I can’t spell Hanukkah which is probably okay because I don’t really celebrate it. However as the Most Jewish member of the high school I work at, I felt it was my duty to make sure there was some sort of menorah around holidaytime. If you’ll recall, there was one last year but it got stolen. Well it turns out it wasn’t even stolen but rather mangled by an angry kid who was stuck in the principal’s office. It was never replaced. “Where do you get a menorah anyhow?” the lady in the office asked me. I had to admit I wasn’t sure. I did go around telling people the story of Hanukkah [somewhat cribbed from Wikipedia] and answered a few FAQs [no there’s no Hanukkah bush, no it’s not really a major holiday, no there’s no Christmas tree involved, yes I still like cookies].

Yesterday I went to the school to pick up my car after its oil change — just another wonderful perk of working at a voctech school — and I found a little clip art menorah which I put on my classroom door. I don’t really have a classroom per se. That is, I don’t teach a class at the school. However, I’m there enough and there’s a free classroom so one of the rooms has come to be known as “Jessamyn’s Room” There’s a door decorating contest at the school where each class decorates their door in a holiday theme. This is the predictable presents, trees, red and green whatnot. Each classroom also adopts a family, a family from town having trouble making ends meet who gives the school a list of things they could use. From my position the lists are terribly poignant. No one’s asking for gameboys, they’re all asking for things like warm socks and a pair of women’s jeans, size 32. The kids all chip in to not just get the things on the list, but stocking stuffer stuff also. They then assemble and wrap it all and put it under the school tree which is out in the hallway and the families come pick up the presents right before the school shuts down for the holidays.

I used to have a pretty GRARGRAR opinion of the oppressiveness of Christmastime. Too much religion in my Wintertime. Too much shopping in my long dark nights. Too many well-meaning people not considering that other people might have different culutral traditions, or different choices, or different types of families. I’m still not totally pleased with the whole creche on the town commons thing, but I moved and I hear they don’t do that anymore since someone stole the baby jesus. Being more of a fixture at the school where they actually take pains to make sure the holidays are about sharing what you have with the people in your community, where it matters to people that everyone has enough, has really allowed me the room to enjoy the stressful Thanksgiving to New Years streak in a way that hasn’t worked as well in the past. Last night, when it was dark outside and I was leaving the school, I colored in one candle on the clip-art menorah.

how to make an introvert

40-something women

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.

breathing room

Mystery Creature is really albino porcupine

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 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.

penultimate 2007

I figure I have another day before I make a big list of stuff from 2007. Books and beds mostly. It’s been a banner year for beds and only so-so for books. I always worry when I haven’t been reading much that maybe I’m Done Reading Books and from now on all I’ll be doing is scanning stuff from the Internet and leafing through magazines. So far this has not been the case, though reading was down last year even though air travel was up. I think this may be because movie downloading was also up and as you know my Watch More TV/Movies resolution in 2007 went pretty well.

In fact, it went so well that I’ve been chosen to be a Nielsen Family for February 2008. This, even though I 1) am not a family and 2) told them on the phone that I never watch any TV. Apparently as long as you have a TV, you can be a Nielsen Family. Anyone who has pet shows that they would like me to promote in February, please let me know. In exchange I will give you copies of all the great movies I have been watching, though many of them are DVD screeners or subtitled in German.

I got back from a week down in Massachusetts today. I spent time with my sister, mom, stepmom, and dad in roughly that order and had a good though exhausting time. That’s four people, but seven cats and a dog! Since we’re not real xmas celebrators and everyone in the family is, to put it politely, quirky, figuring out how to honor non-existent family traditions and forge new ones is always a little challenging. I had a great time eating candy with my Mom and sister, cleaning my Dad’s basement with him, having dinner with my stepmom and taking photos of my sister’s loom and her using it. I rode a lot of buses and subways and got a lot of rides to various places.

As always when I get home I’m amazed at how quiet and dark the place is. Sound great? Well the house next door — a sort of copy of this one that the parents who lived in this house built for their children next door, less fancy, similar footprint — is for sale. 210K gets you an 1894 Victorian with three bedrooms and a mother-in-law apt in the back. If you’ve been contemplating a back to the country move, think of Bethel!

happy whatever

rabbit rabbit

As predicted, the Solstice in Vermont was a cloudy day that I spent running around with gritted teeth, working. However, at least one little library will have wifi for Xmas because of my efforts. Then I got some time off. Working at a high school means high school holidays are my holidays so no more classes or drop-in times til the new year. I took the bus down to Kate’s place and we’ve been hunkered down with cats and holiday food watching the snow all melt.

The photo is from a trip to Ikea that we took on Sunday to see if we could get and assemble a guestroom bed. My job when I come down here is Chief Motivator for Slightly Difficult Seeming Tasks, so I said “Hey let’s go now, how hard could it be?” and surprisingly, I was right. So we stumbled around a not very full Ikea two days before Xmas, got a bed that was totally decent and super cheap, and put it together in about an hour, even though we couldn’t and still can’t find the drill. Kate had to work on Monday and I walked into Davis Square in the bright sunshine and got four sweaters for about $20 because the thrift stores here have clothes I can actually see myself wearing. Thrift stores up my way just mean I’m wearing something my neighbor is likely to recognize.

Last night we hd Chinese food and wrapped a few things and had to check through our email archives to figure out what we did over Xmas 2005. Of course, searching my Flickr archives would have netted results a lot more quickly. Today we’re heading over to my Mom’s for bagels and lox and tomorrow I’m heading down to my Dad’s to fulfill his one Christmas wish: a clean basement. Back at the end of the week to go to my friends’ NYE party which is open to pretty much anyone. Anyone needing a NYE plan in the Northeast, feel free to email me for details. I hope this day finds you doing what you want to do.


sunset, abu dhabi

My photos of Dubai are now completely uploaded and in a photoset on Flickr that you can see here: Dubai 2007. The cactuscam was a success and allowed me to see the christmas cactus flowering until something happened and it went dark on Decembe 11th. Here is the last photo from the day I got back. As I recall from the last time I went left the country in mid-December, coming back to a US that has gotten its Christmas on while I was away is always a little jarring. Christmastime in Dubai was interesting because Dubai is a Muslim country and so it is crystal clear that the trees and ornaments and lights designate a secular, shopping holiday. It’s a little more murky here.

However, I like Winter. And yesterday I woke up to a box of fancy english muffins on my doorstep. In two days from now the days are going to start getting longer. If that isn’t a bang-up reason for a celebration I don’t know what is.