Sunday, June 13, 2021

some quilting things

 Friday, I ran down to Denison to get the first (of the two) quilts I took in. 

The second one wasn't done; the woman was somewhat apologetic but she told me a woman brought in **16** (!) quilts that she HAD to have done by August 1. (This is an automatic longarm, if you're doing pantograph patterns, so you don't have to be right there running it, but it can take a day to several days to do a quilt, depending on how large and how complex the pattern is, and of course custom quilting takes a lot longer - this one is just a pantograph pattern of dragonflies, which you can kind of see in the photo).

I told her the second quilt was for me, so there was no deadline on it. (I got the sense without her saying that the person with the many quilts was somewhat demanding, and anyway, who DOES that, bringing in that many and expecting the person to interrupt their queue because you have a deadline?). I'll get it eventually, she said probably before the end of the summer.

And anyway, I have this one to put a binding on and also the "Homebound" quilt I got quilted earlier this spring.

Yesterday was a workday at church - cleaning up for an eventual videoing event. I cleaned what was probably 20 years of accumulated bugs out of the glass globes over the external lights (I figured I could be careful; the person in charge noted they were old and probably one of a kind - I filled a basin of water and carried it out to where they were instead of carrying them in (where there were tiled floors and metal sinks where they could slip out of my hands). I also polished some  of the brass items (the cross and candlesticks that sit on the communion table - the things that actually hold the bread and the cups are currently not in use as we are using the individually-wrapped sets, which I think someone referred to as Eucharistables a là Lunchables). I also polished the brass door-plates (like the handles, but the other side - a flat plate) and another member who is just a little older than I am but has been a member a LONG time like me, said "Oh, do you remember Dorothy? this makes me think of Dorothy" and yes, my friend Dorothy Silver, she always disliked it when the brass doorplates were tarnished and she felt like someone should be cleaning them weekly (I think some times she did it herself). 

Today after church, I decided to start sewing the blocks for the "chandelier" quilt together, and decided to try doing it without laying the whole thing out - which is a real rate-limiting step, it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and then you have to carefully stack everything up so you sew things in the right order.

So instead, I counted up the  blocks dominated by each different color

And then I used the sketch of the layout in the book and noted (with pencil) where I might put each color, so I could arrange them without having a big chunk of the same color close together. An added challenge is that there aren't that many different prints, but I'm trying as I work to spread out the designs.

 It's my own copy of the book and I wrote in pencil, but you can see my codes there (P is pink, for example). If my copier/printer were working, I'd have photocopied the page, but it isn't, one of the things I have to attend to this summer is getting a new one or maybe just getting a new laptop AND printer, seeing as this laptop is fairly old by laptop standards.

I got it about a third sewn together. I have another strip to attach (they are set diagonally; this will eventually be a square) but I ran out of steam for it. (I had misplaced a couple of the blocks and had to find them before I could start working).

I impulse bought four yards of a pink fabric with flappers on it at JoAnn's yesterday, and it's possible it would be big enough for a backing, so if the colors go okay (sometimes pinks don't really match), I might use that. If not, I think I have a big piece of calico with pinks in it that will work.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

long but good

 Tired tonight so a short check in - I did the first (of 12) transect of sampling today. It was hot but not *terrible* and I think maybe if I do these one a day (or two a day if we get the predicted cool down) I can get them done in not TOO long and do it without overtaxing myself. (It took about an hour to do the single transect, including set-up time; if the future ones are more diverse they might take longer)

At this point it looks like the fire didn't really fix anything in terms of the invasives, but that's still a result if that's the result. 

I will say that while there are downsides to doing fieldwork alone, it is nice to decide to go and just GO, without someone saying "No, wait, I have to talk to this person first, it'll be fast" and then 45 minutes later you're still waiting on them (I've had that happen to me), or the person who planned on meeting me at the site is delayed by an hour by car problems or bad planning.

It's also nice to be able to get out there, get started working, and think, "You know, I'll just do one transect today." When I had student workers with me, the case was often that they could only come on specific days (work scheduling), so we'd have to put in a LONG day to get the work done. It's a lot nicer and more tolerable in the heat to know you can knock off if you need to. 

The downside? Mainly it's hard to juggle all the equipment, and if you're not working with a well-trained colleague you don't have that other pair of eyes to help you identify a plant you've forgotten. A bigger concern is the risk to being out in the field alone - there are injuries you can sustain (most likely: twisted ankle or bee sting, though with a sting I tend to be a "slap some mud on it and keep going" person) or there is a tiny risk of meeting up with a threat (allegedly there were hogs out at this site, though I don't think they're active at the time I'd be out there, and never in the place where I am). The more likely threat is another person, and even that's remote - the most likely person you'd meet would be another researcher, or someone walking down to the lake to fish. (Though some months back a guy who was involved in a high speed chase apparently bailed out and ran into the site.)

I deal with the "what if you have a mystery injury that makes it impossible to get back out" by carrying my smartphone - like, if I stepped in a hole and sprained my ankle to the point where walking back out wasn't gonna happen, I could call for help. And for debilitating situations (most likely being heat exhaustion, though I can feel that starting and get out to my car in time), I check in before I leave via text with someone who knows where I will be, and give them a time that if I've not checked back in, they need to text me, and if I don't reply, send someone after me.

Yes, it would be safer with another person, but - the minor injuries I might sustain, I can either get myself out of there, or at least crawl to a shaded place and wait for help that I've called, and with the really likely life-ending ones (massive heart attack or meeting someone with a desire to harm another human), having another person there would not likely make a difference. (And in the second case, would likely just lead to a second victim). 

I admit the pandemic did change one thing about me: I'm a bit less fearful about things like this (in the past, I really loathed going out to do fieldwork alone, because "all the things that COULD happen" but I guess after living through the slow-motion disaster that was the pandemic (well, until I could be vaccinated it was), I realized "I lived through this thing and by taking precautions I was able to stay safe, even though I was pretty sure at the start of it I'd wind up catching it" which leads to "maybe some of the risks I think I face aren't so big after all?"

I mean, yeah, there are still RISKS - but I go out hiking on public trails a lot more now than I did in the past, even though I might meet up with a loose dog or an unpleasant person. (I admit I still have a bit of driving anxiety some times, because of car wrecks, but that seems reasonable, having lost people I cared about in car wrecks). But honestly, my perspective has changed - if going out for a hike somewhere makes me happier and healthier, but carries with it a 0.005% chance I'll meet up with a mean dog, it's worth it. (And I do often carry a walking stick, partly for defense but mainly for support/to avoid slipping if the trail is wet). 

So anyway.

I did the research, got home, showered and ate lunch, went back to campus (I had two plants I couldn't identify, and wanted to try to figure them out - one I know now is Acalypha virginicum, the other one might be a small, non-flowering meadow-pink). I also had to run over to CIDT to review one of my videoed labs - they were showing example ones to the university president this evening and I wanted to quick look it over to be sure it's okay (Well, I look fat on camera and I don't like how my voice sounds but the information is solid). And I had a counseling appointment (the last one until/unless I need one). 

So it was a busy day

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Godspeed, little manuscript

 I did a few more minor edits (mostly word changes) on it this morning following a last read-through, and then sent it off to the journal I am submitting it to.

I always think of this bit from an old, old episode of The Simpsons:

Anyway, that's now off my plate for at least a couple weeks (provided they do not immediately desk-reject, which seems unlikely). My plans for this afternoon are to wind up the videoing* of the labs, and it's monthly Board Meeting tonight (will be harder given our secretary just passed away; big shoes to fill)


(*I am old enough, and late-adopter enough, that I keep wanting to refer to that as "filming." But I'm not even being TAPED as in videotape; it's all digital. Do we need a new word for audio-video electronic capture of things?)

Tomorrow is the first fieldwork day - I need to take what remains of this morning and muster the equipment I need for that so I can head out as early as possible; my plan is to get out there as close to 7 am as possible and work until noon (at the VERY latest) and then go home, shower, and do something else during the hot part of the day.

I also either have to borrow a GPS unit or else see if there's a GPS tracking download I can get for my phone, to re-locate the starts of the transects - I found the old data sheets that have them on them.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

two more things

 Busy day today - put my manuscript in the expected format for the journal (that mostly meant some adjustments to the literature cited), did a little cleaning in my office, got videoed for another set of "virtual labs" (yes, I know: these are not as crucial now as they would have been last year, but grants move slowly and maybe there will be some use for them? At any rate, I can put it on my faculty development plan). There is more filming tomorrow, but then I think that part's done and I just have to help them edit/suggest captions for the still photos, etc. 

Then after all that, I ran out to my field site to see if it was flooded. Nope! So I could go out Thursday morning and try to get started - or at least put down some surveyor's flags to mark my transects. I figure if I leave home around 7 (which requires getting up early, but okay), I can work for four or five hours before it gets too hot, and I can just stick a flag in where I leave off so when I come back I can quickly find where I was. I will be out there alone BUT the departmental secretary said I should text her when I leave, give her an ETA for me coming back, and if I don't show/text by then, she'll send her son (a sheriff's deputy) to look for me. So I feel *fairly* safe. I will have to work slowly as it's very humid and I'm not used to it, but if all I finish in a day is half a transect (which is like five or six samples), I will get them done handily enough and will still be able to go see my mom in late July. (Haven't bought tickets yet but am planning on it).

Anyway, two more finished things:

These are the "rusty unicorns" (from an "Autocorrect Fail" themed line of yarn, and I can't for the life of me figure out what it's an autocorrect "fail" for) socks. As I got partway on them I realized I didn't love the colorway but I persisted and when I had the first sock done and sitting out my mom looked at them and said she liked the color combo - so I gave them to her. (she and I wear about the same shoe size). 

Anyway, I have a lot of my own socks, and a lot of "simple" socks, so I'm happy that she likes these and will wear them.

I also crocheted a little thing, something that was surprisingly complicated and took MUCH longer (the better part of 3 days) than I thought:

It's a leaf-sheep sea slug! You can buy the pattern from the designer on Etsy. I just used some simple acrylic (Basic Stitch for the body (cream colored) and the "leaves," and some scraps of grey for the "ears," which I think are really antennae. The eyes and "nostrils" are embroidered.

It's sort of a clever pattern, maybe not how I'd have designed it - you crochet the "leaves" directly onto the body (attaching the yarn with slip stitches, and slip-stitching back at the end of each row so you are always starting from the same side). I did add an extra row at the end up by the head, because I felt like I started too far back and it didn't look right. But yeah, it was very time consuming to make for such a small thing (that's my hand, and I have small to average sized hands for a woman).

Monday, June 07, 2021

things I made (I)

 It was my mom's birthday while I was up there, so I baked her a cake: maraschino cherry cake (an old family favorite) with the "chocolate satin" frosting from the Farm Journal County Fair cookbook - this is a cooked chocolate frosting that is a bit easier, and less sweet, than the standard "juggle amounts of butter, milk, and powdered sugar to make a cold frosting" - you melt the butter and add cocoa, and then add the powdered sugar and vanilla.

It turned out well. We wound up freezing much of it, but that's fine. You can see that the frosting is kind of liquid when you put it on, and it firms up as it cools.

I also did a little bit of sewing. I had a printed cut-and-sew griffin (gryphon? Not sure the most widely-accepted spelling) in kitten form that I bought ages and ages ago from Spoonflower, and had never made up because it looked daunting and I wondered if I'd have to hand sew the whole thing.

I actually machine-sewed most of it - zig-zag stitched it to cut down on fraying; one fault in this design is that the seam allowances are TINY (like, 1/8") and the pieces are so closely positioned that in most cases you CAN'T cut a bigger seam allowance. 

(Just a reminder of what it looked like before)

There are lots of little bits to sew up, and lots of tight fiddly places for turning. In the end, I discarded the printed claws and made my own of felt because I realized there was no way in heck I was getting those sewn and turned without blowing out the seams (and in a lot of places I wound up having to double-stitch, or go over by hand).

This is printed on - I think it was a linen blend they used to offer? It's a heavier fabric and is definitely not the Kona cotton they used to sell (Spoonflower has recently changed their fabric offerings and I admit I'm disappointed they can no longer print on Kona cotton; it's nicer than what they're using now). 

The linen blend was actually recommended when the design came out, I think because it fit okay on the fat-quarter-ish sized piece. But I DO NOT recommend any kind of heavy, ravelly fabric for this - more recently the designer seems to be suggesting the fleece, which would work better as fleece doesn't fray so readily. I was fighting fraying the whole way (which is why I used zig-zag stitching and did things like actually sewed the wings right sides out, so I wouldn't have to turn them).

There also used to be a tutorial online to give help, but that seems to have been taken down (anyway I got one of the dead-blog "medicines from Canada!" ads when I tried the address) so I was kind of left to my own intelligence and experience here. 

Still, it turned out okay, even though, as I said, I had to oversew some spots (in places because I feared fraying; in others, oversewing on the outside by hand because I didn't get all of the white seam allowance caught in the seam).

I was also careful to understuff, and to go very carefully when sewing up seam allowances by hand (and I left bigger seam allowances than I would on, say, a stretchy fabric, because turning a stiff ravely fabric is difficult).

But it worked. 

Photo of "Waffles" (that's what I named him) in my bedroom at my mom's house:

You can see the felt claws. I just cut them freehand and then stitched them into the seam of the front legs.

And some more photos, taken here:

The designer provided something that looked like the tags that are found on commercial stuffed toys, so I decided to sew it up and insert it in the butt seam.

You can maybe see that his wings are zig-zagged on the right sides. I didn't want to try to turn those. (These were the last of the "appendages" I made - I made the tail first, then the arms with the felt claws, then the ears, then the feet, and by the time I got to the wings I was tired of sewing bits. Most of the appendages are attached in a seam or set into something like a dart, so at least there were no raw edges to whipstitch closed)

Here's an idea of the size. He's maybe about a foot tall with ears.

It took me a while to figure it out without the tutorial. At first I thought maybe it was standing on all fours (that's what a tiny mock-up drawing on the print sheet shows) but fortunately there was a photo on the Spoonflower site so I wasn't either disappointed with how it came out or put the head on wrong - it's a sitting griffon rather than a standing one.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

And home again

 The trip back was mostly uneventful. Stricter rules on this run (they emphasized that you *had* to eat in your accommodation or back at your seat, there was no cafe-car seating and in fact, no diner car - at it looks like (boo) the dining car isn't coming back on the leg of the Texas Eagle I take, so for as long as I continue to take this run, it's Flex Meals forever, ugh)

Also they made a deal about "you can only take your mask off in your compartment if BOTH the door and the curtain are closed" and I didn't want to test it so I just complied but, again - I am a rule-follower but I get frustrated when the rules seem arbitrary, or are arbitrarily enforced, or are apparently enforced (not necessarily in this case) to give the enforcer a feeling of power. 

The drive back seemed long but I guess it was normal. The whole way back I thought about things I might have to deal with upon arriving home (did the mousetraps I set catch anything? Is my refrigerator - going on 20 years old - still working*?)

(*a colleague once had a refrigerator spectacularly die during the first few days of an extended vacation and when he returned home he had a real mess to deal with)

And yeah, also all the yoke of responsibilities I must pick back up - time to start summer research, time to finish up that manuscript and get it in, doctor's check-up next week and I doubt I've lost the weight she suggested I might try to lose. And new things - church this morning is going to be HARD as it's the first meeting after M.'s death. 

I put my (clean) clothes away, I emptied out the stuff from the carry on - I'll take photos of the finished objects and post them over the next few days. I'm happy I finished a couple long-term projects (one started summer 2020, the other started in early 2019, as far as I can remember). I probably need to look at my other long-term projects and decide to either finish or unravel. 

And I need to clean house. I need to have an exterminator evaluate under the house/behind the pipe chase before I consider a new dishwasher (and this time, I am splashing out on one with the stainless-steel interior). I also just need to get the place better organized. I've decided I either have too much stuff or too small of a house, and moving to a bigger place is not logistically or monetarily possible at the moment, so instead I should pare down and just have less stuff. Or at least better organize what I have. I've decided to *try* to spend a half-hour or so a day on various tasks, or else go "I will do five cleaning-related things over and above the normal daily tasks" and hopefully work it down over time. 

It was good seeing my mom after a whole year. We didn't do as much as I might have wanted to; she's still wary of case counts (despite being fully vaccinated; I think she is concerned by the news that "older people might not mount as strong an immune response) but also had to go out several days for continuing treatment for a sebaceous cyst. 

What would I have liked? I don't know, actually. Maybe go to the bookstore once? Maybe go out and go to the museum? One thing I have decided HERE is that I am going to consider taking a day either every 2 weeks or every week and just go somewhere (most likely in my state - I still don't love crossing that under-construction bridge, though coming back it was a lot better). I can spend four days a week working...

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

This and that

 Still a few more days in break. I admit I'm a little loath yet to go back home; that will mean hotter temperatures, starting summer research (provided my field site is not flooded, which would cause bigger problems), looming medical/dental checkups, and generally having to be 100% responsible for my own life (as well as other things) again.

Also, this morning, I got a text from someone from church: "Are you back home yet?" and my heart kind of sunk because I thought "either someone died or there's a major issue that they want me to help deal with."

I was unfortunately right on the first count. M., who had been the secretary for YEARS, had been undergoing some treatments, I thought she had the condition mostly beat, but no....she died in the hospital over the weekend.

This is really bad for her (adult: older than I am) kids; they lost both their parents within a bit less than a year of each other and I am sure that's harder than just losing one. 

But selfishly, this means that not only will I probably have to pick up some other responsibility (at the minimum: I will probably be the one responsible for making the CWF yearbook now) but also my circle of people I regarded as friends has shrunk by one more.

And that hurts. Especially now. This past 2 years or so, I feel like my social circle has gotten SO much smaller, between people dying, and a few people moving far away, and a couple people I THOUGHT were my friends who turned out not to be. And making new friends as an adult is really hard! Especially last year when I wasn't going out and no groups were active. And anyway, I'm coming to realize what a closed society the place I live is: if you didn't grow up here, if you don't have kids/don't have kids in school here, there are not a lot of places for you. And I hate that. Even though a couple of the groups I was in didn't always "spark joy" for me and were more often a source of things I had to do when I'd rather do something else, I hung on, because I felt like "but who else would have me?" and that's really also how I did the friend thing as a tween/junior high kid - a couple people I hung out were not really that great of a friend (one was very picky and demanding, for example), I felt like, no one else wanted me around, so it was  my fate to have those people as friends. (I'm actually surprised I didn't wind up "settling" and getting into a less than ideal marriage because of the idea of "well,, no one else wants me, so")

I don't know. I think something needs to change in our society to make it easier to find friend groups. Or maybe a lot of people are just really kind of limiting their associations to family now? And so those of us without close by family lose out? It's hard to know. But it makes me sad.


I also saw a news story recently about how some doctors and dentists are using VR goggles with nice scenery or things like aquariumscapes for people undergoing minor procedures; it seems to reduce anxiety and even pain and the comment one psychologist made was "people can't focus on two realities at once" and I think that is why for me, good diverting books are a necessity. 

I decided to give up on "Home," which is purportedly an archaeology book about Britain; it feels to me more like the author is going "this is what I did" and "this is what my wife did" and "here, let me drop another name" and much less about what's been found or speculative reconstructions and...that stuff just isn't interesting. I started "How the Light Gets In" but realized I probably wanted to save most of that for the train trip back, so I pulled an Inspector Alleyn mystery I had left up here after a previous trip off the shelf and started re-reading it, and yeah. The world of privilege in which Alleyn operates (especially in this book - "Death in a White Tie," and I am still irritated that a to-me-sympathetic and endearingly eccentric character is killed off fairly early on, but whatever) is very different than my own, and I am sure there are things about it I'd HATE (the idea of debutantes and "seasons" and that 26 was considered unmarriageably old), still, there's something about that world. Unlike some people, I can't simply do the "Ugh, those people had SERVANTS, they were terrible people" thing and dismiss all of it. I think it's the idea that in most cases (yes, even in a murder mystery that comes with a side of high-society blackmail), it's a world that seems to run smoothly and nothing terrible happens on the edges of it. Like, I could be in that world as, I don't know, the maiden aunt of one of those wealthy families and as a background character, I would not be continually hit by the sort of unpleasantnesses everyday real life carries. I don't know. 


I finished the Tailfeather scarf and the first of the Stroopwaffel socks (among some other things) and decided maybe I want to push on and try to get as much more done on the second of those socks as I can: it feels a bit like an exorcism to finish up projects I either started during the pandemic (the scarf) or had started long before it (the Stroopwaffel socks, which I think I was working on back in 2018, which was the REAL before-times for me. 


Even here in Illinois, where things have been stricter, they're beginning to say "You don't have to mask if you're fully vaccinated" and you know? It's really HARD for me to unmask. I did when I got my hair cut but so far in stores I've continued to do it - it's going to take a while - and I hope no one tried to bully me out of it too soon, though I could see someone trying to do that. (A couple stores DO still request it, one had a note up that "we have several vulnerable employees, if you are not fully vaccinated please mask" which I guess implies it's option for those of us who ARE, but...)

It just seems to me that life has become more difficult and complicated in specific ways in the past couple years, and it's hard for me to feel "normal" or maybe a better word is "comfortable" again. Like, no matter what I do, someone will see it as wrong somehow. (And again, that plays on childhood issues for me; never wanting to cause offense, feeling like I was frequently apologizing). 

I wish none of this had happened. I wish I hadn't had my fragile trust in my fellow humans shaken and my comfort at moving in the world disrupted so much, and I'm still asking myself "what are you supposed to learn from this?" and the only lessons I can come up with ("Don't trust people" or "stay home as much as you possibly can" or "Being attached to people only brings pain; try never to love anyone again") seem impossibly bitter and wrong. Maybe there is no lesson? I don't know. But something in me tells me that pain without some kind of lesson, or some kind of compensation later, just suggests a cold and unfeeling universe, and I don't like that either. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Been doing things...

 I've done a bunch of things around the house for my mom. She has bad wrists, so anything requiring much hand strength is harder for her to do. I replaced a toilet seat (it was one of the original ones the builder put in in the late 80s! And he CAULKED the base of the hinges to the bowl! I have never seen that before, and I had to break the seal with a putty knife before changing out the seat). I also re-caulked her bathtub in her bathroom, and helped her put up a new shower curtail rod. 

I also cut a bunch of brush and mowed the lawn again.

And something struck me: I have done many of these things in my own house, why do I feel so much more competent when I am doing it for someone else than when it's for just me? I don't know. 

I've also been keeping up somewhat with walking and am struck with how walkable and nice the neighborhoods are here; where I live, it's preferable to go to a designated walking trail because you can't always trust people not to have mean dogs, or there not to be reckless drivers on the streets without sidewalks. I would like to keep up walking when I get back home (in addition to the morning exercise) but it does make it hard when I have to at least drive up to campus for a trustworthy walking trail. 

I got out to one place: the local boba tea shop is still going (at least now), but they have no in-store seating currently, and a one-way line, and *absolutely* require masks (to the point where they say on the door "If you don't have one, call us at 309-xxx-xxxx and we will bring your order out to your car" - unfortunately they don't have a drive through, though there were a few people passing through the shop at the mid morning time when I went (also college was not in session, and they are on the edge of campus, I bet they have more business when college is in session).

But I just hope.....I hope this virus does reduce in its spread so places like that feel comfortable relaxing their precautions. (Though now I think of it: when they did have seating, did they really sell more coffee and tea? It seemed a lot of people would go and "park" there for a long time and just buy one drink, so they may be doing no less business now). 

I finished  a pair of simple socks (the Rusty Unicorn colorway - sort of a burnt umber and turquoise and white). I was not that taken with it when I finished them but my mother admired the colors and I asked her if she wanted them, so she has a new pair of socks. (That's fine, I have a lot of pairs already and I'd probably seldom wear these). Starting a new pair of pink socks using the Jaywalker pattern, and I had to backdoor into Ravelry on my phone to get the info from the first page (luckily just the stitch count and the stitch pattern for the leg) because somehow I got off without my printout of the first page. 

Been here a week, it seems like less. I'm already not really looking forward to having to go home and do summer research out in the heat and be mostly-alone for the summer again.

Friday, May 21, 2021

quick catch-up

 I'm here. (Well, Central Illinois-here). The trip up was not bad except for the drive to the station - heavy rain crossing the Red River, narrow bridge, a double-box Fed Ex truck barrelling what felt like 6" from my side mirror....But at least I'm here now.

I ate dinner in my roomette. They are doing what are called "flex meals" right now - smaller (which is fine with me, a full dinner is a bit much) but the quality is not as good. And of course, it's encouraged you eat in your accommodation for "distancing" and that was different. The train did seem less populated than it was in the before-times. 

I finished "The Gammage Cup" on the way up, highly recommended. It ends happily and, without spoilers, no one important dies, and that's kind of a nice thing (Then again, maybe that's typical of older YA fiction? This was written in the late 1950s). Relatively little violence though the battle with the "mushroom people" does get a little gory. But there are some interesting themes - who is the ingroup and who is the outgroup in a community, how do people look to "family history" as a source of importance, and the fact that history can get twisted - so a character who really wasn't all that bright or great, after all, gets held up as an exemplar and in fact, his descendants become the "ruling class," despite there being "an older magic" that could be looked back to....Also that ruling class seeing the error of their exclusionary ways...

I'm working on the various ongoing projects but also keeping up with Duolingo (I can do it on my phone; I am close to a 500 day streak and I hate to break that). Mowed the lawn for my mom and forgot (until I had done the nearly 1/3 acre) that her mower has a lever to engage a clutch that makes it a "walk behind" mower rather than a "push while the gas engine runs" mower....

It seems weirdly normal as long as we are at home. My mom's town JUST lifted the mask mandate (I think to allow a couple things to re-open) but that doesn't mean individuals can't choose to continue to wear masks; my mom does so I will, too, at least indoors out in public. Outside, seeing friends of hers - all of whom have been vaccinated - it doesn't seem so necessary any more. 

It's nice to see a few longer-time businesses seem to have weathered the pandemic; I have not gone to get a carry-out bubble tea yet but I plan to. And tonight we are ordering calzones (for delivery) from a local franchise that does about fifty different types of them. 

It is also a little weird though - right now, sitting at my dad's old desk, using his old computer, and there are still a couple notepads here with notes (things like passwords and stuff) he had written on them. Perhaps that frisson never goes away, I don't know.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Different and not

 I did the usual round of pre-travel things today - running out to get a few last minute things (some granola bars and dried fruit to go in the little otherwise-useless backpack pocket, the pocket that I have now dubbed the "cookie pouch" - a friend of mine refers to her cat's "primordial pouch" as a "cookie pouch," and it amuses me enough that I wanted to apply it to something else).

And I realized, driving around town: yes, this feels very much like Mays past, the light is the same, the warm-but-not-quite-hot temperature is the same. It feels familiar, it is back in the old round of the year I once observed. Pretty much every May after graduation I would go up and visit my parents - and yes, both of them were alive the last May I went up there (in 2019).

(I am wondering if the reason I still am dealing with grief for my dad is that 2020 was such a strange, and interrupted, and isolated year. I had a dream a few nights ago where I had gone up there at it was not at all clear whether my dad was still alive or not and....yeah. I think I've just not processed it yet because a couple times I've said "when my dad died last year" and I had to stop and correct myself)

I've been watching the track-a-train map (even though it won't be at all relevant until tomorrow morning, and even then, won't be relevant until the train is through Dallas because it often gets bad delays in that San Antonio-Dallas leg. But it looks like the train I think is the through train from LA (#2) is decently on time, and the down train from Chicago, which I think gets "turned" and attached to some of the cars from LA, is on time)

And I'm thinking about it again - sitting there on my little made-up bed in the roomette, looking out at the dark world passing by. The peace of that, the realization that there are hundreds of people out there living their own lives apart from me. (There's even a nice word for that: sonder. And yes, I do take an odd peace from knowing there are lots of people out there I never met who are just going about their lives, some with lives like mine, some with lives very different). And with my books and my knitting, I can pass the time if I get bored looking at the scenery. 

Oh, it will be different: masks are still expected in the public areas, and that will be a reminder that we are still, really, in a pandemic. And the meals are different - apparently they are simpler, and with fewer choices (and people on the Amtrak board have complained of the quality, but I am reserving judgment, and really, I don't ride the train for the food anyway - I do have my granola bars and some dried apricots and some gummi bears if it's just too terrible, or I could go buy something in the cafe car; they used to have a cheese and cracker plate that was really quite good). But it will also be much the same as in the past. And of course, for me, the train is a way to get from Point A to Point B, and even if the food's not great, I'll be at my mom's soon enough. 

And I have my projects to work on, and books to read, and there will be things to do up there, even if we don't go out as much as we did in the before-times. And it will be quieter in her neighborhood where she lives than in mine, so I will probably sleep better. And I won't have to cook for myself - which has got to be a problem of late, because I am just so tired of it. 

I am still apprehensive about the likelihood of heavy rain for the drive down (and construction, especially on the bridge), but once I'm past that? I'm on vacation, at least as much of a vacation as I ever take

Sunday, May 16, 2021

preparing for Tuesday

 Slowly creeping towards escape velocity. I wound off the yarn I needed the other night, it is now in my suitcase with the clothes I need (need to remember to put in the tennis shoes after working out, Tuesday morning will be the last time I need them right away)

I decided with the added challenge of having masks I wanted a more hands-free carry on. I normally use an enormous Vera Bradley duffel bag but I remembered the galaxy-print backpack I bought early in the pandemic (when they were telling us to carry all our textbooks and stuff home every day, because "you never know when campus may close, or when you will have to quarantine" but I hadn't used it for quite a while. 

So I ran over to my office (where it was) after church today - I also thought I'd need a set of meeting minutes but it turns out the meeting got changed to an e-mail, so. 

I got it home and thought "wow, I really hope I can fit what I need into it" but figured if I could NOT, I still had the duffel, it's just, it would be really nice to strap the thing on my back and go instead of juggling something over my shoulder that's heavy, especially, as I said, dealing with a mask (and a raincoat - we are supposed to get torrential rain this coming week)

I wound up putting MOST of the knitting (and sewing: I am taking the long-stalled hand-sewn paper pieced hexagon quilt) in the suitcase. I will have access to the suitcase IF I need it (that's how sleepers work; the luggage area is in the vestibule of the car) but I prefer to have my toothbrush, hairbrush, makeup, books, pajamas, and other necessary things in a smaller carry on I take into my roomette. 

I managed to get it to work

Masks, vaccine card (in case I need it, in a plastic sleeve), eyeshade, earplugs are in the mesh pocket. The pocket behind that will hold my medications (and Tylenol, just in case) and my mouthguard and toothbrush, and a little facecloth so I can easily wash my face). Pajamas and slippers are in the big pocket behind that. There's a smaller pocket currently empty but that could hold my phone and charger (I am carrying a separate purse but it is SMALL - the tiny Sumikko Gurashi pocket that came in a Doki Doki crate; it will hold my card case and keys and a money clip and my checkbook and a phone, and could also hold a folded up paper copy of my ticket (though they like to scan it from the e-mail on your phone). The back pocket has a couple books (a Louise Penny - "How the Light Gets in" and "Home" - which I am going to start again (this is a pop-archaeology book). I also will pop "The Gammage Cup" in there if I don't finish it - I am really enjoying this and even if I only have 50 pages or so left, I will take it to finish it). The main section holds the toiletries kit (mostly makeup) and hairbrush, and also a couple of small in-progress knitting projects. (I have the ongoing scarf and the waffle socks in there; the newly begun Storm shawl is in my suitcase. I could not fit the vest but that's okay, I can maybe work on it when I get back here this summer).

And yes, comfort items, including Squishy Dog

Squishy Dog (he is really a Yeast-ken) also works as an emergency pillow if needed. 

I do still need to get a birthday card for my mom, and maybe I should get a luggage tag for the backpack (I have one on my suitcase already) but that could be done tomorrow. 

I'm still a little apprehensive about the drive - it will be the farthest I've driven in over a year, and it's going to be raining hard the whole way apparently (and also, there's still construction on the bridge over the Red River). I plan to leave at least an hour early so I can drive extra safely for conditions, and also in case I wind up with traffic snarls. 

I doubt I'll have any "embargoed" posts for the rest of May (I get back on June 5th) but if I can tap out a few on my phone while I'm up there, I might. (I think there's also a voice-to-text feature that might be easier?)

Friday, May 14, 2021

Pre-travel planning

 Tuesday I leave to go see my mom, for the first time in almost a year and a half. 

I admit I'm a little apprehensive about traveling - yes, Amtrak points out how careful they're being, and I have a roommette, but part of it is just....I haven't been out in the world that much in over a year and I know crowds bothered me at the best of times.

But also: not having traveled means that I'm out of practice. I have a big list of things (which I had to print out over at school, because yes, my printer is dead, but I'll deal with that when I get back) and I also just remembered I need to add earplugs and an eyeshade to that list for sleeping on the train (I probably need to get new earplugs, but also I need to get a birthday card for my mom, so I could pick those up at the same time tomorrow.) 

So I'm slowly circling around to getting ready - doing laundry tonight, thinking about what clothes I will need. 

And planning projects

Wound off the sockyarn this evening - left to right in the back, it will be Whistledown socks, the Jaywalker socks (that's a striping yarn, the color way is called Schinia but the dyer also noted it was similar to the colors in the Pokemon called Clefairy). And maybe a pair of cabled socks for that third - I have a couple patterns that I might want to do.

The two smaller skeins - the colorway is called Goth Kitten - are for a simple pair of fingerless mitts. 

I also will probably take along an inprogress project or two - the waffle socks, most likely, and maybe the vest, or maybe the Storm shawl. 

And not shown: yarn and pattern for a "sea sheep" toy - this is a version of a cute sea slug that looks a little bit like a sheep with green "wool."

And this:

I ordered this cut and sew toy (it is a "Kitten Griffin") years ago and never made it up because it looks fairly fiddly but maybe during break would be a good time; parts of it will probably require hand sewing in order to come out well (like the little claws). 

I might ALSO take along the hexagon quilt; I don't know yet.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Four small creatures

 My (two separate) Etsy orders both came today, and in them, a couple of nostalgic items. I seem to keep buying Smurfs, but as I said, these are a thing that reminds me of that just-cusp-of-tweenhood time when life was a little simpler, I still had a couple good friends, and I knew better how to negotiate the world than I did as a teen - or frankly, than I do now.

The first one - I never had a figure of this guy, but I wanted one. (I mentioned my seeing the plush version in a store, and not having the money to buy it, and then never seeing one for sale again)

The Camel with the Wrinkled Knees! In the form (blue) that he took on in the 1980 or thereabouts movie. (In the books, apparently, he was cream colored). This one is marked "1988" which is a good bit later than the movie so I don't know....could there have been a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon featuring the characters? Or am I misremembering that? In 1988 I would have been starting college....

He's fairly big for one of these types of toys (he's taller than the Smurfs, and pleasingly chunky). Nicely detailed paintwork, too. 

And then a Smurf that I'm quite sure my brother had a version of:

Little guy with a lantern - probably out after dark, and from his expression, in a place he's not entirely comfortable walking. 

And I remember this one, though neither my brother nor I had him: 

Also I'm old enough to remember corded phones with dials (and handsets, though desk phones still have those, and at least until a few years ago, you could actually buy a handset to plug into your iPhone)

And here is one I NEVER saw as a kid, I suspect it was maybe European-market only, because even in the 1980s "alpha moms" who complained about things and wanted to protect all children (not just their own) from what they considered "corrupting" influenced.

But I laughed when I saw it. And bought it, even though the silver "fin" paint is pretty worn:

Smurfette mermaid! And yes, she is topless, but has an arm across her chest. I like that the way her face paint is she looks slightly amused, like she's getting away with something.

Quite a while back I speculated whether Smurfs were mammals, or some other kind of creature (after all - we don't know how they reproduce, I can guess with only one female in town it's gotta be some kind of binary fission, perhaps, or maybe they are timeless and ageless and always have been). But this proves that they are mammals - at least, there is the implication that the young could be fed milk.

Heh. "Smiddies." (There is a joke, among animation fans, of the tendency for some animators to female-code female non-mammals by giving them bustlines - so snakes have "sniddies" and birds have "biddies" and the likes...and yes, it is weird and jarring to a biologist to see it, just as it's a bit odd to contemplate a My Little Pony character wearing a bikini top (because horses, like other hooved mammals, have an udder, and it would be in the region a bikini BOTTOM would cover, so no top would be necessary. And of course if something like a cat or a dog wore a bikini, she would need four tops to cover all the mammaries....)

this might show her a little better:

These are surprisingly hard to photograph well; I suspect it's the high contrast between the white hat and the dark blue skin

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Day ended badly

 Three things. One is very serious, one is probably me getting my feelings hurt for no real reason, the other is something that's solvable with an application of money and perhaps waiting for the item I want to become available.

1. The thing that money might fix: My printer is not working. It is giving me a B200 error (it is a Canon Pixma M922). The Internet tells me this suggests a clogged print head, and either I can buy a whole new printer, find someone to clean the print head, or do it myself.

I have a message in to one of the computer tech places here to see if they are willing to try cleaning a print head. I don't quite feel equal to it myself. Of course this means if I want any patterns I have in the computer but not physical copies of for working on on my trip, I will have to stealthily print them out over at school. I have NO IDEA what the rules are on personal printing, I assume we're not supposed to, but then again - I have bought many supplies out of my own pocket, I've worked more hours per week than I'm officially paid for per my contract, and I KNOW at least one person printed out part of a book they were writing "off the clock" on the campus printer, so.

Other option: just use patterns I already have paper copies of. Or haul books along with me (because I can't photocopy on my home printer/copier: jammed print heads)

2. The perhaps me-just-being-me-and-being-hurt-over-stuff thing: someone I know, that I thought was a friend of mine, apparently moved away without telling me or saying goodbye. I found that out second hand. I'm hurt, but also: I just realize how little I matter to a lot of people I thought I mattered to. I realize again - this is one of the worst and hardest lessons of 2020 - how very, very alone I am. I don't know how to get people to care about me, I guess I'm not that sort of person? Most of my relationships wind up feeling a bit asymmetrical.

I really don't have anyone in this area that cares that much for me, I think. I am terrified of getting badly enough injured or winding up in the hospital and needing help, because I fear none would be forthcoming. 

3. The worst thing, though: a friend of mine from church, someone who remarried last year after being a widow for a long time (I remember it, it was one of the ONLY things I did in 2020, and one of the only happy things)....her husband has cancer.

I want to break things.

They may not even get a full year together if the worst happens. This is so unfair, I'm so angry about this. They deserved a BUNCH of years together, and years in good health. 

It's literally one of those "the only thing you can do is pray" situations, i guess. It's not clear yet how advanced it is, I hope the answer is "not very" and they can beat it. But like I said: I'm angry and sad about it. 

All the losses of the past 2+ years have just made me wonder: is it even worth caring about other people? Because either it won't be reciprocated, or else something like THIS will happen. 

I was not a good day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Finally, it's finished

 Actually, two things!

First of all, the manuscript I've struggled over for a few months seems to be in decent-enough shape. I have a couple volunteer readers (not biologists but that's good, it will tell if it's comprehensible) to look at it, and maybe even before I leave (next week!) to go visit my mom I can submit it and at least feel like it's off my desk for a bit. Oh, it will certainly need revisions if it's not simply rejected out of hand (and I'm suspicious there may not be enough "unusual" results for it to really be publishable, but I have to try, I guess). I have mixed feelings - I was happy and kind of excited when I closed the file around five this afternoon but now I feel a little let down but that's sort of typical, especially given the hard brainwork of revising. 

And then, I got the binding on the big-squares quilt all sewn down. Unfortunately, I finished it just about 10 minutes ago and it's totally dark out so I can't go and hang it on the clothesline to photograph it, so here's a quick and dirty photo of most of it:

It's about as wide as a twin-bed quilt but shorter in length.

Here are some of the fabrics in it:

These two are from the original line I based the quilt on, I think it was called Folklore? These could be as many as 15 years old, I know I made this quilt a LONG time ago. (About 10 years, maybe more). 

This is one that matches in colors (and more or less style) but is from a different line, spools of thread:

You can kind of see the overlapping-circles quilting pattern I picked out for it there - kind of like the old Orange Peel design.

And finally, a square from fabric (that I had to piece) that is bits left from a dress I had when I was about 3 years old:

Monday, May 10, 2021

some current reading

 I had finished the things I had been working on, and cast about for something. I started Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" but had to put it down before I got to the "meaning" part because for now the descriptions of concentration-camp life are too much, even though I know it eventually gets to something more hopeful. 

I thought about starting a new mystery novel but didn't quite want to.

I started a sort-of devotional book called "Mere Hope" by Jason Deusing but bogged down a little in some of the theology about a third of the way through, and I wanted a *story*, so I just grabbed a book off the top of a stack....and got The Gammage Cup.

This is an older YA "fantasy" novel. Fundamentally, it's about a group of Hobbit-like people (the Minnipins) that live in a safe place between two mountain ranges - they were apparently chased there about a thousand years earlier by "the Mushroom People" (which I am wondering if they're a metaphor for humans). Only one Minnipin in recent memory has been out of the mountains, and that was Fooley (or, apparently he was also known as The Fool, though Minnipins now, because he brought back mysterious artefacts and a journal with foreign words (actually abbreviations, and his offspring are called "The Periods" because they are named after these abbreviations because they all contain a period, like Etc. The rest of the Minnipins are mostly named for what they do for a living). The fact that little "lore" beyond the artifacts and names is known is handwaved by the fact that Fooley fell out of the balloon he returned home in and developed amnesia. 

It's an interesting thought, kind of in its own way like "Motel of the Mysteries" - how do you figure out a culture with only a few scraps of it? Or rather, here, they built THEIR culture on the scraps he brought back, and actually seem to privilege those scraps over their own, older lore from King Gammage, who was the founder of the new settlement. 

I'm not very far in yet but there is some foreshadowing that there's going to be a big battle, probably with the mushroom people again, but hopefully since this is an older YA novel it won't be too bleak.

But for now: the worldbuilding is fun. It's nice to imagine the Minnipins, most of whom have small and fairly simply lives: they do what their parents did, so the potters are children of the earlier potters, and the farmers are the children of farmers. (There is also an 'aristocracy' - the forenamed "periods" and apparently some who live far upstream - the dozen or so small villages are along a river and are each named for some aspect of it). There are also a few misfit characters, who are "different" (they dress a bit oddly, they have a different mindset, several are artists, or, Muggles, who seems to be the main character, is a bit clumsy and absent-minded. But it's also implied the misfits may be the ones who save the rest of the culture). 

Perhaps also, it's a picture of a culture that's become too comfortable, too complacent, and stale - and therefore at risk for attack from outside (or....decay from within, or perhaps dissension from within, which makes me wonder if the Minnipins are not that unlike us).

But thus far, I'm enjoying it. Like I said, the worldbuilding is nice, and the characters are more interesting than average, partly because none of them are described as beautiful or 'sexy' and it seems like many of them are middle-aged - Muggles is apparently middle-aged, and unmarried and childless, and yet, she has a nice life (even though it's implied most Minnipins have children)

I've been slowly reading my way through YA novels that existed when I was a kid (this book was written in 1958 or thereabouts) but never read as a kid. (Oddly there are a lot of good "YA" novels out there that no one ever directed me to. Possibly some of them were out of favor in that era (I don't think, for example, anyone knew Rosemary Sutcliffe in my vicinity), maybe others were ones I never looked at because I preferred "animal books." But it is nice to have these now....

Sunday, May 09, 2021

And the weekend

 Saturday I did go to Sherman. The verdict: the bridge over the Red River isn't fun (they've taken away anything like shoulders on the bridge so you drive uncomfortably close to the railing, but at least it's short - the road over the dam looks like it would be a good bit longer). Went to JoAnn's and to Ulta, and then drove over to Brookshire's (it's farther, but it has better produce and a better cheese selection)

Today, I finished the blocks for the newest quilt top, but ran out of energy to try to lay them out. This is a much bigger job than sewing is; you need a large flat area to lay them out on. Usually I use my bed or the living room floor - but the floor would need to be swept, and I'd have to strip the bed, at least partially, in order to lay it out. 

A lot of people who do large amounts of piecing have "design walls - either an actual section of wall, or a very large piece of foamcore that is covered with flannel (so the quilt blocks will stay on via friction) so they can lay out the quilt without having to crawl around on a floor (which does kind of stink) and can also look at it from a distance to make sure everything is balanced.

I DID separate the blocks into different color families, so I might be able to draw up a diagram and just figure out the layout on paper, instead of having to do it in actuality - I did that once before with another quilt and it worked. (Or maybe sometimes I'm too fussy about the layout, though this one has the same print in a lot of colorways, and I want to try to space those out a bit so it's not a big blob of the same print on one part of it).

I'm contemplating "next quilt top" - I have some vaguely-70s-color and print-style fabrics that might work (two "charm packs") and a pattern they would work with, but not enough of the sashing I'd want to use, but I have a second fabric that I could use for the middle-most part....I think that would look okay. (I don't quite feel like going out to buy more/new fabric for this). 

I don't really have a single color or style I use for quilting; part of the fun of it for me is doing different things. But I admit the 70s-fabulous colors (that sort of bright cobalt blue, and an acid green, and a pinky purple) and prints (apples, mushrooms) make me a little nostalgic; I remember fabric like that from when I was a child.

I did also pull out the long-stalled hexagon quilt with the idea of packing it up and taking it with me to work on at my mom's - it's pretty good sized already but I want to make it maybe coverlet-sized. I'll probably have to consider handquilting it because it's handsewn and I'm not sure that would hold up to the pulling/tension of the machine. (My handsewing is not great. I know some handsewn tops do fine being machine quilted.)

I'm also slowly stitching down a quilt binding, but it takes a while. And I do have another one to make a binding for.

Friday, May 07, 2021

And graduation again

 Today was (one of three) graduation. (Faculty signed up for one if they wanted to; they limited attendance and it was outdoors AND we had to wear masks).

It was different, and was familiar enough that it felt good.

One thing I missed in both spring and fall 2020 was that "punctuation" on the semester, that feeling of "okay, it's officially over." There were solely virtual graduations and I didn't really tune in to them because I just didn't feel like it - I guess they were like slide shows and a taped address from the university president.

There were only about 30 faculty present (there are ~150 faculty total? I think?). I am pretty sure I was the only one from my department (but then again, there are a couple people who will do what they can to avoid going, at least in the before-times when we were sort of expected to go). I wanted to attend partly for the students (A few of our graduates went through today) but also for me, I had missed that feeling of an official end to the semester.

As I said, it was different

The most obvious things were fewer people, and everyone was masked. It was outdoors, but some years in the past our spring graduations were outdoors. 

The chairs were spaced 6' apart, which worked okay with the smaller number of people. I actually liked it - in the past it was warm and kind of claustrophobic to be sitting with people right on either side of you; the 6' distance allowed for the breeze to blow between us and it wasn't so intensely warm. 

There was no live band - they had recorded the wind ensemble playing "Pomp and Circumstance" and then whatever Sousa march it was we recessed to (I forget the name, it's one that becomes faster about halfway through and it felt like they were trying to speed us up to get us out of there, even though this is the only graduation today)

They had us line up in the gym - students in one place, faculty in another, "podium squad" (mostly admins) in a third. As always, it was hurry up and wait - they told us to be there at 8:30, I was there around 8:15 because I have a horror of being late to stuff, we FINALLY lined up around 9 and probably walked out onto the field at 9:10 or so. 

Walking out, hearing "Pomp and Circumstance" again after more than a year (December 2019 was the last time we had in person graduation), I kind of felt tears prickling at the back of my eyes, but I told myself no, and that if I had to cry, I needed to wait until I was home. 

We were directed to the (distanced) seats and stood while an excellent voice student sang the National Anthem (She was distanced from everyone - so she could do it, also we are outdoors). There was an invocation, and then we sat. And I thought, "This feels like the old world has ended, and here we are, survivors, hanging on to some of the old ways in a new world that is totally different" - sitting there, distanced, fewer in number, outdoors, masked. 

And yet, by the end of it, I felt more like "We're going to be okay, ultimately."

It was shorter than in the past - no outside speaker (a Regent gave a few minutes of remarks but I remember that the invited speakers were sometimes not the best - often minor state politicians looking REALLY to drum up support for their re-election rather than convey wisdom to the graduates; once, a self-promoting businessperson, so the loss of the speaker was no great loss). Less music, which did seem a bit of a loss - not having the choir sing was something I miss a little. 

A couple of our graduates WERE in this ceremony, including a student from China I had in many of my classes and who seemed not to have too many people to clap for him present, so I was glad I went to be able to applaud for him. 

And then the recessional, and we walked out, much like in past years. I did see a few people hugging (mostly family groups, though, it looked like), much like in past years. And, much like in past years: it ate a chunk out of the "productive" morning of the day - so I think instead of going in to the office I will do the week's yardwork and maybe do some sewing later on instead.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

the little things

 Yeah maybe I am spending a little money right now (though then again: I have the residuum of the "stimulus" check, and at some point I will have to take the AMD from the two IRAs I partially inherited from my dad*

(*I don't know WHY he spread the money out so much, it means for my brother and me it's a little more arduous. And I am going to have to remember to take them this year - last year, because of the pandemic, we didn't have to and I didn't because I was otherwise kinda overwhelmed. In 2019, I only had to take from one - he had withdrawn the other before his death)

And yeah, that money SHOULD go to a new roof at a minimum, and also with not teaching over the summer I will have to take a bit of budgeting care. But also: the prospect of things coming in the mail makes a big difference in my mood. It's silly, but there is is. 

So yesterday I ordered that toy-sewing book I referred to (and I may eventually want to get some more wool felt - the good kind - because I do want to make the stag beetle from that book and as I remember, felt was the best material for those toys). But I've also been browsing some of the small "vintage item" resellers on Etsy, since I still am not going out antiquing (which is something I super miss, and yeah, I could start doing it again). But also, trying to recapture a tiny bit of that cusp-of-tweenhood era, when I had a bit more autonomy and a bit more spending money, but it wasn't yet so deeply uncool to care about little toy animals*

(*Well, I still cared about such things even after it became deeply uncool. In junior high that was bad, in high school it was a little LESS bad because you could pretend your interest was ironic, and once I hit my 20s I was secretive enough about my private life that few people knew I collected dolls or cared about stuffed animals, and the people who did know wouldn't think much about it)

But anyway, I do remember that cusp-of-tweenhood time, those 10-11-12 year old times when stickers were still cool and having big "families" of little plastic figurines or stuffed animals was still cool and fun. And I remember those as fundamentally happy times - looking at friends' sticker collections and sometimes trading, or having a little pocket cash and a chance to go to one of the stores that sold stickers (I think I mentioned "Land of Make Believe" before - it has since closed, sadly, but it loomed large in my childhood memories - anyway, they had the excellent Mrs. Grossman stickers as well as Smurfs and small stuffed animals and other small toys)

And one thing this past year, one thing I've looked to for comfort, is to try to recapture some of the "good things" of my younger life - starting up with the monthly Mrs. Grossman's sticker packs (which I use on cards to friends, and sometimes send strips of to my niece) that I still receive (And yes, I have a LOT of accumulated stickers now but maybe I'll think of some way to use them, maybe get a wooden tray and decoupage them on it? If I could find a fixative that wouldn't ruin the stickers....). And last year I bought a few vintage Smurfs (and even new, direct from Schleich, and you can tell a difference between the old and new ones).

A big part of it is just getting stuff in the mail. I mean stuff that isn't a bill or an ad or a charity-beg. It's kind of silly and weird but the expectation of even a small package in the mail makes my week better. 

So anyway. I did order a couple of small things, from two separate stores. They might come before I leave for my mom's; if not, they'll be waiting for me in the held mail.

The first lot was a Smurf holding a lantern - I am pretty sure my brother had this one but I am also pretty sure it no longer exists in the saved toys we had left, and it's one I remember as being kind of iconic from childhood for me. Though also, purchasing it along with the other item that I REALLY REALLY wanted, got me free shipping because it hit the like $15 minimum or whatever the shop had.

The item I really wanted was a little PVC figure of "the camel with the wrinkled knees" from that (weird! if you've ever seen it) Raggedy Ann and Andy movie that came out around 1980-ish. I never even saw the whole movie, but I loved that camel - and I remember seeing a stuffed toy version of it for sale somewhere, but I didn't have enough money, and we were traveling at the time so I couldn't even go back to the store when I DID. 

But anyway. I did buy, years later, a "comic strip style" (based on an earlier illustration, I guess, and it is cream colored rather than blue) version of the camel that was made....I guess as a commemoration of one of the anniversaries of the characters? I remember I bought it at a doll show, but bought it new.

But anyway? Now I can have at least a tiny version of that camel for my own.

And yes, the idea of them coming in the mail is part of the attraction, that some day I'll come home and there will be a small box in my mailbox, and I can open it...

And then the second order, today: a bit more expensive because one of these is *unusual* (I have never seen it for sale before, and it may have just been issued in Europe) - a Smurf with a telephone (that one I remember from childhood) and a Smurfette *mermaid* In fact, a TOPLESS mermaid, but she has her arms crossed over that part. It amused me a good bit (and I am pretty sure that even in the 1980s, alpha-moms would have objected to that, so perhaps not sold here) and even though the paint was a little worn....yeah, I decided I wanted to add her to my little collection (I need to get a small shelf for these and put it up somewhere). 

That "cusp of tweenhood" era was also when I remember spending summers checking craft books out from the local library (I mentioned the Woodstock Craftsmans Manuals the other day, and there was another book devoted to toy-making that I liked). And it was just, I don't know, an era when more things seemed possible, and I still had "beginner's mind" about some things (was less self-critical about the things I made or the things I wrote - I wrote stories and poems in those days). There was a certain freedom to that time, before all the adolescent expectations kicked in, and before your peers' judgement of you became such a make-or-break thing as to how your life went. Oh, I'm sure there were negative experiences in that time, but I also remember feeling more free in some ways than I do now.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

craftbook info motherlode

 Just dropping this link here for other people into craft books, especially vintage needlecraft: Something Under The Bed. I haven't even searched out the full depths of the site, I just ran through the soft-toy pattern book pages....and I found a book I had been looking for for years (but did not remember the author) and so I was able to use it as a clue to get me to a used copy for sale from another site.

One thing I've slowly done down through the years is search out the toy pattern books I remember checking out of the library as a kid (and other craft books: I bought the Woodstock Craftsmans Manuals because I had happy memories as a tween of stretching out on the living-room sofa and reading about needlepoint and quilting from those hippies).

I remembered for years and years a book I had checked out a few times, of stuffed animals heavily encrusted with embroidery (and, IIRC, sequins and beads) but never could find a copy after it was discarded from the library. I was remembering it as Winsome Douglass (herself a well known designer and embroiderer) but when I bought a reprint of one of her books from Dover, I knew it wasn't the right one - it didn't have the fantastic stag beetle I remembered, nor the dragon. 

Turns out it wasn't Winsome Douglass at all, but Barbara Snook.

When I saw a couple scanned pages from her book (on the sales site i bought it from) I realized: yes, this is the one. (Also the cover of the copy I ordered has that dragon on it).

I am still looking for a book I remember vividly looking at in a used bookstore in Ann Arbor: 70s-fabulous style, I got the sense it was maybe a British publication, and I remember there was a pattern for a centaur (with either embroidered or tufted chest hair! which at the time put me off a bit but I think I would just find funny now). I admit I keep looking for that book, occasionally cruising the "vintage toy book" listings on Etsy and the like; I would like to find a copy (if I could locate an affordable one). (and yes, Google is useless for finding anything related to it: it's sufficiently obscure and there's enough more-recent centaur content that it would be way, way down in the page count, if it's there at all)

(One thing I miss about Ann Arbor - though maybe that's changed in recent years there - were the many, many used book stores, which just had the most random selections of things. A lot of the Nero Wolfe books I have carted with me through several moves were Viking book-club editions from one of the used bookstores there.)

Wednesday morning things

 * Tentative plan for Saturday is to drive across the Red River (either take the 75 bridge, despite the construction, or try the road across the top of the dam to see if that's any less uncomfy to drive) and maybe go to Hagerman to walk around? Or maybe just go to a larger grocery there. Or go to the Ulta, though I don't really need anything.

I saw the counselor yesterday and she noted a LOT of people were having issues with something like agoraphobia, either surrounding driving out of town, or else being out around people, and her suggestion was to just do it up to the point where I hit up against the limit of my comfort zone. (I'm going to check on Google maps to see if there's a pull out where I could *observe* the road over the dam - I have had instances of getting on high bridges before and starting to panic as I'm halfway over but had had no choice). Then I could decide to do it or to backtrack and do the 75 bridge. (She cringed when I said "a student suggested the Carpenter's Bluff bridge" and I said "oh, is that one bad?" and she said "I don't get nervous driving over bridges and that one makes me nervous" so, yeah.) 

I also think without a concrete "do something different" plan for the weekend I just sit around, and then I'm angry with myself on Monday for not having had fun, but also not having done work.

* I may have figured out the "very loud sound early in the morning" thing : construction vehicles (sand haulers and the like) out on First Street, which is like three blocks  from me. There's a LOT of construction in the region and I see sand and gravel trucks all the time during the day and they are loud in the way that that sound is loud - I just made the connection today when one drove by as I was pumping gas this morning.

it doesn't make the noise *better* but at least I know what it is so maybe I will eventually begin to ignore it. Or maybe the construction will eventually finish up. Though in a discussion with one of my newer colleagues he did comment "this town is unusually loud for a town of its size" and yeah, he's right.

* I set one of the "bear trap" type traps (these are plastic jaw traps, I've used them before, they seem to kill instantly, which seems more humane than other methods) in the room where the mice were. So far nothing, and now the almond butter that is bait is the only potential food (well, other than the spines of books, but I suspect almond butter is more appetizing). I am hopeful the mice left but I guess I just have to leave these set for a while. I bought a box of six so I might put a couple in the garage; I've had problems with rodents in there as well. 

I don't like killing things but I also don't want rodents in the house, and it's impossible to plug every crack and entry point in an old house. (I am now wondering if it came in during the torrential rain we had last week, did its damage, and then left when it realized I was about).

I'll probably set more when I leave in about 2 weeks for the visit to my mom, just in case anything decides to come in while I'm gone. Cleaning up afterward is bad, but not as bad as something running free in the house.

Like I said: this is a combo platter of old house, living near fast-food places, and neighbors who sometimes leave garbage out in the yards. Also like I said I am not the bestest housekeeper ever and I probably do have too much stuff in a too-small house. 

* Starting to think about projects to take to my mom's, like, do I pull out the long-stalled hexagon quilt and package that up and try to work on it, maybe also incorporating scraps she has? Or take one of the pillowcase sets I have ahead and embroider on that? I am going to try to travel a *bit* lighter this time; I want to take my galaxy-print backpack as my in-room carry on instead of the giant duffel because I think being able to strap it to my back will make it easier with having to juggle a mask, too (we are required to mask up in public spaces but apparently in the roommette, you can take the mask off if you have the door closed). I admit I like the idea of the hexagon quilt and especially digging through the scraps she has to add to it - or maybe even buying a fat quarter or two up there. (Or, of course - I could cut more hexagons to carry with me if it seems like I don't have plenty already). And I want to take the Pocketses vest and finish that. And probably some smaller projects....most of those will have to go in the suitcase I guess. (I will need medications and toiletries and pajamas and extra masks and books to read and darn it yes comfort-stuffies to go in my carry on.)

I assume we won't be going out much (she says cases there are higher than cases here), so I will need to plan. Of course I can also help with any 'deferred maintenance' type stuff where she needs another person to lift things or move things. 

* Summers are always a bit of a problem for me, because I have no easily-achieved short-term goals, only the nebulous goal of "get research done" and also it tends to be lonelier with no students about and fewer colleagues. I'm going to have to work on that. I was really hoping I'd get a research student this summer but it didn't work out. (Though if Bell Choir starts back up, as the director is hoping, that would do something to help with feeling isolated). Maybe also I set small daily goals in re: writing or working in the yard or even working on quilt tops? Or cleaning and reorganizing; i really need to redo  my fabric closet and also prune down my wardrobe - I have things I have not worn in ages, some of which may no longer fit. Some of which are probably still in good enough shape to donate, if places are taking donations again. And I have a stack of worn out jeans that I was saving for that "recycling" program but I don't know if that's still even active. (Again: if I were more plugged in to quilting or crafting groups, people who make quilts often like denim for the really tough ones, or for things like floor mats.)

Also maybe I just do take a day each week and consider going a bit further afield - like maybe go up to Spiro Mounds again, or hunt down some of the small state parks that are less than a day's drive away. I haven't really *explored* some areas I could get to (if I left early enough in the day) and that might be worth doing.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Some more progress

 On a couple fronts, actually.

*First of all, the sock - I've added a decent amount to it since the last photo:

I think I've better got the rhythm of how to do the slipped-stitch pattern so maybe the second one will move a bit faster. 

* I got a little more done on the manuscript; I have decided tomorrow to make a provisional Literature Cited as that will feel like an accomplishment without having to smack my forehead against the wall of "okay how do I interpret these results to be meaningful"

* I got the monthly Gachapon box. A tiny keychain that is an anime-style drawing of Doc Brown, a couple other little oddball items, a miniature video game that plays Tetris (it's hard to play as it's so small). 

And this:

"Are you just gonna scroll by without sayin' 'Yee-haw'?"

I have a Doki Doki crate on the way, I am hoping it arrives before I travel but who knows? the mail is often slow these days and this is coming from Japan. 

* Trying to get back to more-normal - in a few minutes I am going to go to bed (trying to force my bedtime back to an earlier hour so I can get up at the normal time to work out, and just get an earlier start on the day. (I really want to get back to the early hours for fall, start going in at 7 am to work to deal with e-mail and the like). 

* Also doing more piano practice. I ordered a couple more books as I felt what I had was getting stale - either too easy, or too difficult, or pieces I'd done before. I noticed today that I can kind of get back in the "flow" of it, where I can kind of shut off part of my brain and just focus on playing. And I do think I'm getting better - these are "advanced intermediate/early advanced" level things and I can play the things with reasonable ease, even without a lot of practice. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

First day's exams

 I haven't even checked to see if anyone took the (online) exam in the first of my classes. (Update: two people have, so at least that one works)

This feels so different. I should be used to it by now - this is the third semester I've done it this way - but it's still discomfiting.

I walked out of my last class of the semester at 2:30 on Friday, and sat down at my desk, and....I don't know what I felt. Some years I felt satisfied, that I did a good job, that the students learned stuff, some years I was relieved but excited because I'd be able to go and do stuff and then go visit family. 

This year, it's just kind of empty. Oh, I'm still going to visit my mom in about 2 weeks (despite a distressing new report suggesting herd immunity will *never* be a thing because of slowdowns in vaccine uptake, which I take to mean that some degree of masking will be a forever thing, and those of us being extra cautious may just never eat in a restaurant again, and worst of all, I may have to do partial online teaching - which is an extra burden and takes extra time and energy - forever). 

Other years I would go antiquing after classes ended. Not this year, partly because a tight and possibly-crowded antique store doesn't feel ideal (I don't *quite* feel like testing out my immunity on that) but mainly because the construction on the route between here and Sherman makes me not want to go (Though maybe I should? So I can do a bit of desensitization training driving across the narrowed bridge before I HAVE to in a couple weeks, to get to the train station?)

I signed up for the Friday graduation. They are doing three. Normally they do either one, or sometimes two on the same day. This time they're splitting it into three, spread across three days. It's outdoors, we are strictly told we MUST be masked and we HAVE to be there by 8:30 or we won't be allowed in. When I signed up I was feeling a mixture of "I want to do this for the students, hopefully a few of our graduates will walk on Friday" and also "it's been since December 2019 I've been able to do this and I want to" but now I realize it's going to be tremendously different.

I suspect part of the "empty" feeling is the sheer lack of feedback and interaction I've had. I don't KNOW if I did an adequate job, there's been no feedback from students, most people seem kind of "checked out." I get that everyone is tired and it's been an awful year plus, but.....I'm still making an effort despite it all. 

Things being tremendously different do not play well with my brain wiring. I am worn out and sad from literally everything being tremendously different for over a year - that those moments of what feels like normalcy are rare and far between and fleeting. 

And yeah, yeah, I know: some people reinvent themselves and their lives all the time but that's not me.

I dunno. I'm tired. I overdid it yesterday; I'm sore from rushing around and crawling around on the floor and reaching and stretching and yes, probably tensing up over the whole situation. I also had to open the windows for 1/2 hour or so when I was home at noon, I felt like I could still smell the Lysol and everything, though that might have been imagination.

Also I have noticed something - in my neighborhood, almost every morning at about 5 am, sometimes a bit before, there are a couple LOUD pulses - kind of like a boom car's bass, but just two of them, and louder, and then they're done. And I wonder what that is? Just some monumentally inconsiderate person picking someone up for work and not caring if they disturb the rest of the neighborhood? Some kind of machinery? Someone testing out a "Havana style" infrasound weapon? (That last seems ridiculous, but I can't find a logical explanation for the noise, and yes, they are loud enough to be distressing). Many days I am up by then to work out but some days - weekends - I am not and it's annoying.

I suppose it could be a freight train doing something, powering up its engine after a crew rest period or some such - but it's VERY loud (the train tracks are about 3/4 of a mile or so east of me).

One thing I really do notice is how loud my neighborhood can be; the two north-south streets carry a lot of traffic (no stop signs on one and people really zip down it) and there are a LOT of people with loud cars or those super-loud bikes that are sometimes vulgarly called "crotch rockets" and there are dogs and people yelling out on the street sometimes....and it just wears me down sometimes because I like quiet and I don't like being awakened in the night. (I run a white noise machine and an air purifier that works like a second white noise machine). 

(One thing that has increasingly bothered me - probably partly being stuck in so much this past year, probably partly watching the behavior of some of my fellow humans - is a sense that many (most?) people don't really care about their neighbors. Things like noise late at night - I try to be quiet when I leave "early" in the morning, and not do things like yardwork before 10 am on Saturdays. And other behaviors as well. And I admit some days I have a hard time squaring it with the "you are called to love your neighbors" teaching I have heard literally since I was a child)

What would I like? I don't know, I don't know what would make me particularly happy. A hug from a friend, maybe. Or a quiet night of sleep without noise waking me up or me waking up because I get into an uncomfortable position and cramp up my knee. Or some sense that I am doing a good job on something. Or, no: if there weren't a pandemic on where I still felt leery about going out? To go and stay in a nice hotel in an interesting place for several days, ideally one with room service, and spend my days going to museums or hiking or shopping and then come back in the evening and order dinner through room service and sit and watch cartoons in my pajamas and eat a meal that SOMEONE ELSE COOKED and where SOMEONE ELSE WILL DEAL WITH THE DISHES. I am roundly tired of taking care of myself but I have no choice but to continue.