semperfiona: (Default)
Since I'm deleting the content of my LJ rather than just deleting the whole journal, I'm rereading all my old entries. There are a lot of memories from prior years written down in 2002 that I don't even remember 15 years later; it's interesting to have the reminders come along. Also, my life was quite a rollercoaster back then. Also also, I just learned exactly how long I've had my current cellphone number: since August 8, 2002.
semperfiona: (ampersand)
Scalzi has been asking questions of his commenters lately. This one got my attention.

Today’s question: When you were fifteen, what was your favorite electric or electronic object? These can be computers, toys, phones, televisions, game consoles, etc. You get the idea.

When I was fifteen, in suburban 1983 Wisconsin, personal computers were only just starting to come into affordability, and there certainly wasn't one in our house. Neither did we have a television, nor any game console to use with the non-existent television. My father had a nice stereo, on which we listened to classical or ethnic music of his choice; occasionally one of the rest of the family would choose something, but he was the king of the stereo granting brief access to another.

I used the telephone relatively often (corded, hanging on the wall, second extension in the basement where I would go for privacy) to call my friends or receive calls from them, but even then I was not the "typical high-school girl" pictured spending hours each day on the phone.

My electronic toy of choice--or of default; it was the only one I had--was my clock radio. I could use it to listen to popular music, which given the preceding I did not have much knowledge of, and on some nights I could receive AM signals from as far away as Toronto. But mostly I listened to Milwaukee Brewer baseball games. I even kept hand-drawn tables and graphs of stats (see above re not having a computer).
semperfiona: (work motto)
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When I was attending college and came home for the summers, I could never seem to get a "good" job (you know, like retail or telemarketing). I'd always end up at Kelly or Manpower or one of the other temp agencies. They gave me their standard officework test. I aced the spelling and the math, but because my typing languished at fewer than 30 wpm, I didn't qualify for office work. I got "light manufacturing" assignments, all for the late-80's minimum wage of $3.35 an hour with no benefits. I eventually learned that the temp agencies were being paid around $15/hr for my time. Made me feel appreciated, let me tell you.

I spent a couple weeks cleaning medical devices, a couple weeks inspecting oily metal lawnmower engine parts, and other such excitement, but the worst job was definitely hands-down the four weeks at the meat packing plant. By the time it got to me it was already frozen, but it was still miserable.

Wisconsin summers are not as hot or humid as those we enjoy here in St. Louis, but they were bad enough. Now imagine that you are working an eight-hour day in a building kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit. You wear two pairs of socks with your steel-toed work boots, a shirt, a sweater, and a jacket, as well as thermal underwear with your jeans. Drive to work dressed like that, through eighty or ninety degree sunshine. Arrive sweating.

Go inside the building to your line, where you get to sort frozen stew meat, pulling out the chunks that are more than 2/3 fat and throwing them in a barrel. Or maybe today is a day for stacking hamburger patties in a cardboard box, twelve to a box. But don't fall behind as the meat keeps coming down the belt. Don't look at the other side of the building where the enormous hopper of ground beef is splurping out the future patties to be flattened and blast frozen.

Shiver all day. Look forward to that moment when you will walk back outside into the steamy heat and feel like you've just entered a sauna. It will feel like heaven, for about five minutes, until the many layers of clothing become oppressive--and you still have to drive home.
semperfiona: (liberal american voter)
I was born in 49
A cold war kid in the McCarthy times
Stop 'em at the 38th parallel
blast those yellow reds to hell
cold war kids were hard to kill
under their desks in an air raid drill
-- Billy Joel, "Leningrad"

Remember the late 70's and '80's? We didn't bother with air raid drills
any longer--everyone knew crawling under your desk was hopeless against
radiation--but we did still have many buildings labeled as fallout

My high school and college friends and I used to have long deep
conversations about what to do if the Soviets fired ICBM's at us. Was it
better to run away from Ground Zero or toward it? Try to live through it
and hope you stayed mostly healthy and something remained of
civilization or you had enough strength and skills to survive the
post-apocalypse world, or just make a quick end of it. Did it depend on
how far you were from a large metropolitan area that was likely to go up
or for that matter how far you were from a major military installation.

Then we had a sudden outbreak of democracy and freedom and peace in
1989-91: the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed and most of
their satellite states established fledging democracies...I remember
thinking "Peace is busting out all over". It was an amazing moment.

But as moments are prone to do, it ended. The tension between two big
powers is now replaced by the animosity of the entire world against the
one remaining power, instead of "yellow reds" now we have the "Muslim
menace", and McCarthy is back, only this time he's in the blogosphere
and on rightwing talk radio, advocating the death penalty for such
"treasonable" activities as dissenting from the present administration's
policies on torture.

I have a tendency to say things like "this is not the America I grew up
in," in reference to the administration's myriad of offenses against the
Ideal America I dream of. But it is, isn't it. Fear, uncertainty, and
distrust: only the Other has changed.
semperfiona: (rain leaves)
Ten years ago this week, Ray and I went to Milwaukee to visit my parents for Father's Day weekend. On Sunday, just before leaving town, we went to the nursing home to visit Grandma. She'd been suffering from dementia of some sort--it was never diagnosed, but I suspect Alzheimer's--for a while, and her physical health was also failing rapidly. She welcomed Ray to the family, and had somewhat more lucid conversations with us than I'd witnessed for some time. My father corroborates this: he'd been visiting her at least weekly, and this was her at her best in a year or so.

Even so, little of what she said made sense. However, one sentence was very clear. "I don't like it here."

Dad told her, "You don't have to stay here if you don't want to."

Ray and I weren't home in St Louis an hour when we got a phone call from Dad. Grandma had died quietly shortly after we left. He thinks she didn't want to live anymore, but he'd told her I was coming to visit: she waited for me to make that last visit and then just let go.

Old news, but I'm crying now all the same.

Grandma Hazel, 1/11/1911 - 6/15/1997
semperfiona: (boomer)
From the altfriday5:
1. Who was the last new friend that you made?

[ profile] scottak and [ profile] ona_tangent, pretty much concurrently.
We met Ona briefly first, but the next time we saw her she brought Scott

2. How often do you make new friends?
Not as often as I'd like. I'm a recovering shy person. I call myself a
shy extrovert: generally, I enjoy and thrive on the company of people,
but I'm not into large groups or crowds, and it takes me a while to get
comfortable with a person or group of people. There are occasions,
though, when the connection is very quick indeed.

3. How do you usually meet new friends?
Usually through other friends, or via [ profile] ohari and [ profile] lavendargrrl who both seem to be more approachable--and more
forward--than I am in such things.

Another source of a lot of my friends has been Ambercons.

4. How easy you find it to make new friends? How easy did you find it
to make new friends as a child?

Pretty easy, at a casual level. Intense friendship connections are

As a child I was terminally shy and also (possibly "therefore") picked
on by almost all my peers, so I found it very difficult to make friends.
I have worked for a long time on defeating the shyness, and even by high
school I found it easier to make friends.

5. Have you ever made a new friend online? If yes, tell us about a
memorable instance.

Several. Let's see. There was the time I was chatting through VAXPhone
with my friend Lore, who invited her boyfriend Kirk to join the
conversation. We talked for a little while and then in glancing around
the computer lab I noticed that the person sitting next to me was
running VAXPhone as well--and in the same conversation. So that was a
simultaneous meeting online and IRL.

After that I didn't meet anybody online for years, because I did not
have a computer. In 1997 or so, I was in need of a pseudonym for online
use (I wanted to post to usenet without my legal name being traceable).
I became "". And before very long at all, I started
being IM'd by and getting email from other people interested in Amber.
One of the most memorable messages said "You're my mommy!" It was [ profile] devilmuse, and we're still friends.
semperfiona: (dragon)
From [ profile] dakiwiboid, who gave me the letter "P"!

Comment, and I shall give you a letter. Go back to your journal, and write ten words beginning with that letter, including an explanation of what the word means to you and why.

So, what shall I say about "P"? I free-associated on words starting with P and the following are what I got. There are more than ten; I wrote down words for a while and then went back to add commentary on them, intending to cut those of no interest. Once I'd done the commentary I didn't want to cut anything. But this is the original order of the words, if not the order I commented on them. cut for possible nsfw text (no graphics) )

What? No penguins? (Pronounced "Pen-ju-ins" at our house.)
semperfiona: Conversation hearts on the keys of a piano (piano hearts)
The lovely [ profile] beckyzoole passed the baton to me.

I'm a little conflicted about music, actually. Before I married Ray I
used to have music on constantly. When I was growing up the house was
almost always full of music. Dad had the stereo or the radio on all the
time. It was nearly always classical, but he was also fond of ethnic
music. We had numerous balalaika orchestra albums, a couple of National
Geographic albums "Songs of the Civil War" and "Music of Scotland" (I
can still sing most of the songs on these albums from memory), Peruvian
flute music, bagpipe marches, etc etc. And when Dad wasn't playing the
stereo Mom was often playing the piano.

But Ray always turned the music off for dinner, and gradually there was
less and less music playing around me. I've still not got back in the
habit of just turning it on for myself, but there is often music playing
at the Lake House now. It's just usually turned on by Tammie or less
often Chris. I do have two or three hundred CD's and cassettes, I just
don't play them often.

I love music, though, and I really want to go back to listening to it
more often. When the music is bouncy, I tend to dance and sing around
the house and it lifts my spirits to do that. Then there's sexy music,
of which more later.

I like most kinds of music. Classical I grew up with--though not much
opera (Dad didn't get into it). In high school I listened to Christian
Contemporary Music. In college I was a metalhead and a Bon Jovi fan. I
am also a very big fan of U2 and REM. For a lot of years I listened to
"adult alternative" on 101.1 the River. But until recently (i.e. meeting
Chris and Tammie), I had very little knowledge or experience of country
music, though my dad did have a few Johnny Cash albums and some cowboy
music albums, and Ray and I used to have a couple of Merle Haggard,
Willie Nelson and Hank Williams CDs. This has changed now; the default
TV station at the Lake House is CMT. I've still never really been able
to appreciate rap. I can't make out the lyrics, usually, and when I can
I still can't understand them. I prefer that if music have words I be
able to sing along. Even if I don't understand the language; I can fake
it if the syllables are distinguishable.

1). Total volume of music files on my computer?: Nothing on this
one (at work). I have four or five songs on my (still not unpacked)
computer that people sent me because they wanted me to listen to them.
There's no rhyme or reason to the selections.
2). The last CD I bought was: the Love Actually
soundtrack, as a Valentine's Day present for Tammie
3a). The last song I listened to before writing this was: Cole
Porter's "It's All Right with Me", as sung by Harry Connick, Jr., on Red
104.1, which is a wonderful station. When I'm not listening to NPR (like
during pledge week) I go there first. Swing, big band, jazz and blues
and ohmygod so sexy! The song, however, didn't work for me in this
particular arrangement. I've never actually heard the song performed
before, but I have the sheet music for it and when I play it I always
interpret it as a slow seductive song. He sang it peppy and bouncy. It
was weird.
3b). Song playing right now: None, I'm at work
4). Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me:Hmmm. I
have some nostalgic and bittersweet associations with Eric Clapton's
"Wonderful Tonight" which used to be Our Song for Ray and me. It can
still reduce me to tears if I'm caught off guard or in a fragile
emotional state already (although the commercial seems to be breaking me
of that). Likewise Bad English's "When I See You Smile" which was mine
and Jim's song, long long ago. Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at
Tiffany's" spoke strongly to me during the falling-apart stage of my
marriage, and Robynn Ragland's "People You Know" expressed many of my
feelings about Kirk and some of my other lost or distant friends.
There's nothing that comes to mind for this stage in my life.
5). Which 5 people are you passing this baton to?
[ profile] harlequinade
[ profile] devilmuse
[ profile] neeuqdrazil
[ profile] ohari
[ profile] lavendargrrl

Ooh, new question. What music do you find the sexiest? There are certain
songs that light me up all over. Some singers' voices will do it no
matter what they're singing, too (Josh Groban *grins at Tammie* and
Norah Jones), some classical music is seductive (Ravel's Bolero, for
instance--it's something in the rhythm), but a couple specific songs
that I find particularly sexy are INXS's "You're One of My Kind", and
Melissa Etheridge's "I Wanna Come Over".
semperfiona: (Default)
For a little perspective on the kind of Christian upbringing I received,
here's an essay by a Christian evolutionary biologist who was a friend
of mine in high school.

Lesson of Riddles

This is exactly the sort of thought that was taught and encouraged at
our church. I malign them when I use the word fundamentalist; there was
a lot more room for interpretation and disagreement over aspects of
doctrine. We had some members who were definitely creationists, but many
more who felt that science and religion need not contradict one another.

I don't quite know where the line got drawn between things you could
agree to disagree about and dogma you had to accept, but there
definitely were some things that were absolutes.

(Can you tell I'm having old-home-week today, googling people I used to
semperfiona: (Default)
When talking with different people about my own realization of my
sexuality, I keep remembering my college friend Lora, with whom I had a
late-night conversation about whether or not we were or might be bi. We
both said something about being willing to find out...and then got
scared of the obvious next step and ran away from the whole
conversation. So I googled her name a few weeks ago, and I find an out
bi poly chick, working at IU. I just emailed her to ask if she's that
same Lora. I tried to give enough context that she'd remember me, enough
present day to try to make myself sound interesting, but not so much
that it'd overwhelm a complete stranger or be annoying if she wasn't
interested in getting back in touch. We shall see.

Senior year

Feb. 7th, 2002 11:12 pm
semperfiona: (Default)
When I was a senior at Indiana University, the university had free computer accounts for students, with an internal bulletin board systerm called the Forum, where students could start topics and discussions. I spent hours on that, and then VAXphone (it was like a cross between AIM and chat: it worked with up to 5 people at a time) with people I had met there, and eventually meeting the people in person. It was at that time that I began using "semper, fiona" as my signoff phrase, and Fiona of Amber began to be my alter-ego/role-model.

Two of the first people I came to know were Lore and her friend Deb. I spent a lot of time with them in the beginning of that year. Lore talked about her boyfriend, Kirk, but I had never met or talked to him. Then one day I was on VAXphone with Lore, when Kirk logged on and she invited him into the conversation. When we happened to glance aside from the computers we were using in the lab, and noticed exactly the same thing on each other's screens, we realized we were sitting next to each other. That is how I met Kirk. It wasn't long after that that we became fast friends. We started going to the free movie premieres at the student union, sometimes with other VAXfriends, or just the three of us.

One night (the movie was "Look Who's Talking"), Kirk got out a deck of cards while we waited in line, and we bemoaned the lack of a fourth for euchre. At that, the boy seated in front of us in line turned and said he'd play; he became my partner. That was Jim. We played euchre until the movie started. Afterwards, a large group of us including Jim and his roommate, Kirk and Lore and some other friends, went back to Kirk's dorm and played cards and talked some more. Before the night was over, we had decided to make a trip to Brown County State Park that weekend to see the fall colors.

Jim collected everyone's phone numbers "to make the arrangements", and I don't know how I knew it, but I knew he did that just so he could get mine. Sure enough, two days later he asked me out, commenting that he'd wanted to call right away but waited because that was what you're "supposed to do". Odd thing: I still remember what I was wearing that night. In fact, I still have it (not for sentimental reasons, I still have most of the clothes I owned then). It was a pink sweater my parents had given me. I remember one other thing distinctly. Jim bet a dollar that no one would guess his middle name, given that his initial was C. Many guesses were made, but before too long I guessed it. Cecil. He paid me four quarters. I dated Jim all that year. We had a tumultous relationship, but he was my first real lover and I held on for dear life even after it was clearly falling apart.

I'd had sex for the first time with someone else (a man named Matt, six or eight years older than me) shortly before, but only once, somewhat under the influence of alcohol, and didn't make a relationship out of it. In fact I avoided him as much as possible given that we had two classes in common, especially after I'd met Jim. I didn't really like him, he gave me the willies a little bit. But he liked me a great deal--too much, in fact: he'd liked me since freshman year and after my junior year away he still remembered me. I remember him telling me once "I'd know that walk anywhere."

I felt almost stalked, but I didn't quite recognize it. I don't know why I ever slept with him, other than that I was somewhat drunk and also tired of being a 21-year-old virgin. I remember thinking that. "Finally, that's done with." I pointed him out to Lore once. Her comment was, "He's evil." And I hadn't told her anything about him at all.

It took me a lot of years after that to start finding redhaired men attractive again. Britton had been a redhead, and I had always liked red hair on men, but afte Matt that attraction switched off for a long time.
semperfiona: (Default)
I've just been telling [ profile] neeuqdrazil that I missed Japanese. I spent nine months in Japan in 1988-89, and by the end of my time there I was reading and writing with considerable fluency. I still have about a dozen novels in Japanese, of which I have read four or five. Reading Japanese books on the train, as a blonde blue-eyed foreigner, attracts a lot of attention. I met more people that way. No one could quite believe I was really reading it and not just turning pages. So I got lots of impromptu quizzes on the books. The same thing happened on the plane home, with the stewardesses.

It was funny to see how people would react differently to me depending on whether or not they could see my face. If the ticket agent at the subway was looking down, he'd answer my questions and sell me my ticket in Japanese without hesitation. If he glanced up, he'd immediately switch into broken English. Another time, I was returning to Japan from a trip to Thailand, handed my US passport to the customs inspector and started chatting to him in Japanese. He stamped my passport "Returning Japanese native". I had to point out the error and get it stamped properly, but I've been proud of that erroneous stamp ever since.

What makes me unutterably sad is the fact that except for a few words and some carefully memorized set pieces--a song and a poem (the second of which I wrote myself)--I've forgotten so very very much. I feel sure that if I had a chance for long-term immersion in Japanese again I would remember much of it, but living here in St Louis there is little chance of that.

Ima haruru
Sora sae miezu
Kano me todzu

(I wrote this haiku the day one of my classmates was killed in a motorcycle accident)
(Extremely free translation: "Unable to see today's clear sky, his eyes are closed.")
semperfiona: (Default)
Been thinking about Kirk just now. It's been almost a year since I've seen him, and the previous time was over two years before that. We've been staying very weakly connected by playing backgammon and go at It's Your Turn, but even if we sent little messages with every move, which we don't, it's not at all the same kind of intense connection we used to have before everything fell apart in 1997-98. I miss that, and I miss him. I think i'm going to make a point to call him sometime during the yule season.

Kirk is the oldest friend I have; we met in college in 1989. The four of us, he and his girlfriend Lore, and I and my boyfriend Jim, were nearly inseparable. Oddly, and the four of us even remarked on it at times, the pairings seemed to be wrong-way-round. Kirk and I were much more compatible than Jim and I, and Jim and Lore were very compatible as well.
Kirk told me the following spring that he had been in love with me for several months, and that Lore had agreed that he and I could sleep together if I was willing. But I was still trying to hang on to the shreds of my relationship with Jim, so I turned him down. After that we still managed to maintain the friendship as close and cuddly as ever, perhaps even a bit more so, with regular flirting and teasing.
Come the next year, I moved to St. Louis to start a job. I returned to B'ton to visit him several times over the next year, and then I met and began dating Ray. Ray and I even went to B'ton once to vist Kirk together. I remember Kirk telling Ray pretty much exactly how he felt about me and Ray saying that it was ok as long as...what were his criteria? Probably words to the effect of "as long as nothing happens and I know it's one-sided".
Ray and I got married--Kirk was my "maid of honor"--and we moved to the UK. Kirk and I wrote lots of long letters back and forth, and sometime in there I realized that I loved him and always had. He met the wonderful Laura and decided to marry her. Ray and I flew home and I was "best man" at the wedding. I told Kirk during a long conversation alone something of what I'd come to realize, and we again agreed that it was not possible.
Then sometime after Ray and I moved home again, Kirk told me that he and Laura were opening their marriage. This floored me. I had never even considered such a thing to be possible, even if some of the situations with Lore and Jim came close. I started remembering all the novels I'd read, with things like group marriages, and did a 'net search on exactly that phrase, which led me to alt.polyamory.
In May 1997 I went to B'ton again, alone this time, and finally expressed my full feelings. And again we decided to put our feelings on hold until I could talk to Ray and gain his consent.
That talk is what started us on the road that ended up in divorce. Ray was incapable of accepting even the fact of my feelings, let alone any physical expression of them. He went to his priest that week and was told that "most men would have divorced her already"--for having feelings!
We tried, or at least I tried, to reach compromise, but it was not possible, even after four different periods of counseling with three different counselors. Ray was adamant on "Marriage is..." and would not admit even the tiniest corner of a compromise.
In the course of all that, while I was fighting to keep the marriage at all costs, the towering oak of my friendship with Kirk was cut down. The roots are still alive, I think, and there is a sapling there, but it is fragile and slender.
Ironically, Kirk and Laura have since re-closed their marriage, but I've decided that I am truly poly. I could list five or six people that I love "like that".


semperfiona: (Default)

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