That Neighbor

For awhile now, it’s been apparent that the people to one side of us were getting ready to sell their house. I’m a little slow . . . they have actually done so.

So when a couple of days ago I went over and bawled out a young man for parking a moving van in the alley, blocking our garage (also a hazard because it blocks emergency vehicles, should one need to come through), that wasn’t the old guy’s son, that was a new young man I’ve never seen before, who was moving in, not the old people moving out.

( I’m not very good at facial recognition. The two men are about the same age, have similar coloring, and appear in the same house: of course I’m going to confuse them.)

This morning I was out early, mowing the lawn (push mower, so not very noisy). It’s going to be hot; I couldn’t sleep; might as well attack some brainless task that needs doing, while it’s cool-ish. But I was (am) pretty brain-dead because I slept terribly last night. Someone across the fence said “Hello, I’m S!” The groggy Dame stared groggily until poor S said, “What’s your name?”

Stilted conversation ensued. She said she hoped they weren’t too obnoxious about the moving vans. I am not sure what I said. They just moved from the city. I said we plan to move soon, ourselves. “Where to?” Further in [direction]. Subtext: don’t waste your time on us, we won’t be here, try the people on your other side, who are more your age anyway. More bright conversation from S, with minimal reaction from me. Maybe she thought she’d met a fellow morning person. I mean, I am a morning person. I just don’t want to talk to anyone before 10:00. Mornings are for being quiet in.

Later, when some caffeine had hit my brain, I realized how very badly I’m coming across to the new neighbors. Maybe I’m setting them up for pleasant relations with the new people, since I’m sure they’ll now be glad to see the last of us.

Better grumpy from the start, I think, than our own experience with the neighbor on the other side. She welcomed us warmly,  with home-baked banana bread, making me think she’d be lovely. Then she spent the next several years calling the town hall to complain about our bird feeders.

Sometime in the next few days or weeks I will no doubt lecture S and/or her husband about bishop’s weed and creeping bellflower. Just to solidify my reputation as the crazy bitch next door.

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Idle Google-stalking is not a good idea

Apart from the waste of time. I looked up a former student . . . who has published more books than I have.

Granted, that is not difficult, since I have not yet published any book. And we’re not talking academic presses, or even well-regarded commercial presses. The student was certainly both talented and a go-getter, or I wouldn’t even remember the name after all this time.

Hrrmph. I shall contemplate the glories of the completed MMP for a bit, and then get back to the Next Thing.

Maybe someone from my past will Google-stalk me and be impressed, and slink back into the woodwork.

Did you just say that out loud?

I was at the vet picking up medication. A woman speaking to one of the desk staff said of her dog, “She’s the best,” and I smiled, thinking how we all think our animal companions are the best. Then she added, “She’s my child who will never leave me, not that I’m bitter about the two who who’ve grown up and gone their way.”

I stopped smiling.

Seriously?

With an attitude like that, no wonder your kids went their own way the moment they could. Did you expect them to stay small forever?

The point of having children is that you are creating future adults, people, individuals who will in their turn form partnerships, have children of their own, live lives independent of yours. Parenting is a stage of life, one that may lead to grand-parenting, but it’s not a career. If you really want to be around children all your life, become a teacher, or maybe a pediatrician or parks director, something that will put you in contact with multiple generations of kids. This would absolutely not be my choice, but I can understand people like my father who want to surround themselves with children’s energy and interest in the world, the way I want to surround myself with books. Not that I think the woman at the vet wanted to nurture generations of children. I think she wanted control and adoration, which is what she can have from her dog. I hope she had a dog all the while her kids were growing up, so that she had some focus other than the kids.

I felt like I’d heard from my mother’s ghost.

 

She said, “I’m tired of this war”

“I want the kind of work I had before.”

Leonard Cohen, “Joan of Arc”

I was listening to the “Cohen Live” album on the way home last night, and now I have this line in my head on repeat. It’s not my favorite song (kind of icky, actually, but it’s still Leonard), but terribly apposite right now. Yesterday was the kind of busy, focused day on which I never got around to looking at the news, so today’s headlines about California wildfires came as a shock. Fire leaping 101 in Santa Rosa? That’s six lanes of asphalt, plus the shoulders and center. I’ve been trying to stay centered and positive over here, but there are too many fronts right now. I may have to listen to “Sisters of Mercy” for an hour or two.

Update from the front lines

The war on the creeping bellflower continues.

Early on, before I identified the stuff, I hired a gardener to help me figure out how to manage the plants that were taking over. Although bishop’s weed is common in gardens around here, and bellflower is, sadly, more common than it ought to be, she didn’t recognize either one. I wish I had recognized this as a bad sign. However, she did have a good eye for design, and a good team for digging, so she was some help. Nonetheless, she had a naive and touching faith in the power of grass and mulch to choke out weeds, and in short order I was digging bishop’s weed and bellflower out of the newly installed sod.

Later I joined a local gardening group, hoping that there might be some member with good advice. Hah. “Why are you digging?” they said. “Just use RoundUp,” they said. “It’s resistant to herbicides,” I said, and they scoffed.

Well, I am here to tell you that their faith in RoundUp is similarly naive and touching. Last week, I carefully painted it onto the leaves of the bellflower; days later, the weed continued to flourish madly. I said, “OK, no more Ms Nice Gardener,” and spritzed with abandon. The bellflower remains green, healthy, and undaunted, though the herbicide did take care of a few dandelions and similar ordinary weeds in the vicinity. I am really not bothered by dandelions and other such innocent flora. At this point, I am thrilled to see Creeping Charlie spreading in the one bed where I am pretty sure I have eradicated both bellflower and bishop’s weed, because that means that all more serious threats are gone. In all my digging, I killed the iris, but I seem to have succeeded in dissecting the bellflower roots away from the roots of roses and hostas, and I think I salvaged most of the bulbs.

But really, if you have bellflower, you would be better off hiring earth-moving equipment to remove all the topsoil, and then start over. I do not know what I am going to do where it has grown around the roots of the oak tree.

Blogging the lost

A sheaf of guidebooks to English castles, from three summers ago, which should be on the shelves of my school office with all my other similar guides, and which I do not remember seeing anywhere in my home office during a recent re-shuffling of books; if they were hidden in my school office then I ought to have found them during last year’s clean-up efforts; I know I brought them back from England (that was a very heavy suitcase), and they are not the sort of thing that I de-accession.

So WHERE ARE THEY?

Update: I found them in a box in the guest room, cleared out of my study at some point, housed in an opaque plastic box/folder, such that it was not clear from the outside what was in it. NB, try to use clear box/folder thingies in future.

Anyway, yay! Now I can turn a class loose on “castle study hall,” where each student gets a guidebook to some castle, and after reading by themselves for a bit, they get together to talk about features that castles have in common, and how their builders accommodated landscape features on particular sites, and what historians and archaeologists still puzzle over. A field trip would be better, and if I taught in the UK might be easily organized. From here, however, it’s not going to happen.

I never did get to that Ozark Castle, and it’s too far from me for a class field trip.

Mustn’t grumble, but I do anyway

Probably just because it’s a gloomy damp day, and grumbling suits it.

Things are actually going well enough, just not to plan. I’ve done some teaching things . . . not the most urgent ones. I’ve done some research . . . on the long-term project, not this month’s main event. (That actually was the plan, for today; the trick will be going back to the main current thing tomorrow, instead of getting caught up in the old thing that now seems like the New Shiny, thanks to the break while I worked on other things.) I’ve been to the gym, though I left two hours later than I planned to. What I never account for, in planning a day at home, is the process that goes like this:

If it snows tomorrow, I can’t wear those boots. Unless I waterproofed them. That would be a great idea, actually. What did I do with the waterproofing stuff? Oh, look, it’s exactly where I thought it was, how very organized of me! Why doesn’t it have a nozzle? Oh, right, now I remember: the old cleaner was having a clumsy day, maybe a year ago (more?) and knocked the nozzle off a new can of bathroom cleaner, and I was a clever-boots and found that the nozzle from the waterproofing stuff fit the can of cleaning foam, and I told myself to remember to notice when we ran low on the foam and move the nozzle back to the waterproofing stuff. Predictably, I was not nearly clever enough to remember to do that. Now, what do I have that will fit the waterproofing can? Not that . . . look under a different sink . . . not that . . . try that one . . . well, that made a mess, and I don’t think it did anything for the boots . . . is there anywhere else to look? (Repeat process a couple of times.) Okay, that worked. Put back the nozzle that didn’t fit (why do household items have at least two different sizes of nozzle, anyway?). Put back the one that did fit. Leave the boots to dry. Get back to Plan A.

Sir John suggested that I toss out the nozzleless can and buy a new one. “Call it your contribution to economic stimulus.” I admit that he has a point, but if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have been able to do the boots today, or not unless I’d added another errand to the list of things to do today. It might have been quicker anyway, but then again, maybe not.

It’s this sort of thing that always derails me. That, and feeling that it is time for a cup of tea. If it were just the tea, it would be fine, but I always do something while the kettle boils and then, twenty minutes later, resume Plan A. It would be quicker just to stare out the window while the kettle boils.

At any rate, I was supposed to spend the afternoon decluttering, but I still have Urgent Teaching Things to do before tomorrow, and I think I can see how this is going to go. Once the UTT are done, it will be time to cook dinner, and afterward I will get ready for tomorrow’s departure at sunrise, and then I will do something to wind down before bed, and the clutter will be exactly where I left it.

But I will be able to wear my favorite boots even if there are snow showers. Win?

Orderly transitions

Using “Trump” along with “President” in the same sentence, never mind the same noun clause, makes me want to hurl.

Just so we’re clear on that.

However: the Electoral College exists for a reason. It keeps the more populous states from dominating the more sparsely populated ones. The principle is that the states are just as important as where the population resides. Any individual state can decide how it wants to distribute its electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska distribute them in proportion to the popular vote. That’s their decision. Other states go by the winner-take-all method. They get to decide that.

We have a rule book. We need to follow it. Dictatorships and banana republics change the rules when the game doesn’t come out the way they want it. That’s not how we do things in the USA. Think what your reaction would be, if the vote had gone the other way and Trump supporters were petitioning the Electoral College to cast its votes differently from the way they were pledged.

If you don’t like the Electoral College system, try working in your state to get your electors’ votes cast proportionately to the popular vote rather than as winner-take-all. Work to get Democrats elected in mid-term elections. Let your voice be heard in the new administration. Speak. Write. Register voters. Talk to people. Act. Contribute time, money, ideas, energy to the people and organizations who matter to you.

But let’s do things right. Democratically. By the rules. It’s true, rules can change, and sometimes they need to. Make sure, though, that the rules you ask for are fair to everyone, because next time the shoe may be on the other foot. Do as you would be done by. Do it by the book.

It’s not an epiphany

(And if it is, ur doin it rong.)

This article really pissed me off. “[M]enopause delivers a mind-blowing mid-life recalibration – one with a valuable message of growth and expansion.” Uh, what? My mind is still here, unblown. Life trundles along the way it has for years. Maybe it’s being a professor: growth and expansion come with the territory. New students, new ideas, new courses (or new ways of doing the old ones), new research.

“[F]emale bodies are powerful intuitive barometers and mine was trying to tell me something.” Probably every body is a powerful intuitive barometer, whatever its sex. I count on mine to tell me when I’m hungry, thirsty, sleepy, and so on.

“I routinely put others first which meant racing through my life over-achieving and under-prioritising me. Exhausted and running on empty, letting go of my expectations of me would be the first positive move.” Okay, now you’re finally getting to your problems. Don’t suggest that those are everyone’s problems. (And by the way: dangling modifier. That irritates me, too.) You could have set a higher priority on yourself at any point, however; there’s nothing magical about menopause. Maybe that’s what got your attention, but in someone else’s life, it might have been a parent’s death or a child’s starting school, a change of jobs or a milestone birthday. I think Franklin’s realizations are not uncommon in midlife, actually, but the menopause thing is coincidental. I know women who went through menopause very early due to medical treatments or just because it happens early in their families, and they pretty much carried on as usual until their fifties, when the reality that life is short became more than just a phrase to follow with “so eat dessert first” or “don’t drink bad wine.” Men do this too. What do you think the sports cars are about?

“In menopause our body roars. All these years it has put up and shut up and now will not tolerate abuse or disrespect any longer. This commotion is simply a demand by your newly awake self for quality not quantity, for re-evaluation and re-balancing. Perhaps (when your time comes) you plan to put your hands over your ears? Think again, there is nothing so primal and immediate as your body’s hormonal call to action.” Our body? Speak for yourself. You have yours, I have mine. I wouldn’t say that mine put up and shut up. It has made its needs clear for decades. I treat it kindly. My self is as awake (or maybe not-awake) as it has been for years. I can’t say that I’m experiencing a hormonal call to action. Hot flashes, yes, but they don’t move me to much action beyond reaching for an ice pack. I always thought I’d enjoy getting up to room temperature, that it would make a pleasant change from being freezing most of the time. The problem isn’t the hot, it’s the flash, the sensation of being suddenly dumped into a sauna. I do not experience them as power surges, just as a passing nuisance. They definitely do not roar.

“Post-menopause needs renaming and reclaiming for what it truly is, a magnificent time of curiosity, creativity and rank. It’s not surprising that some societies have been threatened by this natural female evolution to leader and mentor. In Pagan times of Goddess Worship, female tribal elders were respected and celebrated but with the introduction of Christianity came the brutal persecution of middle-aged women as witches and heretics. As feminist history explains, older women were simply channeling their menopausal force to intervene in an oppressive culture that undermined female wisdom and equality.” Gag me. Where to start? Is there seriously any historical evidence for a pagan feminist paradise before the coming of Christianity? I used to have this argument with my mother, who blamed Christianity for everything that afflicted women (in her later years; when I was little, she was as conventional as they come: we both wore white gloves to church). In the medieval and early modern periods, an appalling number of women died before they made it to menopause. I can hardly bear to tour medieval churches any longer, despite the lovely architecture, because of all the plaques and gravestones from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, memorializing women who died in their thirties after bearing nine, or eleven, children, more than half of whom preceded them to the grave. Such a waste. At least Catholicism offered the option of the nunnery, where a woman could have some sort of intellectual life, and not have to go through childbirth.

Probably I’m simply the wrong audience for this sort of essay. I never went for the Powerful Female Experience rhetoric, whether it was attached to menstruation, childbirth, menopause, or any other natural process. There are lots of bodily processes that we could bond over. Some are universal human experiences, shared with men, and even with other animals. How come we never talk about the profound experience of digestion, and how at one with the universe we feel when we are replete after a good meal, or about the pleasures of relieving a full bladder, or making one’s mark on the world by taking a dump? Oh, wait, those aren’t mystical; they have nothing to do with the process of bringing another life into the world, which is the real power of women. Of course. And that must mean that I, as a childless-by-choice woman, am not a real woman. Never mind my double-x chromosomes, my years of living in a female body with (almost) all that that implies, my experiences with sexism overt and covert. I’m not sure that I’m even allowed a powerful menopause, in this model: if I haven’t sacrificed myself to others, if I haven’t given birth and suffered sleep deprivation while looking after a newborn and exhausted myself raising children while having a career, then probably what I’m going through isn’t really the hormonal wake-up call that Ms Franklin is on about.

OK, then, fine, never mind. Nonetheless, I think it’s sad if you haven’t managed to put yourself first before your mid-fifties. I thought that was an affliction of my mother’s generation, not of my own. I have a variety of friends (women and men) who have children. A few inhabit the martyr role. Most of them think about their own needs as well as those of their children. The second set are happier. How’s that for a powerful human experience?

“Happiness exists, and it’s important; why refuse it? You don’t make other people’s unhappiness any worse by accepting it; it even helps you to fight for them.”