I was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia*, but I never lived there. I grew up in Philippi, which is about 25 miles from Clarksburg. My grandparents and other relatives did live in Clarksburg though and I was there just about as much as I was in Philippi. I think of both of them as one big home town and I don't think I could ever choose between the two. Just to provide a little perspective (and explain why I'm such a big Pittsburgh fan!), I grew up only about 100 miles south of Pittsburgh. We spent a fair amount of time there for various reasons and it's almost like a third home town to me.
*(The Nutters & Cottrills that are mentioned in the linked article are my ancestors, for the record.)
My family consists of my parents, a brother who's 10 years older than I am, a brother who died when he was a baby, me, and two brothers who are 5 and 6 years younger than I am. I consider myself extremely fortunate in terms of family. My parents were great. They loved us and took good care of us despite having very little money to do it. My brothers and I have always been very close. Of course we've had little spats here and there like all siblings do, but we've never had a serious disagreement or bad feelings between us. I love my family and I feel confident that they love me too.
Because I think it explains some things about who I am and how I became this person, I'll tell you a little bit about each of my parents. (I'd love to tell about my brothers too but we'd be here all day if I did so I'll limit myself to this.)
My father had cerebral palsy from a birth injury, but he never let it slow him down. He had difficulty with fine motor skills and, while he was perfectly mobile in his adult life, he didn't learn to walk until he was about five years old and all his life his gait was noticeably awkward. His speech was also a little wavery, for lack of a better (nontechnical) word, and it always made me mad when people didn't even bother to try to understand him. He was super smart -- he had two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree, and two doctorates... despite the fact that when he was little his parents were told he would never be anything but a vegetable and they were encouraged to institutionalize him. Thank goodness they were too stubborn for that.
My daddy loved books more than almost anything. Not only did he work in a library and as a university lecturer, but our house was always full of books, too. He also loved antiques and airplanes of all kinds. The biggest part of his life, though, was his ministry. He was a Southern Baptist minister and he devoted his life to that work, second only to his devotion to his family. He died in 2006, but I loved him very much and I miss him all the time.
My mother worked outside the home occasionally, but her biggest passion was taking care of her family. She and my father were very devoted to each other, and the vast majority of her energy went into keeping him and us healthy and happy. She made the house nice, she cooked great meals, she did her best to make sure we had everything we needed one way or another. She helped my father a lot in his ministry as well as in other businesses and jobs that he had along the way.
As for her personal interests, she loves books even more than my father did, if such a thing is possible. I don't think it's any surprise that I read as much as I do, coming from a home where everyone always had their noses in books. She still reads constantly, several books per week, but now she does it on her Kindle and it's a lot easier. She's always loved holidays and it's important to her that the family is together on those days, even now. Sadly, she has a terrible degenerative disease in her spine that leaves her in constant, horrible pain, even with strong medication. That leaves her unable to do much these days, so we all try hard to make the holidays as special as she made them when we were growing up. I love my mom a lot.
We moved to Odessa, Texas, when my father got a job there. I went to high school and college there and stayed until I went to medical school. That was at Texas Tech in Lubbock, where I also plan to get my doctorate. I also have a master's degree from Texas A&M (in College Station), and I consider San Antonio as a fourth "home town" because my father grew up there and I've spent a ton of time there. Unfortunately I forgot to put either of those cities on the map. Sorry! I don't like saying on the open internet where I live now, but it's somewhere in the dotted circle. (However -- spoiler -- it's not in Mexico!)
I had a roommate when I lived in Lubbock, my friend Peggy. She is one of the best singers I've ever heard, and she loves working with little kids, and we laughed more during those years than I've ever laughed in my life. We had so much fun. She was the maid of honor at my wedding, and then shortly after that she moved to China to teach English and to be a missionary. We stayed in contact for a long time, even after she came back to the U.S., but then in late 2005 I lost track of her. I haven't heard from her since and it makes me super sad, but I keep hoping that one day I'll hear from her again because I love her.
I never dated a lot, but I did have a few boyfriends, and a few friends who were boys, and I had some fun times with them. My first date was on my 17th birthday. We went to see Tron (in the theatre! First run!) and then to McDonalds where my big spender got me a McRib and a drink. Wooo! I stayed with him for a few years, then made my way through a few others while I was in college, but no one particularly swept me off my feet.
My last year in college I was teaching a sign language class and the person who would become my husband was one of the students. We became good friends first and things progressed rather slowly from there. We got married six long years after we met. At that time I moved to the house where I live now and that's when I became a teacher.
The year I started teaching, my school got an internet connection and that was my first online experience. At first I used it only for work, and even that changed my life. It made research and writing a thousand times easier! Eventually I talked myself into trying a chat room and the first one I found was called Alamak, which doesn't even exist anymore in the US. It's an almost purely Malaysian chat service. There I met a few people with whom I still talk today, most notably a family in Australia who I've come to know extremely well. They send me things from Australia all the time and the mother has even visited me a few times. I've never been there but I do plan to go some day.
Through some people that I met on Alamak, I next got involved with a group of people who were friends with Mike Rowe, who was just starting out as the host of Dirty Jobs. We had a private forum where we interacted and that was a lot of fun. It was a small group, maybe 12-15 people, so I felt comfortable and was able to enjoy it. That lasted a few years then everyone sort of drifted apart. I'm still friends with some of the people from that forum, but I never talk to Mike anymore. (I really should give him a shout some time, but I've been shy about it. Imagine that. #sadface) After that, my next step was YouTube and I've already written about where that took me, but I'll have a bit more to say about it shortly.
A few years later, my father got very sick so my middle brother and I moved my parents to live near us. We helped my mother take care of him for several years and it was one of the hardest periods of our lives, but we're all thankful that we got to spend that time with him. After he died, my mother lived alone for a while, but finally the back pain grew so terrible that she wasn't able to take care of herself anymore and she moved in with my brother and his family. They later moved to Lubbock and that's where they live now. I miss my mom and her pain makes me sad, but I visit her as often as I can and that helps.
The past 6 or 7 years have been the most friend-filled of my life. You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned many friends in my earlier life, and that's because I haven't had many. It wasn't their fault, though. Lots of people have tried to be my friends over the years but I wasn't open to it. Now I am. It's still hard for me to interact with people but I'm getting better at it (finally!) and letting myself enjoy life for a change. Through YouTube/Nerdfighteria, I started interacting on BlogTV, then Twitter, and finally Skype, and those interactions have provided me with a wealth of friends, far more than I ever could have imagined before.
My family has grown large over the years, too, lots of nieces and even more nephews, and I'm not even counting the ones on my husband's side of the family (though I certainly do in real life). We're all reasonably successful and happy, my mother is well-cared for, and there's a lot of love among us. I'm a very lucky girl.
So, no matter how frustrating other parts of my life get, or how stupidly sad my own brain makes me at times, overall I can't complain. Life is good.
There's much more to tell, but that's for other blog posts. Remember to leave your questions and comments below. I'd love to hear from you! And if you're interested, you can also find me on Twitter.
Thanks again for reading! If you haven't seen the videos that go along with this post, they are:
Jill, Kristina, Frieda & Amy
And that's it from me on this Saturday. Best wishes! <3