Well I was born in a small town

In the last post, I marveled at “what a world we live in” because I feel like my experiences are now so wide. I want to talk about where I come from, how I grew up, and why I was so eager to leave it behind.

I grew up in a small town, with conservative (although not religiously conservative) parents, and a privileged upbringing. I married a conservative Marine/cop and held my tongue in liberal Northern Virginia for many, many years, most of the time not caring enough about politics one way or the other to make a stink. But my views have changed. They say that if you aren’t liberal when you are young you don’t have a heart and if you aren’t conservative when you are older you don’t have a brain – well, I just screwed that up!

The earliest evidence of this sentiment is from an 1875 French biography by Jules Claretie where, “Mr. [Anselme] Batbie, in a much-celebrated letter, once quoted the Burke paradox in order to account for his bizarre political shifts: ‘He who is not a républicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart; but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.’”

I don’t know why I ended up being the conservative one for so long. I have two sisters that were brought up the same way and I think they have always been more liberal than I. Maybe it’s because I was the oldest? Maybe it’s because I have a powerful sense of personal responsibility (that by the way hasn’t always served me well….) I don’t know. But in just the last half a dozen years or so I have been exposed to more different kinds of views than I have been exposed to in the entire rest of my life. My upbringing was provincial, my schooling was insular, my jobs had a narrow focus (government contracting), and my social circle with my husband at the time reinforced all those things. I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to have broken out.

I grew up in a town SO SMALL. How small was it? I once addressed a letter:

BROWNING

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and put it in the mail to prove to my college friends that my parents would get it. Inside it said “Call when you get this.” Three days later they called. My friends were gobsmacked. But I never understood that I grew up rural. You see, I lived in town. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that it dawned on me that you don’t have an “in town” unless you are rural. Somehow the fact that some of my friends’ addresses were Rural Route Numbers, meaning they didn’t have HOUSE numbers, these were just randomly assigned numbers given by the post office, didn’t sink in. Shit MY HOUSE didn’t have a house number, we used a P.O. Box. When we needed something delivered by UPS (which requires a street address) my mother would give them 1876 and the street name. But 1876 is the placard on our house that the town gave us to indicate when the house was built, it’s NOT a house number. We had no gas stations and no stop lights. The only retail establishment was the “little store” across the alley from my house, and across the street was “The Comm”. The Comm, or Waverly Community House, was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia and held many vital Waverly institutions.

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I had my first job at The Comm. I was the Saturday morning librarian. It was small, I mean really small. People look back fondly on the days of card catalogs – ha! I was expected to know the names of all the patrons who came in to get books. When they chose new books, all they had to do was hand them to me, I’d pop in their pre-stamped due date card and hand them back. After they left, I would write their name on the take-out card and file it away. Occasionally I’d have to do some detective work if I couldn’t come up with a name. I’d try to remember the last book they took out, go find it and see what name was written down on the card. My school bus stop was at The Comm, which means I had a warm, dry place to wait – kids at school hated us for that. We even had a fire in the fireplace going for us on cold snowy mornings. There was a gymnasium (where we could roller skate on Saturdays), a candy store, a post office, a bowling alley, a playground, a thrift store, a dance studio, a daycare, tennis courts, and meeting rooms (my Girl Scout meetings were there.) So you can see, where I lived didn’t seem rural at all. 😉 Of course, we always went to the farm to get our ice cream, but I digress……

When I grew up we had a mall. One. No big box stores, no internet shopping. The “big city” was not somewhere we went very often. As a young girl, I was taught that when we did go, we had to dress up. My dad was an attorney there and I guess my mom (who was from just outside of Philly) didn’t want to embarrass him. Looking back, I really am surprised by all the signs I missed. There was nothing much to do. Not as a kid, not as a teenager, not on a date, surely not as an adult. We had one, yes ONE black kid in my grade. And he wasn’t even there all year. He was the son of migrant workers and was only there seasonally. Even now, the entire minority population is 9% at my old high school, I looked it up. By comparison, where I live now, only 28% of the kids are white! I don’t know the percentage, but I think a lot of kids did not go on to college, but I sure as hell was. I wanted out. Granted I went to a small, mostly white, liberal arts college, but I also never “went back home.” I stayed at my parents’ house the summer after my freshmen year and again after my sophomore year, but then never lived there again.

This might sound like I didn’t like where I grew up. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. I loved the life I was given and I was blessed to have lived it. I regularly went back for visits and thought “What a wonderful place this is.” But it was quickly followed up by “What do people DO here??” I guess I became a big city girl. Which is a good topic for another time. So maybe my transition wasn’t the “expected” young idealist to older establishment, but was more like provincial to worldly. In that light, it makes more sense.  So unlike the song reference in the title, I’m *not* going to be dying in a small town, not me.

My Life Online

Do you believe online relationships are real, honest to goodness friends? I do. I think a lot of people my age think that they have their limits, but I will stand up and say that I can and do embrace them fully.

My first experience with relating to people online began over seven years ago when I joined an online forum for a band I loved. For quite a while I wanted to stay anonymous and protected all aspects of my personal identity – real name, where I lived, family status, etc. But then I really started to get to know these people. We were talking about way more than just the band and their music. I even had two sisters who were also on the forum and it became quite apparent that we were a sister group. So, anonymity started to lessen. A different, more tightly knit online group was formed and we all got to know each other much better. People started meeting each other. In Real Life. This group had people from all over the world – US, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Australia, Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Croatia, Belgium, and I am sure others that I can’t remember. People were traveling to meet each other, to go to shows together, to make lasting friendships. I also started meeting up with people from around the US for concerts of all sorts of bands and people came to me as well. I went to *London* to see a show and stayed with a group of these people! All the while, we were still growing our online friendships. I’ve had subset online groups going where 4 or 5 of us end up talking about particular issues for months (or years in some cases) and some of this migrated to Facebook. Some of these people I will never meet. Some of them I went to Ireland to see when I took my first solo trip in 2014. But either way, they are real and true friends.online

There are other kinds of online relationships too. Twice I have been involved with men online as well. Now don’t be aghast, I met both of them in person first but neither lived local to me. They were short, intense things and although I didn’t see them very often, it was what I needed at the time. I don’t regret being involved with someone where our primary interactions were online, but I can’t say I would do it again.

Which brings me to the newest kind of online relationship I have started. I am currently at a place in my life where professional counseling would do me good. I have been less than impressed with the therapists I have used in the past, but I know some great ones exist (my son’s is a gem!) Knowing that I am comfortable expressing myself in writing (and I really like the idea of being able to think through what I am saying several times before committing to it…) I embarked on an experiment with online counseling. My therapist is someone I email. Any time I want, as often as I want. She emails me back, usually the next day. We’ve even had a live chat session.  I have been surprised by how well it works for me. The ability to “access” someone anytime I want (rather than once a week) is surprisingly valuable. One of the biggest upsides is that I have someone to “talk” to who’s business it is to listen to me. I don’t feel like I am burdening a friend with my sorrows, my troubles, my whining. Sometimes I have to talk about something over and over and over before I get off my butt and do something about it and friends get tired of that. Therapists, not so much. Sure she asks me the tough questions, but if I ask her to back off, she does – for a bit and then circles back later when it is more appropriate. I know there are many people out there who would say that too much is lost when a therapist isn’t face to face with their client. And I agree there are many, many instances where that would be a valid concern. But for me, this seems to be the right level of support and I know that I was willing to try it because I believe in online relationships and know that they are real.

That’s my experience. Fairly varied, all successful in my eyes. What a world this is when my best gig partners live in New York, Austin, and Arizona, I’ve “dated” a man from a far away city, and my therapist is from the mid-west.

New Friends

friendslogoI made a new friend. Do you know how hard that is to do as an adult? Seriously, when was the last time you made a new friend? Someone who was a complete stranger to you 24 hours ago that is now saying “Hey, we should do something together!” Don’t get me wrong, I have made loads of music friends and they are precious to me. But we get together for shows. Frankly, many of them live states, even countries away. I’m talking about a meet me at yoga and then go to lunch new friend. AND THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENED.

I went to a bar down the street that had a friend’s husband’s band playing. The friend never showed because she had vomiting children (such a legit excuse!) But that meant I was alone. A woman liked my freshly done, just-got-it-four-hours-ago tattoo and we started talking. We had some things in common, she took my number, and lo and behold, she texted me and asked if I wanted to join her at yoga on Saturday. I’m not super into yoga, but I am super into people reaching out to me, so I said yes. Turns out the studio had a sweet starter deal and I will be able to try as many classes as I’d like for the next 30 days for only $29! With it only being 5 minutes from my house, I think I will get my money’s worth. Afterward we went to lunch (sushi!!) and got to know each other. She even said “I hope we can be friends.” How cool is that?

Friends are important at all ages and stages of life.  It’s sad that it’s so hard to make new ones as life advances.  Many times, these are the days when things are changing and you need new kinds of people in your life for new kinds of things.  I hope this new friendship works out.

I bought a TV!

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I haven’t had a TV in six years. Well, that’s not exactly true, there is a TV in my house, a huge analogue monstrosity that sits (and fills) a corner in my family room. But if you turn it on, very little comes through and a high whine is emitted that drives my sons crazy. So it doesn’t get turned on. A long time ago, before broadcast TV was digitally transmitted, I watched my TV. Through the air. Via an antenna (the antenna has long since blown out of alignment.) How about that? I was so far ahead of the “cord cutting” trend, that maybe I am even hip – I’m a “never-corder”. I have never had cable (or satellite or Direct TV…) When I lived in my parents’ home, they didn’t have it yet and ever since I have been on my own, I never ponied up for the expense. And yet I love watching TV. I always figured that with as much as I loved TV, I would watch it all the time if I had cable. So, since it would have been a stretch to afford it at many times of my life, it seemed a good idea to avoid it.

So how did I stop watching my TV in the family room in the first place? Over six years ago, my son’s anxiety was in high gear and I had to work very hard to help him manage it. All of a sudden, he could not be on a different floor of the house than an adult, ever. He would check several time before falling asleep to see if someone was there and even woke a few hours after he fell asleep to check again. Since I was the only parent at home at bedtime, I was forced to abandon the TV in the basement level family room. So I began watching things on my laptop. I started with Netflix, added Hulu, and finally Amazon Prime. I’ve been watching like that ever since.

About a month ago, I needed to change some things up, so I decided it was time to buy a TV. I ended up redoing my entire living room to accommodate the TV, and I love it. It’s now light and airy and just gorgeous! New rug, new curtains, repainted tables, new pillows, and a Craigslist find as a TV console table. My wonderful new smart TV came with Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube right on it. I quickly added ChromeCast to the mix and now everything I watch on my laptop can now be slapped up on my TV. I am giddy with excitement. And am watching a little too much TV!

Losing Weight. Again.

Seven years ago I lost a lot of weight. It was the weight that stuck around after I had my second child and no matter what I did, it refused to go anywhere. It made me miserable, but the likelihood was that it stuck around because I was miserable. In early 2009, I had a miraculous turnaround that brought “self” back to me along with music and a whole host of friends. The weight just melted off. I had no idea how or why. When people asked what I had done, all I could respond was “I got happy.” I even kept the weight off, rather easily. For years.

Then menopause kicked me in the face. I have had very few “female problems” throughout my life, and luckily menopause was not a whole lot different. But weight gain? That came thundering on. Honestly, when it started happening, I didn’t even know it was related to hormonal changes. I tried to ignore it. Terrible things were said during my marriage because of my weight and I was terrified of what could happen now. I felt like I tried to get it under control, but like so many years ago, nothing I did seemed to make any difference. For a year and a half I tried, failed, tried again, and failed yet again.

Then all of a sudden, it worked. Did I just get happy again? No. But looking back I can now see that I did do the same thing I did last time, I just didn’t know what I was doing last time. I am now confident that should I ever have a weight issue again, I DO KNOW what to do about it.

So what DID I do? I adopted a low carb high fat eating plan. This is not just a “diet” for me, it is definitely a change in lifestyle. Here’s the thing that is so surprising to me, this way of eating makes me so much less hungry. Same thing happened seven years ago too, that’s how I first recognized that I was probably unconsciously following a low carb diet back when I lost weight the first time. Since I also have several factors that increase my odds of developing diabetes, a long term change like this could literally save my life. I am not a low carb evangelist though. This worked FOR ME; worked really well in fact. And I do advocate trying it if you have weight or blood sugar issues since it may work for for you too. But I agree it’s not for everyone. Since I am now back to lifting weights too, not only am I back down to the weight I was, but I am also much more muscular. So overall, I think I am well ahead.

It’s so unlikely that I would be able to lose weight, and keep it off, not once, but twice at my age. That first time was luck, and honestly, I did get happy. This second time, while I happened to stumble upon the correct method, at least I am aware now. However, barring any future medical mishaps, I plan on maintaining this weight like I maintained it last time for many years to come.

The New Tattoo

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Jimmy working on it
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In context
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Up close

Now come the posts. Probably a couple in quick succession. Partly because it’s new and I am interested and partly because I really need to know what the hell this is going to look like and figure out a decent layout!

Let’s start with today’s big news – I got my third tattoo!! I always knew I was going to get at least one more, having just two was unsettling. I hate even numbers. In fact, I will ended up with either 3, 5, 7, or 11 tattoos in my lifetime. But not nine – nine is not prime, and I can’t have that. My first tattoo was just three years ago and on my foot, which may be one of the most painful places to get one. My artist tried to wave me off, but that’s where I really wanted it. The second is on my ribs, also supposed to be very painful. When he mentioned that, I looked at him, smirked and pointed to my foot. So now it’s on to my forearm. Easy peasy.

It took a long while to decide what I really wanted. I knew where I wanted it, just not what. I’ve been gathering ideas for a good two years and now seemed like the right time to do it. The yin and yang symbol, whatever it means to you, means balance to me. Two sides of one whole, with a little of this in that and a little of that in this. Balance. Just as that first tattoo did then, and continues to now, remind me to live a full life, this one is going to remind me to keep my center and make sure the give and take is even. But I wasn’t interested in a standard yin and yang, I wanted something fancier, a little filigree-like. I took several of the ideas I had gathered to my artist and I was so happy to see that his design was more beautiful than the samples I had given him. I am happy to have this great piece on my arm.

Now for the itching!

What’s this all about?

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Hello Orion….. I have said that potentially 3500 times now. It’s been a constant in my life for a long time. You see, I bought my house over 23 years ago and during the winter months, Orion sits right above my house greeting me as I walk in. I moved into this house alone because the man I was living with was 13 hours away at the federal law enforcement training center; I live in this house alone now because the subsequent marriage didn’t work out. I didn’t have kids then, I do now – but they will be off on their own soon enough. So many things have changed and altered. I have changed and become a different woman over the years. But still, Orion greets me when I arrive home.  The stars are good for that.

I always wondered why someone would write a blog, tell their stories to anyone who happened to click on their page. It seemed so random, so open, so vulnerable. I also firmly believed that no one would have any interest whatsoever in me. Maybe they don’t. But maybe I need to not care. I have spent a lot of time being closed off and not letting many people in because I think people don’t care about me.  But more on that in a later post.

I have recently lost weight again; had some success at the gym, too. I’d really like a place to be proud of that, with pictures. Facebook seems too braggy, but my own blog? That seems a-OK.

I make art. I love live music. I am getting my third tattoo tomorrow.

That’s a good enough start for now.