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.

Coronavirus Chronicles, fiber art, Lake Waccamaw

Lake Waccamaw, Ch. 2, Days 8 & 9

Silly ducks.

Other than a visit from Lisa for a couple of hours, I spent Sunday alone and watched “How to Get Away with Murder” and read “The Luminaries.” Lisa helped me figure out how to wind the bobbin on my sixty year old Singer sewing machine, and then I got rolling with making masks again.

This one is reversible and is for Lisa. I like this design much better. It is form fitting to the face and it doesn’t take much longer to make it. Plus you can insert a filter inside the mask if you want. I was going to put the link here to the pattern, but that site has taken down the pattern and it is selling masks instead. When I get home, I will copy the template and instructions and put them up here.

Late this afternoon I made a similar one for myself. I think that I could get into doing more of these patchwork panels. I use one piece of cloth on the back.

For many, many years I did not see any alligators down here. They made a big comeback starting about 20 years ago, and now I see them in or beside the canal every day. Lisa and Tim have seen small ones in the lake, but I never have seen any in the lake, and hope I never do. It doesn’t stop them from getting in the water.

Our house is across the road from the canal and I often see gators from the kitchen window or the front door. Oh well, you don’t need to see another gator photo.

I came extremely close to going home yesterday, to the point that I packed up whatever craft/art supplies that could take the heat and put them in the car trunk, and packed the non-refrigerated food into bags. I could have cleaned up and left in an hour if I had chosen to. Having that option a bit more easily accomplished made me feel better, and I was not so overwhelmed by all the studio stuff I brought down.

Today I worked remotely and had a flurry of tasks to deal with as people have been returning from vacation. Fortunately I worked enough last week that it was not overwhelming. I checked the retirement website and I could indeed retire on my next birthday in February. I don’t want to, though, not yet. I’d like to be able to stick it out to age 62 at least. But it is nice to know that it is doable. Health insurance was my main concern.

I took Lisa and Tim their new masks, and they fed me crab cakes. That was a good deal. Their little cat Sissy is my lovey bear. She is very tiny and shy.

Talked to Sandy tonight and I may leave on Saturday, which would make two weeks down here. He seems to be doing fine, so I will try to stop worrying about him. I miss my babies, but it is very calming to listen to the waves at night instead of zombie movies in the next room.

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw

Lake Waccamaw, Ch. 2, Days 6 & 7

It feels like I’ve been here much longer.

Here is a short video of a gator in the canal across from my sister’s house. Thursday night I spent the night over there. Tim had gone back to Chapel Hill for a doctor’s appointment. We hung out on the pier with Rascal, one of her precious cats. He always has this intense expression on his face, but he is the most relaxed cat I have ever held. He melts into you. Rascal is an indoor cat but is allowed outside with supervision, because he is mostly very well-behaved.

I spent a short time sitting on the beach under the bald cypress tree on Friday afternoon. The ducks are almost tame. They were really about six feet away. There was a sandpiper on the beach at Lisa’s house. The ducks are so in love with her that every square inch of her beach is covered in duck footprints. She cares for the orphans and the injured ducks. I picked up a mallard feather with the iridescent blue/green color – the feather gathering here is wonderful.

I also poured some of the dark grey house paint into a small container and touched up some places that the painters missed. The paint went a long way, so I painted the bookboard that I brought with me. It is still tacky today, but I’m considering painting a door with the coral paint and making a lake house book. Stenciling it too.

Last night Tim came back and we ate barbecue and when I came home I listened to Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin’s Facebook Live concert.

My sleep schedule is back to normal – falling asleep around 11 p.m.-12 and waking around 8 a.m. I need to start waking an hour earlier if I can maintain the ability to fall asleep at an earlier time and not wake up all night. Not taking fish oil at night and eliminating my allergy meds has helped, although not with my allergies, of course. When the fall allergies come rolling back in I’ll have to see what I can do about those without triggering restless legs syndrome.

It is too hot and humid to do much outside, and the midges are out again this morning. But it is not less hot and humid in Greensboro, and so I can’t decide whether to go home tomorrow or not. I don’t have to. I miss Sandy and Diego and Pablocito. I wonder how my garden is doing.

I am pretty depressed and anxious and I think that I will spend the day alone in the quiet today. Also, I realize that I will probably be coming back here to the lake house a lot more often, just like I did when we couldn’t afford to go any place else. I appreciate that I have this escape to visit, and that I can actually work from here. I am lucky in many, many ways.

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.