acquisition and closure

a coffee table made from an old barn door, sitting in front of a schlumpy couch on top of a braided rug

As of this weekend, we have a signed purchase and sale document on my mom’s house, aka the Magic Castle. This was a long time coming. We are also, right now, getting the septic replaced for Massachusetts reasons. The amount of paperwork involved in these two things has been astonishing to me and I work in libraries. The house stuff has also involved a ton of email, much of which was from realtor but also our lawyer who tried to dissuade us from some of the negotiation tacks we took. It’s always weird to be like “I know you are a legal professional but we’re going to go a different direction that we think will work for us” and have it work out. So far.

Also had a friend come and do some handyman work for me including making a coffee table out of an old door that came off the wood shed (or sugar shack, or milking shed, I was never quite sure what that little room was for) at my old house in Topsham. With the completion of this coffee table I now have what I consider to be a full complement of furniture in this place. I’m sure there are a few more things I need (rugs, as I am typing this, I realize I need rugs), but every bed has a nightstand and every room has a light (I am remembering that one of them does not but I only use it during the daytime). I have a functional bedroom, office, living room, and kitchen. I have a place to sit and read that I enjoy. My plants are doing well and seem to like it here. I am able to ignore enough of the “to do” items that I can be comfortable relaxing here sometimes and then doing projects at other times.

The one thing that has so far not quite settled is the endless shopping. For a long time I had a pretty static complement of stuff. I’d buy clothes occasionally and food more occasionally and replace things that wore out or ran out, but this is more like “Hey you have approximately 30 light switches now (my old place had five) and about half of them need screws. Oh and maybe they need those little draft blocker things behind them. And when you look at them close up, they seem a little mungy so maybe you need a brush to scrub them off with?” There will be a time when I’m not making shopping runs to Home Depot or getting trapped in Amazon’s labyrinth of possibilities, but that day hasn’t come yet.

However a lot of what I’ve gotten has come from around here, from other people. The same phenomenon that made cleaning out the Magic Castle such a project (she never got rid of anything!) is also working for me up here (people don’t get rid of anything, and they have extra things!). So I’ve gotten a free couch from a neighbor, bought a reading chair from another neighbor, bought a stereo cabinet from a local person from a facebook group and a tv from a neighbor moving to Arizona who posted it on a local mailing list. A pal brought over an extra chair. A friend gave me a compost bucket. A bed came from an old local abandoned house. I bought five tables of varying fitness from one guy up the road who purchased a house previously occupied by a hoarder. I found a table on the side of the road. I got another table and four chairs for free from a person who lived up the side of a mountain. I bought some floor lamps and a rug from the town’s new thrift store which has very reasonable prices. A man in town delivered some old folk albums he was no longer listening to. I bought a rugged stepladder from an older woman in town who said it was too heavy for her. I bought some porch rockers from the Arizona-bound neighbor who tossed in a wicker porch couch for free.

And I got rid of some stuff. Most of my boxes went to people who were using them to move or to mulch their gardens. My bubble wrap went to Silloway Farm where I traded it for maple candy. The thrift store still receives regular boxes of stuff from me, some because of upgrades, a lot because I just need different things now.

So I think in my dream world, we would have sewn up the sale of the Magic Castle before I moved in here and I could have just outfitted the place with things that were already in the family. And yet also, there’s something to be said for starting from a different sort of scratch. I like looking around this house and thinking about all the different people in my neighborhood who helped me get it to where it is.


a sap gathering bucket with a ziploc bag of maple candy in it

This is a photo of a bucket that hangs on my side porch. It’s good for keeping food drop-off away from squirrels. The first week I was here someone left some cookies for me at my side door. They were eaten by squirrels before I could get to them.

I have also replaced my front porch mailbox with a basket which is apparently what you do in this neighborhood. I wasn’t even consciously aware of it, I just decided that might look good one day and then when I went on my walk I noticed many other people had done this. I’m sure it crept into my mind via osmosis. It’s weird being in a neighborhood but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

This bucket is full of maple candy. There is a maple syrup/sugaring concern in town which is run by our former librarian’s family. I used to get maple candy at the library, now it (sometimes) gets delivered. Sometimes I leave money out, sometimes bubble wrap. When I moved I had a lot of leftover bubble wrap. Silloway Maple needs bubble wrap to ship their syrup and candy around the country. I leave a large bag of bubble wrap on the side porch, I come back and there is some maple candy in it. It’s a good trade.

trouble and desire

a luminous orb sitting on top of a pink table that says "there's nothing but..." on the top of it in yellow.
I moved. Nearly all parts of it went better than expected. I’ve unpacked all the boxes on the lower level. I’ve got most of my systems (food, sleep, music, trash/recycling, office) set up and mostly working. I got this light for $1.50 and it only sort of worked and I took it apart and fixed it and now it works better. The table has been in my closet at my old place since I moved it out of Topsham in 2012. It’s nice to see it again. The quote is a Hal Hartley quote. In full it reads

There is no such thing as adventure. There’s no such thing as romance. There’s only trouble and desire… And the funny thing is, when you desire something you immediately get into trouble. And when you’re in trouble you don’t desire anything at all.

Updates as the situation warrants. So far so good.

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.