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.

 

 

An aside for karma yoga

In one of the early drafts of my novel What’s Left, I tried this perspective — which I removed from the final version of the book, feeling it was too preachy:

If our workroom was where we could act honorably under the eye of God, it was still no substitute for times of celebration and worship! No, we need to take time every day for prayer and the study of scripture. Just remember: work spent in activities that help our neighbors and enable us to come together for periods of common delight is quite different from anything I see in the realm of time cards or the Harvard Business School.

~*~

Whew! Let’s try to bring this back to everyday experience.

Is there somebody you encounter someplace during the day who makes you feel special? A coworker, cafe wait person, bus driver, teacher, friend? Do tell us!

Karma yoga, by the way, is explained in my novel Yoga Bootcamp. Work itself gets complicated, no?

~*~

The old church Cassia’s family buys in my novel might have looked like this … before the wild rock concerts begin.

A family obligation to pitch in

Maybe the family restaurant was oppressive? In my novel What’s Left, there’s no question the kids won’t be working shifts in Carmichael’s as they grow up. Do they ever want to rebel? Or does peer pressure and pride keep them in line?

As one of them said in an earlier draft:

So it was off to serve more Streetcars and slaw.

~*~

Well, they knew what was expected. And they knew how to pitch in and be effective.

What were you expected to do in your family? How did you help? Were you compensated in return? Should you have been?

Now, make all that present tense!

~*~

Finikia. A whole tray!

More than the bottom line

Even though I cut this from the final version of my novel What’s Left, it’s still true:

What people need, and this is essential to a proper approach to labor, is balance.

~*~

Two things are going on here, one inside the other, but I’d like to be less confusing.

The first, quite simply, is my belief in what we Quakers call centering. We find our stopping all outwork activity for a time of deep meditation and reflection helps bring us perspective on the other parts of our lives. Add to that moderation and simplicity or focus all leading to a healthy balance of individuality, home, career, community, faith, and so on.

The second touches on attitudes toward labor itself, which quite frankly has been demeaned in modern society. What makes the concept of leisure so exalted? The danger, I suspect, is in overworking — often sucking any joy out of the project at hand.

Think of your job. What could management do to make it more human?

~*~

Classic. Somerville, Massachusetts, just outside Boston.

Bringing the price per serving down

What do asparagus stems and lobster shells have in common?

They typically go in the trash, while the tender asparagus heads and the claw and tail meat go on the plate, maybe accompanied by melted butter.

I our household, though, we freeze the stems and turn them into cream of asparagus soup later.

And the shells, often roasted, though it’s not necessary, are simmered down into a lobster stock, which can hold its flavor for up to three months if frozen.

The stock makes for a great lobster bisque or lobster butter or fish chowder.

In essence, we wind up with more meals than one out of each ingredient – and thus getting more for our money.

What strategies like this can you share?

 

Their turn is coming up

In my novel What’s Left, her generation of the family will face some crucial decisions that resemble those their parents were charting when her father-to-be showed up in the household.

In a passage I cut from an earlier draft, she wonders:

What would you do?

While Dimitri and Barney have niches in the business, Nita has her chosen career. Tito, meanwhile, will likely have his hands in both the Zap enterprises and an independent law firm.

That leaves Manoula, who hopes to head off in a literary direction, not necessarily as a writer.

~*~

As I’m revisiting this, I’m getting a bit steamed. I realize how little guidance I had regarding my future. We didn’t talk much about it at home, and even college was somehow mostly off the table. The so-called guidance counselor at my large high school was mostly a disciplinary officer and military-draft registrar. College? No help from him!

I got more from the editor of the first newspaper that hired me as an intern. He had a knack for nurturing talent. I just wish he hadn’t retired when he did.

Dimitri seems to possess much of that skill, perhaps even more than Nita. They’d likely ask:

What would you really like to be doing with your life? What do you need from us to help? So what do you really want to do with your life? And what do you need to get there?

~*~

It doesn’t get more Greek than this.

Bewildered by the big real estate bubble

Admittedly, it’s a national problem, but one that’s especially acute here in New England. Home prices are soaring. Wannabe buyers far outnumber sellers.

For once, my wife and I hit this one right.

The place we just bought, as I’ve been saying, is in a remote location, and it needs some work. There are reasons potential buyers passed on it. As one I’ve met reacted, “It was more than my husband and I wanted to take on.” But thanks to our elder daughter, we have a vision, and, as we are finding, the place feels right. Besides, the bones are good. To our surprise, our bargain bid was accepted, so here I am.

And then, the city farm we just sold is in a very hot market. Readers of the Red Barn have been following some of the reasons – small-town pedestrian-friendly scale and New England character combined with proximity to Boston in one direction plus beaches and mountains in the other directions.

We watched as real-estate prices kept rising, buffeted by only one big downturn, and wondered how young couples and families could pay the mortgages. Well, rents were going out of sight, too, as are mobile homes. Around the neighborhood, the running joke was that none of us could afford to buy our own residences at the current prices. Only it wasn’t funny.

Covid, however, ramped all that up. Many people with professional jobs found that in working from home, they can live anywhere – and in working from home, they need a home office.

The real-estate collapse I had expected didn’t happen, thanks to the federal stimulus checks, extended unemployment compensation, and anti-eviction laws. Not to say there won’t be a delayed reaction.

Still, with Covid limiting a lot of ways to spend money – dining out, movies, travel, athletic events, concerts and theaters, for starters – there may be a lot of cash in reserve. Who knows if that’s a factor.

We had nine bids in five days, all above our asking price. Some were accompanied by love letters, even an excellent loaf of homemade bread, and selecting just one from that array was difficult. As was the disappointment of those who wondered what they’d done wrong.

Some of the push is coming from people from other parts of the country, who are buying sight-unseen, like the Texans with two Mercedes whose bid for a smaller property down the street was $65,000 more than the original asking price. That had a positive influence on our own property when it officially went on sale three days later.

So where are most of the hopeful buyers in Dover coming from now?

New York and California, we’re told.

Did anyone see that one coming? Or have a clue just where it might lead?

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.

 

An insider’s tricks of the trade

Her aunt Nita in my novel What’s Left, has an interesting insight on showing up for work before all the others. It doesn’t fit every job, but it did hers. And then I cut this from the final version of the book:

If you’re the first one in and the last one out, you can disappear in the middle of the day and your coworkers and bosses are none the wiser. They just assume you’re out on assignment.

~*~

Not all jobs require you to punch-in or punch-out on some kind of clock. I’ve never had to work one of those, fortunately, although I’ve often had to fill out weekly time cards before being paid.

What I did find, though, was that even when I was putting in a lot of unpaid overtime (the joys of being low-tier management!), I could still feel the judgmental eyes behind my back.

Are you ever considered a slacker on your job? How does it feel? How do you respond?

~*~

In the family, Cassia would have had food like this. Greek olives! Best of all, packed in olive oil!