I’ve spent the better part of 8 years on blogs NOT talking about my personal history, and it drives people crazy. So here we go, survey style, and I’ll even admit it, Who ~Is~ Janika Banks? This is a basic smattering for the curious. My life has been very very VERY full of all kinds of lotsa experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anybody’s.
Places I’ve Lived
1. I grew up 16 miles away from a Navajo reservation near the Four Corners in Farmington, New Mexico. We raised sheep and most of our own food, and I went to a very multicultural school. I’ve been to several different famous Indian ruins and love Indian and Mexican cultures. A recent book I’ve read this year is Book of the Hopi, I love digging through ancient Mesoamerican history.
2. After I turned 14 we moved to the Missouri Ozarks, that was like flipping the world over. We went from sandstone to flint, from juniper and sage to oak and prairie grass, completely different culture and history and weather, switched from raising sheep to raising cattle and goats. The biggest shock for me was coming from a racially very diverse school to an all-white school, and I can tell you so many ways that isn’t better, despite the rough gangs I’d grown up around.
3. The really bad side of Oklahoma City. I was sleeping in the back of a car when cops busted the house next door and hauled out a pile of stolen rifles and arrested some people, and then turned and yelled at a little kid shooting at them with a BB gun from a window in project housing across the street. Anything else associated with this goes into a book, and I’m ~not kidding~. It was around this time that Weird Al’s “I Love Rocky Road” debuted on MTV on a cheap tv in a crappy hotel room and I realized I was totally hanging with the wrong crowd.
4. I lived for a little while in Phoenix, Arizona, mostly around Peoria, where I first heard Dave Pratt and the Sex Machine, which, *again*, woke me up. I think Phoenix (as a whole) is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been through. Too bad I was hanging in the under belly with the bad karma.
5. ? I can’t talk about this place yet, the birth of the real, true Janika Banks and my weirdly wild popularity with oddballs and fringe people, who I think rock. the. bomb.
If you haven’t caught on yet because you missed the last 6 years of my blogging (admittedly, I’ve made this a little difficult with all the easter-egging I do chasing my blogs around), I was born autistic and have spent my life medicated and in pretty sucky pain. I’m a survivor, and where others croak in self pity, I barge through with spell check guns, sunglasses, pointy Vulcan ears, and a cool Hawaiian shirt. They used to call me Yablo. My sexual orientation is more akin to the mating habits of bowerbirds than any other way I can think to describe it. Scott is just about the only person on the planet that gets me.
1. I worked in sales at a radio station and learned how to make commercials.
2. I did ‘stat’ cleanup in a 4 story hospital after deaths, births, contagion, and toxic spills.
3. I made my way up in food to being top chef in both a dance lounge and a big restaurant, and later turned down an offer to chef at Hemingways Blue Water Cafe Restaurant | Bass Pro Shops without even being interviewed.
4. I was the reason the Pizza Hut franchise pulled candles off the tables for years, after I caught my hair on fire. Since I worked there, I think they were afraid I would try to sue, but I never did. I also worked at a Sonic, which I loved so much that I looked into buying into my own Sonic franchise. Some day…
5. I was a computer aid in a grade school for a year, which I loved. There is nothing sweeter than every kid in a whole school happily recognizing you in grocery stores for years.
6. I was the ‘Bra Nazi’ in a large retail chain for nearly 5 years, and also covered jewelry and accessories. I once caught a $25,000 inventory mistake in Maidenform tagging. I got so good at my merch that I could look at a one inch square of someone’s old bra and tell you the company and style number and whether I still had it in stock and what colors were discontinued. I also regularly helped cover housewares and domestics during the holiday season, got stuck on registers all the time, and knew the kids’ and men’s departments like the back of my hand because I was so available being in the middle of the store. And I unloaded merch out of the boxes when it came off the trucks! I really did love that job, even though they put me on customer service every holiday during Christmas returns. I really don’t care if people treat me badly, I just figure they’re brain damaged or something.
7. I retailed in a collection of Christmas shops then owned by Herschend Family Entertainment next to Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, including a model train shop, which was really cool, and met celebrity artists who create collectible figures and other art. I missed meeting Thomas Kinkade, and yes, that was before he died.
8. I had a couple of hotel desk jobs that lent to some eye opening things about people in more ways than you can imagine, and I met people from all over the world.
—After a few years, all this cool stuff spells out L-O-S-E-R on resumes and in a psychologist’s office, because it shows everyone I can’t hold the same job for 30 years. But I was never fired, I moved on gracefully when I got bored, and a number of people have sighed and expressed a little envy that they didn’t try more job hopping themselves. Life is too short not to go learn and try and do, and you develop so much more appreciation for other people and the jobs they do when you experience it yourself. I don’t regret any of it, even though someone always insists that I could have been a doctor.
1. I drove tractors and a hay truck long before I could drive a car.
2. I can do a LOT of stuff with a cheap camera, a scanner, and Print Shop.
3. I can actually sew, crochet, embroider, and bead. I rarely do these things.
4. I’m an awesome cook and have been coming up with my own recipes since I was a kid. I’ve been obsessed with recipes, cookbooks, and the world history of food since I was 7 years old.
5. I know how to do a controlled burn across nearly any kind of property.
6. I can ride an ornery horse, or at least I used to could before I asploded my spine.
7. I can butcher and process just about anything on this planet. I had a bloody childhood.
I worked. like. a. dog. My dad is Mennonite, and I grew up on a farm. We almost never went to doctors, and I still have an inch long scar on my scalp where I cut my head open on a metal bucket and never got it stitched up. I milked goats, dehorned calves, gave animals shots (they got shots, us kids didn’t…), butchered sheep and chickens, helped plant and harvest till I thought my arms and fingers would fall off, could easily run two miles pushing a herd of cattle to an end pasture, and none of that counted the housework I was expected to do every day. I rode my bicycle every chance I got, rode the horse as often as my dad would let me, and practiced throwing any ball I could get my hands on over the barn roof and climbed trees because I was so bored out of my mind. At 12 years old I once cleared a 4 foot fence when the ram was after me. By 10 years old the school librarian complained that I kept checking books out meant for older kids, by middle school I had exhausted all the science AND fiction in the library and teachers were complaining that I had an attitude when I finished my work early and said I was an intellectual snob. My fave books were The Great Brain series and David and the Phoenix, and my fave authors were Jim Kjelgaard and Walter Farley. By 9th grade I was being chased by gangs because I wrote honest stuff about them in a slam book that was being passed around (I can’t express enough how serious those beatings would have been if I’d have been caught). Starting high school in another state only made it all worse, but I never got caught putting all my teachers through special kinds of hell that really need a book to do the stories justice. I rode a bus all the way through to graduation because my parents never took me in to get a driver’s license and never prepared for me to get a car. Prom sucked because I had to wear an ‘old lady’ church dress with long sleeves and my mom picked me up before the dance started. I never had a boyfriend in high school, and I didn’t care, although at the time I never questioned why (I’m asexual). I was one of the first students in that school to be openly ok with having a gay friend. I tolerated all kinds of abuse sidelining me (one guy broke my nose and glasses in gym) because I knew I’d get them all back, and the sweet part was no one ever knew it was me causing the problems they had after they made me miserable. If high school hadn’t finally ended, I’m pretty sure I’d have gone on to become one of the top super villains of all time.
B.S. Sociology, minor Anthropology, all kinds of other dabbling in a number of psychology, religion, literature, mythology, political science, geography, geology, and chemistry classes. I preferred anthropology, but at the time my college didn’t have a full degree program set up for that, despite one of my professors being Juris Zarins, my very fave teacher ever. I did 140 hours of soc and loved it, because it was the closest thing I got to answers before I found out I have Asperger’s. I love debating soc vs psyche, because I feel the group has power over the individual, and one emotionally healthy person in a messed up group will always look like the crazy one. I’ve always wanted a t-shirt that says “Freud is Dead”. Started a masters in Guidance and Counseling and learned how to do assessments and psychological evaluations. Switched to Resource Planning and found my niche in little NEPA laws and satellite mapping, have visited USGS – Rolla Center twice (aspie heaven), and got approval by my chair to construct my thesis around bringing a Mall of American into the Ozarks, which could have made me a little money if I had pulled it off, but around that time I also got married and made the difficult choice to be a stay at home mom for a step child, which I generally don’t regret. Later went on to nursing school.
I like raising rare breed chickens and once raised a pair of pheasants. As a kid I grew up with all kinds of farm fowl, including ducks, geese, turkeys, and guineas, and we had a couple of parakeets. I’ve been around farm stock much of my life, including cows, sheep, goats, horses, and a donkey. My dad considered raising bison but changed his mind. I used to wish we owned zebras and wild mustangs, and studied books of horse breeds for years and tried to draw them. My own kids had a turtle, hamsters, gerbils, a frog, ducks and chickens, and big stupid lizards that stunk up my house and filled 3 years’ worth of holidays with the chirping of crickets, and that was the final straw of animals in the house except for starting new chicks. I also grew up around big dogs (one was part coyote) and farm cats, but haven’t owned either in years because I’d rather enjoy the critters that come up into my yard out of the woods. I’m also not afraid of snakes.
Some Places I’ve Visited
1. Juarez, Mexico- souvenirs!
2. Minneapolis, Minnesota- Mall of America!
3. Tampa, Florida- MegaCon!
5. Galveston, Texas – my very fave vacation spot ever! (That is a super cool website, click that.)
6. Aztec Ruins- creepy and cool!
7. Mesa Verde- Pueblo cliff dwellings!
8. Four Corners Monument- stand in 4 states at once!
—–Travel trivia- driving through Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour in 8 lanes of traffic one way and needing to ramp off is insane, try to time it differently if you go through yourself.
Other Things I’ve Done
1. I was president of a 4-H club for two years during middle school.
2. I was president of a local school district parent band club for two years when my kids were in school so I could get band uniforms designed and purchased, and I published a band parent newsletter. I loved everything about doing that, including the huge fundraiser chili suppers and all the parades. We were exhausted, but it was so cool.
3. I joined a church choir so I could be on tv one year, after spending 10 years in school choirs so I could go on field trips.
4. I helped a guy recreate himself as Jack Sparrow for a local charity event, which I helped with for several years.
5. I built Grandfortuna’s League of 20,000 Planets fansite for the tv show Lexx, which accidentally generated over 13,000 unique main page visits and over 32,000 total page views from over 80 countries in the 3 years I had it open (the first year I had completely forgotten I installed a tracker and didn’t know there were message boards), not counting the sister sites I made, and then completely deconstructed it and walked away. I still get more search engine hits by name years later from Russia and neighboring European countries than I get from the rest of the world combined.
6. I helped run a Lexx booth at MegaCon in 2007.
——More and more stuff keeps floating into mind (wow, I can’t believe how much stuff I cram into my life), but this stuff was the most fun on the volunteer scale.
Other Obsessions I’ve Had
1. As a kid I collected Breyer Horses and studied Walter Foster art methods, my favorite instruction book was How to Draw Horses.
2. Before I discovered HEX color code charts online, I collected skeins of embroidery thread because I am obsessed with ranges, brightness, and contrast of colors, which I think may be related to being synesthetic.
3. When I was younger I dreamed of collecting chess sets, but I’m far too frugal for that. I still look around for collectible chess sets, though. I’m pretty good at chess.
4. Every bottle, can, and container in my house is shelved label out, like in a store. I can’t help it. I once saw a little boy organizing bottles in a disheveled Walmart aisle by label, and felt such a warm fuzzy that it was all I could do not to join in and help. Scott has gotten after me for years for straightening racks in stores while I shop. Hey, it’s soothing. I find doing laundry to be very cathartic, too.
I thought about listing celebrities I’ve met, because I seem to be unusually lucky for someone who doesn’t really go out of their way to meet and greet, but I’m so close to Branson that it feels like cheating, and honestly, that kind of stuff bores me. So I’ll just say that I totally missed getting to meet Weird Al Yankovic because I was sick, wah, and I missed getting to meet Dan Aykroyd when he came through as a Blues Brother because I had to work, wah. He is my favorite Ghost Buster.
Ok, may as well deal with the reason I am doing this post. I decided I need to deal with my social anxiety a little more head on before I publish. Kinda silly hiding under a rock and throwing books out there. I mean, metaphorically, I’m still hiding under a rock, right. But no one knows why till I throw a book out. Yeah, I *know*, what else could I possibly say that hasn’t already been put out there into 8 years of blogging and surveys?
I’m pulling the following bit over from an old buried blog post from a retired blog, and I had pulled it over there from an even earlier blog that is completely gone now.
Monday, April 09, 2007 (this link probably won’t work since it’s in protected posting)
This is getting pulled over here from Thodin. I’m in the middle of deleting a whole bunch of stuff over there.
Yours truly, modeling for a photographer’s studio in a newspaper ad. Nowadays this is no big deal, you see pictures like this everywhere.
It was really freaky scanning and loading this old photo and seeing my brother making faces through the window for the first time on the computer, because he didn’t show up on the photo. It still weirds me out to look at it. I was in high school here. Yes, I have a coat on in my bedroom. We had no heat at all in that house excepting for a wood stove in the livingroom.
I drew a lot of horses in school. My best friend was much better at horses than I was, and I can’t do people at all. Unless they are stick people.
While I was in high school we lived on several hundred acres by a national forest, and I seem to be the only person in the family who has pictures. I’ve always been a camera bug, even if all I had was a cheap little box with a hole. That cow standing in the creek is one of about 200 head of registered Herefords. Part of my job during round up was to run the length of two miles of pastures while my sister edged one side on a pony and my brother edged the other side on a dirt bike. Three children rounding up 200 head of cattle, imagine that. We did it for three years so Dad could put them through a chute and give them shots and tag them.
I was in love with the place. Before we moved to this farm I had grown up in a desert 16 miles from a reservation and knew nothing but sand and bluffs and twisted junipers and sagebrush. And sheep. Everybody grew up with sheep out there. I had traveled and knew about mountains and trees and stuff, but this was really different– chert and clay overlayed with tangled forests, and underneath it all a network of caves that ran underground for miles. This creek came out from a spring in a neighbor’s cave, and after it left our place it got bigger and bigger to the point where people used it for float trips, and it eventually fed into a great big lake. I had never seen so much water in my life. And for ~free~. Where I grew up before we’d had to pay for water rights, and we all took turns using water from a tiny ditch network that ran from farm to farm from a river up in the mountains.
It was so unbelievably quiet out there. I lived on that place only three years, but that is where my soul stayed. We actually had mink and foxes and so many kinds of birds and bugs that some of them weren’t even in the book. Dad would go pick wild herbs like sheepshire and lamb’s quarters to put in our salads. I imagine you’d pay a pretty penny to find that in any salad in the world today.
This old loading chute was on the farm when we bought it. We never used it, you can see it’s very old. A few years after we moved it fell down.
This was very early spring. I would go out and walk for miles, up and down the hills and all over.
It was cool catching this on film. This goat actually walked around and played peekaboo with her kids. I’ve seen animals do the neatest things, most people have no idea just how imaginative they are with all the free time they’ve got.
We had a lot of stuff going on that place. Besides the cattle we also milked goats and sheared sheep and logged out some of the woods. We had a mean old donkey named Jack and a stubborn little pony, and I couldn’t ride either one of them. I grew up riding a horse, but I never could do anything with those two. I have no idea how my sister made the pony go for roundup.
I also grew up with dogs and can handle just about any kind of dog. This one was really different, part collie, part coyote. He would never tame to a leash or collar, but he was the best guard dog we ever had. He even attacked me once after he got old and lost his hearing. I got home from work about 1 a.m. and made it clear across the yard before he startled awake and leapt up in my face, and bore me to the ground. Luckily, I was the one who had always played attack with him, so I shoved my arm in his mouth (I had a leather coat on, he ripped right through it) to get his attention and laid there looking at him like ‘Duh, you idiot’ while he got all embarrassed and stepped back off me. I laughed so hard. That poor dog wouldn’t come near me for two days. He was also one of the fastest dogs I ever met, and could run and run without stopping, and wasn’t afraid to take anything down. Not even a skunk if you told him to. That only happened once, though. I take the blame for that one. I just wanted to see if he’d do it.
This is the house we lived in the whole time we ran that farm. Dad invested everything into the land and livestock, so we had very little to actually live on, but I didn’t mind at all. See that screened in porch? My brother slept out there on a cot, and in the winter the dog slept with him to keep him warm. When it got too terribly cold, all us kids piled onto the pull out sofa by the woodstove. I remember Dad bringing in newborn lambs and calves to warm up while blizzards raged in the dark, and we’d get out of bed to help get them warm and sometimes bottle feed them before they had to go back outside.
I think living on this farm is the reason why my brother and two sisters and I have always gotten along well as adults, because we were all we had back then, and we worked together like a team. Not that we didn’t fight ~then ~… my brother once tore out a screen door between us coming after me with a buggy whip after I threw a chair at him and just missed his head. Sorry, didn’t get any pictures.
I never really thought about it, but the other kids at school must have thought we were dirt poor, and I guess we were, but it just wasn’t something that bothered me. My clothes were clean and we ate well. Dad had to sell a goat so I could get new glasses, but that’s just the way things were. Looking back I now understand that we owned half a million dollars or more on paper at several points, and what I got out of it in personal experience was worth every penny to me. I grew up eating the finest steak and lamb and got a first hand education in resource planning. I was very healthy, with all the activity going on, and very strong. I know how to live very well on very little, thanx to that part of my life, and if I could afford it, I’d go find another place like that and never leave it.