Virgo Month of Leisure Success?

clouds hanging over a rural farming valley

So hey I think I managed to break a leisure record this Virgo Month of Leisure! The bad news is that’s because I’ve been feeling borderline punk for a few months now. I always thought of myself as someone in pretty good shape, but every so often I just come down with… sinus nonsense, or a weird pulled muscle, or this time some strange respiratory thing of indeterminate origin that also sort of overlapped with the Return of Shingles. So I’m back on the shingles medicine and I’ve been taking it easy which is somehow more fun when I’m at home and can do little things like head out for a chicken pie supper with friends and then go home and flop out and not do much. I’ve been getting an absurd amount of reading done.

In between all that, I’ve been working the problem and getting medical stuff slowly checked out. It’s breast cancer awareness week (you’re welcome for no pink outline to this post) and I got a mammogram (all good). If you’re someone with breasts, you should make sure you’re up to date on yours as well. October is really my favorite month because more things than usual are my favorite color. Even being crashed out on the day bed looking out the window is mostly a delight. Ronni turned the furnace on early this year (it was 32 the night before last) and there’s something peaceful and calming about not shivering while you type.

And my birthday, which was the day after my doctor’s appointment where my doctor said “You seem fine,” was actually nice, just a lovely day wandering around town saying hi to people while running errands, and then wrapping up with some drinks with friends up the road and wandering home through my dark neighborhood by myself. Since then I’ve performed two weddings (one more formal, one less formal), gone to a lot of meetings, played some board games, and spent a lot of time enjoying the lava lamp Jim gave me which has been an unexpectedly fun thing. Next up: applesauce and a quickie trip to Florida because I do still do some work around here.

service

comic with a bunch of hands reaching up towards an earth with the caption 'slowly we are reclaiming this world from the adults'

It was all I could do, when I was reading the Futel Party Line zine, to not just call up their operator and say “I want a free pay phone. In Randolph.” Because, hey, that would be cool. But realistically, someone would have to manage that project. And, if I am being honest, I am maybe full up with service work, as much as I enjoy it. This image is from the brochure I got with the zines. It amuses me that I can still think I am not “the adults.”

It’s a sort of thing about being underemployed (which I am, though not in a bad way) that you try to fill the days. But if you’re not going to a place and staying there for several hours a day, it’s hard to decide what “full” is. I spend a lot of time typing, and going back and forth between communication channels, solving problems. And I’m still feeling a little mystery-sick (have a doc appointment, things are proceeding apace) which limits me a little. Here are my little service projects.

  • I’m on the board and the Technology/Access committee for the Vermont Humanities Council. Was slow in the summer, picking up now.
  • I’m on the board for the 251 Club. There’s a banquet in October, I’m getting auction items for it (want to donate? talk to me.)
  • I’m continuing my work with the Vermont Mutual Aid Society as a qualifying Authority to help print-disabled people get access to online books via the Internet Archive (have a print disability? Talk to me!)
  • I help run MLTSHP, a cute little online photo-sharing community. We have a legal situation and an aggrieved user situation that are taking up some time.
  • I write an occasional newsletter, which I very much enjoy, along with this blog and librarian.net.
  • I’m on my town’s conservation commission and maintain our small part of the town’s website.
  • I maintain the website for the Vermont Library Association along with a few other people.
  • I’m on the rules committee for my nerdy trivia league. Not just that, but on the organizing committee of the rules committee. Sort of the job I was meant to do, honestly.

Otherwise I’m just doing my summer thing. Childnado VII went great; it’s so good to have regular times to see old friends. I feel the same way about Jimsmas (Jim and Other Jim and two other friends with 12/6 birthdays get together for food and cake) which isn’t until December. I’ve put off doing birthday stuff this year until I’m feeling better but Virgo Month of Leisure is in full effect and maybe I’ve got a shot at it this year.

“shoulda taken a before picture…”

I had a small dip in productivity this week. I think I mentioned that at the end of last summer I had shingles. It was a super mild case, but I wound up with something called “post-herpetic neuralgia” which is basically nerve pain. It’s super well-controlled with gabapentin, which also has some positive effects on my mood and anxiety level. But, it’s a lot of medicine and so I figured I’d try to taper off of it once I stopped feeling like maybe my nerve pain was a thing (for most people it stops eventually and many people only deal with it for a few months).

Everything was going fine. Over the past few months I moved from taking 1300mg to… 300 and eventually 200. And then BLAMMO all of the sudden not only did the nerve pain come back, but it was accompanied by a rush of free-ranging anxieties, so instead of saying “Hello nerve pain, my old friend” I got convinced that I was immediately dying of any number of really terrible diseases. It makes sense in retrospect, what was happening, but at the time it was just several days of pure panic. Now it’s handled, I’m back on my bullshit (drugs) and I’ll work on this taper some other time. Stupid brain.

But! Before that I’ve been doing a ton of stuff around here (#dadshouse) and then getting finished and saying “Gee, I should have taken a ‘before’ picture.” I wanted to keep track of those things, so here is a list.

  • Trimmed all the raspberries and volunteer other trees by the dumpster
  • Got rid of all the nonsense paper in the “attic” and all the manuals for things that are no longer in this house
  • Scraped the lichen off of the upper porch railing in preparation for re-staining it
  • Hacked down all the plant life growing in the berm in the backyard by the spruce trees
  • Emptied out the last boxes from Seattle. Prepared 10+ boxes to go to the local book sale, once I feel up to lifting/hauling them
  • With Jim’s help, took out all the vestigial cabling behind the television set (so many cables!).
  • Put away all the stuff that had been on the tables in the TV room since I sold my Subaru (!)
  • Got the two wingback chairs that no one likes out to the garage and hopefully will find someone to take them away (want some slightly clawed chairs? call me).
  • Emptied out drawers of nonsense in the kitchen.
  • Re-arranged coffee can shelf in the garage and got rid of old dead stuff.
  • Got the labelmaker working.
  • Replaced the grotty curtains in the living room.
  • Cleaned the whole area around the woodstove, took all the kindling OUTSIDE (why is it inside in the summertime!) and swept up all the bark
  • Told the wisteria “No, you grow up over this thing, you don’t creep along the ground.”

A lot of these were just dumb little things that had been back-burnered sort of indefinitely, not even difficult projects mostly. Now that they’re done it just frees up psychic space to just be in a room and not have to pretend to not-see the thing that really needs doing.

There’s always something else to be done in this house, but I’m really working to try to get the broken stuff unbroken and the unseen stuff seen. I did get one before/after photo, from today.

two trees in an overgrown berm

after most of the stuff was cut off of it!

perspectives

a few plastic tubs on a floor that looks like it used to have more of them. A small pile of books.

I lied to a government official today (a small lie) which practically seems patriotic nowadays.

This weekend was a blur of party planning, partying, and party recovery. MetaFilter turned twenty and I decided to open the doors down here in Westport and have a good time. Kate and Jim and Other Jim and Chris and GJ and Allison all helped out. At some point in the last decade maybe, my peer group switched from being a group where a potluck might net seven salads or seventeen bags of chips and a dozen hotdogs, to one where you and everyone else could eat good food for days. I had a good time and I put a small set of photos up. I’m sorry if you couldn’t make it. It was a good time and I have no complaints, which is unusual for nitpicker me.

I’ve used that extra shot in the arm of having successfully entertained to catch up on stuff like emptying the seven lingering boxes which I put into a friend’s basement in Seattle in the 90s and, over time, moved around until they were in #dadshouse here in Westport. It’s time to clean them out which, nowadays, involves getting rid of a lot of books, being ruthless about whether I will actually enjoy my stamp collecting books again in this lifetime (likely, no), and saying “Awww hey thing I loved, thanks for your service and goodbye.” It’s going well. I hit some new level of not giving a fuck about some things, somehow, without losing my general good nature. I wish I knew what I did to get here.

I got a driver’s license photo and a passport photo taken and they’re both… fine. We had a lot of leftover food at the party and I’ve been managing to give some away and eat some and get rid of some without worrying that I’m wasting food. Technically, I am wasting it in the most general sense, but being able to sincerely say “Thank you for bringing that!” without having some background concern of “Do we have too much of that?” seems like a better way to be a host.

Which is to say, if you’re in the area and would like some potato salad, you should look me up. I’ll be over here in cut-offs and a tank top looking at high school photo albums that I haven’t seen in 20 years. It’s been good to have some perspective.

machinery and nerdery

a small metal goblet looking thing

The last time I went to the American Precision Museum, about twelve years ago, my mom was still alive and I made this little video of her pushing a button to make the machines run, and it made us both happy. This time I was meeting the father of an internet friend who is the guy who keeps all the machines running. He gave me an epic after-hours tour and seemed as happy to keep telling me about all the weird stuff they had there as I was to learn about it all. I took a random assortment of photos (mostly of cranks, why?) and I figured I’d leave a link to them here. The picture above is a teeny little drinking cup type thing which I watched John make out of a solid piece of metal using one of these machines. Hope you enjoy any of it as much as I did. The museum is in Windsor Vermont and they have discount passes to it at the library in town.

stranger than we can imagine

a braided rug which has over 50 different kinds of wrapped cheeddar cheese from Cabot on it

“My life has always been like this.” is what I say to people when I have to explain how, through an amusing hashtag contest, I wound up winning a year’s supply of free cheese from the best cheddar makers on the planet. A year’s supply, in this case, is 100 lbs., delivered in 25 lb. installments. Here’s the first one. Hi, come over for some snacks.

This was a 251 Club contest and speaking of the 251 Club, there’s a great movie called One Town at a Time that documents filmmaker Mike Leonard’s trip through all of Vermont’s towns in 2006 (with a video camera) and then does some of it over more recently. It’s a loving look at our lovely state. I went to the premiere last night and not only is it fun, but I’m in it. I’m one of maybe 10-15 people interviewed for the film (you can see me in the trailer) and I have some of the funnier lines and you can hear me singing some of my 251 Towns song that Jim and I wrote.

Since the last post basically a month ago, I feel I’ve gotten my mojo back. I did a ton of mostly local talks, stayed in places that were not my home and did not hate it, and have been getting out and about more as the weather improves. We had our Vermont Library Association conference which is always a nice shot in the arm and the annual Brag Deck I put together is a high point of my year. We’re doing the Passport to Vermont Libraries program again, though I am not in charge. It’s hard to not be in charge, for me. It’s a good thing for me to learn how to do. Part of the mojo return is having more energy, I’ll see if I can channel it into something other than eating (and delivering) cheese.

romantic possibilities

This title is a metaphor. My romantic life is just fine. Jim and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary and marveled at how we can still stand each other. But! Today I gave a talk in St. Johnsbury. It was excellent, if I do say so myself. You can judge it for yourself and read it here.

If you’ve been following my ups and downs you’ll know that I’ve been pulling back from public speaking a little bit, mainly to just get my house in order (real, metaphorical) and also because I’d been enjoying speaking less. And you know that thing where you’re not enjoying the things you used to do? That was me for a while. I mean I still enjoyed sleeping and reading and eating and watching birds, but my work stuff was seeming more like a chore. So I decided to see if I could retool, say yes only to things I really wanted to say yes to (I am lucky to be able to do this), twiddle a few more knobs, and see if that helped. And boy did it. I did a webinar for the state of Wisconsin a few weeks back that went great (see it yourself here – link goes direct to video). And this talk today was great, start to finish. Fun to get to, fun to be at, fun to hang out and talk to people afterwards, fun to go home. I’m aware that all of life can’t be fun all the time, but I do aim to be able to enjoy it more than I don’t. And it’s springtime and that doesn’t hurt. And so I’m finding myself sort of falling back in love with public speaking, slowly, cautiously, and I’m happy for it. A few other pieces of today that were just dandy:

– Driving through the Northeast Kingdom on my way up and seeing that there was still a little bit of snow on the ground and thin sheets of ice on the water in places
– Possibly the best piece of coconut cream pie I’ve ever had at the Miss Lyndonville Diner, highlighted by an older lady walking by me and saying “Good pie right? I really like pie too. Enjoy that pie kiddo!” (I assume she was serious and not watching me hoover it and thinking “Whoa Nellie, I better distract this woman.”
Stopped by a library on the way back I hadn’t been to and the librarian asked me “Are you Jessamyn?” and we had a nice talk about libraries.
– That library had a collection of taxidermied birds, so we talked about taxidermy. Turns out a local kid is learning the trade so he cleaned all the birds and they look spiffy.
– People nodded understandingly during my talk when I talked about my love for creepy basements and attics.
– My GPS trying to kill me on the way back by sending me up some very muddy mountains and having the foresight to think “You are alone on a mountain, with no cell service and you know there is a perfectly good road back which may be a mile or two longer… please turn around”
– Stopping by a pond on my way back just to watch the ice move around and try to see a loon (no luck)
– Driving by my old house on the way back and not actually recognizing it–they took down the barn which I knew but I hadn’t seen it–and having that be totally OK. I wasn’t sure it would be.
– Getting home after seven and having there still be light in the sky.

I knew I’d jinx myself with that last post being like “I’m sleeping just SWELL!” but I’m still sleeping mostly okay, maybe a little less than usual, but getting out of bed a bit more excited to greet the day and a little less dreading it. I’ve got a lot of weird little things coming up, meetings, travel, more meetings, and I’m glad I’m feeling not just alive for it, but actually up for it.