Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Small-Town Living: The Bell Tolls for Thee and Me by Nikki Strandskov


Nikki Strandskov, aka Auntie Knickers or Nikki in Maine, is a (lately quite infrequent) blogger at 
and member of the DorothyL group. She was born in Maine and grew up in various places as an Army brat, graduated from Brandeis University and Defense Language Institute-West Coast, and served as a Russian interpreter on the “duty train” from Berlin to West Germany in the early 70s.

Since then she has raised three children (with quite a bit of help from her husband), worked in libraries and as a church secretary, and done quite a bit of genealogy. Mostly it seems she buys books and reads them. She fights a never-ending battle with disorganization. Her dog’s name is Rusty.

Nikki Strandskov
Bayberry Hill Genealogy

by Nikki Strandskov

       Nearly six years ago now, my husband and I left Minneapolis, which had been his lifelong home and mine for more than half my life, for my home state of Maine. We bought a house in the town where I finished high school, in the midst of many relatives – a town of about 20,000.  We had lived in an even smaller town for a few years in southern Minnesota early in our marriage, but still many aspects of small-town life continue to surprise us. Here’s one.

       When local disasters happened in Minneapolis, we felt sorry for the victims, but they usually weren’t anybody we knew. Any help we gave was at arm’s length or farther, through the Red Cross or church perhaps. Even on the few occasions where someone we knew needed help with medical expenses, opportunities for donations were set up through church and the recipients were not told who did or didn’t give. Not so here.

       It’s a rare week in our town and those surrounding it that doesn’t have a number of public suppers (and sometimes breakfasts and lunches) to choose from. The regularly scheduled ones tend to be in aid of a church or some other organization like a volunteer fire department, Scout troop, lodge or Grange.  

Bowdoinham Volunteer Fire Dept. Bean Supper and Dessert Table

But quite often, the meal will be a benefit for someone who’s having financial trouble because of an injury, illness, or fire. I’ve attended several of these; two, in fact, for cousins.  Although Maine has a high proportion of people with health insurance, there are also many people who are self-employed or work in jobs with little or no sick leave, and they can have trouble paying for housing, heat and food if someone in the family can’t work. In these cases, friends and neighbors step in and hold a supper, sometimes with a silent auction as well. And whenever possible, the recipient and his or her family will be present to greet and thank everyone who comes.  There is no shame in their faces at such times, because everybody concerned knows that next week, next month, or next year, the tables could turn and today’s donor would be the one in need.

       I said earlier that I don’t remember seeing events like this in the city, but there’s an exception. The music and theater communities, whether in big cities or small towns, tend to look after their own in this way. It’s probably because being a musician, actor, or playwright is not unlike being a lobsterman or free-lance carpenter in terms of benefits and job security – there usually isn’t much of either.

       One of the communities I belong to is the mystery community of DorothyL, through which I “met” Kaye and was invited to guest-blog here. Other than attending a few reading-and-signing events, I don’t think I’ve met any of these folks in person. Yet we rejoice in each other’s triumphs and share in each other’s trials. Right now, one of our community members, writer and reviewer Kevin Tipple, needs help.  Through a perfect storm of health and financial problems, things that could easily happen to any of us, Kevin and his family need help paying for the bare necessities of daily life. You can donate securely here

       There are a lot of great things about living in a small town. One is the opportunity to know and help our neighbors, and another is the chance for our neighbors to help us. Isn’t it nice that virtual communities can function in the same way? If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re part of my virtual community, or Kaye’s virtual community, and thus within “six degrees of separation” of Kevin – and now you have the opportunity to help him. Another time?  Well, who knows. Could be you, could be me.

Workspace photos: Workspaces center, left and right comprise my computer desk. Among the projects which litter it are cataloging (in a very simple way) our 2,000+ book collection, adding to the collection, and trying to come up with a list of all the plays I have seen on stages since my first such experience in about 1962.  The other photo, of the tidier desk, is my latest completed small project – tidying that desk, which serves the family. The photo on the desk is of our daughter Cordelia, who was ordained as a United Church of Christ minister last fall and serves a church in Santa Cruz, CA.

Workspace Left

Workspace Center
Workspace Right
Family Workspace - photo of daughter Cordelia



Aubrey Hamilton said...

Or email the Congressman with this address:

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

I don't know how many of you might be aware of the latest in Kevin's
troubles, but things have worsened, as you can read at his blog if you're interested -
Another DL member suggested to me we write to Kevin's representative
alerting them to Kevin's plight, and ask that they help him,
which I have done, along with mentioning that the mystery/crime fiction community is doing what it can.
The representative's website is:
If someone on their staff would just give the family some help handling all the paperwork and red-tape, it might at the very least, help keep them from becoming homeless.

I invite you all - crime fiction community members and fellow
bloggers included - to help get the word out in an effort to help
in any way possible.


jenny milchman said...

I dream of living in Maine one day with my family, Nikki, and your great post is but one reason why. It takes a village to--do almost anything. How nice that you've found yours.

And I hope Kevin gets his.