The Road To Heaven

I woke up this morning. That was a good start, and it got even better. It was early- 5:24am to be exact. No alarm, my sweet puppy Stevie Nicks lying peacefully by my side. I feel blessed, excited and dare I say it… content?

It’s a good feeling. One I haven’t felt in a while. Welcome back, old friend.

In March of 2020 I closed my optical shoppe for 9 weeks. It was unexpected, both mentally and emotionally crushing, and physically isolating.

For the last 2.5 years I had worked in the downstairs portion of my historic building and lived upstairs in a super cute remodeled historic apartment. I was technically living alone, but not a lonely person. In 2019, I treated the apartment like a condo and basically left almost every weekend to travel both near and far. It was fantastic and I was on a roll. The practice was thriving, and I was thriving. Full stop.

Covid hit. Office closed. I wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, so I stayed home. Alone. I went to the grocery store once a month. I watched CNN constantly. I tried doing the 9 jigsaw puzzles I had sent over from the game store across the street. I think I managed to complete two puzzles in 9 weeks. I had no energy, no creativity.

The one thing I did manage to do was cook and bake out of my pantry. I made some good stuff, ate it, and gained 8 pounds in 9 weeks. Uh oh. Looking back on it now, I was doing a dance with a bad date called depression.  I had no idea.

Luckily, a dear friend noticed I was losing it. She insisted I visit her. She was in a COVID bubble, I was in a COVID bubble… we should be COVID bubbles together. I fretted about it and finally gave in. I visited and we cooked and laughed, and I managed to find a few pieces of her jigsaw puzzle. We walked her rural road. I went to visit her several times over the next month or two. Depression started to lift. Thank you, dear friend.

The office was closed, but we started to get some orders for contact lenses. My staff took turns meeting me at the office every few days to send off orders. We masked and stayed apart. It was a saving grace for me. We shared stories about lockdown. It gave me perspective. I realized that being alone during a lockdown can be easier than being in lockdown with others. There are two sides to every coin.

The office opened 9 weeks later. It was a beautiful thing and still is. My team and I did everything we could to maintain safer standards. Patients did their part- they came in and were willing to do the COVID shuffle. My schedule was full. I have since seen over a thousand patients, and I can count on one hand the number of issues we had regarding COVID policy. Of course, I remember those incidents. When I do the math- statistically it was a minute percentage. This helps me to remember… most people are fundamentally good, kind, and willing to help.  

For me, the hardest part is accepting help. It’s a flaw. I blame it on my upbringing, which is what I do whenever I face issues about myself that I don’t like.  The problem with blaming everything on your upbringing is that somewhere around age 30 it gets old and worn out and your friends and family get sick and tired of it. Around age 50, the people you like to blame for your issues are dead. Your excuse is gone for good. Time to take a good look in the mirror and figure some stuff out.

I am learning. I am learning how to ask for help, accept help and be thankful for it.

Fast forward 3 months. I’m working hard now. Busier than ever. Still a little lonely as things are not back to ok with COVID. No vaccination yet. I’m starting to have COVID envy. I have a few friends and family that got COVID and recovered and are going out to dinner. Son of a bitch.

I would love to go out to dinner and be served. I don’t care what it is. If someone were to ask me, “Ma’am would you like another?” I would respond immediately, “Yes, please.” I don’t care what it is. I just want to be pampered and waited on. If I had my choose-it’s I would prefer an VO press Old Fashioned with pickled mushrooms, but I would settle for a cold Bud Light. Envy. Envy- the green-eyed girl. Wanting what other people have is usually a recipe for disaster. This includes medical conditions, choice of spouse and children, and bank accounts.

Fast forward another 6-7 months. I’ve now acquired a darling black lab puppy named Stevie Nicks. She is my new best friend and is living up to her name. She is beautiful, independent, maybe a little wild and very loving. She was an unexpected addition to my life, and I will be forever grateful. Stevie and I had some crazy times living upstairs and trying to get potty trained in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.

Stevie- Love At First Sight
Stevie in the window seat with a gigantic bone

 Stevie and I went downstairs every two hours and walked around the little park next to my office. In my work clothes, in my yoga pants, in my pjs and robe! The neighborhood folks got used to it and we made friends.

I had been looking for a little house to buy for some time. If you have been paying attention to the real estate market, you will know that it’s a real challenge to find a house. I looked, looked, and looked some more. Just when I gave up… yep, my dream house found me. I bought it. Stevie has a yard and I have a kitchen. We are happy clams. It’s perfect, and I didn’t change a thing. Timing is everything.

Stevie in the garden with poppies growing every which way.

The tricky part is how to handle life when life’s timing isn’t in sync with my timing. There are many books and memes and prayers that address this very issue. A friend sent me a little meme during the pandemic. I can’t remember the whole thing… but it basically said, “You are Loved.” There was some other stuff I can’t remember, and “You are Enough.” Those two things I remember. I hope you remember them too.

Life has slowly returned to almost normal. I’ve been socializing a bit and seeing friends. I am one of the youngest people in my group. Some of the others are a bit older and starting to retire. I’ve been around when the talk turns to retirement and money. I was feeling bad about it. I am late to that game. I spent most of my youth and adolescence screwing around. I did what I was told by my parents, went to the same college as Dad and The Sisters. I stayed in the same dormitory, I took the same classes, went to the same underage bars. Haha! I was young, naïve, and not particularly driven. I mostly liked to have fun. I was pretty good at it, but that doesn’t really show well on a resume or add to the retirement account.

Drinking beer and grilling hot dogs for a Badger Game. I’m not sure the year…1991?
I lived in a shack! I’m on the right. That was a fun time. Age 22. Clark, CO.
Fun on the Chief Waupaca with one of The Sisters. We went to many of these parties. This was early in the evening before anything too crazy occurred. We are all still wearing all of our clothes, so that is how I know. I am not sure of the year. 1990’s but that’s all I am sure of- that was a crazy decade.

Somehow it all worked out and now I am structured and have a roof over my head and a decent job, so I won’t go stick my head in the oven. That being said, let’s spend a moment to think about life. It does require a certain amount of intention, or things tend to go haywire. Mom used to say, “The road to Heaven is paved with good intentions.” To be honest, I never gave it much thought. That has apparently gotten me to my current state of being.

Heaven and Hell. Decision, decisions decisions…I always thought the sinners had more fun and it might be worth it. I also think the road to Hell might be paved by kombucha! What?? Seriously, I was just at the new co-op and tried some and there is no amount of Tito’s that can fix it. I promptly made a nice cup of French press coffee to go with my Thunderbird Bakery pain au chocolat and life improved dramatically. I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Intention. Intention deserves a bit more thought.

Never underestimate the power of a good cup of coffee and pastry. Worth the indulgence.

I spent some time thinking about it and determined that for me- I want to work. For one thing, Anderson’s live a long time. Mom made it to 90 and Grandma A made it to 103! That’s a lot of years to finance. I didn’t do so hot when I wasn’t working during the shut-down. It only takes an hour or two to work out and clean your house and then what? There are a lot of hours in the day. So, I need to figure how I want to work. I’ve given it some thought.

I don’t want to work like a crazy person and be stressed out. I want to work and have a balanced personal life. I want to like my patients and staff. I want to feel valued. I want to be interested in what I do. That’s a lot of wants. I will need to make a few changes.

There is never a good time to change. I’m looking at it as a positive because I am choosing to change instead of having change forced on me. There is a difference. Let me provide an example.

About 15 years ago I worked for a doctor in his practice. I was miserable. The terms weren’t as we discussed. I tried to communicate and negotiate for a tolerable and fair situation. No go. I finally quit. Then, and only then did the doctor want to communicate and negotiate. Too late, pal. “Freedom’s just a word for nothing left to lose.” Thank you, Bobby McGee. It was a hard change. It cost me in many ways… the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner.

Good change is what I am trying to achieve. I have changed my work schedule and I am entertaining the idea of adding a sub-specialty to my practice that I find interesting. There will be some short-term pain. I am doing my due diligence and not jumping into anything without a plan. This is progress, friends. In the past I would have jumped both feet forward off the cliff with no plan. I still plan to jump, but I will be wearing a parachute, just in case. Progress.

I have a friend who is very strong mentally. He’s got a good relationship with his wife and children, works hard, is physically fit, and likes to have fun. Overall, a balanced person. One time when I was complaining about something he said, “There are facts, and there are excuses.” That shut me up.

Don’t complain about being fat if you haven’t done anything to not be fat. Don’t complain about not having enough money if all you’ve done is go out and spend money. Don’t complain about being bored it you made no effort to connect with people and make plans. Don’t complain about your house being dirty if you haven’t done your part to keep it clean.  

I now use that statement in my head to help me control my actions and emotions. I used it two days ago. I turned my apartment into an Airbnb. It took a bit longer than expected to get ready, but it has turned out great. I had it booked out months ago for the big summer event in town, EAA Airventure. Every hotel is booked solid for 30 miles. It’s a money maker. Two days ago, my renter cancelled at the last minute because her teenage son and adult daughter contracted COVID.  The show starts in two days. I’m screwed. I was bummed out. Then I applied my new thinking. There are facts, and there are excuses. The fact is, I did my part. The apartment is clean and ready to go. I kept my end of the bargain. Done. Stuff happens, whether it’s COVID or something else. It doesn’t matter what happened to change the trip. It’s out of my control. It’s done. Once I got my head around the situation, I felt better. It’s a disappointment, but in the grand scheme of things not a deal breaker. Mental fitness. It’s a game changer.

The other night I went on a boat ride across Lake Winnebago. The water was smooth as glass. It was a beautiful evening. We ate at a tiny restaurant by the water. This spot is known for it’s beautiful sunsets and we were expecting a treat.

The restaurant was struggling to serve the patrons. There was very little staffing. We were served by children- literally- age 10 if not younger. Nothing came out as ordered. But, it was okay because you can’t expect children to know how to be servers at restaurants. Clouds were coming in and the wind was picking up. There was no sunset. I paid the bill and left a huge tip.

We had jackets and foul weather gear. The ride home was bumpy. I stood up the whole way, holding onto the railing and using my knees as shock absorbers. It wasn’t exactly a fun ride home, but it was exhilarating. I’ve got a good grip. We were all laughing and shrieking as we hit the big waves. It’s good to be with people who can laugh when things get dicey. The boat and captain were solid. I had faith we would get home in one piece. Ironically, we aim for the lights of the insane asylum to find our way home. That also seems appropriate for my life. It’s the journey, not the destination.

This is a good sunset from the same place we were the other night. No sunset that night. Stormy weather.

GGJ

Push, Pull

Twenty-five years ago, I went kayaking as part of a group outing. I had kayaked a few times on fresh-water lakes in Wisconsin but had never experienced the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.  It was a bit daunting to launch into the cold water, starting off in a sheltered bay and heading out into the big blue.

Luckily, we had a good leader. Micah. He taught us the basics, how to get in and out of an overturned kayak in cold water, how to paddle. This basic instruction has turned out to be quite handy.

Tidbit #1:  You will need to paddle back. Do not blow your wad outbound, you need to make it back to shore. (Your guide is NOT going to drag your sorry ass back!) Pace yourself. This is especially important if you are stupid enough to go into deep water on your own. There is no guide to drag your sorry ass home. It was nice knowing you.

Tidbit #2:  Master your paddling technique. I was struggling with my paddle, trying to pull the oar to me to try to get somewhere. Micah pointed out to me that it is much easier to push the paddle away. A person can push all day, while pulling will exhaust a person very quickly. I use this technique every time I paddle a kayak and it works beautifully. Push, push, push… listen to the water glide past your boat.

I am so glad I figured out that pushing is easier than pulling. Pulling gives you blisters.

Pushing and pulling is not just for kayaking.

Over the years, I have had a several different positions in my career. Years ago, I had switched to a new clinic with expectations of improved hours, pay and professional satisfaction. A year and a half later, it was not as expected or promised. Several meetings with management had produced no change.

After a bit of anguish, I quit my job. It was terrible but afterward I felt a sense of calm. The manager asked me how I had decided to quit and out of the blue I quoted Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobby McGee, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…”  

The manager smiled. She got me. I moved on. They had a hard time replacing me and lost more money than they would have if they had worked it out with me.

On that occasion, I would say that I got pushed. I needed a push. I think management thought they were pulling me into line, but what happened is that they pushed me a little too hard and I returned the favor by jumping overboard.

Speaking of jumping overboard- remember Jaws? That movie has scarred me for life. “We need a bigger boat.” Or not.

I have had the experience of paddling both a one-man boat and a two-man boat. Now that is a terrific experiment. I recommend it.

My Sister and I took a two-man kayak into Monterey Bay. It was a delightful trip and we saw a baby seal get born. It was amazing, until our guide yelled, “Paddle!” The baby seal was getting too close to our boat and we had to maintain a proper distance. We paddled and got to a safe distance. Whew.  The guide told us to follow him.

So, I started paddling. I was paddling hard and making no progress. I looked back and my sister had her paddle dug in to keep us where we were… she had not heard the new directions and was keeping us steady.

I wanted to thump her on the head with my paddle. I had exhausted myself! For naught!

Note to self… when you are in the same boat make sure you know where you are going and make sure both people are paddling. For me, the better choice is to paddle my own boat. It only took me 50 years to figure that one out.

It is not just me in case you were wondering.

On a different trip about a decade later, I was invited to go a group kayaking tour of Ding Darling Nature Preserve in Florida. It was mostly a couple’s thing, but my friend who invited me said there were two single boats and I would have one and her boyfriend would paddle the other one. The other boats had a variety of sisters or married couples put together in boats. She apologized that I would have to paddle alone. I told her I would be more than happy to go it alone.

The boyfriend and I were the only ones who enjoyed the trip.

The rest of the group came out of the water ready to kill. It is not easy to paddle in tandem. I was paddling around and easily able to navigate the boat and glide through the water. I saw mangroves and birds and other lovely things. I could go close to the shore or out into the middle of the stream. Towards the end, I was ahead of everyone. I waited at a buoy.

One couple caught up to me and the husband said, “We beat everyone!” I laughed and said, “Not everyone!”  He gave me the evil eye. I could tell that from his point of view the little girl alone in her boat did not count. Asshole.

Twenty years later…

I am still pushing. I occasionally regress into pulling and wear myself out. It happened a bit this year. The pandemic has not been kind to me. My profession was impacted by the pandemic and it has been a struggle to keep it together. Quite a few of my colleagues are retiring. I am too young, so that is not an option for me. In a way, I think that is good because when the only option is to keep going… you keep going.

I became a bit too socially isolated and danced with depression. Luckily, my friends and family recognized that I was losing it and brought me back to sanity.

I find it ironic, that I crave time for myself and for my creative pursuits but at the end of the day I require social interaction. Who knew? Now, I know. I also need to exercise daily, and I now recognize that working is good for me. I need a sense of purpose and do not do well when I have too much time on my hands.

“Too thinky” one friend would say. (“No thinky” is also bad…but that is for another story which ends with a person who shall not be named doing the walk of shame with her bra in her pocket.)

I often walk with my Sister, the same one I wanted to whack with my kayak paddle.

We talk about many things on our long walks. We talk about hopes and dreams, we talk about work and day to day minutiae, we talk about how to navigate life.

We are back in our kayak. Only this time, we each have our own kayak and paddle together. Sometimes we are side by side and sometimes one of us leads. It goes back and forth. On a rare occasion, one of us will pull the other one. That kind of pulling, I do not mind. The rope is strong. It will not break.

GGJ

*This story was inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsberg who passed away yesterday. I could not sleep so I wrote this story. This one’s for Ruth.

Bad Cupcake

Here’s a little funny for Sunday morning….

Last weekend I made a super yummy ultimate chocolate bundt cake – which used buttermilk in the recipe. I bought a big jug of buttermilk to make the cake. I have a bunch left….so I figured…why not just make it the same way, forget the chocolate in the batter and make cupcakes. Well, folks…. it doesn’t work that way.

My first batch of cupcakes overflowed the pans and proceeded to bake on the bottom of my oven. Oopsie. I tried again with a different pan, didn’t fill as high and thought- this just might work… until I took them out of the oven and watched them go -poof- and deflate into themselves. Argh.

At that point I said bad words and left to go watch golf and take a nap. Then I was hungry for a snack. So, I ate the deflated cupcake. It looked like heck, but tasted pretty good.

Today I made a half batch of chocolate icing and filled in the divet… frosting covers a multitude of sins.

So, anyway- I still like the batter and I still have buttermilk… so what’s a girl to do??? Next batch- I am going to omit the vanilla and add corn and jalepeno peppers and cayenne pepper and bake it in my bread pans. I will keep you posted.

Sometimes, when things don’t turn out… it really sucks. Sometimes when things don’t turn out… it might not be as bad as it seems. It’s not what you expected, but it might be just as good in a different way. And who knows… down the road it might turn into something fantastic that could never have happened if the original had turned out.

This is the story of my life. Happy Sunday, friends! XOXO.

GGJ

Mom Jeans

Here’s a little funny:

Today I was getting dressed for work and thought maybe I would wear one of the pairs of jeans that I got from Betty. I call them “my dead Mom jeans.”

Anyway…. I put them on and OMG… they were kind of tight. Immediate despair and depression! I thought bad thoughts about myself.

I put on a different pair of pants and they fit fine, almost loose. Later, I looked at the label. Late in life, Betty got super skinny- downright scrawny!

The jeans were a size lower than what I usually wear… and I could kind of fit into them if I sucked in my gut! Instant mood lift! I wasn’t fat… I was skinny! So, I ate a brownie.

Anyway, just a little funny to illustrate that jean size and body image and all of that bs is for the birds. Have a nice day.

GGJ

P.S. The stitching on the pocket of Levi’s kind of looks like the top of a heart. XOXO Mom

Why?

Why? Remember as a kid, you would ask your parents why they did something and they would try to explain? Finally, they would get sick and tired of all the questions and say, “Because, kid. There is no why, it just is.”

That’s how it is with my writing. I don’t know why I do it- it just is.

People often seem surprised when I tell them that I write stories. They ask me if I hope to make money by writing books so that I don’t have to be an optometrist anymore. Then they say they would be happy for me, but are going to be bummed out if they have to find a new eye doctor.

I assure them. It’s not going to happen.

Sure, making money from selling books would be great- but that is not why I do it. In fact, sometimes putting it out into the Universe for everyone to read for a price is a bit tortuous. Bearing your soul for .99 cents isn’t for the weak. Even more daring is baring your soul for a limited time free promotion and getting a bad review. It’s the freebies that give the most scalding reviews, by the way.

I write my stories because they make me happy. I have a method. Each year I start thinking about my story when Spring arrives. Time for a new beginning. I think about my story as I go on long walks and watch the trees and flowers bloom and grow.

When November 1st rolls around, I am ready. It just happens to coincide with NaNoWriMo (November is National Novel Writing Month) and I start putting words down on paper and/or screen. It starts. I work on my book for the next few months, finding time between work and the Holidays. I am not a Holidays person, so writing the book helps me get through that difficult time. I am happily sitting at my desk writing while others are dressing up to go and socialize. Two things that aren’t my cup of tea.

And then the day comes. Today is the day this year. I publish my story on Amazon as a Kindle book. I do it because friends and families are excited for me and want to read my story. I do it because it’s easy. I could try to find a publisher or self-publish a real book. But, I am not going to do that. I think it would turn my passion for stories into a job- and I already have one of those.

I will let this story live with me for a few more weeks. If all goes according to plan, Spring will start to show up in little bits and pieces and I will find a new story to tell. It’s early yet, but I can feel that a seed has been sown. It will be fun to see what grows.

GGJ


My stories.

One Chapter

When Grandma Rose invited me over for dinner, I readily accepted. Cooking on The Gypsy was limited and I was getting tired of sandwiches. When I walked in the door I was greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread. “Yum! Something smells good!” I said as I gave Grandma Rose a hug. “I made your favorites, Jac. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. The bread is for you to take home- I am hearing that you are making a lot of sandwiches.” We laughed. I guess maybe I had complained about my sandwich making to Grandpa Joe.

Grandma Rose shooed me into the living room. “Why don’t you practice a bit. Joe and Billy aren’t here yet- they ran into town to get Billy some warmer clothes. He didn’t realize it still gets chilly at night here in Wisconsin. He’s used to California weather.” She laughed. “We’ll get him straightened out yet.” She went back into the kitchen as I went to the piano and opened the keyboard. I ran my fingers lightly over the keys. I hadn’t played for awhile. I sat down and started with some simple warm ups and then started to play some of my favorites. I was singing softly to myself as I played. It felt good.

I was concentrating on my music and working on some pieces I hadn’t played for at least a year. I was stumbling through a few stanzas of Midnight Blue. Melissa Manchester does a good version. Her version uses an electric piano. My version on a regular piano makes it seem like a different song. I used to play this song as part of my set when I used to sing in Madison. It’s a good couples song, good for late at night.

All of a sudden, I realized that someone was singing harmony. I looked up to find Billy Richards standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He was wearing a brand new blue Sampson’s sweatshirt. They must have stopped by to see Amy. “Hi. Nice sweatshirt. ” I said as I stopped playing. “Hi. Thanks. I got three in different colors. I’ve been freezing my ass off. ” He said back. “Don’t stop playing. You almost have it. Scoot over.” He came and sat next to me and pointed out a few things on the sheet music. “I think this is where you are getting hung up.” He showed me how he would play it. I practiced a few times and finally got it. We played and sang the entire song. It wasn’t half bad.

Grandma Rose called, “Dinner’s ready, kids.” Billy and I got up and went into the kitchen. Grandpa Joe was already sitting at his spot at the table. Billy and I sat down. I was in my usual spot and Billy went straight to the other side of the table, so I got the impression that was his usual seat. That was where Mick used to sit. Grandpa Joe said a quick prayer and we got to eating. It was delicious. We all ate the first few bites in silence. That is a sign of a good meal. After a bit, Billy started to tell us funny and interesting stories about his life and also asked about our lives. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Rose told the story about how they met and got married. That’s a good story. I didn’t say much.

Towards the end of the meal, both Billy and I told Grandma Rose it was the best meatloaf we had ever had. We meant it. “That’s because you both are starving yourselves!” Grandma Rose exclaimed. Billy laughed. “That’s true… I used to just drink instead of eat. I am going to have to figure out how to not drink anymore while trying to not get fat from eating Rose’s food. I have a rock star figure to maintain.” I smiled. I was surprised how open Billy was about his drinking.

“I’m not trying to starve myself, I just haven’t been very hungry.” I confessed. Everybody looked at me. “Do you know what’s going on?” I asked Billy. He nodded. “Yes, I am sorry to hear it. I don’t know the gory details, but I got the gist. I am sorry that is happening to you Jac, you are in a tough spot. That’s the kind of thing that usually happens to me! If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.”

I was getting a little choked up. I think everyone could tell. I got up to clear the table. “Billy, you can help by going into the living room and playing a few songs while Grandma Rose and I get the kitchen cleaned up. Grandpa Joe will keep you company.” Billy and Grandpa Joe went into the living room. I stood at the kitchen sink with my hands in the hot, sudsy water and washed dishes. Grandma Rose stood next to me and dried. I bowed my head and cried a few tears.

All these changes were a lot to absorb. Mick had a son, Billy was sitting in Mick’s spot at the table… I was living on a boat and playing music with a rock star. Grandma Rose let me cry. She understood. Billy played a bunch of songs from his Greatest Hits album. He kept it light, playing only the happy songs. I think he knew I needed it.

The rest of the evening was spent playing music. Billy brought down his guitar and played for us. He played a bunch of stuff… his famous songs, plus some old time tunes that everybody knows. Grandma Rose played as well. It was clear to me that they had played together before – they were good. It was a nice evening. I was tired though, and before long I just laid down on the floor, put a sofa cushion under my head and listened to Billy. Paulie came over and circled three times and laid down next to me.

Before I knew it, it was 10:30 and it was time for everyone to go to bed. Grandma Rose wanted me to stay, but I told her I would be fine. Paulie and I jumped into my Volvo and headed back to the marina. I swung into my parking spot at the marina and Paulie and I walked up the dock to The Gypsy.

As I stepped onto the deck I could see Smitty McCoy flashing his flashlight three times from his upstairs deck. I didn’t have a light, so I yelled, “Goodnight Smitty!” He yelled back, “Goodnight Jac. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” Someone from a few docks away yelled, “Get a room!” I could hear Smitty laugh. I smiled, shook my head and went below deck with Paulie.

Advanced Chemistry

Book Cover Advanced Chemistry

I published my first book. It is a “cozy mystery” that is very loosely based on my life.  Don’t worry, old friends.  I made up most of the juicy stuff. Most of it. Not all of it! Someone had to die and I didn’t have the heart to kill any of my real friends so the dead people are all fake people. There are some nods to people both dead and alive who have made my life interesting.  It is a love story in more ways than one. It’s a nod to the hometown I grew up in, the town I live in now… and most importantly the friendships and relationships that have molded my life.

The years are going by fast for me now. Looking back into my early twenties and writing a story based on those years was a blast. The twenties are such a crazy time… trying to figure out what to do with your life…  managing the expectations of others… and maybe not really knowing what to do… somehow it all gets sorted out.  Those decisions turn out to be important and pretty much dictate how life is going to go… so it’s not without risk.  This book made me think about the decisions I have made in my life and what the end result turned out to be. I felt both happy and sad.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda….

I published it on Amazon. I don’t expect to make a ton of money on the book… I just wanted to try to write a book. That is something I have wanted to do for many, many years. In my high school year book- my ambition was to write smut books! That is so funny to me now.  I think I just like to make up stories and see where they go.

This book was written from August 2017- February 2018.  I walked many miles along the lakeshore plotting of good ways to kill people.  I attended the Writers Policy Academy in Green Bay, WI last summer and it was in the arson investigation class that my first big idea for the book came to me.  Actually, it was presented to me in class and I twisted and turned the idea.  Thank you WPA.  I am attending again this summer. I have a bunch of questions to ask and I am sure I will get some more good ideas and information.

Lakeshore 1Lakeshore 3Lakeshore 2.JPG

The characters have become friends and I can’t wait to see what happens to them.  Jac Sanders and her best friend Sissy McNamara can’t help but get themselves into trouble! Throw in Sissy’s hot big brother Mick and a German Shepard named Paulie who flunked out of police dog training and you have got…. another story!

Split Personality

I almost changed the name of my blog today.

I read recently that if you are going to be a writer- you have to take yourself seriously and treat yourself like a writer. Huh? The idea being, that if you are going to take the time to write a story, you should have the balls to put your name on it and put it out there. Hiding behind an alter ego is fun but it might also be a cop out. I wasn’t sure if Gypsy Girl Jilly was real or a cop out.

My real name is Jill Anderson. There. I wish I had a neat story about how my Mom decided to name me Jill for some meaningful purpose – but the truth of the matter is that she couldn’t think of anything else. She was reading a magazine in the hospital after just giving birth and read an article about a person named Jill and she decided she liked it. Plus, Anderson is a long last name so she wanted something short so that I could fit my name in the allotted space on documents. Hence, I became Jill Anderson.

Nobody calls me that though. At least not people who know me. My Dad always called me “Jill the Pill”. He used to say I was a pill.  It may not have been a compliment. I was head strong, talkative, independent… pretty much straight out of the womb. I did my own thing from the get go. I don’t recall asking for much advice or permission from my parents when I was a kid. I just did it and either did not get caught or asked for forgiveness on the  occasions I got busted for doing something I shouldn’t have been doing or been somewhere I had no business being. When you are born the last of three girls to parents who are a bit older than regular parents… things happen.

Everybody else calls me Jilly. That is who I really am. Jilly loves dogs, reading, boat rides and adventures. Jilly loves to laugh. She has a soft heart and a long memory. She has the scars to prove it. Mostly, Jilly loves whatever is coming next. She can get antsy if she stays in one place too long or becomes stagnant in her daily life. She is a Gypsy. This is both a blessing and a curse. Being a Gypsy sounds good in theory, but day to day living requires fortitude when it comes to building a career and family…both of those areas have given me a lot of trouble in life.  Forever is a very long time.

I am about half way through my life. You would think that the urge to throw everything into the back of your truck and start driving West would subside. If anything, it gets worse. I am working on some ways to manage the urge to head for the hills. It seems counter-intuitive, but I have been making some changes in my life to become more structured. What?? That seems nuts. (That is GGJ talking.)

I am an optometrist. This May I will have been practicing for 22 years. Can you believe it? Me either. I became an optometrist because I wanted to please my parents and I was good at science and quite frankly I did not know what to do with my life. I was good at school so I kept going to school. People ask me if my passion is “eye stuff” and I say “Nope.” They can’t believe it. I think it is because I act fairly normal at the office.

For 18.5 years I worked as an employee for other doctors or for big corporations. I made a comfortable living and worked with some good people who became friends. I lived in a bunch of different towns and had a couple of houses and/or great apartments.

Eventually, I kind of settled down in my old hometown. I purchased a super cute house with a big yard with a little river running through the back. I spent a lot of time and effort fixing it up.  It was perfect… until one day I came home from working on a Saturday. All of my friends and family were out having fun. I took my beloved dog Macy for a walk. Something happened on that walk. I realized that I would not be able to spend the next 20 years working nights and weekends for someone else. If I was going to work this hard- it had to be for myself. I went home and looked up the For Sale ads for optometry practices in my area.

I found it right away. There was a listing for a small practice in Oshkosh, WI. It was a friend of mine who was retiring. I gave him a buzz. He had another interested party, so I had to act fast. I went to look at the practice the next day and two weeks later I bought it. In hindsight, it was a big decision and a normal person would have thought about it a bit. I am a leaper before looker kind of person. When it works out – its great, but when it doesn’t…well the drop can be a killer. This time, it worked out.

I bought the practice and worked hard to make it my own. Three and a half years later, I find myself being the happiest I have been in a long time. Optometry-wise anyway.  At the office I am Dr. Jill. Monday through Friday I am Dr. Jill.

My personal life has been a little schizoid. That can happen. Recently, I was forced to take a long, hard look at the choices I have made in my personal life. My life hasn’t exactly gone as I had anticipated. No husband or kids. No tattoos. Nothing permanent.

I would love to blame it on other people. Trust me, I have tried. That works for the first 25 years of your life but after that no one cares if your Dad loved you enough or being raised Catholic makes you an chronic sinner and guilt ridden person. At some point, you have to grow up.

I don’t think I ever grew up. Not really.

When did you start making decisions and acting on your own accord? When did you learn how to say “No.”?  When did you learn to walk away from people, places and things that were not good for you? When did you figure out what it was that you really needed to be content?

For me it happened…

It hasn’t totally happened yet. I am working on it.

Time has started to shift for me. In one way it has slowed down…and in another it has sped up.  My axis has shifted and thus the gravitational pull of my tides has changed.  (This is a little woo hoo, but stick with me.)  Even if all else has stayed the same… everything is still different.  Nothing stays the same. No one stays the same. To think it can be that way is…. unrealistic. It is a direct path to disappointment, resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately failure. Failure to communicate, failure to thrive, failure to find peace.

Next year I will be 50 years old. Part of me thinks that it has gone super fast… and another part of me thinks it has taken forever. The old adage is true… time speeds up as you get older. The last ten years of my life has gone much faster than the first ten years of my life. A minute is not a minute, a day is not a day. Someone needs to figure out a new calculation for time.  It’s got to be a fraction equation. I always get confused when you try to multiply or divide fractions. You have to flip everything upside down and backward.

Let’s see… where was I? Oh yes. I am trying to be more structured in an effort to gain freedom.  

I am figuring stuff out. You can’t be a dodo bird airhead your whole life.

A lot of headache and heartache stems from worries about money. I haven’t always been the greatest when it comes to finances. It’s not my thing. But, it should be. So, I now have professional people in my life who help me. I am slowly getting over the fear that I will be homeless and eating cat food when I am old. It’s always there though. It has made me afraid. For a long time, I was afraid to buy a practice. It’s a big investment. Then I did it, and it’s been the best thing for me.

So, now I am taking it a step further. I just bought a building. Instead of paying rent to a stranger, I will be paying the bank to eventually own the building. It will take awhile… it’s a commitment. But, it’s a commitment to myself and my future.

101 High

I used to say I wanted to be free so that I could move away. Back when I was afraid to buy a practice, an old friend/vendor of mine that has known me since year one pointed out that if I wanted to move away I probably would have done so by now- having stayed in a one hour radius of my hometown for the last 18.5 years. That comment pushed me over the edge to buy a practice. He was right.

I am staying. Time to make an office that will grow with me and be comfortable.

The project is expensive and Dr. Jill will admit to feeling some stress and nerves about the whole thing. Gypsy Girl Jilly is loving it and is making friends with the demo guys. She is baking them cookies and can’t wait to get upstairs to rip out the old carpet to see if the wood floors are worth saving. There is an ancient old gas stove upstairs and she wants to keep it. Dr. Jill is hoping there will be enough $$ to get a new stove and new bathtub. GGJ doesn’t care.

Just when I was back to normal finances, I went and bought a building so now I feel broke again. Back to living frugally. Damn. Actually, it not that bad. I have found out a couple of things. Most of the stuff I really like to do is free. I love walking in the woods. That’s free. I love listening to music. That’s mostly free. I love reading. I used to buy a ton of books, but now I download them from the library. That’s free. I love writing little stories. That’s free. That’s a lot of stuff for free. Free- dom. I am getting there.

I am hoping that there will be enough spending money to do some traveling down the road. GGJ loves to see new places. A good road trip once in awhile should do the trick. Years ago when I was making lots more money, I went on a trip to New Orleans and stayed at the Ritz Carlton. It was super fancy and quiet. It was almost too fancy and too quiet. I was afraid to laugh too loud.

I will be satisfied to drive somewhere with the windows open and stay at a Mom and Pop place on the side of the road. Dr. Jill will be nervous about getting killed, but GGJ will see it as an opportunity to gather some story making material.

I can’t quite see my future all the way to the end. I feel pretty good about the next 15 years or so. I am going to be Dr. Jill at the office and GGJ outside of the office. I fought it for a long time. I have finally come to the conclusion that it is both of these sides of myself that make me a complete person. They need each other.

Gypsy Girl Jilly is the one who writes these stores. Therefore, she gets the title.

GGJ