Where the day went

Before I started work, I fed the cats, did yoga, ate breakfast, watered and fertilized the tomatoes, watered the African violets, brushed the cats’ teeth.

Checked e-mail and answered a couple of messages. Declined an “opportunity” that would interfere with time I want to use either to do research or to prep my grad class, though technically I’m “free” at that time.

Wrote 567 words.

Commented on all the undergrads’ discussion board posts. Assigned points to both classes’ posts. Discovered that I have loaded to Blackboard all but one assignment for each class (I thought I was missing more than that for one class, so this made me happy). Made notes toward the two assignments I still have to write up in detail.

Attended a committee meeting online. Volunteered for a subcommittee.

When the meeting ended early, I used the “found time” to swing by the grocery store (half an hour) and move some boxes around in the garage, then started unpacking one box of books (another half hour). ILL’d a book I need, only to have the request cancelled because the book is already checked out of one of the libraries that has it; another is a non-circulating library; the third claims to have it but in fact hasn’t ordered it yet. Thppppbtt.

Dead language group meeting, online.

Talked to Sir John while completing the unpacking of that box of books. Sorted out a stack of books to give away. I’m pretty sure that box of books never got unpacked in the last house, so it was easy to distinguish between the books I was glad to see again and those that made me wonder where and why I got them in the first place.

Checked in online with my dissertating students.

Ate dinner. Went for a walk. Unpacked a new batch of masks from Etsy that arrived in today’s mail.

While watching the Vuelta, answered more e-mail and started reviewing an article I’m teaching tomorrow.

Quick Sunday round-up

I’m not going to say “five minutes” because even five minutes to write turns into 15 to post and fill in categories. And it won’t be ten things I did today because it’s not yet noon here.

Gardening update: the groundhog broke through the newly patched fence by Thursday (when I discovered the damage). I’ve piled heavy pavers in front of the hole, and bought some new metal fence posts that I plan to use to hold the chicken wire in place, and also just to block access. Honorine Joubert is coming into bud. Most of the late-starting volunteer tomato plants have fruit on them, so maybe I will have tomatoes for Halloween.

Reading: though it should be all for teaching and research, this is me we’re talking about, so I’ve read Katherine Heiny’s novels and short story collection because Moira’s posts made her sound like fun. I liked the short stories best. Standard Deviation seemed very familiar, never quite so familiar that I said “Oh, that book, I don’t need to re-read it,” but always with the sense that I knew [whatever event] was going to happen once it did. I’m not sure if Moira did such a good job reporting on it that I expected everything, or if I really did read it a few years ago and forget. I’m also not sure if I was slightly bored because of that sense of familiarity, or because nothing much happens, or because I’m tired of books about privileged New Yorkers. I definitely found Early Morning Riser dull, in part because the setting is so very familiar (small midwestern town). It had some funny lines, but I thought we were in Anne Tyler territory (not literally, since AT writes about Baltimore and its environs; in terms of how random events and long-standing loyalties shape lives), and that Tyler does it better. It made me wonder if Moira and her British commenters like Heiny so much because for them the familiar aspects of her work are slightly exotic, the way I only read British chick lit because I prefer the tone and settings to American chick lit, which usually feels a little cloying and/or claustrophobic to me.

Also reading: Elly Griffiths’ series about Edgar Stephens. I do not like it nearly as well as the Ruth Galloway series. I thought the villain of the first book was completely unbelievable. But at least it’s Elly Griffiths, so they’re readable, and as picky as I am about my fun reading, sometimes readable is good enough.

Researching: I’ve managed a couple thousand words on my book in the past couple of weeks. Yay!

Teaching: I more-or-less finished the most troublesome syllabus a couple of hours before that class started. I still have to write a bunch of assignments. Why is it just as hard to turn an online class into in-person as the other way around? I thought it would be easier going this direction.

Washing and drying: I am enjoying having the new washer and dryer, which were delivered while I was in Familyland, but the washer does have a tendency to twist clothes into ropes. However, both machines have the settings I want to have, and are not so fancy that they want to communicate with the smart phone I don’t have, or decide for themselves how to wash or dry the clothes. I want to be the one who bosses the machines, not the other way around!

Exercising: not enough. It is much too hot out most of the time to go for walks, and I’m not getting up early enough to go out at sunrise when it’s bearable, because we’re staying up late . . .

Watching: the Vuelta à España.

Who knows where the time goes?

July. Huh. Let’s say I’ve been busy actually doing things rather than blogging. Or enjoying the summer; that works, too.

What have I been doing, though? I painted the bathroom, though not all the books are back into my study yet. I created a flowerbed in the spot in the front yard where the grass doesn’t grow well, anyway, mainly by dividing clumps of plants from elsewhere in the garden, and am crossing fingers that the transplants survive. The new veg got planted out.

I finished revising the R&R that had become an albatross around my neck (part of the MMP, a part I thought I’d got squared away awhile ago, and then it came un-squared*), and sent it back to the journal. I returned to my book-in-progress and have written about 1600 words.

*I guess I never reported on developments related to this piece. The original journal rejected it, in the end, last year, about 10 days before our move. I muttered, “I don’t have time for this,” and within ten minutes had sent the revised essay to another journal that used the same citation style, before I went back to packing. Journal #2 accepted with revisions. As usual, revising led me to expand the essay by 25-30%, so we’ll see what happens now. I may yet be re-re-re-revising here. I am so tired of the MMP, which began as an offshoot of a book-in-progress that has been sidelined for longer than I want to think about. That is, not the current BIP. Another one.

We went to the wedding alluded to in my last, and everyone, including me, behaved properly and engaged in polite chit-chat as required. My dress was so appropriate that three of the bride’s four aunts were wearing some version of the same outfit. If Beau Brummel’s dictum about dress is correct, that is, that one is properly dressed when completely unremarkable, I was perfect. Fans were handed out as party favors, although the weather was more pleasant than expected. The fan was useful to hide behind when I needed to make sotto voce comments to Sir John.

I donated a large box of stuff to Goodwill and did some second-hand shopping while I was at it, netting two cotton cardigans and a linen sundress I intend to wear as a slip.

I found that M. C. Beaton wrote a series of Regency romances in which an elderly impoverished aristocrat starts running a hotel; high jinks ensue. Exceedingly fluffy and delightful as summer reading. For work, I read excruciatingly long medieval romances in their original languages, literary criticism dealing with same, copious amounts of historiography, and as little theory as I think I can get away with. I’ll leave the serious novels to people who don’t need a palate-cleanser at the end of the day.

Finding 4-5 hours a day to watch coverage of the Tour de France is actually kind of useful in terms of giving me some structure and forcing me to prioritize. Certainly one of the benefits of the pandemic and associated lack of travel is being home to immerse myself in the Tour, which, honestly, I watch partly for the pretty pictures of France. And what a weird Tour it’s being, this year. Yesterday there was a stretch where Sonny Colbrelli, a sprinter, was keeping up with Nairo Quintana, a climber, and Sir John and I were just looking at each other wondering WTF**. Eventually Colbrelli got dropped, but that was a very strange stage.

We’ll see if I check in again before August. Have a good July, anyone who reads this!

**Updated to add: and on today’s brutal and miserably cold stage (9, in the Alps), Colbrelli finished third, ahead of Quintana by over a minute. WT actual F?

You might as well blog

I should probably turn this into a “very local news” post. That’s a step up from random bullets.

Celebrity sighting: here is Glendower looking beautiful. Well, he always looks beautiful. Here he is posing for the papparazzi:

Health and beauty: it’s random bullets, I mean very local news, because I have forgotten how to sleep (again), and I’m too tired to do much of anything. I do all the right things and still can’t fall asleep till after midnight. Sometimes I manage to sleep in, so I do wind up rested, but then the day goes to hell because the schedule is off. Sometimes I get up at dawn so I can get some exercise while it’s still just hot (as opposed to unbearably hot), and then the day goes to hell because I’m too tired to think straight (like today). But! I have had a real haircut since I last blogged. That is, in a salon, cut by someone who is not me. It came out too short, but it’s hair, it will grow.

Politics, feline: they all seem to be getting along acceptably well lately, but Reina is reluctant to eat in her usual spot, atop a chair, and wants to be on a bookshelf or under a table. I am not sure whether her paranoia is due to other cats, humans, or just Secret Messages From The Spirit World telling her this is what she has to do now.

Politics, human: we’re going to a family wedding soon. I think most of the people on non-speaks will be present. My side still doesn’t know the reason for the non-speaking. The main culprit says “if you don’t know, I don’t have anything to say to you,” so . . . yeah, that’s helpful. I doubt we’ll learn anything on this occasion. Secretly I hope for a flaming row that might clear the air, but I expect everyone will stiff-upper-lip it and just manage to be on the other side of the room from each other.

Fashion: I am going to wear a Lands’ End poly-rayon sheath dress to the wedding (outdoors!), and probably boil (did I mention outdoors, and unbearably hot, see under health), because when I got out my linen-blend Ann Taylor shift dress that is my Summer Wedding Guest go-to, it looked terrible, even after I steamed it. The fabric puckered, the bust darts are in the wrong place (I guess I’ve sagged with age? Or just gotten pickier about fit? Let’s say I’m pickier, I like that better), the color is unflattering now that my hair is much greyer than the last time I wore it. My back-up dress is a rayon floral that is pretty but wrinkles if you look at it, and I have had it with looking hopelessly crumpled. I’m giving those two away. The Lands’ End dress fits, is a reasonable color, and doesn’t wrinkle. It’s unremarkable and appropriate. Maybe I’ll carry a fan as an accessory.

Economy: because I am a person much affected by salary compression, I got a raise. Yay! Because my salary is computed on a nine-month contract, but I get paid over twelve months, I’m not sure how much money I’m actually getting. Boo! I suppose if I spent awhile on the uni website I could figure out how many pay periods they think there are in my contract, and apply the appropriate multiplier. But see above about fatigue. I may just wait till next year’s W-2 is available and see what my annual salary is then. But raises are good. Thank you, union negotiators.

Agriculture: I’ve fallen off the Six on Saturday wagon, but here’s a report minus pictures. Chard, collards, and cilantro are doing fabulously. The bok choi bolted ten minutes after I planted it. For a couple of weeks I kept pinching off flowers and hoping it would pull itself together, but today I gave up and pulled it out. I harvested enough leaves to put in a stir fry. Still in pots, I have another tomato (a freebie from a neighbor), more chard seedlings (rescued from a sale table), and some sage and basil. Another dozen plants can totally fit in the space where the six bok choi were, yes? There is a strawberry plant vining its way out from under the mint. It has put out three flowers and set one fruit. I’m not sure if it’s a real strawberry or one of those mini groundcover things, and I expect a bird will get to the fruit before I find out, but I’m letting it alone just in case. Also, the peony finally bloomed. It is now nearly done and needs to be dead-headed, but here’s one picture; look how pretty:

Decorating: I painted my study. It is now a pale, attractive color and seems larger and more welcoming, now that it is not institutional green. There is a spot over the closet that I need to re-touch, because the paint advertised as one-coat coverage isn’t, quite. Next up, the bathroom . . . after I finish moving books back into my study.

Books: I read Rachel Neumeier’s The Sphere of the Winds, and enjoyed it, but it’s a little too much like the first one, somehow. But if The Floating Islands floated your boat, the sequel is the sort of thing you’ll like. I loved Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, and I’m excited that a sequel is coming soon. I re-read Elizabeth Fair’s six novels, starting with Bramton Wick, and enjoyed them just as much as the first time. If you like Barbara Pym, you’d like E. Fair. You may gather that I like books where not too much happens. I like to explore other worlds without feeling harrowed.

The sports section got lost, and the writing reporter failed to turn in copy on deadline. Anyway, this is plenty long enough already. Have a good weekend!

The very local news

It’s a little more focused than random bullets.

Politics: Basement Cat and Reina generally observe their détente, except when mealtimes are approaching and Basement Cat would like to eat his feelings only there is nothing to eat yet because the hoo-man servants have fallen down on the job. Then he stalks Reina and she growls at him and this gets the attention of the neglectful hoo-mans.

Crime, indoors: minor vandalism from Basement Cat, mainly chewing on things the hoo-mans would prefer him not to chew.

Crime, outdoors: some weeks ago, I found the corpse of a rabbit on the side steps to the deck. Since it was less than intact but not dismembered, I theorized that either a coyote had been interrupted or a bird of prey had managed to kill it but could not carry it away. I dug a grave and buried the rabbit. Today I found that the grave had been exhumed. This time, I definitely blame coyotes.

Economy: tax documents dropped off at the accountant. Income normal. Unusual expenses: new roof, new washer and dryer. Contemplated expenses: power lawnmower, re-surfacing of driveway, paint for two or three rooms.

Agriculture: bought a selection of Swiss chard, collards, pak choi, and herbs yesterday, to be planted in the vegetable plot.

World of work: Although a few student papers came in early, I have been ignoring them and taking the weekend off. Grading will resume tomorrow. It feels very strange not to have huge amounts of class prep to do.

Lifestyle, decorating: studying paint chips for bathroom, guest room, my study. I keep thinking light turquoise or pale green might be nice in my study, but looking at samples on the wall, I feel that it would be like trying to work inside a tube of toothpaste. There’s a super pale blue that I like, now, but it might seem too cold in winter. I also like a “chalky purple” that to me looks like a super pale mauve: could I live with it long term, or would it wear on me as the pink bedroom I chose at 10 wore on my 13-year-old self? I’d love a pale, glossy lemon yellow, but yellows are so hard to get right.

Lifestyle, cooking: instead of just grating carrots on top of greens and adding herbs, mayo, and dressing, I grated four carrots in the food processor and added chopped fresh dill, lime juice, mayo, dressing, and salt, and let it marinate for a few hours. Sir John and a visiting friend had seconds, and there was still enough for me the next day. I think I should mix up a batch of the stuff once or twice a week, and save the daily effort.

Society: a friend I met at a wedding some years back (on the trip that inspired these reflections about tea and coffee) came to visit from a couple of states over, celebrating the fullness of our vaccinations. She and I walked around the neighborhood, critiquing the architecture, then we had dinner à trois and talked about architecture, books, and pets.

Weather: clear, sunny, cool, with warmer temps predicted for the next couple of days. A good time to get my veg planted, if my ribs permit digging.

Health, human: I am fully vaccinated. Sir John has had one shot. I pulled some muscles around my ribs a few weeks ago, and have been resting them ever since. Improvement is noticeable. Some of my other aches and pains have also cleared up, including my wonky hip, which only started hurting again when I carried books home from the library about half a mile away. I think I might need less yoga and more strength work.

Health, feline: Glendower has had a lot of hairballs recently, despite brushing and Laxatone. He has a re-check for his IBD coming up this week, so we’ll see what the vet suggests.

Sports: Reina demands that I wave the fevver toy every night before I go to bed, so she can chase it. Sir John is cycling regularly. I am cautiously walking a mile or two per day and hoping my ribs and hip won’t object.

Books: my visiting friend reminded me of the Agatha Raisin series, and I found I was about four books behind, so I went and got the most recent ones from the local library. They are even lighter-weight than most of the “light fiction by British women writing between the wars” that makes up a lot of my leisure reading, but that’s fine for end-of-term brain candy.

Strange discovery

Recently I saw a real-estate ad for a house in my home town, and went online to check it out. Lovely pictures. Only . . . where was it? I should have walked by it dozens of times, but couldn’t recall seeing it. Google street view showed me the house that I remembered for that address, but the pictures didn’t match that house. Finally drilling down in Google maps showed the lots on that hillside, and I realized that the house for sale was on a flag lot (which term, coincidentally, I learned last week from a post at a garden blog). I have been past the corner, dozens of times, but it never occurred to me to wander down a stranger’s driveway to see if there was a second house back there.

It was like those dreams in which you discover an extra room in your house. Only there really is a house I didn’t know about. What else don’t I know about my old neighborhood?

Some random bullets

Mostly of Very Local News.

The semester has started. I spent too much time resting up over winter break: that is, too much to prep my spring courses, but about the right amount to feel like I recovered from the fall and could face starting up again.

It’s not too hard adapting my undergrad course to online delivery, since I’ve taught it before and have assignments and notes I can use, and since basically I’m trying to treat it like a regular course (with synchronous meetings), just a little more scripted, with some discussion board work and posted notes for classes.

But the grad class. Yikes. The syllabus is still not complete, though I’ve made a lot of progress on it. That’s a new course, and when it originally landed on my plate, about 14 months ago, I thought I’d prep it in summer 2020. Well, summer 2020 went to moving and getting ready to teach fall courses online. So . . . it’s nice to have a batch of very understanding grads who are cutting me some slack.

Speaking of slack, I need to see if some people who took incompletes in the fall would like to meet with me.

Speaking of moving, the new house’s roof is leaking, of course in my study where the highest concentration of books is; I’ve moved lots of books out to the living room, so now when I reach for something it is not to hand, and I have to get up and go search for it among the disarranged shelves. Grevisse is in with the English history, and (since the living room was supposed to be for fiction) Godefroy’s Dictionnaire de l’ancien français is snuggled up to A Billion for Boris. It took awhile to find my Latin dictionary this morning, because the classics are all over the place. Some books had to be shelved by size; others just would up mixed as Sir John and I carried books in bunches from my shelves to the living room. So far, two roofers have come and told us that we would be better off replacing the roof. One estimate is literally double the other. I think we need a couple more estimates.

Basement Cat seems to be feeling very anti-Reina again. I don’t know what his problem is. Sometimes he can co-exist perfectly happily with her, and then he’ll wake up, walk across the room to where she’s sleeping peacefully, and provoke her to growl at him.

In many ways, I like this strange new life. I can do things on my computer while I’m in a faculty meeting, I don’t have to drive long distances, I don’t have to drive in bad weather, when a night class is over I’m already home and don’t have to drive at night when I’m tired, and I’m a little less keyed-up from teaching because online interaction affects me differently from being in the physical classroom. I miss in-person teaching, but as the introvert’s introvert, this life is not bad, for me. I miss travel, and friends, and . . . that pretty much sums it up. Bookstores.

I wish I had more to blog about. Day to day life is peaceful, which is to say boring. Maybe I should keep in mind that quotation from O. Douglas that I posted in September, and try posting every day, or every other day, and see if there’s more to tell that way.

Before Instagram

there was Laurie Colwin:

“She decanted everything into glass and on her long kitchen shelves were row upon row of jars containing soap, pencils, cookies, salt, tea, paper clips, and dried beans. . . . The shoes in her closet were stuffed with pink tissue paper and her drawers were filled with lavender sachet. In each corner of her closet hung a pomander ball. She liked to have tea on a tray and she was fond of unmatched china. The tray she brought . . . held cups that bore forget-me-nots, a lily-of-the-valley sugar dish, a cream pitcher with red poppies, and a teapot covered with red roses and cornflowers.”

Happy All the Time (Penguin, 1985; orig. 1971), 9-10. Note the Oxford comma separating the paper clips from the dried beans.

We’ve made more trips to the storage unit and I’m starting to unpack my fiction. It’s like browsing in a bookstore specially curated just for me.

Hail the new!

My intention for the year: roll with the punches. I’m sure there will be some.

That doesn’t stop me planning. I’ve re-booked a trip I had hoped to take last year, mainly (TBH) because the voucher I was holding was about to expire. The airline wanted me to use it within twelve months of when I first booked the trip. Well, ha very ha, sorry, but that’s not happening. It took quite awhile, but I did manage to get the trip pushed out to May, so we’ll see if that’s time enough to get vaccinated and for the library I want to visit to re-open. Considering that the alternative was just giving up and losing the money entirely, I’m willing to gamble.

Today I did two things I’ve been putting off for months: potted or re-potted some house plants (two African violet plantlets had been rooting in water since August), and hung pictures. The plants took under two hours, including setting up and cleaning up afterwards, and did not spawn any off-shoot projects. I certainly have had spare chunks of two hours in the last four months, but not the bandwidth to deal with getting out the new pots and soil, shutting up Basement Cat, clearing the kitchen table, actually dealing with the plants, putting everything back, and cleaning up. I spent my spare time reading fluff or going for walks, rather than embarking on multi-step projects, although I did at some point buy new pots, also drywall screws for the pictures.

Hanging the pictures took a little longer. There, the steps were find toolbox, get out drill, dig around for drill bits, discover that the little doohickey that tightens down the bit holder is missing, take everything out of the tool box to look for it, find that it is entirely missing, test various Allen wrenches and screwdriver heads to find something that will sorta-kinda replace it (and make note to get a real replacement on a day that is not a national holiday), measure various walls, make holes in walls, screw in the drywall screws, hang pictures, put everything away. I managed to lose the hammer at one point, but found it in the bag with the drill. The hammer was part of an off-shoot project; one picture frame was loose and needed to be tacked down again. Fortunately I recently turned up a little packet of the right sort of tacks.

It’s the propensity for off-shoot projects that keeps me from tackling tasks like this. So often, the steps go Find Object A, Discover that Part B is Missing, Spend C Amount of Time Looking for Part B, Spend D Amount of Time Going to E Stores for Replacement Part B, return home to discover that Cat F has Damaged Object A, Say “oh fuck it” and Pour Wine or Eat Chocolate.

I have also started setting up calendar stuff for January and beyond, which I’ve been putting off for a week, I think in rebellion against the entire idea of calendars and task lists.

Today’s productivity may or may not be a good sign for the rest of the year. Nonetheless, if I do nothing else but worky-work for the rest of the month, at least I’ve done these two things that will Stay Done (for awhile, anyway; eventually the plants will need more attention), so I’m claiming that I have Won January.

Fast away the old year passes

And thank Cat that’s over . . . except that one of my principles is “it can always get worse,” so I’m not entirely thrilled to see 2020 go. We’ll hope for the best. In 2020, I got to move, and discovered that I don’t hate teaching online as much as I expected to. As the introvert’s introvert, I’m very happy to be at home with Sir John, my cats, and lots of books, all the time. Life is good, though I miss traveling.

2020 saw an international trip in January, the only trip I made this year. I re-submitted an old R&R, which was rejected a few months later (I immediately submitted it elsewhere). I made strawberry-rhubarb pie for Pi Day. I lost track of the weeks at the end of the pivoted-to-online spring semester, and still came up with a final assignment that the students enjoyed writing and I enjoyed reading. It might not have been wholly rigorous, but this year, I’m taking continued student engagement as a Big Fat Win. We finally got an offer on our old house and went into contract on it. I did a whole series of posts about house-hunting, starting here; it was somewhat stressful staring down a closing date and having to move during a pandemic, but we were so happy to be getting out that really it was all okay. I did my last old-house Six on Saturday.

We love the new house. Basement Cat and Reina have achieved détente here, although the dialogue reported in this post is still enacted regularly. I considered five decades of changes in my life. For a couple of days, the surface of my desk was visible. I enjoy the new garden.

I discovered Maria Nikolajeva’s blog, and am sadly reminded, today, that I have to put together my documents for annual review. It’s a comfort to know that even the wildly accomplished hate the process. I emulated a minor character from Barbara Pym. Once the semester was over, I thought about all the things I needed and wanted to do over winter break, far more than there is really time for. A good bit of the break has gone to reading and doing jigsaw puzzles, and we have also managed a couple of runs to the storage unit for more boxes, so I’ve happily done some re-discovery of Books I Have Missed.

I found at least two books in the fantasy/YA stash that I have no recollection of either reading or buying. I am guessing that I acquired them not long before the Massive Declutter Effort, now some four years back, when I thought the house would sell quickly and I’d only be without the packed items for six months or so, and that I packed unread books thinking that they’d be an incentive to unpack once we moved. I wonder what other unexpected treasures I’ll (re)discover once the weather cooperates enough to let us go for another load.

I plan to celebrate the New Year on Nova Scotia time and go to bed after that. See you in 2021!