Addendum to It’s A Pity

As I’ve said, I so pity Southerners and those who are struggling through an early spring.

They never get to spend hours of their lives, hours they’ll never have back again, watching icicles melt. And trying to catch the drips . . .

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It’s A Pity . . .


I pity the poor Southerner. I pity all those to whom spring comes early.

It’s March. They’re already sweaty, sweltering, with a sheen of oil on their skin. Here, the air is crisp and refreshing, invigorating even.

They have so little time to prepare for bikini season, it’s already upon them. Here, we have months . . . possibly years.

The bright sun means they have to wear sunglasses, and hide the windows of their souls. Here, our eyes are available to others and our pupils are widely, fetchingly dilated, to let in as much gray light as possible.

There, the bright, riotous colors of flowers are harsh and inescapable. Here, the white and shades of gray are soothing and undemanding. They settle for snowdrops while we enjoy snow drops.

Their sleep is rudely disrupted by the sound of raucous birds. All is silent here.


The pollen in the air means their eyes itch and theirs noses run. Here, we breathe free.

They toil in yard and garden, while we luxuriate with needle, thread, book, and brandy, in front of a roaring fire.


Their days are placid, boring, without excitement. Here, we await, with shortened breath and pounding hearts, the arrival of the next drama with a Christian name—Quinn, Riley, Skylar. Toby . . . is that you on the horizon?


They pay gym memberships and go looking for ways to exercise. Here, we get our exercise for free—shoveling snow, pushing cars from drifts, building snow families.


They drive on clear roads, never learning survival tactics. Here, we have the satisfaction of knowing the gut wrenching, bowel-loosening feeling of competence that comes with pulling out of an icy skid just short of the ditch.


They no longer enjoy know the sheer relief of hot chocolate in cold hands. The thrill of a snow day, listening to the radio and hearing your school’s name on the closure and cancellation list. The atavistic jolt of a fireplace that provides more than simple atmosphere.

No snow angels. No warm maple syrup straight from the boiler. No need for Irish fisherman knit sweaters and Bean boots and Yaktrax, while watching the St. Patrick’s Day parade..

Pity to all of you for whom spring came early . . . you’re missing so much.

The rest of us, this March, let us thank Providence that you and I are Northerners.

The Help

I’ve told everyone else, I guess I might as well tell you.

I’ve hired help. Well, actually I purchased her.

That sounds hideous, buying a servant, but I really needed to do something.

You see, my husband, Don, has always done most of the vacuuming that gets done around here. He doesn’t do it often, especially for a family with multiple cats, but I didn’t like to complain because he could then tell me, with some justification, to do it myself!

This has worked okay for people with a high threshold for dust bunnies but, and it’s a big but, Don has a torn (nay, shredded) tendon in his ankle, has been in quite a lot of pain, and is having surgery in a couple months.

The vacuuming was looming as my job.

So I purchased help. Her name is Minnie.

What I bought is a Roomba iRobot vacuum cleaner. And I love her!


photo from the iRobot website

We named her after the maid-with-attitude in the book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. If you’ve read the book, or seen the movie, let me just assure you, we won’t be letting our Minnie make any pies!

The way this works is the gizmo has all kinds of sensors so it can easily negotiate going from  hardwood floors to area rugs, even over 1.5 inch fringe. It can go under the bed (yes!), under chairs, right up along baseboards.

She is round but she can do corners. She has a brush that rotates, with long fingers that reach into corners and pull dirt into her maw.

She can zoom right up to stairs and stop just in time, pivot, and go back the other way. She knows not to throw herself off.

When I first got her, all I could do was watch her. She uses no discernible pattern for her work—she runs around in ways that seem completely random and, yet, she seems to find what’s there. When Don vacuumed, I would point and say, “You missed a spot.” With Minnie, you just have to trust that she will come back . . . And she does!

When she is finished, she takes herself back to her charging station and plugs herself in with a cheerful little ringtone—beedle, beedle, beedle-bee. Ding, ding ding!

In fact, she is relentlessly cheerful. No matter how often I ask, she makes a happy startup noise, like she is excited to help, and off she goes. She can work for about an hour on her rechargeable battery and it recharges quite quickly. And then she’s ready for more! The difference between her attitude and Don’s is, well, remarkable.

Once in awhile, not often, she gets stuck. And she asks for help. Really, she has a little voice. I’m never sure what she’s saying, because I am usually in another room, having fun or relaxing, but I hear her voice and go check.

There’s a app for my phone, so I can even get Minnie working without getting out of my recliner. It keeps track of how long she has worked, too. She came to work for us just before Christmas and has vacuumed a total of 37 hours since then! She’s vacuumed 66 times and she keeps track of “dirt events” during her work. I’m not entirely sure what that means—I think it’s that she notices enough dirt that she hovers over a spot to do deep vacuuming. I can’t bring myself to tell you how many dirt events she has addressed while here . . . it might negatively influence your opinion of me.

And what do the cats think of her?

They don’t mind her much! While they have not taken to riding around on her like all those cats on the internet, she is not nearly as noisy or clunky as our big canister vacuum and she doesn’t swear loudly while working, like some vacuumers who will go unnamed. . . .

I will admit, she’s not for everyone.

She works rather slowly. If you got a call that unexpected company was coming in an hour, you’d want to haul out your big vacuum and work fast.

She can’t do the whole whole house at once, at least not one with the kind of dirt events we have. I have her do two rooms at a time and kind of rotate her around so she does one or two areas a day, and then starts the rotation again.

She won’t always get every bit of dirt. Her motor blows some stuff away, like the lint created by weaving. Sometimes she tells me she’s done and I say, “No, no, no—get back to work.” But she takes that well and cheerfully starts up again. She has never once said, “Do it yourself.”

You do have to do maintenance on her—empty her bin and sometimes turn her over and clean out her brushes and be sure the sensors are clear. I think, though, I’m probably supposed to do maintenance on my big vacuum, too . . .  I just never did.

She didn’t come cheap. We didn’t get the top-of-the-line model. It costs nearly $900 and that’s crazy talk!

We got the Roomba 690 and she cost about $250, although I must’ve gotten her on sale because now the prices seem to be in the ballpark of $325. Yes, that’s a lot of money, especially when I won’t be getting completely rid of my big vacuum any time soon (although we have not used it once since Minnie came here to live!)

I thought long and hard about spending that much money. But I remembered reading an article that said that, since we can’t buy time, it makes sense to buy what we can afford that will provide us with time.

I could afford Minnie and she has given me time but also less guilt. Instead of thinking, “I should vacuum,” and then ignoring that thought and doing something fun instead, now I fire Minnie up AND do something fun instead. To me, that is worth the money I spent on Minnie.

Don will have surgery in a couple months and I will be doing the lawn mowing or snow shoveling or both, as can happen in April. I’ll be doing the cooking and running errands.

But I’ll leave the vacuuming to the help.

The Weaver’s Helper

Do you remember Gigi?


A blog friend asked me about her recently.

She is doing great–she is almost 3 years old and weighs somewhat too much. She loves her food!

She has calmed down, as cats do when they leave kittenhood behind.

And, thank goodness, she isn’t as interested in the weaving looms as she once was.

Unless I am sitting at one, trying to thread heddles.


Every weaver needs a helper . . .


(No, her eyes aren’t blue. That’s the combination of fluorescent lighting and an iPhone camera.)

Fun with Ice and Snow. And Wind.

I was having a little lie-down yesterday, on a bitterly cold but sunny afternoon, when the usually-placid cat on the bed started growling.

She was looking intently out the window and I thought, “Racoon.”

Not hardly!

This para-skier swooped and flipped and flew outside our windows for an hour or more, in spite of wind chills well below zero. Later, another guy joined him, so we had a pair-a-skiers. (Sorry.)

The Perfect Day . . .


Did you grow up where the winters are frigid, the snow falls sideways, and the local weather forecasters’ voices rise in excitement when they discuss the next storm?

If not, I pity you. Really—you just don’t know about the perfect day.

Ask anyone who was once a 10-year-old in the northern United States—the absolute perfect day is a snow day.

The uninitiated may not even know the concept. A snow day, my friends, is a day when you thought you had to go to school, take the math quiz, hand in your spelling homework, and eat congealed Spanish rice in the cafeteria, but, instead . . . you get to stay home!

Snow days are free days. Days that come out of nowhere, where all the normal rules are suspended.

No school. No backpack full of books, no standing in sub-zero temps, waiting for the school bus to come.

A day full of empty hours to fill with laziness, with daytime TV, a foray outside to make snow angels, hot chocolate waiting when you get back in. Maybe your mom turns on the oven—it helps keep the house warm, after all—and bakes cookies.

The decision about when to declare a snow day was always made by a grownup and grownups, it seems, are hesitant to give in to the weather. Have they forgotten how happy a snow day made them, all those years ago, when they were little?

When I was a kid, the grownup who made the snow day decisions for our rural school district was none other than  . . . my father. He was the head bus driver and business manger of the school, and we lived as far from the school as anyone in the district. We also lived way up on a hill. The feeling was that, if Don Sanger could make it to school, anyone else could.

And Don Sanger always thought he could make it to school. He was not one to let a few feet of snow slow him down!

It was a heavy burden to bear. My sister and I would plead and beg for him to call a snow day. He’d go out to check the conditions and we would wait, hardly breathing, for him to come back, even though we knew what he was going to say.

No big deal. No snow day needed.

Then we’d all manage to get to school and our friends would harass us . . . why couldn’t we have convinced out father to be more reasonable, to give us kids a perfect day?

It seems that schools are much more likely to bow to the weather these days, much more willing to err on the side of safety and tell people to stay home. I wonder if the kids appreciate snow as much as we did, when they get so many of them?

The funny thing is that, once you’ve known the joy of snow days, that feeling seems never to leave you.

I’ve been retired, lo, these many years and, thinking logically, every day is a snow day now. My days are always my own. I never have to eat cafeteria Spanish rice again. Snow days should have no meaning for me.

But then comes a day like today, where all the local schools have cancelled classes because it snowed and the winds are going to gust 40 miles an hour, and the windchill factor is going to be something like 40-below-zero Fahrenheit.

In my heart, this is still the perfect day. I have an ironclad excuse not to go anywhere, not to the post office, not to the assisted living center where my mom lives, not to the store, or the dump.

And, in staying home, I will feel free, even freer than usual, to do *exactly* as I please. The “shoulds” of vacuuming or listing new items on Etsy will be put aside because it’s a snow day! I’ll read for pleasure, I’ll nap, I’ll turn my hands to whatever I choose at the moment.

Maybe we’ll go out and shovel snow. Maybe we’ll come in to hot chocolate. Maybe I’ll turn on the oven and bake cookies . . . it’ll help keep the house warm, after all.

Don Sanger’s little girl loves a snow day . . .

Steamy Weather

Yesterday morning, the outdoor temperature here was minus-25 Fahrenheit. For those of you of a Celsius persuasion, that’s almost minus-32.

IMG_1587 (1)

Pictorial evidence


That’s the cold of insta-frostbite. That’s the cold of “keep your pets in, no matter how much they agitate to go out.”

That’s the cold of “three cat nights” in bed, hot chocolate with boozy eggnog added in, and letting the mail pile up in the box because how important could it be anyway?

And it’s the cold of one of my favorite weather phenomena.

Our Lake Champlain water temperature is 36 degrees right now (about 2 Celsius). The bays are frozen solid enough for ice fishers to be out in their tents.

But steam is rising off the broad lake. Big billows of steam . . .