time to play with them, but did unbox Twi and change her clothes (and shoes). They come with a painted-on swimsuit (so that gets around the "underwear" problem, but also really does add play value, in that if the kid wants to play "swimming pool" with them, they only need take off the dress and shoes and she's ready to go). There are also replacement wigs and I admit I kind of love this newer touch - that you can change the hairstyles.

I wish there had been dolls like this when I was a kid; I might have played more with dolls: small size, easily changeable clothes (though clothes mattered less to me as a kid than they do now) and hair (ditto), poseable, have a more "adventurous" sort of backstory than I imagined Barbie as having. (Barbie was the big thing, as I remember, when I was a kid. Or maybe that was just in my particular set, I don't know. But American Girl dolls did not make the scene until I was really too old for that sort of thing, and there weren't that many "little girl" type dolls like the Penny Brite of an earlier era.)

I will admit I'm also scheming to see if there's a way I could sew some little additional dresses and things for them - even though I have yet to make the Barbie sundresses I've had pattern and fabric sitting on my sewing table for about a month. (Again, maybe I just need to put a hard limit on how late in the day I work, and, say, at 7 pm or so, just switch over to doing something "fun" even if it means the grading or whatever doesn't quite get done)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

End of Wednesday

Well, not quite for me. I should haul at least some of my grading home with me, and I have to practice more piano, and I really should mow that back yard. (At least I made cabbage pancake for dinner last night, so I have the leftovers as a quick heat-up thing for this evening)

Today was....not a good anxiety day. I don't know why. I felt jumpy and unsettled all day, and my chest felt tight. I strongly suspect some of what I interpret as "I'm anxious" is really "my asthma is lowgrade bugging me" because when I stopped and did some deep-breathing exercises (there's a nice .gif online for that:)

it got better. But yeah, still.

I will say with some displeasure that what I interpret as "anxiety" may be increasing. Part of menopause? Maybe? (The clock is still ticking, I can call myself done in January if nothing happens between now and then). Maybe just all the stuff that happens so loud and so fast and so incredibly close in my life?

I do find I spent a lot of nights when I sleep squeezing either Polaris or Pfred or sometimes even just old Harry (my teddy bear, renamed because he looks like Fluttershy's friendly bear friend) up tightly to my chest and that helps me somewhat.

No, I don't want to go on another med. If it becomes crippling I will but right now it's not all the time and it's merely unpleasant when it is and I can power through it and also I do think some of this is allergies and asthma bothering me. 

It would also be nice if I had more regular access to someone who had friendly dogs or cats or horses or just some kind of nice animal that would let me pet it. No, I don't need the added responsibility of a pet of my own right now but I would love to visit someone else's and maybe even once in a while walk their dog for them.

Part of it is today was the soils lab, which while it's stressful for me (the set up is more involved than any other lab, and there's a lot more careful watching to be sure people don't do unsafe things), it does seem to be valuable to the students, and they seem to enjoy it. (I wonder how many tiring things educators do because they know it benefits the students, and I wonder if the students realize the effort we put in. I don't think I fully appreciated it when I was a student.)

My one student I THOUGHT was challenging me early in the semester - the person who asked something that sounded to me like "So how did you get this job, anyway?" and I heard it as a "what kind of an idiot are you" on that particular day, but I said nothing other than to explain a bit of the coursework I had done....well, they asked to meet with me after class because they wanted advice on a minor, and in the course of talking, it came out that REALLY what they were asking is "Your job seems like something I'd be well suited for, I'd like to follow a similar career path, how'd you plan for it?"

So you never should assume. The student was just being blunt and maybe a little awkward, and I have come to realize that's kind of just their natural state, so I'm glad now I didn't say anything to them and I didn't think ill of them (though I admit I was a little leery). But I often find interacting with people hard because sometimes it's really easy to misinterpret them.

They also expressed excitement to be taking one of my upcoming classes, so, I think that's a win.

And I think a couple of the other students who maybe didn't take me fully seriously at the start because I tend to be very traditionally feminine (I wear dresses and skirts and make up and bright pastel colors in a department where most of the other women dress in dark slacks and wear minimal makeup) now do, because they've seen what I can do, and that's good. (And maybe they learned something about not assuming)

But yeah. I'm a little frazzled right now, part of it is just teaching four courses and oh my gosh the grading for those courses....

I have tentative plans to go to Sherman this weekend. Money wise, maybe I shouldn't (though I will always need groceries whether I stay here or go there) but I also admit I really just want to wander around in the JoAnn's for a bit to decompress. (Oh how I wish we had a Michael's. JoAnn's is nice but I realized they tend to be a bit thin on the simple "kit crafts" that some places used to do, and sometimes I just want a simple, I don't know, Christmas tree ornament kit where I'm sticking sequins on a ball or something like that, and it's fairly mindless and self-limited in time (unlike knitting, where it takes days to months to finish a thing). But yeah, I could go for one of those old Darice or whatever the brand was kits where you either decorated a foam shape by using pins to attach sequins to it, or some kind of super-simple small plastic-canvas-and-yarn deal, or, I don't know what. (Maybe I should dig out that latch-hook kit I bought ages ago and never got very far on).

I also feel a desire to bake something now that I have an oven back. Maybe not full on bread with kneading and everything, but maybe mix up that muffin mix I bought a week or so back and have muffins this weekend for breakfasts. (And if it EVER gets cooler, I am totally doing baked beans some Saturday when I will be home all day. Or a Sunday afternoon).

I am ready for cooler weather, though. And hopefully for me to finally get back in the swing of getting everything I need to do done in the little interstices of time I have, so I can go back to long Saturday afternoons knitting and looking out at the fall rain while something quiet and nice plays on the tv (or on Pandora music). I'm ready for the cozy season. (And I really do need to take some time and clean house again, bleagh, so it's more pleasant to be in it. Especially my bedroom)

There's also a chance my dad gets to go home in the next few days. My mom says she'd like for him to have a few more days of rehab, but that's kind of how insurance works. She is planning to get someone in a couple days a week to do PT with him, though. I know he'll be glad to be home. (I just wish he were more mobile. I wish his knee surgery had had a better outcome, that was really the start of all this stuff. Makes me not want to consider it if my knees wind up going, though maybe by then there will be some better and less-invasive treatment.)

I guess the food there isn't that great, either. (Most institutional food isn't). She did comment that one of the....not sure if you'd call them orderlies or practical nurses....commented that she liked working with my mom and dad (my mom is practically always over there) because, and I quote "You're polite to me and not demanding" (and yes, there's a racial aspect there in the people who treat her badly, maybe: the nurse in question, my mom noted, is West Indian with African heritage). But yeah, that's how my parents are, that's how I was raised. I know they're grateful for the help they've gotten and they express that to the people around them. (And really, I have found: often when you are polite to people, you get better and sometimes faster help than you might if you are rude).

What a week

* The shaving-on-the-train guy everyone was dunking on? Was homeless, and was trying to get cleaned up to try to get a job. Yeah, nice job, everyone. (I hope he finds work).

* As I said on Twitter:

"2016: that celebrity you liked? They just died.
2017: that celebrity you liked? They're a sex-abuser
2018: that celebrity you like? They have been compared to the pudendum of a world leader"

(If you don't know that last reference, don't google. Just let me say that when a lot of people saw Toad (from Mario Kart) trending, they were.....disappointed? horrified? learn that it wasn't in reference to a new version of the game coming out.)

Things have gotten really weird really fast. Or maybe that weirdness was always there but is more in our faces now.

* Also the revelation that Bert and Ernie were at least coded gay, at least in the minds of some of the writers. And you know? Maybe for little kids who have same-sex parents, they can look at them and go "Oh, here's a family like mine." And for little kids like me who knew nothing of the wider world (maybe it's different now, I don't know, but I was really innocent until I was in middle school or so), they can just see them as two good friends who happen to share an apartment. It seems to me it's some of the adults on social media whose minds are going to salacious places.

I mean, I didn't even know what sex WAS until I was 10, well out of the Sesame Street demographic. If I had seen a same sex couple I likely would have figured "roommates or good friends" but then again I also didn't know how opposite-sex couples made babies, so....

(My belief? From my limited experience with women having babies, it was: "When a couple love each other very much, and they're ready for a kid and want one, somehow God makes it happen." I mean, I had heard of the Virgin Birth, so it didn't seem so weird to me that maybe every baby was somehow ordained by God. I wish it were that way, in fact, that every child born was one that was wanted and would be well cared-for, like the kids of my relatives and family friends when I was growing up....)

(I am also willing to accept the "Best Friends" status of Lyra and BonBon, and probably Trixie and Starlight Glimmer. I don't like the WILD shipping some fans do, and I'd prefer the Mane Six to remain unattached (until maybe the finale, maybe where one or two of them find their Twue Wuv, and kind of go off into the sunset with them - I once said I thought Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich should be a thing, and I still kind of wish Fluttershy and Big Mac could be, but apparently the writers sunk that ship with the privateer Sugar Belle.)

* And yeah, I still kind of love Pony. (Didn't catch last weekend's episode; was in the field). I admit as the series approaches what is probably its conclusion, I find I have greater love for some of the earlier-season episodes, but I always have seasons 1 and 2 on dvd (and I should, once I'm a bit more flush with disposable income, invest in the other seasons).

(Though a later-season episode: "Amending Fences," the Moondancer episode, remains a great favorite of mine, and I'd probably put it in my top 5 "heartfelt" episodes. I think Hurricane Fluttershy would have to go there, too.)

Other cartoon series I love include the new DuckTales (I am hoping for a Season 2? Surely there must be a Season 2 coming) and Bob's Burgers (which in some ways reminds me a bit of early Simpsons, when the show still had more heart - in the best Bob's Burgers episodes there's definitely heart. Maybe a little twisted and odd, but heart nevertheless). And I will still watch The Amazing World of Gumball or We Bare Bears if it happens to be on when I want to watch and there's nothing I prefer on). Some oddball things from the "lesser" channels - will rewatch (even though I've seen every episode - I think there were only 2 seasons - multiple times) Jane and the Dragon on Qubo. And if I happen to be still up when they re-run Scaredy Squirrel (another very-low-numbers-of-episodes series), I'll watch that. And I've off and on been watching the Pokemon series (the one from the island that is code for Hawaii) that Disney is running. Oh, and Bunnicula, which Boomerang has started re-running (even though, again, there seem to be very few episodes of it). Mostly, I just like putting something on that feels "safe" and even if it's an episode I've seen before, it's still kind of nice to revisit the characters and the settings and I still laugh at some of the jokes even though I might know the punchline.

I dunno. More and more cartoons seem to be about my speed. Often police/mystery shows (except maybe for Murder She Wrote, but that re-runs very rarely when I'm able to watch) are too violent these days for me. I've kind of burnt out on that sort of thing, I don't know. And a lot of the other dramas/sitcoms are a little too dumb or venal for my tastes, or they make jokes that I find embarrassing (yes, even though I am watching alone, and even though I joke about being secretly 12 inside)

More and more, I find I need things that feel 'safe' even if it's something repetitive or something I've seen before. I guess I'm just getting a little worn down by life and yeah, these past 2 or more years have been a lot coming at me fast and a lot of having to adjust how I think about things (like: all the changes in higher ed and the possibility - v. unlikely, but not impossible - that I could lose my job through no fault of my own but because of bad budgeting or a crash in enrollment or something). And also having the whole "your parents are mortal" thing brought very explicitly home to me and while I HOPE they have many more years left....well, they're both in their early 80s, so. (It doesn't help reading about people like John McCain and Burt Reynolds, both of whom were born in the same year as my mother, dying).

* A thread I saw on twitter (and will merely paraphrase here, because of language) but Chuck Wendig was writing about making stuff, and he made the comment that when you're making stuff, you're not listening to the haters or the weird news or the world or worrying over what other people are doing, and you're not being part of the "subtraction" but part of the "addition" - in that you're trying to add to the beautiful or cool or good or useful stuff in the world, instead of raining on others' parades.

And yeah, that's true.

And also, when I'm making stuff, I'm spending less time seeking outside validation - not checking my Twitter feed to see if someone replied to something I said or liked something I said, or worrying over "but why don't I get more blog comments?" (I still miss the "early" days of social media, when blogs were about it, and more people seemed to read blogs and comment on them). I'm just....being.

And I need to take more time to just be. Playing the piano and also now bell choir are part of that, though often with piano I worry over why I'm not getting better faster, or worrying about "why can't I do that trill, am I losing some dexterity?" But knitting and sewing - yeah, that's the thing for me, that's what's good.

I added about a round on Celestarium last night. It grows, but slowly. (And I lost some time because I couldn't find the tiny crochet hook I'd been using; it had gotten stuck in the ball of sockyarn for the simple socks but I didn't see it at first, not until after I found my container of crochet hooks and found ANOTHER v. tiny steel hook I could use - I'm really glad I bought that pack of hooks years ago at an antique shop now; it has some of the tiny tiny sizes that are now hard to find.)

* I have Saturday off. It's supposed to rain, and anyway, my student is going to be at a conference that might help her eventual acceptance to dental school. And I probably need to go to Sherman, even though I look with some trepidation at the state of my checking account (My comfort level probably requires more money in it than most people's though - it's not like I'm in danger of overdrawing, even with paying the credit card bill I have sitting on my table). But I'm happier when I get out for a bit and I do need a trip to the natural-foods store, and I'd rather not deal with the reorged-for-booze* WalMart again right away.

(*Well, not booze, in the sense of hard liquor, that still can't be sold, but full-point beer and I guess wine but I'm really wondering what kind of wine my wal-mart, with its manky selection, will choose. And I'm HOPING they eliminate stuff I don't use to make room, though I suspect the pop aisle and the sugared-cereal aisles will be as big as ever, and possibly what will be dropped will be some of the specialty canned/jarred veggies and the little tins of smoked fish I like. I hope not. )

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Two little thoughts

Just in light of stuff going on with people in my life in various ways.

1. This was a literal shower thought - as in, I was in the shower when it came into my head:

"Jean-Paul Sartre famously said 'Hell is other people,' but sometimes other people can also be Heaven."

2. And I immediately thought of a quotation I read - oh years and years ago, I forget where:

"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another." - Luciano de Crescenzo (I don't know much about him; apparently he is an Italian writer, actor, and engineer - an interesting combination, that).

And when I first saw that - as I said, years and years ago (or I may be conflating it with the thing attributed to Plato about us all having half a soul and having to find the other half, which still is kind of "bleah" to me because it presupposes The Perfect Soulmate)

Anyway, when I first saw it, I think I was like in my 20s, and disappointed in love, and I rolled my eyes hard and was like "yeah, well, then I guess I just get to be the grounded angel then"

But as I've gotten older, I've realized that "embracing" doesn't necessarily have to be romantically. That it can be through friendship, or mutual support, or family, or....well, any number of things. Being part of the bell choir is like that for me; I find I reach a level of peace and connectedness I rarely get otherwise.

And I do have good friends. I'm just....I tend to be a little more standoffish and private than some people but I do know people care deeply about me.

And the embracing thing....I never used to be a "hugger;" I was actually kind of touch-averse and was also kind of like "I'm a scientist so I have to seem dignified and serious" but as I've gotten older, I've found that I welcome hugs (at least from some people, and I find it's easy to tell a "potentially creepy" hug from a heartfelt one, and I've not had a "potentially creepy" one offered in years). Dana (the choir director) hugs me. Mike hugs me. Judy (my retired colleague who is now a fellow congregant) hugs me some times. Wanda (the current AAUW president) hugs me. My colleague Doug even hugged me once, that funny little side hug some men do when they don't want people to read anything into it (and I didn't; I took it for what it was, an expression of simple friendship).

And I've kind of made my peace with the fact that romantic love may never be in the cards for me. It would be nice, but I also suspect it's highly unlikely given my life circumstances and the fact that I doubt I'd be willing to uproot at this point and also I dislike the idea of things like wading through online dating....but I'm mostly OK with that.

But friends. Oh, it's essential to me to have friends. Both friends I see in-person on a regular basis (the people at church, the people in AAUW, my colleagues) and faraway friends, some of whom my only connection is through electrons.

But yes, as much as humanity frustrates me, I do love and care deeply about certain individual people. (And perhaps - if I knew more of humanity like I know Dana and Mike and Wanda and Doug, I might be better at forgiving their personality quirks or the occasionally foolish things they do.)

I did it

Insert mental picture of me here in the Rosie the Riveter pose. (I have too much I have to do this afternoon to have time for an actual cosplay of that, and I don't think I currently own a red bandanna)

Anyway. I picked up the new heating unit after school yesterday afternoon ($44, which seems cheap) at Central Electric (which I highly recommend).

I got the toolkit from Dana at Bell Choir (and I may need to ask for my own for Christmas; it's a handy thing to have).

Didn't have the energy to tackle it Monday evening, but I decided to try it today at lunchtime (better light, because you WON'T have the oven light - I contemplated unplugging it but just throwing the breaker to "off" was easier).

I changed out of my dress (had to anyway: I have to get soil shortly) but didn't put a shirt back on on  the grounds I was going to be reaching into my (admittedly grubby, though I've tried to clean it) oven. Got my camp lantern (battery powered) and set it up so I could see what I was doing.

Unscrewed the bolts holding the "cover plate" at the back on, pulled it out - I was envisioning a "plug and play" thing like with the burners on the top, but NOPE - two more little bolts holding the copper contacts to wires (one yellow, one red).

(Now I think of it, the dude at Central Electric did warn me "there will be two other little screws once you've taken the backplate off" and I guess that's what he meant)

So I kind of rocked back on my heels, and wondered, "Can I do this" and I shrugged, figuring the effort of finding someone I could hire would be a lot, so I tried unscrewing the bolts. Got them partway with the tool and was able to finger turn them the rest of the way (it's tight back in there and the tool doesn't fit that well).

Pulled the broken part out, and then carefully set in the new one. Fished the wires back out from the hole (they had slipped back) and carefully screwed first one, then the other, bolt in (and how worried was I about dropping and losing one? Really worried.)

Got that done, pushed it in, pushed the backplate up against the back oven wall.

Threw the breaker back to on, nervously turned it on.

It smoked a bit but I knew to expect that - factory coating. (I may cycle the oven a few times before I actually use it to burn off the stink)

Then it started glowing, like it was supposed to. Came up to the set temperature (350) and shut off, so I turned it off.


I will say I should buy an oven thermometer (never had to worry about it before) because my sense from the one test is the unit may run a bit hotter than the dial temperature, and so I may need to adjust when I bake.

But yeah. $44 and 15 or so minutes of my time to fix a thing that might cost a hundred or more if I got a guy in.

(Of course the danger of this is now if people know I can do this, I will get asked to....)

Tuesday morning things

* I stayed in my car a couple minutes after arriving on campus because Sirius XM was playing the overture to "The Jolly Robbers" (von Suppé) and I wanted to hear it to the end. (It has a bit in it that is often used in old cartoons, because it's fairly antic, and when I heard it, I was like "OH that's the piece, I didn't remember where it was from).

The bit I'm talking about is near the end, about 5 minutes in here. You might recognize it:

(I believe there is a dance-school performance of the Can-Can that uses that as part of the music; I think I remember seeing that on YouTube)

I don't know the story of the operetta but most operettas tend to be kind of silly and light and end happily (which really, I think, are the stories we need today)

I guess von Suppé is best known today because his music was used extensively in Warner Brothers' cartoons: Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna, and the Light Cavaliers, and Poet and Peasant...It's light classical but you want that sometimes, and I kind of like the silliness and bluster.

To be honest, I'd like to see some of those silly old operettas revived. (Though, I don't know, maybe in our more-sensitive era, there are things in them people would object to? I'm not sure how you make "the jolly robbers" morally upright)

* Some talk on twitter about the viral video of "train shaving guy." Apparently someone filmed a guy shaving on the train, and it went viral, and people laughed at it and called him an "animal" and similar. And I feel kinda like this is the point where we've all become playground bullies of a sort: you don't know the guy's story. If I commuted on public transport and saw a guy shaving on the train, I'd be like "poor dude, he's so pressed for time he doesn't have time to shave at home" (and yes, I know: you can get up fifteen minutes earlier but sometimes you just need that extra fifteen minutes of sleep or something).

I dunno. "Viral videos" are one thing if the person in them is a willing participant and wants to risk the cesspool that fame can be, but I dislike people randomly photographing people out "in the wild" and posting them online for the amusement of others. Oh, I'm sure there's no LAW against it, like a legal law, but that kind of thing would be against my moral law. Partly because I live in fear that some day I will fall awkwardly in public, or have a "wardrobe malfunction," or some such, and through no intent of my own, I become a laughing stock - and what do you do then, if you're employed as something like a professor? I guess you hope that something else takes its place and your fifteen minutes of infamy is a literal fifteen minutes, but if it got bad enough - well, I could see someone quitting their job in disgust.

Someone on twitter commented that "some people see all such forms of mockery as 'punching up'" and oh, my friends, no.

And yes, yes: maybe there's an "I laughed at the guy who shaved on the train because of the guys who have no razors" kind of thing going on here, but, as I said earlier: punching up or punching down, I really prefer no punching at all, and prefer humor to be funny for all involved instead of taking some person just trying to live their life and holding them up for the amusement of a bunch of emotionally-stunted losers online (there, I said it. But I stand by the "emotionally-stunted" part.)

But yeah. There's some kind of weird and sick undercurrents in our culture. I suppose there always have been and they've become more obvious with social media. (Heh. I think back to when smartphones were brand new, and one of my colleagues (the one I sometimes refer to as Best Frolleague) were talking about them, and I commented, "And they have cameras? Who needs a camera on their phone?" and his response was, and I quote: "Pervs." Though I do admit now I can see how it's handy for GOOD uses, for example, if you get into a minor fender bender and want to take photos for insurance purposes, or, I have students coming in all the time with "I saw this weird bug, do you know what it is, here's a photo?" It's just, some people use the tool for evil as well as for good.)

Once again I state a phrase attributed to, but probably not actually said by, Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

And I'm not always great at this; I've done my share of dunking on people like Elon Musk, and yes, he does seem to have stuff going on in his life that I hope he gets help for, and perrrrrhaps smoking a blunt live on a podcast (while rigorously drug-testing your workers) opens you up to be a bit more of a free target than some regular working schmoe trying to get ready for the day on his commute, but, yeah. We've all sinned.

* The Christmas catalogs seem to be starting. Got one from Acorn and one from Signals yesterday. I am of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand: 2018 has been such a brutal year in some ways (isn't every year, now?) that I want to shift to thinking about nice sweet pretty fun things. And I need to start figuring out Christmas gifts for my family (And I need to figure out, in the nearer term, how to ship the art kit I bought for my niece's birthday in early this point I'm leaning towards going to the UPS store and asking them to pack it and ship it, and just paying whatever high amount it will be. Because I don't have a box on hand big enough for it).

But on the other hand: yeah, it seems awfully early, and at least here, summer is still blazing on.It's supposed to be a heat index in the low 100s today (so much for my plans to mow the lawn after school) and so it's hard to contemplate Christmas. (And I don't like the onslaught of catalogs. I wish places would send ONE - in the model of the old Wish Books - and put a big sticker on the front saying "This is your last catalog before Christmas; save it if you plan on ordering." It would cut down on expense and waste, though in the modern "Constant Contact" world, retailers seem to have concluded that if they aren't spamming people (either with e-mail or with actual catalogs), people will forget about them. I don't know.).

* The only knitting I got done last night was a few rounds on the simple sock. For various reasons, when I finally got home "for good" I was absolutely exhausted and didn't trust myself with the more-concentration-requiring knit that Celestarium is.

I got home a bit after 3 pm, but had piano practice to do and a tiny bit of "grading" - the daughter of one of the women in bell choir is a gifted kid who reads way above grade level &c., and she's into science, and apparently the public schools here (the family moved from another state, where the girl had been in accelerated classes) frown on things like tracking, and she's bored, and often bored smart kids act out in bad her mom is having her do some science enrichment with my help. It's another thing, but I'm fine with it, if it helps the girl. She's a sweet kid and there are some things about her that remind me a little of me at that age (9).

She had written a short report for me on monarch butterflies and I graded it and added a few comments (really, the grammar and organization was what I'd hope from my college students - not that they aren't that smart but a lot of them just use their time badly, or don't see the value in taking time to write properly). And then I remembered a book I had bought - on monarchs and milkweeds - with half a thought of sending it to my niece but then realizing (a) I liked it myself and (b) it was well above her level and more aimed at maybe young high schoolers. And so I wrote my name in the book and took it with me and told her she could borrow it if she was interested and wanted to learn more about milkweeds.

So that took a little time, but it feels worthwhile. I'll have to think of more things for her. I'm not sure what else I have in the way of reading material but I might ask her mom if the girl has read the Dark is Rising sequence, because I know she likes Harry Potter a lot, and there are definite similarities between this series and it. (I know she loves to read and reads at a pretty high level).

I may have to look around in my "citizen science" files and see if there are any kinds of studies or projects she could do on her own time and write up...

Or, big thought, and this would take a lot of time on my part but might be worthwhile: find out if her mom or dad has some time (a couple hours) to come in on a Saturday here (and her little brother would be welcome, too, he could always run around in the back garden if he got bored) and I set up a mini workshop on some of the simpler soils techniques, like determining texture and measuring pore space and color and maybe even bringing some "live" soil to look at the critters in it.

I could see doing that for a small group of kids who were really into science, as enrichment. Again, it would be more time, but....sometimes that fun 'gee whiz' stuff is just fun for the instructor to do and sometimes the kids get a lot out of it.

And bell choir was longer than usual; almost an hour, and the level of concentration it takes does make me tired, but that's probably a good thing, in a way - it takes my mind off other stuff and I actually slept really well (and with no unpleasant dreams) last night. And I just LIKE bell choir; it is being part of a thing where I am only a small part, and it only works as a whole, and somehow that's important to me, because so much of what I do in my work life feels fully dependent on me. (And as I commented last night: like Bob Belcher, I tend to take responsibility for things that really aren't my responsibility, or aren't fully mine). I'm also learning:

- If someone has to be absent, we manage, by shuffling people around
- If you make a mistake, keep going, no one will notice. The only "bad" mistakes are ringing before the song starts, ringing after it ends, or getting so off count you stop ringing.

I once said that I liked Dante's conception of Heaven, where it was a huge choir that grew in size as more souls joined it, and they were eternally singing praise (And perhaps that's not so far off from John of Patmos' vision, either). And bell choir is like a tiny little shadow of that, and that's partly why it's valuable to me.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Searching for sacredness

I openly admit I am not a fan of most "modern" hymns. The repetitive praise choruses, which are apparently rock-inspired, leave me cold. Oh, I acknowledge they are what some people need, and I understand that, but I would prefer - and would try to actively seek out, if I had to - a service or a denomination* that used the traditional hymns, the ones at least 80 years old and preferably a hundred or more.

(*I really hope the congregation I'm a part of keeps going for a while yet. I love the people, the theology is amenable to my understanding and my beliefs, it's a place I've planted myself. If it came to moving elsewhere - like if we folded - I'd probably try following the majority of the people at first, and if that didn't work, try either the Episcopalians or the more mainline Methodists - despite being in a "frontier" denomination, I tend to be fairly "high church" in my leanings, which is probably reflected in the attitudes I write about here)

I'm also not quite as fond of the modern-written hymns, especially the ones I see as "didactic," where they are basically telling the people what to do and....I can't quite put my finger on it or explain it, but there's something about singing about what we're supposed to do, rather than the attributes of God or how grateful to Him we are, that rubs me the wrong way a little.

Some though, they have their merits.

(years and years ago, I read a book by Marva Dawn about the "church wars" between contemporary and traditional services, and one of her points that I agreed with is one challenge of "modern" music is that it's not been through the "filter of time" and had the less-good stuff (or even the downright-bad stuff, theologically and aesthetically) sorted out and discarded, the way the old hymns have).

But sometimes there's a turn of phrase I like. We sang Lord, you Give the Great Commission, which is only about 40 years old, but is really not a bad hymn at all (and has a nice, graceful tune it's set to) but there was one line in it that particularly struck me:

"Lord, you make the common holy."

And yes. Yes, that's it. That's what I want to be able to see in my life. That's what I want to feel. All too often I feel like everything I do is simply common, everyday, it doesn't matter that much. Grading, for example: it's just the same darn thing after another, and what good does it do? Sometimes people look at the grade on top and throw the paper out. Or complain about it. Or whatever. And it's hard to see the cosmic value in doing it. (And yes, I know, that sounds overly grand. But there is a strain of thought in at least some forms of Christianity that all work is holy and meaningful. I want to believe that but I also have a hard time feeling it about my work sometimes).

And even just everyday things: a meal, helping a friend, knitting a sock. I want to believe there's something good and even holy about the "good" things you do (whether it's obvious good, like working at a food bank, or maybe a more "neutral good" like creating something for your own use).

When I am at my best, I can almost see it and feel it. And when it's an "obvious" case - serving the family meal after a funeral, or on a happier occasion - serving punch at a reception to celebrate something good. Or fixing food for the college kids.

But so much of what I do these days, it feels kind of like...well, I do it because I'm supposed to. The stuff like keeping all the attendance records. The paperwork. Some of the research stuff. (I wrote my post-tenure-review thing today and that's always slightly disheartening - is that REALLY all I did in the year? Though of course a lot of the things I do that are important to me are not things that go on the post-tenure review.)

And yeah, maybe it is a bit much to expect to feel some great jolt of spiritual fulfillment from filling out early-alert reports, or cleaning the preproom. But I wish I felt more I could see the big picture that all this fits in, and that it's ultimately meaningful.

And ironically, the one rerun of Bob's Burgers I watched last night touched on this - the season 8 finale, where he agreed to cater a wedding. And the wedding became "Bob's war-zone doctoring," because in a joke earlier in the episode, Bob had been watching  a documentary about Doctors without Borders (though I don't think they name-checked them) on his computer (along with, ahem, other things, which Linda found and commented on).

And Bob is wondering: why do I make burgers for a living? Why don't a do something meaningful like being a war-zone doctor? And he is filled with self doubt over his career choice. (This was a slightly uncomfortable episode for me, as you might guess). "Oh my G*d!" Bob exclaims, "is making burgers the dumbest thing we could have done with our lives?" (Honestly, the grass ALWAYS looks greener, I think: I've looked at restaurants even as I know it's 14 hour days of sheer slavery and thought "but at least they are making food for people! What am *I* doing?")

Anyway, a couple that met by chance at Bob's wanders in with a request: since their first meeting was at the restaurant, would he consider catering their wedding? It's, like, a DIY wedding!

And Bob, because he can't resist a chance to get his name out there (and maybe make money) takes it. And it winds up driving him nuts. Because Bob is a perfectionist about his cooking, and also he tends to take on responsibility for things that are not his responsibility (he thinks that if the wedding doesn't work out, it's his fault, even though he's just catering).

And, yeah. I said this was a somewhat uncomfortable episode for me and it's funny how I can pick out my faults when they show up in a cartoon character but not always see them in myself when I get trapped in that perfectionistic spiral, or I'm acting like It's All My Fault when something happens that I did not totally have control over and that isn't my responsibility anyway.

And somehow, the whole "making the common sacred" thing is tied up with this....the idea that the little things you can do, even if they're just little things, if you're doing them for good....well, they are good and they are valuable. And I sometimes have a hard time seeing that, I have a hard time accepting that.

I guess Bob Belcher does too,  which may be why I like the show.

But really: I wish I were better at reclaiming what I do, and insisting it's good and it's meaningful and that people who think that college is a waste don't really have experience with it. But it's hard for me to be strong enough often these days to tell myself that I'm doing important and meaningful work, and really - that's something I need to be happy, the feeling that my work is meaningful.

Post-weekend random

* So I have another job ahead of me this week: Saturday afternoon, heating up some lunch, I heard an odd sparking noise from the oven, and looked over to see flashes. Turned it off and as I suspected the heating element had "arced" and melted itself.

I would be more upset about this except for the fact that my mom has had the element on HER oven replaced twice without incident (in fact, the repair person told her "this particular model of oven is really well-built, so it's probably better to just replace parts as they wear out). Unfortunately, the local parts place was closed on Saturday (normally they are not) so I have to call them today. I have a card with the model number written on it so I can tell them what model so hopefully they can get the correct part.

EDITED TO ADD: they have one that will fit in stock, so I can pick it up today, borrow the tool set again from Dana (I really should buy my own) and install the new one. I've also been told by several people that Central Electric is the best place in town for this sort of thing, so I guess I chose wisely.

* However, that means I won't likely be able to help out with the upcoming funeral lunch (an older member who had been ill for a while died Friday). I was on the point of volunteering and then was like "Oh, wait. No."

* More not-great local news: the food bank nearest campus has closed, because of a variety of reasons, the most immediate being the person who went and fetched the drop-offs (long story, but: the OK Food Bank - the centralized one - will only drop off to one location in town, any of the smaller food banks have to go there to get the stuff) passed away and we don't have anyone with a truck or the time to do it. The problem is: sometimes a centralized spot is hard to get to for people. Lots of folks who are right at the edge lack a car, and a lot of the students on campus lack cars (and yes, some of our students would be eligible for food assistance; we have an on-campus "emergency closet" but that doesn't really provide a sustained menu like the food bank.

(Living without a car here is very difficult. There's a "senior bus" for people who have given up driving but I remember from when Dorothy was alive, it wasn't always the most reliable - once or twice she called me to see if I could drive her home from the store because the bus either didn't show, or it left before schedule. The town is spread out enough it would he difficult without a car. I might just be able to do it if I only shopped at the Green Spray, but even for medicine - well, I could maybe get that delivered, I think my pharmacy does - but it would be hard. That's why losing my sight or losing the ability to drive some other way worries me a little: hard to cope on your own and I don't have anyone to fall back on. And part of my volunteering for stuff may be a superstitious attempt to build up karma points against that happening, I don't know. Yes, I know karma doesn't work that way.)

I dunno. I think increasingly the problem we see with stuff like this is that the people who have the wherewithal to volunteer are working so long and hard to stay afloat *themselves* that they lack the time to do volunteer work.

(I told the minister I'd help if I could, but as the food bank's "handing out" day - when they need the most people - is Wednesday between noon and 3 pm, that's precisely when I'm in class).

And people are retiring later and maybe sicker so counting on retirees won't do it.

I dunno. I will say since moving here from Illinois (where I guess I was more insulated), I've learned a lot more about how precariously some people really do live, and I think my compassion for that has increased.

The other thing was: this was going to be were the Wesley Center students got involved with volunteering (because it was close enough they could walk even if they lacked a car). The main food bank is too far away...

Really, in a sprawled-out area like this where many people who might use food banks can't or don't drive, I think having several smaller ones makes more sense.

*And I got cut off....the fire alarms started going off. At first I heard a vague buzzing and thought "is something wrong with the Pandora transmission" and then I realized it was coming from the classroom part of the building.

So I wandered down to the office to see if anyone knew what was up. The alarms were going off down there, and there was some fairly disgusting acrid smoke in the hall.

A ballast had blown on the old light fixture in the breakroom. The person who spotted it turned the fixture out but of course we had to  leave (noise and smoke). At least the firefighters got here fast but we did learn - there are NO fire alarms on my hall of the building; it was only through hearing the ones in other parts of the building I knew something was up.

(We have reported it and I expect shortly there will be much disruption and drilling as they are put in, or, worse, we're all forced to move office somewhere else until it can be rectified.)

I dunno. Everyone came wandering over here - we had three or four fire trucks, and campus police were here, then the Safety guy (who is also the Title IX guy and the Disabilities Concerns guy) and then someone from Physical Plant and I think the horticulturalist pulled her Gator up into the drive to see what was up.

One of my colleagues is making tiresome jokes at everyone he sees about "I TOLD you not to smoke in the bathroom!" He hasn't made one at me but that might be because he knows I will give him a hard stare if he does; I don't find that kind of thing particularly funny.

But yeah. I give an exam in 20 minutes and now I have a headache from the ozoney stuff the ballast gave off...

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Fieldwork is done

So I dragged myself out of bed at an early hour (5:40 am) for a Saturday, got dressed in the crummy old chinos that have the permanent stain on them from when I tried to change the tire on the old wheelbarrow and put an old t-shirt on, and boot socks. And I grabbed a long-sleeved shirt and my boots (but put tennis shoes on: I cannot drive in my field boots; the soles are so thick I can't easily feel the pedals in the car and I feel less safe driving)

Went out to get the car.

It was raining.

Oh crap.

I got the car out, filled my drinking-water bottles, decided, heck, I'll go out there, it's brighter off to the west (the direction in which I'd be driving), maybe it will let up.

Drove through several very heavy rain bands (the site is maybe 15 miles west of me). Almost turned around at one point. Kept listening for my phone because I figured my student might call, calling the thing off. (I really didn't WANT to call it off - because that would mean rescheduling, and WHEN?!?? I really want next Saturday off). So I pulled in the lot for the site and waited. It continued to rain. My student and her boyfriend drove up, she hopped out and asked if I wanted to try doing the fieldwork.

I taught her the trick of clamping a flat (ziplock-type) plastic bag over the top of the data sheets on the clipboard to try to help keep it dry. We waited about 10 minutes and it was a bit lighter rain then, so we decided to try it.

It's really mostly a two-person job - her boyfriend just kind of hung around and looked at stuff, but I'm glad he was there, because if there was any trouble, he could have helped out. (He also took a photo of us working).

The first half or so was working in the rain. But I will admit, working in the rain - even though you get soaked to the skin, and your hair gets soaked, and your cloth hat is falling down in your face because the brim is soaked - is a lot less miserable than working out in high heat and bright sun where you get soaked from the inside out from sweat.

I got almost a little chilled but being a bit too cold when you're working hard is better than being a bit too hot.

(I did have one instance where I had to take a knee because I started coughing - asthma from the humidity and being surrounded by ragweed pollen - but I got over it fast)

We got, I think, five transects done (of 12 samples each). We had done four the first time out; that last transect had us bumping right up against a patch of Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust) that had moved into the area in the past 18 years, and I didn't fancy crawling through that to try to get one last transect to perfectly match the earlier study. (Honey locust has NASTY thorns - long, and the "triacanthos" part of the name refers to the fact that many of the thorns have two side-barbs on them - and I have known the thorns to penetrate the rubber sole on a field boot so yeah, I was not into crawling through them or making my student do so.

(I was mostly doing the heavy lifting stuff - running the tape out, doing the long walking - on the grounds that I'm kind of used to it and I also know the area so I know where most of the holes you don't want to step down into are.)

She did the datakeeping and has gotten pretty good at identifying the (sadly few) species of plants we encounter (diversity on the site has tanked completely since 2000; sericea lespedeza has invaded and it's pretty much taken over; most of the other forbs are gone and even much of the grass is gone. If I owned the land? I'd probably have it penned off and be flash grazing it with goats, with plans to do a dormant season burn after pulling the goats off, or, failing that, getting someone herbicide-certified to nuke the area, because if you don't aggressively eliminate sericea, it eliminates all the other herbaceous plants and the site has effectively no value now as a teaching lab, and probably limited value for wildlife. I know burning is less good than certain herbicides at eliminating it, because it's pretty burn tolerant, but I really balk at using herbicides or pesticides...)

She's not a field biologist - her career plans are actually dental school, but not getting admitted this fall made her decide to do a master's degree with us, on the grounds that maybe in a few years it will be easier to get in, and also with a master's degree, that experience would help. She IS working (as a dental tech), so I'm thinking her mental timeline is less crucial than some people's is. (If I had a good job that paid the bills, I think I could wait for something like professional school if I had to).

But anyway: we got it done. I feel some better than I did last night. I do need to wash my hair (it's dried stiff now, after getting wet in the rain - I had it in a braid and it was hard to unbraid) and eat something and do more piano practice and then, maybe, try to finish reading that large ILL book, though I have given myself permission to not finish it if I just can't.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A tiny treat

So I came home for lunch, and then ran out to Wal-Mart.

(An aside: the local Wal-mart is gearing up for Beermageddon. I guess October 1 is when Oklahoma groceries can start selling regular-point beer (instead of 3.2 beer) and wine, and so I guess some stores are getting ready to cash in - I assume that just as alcohol has a higher profit margin than the food at most restaurants, it is the same at grocery stores. Anyway, walking in, I ran into the church secretary, and she said "They've moved everything around!" and I was like "oh no they couldn't possibly have" but they did. And of course everything was hard to find. And I griped at a couple employees - oh, not badly, but I did let them know I didn't like it, and other people were complaining and maybe Corporate will learn that the customers - their freaking lifeblood - hate it and not do random reorganizations or something.

I mentioned it to the checkout lady and she told me about the beer and wine coming, and "we have to make room for them" and dear God, please don't let Wal-mart drop carrying the organic milk I buy or something else I use a lot in favor of Sam's Choice Red and Sam's Choice White and....ugh.

Though maybe I hold out hope that we eventually get a real, honest-to-God full-sized supermarket - Pruett's is nice for what it is but it is on the smaller side. Maybe being able to sell actual beer and wine will get us an Aldi's or a Kroger or *something*?)

But anyway. I bought myself two small treats.

First up, from the Walgreen's, where I went for the gummi vitamins I use now (I *think* the D is helping my mood, or at least it's keeping it from being quite so bad? And maybe the extra biotin is helping my hair? I think my nails are kind of a lost cause and I just got bad fingernail genes or maybe I just do too much stuff with my nails).

And I went down the Halloween aisle, just for fun. And they had a few of the little Ty beanie creatures, mostly Halloweenie ones (there were black cats and spiders and bats) and at first I was considering a bat until I saw this little guy:

The official name is Saffire but I will admit he (I think he's a he) reminded me more of the G1 conception of Spike, and so I decided to buy him. (Though I was thinking of the G3 conception of Spike at the time, and his name and character:)

G3 Spike was a different critter. He had an odd little accent, and spoke kind of pompously, and tended to insert himself into fairy tales (an early example of fanfiction and Gary-Stu-ing?) and he also had a much longer name (which I had to look up on the My Little Pony wiki; it's been too long since I saw any of those specials): "Master Kenbroath Kilspotten Heathspike"

Or probably Kilspotten for short, given that my version is punctuated with tiny glittery flecks:

Yeah, you can see the spots on there. He also has those glitter-backed eyes that some Ty critters have now.

I also bought (at the wal-mart) one of those terrible little chocolate eggs (well, it's fairly terrible as chocolate goes, but I still ate it) that comes with a tiny Pony figure, and for a change, I got one of the ones I didn't have - a tiny Rarity.

So now I have a small Rarevolution of plastic Rarity figures:

Far left is the "magic egg" Rarity, middle is a blindbag, right is a McDonald's Happy Meal Rarity a friend sent me.

(I will say: how I wish the blindbag figures had been those wee tiny ones. The details is maybe a bit better, even, and they're SO TINY and I generally love tinier things even more...)

Mixed feelings Friday

I was up late grading the last round of exams last night. Luckily, I was smart enough not to tally up scores or I REALLY would not have slept. (As it was, it tool me a while to fall asleep).

The range was from 28% to 95%. Strongly bimodal distribution with one mode below 60 and another one in the low 80s.

I don't know. I've already fielded several unhappy e-mails and I can see how in the Before Times when professors were not expected to be in Constant Contact with the students and also post grades right away (before handing back and going over the exams), things were probably better for the professors.

A lot of things from when I was a student were probably better for the professors and things are worse for us now. I'm just tired out.

Something someone said somewhere else made me feel low-level attacked, though I also realize it's largely me, and also maybe people not understanding (when they're at a research-heavy university) just how different it is to try to do research when you're at a teaching-heavy school.

Four classes in a semester is really one class more than what I can handle. I feel like I never get a break from it - grading, writing exams, keeping up with the material.

And yeah, the constant-contact thing gets to me. I had to send out the "monthly reports" (we are asked to report on the grades, attendance, and other stuff - like if someone seems to be having personal problems, and yes, that feels intrusive to me and I would only do it if I were really sure AND the person seemed to not be coping)  and I've been dealing with people who either have questions about that or disagree with the number of absences I have down for them*

(*Which feels to me like such a MINOR thing to be unhappy about. In three of my four classes attendance does not count towards the grade, it's merely a monitoring thing where I can go to the student unhappy about their grade, "Well, yeah, of course you're earning a 40%; you're here about 40% of the time and you're missing lots of important material so your exam scores are low." And to me, it feels like - forgive the vague political discursion here - but the campaign ad in heavy rotation on local tv, that essentially says "Shame on the Football Men for not standing up during the Anthem" and I am like "look at the world, this is the biggest problem you have right now?" Granted, I am a fan of the First Amendment and not particularly a fan of football and I think I said once before, "Yeah, the guys have the right to do this but their team owner also has the right to tell them to knock it off, so I don't really care what they do")


I think part of the feeling I feel so worn these days is that I do not really have anyone - outside of you lot, and while anonymous Internet readers are great and all, it's not quite the same as someone in-person - that I can unload to, but I get unloaded on a lot. And because I positioned myself in the past as the Strong Tough One, I can't quite figure out how to walk that back and also how to make myself take up more room in certain people's lives than maybe I'm entitled to....and I don't even feel like I can say a lot about what's going on to my mom, 'cos I know she's got a ton of stuff going on and trying to juggle keeping the house going and be at the rehab center for my dad, that's a lot.

But I do wish I could just sit down with someone with a cup of tea some afternoons and tell them about my day, and have them make sympathetic noises or give me a hug when I'm kind of overwhelmed.

I think one of the problems is that a lot of the people I interact with in a day seem to - or at least this is how I feel - seem not to recognize I'm human and I have my own challenges and issues and that maybe loading more trouble on to me is just going to further impair my abilities to cope graciously with it.

This morning, one of my biostats students came in for a little help. I felt bad because I had to send her out into the hall for 2 minutes while I sent some e-mails (that was when my e-mail was blowing up with people unhappy about grades), but I was able to help her after a brief moment, and it was a minor problem, and we were able to sort it.

And then she asked: "How is your dad doing?"

I had mentioned it one day in class when I was distracted and not doing well - I think that was back when he was still in the hospital.

And you know, dangit, even though I was able to tell her he was doing a lot better (in fact, they're talking about him getting home within a week to ten days), I wanted to cry in that moment.

Because someone saw me as a person instead of a "content creator" or instead of someone who graded too hard and was ruining their life or someone who needed to fill out all this paperwork now or anything.

It's been a very long couple of weeks and I'm tired. And I don't get to rest just yet - the interlibrary loan book is due back Monday so I guess I try to finish that this weekend, and I have a big article to re-read before a paper discussion, and 20-some (if I got all of them in) student proposals to read and grade, and tomorrow morning is given over to working with my research student and....

is it any wonder I get short-tempered with people who think it's "strange" I'm not willing to give away more of my time for things that won't really directly benefit me?

I have to go to the grocery (Wal-mart, because they're the only local purveyor of organic milk) in a bit and yes I hate going shopping on a Friday afternoon (Probably also a Payday Friday for those who get paid every 2 weeks), but I have no choice if I want milk or anything else fresh. (There is no grocery delivery or even "order on line and pick up" in my town)

I don't know. I'm also out of the Vitamin D I take and I better get more (which probably means a trip to Walgreen's, too, as I don't think Wal-mart has the kind I take) because I suspect my mood will suffer if I go a few days without it. (And I need more of the Mane N Tail "Hair, nails, and skin" vitamins I have been taking)

What I need to learn to be able to do is to (forgive the harsh word) half-ass stuff, because I have a way of letting work expand to fill ALL my time, so I spend hours on grading and the like, which is why I kind of dread these project proposals. I want to do well by my students but at the same time I feel kind of like I'm locked in an unsustainable system where I'm asked to do so much that even things like making time to do the laundry seems like a large effort.

I hope things get better soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A happier anniversary

Tuesday we commemorated 17 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I think a bit more was made of it this year because (a) the current winds blowing in the culture and also (b) the day of the week is the same as the day it happened.

Well, today I have a personal anniversary, one that is happier: 17 years ago today I became a homeowner for the first time.

I had become dissatisfied with my apartment; the biggest things being (a) monthly mandatory 'we will come in and spray for bugs' (which I think was as much a secret inspection as it was a spraying. At any rate, I never had bugs - I had a mouse once or twice - we were near a wooded area - but never bugs). and (b) the complaint levied that I had too many books and they posed 'a fire hazard.' (I should have left a copy of Fahrenheit 451 in the apartment, in some prominent place, when I moved out).

Anyway. In spring 2001, I began searching for a house to buy, because even though I'd not achieved tenure yet (my plan had been to wait for that and then decide if I wanted to buy). I was just tired of putting up with apartment life - the nosey new manager, the dudes who lived over me who played FPS games late into the night, and who threw their cigarette butts and sometimes their empty beer cans onto my patio.

I tried with an agent, but the agent was decidedly unhelpful. Either, like some people, he didn't like working and was doing only the barest minimum, or, more likely, he didn't think I was actually serious or wasn't worth the effort because I didn't have a large budget. I wound up looking around on my own. Didn't see anything I liked at all - many of the houses were small, with tiny 'energy efficient' windows that made the inside a depressing cave, and had rooms that were VERY small (when you try to cram four bedrooms into a small footprint, that happens).

I was kind of on the verge of just settling with a sort-of-crappy brick house that was across the street from a house that was half-finished, and something told me that would be trouble, but at that point, I was just sick of looking.

Until a woman at church (who has since moved away to live closer to grandkids) said one of her friends was looking to sell her house and might be able to work out a more private sale for less money than going through an agent would require (And I figured: heck, I'm doing all the work myself here it seems and the agent's doing nothing. So I went and looked at it. Immediately there were several pluses: in an established neighborhood (so no half-way construction across the street), older house so it had larger rooms and proper windows. Small house, only two real bedrooms, but I live alone and that's unlikely to change, so who cares? Needed some work but some of it was work I could do.

So I had the place inspected, it passed. Especially from the standpoint of termite proofing. (I later learned the inspector overlooked a couple things, and some day I might do well to have the place totally rewired, but...). So I started negotiations. I had to work through the woman's son; it turns out she was selling because she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's and (a) needed money for her care and (b) needed to move to be closer to where he was.

(As it turns out - I was friends with her son many years later; he is the "Steve" who died devastatingly and suddenly back in February).

Anyway. We worked out a price. I think I got an especially good deal because I fundamentally said "I have $xx,xxx in cash, I could pay that for the house and we wouldn't have to deal with a mortgage lender," and I think they figured that a quick sale with cash in hand and no risk of it falling through at the end might be the way to go. (The attorney drawing up the paperwork was a lot more dubious but I think he just wasn't used to the idea of a single woman buying her own house - he asked me some questions that made me think he thought I didn't know what I was doing, but I was able to answer all of them)

And then Sept. 11 happened.

I remember worrying about what might happen to the banks (One of the things I think back on about that day, and remember, and maybe people who weren't already grown-up adults then don't appreciate: we didn't know what might be coming next. I thought probably Chicago and LA were going to be attacked, there were rumors that maybe supply lines (for food and the like) would be interrupted, my dad counseled me to go get some bottled water and stuff like granola bars just in case...and I was afraid that maybe the banking system would be temporarily shut down. I was just patterning it on the vague knowledge I had of what happened in other emergencies - I think I was honestly thinking of the "bank panic" that was a plot point in "It's a Wonderful Life"). So I went down to the bank and withdrew the money to pay for my house in the form of a cashier's check. And locked it in the little file cabinet I had in my apartment, and carried the key around in my brassiere for two days. (And worried about what would happen in case of fire; would the bank just say "sorry honey, you're out of luck?")

I also remember Steve e-mailing me, either later on the 11th or on the 12th, to see if I was "okay." I think it was just genuine kind concern - he only knew I was from "back east" and didn't know for sure if I'd lost anyone. (I don't think he was afraid somehow the sale would fall through; having known him later I am all the more sure he was just concerned for my well-being given what a stressful time that was)

Finally the morning of Thursday the 13th rolled around, I drove down to the office of the attorney (the same one who thought I was not serious) with the check in my purse. We signed the papers, I handed over the check, Steve gave me the keys and the abstract (in my state, the person who owns the house has a big sheaf of documents that essentially cover everything dealing with the property - mine has paperwork going back to when the Choctaws sold the land to someone else, like around 1902, though the house itself was not built until the late 1940s.) His mother sort of tearfully told me she hoped I liked the house.

And then I went....well, I guess you could say I went home. I went to the house I now owned. I remember standing on the front porch going "This is what you will see every morning when you go out to work" (And yes, I still do see that very view). I went around and introduced myself to the neighbors, though only one of those families is still here now. And I called a locksmith - the front door was locked because apparently the key was lost; I had a skeleton key to the side door (the one the guy pounded on back in January of this year) and apparently Steve had just been leaving it unlocked to get in and out after his mom had moved out.

So I got a new front door lock put on, and then I started planning. Made arrangements for having the floors refinished (I had enough money left to do that, and that was important to me). Planned for painting (what I did myself). Hired a handyman for two or three small tasks.

And then, I remember, that fall - I didn't teach on Tuesdays back then, and only had an afternoon lab on Thursdays and wow does that kind of open time feel like a vanished world now, I wasn't even required to hold office hours 'every day of the week' like I am now - I worked on the house. I remember spending a lot of evenings over there painting or stripping the trim, after finding out someone had painted latex over oil on it, and the latex just peeled right off.

And I listened to Rangers Baseball on my little radio, because that was the only good choice - there are no local FM stations I like (we don't even pick up NPR from the nearest outlet, so it's country and western or pop or Christian of a stripe more theologically conservative than I am) and the AM stations were all scary talk of the world, or more theologically-conservative religious talk....or baseball.

So I went with baseball, because (as I remember from that time) it made the world feel more normal - when I was growing up, my dad listened to baseball games on the radio. My grandfather had enjoyed listening to baseball on the radio. It felt right.

And then, in mid October, after everything was done (and now I wonder at that - it was just over a month that it took for everything to come together), I moved in.

I got my security deposit back from the apartment; I probably SHOULD have left a copy of Fahrenheit 451 in the middle of the living room floor or some such. I transferred over my utilities, I got cable and internet started up (Dial-up internet, back in those days...). Arranged for the new and higher-cost home insurance (which I paid up for the year again a couple weeks ago - the bill comes a bit early but it's due today).

I had been moving stuff to the house as I could - my big tubs of fabric and yarn, boxes of books. Stuff I could bung in my own car and lift myself. Finally, when it was time to leave the apartment, a couple of (now-former) colleagues and spouses came with pickups and helped me move my bed and the shell of my dresser (I had taken the drawers over myself, earlier) and my futon and the big bookshelves and the table and chairs....and set them up. I paid them in barbecue and sodas (I should have bought beer, in retrospect, but it would have been 3.2 beer, so not much different from soda).

And I've lived there ever since.

Oh, there have been problems from time to time, the problems every homeowner faces - messed-up plumbing, and a leaky roof, and appliances breaking. Since I've been there, I've had the roof replaced, and the dishwasher, and the water heater (twice, in fact) and I had had to buy a new refrigerator when I moved in (and will probably have to replace that some time soon) and a new furnace and air conditioner. And I still need to replace a ceiling light fixture and ceiling fan, but those are low-priority because I don't NEED them and also they involved getting someone out who can work in my messy bedroom...

On balance, it's been good, owning my own house. Yes, when there's no hot water and you realize you probably have the big expense (and possibly added code-changes) of getting a new one, you do long a bit for a maintenance crew that can just "make it so" without you having to juggle the logistics or pay (though maybe your rent goes up the next time you sign a contract). But there are also no mandatory "insect sprayings" and I don't have to worry about the stacks of books that have built up, or the larger amounts of fabric and yarn I've acquired. And if it's not quite as secluded and quiet as I'd hoped (right now I have a neighbor who has The Loudest Motorcycle and he tends to go out late in the evening and apparently goes to work at 6:30 am), still, it's nice to have my own "castle," where I only let in people I WANT to let in.