Saturday, December 07, 2019

And Saturday morning

In a minute I have to start writing the Sunday school lesson for this week but at least I have the supplies (All of 'em, I think) for the baking I am going to do.

Four batches of cookies, I think. Because I realized this morning I could package up the extras, take them down to church, freeze them, and take them out before "Family Christmas" (aka "Jesus' Birthday Party") NEXT weekend, and they will still be nice and fresh for it.

Yes, I am doing meatballs for that but I suspect a few extra cookies would be welcome.

So: I'm going to do a bar cookie, a drop cookie, a "scoop" cookie, and a sliced cookie.

The bar cookies are a new-to-me recipe: apple butter bars, out of my fairly-new Amish cookbook. If they're good I'll share the recipe. They are very simple: essentially a shortbread-with-oats base, and then a layer of apple butter (and I bought the special kind from the Amish store, I hope it is better than commercial apple butter).

The drop cookies will be the pumpkin chocolate-chips that I posted about 10 years ago now. They are very good and I had a can of pumpkin on the shelf I need to use up.

The "scoop" cookies are the very simple one - butter, cake flour, powdered sugar, and peppermint flavor (and I usually put green food coloring in them*). They're rich and the recipe doesn't make TOO many. And most people like them. (And it occurs to me, you could do any flavor - lemon with lemon extract and lemon zest, cinnamon - which would be nice alongside the mint - with red coloring and either a TINY bit of cinnamon oil or maybe a fair amount of ground cinnamon to flavor. One could do a whole rainbow of meltaways, though I'm not sure what flavor "blue" would be. Vanilla, maybe?)

(*I know, some people scream about it, but I also know enough about the "Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act" which covers these to know that except for rare allergies, the standard approved available-for-home-bakers food dyes are pretty darn safe. And it's nice to have colorful cookies some times. And I am NOT going to extract green from my leftover spinach or some darn thing and hope that it doesn't alter the flavor, which I know some "clean eating" advocates would push. Then again, they'd probably push for No Cookies At All)

And then the sliced cookies are going to be a chocolate sable that Purlewe gave me the recipe for. I think I will mix up the sables first (they have to chill) and also do the pumpkin ones - they take the most effort in scooping and baking.

I did get maraschino cherries and almond extract (the only things I will need that I don't have) for the cake for Monday; that is being done tomorrow. (And if I run out of steam, I could do one of the cookies tomorrow).

So yeah, maybe I am getting a little bit of my "I just want to bake stuff and watch Christmas movies" wish  today. (And I will get more of it in a bit over a week when I'm at my mom's house. I'm sure she'll be up for having me bake some cookies; we usually take a plate to the different neighbors, and especially this year, all the help she got after my dad's death. And we take plates to friends - to Debbie, and to some of the people at church....)

And later today, I am going to knit. I found that Amazon Prime has the black and white version (the only version worth watching) of "It's a Wonderful Life" and though I saw MOST of it last week, I missed the very beginning. And it's a movie I DEEPLY love for many reasons, most of all, that it presents an idea of "community" that I wish we could get to in this country. (Or maybe even a better version than what is presented: not a real high level of diversity there, outside of Annie and maybe the Martinis).

I did wind up wandering through the toy aisles. (I needed to run to the Christmas aisles, which are nearby, for more tins to hold cookies, and also for a giftbag for my AAUW gift) and I wound up buying myself a present for making it through last week.

It's the big stuffed "Spirit" (there is a cartoon series, which I've never seen, about him and his adventures). He was the last one, marked down to $15, and he seemed lonely. I made the mistake of picking him's like how some people shouldn't go to animal shelters because they come home with a dog? I should never pick up a stuffed animal in a store because nine times out of ten, I will wind up buying it.

But like I said, he seemed lonely.

(Someday, I need to get something like a chaise longue for my bedroom to hold the "overflow" stuffies that don't really fit on my bed. Spirit would be a perfect "lie on the bed and look nice" critter because he is large and in a lying position but I have so many critters already).

And he is big. The size of a largish cat:

And yes. I had a brief, more-noble impulse. "You should buy this to free him from the wal-mart" I thought, "and then stop by the nearest Toys for Tots drop-point and put him in"

But then, I got in line and wound up between not one, but two, people who needed to take time after checking out to tell whatever sad thing was going on in their life to the checker (I tried to decamp to the other aisle that looked like it was open, but the woman there was arguing with her manager and then she stalked off, so whatever). And yes, I know: some people have no one to talk to.

But you know what? I pretty much have no one to talk to. That's why I have a blog: I figure, I'm buttonholing y'all, but at least it's an opt-in sort of buttonholing, and it's not like I'm holding up people behind me in some line.

But yeah. I understand the "but I have no one to talk to" feeling but at the same time....some of us just want to pay for our stuff and scram. (This happens a LOT at the post office, where monumental lines are just A Thing and that person who is talking about their recent surgery with the counter person seems not to care. Again, I may have too much of a directive of Don't Inconvenience Other People and I try to keep chit chat to a minimum, especially when there are folks in line behind me)

So I was less-inclined, I admit, to be so generous. So after I got home....well, I cut the tag off and decided he's mine. (I did drop off a "vintage style" Share Bear from the Care Bears, and a "Fingerlings" toy panda earlier this week, so I have already given).

And no, I don't count on getting stuffed toys from my mom any more for Christmas (I did ask for one in particular but I doubt I get it) so I suppose it's OK to buy them for myself.

(I'm keeping the original name of Spirit. I sometimes rename animals that come named but not this time)

Another thing I should do today is get at least some of my Christmas cards out. I'm sending one to a friend in the UK and I have no idea how long International Post takes, so it better go out today....

But yes. I am tired from last week and also sore from both hunching over my desk for so long/tensing up because of some upsetting grading things, and also from walking fast in the cold for exercise...

Friday, December 06, 2019

afternoon things, stuff

- Do you ever hit the point of decision paralysis, where so many decisions you've made have blown up at you, that even a simple, low-stakes one seems impossibly fraught and you can't decide? That's me today.

- Because, I was thinking: You want to make cookies for your department* and you need to bring something Monday night for CWF that won't have to be kept warm. I was thinking of doing a maraschino-cherry cake for CWF but then I thought: why not just make more different kinds of cookies and talk half each place?

(*even though in some ways I almost feel like some people don't DESERVE my cookies, given the lack of help I got when I needed it and asked, but Christmas is about getting better than what you deserve, so....)

But now I cannot decide: Cake, because it's fancy and nice and fun? Or cookies, because everyone likes cookies and while making extra batches isn't necessarily FASTER than cookies plus cake it might be SIMPLER than two batches of cookies (to give a choice at the department) AND cake.

But of course, so many choices I've made in recent days turned out to be Wrong and it would be nice just to have someone TELL me what to do.

- Caught a plagiarized paper. I think. Very similar information is on a university's webpage, and apparently even MORE similar information is on a place called, which seems to be a site with possibly-pirated material? But you have to give them a credit card number to see anything on the supposedly-free site, and I am 100%

So I guess I give a 0 on the grounds of "these are things we didn't cover in class and also it's v. similar to this website" and let the student come and fight with me over it, though I have little energy for fighting right now.

- (Readers, do any of you know of this site? Is it as I suspect, a "we will sell you college papers for cash and your prof won't be able to trace them" site?)

- I am more disappointed than angry with this student, but I'm also pretty angry. 

- I was thinking today of one of the big reasons why I am looking forward to being home with my mom: she is not a demanding person (I know some people's mothers are). She never asks for anything ridiculous, and even simple things like "hey, you're taller than I am, could you reach down this thing off a higher shelf than I can reach" she doesn't come to me about if I'm working on something - she will catch me if I'm going out to the kitchen to get a drink of water, or she'll come and say "don't get up now but when you have a moment..." and she really means it like that, not in a passive-aggressive "If YoU'rE nOt ToO bUsY tO hElP yOuR oLd MoThEr" way

And I get so worn out by the "this needs to be done now" or "why don't you just" or "but you're SUPPOSED to" that I get at work on a regular basis that it's a relief to hear "honey, when you have a minute, could you help me lift this thing? No hurry."

- But yeah. I am tired and sad and this semester is EXTRA fired after how today went


And I'm FINALLY home. All the grading save for the "extra" paper a grad student had to do for one of my classes, is done (Self, do NOT forget to grade that Monday!). I also got out and walked briskly for 50 minutes (in two batches - 30 minutes right after the plagiarized paper, so I could calm down, and 20 minutes after I finished everything). There is a trail on campus with distances marked and I surprised myself in that I can still walk a 15 minute mile over slightly undulating terrain. (That's about 4 miles an hour, not too bad for someone who is 50 and technically "obese")

And I decided: I'm going to do the cake for CWF. Mainly because I want cake myself. I'm still going to do cookies for the department, probably a chocolate sable (refrigerator type) my friend purlewe sent me, and molasses drop cookies if I can find a recipe that looks good, and some kind of bar cookie - maybe the good old fudgy oat bars, I don't think that's too much chocolate along with the sables (people in my department like chocolate). If I get super ambitious I might do a fourth kind, like Thumbprints or something. Or maybe not. The cake I will do Sunday because then it will be fresher for Monday but also will be good and cool before I frost it.

One thing I should do tonight is decide for sure and make a list of anything I might need to get.

But tonight? Hot shower to warm up after my chilly late walk (the sun was going down as I walked back to my car. I saw a big fluffy cat - don't know if she's a feral or someone's indoor-outdoor cat - heading perpendicular to my path. We both stopped and looked at each other for a moment, like "Greetings, fellow early-evening creature" and then she went on her way)

And then, I'm going to knit.

And then, I'm going to go to bed.

Looking for reasons

Looking for reasons not to give up this morning.

Still barraged with work - too many things to grade coming in today, plus I had a student send me a very unpleasant e-mail complaining about their big-project grade.

Because I am too nice for my own good, I said "Okay, I'll pull out the file copy of your paper and regrade it" and I did, and their grade went up slightly, and now I realized I have just opened the door for them to tell other people in the class and have THOSE people come in to try to get their grades raised and I don't have the energy to regrade everyone's paper.

I try to make everyone else happy, and the cost is I am not able to be happy. And usually people aren't happy either because you can't give them what they really want.

I guess I was bad this year because all I got for St. Nicolas' Day was more work and a deeply unpleasant interaction to start the day. And also there was some guy out screaming in the street shortly before 7 am when I was preparing to leave the house and I didn't know if it was someone mad at their dog, or someone having a lovers' quarrel, or someone who was randomly screaming and might be violent if I happened to walk out when they were there. Because I come from such a quiet family I tend to interpret screaming as "violence is about to happen" and it scares me.

Thinking again of a couple things I regularly think this time of year:

- George Bailey was lucky in that he was explicitly shown how his life mattered. The rest of us have to take it on faith that we're here for a reason, and that the good we try to do has some effect, but right now my faith is very thin and frayed and I'm wondering some days if life isn't just a cosmic joke, and the attempt to find any meaningful narrative in it is a fruitless exercise. And that maybe it's better to be grabby and selfish and get for yourself because then at least one person is happy.

- I wish there were a literal Santa Claus, and that he was for everyone. Like I said (last year I think): some day you'd come home from work, and there'd be a little wrapped present on the hall table, and you'd know. You'd know you'd been "good enough" this year. It wouldn't even be the present that would matter - as I said it could be a box of cookies or a pot or narcissi to force or a nice pencil. It would be the *approval.* The fact that Santa Claus (or Christkindl, or St. Nicolas, or Grandfather Frost, whoever) has deemed you 'good enough" in this year.

I struggle a LOT with not feeling "good enough" and it would help having some kind of objective outside verification. But the hell of adult life is that you don't get that; more commonly you get told the small areas in which you are found wanting. They don't see the fifteen balls you are managing to juggle, only the one that you've dropped.

- I wish we lived in a world with more magic in it in general. Or at least more whimsy. I quoted a tweet by someone who calls themselves The Library Haunter and commented that if there was a "make it so!" button on twitter, I'd be mashing it hard:

"Let’s end this idea that “serious” things are all Cynical and Gritty. I’m done trying to be edgy. I’m done with nihilism. I want to enjoy things passionately. I want to love unashamedly. I want whimsy. I want laughter. I want to do things that make my heart swell with joy."

Yes. I want more fun and magic in the world. I want the idea that happiness is not silly or meaningless, that it is of deep importance. Moreover, I want earnestness and honestly and vulnerability to be things that are valued and important rather than traits that less-scrupulous people exploit in others. In general: I want people to adhere to what I think of as the social contract better than they have in the past.

I'm just frustrated and disappointed. My life has not gone in the directions I've wanted it to these past few years. I feel like I've lost my way a little bit but the thing is I don't really know HOW to get back on the path or even what I'm missing - there's just that vague sense that something's wrong, that I used to be happier, and maybe there's something I used to do that made me happier and I don't remember what it is now? (Or is this all a side effect of the stupid  medications I have to be on so I don't blow out the little veins in my body or hive myself to death?)  

(Or maybe the world has changed enough in recent years, and it's not that I've lost my way as much as I'm fighting against so many other things that it wears me out? Kind of the existential version of that Seymour Skinner meme about "Am I out of touch, or is it the children that are wrong?") 

- Our sister campus was offering therapy dogs (there is someone in that town who raises and trains collies for that role) for students suffering pre-exam stress and of course nothing is ever offered to support the professors. (And this is why I roll my eyes a little at the whole check-your-privilege meme: yes, we are "privileged" in the sense that we're paid to be here, but a lot of us are dealing with heavy things, and anyway, our workloads right now are very heavy, so of course we are stressed too). I don't even know what would be a good stress-alliviator for me; I have a lot to do this afternoon and I am still trying to reduce so something like ice cream would be out of the question

This is also the anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique killings, which was a case of a guy killing women because he apparently didn't like that they were women in higher ed. It could happen again. I remember seeing it on the CBC news when I was in college - I lived in Ann Arbor, I didn't have cable but I could get most of the Detroit stations and (I think it was?) Windsor over the air, and I often watched CBC for the news....But yeah, once again being reminded of the very specific cruelty of a specific individual.

In the past, my response to hearing of ugliness in the world was to cast on something to ultimately give to charity, or to send some money to a Good Cause. I haven't done that so much of late, because (a) there are so many things that happen, how do you decide what bad you try to balance out with good and (b) nothing I can do helps anyway, the world will not get better, not even if I sold all I owned and gave all the money to the poor.

I am very much in one of those moods where I'd like to run off and live in a cabin in the woods and never talk to anyone ever again, though more than that, what I want is for no one to every be rude to me ever again, or ask me for stuff, or pile work on me, or question my motives. 

Thursday, December 05, 2019

And that's done

Or, I guess it's done

Anyway. Two whole groups did not show up to present, one person of another group didn't show up (so I let that person's partner present, and graded him only on his half). Several people haven't given me the write ups.

NO ONE has asked for an extension on the write ups (and with presenting? They're just out of luck. No more class days).

And I admit: I know I should be sympathetic and all. yes our students have challenges. But I had challenges too, this fall. In the depths of my grief over my father, my friend Charles, my friend Liz....grief over the minister leaving the church....irritation over all the small things that broke at home and getting someone in to fix them at a time when I was not in class....I was there, I was 100% there. My heart was maybe not always in it, maybe I wasn't the most effective teacher. But dangit, I showed up. And I warned people ahead of time my memory might not be the best, or I might not always be in the best frame of mind.

But for the people who missed presenting today? Crickets, and if they complain to me about the points they lost....well, some of them were present on Tuesday and did not volunteer to speak then, so they had a chance, and missed it.

But yeah, that's one thing I get very tired of - people who don't fulfill their obligations and don't warn me ahead of time they can't, and then come after the fact with a big old sob story. And some times? I get pressured into cutting them a break. (And I haven't always felt cut-a-break this fall; a couple times I *explicitly* asked for help with something at work and no help was forthcoming)

Anyway. I have six more papers to grade now (I gave people until their presentation time to hand them in, but a few people who presented today, bless them, gave me copies to grade on Tuesday)

But yeah, I'm done. After my office hours end - at which point I should be (briefly) at Grading Zero - I am going home, eating lunch (I think: one of the noodle bowls I have and some sauteed spinach) and taking my car for an oil change, and then maybe? running to the local kitchen-and-giftware shop because the last time I was there they were *just* putting out their Christmas stuff and I didn't really get to see it, and I need a little of something nice and off-campus for a bit. (And if the antique shop up the street is open - they aren't, always - I might pop in there too).

But yes, I admit, my compassion is a little burned out right now. Oh, it's one thing if people genuinely are willing to forfeit those points because of a hatred of public speaking or whatever, but I will not exactly be cheerful if they come to me demanding some accommodation because of Reasons.

Like I said: I know it's not very gracious of me, but when I think of all the days this fall I just wanted to stay home and stay in bed, but got myself to work and worked instead, I don't have a lot of sympathy for someone going through considerably less than I did and demanding they just be *given* the points they missed.


ETA: And my chair just came in, apologetically - "I didn't realize we have to draw the external for post-tenure review committees at random, so here" and she held out a small basket to me to pick a name from.

I'm actually....happy about this? It saves me from having to call someone up and ask them if they'll serve (I wouldn't just suggest someone, because then they might get mad, and that might bias them against me). I don't know the person whose name I drew all that well but I think it will be OK.

But I'm still kind of dreading PTR this year, I'm just bracing to get a "Do Better Letter" because this fall semester was such a write-off.

a better day

I had grading I COULD have done last night, but decided to test the corollary to the old saying about "work expands to fill the time allotted" and instead take my couple hours of office hours this morning to do it, in the hopes that I can squish the grading down into a shorter time. (It seems to be working; I'm about half through with it, an hour in).

So I went home at the end of the day. Ran to the bank to deposit a check, then ran to the city hall and paid my property taxes (I like to pay them in person so I have the receipt in hand) and dropped the Toys for Tots toys off at the chamber of commerce. (I would like, though, to sometimes see a news story on how this helps people; I think some of my frustration of late is that I keep trying to do "good" in this world but I never see the effects of that "good," and having to trust that it's actually doing something to make things better gets to be hard after a while. I remember someone once making a comment about the Nativity, how the shepherds were lucky: they could just walk to the stable, and see God, there in a manger. And the rest of us, we have to believe it (if we do) and yes, that's harder. Having faith is hard sometimes, all the more so I think when live keeps kicking you)

But I do the things anyway. Maybe some day I'll find out they had some good effect; I hope I do.

Did a more vigorous workout than I had been doing (more about that later), washed some sheets, changed the sheets on the bed (usually I sleep better the night after doing that). Puttered around a bit but spent some time knitting on a long-stalled pair of simple socks - I would like to finish up some of the stalled-out projects I have - several socks, a simple cowl, a much more complex lace cowl, a couple sweaters....I tend to start stuff and then either get busy, or find the project is at an inconvenient stage for carrying around (much of my knitting, sadly, these days, gets done while invigilating exams). And then I get attracted to a new project, and forget the old ones. So I would like to go through and clear out some of those. I started with the easiest ones - the Vanilla Latte socks pattern made of a bright, rainbow-striped yarn. (I am still contemplating tossing these in with  my mom's gift if I finish them. I'm not sure they're colors she would wear though). And I should pull the Pocketses vest back out and see if I can finish the back and get started on one of the fronts in time for invigilating finals; it's mostly stockinette, which is ideal for that kind of thing.

But I do sleep better when I take a little time to myself. That's a good reminder. I graded up until bedtime Tuesday night and it took me forever to fall asleep, and then I think I slept badly.

(College faculty, I think, are notoriously bad at that kind of self-care. Because we have jobs where we could literally always be working - whether doing background reading, teaching prep, or grading, it's very easy to slip into panic "must get this done NOW" mode and neglect things like house cleaning or sleep)

I think also having unfinished things hanging around is not great for me psychologically. I very much have the attitude of "I want to put a pin in this" and I know some of my rage at the "gee I forgot my homework, can I bring it next class meting?" or "I couldn't quite get the paper done, can I hand it in next week" is that I would like to do THE ENTIRE STACK OF GRADING RIGHT AFTER RECEIVING IT AND CALL IT DONE and I can't do that with late papers dribbling in. And maybe unfinished knitting projects, even 'out of sight' in bags, has a similar effect?

I also have some things to think about. I am probably going to make a dessert for the CWF potluck Monday, but what dessert? I am leaning towards a cake of some kind, but I don't know what recipe to do - the plain old hot milk sponge, and then frost it? Or dig out my mom's maraschino cherry cake recipe, and do that? (That's good with cream cheese icing and I know there's one woman in the group who's allergic to chocolate, so maybe that would be good). And I need to get the makings for the turkey meatballs I always do for AAUW this week - the party is next Thursday. (And I do a second batch for Family Christmas at the church next Sunday). And think about if I want to bake cookies for my colleagues for next week. (Right now, my plan is to stay home this weekend - I can get what I need here in town, I think, and the stores are nuts on pre-Christmas weekends; I have tentatively blocked out Tuesday as a "fun shopping day" for me)

But yes: "I just want to bake stuff and watch Christmas movies." I thought about watching Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas on Amazon Prime last night (have not seen it since I was a child) but then I happened to hear a recording of one of the pivotal songs ("Where the River Meets the Sea"), which is sort of a non-denominational and generically-spiritual "what happens to us after we die?" and I just couldn't - I cried through the song. So I don't know. It's probably a small part of the whole special but yeah. (I don't remember why it would be in there, maybe "what happened to Emmet's father?" I'm guessing)

(I should look if they have "The Homecoming" - which was like a pilot for "The Waltons," just with different actors in some of the roles (the parents were different; Olivia was played by Patricia Neal). It has a different FEEL (somehow, it is less "cuddly" than the actual series was; the parents in particular seem more no-nonsense) but I also remember enjoying it when I saw it a few years ago.

But I admit: I tend to like watching the shows (or reading the books; I often re-read the relevant chapters of the Little House books) where Christmases were smaller and less-materialistic. In a weird way, I think it's me reminding myself "don't be disappointed if you don't get a "fun" present" (my parents, especially my mom, tend to be very practical people. And also this year, I am having a hard time coming up with gift ideas. Again last night she asked me for some hints and I protested that I'd been too busy, that I hadn't had time to look at catalogs and I know that makes it harder for her but it's true. I suppose I could ask for a gift card to Ulta (there is one up there so she could get it) or Michael's or something, but gift cards aren't that much fun. I want to tell her, "just surprise me, even nice hand lotion from the Walgreen's near you would be good, or maybe some kind of little stuffed animal again like when I was a kid" but it's hard for me to say that for some reason.)

I do need to look at the Bas Bleu catalog; usually I can find a book or something in there.

But really? I just want some kind of little surprise. It doesn't have to be perfect. Like I said: hand lotion, or a new lipstick, or some kind of little stuffed animal, or even some kind of different candy I don't normally see (efforts to reduce be darned).

But anyway: at least I slept better last night. Except, when I woke up and stretched? I got a giant cramp in my right quadricep so I guess today needs to be a rest day (and I probably need to be drinking more water than I do). And now my upper-back muscles are hurting. I used to not be this sore after "overdoing" it with exercise but I guess this is part of being 50?

This afternoon, after I finish my grading here, I'm going home. Well, I also need to go out for an oil change in the car, but then I'm going home. And cooking a better dinner (I have ground lamb for lamb loaf). And taking a long hot shower to try to fix my back. And then I am going to just sit and knit - in fact, I give an exam tomorrow, so maybe I see if I can get Pocketses to the point where it will be an easy knit again. (Or, failing that - I take the simple cowl with me and work on that)

But yes. This has been a VERY long and difficult semester. I am glad it is drawing to a close and I want a little comfort, cheer, and happiness, whether that's in the form of sharing food with friends, or knitting on projects, or doing different things (like decorating a Christmas tree at my mother's house, and yes, she plans to have one this year). I really feel the "need for joy and cheer" this year, more than many other years. I know a lot of people need it because "winter is cold and it gets dark early" and that never affected me much before this year...

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Wednesday morning things

 - I had to remind myself what day it was; they all run together now in a blur of grading

- The main thing? Very bad dream from my stupid horrible goblin brain last night. The crux of it: My father was still alive, but something went wrong with his heart (?) and the only thing that might prevent/delay death long enough for the paramedics to get there and stabilize him was putting a bag of ice cubes on his chest, and I was scrabbling, trying to get together enough ice cubes to make a bag while my mother sat with him. And as these dreams always go for me: my hands stopped working. Or I dropped the ice cubes. Or I couldn't find enough. And the upshot was, I was failing, and my dad was going to die, and it would be (in my mind at least) MY FAULT because I was failing.

Very, very commonly my bad dreams take a form like that - that I have to do something and because of things beyond my control (the ice cubes not being there, or my hands suddenly stopping working), I am going to fail, and everything is going to be ruined because I failed.

I wish I could, for once, just have a simple bad dream about a monster chasing me or something. My bad dreams are never "simple 1950s horror movie," they are always more "complicated, psychological 1990s art-house horror movies"

- I have decided to use the "life changing magic of half-*ssing it" to make it through the additional grading this week. I don't have time, the students won't have time to rewrite, so a quick and fairly uncritical read and a check to make sure they included the parts I wanted them to include will be enough. (I wish I could stop feeling slightly guilty about this, though).

- One of the things that came out of the news of the recent horrible fires in Australia was the statement that "Koalas are now functionally extinct" and I haven't had the time or the energy to investigate the veracity of that or how likely some kind of captive-breeding program (surely lots of zoos have koalas?) might increase the population and maintain some sort of genetic diversity (or if there is even habitat for them to return to) but of all the things 2019 has taken from us? This is one I didn't expect. I fully expected among "bears and bear analogs" that the giant panda or the grizzly would go out before koalas.

I hope the headline is overblown. I don't know that I've ever seen a koala "in person" but somehow it's more when it's a distinct species like that than when it's some small freshwater fish or dragonfly or fern going extinct...

- I have seen giant pandas "in person." One of my very earliest memories (1972 or 1973) was of going to Washington, DC, with my parents (my dad had meetings; often when my brother and I were kids, family "vacations" were somewhere my dad had a conference to go to). I remember waiting in a VERY long line at the National Zoo to see what would have been the first pandas there...the whole Nixon Opening China thing that led to the loan of them. I remember seeing the pandas, probably because it was sold as a really big deal to me. But also because I just liked animals.

I also remember going to a store (my mother told me it was a Lord and Taylor's, I think) to get a wind-up music-box animal (there used to be stuffed animals that had music boxes in them, wound with a key that stuck out). I had had a squirrel but the music box in it broke. The replacement was a tiger, which played "Hold that Tiger." (I actually still have it, and it still works - it is on a shelf in "my" bedroom at my mom's house). I don't think the squirrel broke while I was there; i think it had been broken for a while but my parents knew the store sold the animals and wanted to get me a replacement mom removed the broken music box from the squirrel and sewed a little felt patch over the hole where the key had been. (The things you remember. I don't think that squirrel still exists; I think it was in a box in the basement that got ruined in a flood).

The only other thing I remember from that trip was being on a ferry on the Potomac in the rain, and also being on top of a hill somewhere, and my mom pointing to something, and saying "That's Watergate, that's a dirty word to your father" and me being confused because I thought she meant a literal gate that held back water.

- This was posted by Elizabeth Pich & Jonathan Kunz on Twitter. Apparently it's a comic the New Yorker rejected. But I could do a whole TED talk about how this is kind of real:

Adults DO need fun and comfort. Adult life is hard. And a lot of the stuff that seems to have been traditionally positioned as "comfort" items for adults (expensive watches, fancy cars, furs) are not things that do it for me. I would like some nice simple fun. And I think as a culture maybe we're beginning to recognize that? Yes, there's the argument about Grown Ups Should Be Grown-Up which is the counter to things  like having playground equipment sized for adults or not making a deal about adults who want to collect dolls or teddy bears or watch superhero movies. But grown-up life now seems sufficiently grim to me that a little bit of simple "childish" fun is welcome, and it seems actually kind of deny that to adults. 

I once bitterly noted that when I was a kid, I was always told (at things like church potlucks) to "hold back and let the adults go first" and now that I'm an adult, times have changed, and it's "oh, let the kids go through first!" and I don't know but the change in how things are done mean I still don't get any devilled eggs....

(And in a broader sense: being told as a child that I was supposed to respect my elders, and that when adults were talking I should wait until someone spoke to me to talk, and all those rules seem to have been upended now and I do admit at times my students treat me with a familiarity/lack of respect I would have been embarrassed to think about when I was a student).

And yeah, I'm getting old: "OK, Boomer." (I could have been a Boomer, if my parents had started reproducing right after they married - I could have been born in 1960 rather than 1969, which is a weird thought to me. But in some ways, as a kid of Silent Gen parents, maybe I do have a few of the more-benign Boomer attitudes. Oh, I never went through the "don't trust anyone over 30" rebellious phase, but....)

But I do think that adult life is harder and more serious and less fun than I expected it would be when I was a kid. And it would be nice to have more of an escape now and then.

Added: I remember reading somewhere that apparently the more "heavy drinking" you see in older movies (where people come home and have martinis, etc.) was one way adults had of relaxing in the past that's maybe frowned on a little bit now (at least, once you pass college age; it seems heavy-drinking is still somewhat accepted among people in their 20s). Perhaps as MJ becomes increasingly legal people will sub that but really? I want neither. (And I'd be concerned about the long term effects of heavy consumption of either. And this is not a request for someone to dump studies in my comment box but I do think we'll find there are some unintended consequences of long term pot use we weren't predicting...) I want neither. I would prefer just some nice simple fun...getting to run around outside, or play, or, I don't know what...

- I was thinking also about something the guy who writes the Muppet History twitter feed said, about how he used to be mocked for liking the Muppets, but now he's found a lot of people who love them, and it makes me think two things:

1: lots of people talk about how awful social media can be, and a lot of people do treat other people like garbage on it. But at the same time? it gives weirdos who like non-mainstream things a chance to find each other. I doubt I'd be as avid a knitter without the Internet, without other knitters to talk to. I doubt I'd have got as deep into Pony fandom (actually: not very deep, but whatever) without it. It's a tool, as I've said too many times before: it's up to us to use it appropriately. Building other people up, finding connections, helping people: that's an appropriate use.

2: I realize now how much my perceptions have been warped by the fact that I got laughed at for stuff I liked when I was younger. (I tended to like "media" that was aimed at kids a few years younger than I was - or perhaps my peers were pushing the envelope and their parents were more permissive; I remember kids talking about seeing R movies* when I was in fifth grade). 

(*Also very likely they were lying about seeing them, and hadn't actually, but thought it made them cooler) 

But yeah. My immediate reaction when someone says they dislike or "don't understand why people like" something that I like is not for me to defend the thing, it's for me to shut up about it and remind myself "never talk about this again." Because I'm afraid? I'm afraid if I express a liking for an unpopular thing, people will either ridicule me or will simply drop me as a friend, as in "Well, we don't have THAT thing in common, so...." And yes, that's unfair to the more-mature people who are my friends now, but old patterns die hard and I remember the laughter in my fifth grade class when I said "The Muppet Movie was the best movie I'd seen in the past year and they were all talking about having seen "The Jerk." 

I don't like feeling excluded. And I have, much of my life.

Twice, from different sources, I've heard the saying "Why would you want to fit in when you were born to stand out" and I just look at that with horror, because to me "fitting in" means you're part of the community, part of the whole, and "standing out" means explicitly that you DON'T fit in, and my experience with that is - then people mock and exclude you. And it's awfully cold being outside of the little circles and little groups that form. 

And yes, yes, I know: Cliques Are Bad, and in fact, some in-groups are VERY bad (groups that discriminate against people on the basis of skin color or religion or whatever) but it's also be part of a NICE group, to feel like you belong. For me, the idea of "standing out" seems to imply "not belonging," and I've felt that too much of my life...

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Finally, today's over.

Oh, it was a hard day.

Yesterday I took up the papers for my one class. I started reading through them (this is the big big research paper, so how I grade them is to basically read them three times: first, just a straight read-through to get a sense of flow and to see if anything leaps off the page at me*. A second, detailed read, red pen in hand, where I apply comments and suggestions. And then the last time, with the grade sheet, where I write in more comments and figure out what grade the paper earned.

(*like a suspicion of plagiarism: none this year as it turns out)

I didn't get that far because I had the dental checkup and Bell Choir and frankly when I got home I was so exhausted I couldn't do anything (and my mouth hurt from the scaling). So I had to do it mostly today. Finished the reading before my other class (in which I got a bunch MORE papers), did more during office hours. Got crabby shortly before noon because people kept asking me for stuff.

Part of it: Giving Tuesday. Yes, yes, I'm sure it's a nice thing. But you know how people who drink regularly call New Year's Eve "Amateur Night"? As someone who's sent off a few hundred dollars this summer alone to various disaster-relief efforts, I kind of feel like Giving Tuesday is Amateur Day. Or like how some people think Valentine's Day is the day you make up for being kind of a butt to your significant other the rest of the year by buying candy or jewelry or something. This is maybe the day people who don't give to charity on a regular basis are reminded to do it.

But. Sigma Xi, who I am ALREADY mad at because they apparently allowed a scammy "directory company" to make it sound like we had to call them up and "verify" our contact information for Sigma Xi - which turned out to be a HARD sell for one of three expensive packages (the most expensive one was $600, which is....well....almost a fifth of my monthly takehome pay, so that's going to be a NO) and I wound up having to hang up on the guy because he didn't understand my unwillingness to, apparently, stroke my own ego by buying a book with my name in it ("But it's good for networking!" Oh, pull the other one, it's got bells on).

But then, they sent NO FEWER THAN THREE e-mails today begging us to donate money to their "fight for science," which I presume means lobbying. I am too nice a person to actually do this, but I admit I was briefly tempted to e-mail them back suggesting they call up the directory company and ask for a cut of the money they are taking in.

One of the e-mails was along the lines of "Giving Tuesday is half over, what have you done?" and I admit I'm simultaneously made to feel guilty and angry at myself for allowing myself to be manipulated in that way. And it's a little too close for me to the "It's almost 2020! What did you do with the past decade?" which I've already talked too much about.

And I got a lot of other Giving Tuesday requests. Being hounded to do stuff makes me not want to do it. (Come to think of it, I don't think Mercy Corps, the main disaster/poverty relief charity I support, sent me an e-mail)

I also got a lot of asks on behalf of students, the most egregious being "Hey is the homework for this week up on the class webpage" and my reaction was "What? Do you think I am your MOM? You can go to the same Internet as I can, go look" but instead I checked (because my memory is STILL Swiss cheese) and it was there so I just curtly e-mailed "yes it is up, it is called..."

But yeah. The problem, I realize, is that a lot of students expect me to do this kind of caretaking for them, and I use up all my caretaking energy on that, and have none left for me. And I have no one to take care of me; there is no one in my immediate vicinity who cares that much about me.

Anyway. I got annoyed so I went home (no afternoon classes or office hours on Tuesday). Ate lunch, started writing out comments. Got about halfway, took a break, checked my e-mail.

My uncle had sent a write up of my dad's interment service. I read it right then, in retrospect I should have waited, because I had to get up from the computer, walk away, and cry for about ten minutes. And I've still been crying off and on as I think of it again.

The Scripture chosen was good and appropriate. My Aunt Deb read it, he said. And here's where having a good imagination kills you: I can imagine her, standing there, in the memorial gardens, in her slacks and the big puffy coat you have to wear in Michigan in December, and reading it out in her clear voice to the cold air. And he sent pictures and....Oh, I know, I know, the "person" that inhabited those remains has gone on elsewhere, but seeing the urn sitting there. It looked so....small, somehow, and lonely, and thinking of it now is making me cry again.

I mean, I guess in a way it's not lonely now; my dad's remains have been interred next to his mother, and there is space there one day (many many years hence, I hope) for my mother too, because our family is so small and so scattered and there's really no way my brother or I could easily travel *anywhere* that was meaningful to our parents on a regular basis, so a memorial gardens where there was regular care and maintenance (apparently there is something like a trust fund that covers it? Or when my grandfather bought the plots, that was paid for in more-or-less perpetuity?)

But yeah. The finality of it is what gets me. I will think of things I might want to tell my dad, or ask him, and I can't now, and it sucks. It still sucks, more than four months after it happened.

And I admit, I think part of my sadness and discomfort is the knowledge that yes, someday too that will be me, and I will have even fewer people to mourn me. Depending on how long I live, I might have very few people indeed. (Women on my mom's side of the family tend to live VERY long; on my dad's family it's harder to tell because his generation was the first generation of non-smokers; previous generations tended to get taken out by emphysema or lung cancer). (I think I said once before why the idea of The Rapture, even as non-supported as it is by anything actually in The Bible, is attractive to many believers: you get to go to Heaven but you don't really have to die first.)

But today, it just worked out to be hard.

Oh, I do have better days. It's just, today worked out to be hard.

It took me a LONG time to buckle back down and finish the grading. And I hate to say it but some papers were really not up to standards, and there are going to be some unhappy people. And also a lot of people didn't follow the instructions I gave, and I downgraded more than I had in the past, because I'm just done with that, and more and more, as time passes, it seems people either don't pay attention to, or don't care about, following directions, and I'm sick of it.

I finally got them done just around 6:15. Washed my hair, nuked the "emergency" mac and cheese I keep in the freezer for this kind of situation (need a quick meal that is easy to eat without much thought or effort). Decided to buckle down and grade the exams given in my absence, partly because NCIS (one of the very few network shows I still watch) was a re-run, partly because I just wanted to be DONE with them so I could move on to the grading for another class tomorrow.

Thank goodness, because this was the "I will do this as your drop exam if you are happy with your previous exam scores" exam (and perhaps because it was the day before a vacation), only 10 people (less than half the class) took it, so I was able to finish it fairly quickly but yeah. I am feeling very worn right now.

I would really like a treat. But it's 9 pm, and I'm trying to reduce, so food-treats are out. And it's too late to drive out for any other kind of a treat. And ordering something doesn't work because then I have to wait for it to come. (I do have a couple things on order from earlier; Li Chen has a new sweatshirt/t-shirt design out ("Cosy Cat") that I loved the minute I saw it on Twitter. (I ordered a dark green sweatshirt with it; I don't have enough cute sweatshirts). And I ordered some more yarn - I had a credit at Loopy Ewe (you earn credits when you spend money) and I wanted to make myself an Antler Toque, only red.

but it would be nice, I think, to either not be trying to watch what I eat (so I could just get nice carry-out for dinner tomorrow night instead of some kind of diet-frozen-meal or sauteed spinach) or have some kind of nice store in town where I could buy some nice small thing to make myself feel better.

Oh, I tell myself: in two weeks you'll be in Illinois, and your biggest concern will be what kind of cookies to bake but that two weeks seems awfully long.

Monday, December 02, 2019

two good things

They're small things, but they're still good, so I'll take them.

1. I finished the gift-hat for the AAUW gift exchange:

gift hat

This is Tin Can Knit's "Antler Toque" (a free pattern, or you can purchase a book - I think "Pacific Knits" is the one that has it). I'm really happy with how it turned out, it looks good. It was a fairly fast knit, not as fast as the hat I made for my brother, but fast enough. The yarn is just a plain old Paton's wool, the worsted-weight wool that JoAnn's sells.

The party is *next* week so I'm a little ahead (heh, heh) on this one.

I do have to decide whether to launch into a third pair of socks for my mom, or to relax a little and consider getting her something like a King Arthur Flour gift card as an additional gift. (I'm leaning right now to "get either a gift card for some kind of baking/cooking supply place, or a gift basket of nice food," partly because it saves me time. I have two knitted pairs of socks and one purchased alpaca pair, and also a special washing bag for in the washing machine.)

2. I had my dental checkup today.The last one was just about a year ago; I missed the summer one I usually have because, first, I was stuck in Illinois in May (flooding), and then the early-August new appointment....well, that happened while I was in Illinois in August, after my dad died. This was the first one I was able to get (I called in like September: my dentist is very busy, especially since I'm unwilling to cancel class for a non-emergency thing, it's hard to make an appointment).

The good part of it? Even though I required EXTENSIVE scaling (ugh)*, the dentist came in to check me midway through it and after poking at my teeth (I hate the explorer tool) and consulting the extensive x-rays (they do a full head set every 5 years and I was due), he said there was nothing wrong with my teeth. And my gums look okay.

(*seriously, it took like 20 minutes. I was literally the last patient walking out shortly after 5 pm - it was a 4 pm appointment, but I got called back maybe 15 minutes late. I am a "hyperaccumulator" according to one of the hygienists there, in other words: there's nothing wrong with my dental hygiene but I'm just unlucky in that my saliva dumps a lot of calcium and junk on my teeth and it sets up. )

I really dislike scaling - they use an ultrasound one which I guess works better and is less risky for your teeth, but it sounds like nails on a chalkboard combined with a very quiet but very high-pitched leaf blower and it makes me NUTS, especially on the top teeth, where my head bones conduct the sound right into my ears. It was easier to hang on through it after I knew I wasn't going to have to come back for further work, but it was still unpleasant.

But at least this is the last "dreadful" thing for a good long while for me - I have a lot of grading this week, but that's just grading, I can manage it (and I got some done this afternoon). And my exams are written for finals week.


I'm still contemplating some kind of "little celebration" for the end of the semester. I'm almost now leaning towards NOT going to Whitesboro this weekend (my last open weekend); I don't get enough quiet time at home and it would be nice just to be home, be quiet, sit and knit, and watch Christmas tv this weekend.

Though I might change my mind later. But I don't think I want to go to the Target or similar, those places are ugly nuts on pre-Christmas Saturdays. (Other option: I don't give an exam Tuesday, and I could go then. No lunch at Lovejoy's that day, though....) If I went on Tuesday - or Friday of exam week - I could make a trip to Ulta also and stock up on things, so I wouldn't have to run out to the one near my mom during break, or order stuff and have it delivered to her house.

I'm really done with course, it's court-case discussions by the students; another class, they are presenting their final projects. In the intro class, I give a quiz one day and an exam on Friday, and in biostats it's project discussions. Most of my work this week is grading and also trying to clear the mess out of my office.

"Two competing ideas"

Yes, the quotation (attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, though I'm not familiar enough with his writing to trust that he actually said it) is "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Well, what I'm dealing with here are not so much two opposed ideas, or even really two competing ideas, but....sort of a juxtaposition of what seems to be "real" and immediate to me, versus something that isn't.

The real and immediate thing: a student of mine who'd been missing from class (very, very not typical of them) since the middle of November e-mailed me. They said they "did something stupid" and had been in a behavioral facility as a result. I am assuming - reading between the lines - that it was some kind of self-harm type of thing. I hope the student is getting continued assistance. (I remember now, the day before they went missing, they were in class with their head down on the table - also not typical for them - and I had just assumed, "Well, like the rest of us, they're tired by this point of the semester" or "maybe they have the little virus that's making the rounds). 

Anyway. They missed an exam, and another exam is this week. So I thought quickly - this is a gen ed class, yes, so I am not granted quite the same flexibility to alter the syllabus requirements as I am in classes that are fully my own, but this is a special case, and there was also an e-mail from the equivalent of our Dean of Students about the student's extended absence, so maybe a little mercy here is justified. So I told them: they can, their choice, make up the exam they missed, or not, and I would be willing to pro-rate their grade. (Or, I suppose, if they want to skip *this* week's exam, seeing as they missed all the material it covers, I could do that instead, if they ask). I *think* the person functioning as our Dean of Students will back me up on this. And anyway: if this is someone suffering distress right now, I do not want to add to their upset or stress by saying "okay, you need to make up all this work by tomorrow."

Kinda been there, done that this fall. Not the same exact way, but I remember sitting in my office and crying when I had to redo the stupid assessment stuff because I was SO tired and SO far behind on everything else and it felt like all I was doing was going to work, teaching my classes, doing my grading, and then going home and going to bed. Any extra task over and above what I was doing, it just felt impossible, like I'd never get done. 

So anyway. My day started out with my bending the rules - and I will maybe get called on the carpet for it, but I don't really care at this point* - to try to help someone else.

(*Well, I do care. But my concern over the student overrides whatever discomfort I might suffer)

But anyway. The current rage-click story in the news (perhaps moreso here because it allegedly happened in my state) is a coffee server being foolish and labeling cups that a cop was picking up for co-workers with an offensive term for cops. (There's been some debate, I've heard some people saying the term wouldn't make it past the chain's automatic profanity filter, but I don't know enough about that to comment). And the police are voicing their displeasure, and I guess the barista is being disciplined, and the story just keeps on going....and it just makes me profoundly tired.

For one thing: if it is as presented - where the barista making a "joke" as she claimed, by using the term, and the cops reacting - well, everyone behaved badly. We need to be a little nicer to one another. No, I don't care that you dislike cops in general; this is one individual cop you are dealing with human-to-human. And no, I don't care if your feelings have been hurt by the slur; people get called far worse every day of their lives (people working retail/counter jobs especially) and they keep going without grabbing the media bullhorn. 

I dunno. I suppose part of my exhaustion with the whole story is that from the age of about 7 until I was in high school (and even beyond, to a lesser extent), I got called stuff: "dog." Or "crybaby*" Or the r-word, which is strange, because I also got called "brainiac" and similar. You live with it. It sucks, but you  live with it, you keep going. You try to hang on to the friends you have** and maybe if you're like me you imagine a nicer alternate world in your head and you escape there when you can, like when you're herded outside at recess and no one really wants to play with you.

(*And okay, yes, I was kind of a crybaby but that doesn't mean I deserved teasing and ostracization)

(**though now I realize some of my school-friends in the primary grades probably weren't really THAT good of friends, some of them were kind of mean in specific ways, and I think my issues with thinking friendship is "won" by doing stuff for the other person came from that)

And the teasing I got was just run of the mill teasing: I was a white, cis-female, Christian kid without a disability in a community that was VERY dominant-white and Christian. 

But yeah. I see two problems here: the tendency to not see the other person as a person, to see whatever group they belong to that you dislike first, and as a result, choose to be unpleasant to them (And yes, you can lecture at me about power imbalances, but unpleasantness is unpleasantness regardless of whether you're "punching up" or "punching down"). But also, making a huge deal about being called an ugly name. I suspect there's not a human alive who's not been called some kind of ugly name to his or her face (or behind their back, and they later found out, which is somehow worse to me). Again, it's nasty and unpleasant and can definitely damage someone's mental health if they deal with it every single day of their lives. But it's part of being a human. 

(And maybe? Maybe being disrespected helps you learn "wow, that hurts?" and you try to treat others with more respect later on? That's mainly the message I learned from my childhood teasing; that while the old "sticks and stones may break my bones" message is still presented, words can and do hurt, they just hurt on the inside where you can't see, and where a doctor can't bandage you up, and also, it's more easily-hid by the one hurling the insults, and so they often go without being reprimanded. Though I think being mocked/excluded as a child can have one of two effects on people - either it teaches them to be more compassionate because they know how much it hurts, or, conversely, it makes them worse as people, because "by golly I'm going to get the world back once I acquire a little power")

But I don't know. Some years back the whole WWJD thing was making the rounds - what would Jesus do? - and while yes, that's very Christian specific, and some people have argued with the underlying idea (Jesus was God and we are not, being one line people take), I still think it's a solid idea to think (if you're a believer) "What would He counsel me to do in this situation" and honestly? Either turning the other cheek (if you're on the receiving end of rare abuse) or trying to love your neighbor (and see everyone as your neighbor) if you're potentially on the giving end.....for that matter, I've thought perhaps, because not everyone is Christian, we could amend the saying to WWMRD - what would Mr. Rogers do? - and the answer would largely be the same. 

(And again: the idea that both those individuals have many fans but a smaller number of serious followers, because what their followers are supposed to do is hard and often counter to human nature....)

But yeah. I also think now of my dad, and how he used to talk about advertising to my brother and me when we were young - riffing on a shady character from Sesame Street, who was trying to sell people stuff for "a nickel," he warned us that advertisers were "trying to get our nickels" and to consider: do I really need or want this thing, or is it that I want the image it's selling. And I think many of these stories are not so much trying to get our nickels (though the advertisers that far too much online ad-space is sold to are), they are trying to get our attention. But I would argue our attention is better saved for things in our immediate sphere of influence, like, for example, the e-mail I had to consider and craft this morning.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

And I'm home

Oh, it was a hard week. For a lot of reasons.

In a weird way I'm relieved the memorial service is over. I often feel this way; it's like "okay, we can officially cry and feel sad and admit we miss the person, but also life goes on"

My mom wound up passing a lot of things to me that had either been my dad's, or had been keepsakes he and she had saved, that she thought I should have.

train 001

For years, the family owned stock in the Bangor and Aroostock railroad (which I am not even sure still exists*)

My dad was a HO train enthusiast and for years had a set up in the basement (in Hudson) and he had a couple of boxcars (this is the second one; I think it's newer, and it doesn't have doors that open and close like that other one:

train 002

(*yeah, they ended in 2003. Which is later than I would have guessed)

She had found the smaller one of the two when clearing up some of his stuff, and asked me if I wanted it, and I said yes - thinking I could set it on one of the small bracket shelves I bought (and still have to put up). Then, when I was looking (unsuccessfully) in the basement for something else, I found the second one. I decided to keep both; there was also a Bangor and Aroostock money clip that my brother got.

What was I looking for? The old crocheted angel that we used as a tree topper for a few years when I was a kid. It was later supplanted by a glass spire, and then still later, an angel inherited from my dad's parents. But I had no luck at finding it even though I thought I remembered seeing it in a box. (And I kept finding boxes of Christmas stuff, and my hopes kept getting up, only to be dashed). Now I wonder if I *dreamed* finding it some time back - sometimes I have very vivid dreams and snippets of them seem like memories. Or it might still turn up. I'm pretty sure it still exists.

And yes, I admit, in my displacement behavior/everything is too symbolic way-of-being, it was The Worst Thing Ever for about three hours on Saturday that I couldn't find that angel. I still hope it will turn up, that it exists and is just tucked away somewhere unexpected.

I did also find this:

Buster cat

I probably made this at least 30 years ago. When I was in high school, the church my parents belonged to did a summer crafts sale to raise money for outreach projects. One year I made some stuffed animals to donate to them. Some of them didn't sell so they gave them back to me. A couple of them found homes as baby gifts (like this cat, they all had appliqued or embroidered features, so they were baby safe). This guy hung around for years and when I found him, kind of dusty, in a box, I decided to take him home with me. (I ran him through the washing machine - remarkable how well these handmade critters hold up to that, even though you're not supposed to wash felt, which is what his eyes and nose are made of).

I decided to name him Buster (because I made him to give away, he never had a name). My dad had several cats when he was a kid, they were all named Buster. The most famous Buster was one who ran away from them when they were traveling, but who managed to find his way back home some months later - at least 100 miles.

My mom also gave me this, it is going over to my office on my desk (if I can find space...)

desk plaque

It was my dad's, I think one of his grad students gave it to him.

And some paper keepsakes. I really need to get a good, archival-quality scrapbook where I can keep these things and a few others I have. Maybe this could also be a home for some of the unframed photos I have. (I also plan to get more photos - one of my mom's over-Christmas projects is to go through all the accumulated photos, and I told her I wanted to make copies of some of them)

This would be from 1973:

letter to Santa

It was printed in the old Delta Reporter (Delta County, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). It's since been subsumed by the Escanaba Daily Press, but for years and years my mom would get the Sunday Delta Reporter in the mail. (She still gets the Daily Press).

This was before my brother was born, which is why he's not mentioned but old Daisty (who was actually kind of mean) was.

I vaguely remember getting a couple of those things for Christmas and I'm wondering if my mom prompted me, knowing what I was going to get...

My paternal grandfather was the one who was the big stock investor; it's from him I inherited the Bangor and Aroostock stock (and also, for years, we held Union Pacific stock, enough that they'd send us a nice calendar every year; for many years as a kid that was the calendar that hung on the kitchen wall)

One year he must have invested some money on my behalf and sent a little note:

grandpa note

I also have a letter my maternal grandmother sent me one Hallowe'en:

grandma letter

And this is the church bulletin - saved for just over 50 years! - from my baby dedication. (I think I've said before: in Disciples of Christ, you are "dedicated" as an infant, which basically means your parents affirm that they will raise you to be a moral person according to the teachings of Christ, and the congregation agrees that they will help wherever necessary - we don't formally do "godparents," I think the assumption is that all the other adults in your home congregation are your godparents. And then when you're a young teen, you do Pastor's Class and make the decision (or not, I suppose) to be baptized and join the church).

Dedication program

There it is.

And the back of the bulletin struck me, also. The Disciples of Christ have not changed all that much in the past 50 years in their attitudes:

back of dedication program

But in this case, that's probably a good thing.

And one more keepsake. I had asked my mom if I could make a copy of this framed photo but she just gave it to me. It was taken by my Uncle Bill, who is quite a photographer (and has been for a long time). On the back, pencilled in is that it was taken in August 1973 in Marquette, Michigan. (I *think* my uncle was living there at the time, and I suppose we went up to visit him. I do not remember this occasion though I do remember a few things from 1973):


Man, that's really how I remember my parents. Kind of bittersweet to me.


Like I said, it was a long week. I am not used to being around a lot of people, and I was around a lot of people. My niece is 7 and she talks from the moment she gets up in the morning until the moment she goes to sleep (and according to my brother and sister-in-law, who shared a room with her, she talks in her sleep too). She is also very attention-demanding in the way small children can be so a lot of the time....well, I didn't say very much over break, enough that someone noticed how "quiet" I was, but honestly? I couldn't get a word in edgewise, especially when all the family was there. That's okay, though. I think living alone has gotten me into the habit of not talking a lot. And I didn't have all that much to say.

I did spend a lot of time hanging out with this guy:


Porthos sleeping


(yes, he "loafs" a lot)

Porthos 2

My brother and sister-in-law's Shiba Inu (his name is Porthos, like the Musketeer). I am not a dog person but I like this dog. They really worked a lot with him in both obedience school and at home and he is a very good dog - apparently their vet says Shibas have the reputation of being kind of mean and snappy, but he is not. (The worst he does? Sit by the table and whine when you are eating and he wants to eat). I walked him a lot because it was a convenient way to get out into the quiet. He also likes being petted and scratched and gently "thumped" (some dogs like that) and so I was able to get a lot of hands on time, either scratching around his ears or petting his coat or gently thumping his side. (He feels like I imagine a coyote would feel; he has that same coarse-looking outer coat).

Also, I retreated to "my" room some, just for a little quiet and alone time, and I finished the second pair of socks for my mother's Christmas present while there:


But yeah: it was a lot of people and a lot of emotion and this coming week is going to be a lot of grading (and I have a dental check-up Monday, ugh). I saw a t-shirt in a catalog my mom got that said "I just want to bake stuff and watch Christmas movies" and that feels very true right now. Or maybe not bake stuff - though there will probably be some of that for the Feast of Finger Foods coming up week after next - but maybe knit stuff and watch Christmas movies.

My mom also asked me for a list for Christmas and literally all I could come up with were new field boots (which will have to be bought with me present, to fit them) and a new barn jacket and maybe some turtlenecks. I don't know what else. I do just want some fun presents but I feel weird asking for toys from my very practical mom....

(I already received and was pressured to open my brother and sister-in-law's present (well, part of it, but I know the other thing I am getting). And I have to teach my niece to knit so she gets a sense of yarn quantities required for a project. They had her pick out yarn from their local yarn shop and I now have 150 yards of a dk weight and 131 yards of a bulky weight, neither of which go with anything else I have, so I'm not sure what I can make with either of those....)

I also promised myself something nice and frivolous as a reward for making it through....everything....but at the moment I'm coming up a bit empty as to what I might want. Possibly go to the yarn shop in Whitesboro this coming weekend (provided my grading is all done) and just buy a few skeins of nice sock yarn? Or order another pair of Hot Chocolates shoes, even if I can't really wear them when it's wet out as they are cloth? 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

An emotional one

I am fond of Dvorak, and of his Ninth Symphony. There's a bit of mistaken belief that he based the slow movement of the symphony on either "Native American" or "African American" spiritual songs. (Actually, I think he wove in a few hints of folk melodies into the symphony, but as likely they are European ones).

But the song has might say, retconned?....into a sort of spiritual by having words added. I've heard it occasionally but it never really struck me until I heard it this summer, after two of the big losses I experienced, how moving it is.

Yes, it does make me cry. Lots of things do now. I don't know if I'll regain my tough-as-nails past self or not.

(A UK friend of mine tells me she cannot hear this tune without thinking of a bread advert - apparently the Hovis brand used it as background music in a number of their ads. Funny how different cultures see things through a different lens; I know it almost purely as a classical piece and admit I'm slightly annoyed when it's used in an advertisement here to convey "emotion" - I think there was an ad recently that did just that, maybe some cell phone carrier?)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

And another song.

Hopefully the really big emotional stuff is over (this is a time-embargoed post).

This is a song that wound up in the Pandora playlist I started with some John Denver stuff and some Nitty Gritty Dirt Band stuff. I've always liked it. (There was a more up-tempo, "electronic-y" version from the 1980s, I forget by whom, but I vastly prefer the Bill Withers version, that has a bit more of a gospel flavor):

And really, speaking of "gospel flavor" - isn't this song basically the second Great Commandment right there? Help out your neighbor when they need it? Be there for people? (Though also of course that means letting people be there for you, which I am not always so good at).

(Apparently the first one I linked had an image of Al Green rather than Bill Withers, so I subbed this one in. Most "older" singers, I have only heard their voice, so I don't always recognize their faces.)

Monday, November 25, 2019

And it’s done

The memorial service was today. It was hard but not as hard as I had feared.
It was really long, though: we were supposed to be there around 12:30 (though I suspect the early time was one of those “tell chronically-over-optimistic-about-how-much-time-they-have people times” (so they won’t be late) and so there was a lot of waiting around. Once people arrived for the visitation, things got busy and I found my “role” in introducing people

I do much better in emotional situations if I can do something.

Anyway: introducing my relatives to people from church or the university. And the one former grad student of my dad’s- well, I felt a little sorry for Ed; he was there all alone and didn’t know anyone and seems to be, like me, uncomfortable “breaking into” an existing conversation so I introduced him to a couple of my dad’s former colleagues (it turns out he already knew one, slightly).

The service itself went well, I guess. The hymns and scripture passages were well-chosen.

I didn’t cry until the minister read a couple things my dad had written at some point-not too long before his death. And there were specific mentions of things my brother and I had done and how proud our dad was of us and well...that was one of the horrible things my brain did to me in the weeks after his death, wondering if he had been proud of me (as I have said, we were never a demonstrative family).

So I guess now I know.

But still, it was hard and tiring; the “family time” (to use the phrase common in my part of the world) started at one, the service was at two, and the “lunch” was not until nearly three.

And yes, again I’m reminded of the importance of that, especially when scattered family comes in for a funeral. It’s really too much to expect the “hometown” folks (very likely the most bereaved) to cook, and restaurants- there’s the effort of finding a place, and then choosing off a menu, and figuring out how the bill is split. (And the church had provided both a vegetarian and a gluten-free option - salads, but still, it worked)

But I’m not going to lie, I’m glad it’s over with.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

T minus I don’t know what....

I am still the only arrival. My brother and family are due in around 11pm. I guess one aunt and uncle did find a hotel where their large and unwell dog is welcome. One of my dad’s first grad students is on his way.

I am not ready for this.

It is going to be A LOT of people, and in not the happiest circumstances.
I am holed up in “my” bedroom ) no I didn’t have to give it up) and I hope I can do that a little tomorrow because it is all a lot.

We went down to the church this evening with a box of photos and memorabilia because there is a table for them; I guess this is really happening. Though I am as apprehensive about having to talk to all these people, some of whom don’t get along, as I am about the memorial service. We are going to be there from before noon until about four pm, and that just seems really long to have to make nice and either listen to people or try to come up with things to say to people. I find I have felt much less like talking, of late.

I’m telling myself it’s just half a day out of my life, but it’s really more than that because there will be stuff afterward... until I go home Friday...

There have been other unpleasantnesses and disappointments these few days and again I am trying to think of something very nice and a little indulgent to buy for myself when this is all over but right now I cannot think of anything. (Well: several days in a nice hotel with room service and near nice but uncrowded museums and shopping, but I doubt that exists, especially this time of year.).

I may pretend to have a few short lived migraines these next few days just to have an excuse to be alone.

music break 1

Okay, maybe I fill the empty time not with embargoed WRITTEN posts but with music that seems fitting.

This is for my time around relatives, and dealing with whatever deep stupidity results from SOME PEOPLE'S failure to plan:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

First stage done

I got to the station. Looks like the train is on time or close to it. I’m surprised I made such good time because when I was on the way out of town there was an accident ahead of me and at first I thought that the road was blocked but it was just selfish/foolish people who didn’t get over when they saw the flashing lights and the semis getting over. I did, because I figured the semi drivers were communicating and they knew which lane was safe. Luckily it wasn’t a bad accident; the driver walked away from it. But yeah, said some unladylike words when I thought I might be stuck for a while

"it's not fair"

The last discussion article in Policy and Law was this one

The thing that stuck out to me? For one, the researcher went in expecting people wanted compensation for loss of land-use due to species protection, but it turned out people either equally wanted - or wanted MORE - to have a say in future legislation, or to have their efforts recognized

(Olive refers to these as "Distributive justice," "Procedural justice," and "recognition-as-justice")

These are interesting concepts and it strikes me very much that they apply more broadly. Yes, it would be nice to be paid more, or to get a COLA on a regular basis, or any of those things. But more than that I would like for shared-governance to have more teeth (and have some of the stuff faculty are asked/told to do that is over and above our regular work shot down, instead of us being asked to accept the extra work) but ESPECIALLY "recognition."

I would very much like to feel like people SEE the stuff I am doing. (Olive refers to a landowner who talks about having been given a plaque *30 years before* recognizing his efforts at land preservation).

I think that is a very human thing, and I also think it's something that super gets lost in the shuffle of modern work. And much of the stuff, it does feel like lip service. (I have complained about how many "wellness programs" at work put the onus for "stress reduction" on the employee - basically, telling them "be less stressed" while the program has no authority (or perhaps, no responsibility) to work to reduce the factors that might be stressful. I have talked before about James 2:16: "If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" and yes, that's not just true in a religious context.)

But yes. I do feel kind of worn right now, and I have to quickly enter these last few grades, and go eat, and put my plants on the waterers and turn down the thermostat and do all the other things necessary before I leave for....I don't even know what. Part of the stress about this coming week is all the unknowns. I have literally never gone to a memorial service for a parent of mine before. I have not dealt with some of the people who will be there for five years or more. I don't know what will happen if a couple people CAN'T get hotel rooms this close to Thanksgiving....but I also know no one will notice me bravely smiling as I am slowly crushed by the figurative pillar I am trying to caryatid. 

And I also admit I feel a little bit like no one noticed that I was there in class EVERY DARN DAY this semester, maybe some days with a bit more grimness in my face than is ideal. BUT I WAS THERE. I did what I had to do. Even though I didn't want to. And I know some people go "but you were ONLY doing what you had to do, you shouldn't be praised for that" but given what's been going on in my head and my heart....well, I want them to deal with what I've been dealing with and then see how they feel.

But yeah. I suppose I could award myself a "gold star" but it feels kind of empty when you're the one doing it. 

I don't know. But the stuff in that article struck me.

Ready, but not

I have everything packed, all that remains is to stick a couple bottles of water in my carry on and gather up the in-progress project and put it in. I have my ticket, the list is checked off as far as it can be.

But I'm also not ready. Two of the people who will be coming are difficult people and I've been warned in recent years (because of various things that have happened) one has become even more difficult.

Also, several of my relatives have apparently not made hotel reservations yet. During Thanksgiving week. I refuse to give up my bed - even to relatives some 25 years older than I am - simply because someone failed to plan. I know my mom told people no one other than my brother's family and I could stay over at her house, but I hope there won't be pressure applied if the choice hotels are full up.

(Seriously, who DOES that? I know that when I travel I plan it like the Normandy Invasion was planned and I have backups and documentation for EVERYTHING. Especially when it's not just a "la la la, going on a road trip for fun" vacation and is an "I must be HERE at THIS SPECIFIC TIME and not in rumpled nasty clothing either" trip)

Granted, all of that will be for one, or at most, two, days of the trip, but still. (I am ASSUMING they are only coming in for my dad's memorial service. I hope no one is going to do the "surprise, we're going to stay for Thanksgiving, too" thing because I know for a fact my mom has planned food for five people - one of them a fairly picky small child - and there WON'T BE ENOUGH. She is doing a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey, for goodness's sake)

Ah well, whatever.

And I have to go and get the lab ready. Someone needs to complete their independent project TODAY and they told me about this literally at 2 pm YESTERDAY after I spent the past five class meetings being a broken record about "I am leaving early for family reasons and I have to leave at noon on Thursday" but of course.

So yeah. Still in a really cranky and unhappy mood about just everything. I'll have to suck it up once I get to Illinois though.

(There will be no embargoed posts. I had no time and no motivation to write any. If I CAN I might post a couple quick things from my phone but otherwise it might not be until I get back on the 30th)

I can tell I'm on edge because EVERYTHING is bothering me

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

you know what?

This morning, in class, I realized something, and I have had a bit of a change of heart.

All those people who told me I was so "brave" and "strong" in the wake of my dad's death? (And everything else)? And how I kind of rolled my eyes and said "deliver me from this" because I didn't feel so strong, I just felt like I was doing what needed to be done and was getting nothing more done AT ALL, I was just going in and teaching my classes and doing as little committeework and research as I could manage to get away with?

No, they were right. I was hella strong and brave. I didn't miss a single darn day of work over this. I walked into class every darn morning and took a deep breath and TAUGHT, even when I didn't feel like it, even when all I wanted was to go back home and get into bed. It didn't help when someone would stop the class dead over something I had gone over literally five minutes before, or who complained "but you never told us that" (and thank God for the students who chorused back at them: "oh yes, she did"). Even when I was running back to my office for the five minutes I had between classes and closing the door and reading what I could of my twitter feed because I just needed an escape for a few minutes.

AND I went to all the AAUW meetings and did everything I needed to do at church and I kept the house sort of minimally clean and managed to do enough laundry to wear clean clothes every day. I didn't work out every day I might have in better times, I didn't eat as healthfully as I might in better times, I bought more stuff (yarn, books, stuffed animals) as comfort purchases as I might.

But I pretty much made it through. (Seeing as the week after Thanksgiving, two of my classes are just students doing presentations and a third is just review and an exam, I am counting this semester as done. Grading I can cope with. It stinks, but I can cope with it because at the worst, I can go home and put on cartoons and have a mug of tea at my elbow while I grade. Going into class and teaching and interacting with people was what was hard)

And yeah, maybe I'm telling myself this now because I need to remind myself that I just need to be brave and strong for a little bit longer, to get through everything in the next week*

(*Oh, how much of adulthood is saying over and over again, "maybe next week will be easier"?)

But yeah. I am also struck by how surreal the news of the outside world seems and how little I care. I'm just tired and like I said, not looking forward to the coming week. So I don't care what goofiness other people have got up to. (Though at the same time: I am noticing a new tendency, or rather the resurgence of an old tendency, in  myself: if someone uses an insulting word about someone (e.g., "pig," as one of the less-directly-offensive ones) as part of their critique of the person's behavior, I am much less prone to listen to them. Even if I might agree. It feels more and more like that kind of insult is unnecessary. (Oh, it is one thing to say "so and so acts like a bully," that makes sense to me and it's pointing out a behavior pattern. But saying "so and so is just a d*ck because...." I feel like it's unnecessary; state the offensive behavior and if necessary explain why. But it does seem we've all got down in the collective mud in recent years and I'm tired of it)