Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Another long day....

 As I posted on Twitter early this morning, upon seeing the image here somewhere else: 

"This is what I tell myself every morning when I get out of bed"

(Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon: "Don't worry, she'll hold together....you hear me, baby? Hold together")

Coupla things happened today, ranging from annoying to unfortunate-if-not-drectly-affecting me. (From last to first):

- I had to clean the contacts for the batteries on the time/distance meter on my cross country ski simulator like it was freaking 1982 - the batteries, when they ran out (obviously between yesterday morning and today) corroded a bit. I remembered the old trick of a bit of vinegar on a cotton swab, and that actually fixed it. (I wonder how many of "today's kids" know that trick. Batteries used to be far worse about corroding though in our humid climate they seem to do it more than in drier ones)

- At lunch, I heard a loud bang. Thought nothing of it ("maybe it's a car door") and when I went out to check the mail, I looked at the roof to see if the pecan might have dropped a branch - but no. it hadn't. But when I got home and went out back to gather the soil for lab tomorrow - well, the elm tree had another split and there's a BIG chunk down. Luckily it did not come down ON anything but....I may have to just get that tree removed, as it's dropped more branches lately, and I know that's incredibly expensive to do. (And the logistic hassle, though at least once I get the right guy, he can work even when I'm not home). 

- And finally? A colleague lost their mom today. She had been ill (COVID, and there's a long story there I won't go into) and they have now had to drive back to where she lived to arrange a funeral with the other siblings, and to clear out her house and put it up for sale. They assume they'll be gone a week, which seems awfully short, but maybe the other sibs can carry some of it. They were asking people to cover classes but none of the times lined up with times I was NOT in class - but other people could do it. 

It's just sad and unfortunate and was probably avoidable, but....

In a sad and weird way, it makes me grateful I lost my dad when I did - first of all, because he had had to have LOTS of home-health people coming in, and in the year or so before vaccines, there's a chance he could have contracted it from one of them, and with congestive heart failure he'd have gone down fast, and maybe infected my mom, and taken her with him. But also - it happened in the summer, when I was not teaching, and so it was easy enough for me to get up there to help my mom and also have a tiny bit* of recovery time before I had to start teaching

(*Not enough, but still. And if my colleague comes to me for advice or consolation I'll do what I can. I know everyone is different and they seem not to have been as close to their mother as I was to my father, but I know it will still be very hard.)


Anyway. I give an exam tomorrow so that's ONE class sorted, and in another one I know already what I'm covering (prepped it heavily over the weekend, so....I've got that. And I got the exam for NEXT week written already (With four different classes, you are pretty much WRITING an exam every week and GRADING one every week - I like to give four exams in most classes, in the intro class there are FIVE). 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Some Monday things

 * The biggest thing - I finished the pillowcases for my niece on Sunday. Really, the hardest part of this is cutting the fabric because it's odd sizes (41" x 26 1/2" for the main part of the case, 41" x 10" for the edge) and making sure you have the fabric oriented how you want if it's a directional print

She is a big big fan of parakeets (she has a couple) and also parrots (friends of their family let her feed and look after their African greys when they went away for a few days). I saw the parrot fabric at JoAnn's some months back and thought I should make something for her, and then decided on pillowcases.

This is a close up showing the contrast "flange" - it was a fabric I had on hand already that coordinated. 

The pattern is the "Burrito Pillowcase" that All People Quilt put online a few years back - it's a .pdf file, you can do a search on "all people quilt burrito pillowcase" and find the directions. It's the easiest pattern I've seen and has the bonus of being done with all enclosed seams (French seams) so there is no raveling. 

* REALLY tired today. I feel like I didn't sleep even though I know I did. I don't know what it is. I found myself really reaching for words today, to the point where I was having to stop occasionally in class and search. It makes me worry. Makes me wonder if I should book an appointment with a neurologist. Then again, my counselor noted last week she has been finding a LOT of people saying that same exact thing - that they have brain fog, that their ability to do things is less than it was before. So I don't know. Maybe the thing is, if I were really suffering cognitive decline, I would not notice it, so being worried about it means I'm kind of OK?

* At least tomorrow is an easier day. Doing three lectures in a day is A LOT. I have two back-to-back and one - the stats one - takes the most prep, and then I have environmental policy, and I have to constantly check for updates. Currently my thing is to prep those classes the day before (or on Saturday for Monday). Ecology is less changeable and demanding and I have an hour before it meets so I can review my notes. And of course the intro class is Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I have three hours before it meets, so I can do whatever quick prep I need then.

* I read an article today on resilience fatigue and while I know the site is one "anyone" can write for (and in fact, "anyone" does), it did resonate with me, I think it's something a lot of people are feeling. The advice is interesting - like, that some days it's okay to just "tap out" early if you can't. Well, maybe in some professions that's easier; I couldn't just cancel class that easily. And "throw your heart over the bar" - I struggle with that (what does it even MEAN?) - I guess I already kind of do that because I can't multitask any more (seriously: if the phone rings while I am writing or reading it is VERY hard to get back into the task). But the "lose the to do list" is NOT something I can do, not in my position - the to-do list, written explicitly out, is the only way I won't crash and burn - there were two rather important things I nearly forgot today until I saw my note to myself about it. I can no longer count on "oh I will remember that" (I used to be able to, and that's another thing that worries me).

- small novelty projects. This is a good idea but also a hard one for me to work into my days. What I'd really like, I think, is the chance to do some small non-messy (or messy but in another space I don't need to clean) crafts/arts that only took an hour or so. 

- remember to laugh. I try to do this but it's hard. Some things I might have once found funny don't seem so funny to me right now - some of the gallows humor about the onward grinding horrible things in the world. Cat videos still make me chuckle but I haven't laughed HARD, like hard enough to cry, in a very, very long time. 

But yeah, I frequently "run on empty" these days and get the necessary stuff done even when I feel like I can't. I think that's why I'm knitting and quilting less; I just don't have anything left in the tank when I get home to craft.

But definitely: resilience is something that can be depleted. I know I used to once be much more resilient than I am now. 

 Honestly, I don't know what would "fix" me at this point. Maybe I'm beyond fixing? 

* It's still hot here, gonna be hot and dry for a long while yet. This contributes to my feeling of being stuck and trapped in time - nothing is going to change, nothing is going to get better, everything just grinds along the same day after day and I hate it.  LITERALLY nothing does change in my life, I am very bored with everything. Even the occasional little trips out don't help as much as they might. What I probably need is like a month, a whole damn month, when I don't have to worry about grocery shopping or cleaning or work or what am I going to fix for dinner and instead have fun and interesting and different things to do and people around me building me up and something in my life that CHANGES in a good way.

* I did buy myself a treat on Saturday during my once a week trip out for groceries - this time to Mart of Wal, because they have some things Pruett's does not. 

These are the three main (as best I can guess) characters from G5 My Little Pony - Sunny Starscout, Izzy Moonbow, and Pipp Petals. The new movie (and possibly show) is going to be on Netflix and I have to decide - do I want to subscribe to Netflix to see it (and other stuff). As it is I'm too busy for much viewing time (I never DID watch the Community episodes I wanted to see this weekend - too busy with school work on Saturday, too busy with sewing yesterday), but I admit I would like to see it. The colors seem "softer" to me and maybe more reminiscent of G3 - the generation right before the one that got me "into" Pony. I think this one is supposed to be more child-oriented (I think Hasbro got a bit burned out on the weirder wing of the Brony fandom, as did a lot of us who just like cute colorful innocent cartoons). But still, I might want to watch it.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

a quiet day

 I avoided the news; that seems to have been wise. Avoided most social media as well. 

Got up, ran to Mart of Wal for supplies for the coming week, did some piano practice. After lunch I went over and graded and did a few tasks I could get out of the way for next week to ease my life a little. (I didn't get the exam written I had thought of writing though). Came home, did some more piano practice.

My back had been hurting a bit - random pain always worries me (I am a bit of a hypochondriac) and after having had the stomach virus earlier this week I had had some continued abdominal discomfort so I always worry - is something else wrong? Could this actually be something like an ovarian cyst I'm misinterpreting? But I decided to try doing a workout (I hadn't done them Thursday or Friday, seeing as I wasn't feeling well). After that I felt much better so I presume the back and hip pain were genuinely either arthritis, or having worn bad (flat) shoes too much and not having been on my feet in supportive shoes (I have orthotics but you cannot wear them in sandals)

So that's good. I always feel the best of all right after getting over some minor illness. I don't know if my body produces anti-pain chemicals and I still have some of those left after the originating pain is gone, or if it's merely the relief of feeling normal vs. the discomfort I had been feeling, or if it's having the worry of "what if this ISN'T just a dumb little virus this time" lifted. 

I read through my prep for Clean Air Act for next week, and knitted a bit, and took a shower and put a mudpack on my face which I now need to wash off. 

Tomorrow is church and I might make my niece's pillowcases after that, would be nice to get those done

Friday, September 10, 2021

some random thoughts

 perhaps needs a content warning: talk of the 20-year anniversary of 9/11.

I dunno. This year it hits differently. I know there will be a LOT about it, already have planned to mostly stay off social media (well, I have grading I will have to do anyway over at work, and I might try to get the pillowcases for my niece made). I don't know. I know the news channels will have it all over and I fear that others will have "documentaries" (some of them more like: shockumentaries) and I'm not even counting on having the vet shows on Nat Geo Wild. 

Yes, I suppose in some sense it's important to remember what happened. Like (some of us) remembering Pearl Harbor, even though it happened a long time ago.

(20 years, I suppose, is a long time. I commented elsewhere that I was glad this was on a Saturday this year; I am not sure I would feel like responding if earnest 18-year-old college students asking me what I remembered about the day. Oh, I have a LOT of memories, I just don't feel like replaying them). 

But other than remembering that there were families that got a big hole ripped in them then, and that there's evil in the world.....what else can we do?

I also admit this year it hits differently because we had a couple days in early 2021 when we were losing a World Trade Center's worth of people to COVID. And we're still losing people. And the world is losing people; many countries are far worse of than we are despite our anti-vaccinationists and everything having become horrificly, stupidly political about this.  

So I feel kind of flattened this year. People were talking on the news about "people came together in that time" and I kind of snorted and said "yeah for about six weeks" but really, yeah - once the shock of it was over we kind of went back to sniping at each other like we had been. And the same thing applies now, but seemingly worse. And we called first responders heroes then - and many of them are dying of horrible diseases probably traceable to what they experienced on-site. And we call nurses and doctors heroes now, and they're quitting in record numbers because they CAN'T any more. I guess "hero" is another word for "gets chewed up by life."

Someone linked the "jumping man" article and I started to read it, and had to nope out - I could feel myself tensing up and tearing up. Granted, that was, for me, the worst thing in the whole parade of bad things - that people, apparently with no choice left in life, who could not escape (hemmed in by fire) chose instead to end it by jumping to their deaths. And I can't imagine that; I can't imagine what one thinks in those last desperate seconds when one realizes there is no escaping death, the only choice is "by fire" or "by gravity." 

What a horrible time. What horrible times these are. In many ways, what a horrible world we inhabit, and yet - many of us make it worse either thoughtlessly (literally) or deliberately because we want to give back as good as we get or whatever. One principle I've tried to live by - and not always succeeded - is "do not make another person's day worse by your deliberate actions." But it seems some people just choose to be cruel, or difficult, or whatever. 

And yet, our current difficulties - they are different. It's a slow-rolling tragedy, it's not over, there may NEVER be an "over" to this.  There IS no coming together in this, despite many protestations in 2020 that "we're all in this together" (some were in it in 7000 square foot homes, in cities where grocery delivery was simple and easy, and were with family members who were compatible and loving; some were working as "essential" grocery workers who would get fired if they got sick and didn't show up to work; some were freelancers in tiny apartments in cities that locked down hard and they didn't see much of the outdoors for months; some people didn't feel human touch (other than maybe a doctor's appointment) for over a year). People seem meaner to me now, though I don't know if that's true or if it's just 20 more years of being battered by life, or if it's me having over-romanticized what people were like during the seven plus months in 2020 where I really didn't see another human for more than a few minutes at a time. I've lost touch with a few people I was friendly with; one moved away, another has gone full hermit, and since I had relatively few in-person friends before, losing contact with two is a huge thing.

I also admit: I am deeply disappointed. I thought the pandemic would be "mostly over" by now - but here, the virus is still spreading. I have two students on their SECOND 14-day quarantine of the semester. I know medical centers are overwhelmed. And so I'm still masking in public, still limiting trips out, still having limited human contact. Because I want to avoid a breakthrough infection and I don't want to risk maybe passing it to a vulnerable person - or an unvaccinated kid. And it stinks. I'm tired and sad and it feels harder to find things that are rewarding in life - I am still pretty much in 'survival' mode, where I'm getting my work done but that's about it. 

One thing I miss are simple companionable things. Most of the things I am still doing - that I still can do, because a lot of groups have just suspended themselves for now - are things where I have responsibility: eldering at church, running CWF meetings, secretary in AAUW. I just want something where I can be part of a group, where I can participate, without having to help run the darn thing. And I can't find ANYTHING. 

And yeah yeah, I'm doing all the self-care junk they recommend: trying to eat healthfully, getting exercise, trying to sleep (but balancing time to cook and exercise with time to sleep is hard sometimes when you work full time). I'm trying to do some "mindfulness" though mostly that's retreating into a book before bed. The one thing I don't have is much contact with other people (other than over cursed Zoom, and I am so tired of Zoom I could scream) and maybe that's why the other "self care" seems not to be working that well. 

But yeah, I'm just tired. It feels to me right now that there are 20 separate dumpster fires going on in the world, and that's eating my attention, and I feel like remembering ANOTHER terrible thing - a thing that happened a long time ago, when I was younger and still idealistic and still felt like what I did made a positive difference in the world - is just one thing too many, especially since there is literally nothing I can do to help it. (Of course, there's precious little to nothing I can do to help the current problems either). 

It was not a good week of teaching - I didn't do well on Wednesday, in retrospect it was probably because I was lowgrade sick with that stomach but and didn't realize it. Gave an exam this week which I graded and performance was not good, and I don't know if it's me not teaching well, the students being poorly prepared, or two years of "virtual" learning having just broken the students to the point where they're going to have a hard time coming back from it - and I don't have the skills or energy to get them there. And I have more grading tomorrow. 

the only bright spot I can think of is that I found out "Community" is on Amazon Prime for free - I was thinking of the blanket fort episode the other day, and wanted to see it again, and I guess I can - maybe tomorrow evening I watch some selected episodes while knitting

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Thursday afternoon things

 * Yesterday was just busy. Three lectures, a lab, two evening meetings at church....I was WIPED when I finally got home.

* Also, I didn't realize it at the time, but it seems likely I was brewing a small stomach virus. (HOW, I ask you, HOW? I mask up in public ALL THE TIME except when outdoors). But I had chills last night (took my temperature, it was actually a degree below normal for me), was SUPER tired, had sort of abdominal upset, some, ah.....other issues....but never vomited, and the lack of vomiting and the fact that I'm not close enough to anyone to pick up germs made me worry it was something else, either a new food intolerance, or something structurally wrong with my intestines, or some other bad thing

but then my next-door colleague mentioned that she had been sick (and yeah: she looked pale and was drinking Gatorade to try to rehydrate). She thinks her kid brought it home from daycare but noted that it's around out there (and I've heard of other people having it). When I heard that I felt a lot better; knowing it's a self-limiting minor virus makes me stop worrying if I have some weird hematoma or something going on somewhere, or that some new food was poisoning me. And I feel mostly-better now, was able to eat a normal lunch. (I think I will take at least one more day off working out to be sure I'm fully healed up)

* I'm close to the end of "Gaudy Night" and I admit I will be sad to see the book end. It's been weirdly comforting to immerse myself in that world - for one thing, it's kind of a 'school story' and I guess I've always felt comfortable on educational campuses. But also, the interactions between Harriet and Peter (and every fiber of my being screaming at her "SAY YES TO HIM, SAY YES YOU FOOL"). They don't make men like Peter Wimsey - maybe they never actually did but that kind of charming, kind, witty figure is nice to daydream about. (Yes, I know, the book is dated in some ways, I tend to be good at ignoring that sort of thing). But also the sort of petty squabbles and unkindnesses that crop up in a group of women trying to work together - that feels very true to life to me. 

I'm not QUITE to the point of "who did it" yet but I'm pretty sure of who it is.

I suspect the other Wimsey novels are different to this one, but I also think I want to read more. I believe I have a copy of Murder Must Advertise on the shelf somewhere, and that might be a good one to try (without investing in the others in the series, as much as I'd like to read the series in order now, though I guess Gaudy Night is one of the later entries in the series anyway)

(Ah, and looking up the series, I did "spoil" a bit to myself about "do they ever marry?")

* I may choose a different sort of book for the next read. I have a set of Arthurian-themed YA novels (I think "The Seeing Stone" is the first in the series) and maybe that would be a good "fall is coming" read. I find these days I don't have a lot of comprehension for difficult books (so some of the older, "good," literary YA fiction is just right) and especially no tolerance for violence or hopelessness/nihilism. Oddly enough a lot of older mystery novels DO work against that (And some modern ones: I read an article the other day (can't find it again) about PD James' faith and how it influenced her mystery novels: something about how there is not a hopelessness there, that there is a chance for things to be restored. I get a similar feeling from Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache novels - that there ARE good people in the world, who strive to do good, to help people find reconciliation and forgiveness, and yes, hope. (at the end of one - I forget which one it is, and yes, this is a spoiler, but - a troubled-but-beloved colleague of Gamache's redeems himself, goes through recovery, and winds up marrying someone he loved for a long time - and I cried at that scene. Not because I was sad, but because....it seemed so right, and it was a world with HOPE in it.). I don't know what (if any) faith Penny has but I get the feeling she must have some sense of a bigger purpose to this life, because of how she writes. (She is one of my favorite "modern" writers - perhaps my absolute favorite, I don't read many "modern" novels)

* I have to get a copy of the old "Burrito pillowcase" pattern again and remember SOON to make the parakeet and parrot patterned pillowcases for my niece's birthday (which is next month). I got a nice nature-themed birthday card for her at the Chickasaw visitor's center. 

I thought a set of pillowcases would be a nice gift - she's going to be nine and I never know how "sophisticated" kids get at a young age. I was not at ALL "sophisticated" at nine and would have wanted more stuffed animals*, but I have heard of kids that age putting away most toys (other than video games or sports gear) as "babyish" and....yeah. I don't want my gift rejected or to be seen as an insult. But pillowcases? Especially in a fabric that features one of her special interests? That should be good.  

(*heck, at 52, I would like a stuffed animal as a gift on a gift-giving occasion)

* That might be a weekend thing. I pushed hard this morning (before giving an exam, so no class prep to do) and wrote the three forms of the take home exam (mostly by making the key for one in Excel, and then just cutting and pasting and changing the numbers for the other ones) for the stats class - that's next week. Tomorrow I can grade the exams I gave today. Because more and more I feel like I need to free up weekend time for my own things - either to make stuff, or to work around the house, or - in a few weeks - start up again on sampling.

* And at some point I need to remember to weave in the ends and block the parts of the Pocketses vest, and then make the pockets and the front and sleeve bands. One thing I have noticed recently - I HOPE it's just a stress thing and not an aging/cognitive decline thing - but if I have something out of sight, I often forget about it. Which is why I bought myself a whole day planner

Which I keep on my desk and work and write all the things I need to do down in it so I don't forget things. (And yeah, it borders on what's sometimes called "toxic positivity" in some of the messages, this was for the start of September:

1. What does that even MEAN?

2. I'm not sure I have the energy for that some days, it would be nice to have someone HELP be my rainbow a little bit)

* Torn between the desire to keep working on Incunabula so I have a prayer of getting it finished in time to wear this winter, and start some whole new thing.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

some sweater progress

 I finished the first full repeat of the design on Incunabula

The pattern is written to be quite short-waisted, but the author (Karie Westermann) gives really clear directions of how you can alter it - I'm going to do an additional repeat (maybe 2, I'll have to measure and think about it) before starting the waist decreases, because I am long-waisted and I prefer not to be "cut off" by the hem of a sweater. 

(Yes, I bought extra yarn for it when I planned it; I think even then I realized I'd have to make it longer)

The yarn is Berroco Remix Light; it's pretty nice to work with and I like the color

Also, one thing I did buy myself yesterday that I'll eventually have to carefully attach to my hiking staff:

I'd also like to get one from Cuyahoga National Park (I think their Friends Of sells them) and maybe if I go to other parks in the future, get more. This one is nice because it's enameled metal - the original decal on the staff is literally a decal and I do worry a little about preserving it (though I did take the staff with me yesterday, and it was helpful on some of the steeper parts of the trails). 

These used to be a fairly common thing, I think, among hardcore hikers - I seem to remember back in the day you could *earn* them at Summit Metroparks by completing a certain number of hikes. (I vaguely remember that we had some, but they never got put on the staffs, and who knows where they might be if they even still exist...)

Monday, September 06, 2021

Labor Day trip

 I decided last week, "Well, if I leave early in the day, and if I go to the more remote hiking areas, maybe Chickasaw National Recreation Area would not be too crowded for a quick trip out." Because I need time out, and I need to do things, and there are not a lot of things (yet) I am extremely comfortable doing indoors. 

I left here around 7:30. It was actually hazy/foggy and hard to see much of the way up (it is very humid here right now). I got up there around 9, longer than it normally takes but I had to drive carefully. (That was good, though, they were just opening the visitor's center and also the restrooms therein). The campgrounds were PACKED - I saw that as I drove by* and the swimming areas were already getting busy, I suppose it's a last-hurrah for summer, and it's close enough to OKC for people to drive down to it (probably about an hour and a half)

(*I am not big on camping, but I am especially not big on camping in a really crowded campground - with the noise of other people, and the smell of their cooking or campfires, and having to jockey for shower time in the bathhouse. So if I were going to a park distant enough I'd want to stay over night, I'd book a room in a lodge or hotel, where I had my own bathroom and an actual bed).

Anyway, the area around the visitor's center wasn't too bad early on.

I joked on Twitter (after sharing several videos of the various creek areas) that I am fundamentally a water Pokemon, and I periodically need the sound of running water.

I walked out to the springs

 This is Antelope Springs, the more natural of the two. Some years it goes dry; this year we've had a wet year so it flows pretty freely.

This is Buffalo Springs; it was "tamed" in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It's pretty, you can see the outflow area. I don't know if these were ever used as "healing" springs (like the now-dry Bromide Spring was) or if they were just scenic.

Water striders (Hemiptera, family Gerridae, don't know what species). Also known as Jesus bugs because of their ability to "walk on water" (they exploit the surface tension of water and their very light weight). These are on Buffalo Springs; they're pretty reliably found there. 

Some plants:

 Inland sea-oats, also known as fish-on-a-pole, which is a really common grass found in open woodlands here.

Leavenworth eryngo, one of my favorite plants here. It looks like teasel or a thistle but it's actually related to carrots - there is a closely related but less-spectacular plant in the tallgrass prairies up north called rattlesnake master that has white flower heads without the bracts.

I THINK this might be Ruellia?

And a (blurry) fern. I joked on Twitter: "Ehrmagerd, FERNS" because these are unexpected; it's so dry here you don't often see them. This was out on the Dry Creek Trail, a loop trail that few people seem to take (so I like it - but it also goes through interesting landscapes):

Interesting old tree, probably a black oak of some kind - I didn't check what it was

there are lots of these little prairie openings. It's fairly dry prairie; I saw side-oats grama in there and also, I think, hairy grama.

Then I ran up to Bromide Hill for a bit. This was less fun because it was already crowded, and people are just....loud....now, I guess. 

Still I got some photos

Another less ideal thing about people: I'm seeing more litter in the park than I remembered. One of the rangers was asking a family not to drop their disposable masks out on the trail (and I saw her going through with a bag and 'grabbers' picking up trash). and I saw some litter up on Bromide Hill.

I grabbed a few pieces on my way back out and disposed of them but it's not enough to really make a difference:

I dunno. Litter just bugs me because it's one person putting a minor convenience of not having to pack their drink cup back out against the aesthetic benefit of everyone else. And of course litter tends to attract more litter; if everyone seems to be doing it, people think there's no point in NOT doing it.

I dunno. It's just another societal problem that also feels like it's indicative of a lot of other problems we have. 

I ran to the Sonic for a quick indifferent lunch (that I could at least eat in my car). Driving out I saw lots of family groups in the park having big picnics and cookouts and I admit I felt slightly sad that I didn't have one to go to. But I also remember now how often at those kind of things I kind of wound up off at the fringes with no one to talk to, even in my family (I am much younger than one set of cousins, somewhat older than another, and the same-age cousins and I were not always on the same wavelength). Maybe instead of bemoaning that I don't have a lot of human contact now, I just have to recognize I NEVER did?


I did go to the Chickasaw cultural center that the tribe co-runs with the NPS (they have some historical displays, and usually feature a Chickasaw artist or two - this time it was a photographer and a stained-glass artist) and I also bought a postcard to send to a friend who collects them and a nice birthday card for my niece's birthday in another month (I HAVE to make her pillowcases v. soon, maybe this coming weekend). I also used the "penny smasher" to make a smashed penny with a different design from the one I did before. 

And I went to the Tea and Spice Exchange and got some more coconut oolong tea and a few other things. 

Driving back was not so great - I took a wrong turn and wound on a road that was unpleasant to drive on and wound up taking a half hour longer to get home....

Friday, September 03, 2021

One normalish thing

 I gave my first in-person exam since early March 2020 today.

I had burned out on online exams: yes, in some ways grading is simpler, and for "objective" questions (like matching), you can set it to automatically grade so you don't have to (you still have to grade the essays). But making the exam in the LMS is a giant pain, especially if you want to use questions that you hand wrote (I still have to compose things longhand and type them in). It's worse, somehow than typing in a word-processor, and there's sure a lot more to remember.

And also: an online exam seems easier to cheat. I would get horrible copypasta for my essay questions that seemed to be someone typing in a few keywords from the question and just ganking what they found, and in a lot of cases it was laughably inappropriate for the question. Oh, grading was easy: a zero and "this does not answer the question" in the comments box. But it was bad for my morale to think that students were so willing to cheat - and thought I would not catch it (that was the worst: "Do they think I'm THAT stupid?")

So I wrote a paper exam and made a big hairy deal about "exams are in person now; if you are ill or must isolate, e-mail me and we will set up a make-up time, or it can be your drop exam.

And I sent it to print shop - surprised I remembered all I had to do, down to what our printing account number was - and got it back. 

And I remembered to bring some knitting. In the before-times, I often worked on the stockinette portion of a sweater (in fact - the Pocketses vest, which I really need to block so I can make the pockets and the button bands and finish it up - was one I worked on back in 2019 and early 2020). I don't have a sweater like that going now - the current Incunabula is pretty complex and requires a lot of thought, and I need something where I don't need to be tied to a pattern or watching my hands the whole time. But I did have a version of the Antler Toque from Tin Can Knits on the needles, and had only completed 2 of the 8 cable repeats, so I figured I could get one or two more done. And I made a big deal last night of bagging up, and setting the bag on top of the shoes I was most likely to wear, because my memory is NOT GOOD right now and I will forget things and then remember them when it's too late.

But I remembered the knitting.

So I walked into the class - my last of the day, and glad I was giving an exam so I would not need to talk. (I am tired by Fridays these days). And I handed out the exam, and pulled out the knitting.

And I needed a moment. A lot of feelings. A mix of "things are maybe heading back to normal" and "it's been a century since I did this" and I had to stare into the middle distance for a moment. But then I picked up my cable needle and tucked the skein under my arm, like I did in the before-times, and started to roam around the class while people worked. And it was kind of a relief - eyes stayed on their own papers, I know no one was googling answers, and I had a stack of paper exams to go through (I got them graded this afternoon) and put comments on (even though I warned them "you won't like my handwriting" and yes, that's another benefit of the terrible LMS way of doing exams, at least they don't have to interpret my chicken scratch comments). 

But here's hoping to the return of more things from the past. Already I'm looking forward to getting to my mom's for Thanksgiving - I do not think things can be any worse than I returned in August, and apparently Amtrak is mandating vaccines or regular testing for their employees (and I can stay in my compartment) and maybe I can get out and circulate a bit more and maybe, just maybe, something like Bell Choir will return eventually so I get that human connection I need?

figured it out

 I figured out why the glitch with the presentation last night upset me so much: I was perceiving it as "this is a connection with other people; this is me getting to (sort of) be part of a group I belong to but haven't been able to meet with" and it not working was just kind of....a bridge too far last night.

I'm better this morning but still tired and sad and just wondering if there will be good things in the future to make having a future seem worth it. I can't just spend the rest of my life grinding at work; that feels futile. I need something to give my life happiness and meaning and no, work doesn't really give the same meaning it once did. 

Maybe this is just my 40 years wandering in the desert? Hopefully I at least get to SEE the Promised Land before I die. But I have screamed to the seemingly empty air at times about why I was forsaken, why I worked hard all my life and tried to follow the rules, just to be met with....all this. 

If I had actual talent I'd turn this agony into art but I don't so I just have to sit, uncomfortably, with it.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Thursday evening things

 * Got the sweater onto the larger needles (the ribbing is done) and started the body pattern. But I'm not as happy as I might have been this evening, because:

* The ONPS advertised that they were broadcasting their meeting for tonight, and since AAUW cancelled, I figured "hey, I can watch the talk!" Went to the site at the appointed time, nothing....turns out the university campus (in OKC) they were using must have had their tech guys go home for the day and something went wrong. I stuck around for a half hour of watching silent guys try to fix it (I sent them a message saying there was no sound, they said they were working on it) but finally noped out after I got too upset with it. 

I was looking forward to it! It was something that would be intellectually stimulating. I feel like my brain is DYING because all I do is get my work done and then come home and watch reruns on tv - literally everything I watch other than news is re-runs, and the news is so horrifically bad it's not worth watching; I'd rather not be apprised of the slow descent of the world into chaos. I don't feel like paying for Netflix or any of the other streaming services that might have a tiny bit of educational content, and there's nothing educational on cable. 

And I don't have the volition to seek things out. I need things that are a low activation energy to get involved in - I don't want to do twenty minutes of searching online for something.

I was surprised at how upset I was but.....there have been so many disappointments in this and it's just hard to weather yet another one.

And no, I was too tired to read. Sometimes you just want to LISTEN instead of having to make written words make sense in your head. I find it harder to read these days which is another thing that worries me. 

* Also half my class showed up virtually rather than in person today. As far as I can determine, I still have two people on quarantine; the rest just decided not to come in. I made a big fat hairy deal about "THE EXAM IS STILL IN PERSON" but softened it with "e-mail me if you are quarantining, we will work something out" but I am d....d if I will spend a couple hours of my life wrestling the exam I wrote in Word today into BlackBoard just so people can cheat their way through it (which I noticed with past online exams, which is why I went back to in person, where I can at least give people the hairy eyeball as they work. 

* And yeah, yeah, I know: I still have it better than most people in this. I'm not an MD having to intubate people. I'm not a grocery worker getting screamed at by someone. I'm not a school board member having to deal with enraged parents across the whole political spectrum. But I'm tired and I'm sad and I feel like I gave up a lot for very little return. 

* Part of this is it's the height of allergy season for me and it could be that I'm feeling stupid because of allergies but it does worry me when I find myself reading a sentence multiple times to make sense of it, or I make lots of typos when I type, because I worry it's a symptom of something progressive and irreversible. Also it's really hot out and when it's hot like this I get cabin fever worse than I do in winter - even when I lived in Michigan when winter was actually cold and messy.

* Despite that, I MIGHT go up to Chickasaw NRA on Monday (my sole Federal Holiday off for this semester). It's going to be hot but if I leave early I could probably do easy hikes for a couple hours before it got too hot. And I could check out the nature center gift shop - I think they had hiking-staff badges and now that I brought the staff my dad bought for little me back around 1975 back home with me, I want to add badges from places I've been. (I may order one from the Friends of Cuyahoga Valley National Park). Also I could go to the tea and spice shop up there (if they're open) and the Chickasaw (tribal) visitor's center which was nice in itself (had art displays and a small bookstore). 

* But I just feel like....I don't know. I want something but I don't know what. I very much want the pandemic to be over but at the same time I'm slowly realizing with horror it will never be over in the sense I want it to be: it will eventually be safer to circulate, but probably every fall and winter from now on there will be outbreaks, and we'll probably be begged to mask up for a few months a year (which the few of us anxious, civic-minded chumps will do, and get laughed at for doing) and there may have to be a "virus forecast" like weather forecasts to help us decide if it's safe to circulate widely or not. And probably much travel is off the table for me forever now. And I don't know how to replace some of the things I've lost or the people I've lost and I just feel like my life is a lot smaller now. 

I want to trust there will be good things in the future, things worth going back out for, but I have no evidence to suggest that to me at the moment. I've realized just how small and limited my town is - 20 pot dispensaries but no bookstore, nowhere much doing outdoor dining, and I have to drive an hour's round trip for a large nice supermarket. I don't WANT to have to move away when I retire but I might, though I don't know where I'd go that I could afford a decent place to live.

* Also, I'm a little.....I don't know if angry is the right word? Because it was me being me and misinterpreting? But someone I kinda cared about dumped a BIG piece of their personal life-news on me, and said in the e-mail, "we should get together for lunch at somewhere where we can eat outside some time" and I was like "cool, give me a week to get classes shaken down" and now they're just kind of ghosting me, and I don't know if (a) they're overwhelmed like a lot of us are, (b) they're embarrassed about having revealed the big personal thing to someone who was probably at best a friendly acquaintance but not a deep friend or (c) the "let's do lunch" was once again a polite kiss-off and my literal-minded self interpreted it as an invitation, and it wasn't, and once again I feel like "people I thought cared about me really don't"

I don't know. I wish people wouldn't use 'let's go get lunch some time' or 'let's go for a drink' as code for "well, bye for now, I'll e-mail you again some time" because I ALWAYS over interpret it. 

I've e-mailed this person since but it's just kind of ... technical stuff and I made no reference to the invitation in case it was a polite kiss-off, and they've not mentioned it, so, okay then.

* But I can tell my feelings are very raw and close to the surface and I've been a lot more forward about things in class than I was in the before times (like: "You might not realize it but it takes quite a few hours to convert an exam to BlackBoard format, and frankly, at this point in the pandemic I no longer have the bandwidth to do that") and I don't know if I'm saying too much or not but I also don't want to just break down crying in class, which might be the other option.

* I need to learn how to take disappointment again without letting it ruin my whole evening. I used to be better at this. But not being able to see that talk really threw me for a loop; it would have felt like a tiny bit of human connection, but I don't even get that. 

now I understand why hermits get weird and become unable to reintegrate with society.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Need this today


Last night was a bad night; one of the evenings when the full horror of "you might be living like this for five more years" descended on me, where I thought of all the small companionable things I used to do with other people and will probably not do again haunted me, where I was troubled by "it's going to be 106 F heat index tomorrow, do I make my students go outside in that or do I change labs on a dime and work with people who won't have time to read the new lab?" and just the attendant decision-fatigue, and also the feeling that I'm stuck in Groundhog Day but with no chance at a redemption arc because apparently my trying to be kind and understanding doesn't cut ice in this particular AU....and yeah, I cried a lot. 

As I told a friend: I'm definitely not okay. I'm okay enough to function, but I'm not okay.

At least today it's a new month and yes I screamed "RABBIT RABBIT" as the first words out of my mouth when rising in order to maybe use superstition to improve things.

And F it, I'm calling it: It's fall. It might be 106 F outside and the West Coast might be on fire, but it's fall now, so it's time for Pumpkin Dancing Man and at some point soon I will get out my Halloween lights and put them up, and my Halloween doormat. And last night I burned the "First Frost" candle I bought - it's peppermint and conifer and a little bit of citrus, and yes it DOES smell to me like an autumn evening. 

I expect I'll have more bad days before this is over, and maybe worse days than last night was. But maybe I have to look for the small things in this, I don't know.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tuesday morning things

 * My mom called last night - UPS delivered a mailer to her. Containing the check from our friend Jo's estate. (She had left a healthy chunk of change to my mom and dad, with the stipulation that if one predeceased the other, the remaining one was to get it all). I don't know for sure how these things work but I wonder if that means in the coming week the two items (a wall hanging and a small quilt) that she left me will arrive. It would be nice to know to expect them - my mom wasn't expecting the check (UPS left the mailer between the screen door and the front door) and it would have been bad if someone else had found it first. 

Mom says that since my brother and I were also friends of Jo, we should share in the money. I don't know. If my mom wants do to that, fine. (My dad's estate was sizable and she has all she will need; she's been able to fix a few deferred maintenance things recently). I'm still contemplating a new roof for this fall and I probably need some other little handyman type stuff done but (a) I have to get my house cleaned up better first before someone comes in (b) I want the current pandemic wave to lessen a bit before I have workers IN my house and (c) I have to FIND someone trustworthy - not so hard for the roof, harder for general handyman type work. 

*I've had to go to a big daily planner so I don't forget things. I found a nice one online, it is pink and sparkly and has "Organized Chaos" written on the front in the "Live Love Laugh" script but I find it funny in an ironic way because at BEST my life is organized chaos. So every week I write down what I need to do, and I write down things as I remember them, and I just keep it open to the week we are on so I know. I also have a wall calendar with all the exam dates and things written on it so I know what we are doing THEN.

It's tiring. I marvel at how much I did in the before-times, before all the loss and upheaval. I feel a lot these days like I have one of those streets department "boots" on my brain - I can't work as fast or for as long and I am not as motivated.

* I'm probably on some list at the physical plant because I've sent in so many requests about the air conditioning/ventilation not working in classrooms (I teach in four different rooms). The one I walked into at 8 yesterday morning was about 85 to 90 F. I made it through class but it was not comfortable. A colleague of mine (who is expecting) also complained about it being too hot. I also feel like "lack of ventilation" is not a good thing in a pandemic that spreads as aerosols. (I wound up opening a window, and I'll do it again if I have to)

* Also the "wired" internet connection crashes at least once a day, at least in the faculty wing (it has not yet happened in class, though I have gotten "internet is unstable!" warnings while on Zoom. And there is literally nothing I can do if it crashes; I would just have to keep teaching for the folks who are there). In fact, I am writing this while waiting for the internet to come back up - it takes anywhere from 5 - 15 minutes. I don't know why, no one has told us. But these periodic minor failures are distressing and make me worry.

* moreso because it does feel like we're going backwards; in a town to the north of me the city hall is shut down for the rest of the week because someone tested positive for covid and everyone is apparently isolating (which tells me no one there was vaccinated; current protocol most places now is "if you're vaccinated and exposed, you can just mask up and go out unless you have symptoms) and I very much do not like the feeling that things are just failing and it's like we're plunged back into 2020 again. Hard not to give up hope, especially when things looked so good in June. 

* Internet came back. I should try e-mailing IT and see if they'll tell me anything

* But yeah, looking for reasons to hope or be happy and it's just....hard right now. Don't know if depressed or if the state of the world is just that bad. I mean, I'm functional, I get my work done, I'm sleeping okay, when I get engaged in working on something I'm happy enough - but when I sit and think, then it all falls apart and I find myself wondering "okay so is this forever now, just an endless spiral of new variants and bad news and burned-out medical professionals quitting?"

When do you decide "it's not me that's sad, it's just that the world is sad-making right now"?

How did people find joy in wartime, in famine, in difficulty, in previous pandemics? For me the hardest thing in this one has been the loss of connections: AAUW cancelled their first fall meeting because of concern. Bell choir may or may not be coming back. While it's nice to have my evenings free it also means I sit there and THINK and that's bad. And I also miss the little connections with other people; I have too few of those these days and I think that affects me. I also think it makes me feel the negative interactions, or just the general "ugh, HUMANITY!" more when I'm not going "well, yeah, humanity may be a mess but that one particular person is okay" and I wonder....I wonder if the isolation a lot of us are experiencing is actually doing that, and it's leading to more polarization and more things like 'this person doesn't agree with  me on things 100% so I can't with them any more and I will put them on ignore" and while I've done that for some BIG things, I can see me doing it for smaller things and....that's not good. Also not good for us being back out in the world again if that's ever possible.

*(It came back. I e-mailed IT to ask them what is up. It's possible it's limited to my building and none of them know. Heck, it could be that the server rack is in the same room as the microwave and maybe every time someone makes a cup of coffee these days it scrambles the server for a few minutes) 

* And hey, my e-mail to IT did something! They were unaware of the issue - telling me it's a "local" issue- and are sending someone to look into it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

sweater grows slowly

 I've mostly been working on the newest sweater, with (of course) interruptions for other things.

It's complex, and it's dk weight (so small-ish gauge) and you knit the whole thing at once until you "divide" for where the sleeves go in (no seams; the parts are not knit as separate fronts and backs):

and here's a close up of the stitch pattern thus far. When I finish a couple more rows I change to bigger needles and start the cabled pattern that makes the design. This is just an eyelet plus rib:

Saturday I did run to JoAnn's; bought a few things for future projects. Went to Brookshire's, got fancier foods than I can get in town (they have a better produce section, for example). Also just getting OUT of town is something.

The construction is still a thing but the bridge is a little less scary now because they've been able to widen the lanes a bit. I'm hoping they finish this soon. 

I am contemplating the idea of eventually (like, within the next month or so) going to Quixotic Fibers for in person yarn shopping. I do not NEED yarn but there is just something about being inside a dedicated yarn shop, run by knitters or crocheters, who know yarn and care about the craft and are interested in what you want to make and can share advice.

I also got ahead on the grading (went in Saturday afternoon to do it) and got the exam for the end of this week written - I think maybe I'll take a hat I'm working on for invigiliating (this will be the first time of knit-and-invigilate since early 2020! All my exams up to this point were online and when we were more worried about "fomites," I would not have brought my knitting in to campus for fear of contamination). 

I guess it's good to be back on campus even with the precautions and the slight concern about "breakthrough" infections (anecdotally: they seem a lot more common than reported, I know of several people who have had them, most recently the sister and partner of an aunt-by-marriage, though in their cases maybe there were issues of immune suppression - apparently the man had had cancer earlier and recently concluded treatment). It's still extra work with having a Zoom option for people isolating (or "sick," I had several people on the sick list this morning and I wonder if "I might have been exposed to COVID" is the new euphemism for hungover, though I suspect my voice is louder over Zoom than in person). And I don't love the seating charts, and I suspect the students do not, but whatever. 

It DOES look like we'll be able to "give it up for Day 15!" again this semester; that will be Friday, and so far no huge outbreak of cases, so hopefully we stay in person? A lot of the students ARE choosing to get vaccinated, which will help with that. 

But being on campus does mean a little change-of-scenery every day

Like, I saw this:

It's an attempted murder! (heh. Get it?)

I also mowed the lawn this afternoon - in addition to doing a workout this morning, which means I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow (don't need to do a work out, it's a rest day). Also it's my one-class day, so that's easier.

Friday, August 27, 2021

some good news

 Negative covid test on my brother; apparently sinus infection brought on by seasonal allergies.

I am very relieved. I know breakthrough infections are a thing, supposedly not common, but everyone I know seems to know someone who's had one.

I also got the first exam of the new semester written this afternoon. 

Other than that, I'm tired. I need to change the sheets on my bed and I think tomorrow I am going to brave going to JoAnn's (I need "time in the yard," so to speak, beginning to feel trapped) and will go to a larger nicer grocery store while I'm down there. I just hope the construction is not too horrific.

more later, need to change the laundry over and fix my bed

Thursday, August 26, 2021

and something else

 My mom called today: "I hesitated to call you, but...."

She tends to beat around the bush a lot, but I kind of knew what it was when she said she'd talked to my brother. 

He has a bad headache, a runny nose and cough, and a low fever. AFAIK no muscle aches, loss of taste, or GI symptoms, but.

He is fully vaccinated BUT he is NOT careful about masking in public. 

The good news, if there is any, is it's been two weeks since they were around her and his symptoms just developed today so I assume he picked it up somewhere in his hometown and not when they were running around Chicago at the numismatics show (and then went back to my mom)

The bad news, if this is COVID: his daughter is 8 so she can't be vaccinated yet. My sister-in-law is fully vaccinated (federal employee, she had to be, even if she hadn't already been eager to). 

I said about eight different times, "he needs to go get tested. He needs to go get tested." He is isolating in one bedroom but still. He needs to go get tested. (Also it might not be too late for the antibody treatment, if that's available to him?)

He does have a lot of respiratory crap - his asthma is worse than mine and he regularly gets sinus infections and I'm desperately hoping that's what this is, but....

he's five years younger than I am so that's what, 47, which is not in the most dangerous group, and this would be a breakthrough infection but still, I worry about my niece. 

I hope he listens to my mom when she calls back and tells him that someone with even MORE molecular/cellular biology knowledge than her (that is: me) said "he needs to go get tested."

But this sucks mightily.

If you're the praying type? Could I get some that this is JUST a sinus infection and that my niece isn't at risk?

living decision fatigue

 One thing I haven't heard discussed much, and I am SURE I am not the only one dealing with it, is decision fatigue as this pandemic grinds on.

Like, the end of this summer, as Delta surged in my region, I was given the choice: pivot to online and teach all online, or teach in person and risk you maybe having a breakthrough infection, or risk your students getting sick and I just.....I couldn't. I chose to teach in person, maybe that was a bad choice? Right now I'm doing online "broadcasts" for people who must isolate or are unwell themselves but that does add another layer of cognitive effort (gotta remember the webcam, gotta set up the webcam, gotta use two extra apps to get things working, gotta remember to take the webcam back after class). And still I wound up with a crash-and-burn situation in one class when one person came to class infected. And I worry some people are concerned about the risk (though then again: I opened up "online broadcast" to anyone, pushing the decision onto them).

And now the new thing: as I was finishing up the AAUW yearbooks, the new president e-mailed me: "So, the person who was going to host next week? Has a heart condition now* and is concerned about exposure, do we cancel or go all virtual or what?" and I am like "I AM ONLY THE SECRETARY DON'T ASK ME"

Really. Don't. I'm tired. I am heartsick about feeling like the decisions I make could seriously impact someone's life. I've had to make way too damn many decisions these past two years, stretching back to that time at the funeral home where the director asked my mom "so do you want him cremated in the clothes he had on, or do you want us to take them off him and wash them and give them back" and she looked at me and in that moment the look on her face told me "I cannot decide. I am done with deciding, I can't do this" and I had to decide, and I said "just leave them on" mainly because I couldn't deal with having to drive back there to pick the clothes up. 

That's really maybe the bifurcation, maybe that's where the universes split and I wound up in the one that's all hard decisions, all the time.

I am tired. I am just so tired. I am tired out from trying to keep myself safe and my colleagues and fellow congregants safe and my students safe. I am tired out from not doing things that maybe I could do but I don't because I feel like fewer people out there help stop the spread more (though maybe I'm wrong on that?)

I'm tired from (going back to early 2020) wondering "do I buy this extra four-pack of TP just in case, or leave it on the shelf for someone else who doesn't already have a four-pack at home?" or "Do I get carry out restaurant food to help keep our local places afloat, or could that be a vector of disease to me?" or, fall 2020: "Do I teach in person, knowing that six months of not interacting with people has damaged me psychologically, or do I teach online because if I catch COVID there's a slim chance it could kill me?"

The thing is, there's no shortage of people willing to TELL me what to do, but their advice is noisy and conflicting and there's no one i really TRUST any more to tell me. (I miss my dad. I feel like he'd have known better what to do). 

So yes, I am very very tired. I feel very much like I did in grade school when I was part of a group project and much of the time the people I had been put with (because our social-engineery teachers believed in their hearts that "put a diligent student with slackers and she will teach the slackers to pull themselves up by their bootstraps!") would say things like "we all get the same grade and you are the only one who cares, so I don't see why you shouldn't just do all the work here" and of course the teachers never listened to my complaints about that. 

So I am faced now with things like being burned out on making choices so I either make extremely impulsive choices (waves arm at all the needless things I bought online, just to feel alive by having something to look forward to arriving in the mail) or I can't choose (many evenings my dinner is the first piece of fruit I can grab out of the fridge and maybe some cheese because trying to decide what to cook feels like Too Much). 

I don't know if other people are feeling this to, or if it's just me. I hope I get better because - I live alone, so I HAVE to make almost all the decisions for my life, and it's bad when deciding feels like too much effort and worry. 

(I couldn't find the "I have a stomachache" one in a saveable format, but that's maybe more my mood right now)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

too many forks

(Not a reference to The Good Place. Instead: it is a sister condition to the spoon theory in the sense that we have a limit to the annoyances we can stand in a day)


 * I hyperextended my knee the other day and it still hurts. I don't think it's damaged; just strained. I've been slacking a bit on exercise as a result

* Got up this morning, zero internet. Had to use "minutes" on my cell plan to stream Pandora for even the pathetically short workout I could do (I cannot bear to use the cross country ski exerciser in silence). Did the whole power cycle of everything, nothing worked. Then I remembered my ISP had said they were doing "overnight maintenance" that was supposed to be done by 5 am. Around 6:30 I "opted in" to their text message program so I knew when it would be back - had plans to facetime with my mom tonight but was thinking that wasn't gonna happen.

Finally did get the text but I'm at work, here's hoping everything's good when I get home at 3

* Got irritated and almost lost my temper at the smartboard in class today; there are too many "twitchy" things on it where if you hit a spot wrong it sends you into some menu you don't want to deal with. Also the software is set to expire in a week and there's been no word of it being renewed so I don't know what I do then - open a blank Powerpoint slide, I guess, and write on that? Every solution is a bad solution these days, everything is just slightly worse than it might be.

* Finding my sense of humor is not what it should be; someone made a joke based on the HIPAA violation thing on Twitter and while in normal times (or even last week) I would have chuckled at it, I sighed instead. (Part of it was it has to do with HEPA filtration, and....well, I could see us being called upon to go out and buy filters and kludge stuff up for our classrooms ourselves, and I am just so tired of the make-do-and-mend spirit where a lot of the burden falls on people who have been doing this for 18 months and are just frazzled and done)

* I finally just posted the Zoom links for all of my classes and just told the students "attend online if you're not feeling well" because having to mail the link out to each person for whatever reason every morning was burning me out. I may regret this when the weather turns cold or rainy and people all stay home and I'm back to teaching a series of blank squares on the screen, but now life is merely about deciding which discomfort is more tolerable, not what is best.

* Postal mail here seems to be failing again. I had two packages slated to arrive today and tomorrow, now both are "no date available" and I have no mailpieces for today and frankly? Getting the mail at the end of the day is one thing that makes my days different from one another, because some days there's a magazine, and some a card, and some even a bill I must pay, but still.....it breaks the awful eternal sameness of Lockdown 2, Delta Boogaloo. 

* Also, I read this article on grief this morning before class and it made me cry a little. And one of the lines from it: "Sitting deep inside of suffering terrifies most people because they do not understand that it’s the only way through." made me admit to myself that one thing I feel bad about? When my dad was dying? I secretly hoped I WOULDN'T get up there "in time" because i didn't know how sitting beside someone I was so close to as they passed from this life would change me, and that thought scared me, the idea that I might become some new and different creature.

 And, well.

I am definitely a new and different creature now, two years on, though much of that change has been from other things, and I am not sure I LIKE the creature I have become, and I do not know how or if I can go back to the more innocent one I was before. 

This really is like being thrown out of the Garden - everything is bleaker and harder, and I long to go back to that old harmony and the comfort I didn't realize I had. 


Done for the day. It was hard - five hours standing on my tweaked knee on concrete floors, dealing with technical issues, dealing with students having problems. (I like being able to help students, but they need so much help now, it can get tiring)

I realized that I didn't have anything prepared at home, and I was exhausted, so I just ordered online from the good local barbecue place.

Pulled pork, smoked turkey breast, and sides. I ate all of the sides (because they don't heat up again as well) and half the meat and put the other half away for lunch tomorrow. I must be going through Something because I cried a few tears of gratitude on the way home for how easy getting dinner was - able to order just what I wanted online, pay online, there was no line at the pick up window, they had my food ready, even the lights were with me. 

I guess I needed one thing to be easy. 


I also heard that yesterday - the first day it was possible to upload your vaccine credentials for the "free" money- 850 people on my campus uploaded theirs. We have 250ish faculty, maybe about the same number of staff and admins, and about 3500 in-person on-campus students, so.....850 seems like a pretty good number for the first day (I was one of them). Honestly if I knew my campus was 90 or 95% vaccinated? I'd just ditch the mask for teaching but since I don't know that for sure, I'm going to keep it for now....but if we get to a really high level of demonstrable vaccination I won't mask unless I have a student who specifically says "I'm immune compromised, would you mind masking near me"

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A little progress

 I have about 8 rows done on the ribbing of the new sweater.

ten more rows and I can switch to the bigger needles (these are US 3s) and I think also the part I'm doing as a 1x1 rib (which is not HARD, but takes longer, because you move the yarn with each stitch) becomes stockinette, which goes faster. 

I do think after trying in the swatch to do the twisted-stitch style of cable, I'm just gonna default to a needle - I can't get the left leaning cable to look right using the twisted-stitch method. 

The pattern is "Incunabula" from Karie Westermann's "This Thing of Paper," a book I ordered all the way from the UK after reading about some of the patterns in it. The yarn is Berroco Remix Light - it's a dk weight as recommended by the pattern. Which means the sweater will be less heavy and more wearable (also because the yarn doesn't contain wool - it's a mix of nylon, silk, and linen), it also means it moves slowly. At least right now I don't need to consult the chart; there's only one row out of four that isn't just "knit the stitches as they appear"


Other than that, I'm just tired. It's extremely hot here, we've had a heat warning for five days in a row now and tomorrow is supposed to be the worst day, with a heat index of like 107. And I hurt because it's humid and we also have high atmospheric pressure - I noped out of working out today because I was just in too much pain (possibly this being the second day after mowing the lawn - often second days after some unusual exertion are worse). 

 I also just feel the usual malaise/fatigue/languishing that results from trying to live life "as normal" in the middle of a pandemic where I have to take some extra steps for my own safety (mostly: staying at home a LOT, though that's more because I don't want to risk a car accident given our overloaded hospitals, and people are driving TERRIBLY right now - the heat makes people stupid and mean) and also extra steps in re: contact tracing of students in class and also teaching partly online for the numerous students having to isolate because of exposure. And while it's not objectively terrible - I mean, I am vaccinated, and I have decent masks, and there's currently enough food in the store - it's also just very soul-draining not to have anything "fun" planned. (Part of this is because of the horrific construction, currently leading to numerous accidents, on 69/75, so I am just staying home - Sherman is the only easy quick place to get to other than my little town which has few things - and it's too hot to go hiking or I'd consider a run up to the park at Sulphur).

There's nothing really in the next-nearest towns in my state, Ardmore is a little far and doesn't really have a lot of the things (a few places I might have gone seem to have closed down). I do keep looking at Google Maps to see if there's anything I've missed in any of the small towns but so far, no. (Our main small businesses these days, so that every little town has at least one? Pot dispensaries. Not something I would use and so not a place that would be interesting to go. I assume they are high-profit-margin or there wouldn't be so many of them?)

 I mean, I know what I would LIKE - a trip to a yarn shop, a chance to go to a nice sort of farm and pet alpacas or something like that, a place where I could buy fresh apples or some kind of other fun produce, a chance at baked goods that are not either what I have to make myself or the rather mediocre grocery store ones, a nice cup of tea and slice of cake even if I had to eat it outdoors. But none of those things seem possible, at least not right now. 

It's just that right now feels like all effort and no reward, and I don't know how to change the balance of that, and no, I don't think it's purely an attitude thing on my part. It may be this is just a time to be endured and please GOD let it not be that much longer because if it is much longer I just may not make it. Like, I need a "Make A Wish" like those terminally ill kids get, even as I know that's horrible and selfish of me to want that, but I feel like I've slogged on for a year and a half (well, really 2 years, counting the things that happened shortly before the pandemic in my life) with relatively little joy, and...I'm not sure I can still even FEEL joy. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

And today's news

 I had to do it.

(The old Anakin and Padme meme. He says: "The Pfizer vaccine is now fully approved," her first panel is "So, the people who refused it because it 'wasn't approved' will take it now, right" and her second panel is her dismay-face repeating "the people who refused it because it 'wasn't approved' will take it now, RIGHT?")

(More maybe later, got a start on the new sweater last night but am not v. far)

Friday, August 20, 2021

a new project

 Yes, I have a lot of things I could be working on, but I decided I wanted a bigger new project. And I got thinking about Incunabula, from "That Thing of Paper," and how I KNEW I had the yarn for it in my stash, and how I had the right sized needles tucked away, so when I got home I dug out the yarn and the needles and the book.

Initially I was going to use the punk-rock method and not even swatch, just start the piece and then rip back if I gambled wrong, but after (a) realizing the yarn I have is VERY different; it's a blend of recycled fibers (some silk, some linen, some nylon) and (b) that it's a complex pattern that involves casting on 200-some stitches for my size (it's knit all in one piece, from one front edge around the back to the next front), I decided to swatch instead.

This is a partial swatch. The fabric is a little looser and drapier than I anticipated but I do not dislike it. And I have gauge, at least over stockinette (I might try a few rows of the small-cable pattern just to be sure). The yarn is Berroco Remix, from the very short-lived yarn shop in downtown Sherman - so maybe bought around 2018? I forget.

That's not the best photo but it's a nice old-gold color with small lighter slubs in it. I think it will work well. I anticipating this being a long-haul project, it's complex, but maybe if I can do even one row a day I'll see some progress on it. This is also a challenge to myself to prove my brain isn't broken from being able to do (a) big projects and (b) complex project. 

 And anyway, I follow the designer (Karie Westermann) on Twitter and she follows me so if I have a question I can probably ask her DIRECTLY, which is pretty cool. (Though usually I am okay at figuring things out, and other people I know have knit the pattern, which tells me it's correctly tech-edited - that's usually the time when I run into problems with a pattern, when they weren't edited well and there are either errors or very unclear places). She even provides instructions to lengthen the waist, which I will do (I bought extra yarn when I bought it)

I do also have Pocketses; I really should take and block the fronts and back this weekend so I can sew it up and put the bands on and make the pockets; then it would be done.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Wheels coming off

 I now have eight (of twenty) students in my intro class who are having to isolate.



I am doing class over Zoom today. I may do class solely over Zoom from now on. I do not want to get a "breakthrough" infection or be told I must isolate for 10 days.

I hate everything and everyone right now.

(UPDATE: apparently the "do not admit this student if they show up to class" was merely a secondary contact of someone and is not themselves infected, so the people around them most likely will not need to isolate. But I am still doing class 100% over Zoom today 'cos I can't go back on that now)

 ETA: also I found out that I do NOT need to get COVID tested unless I am showing symptoms; if I am asymptomatic and get a positive test I don't need to isolate, just mask and distance, which I already do. So I'm gonna skip it. The nurse called me about something else and I asked her and she said "oh we just offer it in case people are anxious" but that would only happen if I had symptoms. I think I'm safe - though if I got symptoms it would be Saturday they'd show up (if it's Delta variant, which I bet it is)

Zoom class went okay, and some of the students even put their cameras on, which makes it a little easier because I can see other people.I'm considering just offering it as a choice given how much the virus seems to be spreading in that class  - it's mostly first-years who are new to campus AND ALSO unlike our majors they are not "cloistered" with the same smallish group of people. And a lot of them live in the dorms. I don't love that, and I said I'd still do in person exams, but....maybe I can help slow the spread that way.

I don't like the added moral calculus in all these things, and having to go "okay do I do something I like a lot less but that benefits other people, do my own feelings not matter here?" because for me the answer is usually "yes" and....yeah, it wears me out.

So much of this feels like a bad rerun of 2020.I am exceptionally tired  - not physically or mentally tired but tired IN MY SOUL and I don't know how I fix that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

This, at least:

 Got an e-mail from the journal today:

"I am glad to inform you that your manuscript has been accepted for inclusion in the 2021 issue .... Proofs will be sent to you in November."

So at least there's THAT. I'm glad to mark it done, at least for now. (Hoping the proofs don't come over Thanksgiving week, yikes).

I mean, yes: I expected it, because this is the one I revised and incorporated nearly every reviewer suggestion, but you DO NOT KNOW until you have the e-mail in-hand that it's for real accepted. 


 I now have five students isolating: four from the one class where Patient Zero was (that student, plus the three sitting around them). The other student said he's a secondary contact of someone who tested positive (I think he was exposed at work) and he was responsible and left campus as soon as he got the notification. 

So boo, I have to do Zoom in three of my classes (the newest person is in two of my classes). 

Do not like and do not want. Though again, could be worse: I could have had to isolate and right now I feel perfectly fine (though by my calculations, if I get anything symptomatic, it will show up on Saturday). I am continuing to mask strictly around people and MIGHT skip church Sunday if I seem even slightly symptomatic. 

 Hopefully none of the secondary contacts will test positive, hopefully they'll be tested on Monday and be able to come back to class. I want to find out what the testing would mean for me - if I am asymptomatic but positive will I have to isolate for 10 days and retest, or is the "well you're positive but have no symptoms" just a "FYI" thing? If it's just an FYI thing I might just as soon forgo the swab up the nose and continue to act like I could transmit it, short of isolating at home.

Chances are I'd get a negative result given all the vanishingly small probabilities of a virus penetrating the layers of defence (student's mask, 10' of distance, my mask, my being vaccinated) multiplying up to a much, much smaller one, but I will go by what I'm told.

 I hate this all so much, it makes my inner Chidi Anagonye scream at me. Or maybe just scream in general; it seems Chidi didn't scream so much at people as he screamed in existential horror.

 But this is more people than last semester, and it's earlier. This variant is nothing to screw around with and I will not be at all surprised if we wind up having to go virtual. If that happens I hope they let faculty continue to be on campus because trying to teach Biostats from home with NO smartboard and no whiteboard other than the cruddy virtual Zoom one, will not work. 

Trying not to think about that possibility :( 

One of the isolating students (not Patient Zero) did send me a nice e-mail thanking me for how fast I sent out the Zoom class code to them. I had noted "if you need more assistance e-mail me and I'll explain it more" but I am assuming MOST students with either one year of college or who is a recent HS graduate has probably had to cope with Zoom.


Raining here, which is a good (and rare) thing for August, and it is mercifully cooler. (Though I still could not go hiking tomorrow or Friday; too wet). I would not mind a cooler wetter autumn for once. 


 I desperately need to think of something simple and fun. Not for this weekend as I may be having to isolate (and also have Zoom knitting) but maybe next weekend? I wish there were somewhere I could think of I felt comfortable going - if the weather is remotely nice Chickasaw would probably be too crowded, driving into Texas is currently a drag with the horrific construction. This feels very much a time to be merely endured rather than lived, and maybe that's just the key - endure it for a few more months (I hope it's only a few more months) and maybe in October I can go up some Saturday and hike in Chickasaw when it's too chilly for people to be swimming, maybe in November the construction will be completed enough and Delta will have passed and I can go and shop at Quixotic Fibers in person.

 I admit at this point I am almost afraid to hope after thinking about how I felt in June vs. how I feel now. Like having hope is somehow wrong and I will be punished by having it dashed. I know that's very much a "your counselor needs to know" and "this is something to work on" thing but this past year has just been disappointment on steroids so much that....it's hard to want to plan more than an hour or two in advance seeing as your plans might be upset.


I also wish there were simple baked-goods recipes that make little mess and dirty as few bowls as possible. I recently re-discovered pikelets or drop scones (that is QEII's recipe, though I am not sure she baked herself very often) and those are a good "I want something bread-like, but do not want to wait for yeast to rise nor do I want to heat up the oven" (because you fry them in a griddle). I was out of cream of tartar so had to substitute baking powder for the cream of tartar/baking soda combo (which seems to be an older way of doing leavening, and I think when I made similar goods from a different recipe, I used the cream of tartar and baking soda and it was better? At any rate, I ordered some cream of tartar when I placed a Penzey's order recently because it struck me that pikelets are a good autumnal food to eat with soup and the like)

 But I would love to have simple (NON MICROWAVE MUG CAKES, those never turn out for me) recipes for something chocolatey, or something like a yellow cake I could eat with fruit....I still don't have a dishwasher (I know, I know, but I think I need to get a floorboard repaired under where it would go first, and too many things in my life are a House That Jack Built of tasks upon tasks to the point where I lose the motivation, and also I've heard "nonessential" appliances like dishwashers are currently harder to come by, and I have a couple very specific "wants" for one) so any dishes I use must be hand washed and I forgot how arduous that is.

Pudding might be a thing; I used to make baked custard a lot, too - but that also takes the sort of advance planning I am at times short on these days. 

Cookies are too much effort, sitting there dropping out each one, unless there's some magical small batch that would only make one pan's worth. I do make brownies from time to time but....I get tired of brownies and would like something a bit less heavy?

(What I would really like? A nice real bakery in this town where I could walk in and buy a loaf of cinnamon bread or a few muffins, and they be things baked on site from real recipes instead of artificially mix stuff, which is what most grocery stores here sell. While I'm dreaming I'd also like a proper meat market where I could go in and buy ONE pork chop, instead of a family pack where I have to freeze seventeen of them and if it turns out they're tough and bad - common with the pork we get here - I'm stuck with blah food for a long time) 


part of it is the action of making stuff - of cooking/baking, because I feel taken-care-of in a way that opening a box of stuff doesn't do, part of it is that it's fresher, part of it is that I can have just what I want. What I want is small-batch stuff; I don't want to have to freeze stuff (I forget about stuff in the freezer) and I don't want it hanging around for weeks afterward. 


I was also thinking of the old "Knit Lit" books and similar the other day. In the early 2000s, there was a trend of books of essays/semi-autobiography about knitting - the KnitLit series, and several others, and I think Clara Parkes' books were actually towards the end of this trend, like around 2012 or so? But I was thinking specifically of Knit Lit, because I was thinking about the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 coming up* and how several of the essays referenced that - one included a knitter who was killed in one of the planes; another was (IIRC) someone escaping into a yarn shop as they ran away from the Towers.

And while I don't love being reminded of that time....I also think back to the early days of the current knitting revival. I picked it back up in 1997 or thereabouts after learning to knit as a child and not doing much with it. And back then, it was a different world. There were no big slick knitting sites. There was Woolworks, there was Knitting-and, there were a few shop owners who hosted patterns on their webpages and did a very low-volume sales over them (I think I ordered from a couple places where I actually had to phone in my order, can you imagine?)

And there was, I think, in some ways more a celebration of the homeliness (in the good British sense, not the "it's ugly" American sense) of knitting - of taking up your knitting and sitting in a rocking chair** and your child or your cat or your partner comes and sits with you, and things are good and right and cozy because you are home, and you have your knitting (more often than not a good old wool like the Germantown I referenced the other day). And, I wonder, has some of that sense of quiet appreciation been lost in the swirl of Instagramming and slickness and online sales and the newest-coolest-latest? I think of it as being kind of like how rock music changed from possibly-slightly-odd-looking-guys playing music they loved, to people (by and large, and Meat Loaf notwithstanding) who were prettied up for mass consumption, and maybe something was lost, something became more homogeneous? (I am not even going to touch the whole question of Diversity In Knitting, I am not qualified, but I will note that age and attractiveness are also diversity things)

And also the idea of "innovating" - that if you just knit from patterns, you're a Blind Follower. I never liked that idea. It made me sad, because to me it seemed to diminish the craft and the skill. We as humans are far too good at reducing what other humans do, of knocking it down and making it seem small.

(I am thinking now of my sadness - and my mother's rage, when she found out - of how an individual who probably Should Have Known Better - referred to my Master's thesis, after it was completed, defended, and bound, as a "nice LITTLE project," emphasis very much on the "LITTLE." It made me simply sad; my mother, when she heard - she is a Ph.D. in botany herself - was angry, and declared that "your Master's thesis was more work than my whole Ph.D., and no one ever talked about it like that!" and anyway, in the long run? Joke's on that dude, the 1996 paper that emerged from that thesis is my most-cited paper ever, and people are still reading it - I found out that someone cited it in a 2020 publication they wrote)

But yeah. I want to recapture that mindset of All Knitting Good (even though in this world of concerns and caveats, perhaps not, and certainly All Knitters are not Good People, as a famous knitter of the past once claimed; though then again, I would argue, as someone whose faith practice holds a few faint echos of the Calvinist mindset that No People Are Really Good People though I would also argue that people are Redeemable)

But I don't know where I'm going with this exactly other than that I miss that style of writing, and maybe I try to find where I've stashed my copies of the various books like that (they are literally scattered all over my house; I know one of the Knit Lit volumes is on the shelves in the living room, and I think one of the essay collections that was more recent is on my bedroom shelves, and the rest are probably in my sewing room). I would like to read them again, I would like the comfort of thinking of other knitters with other lives and different life experiences; the people whose six year old child comes and asks to be taught when she sits down to knit; the person who is knitting in a solo Soho loft; the couple who live in a yurt and spin yarn, all of it, warts and all. Actually, especially the warts, as a countermeasure to the slickness that's been gained at perhaps the loss of some degree of accessibility and comfort.


(*And yeah, I am going to assiduously ignore it; I don't need more disaster porn in my life. I was already inadvertently exposed again to a photo of "the jumper" on someone else's essay and you know? when 600,000 of my countrypeople have died of a disease, I don't need to be reminded of old horrible deaths. I'm kind of at the point of "there should be a statute of limitations where we let go of the collective sadness and instead work on trying to prevent similar things from happening in the future")