Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Looking forward to

 One of the things I really missed in 2020 and earlier 2021, one of the things that probably contributed to the riding-roughshod on my mental health that the pandemic did, was a lack of things to look forward to.

Like, I wound up ordering a LOT of stupid stuff online, stuff I didn't need, because watching that package (sometimes v. slowly) wend its way from the seller to me gave me something pleasant to anticipate, something more than "in x more hours you can go to bed" or "maybe you can have two cookies after dinner tonight." 

Unfortunately, I realize that the novelty of being Out and being Different Places in the World is a big thing for me - that seven or eight months of pretty strictly staying home was hard. Even trying to leaven it a bit with a few walks on the equestrian trail or the nature trail up at the lake, even with the occasional aimless-drives in the country didn't help a lot (which I realized made me feel WORSE, though they were probably important for not totally losing my driving skills).

But now, things seem....a bit better. Even with omicron, the news this morning seems to be "if you're fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine, especially if you've had a booster, this will mostly be a nothingburger for you, keep on with the minor precautions you've been doing." (I still mask in class and in shops, I am still not eating inside restaurants, I am still avoiding crowds and will continue to do so for a while)

But I do have several things to look forward to. I taught my last official class today for the semester (tomorrow is an exam, Friday is people doing presentations so I just have to grade). 

Tomorrow night is the first AAUW Christmas party since 2019. Really the first "party" of any sort since 2019 for me. I have my gift (a hat) and the little toy for the toy drive, and tonight I make the turkey meatballs I always make. And you know, the whole "that I always make" thing is a THING for me. It feels like a bit of a return to normalcy - I found the cookbook with the recipe (which is also here on the blog, so if I couldn't find the cookbook I could search on "meatballs" and turn it up). 

Since my exams are all written and my grading is effectively done until Monday, I am taking Saturday and going to Quixotic Fibers (they SHOULD be open, they list a class at 11 am - I will probably try to get there before that and complete my shopping before that, again avoiding crowds and it's a small shop). This will also be a 'first time since early 2020' thing for me. That's my big plan for the day though I might also swing by Ulta on the way back home, and maybe the bookstore? And maybe get some Nice Food at the natural-foods store (if they have their Nice Christmas Foods in this year) for exam week. 

And for exam week, in the evenings, I can stay home. And when I get my grading done during the day (which I probably can do), I will knit and relax and try to find holiday programming on tv. I would like to finish the current socks and also the pioneer braid scarf (I worked on it some last night; perhaps I like it a bit better). I'm already thinking about over-break projects; I will probably take the Incunabula sweater with me, and some new socks/hats/maybe scarf projects. And I printed off a pattern I had for a large crocheted Kelpie toy, and IF my mom feels okay with going out to the new big JoAnn's in her town (She PROBABLY will, though I'm not sure how cautious she wants to be in light of Omicron - I could probably go alone if I had to but it would be more fun going with her), I could get supplies to make it. I might scroll through my other saved patterns and see if there are any other toy patterns that "speak" to me because it feels to me like Christmas Break Should Be For Making Toys. 

And yes, looking forward to Christmas break. I have my tickets (I leave the 14th, not the 15th, as I remembered - so a good long time BEFORE Christmas, and then a while yet after it). It looks like the new variant should NOT snarl my plans (as I noted above) and it will just be NICE. Nice to be back home again, it will just be me and my mom (my brother and his family don't travel over Christmas) and with just the two of us it's a lot quieter and more orderly - we keep to pretty much the same schedule (up by 7, eat just three meals a day, go to bed around 9 - my brother's family sleeps a lot later and get up at different times and they kind of graze constantly instead of set mealtimes so it's a little more chaotic with all of us together). And maybe that's what I need as a slow introduction back to being around people, after a year and a half mostly away from them. 

But also just being able to do "real" Christmas again, I mean, with another person there. But also the idea of having a stretch of time where I'm not the sole cook/grocery shopper/housekeeper - sharing the load with someone else. 

And also, yes, I admit: being able to sit on the sofa and watch cartoons or old Christmas movies and knit or crochet or whatever, that's a thing, that's a thing I need and want. And yes, I can kind of have that now, except with work it means I get home around 5 and I"m tired and I need to make time to practice piano and do the marketing and everything. 

Part of the point of vacation is laying down some of your responsibilities for a bit; I think this is why people like cruises and all-inclusive places - the whole issue of grocery shopping and cooking and dishwashing is removed from the equation, which gives you more time. 

And, maybe? I hope and pray? Omicron will either basically fizzle out, or it will turn out to be the "huh, COVID is pivoting to a more seasonal-flu-like illness that can be managed without too much concern" and come spring maybe I can go visit friends again, and do extended days-out where I can eat somewhere OTHER than a drive-through for my meal, and maybe, just maybe? things will be better?

I admit at this point I'm even afraid to breathe that thought, lest I jinx it again - it felt very much like omicron and delta were both things that came down as jinxes; before delta I was saying "oh it will be possible for me to feel comfortable teaching unmasked this fall!" and before omicron I was saying "come spring semester, we'll be able to mostly be back to normal and I won't have to worry about things like dividing up my soils lab into two cohorts and doing two labs per week (then again: with a larger class that might make more sense any way). And I was looking forward to ditching Zoom except in the rare case of someone with an extended medical reason to have to be absent from class.

But maybe? Maybe it might still happen? Maybe not this spring, but maybe fall 2022? Maybe before I retire? I would like to look forward to things with hope again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Here they are!

 One thing the UK does better than the US, in my opinion, are the "heartwarming commercials at Christmas." Usually, it seems, they are much less explicit about what product they're selling; it seems more a "brand recognition" thing.

Like, this one, from 2017


And also, there's the Wes Anderson H and M commercial, which I am still fond of:

With a few exceptions (the famous Folgers ad of many years ago), US Christmas ads seem more aimed to "here is our product! look, this is our product! why not buy our product now, for Christmas!" The ones I particularly dislike are the car-for-Christmas ads many people actually DO that? I mean, I could see "okay we need a new car, we're budgeting for one, why not get one around Christmas because we're buying one anyway" but if I had been told as a kid "We're getting a marginally fancier car than we might but it's taking the place of other Christmas gifts this year" I'd have been disappointed. 

I mean, are they supposed to be aspirational? I literally have never known a single fellow American who was wealthy enough to give a car as a Christmas present. 

But anyway. I was wondering "so are they doing the heartwarming Christmas ads this year, or is everyone too burnt out following fundamentally two years of pandemic" but then today Roger had (in his monthly links post) a link to this masterpost of Christmas advertisements.

I wasn't prepared to be as moved by the John Lewis one as I was, but...well, I guess if you're going to promote messages of love and peace, this is the time? I also liked the McDonald's one, though I wish it WERE as simple as opening a closet back up and finding a chunk of my childhood waiting for me.

I will admit that given the threat of Omicron, the Tesco one feels a little....premature? (I guess the lesson from this pandemic is, never, ever spike the football, assuming it's done. Sigh.) Same with the Sainsbury one, and I'm not sure I like the use of a very ROMANTIC ballad (Etta James' "At Last") in an advertisement about family. Also the weird slow-motion/freeze-frame thing is slightly offputting to me.

There's another Paddington one, too, but it's not as good, I think, as the older one. But I guess they can't all land well.



Monday, November 29, 2021

What I carried

 I mentioned that I had been left two items by our family friend Jo, when she passed back in March. I brought them back with me, because I was unwilling to entrust them to the postal service, because they were both one-of-a-kind items and not replaceable.

The first one - the artwork - was quite large. It's 3' by about 2' and it has a stick in it (part of a yardstick) for hanging, so I could not fit it in my suitcase- in the end I wrapped it in plastic bags and carried it on top of my carry-on. 

It's based on a topographic map - maybe you can see the quilting lines that mirror the topographic contours. It's of Lake Crystal, which is a location in Minnesota, which is where I think this artist is based.

If I remember correctly, my dad bought this and another topographic-map quilt (which still hangs in my parents' living room) from the artist at a geological meeting

I can't read the artist's signature, but there it is on the back. I think Jo wanted me to have it because she knew I appreciated both quilting and maps. I'm not sure where to put it up - I was remembering it as being long and narrow like the quilt my parents had, and it won't fit in the place I was thinking of for it. I'll find a place, though, even if it's in my bedroom. 

(Update: a little searching online, I found her name: Shelley Cords-Swanson)

The second item is something I made for her. She had given me a huge box of leftovers from dressmaking (she made a lot of very nice clothes for herself, I guess mostly back in the 1950s? That's when most of the pieces dated to). I used some of them for clothes for my collector dolls and some for quilting. And I made her this for Christmas 1997, partly as a thank-you:

It's a crazy quilt, but a more "contained" one - I made a series of patches (If I remember correctly, I did the "stitch and flip" technique, like string piecing or log-cabin style) and then stitched them together. I just tied them because I had limited time and also a lot of the fabrics were fairly thick. And it's meant to be for display, anyway - it's only about 24" by 18". 

She made a tag for it, which I guess is good, it meant the attorneys were pretty clear it was the piece it was and that it was to go to me:


One more photo - they decorated the church for Christmas the weekend I was gone. This year, they decided to use (or maybe, they FOUND after a long time) a box of Chrismons that I don't ever remember seeing. One other woman said she remembered the CWF making many of them years ago. As far as I can remember, as long as I've been here (about 20 years), they used ribbon bows and gold angels on the tree.

I like this much better. For several reasons - they're symbolic in interesting ways (most are symbols of Christ), they're more varied (all the angels were the same, so this makes for a more visually-interesting tree. But also - the church I grew up in and the one my mom attends now use Chrismons on their trees, and so there's something familiar and nice about it. (And ten years ago? I made some with the youth group - those, I encouraged the kids to take home to decorate their own houses. I might still have one or two of the ones I made in with my tree ornaments.)

This is the church's tree this year:

Like I said: I like it. I think it was a good choice they went with these this year

Saturday, November 27, 2021

And home again

 It okay break. I think a lot of us are still dealing with unresolved issues/trauma from the pandemic; my brother and I rubbed each other the wrong way a bit, my niece was clingy and loud at times (why,  why, did the other relatives they visited give her a cheap plastic recorder when she doesn't even know how to play). The dog has gotten stubborn (if he didn't want to "leave it" when he was smelling something on a walk, he could not be budged). 

I didn't get much of anything done. Granted, I had a sinus headache for several days (hello dog allergy, and I guess that rules out a dog as a possible companion). 

I did do a couple things:

- Read over the proofs for the paper I had accepted over the summer, so I guess that's going to be a real thing

- Helped my mom put out the outdoor Christmas lights

- Picked up the two items that Jo left me from the attorney's office (pictures will be later; I'm tired). 

- Got my booster. Yeah, Jewel's pharmacy had no issues with boostering an out-of-stater who was technically below the age cutoff (though I guess that actually changed the day before I got the booster). I wound up with a fever and hives from it, so if future boosters become necessary*, I will have to plan on a day or two of not-feeling-very-good and maybe even have to take a sick day. (Honestly they should just normalize that, since this is a public health thing done PARTLY for the good of the larger society)

I did knit a bit on the pioneer-braid scarf. It's ugly, I don't know. I will finish it but I'm not sure I like it. I also knit some on the Oma's Sokken, which are much nicer and should be finished soon. 

(*and yeah, I am BADLY concerned about omicron; I presume the best-case scenario is going to be that vaccine-escape is not very bad, and we'll be able to have boosters maybe by (sigh) March or April. I'm not cancelling my Christmas travel plans yet but that's on the table in case it absolutely explodes here and travel seems unsafe. I hate this so much; I feel like I held up my side of the bargain in this (stayed home for like nine months, was careful otherwise, wore a mask everywhere, got vaccinated) but nothing is ever getting better, and every time I feel a tiny hope things are turning around, another bad variant shows up. I'm going to have to find someone to SERIOUSLY discuss (a) do I want to keep teaching if the rest of my career is going to be like teaching last year was - in a mask, "broadcasting" lectures online which is a SORRY way to teach online, but I can't - for my mental health - go to fully online teaching, which takes a different skill set to do well and (b) if I DO quit early, can I either survive on what retirement benefits I would get (I could retire with full benefits in 2029) or what other thing I could do to earn my bread (and get health insurance, that would be an issue too)

Maybe we'll get lucky? Maybe it'll be high transmission but low severity, and everyone will get it, and it'll be like a cold, but it'll burn through the population without much death? Or maybe it'll turn out that being triply vaccinated and somewhat careful is enough? I'm not sure I want to lock fully down again; I barely made it through 2020, and I can tell my mental health still isn't right.)

All of that said? I figure right now is the safest I'm going to be for a while - so next Saturday, after I've finished with the grading I have this week, and got my final exams fixed up, I am going to FINALLY go back to the yarn shop in Whitesboro (after nearly 2 years away from it!) and shop. I got a $250 "Christmas bonus" from work and after thinking about donating it somewhere (I am doing okay; my brother and I shared in the inheritance Jo left my mom - she felt it was the right thing to do, as we had helped her and been her friend as well) I decided to be selfish and use it on myself.

Not that I need more yarn (though I might buy books and some new needles and tools instead) but I need to GO there and have some new and different experiences - especially if, come January, we're not going to be able to go out much if there's another wave. 

I also need to figure out some additional gift for my mom. She doesn't knit much these days but still - maybe if they have a nice kit, she might like that? Or maybe I look around a little more. The other option, but I better jump on that fast, would be to order "fancy food" from one of the fancy food places to have sent to her

Anyway, here's hoping in coming days the news is less alarming and that it still seems like an okay idea to go see my mom for Christmas this year.

The trip back was  not so great. I was in an older sleeper car, and it was right behind the engine, and apparently the air intake (for the vaunted "increased airflow to prevent COVID transmission) got a lot of the diesel exhaust, and I could smell it all evening, and I wound up with a migraine as a result. I finally found a tube of rose-scented hand cream and smeared some under my nose (like CSI people do with Vicks Vapo-rub when it's a bad scene) to block the smell, but I was pretty miserable and turned out the light and laid down about 8:30. Didn't get a LOT of sleep but at least enough to drive back home safely. 

It's still the "airline food style" flex meals; I am guessing that's going to be for a while yet, especially with the new variant.

Friday, November 19, 2021

On the road

 I am in St. Louis right now! Miracles of modern tech, I am sitting in my roomette tapping this out on my phone. We’re running early, which is surprising. I expected that, given the much-vaunted “gotta get the supply chain moving for Christmas,” that we’d wind up behind multiple freights. (It still could happen; we’re three hours out of my destination yet.) 

Anyway, let me try a few photos . (See above. Not sure why the phone put them there)

The first one is the old station in Marshall, Texas. The next two are St. Louis. And the last is my compartment. I grabbed Grumpy Bear at the last minute…

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

And getting ready

 Hard to believe that, unless something goes very wrong, this time tomorrow evening I should be on (or very close to getting on, if it's late) a northbound train to spend Thanksgiving at my mother's.

Last year Thanksgiving was not that happy - I was here because case counts were rising and there was no vaccine availability yet. And I also remember how I special-ordered some lobster macaroni and cheese for my dinner, and the day before Thanksgiving UPS was very late getting the (frozen, 2-day-express) thing to me and I was afraid I'd have nothing special for dinner that night.

(It wasn't very good. If I had to do solo Thanksgiving again I'd just roast a chicken or something.)

When I was quite small, we would spend Thanksgiving at my paternal grandparents' - I remember one year driving back and it was snowing quite hard (Western Michigan, so probably lake effect). I didn't feel unsafe, in fact I remember falling asleep in the back seat holding my (then fairly new) Tony the Tiger stuffed animal (you sent away boxtops...). One of the blessings of having a good childhood is you do get those few years of trust, where you know your dad will get you safely home, or that your mom can fix the thing that broke, things like that. 

Later, one year, we went to an uncle - who was closer. That wasn't as ideal - my grandmother had enough spare beds for everyone, at my uncle's, as I remember, we slept on the floor of the rec room and there was less privacy and more people. I think after that we just stayed home - as my brother and I got older we all got busier and traveling wasn't as good. But we still did the holiday as a family of four. 

Even when I grew up and went away to college, I came back. After I took the job here - farther away from my family that I'd ever been - I made the effort to travel. (A couple years, when my brother couldn't get away, my parents came down here, before my dad's arthritis got so bad).

Last time I did Thanksgiving with my family, it was hard on the heels of my dad's memorial service. And then, of course, everything closed down in 2020. 

I admit I'm always apprehensive traveling at this time - crowds, and the potential for bad weather, and I confess I do not love traveling when everyone else is. (I am leaving a day before I normally would, had to do that in order to get a roomette, and in the era of COVID and bad-human-behavior-in-public-seeming-more-common, I did NOT want to travel coach.)

I've got several books - The Radium Girls, which I bought recently, and Miss Pinkerton (which a friend sent me as a gift), and an omnibus of the novels in the Penric series (ummm....Lois McMaster Bujold?). And I might stick in "The Poisoned Chocolates Case," the mystery novel I'm working on reading right now in, if I have room at the very end.

I'm almost packed. I have to put in my medications and my makeup and things like that in the morning. And probably will take Squishy Dog again, and a couple of my little crocheted ponies, because I sleep better in a strange bed (even if the bed at my mom's house isn't as strange as a hotel would be) when I have something familiar like that. 

And I have knitting. I put in the "Oma's Sokken" that I've been knitting on since the summer, and a couple balls of sockyarn (one for lace socks, one for plain socks), and I'm going to stick in the "Pioneer Braid" scarf I am knitting out of those weird color-changing cakes of yarn. (I'm not convinced I love it but it's interesting enough to knit on that I will finish it and see). 

And I packed all the Christmas presents for everyone. I might need one or two more small things for my mom later on, but I will have time for that - my brother's family likes to exchange gifts at Thanksgiving as they do not travel at Christmas.

While I'm up there, hopefully I can get my COVID booster - distribution in my area has been kind of a cluster, so my mom asked for me at the pharmacy near her and they said sure, I just needed to fill in some paperwork online and bring in my insurance card and vaccination card (the shot is free; I assume the insurance card is for record keeping) and I can do it, even though I'm younger than 65 and don't really have any BAD comorbidities. 

And we plan to go out to the law office where Jo had her will; they have the two items (a small crazy quilt I made her, and a quilted wall hanging based on a topographic map that she wanted me to have) and I can pick them up and carry them back - which seems safer than depending on the USPS at this point.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Walleye is done

 No, not my dinner! (Though that's my main encounter with walleyes previous to this)

I decided to try out the crocheted walleye pattern from Voyageurs National Park (!). No gauge or yarn size is specified, so I decided to go with a super bulky (CYC designation 6). I used Wool-ease Thick and Quick and it took *just over* one ball (I do not think you could manage with one, I needed the second ball to complete the very end of the body and then do all the fins and the tail).

I used a size L (8mm) crochet hook; possibly with a less-splitty yarn a smaller hook would work. My one complaint about the Thick and Quick for crocheting is that it splits like whoa, especially when you are navigating the fins - which get crocheted on to the body, so you're maneuvering in already-crocheted stitches, and it can get tight.

The fish came out about 18" long, and would work as a lumbar pillow, I think. (It's HOT here tonight - right now it's 76 F in my house - so cuddling something that's partly wool seems less appealing right now).

Anyway. The fish (which I have named Wally because really, what else can you name him?) is not very photogenic; he looks better in person.

I did decide to put in lock-washer eyes so Wally wouldn't be a fsh. (Sorry, bad joke - "what do you call a fish with no eyes? Fsh.")

The colors might not be true to a real walleye, but then I realized I've never seen one in person with its scales still on.

The pattern isn't hard, (though the fins are kind of a pain and if I were making another one of these I might crochet them separately, on a base-chain, and then sew them on) but the directions are kind of bare bones - like, it tells you to put markers in at one point but never what they are FOR. (It might be fore the pectoral fins but they seemed too far forward. Maybe for eyes that were never later mentioned and the finished fish in the picture doesn't have eyes.

I had thought of doing a second one of these as a present for my brother's cats but meh, time grows short and I have something else that will work.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Finished the book

 I finished "A Psalm for the Wild-Built" (the first Monk and Robot book, and sadly I will apparently have to wait until summer of next year for a bound copy of the second - I guess it's out for kindle but I have to read so many things on a screen that I want to read paper books for relaxation).

It was really good. First, from the standpoint of the world - something like our own, but not - more sustainable, with cleaner energy, with people who've cared about restoring the habitat, but at the same time who keep comfort going - so many of those "new sustainable future" images we're given suggest we live much less pleasantly and comfortably and it's nice to see a comfortable world that is also sustainable.

I've already talked a bit about Dex, and about how this is apparently a world where absolutely no one blinks at someone being nonbinary....and yet there's a neat little exchange where Dex meets the robot Mosscap and fundamentally asks what its pronouns are, and the robot is a bit baffled, and Dex presses on - isn't calling a sentient being "it" somehow wrong and offensive? 

And yet, to the robot, it's not, the robot is perfectly comfortable being called "it."

The book is fundamentally a story of trying to find what you're looking for. The reason Dex encounters the robot is that they grew unsatisfied with their life as a tea monk, and so they set off for a sanctuary place they had heard of - knowing full well it was deserted, so I don't know what they expected to find there, but they wanted to see it. And the robot is heading in the other direction - it has been chosen of all the robots in its tribe to go find "what humans want" (and of course the answer to that would be complex, and dependent on the human, and apparently the second book - which I really want to read - goes more into that).

But Dex. Ah, poor Dex. They have what seems to me a nice life - they travel about in a comfortable and self-containted ox-bike trailer (apparently an ox-bike is a vehicle powered by human muscle, but with some kind of power assist - how else could one pull a trailer large enough to feature both a workroom and sleeping quarters?). It's interesting to me to read about Dex' life in the trailer - a thing was making the rounds on Twitter today about "Please, fantasy authors, if you are going to depict a long quest, tell me about what the people ate and drank on it..." (and by extension - how did they live, and what did they do for fun). And I like that, I like imagining how others live. We get to see a bit of Dex cooking, where they cut up onions and have an outdoor cookstove that attaches to the oxbike, and there's also a shower setup that folds out from the outside. 

Oh, I'd dislike a life like that; I have too much need of too much stuff and also I'd not like showering *outside* (though it's also implied that in town, Dex can find hostels to stay in and shower at; the trailer is mainly for living rough on the road between towns. 

But aside from Dex' way-of-life, there is their "career" - they are a tea-monk, which is basically a counselor who dispenses tea to people - and apparently one of their skills is figuring out the best blend. And so they definitely have a meaningful career, a calling really - and yet, as I said, they set off, because they were not satisfied; something felt empty. They mention to Mosscap that they want to do *important* work - that they had been satisfied with making tea for others, that even though it seemed small, it did matter. 

And yet.

"I care about the work my order does, I really do. Every person I talk to, I care. It's not [BS]. I may say the same things over and over again, but that's only because there are only so many words that exist. If I offer to hug somebody, it's because I want to hug them. If I cry with them, it's real. It's not an act. And I know it matters to them, too, because I feel their hugs and tears, too. I believe the things they say to me. It means so much, in the moment. But then I go back to my wagon and I stay full for a little while, and then..." They shook their head with frustration. "I don't know. I don't know what's wrong with me. Why isn't it enough?" Dex looked at the robot. "what am I supposed to do, if not this? What am I, if not this?"

And wow, big mood, as the cool kids used to say. I've felt that regularly this past year and a half. Teaching is different; it's harder to get the fulfillment of it. It feels more....arm's length. Part of it, I am sure, is that I have to spend five freaking minutes at the start of class concentrating on entering the multiple passwords and starting zoom and letting the people in the virtual "waiting room" in and it takes me out of the moment and I also can't talk with the students casually the way I once did. But also, I admit, there's that little gremlin now that sits on my shoulder and asks me, "What if it's all BS?" like that article I linked to earlier this fall.

And I don't know. The robot talks a bit about purpose, and notes that the robots were originally purpose built to work in factories, but when they became aware, they basically said "no, we do not want this purpose" and the humans, instead of enslaving the robots harder, said "okay then" and figured out how to live without using the robots. And so the robots went exist. One, Mosscap notes, spends its life sitting watching stalactites grow.

"So, why then, do you insist on having a purpose for yourself, one which you are desperate to find and miserable without? If you understand that the robots' lack of purpose - our refusal of your purpose - is the crowning mark of our intellectual maturity, why do you put so much energy in seeking the purpose?"

And the robot basically goes on to quote the Desiradata at Dex, to remind them that they have a right to exist, they are part of the world as much as a rabbit or a bee or a tree, and all those things are good FOR themselves (I'm reminded of the quotation, I think from John Muir, about "a rattlesnake is good for itself," meaning that living things don't have to have a purpose that benefits US, or even that we can discern). 

And yeah, I have a friend whose faith is deeper than mine who regularly reminds me I don't have to earn my existence, that's already taken care of, but it is something I struggle with. I'm supposed to be doing stuff! I'm supposed to be doing good in the world! And it distresses me when I feel like I'm not doing ENOUGH, or when things I try seem to miss or seem to not pan out. And I know, I know: why set higher standards for yourself than you do for other people, that suggests you think you're better than them. But I don't know. It does frustrate me when I feel like what I'm doing isn't as good as it formerly was, or when I do feel that creeping emptiness. 

And I admit, Dex doesn't really find the answer - at least not in this book. The book ends with them sitting at a fire the robot learned how to make (after never having done so) and drinking (not-very-good, but that's not the point) tea the robot made for them. And perhaps has a few minutes of peace. Would that we could all find that peace.

Anyway, it's a book I recommend - I can list three books I read this year I'd recommend - this (Becky Chambers is the author), but also Susannah Clarke's "Piranesi," and then Dorothy Sayers' "Gaudy Night." (I read some other, way less memorable, things this past year)

Friday, November 12, 2021

Week is over

 It was a hard week.

I did wind up grading an exam for another (upper division) class, and half the class earned either an A or a B, and perhaps another quarter more earned solid Cs, so I guess maybe it's not me. But still, this week has been A LOT. In a minute I'm going to go take a warm bath and then go to bed and NOT SET MY ALARM FOR TOMORROW MORNING.

The big thing I did this evening after getting home was to haul out the ornaments and put them on the tree

I do multicolor lights; that's what we always had when I was growing up. The ones we had were the old C7 incandescent bulbs; these are little LED lights, which use less energy and don't get hot (it's an artificial tree, anyway).

I have lots of ornaments. I tend to be a maximalist. Some of these are old - I've had them the whole time I lived here, so more than 20 years; they stretch back to when I had a tiny little (3' tall) artificial tree that I bought for the apartment and then kept once I moved here - a few years ago (2017, maybe) I decided I had the money and the space, so why not get a big tree? 

I also have ornaments I got last year, and at least one (the Powder My Little Pony reproduction) that I bought this year. Most of the ornaments are "nontraditional" in the sense that they are a cartoon character or an animal (I have a felt hammerhead shark, for example)

I admit I was taken aback a bit when I pulled out a cardinal ornament I had (not sure if it made it into any of the pictures below) when I realized that it was one my friend Jo (who died in March) had given me for Christmas one year. That's one of the things about Christmas: you do have those sudden realizations of those who are no longer with us. (I suppose it's a season that starts with All Souls' Day). 

Also thinking about that strange Christmas last year, when there was nowhere to go (I guess church was back in session, but that was about it - campus had gone all virtual at Thanksgiving, and cases were up so I wasn't going anywhere, and wow....I'm glad I managed to weather all that but I'd not like to have to again. Doing Christmas here alone would be more tolerable if it was possible to go places.)

Anyway. Now the season begins again, and yes, I know, it's not even Advent, and some people tell me that Serious Christians don't put the tree up until Christmas Eve, but....I can kind of compartmentalize the more secular part of the celebration - having bright, shiny, nice, colorful, and glittery things in a dark and tired time of year - from the more sacred one, where we are celebrating one of the big feasts of the year. (And yes, there were times when Christmas wasn't celebrated much; Easter of course being the big holy day, and perhaps Pentecost also being important, but Christmas seen as less). But by this time of year I am tired and worn and I need those memories of happy times of childhood and the silly bright fun things to help me keep going.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Some Thursday things

 Random item time:

* It was a long and somewhat distressing week. Not solely because of the plumbing and the opossum - actually, that ended well (the plumbing fix was expensive but not as bad as I feared, and the opossum was safely rehomed). But there was a somewhat acrimonious meeting on campus, and a very long (but not acrimonious, just lots of things to do) Board Meeting at church. So I'm tired.

* Also I graded an exam wasn't great. And I don't know if it's that our first and second year students have just had their learning process so interrupted by the pandemic that they're really struggling, or that I've lost my ability to teach, or what. I wound up generously curving it because I don't know what else to do. I even did a review session, though it wasn't *great* because it was while the guy was working on the plumbing and I had to do it over Zoom.

* I just think the theme for 2020 and 2021 is "doing our best under really bad circumstances, but it's actually not good enough" and I don't know how to fix it. What DO you do when your best isn't good enough?

* I'm almost done with "A Psalm for the Wild-Built" and if you at all like SF/F (or even aren't particularly a fan but don't actively hate it - I'm not a big fantasy-novel fan but I enjoyed this one) I recommend it. I'll write something more about it later because Dex, in a long speech, articulated something I have been feeling lately but I don't really know how to get past it (And at least thus far, Dex hasn't either; they just recognize it's an issue and an upsetting thing. Maybe by the end of the novel, though I'm within pages of it, or maybe in the next book? There's at least one more in the series coming out eventually and I DEFINITELY plan to get it and read it - and I will probably keep my copy of this because I bet I want to re-read it some time. 

* On a happier note, I got my Christmas tree assembled, and the lights on. And since I had the step stool out to get the highest lights on, I put the angel my mom crocheted for me in December 2019 on the top

I'm going to do the ornaments either tomorrow afternoon, or if I don't get home early enough, on Saturday. 

It is early, but - this time next week I should be on a northbound train for Illinois and Thanksgiving, which just seems super weird to me. (Last year I spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas here, and even though there's apparently a new surge starting, I'm trying not to worry - my mom has been boostered, I'm at two doses of vaccine*, and I'm going to be careful - I have a compartment and unless they are insistent about eating in the diner I'm going to request meals in my compartment and of course mask when I'm out of the compartment)

(*The current "eligibility" here seems to be "over 65 or if you have a clear risk factor" and I'm not sure that my asthma and hypertension - both very well controlled with medication and lifestyle - rise to the level of "clear risk factor" without me lying a bit and playing them up, and I'm enough of a hidebound rule-follower not to go in and Karen a bit at the pharmacist to try to get a booster. So I'll wait a bit more and hope everything is okay. My big fear is "long COVID" and that does seem highly unlikely in a vaccinated person even if they get a breakthrough case. And I am generally crowd-phobic enough that I'm unlikely to have a lot of exposures)

I *think* last year I waited until Thanksgiving break to put the tree up, which is more "normal" but in years like this, when I can be traveling - well, the second week of November is really the ideal time, I have the week before Thanksgiving and then the two and a half or so weeks after to enjoy the tree before I leave for Christmas. And yes, even though it's a fair amount of work, it's important to me to do it. 

It still doesn't FEEL like right before Thanksgiving though. It's still warm-ish here (though supposed to get colder this weekend), and this week was so busy I didn't have much time to think about anything but work or meetings or opossums. (This weekend, though - I pushed today to do what I needed to for next week and I can take the weekend off, though I will also need to plan ahead for packing, since I'll have to leave not too long after class on Thursday)

* Still working on the walleye, this turned out to be a bigger project than I realized.

* Also, this article was served up to me by Pocket: "Who is Jellycat really for?" and I have to admit I said NOT JUST PARENTS as I read it - basically it's an article about parents "adopting" a stuffed animal (they feature the Jellycat brand, which has become very popular and has LOTS of different critters) and how some people find it soothes nighttime anxiety. And you know? I've known that for literal years. And yes, during the pandemic I found myself even more often grabbing one of the stuffed animals and sleeping with it scrunched up against my chest. It helps, in a weird way. And I acquired a number more of them, ranging from a Squishmallow styled Chewbacca to a large, custom made, pink weighted unicorn, from an Etsy artist who sells them as a "calming" thing for people with anxiety. 

And I have some Jellycat critters. My two favorites are these:

I bought Dexter back last August using money I earned assisting (online) with a survey about writing across the curriculum. I had seen him on some other collector blog and wanted one for myself, and when I got the Amazon giftcard for doing the help with the research, I decided to buy him. The card was enough that I could buy the "big" Dexter (there's a small one; there might even be one larger than this but this one is a good size, he is almost the size of a small cat).

And this is Alice.

Alice is an axolotl but she also has big "Red Fraggle" energy with the puffs of fur there (they're supposed to be like the persistent neotenous gills of an axolotl). I saw her on yet another collector blog (I think it was the "They Shaped Like a Friend" tumblr) and I WANTED her.

I wound up having to order her direct from the main Jellycat place (in the UK) and wait for her to come (If I remember rightly, I ordered her this summer). And she came - in a big plastic mailer and INSIDE the mailer was a nice cloth Jellycat gift bag (which I kept and use as a knitting project bag) and I'm happy to have her. She's also a good size to hug. 

I kept the original names for both of these. Dexter definitely seemed to fit him, and I tried a bunch of names for Alice but none of them worked, so Alice she remains. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

the story's end

 I love it when a plan comes together.

Here's a better photo (taken with more light) of the offender. I've texted the woman at animal control, hopefully she will text back soon that she's picking it up. If I don't hear back before I get out of class I might try calling the number in case something went wrong with her texts.

Update: Animal control texted me, the opossum has been "relocated to a more suitable area" and I don't think she was just feeding me a nice fiction because I told her I was a biologist; I think they really did drop the little guy off out in the woods.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

it's done enough

 I put away everything I needed to (well, the stuffed animals I removed from my bed need to go back, but maybe I do that right before bed). I sorted three large bags of nearly-new dresses and jackets (both suit-type jackets and a Columbia fleece - I have broad shoulders and a large chest and muscular upper arms, and those kinds of things either don't fit well, or things that once fit okay aren't comfortable any more since my arms bulked up a little more from working out). A friend from church suggested a small local thrift store that employs people otherwise deemed "unemployable" and so I might take the things there. 

I admit I put off trying the shower for a while because I have trust issues and was afraid something would go wrong again when I turned it on, even though the plumber did test it out. (I left the new head on, I think I will just leave it. Not sure whether to pitch the 20-year-old one I had, or to see if I can store it away in case this one fails).


But about 15 minutes ago, I gave it a try:

 *sound of angels vocalizing*

One nice thing about this head is that there is a restrictor on it where you can turn it so only the very central holes are emitting water, and they do it at a higher pressure - good for rinsing shampoo and conditioner out of long hair. 

Anyway, it's good to be proper clean again; it was very hard to wash my back when I was using the sink to wash, and also not tremendously easy to wash my legs. 

So now I have to figure out some small, simple dinner - I just went and picked up a sandwich and side from the local bbq place for lunch because it was kind of late and with fussing with getting cat food (!) and setting the trap (FWIW: I'm using "Chicken and Liver" flavor, if I wind up catching one of the local cats instead I have Turkey and Cheese to try after that. Really hoping the stupid baby goes in the stupid baby trap.... I think opossums are mainly nocturnal so if it goes in it will be tonight and I'll have to text the person before I go to work)

it's partly done

 the really important part to me, at least. The shower works again. The plumber was able to do it with minimal destruction and he put everything back well enough.

the opossum is, as far as I know, still there.

I taught my one class of the day - a review for Thursday's exam - over Zoom. Now I have to go get stinky cat food and I think I'm going to pick up some kind of food for myself (that I don't need to fix) for lunch. And then I'm gonna put everything I can back in its place. I am bailing on the pastor-parish committee meeting tonight; I don't *absolutely* need to be there, and I am tired out and headachy and I want to wash my hair the PROPER way (which I have not been able to do in a week) and then just put my feet up and relax. (We have a big front coming in, that may be why I'm headachy)

I did find some kids' books (A Richard Scarry ABC, the Frog and Toad books, and Little Bear) that I bought AGES ago for a gift I never gave (the year stamp on the receipt in the bag is 2005, so long before my niece; probably for a baby shower that either I wound up not going to, or, more likely, I forgot the books and got some other gift). I'm going to ask around and see who could use donated new children's books; I am sure there's some place.

I also want to sort my clothes as I hang them back up, there are a number of things I just am ready to get rid of and I might box them up and do a Goodwill run later this week - everything is in good condition (one or two things I don't think I ever even wore - I know I have a dress I mail ordered that was too tight in the armsceye and for some reason they just refunded me but didn't want it back)

And I need a little time to relax. I have three meetings tomorrow.

Also, this weekend, heck it, I'm putting up the Christmas stuff. It's too early, but next weekend I'll already be on the way for Thanksgiving and after that I'm not back all that long before I leave again for Christmas....

life is complicated

The good news is, there's a small hole in the pipe up to the shower, but the pipes to the tub is still sound


The bad news is there's a possum in the pipe chase. 


Yes, an opossum. I had animal control out, she tried to grab it, it moved too far in. She left a live trap and her number and told me to get the stinkiest wet cat food I could and bait the trap with that. Then it moved BACK after she left, the plumber gloved up and said he'd try to grab it. He's got the live trap in there and my hope is he can stuff it in there and we can call Animal Control to come get it.


My life is a farce.


I don't know that I can get the shower pipe replaced today or not, because of the possum


the only consolation is the plumber said I should still be able to use the bath.

If he can't grab it, I guess I bait the trap and hope, and check it regularly to be sure I didn't trap one of the local cats instead, which seems a likelihood. 

The added complication: a friend reminded me possums have fairly weak jaws and it might be some other critter that chewed the pipe. I don't know. I've lived here 20 years without this problem. I really HATE using poison baits for rats/mice but I may have to at this point. I don't know. I'm so tired. I've slept badly the past few nights for worrying about this and I also have an allergic headache today

Edited to add: Sound of a Sawzall now so that tells me he's just going ahead to fix it, possum or no. So I WILL have a shower tonight. And I can go buy stinky cat food after my class and hopefully trap the thing.

Anyway, “Ma’am, were you aware there’s an opossum living in your crawl space?” is a sentence you never want to hear.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Monday. Already tired.

 I got ALMOST all the cleaning/moving of stuff done this afternoon. I was able to vacuum and sweep areas I hadn't moved the furniture from in a long time. But I also had to cram-jam my guest room (where my exerciser is, so I guess tomorrow is a rest day) with the stuff moved out of my bedroom to make it less eccentric.

(I have real issues, I know, with being judged for who I am. Like, how many 52 year olds sleep with stuffed animals in their beds? I'm sure that's odd. Yes, it's a benign oddity and I know it helps my anxiety/insomnia to have it, but. I also know that people who don't know me well would find it odd.)

Also I wanted to move stuff that could get knocked over or dirty out of the way - so the few dolls I had on a bookshelf are now in a box. 

It's gonna be a big job to put everything back. I do plan to do some aggressive sorting and take some loads of stuff to Goodwill or some other charity drop-off - I'll have to see what all they are taking. 

I'm also low-level worried that it's going to be a BIG issue that won't be fixable in a couple hours, or that it will drain my checking account to fix it. I'm HOPING it's just a tiny bit of pipe replacement and will be done quickly.

I have a meeting tonight, three meetings Wednesday afternoon/evening. I got a phone call about a short-notice meeting Tuesday evening but I demurred saying I didn't know what was going to happen with the plumbing but you know? Even if it's done fairly fast and easily, I have HOURS of putting stuff back so I can use my guest room and sewing rooms again (I piled a lot of the clothes on the ironing board) and I need time to do that, so maybe I just....skip this one? It's a group that sometimes is somewhat contentious and if I absolutely, positively do not need to be there, I'd rather not. 


More thoughts on Our Ongoing Peril: 

First, "What stage of the pandemic is this?" And yeah: I genuinely don't know. Are we leaving it? Is this an eye of the storm? I don't like the news coming out of Europe of more surges of cases and I expect we'll see that here. I don't like the risk I might get stranded at my mom's if either they discourage travel or else if I catch a breakthrough case. But I also don't like NOT traveling for the holidays to see her. 

But also: 

"There’s a fresh brand of sadness. Not weepy sad, just a blurry, all-the-time sad. It’s as if sad is the baseline now, even if dinner is good and the shows are fun, even if the light is streaming in the window just-so. Sad is where we begin. All the death, all the stupidity and yelling, every day a new thing to be new-sad about. Of course we’re sad. But we’re here, and the mail comes (slow, another sadness), and the light is just-so, and dinner is often quite good."


Yes. I'm sad a lot, and sadder than I remember having been in the past, but, it's not a desperate, weepy sad - at least it's not like the sadness earlier in the pandemic when I literally believed I'd never see my mom again. It's maybe not sadness so much as a weariness - "not this mess AGAIN" when I see case counts rise. It's sort of a feeling of doom, but also a feeling of doom strongly tinged with "Same [stuff], different day" -that we're stuck in an eternal now, in a Groundhog Day loop, and apparently MY being as good and kind and thoughtful as I am capable of being isn't enough to break the cycle of bad karma, and so I'm trapped. 

But also - the thing sticking us in Groundhog Day - maybe we DO need to strive to be kinder. Because "Why is everyone so rude right now" and even discounting the usual MeFi doom-and-gloom and wild speculating ("many people are actually high functioning schizophrenics" excuse me, what?) and political pronouncements,  yeah. 

 As is often the case with these things, the "personal experience" comments more than the bold pronouncements are what strike me and resonate with me. 

Someone going by the handle RonButNotStupid lamented: "Can I please have something--however trivial--which acknowledges that the past going-on-two years have been total sh*t, but that I should feel good about myself because I allowed my life to be disrupted, I made sacrifices, and in doing so I didn't make the overall situation a tiny bit worse for everyone else?"

 And yes. I feel like I gave up quite a lot in the name of helping everyone.....and, like, the only thing I have to show for it is not having caught COVID - and I might not have anyway - and yes, these past almost-two years were the worst of my life, EVEN INCLUDING fall 2019 after I lost my dad. (Because at least then there were people around who WERE happy, and DID have good lives, and I could look at them and go "look, you will have happiness again, look at them" and also the fact that people hugged me and even early on brought food to my house - instead of everyone being scared and sad and distant). 

A couple other commenters noted that we're all a lot closer to the surface right now, and that's true. I do anger more easily, but for me - strongly socialized NOT to show anger, both from childhood and in my training as a professor - it only happens in private; in public I am more prone to cry. I haven't really cried AT a service person; I've been polite when, for example, something I wanted was out of stock, but then I'd walk back to my car and sit and cry for a few minutes because things were just so bad and REALLY can I just not have this ONE little thing because I have given up SO MUCH.

And I think yeah, a lot of us are just kind of battered and worn down and some of us have been doing a little more work (me with contact tracing and the blasted teaching-partly-over-Zoom) and other people have been doing a LOT more work (and I acknowledge that, and also realize that I'm not doing a LOT more but it's enough more to make me tired) and also a lot of the little tiny pleasantnesses are gone - like, we don't have departmental potluck lunches any more; we once did. And one of my friendly colleagues has been teaching 100% online, I presume because of health concerns, and it makes me sad to never see them (Oh yes, I know: I probably could over Zoom, but that's so planned and scheduled and not spontaneous and it's awkward)

 But people do seem to be getting worse. Lots of really whiny screamy kids at Target this weekend, demanding toys. (I dunno, when I was a kid? Our parents shut down those kinds of asks pretty fast, ESPECIALLY six weeks out from Christmas - by reminding us if we REALLY wanted it, to put it on our Christmas list. We learned early on that getting a toy "just because we're out" was NOT something that happened)

I also saw an unbelievably awful - and scary - driver on my trip to Sherman this weekend. There was an onramp, I looked to be sure it was clear and I didn't need to get out of the right-hand lane of the main traffic (where I was driving) and then SUDDENLY a small red car roared up on my right side, passed me on the shoulder (instead of pulling into the space behind me), cut me off from right to left, pulled into the passing lane, and roared off where I lost sight of them. It was terrifying - they were going a good 15 miles per hour faster than traffic, and WE were all going the limit or close to it. (75 is the speed limit, I think I was at 72). 

I was just grateful to shortly after that pull into the Target lot and know I made it in one piece. And that was fortunately the only terrible driver I saw, but I've also been flipped off more this past year, and cut off, and all that. People have lost their patience, which can be deadly on the road. 

I don't know. I know I would like a hug, and to have my shower back and to just be able to sit home some evening with my feet up and my knitting and a nice movie on the tv. (I will say the ONE consolation of being here last Christmas? I just binged on every old Christmas movie on TCM or any other channel showing them - everything from "Holiday Affair" to "It Happened on Fifth Avenue" to the cartoon specials, all of it. I think I watched "Paddington" and "Paddington 2" a couple times (both of which are very good movies - I was set not to like them but they are nicely done and have that fundamental sweetness that I need in a movie). Oh, I can do that too up at my mom's but it was a real consolation to have those when I was alone. 

I'll just be a lot happier if (when?) my shower is fixed....

Sunday, November 07, 2021

the Weekend Update

 Not as funny as Saturday Night Live's (used to be, at least)

* Spent Friday afternoon cleaning house. It's still not done but it's better enough to make me feel a LITTLE less twitchy about the plumber coming. (I really do not like that they have to go into my bedroom, my sanctum sanctorum to do the work, but there's no way around it). I am going to change the sheets this evening and just stow MOST of the truly bonkers number of stuffed animals I keep on my bed in some extra laundry baskets and hide them out of the way. (I will sleep okay for a day or two like that; I sleep in an empty bed when I travel, and I can always keep Squishy Dog and maybe my big Blahaj shark in the bed). 

Also I need to move a few more things out of the closet but I'll do that Tuesday and just stack the things on hangers on my bed, perhaps as a reminder to "hey please don't lay tools here!

* I'm still nervous about it; afraid the plumber will look and recoil in horror and say it can't be fixed (old house, lots of things have been kludged down the years). I did peek in behind the access cover (it fell off; normally I keep it held on with a short expanding curtain rod because it doesn't really fit in the channels made for it). At least there's no evidence of raccoon nests or anything horrible like that (I was afraid; in the past I heard evidence of critters under the house, though lately I think it's only been cats - though I did see an armadillo running around). 

Also if it looks like they can't fix it from the truly tiny access port, it looks like they'd JUST have to saw out (and replace, I hope, after) some of the paneling - it does not look like there is a solid wall between the pipes and the paneling back there.  

No, I didn't try turning the water on to see if I could see where the leak was; that seemed unwise. Also the area has since dried out. I'm assuming the leak JUST started; I got my September water bill (yeah, the city is a month behind, go figure) and the amount of water listed as used was no more than I ever use - actually the minimum amount you can be billed for. Also, I didn't notice a loss of shower pressure until Tuesday night. And I can't hear or see a leak going with the water off. So maybe I got lucky.

I will be SO glad to get a shower back, and I really hope the plumber can fix it/can fix it in one day. 

* I started a new project. I saw linked somewhere a National Park Service (Voyageurs NP) crochet pattern. Yes, a crochet pattern! For a stuffed-toy walleye. I figure either an NPS employee or a volunteer there is REALLY into crocheting and decided to make this up. The pattern is here. The instructions are a little minimal; you should be somewhat familiar with making amigurumi if you're going to attempt it.

I went to Sherman yesterday - it was probably good for me to get out, to stop obsessing about the broken plumbing - and bought yarn for it. (It's Lion Brand's Wool-ease Thick and Quick - bulky weight - in the color Beach Glass). I realized I had never seen a walleye that wasn't already skinned, cleaned, and cooked on a plate! So I guessed. 

(I decided, once 9:30 am had rolled around and no one called, it was safe for me to leave town; that I wouldn't miss a shot at getting the plumbing fixed, and I was right. Anyway I needed part of a day out, and a shot at better groceries than I can get locally)

it's not a perfect match (the colors on the pattern on the NPS site are closer to real walleye; I looked them up online just now) but it's not TOO far off, and maybe if it's a leucistic form? 

There was NO camouflage colored yarn (it seems that the basic worsted weight acrylic has been hit a bit by supply chain issues). There was one close, but it was the Red Heart Super Saver, and I find that shreds my hands a little bit. And anyway, the idea of a BIG fish - this is going to be small throw-pillow size - amused me. 

I'm using a size L hook. I probably could have dropped down to a K (tighter, up to a point, is better, for amigurumi - and K is smaller than L) but I don't think I have  a K sized hook. 

I have some dk weight Encore in an acceptable color; I might make another one as a "shared" Christmas gift for my brother's cats. (I also have two toy balls to give so each cat will get a thing, but I will leave it to the cats to claim their thing)

* I also bought the toy to donate for AAUW - every year we do a "bring a toy, $10 or less, for Toys for Tots" (the price limit is because many members are on fixed incomes). I found a small blue unicorn from the Squishmallow people at Target - it's actually lying on its stomach and has all four legs unlike the typical Squishmallow toy. It's very cute and while I know lots of "small kid" toys get donated, well, I admit I'm 52 and I'd be tickled to get something like that for Christmas, so maybe it will make some kid happy. (One woman questioned whether we should do it again, after claiming a toy donation event she was at had kids coming through saying they "didn't like" any of the things on offer but really? I suspect there are some kids happy to get a toy, and parents relieved to have something to give - I think Toys for Tots does it by having parents/guardians come through and pick things out, so at least for little kids the nice fiction of "yes your caretaker got this for you" can be kept up). I dunno. Just because some folks are ungrateful doesn't seem to me reason enough to not do it. 

* I'm considering a simple hat I knit out of a cream-with-pastels yarn, and never wore, as the gift-exchange gift this year. People kind of EXPECT I will knit or crochet something, and I'm happy to, because I can have a nicer gift for (often, especially if I "repurpose" stash yarn) less money than if I bought one - they suggest a less-than-$15 price point and while that's fine if you have a lot of time to shop the sales, I don't. But this year I'm not sure I have the time or really the motivation to make something specifically designated for the gift exchange. And I do have a lot of hats, and I don't love this one as much as some others I have, so I could let this one go. 

I find I move a lot slower on making things now. I guess that's just how it is - either for now or forever.

* I also went to the natural-foods store for the first time in a long, long time. Was able to get the one shampoo that seems not to dry out my hair (Desert Essence coconut shampoo, and the matching conditioner), which is only sold there in the area (I have ordered it online), so that was good. Even if I am still washing my hair in the sink.

They didn't have many of the special holiday foods out yet, though, that was what I was kind of hoping for. In the past they had some nice special cookies and chocolates and things but either not this year, or not yet (I think some of the things were imports and probably are snarled in shipping issues)

* And yeah. The time change was this weekend. Unlike some folks, I don't hate it - I'm an early riser and it's really nice to have it light for going IN to work - but it does get dark earlier now (not quite 6 pm and it's already past dusk) so I decided when I took down the spider-lights and the blinking orange-and-purple halloween lights, maybe it was okay to put up the winter/holiday ones:


I think I bought these snowflakes (ordered online) last year, in a fit of sadness over not being able to travel

And when I went to get the new shower head that I so mightily had hoped would fix the no-pressure problem, I did buy a very short strand of LED lights in the old "C9" size. They're giant:

I patched them in to the fairy lights I always have up (set on a timer so they come on every evening). The strand is just long enough to go over the tops of both doorways (the doorway to the dining room, not seen, is to the right). Yes, it was an expense maybe I shouldn't have gone to, facing (at least) several hundred dollars' worth of plumbing work (but I didn't know that then). But the amount of electricity they eat is truly minimal and they make me happy. And honestly these days any small thing that makes me happy is valuable to me, because there's been too much unhappiness.

* And more - a friend of mine from church, in fact the person who came to my house and helped me pack when I had to go up to Illinois in a hurry in late July 2019, when my dad was dying - is suffering. She lost her (94 year old) mother late last month, and now her husband of less then a year (second marriage for both) is apparently dying of cancer - she commented that all his kids and his brother had come into town for a visit, and that sounds not-good. She's tried to be upbeat about it but it makes me sad and angry - they have been married just over a year, and it seems like such a cheat for both of them that she's going to lose him so soon. 

I hope I'm wrong about what the visit means, but....

So anyway, I need all the light and pleasantness and humor I can grab onto right now. (And I really, really hope on Tuesday the plumber will go "Oh, I see the problem, this will be an easy fix" and by the end of the day I'll have my shower back)

Thursday, November 04, 2021

onward, I guess

 Unless there's a cancellation, I get my shower back after Tuesday.

I washed my hair in the kitchen sink this morning. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't great, either. (Last night, while cleaning out the closet in preparation for the plumber, at one point I thought "ugh, I'm getting really sweaty, after this I need to take a shower" and then a beat passed and I remembered WHY I was cleaning the closet and was like GOL FRICKING DANGIT. I wound up washing up in the kitchen sink - left the light off so no one could see in the window (not that anyone likely would, given the direction the room faces) and just stripped down and took a pioneer-style bath using the sink there.)

I can still use the bathroom sink but it's small. Gonna have to think what to do when it comes time to shave my legs in a day or so.

But it is pretty clearly a leak. So it's gonna be somewhat of a disruption; I'm hoping they can replace the part of pipe without having to cut out the wall (just using the access panel) but I'm prepared for it to be a big teardown job. I'm just hoping the plumber can put the piece of wall BACK and I don't have to call YET ANOTHER guy.

The one upside, I guess, to emptying my closet - I realized there are some dresses I never wear (wrong size, fits badly, turned out to be a style that doesn't work) but that are still good and are barely worn, so I think when I go to put them back I'll sort through and take a load to the Goodwill or whatever thrift shop seems to be accepting clothing. (other option: take them somewhere out of town so I don't maybe wind up seeing someone wearing what was pretty obviously once "my" dress in public....)

I also found a dress I bought as much as 10 years ago, and rarely wore, and that got shoved to the back of the closet - a nice bluish-purple Lane Bryant dress. I tried it on last night and it still fit, so I'm wearing it today.

I also found another one - one I made - in rather bright pink and green (*almost* "80s colors") that I might try back on and decide about. I think I pushed it aside as "too bright" at one point but maybe I worry about that less now?

Anyway. I'm finding stuff I could give away to lighten the load a little bit. I need to do that with books, too, probably, though from what I've heard anecdotally books are harder to dispose of now, lots of places do not want them because "everyone reads electronic books now" so I don't know. I don't know if Books for Africa is still a thing, and if they'd want any of the books (mostly novels) I'd be getting rid of. (My understanding was they mainly wanted recent academic books, for underfunded universities)

Maybe some of the "nicer" ones or the more-niche ones I photograph and offer up on here, for the cost of postage or even just for free (if you're willing to wait on "media mail" which is cheaper). 

I'm still holding out hope there will be a cancellation and I'll get someone before Tuesday, would be really nice to have the shower and the tub back sooner. (I think the leak might also involve the tub faucet so I'm not going to use it until he can look at it. If he says "well, the tub's sound, the shower isn't, but I can't fix the shower just yet" at least I can take baths....)

I just hope it's fixed soon so I can think of other things.

One of my low-level plans this weekend (staying home Saturday because sometimes this plumber will do Saturday hours for no extra charge, and if he called and said "yeah I can come look at it today" I would not want to be on my way to Sherman) is to clean house again - put away the Hallowe'en decorations (especially now since it's past All Souls' Day) and prepare for putting up the Christmas stuff. Yes, I do it early most years; will probably do it next weekend (if the shower thing is fixed). I will be going to my mom's this year for Thanksgiving (thank God for that, last year was sad) and will be going again at Christmas, so I like having "enough" time with the tree up. 

I do have one little thing coming in the mail: I found a shop selling Princess Celestia tree ornaments, so now my set of Gen 4 My Little Ponies is probably as complete as it will get (I have the Main Six and I have Luna, was missing Celestia). I feel maybe a tiny bit of excitement for Christmas again? I hope? Last year I was mostly "meh" about it, doing it at home here - Oh, I recognize there will be a day (hopefully still a goodly number of years in the future) when I will have no reason to travel for Christmas (my brother and his family are much too far away, and also, their lives are....different enough....from mine) but also in those years, at least I will (hopefully) feel comfortable going out and doing things, and the parties, and feeling comfortable taking trips out to shop....all of that. 

But for this year, it will be good to be up with my mom. Even if she's not comfortable doing all the things we might have done in the before-times. (I think I can make a case for a trip out to a craft store - I think she is doing that - and maybe even to a clothing store to look for possible new dresses (one of the things I asked for a dress from a particular catalog, is sold out. Yes, shortages, and possibly going shopping in times after people have heard "supply chain disruption" on the news for several months will be an exercise in frustration, but maybe not? Or at least it's getting out somewhere different?)

but yeah, here's hoping the plumbing thing is a small blip that will soon be fixed and I can get back to trying to focus on things I *enjoy*

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

short blog break

 Having some woeful events at home, so I need to take a couple days off

Long story short: either the diverter valve on the tub faucet is broken, or (what seems worse but possibly more likely) there's a leak in the pipe running up to the shower head. There is very little water pressure in the shower head - there wasn't any last night. I took it off and soaked it overnight in vinegar. That didn't fix it. I bought a NEW shower head - it doesn't work either.

I have a call in to the plumber; first they might have an opening when  someone can come is Tuesday but if there's a cancellation they might get someone out earlier.

I fear it's going to involve cutting out the back of my bedroom closet - the pipe access is there but the access panel is only about 2' square, and it doesn't go high enough to cover the whole pipe. 

SO anyway - I am doing a BIG declutter (moving all the books not on shelves out of the room, putting away most of the stuffed animals) and clearing out the closet in preparation for the guy coming. I have a weird, magical-thinking hope that if I get this done today there will be a cancellation, and what's more, it'll just be the diverter.

I REALLY hope it's nothing too major; the thought of being without a shower for weeks or months makes me want to weep. No, I can't impose on any one to go to their house and shower: I am well and truly isolated, the people I MIGHT have asked are dead or are helping extremely ill family members. 

I might just give up at some point and spend a night in a hotel just so I can easily get a shower, I don't know. (I don't know that there are showers available at gym facilities on campus, and there's not a shower at church. I can wash my hair in the kitchen sink and if the whole shower/tub is broken - and it seems questionable to use right now - I can fill a bucket with warm water and bathe pioneer style. But I hate this all so much)

Update: I can see evidence of a small leak now I've cleared the closet out. I'm so discouraged. I guess I close the blinds in the kitchen and bathe "pioneer style" (fill a bucket with warm water" until I can get it fixed. Or maybe I decide to stay in a hotel some evening just so I can use their shower? I don't even know. In the before-times, I'd not be at all concerned doing that, but then again, in the before times I had a few people around that I felt comfortable asking "hey can I use your shower"

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

All Souls' Day

 No, I'm not Catholic, but a number of the Disciples congregations I've belonged to have done either All Saints', All Souls' or some combination of both. (I am not sure if we will do anything next week - the current minister is a little, you might say low-church. Nothing against him, it's just his style is different than some other people's. I admit I tend to be more high-church myself, which is perhaps odd for someone in what is sometimes called a "Reform" denomination (as in: Reformation of the Reformation, doing away with some of the more fancy trappings in the older Reformation churches). 

I don't think I can properly say I *like* or *enjoy* the day. It's a holy day, not a holiday, and it is in some ways a bit somber - you are remembering the people that have been lost in the past year. Oh, I mean, yes, hope-of-the-Resurrection and all that - but I think it's also valid to feel sad because you cannot have these people in your life any more in the here and now. 

I think it's important to stop and remember. To stop and mourn, if you need to.

I remember years and years ago - it would have been 1989 - when my grandmother died, I didn't really mourn her properly until All Saints'. She died in August, we were getting ready to move to Illinois, I was finishing some summer classes I was taking at Akron...and so everything was so busy and I think I was maybe a little shell-shocked because she was the first "big" death of my adulthood. Oh, I cried at the visitation (but smiled at the funeral - which was more a celebration of life than anything, and of course Grandma was 92, and had had a very long and full life and was loved by many). 

And then back in 2019 - still fresh in the grief from my dad, I forgot what day was coming and scheduled myself to pray at the table.

And midway through, referencing All Saint's (the minister we had at that time was more high-church), it all hit me again and I cried, right there at the communion table. Oh, people understood totally and no one faulted me. But I felt bad about the loss of control in public. (If I remember, also this was not long after Liz - a friend and former member - had died pretty suddenly, and I think people were feeling that too).

But I think it is important to stop and mark and remember.

This is the hymn I always associate with this day, and I do think it's one done best with pipe organ and large chorus to do it up right.

Anyway, this year I'm thinking about the people I lost from my life in this past year - Mecy and Dell and Jo. But also the people I lost last year (Bob S. and Paul, and Joe from church and a few others). And of course, as I commented elsewhere - this day hits differently when you know that many, many families are missing someone; that here in the US there will be one less place set at the Thanksgiving table in a few weeks (that was one of the Hard Things going to my mom's for Thanksgiving in 2019....)

Anyway, I play that hymn and I think of them. And may the next cycle - from now through 2022 - have fewer families losing loved ones than 2020 and 2021 did.

Monday, November 01, 2021

"re-enchantment of life"

 Something I was thinking about today, something I read somewhere ages ago, it was about trying to find the "enchantment" or whatever in day-to-day life. Because really, that's all most of us have, right? Most of us don't have the money or time to go off to some romantic city for a weekend or longer, most of us can't dine in fancy restaurants all the time.

For me, I admit, this partly takes the form of living half in my imagination. I admit sometimes I worry about it - am I being hopelessly childish? I used to do it all the time as a kid - being in school was, at times, unpleasant enough, or sometimes I was lonely enough, that it was easier and pleasanter to imagine a slightly nicer or fancier world - one where I had more friends, or there was clear evidence I wasn't just ordinary, or there was some kind of magic in day-to-day life.

I think I got thinking about this because of the new Wes Anderson movie out. (The French Dispatch). I'd like to see it - oh, I will probably wait until either it's streaming or I can catch it on one of the cable movie channels. I'm not comfortable going to a theater right now, and I suspect the place it's playing will be a far piece from me, so it's maybe not in the cards right now. But I admit, I like his aesthetic, even as weird and twee as some of what he does is. I love the sheer manneredness of his set design - the very precise interiors, the definite "mid century" color scheme, the weird little accessory. And the stable of odd characters - some annoying, some whimsical (okay, fine: maybe MOST are a bit annoying). But they're very distinctive people. They are NOT ordinary. And I think ordinariness is something I've become mired in, and I've started to feel small and ordinary myself. (Part of this is I do need validation, I know that, and I don't always get it, at least not from outside sources.)

And I even re-watched the old H and M Christmas ad (the one on the train) he directed. And yes, on one level it's a "crummy commercial" for a fast-fashion company - but it's also sweet and delightful and it makes me happy.

Anyway...maybe try to imagine situations from your life as part of a Wes Anderson movie? Use that ironic-detached narrator in your head to accompany you through your day? It sounds goofy to put it down in words but it does weirdly help a little. (I spent a LOT of my childhood and early adolescence, if not entirely in an imagined world, with an imagined world very close by, so I could, so to speak, "see" it from where I as, and it did help.)

The other thing about the movies is that a lot of the characters are odd, they dress strangely or whimsically, and they don't....really care? One of my problems is I do tend to care too much what other people think. I had kind of gotten over it before 2020, and was more comfortable dressing a little eccentrically (I am the only woman in the department who regularly wears dresses or skirts, and I dress in much brighter colors than everyone else) but that kind of got wiped out during the period of isolation (I get too much in my head, and I start to doubt myself). I have a couple dresses hanging in the closet I have not yet worn in public - a couple because they're a little short for comfort (though over thicker tights? maybe not). 

Anyway, I saw these shoes for sale - they are a Hot Chocolates design; I have several of their shoes. They are VERY flat - they are basically a somewhat more upscale version of the cheap Chinese women's cloth mary-janes I used to buy at an import shop and wear in high school. I can put my orthotics in them so they don't destroy my feet. And yeah, they're cloth, so you have to be careful not to wear them on extremely rainy days. But they do seem to hold up okay? I have a pair I've worn off and on since 2018 and they are still in decent shape (the OG Chinese shoes used to break down pretty fast; the lining in them would shred. And also, they wouldn't stay buckled because it was just a slide buckle rather than holes and a prong like a belt). 

Anyway, I saw these and LOVED them - they are peacock themed. But they were expensive, and I also asked myself, "how often, really, would you wear them?"

But in the end I decided I really did want them, and if nothing else, I could wear them with a tan dress I have.

I wore them once last week - the outfit above, longish brown skirt, dark teal top (far enough from the shoes to not tell the greens weren't a perfect match). I wore them again today - pulled out my dark green jumper because it was a cooler day and I needed to wear a long-sleeved shirt, so the jumper dress seemed to work. 

So I guess they were definitely a worthwhile buy; I have a few other dresses and probably skirt-and-top combination they should work with. Yes, they're a bit "much" perhaps, but I like them, they make me smile. (So far no one has commented on them, which surprises me a little, but then again - I think we are all more subdued now when it comes to noticing one another or saying things, a legacy of being masked for a year plus - and some of us still are)

But maybe that's something I need - a few little bits of mild outrageousness, clothes that maybe would cause people to giggle a bit at me behind my back (and yes, okay, I hate that, but). But I'm tired of the gray sameness, the ordinariness....