coffee pot posts, collage, Coronavirus Chronicles

Saturday Morning Coffee Pot Post

Woke up today to the lovely sounds of roofers across the street. I’m grateful for ear plugs and the ability to catch up on my sleep these days. One thing about working from home is that if insomnia keeps me awake until 3 a.m., I can generally shift my schedule to accommodate it since I don’t have office hours from 8-5 on Monday through Thursday. That’s crucial for managing my panic disorder. Next week will be different because I am administering tests through email to PhD students beginning at 9 a.m. every morning for a couple of weeks. Still much better than having my butt in my office at 8 a.m. every day! So there are some silver linings, and I try to focus on that most of the time.

My anxiety is more about the election than anything else. Sandy voted in person on the first morning of early voting and I had planned to go with him. I mean, that is the whole reason that I didn’t vote by absentee ballot. But I had work meetings that day and he was determined to go on the first day, so I will go vote during a lunch break next week when it is less busy.

This afternoon and tomorrow afternoon I am taking a Zoom workshop with Leighanna Light, one of my favorite people. I hope that the Zoom format in person will help me stay on track, instead of like the many online video workshops I have bought and abandoned over the last few years. I also bought a video workshop from Sharon Payne Bolton. It is a workshop that I’ve done in person with her before, but the price was relatively cheap and it will be a good jumpstart for when I need it, I hope.

This week I finished up a collage that I began several weeks ago on my mountain vacation retreat. I got very good feedback from Crystal Neubauer’s Facebook group and that helped me over the finish line. The branch, root, and duck feather are from Lake Waccamaw. I repurposed the piece with the word Inspire from a cardboard pin I was given by a classmate in one of Sharon’s classes at Art-is-You, because I knew it wouldn’t be long before I put it in the washing machine by mistake. (If you are reading, thanks, Maria!) I replaced the blue button that was on it with a tiny spiral shell I picked up at Topsail Beach. The music is from an old booklet titled “Gospel Pearls.” The background book cover I found in a free box of old books outside a used book store.  The panel and the bit in the top right corner is from an old book I took apart.

This is one big reason that I love collage – especially the ones in which I gather things that have meaning to me. Each element has its own story, like chapters in a book, that pull together to make their own story together.

I had problems getting this saved and published and had to rewrite some of it. Now I need to get ready for my class at 2 p.m. Hopefully I will have more to share later!

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Okay, it is afternoon now. I just spent an hour writing a private grief filled post, so I got that out of my system. My guess is that I will go back to it and use it as a private diary. I want to share more here, and I know that as a writer it is vital to open up and have that vulnerability, but right now I don’t have a lot to give others, and I certainly need an outlet.

I finally finished moving the Tapestry Weavers South web site to the WordPress.com platform. The site itself is not finished but at least I have the main parts in place.

Anyway, we came home from the mountains a little over a week ago, with a stop in Mt. Airy on the way. It was a scary place – we happened to hit it on the first day of “Mayberry Days.” Around here the Andy Griffith Show is sacred and Mayberry was based on his hometown of Mt. Airy, which is not far away from Pilot Mountain (Mt. Pilot on the show). It is also an extremely politically red place. So not only were there crowds of maskless people and character impersonators like Barney Fife on Main St., there was a lot of Trumpy campaign stuff on the sidewalks and inside stores and on windows. The Snappy Lunch was packed.

Most of the time signs about masks and social distancing rules are for show and not enforced, but we did find one antique mall in the center of Main St. that was strict, even telling someone to leave who came in without a mask. I wish I had made note of the name of it.

Just off Main St. there was a safe, really good Japanese restaurant called Kazoku where we had a very late lunch. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend the sushi.

Since then, I have been working hard on the class schedule for Spring 2021, which due to budget cuts and a lot of uncertainty in the administration about what to do in the face of the pandemic, has been difficult. The way it is here, if classes go totally online, UNCG loses a lot of revenue from parking, dining, and residence halls. This, during a time when we had already been asked to make budget cuts because of a shortfall last year. So, it will come down to whether to cut the budget further, meaning salaries and staff, or make our campus safer and try to push on. So far, UNCG has been pretty safe as far as we can tell. When you drive through campus, most of the students are even wearing their masks outside.

Our main office suite was closed last week because of a Covid-19 exposure. So far, everyone who was in the room with the person has tested negative, and we will get back to “normal” this coming week.

I picked loads of “beautiful beans” last weekend, along with a few butterbeans that I didn’t even remember planting. The “beautiful beans” are actually heirloom field peas that my recently departed friend Pat Bush found in the bottom of a freezer in a farmhouse she rented. She started planting and developing the seed stock and gave me some. These peas are real winners – tasty and make a good broth, and the snaps (immature green pods) are good as well. I will have plenty of seed stock and I am giving away beans to some of our mutual friends for them to start their own seed stocks.

Also, I am going to give up my last UNCG garden plot once I am done with these.

I will miss Pat. She and I worked together in Slow Food and in the local food movement, and I loved her. I bought many of my plants and herbs from her. Almost a year ago when she made it to the School Climate Strike rally, she was feeling very optimistic about getting better and wanted to get more involved with the permaculture guild as a teaching elder. But one thing after another befell her until her body was overwhelmed. She was sick for about five years after she fell and broke her knee.

There are a lot of people who I care for who are very sick right now. I remember Mama talking about the worst part of getting old is seeing your friends get sick and die.

Anyway, back to the garden. Here are photos of my carrot and squash, yes, singular, from this year. However, our figs had an abundant second crop and I have frozen a lot of them. Right now I am pulling up all the peppermint that I can and drying it for tea or whatever.

Hopefully I will get it together enough to raise some food next year. Might have to be all onions and garlic and mint, since those are the only plants so far that the groundhogs won’t eat. Fencing and cages will need to be made this winter.

Okay, time for a very late lunch. Chicken clam corn chowder, sort of.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles

Coronavirus Chronicles

I don’t have a lot to say because the past week I have been so focused on work. Other than migraines and allergies, I am fine and Sandy is okay, although he has gotten to the point that he lives for food. He says that he thinks about it all the time now, and he makes bad choices. My choices have not been great either, but I do manage to get in fruit and vegetables in between the York peppermint patties.

Boredom can be dangerous.

We went grocery shopping at Deep Roots Market on Wednesday night. It seemed to be a good time with few shoppers in the aisles or at the checkout. All masked, all observant of good practices.

As far as work goes, I have been scheduled to take care of the office on Fridays. Even 90% of our face-to-face classes meet online on Fridays, and I can answer the phone from my office down the hall and hang a sign on the History office where to find me. The only thing that I worry about is the bathroom, but there shouldn’t be many people in the building.

I ran into my first maskless student this week. He was waiting for the elevator to go to the third floor for an appointment. I told him to put his mask on and he said he forgot it. I was firm and said he could not be in the building without a mask. He said that he would go up and see if they had masks there. I told him – I didn’t ask – not to get on the elevator, to follow me up the stairs to my office and I gave him a disposable mask.

He was not hostile at all, just clueless. Which baffles me. There are dozens of signs on every wall and door of the building saying that masks are required. Many emails have gone out to students that state that the rules will be enforced – no exceptions for medical excuses, no excuses at all, because if you can’t wear a mask, you will take classes online. I guess he must have come from a community where no one has followed the mask mandate. We will see more students like this, and some of them will be hostile.

Next week will be awful. The way the university has managed the Banner schedule to make it “clear” for hybrid class students to know where to go on what day is very, very confusing. Even our faculty can’t figure it out. I can, because I have stared at it for so long every day for weeks. I am glad that I won’t be there in person.

It would have been better for the faculty to have handled it for each class, but since I have been working here (since 2004) control of everything has increasingly gone to a bloated administration who has embraced technology, automation, and making blanket policies that affect many very different fields. I would not be surprised if they go to a central academic department staffing scheme if the pandemic disrupts us for more than a year. That was floated a couple of years ago anyway.

Even though I am complaining here, I know that it is a difficult monster to wrestle and we didn’t have any choice in whether to open the campus, just how we make it safe as possible.

Vote BLUE no matter who in November. We have to survive this mess before we do anything else, and that means getting Trump and his fascists out of office and out of the state and local offices also. Think of it this way – the world is on fire, literally and figuratively. We have to deal with climate change now, although we are past the tipping point. But everybody has to help put the fire out right now instead of sitting back bitching and arguing about how we will rebuild after the fire is put out. The fire comes first. We can work on rebuilding after we survive the fire.

I was so sleep deprived by the end of the week that I took a nap when I got home yesterday, then slept for ten hours last night/this morning. Tornado dreams, mask anxiety dreams, but also a good recurring dream also about a condo complex that we move into that is older and awesome – really more like an intentional community.

I picked up The Luminaries again and once I got to around page 450 I got interested and I think that I will finish it now. That first half was a heavy slog though. I love a good character novel but I’m not sure that having this many characters helped in this one.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, Lake Waccamaw, Reading

Saturday morning coffee pot post

So much for my daily blogging routine. Poof! Oh well. I realized at some point in the last two weeks that if I didn’t stop pushing myself with all these “shoulds” my anxiety would never stop increasing. It is a problem very deep in my core that I nearly always feel like I should be doing something else. I am also by nature a very low energy, lazy person. Between the overwhelming anxiety and the guilt I feel, it is a perfect storm for shutting me down completely. August is traditionally a time of high anxiety for me anyway, with the new semester beginning and new students coming in.

I reminded myself that I am not an artist for a living. I do have a job that pays my bills. Art is for my pleasure and I have had artist blocks before. I always get my mojo back at some point but I always have to let it go first. Truly let it go, not try to get it back on a schedule. Hopefully my mojo will be back from vacation soon, but sometimes it travels far before I see it again.

For the past couple of weeks I have rearranged the studio room so that one table serves as my work office and there is nothing art-related to distract me on that table. UNCG finally got my new work laptop ready and it is a dream – very small and fast and works better than my desktop computer at work. Now I have this clunky laptop back for what I originally bought it for – blogging and photo editing and personal computer stuff. It couldn’t handle all that extra work stuff. The microphone died and the video cut in and out. Now that Zoom is my new reality, that was a problem.

It would be helpful if I could get into watching TV and movies but I just can’t do it for long. It has to be an incredibly gripping plot. Sandy will binge a whole series in a week or less. We both gave up on “How to Get Away with Murder” though. There is such a thing as overdoing it. I’m considering subscribing to HBO again for a while.

The heat wave here was so long and oppressively humid that there is NO gardening going on. I’ve gotten a few tomatoes and I always have my trusty little volunteer cherry tomatoes. The potatoes have been disappointing – low yield and bitter. I started picking figs and for the first time ever, encountered Japanese beetles on my tree. It is a huge tree and there will still be enough figs for me and the beetles but it was quite a shock the first time they burst out around my head in a swarm when I disturbed their feeding. If I ever make it to a hardware/gardening place where I feel safe I will buy some traps. And of course that fat groundhog is still munching its way through my yard. I have not visited my UNCG plots since early summer. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it.

Trying to decide if it is worth planting a fall garden. I would need to do it now, and it will have to be protected from furry critters. If I have to grow my own food, we just might starve to death, because the challenges are much greater than they were when I started the Back Forty in 2002.

Right now my main focus is keeping the jungle from taking over. I really need to find some help, but I’ve had such terrible luck with it that I keep putting it off.

Our tax refund is lost in limbo, and it’s the one with the big rebate payment for our solar panels. If we ever get it, I plan to pay off that loan. However, it is impossible to get anybody on the phone, and the online system says it doesn’t exist. This was the first time in years that we mailed it in, and we did it in early April. Probably the worst decision of the year.

I also need to call Orbitz about my plane ticket to Ireland. They were supposed to get back to me about the amount of time I have to redeem the credit from Aer Lingus. I’m afraid that by the time I can go back the airfare will be 3x as much as my credit is, since I got such a good deal.

I’m going to copy this part about reading “The Luminaries” directly from Facebook, but with an update that I am now on page 447. I have a hard time NOT finishing a book. It’s an OCD rule.

“So, you know how you buy a book that received awards but mixed reviews but you bought it anyway because it seemed like something you’d like and just as you thought about ditching it it got a tad more interesting and so you figured you would keep on reading even though you couldn’t read more than ten minutes at a time before laying it down because you are so bored and now you are 393 pages in and weeks have gone by and it seems like an investment at this point but the book is 830 pages long and you wonder about the meaning of life and then put it down to reread a book by Annie Proulx that you loved when you read it in the 90s but you drank so much back then that you killed the brain cells that remembered the plot so that all you remember is an accordion and a spider and you’re not sure about the spider and so it seems like you never read it? Well. That’s me right now.”

Back to dreaming and wishing and porch sitting in front of the fan. Here are the last photos from Lake Waccamaw that I never got around to posting. They are from sunrise on one of my last days there. I ended up staying for two weeks.

augggghhhh, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety

An anxiety interlude

I skipped a day blogging. Every day brings its own set of hellish news, but yesterday’s news struck very close to home. For the first time, I am really nervous about losing my job to budget cuts. I am worried about MANY people I know losing their jobs and (because we’re “‘Murica!”) health insurance to budget cuts. In a PANDEMIC that is rocketing.

PW Exclusive: UNC System Exploring Worst Case Scenario Budget Cuts of Up to 50%

The hit to our economy from these budget cuts would be massive at 25%.

Yesterday morning my main concern was when my work laptop would be available because my personal one is so rickety slow, and whether I would be able to avoid the bathrooms when I go back to work.

Late yesterday I sent a form to HR with permission for us to hire a staff member to teach a class for us. He has done it before and I see this form as a big waste of time but, whatever. He waited a few weeks to send it to me. HR sent me an email last night that there is a personnel hiring freeze. There wasn’t one three weeks ago. His online class is full, and we accounted for it in our budget.

Ominous.

My reaction to anything since Twitler was elected has been pretty numb. Yes, I’ve been to protests and spoken up, and contacted my congressional reps (knowing that it was pointless). But the atrocity waves of 2020 are wearing me down. The main reason I am at the lake is to get my mental health back to a more functional place. I cannot shut down.

From now on I will save the rest of my vacation days in case I lose my job. If I can manage to keep my job until Feb. 17, 2021, I believe that I can retire with my pension at 85% and hopefully keep my health benefits. The health insurance is key. Thank God Sandy is on Social Security and Medicare.

Of course, who know what might happen with all that, with an increasingly authoritarian government who gets away with doing almost anything they want, and voter suppression active and in the open.

Down here at Lake Waccamaw, where people held a 100 boat flotilla parade flying Twitler/Putz flags on July 4 on a STATE PARK lake, where few people wear masks inside the local grocery store, I am for the first time more afraid of these fanatics than I am of the natural predators. I backed in my car so that my Bernie bumper stickers can’t be seen from the road. This is why I could never live down here in rural eastern NC again.