Saturday, September 25, 2021

Family update: scoring sandwich/dog hair/lottery winnings

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  It's not been (for me) quite as fantastically rich/full as last week, but there's still been a wide variety of marvels to wonder at.  For example, ponder this lovely quote from my husband.  To set this up, I have to explain that he discovered to his utter delight (seriously, he was giddy and gleeful when he told me about this) that our year-old dishwasher has a filter that is actually quite easy to remove, clean, and reinsert. (!)  How was life complete this past year without our knowing that?!?  It seemed that it was, and yet now we know about easy filter removability, and so our life is even more wonderful than it was before.  Yes!  And, with that background explanation, you can fully appreciate my husband's utterance:

"When I went to clean out the dishwasher filter, it had lots of dog hair in it.  But I swear I never put the dog in the dishwasher."

Not all the husband adventures have been that upbeat, so try not to be too jealous.  Sunday, my guy dropped his phone off the Ben Franklin Bridge.  Good news: It didn't fall in the water, and it still works!  Bad news: It fell on the railroad tracks, which are completely inaccessible.  That phone gets to hang out on the Ben Franklin Bridge railroad tracks from now forward.   So you can't use the phone to call a cab or an Uber, but I guess you could use it to call a train.  At any rate, my guy had to have a cell-phone-ectomy for about 48 hours.  Fortunately, he's re-phoned now, and I get to wring my hands over replacement costs, so I'm back in my milieu as well.

I-daughter has had many travel experiences this week.  She bopped off to . . . um, I think a reunion of her knitting tour group, for which the original tour had been to Ireland, but the reunion was in New York State.  She then bopped back here, where we got to see an awesome local production of Bechtel's Fun House (the musical), and then she bopped over to . . . um, some other place.  Yeah, I'm a good mom, aren't I?  

I-daughter and I both had lottery winnings of a sort this week, which is tricky because neither of us are the type to gamble.  In her case, the local library had sponsored a "read-around-the-world" this summer.  She only made it to four continents (book-wise), but still scored a gift certificate to a local restaurant via a random drawing.   And me, I got this message in my email in-box on Thursday:

Your gift to United Way of [Your] County during our 2020-2021 campaign entered you into our Give Back Win Big incentive prize drawing. And we’re delighted to let you know that you’ve won a $250 Pay It Forward gift card bundle generously sponsored by [People] & Associates! You’ll receive five $50 gift cards to local establishments… and if you can’t use all of them, feel free to “Pay It Forward” and donate any unused cards to someone else. 

So, I gave the United Way a pile of money, and now they're giving some of it back.  Go figure. 

Speaking of money, N-son landed a job!  And not just any job, but the kind of job that gets to the very essence of his being.  When he was young, we asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said, "a sandwich".  (He actually said, "a sammitch", because he was cute and little that way).  Then we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said, "a sammitch".  And, look!  He got a job at a sub shop called Jersey Mikes, making sandwiches and cleaning up.  Whoop!  He's very pleased that he'll be earning, they say,  $11/hour plus tips.  I think he starts Monday.  So perfect.

Me, I'm still doing my Dean thing.  I'm verifying the hypothesis that I like it when people I work with are polite or even encouraging, and I don't so much like it when they are combative and angry.  (In case you wondered.)  Mostly I get people in the former category, fortunately.  Did I mention before that I've formed a group called the "Compliance Alliance"?  I not only love the name of the group, but they're actually a really fun, nerdy, friendly group to hang with: BioSafety protocols for the win!

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Miser Family update: fireworks, fast times, and ferocious pirates

Life is kick-butt-ingly rich and full in the Miser Family Household this week.   It was a week that could have been a month, it had so much (good) stuff happen.  Dull moments?  Not even remotely a part of this week.  If you devour pop-psychology books the way I do, studying the key ingredients of what makes a person happy, then you'd realize I was at the all-you-can-eat buffet of the Good Life, and right now I feel a tad overstuffed.

Connections with people is one of those must-haves, and I checked that particular box the moment I hit "send" on last week's update, heading out to the ball park with some of my co-workers and also my own "Plus 2"s:  I brought along Marj (a friend I haven't seen since almost before the pandemic) and my daughter's sock.  Here we are with our home-team mascot, "Silo" (the red cow who is holding I-daughter's sock).  

And since her sock got to go to the game, I-daughter tagged along, too.  Here is her own hand and sock, together, watching the players on the field.
Also key to the good life:  ritual and celebration.   After the baseball game, the stadium put on an awesome fireworks show.   I'd already walked home by the time it started, but since I live so close I got to watch the show through my bedroom windows while Prewash snoozed nearby.   (She's very good at snoozing, even during fireworks).

Working toward "stretch" goals is a Big Deal on the happiness checklist, and I managed to tick that one off the very next morning.  Sunday, I ran a half marathon (1:57:51.51), which -- although it wasn't quite 1:55 -- was darned close, and almost a minute-per-mile faster than I ever remember running that distance.  I was third in my age group, which is of course merely an artifact of other fast people not showing up.  
Here's me posing for my guy after I'd finished, and also me getting a medal (which I immediately gave to another finisher).

My favorite response to the people lining the roads, who'd been cheering for the gazillions of runners ahead of me and who were still cheering as I ran by ("great job!", "keep it up!"), was 
"Am I winning?". 
They all answered yes, so it must be true.   At any rate, that was Sunday, and after the marathon I did what all sorts of Good Books suggest, and I rested.

On Monday, I saved a life (gave blood).   I also did a bunch of Dean stuff.  And then on Tuesday, I kicked off the feel-good part of my day by chipping in a few hours at our local soup kitchen.

And karma being what it is, here was my job on Tuesday: 
The chef had me cutting sticks of butter into individual butter patties, and then each little patty went into its own Individual Plastic Cup.  Yes, I put 100+ pats of butter into 100+ plastic cups.   And when I was done, the chef said, "here are the lids", and so I topped each little plastic cup with a little plastic lid.   And this goes to show that I am not doing this to make myself feel good, but to make other people feel good.  And research says that that's probably better for my happiness anyway, in a weird planet-destroying-but-hey-now-people-have-sterile-butter kind of way.

Also some time early in the week, I got wonderful calls from my three youngest kiddoes.  Last week, I'd written that I didn't know why K-daughter had been to Ohio, and she wrote back to say,   

"We went to Ohio, Illinois (Chicago) and Wisconsin! We went to check out a ferry machine (for rotomolding) for Energy Wall! It was a great trip!"

Then I got a call from my Hardly-Ever-See-Him son, J-son, and he didn't want money and he wasn't in trouble; he was just calling to say he'd read about my race on his dad's Facebook page, and congrats and I love you.  He is still very much himself, doing okay and still trying to figure out who he really is and what he really wants to do, my Don Quixote of the boxing gym.  

And then, as if that wasn't awesome enough, I got a call from N-son, who has passed the book-test portion of the Moped license test, so now he has his permit!  Whoop!  He not only learned lots of good Moped safety facts, but he also learned -- he tells me -- not to got to the DMV on a Monday morning.  He and L2 were there from 9:45 to 2:00.   He has until October 13 to pass the road test, which ought to be a breeze given his extensive bicycling experience.  

I also, somewhere amidst all this, fed the brain portion of my happiness recipe by snarfing down a book called Maphead, which I totally recommend.  It's a book about people who love maps, and after I read it I wanted to cuddle up with our globe and think about how geography affects everything and to marvel at the nerds who compete in the Geography Bee and . . . I was sad the book ended.  But also kinda glad, because reading it was cutting into my sleep time because I loved it so much I kept staying up late to read it. 

Mixed in with all of this was more Dean stuff, and also some really good math work.   And meanwhile my guy was managing both the shopping and the un-shopping lists, visiting various places that accept donated books, home goods, etc, and also making good use of Freecycle to get the non-donate-able stuff into the hands of those that use it.  The shopping list allowed me to go into a creative cooking frenzy Thursday night.  

And after the cooking frenzy on Thursday, then came Friday.  Friday was even more Dean stuff, which ended with our now-becoming-traditional "Footloose Friday from 4:00 to 4:10", dancing in the halls of Old Main.  And after dancing I went home and we had The Pirate Dinner.   There were eight of us, but not all of us felt photogenic.  Here are the five lusty wenches.

And there was lots of food (re, cooking on Thursday), of which the most magnificent was the Pirate Ship Cake.   Here are three photos of dessert.

We had highly energetic treasure hunts, and recitals of our favorite Pirate Jokes.  (What did the Pirate say on her eightieth birthday?  She said, "Aye, matey" -- get it?  "I'm eighty!")   One of the Pirates left a message on the chalkboard. 

Wonder which pirate that could have been?

And with that, Saturday was almost back to normal: run with friends, catch up on emails, dinner with the man I love, and porch time for an increasingly popular Prewash (she's really developing a fan club among the college students who walk by our house).   And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Miser family update, oasis of awesomeness

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  I feel like I've been in a little oasis of awesomeness, actually.  Sure, fires and floods are ravaging the world, but my city has had some of the most beautiful, sunny and cool days I've seen in months; the humidity and heat has broken and the rest of my neighbors have joined me in throwing open windows and doors.  Oasis of awesomeness. 

Or take the Covid cases, which are rising all around; 11% of my county has tested positive since the pandemic began, and our hospitals are filling up.  And yet at my college, people are so happy to be back together you can see their smiles right through the masks.  Our leadership team sent us this encouraging weekly update. 

  • As of today, 96% of our students and 98% of our faculty and staff have provided proof of vaccination, and that number continues to grow. We are in Moderate alert with masks required for everyone regardless of vaccination status. As noted in our Sept. 7 email, that mask mandate has been extended to at least Sept. 24. Ongoing, weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals, including students and employees who are completing their vaccination protocol or who have a vaccination exemption, began Monday and Tuesday of this week. There were 0 positive cases of COVID-19 among those who participated.

A minor win for me was seeing a post on Freecycle asking for packing materials.   Over the course of the past year we'd accumulated a 2 ft x2 ft x 2ft box of padded envelopes and bubble wrap, and so I got to put it all out on the porch and send it off back into usefulness.  And then I got this lovely little email:

Thanks for the packing supplies. They will be put to good re-use. Love the purple bench on your front porch! (And the cows, of course.)

I sell and ship for [Church] United Methodist Women Attic Treasures, just down the street from you on the corner of [This] & [That] Streets. We have an indoor "yard sale" once a month on the 2nd Saturday from 8 - 12. Check us out! The good quality vintage and antique items go on-line, so your wrapping supplies go to a good cause.

So, I have a new yard sale location to check out, on top of it all.  Yay!   To balance out my trash reduction efforts in the home, though, this week I started back at the local soup kitchen, helping prepare and serve breakfast once a week.  This week, my job was to wrap about 100 bagels, individually, in saran wrap.  Which I did, because that was my job.  But,    so    much     plastic.     Sigh. 

My guy did a bike race today and finished second in his age group (we're number two, so we bike harder?).  He clarified that there were, indeed, more than two finishers (he was in the top half), and if there had been a larger 60+ category, he would have still medalled with a bronze.  

N-son called to chat earlier this week because he needed his social security number, and also (I'm sure) because he just wanted to hear his mom's voice. Before I dug out his SSN I grilled him; he's been helping L2 and her boyfriend move; he went to brunch with them and got to swim in their community pool; he helped them install not one, but two TV's ("that was an experience!"), one on a swivel.  He needs his ID to get a job and a moped license.  I gave him his SSN and then he was done listening to his mom's voice.  

K-daughter went to . . . Ohio?  For some reason I don't know.  But I think she's coming back, because she's promised to be at next week's Pirate Dinner.  She has also successfully completed ALL her college coursework.  I think (?) this means that there will be a graduation and a degree, and I'll get to celebrate her at some point . . . oh, man, I think I need to do a better job of keeping in touch with my own kids.

I moved furniture around in my office at work.  In the picture above, if you look carefully you can see my candy-sculpture trophy from winning the summer's "Musical Chairs" championship (my husband is, after all, not the only prize athlete in the family).  And also, if you look even more carefully you might see my faithful companion.   Here's a close-up.

Whatever anyone else thinks of my job in administration, Prewash generally disapproves of my work habits -- except when I work weekends and bring her with me.  And then, my approval ratings go right on up.  

Well, that's the news from our family, those I've managed to track down at least, and we continue to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Miser Family Update: miscellaneous

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  For some reason, so much is happening and then I get to Saturday and I can't even remember the slightest thing I did . . . yoicks!  I guess that's the fun of having a job that's like bumper cars, where I keep starting to do something in one direction and then . . . bam! . . . I'm heading in a different direction.

Let's see, we can do a few offspring updates to get the memory juices flowing.  I-daughter, thoroughly enjoying her job at the City Yarn Shoppe, offers some good job advice:    

She says, "Dress for the job you want." Yes.

She is also very, very happy that the weather has gone from sweaty weather to sweater weather.   The texture of this particular sweater looks a little bit like mermaid scales to me, and goes so well with the ocean-colored skirt, don't you think?

And L2 and N-son are having fun in Minnesota.  Here they are on the Sky Ride at the Minnesota Fair.  

N-son has been helping L2 move to her new address, which someday I hope to get so that I can send her stuff through the postal mail someday.  Does that sound like a hint?  

As for my guy, it's hard to call what he does a "rut", but what can I say?  Biking, protests, meeting friends at coffee houses, driving to NY to meet geeky science people about geeky science conferences that might be happening in Madrid.  Y'know, same old same old for him.

And here's another little snapshot into the life of an Associate Dean, as classes start back up: I don't think of myself as a People Person at all, but all my years of devouring pop psychology books seem to help me fake it.  This week, I had two different conversations with faculty members in which they teared up and apologized for starting to cry.  Times are hard right now, and I don't have the magic wand that makes everything come out right.  For one of these people, wondering about what might happen, I had to say I honestly don't know.  For another person, I had to deliver unhappy news that a promotion wasn't in the works.  (And that's what I said after the crying started; it wasn't me that made them cry!).    As hard as that all sounds, I really am loving my job.  I can't fix the underlying problem (at least, not immediately), but I can be a person that some people feel comfortable confiding in and working with.   

And in other areas, I am fixing things.  I love being super organized and thinking about underlying structure, and I'm All Over That, trying to get all sorts of messes cleaned up and to get procedures clarified and documented.  So much fun.

That, and I started a new event:  Footloose Fridays at 4:00.   This past Friday, there in the halls of our Administration Building, we closed out the work week with a crowd of a dozen masked people dancing to Walking on Sunshine and Footloose.   The president, the provost, our VP for DEI, a handful of administrators, a student worker who looked a bit embarrassed to be the witness to Old-People-Dancing . . . and me and my husband, tearing up the dance floor.  Well, not the dance floor, but the main hallway.  The only complaint we got was that we need louder speakers; several people asked if I'll take requests next week.  [Answer: yes!  I'll play one request song, and one Footloose, and that's all for that week.]

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Adieu to a shoe

My sister and I, living hundreds of miles apart, had the same apprehension before our different Lasik surgeries to improve our long-distance eye sight.  What each of us worried about -- to the point that we asked our doctors for reassurance -- was, "would our feet get cold?" 

Cold feet is a huge part of my life, due to poor circulation down among the toes, which might or might not be due to a cold wintery day in which my sisters and I were stuck outdoors in a snowstorm and got a bit of frostbite on our feet.  Who knows how it started?  I'm now a person who wears shoes even in 80+ degree weather.  The rest of my body can be steamy warm, and my feet will still be clammy cold.  (So it was a relief to each of us to know we'd be able to wear socks and shoes during the Lasik surgery).  

All that is a lead-in to why it's a big deal to me that my most-favorite-ever pair of summer shoes is nearing the end of their life.  

These shoes had it all:  
  • I got them used from a so-called thrift store, an environmental and economic double-win;
  • they're a color that matches much of my wardrobe; 
  • they are flexible and easy to walk/run/jump in; 
  • in fact, on some of my trips out of town I've used these as my running shoes, 
  • they have awesome traction so that I can ride a bike in them (making them super awesome compared to most smooth-bottom dress shoes); 
  • they are just dressy enough that I can wear them with dresses; 
but most of all . . . 
  • they keep my feet warm in the summer.
If I could keep these shoes forever, I would.  Alas and alack, they're nearing the end of their presentable life, and nowadays I use them only as work-around-the-home shoes.  I'm thinking that 2021 might be their last summer of use at all; it's probably not worth the effort to stow them when I put away summer clothes and bring out the winter wear.

Awesome traction underneath;
but now my toes are peeking out the sides.

After months of hunting, I've found a nearly-as-nice successor pair (not quite my color, but I can deal).  

That eases the sadness of saying good-bye, a bit.  Adieu to my shoes.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Miser Family Update: Sunshine on my dog

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  This has been rich with warm and mostly sunny days, and by "warm" I guess I mean "Hot and Muggy and also Very Hot".  We've been fortunate that the overnights have been relatively not so Hot-or-Muggy-or-Very-Hot, which not only helps cool the house down a bit, but also makes early mornings a truly delightful time to be outdoors.

Prewash in particular loves having the morning sun shine on her fur and make her glow.   

Early in this H/M/VH week, I looked over my training schedule and saw a LOT of ferocious running:  4x1-mile speed workout, 8-mile tempo run, 12-mile distance run.  I then looked at the weather forecast.  I nearly bagged the running this week, but when I peeked ahead at next week, I realized that this week was IT--the big final hard push before I start tapering.   And I love tapering, so I laced up the Grit and dialed my alarm clock to zero-dark A.M., and then I did my ferocious miles while the sun came up.   And then when I got home from each of these tough (yet strangely happy) runs, I got to rest on the porch with a dog who glows in the rising sun.

In spite of how well (surprisingly) running has gone this week, I've decided that I really don't like giving myself athletic challenges that make me run by myself.  Perhaps my next physical adventure will be ballroom dancing.  

Things are starting to swing into high gear at my college; classes start next Wednesday, so this past week has had lots of preparatory meetings.  We are requiring that all students and employees be fully vaccinated (95% of us) or, if they have an exemption, get regular testing (the others).  On top of that, we're currently requiring masks whenever people are indoors and sometimes outdoors.  And even with all these precautions, at least one of my faculty members (who has vulnerable, immunocompromised family members at home) has tested positive and has had to quarantine.  We've had a handful of people leave the college because of the vaccine requirement; we have a handful of faculty taking a year-long health leave because we're requiring that people teach classes in-person instead of remotely.  These are tricky times, indeed.  I'm not in the part of the administration that's making the rules about this topic, and I'm doing my best to try to give everybody-but-everybody a lot of grace.  And I'm also rocking my mask.

My guy is still biking and attending protests (this week: gun safety) and even a nifty engineering meeting.  His calendar is full of cool events like, "Brunch Brooklyn", "To Queens", "Coffee", "Synagogue Book Group", "Ride", "Tuesdays with Tooooomay", "Torah", "Protest".   In between these events, he's been running errands for me.  It's so nice to be an Assistant Dean who has a spouse taking care of the home, making me coffee in the morning and dinner at night.  I've got a great life.

Last week, I'd written that N-son got a haircut in Minnesota (without me!), but that I hadn't gotten a photo.  Early this week, he dutifully texted me a picture.  I call this picture:  "N-son: Everything but the Haircut".  
You're welcome.

And that's the news from a small subset of our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Miser family update: peachy edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  This week we're especially peachy (and tomato-y, for that matter).  

I played hooky from work on Friday, and went to a roadside farm stand for 3 buckets of tomatoes, and then to a peach orchard for three half-bushels of peaches.  No matter how often I do it, peach picking never ceases to fill me with wonder:  that I can stand amid trees, and food is just there, for me to pull down from the air and put in my basket.  I happened to go this year on a particularly overcast day, so picking was relatively cool . . . and the peaches in the trees just called and called to me: Eat me!  And me!  Pick me, and me and me! 

And then, when I got home with my produce, I spent 6 hours chopping, boiling, jarring, more boiling . . . and I "put up" four dozen quarts of tomatoes and tomato juice.  

This was the view Saturday morning. 
Prewash is resting after a day's hard work!

Not one to rest on my laurels, nor even on my canning jars, I did a peppy 10.5-mile run (because, training, ugh), and then had a friend come over and we canned the peaches:  48 quarts and 14 pints.  

Saturday evening, the peaches are sunny and warm.

Last week, I wrote that we'd had 0 (zero) people die of Covid-19 in our city in the previous week.  Well, that was nice while it lasted, but it didn't last long: cases are cascading here as elsewhere, and last week we had a death-a-day.  I'm masking up and meeting people outdoors, discussing vaccine status of people who come into the house, and reluctantly deciding to scale back even on that.  So, I'm feeling very lucky to have lots of good food heading down into the basement.  

N-son is also feeling happy; he's settling in nicely in Minnesota.  He's got a job interview at a sub shop coming up Monday; he got a haircut (but didn't send me a picture!), and he took a Moped Safety Class.  He told me that he and L2 learned things that neither one of them knew, while taking this class, and I asked what kind of things, and he said:  "You're allowed to ride a moped on a highway -- not an interstate highway, but a state highway."   Oh, THAT kind of safety class.  Doesn't sound so safe to me!  I'm very glad he's having a good transition, though, and glad that I don't have to watch his first moped excursions in person.  

A-child got to participate in live theater.  She was a [monkey? bear? I admit I couldn't quite tell] in a rousing production of Jungle Book.  Lots of singing, and lots of dance moves, all which was done nearly in sync with all the other kids in the performance.   The theater happened to be right across the street from my home, and so after the performance A-child and her parents and several grandparents came over for some porch time and so that Prewash could congratulate the new actress in our family. 

And what else?  My guy set a new PR on the bike today, coming down the hill with a southern wind whooshing him along a bit.  He's still protesting with Tuesdays with Toomey, and enjoying his zoom book groups.   And he's also busy cleaning out the last bits of furniture from N-son's now-vacated apartment around the corner from us, so we can turn the keys back over to the landlord.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

If I were the Empress of Email . . .

 If I were the Empress of Email  . . . 

  • Nobody would be allowed to change topics without actually starting a new thread.  If the subject line of an email reads "Questions about Timely Topic" and the writer happens to include a toss-off line about "We should also chat sometime about the Meandering Matter", then that thread is NOT the place to continue to the Meandering Matter conversation.  Start a new email conversation, with a new email subject line, people!

  • It would be possible to grab an email and move it to a spot on my computer screen where it would STAY.  To heck with the fact that I turn around to grab a cup of coffee only to find three new emails have come in, and now that thing I that was going to respond to --- that thing already mired in a giant list --- has chunked down three spots on the list. If I were the E-mpress, I would  sort my emails into piles, and put the piles in different places, and they would stay where I put them.  Because I would be the Empress of Email, that's why.

  • I would be able to write my own notes on the outside of the email.  I could say, "add this to Guinevere's agenda", or "read the attachments before the meeting", or "ask Makesha about precedents before responding to Tamir".  I wouldn't have to open up the danged email again and hunt through it to remember why it's still mired there in my In-box; I could just glance and see why it's still there.  That's the power of an Empress, after all. 

Here are things I do to cope, while I await Total Domination. 
  • I start "reply" drafts whenever I can, with notes to self about what's still needed, to move things out of the in-box.
  • I "snooze" things that I'll want to read at leisure, so they leave my in-box during the busy times of day and come back later.
  • On evenings and weekends, I make judicious use of "schedule send".   If I compose a reply to someone on Friday night or Saturday, unless the matter is super urgent, the person won't get my reply until Monday morning.   That keeps them from replying back during the weekend, which gives me a little bit of email relief.  (A little bit).  That helps me to feel I'm using out-of-normal-work-hours as a catch-up time rather than as an extension of normal work days.  
  • I have a few special mailbox folders with symbols to keep them up at the top:  "@ to print", "# waiting" (good for things like packages that promise to come soon, or emails to which I've responded "I can do this if you give me X, Y, Z information"), and "# appointments" (for agendas and/or info about upcoming meetings).   A new such mailbox -- now that I in a job where all sorts of stuff requires consultation and/or permission -- is "* agenda mtgs" (to hold matters I need to ask The Big Cheese about). 
  • Mailbox folders that have info about past projects change to having "z-" at the beginning, to move them down where I don't have to look at them (as in "2021-spring-calculus" has now become "z-2021-spring-calculus").

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Miser Family Update: Here and Gone

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.    My week started off with some fun travels; I got to drive down to my home state and see my childhood best friend, who was in town visiting her sister.   We walked all over the neighborhood, and then we walked all over the neighborhood again, chatting all the time.  So much fun!

And then, since I was close by, I swung over to my dad's home.  He was three days past surgery to replace a pesky aortic valve, and was already baking muffins and jonesing to get back to the gym (starting with walking, but hoping to get back to jogging on treadmills in the coming months).  

In the middle of the week I made a mistake that worked out well.  I decided to bake a loaf of bread for some of my colleagues who were having a meeting among themselves to discuss the ever-exciting topic of curricular revisions.  The morning after I'd mixed the batter and left it to rise, I realized, upon tasting the somewhat-soapy flavor of the dough, that I'd used baking soda instead of salt.  Whoops!  But, having let the dough rise 24 hours, I went ahead and baked it anyway, and offered it to the people as "No-salt Baking Soda Bread".   (There were lots of "hmm, that sounds really interesting" noises in response).     At any rate, this morning I went running with the spouse of one of the people who'd gotten the bread; she said, "He told me you'd made bread, and that it was absolutely the best homemade bread he'd ever had!"   Oh, yeah; that was on purpose.  

Another fun activity we had this week was hosting our annual "dOnnOr", the dinner where all food is shaped like O's.   In preparation, as usual, I sorted all the charity envelopes from the past year and chose organizations that we'd give a one-time donation to.  

We invited a few other people to join us: a deacon from our church told us about how the deacon fund works, and a family with a parent who works in microfinance led a bit of a discussion about wise use of donated funds, too.   

[All people over age 12 were vaccinated, and windows were open.   
I think we'll be more cautious in the future anyway; in my city
we had 0 Covid deaths this past week, but the number of cases is rising,
and I don't want to get complacent.]

I don't have pictures of the dinner itself.  After everyone left, just about the only evidence of the dinner was a random wooden block the kids missed in their clean-up.  

And the end of the dinner also meant the departure of my guy and N-son; they had the rental car all packed, and so they started the long drive to Minnesota, where N-son will be living the next few months.  

Did I say they had the rental car all packed?  Almost all packed, I should say:  there's still a pair of work boots here to remember N-son by.  Sigh.  Work boots, and the memory of a very fierce and prolonged hug good-bye.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Miser Family update: good news, cows, times

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  We seem to have been gifted this week with random pieces of good news, good times, good cows, and industrious neighbors.  

Good news:  N-son had his doctor's appointment last week, and his numbers were good.  They were so good, in fact (how good were they?) that his doc sent him for further blood work.  And guess what?  His pancreas is back in action!  What we thought was Type I diabetes has now been re-diagnosed as Type II diabetes.  As a consequence, N-son will be transitioning from four daily injections to one daily injection plus pills . . . much more convenient and comfortable.   

As a fabulous side effect, this delights me, too, because Diabetes II is famously receptive to healthy diets, so now I have yet another reason to tell N-son to eat many fruits and veggies -- especially veggies!  In fact, I celebrated his good news by feeding him slices of tomato and a few fresh green beans.  Life is yummy.

Good times: I-daughter got to spend time at her college reunion (and her college is my college), so she not only got to hang with familiar friends (good for now), but also to have both of us reminisce about fond times from our own pasts.  It's a beautiful campus, full of wonderful memories.  Mmm.

Good cows:  I came home one day to discover a new inhabitant on my porch. Here's our latest house guest.
I often see groups of pedestrians stop in front of my porch to point at the various cows strung up or tucked away here and there, and it's kind of delightful to see that we've got random additions happening.  I've often thought about riffing on the Little Free Libraries, and making a little barn with a sign that says, "Take a Cow; Leave a Cow".  This just makes me want to do that even more.

Industrious Neighbors:  Look who's building a penthouse apartment next door!
It's been wild watching this place get bigger and bigger: it started like a little funnel, and gets added to and added to like an onion putting on its extra layers.  The whole structure looks like LaGuardia airport in the morning, with hornets coming and going like crazy.  

I've told the people who live in the rest of the house about this, but I don't think we particularly have to worry.  What I see about these beasties online is this:
Baldfaced hornets can be considered a beneficial insect in that they reduce populations of unwanted insects (including other yellowjackets) and will help pollinate flowers when they are searching for nectar. Therefore, unless the nests are located close (within 10 feet) of an entrance to a building, under an eave that is close to the ground or in shrubbery next to a lawn that is mowed, the nests can be ignored. 

Finally, a [mildly redacted] email chain that gives you a glimpse into a dean's life this week:

Me:  Dear New Professor X, I understand that HR needs a copy of your vaccine card. Could you please send it to them at [email address] at your earliest convenience? We have a COVID vaccine mandate at [our college] for all employees and this is needed to get you set to teach this fall. Let me know if I can help in any way.

Prof X:  Thank you for the reminder. I have just sent the vaccination card to the HR email you provided.

Me:  Super speedy!  You're wonderful.  (And welcome to [our college]!)

Prof X:  Thank you, [MiserMom]! I’m running around still looking for housing in [city] and the to-do list gets longer by the hour. Reading that one line “you’re wonderful” in your email just did the trick :). It’s all good now. Needed to hear that.

And in case you're wondering, I think YOU'RE wonderful, too.  That's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.   May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Bucket list

When we were visiting my sister a few weekends ago, she mentioned that someday she'd like to milk a cow.  "That's on my bucket list," she said.   I-daughter immediately pointed out how appropriate that was ("milk a cow" and "bucket", that is), and -- to entertain ourselves on the drive home later -- I-daughter and I came up with the following Bucket List of our own.   Suggestions for additions are welcome!

Bucket List

  • Milk a cow
  • Make maple syrup 
  • Bail out a boat
  • Mix cement
  • Pick peaches
  • Write a limerick about Nantucket*
  • Drum or busk
  • Paint something large
  • Chicken wings and beer
  • Chill champagne
  • Sing the "Dear Liza" song (very annoying)
  • Put out a fire: bucket brigade

* My favorite in this vein:

There was an old man from Nantucket

Who hid all his cash and a bucket.

His daughter, named Nan,

Ran away with a man,

And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Miser Family update: Fancy moves edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  With July hurtling past us, we've been returning home from travels, or starting new jobs, or finding new spaces, or cleaning out old ones.  

N-son is back from visiting L1, and he's starting to work on cleaning out his apartment in anticipation of a big mid-August move out west to live near L2 for a while.  No pictures of this particular adventure yet (really, who wants pictures of cleaning and packing?).   

My guy, fully back from his bike-less travels in Europe has been back on the bike locally again and is finding that the dear old thing has missed him.  Earlier this week he rode out to one of his favorite hills in anticipation, he told us, of "setting a new Slow-Speed personal record."   

I-daughter has enjoyed starting in her new position.  Want to know a bit about what the inside of her yarn store looks like?  Here's a peek!

And if you're wondering what it looks like inside an Associate Dean's office, peek yet again. 
I took this photo on the weekend, when I'd brought Prewash in with me to help me catch up on my work.  And then all of a sudden, I lost my dog!  Do you see her?  She'd found a cozy little cave to curl up in.
"You can't find me!"

What's it like to be in the first month of being an Associate Dean?  I tell people it's a lot like bumper cars:  I go in one direction, and then Bam! All of a sudden, I'm doing something else and then Bam! another direction!  I'm constantly amazed at the new things I need to learn and fast.  But I like learning new stuff, and bumper cars are fun, so that's good.

Another aspect, one that I hadn't anticipated, is that as a professor I could just decide to do something and then I would just  . . . do it.  But as an Associate Dean, a big part (BIG part) of my work is making sure that what we do is in compliance with the rules.  There are rules on how to spend money and rules on how to hire people and rules on how to ensure research compliance and rules on how to award internal grants . . . And in addition to the Rules, there's also a big part of my job making sure that I'm carrying out the vision of the President and Provost.  As a result, as an Associate Dean, I can just decide to do something, but then I have to get permission.  And because a lot of the Rules/Vision people are playing their own version of Bumper Cars, it often means I have to wait and wait before I can get the permission and then Go Do It.  So that's different.  

A part of the job that I'm loving the heck out of is the chance to Organize All The Papers.  Yes.  My new office has been the site of the Great Paperwork Reduction Act of 2021, peoples.   I've consulted with our IT people on the college's Records Retention Policy (because, rules), and I've managed to weed through (and move into the recycling bin) paper, so much paper.   I started with 6 large, stuffed-to-the-gills filing cabinet drawers full of file folders labeled (or mislabeled) in a variety of confusing chicken scrawls, all organized by a system that makes "QWERTY" seem eminently logical.   Copies of a memo explaining that our Flexible Spending Account policies will be changing on January 1, 1990?  Gone.   Program from a conference with a deceased dean's handwritten scribbles?  Likewise.   Documents that relate to a completely different office on our campus?  Shipped off to that office, with my best regards.  It's taken me a few weeks now, but as of this weekend I'm down to one (1) drawer, populated sparsely, with well-labeled file folders.   We have a work order in to remove the ugly gray armored-tank of a filing cabinet you see in the background of the photo above.  If I do nothing else as an Associate Dean, I will have at least spared my successors the burden of that particular mess.

And in spite of the record heat waves that have been besetting the country, our own little county has been having some surprisingly comfortable days.   Early in the week I ventured out into the lovely weather with a bunch of co-workers for a rousing game of Musical Chairs.  Thanks to some fancy "sit butt" action, I managed to bring home the Grand Trophy.   Whoop!

Later in the week, on another equally lovely day, we played another round where I was out-sat;  my reign as Musical Chairs champion was glorious while it lasted.

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Governing values for a dean (well, for me)

So, there's this mindset I'm discovering in my new job.   Administrators hear a lot of complaints, and in particular, they hear a lot of complaints about the stuff that they themselves are doing or about their own personalities or whatever.   And the way that people deal with the criticism can sometimes be a kind of bunker mentality, to play defense, and to presume that no matter what they do, it's just never going to make people happy.  

This mentality is not me.  But I've been realizing that if I'm going to be working shoulder-to-shoulder with people in bunker mode, or even if I'm working on my own and have to talk with irate faculty/students/parents, I'm going to need a strategy that keeps me sane (optimistic, even) while still being able to work with people who are upset.  

I've decided to use a page from the book of Annie Grace, who runs the 30-day Alcohol Experiment:  to go with "curiosity".   I think (hope?) that I can respond mentally to a rant with a kind of "this emotion/information is not what I expected.  I wonder if there is information I am missing?  Can I figure out the source of the fear/anger?  What about this situation is really the key point to address?"   I've found that going for curiosity keeps me from taking a conversation personally, and it helps me to focus on the topic at hand rather than about my own feelings or my own righteousness.   Ironically, when I'm not trying to make myself feel better or justify my actions, I often end the conversation with both of us feeling better about a path forward.

All that is a lead-in to describing a set of "Governing Values" I've written for myself as a new Associate Dean.  I have a personal set of such Governing Values; I keep this list in my planner and try to re-read them about once a week.  I've been doing that for years.  The dean list is new to me, and we'll see how well it stands up to the experiment of my first year in this position.   At any rate, here goes:

Governing Values for Deputy Deaning

I am curious. This role is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn about myself, the college, and the many people here.

I am actively optimistic.   I bring positive energy that helps all others do their best.  I encourage the people I interact with, and cheer for their accomplishments. 

I am respectful.   I assume, as a default, that people are sincere and that they are capable.  I respond in a timely way to concerns.  I do not gossip or bad-mouth people.

I am consultative, and I use my position to be the voice of those who are not as easily heard.  

These statements are not perfect reflections of the truth --- in particular, when I re-read the sentence "I do not gossip or bad-mouth people" I feel all guilty because actually, I do gossip and bad-mouth people.   But I think they're good aspirations to have, and I hope that by keeping this list close by I can live more and more up to it.  

Will this work?  I dunno.  I guess we'll all have to be curious about how well these values steer me through the year to come.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Miser Family Update, going swimmingly

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.   The picture below has the update on the me-and-my-guy front:

I got my hair cut (or, to put that sentence into active voice, my sister cut my hair.  Thank you, sister!)  And, my house smells like laundry detergent and coffee again, now that my guy has returned from his travels.  He's making dinner in the background there, and soon I'm going to go back downstairs and eat it!  Yum!

N-son has a magnetic personality, such that he attracts small children who latch right onto him, as seen below.

For about 24 hours more, he's still down visiting L1, who sent us this photo, noting that he is "So great with the kiddos"

Yes!  And I-daughter had her own exciting update that I had to keep under wraps for a while, but I can now describe.  A few weeks back, she wandered into a yarn shop whose owner she admires.  And it turns out the owner had been wondering how to advertise a job for someone who (a) loves yarn, (b) has retail experience, (c) can teach knitting and crochet, and (d) would like a part-time job.   How, they wondered, would a store ever find a person like that?  And then that person walked right into the store . . . 

Her first day of work was this past Tuesday, and she sent the happy update:  "Completely forgot to take a picture for the newsletter, but I had a successful and enjoyable first day of work! "

And another cheery photo update:  "A-child swam across the entire lake today!!"  Whoop!  Just like her great-aunt (my sister).  

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures and who just heard that dinner is ready (salmon & pasta & salad, mmmm).  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

mailbox construction

A while back, my daughter told me that she missed having a mailbox with a flag -- the kind of flag you raise to let the mail carrier you have outgoing mail in the box, and that the mail carrier lowers to let you know that they've passed by and maybe you have new mail.  Semaphore communication, with time lag.  

I myself was missing having a mail box.  Our new house came equipped with a tiny little mail slot, very low in the front door, which I can only imagine is a total pain for the mail carrier:  open the screen door, squoosh and fold the magazines so they can fit through the tiny slot, bend over low, lift the flap with one hand and push the mail through with the other . . . ugh.

So, I set about making  a pair of mailboxes, one for my kiddo and one for me.  Fortunately, I happened to have exactly the right material.  That is, I had some old wooden doors, the kind that come in various thicknesses because they had thick frames and skinny panels.  I'd disassembled these doors to use the long parts for some other lumber project, and I still had the short parts.  Clearly, clearly, these short parts want to become mailboxes in their next life.  

Et voila!  Here is an unpainted version.  Note the cool pointy-beveled front edge that used to be where the door went from thick to thin.  The flag is made from . . . I think a rod from some old blinds we no longer own and a spare piece of fabric.

I didn't have hinges lying around, so I improvised.  The bottom part of the box has two eye bolts, and the lid has two long screws that stick out through the eye bolts --- kind of like the bolts on the neck of Frankenstein's monster.   This system works well!

My daughter is going to have her front porch repaired and then painted her favorite color, and when that happens I'll use some of the paint to match the mailbox to the porch.  But since I've given her star-wars-themed presents for many of her birthdays, I stuck a Yoda sticker on the unpainted version when I gave it to her.  

Lovely!!!  (???)

Here's the second mailbox, now in service on my own porch.  Our mail carrier seems very happy to use this.  Yay!  And it's nice for us, too, that we no longer have to step on our mail as we walk into the house.