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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.

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Family

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!

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Family

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. 

Mini-Me
The Happy Couple joined in the Smoky Mountains
Evil Genius

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

This came from my daughter. One of her duties is to digitize all of this historic moving media, even in foreign languages. I’m hoping she can help me do the same with my dad’s old home movies!