Smells like $40,000 a year. — Ron Witwicky, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Smells like $40,000 a year.
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Week 38: Hobbies. Did you have any hobbies as a child? Which ones?
In the truest sense of hobbies, I would have to say I enjoyed collecting stamps. I had a rather huge album full of stamps that I meticulously cared for and added to whenever DaD gave me a new stamp to add. He would buy me packages of stamps at the mall’s coin shows and I would sit for hours and look them up, adding them to the album. Eventually in high school I tired of the hobby, and gave my stamp album to my DaD’s girlfriend at the time, Noreen Ackerman. I regret it today; I really wish I had that album back.
I spent my allowance on a subscription to the 24k Gold Plated Replica Stamps collection from the United States Mint, and thankfully I still have that album. It’s not worth that much today in terms of value, but its sentimental value is enormous. It took me forever to complete that collection!
I dabbled in rock collecting a little bit, picking up some quartzite and fool’s gold in my trip Out West with my Grandma and Grandpa Cole (1989). It wasn’t a serious hobby but I do enjoy looking at rocks. Most of my spare time was spent playing my Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from 1987 on. I was also heavily involved with computers and spent a lot of time hanging out on the Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) in central Michigan.
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Week 37: Earliest Memory. What is your earliest memory?
Jessica & Kathy's Kool Aid Stand (1982)
My true earliest memory is getting “the burn” on my stomach at age 4 in 1981. You can read all about it during Week #11 – Illness & Injury.
I have lots of very early memories, but here are some of my favorites.
I distinctly remember popping the lock on my sister’s bedroom using her baton so I could play with her toys. I also remember running through the sprinkler with her in the front yard. It was shaped like a clown and the hat was pushed up by the water pressure, spraying everybody and everything in sight. We also loved drinking Kool Aid in our little plastic Kool Aid cups.
I remember playing with Barbie dolls in the basement, in the dollhouse my Grandpa gave me that DaD never got around to finishing. It smelled like cigars down there because my DaD learned how to roll them when I was very young.
I liked watching Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, The Smurfs and The Snorks on Saturday morning television.
Week 36: Road Trips. Describe a family road trip from your childhood. Where did you go and why? Who was in the car? How did you pass the time?
My New Glasses (1986)
The biggest road trips of my youth were to Walt Disney World in Florida in 1987 and then the infamous trip “Out West” in 1989 with Grandma and Grandpa, aka Duane and Florence Cole. During both trips I was along for the ride with my cousin Christopher in Grandpa’s Winnebago RV. In 1994 DaD, Kathleen, Ashley and I went to Washington D. C. for a few days.
Other than that, our family spent a lot of time driving between our home in Bridgeport, Michigan and Valparaiso, Indiana where my DaD’s side of the Cole family still lives today. The journey took about 5 1/2 hours at the time, before parts of I-69 and I-94 were built when we had to take smaller state highways.
Kathleen and I would pass the time by playing The Alphabet Game in the back seat. She always won. In fact, I was endlessly frustrated that she always won. Eventually my Mom picked up on the fact that I couldn’t see crap, and took me in for an eye exam when I was 8 years old. After I got glasses, I was able to properly compete with Kathleen in the back seat. By then, my Mom had moved out and the trips to Indiana started to slow down.
If it weren’t for those road trips, it might have taken my parents a lot longer to figure out I was practically blind. How was I supposed to know? It seemed normal to me.
Week #35 – Songs. What was the #1 song during the week of your birth?
On the day of my birth, the #1 song in the USA was Best of my Love by The Emotions. On the day Andrew and I got married, it was U Got It Bad by Usher. My favorite coincidence was the #1 song when my brother Noah was born, which was Baby Boy by Beyonce.
Week 34: Smells. Describe any smells that take you back to childhood. These could be from meals, fragrant gardens, musty basements, or something entirely different.
Smells? Grass is about the only thing I remember smelling from my childhood, and that’s because I had to mow the lawn all the time. I didn’t know it then, but I am allergic to just about every type of grass there is. I love the smell, but it makes me suffer so I avoid it. Cigarette smoke is the other smell I remember from all that time I spent in the Mio Saloon with my Mom. I’m also highly allergic to smoke. Ironic, eh?
Week 33: Nicknames. What was your childhood nickname, and what was the meaning behind it? You can also discuss the nicknames of other family members, both past and present.
Very early on, my DaD gave me the nickname Punky. I used to dress up like Punky Brewster with my hair in pig tails and try to emulate what I saw her do on television. Apparently even earlier than that, I was called Pooky for a while after Garfield’s teddy bear. I don’t remember that.
My best known nickname is The Black Rose. It was my handle on a bulletin board system (BBS) in the early 90′s called The Portal. I was given the nickname by the boys on the board. I went from boy to boy to boy, apparently leaving heartache in my tracks. I was quite unaware of the impact I had on all those boys, but looking back now I can tell you I was the biggest flirt in the world. I loved flirting with the boys, and it didn’t matter to me which one I was flirting with at the time. My autobiography is suitably titled, “Memoirs of a Black Rose.”
DaD has called me Jess for as long as I can remember. It’s not a nickname I chose, but he’s my DaD so he gets to call me whatever he wants. Very few people have the privilege of getting away with calling me Jess. My name is Jessica!
My sister went by Kathy for many years but in high school decided her name was Kathleen and it was not acceptable to call her Kathy anymore. I’m not sure why she made that decision but once she did, she got fiercely angry if you called her Kathy. She used to run around the house yelling “JESS-IHHH-CAAAAH” to me and I would try to reciprocate by taunting in response “KATH-AAAHHH-LEEN” and she would yell, “There’s no A in my name!”
Week #32 – Dinner Time. On a typical childhood evening, who was around the dinner table? Was the meal served by one person, or was it a free-for-all? What is dinner time like in your family today?
When I asked mom what was for dinner, she would chase me out of the kitchen yelling, “Shit on a stick – and YOU AIN’T GETTIN’ ANY.” She said it every day. I don’t know why I bothered asking. Dinner usually consisted of corn flake chicken or pork chops, canned vegetables like corn, peas or green beans, and mashed potatoes with a bread roll. Sometimes she would make Kraft macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese with tomato soup, kielbasa and sauerkraut, or lasagna. I never liked anything with tomatoes so soup and lasagna were not on my list of things to eat. I did like the kielbasa sausage, which she learned to make from her mother Mary whose family was Polish. Mom never made me eat anything I didn’t want to. She may have tried to, but I never did.
As a family, we often ordered pizza from Little Caesars with green olives, my mom’s favorite topping. Other restaurants we frequented were Bob’s Big Boy in Bridgeport, and Pompeii Pizza (which ironically burned down). We ate dinner together as a family – Mom, DaD, Kathleen and me – until Mom left when I was about 8 years old. After that, dinner was usually ordered on the phone from Little Caesar’s or picked up at McDonald’s.
I was a picky eater then and would continue to be for several decades. Kathleen and I used to make homemade donuts using a hot oil deep fryer. We would use refrigerated biscuit dough and poke a hole in the middle, fry them up and drop them into a Ziploc bag with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. She also taught me how to microwave bologna so it curled upwards, and then melt butter in the middle and eat it hot. The thought of it makes me sick today, but I loved it back then. We also made homemade lollipops, and my Mom loved making peanut brittle.
Dinner today is the furthest thing from my childhood as I could ever imagine. Andrew and I have dinner together almost every night. We alternate between chicken and pork dinners with a vegetable on the side. Andrew cooks a majority if the time, and I am very thankful for that. He fully supports my efforts to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I love having dinner with him every night!
Week #31 – Spring. What was spring like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.
I don’t remember much about Spring as a season growing up. Often times it was still snowing and too cold outside to do anything. School was still in session so I’m guessing most of my time was spent doing homework and watching TV inside at night. Spring doesn’t bring up memories like Summer, Fall and Winter do.
Week #30 – Employment. Describe your first job. What did you do? Were you saving for something in particular, or just trying to make a living? Did that first job provide skills and make an impact on your life today?
I worked for my DaD before I ever worked for any kind of corporation. My very first job was an assistant disk jockey to him for his business, Rainbow Music. He was a DJ for weddings and special events throughout central Michigan. I earned a significant amount of money as a young girl in middle and high school helping him out. I knew it was a lot of money but I didn’t realize just how lucky I was that he was sharing the earnings with me until years later. He didn’t have to split the money but he did. I think it was his way of buying my attendance so he could spend some time with me and keep me out of trouble. It worked! He usually gave me $100-$150 per weekend/gig, which was a whole lot of money for a kid in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s. After the cost of travel, promotion, records and equipment, my DaD was in the red, I’m sure of it.
Another venture DaD began was called Data/Graphics. He hired me to input data into a spreadsheet program and paid me by the hour for the work I did. I kept a meticulous log to the minute of all the time I spent entering data into the spreadsheet. I think he paid me about $4.00/hr which was good money for the work I was doing.
My first actual job outside the home was at a salon on State Street in Saginaw. I only lasted about a week before I decided that sweeping hair and taking phone calls wasn’t for me. I don’t even think they ever paid me for my time.
My second job was at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers on State Street, just a few doors down from the salon. I started in the back kitchen washing dishes, preparing the baked potatoes and toasting the hamburger buns. I also learned how to make the breadsticks. I learned quickly that you better pay attention to what the manager is telling you. I punched in 10 minutes early once and got screamed at! I thought being early was a good thing, but I guess it’s not good when they are paying you by the minute. I think I was earning about $4.25/hr at Wendy’s.
I got the job to help me pay for gas for the car my DaD gave me when I turned 16. I think I lasted about 2 or 3 months at Wendy’s over the summer of 1994 before I got a better opportunity at Dow Corning Corporation in Hemlock as a school internship. I believe I received quite a raise, too – somewhere around $5.15/hr if I remember correctly!
Just as school was starting, I met with my counselor who told me about an internship opportunity exclusively for seniors. Seniors who had enough credits could apply for a part time job in the afternoons as part of a work study program. She helped me write my very first resume, fill out the application, and I went in for my first true job interview. (Wendy’s wasn’t for me, anyway.) In fact, I applied for three internships and was offered all three – something that shocked my counselor because students were rarely accepted by even one company.
This was also an important exercise in politics for me. I went in to interview for an administrative assistant position at the front desk. The woman who interviewed me, Kay Michael, was dating the head of Computer Services named Bill Thompson. When I told her I had extensive experience with computers, she got the smart idea in her head to help out her boyfriend by assigning me to his department. Since they were going to put me to work with computers and the other two companies wanted me answering phones, I chose Dow Corning. The Medical Products Plant was famous for making breast and penile silicone implants and got a lot of lawsuits due to broken implants. My friend Angie Grunow worked in the legal department filing paperwork about the lawsuits.
I accepted the job offer, and became the “Junior Network Administrator” for Dow Corning Corporation’s Medical Products Plan in Hemlock, Michigan. I worked there every afternoon during senior year. I had what was known as “open lunch” and could leave campus while everyone else went to lunch. It was a privilege few kids had and lots of them tried to sneak off campus by hitching a ride with me, but I had to get to work so I never let them. I ate at Long John Silver’s on State Street every day on my way to work.
I was hired on September 12, 1994. My official job description was “Managing, maintaining, and backing up a Novell Netware LAN Server; technical support of end users on a local area network; using Microsoft Office productivity applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.” At my job I did things like helping the employees fix problems with their computers, and installing Microsoft Office from 27 3.5” disks – one at a time! I taught classes to the employees on how to use the Microsoft Office products. I was also in charge of changing the backup tape for the LAN Server every day - a job which I took very, very seriously.
This was 1994, and computer networks were just starting to pop up at the largest companies in the world. Dow was ahead of the game, and I learned how to run a ring network with physical cables that formed a complete circle around the building. If one computer went off the network, it affected connectivity of all of the other computers. Since we were in a factory environment with clean rooms, I had to wear steel toed boots and got my forklift license. When I had to go into the assembly line clean room, I had to strip down into my undies and put on blue garb and bootie covers with a hair net. Then I had to be blown off with air before I could go into the clean room and help someone with their computer. It was a bizarre environment but taught me a whole lot about work ethic and responsibility.
Week #29 – Water. Do you have any memories of the sea or another body of water? Did you live there or just visit? What did you do there? You can also describe a body of water by which you live or visit in the present day.
When I think of water, I think of Mio. My Mom lived up north in Mio and I visited her most summers. We used to swim a lot at Loon Lake, and float down the Ausable River on intertubes or canoes.
When I got my braces off, the doctor gave me a retainer but I was too cool to wear it most of the time. I lost it in Loon Lake while visiting my mother for the summer. We searched everywhere in the lake that I had been, but we couldn’t find it. I did this also with my glasses one time; I also lost those in Loon Lake. Both of these items, my mother came back and found the next day. How she found them I have no idea, but she did. My retainer, after being salvaged from the bottom of Loon Lake, was soon lost again when it dropped from my pocket while coming home from the Mio Saloon one day. When my mom came home from work she had no way to know that she parked her car on top of it in the driveway. A few days went by, and then she noticed it in the driveway. We later calculated that she had driven over it six or seven times. By this time it was it was a twisted piece of metal with two small pieces of broken pink plastic. I don’t think her or my dad was very happy with me, but when you’re 10 you don’t realize the repercussions of your actions.
Boat Launch at the Ausable River
Floating down the Ausable was always an adventure. It was a few miles from one boat launch to the next. We would get dropped off by a van in Mio and float together for a few hours until the next launch, where a van would be waiting for us to bring us back home. I distinctly remember my sister being scared of the Pike fish in the river because somebody told her they bite! She was afraid one was going to reach up and chomp her in the ass through the intertube. I also remember crashing into the side of the river on multiple occasions, usually into an overhanging tree that would dump spiders on my head. I got sunburned to the extreme floating down the Ausable. We didn’t use sunscreen in those days, or wear hats or sunglasses. Thinking back, the whole thing was mostly stupid and dangerous, but I was just doing what Mom told me to do.
I had an opportunity in middle school to accompany one of my friends, Jennifer Naegele, with her family on a boat out on Lake Michigan. We went out for a few short hours one Saturday and that was more than enough for me. I was terrified of being out on open water in a tiny little boat. The waves made me extremely seasick. I didn’t like that trip at all!
My encounters with water today are basically limited to crossing the Hoover Dam. “Hey look, there’s the water line! Boy is it low.” That’s about as close to water as we get.