Introducing a new podcast: High Resolution Life

I decided as a sort of “decade” resolution to start a podcast!

The topic or niche is almost a journal type deal; but not exactly. I want to share topics and things that I find interesting, and share those insights with you. So sometimes it may be classical music, sometimes it may be art, sometimes it may be history, sometimes it may be a short story about my own life.

This first episode introduces a little bit about me, where the podcast is beginning, and where I intend for the podcast to go.

Take a listen and let me know what you think!


Bad day? Here’s the time I rear ended someone’s car while laughing at talk radio

I’m a firm believer in never taking yourself too seriously. I know if I did, I would be one depressed puppy. If you’re having a bad day, welcome to this blog post. I’m happy to have one of my entirely airheaded moments help you laugh and find the strength to carry on (I say that tongue in cheek).

I’m a top graduate from a world renowned university (we are!), certainly by no means unintelligent… But, sometimes, my lack of brains never ceases to amaze me. I could cry about it and curse myself, or I could laugh. Laughing is more fun, so I choose the latter. I hope you laugh at it too and have a little more fun in this limited time we have on this crazy and bizarre planet.

Right before all this stuff went down with stay at home orders at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, I was making a visit to the gym. I flicked on talk radio, something I don’t ordinarily do, because I was trying to soak up some information about this impending pandemic situation. The rest of the stations were just Top-40 music loops.

The only thing I was able to find was Michael Savage, on one of the local radio stations. He was warning listeners about how people need to take Covid-19 seriously, and he was sneering at the fact that the political pundit Sean Hannity was downplaying the seriousness of the virus.

As I was happening upon this conversation, I was making a left turn onto Union Ave in Altoona. It’s a sharp right turn off of the exchange passing historic downtown Altoona; and your have to stop at a stop sign look to traffic coming behind you to the left before you merge onto Union Ave.

I look to the left, and know there’s a stop sign, but my brain is used to a car not being there ahead of me. As I’m checking for cars further up on Union Ave, Michael Savage, in his raucous fervor that he always rabbles on his radio show, proclaims that Sean Hannity is a “wallbanger” and graduated from “wallbanger university,” a pointed insult to Mr. Hannity’s intelligence.

Others describe me as a nice person, but I love a good insult. I love a good, unique, not oft heard insult on top of it. Wallbanger means other off-color things, but this is Michael Savage’s completely unique insult reserved for Sean Hannity; so unique, that it is listed with Michael Savage as the author as his unique insult for Sean Hannity. He even made it onto Urban Dictionary.

Anyway, stupid me, I start cracking up at this, not even because I agree or disagree, it’s just a hilariously unique insult. I was so entertained that I kept looking up Union Ave and not ahead to the guy in a Honda sitting at a stop sign.

CLUNK.

My heart momentarily stopped – my airbags didn’t go off, thankfully, I just heard that disgusting “clunk” that means you rear-ended someone as you were driving. Ugh, I didn’t even have a good reason for rear ending someone! I wasn’t having any kind of emergency, my brakes didn’t go out, I wasn’t arguing with someone on the phone, I wasn’t texting and driving.

I was the ultimate nerd.

NERD.

I was laughing at talk radio!

Are you KIDDING me?!

So, it figures, I had rear-ended a guy in a Honda SUV, the Honda was about as old as my SUV. He comes out all ticked off and angrily snarfing about how I wasn’t paying attention and pointing out how I put a crack in one of the reflectors, and I tried to convince him to calm down. What calmed him down was seeing that more damage was done to the front of my car. (He was probably a little satisfied). My Penn State plate was bend up and the license plate holder had cracked. I was relieved it wasn’t worse. But this was still rather embarrassing.

We agreed to meet somewhere up the street and pulled into a parking lot and exchanged insurance information, and I had told him how my biggest worry was how much my dad was going to either be angry or laugh at me for the reason I had rear ended somebody. The guy chuckled a bit (probably glad it wasn’t going to be him), and he assured me my dad should be understanding and that accidents happen.

This whole fiasco happened while I was on my way to the gym, so I finally arrived at the gym and made the dreaded call to my dad. Of course, at first, he was grouchy and wondered how I managed to rear-end someones car. I told him it was because I was laughing at talk radio.

Yeah, he found it hilarious. Not quite sure how I’ll ever live that one down. So, if you’re having a bad day, I guarantee your day was just about as bad as the one I had that day – or you are at least a smidge more intelligent, or not as easily amused when you’re listening to talk radio while you drive. (Like, really?)

By the way. I don’t listen to talk radio while I drive anymore.


Welcome to the Shire: Tips from a Hobbit

via GIPHY

This whole COVID-19 thing has been really wild. I spent most of my life at home before any of this happened, as one of my previous blog posts at the beginning of the pandemic stated. I thought we were just going to be going back to “normal” after a few weeks, and we wouldn’t be continuing to work from home and even do schooling from home after such a long time, but surprise! It’s September, and we’re looking at the possibility of staying home even longer.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: It has not, and will not continue to change my life too much. It hasn’t even been too bad for me; I’m really, really lucky for that, and it is NOT BECAUSE I AM AN INTROVERT. I am a huge extrovert! I love talking to people. I can talk to any stranger I meet on the street, and find anything to talk about for hours, and I love being around people.

Regardless of my personality propensities, I learned to adapt to this new “normal” long before other people, because I’ve spent much of my life a home, like a little hobbit (except my feet are really small). Nothing has really changed too much for me and won’t for the foreseeable future, and I’ve continued to be productive because… Well, again, not much has changed for me.

I may be an honorary hobbit, due largely to the fact that I’ve been working from home for two and a half years and I was homeschooled most of my life, but that doesn’t mean in any way I haven’t had adventures or accomplished things. In fact, if you ask my friends, they’ll tell you I’m one of the most productive people they’ve ever met and it’s hard to get me to sit down, despite the fact that I’m home most of the time (like the rest of you, now! Muahaha).

Since we’re probably looking at more time spent at home, or possibility, you now have kids at home, or you yourself are a teen or college student at home, take a few tips from a pro on how to continue to stay productive and how I’ve made the most of my life in the Shire.

  • Keep your home clean and organized
    You may hear some crap article on the internet telling you that intelligent people are disorganized and work best that way. I’ll tell you I am disorganized and my friends accuse me of being easily distracted while I’m getting a project done. That’s entirely true; the way I get things done is not going from point A to point B. It’s often going to point A, then a long detour, back to point A, finding an entirely new point, like Q, skipping over to point Z, then jumping back to point B. That’s fine; a mess when you’re in the midst of work is no problem in regards to productivity. But when the task is done, you need to organize your things. If you and I are competing on getting a task done, and my area is organized and I know where everything is, I’m going to get things done way faster than you.
  • Don’t sleep in all day (or at least keep a regular sleep schedule)
    I bet you slept in when we took the ‘rona precautions and stayed home, didn’t you? When did it start feeling like groundhog day and you started feeling like crap, and like you weren’t getting anything done? My schedule didn’t change much during the US portion of coronavirus precautions. I was still getting up at 5 in the morning to teach classes to my ESL students, as I have been for the past 2 years. And, I felt great. (Well, as great as you can feel when you’re waking up at 5 in the morning 5 days a week.) I’m not saying you should get up at 5 am, but you need to keep your sleep schedule regulated and not be tempted to take naps all the time if you actually want to be productive while working from home. Get up at a decent hour, get a to-do list going, then relax after you’ve completed the tasks.
  • Exercise
    Do some form of exercise – preferably one that gets you out of the house so that you can focus on it, and give yourself a little bit of a treat, so to say, leaving the home – if you feel comfortable or healthy enough to do so. I only started exercising because I wanted to maintain my weight but also keep eating like the Gilmore Girl that I am, but now I’m excited for an excuse to get out of the house to go to the gym to go for a run, get on the elliptical or lift some weights. Start small – I was pretty terrible at exercise right off the bat, and always stay within the limits of what your body sets for you, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be refreshed and be taking good care of yourself after using an excuse to get out of the house. Or, even get creative, maybe just walking your dog will be enough to put a little pep in your step.
  • Put your phone down (and make use of your screen time app)
    Nothing sucks away me being creative like spending unstructured time on social media. Once I started seeing the screen time information on my iPhone, I started realizing how much unstructured time on social media was taking away from my productivity at home. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending a half hour or two on Facebook or Instagram after you’ve got your important work done. This includes messaging. I’m super sociable and I love to talk to my friends, but I notice I spend most of my time messaging them and not getting my important work done.
  • Make time for face to face socializing and meet new people (whatever way is safe for you)
    For years, I’ve made sure to get out of the house to see people outside of my inner circle to give myself some stimulation. When you work in an office, or a restaurant, or some other place, you have to be around people you wouldn’t normally choose to be around. And we need that to continue to grow and evolve. We need to see new faces and new people. Don’t just get on Zoom or Facetime and talk to somebody you already know. You have to get out of the house, or in some way while you’re at home, make a way to talk to a new person. Join a new group on Facebook or Instagram and get to know new people. I think that’s something people really lost during the pandemic and that we’ve taken for granted.

    We stagnate if we stay within our own groups and stay isolated. So, if you feel comfortable getting out of the house and chatting it up with someone new, or just people watching at the park, go do it. It’ll renew you. Or, make new friends in a group related to your interests or related to a new thing you want to learn through a social media group. This will renew you and help you stay engaged in your work when you come back to it. As always, be careful at any age that you’re not meeting up with any weirdos, and don’t meet anyone new online or offline without the permission of your guardians if you’re a minor reading this.

Try these things for a week and see if it’ll get you where it got me after two and a half years. By other peoples standards, I’ve been called the successful independent woman who other people can depend on, who is always happy – or at least is adaptable and puts on a brave face when things get tough. It’s really not a secret, I’m not special, I wasn’t hatched from some pod that made me immune to the effects of staying at home for prolonged periods of time. It’s just been a way of life for me and after many trial and error processes, I found what things I’ve done on a daily basis that lead to me being the most productive version of myself.

Did I forget something that’s helped make you productive through this time of us all being hobbits? Leave a comment and let me know!

Good luck and welcome to the Shire!

via GIPHY


Ruminations of an Old Soul: Part 1

With friends Lynnette and Tressa at a Roaring 20’s Party, Dec. 2019

I’m an old soul. I’m not sure that I always have been. Is one born that way? Is one like Benjamin Button, born old, then lives their way to youth as they approach old age? I love old music, old photos, secrets held by previous generations that helped us get to this fascinatingly progressive world that we live in today. I wonder if I was born this way, or was I molded to appreciate the gifts of previous generations by my upbringing? Some would say it’s both, some would say I was born this way, this is the question of nature vs. nurture. All I know is that it did help that my earliest and most intimate memories included having the privilege of being surrounded by four people who were defined as the Greatest Generation. I didn’t know that’s what they were called. I knew them as Grandma, Grandpa, Pappy and Grandma Mary.

Richard Sousa gave a poignant perspective as to why my parents’ parents were defined as the greatest generation: 

In addition to enduring this country’s greatest economic catastrophe and fighting two wars, they went on to work at Leviton and Boeing, they built homes and raised families in Omaha and Bakersfield. They put a man on the moon! They were carpenters, teachers, welders, Fuller Brush men. But, most important, they wove the fabric that made the United States great. They gave their children safe and secure homes; they exemplified a solid work ethic and belief in America; they instilled in their children the value of education.”¹

Grandma Peggy (Margaret Mary)

I knew Grandma (Peggy, to be exact) as my maternal grandma who I would spend almost every weekend with through the earliest years of my life. I’m her namesake and she named me. Margaret Mary Ostheimer LaMark gave the name Annette Margaret to me, partly because she was going to name my mother Annette but chose Catherine instead (she was going to name my mother after hers, she had no memories of her and was motherless as a baby), and so I was given Annette. She lived a simple life in a duplex a few blocks from where I grew up. 

Her own harmless idiosyncrasies were unknowingly setting me up for a life with common sense safety. She often chastised me about eating too much sugar; I hate sugar now and have no sweet tooth, how great that has been for my health! She told me not to put things to my mouth or touch my mouth frequently. She flew in the face of Jean Piaget’s theories of Cognitive Development and told a three year old to stop putting things in her mouth. Did I understand it? Absolutely not. Did I stop doing it? You bet I did, and to this day, I don’t chew on my fingernails. Heck no. Keep those germs out of my mouth. Perhaps her simple pieces of advice have somehow kept me alive in light of recent events. We’ll never know.

Grandpa LaMark (Charles LaMark) during World War II

Grandpa was a force of nature. His bellowing Sicilian voice was a rumbling alarm clock that demanded coffee and aired opinions about anything and everything, and told seemingly endless stories about World War II. They would be interrupted by the times he would bring in a miniature sized keyboard he would find, and he would play a couple tunes that he transferred from playing on the accordion.

Grandpa never finished school and went on to work during the Great Depression, so he knew full well what it was like to go without. For this reason, he would often come to my parents house with gifts of toilet paper and paper towels (I bet you’re jealous now). He would buy little things he might think he would need later, and give me little trinkets that I thought were strange at the time, but make sense to me now. 

He also did not give one single crap about what you thought. He had the courage to tell the truth, and he didn’t care if it hurt your feelings. He’s the reason I figured out that I had very nice, albeit large teeth, when he first spied my mouth after my braces were taken off when I was fourteen.

“Ehh! Did you get a set of dentures there, Annette?” He asked.

“No, grandpa. I got my braces off.” I responded sheepishly.

“It looks like you got dentures. You have horse teeth.” He said, without one hint of hesitation or an apology, but a man who survived the Great Depression and World War II wouldn’t give much thought to telling his granddaughter that her teeth looked like they belonged to a gift horse. Let’s all say he earned that right.

Mind you, I was lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents to share their reflections and thoughts with me for most of my young life. My Grandma Peggy and Grandpa LaMark taught me the most, but I had a unique perspective on life from my dad’s parents, Pappy and Grandma Mary, who cultivated the land and lived in tight knit communities in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania as well, that I admittedly have recently come to appreciate. I will share more about them in a later blog post.

This is the first of, I hope, many installments, sharing what this old soul has learned from this generation. I’m not sure that it has become more relevant in a time such as this, as my generation is finally facing their collective defining hardship. We’ve been privileged. This COVID-19 situation is crazy and out of our control, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. But we’re here now, the damage is done and it’s about damn time that we see what it is we’re made of. 


¹“The Greatest Generation.” Hoover Institution. Accessed April 21, 2020. https://www.hoover.org/research/greatest-generation.

From home back to… Home

If you’re like anyone else in the rest of the world right now, you’ve probably been sentenced to a life that will have to be lived at home. For some of us, this is a bit of a chore. For the other part of us, this isn’t so bad. Some of you may be the extroverted types (like me) that have to fight the temptation to chat it up with your mailman or talk the ear off of the grocery store cashier while you’re out getting your essentials. If you’re an introvert, you might not find this to be too bad, but you’re taxed with a bit of anxiety about a world free of extroverts out there making the world a safer place for you.

It’s not easy for either sides of the social orientation aisle at this time. Truth be told, I can understand dreading being at home for so long, especially if there are things in your heart and mind that haven’t been sorted out. How comfortable you are at home reveals a lot about the state of your heart and mind. There was a time I didn’t like having to be at home, and it sometimes felt like a prison sentence.

It was a bit unusual for me to be at home for most of my childhood life. I still get questions about my schooling at that time and what affect it had on me later. At the time, I was very used to it, and also at times, I loved being able to lose a couple hours of my week playing video games and being closed off to the world. But by the time I hit 18 and 19, I wanted to get out there and make my mark in the world and certainly self actualize, and see what all those years at home had made of me.

Life in social isolation as a pianist, 2013

Surprise: the profession I chose to make myself something with was being a pianist. Most serious pianists have to spend a considerable amount of their time alone. In a practice room. Away from other people. Sometimes I absolutely enjoyed being cloistered away from others in a windowless white room with nothing but the piano and I. Other times, it was torturous and I wanted to be back out in the world and see what was going on without me.

After college and a rough patch in my mid 20’s, I was especially tired of being at home, facing memories, some nicely stowed away mountains of clutter and unfair judgments against myself for a life that was reasonably lived. I worked 5 jobs, found as much time as I could to socialize when I wasn’t working, and essentially only went home to sleep. I did this for about an 8 month time span.

Then, I needed a new job. It ended up being a work from home job. So, now, most of my time was, again – spent in isolation and working away from other people. This is something that happens to me over and over again in my life, and this past year, I was able to get some insight as to what this is as a concept. 

Apparently, it’s the concept of circumambulation from Carl Jung. I was struck by this idea from lectures by Dr. Jordan Peterson, and it occurred to me just shortly before the United States was introduced to the “invisible enemy” of COVID-19, that I have a recurring theme of learning to be comfortable with myself in isolation. Going back home, when I don’t have a choice in the matter, is my circumambulation of the self. I’m always forced to go back to what I consider to be home; which is always away from others.

“I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self.

There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self. Uniform development exists, at most, at the beginning; later, everything points toward the centre.

This insight gave me stability, and gradually my inner peace returned.”¹

I mean, I spent the first 18 years of my life mostly in my home. It wasn’t bad. It just was. It made me feel different being homeschooled. I was sick of being called the “different kid.” So, I was on a mission to prove my difference didn’t mean deficient. I accomplished that, and I liked being out in the world, so I wanted to stay out in the world.

Then the world decided hey! You’re going back into your house, mostly, in order to eventually get back out into the world. But then the world decided to put me back into my house so I can process these formative years of my life and prepare for whatever is to come. I’m like the rest of you. I’m not thrilled about having to be home. But for me, I knew it was coming, I knew this was a theme of my life that I’m familiar with, and I know there’s some big adventures and exciting turns in life waiting for me after COVID-19 is done with us.

The thing you might be avoiding when you hate being home, is yourself. That’s the only thing that’s been different for me in this return home. I’m pleased with the choices I’ve made and bettering myself in the last 3 years. I’ve earnestly tried the best I can, now I have an opportunity to stay home, think, and sharpen myself up to figure out how I’ll be a better version of myself once the world opens up again. I wouldn’t be so thrilled if I had been avoiding myself and things I could have been doing better over the past 3 years. 

There’s a big adventure and challenge waiting for us all after this is over. We should stop avoiding ourselves and those close to us to figure out how we’re going to rise to the occasion. Home isn’t a prison. It’s a safe place to regroup and start over.


¹“C.G. Jung: ‘There Is No Linear Evolution; There Is Only a Circumambulation of the Self…”.” Jung Currents, December 8, 2013. http://jungcurrents.com/jung-chartres-mandala.