Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 29

If you've never read Georgette Heyer, you should. Faro's Daughter is a very funny, sometimes mad-cap Georgian romance first published in 1941. Our heroine is not quite respectable and when a lordling falls in love with her, his family makes great efforts to distance them, most of which backfire. She is the most intelligent person on the page, save the hero, and watching her make good decisions while the waves of crazy crest around her is delightful. Of course, there is a happy ending.

My current favorite thing to listen to is the soundtrack from the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. First, it's an amazing film in every sense and you don't need to know anything about Spider-Man to watch it. Somehow, when we watched it again a few weeks ago, I was reminded how much I liked the music. And it's available on Hoopla. I just have to renew it weekly on my library card. This is what I was doing with the Frozen II soundtrack a month ago. Slightly different genre of music. Slightly

Hard Things

(I wrote, in my head, an excellent blog post when I was in the shower last night. If someone could create a device to record all the amazing and useful things I think of while I'm in the shower, I would be eternally grateful. In the meantime, I will try to recreate my thoughts.)

So, this online schooling thing is not going well. Somehow, I thought I could be everything Miranda needed. (No, this is not a logical conclusion but I had early Covid enthusiasm that has obviously waned when it crashed into reality.) When she is at school, she has 9 teachers, a case manager, and a guidance counselor to help her and she was still barely passing her classes. Now, at home, with just me and her lukewarm attitude towards completing assignments, we are floundering. And I don't even know how far behind we are because I still have logged into Powerschool and counted, but we haven't even touched math in almost a month. I know she's doing work in most of the other classes.

Last weekend I had a serious, extended panicked mood about her schooling, so much that I was avoiding all the emails and phone calls from teachers and case managers for both kids. You know what, asking for help is hard. I hate to do it. And this is about me, not her.

I had to come to grips with the fact Miranda is not a straight A student years ago. She is not Sarah 2.0 (and for the record, I didn't have straight A's until they stopped grading me in handwriting and PE). Miranda is her own person and her AD/HD especially makes exams and essays a serious trial, so much so that we may have alternate grading in place for her in future. Which is perfectly acceptable according to her IEP; we just have to keep making those changes. She has no difficultly learning in her favorite subjects of history and language arts, she just needs help expressing it. Other subjects are more difficult but her teachers are the most reasonable, helpful people you could imagine. They don't want her to fail. And her case manager is amazingly compassionate. But I had to say I was failing and couldn't keep up. And that's hard.

Since then, I have been honest with her case manager and social studies teachers. I haven't figured out what to do with math yet, but I don't feel so hopeless now that I've admitted I'm not coping well. I can't manage both kids' schooling and the house and my own stuff and food and laundry, etc. And you know what? It's not possible for one person to do all that. It's not a reasonable request of any one person. And I wasn't doing it alone before. Miranda had her staff, Alex had his staff, Marshall was able to go in to the office and have the support of his co workers instead of trying to figure out everything from a desk in Miranda's bedroom. I had people I paid to clean my house once a month and I wasn't afraid to go to the grocery store. Not to mention my library! I was at the library twice a week to pick up or drop off books. And my mother and I shared a lot of the errands that we could that are much more difficult now. And I could go to church on Sunday morning and Wednesday morning and feel the support of my spiritual community.

Without all these necessary supports, I cannot expect myself to function well, much less at optimum. It's not reasonable. Ben Aaronovitch, an author I follow in Twitter, wrote last weekend that he had started coughing and was overwhelmed by such a sense of existential dread, the kind he hasn't felt since the end of the Cold War. And that's a great description. We don't know what's coming, how bad the virus will be, if we've already had the virus (Alex has a new fever as of yesterday because, of course), how much worse the US political world will get as people keep dying of Covid19 and the poorest of the world pay the debts of those of us who have more. I have more: a house, health care, access to testing and enough money to survive a hospitalization. Many people I know don't. And if you spend ten minutes on Google news, you'll find millions of others who don't either.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

To quote a favorite Nalini Singh book, save the ones you can right now. If helping yourself is all you can do, do that. If you can help others, do that. Your local food pantry. Your favorite non profit. Your church. Your friend's church. Your parents, your family that isn't necessarily blood related. Try not to fall into thinking that your life or your way of life is more important than anyone else's. Jesus came to save all people. All of us.

My current favorite song from Spiderverse:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 26

In the spring of 1993, before my high school graduation, before I would start my university education at Seattle Pacific University in the fall, I read Dorothy L. Sayers Gaudy Night. Not only does it contain a fascinating mystery, complete the courtship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but it explores the argument of the ivory tower v. real life. That is, can a person immerse themselves in the world of learning and teaching, in the academy, and live only for learning and teaching.

Before that spring, I had expected to spend my life as a teacher and a writer. After reading Gaudy Night, I realized I would never be an excellent writer. And soon, after some attempts at teaching at SPU, I realized I was a lousy teacher. All my future plans kinda died.

I did finish my degree at SPU in English literature, got married, then moved to NJ in part to pursue graduate school, or at least that was the plan. It never happened. I even took the GRE one spring. 2001? Maybe? Life didn't go that way, I didn't go that way.

Since I haven't blogged in more than a week, you can tell it's been tough going around here. My body is not cooperating by staying well and pain free. Nonetheless, I was able to walk a little more than 7 miles, which is more than the previous week and the week before that, so, progress.

Some post cards of notice from this last week

Turkish armor

Greek art

Cambridge, UK

Grand Canyon, USA

My book choices have been all over the place: contemporary romance, post-apocalyptic romance--it's not a genre I usually like but I make exceptions for Ruby Dixon--and young adult urban fantasy, which I read mostly to find books my daughter will read because she's still in a zombie fiction phase. Marshall and I made decided to spend more time together watching things I've been promising to watch with him. I do best with only one episode per evening so after finishing the latest series of Doctor Who last week (which we barely liked), we watched Good Omens this week (which we did like, all heresy aside), we watched the last 2 episodes of Steven Moffat's Sherlock, and then last night, Ford v. Ferrari, which he likes and I tolerated. Christian Bale and Matt Damon were excellent but everything else was slow and annoying. And it failed the Bechdel-Wallace test. I mean, even Train to Busan, a Korean zombie movie, passes that test. Funnily enough, The Last Jedi passes that test but I don't think Rise of Skywalker does. We liked the former more than the latter. Does it mean that in order to be a good movie it has to pass the test? Not always, but good movies often do.

Movies from 2019 that I liked and saw (some) in the actual movie theatre:

  • Captain Marvel (um, yeah!).
  • Shazam! (maybe?).
  • Avengers: Endgame (probably but only because Gamora and Nebula had a conversation).
  • Late Night which I wanted to see but didn't but certainly passes.
  • We saw the new Godzilla and it passes only because of mother-daughter conversations; that doesn't make it a good film.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (maybe?)
  • I still want to see Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw but I don't expect it to ever pass.
  • Frozen II, which I liked and does pass.
  • Knives Out passes.
  • Still want to see Jumanji: The Next Level even though I don't expect it to pass.
  • Spies in Disguise was very fun and it does pass.
And I need to go eat lunch. Here's your palate cleanser:

I wish I'd had this when I needed to learn geography.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 17

I discovered Percy Jackson by reading a New York Times review of book 5 of Percy's first series, The Last Olympian, which was published in 2009. I read lots of book reviews, by professionals and regular readers. One reason why I love Goodreads so much is that it aggregates reviews from many readers and gives you the opportunity to read about a book from someone who loved it as well as someone who didn't. Some of my favorite reviews are 1 and 2 star ones. Anyway, if you like Greek mythology and good young adult fiction, I highly recommend Percy Jackson. I, myself have yet to read Rick Riordan's ten most recent books. They're on my list, I promise.

Today's interesting postcard is from my parents' trip to Greece and Turkey in the fall of 2015, when it was still fairly safe to travel there. They joined a group exploring many of the sites of early Christianity.

Mental Health Review: So Miranda and I have continued to talk to our counselor weekly. Thankfully, we have the resources to keep talking to her (and our HMO reimburses 50%) because I need someone to help me interpret Miranda and talk through alternatives when how I've been parenting her isn't working. Mostly, we are struggling with her school work because, 1) there's so much of it, and 2) I am figuring out how to adjust it to a reasonable level. It hasn't helped that we've been sick for much of the last two weeks (although, the kids are pretty much over their fever and headaches and I'm feeling better today that I have in 2 weeks, so maybe we're done with whatever it was) so I haven't had the energy to chase her down on all of the assignments and neither, honestly, has she.

Something each of us in this building is struggling with is how scary it is to be staying together here all the time and understanding that the world outside is where the virus is rampant. Seriously scary. That stress lies on top of everything we think, all the words we snap at each other and every time we get annoyed by all the boxes of Mimi's stuff still in the front room. (Half of the boxes are her current papers that we still need available to manage her estate, which won't close completely until we sell her house, and the others are things of hers we wanted to keep but don't yet have a place for. I probably really need to clean the linen closet. A clean shelf in there would help. But I digress....)

The kids can't go to school, where they are used to the routine, where they see people they like, and where they probably have better uses for their time. And where they have far better teachers than me. Marshall can't go to work in his office in Camden, with all of his co workers where it's easier to work because there are many fewer distractions and if he has a question, he can lean over the divider and ask his colleague. And he can talk about technology to people who actually care instead of his long-suffering wife (😇) who can often follow what he's saying but this latest project has her really confused. And I have to manage everyone all of the time in addition to doing all my own work. Sure, I prefer waking up about 7:30 am (my body has decided it really doesn't like sleeping longer than this, much to my dismay) instead of 5:40 am but the no peace and quiet thing except at midnight when everyone else is sleeping (which, since my body doesn't sleep in anymore, is not healthy) is wearing on me.

And this is just the tone of the house with no outside interference. Marshall and I don't read a lot of the news, but we check it several times a day. And, I've discovered, Miranda's reading it too. So, add the political squabbling and virus updates to our emotional thermometer. And while Alex doesn't follow the news himself, he picks up the household's prevailing emotional attitude and reacts to it, whatever it is.

To sum up:
We're stressed because

  1. No body ever leaves
  2. We still have to do all our own crap, but without the appropriate help.
  3. Everyone eats every single meal here, requiring food and dishes.
  4. Many of my destressing activities went up in smoke (watching tennis or Premier League futbol) or are quarantined elsewhere (parents and friends).
  5. Marshall and I both have more things to do than energy to do them.
  6. The kids are frying their brains on screens because it's hard to get them to do other things. Neither is a self motivated student.
  7. I'm tired and it's time for dinner. 
Here's your palate cleanser (this is Alex's other favorite)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 16

(This is book 4 in the series and I NEVER advocate reading a book out of order, so if you want to read this one, please read books 1-3 first. Still, it's my favorite of the series and left me sobbing uncontrollably at one point. Jeanne Birdsall writes so tenderly about the difficulties of growing up and discovering your parents aren't perfect and can, occasionally, make mistakes. In fact, you yourself might make mistakes along the way as well. I loved these books.)

Post card of the day:

This is part of a group of postcards I bought for MaryLee when Marshall and I were in Cambridge, England, in 2002. As she was a photographer, I thought she'd appreciate seeing the deep contrasts in the photos. I found them again when I went through her personal papers and am now using them for their original purpose.

Angry Birds update: I am resisting sewing up a seam on Bomb this afternoon. But I should probably just do it. I don't know where my black thread is. I have dark brown. I don't expect anyone will be able to tell the difference.

I don't have a lot of focus today. Miranda refused to tell me how much of a particular assignment she's completed (which probably means none) which she's told me she has been working on for weeks so she is technology free for the rest of the day. On the other hand, Alex had tons of energy this morning which means he's finally feeling better. I feel the same; just groggier. I stayed up late reading.

Last night, I discovered a new to me author, Katharine Ashe, and now I want to go read all of her books. I was being a good girl last night, finishing a book on my currently reading list (At the Billionaire's Wedding, a collection of short stories, including "The Day It Rained Books," by Ashe) that I started in February of 2019. I originally started the book because I was making my way through all of Maya Rodale's published works. But, obviously, something shiny walked by. Ashe's story is the third in the collection and by far the best. She takes the Cinderella trope and makes it into something beautiful. And I don't even like Billionaire stories, for the most part (Pippa Grant seems to do them well), but this story had me in tears.

Anyway, so now Currently Reading (on Goodreads) is only 11 books which includes the Bible and my devotional but my official To Be Read pile is 781. For every book I read, I seem to add 3 more to my want to read list. I read about 225 books a year (Goodreads counts full length books, novellas and shorts each as a distinct work; if you want length reports, they do have a page counter) so if I continue in the fashion as I move forwards, I won't ever catch up.

Maybe I need a break from technology, too, the form of a paper book.

This is still my favorite Animaniacs sequence.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 15

(It's been fun choosing a book to head every post, which I only did the first day because then it explained by title but now I can pick a new one every day! I can't remember how many times I've read Silver Silence since it was published in 2017--half a dozen at least--but I never get tired of Russian bear Changelings. Russian bears! They are hilarious.)

Angry Birds toys I have repaired

Today Nico from Angry Birds Rio got his hat reattached, which I recall Alex detaching almost as soon as he came into the house, years ago, and a small seam in his butt sewn closed. Photographic evidence of the change was difficult to gather.

Strange postcard of the day

I myself have never visited Epcot Center and my mother only went for the first time last year, but this post card is old. I'm wondering if my paternal grandmother went, years ago, and brought postcards back. That's my best guess.

Road Trip!

So I had some bank deposits that had been sitting around for a while and then I needed to do one for my mother in law's estate but her bank is a 20 minute drive from our house so I'd been putting it off. I was feeling decent earlier so I decided to just drive down to her bank, and then hit our bank and McDonald's on the way home. (One of Alex's food groups is McDonald's French Fries, and right now we're trying to put even a tiny bit of body fat back on him because he's growing faster then his limited calorie intake can manage. And I got McFlurries for Marshall and Miranda. Because I'm nice.)

I felt okay on my drive down (I swear, I missed every single light down Hainesport-Mt. Laurel Road to Greentree) but I was dizzy by the time I got back. So I'm not perfectly well; still enough sick that going out is inadvisable unless I'm just going to sit in the car. Lemme tell you how that makes me feel:

Yeah. It sucks.

But a dear friend offered to do our Aldi shopping, so that's one less worry. Bless you, friend.

There's not a whole lot of other new news. Miranda is still pretending to do her homework. I have yet to log in to Google classroom. Alex has been assigned by his counselor to work through "cartoon interactive social story type activities" on the computer and watches the clock until his allotted time is done. Marshall continues to work too many hours to reasonably ask him to deal with any of his other stuff around the house. He watched The Ring last night, the American version, which he said was okay. I read another Barbara Freethy book in her Off the Grid series, which has an over arching mystery along with one to be solved in each book. I've read 4 with 3 more to go and I'm curious enough to finish them this week to find out whodunit in the larger story. I have suspicions but Freethy writes cleverer mysteries that most people give her credit for. She's not as popular or flashy as Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick (all the same person but publishing under different names for different genres) or Christina Dodd. Even the Queen, JD Robb aka Nora Roberts, with her towering in Death Series, often has obvious villians. (One of my accomplishments this year was finishing book 50 of the in Death series, the latest published. Most of the books I read last year were written either by Nalini Singh or JD Robb and I really have no regrets.)

What's funny is when I count my authors (I love Goodreads; it's like having an extra brain) and I realize how few male authors I read any more.

  • John Scalzi is still a favorite and I haven't yet, unlike my husband, finished reading all of his back list. 
  • Ben Aaronovitch has an excellent urban fantasy series that started with Rivers of London in 2011, but I still have to read the last few books. (We recommend the audio versions of any of the Peter Grant stories because Kobna Holdbrook-Smith makes you a Peter believer.) 
  • I suppose Ilona Andrews counts because they are actually a husband and wife writing team, Ilona and Gordon Andrews. (I recommend everything they write. Yes, everything.)
  • Before the Netflix series launched, I started reading The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapowski and am now halfway through the series. Honestly it's some of the best fantasy I've read in years. His world building is impressive. 
Except for the odd historian or graphic novelist, that's it for male authors in the last 3 years. I'm not sure if that says more about me or about them.

Now I really need to stop and scrounge something for dinner.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 14

(Favorite book from seventh grade that I was just thinking today needs a reread.)

First thing today: most interesting post card

My father grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. My only visit to his old haunts was in 1992, when I joined he and my mother in a trip to Sante Fe to bury his father. So it's possible I could have purchased this in 1992, but it's more likely that my mother bought it on a more recent trip to NM she took with my dad.

Today, I think the card got sent to my youngest brother's house in CA.

Also, Angry Birds plushies that I have repaired: Matilda

Alex loves the fact that we're stuck in the house and he can now shove all his limping stuffed animals at me for repair. I am not the most accomplished seamstress.

How many Angry Birds do we have? A dresser full. I'll take a picture next time Alex has them all out for an event.

How do the birds get damaged? He pounds them into each other, reenacting some battle or other from Star Wars and a seam will start to give, and then he'll stick his fingers into it, making it larger, and then comes to me complaining that it broke. I've already done several of the smaller birds and on Saturday night, I had to sew up the rest of Might Eagle's throat that I hadn't previously repaired. Maybe by the time I finish all the bird repairs I'll have the energy to bring out my cross stitch stuff, which I haven't touched since my father in law died in 2016. That was a tough year. Though 2020 might beat it.

Health update

So, the kids and I are now on day 10 of low grade fevers, headaches and general blahs. Do we have Covid-19? I dunno. The fevers never go above 100 degrees, nor do any of us remain feverish all day long. Our energy is lower and an appetites are definitely reduced. I haven't called the doctor because she's going to tell us to rest and drink fluids, which we are already doing. It means I have only left the house to weed the front flower bed and I'm getting a little crazed. At least I got to go to the grocery store before. Marshall went to Costco on Saturday and we're going to need him to go on a trip to Aldi soon; we can't run out of turkey bacon and scrapple. Well, we could, but it would mean Miranda and I wouldn't have breakfast and that could be scary.

Entertainment News

Marshall has been binging on movies to cope with the lock down while I have, mostly, been reading instead. (If you've known me for five minutes, this is not a surprise to you.) If you want to follow my reading, you can stalk me on Goodreads.

  • We finally finished this season of Doctor Who last week and were exceedingly underwhelmed. Great cast, especially the new Master, but terrible, horrible, preachy writing. We are long time fans (we haven't seen every single episode since 1963 but many of them) and we hate to see a great show start to die. And Chibnall (exec producer) is better than this. Or so we thought. 
  • We actually paid Amazon Prime to watch the new Birds of Prey movie and turned it off after half an hour. And I'm the kind of person who actually liked (parts of) Justice League and most of Aquaman
  • Marshall would like you all to know he's going through a Cinéma vérité phase, reexamining films from the 1960's - 1980's that he's previously missed. Recent entries have been Conan the Barbarian, All the President's Men and The Shining. I joined him for the ends of Conan & Woodstein but skipped the last. Not a horror fan, except that my brief glances made me want to revisit Ready Player One
  • I finally finished over the weekend The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara W. Tuchman. I started reading it in paper but finished with audio (I love my library!). She's an excellent analyst although it was dismaying to listen especially to the section on Vietnam, how each president from Truman to Nixon kept chasing verifiably incorrect assumptions about Vietnam and its people to rationalize more and more death. 
  • In between, I've been reading breezy romantic thrillers by HelenKay Dimon, Jayne Ann Krentz and Barbara Freethy. And low angsty contemporary romances by Jackie Lau. I have a stack of angsty books on my TBR but I haven't had the energy for them. I have so far resisted falling back into PsyChangeling or Guild Hunter by Nalini Singh (I read each series twice last year and that's more than 30 books and novellas) but I'm sure a reread will happen eventually during this calendar year. The new PsyChangeling book comes out June 9 and the new Guild Hunter in November. 
  • Then, there's also the Vorkosiverse books. Marshall's all-time-favorite-reread-numerous-times-series that I have been trying to read since spring, 2016. I did finish Cetaganda (book 6) last week, finally, because I'd bought a used paper copy of it last year. I think because my husband prefers the audio versions (thank you, library), he can just cycle through them over and over again. Our library, however, has only the audio versions of the books. I can read some books via audio but not all and Lois McMaster Bujold just doesn't work for me in that medium. I need to see the words on the page. So, finally, I just went and bought Kindle versions of all 22 (?) books. For all that Marshall loves the books, I figured we should express our love financially at long last to the author. It's nice to have the means to do that at present. (I don't want to know how many books I've bought since December so don't ask; I'm afraid to count them.)
Scripture readings for today are Proverbs, Luke and Deuteronomy (that I haven't listened to yet). I shall be glad to leave the Pentateuch soon but after all the fun blood lettering of Joshua there's all the depressing blood letting of Judges. I'm actually looking forward to the prophets this year. I started the Bible in One Year app last July so I'm counting from there as my read the whole Bible mark. Then I'll just start again. 

Here's a good way to end things:

Quarantine Quotidians, April 13

(If you haven't read this book, you should. It's one of my favorites.)

So, I decided in the shower this morning that I should start blogging again. I'm sure it's partly because I was texting my spiritual mentor yesterday and one thing I had promised months ago was to go back to blogging regularly. But Miranda had a mental healthy crisis in October and then my mother-in-law died in early January and then Surprise! Let's everybody have a pandemic. Time passes quickly and slowly simultaneously. Or, rather, the time doing fun stuff flies by and the time supervising my children's online education drags with foot long nails. No, homeschooling isn't going well. They are both special needs kids. This is not ideal. But it's the best we can do. Oh, well.

Schooling Update:

Technically, the children have spring break this week but she's behind on assignments and if she has to work, he should, too. For the first few weeks, I provided her a punch list of assignments to work on each day but that seemed to be overwhelming to her. In the last week, I have been ill enough not to have bothered to log in to Google classroom and assess the damage. (She has fairly severe ADHD and finishing assignments is often torturous.) So I keep reminding her every half hour or so and she twitches and, perhaps, goes back to work. She dislikes anyone watching her screen and I haven't been willing to push it yet. It hasn't seemed worth fighting over.

Alex and I are supposed to be reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo together but after a month of homeschooling, we're only half way. Maintaining a regular daily schedule with no outside influences is pretty much impossible. But we'll keep trying.

We had both IEP meetings virtually this year. Alex's was by phone on Friday the 3rd and was done in about 35 minutes, which I think is a record. Everything that we have in place for him at Archway Lower School is still working so we just go to the next level.

Miranda's was by video call last Tuesday at 8 am which meant I had to get up at 6 to eat and shower beforehand. I'm not a fan of video chat. I prefer to write post cards or letters or emails. I'm not sure I'm really a Gen Xer. Her attitude towards others and herself has been a challenge this year so we're all trying to just gently push her through the calendar year and hope her brain grows again. We're also going to try some alternate assessments because asking her to write a paper about what's she's learned in class is pretty much useless. After many days stress, you might get a paragraph. So we may move on to videos for her.

I will log in to Google classroom soon. I promise. Her teachers and case manager are lovely and supportive and they're not the problem. My daughter is just 13, not interested and doesn't feel like moving. I remember being miserable at 13 so I try not to heckle her enough to make her hate me more. I mean, she gets mad when I ask her to refill the ice tray, so I'm already on her list.

Possible Future Categories

  • Most interesting post card of the day (I'm sending daily post cards to my nieces and nephews on the West Coast as well as a few other family and friends.)
  • Health updates
  • Movies viewed and/or scorned
  • Interesting books
  • Garden updates
  • Favorite pod casts
  • Places I wish I were instead of in lock down
  • Amount of time I spent killing zombies on my phone today
  • Today's scripture (I use The Bible in One Year app from the Alpha program)
  • Alex's current fixation (A Bug's Life and the Stuff Mart Song from VegeTales)