This is a picture of me and my good friend Sharyn at my Mom’s house over holidaytimes. I just got back from a week away which is pretty much the longest I’ve been anywhere in the past few years except Australia. I’m not really an introvert as people who know me pretty much know. I get energized by hanging out with people, I like to talk, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances. That said, I also live alone and have a lot of routines and subroutines that involve long periods of silence, stillness or solitude. Everyone’s routines get disrupted when they travel, see family and/or get outside their little home oasis and mine are not an exception.
I was happy to see my sister and her (about to be sold, omg) house. I liked getting to spend sort of lazy hang-out and walk around time with my Mom and the house I grew up in. I enjoyed spending some holidaytime with my boyfriend and his family and their full house of people who have known each other forever. I got to bring my friend Sharyn into the wilds of Boxboro and introduce her to my family and friends and spend more than a day with her for the first time in our decade+ long friendship. I had a cat or dog on hand at all times. I nearly poisoned myself with amazing food and lack of exercise. I stayed up late and slept in like I was a teenager.
Yesterday I drove home after driving in to Boston to drop Sharyn off at the train. I got lost and wound up meandering all over hellandgone to figure out how to get no 93 (yes I KNOW it’s right there, no I couldn’t find it). At some point I figured it out and started pointing the car approximately northwards, but the whole bumbadabumbada no-particular-place-to-go meandering around was something that is part of my daily life up here and was no part of my if-this-is-Sunday-this-must-be-brunch last week of time.
I haven’t spoken to another person since I said “thanks” to the lady who sold me a cookie on my way home last night. The phone hasn’t rung, as it usually doesn’t. I’ve got dinner plans but a wide open calendar today with one To Do item “get stuff out of car.” I think I’m up to it.
Wikipedia has an entry on cocooning. While I’m pretty “whatever” on Faith Popcorn and her pronouncements about society, I think this staying home and doing a little more navelgazing than usual is part of the December day-shortening and air-coldening. I’m pleased to report that my apartment stays decent temperatures and relatively draft-free in Wintertime which makes it the first place I’ve lived in Vermont that does that. I finally bought a shovel which means I’ve accepted that there will be several more months of snow. Even though I’m indoors more, I’ve been trying to make it count by doing that pesty crap that is really only possible when you’ve got several hours of indoor time and only low to medium cognitive functioning (I’ve had a bit of a cold).
So, this weekend after some nice dinners and movies and blah blah time with friends, I hunkered down to
- make hard drive backups
- read some books – my booklist is at an eight year low this year which concerns me
- send out holiday cards to my card exchange list
- do nearly 500MB of system updates
- learn to use bittorent so I could watch Canadian television
- finally move all my MP3s from my standalone ancient iMac.
I had done this MP3 project once before but then never moved the files from my laptop which later dropped dead. The iMac isn’t on the network so there was a good deal of sneakernet activity in all of this, but it’s now done.
I had the strange sort of upbringing that causes me to feel actually virtuous when I decrease the disorder of a system. This is reflected in my professional choices, certainly, but it also makes Winter much less of a slog because there’s always something around here that could be better organized, and adding the digital realm to the To Do list makes this an absolute certainty. I’ve got a lot of social time coming up — a Solstice bonfire, a New Year’s Eve party, family time, boyfriend time — so watching the birds and squirrels from the treehouse for a few days doesn’t seem anti-social at all.
I have to thank Ola for teaching me to enjoy the wacky dress-up and drink aspects of Christmastime without feeling pressured to go shopping or (necessarily) love my neighbors. Actually, since I’ve moved I like my neighbors a lot more. Anyhow, here’s an old link to sixteen of the santas she had up in her house in 2003 and, for good measure, some photos from the Santa Rampage in Seattle in 2002.
I’ve been mulling over the whole charitable giving thing this month. As you probably know, my middle name is Charity [thanks Mom!] but this is more about thinking about what to share with people at this time of year or any other. I always do a bunch of volunteer stuff and in most cases I’ll fix your computer for free [hi Dad! Kate!] but I’ve been stingier with my cash, historically. As you may remember, I got a charitable donation made in my name in May via Donors Choose which has gotten a lot of good press in tech geeky circles. I like their website and their general philosophy.
Last month I got a big envelope of stuff, photos from the Vermont classroom with kids dissecting owl pellets as well as letters thanking me personally for the donation. Actually, the letters originally said “Dear donator” but in every case the word donator had been erased and was replaced with the name Jessamyn. It was nice. It also came with a “Project Cost Report” in the name of transparency which told me where all the $171 that was donated went. About $117 went to supplies — actual owl pellets, books about food chains, and tax — $17 went to “camera, photo development and postage for thank you package” which seemed a little odd (10%?) and then the rest was “[optional] Donation to Cover Project Fulfillment Labor” which was an additional 20%. I’d hate to work for a charity because I know that every good works project has jerks like me saying “Did you really need to spend that money on a disposable camera?” but at the same time, I would have rather written a check to the Cavendish school district for $120 and taken a few snapshots myself.
In any case, it wasn’t my money, and I’m happy Donors Choose exists in a general sense. I tend to like to give money or in-kind donations to places like Food Not Bombs or Books to Prisoners where workers volunteer their time, truly destitute people get some help, and you never hear people use words like fulfillment unless they’re talking about food or books. Two more weeks and the days get longer.
A friend asked me how my “work downsizing” project was going and I reflected that it’s going pretty well. I looked at my calendar from last semester and realized I was working more, enjoying it less and not doing the sorts of work I wanted to be doing because I felt like I was so busy doing the work I should be doing. That had to change. It mostly did.
I kept most of my travelling work because I enjoy that a great deal, but I set things up so that I’m not coming back from a long trip just to go back to work the next day. I’m also not on call for as much tech support. I also say “no” more often. So I travel a few times a month, alternating between local and farther away. I charge more so I get paid better when I do travel and if the trip is a total nightmare (happens less and less often, but travel is always uncertain) I at least feel well-compensated. I trimmed down my drop-in and teaching days to one a week. Seems like almost none but teaching adult learners is a lot of work and this way drop-in time is full, rarely empty. I’m also a real librarian, sort of.
I’m helping a local library automate their collection of about 8000 books. I’m also doing their website and maintaining their computers. I have a job with librarian in the title but I’m not working with patrons, unless they bring their laptops in. I do that one day a week, sometimes a little more at home.
This month is vacation for a lot of the local students so I’m also lifeguarding at the pool. It’s just barely work to sit in an 85 degree room in the sunshine for a few hours but they do pay me. Add to this that my apartment is pretty much set up the way I like it — so I’m not endlessly re-arranging and can just sit and BE here — and I’ve actually got travel for fun scheduled during the holidaytimes when travel for work drops off.
Though I haven’t mentioned it much here lately, the treehouse has a guestroom, or a guest closet, and another spare bed. People cruising through Vermont won’t get quite the same palatial digs they may have gotten used to over the past five years, but this place also comes with no early risers and a barely used Bananagrams game. I’m expecting the WinterWonderland snowdump any minute now — had a little preview on Sunday as I was coming home — otherwise see you in the Springtime!
The maxim of the week is “How come every time I want to just run away and hide out from everything, it’s at precisely the time I can’t actually DO that?” A question which helpfully, now that I’m an adult, answers itself. I feel incredibly fortunate that this year I’ve got most of my holidaytimes planned out in advance; everything else is details.
So, I go to the pool and walk in the deep wet snow and try to eat decently and wait for springtime (or enough snow to go decently snowshoeing in) and realize that everyone else in my local community is doing pretty much the same thing, and to go easy on them. Today was the first day I had really bad roads to drive on and I reminded myself, like I do every year, that I live here on purpose and if I don’t like it, I can leave. I’ve reupped for another year or a few. Bring it on, winter. Please be somewhat lovely. I’ll be here all year.
The birds on the window feeder are officially winter colors now, though the snow hasn’t started in earnest. In fact over the weekend it was a bit of a steambath here which was disquieting. The albino porcupine I read about in the paper is going to blend right in real soon now. I’m done travelling for work for the year (the year of 2008) so it’s time to start looking inward, doing all those house things that I’ve been avoiding — yesterday was all about hanging up pictures and putting receipts away — and starting to finish reading some books.
My problem is that I read big books but they’re bad books for travelling with for one-backpack girl. So I read shorter/smaller books on the plane and then come back and start a new big book without finishing the first one. I have maybe three I’m in the middle of now, but cold evenings mean less time typing and more time in bed with books. Here’s the summary of the last few talks I gave over at librarian.net. Since I last typed I’ve been to Albany and I don’t think I really gave you a summary of my last two trips to Kansas and my one trip to Denver. I’ve been writing a mess of hotel reviews for Trip Advisor and filling in the guestroom photoset.
I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but I was interviewed for this Digital Nomads site — sponsored by Dell, interviewed by BigThink — about what exactly I do. Sort of scoots me into the “pundit” arena which seems like a weird place to be, but hey maybe it pays better than librarianship and/or lifeguarding! I’ve also been recording a few more pieces for YouTube — me reading stories by Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan — the Brautigan story is one of my favorites of all time, I was happy to give it a little more exposure.
I noticed that the “banking” tag on that video meant that a whole lot of people saw it in the first hour it was online. I am having my own banking/holiday issues. There are two local banks in town, mine and the other one. Mine is okay but not great. The other one is the one my friends use. I picked mine because the online banking feature is better and I get fussy over bad interfaces. Mine screwed up my checks. Mine has a few tellers who are sort of snotty. Mine gives me receipts with Christmas trees on them. I dislike this. I’m not sure if I dislike it enough to go waltz across the street and switch banks. The other bank in town probably has Christmas-themed receipts too and then where would I be? I’m aware that I live in New England where this sort of thing is fairly normal to most everyone. I’m aware that Christmas is a national holiday. I enjoy winter, even moreso since I got snowshoes and snowpants. I’m working on my “Celebrate Diversity!” plan early this year. It gets dark early, lots of time to scheme. The Solstice starts December 21st at roughly noon. Soon.
Every time I travel I think “I should make a packing list…” and yet I don’t have an account on one of those list-making sites and don’t want one. So, for my posterity, here is my packing list for future reference. This time around — trip to Clearwater, Kansas and Denver Colorado — all I forgot were my headphones. Not bad. This is presuming a work trip; for pleasure trips I don’t really care what I remember and forget. At some point I’ll put this all on an index card.
Clothes & etc (backpack)
– one nice outfit per talk
– one knock-around outfit for every two leisure days (wear same outfit to/from home incl. heaviest sweater/jacket)
– one extra pair of socks/underwear/t-shirt/hoodie
– pajamas, tops & bottoms
– cold weather? hat, scarf, gloves
– swimsuit (always forgotten when I need it)
– laptop & sleeve
– just in case: theraflu/dramamine/ibuprofen/acetominophen
– hair tie
– warm weather? razor
– dongles for video/ethernet
– cord for laptop
– EVDO card
– camera & charger & card reader
– cell phone & charger
– slide-show clicker
– wallet w/ relevant transit passes/frequent flyer cards
– printed list of phone numbers & maps
– keys w/ USB drive
– folder for receipts
– power bar for plane
– velcro tie-down
– little flashlight
– safety pin
– something to read & spare something to read
Amusingly, money is rarely something I need to bring with me. I think I spent maybe seventeen dollars in the past five days that wasn’t paid for with plastic. With ATMs everyplace, this is less important than, say, a safety pin which is actually damned hard to replace.