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.

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.

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.

 

my year in cities and towns, 2018

three cats on a colorful bed with the #allwasok hashtag on it.

This picture is actually my sister’s bed, which I did not sleep in, because I was bad at taking photos this year. This was the year I said “No more travel!” after the summertime and mostly meant it. I did only three airplane trips this year and actually forgot to take a photo of the most exotic place I stayed, a sort of dorm room situation in Hawai’i. I wish I could say I enjoyed all this travel but it was sort of a down year for me and I didn’t rise to it. I took good pictures and I generally had that “Sitting in the backyard wrapped in a blanket” feeling to a lot of it. Sort of safe and comfortable but also sort of pining for home.

Here are all the places. Four states. Two provinces. Stars indicate multiple visits to the exact same place. Past years: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.

  1. Boxboro MA* – here a lot doing various cleaning things. I do love this room.
  2. Westport MA* – here most of the summer and many of the holidays
  3. Toronto ON – wanted to stay at a friends but he was very sick and this trip was both enjoyable and a total bummer
  4. MontrĂ©al QC – my friends’ new house, super fun
  5. Brooklyn NY – the funniest looking bed with the best hosts
  6. Manoa HI – ups and downs here, I wish this excellent place was not right next to a bus stop
  7. Canandaigua NY – -this was a good trip but I should have stayed in a little motel
  8. Stow MA* – Kate got the guestroom up and running again! Always great to stay here
  9. Washington DC – a funny little hotel right by the train

civic intensity continues

the constitution spelled out in license plates of every state

I did most of the things (books, tires, momhouse cleaning) from the last post. I am no longer mostly irritable and/or frightened, but managing this stupid mental health issue is still an open trouble ticket. Thanks to all who offered various kinds of support, I always appreciate it. We’re now halfway through the holiday season (after Jimsmas and Thanksgiving and most of Hanukkah, before Solstice and Christmas and whatever New Years is going to turn into) and it’s good. I went away and I came back and took some pictures while I was out (which is where this license plate photo is from). There is snow on the ground. There is a flock of pine siskins on my feeder. I finally cleaned out the grotty place around the kitchen trash can which was a coffee ground pointillist painting for months because I could not be arsed to get on my knees and handle it. I cleared the “to get to” stuff off of my standing desk, rewired the space underneath it, and put up a new light. Now I can use it after the few hours of daylight are gone and I’m up for another day’s worth of time.

One of the people I checked in with about my mental health, when I would tell him about my days, said repeatedly “You do a lot.” It was said in a way that seemed sort of suspicious, like it was a symptom of something, like I was maybe doing too much. All I know is that I’ve always been this way, it’s nearly always worked, and I’m not sure of any other way to be, nor do I have any desire to explore other ways to be unless something is wrong. Maybe I talk about “doing things” a lot, listing out every errand, everything I clean up in my house. Maybe I have performative tendencies “Oh I am so busy!” but I know people who are like that, and I don’t feel I am like them. I am reading a great book by David Sedaris, his latest, where he talks about talking to his husband’s mother. She is a very reserved woman who doesn’t believe in talking about one’s good deeds publicly because it’s like you want credit for them. I’ve always come from a family where you talk about all the things–the good things you did, the stupid ways you fucked up, the errors you made, the way you tried to fix them–and talking about some of the good things is, I’ve always felt, a way to encourage others to do good things too. The internet can make things weird, and people worrying too much about “virtue signalling” may be part of that.

Last night I worked at a party at the Chandler Music Hall. This involved mostly stocking restrooms, sitting around, directing people upstairs, answering the occasional question. But while I was there, I ran into a woman who is the mom of a woman I knew was looking into being on the Conservation Commission. We’ve been looking for a new member for a while and I put in a good word for the committee “The meetings are well-run. You get a chance to give back to the town. I think she’d be a great fit.” I know I may be being overly optimistic, but I truly feel like nearly everyone I know in town is involved in some sort of civic endeavor. Some of the people who aren’t might just need a nudge. Talking that sort of thing up can be that nudge. Civics can be catching.

civics and the things that measure the day

side of a barn entirely covered with license plates

Yesterday I slept through my alarm and nearly missed my court date. Today that same alarm woke me right the hell up but it’s a Saturday and I didn’t have to be awake but hey there is stuff I can do.

The last month was sort of a blur. I went in for a routine “Hey can you refill my anxiety meds prescription?” appointment and my slightly-new-to-me doc said “No.” (for a number of reasons, none of which had much to do with me) In addition to making my anxiety sort of spikey, this just set off more appointments and more “wait and see” nonsense and it’s been a month of alternating between irritable and frightened, so I haven’t been super chatty. Things are mostly stable for now. Though I still lack a long term plan, I am set up for the near future. I don’t talk much about my mental health here because it’s boring to me and it’s always been one of those “I have some issues, they’re being effectively treated.” things. But it might explain why I was MIA in a lot of October.

I did do a few things however. I testified in the trial of the guy who defrauded the town by doing a Kickstarter to raise money for a drive-in movie projector and then skipped town with it. I was the star witness. Exciting. I did a different thing for Halloween (walking around with friends instead of handing out candy) and it was a nice little shake-up to a routine. I’ve been helping a friend campaign for a state office which is where this photo is from, the hills of Granville. Drop-in Time continues and I tweet a little thread about it every week. Tuesday I work the polls all day. Today I get in a car and go see Jim in his new apartment in Belmont and visit with him and his friend Karla. Before that I help my sister clear some stuff out of my mom’s house.

The days are shorter. I’m spending more time in bed with the covers over me with my nose in a book. I’m on track to read 100 books this year which was my “stretch goal” (booklist is here) and maybe do 100 library visits. I have to put my snow tires on. We all get a free hour tomorrow. My friend has a tag she uses on Instagram that has always resonated with me #thingsthatmeasuretheday and that’s where my head is at lately. These are the things. They measure the day. And that is enough for now.