Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A fat cat

Another surprise Amazon was on my porch this afternoon when I got home (along with the Lehman's box containing more pickled baby corn - yes, I've gotten really hooked on that but it makes a good snack because it is not very many calories and there is something about the sourness/sharpness that appeals).

I figured the box had to be a gift, and it is - a fat tuxedo cat from my wishlist:

I'll have to figure out a name for her (him?) - haven't come up with one yet.

ETA: I happened across the list of AI generated cat names and have named her (she is a her) "Snox Boop."

I think that's better than my first inclination ("Oreo")



(pronounced "snocks," like "socks" but with an n in it. And Boop is just boop)

Thought on teaching

Recently, I've found  my joy in teaching again, after feeling a little burnt-out the end of last semester.

Part of this is "externals" - being nominated for that silly award has peculiarly boosted my confidence that I am not boring people. Part of it is a colleague favorably comparing me to someone else in how I do my stuff*

(*Mainly, that I can adjust my teaching style to serve the students we have, and not the students I wish we had....there are a lot of innovative things one COULD do if our students weren't working sometimes-full-time at jobs, or came from less-well-prepared backgrounds, or whatever. But my MO is to try to meet people where they are and to pull them up to the next level, instead of expecting them to find that level on their own).

And yes, also: I have a critical mass of really engaged students this semester, and that makes a difference.

But I realized today, while doing some of my "Factors affecting climate in the tropics and temperate zone" lecture today: a lot of teaching is really just getting to geek out over stuff you care deeply about, and if you're lucky, much of your subject is that way. I spent some time - maybe more than the class would strictly justify, but I don't care - in Soils yesterday talking lovingly about rain gardens and how they can solve a problem (your yard floods when it rains hard, like it can here, or you want to corral the run-off from the parking lot at your place of business) fairly elegantly. But rain gardens are COOL. And I saw one person in the class taking down the web addresses I gave that had information about the gardens, so who knows? Maybe they'll build one some day.

And really, all through my teaching career, I feel like the times I really reached people was when it was something I cared deeply about and kind of geeked out on. The good news is that I care deeply about a LOT of things in my field, whether it's butterfly identification or how plants get water out of the soil or rain gardens or what little I know about clay mineralogy or some of the history of how stats tests were developed*

(*I go into the whole William Gosset story, about how he worked for Guinness and came up with the one-sample t-test, but couldn't publish under his name, presumably because Guinness was afraid of corporate espionage, so he adopted the pseudonym "Student" and while it doesn't really add a LOT to a person's understanding of how the test works, it's a cool story)

And as I said on Twitter (euphemising even slightly more here than I did there): it's perhaps a good thing I give a hard darn about so many things, because here is a place where giving a hard darn serves me really well. Normally it exhausts me (especially in interpersonal stuff, where I really have no control over things and people are gonna be how they are no matter how much I care), but giving a hard darn about the Gulf Fritillary or tree identification or things like that probably DOES make me a better teacher.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

a partial victory

Got my car out for oil and filter change. In the months (too many, probably) since I had the car serviced, my dealership has opened a new "quick lane" facility for "simple" service (like oil change or tire replacement) where they have more dudes working and it's faster. I didn't know about it until I called to see if the service department was busy and the guy suggested I go to their quicklane.

The good news is the waiting room is nicer. Oh, it still has the requisite TV blaring stuff, but it was bigger and better ventilated (often the small old waiting room smelled of exhaust) and it had a couple of tall tables next to the window looking into the I was able to set up and get most of a rough draft of a paper introduction written while they worked on my car. And now I'm good for a while, even had them change the cabin filter (the lead mechanic showed it to me, and apologetically noted 'we can put it back in, it'll be good until next time" but as I had the money NOW to do it....I figured I'd do it now.)

Also the mechanics they have - or at least the "customer facing" guys - seem to be pretty good and pretty professional. (The guy I worked with was "Freddie" but I am guessing that wasn't his actual given name but a name he adopted so Americans can pronounce it). But anyway: would definitely use again. They may be a bit more expensive than the budget places but based on some stuff people have said about the budget places in town, I don't trust those, and I figure if these guys are at least operating under the Ford flag, if they donk something up, Ford will expect them to make it right.

I do still have to call Jackson-Hewitt about my taxes and make an appointment.

I came back here and managed to cobble together a statement for the teaching award I was nominated for (we are asked to send in a one-page statement about our teaching. I know mine are never very good; I am not good at tooting my own horn.) I am trying to see if I can work up the courage to ask one of my colleagues to look at mine - I think that's allowed - and suggest anything to be added or changed.  It's due next week so I can let it sit for a day or two and then rewrite it. I am never very good at coming up with something "punchy" for these kinds of things (I don't know what tone to take) and I am also not good at being all "ME! HECK YEAH!" so, yeah....I'm not expecting to win this year but at least being able to put down I was nominated two years running in my PTR stuff for next year is a good thing.

Haven't started evaluating the student letters but with 13 of them I think I can do some before my one lecture class tomorrow, and maybe do the rest before Gen Ed council (if lab gets done any early) or before I give my exam on Thursday, and hopefully have them knocked out before Saturday.

(Still no word on when the PPR committee meets, so I am assuming that's on hold until some of the members with a less-flexible schedule than I have are free. Oh well. I get my Wednesday evening back and I count that as a win)

Weather here is not good - very dreary again and cold. I probably should go home and do the rest of my piano practice for the day and maybe just wrap up in a blanket or something.

Tuesday morning things

* I will post an in-progress photo later, but one of the things I am working on is a knitted blanket (yes, another blanket and I don't know what's up with me and blankets right now other than it's been a colder winter than some of the previous ones) out of Red Heart "Hygge" (a fat, fuzzy yarn, and yes, I admit some discomfort with them appropriating a Danish concept to sell yarn, but it's kind of a fun yarn and it works up fast). It's just the cabled blanket that has a pattern on the ball-band of at least some of the skeins. I've finished the first repeat (of 14) of the pattern so far. It will go faster as I go along, and I'm also considering seeing if I can dig up enough big markers (most of my stitch markers are for needles size 7 or under, and these are 15s) to mark off the garter section from the section that has the cables, so the knit-plain rows (right side is all knit, wrong side is k10, p9, with the p 9 being the cabled section) can be done without counting or thought.

Edited to add: finally a photo:

cabled blanket no flash

That's just about 2 repeats of the pattern. (There are a total of 14 for the blanket)

* I am still...not terribly happy over some recent events. Part of it is I'm coming to a realization, which will probably ultimately be good for me, that some people just have a tendency to act like jerks (selfish, mean to others...) and that people who are acting like jerks don't deserve me paying attention to their opinions.

One of the problems I have always had as an adult (at least) is I pay too much attention to others' opinions and give them too much credence, even when the person is behaving selfishly. I wind up doubting myself. And while that might be good sometimes for my own humility, it also lets a lot of stuff in my head that I shouldn't have in there, especially stuff where people are lashing out at me when I don't really deserve it.

I guess I'm slowly learning not to let some people's opinions get in my head, but it's still very slow and I still do it too much.

* I played badly at Bell Choir last night. New song (an arrangement of "Seek Ye First") and because I had one harmony-line bell and one melody-line bell, my part was really complicated, and I started messing up, and I felt bad about messing up, and I just had to step away for a bit. (And part of it was probably still residual bad-feelings about the idea that some people don't "have" to hear criticism because they get so whiny about it, but I "get" to hear criticism because I just kind of nod and go "OK" and then spend the rest of the week feeling like I'm a terrible person because I did something that was deemed worthy of criticism. And yes, yes, I know: that says a good thing about me, that people are comfortable criticizing me to my face. But I would still prefer not to be criticized, to always do things well enough no one can find fault)

I also had a bad dream - the last dream towards morning. Where we had been, as Bell Choir, traveling somewhere to play, and we wound up fundamentally getting kidnapped by some jerk, and having to walk across what looked like Kansas wheatfields and we kept plotting to figure out how we could get away, and I was advocating for " maybe it would be less obvious if one person managed to break away and run for help" but everyone else was "no no, the whole group has to get away together" and finally we got to a place like Las Vegas (?) and somehow in the process of walking through a hotel lobby we managed to get far enough away from him that we were all able to take off running...and then I woke up. So I'm tired and sad this morning and this is one of those dreams I have where the emotions bleed over into the day.

* Well, I found out the details of the volunteer work working for next Saturday. I don't have to be here - or at least, there was no indication of that - but I have to work through the god-awful clunky "scholarship interface" on our campus internet to evaluate the letters. So I'm not happy about that and I have no idea how many there will be or if I'm expected to look at all of them (several people are doing this, so hopefully they divvied them up and we each only have a dozen or so). I'll have to mess with it today and see.

Edited to add: at least I only have 13 to do, so either applications are way down, or they divided them up between the people doing them. I *might* be able to knock them out this afternoon IF I can get the oil and filter change done fast enough (I have to do them here in my office; online interface)

* But I also have to take my car in for an oil and filter change; it's long overdue and every time I drive to Sherman I feel like I'm on borrowed time because I've not done it. The difficulty level of this is that my dealership (the only place in town I trust to take my car for this kind of thing, based on stuff I've heard) doesn't do loaners, and the thought of sitting in a stuffy waiting room with a tv blaring at me - I have things I must do but literally none of them are things I can easily carry along with me, so I don't even know. Maybe I just take knitting and tell myself it's a knitting break? But then I feel guilty for not-working during my one block of time in the week that's open to work on stuff like writing....and no, there is no one I can press into service to drive out there with me, drive me back here, and then drive back THERE with me when my car is done; no one has that kind of time and I don't like burdening people that way. Maybe if I had to leave my car all day, sure, but I'd have to line someone up well in advance.

Here's hoping they're not busy when I go out there. (Maybe I try to take my notes for writing anyway and see if I can find a quiet place to work). I just wish these logistic things that are so hard when you're single were easier.

*I really want to try to get everything I have to do knocked out during the week this week because I do want to take Saturday for another fun day. Not sure doing what yet but I feel like I should get at least two days out for fun seeing as it's a "big" birthday and I won't be getting anything special on the actual day. (And I may have an unpleasant meeting, for that matter)

* My Pandora classical-music channel at work ("The Music is Supposed to Make You Smarter" channel) still regularly serves up classical-themed Christmas music. Some of the more "obvious" stuff I hit skip on, but some of the older choral stuff (like "The Shepherds' Farewell") I just keep playing and you know? It does make me.....can you be homesick for a time of the year? It makes me homesick for Christmas, when things in my life are prettier and nicer and there's the promise of fun things and somehow I'm better at mentally papering-over the things that aren't so nice. And here, at the butt-end of February, I'm having trouble doing that papering-over, and the not-so-nice things seem very in my face. But hearing "Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light," even if it makes me a little homesick (timesick? I don't know what you'd call it) does make it a little better.

I was also thinking of Philippians 4:8 this morning : "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." (Message translation). But yes. I need to hear things that are true, noble, reputable, etc....there's too much ugliness in the news and the world; too much selfishness. And yes, I know: to cross the streams a bit here, Gandhi would probably say something like "Be the graciousness you want to see in the world" but I also feel frustrated in that I've been trying to do that for years, and it doesn't seem to help improve things.

Also added - I posted this a while back (and it's a more traditional translation, if a less-traditional presentation, of that verse)

I think Lent is gonna hit me hard this year though.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Not so mediocre

I can't really go into details because I don't want to reveal too much of what's going on with someone else, but today I learned something:

I am not a chump for doing what I am doing. Other people notice what I'm doing, how hard I work, and though they don't say anything, apparently I am being favorably compared to other people.

And apparently I am doing several things very right with my teaching.

But yeah. I am very ready to be done with meetings. (I have one more this week - Gen Ed council, which won't be too bad, other than that it's just having to be in a room at a particular time and having to be around other people).

I will say earlier today I was kind of unhappy and worn-out because another thing happened that reminded me of how some people always get walked-on-eggshells around and their feelings worried about and not hurt, and that sometimes I feel like I am not treated with a similar concern and delicacy.

Then again: as I said on Twitter, I probably don't want it to be that way for that reason. I think of myself as *profoundly* sensitive and easily-hurt, but the thing is: I don't lash out when I am. I am much more likely to stand there when I am being criticized (even unfairly criticized) and not say anything, and do my best possible to will myself not to react (Ironically enough: to, in the bad old military-flavored lingo, "take it like a man") and then afterward go off and cry in private or sort of draw in on myself (I have described it in the past as being like when a marine biologist pokes a sea anemone with a glass rod, and it pulls in all its tentacles, in defensive mode, and that's how I picture it).

But yes. There are people I know who go and dump on other people, or rage at them, or yell, when they are hurting. Even when - in one case, especially when - it's not THAT person who hurt them. Or when it's something intended as constructive criticism. And I don't like that. And I also don't like that other people are holding back on constructive criticism of that person for those reasons. Oh, I get it. And I don't like being yelled at for things like that. But much as I hate being criticized and as much as it hurts, I guess I would rather hear the criticism than have people tiptoeing around me, not wanting to upset me.

(Though I'd really rather it be some variant of, "Nononono, you don't prank Fluttershy, she's too sensitive" than "But if you anger Unikitty, she will blow up with rage!")

But yeah. Even though it means going out this evening I am looking forward to Bell Choir because it is some of the more positive interaction I get in a week. And it will be nice to kind of stuff all the stuff that happened today back into a compartment in my head labeled "You don't need to think about this now"

Monday morning thoughts

I'm still brooding a little over the person who quit a group I am part of. I find myself wondering: could my history of having been unpopular made me, ironically, more likely to stick with groups/people and to try to either reconcile differences or overlook them?

As I mentioned in Sunday school class: my MO with things like personal differences is to think about them. If they don't cause great damage to the relationship with the person, I just let them go and don't talk about them (this in the context of gossip and talking behind people's backs). If it is big enough to damage my relationship with them (or is a moral issue I personally need to address), I will go to them and talk to them about it. If it were a really big thing and I didn't feel safe going alone (like: it was a guy who tended to be "handsier" than I liked despite my repeated comments of "hey, I don't like this" or squirming away from his grasp), I'd get a neutral third party to come along as an arbitrator.

But anyway.

I got to thinking about this again after reading a story on one of the higher-ed news sites I skim a couple times a week. Fundamentally, it was an essay (very likely a "Modest Proposal" style essay, though that was not emphasized in the article) written by a student suggesting "white boys" should not be allowed to speak. Presumably because they've "had a seat at the table" for too long and have excluded others.

And, I don't know. But I don't think the solution to people being excluded in the past is to start excluding the group that was "on top" in the past. By all means, let more voices be heard. And maybe encourage people who historically have been reticent to speak. But kicking some people out of the circle, instead of just making the circle bigger, seems like a poor solution to me (not least because it will breed resentment on the part of the newly-excluded).

(I would also note that not all "white boys" have always been at the top of the heap. There are "white boys" who come from lower-SES backgrounds, for example, Or "white boys" who are gay. Or who are some minority religious group that get hassled for it. (Jewish kids in the South....)

And that brought me back around to a bad teenaged memory. I've talked about it before: the very ham-handed attempt at an "anti racism" lesson of the "blueys" thing. What they did, was divvy up the seventh grade class* (or at least, the "team" I was in - they did "teams" in my school, where there was a math teacher, a social studies teacher, an English teacher, and a science teacher, and they all had homerooms and all taught in their subject area. So you had each of the teachers, but perhaps at different times than other people in your homeroom) into groups and each group was assigned a day to be a "bluey." This was achieved by painting an asterisk on the person's cheek with greasepaint for the day.

(*Seventh grade was the lowest pit of Hell in my school years. This is just one example of the bad stuff but this seems somehow worse to me because the teachers condoned it and didn't seem to see how it could be damaging. I will also note there was ONE African-American family in our district (I don't remember if the young woman my age was in my team that year or not) and maybe 2-3 Asian families. We were NOT a diverse school, but...I think giving kids free rein to be prejudicial towards other kids was not a helpful lesson)

The thing was: blueys were to be treated as second-class citizens. No effort would be made to stop kids from harassing the blueys (not that much effort was made on any day to stop kids from bullying other kids) and the teachers were allowed to do things like make the blueys sit in the back of the classroom. (Marginally related: that's when I learned I was nearsighted and needed glasses)

Anyway. I was in the first cohort. I look back on it now and wonder why none of the teachers stepped forward and said, "You know? She gets a lot of harassment otherwise, maybe don't make her go on the first day" but maybe my teachers really cared less about me than I imagined they did.

It was horrible. I had, before the exercise, kind of looked forward to "Maybe now I get to give my bullies back as good as they give me" and planning to taunt and harass the blueys. (And you know? Maybe this is one of those "God things," and the reason I wound up doing it ON THE FIRST DAY was that I was looking forward to being a harasser).

I don't even REMEMBER now the later days of it - maybe, in fact, it went so bad the teachers ended the experiment after the first day. But it was awful and very isolating - not even having the teachers seem to stick up for me, being made to sit in the back of the room, the teachers play-acting being mean (calling me "uppity" and the like when I tried to answer a question).

But yeah. It was a cruel exercise and I'm not sure it taught anyone very much. I don't think anyone bullied any less after it.

So anyway. I think the way to "open the circle" is to literally open the circle, but also to recognize that some people who look like they've had an easy time of it in the past (me: white, Christian, cis, hetero, not-disabled beyond needing eyeglasses) may not necessarily have been the aggressors or the bullies. (And for that matter: religion, sexual orientation are not obvious unless the person talks about it. I know people ASSUME things, but I've known cases where I thought someone was in one group and they turned out to be in another)

Anyway. I was thinking about that this morning and wondering: is perhaps the reason I *seem* more tolerant of people, and tend to try to be friends with everyone, is that I felt unaccepted by a lot of groups as a kid? I mean, I would have to think very, very long and hard about leaving a group I was part of now (and I still might not leave) because I have no guarantee of finding another group - or being accepted by one if I found it.

I wonder if I put up with more low-level difficult human behavior (there are things people around me complain about in other people that I don't even really notice, and frankly it bugs me when they complain, because they just FORCED me to notice the thing*) because as a kid I was desperate enough for friends that there was stuff I'd put up with. Even now I have no stomach for the "If you (insert whatever personal preference here), then unfollow me right now" like, you're not allowed to be friends if you....whatever....don't like Marvel superhero movies or put mayonnaise on your sandwiches or things like that.

I mean, yes, yes, if someone is genuinely abusive cutting them out of your life is FINE but often it seems to me people are very judgmental about things that carry no actual moral weight. (And yes, I know in some cases those people are joking about the "unfollow me" thing but (a) I tend to be very literal-minded and (b) I also think what people joke about gives you a morsel of truth about their personality, and someone who would joke about cutting someone out of their life over a choice of sandwich condiment perhaps harbors the ability to cut someone out of their life over an awkward comment that could be explained away, or over not paying "enough attention" to them, or something.

I don't know.

I've NEVER felt I had the luxury of having enough friends that I could cut one out of my life. Yes, again, I would make an exception in the case of someone actually being abusive or similar, but I am also slow enough to make friends with people that I generally know if that's gonna be the case before I'm their friend.

(*And then I doubt myself: am I being TOO tolerant? Is this behavior actually a big problem and I am not seeing how it is one?)

But I dunno. I kind of feel like cutting people out of your life over things (real or perceived) that are not ongoing serious issues becomes a slippery slope.

I would honestly LIKE to have the luxury of having so many friends that losing a few wouldn't feel like it mattered, but I can't even imagine a number of friends where that would happen. And yeah, a big part of my psyche and how I act in this world is driven by that tween or young-teen girl sitting, alone and sad, in a dim corner of the lunchroom, because it seems like no one wants to eat lunch with her.


Edited to add: And another interpersonal thing happened here that has me sitting at my desk, staring at the thing I know I need to work on, but not having the energy to.

(Someone humblebragging about the Big Things they have done, when they well know that I've spent much of this past year feeling very ineffectual. And now I just feel small and sad and expendable. But I also feel mad at myself for being petty enough to be annoyed at this person because another part of my mind is reminding me that they're probably someone who is deeply insecure and the humblebragging is more them reassuring themselves, than coming to me and demanding pats on the head for it. But the literal-minded part of me (The Drax part of me, except my inner Drax is not a warrior) is feeling like "Why do people always come to me asking me to stroke their egos, but no one ever bothers to care about how I am doing?")

It doesn't help that I have to look forward to a five-year-old being in my class today. I hope he's quiet. (Long story, but: schools are closed today, the family member this person uses as childcare is down with the flu, she has nowhere else to take the kid and doesn't want to miss my class)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

So there's this

1. No announcement of the "additional" pastoral relations committee meeting that was supposedly scheduled for Wednesday so I assume it's not happening. Either the people leveling the complaints withdrew them, or (more likely) several people could not meet that day. I will be unhappy if it winds up falling on my birthday. I'll go, I'll not say ANYTHING to complain, but I won't be happy. (I am also telling myself I am allowed to not open my mouth at all during the meeting if I can't think of anything helpful to say).

2. One of the woman - this is yet another person who belonged years ago, moved away, and rejoined recently - came up to me and told me she was "proud" of me for standing up at board meeting and talking about the "kitchen talk" and how people needed to go to the person they had a problem with if they had a problem. And she thanked me for it. I thanked her and told her it took a lot of guts (literally, all the "spoons" I had for the week) for me to get up and say it, but I felt like it needed to be said. So there's that, I guess. I don't know. I still suspect some people are angry with me for having said it but whatever. As someone who's been the victim of behind-the-back smear campaigns in her past (not at church but elsewhere), it's ONE thing I will call out when I see it happening, because I know how destructive it is.

3. The scripture this week was 1 Corinthians 12, about the spiritual gifts. And darn but this passage didn't strike me today:

"15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”"

Ouch. And yeah. That's kind of me, like the foot there. Maybe not in the sense of "I'm not a part of this body" so much as in the sense of "I am not good enough and I don't matter" - all the times I compare myself unfavorably to other people and overlook things about myself that are arguably good. (Though I would also argue that part of that comes from the fact that the world often values things I am not so good at or interested in, and the things that matter to me are seen as less valuable) 

4. The thing that nearly made me cry today...well, it was sort of close on the heels of M. telling me she was proud of me for saying what she thought needed to be said, but it was from "Gather us In," a newer hymn (late 1980s, I think?) that we sometimes sing.

This line:

"Call to us now and we shall awaken
We shall arise at the sound of our name"

That always resonates with me. The idea of being called by name. Of others knowing your name and calling you by the right one. (Madeline L'Engle talks about this too, in some of her books and her essays: about how being Named (as she puts it, she means something like "specifically being called by your right name as an indication that the one calling knows who you are" and that also being un-named or only referred to as a number of collective term or something is dehumanizing; that it's a way some make you feel less-than. Like the abusive guy who refers to his spouse/girlfriend as "Woman" instead of calling her name)

And I don't know. Maybe some of it is the echo of being that rejected little kid who was called stuff like ....the r-word that used to be used to indicated someone who was intellectually challenged....and stuff like that in the halls of the school. And I did have a few people in my past who used to regularly get my name wrong....called me Jessica or Rebecca or some other woman's name ending in "-ca" rather than my proper name. And while I never got upset about it and usually wrote it off as someone having a poor memory, it does bother me a little bit, because part of me does wonder "Am I not even important enough for my actual name to be known?" 

So I don't know. A day of mixed feelings, I guess. I need to get myself some lunch and do something and maybe later today do a workout. I'm glad though that I'm home for the day and I don't have to talk to anyone else - unless I want to - until tomorrow morning. Last week was harder on me than I realized until just now.

I also have a couple of Amazon packages that appeared on my porch today. I don't remember ordering anything (though if I ordered something a long time back that was like a used book that took a while, I might have forgotten - last week was hard). It's possible they're gifts? Or it's possible they went to the wrong address (will have to check before opening to be sure they're mine) 

Edited to add:

Yup, mine. And not something I ordered and forgot, or something sent to me by mistake.

BIRTHDAY PRESSIES. From a blogreader. (A little early, but that doesn't matter):

Oh my gosh. (And there's a clownfish in there, and my niece's new favorite critter is she may get a surprise clownfish present at some point in the not too distant future). There's also a really cute moose that I will probably make for MYSELF. (And also some cute owls.)

And a Moominvalley map mug - I find the shape and the weight of it very pleasing; it might almost be as good a "soup mug" as a "tea mug."

Thank you!


Saturday, February 16, 2019

And home again

It was actually a fairly quick trip, all else given. I ran to JoAnn's first, got the new "Simply Knitting" AND a quilt book (I had a coupon) AND these (they were on a good sale, plus coupon):

"Cupcake" 2

I am SUCH a sucker for these color changing yarns. There is about 2300 yards there - which will eventually become a simple crocheted ripple-style blanket, just letting the colors change as they will. (Yes, I know, I now have one crocheted blanket I'm working on and three in the queue. Hush up.)

I also ran to the Ulta and got the things I needed, but my "birthday gift" was - womp womp - a pale pink/nude lipstick that probably won't look well on me (I need a stronger color) and a mascara (I don't wear mascara; I worry about my sensitive eyelids and getting hives from it). Haven't opened either and will maybe consider giving them away.

(But that's OK. They were free, and I was going there because I needed more of the pore-correcting cream I wear and more of the heavy-duty hair conditioner - one thing menopause has done to me is make my hair VERY dry and so once every week or 10 days I need to deep-condition it)

The drive to Whitesboro was fine. It was a cold, foggy day but it did get brighter as I approached Whitesboro. (The other upside to the less-than-perfect weather: fewer crowds, though there were other people in the quilt shop)

Quilt shop haul: (Not shown: the new bottle of "Best Press" and the tube of Roxanne quilting needles):

quilt stuff

Dandelion fabrics! I might do "Rock Star" (from "Charm School") with those, unless I find a pattern I like better. And the other one - it's just 3 yards of a solid and then a jelly roll of flour-sack-inspired fabric prints; I'll find a pattern I like for that one, I have tons of jelly roll patterns and some I might even do a second round of.

And the yarn shop. I think this is where I spent the most money but one of the yarns will fill a gap in my wardrobe (once I get it knit up):

brown sheep

Brown Sheep "Prairie Spun" (A dk weight, 100% wool) in "Owl Gray."  I had been wanting a fairly plain grey cardigan to wear with some of my outfits, and this is the perfect yarn - it's nice and "squooshy," it smells nice, it feels nice, it's a pretty color, it's 100% wool, it's made here in the US (I was considering a different yarn but (a) it was acrylic and nylon and (b) it was made in China, and if I can support a US company, I will - and Brown Sheep is pretty dyed-in-the-wool US company).

It's just an all-around pleasing yarn and should be fun to knit up. The shop owner said she'd made herself a sweater with the yarn and she really loved working with it, so that's good to hear.

I'm going to make the textured version of Bonne Marie Burns' "Hey Girl" (shout out to the now-dead Ryan Gosling meme) with it. And I like the idea of a really plain sweater but with nice fancy buttons (the JoAnn's has lots of choices, or I can mail-order, or, I might even have some vintage ones squirreled away that would work).

And of course, sockyarn, because sockyarn is one of their big things at Quixotic Fibers. (Including yarns dyed right there! The peach colored yarn is one of them):

sock yarn

The peach will probably be some kind of fancy stitch - maybe cabled, because those show up well on light colored yarn - socks. The green, maybe lace or maybe just plain socks. And the stripey will be just plain socks.  They had several variants of the "nautical" line, and I ALMOST bought one that was a lighter blue with thin white stripes because they would work up into "Mr. Hulot" socks (in "Mon Oncle," he is shown wearing blue socks with narrow white stripes). But I already have  a pair that I made myself with plain blue and white yarns...

(I should get "Mon Oncle" on dvd. It was one of my favorite movies and it's been too long since I saw it).

And then finally, another kind of cupcake - a treat, which I will be consuming shortly. From the natural-foods store:

cupcake 1

I have food ahead for at least the next 10 days (will make the Briticised-version of Spaghetti Bolognese from my Jane Featheringstonegall cookbook at some point) and I also picked up a big bottle of lavender-lemon bubble bath (it's for kids, really, but that doesn't matter) and I think I might indulge in one before bed tonight.

So, all in all, a good day out, and I think I'm going to consider winding off my Brown Sheep yarn and maybe swatching for the new sweater tonight.


I love Postmodern Jukebox anyway, for their wonderful covers of pop songs (in several cases, I like their cover better than the original). Once in a while they take on a cartoon theme song.

This is their most-genius effort:

Yes that is Rob Paulsen (Pinky) and Maurice LaMarche (Brain) as the bartenders. I wasn't familiar with their faces so at first I was like "Wait, do they have a couple guys in white shirts to be like Pinky and the Brain"....and then they spoke. I won't say I screamed, but I was jolted with the delight of it.

I loved that cartoon when it was on. Perhaps even more than I loved "The Animaniacs," where it originated. It was on when I was in grad school....for a while, the different drafts of my dissertation were saved under Pinky's various exclamations ("Narf," "Troz," and yes, even "Fjord")

Oh, and stay for the "Narf" at the end of this....

Friday, February 15, 2019

Another good thing

So, while out running errands (getting gas and getting money for tomorrow), I realized I was close to the pharmacy I use. So I figured, well, even though I don't have my prescription bottles with me, they can look me up, I'll ask about synching up my medications so instead of two trips a month, I have just one.

I wound up talking to the owner (or one of the owners; I'm not sure if his brother is still active). Explained the situation, saying "I know BC/BS changed some of their medicine plans..." and told him about the one-month refill, with the aim of "could you please synch them up?"

He said that certainly they could, but..."Let me check, because what happened to you probably shouldn't have happened."

He pushed a few buttons on the computer, and said, "Yeah, you might have got a new person who didn't know we give three months as the standard when your doctor writes you that long of a refill. Both of these meds are cheap and they're maintenance meds; there is no reason you should have to come out here every month."

And he pushed a few more buttons, and said "Come in Monday and you can get three-month refills of both."

So, hooray. This makes my life considerably easier. And maybe it's a lesson to me: I am far too prone at times to accept suboptimal situations because "that's how it has to be now" and also "I don't want to seem demanding." But I did go in and approach it pleasantly - I wasn't angry, I wasn't demanding "You need to fix this!" - I more took the tack of "If you could do this [the synching up of the monthly refills] for me, it would make my life easier and I'd appreciate it" and instead got "Oh, we can do better than that for you!"

Really, about 80% of the time when I push myself to do an "ask" like that, the answer I get is either "yes, we can do what you are asking for" or even "We can do even better than that" (as happened here). I don't know why I expect to always get hosed on things like this and be told "no," but I do.

But yeah. It DID seem like a monumentally silly policy for BC/BS to only pay for a month of blood pressure medication at a go, because it's not like I'll be going off it, and if I ran out and had to go a few days without (like: if the weather were bad or something), they might have a *more expensive* health issue on their hands than paying for some cheap generic beta blocker pills. But this pharmacy has been so good in the past I assumed that they knew the policy. (Hopefully he looks up who fills it and gently tells them they don't have to do it that way).

Friday morning stuff

* I'm counting it as a win that I made it through this week. Yes, next week will have its share of agony, but at least I will be home four of the five weekday evenings, and that makes a difference to me.

* And tomorrow, Whitesboro calls. Weather should be OK though a little colder than is ideal. One of my afternoon tasks for today is to gas up the car and to get some cash (For birthday things, I take a little money out of might sound like boasting but over the years I've managed to accrue about $25K in there so I think taking a couple hundred dollars is not too ill-advised. And I kind of like paying cash for stuff so I don't have to face the credit-card bill later).

Tentative plans are to leave early (like, 8 or 8:30 depending on opening time) and swing by Ulta *first* to get my birthday gift (and pick up a couple things I'm low on). I'm assuming they open at 9 but I will have to check...

(Well, boo. They don't open until 10. So then I have to think: do I go there first and then on to Whitesboro - it's about an hour there and the places there open at 10 - or do I hope they're not too busy on my way back?)

(But, hmmm....JoAnn's opens at 9, and I have a coupon from them, and I want to see if the newest issue of Simply Knitting is out, so maybe I go there FIRST and then go to Ulta when they open and then on to Whitesboro from there. That feels like a plan. I also need to take stock of my knitting needles - I think I need a new mid-length size 7 circular needle; I had one break on me (the metal tip separated from the cable)

And then from there, Whitesboro. And on the way back home, stop at the natural-foods store and the Kroger. And maybe the Sherman yarn shop too, just for good measure.

I can't count on having next Saturday off (I STILL have not heard back, and frankly, if I may complain: it's bad form to ask for volunteers and then not follow up with when they'll be expected to be present. Yes, I get most people don't operate on a "week in advance" schedule but SOME of us are busy enough that we really need to). If I do have it off I am reserving it to, I don't know, go antiquing or something. Or maybe go to the Kohl's and see if there are any interesting clothes on offer. (I also need to replace one or two of my brassieres and they are the place that reliably has the brand I favor). Or, I don't know, see if one of the small towns around here has some interesting shopping worth going to see.

Or, if nothing else: work on the current quilt.

(OH. Diann - yes, Chandelier IS in the first "Charm School" book. I was misremembering the cover. I am right now doing the sort of Irish Chain like one from there; have the blocks almost done)

* Anyway. There was some good in this week:

- My check-up went well; my bloodwork shows me healthier than some famous and very-highly-placed persons, apparently. Down a couple pounds but I probably need to keep working on that (these past few days I've eaten worse, both because of stress and because I'm not anticipating jumping on a scale soon, but after this weekend, I am getting back to more-abstemious and healthful eating)

- the PTR meetings went generally well. I also learned two things that maybe I knew and had forgotten:

     - You only need to be "proficient" in two of the three areas to "pass."
     - And at that, "marginally proficient" (yes I am still salty about that) counts as proficient. So I was, really, proficient in all three areas. In fact, one of my colleagues (the one I was talking about as being practically perfect in every way) noted that on at least part of his Ph.D. comps, he got a "weak pass." And he said "You know what I counted it as? A pass." And I admit, I thought, man, I wish I were like that. Because I'd hang on to that "weak" and not see the "pass." (I'd make the familiar feminist joke of "God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man" but a. he's not 100% white and b. he's most definitely not mediocre.) But yeah. Maybe I need to look at that 'marginally proficient' in service as "Hey, you're privileging your teaching and research, those are what matter to you, those are what you're really good at, and you're still good ENOUGH in service."

And also, some of the "service" I do (to the world at large) that's important to me personally, and to the people served, doesn't count on PTR, And that's a shame, but, whatever. I guess everyone has stuff that's important to them that doesn't matter to the "world at large" and that's just how it is in this fallen world.

I suspect also the problem is that I'm in a generally excellent department - no one here is really deficient in anything - and also that I tend to compare myself to other people too much and see myself as lacking.

* And yeah, I'm feeling more secure about my quality as a teacher today because yesterday I got an e-mail:

"Congratulations!  You have been nominated for the 2019 Faculty Senate Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching.
This is the second year in a row - no, I didn't win last year but that is 100% understandable given the person who did win. (And really, lots of people get nominated). But. This is usually a STUDENT nomination, so that counts for something to me. (Also, a nice thing they often do: after the awards thing is over, they e-mail everyone the comments that the student put in their recommendation, and that's always a nice thing to see).

And I know not every student loves my style of teaching. But some seem to be inspired by it. I find often the shy kids are the ones who warm up to me. Especially the shy nerdy ones; maybe they recognize who I was and am. 

One thing I need to do in the next ten days is write up a one-page summary about my teaching and submit it for the award. (I doubt I will win this year - they often give it to someone on the point of retiring, and that's probably the right thing - but it still feels worth doing). 

And I can put it in my PTR for next year. I expect I'll easily get proficient in teaching, and probably in scholarship, seeing as I've had a couple papers in the three-year period. And maybe I'll get an unqualified proficient in service given that I've taken on more.

Or maybe I shouldn't care about it so much. I'm that silly former gifted kid, always chasing after pats on the head from the teacher. (Or wanting senpai to notice me favorably)

* I cleaned (much of) my house last night. Got the bathroom all done except for scrubbing the tub (which probably didn't really need it, and yes, it feels wrong to me that the very thing you use to get clean in can get so dirty as to require regular cleaning. Tubs should be self-cleaning). Got the kitchen all done. Got the dining room mostly done, and did a little pick-up in the living room. I do still need to extensively sweep the floors but at least I'm not twitching because my kitchen is a pit. (For some reason, having a dirty kitchen and bathroom bother me more than anything else. Probably because most of the other rooms, the problem is clutter - mail stacked up I need to deal with, or too many books, or craft supplies out of place - and that feels less like "dirt" to me than spilled tea residue on my kitchen floor or toothpaste in the bathroom sink. 

I also did most of the laundry. Though tonight I should do sheets and change my bed. My allergies have been wicked (probably "mountain cedar" - Juniperus ashei) and maybe fresh clean sheets will help. (Probably all the dust and stuff I stirred up yesterday didn't. And the fact that the wind was out of the south - most of the trees are to the south of us).

But I do feel better with a cleaner house. Part of it is that orderliness is appealing to me but I think part of it is when my house is a mess, I worry that something will happen and someone will have to come over (I get very sick, or break an ankle, or something) and they see what a pit it is, and talk about what a slob I am behind my back. And yes, I get that that tells you more about that person than it does about me. (But yes, I do know people who talk about what slobs other people are. And these are people who have weekly cleaners come to their house and they *don't quite see* that maybe that's different for someone who can't afford or doesn't want a weekly cleaner. I could perhaps afford one but I have other things to spend my money on, and also, I am private enough I don't want someone else messing around my stuff. And at that - when my dad was first home from the hospital, there was a service that my parents had in for a few days to help out and my mom said "The person they send didn't clean like *I* clean, and they wouldn't even dust, because they said they didn't want to move anything" meaning on the china cabinet or mantel. And so what's the point, I feel like: most of the intractable mess I have is a "I don't know where to store it" problem. Once I get the clutter picked up I can do the sweeping and wall-cleaning and scrubbing of sinks and everything else done happily and fast - that's the FUN part of cleaning, honestly, because you can see your progress really fast and clearly, and it's physical, and you don't have to think so hard about it. It's going "Do I need to keep this statement from my retirement fund or not?" or "How many months back should I retain bank statements" that bug me. (And yeah, I know: I should probably just scan all that stuff and then shred it. But that also takes time.)

* But anyway. Very very very much looking forward to a "selfish day" tomorrow where I go out and only do what *I* want to do, and buy myself stuff, and get lunch out somewhere where they bring me my food (*probably* the good barbecue place, but I haven't 100% decided yet). 

I have no yarn in mind that I "need" but there is always sockyarn, and with 400 yards of sockyarn (the typical skein) you can make a lot of things, or if there's a color I really love and might want a shawl of, I can buy two skeins. And I also know roughly how much yarn different projects take, so if I see something and go "I want a sweater of that" I know kind of how much I need to buy, and can find a suitable pattern.

Same with quilts. Don't have anything particularly in mind but I will see what they have at the shop. I can always use more big pieces of solids to use as backgrounds with other fabrics.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

I'm not done.

I read everything I could find on Blogger Help and it looks like it's Google+ stuff - which I never linked to - that's going away. So, whatever. I'm going to assume Blogger would post something on their login page if they were ending the service altogether.

Two epiphanies I had this morning (Yes, I'm tired, my brain has been far too active for far too early):

1. It's probably better to be alone on Valentine's Day than to have a partner, expect something, and not get anything. Rarely do romantic gestures live up to what you see in the movies, and some people either forget, or decide they're "too busy,*" or kind of do it halfway, and that's probably more a disappointment then not expecting anything and not getting anything.

Also, I was irritated to see the (women) newsreaders on one of the semi-local channels jokingly "reminding" the (man) weather forecaster that he needed to get something for his wife. I GET that that's seen as "fun newsroom banter" but it's just another bit of the insidious expectations heaped on (very often women) people to make sure other people are taking care of their loved-ones. I think it would stick in my throat if I were expected to remind one of my male colleagues to buy something for his wife or partner.

(*And this is me being me, but I would take a romantic partner being "too busy" to even get a card or something for me as evidence that he didn't really care that much, and, in the bad old phrase, "wasn't that in to " me. One of the things that matters to me is someone being willing to go to a little effort. And it wouldn't have to be an expensive purchased card - just a nice greeting written on a 3 x 5 card or a doodle or something would do it)

2. Another, sadder thing I realized: if you are generally an agreeable person ESPECIALLY if you have relatively little money or power, no one has any investment in your happiness.

Something was said last night; it's been said before and it's something I always find distasteful, but - the idea being "well, we need to keep the big donors happy" with the implication that some of the recent new people don't have a lot of money, and therefore their opinions in matters count less. And that bothers me a lot.

I mean, in a business, it might not, so much. Or in politics, I'm cynical enough to believe that it's SOP. But in a church it feels wrong.

I don't deny that money is and has always been a problem. But reducing it to "who has value because of what they donate" is wrong. And really, if it comes down to that? If our value is perceived in terms of how much we give? I'm done. I'm out. I'm sorry. I said I'd never leave the church but that might be the thing that does it. If people are going to take the one sacred thing and pervert it and decide Mammon is more important....well, forget it. Or maybe I find another place to go. I don't know.

But yeah. One thing I am sick and sad about is that because I am (a) generally agreeable and I care about other people's happiness and opinions and (b) I have little power, influence, or money, nobody seemingly has any investment in caring whether I'm happy or not.

Oh, I get that it's better to be of service and all that. And I hate it when someone is "that person" (you know, the person who goes "I want to speak to your manager" and stuff when it's some minor thing that's not right and it's not the fault of the person serving them). But once in a while it would be nice for me to feel like people saw me as more than just the person who does all these things for them. if they realized that some times I am unhappy but I am not vocal about it and also because I've been taught that it's easier to accept my own disappointment than the disappointment of others.That I find it easier to yield than fight, and because of that, I often feel taken advantage of.

I don't know. I think of my mother shaking her head sadly and saying "I raised you kids to be too NICE" after my brother figuratively got run over at school by a louder meaner kid. And I think of the thing I said the other day - that maybe I go off and do birthday-celebration type things alone NOT because I'm a loser, but because it's really the only way I can guarantee for myself the person I'm with won't go, "Oh. Barbecue? But I had barbecue two days last week....I really don't want barbecue" and I might end up sighing and going "Okay, fine, we'll go to the Mexican place instead" when I really don't WANT Mexican. Yes, even on my birthday.

I dunno. I have told myself that when I get home this afternoon I am gonna start rage-cleaning. One of the reasons I've been unhappy recently is that my house is a terrible mess and I worry when it's a mess because (people-pleaser again) if I got sick or hurt and someone would have to come over, I KNOW what they would say behind my back, because I've heard what some people said behind other people's backs about their messy houses. (These being people who have hired help to clean. I don't, mainly because I'm very private and don't want someone else moving my stuff around, but also because I'd rather spend that money on other things and I don't have an unlimited budget). And I have stuff that needs to be put away.

I don't know

As per ETat's comment:

I had heard NOTHING of Blogger closing. NOTHING. I have received no notification.

Yes, Google+ is ending, but I never registered with them.

So if Blogger is pulling the rug out from under me - well, like so many other things in my life have been- I don't know. I don't own a domain. I don't have time to migrate 17 years of blogposts.

So if Blogger IS ending, and they didn't think I mattered enough to tell me with any stinking lead-time, this blog is gone.

I'm sorry. That's just how it's going to be. I don't have time to take care of myself anymore because I'm everyone else's chore donkey, and apparently I don't matter enough to anyone who has any power or influence for them to tell me squat.

Nice to know where I stand in the world, I guess.

Anyway. I knew about Google+ ending but there's no notification from Blogger so IDK?

I don't need this today. I spent much of last night crying and I slept VERY badly and I have too many things to do all day

Edited to add: The official Blogger site only says the Google+ stuff - which I never used - is going away so unless they're mega-lying to me (which would not surprise me, everyone lies to me these days), I'm okay.

But yeah: if Google abruptly decides to shutter Blogger without offering some kind of simple migration option, I no longer have a blog and I just post photos of my work on Twitter instead. Because I probably shouldn't even be taking time to write a blog NOW and should be devoting that instead to working, working, working.

(I have yet another PTR meeting today, so the "there must be more work, there must always be more work" is top of mind)

Anyway, this is Current Mood, which is not a good Current Mood for just before  6 am on a Thursday:

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

And that's over

Not going to go into too much detail and air any dirty laundry, but, some general things:

* Once again I find that the "Love your neighbor as yourself" commandment is far, far harder for me than the "Love God" commandment. People are incredibly cross-grained and difficult and it upsets me.

* Ninety percent of the problems in churches - and probably any other group - come down to bad communication. Either miscommunication, or people not saying what they really mean, or people not communicating. Some problems came out tonight that the Pastor Relations Committee (which I am on and dearly wish I wasn't) are supposed to deal with, but here's the thing: we didn't know about the problems before tonight. And we met on Sunday! But no one told us and instead just did this mealy-mouthed stuff about "we don't sing enough familiar hymns" and superficial stuff rather than bringing up the difficult stuff they are really upset about.

* And yeah. maybe I was too forward and too outspoken about "You aren't telling us the problems you have, you are couching in in way too vague language" but you know? I'm tired. And I'm bad at nuance. And people need to work with me.

* Some of this may be misplaced money worries on some people's part. I don't mean worrying about money is misplaced, but I mean their worries about money are manifesting as other things. Sometimes people do that. I do that. When I'm worrying about something that maybe doesn't seem solvable, I get really picky and upset about things that might seem solvable. So I don't know.

* So yeah, we have another meeting coming up. I am distinctly not-enthused about this meeting. I did stand up in the board meeting and state that the issues should be submitted IN WRITING and could even be anonymous if the person wanted. Because IN WRITING means we're not trying to remember and interpret what someone said, and maybe get it wrong.

* I will say the vice-moderator (who led the meeting in the moderator's absence) did a good job of being diplomatic and pouring oil on troubled water and I think he may have been the best person - ironically - to run this meeting.

I dunno. I want to cry but I also kind of want to punch something but I'm also tired but I'm also too keyed up to sleep and this kind of sucks.

I didn't cry, though. I think I can at least be minimally proud of that.

But sometime I really would like to be in a situation where my wants and feelings were 100% catered to but I know that will never happen.....except in those times when I am alone. (Maybe that's why I do so much stuff alone: not because I'm a "loser" without friends, but because I'm selfish enough that I need some times when I get to do 100% what I want, and with other people I always have to compromise. Maybe I'm a terrible person, I don't know)

But yeah. Right now everything feels kind of broken and terrible and I would really very much like to go and be a hermit and only interact with people on my own terms (which would be: mainly through the internet, so I could turn it off if I got upset or block people that were rude to me)

And happy effing Single's Awareness Day tomorrow; I really don't need all the stupid goopy Valentine's Day stuff on top of all this.

And fudge, when I said "At 3 pm Thursday I will be all done with this" obviously jinxed me; now I have another woeful meeting NEXT week. I try hard to be a good person; I do not get why I am being punished in this way. Whatever it is, I'm sorry for it.

this and that

- Diann, I *think* it's the first Charm School book, but I don't remember the cover of mine looking like that? But searching online, it seems that it's described as being listed in the book. (I can't find a table of contents; I might recognize some of the other pattern names). I'll have to check after I get home.

There's a "version 2.0" (which I do not like as well, however) that is free online.

- Stressful meeting (the last one for a while) is tonight; there are going to be a couple of unpleasant things discussed. Nothing I am *directly* involved in but second-hand discord affects me badly as well. I have decided that since I'm wearing slacks (it was a messy lab day) and have pockets, I am taking my Secret Fluttershy with me - one of the blindbag figures; I've taken her in my pocket a couple times when going to the dentist, for example.

- But yeah. Tomorrow afternoon, 3 pm, I will be done. At least for a while. (I have another PTR meeting Monday, and a gen-ed council meeting Wednesday afternoon next week). I am DEFINITELY* going to Whitesboro Saturday, and I might leave a bit early and swing by Ulta first to get my "birthday present" from them (they tend to be *incredibly* busy later in the day on Saturday, so if I want to be able to get a little personal attention and not just have some random-color lipstick - that might be wrong for me - shoved at me, I better go early).

I can't count on the 23rd being free; I still have not heard back from the Honors program, and frankly it seems unfair if you are asking people to volunteer that you don't tell them IF they are needed and WHEN they are needed until right before the thing. *If* I am not needed I might go that weekend too, and, I don't know, find something fun.

- I kind of wish I could draw better than I can (and had time to sit down and draw tonight) because I was talking on Twitter about how I should just go Full Tsundere for Valentine's Day (as in: "No! I don't need love or attention! Leave me alone! Baka!") because really, tsundere does fit a bit more how I have approached love in my life than anything: that hard shell to protect my squishy interior from being hurt (though with also a side order of being a little oblivious at times when a guy was interested in me, and probably drove him off with that).

But anyway: I threatened to do Tsundere Otter (because of my occasional handle on there of Acerbic Otter, which is an anagram of my actual name) - draw an otter in a Japanese schoolgirl dress (one of those sailor dresses, you know), with her arms folded and a bit of a scowl and muttering something about how Valentine's Day is "stupid."

(But yeah, the whole westernized version of the Tsundere Girl: sort of hard and brittle on the outside, but secretly wishing senpai would notice her, and actually kind of soft on the inside, that's my brand right there. Probably ridiculous for a 50 year old to be that way but whatever)

-Reading a couple different things right now. Still plowing away on "Père Goriot," but I am not fond at all of Vautrin and I find the whole cynicism thing kind of depressing. I'm also still reading "The Silver Branch," which I like a good bit better (Right now, Justin and Flavius are apparently slated to become spies to try to help bring down the usurper...). And I started "Cro-Magnon," a Brian Fagan book about, well, Cro-Magnons. I dunno. I find human pre-history interesting: how did people live? What did they do? What was their culture like? We can speculate at best, but it's still interesting to wonder how different their perception of the world was.

- I can tell I am stressed and tired; I was a little short with a couple of the students in lab today when they weren't following directions and almost messed up their experiment. (But yeah. I had done a pre-lab lecture, and I had written instructions in the lab manual, and I even had instruction cards typed out and on the table, so I don't know. One thing I do notice is that lots of people are....not that good at following directions. I don't know if I'm unusual or if it's a generational thing. I think I got good at it from cooking and baking as a kid - I learned to bake early, my mom would let me make cookies or cakes some times and she taught me to follow a recipe. Or that I've been crocheting/sewing/knitting for years and years, and in most cases I follow a pattern. Or that my brother and I played with LEGO as kids, back when the "instructions" for things were basically IKEA-like pictograms.... I suppose it's also maybe that the students care less than I do, because this is my job, but for them it's one lab out of many, and techniques they might never use again. But it's still frustrating)

I'm also just tired; this week has felt about a month long, and it's only Wednesday.

- At least I have the consolation now of not having to eat *quite* so restrictively, seeing as bloodwork came back good and I'm off the hook from doctors until...well, June, when I have to do the whole butt-stuff (as I am thinking of the colonoscopy) consult and all.

Not sure what my "Birthday Observed on Saturday" lunch will be. I might go to the barbecue place on the way back in to Sherman (Lovejoy's only serves a limited lunch on Saturdays).

I am thinking on my actual birthday of getting carry-out from a pretty good local barbecue place. Yes, carry-out, because I have no one to go with and it feels too sad to eat alone in a restaurant (even though I do it when I am traveling; that seems somehow different). If I had someone I felt comfortable asking, I would, and we could go there or to Roma's. But I don't, so I think I'll just get carry out and eat it at home.

- I probably need to go home and do something useful for a while. I am so apprehensive about this meeting tonight. I will be glad when it's over. I am already promising myself something good if I make it through without crying.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A new recipe

One of the bits of service I do (as in: service to other people/the community) is cooking for the college-student ministry at my church. It varies in number between 6 and 20, so I always plan for the upper number and tell the person who runs it just to send any leftovers home with people. Part of this is that many of our students are far from home - so they don't get home cooking that someone else cooked (and I know how that can be an important thing). And some of them are financially insecure, trying to make it on a shoestring, and might not always get substantial meals. So I don't mind spending a little more to get "good" ingredients or to make something a little more special.

This week, though.

When I realized that I had signed up for the same day as my checkup, I was in a quandry - my co-worker and I had agreed upon sloppy joes (with me making the joes, as I have Tuesday afternoons free and she does not) and then her getting the veggies and dessert and chips.

But I figured: this MUST be something that could be done in a slow-cooker once you brown the meat, no? None of my cookbooks on slow-cooking had a recipe, so I looked online.

An aside: I know A Thing now is recipe bloggers writing long, long backstories for their recipes, and people mocking that online (And I can't be one to talk about that; I have no one to listen to me in my day to day life so I get very wordy here). And she does it. But there is a button to "print the recipe" and it just gives you the recipe, on two pages, landscape format:

slow-cooker sloppy joes.

Super simple to make: brown the meat and an onion, everything else is just opening cans or measuring and you then throw it all in the slow cooker. I doubled the recipe, which I figure will make enough for 16 people (they had 12 last week I think). And anyway: leftovers to send home with the kids.

I took a quick taste after it was done just to be sure it was good enough - seeing as it was a new to me recipe. It is. It's very good. More of a BBQ beef style sloppy joe than a "meat and onions and peppers" sloppy joe - I don't like green pepper myself, but I do like barbecue things. So I'm gonna hang on to the recipe; it might also be good some time if my department ever does a lunch where I need to make a fast and "stays hot for a while" main dish.

And that's done

The only slightly-woeful health related thing is that this summer I need to schedule a screening colonoscopy. Bleah, almost as much for the idea of having to line up someone to drive me (and I presume, sit with me after to make sure I don't have a bad delayed reaction to the anesthetic) as for the prep. And the idea of having to submit to "butt stuff."

Other than that....all my blood numbers were right in the middle of the desired range, in fact, fasting glucose was lower than it's ever been (not that it ever reached the point of requiring concern). I'm not sure what caused that other than maybe mostly skipping desserts: I have even been eating more potatoes than I had in the past.  Down a couple pounds, too. My doctor sort of chuckled and said "I like having healthy patients" and I suppose, yes - less work for her, but she still gets paid for the regular checkups. And she doesn't have to nag me about stuff like taking my meds or exercising.

She also commented that I didn't look 50, though I think that's more lucky genes than anything I'm actually doing. (Though, I don't know: maybe never having smoked and also wearing sunscreen and a big hat did something)

Though I'm not gonna lie: am very tempted to get a big cupcake somewhere when I run out to go to the bank and run a few errands.

I missed it

Bell Choir started back up last night. I had not realized how much I missed it until last night's session.

Part of it is that it is ONE thing in my life when I'm around people where I'm not expected to talk (at least periodically) or take control of things or really do anything more than anyone else is doing.

Also, it's just the feeling of being a part of a whole. That it's a thing that can't exist without your effort, but your effort isn't the only one that keeps it going: it requires everyone. And the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A trap I often fall into - and I know on here I've complained about how I'm "too small" and "I can't do enough" - is feeling like it is 100% on me to make something succeed, and if my efforts aren't enough, that means *I* am not enough. And bell choir reminds me that that's often not the case....once last night we got off-track because the director got off-track in counting, and I felt like "Huh. So it wasn't me that got messed up" (or rather: not JUST me) and it's really nice to have something where it doesn't feel like its success or failure is 100% on me. (Especially on the heels of the person dropping their responsibilities in another area and my feeling that there might have been something I could have done or said if I knew, and the fact that now the success of the general effort depends even more on me)

Another part of it is the level of concentration it requires: you literally cannot be thinking of anything else but the music and the counting (especially if there are a lot of measures where you don't play, you have to keep up). And things like that, where my mind can't be going off in fifteen directions, are good for me because they calm me down. It's almost like meditation (something I have always been bad at, because I have the kind of mind that wants to run off in fifteen directions, unless I have the goad of "if you lose your place and mess up, you let the rest of the choir down")

And yeah, I need those few moments of not-thinking-about other things.

I have a checkup today. I always worry. My biggest worry centers on the bloodwork. I'm telling myself that in the past, everything has been okay. I haven't been any worse about my diet (and in the past month or so, have been a bit better than in the past) and I've kept up with exercise. But still I worry: I know enough people who were blindsided by bad health news and while in most cases it was something caught in "stage 0" or some kind of manageable point, the memories of my dad going through something like six months of additional testing after an "anomalous" blood result has me spooked.

And beyond that: I worry about things like blood sugar and blood cholesterol and all that because the thought of Yet Another Medication (and I've heard that metformin, in particular, can have some unpleasant side effects) and even more lifestyle restrictions than what I already have make me sad to contemplate. I'll do it if I have to but I don't want to.

And yes, there's an online portal to check my results, but getting logged in...well, I never registered, and I don't know how to log in without a registration. Apparently I can get an authentication text sent to my phone....I don't know. I don't know whether to check it this morning or just wait until the appointment today at 2. Because it won't CHANGE anything if my blood sugar reads high or if my ALT is screwed up.

(The worry about blood sugar is probably not entirely misplaced. My father has prediabetes which he keeps controlled with medication (and diet, though he's honestly less-careful about his diet than I currently am). And being on a beta-blocker - well, some medical-adjacent* people have suggested it can raise blood sugar/cause insulin resistance and I never know. I would be furious if one medication for a chronic condition leads to another chronic condition, but whatever. Then again: I am younger than my dad was when he was diagnosed (by a good 25 years) and I am considerably more active, and, as I said, I try to be careful about sugar. But I do like my chocolate. And I went back to putting Golden Syrup in my tea when I want it, after calculating the amount of sugar in the roughly one-tablespoon (often a bit less) than I use, versus what's in a Coke....I drink soda less than once a month so I figure an occasional tea with sugar in it is probably OK - a tablespoon is about 16 grams of sugar, maybe a bit more, and a 20 ounce Coke is 65. (A 12-ouncer, which would be a more likely size for me to drink, has 39 grams). So even my sweet, sweet tea is less than half as sweet as a can of Coke...and I only get that a couple times a week. I know people who drink multiple Cokes in a day, but then again: they're younger than I am, they are sometimes more active than I am, and anyway, it's none of my business what they drink)

(*I read some article by someone who called themselves a "naturopath" stating that you shouldn't take beta blockers because you'll get Type II diabetes. I'm not sure what their suggestion was to lower blood pressure other than cutting out salt and eating more vegetables, which hasn't been enough for me. Also I am not sure how alternative-medicine practitioners are certified; I'm more prone to trust my DO and she seems to think a beta blocker is safe for me as long as I'm careful)

I mean, I haven't had any symptoms of anything but would I know? (And yes, this is how insidious the advertising is about health conditions: it makes it seem that we're all one ice-cream-cone away from full-blown Type II diabetes, and even someone with more biological/statistical training like me isn't immune to the scare tactics).

Oh well. I'll find out this afternoon. I'm hoping that if I do have to consider metformin, that it doesn't make me vomit like some of the people I know who went on it.

(I'm PROBABLY okay. Most meals now for me are under the 45-grams of carbohydrate threshhold that I know they recommend for women with Type II so probably a "lifestyle change," if needed, would be minimal: mostly, cutting out dessert of any kind almost entirely, which would make me sad but which I could probably do.)

But here's hoping everything goes well, and I walk out of there around 2:30 or so (hoping my doctor is not running late) relieved, and ready to go on to the next thing....which is feeding the college-student ministry tonight, but that's a good thing, because it's not a huge amount of work for me (I am making slow-cooker sloppy joes and my co-worker in this is making a salad and a cake and bringing iced tea for the kids) and it's appreciated. A couple of the kids came to church this Sunday; the young woman is going to take over the children's minute because she has background in that. (And they actually ARE a couple. I smiled to myself, standing at the back of the church before communion, when I saw him put his arm over her shoulder and her lean her head on his. And later on they were holding hands. I may be disappointed in love, but I admit it makes me happy to see those little, non-gross* PDA sort of things)

(*Non-gross: includes holding hands, hugging, arms over shoulder, pecks on the cheek or even on the lips. I don't like to see couples of any stripe playing tonsil-hockey out in public. Not that anyone would do that, I hope, during a church service, but whatever)

Tomorrow night is probably a stressful meeting; I think I've already referenced that.
Thursday is the PTR meeting I have to chair. Thursday, 3 pm, is when I will be free of meetings for at least a little bit, and this weekend I still have  plans to go to Whitesboro and have concluded no one can stop me*

(*Excepting if I get sick or the weather turns very very bad. And the second one looks pretty unlikely)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday morning things

* I have enough rows done on the "Socks for the Deputy Headmistress" that I can finally kind of see where the pattern is going. I hope it's visible enough on the yarn I've chosen; it always seems like a shame to do a complex knit-purl pattern (which takes a lot of time to do but is less-fun to knit than lace or cables) and have it not show up.

* I also finished all the grey squares for the Color-Bar Blanket. Yellow, black, white, and navy remain.

* I wonder if the way Mr. Rogers spoke resonates with me - at least as an adult - because I can hear the "minister" there. I have known several good ministers in my life and a couple of them spoke like that: slowly, quietly, with a deliberateness to their speech. That may be what I find soothing about his voice as an adult. (Or maybe it's that I hear so many loud, fast, speaking-before-they-think-it-through voices that his is surprising by contrast). I know lots of people love Bob Ross for similar reasons but I've never quite been able to get into his way of speaking so much.

And yes, I'm still thinking about it. Especially thinking about the people who derided him as "soft" or "wimpy" or whatever, and that they don't really realize, I think, how hard it is - how radical, in a way - it is to be kind, and to LISTEN to other people. I know I am not always good at it; I know when someone else is speaking a lot of the time I am trying to formulate my response in my head and I don't give them the attention I should.

I also think being a kind person and an earnest person means being vulnerable in this world. Cynicism and snark are defense mechanisms that I think people use to distance themselves from their feelings - every disaffected sixteen-year-old everywhere does that. And I think we see far too much of it in the media.

* I am also thinking about this article on Medium (NB: I have one of the low-level subscriptions to it - so it might not be available to non subscribers, or not just yet). But I like his argument that sometimes sadness is really being overwhelmed, the idea of the world being too big and there being too many stimuli. I notice that in myself: when I have too many things to do (like all the meetings this week and the complicated dance of "okay, as long as I'm out of lab by just before 3, I can get to the Pruett's before the school pick-up rush and get the cheesecake for CWF tonight and the beef for making the sloppy joes for tomorrow..."), I don't feel happy. I am happiest when I have ONE thing to work on, ONE thing to focus on. Doesn't matter if that's writing a manuscript or prepping teaching or working on a quilt - not having a million things pulling at my attention is a relief.

The writer talks about the relief of smallness - that most of us are not famous in any way, and we should be grateful for that. And yes, fame has some terrible costs. And yes, again: sometimes I feel happiest when I am in my own little world: I notice this most, these days, when sewing on a quilt top. It's a step-by-step process. Certain seams have to be done first. Then they have to be pressed. Then you have to pin the parts you just sewed together and do another seam. Eventually, you have all the blocks and depending, you either lay them out for the best arrangement or just sew. (The one I'm working on right now will need to be laid out to spread out the colors properly; the next quilt top, since it's just three fabrics, I can just sew.)

Sometimes having a directed task that you have to be absolutely "present" for is good. Part of the reason I serve at funeral lunches (when I can, and ESPECIALLY when it was someone I particularly cared about) is that somehow, for me, that kind of "useful busy-ness" helps with the mourning process. If I can do something that "helps," I am less likely to fall apart, whatever the situation.

The article author also quotes a character from "How I Met Your Mother" (a show I never watched):

“You know what Marshall needs to do? He needs to stop being sad. When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story.”

I....can't. I can't do that. For one thing, I highly doubt my own ability to be "awesome." I'm not even sure I WANT to be "awesome," in the debased sense that it's used now. Though there is something to that: I've also heard people talk about how when you're sad, if you go help someone, maybe you will be less-sad, and yes, I have noticed that. I can be having a rotten day but have a student come in and say "Would you please help me with this topic? I don't think I understand it" and I sit down with them and try to come up with some other way of explaining it, or going over it again, or even just writing it out in detail so they can see it, and at the end they say "Oh, I think I'm getting it now, thanks" and yes, I do feel better. (Or maybe that's my own brand of "awesome," I don't know)

The author also references something from the show, where the Marshall named above, after moping around for like two months after a break-up (I don't have a lot of break-ups on my record, but yes, I do remember one in particular where I moped for what felt like forever - but it was private moping, I had to be the Capable Grad Student as well). But anyway, one day Marshall snapped out of it, the author said, by "making the world small" - he made pancakes for his roommates one morning.

I....guess I used to do that more. No, not making pancakes for people. But my typical response to some human horror in the world was to start knitting a hat or a scarf or something. Either for a charity donation (and now, now, I feel like, most charities would really rather have my money*) or as an eventual gift for someone. (The point was: it had to be something I was going to give away).

(*True, I'm sure. But somehow it feels less like I'm "making myself useful" than when I used to knit hats)

I might need to figure out something else like that again. Going out and doing volunteer work isn't it; I'm already too busy, and the problem with volunteering is that all too often, someone like me winds up "managing" other people's feelings, and I find that *exhausting* and I hate it. My version of "making pancakes" needs to be something I can do on my own.

* I did pick up my "birthday present" (the new cutting mat) on Saturday. Being busy this week - too busy to work on a quilt - means that it can hang out in my garage and outgas until I'm ready for it. One drawback to the Olfa mats - I don't know exactly what plastic they are made of - but they have a TERRIBLE smell when new, which takes a while to dissipate. (I might also try wiping it down with some vinegar, to see if that helps any. I don't mind the smell of vinegar nearly as much as I mind the plastic smell).

I also bought....more fabric. But I have another one of those "charm pack" quilt patterns I want to do - it's called Chandelier. Because I have to be different, I bought an almost-coral-pink as the background, and I am (pretty sure) the charm packs are called Amberley - just sort of a typical slightly-greyed-down pastel floral. (I know in the past I have been all about novelty fabrics, but more and more, I just want to use "pretty" florals. I dunno. Maybe I feel like the world has gotten kind of ugly so I want to make pretty quilts?)

The woman at the quilt shop commented that "I ordered that line because I liked it, but I didn't know if anyone else would!" and I kind of laughed and said one of the things I liked about the different "indie" quilt shops is that you can go into five different ones, and they will have five different stocks - even just Moda makes so many lines of fabric that you will find different ones at different shops.

(Darnit. I also forgot to pick up more Best Press but I didn't see any there; maybe they were out of it. Well, maybe if I go to Whitesboro on Saturday the shop there will have it)

And we talked a little about longarm quilting, and she noted that she wished they had enough room to have a demonstration machine set up, because lots of people have expressed a desire to try one out. Or even, I added, a machine you could rent time on (Though for working people like me, that would be hard: you'd have to arrange it for a time when you knew you could get your quilt done fast. With a home machine - and yes, I am still contemplating that and maybe I start trying to save a hundred dollars a month or whatever and put it in a "maybe buy a longarm machine when I retire" fund - you wouldn't have that issue)

* I'm pretty sure (going from memory) that this is the set of charm packs I bought, and the pink I bought for the background is almost the exact pink on the bottom there where the name and logo is written, so it should match well)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Current mood :(

"Alexa, what's a reliable way of cheering one's self up when one is already peopled out but has seven more meetings, a doctor's appointment, and cooking duties for a group on top of one's regular work in the coming week?"

First meeting of too-many is over; the second one is coming up in a bit over an hour.

The first meeting....wasn't bad in the way I was fearing it would be, but I learned an unfortunate piece of news about someone dropping responsibilities they held which will mean more work for me. And also makes me feel bad just because I spent a lot of time placating feelings and listening and stuff and apparently it did no good. I mean, yes, I get that it's not on me, but if I knew this was how it was going to end I might not have tied myself so much in knots to be conciliatory.

(Oh, who am I kidding: I would have done it anyway: people are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered, forgive (and love) them anyway. And not because I'm so noble, but because I like to avoid conflict and I like to feel like I am generally liked.)

I dunno. What I can do is so small and so limited and sometimes even doing my best does no good.

Just kind of discouraged right now.

Also, and this is the small and petty and childish part of my personality, but: sometimes I wish I were the person who got their feelings "petted," the one people felt the need to be conciliatory with, instead of everyone being "Oh, Erica, she's so accommodating, you don't have to care about how she feels because she'll do whatever it is any way."  I am not good at being imperious and demanding (because my expectation is that if I were, people would roll their eyes and tell me to go pound sand, because I am in no way so unusual or outstanding that the things I do couldn't be done by someone else)

Also, I have another meeting this afternoon - at least this one is unlikely to be woeful in any way, and supposedly won't take over an hour - but I still have to go out for it, and it's about 40 degrees F and raining and honestly what I would really like to do would be to get back into my pajamas and just get into bed and read.

I told one of the women at church (who knows how many meetings I have and how deeply I hate them) that come Saturday, I might just get in my car and start driving and keep on driving. She laughed, because she knows. She knows I wouldn't do that because the force of duty is too strong in me. (I have to elder this coming Sunday, for example).

But yes. I will be very, very glad when 3 pm Thursday rolls around and all I have to think about for Friday is giving an exam (during which I can knit) and then going maybe to Whitesboro on Saturday (And no, the Honors' office has not called me back or e-mailed me back, so I can't even make plans for the 23rd yet).

I'm also glad I already bought Spring Break tickets because given the volunteer-quitting, if I had known, I might have sighed and rolled my eyes and said "Okay, I guess I need to be here over Spring Break" and just sacrificed getting to see my parents.

And I eldered this morning - was scheduled to, but still - and I *almost* didn't have the words. This was what I worried about. That I'll get up there and won't have anything to say. I guess I just start carrying a pre-written prayer or two in my purse, just in case. I did that in the early days when I was more nervous about it, before I realized I was pretty good at doing it spontaneously, but...maybe with age I'm losing some of my edge. (Or, it was just not a good morning for me. I did nearly cry during the first hymn, just because I was so frustrated over the thing I learned and also I couldn't be angry about it because...I just can't. I mean, I get what's going on and all, and I get that it's the person's choice. But everything everyone does has ripples, and sometimes those ripples adversely affect other people.) And I had to bless the food at the potluck, that's another thing that always falls to me. People kind of giggled because I did a variant on the old Buddhist saying about "It takes 99 people to make your food" and I can't tell if it was a nervous giggle ("where is she going with this, is something wrong") or a "wow that's a dumb way to phrase it" giggle, or something more positive.

I dunno. It doesn't help that "Singles' Awareness Day" is this week and I can't laugh at it (or feel grateful I don't have the pressure of coming up with a "good" gift for a boyfriend/husband) this year for some reason.  I know it's a stupid made-up holiday designed to enrich the card companies and all, but....I think I'm feeling a bit more the Eternal Footman holding my coat and snickering this year, and sometimes it does get a little cold and lonely doing everything on your own. (And there's a side-order there of You Don't Fit In, Do You - the kid who was always on the outside looking in)

ETA: if the rest of my meetings this week could be clones of the one I just got home from, things would be much better. Because at this meeting:

- the director (of a campus ministry program) met me at the door and hugged me (No, not creepy: She is the kind of person who spontaneously hugs everyone and it is nice to be hugged by her. And it makes me sad that I have to clarify that, but this is the late 2010s).

- we laughed quite a lot at things that were just nice and funny.

- a long-term member of the board was honored for his service.

(It helps that this group is currently doing OK financially and in terms of staff; that takes a little bit of the pressure off people and I think it allows people to relax to be happier in meetings)

I do have another duty added on, but a minor one: so that someone else could take over treasurer duties (for the person going off the board), I am now one of the check-signers. I've been warned that the process of getting "okayed" by the bank will take a while so we've blocked out an hour on the afternoon of the 5th to do it. But once again, it fits my pattern of volunteer work: grab on to the job that seems like the least woeful one for your particular brain-wiring, and then you don't have to do the more woeful ones. Or even just settle for the first job that comes up that seems like you could do and wouldn't make you cry. (Mainly what I'd have to do with this is sign checks for things like our PO box, and reimbursement checks, and paychecks for the interns. So while it requires some degree of physical presence, it's not like I have to go ask people for stuff - I am the one being asked to do something. And the place I'd have to go to sign things, I am pretty sure it's at the main office, which is on my way home from campus anyway. And I'm not the only designated signer so it won't be an issue when I am out of town)

But yeah. I don't know why some meetings are so dreadful, and others relatively pleasant, but I wish I had more of the pleasant kind.