teazle knievel [photo post]

Time for Wednesday cat blogging!

I had the camera out on Sunday and Teazle was very interested.

This is her EEEEVIL CAT impression! (aka the time I accidentally took a photo with the flash on)

Little Miss Flirtypants.

The Joan Crawford look.

The "why have the petting hands gone away?" look.

Gerry maintained a stolid indifference to the proceedings...

But later settled down on the top edge of the book I was attempting to read.

(You can see that the petting hand returned to scratch Teazle beneath the chin.)


brattleboro, vermont [photo post]

We're moving, y'all. May 11th! It all happened very fast and, as fate of course would have it, on the weekend that Hanna and I were supposed to be enjoying a communications-free getaway in Brattleboro, Vermont -- our first couples' trip since the honeymoon.

Then Hanna's sprained ankle developed plantar fascitis (which, let us both tell you, is agonizing as pain goes), our realtor called with a potential rental, which we went to see and apply for practically on our way out of town, subsequently had to negotiate the lease long-distance for, and in the midst of it all I developed a three-day migraine! So ... ya know. Our weekend was slightly different than previously planned.

But still lovely in parts! (The not feeling like a railroad spike was being driven through my right eyeball parts or the we-have-to-be-grown-up-and-negotiate parts.)

This, for example, was a nice part. Monday afternoon in Brattleboro was just warm enough to sit out in the sun and read.

We were staying for two nights at the Forty Putney Road Bed & Breakfast, in the former carriage house. We'd booked the Hummingbird Room, but got the classier Maple Room at the same price instead because the housekeeper cleaned the wrong space in a rush to get to her family's Easter dinner!

We didn't complain (and left her a tip).

The property was built in 1929 as the home of the superintendent of the nearby Brattleboro Retreat, a (still!) highly regarded residential mental health facility nearby. The superintendent must have been a decent fellow because we didn't encounter any vengeful ghosts during our stay!

Spring is finally (finally!) bursting into bloom, in both Boston and Brattleboro. I caught this crocus in the lawn of the B&B.

We mostly dined on food purchased from our beloved Brattleboro Co-op, in their newly-built location adjacent to their old (and nostalgically missed!) home on the Whetstone Brook.

They provided us with delicious gluten-free cheesecake!

And an amazing Greek potato salad.

If there's a sensible explanation behind this thank you note on the co-op wall, we don't want to hear it!

We also attempted to eat at the new Whetstone Station on Sunday night, though my migraine got the better of me and we had to stage an emergency evacuation. Their sweet potato tots with choose-your-own dipping sauces are heavenly.

The innkeeper, Rhonda, provided us with a delicious breakfast every morning in the main house, as well as fresh-brewed coffee from Hanna's favorite Mocha Joe's and tea from a local supplier.

On Monday, I even had the time to write a few notes! ...

... and read the first half of Megan Marshall's Pulitzer-prize-winning biography of local feminist (and fellow migraine sufferer) Margaret Fuller.

We hope to make our Patroit's Day weekend stay in Brattleboro an annual tradition, and look forward to returning to Forty Putney Road in 2015! Perhaps our dear friends whose Christmas money helped fund our stay will join us at some future date.

And at the end of the weekend, we ended up successfully negotiating a twelve-month lease with our new landlord and driving back into Boston to sign for our future apartment in Hyde Square, Jamaica Plain. We take possession of the space on May 1st and next week's post will have photos of both the apartment-to-be and, I suspect, the apartment-that-was, full of packing boxes and questing cats.


on regional holidays

I was going to have a book review post for y'all today, seeing as we're on a three-day holiday and I had reading plans ... but then I spent yesterday afternoon and evening incoherent from migraine pain, so. Here are my thoughts on the holiday weekend instead.

Having moved to New England from the Midwest, one of the most fascinating things about Boston culture from my perspective is how seriously we take our federal and local holidays. Columbus Day weekend, for example, is a three-day weekend in Boston -- not just meaning no mail delivery but that schools and places of work are closed. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President's Day, Veteran's Day -- hardly a month goes by that we don't have a Monday or floating holiday on which a good proportion of the professional classes, at least, expect to get a paid day off from work.

I'm betting most of you, if you haven't ever lived in Massachusetts or Maine (and, according to Wikipedia, Wisconsin?!), won't have heard of Patriots' Day or know what it commemorates. Patriots' Day is today, which is why Hanna and I are in Vermont enjoying a lovely post-breakfast snooze in our B&B, and why thousands of runners are currently pounding the pavement between Hopkinton and Copley Square for the Boston Marathon. (My advice? Ignore all the endless "Boston strong" coverage and watch Saint Ralph instead.)

Patriots' Day commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, early skirmishes in what would become known as the American Revolution -- aka that time we Americans eventually kicked some British ass. If you're like me, you haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that aspect of American political history, but in Boston -- home of the Freedom Trail (America's first history trail) -- it's huge.

I don't really have anything profound to say about all of this except it's funny what parts of American national history are important or not-so-important based on regional experience.

I mean, would it really have been that horrible if we'd remained part of the commonwealth, like Canada did, instead of fighting a long, miserable, and bloody revolution?

There's I've said it.

Happy holiday, wherever you are and whatever you're doing today.


some updates on life, #adulting, and #move2014

(Yes, I went with the oxford comma in that blog post title. What can I say? I'm a fan.)

So after a fairly quiet, stable year in the Clutterbuck-Cook household, the year 2014 has decided to whup us in the ass. As regular readers know, the first four months of the year have seen us trapped by the polar vortex, making the decision to move this summer, blindsided by the sudden death of my grandmother, the spraining of Hanna's ankle, the death of my in-law's elderly cat ... not to mention a particularly busy winter/spring at the MHS, the Countway, and all of our regular life activities.

Golden retrievers Addie & Josie swimming in Lake Michigan
 (photo by Mark Cook)
We're ready for a vacation! 

Thankfully, we have one coming up next weekend in Brattleboro, Vermont -- we're already looking forward to the darkness and the quiet and the tasty foods to be found at the Brattleboro Co-op ... not to mention the maple lattes from Mocha Joe's and the popcorn from the self-service popcorn machine at Sam's.

Meanwhile, here are some life updates from our recent adventures in what I like to call "adulting." You know. That thing where you have to get up in the morning and leave the house to complete a series of tasks, some of which you look forward to and some of which you don't.
  • The new apartment search has started in earnest as spaces with July and August availability come on the market. We looked at, and put an application in for, one two-bedroom space last week that turned out not to be as cat-friendly as advertised. The landlord got cold feet on pets altogether and our agent was quite put out by the way he jerked us around. We agreed! The search will continue, and we know the right space is out there for us. When we find it, you'll hear about it here (well, probably first on Twitter).
  • We've had two library assistants turn in their resignation this spring, moving on to a new chapter of their professional and persona lives (congrats to you both!). They will be missed! Their recent/impending departures have meant that my work life has been consumed recently by scheduling and hiring tasks. I'm looking forward to our being fully staffed again.
  • This year marked the first time Hanna and I got to file a joint tax return (yay for a post-DOMA world!), which I think actually ended up costing us a few hundred dollars more in taxes than we would have paid if the government refused to recognize our marriage -- a few hundred dollars I was happy to pay. I just wish I could earmark it all to provide Medicaid coverage for newly-insured folks who are benefiting from Obamacare!
  • Following the filing of taxes, I was able to renew my income-based student loan repayment plan at a slightly lower monthly rate (because they now take Hanna's loans into account looking at our household financial profile). I said it on Twitter and I'll say it again here: the education funding system is broken, but standing here and now amidst the rubble I sure am glad that government-funded loans with affordable repayment options have made my professional life possible -- so yay big government! 
  • Last Thursday I attended the first of four sessions in a Homebuying 101 course offered free (thanks to HUD funding -- yay big government!) by the City of Boston to prospective first-time home-buyers. This is purely exploratory at the moment, since Hanna and I plan to rent for another 3-5 years while we contemplate the pros and cons of buying. But I'm nerdy enough to find it interesting anyway, and the course also certifies us to apply to the city for grants toward a down payment and closing costs if we buy within city limits.
  • Having presented my current research at the BC conference on March 29th, I am not returning to encyclopedia articles for the summer -- on such topics as Phyllis Schlafly, Suburbia, and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. 
  • Over the summer, I'm planning to use some vacation and comp time to experiment with what I'm calling Project Fridays -- a day away from the library to pursue research and writing. It's part of a socialistic plot I have to carve out meaningful life activities around wage-work over the next few years.
And that's about where we stand, folks. As I type this it's raining outside instead of snowing and the magnolia buds are fat on the trees outside our living room windows. Spring is here again! Whether you celebrate the thawing of the northern hemisphere through Easter, Passover, or some other tradition, I hope you enjoy the return of light and color in this changing of the seasons.


presentation @ boston college

On March 29th I attended the Biennial Boston College Conference on History of Religion and presented a paper that tried, for the first time, to offer up some analysis regarding my current project. A big thanks to the conference coordinators for a great experience!

This project is, broadly, exploring the ways in which the Christian left negotiated sex, sexuality, and gender during the thirty year period between 1960 and 1980. Narrowly, for this paper, I looked at a ten-year period of the Methodist publication motive for clues regarding mainline Protestant conceptions of gender and sexuality. As I've mentioned before in this space, I'm particularly interested in what the magazine had to say about sexuality because after breaking with the church, the publication's final two issues focused on the topics of gay liberation and lesbian/feminism (their terminology). Rather than seeing this break as a natural, inevitable conflict between a traditionalist anti-gay church and more radical youth activists, I am asking why Christian left theology ultimately failed to provide a hospitable atmosphere for meaningful, nuanced discussion about queer sexual morality.

At least, that's what I'm fumbling my way toward asking. I'm not sure how close this one conference paper gets to that goal -- but it is a start. So for those who've been following my research this past year, I offer this work-in-progress as a reward.

Access the PDF online via Google Drive.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to my two excellent and inspiring co-panelists, Trevor Burrows (Purdue University) and Casey Bohlen (Harvard University), both of whom are working on aspects of Christian faith and political action during what we might term the "long Sixties" -- looking back into the 1950s and forward toward the 1980s.  I look forward to watching their progress as scholars and writers in the field.