more of the same, or is it

maroon screen saying "Hi I'm jessamyn,. I'm a Vermont Librarian. I can teach anyone to use a computer"

I was chatting with someone on Twitter the other day, as one does, and I checked out her website. It had the lovely spareness that I had been hoping to use on my own website. Better yet, it was in HTML which meant I could copy, alter, and use it (after asking, of course). So I redesigned the entryway to and I’m pleased with it.

I’ve also been recommitting to my VT 183 project, wanting to visit all of Vermont’s libraries. I got jazzed and re-energized by the Vermont Library Conference (which is exactly what it’s supposed to do!) and went to five new libraries this week.

I’ve done a lot of legal stuff, from my day in court with Equifax which you can read about, to visiting the Vermont Attorney General’s office to talk about suing the recent managers of the local drive-in for defrauding the people in the town via Kickstarter, to updating my will. People who know me may know that I almost went to law school instead of library school. The structure of legal theory and thought appeals to me.

I’ve been able to get a lot of this stuff done because my teaching, public speaking, and related travel are wrapping up. And, for the rest of 2018, I am planning to not do much more of it. Not for any bad reason but for a few good reasons:

  • I’ve been overdoing it. I’ve been stressed out and for whatever reason (maybe grief, Jessamyn!) this same-old combination of things has not been allowing me to thrive.
  • I don’t have to, right now. I’ve got a stable, if low, income and I’m going to make that work for now.
  • I’ve had my head in the sand about global warming but the biggest thing I figured I could change in my life was not getting on any more airplanes. This isn’t a total overhaul, just a reminder to be more mindful about when I decide to travel and maybe doing it more for fun and less for work.
  • I’m throwing myself in to my hobbies and my neighborhood. This includes visiting more libraries, stepping up my work with the Vermont Library Association, joining the town’s Conservation Commission, and (my new announcement) joining the board of the Vermont Humanities Council

More to the point, I think my definition of “thriving” is going to include more community work and less get-money-for-Jessamyn work. I’m really lucky to be able to make this choice for a few months (or longer) and gosh is it lovely outside.

Hawai’i How Were Ya?

me wearing two separate leis

I am still waking up at 10 am. Which is not too terrible but still outside the range of normal for me. Was sort of waiting until I could write “Hey I am over my jetlag!” but figure I’ll just say “Hey!” The trip was a combination of good things and… less good things. The good things are probably obvious but you can also see my photos. Hawai’i is beautiful, fascinatingly different from New England, and as I said in the previous post, I didn’t realize how much it was good to be somewhere that wasn’t icy. My colleagues are gracious and warm people who deeply care about LIS education (as I do) and their hospitality was touching as well as enjoyable. There were all new birds which were a constant surprise and delight. I gave two talks (one in NYC on the way out to HI and one in HI) and they were well-received.

The less-good things were mostly a combination of my poor suitability for tropical living (both personality-wise and biological-wise: allergies and paleness and being a night owl) crossed with some environmental issues (noisy room, did I mention allergies?) that made the last part of my trip mostly happen in a groggy sudafed haze. I have only myself to blame for my inability to pack properly–“Oh it will be in the 70s there, that is jeans and t-shirt weather right?” (No, it is shorts and tank top weather)–but I made it work for the most part. I did bring my sandals to wear everywhere and it was great to have Sudden Birkenstock Weather. Thank you UH Manoa LIS breakroom white elephant sale and faculty thrift store donations for keeping me cool-feeling!

The parts that I thought might be hellish, long flights and one really long travel day, were not so bad. I like being in motion and I’m becoming a lot better at just staring out the window. Now that I can breathe through my nose again I’d like to go do it again with proper clothing, timing, and medicines. I wish I’d taken more photographs. In their absence, I’ll include this set of pictures from the last time I went, in 2006, where I met Drew, the LIS professor who would eventually become the person who would recommend me for the job I have now. Mahalo.


moss growing in a cemetery wall

It’s amusing that I have come halfway around the world just to get some writing done but that’s what the trip to Hawai’i has been like so far and I am happy for it. I am here to meet my students and talk about library stuff and learn about local libraries. It’s been a busy few weeks (or months) at home and I have been stoically enduring it without really even noticing I was doing that. Being somewhere where the ambient culture is a little more chill and a little less wintery has led to the relaxation of muscles I didn’t even know were tense. I stepped in the ocean yesterday and got great tours of the local area, buildings, food, and people from two of my University of Hawai’i colleagues, one of whom I had never met before (but who was born in the same hospital as me… HOW).

So I’ve been catching up on some non-Hawai’i stuff (hello blog) because there is time and space to do more than just endure. More photos coming when I get home.

A story for mom

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 75. This is also the first week I’ve gotten a media mention where I thought “Oh hey mom would like that” (which she almost always did) but also “Oh hey I like that” (which I rarely do, photos of me don’t look like me TO me, I am aggravated by typos and almost-right facts) so the usual bummed-outedness is exacerbated a bit by that very small “Awwww, she would have loved this.” feeling. So, here’s the picture from the back page of this month’s Vermont Life magazine. It’s good, right?

an image of me in my librarian outfit looking decently good alongside an interview for which there is no online version.

I’ve been at home this week catching up on deferred life maintenance including whipping my filing system into shape. I’m the owner, now, of my files, my dad’s files, and (some of) my mom’s files. They were a little all over the place and causing me low-level psychic stress as we round the corner into tax season. Last month I got a new filing cabinet–one of those cute ones on wheels that opens from the top and locks on the bottom–and yesterday I decided to handle this. I dug out all my files from various cabinets and drawers, piled them all on the day bed, and just went at them with an eye towards ditching every single thing I couldn’t make an argument to keep. Loved my mom, but I swear she never threw a thing away. This is fine, right up until it’s not.

I had a nice sprint through the last two decades. Bills for houses and cars I no longer own. Thank you cards from speaking engagements I no longer remember. Manuals for stuff that broke a long time ago. I have two folders, one called I AM IMPORTANT (for “don’t lose this” stuff) and one called I AM AWESOME (for stuff like that VT Life article) and I enjoyed poking through them. My SAT scores. A letter from my kindergarten teacher basically calling me spacey. Along the way, I opened up some recent mail and found a recall notice for my car’s air conditioning, air conditioning which had failed at the peak of summer last year. In fact, it was worse than that, it literally died within the same 24 hours as my mom. I don’t look for meanings in coincidences, this just was what it was–an expensive and ultimately fixable side irritant when I had other things going on.

But! According to the recall notice, I could get that expense reimbursed. If I could find the mechanic’s bill and my payment receipts. Which, since I was already knee-deep in paperwork, I totally could. And I had all the envelopes and stamps at the ready. And I had this “Ha HA, gotcha!” moment which I heard in my mom’s voice. And I wrote Honda an only-slightly-bitchy letter about the hassle this caused me. And then let it go. But I did think “Man, mom would have loved this.”

I have long hair because I am afraid of the barber

image of a braid as seen from the back

I got my hair pinked up a few weeks ago. I like how it turned out. It’s fun having long hair, for the most part, but I get tired of hair being in everything all over my house. It’s not something that is well-known about me, but I don’t have long hair because it’s my perfect style choice (I think this one might be), and I don’t have long hair because I am lazy, I basically have long hair because the get-a-haircut? decision tree is too complex and fraught with peril for me, so it’s easier just to grow it out. I live my life with intention in so many ways, but not this one.

I’m sure everyone has these little quirks about some part of their personality, this one is mine. I manage my anxiety pretty well most of the time. I decided that since this haircut decision paralysis is true about me, I may as well rock the long hair I have stuck myself with. Even that took almost a year of planning and preparation. Not preparation like psyching myself up, more like finding the right place, making sure it didn’t cost too much, making an actual appointment (thank you Bliss Salon for letting me do this over Facebook) and then getting my ass there, describing what I wanted (this is close, I was looking for something more orangey, they didn’t have that and I am still a little bent out of shape about it) and sitting in a chair talking to a (very nice!) stranger for hours.

When I used to do the MetaFilter Podcast with both Josh and Matt, we’d often spend the first five or ten minutes of every pre-tape session just bullshitting about either how much we hated Skype or how much we hated getting haircuts. It’s a thing I weirdly miss about the three of us getting together, feeling like the normative state of at least one community was “Oh yeah, haircuts amirite??”

I do have a few other internet friends who feel like I do, one of them encouraged me to write this.

my year in cities and towns, 2017

showing the foot of a wooden bed with a crane photo on the wall behind it.

Last year I spent a lot of time away from home but it wasn’t great for travel per se. I spent nearly two solid month’s at my mom’s place before and after she died. I can’t quite say that I enjoyed it, but being in one place, in that place, was useful for me. 2018 is going to be a year of less travel I think. I’ve got two airplane trips planned and I’m not planning to add any more.

Here are all the places. Seven states. Three provinces. Stars indicate multiple visits to the exact same place. Past years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.

  1. Niceville FL – a great way to kick off the year with some sunshine and friendly librarians
  2. Cambridge MA* – Deb’s place is always good for the soul
  3. Toronto ON – a weird AirBnB and a great visit
  4. Toronto ON – Gabe’s duplex was a better resting place
  5. Stow MA* – chilling post-Superbowl at Kate’s
  6. Westport MA* – planned to spend more time here than I actually did
  7. Montreal QC – a catsit and a trip that was supposed to be a vacation with Jim
  8. Crystal City VA – a fun library conference and a chance to see a lot of library friends
  9. Washington DC – MeFites put me up and showed me the town, so lovely
  10. Brooklyn NY* – wound up here twice, the couch is fine but the love is great
  11. Brooklyn NY – hamsters!
  12. Weir’s Beach NH – Fun Spot was one of the year’s highlights
  13. Cambridge MA – another catsit, another funny little bed
  14. Concord NH – I spent a lot of time sleeping not far from home
  15. Boxboro MA* – moved in and did not leave for a while
  16. Edmonton AB – a great conference center
  17. Edmonton AB – the swank apartment of an old family friend
  18. Baraboo WI – place was as weird as it seems but the conference was grand
  19. Saratoga Springs NY – Liked this Hilton, loved this conference

the newest of years

an image of paerwhites that I got which bloomed one poozly bloom and keeled over

underwhelming paperwhites

I came home from the annual New Year’s Eve Party with a sore throat and it’s now the 4th and I’ve been dressed for about four hours of 2018. On the mend though, today I am just pretending it’s a snow day even though the weather has been fine. No bomb cyclone here. Working on my end-of-the-year lists.

I got a physical which says that, despite my high level of health anxieties, I am fine. Cholesterol is a little high. Mammograms always require an alarming do-over before getting the all-clear. I’ve got some grief weight to lose. The weird shoulder pain I’ve been having went away entirely when I quit sitting at my desktop computer all day.

I’m going to put my new calendar up today (I get them from NeuYear and they are quite good) and that will probably be it. Everything I thought was going to be a hassle about the holiday season in this Complicated Year really was not. I often feel like I’m coasting when things mostly work, like somehow I’m not working hard enough at being alive, that there’s some harder work I should be doing. This year, I’m just trying to take it as it comes to me, if at all possible. I’m dialing back on my travel (only going to Toronto and Hawaii this year as far as airplanes go) and ramping up on my back-burnered projects. Every year I pick a word or two to be my little re-centering mantra a quickie reminder of the things I want, or that I want to work for. The past few years have been FREEDOM, ANTI-RACIST, LET THIS DAY BE GOOD. This year I’m working from a few angles. My word is WAY, for three reasons

  • Get out of my own WAY. (i.e. take myself out of spaces where I don’t need to be, stop tossing up obstacles to things I want)
  • Find a WAY. (work on goals not problems, I’m a constant problematizer which is great for troubleshooting, less great for life)
  • Give things aWAY. (self-explanatory, I am starting with this little stack of old iPhones I have)

Simple. Three letters. Attainable by me. Best wishes for whatever you’re trying to get out of this year, may it be easier for us than last year was.