SOOOO……..

Guess who is back in school? yes, me. Miss “129 hours at the community college and no I do not have a bachelors degree” is back at the community college. However, Since I have moved, I now will be attending McHenry  Community College instead of Elgin. This semester I’m studying Digital photography. I only wish I could afford the Photoshop program we use in class – but it is $700.

-I wonder…. Do I hold a record for ECC in regards to length of attendance – I have been going there intermittently for 29 years. It reminds me of the movie Animal house “7 years of college down the drain.”

I issue a challenge – is there any one out there who can match me with 29 years of college and no degree? at one time I had decided not to take any more classes unless they were directly related to getting a degree, that I was wasting my time. It was in a large part related to my ex husband getting his MBA. he accomplished so much and I was still plugging along making no real progress. I even started an online BSN completion program that lasted exactly one class. I absolutely HATED it. I need the classroom camaraderie, interaction with other students and teachers face to face. I am finding more often than not, I am now the oldest in my classes by decades. I am older than my teachers by decades.  I learn a lot from all the 20-something year olds in my classes. They are smart, creative, energetic, in a way that motivates and energizes ME.

Now I have made a new decision. I like learning. I like learning what I want to learn. My interests are very eclectic. (ok ADHD more likely) I am going to do what I LIKE. I’m going to quote my 5 year old Granddaughter, Jane “because I like it and its not hurting anyone.”

Aside  —  Posted: September 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tonight I joined 2 groups on meetup.com

Now I just have to get up the courage to actually go to a gathering….

Self doubts. Am I too old? Will they laugh at me? Will anyone think I’m interesting? What if I’m still the odd kid out sitting on the side with no one to talk to?

I’m thinking it will be an easier first step to getting out there than an actual dating situation like on match. com

I need to do things other than work and stay home, and see grand kids.

Wish me luck.  The crazy thing is looking at my work schedule and my class schedule starting next Monday – I have almost NO time to go out if I want to actually sleep too.

Divorce

Posted: August 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

I have been divorced for 1 month today. When my divorce became final, Many people congratulated me. I really didn’t see at as a victory or a win or reason to celebrate. It was a tremendous loss, much like a death. If one said, “my husband died,”  no one would say “hey congratulations!” But my marriage dies and I heard “hey congratulations!”

I also heard from a couple of people about what a failure a divorce is. Really? I was married for 34 years. I did my best. I think we beat the odds, being teenagers when we got married. Yeah, I knew people placed bets on the 6 month mark. Some of them are on multiple marriages themselves. so I don’t accept their judgement.

I guess I am also in a minority in that I wish my ex husband well. Truly. I want him to have a wonderful life. we had some pretty miserable years and I hope his life gets on track and he makes up for those years by living well and being happy.

 

Identity

Posted: October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

My name birth name was  Valerie Jean Thomas. My father named me. Family legend has it that my mother named me Debra, and my father upon learning this, had my birth certificate changed to Valerie. I prefer the name Valerie.  It is rare. I know too many Debbies my age and  no Valeries.

The name Valerie means STRONG. I did a name meaning search and came up with several variations of definitions. FIERCE ONE! Valiant, feminine, brave.  I like that. It is a unisex name used primarily for women in the US; but for men in other countries.

Jean was my father’s middle name. I’m proud to have his middle name as mine.  I have decided that I will likely return to the name Thomas in his honor as well.  

 I wonder, do we take on any characteristics from our name?  Throughout life I have had many challenges. Some of them seem extraordinary. Out of control, abnormal. Sometimes I feel like I keep getting knocked down. As soon as I get up and dust myself off and get going again something else comes along and knocks me back down, and I have to get back up again. (ain’t never gonna keep me down)  Kind of like the song.   Sometimes I wonder, what makes a person strong, resilient? At what point do you hit the obstacle that you just can’t get past, that you just give up? When/how do you know when it is the one you just  can’t beat?

I wonder if my dad knew when he named me that I would have to be this  strong in this life to get through it?

My Dad died in his 30’s. My name is one of the few legacies he left me. I’m trying to live up to it.

Life Changes

Posted: September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Today I turn 51. over half a century. I should feel old. I really feel about 29. Somedays even younger. 50 was a turning point. I’m taking steps to make myself happy. I may be making mistakes along the way, but they will be mine and I will own them. 

 I no longer care to live a life controlled by the whims and actions of others. So much of where my life is has been determined by the  actions of others and much of where my life is, well – not what I had planned.

As many of my very close friends know, I will be getting a divorce. It is strange to say publicly, because really, when I said til death do  us part – I meant it. I meant to spend the rest of  my life with one person and retire together, and as we used to joke, sit on the porch in rocking chairs drinking ice tea and eating corn bread. Going through this has been a grieving process, but I think I am now ready to move on with my life.  I’m not going into the reasons for this decision at this point, out of respect for my husband and our children.

Funny thing is, I will always love him, I will always care about him and always want the best life for him.  Most of the people I see divorcing hate their ex-spouses. I don’t .  Yes, I have some anger, but I’m working on letting it go. We have 3 children and 4 grandchildren together and I want our family to be as intact as it possibly can in this difficult situation. I want us to be friends.

I have seen friends getting divorces and when they are final everyone congratulates them , they have a party, go out to celebrate. I won’t be celebrating, or partying and don’t congratulate me. It is like a death.  A death of all my childhood dreams of being married to one person for my whole life and living happily ever after. It is nothing to celebrate to lose that.

momentos from my father

My family is “interesting. ”  My mother had mutiple marriages and I grew up with 2 brothers and 2 sisters, and all of them have different fathers than I do.  While blended families are commonplace now, they were not in the 1960’s. My first 3 siblings were from my mother’s first marriage and my younger brother is from… well .. my mother was indiscreet while married to my father.  My father adopted my 3 older siblings and kept my little brother as his own child, different race not making a difference.

My father also had been married before he and my mother were married. He had a daughter from that marriage. I know her name was Sheila Kay.  That is all I really know. I am not even sure what her last name was.  It was either Lostutter or Thomas.

You see, my father had been raised by an aunt and uncle named Walter and Fern Thomas. My father’s birth name was Richard Jean Lostutter.  I  believe his mother’s name was Grace Lostutter. Why he was raised by his aunt and uncle is a mystery to me. My best guess is that his mother may not have been married, was divorced, widowed, or for some other reason unable to raise him. I was never able to find out. My father went by the name Richard Lostutter at least through high school, and some of his adulthood, but at some point began using the name Thomas. When he married my mother his name was Thomas,  but I am unsure when exactly he changed his name.

My father grew up in Gas City,  Indiana and graduated from Gas City High School in 1945. One of the few  momentos I have of my father is his senior yearbook that shows that he was was not in attendance at his high school graduation because he has left for basic training in the army.  This was during WW2 just as the Germans were surrendering – Hitler had just committed suicide and the war against Japan was in full force. ( The bombs were dropped in the following August) He was mentioned both in the school yearbook and newspaper articles for his patriotism and sacrifice.  He also was mentioned for his amazing clarinet playing.

Throughout the years since I learned of the existance of my half sister, Sheila, I have had a lot of curiosity. I talked to a private detective, but could not afford his fees. I sent letters through the social security administration – we both had collected survivors benefits as children after my fathers death, and they said they might be able to forward a letter to her. After many months, I got the letter back, with a note that they were unable to locate her unless I had HER social security number.  I even wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey thinking she might like it for one of her reunion shows.  I have searched online, but not knowing for sure  what her her maiden name is …  and Thomas is very common, let alone any idea what her married name might be  ( and just who came up with the idea of women changing their names???)  -yahoo people search, zabasearch, ancestry.com, facebook, myspace, reunion.com,  etc.

When I was a teenager I rode my bike several miles to the house of Fern Thomas thinking maybe she would be able to tell me something about my father’s family. The first time she told me go away and don’t come back. I was confused and hurt. I left with out really questioning.  I was a fairly timid , shy teenager, and generally afraid to question  or confront adults. The second time I went back I tried to explain that I didn’t want anything, thinking maybe she thought I was wanting money or something.  I told her I just wanted to know her, to know my Father’s family.  She said my father was not even my father and to go away and don’t come back. She closed the door in my face. I can’t even begin to describe the pain I felt at that reception. She was one of the few people who knew my father and had a blood tie to him who could tell me more, to help me to KNOW the father I lost at 4 years old.   I never shared that with anyone at the time. It made me kind of afraid to ask or contact anyone, because of the fear of being so hurt again.

Now, of course, I’m 50, my father and mother are both dead as are my grandparents and probably  anyone else who could give me the information I need. 

 I feel an empty space in my heart.

New Orleans

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve never been to New Orleans before, but it has been on my “bucket list” for a long time.

So, next week I head out to an Obesity Help event with a few extra days for exploring a bit of the Big Easy.

I have been watching food network travel shows and have a few restaurants I want to go to see, first and foremost Dooky Chase’s. Leah Chase, the owner of Dooky’s has been cooking since 1946. Now 90 something she still reports in and makes rounds on the customers to say hi and see that everything is ok. She was the inspiration for Tiana , the little girl in the princess and the frog  who wanted her own restaurant more than anything. Her restaurant was a center for people working to integrate restaurants in days gone by. It used to be a hang out for Ray Charles. I wonder if I can still feel the historical vibes in the air?

I’d like to do a walking tour of the garden district – strolling down Charles street looking at the houses and imagining Ann Rice characters behind the curtains.  I do have a listing to call for a guided tour. I’m undecided whether to just use a book or hire a tour.  Will Lestat be there?

Also wish to tours the St. Louis cemetary – one of the “Cities of the Dead” to look at the architecture of the vaults and memorial statues. maybe a little morbid. But I did read not to go wandering around alone, High crime rate in the cemeteries, crowded, lots of twists and turns and places for people to hide.

I can just imagine strolling along at night and listening for Jazz music  and sipping a hurricane to cool off in the steamy New Orleans heat. aaahhhhh….

And about those beads….  (@)(@)

Nostalgia Tour Part Two

Posted: August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

While I was visiting my brother, he mentioned that our grandfathers house had been auctioned for taxes.

I was BLOWN AWAY.

When I was a child my grandparents house was a safe haven. Home gave new meaning to the word “dysfunction.”  During my early childhood my father was ill most of the time, he had a bad heart. My mother was rarely home.  After my father died when I was four, any semblance of anything normal disappeared.

 Occasionally my grandparents would take me to their house for periods of time. Being with my grandparents was always care free, warm, and never a doubt of feeling secure and  safe. The house was neat as a pin and Grampa had beautiful flower gardens, berry bushes, apple trees,  and vegetables growing in the yard. The garage had a freezer that was always well stocked with ice cream.

Gramma was a good old-fashioned cook. She fed us well with chicken and noodles, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and pies made from berries Grampa and I would pick , with a crust sprinkled thickly with sugar and baked to a crisp perfection.

Grampa had a big swing in the back yard and we would sit in it together and drink ice tea and talk and he would tell me the same jokes over and over and I would laugh every time. The neighbor kids would catch toads and bring them to him and he paid them a dime for each one they released in his yard. He always said he thought he might be paying for the same toad every time.

Sometimes they would pick up my cousin, Tina, to keep me company, but I preferred to keep them to myself and was always jealous of ANY attention they gave her when I was there.

After Gramma died, Grampa hired various ladies to care for him. Often they were women in dire straits themselves and he provided them their own room, food, etc. and a small salary to do light housekeeping and cooking. He would take them to the grocery store to buy what ever they pleased and was not really demanding in any way of  what they actually cooked or apparently how well they kept house either.

At one point apparently his finances were short and he did not have the money to pay his property taxes and one of my uncles (Grampa’s stepson from my gramma’s 1st marriage)  paid the taxes in exchange for title to the house, and Grampa had an agreement to lifetime occupancy.  No one knew anything about this until Grampa was in the hospital and the “uncle” tried to evict him. My older brother and sister took legal action and tried to get it reverse but were unsuccessful.

My grandfather ended up living in the home of a lady who cared for him rather than a nursing home and she was able to provide good respectful, homey care for him until he died.  He actually left everything of what little he had left to her in his will.  He died when I was 22, and I was pregnant with my 3rd child and approximately 10 days past my due date.  Since they funeral was 200 miles away I was forbidden to attend, and my daughter was born on the night of his funeral.  That was in 1983.

I’m not sure what happened with the house over the years, I am going to be doing some research over the next few months to find out.  What I have learned to this point is that the house sold for less than $6000. 00 about a year ago. It is valued at about $40,000, which is average for that neighborhood. The annual taxes are $140.00  YES, one hundred forty dollars.

While I was doing my nostalgia tour I decided to take a cruise by and see how it is looking now. I haven’t been there in now over 28 years so I set my GPS and headed in. Surprisingly many things looked much the same. The VA hospital my grandfather work at as an occupational therapist is still there.  The neighborhood is in a bad decline. Many businesses are closed. Clearly the recession has hit and hard in this small town that was quite reliant on manufacturing jobs that have left the country. Lots of buildings were boarded up. Many houses were in disrepair.

When I turned onto my Grandfathers street, it looked much the same as when I was a child, a little darker and over grown and slightly run down. My grand fathers house looked a lot different.  The old grey (I think they were some kind of asphalt shingle) was gone and resided in white vinyl siding and had a newer roof. The house was clearly unoccupied and had  broken windows. The garage looked as if a good wind would blow it down and it also had broken windows. The large dog house in the back also was tumbling down. The yard was over grown with weeds. It was sad and unrecognizable.

Everything in my heart wants to buy this house and restore the house and yard. Everyone who I say this to says WHY? and What in the world would you do with it?  Why? – I guess to restore the place that gave me that sense of safety and security, because I am once again at a place in my life where everything is up in the air and there is no sense and no solid ground. I know realistically I wouldn’t live in it. It is hours away from where I reside , away from kids, family, job etc. and  in a town that is declining.  What would I do with it? Keep it like a secret hideaway clubhouse like a little kid? rent it out? I don’t know.

You can’t go home again.

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago I went on a road trip. I visited family and I went on a Nostalgia Tour.

I grew up in small towns in Indiana. Really small towns. When I was middle school aged I lived way out in the boonies outside a “town” named Lagro.  Lagro had no stop lights that I recall. There was a small restaurant, a baitstore/liquor store and a few other small shops and a bank. I was insanely jealous of the kids who lived in “town.”  They could walk to each others houses to play tgether in the summer. Walk to the store. Buy penny candy, get a whole BAG for a quarter! “Town” was exciting.  I’m really not sure what the population was then but at 0.6 square miles it couldn’t have been many. In 2000 the population was 454, and in 2009 had declined to 416.

I decided to take a drive through Lagro on my Nostalgia Tour.  So I set my GPS for Lagro, Indiana, and set out on my adventure.

On the road to Lagro.

When I pulled into town I stopped to get out of my car and looked around. As I looked around I felt a sinking in my stomach and a lump in my throat. The “town” that had seemed so exciting when I was a child now looked like a ghost town. The cafe is still there, it was open, but empty. The baitshop/liquor store was there and open. Every other business on the main street area was boarded up and empty. There was not a single human being moving on the street. No cars moving. No signs of life. It could have been a set in a Stephen King movie. I felt overwhelmingly sad, a heaviness in my chest. I felt that I had lost something special to me.

Looking through a camera lens distances me from the place I am in. It depersonalizes and puts a barrier between me and reality. So I took out my camera and snapped a few pictures, so I could look at them objectively and with out the same emotions I was feeling looking at it in person. Then I got in my car and left. I don’t think I will ever go back again.

Queen-of -everything

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yes, that’s me. I have a lot say and yes, since I’m Queen-of-everything it must be said. I’m a 50 year old woman, I’ve had some crazy life experiences and people keep saying “you should write a book.” Well – I don’t know about that, but blog? Maybe… stay tuned