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.
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.
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!
The Road to Kalamazoo for Daughter #2
Daughter #2, the youngest at age 30 and previously most settled by virtue of how long it took her to get accepted to medical school, will start her potentially more winding road than her sister’s upon completion of her program in 2023. While #1 was Mini-Me during her youth, #2 was The Devil Child and sometimes also The Velcro Child during the same period of her development.
From the time of her birth at 2:13 AM her personality and behaviors were hard for me to deal with. The child refused to fall asleep at night and didn’t even nap in the swing or the car like most other babies. I distinctly remember the vacation from hell when we left the hotel at 2:30 AM because when she saw me in the same room she thought it was party time! On another trip she finally fell asleep in the car five minutes before we reached our destination but at least there were other people in the car to keep her entertained. On the one occasion where she fell asleep in the swing we had to take a picture as proof that it had really happened! Velcro incident, though probably not unique to us, was when she clung to me when I tried to leave her at school and later when I tried to leave her at home with a nanny so I could go to work.
I guess it was fortunate for all of us that when we moved across country it was to a lower cost state so I could afford to stay home and continue to entertain her there while being even more at her beck and call. This included ferrying her to her favorite fast-food drive-thru restaurants, my mandatory presence watching her favorite reality TV shows and advising her daily on what to do with nearly every minute of her free time, including what to eat during her study breaks! The ties finally began to loosen when she learned to drive. I found an hourly part time job just to get out of the house and away from the Devil/Velcro Child. Our relationship finally and mercifully and surprisingly improved during her college application process. We took short trips to check out schools. She requested only minimal advice from me on her essays.
The Velcro bonds loosened a bit when she went back across country for college. I helped furnish her dorm room to her exquisitely limited though broadly vague specifications. The main exercise of her long-distance diabolical cling remained in our circular discussions around a new set of decisions she wanted me to help her make. By the time she graduated I think she really knew what she was going to do most of the time but maybe Satan just wanted to show that he hadn’t released control of our relationship quite yet!
The official last straw came when in her devilish indecisiveness she tried to talk us into letting her stay in college a year longer than necessary because she couldn’t decide which subject she wanted to get her degree in and then tried to blame me for telling her to start with an undeclared major! As it was, she got an additional semester and degrees in two subjects. That’s how long she kept me confused!
Devil Child’s degrees in Psychology and Neuroscience basically were preparatory for med school, at least in her mind. We told both our kids a couple of things re their educations: (1) We would only pay for Bachelor’s degrees and for anything beyond that they were on their own and (2) they should get a job when they completed those degrees before deciding if they wanted or needed additional schooling to continue in what they thought would be their chosen professions. The latter advice grew out of our painful and unhappy experiences after finding ourselves stuck in the jobs we’d trained for but didn’t really like doing!
So, wishing I could fast forward from college graduation to medical school acceptance, here’s the way it slowly went down. After finding herself for a very short time in a job where she wasn’t happy, #2 made a lot of progress towards deciding she might really want to be a doctor. She worked for a dermatologist to many stars she couldn’t tell me about in an office on Rodeo Drive, studied a lot for the MCAT, made some new friends and submitted her first applications for med school. The result of that last effort was a series of painful rejections but, bless her heart, she didn’t give up and went back to work (for a different dermatologist who treated some of her grandma’s – my mom’s – friends), made some better friends, got her first boyfriend and some coaching to improve her interview performance.
She also decided that she didn’t really have to go to a top tier medical school, which is probably why the second round of applications was moderately more successful than the first. She had more interviews but only one acceptance: The Homer Stryker School of Medicine of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo!
The Road to Kalamazoo for Daughter #1
Daughter #1, the eldest at age 31 is currently the most settled by virtue of (1) her pre-pandemic marriage to longtime boyfriend (though shorter time fiancé) in October 2019 and (2) their purchase this year of a home in Portage, a suburb and “bedroom community” on the south side of Kalamazoo. Prior to this recent full attainment of adulthood, I (and some other family members) thought of her as a Mini-Me. I guess our main commonalties were our shared love of and interest in (American) history, the close relationship enjoyed and/or endured with our mothers, and our general straight arrow Girl Scout based behaviors and attitudes displayed and developed over our formative adolescent years.
She met her hubby, whom I have affectionally referred to as The Evil Genius since about halfway into their relationship of approximately 10 years now. They were both digging up stuff, in an archaeological manner, in St. Louis. His parents and her parents both were living in East Tennessee at the time – his in Chattanooga, hers in Oak Ridge. This was a fortuitous coincidence, especially in light of the many interim stops they had separately and together before their current happy incarnation as Michiganders. I bestowed the title of Evil Genius on my now son-in-law (SIL) based mostly and initially on his appearance.
As the years passed after he met my wonderful daughter, SIL evolved into a bit of an evil genius intellectually, too. To paraphrase part of his mom’s wedding toast, his parents wondered what he would do with his anthropology degree, which again was coincidentally the same degree Mini-Me obtained in nearly the same year. (Another amazing coincidence between them was that both had been uprooted from their childhood homes as high school juniors.)
After their “meet cute” on a dirty dig site, their career interests started to diverge. He got a second bachelor’s degree in Psychology from a private university in Peoria, IL, while she got her Master’s Degree in Archaeology from a public university near where they lived in Bloomington/Normal IL. Like her mom, Mini-Me settled on her career choice sooner rather than later.
After she got her second degree, he decided to pursue his third degree, this time in Human Factors (sounds to me like a good field of study for a budding Evil Genius) at a public research university in Dayton, OH. Over the three years he was working on getting his Masters (which he got for free through acceptance in a PhD program, a degree level neither of them wanted to achieve), they put a lot of miles on their vehicles traveling back and forth between Dayton and Mini-Me’s professional though short-term and/or itinerant positions in Virginia and back again in St. Louis, among other places.
They finally ended up, together, in Kalamazoo in 2019. He had a summer internship there the year before that took longer than it should have to turn into a real permanent job. Both families, and this was post-engagement, were overjoyed! Now the Evil Genius analyzes and evaluates competitor products, usability studies and anthropometric data to provide dimension guidelines to the cross-functional industrial design and studio engineering teams. Sounds evil to me!
Mini-Me, was happy, too, though it was tempered a bit since it then became incumbent upon her to find an equally good and equally permanent job there. That took a while though not too long a while, in the grand scheme of things and certainly not within the timeline of their relationship. Just prior to the wedding, she was hired under contract to work in the archives and records department of Kellogg’s of Battle Creek.
They told her at the time she’d been hired because she already had some management experience and that she also had the requisite education and experience to replace their company archivist when she retired. The latter was really the carrot by which she was drawn in and the icing on the cake (do you love my food metaphors?) was that the archivist did actually retire!
This is how I learned the location
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