Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday morning things

* Am wondering if I could convince my doctor to let me skip the more invasive test (I need bloodwork anyway, and the only hassle of that is I have to wait until inconveniently late to eat breakfast that day) because I am now 99% convinced my body did me a heckin' bamboozle and nothing is actually wrong.

* It's Betty White's 98th birthday today. It's also Popeye's 91st. That's....kind of amazing. If you had asked me "Who has been around longer, Popeye or Betty White?" I'd absolutely have said "Popeye" until I read that.

Also, Ms. White was asked her "secret" to longevity and reportedly (at least a couple years ago) when asked she said "hot dogs and vodka." No, I don't know if she meant "consumed at the same time" and frankly I think a lot of times when people who have lived a really long life get asked their "secret," they probably just make stuff up and then secretly giggle about how many people are going to try to do that thing.

I said on Twitter I'd probably say the most ridiculous thing I could think of, like "I drink 8 ounces of maraschino-cherry juice straight from the jar every morning" though in reality, my continued good health (fingers crossed here) is probably a combination of lucky genetics, exercise, and eating healthfully about 80% of the time (I eat sugary things but not a lot. I try to eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I don't eat much meat. I try to eat a lot of beans. I don't eat many refined carbohydrates. And I have oatmeal for breakfast almost every day. And I don't drink or smoke...)

* Also I watched a bit of The Weather Channel this morning; they were talking about the big snowstorm hitting the central US. (Down where I am, I am just getting cold rain). Some areas are, I guess, near blizzard conditions, and the presenter was talking about people needing to drive cautiously and leave enough stopping room between cars, but she phrased it as "space out on the highway" and I was like NO NO DON'T TELL PEOPLE TO DO THAT because at least when I was a kid, "space out" meant you weren't paying attention. I guess people say "zoning out" now? But I'm sure there are enough of us who would think spacing out on the roads would be a bad thing.

* I'm wearing my badger pendant today. Last fall I ordered it from the website that helps fund the "Irish Archaeology" twitter feed I like. It's become a favorite jewelry piece: it's simple and goes with a lot of things, and also it's whimsical without screaming "look at the fifty year old woman wearing a cartoon character!" because while it's a cute, stylized badger, it's still semi-realistic and understated (cast in bronze and antiqued so the "fur lines" are dark)

I also just kind of like badgers. To me, they seem symbols of both loyalty and persistence. That may be influenced by my fondness for Trufflehunter from "Prince Caspian" ("I'm a beast, and we don't change. I'm a badger, what's more, and we hold on"). But also more recently, they are the symbol of Hufflepuff in the Harry Potter world, and I do suspect that Rowling was influenced either by Trufflehunter or the larger mythology-of-badgers that also inspired Trufflehunter.

Also, something I didn't know: the "badgers" of the UK and of the US are two very different badgers.

European badgers - which are the ones you read about in British children's books - are Meles meles, they are sort of cute. They tend to live in small groups (maybe about six animals) in large burrows called "setts."  You can read more about them here and that's where I ganked this photo from:

The American badger, on the other hand, has the reputation for being more solitary, and meaner, than the European badger. They are a wholly different genus - Taxidea taxus - and I am not sure without looking how closely they are related to the European badger. More detail about them (at least in Washington state) can be found here, which is where I got this photo:

(Same family - the skunk family - but different subfamily, it turns out)

Interestingly, European badgers are about 10 pounds heavier (on average) than the American ones, I always thought of badgers as "big scary animals" (but an American badger is maybe about 15 pounds).

Though apparently the US badgers ARE less social than their European counterparts; I know I've been told they'll go after dogs* and you probably don't want to mess with them if you happen to see them on your field site; apparently in the UK some people even put food out for the European badgers and enjoy watching them?

(*Though maybe turnabout is fair play; Dachshunds were bred specifically to go into badger setts when people hunted badgers)

There was a meme making the rounds a while back with a photo of a European badger just going about its business and an American badger that was in defensive mode (so it looked meaner) and it was captioned something like "this one looks like it wants to invite you to tea; THIS one looks like it's going to mess you up" or something like that.

Oh. Found it. Though I'm not 100% convinced that "American badger" is not actually a wolverine:

But also, in the comments over at Imgur (where I ganked this from), several people did point out that European badgers can be mean (one, in the spirit of the joke, said "yeah and European badgers are hiding a Glock under their fur") so I guess neither one is cute or cuddly, really. Though I know people who like raccoons and possums and put food out for them and I would not want to get close to EITHER. Possums are mean and will hiss at you; raccoons are reservoirs for rabies and also can get into EVERYTHING.

(heh. another comment over there: "European badger = cottage in the forest. American badger = cabin in the woods." and again we see how differently you can hear things depending on the words used. Though "cabin in the woods" probably wouldn't seem as threatening if that horror movie never came out)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Feeling more hopeful

* A twitter friend whose job is women's health/women's fertility invited me to DM her about what was going on. She was extremely reassuring, after I laid out the symptoms she was like "I can't guarantee it, of course, but this sounds really really like hormones to me, and the end result will probably be 'it was nothing after all'"

* I am finally starting to feel a bit more like my normal self again after 48 hours of panic/anxiety and mild physical discomfort. Also the big worrying thing is slowing down a lot. I actually think I might want to eat dinner tonight (I have all but lost my appetite. I kept on eating a little bit because I know I get shaky when I don't, but food didn't appeal to me. Which is actually....probably another piece of evidence that my body was just doing me a bamboozle, because that was very typical of me in the past at this point in the cycle....)

I'm still going to go through the recommended testing because knowing as sure as I can that

Will help me get back on track.

* Also I mostly finished my PTR packet this afternoon, and the guy came out and fixed the landline (I think it was something in the big box out back, the one that all the lines for everyone's houses run through. I wonder if I'm the only one on the street with a landline now? It seems like I'm the only one discombobulated by the phone going wonky)

Hoping for peace

I'm doing what I can about this...thing....but I'm really scared, like in "This might be something life-threateningly-bad" scared. I feel a little worse this morning but I can't tell if that's worry or something else.

I did spend this very early morning fighting my state's messed up BC/BS page to verify that the card I had in my wallet was the card for 2020 - I didn't remember receiving it and putting it in my wallet and I was afraid it had either never come, or it came and I wasn't thinking about it, and it's lost somewhere in the giant mess that is my house or I even threw it out thinking it was junk mail, but apparently I have the right card.

And a little vision into how my mind works: yesterday, I got my mom to promise me that if I had to have surgery she'd come down here and stay with me while I recovered. And then I realized: if that happens, I'm going to have to do a LOT of housecleaning to make the place presentable to her, and am actually thinking "I hope I feel up to cleaning house this weekend" and yeah, that's probably not what I should be worrying about but that is very me. I suppose it's the "worry about things you can control in hopes of either not-worrying about the things you can't, or that somehow attending to the things you do control will magically make the things you don't work out in your favor.

Also, I realized this: This feels surreal, in a Schroedinger box sort of way. In one outcome, my doctor will shrug and go “there’s nothing of concern, bodies are just weird” and I’ll have a happy cry and go about my life. In the other outcome, I’ll be trying to arrange for surgery and getting my classes covered and finding someone to drive me there and back and wow, is that ever a Do Not Want.


I'm knitting a little on a Secret Project I need to get done soon. And I've been reading. I find when I'm really worried about something reading is almost the only thing that helps me detrack my mind from what's bothering me. I'm trading off between Tom Cox's "21st Century Yokel" which is kind of essays about living in rural England and walking and his annoyance with some aspects of modern life, and a mystery novel by ECR Lorac called "Bats in the Belfry." It's pretty good (though there are a couple things that....well, they wouldn't be done in a modern novel, a foreign character who might be French is referred to by a fairly nasty ethnic slur that used to mainly be applied to Italian people, and there's another character who mocks the accent of the Scots investigator, but other than those slightly uncomfortable bits of....what would you call it? ethnicism? it's pretty good. (I am struck though how casually the one slur is used, and not by characters the author seems to want to signal "these are bad guys" about)

It's a complex story and it's starting to wind towards its conclusion.I have my suspicions about who did it but I could be wrong, and I don't really read these so I can feel smarter than the detective by figuring out who the murderer is before them.


Lots of other low-level upsetting things (FSVO "upsetting," I mean, "things in my immediate vicinity that are broken or have changed and I have to deal with the change")

- they "migrated" all our work computers to Windows 10. Apparently they did a good job with mine; all the programs I use seem to be here and it doesn't look like any files got lost (a colleague had more difficulties). But still, it's a different interface. I liked Windows 7 and while Windows 10 is better than 8 or whatever it was, it's still not the same.

- My home landline is screwed up. Caller ID won't work, the phone last night didn't ring, there were just a few weak "bloops" and then the connection - when I picked up - was very bad and very staticky. I've called it in but I know A T and T these days is not real big on supporting the wiring infrastructure to homes, so we'll see. I don't *like* using the cell phone (call quality is poorer) but if A T and T can't fix the line - or tells me it's an interior-to-my-house problem and will cost a lot of money and disruption - I might just ditch the landline and save the money.

but it does make it hard because almost everyone who knows me knows until very recently, I only really used the landline, so things like getting contacts from doctors doesn't go so well.

I just want things to be easy. No, I NEED things to be easy right now so I can focus on the biggest scariest thing...

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

TMI, but WTH...

If you are the praying type, please send up some of that good stuff on my behalf.

I am 50 years old. Will be 51 in February. As far as I thought, I was in menopause - last monthly was, as far as I can remember, February 2018.

the complicating issue is that I was never exactly 'regular' during my regular years, and in fact for a time was on the hormonal birth-control pill to try to regulate things.

Well, last week, I had some symptoms (avoiding TMI) that made me go "if I didn't know better, I'd say this was PMS"

Last night I had some (sorry about this, so sorry) "spotting" and this morning, surprise! I'm glad I still had feminine-hygiene supplies but this is a very bad surprise.

If it hadn't been nearly 2 years, I'd write it off as "weird bodies are weird and I guess I'm not done with menopause yet" BUT there are other things that can make this happen, from a benign hyperplasia (which I guess is treated with hormones)  all the way up to uterine or endometrial cancer.

I am hoping if it's either of those last 2, because this is the first weird sign I've had, it's very very early, and I'm not going to die. Or, well, not going to die yet, one of the things 2019 taught me too explicitly is that we're all mortal.

I messaged my doctor, figuring "but you'll chicken out about it if you wait" and she wants me to move up my fasting bloodwork and get an ultrasound. And not the EASY kind of ultrasound like you see pregnant women getting on TV. No, ultrasound with a PROBE.

She did say "I am probably being overly cautious here" but I am still scared. Really scared. Part of it is I am just afraid of pain, and I know from past experience with pelvic exams that the ultrasound is going to be quite uncomfortable for me (both physically and mentally) and also I'm just scared about....what if I have to have surgery? Or what if I have to go on chemo? I already pretty much tanked my teaching last semester because of being in grief, I don't think I could do teaching on chemo brain. (Yes, I'm catastrophizing here)

I called my mom to tell her and also to verify. No, none of the recent generations of female relatives had any cancers anything like this (but they also all had children, and not-having-children can be a risk factor). She also reminded me that weird bodies are weird and "oh, I had something like that happen" but when pressed, she admitted it wasn't as long of a time gap as I had.

So, I don't even know. I need to finish my post-tenure review packet and I've been picking at it this morning but to be honest, it feels really....futile....if maybe I'm going to be dead or on disability and unable to teach by this fall.

I really would like my life to suck a little less, thanks.

On reviewing her messages: she did say "this is very common in perimenopausal women" so maybe it's not such a huge concern, and she's just "I want to make sure it's not the bad thing that there is a .01% chance of, and be able to tell you "yeah, your body is just being weird"? I hope.

This is the first big health scare I've had, and I realize sadly, it almost certainly won't be the last. Ugh. How do people DEAL with this? It's hard not to think about it


Still anxious about this (finally at home). Bloodwork has been moved up, checkup has been moved up. I am HOPING this is my doctor knowing I worry about these things and is being compassionate and not that she things something is really, really wrong.

There is apparently about a 0.03% incidence (on average) of uterine cancer and I'm telling myself the odds are really good that all this is is "your body is being dumb and weird" but I still worry.

I called my mom in tears again and got a promise from her that if I have to have surgery, she can come down here and stay with me during and after it. That would at least solve the problem of "who will look after me if I cannot" but I really, really don't want it to come to that.

the good news, apparently, is that regular exercise (which I have been doing since I was 24) lowers your risk (even though being fat raises it) and not having a family history of it is also a good thing.

The upside I guess is I'm telling myself Monday after the fasting bloodwork I can get a donut. I normally never eat them (though I like them) but I figure (a) right after bloodwork is probably the "best" time to eat something like that and (b) if something is really wrong with me, screw it, I'm not going to live my last six months or whatever on salad and steamed fish.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

still not "back"

I thought I was doing better, I really did. But I'm not quite there yet; small things still throw me, I still get hung up on certain things and can't just sigh and let them go.

The latest: I agreed to do an arranged class, yes? Because there are only two people who need it this semester? And scheduling a time when both can meet with me (so I am not teaching THE SAME THING twice in a week) is kind of an ongoing nightmare.

Well, I get an e-mail late in the day yesterday (after I'd already left in order to prepare for CWF meeting and everything): big problem. One of the students - call her Jameela - is an International student. But. She must be enrolled 9 credit hours to keep her visa. Okay, well and good. But as it turns out: apparently those credit hours canNOT be arranged classes so either Jameela will need MORE coursework, will need to go to another university with a bigger graduate program, or will need to leave the country.

So yeah. I am trying to tell myself this is something for people above my pay grade to work out - and my chair is trying to see what can be done - but I really don't want to have to do a bunch more administrative work to try to make this a sham-regular-class (which apparently is one solution, though I also suspect there are people in the admin who will not sign off on a "real" class with a mere two students in it. (nevermind that I am getting zero load for this or my OTHER arranged class; I am essentially involved 21 hours a week and am getting paid for the equivalent of 12, because of how load works here)

And yes, I understand why the whole "can't be arranged classes" thing, it's surely because some unscrupulous universities would set up do-nothing classes to keep getting that sweet, sweet International Student money. Or that some of the alleged "illegal immigrants" were actually visa over-stayers (one of the stats I read about people here "undocumented" suggested that most of them are actually people who just....didn't go home....after their visa expired). And yes, perhaps one out of a million people who came in that way might be a detriment to our nation.

But I can vouch from having had Jameela in class for two years, and having worked closely with her, she would not. (She is not even from the ethnic group the name I have assumed for her would suggest). And anyway? Her plans are to get her degree and go back home and work there.

As much of a rule-follower as I am, this is one of those cases where I just pull on my hair and want to scream "LOOK AT HER, LET HER DO THIS, YOUR RULE IS STUPID IN THIS CASE"

But yeah, this has thrown me. My plans for this morning after a quick brush-up of the material for the two, 75-minute lectures I teach today was to finish my post-tenure review packet but I guess that won't happen this morning.

One thing I've noticed with the ongoing grief is that  my tendency to get derailed by some small unpleasant thing - which has always been a thing for me - has turned into a tendency to get TOTALLY derailed. It's like I have less bandwidth.

I also have a few bills I MUST pay this week (traditional style - send in a check kind, though I think I really need to set up more things with autopay, I also drag my feet on that because some places, like my city water department, I don't trust not to have crooks in it) and other things to attend to but it's like I forget things if they're not right in front of me. And my house is a mess. And, and, and....


Edited to add (about 1 pm, FINALLY home for lunch):

The student came to my office practically in tears between my classes. ("practically in tears" is not like her) Asked me if I'd heard what they were telling her. I said yes, that my chair was working on it and we'd figure something out. (I didn't know that for sure but I really hoped we could). I said I'd sign a statement saying the class was fundamentally face to face if that was what it took (turns out, it did).

Went off to my next class.

Got out - one student did stop me after class and tell me "I'm a concurrent student and in class today alone you covered more stuff and I learned more stuff than in several weeks at high school, thank you" so I guess that's good?

Found my chair. Normally I tend to be somewhat avoidant of issues where I have to approach something, but I knew "Jameela" was depending on me, so.

She said she was working on it but I needed to have a set time to meet, and the other student was meeting with another professor at the moment (and Jameela was there too).

So I tracked them down. Finally set a time (3-4 pm Tuesdays, plus some outside stats-package tutoring). Jameela went to get the forms. I signed the forms just before going home for lunch and hopefully it is solved.

My chair did remark, as she signed off "This IS a face-to-face class, it clearly says it is in the catalog, I don't see why we're having to do this" so I am wondering if the infamous tendency for some in our admin to waaaaaaay overinterpret dicta has come back.

At any rate: "Jameela" was happy and while I'm not WILD about having every Tuesday afternoon at 3 committed, at least now I know, and at least it means that I can schedule around it. (Like: I can come home for lunch now on Tuesday, and probably get a little piano practice in).

I'm trying to feel triumphant that I was able to fix a snafu for a student but I don't feel as happy about it as I might because it's frankly something that should not have been an issue in the first place.

And I'm still tired. I ran to Pruett's to get more milk and wound up buying a thing of spring mix salad because weirdly, I craved salad, and maybe I"m not getting some nutrient I need? I don't know. Or maybe it's just January....

Also saw some guy (via a QT) on twitter snarking about "will the free-college proposal include (a large state school outside of the East Coast) or is it just for actual schools" and yeah, that's partly why I'm tired. Because I don't teach at an "actual school," according to some of those dudes (the school being snarked on was more prestigious than mine) but yet I spend time scurrying around trying to fix problems I didn't create (and the students didn't create).

And yeah, I get that this is a "mean girls" issue and I should not care.

I had the revelation the other day, thinking about the whole "I never fit in, people always laughed at me" thing - I have a couple gigglers in one class, and it's the whole Other Major problem all over again, I fear (I had trouble with this before, back around 2015 or so).

But this time, I asked myself: why do you care?

Why did you care? Why did it bother you so much that the popular girls mocked you and excluded you?

And I kind of flail around and go "I want to fit in"

"But what is 'fitting in'? Is it being like them? Why did they 'fit in'?"

"Because no one laughed at them, at least not to their faces or at least not in my hearing"

"Why didn't anyone laugh at them?"

"Because they were the Queen Bees. Because....because they probably would have marked for ostracization anyone who did"

"But why did you want to be like them? They were terrible people. They were mean. They made fun of the disabled kids and the couple of immigrant kids. They made fun of the kids who had less money"

"But they FIT IN"

"But would you want to fit in if it meant being like them?"

And yes, that's the crux of the issue: No, no I do not. What I WANTED as a kid was to be liked and not teased, but I wanted to be liked and not teased because I was me, and not because I presented some mean false front.

And again, I wonder at it: why WERE they the Queen Bees? Well, some of them WERE richer than other kids (or at least had fancier clothes and cooler toys) but.....I don't understand the Economy of Cool well enough to be able to pinpoint what made them the ones who were the arbiters of what was cool and what was not, to the point where they could turn people against their friends by inviting them to sit at their table but "No, the people you are friends with now aren't cool enough, drop them"

It's probably some dumb Emperor's New Clothes thing, but I still don't understand WHY, more than 35 years later.  In my world the kind and smart and talented people would be the popular ones. Or popularity wouldn't matter, and there'd be peer pressure on the bullyish people NOT to be that way. But instead, we got what we got, and it doesn't really make that much sense...

Monday, January 13, 2020

Today I learned

1. Linneaus (Carl von Linné), the famous naturalist/botanist, argued in one of his books that animals have souls: "One should not vent one's wrath on animals, Theology decrees that man has a soul and that the animals are mere 'aoutomata mechanica,' but I believe they would be better advised that animals have a soul and that the difference is of nobility."

Though I'm not sure if he was arguing that animals' souls were less or more noble than ours, and frankly, looking at my fellow humans some days, I WONDER.

2. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, ascribed to the general French theory* of the "inferiority of the Americas" and basically he said that - to use internet terminology - everything in North America was virgins to Europe's Chads, and that when European plants were taken over to North America, they grew poorly because the soil was bad, etc., etc.

(*I wonder if maybe some of this bias hasn't stereotypically continued down to our own times)

From the Wikipedia article on him: "At one point, Buffon propounded a theory that nature in the New World was inferior to that of Eurasia. He argued that the Americas were lacking in large and powerful creatures, and that even the people were less virile than their European counterparts. He ascribed this inferiority to the marsh odors and the dense forests of the American continent."   

Well, about the same time, Thomas Jefferson was in France, and he was having none of that. So he arranged - or tried to arrange - to have a moose caught (the "biggest bull moose" his military men could find) and preserved and SENT TO FRANCE so he could show Leclerc how wrong he was. (It...didn't go well)

Jefferson also argued that mammoths (the bones of which had been found, and which Leclerc apparently sniffed at because they were extinct) "probably" still existed somewhere in the unexplored western region of the continent. (And also that the reindeer Leclerc spoke so highly of were small enough to walk under the belly of a bull moose)

here is an article from "The Atlantic" about their, what Linda Belcher would call, "peeing race." (and what I have called "micturational combat").

On the one hand: yes, I suppose many would argue for the "cancellation" of Leclerc today because this was apparently only one of the wrong and silly things he believed (and one of the less harmful, apparently). I dunno. I like just being able to laugh at it and show how "extra" people could get about things like this. And also maybe a reminder that pigheadedness isn't just a 21st (or even 20th) century invention.

I also kind of admit I'd like to see either a comic movie, or a short novel, dramatizing these events. I dunno. I suppose if something comparable were happening today I'd be irritated and dismayed, but given that remove of time, it's....just kind of funny to me, to think of this French-aristocrat famous-naturalist and Thomas Jefferson arguing about the "virility" of North America. (And of course note that South America, Africa, and Asia are mostly left out of the discussion)

(ha ha ha ha: I referred to this on Twitter and one of my friends over there commented "'[Forget] you, I'm mailing you a moose,' is, to be fair, one of the more creative responses to a bunch of French people saying you have small critters")

Sunday, January 12, 2020

I like this:

Sometimes, in church, the "children's message" contains as much that is inspiring or informative as the whole sermon.

This week's children's message was about "the priesthood of all believers" (Well, the sermon was too, but the children's message, because of its relative simplicity, was more striking to me). In it, the person talked about how we all have the chance to minister to people, even though very few of us are "officially" ministers. That if we listen to someone talk when they are sad, or we draw a picture for someone, or we help them when we need help, we are ministering to them.

And that's true. But I also like it because it reminds me of a number of important things, and thinking of the stuff I do for other people as a "ministry" rather than, maybe, a "burden," helps me to "keep on keepin' on" a little bit better.

But it also reminds me of something very important, and something maybe our culture tries to wipe away these days: not everything should be commodified and transactional. Maybe some things should be done out of the love of doing them - or the love for the people you are doing them for. That there are benefits beyond money we get out of things, and in a lot of cases, the benefits we get are bigger than the money.

Oh, don't get me wrong: even the Bible says it's wrong to muzzle a working ox, and people need to be able to make a living as well as live, and sometimes it is hard to find the energy to do the over-and-above things if you're always scrabbling for money. But a lot of us aren't at that point; we're comfortable enough, and maybe, sometimes, it's better to say "This does not enrich me materially but it enriches me spiritually" or even sometimes "this does not enrich me but it benefits a fellow being"

One of the things I miss about the heyday of craft-blogs was that a lot of it was like that - it was people putting up stuff and either going "this is something I found that makes me happy" or "this is something I made that makes me happy" and the idea was "maybe it will make you happy too" and eventually so many of the blogs either ended because the people got too busy with other things of life that demanded their time (in some cases: paying jobs) OR the person gradually pivoted the blog to a "monetized" model and yes, there are still people who think they can start a blog and make a lot of money doing it, and I think that's one of those one in a million things where people are led to believe that it's something they can do....when the blogs that became profitable in some way either did so as a matter of dumb luck, or had some weird undefinable thing that can't be reproduced (and anyway: so few actual newspapers seem to make money off their websites, and advertising on a blog or something seems so unprofitable).

And yeah, I've joked about the old Samuel Johnson line about how no one but a blockhead ever wrote for anything BUT money, but you know? There are a lot of us blockheads still out there.

But yeah....maybe once in a while I can say something here that's helpful or useful or amusing or that makes someone's day better, and that makes it worth it to me.

The other thing is, thinking of that, it puts a little bit of the lie to the You Must Do Great Things narrative that as a borderline-gifted child I got fed on a regular basis in school, and which I've used as a bat to beat myself up with these few months....not all of us can find cures to diseases or broker peace between nations, but...we can all strive to be kind and good and to help others, and you know? Maybe that's enough. It should be enough.

Also, a story, because the minister (who is sort of a lay minister; I guess he's credentialed to the point where he can marry people and conduct funerals and do baptisms, but he doesn't have a divinity degree) talked about the different terms used for ministers (ranging from Reverend down to "Holy Joe") and he mentioned Preacher and Pastor and it reminded me of something from high school - I had in my friend group a couple of African-American women whose roots were in the American south, and one of them, either her dad or her uncle (I forget which) was a minister. (I'm going to assume it was her dad for the purposes of the story) and some other of our friends one day made the comment to another person, introducing P., that her dad was a "preacher." She immediately drew herself up to her full height and declared, "My father is *not* a preacher. My father is a PASTOR. A preacher is a pastor without a congregation" and that struck me because I'd never known the difference (or perceived difference: I don't know if it was a regional thing or a family thing for her) and It was interesting to see how adamant she was about him being a PASTOR and not a PREACHER. (I wonder if it's a Southern thing though because when I told the minister it, he laughed with recognition and several other people around us did, too).

But yes. One of the things I have long cherished about the denomination I grew up in and am still a part of is the idea that all believers can, in their own way, be ministers.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Continuing in Epiphany

Epiphany is actually over. I was remembering it (mis-remembering it) as lasting until Lent; the little book ("Bread of Blessing, Cup of Hope") that contains sample prayers for the Elders at table list "Sundays After Epiphany" rather than "Sundays of Epiphany" (which is what I guess I was remembering it as).

So, we're officially in Ordinary Time, which means the parments on the pulpit and lectern get turned to green until Lent begins (just before my birthday this year) when they are turned to purple.

(The Liturgical year, as I remember it: Advent is purple, because it's like a mini-Lent, Christmastide through Epiphany is white, the color of purity and I guess rejoicing? Because it's also for Easter...Ordinary Time is green, Lent is purple again, Easter is white, then back to Ordinary Time with a short detour for Pentecost (red) in June...and then the cycle starts again. I LIKE following the liturgical year; in a world where so much is changing and unsettled and even violent and upsetting, it is oddly a relief to walk into church, and see the color of the parment, and know where in the year you are)

Ordinary Time is.....kinda when nothing really happens? Or at least, that's how it seems. The lectionary cycles through things from the Gospels (the parables, stories of healings) and the Epistles and readings from the Old Testament, but there's not the hopeful expectation of Advent, or the joy of Christmas, or the seriousness and soul searching of Lent, or the horrors of Good Friday, or the joy of Easter. It's kind of....keepin' on keepin' on, I guess*.

(*The phrase "keep on keepin' on," which I learned from Luvada Hunter - a much-loved African-American member of my parents' church - she has long since gone onto her reward - is one I really love. Because to me, it carries the connotation of "you'll get there eventually" and also "you're doing fine, keep going." I remember once when I was working on my dissertation and it wasn't going well, and I had mentioned it to Luvada, she smiled at me and patted me on the arm and said "Just keep on keepin' on, I believe in you" and that was something....that was exactly the thing I needed to hear then)

Anyway. The thing about Ordinary Time 1, as this is sometimes called - well, Christmas is newly put away, it's kind of dark and cold (if you live in the Northern hemisphere), many of us are trying to drop the weight we put on during the holidays and cut back on spending to pay the bills from the holiday's just kind of a hard time. And there's not a great deal after Epiphany to look forward to (I have said before: I don't really do Valentine's Day, I don't really do St. Patrick's Day, though this year I may be up visiting my mother for it). There's my birthday, but as I said: no one around here really cares about it that much other than me, and I'll be teaching my longest hardest day of classes on it, and I may or may not be able to go do something that weekend because it's likely Honors Weekend, which I am working.

But I do think of this poem. It's part of a longer piece, sometimes called "Christmas Oratorio," by WH Auden. I've liked it since I first heard it - more than 20 years ago now, probably closer to 25, when we had an interim minister at my parents' church. His name was Jim Pruyne (he has also since gone on to his reward) and I know some people disagreed with some of the things he said and he was probably more theologically liberal than the average congregant in that congregation. But he always made me think, and I liked that, and he based his Epiphany sermon on the poem, and I've always thought of it every year since that, because there's a lot to "chew on" in there.

And so, I quote it here:

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It. 

 The parts that strike me so much - other than the idea of putting away Christmas and bracing for the new year, is the "Begging though to remain His disobedient servant" because that seems such a good description of the modern (and perhaps, not-so-modern) average Christian: we want to be obedient, but our natures work against us. (Similar to what I commented on twitter, that the 'creating a calorie deficit thing to lose weight would be easier if I weren't so hungry all the time"). And also the idea of the whiff of apprehension of Lend and Good Friday - and the realization, perhaps, behind that for some of us is the intimation of our own mortality (oh, so brought more home to me in the past year) and the daily chores existing alongside the mysticism....and it's so hard, sometimes. 

And also, the whole idea of living In The Time Being - the time we are stuck in now, neither at the start of times (0 BC, or perhaps more correctly, some theologians have argued, 4 BC) nor at the end of them (though some days, I don't know, it starts to feel like it, and that's what makes modern life so worrisome and exhausting). I remember some writer made the comment that the shepherds were lucky in one way: that they could look down and see God there, as a baby in a stable, but all the rest of us, we have to believe it (if we do) because we can't see it. 

But also...the last line: "Remembering the stable for once in our lives, everything became a You and nothing was an It." That connectedness, that feeling part of all creation (I wonder if Auden had read Buber's "I and Thou," it reminds me a bit of the main themes in that). 

And you know? That's what I want. I can get intimations of it when I am at my best - that everything around me is a You and nothing is an It - but again, this is something my nature and the world works against, when I get behind someone going 20 miles below the speed limit on the interstate and when I pass them and look over and see them jabbering on a cell phone and I cringe and my blood pressure ticks up a tiny bit, or when someone calls me in my office on my phone and ask-tells me to do something I have no time to do and no wish to do, but because they are higher in the org-chart than I am, I will have to do, or when I see someone on the news who has done something monstrous to another is sometimes hard to keep that sympathy.

And I don't know. That's one of the real conundrums of life, at least for a Christian: how do you keep that feeling of Christmas Eve, when you sat in the darkened church surrounded by people you know and some of whom you would openly say you love, and there are candles and there is music and everything seems prettier and nicer somehow, and you just want to STAY there forever, but you know you can't; you will have to go back out into the cold and if you're a parent you will have to settle your kids down for bed and there will be food to cook for the next day and maybe contentious relatives to wrangle (or, in my own personal case this past year: go through the day trying to be as happy as possible even though everything is different and there is a very noticeable hole in the family). And the following week it may well be back to work or at least it will be back to cleaning and doing the marketing....and how do you sustain that good feeling on into January? It is a hard thing. You want it, but it is so hard to hang on to. Perhaps that is the difference between "the Kingdom" (as described in the Bible) and "the World," and the World fights to make you forget that time of light and music and fellowship and get mired in the cleaning and the people-wrangling and the arguing....and it's so hard to transcend that, even if you do stop in the middle of it and realize you want to.

Friday, January 10, 2020

This is me

I sometimes read MetaFilter. I know, I know, and I haven't joined it because I know I wouldn't fit in there and I'd probably say something declared "slightly wrong" and get piled on for it, and the level of snark and sometimes class-judginess (or geographic-judginess; some people there still stereotype those who live in the US South) is a problem. And there are strong strains of both "whataboutism" and "but haven't you considered...." and then bringing up the most unusual and isolated possible thing and trying to make the other person feel bad for not considering it; there does seem to be a lot of what I would tongue-in-cheek describe as "dominance mounting" behavior*

(*Yes, THAT kind of "mounting." It sometimes happens non-sexually in animals, especially young ones, because jumping on another animal's back like you are mounting it to mate....well, I wonder if the "middle finger" is a very distant echo of that in humans, except with more of a "get lost" and less of a "I am dominant to you, bow to me" sense)

But sometimes there are things that are interesting or give me insight into interpersonal relations. This is where I learned about "guess" vs. "ask" cultures, and that was kind of mind-changing, because I am very very much a "guess" person and I got tired when people would ask me for stuff that seemed absolutely outrageous, and I wondered WHY they were even asking when they should have KNOWN the answer would be no....and realizing that some people just ask away, even if they think there's less than 1% of a chance of a yes....well.

There was another one today, about "What does it mean when someone calls you 'earnest'?" and I admit I cringed at some of the responses (and realized I probably wouldn't fit in in the UK or Europe, heck, I fit in badly enough in some parts of the US) because several respondents were like "ha ha ha, being earnest means you are an EXHAUSTING YOKEL to deal with"

But then someone called Stacey posted this comment and yikes, except for the "Ask Culture" thing, that is ME. People have to regularly tell me "Oh, I was kidding" - I never quite got the "let's do lunch sometime" as a polite brush-off; it took me years to realize they weren't ACTUALLY offering an invitation to go to lunch, it was more a "look at the time [how do I get rid of this exhausting person] I have to go so let me put them off with a check my mouth will write but that my brain will refuse to cash." I am also the person who loves things unambigiously and unironically and sometimes someone snarking on or pointing out something bad about something I love will actually make me stop loving it and I will be a little bit crushed.

And yeah, the whole "possibly being hurt" thing. Over the years, starting with grade school and being made fun of for loving things (like: "The Muppet Show"), I slowly managed to build up more or less of a protective layer. Not of snark, I can't usually do that, but of sort of detachment or arms-length quality. I've had people tell me that either I was "really hard to get to know" or "you have a lot of things about your personality I never realized" and yeah - growing up in the American public school system often beats the "uncool" parts of you (which are actually what make you interesting) out of you, or teaches you to cover them up. Heck, I even had TEACHERS who fundamentally told me "be more normal" (though not in such obvious words) as a defense against bullying.

And yeah, the sarcasm and snark thing. I can sometimes do it about situations or media properties, but I can't do it to people, and when a group of people communicates with each other in that way, I can't quite jibe with it and it makes me uncomfortable. And when someone is snarky or ironic to me? I usually interpret it as "they don't like me, they are trying to drive me away" and unlike the kid I was, adult-me generally complies and wanders off and marks that person in my mind as Does Not Want To Be Friends.

When that's often a misinterpretation. I have been told many times, especially since I moved here, that "when someone teases you, it's a sign they like you" but the thing is? When I was a kid? Being teased was actually a sign they didn't, and it's hard for me to change my thinking on that or accept that there's anything other than a tiny core of hostility underneath the teasing. Because that's not how I relate to people. I might joke about the silly situation we both find ourselves in, or I might share a really bad pun.....but making fun of someone for who they are is not something I can do. (I can maybe very mildly tease someone over a habitual behavior, but somehow that feels different than attacking who they "are" and I know sometimes my friends have laughed and rolled their eyes and said "Yeah, I'm trying to stop doing that, thanks for reminding me")

But I admit it does sting a little to think that some people find the way I*... kind of "exhausting" and how they wish I'd be more sarcastic or cynical.

(*I suspect this is very very much a brain-wiring thing, like my literal-mindedness, which is probably RELATED to my earnestness. So to have people find me exhausted for how my neurons work is both sad and baffling to me).

Another story: I once went to a memorial service for a man who had done a lot in the LGBTQ community (he was someone I had known, not well, but had known well enough to like). And I was kind of startled at the ....what I interpreted as hostility?....some of his friends incorporated into their eulogies, even using words to describe him (and others) that....well, as someone not in that community, I was taught never to use. And I sat there kind of baffled because it was different from my experience....but I guess that's just how some people relate to each other, and under the snark and hostility there's actually love? (I was told later that "often people who are in the LGBTQ community, especially men, relate to each other in that way, because of the history of hostility they faced for being who they are" so maybe yes? ) And it's expressed in what sounds to an outsider like a loathing or self-loathing way? So I guess there is maybe a matrix of how this works:

Underlying feeling is love......expressed as openness and love and silliness (and that's how I am)
Underlying feeling is love.....but is expressed with irony and snark (that is what I saw at Steve's funeral, though some of what was said was considerably more than "irony" in my mind)
Underlying feeling is love....expressed with sort of neutral quiet civility, maybe this is some very shy people? Maybe I project this to some people who don't realize how I care about them because I've had the more flamboyant friendliness squelched because of rejection?

Underlying feeling is dislike.....expressed with sort of a chilly civility (which is how I'd react to someone I actually disliked, though there are very few people I do)
Underlying feeling is dislike....expressed with very affected love (the stereotypical b*tchy "Southern Belle" or sorority-girl type; the kind where you check your back for a knife after they hug you)
Underlying feeling is dislike....expressed with irony and snark (which is what I experienced from other kids much of my growing-up years).

 But it's all very hard, isn't it? Because everyone is so different and sometimes it's hard to figure out the underlying feelings from the outward actions. (I've very occasionally experienced the "gushy person who turns out actually not to like you" and it's always discombobulating to me to find out and I go "why was this person nice to me if they didn't like me?")


Thursday, January 09, 2020

A little one

This is the second finished item. I finished her on Christmas Eve, so I named her Marzipan, after the Christmas candy. (Though not just for Christmas. And I like marzipan, I know not everyone does)


She was made using Claire Garland's The Princess Snowdrop pattern but I used different colors. She is knit all in one piece - the legs are made by casting on at the end of rows - and it's a fairly clever construction. I once noted that knitted toys came in different designs, ones where you knit flat pieces like the pieces of a sewn toy, and then had tons of finishing to do, and others (which I think of as designs that make better use of the unusual things you can do with knitting) where they are more or less in one piece, and things like increases and decreases provide the shaping, and there are far fewer seams to sew up at the end. This one is that kind of pattern. (It is free on Ravelry).

The pattern really only takes scraps; I used less than a ball (maybe half a ball) of Red Heart Soft*

(*Many toy patterns are written to be made with fancy wools or alpacas that I have learned living in a warm climate, if you're going to have something out on display, use a man-made fiber or you may find a little hole eaten in it eventually. I am not the greatest housekeeper but even people who are more attentive to it than I have complained about various bugs)

Her sweater is just some scraps that I had - it takes a very tiny amount. The heart is knitted intarsia-in-the-round style, which I would not want for a garment for me, but it works for a small toy.

Marzipan sweater

I made the face very simple: just a couple of little lock-washer eyes, and an embroidered nose.


Her legs are a little bit "noodly" but I think greyhound's legs just naturally look kind of "noodly" compared to their body.

Just by comparison, here she is with Belinda, so you can see how small she is:

size comparison

I did run to Sherman today. No Creatable World dolls (as I kind of expected; the Target has a v. small toy section and I also suspect dolls that could be played with as a non-binary gender might not sell well here) and none of the new MLP stuff (actually, very little MLP stuff at all)

I did, however, go to JoAnn's. My mom had carried on the tradition my dad did of giving "stocking money" (a large-ish bill tucked in each person's stocking - $50 was typical in recent years). I spent it there - just over five yards of warm brown Kona cotton, for the sashing on an eventual quilt where the focus fabrics will be scraps of different pink prints (and maybe a few leaf-greens). I also got a new doormat (it's dark out now, and I put it out, or I'd photograph it - it's kind of a simple Art Deco style and it seemed like it would suit my house. AND I bought a Simplicity-branded drawstring bag. I don't really NEED a big laundry bag (though I could use it for a larger knitting project), but I really liked the sentiment on it. (you can see it here.) It has women in a variety of dresses (including a mod 60s floral mini) and it says on it "It's okay if you don't like me, not everyone has good taste." It made me laugh and honestly that's a sentiment I'd like to feel - I tend to be too much of a people-pleaser and if someone seems to dislike me, I think it's some fault in me rather than a fault in that person (or accepting that just not everybody can like everybody else, though I tend to think it's silly to dislike someone for a trivial reason, like how they dress).

But yeah, maybe having a little reminder that "the people who like you are simply people of good taste and sound judgment, and the people who don't, aren't" will help.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

First finished item

Maybe I'll do these in the order I finished them. The first big thing I finished over break....well, it was a BIG thing. Like, two feet big.


This is knit off the Blue Whale pattern by Rachel Borello Carroll. It is designed to be knit of bulky yarn. I could not find any blue I liked at Michael's, but this grey (with hints of pink, cream, and blue) Lion Brand Thick and Quick looked really nice in the ball and it knit up well. So she's a grey whale instead.

I named her Belinda.


The pattern called for 15 mm solid-black eyes. I realized I hadn't brought any of those with me, but I did have these larger (I think they are 20 mm) Suncatcher eyes that have sort of a metallic grey back and since they have an "iris" you need to use a larger eye. (Animals look funny if their eyes are too small, and somehow eyes-with-an-iris look smaller than solid black eyes). At any rate, I think it was a good choice:

Belinda face

Like I said, she is very large - about 2 feet long.She took most of 2 balls of the Thick and Quick (I had bought 3 to have one as a "safety" - the pattern suggested it took about 190 yards, and I think this Thick and Quick was an 87 yard two might have made it, might have not, and I know the agony of running short (also, often thicker yarn is more variable in how it works up). The white part is some random wool bulky weight, I think it was Michael's house brand yarn.

I'm quite pleased with how she came out; this is a nicely-designed pattern and it works up satisfyingly fast.

I also have to note I opened the box from Anita and it was fabric! Pony fabric!


I really like the purple one with the sleepy ponies on it and I *think* I have enough for a set of pillowcases, especially if I choose a contrasting fabric for the pillowcase "flange." So I think I will use it for that. The pink one is a flannel and I might use it as the backing on a small quilt, or I might consider making sleep shorts out of it (I have 2 1/2 yards, which I think is not QUITE enough for a sleepshirt for me, and with flannel you want it to be loose...)

one morning thought

I do want to get around to taking pictures (and posting them) of the stuff I made over break. (I made two stuffed toys and completed two pairs of socks that had been on the needles for a long time. I also started a hat and worked a good bit on the crocheted afghan).

But I saw this, from "Riley Silverman" on Twitter last night, and it struck a chord:

"This is just my courtesy tweet to say I'm aware that things are going to sh*t and my lack of a running commentary on it doesn't mean I don't care. I just don't know what to say that isn't being said by better, smarter people. I'm tweeting about nonsense cause it helps me cope."

Yes. Yes, to that. I am not smart enough to do policy analysis, I don't have the training for economics, I can't see into the future to know what will happen. And it just seems a lot of bad stuff is happening right now, stuff I have exactly zero control over. And so really? It doesn't benefit me to comment on it (at most I might get someone "liking" my tweet, and worst, someone sliding into my DMs to excoriate me for being very wrongheaded).

But if I re-tweet a picture of a Pomeranian puppy walking down the street and say "it's a furry potato!" and it makes someone else smile or laugh - well, that's something I can do. Maybe I just made someone else's day infinitesimally better by doing that, and that's worth it.

But I also don't like the judgy tone you see in some social media if you're not weighing in on every tragedy with either your "thoughts and prayers" (believe me, I pray every day for the state of the world to improve) or your flaming-hot take on it, you are being an ostrich.

No, I'm not an ostrich. I'm just a Bear of Very Little Brain who is also perhaps wise enough to realize how little her opinions matter in a global sense, but who maybe can briefly bring a bit of joy to a friend or who can share actually useful information (like if someone on Twitter had a question about 'what does this mean when I see it in a crochet pattern?')

I also had the misfortune this morning to stumble across a disagreement. One person yes was arguably wrong, but the people who were "correcting" them were taking neither St. Paul or Timothy's advice in how they did it, and it felt to me like a "ha HA. I am smarter and therefore better than you, and I am going to rub your face in your wrongness" and I am frankly so tired. I see stuff like that and just kind of back away slowly, because I know I'm wrong (because of ignorance or being misinformed) some times, and I know if someone were correcting me on my mistake I would not want it to be (a) done in a very, very public way (there is a backchannel, direct message way to talk to people, and my MO in such a situation would be to message the person and say something like "You might not know this, but..." and then explain) and (b) done with what I interpret as glee on the part of the corrector, because they are "scoring points."

Look. I remember one of my mom's friends had a little sign that claimed "she who dies with the most fabric wins" but it doesn't work that way, especially not for "points" you score off another person.

Also being smarter than someone doesn't mean you're better. Or being more educated doesn't mean you're better. Trust me on this; I've spent my entire adult life on college campuses and have seen a lot of smart or well-educated people. The older I get the more I realize that being smart or learned doesn't have any correlation to how wise you are. And that wisdom is the real thing of value.

But yeah. Not a stellar start to the day, especially not after last night when I turned on what I thought was going to be the 6 o'clock local news and immediately exclaimed "holy forking shirtballs" (or something very like it) when it was Breaking News of retaliation, or what was presented as retaliation (we never know the hearts or planning of other men; this could have been in the works and done somewhat coincidentally).

It looks less dire in the morning light than it did last night, but still.

I am looking for happy things today and once I print off my syllabi to be copied I need to motivate myself to work on research. Am considering doing the Sherman run I was planning for this weekend tomorrow instead: Friday and Saturday it's supposed to be unpleasantly cold and Saturday there is a chance of "winter precipitation" (This will probably just be a quick run to get a few things at Ulta, and maybe pop in to the bookstore, and maybe get some supplies that are easier to find at Target than at a grocery...)

And I have seen on the doll-blogs that (at least some) Targets have the Creatable World dolls INCLUDING separate clothing packs for them, and I really want some additional clothing. I would not be surprised if the nearby Target did not (smaller toy section, and I can totally see the buyer going "nonbinary dolls? But that will offend some of our customers!" and not ordering them. But I'm still gonna try. Apparently there's also a new African-American doll out with a short "natural" haircut plus a big Afro wig and I might want to get them....also there's a chance the G4.5 My Little Pony blindbags may be out, and as long as there is a letter below M in the alphabet on their package code, I will be getting a pony and not one of the "pets" like Gummi, which I care less about. (I really want Cha-Cha the Llama, but that's apparently only in the sets that went to wal-mart; their blind bag code is X. For the Target set, Celestia's code is E, she is the one I'd want the most of that set....)

And yes, part of me goes, "This is totally foolish" but you know? It makes me happy. Having little dolls I can dress makes me happy. Having "critters" around me makes me happy. And I feel like now more than ever, I should not feel apologetic for things that make me happy

I did bring in my little Gachapon crate critters and have them installed in  my office now:

Other than that: I need to get some useful work done today so (a) I can go home this afternoon and maybe spend a bit of time crocheting before Elders' and Board meetings and (b) so I can feel OK about going to Sherman tomorrow (even if the department chair and I are the only people in this week...)

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

opened a crate

While I was gone, the December Doki Doki and Gachapon crates arrived, as did the January ones. I chose to open the December Doki Doki crate last night....a cute little dish that can hold change, and a pocket-pouch, a big tote bag, and a day-planner (Sanrio or San-X characters on all of them).

And then this:

sumikkogurashi blanket

A fleece blanket with the Sumikkogurashi ("things off in the corner," or or "life in the corner" or so the translations I've seen say) characters on it. It's huge; it's almost twin bed sized, which is much larger than these typically are.

As I've said in the past: I think a person can never have too many fleece blankets. They are good to go over the foot of the bed on cold nights (or to keep your feet warm, if they get cold, in the summer when all you can tolerate on the rest of your body is a sheet). And they're good comfort items - good to wrap up in, or spread over your lap.

Tonight, I decided to open the December Gachapon crate. Partly because....yeah...(gestures at the state of the world). I'm going to save the other two crates for later days, but I'm glad I opened this one, lots of funny stuff in there.

First up - a sleepy Pikachu figure. I already have an "awake" version of him that is similar so I think I might package this one up carefully and mail it to my niece for Valentine's day - she recently discovered Pokemon and my brother has been using the cards or little figures of them as "rewards" for good behavior.


Both of these are going over to my office to sit on my desk. The little mouse "planter" (that is a plastic plant) will brighten the place up, and the fat hamster makes me smile, and sometimes you need things that make you smile over at work

new desk friends

This is kind of a weird thing - a ball with a floppy tongue. I didn't look at the paperwork that came with it (the instructions in the capsules are all in Japanese, which I do not read, but they include a chart with information in English in the box)

I dropped it and it started blinking and flashing. It's VERY blinky - so no video, because it made my eyes and head hurt and I don't have epilepsy, and I don't want to cause problems for anyone. But here's a photo:

weird bouncy ball

My favorite thing, though (and there were a lot of good things in this crate) was this:

deerstalker 2

A tiny deerstalker hat! To put on your cat, they suggest. I do not know too many cats that would tolerate that. Most cats do not like having things squishing their ears down.

Though they also suggest if you don't have a cat, you can put it on a stuffie.

Snox Boop seems to tolerate it fine:

Snox Boop, detective

I may try it on a few other critters. I bet my stuffed Webby Vanderquack could rock a deerstalker (if it fits her slightly freakishly-large head). 

off my chest

If you've read me for any length of time, you know I dislike "punching down" humor, or what I perceive as such.

I was slow to get going this morning and the teevee clicked over to the 7 am "news, chat, and everything else" show (I think it was CBS This Morning? Anyway, I had been watching the local CBS news first). And they were talking about the new S-Pod that was apparently debuted at the consumer electronics show.

I had seen one of these and gone, "Huh, I wonder if that would be a good option for some people who would ordinarily use a wheelchair?" and it also occurred to me that people who *can* walk, but find walking long distances/walking fast enough to keep up with others (so: like people with PAD or a heart condition) might be able to use them in some situations.

I know I wouldn't want one, at least in my current state: I like walking when I have somewhere to walk to, and thank God, my body still allows me to walk some fairly long distances (at least several miles at a go) and walk fairly fast.

But then they cut to one of the late night shows. I think it was Stephen Colbert - I wasn't watching at that point (brushing my teeth and applying make up in the bathroom) but the tone was very much "hurr hurr fat lazy Americans will want this" and a reference to the things in Wall-E (a movie I have not seen, 'cos I know it would make me sad and creep me out, but I know about the people-who-have-given-up-moving-on-their-own bit).

And it made me sad. And profoundly tired. I've seen other cases of things that could be in some way an assistive device (some of the "make life easier" "as seen on TV" things) being dragged as "ha ha, look how lazy people are" and having had a parent who, in his later years, absolutely relied on stuff like a "grabber" to pick things up off the floor (if he got down, he would not be able to get back up without much assistance) or help with things like putting on shoes....well, it's very much punching down in my mind.

But also, more: why is it someone's business whether someone who is "able bodied" chooses to use an assistive device? This is not the same as parking in one of a very few "handicapped spots" - in fact, I'd argue the more people that buy things like grabbers or things to help with putting shoes on, the more likely companies will be to keep making them, and the more affordable they may be (judging from the fact that of the scientific equipment I use, the most widely-used stuff is the most affordable-for-what-you-get and the really uncommon stuff in fabulously expensive).

(Also: I am short and my balance is not always the best, having a "grabber" to reach things off of high shelves absolutely saves me climbing up on a chair and maybe falling - which would be bad, seeing as I live alone)

And yes, yes: "People need to exercise more! They need to be more active!" but it is not your job to hound them about that, they did not hire you for that. That's what personal trainers are for.

It seems lately the mean streak that always underlaid some forms of humor has come out more. I don't like that. I mean, my brand of humor is different, true - I like dumb puns and wordplay and silly and absurd things (A shower thought last night that I shared on Twitter: "Guys. What if mermaids are really were-fish?"). And as someone who was frequently the butt of jokes when younger (and still is, very occasionally)....I know how it can hurt. And yes, maybe "Americans in general" is a different target than "that dude over there who uses a wheelchair" but still. (I also watched the infamous Ricky Gervais speech and found it mostly unfunny, and the gag about Judi Dench acting like a literal cat - well, they silenced the really offensive part of it, I guess, for broadcast, but still, I cringed heavily because one thing I HATE is seeing someone's dignity stolen, and while Dame Dench may be the sort who can laugh at that sort of thing, I don't know. I remember too many times when someone made a joke - not that offensive, but a joke that made me look ridiculous - in front of other people and I just wanted to walk out of that room and never come back and never see those people ever again, and I don't know if people who make those jokes don't understand that some people are really wounded/angered by them, or if they DO understand it, and it's a way they have of very cruelly exercising power. And yes, I know: it tells you more about the person making a joke, that they're willing to go THERE for a laugh or the chance to look "big" but that makes it no less painful to me when someone does it to me.

Get some empathy, people, is what I'm saying, I guess.

The second thing that made me roll my eyes today was on the local news: their lead "health story" was "wow, orthorexia* is on the rise!"

(*this is a disorder where you get very, very locked in - like, neurotically so - to eating "right" and doing the "right" exercise and you become very rigid in your thinking. It is actually something I have to fight against as a tendency in myself, along with the all-or-nothing thinking like "oh no, you ate a cookie, now when you have your blood tested a month from now, your blood sugar will read high and you'll get a lecture from the doctor!")

And they first acted like "but HOW could this BE" and then they blamed Instagram influencers, and yeah, while the perfection some people present online can be a problem, I think there's a bigger problem at work here:

"Health" news from about 2010 to late 2019: "Sitting is the new smoking! Demand a standing desk, or better, a treadmill desk! Carbs are bad! Eating sugar will kill you! Red meat is very very bad, don't eat it! Eggs are a heart attack on a plate! You must consume ten servings of vegetables per day or you will die prematurely! Coffee is bad - no it's good - no it's actually bad!  Wine is really good for you and you should drink a glass every day, no, wait, wine is really bad and no amount of it is safe! Avoid these five foods! You need to exercise a minimum of an hour a day! The number of hours thou shalt sleep is seven, not six, not eight, and nine is straight out! Do this! Do that! Don't do that other thing, lest you die!"

"Health" news in 2020: "Whhhhhyyyy is everyone so stressed out and why is there a burgeoning epidemic of orthorexia? It is a real conundrum! Must be that evil internet!"

I mean, yes, a lot of it is scientific research which tends to be nuanced and often older studies are found to have overlooked some confounding factor (e.g., a lot of the things about fresh foods and exercise could also be linked to "people in higher SES tend to live longer") but also, science news tends to be presented very badly and very sensationalistically. And I admit, even I, an alleged scientist, fall for some of the claims about what you should and should not eat, and the overblown risks of things.

At my best, I can follow the 80-20 rule I've seen some actual health experts write about: that if 80% of the time you are striving to be healthful and to do the things that have been demonstrated to be good (mostly plant-based diet of low-processed foods, exercise regularly, get regular restful sleep, wear a seat belt when you drive, don't smoke, don't drink excessively or do drugs, go in for an annual checkup) what you do in the remaining 20% probably doesn't matter that much. And also, from what I've read for the basic bio classes? A lot of "health risks" are strongly genetically based and while good diet and exercise can mitigate some of the risks.....well, there are still some people who can LITERALLY* do everything "right" and still get cancer. And ain't none of us going to live forever, at least not in the bodies we currently have, and it's probably bad to spend that time being miserable and worried about "OMG I just breathed when I walked past someone smoking, now I'm gonna get lung cancer!"

(*Intentional allusion there, some of you will get it. Ann Perkins.)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Not much changed

Did the usual small re-entry tasks, made easier by the fact that I don't really NEED to do anything workrelated for another week:

- Picked up my accumulated mail. Paid a couple of urgent bills (I have a couple more to pay but they're not due 'til week after next, and I have to find my other book of stamps). Found the check from Fidelity (this is my half of the "required minimum distribution" for last year from the IRA my brother and I inherited from our dad).

- Ran to the bank to deposit the check, got $100 of it of cash just because.

- Lulu and Hazel's had called (early in break, but when I called Saturday before they closed for the day, the woman said she figured I was on break when I didn't come in) so I went and picked up the finished quilt. (This was a big one - 80 by 80). I used the $100 cash I got (plus a little more) and just paid cash for it, since I had the cash in my wallet. Gave her my condolences on her father's death; she seems to be doing okay and it sounds like the shop is going to continue on. (That was thing #1 that I was slightly concerned about).

I had just done the machine-sewing part of the binding on the LAST one I picked up (back before my dad died, even - it was in July). I want to get this one bound soon because once it's time to take the snowman quilt off my bed, even if it's still chilly, this will be a good big quilt.

(I have the Paddington Christmas one on my bed right now but because it's Epiphany, I should take it off in favor of the skiing snowman one I have that I use for wintertime)

- Thing #2 was over at my office - we were told the end of last semester "we'll be upgrading your computers and giving you all Windows 10, but don't worry, we'll transfer your files over" and I was concerned that I wouldn't remember the new login procedure (it will change) or that maybe something went wrong and files got lost. But they haven't got to me yet. That's good and bad. Good in that I can start the semester without too many bad surprises (I should print copies of all my syllabi just in case, and make up the lab packet for one class) but not so good in that they will probably want to do it once classes start, and there will really be no time during the regular week that it will be convenient for me to be without computer access for a half-day or so. Maybe some Friday afternoon, though they tend not to want to do Fridays...

So I'm adding all the test dates and the like to my new calendar (a gift from a Twitter friend - it is Welsh churches, a calendar from an association of bell-ringers, and while that style of bell-ringing is I THINK different to what I do (I do handbells; I think this is the so-called "ringing the changes," using the big bell-tower bells), it is still relevant to my interests.)

I do need to score the October sample of soil inverts this week, and decide whether to do a February or a March sampling (will depend on whether we have cold or not this winter). And I need to (sigh) start writing up my post-tenure review. I MIGHT include a line in there along the lines of "having taken on additional teaching duties* and extra service** in the past year, I have not done as much with research..." as a justification. I still expect to get slammed for lack of scholarly productivity because that's how these things work; we're never going to hear "you're good enough, just keep on keepin' on" even though that's really what I NEED to hear right now.

(* Have taught Environmental Policy and Law, which is about as far out of my wheelhouse as you can go without it being literal academic malpractice for me to teach it, will be teaching advanced biostatistics this spring, which is a bit more in my wheelhouse but which is requiring some heavy review)

(** the blasted assessment thing, which I neither asked for nor welcome, and also some more committee work because the Holy Hand-Grenade number of committees is apparently 3 and I wasn't on enough committees last go-round, despite being a technical editor of a journal and serving on some outside scholarship committees)

- Not sure what to do, or rather, if I need to do anything other than "ignore" - a student in one of my classes who failed to hand in a number of things (and, so, consequently, failed the class), e-mailed two of the missing papers to me. On Friday. While I was on a train coming back here.

(Grades for last semester were due in on December 17; I turned  mine in on the 12th.)

I am not quite sure what they expect. There was no e-mail explaining: it was literally the two papers each as an attachment. I'm hoping they don't think I'll grade them and they'll magically retroactively pass. They did not request an Incomplete, and they weren't eligible for one anyway. But this kind of thing always makes me uncomfortable, ever since I had that one student who got an administrator to call me up and tell me to grade the student's week-late paper because the student in question was "special." So I'm waiting on a second shoe to drop and I don't like it.

Oh, I know, in the absence of some really enormous mitigating factor, my chair would 100% back me up on "you don't even have to look at them, let alone adjust the student's grade" but I'm hoping this is not a preface to an "I sent them to you during the semester and you never graded them, so here they are again!" because I never received them during the semester....I tell students if they e-mail me stuff (which is NOT the preferred method!) they must wait for an e-mail back of confirmation, because sometimes e-mails do get lost - or people type in my address wrong, or something.

(Maybe this year I figure out how to do the "submit assignments through BlackBoard" and just do that, but then that means I either have to print them MYSELF or I'm tied to my office for grading. I like being able to take the written papers home and read them in more peace and quiet than the average conditions in my office building)

But yeah. That's one of the things I get tired of, is people who don't follow my directions on something and then act upset that things didn't work out their way. I know I'm in the right and all, and MOST of the time a higher-up will tell the complaining student to suck it up and do it the right way next time....but there's also the emotional/energy drain of having to deal with the complaints and unhappiness, and also the rare chance that they will find a sympathetic ear (or an ear unsympathetic to me) and I'll be stuck doing the late grading and grade change, instead of the student earning a D or an F because they didn't do the work when it was assigned....

* A couple packages came while I was gone. A couple were expected: the photographic calendar one of my uncles does every year (sunsets over Lake Michigan) and the replacement barn coat (the one my mom had originally got was too small in the shoulders and had to be exchanged for a larger size). Two each of Doki Doki and Gachopon crates. I'm thinking I'll open the December Doki Doki crate (which came after I had left for Christmas) today but save the rest and parcel them out over the next week or more.

And a present from a blogreader, which I'll also open today to see what it is.

I also got a lot of Christmas cards, since I leave so early for break, most of mine come while I'm gone. I'll probably open those too.

* I still am thinking about what I considered (and never did) last year: see if I can get some "valentine's themed" lights (or even just pink, or red, fairy lights) and put them up in the place of the little white ones I've had up for a couple years. I should put some permanent brackets up to hold lights and maybe just get a few different strands I could swap out with the season.

(They had heart-shaped lights at JoAnn's last year but as is typical for them, they overpriced them and wanted you to wait for a "big sale" to buy them, I guess. But that kind of business practice annoys me, and even with the discount, the lights were really more than I wanted to pay. I might try one of the online purveyors of that kind of stuff instead....)

It's a small thing, but a nice thing: they are on a timer so they click on about the time I get home for the day and stay on for a couple hours in the evening. Yes, yes, I know: but LED lights draw very little power and given that a lot of energy-consuming things that people do are things I don't do, I feel like I should get to have my fairy lights. Also, it makes coming home after an evening meeting a bit nicer....

I'd probably need about 30 feet worth of lights (two doorframes, up, down, and across the top, with maybe a little extra to swag at the top, and enough to reach the outlet with the timer).

I know they make rose-shaped ones and others, but I want sturdy lights, and I don't want battery-operated ones; I feel like batteries are more wasteful (and they crap out fast).

And with some online purveyors....well, you don't know if the stuff is quality or not. I don't even know where to look for them. (Amazon's record for those kinds of things so so spotty, in terms of quality....) I suppose the answer is most of those sort of things are just made to be cheap and disposable? Though the Target LED white lights I have, they've been up and used much of the year for the past 3 years now and they're still going strong...

Sunday, January 05, 2020

need to move

I need to get up from here and do something until it's time (in a bit more than an hour; no Sunday school today) to go to church. But I'm sitting here feeling a little sad and listening to mournful 60s pop like this:

Part of this is being tired from traveling, part of this is the let-down after spending two weeks with someone who likes to cook and who would go "would you like chicken croquettes for lunch?" or something and then the food you agreed to would "magically" appear without your having to cook it. I have healthful food in the fridge now - I was careful about what I bought - but of course it takes more preparation.

Part of it is realizing I have to put Christmas away today and tomorrow. Tentatively my plan - and what I should be doing now - is to put the "critters" and small impedimentia and the wreath and Advent calendar away tomorrow, and tackle the tree tomorrow evening. (Tomorrow is "real" Epiphany, so no, it's not too late)

But I was trying to decide: Do I do Valentine's Day decorations this year? (I mean, as much as I ever do, which is not much). I have a "wreath" - really a foam heart-shape with pink silk rosebuds on it. But I'm not "feeling" Valentine's much this year, because of various reasons. (Mainly: a realization that someone I thought low-level cared about me really doesn't, that much).

I was in the Kroger's yesterday and they had all the Valentine's Day junk out already, and when I looked at it, my stupid goblin brain went "You literally have no one who would want you as their Valentine" and even though I did my best to stuff that thought down, it still did sting a little bit. I mean, I'm 50, I've never really "had" anyone for long, so I shouldn't expect that to change. And the dating world is such a cesspool that in the cold light of day, I'd really rather remain alone than deal with that whole mess. But still. It's human, I think, to want the thing you don't have.

And the whole thing that some intentionally unpartnered people (like nuns, especially uncloistered ones who work in day to day life), about how not having a "special someone" means you are free to love all of humanity - well, the darn thing is, humanity doesn't exactly love you back. And yes, that's selfish of me, I know, but one thing that has tired me out a lot about 2019 (or maybe I just realized in 2019 how tired it made me) is the sheer amount of energy I put out to other people - encouraging them, helping them, cheering them on - but sometimes when I could use a little bit of that* I don't get it

(*Yes, I am still talking about how I asked three damn times for help with the assessment stuff when my heart was literally breaking and I was having crying meltdowns in my office because I didn't know how I'd do everything people wanted me to do, and I heard CRICKETS and also when I made a comment to a colleague about how I hoped the eventual new hire we're getting maybe could eventually take it over from me, and getting some comment about that the last person just did it until they left and I do NOT want to be doing this every year for the next 10-15 years....)

And yeah, my comment from earlier about how I'm probably a good bit less saintly than many people in the kind of position I'm in still stands. But I do wonder if other people in the "caring" professions (and college teaching is less "caring" than many, though often we are pressed by those in the fancy offices to care much harder than we have energy for - especially on a campus with a lot of students struggling for various reasons, and where MAYBE some resources other than faculty goodwill and energy should be spent providing them help)

And I also had people tell me stuff, when I was down about being so alone, "But remember that God loves you" and yes, yes, but.....when you have to go to the dentist for a crown prep and you're scared, you can't FEEL God holding your hand in the waiting room like the way someone who loved you might.

I dunno. I suppose there's nothing someone can say in a situation like that that's exactly helpful.

I just really hope this semester is better but seeing as I teach three lab classes and I have an arranged class that I'm shooting for Tuesday afternoons for - well, most days I will be on campus from 7 am until 4 pm at least, and no chance at going home for lunch (which was very much a welcome respite). I only get that on Fridays, and only some Fridays. I stocked up on easily-portable fruit* and am going back to the "cheaper and less-sugary plain yogurt that I then portion out into glass jars" after just buying the little pots of the flavored stuff all fall (because I couldn't with the portioning, it just felt like too much on top of everything else) but I admit I get really tired of taking a lunch every single day (and buying lunch is out of the question: nothing even remotely healthful close to campus, and a couple days I have only 45 minutes for lunch before lab.... so even the campus cafeteria, which is a 10 minute walk from my office and is usually super busy, is out)

(*Though my mandarin oranges are going over to church today. We are undecorating and I had a message asking me to bring "something sweet or fruit" to that and while probably no one would fault me if I just said "no, because I got home at literally 3 pm yesterday" I figured, easier to just bring the mandarins and replace them from the local grocery later)

Really, it gets to be such a drag both working full time AND trying to take care of myself and my house. I can't imagine how single parents do it, though I guess once the kid gets older you can enlist them to do some chores around the house. 

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Some 2020 things

One thing I want to do is move stuff around a little in my house, really really weed the books (I have far more than I will ever read, and I have many I have read that I doubt I would re-read. I think I can donate them to the local library; they do a sale and will also pull some of the choicer books to add to their circulating collection). And weed through my clothes; I have some things I haven't worn in 15 years and that either no longer fit, or are worn-out enough I shouldn't bother keeping them.

I also want to work more on quilts, and take more quilts in to have them quilted. I hope the ladies at Lulu and Hazel's keep doing quilting, and are back on more of an even keel now, and I hope the new place I tried gets past her Christmas backlog and starts the quilt I brought in soon - she said she'd text me when she did. I need to work down some of the backlog of fabric I have, or give some fabric away.

Eventually, maybe this summer, I want to do a couple things:

- Paint my sewing room and repair (or have repaired) the place where the drywall buckled a little when I had a roof leak (since repaired) a couple years ago. I also want to rearrange things; I wish I had better storage for all my fabric but I am not sure how to manage that. I am not comfortable with the idea of renting a storage unit for my fabric - for one thing, having to drive over there to find something would reduce my likelihood of sewing, and also, I tend to feel that "maybe it's better to get rid of excess stuff than find a place to store that stuff"

- Look around at antique shops for a small "student" type desk. Ideally one with a few drawers on one side, so I could keep notebooks and pencils in there. And make room in my bedroom (that seems the most likely room, though I could also see moving the plants in my dining room window and using that) for the desk. And maybe do more writing. Or at least use it as a place to work on my computer. And no, not work-work, at least not writing manuscripts and the like for journal articles (that will be done at my office). Or, if I can get a good desk chair, use it as a place to sit and read.

I like the idea of maybe trying to ease back into writing some fiction, even if I never publish anything. Every year I see people doing NaNoWriMo and feel a little twinge; I wrote fiction and poetry in junior high and high school but gave it up in college because (a) I was too busy and (b) I felt like I wasn't any good. (Though some of the things I've read recently that actually got published, I'm wondering if maybe I actually AM good enough. Though of course except if one self-publishes, it's a giant mountain to get something accepted somewhere, and sometimes it's less a matter of merit and more a matter of connections...)

Of course, this probably means less faffing on the Internet in order to find myself the time to actually DO things.

Another thing I want to do this semester is to go to more antique shops. Even if I don't buy anything, it's interesting and fun and it might give inspiration for other projects. And maybe to build in the occasional trip to Whitesboro, maybe even to take classes at the knitting shop when they have something I want that fits into my schedule.

And just generally do more of the stuff that makes me happy.

Maybe that's the take-home message from the awfulness that was 2019: not so much "someday you're going to die and you've done so little that lasts" but "life is short and happiness* is important, and being kind and making stuff and doing things that makes you happy is maybe what really matters"

While I was less than overwhelmed with "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir," there was one bit that resonated with me, from Mrs. Tilling's last diary entry  (the book is told in unreliable-narrator style as a series of letters or diary entries from several of the major female characters). She quotes another character**: "There's a war on, and everything seems to be getting a lot worse out there. You never know what's going to happen to any of us. We need to grab any happiness we can while there's still time." and yes, there is something to that. (Especially given the events of the first few days of 2020, sigh.)

(*of course: happiness that does not harm another person, but I think that kind of goes without saying; I don't think real happiness can be derived from things that do harm to people. But also, I think maybe pushing yourself too much to always do for others even when you're tired and are not doing for yourself as a result is maybe not the path to being happy either - that you need to balance it)

(**Trying very hard to avoid spoilers; more information than this probably would be such)

I also want to get a scrapbook and start preserving some of the bits and pieces from my past that my mom's passed on to me, so they don't get lost and so I can look at them again. I will have to figure out the best way to do this - maybe, given that some of the things are things like church bulletins where sticking them down is a bad idea (you can't see all sides) and photo corners are *awfully* fiddly, maybe a nice, acid-free, archival *box* like what is used for some artifacts in library storage would make the most sense. I mean, I have no illusions here: these things I've got have no meaning to anyone but me and I expect they will perish with me. But I want to have them to look at as long as I'm here.

I also have copies of a lot of photographs, some of which were duplicates my mom gave me, others, which I scanned at the Walgreen's and had printed so I had my own copies. (Black and white photos are best for this - some of the very old ones of my mom's relatives came out extremely well. The color photos from the 1970s are worst; they seem very faded, even the original photos seem that way).  Some of these I want to frame or figure out some kind of grouped-frame way of displaying them.

And also find a frame for this postcard from my paternal grandparents' "resort" (really: small cottages on the east coast of Lake Michigan, near Benton Harbor:

Grandparents' cottages

I like that it has a message from my grandfather (and my grandmother's quick signature; I get the sense Grandpa was the correspondent of the two). He had very distinctive handwriting, it is unlike my father's and unlike mine. (My handwriting is actually more like my mother's than anyone's, and hers is like HER mother's, judging from some old written-out recipes she has):

back of postcard

I dunno; it's just a link to relatives I feel like I barely knew. I remember my paternal grandfather but not well. 

Also, for next year: I want to get one of those chains or strings with small clips on it that you can attach Christmas cards to and display them. I just like that idea; I've seen it in some people's houses and it seems to have been more of a thing some years back. Normally I stand them up on my piano but it gets crowded quickly.

Generally, I want to clear out some of the unused or unwanted things, and move stuff around a little, make the place a little homier. And maybe look ahead to finding things to do with myself come the day that I do retire, and start doing some of those things now.