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.

kid weirdo

two small children sitting on a sofa in an old=time sepiaton print

I’ve been focusing on positive self-talk, or at least being aware of negative self-talk, lately. Noting the times when I’m saying to myself “And then you did that thing that screwed it all up” and trying to reframe that feeling/expression somewhat. But there are some expressions that may SOUND like they’re negative, but that really aren’t. I was a weird kid. That’s not negative self-talk, that’s fact. Spacey and solitary, things went fine for me for the most part. I grew up, went to a college for weirdos, and wound up finding my path and things are good. I occasionally struggle, but I don’t feel out of step in my little town here.

I wrote a thing and was interviewed for a thing that both touch on this feeling. One is about Hampshire College and the financial mess that they’re in, maybe closing and maybe not. I both care and don’t care about this. But I was surprised to find that I had some left over grar feelings from back then, and they open the article. The other was a very short piece I wrote about how much Alison Bechdel’s book Fun Home affected me, how much I felt, to use the common parlance, seen. Here are the two pieces:

I’m mostly off my Wikipedia jag which is probably just fine for now. Expect to see it flare up again this time next year.

2018 in work and money

pie chart showing the parts of work taken up with various pursuits, described in the post

This is me starting to do my taxes (in my case, getting my paperwork to my guy) and preferring to do almost anything else. I think the last time I did one of these was at the end of 2016 and it was over at the other blog. Anyhow, this is a percentage-based look at where my work-money comes from. And it’s funny, since for someone who calls herself a librarian, that sliver is pretty small. But I can explain.

That slice, the 1.3%, represents the time Kimball Library pays me to work as a librarian. It doesn’t count drop-in time (27.8%) or writing about libraries (15.2%) or giving talks about libraries (17.6%) or a wide array of other consulting type work (the rest!) which can be anything from helping Wikipedia be better with librarians (I tried) to going to people’s homes and helping them with their network configurations. Also, and I don’t mean to be rude, but librarying doesn’t pay that well. Which is fine, and understandable! But giving a keynote talk at a library conference can easily pay anywhere from five to fifty times as much as an hour of librarying. Which doesn’t mean I’d choose it, it just means that slice is bigger.

I’m retooling my world of work until my sister and I get a little more traction our hopefully-short-lived real estate mogul life which does not suit me. In the meantime, I continue to do all my local stuff including working on the town’s Conservation Commission, being on three committees of the Vermont Humanities Council, and drop-in time isn’t going anywhere. And I keep doing my internet stuff including social media and online work for the Vermont Library Association, writing little articles for Wikipedia, and answering questions in Ask MetaFilter, my first online home.

Just for recordkeeping, here are the new Wikipedia articles I’ve written since last time I checked in. Not trying to be braggy, though I’m aware of the optics, just noting this for future-me as well as trying to highlight just how much it’s a possible thing people can do. And if you want some help, you know where to find me.

quantified other selves

My other year end lists, over at the other blog are online now: reading list, library visit list. It’s the 13th day of the year and I’ve already racked up five library visits, but mostly because I’ve been filling in at the library. It’s been fun.

The big other winter hobby, which I somehow pick up every winter and then drop again when the weather improves, is picking away at Wikipedia’s representation problem, which I wrote about in March (shortly after I wrapped up a brief consulting gig with Wikipedia). Everyone’s got their own special set of skills and I’m always trying to use mine to do the things I like doing. This winter, the plan is to create Wikipedia pages, mostly for women and people of color. I’ve done a page a day so far and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve also been able to upload a bunch of photos of people that are better than the ones that were there. Until this weekend the general plan was:

  1. go to the NYPL’s Digital Collections
  2. do a search for the word “portrait” and limit to images that are in the public domain
  3. scan the results (all 6000 of them) for people who look like they might not be well-represented in Wikipedia
  4. add them
  5. GOTO 1

Then I finished scanning NYPL, and discovered that the Digital Library of Georgia also allows you to search by what is in the public domain, so that is next. Previously I’d used Florida Memory. I’d love to be adding photos from Vermont but there is no statewide image resource, much less one that allows searching by rights. Which is too bad. To be fair, most states don’t have this sort of archive.

I felt like listing what I’ve done somewhere and, while I speak Wikipedia, not everyone does, so here’s what I’ve been up to in a bloggy format. These are pages I created.

I also added a bunch of photos and you can see those mainly over at Wikimedia Commons. Most of these people either didn’t have a photo of them on Wikipedia, or they didn’t have a good one. A lot of people grab images from public domain books to add to Wikipedia which is great but then time passes and better images are available. It’s good to be able to add better photos and improve someone’s legacy. Once a photo is up on Wikipedia, it makes it to Google within minutes, it’s actually a little eerie.

The photo that leads this post is the one I’m stuck on. The caption just reads C. A. McGill and the photo is from Monrovia, Liberia. I’m pretty certain that this woman is part of the McGill Family who emigrated to Liberia (I added the woman’s photo that is on that page). There are photos of a few of the McGills and other early Liberian colonists in the Library of Congress. But, documentation is scarce and I haven’t been able to prove that this woman is related to those McGills. I’ll noodle around some more with this next week which is when #1lib1ref starts up again, and maybe write a few more pages. It’s good to have a hobby.