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. 


Saturday, July 17, 2021

family update: with family again

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  I'm still missing some members of my family (my guy is in . . .  Germany??? I think??).  N-son is still with his sister, and in fact helped by staffing the book-selling table for her book.   

But me, late on a day early this week, I drove my car to the airport, realizing that the clouds I was looking at while I was driving were the very clouds my daughter was flying through to return to me. 

I-daughter had a wonderful trip, and she also got her hair cut short.  Here you can see the long, long braid in one hand and what is not in the braid still attached to her head.

Early one day late in the week, I-daughter and I hopped back in the car together and drove to Ithaca to visit my sister. K-daughter and her clan-within-our-clan drove up separately .   And from there, we visited the gorgeous gorges.  Here is our ramble up one gorge to the Toganhawk ... Toggannnack . . . Tobaggan . . . to some falls with a name that starts with T. 

That's where I'm writing from now . . . not from the falls or the gorge, but from a bedroom in my sister's house in Ithaca.  She's making something that smells very delicious for dinner, so I'm going to stop writing and see if we can all go eat it.  

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

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Miser Family Update: without my family

 Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  Many of us are rich in travel, but me, I'm rich in Me-Time.  This is the week I drove my family away.

I guess, to be fair, I should admit that my husband drove N-son away; he's spending three weeks with L1.  Are dogs involved in this stay, you ask?  Why yes, there are dogs.  Wet dogs, in fact.

On Tuesday, I drove I-daughter to the airport, from where she flew to San Francisco for a friend's wedding.  She brought along a blanket that she knit herself as a wedding gift, so she'll be coming home much lighter.  She adds, "Found this mug at my Airbnb 🐄😆".

Apparently, this mug reminds her of her dear old mother (m-udder?).  

And after I dropped my daughter off at the airport, I sped home so that I could turn around and take my guy to the train station, so he could use many modes of transportation and fly to Europe for a three-week tour of concentration camps with his former army buddy who is now a monk.  (Y'know, the usual summer vaycay).  While in some unspecified country over there, he saw this motorcycle, with one saddlebag labeled "NEVER EAT THE LEFT SHOE".

Here's what that reminded me of:  "That was the motto of my parents' dogs. They always ate my dad's right work boot, never the left one. I just don't know why my parents' dogs would be riding a motorcycle."

With my family gone, Prewash and I were left to fend for ourselves.  I've mostly thrown myself into learning the hidden bureaucratic secrets of how to do my deputy dean job (what account numbers go with which budget lines; how to process hiring paperwork; interlocking events related to orientation; and how to mentally deal with opening up my computer several times a day to see 30 new emails each time).  

At this point, I want to pause and offer up huge High Fives to my own dear old mother, who instilled in me a love of organizational systems, and who also drilled into me the importance of Thank You notes.  A thank you note from a 10-year-old is a sweet thing, but I've seen first hand how incredibly powerful a thank you note from a dean is.  Mom, you trained me right.  

Ooh, and I got to jump back into Yard Sales in a big way.  Everyone has things they missed terribly during the pandemic; one of those disappearances I lamented was Yard Saling, and so when our traditional neighborhood yard sale burst into being again this morning, I was more than ready.  

I'd saved up lots of things that would be happier in other people's homes than in mine, and toted them off to my friend's yard.  I offered them up at 25¢ each, or $1 for all you could carry.  I made almost $20, some of which I blew on a pair of winter boots, four canning jars, and two large pet food storage bins I'd been looking for.  So many of my friends were there; it was a giant party, really.  I came home from the yard sale with gobs more storage space in the basement, a few new useful things, and an extra $15 jingling in my pocket.  Life is good.

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

Monday, July 5, 2021

Making a Mud Kitchen

In our latest installment of "Stuff Made Out of Other Stuff", the Miser Maker Conglomerate is pleased to present . . . the Mud Kitchen.

The main materials that went into the Mud Kitchen consist of

  • a paint-spattered, plastic dishpan left in a dusty corner of the basement, by the previous owner of my daughter's home;
  • four trash-picked garden(?) posts, rescued during a morning run from the fate of landfill burial a few years back, and
  • a black wooden desk, put out at the curb by some of my neighbors, and disassembled by me and Prewash with help from my handy cordless drill.   (Actually, Prewash didn't really help very much in the disassembly, but she was very happy to keep me company).  
Oh, and apparently I also used a pair of 2x4's I'd gotten from somewhere.  Why the heck did I have those lying around?  No idea anymore.  

The two aspects that are the most fun of any project like this, as far as I'm concerned, are (1) making everything up as I go along, and (2) power tools.  

The making-everything-up part is an interesting puzzle.  Once I've got everything together, it's kind of obvious how it should work, but when I start, I've just got a pile of odd-sized pieces of wood and a vague idea of what the final product might look like.   I ended up using 12 different scraps of wood, most of which I had to trim down in some way.  

But the power tools, that is just playing -- so much fun.  I got to use my circular saw a bunch for the above-described trimming.   The jigsaw, for making a hole for the dishpan to sit in.  My heat gun, for removing the black paint (also works for frying bedbugs!)  A brand new orbital sander, used here for the first time.   (Where have you been all my life, orbital sander?   I own an inherited belt sander, gifted me by my dad, but as much as I love my dad I'm now a convert to the new tool).  And of course, extensive use of my cordless drill and its many fabulous attachments.  

It took me a month or so to figure out which pieces of scrap wood to use and how to bring them together, but I did successfully solve those puzzles and came up with a configuration I liked.  Last weekend I trundled down into the basement, disassembled the Mud Kitchen, loaded the pieces into the car, drove over to my granddaughter's home, and had her help me reassemble them for use in her back yard.   

Then I got to have fabulous meals:  mud soup, mulch waffles, chocolate cake . . . 

We've got another little maker in the making!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Miser Family Update: cherry picking, dragon eggs, and deputy deaning

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.  What a week it's been!  

I spent the first part of my week having pre-Dean fun:  I visited a friend who makes quilts and chatted about math/fabric strategies;  I ran and biked with friends; I picked cherries.  N-son came along for the cherry picking, in fact; it was great having his help both picking and pitting.   But whooo-wheeee were the cherries expensive this year!  The cash collector told me the total, and I almost asked if we could just go put the cherries back on the trees, please.  Ah well.  Sweet lessons learned: sometimes picking fruit is the pits. 

And then, Thursday, I started my new job as Deputy Dean.   It was a firehose of learning --- I had five different faculty members asking for permission to spend money on five different kinds of things, and so I had five different chances to say, "Uh, I don't know.  Let me figure this out and get back to you!".  (It doesn't help that our main finance person is out on vacation right now).  

In the middle of the day, the office broke for lunch at a nearby restaurant, and who should walk by our table, but my other kidney!?!   She's usually down in Florida, sailing around and happily married to her new husband, so it was great to put our two kidneys back in proximity for a good hug.  Whoop!

I-daughter shares that she is now the proud possessor of not one, but two, spinning wheels.  She has her beloved floor model, but she also now owns a hand-held spinning wheel, perfect for traveling while spinning, but of course.  

"My new spinning wheel: Anno BaNano"

And K-daughter has been a creative powerhouse herself.   She writes, "My friend is having a dragon themed babyshower, and she asked me to do the decor for it! Just finished her diaper castle cake . . . Also made dragon eggs 😍"

I am in awe.  Her daughter is also a maker at heart; just today I had A-child help me assemble a "Mud Kitchen" that I'd built from trash-picked furniture I'd disassembled and re-assembled into a new being.  A Frankenstein Mud Kitchen.  Yahhsss.

When he wasn't picking cherries with me or helping his friends at their work, N-son has had a week of packing and prep; he's heading down to stay with L1 for three weeks (he'll leave at O-dark-hundred tomorrow morning).    My guy is driving him down, and then getting ready for his own three-week trip to visit Holocaust sites . . . but I guess that's getting into news about next week, which hasn't happened yet.  So I'll say more about that next week.

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