Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday midday things

* Almost at "escape velocity" - my train is actually mirabile dictu, running early at the moment (outside of Cleburne) and while it's very, very typical for it to lose time in the "hole" between Fort Worth and Dallas - well, it's not hours upon hours late, which means I have hope of boarding not too long after 5 pm, eating a nice dinner onboard, being able to set up in my room with one of the books I'm carrying along, and have a bit of quiet relaxation.

* Books being brought:

"Miss Mackenzie," which I may well finish on this trip; I'm only about 100 pages out from the end I think. (I hope John Ball doesn't dump her now that she's penniless; I hope she winds up with some kind of happiness in this life)

"So Pretty a Problem," which yes, I am restarting, because I lost the thread of the story and I like Mordecai Tremaine enough that it makes me happy to revisit him. This might be my on-train reading.

"Resorting to Murder," which is one of those British Crime Library compilations of classic (Golden Era) short stories

"Life in Year One" which is about Roman Palestine in the time of Jesus. Am slightly apprehensive as I read some negative reviews BUT some of the negative things (copious footnotes, a somewhat meandering style) are things that do not bother me, so. We'll see. (I think some people thought the book was going to be ABOUT Jesus, rather than Jesus being mentioned here and there, and that might be the source of some disappointment)

* I'm also taking my new Interweave Knits, which came yesterday and I only had time to take a quick glance at - it looks like this is a REALLY good issue. Or at least a really good issue in my opinion - all the knits are in some way science-themed, though it's subtle (The most blatant one is the DNA cable pullover).

My favorite out of the gate is the "Little Prince" inspired (because asteroid - sort of sciency) scarf. But I also like the Saturn Rings pullover, and the Chrysalis sweater (despite not normally liking bulky weight things). And the DNA sweater (and why, so often do I look at the men's sweaters and go "I like that one and want to make it for me"? I might do a smaller size or shorten the waist or use a girly color, but...I guess I just like the Boyfriend Sweater look, despite not having a boyfriend)

There are also lots more I'll have to look at in more detail.

I also took the Webs catalog - my mom asked for a Christmas list, and if I find a sweater I really want to make, maybe I can ask for the wool for it.

* I have other stuff with me in my bag. Took a couple bags of the "Candy Cane Lane" tea that I like (decaf green tea with mint and milk thistle). Might ask for a cup of hot water with diner tonight and make myself a "I can still sleep after this" cup of tea. (The new box of the tea I bought, it comes with a little tin for carrying the bags, and I am a total sucker for those kinds of things, so of course I bought it, despite having a few bags left at home).

And Emotional-Support (stuffed) Ponies (Fluttershy and Derpy/Muffins, the two favorites of the ones I've made). And I also tossed in a newer stuffie I have - a little version of the "Squishmallow" animals shaped vaguely like a sloth (You can see her in "Pack A" here but I'm quite sure mine is a bigger size - not the huge one, but bigger than 5".

Oh, here's a bigger version (I have the smallest of the three, the 8" size. I got mine super cheap at Five Below). They have the sloth named Simon but I call mine Slothilda after the incredibly cute online .gif comics. She doesn't look JUST like Slothilda in the comics, but that's okay.

For one thing, she's nice and comforting - good to tuck up in an arm or press to your chest when you're sad. But more importantly - she will work as a stand-in pillow, so if something goes wrong and I wind up having to travel coach (it happens; sometimes sleepers are "bad ordered"), at least I'll have a pillow for my head. And yes, that matters to me A LOT.

I find the older I get the more strongly I desire the little comforts of life: good tea, nice soap, a comfortable place to sleep, things that give me emotional comfort (like having the small stuffed sloth in my bag along with my Ponies). I never was one of those ascetic, "I can camp out happily with just a sleeping bag and a shovel to dig a latrine" people, but I find as I age I am more vocal and insistent about my little comforts - even if they do cost a bit of money.

(Case in point: I used to travel overnight in coach on the train and after doing sleeper *once,* I was like "Why the heck would I do coach any more if I could get and afford a sleeper?" Because sleepers afford privacy and quiet and a chance to actually lie down).

* Oh, and I just realized: lots of places will probably have their Christmas lights up, and once it gets dark (early enough on my journey), I'll get to see them. One of the best parts of the trip, and especially with a sleeper: you have the window to yourself.

* I'm hoping this trip is more restful for me than I'm anticipating. I'm hoping my mom's cataract-removal goes smoothly, and there are no hangups with family members demanding more of me than I'm able to give in that moment, and that I can get a little quiet time, maybe even a chance to run out to the bookstore or something.

And ironically (because it's more noise and bother), I hope my brother brings his dog; being able to say "I think the dog needs a walk....I'LL TAKE HIM OUT" is my way of being able to go "y'all are making me crazy, I need some air" without coming out and SAYING it.

* I have a few embargoed posts for while I'm gone; had a little time to write up a few short things the past couple days. I should be back home (here) on the 24th.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thoughts on gifts.

No, not the material stuff you give and get. But "gifts" in the sense of "talents."

This is something that's been on my mind for almost a week now, after CWF meeting. The lesson was on a version of the "Parable of the Talents" - for those unfamiliar, essentially a rich man gives three of his servants sums of money - a large, medium, and small one - and went away for a time and asked them, in his absence, to invest it.

The first two essentially doubled the money. The third, being fearful of what might happen if the money were lost, just stored it away. The rich man, on his return, was happy with the first two servants but angry with the third.

And yeah, yeah, I get that it's a parable and is allegorical, but I admit - as a risk-averse person, and as someone who regards the getting of money as not being the ultimate good (it's what you DO with it, ultimately) the parable on its surface always bugged me a bit.

Of course, what it's really about is what you do with your "gifts," in the sense of "things you can do."

And discussion worked around to "gifts you're not currently using" and someone brought up that they didn't play piano any more like they used to, and I noted that I didn't knit as much (when someone mentioned that was one of my gifts) but I also got to thinking: is it still a "good gift" if you don't (mostly) use it for others? I mean, yes, I have gifts I use for others - I suppose you could say my teaching ability is one, and I can do a lot of different things around church. But is knitting really a "gift" if I am mostly using it "selfishly"?

And yeah, that's how much I've felt pushed these past couple years, between stuff at work ("gotta make myself seem indispensable") and also the whole sense, as a grow older, that I can kinda hear the Eternal Footman holding my coat and snickering, and that pressure to "leave behind something meaningful" (and since I didn't have a kid, the most obvious way of doing that for most people, well, that pressure is more-felt).

But today, I realized something while proctoring the exam today (and knitting on the mitts): Maybe using gifts we have in a way that makes US happy, even if we're not explicitly doing it for another person, well, maybe that makes us a better person and so makes us "serve" better in whatever capacity we are serving in. And happier people are better able to bear graciously the slings and arrows of life, and are probably better at interacting with others...

I was also thinking, as I knitted, "I need to start spending more time again in the Pointless and Arbitrary Group at Ravelry" - I used to hang out there a lot, and it was fun, but I drifted away at some point for more "serious" groups.

And you know? Another one of my gifts some times is making other people laugh - and doing it without being mean or putting others down. And I like making people laugh; I haven't done it enough lately.

And yes. This has been a difficult year in a lot of ways. I've kind of lost my way in worries and work; I've not done enough of the things that brought me joy. I've felt at times like the only "gifts" I had that were any good for anything were the ones where I was 100% using them to serve other people - in some cases, things I'm good at but do not particularly enjoy, but do out of a sense of duty.

I was thinking the other day - in sort of a personal Slough of Despond - that I didn't really have any dreams left to dream; the things I might dream of (being able to get more research done and published, for example), seemed so small and also it took a great deal of work on my part to get there (and success is not 100% dependent on me; you can write a good manuscript but get it rejected for a myriad of reasons). But I don't know. Maybe I look more at things like "Maybe someday I'll have the guts to try designing a sweater or even a shawl more complex than a big rectangle, and feel like I'll have time to test-knit it and maybe have it fail the first time, but go back to it and re-do it" or "maybe someday I will buy that longarm quilter, and learn to use it, and get good, and make lots of quilts and also maybe quilt some tops for raffles for good causes or for charities...."

(And yeah, funny that my new dreams involve things not related to my career....but I suspect a person hits a point in their career where things do get a bit stale and you would like to have something else to do and think about. I don't know.)

Another thing I would like, but am not sure how to go about it, would be to sign myself on as a "helper" for someone doing research a little different from my own - just be the hauler-of-field-equipment, or the one who takes down the data, or learn the techniques alongside the person. Not have to be the one in charge of the project. (I would also enjoy doing data entry and analysis on this project given the chance). Have a chance to just WORK without always being the one in charge all the time. That's what I don't like - the insecurity of being in charge and when my "helpers" look at me for what to do because something failed, feeling like I'm lost because I don't have a good answer. It would be nice for a change to be the helper who can look to the big-boss and go "Yeah, this equipment is acting up, is there anything we can do?" but not have to solve it.

I guess it's not that I'm TIRED of my gifts, but I'd like a chance to use them a little differently. And maybe not carry such a load of responsibility for a while.

And also, to be able to knit more. Or crochet more. Or make more quilts, whatever. I don't have enough of that kind of tangible work in my life, where I can see the progress being made and actually touch what I am doing....

It's eeriliy accurate

My friend Bee posted this (apparently created by someone with a protected account? So it's hard to attribute) on Twitter, and it made me laugh, because it fits for the three crafts here I do:

Yes, I am primarily a knitter, and yes to anxiety and the overwhelming desire for validation. But I also crochet, and I can see some of the "free spirit" there but also - yes, the love of slightly tacky things. And "Stabby Machine" - "Don't worry, I'll fix it" has been one of my taglines in the past and maybe I've been a little TOO "I'll fix it" of late and tried to fix things that aren't my responsibility or are beyond my powers...

Cross-stitch: I have never been able to do counted cross-stitch; I get off-count, I curse a little, I have to rip out, and then the canvas looks like heck. So I guess I won't be the vodka aunt. 

(I would like to learn to spin, and yes, it would be nice if learning that would chill me out a little and make me more fairy-or-wise-woman-like.)

Dyeing is a little messier than what I'd want to fool with, and felting - too accident-prone given how stabby that little needle is. (I worry about my sewing machine and have visions of putting the needle through my finger in a moment of inattention).

Weaving - yes, I would like to learn that but it also requires space for a loom if you're gonna go big with it (which is the only way I'd really want to take it up).

Lacemaking is cool but probably not for me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Test mitt done

I finished the first "Soccer Mitt" last night:

test mitt

It's loose on me (will make the second one the same though) and even though I have smallish wrists and hands, I'm dropping down to a size 1 1/2 needle for the gift pair - which I started, and I also realize now I give an exam tomorrow, so I will take those along and get some knitting time on them during the exam. My hopes are to finish these and at least start the second gift-mitt over break. I am also taking the simple-socks-in-progress, and thanks to Anita's suggestion, I grabbed the Honey Cowl pattern and wound off a skein of yarn - I had bought a skein of Life in the Long Grass yarn on a good sale from Simply Sock Yarn, and had totally over looked that it was dk (so not for socks - there isn't enough) but it will be perfect for the cowl.

I'm going to have to try it out on a 16" circular, though, I don't have a 24" one in that size. I think I take my second 16" circular in case I wind up having to spread the stitches over two needles, if it's too tight. (That is: if I can't run out to Michael's and buy the right sized one).

Board meeting finished up a little early so I came home and put my pajamas and a pair of comfy socks on:

kuromi socks

These are from the October Doki Doki crate. Kuromi is like a Goth version of My Melody, I guess. There was also a little plushie - the size and shape of those little Disney Tsum Tsum toys - in the crate.

(Am hoping my November crate comes soon. I know the typhoon in Japan slowed a lot of shipping. If it doesn't come tomorrow it may wind up held with my mail though - I did get in today to drop off a "mail hold" card; I don't quite trust doing that online)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A few photos

Some more photos of Christmas stuff.

I ran out to the pharmacy for more of the vitamin gummis I use and also stopped at the Hallmark store, and found this ornament hard to resist:

new ornament

It's a little hard to see but it's a version of the old P.D. Eastman book "Are You My Mother" - the open book, with the final lines of the story written on it, and the baby bird and his mother sitting in the nest.

That story was a favorite of mine when I was a kid ("You are not my mother. You are a SNORT"). I seem to remember that the library in my town even had an edition translated into French and we got it out once or twice and my mom had a go at reading it to me (She learned scientific French as part of her Ph.D. work but wasn't super fluent).

So yeah. As I said Christmas makes me nostalgic and longing to capture the things that I remember from my childhood that were good.

I also got another Snoopy ornament. Because Snoopy just goes with Christmas, at least for this Gen-Xer.

tree 4

You can also see one of the mock-Scandinavian ornaments there, and a little bit of the turquoise alicorn I got a year or two ago at one of the antique shops.

And to match the alicorn? A white reindeer, from the same company and in the same style, found later at that same shop:

tree 1

(They may even originally have come from the person, and if so, it makes me happy to keep the two together a while longer).

tree 2

And a beaded snowflake - from that same antiques shop. (The Christmas ornaments they had, at least the fairly recent ones like these, were super inexpensive, like a buck or two each).

And more:
tree 3

I also set out my Nativity set

2018 nativity

(Heh. Furby photobomb)

And arranged a few of the Christmas critters around:

more critters

piano critters

And yes, that's Krispie again, this time with her big sister, Merry Treat:

Christmas ponies

A Time Out

I got my exam for next week written, as well as doing most of the catch-up grading.

So I've decided, given the sheer number of meetings and other things I've had this weekend (and yesterday) (and will have tomorrow), I'm taking a time out this afternoon: After I do the quiz-and-review in the one class I have for today, I am going to go home, have lunch at home (taking as long as I need, and I may even stop by Pruett's on my way home to see if there are any nice small additions I can make to my lunch from their deli or quick-foods section).

And then I'm going to run a couple of errands I need to.

And then I'm going back home and staying home.

And taking a nice long warm shower and washing my hair, and maybe putting pajamas on early, and putting my feet up and turning my tree lights on and just being HOME for a change. I feel like I don't get enough home-time these days. Maybe play piano a little.

I want to finish the first mitt of the pair and then start the first one of the *gift* pair....I've already decided that size 1 1/2 needles will be better, so I dug those out and can get started. Not sure I will finish these before Friday (in fact, it's almost certain I won't) but I can take them with me, and also, I have better than a week after I get back to finish them. (And last week of the month: so zero evening meetings).

I might take more photos of the tree and the other decorations I have out. And I have one more thing I could put out - the lighted garland rope I sometimes put over the big front window. It's kind of an effort to put up, but it's nice to have...

(Most of my decorating is confined to the living room but really that's where I spend almost all of my time at home when I'm awake).

I saw somewhere else someone saying they were going to curtail their reading of "complaining blogs" and I feel slightly bad and called out about it and I know I've complained a lot on here recently. It's been a hard semester in a lot of ways and stuff has felt overwhelming, and also I don't knit or quilt nearly as much as I used to - so I feel like I have little to talk about other than work.

I'll try to be better :(

I don't know if I'll have any "embargoed posts" over break; at this point I'm not sure I'll have time to write any (or anything much to write about) so things might just go quiet for a while next week.

Christmas ads time

Okay. From my youth, there are two big ads (and a third *class* of ads) that I remember.

Ad 1:

(CH CH CH CHIA! Man, I remember loving those ads 'cos when they came on tv, you knew Christmas was on the way. Also, it's just such a goofy thing.)

Ad 2:

Those two ads are forever wedded in my mind as the "you know Christmas is coming" ads. And yeah, they kind of represent the rather-dumb but widely-available things that you could buy people as a gift, especially if it was someone you didn't know all that well (your wife's Aunt Clara, or your teenaged nephew, or your sister's new boyfriend...)

The third class of ads, I can't quickly find an example, but people of a certain age will remember them: the "compilation album" ads, where there was an album (usually records, but later you could also get 8-tracks or even cassettes) of Christmas music by "various artists" and they'd usually be advertised some time around Hallowe'en (or even before) because of the old "Allow six to eight weeks for delivery" (Man. Given two-day deliveries and the like....times really have changed since the late 70s and early 80s). And they'd play tiny snippets of the music to advertise mother tells me that when I was *very* small (I don't remember this) I once complained about one of those ads because "they don't play enough of the song!" but of course, that's the point - to make you want to buy it.

I dunno. As a kid I remember these ads even more clearly than toy ads. Maybe toys weren't advertised as much? Or maybe toy ads changed from year to year but Chia Pet sprang eternal, and so you knew the return of it and The Clapper means Christmas was coming?

At some point the Christmas car ads started. I don't know when, but I don't remember them being a thing when I was a kid. But the idea that you buy your lover a car - or a car as a family present - is a fairly recent development.

I suppose in SOME circumstances it MIGHT make sense: you need a new car, maybe you can convince your kids to forgo requesting lots of toys because "we are having a Family Christmas and this is our present" (I still would have been disappointed.)

(And yes, that's a thing: I remember my uncle's family doing a no-presents Christmas one year and putting the money they would have spent towards a necessary life-saving surgery for one of their cats. Honestly, as a kid, I would have been FAR FAR FAR more willing to forgo any presents to save a cat's life than I would for a stupid new car. And my mom and dad arranged - with my uncle's blessing - to send some small token presents (we didn't normally exchange) to the kids so they'd have SOMETHING to open)

But yeah. I know people gripe about the commercialization of Christmas and I am normally not that on-board with griping but the idea of dropping five or six figures on a brand new car as a way of expressing joy and gratitude over Christ's birth seems a bit odd to me, but whatever.

(Same with what I call the "WTH? ads" - the ads for perfume or watches, mostly, that are like tiny expressionist films or that have no linear narrative and are just a series of unrelated images. Again, it's an expensive item, usually....)

I suppose because I grew up in a frugal family and during a time of general belt-tightening for most, I tend to think of Christmas presents as "some small pleasurable thing or perhaps something you actually need" instead of some big, "let's impress the other person" show. (Or maybe it's because I never knew *genuine* want - yes, we had cars that ran well, even if they were older and not fancy; I never wanted for food or basic clothing or anything like that)

But I do find the car ads a bit weird because I can only imagine they originate from an alternate universe where people either have infinite money or where things like cars are as cheap as turtlenecks are in our world.

(I also remember a couple years my family did what used to be called "the $100 Christmas," where you strove to spend no more than that on the ENTIRE celebration - so that included the tree and decorations, the meal, the gifts. The idea was you made as many gifts as possible, or arranged for "experiences" like "I will teach you, my niece, to knit." The idea then was the rest of what you WOULD have spent, but did not, was donated to your church or a charity. I think the church we belonged to did a program where they pooled the money and used it to provide food-baskets for people who otherwise would not have had decent food for Christmas.

I also know my parents "cheated" a little in that my brother and I got one nice gift that was ostensibly from Santa, but since we were like 13 and 8 at the time, we kind of knew that it wasn't Santa.

And the funny thing? I don't remember ever feeling resentful or cheated about it; I actually remember it being rather fun in the challenge of trying to figure out inexpensive gifts or things you could make. I know one year my dad got a batch of his favorite cookies, baked by me, and I could sew at that point so I think I made my mom an apron? Maybe? And now I wonder if I enjoyed those particularly because it took the pressure off - being a kid with very limited allowance, no after-school job, and few ways to get money to buy presents other than saving allowance up for MONTHS or asking my being able to make something and knowing the expectation was "we won't have bought presents" took some pressure off me. Heh. How you do anything is how you do everything and I guess I haven't changed that much over the years)

But there's a new batch of "get a car for Christmas" ads out there, that are maybe even a little more selfish than the "buy a car for the entire family!" ads....there are several but I saw the Six Million Dollar Man action-figure one this morning.

The way these ads work is this:

The toy (in either stop-motion animation or more likely some kind of computer wizardry made to look like it) comes out, and talks about how excited you were as a kid to get that toy, and how great your holiday was that year. And then the toy implies that if you buy yourself a new car, you will recapture some of the joy and happiness and excitement you had.

And I can't tell if the ad is so slyly tongue-in-cheek I'm not seeing the irony, or if it's really that cynical.

Because I know as a tired old adult that a new car (with the attendant bump in insurance payments, and having to learn a new dashboard, and worrying about someone "dooring" it in a parking lot until you get those first few scratches) doesn't carry the same unalloyed joy as being six and having a new toy at Christmas. Heck, I can't think of so very many things (I mean literal things*) as an adult that would.

I mean, a lot of people write about how we all have "holes in our souls" and I think that's true. But I also doubt anyone's "hole" is car-shaped. Oh, I can see being *happy* about a new car - especially if your old one is unreliable and has many repairs that need to be done on it and it's somehow easy to afford the new car (like if someone gave it to you) but I also can't see someone having quite the same excitement and joy as a little kid gets over the toy that they wanted more than anything.

I remember being that kid. And I remember that happiness. And I think maybe sometimes adulthood knocks some of that capacity for happiness like that out of you: getting a manuscript accepted is great, will likely have revisions and then there's also the proofs to be dealt with and there's a long, long wait until it comes out in print.  And playing piano makes me happy, but it takes work to keep it up, and sometimes my hands hurt, and some days I'm clumsy and can't play well...

(*most of the things that would give me great joy aren't things - finding somehow a couple extra hours a day to knit and read and play piano and do the stuff I want to do; learning that there is a new and successful cure for the various illnesses people I care about are suffering from; having my own minor health issues (hives and hypertension) magically go away; making a good new close-to-me friend who shares some of my interests so I have someone to go hiking with or go to the yarn shop with....)

I don't know. I think my happiness as an adult is smaller and quieter, and less "thing focused" than it was as a kid. Decorating the tree Friday evening made me happy. The thought of coming home today at lunch and not having to go back out (except maybe to run some errands) makes me happy. Getting into bed early on a night so I can read makes me happy - but it's not the same happiness I felt in 1975 or so when I got the Fisher-Price Castle Playset for Christmas. I'm not even sure that same happiness is accessible to me any more....

Monday, November 12, 2018

Maybe it's fixed

I *think* I got enrolled in health insurance. At least, when I go back to the page it says I am. I declined a few things they were pushing heavily (HSA? Doesn't make that much sense for me; outside of a couple routine checkups a year and some prescription meds, I don't have that many expenses). The only extra stuff I'm paying for is dental (I NEED it; it has saved my bacon on several occasions - four crowns), "accident" (which I'm not convinced I need but it's cheap and it will pay extra to cover broken bones and such not-on-the-job* and it seems I am increasingly clumsy these days), and an additional policy to pay for cancer treatment, which, given my family history, may be needed at some point. I hope it isn't, but...No extra life insurance, no HSA, no policy to cover spouses or kids, going with the vision as-provided because I don't really need more than one pair of glasses at a time...

(*If I get hurt on the job of course we have worker's comp, though I think this accident is like AFLAC in that it would, for example, pay for someone to come mow my lawn if I were laid up with a broken arm or some such)

I'm still keeping the "help me!" appointment I made for Thursday just to be sure, and also to demand they print a PAPER COPY. The "you elected this" thing was as an .aspx file (which I cannot access any more; I just have the online graphic of my plans) that I couldn't print, and I'm way, way too cynical and worried about being screwed over to trust that the state won't "whoopsie" and dump me into the cheapest worst plan when I'm not looking. (I am in one that is cheap FOR ME because the uni pays my way).

But yeah, what a cluster. I was making my class-evaluation appointments with the secretary and she said, "Well, if we're still doing them this way; they were talking about going to an online system this semester" and I just burst out laughing.

My campus can't do anything online so it works smoothly.

I was asked to evaluate the system and I gave it all thumbs-down, especially the stupid autoplay videos on how to do stuff (In place of written instructions, which are what 85% of people want. I also suspect the videos are less-than-accessible for people with hearing issues.)

This afternoon I will grade the policy and law papers I didn't have the energy to do last week and maybe write the exam for after break (which will free up time to grade the late take-home exams later).

It's cold in my office, though. And I brought only cold food in my lunch and that makes me sad.

But yeah. I am tired. And I have bell choir tonight AND CWF (and I have to lead the meeting this time) and it just feels like I'm doing too much but don't know what I can give up without causing major headaches and making people unhappy with me. (So instead: I choose to be unhappy myself. I'd rather disappoint myself than disappoint other people, I guess)

I got nearly the first mitt (the sample one, for me) knitted this weekend and yeah: if I can find my 1 1/2 sized needles will do the gift ones on those; these are kind of big and loose.


Edited to add: with the help of a colleague I got the file showing my choices printed out, so I have official proof. (Also saved a copy as a .pdf). So at least that's sorted, which is a very big relief. I may go ahead and cancel the appointment, I don't know.

I am also telling myself that if I get done what I need to get done (papers graded and exam for after break written), I am going home after class and staying home tomorrow, and am going to do what I want instead of what other people want from me.

A venting post

You've been warned.

This has been logistically one of the worst semesters ever for me. I'm exhausted, I'm angry at some of my students, I'm trying to do too much.

Right now my big worry is this: they went to an online health-insurance enrollment portal this year, instead of the in-person thing they used to do. It has been a giant clustermuck. It was delayed at the very last minute (supposed to open up 1 November, did not). When it finally opened (9 November) it promptly crashed....and was down all weekend.

it's still down today and I can only presume whatever office or business is SUPPOSED to be fixing it is taking Veterans Day Observed off, which means we will have one less day to enroll. (If it's even fixable). The deadline is now the 27th, I guess, but I lose the entire week of Thanksgiving and I do not count AT ALL on being able to access a computer ANYWHERE including getting somewhere to do it because I am going to be the Chore Donkey that week at my parents' house. And it will be loud, and it will be hard to have enough quiet and free time to do it and pay attention to it.

Or: maybe I just take one day when my parents' church is open, and drive down there and ask the financial secretary - a friend of my mom's - if I can use her computer and T1 line for fifteen minutes, and re-enroll there, and just tell people they will have to hang on and not need anything of me for that time because frankly health insurance is pretty darned vital.

(I called HR and said "I won't be able to enroll over break ONE OF MY PARENTS IS HAVING SURGERY" and if it's an exaggeration it's not a lie. They claimed someone would help me if I missed the deadline but as I don't have that in writing, I don't trust it).

I'm really stressed about this. I don't have a spouse to fall back on. I can't afford private health insurance even if someone would take on a fat 50-year-old hypertensive woman who is allergic to almost everything.

I've had people in my classes bailing left and right on deadlines. I had six people contact me this morning about not being able to get in to hand in the take home exam so I just gave everyone an extension until Wednesday on the grounds that I'd rather grade them all at once (when? I don't know at this point but I'm sure the hell not carrying them to Illinois with  me) than grade five or six, and then grade five or six more another day, and then wait three days for another five....

I have other stuff I can do during office hours; if I get that done NOW then perhaps the Monday I come back I can get the exams graded. I hate playing Tetris with time and tasks though but that's my life now. 

And I've just had person after person with problems, the latest being that someone scheduled themselves to work (????) during a class meeting time and they need to reschedule an exam. (And yes, I'm going to do it, even though it annoys me). But I'm fast hitting compassion fatigue, which is bad.

I need ONE thing to go right this week. ONE thing. If I had my pick it would be "insurance reenrollment opening back up and we all get enrolled smoothly" but even something else would be OK.

I have two meetings tonight and two Wednesday night and Thursday I have to pack and and and. I am angry and upset and unhappy and I feel like no one here gives a crap about the struggles I face, but expect me to have infinite care about theirs.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Weekend is over


Too much work, not enough fun, not enough quiet time for myself.

Yesterday was the funeral lunch. Today at church was....oh, a lot of things. Culminating with pastor-parish committee meeting at 3 this afternoon.

I do not like these meetings because they often have complaints that don't really have much of a solution. Or the solution is something that is a PERENNIAL problem.

I am convinced that 90% of church conflict - at least in churches where you don't have illegal stuff actually going on - is due to poor communication, people hearing what they want to hear and then claiming 'but that's what I was told,' or communication that comes too late to be acted on.

I heard examples of all that in the meeting and yes, really, probably 3/4 of the stuff - and the really unpleasant stuff - was one of the three. (The other stuff dealt with "people don't like the hymns being picked" and the response to that was "but we asked for a list of preferred hymns and no one offered any" and yeah, the old Let George Do It was in play. Personally? I'm fairly neutral. I like the favorite old hymns but I also like learning unfamiliar ones. I'm not wild about praise songs but neither of the hymnals we use seem to have those in any sort of abundance)

I am probably not a good choice for the committee because:

a. I was raised to be tolerant of others' wants and needs, and to tend to put my wants behind others' needs, to the point where, for example, I genuinely *do not care* any more about certain aesthetic things

b. I hate hate hate hate hate conflict, I hate people talking at cross purposes, using hyperbole, bringing up incidents from ten years ago as proof that a current situation is a problem, all of that.

Yes, I am a fricking doormat, as one of my high school friends accused me of being. But you know? Sometimes being a bit of a doormat in the name of keeping peace is not such a bad thing I think.

One of the big issues though I think just boiled down to either (a) lines of communication got crossed and stuff didn't get out in a timely fashion or (b) someone heard something one way when it was intended another and you know, this is one of those "it's water under the bridge, it's spilled milk, there's nothing we can do about it now so LET'S MOVE ON AND TRY NOT TO REPEAT THE MISTAKE" situations. Except the past mistake got chewed on a lot and that was just painful to me. (It was not my mistake but sitting listening to blame being cast back and forth bothers me and almost makes me want to step up and somehow take the blame just to get people to shut up. Though in this case I genuinely was 100% not involved so people would have looked oddly at me if I raised my hand and said "yeah, it's my fault, blame me")

I have a headache now. This weekend was stressful. The bell choir also performed and although I'm happy to do it and it went well, still, it's not like it's a walk in the park either, it demands concentration and a certain level of toughness....and tomorrow night, barring really bad weather* we have rehearsal again AND it's CWF, and I have to be there to run the meeting because the person in charge asked me to, as she is going to be at the VA hospital with her husband who is receiving treatment for cancer, and it seems churlish to me to say no in that case.

So anyway. And now next week of teaching and grading and making time to pack and not forget anything and dealing with a houseful of people and maybe my mom not being on top of her game because of the surgery so I may wind up cooking for people at least one of the days (though I am seriously thinking: Monday night, maybe I just offer to run out to the Hy-Vee - which has a Chinese food carry out bar (yes, they do, and it's surprisingly good Chinese food) and get a bunch of entrees we can all split and call it good. Even if I have to pay for it.

I dunno. I keep saying "There will come a time when I will get to rest, and when people will do stuff for me instead of me having to do for myself (or sometimes even for them, too)" but I am not sure when that day comes. (Yes, I suppose I could go find a nice hotel and check in there but you know? It gripes me a lot to realize the only way I might get people to do stuff for me - bring me food, or provide me with entertainment, or help me get things I need - is to pay them to)

(*We're supposed to get a rain-snow mix, but of course it can't come overnight tonight and be *just* bad enough to close the university; it has to come during the afternoon commute home...)

But yeah. I am peopled out, and yet I must go out and be among people all day tomorrow. Life seems a bit unfair on that point; I feel like I should get A Day Without People at least once a week.

" end all..."

Earlier today - 11 am GMT, which would be 5 am here, if Google's time-zone translator is correct - we hit the 100th anniversary of the official end of hostilities in World War I.

Would that it had actually been "The War to End All Wars," as it was described. (Also called "The Great War" at the time - the "I" designation, of course, didn't happen until after the world was once again plunged in a mass conflagration).

I am dismayed, but not too surprised, at the lack of historical knowledge many Americans have about the war. I know more than many, and I feel like I don't have a good grasp on the causes (which seem mostly have been territorial, or old grudges between nations) or everything that happened.

I think part of it is that we entered the war late (I have been told, by people who know more history than I do, that there were demonstrations in many cities opposing our entry. And I'm not all that sure how much good we did....)

But I do know it was hellish, and for the ordinary guys in the trenches it was Hell, and I know about the Christmas Truce, and "The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" and a lot of the "War Poetry" that was written about that time. And how it was kind of the last gasp of the Napoleonic method...but I still feel confused as to the details.

I remember a few years back - maybe 10 or 12 - I walked into my Biostats class to find the students arguing as to whether Nov. 11 was Memorial Day or Veterans' Day. I sighed - even at that point I sometimes felt so much older than my students - and siad "It's Veterans' Day; Memorial Day is in May, but this day used to be remembered for something else; are any of you familiar with 'On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month'?"

No one was.

Now, granted: I grew up with a mother who majored in History before she switched over to Botany, and I had pretty good history (or Social Studies, and sometimes I wonder if the switch to Social Studies from History and Geography was the start of people not learning as much) classes.

But, I don't know. I....kind of feel like we have a responsibility as individuals to learn these kinds of things, to know about what happened before we were here. I know there's history I don't know and all but....this seems kind of important.

I do have some personal (family) links to WWI. A great-uncle (whom I never met; he died - of pneumonia, probably exacerbated by lung damage suffered from gas attacks "over there") fought in the trenches in France; my great-grandmother kept a scrapbook of news clippings and she even had a very crudely made propaganda flier that had been dropped on the US troops from German planes - my great-uncle Burt had picked one up and mailed it back for everyone's amusement (At that point the Germans were losing already; the fliers were supposed to reduce the soldiers' morale but apparently in my great-uncle's case, it did the reverse). Burt came back home but, as I said, he was apparently never that healthy afterward. He did run a butcher's shop but died younger than he might have....

My grandfather on my dad's side was an experimental flyer - he did his training out of what is now Love Field, as it turns out - and was slated to go to France. But I found out last Christmas, reading his memoirs - he got off the train in New York City to prepare to ship out and found everyone partying. Yes, he arrived on November 11, 1918, and was saved, by the mere accident of his training taking longer than it might have (he had one narrow-escape plane crash that laid him up for a while), missed any risk "over there."

So yes, I have a personal connection with knowing a bit of the history of that time, but I also think - as we were involved, as the land-divisions after the war may in some way have fueled resentments that led to the second Great War, and the fact that humans don't change all that much over time, I think there IS value in knowing that sort of history.

I know I linked this a couple years ago, but here is Leonard Cohen reading "In Flanders' Fields," probably the best-known and most-striking WWI poem:

But another one I remember well, having studied it in a few English classes, which is less about "Take up our cause with the foe" and more "War is Hell," is "Dulce et Decorum Est" this one read by Christopher Eccleston :

I almost feel the need to issue a content warning on that; the description of the man suffering after a poison-gas attack is pretty harrowing. But then, that's the point of the poem: war is hell.

I guess it's not so much the lack-of-knowledge or ignorance in my fellow humans that bothers me; it's what I perceive as an incuriousness, a not-caring they don't know and a not-wanting-to-know.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A hard weekend

Today was the funeral, which, for reasons I alluded to before, was kind of hard and gave me mixed emotions.

(Biggest thing: the stand-in preacher was....more fundamentalist in his style....than what we are used to).

And it was just a lot of work. I think I did just about everything that could be done at the lunch at different points: cutting and serving food, "running" (like: refilling the water pitchers when needed), washing dishes (we have a big industrial type washer for the things people eat off of, but the serving dishes have to be hand washed).

It was just...hard. Three hours hard. I'm tired. And I even left while one last lone woman was still eating (she had some kind of tremor and was eating slowly and was also talking to people as she ate). I finally begged off as I had to get to the pharmacy to get my monteleukast refill (would otherwise run out over break and they warn you off of stopping it abruptly)

Also tomorrow will be hard. Bell choir is performing, and while that's fine, I'm also eldering and teaching Sunday school so it will be hectic. The biggest thing though is the pastor-parish committee meeting in the afternoon. Yes, I know this is the new board moderator's idea of "let's just have short routine meetings because then any issues can be headed off before they become big issues" and that's an admirable idea but....the last couple of these I have been at (several ministers ago) were not fun; back in, I think it was 2015? I wrote about how I left a meeting in tears? It was one of those. People were yelling at each other. Yes, they were inappropriate but it was still upsetting and my only response in that kind of situation is to cry because I am constitutionally incapable of yelling back.

I'm a little older now though not much tougher though now I think my plan would be to get up, sweep out, and as I was at the door turn back and say, "When you can interact without shouting, call me, I will be at home" and just go home. I don't anticipate that but I have a history of bad meetings so I *dread*.

(I still hear the voice of the counselor I went to briefly in college: "You're exceptionally good at *dreading* things, aren't you?" Yes. True. But I've never been particularly good at being otherwise; I think in a sick way "dreading" has helped me because it means I overprepare and I am ready for the worst possible situation, and so often when that does not happen, I am irrationally grateful.)

Anyway. I ran to the pharmacy on the way home and got my prescription. Then ran to the Lowe's next door - needed batteries for the window candles, and super glue (I broke my "gingerbread house Snoopy" ornament - Woodstock came off - and I am trying to fix it though at this point it doesn't look good; the plastic looks like the wrong kind for superglue to help; it just got kind of melty and if it doesn't set back up later it won't work*)

(*I contemplated heating a short needle in a candle and melting it into Woodstock and then melting the other end into the house, but that might be even worse.)

And I wound up also buying myself a treat:

new ornaments

I don't NEED more ornaments, but I can find room for these, and they're so cute. And they're made in Poland! Which kind of amazes me because I don't remember the last time I saw something like this that wasn't made in either China or Mexico, and I wonder if maybe Poland's craft-work industry is coming back, or if some trade changes have made their stuff more accessible to us, or whatever. I don't know. It just kind of delighted me to see that. (I remember when I was a kid and Polish, German, or Czech - (Czechoslovakia in those days) glass ornaments were present in shops).

Yes, the style is more Scandinavian than true Polish, but I still like them.

I just...I remember that kind of thing from when I was a kid. German-made, or some other country "over there" glass balls in the Christmas Shops (usually a corner of the O'Neil's or other department store converted over for that come Thanksgiving) and going some years to buy a few to make up for what had got broken in the past.

And yes. I find myself always getting nostalgic at Christmas, and wanting to buy things, or make foods, or do things that remind me of my childhood. Childhood Christmases for me were HAPPY. They were often the happiest point of the year - not just the acquisitiveness (but I have to admit it: the idea of getting a new toy was big) but also the fact that I was getting to do stuff - do stuff with my parents (going out to find a tree) or do fun stuff at school or at church, the decorating, baking cookies, specials on the tv, all of that.

And I admit, as a sad old tired adult who realizes no adult Christmas (in terms of gifts at least) will ever compare to those childhood ones, I still seek out the things that give me that hint of nostalgia.

(I bet Generation X will be, in some ways, the biggest suckers for "retro" things from their childhoods. I know I am. Ask my vintage My Little Pony collection...)

And I admit, a line from an old poem popped into my head: "And girls in slacks remember Dad/ and oafish louts remember Mum" and I had to look it up, and it's one of Sir John Betjeman's. And there's a lot to chew on, mentally, there, but....I do think the idea of trying to make our lives a little nicer, a little brighter, a little more *fun,* and sometimes maybe that involves remembering things of childhood, I don't know.

And yes:

"No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine"

But I have to admit: red and white glass balls made in Poland, and memories of getting that one toy I REALLY wanted, and nice cookies, and all of's nice, too. And I think we can appreciate BOTH at Christmas time.

(And apparently "girls in slacks" was a reference to women working in munitions plants in WWII...)

Edited to add: You can even hear the man reading his poem, thanks to YouTube:

In some ways, YouTube can be a real cesspit, but if you look carefully, you can find all kinds of amazing and wonderful things. I love Poets Reading Their Poetry YouTube.

Friday, November 09, 2018

And it begins

So, does the tree fit in the space in front of my fireplace if I move the coffee table and a chair?


Tree is up!

I still have to decorate, of course - I want to at least put the lights on tonight - but I am extremely pleased because this seems a better space AND ALSO when the lights are on it can sort of be seen from the street.

(OH! And it's probably not too early to set up my on-a-timer window candles, a favorite part of the holiday season for me, because it's so nice to come home in the dark and see them there waiting for me)

Edited to add:

I may just add in photos as I decorate, here is an "extreme night view" (long exposure - so taken on a table, that's the wood surface you see) of the lights:

2018 lights

You can also see Basil the basset, and the sparkly sequinned unicorn, and my stuffed Pigasus which I have now named Pigou (yes after British economist Arthur Pigou) sitting in the armchair that I moved to the curve of the piano to make room for the tree.

Edited to add more:

This is now the view from my recliner if I look to my left

view from my big chair

And I don't know why this one got blurry. I must have moved while taking it

more tree

You can see my Luna ornament here:

hi, Luna

And a brand-new (bought on the last trip to JoAnn's) big Hello Kitty. I have lots of "toy" ornaments on the tree (Hello Kitty, Snoopy, My Little Ponies) but also lots of ungulates (reindeer, sheep, fiber animals, unicorns...I guess they are  ungulates?)


The pinecones with silver and gold glitter and the silver "icicles" came from Target last year; they had some excellent tree decorations last year.

Friday morning thoughts

* The talk of the most recent shooting in the news, and the shooter's background (former military allegedly with PTSD, and it's thought to be a contributing factor) reminded me of my cousin Tom - who was a good 20 years my senior (my mom's family's demographic weirdness). And I realized this morning: it's been 15 years now since he took his life. Probably it was related to something like PTSD from what he experienced in Vietnam.

But: He only took his own life.

But: That had a bad enough effect on my family. (2003, man. That was one hell of a year: in addition to that, I was up for tenure, the congregational split happened, a good friend's husband died v. suddenly of a heart attack). I remember well-meaning (? or more like, "pushy of their own brand of Christianity") people telling my aunt my cousin wasn't going to Heaven because he committed suicide (I absolutely do not believe that. I think God is far too forgiving and has too great an understanding of human pain for that). I remember how it affected his young-adult kids.

And I think: how much worse it must be for the family of someone who commits "suicide" by taking out a bunch of people in addition to themselves. I remember how hurt and angry I was; that would have been magnified by at least 100x had it been other than how Tom did it.

* I adulted a lot yesterday. I don't know if I mentioned on here but the owner of the house to the south of me (it's been a rental for YEARS; the owner live in Colorado, and for a while I thought another neighbor owned it but apparently she was just serving as property manager) was in town and met with me. He is having a lot of renovations done on the place and I think he's aiming to raise the rents, in the hopes of attracting better renters. (We've had a few bad ones through the years. The last few have just been kind of noisy - Motorcycle Guy lived there - but 12 or more years ago, there was an incident where an FBI agent pulled up to the curb and showed his badge and handed me his card and said "I'm looking for the people renting there, do you know where they are" and all I could say was "I hear their dog barking in the back yard a lot but I never seem to see them home" and I really wondered why the FBI would be looking for people and I admit I feared the house exploding or something)

- He had to have some repairs done to something our properties share, and I split the cost with him.
- In the process of that, I found a good reliable painter and got an estimate to paint and repair my garage; that is happening over Thanksgiving week if the weather is good. It will be expensive but there's really no way I can do it myself.
- The owner of the house really wants me to get my trees trimmed. And I learned an interesting fact about Oklahoma insurance: if a tree branch from your neighbor's tree comes down on your roof, YOU are liable (or your insurance is), not your neighbor. Which seems odd to me but whatever. (And strikes me interesting: years and years ago, that property-manager-neighbor came over after a small branch came down on the house's roof making noises like I'd be taken to court if I didn't pay 100% of the damage, and I was younger and more-easily-scared and had just moved in, so I just ponied up a check without question, and now I slightly wonder if that check ever actually went to fix the damage, seeing as I made it out to that person)

So I found a tree place; the guy is meeting with me this afternoon for me to point out what's needed and for me to get an estimate. That will be probably another $1000 if not more. (sigh).

It needs to be done, though, and as they're predicting a colder and wetter than normal winter here, I am anticipating ice storms, so....probably best to do it now.

I did talk to my parents last night and floated the idea of getting a little help with this; I have money in savings that could cover it but they also helped my brother and sister in law afford a new car, and they made a similar offer to me, but right now my car is still good and I am happy with it, so.

I feel like I should be paying for it myself but at the same time they made the offer some time back and....I don't know. It will just make things easier to have part of it covered by them.

* Chuck (the homeowner next door) asked me if I wanted a player piano. He had his dad's, still stored in the house (I guess) but realized now he'd never move it to Colorado. I kind of laughed and gestured to the baby grand (Chuck was on the porch but could kind of see into the living room) and said I had my grandfather's. Apparently it's hard to give away a cheaper piano these days; he said other places he'd offered didn't want it. (I know someone once told me that a  lot of the old spinets that people bought in the early 20th century wound up in dumps. Also they are harder to repair and keep in tune than the more-expensive pianos. I realize how fortunate I am to have Granddad's piano...and I probably do need to make plans for where it will eventually go; I am hoping that once my niece reaches stable adulthood, she wants it, or failing her, the kid of one of my cousins on that side. If not - either a music school or a church, if by that time there are any churches that still USE pianos...)


Yes. Yes to this. (This has become one of my favorite pre-Christmas songs lately. And yes, I prefer the Lansbury version over all others, and I wish there had been some kind of film of the Broadway cast with her; I bet she was a great Auntie Mame).

And I do need a little Christmas.

One of my plans for this evening is to put up the tree. I have a new plan as of now: since moving some of the stuff out of my living room, I see if I reposition one of the chairs, and slide the coffee table over from in front of the (nonfunctional) fireplace*, I could put the tree THERE instead of in the curve of the baby grand, and that would be more room and make the room seem less constricted.

So I'm gonna try it. If it doesn't seem to work I can pick up and move the tree. (Other thoughts: in front of the big window, except that blocks access to the piano and requires moving a small table that's currently full of stuff. Or putting it in the window in the dining room, except then I couldn't really see it from the room where I spend the most time (my living room) and it would block the plants there from getting sunlight).

I'm not quite up for reconfiguring the entire room which would involve moving the piano and the futon sofa.

(*Plumbed for gas, apparently, but I've never looked into getting an appliance put there, because I suspect what you would get these days would HAVE to have an electric starter on it, and the only reason I'd look for alternate-to-my-furnace heat would be for times of extended power outages in winter - the furnace is gas but has an electric starter)

THIS is the kind of thing I want to think about. THESE are the kinds of decisions I want to deal with: where do I put the tree? What other decorations go up now? Where do I put the manger scene this year? Those are easy decisions and no matter what I choose, nothing gets broken or hurt.

It occurs to me that that may be why I love the holidays, and I love doing things around my house like this: all the decisions are low-stakes, and most of them only affect me. If I don't like how something looks, I can fix it. (That may also be my fondness for knitting stuff for myself, or making quilts for myself: I have the fun of making choices but have no blowback to deal with from those choices. And yeah, when you've had people upset with you for pushing back the date of a test (to a later date) because you didn't get everything covered you needed to cover, you get a little gun-shy about making decisions).

* I do need to bake that cake this afternoon. I went to Wal-Mart for cake flour and discovered in the couple weeks since I've been there, they've reconfigured A LOT. The "flour" section is now like five feet of shelf (instead of half an aisle) and they no longer carry King Arthur. They've definitely increased their "junk food" type offerings (the freezer case was particularly marked: one entire side of freezers, like 50', was given over to many kinds of cheap frozen pizza, and the "healthier options" frozen meals have been greatly reduced).

I am guessing part of this is "well, we can sell beer and wine now, and we need space for that" and so some things lost out. But they may also be looking at their demographics changing: entirely possible that Pruett's has sucked away the  people who actually cook (Pruett's meat is way better and their produce is better) and are more aiming at the college-kid audience (college kids without proper cooking facilities).

I'm a bit annoyed. When you position yourself as The Store That Sells Everything and also the Small Mom-and-Pop Killer, it feels slightly wrong to me to pivot so "Oh, you wanted pizza? Well, we won't sell flour and canned tomatoes* and plain cheese any more, but here, buy one of our sodium-laden frozen pizzas!

(*Yes, that's an exaggeration, but they also seem to have reduced their canned and frozen veggie options).

They were never exactly friendly to those of us who have to limit sodium but now they are even worse. I am thinking now I shop at Pruett's for as much as I can possibly buy there (Pruett's doesn't have *everything* I use) and for a few other items, if they're non-perishable and can possibly transmit through the mail, I mail-order.

(I am also wondering if Wal-marts are pivoting to "we're anticipating recreational pot to become more legal, and want to cater to people who want quick sources of high munchie calories" which is also not so good for those of us squares who worry about our health).

Eh, whatever. Pruett's is half as far for me as the wal-mart and the cashiers are happier and more pleasant (probably paid better) so again, if I can find what I need there, that's where I get it; they are more deserving of my money, I think.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Photos, as promised

The first couple you've seen before, maybe in worse photographs:

little cat side

little cat front

The little cat I knitted for my niece. It's cute enough but I'm not sure I'd want to do one again, it's kind of fiddly. (Maybe out of heavier yarn - this was dk - and with bigger needles?)

I also tried to take another one of Bright Eyes (and Baby Blossom, who I now think of as her daughter*, insisted on coming along). I was trying to capture the twinkle-eye look, but it's hard. The eyes are big faceted inset pieces of translucent plastic:

Bright Eyes and Blossom

(*Yes, there is an adult Blossom, and apparently the way the baby ponies came about was through some kind of mirror-magic that essentially cloned some of the adult ponies. But I don't have a Blossom in her adult form, and I bought Bright Eyes and Baby Blossom together, and they just seem to fit).

I admit I really like Bright Eyes' coloring. She was a bit more than most of the Ponies I've bought but I just liked her so much...

I also finished Not Okay Bot, which was a free pattern found on Google Drive. The pattern is designed by Emma Heasman-Hunt but is based on the smolrobots Twitter feed.

Not Okay Bot is a smol robot that is supposed to go find people for you when you are Not Okay. He (she? it?) can be made sad or sympathetic or malicious as you prefer. I went with sympathetic, because when I'm Not Okay, what I need most is sympathy:

Not OKAY Bot

I did make the legs a few rounds longer so his legs were longer, and I added the "control panel" from my vintage button stash - these were all one-off buttons that I had only one of.

button details

You can see the "E S and Co." (or S E and Co) button there; no idea if that's the button-maker or if it was a clothing company that the buttons were made specially for.

I kind of like him (yes, I think of the robot as a "him") having a control panel and it was fun to use some buttons I might never use otherwise. 

Pictures to come.

I need to take some photos when I get home:

- A better one of the cat I made for my niece (and one saved "for posterity," FSVO "posterity" on Flickr, since I AM paying for Pro now)

- The Not Okay Bot, which I finished the other night and modified a bit by digging in my vintage-buttons box and making him a "control panel" of some mismatched buttons I liked and wanted to show off. (One has like the manufacturer's monogram on it, and a quick online search didn't turn up who it was, but I'm still intrigued. It looks like either E. S. and Co. or S. E. and Co.)

- If the sun comes back out (or if I find a good spot in my house), the newest quilt (It's very dark out right now, and probably gonna rain, and it's sort of cold, so not-ideal for outdoor photographs)


I also started the "Soccer Mitts" out of a String Theory yarn - colorway called Epiphyte, which is mostly bright stripes (turquoise, yellow, hot pink) separated by narrower bands of grey.

I have decided to take tonight off cleaning - I overstressed one wrist yesterday with all the lifting and especially all the mop-wringing and I want to let it recover. And I just need a little relaxation time.

Tomorrow afternoon/evening will be baking the cake (just a plain hot milk sponge cake, and I will make the cooked "chocolate satin frosting" which is easy and is pretty good on it) for the funeral. And maybe assemble my Christmas tree - part of the push to clean the "public rooms" was to make it ready for the tree to go up. I could put up the tree and the lights tomorrow night, and them maybe hang ornaments Saturday or Sunday - or clean my bedroom inbetween needing to work at the funeral lunch.

I've pretty much adapted to my mom's surprise "I'm getting my cataract out while you're here at Thanksgiving." Yes, the doctor wants someone present at the office for the full surgery, but I can bring knitting with me. (And it turns out she has to have the other one done within two weeks, what the heck? But one of their neighbors is going to take her for that). The worst that might happen is a lifting restriction and either my brother or I can get the turkey in and out of the oven. And probably Wednesday can be used to make things ahead (like the cranberries); usually my brother and his family go to HER relatives for that day, which means the house is a little less hectic.

I just....I don't like having stuff changed up on me all of a sudden.

I will have to pick a good project for the two hours or so I have to sit and knit. I was thinking of taking a v. simple scarf to work on during time around family - nothing that requires too many bits or bobs (like a row counter that could get lost or turn into a dog toy), but maybe I do a slightly-more-complex pair of socks? Or maybe I just take all the mitts and do them then, if I haven't finished them already?

No sweaters: I won't have room for a big project along with hauling all the Christmas presents with me. And I am absolutely not going to count on having time to run to the Michael's for supplies first.

(I found my short #4 circular but I suspect the Helmholtz cowl is a bit more attention-requiring than what I might be ready for)

Maybe if I can find an easily-enough memorized pattern - or, OH, I take that long pink bulky scarf I am doing in moss stitch. Does not require a row counter because I can see where I am in the pattern and it's just "work until it's long enough or you run out of yarn" and it also has the virtue of being something I want to get out of the "stalled" pile. That would be a good "knit while hanging out talking to family" project, with something a bit more involved while I wait on my mom - so I don't get bored and so I have a distraction so I'm less-prone to worry.


Day two in a row of no mouse evidence: none caught in the traps, no poop under the sink, no new gnawing on the soap that's under there, so I'm hoping I may  have caught the ones that took up residence and drove away any others with the ultrasonic thing and the strong-smelling cleaners I've used.

Also my house just looks better now that I've cleaned it. I get twitchy and sad when my house is too much of a mess; I think it's partly discomfort with the sheer disorder (Clutter I can do. As I said the "clutterb*tch aesthetic" is me. But disorder and dirt and things that feel unhygienic, no) and also worry about "how many bad bacteria got tracked around when that mouse ran around, peeing all the while it ran*?"

(*rodents are notoriously incontinent)

I also worry that I'll get sick/break an ankle/something else will happen and people will have to come over and they'll see the mess and be repulsed and (yes, this is not very charitable of me) whisper to other people at get-togethers where there's food, "you don't want to eat what she brought; I've seen her kitchen..."

And yes, it's probably not ever actually that bad and it's probably really my perfectionism speaking but there is somewhere deep in my soul that feels like "if you're not pulling everything out of the cupboards and wiping the insides down with bleach water once every couple weeks you're probably doing it wrong" though then again, I don't ever remember my mom doing that except maybe ONE time when some potatoes went off in a cupboard, and that was more to eliminate the stain and the smell than anything...

But yes, I feel like my house is never quite as clean as it could or should be, but then again....I work full time. (And I wonder: in retirement, do I just set a rota and clean one room each day of the week, maybe combining the hall and the bathroom (both are small) so I can have the Sabbath off? I have no idea how extensively normal people clean....

Roger did it

So I guess I will of those listicle things:

Available/Single?  Both, though it would take someone pretty special for me to change my mind about staying single; I've seen too many sad couple fights over things like "what brand of frozen French fries to buy" to believe being coupled is the solution to all of life's problems. (Heh. Maybe it's more like the cause of AND solution to all life's problems)

 Best Friend? I don't really have one. I have friends but as I've said before I'm leery of declaring someone my BEST friend because either (a) I am afraid they'd go "that's very nice but I don't think of you as MY best friend" and that would make me sad and (b) I don't want to make other friends sad because they're not BEST. (I've also seen in some circles "best friend" has become euphemism for "life partner" and I don't have one of those either)

Cake or Pie?  #TeamCake

Drink of Choice? Hot tea, different types depending on mood.

Essential Item You Use Everyday? Oh man, I don't know. I don't always remember to put on lipstick so it can't be that. I wear clothes every day, does that count?

Favorite Color? It varies with  my mood but either pink or green or maybe golden yellow

Gummy Bears or Worms? Back when I could eat such things, I'd go with worms, but dental work have ended most gummi for me.

Hometown? I grew up in a little town in Ohio called Hudson, but I've lived here now nearly as long as I lived there...

Indulgence?  Blind bag toys, yarn, books....

January or February? February, I guess, because my birthday falls in that month

Kids and Their Names? No kids. And I'm not going to try to reel off the names of my various stuffed animals...

Life is Incomplete Without? Books.

Marriage Date? Not married. Or are you talking about a date to take to someone's wedding? That would also be difficult for me.

Number of Siblings?  One

Oranges or Apples? Slight preference for oranges.

Phobias/Fears? Dental work, "eye stuff," claustrophobia, mild fear of unfamiliar dogs especially if they are aggressive...

Quote You Like? "Hold fast to that which is good; give no one back evil for evil."

Reason to Smile? sometimes my students say funny or profound things

Season? #TeamFall

Tag Three or Four People? I don't like being obligated to do stuff so I'm not gonna obligate anybody but if you want to do it after reading it, go ahead.

Unknown Fact About Me? Ah, man, I don't know....what wouldn't you know? That I was once attacked by a spruce grouse? That I broke my nose in a sledding accident years ago?

Vegetable You Don’t Like? Broccoli

Worst Habit?  I tend to be a perfectionist. I am also a slob. I am my own worst critic....I could keep going at this. I have a lot of "worst" habits.

X-Rays You’ve Had? Lots of dental ones, the nose when I broke it, an elbow when I broke it...

Your Favorite Food?Mmmmnnn....there are lots of things I like but right now that cabbage pancake thing is probably the thing I make for myself most often. Mashed potatoes are also a big favorite but seem like too much effort to make for one person.

Zodiac Sign? Pisces, like Roger is.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

And looking ahead

I am in a better mood today.

A big part of it is the headache - which had hung on for a couple days, and which I now suspect WAS a low-level migraine - is gone, and even the garden-variety sore neck I have (pretty much always, probably a legacy of having broken my collarbone a few years ago) isn't so bad.

Part of it is - no evidence of mice this morning. At least not out in the laundry room, no, uh, "sprinkles" left on the floor for me to find. (They could still be in the undersink cabinet, I didn't check). But I did install the ultrasonic things (how ultrasonic, I don't know. I swear I can hear a buzz from them and humans aren't supposed to) and I mopped with a strong lemony cleaner (I mopped the bathroom first, on the grounds that its floor was less unhygienic - it was just me in there, no evidence of mice, and because I'm a "setter not a pointer" as the old joke goes, there's not even that much, uh, unwanted liquid that gets around).

I'm also thinking: if I have energy this afternoon after lab, I maybe attack the dining room, really put stuff away in there, move some of the floor-occupying stuff out, and make up another bucket of water and wash that floor. And maybe even do part or all of the living room (and I could hit the hall, very little I have to move there). I like the idea of having the floors be CLEAN clean instead of the half-@$$ed kind of clean I usually do. Or I sort stuff next to my big chair and move some stuff out of that room with the aim of putting up my tree tomorrow night.

Or maybe I move stuff out of all those rooms temporarily, and do one big pass with the mop. (Shoot, maybe I even throw all the stacks of books on my bed and wetmop the bedroom...)

It all depends on if I have the energy when I get home. (Next week I have several evening meetings so doing it then is less possible). But I like the idea of leaving a clean, nice, decorated house when I go for Thanksgiving and being able to come back to it and just relax and enjoy after.

I also started the pair of fingerless mitts for me off the "Soccer Mitts" pattern I referred to. They may come out a bit big; I will have to decide whether to drop back a needle size but maybe this is the "make over break" thing - I will need to take a couple of small, easily-portable projects just in case I wind up sitting over at the eye surgeon's when my mom is having her cataracts done.

(If I can find my short size 4 circular, maybe I also take the Kelvin-Helmholz Waves Cowl pattern I've been itching to start for a while (I have a cake of purple laceweight for that.) Though that's more complex and not a good project if people are talking at you or there's a lot of stuff going on, IDK. If not now, it may well be Christmas-break knitting.)

But yeah. I am ready to switch to "holiday mode," which for me is really "Christmas mode" these days: I want to make nice food and share it with people I care about, and knit things, and maybe make some toys, and laugh over the goofy commercials for gifts that are sort of strange gifts (Chia Pet and The Clapper are forever wedded in my mind for this; I don't know if they even still advertise them or not. I have seen lots of goofy toy ads, for animals with flippable sequins or little toy foods with eyes, or things that are called "unicorn poop" but that look like the "Slime" that used to come in little plastic trash cans when I was a kid*)

I dunno; I kind of enjoy the goofy toy commercials even if other people are all "oh no, it is making our children too materialistic!" Though I suspect wanting lots of things - like believing oneself the center of the universe -are more traits inherent to being a young human than traits our current society has specifically engendered. Encouraged, I will accept, created, I don't think so much.

Heck, I'm kind of materialistic and some of those toys are things i might want, even as an adult. (Not the "unicorn poop," though, not a fan of slime and messy things)

(*I remember Original Slime, Slime with Worms (the younger brother of a friend had that one) and Slime with Eyes.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

It finally lifted

Midday, while eating lunch, the headache finally went away. Here's hoping it stays away and it's not just the caffeine in the tea I drank keeping it at bay.

I have done a couple tasks, and maybe getting those off my plate helps:

- doing the monthly attendance-and-grade report. I didn't write the little "affirmations" they recommend we do for those earning high grades this time because I didn't have time (was doing it in a hurry before class) and also, you know? I don't often get affirmations when I work hard and honestly people who are on their way to being full-fledged adults better get used to living without praise all the time.

- Graded the homeworks I didn't have the energy to do yesterday

- Sent off my swap box (which was a fun thing except I got behind one of those "Oh, and just one more thing" people in line and it took about 10 minutes to get to the front) and a little gift for someone who is going through some rough stuff. I ponied up for Priority Mail which is expensive, but it's kind of amazing to me that they can get something from here to the East Coast in two days - both boxes are due to arrive Thursday.

- I am typing up the minutes from last week's AAUW meeting and I may also need to drive out to the field site for tomorrow just to be sure it's not under water. Or maybe I check the lake level online and compare it to an online's about a 40 minute round-trip out there and I do need to pick up a few more snap-traps and also do more cleaning at home...

- I also have an exam for next week I COULD be writing, I don't know.


Edited to add: Got the exam written, too. And stopped off on the way home and got a new wringer mop (Libman's "Tornado Mop," which has a ratchet mechanism so you can get it wrung out REALLY WELL, and I see now I can also use it to wash down my sealed hardwood floors, because it's that easy to get nearly totally wrung out....and it's been a really long time since I washed the floors well, so I may be doing that v. soon). And got more snap traps, and was suckered in (maybe) again to buying those little "ultrasonic repellers," which I am not convinced actually *work,* but I'm kind of desperate to shut off the Mouse Faucet, so I'll try anything...

I feel a LOT better. Having the headache be gone makes a huge difference. I wonder now if it was a v. low-level migraine; I had a little aphasia in one class and I could literally smell EVERY SINGLE PERSON'S COLOGNE OR HAIRSPRAY in the other one, and both of those point to migraine. If it was a migraine, wow, good on me for pushing through and managing to teach....and still being something close to functional.

So as soon as my bathroom floor (which I mopped first) is dry, gonna wash my hair and then heat up the bean-patty I had the foresight to make a batch of last night for dinner, and probably knit and either watch cartoons or "The Good Place" because I don't want to watch election returns. And I think I'm going to bed earlyish tonight.

My crafting plans are to finish "Not Okay Bot" and start the mitts for me off the pattern I will use for the gift mitts. If time seems to get tight, I can always pull out another pair of size 2s and start the second pair and knit them in tandem.

Tuesday morning things

* On day two of a  low-level tension headache (lower level after I forced myself through a workout, so that's what makes me suspect it's tension and not migraine - not bad enough for that - and not hypertension. My blood pressure has been up a little relative to where it was, but it's still in the "just barely hypertensive" zone, not the ZOMG GET TO THE ER zone, which is the zone that would trigger a hypertension headache).

I think it's likely stress. Because stress, I has it.

I graded an exam yesterday where I THOUGHT I made it easy and people just blew a lot of the questions. (Though now I'm wondering, could there have been an old exam for that class floating around because some of the wrong answers were suspiciously like the RIGHT answers to the previous year's exam, which was different. Either way I'm not happy)

I caught a THIRD mouse overnight. I need to invest in more snap traps because I don't bother to pry the trap open, get the mouse out, and reset it. It seems a cheap enough solution. But I hope the Mouse Faucet that apparently is emptying into my house turns off soon. (Sadly, though: mice are very prolific, and so this may be my life now, unless I hire an exterminator to use poison, which I definitely do not want to do, given that there are neighborhood cats and things)

* Came home from bell choir to a message from my mom: "I guess you're out. I'll call you later."

And of COURSE, my stomach fell into my shoes, because the last time I got an unexpected call from her my dad was in the hospital.

And my mom is sometimes the Queen of Burying the Lede. I called her back, shaking a little.

Turns out she wanted to talk about scheduling times for her cataract removal. (facepalm)

The bad news: the only open day for it at the good eye surgeon is the 19th of this month. AKA Monday before Thanksgiving. I will be up there, yes, and possibly my brother and his family will be there, but....I was like "But then you won't be able to lift or move things with Thanksgiving and you won't be able to help cook" and she said the doctor claimed the way they do it now, there are minimal restrictions (driving is one, I guess).

I usually do SOME of the cooking (lots of the sous-chef type stuff like peeling vegetables) but the thought of making an entire dinner for six people is daunting.  So I was immediately in "Danger, Will Robinson!" territory.

She thinks the biggest thing she will need is someone to drive her there and home, and she said, "If you don't want to stay for the couple hours it might take, you don't have to, I can just call when I'm done" and I was like, "No, I'll bring knitting." (Because honestly, that two hours might be the only real quiet I get during break)

But. Because I have trust issues, and because I've had far too many bad surprises in the past three years, I'm expecting that the doctor was over-enthusiastic or there will be some issue and she won't be able to lift or move around all that much, so much of the cooking of the big dinner will fall on me. (My brother and his family have to go to his wife's family, usually the day before, and also, if the choice is "cook or babysit your niece," I'mma choose "cook." Even if I supposedly "speak kid.")

But yeah. Am bracing to be Chore Donkey this break and I am not all that happy about it. I made my Christmas travel plans with the thought that she'd get an appointment the week before brother and his family do Christmas at their home so it's lower-key at my parents'. (The house tends to be...a bit of a madhouse with so many people in it).

If worst comes to absolute worst, I will run out to the Hy-Vee on Wednesday and buy as many pre-prepared sides and things that I can find that are low enough in sodium and are absent peanuts, carrots, or celery. (Or, heck, just buy something with peanuts if I have to and then I don't eat it).

And if we don't have pie because I'm doing all the things and I don't have time to make one, we don't have pie. Big whoop. I'll make sure there's ice cream in the freezer or something.

Even if she's OK, I think I'm still just going to insist on doing all the lifting and moving of the turkey into and out of the oven, just to be safe.

Though a big part of this is "my stuff" - I make plans, and I don't like having to alter those plans. (And also, I could have stayed down here a few more days after graduation if I had known I didn't have to race up there for her surgery, but whatever. Am not changing my Christmas travel plans now; maybe I get to go out to Micheal's or something in that week before for supplies to make stuff over break.)

* Also apparently someone at church got huffy over the whole funeral lunch thing and....I don't know. I couldn't quite figure out what it was based on what the secretary was telling us and I don't really want to know. I mean, yeah, I'm not happy I have to bake a cake and serve, but it's an important thing and I'm going to do it even though I'm busy but I could really, really do without other people getting upset about things and then refusing to help.

People are eternally frustrating. I tend to be the "sigh, maybe privately complain a little, but pick up the bit in my teeth and keep pulling" type.

I wonder if the reason sometimes I feel very taken for granted is that I don't periodically sit down and have a little tantrum over things, and people just ignore me. It's like how the well-behaved and reasonably-well-achieving kids in a class often wind up ignored by the teacher.

That is sad and annoying and in a more just world the people who just shut up and did the work would get some positive attention, but this is not a just world.

* If reincarnation turns out to be a thing, I want to be a rich, well-connected white man who has people to serve him in my next life.

* I'm still dissatisfied with how the little blue cat turned out; it is not as I expected. It's more wonky than I wanted (I should have waited until I was less-tired and didn't have a headache to attach the feet). I hope my niece likes it okay. This is always an issue for me with making stuff for someone else. I am okay with it (mostly) if something I make for myself is slightly wonky, but if I'm making something for someone else, I want it to be as close to perfect as possible.

Next up is the fingerless mitts for AAUW. I don't know whether to do as planned and make my own pair off the pattern first (to be sure the pattern - a new one to me - works) or if I just embark on the mitts for the gift (given that time is getting short) and trust that the pattern works.

* I've decided that today and tomorrow and Thursday I will work on finalizing cleaning/picking-up, and Friday afternoon - I have nothing I will have to grade - I can come home and bake the cake and also will put up my tree, and do more decorating in between serving at the funeral lunch, seeing as Saturday will be largely a lost day (I will be busy from before 11 am until probably after 1:30, which means the best part of the day for me is eaten up).

* There's no NCIS tonight because it's election returns and that tells me that I do one of a couple different things:

a. Watch something on Amazon Prime or the dvds of Season 2 of The Good Place and knit

b. Wash my hair early and just go to bed as soon as it's dry. I'm tired enough.

c. Maybe get into bed early, but with knitting, and watch something on my laptop until the battery runs out. Or go to bed and read; I'm getting pretty involved in "The Eagle of the Ninth" and it would be nice to have a big block of time to read on it.

d. Practice more piano. I haven't been so great at this without the goad of lessons; some days I'm only getting in 20 minutes first thing in the morning.

I admit, I've kind of hit the "Que sera, sera" point with this. I don't want to watch the returns, I don't want to hear the Monday-morning quarterbacking, the spiking of the football by the "winners" or the agonized worries of the "losers." (Really, in some ways we are all winners and we are all losers after every election).