Friday, February 28, 2020

and 52 begins

My birthday was okay, I guess. Not the best one ever but not the worst one.

I did get some nice things - my mom ordered a dark flower-print knit dress from Vermont Country Store and also a denim skirt to replace the one that is nearly worn out. (I still have to wash them before wearing; I don't like wearing clothes that haven't been pre-washed, I worry about allergic reactions to the sizing in them. And then there was that one episode of "House, MD"....)

And Katie, all the books came! She sent me a bunch of books from the Betsy-Tacy series, which I'd heard of but never read, but they do hit a sweet spot with me - YA fiction but slightly older so it's probably got more complex sentence structure and there's also the interesting "historical" idea of it. And I am assuming nothing "terrible" happens in the books so they are probably what I need right now, once I finish "The Professor's House" (nothing seems so terrible in there. I mean, yes, Tom Outland died, but that happened before the setting of the book, and it's so broadly telegraphed from early on that it's not a *shock*)

And yes, I think what I need now is "quiet" entertainment, where nothing terrible happens. I once said I liked comedies-of-manners and the like because it's nice to imagine a world where the worst thing that happens might be that you pick up the wrong fork at a fancy dinner or that you confuse the rich  lady speaking to you with an actual duchess.

I also got a new Eeyore watch:

There was no gift note in the box, so I don't know if this is my brother and his family's gift to me (it could be; it was from my Amazon wishlist) or if someone else arranged to have it sent.

I have had a thing about Eeyore watches for....well, 20 years now I guess. I bought one when I first moved down here because the plain boring watch I had broke, and someone made a comment along the lines of  "should you really, as an adult woman teaching college, wear a watch with a cartoon character on it?" and I admit that bugged me more than it should but considering that I got tenure and a professorship while wearing it, it didn't hurt my image as a "professional." When that watch broke (the second hand detached inside the bezel), I replaced it with another one, whose bezel shattered, and then another one (which I still have, and will swap out with this one). And now this one. I like it because it's a little fancier and also the band is a better size for my smallish wrists (the other one I have also has a link band, and I had to have a jeweler remove several of the links because it was way too big. It's still a little too big...)

I hope either my current watches last well (it was hard to get the back off the older one last time to change the battery) or they continue to make them in the future because I always want to wear Eeyore watches now.

(the bracelet with the pink beads is my Medic Alert bracelet, warning of my allergy to sulfa antibiotics - a pharmacist advised me to get it because he said sometimes in emergency situations those were the first ones used, and if I wasn't able to *tell* the medical provider of my allergy, it could be bad)

I did a little knitting on the current socks last night. I was too worn out from the day to work, so I have to try to finish the prep for next week's biostats today. I also have my tax appointment this afternoon but a weird little thing happened - at one point I had thought in passing "Maybe I better find the paperwork he did for me earlier, which had the previous year's tax forms in it, just for the record" and then I promptly forgot it. Went to my guest room/storage room last night to grab another loo roll and spotted a bag sitting there, and realized "oh hey, that's the old forms." So I don't know but I guess it was Providence. I'm hoping the meeting isn't long, that I can just do a drop-and-run of the stuff and come back to discuss on a later day.

(I should also see if I can quickly lay my hands on LAST year's taxes, which Jackson-Hewett did. I *think* my CPA has access to all my stuff via the IRS, at least, I signed a form granting him access to look at my "account," whatever it may have in it)

Tomorrow, I am going to Whitesboro. Will be using the $20 "loyalty card" at the yarn shop. I don't have any projects in mind but I suspect I can find something I want, or maybe they will have a book or patterns that I want. (Or maybe I get some dk weight yarn, if they have it - I ran across a fingerless mitt pattern in my Ravelry library that called for it and I'd have started them as an invigilating project if I had had the right yarn). I might also go to Ulta - I think my $10 off "birthday coupon" will still be good through tomorrow - and maybe to the Target as a stock-up run (sigh. I think I maybe need to lay in a fresh supply of loo roll, someone I follow on Twitter reported that in her area - Hawaii, but still - people have apparently panic-bought and stores are low on it). Or maybe if I can get things in gear early and get down as soon as Target opens (but before the Whitesboro shop will be) I go there FIRST and avoid the end-of-the-month crowds. 

I did order more of the tins of smoked trout I eat regularly from Amazon (to save having to hope the Wal-mart has it. And yeah, it seems kind of an odd thing for a "downmarket" store to carry but apparently it's a Keto-friendly thing? Though the way I eat it (rye bread, spread with cream cheese, topped with the trout) really isn't). I got a dozen cans, the sell-by date is in 2023 so I am good there (I have been warned some Amazon grocery sellers sell nearly or even actually expired things). The butter cookie tins I ordered did not fare so well: one was badly bashed up and a whole section of the cookies were smashed but it's not worth complaining to the seller about. I won't be able to use the tin for storage, though, given how damaged it is. Are they aluminum? Do they recycle? I have only ever re-used them to store things like buttons...)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

My desk, currently


Piled three deep with what I need to do


Adult birthdays are a cheat and a lie. I'm getting a headache but I gotta stay here and work until at least 5:30.

1. Ordered my barbecue, set pickup time at 5:30 to try to force myself to stay over here until just before then and work. They DO have red-velvet cake on the carryout online menu (I hope that was not in error) and so I ordered a slice

2. Getting a headache. Dangit. I need to keep pushing and working

So I'm 51....

For what it's worth, the "odometer" ticked over at 6:05 am EST (5:05 am, where I am). Yes, I have a copy of my birth certificate in  my files and it lists my time of birth. (it was in University Hospital, County of Monongalia, West Virginia - in Morgantown).

(Yes, Monongalia, I had to look that up, the nearby river is Monongahela and that was what I was remembering but the county uses a different form because it is "the county in which the river can be found")

No plans for today; it's going to be a busy day - two 75-minute classes (well, one is an exam) AND a faculty meeting AND a lab. (I mentioned in passing at a meeting last week that today is my birthday but I am not really holding out hope for "treats" at the meeting; I just packed my normal boring lunch).

I have a couple things from my mom to open this evening. A package is also scheduled to arrive but I suspect that's my big amazon order of some tinned smoked trout and tins of butter cookies - part of my "stock up now in case COVID-19 causes disruptions in deliveries of food" plan. (Really, all I can do, I think, is to practice good hygiene protocol - washing hands after human contact and before eating/rubbing my eyes and maybe being extra sure to take my shoes off right as I step in the house and plan ahead in case it might get a wee bit harder to get food. I am hoping stuff like fresh milk supplies are not disrupted; I depend a lot on milk, and neither canned milk nor reconstituted powdered is that great. I could use it in a pinch, but I would rather not. At least Pruett's carries the Fairlife brand and that's pretty good. My favorite, when I can get it, is Kroger's Organic line, but we don't have a Kroger in town....)

I did get a couple earlier presents.

An Eeyore watch, with no gift-note in the package (K, was that yours?) and a book of Botanical Knits and a lovely enameled Moomin mug (big enough to eat soup in) from Angie. And I got cards - the ones I listed before, plus one from my mom, plus one from my friend Mike at church with a really nice message in it.

Only other plan for today is to get carry out barbecue for dinner (probably pulled pork and....I don't know whether to try their smoked chicken this go round? Or get a couple ribs?) and maybe make a batch of brownies (Main Street bbq has changed their dessert offerings and now it is just cobbler, and no, that is NOT special enough!)

There is no bakery in town except the in-store one at Pruett's (they did have smallish cakes in a case....I suppose I could also consider stopping there and picking up an already made cake. And yes, it matters to me)

I am also somewhat regretting my Lent vow of "no unnecessary online shopping" because I feel a slight need for that comfort today. No, I won't break the vow, I am good at that, but....yeah. Right now we are in a cycle of bad political infighting, and a looming pandemic that we seem poorly-prepared to cope with, and another workplace shooting (in Wisconsin).

I'm telling myself that Saturday I can go OUT and support some semi-local businesses, but it feels long between now and then, and I also have a LOT of work to do between now and then so I CAN go....I will probably spend an hour or two here after my lab this afternoon prepping biostats.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Some Wednesday thoughts

* No craft content again, because as soon as I got home (about 4:30) yesterday afternoon I (a) did the workout I skipped in the morning, (b) washed my hair and then (c) buckled down and read about 100 pages of a book that one of my directed readings students is coming in today to discuss. (I don't think I ever read it all through before; it's on soil ecology but there's stuff in there I don't remember, so). And now I need to work on prepping regression/non linear regression/multiple regression for next week. I'm hoping I can have a little time this evening for something for myself.

* Advanced Biostats did go better yesterday and maybe I just need to get out of the mindset that "you're only as good as your most recent success" which also carries the corollary of "you are every bit as bad as you imagine your most recent failure to be." But still, I did make the mistake of assigning a paper I hadn't 100% read myself when I assigned it, and that won't be happening again.

* But yeah, I am getting kind of tired and worn with all the scrambling to keep up. I'm hoping this coming fall the ONLY thing I have to be concerned with is making the adjustments to keep up with the current Administration's (in DC, not the one on my campus!) changes to environmental law for the Policy and Law class. No new preps. I did a new prep last in 2017 and am doing one now and new preps (where you are 100% from scratch and are not just updating existing information or adding in/changing some things) are a young person's game.

* Two more full weeks to spring break. And I have to decide quickly if there's enough risk of me running into someone with COVID-19 on the train that I want to cancel my trip. I have a roommette, so I suspect it's *unlikely.* And I'm less worried for myself; the apparent death rate for people in their 50s is 2% and I've even read that "unless you're seriously immune compromised, in your 50s you are very unlikely to die from it" even with my asthma. But I do worry about picking it up and transmitting it to other people (My mom is in hear early 80s and while she is in excellent health, she is still in her early 80s).

I would hope Amtrak would temperature scan people and immediately refund anyone above 101 but that seems vanishingly unlikely, and honestly? People being people I expect people would scream bloody murder about being "cheated" out of a vacation even if they were getting sick.

I guess I'll wait another week and see what happens. I've already warned my mom that if the outbreak gets a lot worse here, I'll be cancelling my trip. I don't WANT to, but....

It is SO HARD to be able to triangulate on this. I remember H1N1, how that was going to be the humanity-ending outbreak, and not much came of that. But then again, they also got a vaccine out quickly (and I got it when it became available). And they say "ooooh you should worry more about seasonal flu" but I get the flu shot every year and am careful about washing my hands regularly, which seems to me the most reasonable courses of action about seasonal flu, so I don't worry about seasonal flu. This, I do worry a little about. Mainly because there's no vaccine yet, and it may be deadlier than the flu. Not clear yet if it spreads more easily or not.

As yet, no direction from our administration. By this point in the H1N1 outbreak, they had had us write up plans of how we'd finish the semester if we had to temporarily close campus, and during the SARS outbreak, there were some plans in place even if it was much more unlikely - given our location - someone carrying SARS would be here. I'm hoping it's not a "oh, well, everyone teaches online already anyway" blasé attitude, or if it's something that's getting lost in the shuffle with the transition to a new president.

I mean: if I had to I could teach from home EXCEPT FOR THE LABS. And testing security would be a major issue; I'd probably have to write tough involved essay exams instead because I'd have to assume people would be using their books and notes and everything else on them.

* Tentative thought for Lent - take a two-pronged approach. As per a suggestion Purlewe made on Twitter - make weekly trips to the Blessing Box outside the Wesley Center here and leave some canned goods or bags of rice and beans. It means a little expense on my part (buying the food) and a little effort (it is out of my way home) but it might do some good. Or look into donating to the Wellness Center supply closet where they have simple food for college students who need it. I think the campus webpage even has a list of what they can particularly use.

And secondly: no online shopping EXCEPT for necessity items (I did stock up on the canned trout I use regularly; that means I don't need to make trips to Wal-Mart, which is annoying and out of my way). I'm not banning ALL frivolous spending but this is almost a de facto ban because I am so busy these days that going OUT to shop is a rare thing, maybe once a month. And by lawyerballing it like that, that means I still get my Saturday trip to Whitesboro. (And heck, depending on what happens with COVID-19, we may all be staying home a LOT LOT LOT more in the future. And at that point all bets are off; if the only comfort left me is a little online shopping, I will do it, though I suspect a bad outbreak could lead to problems with mail and with the supply chain in general)

And yes, even a friend of mine who gave up chocolate a few years back pointed out that Sundays are technically not-Lent, except here, most of the places I would want to shop "for fun" are not open Sundays....

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tuesday morning random

* I got the binding sewn on the smallish pink quilt, but it's been so grey out here that photographing stuff is not happening. (Also, yesterday was a very busy day; I got home around 3:30 but had to do my day's limited piano practice and a bit of reading for teaching and I had Bell Choir).

I also spent some time on the weekend and made a few more rows (and sewed them on*) for the Tabula Recta/Vigniere Cipher quilt. This takes a long time as there are 26 rows of 26 squares each. I am slightly more than half done at this point.

(*Because I need to keep things very well organized, and I am NOT organized right now, I am sewing each row on to the growing quilt as I complete it. It *might* be more efficient to sew up all the rows first but doing it this way means I am less likely to make a mistake and get things out of order, and the very specific order is the feature of this quilt)

26 x 26 is 676 so that's why the quilt is taking me so long to do.

* I should perhaps briefly put that aside and get the bindings made up for the other two quilts I have back from the quilters. Binding is my least favorite part so it takes me a long time sometimes to get around to it.

* I do think some of my distress is the feeling of "not completing things." I have lots of in-progress projects but none are very close to being finished, and I need the success of feeling I've finished something to keep myself going.

It's very hard not to get mired in the one-inch picture frame of "now" and see the lack of progress. I think that's the other thing that freaks me out about research and the like: I think "I need to start a new project" and then I try to tot up when I gather the data, when I do the field work, when I do the background readings, and it just makes me so tired and also worried because some days I literally have less than an hour of daylight time I'm not involved with other things, and it takes 20 minutes to drive to the field site...

* Met with a student this morning originally to do her "grad check" and based on the number of credit hours she had left and how her schedule fell out, it culminated with me offering to do research hours with her this summer and....yeah. I guess that was a good thing to offer, she seems like a pretty solid and responsible person and also the Gods of The Post-Tenure Review look very favorably on us getting students engaged with research (and you always gotta be closing, even if I just received a mostly-favorable one for the past three years, 2023 will be here too soon).

And anyway. I have a project in mind and having an assistant will be the motivation I need to actually do it this summer. She works full time and I told her I would not be at all adverse to going out on Saturday mornings to do the fieldwork and she seemed happy with that and you know? Yeah. In the summer when I don't teach, and I need to run errands in Sherman? Do them on a Tuesday or Wednesday when it's NOT everyone and their brother out at the stores. Leave Saturday for fieldwork.

I also suggested Directed Readings and I could have read the soil ecology book a student of mine is doing now, since our project will be involving soil ecology.

* Other than that, a busy week. Plans now are to take the book I need to read home with me and read tonight - found out that there's a debate on instead of NCIS so I don't feel so bad about skipping evening TV. (I feel no real need to watch the debates, at least not until we come to the actual two candidates, one of whom will be the current incumbent)

I need to get on to the work for next week's biostats stuff because if I CAN get it prepped in time, I can take Saturday to celebrate my birthday, sort of. (I never do all that much)

* Today is Shrove Tuesday but I don't know that I'm doing anything. No good donut places locally to get a paczki (and nowhere locally does "official" paczki; I don't think we have many people of Polish heritage here at all). And not sure about pancakes. IHOP does a promotion today but frankly? most restaurant pancakes are not that good, not unless you're at a little mom and pop diner where they actually make the batter from flour and eggs and milk and butter and sometimes sugar, instead of using an industrial mix, which most chain places do. I can make better pancakes at home in about 15 minutes than your average restaurant can and well, yeah, a big part of eating at a restaurant is not having to cook or do dishes, still.

Also, my restaurant meal this go-round is going to be my birthday dinner; I am seriously considering doing another round of take-out from the good local barbecue place, all the more because you can now order online and in great detail (like: you can tell them if you want white gravy, brown gravy, butter, or nothing on mashed potatoes if you get them). And you don't have to talk to another human to do it and YES sometimes that is a thing with me, especially after a long day of teaching.

though I will admit it does make me slightly sad that the vast majority of years, my birthday falls during Lent (this year, it is the day after Ash Wednesday). I remember once when I was in school, back in the era when we did "school treats" and  one year my mom baked chocolate cupcakes and I remember how one kid in my class went ON AND ON about how they had given up chocolate for Lent and how I should have known (!) and that it wasn't fair.

And you know? I felt bad and guilty about that the rest of the day, and that is a very "me" thing. I realize now as an adult, that that kid was making MY birthday all about them, and that the polite thing to do is to politely decline but not make a big deal about it and also that I am way too good about feeling guilty for other people's "stuff" when they try to unreasonably guilt-trip me. Like, I spend too much energy worrying about (a) what other people will think and (b) modifying my wants to suit other people and (c) sometimes in a way making myself as small as possible so I don't "take up too much room" and even sometimes when I do that I get accused of taking up too much room.

I don't know. I suspect a lot of women (or for that matter, a lot of "weird kids") get told they "take up too much room" and some of them try to make themselves smaller until they find they've largely edited themselves out of people's lives. (And of course, some people go the opposite direction and wind up going as Big and as Extra as they possibly could, on the grounds of "Well, if they say I take up too much room, darn right I'm going to take up too much room" and I admit I kind of grudgingly admire that attitude even if (a) I could never do it myself and (b) it is kind of .... annoying.... to share space for long with someone who is that Extra.)

* Also have had the realization of recent that I respond more strongly to the risk of "shame" (In the sense of modifying my behavior to avoid it) than many people do. I suspect that some people are just hard-wired to be that way, and maybe others get that reinforced at a young age by parental or peer behavior. (My parents, God bless them, were kind of the "you want to avoid doing things that bring shame on you" type of person, and I know that affected me. And my peers, well, being someone who came from a family that was poorer/more-frugal/less given to conspicuous consumption than the norm, and who cried easily and so was fun to tease, and who was frankly kind of a weird little kid, and who also had some minor health issues - well, they found a lot of things to shame me about, even though those things really weren't things it was valid to be shamed for. And I did internalize a lot of that and I see it now with the horror I feel with having to share the student comments I get on evaluations with my colleagues in PTR ('they'll see the horrible things the students wrote about me') and similar. And that's also probably a factor behind my doing everything I possibly can do to avoid crying in public....)

* Still doubt I'm doing anything for Lent this year. My disrespectful/joke answer to that right now is "I'm still mad at God so why do you want me to do something for Lent" and I get that that's not really it but yeah, last year felt unnecessarily hard in far too many ways and I am still not sure what I was supposed to learn from it but I am still unhappy about it.

I also feel kind of....unable....to take on anything more at this point. Just still feeling kind of overwhelmed.

* I still haven't decided whether to do cake. Part of me wants to bake a cake, but part of me is going "but when will you have the time" because tonight is going to be mostly work, and tomorrow night I will be tired and will probably be doing catch-up work, and Thursday....well, that's my birthday so there won't be time at that point unless I make it for the weekend.

this is, I admit, one of the times where I very much feel my aloneness and realize that if I lived closer to an amicable family member (like my mom), I'd get cake if I asked for it. Or if I had a loving partner, they'd arrange for there to be cake. Or even close by friends who weren't overly busy already with their own lives.

My choice comes down to: bake a cake yourself, settle for substandard grocery store cake, or go without cake and frankly at this point I'm leaning towards the third option. (I don't know. Pruett's probably makes decent cake and I contemplated ordering myself one when I was in there last time but then I went all over funny and decided it looked too pathetic to order one's own birthday cake, and I chickened out of doing it. And the ready-available cakes at wal-mart are terrible, and the frozen cakes on offer are not very good).

This spring semester just isn't a good semester. Having four days a week where I'm involved on campus until 4 pm or darn close to it just wipes out my desire to do much once I get home. I remember years in the past when I baked myself cakes....I wonder if that time will ever come again or if that's another good thing of my life that's gone forever.

* Though, yeah, the barbecue place does sell desserts and maybe they'll have a nice cake on Thursday (not carrot cake. I cannot eat carrot cake because of the carrots. And not peanut-butter anything. I'm not 100% convinced I'm allergic but I don't want to risk it, especially not when I'm all alone at home).

The other option would be to get something Saturday when and if I go out.

But yeah, that's one of the complications of living in a small town that's distant from many other such towns; if your town lacks a good source for something, you cannot get that thing on the spur of the moment (or at all, if it's some kind of fresh-food thing that cannot be mail-ordered).

Monday, February 24, 2020

dumb little wish

This is kind of a dumb little weeb-ish wish of mine, probably brought on by watching too many cartoons, but:

I kind of wish I were someone's "moe" character.

(For those unfamiliar with fandoms: a "moe" character is (typically) a young female character (I think the word derives from a word for "blossoming," which, yeah, ick, but whatever) who is kind of sweet and who brings up protective feelings in her fans).

In recent Western cartoons, probably Fluttershy is the most stereotypical case and I wonder if that's why I like/slightly identify with the character.

The protectiveness is the big thing right now. I realize pretty much all my life, as much as I ever got "stuck up for," it was me sticking up for myself - me having to confront the people teasing me to tell them to stop (you can imagine how well THAT worked), me speaking up when I got overlooked, etc., etc.


I am the oldest child in my family so I didn't even have a big brother or big sister to look out for me, and generally my friends....did not seem to do that sort of thing.

I don't remember ever having the experience of someone telling me "I'll go talk to them for you" when there was some horrible thing I was being told to do and I'd rather not do it - I had the choice of "just do the thing because that's easier" or "screw up all your courage and go into an Emotional Spoon Deficit for the next 2 months and walk in there and say "no" and have an explanation prepared for when they bluster at you and say you CAN'T say "no""

And more and more, the older I get, not only do I have to do whatever sticking-up-for-myself that needs to be done, but I need to stick up for OTHER people, too, and it's tiring.

Most recent update on the traveller's cheques situation: they received the additional ID my mom sent, it checked out (so they now trust that yes, in fact, she IS my dad's widow and not some rando who stole the cheques, which is why I assume they required the other information) and they will remit the money "eventually,"

but

"There is still a few weeks delay in receiving the refund due to our systems being brought off line on New year’s Eve but we will arrange to make the payment asap."

This is a company that was part of the Thomas Cook group - which is that travel-agency group that went bankrupt and abruptly closed down their airline. So maybe my mom gets the money, maybe not, who knows? I hope she does. Not so much that she's in desperate need but it's partly the principle and partly that it took SO MUCH WORK to get this far.

I also noticed in my Informed Daily Digest (e-mailed photos of first class mail, which I started receiving when I suspected I was having mail stolen), there is another letter coming from the IRS.

I sincerely hope this is a "okay, the matter is fully resolved, you owe us nothing more" but I fear it won't be, that it will be another bill. I guess if it is I have the appointment with the CPA and just take it to him then and ask him what to do but....I don't like how they basically say "we're going to tot up interest every day, so you'll owe EVEN MORE if you bother to have this investigated."

(I hope it's not an audit. I doubt I could cope with that.)

This all goes back to Jackson-Hewett having an unqualified (unknowledgeable) person do my taxes and I will never shut up about that: if your taxes are more than "I file a simple 1040 and I want to pay usurious interest to get a loan against my refund," go to a CPA. Don't be seduced by their "we'll back you up" policy because when they "backed me up" they screwed it up even worse. Now, granted, maybe if I'd driven to Dallas and gone to an office in a more affluent area it would have been fine but...you count on people to do something and they don't do it right.

Anyway. I very much feel on a regular basis about how nice it would be to feel like I had someone other than myself to stick up for me. I don't always have the energy or the guts to, and so in a lot of cases I kind of wind up with needs going unmet, or doing things I'd rather not do because I'm not brave enough to say no - or to stand pat when that no is challenged. 

Just, yeah. I mean, I know I'm too old and not cute enough to be a "proper" moe girl but sometimes it would just be nice to feel like someone had my back in a tangible way?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Minor melancholy thoughts

Better out than in, I guess:

* The most minor: Apparently "excluding" kids is now considered bullying them, as per Cartoon Network's anti-bullying programming.

Okay, where do I turn in the receipts for the exclusion I dealt with on a regular basis in middle school for a refund or something?

Though yeah, I will say being ignored/excluded was less awful than actually being teased or harassed or having people say rude things to me.

* This weekend is the two-years anniversary of my friend Steve's death. I remember that because I found out right after getting home after the Science Olympiad, which was itself enough unpleasant and taxing. And I had to go and do announcements at church the next morning, and announce it for those who hadn't heard, and wow was that hard.

* Transfiguration Sunday (which is what this is - this is one of the "movable feasts," I guess, because it's the Sunday before Lent begins) always makes me a little bit melancholy. I've never had that kind of "mountaintop experience" in my life; I have to try to find God in the valleys (ruts? maybe that's more like it) of day-to-day life and sometimes that's hard.

It's extra hard when you feel like you're going through a valley yourself, which is what this just is right now.

Also, as what is sometimes called a "cradle Christian" (that is: raised in a family that was practicing Christian, rather than being someone who had a conversion experience sort of thing where your life changed), sometimes I wonder how different things would be otherwise. Maybe I wouldn't have the doubts I have right now? I don't know. Maybe if I had seen a rougher side of life I'd be able to be more grateful right now.

* Usually I do something for Lent. One year, I set aside a half hour a day for devotional reading. Another year, I cut out sugary things. Last year I cut sharply back on spending and donated the money I didn't spend to our Week of Compassion. But I don't know. This year I'm not feeling it - finding an extra half-hour per day for more reading would be hard, I'm not sure I'm inclined to cut out sugar again (sometimes a little golden syrup in a cup of hot tea makes the day a little better), and I don't want to cut out spending....especially not since my birthday falls the day after Ash Wednesday this year.

I don't feel capable of taking on anything more right now, and cutting out things that I enjoy - even if cutting out/cutting back might be good for me (or good for the world, in the sense of donating money to disaster relief) - feels too much like inflicting pain on myself and for what end? And something like "give up being sad over the people you've lost" is probably not something I can do, not without screaming at myself about it every day. So I don't know. Maybe I sit Lent out this year....

* Also, reading through a MetaFilter thread (it was about this Twitter story, which is sort of a heartbreaking one: a man drives himself to the hospital, dies there, and it isn't until months later that his dusty car sitting in the parking lot is recovered, I guess as his kids are breaking up his household - they expected his car was going to be in the garage, assuming he'd called for an ambulance.

And a tangential comment, by someone who calls themselves Captain Afab, really really struck me, because it puts into words (that I could not) something I have noticed and been feeling:

"I tend to start feeling glum around the anniversary of his death. I've found enormous peace in telling stories about the good times with him. But I feel like I'm always bracing for losses to come. Spending time with the people I love has become subconsciously painful as I wonder how much time I have left with them, and yet I'm filled with regret for every second I'm not fully present with them.

How do you learn to trust the flow of time again?"

And man, is that it. Is that ever it. I catch myself, on the phone with my mom, feeling slightly impatient when she goes off in the weeds of something someone she knows far better than I do said, or is telling a story about something that happened that seems to be told in a longer and more convoluted way than I would tell it, and then I immediately feel guilty and tell myself: there will be a day, probably far too soon for you, when you won't be getting calls from her any more, and you will wish she could tell you some 10 minute story about how the car wouldn't start and she had to get someone out to charge it up so she could pull it out of the garage....

And also, yeah. Sometimes there IS that pall of "what if this is the last-ever experience of (whatever) I have with this person" - not just her, but with other people around me, even people younger than I am, but of course you never know. You never know what's going to happen.

I'll hasten to say it's not incapacitating and most of the time if I notice it it's a slight twinge at the most, but when I'm already inclined to be a little sad, I do notice it.

And I don't know. I don't know how you fix that, other than maybe just giving it time. (I know, people have suggested talk therapy, but honestly right now I have so much on my plate that unless I were non-functional, adding in another thing every few weeks to do is probably more than I can handle. And I doubt this is something medication would do a lot for; I think I just have to figure out how to make my peace with that and again, it may just be a matter of giving it more time: someone else, in response, quoted Aeschylus:

"...... drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

(I wonder which play that came from. In my high-school English classes we read some of the Greek tragedies, and also in Great Books in college, but I can't remember if we read any Aeschylus. We MIGHT have read the Orestia, but I don't remember for sure)


And yeah, that's probably true. I don't know, I've not gained a whole lot of wisdom from the last several years (and yes, I am counting Steve's death and Margaret's death in with the other losses: Steve's was SO unexpected, and it was literally a week and a half after he gave me his cell phone number and said "I'm just up the street, call me any time you need help, like if you need someone to steady a ladder for you when you have to go up on it, or if you have something too heavy to carry" and Margaret had been part of the "old guard" who was at church when I joined church....)


I do have a copy of Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" on my to-be-read pile but I'm not sure if I'm emotionally ready to tackle it yet.


Right now, what seems to work the best is to engage heavily with work (or with projects at home), or read diverting books (I recently started Willa Cather's "The Professor's House" and I admit the family drama is a nice relief from all the mystery novels I had been reading - too much death and mayhem in those for me right now)


I will say - and don't worry about me, I am NOT tempted to follow this path - but for the first time in my life I think I understand why some people seek the temporary oblivion of drink or drugs. My grief counselor did say that things like watching cartoons or going shopping or any of the "dumb fun" things I do were not a distraction so much as a necessary "break" from the mental work I was doing and she was probably right. Though I admit I wish that mental work was done, or at least I was farther along on it (in the sense of feeling like I had some kind of answer) by now.


*I do need to get up and put the rollcart out, and figure out something for dinner, and wash my hair. One of the odd things about being a human is the life maintenance tasks are still there. Just as there is a book entitled "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry" (and also the old saying about the Buddhist monk who was asked by a novice what he did before enlightenment, and he said "Chopped wood and carried water" and then the novice asked what he did *after* enlightenment and he replied again, "Chopped wood and carried water), even when you're dealing with something like heartbreak and trying to figure out how you go on living your life as a mortal human when you've had it very heavily thrown in your face that you - and everyone you love - is mortal, you still  have to do laundry and cook food and put the trash out and all of that.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Birthday week begins

I've decided to do a whole week for the birthday....some of the things I have ordered came, I opened one. I have a couple gifts from my mom waiting for me to open.

I did get three cards and decided to go ahead and open them today, thank you Purlewe, and Lynn, and Anita.

I have plans NEXT weekend to go to Whitesboro (provided the weather is OK and nothing big comes up at work) and I think on my birthday itself (Thursday) I will do another carry-out dinner from the good local barbecue place.

I thought of baking myself a cake but I also see they have some cake-type desserts on their menu, and it might work just as well in the long run to get a slice of cake from them, I don't know...

My set of Mason-Dixon Knitting books came but I think I am going to save opening them for another day this week. And the Etsy ponies are supposed to come Tuesday or Wednesday.

I did open my Creatable World dolls that came. Slight change of plans - I tried the "braided dark hair" wig on the dark-skinned doll and....it just didn't work, it didn't fit quite right. And anyway, the doll looks cute with his short hair on top/buzzed sides look.

So now his name is Ben. He just seemed like he wanted to be a boy anyway, and now Alex has a friend who is also male.

The "copper" haired doll (really it's more of a very light brown, almost the color my hair used to be when I was a kid) looks good with the wig on (but is also cute with the short hair) so I decided to name her Mary-Margaret and have her be a her.

Other than Ben being good at math and enjoying bike riding, I've not figured out backstories too much. Ben MIGHT be Theophania's cousin, I'm not quite sure yet. Mary Margaret is more of an enigma and I'll have to think of a backstory for her.

There are two more dolls in the series as of now - there's the blonde one, who doesn't interest me that much, and one - seemingly currently only available at Target - who looks a bit like Mary Margaret but has dark brown hair (and different clothes, including a yellow top printed with dogs that I really kind of want).

I've bought too much recently but I *might* get that doll later. (And might get the blond, out of the sense of "completeness")

Other than that....I plan to spend the rest of the weekend owrking on stuff. I want to get the binding sewn down on the small quilt (that might be next) and sew more on the forever-ongoing Vigniere Cipher top, and maybe even consider at least cutting and sewing the seams on the bindings for the other two quilts.

Friday, February 21, 2020

I did it

I powered through all the ANCOVA stuff. The entire chapter in the book (which, actually, was mostly about setting up plant-competition experiments but finally got to the nuts and bolts) and also a paper on analyzing student pre-test/post-test data (hm. Will have to remember that for the assessment crud) AND a separate stats-teacher write up of it. Digested it all down to nine pages of typed notes that I can teach from.

Next week, I think at least in part I will have them do ANCOVA using SPSS (I have some sample data from the stats teacher's write up, but I will have to ....aaaah..... de-problematize the data sets as one is about someone being stalked and dealing with it by either a cattle prod or having the stalkers hypnotized and made to reflect on childhood exposures to....bad things and the other is about hangovers and what beverage gives most relief. That second one I could easily turn into "recovery from post-Norovirus dehydration" as one of the beverages is water, one could be renamed to be a sports drink like gatorade, and the third was cola....) And maybe do some review/brief introduction to the more advanced forms of regression. At any rate: I MAY be able to buy myself enough time, by being diligent, to take the weekend of the 29th off and use that Saturday as my "My Birthday, Observed" day and I have an Ulta coupon that expires that day and also a $20 coupon for Quixotic Fibers (which doesn't expire but it seems nice to use it to celebrate my birthday, The Ulta birthday gift is a free mascara, which I don't use, but it's possible I can either donate it somewhere or I might be able to pass it on to someone else. I should ask our AA if she uses mascara; she might enjoy having it.)

And yeah, things are going a little better. I feel like I actually understand ANCOVA now, enough certainly to teach it*, and if I just put in a little more work earlier in the week I won't have to devote my entire Friday and Saturday to just stats.

(*Though it is very true that you never learn a thing better than when you have to teach it, so I guess in a way this class is good for me, but by golly, I hope I get to teach it next year too - that we don't get a new hire who insists on ganking it - because this is a LOT of prep to do only once)

I do have to go in tomorrow: I have a little grading and I also should write an exam for late next week and I am also going to be sitting at the "department table" (where we answer questions and speak with interested students) for an hour tomorrow at a recruitment thing.

But at least I don't have to sit and grind on ANCOVA.

If I'm diligent and don't sleep too late and don't faff on here early tomorrow morning, I can get my Sunday school lesson written and maybe run out to Mart of Wal for a few things, and then I can maybe come home after I get my work done over on campus. And maybe a day or two away from thinking about stats is what I need right now. When I get done at work I'm just coming home and working on one of my craft projects; I feel like I don't get enough of that these days.

I also ordered myself a few presents. I almost said "little" but one is not so little. I ordered numbers 1-7 of the "Field Guides" that Mason-Dixon Knitting has published; my friend Anj sent me #8 a while back and I really liked it and "little" books like that that you can dip into are nice when you need a little knitting fix but maybe aren't going to start something new. (And there are also recipes - well, mostly for cocktails, but still, and other commentary in them). They're on their way.

I also broke down and ordered the other two Creatable World dolls I kind of wanted - the one with copper hair, who will probably be a boy (so Alex isn't the only one) and the dark-skinned one who comes with a long braided wig and they are going to wear the wig (rather than the short natural/buzzed hair) because the wig looks cool. Names are pending their arrival though I am thinking of naming the one with the braids Libby.

The only one I won't have, and they don't particularly interest me, is the blond. I think there's another doll with dark brown straight hair but they are not widely available yet (I think I saw them on Target.com). 

I dunno. I just like them. They are nice little dolls and they pose well and they come with nice clothes. I want to get some of the clothes packages but they're *very* expensive compared to the doll-plus-clothes sets. Maybe the prices will drop eventually, or maybe a store near me will eventually get them. (I suspect though, as I've said before, the local buyers for Wal-mart and Target might not be as welcoming of a doll that could be non-binary as buyers would be in some areas).

I also...ordered two more inexpensive G3 ponies. Snow'el, a Christmas themed one, and a yellow-with-pink one that is a summer flowers themed pony (Summer Bloom). 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Some small progress

Of two different sorts.

So, yesterday, after the somewhat-disastrous class on Tuesday, I buckled down and worked pretty much the whole time I wasn't in class. Close to four hours, and actually maybe a bit more than that - I took out time for a little class prep, and I had to read a colleague's post-tenure-review packet.

But anyway, I started on the chapter on analysis of covariance at 7 am with a brand-new, never-before-sharpened Mitsubishi* pencil and here was what it looked at around 5 pm when I was leaving for the day:

pencils


(*Yes, as far as I can tell, THAT Mitsubishi; they even use the triple-diamond logo. They are very good pencils if somewhat spendy but you know? I would rather shell out more money (like about 80 cents each) for GOOD pencils than use the cruddy ones the Wal-mart or Target sells, where the "lead" (actually graphite) is weirdly weak and often snaps when you are trying to sharpen it. These pencils boast "matured graphite" and I have no idea what that is or what process it involves, but it is SO MUCH BETTER. It doesn't break. These are HBs but I have some softer ones on order to see how they work - I often like a softer darker pencil, even if that means I have to sharpen more often. And no, mechanical pencils are a no-go for me: I snap the lead too easily because I hold the pencil very tightly and I press down very hard when I write.)

I've also been picking away at things, added a few more rows to the Hey Girl sweater. This is a project that requires a fair amount of attention because of raglan and neckline increases, and also maintaining the knit-purl texture pattern I decided to do.

Unfortunately, my row gauge has got a bit looser in the intervening months (I don't know either but I started this early last summer and then it sat for months while my life blew up). I'm hoping it blocks out or at least isn't that noticeable

Hey Girl, 20/2/2020

It looks odd, that "detached" part is the collar which I guess gets sewn down later? I'm not entirely sure but I'm hoping it will become clear later.

After some more rows I will also have to start taking buttonholes into account.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Got my letter

So I was sitting in my office, working away, trying to read the next chapter of stuff, and one of my colleagues walks in*


(*Yes, I would prefer some prior warning or a knock or a "do you have a minute right now" but that's how workplaces are now)

He hands me a letter and says "proficient, proficient, proficient" and "I don't know why but we have to sign these all now" and I sigh and go yeah and glance at it and pick up my red pen and start to sign it.

THAT is how tired I am. I didn't even stop and think,"Wait, the PTR committee meeting for my colleague is tomorrow," somehow my brain blipped ahead to "here is his letter, you need to sign it" (I guess because last time they came sealed in an envelope, all very confidential?)

Anyway. My colleague kind of laughed and said, "No, look, it's YOUR letter, we rated you proficient."

And I have to explain something right here: "proficient" is the BEST rating in this broken system. There are literally two possibilities: you are "proficient" or you are "deficient."

To me, that feels sad. I mean, I guess they do it In The Name Of Fairness, but it's frustrating to do the equivalent of preparing a promotion packet every three years and then getting back a single word that makes it sound like "She manages to remember to show up to class, and usually doesn't have food spilled down her front." I mean, to me, "proficient" sounds very damning with faint praise, like "at least she manages not to drool most of the time"

but oh well. I guess sometimes in life you take the W and move on.

And I guess it is good they didn't list any areas for improvement this time - though it's also entirely possible that after the first round of PTRs, someone somewhere declared that they had been too "harsh" and now ONLY should suggest improvement if the person is genuinely in danger of being deficient. They did note "Dr. [fillyjonk] has taught students on her own* for no additional compensation as have many of us" (emphasis added) and I really wonder if that's a wee tiny jab at the administration that wants us to run so lean it's killing us. (We've tried to make the case for "we really need two more faculty" in the past). So maybe my sacrifice there counts for something eventually ("I volunteer as tribute")

(*meaning: the arranged classes)

Anyway. I still feel bad about the biostats class yesterday. I am working hard to prep for next week - have done about an hour and a half today, can maybe get in another hour before lab, and I've told myself it I push myself to stay late after lab, if I stay up to a 'reasonable' time to go get dinner (like: 5 pm), I can just order myself a pizza for carry out and have that for dinner. Not the most healthful option but sometimes you just need pizza.

Tomorrow will mostly be a "lost" day - PTR meeting for a colleague, two classes, search committee meeting, lab. I will literally be working without a break from 8 am until 3 pm.

so I remember

I have to get in to our equivalent of the DMV in the next week or so because my driver's license expires this year. I also have to remember to pay the large amount of money for a small sticker to put on my license plate.


It just never stops. The reason I never create anything any more is I'm so overwhelmed by the stupid entropy-fighting life-maintenance tasks that I have no brainspace or energy for anything else.

Someday, someday things have to get better, don't they?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I give up

This was not a good day. I did very badly at the advanced biostats stuff, assigned a paper to the class that even *I* barely understood and I flailed my way through trying to explain it and I think I got some of it wrong.

I cancelled the paper write up over it because I couldn't make the students do a critique of an article I didn't even understand.

I just feel like a giant failure right now and it hurts A LOT because I feel like my job is literally the only thing I have going for me right now and failing at it scares me.

I mean, yeah: the upside of failing at teaching this class is that I get it taken away from me for next year and someone else does it, but the downside, which is even bigger, is the ETERNAL SHAME of having failed at something like that, and realizing that every time the person who gets given the class goes off to teach it, they will resentfully think of how stupid and underprepared I was and how they now have to do it.

I need some kind of success.

I need to feel like my life is counting for something.

And this, this ain't it, Chief.

I mean, yes, the very me thing to do, what I will do, is double down and prepare even harder for next week and not allow myself any time for relaxation or fun in this week until I am sure I am as well prepared as one humanly can be. But now I'm afraid I'm going to fail again, that I'm just doing a bad job of this, and I feel terrible. I want to crawl in a hole and hide.

I hate my life some times. I hate it more now than I have in the past. I don't know how to make it better other than working obsessively until things are as close to perfect as I can make them, which barely measures up to an actual standard.

I've *ALWAYS* failed in the clutch - the senior project we did in high school? That we all prepared for for like a year? I earned basically a B- on it because I choked and couldn't find a good topic. I failed out of grad school the first time I tried. My first year teaching evaluations were a disaster, and I still get unflattering comments. I choked at my one and only piano recital. I have more rejected papers in mouldering piles of bits on my computer than I care to think about.

The reason I have no legacy, the reason I'll be forgotten 15 minutes after I'm gone, is that I fundamentally am a failure. I was built up so much as a supposedly-"gifted" kid (really: I was just compliant and sometimes had a freakish memory and was hyperlexical at a young age) that I thought I could actually BE something, but I can't. I'm nothing. I'm no good at anything.

The sooner I accept that maybe the happier I will be.

And I don't understand why there are so many people in positions of power who fail just as hard as I do, or worse, and yet seem utterly blithe about it, that it doesn't seem to bother them, or more, they act like every failure is someone else's fault. When I know every time and every way in which I've failed is that I'm simply not good enough. Never good enough.

"This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl—look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods . . . and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumpled under it. But she’s more than good art denouncing bad art; she’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy. But not alone women—this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads."

But I no longer believe the "victory in defeat" part so I won't quote it here. There is no victory in defeat, no victory in not being good enough but trying anyway. Success is the only thing and I guess I can't succeed, at least not at this. 

And, yes, yes:


But at the same time: I hate failing. I hate feeling less good at things. I hate having to work so hard for what feels like not much success. I hate feeling the shame of not being as good as I think i should be. 

Just some random

Yesterday was not a good day. I ached all day, I didn't get up and do a workout because I was tired and achy (I woke up around 4 am and was like "oh heck no" and reset the alarm for an hour later and slept right up to it).

I don't know if it is the changeable weather (very warm for February, and then a front came through last night) or allergies or what.

I will note that down at church on Sunday, the family didn't remove any of the flowers. They also took all the communion stuff (the candles, the cross, the offering plates, and the lids to the trays for bread and cups) off the table and stashed them in the hallway. I am usually the one who sets out the communion as I am the first on there (teaching Sunday school). I had to scramble around and find the stuff, and the brass cross was almost too heavy for me.

(man, there is some symbolism in THAT, isn't there)

But also, the flowers - lilies. I dislike lilies at the best of times because to me, they 'smell like death.' But also, when my allergies are bad, that strong heavy smell makes me sneeze. I had to ask the organist to move them because I was the one who was going to be doing the readings that day, and I KNEW I'd have trouble with the lilies up near the lectern like that. (She did move them).

I did get a few things done at work:

- got the rest of the scholarship stuff for the Honors program evaluated. And I decided to go ahead and "finish" (submit) it, because they had some "late applicants" they loaded on to some people, and I thought that maybe if I'd sent my stuff in, they wouldn't give me any more late people. (Maybe this is one way in which I'm a little bit rigid, but: if there's a hard deadline for a scholarship, I think failure to meet that deadline should be grounds for "sorry, no." Oh, I get "extenuating circumstances" but there were enough people that I really wonder if that was the case.)

- Got the call-for-applications for the AAUW scholarship out. I very nearly forgot this. But I think it will be okay; people have several weeks (I extended the deadline slightly). But maybe in the future, I see if I can get someone else to take this on? It does need to be someone on campus, that's a complicating factor (I think I am currently the only person actively employed here) but it is something I would like to give up.

- called the CPA and set up an appointment (a week from Friday) to bring in all my tax stuff so he can prepare my taxes. Hopefully that means THIS YEAR it's done right. (If you live in a rural or lower SES area and have a more-complicated return, do NOT use Jackson-Hewett or, I presume, Block. It seems they unleash their low-knowledge/low-experience people here, and for maybe 90% of the people, that's fine. But I need to trust that my taxes are done right, and I don't trust them to do them right any more.)

****

I need to figure out something to fix for the potluck at church on Sunday. Complicating factor: can't do "big" (fancy) grocery shopping between now and then, and also, it has to be something I can fix quickly because I am busy. Not sure whether to just pony up the cost of a chuck roast again and do the carne machaca again (that is easy) or whether to do the cheese grits casserole.

****

Lots of talk about the weird pronouncements Richard Dawkins is making on Twitter (one, in favor of eugenics; another about "culturing human steak"). And while I suppose it's not out of the realm of possibility something is going on with him (e.g., some kind of illness), I admit I feel irritation:

some people are "allowed" to be unpleasant and abrasive, and still get to have renowned careers. But for many of us women? We be a little forceful when we need to be, and we're suddenly a "b*tch."

Also, I quipped on Twitter that "maybe he's getting ready to release a book offering A Modest Proposal (though maybe with a different focus than what Swift had)"

And I followed it up with: if this really does happen, I expect you all to tell me how smart I was, because I don't often get to feel smart these days.

And you know? YOU KNOW? That's it. That's part of my malaise: I don't often feel smart any more.

And, I don't know. I don't know how to fix that easily. I spend so much time doing what feels like spinning my wheels - so much administrative work, so much stuff like reviewing stats stuff I BARELY understand (and barely understood 25 years ago when I first learned it) and yeah, it makes me feel dumb when I try to read something and I have to read it four times to make heads or tails of it. And right now it's worse than it's ever been, because allergies are bad and I think I'm STILL kind of brain-damaged from grief (WHEN will I ever get better?) and so I walk around worried (that I won't get prepped in time for class) and frustrated (that I'm working so hard and not getting farther) a lot of the time.

And I just need to feel smart. Or at least feel competent. And not feel like I'm JUST hanging on by my fingernails, and while I'm getting stuff done, it's nothing very outstanding - lots of grading, lots of teaching stuff I've taught before, no real new insight.

I talked about getting a writing desk to put in my bedroom and I did half-heartedly look at a couple antique stores this weekend but the truth is? If I found one I'd not have time to use it. My life is so taken up with mundanities - getting work done at work, at home trying to keep entropy at bay (I cannot, I am sorry, I cannot face HIRING someone to clean my house. I'm too weird, I have too much weird stuff, any cleaner would be horrified. I'd need to clean the whole place top to bottom and throw out half my crap before I'd be comfortable having a cleaner in, and I don't have time for that, so I have to keep cleaning myself)

And yeah. This is why I disagree with the "Anonymous was a woman" statement: the reason women (and poorer people, etc., etc.) are so under-represented in the canon is that we were the ones who served. The wealthy men (and a few wealthy women, I guess) had people to clean up after them and cook for them and they didn't have to go out and earn their bread and they didn't come home at 7:30 pm and realize they were too tired for anything useful.

But I also need to feel smart and like I'm getting something done so my legacy just doesn't go "poof" after I'm gone. OR I need to work on being comfortable and happy with "okay, you're here for a while, then you're gone, then fifteen minutes later, you're forgotten" because those seem to be the only two choices. (And sadly, the second one may be easier).

But yes. I do a periodic check-in on myself by going "if you could have one thing you could wish for, reasonable or unreasonable, what would it be?"

You all know what my "literally impossible" wish would be; same thing that it's been since the end of July. But a slightly-less-unreasonable wish (in the sense that it might somehow happen on this earth) is that I want to feel SMART again. Like I'm accomplishing something and not just always doing things for other people that....don't benefit me that much or don't "feed" who I am. But I'm not sure how to get there from here.

I suppose you could argue 'an attitude adjustment would be all that it would take' but that's not so easy for me. (There isn't such a thing as an emotional chiropractor that you can go to, and get your feelings "cracked," and then you feel better). But I do need it - I said last fall, "I need something BIG and something GOOD to happen for me" but the sad thing is? As an adult you mostly have to make that happen, and if you're too tired and too busy? I don't know.

Again, maybe the attitude adjustment, accepting that I'm one of the 99.9% of people who don't matter, who have never mattered, who are just brief candleflames on this earth that are replaceable and forgettable, would be easier than trying to do something that makes me feel like I matter.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Mostly low energy

Sundays tend to be low-energy days for me. Either I'm tired from going out and running around on Saturday, or I'm tired from working on Saturday. I never do a whole lot.

I did get a start on handsewing the binding down on the small pink quilt, but got derailed when my stupid goblin brain piped up "when you picked this up from the quilter, your dad was still alive"

Thanks brain. THANKS SO MUCH. Please stop marking time in that way.

***

I guess it was good I did the jam bars. The woman in charge of lining up food (one of the people in my CWF group) texted me her thanks last evening, and today she told me "There were so many people there, it was good you did two batches of those" (each batch of jam bars makes 48).

It wears me out sometimes, all the stuff I do for other people, but I guess it's also important.

***

One other thing I did do was hang up the newly-framed photos, and move some of the existing ones around. The arrangement is maybe not ideal, but it's hard to hang photos by yourself and that very highest one? Holding my arms over my head (and standing on a step stool), I started to get dizzy doing it, so I figured it was better to do it fast than to risk hurting myself.

I think sometimes it's just my blood pressure drops when my arms are raised over my head like that.

Yeah, that's a lot of photos, but I didn't want to take any down and store them. I'm trying to think if there's somewhere else - another wall - I could put more up. It's also not impossible that I could take down the framed poster over the mantel and replace that with a bunch more framed photos.

(I still have never found the one of my grandfather with his plane; that's one I definitely want if we can ever locate where it got put.)

And yes, I've straightened the couple that don't look even in there.

***

I guess lots of people get tomorrow off? I have work, but there will be no mail and there's no garbage pickup and I have to say, us Monday-pickup people are the ones who usually get rooked on that and have to remember to put our trash out on Wednesday.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Another day out

I wanted to take the next top and drop it off. As it turns out, I had a 10% off coupon from that store that expired today, so I figured if nothing else, I could get a couple bucks off the cost of the batting (she has you buy the batting as a 'deposit,' and then pay for the work when the quilt is done).

But I did find a couple other things. Including this, "she is shaped like a friend"

Her name is "Dainty Dragon," and I think I'll keep it; I can't think of any I like better.

This was another one of those "I picked up the toy and then decided to buy it." I did also get a couple small pieces of fabric.

It was a lovely sunny day, a nice change from all the dreary weather, and probably good to get out. I went to a couple other shops in Denison but could have spent far, far more time there. (Some day I will. Some day I will just plan on spending the whole Saturday there and just go up and down the main drag. Denison is or was up for a "Main Street" award with some much larger cities and I hoped they won (I don't know if the award has been announced yet) because they really do have an outstanding main street.)

I also went to one of the antique shops and bought this


It's a little china-ware match holder. Back from the days when you had to light stoves yourself. (My grandma had one in her kitchen, but not fancy like this - it was just black sheet-metal, probably tin, I think maybe someone in her family made it?). I don't need matches in my kitchen but I do plan to clean it up and put it up on the wall, maybe use it to hold the box of toothpicks that I use for cake testing? I don't know, I just LIKED it and it seems in keeping with the style of my late-1940s house and so I think it needs to go up in my kitchen.

I also hit the used bookstore, and while it's not quite as wonderful as some of the funky collegetown used bookstores I've gone to (most of the books here are recent paperbacks, heavy on the genre fiction), I did find a few things:

books

When I'm ready for more murder and mayhem, a Louise Penny I don't have, and an Antonia Fraser that looks interesting. (Right now, though, taking a break from mysteries; I started Cather's "The Professor's House" the other night and am enjoying it. I'm hoping not too many sad things happen in the book* because I need something more restful.)


(*We need something like "Does The Dog Die" - a website that warns people about movies with sad/triggering topics - for books) 

At another shop I bought a framed wallpaper piece, because I just liked it

new pic

It's already been hung up:

new pic 2

At JoAnn's, two things. First, frames for some of the photos I had copies made of over break. I need to figure out how to arrange these and get them up on my already-too-full family photo wall (But I don't want to take any down....)

My paternal grandparents' place, the view over the Lake Michigan bluff. I just barely remember this; 1981 or so was the last I was here.

resort

My dad at 3. It's amazing me to think he was ever 3, but he was. 

dad at 3

My Uncle Stanley, whom I never really knew (he died when I was about 3) when he was in the Navy in WWII. He is the one in the middle of that shot, with the dark hair and wearing his cap at a slight angle:

Stanley and crew

I can definitely see the resemblance to my mother; I think she and Stanley were the two siblings in that family who most closely resembled each other. People who knew Stanley (most of them are gone, now) say my brother looks like him and I can see a little of that, too.

And here's my mom! This was maybe 6 or 7 years before I was born. She told me it was during a visit to my dad's parents. I remember my dad wearing the sweater she is knitting on there...I really, really love this photo, this is very much my mom, even if it was taken before I ever knew her

Mom circa 1962

And here's my grandmother! (My mom's mom). I don't know when, but it was clearly taken at some function at her church. Again, this is maybe a little before I really "knew" Grandma, but again, it strikes me as "very much her":

photo of grandma

It makes me happy to have these. This is what I want, more than ANYTHING, as a way of remembering people - more than stuff that belonged to them, certainly more than "ashes" (cremains). I know some people take comfort in that and that's fine, but for me: I want pictures of the people when they were happy and healthy and a photo that makes me look at it and go "yes, that is very 'them'"

The other thing is very silly, but it pleases me.

I found a pattern for a knitted version of Louise Belcher's ear-hat online, and I want one. Even if very-nearly-51 is a little old for it; if nothing else I might try to quick whip up a green t-shirt dress for next Hallowe'en, and that plus the hat and black flats, instant Louise costume. (There is also a pattern for Kuchi Kopi out there and I could also make one of those and carry it around)

So I found yarn (this is actually a bulky weight not a worsted, but I think I can make it work)

pink

And I did "big" grocery shopping, perhaps a bit more than I might have, but we've been warned of perhaps more winter weather coming, and I am busy, so I might not get out again soon (Next Saturday I am committed for a thing on campus, at least for an hour, and I probably need to work on biostats stuff anyway) and they're also talking about how bad the flu season is and even though I've had a shot, I don't know that all the strains roaming around are the ones that were in the shot....but it is good to have food ahead for when it's needed.


This looks interesting

I'm watching/listening to this right now (linked from Metafilter). It's a short (23 minute) documentary on the "soul gospel" of the 1970s. It's called "The Time for Peace is Now"

I like the style of music, but I especially like that this includes uplifting spiritual messages, rather than merely "I love this person" type messages. And also, it raises again an idea I have, which  I may be wrong about, but my vague memories of the 1970s (I was a kid then) is that it was a less-cynical and more-optimistic time than now, that a lot of people believed we were getting BETTER as a people, that we were expanding that circle of "who mattered" and now, all too often, it feels like that circle has contracted way, way down.

I also note, I guess I've lived in the South for quite a while and heard some of the different accents but I was surprised that they "subtitled" some of the people they did, I did not find them at all difficult to understand. (A lot of the people where I live now have their "roots" from Alabama, so there are similarities in some of the accents). (Though then again, as a professor: I have to be good at understanding a LOT of different speakers, from my student from China to students from West Texas to our International students from African nations where French is the first language most kids learn in school...)

But it is an interesting cultural thing. I've also seen a documentary on an EARLIER form of African-American gospel ("Say Amen, Somebody" and while it's been maybe 20 years since I've seen it, I remember it as being a very uplifting, positive story and a documentary I really enjoyed). This would be interesting to be shown as a sort of "double feature" with that, even though this is a lot shorter:



I also like it because it chronicles a music that was out there when I was a kid, but because I was from such a different background than the singers, I didn't know it existed until very recently. (I knew the Staple Singers, for example, but didn't really know them when I was a kid). I like the whole idea of how there are different cultures out there, different styles of things, and if you look around you can find them, and maybe it helps you understand people better to learn about all the different types of music and food and whatever? Or at least it's interesting to me to learn about other people in that way.

And also just the whole vanished-world aspect of it. How different it would be if the phenomenon was happening now. (Oh, I am sure there are African-American Christian-music groups, just the style would be different and how they "do business" would be different). The idea that it was controversial in some churches - "can we accept this" because they were fundamentally using a secular style and the instruments and style used in rock/soul music. (A similar debate was in white churches of the time, and earlier, about stuff like Elvis' "gospel" album, and I even remember from my youth some of the more theologically-conservative churches strongly discouraging kids from listening to even fairly-tame forms of rock and roll)

Also just the talking about the times - towards the end, there is a reference to a lynching in the late 1940s, and one of the men featured (he was one of the singers) talks about how there are people with the power to make things better who choose not to, and people who don't have love in their hearts, and yes, that's true, and it's sad: "What happened to humanity? People have power to change things, but they don't have the heart to do it. And this is the reality today. People don't have love for each other, don't have the heart to reach out. And they'd rather see you suffer than be happy"

Friday, February 14, 2020

my valentine's day

yes, I got a few cards from friends, and that was nice, and my mom sent me a box of Aplets and Cotlets but this has otherwise not been a wonderful day.

I spent it in a very "me" way: mostly alone.

I gave my exam in my one class (and realized I screwed up the Bankhead Hat stitch pattern; I forgot the intervening plain-knit rows, so the hat ISN'T a Bankhead hat and is less interesting, and I feel bad about that but not bad enough to rip it out)

I came home, because I had to grade and do some other things.

(Oh. I did run out quickly to Lulu and Hazel's, bought a jelly roll. Didn't get any treats; everything they had was either hard and crunchy - so no good for my bad teeth - or those sugar cookies from the grocery with an inch of kind of blah frosting on it)

I graded.

And then I made the jam bars for the funeral reception tomorrow.

I briefly contemplated phoning out and getting a pizza to pick up but then remembered it's valentine's day in a college town, so likely all the pizza places are already overloaded with business, and I didn't want to add more hassle to them.

And I realized: that's my life, isn't it? Doing my work, making food for other people, and deciding not to do something that might risk "bothering" someone else


I don't know.

I'm also weirdly sad. One of the people I follow on Twitter, Holly Brockwell, had taken in an elderly ill cat and started treating her. Named the cat "Furious Maud" because she looked grumpy (though apparently she was a very, very sweet cat). Maud had some kind of lymphoma, she was getting chemo for it. Earlier today Holly posted that something had gone wrong with Maud's back legs (and I thought "oh, that's not good"). Apparently she got her to an emergency vet, but then a while later she posted something along the lines of "My baby has gone to sleep. Thank all of you for loving her with me."

And I had to put down the grading I was doing and cry for a few minutes.

I don't know why it hit me so hard, but it did.

I am wondering, honestly, if little things like that - mourning a cat I never met, belonging to a person I never met or will meet - feels...."manageable" to me. That if I give in and let myself feel sad over the bigger things, I'll start crying and won't be able to stop, and so I look for surrogate griefs to try to work through the bigger griefs in my life. I don't know.

I still feel....I'm still feeling very hard the whole "My dad worked his whole life and it amounted to a recycling dumpster full of paper" and the fact that my mom is finding and sending me small things (she found a craft project I did ages ago as a kid, and sent it along) and that also reminds me that someday she, too, will be gone, and I'll have to try to navigate life all on my own and it scares me. Already I have too few people to provide advice and comfort and emotional support when needed, and I don't know how to get more of them. Part of it is the "afraid of bothering" other people thing - one of the legacies of my childhood is having been told a lot by my peers to go away, because no one wants me around, and I guess I internalized that somewhat and am afraid a bit to reach out now.

But I also know everyone is busy, and I am not going to ask the woman caring for an ill husband for help or advice, or the person with small children at home, or the person fighting a chronic illness.

And so I keep trying to figure out my way on my own, and sometimes it feels like so much and so tiring. I still need to do the Sunday school lesson and maybe more piano practice. And figure out something for dinner. (I wish now I had a frozen macaroni and cheese, but I don't have any, and I don't feel like driving out to a grocery to get one now)

Another random thought

This is only tangentially related to the day. I saw a story (WaPo, may be paywalled for you, but I'm going to quote the relevant part).

Fundamentally, it's about a teacher with bad memories of Valentine's Day. The "heartwarming" hook on the story is that she had her high school class make Valentines for each other, with the requirement that they say something kind and positive - and that they signed their real names, of course.

(The results were surprising to me, but maybe I'm just too cynical given my experience as a kid and teen, but apparently the kids really dove into the assignment and followed it not just to the letter of the law, but the spirit, and she reports she saw "shy kids open up a valentine and grin")

But anyway. The thing that struck me was her story of how Valentine's Day was ruined when she sent a 'special' valentine to David, the boy she like-liked, and she got back:


“Then my eyes traveled up to the writing above his signature. In large, uneven letters, he had written me a special message.”
My students lean in, waiting. You could hear a pin drop.
“It read, “TO THE UGLIEST GIRL IN OUR CLASS.”

If you didn't cringe reading that, you probably were never teased or bullied in school.

But yeah, and it makes me think of something I wonder about regularly: why bother with that sort of thing? Why go OUT OF YOUR WAY to be cruel? What is the benefit?

That's one of the things I don't understand.

I TOTALLY understand sending a positive message to someone - especially if you see them read it, you see the light come up in their face - that's one of the best joys there is, knowing you made someone's day a little better, and I have to say there have been times I've salvaged what had been a crummy day for me by doing some little tiny nice thing and seeing how the person I did it for suddenly was happier, it lifted me up, too. 

But in the rare cases where I was "mean" (usually inadvertently) or was snappy because I was tired/overwhelmed, I felt WORSE and wished I could have taken back what I said almost immediately.

I know people  are all different but are there people who actually feel lifted up and happier after they've broken someone's heart? I don't mean, like, leaving someone who is a bad partner for you - I understand that and sometimes relationships don't work out. And I don't even mean something like discouraging that person who's pursuing you romantically and in whom you have no interest (though I think in my case I'd feel a certain regret and sadness having to tell the guy "no" because I know how hard it can be to work up the courage to approach someone). But this: this kind of just random out-of-the-blue day-ruining. He COULD have just sent her a plain "happy valentine's day" card. Or, heck, he could have just NOT sent her one, and that would have been easier.

I think this is one of the things that fills me the most with dismay about some very highly placed and powerful people in our world today: the utterly casual use of insults* about people. On the one hand: if someone has to preface every reference to another person with an insulting nickname for them, I am less likely to consider the content of what they are saying about the person. (If you disagree with someone's policies or actions, criticize those, leave the insults on the playground)

But on the other hand: it's just low-level noise, like pollution, or maybe like a bad smell, that's hard for me to ignore and it gets me DOWN. Trump and Bloomberg trading insults on Twitter like they're ten years old is almost enough to make me leave twitter even though I follow neither of those individuals and am only hearing about it second hand. (What stays my hand? For a few friends, twitter is my only point of easy contact.)

But it is very much like trying to work where there is some screeching piece of equipment, or where it smells of diesel exhaust: some people can ignore it, I guess, but I cannot, it gets to me very fast.


(*I will note also that this is perhaps why more women don't run for elected office. We get EXTRA scrutiny; if we are unbeautiful or frumpy or out of shape in some way, that will be hay for the commenters and sometimes even the pundits. And who needs that?)

And so this is something I do not understand and do not like about our culture. Oh, it probably always has been - I mean, see "ma, ma, where's my pa, gone to the White House, ha ha ha" about Grover Cleveland. And yeah, maybe he wasn't a great guy (it's implied the liaison was not entirely consensual) but.....is that any worse than some of the things we've seen in recent years?
 
But it does seem to me it's harder to get away from, if it hasn't become worse. It's widely and breathlessly reported on whenever there's a spat surrounding the White House now. (Not unlike the schoolyard; that group of hangers-on who go "OOOOOoooOOOOOhhhhhHHHHH" when someone else pokes at the bully or when someone taunts a teacher.) It seems that we've forgotten what I was taught as a kid about "basic decorum" in public. 

(A random example: even though some profs cuss in class, and I know the students do, I don't. I don't even say "hell" or "damn," which are now so mild they are practically in cartoons. Why? Because I was raised differently, and raised around people to whom if you said "hell" or "damn" they would be discombobulated and uncomfortable, and I don't want to make people needlessly uncomfortable)

And so I see all of this, and feel like our culture is going to ....well, it's going to what we used to call "The Other Place" when I was a kid ("it's not Heaven, it's the Other Place" said in horrified whispers). And it makes me sad and worried. And part of it, I know, is it brings up my own childhood experience. Where I got called "dumb" and "ugly" and the r-word that nice people don't use any more that used to be used to apply to people with intellectual disabilities and ironically also "egghead" and similar. And I got harassed a lot in junior high because my clothes were cheaper than what was seen as the norm at my school, and my fashion sense wasn't great, and I was a little immature in some ways (I still liked stuffed toys, I wasn't ready for "kissing parties," I cried easily). 

But the whole thing that writer experienced, with the "to the ugliest girl in class," that could have been my experience, which is why I guess it was such a gut punch to read. And again, I don't understand it: what benefit is it to the person writing those words? It takes extra time and effort. Did he get to brag to his friends how he "griefed" someone, is that it? Are there some friend groups where boasting about the petty cruelties you do is a way of gaining status? There is very much about people that I do not understand.

Anyway. One of my fundamental "how to be a good human" rules is: do not go out of your way to be cruel to someone. And this seems to me to be exactly that, which is why it baffles me. If you really dislike someone* the easiest thing to do is to ignore them. I have a very small number of people who rub me the wrong way, and my way of dealing with them is simple avoidance - it keeps me happier and it means they don't have me in their sights.


(*I suppose there is the outside chance David ACTUALLY liked the girl and didn't know how to express it, the old "pigtails in the inkwell" thing. And yes, I know, it was a Thing for boys to be mean to or tease girls they like-liked. But again: that was not a language I understood as a kid, and still don't understand, and if a boy had done that to me my assumption would have been he HATED me rather than anything else, and so my reaction would have been to avoid him, like I avoided so many other people at school....so if he was looking for attention from me, he was thwarted. Maybe that's the real lesson there? If you like someone, learn what "language" they speak? I can be won over by an occasional compliment or even just slightly more than the expected level of kindness....and I also wonder if the "insult a girl because you like her" is what grew up and got pimply and greasy and ugly and became the whole "pick up artist" genre, which claims that "negging females" (negging, as in, negating, as in being rude to) is how you get them interested in you and it's probably no wonder the marriage rate in this country is falling if that's what people think....)