I don’t understand why Cleveland is the butt of so many jokes.
In our sports-obsessed culture, perhaps it is the lackluster record of their teams as to why the rest of the nation picks on Cleveland.
Even the Case Western Reserve University admissions representative, a native New Yorker who spotted my husband’s Mets cap, worked in a jab about Cleveland as he touched upon Cleveland’s cultural and sports offerings at our information session.
“Another big plus about attending Case Western – when your hometown team comes to town to play against a Cleveland team, there is a good chance you’ll get to see them win!”
There we were, the five of us, at my daughter’s first campus visit.
Most prospective students came with one parent. My daughter had her whole entourage. For the most part, her little brothers were good sports. Lesson learned: Next campus trip, we just bring the kid closest to college age.
At the information session, about 20 prospective students awkwardly sat among their parents. Most of the students were from Michigan. All were asked to introduce themselves, what they were interested in studying, where they lived, and one interesting thing that makes them unique.
My daughter, the lone student who declared an interest in studying science AND art, declared that her talent for drawing made her unique.
My freshman son, mistaken for a prospective student, joked that his one interesting quality was that people frequently thought he was older than his actual age.
Jokes aside, Case Western Reserve is a highly competitive university known for its science, engineering, social work, and medical schools. The Huffington Post calls it the “Geek-centric” up and coming school to watch because it encourages students to be interdisciplinary researchers and creative thinkers and problem solvers.
Before releasing us to our student tour guides, the admissions counselor gave us a thorough presentation on Case Western’s place in college rankings.
- In their rankings, U.S. News & World report ranks it No. 37 among 280 national universities.
- Case Western Reserve University was also ranked No. 27 on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Values charts.
- Its medical school is ranked 12 in the nation
- The school encourages interdisciplinary coursework across 200 academic programs
- There is a 9:1 student/faculty ratio, meaning that students get many opportunities for individual attention from professors.
- Undergraduate acceptance rates for the 2011- 2012 stand at 51 percent.
You can get all these stats on a website. But what you won’t get unless you visit a campus is the feel of the campus, the buzz of the students as they walk, bike or skateboard by as they switch classes. You won’t get a chance to peek into a class in session.
Case Western Reserve is located in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood, putting it within walking distance to about five museums, parks, art galleries, restaurants, and lots of commercial and retail development that will only add to the university’s offerings in years to come. During our visit, our family became enchanted with the area’s parks and charming neighborhoods. We stopped into a small art gallery where the owner, upon learning my daughter was interested in studying art, asked if she might be available for a summer internship.
Wandering around the campus and its surroundings is an important part of the campus visit. Outside of the academic rigors, the student has to ask themselves: can I picture myself living here day after day, for at least four years?
An “online visit” to a campus website is a poor substitute for a walk through the campus, eating a meal at a student union or peeking into a lecture hall when a class is in session.
One can even get a feel, or have what they learned at a campus information session, reaffirmed over a bowl of linguine.
That evening after the tour,we went out to eat at an unpretentious but very popular Italian restaurant. Seated near us was a large group of students with an older, bearded gentleman at the head of the table, presumably their professor. I hushed my family so I could overhear the conversation at the table. Indeed, the gentleman was their professor, and the group was enjoying a meal before taking in the Cleveland Orchestra, which plays at a hall right on the campus. Student tickets to the Cleveland Orchestra are only $12, and if you are a Case Western student, going to the symphony tops the lists of things to do before graduation.
There was a steady light drizzle as our student tour guide walked us through some academic buildings, dorm quads with washing machines that TEXTED you when your load was done (!!!) and the student union.
This is pretty typical on a college tour: visitors will first sign in at the admissions office, usually housed in a stately old building with gleaming hardwood floors. An admissions representative will give a talk and present a polished video of current students and alumni before releasing you to a student tour guide, most likely on a work-study program.
For my middle child, a ninth grader, tagging along on a campus tour with big sister hopefully got him thinking of what campus he could see himself on after high school.
I watched them walk ahead with the student tour guide as I hung back with the rest of the parents. I watched my daughter tell my son I wish I had started visiting colleges when I was YOUR age.
One final word of advice from our tour guide as he made his obligatory plug for us to give him a good score on the feedback card back at admissions: Never overlook the colleges closest to your hometown. Our guide was a native of Cleveland, and he never imagined himself winding up at Case Western Reserve. But he did, and is happy about his decision.
Next up: Our visit to Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh.
Yes, it’s been ages since I have written a post. But this blog post will be merely a placeholder to say, come back, I promise, I will have something to say of what my life has been like over the past few weeks.
Most of what has been occupying my family’s time is the college search for our oldest child.
This spring “break,” the family took a most unusual road trip. It did not involve going back to our hometowns. It did not involve sleeping in our childhood bedrooms and seeing extended families.
It was all about visiting colleges.
In the next few blog posts, I will be sharing our experiences of our visits to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and in Pittsburgh, the contrasts between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. And, because we live in southeast Michigan, this series would not be complete without our visit to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In the next few blog posts, I will be discussing my impressions of the presentations given by each schools’ admission departments, what you can learn on an official college tour, and what you can further learn from taking a real-live student to lunch. I will also write about the “vibe” of each campus and the surrounding cultural aspects of each town.
I will also be writing about the issue of early admission, and how the Ivies and other prestigious universities continue to become even more selective in their admission process.
At that post, I would like hear from you, dear readers on the worth of a college education received at an Ivy League or other prestigious schools. Is it worth the high cost of tuition if it will open up doors for the student at the onset of graduation? Is it better to get an undergraduate education at a good public state college and then gain the prestige of attending an Ivy League for graduate school? These questions are in hot contention right now and I would love for you to chime off on that post.
So, stay tuned right here, and I promise I’ll be cranking these posts out in the days to come. And, if you are also in this stage of life with your children, feel free to comment on each post on your college searches.
“She’s been training for this for years, and this course is as difficult as they come.”
“Wow, look how she swerves and still can maintain that SPEED and control!!”
“Oh, she is really fighting to stay on the course as she goes around that curve, it’s so difficult but she makes it look so easy.”
Have I just returned from Sochi, competing in the giant slalom?
I’ve just returned from grocery shopping. In suburban Detroit. And there is a pothole that could accommodate a baby elephant on the road between my house and the dairy aisle.
To say that Michigan’s roads have a pothole problem is an understatement. We don’t really have roads here anymore. Neglect of Michigan’s roads have been decades in the making and it’s more like Michigan has miles of potholes with some bits of road holding them together.
Now, I know many of you living in other states also have pothole bragging rights. But a recent article in the March issue of HOUR Detroit Magazine offered the following factoids to set the record straight: when it comes to a pothole problem, Michigan wins, hands down:
- At $124, Michigan spends the least amount on roads per person per year than any other state. Yes, we have low taxes, but the cost of maintaining a car on these roads – (an average of $320 per year per motorist) – makes up for the low taxes.
- 29% of Michigan’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
- 35% of Detroit’s paved roads are rated in poor condition
- The average additional vehicle operating cost for Detroit’s roads is $536 per motorist
- Michigan drivers lose a total of $7.7 billion annually because of deteriorated, traffic congested roads.
Cross into neighboring states dealing with the same rough winters the roads are much better. That’s because Ohio invests in its roads $234 per motorist and in Wisconsin, $231 per motorist. In these states, politicians did the right thing and raised taxes to fix their roads. Now, in an election year, Michigan politicians hoping to be re-elected most likely will not want to be associated with any sort of tax increase, even to fix the road they drive on to get to work. Or maybe they have special smooth roads for politicians.
You get what you pay for. Or you don’t get what you don’t pay for, but in the end, you pay for it anyway.
Between the bumpy rides in the back seat and no one to take care of him at school when he complained of pink eye – because Michigan politicians also doesn’t want to waste taxpayer dollars on school nurses – my youngest child said he actually wants to move to a state with higher taxes when he grows up.
Last night, as I was driving my kids home, my daughter thought she could give me instructions about my driving technique. After all, she has been a driver’s ed student for about 2 1/2 weeks.
“Mom, why are you going over so much to the right?
Mom, don’t you see that pothole coming up? Why are you headed straight for it?”
It’s because, my dear, that pothole is in the very same place of where the road should be. To avoid one of these potholes, I would have had to cross over a double yellow line into oncoming traffic, or drive straight through the even more potholed and gravelly shoulder.
Sometimes, there is no choice but to go through a pothole and just pray you make it to the other side.
Parents of athletes get to whoop and cheer from the sidelines of courts, fields and hockey arenas.
Score a basket, and parents go “YEAHHHHH!”
A kid slams a hockey puck past the goalie and parents get to yell “whooo hooo, GOAL!!”
I guess parents of artists need a place to cheer for their kids too. They found it last night at the Detroit Film Theater at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as hundreds of students in grades 7-12 received accolades at the 2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Southeast Michigan Inductees ceremony.
The College for Creative Studies sponsors the Southeastern Michigan Art Region, which received over 4,000 works of art and almost 300 portfolios last year from 7-12 grade students in Wayne and Oakland Counties. Over 1,100 individual category works and 90 Portfolios were selected to receive Gold Keys, Silver Keys and Honorable Mention Awards. Winners of this award are in the company of other great artists like Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon. They won these awards in high school too.
Artists, friends and family members and teachers filled the theater to nearly standing room capacity. That is a lot of art supporters. Before the ceremony began, a huge projection screen looped images of the award-winning art, from photography to painting, to drawing, ceramics and jewelry design.
And if parents, or other fans in the room were lucky to look up and spot their child’s work, a huge “YEAH” could be heard. Just like at a sporting event.
Looking at the art, I cannot understand how some school districts see it as a frivolous subject that can be cut from a budget. Each work allowed the audience a glimpse of the world from inside another’s perspective. Think how many eyes have set sight on the world and still, there are so many unique ways of looking at the world around us, and to have the gift to express what they see and reflect it back to the rest of us, and to have schools that have maintained their budget for the arts, indeed a gift.
Again, I thought how fortunate we are to be able to live in a part of Michigan that values and has kept a strong visual art program. Again, my mind wandered to think about the districts which have shed the classes where students get to express themselves in their own unique way. Think of what they could express artistically if given the opportunity.
My daughter, in the throes of her Junior Year, at first could not be bothered with going to an award ceremony. After all, it was a Tuesday night at the beginning of the semester. She had hours of homework waiting for her. But we told her, no, getting recognized like this is what people LIVE for, and some things trump even doing homework.
When she was in Kindergarten, I took a book out the library about how to create art with pencils. It had different shading and cross-hatching techniques which I thought maybe a bit above her wee head, but I showed it to her anyway. We must have renewed that book three times. She sat with it and carefully copied the pictures for weeks.
Years and many boxes of pencils have passed. And with that, lots of pencil shavings. Some make it to the garbage, some don’t as evidenced by a mound of pencil shavings I recently found in the basement:
Competitions like the Scholastic Art & Writing program confirmed for my family what we’ve known for years: My daughter has been given a great talent to create art.
Attending the award ceremony confirmed there are lots of lots of kids with equal and greater talent also creating amazing art.
As each kid crossed the stage to accept their awards: some in conservative suits, others in the standard garb of an artist: black and more black with matching black combat boots, my heart soared with pride for them all. At the same time, it sank, and I wondered if my daughter, seated in a sea of this talent, felt the same weight of the competition. It is these same kids who she will be competing for scholarships, grants, and jobs in an economy which values and employs those pursuing the arts less and less each year.
I hope the world of art and design widens enough to absorb all of them and lucratively so.
From the attic bedroom window in my Rochester home, deep deep in the night, you could hear the sound of a train. The (unwelcome but necessary) woosh of the two nearby highways. Then, every once in a while, an eerie sound could be heard: Whoo Whoo Hooooooo…. It was the Barred Owl who lived in a grove of woods up at the Cobbs Hill Reservoir.
Since moving to our development in suburban Detroit, things are a lot more quiet. I miss the sound of the trains. I don’t miss the woosh of the highway. But, and this is strange, because we live in a more wooded suburban area, I no longer hear any owls. And I miss that late-night hoot of that Barred owl very, very much.
I’m not much of a birder. I leave that hobby up to my husband. He even has a life list. I like to hike. And if I hear a bird, I think, fantastic, what a beautiful song that bird has, now let’s move on. I don’t like standing in one place for too long for the sake of identifying or calling to a bird.
But, then again, those owls have a soft spot with me. So, the other morning, as I drowsily heard the report that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would be hosting “Owl Prowl” evenings all over the state,I did some further investigation and found the one happening closest to our house.
Turns out it took place last Sunday night at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area in Auburn Hills. The free event attracted about 125 people of all ages for a talk, some s’mores by a campfire, and the hope of sighting some owls.
Around the campfire, our guides, members of the Audobon Society, explained the order of calling the owls. It turns out that the larger owls tend to eat the smaller screech owls. So, the screech owls would be called first, then the larger owls in a different part of the forest. If the larger owls were called first, the smaller ones would make themselves scarce.
Another thing that scares away owls, and other wildlife, are humans. The guides advised us to be as quiet as possible. We were a big group. As I explained earlier, about 150 owl enthusiasts had come out that freezing night, with temperatures in the teens, to sight some owls. Those were 100 plus pairs of boots stomping in the snow. Children’s snow pants swish swished as they walked. Yet, when we were deep enough in the woods and the bird guides released their calls, it was quiet enough to hear the snow falling on our parkas.
In the end, a screech-owl and a Barred Owl called back to us. We didn’t see any owls, but just hearing them call back to our calls in the night was enough. And, it was time spent in the cold refreshing winter air.
If you live in Michigan and want to find an Owl Prowl near you, check out this site, and tell me what you saw and heard.
I am a voter. In all the places I’ve lived in, I have registered and exercised my right to vote. I can only think of one or two elections (one was the 1988 presidential election, when I was away at college. But even if I cast a vote, Michael Dukakis had no chance of winning) that I did not participate in voting in election.
Even as a kid, my parents took my brother and I to our elementary school at night so they can cast their votes in the cafeteria. My brother and I sat at semi-folded up tables pushed against the wall and stared at the feet in the voting booths, wondering what those grown ups were doing behind that curtain. I remember I couldn’t wait to be old enough to get in that booth and pull the lever.
Here, in my new suburban surroundings, I noticed something strangely missing from the October landscape. Because, along with skeletons, gravestones and pumpkins adorning the lawns in my old Brighton neighborhood were political signs. Usually Democratic Party leaning, signs would urge passers by to vote for judges, school board members, Congresspeople. No or Yes on this or that proposition.
I did get a reminder call from my old town by a real (young sounding) person reminding me to vote and informing me of my polling place. I politely thanked them for the call but told them I had moved.
But here in West Bloomfield? No calls. Not a political sign to be found. I thought this was one more silly rule in our neighborhood association charter. Like the rule where you can’t have a shed or a different mailbox.
Signs or no signs, I knew it was election day. And it was my civic duty to vote. But where?
I asked two of my neighbors who were unsure. They were not even sure what there was to vote on.
Surely, other towns had issues and elections to vote upon. Just a few to mention:
- There was the mayoral election in Detroit, where former hospital executive Mike Duggan defeated Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napolean.
- Royal Oak voters approved a human rights ordinance banning discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and other factors, making the Oakland County community the 30th municipality in the state to add such a law to its books.
- Voters in Macomb county approved tax hikes to support fire and police services
So, I figured there had to be something I needed to vote for in my new town. I registered to vote at my new town hall. I had my voter i.d. I was ready.
I waited until the evening to go vote, taking my two oldest children in tow. Hard to believe that come the next presidential election, my oldest will be eligible to vote. I went to the most logical places: the nearby schools. In one school, parents sat around watching their kids at an indoor soccer practice. None could tell me where to vote.
Next was my son’s middle school, where parents were gathering for a meeting about the swimming team season. Not only could a parent tell me where my polling place was, but she didn’t know it was election day.
How could this be? And how could I not exercise my civic duty to vote, this my first election day in my new state? The kids started to grumble. After all, the main objective of this outing was to do some shopping at Old Navy.
Finally, I went to town hall, where I should have gone for advice in the first place. The doors were open and there were some bins labeled as ballot boxes on tables outside the clerk’s office. The clerk expediently located my address and her eyebrows raised.
“Oh. You live in the section of West Bloomfield zoned for Bloomfield Hills schools?”
Yes, I thought, the much coveted section where we send our kids to school not within an earshot of our home but all the way the hell on the other side of town?
“You don’t have an election this year.”
No election? Not a single vote to be cast? On anything? Not one school official? Or County judge? Or proposition to release reserved funds for a new school roof?
I left town hall feeling strange but knowing I had done my civic duty of at least trying to vote. I had dragged my kids around town trying to fulfill my right to vote, trying to teach them a lesson that voting is something that should always be practiced. At least, on the years your town has something for which to vote.
And, without further delay, we went to practice our other right as Americans: the right to be consumers buying cheaply manufactured clothing from China at the nearest suburban shopping plaza.
Did you get out the vote in your town? Were you happy with the results? Leave a comment, I’m all ears!
We lived in Michigan for about two minutes (okay, I’m exaggerating…. 10 minutes) when people we met started talking about apples. And cider mills.
“What? You haven’t been to Franklin Mills? You HAVE to go for the doughnuts and CIDER.”
Like Blue vs. Green football. Like old-time souped up roadsters, come the fall, apples are a big part of the culture here in Michigan.
I thought I would be missing the sweet, hard crunch of my favorite fruit when I left New York. Not to worry. It seems Michiganders are just as boastful if not more than New Yorkers about their apples.
Though fourth in the nation in apple production, the state grows many varieties and nearly every supermarket sells the red, yellow and green globes picked from orchards less than 100 miles away.
Then there are the cider mills. It seems the granddaddy of them all around these parts is the Franklin Cider Mill. It is named for this tiny town in which it is located, a bucolic village that somehow dodged the suburban bullet in which it is surrounded. The mill is only open from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, so all it’s business is pressed (no pun intended) in these short months. But they do more than okay. Check out the line on a recent Sunday to get cider and Donuts:
And they have a huge press:
A few Sundays ago, these friends invited us over in the early evening to press some cider. Now, they had invited us to do this twice before and we just could not fit a press into our crazy early fall schedules. But the night was crisp and cool but not too cold, so why not? We went over to hang out and learn about pressing apple cider.
Several years ago, our friends purchased a small press. After realizing how much they were into making cider, and had an ample supply from several apple trees on their property, they decided to invest in a larger press from the Happy Valley Ranch Co.
Now, after marveling at this hand-cranked, Amish-looking contraption, I thought the evening was over. It was a school night, after all. But oh NO. This was not a mere social call, we were about to get put to work! We happily obliged because we know we would be treated to the freshest cider one could gulp at the end.
In advance of our arrival, they had cleaned and cut away bruises from apples they were storing in their garage.
We started throwing the apples into a wood hopper that fed the apples through a mill fitted with some sharp teeth.
That’s me cranking some apples, the pulp getting caught into a wood bucked lined with a cheesecloth like sack. Hubby also took some turns cranking the apples. (Note that from his cap and sweatshirt, he has not changed his allegiance to Michigan teams):
Already, without even turning the crank, juice stared oozing out of the pulp to be caught below in a pitcher. Luckily, it was too cool that night for the bees:
Then, the pulp is pressed and pressed by a hand-turned crank. A whole bucket’s worth of apple pulp is compressed to the thickness of a manhole cover. The result is homemade freshly pressed cider, the best I’ve ever tasted.
I will work for cider any time and hope we’ll get invited back soon.
Who wants to pay less taxes?
Who wants the government and regulation off our backs?
Government and school payrolls are much too big, let’s stop using our taxes to pay big government salaries!
Careful what you ask for.
Do you remember the good old days when there were school nurses? In the sixth grade, my throat burned and my head ached. I was sent to the school nurse where she took my temperature, gave me some water and a throat lozenge that tasted like cherry. The cold nurses cot lined with that crinkly white medical paper was somehow a comforting place to rest as I waited for my mom to come pick me up.
In the ninth grade I passed out in hygiene class and had to be wheeled through the hallway – of course during the change of classes – to the nurse’s office. There the nurse checked my vitals, my blood pressure and my temperature, etc. and sent me on my way back to classes after she determined my cause of fainting was due to me being grossed out by the day’s lesson.
As a mother, my children made several trips to the nurse’s office in the years they were students in New York State:
- There were routine eye and hearing exams
- Lice checks when there was the monthly…. emmm, occasional outbreak in one of their classes
- When my daughter’s 2nd grade head collided with another 2nd grade head, it was the nurse’s office who called me saying I would need to take my daughter to an ENT specialist to rule out a broken nose
- My oldest son broke several body parts at school. It was a nurse who was trained to triage him and fix him up enough to make him comfortable until i could get him to the doctor’s office.
- My youngest son had an asthma plan in his old school in New York where he went to the nurse’s office each day before recess or gym to take his inhaler.
- The nurse in my youngest son’s school also extracted a tick from my son’s neck, contained it in a plastic jar for me to take to my doctor to test it for Lyme’s disease. She was my hero!
The beginning of the school year I called up to speak to the school nurse at my son’s middle school about my son’s inhaler.
This is a school where we got a note home the first day of school saying that NO child could bring in any products containing nuts because several children in the school contained a life-threatening THAT’S LIFE THREATENING peanut allergy.
“We don’t have a nurse,” the secretary said in matter-of-fact tone.
“Excuse me?” I stammered in disbelief.
She calmly said that the school has a clinic where moms volunteer their time. Or, she, the secretary, plays the role of the nurse, distributing medication and other nursing functions. I’m sure she has time to care for our children, especially during cold and flu season, plus get all her other work done.
Really. So very comforting that is, never knew a school administrator knew how to take a kids vitals or how to treat a wound, a bone break or properly give out meds in addition to paperwork and calendar scheduling.
I shared my dismay with another school administrator, this time at my daughter’s high school.
“Oh yeah, our district hasn’t had nurses in a very long time. It’s an enormous liability.”
Yeah, do you think?
In New York, our property taxes were pretty high. In Michigan, our taxes are quite low. Our suburban streets are quite pock-marked with potholes and our schools have no nurses. And that’s the way people like it here, I guess.
Like last week. I drove myself to the emergency room in the middle of the night thinking I had a kidney stone, leaving my three kids to fend for themselves to get up and out the door for school.
This week, it was my car’s health that made for an interesting week.
Of course, these are the weeks my husband is on Japan on business. the plane can not jet across the skies fast enough to get him home.
Every day, people on the road see me coming because I am not ready to turn in my New York license plates.
You see, to save taxpayer dollars, Michiganders do not have plates on the front of their vehicle. So, when you drive a car from New York, especially with the retro Orange and Blue old-style plates that hearken back to the gas guzzlers of the 1970′s you really stand out.
Because drivers can see me coming, the plates compel me to take on the role of an ambassador of the Empire State. And this ambassador is a very courteous driver.
I leave intersections and shopping center driveways clear so my fellow drivers can exit and enter.
(Detroiters, have you ever tried to get out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot on Telegraph and Maple? How many of you keep that intersection clear? You know who I’m talking about.)
I don’t tailgate.
I yield to pedestrians to cross the street, even the ones with canes, and don’t honk at them to hurry up.
All this to dispel the myth that all New York drivers are assholes.
I took my car in for a routine oil, lube and filter change the other day.
In the old days back in Brighton, I knew exactly who to use. I would leave my car at one of two reliable garages within walking distance from my home, use my coupon, and I knew my car was in reliable hands as I left for a walk,
So, I figured I would give the closest lube guys a chance. Lube Tech is about .7 miles from my house. It was a nice morning, the bike path is nearby and I was looking forward to a walk as my car got checked out. For safety’s sake, I lock my co-pilot, my GPS system, in my glove compartment
It turns out Lube Tech is the kind of speed oil change places, where the work is done in less than 20 minutes. Fair enough, I’ll wait for my car in the tiny waiting room filled with magazines about cars and sports.
Then, a swarthy mechanic tells me that my car requires synthetic oil. Which of course is more expensive and I can’t use the coupon.
I’ve never used synthetic oil, please use the regular oil, please.
Ten minutes go by and the mechanic approaches me with a concerned look.
“Do you ever have problems taking your key out of the ignition?”
“Em, no, never. “
What is he talking about? I just drove my kid to school this morning?
“Because now the key doesn’t come out.”
Oh this can’t be good.
He tries again. I try. One of his associates tries. The key will start the car and turn her off, but won’t come out.
Next, another question:
“Have your power windows been giving you problems? Because they don’t work now either. And neither do your tail lights, ma’am.”
And I’m supposed to be PAYING for this?
So, now, I’m sitting in my car with a stuck key in the ignition and windows locked shut. I’m a woman in a garage with four guys with my husband across the globe. And I don’t feel like paying for my oil change for some reason.
After giving them a piece of my New York mind, I drove off without paying. And I set out to locate my nearest Chevy dealer.
Now this would be easy if I could use my GPS. Too bad it is locked in my glove compartment. Locked with the key that won’t come out of my ignition.
With a little know how, and recalling how my son taught me how to use Google Maps on my smart phone, I make it to the nearest Chevy dealer. Who reassured me that all is under warranty and they will provide me with a rental car, all paid for by the good people of General Motors.
I was hoping to not get a compact car, because on any given day I have to drive at least three kids around town, plus all their stuff.
Turns out the only GM car the rental place had available was the biggest “car” there is: A Chevy suburban.
The rental agent behind the counter, a woman, asked me if I can handle a vehicle this big.
Another rental agent looks up from his computer, raises his eyebrows and smiles at me: “Awww yeah girl, you can handle it.”
So, for a few days, while my car was being fixed for a problem that had NOTHING to do with the oil change, I felt untouchable on the road. Completely confident on making that Michigan left on Telegraph. Or Woodward.
And what’s more, people still saw me coming.
Except this time, Detroiters thought I was from
If you live in the same town where you’ve lived all your life, chances are you have big pool of people to pull from when, upon filling out the many forms one fills out in life, you have to list an emergency contact. There are parents, siblings, your best friend from the sixth grade who you still live near enough to make power walk dates every Wednesday morning after the kids get on the bus.
By the time I left Rochester, after living there for 14 years, I finally had two friends I could count on to list in the event of an emergency. Besides my husband.
The other night, I woke up from a dream screaming. I cannot recall the dream, which is unusual for me, but I do remember thinking that I hope I didn’t wake the kids because I screamed pretty loudly. Perhaps the nightmare was my body’s defense system kicking in, because upon being awake, I noticed a strange stabbing pain in my mid back.
At this point, I was on antibiotics for a bad bladder infection. You know, the kind that makes you feel like you have to run to the bathroom every ten minutes.
(Was that TMI? If so I apologize but this detail had to be added to frame this story and my frame of mind that night.)
I tried to relax. I tried to stretch out my back with some yoga on the floor. That did nothing. The stabbing came back and it was traveling from one side to the other.
I tried to relax some more, but the pain kept coming back. It was around 2:30 a.m. Scary thoughts kept going through my mind. Like how my grandfather, at the end of his life, needed dialysis. Was I going into kidney failure? Like how my mom has a history of kidney stones. Would kidney stones be my inheritance?
And that night, I had no one to wake and share my troubles with. Because the only person you should wake with such pains and thoughts in the middle of the night is your husband.
And my husband just left for a two-week business trip to Japan.
And I had three sleeping children who had to wake in a few hours to catch the school bus.
So, what does a transplant in an emergency situation do?
They try to diagnose themselves online. THIS is bad advice, because when you try to self diagnose online, the Internet proclaims that you may die within eight hours if you do not seek medical attention.
So, I called my new medical practice, the one that has known me all the way since … last month.
Contrast this to the OBGYN my mom went to: one doc, who delivered both my brother and I. My mom was his patient for decades until the day he retired.
A sleepy doctor called me up, listened to me list my symptoms over the phone, and told me it was not out of the realm of possibility that I might have a kidney stone, and if I did, I might soon be in excruciating pain and I needed to immediately head to the nearest Emergency Room.
“Feel better,” she said as she hung up her line and went back to sleep.
Trying to find some humor in this, I thought to the Seinfeld episode where Kramer passed a kidney stone.
Once again, my life is mirroring that of Cosmo Kramer. On a sit-com, kidney stones are hilarious. In real life, even the possibility of one is no joke.
So, at this point, I really had no choice but to drive myself, in the middle of the night, to the ER.
So here is what I did, and what I can recommend to you, if you are out there somewhere in a new city and find yourself in a similar bind:
- Go with your gut. Don’t feel stupid or think you are a hypochondriac if you think you are really in need of medical attention. When you are a new transplant, you are all you have for your family. Get help.
- Use Facebook – In the months I have moved here, indeed I have met some great people. Of course, nothing substitutes the comfort level from a lifelong friendship, but I already have a feel of who would reach out to me in a crisis. I wrote a FB message to some select new and local friends telling them of my situation. I gave them my cell phone number and that of my 16-year-old daughter and asked to please keep in touch.
- Keep using Facebook. When I was waiting for test results in the ER, I had no signal for my cell phone, but I could still use Facebook to see the flood of people who responded to my first message, who called to check in on my kids, who offered me whatever I might need. Including one of my new friends who visited me at 6:15 in the morning at the hospital. Say what you want about our addiction to social media, but in a situation like this, it gave me peace of mind.
- Teach your kids to be independent – This is something you can start doing right now. So when the time comes and you have to kiss and wake your teens at 3:30 a.m. to say “Mommy has to check in to the emergency room now, please wake yourselves up, take care of yourselves and make the bus on time,” they will give you a half-awake hug and say “Don’t worry mom, we’ve got this.” I don’t know if it was those summers at sleep-away camp, or all my years of nagging, but something worked.
- Pray. Seriously. The whole ride to the ER, I talked to God and asked Him to please watch over me and my kids. Please help me get through what ever I have to get through.
When I got to the ER, I felt like my prayers were somewhat answered. The ER was EMPTY. No one in the waiting room. I got triaged by a very nice nurse, was whisked into my own room, examined by a nurse and a doctor, had a CT and the results from my CT, all in the span of 4 hours. If you have ever been treated at an ER, you know this is neck-breaking fast.
In the end, my pain was NOT a kidney stone, but just residual pain from my bladder infection. But the doctor said I did the right thing by listening to the signals my body was giving me.
In the end, my friends here asked me why. Why didn’t I call them to take me to the ER? Why didn’t I call to have someone stay with my kids? Why? Because I know you are busy with lives of your own: kids, jobs. Because, maybe I’m not yet ready to try the strength of these limbs on these sapling friendships just planted two months ago.
In the end, I got home to see my kids out the door for school. They were dressed, brushed, fed, and packed their lunches. Their world went on without me. The sky did not fall because I wasn’t there one morning of their lives.
I hope you never have to go through the same scare I did when you are the new person in town. But know you can get through it too.