Thursday, October 27, 2016

Week's almost over

I know, it's only Thursday, but today will be an easier day. Yesterday was stressful because:

a. Field lab. Having to get the vehicle, account for which students are going (wait for anyone who's running late in a previous class), get them safely out to the field site, make sure no one gets into a hornet's nest or anything, get them safely back to campus on time.

b. The tight scheduling - I had piano yesterday afternoon but also I had to wash my hair (pollen exposure in lab) and clean up the house (it had gotten bad, plus the kitchen was making me twitch because of how messy it got when I made the chicken Tuesday. And also, because I spilled some of the buttermilk I soaked the chicken in on the floor and didn't wipe it up with bleach water because I was running late AND wearing a black skirt, I kept hearing "SALMONELLA. SALMONELLA" in my head in about the same tone and cadence as the Daleks saying "EXTERMINATE")

Fortunately, lab got done early and I got home a little early. So I cleaned up, and then cleaned house, including disinfecting the areas of my kitchen that the chicken was even close to. And still had enough time, more or less, to practice piano.

But I think I find tight scheduling just stressful. Maybe everyone does. Or maybe a lot of people are better at going, "Meh, if it doesn't get done, no biggie" but I tend to see Not Getting Stuff Done as a personal failure, so.

I also just get stressed out when my to-do list is too long. A major way for me of getting RID of stress is to move stuff off my to-do list on to my "done" list. And that's one of those "the only way out is through" things.

Today I DO have a bunch of exams (biostats) to grade, and I need to finish that talk some time (though I could work on it Saturday if I had to).

And MOAR PONIES, because ponies are one of the things keeping me sane* these days:

Blackberry & Boaty

I had to brighten up this photo a little because I took it without flash and it came out rather dark. But this is my one "adult male" pony (Boaty McBoatface, né Salty - or maybe that should be "neigh" Salty?) and Blackberry Pie (I am using her UK name for her, as that is how she was sold to me - I guess here  her name is Boysenberry Pie). Again, they were a set ordered together from the same seller, and it often seems that those ponies "go together," maybe because they traveled together.

Anyway, my imagined story of this is that Boaty has a crush on Blackberry. He's too shy to say anything (perhaps he's a cousin to Big Mac....) but Blackberry knows, and she likes Boaty too, so she hangs out with him. And they are just kind of content to stand next to each other and look into each others' eyes a little bit. (In my imagined Pony world, there is not the push to couple off or to trumpet to the world that you're Coupled....again, my imagined Pony world is nicer than the human world.)

(*FSVO "sane")

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Twitching like Lom.

(You've heard of "Moves like Jagger"? Well, my reality right now is "I've got eyelid twitches like Herbert Lom's character in the old Pink Panther movies.")

Stuff is just hitting the fan right here right now. Part of it is midsemester. Part of it is that I have a critical mass of students who kind of want me to do emotional labor for them and I'm sort of out of energy. Part of it is I've just taken on too many things right now. (I have to finish the talk on prairies I am giving to the Wildlife Club next week, and I have a ton of exams to grade....sometime, I don't know when).

You know it's bad when you look at the 10% chance of storms and pray we actually get one in time to cancel afternoon field lab.

I am telling myself two things:

First, my dad's old mantra of "Keep settin' 'em up and knockin' 'em down" in terms of getting work done, and second, "The only way out is through" in terms of the interpersonal dealings. (I have one student right now that I will be OH SO HAPPY when they graduate. Not so much because they're spreading their wings and going to get a job, but because I won't have to deal with them any more. And that's sad. I'm turning into a grumpy misanthrope).

I'm trying to work on the mitts for my mom but I'm not getting a whole lot done.

I really think what I do need is a day without obligations to work or volunteer-stuff, but I don't see that coming soon.

A while back Adam Savage (formerly of Mythbusters) was talking on Twitter about going to a comic-con dressed as Totoro (it's one of his things, to make an elaborate costume and have a prize for the person who guesses it's him). He said people would randomly come up and hug him because Totoro. And granted, that's technically not good con behavior (lots of people with different issues, from autism to extreme shyness to PTSD, go to cons, and being approached by a stranger, even in a friendly way, can seem threatening to some), I admit I read the tweets and thought a little bitterly how I should maybe dress up as Totoro so I'd get some positive attention. I'm feeling it again this week despite last week being mid-fall break because oh there are so many people NEEDING me for things - either to do things, or to alter my schedule to accommodate them, or to help them, whatever. And being needed isn't the positive attention I need right now.

No, really. I just want to be some kind of inarticulate fluffy thing for a while that people want to hug and take their picture next to, and I don't have to make much of an investment in the interaction. I'm just worn out.

I also commented recently on Twitter that it was probably a tactical mistake to position myself as the "tough, independent" one because I don't know how to try to get help when I need it, or, it seems like people seem to think I can manage. (And I probably can, it's just, it would be easier to manage with a little help or a little sympathy right now)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Two more ponies

I have to go and prep the chicken, and I'm awfully tired after grading all those exams (and allergies, and just everything going on in the world), but here are two more G1 ponies:

Big sister, little sister

Silky Slipper (big sister) and Baby Softsteps (little sister).

I've said before how I find the idea of "ballerina ponies" kind of amusing but I guess this was a G1 thing, probably something they thought little girls related to because (a) lots of little girls do ballet class* and (b) "Ballerina" is one of those fantasy careers little girls dream of**

But I do like these ponies because they are articulated and can move. (Though Silky Slipper is kind of oddly proportioned and doesn't stand quite right).

I have headcanoned that Silky Slipper is perhaps the equivalent of about 16, but a grown-up and sophisticated (and not pouty-teenagerish) 16, and Softsteps is maybe about 5, and Silky Slipper is super protective and loving towards her little sister, and Softsteps looks up to her talented and popular big sister.

(Yes. My headcanon Pony Lives are happier than my own childhood was sometimes. I kind of wished I had a big sister a lot of the time to show me the ropes and to maybe look out for me. Instead, *I* was the big sister of a little brother and while I now realize when he was really little he DID look up to me, a lot of the times I found him kind of tiresome.....)

(*I did, briefly, but I liked tumbling better and also the ballet teacher was kind of mean and picky so my mom let me drop it after the first six-week session or so)

(**which is actually kind of twisted given how few girls actually have the necessary skill, athleticism, bone structure, and everything else being a ballerina requires - even as a skinny-ish kid I would have been too "chunky" to have been a ballerina, and I got fat when I hit puberty)

well, there's this

The student I had been tutoring earned a better-than-passing grade so I guess I can be happy about that.

Still, grading close on to 70 exams (which are NOT all multiple choice) in a day takes a lot out of a person, and I still have all that chicken to cook tonight.

Tuesday morning things

Edited to add: Guys, I'm just struggling today. I hope this is just because my allergies are bad but I'm tired and full of the "dunwannas" and am about one bad thing happening away from just melting down in tears. I have too much to do not to be productive today.

Another Edited to Add: I figured out part of why the "not giving a darn except about things that give you total joy" bugs me. It comes from a very privileged position.

How many of us, in our jobs, can say, "Nope, not doing that" to something we dislike? There are PLENTY of times where grading not only fails to bring me joy, it's an active drag and a pain. Or submitting all the paperwork I must submit. Or dealing with a "revise and resubmit" on a manuscript. Or, or, or. Maybe if I were special and rich and a freaking SUPERSTAR, I could say, "Nope, not doing that, it doesn't make me happy" about things.

The other thing is: there are just some cruddy tasks out there. But they need to be done. What happens if everyone in a household decides that doing the dishes fails to bring them sufficient joy in order to want to do it? Do they wind up hiring someone, figuring money is enough of a motivation - or, alternatively, NOT CARING about whether that person is "brought joy" by washing someone else's cruddy dishes. I think that's exactly what bugs me: the airy assertion that there are sufficient "little people " or sufficient people who have a twisted sense of joy that they will willingly scrub the toilets or rake the leaves or sit through a hundred grade-appeals, and the person who doesn't feel "joy" at that is off the hook.

And there are a lot of things that are Not Fun but they are Important. I would much, much rather not have the Independent Project in one of my classes. It is a lot of work for me and sometimes causes pain (as when a student calls me up two days before the due date and says their project failed, and what am I going to do so they can pass? or the time I caught a plagiarist). But it's important the students get practice in this kind of thing, and I'm the logical one to do it. (And I will just note my frustration with someone who quit doing papers in their classes, and then told me smugly they were "glad" I was still doing it BECAUSE THEN THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO. And then went on to talk about how they were "working smarter instead of harder" because apparently I had chosen to work harder. Yeah, I'm a little bitter about that)

Am I wrong about the fact that adulthood is often doing stuff you hate, because it has to be done? Or am I just one of the "little people" who gets stuck doing that stuff because I'm not Important enough not to give a darn about it?

I dunno. Feels like of Harold Skimpole-ish to me to say, "Nope, not gonna do it, because it doesn't spark joy in me. You do it instead"

And yeah, I know I'm being cranky about this, but I'm insufficiently important - even in my own life - to be able to turn down the "scut work" and make someone else do it. And I sometimes wind up doing OTHERS' scut work because they manage to skate around it. 


On the "Marie Kondo is our god now" front, there's an article out there (Here's the link, but be forewarned about every other word in there is the "f" word. I will euphemize that to "darn" here).

I dunno. I am telling myself that article is parody. Because I am the kind of person who is socialized to give a darn about EVERYTHING and to give a darn about things ALL THE TIME.

And I suspect that my giving a darn too much is the secret of whatever success I have, just as I suspect the dogged diligence about getting stuff done before deadlines even if it kills me is part of my success. Some days, when I'm really down on myself, I feel like I'm not that smart or that good or that talented, so my ability to give a darn is about all I've got, it's the only thing that separates me from the primordial ooze, so I have to give a darn.

And yes, that article points out that being a people-pleaser (which I am, but I was trained early that that's the ONLY way to get people to like you, and it's hard to break habits learned in childhood) is part of giving too many darns and giving darns when not really appropriate.

But anyway. That's probably partly why this lawn stuff has upset me so deeply. (And again, I feel like: no one EVER sees it when I successfully juggle fifteen balls; they only notice when I've dropped ONE.)

I dunno. I'm trying to pivot this in my head so I don't get all cranky again.

My tutoring student was back in this morning. So far it's been every Tuesday and Thursday for at least 20 minutes since early October. At least now I get the sense he's beginning to understand the material better (Or, what's more likely: he's realizing that to learn this stuff you have to put the time in). I'm really REALLY really hoping he earns a good grade on the exam today because then I will feel like I haven't wasted my time. And also not feel like a failure, because if this student doesn't get his stuff together after all this tutoring it's at least partly on me.

(Heh: random thought. Maybe a Modern Beatitude would be "Blessed are those who give a darn, because...." Well, I don't actually know how a person like that would be blessed; I sure don't think we'll inherit the earth because we're too busy picking up other people's litter or making sure there are snacks for the kids at church)

The other thing about people selectively not giving a darn: this is where I get screwed over in life. Quite frequently, it seems, when I depend on someone for something, they don't come through. So I wind up doing more stuff than I probably should have to, but that's because certain people have "trained" me that "people are unreliable and you can only be sure of depending on yourself"

I also tend to see deadlines as "hard" deadlines. (I forgot to order spring textbooks and the orders were due yesterday. I did the orders first thing this morning but now I'm worried my textbooks won't be on the shelves for my students. Oh well. I mean, seriously: asking faculty to order textbooks for NEXT semester when we're giving midterms for the current one? Also it's a buggy online interface and I'm not at all convinced my orders actually went through, despite getting a confirmation screen).

I'm not sure but I think I might have a touch of poison ivy around one eye. At any rate: the eye has been hived up and itchy since Sunday. (This was actually how my hives first began: bad exposure to poison ivy including getting it around one eye. And then all heck broke loose and I turned up allergic to everything).

And I have to cook for the college kids tonight. Just oven fried chicken again (someone else is providing all the sides and dessert) but still that's an effort and something to juggle in with monitoring my experiment and grading the exams I give today and getting the copies made for tomorrow and DARN IT I am so tired....


Actually, thought about this while invigilating the exam: I got, somewhere during my youth (probably from peers) the idea that my value as a human being laid in what I could do, especially what I could do for other people. I have a very hard time accepting the "you have value because you exist" argument, at least for me. I don't know how to work on that.

I think it does also tie into what I was talking about earlier about "Martha vs. Mary" - on some level, Martha is the one who believes in "works," and Mary is the one who just has "faith" (or you could caricaturize them as such). (Though it's more than that: Martha has to "do" and Mary is able to just "be.") Sometimes I wish I was better at just "being" and accepting that I am good enough because I exist, and I don't have to constantly work to prove that I'm good enough, but that's just how I am and I don't know how to change it.

Part of this is that I'm unusually allergy-ridden today and I'm tired and kind of sad just over stuff (already the local CBS affiliate is advertising "Watch us November 8 for election coverage!" and my reaction is "I'd rather remove my own wisdom teeth with a bayonet, thanks") and a friend of mine from church (and former colleague - she retired from my department a few years ago) is going in for a pacemaker on Friday and while I'm telling myself it's routine and she's otherwise in decent health and she will be fine still there's that concern at the back of my mind.

I really need a do-over on Fall Break. Another day to go shopping and hang out with Laura, another day of just doing what I want....and an entire day free to knit or quilt without feeling driven to write and grade exams and cut brush in my yard. But I'm not gonna get it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just gotta say

No piano today - the monthly staff meeting at my teacher's other job. So I decided to mow my "nonconforming" lawn and cut some more brush.

I had to set the mower on "scalp" in order to make any kind of a difference in the grass. I'm ticked. I'm wondering if that "grass" letter got sent to me in error and everyone was just too lazy to check up on it. Also, if my lawn dies in our drought from being cut off too short? I'm laying down GRAVEL. I don't care. I'm going Full Xeriscaping and if they don't like it, they can sue me.

Also, when I was mowing, I discovered that one of my dog-owning neighbors subscribes to the opinion that "if my dog poops in someone else's yard, it's that person's problem and not mine." I never expect dog poo because I don't own a dog, and guess what - I both stepped in it and ran it over with the mower. I'm NOT happy. I wonder if this is the same selfish dog owner who let their dog bark from roughly 8 pm until after midnight without checking up on it.

I don't blame the dog. Ill-behaved dogs in this instance are like most ill-behaved children: their caretakers didn't teach them any better.

My original brushpiles have gone - I am guessing my friend from church and her boyfriend (I know she is dating someone right now) must have had some free time yesterday afternoon and removed them when I wasn't looking. I told her I'd help her load it up but I guess they did it without me. But now there's a new brushpile at the end of my yard. The city can deal with that; they're supposed to pick brush up a couple times a month, and if it has to sit for about a week for that (usually it's the first Wednesday), no big deal. If the city dislikes that they can come pick it up earlier. I can't conform my schedule to theirs; I work full time to pay my property taxes and my 9.375% (soon, doubtless, to be 10.375%) sales tax on in-state purchases.

But still. I'm not happy. I wonder if there is some kind of quota system of these letters or if I'm on some kind of watchlist for "not conforming" before (that was when they changed the rules about alleyway clearing and didn't tell me, so it wasn't entirely fair). Also, I got a set of them in the mail today which just felt like adding insult to injury. Oh, I know, they have to do it that way but my feeling is "SHUT UP ALREADY I'M WORKING ON IT"

I will admit to briefly wondering if weed-eater scalping the words "BITE ME" into the grass of my backyard would get me in trouble, but I figured I didn't feel like going to the effort even if I wanted to do it.

So, I don't know. I need to ask around and see if there's a trustworthy company locally that does privacy fences (I hate, more than anything, having to call and nag workpeople to come and do the work they're contracted to do, though with a fence, at least they can work on it when I'm not home). Because I think replacing the chain-link fence in the back with a privacy fence might help get me left alone in the future.

three pony afternoon

Because maybe some of you need more ponies. I do.

three friends

This is perhaps the Gen 1 Sparkleated version of the Cutie Mark Crusaders - earth pony, pegasus, unicorn (left to right).

I've said before I loooooooove the sparkle ponies, and I especially love the sparkle baby ponies. (I think there is one more of these that I don't have. Maybe if I ever see her for a good price, but maybe not. I'm content with the three I have now).

They are: Starflower (orange earth pony), Firefly (pink pegasus), and Gusty (yellow unicorn).  All their cutie marks are vaguely cosmic (Well, Firefly's is a kite, but the colors coordinate). Starflower's looks like the "atom" symbol rather than a literal Starflower (That's what **I** learned as Starflower but I see borage can also go by that name).

I dunno. I just like how the three of them sort of match, and how they look cute together. Three of almost anything is cuter than one of something....

Little Pony Families (I)

I mentioned this a few times. One of the kind of nice things for me about acquiring G1 pony figures is that I know NONE of the backstory (if any exists for them), so I am free to invent personalities for each pony and also spot family resemblances.

These two are fairly recent acquisitions (after not having any ponies for a while, Ponies In The Sun got a new batch in). I bought them together:

"Don't talk to me or my son ever again"

Seashell (the adult pony) is in the sitting pose (like what Bubbles has). I like this pose, it is very cute, and I liked Seashell's unusual coloring. At the same time I ordered Baby Ember - one of the few "blank flank" ponies produced in G1. I've headcanoned him (as have many other Pony collectors) as a boy because of his coloring. (There were different-colored Embers produced, I guess, but blue seems to be the most common). Because he and Seashell arrived together, and because they have the same color eyes, I decided that Ember has to be Seashell's son. Also, they "fit" together - you can position them easily (As I sort of have here, but you can put them even closer) - so it looks like Ember has his head tucked up under Seashell's chin, and she looks very protective of him. (If your  particular browser does the "popup" titles on photos, you can see what I was imagining there)

I don't know. This kind of thing, I acknowledge that in some ways it's totally silly, and yet it makes me so happy. It makes me happy to imagine them as mother and son, sitting there, tucked up together. I can't really explain it. (This is something I've always done, though - with my stuffed animals, with my little plastic zoo animals - tried to figure out "friend and family" groupings even if some of them meant weird inter-species relationships. My stuffed animal "families" had lots of "adopted children" in them, because even then I knew enough biology to know a cat and a dog couldn't be biological parents)


And mid-fall break is over, and I didn't get all that much knitting done, no thanks to my city's dicta and also my own sense of diligence (needing to grade that exam and write the other one). I did start the mitts for my mom and have decided to work as solidly as I possibly can on Christmas knitting until it's done. Hopefully the little toys for my niece won't take that long to do each....

but it does seem, more and more, duty steps in to fill the "empty" hours of my life, there is always something I "have" to be doing instead of what I "want" to do. I guess that's adulthood, though.

My inner child, though, whines that it just wants to play - I want to start the stuffed "Minty" pony I want to make (in a few days, if you're a Build-a-Bear fan and a Minty fan, you can get one from them - I'd do it except (a) the BaB ponies are really too big for the space I have, (b) I'm trying to cut way back on frivolous spending, especially after mid-fall break, and (c) I want to have the fun of making my own Minty. (And yes, I think I am going to make socks for her when she's done). And I want to go to antique/resale shops and hunt for Ponies or other fun old toys or display shelves or pretty costume jewelry or old Christmas-tree ornaments....

I dunno. Maybe if I get good work done this week I can take a little time for antiquing this weekend, I don't know....then again, I have cupcakes to make for a church dinner Sunday. (And I cook for the college kids again tomorrow, but I'm going to just do oven-fried chicken again which really isn't that much work). Part of the problem is budgeting the drive time - there is almost nothing near me (I went to the new downtown antique shop and saw nothing promising) and it's 45 minutes now to get to Sherman and longer to get to Ardmore....

I also need to clean house some time. I was gonna do that on Friday but got sidetracked by more urgent things. ("The urgent crowds out the important")

If I could only learn to manage on less than six hours of sleep a night, how much I could get done....

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Weekend in photos

One piece of good news: I have a promise of help hauling off my brush pile next week. So now I just have to mow the lawn (I guess) and make sure the last few things are clipped in the back yard and I can call the city and tell them I have Conformed, and could they please leave me alone for a while.

Brushpile 1:

brushpile 1

That's from the INSIDE of the fence, plus a few things from the front yard (the bases around the yaupon hollies).

Also you can see how the new renters next door love to park super close to my drive, which makes getting out first thing in the morning WHEN IT IS STILL DARK OUT THANKS SO MUCH DST a little harder. This isn't even as close as they've parked.

I'm not sure how I'm going to put my trash out this week but I'll figure out a spot.

And this is the brushpile from the alley:

brushpile 2

For comparison, the fence is about 4' high. (And is going to be replaced with a privacy fence, as soon as I can hire someone and get them out to do it.)

But yesterday was a better day than Friday night. First and best, getting to hang out with a friend (I wish people like Laura lived closer to me so we could hang out more often). Really outstanding lunch at Barron's - Saturday is the day to go as they have brunch, I got an omelet with a side of honey-butter grits, which were *incredible* and I may see if I can figure out how to replicate them. (I think I have a recipe somewhere for a "grits spoonbread," which might be similar if dressed up with a little honey)

And we went to Stitches N Stuff.

yarn 2

The bag is from Barron's; it's an insulated lunch tote which will be a lot nicer than the ziploc bags I have been carrying my lunch in. I hope it's easily washable....I'm not always the neatest eater.

Also, the cream colored yarn is for a scarf for me, and the grey is for a shawl. The striping sockyarn (I am a big sucker for striping yarn) will probably become socks, and the little bits are for the toys for my niece for Christmas.

I also bought these at Barron's:


They're pink and they're sparkly and I kind of needed some new slippers anyway. The only downside is that the sequins do snag hosiery (I put them on over hose - haven't changed out of "church clothes" - for this photo).

Also, a back-track, here is the yarn from the Whitesboro trip. This will probably ALL become socks, except for the light blue, which is for mitts for my mother's Christmas present. I'm particularly pleased with that yarn - it's a yak-down yarn.

yarn 1

The two stripey ones are an Opal line ("Blütenpracht," which means Blossom). I don't think I've seen it anywhere before but it's pretty and it stripes. (The colors I got are Poppy ("Mohn") - the orange, and Phlox ("Flammenblume") - the pastels). I noticed on the label it says not to use fabric softener. Not that I ever do, but I wonder why that is? Bad for the texture? (They say not to use it on towels as it renders the towels less absorbent). Bad for the colors? I don't know.

The brown one is a colorway called "Belgian Chocolate," which made it even more appealing to me. I might do some kind of all-over lace pattern with this one.

Laura and I also went to the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore. It was fun and I learned a little bit. I never really explicitly made the mental link that oil deposits work kind of like an aquifer works, but apparently they do. Also, I learned about the Connaly Hot Oil Act, and the stuff that led up to it - apparently the early 30s were a pretty wild time in Texas; lots of money and people came into the area quickly. Also there was apparently a price collapse of oil (shades of today, hm). And the three churches in Kilgore were set on fire (two burned to the ground) because....people, I guess. I never know whether to be reassured that we've not got much worse than we were in the past, or frustrated that we haven't learned from that past.

There was also a seriously goofy and stuck-in-the-70s marionette show featuring Professor Rockbottom (I know, Laura said it was 80s-fabulous, but the marionette show reminded me of educational tv from the 70s). I can't quite see modern kids going for it, but I don't know. (I think even when I was a kid, there would have been some eye-rolling over how corny it was.)

They also had a gift shop. One of the things they sell are those tumbled stones, and I know my dad would say it was a rip-off ($3.95 for filling a small bag) but I kind of love those things, and given that $4 doesn't buy you much these days, the happiness picking out a few rocks and then having them to look at seems cheap. And also being able to do this, imagining it as a present for Maud Pie:

"Rocks. My favorite."

"Rocks. My favorite."

(I love that my stuffed Maud is so tightly crocheted that she can stand on her own - I don't have any kind of prop or support under her.)

Coming next week: my Little Pony Families (and one Couple)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the road

Well, here I go. I'm sore this morning but not as bad as I was afraid of. Mostly my right wrist from fighting with clippers for as much as I did (and I clipped some stems I probably should have sawed). I'm covered with hives but that's to be expected from being outdoors for more than 30 minutes.

I did NOT sleep as well as I hoped. It took me FOREVER to fall asleep, I think it's a combo platter of too much activity late in the day, being upset about the whole thing, and worrying about the drive (I will be doing the first part of it in the dark, and it's on a road that I suspect has deer).

I think I figured out why I keep getting hit by the city - I am the only person on my block who does not have a "privacy fence" backing up to the alley - it's an old (and now, damaged, from that branch falling on it) chain-link fence. I need to replace it (that will probably be the city's NEW complaint). Well, I'm replacing it with privacy fence this time. Yes, it will be expensive. (My share of the shared fence with my north neighbor - which is about twice the length of this fence - was $750).

But yeah. Unless they pull the "historic district so you cannot CHANGE anything" card, I am going to make it so no one can see in my yard. (Also a bonus: that means if I wind up with a creepy across-the-alley neighbor like I once had*, I don't get catcalled while working on my garden)

(*Nearly all the houses around me are rental houses now, which is unfortunate. Some renters are great but others are not, and often the good neighbors are people trying to save up to buy a house, and they do, and then move away).

So whatever. I'm hoping a day out calms down my upset. I know, I know - the mantra of my youth, "Get over your hurt feelings" but grah, it does seem like I am doing my best here and just can't get ahead, the best I can hope for is keeping my nose above water.

And tomorrow afternoon after church I am doing nothing EXCEPT things for myself. I am making that spaghetti Bolognese (and anyway, the meat will go bad soon if I don't) and then I am knitting.

(Though I probably need to start the Christmas knitting I am planning, sigh)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sorry, no pictures.

My day got derailed. It seems like every time lately I "work ahead" so I can win myself a little free time, something comes up that eats that free time.

Today, it was the thing I dreamed about. No, I'm not writing this from a hospital-prison, but guess what? My yard was "written up" again. I'm particularly unhappy about it because I had just (a) sat down and forced myself to grade an exam (and write another one) so I wouldn't be scrambling next week and (b) I literally found the note (taped to my mailbox) when I was coming home from sending a little gift off to someone I think needs a little cheering up. (No good deed goes unpunished, I guess).

Anyway. I tried to call in and get a clarification because it just said "grass and weeds or brush" but OF COURSE the person in charge was out. So I decided to be pro-active - I used the string trimmer to knock down whatever the heck it is kind of weedy bluestem (it's a very short grass, so it's not big, but it has the turkeyfoot flowers. Maybe it's King Ranch? I don't know) that won't yield to my mower. (I still have to mow, apparently. Even though the grass is all of 3" tall and we haven't had appreciable rain in like six weeks. But I can do that some time next week).

I decided maybe the former leafpile was too brushy so I cut and pulled (and found some poison ivy, which I will probably wind up getting, as I didn't see it in time, and I was too furious to bother suiting up or putting on gloves before going to work). I filled my wheelbarrow about seven times and dumped it at the curb. (The seventh fill is still in there, there's no room to dump brush any more). My wheelbarrow has a flat tire AGAIN so it was extra effortful.

Then I looked at the back alley. Technically, I don't own it, and several people at church said I shouldn't have to be responsible for it, but I wondered if that was what triggered this whole thing. And I thought about trying to get the tree guy out. And about scraping together the cash to pay him. And about (briefly) cancelling my trip tomorrow because I'm blessed if I will drive 3 1/2 hours to a yarn shop and NOT buy yarn. But I wouldn't do that to Laura.

So I sighed, and decided to try it myself.

And I managed. I always manage. The whole thing took me three hours I was planning to use to make a batch of spaghetti Bolognese and then knit, but it's done. There's a giant brush pile at the corner of my lot on the alley, but maybe I can either recruit someone from church who has a pickup truck, or offer a student $30 for their help and a half-hour's use of their pickup to load it up and haul it to the dump. I cut my thumb on the tree saw (not badly, but it bled like crazy) and I came dangerously close to "bonking out" a couple times from lack of water (I find with the beta blocker I am far less tolerant of dehydration than I used to be). But I got it done.

The person DID call back while I was out. The lawn needs mowed (REALLY? The grass is super short. Whatever, I'll mow it next week) and she was concerned about "brush hanging in to the back alley" and assured me I had "ten whole days" to fix it. (NO. I have one week of "business days" - they count the Saturdays and Sundays as part of the ten days but if you need to hire someone, getting the notice late on a Friday afternoon means you've already lost two days, because almost no one works on the weekend here - other than the college professors, I guess). So I mow the lawn next week and call and assure her that most of the brush has been removed but by golly, they need to give more detailed directions.

I'm gonna be stiff tomorrow. I took a hot shower but I don't know what else I can do. I don't like taking ibuprofen - I worry about my stomach (I took one late in the day yesterday because of a bad headache and it didn't hurt my stomach, but I don't want to get back in the habit of using it heavily because it does have worse side effects (heart, especially) than was once thought.

Maybe I heat up a couple of my beanbag things and get into bed with them tonight, figuring heat will help keep things from stiffening up.

So, no photos of my little Pony families I've dreamed up, or of my current knitting, and no talk of making spag bol. Dangit. 

The only two upsides I can see: (a) it's done and (b) I won't need to worry about exercise tomorrow or probably Sunday seeing as I did a workout earlier today in addition to the very hard work of brushcutting for three hours.

quick check-in

Longer post to come later....I have to do a workout and then get over to school to do a little grading and check my plants.

But, here's one of those "brains are dumb and weird" things. A lot of the "bad dreams" I have aren't all that plausible in the daylight, but when they are happening, they are totally plausible to my brain (I suppose it's because that part of your brain that judges reality is turned off).

Well, anyway, here it is: I dreamed that I hadn't kept up my lawn "right" (either by watering it or mowing it often enough, it was unclear) and it turned out that was a capital offense (!) in the world where I was living, and I was caught, convicted, and sentenced to death (by drinking poison, that was how the death penalty worked in this world). For some reason I was being kept in a hospital-like setting* while I was running through appeals. My main arguments were:

a. This law was not made sufficiently clear to me
b. dear God, I work full-time, how can I be expected to have a perfect lawn?

The funny thing is, the fundamental injustice of the law (in our day-to-day world, murderers, child molesters, and rapists wind up eventually going free; death penalty cases are fairly rare) never came up as an issue.

Anyway, shortly before I woke up I was getting word that the appeal had been denied.

While I didn't do what I sometimes do after bad dreams - get up for a little bit and stare at The Weather Channel or something - it took me a while to get back to sleep.

(*Probably because I half-watched a couple episodes of "Trauma: Life in the ER" last night. Stuff like that has a way of worming itself into my brain)

After that dream, I had one where I was having to re-defend my dissertation, only this time in front of a committee that was half my original committee, half my current colleagues. And when I tried to open the Powerpoint file of the presentation based on my research, the computer kept pulling pictures of Ponies off my hard drive (perfectly innocent pictures, no rule 34 or anything weird) and I kept getting increasingly embarrassed because of a combination of not being able to do what I needed to do and also revealing my odd childish obsession to the people I work with (and who will be 'judging' me).

It's good to catch up on sleep but I could do without the bizarre brain-dumps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I also have


Well, new-old pony. New to me but likely made when I was in high school.

Sparkle Baby Firefly (who is different from just-plain Firefly, who is different from Fyre-fly)

I really love the Sparkle Ponies, and I also especially love the Baby Ponies. (I think I have more of the Baby variety than the Adult variety now). There's something so appealing about the tiny size and the little round bodies.

I now have three sparkle baby ponies - and they are a unicorn (Sparkle Baby Gusty), a pegasus (Sparkle Baby Firefly) and an "earth pony*" (Sparkle Baby Starflower). That pleases me. (I don't know if any others were made in the Sparkle Baby line or not. But it's nice to have one of each type).

Some time I have to photograph some of the little "family groupings" I have imagined up.

(*I think it's funny how easily fans started calling regular (non-mythical beast) ponies "Earth Ponies." It makes me think of how, back in grade school, we talked about "Chocolate Milk" and "White Milk." "White Milk" was just plain milk, but somehow we had to give it that qualifier. I'd like to know when the tradition of calling it "White Milk" got started....)

I have a....

So, I came home and decided that maybe some of the crabbiness that developed over the course of the day was related to (a) stiffness from not having exercised in the morning (my allergies were so bad when I woke up that I went "one more hour" and reset the alarm and (b) guilt feelings over having not exercised.

So I decided to do the dvd workout, which is just over half an hour and usually makes me feel better.

But I needed a quick snack first, as it had been a long time (and a field lab) since lunch. I grabbed one of the "fruit pouches" I buy - these are essentially applesauce blended with other fruits. (And I know, I know - but these have no added sugar beyond what's in the fruit, and anyway, I have bad teeth so easy-to-eat food is nice sometimes when my sinuses make my teeth hurt).

Well, one of them is an apple pineapple blend.

I never realized it before, but: "I have an apple....I have pineapple...."

And yeah, it made me laugh and got me out of my crabbiness a little.

Gratuitous sweaty post-workout shot with an unopened package of the stuff:

Yes, I know. I find that more amusing than I should, but I've never claimed not to like stupid silly stuff.

Wednesday morning random

* I had read about "convenience" stores ("konbini") in Japan before, and about how they're more a desirable/community thing than such stores are in the US (for example: some provide a meeting place for people, some even check on the elderly or infirm to be sure they're okay). This is another story about them.

The biggest thing that struck me about the story: "Lawson," apparently in some locations known as "Lawson Station." This is the descendant (a few times removed; I think there have been bankruptcies and re-buying of the name) of the Lawson dairy stores I grew up with in northeast Ohio in the 1970s. And it just seems jarring to me every time I run across it in one of these's almost as if someone you knew as a kid and thought had died shows back up again, but they've had plastic surgery and have been in the Witness Relocation Program for a number of years..

(One tiny quibble: many of the Ohio locations of Lawson were not "rural." We were perhaps best described as a "bedroom community" for Akron or Cleveland. Not really any true farms around us)

Oooh....maybe Doki Doki Crate will do a future crate on konbini and they will include some Lawson swag? That would be particularly meaningful to me. (I have heard a Lawson opened in Hawaii - because of the high rate of Japanese tourism there - and maybe I heard they were thinking about opening some on the West Coast? It would be exceptionally weird to see Lawson's return to the States, only this time under the aegis of a Japanese owner. Well, it would be weird to me, because I know the history - not weird to most people).

But the typeface used for the signs is the same (if that's a Japanese Lawson shown in the story, and not an old photo of an Ohio one). And they use the same sky-blue and white color scheme I remember:

Okay, it wasn't called "Lawson Station" then (and that's a slightly odd syntax; Lawson was the name of the family that ran it), but the logo is almost the same and the colors are the same.

(If I ever have cause to go back to Hawaii, and I am somewhere where there is a Lawson, I am going, and if they have t-shirts, I am buying one. Because.)

It's funny - there are a lot of aspects of my youth I'd rather leave behind because they weren't so happy (especially junior high school) but there are things that can make me deeply nostalgic. I remember exactly where the Lawson's in my town was, how it was a funny little narrow store with the walls almost entirely taken up by (as I remember) cooler cases for the milk and ice cream and refrigerated dips and stuff.

* It's easy for me to "miss" random things or make them symbolic of having left a place behind. Back the first or second year after I moved here, I was home for Thanksgiving break and went out to the grocery with my mom, and I started crying when I saw the boxes of Creamette pasta, simply because it was a familiar brand, I couldn't get it here, and none of the brands I COULD get seemed the same. (This was back when I was frantically prepping 2 or 3 new classes and getting to shop in Sherman MAYBE once every six weeks, and so, relying on the old Winn-Dixie (long since closed) for almost everything).

One of the other things about living here/having less time: I find I wind up having to "accept" brands of things (like pasta) I don't maybe like as well, because nowhere local sells what I mom talks about driving to three or four groceries, sometimes, in her rounds, to get the best deals/get the brands she wants and that just feels like such a luxurious thing to me. To have the choice of more than one brand of organic milk! To be able to get a "different" pasta shape than the three or four the wal-mart has deemed the only ones necessary.

And yes, I get that that's the First Worldiest of First World Problems....but I also think of the film footage I saw back in the 1980s of the dying Soviet Union, and the very few items to choose from on the shelves, and the old women lining up for four hours for a sack of potatoes, and I twitch a little. (That's why I will argue with anyone who claims we have "too many choices" and the number of brands should be pared back)

* Someone needs to talk to these 18-20 year olds. I came in this morning to a message from one of my advisees - this person wants to meet with me TODAY. The message was sent late in the evening yesterday. I have already planned out my day for getting stuff done and while I did list two fifteen-minute slots when I maybe could advise, I'm not happy about it. (I guess, sigh, I will have to be the one to bring up the topic). I don't expect to get in to see my doctor with less than 24 hours notice! (even though once or twice I have managed to get a next-day appointment)

I've laid down the law in my classes that I need a minimum of 24 hours notice before someone meets with me except during my open office hours....and even then, I've said if I'm in the middle of research I may have to ask the person to wait 10 minutes. I still get people doing stuff like this, where they e-mail me at 8 pm and expect me to e-mail them right back with an appointment less than 15 hours away from that time.

Newsflash: I'm old, I need my sleep and relaxation time. I do not live tethered to a smartphone. You e-mail me after 3 or 4 pm, you'll hear back the next day. If it's urgent, too bad, so sad.

And yeah. Part of this IS me "being old." I remember the 1970s. I remember when if someone wasn't home when you called them on the (corded, and back then, even rented-from-A T and T) phone, you tried again later on - you didn't leave a message, you didn't get call forwarding. For doctors and the like there were answering services and towards the end of my childhood beepers came in for folks like doctors and police special agents I've said before, I think in the future the real luxury will be being able to live NOT tethered to the needs of the people you work for, of being able to take a weekend day and just GO somewhere without having to answer a lot of questions or virtually file TPS reports while you're there. They don't pay me enough, and I am not important enough, to be required to respond that fast to people. And I think there IS some value in training the immediate-communication generation that some people prefer NOT to "roll that way."

* Anyway. My mid-fall break starts tomorrow and wow do I need it. What I am looking forward to these four days:

 - Sleeping as late as I need to (My allergies have flared up again and I need more sleep when my allergies are bad). I can work in the workouts later on in the day

- Getting to Whitesboro tomorrow, going yarn shopping, going to the quilt shop even though it's been a long time since I even touched my sewing machine,  going to antique stores, getting lunch out somewhere (Lovejoy's isn't serving but I know there are restaurants in Sherman).

- Doing "big" grocery shopping in Sherman, and being able to do it on a day when the whole world isn't out shopping. And getting to the natural foods store. And doing all of this at a time when I don't have one eye on the clock.

- Taking Friday and maybe clearing up my sewing room a little and maybe getting back to the long-stalled quilt top. (Well, I will also have to run in here and check on my plants, but that's okay)

- Seeing Laura and surprise-guest-friend-who-is-also-coming-along Saturday, going to a fun museum, going to Stitches N Stuff, getting another lunch out, PERHAPS getting to a big Books a Million and Michael's if there is time.

- Being on my own schedule instead of someone else's for a couple days, and not having the whole, "Yeah, I know it's late in the evening but I really need to meet with you some time tomorrow so could you rearrange your whole schedule for me?" requests.

* There's a story - possibly not true, possibly a hoax, who knows any more - making the rounds about a waitress (a single, childless woman) getting a "note" from some customers effectively telling her "God says your place is in the home, not out working, and you're setting a terrible example for your children."

If people actually did this - if this is not a hoax, or not people doing it to troll and pretend to be Christians doing something that is actually pretty un-Christian in my book - well, that's just another thing that makes me sad about people.

You need to walk a mile in someone's shoes. The point is made that this woman is, like I am, single and childless: if she didn't work, she'd have to either rely on family to support her, or rely on the state to support her. I don't think either of those options is preferable to someone going out and earning a living. And even IF she did have a husband and kids, what's to say HE was working? I had two aunts who had husbands that wound up disabled beyond the  point of being able to work, so my aunts had to go to work to support the family. Or maybe her husband works at a job that doesn't bring in enough money to keep a family afloat - unfortunately that is all too often the case these days.

And you know? There are times to speak and times to keep silent and I kinda think berating a person serving you in this way is a time to keep silent. Maybe it's because I've seen enough cases in my life where I was TEMPTED to say something to someone about behaving irresponsibly, but (fortunately) before I did, I learned "the rest of the story" and it was a case of someone doing absolutely everything to hold stuff together and not quite making it (e.g., the woman in my class who missed a few classes and it turned out she was the ONLY caretaker for an aunt who was in hospice and had lots of doctor's appointments, and ALSO this aunt was my student's only remaining family....and I learned this all from a reliable third party, so I know it wasn't just a story, and boy was I glad I didn't say anything to the student)

Maybe I'm oversensitive because I'm a single woman myself and everything is 100% on me in terms of paying my bills, keeping my life together, and even planning for an eventual retirement, but I'd probably break down in big ugly tears if someone pulled this stunt on me. And yeah, for me, the whole "You're not responsible enough and not fulfilling your Socially Expected Role" is one of my buttons for a lot of reasons, and so that kind of a comment would hurt more than it should and would be very hard for me to dismiss.

Like I said: it's entirely possible the people were trolling, and if they were doing it to make "Christians" look bad, shame on them for that. Most of us don't roll that way, and I would daresay those of us who pay attention to what the Founder of our faith was saying wouldn't do this kind of thing to a person - IT'S NOT LOVING. You can correct someone in a loving way if necessary but this is just laying a load of guilt and pain on someone....

I dunno. People frustrate me and I confess I'm hoping this is either a hoax, or the people who did this actually did it to besmirch Christianity, and not that they were actual Christians who think this is a way to guide someone in life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Some different reading

I'm really enjoying "Moonfleet." It's a moderately exciting book, and it's enjoyable. (And I need to get a pad of paper - there are a couple words I've run across that might be regionalisms or they might be archaic words, but I'm not familiar with them. I can get kind of what they mean from context, but I want to look them up).

Also, it reminds me a lot of how I read as a kid. I read because of the story. Not because the book would teach me something, or because it provided a window on the human condition, or anything like that - it was just a good story, it was exciting and diverting, and I wanted to see how it turned out.

And I miss that kind of reading. So much of what I do read is "informative" (e.g., all the journal articles) and a lot of the books I do read (I really need to finish "Moby Dick" some time) I read either because (a) I think it will help me understand people better or (b) my overarching reason is, "It's a classic and I should have read it." (Never mind if it's also fun to read it; the very idea that "this is something educated people should have read" puts that little broccoli-esque specter over the book).

I remember when I was a kid and devoured what now seem to be called "Chapter Books" - i.e., books written for the young but not picture books. By and large they are simply good stories; the older ones can be quite exciting (written in an era when there was less fear a mention of, say, a dead and decayed body, would warp a child or unduly frighten them*). I guess I read a certain number of books that were maybe "aimed at boys" but I never really noticed that - if it was a good story, I enjoyed it, and I didn't care. (In this book, so far, all the major active characters have been male. There's a rather sour aunt who later on turns John out of her home, and there's the promise of a "love" interest (or at least a crush) for John in the form of Grace Mayhew, but so far in it's just John and Pastor Glennie and Ratsey and Elzevir Block and a few unnamed smugglers). And again, this is one of those "maybe adults don't give full credit to kids" thing - I never felt left out or mistreated if I read a book with an almost-entirely-male (or even entirely-male) cast: again, if it was a good story, I didn't care.

(*I've said before I think your average (untraumatized - from a moderately happy home and all that) child is more resilient to this kind of stuff than adults give them credit for. And is probably more resilient in some ways than an adult who actually HAS experienced fear, discomfort, and horror in their life)

And I can feel the memory of how I used to read as a kid coming up from the pages of this book: a time when the story was everything; when I might turn part of my play-life into a re-enactment of parts of the book or at least a re-imagining of the adventures of the characters. It's reading for sheer fun and escape and sometimes I think adults don't get enough of that.

Though also, I get the sense in "Moonfleet" that John is also learning (and perhaps modeling for his young readers) "How to be an adult man" in the world where he lived - yes, he gets *some* education from Pastor Glennie, but he also helps Ratsey (the sexton, who also does things like carve headstones) and seems to be learning a trade, and he is later "adopted" by Block after the aunt turns him out - Block having lost a much-loved son about John's age a couple months prior. And also just the idea of "what is a man" - that Block, for example, for all his apparent terseness and moroseness is a kind and compassionate person (you can't judge a book by its cover), the idea that sometimes laws are unjust laws (the fact that smuggling wine and other alcohol is largely winked at, even by the pastor), and so on.

Some years back I belonged to a book club. We read a number of "modern" novels, a few of them regarded as Important novels. I wound up....not enjoying some of them very much.

I think the difference is that the action in a book like Moonfleet is very "exterior" - John crawls down into a sinkhole thinking maybe he will find "Blackbeard's" treasure, he winds up trapped, he winds up learning about the smugglers. STUFF happens. In the books we read, almost everything took place inside the heads (or, I guess you'd have to say, the beds) of the protagonists. And it was all....I don't know, it was so frustratingly BORING. Or annoying. It was people going about ordinary adult life and you know, ordinary adult life isn't that fun or that romantic. Or it was annoying because (in one book in particular I remember) the woman protagonist had a boyfriend who was a good, honest, solid man, but he wasn't "exciting" to her, so she wound up running away to New York City and effectively subletting a closet and living in horrible squalor because there was a marginally more exciting man on offer.....who turned out to be a jerk. And even someone who has lived as romantically-cloistered a life as I (or perhaps it was BECAUSE I have led such a cloistered life) I kept figuratively screaming at her that she was being so stupid, that she needed to go back to the good and stable but "unexciting" man and plan a life with him because he'd marry her in a heartbeat and be true to her, but instead she wanted this.....guy....who showed no inclination for fidelity or even really working at a grown-up job, and....well, the book just frustrated me because it felt like watching an episode of Oprah. By comparison, Moonfleet feels very bracing - almost like the comparison between going out on a cold autumn night into the sharp air, versus stepping out on a muggy summer morning.

Moonfleet is the kind of thing I read to GET AWAY FROM hearing about people living their lives like the woman in that book.

I'm not a huge Sci-Fi fan but I think this is why people like Sci-Fi: a lot of it is an escape. (Though also, a lot of it does make you think; it presents some of the moral dilemmas of the world in a new way). Maybe "Moonfleet" is closer to modern spy novels than it is to Sci-Fi, I don't know.

I have to admit one of the few books we read in book club that I found interesting (and hung on to after we were done with it) was "The Strange Case of the Dog in the Night-Time" because it was about an autistic teenaged boy, and I liked it because it got me in someone else's head, it wasn't just the same whiny or strident women or the same arrogant or "beta" men like in a lot of the other books. (Also, fundamentally, it had a happy ending, which seems to be something somewhat out of fashion, but I will unabashedly say I prefer books where the "good" characters wind up happy and getting some reward in the end).

But yeah. Part of the reason I like Moonfleet is that it does remind me of that sort of reading-under-the-covers-past-your-bedtime-with-a-flashlight thing of childhood. (Which my parents probably knew I was doing but looked the other way about).

Monday, October 17, 2016

This is a thing?

I know, I know, I should just shrug and let this go but this is the second instance today of someone wanting me to do their job for them. (The first one was at work and I won't go into details, just that I don't have to do it now because I objected).

Anyway. I came home to the usual mailbox full of stuff-mostly-bound-for-the-recycling-bin. (It's getting close to Christmas; I have started getting the citrus catalogs).

Anyway. There was a card from a local real estate agency. Telling me a house had been put up for sale in my neighborhood and if I "knew anyone, friend or neighbor, looking for a house" could I please call them and let them know about the house.

Which feels very much to me like "DO MY JOB FOR ME! SELL THIS HOUSE FOR ME!" I presume the agent will get 100% of the commission on it - there is no mention of any "reward" offered for finding a buyer.

And, I don't know. I get asked this stuff all the time: take this survey. Sit through this webinar where we're going to try to sell you a product. Follow this person on Twitter because they get a penny or something for every new follower. Post this spammy comment because its spammy links might sell something for the spammer. And it all makes me tired. I have a full-time job and then some. I have to do ALLLLLL the housework, marketing, cooking, laundry, yardwork myself. I have duties at church. I do service on campus and off campus. I sometimes serve as a reviewer of articles for free.

And there have been times when I genuinely could have used some help but did not get it.

And so, I object to someone who *probably* makes more than I do in a year asking me to do their job (Or, at least that's how it feels).

I'm tired.

I wonder if other people have gotten the postcard like this and if they interpreted it like I did - as a "sell this house for me while I take the profit and get the glory!"

(Also, I know the house in question and it's not all that. I bet they're having a hard time selling it and that's why they're spamming people with postcards).

I'm not sure I have the energy to e-mail the guy and say, "Hey, maybe you don't realize it, but this is how your postcard 'looks' to at least one person" - I can't think of a sufficiently low-key and nice way to do it, so I'll just toss the postcard.

Holding fast to....

Yesterday, as the benediction, I used something I ran across in a little book of prayers/readings I had bought. It's based on something from 1 Thessalonians but this version of it specifically had been used in a service at the National Cathedral shortly after Sept. 11, 2001:
Go forth now, into the world in Peace; Be of good courage; Hold fast to that which is good, Render to no one evil for evil; Strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; Help the afflicted; honor everyone;
Love and serve the Lord. And the blessing of God Almighty, the God who created us, the God who liberates us, and the God who stays with us throughout eternity be with you this day and forever more. Amen.

(From here, but also, as I said, in the little book I have)

I've always loved that passage. It seems like the writer - most likely Paul, though it could have been Silas or Timothy who took it down - was cramming everything he could think of that was important right there. Almost like the speaker at a graduation who knows his or her time is running short but wants to give as many instructions as possible for the future lives of those graduating.

I also love it - and I KNOW I have said this before - because of the "hold fast to that which is good" part. I try to hang on to that as a motto in my life - and more generally, to look for the good instead of the bad. I try to see the good in people and things. It's hard sometimes, and I know when I'm at my worst and lowest is when I look around and I go "It's all crud. The human race was SUCH a mistake. We should be wiped out and the earth start over with some other sentient species" (Though perhaps sentience is as much the problem as humanity....)

Someone I now follow on Twitter (thanks to seeing this very comment quoted somewhere) said:

"I hate this election. I hate how we're all so stressed out and wound up we are that we're going after each other like this."

Yes. That. I have heard of things like people getting their cars "keyed" presumably because of whatever candidate's bumper sticker they had on their bumper. Or bigger, uglier things. I've heard of friendships becoming strained over politics. And I dunno, that seems kind of stupid to me. And that's also why I don't really talk politics that much - I get that I can have principled disagreements with people over things. But this is one of my happy places and I like to keep disagreement at bay.

Anyway. I was thinking of some of the "good things" to hold fast to. (And I admit - these days, my mental image of it is often as much me clinging to Harry the Bear's paw when I try to sleep after an upsetting day. Yes,, I know that's regressive, but whatever).

And sometime I should post my couple of little "family groupings" of the Pony figures I have developed (these are the earlier-gen ones, so not explicitly put into families so much as G4 already is). I have a Seashell and a Baby Ember (Baby Ember is blue, so I am thinking of him as one of the rare boy-ponies). Seashell is Ember's mother; they have the same eyes and they can even kind of cuddle together with Ember's head up under his mother's chin. And my Big Brother (Salty, renamed Boaty McBoatface) seems to be in love with a unicorn named Blackberry Pie, so I keep them together....It's a silly little thing but it makes me happy and in an odd way, gives me comfort. (And anyway, in the real world, horses are social animals and would stay in groups).

And the little kindnesses you see or hear about some times. Or the good stories, of which there are too few - I saw a news story the other day about a group in Rwanda that is using drones to fly essential medical equipment (stuff like blood, and, I presume, vaccines) in to remote areas where they are needed. It's a simple thing but you hear so many of the *annoying* uses of drones you forget that they could have life-saving uses.

And "Moonfleet," so far, is a good and interesting book - it takes you into the mind of a 15 year old boy in the late 1700s. He lives in a small village that is rather impoverished. He takes his lessons from the kindly minister of the church, he lives with his aunt (his parents being dead). Life is simple in the town; most people don't think of what happens beyond their own gardens. (Sometimes I wonder if we have got artificially "stretched" beyond our ken, and spend too much time thinking about and worrying about things that have little direct impact on us. I also find myself thinking of the old Yeats poem with the lines, " My country is Kiltartan Cross/ My countrymen Kiltartan's poor/ No likely end could bring them loss/ Or leave them happier than before"). And also the old ending line of Candide, about cultivating our own gardens.

And just simple things like tea. I have some new ones on order to try. It's one of those small things that makes my life more pleasant, especially as (if?) the weather gets cooler.

And seeing the monarch butterflies migrating. I've seen a *lot* these past few weeks (and I admit, when I get close enough to one, I look carefully to see if it's one someone has banded. Haven't seen any yet). But it amazes me- it's really one of those miracles of nature. These butterflies, which are so small as to weigh almost *nothing* (I know, I've held them in my hand, banding them) are able to fly over a thousand miles to their wintering grounds. And what's more, that "knowledge" of how to get there must be in-born; this generation of butterflies has never seen the wintering grounds - they were born sometime late this summer.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

And Sunday night

* First sleeve of Raven is done, and second begun, just enough to be comfortable for working on while I invigilate an exam tomorrow. (I'm excited to think this may be done soon: there's minimal finishing, just putting the sleeves in and working a collar on it)

* Decided to start a new book. I finished "Death in the Tunnel" (Miles Burton) last night. It was a good mystery. I kind of guessed "who done it," but I didn't guess the why. There are a lot of twists and turns to the story and it's generally pretty well written - and it does, in a way, transport one to that middle-class between-the-wars British world.

I've decided to try to intersperse my finishing-up of "The War that Ended Peace" (because, darn it, I am going to finish it this time) with "Moonfleet," which is an older (First published 1898) YA historical thriller - about smugglers in a Cornish (? I think) town, and apparently there is a mystery and pirates - and it's the kind of fantastical thing I probably need to read right now, what with the fact that it seems every bit of news programming is 55 minutes of each hour spent promoting the next debate).

I probably need to read more fantastical novels. I certainly have enough on the shelf - the full Dark is Rising sequence (which has the added appeal for me of being a "Good beats evil" story) and the various Rosemary Sutcliff Roman novels (e.g., "The Eagle of the Ninth") and a recently-purchased YA historical novel about Alessandra Giliani, who is thought to have been the first female anatomy professor. (It looked interesting to's a used copy bought online). Part of the reason I enjoy Golden Era detective fiction so much is it takes me to "a different place" and certainly the Cornish coast in the late 1700s, or ancient Roman Britain, or 14th Century Italy are "different places."

On some level, it helps me break out of the one-inch picture frame I get my head stuck in, where the bad junk going on in our world has always been going on and always will be going on, and that people are mostly depraved, and they don't make an effort to be better or kinder. (This is also a big reason why I get myself to church every Sunday; the reminder that there are Better Things and, what's more, there's a reason to be better myself, and that striving to be a better person doesn't make me a chump and a loser, no matter how much some in the world might portray it as such).

* I finally watched "Mystery Men" from the beginning last night. A couple thoughts:
 - It's PG-13, which means most naughty words aren't there. Also there's comparatively little "real" gore, though there is a horrible doomsday machine that does nightmarish stuff to Captain Amazing.

- It's just a funny movie. Kind of dumb-funny in some ways, but I like things that are dumb-funny but fundamentally good-natured, which is what this movie is. The villains are mostly cartoonish rather than truly scary; one of the reasons they lose is that they are buffoons. (Though the Mystery Men do improve their skills considerably after working with The Sphinx)

- I really, really like the Shoveler's speech at the end, which also gets at some of his motivation behind becoming, well, the Shoveler - that there are a lot of ordinary decent people out there who go to work every day and do what needs to be done and keep the world running, and a lot of them don't ever see any real appreciation or perhaps even any real clear results in their jobs. (he is the Shoveler because he's a sewer worker who wants something more; he wants to be a hero)

- Blue Raja is still my favorite character but I do also like the Shoveler. And Invisible Boy.

- I do think this is an underrated movie. Maybe it came out at the wrong time, maybe it wasn't promoted in the right way, but it is interesting and funny and well-done in kind of a low-key way. There are a few gross gags I could have done without (the skunk getting romantic with The Spleen's leg didn't do a whole lot to advance the story) but in general it was a good movie.

*  Follow up on the 100% polyester sheets: they're fine on colder nights, but when we had a few warmer nights recently, they did get a little too warm. (However: I run hot and I "sleep hot" so other people's mileage may vary). I'm also concerned that they might pill easily. I changed them out last night for the cotton sheets again and I can tell I like the cotton ones better.

I definitely think that the "Clothesline Crisp" sheets (from Vermont Country Store) are the best I've ever had. Granted, I've never bought the $400 sheet sets some places sell (the Clothesline Crisp ones are about $90 for a set, which is expensive enough) but I like the feel of them and they wash up well and don't feel flimsy.

Actually, everything I've ever bought from Vermont Country Store has been good quality....I am going to ask for one of the wintertime knit dresses they are featuring for Christmas, because I was happy with the other dresses I bought from them.

* I have all but decided to go to Whitesboro one day of my break in addition to the meet-up with Laura in Longview. I don't get out enough, I don't get to have fun enough, I think. I might go Thursday even though Lovejoy's isn't serving on that day - I can probably swing over to Sherman for lunch afterward (and also do "big grocery" shopping).  That way, if I'm coming back late on Saturday, I don't feel like I have to stop and shop then.

I do want to look for some dk weight yarns; I don't have much and I recently got a book with some neat patterns in it - particularly a pair of mitts that would make a good Christmas present. (Yes, I am going to try to do some Christmas knitting this year).

Also, Whitesboro has a couple nice antique shops, and I've had a shortage of being able to go antiquing of late.

Still kinda terrifying

So, I delivered what was Sermon 3 of my life today (or "Sermon," I prefer the scare quotes as I'm not actually ordained so I'm just doing this as a layperson).

It still scares me. Even though I had practiced it, even though I ran over it quickly again before church. It seems odd to me that I should be that much more scared standing up in front of a group of people who give me no reason to believe they feel anything but love for me (I don't get that from students) and if I do badly, the only consequences I will face is maybe not being asked to do it again. (And if I DO do well, I wind up getting asked again at some point.)

("It's like a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie," which is occasionally said about earning tenure)

But I did it today. I think the sermon was a pretty good one - again, I don't remember the delivery of it all that well other than that I could have paused longer at one point when I said something bordering on funny and people laughed. People told me it was good and it was meaningful.

(Short summary: it was over Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha, and the tack I took was that we need both Marys and Marthas, that Martha wasn't so *wrong* in what she was doing, but maybe it was untimely when she was doing it, and that sometimes the Marthas - of which I am very much one - do need to slow down and be contemplative. And the side note that things happen in their own right time, and I did go through good old Ecclesiastes 3 at that part.)

But yeah. Still stressful. It wasn't very warm in church and I was wearing a lighter weight dress, but I can still feel that I sweated through the underarms of it. (So, even though I only wore it for a couple hours, I'll have to wash it - I can't just hang it back up like I sometimes do with church clothes).

We also had a new person join church, which was particularly scary - am I doing this right? Am I even qualified to do this, seeing as I'm not ordained? But I was the most qualified one there (the ordained person was absent) and we really are pretty low-drama about that in the Disciples of Christ (there's one question you ask the person, and they're pretty much expecting it, so)

(And yeah, there's the old saying about God not choosing the prepared so much as preparing the chosen)

I had several people ask me if I'd ever considered the ministry as a career, so I guess it went well. My response: "I can do the 'God stuff' comfortably, I am not so comfortable with the 'people stuff'" and in the mostly-small churches where I would be, if I did it, I'd have to do both counseling and preaching, and the whole counseling thing would scare me, as I deal very badly with conflict, I don't like having crying people sitting in my office and not knowing how to help, I am afraid of extremely angry people. If I just had to preach and pray and stuff, I could do that....the whole "easy to be a saint on a mountaintop" thing.

Though I don't know. Maybe with the right classes, some practice, and a little more maturity (if I ever get more than I have right now, which, I don't know: I'm probably at my life maximum for maturity) I could do it. I've often said people planning to be college professors should probably have some basic psychology/counseling classes because we wind up dealing with so many messy emotions from people and also sometimes also have to be able to cope with human difficulties, and I think I would be able to better if I had had some training.

But yeah. I could PROBABLY do enough coursework to earn something like a Master's of Divinity in a few years....I'm not going to totally dismiss the possibility because (a) it's just possible teaching college could become unappealing enough in the future to want something else with my life and (b) I'm enough of a "Martha" that a "traditional" retirement (of bridge and golf) wouldn't appeal that much to me; I'd want to feel useful.

I still don't really think I have "the call" but maybe not everyone who goes into the ministry feels like that at first. (Or maybe I do and just haven't recognized it yet).

Friday, October 14, 2016

working on stuff

* The whole research project is (finally) now up and running. I think there is some issue with the website seeds were ordered from; in the first case, the person doing the official grant-money order wound up not ordering two of the species I needed. Then when I ordered (on my own dime) and thought I was getting the two missing ones (Indian grass and Inland sea-oats), it turns out I only ordered Indian grass. So another ruinously expensive "fast shipping" (not the fastest they offer; I could not brook paying $35 to ship $9 worth of seeds) and they showed up at my door late last evening. (I am normally happy to see the UPS guy but last night I was especially happy).

So, the two remaining treatments have been planted and treated; now it's just weekly applications of either DI water or the allegedly-allelopathic extract and monitoring. No, nothing is germinating yet from the stuff I planted Tuesday; I don't expect it to for at least another week.

I have plenty of seed so perhaps will do a second round of this in the spring. I really waited a little long for this; I will have, at best, two months before the semester ends and if I want to see family over Christmas I will have to break the experiment down then; I cannot get someone to water and monitor it for me while I am gone.

* I started the talk for the Wildlife club yesterday. I will have to track down the president and ask her how long a talk they would like - I'm thinking 20-25 minutes. But if they want something longer, I can do it. I actually invested in personal copies of two of the (older, but still useful) books I heavily referenced in my dissertation: "The True Prairie Ecosystem" and "Fire in North American Tallgrass Prairie." The library here MIGHT have a copy of the first one but this copy was cheap enough from Amazon used books (it is an ex-library copy, from Maddux Library at Trinity University,which I think is in San Antonio? (There are several schools out there with "Trinity" in their name)

* The sermon for Sunday is mostly written. My plan is to look it over tomorrow morning and also find a Benediction and tweak my pre-offering speech from last time. Again, I'll be glad when this is done. I think it's a good (or at least interesting) sermon. I am using the "Mary and Martha" scripture (the one from Luke 10 - where Martha is running around like her hair is on fire doing stuff that you're expected to do when you have guests, and Mary, her sister, is sitting there at Jesus' feet listening to Jesus, and Martha gets ticked off because Mary isn't helping, and she actually tells Jesus to tell Mary to get off her duff....and while Jesus doesn't exactly rebuke Martha, he does tell her, "No, I'm not going to tell her that, because she has made the right choice for this time.") And the point often made is "Martha wrong; Mary right" but actually I think it's more nuanced than that - and some of the sources I look at say that they essentially symbolize the two approaches to the faithful life, and really, we should ALL do BOTH at different times - sometimes, go out and be active and do good works like Martha, but at other times, be quiet and contemplative and learn like Mary.

And I admit, as more of a Martha-type, I like that interpretation better and find it more charitable to those of us who have a hard time being still. (Also: I am not the kind of person who can sit and meditate; I get too antsy. But I can meditate while pulling weeds in the garden or walking on a path or sometimes even doing stuff like entering data. It's not for nothing that I always knit while watching movies on tv....)

* I have plans for mid-fall break, which makes me happy. Laura and I and another friend of hers are going to meet up and go to an oil museum in Kilgore (Laura informs me it's 80s-fabulous, which should be interesting). And then we're going to probably swing by Stitches N Stuff. That will be Saturday and I have to decide whether I want to be the "little piggy" and then also go to Whitesboro either Thursday or Friday. (I know Lovejoy's serves lunch on Friday but I don't think they do on Thursday). I may also stop at the Michael's in Longview on my way back home to get supplies for my niece's Christmas gift.

(My "big check" from the publisher came and has been deposited, and I also realized I have an account in the credit union "back home" - where my parents live - that is bigger than I remembered it as. Interestingly, for a while, that credit union was only letting you get statements online unless you were willing to pay $2 a month. Recently, they started sending paper statements again, and I didn't opt-in for that and there is no charge shown against my account, so - I wonder if some new law got passed about issuing statements? At any rate, it's good to know I have another stash of "emergency money" elsewhere. I paid a bill or two off it over the summer, partly to avoid "inactivity fees" but also so I didn't have to worry about depleting my checking account too badly while being paid adjunct wages)

* And I have been knitting some, but mostly on projects that are slow movers. I've added a couple more stripes to Starbuck (I am on the "decrease for the waist" part of it). I admit I'm nervous as to whether it will fit when done - I made the biggest size but it's a bit smaller than the typical sweater I make. And it looks small on the needles, but then again, the body of it (it's knit in the round) is kind of bunched up on the circular needle, so maybe it's hard to tell. (I hope). If it's too small for me, I don't know - it would probably still be too big for my mom (I typically wear a size 16 on top and she more typically wears an 8), and it's also not colors she typically wears, or I'd give it to her. I don't have a close friend who is just slightly smaller than I am (My sister in law is about the same size as I am, and also, she's taller, so something made to fit me in length would be too short on her).

I'd honestly rather give a finished sweater away than rip it all out and start over.

But maybe it will fit.

Last night, I knit on the first sleeve for the Raven pullover.. This is **almost** done and I'm hoping I can finish it and start the second over the weekend - I give an exam Monday and that is pretty ideal invigilating knitting. I'll also be glad when this sweater is done - this one, I KNOW will fit me right, I've held the finished body up to me. I may need to get a dark brown t-shirt to go under it (to avoid  show-through, and anyway, I like to wear shirts under my sweaters so I can take the sweater off if I wind up in an overheated room).

I kind of want to start a new sweater, too. I'm telling myself instead I should start the second sleeve for Hagrid, which has been languishing for a while. But I have so much yarn stacked up and so many projects I want to do....I spotted the yarn I bought several years ago for that vest in the Harry Potter Knits Interweave "special issue" (it's a shiny gold color) and now I want to start that. But I also have yarn for a blue lace vest that I got on my last trip to Quixotic Fibers. And I have several fingering-weight-sweaters' worth of yarn. And I found a pattern in a recently purchased book for a lace-yoke cardigan and I want to 'repurpose' some yarn I bought a long time ago for something else (and never knit up) for that....

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Huh, that's interesting

So, I couldn't quite face reading about World War I (or rather: the stupid decisions by world leaders that led up to it) last night, so I switched over to the "next nonfiction book" which promises to be an account of the 1918 flu epidemic.

Right now, the author is providing a fair amount of background on medical history (which seems a bit much, but perhaps it will become clear why he is doing this). Lots of talk of Hippocrates and Galen and later Vesalius and Jenner.

Anyway, he mentioned the Four Greek Temperaments, which used to be thought of as the dominant forces in people's life and health: choleric ("Yellow bile"), sanguine (blood), melancholic ("black bile"), and phlegmatic (phlegm, but you probably guessed that). (Corrected 10/15: I had choleric and melancholic biles reversed. I....don't think there actually IS  a "black bile" in the body - yellow bile could be regular bile, blood is blood, and phlegm is phelgm. But I've never heard of black bile as an actual bodily fluid. (Unless it's lymph? But lymph is clear and I don't think the ancient Greeks knew of lymph)

The idea was, these "humors" corresponded to temperaments. Wikipedia lists them as this:

Choleric: short-tempered and irritable
Sanguine: optimistic and social
Phlegmatic: relaxed and peaceful
Melancholic: analytical and quiet.

(Those last two surprise me; I always thought of "phlegmatic" as "sort of sluggish, slow to respond to things, someone who often can't be bothered to act" and "melancholic" as "sort of sad, not exactly depressive but someone who isn't, as a rule, cheerful")

Anyway, I then thought of those "four dimensions of" graphs....where, for example, they look at "authoritarian vs. libertarian and statist vs. market-driven" and you can take quizzes to find out where you fall, and I wondered if there was one for the four temperaments. (And I speculated that I might be phlegmatic - my definition, not Wiki's - with a side of melancholic - again, my definition, not wiki's).

And behold: there's a personality test.

And yes, I know the whole four humors thing has been TOTALLY debunked but I kind of enjoy those weird old archaic things. So I took it.

And behold:

"Your temperament is melancholic. The melancholic temperament is fundamentally introverted and thoughtful. Melancholic people often were perceived as very (or overly) pondering and considerate, getting rather worried when they could not be on time for events. Melancholics can be highly creative in activities such as poetry and art - and can become preoccupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. Often they are perfectionists. They are self-reliant and independent; one negative part of being a melancholic is that they can get so involved in what they are doing they forget to think of others."

I can't copy the "bar chart" they provide, but my next-highest (not that far off of melancholic's numbers) is phlegmatic, so I guess I was close. (I scored lowest on choleric, despite being the kind of person who gets momentarily aggravated by stuff like malfunctioning self-checkouts).

But yeah, some of that fits - the whole "preoccupied with cruelty in the world" thing, and the perfectionism. I'm not sure I'm that creative. And I've been self-reliant to the point where I realize now it's hurt me a little: everyone thinks of me as the person who has got it worked out, who can manage on their own, who doesn't need other people's help or support.....and so there are some days when I am sitting there going "I could really use a hug or an offer of some help" and not finding them offered, and also not knowing how to ask for them.

I dunno. This is the tired time of the week for me: Thursday and Friday are often bad days as I start to feel kind of "used up." It's tougher this semester to as I have more students coming in for help (one person every Tuesday and Thursday at 7:15 am). I mean, that's good - and hopefully it will be reflected in my evaluations and all - but it's also tiring because it's more people to deal with and more people's emotions to sort out.

I also haven't done much knitting this week; Monday night was piano and CWF, much of Tuesday evening was spent beginning to prep the sermon for Sunday, and last night was meetings at church (including the discussion of the fence).

I'm telling myself that maybe tonight I can just go home and relax for once (but I do have to do laundry). Saturday, I don't know: going "out" to do anything isn't really viable right now because of the additional time to get to Sherman (which is pretty much the only viable shopping area near me). I do need to work on my talk for early November; they are already advertising it.

I don't know. Next week is mid-fall break and so far no plans. I need to see if Laura is free and able to meet up, and what might be a good thing to do. Failing that, maybe I take the Friday and go to Whitesboro and do some yarn shopping and also eat at Lovejoy's again. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More on kindness

Edited to add: Wow, this Inside Higher Ed essay pretty much nails what I'm getting at here, along with adding a few other points. (SO MUCH YES to "it's a myth that Because we are nice, we never get angry, tired or frustrated." that because we are "nice," stuff doesn't get to us. Stuff gets to me ALL THE TIME but I also recognize that in a lot of cases, the person delivering the "stuff" to me did not cause it, so it doesn't help for me to lash out at them. Also the idea that "nice" people don't hold high standards: I've reminded students more times I can count this semester that "ecology is a difficult class; there is a lot of material in it" and just because people aren't doing as well on exams as they'd like to, I'm not going to make them easier)

I don't want to give the wrong impression. Being "kind," in the sense I meant it, doesn't mean being a big squish who never tells anyone the hard truths they need to hear. I've told students, "Yes, unfortunately at this point it is not numerically possible for you to pass this class" when they came to me. Or "You plagiarized this paper, here is the proof of it, my policy is to give you a 0 but for first-time offenses I do not refer you to the Academic Honesty Council*"

(*That has long been my policy and I stand by it for two reasons: first, I think everyone - especially brand-new freshpeople - get a chance to screw up but then redeem themselves, but also, because referring something like that is kind of a pain for a prof. MOST of the plagiarism cases I've caught the person has been repentant and said either, "I guess I knew I wasn't doing it right but I let myself run out of time" or "no one ever really showed me how to do it right" [which is kind of a lie because I go over it in class, but whatever]. I do stand firm on "it's a 0 and you don't get to redo it" and "do it again and I WILL refer you" but most of the people I caught were repentant but accepted their 0.)

What I mean, is not being needlessly hard with someone. Or unnecessarily cruel. For example, the person online who talks about being "excited to be cosplaying as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast"" and some random troll goes, "LOL, but Belle isn't FAT" which is a seriously cruddy and useless thing to say - it doesn't hurt you, personally, if someone who is the "Wrong" body type (or skin color, or prettiness level, whatever) in your mind for a character decides to dress like them. I tend to keep my mouth shut if someone seems to be making a decision I think of as "stupid" unless it's one that is going to actually hurt others or hurt themselves. (For example: I'd speak up and probably try to wrestle the keys away from someone who was drunk but was going to go driving)

But there are a lot of things that don't need my input, and actually, it's a relief to me not to have to give it.

I will critique things if I am specifically asked: students, for example, giving a talk somewhere, call me in to hear it and make suggestions. So I will tell them things like, "You will want to give more detail about your methods, people need to know what you did" or "The graphs are very hard to read, I recommend you redo them..." (and if there are specific things, like, I don't know, a bigger font or something, I suggest it).

Otherwise, I tend to leave feedback - like, for example, on something someone posted on a hobby blog or Ravelry - if I like it. If I think they did something well. If I don't like it, meh, they weren't making it for me, so I move on. It doesn't hurt me that there are things out there not to my taste.

Anyway. I try hard to be a decent human being.

And we had an issue of this on a larger scale at church tonight (Board Meeting) and it bugs me even as I don't see any other better option. We have a small day-care type program (really more like a preschool). It does well and fills a need. There is a small playground on church property for it, surrounded by a 5 or 5 1/2 foot fence (I THINK it's 5 1/2 feet, it's nearly as tall as I am). The fence was erected to (a) help keep the little ones corralled safely while they played but also (b) to keep unauthorized people out so the equipment doesn't get damaged or stolen.

Well, we've been having some problems with b. Apparently there are some teenagers in the area who climb the fence at night, play on the equipment, and they've vandalized and broken stuff. (There is a trampoline, which makes me cringe because liability, but I guess it's one of the safe kinds?). Anyway. We've tried having some of the larger men hang around a bit to try to scare the kids off, we've had cops make extra patrols, we've tried lighting....nothing seems to deter the kids and the daycare can't keep replacing stuff that gets broken (nor can they move it all into a garage or something every night).

(This, my friends, is almost an example of The Tragedy of the Commons).

Anyway, we were concerned about the loss and damage, but also concerned about the whole "attractive nuisance" angle - yes, we have the property posted as private property and that you are not supposed to go on it without explicit permission. But I do wonder about, "What happens if a kid falls while climbing the fence and breaks his arm?" What if his parents try to sue?

So anyway. The conclusion on the part of the trustees and I guess the daycare management was that we need to make it even harder to get in, and the most cost-effective way is to put something like barbed wire on top of the fence. (Digging the old fence out and replacing it with one enough higher to deter climbing is not financially viable).

I hate this. Hate it a lot. For a mixture of reasons. The main one being: we are a church. We don't want to do anything to seem unwelcoming. Especially to the "unchurched," which these kids apparently are. And I also hate the image it projects to other people in town. (Yes, I worry excessively about judgemental people). And it DOES project a bad image - a siege mentality, a closing off.

But there seems to be no other option. (Others were suggested - more lighting would not be a deterrent, talking to the kids hasn't done anything, photographing the intruders with game cameras would do little, the parents don't care that their kids are doing this (apparently), cops can't hang out there all the time even if they chase the kids out the few times they come across them. Taking away the playground equipment hurts the little kids).

The board moderator said he'd talked to the insurance agent we have, just to be sure this wouldn't make liability worse - apparently it actually would make our case stronger if someone were injured while breaking in. (Sad strange world). Also the agent said, "Well, you know, in Dallas and places like that, the churches in the city centers ALL have barbed wire topping their playground fences." But it makes me sad that in our wee tiny city, that's apparently even to small to have a decent supermarket or even a small bookstore, we have to do the stuff that's done in cities.

And it also makes me sad to see the decline of respect for public places. (When I was a kid - granted, it was in a very small, low-crime town, but still - the church my family belonged to left the sanctuary unlocked, at least during the day, with the idea that "if someone needs a place to pray, here we are." You can't do that now. In fact, a church of our denomination a few cities over was broken into and all its electronics stolen. And you see similar things happening to libraries and schools.)

So I don't know. I try to be kind, I try to be a light, I try to be optimistic about humanity - but sometimes it's so hard. I feel bad that these kids apparently didn't have the kind of guidance in their lives that I did, and I anticipate they will have much harder adult lives than I do - but that still doesn't give them license to destroy the little slides and sand toys and stuff for the little kids.

I don't know. Living in the world is hard sometimes. I think of that book I read some years back, where one of the characters talked about how if she could only live up on a mountaintop, she could be good and loving and pure and really, a saint - and another character tells her that it's easy to be a saint on the mountaintop, and that's true - it's harder to keep that love down in the mess of humanity.

(I think that was the book - "The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show" - that also had a character asking another one if she had a "love strategy or a war strategy," suggesting the two were different ways of approaching the world. I try to have  a love strategy but I admit some days it gets hardened into, if not a full-on war strategy, at least a conflict one, where I'm less willing to forgive and walk in the other person's shoes and all that Albert Schweitzer stuff.)