“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.

Zzz

black and white image of a person asleep on their back in front of a little midwestern looking cabin

For no reason I can figure out, I’ve been sleeping well. Hooray!

This is a big deal because since the Summer and the beginning of my pesky shingles-and-doctors saga, I’d been sleeping unreliably and was never sure I had enough medicine to make sleeping work. Historically I didn’t need much medicine for sleeping, but I needed to know I had some. For work especially, if I needed to wake up early after a day of traveling, I needed to know I would sleep (on a night that might be hard to) so that I could assure people it would be worth it to pay me a decent amount of money to give talks or do my thing. And so when my doctor said “No.” to me getting those medicines refilled, it was a problem for home-me but also work-me. I had a lot of nights trying to white-knuckle it to sleep in case I needed the medicine I did have for later.

At some point, roughly in line with when I found a doctor who was a little more “Hey, you know your body, why don’t we do what works for you?” I just started being tired at night, most nights, and falling asleep within a half hour. Only downside is that I’m into younger-me patterns where I go to bed around 1-2 and wake up around 9:30-10:30. A fine schedule, but difficult if you need to go to a morning meeting. I don’t have many of those, but I have some. Today I worked at the library at noon so I set my alarm for 11 just in case. I woke up ten minutes before it.

I live a pretty routine-bound life and part of that routine is some offline time in the morning to drink coffee, watch birds, stretch out my muscles, and do some little “try to be a good person” meditations. This is much easier if my morning is lining up with other peoples’ mornings so that when I’m really starting my day, people aren’t ending theirs. In the next few months I’m getting more into my old routine, doing a few more mostly-local talks and even leaving New England in a month or so (briefly) for work. It’s nice to feel that maybe I am up for it.

2018 highlights reel

an old lithograph with a very old balloon hefting something into the sky that the caption tells me is a fireworks display mechanism

I forgot about a wrap-up thing I did last year. I think I was waiting to wrap up my “work and money” post and then I totally forgot. My memory took a sharp downturn with the shingles no-pain meds (which are otherwise fine and do what they say on the tin) and so I’ve been learning to roll with it.

Hi, here’s something I was going to show you earlier! I started keeping a sort of highlights reel of my months, so I would have all my links in one place and so I could keep track of things better. I often forget my own accomplishments, or the sequencing of various events. I use Medium because it’s a pretty great writing experience, even though I have concerns about the accessibility of their platform (not accessible and they don’t care, this is a bad look) and their overall long term strategy. But hey if the link is here I can always find it in the Internet Archive, right? I’m aware there’s probably a short list of people who want to read about my 2018, especially since my mom isn’t around anymore, but I like reading about other people’s years, so who knows?

Without further ado, and mostly for future record keeping, here’s a brief list of what I did in 2018. I’ll be honest, it was a fun year in some respects but I’m happy to see the end of it.