Monday, November 23, 2015

A favorite holiday

I've always liked Thanksgiving. I've heard some people opine that in some ways it's the most American of holiday (though I think I'd argue Independence Day is). I also once heard someone comment that it was the closest thing we got to a civic holiday that was Judeo-Christian, and specifically Jewish, in spirit - the idea of celebrating the harvest, and giving thanks. (And yes, Canada has a Thanksgiving, more than a month before we do. But I think the US officially celebrated Thanksgiving first....)

Probably a lot of cultures down the years have done harvest festivals. (Sukkot, of course). I think it is a good thing, though, to stop and be thankful. There is so much in our current culture that seems to militate against that: on the one hand, the idea that Things Are Not As Perfect As They Could Be and on the other hand, the But Your Neighbors Have Better Stuff Than You Do idea.,

But I do think it's important to stop, and take a breath, and realize some stuff:

1. Indoor plumbing, which most of us in the US take for granted, did not exist until a few generations ago and still does not exist for much of the world - in fact, clean, safe, drinkable water is still a major concern in many places. (I have relatives still living who grew up without indoor plumbing)

2. Most of us reading this really do have enough food. And most of us have enough that we can buy a few cans of tuna or green beans and take them to the local food bank. (And please check first to find out what they need if you're gonna do that! Some food banks have CASES of green beans but nothing with protein, others may be well stocked with peanut butter and tuna but need veggies). I do this from time to time - it reminds me that I really DO have "enough," budget cuts notwithstanding, and I can afford to share that "enough" with others. And I tend to think that if everyone who can bought a few things now and then (and also in the summer, a slack time) it would go a long way to alleviating hunger problems in the community.

(Our local food drive this year is centering on single serving stuff, especially things with pull-ring tops, like those little cans of pasta meals - they say they have a lot of elderly who live alone, and they are also now trying to help provide food for the local homeless, and pull-ring cans are just easier. And as someone who lives alone, I can sympathize with not wanting a lot of leftovers, especially if your refrigerator is on the fritz)

3. If you have good or even fair health, that's something to be thankful for. And the fact that most of us have decent access to medical care. I know far too many people who are doing chemo right now. I have a cousin facing major surgery. (I am proud of my GP, also - she has helped start a one-day-a-week free clinic for people with no access to care, and she serves there in the early evening of that day). And I'm thankful for modern dental care instead of just "Yeah, you broke the tooth. Here, let me get my puller and you grab on to something firm."

4. I'm thankful for my hobbies, even if I don't get to pursue them quite as much as I might like.

5. I'm thankful to have a job, and have one that pays all my bills. I don't currently have any debt and I realize that is unusual for a person today.

6. I'm thankful for the freedoms I enjoy, even as I look worriedly at what's going on in France (the talk of them declaring martial law over there until the terrorist masterminds are found; I could see some thinking similar was a good idea here)

But more than that, I like the idea of taking a day, and stopping, and being thankful, and eating a big meal that is partly ceremonial in function (this is why I am not always so on-board with the moves to "modernize" Thanksgiving or the argument - I think it was even Calvin Trillin that made it - that we have spaghetti instead). I also like that, outside of the cooking (and that can be circumvented if you truly hate to cook by making restaurant reservations, or seeing if someone will invite you to their house), there's really very little to do. Most people, Thanksgiving afternoon, they either watch football or some years there's a re-run of Miracle on 34th Street on, or they go out and throw a football around in the yard with their kids - it's a very low-key day and I think in a culture where we are too often keyed-up we need days that are low-key and where (hopefully) the expectation is that not very much big happens.


I linked to this poem several years ago (Lynn linked it first) and I still like it, and still think it's true, and something we all to often forget.

Some traveling mercies?

Around here (I had not hear of the concept really, before I moved to the South), people talk about "traveling mercies" - essentially, prayers for the safety and comfort of those traveling.

I feel like I need some of those today. The news - it's so darn full of bad news these days - is talking about how there are "vague threats" and that TSA et al. will have an increased presence. And while I'm probably pretty safe - taking a train in the middle of the country - still, I am good enough at what ifs to be slightly concerned. (Moreso about TSA over-reaction where we all get trooped off somewhere and our hands swabbed and our bags searched, that seems a more realistic likely problem)

I hope the "vague threats" are nothing and that if anyone is planning to do ill to travelers, they are caught before they do anything.

"New normal" is a phrase I hate, and with good reason. (They were talking about how concerns about getting around in Paris is the "new normal" for Parisians. And, unrelatedly, how the big budget cuts on my campus are now the "new normal"). "New normal" is never used for anything that's good.


I did finish the cowl last night, so I have my own version of the cowl for invigilating knitting (I give an exam today).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Guess I'm ready

We've had terrific winds (in the sense of LARGE and not the sense of WONDERFUL) the past few days, and I am assuming it's kicked up lots of allergens. Or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it, because I feel tired and almost borderline weepy.

Part of it is, I guess, just the ongoing drumbeat of bad news. Standing up before doing the announcements at church (there is a small anteroom you wait in before going up to the lectern, the thought, "This world has broken my heart" popped into my head and yes, I think that explains some of it - I see how some people could choose to be better but do not, I see how things happen that seem inexplicably (at least this side of the veil) and needlessly awful.

I was somewhat cheered up by helping decorate the church for Christmas today.

Next week is the start of Advent, so we needed to have it done before, traditionally we do it after the service on the "last day" of the old liturgical year - I believe this is Christ the King Sunday? We don't, in my denomination, do nearly enough recognition of the round of the liturgical year, I think. I like that kind of thing and I think I need it - the idea that there is an underlying order, and that things come around again, and that as much as the outside world changes, we come back around to, and celebrate, the same things again and again.

Also, the reading that served as the basis of the sermon - not from the actual Liturgy reading for this day, but it was one of what I think of as "Paul's Commencement Addresses" - the closing to one of his letters, where, among other things, he reminds people to hold fast to that which is good. I love that image and it is important to me. I think it's because I am, in some ways, a very tactile person - I understand the idea of literally holding fast to something, whether it is a loved one's hand, or something you are making, or even just some small thing that gives you comfort. (It's not for nothing, I think, that when I was a child I often brought a very small toy - like something the size of what a blindbag pony would be - with me to school in my pocket. Only I knew it was there but it made me feel better).

I'm packed. I don't need much as this will be a short break, and I'm not taking much in the way of knitting because I expect there won't be much chance to. Right now I have some Hallmark channel movie playing. I admit it, as cynical as I can be about some things, I love many of these movies. Part of it is that I do wish the kind of magic some of them openly promote actually existed. (the one I am thinking of, which just ended, featured a couple of literal elves (like, from the North Pole) persuading a woman not to sell her historic inn. And Santa Claus is real in the world of the movie - and yet, it seems to be a movie made at least nominally for grown-ups, because the blossoming romance between the female lead and the male lead is a part of the movie). Or that people could be better than they are - I talked about that one with the blended family the other day. I dunno. I guess in some ways I feel like anything like magic has gone out of the world for me, and so I like entertainments that have it. Or, I don't know. I'm not saying this very well. I think I'm just feeling a little emotionally beaten down with the bad budget news on campus, and the quilt shop closing, and the ugliness in the world, and I feel like things are just going to keep getting sadder and sadder. And there's not really anything I can do to improve things...

I'm almost done with the gift cowl. I am hoping to complete it today, so it will be ready for the party week after next. I still have to find a creative way to wrap it (this is one of those "pick a blind gift" gift exchanges, so the interesting looking gifts get chosen early). One year I was able to find little metal tins with holiday designs on them (my mom still uses the lunchbox shaped one with snowflakes on it that I used to hold a pair of socks I knitted her). I didn't see anything inspiring at the wal-mart, but maybe I can try the Hallmark store or one of the two chain pharmacies in town. (I should have been thinking about that yesterday; I ran to the CVS for more AA batteries for one of my little light strings and I found a Twilight Sparkle tree ornament - so now I have THREE pony tree ornaments, the Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie a friend sent me a couple years ago, and now Twilight. (And it's even alicorn Twilight; it seems the manufacturers play a little fast and loose with which version of her they make).

But I don't know. As I said, I'm feeling tired and worn and I expect this not to be a totally restful break with a house full of people including a toddler. (I admit it: I am NOT a "small child person" in many ways. I am not comfortable around them, probably from lack of experience. ) I will have to make sure I have enough earplugs for sleeping just in case.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday morning random

* I dunno but it seemed like my tweetstream overnight got full of people who were just angry, angry about stuff, ranging from the refugee issue (which I think is complicated and I don't have the energy to comment on) to personal issues to things like how different groups* are represented in the media. And I admit that I suppose there are lots of things out there that are upsetting, and, as someone once said, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention," you know what?

(*Not Muslims. Other groups.)

I'm tired. I just can't any more. I can't deal with people screaming at each other and instead of saying "I disagree with you and here are the reasons why" or "I think the data you are using are incorrect, here are the data I have" they are screaming STUPID and WRONG and BAD and even EVIL at people who disagree with them.

It's fine to disagree, but can we disagree on terms or on principles or on plans instead of resorting to insulting one another? 'Cos that's just a playground fight and it doesn't really solve anything.

A long time ago I saw something Incurable Insomniac (I don't even know if she still blogs; for a while the blog was password protected) said, and I liked it, and I think it's still true:

"Not being heard is one of humanity's greatest problems. It always has been. That's why everyone is so crazy. Loud car stereos, loud ring tones, yelling, shouting, bad behavior--even Twitter and Facebook. HEAR ME! I MATTER! I HURT! I'M AFRAID!"

I think increasingly people are afraid they are not being heard and they are escalating the "loudness"

And I just can't any more. I don't like being around loud angry people even if I might agree with one side of them.

* I really want to just say "All of you can go slug it out" and wander off and do my own thing.

I want to give in to what I once called Holiday Brain or Christmas Brain - where you only think about Christmassy things like gifts and decorations and making special foods and doing things with people you love.

And you know - last night I watched most of a movie on the Hallmark Movie Channel. It was about a blended family (a widow and a widower who married, and their kids learning to live with each other). And as is typical of these types of movies, the conflicts are lower key and less nasty than real world conflicts are - the tweenish girl was "mean" to her stepmother but not really all that very mean, and at the end she called her stepmother "Mom" (after swearing she would not) and hugged her and told her she loved her. And I know, I know - these movies are every bit as much a fantasy as the pretty clean rooms are in decorating magazines, or the perfect romance of the swashbuckling rogue who wants to turn good and the young heiress who fears she will have to marry a man who bores her, or.....well, really anything in those kinds of entertainments.

But I admit, there is something almost akin to the Golden Era mysteries, where things are put right at the end about these types of stories: there's a family redemption, in the end people realize they DO love each other and are willing to commit to the hard work of working to love one another (and loving other people IS hard work. I don't care what anyone else says. I know I am pretty unloveable some times, and so are other people). And, I don't know. I think for me it shows another path, one other than the screaming Jerry Springerish one, or the "walk away and just go it alone" one. Maybe I'm too much an idealist still, but I like some things - some stories, some movies - that show people being *better* than we actually are, and as we experience that entertainment, we feel like, "Maybe this is something I should aspire to." (Maybe, actually, that's also part of the attraction of the superhero movies: that the world is worth saving after all, and we would like to try to be one of the ones to do that)

The funny thing is, I think in August or March a movie like that, I'd flip right past it. But the hook of Christmastime - and the fact that it's drawing in on Christmastime now - makes me interested in it and makes me watch.

*And kind of the flip side of "families learning to commit to the hard work of loving each other" - I ran across this story about the so-called "last true hermit" - a guy who essentially edited himself out of the modern world. He did wind up getting arrested and going to prison because he stole food and other items (watches, so he knew the time, propane tanks, so he could cook) from camps and summer houses.

I admit I know the story is written to be this way, but you wind up being a little sympathetic for the guy. (It's also suggested he's on the Asperger's spectrum, which would make living around people more challenging for him - and probably made prison hellish).

But I will say there have been times where I think about that. No, not living under a tarp in the woods, but doing something like getting one of those little teardrop trailers (there are a few that supposedly my car could pull, and they even have a toilet and shower in them!) or buying a very large plot of land in some remote area and putting up a little cabin. And just RUNNING when people get to be too much. And yeah, I admit, indoor plumbing is pretty important to me and I'm not sure how I could live happily for very long without it (then again: if you had a composting toilet and a decent well, and if you were not working full time - therefore, had the time for stuff like hauling water and chopping wood)

But I admit that's kind of the cognitive dissonance I face in this life: part of me wants to go out and TRY TO MAKE THINGS BETTER and LOVE PEOPLE AND MAYBE SHOW THEM THAT GOD LOVES THEM TOO. But another part of me just gets exhausted by people, their problems, and their squabbles, and wants to run away and hide and have enough time and energy to do things like read Proust and draw trees.

* And also: a lot has been made of the whole "safe spaces" thing on college campuses. And yeah, I see the ridicule for people wanting the entire world to be a safe space, because there's no way that that's possible. And yet, at the same time: don't we all have places or things we retreat to for a while, when the world gets to be too much? I mean, Camp David exists. There was a "Fortress of Solitude" for Superman (at least in the movies). One of my circles of friends jokes a lot about "blanket forts" even as we recognize we do have to go out into the world and be adults and do the hard things. I'm not sure there's anything so awful about once in a while retreating to a blanket fort (or the equivalent). The problem comes when you want to be there all the time.

I think that's actually the crux of my frustration with the people who ridicule adults who like cartoons or comic books or superhero movies or coloring books or Harry Potter or whatever....for many of us, it's not a REPLACEMENT for dealing with real life; it's a short escape from it. (And I would argue it's a healthier escape than drinking mass quantities is)

I dunno. I think of the line from a movie I watched years ago ("The Cup" - it was about Buddhist novice monks wanting to watch the World Cup) and in it, one of the wiser older monks made the comment:

"Can we cover the earth with leather so it is soft wherever we go?" and one of the young monks responds that no, that is not possible. The older monk then asks, "What can we do?" and the response is "We can wear leather sandals" - in other words, we can go out into the world but take responsibility for our own comfort (or that's how I saw it). And while some of the college students in question may want to cover the whole world with leather (after all, college students are *awfully* young, and sometimes young people don't have it all figured out yet), I guess I tend to see the joking about blanket forts or sitting down to a coloring book in the evening after a day of going to work and running errands as being kind of like wearing sandals but going out into the hard and sharp world.

It's a balance. I suspect the problem is too many of us forget how to keep a balance.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lonely book pony...

Here are the photos of Moondancer.

(Interesting observation: nearly ALL the Ponies have three-syllable names. The four-syllable name ones tend to be princesses. I suppose we could have guessed Twilight Sparkle would eventually ascend, seeing as Celestia and Princess Luna and Princess Cadence. But the rest of the Mane 6 - all three syllable. The CMC - three syllable. Many, many of the named background ponies - three syllable.

Huh. Big Macintosh is four. Well, he was a "princess" of sorts, for a few moments, in the Epic Pony Dream)



Book ponies are best ponies. (And any pony can be a book pony - we saw Rainbow Dash be one in one episode, Fluttershy has books in her blanket fort)

A close up of her hair. I'm pretty proud of how it came out. The fuzzy thing I used on the pony tail holder is actually a "warm fuzzy" - someone who did a talk at my parents' church the last time I was up for a visit did a message on "warm fuzzies" vs. "cold pricklies" (which is totally a 70s thing. I remember it from when I was a kid) and then when we went up for communion, they had baskets of these "warm fuzzies" if you wanted one.

moondancer hair

And a close up of her face, you can see I decided to make her smiling.

moondancer face

And her sweater (made from socks, repurposed) and "cutie mark" (I still kind of dislike that term)

cutie mark

For now, I need to get back to the gift-cowl and finish it. I do think my next pony will be the "made up character" (I like that term better than OC) called Frost Flower - a white unicorn filly with a white and pale blue mane. Her special talent is frosting windowpanes in the winter....

Pictures coming later

I finished Moondancer last night, but it was too late when I got done for me to do photography and a blog post.

My original plan was to just do the sweater and the hair - figuring the sweater was going to be fiddly and time consuming, and leave the face for tonight. But the sweater actually worked up really fast - I was able to use one of the sock cuffs, unaltered, as the body (I just had to cut armholes in it and hem the bottom, I didn't even have to take it in any) and the other cuff formed the sleeves - I used the finished edge of the cuff as the sleeve cuffs, I sewed two narrow parallel seams down the middle, and then cut apart the two sleeves. I hand-sewed them on to the body over the armholes. I THINK the sweater would be possible to remove (as in: I did not sew it to her body) but I wouldn't want to try, it would mess up her hair.

I did her hair in the funny ponytail thing she had in the "Amending Fences" episode. I even had a tiny pink bobble thing to put on the "ponytail holder" (I only had one, and anyway, could not bring myself to put PINK buttons on the CHARCOAL GREY sweater - it's a good thing Rarity wasn't in that episode, the sight of that sweater would have given her the vapors)

It is tricky doing parti-colored hair the way I typically do hair on these ponies (the "rooted in" way, where you are doing lark's head knots over bits of the crocheting). You have to plan out where the different colors go - I did this with Colgate but it was less successful on her, she looked less like "herself."

Once I got the hair and tail done, though, I decided to go ahead and do the face and "cutie mark" - dug out my felt, found the various colors of thread needed. In the end, I decided to make her smiling; my inner six year old protested that I couldn't make a toy frown, that "no toy should be unhappy all her life" so I gave her a smile.

I also gave her eyebrows, but more "groomed" than some of the pictures of her in the show. (Some fan art eliminates the eyebrows but I think they are sort of necessary. This time I used floss in a color matching the orange in her hair - for Treehugger I used the same hair yarn and they came out a little heavy).

The last step was to make "eyeglasses" out of a chenille stem. These are probably the least pleasing part because they don't really have "glass" in them, but it was the easiest way I could figure to make them without their being super-fragile. (An alternative would have been felt, but when felt is cut into thin bits like that and not anchored flat to anything, it can be very fragile and stretchable.)


When I decorated for Christmas, I also pulled out some of the Christmas books I had. I have one that goes, decade by decade (well, from 1920s up through 1960s) of Christmas in America and one thing from the late 40s (post-war) or early 50s struck me: Apparently Macy's took out an ad admonishing people for buying "too much" - people in kind of a frenzy after rationing, and also, possibly, fearing rationing could happen again soon, were buying lots of stuff. And it struck me, because it seems so foreign to what we hear now - not all that long after the September 11 attacks, there were admonitions to go out and spend money to help the economy.

I suppose part of that is the difference between a heavily manufacturing-based economy and one that is much more service/consumption based. The funny thing is, before September 11, 2001, the best "war" pattern I had to fit things to in my mind was what grandparents and others had told me about World War II - rationing, the make-do-and-mend idea, avoiding waste - so it was discombobulating to be told it was, for example, part of one's patriotic duty to buy a new car. And I get that we haven't mobilized now as we mobilized back then, and I may not be fully aware of how huge the 1940s war effort was - but I will confess, I was genuinely expecting to see SOME kind of rationing, maybe nothing other than gasoline, but something.

I know that kind of price-control and trying to limit buying stuff happened in the 50s (there is an entire Nero Wolfe novel devoted to the whole price-control and supply issue - it is one of my favorite novels, not because of the plot so much as the character interactions) but it just seems unthinkable that a store today would advertise asking people not to buy things that are not "necessary."

(The closest ad to that I've seen is from the whole TJ Maxx family, but they are saying instead, "Hey, we ALWAYS have sales, so forget that Black Friday mess")

Also, I know it's the Christmas season: last night I saw the first surreal perfume ad of the season. (Perfume companies, watch companies do this. Sometimes high-end liquor manufacturers. It's as if not being able to understand what their ad is about is a sign that it's a luxury product)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two (not-so) little flusters

So I've talked before about the tradition - it was claimed to be a German tradition but no actual-for-real German person I have ever met knew about it, or knew it by the name we called it - of "flusters," a small gift you get in one of two instances:

a. You have done something *particularly* well and are deserving of a reward (and this is not an always-thing; you are not to expect it). Once in a while when I brought home an all-As (or almost all As, I never earned that great of grades in Phys Ed) report card, I would get some kind of small gift - a book I'd been wanting, or get taken out to dinner, or once, a box of chocolate covered cherries


b. You have endured something unpleasant and uncomfortable. (For a while, when I was in seventh grade, I had plantar warts. My doctor recommended I go to a dermatologist for their removal, which in those days involved liquid nitrogen - and it got worse as the warts were reduced in size; you are effectively having skin burned off with extreme cold). The dermatologist was not too far from where my dad worked, but he would drive me in, sit through the appointment with me, and then drive me back (so I could go to school for the rest of the day). BUT the dermatologist's office was in a medical plaza (maybe a hospital, even? I forget) where there was a gift shop, and he used to buy me a Snoopy paperback (a reprint of the Peanuts strips, sometimes going back years) each time we went - as sort of a "Having to go through that stinks and I'm sorry, but here's something that might make you happier" (I still have the Snoopy paperbacks)

It was sort of a quiet thing in my not-very-outwardly-demonstrative family (we do not do any kind of strong emotion well) but it showed you that you were loved and that the other person recognized either your achievement or sympathized with your pain.

But now, as an adult, I mostly have to buy my own flusters. (Oh, when I got tenure, I got a book I had been wanting from my parents, and I got another gift when I made full professor). But for things like dental work, I take care of it myself now.

I actually bought myself two, this second go, but the second one was partly a test to see "does the new Target card I had to link up to my Amazon account work with it?*"

(*for years, I had a Target Visa. They recently changed that to a chip-and-pin Target Mastercard, though I think now the in-store credit card is a Target card, as in, can only be used at Target. I kind of like having the additional credit card I can use anywhere. And I am guessing they jumped on chip-and-pin first - of my providers - because of the whole data breach thing, which I fortunately missed being involved in)

So anyway. I got myself two things: A "Bird Leg" bag that I had been wanting (it is a knitting bag big enough for a shawl or a lightweight sweater: bigger than my sock bags). The design is called Pack Mates - Alpacas! I think I saw this fabric online as a quilting fabric but it was sold out before I could buy any.

Two "flusters"

The other item is a stuffed Jellycat donkey, ordered from Amazon (he came today).

Yeah, I admit it: I will never outgrow stuffed toys and even though I can make my own (tonight's plan is to make the sweater and put the hair on Moondancer), I often like to buy them too.

The donkey is super soft and I find that pleasing. These things really are pet-substitutes for me: something that is furry but that won't make my eyes swell up or make me sneeze, and something that does not mind if I am at work for 10 or more hours a day. And they don't squawk if you try to hug them and it turns out they really don't want to be hugged. (Or pass gas, which was a trick one of my parents' old cats perfected for when she wanted you to set her down)

And I have a good enough imagination that I can almost accept the beady-eyed stare from a toy as a "look of devotion." Oh, I know it really ISN'T, I'm not that pathological, but I can pretend.

I have already named the donkey. He is Dominick, for reasons I probably do not need to explain to some of you.

(I can listen to that song MAYBE once a season. I wonder how Italian-Americans feel about it? I admit I get slightly annoyed at some of the "drinkin' Irish" songs but not enough to complain about "microaggressions.")

One good thing

Little Dee is back with new strips on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

(I guess these are "fitted into the timeline" or "retconned," because the original strip ended - as it should have ended, if it had to end - with Dee returning to her parents).

First new strip is today.

(He also apparently has his original run up on the webpage, so if you're new to Little Dee, you can see all the strips)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday noonish thoughts

* I hope I don't wind up eventually having to go on anxiety meds. For some reason, Friday midday, I was convinced, like idée fixe convinced, that the one remaining filled tooth I have had cracked also. There is absolutely no objective evidence to support that; I have brushed it several times since without incident and I have no pain. I think what happened was I got a weird "shifty" feeling on that side of my mouth Friday morning. But I now realize that was actually another tooth, and it was sinus. It was weird, though. I had an hour or two of extreme discomfort - nervousness, fast heart rate, could not shake the idea that I was going to need another crown right away.

(I don't chew on that side of my mouth anyway, out of fear of that tooth. I mean, it will probably have to be crowned SOMETIME, fillings don't last forever, but I'm not in any hurry to have it done)

I wonder though if that could have been some weird delayed reaction to the epinephrine they mix with the lidocaine. (They still do that, don't they?) I know I felt really shaky and nervous after dental work in the past. (I'm probably not even supposed to have epinephrine, seeing as I am on a beta blocker - apparently combining the two can blow up your brain, or something)

Or it could have just been my mouth being really jacked up, and the fact that I was fighting a near migraine at the time; migraines give me a sense of doom like nothing else. It's gotta be neurotransmitters; the feeling is out of any proportion of the pain, and is unrelated to the head pain.

* If I didn't feel like it would jinx me, I'd see if I could find a little widget that would count up the "days since last dental incident" (at this point, four, seeing as I cracked the tooth at lunch on Wednesday). You know, like those industrial hygiene "accident free since...." things. But I'd be afraid of jinxing myself.

* I finished the "heavy" crocheting on Moondancer (all the legs*) last night. Now I have some thinking: do I do her face "pre-friending" (sad eyes, slight frown) or "post-friending," with a smile like I have given the other ponies.

It's interesting. I almost want to do her in "pre-friend" mode. I remember reading years ago that "sad characters" (Eeyore being the atavar of this) are well-loved by some children because (a) they feel like that character understands when THEY are sad and (b) maybe they kind of believe they could cheer the character up.

I'm going to do her with the "updo" (which is less imitative of Twilight's hair). It might actually take less effort than trying to get bangs right. (I can't even get my own bangs right, sometimes).

(*And again I observe: if it was "My Little Decapods," I probably would be much less motivated to make stuffies. Quadrupeds are bad enough)

* I re-watched an episode of "Father Brown" (well, what I think of as "the reboot version of 'Father Brown'" because I've read many of the stories and the BBC/PBS version is different in a number of ways). It was the episode with the young wife and the older doctor and the victim was an obnoxious young man from a nearby farm who kept implying the young wife had an affair with him....and when he died, the doctor was a suspect, because it was thought he was enraged at the man.

And the doctor willingly went along with it (even making up evidence). Turns out he was starting with some form of cancer and wanted "the quick way out" (being hanged) rather than a lingering death.....then, at the trial, he finds out his wife is pregnant (with HIS child, very obviously - she didn't give the obnoxious man the time of day). And he decides: Well, after all, I will try treatment. I want to stick around to see my child. (And it turns out that the murder wasn't; the obnoxious young man was drunk and met his horrible end by accident, and of course it was Father Brown who helped figure that out).

And it occurs to me, especially now, why I like Golden Age mystery stories so much: yes, something bad has happened. But justice is eventually done (Father Brown convinces the doctor that allowing himself to be executed for a crime he didn't commit was little different from suicide; and the Father helps to figure out what really happened), life goes on (Mrs. McCarthy knits baby clothes for Oona's child....and a gentle joke is made about how Oona's people "run to twins"), and there's apparently some promise that things will be happy again (well, for most people). That idea of a restoration of order. I need that. I prefer stories that have that.....I don't like some of the modern novels that kind of trail off where everyone has kind of broken everything (people have cheated on devoted and good spouses, or been unkind to their children, or done something wrong that they haven't atoned for). And while I get that "real life" is probably more like the second way (lots of brokenness) than the first, I want to believe that there will be that denoument where the real killer is found out and the innocent man goes free. And the people in the town who were shocked that the innocent man "could have" committed a murder, when he goes free, nod to themselves and say, "I was right; he was too good a man to have done that" instead of them suspecting him for the rest of his life....I want to believe that things can be made "right" again even in the absence of objective evidence that they can.

I don't know. I admit it's childish to want a world order where the guilty are punished and the good prosper, but there are some very specific ways in which I am childish.

I also admit I like the whole setting of the Fr. Brown mysteries: the idyllic countryside parish, the loving busybody Mrs. McCarthy with her scones and her knitting and her tea, the slightly earthy Sid who will sit on a bench and enjoy a pint with the Father and talk with him....there's something comfortable about it, even as I recognize it cannot be real and never would have been real, not even in the 1950s when the series is ostensibly set.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

finding the light.

"Sometimes life is scary and dark. That is why we must find the light*"

And I suppose we all find it where we can. For me, this weekend, it meant decorating for Christmas.


I put the Nativity set on the coffee table in front of my (nonfunctional) fireplace this year. I think I like it better here than on the piano; it seems more central. And really, this is what should be central to Christmas, at least for someone like me.

And my tree:

tree lights


A close up of part of the tree. Ever since I read that there was a fad in the 1910s and 20s to put small toys - often "borrowed" from the household's children for the duration - on as decorations, I've done that. I LIKE that idea. I think it's because I like the idea that Christmas allows at least some part of us to be children again - I mean in the good way of having a sense of joy and wonder about things, and being able to enter into fun ("Secret Santa" exchanges were one of my favorite things we did as a "fellow grad student collegiality" thing when I was in grad school). Not so much being whiny and grabby, though I suppose some people do get like that.

close up

Yes,. I put a few Ponies on the tree - mostly the glittery ones because they reflect the lights. And that's a tiny Lalaloopsy doll of a Snow Princess I bought several Christmases ago specifically to put on the tree.

And I reassembled my "Own Private Ponyville" (as I think of it) on my mantel. This makes me ridiculously happy to have.

ponyville 1

ponyville 2

This year I put Barber Groomsby (who has a mustache, which when you think of it, is utterly ridiculous for a pony) and Big Wig (a chubbyish mare kind of on the mold of Mrs. Cake), who are my favorite blindbag pony 'shipping,' on my Eiffel Tower clock.

I also bought a very short string of battery-operated LED lights - a total impulse purchase, but whatever - and draped them over the various picture hooks and things that were already up on the wall over my bed.

bedroom lights

(Taken with "extreme night view" - a long exposure - and my hands aren't perfectly steady. You may be able to pick out a blurry Applejack, Zecora, and Celestia (Smuglestia!) in that shot. Yes, I have a ridiculous number of stuffed toys on my bed. Ridiculous for an eight year old girl, let alone a woman approaching 50. But then again, it's pretty darn minor as eccentricities go.)

(*A surprisingly non-depressing metaphysical insight from Adventure Time - voiced by Beemo, my favorite character on the show)

It does make me feel happier to have this up.

I also bought a large "shepherd's crook" - a cast iron thing you can implant in the ground (it has an "arm" attached to the main stake for steadiness) and have a birdfeeder hanging on it now. It will take a few days for the birds to find it, though.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

decorating for Christmas

There's evil in the world. There are people who, to get whatever point they want to get across, decide to kill ordinary citizens (Or perhaps not so ordinary; I heard someone - and not even a commentator - opine that it was an area of Paris that tended to be diverse culturally and near a part of town where many Jewish people lived).

And I leave figuring out how to deal with whoever planned and whatever group supported this attack to those with actual military training. All I can do is to pray for those affected, try to show love to those around me, and live my life.

(One of my colleagues has a daughter who is engaged to a Frenchman. I am *pretty sure* but not 100% sure they are currently Stateside. I hope they are. My colleague was in meetings yesterday so I won't hear until Monday now)

And I know, in the middle of everything that happened (And there's other bad stuff that happened in the world yesterday), it seems - I don't know - frivolous, maybe? To think of putting up Christmas decorations.

But I think I'm going to, this afternoon. A couple years ago I opined:

And in a strange way, I almost feel like there's something oddly brave (that might not be quite the right word) about decorating for Christmas. Something hopeful about it. It's too easy to look at the state of the world (well, if you are me it is) and feel despair, feel like human beings have hopelessly screwed it up, and maybe it's time for God to cut His losses and, I don't know, start over with the platypuses or something. And yet. Yet in all of that there are people who do good and kind things, who do wonderful things. And decorating for Christmas reminds me of that. It's fundamentally a hopeful act, I think: trying to call light back into the world by putting up lights of your own. And trying to remember the good people do by trying to do it yourself. Or celebrating it. Or something. And remembering the trust you had as a child by doing childlike things.

I admit, I made a couple variants of the "time for God to cut His losses" statement yesterday afternoon, after hearing about what had happened in Paris.

And yet, at the same time, I need to keep believing - because I do - that Good has already won, maybe the hatred that lives in human hearts just hasn't figured it out enough to flee - or maybe, please God, the hatred is beginning to figure it out and soon will flee. But by celebrating the anniversary of some of that Good, by putting up a tree and lights and a manger scene, maybe I can help myself keep going - remind myself to keep praying and keep being good to those around me. And perhaps most importantly, not give in to despair.

So, some time today, I will be re-setting up my "Ponyville" on the mantel, and moving my little coffee table to the window and putting my tree on it. And maybe when I run to the wal-mart today for more milk (and other soft-ish foods; the crown prep is still bothering me a little), see if there's any other little thing I can get to put up. Or maybe run to the Lowe's next door - I've been wanting to get one of those posts you can hang a bird feeder on, since I lost my privet that I had been using.

And then tomorrow, after church, I'm going to sit in my living room and quilt and look at my tree.

Edited to add: I bought toy-donation toys today, A tiny Lalaloopsy baby doll for the one where there is (supposedly) a $5 limit; this was a bit more but it was nicer than any of the under- $5 things. And a Lego Elves playset for my own, personal, Toys for Tots donation. Made me feel a little happier about things.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A partial parody

Okay, I ran out of steam on this one and I really should be grading anyhow.

But since it's Friday, here is a version of Friday for all you grown-(shut yo' mouth) people:

Five a.m., waking up in the morning
Gotta work out, gotta get self dressed
Gotta fix my oatmeal, gotta have meds
Watchin the news, the time is goin'
Tickin' on and on, everybody's rushin'
Gotta get out to the garage
Gotta get my car, I see my neighbors

Purse in the front seat
Textbooks in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
What thing did I forget?

It's Friday, Friday
Gotta get up on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, workend
Friday, Friday
Gettin' up on Friday
Everybody's hopin’ for a weekend

Researchin’ researchin’ (yeah)
Gradin’, gradin’
No Fun, fun, fun, fun
Lookin' forward to the weekend (not)

6:45, we're drivin' on First Street
Only go 30; there are cops
Fun, fun, think about fun
I think I remember what that is….

Something for me.

This has been a long week. Two nights of it were taken up with meetings, Thursday morning was taken up with the broken tooth.

What knitting I did was mostly on the gift-cowl (and more will be done today as I give an exam in one class).

But last night, I decided I needed to work on something just for me. (And also watch cartoons. I started with a couple of re-runs of My Little Pony while grading, and then moved over to Cartoon Network's fare. I guess they've decided, at least for the nonce, to extend the "real" cartoons to 8 pm again, instead of going to "Adult Swim" (which is mostly, in its early hours, re-runs of King of the Hill and Family Guy) at 7. I approve of this change and hope it is permanent).

I think I am happier when I watch cartoons - even kind of dumb cartoons - instead of watching the news.

I also worked a bit on Moondancer - she has her front legs attached, and most of the first back leg is done. I admit I'm dragging my feet a little on this because (a) the effort of doing another rooted-in mane (The ones for Folio - which was crocheted loops sewn on - and Treehugger - which was knitted i-cord "dreads" that were then sewn on) and (b) trying to figure out how to make the sweater - do I make it so it takes off (which would probably require a facing and snaps) or do I just make it permanently sewn on, which would be easier.

I also realized that since I'm getting close to finishing the quilt in the frame (that might happen this weekend), it was time to start thinking about preparing the next quilt.

It's going to be this one, which I think has hung around unfinished for long enough, and also, it will be mostly v. simple quilting. (In the setting triangles, around the edge, I may do something a LITTLE fancy - loops, maybe, or a flower). I have the backing and even the binding fabric set aside. So I got out one of my stored up batts and opened it out to let it "relax"

This is a quilting thing, or at least a quilting thing my mom told me: with a packaged batt, you are "supposed" to take it out and unfold it somewhere, and let it lie for at least 24 hours before doing the quilt sandwich. I suppose it's to get the folds out of it or something but I admit I now wonder if it's one of those "received wisdom" things that really doesn't do much. Then again, it's a nice planning step, kind of a promise of "you will get to this soon."

I THINK if I clear a few things out of my bedroom temporarily, I will have enough space to set this up on the floor to baste it. I admit I considered taking the whole thing down to church and doing it on the fellowship hall floor - no one would care, especially at a time when no one was around - but it will be easier to do it at home, and if I realize, for example, I forgot my scissors, I won't have to run home. (I could also bring the stuff over here on a weekend and use one of the classroom floors, but I bet they're not as clean as the Fellowship Hall floor is)

And yeah, I have a bunch of batts ahead. During the beginning of the economic downturn, back around '08, I got all pioneer-y and thought, "Maybe it's time to store up stuff that will be inexpensive amusement if this all really goes to Hades and you even have to do stuff like drop having cable." So I have five or six batts ahead, all purchased on good sales or with coupons. Well, maybe I do more handquilting now, with the shop going out of business (sigh). But I also do have a few tops I really want to have handquilted myself - the plus-sign quilt, the Zen Chic quilt (I want to do that with a sashiko design, maybe even use thin perle cotton on it, like "real" sashiko.). Also the Zen clouds quilt that has languished so long, I don't seem to have a photo of the top. Maybe I challenge myself a little to try to do a little quilting AT LEAST every week, and see how quickly I can get a simple top done.

Maybe I dig out the Dramatic Readings of Samuel Pepys' diaries (well, selections from) that I bought cheaply on a Naxos CD set a while back and never listened to, and listen to them while I quilt. (For that matter - my uni library may have some books-on-CD I could check out. Usually television doesn't hold my attention well enough for quilting and if it's something I really want to see, like a movie, I want to be watching, not looking down at what my hands are doing....)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Unlucky Number 13

Or, it's a good thing I trusted my gut.

Yeah, tooth 13 (A premolar? I guess) had a tiny crack in it, just between the old (but not ancient - it was a resin one) filling and the tooth. Bad enough to require a crown prep BUT if I had let it go, either I could have bit down wrong and sheared the whole thing off (my dad lost one of his #13s because he broke it so badly they couldn't crown it) or bacteria could have got in there and caused an infection.

So yeah, crown preps kind of suck, but they don't suck as badly as some of the other options.

And I am grateful that I have a very good dentist with a good chairside manner - he tells me just enough of what he's doing so I won't be startled ("there's gonna be a lot of water now, and some vibration") but not so much it freaks me out. And he's confident and can work fairly quickly.

And this time, I didn't need a nerve block in the soft palate. I don't know if #13 never requires that, or, the dentist mentioned something about "I'm experimenting with a new protocol for numbing" and just the one shot (in the gum) was all I needed.

Once that was done, I was pretty much ok. I can tolerate the actual work because I know that it isn't that long. The impression part is kind of "the longest four minutes of your life" as the dentist said but that's not so bad.

Also, I am grateful I pay for the "high dollar" dental coverage - once again it saved my bacon; I paid about $300 for a procedure that would cost $1000 without insurance.

I made it through the whole thing telling myself two things:

1. Tonight, this will be all over. You can go home and go to bed and not think about it and you can sleep. (I did not sleep well last night, I do "what ifs" too well)

2. You can obtain for yourself some kind of small "fluster" if you find something you want. (There is a Moomin-themed one of those Christmas candleholders - the traditional Scandinavian kind that have like a propellor that makes things revolve in the hot gases from the candle - that I have been eyeing.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


I think I cracked another tooth - this one is the one IN FRONT OF the two molars with crowns already (bobdamn British tooth genes).

The first appointment open is 9:30 am tomorrow. I have a desperate plea in to my colleagues to have someone on hand to pinch-hit proctoring my 11 am exam if I'm not back. But this is terrible. (I called everyone, apparently everyone has gone home for the day)

I....guess I'm not eating tonight or tomorrow morning. I cant risk splitting the whole tooth like happened with the last one. This feels like a small crack so hopefully the tooth is still salvageable.

I suppose I could get a milkshake but ugh, I am hating my life right now.

Well, it could be worse, I guess. My chair e-mailed me back and she will proctor the test if I'm not back. And I had a milkshake so at least I won't feel hungry overnight, and I have yogurt I can have for breakfast.

It's also possible it's not a crack at all and it's me being paranoid about my teeth, but I'd rather go out there and pay for an office visit and have the guy say "I can't find anything wrong" than not and have the tooth actually split.

I'm hoping it will be not-a-crown but I am prepared if it is. As I said once before, it's a little easier for me to face big dental stuff when there's a clear problem, rather than "gee, that old filling needs to be replaced but removing it will break the tooth so you need a crown.' And it's not a back-back tooth so it will be easier to have it worked on.

But yeah, I'm exhausted from the stress of having to scramble around and plan AND THEN get down to church for meetings, so I think I'm just going to bed.

figured it out

Well, partially.

I think part of my frustrations is that I DO have a lot of responsibilities where I have to make decisions, I am the one "in charge" and if I make a "bad" decision, it negatively affects others.

Simple example: We were supposed to get thunderstorms today. And after that, high winds (gusting up to maybe 40 mph). That concerned me slightly in re: lab, because today's lab was to have been a field lab in the woods, and I don't want to go out into the forest and maybe have a limb come down on someone's head. And I don't want to drive a 15 passenger van on a north-south road (much of the route to the site) with a strong west wind.

So, I wondered, do I cancel? Do I gamble that next week - the last week we can do it - will be better?

At 10 am, when I had to decide, the sky was dark, it was windy, so I said, "Okay, no lab this week."

Now the dang sun is back out, mocking me, and the air is fairly still. I'm gonna feel like an idiot if it's pouring rain next week and we can't go while it was okay this afternoon. And it's not like when I was a TA, when I could appeal to the prof for guidance. Most of the decisions I make are 100% on me and that gets really tiring and frustrating.

Also, one of the meetings tonight involves scheduling people to do a task. Often, there isn't everyone present at the meeting. I do my best to schedule but there are a few people who either (a) have lives that take them away from town often enough or (b) they forget to show up and I'm left filling in for them, or at the very least, worrying terribly until they show up. And again, that kind of thing, that feeling like, "I am running this part of the show and if it fails it is my fault it fails" that gets to me.

I wish I could learn to care less about stuff. I've said before I hate having any kind of power because I wind up worrying if I am doing the "right" thing for the largest number of people. (And often the "right" thing is "not the thing I want")

I dunno. I like my independence but I hate feeling like so many of the decisions I make are 100% on me and that if things don't go perfectly, it's my fault for not being wiser.

Finding the joy

This is probably going to be more stream-of-consciousness than normal, so be prepared.

It just seems there's a drumbeat of bad stuff going on in the world. Oh, I know, it probably always has been so, but there seems to be a convergence of things that makes the paranoid part of me wonder if (a) I will still have a career a few years from now or (b) if I will still WANT a career in higher ed a few years from now or (c) if everything will just wind up going to blazes and if I want to live, I will have to run off to the forest and hide out there and live in a tent (in which case, death might almost be preferable, if it was a situation unlikely to resolve favorably). And yeah, in real TEOTWAWKI situations, you need a posse around you to help keep you alive, and I don't have a posse and I honestly don't know if any of the groups I am more or less loosely affiliated with would let me in or if I'd be the spare giraffe left behind when the Ark takes off. (From a story I once read, about a teenager who was excluded; he described himself as being like the third giraffe to show up at the ark, and of course, he would get turned away).

I don't know. It's getting harder to find the joy for more than a few minutes. The image I have is less going into work swinging my briefcase and whistling and more going in with my teeth gritted and a sense of grim determination to survive whatever life chooses to throw at me today.

It's like....I was thinking this morning about what little I know about horse tack. I remember from reading Black Beauty at an impressionable age that there was something called a "check rein" that was often used to force a horse to keep its head up - so it would look "proud" and therefore, I guess, give glory to its rider or the person it was pulling in a carriage. The implication was, check reins were painful and cruel. (And in some cases, they probably were. Of course, nothing is ever as simple or black and white as it seems. Wikipedia tells me that in some cases a mild sort of check rein is necessary to protect the horse's safety, as when drawing some carts and things, so it won't put its head down and get tangled in the shafts and hurt itself)

And of course, other horse owners would keep the horse on a soft bridle, maybe not even with a bit (at least, when the horse was not working) and the horse was freer and more comfortable.

And I admit, I feel a lot of the time like I am wearing a check rein, and am grinding down my teeth from grabbing grimly on to the bit (One way archaeologists can tell if the remains of a horse was from a working animal, at least from some cultures: is there tooth wear indicative of the animal being bitted?)

I don't know. I don't know if it's that I'm trying to do too much - between teaching and research and the various volunteer things I do (teaching Sunday school, serving as head elder, serving on a few committees, being secretary for AAUW) and trying to keep up with exercise and piano practice and cooking to eat healthfully - a lot of days it does feel like I'm on a treadmill, and all I'm really doing is running forward to the time when I can get into bed that night and stop pushing, stop striving.

The thing is, there's really nothing I can easily or graciously give up. The exercise is non-negotiable even though it means getting up at a stupid early hour (and therefore, having to go to bed at a stupid early hour). There are few enough people at church that I can't give up either task, even though I admit being head elder causes me a lot of stress (we have a couple elders who are not always the best at showing up when they are on duty, and I often wind up either filling in or asking someone else - and I always feel like a heel having to ask someone else who wasn't expecting to have to do it). So I don't know. I'm probably online too much, and maybe need to cut that back - but then again, that's my main "neutral" human interaction where I'm not having to do stuff for people or having to tell people to do stuff. (I hate having to tell people to do stuff.) The reason I would NEVER run for elected office is that having any kind of power is awfully stressful, and it's so hard to discern what is the "best" for the greatest number of people.

I'm just tired, and like I said, "grim determination" often beats out "joy" in how I get things done during the day. Or is that just what adulthood IS? Does being a responsible adult mean you are tired much of the time and you weigh time out in coffee spoons and find that when you are "done" (or at least can declare a halt) to the required work, you're often lacking energy to do what you want to do?

Part if this is just wondering every week at work what new duty is going to crop up - we are having to do multiple online "training" things about different stuff - everything from avoiding needle sticks* to what to do if one of your students comes to you and says their partner is abusing them (We're "required reporters," apparently, as it turns out). And we had to re-catalog all the chemicals we have, and are being warned we may have to change how we store some things even though we don't currently have proper storage and there's no money to buy proper storage....

(*Yes, everyone had to do this. It would make sense for people in biology and possibly chemistry but apparently EVERY campus employee had to do it).

I don't know. I feel like I've reached "peak effort" and adding on anything more to do is going to make me collapse into a puddle of nothingness. And I don't even have it as hard as some people - I guess I'm just a big marshmallow, because I see people raising kids alone and caring for aging parents on top of everything else, and they seem to manage better than I do. I don't know if I fail at adulthood, or if they are better at hiding their anguish than I am....

It could partly be the time of the semester, or the fact that I have two meetings this evening (and so, cannot rest for at least 12 hours now), or just bad stuff happening around me, or still dealing with the disappointment of losing the quilt shop in town, or, or, or. I don't know.

You know it's bad when you hear about a blizzard hitting Kansas and you think, "I wish that would come down here so school would be cancelled for one day and I could do what I wanted for that day"