Lots has happened in the last couple of months. We bought a new car. We put together a supper for a woman who is dying of cancer. I started school. We've had the warmest winter in the history of our county. Our pregnant horse, isn't - pregnant that is. She's still a horse, of course.
So this week - I will update my 101 things list, tell you about going to community college in rural Maine, discuss the farm, and consider rural health care.
The part of The County that I live in is known locally as "The Bible Belt" because of its large population percentage wise of churchgoers and the affect they have on the local area. Alcohol is not served or sold on Sundays in this stretch of The County, for example.
I think its all fine and good to call it The Bible Belt, but I think in reality it should be called The Gossip Belt.
Trust me, I'm getting as good at it as anyone.
I noticed from my first visit to The County (one year ago yesterday, to be exact) that this was the norm, as I imagine it is in most rural areas. When you live in a closed society, so to speak, what is happening within that society is important.
Of course this means that I now know far more than I really ever should have known about the people around me. Because here in The Gossip Belt, it is not uncommon to have piece of gossip - "Can you believe she's cheating on him with so and so?" - lead into the distant past - "I'm not surprised. I remember when she stole Amanda Smith's boyfriend in the 10th Grade by offering to 'tutor him'. She's always been that way." - then into distant family history - "I was told her father used to have two women on the side when he was a trucker going downstate, so its no surprise she turned out this way".
I choose to look at it as a positive. I get to learn everyone's names, for one, because I'm the slow guy at the table. "Who is she?" I'll ask and get the answer - "Oh, you know. She drives the white ford van and has the little kid that always wears a parka, even in Summer. You saw her at Thanksgiving at The Restaurant. She was at the table with the three kids that ate the crayons." So I have decided to use it as my who's who education here.
Of course, that leads me to worry about what is being said about me, naturally. In reality, though, what really can be said about me? I'm half of the only openly gay couple around these parts, so in most people's minds, they already know the "dirtiest" thing they can know about me, although many people still seem to think its odd that I'm not hiding what they must think of as a hush hush secret a little better. Other than that, I think most of the gossip centers around me working for "liberals". I figure it'll take another year or so for the really juicy rumors to start.
I am quickly coming to terms with the fact that, outside of a surprise trip to Florida from The Partner (one can hope), I probably won't see green grass again until May.
Truth be told, there is a certain beauty to the white landscape. And this isn't my first Maine winter, so its not like I'm not used to snow.
But when I lived in Portland, there was small chance of a January thaw, even if only for a day or so. Here, there's a better chance of Joe Lieberman voting with Democrats than there is a mid-winter thaw.
Don't know where I'm going with this. I was just trying to look through the ice encased windows at the blowing snow, and got the realization.
So you know what that means - when I don't know what else to write, I throw it back to you. How do you know its winter where you are?
My latest update on my Day Zero Project of completing 101 things in 1,001 days. Progress is being made.
Completed On The List
#20 - Give an anonymous gift to someone in need - For reasons that are clear, I can't and won't share details, but #20 is complete.
#22 - Plan a surprise overnight getaway - The Partner's birthday and our anniversary are two days apart, so I worked with The Girls at The Restaurant to get his weekend shifts covered, got his family to cover all the farm chores, and surprised him with a trip to Boston! We stayed at the fancy schmancy Nine Zero Hotel right across from Boston Commons, and had a wonderful time.
#50 - Attend a benefit supper - Okay, so this was a pretty easy one, since we seem to have a benefit supper weekly here in The County. But still, it was great to help cook all the food and see all the neighbors come together to help someone in need. Now if I can just get people to think of a national healthcare plan as a better response to our neighbors going broke when they get sick instead of a spaghetti supper. Ah, one thing at a time...
#54 - Decorate for a holiday - The tree is up, the candles are in the window, Mortimer the lighted snowman is out, cards are on the mantle, and knickknacks are on every free space. Yup, I chose Christmas.
#71 - Take and out of state vacation with The Partner - See #22. I thought about this and asked myself if a weekend counts as a vacation. Then I thought about all the work we put in covering everything for just 2 days away and realize that the idea of us ever taking longer than that away probably isn't feasible. So yes, I'm counting it.
#76 - Watch and Academy Award winning movie made before 1968 - "To Kill A Mockingbird". I can't believe I hadn't seen that movie before now. If you haven't, put it in your Netflix queue right now.
#77 - Watch a sunrise - We had friends visit from Portland for a weekend recently, and showing them around and hearing what they had to say renewed my love of home. The first morning, I got up, went into the field and watched the sunrise, and spent a moment basking in gratitude for all I have.
#82 - Attend a board meeting in person - I am on a few boards, and usually have to attend them by phone just because of the travel. Well, one of them happened to be in Bangor just as we were coming back from our Boston trip, so we were able to attend in person. It was nice to see everyone and feel really a part of the conversation.
#83 - Attend an LGBT dance - On our way to Boston, we went to the Bridge Alliance dance in Bangor. We've gone before and we always have a great time. If you live in Northern Maine, consider going to one of these. They're held every month.
#9 - Get my Nexus Card or Passport - I've got the application. Now I just need to get The Partner to go into town so we can get our pictures taken and submit it.
#14 - Enroll in and complete a semester at a community college - I have been accepted to Northern Maine Community College and start classes - Psychology, Ethics, and Speech will be my first three - next month. Even better, they accepted 21 credits from my failed attempt at college in 1987, so I'm already 1/3 of the way to my Associates of Arts!
#23 - Send holiday cards one year by the Saturday after Thanksgiving - I got a lot of them out, but I'm still collecting addresses, so I hope to accomplish this one next year. We'll see.
There are some pretty big projects still on the list, including the writing. I'm still excited about this and it has been a great motivator to keep active. If you want to join me, go to the Day Zero Project website and get started.
I'm learning a unique colloquialism to rural farm areas: the difference between "lunch", "dinner", and "supper".
Now I've had some experience with these terms. My mother came from rural northern Minnesota, and on occasion used the term supper. But mostly she treated this the same way that my grandfather treated his Swedish -- as something to be forgotten. Both were seen as being "less than", for my grandfather, less American, for my mother, less urban.
So here I am again, hearing people talk about lunch at 9pm, dinner at noon, and supper at all kinds of times. So as a service to myself and you, dear reader, I will attempt to put these terms into context.
Lunch - This is a "break meal". My guess is that it came from times when everyone would be out farming and doing chores (or youngsters in school), and they took a meal with them into the fields. I have heard this term used by the snowplow driver here in town for his 8am meal, and by a waitress at The Restaurant for her post work meal at 9pm. The meaning is the same, though. Its a meal taken during a break from working.
Dinner - This is a formal meal, but not necessarily the evening meal. Oftentimes, this is the noon meal. But whenever it is, it is usually the largest meal of the day, and all (or most) of the family is expected to be in attendance. I was quite surprised when on Thanksgiving at The Restaurant we filled our Thanksgiving Dinner seatings at noon & 2pm, but had no takers for later. I grew up with the concept that the largest meal of the day was always the evening meal. I now know better.
Supper - This is the less formal meal. It can be considered the "other meal" from what I can tell. This is larger than a snack, but not necessarily by much, and isn't necessarily taken as a family. I've noticed that people will have sandwiches or soups as this meal. This may be taking into account the reality of rural life that family members often work on different schedules.
So, I'm learning something new. If you have more input on this, I'd love to hear it. Or maybe other meal colloquialisms that are unique to you.
1. Practice meditation twice a week for three months 2. Attend a Christian church for a Sunday service 3. Make a four course meal for four 4. Take a skiing lesson 5. Learn to shoot a rifle 6. Camp outside for a weekend 7. Go to a hockey game in Canada 8. Go to an NHL game 9. Get my Nexus Card or Passport 10. Outline my autobiography 11. Create a fictional character 12. Write a first chapter of a fiction book 13. Wirte a first draft of a fiction book 14. Enroll in and complete a semester at a community college 15. Go to the dentist proactively 16. Follow through on the dental plan 17. Complete my health care paperwork 18. Go to the doctor for bloodwork every 3 months 19. Win a satellite poker tournament into a larger tournament 20. Give an anonymous gift to someone in need 21. Kayak on a Maine river 22. Plan a surprise overnight getaway 23. Send out holiday cards one year by the Saturday after Thanksgiving 24. Bake a homemade pie 25. See my niece get married 26. Call my sisters monthly for a year 27. Enter a photograph in the county fair 28. Go to bingo night with a friend 29. Join the Aroostook County Democrats 30. Go to an UMPI (University of Maine at Presque Isle) basketball game 31. Go to a Maine Black Bears hockey game 32. Go to a Maine Black Bears football game 33. Go snowmobiling 34. Ride ATVs to the top of Mars Hill 35. Volunteer for a local political candidate 36. Attend a town meeting 37. Take a scenic day tour of Aroostook County 38. Visit Baxter State Park 39. Visit Acadia National Park 40. Manage my own section of garden for one season 41. Carve a pumpkin 42. Go ice skating 43. Make homemade cookies 44. Put together a game night 45. Email a friend "just because" once a week for three months 46. Write a short story 47. Write a poem and publish it on my blog 48. Write a weekly political column on Daily Kos for six months 49. Post on my blog daily for one month 50. Attend a benefit supper 51. Write in a diary three times a week for 6 months 52. Keep to a housekeeping schedule for 3 months 53. Build a snowman 54. Decorate for a holiday 55. Create a calendar for and send birthday cards to friends for one year 56. Attend a lecture 57. Go to a book reading 58. Read a classic 59. Complete a Teaching Company course 60. Go swimming in a lake in Maine 61. Spend a day at a county fair 62. Complete a corn maze 63. Take a beginners French course 64. Go to a movie at a movie theater 65. Go to a concert 66. Post a review on Trip Advisor 67. Attend the Northern Maine balloon festival 68. Attend a high school sporting event 69. Attend a fundraising dinner in Aroostook County 70. Finish watching Friday Night Lights 71. Take an out of state vacation with The Partner 72. Buy flowers for The Partner 73. Plan and throw a birthday party 74. Take a Sunday drive 75. Ride a horse 76. Watch an Academy Award winning movie made before 1968 77. Watch a sunrise 78. Spend 72 hours without internet or cell phone 79. Take The Partner's parents to dinner 80. Collect chicken eggs from the chicken coup 81. Organize kids games for the town's Fun Days 82. Attend a board meeting in person 83. Attend a LGBT dance 84. Buy girl scout cookies 85. Finish "in the money" in a multi table poker tournament of 180 people or more 86. Attend a demolition derby 87. Read Dan Brown's latest book and write a review on Amazon 88. Spend a day fencing the fields 89. Spend a day haying 90. Continue our couples night Valentine Day tradition 91. Take a digital photography course 92. Make a snow angel 93. Go outside in below zero temperatures 94. Attend gay pride in Bangor 95. Liveblog a Dancing With The Stars Episode 96. Spend a shift waiting tables at The Restaurant 97. Go to a karaoke night and sing a song 98. Take a picture a day for a month and post them on Facebook 99. Buy a new suit 100.Buy a tuxedo 101.Marry The Partner in Maine