Thursday, December 25, 2003
The gift of a slightly clearer head
Or, How the Jewish girl spent Christmas

Working in a part of the medical center that shuts down for Christmas Eve afternoon and Christmas Day, I don't get a choice: I have to take these 1.5 days off. To tell the truth, I've never really minded it. Usually I spend it at home, relaxing, sleeping, watching movies, doing crafts, getting things done, etc.--accomplishing some clearing-out of the head. It usually needs to be done at this point.

It sure did this year. I was looking at my calendar: I haven't had a weekend at home--not an empty weekend, mind you, but one when I wasn't out-of-town--in two months now. That's not to say I've had no leisure time, but it's been available in little shreds here and there, not in a block of time.

So for my Christmas time off, I've just basically stayed in. Did laundry, did dishes, made some beaded tokens, took two walks, shifted consumer electronics to accomodate my Hannukah presents, lit the Hannukah candles twice, cleaned the bathroom, finished one book and started another (see my books page for more details), updated the aforementioned books page, made spaghetti, and watched a couple of movies (Alex & Emma, which I don't recommend, and Big Shot's Funeral, which is so far only okay--well-put-together but not very interesting).

In short, I let my head go where it would, and while I'm still not totally sure I don't have ADD, I've had a good day and a half.

My friend TheBronwen had this link in her 'blog--go see: it's a web-based animated snow globe. As usual, I have missed a whole dimension of the thing by not having access to sound when I first saw it. (Is that the snowman screaming before he explodes? Yeesh.) For an extra bit of fun, click on the globe and move it around the screen to shake it. Hear that? That's definitely little people screaming when you do that. Cool. It's a chance to bring out your inner sadist.

Tomorrow after work, I'm going to the post office to pick up my the box with my Mogu pillow. I ordered from a company in Singapore, since only a few designs are being carried in the U.S. right now. There's one for me and a couple of others as gifts. Not sure who I'll give them to. Well...all right, I'm fairly sure, I just don't want to say in public! They'll get them soon enough. Me personally, I'm getting a red flower (surprise, considering my device has a red gillyflower on it).

Then I have a weekend to myself. An actual whole weekend to do anything I want, sleep in, take walks, listen to music, do crafts, whatever. I love the holidays. And I sort of pity people who are so busy with the circus of family, church, cooking, shopping, and parties. Odd that the one person who manages to achieve peace on Christmas is the Jewish girl.

Monday, December 22, 2003
A taste of home
Or, Give me State St. in December over almost anything else

This is the last day of my "living" on State St. in Madison. I got a room at the University Inn, someplace I'd always wanted to stay, for Arlene's visit. And it's been wonderful. We've been sleeping late every day, descending to do some shopping, having wonderful meals, and hanging out with other friends--SCA friends Saturday night for a caroling party, and we had dinner with Amy last night. Amy, my best friend from high school. Pretty amazing! She's living in Madison again and has a 4 year old son (didn't get to meet him, but she had lots of pictures).

Hanging out with Arlene has been lovely too. She works for Shell in the Netherlands and has an 8 year old daughter. We have had such a great time catching up on each others's histories since she left Madison in 1988 to go back to the Philippines. Best of all, she still likes to do the same things I do (eat, shop, sing) so it's really been a vacation, doing whatever we want and not feeling like we have to cater to the other person.

Reconnecting with old friends is a highly underrated activity. I sincerely recommend it. If your friends are good people they won't even take you to task for not having returned e-mails, letters, Christmas cards, etc. And my friends are good people.

We stopped in at West High School on my birthday (last Friday). Although the library's spacious sitting area is now filled to bursting with computers, not too much has changed otherwise. Small amounts of remodeling, but nothing that really changes the layout of the building. Arlene was disappointed that most of her teachers had either moved on or retired. We did run into my senior year Earth Science teacher, Mr. Vincent, who was very friendly to us and talked to us about who had retired and some highlights of the past 15 years at West. We also talked to Mr. Ross, who teaches Choir there now--Mr. Harr having moved away just a couple years after I graduated. Mr. Ross was the accompanist for a couple of my summers in UW-Madison Summer Choral Union, and he also accompanies the Temple Beth El Choir during the High Holydays (which is when I sing with them), so he recognized me and we had a nice conversation.

I'm mostly just babbling. We're at workstations at the UW-Madison Memorial Library reference dept., which brings back memories of sitting in here with my sheaf of job ads and cribbing from the Library Directory to learn about the places I was applying to, back in 1996 when I was looking for a "real" job. Arlene is catching up on e-mail next to me. I'm just happy to have taken this mini-vacation, even though it means I get less payout on my unused PTO days than I would have if I had finished work on the 18th. It's not a money thing, it's a relaxation thing.

More when I am settled back in at home in La Crosse. (It makes me flinch to type "home" and "La Crosse" in the same sentence, when I am home right now in Madison. Sigh.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Just call me chipper & unemployed
Or, SUNshiney fun

It's hard to believe I'll be jobless as of Jan. 1, 2004. This is what I wanted, of course, but when I scan ahead to my life in January, I'm still amazed to think that I will have whole weeks with nothing planned. I don't know what I'll do. Maybe get depressed. Or maybe rediscover that, given time and space, I do have the occasional interesting idea and I can still get excited over what the future holds. I'm purposely not planning. I guess you'll read about it as it happens.

Started my Twelfth Night tokens tonight (I wasn't hungry when I got home, so I scouted something to do for an hour until I felt like dinner, and my eye fell on the stash of beads set aside for tokens). I like the way they look; the millefiori bead really makes the token. That's all I'll say about them. My friends who'll be at Twelfth Night in Nordskogen will all get one, if they get to me early enough in the event.

SUN was an excellent event. As I mentioned to someone Saturday evening, Nordskogen/Tor Aerie are getting a reputation for endless squabbles, information gaps, ill feelings, etc. before events, which then vanish in the clear light of a beautifully-run, delightful event. That's not to say no one holds grudges. The whole geographical area, in fact, is beginning to melt into one large pool of grudges. I feel for my friends, who are dividing into different factions every time I see/talk to them, and who (for some reason) seem to think I want to hear about every small offense committed by my other friends. Honestly, I do feel for them. But every time I'm caught in someone's complaint range, let me tell you, I am so happy to be moving to Jararvellir and NOT Nordskogen.

The event itself was held in the student union in Minneapolis, which was terrific for an educational event: we had a dozen well-appointed meeting rooms in which to hold classes, and a larger hall for Court and the guest speaker. Both of my classes went well; the kumihimo class was all beginners, but enthusiastic beginners. There were perhaps 9 in the class, including three teenage girls (all SCA daughters, all tall and skinny with long straight hair) who sat in on the class intending on hanging out and playing Magic, then suddenly found themselves addicted to a new hobby. I kid you not. Once they were all doing the basic stitch (see the handout if you're curious), they couldn't stop. Later they stood in line at the sandwich shop together, three willowy Norns bent over their braiding as if it were truly life or death. I was quite impressed.

The provost let me know the Monday before the event ( was almost the week's notice I had requested) that there had been a cancellation and I was needed to teach the Medieval Harmonies class after all. After I hyperventilated for a few minutes, I knuckled down and did a quick handout to help me organize the thing. (It won't be showing up on the Internet anytime soon. That class will need to be taught a few more times, and the handout revised with some citations to actual books instead of the websites I had quick access to, before it goes up on the web.)

About 15 people showed up, scaring the bejeebers out of me. Basically I covered everything I wanted to, but had some awkward moments along the way while I babbled uncontrollably, tried four unwieldy ways to say something before finding the right one, and left the documentation of the songs we sang to the attendees--two of whom were a Music Laurel and a Bardic Laurel (guess which), who could not agree on the periodicity of "Twa Corbies". Before I teach that class again, I'm documenting EVERYTHING--or if I can't, I'm leaving it out!

Also, I'm leaving out the modes thing next time; I seemed to lose a lot of people there, and it's no wonder: I really didn't have a point to make, just that stuff sounds medieval if it sounds modal. How that adds to a discussion of simple medieval harmonies, I'm not sure. Josceline said she hadn't gotten into modes in her medieval music 101 class the hour before; if she doesn't consider them essential, I don't think I will either.

Most people did seem to enjoy the class. I had quite a few bardic friends there to lend voices and moral support. This made for some good singing moments. Several people had music performance/theory backgrounds, which of course was not required to take the class, but it did help when I was having trouble explaining something and someone would pipe up with the right way to state it. I brought my Yamaha keyboard (the Period Instrument, as Peter Schickele would call it) and my plucked psaltery, which is an actual period instrument, and then discovered halfway through the class that they were tuned about a whole step apart. Oh well. So I never used them both in the same exercise...!

Prince Aubrey's Lady (not the Princess, but His wife) was there and took a very active interest, even staying after class to give me some positive feedback. I had not really talked to her before Aubrey won Coronet. I remember her vaguely from Coronet in Coldedernhale; she was very nearly Lady Heir, since he came in second and had been fighting for her. Otherwise I never saw her. Since Aubrey and Anne's investiture she is kind of an automatic chamberlain, traveling with Aubrey and helping organize things. More importantly, I see her taking more interest in the SCA, in the form of going to classes, hanging out and talking to people at events, and everywhere you see her nice smile. She may have been relieved that Aubrey didn't win at Coldedernhale, I don't know. But I think if he had, she would have made a fine Princess.

SUN was my last event until Twelfth Night, Jan. 9-11. I'm debating trying to come up with some new garb for Twelfth Night. Knowing my (lack of) diligence in working on sewing projects, it's probably useless to plan on definitely having something ready for that event. That's not to say I won't go fabric shopping in Madison this weekend. I have a partly-full bonus card from Gayfeather Fabrics that is crying out for more punches. I can't ignore that. ;)

That's right, I'll be back in Madison this weekend. Actually I'm leaving Thursday night, and will then pick up Arlene at the airport Friday morning. Arlene is a friend from high school who was originally from the Philippines (her dad had been studying at the UW), and who now lives in the Netherlands. She hasn't been back to the U.S. since she graduated from West High in 1988! She and I have been planning this Madison pals-reunion weekend for months. I got us a room at the University Inn on State St., and we can hang out and do anything we want. Mom & dad are taking us out to eat Friday night for my birthday (33 on Friday. No gifts please, the new flatscreen TV from M&D is plenty.). SCA friends are having a caroling party on Saturday night and I hope Arlene is interested in going to that--she was in Mr. Harr's choir with me for two years, after all. Other than that we'll be hanging out, shopping, eating, and talking. I anticipate fun times.

Tonight I've used the time I should have been spending on webbing the challenge list for Bardic Madness to write this 'blog update. Shame on me. I hope no one minds that it will be late. I've been handing out printed lists at the last three events, and slathered the e-mail lists with the challenge list a few weeks ago, so it's not like I'm hiding anything. Perhaps tomorrow evening.

I sound chipper, don't I? You'd never know that a) I have a nasty cold, b) I had my first flat tire on the way home from SUN and ended up having to buy two new tires yesterday, and c) I've had cramps all day. Hey. I think I've found the upside to leaving my job: having made a difficult but right decision, I feel better about just about everything.

Sunday, December 07, 2003
Relief washes over me
Or, Time for a change

I need to post this publicly: I have turned in my resignation from my job. My last day will be Dec. 31. After that, I plan to take a few months off, then tentatively (assuming no other faboo job opportunities come up elsewhere) move to Madison to search for employment there.

The "why" is not something I can discuss right now, though there are a variety of reasons. What I can say is that this is a big weight off my shoulders. This has been a pretty rotten year in a lot of ways and while my job was not usually the main problem, it wasn't a uniformly positive force either. My main feeling is of relief, looking forward to a rest and some time to myself, and being excited to possibly get back to Madison. I've been homesick for so long, it seems like a stroke of impossible good luck to even contemplate living there again.

It may be that I am one of those people who likes a change of scenery every few years. I've long suspected this, but assumed it was something I could override if the "perfect" job came up, and I could stay at a job/in a place longer than a few years if it seemed like a good idea. It is entirely possible that I was wrong, and that my psyche starts generating high stress levels if I try to override my natural tendencies. I don't know, what am I, a therapist?

Wrong or right, I still refuse to beat myself up over something that may well be a natural facet of my personality. If it's time to go (and external forces combine to make it not just a nice idea, but an advisable one), then I'm going.

In peripherally related news, Iohanna and Flori have taken me up on my offer to run Bardic activities at Warriors and Warlords this year. Why? a) I can do it, b) I offered, c) no one else offered, and d) in all likelihood, I'll be a resident of Jararvellir by July and, as a member of one of the Baronies that put on the event, a priority person to run activities. Not that d) was particularly instrumental; Dahrien ran bardic last year, after all, and he lives in neither Barony. But with a), b), and c) all obtaining, my enthusiasm level only went up when I realized d) was also true, and that enthusiasm probably helped them make the decision.

But back to my announcement. Right now my future is hazy, and quite frankly, I like it that way. For the time being, anyway. I get to think about planning Bardic stuff for this year, do some more painting, and perhaps some traveling. (Did you know there are entire websites for last-minute travel, and they don't necessarily have anything to do with emergency trips for funerals and such? Apparently there is a sizable market of people whose circumstances allow them to plan a 5-day pleasure getaway with ten days' notice, and indeed you can get some good deals. I might think about that type of thing.)

Got back late this afternoon from Boar's Head. I though things went very well this year. My class went very well--there were ten people, six of whom had never done kumihimo, four of whom had done the basic stitch and wanted to do something more advanced. I sort of figured that was going to the be ratio, which is why I brought lots of the above-linked beginner handouts as well as a bunch of books for those who already knew the beginner stuff to browse through.

Gratifyingly, I gained some addicts among the beginners--one very nice woman from outside the Northshield even glommed onto me at the bardic post-revel, apparently figuring since I taught her kumihimo, it couldn't be a bad idea to stick with me for learning other things. I hope I was able to help give her a fun post-revel.

Response was mixed from those who were slightly more advanced. Only one had been to my beginner class; she seemed to be very interested in learning more, but had a disappointing experience with a flat braid that wouldn't stay flat. I examined it; it was the same one I had used for the blue and green rayon braided sash I sometimes wear. It takes a lot of balance in how you hold the loom while you do the moves; sometimes it even takes some downward tension on the braid. It's tough to start and it doesn't look anywhere near as smooth, when you are new to it, as the result of the basic beginner stitch (kongo gumi, for those keeping score at home).

At the end of the class she came up to me and said she wanted to give the loom back to me because she didn't think she was succeeding with the stitch. I told her to take it home and keep going and see if it improved with practice; if it didn't, she could literally cut her losses and do some other stitch with her threads and loom, and if it did, she could cut off the earlier offensive part in the finishing process! She seemed to like this idea. I think it was the right answer.

I'll be interested to see how things go next week at SUN. Some of the same people who attended my class yesterday will be at SUN (partly because they're local Tor Aerie folk). I hope there will be enough people there who are interested in kumihimo. The provost didn't take me up on my offer to also teach a class on improvisational bardic harmony singing, and it's probably just as well, because I only had the idea to teach it when I took Mistress Amelie's class on that topic at Bardic Madness South and so haven't had time to fully formulate what I'd like to get across in a class. It's an area dear to my heart, though. Maybe next year's SUN.

Tonight: a lovely phone conversation with a friend, laundry, and catching up on e-mail. After events, catching up on e-mail largely means cleaning out at least a hundred inane little spamettes inviting me to "Drive hr crzy btween yr legs", take advantage of an "InStAnT BuSiNeSs OpPeRtUnItY", or avail myself of the services of "Debt Management from a Christian Perspective". (Before you sit down with the debt advisor, you both kneel in a makeshift chapel across the hall from the guy's rent-an-office, and invoke the guidance of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in rectifying your recurring problems with getting your ex-husband to pay his share of the Visa bill.) (Okay, well, I don't know if that's actually how it works, but that's what I picture when I see that subject line in my in-box.)

Product plug for the evening: I recently splurged and got one of these pine laundry organizers. For years previously, I was operating on a system of laundry bags and an aged Rubbermaid hamper that literally never emptied out (there were a few pieces of clothing I never did know how to clean, so I put them in the bottom of the hamper and deferred the decision indefinitely). The laundry bags were cumbersome and the hamper was rarely visible under the mountain of clothing waiting to be sorted and washed. I also had to bend down and grab at individual socks and such when it came time to sort.

So I bought this thing, and assembled it last Wednesday night while listening to The OC, which (it turns out) isn't nearly as interesting if you don't get to watch the faces of Adam Brody, Peter Gallagher, and Benjamin McKenzie. The organizer is fabulous. It's a smidge larger than I pictured, which is fine with me--I just plunked it in front of my bedroom door and decided if I ever need to close the door, I'll worry about where the organizer will go when that time comes. It's tall (above my waist) and solid (even though I put it together), and I can sort laundry as I take it off rather than before I wash it, then see at a glance which color scheme needs doing tonight. Then I lift off one of the bags, close it like a pocketbook by bringing the two rods it hangs on together, and take it over to empty it into the washer.

It also has wheels, so if my next apartment has laundry in the building AND an elevator, I can wheel the whole thing down. No elevator, I just grab the bags by the rods and carry them down. No laundry in the building, I grab the bags by the rods and carry them to my car, then drive them to a laundromat. Hey! I have my whole future mapped out here, don't I? Never let it be said that I have no planning skills...! ;)

I'm still suffering from slight sleep deprivation due to a combination of a) late night last night, celebrating Baroness Eithni's installation with a big bardic bash, and b) a champion snorer sleeping in the same room with me at Dahrien and Mysie's. Let's put it this way, I re-discovered the usefulness of earplugs this weekend. Even so I'm at a sleep deficit. So I'll be on my way now.

One more thing, don't anybody worry about me. I made the right decision, and I did it at a time when it's financially and practically possible for me to do this. I'm fine.

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