I Did Nothing

Hooray for the weekend.

I woke up feeling stressed again. It's a feeling like I'm not doing enough, and/or like I have too much to do.
In this annoyed mood I got started on the brown sugar spice oatmeal bread.

Everything went fine until it was time to incorporate the cooked oats, cinnamon and sugar. The dough was too tight for these ingredients to incorporate properly, so I ended up with a big mess of ropey dough and oats just everywhere. Irritated, I dumped it in my rising bowl and left it alone for 90 minutes, during which time I went to get a car wash, vacuumed the car, and visited our gym to see what their policies are on mask-wearing, cleaning, etc. Our gym is big with high ceilings and lots of floor space, so I think what they're doing is acceptable (masks optional, everyone gets their own cleaning bottle and towel, they clean extra and use UV lights on stuff, reduced class sizes, etc). I'll probably wait until after my family visit in June, but after that it's back to the gym, twice a week minimum.

After that I stopped at Lowe's for cowpea seeds since it's getting too hot for much else to grow, then came home to throw them in the dirt and check on the bread. The dough was a lot more loose, having risen a bit, so I worked the rest of the oats and brown sugar in and it went a little better. I left the dough to rise for the remainder of the time, not sure if having interrupted the rise will affect the finished loaf.

After lunch I dumped the dough out to shape it and it's very wet, a lot of extra moisture from those oats. Somehow I manhandled it into a loaf pan where it rose for another hour or so. During that time Jameson played virtual games with his friends, and I tried to relax with some stupid youtube videos, listening to the thunder outside and hoping it would rain (in Florida, thunder does NOT always mean it's going to rain.)

It did rain, and the rain was wonderful and sorely needed.

My bread was a disaster. It partially deflated, and when I cut it open it was heavy and still too wet inside.

I'd thought I did everything "right" except for incorporating the oats poorly, so figured they hadn't distributed well and had caused pockets of density.
What ACTUALLY happened, as I found out from author Bonnie O'Hara herself, is that I measured the oats DRY.
Reading her descriptive paragraph (which I had done but without, like, actually THINKING about what I was reading), she explains that this bread came about in an attempt to use up PRE-COOKED oatmeal that she had made for her family for the week. In other words, the oats need to be weighted AFTER cooking.


I'm sure this seems obvious, but to me it was not so obvious while reading the instructions (before having my morning coffee I should note).

The other thing is how difficult it was to incorporate the oats as a separate thing from the main dough.
After doing some research online, it seems that most "leftover oatmeal bread" recipes have you include the oats in the initial dough-mixing process. My plan now is to weigh the COOKED oats, add them along with all of the other dough ingredients, and then add the brown sugar and cinnamon during the kneading process. Hopefully that'll solve that problem.

After that disappointment I had steno class, which went as well as it could. Then I made the cooked oats so they'll be ready for tomorrow, and chilled for a few hours while Jameson played the new Resident Evil game.

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Just Weekday Stuff

Friday and Saturday were the usual junk: work, eat, steno, sleep.

There is still not enough coverage at work for us to get our work-from-home back. I'm sorely disappointed. But they are still trying to give us one day per week for now. My assigned day, supposing no one calls out pretending to be sick, is Tuesday. I'm grateful to at least get one day.

Jameson is performing at Disney for several nights this week so I generally get the house to myself after 6 or 7pm.
Not like I use the time to do anything special. I prep things for work, practice steno, and go to bed.
I'm also practicing trombone a little because I was asked to fill in on an upcoming benefit concert.

I haven't played a single note since before the pandemic started. Probably about two years.

Picking up the trombone made me cringe in anticipation of what I'd sound like. Some noob middle schooler, no doubt.
But actually, it wasn't as bad as I thought. I guess 20 years of calling myself a "professional" outweighs a few years of pretending the trombone doesn't exist. It does make me feel sad to play, though, and somewhat emotional. This was something that I used to love, and now I avoid it as much as possible. I poured so much of my heart and soul into performing. And no one gave a shit. I was never good enough, or I never put out enough, take your pick, but either way that dream died on the vine.

Well, it died with the circus. Because apparently I'm some sort of evil animal abuser by association.
Never mind that I worked and lived with those animals for FIVE YEARS. People who've never even been to a circus saw a 3-minute edited youtube video and now they're all The Experts. Ok, wait, stop, I've got to stop right there or I'll be seething for the rest of this post.

This week is the anniversary of the circus closing. And clearly that wound is not healed and I doubt it ever will be.

Anyway, I played the trombone for a few minutes each night, and I've practiced more steno than usual this week but still not enough to meet the minimum standards set by my school. I just am not understanding how people are getting ten hours of non-class steno practice each week, especially since the program we're using only accounts for time spent typing IN the program, not editing the transcript or adding to the dictionary or anything. For each hour I put in about 30 minutes are counted toward my total, and it's incredibly demoralizing.

Maybe I'm just not dedicated enough. Or maybe I've learned from my years as a musician that locking myself in a practice room for hours is just not all that helpful.

Honestly it's been stressing me out all week. This was my first serious, dedicated attempt at reaching the weekly goal, and I barely got five hours, much less ten. And that's just with my normal weekday stuff...no cooking, baking, gardening, or outings. Just work, eating, steno, sleeping. I just don't get it. And I'm NOT going to spend my days off practicing 10 hours of steno each day in order to get five hours "that count" to meet the goal. F*ck RIGHT off with that thought.

I didn't get to practice steno on Saturday night because my sister called and it's been months since we've talked. We're both visiting our parents in June, and she wanted to plan things out a little bit. I'm driving up, she'll have to fly. She's bringing her kids, of course, so we're trying to figure out where they'll stay and how they'll get around. It was great to catch up with her :)

After that I cut up the tomato from my garden. It looked great.

I toasted a ciabatta and spread it with pesto, then layered it with the tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil from my garden, and balsamic vinegar (too lazy to make the thickened syrupy version). Caprese sandwiches are SO GOOD. And tomatoes and herbs taste better when you grow them yourself.

On Sunday I woke up feeling stressed, no particular reason. Work was fairly chill, but near the end of the day I noticed a captionist on a long and difficult call, and her audio sounded like she was falling asleep and her quality was dropping. So I popped over to her cubicle to remind her to maintain her captioning voice, and to suggest she take a little break when she reached our minimum call handling requirement (10 minutes). She seemed ok with that, but as soon as I got back to my desk I got a supervisor notification from her, so I went back. She then proceeded to tell me I was "rude" for coaching her, and complained that calls had been non-stop all day long.

I was taken aback, but simply said, it's Mother's Day. Of course there are going to be a lot of calls back to back, people are calling their moms. I glanced at her clock and saw that she was past her ten minutes, so suggested that she take a break. She responded by sarcastically asking if there would be fewer calls when she came back, and went on to bitch about how rude I am again, etc etc. At this point I would have LOVED to have a nice refreshing cat fight, but being obligated to follow the social construct I couldn't do that. So instead I told her that if she wasn't feeling up to captioning today, she could clock out and go home. Would she be penalized for that, she wanted to know? I don't know, I replied, you'd have to ask your actual supervisor.

She turned her back on me and said, "I'm done with this conversation. I have to finish this call."
I said, "Please speak to HR if you have a problem with your work or with me," and left to go file an incident report.
I hope she does talk to HR. Although I also pity HR for having to talk to her, and then probably me, before issuing her a policy violation.
The job is literally captioning phone calls. I don't know what else this chick expects to be doing during her workday.

As icing on the cake, there was yet another "Unionize!" flyer stuck to my car today when I left work.

I think every person working here needs to spend a month employed by Walmart, McDonald's, or any gas station before they even think to complain about sitting in an air conditioned cubicle, getting paid to read and knit and study their schoolwork while captioning calls for the hearing impared. This captionist losing her absolute mind today because she had to actually do her job (which requires almost zero effort on her part) absolutely blows me away. It's really difficult to be empathetic when people whinge about the minimal work that they're asked to do. Fortunately we'll all be replaced by software at some point, and she'll have to go complain somewhere else. Byeeeeeee

Back home I got to see Jameson for a few minutes before he left on another performance. I made myself another caprese (so good!) and immediately did a 90-minute steno session, including two tests. And how much time gets added to my total for the week? 30 minutes.

I give up.

Then I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed to work off some frustration, then made a grocery list. Jameson came home late, and we tried to sleep. Neither of us has gotten much sleep this week.

Monday felt good because I knew I'd be working from home on Tuesday. It was also extremely slow, a post-Mother's Day lag, I guess. I had all of my work done around noon and resolved to leave early so I could relax a little, eat dinner, and get to steno class on time. Turns out class was cancelled because my teacher had a family emergency (hope she's ok), so in addition to an hour of steno practice I did a load of laundry, watered my plants, researched jobs, and had a look at the music for this gig which someone kindly dropped off to me this afternoon. Jameson returned from rehearsal at some point, and we watched Grey's Anatomy before falling asleep.

Tuesday, work from home! Yay! I got a little extra sleep and got to enjoy my coffee in a mug.
I was also a Bad Person and when there were lulls between calls, practiced steno. I didn't want to use the scripts we're given from class today, just didn't feel like it, so used some short stories from the 1900s instead. That was fun, lots of strange words and poetic descriptions that are unlikely to be useful in a courtroom but at least kept me engaged. Doing little snippets between chunks of work got me one whole hour of practice! I'll have to do that more often.

When work was done I drove to a nearby Greek place for dinner and brought it back to Jameson, and we watched a documentary on Blockbuster Video together. I worked for Blockbuster for a short time, and before that, Family Video. The documentary was informative and nostalgic.

When Jameson left for rehearsal I made us some tuna salad for the week, ran the dishwasher and prepared my breadmaking materials for tomorrow (food scale, bowls, flour, etc). I spent a little time in the garden and was glad I did, because apparently passion fruits have been dropping and I didn't even know! I realized it because I smelled one, they have a very distinctive smell. I followed the scent until I found the little half-purple fruit lying in the weeds, and several more alongside it. Not sure how they will be on the inside, but these are small fruits, about half the size of what I hope will be my main crop, so they should be a good indicator of what to expect from the larger fruits.

I dug up pretty much everything in the large planter as well: two golden beets, a carrot, and the lettuce. The lettuce has brown spots this time and is not edible. The carrot actually looks like a carrot, but it was way too woody to eat. And the beets actually looked pretty good, but I let them go too long and as a result they had split underground. It's too hot for them anyway, I need to follow the Florida gardening calendar more closely. On that note, I may pick up some black-eyed pea seeds this weekend as they're one of like three veggies that will actually grow in the Florida summer heat.

Then it was time for a relaxing shower, a big glass of wine, and researching sourdough starters because the last chapter in my lesson book is all about sourdough. There's still a lot of time before I reach the end of the book, but I know starters take a while to get going so I might try to start one before I get there.

Tomorrow starts the weekend. I have no special plans, other than making a brown sugar spiced oatmeal loaf, putting topsoil around the plants in the pollinator garden, and practicing steno and trombone.

Questions, Questions

Stolen from spacefem

What have you done lately for improving or maintaining your mental health? What more would you like to do?

The obvious ones are gardening and baking. The gardening teaches me not only how to grow things and how to interact with nature in a beneficial way, but also how to accept that there are some things I will never be able to understand, and lots of things that I cannot control. And that's ok. The baking teaches me self-patience as well as general patience, and pacing, in order for the bread to come out right.

I would like to exercise regularly again, hopefully soon thanks to full vaccination. It would also boost my own mental health a great deal to have my boyfriend find fulfillment and become a happy person again.

When did you last eat something specifically because it was good for you?
Every day. 25% of the calories I take in are protein, and that's not because I enjoy protein. My body demands it. The ONLY reason I've kept the same weight and shape for a year and a half, without exercise, is because every day I specifically eat things that are good for me whether I want to or not.

Super-specifically, I eat a lot of oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice. I love fruit so that's easy. I dislike most veggies but always make sure to have at least 2-3 servings per day with lunch and dinner. I eat fish every week, and low fat Greek yogurt, and egg whites, and chicken. Beans hurt my guts very much so I avoid those, but I eat flax and nuts and seeds and edamame. I use Ripple pea milk instead of cow milk. And I make sure to eat chocolate every day because it IS good for me dammit! It's a must-have!

These days, what are you learning about, and what would you like to learn about next?
Learning about steno. To the point that I'm listening to the radio and steno-ing it in my head.
And learning bread baking, clearly.

What’s positive about your physical appearance lately?
The thing I really appreciate is that my body held itself together during this pandemic. No "quarantine 15" over here. I'd like to thank my genetics, which help me when I don't help myself, and my self-discipline, which I got from years of being a professional musician.

What will you do this weekend to bring joy into your life and a smile to someone else?
I will post pictures of my stupid life. Some people don't have a garden, or the time to bake bread. I know it's a gift and I want to appreciate it by sharing photos, to maybe give a little comfort to someone, and remind people that the 9 to 5 is not all there is, the things that make their hearts warm are not to be found in work or even in other people sometimes.

As for bringing joy into MY life, the bread baking gives me joy right now, and not much else.

Going Full Vax

Welp. Here I am MAY the FOURTH. Be with you. I guess.

I'm not a Star Wars "fan", but enjoyed the movies. I even liked the "new" movies, though they get a lot of popular criticism for JarJar and other factors. That doesn't change that there's beautiful cinematography, and an OK storyline. And an absolutely bangin' soundtrack, which is actually what I love about the series.

Anyway, I woke up earlier than usual on a day that I wouldn't normally have off, all to get my second covid shot.
I had prepared to the best of my ability: did all of my weekly chores, stocked some bland foods in case I have nausea again, planned to only cook dinner tonight and none of the other nights, and warned my steno teacher that I may not be there Wednesday night if I start experiencing symptoms. Last time it hit me in the middle of the night on Wednesday, but this time I'm getting the shot several hours earlier and also, who can predict what one's body will do? It could lay me out today instead of Thursday (which would actually be more convenient). We'll just have to wait and see.

But in the meantime I had a nice breakfast and felt nervous for a bit, and then got dressed and drove 30 minutes to the clinic.
It was a lot more chaotic than when I got the first shot, but still, fairly organized and everyone was polite and helpful. The poor nurse trying to administer my shot couldn't get my account to pull up for some reason and had to enlist help, which increased my anxiety a great deal (I have a strong fight-or-flight response to shots and waiting/allowing time for psyching myself out does NOT help) but I tried to think about her struggles instead of my fear, and of my sister who has had multiple surgeries, and my other sister who has had two children. I can at least take one shot. Even if I have a panic attack, even if I pass out, those are both only temporary reactions that will come and go, nothing life-threatening and no reason not to get vaccinated. Such is what I tell myself as I'm sitting there sweating and trying not to freak out.

Finally she got my stuff figured out and gave me the shot. I was relieved and sat quietly for the 15 minutes, then shot right out the door because the clock was now ticking for when symptoms would begin. And might I add, I'm very pleased that this is the second shot I've gotten in a row without getting faint or having a panic attack. Awesome! Take that, stupid brain!

I stopped at Target on the way home for a refill of the VERY effective shower spray that lookfar introduced me to, then went straight home where I immediately got to work on this week's bread: Kindergarten Honey Wheat!

This can be made as loaves or as rolls, I decided to try rolls in order to practice separating dough and shaping it.
The reason the author calls it "kindergarten" bread is because this is the dough she gave her kindergarten class to play with and then bake. If a bunch of snotty little kids can make it, so can I, right?

Right! I was very pleased with how these turned out. The dough was a 50/50 AP flour/wheat flour split, with a beautiful egg wash. The rolls came out soft and light (as light as red wheat flour gets anyway) and slightly sweet, downright delicious. I couldn't help but think about my first attempt at wheat bread by comparison; it was edible, but it was a BRICK. Looking at these rolls, I can see that I've learned a lot, and that was very satisfying.

As the dough for those was rising and proofing and all of that, I scooted out into the garden in the 93 degree heat to rescue my milkweed. I've had this potted milkweed out there for like two weeks, and it's dying because it's drying out in the pots. We've had very little rain and a lot of my plants are suffering. I had bought topsoil to try and fight off erosion, but feeling tired and not ready to move mountains of soil I decided to just get the milkweed in the ground for now and worry about laying down the new dirt later. Everyone got planted and watered.

I harvested our first large tomato, it looks really nice!

I want to make caprese sandwiches with it because the basil is finally starting to come up too. Man, what is it about basil that looks just so FRESH and GOOD.

My dill "tree" on the other hand, is getting ready to bolt (bloom flowers, drop seeds and die). This is the best I've ever gotten dill to grow so I'm sad, but also looking forward to attempting to grow from seed in the fall when it's cooler.

Most everything else is just existing for now, I got a few more jalapenos, the passion fruits aren't ready yet, the strawberries are not producing, the lemon tree is pissed at life and I don't blame it, it's damn hot out.

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"It's Gonna Be May" (had to do it)

Friday: back to work. I woke up dreading the whole day because I was afraid to mess up in training, and I was afraid of what my steno teacher would say to me when I logged in to meet with her after work.

Like with most things in my life, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Training was just fine, I did exactly what I was supposed to do for the most part and had help when I needed it. Everyone has been so helpful, I really like all of the people who work in that department. They're patient and very good at what they do, so I want to try and emulate them very much. Today was probably my last day helping out for a while, and I'm glad it went well.

During my lunch break I went outside to take my usual lap around the building. I was texting my sister while walking, and I heard this weird slapping sound. Looking up, I saw a softshell turtle plodding at full speed across the hot parking lot, his little webbed feet slapping the pavement and making the weird sound. It was 90 degrees out, and he would book it for a few feet and then stop to rest, book it and stop, probably hot and possibly in pain from the hot blacktop. I walked over to him and he tucked his head into his shell a little, but when I didn't do anything he actually stuck his head back out and looked me over, pretty bold for a turtle in my experience.

I later learned that this type of turtle is just as aggressive as a snapping turtle, and can also do some damage with its bite. Not having much experience with softshells but knowing they have super long necks, I went around to his back end and picked him up gently on either side of his shell. It felt like slightly sticky leather. Softshell turtles are weird.

When he didn't try to bite or react aggressively, I looked to see where he had been headed. It was obvious he was trying to get to the lake across the lot and across a short strip of grass. So that's where I took him. We walked across the parking lot, and he didn't pee or try to bite or squirm as usually happens when a turtle is picked up, and kept his head out to see what was happening. When we got to the grass he started pedaling his legs and actually stuck his head out even further (DANG they have long necks!) So I didn't take him all the way to the lake, but set him gently on the grass. He sat there for a moment, then headed off toward the lake. It was cool to see this type of turtle up close, and hopefully I helped him to not get run over or overheated on his way to wherever.

After work I went home, had dinner with Jameson, opened my mail and found my glorious new mousepad which I ordered from Etsy.
It's TOTALLY RAD, wouldn't you agree?

Yep, I'm old. And I don't care. VHS was life.

I reluctantly signed on to wait for my teacher, doing some steno practice while I waited. She signed on a few moments later, and after checking my settings and observing me going through my practice routine, made suggestions for how I can avoid some of the technical issues I've been having. She also gave me a new method of practice within our school program that will allow me to log hours across different programs, something that apparently was given out at the start of the semester but since I was a transfer I'd missed out. That alone will make a HUGE difference to my practice time! So often I've wondered how the heck people are getting 10 hours per week when they can "only" use our school program, well because they were NOT only using our school program, they had the ability to log hours elsewhere! Argh!

Well now I have it so that should be helpful.
She didn't even say anything about me needing to practice more. I was so grateful for that. I already criticize myself enough, I don't need any more outside criticism, promise.

Saturday, back to my regular supervisor work. It was a fairly relaxed day, nothing to report.
At home I did some cleaning, figuring if I get my second shot and feel like shit I won't want to be scrubbing a toilet.
I also started soaking some sweet rice overnight, to hopefully make mango sticky rice. It seems easy enough to make.

Sunday, work was pretty chill. Then back home we had Greek takeout, and I made the sticky rice.
Somehow it was oversaturated, I think because I forgot to account for the extra water in the bottom of the steamer? Anyway it turned out more like rice pudding or porridge than traditional sticky rice. It still tasted good, though.

I received two amazon packages, one was a battery which I'm hoping will resurrect my poor bricked GoPro 4 (if not, I guess someone at the thrift shop is getting it) and the other was a "carton" of "egg" stress balls! They look like a shelled egg, whites with yolk, and you can squeeze them and move the yolk around. Stupid? Yes. A cheap way to brighten my day because lately I'm feeling down? Also yes. I gave one to Jameson and he seemed to enjoy it.

Monday, the day seemed to fly at work, probably because I was dreading my covid shot. Not until Tuesday, but why wait to worry, right? Sigh. I got as much of my work completed as possible. I got groceries, did laundry, and went to steno class. After Jameson left for rehearsal I drove out to Lowe's for some topsoil and 10-10-10 fertilizer for my bananas, which are getting bigger and will need double the fertilizer soon. I folded the laundry, got a shower, did dishes, and assembled the equipment and ingredients for this week's bread, "kindergarten honey wheat". I stressed about all the stuff I probably won't get to do this weekend if/when the symptoms from the second shot knock me on my ass (again).

The plan for tomorrow is this. I'll have breakfast and go get the shot ASAP after eating. On the way home I have a few groceries to pick up, then once home I'll start the wheat bread and while that's rising I'll work in the garden. At some point it'll be time to bake the bread and make dinner, then after dinner I'll practice steno.

On Wednesday assuming no side effects yet, I'll finish gardening and also make some pickled jalapenos for my coworker who gave me a jar of her homemade blueberry jam (yum!), then we're on our own for dinner because I'll have steno class. It would be really nice if my symptoms started kicking in BEFORE I went to bed, so I don't wake up in the middle of the night with a full-on panic attack like last time.

Thursday I expect to be a total wreck, so I'm counting it as a lost day.

Wish me luck y'all.

Let's Suck at Everything but Bread

On Friday I did get to work from home, they called someone else in.

But unfortunately, I found out that for the next two weeks I will not get to work from home because someone in the training department is out. Ages and ages ago (ok a few months), I volunteered to be a "hybrid" supervisor/trainer, and was taught how to lead the training classes. So I'll be coming onsite to do that for a few days.

You know, now that it's been months and I've absolutely forgotten how to do it.

Whatever, I'm basically a substitute teacher. There will be other people around to ask for help, and I'll do my best. And if my best isn't good enough, frankly I'm almost, ALMOST to the point of throwing this supervisor nonsense out the window and just becoming a straight-up captionist again. The only thing stopping me is the extra $4 per hour, which I'd have to make up somewhere else.

Sometimes I miss the simplicity, and lack of responsibility, that came with being a captionist.

It was nice to work from home as a supervisor too, even if only two days a week. I could snack while working, stretch outside, spend some time in the sun on my breaks. I could start small chores during breaks (I'm talking starting a load of laundry which takes 2 minutes tops, nothing drastic but it does save time). I'm sad to have to be onsite for the next two weeks, but considering we've only had work from home back for a few weeks it's just as well.

During my first break I released the three butterflies--Zipper, Towelie, and Underleaf as I guess I'll call her--without ceremony. I asked Jameson if he wanted to release one but he declined, having work to do and having experienced it already. The first two took off right away, flapping awkwardly into some nearby trees where they could be safe. The last one was a little slow, she'd been sitting on the fruit plate so perhaps she was full of yummy snacks. She sat on my hand for a moment, flexing her wings, so I took a picture. She's very beautiful after all.

After just a few minutes she was ready, and flew away.
Only one chrysalis left. Then my role in this saga is complete.

I went back to work, and when it was lunchtime I ate with Jameson then went back outside to check on the plants like I always do once per day. I didn't see any of the butterflies when I came out, but when I got close to the property fence one appeared from somewhere and got really close, hovering just a few feet in front of me. I stuck out my hand and it made as if to land, but changed it's mind and flew off.

Now I'm not very sentimental, and I really hate being anthropomorphic as it's not fair to the animal. But this is twice now that one of the butterflies I've released has popped out of the woods and come close specificially when I came outside. Ruling out any magical Disney princess BS, I wonder if perhaps they have a scent memory, or some instinct generated while in captivity that says "safe" when processing me. Can butterflies remember things? Do they have scent memory?

Anyway, it was nice to see them still hanging around, although I hope they will travel far in their short lives.

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Fly Away Home


Had some nice coffee, got this week's bread started (a raisin walnut loaf) and went outside to check on the garden things.

So in my last post (yesterday) my chrysalides looked like this:

And this is how they were Wednesday morning:

AAAAAAAAH!!! They're ready!

I tried not to freak out and went about my day as usual, but checked on them frequently to see if I could catch the emergence when it happened (it's called "eclosing", but that word is weird so I'm not much using it). I got the bread on its 3-hour rise, then went out to the garden to plant my milkweed and finish checking on stuffs. The bananas really are getting bigger!

Look at the weird flower bud of the black sapote.

A recent storm ripped out part of the screen in our lanai, so the creatures can get in.
My boyfriend came out to check out the chrysalides and found a banded sphinx moth in a corner of the pool deck!

I fished her out with the pool net and took her to a shady tree, where I hope she'll be more comfortable.

I planted three milkweed and the roselle plant in the pollinator garden. Hopefully no one else will lay eggs for a while so the milkweed can recover from being eaten. After finishing that project I wanted to wash my hands and prepare to interact with the bread again. As I was walking past the butterfly enclosure, I saw that one of the black chrysalides was cracking open!!

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Friday, a pleasant surprise...I'm going to get to work from home two days a week again!!!

Wow, I was not expecting that. But apparently the company had ordered us a bunch of brand new Dell computers, and with the delays in the supply chain the plan to send us back home has been on hold for months. The computers finally arrived while I was out for the weekend. I went to the office to get my computer and find out what days will be my Work From Home (WFH) days. Friday and Monday! Last time it was Friday and Tuesday, which was nice because it felt like a long weekend. But actually WFH on Monday is WAY better because now I will be on time for my Monday steno classes!! Yay!

It's a lot of work to make up the class, so I'm very excited that for three weeks of each month I'll be able to attend. (The fourth week I have to work on-site, that's part of our rotation so that we can all enjoy WFH).

Work itself was fine, nothing to report. I got a rejection letter for one of the internal job openings I applied to, no surprise as it's an HR position and I have zero HR experience.

Back home I ate dinner then checked out my new work-toy. I won't take pictures because my company is suuuuper all about confidentiality, proprietary information, etc etc, so suffice to say it's a Dell All-in-1 with a touchscreen and an external FCC sound card. This is the same equipment that captionists use onsite, which means that if we need to caption from home, we will be able to (not right now but at some point). I'm really glad, this was one function we'd all really wanted last year because sometimes there are outages or we get shorthanded, and the more people can caption the better.

Anyway, when that was set up I did my steno homework and shopped for bras. I HATE shopping for bras online! I've got tiny, limp boobs, and it's not easy to find something comfortable + the right shape for me, even in a physical store much less online. So I pretty much just used Poshmark and Ebay to find bras that I know will fit, and ordered them. Hopefully they don't arrive with sweatstains on them or something. Sigh.

Saturday was pretty slow, it was hot and humid outside, but like an icebox at work. I felt tired and droopy, but did my best.
Got home, checked on the chrysalides, everyone looks fine. There are now four chrysalides in my pollinator garden.
20+ eggs, 12 caterpillars, down to 6 caterpillars, and now 4 chrysalides. I'm sure there are more hiding somewhere, but dang, survivability is poor.

After dinner we had an exciting Actual Social Event, a band with a lot of Jameson's friends in it was playing over at Margaritaville, outdoors, socially distanced. We sat down at a table full of former Disney performers, all fully vaccinated except for me and like one other chick. It felt very "Before-fore Times". And it was nice. I got to hug people. No, I'm not fully vaccinated. But also, no one around me has gotten sick. Ok?

Some idiot at the table was buying WAY too many shots, so we ended up with at least two free drinks which was two more than I'd intended to have. But hey, it felt good in the moment. It was a nice moment of socialization, and pretending things are normal again.


Sunday, work again. It was a slow day, I was glad because I wanted to wrap up as much as possible before working from home on Monday.
At home we had BBQ from a new place we'd found, it was ok but overpriced so it probably won't be a regular stop for us.
After dinner I quick-pickled the jalapenos from my garden because five of them were ready to use. I added a thinly-sliced carrot as well. Boiled with equal parts vinegar and water, and salt and sugar for a few seconds, then left it to brine and cool with crushed garlic. Should be really nice on eggs or with cold cuts.

Then I cleaned the bathrooms, vacuumed, and did not-enough-steno-practice before getting tired and going to bed.

Monday, my first day of working from home! It was nice to have the extra hour of sleep, and to drink coffee from a mug instead of a lockable thermos. It was nice to be able to go to the bathroom when I needed to, and to break my work into manageable chunks without interruption. Some things did need a litte extra work, like downloading all my spreadsheets and figuring out how they want us to use Zoom now, but overall it was a more relaxing way to work and I'm very grateful for it. Saving four hours of driving, two hours of sleep, and a thimble of sanity. Worth it.

During breaks I checked on my chrysalides (no change) and spent time with Jameson, who was doing classwork in the bedroom. After work we had pizza, then I had steno class while Jameson relaxed, then he had some theatre meetings while I relaxed. Then we rejoined again for Spring Baking Championship before going to bed.

Tuesday, very stressful. I notice that Tuesdays usually are stressful, no idea why, but it's very annoying.
I can basically assume that we'll "somehow" be shorthanded and I'll have to cover more work than usual.
I can assume that something unusual will happen during the day that will prevent me from completing my usual tasks, so that I feel frustrated and fed up at the end of the day.
And of course, I can assume that whatever-it-is will happen right before my shift ends so that I'll be desperately rushing to finish my tasks and finally leave much later than usual.

Because Tuesday!!

I escaped work nearly 10 minutes late (doesn't seem like a big deal until you try to drive past Disney World at 4:55 instead of 4:45, give it a go if you don't believe me) and stopped at the grocery for dinner ingredients. Back home, said hello to Jameson, ate dinner, checked the chrysalides. There was a big storm in the afternoon and one of them had fallen down.

It didn't seem damaged, so I did what Google said and carefully tied a bit of string to the torn caterpillar silk, then re-hung it in the enclosure with a safety pin. Lookin' good.

While poking around in there I noticed that one chrysalis is darkening, and the wings are starting to form. Very cool to see!

The four chrysalides in my pollinator garden all seem fine too. The one who pupated on the fence was kind of glowing in the setting sun, looked very pretty.

There you have it, my week.
This weekend I'm baking raising walnut bread per my breaducation, and might crack into the apple butter I made over Christmas to enjoy on top. I've also got to put all of the milkweed into the garden, the pool deck is getting cluttered with all my potted plants. And I'm making steak for dinner on Thursday, and steno class in on Wednesday night, and somewhere in there I hope to finally attempt to make macarons.

The Last Caterpillar

Thanks to Unexpected Moderna Vaccine Shot Number One followed by Unexpected Side Effects Part One, all of my plans for Thursday were shattered.

I got the shot Tuesday afternoon, and started having side effects Wednesday night. I was trapped in a series of fever dreams involving filling some sort of spreadsheet, which I couldn't understand why it was so necessary to fill it out, because I was SLEEPING, wasn't I? But it had to be done or else I couldn't sleep, even though I technically WAS asleep. And then my stomach started cramping and felt like it was full of acid, but I didn't want to get up for fear of worrying my boyfriend, but eventually it became too painful and my heart was beating too fast from anxiety. I got up and made it to the kitchen before having to sit down so I wouldn't pass right out (probably just because I had worked myself up). Had some water and a Tums, tried to eat a piece of bread but my mouth refused to produce saliva and my stomach churned just from smelling it, and that's about when I knew this was more than a panic attack.

The next day Jameson found me curled up in the recliner, moaning over a handful of strawberries and a few crackers.
I forced myself to sip coffee throughout the day because the last thing I needed on top of everything was a blistering caffeine headache. The only food my body appreciated was half a frozen banana I found in the fridge, everything else I had to choke down (mostly simple carbs as you can imagine). I also had body aches, my guts kept cramping, and I felt exhausted.

Now to be fair, I haven't been sick in a very long time, I'm talking years. Not even a sore throat or a sniffle since 2018. So although I probably make this sound awful, it wasn't that bad. I have been sick WAY worse than this. Being mildly nauseous, uncomfortable, and overheated for a day is nothing compared to some flus I've had. So yes, I crawled around like a slug all day and felt miserable, but it probably just felt worse because it's been so long since I've felt those things.

I called work to warn them that I may not be in the next day, but I did sleep well and then woke the next day with no aches or elevated temperature, just a feeling of exhaustion and residual nausea. I went through the day in a fog, but fortunately it was a slow day. By the time I got home I was feeling about 80% better. I checked on the caterpillars and found three of them preparing to pupate! The time has finally come!!

See the cottony-looking stuff around his head? That's a "silk button" that they make, and then hang from in a J-shape to start making their chrysalis.

The next morning, like an idiot, I woke up and checked my phone for the time and saw ??:45 and somehow my brain just assumed it was time to get up and get ready for work. So I didn't question it, I got up and had my coffee and got all my stuff together, then snuck out back with a flashlight to check on the caterpillars since they're so close to pupating. I started to carefully unzip the side access panel, and stopped cold. A fourth caterpillar had decided that the best place to form a chrysalis would be ON THE ZIPPER. Like, directly on the moving part. Little dumbass!!!

I had already moved him a few inches without realizing it, and there was nothing I could do...I had to be able to open the side to continue caring for everyone. I moved so slowly and carefully, but despite my care he fell as the zipper reached the bottom, rolling gently across the floor, curled up protectively. Time to panic. Did I just kill him?? I had disrupted his pupation and broken his J-hang. Would he die an awful death if he couldn't re-hang himself?? I frantically searched Google for what I could do. The Googs suggested finding a Q-tip or cotton ball and touching the caterpillar with it. If the caterpillar was not too far along in the process, he might be able to grab the cotton and use it to resume his J-hang. I did as instructed with a cotton ball, and he did grab on, although in doing so a little dark green fluid came out of his nethers :( He wasn't hurt but I know that caterpillars go semi-liquid inside during their metamorphosis so it terrified me to see this.

Anyway, I was able to tuck the cotton ball into a crack in the edge of a milkweed pot so that he was hanging upside down again. Then I really had to get to work (or so I thought) so I cleaned up as best I could and hit the road.

About 15 minutes later I noticed that my car clock was reading 6:00am. Well that can't be right. I left at 6:40, didn't I?
Wait...isn't it unusually dark...?

For some reason, my brain had me out the door at 5:40. Which is when I'm usually waking up to get ready for work.
Guess my covid mind control microchip is working.

I drove to a Panera near work and took a nap in the back of my car. Got a breakfast sandwich and a salad for lunch. Sulked to work feeling like an absolute moron.

Spent all day worrying about my little caterpillar, dreading the possibility of coming home to find him dead on the bottom of the enclosure. Couldn't drive home fast enough, took toll roads even. Ran outside to see what had happened.

He was still there. To my surprise, he had left his cotton pad and climbed all the way back up the mesh to re-hang himself.
STILL ON TOP OF THE ZIPPER. DUMB LITTLE SH*T! Going to give me an aneurism, I swear!
Although I was not awake enough to realize what time I had left that morning, I somehow did have the wherewithal to have the zippers meet at the bottom of the enclosure where a caterpillar would be less likely to attempt a J-hang. So even though this little idiot insists on the zipper, I can still at least unzip enough to lift the plants and replace the paper towels under them. Phew.

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I guess it's dead: retraction

A watched pot never boils.
A Mario ghost doesn't chase you until you run.
And many more analogies.

A few days ago, Jameson exclaimed next to me in bed, and I was like, what happened?

Feld had listed a position for a Casting Director for Ringling Bros.

I quickly checked the other Ringling sites--you know, the ones that I wrote about like a week ago when Feld removed all traces of Ringling things from its site--and lo and behold, everything is back again.

How weird. So much for letting dead things stay dead.
I'm sad, because I can't even feel a stirring of excitement in my heart.
All of this same stuff was up before the pandemic too, and nothing came of it.
Not only that, what kind of circus will it be? No train, no animals, probably no live music.
And likely, no place for me.

That's my greatest fear. That the circus will be revived, a tour will be planned...and I'll be left behind.
I think that would really, actually break my heart.

Well, I'm not concerned abou it now. There's nothing to do but wait and see what happens.
But I wanted to correct my previous "lay-it-to-rest" post at least.