Saturday, January 29, 2011

Icicles and trees

I've spent the past week getting settled into a new house that I actually own. This house has many advantages. Some of the most basic are -

1. It's a nice place - 2 bedrooms, a kitchen/dining area, and a living room. This is more space than I really need, but not necessarily more space than my books other stuff need.

2. It's in a good neighborhood.

3. It's only about 3 miles from work, leading to a very short commute.

There are some disadvantages, though, which are small compared to the advantages but nonetheless present. The biggest disadvantage is that I live on a dirt road. It gets plowed when it snows, but it isn't possible to plow a dirt road as closely as a paved one, so there is still lots of snow. The area is also hilly. This could describe 90% of central Massachusetts, so it's no surprise, but hills plus snow plus a car that lacks four wheel drive and was definitely not designed for either dirt or snowy roads makes driving ... interesting, to put it politely.

(Another disadvantage is that I now owe more money than I ever have before, but that's sort of an automatic hazard of buying a house unless you are wealthy or buying a cheaper house than what you previously owned.)

In any case, I will leave you with a couple of pictures. First, icicles on my house. These have grown so large that I am afraid to disturb them:

Second, a big tree that overhangs my driveway. It's a Norway Spruce (Picea abies), I think.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Last Wednesday: A foot and a half of snow.

This Tuesday: about six inches of wet snow, followed by freezing rain that put a layer of ice over everything.

Last night and today - six or seven inches of snow

Later this weekend - temperatures predicted to drop to five or ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-10 to -23 Celsius), not counting windchill

Conclusion - Not a good time to become a new homeowner and not have a snowblower.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Homeowner

Last Tuesday, I signed a stack of documents that made me a homeowner. It was originally supposed to be on Wednesday, but the closing date was moved up to Tuesday because a big snowstorm was coming on Wednesday. It's a good thing we moved the date to Tuesday, because the storm ended up dumping somewhere between 16 inches and 2 feet of snow on the area (varied by exact location).

I don't need to leave my current residence quite yet, so fortunately I can move by bits and pieces. The downside of this is that there will be a lot of shuttling between my old and new residences.

I didn't even try to get to the house on Wednesday. Work was closed, and nobody went out driving if they could avoid it.

On Thursday evening, after work, I performed my first task as a new homeowner - shoveling out paths to the doors. Perhaps I should have started in the morning before work, but I underestimated the size of the task. After almost three hours, I had cleared a path from the street to the front door, and a large part of the driveway and a second path from the driveway to the front door. I learned a few lessons from this:
1.) ALWAYS check my coat pockets to make sure I have my winter gloves and hat. I forgot them, so I did all of this shoveling with bare hands and earmuffs only. Fortunately, it was cold but not windy.
2.) My new house requires a lot of snow removal. It has a relatively long, curved driveway, and a relatively long, curved path from the driveway to the front door. A second, shorter pathway from the front doorway to the street is recommended for access. One person with a shovel needs to do quite a bit of work to clear these paths.
3.) I must invest in a snowblower.

On Friday, I took delivery of my first pieces of furniture, a kitchen table and four chairs. I also learned from the mailman, who showed up shortly after the furniture movers left, that he puts the mail in a mail slit in the side door. This cleared up a bit of a mystery that I had forgotten to ask the previous owners about, but it also meant that I needed to shovel a third path, since the previous paths did not cover the side door.

On Saturday, my father and I got a small UHaul truck and moved a bunch of boxes and a couple of pieces of furniture, the only furniture that I am keeping.

Yesterday, I finally finished clearing the driveway, chipped ice that had formed on the paths to the doors, bought a bunch of cleaning and kitchen supplies, set up my desktop computer, and tried with limited success to figure out where various items in the boxes should go. (Being obsessive-compulsive, I sometimes get hung up over things like that.)

Today, I need to get some more supplies, bring a few more things, and re-assemble a couple of pieces of furniture. I'm pretty confident that there will be no shoveling today. Tomorrow, though, we're supposed to get a few more inches of snow.

Wednesday, I get a bed, table, and easy chair delivered - weather permitting, I assume.

Even with this going on, the most stressful aspect of my life for the past week, as it has been for the last 2 or 3 months, has not been anything going on outside, but rather my almost constant struggling with a very bad attack of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I don't want to go into detail here, but it has been pretty severe and it has come at a very bad time. So far, though, I have been weathering the move, the OCD, and the weather itself.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Death in the family

My grandmother died yesterday. She was my last surviving grandparent, and the one that I was closest to. She was 94 years old, and had been declining a lot over the last year, so it wasn't completely a surprise, but it was still a painful shock to hear this news, since I hadn't heard that she was doing worse than usual.

She had a strong personality - loving, sociable, opinionated, and stubborn. We always got along very well, even though I am quite different in some ways. I remember one summer when I was 12 or 13, spending most of a month visiting her, going out every day to see sights in Washington, DC and Maryland, having a great time. It was difficult to see her gradually decline physically and mentally, even though this is almost inevitable at her age. My father and I visited her in Texas, where she went to live close to my aunt, on her last two birthdays for the last two Septembers. I am glad that I got to see her when I could still talk to her, although she couldn't handle much talking on our last visit.

She lived a long, full life, working full-time when my father was growing up, at a time when this was the exception for middle-class women rather than the rule. She had a very interesting career - she was a computer programmer, starting shortly after World War II when computers weren't even programmed with punched cards, but by rearranging wires within the computer. She spent most of her career working with punched cards.

About a year ago, I started writing letters to her. At first, she wrote back, but after a while, she could not do this anymore. I kept sending letters periodically. For the last few months, my aunt would have to read them to her when she visited every few days. I think that they did help cheer her up a little at times, and that she liked to hear from me. The last one I wrote was a little less than a month ago. I just wish I had sent one last one right around Christmas, rather than procrastinating, though she might not have heard it anyway.

She lived a long, fairly happy life that affected many other peoples' lives in good ways, and died peacefully. She will be greatly missed.