Saturday, May 29, 2021

Miser Family update: May, Socks, and new doctor edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.  This last week of May has brought a roller coaster of hot/cold blazing/pouring calm/stormy days, and it's a bit like the rest of my activities are similarly difficult to categorize.  I did math, and brick repair, and long walks with people who have advice for the next Associate Dean, and things like that.  

In the same paradoxical vein, I-daughter is relieved/sad to not make it to the next round of Sock Madness.  She made the most of her extra time to read an awesome book just in time for her book group, and also mow a lawn that needed it.  This is the farthest she's made it in Sock Madness in many years, so even though she's kinda sad not to move on, she's also pleased with how well it's gone and with the extra time she'll have in future weeks.

Really, the big news in our corner of the word is about Y . . . who is now Dr. Y, thank you.  

Y joined our household the year after she graduated from college.  She lived with us for a year and a half, and became a big part of my weekly "chopping up the farm-share vegetables" tradition.   It was good to work together!  While she lived with us, she ran the InterVarsity Christian group on our campus, and she studied for the MCAT.   If A-child becomes a doctor too, it might be because Y described physiological intricacies to her by way of studying aloud.

Apparently, describing things to babies works, because Y made it happily into med school.  She calmed our family down when we were in a bit of a tizzy over N-son's diabetes diagnosis; she continued to trade bad puns with my guy, and she has some of our most creative Family Fun Foto contributions!  She'd come back to visit people in our town, and she'd play (awesome) piano in our church (below is a screen shot; I still attend church remotely).  

She's very much committed to medical mission work, and last weekend our church prayed for her as she heads off to her residency in Georgia.  

And then Monday, she officially graduated.  

She tells me, "I am Dr. Y [FamilyName] now :) I did not attend graduation on Monday but rather did a "photoshoot" with 2 roommates... We had so much fun together! And it was special b/c I really saw Christ in it- the Doctor of PT has been such a loving Christian sister to me, and the Doctor of Pharmacy is a Muslim woman who sought shelter at my house for the last 2 weeks. PLUS, it was special to be 3 Asian female doctors in today's times."

Heck yeah!  We're all so proud of you, Y!   And I'm so glad I got to be part of the exciting story that Y has been living out. 

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Covid-19 in my corner of the world

In my little city, the number of daily deaths is now down to "only" about one or two a day, and the number of new daily diagnosed cases is in double digits, down from triple digits.

One of my running buddies is from a family that is highly vaccine hesitant.   She was a bit uncertain herself, and so she decided to talk to her doctor about whether to get vaccinated.   (I have to say, I'm really impressed that she decided to go that route instead of chasing internet stories or friend-sourcing her info; it's so easy to fall into confirmation bias, especially these days.)

After the conversation with her doctor, she made the further choice to stop talking about vaccines with her mom until she herself had made it through the process.  She got both shots with almost no side effects, and as she rounded the plus-two-weeks corner, she was getting ready to tell her parents about her experience.   But then both her mom and dad came down with Covid-19, and her dad's case is severe enough that even after being released from the hospital, he's still on oxygen at home.  So she figured now isn't exactly the best time to say, "hey, mom and dad!  Guess what I did in spite of you?".

Her dad, after a week or two, is slowly coming off of full-time oxygen needs.  My friend just did her second half-marathon this month. Not like those two things are related at all; I'm just so impressed with her stamina and with her ways of navigating choices in the world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Window shade thingies

Here's the latest installment of "stuff made out of other stuff".  I keep being amazed at how incredibly satisfying I find it to solve a problem using a bunch of creativity (and also a bunch of scrap that happens to be lying around), and this is my most recent problem-solving happiness.

Here's the problem to solve:  the main window in our Kitchen of Many Delights faces west, which means that during about seven months each year, the evening sun shines right in and blinds the cook.   When I'm the cook, I don't mind; I love having the sun in my face, even if it's so intense I have to squint and turn away.  But my husband, not so much; for him it's like being interrogated by enemy operatives about where the Resistance is planning to sauté onions next.  Or something.  At any rate, my husband is the main Dinner-Maker these days, and it seems unfair to have him tortured just so he can get noodles and salad on the table for his loving wife.

The main window in the Kitchen of Many Delights is very oddly located in a well that sits behind the kitchen sink.  It means that we can't easily get to the window.  In fact, in order to hang a curtain there last summer, I had to get a step stool, climb up onto the counter, and then balance carefully while I reached across the well beyond the sink.  Hanging a curtain is possible, but it's not a feasible thing to open and shut a curtain often; adjusting the curtain requires step stools and clambering.

Last summer, we just hung a curtain all summer long, which suited my husband just fine, but left me a bit sad, because I'm such a sunlight fanatic.  

Okay, so that's the problem.  Ready for the solution?  Scrap lumber, leftover paint, and a bunch of nails rescued from some trash-picked furniture that I'd disassembled.  I used these to make shade thingie.  (I'm sure there's a name for these, but I haven't been introduced, sorry).

Here's the new view from inside the Kitchen of Many Delights, looking out.  

These slats block the sun from shining straight in like a torture-interrogation device, but they let light in indirectly.  Lovely!

Here's the view from the outside.   Can you tell that every individual slat come from a different kind of board (they're different thicknesses, different textures, etc)?  I bet you can't.  And since this is on the side of the house that no one can see from the street, I bet no one else will be able to tell that either . . . not that I'd care if they did.  The side bars were a large rescued former fence board that I zig-zag cut with the jigsaw; you can see that I ran out of material for the bottom slats, but the slats that are already there are quite enough to do the job, so I'm fine with stopping there.

And that's my latest happiness project, costing $0 and giving me the chance to make a mess with a few of my power tools.  Yes!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Miser family update: school, socks, voting, travel, and a good-bye or two

 Life continues to  be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.   We've come to the end of an era here.   Anyone remember this photo collage?  

It's from a year ago, our very first themed "Family Fun Foto" collage together.  I've loved pulling these together, but I also knew we'd not want to do this for the rest of our lives, so instead of pulling together a collage, I'm using the one-year mark as a decision point for pulling the plug.  Good-bye, Family Fun Foto series! That was a lot of fun while it lasted.  

There is still interesting news coming from the family, though.   For one thing, K-daughter successfully closed out another semester of college . . . it's looking like she has one more summer's worth of classes to take, and she'll be done.  This is a huge accomplishment, what with two kids and a pandemic and such; at least that's what I think.   

She says, "Recycled my large pile of articles for my thesis because IT'S SUBMITTED and spent today relaxing, watching A-child play her tournament! She actually did well and hit a few balls!"  K-daughter also showed me her (excellent) grades for the semester, and I wrote back to say, "As a professional educator, I am supposed to say, "It's not about the grades, it's about your awesome effort and perseverance, and about how much you've grown through this process." But as a mom I am going to say . . . . YYYYYAAAAAYYYYY!!! Go you, K-daughter!"

My paperwork push this week included voting in the primaries.  We ordered mail-in ballots, and then we dropped them in the polling box, and got a helpful email to assure us the process had worked properly:

Your ballot has been received by LOCAL County on 05/17/2021.

Your ballot status has been updated to reflect your official ballot has been received timely and recorded.

Please note: You are no longer permitted to vote at your polling place location now that you have returned your ballot timely.

If you have questions about your ballot, please contact LOCAL County at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

Thank you

I-daughter did me one better, and spent election day helping to staff the polls.  This photo above is not the place where she volunteered, and it's not even the place where I would have voted, but it's conveniently located on the 4-block walk between my home and office, so I stopped while wearing my "I VOTED" mask to get a photo anyway.

While sitting around waiting for people to come vote, I-daughter knitted, but of course.  She's currently in Round 4 of Sock Madness, and displayed her sock-in-progress for me earlier in the week.

What is even more impressive than the sock is the number of strands that make it up.  See all those stripes heading up the sock?  They're called "vertical stranding", and they form a pretty significant crowd of strands of yarn!

You can see this a bit better here, with I-daughter revealing a skewer of yarn butterflies that her knitting team calls a "shishke-butterfly".

My guy and N-son did their usual stuff during the week (protests, biking, working at the Domestic Clutter Emporium, hanging with friends).  This weekend, they jumped on an airplane bound for Minnesota to collect interesting stories -- no doubt forthcoming --  and to see L2's Trifecta of (1) getting baptized in the Catholic Church, (2) celebrating one year of sobriety, and (3) getting her motorcycle license.  Y'know, how they do.

Finally, we end with a somber note and big hugs for L1.   We knew this day was coming, but it was still heartbreakingly sad to have to say good-bye to Amelia Dog.  She'd been with L1 for a year, initially as a foster dog, but then when the diagnosis came, L1 made the decision to keep Amelia with her and keep her as happy and comfy as she could.  L1 wrote, 
She let me know it was time, and made it clear. her final moments were peaceful and She was surrounded by love and ate steak and treats till her last moments. She left this earth with a full belly and happy heart.

We're all very sorry, and also grateful for the year L1 and Amelia got to have together, taking care of one another.

And that's the news from our family, which is all done with foto collages but which still has been wealthy in our adventures.   May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Three thoughts on . . . binder clips

Thought number one:  A single string and a bunch of binder clips team up to make a pretty good substitute for a bulletin board. 

I have an exposed brick wall in my Command Center, and I don't really want to cover it up with a bulletin board, but I also want a place to post things. So for the past few years, I've had just a single strand of rope across the wall, and I've "pinned" papers to that with binder clips. You can still see the string underneath my twine-bulletin board below.

Binder clips are not only good for paper, they're also good for grabbing onto things that normally don't hang (like a tube of toothpaste or a stuffed animal), and turning it into something you can hang from a hook, if you like hooks . . . which I do, as you can tell from this old "hang it all" post.

Thought number two: Thank goodness that binder clips don't snag on other papers (like paper clips do), or let things fall out (like file folders do). 

I really like using binder clips to organize related stacks of papers --- for example the first set of student essays, the second set of student essays, etc.--- and then lay these stacks flat on a shelf.   In the place of a file folder tab, I just label another small scrap of paper that I fold over the exposed edge, like a mini wrapper, and attach it with a binder clip.

Thought number three: binder clips are almost indefinitely reusable. 

I guess being me, I kind of had to say that. Hooray for things you can use in multiple ways, and use over and over again!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

My dog doesn't eat my shoes

Our previous dog, Miser Dog, ate bike gloves (not the cheap ones, but my husband's expensive $50 gloves, but only the right hand.  Always the right hand.  My husband was left . . . so to speak . . . with a bunch of "on the other hand" gloves).  Miser Dog also loved destroying my undergarments.  Oog.

Prewash chewed up a bunch of things when we first brought her home four year ago . . . the toilet plunger was her most exotic chew toy.  But she's morphed into a particularly non-destructive pooch.

Here, for example, was the photo I snapped as I woke up one morning earlier this week.  She was contentedly snoozing near my bed, half on her own bed, with my completely un-molested pandemic slippers lying near by.   

There are so many things we take for granted in life, and it's good to pause every once in a while to remember to be grateful for those things that seem unremarkable . . . and this morning, I'm remembering to be glad that my dog doesn't eat my homework or my shoes or my underwear.   In fact, even the toilet plungers have been spared in recent years.  

Life is good.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Miser Family May Monarch update

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  This week we are regally rich . . . with May Queens, May Kings, May Monarchs . . . 

Last week was I-daughter's birthday, and we took advantage of our several vaccinations to have dinner at a friend's home . . . the first time we've eaten not-at-our-own homes in well over a year now.  It was one of the most wonderful birthday presents ever!  The first two photos are from that event.  And to prove that I, too, am a tiara possessor, I add a photo from last summer's "Purple Dress party" that we had in an outdoor rose garden with the requisite masks.   I-daughter comes right back with a Princess Leia-style May Queen pose, and of course Amelia dog makes her regal appearance. 

The rest of the family is, alas, tiara-less, but no less ready for the theme.  N-son proudly demonstrates that he is the King of Shoes, and Y is "Mayking memories- last roommate date to get a Lebanese chai lattes."  Not to be checkmated in the pun-king arena, my guy is May King several phone calls.   And my sister-in-law proves you need neither tiaras nor puns to do it up regally: "I don’t have an actual crown photograph but I DO feel like a Queen in the picture."

May brings all sorts of wonderful breezes and temperatures and effects of sunlight.  Following the April showers, we revel in May Flowers, and for reasons that I don't entirely understand but that intrigue me, L1 and N-son decided he needed to go flower fishing in a bowl.   Want to know how to do this yourself?  Observe!

What do you catch when you go flower fishing, you wonder?  Why, flowers, of course!

So now you know.  If you need more explanation of how and why to participate in something similar yourself, you need to ask N-son and L1.

I-daughter has been involved in a different kind of plant-related endeavor: round three of Sock Madness involved an incredibly tricky two-yarn ivy theme, and she successfully finished the round using a pair of yarns from her stash appropriately named "Ivy League" and "Poison Ivy".  Aren't these socks beautiful?

As for me, the official transition to summer began this week.  I submitted final grades; I dealt with students complaining about their grades; and then I helped to marshal and read names at our Commencement ceremonies.   

I'd actually given the faculty Convocation address when this class of students entered the college 4 years ago; instead of doing the usual "take chances! get involved!" talk that goes with convocations, I decided to describe the mathematical definition of "Chaos", and explain why their lives at college should be chaotic.  Whoops -- I guess that goes to show I need to be careful what I wish for people!  Still, given that rather dubious beginning I foisted upon several hundred people, it was nice to be able to read their names as they walked across the stage or waved via Zoom, and to see the students I had welcomed into the college thrive in spite of it all. 

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

A twine bulletin board

For the latest installment of "Stuff I made with stuff I had", I bring you a twine bulletin board.

I had been helping N-son clean out a rather messy situation, and decided it was time to retire a painting that one of his older sisters had given him more than a decade ago.   It was one of those canvas things stretched across a wooden frame, the kind you can buy in any art store or craft store, and in N-son's case, the canvas had acquired punch holes and rips.  

So, I removed the canvas from the frame with my staple remover.  I stuck the frame in a corner for a few weeks pondering what to do with it, hoping that a useful inspiration would strike.   

Eventually, inspiration did strike, and so I grabbed my beloved cordless drill, and made holes in the frame every 1.5 inches.  I had happened to have a large spool of garden (?) twine that had been sitting in my "useful junk" box for years.   I threaded that twine through the holes, doing my best to keep things tight, and . . . 

. . . Voila!  I have a bulletin board that complements my brick wall really nicely.  (Instead of push pins, I use binder clips).  

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Miser family update; may the fourth be with us all!

Life continues to be rich and full of force in the Miser Family Household.  (Does your family celebrate May 4th as Star Wars day, too?)

A few years back, my college had a "Jedi mediation" day on May 4, which was supposed to be for stress reduction but was actually fairly unfocused and weird.  The organizer asked people to dress in their best Jedi outfits, and one math professor actually obliged.  Ah, well.   

Nonetheless, May the 4th be with you is a great day to celebrate with Vegas Leia donuts that have Oreo hair buns ("Sometimes I do a Las Vegas interpretation of our weekly theme. This week I did not disappoint. Yes, they are donuts.").  I-daughter, born to this holiday a prime number of years ago, demonstrates her R2D trashcan and Baby Yoda toilet paper cozy, and adds in her collection of movies for good measure.  L1's husband, Peter, had a perfectly themed cake!

As for the rest of my family, it's a good thing they're very flexible, because they really stretched to reach this theme.  My guy says, "The forth that propels my bike is me," and L2 adds "Although I hope the force of Christmas spirit remains, the force of my Christmas tree finally is out of my apartment as of this morning 😂🤷‍♀️".  K-daughter kinda switched months: the four members of her family marched forth on a church mission event.  Y brings the theme home, so to speak, "May The Fourth... or the fifth be with you! My house received a fifth (temporary) housemate this week, who is leaving a bad home situation. We love her already and feel grateful for how God is at work in her life." (faces covered with flowers to protect privacy).

If two seconds make a fourth, then we ought to also count that K-daughter and I both got our second shots!  She had a much worse time of it than I did; I had a slightly sore arm for one day, and then ran slow the next day (but that could also be because I gave blood earlier in the week, and it could also be because I just am darned good at running slow).

I got a really nice letter from a former student of mine, with lots of back and forth, but with one especially adorable side conversation.  She says, 

I  realize I didn’t mention, but you might enjoy the fact that I also adopted a puppy this year, and her name is Pi!  She’s great, and is good company during this whole pandemic thing.

Pi is a really sweet little girl, she just turned 1 and is full-sized!  I rescued her from a shelter, because somehow someone gave up this perfect little puppy.


As we emerge back into sociability, thanks to good vaccines, a few of us got to go see a softball game.  Here are a few photos of my favorite little slugger in action.  

And me, I was happy to get my hands on my youngest granddaughter, reminding her that she's got a great future in this family.

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

Thursday, May 6, 2021

coming clean: confessions on a vacuum

My husband had a birthday this week, and to celebrate I bought him a vacuum cleaner.  

I feel like doing so loses me so much of my "cred" as a Miser Mom.  We already have two perfectly functional canister vacuum cleaners --- they're old, and have required a bit of service (which we got from a local repair guy), but they work.  We also have a roomba, which was a splurge itself.  Heck, given that it's me writing this, I should add that we have a trio of wooden-handled brooms, too, and we could probably do a decent job of cleaning much of the house with no electrical assistance at all.  

So purchasing a new vacuum cleaner is out of character for me, both because of "purchasing" and because of "new"  . . . buying this particular gift makes me feel a bit like I'm living a double identity.  My husband really doesn't like the old canister vacuums -- he finds them heavy and clunky and cumbersome, but he just figured that dealing with them was part of being married to me, much like cooking without garlic is part of what I accept about being married to him.  

But wait, there's more.  It wasn't just that I kind of generically purchased some random new machine; I followed the thread of a forum in which people enthused about household objects, and decided to take their advice and buy a cordless, stick vacuum cleaner that cost a bit over $800.  Serious money, that.  When I mentioned to my guy that I was thinking about getting him a vacuum cleaner for his birthday, he lit up; when I mentioned which one and what price, he almost staggered.  And then he told the kids, and they kind of staggered (except I-daughter, who said, "but this is what you do:  you're frugal most of the time so you can spend your money on things that you really want to spend it on.").  

In action!

At any rate, this does feel a bit like an existential experience for me, which I know is not the way that most people approach vacuum cleaners.  There it is: I loved keeping our old canister vacuum cleaners going, and my husband didn't love it, and so now we have a very, very fancy and very modern vacuum cleaner instead.

A few other random thoughts:

We've donated the canister vacuums to our local refugee resettlement organization, but we're keeping the robot vacuum (and of course, the brooms!).  

My husband has a friend who is a monk, and whose life makes my own life look totally hedonistic, who told my husband that he'd heard that it was an insult for married people to buy each other gifts that come with an electric cord.  What can I say?  It's a cordless vacuum cleaner?

I actually do love pulling out this vacuum cleaner and just doing a quick clean-up of stuff; it's much easier to move around than the canister ones, I have to admit.  Also, when you release the trigger to turn it off, the machine makes a noice that sounds like a cross between a purr, a hum, and "yum", which is a truly delightful noise.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Does trashing a trash-picked thing count as trash?

There's a beautiful chair I'd trash picked from the curb near my old home a few years ago.  This chair graced my sewing room in the former home, and then it graced the Command Center in my new home, and then it broke.   Maybe Goldilocks visited, or maybe we were a bit rough in tossing it around when we vacuumed around it, or or maybe it's just really, really old and it finally decided to split, so to speak.

I waited patiently for a new chair to appear, and eventually a "free to take" notice about a glider appeared on our college's electronic bulletin board, so I brought home a replacement chair.   Then I put the beautiful, broken chair out at the curb.   

We've already put our trash cans out at the curb twice this year.  I'm conflicted about how to count the chair.   If I pulled it out of the trash in the first place, does it "count" as trash when I put it back there?

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Miser Family Update, April showers version

Life in the Miser Family Household continues to be rich and full.  Indeed, we're showered with richness these days.  

My guy:  "April showers all day today. House looking good."

Me, cleverly putting one photo above another to indicate direction of motion: "April Showers bring down the petals on our Cherry Blossom tree"  

A-child: "April showers mean PUDDLES!"

B-child:  "Help! I'm sitting in puddles!"

I-daughter, wearing a familiar garment formerly worn by one of my students:  "My April showers are a lot like all my other showers 😆 and I dry off with well-educated bathrobe (which attended both [this college] and [that other college] ... Although *I* never wore it to class)"

Y, sadly correctly predicting the future: "Friday night shift in the ER... expecting a shower of patients, especially substance abuse and traumas."

My sister-in-law:  "l live in the desert. The only reason to use an umbrella (parasol) is to keep the sun off!"

L1: "April showers bring flowers"

N-son, visiting L1:  "April showers bring lots of beautiful flowers"

K-daughter added this, which leads to something worthy of its own photo:  "April showers also mean that I get to do some stuff inside- like draw!

My final for drawing 1 is a three piece drawing of "phases" . . I just finished. . . . This is my Drawing final :)"


So here's a kind of neat story that N-son has given me permission to share.  Every once in a while, about once every week or every other week, he'd been having trouble waking up on time in the morning and getting to work on time. My husband had been devising ever more complicated routines to help avoid this oversleeping: having N-son come over earlier, have him call my husband upon waking… Mostly what this did was just prolong the period of anxiety for my husband about whether or not N-son was actually moving through the morning on time. They were just about to implement a convoluted scheme for checking N-son's phone every night before work, when I decided to have a little conversation with my son. 

motherly concern:  "When do you turn on your alarm?", I asked him.  
misinterpreting the question: "Um . . . I'm supposed to wake up at 6:30" 
firm redirection:  "Yes, I know that's when you're supposed to set your alarm for, but when is that that you actually set your alarm?" 
confused silence.  " . . . When I was with L1 last time, she set a bunch of alarms on my phone."
realization breaking. "So . . . N-son . . . sometimes you wake up on time and sometimes you don't.  What is the difference when you don't?"
back on more solid ground now: "I forget to tell myself that I need to wake up at 6:30"
confirming my hunch.  "You mean, all those mornings that you did wake up on time, it's because you just told yourself the night before that you need to get up at 6:30, and then you actually do?" 


Well, my son has a super power, apparently!   What is remarkable in retrospect is not that he overslept (with no alarm set), but rather that the vast majority of days, he didn't oversleep.  After we had this conversation, I-daughter helped him set an alarm (and in particular, make sure the alarm was audible), and he hasn't missed a phone call/wake-up time since.  In fact, he tells me, he still often wakes before his alarm.  Go figure.

I did a half-marathon this morning; I did it in my goal of 1:55, but added a comfy 13 additional minutes to my time for good measure (meaning, I did it just as quickly/slowly as I ever have in the past).  I wrote later to my husband, "It's nice to sit here with my muscles talking to me about how useful they've been this morning; when I get up to walk around, there is general protest from random parts of the body."  It was a good way to end the semester; we head into finals this week and then I'll truly start transitioning from faculty to administration, with (I hope) a bit of summer rest mixed in.

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