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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How Creepy Is Too Creepy?

I saw something today that I haven't stopped thinking about.  It was the sort of scene most women will be all too familiar with--a man paying an inordinate amount of attention to a woman he doesn't know but without crossing any lines that would make his behavior illegal.

I was in line at the supermarket.  A woman who appeared to be in her mid- to late twenties got in line behind me.  A man who appeared to be in his late fifties to early sixties got in line behind her.  As a side note, I notice he was munching a handful of corn chips, in what was apparently a rather liberal interpretation of what constitutes a free sample.  Anyway, I digress.  I overheard the corn chip-munching man start a conversation with the woman behind me.  He started by commenting that she must really like corn nuts, which is an innocent enough--if somewhat bizarre--conversation starter.  She replied that they were for her boyfriend, which in my mind was a pretty clear signal for him to back off.  Nevertheless, he persisted. 

I don't remember what else he said, except that the conversation somehow escalated to him asking her what area she lived in, at which point she referenced her boyfriend again.  At that point, it was my turn to pay for my groceries, and I didn't hear what happened next.

For me, it was when he started trying to find out where she lived that turned this conversation from weird into creepy.  And since the woman in question alluded to her boyfriend twice in the conversation, I think she probably found the conversation creepy, too.  Referencing a boyfriend or husband is a tactic I've used in similar situations.  But I was left wondering what, if anything, to do.  The man in question was being creepy, but hadn't come close to crossing any legal lines.  It didn't seem like a situation for calling the police or store security.  We were in a crowded supermarket in broad daylight, which probably provided some safety.  I briefly considered waiting for the woman to finish paying for her groceries and offer to walk with her wherever she needed to go, but wasn't sure if that would be welcome. 

Truthfully, when I reflect on my own experiences of this sort, I'm not sure what I would even want from well-intentioned strangers in this sort of situation.  When I've been in similar situations, I've been very focused on determining whether the situation is likely to escalate in any way and make my escape. It's never occurred to me that a bystander could come to my rescue in any way.  But when I think about it, I realize that it shouldn't be that way.  After all, an inordinate amount of attention from a stranger would be far less unnerving if we felt like someone had our backs. 

So right now, I'm looking for ideas.  Was I correct to not intercede?  Should I have waited for the woman and offered to walk somewhere with her?  Butted in on the conversation to take some of the heat off the woman behind me in line?  There has been discussion recently of how to intercede in situations that are clearly more dangerous, but since low-level creepy incidents are unfortunately a large part of many women's lives, I think we need rules for bystanders in those, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Shouldn't We Move Past This As A Society?

Nope, not a political rant today.  At least I don't think it's tied up on politics in any way...

What I'm going to complain about is group assignments in educational settings.  It has been the bane of my existence since I was in 4th grade.  I still remember the assistant principal of my elementary school coming into my class and explaining the concept of "cooperative learning."  Back then, it was more structured.  Each group was supposed to divide into rolls:  leader, recorder, reporter, and maybe some other stuff I've forgotten.  I think even as a kid, I was hoping and expecting it to be a passing fad, but the concept has had a distressing amount of staying power.

In my experience, there has been a lot less group work in higher ed.  But in my K-12 years, I heard various excuses for group work.  One thing I heard a lot was that it was a way for students who were doing better to help students who were lagging behind, which always made me wonder how that was fair to the students who were doing well.  Another excuse was that eventually, we would all be in jobs that required massive amounts of group work, and we needed to get used to working together.

Well.  I can't speak for everyone's jobs, of course, but I can speak to the ones I've had.  Some of my jobs, like teaching, have actually required little to no group work.  Other jobs I've had involved completing tasks or projects in teams, but really in those situations, we were usually working individually on portions of projects that would all be put together in the end.  So we weren't putting up with each others neuroses and idiosyncrasies on a daily basis.  Also, it's worth pointing out that everyone was getting paid for their teamwork efforts. Personally, I will put up with a lot more when money is involved.

What inspired this particular rant is that I had a considerable amount of group work in one of my classes this semester, which, I'm happy to report, ended yesterday with the presentation of the last project.  Even under the best circumstances, this amount of group work would have been challenging, but the person I worked with turned out to be a complete nightmare.  She consistently waited until right before projects were due to do any work, and then second-guessed (and sometimes deleted) work I'd already done.  Then she would waste time agonizing over what other students in the class were doing and messing around with formatting.  She would then be miffed that I didn't want to match her amount of time engaged in useless behaviors that masquerade as "working."  In principle, it's supposed to be faster to complete projects with another person, but I'm convinced I would have finished all of the projects much faster on my own.

I understand that some people work better in groups as individuals.  But those of us who work better individually shouldn't be forced into that model, and people should stop talking about how beneficial group work is for us in the long run.  The fastest way for this nonsense to go away is for educators to stop forcing group work on everyone.  Can we finally take that step as a society?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

I had been feeling regretful recently about my lack of both time and material to update my blog.  The time is still a problem (still two weeks left in my semester!), but I now have some (completely unwelcome) material:  There. Is. A. Centipede. In. My. Home.

My building is unfortunately home to various unwelcome critters.  I've written here before about the rodent problem.  Laila usually keeps the mice at bay (she killed her sixth mouse a few weeks ago!).  However, the flip side of having a cat take care of the rodents is that her food attracts roaches, another one of the unwelcome critters.  In general--if I must live in a building with infestation problems--I'm okay with this trade off.  As gross as roaches are, I prefer them to the mice.

However, a centipede is another matter entirely.  Centipedes have always given me the creeps.  They run really fast, and I've hear their bites are painful.  They also just look awful.  Years ago, in another apartment, one somehow got into my closet light fixture and died there.  It was illuminated every time I turned the light on.  I took it as an omen that I needed to move.

Anyway, this current centipede is on the wall in the closet that holds my washer and dryer.  It's high enough up and wedged enough into the corner that it would be difficult to kill.  I'm afraid of I go after it with a broom, it'll just fall down and run off someplace (or worse, somehow fall on me).  At the moment it's hanging out and moving its antennae menacingly when I try to do laundry.  I don't like seeing it there, but I know if it disappears, I'll worry about where else it might show up. 

I'm hoping for less revolting material next time I write here.  Anyone got any great tips for dealing with centipedes that somehow get inside?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Can't We Stretch Out The Magic Of Halloween?

Complaints about stores and their schedule of displaying/selling holiday items are pretty much a cliche at this point.  So I never really thought I would add to the chorus...but I will, since I feel mildly inconvenienced by it right now.

I've been seeing cute little pumpkins for sale for weeks.  Every week, I've been tempted to buy one, but I haven't because there is no shortage of clutter in my apartment, and I didn't have a good enough reason to justify buying one.  But then I decided that one of those pumpkins would be a cool addition to a fall-themed activity I was planning for one of my clients.  I decided to buy one today.

Except that there were none to be found in my supermarket.  In fact, all traces of Halloween had vanished, replaced with a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas stuff.  It never occurred to me that all the pumpkins would be gone, since (a) Halloween was less than a week ago, and (b)I thought people who liked table centerpieces would want cute little pumpkins for their Thanksgiving decorating.

Well, lesson learned.  My client will have to see a line drawing of a pumpkin, and in the future, I'll recognize little pumpkins as the precious, fleeting commodity that they are.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Limits To Feline Companionship

I love having a cat, and Laila adds a lot to my life.  But I realized recently that she is utterly lacking in empathy when it comes to human sickness.

I've been sick with a cold for about the past week and a half now.  I initially thought I'd be able to kick it pretty fast since, after all, it's just a cold.  But of course colds come in gradations, from the "just a cold" variety to the "monster viruses that bring on secondary infections and leave your abdomen sore from all the coughing" variety.  My cold belongs to the latter category.  Throughout this ordeal, it has been clear that Laila doesn't like my coughing, particularly when I have a coughing fit while she's in my lap.  But she hasn't seemed to connect the annoying sound to any discomfort on my part.

Her lack of empathy became very apparent Friday night, when I had hoped for a good night of sleep that would put me on a fast track to feeling better.  I got up for the second time at around 4 AM when it became clear that I wasn't going to be able to sleep because of all my coughing.  When I came out to the living room, Laila concluded it was cat breakfast time and started meowing loudly.  I told her it wasn't time for breakfast yet, and started making myself a cup of hot herbal tea to try to calm my cough.

The worst moment was when I sat on the couch with my hot tea in hand, started coughing before I could set the cup down, spilled scalding hot water on my thigh, and yelped.  Laila's response?  Industriously scratching the couch.  She didn't even look up at the sound of my yelp.

I still highly recommend cat ownership to anyone.  After all, cats are fun most of the time.  But don't buy expensive furniture if you're going to have a cat.  And don't expect any concern from them at all when you're sick.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

I Stand With Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

I am still adjusting to my new level of busyness, but when I have spare moments, I find myself turning to coverage of Brett Kavanaugh and the women who have accused him of sexual assault and misconduct.  At this point, three such women have come forward.  I believe all of them, but I chose to focus the title of this blog post on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford because she spent the day testifying before the Senate and we know the most about her experience.

Why do I so firmly believe her?  After all, I wasn't a witness to what happened.

Two reasons:
1.  Sexual assault is so extremely prevalent in our society that it does not surprise me when I hear that someone was assaulted. 

2.  She had absolutely no incentive to fabricate this.  From all outward appearances, she has had an extremely successful adult life.  Since coming forward with her allegations against Kavanaugh, she has experienced harassment and threats.  Why would she throw her own life into utter disarray, aside from a sense of civic duty?

Why am I so interested in this case?
1.  Because while I don't share Ford's exact experience, I've had other bad experiences with harassment and aggression from men.  The MeToo movement has shown me just how common such experiences are, and it makes me angry.  How much more mental energy would women have if we weren't trying to avoid harassment and aggression or trying to mentally recover from experiencing it?  What could we collectively accomplish with that additional mental energy?  What would life be like if women's bodies were not so routinely treated like public property?

2.  Because I resent the implications some have made that the fact that Kavanaugh was a teenager at the time somehow makes it okay to assault someone.  Sure, he can move on from that...but what about Ford?  She has had to live with this experience her whole life.  The fact that she was a teenager at the time does not make it any better for her.

3.  Because we are talking about making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.  It's a foregone conclusion that I'm not going to be thrilled with anyone Trump nominates.  But the risk of a Supreme Court justice who attempted to rape someone--yes, even decades ago--is unacceptable.  Surely there are other people he could choose from, and surely not all of them have a history of violence.

4.  Because I'm appalled at how little we have progressed as a society.  I was in sixth grade when Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas had repeatedly sexually harassed her on the job.  Though I was still young at the time, I remember the skepticism she encountered.  Actually, one of my most vivid memories of that time is my (female) social studies teacher that year speculating that Hill had had a crush on Thomas and was acting out of unrequited love.  I would have hoped than in the intervening 26 years, our society would have become more enlightened.  I'm not asking for anyone to automatically believe anyone who brings forward allegations of sexual misconduct or assault, but I do wish that everyone would seriously consider them.  At a bare minimum, people who bring forward such allegations should not have to fear for their own safety.

The United States deserves better than this.  I deeply admire all the women who have come forward to try to ensure that we get better than this in the end.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Few Grad School Observations

The past few weeks have gone really fast!  It still feels a little scary to be back in school, rather that working at a job and earning money, but I also think it's entirely possible that my whole five-semester program will go by in a flash.  Here are some thoughts on the experience so far:

  • I'm really busy.  I thought I knew what I was getting into time-wise.  I thought I might be busier in this master's program than I was in my last one, so that isn't a surprise.  But what is a surprise is that I'm also busier now than I was in the past couple of years working full time and taking classes on top of that.  Gulp.
  • Learning ASL has given me another way to be uncoordinated.  Usually language classes aren't too difficult for me.  At this point, ASL is proving to be the exception because it involves a level of coordination that I don't seem to have.  It reminds me of trying to learn the moves to the Macarena when I was in high the time I learned, the dance had become unspeakably uncool.  I hope it will come in time.  I do think it's a fascinating language.
  • I have a distinguishing feature of some sort.  When I was teaching, it was very important to me to learn all of my students' names.  However, it was not an instantaneous process.  The way it worked for me was that the first names I'd learn would be those of students who had some distinguishing feature.  For instance, if there was, say, one student with red hair in the class, his or her name would be easier for me to remember.  All of my professors seemed to learn my name quickly...which leads me to believe that I perhaps have a distinguishing feature of my own.  I'm willing to bet that that distinguishing feature is my age, as I have at least ten years on all of my classmates (more in many cases!).  It's also very possible that I'm older than one of my profs.
The good thing is that people routinely get through these programs, so it should all be okay in the end.  This will, however, almost certainly be my last degree-seeking program.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Things That Will Make Next Week Easier

One week of graduate school is down!  Yay!  I'm not going to count how many weeks are left in a five-semester program.

Just like every new experience, the first week seemed pretty rough.  There are a lot of new skills I'll need to acquire.  There is a lot of class work to do.  And because of the nature of this program, I'll have responsibilities in the onsite clinic. 

It has also been somewhat rough emotionally.  I'm thrilled to have such a good opportunity to break into another field, but I'm also in my late thirties and have been working for years.  Leaving the workforce for two years to do something new is scary. I've thought a few times that it would have been nice if I had thought I could have the sort of life I wanted without retraining, if I had felt like I had a secure future at the job I just left.

But!  I have at least two reasons why this week will almost have to be easier than last week, and that is something to celebrate.

1.  I broke down and bought a tablet.  When I was working full-time and taking night classes, I carried an ancient--but fairly lightweight--laptop with me.  Its battery didn't stay charged for long, but hey, I didn't need it to because I had one class per day.  With much longer class days, I spent last week toting my newer--but extremely heavy--laptop with me.  I could tell after about the first day that two years of lugging that thing along with my lunch and even one of my textbooks every day was going to do serious damage to my back and shoulders.  I had been curious about tablets for years but had never purchased one because I wasn't sure I would use one enough to justify the cost.  After a few days of agonizing over how much money I had already spent on textbooks, I decided to bite the bullet and order a tablet.  It arrived today, and so far, I'm very pleased with it.  I think there will be occasions when I have to drag the laptop to campus with me, but those will be few and far between, and will likely remind me to appreciate my tablet.

2.  Metro will be restored to its usual level of functionality tomorrow.  Two metro stations that lie between me and my campus have been closed since late July(!).  I've been fortunate that this particular phase in Metro's improvement plan didn't inconvenience me much until last week, but I will say that I found it quite inconvenient over a short span of time.  I'm lucky in that I have a commuter train option where I live.  However, the trains don't run frequently on the line closest to me.  Twice last week I found myself running for the train because I knew I would have a long wait for the next one (or in one case, it was the last train of the evening).  I am not a graceful runner, and I had that abovementioned laptop on my back.  I won't miss the joint pain that resulted.

Wishing everyone a great week, even better than last week!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Deciding To Change Careers

People who have been reading my blog for a while know part of this story already.  I have a master's degree in Arabic and have been using that skill professionally for years.  A couple years ago, when I started a job that offered tuition remission, I started taking undergraduate-level courses in speech-language pathology with the idea of one day--if I chose to--pursing a master's degree and changing careers.  I then decided to apply to graduate programs last winter, and I'll start classes a week from today.  With a five-semester program plus a clinical fellowship year ahead of me, it almost seems premature to write about changing careers now.  But I'll do it anyway because (a) it's the biggest thing going on in my life right now, and (b) I haven't told the whole story of why I chose to do this and how I chose speech-language pathology in particular. 

I love Arabic, and I'll always be glad I studied it.  It was one of my majors as an undergraduate, and I went on for the master's because I wanted to improve my skills and I had some very good funding and travel opportunities.  One thing that I didn't really understand when I was younger, though, was the overall job distribution in the field.  At least in the US, Arabic jobs skew very heavily toward security.  I don't believe that there is anything wrong with working in security if that's what you want, but I'm also very aware of why people might not want that sort of job for their entire career (or at all, in some cases).  There are jobs in education, but particularly for people without a Ph.D., they are often adjunct positions, which pay very little and offer no security.  Then there are the miscellaneous jobs in research, human rights, etc.  You might get one of those, but competition might be stiff, and you probably shouldn't plan your career trajectory around getting one.  Plus, funding for those positions is likely to be unstable, which can also make your job unstable.  Some people also work as freelance translators.  This is something I've never tried, but I wonder about the long-term stability of that sort of work, too, especially with the advances in machine translation.

Fast-forwarding a good number of years after actually receiving my degree, I was teaching Arabic in Kazakhstan.  I loved teaching, but found many aspects of the specific job (and its location) to be problematic.  I applied to dozens of jobs back in the US while I was out there.  Most of the time, I heard nothing back, even a formal rejection.  I started to think that I might need to retrain if I wanted to move back to the US, and started researching which job fields were expected to grow.  For some reason, speech-language pathology had never occurred to me, but when I came upon it in my research, it occurred to me that it would combine my interests in language and health.  I decided that if I ever retrained, it would be for that.

I was wondering how soon to give up on my job search and start retraining once we returned to the US, but at the point when I started seriously thinking about that, one of those jobs I applied to while I was in Kazakhstan panned out!  It was a job I valued greatly, but there was a distinct air of instability the entire time I was there.  In fact, I was laid off from it and later rehired.  This job provided me with tuition remission, and I had been taking classes with the idea of having the option to pursue a master's in speech-language pathology at some point.  The layoff convinced me that I needed to pursue the master's sooner rather than later.  Even when I was rehired, funding for my position was only (somewhat) guaranteed until April.  It ultimately lasted longer (I left on my own accord on Friday), but the uncertainty helped propel me through the process of grad school applications last winter.

It's difficult not to have mixed feelings about all of this.  It was hard work to take classes while working full time, and I'm now looking at a couple of years out of the workforce.  Plus, career is part of my identity, and Arabic has been the backbone of my career for a long time.  I wish I could have found a stable job that was a good fit for me with my Arabic skills.  On the other hand, even though starting over in my late thirties feels daunting, I am very excited about speech-language pathology.  I also realized as I left my office for the last time on Friday what a source of anxiety my job's instability had become for me.  I was sad to leave the job, but happy to leave behind the worries that came with it.  There is never a guaranteed "happily ever after" in anything in life, including career changes, but I'm optimistic that I've chosen the right decision for myself and that it will bring the stability I crave at this point in my life.

Monday, August 6, 2018


I'm happy to report that I finished my summer science classes and was rewarded with a vacation to Washington and Oregon!  In addition to sightseeing and getting a break from an icky mid-Atlantic summer heatwave, I also saw a lot of my family, and we had a picnic in honor of my grandma.  It was wonderful to see relatives and generally get a break from daily life--I think it will give me the energy to finish the last couple weeks at my job and start my life as a full-time student.  Anyway, here are some pictures!

A perfect dungeness crab shell.

Bridge into Astoria, OR

Haystack Rock in Oregon

One of many jellyfish I saw washed ashore in Oregon.  I felt sorry for them and kind of wanted to help, know...

A slightly frightening number of wild turkeys

Sahalie Falls, Oregon

Clear Lake, Oregon

The largest morels I've ever seen in Pike Place Market in Seattle

Amazon Spheres!

Chihuly exhibit

More Chihuly sculptures outdoors in the garden

Friday, July 13, 2018

Laila In Action

I am an excessively proud cat owner, and I think my cat is too cute for words.  However, she is notoriously difficult to photograph; not too surprisingly, she doesn't understand the concept of staying still.  I was lucky enough to get a few decent pictures of her recently, though:

Laila brutalizing her new toy mouse.

In the process of stealing Scott's water.

The look of a cat who has gotten away with something.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

This Year's Balcony Garden

It's that time of the year again when I get to blog about my balcony garden!  I'm a real amateur gardener, but I do enjoy taking care of plants, and I'm thrilled when food results from my efforts.

This year, I started with yellow cherry tomatoes, green zebra striped tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, and the feisty free mint plant.  Things are going a little differently from last year, and I'm not always sure why:

1.  Unlike last year, the tomato plants this year are thriving.  We're already getting plenty of ripe yellow cherry tomatoes.  The green zebra tomato plant is producing less fruit (and we haven't gotten any ripe tomatoes from it yet), but at least the plant looks healthy.

2.  On the flip side, our cucumber plant was sort of a bust.  It succumbed to the aptly named powdery mildew, and we only got a few small cucumbers from the plant before that happened.  So unfortunately, we were unable to recreate last summer's bumper crop.

3.  Unlike last year, I'm not seeing as many bees on our balcony, and pollination has been a problem, particularly for our zucchini plant.  The zucchini plant appears healthy, and has both male and female blossoms, but the tiny zucchinis at the base of the female blossoms are just withering up and dying.

4.  Among fellow gardeners, that might raise the interesting question of why we have so many tomatoes.  The answer--which I learned years ago after having a healthy tomato plant that yielded exactly zero tomatoes--is that tomatoes are easy for gardeners to pollinate in the absence of bees because don't have separate male and female blossoms.  This means that pollen doesn't have to be carried from one blossom to another--agitation is sufficient.  I forget where I read this tip, but you can agitate the blossoms with an electric toothbrush (bonus points for using a cheap crummy one that you don't use to brush your teeth, of course).  I have been advised that using an electric toothbrush on my tomato plant makes me appear...eccentric, but I don't care because I'm getting a lot of yummy tomatoes.

5.  The basil is doing well (such a wonderful hardy plant!), and of course I'm delighted with my free mint plant.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day Wish

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
-Emma Lazarus

This portion of "The New Colossus,"by Emma Lazarus, is rightly famous, and often quoted.  I realize that the use of this quote may seem cliche at this point, but I really do find the words beautiful and inspiring.  To be a citizen of a country that may serve as a refuge to others is an amazing privilege and responsibility.

Like most Americans, I am descended from immigrants.  My family came from various parts of Europe.  The last of the immigrants in my family left the Netherlands in 1912.  My great grandfather was among them, along with his parents and siblings.  My great grandfather died before I was born, but I did meet his two sisters, who lived into their nineties.  I sometimes wonder if contact (however brief) with older relatives who spoke heavily accented English helped cement in my mind the concept of the US being a nation of immigrants.

I know very few details about my family's immigration story.  However, to the best of my knowledge, none of my family's immigrants were wealthy, and none of them had attained a high level of formal education.  Yet, I am the daughter of a professor and an attorney.  I myself have one master's degree, and am on the verge of starting another.  I have held several professional jobs.  I also have the privilege of living in an area with a large number of recent immigrants and seeing how they contribute to our society.

My wish for this Independence Day is for the US to live up to Emma Lazarus' beautiful poem.  Whether the people in question are central Americans fleeing gang violence, Syrians fleeing a long and brutal civil war, Yemenis fleeing a war that the US government supports (!), or anyone else who needs refuge, I hope we can open our hearts and minds to them and allow them to enrich our great country.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Breaking The Blogging Silence With A Few Pictures

So.  Blogging has been a challenge for me lately, which is a pity, since it's something I enjoy.

There are a couple reasons for this, I think.  For one thing, I'm taking two science classes in an eight week period of time.  These are the last of my prerequisites before going back to grad school in August.  On the one hand, this is pretty much an exercise in checking off boxes at this point.  I'm already in a graduate program, and there isn't much pressure to ace these classes.  On the other hand, since it's two of them in a compressed time frame, there are lots of little boxes to check off along the way.  This leaves me feeling pretty busy and like there's always some task I need to finish.

The other reason is that I've fallen into a transition mentality at this point.  I find transitions stressful--even ones that I think will ultimately be good ones--and it's hard to think of blogging material when I'm stressed out about what's coming next.  I'm starting school again--what will it be like to be a full-time student in my late thirties?  I'm leaving a job I care about--what if I regret doing that?  And how much notice should one give when you've actually been pretty sure for months that you would leave?  On top of that transition, we're looking down the barrel of a possible local move to make Scott's commute more manageable.  Local moves are not the end of the world, but any sort of move is expensive and disruptive.  Plus, we would need to find someplace to move to.

All of this is to say that my mind has been mush lately, but I still want to blog.  So in the interest of putting something in this space, I'll put in a few pictures that I like!

Heh heh.  I took this one back in April, but I like it enough that I'm adding it to the blog now.

This was possibly the prettiest chocolate bar I had ever seen.  But, since it was chocolate, I ate it anyway.

I always love seeing turtles.

Groundhogs are pretty cool, too.  You can't really tell from this picture, but these were babies.  I had never seen such tiny ones before.

And for something that makes no sense at all...what sort of cat drops her toy mouse in her food bowl?!  This happened this morning, and I'm curious what will happen when she rediscovers it later.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Life's Little Triumphs: Me-Made-May Edition

Happy Me-Made-May, everyone!

For those of you out there who don't obsessively read sewing blogs, Me-Made-May is a time for sewists (I'm following the lead of others and not referring to people who sew as sewers) to celebrate their handmade garments.  Many sewists make pledges, such as promising to wear at least one handmade garment every day in May.  Many people put pictures of their me-made outfits on their blogs or Instagram.  I didn't make any pledges myself, but since my collection of me-made clothing has grown slightly since this time last year, I've found myself making an effort to wear some of the things I've made this month.  Me-Made-May has also encouraged me to think about what I want to get out of sewing as a hobby and what sorts of gaps I have in my closet currently (knit tops that don't cling relentlessly to my midriff and button-up shirts that don't gap open anywhere are high on my list!).

With that being said, my life's little triumph for Me-Made-May was making a very specific garment that I've been trying to buy from stores for the past couple of summers: a charcoal gray knit maxi skirt.

There were a number of problems with trying to purchase a ready-to-wear charcoal gray knit maxi skirt.  The first problem is my height.  Unless I buy maxi skirts that are designated as "tall" sizes, the skirt will end an awkward few inches above my ankles.  Needing to buy "tall" maxi skirts already limits the retailers I can shop from.

The color charcoal gray turned out to be another problem.  For solid colored maxi skirts, black seems to be the most popular color, with navy blue a distant second.  In terms of gray, all I ever saw was light heather gray (think of the color you often say on men's gray t-shirts), which wasn't what I wanted.

The final challenge is that a good number of knit maxi skirts are designed in such a way that they cling to the wearer's derriere, showing undie lines devastatingly clearly.  This I don't understand at all.  I realize that not everyone has my height issues with clothing, and that not everyone wants the same colors of clothing that I do.  But I'm pretty sure that NOBODY wants visible panty line, much let alone extremely visible panty line!  This raises the interesting question of why such skirts are being produced in the first place.

So I decided to take the plunge and try making the skirt I wanted.  Even though it's technically a very simple project, it felt like a stretch in my skills because I only recently started sewing with knit fabrics at all and I had only made t-shirts up until that point.  I opted for buying a pattern rather than using one of the online tutorials for drafting your own knit maxi skirt, which I actually think was a mistake because the sizing was way off, which I tried on the waistband for size and discovered I was swimming in it.  After removing quite a bit of fabric, I ended up with a skirt that fit.  I wore it to work the other day, and I'm happy to report that it didn't fall down even once.  :)  There is still plenty of room for me to improve my sewing, but it's nice to think that now I can choose projects more based on my clothing needs rather than (lack of) technical skills.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

This Tops My List Of First World Problems

For the next week or so, I will be dealing with the fallout of  the king of all first world problems: pepper-infested feta cheese from Whole Foods.

I buy crumbled feta cheese pretty frequently to add to my salads in jars, and this week, I also have plans to add it to a casserole.  Whole Foods was horribly crowded today, and I had to reach over someone's head to get my tub of feta cheese.  In my hurry to get through the shopping and get the whatever out of the store, I didn't look closely enough at what I grabbed, and discovered the revolting truth once I got home.

I'll admit that I've always thought black pepper was pretty gross.  I have approximately 200 assorted spice bottles in my kitchen cabinet, so it's not that I'm against spices in general.  Just black pepper, the once spice that seems to be pretty universally enjoyed in the US.  But even putting aside my own personal distaste for black pepper, isn't it weird that pepper-infested feta cheese is even a product that is sold?  Does this mean that people were willingly contaminating their own perfectly good feta cheese with pepper before it was sold mixed together?  Did Whole Foods use a focus group to come up with this idea, or was this a pet project of some employee with idiosyncratic eating habits?

I have no desire to enter the fray of Whole Foods for a second time in one week, so I'm stuck with my weird, speckled feta cheese for now.  I'll see if my salads are better for the feta, or worse for the addition of black pepper.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Be Like The Mint Plant!

This will be my third summer in my current apartment, and for the past two years, I've grown small balcony gardens.  We've had an unusually chilly spring here, but I'm finally convinced that the plant-killing cold is done for the season, so I decided to buy a few plants at the farmers market today (yellow cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and basil--I'm hoping to buy a few more plants TBD). 

I haven't spent much time on the balcony lately.  Really, the last time I remember spending an extended period of time out there was in the fall when I decided that my dead plants from the summer were becoming too unsightly and I dug them all up.  My various planters spent the winter on the balcony, and I had noticed looking out the window that one of them had several green shoots growing up.  I just assumed that a bird had dropped some bird seed in the planter and that we might get a sunflower, but I didn't think too much about it.

So imagine my surprise when I went out on the balcony to plant this summer's crop of plants and found that the mystery plant in the planter was mint!  Sure, we had mint last summer, but I uprooted it in the fall!  When the plant appeared to be extremely dead!  Not to mention the fact that it spent the winter outside in the cold, receiving no water or attention from me.

So, I guess we're getting mint as a freebie this year, which is pretty cool.  I had been on the fence about growing mint this summer because even though I like the idea of having it, I didn't use it all that much last summer.  But apparently the mint decided for us.  I have to admire its tenacity, and if just being a plant on the balcony doesn't suit it, I can see it having a side career being photographed for inspirational posters.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I'm Getting Old AND One Of Life's Little Triumphs

There are all sorts of things in life that might make us feel old, and if I wanted to, I could discuss random aches and pains or my disinterest in most forms of social media.  But I think a more important aspect of aging for me is the sharp reduction in procrastination in my life.

I don't think I was ever as bad as they come in terms of procrastination.  But going back to school in my late thirties has given me a chance to compare myself as a student at two very different ages.  When I was in my early twenties and had an assignment due in two weeks, I usually didn't worry to much about it, figuring I had plenty of time and what could possibly go wrong.  Now if I have an assignment due in two weeks, I feel like it should already be done and worry about what sorts of obstacles will pop up to prevent me from finishing it.

School is the area where it's easiest for me to see my change in mindset, but it happens in other areas of life, too.  Generally speaking, if I know there's something I need to do, I want to get it done so I can stop thinking about it and wait for the ten more things that will immediately pop up on my to-do list.  Not that I never put anything off, mind you--it's just less often, and usually with a good reason (e.g., a problem that I think will resolve itself if I leave it alone).

This brings me to one of life's little triumphs:  The institution I referred to as University B in my last blog post has finally decided to let me enroll in classes there this summer.  (I'm almost hesitant to write about this triumph, lest I jinx myself and find that University B finds some loophole to unenroll me!).  But right now, I'm so relieved.  For one thing, I really do need to take these classes this summer, and if University B had refused to let me enroll, I would have just had to enroll somewhere else.  But also, at this point, I've been dealing with University B for around a month.  It was that thing from my to-do list that refused to be checked off.  I purposely applied early, thinking I could enroll early and then forget about the whole thing until it was time to start classes.  At this point, I won't have quite as much time to sit back and forget about the whole thing, but I'll happily take what I can get.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trying To Finish One Set Of Steps...So I Can Start Another

Oh, the joys of educational bureaucracy!

I've written here a few times about taking evening classes.  Well, since these classes were prerequisites for a graduate program, they were finite in number....and I'm almost done!  With one little catch...

When I started taking class at at University A, I enrolled in a specific post-baccalaureate program.  This program offered many of the prerequisites for the graduate program I was interested in, but not every possible class that every program might require.  The advantages to the post-baccalaureate program were that the classes were offered in the evening (thus making them about as compatible with a full-time job as you're going to get), and that I wouldn't have to compete with traditional undergraduates to enroll.  The disadvantage was that I was allowed to enroll only in this particular set of classes.

This all worked quite well for a while, but I now have two science courses to take that are not included in the post-baccalaureate program.  I decided to enroll in University B, an open-enrollment university with an emphasis on online course offerings.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, as it turns out.  For reasons I don't understand, the fact that I am currently taking a class at University A may preclude me from taking classes at University B.  I discovered this when--despite receiving many form emails from University B reminding me to enroll in classes--I was blocked from enrollment.  I spoke to and emailed several people at University B, and was ultimately told that I needed permission to enroll from University A.  The problem is that since I'm a non-degree seeking student, University A does not care where else I choose to go to school and has no mechanism to provide me with any such documentation. 

With some more follow-up, University B now seems willing to accept verification of enrollment (which shows no enrollment past this spring) from University A.  Naturally, University A was only able to send this by snail mail (why?!).  I sent an email to University B today to see if they had received it yet.  I've been working on enrolling at University B for about a month now, and I'm anxious to enroll in the classes I need before they fill up.  (While I'm assigning creative pseudonyms to universities, I'll mention that this is all so I can start a master's program at University C in the fall.  So, I'm on the clock at this point to finish everything up.)

Do I have any words of wisdom to impart from this experience?  Not really, because I still don't understand the problem. I'm not sure why it should matter to either University A or University B where else I might be taking classes.  The closest thing I have to useful knowledge about this is to start early when dealing with universities, especially if you're trying to do something even remotely unusual.  I wouldn't have guessed that taking prerequisites from two different universities was all that unusual, but maybe it is.

I remain hopeful that this enrollment business will work out in the end, however, and I'm very excited to see a light at the end of the tunnel!  I've been fortunate to be able to take so many classes using tuition remission, but there's no getting around the fact that taking classes while working is a tiring experience.  In addition to it being tiring, the outcome was also uncertain for a long time.  There was no guarantee that I would get into a graduate program, and completing these prerequisite courses on their own was unlikely to open very many career doors.  I'm happy to see my free time gamble pay off, and I'm looking forward to the next set of steps.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Spring Breaking In The Cold

Scott and I made a trip to Vermont last week, over his spring break.  We did something similar last year, but his break fell later in the year then, so it seemed somewhat more spring-y then.  We had fun this year, though, in spite of the remnants of snow.  And there is something to be said about having a spring break somewhere where you're pretty sure nobody is filming the next installment of Girls Gone Wild.

Middlebury wanted to keep its residents safe.  Good thing--those icicles have been known to kill people!

Montpelier had an ice skating rink in front of its state capitol building!

But alas, safety considerations prevented anyone from using it.  As a native of North Carolina, I have to ask:  When is the ice ever safe?

In Burlington, we saw seagulls standing on a patch of ice in Lake Champlain.

I'm relieved to say that while there was snow on the ground in Vermont, none actually fell while we were there.  It's been an odd winter, with plenty of late season winter storms to go around.  I think the season has truly changed in our neck of the woods, as we were greeted with this beautiful spring scene when we returned home.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Airport Epiphanies

Generally, I think that viewing other people as individuals, rather than representatives of some group, is a sound idea.  Don't judge a book by it's cover, you know what happens when you assume, etc.  However, I sometimes often fail to live up to my idealized vision of myself, and in the interest of self-improvement, I'm coming clean about my failure to see one group of people in particular as individuals:  Other People at the Airport (henceforth OPA)

OPA are nothing but obstacles to things I want in the airport.  When they're ahead of me in the security lines, I just know they haven't flown since sometime in the 1990's and will be completely clueless about all things TSA.  They will have worn knee-high lace-up boots and scattered twenty containers of liquid toiletries throughout their carry-on, rather than putting them in a quart-sized bag.  They will also hog all of the bins.  Because of them, I will miss my flight, or at least not have time to buy food before it.

When OPA get coffee in the airport, I just know they will spend ten minutes crafting the perfect order.  This will spiral into even more time as the barista stops everything to make said specialty order.  They will cause me to forgo my beverage or miss my flight.

I can't speak for male OPA, but female OPA are problematic even in the restrooms.  When they get ahead of me in line, I just know they will inexplicably park themselves in the stall for the next twenty minutes, and probably pee on the toilet seat before finally leaving.

And of course we know that once we finally get on the plane, it's those awful OPA who have hogged all of the overhead bin space.

I laughed when I realized how I was generalizing about all OPA, but then I someone else, I am OPA, the imagined obstacle between the airport and the final destination.  In the future, I'll try harder to be nice in the airport so as to improve the image of our downtrodden group.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I Think The Calendar Misled Me

I thought it was spring, but this is by far the most snow we've gotten this year.  I won't complain, though, since it gave me a day off.  My rule for winter weather is that it either needs to be eventful enough to get me out of doing something (usually that something is going to work at this point in my life), or it shouldn't happen at all.  I've never really bought into the idea of snow being beautiful, and spend a lot of time griping when it makes my commute cold and slippery.  It's been a very odd winter here, and I wouldn't necessarily rule anything out, but I have to think this will be our last major (I am fully aware that this term is relative) snowstorm of the year.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Making Pants Is A Lesson In Patience

I've mentioned my foray into sewing at least a couple of times on this blog.  I also recently mentioned some of my pants-fitting problems.

I know I'm not unique in my pants woes.  I've heard and read complaints by women of all ages, shapes, and sizes about the problems of finding reasonably flattering jeans, in particular.  Some women find a budget brand that works reasonably well with their body; others feel compelled to shell out for designer varieties in order to not feel self-conscious in their own clothing.  The trouble with pants in general (and maybe jeans in particular, due to the material used) is the number of body parts they have to fit.  There is a lot of room for problems with both appearance and comfort.  Where my problem comes in is that I am confined to the small subset of women's pants that have a 36" inseam.  From there, I have to try to find a pair that works reasonably well with my waist, hips, etc.

For all the reasons that it is difficult to buy pants that fit well, it is also difficult to make pants that fit well.  But given the rather small selection of ready-made pants I have to choose from, it seems like a good skill for me to try to master.  I've had what one might call incomplete success with pants-making in the past.  I made a couple pairs of drawstring pants that I liked as a teenager, but I don't think those make the best work clothes now.  More recently, I made a pair of wide-legged pants (only wore once, as they were clownishly wide-legged), and a pair of slim-fit pants (only wore once, as the mystery fabric I used to sew them became weirdly baggy throughout the day).  I decided to try again recently, using the wide-legged pants pattern (but making the legs more narrow to avoid the clown look) and using a higher quality fabric.

I started out by re-tracing the wide-legged pants pattern and making the legs a smaller size than my waist and hips.  I basted them together to test fit, and they were still ridiculously large.  Oddly, the fabric was really pooling in the back leg pieces.

I ripped out some of the basting stitches, took an inch off each of the back leg pieces, re-basted, and tried the pants back on.  It was an improvement, but still pretty clownish.  I ripped out the basting stitches again, and took two inches of width off of each back leg piece.  I re-basted, tried them on, and decided this was an acceptable fit.  Back to the sewing machine to sew and finish real seams.

I then constructed a waistband from the pattern pieces that came with that pattern.  I sewed it to the pants, and--just for kicks--decided to try it on again.  Good thing I did because the waistband was just not going to work--the waistband curve was completely wrong for my proportions.  I put it aside and sulked for a couple days.

It finally occurred to me that the waistband from the slim-fit pants that I sewed from mystery fabric fit me pretty well.  I new waistband pieces from that pattern, sewed them together, and put that waistband on my pants.  Success (at least comparatively speaking)!

The final patience-tester of these pants was botching cutting open the buttonhole for the hidden button closure (I put a lot of Fray Check on it, and am hoping for the best).  But they are done now, and I can say that I did everything I could to ensure that these are pants I will want to wear.  Sadly, my photography skills turned out to not be up to the task of providing a decent picture of this triumph, but I'll try wearing them to work later this week and let that be the test of my pants-making skills.  Whatever happens, though, much like my botched buttonhole, my patience is frayed, and I think I'll try sewing something else next.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

One Person's Trash Is Another Person's Treasure

I'm going to be deliberately vague about the circumstances surrounding this story, but I've been giggling about it ever since it happened, so I wanted to share.

I'm part of an organization that hosted an event catered by a local deli.  When this deli delivered the food, it included a ginormous container of lemon wedges.  Seriously, they must have cut up five or six lemons to fill the container they provided.  In my mind, this was an excessive quantity, especially considering that they were meant to go with a mere gallon of iced tea.  Suffice to say, we had a great many lemon wedges left over.

After this event, I was working with a couple of other people to triage the remaining food.  I asked them what they wanted to do with the lemon wedges, and wasn't surprised when they told me to toss them.  However, maybe a minute or so later--after I had already turned my attention to some of the other remaining food--someone who's part of the organization but wasn't part of this event piped up that she would like to have the lemon wedges.

I can see speaking up for something like sandwiches or a fruit plate, but lemon wedges?  Something that combines inexpensiveness, ease of preparation, and lack of palatability in the absence of some other food item?  Doesn't asking for a leftover container of lemon wedges pretty much cement your reputation as an excessively frugal eccentric?  I think if I had wanted something like leftover lemon wedges, I would have tried to abscond with them quietly for fear of drawing too much attention to my idiosyncrasies.

When I broke the bad news that I had already deep-sixed this valuable item, this person just gave me a dirty look and walked away. 

Am I a wasteful person who just committed the food equivalent of blowing my nose on dollar bills?  Have I made an enemy for life by throwing out a container of lemon wedges?  Was I just dealing with an extreme case of someone taking life's lemons and hoping to make lemonade?  Whatever the case, it was worth the entertainment it brought me.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sewing From A Kit

I've been making jewelry since I was a kid, and in all that time, I never thought of myself as a kit person.  I always felt that if you planned projects and sourced materials on your own, you could both control costs and customize projects to your own specifications.  However, both sourcing materials and customizing are easier when you really know what you're doing.  I've learned this the hard way as I've tried to improve my sewing, and have realized that I don't always know what sorts of modifications are possible/advisable.

So when I read positive reviews of several of the bag kits from this Etsy shop, I was intrigued.  As luck would have it, I had been thinking I could use a bag to take to work--something that would hold lunch, an umbrella, and my water bottle, but be less cumbersome than a backpack.  Nice bags (and even no-so-nice bags) are often kind of pricey anyway, so I thought maybe I should buy a kit and make one myself so that I could learn some more sewing skills.

Anyway, it worked out nicely!  I'm sure a more experienced seamstress would have done a neater job in sections than I did, but I'm perfectly happy with how it turned out, and looking forward to using it as my commute bag.  These are some of my thoughts on the experience:

1.  I have a more positive attitude toward kits now.  It was really nice to have everything I needed to make the bag aside from regular sewing thread just show up in one package.  I'm not even really sure where to buy some of the items like the bag hardware, so it was nice to not have to waste a lot of time looking.

2.  I think having everything arrive at once really motivated me.  I finished this bag in about a week (and that's a week of whatever free time I have left after work, class, and other stuff that needs to be done; my leisure time is not all that plentiful).

3.  As far as these particular kits go, this one was great.  I thought all of the materials were of good quality, and the pattern instructions were very clear.  I would definitely buy from that shop again.

4.  The thing that made making this bag easier than apparel sewing was not having to worry about size or fit.  What made it harder was sewing through a lot of thick materials.  My sewing machine was grumbling at times.  However, this experience spurred me to finally learn how to use the clearance plate that came with my machine to deal with thick seams.  So I've learned a skill that will transfer to lots of other sewing projects.

And here are a couple pictures of my sewing kit success!

I added a pen pocket so that I'd always be able to find a pen when I needed it.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Spectacles We Create For Others To Enjoy

I lost my gloves on Tuesday.  Usually, when I lose something, I don't know how I lost it.  I do this time, though.  I was making a mad dash for the Metro, and after the doors closed behind me, I realized my gloves were no longer in my pocket.  My mad dash was all for the lofty goal of...getting to work five minutes earlier?  I don't understand myself sometimes.

It occurred to me later that I was probably a pretty entertaining sight to people on the platform.  Imagine me doing a completely graceless sprint toward the closest open door, leaping onto the train, gloves flying out of my coat pocket.  I hope I at least gave someone a good laugh on a workday morning. 

And I hope someone is making good use of those gloves.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Tomorrow begins my fifth consecutive semester of taking classes.  Fortunately for me, I'll have only one class this semester (as opposed to the two I've taken for the past three semesters), and it'll be online.  So no more late night slogs back home from campus!

The instructor for this semester's course has already given us an assignment to complete by the start of the semester.  I'm going to be deliberately vague about details about the class (you know, in case the instructor reaches the end of the internet, finds my blog, and makes the connection between it and me).  But...this assignment was all about her, not at all about the subject matter.  I'm serious.  We had to look for answers to questions like where she went to school, titles and synopses of her thesis and dissertation, where she works now, and her research interests.  I'm very protective of my free time, and this seemed like a massive waste of it, particularly before the semester even began.

So, was there a pedagogical purpose to this assignment that I'm either too dense or too cranky to understand?  Or--as I fear--does this indicate that I'll spend the semester trying to manage a professorial ego trip?  I'm sure I'll find out soon.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Life's Little Triumphs: I Made A Pair Of Pants Fit Me!

I wonder sometimes how many women are truly well served by the clothing choices available.  The older I get, the more fit issues I have, but the one that has been a constant since my teens has been pants length.  I'm 5'11", with my height concentrated in my legs.  Ideally, I like to wear a 36" inseam.  Sometimes a 35" inseam works out okay, depending on the style of the pants.  But nothing shorter than that works out for me.  I scoff at clothing companies that claim to carry tall sizes, when the longest inseam they actually provide is 32".

Ironically, I should note here that over the years, some of my more petite female friends have told me that they have trouble getting pants that are short enough.  Maybe there is some magical unicorn out there whose legs are exactly the right length who can have as many pairs of pants as she wants.

In the past few years, my pants length problem has been exacerbated by the popularity of cropped pants.  Don't get me wrong, I have no objection whatsoever to other people wearing them.  It's just that when I wear them, I'm reminded of wearing high-waters as a teenager because I couldn't find long enough pants.  That isn't a time in my life that I care to relive.

If a shorter woman wants full-length pants in the middle of the cropped pants craze, presumably she can order cropped pants in the tall size and get what she wants.  But if you already have to buy pants in the tall size, then cropped pants will always truly be cropped pants.

I had been a little cranky because Banana Republic had some nice looking corduroy pants, but they were cropped.  In the tall size, the inseam was 33".  Grrr.  When I zoomed in on the hem, I could see that the hem was wide enough that there was some extra fabric to work with.  But even on sale, they were pricey enough that I didn't want to risk it.  Plus, if I spend enough money on an article of clothing, I kind of expect the length to be correct from the start.

But then, after the holidays, these pants went on a sort of super sale!  When I saw that I could get a pair for around $21, I decided that was inexpensive enough to try playing with the hem.  The pants arrived, they fit well around the waist and hips, and the hem was indeed wide enough to add some length to the pants.  I picked out the hem and washed the pants.  I was pleased that the original crease that had been at the bottom of the pants washed out nicely, as that was something I had been concerned about.  I used bias tape to help me use as little of the corduroy pants as possible in creating a new hem.  And--voila--I ended up with pants that are long enough for me!

Yay for sewing machines!  Yay for pants that aren't quite long enough but have wide hems!  And I'm going to optimistically give a preemptive "yay" to cropped pants going out of style so that I can buy long enough full-length pants again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Online Shopping Mystery: The Shower Rod

I do a lot of my shopping online because crowded stores exhaust me and because there is something to be said for being home in my pajamas.  Most of the time, this works out pretty well, with some interesting exceptions.

Earlier this month, I ordered a lamp, hand cream, and make-up remover from The lamp arrived by itself.  Shortly thereafter, I received an email that the other items were delayed due to the recent winter storm. 

In my building, any packages that are too large to fit in our mailboxes are collected at the front desk.  We then receive an email when we have a package to pick up.  When I got an email about a package today, I assumed it would be my hand cream and make-up remover.  My heart sank when the guy at the front desk went to the room where the freakishly large packages are stored.  I couldn't think what I would have ordered that would need to be in that room, and I didn't feel like lugging a large box upstairs.  He emerged with a skinny package about four feet long.  I tried to discreetly check the shipping label to make sure I wasn't getting someone else's stuff.

Nope, it was addressed to me.  And it was a shower rod.  Something that I never ordered, and do not need, considering that I live in an apartment.  Our apartment management is by no means perfect, but they did equip every apartment with a shower rod.

I chatted online with someone on, who had very little insight as to why I had received a shower rod.  I suggested that the shower rod was perhaps sent by mistake instead of my hand cream and make-up remover.  The employee accepted that, generously (ha!) told me I could keep the shower rod, and processed a refund for the hand cream and make-up remover that I didn't receive.

I know that anyone could order a shower rod, but I'm enjoying imagining that it was a burly man who enjoys home improvement projects, and that he is now the recipient of my hand cream and make-up remover.  In the meantime, I have this surprise shower rod.  Any creative ideas about what to do with a shower rod, when your shower already has one?