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!

Another look back

Jon Jarrett just posted his report on K’zoo 2017, as part of an on-going effort to catch up on posts about research-related events in his life, and so I thought to look back at my experiences at the same conference. Any research-oriented notes on papers are in the conference program (yes, the paper version, you’re surely not surprised that I’m old-school), which is of course packed away somewhere, so the following extracts are from my personal journal, in which I was thinking about scheduling and how I was feeling, physically (generally, tired: I don’t sleep well in strange places).

I got to K’zoo about 7:00, collected my registration packet without seeing anyone I knew, and checked into the hotel. This morning I e-mailed presenters in the sessions I’m chairing to ask if they have any recent accomplishments they’d like me to mention. I’ve picked out sessions for today; there’s a —– Society Board meeting; I’ll have some time in which to come back to the hotel, eat, shower, change into fancier clothing for the Wheeler reception.

Thursday night’s reception was, as usual, loud. Val Garver received the Wheeler Award, and Lorraine Stock was giving money to the fund in honor of Alice Colby-Hall, who was there to be honored.

[Another morning] I chaired a session that went very well, though AV problems meant we started a few minutes late. The afternoon session also went well; my grad student got no questions on her paper, but I told her I’m the same way: we put together tightly constructed, well-argued and thoroughly documented papers, and no one can see what they might add, so they focus on the papers with more loose ends. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I also had the —–Society general meeting and reception, followed closely by a Frenches of Fordham reception, and later in the evening, the Early Book Society meeting.

I think I would enjoy receptions more if I could drink like other academics. It’s odd being stone-cold sober when everyone else is getting tipsy and loud. It’s not that I feel I need to drink to have a good time; rather, alcohol takes the edge off discomfort at being in loud, crowded spaces, and makes it easier to deal with other people at the end of a long day. But it makes me feel too ill.

Last night I slept for 3–4 hours, tossed around for awhile, finally got up at 5:30 and ate something, then went back to bed for another couple of hours. I skipped today’s morning session; there were several things I could have gone to, nothing that I felt was a can’t-miss, I was awake for 2–3 hours in the middle of the night, and I wanted to visit the book exhibit. But a book I was considering got away. Oh well. I guess I didn’t want it enough.

As Jon said, “I was there and I learnt things,” though I think he had more fun than I did. I did have some meals with friends, and it was nice to catch up with people, but 2017 wasn’t one of my really energizing Zoo trips.

Spring break in the time of coronavirus

Around the middle of last week, it occurred to me that I usually post daily through spring break. I thought about doing a sort of Cliff’s notes version for the first few days, but, TBH, I was sort of paralyzed by the news, even as I tried to avoid the most flamboyant sources. It was a bit like preparing for a hurricane, where you know it’s coming but life just continues as usual, around the nailing of windows and stashing of supplies, until the rain and wind actually hit.

As of today, Sir John has sniffles and a low fever. I think I have spring allergies, because I feel the way I always do around this time of year (that is, some respiratory stuff, no fever, don’t feel particularly ill), and the trees I see from my study window are in bud. We are isolating ourselves. We’re well stocked and this is an area where it shouldn’t be a problem to have things delivered if we need to order online.

This week is “extended break,” to allow faculty to prepare to teach online for at least a couple of weeks. Maybe longer. Because of my commute and Midwestern winter weather, I generally have a couple of days’ worth of online ideas up my sleeve, but I’m going to have to think about the second week, and the further future. Although I think it would be fun to learn about some of the fancy stuff it’s possible to do online, it’s probably better to keep it simple. I don’t know what my students’ tech is like, and considering how much difficulty I sometimes run into with stuff I use regularly in the smart classrooms on campus, I can imagine the hassles with 25+ of us trying to do something unfamiliar to at least a few people. So today I plan to revise my syllabus, and think about what I can reasonably put into place.

Here’s the Cliff’s notes for last week. Already it seems unbelievable that we did some of these things:

Saturday, 3/7: gym, Spanish conversation group, some work with a manuscript facsimile.

Sunday, 3/8: read 1960s YA novel in the bathtub, after some gardening.

Monday, 3/9: Stock market tanked (round one). Cooked a lot. Mammogram. Watched stage one of Paris-Nice.

Tuesday, 3/10: Stock market bounced upward. Watched stage two of Paris-Nice and went out with friends. Stayed up too late reading program for K’zoo. E-mails from LRU hinted at coming changes.

Wednesday, 3/11: tried to sleep in but Basement Cat was having none of that. Went out with different friends for the afternoon. Watched stage three of Paris-Nice. Started watching Avenue 5, which we find hilarious (big fans of Hugh Laurie in this house). LRU announced plans to extend break, teach online after that.

Thursday, 3/12: A conference Abroad was cancelled. It was one I was really looking forward to, and before it I was going to get to see a manuscript in another bit of Abroad. I made a store run; store was well stocked and had more shoppers than I expected for mid-afternoon, mid-week. We went to a concert that was (a) the last for this group, whose home is in a state that had already banned gatherings of over 100 people, and (b) the last for this venue, because the next day the university where it is located banned large gatherings, and sometime in the next few days the state did the same. I’m not sure exactly when; in all the excitement, I kinda lost track.

Friday, 3/13: Went for a walk with a friend, who said local schools had closed; she thought it was premature. Afternoon: the state announced school closings. We re-listed our house. Our timing is so bad it should be comical, but I’m not really appreciating the joke. I thought spring break would be the perfect time: fairly early in the spring market, and I’d organized myself to have no grading last week, so I could spend time on tidying up all the stuff that silted up while we were off-market last fall. I did some garden work while the weather was nice. We watched two stages of Paris-Nice. Either today or Thursday (I get confused because of watching stages a day late, and doubling up on Friday), the race organizers announced that the race would finish a day early.

Saturday, 3/14: I made strawberry-rhubarb pie, and cleaned the refrigerator. More cycling.

Sunday, 3/15: lots of e-mail with students. I went to the gym, for what will be the last time for a few weeks, cleaning all machines obsessively. Made plans to work to a schedule Monday. Watched the last stage of Paris-Nice; disappointed that Alaphilippe didn’t pull off the attack he made, but pleased with Quintana’s stage win.

Monday, 3/16: since I had trouble falling asleep last night (general anxiety, financial, virus, blah blah) I got up later than I’d planned, then Sir John got up (temporarily) earlier than usual and announced that he wasn’t feeling well. He’s back in bed, which is no doubt the best place for him, and I’m trying to concentrate. One of the people I was worrying about last night, whose home is in Bergamo, reports today that he and his elderly father are feeling better after a couple of weeks of fever and aches. So that’s a bright spot!

Productivity advice

Do the thing you really want to do.

I decided that I will go to a conference that I love but whose timing is terrible, and started working not on the paper I thought I could easily put together but on the one that I really want to do.

Once I started doing that, I also graded an entire set of papers over two days, and finished taking notes on an ILL book that would not renew, adding about 1500 words to my annotated bibliography. Would I rather be doing “real writing”? Well, yes, but it is worthwhile to have thorough notes on ILL books, and it keeps me in touch with the project, not to mention allowing me to return that book so that I’m not blocked from further ILL requests, so win-win-win.

Having been wildly productive in the past six hours, now I am going to go work in the garden, then go for a walk to un-kink my back (inevitably kinked after significant garden time), cook, and watch something on TV with Sir John. We are spoiled for choice right now: old cycling, new Durrells, or new-ish Discovery episodes. Such an exciting life I lead.

Actually, there was a bit of excitement earlier this week: I had a tiny dinner party! Mid-week! A friend was in the area and suggested dinner, and I countered with an invitation to dinner chez Hull. It was lovely. It made me feel so . . . sophisticated? Leisured? Socially active? Like my memories of Lady Maud’s father, who often hosted guests (fascinating, varied, intellectual, artistic) to dinner at his family table, and not just on weekends. Like I was living the life I meant to have, instead of the one I wound up with!

It also helps that I’ve two nights of entirely adequate sleep in a row. What a difference that makes. Long may it continue.

The very local news

  • Basement Cat still fights getting pills, but the discussions over venison kibble that eventually lead to agreement to swallow are getting shorter and can be handled by a single human. This is progress.
  • Basement Cat’s health is definitely improving thanks to said pills.
  • Glendower would like to do some negotiating over venison kibble or baby food, and is a little sulky that he is not the only Poor Sick Cat around here.
  • Reina is doing fine. She likes to sit on my desk or my desk chair, and I have to move her to do any work.
  • Cardinals and mourning doves have visited the bird feeder.
  • Earlier this week, I dug more bellflower out of the front yard. Will this never end?
  • Five weeks into the semester, I still haven’t adjusted to getting up before dawn. Will I ever, or am I just going to be perpetually sleep-deprived for the next ten weeks?
  • While minding my own business, or rather Sir John’s (buying a birthday card for his brother), I bought a novel I would like to read. A week later, I still haven’t opened it.
  • We still have the TV coverage of the women’s Vuelta à España on the DVR.
  • I’m not sure what I have been doing that keeps me from reading or watching TV. Cooking, working on dead languages, and driving, probably.
  • Also grading and course prep. I’m teaching lower-level classes and find that students at that level need lots of accountability. Frequent short assignments keep them engaged, so there we are.
  • I have bought two new pair of shoes since the beginning of the semester. Abeo makes shoes that are comfortable for a person with very high arches. I like having both happy feet and cute shoes.

On August, time, and grace

It’s being one of those long, busy months. I still feel the stars hurtling through the heavens, the northern hemisphere slouching into a new season, but there’s less time to appreciate the passing of time now that classes have started again. My life is carved into lists, lists for each class, lists for research, lists for house, health, finances. Sleep, once again, is iffy, because I am over-stimulated. Not worried, there’s nothing to worry about, but change is coming down the pike, this year, next year, soon, and I feel unsettled.

August has been long in part because of two trips. I went to a most excellent conference, which stimulated in all the good ways; research is definitely exciting at the moment. Sir John accompanied me on a trip to my old stomping grounds, during which we had a very active social life. It was great to see people, but I wish we could have scattered all our events over a couple of months instead of cramming them into a week!

We went to a dinner that assembled several high-school friends and our spouses. We all married “out,” that is, to people who are from somewhere else, met when we were adults, who know only by hearsay of our long-ago parties, excursions, jokes, and catch-phrases. In such a mixed group, we can all be our adult selves, with minimal reminders of the teens we once were. Maybe my friends would be okay with the reminders, but I am much happier as an adult and prefer to think that I have moved far beyond my young self. Long ago, when I was slightly freaked out about turning 18 and thus being legally adult when I had little notion of how “to adult,” as the phrase now goes, the host of this dinner assured me, “Grown-ups have more fun.” I have found this to be true.

We also attended a memorial service for a friend’s father, a beloved and influential teacher. My friend told me that he had kept the poems I showed him when I was, what, 18? 20? I am not, now, a poet. I channeled my creative impulses into literary research, and as a scholar I am tolerably successful. (That is, employed!) I may have a better appreciation for poetry because I once wrote some; I don’t know. My friend’s father’s great gift was to see and respect young people, children and teens, as complete people, interesting in themselves, not for what they might become. If they were interested in basketball, poetry, or rap music, then he talked to them about basketball, poetry, and rap. He learned from them. They learned—we learned—something about how to be an adult who pays attention, who is kind, who takes people of any age seriously.

These are not lessons I learned from my parents.

I am still most extremely imperfect in putting those lessons into practice.

These two events, and others with them, have me thinking: who do I want to be, and how can I be that person? My lists and obligations do not sum me up; they are part of me—I’m sure my friend’s father made his own lists—but not all of me. I want to live with something of the attention, intention, and grace that he had, that he gave freely to everyone who passed through his life.

Six Saturday things

Not garden things this week, plus I’m a day late, so I won’t link to the usual Six on Saturday host.

Six food items I bought yesterday, and what I did with them:

1. Strawberries. Washed and eaten plain.

2. Baby lettuce. Salad.

3. Four pounds of rhubarb, washed, chopped, turned into compote and frozen.

4. Swiss chard, washed and steamed in the water that remained on its leaves.

5. Ginger root. Some went in the rhubarb compote, and I chopped the rest fine, put it in a jar, and poured sherry over it for future use. And had a glass of sherry while I was at it.

6. Sliced turkey. Went with the salad.

Items 1-4 were from the local farmers’ market, and 5-6 were from Trader Joe’s. I walked to do these errands. I was so under-slept that I didn’t want to get behind the wheel of a car. The day was sunny and warm, but not too hot or humid. I was in the sort of state where I’m fine if I keep moving, but intellectual activity isn’t happening, so I stuck with laundry, cooking (made a stir-fry for Sir John), and a bit of gardening.

Finally I’ve caught up on sleep, though my hours are still skewed very late (by my standards: admirably early by Sir John’s!). I’ll see what I can do about that, this week.

Well, it IS the best medicine

I feel so much more relaxed since I listened to a few seconds of several different “guided meditations” that I found on you-tube when I searched for “meditation for sleep.”

Not because they put me into a peaceful, trance-like state, but because they made me laugh. Probably you had to be there (and maybe there is something deeply wrong with me, or at least deeply unfit for the world of guided meditation). So much is about the effect of voices, and I’m sure each individual will respond very differently. IME Brits are tart, not syrupy, so when I hear a syrupy voice with a British accent, I’m already primed to find this very strange, and when he says “Tonight we’ll do a guided meditation to help you sleep,” my response is “No, we won’t.” (Speaking of oppositional, N&M!) The sl-o-o-ow speech on the ones I started trying to listen to makes me think “Duuuuuude, are you on ‘luuuuuuudes? And wouldn’t it be more effective to take something than to fall about laughing while listening to guided meditations?”

I think I’ll stick to rain noise to help me sleep. But hey! Like I said, I’m a lot more relaxed for the laugh, so I can’t say I got nothing out of it! Maybe I should spend some time before bed on the Comedy Channel. Only my sense of humor is so skewed that might not help.

Calm

It will be so much quicker to just do some of the things I have to do than to start having feelings about them (ugh, don’t want to, why can’t someone else on this committee do more, why didn’t I do this last week/last month, why am I so slow, guilt, too many things, gah). So I’m declaring this morning a no-feelings zone.

Yesterday I saw a colleague who has been dealing with a perfect storm of deadlines for months now. She is usually a fairly calm person but has been performing stress lately, including complaining about having spent the whole of spring break working. I said I’d worked throughout it as well but also had spent a lot of time at the gym, reading, etc. She asked if I had deadlines to meet and I said oh yes, they whooshed by. She said she was losing sleep over hers: “I’m neurotic that way.” I laughed and said, “Well, I’m irresponsible that way.” She thought we should be combined into one person.

I don’t agree. I’d rather be me. She has accomplished more than I have, in less time, it’s true, and I do have a little envy of that. But I’m being responsible to my health, and if I don’t do that, I won’t be able to work at all. So I have a lot of days when I don’t get that much done (and waste time and energy having feelings about that “failure”), but I hit the gym, and go to bed early (or as soon as I can), and try to set myself up for a better day tomorrow.

And this is tomorrow, so let’s see what I can get done before the next round of House Stuff and the afternoon gym visit.

Day 7

I finished revising the introduction to the translation and sent it to my co-conspirators. I did some more house-tidying. We met with our real estate agent and re-listed the house. I returned library books and checked out more, avoiding long imprisonment in the stacks by going half an hour before closing. At the gym, I beat up an elliptical trainer for half an hour. We watched two days’ worth of Paris-Nice. I did some crosswords and stayed up too late reading in the bath: a collection of Connie Willis short stories that wasn’t really worth staying up for (Christmas theme: obviously not great for someone who doesn’t like Christmas, but I was thinking ‘Connie Willis that I haven’t read, let’s try it,’ plus ‘grab something and go, the library’s about to close’).

Sleep. It is so obvious that I do better at getting on with things and not getting overwhelmed by tasks and feelings about tasks (guilt, mainly) when I have slept enough. At the same time, I am not good at just going to bed (even when I’m sleepy) if I haven’t had any reading/puttering/winding-down time in the day, and I do not count watching TV as winding-down. I do try to have down-time in the evening, and when I get it, it’s much easier to go to bed, so long as I haven’t started reading something I want to go on with (my name is Eleanor and I am a literature addict*). Clearly I need to be more consistent about a bedtime winding-down routine.

I set an alarm this morning (getting set for going back to early rising in two days), but frittered away a lot of the morning on Ask A Manager and the Willis book. Two days! Must keep grinding away at things that need to be done. Tuesday is going to be a day on which work will not really be possible, so I’m planning for that, and trying to finish off some important stuff so next week isn’t too stressful. Onward!

*I am amazed that I don’t have a post of my own to link to. I guess I must have commented on other people’s blogs about this affliction; I remember some discussions Back In The Day about reading habits. In his book on writing, Steven King has an anecdote about an addiction counselor who asked someone (King? a friend? my copy is packed away) how much he drank, and the person looked at the counselor like she was crazy and said “All of it.” That’s me, if you ask how much I read. The only sure way to stop is not to start.