Thursday, July 9, 2020

Walt Whitman, "O Captain Kirk!"

Steve at Shadows & Light is reading/writing about making sense of Walt Whitman, so I thought I'd repost again my take on the guy:
my slide-show mashup of Whitman & Captain Kirk,
Star Trek TOS: I Sing the Captain Electric. (1:38 min.)

(Wow--I posted it ten years ago, almost to the day: July 8, 2010.)

My description on youtube:
"Whitman's hymn to the male body in 'I Sing the Body Electric' could've been written with Kirk in mind ('O Captain, my Captain!'). All lines here are from the poem, though not in the original order.
And Aaron Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man' seems tailor made for our boy too."

I'm not a huge Whitman fan (a bit overblown for me), but I do like him. I'd made this image macro after Trump was "elected" in 2016.
(Real book cover, I added SAYS and the quote.)

Sophronia, Erastus

Found in an 1859 Bible donated to the store: 
"Overcoming Anxiety" article for the Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 1917

BELOW: A record of Family Deaths written inside the Bible.
The names!

Erastus! [Latinized form of the Greek name Ἔραστος (Erastos) meaning "beloved"]

Sophronia! [A girl's name  from the Greek sophron – sensible. via]

There's a Davis--my mother's maiden name, which she used again after the divorce in 1974. I use Davis as a middle name sometimes.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


Nine boxes have been constructed (by ham-handed me) for the girlette evacuees' gas masks, to be worn with string around necks.

Made out of paper bags while I listened to the episode "Is Facebook Spying on You?" of the podcast /reply-all/.
You know the answer, but I was fascinated to hear it broken down (amusingly, too).

Reply All: "A not-at-all-geeky podcast about the fascinations and frustrations of technology in our everyday lives."

Fun Stuff

I had a FUN day at work yesterday! 
The first really fun day since before Covid, and certainly since the break-ins. 
Weekly meetings (new to us) aid our workplace communication immensely--imagine that--and there's been no conflict for a while.

Yesterday I worked all day sorting, cleaning, and pricing housewares--(my original volunteer job, which I'd loved)––dishes and knick knacks and all sorts of stuff.

I'd say a quarter of donations are trash. 
I threw out filthy stuffed animals, sticky Tupperware;
cheap Christmas crap (no room to store the junky stuff until November), 
chipped china,  rusty metal gadgets, broken plastic gadgets; 
objects stamped with pharmaceutical logos or the names of wedding couples, "Bob and Susan, 2003".

It's fun to jettison junk, though it's also depressing, the sheer amount of it.

Other stuff is not junk, but it's practically unsaleable---punch bowl and cup sets, for instance.

"Not junk" in my eyes, anyway. Like weird old dolls. LOVE!
The dirty, broken ones won't sell, but I can't throw them out.

Half the donations are decent useful or decorative things---plates and pandas and pedicure packs.

Maybe a quarter of the donations are interesting.

A set of silverware with teak handles and ornamental scrollwork necks--1970s?
A mid-century orange, art-glass ashtray, hefty enough to be a murder weapon.

A vintage, little drinking glass--a tourist trinket--embossed with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.  

Monday, July 6, 2020

At the Train Station

OOooh! The Penny Cooper in the Blitz project is juuuust starting to take shape. TONS left to do. I'm slow to do it, and no expert--but the story is coming alive. 

Here's a glimpse of two girlette evacuees at the train station. (B84 and Ivy, with Lion.)

The pink wool comes from a vintage hand-sewn skirt from the thrift store. It's an A-line skirt, tiny waist--I'm pretty sure it's from the 1940s.

I wish I had a bit of rose-pink velvet for their collars.
But my guideline is to use what I have at hand, and to get it done while I'm house sitting (6 weeks). I'm not going to try too hard to hide the supports, the "special effects." (Like the hair elastic Ivy's foot rests on here.) 
Posing the girlettes takes some doing--they don't like to stand still. Once they're in place, best to shoot the photo before they change position and not worry about the props too much.

Real Food

Following my own advice, I went to the co-op and bought real food. Afternoon snack––goat milk yogurt, walnuts, blueberries, and maple syrup.

The veg is to make ratatouille.

Beauty and Bedlam (Self-Care in Chaos)

A Bit of Relief

Ohthankgod, I woke up to a cool(ish) breeze and the sound of rain. It's only 75º F/ 24º C!
I'm sitting on the front porch this morning, feeling comfortable outside for the first time this hot July. 

This house has central air, but it's wearing to feel trapped inside by the heat---I prefer the winter cold, when at least you can bundle up warm to be comfortable outside. 

Only complaint this morning:
I neglected to buy milk yesterday, so I'm drinking my coffee with the oat milk on hand. (The home owner is gluten- and dairy-free.) 

It's okay. I'd like to get away from dairy for the sake of the cows, but no other milk is anywhere near as good in coffee.

I'm seeing why I need to water the front hill, even when it rains--the spreading maple tree is an umbrella.)

American Question Mark

The store is closed today. Well, it's been closed since March 20, but I mean no workers are going in, which is a relief. 
Talk about wearing---even with the improved mood, the store is depressing. 
Too much need, not enough help.

I talked to a fellow who works at a mini-Target that got broken into (not the big one that got trashed), like we did. Unlike us, their glass is already replaced, and they are up and running. 
Corporate power. It works.
We're more like a garage sale.

The sweet thing was, this young man from Target had stopped by our store to volunteer:
"You are part of the neighborhood. They're just Target."

Remembering the affection people have for the store keeps me going. Having something meaningful to do--that's lucky!
. . . 

[American Question Mark, 
"dan miller 1974",
plaque donated to the store]

I wake up in the middle of the night, afraid. 

What's going to happen to the neighborhood, the city, the country? 

Rocked by a lynching and civil unrest--
calling for the city and the country to be better!--
there's big hope, but also big need, and big resistance.

It's scary to see how fragile the infrastructure is. 

Hundreds of people are now living in tents in the park near the store. 

With a virus going around, it's not simple or obvious how to help. (Not that it ever is simple and obvious.)

Over and over, I answer myself with Mr Rogers' advice:
"Look for the helpers".
There are smart people working hard to make changes.
I'm inspired and comforted to see things like this upcoming online TownTalk, "
Policing and Police Reform: Reimagining Public Safety" (Thursday, July 9, 2020 | 7 pm

And, . . . BE a helper.

Frustrating as the store is, it's a place where I can help. Simply by being there, I represent care and kindness. I WANT to be that. I painted it on the store, after all: Faith Hope Love. 
But I run out of steam and sort of forget.

Helpers need help too. 
Mother Teresa of Calcutta always said, The sisters eat first. 
It's pure practicality: You can't work without fuel.

In these stressful times, I need to be just as strategic about taking care of myself as I was about handling my workmate.
I have to feed myself, physically and otherwise, or I run down.

Taking care of yourself is an art.  It takes thought and effort--planning--something I don't always give it.

So . . . I'm going to think out loud here. WHAT HELPS?

NOTE: These are my preliminary ramblings.

1. Food. Right away, literally, I need to remember Food Is Fuel.

Feeding myself well has never been easy for me. After my mother left when I was thirteen, I lived on Sugar Pops cereal and ice cream. I know how to cook––I worked at a whole-foods restaurant at nineteen––but I still default to fast-and-sweet and cheap.

Now more than ever, it's wise to make the effort--to pay for good food, and to prepare it. 

If I'm strategic about it, I can get good food cheap, or even free. 
The local market sells dented fruit and veg for 49¢/pound, and the store gets odds and ends of freshies from our food bank, free.

Last night I made hamburgers (local, organic meat) with sliced tomatoes and onion, and apple-cider-vinegar cole slaw. 
I felt much better afterward.

I'm also taking tinctures. Besides their medicinal power, they have the power of the Act of Administering Help.
I love the ones with the squeezy tops that dispense drops. I'm sure those are extra potent.

2. Perspective

Seeing the larger picture helps me a lot. Up-close is a disorganized mess. Step back and patterns emerge.

Blogging helps! 
Writing this out right now helps me get my thoughts in order. I'm a list maker--it helps me to give at least a semblance of order to the chaos. 

If I go too many days without blogging, I miss it. Even just plunking a photo in helps.

What is it about blogging?
It's a reminder to me that there's a world out there--other people, other places.
Blog friends matter, of course. (Thank you!) 
But it's something more impersonal than friendship.
It's ...let's see.... Today Blogger stats tell me that this blog has 116 views from Romania. 

It's that. That feeling that I'm tapping into the mushroom network--the underground filaments that connect life in the forest.

Or, to go the other way, it's like looking at outer space in the Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA. (I just bookmarked this to remind myself to look at it more often.)

Today's photo: "Unspeakable beauty and unimaginable bedlam can be found together in the Orion Nebula."

The other kind of perspective that helps me is historical perpsective---like sending Penny Cooper back in time to the Blitz.

Oh--here's another photo of the girlettes' evacuees costume.
Wool jacket by me; Mary Jane shoes by bink.
There will be nine girlettes thus outfitted.

Right now I'm loving Call the Midwife, a soap-operaish history of Public Health in London in the 1950s-60s. It's based on the memoirs of a real-life midwife who lived and worked with a nursing order of Anglican nuns in the impoverished East End.

The show is a Who's Who of medical and social ills.
Episodes have dealt with measles and polio, for instance.

They are both viruses that damaged or killed millions every year, until vaccines were developed. 

Medical science has improved so much, scientists are working on  Covid vaccines right now. Twenty-one vaccines are in human trials right now. 
[New York Times vaccine tracker

In the midst of a pandemic, it may seem slow. It will be too late for some. But it helps me to remember that in the history of science, this is super fast. 

The US government even has a "Warp Speed" vaccine program. Warp Speed. Ha. That's from Star Trek, you know.
I'm with them.

3. Curtail My Media Diet

Media consumption is like eating Cheetos--hard to stop, and too orange.
I've cut way back on my media intake. I want to cut back more, for panic-management.

Q: What do I need to know to do my work?
A: Just the basics.

I joined the corporate boycott of Facebook for July (a lot of advertisers are calling for FB to act like a responsible publisher and rein in hate groups, etc.).
If I don't post, I don't look, and I feel better.

I have a FB account so I can post on social media for work, but I don't need to use my account, personally.

4. Seek Out the Soft Stuff

Sometimes I scoff at new-agey, self-helpy stuff as soft-brained goop. Sometimes it is.  

But the truth is, it can help me do my work, and I want to seek it out more.

The other day after work, I was biking home on the Greenway bike path. A group of black teenage dudes came toward me, riding goofy bikes. One had a banana seat.
A normal sight.
NOT normal---as they biked past me, they called out,
"Jesus loves you, ma'am."

I am generally not theologically aligned with Christians who say Jesus loves you.
But you know what?
It was nice to hear something nice.

I smiled and called back, "Thank you!" and I felt better all the rest of the way home.

A little goes a long way, but I need to remember to check in on self-healing sites and the like. 

This includes letting myself feel scared and sad. 
That's part of strength too--being real about how you feel.

5. Seek Out the Steel

It helps to cultivate strength.
Not the strength of the brute, but the inner strength of the soft. 

I always hesitate to mention Gone with the Wind, with its odious romanticization of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy,
but the character who comes to mind is GWTW's Melanie Wilkes.
I'm nothing like her! but I do admire her model of soft strength.

Melanie (Olivia de Haviland in the movie) seems like the ninny that the brutish Scarlett thinks she is––but in the end, Scarlett sees Melanie's had a core of steel all along, one that she herself--and everyone else--relied upon.

I feel sad and scared, but I can rally and be steely strong too.
That's what I did when I decided to get it together to help my coworker so I could stand to work with him.

My outer self was all aquiver, run away, run away.
But my core self was, "You can do this."
Remember to check with her, that core self of mine.

6. Friends

I feel this should be a stronger category, but friends are stressed right now, and you can't get together for a group hug.

Maura is still unwell, for instance. She doesn't have Covid as her doctor had thought. She's been undergoing weeks of tests to diagnose an auto-immune disorder. More to come...

Still, it's possible to carry someone else's burden awhile for them, and let them carry yours.
Sort of a burden swap.

And it's great to distract oneself with friends. Working on costumes for the Undaunted: Penny Cooper project with bink was a fun day.
⇒Invite more of that.

7. Sometimes you lose.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: 
"It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.
That is not a weakness.
That is life.

I suppose you could say we all lose in the end. That is life.
It's not about winning.
I mean, I find it comforting to remember that losing doesn't mean I am/you are a failure.

Here, let me end of an upbeat note.
Here's one of those self-helpy quotes that I kinda cringe at, kinda love. From Hunter S. Thompson! Who knew he'd end up on refrigerator magnets!

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'Wow! What a Ride!'”

Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Oh. I like this one too.
Don't judge your taco by its price. 
Which reminds me---maybe the BEST HELP OF ALL is the humorous truth.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Waters

I. Salting the Water

I just finished watering the hillside--it's newly planted, and this July is so hot, the plants need watering daily. Now I'm sitting with my coffee and a cat on the front porch.
You can see why I like house sitting here.

I'm going to make an electrolyte drink to bring along when I bike to work. I've been drinking lots of plain water before, during, and after the ride, but with temps in the low 90s, I wonder if I need a little sugar and salt.
Found a simple recipe--sounds good. (I like citrus.)
  • 1/4 cup each, lemon and lime juice
  • 2 cups  water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or honey

II. Oiling the Waters

Work was pleasant after I raised the social-bonding oxytocin levels. That improved everyone's mood, I think. 
It worked like pouring chocolate sauce on ice-cream---or, hm, like pouring oil on troubled water. I never understood that metaphor before.

The funny thing is it worked on ME too. I'd moved toward my coworker to get him to chill the fuck out, but in the end, I liked him better too.
That is, I feel fonder of him. 
I do not think of him more fondly. (Possibly I think less of him, because it's hard to respect a person you've manipulated, even for good.)

Oxytocin affects emotion, not intellect.
Like how people like the way certain politicians make them feel, then come up with justifications to support the emotion.
But we rarely put this bluntly:

"I don't like them, but they make me feel safe, and I like that."

Looking back, I see that for most of my life I've wanted to achieve mutual understanding with people. When that didn't work, often I wouldn't back off--I'd push, sometimes creating conflict, or I'd leave.

I like that about myself--that I wanted honest, mutual understanding. But I see now how naive I was.  My father used to say, "Pick your battles." I didn't. I tended to put my all into every relationship.

NOT that my father was a model steward of emotional resources! Far from it.

My father used silence as a weapon. He didn't leave or quit, he'd stay and just freeze people out.

Nor my mother a good model. She was a leaver--she quit jobs and relationships, right and left. When she left the family when I was thirteen, she told me she didn't want to be a mother anymore.
As if that were an option. You can change how you're a mother, but not that you're a mother.

We can quit things, we can leave––and sometimes that's the smart thing to do!
But in any case, we can't escape the repercussions, the wake of our actions.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Penny Cooper's Mary Janes

Prop master bink (in background) designed nine pairs of Mary Jane shoes for the upcoming filming of Undaunted: Penny in Cooper in the Blitz. She made the shoes out of black construction paper.

They're super, says Penny Cooper.

Meanwhile, in the 90º heat I'm sewing wool coats for the girlettes.
You always see the child-evacuees at train stations wearing coats. 

The first evacuations of children from London started on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland. (Britain declared war On Sept. 3.*
"In the first three days of official evacuation, 1.5 million people were moved: [including] 827,000 children of school age," per Wikipedia.


*Sept. 3, 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spoke live on radio:
"This morning, the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note, stating that unless we heard from them by 11 O'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany."

Enchiladas and a Strawberry Shake

⇒Have you ever cooked or sought out food, inspired by a book or movie?  Michael recently blogged about making a sardine pizza, inspired by a novel, which got me thinking.

Fiction must have inspired me to eat or cook something! but I can barely call any instances to mind. 
Definitely age---I don't think it's a failure of the working of my memory, but that I have SO MANY MEMORIES to sort through.

I put the question to my brain. After two days, a memory floated to the surface, one I'd entirely forgotten:
When I was twenty, I went out for enchiladas and a strawberry milkshake because a detective in a novel by Joseph Wambaugh (I think) ate that.

It seemed exotic to me. Now I know fruity drinks are common in cuisine south of the border or Tex-Mexd.

I hope more memories will surface.

Speaking of memories, my auntie sent me this photo of her and her littlest brother whose 82nd birthday was yesterday. They're at Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee.

This uncle is one of the three (of ten) surviving siblings of my father. I'm happy I could email him a birthday message.

I feel enormously sad today that so many people from my childhood are gone. I also sense their presence, like the moisture in the air on this very humid morning. 

People in the past are rooting for us, I feel:
Get it right, I hear them say. Be brave. . . . But loosen up! BE HAPPY. This will all slip away, the pains and the joys, soon enough.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Next Job: Hostage Negotiator?

I tell you, I deserve a Nobel Peace Prize or something.

Relations between me and Ass't Man at work have been stuck, stuck, stuck. I've been waking up at night dreading the future at work. 

I. Negotiating with a Hostage Taker

Then I read an article written by a hostage negotiator about handling relationships stressed by Covid. (Plus, in my case, by working in a post-lynching, ransacked store.)

The basic advice is:

Give the other person a hit of oxytocin.
(You know, oxytocin is the social-bonding, "cuddle love" hormone.)

In the case of kidnappers or people you live with, that means letting them know you hear and understand them. 

Listen and repeat back their points.
Never say "but...".

(As a peregrino on Camino said, "Everything after but is bullshit.")

Since the technique is based on negotiating with kidnappers, there's no advice to "remember you love this person."
You aren't going to love a kidnapper. Love is not the point. 

Resolution is.

"Being heard" (with no ifs, ands, or buts) produces oxytocin: 
it makes a person feel good, which creates a little space for negotiation.
Then you can ask, "How can we make a plan to move forward?"

I'd already tried that script. I hadn't been able to get past Ass't Man's demand that I agree to do what he says at work.
I wasn't able to lie and give him that assurance, and I wasn't able to talk him around to another vision. 
So we'd just stayed stuck.

Biking to work yesterday, I was wondering what else I could do to "create oxytocin" for Ass't Man, so I would suffer less. (Basically the situation with a terrorist, right?)

And it came to me.

II. The Strategic Use of the Truth

When I got to work, Ass't Man was standing with a couple coworkers.

"Hey, everybody!" I said.
"Let me show you a photo of good team work. This is how I'd like us to work together."

I got out my phone and pulled up a photo.

Everyone came to see except Ass't Man, who glared at me suspiciously.
"You too!" I said. "I really want you to see this model..."

He came over and looked at my phone.

This was what he saw.




Him and me, painting the boarded-up store windows a month ago.

[I've blocked his face--he's smiling.]

Here's the trick: It's true, and I meant it.

He and I really had worked beautifully as a team that day. It had all come together almost effortlessly---I had paint, he had brushes, we agreed on the mood of the slogans.  He'd painted "Justice 4 George" on the other window, while I painted Faith Hope Love.

It had been fun and fulfilling.

Well. My tactic (the strategic use of the truth) worked instantly, like sharing ice-cream with a baby.
Oxytocin all around!

"Let's remember this as our Home Base," I said.

Yes, yes, yes.

 III. When did I get good at this?

The past few weeks at work have been VERY WEIRD for me:
I keep stepping up as a negotiator. And it keeps working.
Not always right away, but as this shows, I can back up and reapproach.

When did I get good at this? 
I don't know! 

What's weird is this is not how I see myself, not how I've usually operated. I've usually quit jobs when they got to this point. 
(I thought about it this time too, but I don't want to give up the BOOK's! That part of the job is inoperative right now (which is hard), but it will return.)

In the past, I've usually taken things personally.

I do, of course, have personal feelings about Ass't Man, but they are not the point. He's not a friend. He's not family. He's someone I have to work with.

Well, but I do know how I got better.
I've written here often about wanting to deal better with my feelings of resentment---wanting to melt resentment like a block of ice, or wanting to side-step the blocks it throws up--

or wanting to befriend it--a piece of Buddhist advice I adopted from  Thich Nhat Hanh. (Like creating the good-feelings of oxytocin, I see now!)

I've often felt my efforts and desires to melt resentment was hopeless.... I think, however, that gradually I got better at it, almost without noticing. 
And better at seeing that interpersonal problems often aren't actually personal at all.

I believe the bad feelings between Ass't Man and me arise more from some gunk in his past, some emotional PTSD, than anything I've done or am.

I think I represent something, someone to him. I don't know what or who, and I don't want or need to know.

I just want to sleep through the night without worrying about work.
Last night, I did.

Thursday, July 2, 2020


I found a better time machine at work for the Penny Cooper Project--a Springmist Controller.
I can't find info online--maybe it was for regulating an outdoor sprinkler system, since you can set it to RAIN?

But obviously you can use it to travel backward, since its TODAY dial turns that way...
I'd like to jump ahead, personally--past the heat wave that looks like lasting a good long time.
The temperature isn't entirely insanely high--up around 90ºF/ 32ºC–– but the air is thick with moisture. No springmist, this. More like tropical steam.

From where I'm house sitting, I bike about 5 miles to work--luckily mostly along bike paths. 
I pedal  s  l  o  w  l  y  and drink water along the way.
 Yesterday at the end of my workday, I soaked my shirt and straw hat in water before heading home. They were almost dry by the time I got to the lake, so I stopped at the beach to wet them again. 

No lifeguard is on duty.
Except this one, who isn't keeping an eye on the swimmers...

Six weeks of this, I will melt into a sylph. 
(Wouldn't mind melting off some of the Covid weight...)

Extra happy to be house-sitting in central air-conditioning. Life is pretty stressful these days. At Monday's meeting, Big Boss set up a good communications plan:
weekly meetings!

Seems obvious, eh? But we almost never had store meetings before. (Have I mentioned this place runs like the Wild West? Like, a hundred times?)

But... B.B. also said he won't be around much once the store is up and running---he's supposed to be managing the society's church groups and the warehouse.
This makes me nervous because
Ass't Man is going to be more in charge, and he continues to be the thin-skinned micro-manager of nightmares.
I won't go into details, but there are plenty of them.

I am positioning myself as An Observer.
I always said I'd see this job as a Spiritual Psych Laboratory.  I do get sucked into the vortex of crazy, but I remind myself that this lab is my Home Base.

Meanwhile, life goes on with its everyday troubles too. 
A friend who went bike camping came back with poison ivy ten days ago. She is staying with me in the a/c. You know how these non-dangerous things will make you as miserable as anything.
After days of horrible sleep-depriving itchiness, she's finally feeling better.

And now, off on my bike I go.
Love ya'll!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Line Up

The girlettes have inhabited the dining room table where we're house sitting.
When I came home from work today, they were line dancing!

We had a good meeting this morning--Big Boss had printed out the article I'd emailed about Team Formation and read parts aloud.
Ass't Man was not pleased. 

I don't get him. But I don't care.

More later. I'm going to watch Star Trek with a friend---Day of the Dove, the episode where Spock says he has not enjoyed working with humans.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Storm Management

It's come to this: 
I just wrote an email to my coworkers in Management Speak––not a jargon I'd normally choose––in advance of tomorrow's meeting. 
Fat chance it'll do any good. In fact, I'm prepared for it to be met with hostility. 
I thought I'd give it a try.

Yesterday I mentioned my workplace's clashes to the cat-owner I'm house sitting for. She immediately diagnosed the clashes as symptoms of the "storming" stage of Tuckman's Stages of Team Formation:
"Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing":

Business-speak doesn't make a good manager. I've worked with terrible managers who spewed workplace psychobabble.
But if you have any latent talent for management, there are tools out there to develop it. 

My three (3!) managers don't seem to even know helpful tools exist.
Their tools seem to be Bury Your Head; Pettifogging; Tin-pot Tyrany; and Fear and Trembling.

So I sent this email, below, with the link to the Team Development stages, suggesting we are like a new team:
"I say we're a "new" team because we haven't worked together for long––but especially because the circumstances we find ourselves in at our store and in our city and our world are new.
Death... destruction... disease... horror... *  Naturally, we're on edge. (I am!)
Speaking of us as a team, I'd say we're in the "storming" phase of Team Formation. I call it the Rattan Finger Trap Stage, where forces pull against each other:
. . . where people start to push against the boundaries established in the forming stage. This is the stage where many teams fail.

"If you [the leader(s)] haven't defined clearly how the team will work, ...
some may question the worth of the team's goal, and they may resist taking on tasks.
Team members may challenge your authority, or jockey for position as their roles are clarified.
Team members who stick with the task at hand may experience stress, particularly as they don't have the support of established processes or strong relationships with their colleagues. "
The goal, in this model, is to move on to Norming (when the finger trap loosens as we start to move toward each other):
"This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues' strengths, and respect your authority as a leader."
 And then Performing, ". . . when hard work leads, without friction, to the achievement of the team's goal. The structures and processes that you [the leader] have set up support this well."

I look forward to working with you all to form a good working team!
My best, Fresca

{End Email}

What are my expectations?

Honestly, I expect this to go nowhere. And I wouldn't be surprised if it went badly.

But here's the thing: If I end up walking (eventually), I want to be able to say, I tried my damnedest.

* "Death... destruction... disease... horror... " 


That's Captain Kirk,
from the Star Trek episode, "Taste of Armageddon".

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Serving with Humans

I'm packing up this morning to go cat/house sitting for seven weeks.
Even though I'll just be staying across town, I feel like I'm going on vacation!

The big house  in a quiet neighborhood has central air-conditioning and a shady front porch--I cat-sat there last summer too.
It's like staying in a nice airBNB except you have to care for two cats. Very nice cats; I like them, and  luckily it's no trouble to give them their medications.

It's farther to bike to work, but I can use the exercise. Last summer I took the bus, but I'm trying to stay off public transit, for health reasons. 

I'm going to work on--and I hope finish--my film/photo-montage , Undaunted: Penny Cooper in the Blitz.  I've packed most of the Red Hair Girlettes. A few want to stay home with the bears, to hold down the fort.

I'm extra happy to have a personal project to occupy myself.
Work was almost beyond belief this week. I won't go into the details--they were piffling. 

But the emotions they called forth went ricocheting like bullets around the store.

Is everyone losing their minds?
I'd have to say, yes. Me too, a bit.

Ass't Man is floundering, that's for sure! He's way out of his depth.
(I would be too, trying to repair and refresh a broken store that wasn't in good shape to begin with. But I know myself well enough to have refused a "promotion" to manager.)

I'd be sympathetic, but he takes his stress and fear out on others. 
Especially, not entirely sure why, on me.

I've sincerely tried to improve relations with this guy. 
I sought advice from a couple friends who recognize his type better than I do. 
(An insecure boy/man, with delusions of grandeur. Sound familiar?)

The friends' tips have worked well. Basically they said, "Give him thanks and praise."
(That's the Catholic teaching for handling God, too. * ) 

Ass't Man responds embarrassingly well to flattery, even insincere. It's like he can't tell you're employing tactics to handle him. 
(I'm always embarrassed for people when they're so easily manipulated, seemingly without even knowing they are. A relative of Dunning-Kruger?)

I dislike using these tactics, but honesty was getting me nowhere with him.
But anyway, the tactics didn't hold. In the end, it was like trying to help a drowning person who is tries to drag you under with them.

Yesterday Ass't Man told me I had to obey him.
I actually laughed in his face--mostly in the "you've got to be kidding" way, only a little in the "you are a buffoon" way.
He looked like he might explode.

So I tried a new tactic---the Work to Order.
Before I did anything, I checked with him. And then I checked to make sure I'd done it to his liking. 

When I did something else, I let him know. "I'm not disobeying you, but I need to take the kitchen garbage out so it doesn't rot over the weekend."

Talk about embarrassingly effective---by the end of a measly four-hour shift, he was outright yelling at me, 


So I was. 

I don't know if I've ever been so calculated before in my life. 

A new low!
And yet, I don't regret it. He is a shame-based petty dictator. He feels like a victim and can't see his power, so he makes other people pay for his littleness. His implicit racism and sexism are on the edge of explicit.

At the end of the day, I thought about looking for another job.
Maybe I will. I really should earn more money before I get too old!

I came to my senses though. I'm not going to quit my job over this pipsqueak. He is nothing to me. I mean, he annoys me, but I have no respect for him, so I can't take him seriously.

I quoted the logical Mr Spock to a coworker:
"May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with humans?"

I'm one too, of course.

* Along these lines:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Penny Cooper, Undaunted

This time of violent tumult––plague! murder! fire!––puts me in mind of the Blitz in WWII Britain. 
For perspective and help, I've been reading about home life in Britain during those war years.

I came across this quote, below, that a young bride at the time took as her guide after she heard King George read it in his Christmas speech of 1939. He also said in this speech that everyone hoped for peace in the coming year, but if it did not come, "We shall remain undaunted"*.
(Quote and audio are in a Guardian article about wartime marriages.)

I like it. No need to believe in a literal god to find it helpful–– there never is a known, safe path into the unknown:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’
The Penny Cooper Project

I've been wanting a big, creative project to occupy myself with, ever since Covid-19 began.
Nothing presented itself to me until the other day, when Penny Cooper was given a time machine.

Funnily, it was Ass't Man who asked me if I wanted that old bike speedometer at work. 
I turned it down.
Then I remembered my old idea to make a movie called Starship 379, made with objects that cost no more than $3.79.  Something clicked, and I took the speedometer.

(The idea is old, alright--I first posted about Starship 379 at the end of 2008.)

I showed the speedometer to a friend who shall remain nameless. 
She said, "It's like the chronometer on Star Trek that spins when they travel back in time."

And again, . . . CLICK!
I can make a movie--built out of still images--about Penny Cooper traveling back in time to the Blitz.

To rescue a little girl who is being evacuated from London... whom Penny Cooper has seen in danger, in some sort of vision.

Who turns out to be her own self.

That time loop is from La Jetée, an amazing 1962 short film made of still photos about a man who time travels and witnesses his own death. It's made of still photos, but it doesn't feel that way.

Oh--you can watch the whole 27-min. film on Vimeo.

I first got the idea of making still-photo films not from La Jetée but from Mortmere's 2007 Star Trek slash fan-video, which inspired me to make my own vids.

"Kirk/Spock: The Prize (or, The Whipped Cream Maneuver)"

The idea of still photos is such a good one for the girlettes. 
Stop-motion filming them would take forever and in my hands, probably not turn out very well.

My main challenge will be finding a stunt double for Penny Cooper---to play the girl she rescues who looks "just like" her...

I've started looking for source photos of children evacuees at train stations. (I think the girlette may be in danger of falling under a train.)

I'd misremembered such photos as sweet. In fact, they're as painful as any photos of refugees on the move. 

But you do see amazing expressions on the faces of the children, who do remind me of the Orphan Red girlettes.

 Photos above mostly from the Getty,

* Etymology of "daunt" (v.) c. 1300, "to vanquish, subdue, conquer," from Old French danter, ... "be afraid of, fear, doubt; control, restrain," from Latin domitare, frequentative of domare "to tame".
Sense of "to intimidate, subdue the courage of" is from late 15c. 

Penny Cooper is definitely the type to remain UNdaunted.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A package has arrived

A package arrived, to be inspected by Penny Cooper.
All packages are naturally the property of the Orphan Reds, should the contents prove to be desirable. )

What's this?

It is clearly for us.

This is one of four perfect, and perfectly doll-sized, salt-glaze pots made by blog-friend and artist GZ of "ook?!".

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Let summer nest in my hair!

Me reflected in a mural a few blocks from the thrift store:

A favorite movie for this time: Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night.
I was delighted --by a sense of fellow feeling---to read that Berman made it when he was deeply depressed---it was either make this film or commit suicide, he said.
(Or did he always feel that?)

Looking for stills from the film, I stumbled upon a quote I've searched for for ages---I couldn't remember it exactly, and I'd mistakenly thought it was in Wild Strawberries.

"One can never protect a single human being from any kind of suffering."
Seeing this old woman say this had helped me when I was young. 
(I'd clarify that we can save people "pain"––we can, say, catch a hand reaching for a hot stove–– but "suffering" is an internal condition we cannot directly protect one another from.)

I also love the young man who is trying so hard to be sin-free for God––inspired by Martin Luther's You cannot keep birds from flying over your head; but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair
but finally gives in entirely: "Let the birds nest in my hair!"

"Cream of Wheat" by Lucille Clifton

I take heart from Quaker Oats' announcement they are going to rebrand their Aunt Jemima pancake products. Owners of Uncle Ben's and Mrs. Butterworth's brands quickly followed, and Cream of Wheat is being reviewed.

When multinational corporations decide it's worth a bucket load of money to rebrand their products, something has changed.


“Cream of Wheat” by Lucille Clifton––from Voices (2008)

sometimes at night
we stroll the market aisles
ben and jemima and me     they
walk in front     remembering this and that
i lag behind
trying to remove my chefs cap
wondering about what ever pictured me
then left me personless
i read in an old paper
i was called rastus
but no mother ever
gave that to her son     toward dawn
we return to our shelves
our boxes     ben and jemima and me
we pose and smile     i simmer     what
is my name

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Bear & Forbear

My forbearance has been eaten by a bear.
 I have several examples of me being (or at least feeling) bearlike from this week. Here's the latest.

A Grown-up Person (who really is a Very Nice Person) told me that today is the equinox.

"Oh, yes," I said. "The longest day--so neat! . . .You mean the solstice, though."

The Grown-up Person was pretty sure it was equinox. 

 "Well," I said––BECAUSE I AM THE LIBRARIAN––"I always remember which is which because equi-nox is when night equals day in length."

They remained unconvinced. So they googled it up (yay!) and read me the definition: equinox is when the sun is closest to the equator. 
"So it has nothing to do with the length of night and day," said the Grown-up Person.

I thought of a section in the bio I'm reading, The Knox Brothers, by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald writes about her uncle Wilfred Knox when a young Anglo-Catholic priest joining a religious brotherhood called the Oratory of the Good Shepherd (OGS). In the group...
"There were to be none of the 'quick of harsh judgements that harden differences' on anything or anybody, and this charity [––Fitzgerald adds––] would be hard to put into practice, because other people are not only infuriating, but boring. 
The O.G.S. faced this from the beginning. 'It is fortunate for us that loving and liking are not the same thing. We are not called upon to like our neighbour, but to love him.' This comment by one of the Superiors, George Tibbatts, shows how practical unworldliness can be."
Oh so admirable. I would like to adopt that.
I confess here that I failed not to make a quick and harsh judgment on the Grown-up Person who told me that the relative position of the sun and earth has nothing to do with the length of day and night.

I didn't entirely blow it though. 

I did not bite the Grown-up Person. 

Illustration from book donated to the store, Bear and Forbear: