Old Friends

Maine WinterWhen I was busy raising a family or working way too many hours and I was much (much) younger, I would have fleeting thoughts of old friends and wonder how they were doing. I’ve been gone from my hometown in Maine (far northeast corner next to Canada) for a very long time. I left there at 19 and have never returned to live. Now that all my family has either passed on or moved away, I doubt I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

I keep up with what’s going on in my hometown through their local online newspaper and a Facebook group called “You know you’re from Waterville, if…”  I’m not actually from Waterville but from across the river in Winslow. I lived on the side with the paper mill and its sulphuric acid smell that we could count on spewing during the high school football games.

science club

We were only 15 & before Nancy had long hair!

You’re wondering if I have a point and I do, sort of. When I was in high school I had a good friend named Nancy Dyment.  Nancy was one of those girls with gorgeous blonde hair and a personality that could fill an auditorium. She oozed self confidence and I so wanted to be more like her.

This will certainly date both of us but I remember we went to the New York World’s Fair with the Science Club and Nancy, Dawn and I shared a room. We shared a room because we were the ONLY girls in the science club. I think the 3 of us were in everything that we could possibly join in high school. I even played basketball. I’m barely 5′ tall but I was feisty!

I headed south and went to university in Tennessee and I lost contact with Nancy except for one brief message several years ago. She was in Alaska and was leaving a job and then I never heard from her again. Every time I hear from some of the old gang I ask about her and get the same reply, “Me too!  I’d love to know where she is and catch up,” so I’m not alone.

I did catch up with Dawn a few years ago and heard about all the things that had happened in her life but she hadn’t heard from Nancy either.

Every once in a while I listen to Cap’n Barney’s (Pat Turlo) radio show MAYFLOWER HILL BLUES  www.wmhb.org playing some single-digit-temp-early-Friday-morning blues. Folks, if you want to hear a real Maine accent, catch Cap’n Barney. Tell him Bubbles sent you and he’ll know exactly who you’re talking about. My high school graduating class had mostly kids who’d gone to school together for 13 years so we knew each other really well.

Pat left school and went to the US Coast Guard Academy so he earned the title Cap’n. He married his high school sweetheart Linda, had a bunch of kids and now has a bunch of grandchildren. He worked as the Town Clerk and Deputy Treasurer of a small town in Maine AND he still does a great radio show. I’ve even called in just so he could abuse me. My husband said, “How can you understand that??” Maine people have a special accent.

My Facebook friends are dotted with friends from my home town. My bestie Anne is now retired from being a principal at a school in Maine so now she can keep up more regularly. There’s Camilla who has moved back to Maine, Julie, Bill, Becky, Betsy, Patrick, Paul, Mike, Pam, Barbara, Ken, Jim,  Eric, Bunny, Jayne, Glenna, Patricia, Peter, Bob, Robert…   and there are more. I try to keep up with what they’re doing and mostly I am envious that they’re retired and I’m not.  🙂

So if you know Nancy Dyment let me know if she still has long, flowing blonde hair? I found a Nancy Dyment in Alaska and she’s going to wake up to a text message from Australia that used a lot of words to say, “is this you??”

What’s up with the food stamp program in the US ?

dogWe all know times are tough in the state as they are around the world.  The high US dollar in Australia has strangled so many people, leaving us with a clear picture of what it’s like over there.

I read an article today at the Wall Street Journal by Al Lewis that really makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  It’s no surprise to anyone that I love my pets.  They are as much family to me as are my children.  To some that’s nuts but to me and millions upon millions of other people, we understand each other.

People doing it tough who’ve lost their jobs due to outsourcing or ill health without medical insurance, lost their homes due to foreclosure are often feeding their pets before themselves.  In the US 47 million people are receiving some sort of food relief called Food Stamps.  That’s one in seven people.

The bigwigs seem to think if you can’t afford your pet, have it euthanized but seriously, who can do that easily?  Certainly not me.  I’d do everything I could to keep Charlie fed and with me no matter what happened.  He’s my best friend.

Food stamps cover most food items but they don’t cover pet food.  Okay, I can hear some of you say that the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for your pets, that’s your responsibility and if you can’t afford a pet you shouldn’t have one.  BUT…  food stamps cover sugary drinks like Coca Cola.   They pay for FOUR BILLION DOLLARS of soft drinks a year through food stamps.  It’s a case of let’s get them fat and sick so they can not only be poor but sick with no insurance.

Coming to the rescue is Mr. Marc Okon, a former stockbroker, consultant and entrepreneur, has created a nonprofit called Pet Food Stamps that gives out pet food to those already on government food stamps.  Okon said he’d seen how the top end manipulates the the weak and he was sick of it.  He said his group has been swamped by requests for assistance so they can keep their pets.

My hat’s off to Mr. Okon. PetFoodStamps.org accepts donations. Okay they don’t just accept them, they’re begging for them. If you have it in your heart to make a small donation to help with the thousands of requests a day, visit their donation page.

Why Americans Are Loud

american aren't intentionally loudI know you’ve heard it said heaps of times and maybe you’ve even said it yourself, “Good Lord, those Americans are loud!”  Okay, I’ve said it too and well…  I’m an American as well as an Australian.  I know it’s fun to slam Americans when they’re silly and I do a fair amount of that myself.

We do have a rule in our house.  The words you and Americans can never be used together.  You can probably guess why.

At a recent dinner party, the host said something about meeting an American the day before and without thinking I said, “How loud was he?”

Andrew looked at me and said, “He wasn’t loud, he was American.”

I wrinkled up my face and said something really clever like, “huh?”  I’m really good friends with his wife but it was the first time I’d met Andrew and I’m sure I made a great impression.  Andrew lives in Sydney, has lived all over the world and as a young man spent a long time studying acting.

“Maureen, Americans aren’t “loud” it’s how you speak,” he said.

Even more confused than ever, I took my wine glass and my chair and moved so I could sit next to him and not be interrupted.  It seems that in acting school one of the things you need to learn are accents so you can qualify for all sorts of different roles.  I think I must have known this intuitively but when Andrew explained how it worked I was intrigued.

“Americans talk through the back of their mouths.  It’s why they have Rs and accents are not as important as HOW they speak.”

“Please explain?” I asked.

He went on in detail about how Australians talk through the front of their mouths.

“Notice how little our lips move and we talk rather softly because of that,” he told me, “and we’re used to this volume as it’s how everyone talked when we were kids.  We didn’t have Americans in our classrooms or in our homes.”

Americans speak from the backs of our mouths so we have, for lack of a better term, megaphone mouths.  We’re not talking loudly, we’re just talking and it comes out loud because of how we talk and it’s not that we’re turning up the volume.

I instantly felt better about all the times I’ve cringed in a restaurant when a group of Americans were talking over everyone.  They’re not yelling, they’re talking and they don’t realize they’re louder than people who talk from the fronts of their mouths.  They’re used to talking around other Americans who all talk the same way.

Now to be fair, I have no scientific knowledge if this is true but it makes really good sense when I think about it.  Andrew lived in the US for a while and he kept saying phrases with an American accent and then said the same thing with his normal Australian accent and the volume difference was striking.  He said he wasn’t increasing the volume, only changing where the sound came from.

Try it.  Talk with the front of your mouth and then open your mouth and talk from the back.  I’ll never bitch about a loud American again and I will be careful when in a crowd to talk from the front of my mouth.

Voting

expats voteI’m a dual citizen of the United States where I was born and lived until I was past 40 and of Australia where I now live. I was reading some Facebook posts recently by a friend of mine who’s also an American expat and lives in France. She has a candidate that she supports wholeheartedly in the November election and her passion made me realize that I hadn’t even requested a ballot.

By comparison, I’m a pretty poor example of someone who really thinks it’s a privilege to vote.  I changed all that today by requesting my ballot.

Dear Supervisor of Elections in Orange County, Florida,

Please don’t lose my request and send it along post haste.

Love,

Maureen

To my friend Jamie Schler who’s working hard remodeling her new home in Nantes, France, thanks for reminding me what being American is all about.  Even though we aren’t physically on US soil, there’s a part of us that will always feel American.