In the company of women

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I was thinking I was having trouble getting motivated to write during the Yahoo holiday because I’m spoiled by almost instant approval and pay, plus some extra hours I picked up at the day job…but I’m realizing as I sit down tonight working on my interview with The Voice finalist Beverley McClellan, who I interviewed only a couple of days before my phone interview with Grammy nominee Linda Chorney, that talking to two such extraordinary women artists who have carved their own path for so long (aged 42 and 51 respectively) and gone through the adversity of sticking it out as artists without compromising themselves…has completely blown a fuse. Serious overload. In a good way, but…overload. But I’ve flipped the breaker switch and getting back on track now, albeit a bit slowly.

It’s also got me thinking a lot about the importance of the “Hail Mary,” as both sort of did their own versions of them, with last ditch efforts that paid off. I think there is definitely a story in there beyond an interview with one or the other, but about being women who have sacrificed any kind of conventional life to live as an artist, and not giving in to that pressure we all get – but especially women – to settle down and raise a family and give up our “silly dreams.” The key phrase in that sentence being “give up.”

Luckily, for those of us of a certain age, my independent poll conducted that week of exactly three women over 40 shows that 3 out of 3 of those women really don’t give a shit what other people think. The one good thing about getting old.

And speaking of extraordinary women artists of a certain age:

There are things a lot more pathetic than a table for one

There are things a lot more pathetic than a table for one

“Is that a snide smile from the hostess? Did that couple just snicker and whisper behind their napkins? Is there anything more pathetic for a single woman than having to utter the words “Table for One?”

I read that the first time and, to put it bluntly, it really pissed me off. After being single and childless my whole adult life, the idea that someone could really think that dining alone, or going to a movie alone, or simply sitting at a bar and having a cocktail alone was such a  horrible thing and a great shame is beyond ludicrous. Keeping one’s own company and enjoying the pleasures of life without the need to make small talk is, indeed, one of the greatest joys in life.

Really. I swear to you.

So to answer the question: Yes, there are many things more pathetic than a single woman asking for a table for one.

  • Staying at home
  • Making a microwave dinner… or two, cause those suckers sure are small
  • Going through a fast food drive-thru instead of a nice restaurant
  • Eating dinner with a co-worker you really don’t like for the sake of having another pulse at the table, because god knows you don’t spend enough time with co-workers you barely tolerate already
  • Going out on a date with a man you don’t like so you aren’t sitting home alone, because you certainly can’t go out alone on a weekend. What will people think?
  • Using a service that will match you with a woman you don’t even know so you can dine together to avoid “embarrassment” and fill your meals with inane conversation or awkward silence. But you’ll look good to other diners, and that’s all that matters, right?

I should note the author of this piece agrees with me, and was responding to an article on CNN.com about a new “service” that matches up single women with other single women so they don’t have to dine alone.

Really? Is this the high school cafeteria modern businesswoman-style? Junior high?

Fortunately, I learned a long time ago to embrace being able to dine in peace and often find myself smiling to myself just a little at the pure joy of just keeping my own company. And when you do that, the people around probably aren’t wondering why you are such a loser sitting there alone, but envying your freedom from their boring date or their whining kids, and their fear of doing exactly what you’re doing.

You are now an international woman of mystery. Embrace your solitude. And turn that silly notion that it’s a bad thing on its head.

To read the quoted article by Elisa Doucette, visit Forbes.com. You never know, it just might inspire you to run out to that fancy restaurant by yourself. Or even start a whole blog based on the notion that our own company is more than good enough.

Hello stranger…

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It’s been a long time.

There’s a huge gap between posts in here, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Primarily, this is set up as a travel blog, so I suppose my thinking has been if I can’t travel, there’s not much to blog about, right?

There’s been no opportunity to travel because of the extreme poverty I’ve gone through transitioning from a nursing career to freelance writing and work at home. I’m approaching almost two years of being (almost) nursing free and to say the road has been rocky is quite an understatement. I’ve gone through a couple of moves and find myself in Lexington, Kentucky, which has been an incredible surprise, in a good way.

I did briefly do some private duty nursing which is what brought me here, but as soon as I moved into my apartment, my private duty case ended. So I found myself in yet another new city struggling to make ends meet, even in my cheap apartment. There’s been no money for any kind of travel or hardly even eating out, which makes it kinda hard to work on a travel and foodie blog.

But in looking at the greater scheme of things, I’m coming to realize that travel is not simply moving from one place to another geographically. I’ve been on another kind of journey which is far more important than a weekend trip to the mountains or the ocean.

I’ve been on a quest to rediscover my true path of life and what it is that will make me happy. To get healthy again. To see if an old cynic like me can rediscover some sort of spiritual base, even if I’m no fan of organized religion.

In other words, midlife crisis is in full swing.

So even though my life is sorting itself out and I’m about to start making some trips again to write about travel proper, you can expect to see periodic blogs about the big picture. You know what I mean.

Plus those journeys are the kind that don’t require a lot of fancy photography, because on top of the insane bad luck I’ve experienced for almost a year, my camera is currently semi-out of commission with a 50 mm lens stuck on it that won’t come off. Not a lot of options in the photography department with a fixed 50 mm lens stuck on.

I’ll start writing up some dream destinations and reviewing restaurants, so this blog can finally get going again while I pursue… whatever it is I figure out I want in life. They say that all who wander are not lost, but I have to confess I’ve been more lost than wandering for the last year.

You probably know what I’m talking about.

So here we go again trying to relaunch what is really my favorite blog that sort of encompasses all the things I love. This is by far the most personal blog I write. I realize nobody’s reading this as nobody’s reading the blog right now, but if there’s anything I’ve learned after a year of writing professionally, sometimes you just have to sit down and write that shit out. In fact, that’s the only way to do it, and write your way through it.

Pork and (vanilla) beans: Sonic’s peanut butter and bacon shake

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Note how non-nonchalantly Dexter sits near that Sonic milkshake, pretending he doesn’t see that dreamy, creamy, milky goodness. And hoping mother will buy his act and walk away… just give him a few seconds.

Don’t do it kitty. Don’t let Sonic make a good kitty go bad.

So, anyway, when I heard that one of Sonic’s official milkshake flavors this summer is Peanut Butter and Bacon — if you don’t believe me check their sign — I had flashbacks to the Dairy Queen’s of my youth, but mixed with a healthy dose of “Chopped” or “Iron Chef America. Because as Alton Brown always tells us, (altogether now), “Everything’s better with bacon!”

I don’t know about that Alton, but let’s find out.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the shake. While the peanut butter came through loud and clear, the bacon… not so much. Except for a few crunchy chunks at the bottom, I didn’t really taste it at all. But maybe the Sonic workers went easy on it, as they seemed to think I had lost my damn mind ordering that thing.

The bacon didn’t make it better, but it didn’t make it worse, either. And I know at least one taste-tester who definitely gave it his stamp of approval, proclaiming it “Whisker lickin’ good!”

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You can’t go home again, indeed

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I grew up in a small town in Indiana full of cornfields and with a population of about 3,000 in the county seat. I’m thankful I got to grow up in a place where you didn’t have to lock doors and could go walking alone at night, even if I did struggle with trying to blend in, weird child that I was (and weird adult that I am now.) But I don’t regret my decision to pick up and leave that town, where my options were pretty much get married and have kids, or become a waitress or bank teller, or maybe get to keep writing for the weekly newspaper on an unlivable wage.

I often think about how simple life was then and how friendly people were and have often thought of going back. Of being somewhere where I naturally belonged and knew most everyone and could just hang out at the local bar or a pig roast on weekends. But then I get a reminder of the old saying about never being able to go home again. Like I did tonight.

I had “friended” one of my old high school friends on Facebook and had even thought that if I did go back, we would have much in common, as she had traveled and lived much of her life single, although she did eventually have kids. I felt she would be the one person most likely to understand me out of anyone.

We were exchanging comments on a thread on my Facebook about a silly B movie I love and suddenly, she hits me with how she misses her “old” buddy and how I talk too much about me… on my Facebook page (you know, the site I use to promote my writing and try to make a living.)  And just posts this out of the blue when we’re talking about “Sharknado” and Sybian machines of all things:

“you seem superficial alot…I am your biggest fan…your pics fascinate me. I have traveled as well, dined exquisitely, and dreamed…however, I don’t have a bone of conceit in my body”

Blindsided is an understatement. That was about the last person from there I would have expected to make such hurtful comments, and make them publicly without provocation. And one of the few people whose words could actually be hurtful, even 30 or so years after the last time I saw her.

I don’t even know exactly what brought it on… the fact I post links to my work, this blog… I really don’t know.

“I’m a poor photographer and writer struggling to survive. I don’t think I pretend for one minute I live some charmed glamorous life — in fact, I’m trying to convey the opposite: After 20+ years of wiping asses and stressing myself to the point I’d rather put a bullet in my head than work another day as a nurse, I now do a crappy work at home job that barely pays my bills to try to get to a point I can make a living doing something I love. But my life is my own again. I’m sorry I’m not still the same person you knew in high school. I’m sorry I’m not the same passive, weak, let everyone walk all over me person I was then, but you have NO idea what I have been through the last 30 years and no right to judge me.”

Then she kept insisting I didn’t understand and she wasn’t judging me.  She was complimenting me… she loved my “spirit.” Would that be the spirit you just did your best to crush 60 seconds ago? The one you were cutting down and trying to put back in its place even as you were complimenting it?

She only remembers the girl who let everyone walk all over her, and has never met the woman I am now. She thinks of the girl who would never stick up for herself and let everyone kick her. But that girl is gone. That doesn’t mean the one who replaced her is better or worse, and if I had to pick one, probably worse, to tell you the truth. Almost certainly worse, actually.

I don’t know… maybe I am superficial or conceited, but I can’t go back to or give time to people who want to knock me down. Why does it always seem to be women who do that?

And it reminded me again of another friend of mine from high school. A guy who went to a top college and worked in New York in advertising.  After many years he moved back for a simpler life, and threw himself into the community, resurrecting the old Canoe Races event and bringing in more tourism, which is the primary economic product there.  Then I read in back issues of the paper how he was pushed off the committee for it, and he and his wife banned from even volunteering ever again for this event they had poured their heart and soul into, because of complaints from volunteers for the annual event.

The reasons cited? His arrogance. His conceit.

I guess it’s better to get it out and see it now rather than after going back so I can avoid a huge mistake. As Susan J. Matt said in The American Journal of History:

“The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”

Note that last part: “Attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”

It’s a hard lesson to learn and remember, but I guess you really can’t go home again, indeed.

The swanky new office (and house)

The new office, complete with sleeping fur baby.

The new office, complete with sleeping fur baby.

I found a nice little (well, not so little) house in Vicksburg, built around 1898. At almost 2000 sq ft, I can afford the luxury of using the biggest and best bedroom for an office/living room, leaving the front room open for photo work if I ever get back into the swing of that again.

The furniture is courtesy of what was there and some rummaging in one of the back sheds, as my landlords also own the house next door being renovated.  And thank goodness that big TV was still there from when the landlord’s mother lived there. Sweet!

Here are a few more photos: