Sunday, January 24, 2021

Some weekend knitting

 I didn't do a LOT this weekend, but I was tired - last week was a very long week, ending with me having to re-record much of the voice-over of the VR labs, because apparently their microphone was malfunctioning - so I had to listen to myself over headphones and do my best to repeat what I was saying. Fortunately they didn't have many shots of my face (and anyway, I had a mask on), so lip-synching would not be an issue, because I can tell I was a half beat behind the original recording.

But yeah, I needed a break. I think this coming week will be simpler - there's no Soils lab because the students are collecting soil for the tests on their own, and I don't think I have the VR lab filming on Friday either. 

But I mostly worked on the Clinkerbell Cowl. I think I'm going to have to modify the pattern (do fewer repeats so it's shorter) because it looks like I might run short of yarn otherwise:

Fortunately, doing one or two less repeats won't make it look odd. The yarn is a Mineville Wool Project yarn that was on a good sale because it was a close out - the color is called "Gumdrops"

I do have a lot of random single skeins of stuff for small projects - hats and cowls and the like.

I also am thinking of taking back up with the big fluffy sweater from yarn from an October (was it really that long ago? I guess) trip to JoAnn's. Maybe this is a time for just finishing stuff and also maybe working a bit on my stash, and trying to be a bit more disciplined about knitting rather than spending a lot of time on the internet in the evenings. 

I also changed the sheets on the bed tonight (my allergies have been raging and my skin has especially been angry - for a bit this morning I was looking at some patches on my torso and wondering "hives, poison ivy from when I was last out in the field, or could it be shingles?" but given that it's really decreased in itchiness and seems to be fading, I seriously doubt it's that last.  (And yes, I know, there's a shingles vaccine, but I am waiting on that until I'm vaccinated for COVID - I've read they don't want you to have any other vaccines within a certain time of getting it and I'd hate to get a shingles shot and then have my turn come up and have to wait).

I also washed two handknit sweaters that I had spilled something on (yogurt in one case, milk in the other) and wrestled them onto a rack (with towels spread on it) to dry flat. And I hand washed the newest socks - I like to wash them before wearing them to get any sizing out. 

I had also been having some back issues - when I'd first get up, it would feel like it wanted to seize up and would hurt for the first five or ten minutes walking around, making the idea of working out less appealing. Bad shoes? Maybe - I need to get some new shoes. But it might also have been getting too cold over night - even with blankets on the bed. One night I forgot to turn the thermostat down overnight and it stayed up around 72 in the house and I didn't have the problem. So I tried it again the next night, same thing - so maybe I'm just to the point now where I can't let myself get too cold? Or maybe right now it's just a little weak. (I kind of threw it out earlier in the winter trying to move something too heavy for me). But also maybe forcing myself to get regular exercise - like almost every day, even if it's less exercise some days (so: maybe six days do 30 minutes rather than four days doing 45) and that might help. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Thursday evening things

 * My January Doki Doki crate *finally* shipped. They sent an e-mail about a week ago apologizing and saying they were looking for ways to "make it up" to their subscribers (but I expect nothing). At least it's on its way now. Because I need something.

I had to request a refund from Amazon; I ordered a circular needle I needed for knitting and it got lost in the mail. I got my refund and tried reordering from Quixotic Fibers on the grounds that they're closer to me and hopefully it won't have to go through too many USPS centers.

I should have just gone with Quixotic from the get-go but I still have this foolish idea that paying for Prime means I get 2-day shipping. (I might cancel Prime before it renews this spring; I don't have time to watch streaming video and the two-day shipping isn't happening now and maybe won't ever again)

It's just frustrating when (a) you don't feel like you can go anywhere because of the pandemic and distance and being busy and (b) the delivery services like USPS and FedEx seem to be failing hard. Or at least here they are. I don't know what's wrong with the Tulsa center but that's where packages go to die.

* This week has been hard. Just lots of things to do - lots of paperwork, and trying to juggle too many things. Tomorrow will be long, too - the two lecture classes, and the advanced stats class which I am not *fully* prepared for (but I just couldn't do it all this evening, I was just too tired) and then more filming of virtual labs. And grading this weekend, and writing exams already next week.

* All my colleagues I've talked to generally acknowledge that teaching right now is 1 1/2 to 2 times as time-consuming and difficult as normal. I'm also reminding myself in some cases it is no so much that *I* am failing, but that I am in a situation that's set up to fail. Like, teaching a lab "distanced" between two far-apart rooms with no TA. I had someone fill in today but she cannot normally do that to help me. 

And yet, I feel like a failure. And I don't like that. I suspect this will just be a semester to be endured. As I've said several times: if I were eligible for early retirement, I'd be gone. (And I anticipate we will be doing this again, this same way, come fall. I am doubtful of the "mostly normal by summer's end" claims some are making)

I am not sure why this one feels harder than the fall, but it does. (Probably because "break" wasn't restful for me the way they were in the past, and most of the things I enjoy doing are still off the table for now)

* The talk of Twitter today was the "secret red button" - the former President had it on his desk, the new one had it removed. And the button, it turned out, summoned a staffer to bring a Diet Coke.

So people were talking about: was having a Diet Coke button ridiculous or sort of expected or actually sort of a clever idea? And what would they have if they had a "magic button"?

I don't know. I don't drink Diet Coke, and I'm also not sure I like the idea of summoning someone to do something for me like that - I mean, I can get up and get my own darn glass of water when I need it. But I also admit it would be nice to have attention on demand, or, as I joked on Twitter, someone who loved me to come and hug me when I needed it. 

Though is attention on demand really attention? Is a gift, demanded, really a gift?

* Not gonna lie, making a "list" of things I would really like to do once things are back under control (Again: if they ever are. And yes, I keep saying that, partly because I don't believe they will be, but also partly, superstitiously, that I don't want to jinx any possible future good by *expecting* it. )

Some of them are dumb - like finding a petting zoo that's not too sad, and going and getting to pet llamas or feed goats or some darn thing. I don't know why. And I want to go antiquing again. And I would love to go and have a "fancy style" afternoon tea, even though I know exactly zero places within driving distance of me that do that. And to go to a play again. And to buy new shoes without having to guess and order online and hope they fit. (My shoes are all wearing out and I don't know what to do. For now I'm wearing the old ones and they're probably part of what's jacking up my back. But I also don't know a good shoe store here, and the one up by my mom that I used closed forever. I have hard to fit feet and foot, knee, and hip problems, so I can't just go into some cheap shoe-e-teria and grab something off the shelf). And also buy real clothes again - I've bought a few things, but just sacky dresses and elastic-waisted casual pants. 

I dunno. I could do a few of those things, maybe (but I don't think stores let people try clothes or shoes on here) but I also don't feel comfortable going out right now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

it's almost bedtime

 yeah, it got kind of late. I sort of got nothing for today; just a long day of teaching. One of my students who had to start isolating after sitting near someone who tested positive has been cleared to come back so I assume she got tested and tested negative.

But yes, it is a lot of extra work teaching in the pandemic. Both the increased bits of work (processing and uploading the Zoom copies of the lectures), and the worry of "what if someone I am near is an asymptomatic carrier," and the additional paperwork (contact tracing) we must do. And so I'm more tired. 

Watching an old Miss Marple movie - one of the ones with Margaret Rutherford, which apparently Agatha Christie did not care for her portrayal of the character. (Jane Marple, in the books, is a small, birdlike woman, and Rutherford - well, she is not).

I admit I like these. I think part of it is I enjoy watching Margaret Rutherford. Strangely, even though they looked really not much alike, she somehow reminds me of my paternal grandmother (and they did not sound AT ALL alike - my grandma was from Chicago, from an upper-middle-class family, but still, clearly Midwestern American). But I was also struck watching Rutherford in "Murder, She Said" - my body has kind of settled into that shape a bit. It's familiar to me. I am probably a bit more chesty than Rutherford was, and maybe I have a bit more muscle tone, but yes, the body shape is familiar. 

I also just like the old British "cozy" mysteries (which Miss Marple definitely fits in with). It's funny, even when something like history distresses me, most of the cozies work to relax me. The movies are a bit different - more modern, and they don't follow the books/stories exactly (at the end of Murder, She Said, it's implied Miss Marple MARRIES! yes, to "Mr. Stringer," who was played by the actress' real-life husband. I've read a little about the relationship -apparently she suffered terribly from anxiety and depression, but somehow he was able to help her cope. ["get you a man who can...'']. And she tried to get him cameo appearances (at least) in every one of her movies after their marriage.

I did manage to add one more row to the crocheted afghan last night.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

working on things

 I came in to the office for a couple hours yesterday and wrote an Anne Lamott style SFD* of the introduction to the soil invertebrate paper. I may need to find some better background research to include, I don't know. Or maybe I just write and submit it, and figure I'll be REWRITING it to an extent anyway, and let my reviewer tell me what sources I am lacking? Maybe that is the secret? Be less perfectionistic and not worry about the paper being "just so" (and still have to revise and resubmit) and do a good-but-not-fantastic job and just COUNT on revise and resubmit? I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if my desire for people to have a high opinion of me means I go to far more work on my own than I have to.

(*S****y First Draft. As in: get the thoughts and words down and don't self edit, just go and figure you can rewrite later on)

But before that, on Sunday, I finally got a backing sewn up for the most recent quilt top:

top shown on the left there, or at least a corner of it. The backing was a big piece of cosmic-print fabric from JoAnn's. I liked the print and also the colors work well with the top. 

After lunch yesterday I masked up and dropped it off. (I am still worried about the new variant but it seems that masked, short-duration trips where you don't talk A LOT are still pretty safe). The woman working in the shop praised the color choices so I guess that was a crumb of positive human interaction.

I am getting it quilted in a floral design. There was another option but it was very tight and busy and I think with the busier fabrics it would not work as well. It's supposed to be done in six weeks or maybe even less, though any more? Where am I going? I don't anticipate being able to travel for spring break so I will be here. (Six weeks may not even be quite spring break yet). 

I've also been working away on the Clinkerbelle Cowl some; I knit a fair amount while watching Ralph Breaks the Internet (well, most of it. I got tired and lost interest and just looked up a spoiler online though I assumed it ended more or less happily, being Disney). I still think the original "Wreck-it Ralph" is a far, far better movie - tighter, less trying to "reach" to be current in a way that probably won't age now (I think a fun game might be "can you spot now-defunct internet sites in the "cityscape" when they go online"). And I liked the "heart" of "Wreck-it Ralph" better - the fundamental idea that you don't NEED a medal saying you're a good person if people who matter to you like you and think you are a good person, though perhaps that's because that pushes a button I have that I know needs to be pushed. 

I've also been picking away halfheartedly at the big crocheted afghan; I would like this to be big enough to be done but it takes very long.

And I started a swatch of the giant yarn for the cardigan, but didn't get very far.

And I thought about - but did not sit down and do - working more on the unfinished top using a Charm Pack. But I do want to get back to that.

One of the issues is I feel like I am being pulled in too many directions - plan a summer field season doing something! try to get the current data into maybe-publishable form! keep up with classes! make stuff! clean your house! but also feeling kind of tired, and I often don't wind up doing much, or wind up working on the lowest-effort thing these days.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

some driving thoughts

 I did go to Sherman today. It varied from "pretty good" to "slightly unsettling" (the shelves at the Ulta were REALLY empty and they had almost none of the fun fancy "body wash" stuff I was looking for, and I hope this particular store or the whole chain is not winding down. I mean, I could mail order but I tell you what, IF the pandemic is ever over? I'm going to do as much of my shopping in-person as I can just because I've missed that so much).

Anyway, while driving, I was thinking about how when I was in my very late teens and early 20s, I was even more isolated in some ways than I am now, and I was fine. I lived alone in a studio apartment, I went to class, I went home, when I got bored I went and walked around Ann Arbor. I didn't have a lot of friends; most of the people I knew from classes were acquaintances at best. And I was FINE.

I don't know why. I didn't have internet then. I did watch more TV; in those days I could get CBC out of Windsor, I think, and I watched a lot of that. And I listened to the radio; there were some good stations (NPR, which I don't get here, and one that played almost all classical). 

I don't know. And now I wonder: was I just more "feral" then? And I've become "domesticated" now and got used to the presence and familiarity of people, so now the lack of that is so painful to me?

And can I become "feral" again? As a way of coping?

 I think really the loneliness and lack of human contact is the single worst thing for me in this.

I also wonder if it was that back then, I had really no responsibilities: I didn't have a job (I was living off money my grandparents effectively left me - it was the money from the sale of the resort that they owned, which my dad invested and was VERY fortunate in the returns, and he split it between my brother and me for us to go to college on), I only had to worry about feeding myself and keeping the one big room clean and doing my classwork. And I did not have other people's lives that would be greatly affected by my choices, like happens now with my students. So I didn't feel like I had to consult with other people when I made decisions. Now....I ask other people's advice a lot, because being a grown up doesn't have a rulebook (I really thought it would, back when I was a kid) and I'm always afraid of hurting someone in some avoidable way.


I also found myself wondering if I will eventually forget what things were like in the before-times, and this new shadowy life of avoiding people and rarely going out will bother me less than it does now.

Or maybe I've just become too dependent on other people's approval and validation? I know I crave that now in a way I don't remember having craved it when I was younger.


I did wind up getting yarn

It's a superbulky, which I almost never work with (it's put up in smaller skeins, so more ends to weave in, a little harder on my hands to knit on, and generally bigger women like me don't look so great in superbulky sweaters). But I dunno, it was on clearance and I liked the colorway and there was enough of the same dyelot for a cardigan (and I even found a pattern (NB: not a ravelry link for those with  concerns) that I really like for it. And I have another use for the size 15 needle I bought for that blanket I made now....

Also, I don't often "work blue" on here but I saw this in the Valentine's Day stuff and...yeah....

This is actually a triple entendre, I think, because in addition to the "love yourself (platonically)" (which I think I'd think of more as self-care) and "love yourself (uh, non-platonically)," there's also the "egotist" definition, as in "he loves him some him, doesn't he?"

But yeah. I remember another craft store I was in a number of years back had a "happiness is a warm glue gun" sign and I was like DID YOU EVER HEAR THE BEATLES' SONG YOU ARE BASING THAT ON? and....yeah.

I did wear my N95 masks (I found a box on Grainger back in the fall, when the pressure on masks had relaxed a bit and civilians could sometimes find them to buy). I guess I'm glad I did. In the JoAnn's, everyone was masked, and in the Ulta, everyone was masked, but the Kroger's....uh. There was a group of teen girls yelling at each other (no mask) and several bearded guys who were unmasked. And yeah, Grayson County has a mandate, and Kroger has signs up, but I don't fault their employees for NOT going after people who won't, given some of the news stories about belligerent anti-maskers.

One of my colleagues has a beard and wears masks no problem. Though he does have a small groomed beard (as I remember it, haven't seen the lower half of his face in a year) and not a ZZ Top beard like these guys.

It makes me sad. I just try to avoid people and move fast.

The N95 isn't ideal and I will probably only wear them for labs where distancing is hard, because my face doesn't like them:

I don't THINK that's an allergy; they were specifically marked "latex free" and I don't really have a latex allergy anyway. I think it's just pressure. 

Also, the Kroger's has a product that made me laugh, because of the Simpsons: 

"Now, with Vitamin R!" (I'm sure that name was picked for the associations and to make people talk, though also A is for Almond, I guess.)

At least now I have food ahead. I bought a small chicken and plan to do roast chicken tomorrow, which will give me leftovers for most of the rest of the week then. And I was able to get some good salad greens, which I'd not had for a while - Pruett's seems to have a hard time getting more than the chopped iceberg, which I do not care for. I may have to do something like ask for an Aerogarden for my birthday with the lettuce-growing pods and do that. (It gets too warm too fast here to grow lettuce outside, and my experiments with just growing it in a "sunny window" tells me my windows are not sunny enough)

Guess it's good

 I guess it's good I'm going out today for what might be the last big trip for a long time.

I'm feeling the loneliness and isolation of all this extra hard this morning. A couple of friendly mutuals apparently had to deactivate for personal reasons, and my abandonment issues are all inflamed. I'm again worrying: will I ever make friends again? Or will I just continue to lose existing friends until I am all alone? If this pandemic is ever over, could I HIRE people to be my friends, maybe? Maybe that's what it would take?

I don't know. I'm sure part of this is being kind of burnt out from the first busy week, and having a student who tested positive and having to deal with THAT and also the being-videoed for an eventual VR lab (a little too little and too late, but whatever) and I was on campus from just before 8 until after 5 yesterday, but I didn't really DO anything meaningful to me. 

I don't know. I'm feeling the "third quarter phenomenon" hard today but I also am terrified it's really not even the end of the first quarter yet, and I've got YEARS more of this to endure. (If I can. Some days I really wonder. I read a news story about a person in a nursing home who just started refusing food and drink and saying "I can't do this any more" until he died and yeah, I have days where I say "I can't do this any more" but I do, somehow, keep doing it)

I'm hoping getting inside the JoAnn's and also getting better grocery shopping at the Kroger will help. But right now I'm just lonely. I am planning on going in and working on Monday (we are given Martin Luther King, Jr. day off, and most years there are community-service projects. I guess there are "virtual" ones this year but I can't with "virtual" anything any more) and try to write more on my manuscript. I don't know if that will help. I hope it does. 

I was feeling so good at the start of this week, and now my mood has plummeted. Maybe this is just a thing now? More mood swings than normal? I don't know. 

I also dreamed last night about some of the people I have lost recently and I HATE that. I want it to stop. I don't care if they're "visiting" me or if it's evidence how much I cared about them or what, it makes me wake up sad and then it's harder now to shake that sadness than in the before-times when there were more things to distract me and more people around. 

I'm also more upset than I should be over the news of the alleged "vaccine stockpile" being a giant lie. I mean, I know people in politics always lie. But I was so hopeful there was going to be a lot of vaccine out there and it would just take a little bit of the logistics falling into place. But now? Who knows? My mom is something like 4200 in line to get vaccinated in her county; for me, there's no potential date given which makes me wonder if I'll even be able to get vaccinated this year, or if I have to drag on endlessly. (In the future, people will ask me: "Why won't you trust us?" and I will tell them, "2020 burned through my ability to trust." It was never good to begin with, but 2020 into this year has just made it far worse in terms of my assuming I will get screwed over, or forgotten, or if I break ONE rule the full weight of enforcement will come down on my head even though other people break that rule without consequence). 

I dunno. Many years ago I wrote about how I was discouraged and wished I had a Clarence or a fairy godmother or a magic unicorn to console me in some way....and I had no idea, no idea at all. My life was so much better then than it is now, and I was complaining about it.

Here's hoping I find something nice at the JoAnn's to cheer me up, and can get nice food at the Kroger's.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday morning thoughts

 * Once again, the "eat mealworms!" stories are cycling through the news, and I have a couple thoughts:

- I will consider it as an alternative protein source when I see rich people - and not just life-hacking techbros - eating them regularly (and not just as a "We must show those 'lesser' than us that they are okay to eat" thing - I mean eating them as a "normal to them" food)

- while yes, some cultures do have traditions of entomophagy, in terms of cheap and environmentally friendly proteins? BEANS ARE RIGHT THERE. And culturally we have a lot of good bean recipes, from just plain baked beans, to bean burritos, to bean patties (think falafel). I think most warm-weather cultures have a big bean recipe repertoire (because beans grow and produce well even in warm dry-ish climates), and even places like France had some bean dishes.

But I guess bean stories don't get eyeballs or outrage? Or maybe there's some kind of hair-shirt sense necessary in "eating in a way that's good for the Earth" stories and beans taste too good for that? I don't know; I like beans and use them a lot.

* Thinking this morning about some of the things I bought in bulk online (I opened a new bag of chocolate chips to add in to my oatmeal this morning) and every time when I opened the big case lot I would think "by the time I've worked through this, maybe the pandemic will be over, or at least things will be a lot better" and not yet, and that makes me sad.

* Sea shanties have become a thing, I guess, and some are quick to point out the fact that historically they were connected to the slave trade, and to me it feels related to the questions I was asking a few years ago about "why are pirates seen as exciting, cool figures? Many of them were pretty murderous and in some cases women they ran up against don't come out very well in the interaction" and I wonder if we do just wipe clean things from the past and make them seem nicer than they were? I mean, look at modern-day "pirates" - pretty scary for people having to navigate cargo ships through that area. 

I dunno; maybe we downplay the violence of the past.

* Still tired after yesterday but at least my hip bursitis went away so maybe I do just need to be on my feet more?

* And hoping I don't hear anything from the nurse about "you really should isolate too" - I assume she would have told me yesterday if I should be - if I don't, I'll assume a quick early masked-and-distanced trip out tomorrow will be okay. Because I NEED something. I need to get out of town, I need a little distraction, I need something that feels vaguely normal.

* This is a hard time to be even SLIGHTLY Chidi Anagonye in your makeup; I agonized all evening last night about "well should I just give up the trip to Sherman I've been looking forward too all week because I had someone test positive in class and I want to do the Right Thing and not risk exposing anyone else if I might have it?" but also I don't want to go get tested because of the expense (no it is not free) and also the discomfort.

I am assuming that since the nurse did not tell me "OMG, stay home the rest of the week and teach from home" I am probably safe? But who knows? No one knows and that's what bugs me so much. Doing the right thing is hard because in some cases it's not clear what the right thing is, and in other cases avoiding the small chance of doing a wrong thing means more effort and difficulty and maybe cost and also discomfort. 

I do not like this reality; can I petition to get a different one?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Tomorrow: better, hopefully

 * Came in to a student e-mail: "Oh hey I tested positive for COVID." This was someone in class YESTERDAY. Yes, I was 15' from them and we were both masked so I'm going to assume I am okay (though if the campus nurse tells me to quarantine or get tested, I will. Testing is not easy to arrange here...)

I passed the student's info on, they had NOT notified the right people, and I sent the names of their nearby seatmates for track-and-trace. But yeah, it's too early for this.

I guess I can still go to Sherman Saturday? I mean, if I get an e-mail from the nurse tomorrow saying I really should be tested, I will not, but....I feel like that was ALL I had to look forward to, and after 10 months of near total isolation, I get maybe-exposed doing my job? NOT. FAIR.

And please don't @ me and tell me not to go; I've probably walked past exposed people in the grocery. Yes I feel bad about the whole thing and there's more than a 50% chance I feel too guilty on Saturday and I don't go and wind up trying to arrange for grocery pickup instead :(

* My lab is split between two rooms. But they aren't next door to each other. They are about 100' apart, and around a corner from each other. I don't have a TA - they're "working" on getting me one, which means I might not get one. So today, it was assessment testing, I wound up running back and forth between the rooms. When we actually do labs this will NOT be sustainable. I cannot even have a camera and Zoom set up and do the pre-lab in one room and broadcast it to the other because neither room has a projector and I'm sorry, i am NOT going to carry the departmental laptop and portable projector and set it up every week.

NOTHING about this semester feels sustainable now.

* The county my mom lives in opened up a "sign up online to get an appointment" portal through their health department. For over-65s. So I tried to sign her up. Guess what? They only communicate over e-mail, and while she technically has an address, she doesn't use it. She gave me her password and permission but Gmail will NOT let me access it without third party verification - either sending a text to my brother's phone (which he set up as the smartphone connection) or using a "recovery" e-mail address, which she does not have.

Now I'm terrified I've screwed it up and she won't be able to get vaccinated. She says her doctor claims he will get it but I am not confident as they had no date given - and my doctor says SHE is not getting them here, because she has no cold storage.

I feel bad, because I tried to help but probably made things worse.

 (Update: my brother called; he got the code on his phone to access the .gmail account and he talked her through looking it up - so she is in the system and will just need to check periodically. Maybe THIS finally gets her using e-mail, at least minimally. But EVERYTHING surrounding trying to fight this virus has just been such a mess)

* And then finally, rushing to fix dinner? I didn't see one of my favorite little plastic lunch containers (it had the My Little Ponies on it!) was close to the burner and it partially melted. So that's spoiled.

 Photo evidence. And I hunted around online to see if I could replace it but I guess it's been too many years and it's no longer made. I couldn't even find ANY kinds of cartoon themed lunch kit things so I guess I just have to get plain ones? I guess? Because adulthood has to be plain?



I know I see too many patterns in things when I should not, but it feels kind of like everything is going to crud, and maybe I should just go to bed early and hope for tomorrow to be better. But there are too many things to do and too many things to worry about and I am REALLY concerned that I should not do my "mental health" outing to JoAnn's now that I had a student who tested COVID positive in my class. I don't know. I try to do the right thing but the rules are so changeable and conflicting and I also feel like I have given up so many things I wanted in the name of doing the "right" thing, and just when I was set to relax a bit....THIS. 

I dunno. I really wish I just had someone to tell me "No, it's okay, put your mask on and go, you haven't really been exposed to COVID" but I don't know. No one knows. And I hate that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

And looking forward

 No, I don't have a shot appointment yet. Supposedly I am in wave 3, and they are on wave 2 here. Depending on which one I'm going to get, I may have to try to plan dose 2 on a Friday - have heard reports with the Pfizer vaccine that a lot of people have a day of exhaustion and malaise after the second shot and while I could take a sick day if I had to (I normally never do), I'd rather not.

Of course I might also be lucky and be one of the ones with minimal side effects. 

But I need to plan more things to look forward to. I had my telehealth visit yesterday with my doctor. Good news is she was *very* pleased with my bloodwork and said my hypertension seems back under control (my bloodpressure went up this summer, which she thought was maybe weight gain, but I wonder more if it wasn't stress). 

She also asked me - she said she was asking all her patients - how I was doing emotionally.

I dunno. Yesterday was a pretty good day and now that I'm back at work things seem a little better; I don't do well with idleness and no short-term goals (like: "need to prep for this particular class"). She did mention a lot of her patients were asking for either anti anxiety or antidepressant medications.

Maybe a couple months ago I would have taken her up? But now with the promise of not TOO many more months before a vaccine, and being back at work and all, I seem to be doing okay for now.

I did mention that I was feeling the isolation hard; that just going out to work/church/grocery store on a weekly basis made me feel a little cabin-feverish. I mentioned how in the before-times I used to go periodically to JoAnn's or the bookstore or the Kroger's in Sherman. And she kind of laughed and said yeah, she understood that - and advised me that if I masked up, and went early in the day (so: fewer crowds), that it would be fine. (I'm not going to worry about the remote risk of a car accident; again, if I go early in the day it should be okay; I am a pretty good driver - anyway, I did okay yesterday and I was out on 70,  which has some pretty bad drivers)

I don't really NEED anything much, though if they have some of the newer issues of the British craft magazines I sometimes buy, I could get those, and there are always bits and bobs (handsewing needles, thread....) that I could stock up on. And I want to go to Kroger's; there are things they have that nowhere else does and it would be nice to get some of those things. (And also just get out). Grayson County has a mask mandate (we do not) so it should be better than here. 

Maybe I just need to do something like that once a month, along with trying to get out and walk somewhere in the region every week or so, and that will hold me until I can be vaccinated and start going out a bit more freely. (Still masked, of course, that will be a thing for a while yet, but there are some early results from Israel's vaccine program suggesting the vaccine prevents *transmission* as well as *illness* - and if those results hold up, that is very good, because shutting down transmission means the pandemic shuts down faster and we can go back to living more like we did in the past. 

I know some people would be aghast at me doing that; I read other places online like Ask Metafilter and it seems that lots and lots of people are getting their groceries delivered and never leaving the house and....I can't do that. And my doctor seemed to think that preserving some emotional health was worth balancing vs. the small risk of getting exposed. (From what I have read, it's being in places around other people for LONG periods of time in close proximity - like eating a restaurant meal in a restaurant with someone. And actually, I set a boundary tonight - one of the members of the Pastor-Parish committee, who is trying to get us meeting regularly again, suggested "we could go to a restaurant and..." and I came back with "Maybe I'm being overly cautious, but with my asthma, I have decided I'm not eating indoors in restaurants for a while yet" and they accepted that, and said, "Maybe we don't need to have a meal..." or suggested carry out. (I think that would be okay, with us all sitting far apart in the Fellowship Hall; I just don't want to be in a restaurant with gobs of people that I don't know how careful they are being)

But yeah, right now things are okay. If they ever get really NOT okay, I can call my doctor back and she will prescribe something. I honestly would rather not, I take enough meds as it is and I dislike fighting through side effects (it took a while to get the blood pressure med dosing right). 

And anyway, there's the hope eventually of things being REALLY okay, when I've been vaccinated, when my mother's been vaccinated, when the pandemic finally recedes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A little walk

 I had to go out this afternoon and get some soil samples. Long story, but: my university got a grant to attempt to put together some "VR" versions of labs (that could be done fully online) and I volunteered for soils because - well, I don't have a lot unusual for next year's post-tenure review, so this can help that. And also, there AREN'T any virtual soils labs out there, and I need something if we're still battling this damned virus NEXT spring.

But to do the labs and be filmed*, I had to get soil

(*I guess that would be "videoed," or "recorded," but the old terminology dies hard for me. I also refer to a collection of recorded music as an "album")

My initial plan was just to go to Platter and get soil from the horseback trail there (where I do forest sampling) but then I decided "maybe I go to the other field site as well."

And then I thought: wait, if I go to that other field site first, then I can go to Platter, I can walk a little for some extra exercise, and I could even go to the Amish store on the way home (Platter is about 3/4 of the way there).

So I did. Fortunately I got my walking in out at the site on the lake (the first site I went to). I got two samples there.

This is what we used to call the "ravine area" (it is not really a full fledged ravine but one of my early research students nicknamed it that and I always think of it as thus). They've REALLY cut it over - I am not sure what the Corps of Engineers' plan is for the area, but they do seem to love to DO stuff - cut or burn or plant food plots or cut walking paths - whether it makes a lot of ecological sense or not. Most of the trees there are gone now and there was a mix of some nice oaks and other things. Though I suppose it's possible they got hypoxylon canker or something and I didn't notice it, and they actually had died - I haven't been out there much in a couple years. 

You can just see the lake in the background.

I walked around much of the area - with the added cutting, there are a lot more areas it's easy to get to than in the past. I was cautious; I have reason to believe there are hogs out there and while there are relatively few animals that scare me, hogs are one (humans are the other; you never know who you might meet and while 90% of the people would just be fellow hikers or people walking down to the lake to fish, still - a couple weeks ago a guy running from police after escaping custody was found out there)

I did take my shillelagh though against a really determined person (or a hog) it would be little help, and I had my phone (in case I stepped in a hole and injured myself or something). I walked almost up to the area where a research student and I saw evidence of hog activity a few years ago and then decided it was good to turn around - maybe I walked for a half hour?

Then I drove to the equestrian trail. This place feels a little safer most of the time - it's close to a camping area (deserted right now and might even be closed for the season) and sometimes you meet people riding horses but generally they are good people and as long as you step off the trail and stand very still (so as not to spook the horses), everything's good.



No one was out there today. But I did keep hearing a distant dog bark as I dug (and later walked a little) and I am always leery in that case. because sometimes farm dogs do get out and they're sometimes not the most socialized in the way that I like...But I decided to trust it was far away and walked in a bit to get a soil from a different area. Coming back, I thought, "It sounds like it's getting closer" (and it was a baying sound; at first I asked myself, "could it be waterfowl flying over the lake?" but decided it was a dog) and so I hurried up and got to my car - and I saw it coming as I was about to get in.

I couldn't tell if she had broken her tether, or if the thing sticking up (which looked like an antenna) could have been some kind of GPS transmitter, so "we can let her run but know where she is" but that seems odd.

It was a beagle. It looked like one who had recent puppies and she didn't SEEM mean - her tail was up, her ears were relaxed, and she wasn't coming FAST at me, but I'm still leery of strange dogs so I got in the car and carefully drove off (so as not to hit her; she seemed to want to follow the car but not chase it, which also tells me she probably wasn't a real threat). 

So I didn't get in quite as much as I might have wanted. 

But I did get to the Amish store - got more of the small jars of the sauerkraut I like, and a jar of apple-cinnamon jelly to try (which might even work as a glaze for chicken, mixed with other things).

Monday, January 11, 2021

A little knitting

 Over the weekend I finished the "simple socks"

This is West Yorkshire Spinners' yarn in "Fairy Lights." It doesn't really show here but there is a tiny Stellina strand in it so they sparkle. (I am a sucker for yarns that sparkle). I had WANTED to finish these for Christmas, and then for Epiphany....but I don't knit as fast as I once did. 

I have several other pairs of socks I should also finish - a couple more complex ones and another pair that are just simple.

But I also started something new.

This is the "Clinkerbelle Cowl" (supposedly a "clinkerbelle" is a regional British term for an icicle; I am not sure I am convinced). I'm using a Life in the Long Grass dk weight yarn that I got on sale because I think it was the last skein....I think the colorway is called something like Jellybeans?

I'm not very far yet; the stitch pattern is an alternation of knit-plain rows (which go fast) and knit-purl patterning. 

I also have a couple hats I would like to start but I also feel like I should finish some of the ongoing things I have. 

But now classes have started, and I will be busier - and also, I have to be on campus by 8 every day given my teaching schedule, so I need to get to bed earlier - which means less knitting time in the evenings.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Some Friday things

 *Still can't with What Almost Happened the other day. I have now lived through two VERY big (nationally speaking) things, and several smaller regional things, and of course the slo-mo thing of the pandemic. And I am tired of witnessing history. So, while I know some will scream about "privilege" at me, I am gonna just go into my lane and focus on my own life. Because I have no power to change anything and there are louder voices than mine that are speaking out. 

* Didn't get the Christmas-color themed sock done, even by Epiphany, but I might finish it this weekend. I do want to dig out one of the stalled projects and re-start it. The Pocketses vest would probably be the easiest "big" project to pick back up - I have the back done, and almost one entire front done, so maybe I could get that one done fairly soon. (I even have buttons for it! Tucked into the project bag for it).

* I ran out the other day because I needed a couple of things from Lowe's and also I needed that "rat cage enrichment" I talked about.

One thing I needed was a new doormat. To my surprise Lowe's showed a lot of different ones on their website, and while it took me a while to find where they were (near the carpet), I found one I liked:

So I put away the Christmas one I had out (hopefully the coir dries out eventually) and put this one out. It will work for spring and into summer. 

 I don't have a door wreath that will work right now (it feels too early to put the pink rosebud heart one out) but more and more, I find these little seasonal things are important to me. Probably a side effect of being home so much. (I also changed out the little "lawn stake flag" for the one with the cardinal and snowflakes. I will have to try to get a spring one and an Easter one and a summer one, somehow. Usually JoAnn's sells these but as I'm not really going out right now...)

* I also went to Lulu and Hazel's. Bought some fabric (Another thing I really need to do is clear up my sewing room a little and finish the in-progress quilt top, and also piece a backing for the "Homebound" top I finished a few months back, as they are once again taking quilts for longarming). 

Also, their dog was there! They have a female boxer dog. I figured she had to be friendly because (a) I don't think they'd be the sort of folks to have a mean dog (b) it would be foolish for a shop owner to have an aggressive dog in the shop but also (c) she saw me through the window where she was lying and immediately her whole butt end started wagging, and she started licking the window (!). When I walked in she went up to the little pass-through that separated the room she was in from the rest of the shop and stood with her paws on the sill of that window and (with the owner's permission) I was able to pet her and yeah, she licked my hands and also waggled her butt, so: friendly dog.

It's nice to have a friendly dog interaction after having that unfriendly one a week or more ago.

* I have ordered some fun "general" greeting cards after seeing someone on Twitter talk about "why not just send all your friends Valentine's cards this year?" and while they are not specifically Valentines I might put heart stickers on them (if my Mrs. Grossman's set for February comes before I send them) and they will arrive around Valentine's day (or later, depending on what's up with the USPS).

But as before: if you want a "just fun" card in the mail, let me know. There are a couple people I just generally send to who send me cards also and I have your addresses and you will get one, but if I have never sent a card to you before and you'd like one, send your address. Even international! I ordered more international stamps when I placed my most recent order. (Though I will say - a card I mailed to Canada was returned, don't know if it got hung up or if I wrote the postcode wrong or what, but I could try again). 

* Did my weekly grocery run today so I have food ahead. And I'm contemplating baking myself something in the coming week - either flourless chocolate cake, or those pumpkin-chocolate chip snack cakes from a back issue of Cook's Country that I went out and got pumpkin for and then never made, or something. 

* I DO have to force my sleep schedule around again to "in bed by 9 pm, get up around 5 if not before to work out" because I have an 8 am class 2 days of the week, and 8 am office hours (though: over Zoom) three days of the week. 

And yeah, I am beginning to feel more expectation (of the happy sort) than dread about teaching again. It will be something to do. My classes are small at this point - 11 in one, 14 in another, I think 9 in ecology? And 2 in my graduate level "arranged" class but I never expect very many. 

I've got the BlackBoard  pages up and ready, I even thought to put in a little "this is how you navigate it" because I do it a LITTLE differently from some (there is a "forced template" of a folder-for-each-week and I don't care for that, I'd rather have folders for specific PURPOSES like one for the lab assignments, one for the readings, etc.....and I guess some of my intro students were confused by that in the fall)

Thursday, January 07, 2021

And seen elsewhere

 I can't with National Events right now, so here, have some links to stuff I found interesting.

At Christ and Pop Culture: "How Muppet Christmas Carol forces us to confront our mortality"


Knitting patterns where you pay by making a donation


All the piano chords in David Bowie's "Changes" (which is a surprisingly complex progression)  (video)

I probably need to issue a content warning for animal death and abuse, but Loving Reaper is a striking series of webcomics. I cried a lot at a couple of them and yet....somehow, yes, it is a LOVING Reaper.


Free online pattern for a Flying Squirrel softie 

If you want a bigger and more-mythological toy, here's a Loch Ness Monster tutorial.

Unusual fine-art and academic-materials prints that can be mail-ordered from Public Domain Review

Also from PDR: the natural sources of many pigments



Wednesday, January 06, 2021

that feels big...

 So, two pieces of cheering news today:

Apparently there's an article out in Science saying that for most people, it looks like COVID immunity should last for years (pending, I am sure, weird vaccine-escaping mutants, but let's not think about that)

AND: my state opened up its vaccine-registration portal. ( and I went on and registered my info. Oh, I won't be able to get a shot YET as I am not a first responder nor over 65 nor seriously ill - but it's reassuring to know I'm in the system and they'll let me know when my "wave" can start scheduling. And who knows? Maybe eventually states will go to a system of "okay, if it's getting to the end of a day and we have leftovers that will expire, we just call people who are down the list and see if they can come in" and maybe I will get lucky that way?

But yeah, the dream of the pandemic ending feels a bit realer today.


Working on my BlackBoard pages this morning; that's my goal for today. 

I did get my bloodwork results back last night - one of the beauties of modern "connected" medicine, and now I know ALL the numbers were in the recommended "healthy" ranges, even fasting glucose (which I worry a little about given family history) and ALSO my doctor sent a message back saying "no you do not have to try to arrange to weigh yourself this time" and weirdly that removes a tiny bit of pre-appointment stress for me. (I will have to take my bp and oxygen saturation and temperature at home and report them, but I can do all those things! I bought a pulse oximeter back in March thinking "well, if I get infected, this is one way I can monitor" and so far I've just checked it occasionally for funsies, but now it actually comes in handy).

But knowing my body is not rebelling against me is helpful and also having registered for the vaccine when it is available for me helps. But I still need some little things to help keep going.

I've described it as "rat-cage enrichment." There are a lot of studies showing that captive animals like lab rats do a LOT worse on health outcomes (and also just things like "tests of intelligence") if they live in cages without toys or different levels to climb around on and things like that. And that housepets do a LOT better if they have toys and people to play with them (and things like Kongs for food-dispensing - they have to work in order to eat so they don't get so fat and lazy) and I feel like I need "enrichment" too, and need to work at it, since I am not just picking up and driving to Sherman on the regular like I did in the before-times.

So I have decided I am going to get carry out somewhere (maybe, if I think of a place with food I particularly want) for lunch today. One thing I do low-level miss in this is going to restaurants. In the immediate before-times, I'd grab lunch out once or twice a month, usually when I took a jaunt to Sherman, often going to my favorite bbq place there. And in the REALLY before-times, before hypertension and I had to worry quite so much about what I ate, and some semesters I had NO classes on Tuesdays, there were times when I'd just go out for lunch once a week somewhere here in town. 

And I miss it. Mainly, the "pick a thing you want and you can have it without having to fix it yourself" though also there are some things - true pizza, and also barbecue, and some of the more complex Asian or Mexican dishes - that are a lot more work to make at home and are not as good (I can't do REAL barbecue at home, do not own a smoker). But mainly it's the "someone else cooks" thing and I admit one of the things I really miss about visiting my mom (beyond being able to be with  my mom) is that she does some of the cooking, or even if I am cooking, there is another person there to help with some of the prep work. It gets really....I don't know, tiresome? Or low-grade depressing, or something, to come home every single night and have to figure out what to feed yourself, and get the food out of the fridge and cut it up and cook it and try to juggle if you are making more than one dish, all of them coming ready at the same time. And cooking for one is harder and less-fun than cooking for an "audience" is. 

Also, I need a couple things - need a bin to house some of the things I want to put away (I plan to clear off my coffee table today and do the "pressed glassware with candles in it so it looks kind of "icy" for January" thing so I have something a LITTLE pretty and nice. And I need a new doormat. Lowe's should have both of those.

Also I admit I am tempted to try the toy shop again, this time for a little treat for me, but also maybe if they have some small item I could pop in a puffy bag in a couple weeks to send to my niece as a Valentine's Day surprise. I doubt they would be busy and I have a mask with me...

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

"That is that"

I took the tree down today.

I always think of WH Auden's "Christmas Oratorio," in particular, the section that is sometimes excerpted and called "For The Time Being" - about Epiphany, that time after Christmas when you put it all away

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.


And yes, "some have got broken" - I dropped one small nondescript ball when trimming the tree, and knocked a fancier, nicer one off this evening

 But I cleaned it up (including using a damp paper towel to get the last bits of the glass so I don't embed it in my foot).

So all that remains now is a bit of glitter, and the fading amaryllises, and the Nativity scene, which I am going to leave up at least until tomorrow (which is properly Epiphany). 

In a way it's nice to have the space back and have my living room be more navigable, but at the same time, it makes me a little sad - especially this year - to put it away. Now it's just a long slog through; I don't ever do anything for Valentine's Day and I suspect this year my birthday will be me, alone in my house, not going out for anything, as it won't be safe yet. (I do not expect to be vaccinated before May, if then. And even then it sounds like travel will have to be put off several more months)

I did keep out the little angel my mom crocheted for me as a tree topper - I had an old one from a craft shop but the starch in it had started to break down and discolor, and anyway, I'd rather have one my mom made.

I had a thought of clearing off my coffee table and moving it on front of the fireplace (which isn't a REAL fireplace; it's plumbed for a little gas stove but I have that sealed off though someday, maybe I consider having one put in? I don't know). And then putting my pressed-glass-that-looks-like-cut-glass stuff on it and setting candles in it and some evenings lighting the candles so I have something nice, at least, to look at. 

I suppose the other option would be to take a few of the Ponies down off their high shelf and set them up there. I don't know.

But I feel like I need something; I have a feeling the next few months are probably going to be the hardest of my life.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Some Monday things

 * Had my blood draw today. Did not get a donut after as planned (my logic being: if you can EVER eat a donut, it's right after your yearly fasting blood draw) but it was after 9 am and as I drove up to the donut place, I could see through the plate-glass windows that the cases were nearly empty, and I didn't feel like whatever was left from a picked-over selection, and also there were several people sitting at the tables, unmasked and talking. So I went to Pruett's and bought cinnamon rolls instead. They were okay. (I have more, but I feel less bad about slowly eating them because....)

* My checkup next week is going to be telemedicine. I presume this means no weigh in? At least, I haven't a scale here at home (long story: I had one in college and it made me too sad and obsessive, and decided it wasn't healthy for me to have one). BUT after walking around all day griping about how my chinos were sliding down on me (and I kept having to hike them up), I decided after I got home to try on one of the skirts I tried on 4 or 6 weeks ago (I guess it was closer to 6, it was right before Thanksgiving) and could not zip, and that pushed me to eat more carefully and exercise a bit more. zips. Oh, it's not quite comfy enough yet that I'd want to wear it for a full day (at least not a day where I was sitting a lot; my pudge redistributes when I stand and tightish things are more comfortable). But it zips. 

Other things I can check - I own a pulse oximeter and a thermometer and an electronic version of a syphngiomanometer. I will have to look at the intake info and see what vitals they require. If they really insist on a weight that's gonna be a bit of a problem but maybe if the campus nurse's office is allowing people in they would weigh me. Or maybe they let it slide for once, especially since I don't seem to have got bigger. 

* Of course it will depend on blood work. I always worry a tiny bit about Type II diabetes, because of a weak family history of it (and being fattish). But I'm also active and I try to limit sugar - not as much as someone with diabetes would, but I try not to eat excessive amounts and balance it out with vegetables and lean proteins. 

But if it comes back good? Maybe I slack off a little on the restrictions but keep the higher exercise levels up as much as I can. As the weather gets nicer I may take Friday (and maybe Tuesday, the other day I don't have afternoon commitments) and go to one of the local areas where you can walk and just walk for a while. At least unless they lock us down hard like the UK is locking down, though I doubt that will happen here.

Also being back on my feet part of the day teaching will help.

*  It was nice though to go back to putting sweetener (I use Golden Syrup, which is a cane sugar syrup) in my tea at lunch after a while of not having any. It's a small thing but it's a small thing that makes life nicer. 

* Leaving my tree up a couple more days. The superstition I have heard is that it's bad luck to leave it up after Epiphany (which is Wednesday) but I need the prettiness for a few more days. I might, after taking it down, clear off my coffee table and move it to where the tree was, and put a bunch of the cut-glass things I have out on it, and put candles in them, and just light the candles periodically. 

Alternatively - I find a place that sells bouquets (Pruett's used to but they took that section out to make room for the "pick up at the curb" staging area) and buy myself flowers every couple weeks, just for a morale thing. Again, unless we have to lock down hard. 

* I also want to try to finish the current "simple socks" which are in the WYS colorway called "Fairy Lights" before Epiphany - but as I'm just up to the heel turn, I don't know. I need to eat some dinner and sit down and start knitting on them. (Though I also need to change the sheets on the bed tonight, they are in the dryer right now).

* I also either want to start something new, or haul out the long-stalled crochet afghan and work on it. Just something different. 

* At least the two packages that were missing for a long time or temporarily seem to have arrived - I got an e-mail that my sister-in-law's and niece's gifts were delivered. (I am surprised they did not call, which makes me slightly apprehensive that it wasn't actually delivered, but then, they aren't always the best at calling....). Also, I ordered a copy of the Pioneer Woman's autobiography for my mom, she used to be a big fan of that show (and still might be). It was through the National Cowboy Museum (which I follow on Twitter). 

My mom knows something was coming for her and I said not to bother to call specifically when it arrives, if it's not arrived when we talk Wednesday night will be soon enough - I couldn't contact them about "hey it never made it" before Thursday anyway.

* Got my syllabi written today but wow, doing that soils one was a gut-punch: the last time I wrote a syllabus for this class was January 2020 (or, more likely, December 2019, before I left for Christmas break) and....I had to change EVERYTHING. And also just the memory of how innocent things seemed then and how my biggest concern with the class was learning how to use the new soil analysis system we had gotten. The other two big classes were ones I had taught in the fall so I already had "pandemic syllabi" to base off of. And the fourth class (advanced biostats) is very small and what I cover changes from year to year depending on the needs of the students - and we may even do that one as an entirely-over-Zoom class, I think the people taking it both work and it might be easier for them that way

* And I received bad news over the lunch break, so right before I was going to do the soils syllabus. The husband of a couple who had been long, long term family friends (like: I have known them all my life) had been in the hospital, where he contracted COVID, and he died a few days ago. So now I know personally two people who have died, and maybe a dozen more who have had it, and a few more who tested positive without bad symptoms. 

One funny story about this couple: at one point they felt they had grown apart and decided to divorce. (I remember their daughter, who had become a friend of mine - about my age - saying "If he winds up marrying another woman I will never speak to him again" and that was her dad, so...). Anyway, about a year later they decided they still actually did love each other and wanted to work out the they remarried.  And they remained so....until he died this week. 

I really did know them all my life; the woman was a co-worker in the research office my dad worked in for a while at Akron, before he moved over and became chair of the Geology department there. So it's kind of...I don't know. I mean, it had been 25 years since I saw them but still. It bugs me to be gradually losing people who had been part of my past like that. Oh, I know it was bound to happen but it's still hard.

I very much want the losses to stop for a while, to just have a few months where I'm not mourning anyone or trying to console someone else's pain.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Reasons for hope?

 Yesterday was not a good day. This whole week was not a good week. I know part of it was idleness - I don't do well with idleness, I don't do well with isolation. And I've been isolating because I'm pretty convinced, given the numbers I've seen locally, the new "more infectious" variant of COVID is here.

Also it's possible some of it could have been hormonal; I had that stupid racing-pulse thing (and yes, my pulse rate was higher than it's been in a while when I took my blood pressure last night). And while it briefly responds to square breathing, it goes back up after I stop.

And so I got into bed - later than was probably ideal for me, I need to start going to bed around 9 again so I can start getting up early again when the semester starts - and while I don't often pray for things for MYSELF (having somehow been taught such a thing was selfish), I said "I just need a reason to hope. I need some evidence that we're not just stuck forever"

And I don't know. I got up this morning and checked my e-mail and there was an update on the long-missing Christmas gifts to my sister-in-law and niece; they had arrived at Dulles, which is a darn sight closer to where they live than Tulsa was, and it's actually the "right" major sorting center. So I won't get my insurance money but this is better than that.

(When I got home from church, an update: it's now in the sorting center in their town, and supposedly will be delivered tomorrow. Just short of a month after I mailed it Priority Mail - and was told it would be there December 11.)

Maybe it was meant to be that the toy store was closed and I couldn't buy a "replacement' present for my niece, though I still might send her something for Valentine's Day because this year has just stunk on ice and while my brother and sister in law are being less restrictive and careful than I am I suspect there are still things my niece has not gotten to do.

And then, another bit of news - the secretary at church, who is a recent leukemia survivor (and recent widow) mentioned she is going to get the COVID vaccine on Wednesday - and another woman said hers was Thursday (these are both people over 65). I was surprised - I had heard nothing, didn't even know my county had got its allotment. I suppose they are trying to keep it quiet, but....that seems suboptimal. (I hope I get some kind of notification when I am eligible, M. only found out about it because her daughter noticed it somewhere and helped her sign up. And yes, they're using the buggy online interface others in my state have complained about). 

I admit I almost teared up on hearing M. was going to be able to be vaccinated - both because "wow maybe it won't be a whole additional year before I can" but mainly because "then she'll be safe from it"

The not great news? Our organist is out with it, and the (adult, just a few years younger than me) daughter of a friend has it. (Which is why I think the more-infectious variant is here: I've seen a steep increase in "people I know" who either tested positive or got sick)

I wonder when Illinois will start vaccinating over-65s? My mother is definitely in that category and while she's a BIT safer than some over-65s (in that she does not need to work and lives at home and not in a care facility), still, I want to see her vaccinated and safe as early as possible. Even if I have to "impersonate" her online to sign her up (with her guidance and permission, of course - I have done other things online for her because she's not comfortable using the www). If that breaks some laws, so be it; they can come after me for it later. 

So I don't know. I was happy when M. told me she was being vaccinated (the first dose, but apparently after a few weeks that gives pretty solid protection) this week; now I feel a little flat again because I'm realizing in this it's been peaks of relief (e.g., hearing that there was a high efficacy vaccine, then hearing that vaccine was approved for emergency use) but also valleys of either nothingness (waiting, the eternal waiting) or even despair (hearing some of the bad-rollout stories). 

But I don't know. Maybe I feel a little bit less "stuck" right now? I mean, I still have to stay at home as much as possible and we will all (vaccinated or not) have to mask up for a number of months yet. But maybe it's not too much to hope that some day it will be safer to go out again, safe enough I'm willing to do it?

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Omen, or rehearsal?

 Really hoping the first two days of 2021 have been a "dress rehearsal" (in the old theater superstition sense of "a bad dress rehearsal means a great opening night") than an omen for the coming year.

I didn't do much of anything yesterday; I was tired and cranky from all the noise in my neighborhood. Didn't really do anything.

Today, I figured: I better do something. Better at least get out of the house for a bit (I wonder if there's "bad air" in my house affecting me). 

But first, I filed a "lost package, I want to claim my $50 insurance" on the present for my sister in law and niece, which has not been heard from since the day after Christmas. If nothing else, IF the package still exists, it might get shaken loose? Or maybe I get my $50 at least, even though the value of the gifts was more than that. It was involved and in the end I valued the toy wombat at $0 because what is a person's time worth? I don't know. 

And then, annoyed, I thought, "Well, maybe I go to the small local toy shop and just buy her something and send it UPS this time." (I had thought of going to the local quilt shop, but they went back to their "pandemic hours" and aren't open weekends now, this was on their Facebook page).

I thought to check the toyshop's page, and there it said: open 10-4. Okay, fine.

Went down there. Nope. Sign in the door: we are closed until the 5th for inventory.

Look, I don't have a problem with small businesses taking vacations but if you have a facebook page, MAYBE  you post it there? I tried a couple other shops and most of them had closed on the 21st and wouldn't reopen until next week. (Ironically, there is a big push here to "Keep your green [money] this side of the Red [River]" because so many people go to Sherman to shop but you know? If literally the only thing open is wal-mart - that's NOT keeping the money in town!

I did find an antique store open and found another house-shaped teapot but have not yet unwrapped it from the protective materials. And then I walked back down to my car another way....and found someone's debit card on the sidewalk. And I thought, now what? I wanted to hand it in somewhere, even though 9 times out of 10, the person cancels it the moment they find it's missing, but I also didn't want to leave it. The bank nearby was closed, of I asked in another small shop and she suggested the police department and I went where I thought it was but it wasn't there, but I saw the county sheriff's office. There was no one there and frankly at that point I was sick of what was probably a fool's errand and also I am kind of soured on humanity these days and started to feel like "why even do this? someone wouldn't do this for you" and in the end I just slipped it through the gap in the doors, they won't know what's up but at least no one can use it. I tried to do the right thing and I failed. 

I decided to go out to Lake Durant and walk for a bit - I'm trying to get exercise every day so my back doesn't seize up, and also I KNOW I have failed to lose the weight I should have. But it's hard when there's so much sitting with teaching online, and literally one of the few pleasures left in life is cooking and eating. 

It was okay

I didn't go as far as I normally would because it was late-ish in the day, and also I heard dogs barking and could not tell if they were tied up at the houses near the lake, or loose, and I had no desire to tangle with a loose dog.

I HOPE this was a dog someone had on a leash. I am not good at tracks and sign but I think that's dog. We do have coyotes around here and it's rumored that there COULD be mountain lions. Though I think the claw marks suggest against that?

Anyway. I turned back after only walking about 15 minutes (so: a bare half-hour total). Also there were slick spots from it being wet and I didn't want to risk falling. I am tired of not feeling safe ANYWHERE except locked in my house or locked in my office but here we are. 

Still, I am surprised at how disappointed I was over the toy shop being closed. I admit I had half thought of buying MYSELF one of the small simple craft kits, just to have a different experience. That's one thing my life of late has really lacked, and I feel it - no new experiences. And watching stuff on a screen - well, no matter how cool or educational, it's still watching stuff on a screen.

I also admit I'm feeling considerable dread about the coming semester. Not just the "good Lord there's a new, more infectious mutant strain out there" but also the "holy crap another four months of fighting with BlackBoard and having students demand infinite extensions on things because they are 'stressed out,' never considering for a moment that their professor might be stressed out and having less time in which to get things graded before midterm or final grades are due is itself a source of stress."

where's my cape?

 because I'm super cranky today. After the gift package for my sister in law and niece supposedly shook loose from the grip of the Tulsa sorting center the day after Christmas (I MAILED IT ON DECEMBER 8, PRIORITY MAIL), it's disappeared again. I thought I had filed a claim earlier but either they memory-holed it or I did something wrong and it never went through. So I spent time re-filing the claim. I didn't even claim a couple of the items because there's no point, and I put a $0 value on the wombat stuffie because that was just my TIME and I guess my time is worth nothing. 

I'm still tired because yes, the Southern tradition of fireworks on New Year's Eve is a thing, it was very very loud until 1 am on the 1st, it sounded like mining explosives out there so I don't even know.

And I'm reading the news of the utterly botched vaccine rollouts, and that the states have been told to "figure it out" which means that my state leadership will basically go "the people can figure this out for themselves" and there will NEVER be vaccine in my county, and I am just giving up again, for the forty-seventh time in this, this will never be over.

I haven't been out anywhere other than my office, the grocery, the dentist, or (distanced and masked with few people there) church since OCTOBER. I am going STIR CRAZY. I can't last much longer and now it's sounding like it will be another year. I don't think the people with power - who have big houses, who live where they can easily get things delivered, who are with family, who have "bubbles" of people, and who are generally being less cautious than I am - appreciate the toll this is taking on some of us. I feel like my brain is atrophying. I get ragey a lot more easily now. I am not sure how I will cope with demanding students next semester, I will probably scream at them because I'm at the end of my rope. But nobody cares. Literally nobody cares. We're all in this alone and I shouldn't even be allowed to complain because I still have a roof over my head and a job and that somehow makes it even worse to know that what I feel shouldn't "count" because I'm not starving or trying to go to work every day at a nursing home and hope I don't get sick. 

So I hyperfocus on things like being upset over Christmas presents that never got there.

I am contemplating running (with a mask on, and I won't go in if there are more than 2-3 people in there) to the small toy shop downtown and just buying something for my niece and sending it UPS. Not sure what to do for my sister-in-law, there's not a shop here with things that would be good for her. Maybe I send her a gift card. But I'm angry. I feel somehow vaguely like this is a personal failure, I should have known and sent stuff earlier, or used UPS, or something. 

I just feel very cheated. My "break" is almost over and I did nothing. Nothing. Normally if I were here over "vacation" time I'd go antiquing or something but I couldn't do even that. I'm never getting that year of my life (probably year plus, maybe 2 at this point) back and I am just furious. I know I need to let it go but I can't just yet. I feel like nothing good will ever happen for me again, and maybe NOTHING will ever happen for me again, it will just me sitting in either my house or my office forever until I finally die, and I don't LIKE that.

Maybe tomorrow I will be in a better mood? I don't know. I have annual bloodwork on Monday and that's always a source of low-level stress; what if they find something bad? what if I have to go on yet another medication or restrict my diet even more? What if I'm actually DYING and the last months of my life are going to be....this half-life of seeing no one, experiencing nothing? maybe a preview of the grave? A fine and private place, but without embraces, without fellowship, without fun, without anything? 

also I know I didn't lose the weight I was "supposed" to lose since July despite trying halfheartedly. there is only so far I can restrict food, there is only so far I can add more activity. Again, I fail. I feel like I fail at everything. 

Edited to add: gonna be a long time before I can accept Hanlon's Razor ("Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity") because in a lot of things lately, it feels like there's been active malice. I've lost a lot of my trust in fellow humans, and a lot of my liking for them. I'm basically at the point I was at after junior high, where I had some *extremely* bad experiences (including one that would border on sexual assault today) and didn't trust people, so, yay, 40 years of work undone, congratulations humanity!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The year's end

 I know, of course, little will change when we flip the calendar, and really, by rights, the new year should PROBABLY start either on one of the solstices or one of the equinoxes and not in this weird, about-1/3-through-the-Northern-hemisphere-winter date that is kind of a historical artifact. (I vaguely remember - wasn't it in France that hundreds of years ago, April 1 was the new year's day)

But we mark it today, and I admit I am glad to see the last of 2020. Early 2021 won't be much better, and the news carries distressing reports of slow and bad vaccine rollouts, and other issues. 

But maybe tonight we celebrate a little.

 I made a little "appetizer dinner" - some of those prosciutto-wrapped cheese things, and a bit of fresh mozzarella, and some pickled baby corn, and some fruit, and deviled eggs, which I made completely for the first time in my life. (My mother used to help me with these, peeling the eggs and dividing the halves - that's the hardest part). I did have to look up a recipe but my memory was right - mayonnaise, mustard (I use the dry kind), pickle relish, paprika. (I did wind up wrapping most of them up and putting them away for tomorrow)

I also opened a bottle of Martinelli's (non alcoholic) sparkling cider (this is the best, I think, of these types of things, though the so-called "Baptist champagne" that people around here do for parties - which is ginger ale and white grape juice, mixed roughly half-and-half, is good too)

I ordered the prosciutto things and the Martinelli's from Wal-mart; Pruett's doesn't have them. I ordered two bottles of the cider, I am not sure why I did that but I think the second one? Maybe I keep it to crack open the day that either I get vaccinated, or I hear my mother has been successfully vaccinated, whichever comes first. 

Here's hoping things start going more smoothly soon.

And an old, old poem, one I associate with the New Year, from Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


(I also associate this with a short story in a mystery compilation I have - I barely remember the story but it was by DB Wyndham Lewis - maybe it was the one with the tramp who stole Christmas donations? I was remembering it as being "Death on the Air," which is a Ngaio Marsh story, but that was a different story and may have been right before or right after this one in the collection. But yes, I think this is a good poem and a good sentiment.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

the day off

 I decided since it was cold and rainy out to take today off from working. And not even my super diligent chair was in Monday or Tuesday, so it's probably OK to. 

I didn't do much, a little piano practice, a workout, hung out online, worked on the ongoing socks. 

I plan to take tomorrow off, too. I might make deviled eggs to go with the fancy cheese and antipasto things I have (appetizer dinner). New Year's Day will be smoked sausage and sauerkraut, which I am deeming "close enough to pork and cabbage" (one of the good-luck foods for New Year's. I couldn't find fresh black eyed peas even though those are more traditional here so I won't do those. 

I figure, whatever luck a person can grab on to.

I also have a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling cider, which I am happy I was able to score - this used to be the typical at new year's eves at my parents' house because I didn't drink and in later years my dad had to avoid all alcohol (even a glass of sparkling wine) because of the meds he was on. 

It's okay. I don't ever do anything for new year's eve anyway - I never wanted to go out to bars or parties, being either ignored or macked on by drunk guys (You don't tend to meet nice guys at things like that).

New Year's Day, some years, I went out to a fabric sale (That won't be happening); other years I watched the Rose Parade (oh....maybe it's cancelled this year? I hope not, I hope they can do a "distanced" version of sorts)

(Poo: it's been cancelled. Okay, maybe I find an old movie or something. Please come through, TCM....)

Also thinking of working on a quilt top; there's an old superstition saying that you should work a little bit on things you want to do in the New Year on New Year's Day. And it'll be something different. 

Not making any resolutions. I usually don't anyway but this year I feel like it's the world or society that should be working to change itself for the better rather than me forcing myself to do 300 minutes of exercise per week or eat eighteen servings of vegetables per day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Where I'm at

 This is my reality now:

Purse, keys, phone, mask AND NOW shillelagh required when I go out the door. Because I can't trust that that dog won't get loose again. They SEEM to keep it indoors most of the time, but....I can't see for sure until I'm down the porch steps.

At least I can leave it in the car once I get over to work; I can see the parking lot from the building door and if I see a dog (or feral hog, that could be a thing too given where we are), I can call campus police - or, if I've not left my car, just nope out of there. Which I would definitely do, even on a work day, if I saw a hog. 

I don't know. I kind of hate this. I wouldn't USE it unless I were in imminent danger of attack. (And I suppose if it's ever icy when I have to go out, it will help protect me in other ways). 


Spent the day over at work, mostly reading background stuff for the paper. And now I'm at the doubt stage - that there's not enough there, it's not anything all that new (I found a paper that was an omnibus of other work, and it did talk about flooding effects, though mostly in eastern Europe. I suppose I could present it as a pilot study for a larger project because I see ways it could be done better and more conclusively - but I have no idea if I'd do that or if I want to find a different project for the future.)

I don't often have research ideas these days that I love and I'm excited about; more often it's "Well, I need to do SOMETHING." I might feel differently if I had more help, but the one potential collaborator is in the glide-path to retirement and has decided they are no longer going to do research but write popular-press articles instead (oh, to have that level of confidence/privilege) and student collaborators of late have fallen through. 

I don't know. Maybe - I hope - this is just a fallow time, brought on by loss and the pandemic, and maybe things will get better. But still, the "end" (if such ever comes) of the pandemic at this point feels as far off as it did in April or May. Maybe even farther, to me, because I've lived through nine months that I barely remember (because I did NOTHING) and I realize the full horror of six or eight more.