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.

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.

cheerful not happy redux

a plate with a bunch of pinkish orange flower petals that rests on an orange and yellow striped placemat
This is not a post talking about how I am not happy, things are actually pretty much fine. I’ve been walking a lot, went down to MA a few times for Thanksgiving and JIMSMAS, and have managed some doctor and dentist appointments that always flip me out a little beforehand. Jim is good, Kate is good, other folks seem mostly good. I remember when I wrote that original post on this topic and we were thinking vaccinations might be the wrap-up to this pandemic thing and now that’s not seeming like the case so much. I got my booster. I still mostly don’t go anywhere. It’s not bad. I enjoy my walks around the neighborhood because I run into a lot of people I know and get little updates on what’s going on. When I was walking out by the post office, I met a new-to-me woman who asked me a question and this is a post about that. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard this one.

She said “Can I ask you something? You always look so cheery when I see you walking around. What’s your secret?” I’ve heard this from a lot of people and it surprises me somewhat because my internal monologue is… not great. But that’s a terrible reply and this woman was clearly friendly and legit curious so I thought about it. I decided it was three things.

  1. I work in libraries. It’s good to have a vaguely pleasant and not too-busy-looking resting face so people feel okay approaching you.
  2. My actual resting face is a little dour, my eyes turn down a little and so do the corners of my mouth. This was a thing when I was a kid, people constantly hassling me to… I don’t know, look better? Not be sad? My childhood was fine, but not always great, so having people tell you to smile was a thing when I was little as it is for many women of any age. Also, my eyes drip a lot when I am out walking in the cold, or the pollen or… just the air. I got tired of people asking me “What’s wrong?” or making “Why are you crying?” jokes, so I try to look pleasant.
  3. Lastly, I live with a lot of anxiety. My brain is frequently telling me stories I don’t like that much. So, I am so happy to be in the now and not in my certainly-doomed future that it shows on my face. Listen to a podcast, put one foot in front of the other. Release some endorphins. I can say that with a bit of humor but it’s also true, it’s good to be in an intermediate space where something’s going on.

We had a nice chat after that and I got to know her a little and I hope she got to know me. She had a really interesting tattoo that I’d like to know more about (on her forehead) and maybe I’ll feel okay asking about it next time I see her.


Me and Jim, outside, standing in front of an American flag

Me and Jim on the 4th

Skipped June here. Nothing was much going on. The trees filled up with leaves. I saw Jim a bunch of times and enjoyed just picking up where we left off; it made the past year’s worth of uncertainty and stress compress into something much smaller in my memory. I took down the squirrel ladder because it became, for one scary night, a bear ladder and let me tell you that story in person, it’s a good one. But really the last month for me has been a combination of some shifts in my world of work and some shifts in how I’ve been doing things since the Pandamnit Times began.

For starters, since seeing Jim is now a safe possibility, I’ve stopped working at MetaFilter on Sundays and Mondays. This was a great thing to get to be able to do during a dreary year and it was good to be back among the team there. At the same time, the same old problems are the same old problems and I was eager to get my weekends back. So I’m now just there answering questions and being my usual superfan self. At the same time, I’ve picked up some library shifts in Chelsea while they work on hiring a replacement. It’s a one-room public library, serving a community of about 1200 people and you’re the only person working when you work. It’s fun, interesting, busy, and a little frustrating all at the same time. I’ve been liking getting to do library work again.

I started working there only a week or two after the library re-opened to the public (they had window service only during COVID) so we went from masks-required to no-masks-required within about a week. Since kids come in to the library, my personal policy is I wear a mask if any patrons are wearing them. Orange County has low COVID rates even among Vermont counties (second-lowest rate in the state), so I am comfortable with this as a plan. And I went inside to a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. I might do it again. I went to an outdoor cookout. I hugged people indiscriminately. I stayed out past dark. I watched the town parade in the rain–in my bathrobe since I had spaced the actual parade starting time, it runs right by my house!–and performed a very brief wedding on the actual 4th of July.

Jim’s at home playing disc golf this weekend and I am here mulling over what to do with my first two-day Saturday-Sunday weekend since February 2020. I remember how it used to be, kind of, but also feel the possibilities of being able to do things a little differently.