Doing and dreaming

There are those who do, and those who dream.

It has taken much of my life to realize that there are very few things I’d rather do than read about doing. That number keeps shrinking. You might think eating would be a definite Do, but as I am at present on a fairly restricted diet, there are a lot of foods I enjoy only vicariously, by reading about other people’s enjoyment of them. Easy country walks fall into both categories; travel to countries other than those in Europe and North America, however, is strictly Read/Dream. I also love reading about detectives solving murder mysteries, and about Bren Cameron translating for aliens, but I have zero desire to do either, myself.

Currently I have tabs open for four gardening blogs, whose archives I am reading with considerable pleasure. And then I look at my own garden, and wonder how much work it needs to make it possible to offload it, along with this house, onto someone else, and how much of that work I’m willing to pay someone else to do. Despite all my efforts, the garden is still afflicted with creeping bellflower and bishop’s weed; various ornamental grasses and flowers that dry to ornamental interest need to be cut back now that it’s spring; the lawn is patchy; the flowerbeds are covered in last year’s leaf mulch, though some bulbs are popping bravely through.

The gardening blogs I’m dipping into are almost entirely those of people living in the U.K., with a far kinder climate than U.S. zone whatever I’m in (five? six?). Their “winter garden” pictures are of greenery artistically rimed with frost, at times when my garden is usually under a foot or two of snow. At the end of February, their gardens are farther along than mine is in April, and their idea of a baking summer afternoon is what the thermometer here hits by 10:00 a.m. on a July morning before soaring into temperatures that demand drawn curtains and air conditioning.

Possibly in other circumstances, I would be a gardener, as in other circumstances, I might be a number of other things that, either by decision or happenstance, I am not: a mother, an interpreter, an accountant, a superstar scholar, a third-grade teacher. But I think I should pay more attention to what I like to do, and not assume that the things that interest me in print are things I want to do IRL. Gardening is hard on back, hands, fingernails and complexion. I am fair-skinned and not particularly sturdy, in fact in some ways rather fragile. I can see that there must be great creative satisfaction in producing a glorious garden, but it is clear to me that what I like most is reading. I’m just as happy to spend my outdoor time going for walks on which I admire other people’s gardens. I do want some small private place where I can sit outdoors to read on a nice day without being spare-changed or otherwise harassed, as too often happens in parks, but a balcony, patio or front stoop would suit me fine.

Mirabile dictu

I ordered a pair of Chaco’s chukka boots (say “Chaco’s chukkas” five times, fast).

(Sir John said, “Is that box shoes? Of course it’s shoes. You’re not like the women in Sex and the City in other ways . . .”)

Astonishingly, they have enough arch support that I don’t need inserts in them. I cannot remember the last time I tried on shoes of which I could say that. And yet I think I am going to send them back. They are noticeably too wide, so that the top of the shoe puckers when I lace them tightly. While they are marginally less sporty than the Kanarra trail walkers, they are still definitely a casual shoe. They look okay with a short, sporty skirt, but then, the Kanarras aren’t too bad with the same skirt. I think I’d be better off putting the money into a pair of Chaco’s sandals for summer, wearing the trail walkers with trousers, and relying on my usual shoes and boots, with inserts, for dressier outfits and occasions.

But they are so comfortable that I almost don’t care what they look like. Almost. (Still vain.) Anyway, if Pym Fan or anyone else with feet like mine is interested, the Pineland chukkas are on sale right now. Order a half size down, and enjoy the support.

Foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone

My new shoes are helping both ankles and knees. The hip is still a work in progress, so aches there may have some other cause. Nonetheless, it’s nice to have solved a couple of body problems just by buying new shoes. They are Chaco’s Kanarra, a little wide for me but acceptable with inserts and socks (and a Scarlett O’Hara style pull on the laces). I also bought some high-arch inserts to try in some of my other shoes, but after a try-on, I shrugged and went back to the Chacos. They feel good. Elegant they are not, but they are at least a discreet and sober grey, unlike my gym shoes, which nearly glow in the dark. I just wish I could find a pair of shoes that feels this good and looks acceptable with dresses. I could get a pair of Chaco’s sandals for summer . . .

 

Where did the rest of spring break go?

And how is it Thursday again?

The rest of the break was not very interesting. I shredded all the moldy (but not illegible) papers in the basement that might conduce to fraud if not shredded (though I know purely online fraud is the method of choice these days, better safe than sorry), set up assignments for the rest of the semester for one of my classes, cooked, paid bills, made plans with a friend for dinner at K’zoo, went to the gym daily, put in an hour digging out roots of bishop’s weed and bellflower in the garden (one thing I’ll say for winter, if you’re shoveling snow, you’re not weeding), ordered a pair of shoes (Merrells). The shoes’ reviews said they had moderate to excellent arch support but I found not only that their arch support was inadequate but that they forced my feet to pronate, which is very bad for my knees. So they went back the day after they arrived. I am trying to resign myself to going to an actual store with people who ought to know something about feet (but in fact will not, unless I go to a store that only sells running shoes) and driving them and me crazy trying on multiple pairs in multiple sizes from multiple brands before either giving up in disgust or buying something I don’t really like for far more than I wanted to spend.

It was a relief to return to work, where I can wear nice clothes, talk to people about literature or sit at a desk in a clean comfortable chair, and where however shabby the building and however old the texts I’m discussing, nothing is actually, literally moldy. (Not all profs have such luxurious surroundings.) I’m behind with grading (isn’t everyone, at this point?), but got very helpful feedback from my writing group about a problem I’m trying to solve in an R&R, and though I have some students with attendance problems, those that were present this week were attentive and interested in what I was teaching, so I’ll take that as a win.

In other not-exciting news, the accountant we used last year has gone out of business, but the firm we used before that (and who recommended last year’s people) will take us back, so now I have an appointment, which is to say, a deadline for assembling all the necessary and relevant pieces of paper that I’ve been trying to make myself track down and gather up for the last six weeks. I have got a haircut, visited the dry cleaner, and sent in my application for a new passport. It makes me oddly nervous to be without a passport: what if I suddenly needed to flee the country? But not nervous enough to expedite the process, since I don’t anticipate fleeing. In fact, given the news from London, I rather wonder if students will back out of the summer program I’m hoping to teach in, which would leave me at home despite the new document.

Spring break, days 5 and 6

It’s almost over.

Both Wednesday and Thursday were sunny, though chilly, and I did errands both days so I could be outside rather than in the basement. I went to the gym both days. I had a long and interesting conversation with a woman I met in a yoga class, about eight years ago. For all that time, we’ve chatted when we see each other, but never really talked. As I tend to represent myself (at the gym) as “an English teacher,” so she also presents herself as less accomplished than she is. I know why I do it: to avoid the “intimidating” label, so I don’t look like I’m showing off, so I don’t have to explain what that means or what I really do (research on medieval literature??) to people who are clueless. But it’s easier for me to find common ground with other over-educated people, whatever their field, people who are accustomed to thinking analytically. It would be easy to say “Oh, women are socialized to do that,” but actually, I wasn’t, or not in the course of my upbringing and education. In my 30s I deliberately trained myself to behave this way, to conform to social norms in the place I live now.

I also baked a pie (one day late) and took it to a social gathering Wednesday night. Thursday I dropped off donations in two different places and bought more packing boxes, then spent the afternoon and evening reading Foreigner novels.

I feel like I’m not making very much progress, but I haven’t been sleeping well, and that always slows me down a lot. My ankle is better but my hip is still achy and wakes me up sometimes, and the sliver of pie I allowed myself disagreed with me. It looks like most fruit is going to be off the table (pun intended) for the foreseeable future. I try to focus on the positive: changes to diet alone are enough to relieve my symptoms, and when I eat carefully, I feel completely normal, and sleep better besides. Going out is awkward, though. I hate looking like such a picky eater, while explaining all the details is tedious for everyone. I picked up some useful tips from this thread at Captain Awkward’s site.

Anyway, today is cloudy and so it might be a good day to spend more time in the basement, since I won’t be missing the sun down there. Or gather tax info. Or do some class planning and assignments. The main thing is to pick something, anything, and just do it, rather than thrashing.

Spring break, day 4

I did several loads of laundry, put in about 45 minutes on a research project, wrote a couple of long e-mails regarding a summer program, went to the gym, went to the bank, and packed two boxes of my clothing for storage. This entailed trying on a few items. Three skirts will be given away, but my flirty little black dress still fits and looks good. I also finished shredding the clean paper from basement boxes.

It seems like not very much.

In the evening I tried to figure out the extent of my clear memories of the Foreigner series. I had forgotten that there were so many books after the return to the planet. Lots of atevi politics, mostly taking place during a very short time. People like Sir John, who love plot, no doubt prefer these. Given my bent, I like the earlier books, where Bren is still learning the fine points of the language and culture.

Spring break, day 3

I spoke too soon about being done with the boxes of moldy stuff. I found two more yesterday, and dealt with them. Both were drier on the top layers than previous ones, so I was able to salvage more items.

One that cannot be salvaged, but which inspired a bit of mental time-traveling, is a bound copy of the 1961 dissertation of the professor who directed the dissertation of Sir John’s witness at our wedding. I took a class with that man (not the witness, his diss director) when I was an undergrad. I can still picture the classroom, the prof with his distinctive hair and mannerisms, the chalkboard, a few of my classmates; can still remember some of my thoughts and feelings as I took notes: trying to focus without thinking about my recently-ex-boyfriend, wondering why topics seemed so clear in the classroom and so difficult when I tried to do homework, fascination with some of the aspects of the class mixed with distaste for the professor. If I could somehow have known that one day I would marry the friend of one of the prof’s graduate students, I expect I would have tried to get to know his students (it wouldn’t have been hard; I was friends with a couple of my TAs) and figure out who their friends were. But Sir John hadn’t yet met the man who witnessed our wedding, so that wouldn’t have helped me fast-forward my life.

I also picked up some items that didn’t make it onto the weekend grocery list, and discovered that my library card has expired. I couldn’t renew it, because I have been using the card from the town where I used to live. It is recognized by a consortium of local libraries, which is why I hadn’t bothered to get a new one. Or, more accurately, that is why I didn’t need to get a new one when we moved. The real reason I didn’t get a new one is that by the time I got around to dealing with that sort of paperwork, I was sulking about having to move from a house I did like, with wonderful neighbors, in a town with very friendly Town Hall staff, into a house that has been an albatross around our necks, with neighbors ranging from nasty to indifferent, in a larger town with more reserved and perfunctory official staff. Using my old library card consoled me, a tiny bit. Or let me keep a tiny corner of denial, I suppose.

It would take about ten minutes to get a new library card for this town. But I think I’m not going to get one. I’m taking the expiration as encouragement to get out of this house. I’ll get a library card after we move.

Or, I suppose, if the house doesn’t sell and we have to stay here another year, after that becomes clear.

I did spend awhile in the library looking at recent issues in Cherryh’s Foreigner series and realized I’m several behind. In fact, in April I’ll be a whole trilogy behind. I wasn’t sure about one book, which seemed somewhat but not wholly familiar; back at home, I found that I own it. Brain, do try and keep up. I’ll re-read that one, and maybe at the end of term I’ll have a binge on the most recent three.

I watched the last stage of Paris-Nice, which was very exciting thanks to Alberto Contador (but I’m glad Henao kept the yellow jersey), and took another long bath.

Spring break, day 2

Probably the most do-nothing break day I will have. I was tired from staying up late reading, plus the time change, so I spent most of the day reading: finished the one I stayed up with and read the preceding one in the series (I don’t mind hopping around when I’m re-visiting old friends), partly on the couch, partly in a very long bath. I also cooked brunch, went to the gym, watched another stage of Paris-Nice, used the cat treats in play therapy for Basement Cat and Reina. No work, no tidying, except that I showed Sir John what I did on Saturday to assure him that I’m not throwing out anything essential of his.

Spring break, day 1

I’m a copy-cat. Clarissa reported on her spring break, last week, so I’ll do the same this week. The exciting life of a professor on break. I’m sure you can hardly wait to hear what I’ve been up to.

I worked out, bought cat treats, re-tested a new food that I think will make it back into my diet, cooked a meal that will provide leftovers for several more meals, and sorted through five boxes and three bags in the basement. This means I’m done with the nasty ones that got wet and subsequently moldy, following the Great Basement Flood of almost two years ago. Done! Obviously neither one of us was really eager to deal with these boxes. Fortunately nothing crucial was damaged or lost. Most of what I looked at can go into the trash, no bother, and I have managed to save a few sentimental items.

There’s still a lot of stuff in the basement to go through, and either give away, throw away, or re-pack. But the really icky part is now over.

Then I watched a stage of Paris-Nice and stayed up too late re-reading a favorite book, one of Cherryh’s Er-series (ForeignER, DefendER, etc). I love this series because the main character is a fragile, scholarly translator-diplomat plunged into highly dramatic space opera involving aliens, shooting wars, and tense political negotiation. It’s his skill with words and languages that repeatedly staves off disaster.

Shoe bleg

I’m vain, but not stupid.

I like cute shoes. This doesn’t mean high heels. I like a bit of heel, but I can live without it, and I may have to, going forward. I’ve had a bum ankle for years (sprained multiple times since the age of 20), and it seems like for the last most-of-a-decade I’ve been repeatedly rehabbing it from minor strains. I’ve noticed that the ankle feels better in my gym shoes, which start with some built-in arch support and then have added the arch-support inserts I’ve used in all my shoes for the last 30 years. So I can see that I need to spend more time in properly supportive shoes (not stupid). But the gym shoes are hideously neon and I refuse to be seen in them anywhere but the gym. For the moment, I’m wearing them around the house and changing when I go out (vain).

I have very high arches, as you might guess from needing to add arch supports to shoes that already have some support. All I want is a pair of black oxfords, ideally something menswear-like (wingtips?); at least not hopelessly old-lady-ish; preferably not gym shoes; with good arch support and a fairly well-cushioned sole. In other words, something that feels like gym shoes, but looks dressier. It is astonishingly difficult to find such a shoe.

So, gentle readers, any recommendations? Brands, at least?