Sunday, February 24, 2013

Extra! Extra! Up for Sale

The day they installed the T&G Sign
Extra! Extra!

Google it. The New York Times is selling the New England Media Group: The Boston Globe and Telegram & Gazette.

I work for the Telegram. So last week of work and the next several months are unsure. 

There are things I am sure of, however.

The quality of the company I work for, and the quality of the job I do, are excellent. Whoever makes the purchase of the Telegram will be making a smart decision. 

Most people do not know my first exposure to the Telegram & Gazette.  When I was 10, my uncle Phillipe Boisclair was an editor and graphic artist for the Telegram. I went downtown to 20 Franklin St. when the presses were still there and got a tour of the whole building and of the newsroom. It was life changing for me as a kid.

I remember the bustling around that was just like in the movies. I wanted to work for the Telegram and be a writer. I was ten, and life had different things in mind for me. When I started working in Advertising in 2002, I was impressed with the company and the integrity of the people I worked with.

Everyone I talk to knows someone that works for, used to deliver papers for, or has/had a family member that works for the Telegram. It is an anchor and an icon for Central Massachusetts, and even though the building, the printing, the way we advertise has changed, the quality has not been compromised.

I have learned so much in the last 11 years of working in Classifieds and then in Inside Sales, and now in Multi-Media Advertising. Times are changing so quickly, and our website, is an excellent website, advertising is changing to more and more digital and now something else is changing. 

I will happily work as long as I am needed. It could be stressful to not know the future, but when do we really know for sure about tomorrow?  We have today, and nothing else is guaranteed. So, even if my job were to end tomorrow, I would still be proud of the work I have done, the company I have worked for and grateful for all I have learned. I enjoy the people I work with, and the people I work for.

Times are changing.  Hold on for the ride! 

For the past couple of years we have spent so much time paying down debt, planting our garden, putting in new windows, cutting our expenses, deciding to go car-free, etc.  If at the end of this, I do not have employment, it will be okay. Really. That's a side effect of living a simpler and sustainable lifestyle. There isn't a lot of maintenance that needs to be done, and there aren't a lot of requirements. 

What can you change today that will lessen the stress for you in life tomorrow? It could be as simple as bringing lunches or coffee from home rather than spending out, taking the bus or carpooling instead of paying for gas, car maintenance or parking.

When you are ready for anything - it's all an adventure! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Still, though, We Should Dance

A thousand times I have ascertained
and found it to be true:

The affairs of this world are really nothing into nothing.

Still, though, we should dance.


I find myself wishing for Spring, planning the garden, looking at the fruit trees in the yard - even though they won't do anything for months...still I look. Observation is the greatest part of this. What worked last year, what didn't, what we will be changing. It seemed as though winter would last forever, and yet on my walk to the bus this morning, I heard the singing of the birds of spring. It all happens, and we participate in whatever way we can, but we don't do this. We can repair the process, change the way we interact and reduce the waste and footprint we leave on this world, but the miracle of the process - when all of the pieces are in order, we can only observe and be amazed.

What I  look forward to most, is finding out how much of our little ecosystem in our yard was repaired by the work we did last year and how many plants, insects and animals return. And then my mind turns to new plants, and moving toward a yard full of perennial plants and trees, adding a medicinal as well as culinary herb garden, maybe a little water garden for some water plants? I am sure that as long as room remains, ideas will come and we will continue to fill our little yard full of beautiful and delicious things!

How perfect winter is - time given to rest and dream so that when the sun appears, we are revived and eager to play outside again...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Home: Zone 0 - Energy Efficient Windows

Last year, on February 17th, we woke up early, let in a team of men from Rescom Exteriors to work on our house, and a few hours later, all of our windows were replaced.

Let me give you an idea of what we were working with: our home was built by hand, by a man who clearly loved it very much. He worked on his home with the leftovers of other projects, and this was reflected in the several different kinds of windows we had throughout our house.  All different styles, all metal framed, some with screens, some without, many had broken ropes and all were in need of scraping and painting.  Our main large front pane didn't open at all, so the air from the south never cooled the house in the evening. The old windows were not secure, and many had been locked for the 10 years since we moved in.

Here are some of the "before" pictures of the windows - as I look at them again, I remember the rust. We also had metal blinds in most of the windows and plastic mini blinds in the rest.  Both of which are horrible to keep clean.

So the team of men came in and took out all the windows...thankfully, it was a mild February day!

And the end result is beautiful!

This window was one pane - and now opens!
The center window is now a frosted bathroom window


It has been a year since we had the windows installed.  We haven't used our furnace or radiators for two winters, and the wood we've used for the wood stove this year was around $500 ~ one month of heating with gas during the winter months in the past.

For me, the fact that all of the windows can be opened safely, look beautiful and are easy to clean, makes the cost worth it. The windows are tinted and keep out some of the heat in summer, but let in enough light to charge our solar lights we use for night lights and holiday lights.

We didn't need our air conditioners this past summer and were able to cut down quite a bit on electricity because of  good air circulation - especially having the whole front of the house able to open and let air blow through. 

I have read a lot about sustainability and I am seeing a two fold process. One is the changing of ourselves, our requirements, and our interaction with the world around us. The other, is making the changes to the physical around us so we can to simplify the life we have and enjoy it more. 

The windows all do tricks - and can be cleaned easily. They are also tinted and (as in the picture below) don't require any of the metal or plastic dust collecting mini-blinds. This makes a cleaner house and the tapestry-like curtains are more than enough to keep sun out or provide enough privacy at night where needed. Or keep out an early morning sun on a day I want to sleep in!

There are some books on Permaculture that look at the home as being Zone 0 - the primary place you live and spend your time ~ where you eat, sleep, and do the bulk of your activities. This change in our physical house has changed our interaction with our whole property. We are very near to our neighbors, and now we can let the air in on one side, and completely block out the noise and smells from another neighbor. We live in a refuge in the city, worth any amount of money we would have spent to save energy ~ and in some ways, our sanity. 

A little bit of peace created by our love and interaction with the structure around us...

Monday, February 11, 2013

A useful practice...

I stepped out the door this morning and was assaulted by the noise. The blissful quiet after Blizzard Nemo was wonderful, but it has passed us by. With no one on the road and barely anyone moving anywhere over the weekend, it was so quiet, and now all I can hear is the scraping of plows, the noise of the train yard and the hum of the highway, which on a winter day, with no leaves on the trees, combine and sound like an airplane.

It’s the trade off. I enjoy living in the city. We can do most anything we need to in our small house and yard. I not-so-patiently await the growth of our fruit trees to absorb the sound a bit more in summer, but this winter is noisy.  For a few days I forgot about it, snuggled in the house, with the new windows we had installed, oblivious to the world around us. Once in awhile, our dog will bark because he hears a noise outside, and if we are really quiet, we can hear a neighbors’ dog or people walking by. Otherwise, it is a quiet refuge.

Sometimes I do think of living in a more rural area, with more land, but I am not satisfied that I have given this a sufficient try. It’s only our 2nd year with a wood stove, garden beds, energy efficient windows, etc. and I would like to see where it leads. I want to continue on and see how far we can take this. We lessen our requirements (spending and possessions), recycle, create a refuge in the city, and work toward living sustainably. I hope someday to learn enough to help others do the same.  For now I will be grateful for what the city offers: living close to work and having a short commute, everything we need within walking distance, family nearby, utilities that rarely shut off, and a beautiful city to live in.

In my mind I retreat to the woods and seek that quiet place inside. With the right practice and meditation, I can sometimes counter the abrasive part of the city around me and find the peace within myself that enjoys being present today and doesn't wish for tomorrow. A useful practice for February and the near-end of winter when most of the days have been gray and cold.

Just about this time, the ordering of seeds, trees and new plants starts and so the dreams of spring begin. If you are feeling like I am, a little restless and needing some long hours of light, hold onto spring in snows of February, but don't forget to live the winter too. Soon there will be flowers again, and we will turn our faces toward the sky, put our hands in the soil, and rejoice with the first seeds that sprout. We will walk in warm spring rains, shedding the dark layers of winter clothing and we will stop mourning the sun who day by day returns to us.

It is how this circle works. Just when we get to the point where we think we cannot stand another day of winter, the first Robin appears and just like that, spring is here. And by the end of summer we will start dreaming again of cold winter nights with fresh bread and stews and sitting by the fire. 

This is New England and why I live where I live and why I love it so much. On days like today, it just takes a little more to focus on what really matters and a little more effort to remember that we are in a constant state of change and what seems like an end is usually a new beginning...

Butterfly Museum 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blizzard Nemo (2)

The storm has mostly passed now for Central Massachusetts, official totals so far are 28 inches. It looks like there will be one more band of heavy snow and then it should be over.

Great preparation, information and planning locally and state wide.  Now only the snow to deal with.

Lots of snow...


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Blizzard Nemo!

So, there's a storm coming...Blizzard Nemo.

I wish that some of the previous names like Draco or Khan had been the big storm, because Nemo just doesn't sound so tough. And wouldn't it be awesome to stand in 3 feet of snow and yell KHAAAAAN!  But this is New England. The cutest, meekest name becomes "Historic, Crippling Storm" or as they as saying now "2 feet with locally more" or my favorite "36 - 40 inches locally".

I can't help it - I have a little excitement in my gut like I did when we were kids. SNOW DAY! Although I do have to go to work in the morning, I will be home for noon before it gets really bad. People are doing what they need to - shopping, etc. We went out to dinner. Some wine and a delicious meal at Rosalina's Italian Kitchen and we are ready for the storm. Some people are worked up and in a panic - out buying into the stock up and be prepared for what will be hopefully only a couple of days of snow.

Don't get me wrong, we have things that we have to prepare. While Rob is getting enough kindling and wood ready for the wood stove for the weekend, I am making sure our icepacks are in the freezer, solar lights and flashlights are charged, electronics are charged, and dishes and laundry are clean. The worst that could happen would be loss of power, hot water, etc. So we make sure clothing is clean, water jugs are filled for washing up. Since we recently dealt with a water main break, we make sure there is tap water in bottles that can be boiled if needed.

All of this only amounts to a small amount of time and no stress at all because we already have these things done. As a mom, I also want to be sure our kids are in a safe place and have what they need. Mostly, this is a conversation and them reassuring me that they are fine.

Governor Duvall has asked that everyone that can stay home tomorrow and everyone else be off the roads by noon. He also asked that all school districts cancel school. So hopefully people listen and are smart about staying home if possible. It's comforting to see that the decision makers are taking this seriously.

Now, I am off to finish putting clothes away and making sure everything is in order. Then it's just a matter of riding out the storm.

I remember the Blizzard of '78 - we had no power, so no heat and had to go to a neighbors house for a few days - possibly a week until we had power back, and then there was nothing - no school, no church, nothing for 3 weeks. North Brookfield shut down except lots of sledding and playing outside. Cars stranded on highways for miles and a snowdrift up to my second floor window. I remember that feeling of having no choice about the heat and having to leave our house in the middle of a storm, maybe that contributed to my desire to always be ready for a storm? I'm sure it did.

Now, it's just the waiting...

It's only 9:00 on Friday night and it looks like this already...we still have the whole night and tomorrow to go. I hope everyone is staying put and enjoying a quiet night in! It's only a few inches of snow so far, but the wind is ridiculous...

Fruit and Nut trees sticking out of the snow

Rob made a beginning path so Pippin could get out...
it's hard to tell how much actually fell  - at least 2 feet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Come In

As I came to the edge of the woods,
Thrush music - Hark!
Now if it was dusk outside,
Inside it was dark.

Too dark in the woods for a bird
By sleight of wing
To better its perch for the night,
Though it still could sing.

The last of the light of the sun
That had died in the west
Still lived for one song more
In a thrush's breast.

Far in the pillard dark
Thrush music went -
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.

But no, I was out for stars:
i would not come in.
I meant not even if asked,
And I hadn't been.

~ Robert Frost