Spring Cleaning and Clearing

The garden is slowly, slowly coming along. Weeds, especially creeping charlie, loved the excessive rain last summer. I peeled back some of the fabric in the back yard, simply because the mulch was riddled with weeds.

I have moved 1/3 of the daylilies from the dark plot between the oaks to the back garden near the chain-link fence. I broke up the shade-loving sedum from two of the small pots and moved them to openings between the trees.

This weekend, I bought a new electric mower.

I liked my previous mower, a Toro with a Briggs & Stratton motor. It was multifunctional and started easily. However, it filled half the shed and was too heavy to easily maneuver up/down the step. Last weekend, Big Bro and my youngest nephew picked it up.

I tried the new mower. Wow! It’s so quiet and the bagger works even better than the old one.

What to do? What to NOT do?

Just popping in to say I’m still alive. But life has become a balancing act of what I’m willing/able to do with my time.

Work has become ridiculous. I had one of the best evaluations IN YEARS from an administrator who observed my class. However, I’m paying a terrible price to meet everyone’s expectations: unsustainable levels of time spent preparing, reading, editing, and conferencing with individual students and/or their parents. The thankless part is creating “retake” forms of assignments and assessments for the same 8-12 students who often fail multiple times. (The easiest of multiple-choice quizzes reveal memorizing aka “knowing it by heart” is a lost art.)

On the writing side, I have rewritten the beginning of the novel three or four times in the last few months. Is it better than the pre-Covid version I sent to my Beta readers? It’s certainly LONGER. I’m considering hiring a professional editor to read the first chapter. But first, I will rewrite it ONCE MORE to include the transition between Favius’s and Argenta’s POVs. To be honest, I’m afraid the editor will hate Argenta because she’s a scaredy-cat in contrast to Favi’s boldness. The crisis occurs when boy-hero realizes how ignorant he is the world and his life depends on allying with Argenta.

I had to rework The Budget. The cost of everything – gasoline, groceries, and dining out – has risen. I packed more lunches when cafeteria prices rose to $5 (January), but I still indulged in Tim Hortons coffee and an apple fritter when running errands. Not anymore. I can still buy a bag of potatoes or apples for less than the price of take-out.

Luckily, La Casa de Tontería is no more expensive than usual to heat and light. The utility companies’ reports show it uses less energy than “efficient” homes in the neighborhood. I credit my love of wool socks and sweaters (“jumper” or “poolohvayr” – not sure how to spell the latter but that’s how it sounds to me in French).

Fancy Thrift, or Little Projects to Combat Cabin-Fever

Prior to being under house-arrest quarantined, I dropped off donations at a charity-run store. As usual, I went inside afterward, hunting items on my long-term shopping list.

It was a successful search.

First, I found cornucopias for my friend Sissy, who asked me to keep an eye open for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Nearby I found deer candleholders to match the motif of my winter linens, which checked off “post-Christmas candleholders.”

Then, I hit the jackpot: a folding screen.

Continue reading

Quarantine: Day Two

Well, today was incredibly strange. I was prepared to stay inside for the week, but I was forced to go the post office. There was a problem with renewing a post office box, so a mask-to-plexiglass** meeting was required. Fortunately, there was no one in the office when I went in and the whole transaction (and collecting two packages) was finished in less than fifteen minutes.

(Note to a friend: Thank you again for the N95 surgical masks. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to leave the house!)

I was already getting stir-crazy this weekend, when I felt lousy and couldn’t focus on reading, let alone writing. Today, feeling a little better, I decided to take down the decorations except for the Nativity (aka nacimientos aka creche). It’s a pre-emptive strike against the blues I might feel on Christmas Eve. Except for a few years when my parents were in Florida or Texas, I have always gone home for Christmas Eve and Day.

My mother called an hour ago, said I sounded good, and suggested maybe I should come home for my quarantine. I said no; it’s better to wait it out. When I talked to my father, he told me, “You’re coming home before New Years.” My parents are the least demonstrative parents in my circle of friends, so it’s rather strange that they’re taking my absence this hard.

Then again, I could be a blubbering mess later this week. Time will tell!

**As opposed to face-to-face.

Late-doers and Regrets

An acquaintance made an enormous improvement in her life. Despite her achievement, she has feelings of regret about it taking her so long.

I commiserated. I was a late-bloomer as a child, and a late-doer in many respects as an adult.

I didn’t tell her that I’m working on stories I started in childhood. Or that I became a teacher Quality-Control Inspector at a young human factory after working for almost a decade in the field I thought I loved. I also didn’t tell her about my beloved grandfather who, many years after retiring from the mining industry, became a stained-glass artist.

I gave her this advice, which I’m posting to remind myself whenever Regret comes to call:

Look at the past you as a person who wasn’t taught how to [do this thing you’re doing]. You wouldn’t say, “It’s about time” to an adult who returned to school to earn a high school diploma. You wouldn’t berate a person with unhealthy habits who finally mastered the tools to live a healthy life. Congratulate yourself and be happy you don’t have to spend another minute in the past.

Project Complete: Reindeer Glasses-Holder

This project grew from disparate things:

  1. Paint pens from a going-out-of-business sale
  2. A badly-painted “freebie” Christmas decoration
  3. An online ad for an outrageously-priced eyeglasses holder
  4. Recurring incidents of “lost” or knocked-around glasses



    Christmas decoration (after removing plastic wreath from neck).

Despite lumps of epoxy and nicks in the paint, it had promise. Its weighted legs meant it wasn’t going to fall over when I bumped the nightstand, and its well-felted feet meant no worries about setting it on furniture. 

It was a perfect project for brain-frying quarantine, particularly during the dreary days of flooding rain. I  laid out junkmail flyers on the table next to my daily workspace. Between bouts of staring at the screen,  I played around with the paint pens.

It took me roughly four weeks to finish. 

Voila! A deer for all seasons. 

Be Concise

The Boss figured out that we need regular “office hours” every day, rather than compulsory check-ins multiple times throughout the day. He also set a class schedule for our young humans, so they know when lessons become available and when they’re due.

I’m grateful.

Too bad we can’t figure out a platform, or how to get me access to my locked Google account (which was locked 6 years ago and I’ve been using another school account). Another day, another vexation.

Last week I started getting blinding headaches, the kind in which water seems to be streaming down in the corners of my eyes and slowly moves forward until my vision blurs completely. Something similar happened a few years ago and I was told it was a migraine.

Why now? I have work to do! Continue reading

Working From Home, Day 4

Yesterday was not productive, so a new plan was needed. Usually I prioritize the onerous tasks – like grading essays – but today I identified what takes up the most space.

La Casa de Tontería, aka The House of Nonsense, is too small to have this much visual clutter.   When the livingroom furniture is clear again, my mind will be, too!

My co-workers also struggle with the work-at-home routine. As a particular married lady wrote yesterday, “I’m going to report my co-worker to HR* for sexual harassment.  😂🤣” 

*Human Resource Department.

Keep Going

My goodness! The only social medium I use regularly has blown up over the last three days.* Two news sites I read also went from being information-based to semi-hysterical.

But the teachers are still teaching, albeit at a distance. Today workers and bosses at The Young Human Factory gathered to pack meals and figure out deliveries. It was great to see coworkers, but also to see the parents of former students who were volunteering.

Creative writers are no different. I’ve been encouraged by those who are staying the course through the storm.  I particularly liked The Write Practice’s offering of a 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine Writing Challenge.

The environmental stress weighs heavily on everyone, presenting unique challenges. One of my home-bound acquaintances wrote plaintively, “My coworkers keep putting their naked asses on my papers.”  I can’t imagine the horror. (Note: I HOPE he meant cats, not his children.)

The veteran writer, David Farland, canceled workshops but continues sending his newsletter. He suggested that fiction writers focus on the problems of the characters in their stories:

As you consider those, your subconscious mind will become more and more grounded in your tale, and you’ll find it easier to write with each coming day. As you think about upcoming scenes to write in the evening, they’ll populate your imagination while you sleep, and you’ll often awake ready to write.

I think it’s good advice and I’m going to follow it tomorrow. Today I’m still doing quality-control via the Internet and correcting essays.

*People sometimes tell me to abandon FB, but it’s the best place to keep in touch across four continents, five languages (only two of which I speak), and several time zones.  This weekend, my newlywed American cousin made a suggestion for helping avoid the coronavirus, which our octogenarian Mexican cousin translated to Spanish and reposted – and it was picked up by other Spanish-speakers.

Gardening Temptations

bloom blossom flora flower

NOT the garden of La Casa de Tontería aka The House Of Nonsense. Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Tracking expenses this month, I noticed that Winter has no dampening effect on the gardening bug. During the thaw before New Year’s, I visited Migardener garden store for inspiration (and vegetable seeds), used a Christmas gift card to purchase planting bags, and began reading the bonsai book a friend gave me. I’m waiting on this month’s orders: daikon radish seeds, a paper pot mold, rock-wool, and a sower.

I like to blame peer pressure. Continue reading