What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen up for bid in a charity auction?

A (very) long-time cow orker of mine, Brian, is running an online auction to benefit the Montessori school that he and his wife run. Since the school is located in Essex, Vermont, and the items were donated by people in the area, they’ve got a lot of things like ski passes and restaurant meals for restaurants in our area, but if you want to take a look and/or bid, feel free — all comers are welcome:


The auction lists the usual gallimaufry of items, from clothing, baby goods, meals at restaurants, ‘experiences’ such as throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, you name it. Go take a look, then come back.

Obviously, when you’re running a charity auction, you go around and bug local businesses and interested parties to see what you can get them to donate. Within reason, you take what you can get, trying to avoid having an auction that consists of nothing but grandparents’ unwanted costume jewelry. Sometimes you get good stuff. Sometimes you don’t. (I believe I once saw a “$1000 Off The Costs Of A Funeral” item up for bid, contributed by a local mortuary. Assign that to the “good stuff” or “not” category as you wish.)

The danger, of course, in running a charity auction is that the amount of time you spend begging businesses and supporters for donations is time you couldn’t spend on other activities, and sometimes, you lose money. I used to be on the board of a state non-profit which always held a silent auction at the annual conference. When we factored in how much time it took our development director to solicit and pick up donations, we flat-out lost money. (It didn’t help that none of the items up for auction were of the showstopper type; people rarely fight to be high bidder on lovely knitted caps). Result: no more annual conference auctions, and I don’t recall anyone complaining about the absence.

Last year I went to a bingo night and silent auction at a local school and one of the local bait shops had contributed a five pound bucket of live bait or nightcrawlers, your choice. The same auction offered a coupon good for $100 worth of taxidermy services. Carole won a certificate good for a deluxe auto detailing from a local shop (which, as it happened, really did make her car look like a million bucks) and I won a $50 gift card for a restaurant 45 minutes from our house that I still haven’t used. A different auction was responsible for my winding up owner of a wooden two-tiered serving platter/centerpiece that I have basically no real need for and a $50 certificate off services from the local wedding cake baker. (Some people will bid on anything.)

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen up for sale at a charity auction? Did it sell? Did you buy it?


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I’m the worst person in the world

I am mentally ill.

My mental illness takes the form of severe depression mixed with PTSD.

My depression is partly due to heredity and partly due to environment. It’s the nature of the thing that it’s sometimes hard to draw a fine line between the two.

My maternal grandmother was institutionalized in Florida off and on for much of her life; she died when I was five and I have literally no recollection of ever having met her. From what I understand, mostly she had severe depression — I’ve never gotten a detailed writeup confirming whether she also had schizophrenic tendencies, bipolar, or anything else. People agree about the depression, though. In any event, as I said, I can’t recall having met her, but genes are genes.

On the other side of my family tree, my father had severe depression that went undiagnosed and untreated; every year on his birthday and on Father’s Day he’d get his nose out of joint because we didn’t pay him enough respect and attention and he’d go climb into bed in the middle of the day and either sulk or mope, depending on your interpretation of things. He rarely interacted with others socially; generally, he’d come home, eat dinner, and then sit in a chair and read all evening. God help us if we bothered him.

He was a very emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive man who seemed pathologically afraid of giving any of his children a compliment and for whom the ultimate accusation was “You did that to get attention!” If I asked a question at a science museum, I could count on being cursed once out of earshot of the docent for “having tried to get attention”. If I got all wound up and hyper during a third grade play, you bet Dad spent the whole trip home reading me the riot act for “just doing that to get attention”. I spent my high school years going hungry when the family went out to dinner because, regardless of what I ordered, Dad would snarl that I was just ordering it to be stupid, to show off, to get attention. Finally I just stopped ordering and sat there hungry while others ate.

As for the physical part of the abuse — well, I’ll spare you the details, but I got kicked, beaten, thrown around, and more, just basically for doing the kind of things that kids routinely do. I tended to stay in my room and pray that when I heard his footsteps coming down the hall they wouldn’t stop in front of my door. I spent quite a few high school nights running a few miles from our house in the woods outside Blacksburg to a friend’s house three miles away. That is, until I finally drew a knife on him in self defense; he went absolutely ballistic, called the police, and wanted them to put me under the jail; how dare I raise a hand to him? (They talked him down; apparently they realized at a glance what they were dealing with.)

I mention all this, not because a strange whimsy seized hold of me and said “tell the whole world about your abusive father, now that he’s been dead for a year and can’t rebut” but rather because it might help explain why I am the way I am.

I have PTSD-style reactions to anger and violence. I want to go crawl into a hole and pull it in after me, especially if the person yelling is a family member.

As for depression — I have mad self-loathing skillz.

I look at everything I do from a standpoint of “oh, God, I just did that to get attention, didn’t I?” What makes that especially bad is that I’m naturally silly and extroverted, but every time I say or do something silly in front of others, I then spend a healthy chunk of time feeling hideously embarrassed, certain that they must have thought “what a pathetic loser.”

I post things to Facebook, and then, a day or so later, tiptoe back onto the site and delete them. There’s a voice inside me so full of loathing: “you just want attention, that’s why you shared that, isn’t it?” Take a look at my Facebook profile, if you like. That’s not the result of one day’s mad deleting; nothing, really, stays on my page for very long before, cringing, I sneak back in and take it down. I assume that anyone who did see whatever it was that I shared probably had the same reaction: “how pathetic.”

There’s a part of me that likes to occasionally send strange, out-of-the-blue gifts to friendsacquaintances (note: I am terrified of calling someone my friend only to have them quickly and firmly correct me) just because I like to imagine their reaction when they open the package and find, oh, a “Unicorns Are Jerks” coloring book. But then, there’s the other part of me that knows, perfectly well, why I do it: I want attention.

I was raised from birth to believe that attention-seeking is an absolutely shameful thing, and yet, like any sane human, I want attention. I am sickened and revolted by the things I do to try to get attention, even if to another person they might seem perfectly ordinary.

I work as a technical trainer for a large corporation. I spend a huge percentage of my time speaking to and working with medium to large groups of people on complicated and convoluted software and system issues relating to the hospital and physician financial flow. I’m apparently somewhat good at it. But for some broken reason, I gain very little self esteem from being good at my job. Perhaps it’s because my brain is just mis-wired. Perhaps it’s my father’s voice in the back of my mind, reminding me that enjoying attention, deserved or otherwise, is disgusting, and pathetic, and contemptible.

Either way, though — I’m sorry. I’m sorry for those of you who have to put up with my dysfunction and my self-flagellation and everything that goes along with them. I don’t know which is more annoying: pathetic attention-seeking followed by pathetic attention-seeking, or pathetic attention seeking followed by public self-loathing. But either way, in case you were wondering: yes, I know I’m incredibly annoying. I wish I’d go away too.

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Stop Domestic Violence: Take Steps In Their Shoes

On June 3, the Burlington, Vermont-area’s annual fundraising walk/run to raise money and awareness for the fight against domestic violence will take place. Last year it was called “Run for Empowerment” — this year it’s called “Take Steps In Their Shoes”. Regardless, the funds raised will go to fund our local anti-domestic violence charity, formerly called “Women Helping Battered Women” and now called “Steps To End Domestic Violence”.

I am taking part in the event and hope to raise a lot of funds — it costs a lot to pay for emergency shelter, legal assistance, food and clothing, and the 24-hour hotline that battered adults and children across the area depend on in time of need.

Last year, incredibly generous donors sponsored me to the tune of $1025, which made me the second-ranking event fundraiser overall. This year I’d like to raise even more! Will you sponsor me and help out?

You can donate at this link:  https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/carole-furr-1/take-steps-in-their-shoes — and thank you so much for your support!

2016 Run For Empowerment

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Dawg Moment

Apropos of nothing: a quick Bulldog break:

We have the best pup! 🐾#NationalPuppyDay #GoDawgs

A post shared by Georgia Gymnastics (@ugagymnastics) on

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As of this April 16, it’ll have been ten years since the horrific events that took place in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 16, 2007.

In the ten years since a mentally ill young man ran amuck with his guns and took the lives of 28 students and four faculty members — and wounded seventeen others — members of the Virginia Tech university community have gathered each year on April 16 to stand vigil and to remember those we lost.

I’d like to be there in person for the remembrance (I grew up in Blacksburg and received my masters degree there), but unfortunately, I have to be in Lubbock, Texas for work that day. In fact, I’ve never yet managed to be there for the memorial despite my active travel schedule. I’ve always hoped that I could route myself through Blacksburg on my way to Seattle or San Francisco or Tucumcari, but it just hasn’t worked out.

I wish I could say that the Virginia Tech massacre served as the Pearl Harbor-like wake-up call for the American people that finally got us to realize how out of control our love affair with firearms has become.

I wish I could say that the National Rifle Association realized that there are more important things in life than maximizing gun manufacturers’ profits.

I wish I could say that we, as a society, took a look at what happened in West Ambler-Johnston Hall and Norris Hall that awful day and decided “this far, and no further.” That it had to stop.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that. Blacksburg wasn’t enough. Sandy Hook wasn’t enough. Aurora wasn’t enough. Orlando wasn’t enough. Ten thousand gun homicides a year in the United States aren’t enough. Nothing’s enough.

Nothing’s ever going to be enough.

Our society has “addict brain” where our fetish for firearms is concerned, and the only thing that satisfies the craving, however briefly, is…

More guns.

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Dammit, Ennui

Today is a bright sunny, chilly day with the remnants of this week’s snowstorm all around outside serving as a reminder that although spring may technically start tomorrow, astronomically speaking, Vermont usually has other ideas.

Richmond, Vermont -- Sunday, March 19, 2017 (around 12:15 pm)

Carole is out at a meeting somewhere downtown, and then after that she’s got a symphonic reading with one of her orchestral groups. This means that I have the afternoon to myself, and I’m running hard up against a wall of ennui, depression, boredom, and lassitude.

It should say something that even though I actually just got back from a trip to Hawaii, I’m already paging morosely through itineraries for cruises this time next year. Travel to exotic locations motivates me. Sitting around at home doesn’t.

My imaginary gopherlike being Wally is sitting down in the living room absent-mindedly paging through the collected works of Don DeLillo, and some guy with a strange accent who says he’s Godfrey of Bouillon keeps calling asking if I want to join him on a crusade or something.

There are things I should be doing around the house – minor housekeeping jobs such as hanging my stupidly large collection of baseball caps on hooks on the cap rack I bought a while back, putting away laundry, doing Quicken, but right now I’m just sitting here staring off into space not wanting to do any of those things. Nor am I terribly interested in watching basketball, reading anything, going out and doing something… really, in doing anything at all.

It would be simplest if I just kicked off my shoes and took a nap, but that’s been my answer to this ennui problem for a few years now — spending as much time as possible asleep until it’s time to get up and do something, like going to work or making dinner. Part of this may be seasonal affective disorder — the urge to cocoon when it’s cold outside and I have nothing especially fun to do. In principle, once warm weather comes and the windows are open, I should have more energy, but frankly, over the last few years that hasn’t really been true. I think I got on my bicycle once last year. And it’s a nice bicycle.

Yes, perhaps my medication should be adjusted. I’m taking citalopram and buproprion, and I know from recent experience how absolutely lost and worried and angst-ridden I get if I skip those for a few days, so I assume they’re helping in some fashion. But… I don’t think that there’s a pill that will re-instill in me the motivation and drive of an ordinary human.

I wish there was.


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Newsflash: Hunger Sucks

Lots of things bother me. Cruelty to animals bothers me. Cancer bothers me. The weirdos who want the National League to adopt the designated hitter bother me.

Kids going to sleep at night with empty stomachs because there’s no food in the house — that really bothers me. It’s something that we take for granted — the poor and hungry will always be with us, and it’s not a problem we can “solve” — but that’s no consolation to a mother who has to tell her kids that they can’t have a snack, that there’s literally no food.

I’ve been very fortunate — I’ve never had a day in my life where I had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. My mother, who grew up in a terribly poor family in Florida during the Depression, on the other hand, was not so lucky. You don’t really realize how important food is until you’ve had to go without, not just once, but routinely. It sounds ridiculous and trite to say that, but it’s true — being chronically hungry sucks.

Here in Vermont, we’re very lucky to have an insanely dedicated organization, the Vermont Foodbank, that works their butts off to fill the food gap. They have staff and warehouses and collection and distribution operations all over the state, but even so, one in four Vermonters still struggles with hunger and access to adequate nutrition.

As it happens, the Vermont Foodbank is partnering with Magic Hat Brewing to put on the Burlington, Vermont area’s annual Mardi Gras weekend and parade. The parade is just a week away, on Saturday, March 11. The Foodbank makes use of a lot of volunteers to staff the event and keep things safe (it puts such a pall on the day when someone runs out to grab beads off the street and gets crushed by a giant green lizard float), and the volunteers are encouraged to fundraise.

If you live in (or are visiting) Vermont and you’ll be here this coming weekend, please consider volunteering:


Carole and I are volunteering, as we’ve done for years, and we’d be honored if you’d donate toward our team fundraising bucket —

https://fundraise.vtfoodbank.org/fundraise/team?ftid=103436 — click the link to the left and pick whichever of us you’d like to sponsor.

We’d like to raise at least $1,000, which is still a drop in the bucket when you consider how many hungry people there are out there, but it’s a start. If we all work together, not just one weekend a year but all year, we actually can make a difference.

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