If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably already know a lot about me–namely the fact that I love wine, handbags, high heels, my handsome husband, our daughter Kate, decorating, and dashes. But here’s the back story.
For those of you who skim, have ADD, a backed up Google Reader, or just don’t care to read my entire life story, here’s the short version:
My name is Dusty–and yes, that’s my real name. I’m a Midwestern girl who went from the farm, to college, to the suburbs. Met my dream man at age 19, married him at age 24, and now in my 30s I’m as happy as can be balancing my high maintenance tendencies with my desire to keep things simple.
And now for all my curious readers who’d like to know more about me, stalkers who want to dissect my past, and deviants who want to try to guess at my bank account passwords, here’s the long version–along with little related stories in the endnotes that I couldn’t resist sharing! (Click on the endnote number in the post to go down to the related endnote. While there, click on the same number to go back to your place in the post.)
I am a Midwestern girl through and through. I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin with my husband Greg and our daughter Kate, but I wasn’t always enjoying the leisurely life in the suburbs…
I grew up on a dairy farm outside a small town in southwestern Wisconsin and spent every minute of every day plotting how I would one day get off that farm. Farm life included my mom and stepdad, seven of my siblings, and only one shower for the 10 of us to share. I was never cut out to be a farm girl. I hated the smelly farm animals, hated being in the buggy fields, really hated haying season, hated being dirty and smelly–I pretty much hated it all. I did my fair share of outside farm chores, but luckily my mom took pity on me and most of my chores were indoors–keeping the house clean, taking care of my youngest brother and sister, and cooking meals for our huge farm family.
I like to joke that I had a “hillbilly” upbringing, but really it was probably more of your typical “small town, huge farm family with no money” kind of upbringing. My mom sews and most of our clothes were either homemade, hand-me-downs from older siblings, or from garage sales. My mom taught me how to sew at a young age and eventually I made some of my own clothes, too. We ate dinner together as a family every single night. Meals were always made from scratch and usually incorporated in some capacity the huge container of lard we kept in the fridge. Summers were spent gardening, canning fruits and vegetables, and making homemade jellies to stock up our cellar for winter. Our milk came straight from the cow to the pitcher to our kitchen table, we collected fresh eggs from the flock of chickens that wandered the farm, and grew our own sweet corn in the field across the road. Overall we made do as much as we could with what we could produce ourselves and nothing went to waste.
I’ve always loved decorating. I was lucky enough to have my own bedroom and it was my sanctuary while I was growing up. My mom could never discipline me by sending me to my room because I already spent as much time as I could in there doing things like reading books and practicing walking in high heels–but mostly I spent hours and hours decorating and redecorating with fabrics and materials I’d raided from my mom’s sewing room.
My love of decorating came from my mom. She was always re-arranging furniture and looking at different ways to use things. She loved “junking” as she would call it, and I don’t think there was a single garage sale, flea market, or antique store that we passed without stopping at when I was a kid. Even a pile of castaway garbage on the side of the road would have my mother hitting the brakes if it looked promising enough. The result was growing up in a house full of antiques and items that were on their way to a landfill until my mother saved them and repurposed them for something else. (An antique bedpan as a planter anyone?) Years of “junking” and antiquing taught me to look at things in a different light and to see potential in even the most worn-down things. It also gave me an appreciation for history, and different styles.
I can look back now and realize that I learned so much growing up on the farm–a strong work ethic, how to make pies from scratch, an ability to spit without it dribbling down my chin–but that didn’t change the fact that I hated farm life and dreamed every day of something different. In my mind college was my only way out and I was determined to get there.
At age 17 I graduated second in my class from high school, received a full academic scholarship to a private university in northern Wisconsin, and became the first person in my family to go to college. College is where I met the three great loves of my life: my husband, my independence, and wine. This is also when I discovered that some people actually do come from towns with stoplights and that pizza delivery is not just something you see in the movies.
I wish I could tell you that I studied hard in my dorm room every night and that my time between classes was split volunteering at the homeless shelter and the Save the Whales foundation, but the truth is—this was the time in my life when I really let my hair down. College was easy for me, so I challenged myself by partying nearly every night. That’s about all I’m going to say about that because one day my children might read this. But the good news is I was still able to graduate (with honors!) in four years with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. No harm, no foul.
Life after College
At age 21 I graduated college and moved to Madison where Greg (my boyfriend of nearly 2 years at this point) was already living. We got an apartment in the suburbs and I got my first “real” job at a small nonprofit social work agency working with delinquent teenagers.
One day we were walking through our neighborhood and noticed a house we’d always admired was for sale. We had no idea what houses sold for and were curious to see the price on this one, so when we got back to our apartment I went online and looked it up. On the side of the website was a little “mortgage calculator” where you could enter the price of a home and it would give you an idea of what your monthly payments would be. I’ll never forget when I clicked the button and that number was generated. “Greg!” I called from the spare bedroom/office/storage room/man room. “We could totally afford to buy a house!”
That little online mortgage calculator set the wheels in motion and that summer Greg and I bought our first house. I was 22 years old, Greg was 25, and we couldn’t have been more proud of this major life accomplishment. A few weeks later–on our 3 year anniversary–Greg proposed, and sixteen months after that we were married.
Is She Finished Yet?
This may come as a surprise to you, but I really did do some heavy editing of the “long version” of my life. A lot of things hit the cyberspace cutting room floor–like the fact that my mom forced me to play sports when I was a kid, but I eventually grew to love it and attribute that to the active lifestyle I live today. Or the fact that I wanted to be a belly dancer when I grew up–or a lawyer–or a professional ice skater (I can’t even ice skate, or belly dance…but I can argue). And I guess you’ll never hear about the time I accidentally walked in on the high school boys basketball team changing in the locker room. But time to wrap things up, right? (I probably lost most of you back at canning fruits and vegetables!) Today I still live in Madison with my wonderul husband Greg. Somewhere in between the last paragraph and now we sold our first house, bought our current house, and welcomed our beautiful daughter Kate. I’m still in social work although I work for a different nonprofit now, serving children with mental health issues.
There were definitely two sides to me growing up–the girl who fed the cows in manure-covered jeans, and the girl who wouldn’t go into town without makeup on. I still have those two competing sides of my personality, but like I said at the beginning–I love my life and am happy as can be balancing my high maintenance tendencies with my desire to keep things simple.
So far in life there are a few things I know for sure:
Determination and a sense of humor will get you through anything.
True love is truly a lovely gift.
Money cannot buy happiness–but it can buy wine, which is a close second.
I hate sharing a bathroom.
An underage drinking ticket will not get you kicked out of college.
Pizza delivery goes straight from your doorstep to your ass.
And it really is best to knock before taking the shortcut through the boys’ locker room.
Related Anecdotes & Key Information
 Before I had my driver’s license, I would ride my horse into town and tie her up outside the gas station so I could go in and buy a soda–and no one in town would even bat an eye. That’s how small my hometown is. I also have 5 additional siblings who grew up with my dad and stepmom about an hour from us. Our sophomore year of college my roommate and I moved off campus into an apartment and I cooked us our first dinner in our new place. I made homemade spaghetti. So much homemade spaghetti, in fact, that it took us a week to eat it all. I’d spent my entire life cooking meals to feed 10 people and had never considered doing it any other way! I took my first home economics class my freshman year of high school, and I’ll never forget our first class project. My classmates labored tediously over sewing a pillow out of two square pieces of fabric–while I sewed a dress to wear to the Homecoming dance. I took driver’s education class in high school and one afternoon the instructor said he didn’t have a route planned and we could go wherever we wanted. Well I was in the driver’s seat, so I took my car full of fellow permit holders, drove to a nearby town and showed them all my favorite old Victorian houses. The college I went to was predominately female–I think the ratio was 7 girls to every 1 boy. I started out majoring in psychology but took an Introduction to Criminal Justice course the second semester of my freshman year because that’s where all the boys were. (Sad, but true.) That Intro to Criminal Justice text book became the first text book I ever read cover to cover, and I ended up loving the subject so much that I changed my major to criminal justice. I’m glossing over all the Greg parts a bit because I plan on doing a separate post about us. But don’t worry—it should only be about a third as long as this one because so far we’ve only been together a third of my life!