Categories
Places of My Life Update

My newest start may be in October

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.

Categories
Uncategorized

Excuses, Excuses

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 is NOT reliable. It is us making up a story about how we are feeling. Listen to your self-talk and then see if instead of falling into a story about the feelings/state… dive underneath to what the DESIRE is and go forward from there. Because…..Action changes our self talk, too.

The Oasis and Community Discussion Page some time in April

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.

I love Jen’s mantra – THIS IS MY LIFE! Right here and now. How do I want to be here? For me my latest way through is to say – Hold on, Pamster, before you fall into a big ole story about this feeling, let’s pause and ask… What do I KNOW about this?

The Oasis Community Discussion Page sometime back in April

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 go 
of the life we have planned, 
so as to accept the one 
that is waiting for us.

Joseph Campbell

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: 

Desire is the bridge between Awareness and Action. So I’m thinking: “Heart, what do you need this week?” What is one thing I treasure about myself, that I love, that I think is so cool? It’s an acquired skill to move into this type of mindset!  And I am practicing…

Jennifer Louden

Aren’t we all? I know I am.

Categories
divorce

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. 

Sorrow is here and Joy is here.
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'll  This 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!

TIA, Folks! 

Categories
Family Places of My Life Update

What’s Ending So I Can Make the Next Start?

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.

New subterranean digs under previous owner. It will be about as full of my stuff.

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.

Categories
Family Update

Mom passed almost a month ago

Mom at her happiest – At my daughter’s wedding – October 19, 2019

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.

Categories
Family Places of My Life travel

A Road Trip I Would Love to Take

An old family friend (actually she’s more of Mom’s friend but that’s a whole other story) is kind of estranged from what’s left of her family (that’s a big part of the story) and because of that and other things in her past that were beyond her control doesn’t seem to have many friends or even a decent boyfriend.  One family member she does have and could/wants to visit runs an Airbnb called Happy’s Bus Stop in Kanab, Utah (UT). 

If I decided to accompany this person to that place, I have already suggested to my only remaining high school friend who now lives in Tucson, Arizona (AZ), that we could also visit her oldest daughter in nearby (to Happy’s) Northern AZ.  This daughter teaches school on the Native/Indian reservation that is close to where she lives in Page, AZ. 

I have been in the Kanab area before.  It is just over an hour away from St. George, UT.  St. George is the first city over the state line between Nevada (NV) and UT heading north on Interstate Highway 15 (I-15).  I have made the 28-hour round trip between Los Angeles and Malad, Idaho (ID), more times than I would care to count.  Malad is where my in-laws lived and we made at least one annual trek up there when the kids were growing up and we were still living in Southern California (CA).

The closest I ever got to Kanab, though, was on one of the few very enjoyable side trips we took when Malad was the family’s final destination. This was during the first year after we’d moved to Nashville when we rented a family van and drove there from the Southeast instead of the usual Southwest point of origin.  By that time, when the kids were in their teens, they were so tired of visiting national parks (Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks were two side trips we’d made more than once when “visiting Grandma in the desert”) that after driving through Zion National Park (between St George and Kanab), they protested that they were beginning to think all national parks looked the same!

On that once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, though, the idiot (my ex husband) got the biggest kick out of fishing for trout with our two girls on semi-frozen Panguitch Lake.  Neither he nor I had heard of this place till I found it as one of the stopover points that offered places to stay in the middle of winter!  Since Daughter #2 is more like her dad, we’d expected she’d take to fishing with as much gusto as he did.  Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that Daughter #1 was the one with the patience required to actually catch a fish.  In hindsight, this early father-daughter bonding with #1 may have been the initiating event of her rise in his eyes and affections.

Given that I-15 runs through Las Vegas, I have been there many, many times – before, during and after marriage and motherhood.  It is also a pretty central point on this potential upcoming road trip with interim end points of Tucson and possibly even as far north as Gunnison, UT, the ancestral home of my high school friend.  I heard so much about it during those years that if I get that close to it again, especially with my friend and her family’s fond memories and enduring presence there, I must finally make that pilgrimage!

Categories
divorce Places of My Life Update

How many times have I left my Comfort Zone since I Started Over?

So many times that it would be hard to limit it to just the last time

This limitation was proposed/imposed by Bloganuary

So first off, everything on my About page was out of my comfort zone because I was doing all of it for the very first time!

I’ll start with the obvious. Mom has been under somebody else’s roof and care since the beginning of June. The never-ending divorce finally did get there, officially and hopefully forever, as of about the end of November. Both of these events really marked the end of a lot of my personal responsibilities and stressors. As a result, I have been both able and forced to figure out what I want to do with all my free time and space. My choices, for good or ill, have been limited by the biggest ongoing personal and global responsibility and stressor for all of us this year – COVID.

I don’t know where or when I will hopefully land at least semi-permanently somewhere soon, so there’s not much point in buying stuff that isn’t perishable or to think about living anywhere but here, though I did get an offer to purchase this old house!  Where would I go and what would I want to take with me?  I don’t have to make those decisions yet but if travel gets safer and easier again, I am already thinking about and starting to plan a “snow bird’s” tour of places I at least would like to visit and might even consider living in to keep away from cold Kalamazoo winters! 

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com
Photo by Jack Bulmer on Pexels.com

I have friends who live in different places and have already been warned that I might be coming their way.  So far I’m already thinking about St. Louis, Albuquerque and Tucson for sure.  Other possibilities include Boston, Florida, North and South Carolina and the DC area. If any readers here might like to join me, or can think of other places to add to my list, you are more than welcome.

Categories
divorce Family travel

OMG!! WILL 2021 NEVER END?

I started my holiday letter in 2020 the same way with this thought and went on to say “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my life or really life in general will approach any kind of normalcy until 2022.” I guess I was right! I wish I was in a position to have even a really clear idea of “what I might do in ‘22”, but who does?

This is REALLY how my new life started in 2021

The year started as it had ended, and indeed as most of 2020 had progressed, if you could call it that. I got Mom through all her doctor’s appointments, tried to get her to eat what she should when she should vs. her normal preferences and habits, and did what I could to keep her spirits and her body up and moving.  We both knew her mind was going and, though she tried as best she could, in the end (though more accurately in early June when she took her final fall), there was little I could do to restore that or to ameliorate the decline in her physical capabilities which had never been a big priority of hers before anyway.

Meanwhile I had to keep plowing through the increasingly difficult and nit-picky details of my divorce. When the ex abruptly filed in June of 2020, he went to a pay-as-you-go type of lawyer with the expectation that I would go easily, as his previous two wives had done. He should have known better after thirty years of marriage to a woman he’d always acknowledged was smarter than him! I took me a while last year (as he pushed me) to get a lawyer (the stupid idiot didn’t expect me to). I got a smart lady lawyer who worked on a flat fee retainer and protected my interests throughout, even beyond things I’d already considered.

The lawyer-to-lawyer contact started last year when mine totally rejected the agreement his lawyer had submitted. He kept harassing me to “get it done” while at the same time continuing to bring up issues that were either nonexistent or in which his proposals were inequitable. By June I had reached the point where I refused to respond to his direct communications to me and forwarded them to my lawyer instead. He’d previously jumped on me when I’d asked Daughter #1 to help him pack my stuff to be moved out here (after I wouldn’t let him put it in the attic) but ironically, in her unwanted status as go-between, Mini-me finally got him to back off his unreasonable stance on at least one issue by telling him what I was going through with Mom and that it was not fair to expect me to have to deal with his shenanigans on top of that.

I guess I could be amazed now that I got through all that stuff that seemed to follow so quickly upon each other in probably no more than 90 days, approximately end of March through end of June. I had to persevere as Mom’s caretaker, which would be an ongoing battle as long as she still had the mental wherewithal to try to carry on being who she always was, while the ex continued to careen out of control at least as far as I was concerned. I really didn’t want him to know how bad off Mom was, and I still don’t. It’s none of his business, especially since his last visit to her home was all the way back in 2014, though he continued to say how much he loved her. That was most likely just another lie he’d been telling all of us, including himself, for many years.

I got through a challenging summer as I came to realize and accept my new (again) status. I guess I knew, deep down, that I would just have to keep stepping a little further down the land-mined road toward embracing, with as little drama as I could, that I would be starting to live again as an independent single woman in the (sub)urban metropolitan Los Angeles jungle. At the same time, I knew that Covid and other lingering responsibilities would limit my options in pursuit of more social outlets. Thank goodness that by fall, when Mom was well-settled and I had figured out how I would deal with the fact that she has lasted this long, many of the things I wanted to try were once again somewhat available.

I was free and fortunate to begin venturing out in the fall. First I took a “baby step” of a trip down south as far as Escondido. Then I took a longer trip to visit my BFF and “extended family” in Oregon. Both of her kids are getting married in the first half of 2022, so I already have two planned trips up there plus a bridal shower/bachelorette party/cleanup for the first wedding trip on the books next week.

The longest and best trip was my triumphant solo return to Michigan where I finally got to meet in person my newest grandcat, Maple. This trip was also a sort of “scouting expedition” of the area so I could see if it had any potential to become my permanent home when, someday down the road, Mom will be physically gone from this earth. In the short week before Thanksgiving that I spent there, I got to familiarize myself with the area and its amenities, on top of looking into my normal pursuits that should be available again post-Covid. Other than the cold, which all my loved ones and their loved ones tried to convince me should not be an impediment, I found a lot to like up there, besides them!

Since Omicron entered the picture, I have been doing even more reading as my “need/want to read” book list keeps growing. Like many others before me, I have lately joined the “binge-watchers club” (such a thing exists, right?) where I at last got to watch some old series that on my mentally compiled to be watched list. Last but not least, after many “false” starts, I think I may have finally begun to develop my long-desired writing habit.

This year, partially due to Covid-uncertainty and partially due to my uncertainty, I have spent most days in the house. A more or less standard day for me starts by browsing the web and email then moves to one or two of a few easy reader spots in different rooms before circling back to my laptop for a couple of hours of writing and always ends in front of a TV screen.  On my “wilder” days I may add just an infinitesimal amount of “retail therapy” which these days is almost exclusively limited to grocery stores.  Occasionally I’ll add in a stop or two at a discount or big box store. 

I also do a few “shoulds” like laundry and cleaning. The “should” that is getting harder for me to do is to go visit Mom.  The caregivers keep her clean and clipped and fed.  She can’t get out of bed so of course her body has pretty well shriveled up. I’m OK with that part but I just can’t deal with the fact that it is impossible for me to interact with her.  I had cut back my visits from twice to once per week but now, since she doesn’t know it’s me who’s there, I can’t see any reason to go any more than monthly to pay her bill and talk to her caregivers. More often wouldn’t do much good for her and would not be good for me!

Categories
divorce Family Update

My New Life started in 2021

My New Life (In Old Books) or Is It My Old Life in New Books?

I can hardly believe that I am now nearly three years into my second retirement. Finally, after all that time, close to eight years in total, I feel ready, comfortable secure enough to do what I imagine many other people do at this time of year:  look back at where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished and also try to look ahead to what might enhance the value of this time, its quality and purpose, along with, best case, its joy and happiness or, at minimum, its feeling of satisfaction.

One of my more annoying and detrimental personal habits, which I have lately come to recognize in my early senior citizenship, is that I have often been a slow learner, perhaps more correctly, a late bloomer.  Maybe that’s a trait that comes from being a true Taurean.  As an old fart, looking back now, I might have advised my younger self to set goals, to have dreams and aspirations, or to at least have some type of design or plan for my life.  Alas, over most of the prior half century, I have been more often driven by the philosophy of the late, great John Lennon, who advised us all, just before his own untimely death, that “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”  Here and now though, with the luxury of having a lot of free time on my hands, I can start applying my hard-earned and slow in coming self-knowledge to a new and probably more achievable design for the remainder of my life.

Unpublished Draft Post written in 2017 or 2018

I wrote all of that way back in 2017 or 2018.  Back then much of what I was reading and trying to implement for myself, my life and my future had to do with goal-setting and plans and efforts of that ilk.  Given the turn of events in my life in general and in the world in particular it’s clear that anybody who thinks they can live their life on that basis is at least pretty delusional and possibly even insane!  About (Created May 2021, Updated September 2021)

When I started this new blog, which apparently and coincidentally seems to have really happened at the beginning of the year, I said on the very first post

Over the last few years I have written some vignettes for a series of memoir classes. Out of the process of figuring out what I want to leave behind for my daughters to learn about me, why I am the way I am today and why I raised them the way I did, I discovered that many of my memories are tied to the places in which they occurred, be they real or imagined.

While that is still true, I guess I could also add that, given the thoughts I started this post with, besides teaching my daughters all about me I may also need to teach me about me through my blogs more than through a memoir alone.  I want to belabor both these points at this time and in this post.

First, the bit about the past informing the present for both them and me.  Much as I have tried not to rehash my marriage and my divorce and everything that went before each of those events, I can honestly say (and my daughters and my friends will attest to this sad fact) that I have not been able to stop myself from doing that over the past year.  It is my hope, though, that whatever I have to say about that here will, best case, be the last time it is a subject of any posts this year or the main subject of my thoughts and feelings at any time going forward.

Again, looking back over the past couple of years and, yes, even farther back than that and indeed even wider than that in the present, I can see that I am not the first or only one to realize that it makes no sense to put the effort into developing goals or planning life around what one may expect or anticipate and continue to try to convince oneself that these goals are (1) achievable or (2) really what one would want to achieve if possible.

To get some perspective on this dreaded looking back exercise, I of course went to the written history of the thing.  As a sort of old school old fart correspondent, this consisted mainly of emails and texts written and received.  I had already reviewed a lot of what I had received but after finally getting back to doing this catch-up exercise on my sent emails I can see that the marriage probably entered its final death throes in 2019.  Reading between the lines of what I wrote, especially to my spouse, I think I see where our mutual resentment started to build as I got more and more involved in more and more activities outside the home that made me happy. 

At the same time, it looks like he was getting more and more morose and out of sorts.  I base this guess on what was a clear and mainly continuing pattern of his atypical, at least for an adult male who could be considered by some to be in the prime of his life, sleeping and active periods.  Like a stubborn baby or an average really old person, he slept during the day and worked on his hobby at night. 

Throughout that pre-pandemic year we became more and more like “ships passing in the night” with those passages most often occurring in the late morning or early evening.  In the evenings we at least both tried to indulge one of our fewer and fewer common interests by watching TV programs, sports and movies together.  But in the mornings when he came up from his mancave to my woman cave in our split-level home, he would usually find me in front of the computer, often just playing games.  This latter exercise had been going for some time before and when this part of our macabre marriage death dance started, I would get up, come around my desk, sit in my rocker-recliner and we would try to have a conversation, a check-in about how and what each other was doing.  I think we both noticed that I made this effort less and less, until his attempts to do this started declining, too.  Maybe the patterns and comforts of our lives had moved so far away from each other that they and we were beyond reconnecting.

Another probable point of resentment, I’m guessing, is that I did not participate as actively as he wanted or expected me to in his (unrealistic) dream of making a business out of his hobby. That was where his time and our money went while a lot of my time and our money went into reading and traveling and socializing.  I know I’d expected him to enjoy those last activities with me.  Over time, though, his enjoyment of and interest in doing either had ebbed so low that I had begun to know better than to even ask him to join me because I knew what his answer would be.

There were other stressors that year that in retrospect could have brought us closer together but in the end seem to have had the opposite effect.  That was the year that Daughter #1 got married and Daughter #2 started medical school.  Both of these momentous events turned into wedge issues that drove us farther apart from each other. 

Here I can add that another longtime festering wound in our relationship was how differently he treated our children.  Again, these differences and disparities became more and more glaring over the years, though I can’t really pinpoint how far back they began and of course I don’t really know the reasons why.  My guess is that he took for granted or accepted or expected #1 to be totally like me and therefore “perfect” while he presumed #2 would be totally like him, an imperfect and stubborn addict who would always be “less than” in the eyes of everyone that mattered, including himself and possibly, in his mind, even me.  I surely had reached that point by the end of that year. There is no better indicator of this disparity, and how it finally blew our marriage apart for good, than summarizing his participation in the life of Daughter #1 and his withdrawal from participation in the life of Daughter #2 over the last six months of 2019.

And just to be complete and to add to my disappointment, I’ll have to throw in the monkey wrench that entered our relationship at about the same time.  That was the necessity for someone to devote more time and effort to taking care of my mom.  I’d expected my husband, who’d said and even written over and over, over all the years, how much he loved and appreciated “Mom” to do just that.  He’d also warned me, based on the similar trajectory he’d endured with his mom, that I’d have to figure out what to do with her sooner rather than later by this time.  

It also just dawned on me that he’d handled most of that without the help of his one remaining brother just as I found myself in the same situation vis-à-vis my one and only sister.  Wouldn’t you think that shared experience would have made a better and possibly even average person more sympathetic and helpful to one’s most beloved spouse rather than drive said simpatico away? Oh wait, in fact and reality it seems to reinforce what he finally told me, after I told him I didn’t think I could continue to live this way. 

In a nutshell, that was that we should have separated fifteen years earlier, based on his presumption that I would not move two thousand miles away from home (and Mom) when his job relocated.  I did it because I didn’t want to break up OUR family.  I can see now, as I should have seen before, that he just didn’t care about that.  It also clarifies what he first told me and repeated in those six months.  “You are number one for me.  I am number five for you.”  That first part was a lie though possibly the last part had been true for quite a long time.  I’d always said he knew me better than I knew myself.

Categories
Places of My Life

Why do I want to live in a city that has a full time Historic Preservation Coordinator?

More of what I did that made me happy when I lived in the place where I was happiest.

I can’t remember where I picked up for the first time a strange small booklet that laid out a quite confusing driving tour of Oak Ridge.  Turned out one of the reasons it was so confusing is that the topography of the area (valleys separated by hills) conformed to the purpose of its design to keep all the different development areas separated and secret from each other. These factors also kept all the housing areas separated even though they all required similar facilities to maintain the functions of daily and family life. 

The city ended up with five downtown areas, most of which are now rundown and for the most part sadly closed down except of course schools and churches! The driving tour booklet was so outdated that it included some of those closed places which added to my confusion so I worked with the ORCVB president and other members to get it updated, modernized and republished which finally happened just before I left!

My first visit to the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge (CMOR) also came just before I left town.  That visit was timed to the official opening of the Oak Ridge headquarters of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in that building when the museum also offered free admission. I hadn’t visited earlier since I didn’t have any young children to take there so I was quite surprised to discover many of its permanent exhibits also educated adults on Oak Ridge history. CMOR’s website page on “The Manhattan Project” summarizes a good part of what I saw there in my first short visit.

Oak Ridge was built as a planned community, with dormitories, apartments and prefabricated houses, and featured amenities such as restaurants, a library, churches, medical facilities, and clubs and organizations of all kinds. Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge’s “Difficult Decisions” and “Manhattan Project” exhibits house many artifacts from the period and help tell the story of Oak Ridge.

The most fascinating parts of CMOR for me were (1) the very extensive exhibit of area Girl Scouts with some of the troops that started when the city did still very active (2) another Ed Westcott gallery and (3) a re-creation of a room of one of the “Alphabet Houses” to show kids today how small houses used to be! I was so proud that Girl Scouts had been established and retained more importance there than Boy Scouts!

I joined several book groups and a couple of them both read and discussed The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan.  Among the “girls” the author met while doing her research in Oak Ridge was Virginia Coleman Spivey.  Virginia came to town in WWII as a scientist, as did Lianne Russell.  I met both of these highly educated and motivated and liberated for their times ladies in a memoir writing class.  Unfortunately, both passed before they could put pen to paper. 

There were already a range of articles written about Lianne and her achievements.  I had to pry shy Virginia’s story out of her so I could summarize it for a series of articles in the local paper.  Later, I wrote another article about another liberated for her times woman I knew, who happened to be the leader of one of those book groups!  The last article I did was to tout an upcoming ORHPA speaker, another woman who also happened to be the Program Manager at the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University.  Learned as she was, Lydia Simpson shared the irrational fear that Oak Ridge was radioactive but still agreed to come to town for a tour.  As I’d expected, throughout our afternoon with Ray Smith, Lydia’s appreciation for all the aspects of what had gone on in town increased exponentially.

Links to the articles I wrote that were published can be found here. Scroll through the dates and you’ll find the ones I wrote: 6/8-7/26/17; 10/25/17; 1/10 & 1/17/18.

I’m also not sure where and when I first learned about the “Alphabet Houses” but, given the diversity of the people who lived in town, I was most intrigued by the development philosophy employed by its military governors in directing its layout by a civilian design company

The town site was in the northeast corner of the reservation, a strip less than one mile wide and six miles long with hilly terrain descending from the Black Oak Ridge in the north. Architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) envisioned pleasant neighborhood communities with libraries, schools and shopping centers.  Rather than performing time-consuming grading, houses were adjusted to fit the contours of the land. Most of Oak Ridge’s kitchens faced the street to minimize the length of plumbing and utility lines.

Original plans called for the military reservation to house approximately 13,000 people in prefabricated housing, trailers, and wood dormitories. Town planners were originally to provide housing for an estimated 30,000 people. By the time the Manhattan (Project) headquarters were moved from Washington, DC to Tennessee in the summer of 1943, estimates for the town of Oak Ridge had been revised upward to 45,000 people. By 1945, the population had reached 75,000 and by the end of the war, Oak Ridge was the fifth largest city in Tennessee.

Materials were in short supply, so the first houses were built of prefabricated panels of cement and asbestos or cemesto board. They were known as “alphabet houses” because each of the handful of home designs was assigned a letter of the alphabet. There were small, two bedroom “A” houses, “C” houses with extra bedrooms, “D” houses with a dining room, and so forth for a total of 3,000 cemesto-type homes. Later, thousands of prefabricated houses were sent to Oak Ridge in sections complete with walls, floors, room partitions, plumbing and wiring. Workers turned over 30 or 40 houses to occupants each day.

Atomic Heritage Foundation – Locations – Oak Ridge, TN

In a town that was the developed by the government, I was surprised to learn it was actually built pretty quickly and efficiently. This revelation led to an exhibit titled Secret Cities – The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project on display May 3, 2018 – July 28, 2019 in the National Building Museum that became the central focus of a visit I made with a friend to Washington, D.C., just before the exhibit closed.

As a fan of HGTV programs I have learned just enough to make me dangerous if/when I might ever encounter a new (to me) home that I wanted to remodel.  Many of the programs talk about load bearing walls and how expensive they are to replace when remodeling.  So, imagine my excitement when I learned that Oak Ridge’s historic and unique Alphabet Houses have no load bearing walls!  I was ready to redo and release a few to the young people I hope will be coming to work in Oak Ridge so they can preserve and revitalize the place where I was so happy.  I want a new generation to live and work in this Secret City, to keep it current and relevant as a source of information in what I consider to have been the setting for a great social experiment. I know they would make more fascinating history there!