The unbearable unleisureliness of Virgo

looking at a picture on the picture rail of the dining room of the new place

I thought nothing could top last summer’s “Clean out mom’s house” project for being the exact opposite of what the Virgo Month of Leisure is supposed to be about. I was wrong. I bought a house, just up the road; I move tomorrow. I’ve been balancing some health stuff (I am fine, just some pain I am getting slow-mo dealt with) and so I’ve been spending this past month alternately packing and resting, mostly alone because I’m not feeling fit for company. I like packing and I like to think I’m pretty good at it but I’m now in the “last five boxes” phase where I figure I’ve only got five more boxes left of stuff but then I fill those and… there’s still a small amount of stuff left, maybe five boxes worth. My neighbors have a barn that contains an endless supply of boxes for which I am very grateful.

The very good news is that I’ll spend the largest chunk of the Virgo Month of Leisure mostly unpacking which is an eventual “order out of chaos” process that pleases me. I’m going to have stairs on the INSIDE of the house which feels so very fancy. And I’ll have a guestroom that isn’t also in my office. Once I start feeling better, you should come visit. I added all the photos I took for my insurance inspection to the Flickr photo set so feel free to give yourself a virtual tour.


a telephone pole in front of a grassy area with a sign on it saying "Normally open"

I feel like I’ve gone through a lot of this pandemic in a Groundhog Day sort of every-day-like-the-last situation. I am just thankful for the seasons so something has been changing. But this last month has been eventful. Apologies if I didn’t tell you some of this stuff in person, I’m not the best communicator about emotional things, or big news.

A lot of this news runs together but one part that didn’t is that Jim finally got to meet his biodad–you may know him as Klaus Flouride from the Dead Kennedys (backstory)–and it went really well. I zipped down for a meal with them and it was really nice.

The larger news is that Ronni Solbert, who many of you know as either my landlady or the illustrator of The Pushcart War (among other things) or both, died a few weeks back at the age of 96. I’d known this was in a works a few weeks earlier. She had decided to enter hospice, and told me, and when I asked how I could support her she said “Keep people away?” so I mostly did. She was well looked after by a collection of family and friends. I’ll save a longer remembrance for later since my thoughts haven’t really coalesced in any particular way yet. I’ll miss her, she was good company a lot of the time and when she wasn’t, she was at least interesting company. We got along well.

Many people had asked me before now what my plan was when this happened. What was happening to the house? Ronni had done me the favor of telling me she was leaving the house to a collection of family members in a trust so they’d own it straight off. I know relatives of those family members and we’d had a talk before Ronni died just letting me know “Hey nothing is going to happen fast. You’re welcome to continue on here while things get sorted out.” I tend to dislike uncertainty so this was a gift. At the same time, the housing and rental markets here are bonkers. And yet, we’ll be selling my mom’s house just as soon as we finish the septic work (a few months?) and so I have options. I want to stay in Randolph because not only is it my home–I’ve lived here for 14 years–I’m also an elected official (JPs need to live in the town) and I’d hate to stop doing that just because I didn’t have a place to live. My worst case situation was staying at my dad’s place in Massachusetts while I figured things out. Not the worst by any stretch, but not what I wanted. I had some weird feeling, as I often do, that things would somehow work out.

And, long story short, things did work out. I have a friend who grew up in Randolph who mostly lives in France now. She wanted to sell her childhood home because she was tiring of renting it to people just so she’d have it available for the few times a year she was back in Randolph. It’s a little big, it needs some work but nothing major. It’s not quite as funky as this place, but it’s also less funky than what I thought I’d wind up with (the old karate studio? that giant orange place? a trailer on my friends’ back 40?). She was looking to sell for about what I was able to spend, so we’ve signed some papers and we have a closing date of August 15 and she has an agreeable situation with another friend to have a pied-à-terre there when she comes to town. The street address is one digit different from the street address of my sister’s first home which has some nice synchronicity. Here are a few photos.

I haven’t owned the home I’ve lived in since the early aughts, this will be a big change. Right now there are a lot of goodbyes to say, assessments to make and, frankly, time to kill before the next big thing.

kicking the tires

old newspaper image of some kind of chassis for a train or something. all you see are the wheels
For only the third time in its life I’ve moved this site to a new host. Or rather, my host is moving to a new host which means moving all the content over and making sure the things still work. So far it looks like they do. It’s hot here and I took a nap today which probably means I’m feeling a little iffy but I wanted to put a post here to make sure the blogmachine was working. If you can read this, it is!


I never feel like I mind the winter too much–I went walking nearly every day, I saw people and did things–but when it starts to recede I notice myself feeling better. I know the media has been making a lot of The Great Resignation but I’d just like to chime in how it’s affected me personally. Since the beginning of COVID, these people in my life have resigned, retired, or left their jobs for other jobs (I don’t think any of them have been fired but how would I know?).

  • Therapist: retired (her husband was already retired, we had a normal wind-down of our professional relationship)
  • GI Doc: left (don’t know why, but wasn’t actively seeing her)
  • Second GI Doc: left (got my test results (fine), talked about a strategy and he said “Today’s my last day!”)
  • Psych nurse: left (had an appointment, got a call four days later to schedule my follow-up with someone else)
  • Dentist: quasi-retired (“I may still see patients, I don’t want to run my own practice”)
  • Primary care doc: retired (got a very nice note “It’s been an honor to serve as your doctor” and he’s still a neighbor so I’ll see him around)
  • Second therapist: “on leave” (I do not know what this means, hoping she comes back)

As for me, I’ve resigned from the Vermont Humanities Council board after my first term (last year) and resigned from The 251 Club board after my first term (this year) and I stopped picking up extra shifts at MetaFilter (last year) and I feel like the rest of my stuff is more or less the same? Work has been slowly picking up even as Operation Sell Magic Castle has been going kind of steady. Kate’s birthday is next week so I’m leaving the state for… the second time this year? Please wish me luck, I could always use a little more.


picture of 13 animal crackers, all different animals, resting on an orange flannel sheet

Nothing new is going on! I’ve been going on walks, seeing Jim and some neighbors, sleeping okay-not-great. Doing a little work. Looking to do more work. Waiting for the snow to leave Massachusetts so we can get the septic put in and SELL THE MAGIC CASTLE. I got a nice hoodie with Snoopy on it (thanks Jim!) and had to wrestle it away from a 96-year old lady who thought it was for her because she couldn’t read the label. My house is cleaner than usual, but still not that clean. I’m getting slow-motion audited and slow-motion doing my taxes. I walked eighty miles in January and never left town. I was on the radio and was interviewed for another radio show. I’ve been reading a lot of books at night and have a few animal crackers before bed so I don’t have middle-of-the-night blood sugar crashes (my sleep hygiene is a whole thing). I stare at them a lot. Now you can too!

the same picture of the animal crackers as above but this one has all the animals labeled.

wraps ups III

a very healthy looking plant on my kitchen table in a new pot from last year

This is maybe getting a little in the weeds but I like to start the new year by wrapping up the last one, even in this ridiculous Groundhog Day of a global pandemic I am living through. The plant I took home a few years ago got a new pot that it seems to like. I am now a person who mists my plants on the regular.

  • libraries visited – list just keeps getting shorter
  • books read – it was an exceptional year for reading
  • places stayed – I am still dreaming about going places, but at least I went a few places this past year.
  • other events — I am starting to really dislike Medium’s formatting options so maybe I do this on my blog next year, but it’s here for now.

There’s snow on the ground here and Jim is on his way home from a shortish New Year’s visit (compared to an extended Xmastime visit, pix) and I’m back from a walk and regrouping and thinking what makes sense for this year. I did a lot of walking last year, 650 miles, and I think it helped. Working on my compassion for myself and others. Pulling out a few Wikipedia projects that are enjoyable–mainly uploading images of recently-deceased people, contemplating a blog post called “How You, Too, Can See Dead People”–and marveling that after all this time and MANY home improvement projects completed, I still don’t seem to be able to mop my kitchen floor. We managed to clean out the Magic Castle but still need to replace its septic. If you think you might know someone who wants to buy it before then, there’s a little FYI website here. Hoping to be able to continue to stay the course this year, wishing everyone luck and courage in dealing with adversity and the unknown.

my year in cities and towns, 2021

a bed which is really just a piece of plywood up on milk crates in the middle of an entirely empty room
Slightly more exciting than last year, but not a lot more. I stayed at my mother’s house as we were cleaning it out a LOT this summer. Most weekends for two months. And I stayed at my sister’s place a few times. And I stayed at my dad’s place twice. That’s the report. Compared to last year–zero days stayed anywhere else–it felt like a lot, but still no weird hotels, quirky AirBnBs, or any other fun travel. I have a tentative plan to go give a live talk, pandemic willing, in New York this summer, will be interesting to see how close I get to it.

Past years: 2020, 2019 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 2007, 2006, 2005.