In Which Our Heroine Battles a Reasonable Funk

1 June 2004

How to describe my mood...I'd say "foul" is fair. (And the next person who hovers through the fog and filthy air is gonna get it.) This weekend went well, as such weekends go, but it was what it was, and it's hard to come away from that feeling particularly chipper.

Mark's grandma's hospice is very, very nice. I'm related to enough old people and have been all my life that I've been in old-person-care facilities fairly often. This was one of the best I've seen. It's well-decorated, it's small, the staff seems to be good...and it doesn't smell. Doesn't smell like industrial cleaning products. Doesn't smell like sick old people.

Mark's grandma was mostly awake when we were there, and she was definitely clear on who was who. We had no guarantee that either would be the case when we set out for Michigan. She said she was glad we came. She noticed the purple we brought in: Sarah's flowers, my dress. She is so sick and so tiny now. A sip of ice water chills her through, so they're trying to get the nurses to remember to bring her warm water. I'm glad we went. I don't know that we'll have another chance. I don't think we will, and if she lives until we return in August, that'll be a lot of suffering. I'm not sure what to want here.

It's been very hard on Mark's grandpa, who's been caring for her all along. He was on the edge of tears a lot, and rightly so, and so were we all.

We're waiting, basically.

It's no fun.

There's nothing good to say.

Add to that the feeling that my career is in slow-motion on every possible front, the feeling that some obligations are going to start crashing on my head repeatedly around here, and my back's response to driving plus grief, and I am in what one might fairly call a funk. I'm trying fairly hard to keep out of it, but my hell-bent optimism only takes me so far, and right now that far is "far enough not to bite off the heads of those around me." Which is, I guess, good, considering.

The key to driving 24 hours out of the last five days is good underwear. Now you know: bras new enough that the wires aren't trying to murder you for whatever sins you committed against them, panties which have neither shrunk to pinch you nor given out entirely.

I read a lot this weekend. There was only one book in my bag I hadn't finished, not counting my own, and that was John M. Ford's Growing Up Weightless. I think that one book untouched means I estimated pretty well in my packing; I could easily have been in the mood for that instead of something else I read.

I wouldn't recommend Leah Cutter's The Caves of Buda to anyone with an ailing grandparent. On the other hand, it wasn't as hard to read as perhaps it should have been to someone with an ailing grandparent. It was interesting, particularly in the Magyar/Romany mythology, but there were a few character relationships that disappointed me. Well, you know; that is the center of how I look at things, and it isn't the center for everyone else, so I suppose it's not surprising.

Iain Pears's The Titian Committee was diverting enough for the dime it cost me at the library book sale. Not particularly entertaining, but it kept me occupied for some of the ride to Grand Rapids.

I'd been wanting to reread some Louisa May Alcott and see how it struck me, and what I wanted was Rose In Bloom, but it's been so long since I've read any of it that I thought I'd better start with Eight Cousins instead. (Rose In Bloom is its sequel.) It was...meh. It was interesting to see what was considered plain and wholesome and what was not, in Alcott's very overt preaching. Handwriting and grammar were essential, but mathematics was not. So. I didn't enjoy it as much as I once did, because I kept thinking, "Alcott, you're full of it."

From there, I moved on to Lois McMaster Bujold's Brothers in Arms, which I hadn't read in awhile. It's amazing how much I had taken for granted in that series -- Miles's reaction to fast-penta, for example, was something I felt we had "always" known. I had a lot of "Ohhh, yeaaaaaah, that's where we find that out" reaction to that book. And I enjoyed it; it was well-timed, good comfort reading.

I had wanted to read Sharon Kay Penman's Time and Chance since before it existed, but by the time Penman's health let her finish it, I had almost forgotten to check for her stuff at libraries and bookstores. When Jon was down for breakfast, we stopped in at Barnes, and it was in their bargain bin. Sold. Even with its manymany pages, I felt like relationships and events were sometimes being skimmed and summarized. A certain amount of that is necessary in an historical work of this scope, but I wished for a bit less of it. I still want to read the sequel, though.

Throughout the weekend, I was reading bits of John Lindow's Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs and taking notes on it furiously. It's organized so that the various gods-etc. appear in alphabetical order, which allowed me to consider them separately rather than hierarchically. My theory is that people in an experimentally verified polytheism (that is, with gods wandering around where you can poke them with a stick, though that seems inadvisable) would not necessarily interact the most with the gods mythologists or historians consider most important. Gods of locales and personal interests would probably feature fairly prominently in most people's interactions with gods: some Odin and some Thor, sure, but also perhaps some of Ran's daughters. So there were plenty of bits and pieces of things that fell together for The Mark of the Sea Serpent and beyond, and a few more indirectly for the world of the Not The Moose monstrosity.

Right up there with the Bujold for comfort reading was Pamela's The Secret Country. I do very much love those books, and this was the first time I went back and read that one after reading the others in the series and rereading The Dubious Hills. Not enough Ruth in that volume, but that's all right; there's more Ruth to come, all for meeeeeee! well, also for you, I suppose; I can share.

Liz Williams's Nine Layers of Sky was not at all comfort reading, and while I enjoyed it, it's not the kind of book that becomes a favorite. I was much more intellectually engaged with it than emotionally engaged; it seems like the sort of thing I would consciously decide to reread rather than reaching for spontaneously. The setting in particular (Kazakhstan!) was of interest, and I think well-handled, though I have no direct way to judge.

I breezed right through Steven Brust's Teckla: those books are so darn much fun.

Gunnar Karlsson's The History of Iceland was largely review, went not much deeper into Iceland's "boring period" than I already knew, and annoyed me. And now I'm reading William Hutchison's Religious Pluralism in America, which is kind enough to refrain from annoying me in precisely the way The History of Iceland did annoy me. I call that both consideration and good timing.

Here's my problem with The History of Iceland: like many historians, Karlsson evidently feels that he must choose between decrying the pre-twentieth-century status of women in society and praising Iceland for being far ahead of most (if not all) other European countries in that regard. He can't simply report on both, can't say that while women had by no means modern choices, their sphere was much broader within their society than in most comparable places and times. He makes comments like "Like most of the rest of Europe...[insert tsking and finger shaking here]" and then goes on to describe conditions that would have been quite progressive compared to Europe at the time. Also, I think you're talking about quite different societies if a larger role for women is the traditionalist, conservative view that hasn't had much contact with the outside world than if that same larger role is reform brought in from external sources. From a world-builder's perspective, that's a very telling difference. From Karlsson's, apparently not so much.

But to Hutchison, America can be both in need of more pluralist religious attitudes and advanced compared to most other countries in, say, 1800. He doesn't feel the need to choose between the two. Which seems sensible to me, but perhaps there's some deep professional reason why it's not. (I doubt it, though.)

I really, really like Fafblog's interview with Jesus. In case you don't know Fafblog, it is not, shall we say, a blog that shies away from either silliness or sarcasm. But it is a good interview with Jesus. Robots in the kingdom of heaven! Robots!

It's finally stopped raining. It's after 9:00 at night (and I'm sorry if some of you have been wondering if something bad happened), and it's finally stopped raining. Maybe we'll get to use the new mower this week after all. One never knows. Well, sometimes one does. But this is not one of those times.

Today Mark and I went up to Columbia Heights to lunch with Aunt Ellen and Uncle Phil. We had pannekoekens. My pannekoeken was of exceptional goodness (caramel apple pannekoeken...mmmmmmm...), and I think Mark enjoyed his. It was his very first. Despite his actual Dutchness (Dutch-Americanness, for you purists) and the rest of our total lack of same. Also my aunt Ellen and my uncle Phil are of exceptional goodness. I'll bet they're better than your aunt Ellen and your uncle Phil. Or perhaps this is just because I'm belligerent. I also went to the bank, the post office, and the grocery store. Oh, the joy and bliss of the bank, the post office, and the grocery store.

Lots to catch up on around here, or I wouldn't have waited this long to update. Don't know how much I'll have time to write tomorrow; I need to get to the U library again, need to get some contract work done, need to get some housework done, need to get some real work done, need to get some yardwork done, need to get appointments made and various things confirmed and other things checked on. I'm wobbling between the urge not to plan much (because who knows when we'll get a call and need to go?) and the urge to try to get everything done at once (because of same). I'm feeling off-kilter. Scrambling for a foothold somewhere around here.

As I said in my lj, please don't hesitate to write and talk to me about other stuff. Sometimes when I'm in a bad mood, the best thing for it is unrelated conversation, and e-mail can easily be put off when that's not the case. Don't be shy. It'll be all right, really. And eventually I will no longer be in a funk. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe soon. Let's hope so. I don't like being in a funk. I try to be silly and cheerful, but the funk is still around, it's just that other people don't have to deal with it as much. This has its advantages and disadvantages. But it's what I do.

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