Beach farm time

Our fridge is still broken. I kept going down to the bottom of the hill today to see if the appliance repair place had unbolted its door to no avail. Later in the afternoon I ran into the owner and he said his wife had been sick and he would try to come tomorrow – and that it is not the rona. I hope she will be ok – she often sits outside the shop in the sun on a folding chair and we say hello though we don’t know each others’ names.

my drawing of some shops

As I was establishing this with the repair guy on the sidewalk outside his shop I ran into Annalee and Jesse – which was hugely cheering – oh how nice it will be to really get to see friends again.

I cleaned out the shed today and put some more stuff up in the Buy Nothing group – Played Stardew Valley 1.5 with a new beach farm – I am starting to hit some new things like Willy’s new plot line.

I wrote a little in my notebook in the morning, which seems like a good sign.

Reading Walter Moseley books, one after the other, very quickly – in the middle of that binge, somewhere, John Le Carre died. I realized I’d never read his latest book so I plowed through that (barely remembering who Guillam was though it started coming back to me). Last week I also had an odd interlude for several L.M. Montgomery books – not the Anne ones but the other popular one – Emily of New Moon. Then a long after prequel about Marilla which was more successful and interesting than I had hoped – maybe showing her as just a bit non neurotypical in some way – And certainly sympathetic. (Spoiler – she helps with the Canada end of the Underground Railroad.)

We went up to the top of Bernal Hill and had a look at Jupiter and Saturn in the early evening yesterday. They were very close! Saturn looked sort of oblong through binoculars, so I guess that was the rings – I could not see Jupiter’s moons as it wasn’t dark enough and the air was kind of misty & my binocs maybe aren’t powerful enough. We took photos through a little tiny scope that clips onto your cameraphone.

Just as the sun was setting I felt comfortable. As it got darker it felt like people got louder and more excited- the crowd on the hill grew – no one crowding us and yet just the sight of everyone looking too close together and the hubbub noise turning to nonsense in my lack of auditory processing started to freak me out.

Increasingly, people I know have a relative or friend ill with COVID-19 and some people are going through having it. Several people I know (health care workers mostly) have gotten vaccinated.

I wrote up a summary of the year for the APAzine I’m part of but didn’t do the proper thing and catch up and respond to each other person’s previous zine pages. Resolving to do it better next time and really catch up after my year long hiatus.

Domestic engineering holiday

A rare occasion – I have two weeks off work, am not travelling anywhere and my mobility is really good. And yet, maybe from the pandemic or maybe general burnout, I have not had much creative drive this year. Little sparks here and there but nothing sustained. So I’m going to do house and garden projects, mostly massive decluttering and organizing. I feel a little boring and sad. Of course I’m relieved not to have gotten the rona so far — with the vaccine now in sight. Maybe some of the zine ideas in progress will start coming together. And I will try to write a post every day during the vacation, no matter how mundane my nattering!

On the weekend I cleaned out our closet. Things are now sorted nicely on the hangers. Some stuff was donated or put in boxes or into the shed. My active pairs of shoes are organized: blue jafa boots, identical red jafa boots that I hand dyed on a low bookshelf; tall jafa boots at the top of the closet with things in them to keep them upright; non-ugly sandals with some kind of orthopedic cork action in the sole; and my house crocs with arch supports stuck into them with masking tape. I still have my adorable purple brass-button-front boots (newly conditioned and polished) but haven’t tried them to see if my (always painful) feet can tolerate them again. The best shoes for horrible foot and ankle pain so far have been Naots (with Shell sole) and Jafa – pro tip – much much better than the standard rec people give (Danskos). Still in the shed: My derby fluevog boots which I can’t quite bear to get rid of, in hopes I can wear them again someday.

Yesterday I put up an extra little shelf and some hooks high up in the bathroom. My nicer silk opera scarves and ties are hanging there now, with woolly or fluffier scarves still on the back of the bedroom door. There is now a sort of extra scarf ball (like a ball of mating rattlesnakes) stuffed into a bin under the bed. It is very satisfying to get out my drill, stud finder, boxes of screws and anchor thingies, stepladder, etc. — feeling handy around the house to the point of smug.

bathroom wall

Then I noticed that the fridge broke.

Then Stardew Valley 1.5 came out.

Sooooo other than cleaning out the entire fridge and folding a load of laundry with one more to go, I might not do much today other than play Stardew! The fridge repair guy is coming from the appliance shop just down the street, tomorrow morning to take a look. At the door as we discussed this he said he’d come by and I asked stupidly if he knows the address. Duh he knows where I live, we are a block away (I can see the store from our porch) and his crew has been up here 3 times already this year when the first fridge broke; plus, I am fairly memorable, as is our weird little witch house!

My beach farm is cute as hell. Laptop has some keys that stick and I cannot get Danny’s game controllers to work with it so I am starting to use some of the CJB Cheats just to spare my hands.

Please wish me luck in having anything creative come back to me at all – it’s so depressing – Dossie sent me a poem and I had absolutely nothing to send back. Will write a letter.

From the state-wide lockdown

Next two weeks are going to be intense as the wide spread of COVID-19 becomes more obvious and hospitals get overloaded. People are upset now about just staying home, and it’s going to get so much worse/more traumatic. I hope we all are able to be kind and compassionate to each other and hold space for each other. This is just the beginning.

The California state-wide lockdown started last Thursday evening. Here’s some details.

Stay home except for essential needs

Everyone is required to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job. If you go out, keep at least 6 feet of distance.

and,

The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence, except as needed to maintain continuity of operation of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.

Here’s the PDF of the description of critical infrastructureEssentialCriticalInfrastructureWorkers; it’s pretty interesting.

At our house, things are nearly as they usually are, since I’ve worked from home for years and have had long periods of limited ability to go out. Danny is WFH, and we like being around each other, and the (adult or nearly so) kids are with other parents right now. It’s pretty peaceful. I am not 100% feeling well (exhausted, headache, low fever hits me a couple of times a day) but also not super sick and not coughing. I’m getting lots of job interviews, which is great.

My morning routine is as follows, wake up around 6 or 7 and blearily read tumblr, twitter, or Hacker News or reddit, whatever, till I either doze a bit more or get up for coffee.

Coffee, toast and jam, hanging on the couch by the window, reading a book or reading news, going through my email and whatever slack-channel backlog happened in the night.

Meds, face wash (I have to specially deal with dry eye effects so that also means a hot compress and eyedrops) I’m trying to get dressed in the mornings rather than lurk in PJs till noon, but it’s inconsistent. Today I dressed nicely, put on some face goop (The Ordinary hyaluronic acid) and some cologne (Elizabeth W Vetiver, which miraculously doesn’t set off my allergies!). 2nd cup of coffee, turned on my day-spectrum light. Cleaned the litter box. Do some arm weights on the porch to greet the day. Tick off all the “morning things” boxes in Habitica.com.

I go through my calendar and make sure I know what’s happening today, writing it out on a little slip of paper to keep by my side. Today I have 3 short interviews, at 10, 11, and then 1pm.

Since it’s Tuesday, at noon I’ll be going out on the porch to howl like the SF Siren and loudly declare that This is a test!! The noon siren has been silent for the past few months and I miss it. Last week, when I did this I made some people walking by laugh really hard, exactly the goal!!

3-5 pm is my Stardew game with a crew of kids. After that, this week and last I’ve been basically going to bed early and reading as I’m tired/sick feeling and my head hurts. A little house cleaning and tidying here and there. I have joined our friend Rubin’s evening hangout over Jitsi, yesterday watching him do some sort of 3d printing project, Jarrod doing architecture work, Merlin and friend sewing masks, while I studied for systems design interviews. My Slack channels (weirdlings, disabled-techies, mozvets are the most active right now) are a beautiful lifeline.

Morning and evening I wipe down the faucets, counters, door handles etc with bleach spray for whatever that’s worth, and there is lotion by the kitchen and bathroom sinks to help with the frequent hand washing. No one is really interacting with us but Danny has been going out for minor groceries every few days and we have had food delivery and packages arrive (thank you all the workers doing this and I’m tipping nearly as much as the food cost).

Once I feel better, more gardening and organizing is on my list, and more exercise, maybe taking a little spin around the block via powerchair (we are 2 blocks from a lovely park with views of the whole city, so that is an option too)

I am grateful for our cozy house and relative security.

A lucky find, diaries, and computer fiddling

This weekend Danny and I went downtown to gawk in the aisles of Central Computers after Compupod didn’t have the external hard drive that I wanted. We combed through everything in the store just for fun. His amazing find was a tiny wireless keyboard which uses some sort of not-bluetooth protocol, and has a tiny trackpad built in, now hooked up to his Raspberry Pi which controls the projector and some lights by the bed. The interesting thing about that is he was looking it up while in the store and realized it is only available in that specific store and was probably made by the people who own it or their relatives or close connections. But it was also lovely just reading in bed and idly watching him reboot the Pi over and over as he twiddled settings on keyboard, mouse, pi, and projector and god knows what all else, including trying to control the projector through something called HDMI CEC, which barely worked and which led to much entertaining reading of forums of people cursing CEC into the ground).

I find this soothing and also extremely adorable.

Although, do you know how many fucking keyboards we have in this house?! I have at least 3 and Danny is worse. I think there are even at least 2 mini-keyboards in tiny cases and he has TWO of those artisanal wooden butterfly shaped keyboards (with cases) from Jessie and Kaya’s startup.

The other lucky find was, somewhere right around that area of downtown we saw a little pile of still-plastic-wrapped inch-and-a-half-thick Moleskin day planners. It is hard to think of something that one would pick up off the street enthusiastically in that part of SOMA but this qualified. We took all 3 of the notebooks, and I’m using one now as a simple diary.

It’s helping me feel a sense of continuity as I’ve moved away from daily blogging, and it also reminds me in a nice way of a childhood habit of writing down what I did every day. My parents started me and my sister on this with whatever printed calendar we had that year, or in little notebooks, one parent with each of us so the entries are in both our mom’s and dad’s handwriting, alternating. Then when I was around 7 I started writing some of them myself. Entries would usually be what books I’d read that day or whether I had dessert, pizza day at school, or who I played with after school. So like “Had pancakes. Read Henry Sugar. Played at horses at Chrissy’s house.” Stuff like that. I like the feeling and hope I can keep up this habit for the year.

Meanwhile my use of Habitica is still pretty good and useful. I also construct daily to do lists/schedules/shopping lists on long slips or paper or on index cards. It helps me to jot stuff down on this list as it occurs to me and to check in a few times over the course of the day. I also can see if there’s too much on the list for one day and figure out where to move errands or chores (move to a different day, put it on my calendar, put it on a more long term list, ask for help, etc.) My long term list used to be on Remember the Milk but the expense of it seemed silly after a while, so now I use Google Keep, which handily synchronizes across desktop and phone and which is free.

My 10 years old Mac Mini (Mozilla data center surplus) is still going strong, but I am upgrading it to a newer, fancier, faster Mac Mini figuring I can easily get another 10 years from it, and I want the ports, and I also have this nice new external drive so I can back up to that drive and to our Synology thingie as well. I should think harder about off site backups, maybe even as simple as taking an external drive to my storage space every once in a while.

Making a cinderblock bench

I’ve been looking to build or buy some kind of patio sofa. The ones I like that would be comfortable to lie down and work on for any length of time (for me anyway) are two thousand dollars or more! Ridiculous! So I am setting out to build a sort of bench or sofa out of cinderblocks and 4×4 beams. They look way nicer in people’s photos than mine are going to be. But, thinking it through and doodling different designs, and going to the hardware store, all the logistics of getting the stuff here and mobilizing help to do that has been amazingly fun. I love building things!

Yesterday I got the cinderblocks and some primer paint. The Lowe’s dudes were somewhat difficult to deal with as always, but I finally hit on a responsible and helpful person who made one of the unhelpful ones go get a forklift and reload their brick area with cinderblocks. I could see his forklift wasn’t going to fit int he space when he came back with it loaded, because there were a couple of bags of Quikrete in the aisle behind him directly opposite the spot for the blocks, and tried to tell him without like accidentally cutting his entire dick off with my POWERFUL EVIL WOMAN WORDS but he could not accept my vision of reality so kept backing into the quikrete, then plunging forward into the floor to ceiling metal rack full of cement and bricks rattling it visibly in a way that made me retreat like, 4 aisle back so as not to be crushed when the whole thing fell. It didn’t fall and the Responsible man came back around and made him move the bags, eventually. Really what the fuck, though. Forklift guy was such a downer, there was no dealing with him.

Then another guy was made by Mr. Responsible to load some onto a cart for me and help load them into my car. Cart loading guy was another story, fairly cheerful and chatty, but it became clear as we traversed the expanses of parking lot that his talkativeness could veer way off the rails about like, corsets or girdles or something, and then even worse when he started explaining to me how the San Francisco Mayor (London Breed) was actually a yoga lady from Marin (untrue) who was also Donald Trump’s cousin and who had once yelled at him over the phone and then went to jail for it. I was like, Uhhhhh hmmmm! and nodded along only commenting when he pressed me that I had no idea who Trump’s cousins might be or anything about them. Our conversation went OK for a while but then as the brick loading into my car continued he suddenly started throwing the bricks in (on top of my scooter, which, uncool and also it chipped the bricks) and getting very loud and red faced yelling about how the Mayor had thrown some bricks right at Trump’s face because she was just so ANGRY about THROWING BRICKS! This got disturbing but he was nearly done and I didn’t want to make any waves. So, he finished up, I tipped him, and drove off thinking that it is good that he has a job. Whew.

On the other side at home it became swiftly clear to me that I could not really carry a giant brick to the back patio even once so I pressed Ada into service. She had just been saying she planned to exercise and lift weights. “Hiiiiii you know how you were going to lift weights? Well what if they were BRICKS and you could also get PAID.” Obligingly she wore some work gloves and learned how to operate a hand truck as I painted a rosy future where she becomes a falconer on some land in the mountains somewhere and needs to know how to build an aerie out of cinderblocks! (Not needed to persuade, and not persuasive, but I can’t resist spinning a line of bullshit, and who knows maybe it will someday be true!)

Today I got her dungeons and dragons group to help move the bricks onto an old sheet, spreading them out for painting. I put a layer of primer on them & then went to writing group meetup and back to the hardware store for spray paint. Who should unlock the paint for me but our friend of the story about the mayor! He was more restrained today. I got 6 colors of paint figuring we could paint the blocks all different colors.

The D&D players enjoyed the brick spray painting I think. We started out doing solid color block faces and then ended up with stripes, spots, all sorts of weird patterns. It’s going to be fun to pick which ones are most visible in the bench construction.

spray painting cinderblocks

Lowe’s is going to deliver the six 8 foot long 4x4s (when? no way to fucking know!?) and I really hope it is not the brick throwing guy driving the truck. I liked him, and was cool with his stream of consciousness, but I also ended up feeling a bit unnerved by his yelling and roughness.

OK, so, then there will be 4 blocks on either side as the base, 8 really, but the seat will be 4 times 8 inches so 32″ deep. I have a very thick cushion coming from Amazon that is 30″ deep and 70″ long, which I hope will work out OK. I haven’t worked out exactly what I want to use for the bench back, yet. The extra 10 inches of bench will have another rectangular pillow of the same thickness and then maybe a wedge bolster on either end (also not sure what will work till I build it.) And, I have two 2′ by 4′ plywood sheets also being delivered with the beams, in case I need them as the base under the foam cushions.

This all made me ridiculously happy. It’s fun to think about & plan and I am excited to see how it will end up. If it isn’t useful or comfortable then maybe I’ll have to buy a real couch. Ideally this will work though and it can be a comfortable spot on the patio for me to lie flat while working. And it should be big enough for me and Danny to both lie on it as we do on the living room couch!

Some ideas on self-care, interdependence, and caring for others

On self-care and care for others. I keep returning to the thought of care and interdependence. By caring for myself, I am modeling for others how to care for themselves. When I am cleaning up the environment or making some food or thinking ahead to make my lunch for the next day, I can do it while thinking of those actions as loving self care, and I can extend that to others as well (especially as a parent). That sounds simple, but in practice I don’t find it to be so easy. There is also a place in life for self indulgence: I feel bad, I had a stressful day, so therefore I will get some ice cream and huddle in the blankets and play video games. (Or, weirder than that, the idea that you go get a manicure or something….) That can be part of self-care but it shouldn’t be mistaken for all the work of care, which is 99% maintenance and chores. And who hasn’t had the thought, “Oh, god, here I am slogging through this work again, doing the dishes (or whatever) and then it will need to be done all over again!” and just brushing your teeth feels like this dreary sisyphean task. I have had very good luck practicing the work of transmuting maintenance and care, you could even call it service work, into love or doing it in a spirit of kindness to one’s self. If you have had the experience of trying to do those things, and getting abuse as a result (not doing it well enough, or right, being scorned, mocked, yelled at, or punished, for example) then it is even harder. I have to bite back my thoughts and words (Can’t you even ____?! Can’t you just???! ) A little patience is so useful. (With myself or with, well, teenagers). If a person is feeling depressed and anxious, they need more care, done in a good spirit, and to me, it honestly felt revolutionary to see that, and say outright, “You’re feeling so bad, let me take care of you, it’s ok to feel sad and ask for care from friends and family… and… we can figure out what can you do to take good care of yourself too” And then make some healthy dinner and dig them out from chaos. Because, what I’d expect myself when I was a kid was that my sad feelings and need of care would result in others being angry with me. Danny has pointed out to me over the years that my family’s ultimate insult is to call someone a baby. Don’t be a baby! What a baby! What does it mean to be a baby, in this family language? It means to need help or care. That’s a sad subtext that I want to correct.

Occasionally as an adult in the world I get a feeling of surprise care and humanity where I didn’t expect it. Like, I was moved nearly to tears when someone came round the grocery checkout and offered without fuss to put the grocery bag handles on the back of my wheelchair. She settled it carefully with the handles criss crossed just the way I do it myself, with out jolting me or doing anything strange (either she knows someone well who is a wheelchair user, or she just notices) and she made eye contact first – I can’t remember if she asked outright but we had a eye contact and body language interchange that was essentially asking and consent. True access intimacy. How rare and precious that simple interaction is. All our help and care for others should be in that spirit as well.

Web Conference

I went to half a day of Web4All, part of The Web Conference. Good talks and demos & I enjoyed meeting people! More after I go to the 2nd day of the conference tomorrow.

Meanwhile – this weekend – I hung up a section of rain gutter alongside the house & planted flowers in it. Too tired to write much. It was very satisfying to figure out how make this strange planter and hang it up properly.

Points of reference

I tried to hire someone today to take some dusty mildewed patio furniture cushions to the laundromat and wash them. I always feel very apologetic that I don’t just do this kind of work myself (though I mostly do) so I’m like, well I don’t walk super well and it’s bulky so I’d appreciate help. The woman (OK… in my mind “girl” because everyone under 30 now seems indistinguishable from a 16 year old, so I just want to protect them, the sweet babies! but must remember they are totally grownups) shows up in kind of nice office worker clothes complete with adorable little pumps, the kind with little brass chains across the front, and a pencil skirt, and she pets our cat for a bit and then we head outside.

I’m already worried it’s too messy for her to cope with. So I start putting giant cushions into a bag for her so she won’t have to touch them because I’m sensing suddenly that they are DIRTY (??) and then she screams!!!! OMG!!!! SPIDER!!!! and goes into full “eek” body language mode. I’m standing there holding the pillows like …. ????? SPIDER!!! RIGHT THERE! IT’s HUGE~!!! WATCH OUT!

OK so I flick the spider off the pillow onto the patio and she screams again and jumps back.

“I’m so sorry! I don’t… I didn’t think! I just… SPIDERS!! Do you think… there could be MORE SPIDERS. IN THERE. OH GOD I CAN’T”

“It’s OK. We can’t help our phobias. I totally understand. Will it help if I just cancel the task so it doesn’t make you look bad?”

“Maybe if you just… like don’t say it was because of… OH GOD I’m SO SO SORRY Maybe you should say in the task THERE MIGHT BE, you know, SPIDERS OH GOD OH GOD”

“Yeah. OK let’s go back inside. I probably should have called it ‘yard work’ not ‘laundry’, now that I think about it.”

This is how I just went from helpless cripple to gaining about 9 million butch points. Go, me! I am as a rugged, backyard lumberjack, flicking spiders across the patio with the ease and panache of Bilbo Baggins on meth!

New plan, I will wash the smaller cushions and cushion covers in our washer and then figure out how to get the big cushions to the laundromat myself!

Familiarity

It’s so nice, and comforting, to be with familiar people who you’ve known a long time. They may be very different from when you knew them in other phases of your life but it’s a good feeling.

I was just saying to yatima today that I’m glad we have known each other in this time of our lives through our 40s raising children. Thinking about that a bunch tonight, in general (also because I was thinking about this kind of thing, and long relationships, knowing people for a long time, for the APAzine I am part of). I have had a very lucky time in life in general.

Today I worked more on my sidewalk tree and repotting some plants, wrote a little bit, checked up on work, went to Oakland, met up with a nice writing group, came back to Danny making a whole lot of nice food for the week. Ada came back from Eastover with abomination bunnies (melted and weirded up chocolate rabbits with like, 6 eyes and 2 heads) and Danny and I watched Game of Thrones. Fittingly for my train of thought they were all having meaningful buddy conversations. (In Winterfell just before the Enormous Horrible Battle with the Dead.)

Cautious swim and gardening

I went for a very short swim today, 15-20 minutes of slow coasting and walking back and forth in the little pool without lap lanes. Trying to keep it super low key to not re-injure myself. Somehow, I lost the waterproof ipod shuffle! ARRGH! But, meanwhile, I have a new swim cap which is just great – I thought of them as horrible but the silicone kind are very comfortable & this one keeps the water out of my ears which is unexpectedly nice.

Meanwhile, more boring news!

I’m planting some little things in the garden – Luckily I did all the weeding and cleaning out last month so it was super easy. I have some seeds planted & seedlings in pots which will get transplanted in a week or two. The container plants (mostly succulents and herbs but some flowers) are maybe 1/4 cleaned up so there is a lot of work still left to do for the spring!

Garden is roughly as follows,

Part shade but bright noon sun at side of house, long narrow strips – Vinca and violets are doing well. Mint and rosemary also not so bad. I tore out most of the nasturtiums but have some of them going up to the front porch. The african daisies that are too big for that spot are mostly gone but I’ve kept 3 of them. Considering even more drastic pruning to get them to grow very tall and narrow.

Back patio – containers are a mess but the worm bin is newly tidy and has a new batch of worms. I’m thinking about consolidating various pots of different colored aeoniums into one or two huge pots. One of them is about to have an enormous spikey flower. Parsley and oregano is going strong. Avocado trees are a bit neglected – I’m considering repotting them into the wooden barrels.

Front porch – mostly succuents. Flowers: lobelia, bachelors button seedlings, one of those solid black pansys, geraniums seem to be gathering strength. I have a tall fuschia at the bottom of the steps that maybe doesn’t get enough sun to flower so I’m thinking of moving it to the back yard.

Sidewalk tree – It has a janky assortment of salvias, a jade plant, some tiny ice plant, sickly nasturiums. Planning to clean out the leaves and trash from under there, dump in some more dirt and mulch, and maybe put hardier things there (more jade plants and aeonium, I guess). Hard to keep it watered all summer!

I wish I had a consistently sunny spot and a fruit tree, but I do love my weird random assortment of experimental plants!