Monday, November 28, 2005
Thanksgiving went unbelievably well. My parents didn't act like they were simply indulging me in some sort of cooking-dinner fantasy. My sister and I had a blast cooking all day, and even made more than we had intended (she noticed I didn't have any bread in the house, so we collaborated on little crescent rolls from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook). The turkey had dry spots but was (mostly) done by the time we served it, and the dry spots weren't prominent. Dad saved our butts by carving the turkey. Everything was tasty. Best of all it was at MY APARTMENT and as a result, my apartment feels even more homey than it did before, because I've held a major holiday there now.

Yes, I still have leftovers (though Ellen's asparagus with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds disappeared Friday night, when I was craving something cool and vegetable-y). I'm not likely to eat the dark meat turkey. I asked Dad if he thought a person could make some soup with that meat, and he said no, it's had all the juices cooked and drained out. I might try anyway. Turkey noodle soup is an old favorite of mine.

The weekend was quiet; I spent most of it at home, except for brunch at Original Pancake House (or "OHOP", as my sister calls it) with the family before sister left for home Sunday. Got a lot done: the first of Mom's Hannukah socks is nearly to the toe, laundry/dishes, a first draft of the Bardic Madness XVI flyer, and I finished Diner Dash, the full version, which I downloaded a few weeks ago and have been pecking away at ever since. I won't tell my strategies, but suffice to say that I found a few niblets of advice on a webpage that made all the difference. Finished the final level on the first try, with an 'expert level' score of 74,310 for that level alone (the goal to pass it was 45,000). Video games don't normally excite me but this one was a lot of fun. Now I am seeing angry African-American businesswomen scowling at me every time I blink.

I had a cup of non-decaf green tea (hey! I had ONE tea bag, purchased at a Gloria Jean's a year ago, that was sitting forlornly in my cabinet) at about 2pm yesterday, and paid for it with an awful night of sleep. Couldn't get to sleep for two hours, then woke up every time the heaters pinged or it started raining (my bedroom air conditioner is directly under the one in my upstairs neighbor's bedroom, meaning that I don't just get regular raindrops falling on it, I get the large, loud raindrops falling from the accumulated water on the one above).

To top it off, I had another horrible dream about my former place of work. I went back to help out one day (at no one's request, which is weird) and the place was unrecognizable. The same unreliable volunteer was covering the desk (staff were at some meeting or another) and the library had been completely re-arranged. There were drug company displays propped up everywhere, miscellaneous boxes and equipment stored in the aisles, and you couldn't find your way through the space. Someone wanted help with the copy machine but a large copy project had been left in it, clogging up the works. An invalid and his family were testing out some new blood-sugar testing technique at a table; I attempted to show them to a private room, but the hallways had been reconfigured so I couldn't find the meeting room or the A/V room, and I ended up having to take them outside, where the ill man was having trouble walking.

When I came inside, one of the regular staff had come to cover the desk, but she wouldn't talk to me or look at me. A patron would walk up to me and ask a question, and the other staff person would fill the request without a word. I would go to find a book or video for someone, fail to locate it, then trip over some new piece of furniture or wheelchair rack on the way back to the desk. Finally I had tripped once too many, it was the end of the day, and I realized I had effectively been kept from helping anyone. Oddly, there was a helicopter service outside the doors and I caught the last helicopter to the Marshfield Clinic (apparently I had parked there, not sure why).

I woke up angry and sad and missing what I used to do, missing my library, missing my patrons, and convinced no one is helping them the way I used to. (Which isn't true, to my knowledge, but that's how I felt.) To make things worse, it was dark and yellowish outside and I was really feeling the poor quality of the night's sleep.

My shower time was spent pondering if there is some kind of closure I've forgotten to perform on that job. I no longer live in La Crosse; there's no reason for me to go back to that medical center. And I know from experience that no matter how positive your experience somewhere, it's disappointing to go back and visit years later; it's a special occasion for you, but for everyone else it's just someone they used to know, dropping by and interrupting a busy day. I can't picture closure.

Yesterday afternoon I listened to public radio all afternoon, and heard the founder of this institute talk about the value of forgiveness and the myths we have about it (that the other person must apologize, that you must also reconcile with the other person, that it means you no longer care about the wrong that was done to you, etc.) It was fascinating stuff, but I tried to picture forgiving those who were instrumental in my leaving my former job, and I couldn't. I don't even know what it would look or feel like. Dr. Enright said that forgiving comes from a position of power: you have enough confidence and compassion to dispense mercy. But I'm the one who left; I don't have any power, my confidence is gone, and I have no compassion for those who would force someone out of a job she loved because of petty personal distaste.

All this smacks of victimhood. I've done my best not to feel like a victim, to acquire/keep the things that make me feel like a real person (an apartment I enjoy in the city I love, the mental health I need, hobbies and friends that keep me motivated, family that accept me, a job where I'm valued), but I'm still having these dreams and I am still convinced that no matter how much I lived up to the demands of my boss, I still would have been forced out somehow. I wonder how to move past this. About the only thing that gives me a self-justified smirk is to think how poorly things must be going there these days...but then I remember the patrons standing quizzically at the desk, needing something to hold onto, and I'm even more sad for them.

I am tempted to contact my friend Jeannie and see if she can talk to me for a little while. She worked in the same area I did, and was a big part of getting my library started in the first place (she is the daughter of the benefactors after whom it's named). A more giving, empathetic person would be hard to find. However, she has a very busy job, and was always kept even more busy being everyone's friend--listening to people's troubles, taking phone calls and pages, going to funerals, holding people's hands in the hospital, etc. I probably didn't talk to her for more than two minutes at a time during my whole tenure at that job. But she was sweet to me. She always saw me as just what the library needed. If I feel I need to hear someone say, "Oh Jennifer, it's all gone downhill since you left," she's the person to call. But I don't know whether I need that. Like I said, it would just make me sadder...

Anyway...I'd like to move past this. I'd like to feel ready to have a "real" job again and not constantly be scared that someone on a power trip will decide they don't like me, and it'll all be taken away again. I wonder how I can do this. I realize it's my responsibility.

Why did I have this dream this weekend? I just realized that this is the 2-year anniversary of the weekend I decided to leave that job. The day when they "caught" me coming in late would have been two years ago last Tuesday or Wednesday. It's a cliche that anniversaries are tough when you're grieving or dealing with a loss, but apparently it's true in this case.

I was going to go on and be all cheery and bouncy and talk about stuff planned for this week, but I don't really feel like it. I think I'll knit some more and then go to sleep.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Copps on University has (or had on Sunday) baby artichokes for 99 cents a pound. (A single large artichoke is still $2.99 or something ridiculous like that.) I bought more than a pound (maybe 15 babies) intending on cooking all of them, then leaving some as leftovers. Then I ate all of them for dinner tonight. Mmmmmm....The best thing about baby artichokes is that you eat the entire bottom part. The "choke", which is the part with all the spiny fluff that's in the middle of the bottom, which needs to be scraped out and discarded in larger artichokes, is maybe a centimeter across in the babies, and undeveloped enough to eat. The whole thing is delicious. Go get some.

My friend Mikey has lost another cat; that's two this year, and this one went relatively suddenly. I'll never have a cat (my cat allergy is frighteningly strong, even with me on prescription antihistamines 365 days a year) but I understand what it is to have a treasured element of your home and your life suddenly gone. My sympathies to Mikey and Pixel.

This week I have had almost scary amounts of fatigue at work. Nowhere else, just work. Today, I had lunch at my desk while working, then took my 1/2 hour mandated lunch period and slept on the unbelievably cushy couch in the break area, with my trusty cell phone alarm set to wake me up.

Now I have been known to nap by accident (falling asleep while reading on the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, for instance), but my history with napping in order to rack up more sleep and refresh myself has never been successful. I usually wake up with my body screaming, "What are you doing, I was asleep! We do that for 8 hours!" and wanting to go back to sleep. But today it was at least partly successful; I didn't feel exactly energetic after the nap, but my eyes weren't doing that scary flippy can't-stay-open thing anymore and I got some substantial work done.

I wonder what's going on. This really isn't normal for me. The repetitive aspects of my job have been known to make me slightly sleepy, but not so sleepy that I am in physical discomfort and can't keep my eyes open. I'm sleeping 8-9 hours a night, so it isn't lack of sleep. And it's normal for me to wake up feeling like s***, but a shower and some breakfast has always perked me up for the day by at least mid-morning, and this wasn't working this week. I really should have a sleep study or something, but these are unbelievably expensive and my insurance doesn't cover anything diagnostic. I know, I know, my health is worth dipping into savings. But, after nearly two years away from the health care system, I'm starting to balk at spending any time at all within it. Yes, it's a bad attitude. What can I say? I have more fun things to do with my time and money. I'm still 22 and invincible at heart, I guess.

Knitting: almost done with the sixth sock, #2 of the Lorna's Laces Lorikeet pair. I love LL for its softness and gorgeous colors, but this whole fingering-weight thing is starting to irritate me. The thinner the yarn, the more stitches involved in knitting the piece, and the longer it takes to complete. The pattern for the current socks calls for 72 stitches/row, which is a lot for socks. My next two projects need to be the ones I promised to Mom & Dad; Dad's yarn is a size bigger than the LL, but Mom's is fingering-weight Koigu. These are going to be a bit of a long haul. I am mildly tempted to work up something in the worsted-weight Lion wool I got cheap, just to experience a quicker project. Luckily Hannukah isn't until Christmas this year (what an odd little statement, but hey, it's true) so I have five weeks or so to finish M&D's pairs. In all likelihood I'll finish the LL socks this weekend and get started on either Mom's or Dad's--probably Dad's; I'm very interested in how the variegation knits up on his.

The Althing this past weekend was nice in that it was good to see friends, it was an excuse to stay at Dahrien/Mysie's, and I got a lot of knitting done. Other than that, I don't feel we got much done. It's not Chris' fault; he does his job well, but I just don't believe those assembled did much more than spout their opinions and pat each other on the back. All 4 of the Royalty were there and said various good things, but occasionally looked bored, which I totally understood. I didn't say much; during a sidebar about public relations I said some Chatelaine-y stuff, and during the Stallari/Royalty Q&A, after someone asked how much time They spent working on SCA stuff per week and it was staggering amounts, I asked the Royalty what they adored about being on the Thrones. (Hey, we have a problem with shrinking Crown Lists as it is; could we focus on the positive for five minutes, please?)

One well-respected member of our Barony, from whom I have not seen any substantial weirdness before now, got up and stated that in his opinion, the only good reason for a demo is to thank site owners who allow us to use their space for practices/events. I don't think I missed the context of this, but I suppose, with my flitting attention span, it's possible. My jaw dropped and I raised my hand to rebut, but we were at the end of the public relations sidebar and had to move on to another topic. Obviously we need some populace education on public relations/Chatelaine-y work, even among those with years of SCA experience.

I mean, really. At the very least: Jararvellir earned how many hundreds of dollars for its library demos this season? Those libraries aren't sites we've used for practices/events. We got paid for educational efforts, not for thank-yous, and we're going to reap the monetary and goodwill benefits for a long time. Not to mention that we acquainted a whole lot of people in tiny towns with the SCA--not necessarily to recruit them now, but to plant us in their brains so when their kids join in college, they won't worry that we're a cult, and when we need to use their church for an event, they'll encourage the pastor to allow it. We were planting seeds. In short: it's incredibly shortsighted to ignore all these other functions of demos.

Rant mode: off. Anyway...I had two lovely restaurant meals with different groups of friends, and stayed up until 4 Sunday morning doing the who-put-a-quarter-in-Owen bardic issues talk, which was wonderful fun considering there were two people in the room who hadn't experienced one of these before. Also got to give Mateo a ride home (one of the two) and discuss SCA and bardic stuff with him on the way home, which is always fun. I love the fact that I acquired a real friend on the way to and from Pennsic this year, simply because I needed a rider and here was someone I figured I could tolerate for 20 hours in the car together.

Before you go a-HA! and tell me that staying up late Saturday night is at fault for my recent tiredness, I do that fairly often, and the effects never last beyond Monday unless it's after a long period of disrupted or too-little sleep, like at Pennsic. This week is unusual. We'll see how I fare Thursday and Friday. This coming weekend I'm spending at home, so maybe I can sleep in a more organic manner, i.e. when I need to. Either that or I'll just sleep too much, which I do pretty easily, and throw myself off in the other direction.

I NEVER had sleep problems until I got sick in 2003. This sucks.

Sunday night I made gingerbread from this recipe. Used with light corn syrup and light brown sugar, it makes for a light-colored, fragrant gingerbread with a buttery flavor and non-sticky, non-crumbly dough that's easy to roll out. Not bad for my first try at gingerbread! I didn't make the teddy bear shape; I had heart and music-note cookie cutters, so I used those. Tried to use decorating gel to pipe an outline on some of the music notes, in advance of baking as the gel directions advised, but the gel bubbled and boiled and generally didn't stay in neat piped lines, so those got set aside for my own snacking. Next time: I hope to invest in actual gingerbread-man cookie cutters (since cookie cutters work so well with this recipe), and buy or make some decorative icing that actually works, to make real gingerbread men cookies.

The folks at work also really enjoyed these ginger snaps. I didn't think I liked ginger snaps, but they were REALLY easy and fast and the flavor grew on me. It wasn't just ginger-y and it didn't trigger my ginger allergy. Those in the know tell me they are the perfect consistency for ginger snaps. All I know is, from initial pondering and getting ingredients together to the moment the last batch came out of the oven was something like 100 minutes. That's some kind of speed record for cookies (at least the baked ones).

The Chatelaine reporting deadline for this season has come and gone. I got substantial amounts pre-15th, a couple on the 15th, but nothing since, which concerns me. If the count stops here, we are four down from last season's already pukey reporting numbers. Currently pondering the best way to induce more reports. Shava doesn't like negative inducements (like posting the names of groups whose Chatelaines have not reported); I could post the list of groups who have, but that would require the non-reporting Chatelaines to a) read the list and be spurred to action, and b) actually care, which some of them don't. Posting to the NS-Seneschals list, either positive- or negative-style, seems punitive ("I'm gonna tell your boss you didn't report..."). And I'm just lazy enough not to want to contact each non-reporter individually and kindly, gently ask what's up.

I can certainly give them until Thanksgiving without holding up the writing of my own report to Shava and to the Society Chatelaine. But those who don't feel like reporting, in my experience, won't report, even with the full arsenal of guilt-trips, negative publicity, persuasion, and deadline extension used to try to get them to report. Sadly, any person in the position of Kingdom Chatelaine must accept that Chatelaines have no real inducement to act as Chatelaines except their group's expectations and their own inclinations. Those that are in the position simply in order to fill it, or because they wanted an easy officer position, will do poorly and not follow the rules, because there's no way to enforce the rules, esp. when the position will be empty if I simply yank their warrant. I would rather have a figurehead who is helpful 14% of the time in the position, than no one in the position. I stand by this opinion...but it comes into use far more often than I would like.

Things must change, as concerns the position of Chatelaine in this Kingdom. I am not at all decided as to how, and I don't know if I'm the right person to institute change. I plan to spend the forthcoming year pondering, learning, and at least coming up with a list of the things that must change, then hopefully hand off the job at Boar's Head 2006 to someone who's prepared to shake things up a bit while maintaining my high standards of interpersonal communication.

Sunday, November 06, 2005
Okay okay, please don't worry about me, I'm not dead or anything. I just haven't felt like writing.

Part of it is that I didn't know what to say about the nice man I mentioned in my last post. The short version: it didn't work out. I wasn't feeling it, and when I told him so, politely, cheerfully, offering to continue to be friends, I never heard from him after that. I suppose some people are only nice as long as they have hope that it'll work out. Oh well. Now I don't have to ask Owen about how to date a pagan.

Good fall activities have happened lately. I went to two Halloween parties, one at Kenya/Michael's and one at Eithni's (I would say Eithni/Greg's, but it was on a Monday night and he was out of town teaching). My costume? Well, SCA Halloween parties have an unspoken rule of "no garb as costumes", but I got around it by finding a used cheerleader sweater and a new skirt at Ragstock--in black, white, and gold. I was a Northshield cheerleader! (Exactly what some have accused me of being. I'm never offended when they say that.) I went around shouting "Gimme an N!" and shaking my pigtails; I had purchased pom-poms, but they alarmed the cats at Kenya's and I forgot them the night of Eithni's gathering.

And I went to the last of the West Side Farmer's Markets, before they move to their indoor location in a couple of weeks. Bought potatoes, kale, and leeks to make a soup recipe, which turned out rather bland even with a broth cube added. The rest of the kale will be parboiled/sauteed like I normally prepare kale.

It was good having guests for the first time in my new apartment: Colin, Rosanore, Chris, and Ynyr came to stay during the Medieval Religions Symposium a couple of weeks ago. (My apartment is still reasonably clean. Let's see how long that lasts.) We did a lot of laughing, I got them slightly lost on the way to the event, and they ate the cookies I made for them. Chris made an enigmatic verse snippet out of my Shakespeare-themed magnetic poetry set (but then, is there any magnetic poetry that doesn't turn out enigmatic?). They didn't let me cook them breakfast Sunday morning, meaning I still have an entire package of bacon and a gallon of orange juice, neither of which are habitual foods for me (orange juice aggravates my reflux).

The following week I invited Sarra, Eithni, Iohanna, and some others for a movie night, to take advantage of the fact that my apartment was still clean. It was in honor of Sarra moving to town, so she brought one of her favorite movies, Newsies, which I found cute but predictable and overly melodramatic. (Can't beat a young Christian Bale singing about Santa Fe as his dream place, though.)

I love my apartment. (Especially clean, but even when it's not.) This past weekend there were a lot of good sunshine-streaming-in moments, where I just liked existing there. I made a good choice (and no, taking a first-floor apartment did not mean I got less light or more people walking by my windows). And I'm watching gas prices go down by about five cents a day, and breathing a sigh of relief that driving to/from work is not quite as expensive as it has been in the recent past.

I sang with the choir at Temple during the High Holydays services, as usual, even though they moved rehearsals to Thursdays so I can't make them (they conflict with SCA choir). At first I decided I wasn't going to sing, because I don't feel it's very fair that I miss all the rehearsals and still sing during services. But choir members and others kept asking why I hadn't sung, and Debbie (the cantor and choir director) invited me, so I joined them. Later Mom told me that a friend of hers who also happens to be in the choir, having a bad day, had gone on a mini-rant to her about my singing with the choir without having been to any of the rehearsals.

It's an ethical conundrum. I know all the music, I sing well and add to the choir's sound, I enjoy it (in fact I find it intolerably boring to sit out in the congregation now), Debbie and various choir members keep emphatically inviting me, and's not right of me to perform without going to rehearsals. And now I know there's at least one choir member who's offended that I do (though Mom says she did call back and apologize about her rant, saying she went too far). I feel bad about the whole thing. I might call up Debbie sometime and talk to her about it. Though I don't know if I'm strong enough to just say, "Debbie, stop inviting me, it's not fair to the other singers, and I'm not going to sing anyway." Probably not.

I have a recent new passion: I'm knitting socks. Why socks? Because they're the knitting equivalent to miniature quilts, embroidered samplers, beaded bracelets, sewing pouches and doll clothes, or illuminating single pages, which are all things I also do. I like projects that are small but not tiny, portable if possible, and don't take as long as the standard-size project. That way if you dislike how the project is going, you can either give up on it without too much remorse over supply costs/time invested, or you can motor through it knowing the next project is coming up soon. Thus far, I have two completed pairs that demonstrate substantial improvement in technique (if I do toot that horn myself), and am nearly to the toe of a fifth sock.

Of course with any new hobby, a hefty percentage of my fun comes from becoming familiar with supplies/tools and shopping for them. I've discovered Simply Socks Yarn Company, Patternworks (which has a completely drool-able printed catalog that I've now read about eight times), and a local company, Blackberry Ridge, which has a complete line of hand-dyed yarns in yummy colors. (I bought the sample set. It is not a well-put-together sample set. It involves little bundles of a dozen three-inch strands of yarn, tied together with some unnamed waste yarn, tagged with scrawled info on the type of yarn. I would prefer a printed catalog, but at least this is pettable.) Blackberry Ridge also has gorgeous sock patterns, most of which come in kits; I purchased a kit but haven't started it yet.

My favorite sock yarn yet: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. Got two skeins of Lorikeet color (red, yellow, blue, all delicious shades) from Yarnbow's EBay store. It's 80% superwash wool, 20% nylon (which is good for socks because pure wool felts, and you could find yourself with felted socks), soooooooft and supple, perfect for 7 stitches/inch on #1 needles, which is what a lot of people use for socks. I apparently have a loose gauge, because my current sock, made to a pattern which recommends LLSS yarn, is (like its predecessors) rather baggy on me. Not so I can't wear them, just so it won't stay up and isn't stretched over my shin like my machine-made socks. Next socks, I swatch first. I promise.

I knit Colleen a scarf out of leftovers from the first pair of socks. Just simple garter stitch, with hand-knotted fringe. She won't take it off, now. She just may wear it to the Northshield Althing this weekend. I might not be able to take it away from her!

My friends in one of my former Shires have come through for me: the Champions Tourney that Their Highnesses Lars & Mary were going to put on March 25, the date we've had for Bardic Madness for months now, has been moved to Rokeclif on April 1. They gave up Pie Snit II to do this. I'm sure they didn't take this on primarily to do me a favor, but I thanked Kudrun profusely all the same. The conflict was really bothering me, not because L&M didn't know they were stepping on us--they mentioned in their request for bids that they wanted proposals from groups far from Trewint, and would hold a Bardic Champion challenge at Coronation--but that they knew and seemed to think it was okay. Besides my being protective of Bardic Madness, I didn't want Trewint's first event as a full-status Shire to suffer because of TH's cavalier attitude. I was on the point of taking up Rosanore on her offer to talk to Mary about it. But Rokeclif saved everyone the trouble. I owe them big time.

I met up with SCA acquaintances Caoilfhionn (see? I can spell her name!) and Saraidh from the Twin Cities Saturday night, when they were in town for the World Fantasy Convention. It was odd to see them in mundane clothes. Fantasy is not really my genre (or not anymore; I used to enjoy it in fits and starts as a kid), so we didn't have much to talk about on that front, but they're fun people and seemed to have a good time even though I wasn't well-informed on the reason they were in Madison. We went to Wasabi, which is next door to Master Hall where I lived during grad school; I told them the story of the time I stood naked in front of the window for half an hour before realizing people could see me. (Ask for it next time you see me.) They laughed; it was gratifying. Obviously self-deprecating is the way to go with my sense of humor.

I (we, if you count Colleen) have now watched all the West Wing DVDs that Video Station carries--through Season Four. They don't have Season Five yet (not surprisingly, as it won't be issued until Dec. 6) and when they do, it'll be expensive and not easy to come by. So we have to be patient. West Wing is ideal to knit to, because so much of it is aural and not visual.

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