falling action

What a week, things were going great. I was getting sequential full nights of sleep for days on end, not a care in the world, no more falling down barn to haunt my dreams. Then on Friday night when Kate was heading down to the South Coast, she tripped [“over nothing” she said] and wound up headed to the hospital and sent home with an air cast and instructions to stay off her foot. How lousy! I sympathized and said I’d think healing thoughts towards her while Jim and I were off to a celebratory “I sold the house!” dinner and then a local baseball game.

Except, as we were talking the scenic route to Montpelier [via a few more Vermont towns I wanted to photograph for my new 251 quest] I got out to take a photo, stepped in a hole of some sort and heard a crunching sound from my ankle. I limped home crabbily and didn’t think too much about it, I’ve sprained plenty of ankles, I seem to have loose ligaments. But as I was getting up to go to the bathroom a few hours later and still couldn’t put any weight on my foot at all (after RICEing and ibuprofen), I took the standard Ask MetaFilter advice when someone is debating heading to the ER and called my health insurance, described my symptoms and they were like “Yeah may as well get it checked out.”

So, not 24 hours after Kate’s visit to the hospital I was in my local emergency room–which is pretty much across the street from my house–hanging out with the dirt bike injured and waiting for my turn at the x-ray machine. The verdict was “avulsion fracture” which isn’t as nasty as it sounds. I asked the doctor “Does this mean I have a broken leg? A broken ankle?” and the answer was not really. So while me and the ER nurse were chatting about how terrible it is when people come to the doctor after looking stuff up on the internet–a favorite topic for doctors as well as librarians–I got a lot of bandages wrapped around my ankle and some high test ibuprofen and was told to stay off of it and come back to talk to the podiatrist on Monday.

It should surprise no one that I am not the world’s best sit-at-home patient. I also live up a flight of 28 stairs (which I scooted down on my butt to go to the hospital). The good news is that having a low key weekend hanging out and watching movies and eating snacks is one of the things Jim and I like to do. So he did some food shopping, I borrowed a pair of crutches from my landlady, rolled up all the rugs to avoid mishaps and we settled in to do not much of anything. I traded cranky ankle stories with Kate, my left-handed sister who had messed up her right foot. As you can see from the photo, I did the opposite.


So it’s sort of crazy but I actually sold the house. The crazier part of it is that when I signed a purchase and sale with these buyers months ago [the first people to make a serious offer on the place] they were interested in moving in as soon as possible and we set the closing date right then, July 13th, and that’s actually when the house closed. Apparently this rarely happens. The actual event was pretty much pro forma. Sign a bunch of stuff, say hi to the buyer [and his wife and adorable little kids] who I was meeting for the first time, receive a big check and then go driving around taking photographs of Vermont towns hoping even more than usual to not get into a major accident.

The whole thing wound up really well, in exchange for me chipping in some of the closing costs (not part of the original deal) the buyer basically took the place as-is meaning waiving the usual back and forth that happens when they get the place inspected and say things like “Well there is a kestrel in the chimney, will you take $500 off the price for kestrel removal services…?” which I was happy for. This meant a little less angsting over what “really clean” means in barn terms. I gave away a household’s worth of furniture to the RE-Store in Barre (wonderful people). I gave away ladders and drill presses and card catalogs to friends. I threw a lot of things away, even stuff that was maybe recyclable. It felt weird. I put some stuff in a friend’s shed until I can figure out what to do with it. I have even more stuff in my place here than before.

Not being a homeowner [of my OWN home, yes I technically own some part of my dad’s place but I certainly do not feel that it’s mine] is about as good as I thought it would be. Not having 40 acres of land does not cause me psychic distress. Or if it does, it’s significantly less distressing than owning a house that is too far away and too high maintenance and not enough fun. As my sister, who sold her own house a year and a bit ago, presciently said “You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it years ago” and she’s totally correct.

As an odd and only-sort-of-related coda, I am heading out to get my stuff that was originally in a friend’s basement in Seattle since I moved out of there for good in … 2003? Yes, 2003 (thanks Scott!). Another friend drove it partway across the country last year and now there is a storage unit full of … things I haven’t seen in almost a decade that I am going to retrieve. Renting a van, the whole deal. I think it’s mostly books. Some clothes. A few odd bits of furniture. This is the sort of thing that I call a vacation.


I know everyone thinks that their friends are the best friends that ever were but I will fight them, they are wrong, these guys are the best ones.

No sooner had I posted a breezy little “Hey here’s what’s up; check me out, posting twice in a week!” than things got busy. And this is busy-for-me busy which is somewhat crazed by other people’s perspectives. In short, I got a buyer for the barn and they were interested in closing as soon as possible. And this would mean handling all the deferred maintenance and whatnot in as short a timespan as possible. And that would mean dealing with all of this in the same two-month is period where I had six (6: MA, ME, NH, NY, NC, Montreal) talks planned along with the usual stuff. My thought at the time was that school would be wrapping up and then I’d want to be busy and then would kick back, spending some time in Westport and maybe just noodling around New England. Instead I’ve been following this schedule where I’ve been working at RTCC Tues/Weds then leaving for somewhere Thursday, giving a talk, then coming back Saturday and assembling people to go do stuff at the barn in the meantime. And also trying to get contractors to fix things at the barn that have needed fixing for longer than I care to admit.

The whole thing sort of pushes a bunch of buttons for me that are difficult. Having to make a bunch of phone calls to poke people about getting things fixed (I had to call the furnace people six times to get a set date, this seems abnormal to me). Having to face that this all might have been simpler if I’d handled chunks of it before now. Feeling time pressure on someone else’s schedule. Writing big checks for things like surveying and renting a dumpster. Getting friends to help me with a sort of messy annoying task and trying to manage a bunch of people doing a weird hard-to-outline job. Dealing with the fact that I bought this house when I was maybe too young and too isolated to really manage it properly. Explaining to people that I’m actually mostly happy being this busy but that yes, I don’t have time to hang out when I’m in their city. Deferred gratification hoping it will all feel worth it at this point. Managing a lot of other people’s stuff that was left behind at various points and being annoyed at that. Throwing away things that might, in some other world, be reusable and repurposable. And doing a lot of this while also managing my full time job at MetaFilter while other people are trying to go on vacation and have their summers be fun also. There is no cell service in Topsham. I can’t multitask there. This is the good news and the bad news.

This weekend my friends Stan and Brian and Forrest (pictured, with me. I keep forgetting I am short) came up to help me clean out the barn and it was an incredible surgical strike of efficiency. We were there for about 2.5 hours and got most of the barn emptied out. This means now I have to mostly sort out the small stuff and figure out what goes to the thrift store and what goes to the yard sale, but that the bulk of the “things I can’t lift” have been lifted. I have about three weeks.

And so there were a bunch of other things I was going to talk about, but today has been my first Totally Free Day [where I wasn’t writing a talk or having a thing scheduled or out of town] in quite some time. And I’ve been meaning to write this all down. I’ve still got a few small jobs there if people are interested in coming up and saying goodbye to the place. All barn jobs come with a free meal at the Wayside afterwards. Worth considering.

inward looking out

The librarian at home

I finally got a series of headshots that are me with the newish haircut. One of the downsides of having shorter hair is that it looks different a lot. Long hair is sort of always long no matter how you wear it. Anyhow, a local photographer friend came over and we did about fifteen minutes of chatting and 45 minutes of photographing and now I have a decent series of professional-lady pictures which should serve me well. I’d love to get this photo to replace the one of me that’s in Wikipdia, but I’m sort of not supposed to do that myself. Any takers?

And an update on last weekend’s walk. We were up at seven am, on the road by eight and had walked almost nine miles by noon. The food shelf fundraiser had 60+ walkers and four dogs and raised over 21K. Pretty exciting stuff. Thanks to everyone who supported me. I was surprised how not-achey my legs were for the rest of the day; I was mostly just sleepy from not having gotten enough sleep from the night before. Wednesday was the first neighborhood fun run where I ran a mile. I’ve never been much of a runner, but I’ve usually been able to hold my own when running with the neighborhood children who seem to be the only other people who only run a mile (most adults go for two miles or 5K). Usually I run with Rachel and we go slowly. This time I ran fast since I’m not that good at pacing myself. The good news was I ran an 11-ish minute mile. The bad news was that is TOO FAST for me and I was achey in the thighs and calves for the next two days. Which is always a bummer when you live up 28 stairs.

So it’s off to the gym for me today to try to work some stamina and stretching into those muscles. I’ve got a new birdfeeder here so it’s a little difficult to tear myself away from the Woodpecker Window but it’s nice knowing that it’s as lovely outside as it is in, I’ve heard.

cameras obscurae

the sand you see is embedding itself in my lens

I took a week off and was down in Westport. The weather was okay. I went to the beach every day both to get exercise and also to take photos of the plovers that run by the shoreline, eating little things in the sand. I had a few friends on the internet who enjoyed them which was an extra nudge to get outside and get some photos, even in marginal weather. I like being outside with a camera. But, the beach isn’t nice to cameras. So the top photo is the last picture my old camera took before the lens would no longer open without a sickening grinding noise and then finally wouldn’t open at all. I am old enough to know better.

So because I am a terrible creature of habit and it had taken me so long to warm up to this damned camera after losing its predecessor in a lake, I wanted to replace it. You’d think a camera that was a few years old would be easy to replace. Turns out, for better or worse, this model has held its value decently well, but I was able to find a “like new” model through the Amazon Marketplace for about half off. And, because I have a small stack of Amazon gift cards [thanks dad’s frequent flyer miles] the price was free-to-me.

The camera arrived, and was like new enough, so I had it when I went to Topsham yesterday to walk the land with a couple who were maybe interested in buying it. It’s a confusing process, wandering around looking for metal stakes in the ground which, you hope, indicate the property boundaries. This is doubly true when it’s foggy like this. From the back of my property you couldn’t even see the house. This is not, technically, the first photo with the new camera. The first one is some confused squinty close up of me; you could easily add a thought bubble “Is this thing on? Oh I guess so!” I like this one better.


420 tacos and other food math

420 tacos

Hey it’s raining! I’m at my dad’s place which is sort of mine and my sister’s place (the last part of estate settling is figuring out the mortgage takeover part) solving little problems like “Where did all these mosquitoes come from?” and “Has this heater always made this funny noise?” It’s been a decent time. It’s school vacation this week in Randolph so I figured I’d come down and do the Fortress of Solitude routine which suits me pretty well. Since the last trip I made one more short trip to Indiana [like 37 hours short] which went pretty well and was fun and had me driving another one of those cute little Fiat 500s. It’s been a while since I’ve had a car that got 35MPG, I sort of miss it.

But the last few weeks have been “not much to report” for a whole ‘nother reason. It’s been nice to be home in Randolph, but with spring coming and the one year anniversary of my dad’s death has come the “Okay now, we gave you a lot of slack and now you need to start picking it up” pep talk to myself in the mirror. I tried to be kind to myself and not be really rigid in terms of things like making sure I went to the gym and making sure I was always eating healthy. So I put on some weight, not much but enough that I wasn’t totally happy about it. Now I’m getting back to more-like-normal and this is on the “to be resolved” list. And just wishing for it to happen and thinking “I am eating less. I am exercising more. Aren’t I?” wasn’t doing it.

So, since I am nerdy and I like math and numbers and charts and routines, I signed up with MyFitnessPal (terrible name, great site) and I just count what I eat, write down my exercise, stick to a limit, make sure I’m getting enough nutrition, and basically set it and forget it. And I’ve never really done this before. I guess you could call it a diet, but I think of it more as big math equation where I’m restricting some of the variables. And since I’m a person who really likes food a lot, this has meant that I’ve had to get creative with cooking and/or allotting a lot of time in the day for some sort of exercise. Or both. I like to cook and have a decent amount of free time to do this, so it’s going well. And I finally suddenly understood all those photos of food I see all over the internet. At least for me. In the past I’ve felt that the food photos thing was more “Hey check me out, I’m eating and taking care of myself.” (as opposed to “Look at this awesome thing” which I am often confused by in that “Who cares about your breakfast?” way) but now I’ve gotten to where I am looking at something I’ve made and saying to myself “Can you believe these are only 420 calories?”

So all this cooking and walking and biking and eating and calculating is interesting to me but not that interesting to outsiders (though if you care, here is what I’ve been eating) and it’s been taking up a lot of my discretionary time.

Two other things worth noting along the same lines.

1. I am participating in an eight mile, eight a.m. fundraising walk for the Randolph Area Food Shelf. If you’d like to sponsor me (and I’d appreciate it if you can spare it but I understand that everyone has their own priorities) wander over and click the “donate” link and just toss my name in the comment box.
2. The other thing that I’ve been up to is practicing ukulele. It’s going well. I am decent at it but I’m having a hard time learning to strum properly. However last week was Kelly’s birthday and we couldn’t make time to get together so I made her this video. She likes John Denver.

Next month has me heading to Montreal and Maine and New York, I think. A lot of travel but no airplanes. June is Massachusetts and North Carolina and New Hampshire then I’ve got nothing for work travel until October. We’ll see if that lasts. I suspect it won’t.

cold and cool, my trip out and back


So I got home after being on the road on some fashion since March 7th. I had a good set of trips. I realized it’s been a really long time since I was away from home on a “do a lot of stuff” trip as opposed to a “go to a place and give a talk/have a vacation and come back” trip. So this is the reporting of that. Also I got home to Vermont and it’s totally chilly here which is GREAT. It snowed last night, not a lot of snow but a dusting and it’s pretty. I was unnerved by the early flowering of all the plants in various southern locations. Actually, since I started writing this I left to give one more talk in MA and then came back but the details are the same. Snowing when I got back. Yay.

So the loose outline of the trip was: go to SXSW and then come back to Westport before flying down to Missouri to talk to some library school students and then give the closing keynote speech at the Tennessee Library Association conference. All the ways to make this work by flying were suboptimal and I don’t love flying that much anyhow, so I decided to rent a car to get between MO and TN. The trip wound up looking like this

– Drove down to Westport on Wednesday the 7th, missing the “We won!” celebratory party because the guys my friends and I had supported for selectboard had all won.
– Flew out of Providence to Austin TX on the 8th. Providence is a nice small airport like Burlington but unlike Burlington is only 35 minutes away from where I was staying. On the way out I stopped at the Jefferson Diner where they had recently gotten written up for their grape nut pudding and the place was a madhouse. Also the pudding was great.
– SXSW was a blur made more exciting by the fact that there were a ton of librarians there doing neat stuff. My panel on Saturday morning went well. I saw some great stuff. I stayed with a friend and colleague and we played hooky one day to go hiking out by Barton Springs which was a really good choice for battery recharging activities.
– Flew to Providence and had a few days of R&R where I tried to get out and do some serious walking every day. I’ve been using MapMyWalk for this and you can see a few of the places I went. Did some hanging out with Jim and then flew out to Missouri on Sunday morning.
– Through an odd happenstance it turns out a friend of a friend lived in Columbia, MO and so instead of staying in a faceless hotel (sometimes what I enjoy, other times not so much) I got to stay in a real guestroom with real people. I enjoyed meeting Hilary Niles and her husband who are new transplants to the area from New England.
– I forgot to mention that when I arrived at the St. Louis airport to pick up my rental car and they said “Pick any car on the lot in the compact section” there was a Fiat 500 sitting there! It was a small fun car that was a little tough to learn to drive–it had two “drive” settings and one of them is more like a standard shift car but has a paddle shifter and I couldn’t figure it out–but fun once I figured it out. Also got great mileage which was perfect for my 850 mile road trip.
– Gave a talk and hung out with library students for pizza. Very good time and also felt like a “get back on that horse” marker after a webinar that went bad [according to me, people were fine with it] thanks to technical problems [not mine] and made me frazzled.
– Drove to Nashville. Had plans to see a friend in St. Louis which fell through so I stopped at Brad’s Bench and then remembered New England pals who had moved down South and who, luck would have it, were free with a guestroom! Got Mexican food in Nashville and saw the gorgeous public library downtown then scooted off to Knoxville.
– In Knoxville I got to actually go to programs at TLA, visit with Tennessee librarians and also hang out with a MeFite I hadn’t previously known who lives up in the hills near the Great Smoky Mountains. We had a good time catching the sunset in the mountains and also walking around Marysville TN and looking at birds.
– I flew home, saw the nose doctor, and was here for two days before heading down for a short trip to MA where I got to see my mom, sister & her boyfriend, my boyfriend and go to a MetaFilter meetup before scooting back home last night.

Now I am home playing zombie-in-pajamas and catching up on mail and taxes and correspondence and bird feeder repair and bill paying. I have a short trip to Indiana in a few weeks and then that’s it until May. While there’s no snow on the ground, it’s still pretty nice here. I’m glad that I’ll be around for the budding of the plants, again. Here are a few more photos of the longer trip.