now that I pay for my own heat

a pellet stove with a fire in it in front of two windows with sheer curtains

There are a few major things that have changed with my move two blocks up the road. Being a homeowner comes with all sorts of new stuff in it and the three things that are the biggest deal for me are.

  1. Having my bedroom and office on a different floor from my kitchen and my living room. For the first month or two I was here, I felt like I was forever going up and down stairs. My last place was on the second floor but most days I’d go down to “ground level” maybe once or twice.
  2. Having a split sink. This feels so minor but my last kitchen had one big sink, this one has a split sink. No big deal but just the basic “You move the faucet here and the water goes there” muscle memory has been tough to retrain.
  3. Paying for my own heat. People who know me well know that I grew up in a miserly-feeling household and I have some maladaptive miser issues. In my old apartment, heat was included in the rent. I still kept the heat lowish but I did keep it on. In this place, with the price of heating oil like it is, I’ve been trying to walk the line between reasonable and prudent energy conservation and being ridiculously cold at all times.

The heat thing is such an interesting puzzle, to me, because there are so many moving parts. Here are some of those parts, the things I do differently now that I am paying for my own heat.

  • I blow dry my hair now. Sitting around in a slightly-cold house with damp hair is a non-starter. This also means I got a blow dryer. And I got a trim, the first haircut I’ve gotten since 2018, because my ends were getting all frizzly. I kept saying I’d cut it back to short when we sold my mom’s house and… that’s been taking a while.
  • I have space heaters now, a bunch of them. If I know I’m going to be in my office for a chunk of time, I’ll just fire up the space heater with the door closed, no sense in heating the entire house.
  • I have zones now (upstairs and downstairs) and I get to try to figure out how to optimize zone heating. Like why heat the upstairs more than the minimum if I’m not up there? But then I turn the upstairs heat up before I go to bed, but not TOO far up because there are enormous radiators. By the time they’re hot, they’re staying hot. Sleeping in a hot room in the winter feels wrong. I regularly turn the heat up to 65 upstairs and by the time the boiler cuts off, it’s over 70. Weird!
  • Along the same lines I have a heated mattress pad on my bed, an electric blanket for the guest room, and a smaller throw (I call it the electric woobie) for when I’m reading downstairs in the morning. Colder rooms, warmer feet.
  • I closed my front door completely off. The entryway is already pretty chilly since it’s in the far reaches of the downstairs relative to the pellet stove. So there’s a little note written on a card catalog card that says use the side door. This house could really use a mud room but there’s no obvious place for one.
  • I got a pellet stove. This is a huge change. I’ve never had one before. I’ve been reading owner’s manuals, learning the cleaning schedule, ordering pellets by the ton. This means the kitchen is a decent temperature which is good because it’s COLD otherwise since it has two outside walls, a door to the outside, no real passive solar gain, and a fan which is basically a hole in the wall that is poorly insulated on the outside. Since there’s also running water in there, this is a huge plus. Also this particular pellet stove has a wood stove look and it’s making me remember back when I lived in Topsham and heated primarily with wood. So messy! So many heavy logs. A 40 pound bag of pellets is no joke, but even though the thing needs cleaning every other day, cleaning it doesn’t make ME dirty.
  • I have one upstairs room in this house with no heat in it at all (??). I haven’t been in it in a while. Closed the door, haven’t gone back.
  • I got window inserts for ten (out of 30-someodd) windows in the place. I think they’ve been useful but some of the window frames are kind of leaky so I’ve also been jamming rope caulk in all over the place.
  • At my old place, my usual house outfit was leggings and shorts and a sweater. In this house, I’m usually wearing at least one extra layer most days and slippers, always slippers.
  • My set point just seems lower nowadays. I feel warm in a room that’s in the low 60s. I fall asleep dreaming of curtains and rugs and fans and doorway schemes.

I know people have said they’d love to come visit. And I’d love to have you. But really, for your own comfort, wait until spring.

caveman winter

pictures of food, clothes and me with syrup

So this winter is a lot more like real winter than last winter. Snow. Cold. I broke my snowshoes and they are in (hopefully) for warranty repair. Which means I’m a lot more like a big hibernating bear, or maybe some smaller hibernating animal, perhaps a hedgehog. Sleeping a lot. Slow. Squinty. Muzzy-headed when I’m awake. Foraging for squash and other easy-to-eat foods. Doing a lot of communication that amounts to “Ug” and “Not-ug” (thanks to Andrea and Corey for this formulation, it’s very helpful). Today I woke up briefly energized so I headed out into the world and spent some money and got some things done, tidied up my den. I have a Board of Civil Authority meeting tomorrow (Hear that, world? I AM A CIVIL AUTHORITY!) so I’m drinking tea and fumbling around with paperwork. Working on a mix CD that I’m sending out. I got a Kindle and I’ve been reading a lot. I feel like just holding up pictures to show you what I’ve been up to. But instead here’s a price list of where the last $73 I spent went.

$12 haircut at the barber
$2 tip
$37 syrup (grade B, from the librarian)
$11 thrift store purchases including electric kettle postage scale, one whole outfit including fuzzy socks
$11 sandwich, soda and cookie at what I’ve taken to calling “the clip art cafe” because of their window display but maybe I should stop because this sandwich was amazing

Last night I went out to this thing that happens in Randolph, a Community Supper. Last Tuesday of the month a local organization puts it on and they provide food whether it’s hot dogs or group-potluck or spaghetti. You get to eat a free meal, hang out with your neighbors who all look about as moleman-looking as you do, and have a good excuse to get out of the house. This month’s host was the Bethany Church who put on a good event, over a hundred people as far as I could tell. It can be tough to stay connected to folks when everyone’s snoozy or sniffly or snippy. It’s nice to get out and be reminded that it’s not just you.

[not] the snot slideshow

Not a lot to say here because it’s mostly “I hear squeaky noises when I blow my nose and it makes my eye hurt a little.” I am sorry that some of this is a little gross. I have spared you the Snot Slideshow. You are welcome. Part of healing from this sinus surgery is blowing out the chunks of leftover stuff, scabs and mucus, that are in your sinuses. I seem to be having trouble with this for whatever reason. So, after spending probably too long thinking “Should I call the doc back or just Try Harder?” I decided to make a phone call and I have an appointment to have my nose peeked at tomorrow. I get along well with most authority figures, even most policemen, but for whatever reason I am not great with the gauntlet of people whose job it is to keep you from pestering the doctor. Not that I don’t understand why the doctor needs to not be pestered, but I have a difficult time with the “These are my bona fides!” discussion convincing them that I have very sincerely done all the things that they suggested [sinus rinsing, vaseline, hot showers, staying hydrated, taking all the medicines] and it’s not doing the trick.

I know this tendency too. When someone’s explaining something they did to their computer, something that really should not be possible, and the two options are user error or something really broken, I find it easier to blame the user. Uncharitable perhaps, but true in my experience. However this has different ramifications with tech than with health, at least that’s what I tell myself.

Anyhow, my car was also weirdly broken last week–the transmission cable snapped, how weird is that?–and so I was home typing and reading and listening to music and rinsing my nose and there’s not that much to tell. Resolutions are going well. Car is now fixed, a cheaper and faster repair than I was expecting. The night before last a few of us headed out to go aurora hunting and that was a lot of fun. We saw a pink shimmer on the horizon, in the direction where there isn’t usually a town and were pretty sure that was it and hustled back to the warmth of the car. It’s been beastly cold out in a sort of “stay inside” way the past week or so. I made some ice candle holders. For some reason that’s more fun to do when it’s -10° outside than just doing it at home in the freezer. This photo is one of them. I’m teaching a class called How to use iPhoto and needed to start the class off with some pictures that weren’t the Snot Slideshow. So far okay.

winter is coming


Depending on what circles you travel in, the title of this post is either just a normal thing that neighbors say to each other, or a reference to the first episode of the highly popular HBO series Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the show but when I say it sometimes my friends will start riffing off of the tv series and I get all lost. Similarly, this costume showed up on Forrest and Kelly’s porch and I was all “Awesome!” and they were all “What?” [answer: Shufflebot, a character from LMFAO videos].

So my neighbor next door has a large pile of logs in his yard and I just saw that there’s now a wood splitter out there. I am hoping that maybe a team of people is going to help him get through them in a reasonable amount of time but when I mentioned this to another friend of mine he said “Nah that’s a week’s worth of wood cutting for sure.” So I am in nervous mode wondering when this place is going to erupt in wood-mauling noises and hoping it overlaps with my trip to North Carolina next week. Or maybe Thanksgiving. We didn’t get any of the bad weather that the southern New England states got. No power loss, almost no snow up where I am. I was enjoying a quickie trip to Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids for the Michigan Library Association conference but was, again, mildly concerned that my plane was going to be landing in some weather. It’s been a nervous set of weeks.

October was the busiest month I’ve had all year and back around a time when I was ready to be busy. Highest grossing too, which shouldn’t matter but does somehow. Now I’m back and teaching weekly Mac classes and I have what seems to be a staff retreat at the library tomorrow [thought it was going to be a short meeting until I was asked what I wanted for lunch] which I am really hoping goes well and does not include trust falls or other nonsense. I have to reassure myself that if I think most team-building exercises aren’t great, the three people who have been working at the library together for the last decade probably think they’re awful. Anyhow, we’ll be doing some strategic planning and I am sort of a little psyched about that.

So the days suddenly got short which is weird for sleeps-late me since MY days got really short, really quickly. In the “one more thing on the ‘positive self-talk’ list” shorter days means less time for wood-splitting action next door, though it may also mean it starts earlier.

Ultimately though I’m trying to pay attention to things that matter which include finding a new dentist [mine retired, I never thought I could find another one I liked, this new one is smart, nice, in town, and has a seashore print in his office that I swear my dad had in his house], a courduroy party with my fella tomorrow for 11/11/11, and a fridge full of soup I made myself [since the dented can store is closed for the forseeable future I have to make do]. Winter is coming. Maybe I can watch some of Game of Thrones.

If I told you it was still snowing would you be surprised?


This book has been so long in the making that I think every single person who has been any sort of part of it now swears when they mention it. Barring disaster [which I have said several times previously and then endured several near-disasters] it’s at the damned printer. I’m not sure I ever linked to the final version of the essay I wrote about writing the book, but you can read it here and expand the timeline out into April a little bit but I’m really hoping the next email I get about it is asking “Where do we send your copy?” The crazy thing is that I know that even though I swear I will never write another book again–something you frequently hear from authors at this point in the game–I’m also still thinking what my next book might be about. Irrational.

Anyhow, if you know me you’ll know that I’d never tell you to go buy my book. Buy what you want. That said if you want to buy it ABC-CLIO sent me this flyer (with the old name of the book on it lord help me) offering 20% off to TXLA attendees and, really, anyone who types in the promotion code. You can grab the flyer here. I think if I do the math right, I’ll have to sell 130+ copies before I have even paid off my (quite capable and terrific) indexer, much less me. I wonder what it’s like to actualy do writing for a job as opposed to writing because you can’t not write? My landlady keeps asking me when the book is coming out because she thinks that once it’s out she can read it and know how her computer works. I do wish that were so but it’s probably not.

Meanwhile we’re having the last snowstorm of the season and I’m reminded that having a slightly porous memory can be helpful so that I don’t remember that I’ve said this “last snowstorm of the season” thing before. I went down to MA this weekend where there was enough spring-pollen-ish stuff in the air that my seasonal allergies (and some associated vertigo) kicked in. In other Jessamyn-health news I went for a checkup and am in terrific outward shape but probably need to do something about my cholesterol and the weird ache I have in my shoulder. The health insurance I have through work actually gives me money [well gift cards, which are sort of like money] for getting an annual physical. And, since I have multiple jobs, I have an additional workplace wellness program at the other job which gives actual money (not gift cards) for doing a bunch of crossword puzzles about health-related topics and keeping track of my sleep schedule.

There’s a new tapas place in town which I know looks like a typo but is true. I went there with some friends last week and am going to check it out again today. Pretty sure I can get cholesterol-friendly tapas. Today is the first day of the rest of my winter.

the ice-smashing-man cometh


So just as I was thanking my lucky stars that this has been a disaster-free year, the bathroom ceiling starts leaking. Mercifully this is not actually a bathroom ceiling belonging to me, but one that I rent. So I called my landlady who told me the ice-breaker man would be out in the morning. Another small mercy: morning meant more like 11 which meant I was awake by the time the terrible crashing started and pictures fell from the walls.

For two days in a row Terry came by and hacked huge chunks of ice off of our roof, sometimes from ladders, sometimes from windows, where it would fall two stories to the ground. Now there is no more giant dam of ice keeping water on the roof where it leaks into my bathroom. As I mentioned on Twitter, it’s like our own version of Most Dangerous Catch. Terry is a bit of both a local legend and a town trade secret. He seems to love the work and is good at it. My bathroom has dried up and I’m optimistic that if it starts leaking in the future it will be handled. It’s snowing outside and I’ve got noplace I’ve got to be. Not bad for Winter so far.

winter beach fallow


I think I mentioned that I’m traveling. For the last week I’ve been staying at my Dad’s place in Westport MA while he’s in Mexico. I have the run of a house with five bathrooms, six TVs, four pets, a delightful kitchen, an SUV and a beach within almost-walking distance. And I’m on deadline to write a few talks, so I’ve mostly been hanging out inside doing some typa typa work, listening to bhangra music and making the cats purr.

At first this was all novel, now it’s just hunkering in a new hunkerplace. I’m a fan of hunkering. Vermont got several feet of snow. There has just been rain here. I’ll take the dog out to the beach in almost any weather, but he’s not raring to go in this sort of downpour. At first I was taking a lot of photos and making a lot of plans and busybodying myself around here [I washed the couch cushion covers, oh yes I did] and now I’ve adapted to a slower pace, a different rhythm, a little more Johanna Newsome and a little less bhangra.

Jim was up last weekend and we did a lot of food eating and Olympic watching and Valentine’s Day catchup. Kate and Ned are coming down this weekend along with a friend who is having a birthday and we’ll have some sort of cupcakes. It surprises me sometimes how staying in one place for a while seems to settle me down to an almost non-vibratory state, but that I also don’t have as much to talk about. And I say I’m surprised by things more as I get older and shouldn’t I be getting surprised less?

A friend from library school [hi Anne!] had the words STAY and ROAM tattooed on her knuckles. When I travel to tiny libraries to tell them about how we do things in rural Vermont, it’s unusual because the people in these small towns rarely leave them. When I go home I’m unusual in that I’m rarely in one place too long. I tell people that I travel because they can’t, that I talk about the people in my town because others don’t. But at some level I just have the fidgets and there’s something to the appeal of elsewhere.