Hit the Road, Sue
Here’s the itinerary for the trip as I planned it before departure. I have friends who live in most of these places. They had already been warned, pretty far in advance, that I might be coming their way. The schedule was set up around their availability, to accommodate a short visit and/or to help me with the driving. I’d also asked their advice for places I might consider in their vicinities for retirement living if I discovered after a year that Kalamazoo was too cold for this California weather wimp to live year-round!
|6/16/22||Thurs||los alamos||2 hrs||Brenda||leaves 8:34|
|6/17/22||Fri||oklahoma city||8 hrs|
|6/19/22||Sun||st. louis||6 hrs|
I got a late start on my very first very long solo leg. This was the break-in leg in which I’d hoped to acclimate myself to the nuances of my new vehicle. The drive was tedious enough to accommodate this, but my reflexes and reactions were too slow to do it safely! I also made it longer than it needed to be based on my outdated knowledge and sentimental desires to make one last drive on the “new” Orange County Toll Road and the “old” San Diego Freeway almost all the way to the Mexican border. Due to this Taurean’s stubbornness, I got bogged down in traffic that was heavier than I’d anticipated before joining the very less traveled Interstate 8. Over 500 miles and 8 hours, I traveled this very barren (after leaving the San Diego area) and very long stretch, stopping only once to fill up (first time for the vehicle since I’d owned it and first time for me on the trip!) before finally getting to where I was going!
I’d visited my oldest friend Brenda’s Tucson home once or twice before, back when I was (happily?) married. Even then, though, I’d started to complain about my now (idiot) ex to her and she’d also started to complain to me about her spouse at the same time! This visit was special, though, in more ways than one. I got to meet her kids and grandkids that I’d heard so much about and confirmed they had been well-raised, as I’d expected. I also got to spend some time with her recently retired spouse which confirmed that he may not be as bad as I’d expected, either! (We like to complain about our kids and our spouses, who of course look different to other people than they do to us, right?)
Brenda showed me her favorite walking trails, both in her neighborhood and in nearby Saguaro National Park. She’s lived in Tucson for so long that she could be a tour guide, if only they hadn’t been doing road work on and closed some of her favorite alternate routes! She also took me to AZ State U’s new vet school, nearly at the opposite corner of the now sprawling Tucson metro area from her home. Devil Child’s boyfriend, now fiancé, was planning to attend there, and they’d already rented an apartment in the area. (After their visit she’d told me it looked to her just like her native Orange County, where her memories were not the happiest! I’d also saved Mom’s old car in CA for DC to drive to AZ when she moved. Happily for all, that move didn’t happen because boyfriend now fiancé got last minute acceptance to MI State vet school!)
My other Tucson stop was a dinner date with a former coworker from very long ago. Jean was a cost analyst when I was a buyer at Rockwell International in Downey, CA. She and our mutual friend Erica (more about her later) were “there” when I got married and when I had my first child! Jean retired to Tucson, where her kids and grandkids (and maybe even great grandkids?) lived, and in the intervening 30 years the only time we’d seen each other was at Erica’s son’s bar mitzvah! In all the time I’d known (and known of) her, Jean was always the gorgeous and lively life of the party. She’d even acquired a new boyfriend at the same time as she’d acquired her house in Tucson. They’d met at the clubhouse bar in the retirement community where they both lived. Their houses were across the street from each other, so clearly that meeting was fate! Jean and Royce traveled the world together, until recently, when old age began to catch up with them in their 80’s. If I could live the rest of my post-retirement life as Jean did, I’d be more than satisfied!
Now that her spouse has (finally) retired, Brenda was and is eager to get away from him! (Retirement is definitely an adjustment for anyone, including those they live with.) She was more than happy to make the drive from Tucson to Albuquerque with me, and of course I was very glad for the company. There we met up with my friend Ann. Ann and I met when we were both students at UCLA GSM. (That’s the Graduate School of Management which is now AGSM after it was endowed by an Anderson.) Ann and one of my friends from USC were roommates at UCLA. (Ann and I are still buddies but neither of us hears anymore from the person who brought us together. How strange is that?) Ann moved to San Francisco after graduation. We all thought that was a strange choice given her raging arthritis, but it was great to visit her there.
Maybe 4-5 years ago (I don’t remember exactly), Ann moved back to her hometown of St. Louis. The hills of San Francisco and the stairs of her Victorian townhouse had finally become too steep for her joints to handle. Either before or after that move, and again I don’t remember the sequence of events, she and I had met up in Washington, D.C. where we visited some of the “newer” museums and the Secret City exhibit on display at the time at the National Building Museum. Getting someone to accompany me to the latter had been the main impetus for this trip. We had a great time, comparing the city to when we had each lived there at different times in our lives – me for a semester as an undergraduate, Ann as a fledgling reporter who’d just earned her degree in Journalism.
Ann flew into Albuquerque and met Brenda and me at the hotel I’d booked for the two of us that became three after Brenda joined me on the drive. I like to try to put people together based on shared interests. I don’t usually have much success in this but these two bonded over their shared ailments which, at our advanced ages, is maybe more common than I’d like to think! The next morning, I put Brenda on a plane back to AZ then Ann and I made the drive into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Los Alamos, NM. This second site of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park had been on my very short bucket list for a while. It was quite different than my prior happy place/home of Oak Ridge but fascinating nonetheless and well worth a potential return visit, maybe even as soon as this spring when I’ve already signed up for a writers workshop in nearby Taos.
The main reason I’d scheduled a New Mexico stop was to visit my aforementioned friend Erica who now lives in Albuquerque where she and her husband Ron have finally realized their joint vision and dream of owning their own business. Ron and Erica married when I was pregnant with the Devil Child, though our “familial connection” extends farther back than that as she had referred me to her own Long Beach, CA, ob/gyn when I’d discovered my unexpected pregnancy with Mini-Me, way back in 1989! These two have moved all over the country in pursuit of this dream, though our paths have not crossed as often as I would have liked over the years. My kids seem to barely remember the day we went with them and their kids to the Strawberry Festival in Garden Grove. (Since their kids are younger than mine/ours, I wouldn’t even ask if they remember, though I have photos of one of the very few times idiot ex actually participated in an outing of this sort.) The last time I’d seen them in their native/home habitat, including the home they lived in then, was at the bar mitzvah of their eldest, in Frisco, TX. Since that time (more years ago now than his age then), I missed the opportunity to see where they lived in Columbus, OH (I don’t think they ever bought a house there, that’s how much Erica didn’t like it), or the (pre) retirement home they’d designed and built in Austin, TX (though that town is still on my bucket list).
This time I “hit the jackpot!” I not only got to see both Ron and Erica but as an added bonus I got to see the business they bought and now operated (though just the outside of the building) and the new house they bought and finally moved into (after a few delays caused by pandemic-related supply shortages) in Albuquerque. All of these positive experiences provided further areas for exploration and consideration of a future winter home in “The Land of Enchantment.”
Following this “action packed” two-day stopover, Ann and I got back on the road headed east and deeper into near hillbilly country. As fellow progressive civil rights history aficionados, we had previously considered, obviously pre-pandemic, an extended trip to see and learn from the recently erected monuments and restored sites dedicated to this story. In lieu of that, Ann suggested a quick stopover along Interstate 40 to check out the in process of being resurrected Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had considered the suggestion but put another one to her that would better fit into the semi-rigid driving schedule I had set up for myself. After not a lot of discussion, especially after being on the flat and boring and seemingly interminable drive across as little of Texas as we could, we agreed to spend the night in Oklahoma City to visit the National Memorial dedicated to telling the story of the first major incident of domestic terrorism that happened there in 1995.
The final stopover I had planned was the longest. I spent four days in Ann’s St. Louis home where, over several visits with her and a few more with Mini-Me, who had also lived off and on in the area before finally settling into married life in MI, I had come to appreciate what the city and the area had to offer as a potential place to put down new retirement roots. With the benefit of foresight, and based on what I’d seen of the places Mom’s friends and relatives had occupied in their old ages and often single lives, I was already considering what type of housing I would want in the future. (I have already done quite a bit of research through which I have discovered, like most decisions that will be necessary in my future, this one is best delayed till the time I will really NEED to make one!) Ann has already given this some thought as well, so she was happy to join me in a tour of a nearby senior living facility. We were both favorably impressed with this particular one though, like most places these days that house seniors, we had to mask up because they had experienced some recent Covid infections.
After scoping out some of the nearby suburban retail options (including my usual Great Clips haircut plus the unique and local Dearberg’s grocery), as well as the trendy revitalized historical suburb (with Ann’s favorite farmer’s market plus an Amtrak station) in Kirkwood. While, based on my successive periods of concern caused by tornados and other malicious weather patterns, like snow in winter and stickiness in summer, that I’d suffered vicariously while MM lived there, I had already ruled out moving to St. Louis, these other happy and comfortable for me “finds” confirmed these all as parameters for my next, and probably nearly final, place of residence.
How I Moved It!
I moved that new bed and those new sheets, which I guess at the time I bought them might have been thought of as a real, if unconscious, starting point of my new life. That turned out to be almost all of the furniture I ended up taking with me. When I scheduled this move, gas prices were sky high and moving containers were scarce. After my usual extensive research, I was forced to accept my realtor’s recommendation based on her son’s recent similar experience. I ended up reserving two U-boxes from U-haul. I knew they were smaller, lighter and flimsier than most but I found out they were also sparser than most and did not have a lot of options for anchoring what was moving so it wouldn’t slide around inside.
All of what was lacking in the configuration and structure of the U-box turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. After packing the first one really tightly, I made the snap decision to just not bring what I couldn’t fit in there. Turned out to be a really good thing I didn’t. I wouldn’t have been able to fit most of what I left behind in the 700 square feet in which I now live! This was clearly, in 20/20 hindsight, just another indication that I would now truly be starting over.
The second part of what I moved with me included the more fragile stuff and the more immediately necessary stuff. To make this part of the move easier (or so I expected), I decided to buy myself a new car. This was the first such purchase I’d made completely on my own in 40 or so years. Based on copious research in the Torrance Main Public library reference section which was the only place, way back then, where I could get my hands on the then print only issues of Consumer Reports, I settled on a Mazda GLC. At that time, so very early (at least from my helplessly pre-feminist, virginal and naïve perspective) in my working adult life, I was so proud of myself for making that decision all on my own, and paying all cash for it, too. The easiest part of that purchase was selecting a unique color.
I used a similar process this time, though now I was overwhelmed by the extremely wide range of vehicle sizes, styles and features available. This overload of data was described in excruciating detail on way too many websites, including at some dealers in Medford, OR, where I test drove some with the similar to me vertically challenged sister of my BFF. She is still deciding but I didn’t have time to wait or waste. It was probably fortunate then, given the supply chain crunch caused by COVID, I could limit myself to used vehicles only. My realtor and one of my oldest friends, along with many of the online reviews, extolled the virtues of Subaru SUVs, but even with that advice, I still just HAD to test drive a few more SUVs at the Torrance Carmax. This time, I had to decide between a two-seat or three-seat config. I knew I’d need cargo room and thought maybe someday I might need a third seat until I was convinced that today’s third seats are only comfortable for REALLY VERTICALLY CHALLENGED folks, like (grand)kids. When this selection was made, again in the interest of time, I finally just decided to buy the model that had the most weather and safety-related bells and whistles. That’s how I ended up with a 2019 Subaru Forester Touring Model. The last dealership I went to, just before loading up, had the one with the most unusual color and least amount of miles, so that’s the one I bought!
What I moved, and why
I had a lot of time to prepare for this move, so by the time it finally happened I’d already forgotten about some of the things that I’d packed a while ago.
There were a lot of things from Mom and Dad’s youth where I recognized their visages, thoughts, or milestones. There were a few things from even farther back in their family histories, where I recognized much less. There was also a lot of memorabilia, including many, many photos, from all the trips they took, mostly with their friends, after they were retired but still healthy enough to get around. I recognize many of the faces and a few of the places. I brought some of my parents’ old books and antiquated records (albums and singles), many of which I still personally consider to be classics. If and when I ever get to read or reread or listen to some of the works of Michener and Stone, and of Rogers and Hammerstein, among others, I imagine when I have done with them, they might go to a library or antique store or into someone else’s personal collection. Best and optimum use for pre-disposal or pre-dispersal purposes would be to share with and/or pass along to some of the younger, and hopefully/possibly related to me, generations. Mini-me has already followed in her mom’s and her grandpa’s footsteps as an aficionado of musical theater, though she has also taken up, with her spouse, her idiot father’s appreciation of sci-fi.
On top of all that, I still have all my photo albums, going back to middle school, that I assembled when I was single. I’m also moving once again my college year books, which are much heavier than high school, that my idiot ex put in the POD. These will go with single copies (out of the multiples that Mom still had) of memorabilia and programs from my days in Girl Scouts, Torrance Area Youth Band and USC Trojan Marching Band (the greatest marching band in the history of the universe!). These all recall the (mainly happy) times I hope I can share with a granddaughter, at least. A lot of them still make me smile. I brought back to my children all the photo albums I made in their childhoods, and all the extraneous photos and memorabilia I never got around to adding to them. Maybe it will make them smile, too, if we ever get to sit down together to reminisce about their births and birthday parties and holidays and trips and Girl Scouts, too.
Finally, I brought the new queen bed I’d bought when it became pretty clear that I would be staying with Mom in the house with her for a while, and maybe for the rest of my life, though of course that’s now how it turned out. It’s one of the newer ones with an extra thick mattress that required deep-pocketed bottom sheet corners and even then they don’t stay fitted as tight as I’d like. It’s like the one my idiot ex and I bought to sleep on (together – which was unusual and uncomfortable) when we bought our first house in Tennessee together. He sent the king size sheets I’d used for that one in the POD after I’d already bought myself a fresh new set. The old sheets were too big but had become an oversized cocoon for me, that I could tuck in nice and tight, keeping me warm and safe, bounded and protected, at night. He slept most of the daylight hours away on his old nasty leaking waterbed in his deep, dark and desolate mancave of a bedroom in the basement with two fans blowing directly on him.
Finally, already boxed up, in addition to my own precious books, are some sorts of antiques: a DVD player and discs of old beloved movies and some school events and last but not least though probably oldest, some family home movies and videotapes. I had already moved some to Tennessee with plans to get them digitized. They came back to Mom’s house again when I did and now are making the trek to our mutual new home, with younger family, in Michigan.
My Escape from L.A.
Before I lay out, in excruciating detail, the nuts and bolts of my personal escape from L.A. I wish to lay out, for the edification and enjoyment of mainly my younger (post Baby Boom) readers, a synopsis of the film’s plot while also highlighting some of the more outlandish precepts employed in the story. For my own nostalgic reasons, I’m including some garishly true and somehow appropriate facts about where in the area’s underbelly some scenes were shot. Though based on satire, some of them have some unfortunate kernels of truth to this day.
In 2000, a massive earthquake strikes the city of Los Angeles, cutting it off from the mainland as the San Fernando Valley floods. Declaring that God is punishing Los Angeles for its sins, a theocratic presidential candidate wins election to a lifetime term of office. He orders the United States capital relocated from Washington, D.C. to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia and enacts a series of strict morality laws. Violators are given a choice between loss of U.S. citizenship and permanent deportation to the new Los Angeles Island, or repentance and death by electrocution. Escape from the island is made impossible due to a containment wall erected along the mainland shore and a heavy federal police presence monitoring the area.
- Several scenes were shot in Carson, including the Sunset Boulevard and freeway sequences.
- The Sunset Boulevard scene was filmed in a landfill, where production staff constructed over one hundred and twenty structures to create a shanty town.
- In order to create the impression of a crowded post-apocalyptic freeway, two hundred and fifty broken cars were sourced from a junkyard in Ventura.
- Happy Kingdom was supposed to be Disneyland, but Disney didn’t give them permission.
- The character of the President was Kurt Russell’s idea. He based him on televangelist Pat Robertson.
Garishly true and somehow appropriate facts
- I am very familiar with the city of Carson because it is part of the area where I grew up which includes Mom’s house. It is NOT within 20 miles of Sunset Boulevard, though it does include parts of more than one freeway.
- No one who lives anywhere near Sunset Boulevard would ever allow a landfill along that famous and winding path, though it does traverse a few canyons which would otherwise be an ideal location for a landfill.
- A crowded post-apocalyptic freeway is much more realistic than the fantasy interchange I remember seeing in La La Land. As I recall, that one used only pristine and very colorful vehicles to showcase the dancers swirling around them. I suspect they were digitally added, and probably not superimposed over any real cars, and certainly not any of that would have come as a result of trucking them for a two-hour drive in moderate traffic from Ventura.
- Happy Kingdom was supposed to be Disneyland, but Disney didn’t give them permission. I don’t know if anyone named Disney would have let the filmmakers use it, but clearly the corporate suits who owned it at the time didn’t think it would be good for that place’s image.”
- Kurt Russell, who plays the main character, Snake Pliskin, in this 20th century film, has moved on to portraying Santa Claus in this century. Russell’s inspiration, Pat Robertson is an all too real televangelist, still alive and kicking at the age of 92. You may still be able to see him, in the wrinkled flesh, on TV in an episode of the still airing The 700 Club. If you’re so inclined, you could also check out his failed 1988 presidential campaign.
Escaping from what followed me to L.A.
I had already gone through Mom’s stuff before her passing more than once, gleaning and disposing of a little more each time. I’d also done something similar with the stuff my idiot ex had sent me in a POD, including some of his high school yearbooks and church stuff. I had no problem putting those in the recycle bin, along with mine, but I kept the stuff he still had from his first wife and the daughter he had given up for adoption.
I imagine he had been drunkenly crying when he packed this stuff up so didn’t really know, because he probably couldn’t see or focus, what he’d put in there. He also sent me mismatched kitchen stuff, which he could have matched with what he had in his own kitchenette. I’d combined and organized some of that with the plethora of similar stuff Mom had. Neither one of us used most of it anymore so what doesn’t have sentimental value is being left behind.
What are your October plans and goals? This is the question my friend Paula, who was the first blogger I knew IRL, posed in this post. She started that post by recapping her September. I know other bloggers, and just a bunch of other people in general, have expressed a view that many people seem to share – that Autumn feels like a beginning.
I know, because of who I am (a Jewish mother), that the school year and the Jewish calendar year both start in the fall. So, maybe I’m also in the camp that thinks of this season, of pumpkins and other plenty, as the start of the year, or at least as the start of something! This fall, I am finally, I think, near the end of the very long and painful and draining and difficult journey to where I can really think about and plan and look forward to starting over again with some hope and relief and relaxation and optimism for the future.
I am currently “feathering my (new) nest” as I am starting to furnish my apartment so it’s a convenient place for me to live. The convenience I’m talking about here is having space and place to unpack and really see what I think I will use of the stuff I brought here with me. So far, those “keepers” seem to have been just right for that purpose.
From a glance at my calendar over the last half of 2022, I can see, again in this fall season (and even as far back as late summer), that a more fulfilling and busy time has started for me. One thing I know for sure is that everything I’ve had to deal with, all the tumult over at least the last 5 years and probably all the other upheavals over the last 10, seem not to have changed what I desire in my life for the rest of it!
I want to learn more about a whole lot of esoteric and intellectual subjects from people who have spent a lot of time with them. Philosophy, politics, religion, history, generally areas of study where we look back to help us move forward – mainly as a society but also as individuals. I just finished OLLI classes on Putin’s Russia, the history of Iran and its relations with the U.S, the philosophy of Einstein and other big thinkers and a philosophical view of the Manhattan Project. I found it hearteningly coincidental that key figures in the latter two just happened to be scientists (like many of the most interesting people I met in Oak Ridge). In the upcoming weeks I will be learning about banned books, stories behind hit songs (mainly from my youth or even before then) and the Flint, Michigan, Sit-down Strike of 1936-37. Fascinating stuff!
I have also pursued some more down-to-earth learning opportunities. Many of these have come to me through the local senior center. I learned more than I probably wanted to know, being a processed-food addicted baby boomer, from the recovering-from-cancer-and-Jewish nutritionist who taught the class. An added bonus were the $10 produce vouchers we got to spend at the small local farmer’s market. I was surprised that the instructor, who eats more fresh food than I do, had never tried an Asian melon. She appreciated the sight and taste of the melon I bought at the farmer’s market while I appreciated her suggestions for alternate ways to enjoy bananas. Most of those alternative bananas are available at Trader Joe’s. I do not frequent TJ’s nor did I frequent farmer’s markets before this class. I am now working through way too many – but delicious – locally grown apples and pears and radishes and snack size peppers from my last market visit. Too bad their celery and TJ’s processed and vacuum sealed bananas were so disappointing!
The last farmer’s market for the year is in October, but I have already moved on to aspects of my spirit I have wanted to develop for as long as my nest has been empty (of my kids). My daughters may or may not consider what I finally produce someday from my writing and genealogy passions and pursuits, though I’d like to think they will, and maybe even get some benefit from this work I am looking forward to finally get to. Even if they don’t, I know I want to do this for my own benefit and relief and expression. Just this last week I went to presentations by two authors where I was able to ask them questions about their process, mainly about how they find their projects and are able to get them done. This already helped to me to target a few subjects out of all of those that have been floating around in my mind for quite a long time.
I took some stabs at a few of them in my so-old-they-are-now-shamefully-hidden blog posts and in the few vignettes I wrote for the 3 or 4 or 5 memoir writing classes I took in which I mainly only wrote notes of what the teacher said. I even signed up for a Hay House FREE 4-Day Book Writing Challenge that starts online tomorrow, and I have already taken a dive into the Aspiring Author’s Tool Kit (5 Free Resources to Kick-Start Your Writing) that came with it and discovered, to my surprise and delight, they support what I learned from the author sessions I attended last week. I’m hoping to have a similar experience tomorrow night when I attend for the first time a meeting of the writers’ group that is sponsored by the local library.
I spent a day last week with a new friend I met online through some other websites. Laurie also has a personal blog and a business page promoting a writing group she used to run, and she has been generous with her time and gas as my personal guide around Grand Rapids. As I learned more about Laurie’s writing and the technique she teaches, she recommended It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond (Artist’s Way) as a good reference for starting a memoir as what I consider myself to be – just your average baby boomer who is now past the midpoint of an infamous (as in not famous or profound) life. I read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity in yet another writing class quite a while ago and was impressed enough to keep it on my shelf for future reference.
The next step I will take in “feathering my nest” this month will support the genealogy work I have jumped a little further into since my move. Next week, when I get some labor to assist, I will be picking up some bookshelves. Even if I don’t keep them for my next move, or if they end up not fitting with additional furniture I will buy for my new place, they are desperately needed to facilitate organization of the earlier mentioned important stuff I moved with me. These must haves of course include a lot of books. They also include a lot of photo albums and loose photos and other papers and memorabilia from my past and from family members’ pasts, known to me or not.
I joined the Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society over the summer. They held the first meeting of their year at the end of September. I attended that one remotely as well as the first in a series of Skills Sessions they are offering. I already view the latter as a good way to kickstart and streamline (i.e. finally move on and at the same time narrow) what I want to do with all this stuff. I expect to be at the October meeting in person, again at the local library, when the manager of its Creation Station, will, I hope, demonstrate how to digitize some of my older family photos AND old home movies.
Finally, even before I moved into my apartment, while I was still living in my daughter’s basement, I signed up for the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) 2022 Conference. The whole thing was done virtually and the presentations I registered for can still be seen through the end of October. I’ve done several already and expect to get through them all at least once by then. I know my family’s roots in America were only planted, even at their earliest, in late 19th century New York, and I’ve already learned “sources and methods” (a currently en vogue term thanks to Trump’s ignorance of the rules for maintaining some degree of classified information security) to help me search for the European origins of those roots as well as where they may have spread after being planted.
I will also be spending a few days this month in Nashville with my sister who will take me to Vanderbilt Orthopaedics for a consultation to see if, how, when, where and by whom my left hip will be replaced.
I’ve got a million of em, more or less. Some are old and some are new. Some are almost actual reasons even though, really, they are just excuses for not doing what I coulda, woulda, shoulda.
As my moving day gets closer and closer, I waver between thinking and feeling that I am ready, maybe even beyond and more than ready, to just do it already. This condition is so unusual, weird and different for me, especially since the pandemic and other events overtook any control over or opportunities to do anything completely for or about myself alone, that it is making me uncomfortable.
I am finding more and more lately something helpful to my psyche and my emotions in a whole range of self-help stuff I started quite a while ago but have not done much with until I reached this point, the point of really being able to step back, take a breath and take a look at how far I’ve come over the many many years of my adulthood, before I feel like I’m ready to or have to take the next steps beyond the present and just barely into the very near and barely real future.
This old stuff that has come up has, at the moment, kind of moved me back to the time before marriage and children. This was really the last time I had any control over or opportunities to do anything completely for or about myself alone. As it is now, it made me uncomfortable when I first encountered that feeling. Looking back, I guess I’m not sure I had totally come to grips with it then, to more than accept it but really to embrace and enjoy it, before my marriage and family. I think, hope and pray that I am in a better position to do that now, the second time around.
One of my “gurus” in this new or at least improved journey, with better and more modern and more forgiving and flexible pavement, is Jennifer Louden. I have already referred to Jen as my life/writing coach because for me, at this juncture in my life, those two concepts are almost inextricably linked together.
First, Jennifer Louden was and is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the concept of self-care with the release in 2000 of her first (or maybe second or third) bestseller with a title, plot and characters that really spoke to me (and the only one I’ve actually read so far): The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life: Create All That You Need with Just What You’ve Got. Since then, she’s written and published a whole lot more on well-being and whole living. Her work has been profiled or quoted in dozens of magazines; Brené Brown’s books, Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead; and she has appeared on hundreds of TV, radio shows and podcasts—including The Oprah Winfrey Show. Her newest book Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next, was published, pretty appropriately in my opinion, in the long ago early pandemic days of May, 2020.
Jennifer has been teaching workshops and retreats since 1992. When I first discovered her it went along with my desire to participate in one of them she had planned for Asheville, North Carolina, in the even earlier, in fact almost pre-pandemic days, in the fall of 2019. It had the enticing to me title Get Scary Sh*t Done. Little did we know how much scarier the sh*t would get soon after that because, unfortunately and coincidentally, that’s when the world and my life began to fall apart at the seams. Now that, we all hope, anyway, my life and the world may, after 2.5 desolate and lonely and confusing years, finally be getting all our acts together, and taking mine on the road, I’m expecting to put what I’ve learned from her into practice and to keep learning and practicing those lessons in my life and on paper.
The headline of the current rendition of jenniferlouden.com boldly announces her newest professional endeavor. Create out loud. Make what you want. Make it boldly. Make it the only way you can. I didn’t dig very deeply into what Jennifer Louden had to offer me in pursuit of a new and improved life until last Thanksgiving when, at a weak but at the same time hopeful moment, I took the bold step, spurred on by her free for a month offer, of joining The Oasis. The gist of this program can be found under the Work With Me tab and I must say that the amount of help, encouragement, guidance and assistance I have received there has brought to the surface for me the value of filtering a lot of the stuff I have endured and suffered and just plain lived through to get to myself here and now.
Here’s what I’ve learned and how I’m trying to incorporate it in my new and improved thought process when I look in the mirror, both literally and figuratively.
Self-talk, sometimes just me – you know the devil on your shoulder kind of thing – or sometimes the voice of someone I have known, whispering in my ear or firing off in my brain, has been a big bane of my existence. What I most often hear is encouraging self-talk before following through by taking action I know will, probably sooner (like almost immediately) rather than later, wind up and kick off the negative self-talk.
It may or may not be a good thing that recently the negative self-talk has been more delayed. For example, last night I weighed myself. I do this way too much and more often than not use to determine many of my immediately following actions. For most “normal” people, who don’t use body image as a factor in much of their decision-making, food can be a reward for completing an unpleasant or difficult task. For me yesterday that was packing the last box of stuff, besides clothes, that I will be moving.
I looked at the time when that chore was done and realized a lot more time than I’d realized had passed while I took care of that previously daunting task. This of course is what most people experience when they’re in any kind of a groove. The preference for any kind of groove like this would be to experience it while doing something productive AND PLEASANT. I have recently found myself there more times than I ever had before and I call that progress.
After all that exertion, the scale told me something I wanted to believe but hadn’t necessarily expected. As a result, and with nascent though mild hunger pangs, I treated myself to a non-diet (though not too much because I don’t have much food that falls in that category in the house) dinner. So far, so good, no big deal. Unfortunately, not long after that, the snacking started. That’s why I stock the house with mostly pre-packaged but processed snacks and limit myself to one small package of each kind per day. Again, so far, so good.
I’ve never really known why, but bedtime has always been the time when I really start to listen to that little devil on my shoulder. (I don’t weigh myself anymore before that. I also consider that progress.) It could have (and probably does) have a lot to do with how I’ve handled food when I lived in a house with other people. Anyway, I had been nibbling at an exclusive to Sam’s Club size bag of Hershey’s cookies n’ cream popcorn, over a period of I don’t know how long, maybe a couple of weeks. These are two of my favorite snacks and, as always, when I bought this yummy thing, I checked the serving size and calories per.
This was yet another time when I consciously chose to challenge the limitations I might really be able to apply to the really bad habit I have of subconsciously, telling myself all the while to stop eating whatever I may be shoving into my mouth throughout, polishing off an entire package of whatever it may be. Whatever it may be, even if it is relatively low-calorie, is of course NOT that if one eats the entire package. Even so, of course I never do this with vegetables! Most often, after a bedtime binge like this, I sleep like a baby after telling myself I will start yet another diet the next morning. Believe it or not, I consider it progress that recently, over a week or so when I consciously did not binge, I told myself that I could almost understand how someone could be anorexic and have a fear of food.
Anyway, this is a long way of getting to the point I wanted to make about how I am changing my thinking.
See MY answers above, though I have to say this process does not and I don’t think is intended to tell me or anyone else who engages in it, how to use the answers to change MY behavior.
We must let goJoseph Campbell
of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the one
that is waiting for us.
The concluding thought that stuck with me after the completion of this weeklong Oasis practice:
“I know that this is just a feeling of sadness (for somebody in The Oasis community and I don’t know what for me) moving through my body that probably has NOTHING TO DO WITH THESE THINGS (that both of us know and love).” My fellow practitioner concluded with LOL. I am still nowhere near the point of being able to laugh at this enduring personal foible.
At the end of Jen’s Oasis lesson for the week (my own personal nomenclature for the thought-provoking over the weekend event), she got to the biggest point and best part for me at this big personal transition point:
Aren’t we all? I know I am.
I need some birthday wishes!!
I have never done this before but today is my birthday and I’m reaching out to “my people(s)” a couple of different ways to ask for good birthday wishes for future happiness.
This year and this day are especially hard. It’s a long story that is now almost over but included the necessity today to move more definitively to cut my idiot ex-husband out of my life. I don’t need to say a lot except that I had hoped he would get the hint that I now know and understand any tender feelings or wishes he might feel a need to express to me, on this day or any others of significance, are all lies. Even if they weren’t, they hurt me, after all that has transpired in my life since I left our home.
As for me it's getting down to the last unspoken part When you must begin to ease the pain of a broken heart Tell me why should I even care if I have to lose your love From now on you're only someone that I used to love Wish it was enough for you All the love I had to give I did my best to keep you satisfied I guess you'll never know how much I tried I really tried And if ever our paths should cross again Well, you won't find me being the one to get lost again Once I had so much to give but you just refused my love From now on you're only someone that I used to love
The opening and closing verses of this song express the same sentiment. There’s just one slight change I would make if I was singing it to myself these days.
When I wake up each morning trying to find myself And if I'm ever the least unsure I always remind myself I'm fine with it till this point Though you're someone in this world that
I'llThis is now conditional past tense I'd always choose to love From now on you're only someone that I used to love
In the words of my life/writing coach Jennifer Louden, in her Oasis group, it feels that we are looking for ways to reemerge from the inwardness and fear of the last two years. For me, that’s a major understatement.
She goes on to encourage us to reemerge into the light to which I must reply that, in the pulse of re-emergence I am right now in limbo between moving outward and moving inward. Now that I have done everything necessary to complete my pending actual physical move, where I already know what I will be physically bringing with me and being happy to leave everything else behind, I just want to do it already!
If only today’s events and thoughts and feelings hadn’t moved me back a little inward. That’s why I’m asking for birthday wishes, to turn me back around in the right new direction!
Has it really been a month since my last post?
It’s been so action packed that another update of my About Page will be required by and for Independence Day!
The end of the divorce is now so close that I can touch it. Everything is done except the last final financial details. Fingers crossed I will be able to close that chapter by June or sooner.
I’m still living in the same house where I grew up. I’m still here alone at the moment but won’t be for much longer. Little by little, or really more like bunch by bunch over the years, I have gone through Mom’s stuff more than once, gleaning and disposing of a little more each time. I sold the house last week so now it’s the final go-around, the last long good-bye with a firm completion date of June 30, 2022.
While this old house had already grown slowly emptier of both life and associated stuff, there will be one long and enduring last hurrah over the next couple of months. I am inviting friends to visit me here for a final nostalgic experience and to take with them, if they wish, keepsakes from my family in whatever form they wish. Some have already asked for photos, of which there are plenty, especially of all of us in our younger days. There are still books, antiquated records (albums and singles for which I understand there may be some recent collector demand), furniture, paintings and lots of different kinds of fogyish decorative items that Mom treasured but which mean next-to-nothing to me since I’ve already been through everything that might.
I will soon be descending on my kids in Kalamazoo. My sojourn there will start in the basement of Mini-me and The Evil Genius. I had to twist her arm to let me stay there for at least a month. Though I gave the go ahead to her suggestion to find out from her friends what apartment complexes in the local area they might recommend for me, I would prefer to have more time to look around the area than just the one week I had last Thanksgiving. I spent a good part of that time driving around just the very limited local area where my kids live. Around Covid it was not easy to really get in touch with “my people” but I was able to get a little better “lay of the land” in the suburb of Portage where they now live.
As I have done every time I have moved to a different state or a different part of the same state (which didn’t happen at all before age 50 and this will be the third such move in the 16 years since then), I started by popping into the usual places where I expect to spend some time and/or find “my people.” These days my people are generally retired or near retirement age, which is not the same for everyone. Most of them have at least one college degree but all of them are intellectually curious about their surroundings and the world at large. I like to have interesting and often challenging conversations and I always look to learn or hear about something new.
I have found that the best places to meet “my people” have been libraries, civic centers and educational institutions. These places have hooked me up with different groups, and sometimes even individuals, who could introduce me to or guide me through opportunities to pursue different interests. In Portage, the Civic Center, library and Senior Center are all within walking distance of each other. It was too cold and blustery for this “weather wimp” to walk in November, so I drove.
At City Hall I got a map of the historical sites. When I drove around to check them out I was not impressed at the time because they didn’t stand out much from their surroundings. I might have had a better experience if I had had in hand what I recently discovered on the city’s website – Portage Historical District Trading Cards! I also discovered The Celery Flats Historical Area, with stops near several relocated and restored buildings on the paved for driving road through the Portage Creek Bicentennial Park. I didn’t spend much time at the library or the Senior Center due to Covid and also to the fact they were both at the same time undergoing a planned physical metamorphosis. By the time I get back there, there will be a brand new Senior Center and an expanded library. I consider both of those to be propitious portents of other discoveries and connections I will make there, assuming they will remain safely open.
Portage in particular, and the surrounding area in general, seem to have all the other places where I have spent a lot of my time in retirement, and then some. For my retail therapy, I found my old favorites, including but not limited to Sam’s Club, Costco, Dollar Tree, Aldi, Target (which I have dearly missed due to present lack of convenience and Covid), Barnes & Noble and some potential new favorites that I’d either never been to or were not convenient to where I lived in TN and Torrance.
I know there are several movie theaters in the area, and like most of us I have not been to one in years by now. As a matter of fact I think that last time I was in one was when I saw the Beyonce version of the Lion King there with my girls! I know I’ll have to adjust to new grocery stores, again, but have already come close to determining what and where my new favorite coffee bar might be. Like most “college towns”, I guess, I found a plethora of those spots to try, along with a plethora of microbreweries of which it will take more time, if ever, to find a favorite.
I will also have to find new doctors and other services which may both involve starting a new fitness routine. I’m glad I’ll be going back to Michigan in warmer weather. I plan to bring my old and much moved beach cruiser bike to try some of the rides planned through Portage Parks and Rec and the Senior Center as soon as I get the old girl fixed and cleaned up. Almost last and not close to least but I don’t want to take up more time, I have found that the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Western Michigan University (WMU) will be offering in person classes with graduate students as instructors. This seems like an ideal way to acclimate myself to both the group and the campus as I start over again with some of my favorites among “my people.”
Portage is, like Torrance, a standard concrete suburb. Unlike Los Angeles, I would not classify Kalamazoo as a big city, though it is close to a beach that fronts Lake Michigan instead of the Pacific Ocean. Since I am more of a mountains and forests kind of gal, having easy access to a large body of water is not high on the list of features I’d need to have wherever I live. Been there, done that, enough already.
Mom passed almost a month ago
I’ve been grappling with what to say about that ever since
I haven’t said a lot about Mom and our relationship before my abrupt return to her house or about the things I came to surprisingly appreciate about that, in hindsight, especially since Mom’s passing on January 25 of this year. For the story of how life for both of us had been for the last year, you can refer to the following posts.
I have written this addition about her and me to help me close that relationship and to strengthen me to see it through to the real end. Right now that would include disposing of the last real assets she owned, especially this house where we had lived together and which I thought I had already left behind. I am paraphrasing a lot of my recent thoughts and emotions, some that were included in the funeral service given by the Rabbi who had only known Mom for 4 years, supplemented by others who had known her better than I had for most of the last 17 years (since my dad’s death and my move to TN), and some that I wrote myself, looking back over what I knew of her life.
Family was very important, even if she was no relation other than having met even just one member of nearly any family. She had rediscovered some local blood relatives recently and I had hoped to get more info out of her about some of those she grew up around before marriage and children. On the other hand, I got tired of hearing the same stories over and over about some of them! I did find out that at one time she had wanted to be a shorthand teacher and was immodestly and I thought sometimes too extremely proud of the story she told about one of her first jobs with what she still referred to as the North American Credit Union.
Dad was the love of her life and vice versa. She was his biggest supporter, as she tried to be for me as I was growing up, especially in nudging both of us to join in a whole range of social activities. He took on her family, caring for them as they aged. She did that for him too, and for a whole bunch of other people I never knew but heard about, whether I wanted to or not. I don’t know how Mom and Dad managed to work together in the insurance business for 20+ years without killing each other, and we all knew if something bothered Mom, no matter how long ago it had happened, she would bring it up at least once later, often not even related to whatever the subject under discussion was at the time.
After their early retirement, Mom and Dad took a whole lot of trips, and it was during this period that I first lost track of them, and Mom continued to expand her social circle even after she became a widow. Sometimes, when going through Mom’s mail, I might encounter a strange sender’s name and address. She could still usually recall where she had met them and sometimes even more personal information about these people who to her were always and forever her friends. Obviously that sentiment was very much reciprocated. One of the first signs of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, that bothered her the most for a very long time, was that she couldn’t balance her check book. When I took over that duty, I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t always balance it either and as long as I came close that was good enough for me.
Mom did her best to take care of everyone she loved, to whatever degree she loved them at the time, offering her advice whether requested or not. She always thought she knew best and we all learned to try not to argue with her if we didn’t agree because she would never let it go otherwise. She also had no problem telling someone a little white lie if she was afraid of losing face or looking bad in their eyes or sometimes of hurting their feelings. Sometimes I would remind her of what she sometimes told me “Lies walk the streets” and if anyone she knew had one, “J. Edgar Brook” would often discover it.
Dad had started calling her that, a play on the longtime and first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was infamous for digging into the personal lives of people under investigation. Mom did that, too, so we were lucky she didn’t know how to use the internet better. I was touched when the the rabbi told us she called Mom “The Informer”. Her explanation for that nickname was because Mom took it upon herself to let the rabbi know if any temple members, or even just any of her mostly Jewish friends and acquaintances, needed spiritual support. Rabbi Lewis got a special kick from Mom’s closure to these messages and conversations, where she asked the rabbi to make sure the person of interest didn’t know how the rabbi knew they were having a spiritual or personal issue for which they might appreciate her help.
Due to Covid, Mom had little to no opportunity to get much of the regular attention she had received from her friends and their families for all those years she had lived alone. In its place she had settled for what she got from a visiting nurse and especially from the physical therapist, though she didn’t like it when I started referring to him as her boyfriend. I was proud that I’d done what I could to protect both her health and mine, in the face of her hunger to maintain constant in-depth contact with her friends, some of whom were merely acquaintances in my book, and who also might show up unexpectedly on her doorstep, vaccinated or masked or not.
I had missed Mom since she stopped being herself, especially since she and I had finally, I felt, figured out a way to live with each other under her roof. I had Mom so hooked the “political news” programs I regularly watched on CNN and MSNBC that she started watching those networks even when I wasn’t in the room! She even admitted to learning a few things from historical series we watched together on PBS occasionally. She watched Jeopardy for me and I watched Wheel of Fortune for her. We both watched 20/20 (though she forgot that’s what it was called) and 60 Minutes (though she forgot what day and time it came on.) She couldn’t stand the “reality” shows I watched on Bravo and E! I think they offended her old-fashioned sense of morality. We both missed watching live sports, too. Like many who have had or at least tried to maintain a relationship with an Alzheimer’s patient, it was hard for me to get to a level of comfort with Mom as she was after her fall. Over those last months, while Mom was physically still with us, her mind and sense of reality had been gradually fading away. She is now with her mom (even at the end Mom still called her “Bubbie”), my dad, and various other assorted friends and relatives I had never met but she remembered, while still “mentally” preparing and planning to take care of her home and the people she loved.
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