On my own: “Six inches deep in mud,” & climate change: death by red tape.

Photo above, flood tide, Winthrop, Mass., USA., Tues. January 20, 2018.

To say I need a manicure would probably be kind.  Between work on the seawall, the floods and cleaning of debris (that floats in because we don’t have a fence any more)  plus the usual wear and tear on my hands at work — paper cuts from lots of hand-sanitzer, ink from the bates and other stamps, wrestling with toner — my hands are not in great shape.

Then again, was never a manicure kind of girl.

Don’t think would be considered presentable despite my best efforts, tonight I’m planning on more scrubbing, trimming and a layer of clear polish protector or something.

After January 4, 2018, we were out of a washer and dryer — I spent this weekend catching up on loads of laundry.  Our new machines were delivered last week, platforms built by a friend/handyman to protect us from future floods.

Tuesday, I spent cleaning up from the flood in our yard, dragging large pieces of lumber up our drive way.  The fire chief stopped taking pictures for the state disaster relief agency, and so we had a little chat.

Also on Tues., via my permitting engineers, the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) a state agency, informed me I three (3) choices regarding my request for a seawall permit: 1) be denied, 2) withdraw, & 3) amend and request a variance.

My permitting engineers and I are going for option #3 but were duly told the clock will be reset as it will take from 180-360 days/one(1) year for a response, because the legal department must review the variance request.

This has been a long and painful process trying to rebuild this seawall legal, but as the photo shows — we are in a dire situation.

And it would have been nice back in June 2017, when my permitting folks reached out to DEP — if they had advised that mostly like with a pre-1984 former seawall I wasn’t going to meet the reg. requirements and would need to do the non-water compliant application and would also need the variance request.

Yes that would have been helpful.

In December 2017, I had a conference call with four (4) agencies, three (3) state and one(1) federal and they all declined my request for a site visit.  (And I have a confirmation/documentation of their denials in email by the woman from the agency that organized the call.)

This is permitting site — unseen.

During that December conference call, the DEP Waterways chief had no idea I had even filed for a new seawall permit.  Insert eye roll, heavy sigh, any combination here.

The fact is — we’re not going to be here in a year without a seawall.

So I’m reaching out for help.  Going to the mattresses if you will.

We’re also adjacent to our town’s evacuation route so if there is a major storm like a Sandy or a Katrina — this is a public safety issue as our house will be destroyed but so will the major road. Our town is a former island so there are only two (2) ways out of town and the other route historically floods as well.

My elderly, widowed, cancer survivor with many heart conditions mother would like to speak to whoever will listen — she is very afraid of our destruction.

If you know of an environmental reporter/public interest reporter that would like to do a climate change story on death by red tape?  Please let me know.




Dinner with Mr. Darcy by Pen Vogler

Sharing a wonderful Christmas present I received this year, the book Dinner with Mr. Darcy,  is an interesting compilation of modern adaptations of Regency-era recipes along side reprints of the originals from their sources all noted in the bibliography.

This book includes interesting anecdotes about the origins of some of the foods or recipes, as well as essays about the connections these foods have in Austen’s time period  as shown through her work via references to her novels and her personal letters.

Chapters are are largely and charmingly Austen-themed:

Breakfast with General Tilney — Northanger Abbey,

Mrs. Bennett’s Dinner to Impress — Pride and Prejudice,

Pork and Apples:  An Autumn Dinner with the Bateses — Emma,

Jane’s Family Favorites — Letters of Jane Austen,

The Picnic Parade — Emma,

Tea and Cake — Mansfield Park,

The Ball at Netherfield — Pride and Prejudice,

An Old-Fashioned Supper for Mr. Woodhouse and His Guests — Emma,

Christmas with the Musgroves and Other Celebrations — Persuasion, and

Gifts, Drinks, and Preserves for Friends and the Sick at Heart — Sense and Sensibility.

This is a lovely addition to my growing collection of Jane Austen books in my small home library.




Digression: On coastal flooding & all things building a seawall.

This past storm on Thursday January 4, 2018 — turned out to be a record breaker in the worst of ways.  We live in a small town on the across the bay from Logan Airport, and the tide was the highest ever recorded in Boston Harbor, since they started recording tides.  The tide was actually higher than the massive storm in 1978 which still loomed in my mind as a the record breaker of all time, even though the snow record was broken years back.  We now have a new memory of chaos to take its place.

Actually braved this storm of storms with a failed seawall because of time and permits, and endless red tape.  Sparing most of the gory details I will just say, in December I had a conference call with three (3) state agencies and the army core of engineers.  Took over a month to organize this call, and not one them would agree to come out and see the state of my wall and yard with the dangers they continue to pose.  And yes I’ve got proof they said no via documentation in email.

A few doors down, my neighbor with a new seawall which I highly suspect isn’t completely legal was flooded as well. Actually all of us were.  In 1978, only we flooded, my dad could not get his car out and we lost it.

On Thursday, water came up so fast and in both sides of our cellar.  I tried to protect our furnace and my mother trooper that she is went out to save her car with the help of a couple of neighbors — they shoveled so she could pull it up into the curb cut/up onto the sidewalk or pavement.

The water on the beach next door, went over the town seawall newly built in 1999 and starting to break apart.  The water hit the street level fence.

We called 911 but they never came.  They had a fire to put out in another part of town, folks to evacuate, and one of the town fire trucks got stuck.

However, I heard and I truly hope my source is mistaken that our town did not call in everyone in the fire department to help because they did not want to pay overtime, even though they pay overtime to the Dept. of Public Works (DPW) folks plowing and the police officers that escort the plows during major storms. Update: Our electrician came yesterday 1/8/18–and said he had heard that as well but was listening to the fire dept. on the local scanner and heard the chief call everyone available into help.

In our town, we share 911 and emergency dispatch with another city–Metro North Regional Emergency Communications Center.  Every time we called they lied and said help was on the way.  We learned there was a list.  Day grew into night, they could not tell us where we were on the list and lied once.  We slept in our clothes thinking they might arrive overnight.

On Friday, after 24 hours — our Fire Chief called and left a mess. for my mum saying they were still coming to pump us out.  My mum called back to Metro North and told them to take us off the list.  They didn’t — Metro North called again Saturday morning — almost two (2) days after the storm again to ask if we still needed pumping out.  Which is bad communication/and organization all around.

Because we had no seawall and fence — giant ice flows from Boston Harbor are in the backyard and I’m not sure how much of the seawall and yard fell in, and I may not get down onto the beach and the flats for awhile.  The fierce winds were brutal after the storm and all weekend.  They died down today but it is still very frigid out there.  The high today being 18 degrees F.

Seawater melts at 28 degrees F — it’s supposed to hit 30 F tomorrow — so I’m hoping to be able to chop them and chuck them over the side — least they melt, flood and cause more damage. But our little pine tree — does somewhat look a like a snowman.

Update: We lost a washer and dryer, and a second refrigerator but there are families that lost their entire house so we are counting our blessings.  Today 1/9/18 — our landscaper is coming over to help me continue to shovel out and break up the ice flows/sea water ice.






Digression: Best laid plans and reflections at the end of the year (2017).

Holiday season always seems hectic, no matter how much mum and I try to prepare, pare down our list and divide up the different tasks it’s still a long list of did you send that card, we need one more gift card, if you mail these out tomorrow will they arrive on time?  Should do another round of baking? Do we have enough in the freezer for gifts?

A very good Janeite friend of mine, suggested that we plan to see ART’s production of Sense and Sensibility after Christmas.  This seemed like a good plan, get through all the holiday chaos, she would have her Christmas trip home, and then we would have a lovely afternoon with Jane Austen at the theater in Harvard Square in Cambridge, then perhaps a bite to eat and a walk around. This was to be my friend’s combination birthday present from this past summer and Christmas present rolled into one.  Also splurged for the good seats because this was to be staged, “in the round.”

Unfortunately, best laid plans often do not transpire. My mum fell ill with a stomach bug sometime on Friday.  Which meant: 1) I needed to look after her, and 2) since we ate together most of Christmas week, it was highly likely I was probably exposed myself.  I felt a bit squiffy  (queasy) as the Brits say, and wasn’t completely sure I had a lighter version.  Did not want to expose my friend to a contagious stomach bug, especially since she was leaving on the very next day (Sunday) to spend New Years with some other friends down on the Cape.  No need to spread germs to ring in the new year.

Giving up the ticket just seemed like the prudent, Austen-inspired thing to do.

So my Janeite friend picked up the tickets from our mail and/or letter box, and called someone to take my place. Truly I was sad to miss it, but my ticket did not go to waste, my friend enjoyed the present, she said the play was “fabulous” and will give me a full report after the new year.

Today it’s absolute frigid (13F/1C). Swept yesterday’s dusting of snow off the walk and ran the car for a bit and ventured into back yard before the wind pushed me back.  Cleared out some paperwork, sent some New Year birthday emails and made tea for mum and I — a blend of two different ginger teas.

Trying to reflect on the year is a difficult task.  There is something overwhelming about everything happening at once and it seems like 2017 is the definition of it.  It remains to be seen what the long term will bring especially with #MeToo and the spilling out if you will — of Pandora’s vase.

And right now just quietly hopeful. Nothing more or less.

Happy New Year.


Digression: Thanksgiving 2017 and the tradition of sending holiday greetings with a poem over email.

In the spring of 1998, started to work for a large state agency, my previous employment had chiefly been very small, grassroots nonprofits.  Logistically it was really impossible for me to send Holiday or Christmas cards to everyone I had met agency-wide in those first six months.  Instead, sent a winter-themed poem: “Skating” by Wordsworth over email.  At the time our email system was limited/in-house only, and this tradition soon expanded to spring and fall for Thanksgiving.

Try to make the poems as diverse as possible from a range of poets.  Only sent one of my poems out once, and actually it was a fall poem.  Over the years I’ve sent out poems by ee cummings, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Lucille Clifton, Amy Lowell, and a few authors better known for their fiction, including L.M. Montgomery, and Willa Cather among others.  Last winter I discovered poet Mary Oliver, and got a great response, many people were already familiar with her work, others were not, but looked her up online to find she lives on Cape Cod.  Quite honestly the winter poem, is often the toughest one to choose because I try to steer clear from religion and winter imagery can be evocative of dark themes.

The poems are sent out still over email, I find most folks still read email on their smart phones.  And send them out to co-workers, friends, family and former colleagues in batches, least my internet mail provider think I’m a spammer.  All over the United States and overseas. This past summer one of my colleagues asked for a poem on her birthday so I’ve expanded to a birthday poem sent by email as well.  It’s a bit of a weird tradition but I like the idea of spreading poetry in little waves — really makes me happy.  Enclosed is the poem I chose for Thanksgiving/fall 2017 — another poem from Mary Oliver.  Best wishes to you and yours on this Thanksgiving and fall.

Song for Autumn by Mary Oliver
In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.