Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Days are busy

 A lot of the time these days, I just feel like I am juggling too much. I probably need to be a bit more boundary-setting about things like e-mail - today, I had a mini-meltdown in my office after getting 

- "Where are we supposed to hand in our assignment! You didn't make a link for us to hand in our assignment!" e-mail, to which I sighed, went and found the link on the class page, and mailed it, and immediately after I e-mailed it got an "oh, I found it" e-mail.

- "I missed the assignment open it back up for me!" and I did, and then they e-mailed back "oh oops I guess I already did it" and yeah.

- and a "I missed the deadline [which was a three week long deadline], these deadlines are too tight!" so I reopened the assignment. That one I actually got a "thanks" for my response for.

I think I figured out a lot of my malaise this fall: teaching largely/entirely online removes all the parts of teaching I find most rewarding and pleasant (casual conversations in class, helping people one-on-one in lab, seeing people's faces light up when they "get" something) and emphasizes the less-pleasant parts (the eternal grading, the eternal treadmill of exam-writing - worse this year because they must be done in BlackBoard, either by typing them in question by question or using an upload system that requires an annoying formatting anyway, the e-mails you MUST attend to, some of which sort-of accuse you of not doing something you should have done or of doing things to make it harder for the student in question)

And the mistakes I make seem more prominent, and what I do that's okay-to-good seems to fade into the background. Errors seem more catastrophic, and there's less celebration of completed things. 

***

I got my annual productivity report written up. I need to give it a once over before submitting it. It's not good, but then, these are terrible times, so I guess it's okay for me to have crummy productivity in horrible times? What are they gonna do, fire me?

But I still feel bad about it.

I commented on Twitter either today or yesterday that a lot of the stuff that seemed on-brand for me as a kid - one year I won the "extra mile" award because the teachers said I always did over and above what was expected, and when we made poetry chapbooks in fifth grade (one of my favorite assignments ever) I spent a lot of time on it, illustrating mine, finding just the right poems, copying them out so carefully by hand) and it was so creative. And also, I had a bit of a flair for the dramatic at times - I remember in high school, when we were doing King Lear, and we all were given scenes to act out, and we got the one with Cornwall and Gloucester (if you know the play you might know the one) and all my group members looked a bit anxiously at me and I was like "I'LL BE CORNWALL. I HAVE AN IDEA HOW WE CAN DO THIS" and I dressed in it for a trouser role (I even borrowed a fur vest from a friend of my mom's, which looked a bit like a doublet) and I got GRAPES and we sat Gloucester with his back facing the audience, and at the key moment I palmed the grapes out of a pocket and I squashed them, in turn, in my hands, and it was satisfying...

and none of those things fit me now....or so it feels. I'm getting by on doing the barest of bare minima, I've lost my creative spark, I'm too inhibited to do things like "yes yes we will have grapes that we can pretend are his eyes I am plucking out" and I wonder....how much of the fundamental "me" have I lost in this past year? And can I find her again? 

I mean, not right now. Like I said: all my energy is going towards work, and it's still not enough. I feel like I'm not doing remotely enough, and it's going to bite me badly later, but it's hard to get anything much done when it takes twice as long to do the shopping or other errands, or when I'm stuck spinning my wheels dealing with the giant shambolic mess that is accepting work and making assignments via BlackBoard. 

And maybe yes, I still have a creative spark, but now it's entirely dedicated to solving problems and figuring out "hacks" to make it through this semester intact. And I don't like that. I want to use my creativity for fun things, not survival things.

***

Absolutely not watching the debates. Probably logging off the internet for the evening in a few minutes, eating, bathing, and then watching something on dvd for the evening - or just going to bed early and reading. 

***

Went searching for "is there a light at the end of this tunnel" articles and the most recent one was early September so I guess we're pretty well screwed. I am running out of hope and am afraid I might die of a broken heart from lack of friendly human contact. Maybe this is the big sort for humanity? Where people who can live happily without support of others survive, and the rest of us just wither up and die? Of course most people aren't idiots like me, they got married or partnered up and had families so they're not alone. But I'm not sure how much longer I can DO this, and it seems like it might be mid to late 2022 at this point that there' ANY hope of things improving.


I can't.

I won't make it. 

Every week right now feels like it's a month long, and not a GOOD month.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunday evening, again

 * I did get out to JoAnn's (and Ulta, briefly) and Kroger's again this weekend. Moved fast, wore a mask, tried to stay as far from people as possible. Kroger's was a little better (fewer unmasked people) but JoAnn's was worse from the standpoint that they had two (2) employees in the entire store, and they were apparently in the back - I was getting some fabric cut and I had to wait nearly 10 minutes. 

And yeah, I wanted it because some of you might remember that star quilt using "treat" themed fabric I was working on like ten years ago? I saw the blocks for it again and thought it might be nice to finish it, finally - and I wanted a few new fabric. 

I also got more sewing-machine needles and also some handsewing needles. Because, you never know. Some are talking about a really bad second wave and maybe we have to stay home again for a long time? And this time, if I'm not so freaked out and I'm able to sew stuff, I'd hate to be without the necessities for it. 

Also, you heard it here first: those "cakes" of color-shifting yarn are apparently over and have been replaced by big blobby chenilles (sigh, chenille does not knit up all that well - it "worms," which is ironic given that "chenille" is French for "caterpillar). So I snagged a couple of the cakes to eventually make just a simple openwork rectangle shawl (maybe something like Turkish stitch):



It'll be a "just knit until it's big enough/you run out" kind of project.

At Kroger, I managed to stock up (including getting the only brand of chicken broth I can eat because it has no celery in it - Pacific Foods - so now I can easily make soup this fall). Biggest food bill I've ever had but I was also buying another 12 pack of tp (like I said: I am just preparing in case it gets bad, though maybe this will be like the umbrella principle - where if you bring your umbrella with you to work, it doesn't rain that day. You can all thank me if my stocking up magically triggered that there is no bad second wave....)

* I finished sewing up the blocks for the castles and unicorns quilt but didn't get them set together, though that will be fairly fast, because they are all identical and don't need to be laid out - I can just grab and sew them in my planned zig-zag orientation. I might just take this one to Lulu and Hazel's to have them quilt it, on the grounds that (again) it might get harder to get into Texas at some point. Also supports a small local business, though I think they're doing okay - and they have another quilt of mine in progress. 

I might work a bit more on the "treats" quilt then, or maybe I pull out one of my sets of pre-cuts and make a top with those. I certainly don't lack for fabric, it's more time and motivation I need.

* I often listen to BBC on my phone while I sew - doesn't always require a lot of concentration, but it is human voices. (I vastly prefer BBC4, which is apparently the "arts and intellectual things" channel). They also do a Sunday morning service. As far as I know, they have all been Christian of some sort - some "high church" (CoE), some Methodist, some non-denominational. This weeks' was from a woman who heads up a church in Manchester, though apparently she grew up in a rural area, and it was for Harvest Sunday or whatever they call it. (Yes, it is getting to be that time - Canadian Thanksgiving is only a few days away). In the course of it, she talked about COVID and the food banks and how the people who ran the food banks there were absolutely blown away by the response that people (the ones who had a little money to spare, not the clients) made - their shelves were kept filled, people made very generous donations.

And she used the phrase "practical love."

That is a wonderful phrase. I've heard a number of ministers down through the years talk about how "love is a verb" and yes, that's true, too. But the idea of practical love - it makes SENSE to me. You see a need, you go and help with that need. Because that's what you do. That's really, for me, where I feel most connected - when I can do something like that that directly helps. (And I think that's part of my frustration during the prolonged time-at-home - a lot of the things I would have ordinarily done, I could not. I did get out in July to deliver Meals on Wheels, but that was just one thing).

(I've also heard of degrees in "practical theology" and while I don't exactly know what that is, I also like the idea of it - the idea of taking your faith and using it in the world to try to make things better)

And I was also thinking about how a lot of my frustration through all of this, all - all the injustice and the horrible things going on with the virus, and hearing of still more local politicians on the take, and everything, and my feeling that (a) I had no control over any of it, I was just one person being swept along in a tide of badness and (b) I had no power to change anything.

Though this weekend - I had a couple students with problems. The one I remember best, a student who had to run out of town for a family emergency, they e-mailed me and said "I thought my cell phone hot spot would be good enough to take the exam from but it really isn't, is there any way you could hold the exam open for me on Sunday so I could do it when I get home" and you know, it's such an easy thing for me to fix, and so I did. And I realized: I might not be able to do a lot but I can at least be kind to the few people I interact with. And maybe that's enough. I pray that that's enough.


(And yes, maybe there are people who take advantage. I am quite sure this student did not. But maybe it's not my place right now to try to forensically determine whose excuses are legit and who's telling me a story?)

But yeah. When your only power in this world is to be kind, then be kind, I guess.

Friday, September 25, 2020

this is delightful

 One of the things I love is people who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a thing, when  they talk about it. These guys are musicians, they know more music theory than I ever will, and they're talking about "copycat" movie music:



(Confession: I know lots of people love John Williams but I always felt like he was a bit....overrated? And so I just feel a sort of salty delight over these guys showing all the "inspiration" he used)


their reactions are just the best, too. I laughed a lot of times at their surprise/delight over discovering the similarities. (Though in a comment, there is a note that Williams got permission from Korngold's estate for some of the similarities)

 I dunno. To me, this is evidence that "being smart/accomplished is cool" - they have fun with it,, they make it interesting and funny - like I said, their "oooh, this is SUSPICIOUS" reactions are funny.

They also did one for pop music - I already knew some of these.



(There are others, of course, most of the ones I know are older pop music because I kind of didn't pay as much attention to pop once I was out of high school)


(I also get the feeling these are the kind of people I would like to hang out with, their humor is very much like mine)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

"Adulting," and not

 Thursdays are always a more challenging day - 75 minute classes are hard to keep your energy up for, more so when one is entirely online and you have little to no interaction with people. (I think that's why I find teaching less rewarding right now: a lot of the interactions we once had are in abeyance - people don't come to my office hours just to talk because there's no way to do it distanced, instead they e-mail me if they have a question).

(Remember how first off this semester I said "wow maybe I hold half or more of my office hours over Zoom and do it from home" but ugh, I will be ready to never use Zoom again once the pandemic is over - if it ever is.)

But anyway. I came home and ate lunch and graded the labs from this week and wrote the exam for next week. Considered grading the exam in Policy and Law, but only about 1/3 of the class had completed it (the deadline is 11:59 tonight). So I guess that's for tomorrow. 

I did have a couple errands to do some time - had to do some banking (all done through the drive-through now, they're only doing stuff that has to be done "face to face" like loan applications by appointment now) and I had to get gas for the car.

There was a drive-through flu shot clinic on campus today and I briefly considered doing it, but when I drove home at lunch time I saw that there were a LOT of cars lined up and I thought "nope, the thing you hate most is waiting somewhere with nothing to do and not knowing how long it will take"

So initially, I thought: well, I'll run to Walgreen's tomorrow, maybe.

Then I got to thinking - I kind of want to go to Sherman this weekend (damn the rising case count; I will be careful) and so I will want all of Friday afternoon to work on grading and next week's stuff. So since I was out, I went to Walgreen's. It was nearly 5 pm and I thought maybe they'd say "no, no more shots today, our vaccination hours are 8 am to 4 pm" but nope, they took my information and looked at my insurance card (nearly all insurances pay the full cost of these, which just seems smart to me - encourage people to get vaccinated, you have less disease spread and fewer sick people to shell out money for the treatment of)

I don't like needles but I get that it's important so I did it. 

And then I thought "You can get a treat." My first thought was a candy bar but then I saw the Squishimals they had put out (they already have the expanded-for-Christmas toy section going) and they had ONE pastel tie dye unicorn left and I said to myself "Oh no" but I also remembered my lack-of-remorse over buying the big Kirby back the end of February, so...


Her name is Esmerelda. (That's a bit of forced perspective there, she is not quite that large in relation to me).

I did also buy more of the oatmeal-bath stuff because my hives are AWFUL this week - I think it's fall allergies and I want to try a warm bath with it tonight to see if it helps.

Also, earlier this week, I did this, with the lights I bought on my early-September trip to JoAnn's:



They blink! I dunno, I just like them. They are a tiny bit glare-y (that's my one complaint with those little LED bulbs) but with it getting darker earlier they help - and once Halloween is over maybe I could leave them up for a bit and just have them on the orange, for fall.

I also decided to open the October Doki Doki crate that came a few days ago, on the grounds that there might be something I want to decorate with in it:


A little notebook with yokai (I think that's what they are) on it, a perler bead (mini version) kit to make a Psyduck and a Caterpie. (I once said if I were a Pokemon, I'd probably wind up as Psyduck; its expression seems familiar to me). A tiny tray of Cinnomoroll dressed as a vampire, a little ghost-rabbit backpack-hanger, and a very squishy stuffed toy cat who is either dressed up as a ghost, or who has a companion ghost that sticks to her.

I like the "mochi style" Japanese stuffed animals; they are very squishy - it's a softer polyfil than is used in most for-the-American-market ones (or than what you can buy commercially). It doesn't last quite as well, it does flatten out and clump after a while if you use the toy as a pillow.

Also, a characteristic of many Japanese animal toys:



Butthole. Yes. Apparently in some cultures this is more just-funny and less rude than it would be to am American.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday morning things

 * Slightly nervous because cases are spiking up in my county, though on campus they report only 12 cases (for 5000 students and maybe 300 staff, though many of those students are offsite this year). Hoping this isn't a precursor to another "pivot to all online"

Also wondering if that means I should scrub my plans for going to Sherman Saturday to mmmmmaybe run to JoAnn's (or the bookstore) and go to the Target for groceries. 

* Big pandemic mood yesterday was wandering the aisles of Pruett's (the larger of the two local groceries I am currently comfortable going in to) and wishing they had some kind of DIFFERENT food. Most of their canned goods, for example, are not the brands I prefer. Wishing there was some more "upscaley" shopping option here even though I know that's unlikely to ever happen

* On my drive out to Lake Durant on Sunday, was struck by all the new home construction. Who is going to buy these places? There aren't many high paying jobs here so unless they're counting on a mass exodus from Dallas of people who can telecommute....not sure those houses are gonna sell.Also makes me suspicious that maybe Lake Durant will wind up being much more crowded in the coming years if the houses DO sell.

* Still waiting on my Webs order to ship :(
I ordered some yarn in particular colors for a circular shawl, and filled in with some sock yarn to meet a particular discount goal. I suppose their shipping is slowed because of distancing but I always worry something's gone wrong with an order until it ships.

And yeah, some days the only thing like pleasant novelty I have in my life is waiting on something I've ordered. I think part of my frustration in Pruett's yesterday was that there is very little new in my life - or at least, little new that is PLEASANT. Having to teach into a camera for the people tuning in from home is new, but not fun. Wearing a mask every day in class is new, but not pleasant. 

I wish there were a way to get fresh groceries shipped in a reasonable time frame but the only way I could, it would cost the earth - and at that, sometimes the shipping gets hung up here (why I gave up on Imperfect Foods) and stuff overheats before it reaches me.

Some days it feels like I am living at the very ends of the Earth.

* Another unpleasant dream night. The main memorable one was a mash-up of "my family is moving house" with "no one pays attention to me" - in the dream, I had a second brother (younger than my actual brother is in relation to me). We were struggling to get our stuff packed up because we were moving, then someone suggested we go to a local ice cream place we liked one last time and I realized "oh no, I will never be able to have their good ice cream again" and so we went, and waited in a long line. And while we were there, the littlest brother (who was very young and cute) kept getting people going up to him, giving him money for ice cream, etc., etc. And I was standing there, at the head of the line I was in, and the workers behind the counter were ignoring me and serving people behind me in line. And I grew increasingly frustrated, realizing "I've not even packed my clothes yet and we have to leave tomorrow morning" and then I woke up.

it probably says something not very nice about me, I don't know, that I was jealous of a (nonexistent in this world) little brother but also I know a lot in my life I feel frustrated about other people either being cuter and more appealing than me (and so: getting attention) or being pushier than me (and so: getting what they want)


I read somewhere that pandemic dreams are just generally a thing and some people hypothesize that it's increased stress doing it, but others have speculated that a lot of us just don't have as many "inputs" as we once did (especially human contact) and as a result, our brain tries to make up the deficit while sleeping.

* I tried watching the NCIS rerun last night as stupid Adult Swim has replaced Bob's Burgers reruns with stupid American Dad. But I found it was just so violent and awful (I used to like the show but have not watched it for six months) and this episode in particular was people being willing to kill, and kill quite cold-bloodedly, for a "cause" and it just all seemed so stupid and pointless and the death count was too high and too many people got injured.

And I think that's another way 2020 has broken me a little - some forms of entertainment are just too much for me any more. (For a while, I couldn't even read mystery novels, and even now, there are a few I've started and had to put aside). I hope it doesn't end with me unable to tolerate any form of entertainment because then I'll just come home and either work until bedtime or stare at a wall, and I suspect my dreams will be even WORSE for that. 

It could be it was an unusually harrowing episode, though. (It was the one from last season - there is still no new TV other than horrific debased "manufactured drama" shows in the vein of Big Brother) - the one where Ziva finally got revenge on Sahar, and it turned out Sahar was in hiding, and was the mother of the boy who had kind of befriended Jethro and it was implied at the end he was going to have to go and tell the kid he shot his mom because she was a terrorist who had killed a number of innocent (?) people. Kind of like the mystery novels where though the murderer is found out at the end, there's no real resolution, there's the sense things will never go back to how they were, a trust has been destroyed.

(Perhaps all stories like that are in their own way a recapitulation of the expulsion from the Garden - innocence is lost, peace is shattered, and while we go on in life, it's harder now and that easy relationship we once had will never be again?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

And despite everything

 Not having a great morning.

Yesterday - I didn't really mention it - was stressful. Trying to grade a lot of online exams (I have more today; I gave the students until 11:59 pm last night and while a bit over half the class finished early, I still have 7 exams to grade this afternoon. And my cable box died and man, it was a whole Jeremy Bearimy getting it replaced: went down to the place and was told "oh it's the power cord, other people have reported this issue" and I thought "great, that means I won't have to do the thing of activating another box" but nope, it was the box that was bad - it worked for 15 minutes and then did the shut-off thing again.

So I went BACK, and by that time it was after work, and many people who pay their bills in person (in cash) or who had issues with needing cut off service put back on were there, and there was a line, and I wound up waiting outside behind a guy who wasn't wearing a mask and basically told me he thought COVID was a hoax when he saw mine. I backed away and said warily "a cousin of mine had it and he was pretty sick" (Well, a second cousin, and he seems to have recovered without too many issues, but). \

Got the new box, got it home. Called in for the activation, that worked. Tried pairing the remote the way the instructions said.

Got to the point of being able to turn on the tv, turn off the tv, and adjust the volume, but not change channels. And I thought "great, so I can only watch CBS for eternity now. That's a very specific kind of Hell"

Called back, waited forever, tried the chat. Just as I was getting to type in my problem to chat, the person came on the phone and helped me through it. Turns out there's a secret instruction, apparently, not in the booklet, that you need to use if none of the numbers given for your tv brand work. 

I had tensed up so much during first the grading and then the endless phone waits (and yeah, I was more agitated by it than I should have been, but literally every life-maintenance task I've had over and above the usual minimum of laundry and cooking and sweeping seems to be at least three times as hard as it was in the before-times) that this morning my neck and shoulders are killing me.

And overnight, I had stomach-churn, and I was like "o crap, did the denier dude infect you and you're already sick? Or did you get it on your run to Pruett's on Friday even though you had a mask on and were careful?" I think it was just that I had not the most felicitous combination of foods - leftover pizza for lunch, leftover sauerkraut and sausage for dinner. I guess in a week or 10 days I'll find out if my trip to the cable place wound up costing me my health. (I could have lived without tv even though these days I get distinctly squirrelly without the sounds of people)

And now this morning, for some reason, grief for my father has decided to come back. Why can't I be done with this? It's been over a year. I should be better. If I weren't so busy and so worried about our rising caseload I'd consider calling up the counselor again and just....paying out of pocket because my university won't cover any more sessions. But I guess I white-knuckle it through like I am everything else and telling myself things will get better. I hope they do soon, though I'm worried about this fall and winter as far as caseload goes and the whole "locked inside the house during the coldest darkest time of year without even the consolation of being able to go to my mother's for Christmas"


If things don't get markedly worse (case-wise) this week, maybe early Saturday I do just go to JoAnn's even though  I don't NEED anything - what I NEED is to be out - and maybe run across to Target for groceries (I was not happy with Kroger's last time, too many people not doing things like allowing for distancing)

Monday, September 21, 2020

some knitted things

 My friend Laura received her manta ray stuffie, so I can share the pictures I took before sending him off. (She named him Ernie)




I used a taupe-colored Bernat chunky acrylic for hers, he got the gold-colored "dragon eyes" lock-washer eyes I bought from Suncatcher Eyes.

And I figured out my ray's name! She's a girl, and her name is Raybelle. Like Maybelle, but with "ray" instead because she's a ray.



She is knit of Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in the charcoal colo, and has the silver-colored "dragon eyes"

So they really are kind of fraternal twins, which is sort of pleasing.

I also worked more on the scarf - some of this was done during a biweekly Microsoft Teams knitting meet up I've been doing with a few people, some of it I did tonight:


the pattern is Baroque Purls' "Tailfeather" - it's a pleasing lace pattern to knit on, most of the length is a simple razor-shell type pattern, and then every 24 rows or so you shift it a half-repeat by doing an intervening section. It looks like feathers. I'm really happy with this pattern, it's just cool in a logical sense (how it works) and it's also pretty. I might keep this in mind for some point if I want to make a gift-scarf for someone (this one I am keeping for me).

Lace is my favorite kind of knitting - especially something like this that is nice and rhythmic so you can get in a groove working on it, but is also pretty (and looks more complex than it actually is).

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A hiking trip


 I went out to Lake Durant  this afternoon (apparently the video works, it's just a LOT quieter than when I posted the video on Twitter, and the sound - waves lapping on a shore - was the main reason I took it. 

I just needed to get out. Church was fine except it was my turn to pray at the table and I just really hard a hard time; words almost didn't come even though I "asked for" them to like I sometimes do. I think I've been away from it for too long - been nearly seven months since I prayed at table. And I needed some exercise but the idea of either doing the dvd or climbing on the cross country skiier again made me unhappy, so I thought "I'll go for a walk"

But not in a neighborhood, too many people, I didn't want people. And not at Platter, though that would be my first choice - it's a weekend, and it's a camping area, and it will be mobbed (possibly, once it cools down this fall, it will be okay). Then I remembered Lake Durant. This spot is literally ten miles from me, and I had seen some mention of a "nature trail" - I had only been there to demonstrate herbaceous vegetation sampling with my classes and we hadn't walked in very far


I was not prepared for how big the nature trail is


It's really long. It's not SUPER natural (heh) because it is mowed and it shares space with a recently-installed "disc golf" course. But it's good enough, it's a long trail out in nature without people and with interesting things to see. The video I posted above was maybe halfway in, maybe a little less. I didn't walk the entire length of it (but want to some time to see if it loops back around) because at probably the 1 1/2 mile mark there was a large bird (PROBABLY a great egret - it was white and had that shape) that seemed to be defending a territory and it got kind of ticked off at me, and I didn't want it to dive at me or vomit on me (some larger birds will do that to drive off perceived threats) so I just turned around and walked back. But sometime I want to walk the whole thing.





It's mostly kind of scrubby and it has been mown and there are lots of non-native species, but there's still nice stuff to see

Antelope-horns or green milkweed (Asclepias viridis). And a carpenter bee, but not the one I tried to get a good picture of. (I scared that one off before I could get the photo)
Heck, I'm not sure what this is, it could be a non-native species.
Composites, the little ones are probably Gutierriza. The big one might be a Bidens? though it seems late for those.(Sometimes we get re-flowering if it's been dry and then we had rain)

Liatris, also known as gayfeather. 

There were some bees out and some butterflies - I tried to get a photo of a carpenter bee on a milkweed but I got too close and scared it off. 

It's just nice to be out. Nice to be doing something that feels like before-times normal to me. I did bring along a mask - I have a wee small Suumiko Gurashi bag that is just big enough to hold my card case (so: driver's license for driving, and ID) and a few folded bills (in case I need cash) and my phone and now a mask and ear saver. I didn't meet anyone though; there was a group using the picnic pavilion when I got there but they'd left by the time I came back, and there were people out on the lake. 

It will be interesting to go back as the fall progresses; I like hiking in cooler weather and even in a light drizzle if it's not too cold, so I could see going back out even into November. And it's close, which is quite a virtue right now - I could even go at the end of the workday for a bit, at least until the time change. 




Sunday morning thoughts

 * People show you who they are. I mean, I knew this, but....once again, I wonder if I even want to spend much time back out in public after the pandemic is over. (if it is. "after the pandemic" more and more sounds to me like "when I win the lottery"). 

Thinking a lot about the comments in light of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's death, about her friendship with Antonin Scalia, her polar opposite ideologically. And I wonder: have we lost that as a culture? The ability to put political differences on a back burner?

Maybe we *deserved* the pandemic; maybe it was the logical outcome of "lecture at your family members who vote differently from you when you are at the Thanksgiving table" to be "Now you don't GET Thanksgiving!" 


(And yes, there's room for political debate. It's just, when there's a captive audience that might not want to be a party to it, when it's supposed to be a family celebration and catch-up time, that feels wrong to me. I remember getting up and walking out of the room at a family reunion when a really heated debate about an issue got started because I just couldn't then...IIRC, it was right after a break-up, and I was tired and my allergies were bothering me, and I had said something to try to pour oil on troubled waters and then both groups turned to me and said WHAT DO YOU THINK THEN and I just....sometimes my opinions straddle the line between the most heated and extreme positions and I've found being a moderate just sometimes means you have two groups ticked off with you rather than one)

* My cable box died. At least, I assume that's what happened: I still have internet, which comes in on the same cable, and it's as strong as ever, so....I tried the power cycle and nothing, called the cable company to see if there was a cable outage and they said no. So I guess tomorrow I have to go down to the main office and exchange it.

This means if I want some kind of mindless diversion, I either have to do dvds or watch Amazon Prime today. And I feel like I need it. 

I get so lonely and I need the sounds of people - so I admit, I'd often put something on just as background noise, so I didn't hear the creaks of an old house and the dehumidifier kicking on and off. 

I decided to go with Pandora this morning, and the 70s folk-rock/pop/some prog rock channel that cobbled itself together from a few suggestions I made, and this came across this morning as I was getting dressed for church:



And BAM, like that I was sad. It's an evocative song, describing a couple and their relationship - he is a long-haul truck driver, she is at home and is expecting a baby. Apparently it's a happy enough marriage, and home is a good place. (Denver seems to have sung a lot of songs like that). 

And it made me sad. The comment in the song about "There's a fire softly burning; supper's on the stove/ But it's the light in your eyes that makes him warm."

I never get to come home to dinner made for me. I never will. The rare time I have someone else cook for me, it's my mom, and even going to visit her is off the table for God knows how long - at this point I am reduced to praying that she stays healthy and alive long enough to outlast this pandemic so I can go see her (it is too far to drive by myself, so I have to feel okay about some kind of long distance public transport. Less for myself than "I don't want to get infected and bring it to her")

And I have no one happy to see me when I come home. And these days, largely, it feels like I have no one who's really happy to see me. There probably IS, but it's harder to pick up on in this cursed low-contact world we now live in. 

And I admit, I think of "alternate universes" - another reality where I might be primarily a wife-and-mother (probably at this point, grandmother...) and where I have a big and close family, where I didn't move 1000 miles from everyone I knew at the time and tried to forge a life here all by myself. (It was okay, really, most of the time....until six months ago.)

Or I think of one where maybe I have more power, and I use that power responsibly, and actually help people in some way. 

Or one where I'm a craftsperson, like, I can make a living throwing pieces on a pottery wheel, and I'm good at it, and people like my work. 

And I also wonder: is all this daydreaming of alternate universes bad? Like, I'm wasting my 'one wild and precious life' (line from Mary Oliver) doing it, and I should be doing something else?

 

But what? Cleaning house? pulling weeds in the garden? Writing journal manuscripts that will just be rejected?

 Like I said: I feel stuck a lot of the times these days. Probably a side effect of (gestures at the world and what's going on in it) but sometimes the daydreams I have are more satisfying than "real" life. And that's sad, and it also makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong. 

* So anyway - not so great that one of my big sources of distraction is down, and may remain down if I either can't get out to the place tomorrow or they are out of boxes (not impossible; electronics are hard to come by these days - higher demand and also China, where they are typically made, is still partly shut down. And international shipping is slow)

Friday, September 18, 2020

First fall knit

 This is the first handknitted knitwear wearing of the fall - it's the Paddington's Garden shawl (Janina Kallo) worn over my new Vermont Country Store dress (had been backordered since July, came this week, and it was a bit of an odyssey - Fed Ex claimed it had been delivered an hour before the truck showed up, and given my previous experience I assumed that meant it was either stolen or delivered to the wrong house, and Fed Ex gave me NO satisfaction so I called Vermont Country Store and their customer service offered to send a replacement USPS....and then it showed up a few minutes after that, so I had to call VCS *back* and fortunately the customer-service person was able to cancel the re-order in time).

But anyway.

I'm hoping for cooler weather soon so I can wear things like this; it's a tiny consolation in the middle of all this to be able to wear things I knitted.



I look pale there, one small sad thing about the pandemic is you can't really wear lipstick if you're going to wear a mask regularly, the lipstick rubs off. 

There was a thing making the rounds about "What would you do first if the pandemic disappeared tomorrow and my first thing would be "call several of my friends from church and say "I hope you are at home and are going to be home for a bit longer because I am coming over to hug you" but also "make plans to go see my mom" but somewhere on that list "start wearing lipstick regularly again" would be a thing.


(I did put it on a few times at home when I had Zoom meetings - and I also read somewhere that it actually helps! For people who read lips a little - makes your lips more visible on the screen. So lipstick is good, actually, and that makes me happy)

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A little melancholy

 That's how I'm feeling this morning. Still kind of tired, wishing it was Friday and not Thursday, wishing I had some fun plan for the weekend. But there are other things:

Last night, in our FaceTime conversation, my mom told me that someone who had been a good friend of my dad's had died. W. was a fellow geologist and a career Army officer (I think he had moved to the Reserves at the time we knew him). I was never....particularly...taken with him because to me he came off as a bit more brusque than what I like (but then, that might have been his background) but I know he and my dad were good friends. 

I'm sad in the sense that that's another connection to my dad gone. But also sad because my mom mentioned that W.'s widow noted that when she told him my dad had died, he started to cry - it still surprises me when men of a certain age cry, because to me it signals "This is a very big and serious deal." I guess kind of like how I react when certain women get really angry - I grew up with very traditional gender roles, and unexpected emotional releases seem more serious to me. 

Also, I think of what my friend Wanda told me back in 2016, when my cousin Chum died after having a massive stroke (he and his brother Tom, who predeceased him, were 20 or more years older than I am). She said when you mourn a person, you are partly mourning that person, but also mourning the fact that the experiences you had with them are really never going to happen again. And yes, it would have been unlikely I would have hung out with Chum and his family again after my grandmother died, and especially after my aunt (his mother) died - we didn't travel there to visit people any more. But I do remember the times when we all were younger, and my family would go up to visit my grandmother in the summer (partly to see her but partly to escape the more-oppressive late-summer heat in Ohio for the cooler region of northern Michigan). A big thing in that tiny town was visiting - so people would eat a light early breakfast, and then around 9 or 10 am, people would start to show up and my grandmother's house. She'd make coffee (maybe a few people drank tea? But it would have been the plain old Lipton teabags....) and set out whatever cake or pie was leftover from the previous day, or make toast, or whatever, and people would sit around at talk. Or sometimes they'd come a bit later, at lunchtime, and she'd put out cold meat and cheese and lettuce and stuff and people would make sandwiches and talk and eat (and have coffee; coffee was a constant. My family wasn't of Scandinavian origin though they did adopt some of the Scandinavian-filtered northern Michigan customs)

I think W.'s passing reminded me of the couple of college-workshop trips we all took - my dad paid my way provided I helped carry gear and, at the times when we stayed at a facility where we had to cook, do some of the cooking. There are a couple of military R and R facilities (well, one might have been a Parks research facility?) within Volcanoes National Park, and W. was able to get us lodging in them because of his credentials - and so I remember those trips, and how I will never again have that level of freedom from responsibility (where someone else was in charge and, like I said, I just had to help out with chores but otherwise could enjoy myself) and opportunity to just learn...

But also, it makes me wonder - because women in  my mom's family tend to be remarkably long-lived - will there be anyone left to cry for me when I die? I mean, it shouldn't matter, but for some reason it does, to me. 

***

Also, this crossed my twitter stream, a repost from the author of the book it's from (Johann Hari, "Lost Connections"):



And it strikes me: how many people in the pandemic are experiencing several of those? I know #1 was BIG for me this spring and summer - being off campus, only interacting with students through a screen (and then this summer, doing what felt like nothing - reading and trying to figure out "distanced" labs) and that was terrible and I know it made me sad and anxious). I'm also disconnected from other people - though less now than over the summer, and I do think being back in my building (even with reduced/distanced classes, and a few of my colleagues teaching entirely remotely, so I never see them) and also having church back in-person, if in a very different form, helps. Not sure about 7; I find a lot of my faith in the future and faith in....things getting better because "people are fundamentally good" has been shaken to its core. And perhaps disconnection from status and respect: not having people giving positive feedback for anything I was doing really got to me. 

And yeah, yeah: I know other people have it a lot worse than I do. But that doesn't mean I'm finding it easy.

I expect if the viral pandemic ever ends (or ever has enough improvement that we're 90% back to normal again) there will be a second-wave pandemic of people having a hard time functioning. I know all through this I've gotten angry periodically at everything and swore that I would just quit my job, or that if I could take early retirement, I would - but then, the being cut off from meaningful work would kill me. (Yes, volunteer work - but during the unchecked spread of a virus, that's not so possible as it once was). I think this will fundamentally change our culture, and not in a good way. (In myself, a big thing I see is a giant recrudescence of mistrust of my fellow human - based on how peers treated me as a kid, I didn't trust people to help me or to even show me basic human kindness. I was starting to get over that and now...well, the video of people screaming at grocery store employees over masks and the like, even if that is 0.005% of the population, it makes me want to go "nope, humanity's spoiled, throw it out" and walk away)


So I don't know. I do know I very much wish it were possible to hug people again, and to travel to see my mom without worry about me being exposed and maybe exposing her. Or even just simple things like eating a mean IN a restaurant (and not on a patio, or not food I pick up and carry home with me)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A little progress

 * The gift item for a friend has been finished, and packed up and sent off. She is supposed to get it Monday; I hope the mail is on time. Picture may come after she's received it.

* Because I got ahead enough, I didn't have to bring work home with me tonight, which was good, because for some reason I was extremely tired today, although I was able to do a lab kind of as normal (it was an outdoor lab so "distancing" was easy.  Still, all of this, all, it gets old.

* So I did a little work on a project for me - this is a scarf I started a while back, using a couple different herringbone-lace patterns (the Tailfeather Scarf - the idea is it looks like a bird's plumage). I finished the first section:

I ran out of energy to start the second section, which requires more concentration.

* Started reading Mary Beard's hugacious SPQR. It's a history of Rome (as you probably guessed) and she doesn't seem to sugar coat it the way some older historians did. (It's also interesting interspersing this with the - yes, ridiculous and highly fictionalized and probably full of anachronisms - Asterix and Obelix cartoons, which in a way is seeing Rome from another perspective, that of people dominated (on some level; of course Asterix' village was famously supposed to be a holdout from Roman rule). 

I also saw the new Folio Society books for fall and am contemplating if a big series (the Farseer Trilogy) is worth being my Christmas present to myself this year (it's very expensive but it's certainly a nice-looking set, and I've gotten a *bit* more into fantasy recently....or maybe I invest in a good set of the LOTR trilogy and give it a try again, though I do tend to bog down in the battle scenes - I like the more domestic side of things better, or the sort of things diplomats or magicians or scholars or monks would do, rather than warriors)

* Hoping I can maybe work ahead tomorrow afternoon/evening and buy myself some time this weekend to do what I want. I think I've been suffering lack of downtime.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Things are progressing

 I'm just, tired.

Didn't sleep well last night, went to bed too late I guess, and thrashed around for a while trying to make my brain shut up. And then this morning my stupid dream brain served up "hey what would you think about if you had a dream where your brother died" and that was definitely not cool.

Also had 8 am faculty meeting today, so I hauled myself out at the usual early time and did a workout and got over there. And maybe yeah, though I'm creakier and move worse early in the morning, maybe working out early again is the answer, because I felt some better, and was more alert for teaching classes.

The good news? One of my colleagues offered to swap sections with me this spring, so she gets the big (all online) section and I get the section capped at a small enough number that it could be in person (if we still are; there are currently 7 active reported cases on campus and I am really hoping that means the precautions are working and people are taking it seriously, and not that they're not telling us/students are not revealing they're infected). That was a big stressor - I dislike teaching to a blank screen, and with 38 people there's no way I can have people on the screen, even if most of them wanted their video on (I am not requiring it, for several reasons, "some people have limited bandwidth internet" being the nicest one)

Here's hoping we CAN be in-person this spring. For soils, I can do two labs with each group and split them into A and B teams (or maybe make up cute names like "Team Sandy Clay!" and "Team Silt Loam!") and have one team come in each week and do the two labs, and the the following week the other team does them.. AND I have a TA lined up, which will help. For ecology, we have to do a bigger lecture and I said I'd two two separate lab meetings back to back - so 1 pm to 5 pm labs on Wednesday, which is gonna stink on ice, but I can't think of any better way to do it, and it means the students get an in-person lab experience (again: provided we ARE in-person)

The online lecture went a *little* better today, and I had some helpful feedback from a couple of students. 

That said? If I could have gone back in time and told 2016 me "do the online-teaching training, just do it, you will see later why it will be helpful to have gone through it when it was available" I would have.

The ray for my friend is nearly done; if I can get the exam I have to type up for next week done this afternoon I might finish it and then run out and get a big shipping envelope to mail it to her....everything is a little more complicated now. (I should also go back to campus and to a little prep for what will HOPEFULLY be an outdoor lab tomorrow, one I've been trying to do for 2 weeks)

Also, I had the tree guys out. An old sugarberry came down on the fence between my yard and my neighbor's yard and I had kind of ignored it (out of sight, out of mind: I only see it when it's back there and it was not all the way down, it was just leaning). Well, she texted me the other day and asked me about it, and if it was OK for her boyfriend to cut off some of the limbs and I thought "yeah, I have to do this" so I called the good tree guys (expensive, but trustworthy, and at this point I'd rather just funnel some money out of savings and have it done right and safely) and they came today to evaluate it. I'm also going to have a standing-dead tree next to it (which I thought was also a sugarberry but might actually be a redbud) taken down at the same time; it should be cheaper to do both at once than each one separately. So that's taken care of.

I also got out to Pruett's again and this time they had the Fairlife skim milk I like - they were all out on Saturday and I bought a half-gallon of Hiland, and when I opened it later that evening it was SOUR. Like vinegar milk. So I took it back and they let me exchange it for a Fairlife, but they only had 2%, which is Not My Favorite. (I am still contemplating, however, even though I am well enough ahead on things to cook - I have cold chicken thighs in the fridge, and the makings for cheese enchiladas, and what it takes to make that mixed-bean soup I was talking about, running to Kroger this weekend because I can. I don't know. I might be better taking that time though and doing something here, like knitting or working on a quilt top....) So at least now I have the GOOD kind of milk ahead....

But yes, this is all still so very tiresome. I do have - I think I mentioned it - the tentative plan that if I can't travel to Illinois this December (because not safe, because second wave), my friend in Louisiana invited me to come down the week after Christmas and we could go visit some of the cemeteries and "roadside history" stuff and I could hang out with her cats and we could watch Red Dwarf together or something and so at least I would not be ALLLLOOOOONNNE the whole break, and that helps a little, too.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

for future reference

 I am just dropping this here for my own perusal later on (I have to get out and mow the lawn, and I want to try to finish the manta ray today) but as part of a convo on Twitter someone produced this link and it looks like a whole wild story and I want to read it, but it's long and I don't want to take the time now:


the wild plan to introduce hippos to the Mississippi

 

They were to be raised for MEAT. There was a reference in the story to "lake cow bacon," which is partly what makes me want to read it, but also, the whole "rewilding" idea (in a different form, the animals were not to be eaten except maybe for Indigenous people who chose to go back to pre-European lifeways) is something that's been floating around in ecological circles for at least 30 years....this is a whole other take on it. (Also at one time camels were re-introduced to be used by the Army as beasts of burden, but I don't think that went very well....)

Friday, September 11, 2020

It's finally Friday

 For a week that allegedly had a federal holiday in it, this week sure was long.

But I do feel a little better today. I got caught up (Well, until tomorrow....there is something that I set the final deadline of noon tomorrow on, in hopes that people who didn't have their rears totally in gear would be able to turn out a reasonably good assignment), I did a little house cleaning, my newest-old Pony arrived in the mail and got a spa day.

I think I figured out how to tackle the cleaning/decluttering of my house that got BAD during lockdown/the probably-depressive summer I spent. I actually ironically based it on the stupid phone games I play. I think I've mentioned Homescapes and Gardenscapes before: you do little puzzle games (mostly kind of like Bejeweled or Candy Crush, where you match pieces) and earn stars that you then use to help "Austin" accomplish tasks.(And there are a heck of a lot of tasks....) But the idea of "do a few tasks, take a little rest" maybe is what I need instead of "Ohmygosh I have to clean the whooooole house." Instead, I do a batch of five tasks (and they can be small, small tasks still count but they count equally to big tasks) and then take a break - and I could do a bunch of those this weekend, and then maybe do a few in the early-evenings of next week and keep going with it - so I'm doing a little more than the barest minimum of house-cleaning in the interest of keeping the place a little better.

(It also helps my mood. Clutter on shelves or lots of stuff up on the walls I like, lots of papers scattered around because I didn't bother to deal with them yet I don't like. And maybe it fights against "learned helplessness" or whatever you want to call it - the feeling of lack of agency because teaching college well in a pandemic is nearly impossible - so at least I can keep my house in order)

One thing I did do was finally clear all the canned goods and other "supplies" I had laid in and added to through this thing - putting them away, for some values of "away" - off the dining room table, so I can eat at the table like a civilized person again. It had been nearly six months! During this time, I'd either eaten sitting in my recliner and using a small table, or, once I got the desk, at the desk. I started it because I was watching the news constantly in the early days of this, and then later, I either wanted to hang out on the internet or watch tv so I felt a little less alone. But tonight I ate at the table and looked at my newest cookbook (America's Test Kitchen "Cooking for One," which is apparently BRAND new - I pre-ordered it before it was out and it came last week). I should get back to that; looking at cookbooks often inspired me to try recipes and I have not cooked much recently. One of the first ones I want to try is a chick-pea recipe out of that book, where you braise them with garlic and lemon juice and shallots and parsley. (I hope Pruett's has shallots. If not, I guess I either use scallions or the freeze-dried ones I have on hand)

I also want to do another big batch of the bean soup in my Winnie-the-Pooh cookbook, though that might wait for our next cold snap. 

(Heh. And all through this I am picturing the bit from Parks and Recreation where Ben Wyatt protests, "Could a depressed person do this?" when Leslie Knope expresses concern about his state of mind after he was...I can't remember if it was fired outright or put on a leave of absence...and Ben is that kind of driven, workaholic character, kind of like I am a little bit, who wants everything to be perfect.)

Though being able to eat like a human again, at a separate table, helps. And tomorrow inbetween the catch up grading and typing the AAUW minutes and prepping conditional probability for Monday, I will do more short sprints of cleanup/pickup.

I had also ordered a new (old) Pony from an Etsy seller I've used before. She came today - her name is Fifi, she is one of the "first tooth" baby ponies:


She was a little grubby and smelled like "attic," so I decided to give her a bath - her hair was also in bad shape, though the rest of her is basically sound:

Her cutie mark is two poodles, hence her name. 

So in between some grading, I cleaned her up - used Blue Dawn to wash her (she felt greasy, I'm hoping it's just that she was stored somewhere with oil heat - the residue felt kind of like that - and not leaking plasticizer; she does feel better now). I also washed her mane and tail and glopped conditioner on them and let them set. It doesn't seem to me like "human" conditioner should work on dolly hair, but sometimes it does - and it seemed like the hair was a little softer after letting it set for about 25 minutes and then rinsing it out. I used the trick I've seen other pony-people do and wrapped her mane around her neck and her tail around a back leg, and then used paper towels to hold them in place ("setting" the hair a bit, I hope) as they dry


On Twitter I joked "My Little Accident Victim?" She does kind of look like that. I am going to leave it on overnight, hopefully that will be long enough for it to dry. Her little cowlick (which is sticking out in that photo) does feel softer and less-crispy so I am hoping the "bad texture" I was feeling was just a lot of dirt in the mane and tail. 

The stamp on her hoof says she was made in 1987 - the year I graduated high school.

One last thing - my hibiscus plant, which has not bloomed in nearly 20 years? The one I thought was dead but decided to repot anyway and stick outdoors for the summer?

It had a bloom

Just one, but the plant itself looks MUCH healthier - I trimmed it back pretty aggressively when I repotted it, and it sprouted a lot of new leaves. I suspect it needs more light than it gets in my house, but this winter it will just have to deal with it, as it's too cold (at least at night) here in the winter for it to be outside. But this was quite a surprise; I didn't even spot the bud forming and then yesterday, there was the flower.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

nearly missed it

 I'm trying to post at least something daily, and maybe once on the weekend, but today nearly eluded me. This week has just been long and difficult, even if I had Labor Day "off" (I did not, actually, have it off - spent nearly the whole day prepping for this week). 

Still no updates on road resurfacing, so I just have to hope that they will warn us

I had to get my garage door opener replaced on Wednesday. And now the monkeyfighter won't close all the way, it goes down 3/4 of the way and then pops back up. It's not a matter of something being in the way; either the track needs to be greased or it got bent a little (?) when the guy was working on it. And the light doesn't come on. So in irritation, I had to call the place BACK today - I hate that, I hate having to be "assertive" in that particular way. Told the guy. Told him several times, in fact, because the phone he was talking on might well have actually been a potato. I kept having to repeat myself. Anyway, the guy is supposed to come BACK tomorrow and I'm hoping the answer is not him shrugging and go "you need new tracks for the door" because the stupid opener was $489. And also I apparently need a light bulb to go in it. (If I had time I'd run to Lowe's and get a can of the grease you use on it, and also one  of the "light bulbs for high-vibration situations - though maybe if I look, I still have one from the last time I changed it in the old opener)

But yeah - do not recommend this place even if they are the only one in town. I suppose maybe Lowe's sells the things and I could have got installation through them; maybe I should have done that. (I do not thing I would be handy enough to do it myself EVEN IF it weren't a pandemic and I could get someone to come and help me). 

And the new lab didn't go very well, at one point I had a student bordering on yelling at me because (a) I had made a mistake that I almost immediately corrected and (b) they didn't understand. And yeah, I mostly kept my cool, I get that people are stressed out now, but the thing is - everyone is stressed out. People don't recognize this but I have literally been alone since March, the only human contact I've had really where someone touched me was the dentist appointment and a doctor's appointment and I have taken to putting the tv on to hear human voices. Throughout the summer, some weeks the only person I really talked to was my mother on the phone. And yeah, I maybe did lose my cool a tiny bit, I said "I am doing my best in this, I know it's not very good, and I'm sorry" but....yeah. 

Several other things I've noticed:

- because teaching is so different this fall, it is like prepping everything new again and it's exhausting.

- things just take longer than you expect. It took multiple hours to figure out how to do an exam with different forms online so different people get different forms. 

- I know I'm not doing a particularly good job and I also know I have to try to be content with that and it's kind of killing me.

- I'm not knitting or sewing much and that's probably bad for me. Trying to force myself to do at least a half hour of piano a day so I don't totally lose my chops at it, but that's not really enough to progress. Everything about my life feels kind of stuck right now and I would like for things to get un-stuck.

Also having no weekend plans to look forward to beyond maybe getting caught up on grading and maybe cleaning house a little is bad. A person needs things to look forward to and....there's just not much right now. I tell myself this won't be forever, that eventually things will get better, and while my head believes that, my heart doesn't, and it's just hard.

Church starts back up in person Sunday. We are doing our best to be safe and at this point, you know? If the safety precautions aren't enough and I get sick, then I get sick. I'm not going to be an idiot and go lick doorknobs or go to bars or refuse to wear a mask, but...what I am doing now is not living. Better to go out carefully and figure "Well, if I die, it was my time, better than never seeing another human for five years" or whatever. 

I'm just...I feel flattened. I'm tired all the time, I never feel caught up with work. Once again I feel like I should give away at least half of my yarn and fabric, I am never going to use it, I barely knit a few rounds in a day now. 

I know part of this is covid-depression. Not much I can do about it right now other than hang on and white-knuckle through and if things get a little better later on look into getting my head fixed. Another part of it though is just all the WORK. All the extra stuff - dealing with lots more e-mails, and the effort of streaming AND recording the classes and then posting them later because enough people have dodgy connections that they can't always tune in, and figuring out how to keep labs safe, and also the extra time spent washing hands and cleaning surfaces, and all of it, all of it is stuff I don't WANT to be doing, but I must. 

The thing is, if someone asked me, "What would make you happy?" - well, I can't think of anything any human being can give me. There's nothing I could buy that would make things better. There's nothing anyone could really give me, other than maybe someone offering to "bubble up" with me (I can't ask, it seems too forward, I am a C-list friend at best) and like, maybe once in a while get together for a meal or to just watch television together or some dumb thing like that. 

More sleep, maybe, that would help too. Most nights I'm managing maybe five hours if I don't wake up for too long in the middle of the night. 

A little help with the work at school would be appreciated, but everyone is overstretched and we don't have any extra TAs to help - so my choice is to keep on like I am and hope it gets easier, or start dropping balls, which frankly would be worse for my state of mind than always-working would be. 

(Also a little recognition from the Powers That Be - I mean, genuine recognition, not a "we know times are hard, here go watch this video we had made on how to do yoga" thing. Either some kind of flex time or a little more money or....I don't know, something. because I'm at the point here of thinking "if I got offered early retirement, I'd take it in a heartbeat, even if it would screw my department over a little" I don't love teaching any more, and I am telling myself that's because I'm doing it under bad circumstances and things will get better, but my heart cries out WHEN?)

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

A small epiphany

 I realized something this morning, partly why I've been so unhappy through this. A lot of this is a change of how things used to be.


The biggest thing? There are so many things that have been out of my control - from the mail slowing down and packages just disappearing, to the street repairs where we're not warned what streets may be closed, to not-knowing if it's safe to go places.


And yet, I still have all the responsibilities - I had to call the bookstore today to find out what was going on about a student being unable to get a book, and as a result I had to change the due dates on some things. And I still have to teach four classes and some time find time to do the assessment work, and I have research going undone.


So: lack of agency plus lots of responsibility - it's the worst parts of childhood AND adulthood together, and you don't get as many of the good parts of being an adult any more.


This may also partly explain my deep longing for things that were "good things" when I was a kid:

- someone to cook food for me, and serve it, and I don't really have any expectations other than maybe helping a little with the dishes

- someone to tell me things are going to be okay when I am worried

- someone to bring me a blanket and comfy slippers when I am sitting watching tv barefoot. 

- just being able to lose myself in play. I can't do that any more, not even with working on crafts, which is the closest to "play" I can get as an adult.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

a long day

 * Friday, they tore up Wilson street outside of my building; it was hard to get out to go home after teaching. So this morning, I figured, oh, they'll be resurfacing, I don't want to risk getting trapped in the lot, I'll park up the hill in the "distant lot" and just walk in. (Never mind I had my big backpack full of stuff and the box of the lab supplies). I was congratulating myself for being forethinking until a colleague came in and told me they were tearing up Chuckwa, which is what the lot I had parked in that morning let out on. 

So I don't know. I guess they're randomly tearing up streets and we just have to hope we don't get trapped when the decide to resurface. There has been zero communication - normally, when Campus Police get word of ANY streets or traffic disruption, they e-mail us, so I assume the city has not communicated with them. I am displeased. Though usually cities have a tense relationship with the universities that they house so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that there may be a little passive-aggressive "oh gee we didn't tell you we have to close this street today so you can't get out of your parking lot? Too bad! Can you call someone to drive you home?"

* I did get my first set of exams graded. A tiny bit of evidence some people cut and pasted from the internet but their answers didn't work with the questions, so zero points, and I don't have the emotional bandwidth to try to pursue it further, though perhaps I do have to start using the lockdown browser - not that that does much; people would use their phones to hunt stuff up.

I think a couple people took the test ON a phone; lots of autocorrect fail and someone spelled "nuts" as "nutz" so I don't even know.

I hate teaching in a pandemic, that's for sure. I hate this like anything and if you came to me and said "this is how it will be for the next five years" I'd start drafting a polite resignation letter because I can't DO this, it's too awful, it's not teaching, I'm doing a bad job, I'm failing.

* I am going to have to remember to find the "mute all" function for my big class. Someone had a tv on, someone had static coming through, I kept yelling at people to mute and tried to fast scroll through the sidebar of people to see if I could see who the offending party was and mute them, but I could not. But someone told me there's a mute all that apparently doesn't mute the host....it's just, there are so darn many extra things to remember and little tricks to learn, and it's at a time when my energy and stamina for such things are at an all-time low, and it's just hard

* I did get a start on the next exam (biostats) and found that I can write the questions in Word and make the data tables in Excel and just copy and paste them, since they are all essay questions, and not deal with the cumbersome slow formatting in BlackBoard (doing multiple choice questions in there is THE ABSOLUTE WORST, it takes about three times as long as doing them in a normal test does. I wonder if that's intentional to drive people to using the canned "question banks" textbook publishers sell, though those questions are often dreadfully worded and confusing). So I might be able to get that done Thursday afternoon.

* Everyone else seems to be coping better than I do and I don't like that.

* One thing I have hated so much in all of this - and the whole road-resurfacing thing brought it to the surface for me today - I have to make decisions that are based on incomplete, wrong, or false information. In some cases it's more of an annoyance than anything (if I get trapped in by the resurfacing, maybe I have to walk the mile home and the mile back the next day, or maybe I have to order a pizza to be delivered while I wait in my building because I didn't bring a lunch - and walk down to where the pizza car can meet me). But in other cases, it's a matter of life and death, especially now, and I don't like feeling like I'm being lied to or given wrong information.  

* I don't know. I am just feeling very small today and very ineffectual and like I don't like my job any more and if I don't like my job and am no longer good at it (I'm not, I'm doing terribly), then what do I have? Why do I still exist? 

 I also kinda feel like no one cares. Intellectually I know that's not true but also lots of people have their own problems, some bigger than what I have, and no one really has any bandwidth TO care very much - the problem is, working with my students and trying to be kind, I run out of "care" and haven't any left for myself, and that's why I'm so worn. And I have literally no one here to build me back up.

* This poem was posted on Twitter, I think the person who posted it (@unfortunatalie) is the author, but it struck me hard:


"Nobody does DIY unless they think there's a future" which makes me wonder if that's why I'm doing so little in the way of larger knitting or sewing projects: I'm not convinced I'll still be here a year or more from now to use the quilt I pieced, or to wear the sweater I knit. Or, that I'll still be here, but I'll still be stuck in my house and I don't have the motivation to make sweaters and stuff if I'm going to be at home, I mean, the sweaters I already have are fine for that, I wear the same five things when I am at home and just cycle them through the wash. 

I mean, yeah, being exhausted from all the extra extras at work is part of it, but also, my hope for ever getting out of the pandemic is really shrinking - just as my world has shrunk.

(I am still SO LONELY. I want a conversation with someone that doesn't involve talking through a screen but that's not going to happen. I hate screens now and I'm wondering if after the pandemic is over - if it ever is, here I am allowing myself hope again - if I just move to an artist's colony or somewhere where people are a little more open and less closed (like here: if you're not part of a nuclear family, forget it, you're always an Outsider) and just abandon screens - not have a tv, leave the internet behind except maybe for a few things like shopping or online radio (because most terrestrial radio in most of the US sucks now). I want to be able to walk out my door in the morning and have neighbors I know who want to talk to me, not some changeable group of renters who are there for four months and then gone, and you might have a good one and then they move out and are replaced by someone rude or loud or whatever. Maybe that "good community" with neighborly neighbors doesn't actually exist, I don't know. My mom seems to have some pretty good neighbors.)

* Edited to add: I read something this evening on "learned helplessness" and burnout, and apparently both rats and dogs show this - you give them an impossible task, like a maze they can't solve, and eventually they just give up, even when the task isn't impossible, and I wonder if a lot of us are dealing with that - for me, now, getting everything done to my satisfaction and doing it gracefully is an impossible task, and it means I shut down for doing other things. The solution is apparently to do something you CAN master (knitting a sock was the example given) and perhaps I have to FORCE myself....though tonight the round of "grading, piano practice, workout, fix dinner, work on the exam" ate up so much time I was too tired to knit when I finally closed up on the exam. 

 But yeah, definitely: it feels like a lot of us are trying to do the impossible, and it's damaging us, and I don't know how to repair or even mitigate that damage. Maybe that's an after-pandemic thing? Maybe right now I just concentrate on staying alive and not catching the thing, and after this is over see if I can take a semester's leave and straighten my brain back out? I don't know.

* Another thing I want is someone else to do the cooking. I don't mean restaurant carry-out, which is usually too much and too salty and too fatty, but actual home-made cooked food and I realized today that if this pandemic stretches for many more years, I may never see my mom again OR get to eat her cooking and that makes me immeasurably sad. 

* I also worry that after this making new friends will be impossible because everyone's bubbles will have fossilized and they won't want any new friends, and those of us who are unbubbled will be just....left to drown. Like the spare giraffe waiting for the Ark. (That was in some book I read as a kid - some YA novel, the protagonist described himself that way, and it always stuck with me, because I feel that too, I feel it hard.) Not that, I tell myself many days, I'm that interesting of a person that someone would want me in their life....

Monday, September 07, 2020

Labor day things

First up - I finished the manta ray (from a Yarnigans pattern) on Saturday. I still have not named them or decided on a gender:


I'm leaning towards calling him (not very creatively) "Ray" unless I can come up with something more clever. He is nice and big and cuddly though.

 

I started the gifty one on Sunday and got the body about half-knit; if I have energy this evening I might do a bit more; I want to get this done and mailed off before it's TOO long after the actual birthday

****

 

 "Guess I must be 'management' 'cos I actually worked today"

I had to do stuff for work, though. First up - reviewing the Clean Air Act and writing out a "script" (I am getting more comfortable with the teaching masked/using Zoom but it still helps to have these) of the important points. Then I ran over to school and got all my beads (more about that later) and did a workout.

Then I sat down and reviewed the first part of probability for Biostats and write out the "script" for that. I'll probably need to do another one for Friday's class because I may only have enough for Wednesday. But probability is the thing I am shakiest on (I never had an actual class on it, and I don't like how Zar presents it).

Once I got that done, on to the beads.

Six thousand mini pony beads


Not as much fun as an actual mini pony.

Stimmy, though. I would like a big bowl of these (though maybe smoother and cooler to the touch, like polished stones or smooth glass beads) to run my hands through.


 

 

I thought I'd be able to weigh out the biggest aliquots but for fewer than about 60 beads, they're too light and my kitchen scale too insensitive, and I didn't feel like running over to try to see if one of the lab balances would work any better. So it was a lot of counting. A LOT.  I had fifteen of the logistic populations, each with six different "time points" so that's.....what....90 bags. And then five each of three different patterns of population growth, with five time points, so that's another 75. It was a lot.

And what kills me in this? No one is going to see this work other than me. No one who's been dissing universities in all this is going to give a crap that I gave up the afternoon of literally my one federal holiday for months and months to prep this, all they will see is that it wasn't like in the before-times, with labs with "real" creatures and students collaborating. And it just....it makes me sad. I hope I get to keep my job after this - they're talking that maybe 1/4 of the universities in the nation will just shut down. I'm too old to want to go on the academic job market again so I'd have to withstand a few years of no real income while I trained for something new, I don't know what. (Home health is not an option though I'd have the aptitude for the medical stuff - I neither have the stomach for dealing with blood/pus/vomit/waste nor do I have the tolerance to deal with angry/sad/scared people on a regular basis)

But that's the future. Today was counting beads. 

Here's the bowl after I was done, so you can get an idea of the full horror:

"Bröther, may I have some lööps?" Heh.

At least I didn't underestimate what I needed, or overestimate too badly. (I did buy a couple more cheap bags of pony beads just in case on Saturday, on the grounds that it was better to invest the seven bucks than to have to actually GO INTO the wal-mart if I ran short - and JoAnn's may have been cheaper, anyway. I can just hang on to them; they might be needed for some other simulation lab, or, failing that, I can donate them to the local mother's day out program for crafts.)

And here's the end result - thirty bags that are the whole populations, each with either five or six smaller bags representing the populations at different points in time.

 


 

This is in case it rains Wednesday, though if it doesn't rain, I can do the bug lab and do this one next week, and have it all prepped.

But yeah, sad that I lost one of my three-day weekend days. (and half of Saturday, after I got home, was writing an exam in BlackBoard.....and I have another one, for a different class, to start working on this week.... it never ends)

Saturday, September 05, 2020

First trip out

 This was the first "nonessential" shopping I have done - well, really since February. I did make a couple quick runs to the local quilt shop (they are now closed on Saturdays and Sundays so weekend trips there won't happen for a while, not until their hours change). But for big shopping in a big store, no.

I will admit I was apprehensive. I got off later than intended, and also, I got fooled into thinking the exit I would take was closed (they are ripping up all the streets in town - going home on Friday was difficult because they were tearing up Wilson street, finally a flagman gestured the direction in which I was to go)

Anyway, I wound up taking the long way there, it was after 9:30 when I arrived, but fortunately they weren't busy. There were maybe 10 people in there (and it was an enormous store - an old Circuit City that got converted) and everyone was properly masked. So it actually wound up feeling....kind of normal? At least, I was able to kind of forget a pandemic was raging as I stood and looked at the yarn. (I will note, though - both the yarn and quilting fabric sections looked slightly depleted. I know a lot of quilting fabric is printed in South Korea and maybe the slowdown in getting stuff here from elsewhere is part of that? Plus the higher demand earlier for fabric for masks? Or maybe I'm wrong about both and it's just almost time for their fall "reset" and they don't have things restocked yet)

But I did get the yarn for the gift project (sort of a taupe color - my ray is dark grey, this one will be taupe). 

And this:


My usual, "Fall is coming, I want to make a scarf." This time, it is a super chunk (CYC 6) yarn in a color called "sea glass." They claim on the ball band three balls is enough for a scarf even though that's only 240 or so yards. Not sure what pattern to use or if I just do something like a mistake-stitch rib or some other plain rib pattern.

I also bought some fabric. I had had the presence of mind to look up how much was needed for the current quilt top I am working on and I found this:


The colors coordinate (it is sort of a galactic/space print) and it's a very nice, fine fabric with a nice hand - so I like it for the backing. 

I also did indulge in a few Hallowe'en decorations. I never did much for Hallowe'en before, but this year....maybe. Or at least, in my own way.

I do not care for gory or scary stuff, and the memento mori stuff like skeletons, especially this year when there's been so much loss in my recent past, really turns me off. But funny/cute/vintagey stuff, yeah, that's good.

I got a new doormat, I will probably wait another week or two before I put it out though:



It's both cute and has a vintage feel, but it's still Hallowe'en. 

And I got a fall-not-necessarily-Hallowe'en wreath type thing for my door:

I just thought it was cute, and cute is good. 

I bought a couple of things that amused me. I said I didn't care for the whole gross/skeleton/morbid thing, but spiders and bats I am okay with.

Especially glam spiders and bats like these:




It's hard to see but they have glitter, and glitter makes everything better.

I also want to hunt around and see if my "spider light" strand (LEDs) still works, and if it does, maybe drape it over the framed picture I have on that wall and attach it in with the fairy lights on the timer so they will come on automatically at the end of the day. 

I also got a tote bag that says "totes" on it in a fancy script (playing on the slang usage of "totes," as in "totes magotes")

It amused me, and I always need more canvas bags for projects (and the cashier was able to pack most of my purchases into it, saving her a bag and saving me from having to dispose of a bag).

I also got the first copy of Simply Knitting (the UK magazine I used to buy) in six months. It's the.....Easter.....issue. I guess they're slow in getting here, too. 

And some more Gutermann thread, realizing that if I have to lock down AGAIN this winter (I am expecting a wicked second-or-maybe-the-first-never-ended wave), running out of thread would be a bad thing. I do want to make more quilt tops. 

And some more picture frames; I am not sure where I will put this up yet but at least I am glad the pictures are protected


Those are all from 1976, when I was 7 or 8. The middle photo is my brother and me looking at one of the monarch butterflies we had raised from a caterpillar; we were releasing it in that photo. 

So it was nice - being there felt almost normal. Maybe I can go again some time if I go very early in the day and move quickly. 

Kroger's, not so much - it was crowded (holiday weekend, I guess) and there were a lot of pushy unmasked people and at one point I got trapped in an aisle with large groups at either end and I could practically feel them BREATHING on me and I admit I panicked a little (We are all Adrian Monk now, I guess, at least those of us trying to take things seriously). I persisted though and the only thing I wasn't able to get was the Golden Syrup (they were out). I have a couple bottles left and I COULD switch to honey to sweeten my tea if I have to. Or I could try mail ordering, though often mail order places charge more. 

But yeah - if I go to Kroger's again any time soon, I'm going to see if I can inveigle a time in the afternoon of a weekday (not a Friday though) so they'll be less crowded. 

The cashier I got was good and pretty fast, though. When she asked me how I was I said I was okay but everything kind of felt like playing a video game on hard mode and she laughed and said "Yeah, that's about right." 

And now I have food for a while yet. 

Driving around Sherman, though - there's a fairly new Nepalese/Tibetan restaurant and I really hope they make it to the after-times (if after-times there will be) when I feel safe going in to a restaurant to sit and eat, because I want to try them. 

Driving back home? Well, our two growth industries in my region of Oklahoma are medical marijuana and the casino - neither of which are things I partake of. Which is why I have to drive for things I want, which is more complicated right now.