~~ Threegardeners. Sure, you know who she is. You read her name every week on the Newsletter. Now meet Lee Anne Stark, the person who brings us the News. ~~
Nancy: Lee Anne, you are a major contributor to Cubits.org, and I'm very interested in getting to know you better. Can we talk? Who is Lee Ann Stark?
Lee Anne: I was born and raised in Oshawa, Ontario. It was, back then, a General Motors city. Almost everybody worked in the automotive industry in one way or another. My Dad included, as a pipe fitter.
We lived in the city by necessity, but we were by no means city people. Dad hunted and fished. We were the only house in the neighborhood with a couple of deer hanging on the back porch every fall, or fish scales on the front sidewalk. We had a cabin up north. Heated with wood, propane lights and stove and an outhouse. That was our getaway, our escape from the city. No neighbors for five miles. It was heaven!
Not being *true* city folks made for a difficult childhood. Neighbor kids thought we were strange. I went fishing with my Dad and carried worms in my pockets. I could clean a fish by the time I was eight. We wore hand-me-downs. We were happy. I was painfully shy as a kid and as a teen. I was happiest curled up in the back yard, under the big old tree, with a book.
Nancy: I respect your simple upbringing, Lee Anne. It sounds like you were wise and level-headed and mature long before other people your age even knew what those words meant.
Lee Anne: I decided at a very young age, maybe 13 or so, that I didn't want children of my own and that feeling never changed. So here I am childless and wondering which neighbor kid I'll bribe with the promise of a house if they take care of me when I'm old.
High school was hell. I didn't believe in make-up and designer jeans. I wore my Grampa's old WW2 Army coat. I refused to go along to belong. Any boys that might have been interested in the strange, red-headed girl with the home-made deer hide pencil case and old army jacket were greeted at the front door by my Dad cleaning his deer rifle. Teenage girls wanted nothing to do with me. I listened to very old country music (Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Patsy Cline) in an age where everybody my age was listening to ZZ Top and Guns 'n Roses. I read a lot. I crocheted afghans. I helped my Grampa (who lived next door) with his huge vegetable garden. I spent my summers up North with Dad's parents, picking berries with Grandma and walking in the woods with Grampa. I was happy.
I got my drivers license at seventeen. Dad gave me a set of keys to his truck and told me he didn't care if I took it as long as I was home in time for him to go to work the next morning. Maybe he secretly wanted me to get a social life but, LOL!! I was always home by supper time!!
Nancy: A no-nonsense person, someone who didn't see a need for trivial pursuits like malls and giggling, giddy slumber parties. It must have been difficult on occasion to "be yourself" and stand apart from the crowd, but I hope you're glad now that you did. I would rather have a friend like you than a roomful of superficial, materialistic women, and believe me, some of my friends are just that.
Lee Anne: I hated the giggly, giddy girly stuff. Never could see the sense in it. I remember once, in high school. Grade 9 was just starting. One of the so-called Guidance Counselors (remember them?) took me to her office one day. She told me that maybe if I dressed better, tucked my shirt in, I'd have some friends. I told her that if dressing better and tucking my shirt in would make them like me all of a sudden, then I sure didn't want them as friends. If they didn't like me for who I was…...well, you know :))
Nancy: Yes, I do know. Did you attend college, or go to work right out of high school?
Lee Anne: My parents wanted me to go to college but I'd discovered at 20 the mega money to be made in the world of auto manufacturing. Who wanted to go to college when they were making $20 an hour already? Who knew that manufacturing would come to a grinding halt in the mid 90's? *shrug*
My first real job was as a taxi driver, back when it was a ”safe” occupation. I drove for a few years. I learned that people weren't so bad after all. I realized that adults, unlike teens and kids, don't judge us nearly as much by how we look and dress. I made a few friends.
One night, working really late, a couple of guys pulled a gun on me. We were way out in the middle of nowhere. Turned out they were off duty police officers. They took it upon themselves to convey the message to me that it might not be a safe occupation for a young woman anymore. They made their point. I quit shortly after.
Anyway, I'm in a small village maybe an hour south of Ottawa. I moved out here with no job lined up, used most of my savings for first and last months rent and a tank of heating oil. That winter was rough. I cleaned some local horse barns to make ends meet.
Nancy: No job lined up and your savings spent. What did you do then?
Lee Anne: I got jobs in some factories...until they all closed down. Manufacturing took a nose dive. We bought a french-fry truck and worked for ourselves for a few years. That was a ball!! but it was seasonal and wouldn't pay the bills through the winter.
When I lost my last job last year I was given the option to be retrained. The Canadian Government was offering to pay tuition and living expenses. I decided to get into accounting, since I've always been good with numbers and have run my own business. No more sweating buckets in hot, dirty factories. Bring on the nine-to-five life in an air conditioned office. Or so I thought ….. turns out the government, in its infinite wisdom, trained too many people and now there's thousands of us fighting over the same few jobs again.
Nancy: And your family – are you still very close to them?
Lee Anne: In '93 Dad retired and they moved out here and bought a house. Dad passed away in '99 and I bought the house I was renting. It has an apartment in back. Mom and my brother, who is not married and is schizophrenic, live in the apartment so I can take care of them now. We're the end of the family line.
My family were my biggest influence. They made me who I am today. They taught by example. I'm happiest when those near and dear to me are happy. When my Mom, Brother and Hubby are happy, I'm happy, because I know I've done my part.
I can't stand to see someone unhappy. It tears me up. I can't rest until I've made it better. I think I'm too empathetic. I can sense when someone isn't happy. I also think it's my biggest downfall because I'm also overly generous. I'd give the shirt off my back or my last dollar away just to see a smile replace a frown or a tear. No, I'm not bragging, because I get taken advantage of a LOT, but I always believe someone is good until proven otherwise.
Nancy: I think that is a wonderful quality! Now I KNOW I would love to have a friend like you! I'd like to ask you about computers and Cubits now. How did you get involved with it all?
Lee Anne: In 2005 I got a computer. WOW! what an adventure that was and is still. I had to teach myself how to use it. I had post-it notes everywhere!
When I moved to this old house it had a huge yard and no gardens. I fixed that in a hurry! The first thing I did was type in the name of a plant I had. That led me to Dave's Garden. Over the years the gardens have expanded and now that I own it they've taken over the place.
I liked the way Dave and Trish ran Dave's Garden. They have values. They're hard working decent people. Years ago I told Dave that he was my “www dot hero”.... and I still think that. The man's a genius! Trish should be nominated Wife and Mother of the Year. She's amazing.
I've met more wonderful people on the internet than I've ever met in real life. I consider a lot of them my best friends. And when I got an invite to come and check out Cubits I was thrilled! This is going to be huge. It won't happen overnight, but eventually it will.
I have five Cubits. Pets, because I've always been owned by cats and dogs. I'm currently owned by seven cats and three dogs. I love them more than people sometimes. Cats and dogs never judge us. They love us for who we are. Inside.
House Plants Cubit. Well, I've got almost 200 of them. Lots of them are Hoyas, which is my third Cubit. Fascinating plants they are. I started the Herbs Cubit since there was a need for one but I haven't yet had the time to do much of anything with it. I also have a Cubit that I started to sell Moms carvings and quilts.
Nancy: And also the Tropics and Tropicals Cubit, which you own with AlohaHoya. And of course there's the very popular Cubits 'n Bytes Newsletter and the Featured Cubit.
Lee Anne: I consider it a great honour to be able to do them. They give me such a nice feeling like I've accomplished something good :)) if that makes sense. My Dad was always involved with many different organizations, clubs, etc. and he tried to get me involved too. My chronic shyness kept me out of any spotlights though. The internet has been my saving grace in that regard. I can now get involved the way I've always wanted to and I'm grateful to Dave and Red (who owns the Cubit that I publish the newsletters in) for allowing me the opportunity to do so.
Nancy: Sometimes I ask people what, if anything, they would do differently if they could do it all again. Would you like to answer that question?
Lee Anne: I've thought about that a lot the past few years. Do I have any regrets?
Whenever I start thinking "if only" I remind myself that if it weren't for the decisions I made in the past, whether good or bad, then I wouldn't be where and who I am today. Know what I mean? I'd like to wish I'd been more popular in school, but if I had been then I wouldn't be as strong and secure in myself as I am.
I sometimes wish I'd never done this or that, we all do I'm sure. But if I hadn't made the choices I made back then, I wouldn't have gone in the particular direction that led me to where I am today. I'd never have met my hubby, never been owned by my wonderful pets, probably never experienced the joy of owning and running the french-fry truck, which means I probably wouldn't be just finishing college right now. Yes, I might have done something along the way that would have gotten me a better paying job, which would have led to more debt and maybe be retired right now instead of just finishing school. At any time, I could have gone in another, possibly worse way. We never know these things, and second guessing ourselves isn't going to solve anything. It doesn't matter what or who you were in the past, the only thing that counts is who you are now.
I'm content. I don't want a lot. I'm happy with what I have. I'm not a big house, keep up with the Jones's kind of girl. I'd be just as happy living in a three room cabin in the woods, as long as I have internet :)) I'd like to visit a lot of places, but I'm also very content to be home. You can pretty much see anyplace in the world with the internet.
This was interesting, Lee Anne. I feel like I know you so much better now and someday I would love to make that four hours and twenty seven minute trip that separates us (as the crow flies? Over a Great Lake?). So if you hear a knock on the door and there's a “somewhat older” lady with a Buffalo accent standing there, put on the coffee and get out some of your mother's banana, chocolate chip cake with chocolate icing because it will be me! Thank you for sharing yourself with us today!
Lee Anne will be happy to chat with you. Please leave her a message below.