Monday, Dec. 2, 2013: Adventures in Maine

Monday, December 2, 2013
New Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sleety and cold

Don’t forget to sign up for the “Organize Your Life” Workshop on Sat. December 7. A few hours on Saturday afternoon, and your writing life is sorted out for 2014! The techniques will serve you well beyond the class and the year. Information here.

We haven’t had a good sit-down for quite awhile, and that’s because I haven’t been around.

Monday night, during the 11 PM news, it became clear that Wednesday was going to be a stormy, difficult travel day. So, we stayed up until 3 AM baking lemon cupcakes and preparing beef stroganoff and putting together everything else we needed to take to Maine. We caught a few hours’ of sleep, called Maine at 8 AM and asked if we could come up a day early. The answer was a resounding “yes”, so I did as much work as possible, and we were on the road by 11 AM.

The drive wasn’t bad — a little testy around Boston, but, otherwise, traffic wasn’t bad and roads smooth. We made a couple of favorite stops up in Kittery and York, but made decent time, and arrived near sunset a little after 4 PM.

We were staying at my great-uncle’s house — a place we’ve visited since the mid-1970s. Many memories tied up in that house. But my great-uncle was moved to a nursing home a few months ago, so the house is mostly empty. Before that, he wasn’t able to do much, especially not cook. In other words, in addition to bringing up all the food we expected to need for the week, we also brought up pots and pans, and, from my writing bag, I had my wooden spoons, can opener, and wine opener.

We relaxed on Tuesday night and went to bed early. I slept like someone knocked me unconscious.

Up early Wednesday — and it was a miserable, stormy day. We were so glad not to be on the road. We hunkered down in the little house. Maine can be spooky, with the dark and the fog and the silhouettes of trees. There’s a reason a lot of horror and thriller writers live in Maine! There’s no internet access there, so I got as much done as I could, then hopped over to the library in the early afternoon, set up there, did what I needed to do online, and came home.

My job on the big Thanksgiving holiday is to make Wednesday’s dinner for the family members who work all day setting up the Hall for the holiday feast. Hence the stroganoff. The stove in the house is AWFUL — a very old electric thing. I was glad I’d done the cooking ahead of time on my good gas stove. It took over 40 minutes to heat the meal up. And no, it couldn’t go in the microwave, it would have tasted disgusting. But we had the meal and the wonderful Portuguese bread and the dessert I made, so it was all good, not to mention the chance to sit around and talk at the meal.

The Big Day consisted of writing in the morning, and then going over to the Hall to set up. We have so many people for dinner that we rent the Legion Hall every year. Everyone tosses in a few bucks for the rental and the food. I help set up, and am in charge of the mashed potatoes and the sweet potatoes. We’re taking vats with 20-30 pounds of potatoes in each, mashed with a four-foot tall masher. Not for the faint of heart.

We had 53 people for dinner this year, of all ages. The tables are in a “U” formation, and there’s the dinner buffet set up on one side, and the dessert buffet on the other. Great food, good company, no egos or drama. The rules are, if you show up, you treat everyone with kindness and respect. Those rules are always followed.

After the dinner, the clean-up crew moves into the massive kitchen and starts washing and drying the dishes. Yes, I help with that, too. I’m on the drying team. Dishes and pans from the Hall are washed, dried, returned to their shelves; personal pans and platters are washed, dried, and set out on the counter for pick up. We all split the leftovers and then go home in a turkey coma.

Shortly after getting back to the house, my cousin (well, not sure how the permutation works, but I call her my cousin) came over and we drove into Portland to visit my great uncle. He’s in an amazing rehab/nursing facility — brightly painted walls, an outstanding, enthusiastic and very kind staff, and it smells fresh without the scent of decay or chemicals.

My great-uncle is now in a wheelchair. His memory’s fading, but he recognized us still, and lit up when he saw us. We took him down to the very cheerful dining room so he could have his dinner, and met some of the friends he’s made at the facility. It’s amazing how they all light up the minute you treat them as an individual, with kindness and dignity. Some of them are fading, mentally, but their bodies are still going strong. Many of them are still sharp as tacks, but the body hasn’t kept up. But everyone was worth spending time and few words with.

My cousin goes every day. By this point, she knows most of the staff and the other residents. She’s practically an additional staff member. She’s also an amazing human being, and I admire her enormously. A lot of it, though, is just talking to the residents like people, which is something all of us did, asking questions, listening to their stories (many of their anecdotes are hilarious — a lot of these were quite the hell-raisers, back in the day, in the best possible way).

We got my great-uncle settled for the night after dinner, and went back to the house, and packed for the trip home. My cousin feels a lot of guilt about my great-uncle being in the facility. However, it’s as good as it gets for that kind of place, and so much better than any other facility of its type I’ve ever seen. He gets excellent, round-the-clock care, which he needs. He also has interaction with other people, more so than when he was home alone, getting checked on several times a day by the family. The family simply can’t take care of him at home, because he needs round-the-clock care, and hiring three shifts/day of in-home care would still mean numerous trips to the ER whenever something went wrong — as it does, unfortunately, quite frequently at this stage in his 96 year old life. He truly has a better quality of care in the facility, and family members visit him every day. In this particular case, it was the right choice.

This is probably the last time we will be in the house. It holds many wonderful memories. There were still some things there from my grandmother (she died four years ago), which my cousin gave me — little mementoes that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else but me, because they hold specific memories.

It’s an emotional threshhold on which to stand.

We drove back on Friday. Very smooth drive. Everyone was far too busy shopping to be on the road except around the malls. Since I don’t shop on Black Friday on principle, I was happy to have clear roads.

I don’t believe stores should open on Thanksgiving itself. I think it’s disgusting. I also believe that stores that encourage brawls — and, let’s face it, the brawls happen in the same stores every year, such as WalMart, because that’s the kind of individual those stores attract — should forfeit their right to open on both Thanksgiving and the following Black Friday, if there is an altercation in the store. The individuals involved in the altercations should be banned from the site for 18 months, so they can’t come back the following year and behave badly again.

Exhausted when we got home Friday, but got some work done Friday afternoon, and more work done on Saturday, although a lot of things went to hell without even the handbasket. I managed, however, to upload all the topics for next week’s class. All I have to do next Saturday is show up and teach. Caught up Friday night with some episodes I’d missed earlier in the week, but what is the use of On-Demand when the show is only available for three days after broadcast? WTF?

By Sunday, I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller. I got some work done, fretted a lot, tried to rest. It was the first of advent. We managed to get the tree into the stand (the stand SUCKS and is so poorly designed, don’t even get me started). The lights are on, some ornaments are on it, the festive fabric is mostly in place, and some of the decorations are up. It will be a work-in-progress for the upcoming weeks.

I re-watched THE ITALIAN JOB last night (such fun), THE TOWN (I like it better every time I see it), and sobbed my way through ANGELS IN AMERICA. It was a brilliant piece of theatre and translated into film wonderfully.

I’m exhausted and spent, but I have work to do this morning, then I’m helping set up NMLC’s tree at the JFK Library for the Spectacle of the Trees event, and then, who knows? Maybe I’ll get to bed early.

Right now, I have to try and get some work done, and hustle more work for the coming weeks.

Devon

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Monday, June 13, 2011


Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Monday June 13, 2011
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Friday was all about the house. The Fire/Health Dept. inspection took all of ten minutes, and the guy was twenty minutes early. When does that happen? Good thing I was ready!

Right after lunch, the owner came to help me do stuff around the house, and teach me what I didn’t know. We put a washer into the hoses so they don’t sputter. We walked the property lines, so now I actually know what they are! We discussed the downed limbs and the broken limb of what turns out to be an “autumn olive” — it seems to be repairing itself, so we’re not worried. The three windows I couldn’t switch from storm to screen are now done. The two sets of back doors now have the screens in place. The screen door from the front door is bent, so we’re not putting it in. He’s going to schedule a plumber to fix the downstairs toilet, and, at some point this summer, someone’s going to come to clean the furnace. We also worked on the dryer.

So I think we’re set now!

After he left, I planted the petunias, dusty miller, and coleus in the urn — it looks great.

Finished Juliet Blackwell’s HEXES AND HEMLINES, which I really liked, and Laurie R. King’s A GRAVE TALENT, which I liked in a different way. Also read Jennifer Crusie’s TRUST ME ON THIS, which was fun.

Sat on the deck reading for awhile in the evening, wrestled the freshly painted bookcase upstairs, and will fill it today. It looks really good. It’s a little too damp to paint today, I think (rain predicted), so I might have to wait until tomorrow to start painting the bureau and the other two small bookcases.

Writing-wise, I gave myself the weekend off. I start writing with my students on Monday, for Write in Company. I need to read the material for Confidential Job #1 and do some work for the Mermaid Ball.

Saturday, up early, yoga, meditation, tended the garden, and of course it immediately started raining. My neighbor mowed his lawn in the rain. Whatever. I’d rather not rust out my blades. Ran some errands, but spent mostly a quiet afternoon at home. Signed up to bake cookies for an event benefitting the local library & museum. They needed only one more person, and I’d been considering it since I saw the sign-up, so why not? I’m good at baking & it’s for a good cause.

Read Laurie R. King’s THE ART OF DETECTION. It’s from the same series as A GRAVE TALENT, with TALENT being the first book and DETECTION being the most recent. The latter is twelve years later in the characters’ histories from the first, yet I didn’t feel lost. Hopefully, via the various libraries, I can get them all and then read them to fill in. DETECTION is also interesting because the murder victim is a Sherlock Holmes enthusiastic and King’s other series focuses on Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. One doesn’t often get the chance to call crime fiction “elegant”, but I definitely felt that King’s writing was elegant. She tells a good story, her characters have depth, her settings are wonderful, not a word is wasted, and the tone is . . . elegant without being artificial. That’s the only way I can describe it.

Covered the Belmont Stakes via live stream. Just as they’re going to the post, a stranger POUNDS on the door — doesn’t knock, POUNDS. I think there’s something wrong, and the dimwit is there to SELL me something — something about opening a new carpet cleaning business. I take a flyer, explain this is a bad time because I’m covering the horse race. He snatched the flyer back, saying,”I’m taking this, because I only have a limited number” and storms off. NOT the way to get me enthusiastic about your new business you’re trying to build, asshole.

Worked on my Triple Crown article. Did some work for the Mermaid Ball. Dealt with the month’s bills (ick) including my quarterly taxes, which were fine. Had the money put aside, had the paperwork, not a big deal. Some of the other stuff sets my teeth on edge, but the quarterlies are much easier than the once-a-year stuff. Big perk of freelancing.

Rearranged the books in my room — moved the things I want in the freshly painted bookcase there, unpacked two boxes of my grandmother’s leather-bound books for the other bookcase. We’re getting there.

Sunday — up early, yoga, meditation. Since it was pouring with rain, I didn’t have to water the garden! Got in the papers, had a leisurely morning.

Repotted some plants, including the Big King Eggplant and the mints guarding the front door into new pots and got them settled. Managed to plant the sunflowers, but ran out of soil before I could do the zinnias. Another trip for more soil (sigh).

Reading Henning Mannkell’s ONE STEP BEHIND. He definitely inhabits the same Sweden as Larsson, although the tone is a bit quieter and sadder, without that fiery undertone of frustration at lack of social justice, just a weary awareness of it. Amazing how different the different translators make it sound. Larsson’s translator used much more Americanized language, while Mannkell’s is very British. Makes me wish I could read Swedish, so I could read both authors in their native languages.

Watched the Tony Awards, and was delighted by how many of my former colleagues were on stage! And some of them won! I thought the show was well done. Last year, it focused too much on the Hollywood invaders — this year, it was about the theatre people again, and the show was both better and more fun. Neil Patrick Harris was a great host, and his number with Hugh Jackman was hilarious (as were the opening and closing numbers — the latter of which had been written during the show).

The Tony Awards makes me miss the joy of working on Broadway, but really, thinking about it later, I know I made the right decision to leave. To work on Broadway, you need to use all your time and all your heart — I did that for years, and now there are other things I want to do and experience.

Up early this morning. Because of all the rain, I didn’t have to haul out the hose. I’ve got a bunch of business correspondence to get out, work on THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, two articles, some research for the Ball, a trip to the dump, baking for Wednesday’s event (no one’s given me any information, there’s no information on who to contact — it’s a little late, I’m not going to start baking at midnight). So I’ll bake whatever I damn well please! 😉 At least it won’t be too hot to bake — the heat kicked on. And I’ve got to do laundry and get the house in shape for Costume Imp’s arrival tomorrow.

My class starts this morning, for the next two weeks of intensive writing. I need it as much as the students!

Back to the page.

Devon

ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, available from Champagne Books.
Annabel Aidan’s webpage here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Violet uses the chair to pretend she’s a professional log roller

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy, rainy, cold

Wrote in the morning, in spite of Violet now insisting that she must sit in my lap while I type. She’s small, but it’s still like trying to reach around a meatloaf.

Spent most of the morning raking and tidying up the front and side yards. They look pretty darned good, if I say so myself, and even some of the neighbors stopped to compliment me on the hard work! One has a landscape business and I don’t think he understands that I WANT to do this — what’s the point of having a yard if you simply hire someone else to do it all the time, like they do in Westchester? It’s interesting — on this street, most of us have much larger yards than the clients I worked for in CT — yet here, most people do their own yard work (and then hire someone to come in and haul it away or do the last-minute tidying that makes more sense by machine. Everyone here works (except for my retired neighbor, but he’s always very busy — his wife is already on the 14th batch of holiday cookies in her baking cycle!) and has busy lives, and it all gets done somehow. Back in Westchester, everyone just spun around and complained how busy and stressed they were and nothing ever got done on time, there were always excuses, so they kept hiring in people to do it. People actually DO a lot more here, and a lot more gets done — there’s simply less drama about it. Plus, there’s not that sense of entitlement and resentment and feeling like one doesn’t have enough because someone else has more. I think the difference is that here, people actually do stuff — they’re not concerned with what I called “faux busy-ness”, where one’s schedule is crammed with meaningless crap. There’s work, the stuff that has to get done to maintain one’s home and family, and there’s fun stuff. And somehow, it all seems to flow together without much angst. I greatly prefer it.

In the afternoon, we drove up to check out Barnstable Village — very cute. Stopped at Nirvana Coffee, which was nice (can you tell I’m looking for a new coffee hangout spot?), walked around, met a really nice (and cute) guy with his newly rescued husky, who thought coffee was something she really ought to try.

Drove back and saw that one of the houses I’ve admired for about ten years is on the market, so stopped and picked up a flyer. It’s out of my budget at the moment, unfortunately, and right on 6A, which is a little too busy for me. But it was built in 1700 and modernized, and has a large main house, a guest cottage, and a fully electrified post-and-beam barn that used to be an antique shop. The grounds are gorgeous. It even has a library! And five working fireplaces. The only drawback (other than the fact that I don’t have the cash sitting around to buy it) is that it is on that main road. It’s busy now, and, in summer, will just be hateful. And since so many of the summer people have no respect for anyone’s property and just park wherever they want and wander over people’s yards and litter, etc. — I’d probably hurt someone.

But that’s another cool thing about living around here — since I’m planning to rent for a few years, I can watch the houses I really like and see if they go up for sale. If the right house becomes available at the right time . . .

I love this house, and I want to stay for a few years, but the simple truth is that, when I buy, I need to go bigger. I always joked about that 13 room Victorian — yeah, that’s about the size I need for myself, my books, and the animals.

Anyway, hit a gift shop I’ve been meaning to check out for awhile, found some great Yule gifts, but didn’t like the vibe of the owner at all, so I won’t be back. Drove home a different way, learning the neighborhood, through lots of horse paddocks and conservation land, which I’ll have to check out as soon as it’s warm enough. Approached my street from a different direction and nearly missed it, because it’s harder to recognize.

Started the assignment for Confidential Job #1 — interesting, but again, I’ve had a whole set of very similar assignments in a row from that job, and they’re starting to lump together.

Some books arrived from Strand, although the pie book was sold out. But I got Alan Bennett’s UNTOLD STORIES he’s one of my favorite playwrights) and Nicholas Basbanes’s EVERY BOOK ITS READER. I started the Bennett book. It’s wonderful, but I expected no less.

I’m still playing with the character who arrived the other day, and still don’t quite know what to do with her. I’d like to try a short story and see if we get along, before I make a novel-length commitment. Have another idea I’m playing with this morning.

The workshop is humming along nicely. I have to finish up a couple of blog posts today and get them off. I’m hoping I can sneak in a bit of time raking the flat back before the rains start, but it looks a little sketchy right now. I might just have to leave it and hope it dries out this weekend so I can take care of it.

Comcast totally sucks, as expected — trouble with the TV, the internet, the phone, impossible to reach a customer service rep either via “live chat” (right, live, that’s why no one shows up) or on the phone. So much for 24 hour support! Really not happy they are my only option on the Cape.

The big event today is to start putting up the tree — my Very Big Old Tree — we’ll see how that works.

I can’t believe it’s December already! Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate — I really need to get my act together and start getting those cards out!

There’s going to be a full moon on the Winter Solstice — how lovely!

Devon

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 7:32 am  Comments (7)  
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Scheduled to post

How to make me froth at the mouth: When I say I am not phone accessible for X amount of time and I need you to EMAIL me information, do not fucking CALL me!!!!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way!

We were on the road by 6:30, at the house by 10:30 on Thursday. Hit my head badly on the car — have a truly egg-shaped lump that hurts like hell. But I’m not seeing double and no slurred speech, so it’s all — well, not good, but nothing serious. Instead of La Famille Raccoon, we were cheered on by a skunk. By the time I finished packing the car, the skunk was making faces because he was downwind of me and I was that rank! 😉 Thank goodness for the fabulous shower at the house. The owner was there, repainting the cover on the back deck. He and his wife are so great! She’s friends with the local librarian, and will take us over to introduce us, once we’re really moved in — and have a utility bill so we can get a library card. That’s always my favorite part of going to a new place — getting the library card.

Unpacked, started the dishwasher, raced out to do some errands regarding my mom’s birthday, picked up some gifts, etc. Came home, had lunch, and my mom went with me to pick out my new mattress. I haven’t had a comfortable bed since I gave up the Manhattan apartment, so it’s about damned time!

It gets delivered when we’re back up at the house on Monday.

And it will have new sheets on it, because I bought some new sheets and towels. Somehow, no matter how many sheets and towels I have, I always want a new set for a new place.

Put the new sheets and towels in the wash and, in the dryer, wound up with a fluff bomb! The lint trap was cleaned, but it refilled about every five minutes. Finally took the sheets out and hung them up in the storage room over the garage to dry (the storage room that has two walls of bookcases and a wall of closets, and will eventually have two reading chairs, a lamp and a rug in there, too).

Did some more errands, mostly looking for lamp shades. All the shades I liked came with lamps. And, if I bought lamp & shade and then swapped out the shade, I’d have to find a new shade for the now-naked lamp. And I didn’t like the bases that came with the shades.

Yeah, I know, earth-shattering stuff, isn’t it? I am well aware that the Fate of the Universe will not be affected by my choice of lampshade.

Found a great consignment shop in S. Yarmouth. Right near some of the other houses we looked at, and near Seven Beans, the really good coffee place. I like the woman who runs it a lot. I’ll be back when I’m in a headspace for vintage clothes and shoes — they were great, but I’m in “housewares mode” right now, and couldn’t focus.

Cooked a great stir-fry dinner. I love cooking in the new kitchen. And now most of my baking pans are up. Soon, there will be cookies!

Did some more measuring, figured stuff out, hung out in the livingroom with the candles and decorations. Those candelabra I bought look AWESOME on the mantel. I’d actually measured the litter boxes and the small ones will fit where we want them. Don’t yet know where we’ll put the big one.

Meditation before bedtime — so much easier there. Slept well, up early, wonderful yoga and meditation session in the morning. I have my mat and my crate with the weights, jumprope, yoga books, etc. up there now, which is nice.

Good breakfast, packed the car, had to wait what seemed like an eternity for the dishwasher to cycle through — I’m still at the stage where I don’t want to leave the house until everything is OFF. Watered the grass seed — provided entertainment value to the neighborhood as I wrestled with a garden hose for the first time in my life. Pretty funny, and got my shirt dirty, so had to wash it and change before we could head home.

Opened the front door and found my next assignment for Confidential Job #1 was delivered to the house! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Didn’t get out the door until 8:30 this time, but had done a thorough walk-through, check list so I didn’t have to drive back again. I love this house — it feels like it’s alive, and it’s happy when we’re in it. When I’m away from it, I miss it.

Stopped in Old Saybrook. The trunk — something was wrong with it. When I touched it to check it out, it felt really, REALLY wrong. So I didn’t buy it. And the good tile tables were gone. So I bought a copper kettle and a pear-shaped candleholder.

Drive back was fine. Got to the apartment in early afternoon. The landlord crap was awful, as usual. It’s gone beyond ridiculous. So it was a rough afternoon. I got a little packing done, unpacked and repacked the bags I need for the weekend gig, prepared my mom’s birthday dinner.

She had a really good birthday, and thanks you for all your good wishes.

We already have guests booked for December, January, and February at the house! It’s such fun to be able to be hosts again. Haven’t been able to do that in a long time. And here, I’m the one so infamous for my monthly dinner parties for 20+ on the West Coast, and I haven’t been able to do that for the past few years.

Violet is so upset she’s throwing up her food. I spent as much time as I could calming her down. Iris just pretends none of this is happening.

Came home to find the rest of my book order for the classes I taught last month, and also my zafu cushion. Love it. I got 2-for-1, so my mom gets one, too.

Sleepy’s called twice already to push back the delivery time for my new mattress. It HAS to be there on Monday. Period, end of story, because we’re not there Tuesday. And, considering how damn much they charge for delivery — they damn well better be there when they say so, or there will be Better Business Bureau HELL to pay.

Speaking of which, Cablevision is acting like (string of nasty words deleted), and I’m not even talking about losing the Fox channels. Look, let’s face it, Fox does some great fiction, and that includes what they call “news” — (in my opinion, most of their so-called “journalists” wouldn’t recognize a fact if it walked up and hit them over the head with a two-by-four). So I don’t really miss those channels — but if I pay for X channels, I should have X channels. No, they’re being dicks about the previous complaint, and have sabotaged my service since I filed with the BBB. So I keep sending them invoices. I look forward, next week, to cancelling my service with them. Boy, do I have egg on my face after saying how great they were. They actually were good, the first year I had them. And then they grew too fast and reverted back to being, well Cablevision.

Unfortunately, my ONLY option on the Cape is Comcast. Which I already know totally sucks. And I will tell them, when I place my order, than I expect them NOT to suck.

Off to a job in CT this weekend, leaving early this a.m, which is why it’s scheduled to post — looking forward to lots of rest time in there — actually, my boss on the gig planned it so I could basically get paid just for being there. Gotta love it.

Hopefully, I will have packed some more last night, but I’m REALLY tired, so I might give myself the night off to rest, and then attack what needs to be packed Sunday night for Monday’s trip. I have the boxes that are the first layer, so it’s all about packing the mirrors and pictures and the broom and my oak staff and my head-on-a-stick (don’t ask), and my Karma Fairy Wand from the Moontribe Tales Project in 1999, which will live in my office and — you get the idea. My oak staff — bought at the Central NY Scottish Games a few years ago is tall, and my broom is the same height I am. We’re calling the carload “pictures and sticks”. Because if it’s a stick or a stone or a shell, I pick it up on my travels.

Hey, imagine that, it’s going down into the 30s and the scumbags gave us heat. CC’ing the Health Department on my complaints is getting results.

And yes, “resting” this weekend – includes writing.

Heck, this IS a writing blog — I at least have to use the word once a week during the moving process, right? 😉

Devon