the weathering effect of inner grousing

I’m starting this on Saturday, October 17, a day proclaimed by the organization Vote Forward as “The Big Send.” I, along with many, many others, have been writing short, inspirational (we hope) messages about why we vote on letters we have printed out. Each of the letters has been placed in a hand-addressed envelope, stamped and now sent to a low-propensity voter in battleground states around the country. Who knows how many letters were dropped in mailboxes today — in the millions, I’m guessing. It was tedious work, but gave my nervous energy about the election a focus for the hours it took. Now we wait, and hope.

I didn’t realize it had been a month since I last posted. The letters took a fair amount of time, and I know that some days in there felt crazy busy, but I don’t remember what I was doing. One thing I do remember doing (because I’m still doing it) is eating just about anything I feel like eating. This started (at least this instance of it started) while we were in Flagstaff the third week of September. I was surprised to find when we returned that I had not gained weight — so all bets were off. I have as a consequence been developing a fat deposit on my front side. I remind myself of an untrimmed brisket, but unlike with brisket, there’s no way to simply have a butcher slice off that layer. This is not my typical pattern of weight gain. The phrase “I’m acquiring a following” has often run through my mind when I put on pounds. Oh well, it’s a pandemic, right? I have often cooked briskets for Hanukkah dinners and have used both trimmed and untrimmed; the latter is much more succulent. Thus, I console myself. If cannibals were to catch me, I would provide them with several delicious meals.

In other news, I had another instance of what my kids Sam and Katie have dubbed “benign idiopathic chimp face” the first weekend of October. My first blog post in July, an inauspicious start, chronicled the first time it happened, and this was pretty much exactly the same. I was assured by Sam, who might as well have a degree in entomology, that attributing it to a spider bite was ludicrous: “Spiders have no reason to bite humans; they are not bloodsuckers, and are not aware of our existence in any case.” [See this source for more information.] When I contacted my doctor, he agreed and since it has now happened twice, he referred me for allergy testing. That’s tomorrow. . . we’ll see.

So, inner grousing. I have had a post on the back burner for a while about people mispronouncing or speaking ungrammatically. For example, when I hear a podcaster say “ek cetera” for “et cetera” (which seems to have become pervasive), or “a huge amount of people” for “a huge number of people,” I verbally correct them, despairing that the rules I learned and follow compulsively are so contemptuously ignored. I’ve been holding off on finishing and publishing the post, tentatively titled “misspoken words that delight/incite me,” because when I think too much or write about the examples that “incite” me, I get irrationally smug and self-righteous. In my better moments, I can see my pedantry as ridiculously laughable, but when I dwell on it long enough to write a blog post about it, I get on a metaphorical soapbox and end up tapping into an elitist, condescending, judgmental headspace that nauseates me. I’ve never considered William F. Buckley to be a role model, so when I get a whiff of his superciliousness in my own thoughts, it gives me pause.

Ruffed Grouse, Algonquin, Ontario There doesn’t seem to be any consensus about how the name of this “gallinaceous bird of the subfamily Tetraoninae” came into use as a slang verb for complain, but its synonyms include kvetch, carp, and fret, so it fits.

Today, I became aware that a subconscious running commentary of dissatisfaction is going on in my brain on a daily, even hourly basis, despite my extremely fortunate circumstances. It’s not just my habit of invariably noting others’ ignorance of “the correct way to speak” (hence sometimes losing the thread of what they’re talking about); there are other triggers as well. When my calendar is anything but completely clear, even when the events scheduled are mostly ones I will enjoy, I tend to see each committed block of time as a curb on my freedom. [I don’t, by the way, see wearing a mask as one, I assure you.] There are times when I enjoy getting busy and checking items off my to-do list, but all too often, each task weighs on me and I procrastinate. It’s not that I truly put them aside and forget about them; they are always nudging at, almost mocking me. Again, let me stress that this has been, until now, going on at a subconscious level, but I see now how it keeps me from relaxing and enjoying myself.

My thoughts are, and have been since I learned to speak, composed of words, not images. Maybe that’s true of everyone? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what. . . this particular kind of self-talk is exhausting. I wrote a post a while back about growing accustomed to my face. I felt self-conscious about spending that amount of time looking at and including photos of myself, but doing so and writing about it had the effect of desensitizing me, turning down the volume on my constant self-criticism. I can now see myself in Zoom and mirrors and not feel critical, not even pay that much attention, because I know and accept what I look like — this is kind of a miracle. I’m hoping that bringing my inner grousing to a conscious level will do something similar. If I can finish and publish the “misspoken words” post with a lighter touch, I’ll know it has worked.

what it’s like to teach online and in person at the same time

As you’ll see in the “from the mouths. . .” section below, I’m still tutoring a couple of long-time students. Bruce, the one mentioned below, is doing assignments for his under-challenging online school quite well without me, so I’m planning my own curriculum to help him catch up. I’m enjoying seeing him so much, even on Zoom. The other student, Mason, is now doing “hybrid” school, part online, part in person, which must be a nightmare for teachers. I find Schoology, the platform that his school is using, to be very confusing, but the technology allows teachers to post assignments to their virtual students and for the kids to submit them even when they’re not seeing each other in person. Can you even imagine how hard the teachers are having to work to make all this happen? This analogy goes some way towards giving us a sense of the challenge.

Klezmer music

I subscribe to a newspaper for kids, Newsela, and recently chose this article to read with my student, Bruce. It’s about a cellist named Jodi Beder who has been offering front porch recitals during the pandemic. As often happens, it sent me into a rabbit hole that led me to the discovery of a wonderful Klezmer ensemble, the Classic Klezmer Trio, composed of violin, cello and accordion. Here’s their performance of the soulful “Der Gasn Nigun.” And here’s the more upbeat, exciting Shalom Alechem from the Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra Live. I need to listen to more MUSIC, fewer words!

old film footage “DeOldified”

Here is some footage of an 1896 snowball fight, modernized and colorized with a soundtrack added. There are many more examples of old footage from all over the world. Be sure and click the speaker icon on each to hear the sound. It’s magic! If you like these and are on Twitter, you might want to follow Joaquim Campa (@joaquimcampa) and Jason Antic (@citnaj), creator of DeOldify. Good name.

from the mouths (and pencils) of kids

A bit of background for those who have never taught beginning reading: Many little ones can recite the alphabet and recognize capital letters, but they assume that the name of a letter is a clue to the sound it makes in words. This is true for some letters, (e.g. B, D, P, T), but the names of the letters C, G, H, W and Y do not give a clue to their primary sound.
Adam, now a fourth-grader, came for tutoring when he was in first grade. He had mostly learned letter sounds, but occasionally lapsed into relying on the letter name when attempting to sound out words. Early in the year, he brought in a spelling list of silent-e words (e.g. mile, gate, like, etc.). We had analyzed the effect of the silent e on the previous vowel in each of them, studied the words, and near the end of the session, just to change it up a bit, I told him I would give him the initial letter and a clue to each word, then he would guess the word and write it on the whiteboard.
So, I said, “This word starts with G. If you were in the backyard and wanted to leave, but the house was locked, you would look for a…”
Adam was very puzzled, thought for a few moments, then said, “A jainsaw?”

I really enjoyed this puzzle, even though I suddenly flailed out one arm to gesticulate while speaking and spilled water on it when I was halfway through. The wet pieces (fortunately only 20 or so) immediately separated into paper-thin layers. It took some work to figure out which layers matched and to glue them enough of them back together to finish. Memorable experience. I don’t allow beverages to be placed on pianos, and from now on, near puzzles either!

One comment

  1. Hope your allergic reaction goes away. A swollen face is the worst. I once had some dental work done and my mouth blew up to the point I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. It’s amazing how even a small change can alter the human face.

    Your brisket analogy made me laugh. I have a good friend who is a lawyer and she is always saying we should try this and that for weight loss. Her latest was the Cool Sculpting. I told her no way was I doing that because it can cause damage to internal organs. She said (correctly) that she doubted men would be checking out our internal organs. A few months later, I read about a case in which the Cool Sculpting injuries were severe abdominal burns on the outside. There were photos and I forwarded them to my friend. She wrote back, “Yeah, yeah, yeah but what I want to know is – how much weight did she lose?”

    Thus far, I’ve avoided Cool Sculpting.

    But it reminds me that pre-pandemic, my group of girlfriends, including this same friend, were finishing Happy Hour. One woman had gone to the restroom. We were waiting for her when my friend noticed a man staring at us.

    “He’s checking you out,” my friend said.

    I looked over. “No, I think he’s looking at you,” I told her. “What do you think?” I asked our third friend.

    “He’s definitely staring,” she said.

    Just then, our final friend returned and asked what the hell we were doing.

    “That good-looking man,” I nodded in his direction, “is checking us out!”

    She looked over, looked back at us, and laughed. “He’s about 35, and he’s waiting for our bar table.”

    She was right.

    Bill & I are just back from San Diego where we hung out at the beach with the grandkids. I had time to think, and while I’ve been exercising quite a bit during the pandemic, I haven’t been paying too much attention to what I’ve eaten. I am going to start, though, not because I need men checking me out, but because getting sick scares me, and I think the better shape I’m in, the better equipped I’ll be to fight off viruses. Such drastic measures; such scary times. Thanks for sharing your battles with us, Susan. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

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