No more Comcast!

Or Xfinity, as they also say.

I was perplexed that they kept raising the price on our broadband service, seemingly monthly, and then privately complained about monopoly abuse. We haven’t had a TV for years, but for some reason, that didn’t affect the pricing, however they tried to justify that.

Canceling when we moved, though, was a great pleasure. Besides, our new provider is $720 a year cheaper for the same service, perhaps because there’s some competition.

Not everybody’s sticking to broadband for digital access, either.

As a blogger and author, though, I’m just not ready to do all my online stuff on a smart phone. Not that the option couldn’t be tempting.

 

 

I had promised myself I’d never do another U-Haul move

OK, I lied. Even to myself, as honesty is so central to my values.

Yes, I lied. In fact, as my wife recalls, when we jumped into our little city farm 21 years ago, I quipped that my next move would be in a pine box. Last I checked, I’m still breathing and my heart readings are falling within an acceptable range. Whew!

Oh, yes, back then my new stepdaughters informed me I’d better be nice to them because they’d be choosing my next home.

Skip ahead to now and the plot definitely changed. I’m not yet in a nursing home or eating those institutional meals, either. In fact, I’m enjoying relearning to cook, spoiled as I’ve been.

There were a couple of truck-rental actions where I helped our younger daughter (note the change of degree) and then our future son-in-law as well as a few younger members of Quaker Meeting, but that’s hardly the same of facing all of your own stuff. And I mean ALL.

And in our recent move, like my earlier ones, once more, we didn’t call the movers in but determined to do-it-ourselves.

Not that professional movers could have handled this one.

We were way behind in our sorting, for starters. Or, from another perspective, the move came upon us much earlier than we really expected. So much for the drama queen.

There was no way all of it could possibly fit into our new address in Eastport, even once we get some serious renovations done, so that meant a lot of redirection. (As I once remarked, after settling into Dover, I couldn’t imagine how people could live without a barn – yes, this Red Barn. But here I am.) Some of the mass has gone into our elder daughter’s Antique House and adjoining barn down in York, Maine, but there’s only so much space available there, and I can affirm that it’s jammed pretty solid. That led to renting and quickly packing two storage units, where I sense we’re buying time as much as anything else. Some intense triage will be done there. And the remainder has come up to Eastport with me, including one run with a small U-Haul truck itself. Along with more triage. And the dump, or “transfer station,” is nearly an hour away.

This move – my fifteenth address and ninth state since graduating from college a tad over five decades ago – has differed from the earlier ones, even if I had forgotten how heavy those boxes of books are, as well as the LPs, or vinyl, as cognoscenti like to say. Just noting that makes my lower back ache.

For one thing, this move’s been sequential, rather than a single burst. Each of my dozen trips between the two homes has allowed more goods to come east. In many of the earlier leaps, I hadn’t even seen the town until my job interview, and at least once I filled a truck, drove across many miles, got in town, and started looking for a place to live only afterward. (OK, a few times it was only my car, back when I had really focused.) Sure seems foolish to me now, but funds were limited. I’m grateful things worked out in the end, and it did provide some interesting fodder for my novels. And, oh yes, I was VERY single.

For another thing, my wife and I were moving from only the second home either of us had ever owned, and having a Realtor definitely helped, even in a hot real-estate market. Our new destination, meanwhile, connected to dreams I thought I had abandoned in leaving the Pacific Northwest, as well as some other activities I’ve added in New England. My wife, for her part, had come close to living on an island, and technically, she’s finally achieving that dream after a heartbreaking disappointment.

Emotionally, leaving a location you Barn readers know I truly loved was eased by being already socially distanced, thanks to Covid. Hey, I’m still getting together with those folks via Zoom, and I know I’ll be with many of them through New England Yearly Meeting of Friends even before considering the release of my next book, which is all about Dover’s unique roots. (Please stay tuned, as they used to say on TV.)

I’m also grateful for my goddaughter’s reaction to seeing our old place on Zillow and proclaiming, “Sheesh, the house certainly does clean up well! And that kitchen is truly a dream. I always loved feeling the warmth, whimsy and charm of that house, though I am sure your new place will have all of those qualities and more once you’re through.” We can hope.

She has her own connections to our relocation to Downeast Maine that I’ll skip for now.

So that’s where things stand. Maybe, as a result of all this, my survivors will have less to deal with when I “pass over,” in the old Quaker phrase.

What have your adventures in moving entailed?

Are we finished?

We writers or artists, at least some of us, push ourselves as far as we can, coming to a point where we no longer know if a piece is any good or not, only that we’ve done everything in its pursuit that we possibly can at this period in our life.

Either it gets published or whatever as is or gets pushed aside, maybe to be picked up later and reworked, maybe to go in the trash. Or maybe Death intervenes.

I’m looking for a new motto

I really didn’t use this online, but it did give me a focus:

blogging about Dover

and the world beyond

But now I’ve packed up and relocated. The way this Red Barn blog functions, though, Dover will continue to be a big part of the lineup. It’s a happenin’ place, for one thing, and my next book is a unique history aimed at the community’s 400th anniversary, which takes place in 2023.

As I refocus, I’m open to suggestions. Officially, the heading’s subtitle used to proclaim “a space for work and reflection.” Somewhere along the line, it became “come view the world from my loft,” but now even that is, no pun intended, up in the air.

This blend of here and there has me thinking of dreams, which have one foot in the present and one in the past, or so I’ve heard. From previous moves, I know that my previous home will be part of my awareness for a long time ahead.

Thanks for the memories. And for the new adventures.

Now, though, how should I define my new reality?

Ten dream moves in our new project

As the inspector said, the house has good bones. And as others have confirmed, the place feels good.

If I were living here solo, it would be too big for my needs. The second-floor could be reserved essentially for guests in season.

For two of us, both working from home, that second-floor would definitely come into play, and adding a daughter and son-in-law to the mix, even as frequent visitors, makes for yet one more set of calculations.

So here’s what we’re looking at on the horizon:

  1. Raise the roof into extended dormers across the second floor, plus an addition over the mudroom.
  2. Get heat for the second floor.
  3. Grade and better define the parking area.
  4. Install a wood stove or fireplace in the main parlor.
  5. Redo the old bathroom, moving doorway to the hallway rather than the dining room.
  6. Add an upstairs bathroom.
  7. Add small butler pantry between kitchen and dining room and move washer-dryer to second floor.
  8. Remove the ramp to the back door and move back entrance in the mudroom.
  9. Add a deck – we do miss the Smoking Garden – and implement a garden design – one that’s smaller but deer-proof.
  10. Enlarge the front porch.

It sounds like a lot, but we’re finding it exciting. We did just as much in Dover, only piecemeal.

In sharp contrast

I recall two poet-friends:

One a public high school teacher, quite prolific as both excellent poet and gallery-exhibited photographer, did most of his work during the busy school year rather than the summer; he could never quite figure out why the pattern was exactly opposite of what people would expect.

The other, having all the time in the world to write, could produce only disconnected flashes – nothing sustained or full but wild all the same.

They were buddies.

Some house maintenance that remains to be done

Good luck to the new owners. They’ll have their plate full. As I’ve said, we bought the place as a fixer-upper, and two decades later, after a lot of big work, it’s still a fixer-upper.

  1. The roof, again. If they’re really ambitious, they’ll go for standing seam rather than asphalt shingles.
  2. Replace the upstairs windows. Winter gets cold.
  3. Paint the exterior. We had a tradesman lined up, but he backed out after his wife died.
  4. Scrape and paint the hallway. Caulk the floor, too.
  5. Repaint the floors. The interior rooms could also use refreshing.
  6. Retackle the mother-in-law apartment. When we added it when we first moved in, it was the nicest room we had. But a two-pack-a-day habit took a toll.
  7. Downstairs toilet. Minor, but annoying.
  8. Regrade and repave the driveway.
  9. Minor landscaping issues, but they add up. I’d start by felling the trees next to the house.
  10. Improve the insulation. Seriously.

According to some owners, a boat is a hole in the water where you pour endless amounts of money.

In the same vein, an old house is a hole in the ground where you pour endless amounts of money.

 

Ten big things to tackle right away in our new project

The Cape we bought was listed as circa 1865, but from some of the detailing, we’re guessing it was more likely around 1835. A bird’s-eye view map from the 1835 shows a house on this site, though maybe not this one.

Many potential buyers passed on the place, for whatever reasons. It is definitely a fixer-upper, but it feels good, and we like its in-town, close-to-the-ocean location.

One chimney was in peril of collapse, and it’s already been removed. The fuel-oil tank had to be replaced. Also done.

We’re looking at the work ahead in two stages.

The first, of course, is more essential. The second, renovating the place more for our dreams.

Not that I especially wanted another This Old House kind of series, but this time we think we can tackle the project more comprehensively, rather than piecemeal.

Here’s what’s on our plate as soon as possible:

  1. Insulate exterior walls.
  2. Repair foundation and cellar. Work from the bottom up.
  3. Level the flooring.
  4. Rewire, to accommodate more electronics and appliances, especially, and add grounded outlets.
  5. Replace windows.
  6. Straighten and fix gutters.
  7. Touch up and repaint exterior trim.
  8. Add a garden shed. We really miss our barn and need more storage space.
  9. Remove the old fireplace iron insert (now sitting in the middle of a room) and the big wood cookstove.
  10. Remodel and update kitchen.

 

Moving past Covid

Yes, we were Zooming, as our monthly gathering of religious leaders in town has been doing for the past year, but the suggestion did come as a jolt.

For decades now, the largely informal group has been a way of supporting each other, clergy and laity, as friends and neighbors, and out of that has grown joint activity, such as our community-wide Thanksgiving, Blue Christmas, and Martin Luther King services or overnight shelter for the homeless in the depth of winter or recognition of challenges we face as congregations. It’s one of the things I will especially miss in moving from Dover.

“We need to think carefully about how we come out of Covid,” the Congregational pastor mused. “We need to give it the same attention we did going into the restrictions.”

We still haven’t had the conversation. Maybe we will on our next agenda. But she’s right. Our new normal won’t be the same as the old.

I’ve been hoping that when the restrictions are lifted and we’re all immunized, we’ll be hungry to be back in public get-togethers more than ever, including worship. But there’s also the reality that we’ve fallen out of social habits and may cling to our newer stay-at-home routines. There’s a recognition that for some, continuing the online connections may be beneficial – for invalids or people living at a distance, especially. In addition, a Zoom session can be more convenient than driving hours to a committee meeting, as we’re finding, though it also has drawbacks.

As organizations, we appear to have kept a loyal core but also seen, I sense, newer participants drift away. Can we find ways to lure them back or attract others once we’re “open again”?

~*~

You’ve probably already seen the report that for the first time since the figures were kept, church, synagogue, and similar membership in the U.S. has fallen below 50 percent. Some of the reaction has noted a difference between joining in a congregation in contrast to unaffiliated “spiritual” identity. Some other commentators have derided religion altogether, but we should also be aware of declining membership in various associations across the board. One of the things that struck Alexis de Tocqueville about American society in his travels in 1831-1832 was the degree to which we were joiners. Not just in churches but also trade and economic associations, fraternal societies, political parties, lodges and clubs, sports teams, choruses, bands, and theatrical groups, and more.

While I don’t consider myself to be especially “social,” I’m still a member of a half-dozen groups, and I’m not counting those that are essentially an annual donation and a membership card or magazine in return.

Not so for the younger generation. One daughter does belong to the county beekeepers’ group, but that’s it.

As others have noted, that’s not a good sign for building democracy or community.

~*~

But folks are understandably restless. Already, everyplace seems to be booked up for vacation travel. (Glad we have a place that’s suddenly “in.”)

That transition from lockdown to normal now promises to transpire over the summer, giving organizations a chance to anticipate the changes and readjust more slowly. There’s so much we don’t know, after all.

And we haven’t even touched on the future of retailing and other local business.

What are you looking forward to post-Covid? And when?

Think you’ll miss Zoom?