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wrap-up: it was fine!

2013 could have been a better year. My personal year went pretty okay–I did less traveling, I went places I liked, I hung out with people who delighted me and saw a lot of friends–but it was tough for some other people I care a lot about. I wrote out my libraries list and was pleased with it. I will work on my reading list real soon now. I didn’t keep track of my guestroom list last year for some reason. I’ll probably get on that again. My exercise routine has become standard so while I can tell how many time I visited the gym last year (78), I’m not sure how far I biked or swam or fast-walked. This is okay with me. I spent maybe a third to a quarter of my time in Westport and that seemed about right. Jim and I rang in the new year with neighborhood friends (I dressed up, more pics here) and then went out to a poutine and chicken parm breakfast in Barre the next morning. We would have tanked the day early by having Oreo pancakes and bacon but they were out of Vermont maple syrup AND bacon by the time we got there so this was probably a good thing.

My resolution this year, if I have one, is to keep on keeping on as much as possible and to work on “not getting wrapped around the axle” so much, to quote a phrase my father used to like. That is, I’m sure there will be ups and downs to this year, like every year and I’m sure I’ll have my share of annoying travel, bad nights of sleep, and interpersonal conflicts. But those only have to last as long as they last and not live on in my head as some sort of personal instant replays that I carry with me and go over and over. Not living within my own stress or finding ways to dissociate stressful things from the rest of what’s going on in my generally enjoyable brain is my goal. This is in keeping with my time-taking resolution last year. Keeping fewer lists, keeping less track, less score. That went okay. Happy 2014 to those who celebrate that sort of thing.

counterpoint

I am not just a grinch around holidaytime, I tell people, I am a grinch all the time. I work on my attitude but I am a nitpicker and sometimes being a nitpicker means that you notice little tiny things that don’t bother anyone else and it makes you seem grinchy. I know that I differentiate crabby from nitpicky but not everyone does, nor should they. Often these are things that really only affect me–my friend still jokes about the level of sound coming from her refrigerator after I mentioned it when staying at her place–and some are larger issues like why libraries don’t have better websites if we are in the information business? Anyhow, the internet tires me out because it’s always full of soandso said something racist and other people flipped out, or various people in positions of power being jerks, or clickbait-y “Top Ten Things You’ll NEVER BELIEVE” and I’m always like “Try me, I have a pretty good imagination…” Headlines that offer to show me something that leave me breathless are either preaching to some other choir or have a really low bar for what makes someone amazed/breathless/stunned/whatever.

So anyhow in the vein of lowing the general internet blood pressure, here are a few things that have happened to me that you might think would have gone badly but actually went okay. I only mention them because it’s easy to think this sort of thing is never dealt with well.

  1. I got pulled over by the police for having a headlight out. The officer gave me a warning and was totally nice about it.
  2. I got a random set of death threats from someone on the Internet and the people who I was working for handled it quickly and professionally and did not make it my problem or tell me to “get over it”
  3. I went to get my headlight fixed and I got my car in and out of the mechanic’s on time and the mechanic was pleasant and charming and I was charged very little for very good service.
  4. I ordered an item from ebay that never arrived and did not get a good result from their dispute resolution process so I called them to talk about this and they gave me a coupon for twice what I paid for the item and asked if that would “make it right” and I said sure.
  5. There was a profile of me in a local paper that I think was accurate and fair (even if they did edit out one example of me saying “fuck”) and that other people liked.
  6. My flu shot gave me the predictable one day of dragass but was otherwise hassle-free
  7. The new recipe I made came out pretty much like it was supposed to and looked like the photos that came with the recipe.
  8. I went to the gym and no one bothered or body-shamed me or paid any attention to me whatsoever except for that nice Nordic lady who always says hi in the locker room.
  9. I made a mistake remembering both the time and location of a lunch with my boss and she was fine with it and we had a nice meal once we found each other.
  10. My bathroom ceiling started to leak because of ice dams and I told my landlady who said “Thanks for letting me know” and we called Terry The Ice Dam Man who came over and pounded on the roof with a stick for a few hours and now the ceiling doesn’t leak anymore.

I realize that some of these situations are ones that maybe only I was worried would go terribly wrong. But others were scenarios that have entire web communities fretting about them on the regular. I’m also aware that being a nice middle-aged white lady counts for something and that I am a fortunate person in many ways. Writing all of this down is maybe also to remind myself of that as well as to just address the old “Why doesn’t the newspaper ever have any GOOD news?” question.

in before the wrap ups!

You know it’s been a while when your blogging software has forgotten about you and you have to log in again.

The good news is I’ve mostly been enjoying the holiday season and have not been suffering from it. The late Thanksgivukkah holiday (food photo here, this year’s menorah here) means that everything feels closer together this year which is fine by me. I’ve got a trip to Arizona slotted in at the end to go visit Jim’s folks with him and Milo so I think I’ve just shifted activity in that direction. The week afterwards I’m giving a talk in Lexington MA about blogging. No slides. No conference. Just me talking about … doing this. So I figured I should not only get on it but also get contemplative about it again. It’s been a while, seventeen years? I have a lot of other online avenues of self-expression now and so this space has been for more longer-form thoughts, longer-ranging what I’m up to things. I enjoyed reading this post on Zeldman’s website where he talks about blogging and invites people who still do it to chime in in the comments. A lot of familiar names in the comments, and some new ones.

Last weekend was the Christmas Bird Count which was appallingly cold and a little spare on the birds but I persevered and saw a few. Next weekend is the Neighborhood Solstice Bonfire which is my favorite social holiday event and then I head down to Westport to chill with Jim and Kate and her friends and my friends, back up here for New Year’s Eve. It’s a cozy little routine and I’m already cueing up a day or two full of movies. I got my flu shot in-between starting this post and wrapping it up, so I’m feeling snuffly and achey for whatever real or imagined reason so I’ll wrap this up here as a good loose end to encourage me to write again before late January.

in bed with cocoa and some bright light bulbs

ready for trick or treaters

Usually I’m traveling too much to get additionally disoriented by the time change. This year I did take a quick trip down to Massachusetts (hiking and checking out the big GOREDSOX city with Jim) over time-change weekend but was back at home to watch it get dark really early tonight. I’m happy there’s nothing I really need to power through.

The last few weeks have mostly been a flurry of baseball-watching and realizing that I’d been stuck on finishing one book for a month. The book was really great [title: A Calculating People] a story about how people learned math in Colonial times in the US and how that gradually changed over time so that now Americans are seen as somewhat number-obsessed by people from elsewhere. However, it was also dense and sort of put my reading gear into low. Once I wrapped it up, I was raring to start a bunch of other books of various stripes and finished a lot of them quickly. Knowing there’s a pattern means that I no longer spend much time worrying “Geez, have I just finally stopped reading?” though those thoughts creep in from time to time.

Similarly, last year when we didn’t do dress-up-and-hand-out-candy with my friends in the neighborhood, I was a bit concerned that maybe we were done with that particular tradition. I like traditions and I like patterns. I’m that lady who goes into the sandwich shop and orders “the usual” and gets (secretly) a little out of sorts if there’s a new person who makes it differently (it’s not them, it’s me, I know that; my coping technique is unstoppable). iTunes updates rattle me. So it was not just a good time but a relief to go hand out candy to hundreds of local kids all while dressed as a bee. And then we retired to eat pizza and talk about Halloweens past and what costumes we might think about for next year. It was a good toe-dip into the season of traditions and expectations and events. A few weeks til the next one, and I’m in bed with a good book.

Virgo Month of Leisure 2013 – fifteen leisurely years

I made one of those scrapbooky type images of what my summer looked like. I’ve been back in Vermont for a solid week and it’s been great to be back. It was also great to be away. When I was a kid we’d always take a vacation of some sort of in the summer but it was often to visit family or friends (and later with my dad, to sit on a random beach someplace) and wasn’t for very long. After last year’s enforced broken-ankle-summer-vacation I decided I liked the idea of being in a geographically distinct place for the summer, so I did it again this year. Had some friends over. Visited diners. Had more friends over. Visited libraries. Cooked out on the grill. Went on woodsy hikes. Peered at birds, bunnies, frogs and the occasional turkey and cat. Got some exercise. Vistied Nebraska (by plane) and St. Paul MN (by car). Pruned some wisteria. Cleaned bathrooms and did some of the never-ending work of keeping a big house in decent shape. It was fun. I think I’ll do it again next year. It sounds like a lot of stuff but it’s as close to leisure as I can probably get. Here’s a recap of past Virgo Months of Leisure, the time of year when I try, and often fail, to relax.

Larger version of this photo.
Top Row: Nebraska, kayaking, Westport stone wall
Next row: Birthday weekend. CHILDNADO weekend
Next row: Me in Cooperstown, the dearly departed Boo Radley on Kate’s new couch, Kate in the aerie, Jim at the end of the boardwalk
Next row: birdfeeder at sunset, UMass Dartmouth’s Carney Library
Next row: flowers, Fourth of July parade

summering

It’s been very nice to have a summer that isn’t mostly spent managing my and other people’s grief (with exceptions for the untimely demises of Boo Radley and Fred November) or my and other people’s broken ankles. I feel like I went at this summer with an aggressive zeal that is really not my usual tack but has been working out okay. As I wrote earlier, I did a lot of hiking. Now I’m a little worn out by hiking and have been doing a bunch of socializing. At some point in the past five years I have been slowly shifting from being more extroverted (I get energized by being with people, I get ootchy when I am alone) to introverted (I lose energy by being with people, I recharge batteries by being alone). This is probably a side effect of having an internet job and a steady boyfriend but also of just getting older. Time speeds up, I have more things on my own that I want to do and the places that I want to do them are not on anyone else’s beaten path (see also: hiking). But in any case, there’s been a lot going on.

- My friends from college are now at the point where their kids are old enough to happily travel. My dad’s place is sort of the perfect destination resort for the under-12 set, so we had a great weekend having a cookout, playing kid-bocce and making the best use of the giant beanbag imaginable. Two photos of the crew are on Flickr (1,2). The bulletin board here is covered with kid drawings and the patio is covered with cryptic chalk scribbles (is that a bat? a spider? a spiderbat?).
- My friend from high school (has it been 28 years? wowie!) and her wife were up in Vermont for their annual lake trip and I got to hang out and play robots with their son, toss tennis balls with the pup and learn all about bread ears. Our quiet evening together was interrupted by a badly sprained wrist (not mine!) so I got to hang out with Mr. 9 while everyone else took a trip to the emergency room.
- My sister and I decided to play Grown Up Ladies and we bought a couch together to put at Dad’s place and I finally got to go to Jordan’s Furniture after a lifetime of hearing their radio and TV ads.
- I performed my first wedding, for Rich Fairbanks and Rachel Westbrook. It went totally well. When I was a little kid one of the first non-family non-parents-of-friends couples I knew was the couple that lived next door in our two-family house: Rich and Rachel. When Rachel told me she’d met a guy she liked and told me his name, I had a good feeling about it. I included a photo and the service on my Vermont JP blog. If anyone wants to get married in Vermont and needs an officiant, I’ve got two and a half more years before I need to run for re-election and I think now I know what I’m doing.

Upcoming excitement includes a trip to Nebraska (shut up!) to talk to librarians about technology and then some friends visiting from far away (North Carolina via Maine) and then the usual People Up For Labor Day. If you’re reading this and you’re in the South Coast area and you’d like to have a hot dog with me, drop me a note (email preferred) and I can send details. I hope to do one more update before the Virgo Month of Leisure, but if the past few months are any indicator, I may be a bit busy.

Oh and a note about this image. I came back from a walk with Jim to find this little set of drawers and five wine glasses on my steps. I thought it was maybe from Rachel but it turns out it was from my landlady Ronni who has been deaccessioning some things. She tossed in this wonderful gigantic dictionary, remembering just where she got it on the Lower East Side some 40-50 years ago. I’m not sure where I’ll put it, but I just love the way it looks.

a little hiking

hummingbird at the feeder

At some point, I will max out what I am able to do with my iphone’s camera, but a combination of good luck, a steady hand and some good lighting have led to some impressive shots. This is one of them. Summer is shaping up pretty okay. I am back from a speedy road trip to St Paul MN via the Baseball Hall of Fame and a motel with unadvertised free kittens. I got to spend a few days in the twin cities on both sides of the river and saw lots of libraries and a few good diners. Was waiting to post this until my photos were up but they’re still not all up so here we are.

I’ve been back in Westport trying to go to as many places for quickie day hikes as I can. I had to get over my general aversions to 1) hiking alone and 2) driving someplace to go hiking. I found a good day pack that holds just enough stuff and have gotten better at finding and evaluating trails, printing maps, following trail directions and signs, and keeping bug and sun hazards to a minimum. I’ve always really liked the outdoors but have rarely felt competent enough to go for long hikes, where “long” for me is more than an hour or so. I am gradually getting over that. Here are a few recent hikes I’ve been on, left here as much for my own memory-jogging as for information that might be helpful to others.

Helpful websites – a few sites are the jumping off points for most of my exploration

- The Westport Land Trust has a “places to walk” page with local walks
- The Trustees of Reservations do land trust stuff at a state level and have a places to visit section
- Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust has a trails section
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts just redid parts of their website leading to a lot of broken links from Google but they have this list of places to hike and this general parks page.

So, wishing I had been doing this for previous seasonal hiking, here’s a list of where I’ve been so far.

- Westport Town Farm – really just a lovely walk through a field but it’s one of the prettiest fields around.
- Dunham’s Brook Conservation Area – an actual place to walk that I can walk TO. A few short paths one of which I think would be longer but ends at what is now a cornfield
- Old Harbor Wildlife Refuge – a short set of trails that connect two roads. Teeny parking lot which had a slightly odd dude in it when I was there.
- Herb Hadfield Conservation Area – another “connect two roads” set of trails. More well-marked than most.
- Bird Street Conservation Area in Stoughton – about halfway between Jim and me (thanks MeetWays!), a nice simple trail that goes some neat places.
- I was put off from visiting the Freetown Fall River State Forest because of the big “crime” section of their Wikipedia page (though seriously, escaped emu?) and wound up at the Copicut Woods instead which were totally abandoned on the 95° day when I was there.
- Yesterday despite flash flood warnings–nothing like a cell phone warning alarm going off just as you’ve started your hike–we walked around Ponkapoag Pond which is part of the Blue Hills Reservation. In the pouring rain. This trail is less than half an hour from downtown Boston so I suspect this is the only way we would have gotten it to ourselves the way we did. Or maybe it was the flash floods closing down all the roads. Had a great time and found the best boardwalk I’ve ever been on. Fascinating part of Massachusetts with some neat (and somewhat appalling) history.

Got a few more Westport/Dartmouth walks planned over the next few weeks but they will have to wait until my boots dry off which, by the looks of things, may take some time. I’m sure Sarah Scully did not think that she’d be kicking off a whole hiking extravaganza by gifting me these boots several years ago, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened.