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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wabi-Sabi Christmas

It’s that time again. Christmas.

I have always had a hard time at Christmas. When I was a kid I would always think that this would be the year where we would all get along and there would be a pile of Christmas gifts from Santa waiting for me under the tree. In my fantasy, my Dad would not drink too much and become a morose person lecturing us on how “We did not know what it was like” to grow up poor. My Mom and Sisters were okay and we all tried to make it through with no damage done. Thankfully, we are all bookworms so a few new books in each of our hands and we would retreat to our neutral corners. Nancy Drew saved the day.

 
I would open a few gifts, maybe a game or two along with some socks and batteries in my stocking. I laugh now thinking about getting batteries, but you know… that is kind of crucial to the whole new toy thing working out. I have memories of driving around our little town looking for a place that would be open so that we could get batteries to fire up the new Merlin game. Thank you, Holiday gas station.

 
Later in the day I would call my best friend, Elaine, and I would ask her, “What did you get?” and she would say, “Nothing…. What did you get?” I would then reply, “Nothing.” We would then agree to bundle up in our snow pants and meet half way between our houses and go freeze our asses off skating or building snow forts. We did that for many years. One year, Elaine got a diamond necklace for Christmas. It was very pretty. I was jealous. I was also happy for her because she deserved a diamond necklace for Christmas.

 
This year has been a year for changes. My Mom has had a series of health issues and decided to go live in assisted living. It is for the best and I think it increases her chance of surviving to see another Christmas. Earlier this year, I had thought she might not make it to this one. There have been some bumps along the way. These types of changes in life are tough on everybody.

 

 

For my Mom, I am sure it has been difficult. She has been incredibly fortunate to be athletic her entire life. For 88 years she was a rock star. She has always walked many miles, been a great golfer, and just a year or two ago was lifting weights at the gym. That is all gone now. Her heart is broken. Literally. The valves are leaking, and the rhythm has gone haywire. The frustrating thing is that her will is not broken, but the physical parts are not cooperating. She told me a month or two ago that “Getting old sucks.” It is true. Thankfully for her it did not hit until age 89. Still….

 
What happens when the head honcho/matriarch isn’t physically/mentally/emotionally able to boss everybody around? The shit hits the fan. That’s what happens.

 
My Mom has always been a huge influence on me. I am the youngest of three daughters. My Mom has been my Mom/best friend/head shrinker/drill sergeant…. My whole life. I have made most of my biggest decisions in life based on her advice and my desire to please her.

 
When her health began to decline it affected the three daughters in different ways. We failed to communicate and our differences in opinion regarding her health and her care resulted in a major falling out between myself, the Sisters, and Mom. My feelings were hurt, and I was offended to the core of my being. Words were said that can never be forgotten. I felt that no one could hear me or see me. Nothing I said had any value and nothing that I did was appreciated. I was drowning in my despair.

 
I am pretty sure that the Sisters and Mom would argue that I was the asshole and was the one causing the problems… I have thought about it for many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months and I have finally found some peace with the whole thing. I did what I thought was best. I offered up what I could and would have been able to do. Done. It did not work out, but I did the best I could. That has to be enough. It is enough.

 
I know, I know! Merry Christmas, right? Wait, it gets better.

 
So, what happens when you are 48.5 years old and you get pushed out of the nest?

 

You fly. You fly.

 

I have learned a few things these past few months. I have been making some choices. Choices that are all mine. When things get ugly, when times get tough… how are you going to respond? I responded by taking care of myself. I increased my yoga sessions, increased my water intake, cooked some good, healthy meals for myself and tried to go to bed early. I reached out to some old friends. I opened myself up to making some new friends. I made myself available to accept the invitations I had been declining because I was always going back to my home town and my Mom every weekend. I grew up. I got a life.

 
I set some boundaries. Boundaries for myself and for others. I have forgiven myself for screwing up. I have forgiven others for harsh words and actions. I am entertaining the possibility of mending broken relationships. For me, I cannot and will not pretend that nothing has occurred. That is the easy way out…but not the way out for me. I am wondering if something that has broken in many pieces can ever be repaired? Can it be functional? Can it be better than the original?

 

There is a term in Japanese culture called wabi-sabi.

 

I have a Pinterest board on it. Basically, it is the art of finding beauty in things that are broken. Picture an old tea cup with a crack in it. The crack has been filled in with gold. The tea cup was not thrown away. It was painstakingly repaired, and it is now more than a tea cup- it is a work of art.

 
I was broken. I am being repaired. I am being repaired by the love and kindness of old friends, new friends, and strangers. Is the new GGJ going to be better than the original? I hope so.

 
Last night, I went to Christmas Eve mass with some old friends at their Church. It was a beautiful old Church filled with dark wood, Tiffany stained glass and a massive organ. The service was filled with music. There was a beginning part where the huge organ was playing a funky mix of Christmas carols but with a steam-punk kind of attitude. I pictured a mad person wearing a leather duster and goggles running the huge organ while smoking a cigar. Later, it turned out that the organ player was a sweet little old lady who came out to read the story about Mary having Jesus in a manger. Who knew? She rocked that organ!

 
We were sitting in the pew waiting for the service to start when a young friend came in with his parents. He saw me and said, “There’s Jill” and he sat next to me. His parents ended up sitting one pew up and over. I think perhaps that he thought that they would join us in our pew. I give him credit, he stayed by me. I did not know some of the hymns, but there were a few of the classic Christmas carols. I was singing what I knew… and then I heard his voice join me. The sweetest, clearest 13 year-old voice in my ear.

 
The finale was the best when they turned off the lights. We were holding candles and one by one they were lit. My young friend lit my candle. We sang Silent Night, Holy Night. It was beautiful.

 

Merry Christmas,
GGJ

 

 

 

Doing the Right Thing

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have to get this off my chest.

I had the best weekend with my family.  Watching the Packers beat Seattle was the icing on the cake. But….  I could not  get the images from the Sunday news out of my mind.

What is happening in Syria is wrong. There I said it. Before everybody gets all pissed off – let me explain myself. I don’t have an answer to the problem. It’s a very difficult and scary situation.

I can only speak for myself but I would imagine that some of you feel the same way.

I am afraid of Muslims. In my head, I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. It’s just that the most recent terrorists have all  been Muslims. That being said, we have had a few of our own… Timothy McVeigh….the Unabomber….and the multiple gunmen who have massacred innocent movie goers and school children… there have been a few.

I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Germans were Nazi’s and not all gun owners are shooters of schoolchildren. In fact, it’s the opposite. Being scared makes it hard to see the forest from the trees…or the trees from the forest.

I was trying to recall some of my history lessons….

When I was partying in New Orleans many years ago we made a pit stop into a museum.  Many historical parts of New Orleans are paved with the original cobblestones. Do you know who laid those bricks?  Slaves? Creoles??  Nope, those bricks were laid by Irish immigrants. They were cheaper than both slaves or Creoles because they had zero guaranteed rights regarding food/water/shelter/hours. Immigrants have long suffered.

World War II was such a bloody and terrible time in World History. From what I remember – the US got involved after we were attacked by Japan.  We didn’t involve ourselves in the genocide of over 6 million Jews until the attack hit home. I read a lot of novels so I can’t be trusted with historical fact- but it is my understanding that the Vatican wasn’t exactly helpful in that time either. Hmmm…. I think Pope Francis is a totally different cat – in a good way.

From what I gather, Syria is conducting genocide on its people.  It’s not like they have a choice. If I had to choose to either die by chemical warfare or bombings or other horrible means…. I would start walking.  I would hope that if someone was able that they would help me.

It’s not like we as Americans are having to face 3 millions refugees parked at the front gate. The Atlantic Ocean is too big and rough… the dinghy’s aren’t going to make it. (If you need to see a scary Atlantic Ocean movie, watch The Perfect Storm)  I haven’t seen a lot of refugees talking about a desire to get to the US. They want to get to Germany.

After tossing and turning all night, I came up with a plan that makes me feel a little better. Today I made a contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

I am not going to wait for the government. (When we need to wait and trust the government to do the right thing…. something is not quite right. I  am not completely comfortable with that on a number of levels.)

I know there are administration fees and that only 93.7%  of the funds will go to helping people. That’s okay, I gave enough that I think it will still help someone.

People are worried that ISIS has infiltrated the refugees and has a plan to infiltrate the US. It probably has already happened. It is my opinion that we have a far greater risk of creating terrorists by putting refugees in fenced- in areas and blasting them with tear gas. If that happened to me, I would never forget it.  On the other hand, if someone gave me food and water and a safe place to sleep….. I would never forget that either. I want to be on that team.

Giving money is easy. Let me tell you how I am financing it. Pantry

I am having a lean year with having just purchased a new business. But, I am not completely broke. I looked in my vehicle and in my loose change jar. In my purse alone I had almost $37.00. That is the money I usually put in my Las Vegas trip jar. I thought I could do better than that so I decided to eat out of my existing pantry and freezer tonight. I have to wrap this up because my ham and scalloped potatoes are done.  Tomorrow I am going to make chicken piccata and watch the premiere of NCIS. Normally, I would get some Thai take out while hoping that Leroy Gethro Gibbs survives and that Tony and Ziva get together.  There, that is my donation.

I don’t know if it will make a difference. I hope so.

This blog is only a hobby for me. I have never asked anyone to share my stories  or tried to profit from it.  This time, I am going to ask my friends and family and readers to share it ….if they know someone who may be willing or able to help. There are other organizations that are trying to help… Unicef comes to mind as well. I picked the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) because it was easy to access and donate. Whatever you can do and feel good about is the goal. Let’s try to move the dial on this one.

Thank you.

GGJ

I Never Thought I’d Raise a Heathen

My handbag with Pope Francis blessed rosary.
My handbag with Pope Francis blessed rosary.

I had a near miss this week.

It was my late night at work and I was headed home. I drive this route endlessly and can do it in my sleep. I saw the road work ahead signs as I entered the on ramp. Little did I know and apparently nobody else did either that what is usually three lanes of traffic very quickly became one. There were all sorts of cars swerving, breaking, weaving as fast cars and slower cars all got merged…it could have been the Big One. Here’s the interesting part. We all miraculously merged and kept going on our way.

I am pretty sure it was divine intervention. I was saying to myself, “thank you, thank you, thank you Lord.” Was it because I had my rosary blessed by Pope Francis in my purse?

How did a rosary blessed by Pope Francis end up in my purse?

It’s a long story…

The first eighteen years of my life I attended Catholic Church every Sunday, sitting in the first or second pew with my Mom and sisters. Every Wednesday I would attend CCD with all of the other Catholic kids and we would learn about God stuff. It was tricky because there are some really good God stories, but then there are all the rules and regulations. It was hard to go “all in” because it just seemed so 16th century. But we were a tight bunch and there were some perks. In gym class when the teachers forced us to choose teams (barbaric) I would certainly have been chosen last because I suck at anything to do with catching or throwing or hitting a ball, but because of my CCD connection I would usually get chosen third from the end instead.

One time I had to miss church with the family so my Mom dropped me off to go to Mass by myself at a different time. I waited for her to leave and then walked over to my friend Elaine’s family drug store and had a soda at the soda fountain and hung out. My Mom walked into the drugstore. Busted! She just said, “Let’s go.” Everyone knew I was in big trouble. The whole day my Mom said nothing to me. And I mean nothing. Silent treatment. Brutal. I am more of a hot blooded angry person and I just let it out and everyone knows why I am mad and how it could be fixed. Not my Mom. Silence. Later that night, I went into the kitchen to find her. She was washing dishes and crying. She said to me, “I never thought I’d raise a heathen.” Ouch! I felt awful, apologized, cried and still feel bad 35 years later.

There was some kind of funny stuff associated with growing up Catholic. My sisters and I would play “Communion.” My Mom makes these really good sliced cucumbers in vinegar and we would say, “Body of Christ” and “Amen” and then place the cucumber on the persons tongue. We were weird.

I had non-Catholic friends who wanted to taste the Communion wafer. Sometimes they would go to Church with me and I would save my communion wafer and we would split it. There is nothing like the cardboard wafer being stuck to the roof of your mouth and you can’t pick at it so you wait for it to melt.

I liked other religions too. I would sometimes go with a friend to the synagogue. I remember the Rabbi and his brother Howard. Rabbi Mel did a great talk and used modern day events from Newsweek to make his point. I was impressed. Plus, we always went to Burger King afterward and since there wasn’t one in our little town… it was awesome! I still like those chicken sandwiches even though they are terrible nutrition wise.

My first year home from college I tended bar and worked Fri and Saturday nights, and Sunday days. (The dreaded 2-10 shift. Seriously people, it’s time to go home around 6pm.) Anyway, Church was kind of out and my Mom let it go.

So over the next 25 years it’s kind of been a hit or miss thing with going to Church.

I have been to a few that were kind of interesting and left a lasting impression.

I went to an Episcopalian Church in Omaha, Nebraska with some good friends. It was very similar to the Catholic Church with a modern vibe. I knew all of the songs. Plus, they still had the kneelers which I really liked. The whole kneeling thing is a great short term suffering experiment. It is both a physical fitness contest and a test of wills. My butt did not hit the pew.

When I lived in Oshkosh, Wisconsin I went to the First Congressional Church with Pastors Carol and Ralph DiBasio-Sayder. They were really good speakers. I remember a sermon where Pastor Ralph was discussing the film Lars and the Real Girl. If you get a chance, it’s on Netflix, check it out. It is a quirky little film about community, acceptance, friendship and the power of love. Plus, Ryan Gosling is in it.

Years later I would attend a funeral for a young person who had died very suddenly and tragically. Pastor Ralph spoke at the service and was very compassionate and caring. I wept like a baby. I think he is a person who really gets it.

Somewhere along the line I found a few Saints who have really helped me along the way. For those of you who are reading my blog you know I have bought and sold a few houses along the way. Saint Joseph has helped me each time. He is on loan right now, but usually he is on the shelf with Saint Rita. Saint Rita is the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes. So, of course I identified with her immediately. She has really helped me out over the years.

The icon on the shelf was given to me by my beloved Aunt Ginny in 1998, the year I bought my first home. It hung for 15 years in her home in Winthrop, WA and has a faded edge from where the sun hit it. It is the ‘Black Madonna’: Our Lady of Czechoslovakia (the original dating back to the year 1382.) It is dark in color from the years of candles burning in front of it. The slashes on her face were made by a soldier during a war. It is said that the soldier dropped dead after his sword hit the image.

Serious mojo.

Back to the rosary. I visited the Vatican in the late nineties. I wanted to get a blessed rosary but at the time I was broke and thought that it was probably a whim anyway. This past winter a retired optometrist who fills in sometimes went on an Italy trip. He came back with rosaries for the entire staff. One of the opticians is not religious in any way and thought that I would like it better so she tried to give it to me. I was very resistant because it wasn’t meant for me. She insisted. So, I accepted it and Pope Francis has been with me since. The doctor heard about the gift and insisted I keep it and also insisted the optician accept one too! We both did.

So far this year Pope Francis and I have been to a Pink concert, Mexico, a major road trip to Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA as well as the every- day driving I do…. I really like having him with me.

He is a cool cat. He must be driving his handlers crazy. I love that too.

My near miss occurred on Wednesday. Yesterday two dear friends of mine very narrowly missed being severely injured. Tonight is the night I say a few of my Saint Rita’s and am thankful for being alive and well.

And that is the story of Gypsy Girl Jilly and the Pope Francis rosary.