Introducing an American Midwestern City Girl

My mother described me as an American Midwestern city girl in her blog post Drifting Away from your Roots.  If the boot fits!  In her blog post she laments the passing of my Baba (stemming from obasan, Japanese for Grandmother), and expresses concern for retaining our family’s Japanese heritage. She’s not wrong to ponder how her daughters will keep our ancestors’ culture alive.  My sister and I dabble in cultural appreciation (delicious food, fun characters, and we did visit Japan in 2015), but this topic deserves its own post and further elaboration.  The real point I’m trying to make is to introduce this blog and myself.  The blog’s namesake was coined by my mother.

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Here’s me in front of the Japanese Alps.

My mother’s blog is what inspired me to have a go at this.  I’m not sure I really ever read her’s before, which is through her publishing website.  There are SO many entries, and I don’t know how far they date back!  I recently read a number of them, going back to 2014.  I felt grateful to experience her thoughts and interests, and to have her writing easily accessible to me.  She is particularly interested in capturing history through memoirs, and I feel as if she’s simultaneously writing pieces of her own through the blog.  Mostly it features other literature and authors, but it has a personal touch (like mentioning her daughters) that features reflections of her own experiences and feelings.  My mother is an admirable woman, who dabbles in a lot of activities and does a lot of good in this world.  As we are separated by many states and one time zone, it’s special to have a connection with her by any means.  I hope through this blog, I can provide that same connection to her, and any loved ones in my life.

Buckle up, because you have a condensed life story comin’ atcha.

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Two of my best friends and myself, at a high school pep rally (as alum).

My mother and father raised me (mostly) outside St. Louis, in my beloved suburban Missouri.  I really do love the suburbs.  And small cities (like St. Louis).  I grew up playing tag barefoot in the street and through neighbors’ yards, knocking on doors to see if Colleen or Maureen could play, and walking to every grade school I attended (okay, okay, I caught rides at every chance).  I love my childhood, those memories, and the schools and people that carried me through them.  I still have a very tight group of friends from middle/high school.  I treasure their impact on my life, and their friendship.  Many people grow up in an environment, and seek change when they gain independence.  I thought my biggest change was going to college in the cornfields of a different Midwestern state.  I thought my future held a return to my favorite city, my favorite neighborhoods.  I never doubted my desire to ultimately return to Missouri, and perpetuate the same way of life.  I’ll go on to tell you how that hasn’t been quite accomplished (yet!).  I still appreciate my hometown, and love visiting.  I cheer for the Cardinals and Blues like you wouldn’t believe – across several stadiums and arenas throughout the country.  I guess my desire to return has been outweighed by life’s other goals and priorities.

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Just your friendly, neighborhood transformer.

I went to college at Purdue University, and graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautical and Astornautical Engineering.  I knew where I went had to be a Big Ten school, as both my parents were graduates of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I had grown up driving to Illinois games (football and basketball), had t-shirts, jerseys, pennants, and the works to support the Fighting Illini.  I am so grateful my father took me to games, on road trips, and made those memories with me.  My loyalty to the conference drove my own collegiate search, and I refused to consider anywhere else (thus eliminating the possibility of staying in Missouri).  I can’t recall where we visited, except for Illinois and Purdue (alright, and Mizzou as a backup), but Purdue felt right immediately.  They had the degree program I wanted – top 5 in the nation – and the campus felt comfortable, supportive, and like somewhere I could succeed.  I was right!  I spent 4.5 years there, often staying over the summer, working the hardest I had in my life.  I made life-long friends, learned how to navigate relationships, spent the night in computer labs, won bar trivia, and had the quintessential college experience.  It was bliss.  Even when it was 20+ hour homework assignments, it was amazing; I knew it then, and I miss it now.

At my college graduation, I wasn’t sure where I was going yet!  With no solid employment opportunities, and waiting to hear back from the University of Illinois Graduate College, I was hoping to hear from anyone.  Both employment and educational opportunities came knocking:  I had a phone interview with Halliburton Energy Services, and U of I had accepted me.  I packed my bags for U of I and dived into my first (and only) semester of graduate school.  The program I went for was a masters in education, as I had discovered my passion for working with students while I was employed by Purdue’s First Year Engineering Advising office (for 3.5 years).  I formed a career goal of becoming a university-level student advisor, and sought the degree to make that happen.  I got a killer GPA and knocked out four graduate classes that semester, while shuttling back to Purdue to visit my boyfriend, Chris, who was a maters student there.  Well, that interview with Halliburton really panned out, so I chose to leave graduate school in exchange for a salary.  I had doubled my student loans in one semester, and feared the financial consequences of finishing my degree.  Halliburton took me to Hobbs, New Mexico.  Possibly my least favorite place in the United States, so I learned…

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Here’s Hobbs.  The ground always looks like that.

Hobbs, NM is an oil field town.  There is a population there because there is oil near by.  Don’t bother asking, nothing else is nearby.  The nearest mall was 1.5 hours away, the nearest real airport was 3.  I had the wonderful opportunity of spending my free evenings at Apple Bee’s, Walmart, the bar where there were always fights, or the local strip club.  I put on coveralls and worked outside in the first few months, learning about hydraulic fracturing equipment and operation.  I did online learning modules, and had long drives to and from work with my mentor.  Eventually I got in the van and started running jobs, and, finally, delivered my “break-out” presentation, which gave me a new job title and raise.  Then I got TF outta dodge, and transferred to the Pittsburgh area with Big Red (that’s Halliburton).

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Here’s Pittsburgh; it’s amazing.

Well, the office was about 45 min outside of Pittsburgh, but I went ahead and moved to Pittsburgh and took the commute (hell, we never went to the office anyway, we drove to the job sites, which were in beautiful West Virginia or plain Ohio).  I really liked my job, now.  I worked 8 days on, 4 days off, and fell in love with Pennsylvania.  Pittsburgh is very much like St.Louis: It is a small city with big sports teams and it has unique boroughs/neighborhoods with their own character and appeal.  My roommates were two interesting, wonderful women, that easily integrated with my unusual schedule.  I will always speak fondly of Pittsburgh, and would live there again without hesitation.  Caught up in my love for this new-to-me state, I told me soon-to-be-graduating boyfriend, “find a job in Pennsylvania.  I love it here.”  The man listens.  He found his dream job in Pennsylvania, about an hour outside Philadelphia.  For anyone needing a geography refresher, that’s on the other side of the state.  A four hour drive, in the middle of the night, which I experienced first hand, many, many times.  It’s five hours if you’re driving when normal humans do.  After a year in Pittsburgh, I left Halliburton and the inconsistent schedule, in favor of moving in with my boyfriend and having a consistent work schedule.

We got a cat. We got a dog.  We got engaged.  We wanted a house.

My husband and I had no trouble agreeing that we wanted a sizable plot of land for our first house.  We had a dog, and wanted to give him and ourselves room.  Chris wanted the responsibility of yard maintenance.  He wanted to look out our windows or over our porch and to see empty space instead of buildings.  I wanted that, too!  We visited the house we bought three times before putting in an offer.  I drive upwards of an hour (in traffic) to get from our little house to my work.  It’s not a dream house, it didn’t check off every box – but, by golly, if I’m not a sucker for red brick, wood floors, a wood-burning fireplace, and an acre plot of land!  If you’ve read the About section, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out I am averse to change.  I grew up in a brick house with a white picket fence.  So I’ll perpetuate my suburban paradise with a little rural flair.  I find comfort in medium-sized towns, and big backyards.

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Our little slice of heaven.

I think farming and county living is often associated with Midwestern.  I gotta say, those things do not relate to my life.  That’s why my mom threw that city girl in there, I think.  I have family in rural Tennessee that I have always loved visiting.  I have picked from small crops, I have sat on a tractor.  But that was a vacation, not my way of life.  I also never got into country music until I took up with a man who did.  I can thank my husband for easing me into the genre – a man who grew up mucking horse stalls and helping harvest alfalfa.  That being said – I wouldn’t quite describe his childhood home as completely rural, either.  So here we are in Pennsylvania, an hour from Philly, building our lives exactly how we want.  Straddling the rural/urban lifestyles – and I think taking some of the best qualities from both!

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