Past Memories: College Days

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Introduction

Hubby and I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison as freshmen in the Fall Semester of 1969.

I was 27-years-old, Hubby was 28, and we had three children 9, 8 and 2.

I was a high school graduate.  He earned a GED, while serving in the military, after dropping out of high school in the 10th grade.

Both of us were on a mission to improve the quality of our family’s life; and, we believed earning a college degree would lead us toward fulfilling this mission.

Memories Disclosed

While I have many positive memories of my student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for some reason, I chose to disclose memories that have remained hidden for many years.

They were hidden in my mind because I lacked the confidence to even self-acknowledge, much less open up to others, about how the things I am sharing today made me feel.

In the late 1960s, we stood out in our new roles as freshman college students.  And, sadly, I felt uncomfortable.  My classes were filled with students in their late teens and early twenties.

I felt “less than” and “different than” these college students.  They were young and single with recent educational experiences.  While I was older, married, with three kids; and, I hadn’t been in a classroom for more than nine years.

Another “less than” and “different than” experience, which was personally embarrassing, happened when Hubby and I attended a freshman event on campus; and, the reporter covering the event walked over to Hubby and sarcastically asked, “Aren’t you a little old for this.”   

Hubby, responded, sarcastically saying, “You’re never to old to follow your dream.”

Today, if asked the same question, rather than being embarrassed, I would say, We are here to provide our three children with a better life. “

Another “less than” college memory was when, during my first semester, I had to drop out of both Spanish 101 and French 101 within the first several weeks.  Even though I tried, it was impossible, to keep up with students who had just finished taking high school classes in these languages.

But, I needed the required foreign language credits to graduate.  Thinking I could manage a class where my foreign language skills (none) were comparable to the other students, I decided to try an African language.  Classes were offered in the University’s African Studies Department; and, I was able to satisfy my foreign language requirements by taking classes in Swahili, Xhosa and Hausa.

Several of the faculty members, in the department, impressed with my academic performance encouraged me to apply to the school’s PH.D program.

I thought my life had opened up to a wide-range of career possibilities.  But, the optimism didn’t last long when friends and family members cited a number of reasons why this wasn’t a realistic choice.  So, I walked away feeling “less than.”

Thankfully, I have reached a point in life where I am no longer controlled, embarrassed or intimidated when confronted with “less than” or “different than” comments made by others.

After two life-threatening illnesses, breast cancer and epiglottitis which occurred in 2008 and 2010 respectively, I went on a self-awareness, self-empowerment and self-love journey.

The longer I stay on this path , the easier it is to “let go” and discard the unnecessary baggage of “not good enough,” “unworthy,” and  “unlovable” which  controlled my life from early childhood.

Closing

Despite my struggles, we fulfilled our educational dreams:

  • Hubby earned his Bachelors and Masters of Science Degrees;
  • I earned a Bachelors of Science Degree
  • Our eldest daughter, who was 9-years-old when Hubby and I enrolled as freshmen, earned her Medical Degree;
  • Our youngster daughter earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Law Degree; and
  • Our youngest grandson enrolled as a freshman, Fall of 2014.

In this season of life, I live with the awareness that my “today is better than yesterday.

 

Gratitude Sunday – October 19, 2014

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Grateful for Photos:  College Memories

Several week ago, my friend, The Librarian, sent photos of several of my most remembered buildings and places at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I spent my days, 1969-73, as student.

Today, I am grateful to The Librarian for sharing these photos, not only for the past memories, but for opening up my space to write, “Past Memories:  College Days;”, which, I will post on Monday, October 20.

Each of these photos bring back different memories.

The Red Gym. Every semester, I waited hour-after-hour standing in long lines with thousands of other students to register for my new semester classes.

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Bascom Hall.  This is the buildings where I took a number of my classes.  I remember, many times, walking from the Red Gym up the hill to Bascom Hall only to learn the class I registered for was no longer available.  This required trekking back down to the Red Gym to find another.  Then, backup to Bascom Hall to confirm the class.   The walk up to Bascom Hall, which was located on top of the highest hills on campus, was a workout.  Today, I am Thankful for the daily uphill walks to Bascom Hall, which caused me to give up smoking.  I couldn’t handle both.

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Old University Hospital.  Fortunately, we were young and healthy, so routine family physical exams were the only times that I had to enter this building.   There is a new hospital on campus now; and this building now houses the UW Medical School.  But, even though I didn’t know it had the time, the building will always hold a special memory for me.  Our eldest daughter, a 9-year-old when we enrolled as freshmen students, attended classes in this building and graduated with her medical degree in 1985.

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The Ratskellar.  This is where the students gathered to socialize and grab a meal.  We spent our rare Family Date Nights there.  Hubby and I with a tap beer and the kids enjoying the best ice cream I have ever tasted.  Oh, and I can’t forget the free bowls of popcorn which continuously popped throughout the evening.  There were other times, after an evening class or hours spent studying at the Library, Hubby and I would end the night with tap beer and popcorn.  I just recalled that the first time that I drank beer from the tap was at the Ratskeller.

 

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Eagle Heights.  This was the married student housing on campus.  We lived there for four years.  The housing was restricted to graduate students and their families.  How we ended up there.  Hubby, being unaware of this restriction, applied for housing.  He used our student advisor’s name as a reference, which unbeknownst to us, also was the name of the Chair of the Business School.  We later learned that Graduate Business School students received preferential treatment.  Why, I am not certain.  The good news is that when they finally discovered their mistake, we were never asked to move.  Looking back, I can see how the mistake was made.  We didn’t, meet the freshman student profile — 18-year-old and single.  Instead our family met the profile of a graduate student — late twenties with three children.

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Again, so grateful to The Librarian for taking the time to shoot these photos and share them with me.

Finally, Expressing gratitude is healthy for my mind, body, and spirit.

The Death of A Friend

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On Tuesday, I had cataract surgery; and, by choice, I spent all day Wednesday, in my bedroom, resting, relaxing and recovering.  Around 6:00 p.m., I heard the doorbell, which was unusual as we rarely have unexpected visitors.  A short time later Hubby said, “Yvonne can you come out for a minute Terri is here.”

I knew something was wrong.  Terri is our next door neighbor; and, I know her only as my friend, Wanda’s, roommate.  I entered the living room with a heavy heart and learned my friendmy next door neighbor and my breast cancer sister, who fought the battle for many years, had lost the fight six minutes earlier.

I am sad, but ever so grateful that Wanda was within my space for almost five years.  During that time our relationship developed into a true friendship.  Despite the differences, we opened our lives up to receive, accept and trust each other.

Ten days before her death, I felt blessed to act as her caregiver for five hours.  During the visit, we talked continuously about any and everything.  I knew it was probably our last conversation; and, I am certain she felt this as well.

I write this post to:

  • address the sadness of losing Wanda, my friend;
  • accept Wanda’s death understanding all things happen in accordance with God’s Plan; and
  • embrace the memory of Wanda’s friendship.

As I move beyond the sadness, I know that:

“Our earthly loss is always a heavenly gain.  Although, our hearts hurt and mourn in humanly pain.  The fact still remains the same.  That Heaven has gained more Love to sprinkle down from above.”  (Antonio Talbert)

Sprinkle Down, Wanda.

Lost Girlfriends

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Last week, I took time out to visit past memories.  As I went through the photo album, three pictures touched my heart in a special way.  The women in the photos crossed my path in different ways over a twenty-year period.   They were my girlfriends, supporters, mentors, advisers, and so on and so forth; but, when I moved to Florida we grew apart.

I have found many new friends, through social media, as well as friends in my new community.  But, I miss these women and want to rekindle our relationship.  I would love to reconnect with them through this blog, emails, or Facebook; but, they quickly let me know a venture into cyberspace is not an option for them.

On Friday, I purchased stationery and envelopes from the local supply store.  My intent is to reach out to them, via snail mail, and try to re-establish our friendship.

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My Girlfriends

Let me introduce you and share a little about what brought us together.

North Central Service Club

In the late 1990s, while working at a medical practice, a patient’s daughter invited me to attend a meeting of the North Central Service Club.  A women’s non-profit organization, in existence since the late 1960’s, their primary goal is to mentor African-American female high school students and, through various fundraising activities, grant college scholarships to graduating seniors.

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A few of the members. I am not in the photo. But the beautiful lady in the gold hat is a founding member. She celebrated her 93rd birthday last year.

 

Sisters4Cure

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A Few of the Members of Sisters4Cure. That’s me front row, second from left, with black cap — bad hair day.

I connected with Sisters4Cure within days after my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008.  They were my support group as I journeyed down the path of living with breast cancer.  These women were by my side to offer support, encouragement, prayers, and compassion throughout the time we spent together.  Sisters4Cure is much more than a support group.  This is a non-profit organization created and sustained by dedicated women, with breast cancer, whose primary mission is to:

  • support women with breast cancer; and
  • reach out to African-American women in the Milwaukee area for the sole purpose of promoting breast cancer awareness.

SeasonedSistahs Book Club

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Rose, pictured in purple, lost the fight in 2013. In the blue is Betty, in the orange is Chris, and, yours truly, in the burgundy.

These were my four Seasoned Sistahs we created SeasonedSistahs Book Club.   In fact, these women held such a special place in my heart; when, I created this blog I selected the name SeasonedSistah2.   This photo was taken when we attended a book signing, something we often did as a group.   Our love of reading, fiction and non-fiction, books written by African-American authors brought us together.  We met for more years than I can remember to discuss the book we had selected to read for the month.  Over time we begin to feel more comfortable in each other’s presence; and we, expanded beyond our individual space and found the courage to share the unnecessary baggage that we carried, past and present, that prevented us from living our life to the fullest.  After I moved to Florida, the three remaining members continued to meet until Rose’s health deteriorated in early 2013.

I am Grateful to all the women, in the three photos, for the positive impact they had on my life.  Through my snail letters, I want to  express gratitude,  say thank you, and share the present with the girlfriends who were there to experience my past.