One reason I love this house – the fireplace

Doing some housecleaning today in the kitchen and the room next to it. The room next to our kitchen is kind of a warming room, at least that is how I look at it, but we also call it the library annex since it is next to the library and will, most likely, contain a number of bookshelves and lots of books.

The room’s most distinguishing feature is the mantle and fireplace. It is gorgeous. They literally do not make them like this anymore.

The most important function of this is, of course, to provide a place to hang stockings at Christmas time for our furkids.
The mirror just needs some cleaning, but otherwise is in great shape. Not sure how old it is, but older than us for sure.
Love these details. Beautiful.
The cast iron insert and cover, which are rare enough to be notable, were clearly designed for coal. Still, we should be able to build small wood fires in it.
Close up of one of the columns.

I can’t wait until the day I am able to make a small fire in there, and enjoy the space by sitting with Kelly while having a glass of port or Madeira and maybe some of the furkids warm themselves in front of it too.

~Geoff

Greetings, everyone, from our new home in Vermont.

As we had mentioned earlier, we had been looking for a house in Vermont for some time. We had been looking for months, and then a few days before Christmas last year, we put in an offer on this house. That offer was not accepted for a good while. That’s a long story.

Well. It has been a long, long time since either of us posted here. But to be honest, we really had a lot going on. After all, we packed up all our stuff, put it in storage, moved to a long-term hotel, found someone who could board both of our cats, cleaned out and fixed up the house in Winthrop, sold that house, looked endlessly for another house in Vermont, finally found it, put in an offer, waited for it to be accepted while we struggled to find others, got our offer accepted, then had to threaten to take the seller to court after he had signed the purchase and sale agreement and then changed his mind, moved to another hotel, finally closed on the house six months after our initial offer, found contractors, struggled to get them scheduled in a timely fashion, looked for new jobs, changed hotels again, found new jobs, started new jobs, moved into the basement of the house, got Vermont identification and car registration, and waited for all the contractors to finish their work so we could figure out when we could actually move into the actual house and not have to sleep on Army cots in the basement anymore.

And if you think that’s a lot, that’s really just the abridged version. We also lost our beloved Scratch Fury, who suddenly threw a clot, became paralyzed while boarding, and then rapidly deteriorated, so we had to quickly go see him while we still could.

Oh yeah, and I also had my left knee replaced, and had to undergo the surgery, recovery, and physical therapy while all this other crap was going on. Like I said, busy.

So anyway. We finally found the sort of house we wanted, in the village of Bellows Falls in the town of Rockingham in Windham County, nestled in the southeast corner of the state. This beautiful old Victorian was built in 1904, and came with a first-generation garage that was built sometime in the 1920’s. Both the house and the garage are part of the Bellows Falls Historic District.

The house, sporting its new roof. Please note the ridiculously overgrown foliage in the front yard.
The garage, which was clearly designed for a car the size of a Model T and would be a tight fit even for our Mini, Maisie. Also note the jungle-like foliage and distinctly NOT dachshund-proof fence and gate.

So there have been a LOT of projects here since we closed on the house in June. The first was replacing the roof on both the house and the garage. We also repaired (inside) and replaced (above the roof) the chimney.

Our gorgeous new chimney, complete with ornamental brickwork and chimney cap.

We also had the entire electrical system rewired, as it was largely still knob and tube, and while the electricians did that they also wired parts of the house for ethernet and for speakers. They even replaced some of the fixtures with pretty ones that Kelly and I had found on craigslist.org. Some were cheap, and some were free. Much shopping Kung fu on Kelly’s part.

The dining room, with the awesome new brass chandelier, painted walls, refinished floor, and original stained glass.

Also also wik, we had all the wallpaper taken down and we picked some lovely (and historically appropriate) colors for the walls. They really turned out beautifully.

This is the main bedroom upstairs, with painted walls and newly refinished floor.
The warming room (next to the kitchen), which we also call the library annex. Note the gorgeous mantle and fantastic cast iron fireplace insert.

There were also some other improvements made to the house, such as improving the half bathroom next to the kitchen and making some other adjustments and improvements to the plumbing in the basement. We also got a brand-new dryer (the old one died a sudden death, after popping the breaker a few times) and as of this weekend, we will also have a new kitchen refrigerator. The old basement fridge died within 48 hours of the dryer dying, and so we had the contractors move the old kitchen fridge to the basement to take its place. We also added a security system, which is nice for seeing when packages get dropped off. Seriously, it works GREAT for that. And we had gutters added to the house, because it didn’t have any for some reason. We also had to make some adjustments to the fence in the back yard, after Nymeria proved she was more than a match for it on several occasions.

So I will make a point of doing some follow-up posts to show you our progress.

~Geoff

Scholarship Drive

I’m in my final semester at UMass Amherst in the Union Leadership and Activism program. I have a remote semester in January in which I do my capstone project and then I graduate with my MS. Why am I telling you this? Because today we launch our 4 day fundraiser to fund our scholarship program.

I’ve benefited from this scholarship as have many of my fellow classmates. This year we’re spreading a donation link out among our social networks to see how much we can raise to enable the next generation of union leaders to attend this program. If you are not able to donate I ask only that you pass along the link.

The people who are making unions more diverse, inclusive, accessible, and just are coming from this program.

A red and white logo

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Thank you!

Kelly

Second Class

Today the United States made approximately 52% of the population second class citizens. In doing so, it removed any doubt as to whether or not the US is a first world nation. Any nation that is so corrupt as to allow the system designed to keep different branches of the government both separate and in check to rot away completely is a failed state.

Overturning Roe isn’t just about the overweening hatred of women and pregnant people that is foundational to the Republican/Fundamentalist/Catholic/White Supremacist/Billionaire/Toxic Cis Hetero-normative hegemony in this nation. It’s about fear and control. It is not and has never been about the unborn. If it was, prenatal care would be both funded and required, and people who neglected pregnant people’s healthcare would actually suffer consequences. But they don’t.

There is no pro in the “pro-life” movement. The anti-choice movement was created as a political movement to unite historically opposed allies so Republicans could get elected. That’s it. That’s the “pro-life” movement. It’s a con, and a very successful one.

If you think you’re virtuous because you’re screaming at people going in and out of Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of whom are receiving basic medical care regardless of sex or gender, you’re just being a judgmental asshole. If you think it’s acceptable to tell people that “women just shouldn’t be able to kill babies” then you don’t understand science, and you’re still an asshole. If you think someone who has been raped should be required to carry their rapist’s potential offspring to term, you’re certainly not getting your advice on morality from Jesus, and you’re an asshole.

The truth is, abortion is not mentioned in the Christian Bible. Other faiths, such as Judaism and Islam, actually value the lives of their adherents and consider abortion to be necessary medical care to save the lives of the already born. You know, those of us in whom society has already invested. In other words, the lives of actual people.

But here in the United States a small group of very wealthy, very white nominally Christian people have hoodwinked many of you and outright fucked the rest of us. They play on your fears. They turn your basest instincts about in-groups, out-groups, skin color, and sex, into weapons and then use them against you. Really, to a large extent this isn’t even about Democrats or Republicans, this is about Oligarchs. Because at the end of the day, if you have a uterus and you’re rich, you’ll be able to get necessary medical care, like an abortion, no matter what.

It’s the ordinary people, the rest of us, that will suffer, as we do now. We suffer in a failed nation with no nationalized health care; institutionalized racism and sexism; homophobia and transphobia; ableism and systemic and cultural indifference to the disabled; and with a huge part of the population that genuinely believes that it is really OK to hate loudly and proudly. We suffer with the largest incarcerated population in the “civilized” world, and we have an epidemic of gun violence unlike any other country on earth.

Roe is the first, but it won’t be the last. While we’re all angry now, let us make today important not because of what we lost, but because of what we begin. Let today be the day that historians recognize as the beginning of the revolution. Oligarchs, we are coming for you. Everyone else needs to get on the correct side of history, or else fall with the Oligarchs. They are going to wish we only had torches and pitchforks.

Our holiday card for 2021

Well, another tough year has gone by, thanks to Covid 19 (again).

This year has been particularly eventful, as Kelly started grad school in January of 2021, we sold our house in Winthrop, and are both currently looking to change jobs so we can buy a house in southeast Vermont, preferably in Windham County and specifically in Brattleboro. We are also considering Bellows Falls, as it is nearby and also is on Amtrak. It also happens to be where Kelly’s dad was born.

We don’t own this mug, yet.

There are a lot of reasons we decided to do this, but perhaps the biggest and most important was we decided we really wanted to get away from the insanity of Boston traffic and the nightmare of a Boston commute. We got to try it out somewhat while we were working from home in Winthrop because of Covid, and we decided we really liked it.

However, we also quickly discovered that no matter what we did, we continued to have internet connectivity problems and that was especially frustrating. No matter what we tried, we could not get a reliable Internet connection. We had people from Comcast at the house multiple times trying to figure out what was wrong. We ended up replacing all of the cable on the outside of the house, going all the way to the utility pole, as well as replacing all the cable inside the house, plus getting a new modem (twice). We tried putting the modem in a more central location (located right next to Kelly’s computer in her “office”, which was the guest bedroom). It didn’t work. We still had connectivity problems of one sort or another and when you are paying almost $300 a month for cable, phone, and Internet, that gets old rather quickly.

Discussions with other people who lived in Winthrop revealed that they too had connectivity problems. It seemed to be a widespread problem there. So we began to think about moving, and eventually we became convinced that we would be better off living somewhere far from Boston traffic and Boston cost of living. We could get a bigger, maybe even a nicer, house and a larger yard for the dogs and for gardening and still come out with a smaller mortgage payment than what we were currently paying. It was a no-brainer. We could also end up in a place with a higher vaccination rate and a higher percentage of mask wearing. Winthrop, and particularly our next door neighbor, was a Covid hotspot from the jump and our next door neighbor was a maskhole.

So where to go, then? We started looking in Western Massachusetts (we are still looking there, at least somewhat) but soon expanded our search into southern Vermont. We quickly began to fall in love with the Brattleboro area, as we had a lovely time every time we went to visit. All the people we met in Brattleboro and its environs were friendly and welcoming. It really is remarkable how consistently and continuously we had positive interactions with people there. Likewise Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the nation and people are smart about masking.

So we packed up the house, and of course that in itself was quite the adventure as it involved both PODS and U-Haul and some less-than-ideal interactions with both companies that caused delays. Although we packed up in July with the hope of getting the house ready to be put on the market by Labor Day, that didn’t happen. Various delays put it off until almost the end of September. Still, we had the house on the market on a Friday and we had an offer at our full asking price by Monday. We worked with RedFin to sell the house and it was a great experience.

Another problem we had to solve was what to do with our kitties, Scratch and Violet. We couldn’t take them to the long-term hotel with us (we were already bringing Dash and Nymeria) and for a long time we could not find anyone who could board them. Finally we got lucky and some friends said they could put the kitties up for as long as we needed and at a very friendly rate. So the kitties went off to what we are calling “kitty summer camp” although by now it has already lasted into winter. Still, they seem to be doing well and we are very grateful for that. We do miss them and look forward to being reunited with them in 2022.

The hotel has turned out to be ok so far, although we have also had some problems here that needed to be solved. Still, it could be much worse, and at this point we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We hope to be in our new house, wherever it may be, in 2022 and settle in with our kitties and puppies in what will hopefully be a better space for them as well. Remarkably, living in the hotel has been a good experience for Nymeria, who has gone far in coming out of her shell and learning to trust us. She has even begun to approach other people for pets, which we think is remarkable and fills us with joy every time we see her do it. She and Dash have gotten to spend a lot of time with us and go on regular walks which does all of us some good.

So we hope that everyone else has had, if not a good year, at least not had too traumatic a year. Hopefully Covid 19 will be conquered in the new year, as long as people aren’t too stupid about everything. I know, it’s a lot to ask, frankly, but we can still hope that common sense will win out.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

~Geoff

Past holiday cards are here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

It CAN happen in your town. It happened in ours.

Our home town of Winthrop, Massachusetts is normally a pretty boring place, at least in terms of crime. Kelly and I read the police blotter every week in the local paper, and most of the time it is pretty vanilla. Don’t get me wrong, we like the fact that Winthrop does not have the levels of crime that other places do. We somewhat affectionately refer to Winthrop as “Mayberry-by-the-Sea” because the sorts of things that happen around here are usually pretty small.

Last weekend Kelly and I were away from home at a craft fair in West Medford, Massachusetts when we got word that something had happened just around the corner from our house in Winthrop. It first it was not very clear – something about a truck crashing into a building, and then someone involved in that crash shooting at people. It took a few hours before we started getting a clearer picture of what had happened, and even then it was still just bits and pieces.

When we got back to Winthrop that Saturday evening, we had to find a different way to get home because the cordon around the crime scene extended far around the area, including parts of Cross Street, where we normally would have pulled up to get to our house on Almont. We knew things were bad because there were police cars everywhere, and not just from Winthrop. We saw State Police, Boston, Revere, and Chelsea police in addition to Winthrop police.

Within the next day or two, things had cleared up significantly. A guy had stolen a plumbing supply truck and sped through the streets of Winthrop, going about twice the speed limit. He turned from Revere Street onto Shirley Street, speeding down the street past all of the parked cars that narrowed the road considerably. As a result he hit a white SUV more-or-less head on, causing it to crash into a fence and some hedges literally within sight of our back deck. He then lost control of the truck and crashed it into an unoccupied brick building at the corner of Cross Street and Shirley Street. After he got out of the truck, he was met by people who had come out of their homes thinking they could help after the crash. But the guy was armed with two pistols, and at some point he started shooting. First he shot Ramona Cooper, an Air Force veteran and current VA employee, three times in the back. Then he apparently bypassed the opportunity to shoot several other people, and instead went after David Green, another Air Force veteran and a retired Massachusetts State Trooper. Both victims were black, and the shooter whose name I refuse to use was white. It became clear by Monday that there was some sort of racial motivation for what this man had done. He had targeted only black people, and had apparently was responsible for numerous racist and anti-Semitic writings.

Last night there was a memorial service, and it was pretty well-attended. Unfortunately I am heard of hearing and could not hear much of what was said, but it was still a lovely event. I hope people are a little more aware of what is happening around them, and I sincerely hope that people around here will stand up against racism when they see or hear it. That’s what needs to happen.

Try to do right, and be the kind of person your kids (or your dog) thinks you are.

Much love to all,

~Geoff

A Summer Weekend in Vermont

Kelly and I took Dash and Nymeria with us to southeastern Vermont this past weekend. The weather was mostly sunny and actually got quite hot for Vermont. But the dogs generally enjoyed themselves, as did we.

We have become particularly fond of that part of Vermont, basically between Springfield and Brattleboro, and are doing a lot of sightseeing and antique shopping in it. It’s amazing how much greenery there is. I can imagine why so many people come here in autumn.

Our Holiday Card, and by the way, GOOD RIDDANCE to 2020

Well everyone, today is the last day of 2020, and I have to say Thank GOD it is finally coming to a close.  This has been a tough year for virtually everyone*, and for some people it has been just horrific.  Kelly and I have managed to make it through the year without getting COVID (at least as far as we know) and we are both still employed**.  But we did lose one of our beloved fur-kids – our little Thumbelina: the princess; the Khaleesi; the mighty little Emperox of our universe.  We miss her and still often think about her.  

2020 melting onto a dumpster with a fire raging in the foreground. There is a night sky in the background with COVID virus particles falling like snow, one of which is on the moon.
See the blazing dump before us fa la la la la, la la la la.

Continue reading “Our Holiday Card, and by the way, GOOD RIDDANCE to 2020”

RIP Denise Taylor

Some years ago, my Neurologist said to me, “You sing, right?” And the rest, as they say, is history. I’m not sure how many years it has been since that fateful question, but this Plague Year is the first year since then that I’ve not been a part of the When Patients Heal You annual concert. COVID kind of got in the way of that.

Continue reading “RIP Denise Taylor”

Today in Civil War History

On this day, December 1st, in 1864, a weary column of Federal troops arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, having marched directly from the battlefield of Franklin. In that short but fierce battle, Union troops fighting behind fortifications had succeeded in repulsing several attacks by Confederate troops the previous day, November 30th. Casualties were lopsided: 189 Union dead and just over 1,000 wounded versus some 1,750 dead and at least 3,800 wounded Confederates.

The spectacularly grand but fruitless charges had annihilated much of the experienced leadership of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. The rebels lost 14 generals that day: five killed outright, one mortally wounded, seven wounded, and one captured. Somewhere around 55 regimental commanders were killed, wounded or captured as well. By the evening of November 30th/December 1st, there were Confederate regiments commanded by sergeants and brigades commanded by captains.

Much of the battlefield has been developed, sadly, but in recent years more and more of the site has been recovered and returned to what it looked like at the time of the battle. Years ago I did some living history programs at the Carter House there in Franklin.

For more in-depth information, try this book: The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah; Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville by Wiley Sword.

Geoff