Julie in Michigan

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

I’m on the Michigan side of the Lake

This weekend I’m visiting my Sister in Ferndale and some old friends scattered around the Detroit area… I almost typed ‘Metroplex’, a holdover from my Dallas/Fort Worth days but ‘Detroit area’ will come back to me in time.

My sister is holding a garage sale today for her daughter who is in the midst of moving to Philly. I was there for a long weekend a few years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed taking a tour of the home of Betsy Ross (maybe because I’ve enjoyed sewing my whole life?) and a late night run downtown for The First and The Originator of the Philly Steak and Cheese Steak, Pat’s King of Steaks, will always be remembered with a smile… just so Saturday Night Live. But it’s not a city that calls me to return.

I plan to visit the Eastpointe Pub in St. Clair Shores while I’m in the neighborhood. One of the girls from my high school class opened a bar on Nine Mile Road. Through Classmates, I’m learning that a few of those from my high school class, who still live local, frequent her establishment. Even thought I'm definitely not a 'bar person', I’ve got to pay a visit.

Driving through Chicago this morning was quiet and uneventful. Thank Goodness, I had my concerns with the Taste of Chicago running downtown this weekend, but I guess I got through while everyone was still asleep.

I’m in Watervliet this morning, enjoying the homey atmosphere of Ma-n-Pa’s Country Kettle Restaurant. I’m working on their website with their daughter, Joanne. She’s a teacher who works at the restaurant on the weekends and enjoys playing with websites as much as I do. We’ll be snapping photos this afternoon of all the water enthusiasts who come here for canoes, kayaks and tubes.

Friday, June 25, 2010


In 1985, in Dallas Texas, twelve individuals including myself began an intensive 3-month training program to learn Assembler (ALC), COBOL, JCL, TSO, ISPF and VSAM. It was a great class, modeled after EDS’s training where the principals of our company, USLIFE, had receiving their training.

We were told that it would be one of the most intense programs we would ever encounter. They informed us that probably 2 of us would not be able to finish it. They were right. For the next 3 months, I ate, breathed and slept programming. I would wake in the middle of the night and modify code. I didn’t pick up a magazine, newspaper or watch a movie. I didn’t have time. The average work week was 70 hours on-site. But, I learned the language in a way that is stored deeply in my brain cells.

When we finished the course, ten of us, we were ready for work. I was lucky to be placed in a very interesting spot where my next step would be to learn CICS. I got to travel to New York to interface with my group. I was able to do new development. I learned a lot about the life insurance business.

Fast forward 10 years and the Y2K frenzy was just beginning. I knew that it wasn’t a false alarm, but rather a warning signal. Everybody had to get to work and find all those dates that were coded when the year 2000 was so far in the future that we didn’t think it would ever arrive. Most companies took advantage of the opportunity to review all their systems to implement future planned enhancements into the code as long as we were making the date changes. Many replaced out-dated systems with new technology. They cleaned out obsolete code. We did a lot of work that would have been spread out over a larger number of years if we didn’t have the y2k thing going on.

Afterward, there wasn’t a lot of work for awhile. Some people said, it’s over, MainFrames and COBOL are obsolete. New development wasn’t being coded in legacy languages. But, the code is still there and it still has to be maintained. However, as we entered more fully into the twenty-first century a new trend was occurring – Outsourcing. People in India were being trained in COBOL and they were earning a lot less that we were.

Global Business? Not a topic I’m going to get into here and now. There are lots of pros and cons. Suffice to say, MainFrame jobs have been hard to come by the last few years in the US. Jobs have been hard to come by in any field, especially in Michigan.

But something’s happening here, I’ll be in Michigan, Downtown Detroit, on Monday morning, interviewing. The Internet ad said that fifteen MainFrame, COBOL programmers were needed. I applied, they responded, they are researching me and I’m researching the company. They even offer training in COBOL!

GalaxE.Solutions®, Inc., decided to take a leadership role in new IT initiatives and launched its first COBOL Training Program in 2008. GalaxE think it’s important to teach the basics of one of the oldest programming languages, to make a critical contribution to the educational initiatives and body of knowledge in the United States.

For business, finance, administrative and government systems, educating students on the importance and necessity of both learning and continuing with COBOL training will take one very large step toward bringing economic developement back to our home shores. Where are they doing it? You guessed it ==> Downtown Detroit.

Wow, I’m impressed!

Goodbye Elinore

Last night was my last night to visit my friend with Alzheimer’s. Yes, I was being paid for my time but she had become a friend and I will miss her. I don’t know that much about the mind, I’ve never had any training in western medicine - I'm strictly an alternative healing type of a person, but I do know that in spite of the fact that she would sometimes look at me and ask if I had ever been there before, she had moments of true clarity.

I always spoke to her as if her mind was operating at 100% capacity and I guess she gave me the verification this morning that she knew that. As we went for our morning walk around the neighborhood, she asked “You’re not coming back, are you?”

I had refrained from any discussion of the decisions her family and the agency were having as far as her continued care. I had not told her that I have been sending resumes out. But she’s still an intelligent woman and she picks up clues from people’s behaviors. I was honest with her. “No, I won’t be back”.

We said the standard things people say, “I’ll miss you”. But then she surprised me. She said, “I could count on you to answer my questions, I won’t have anyone now”. Once again, the tears threatened. How truly heartbreaking this disease is. This intelligent woman, a caring and compassionate human being, a former RN, who stayed married to her original mate and raised five children, is experiencing the deterioration of her brain. However, it appears to me that the cells that remain still work the same as they always have… it’s just that a lot of them are gone – the parts that store short-term memory.

This morning I didn't have to repeat anything. For some reason her mind was operating at near-full capacity. She was able to continue our thread of conversation. She asked about my new job, where I would be living. She asked what time I would be starting my drive. She commented on how good it is to 'go home'. We both agreed, its good to go home.

I’ll miss you Elinore, although in time, probably by this afternoon, you won’t remember me. But I’ll remember you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Michigan Economic Growth Authority

A few years ago... make that a lifetime ago, I worked downtown Detroit at Michigan Mutual Insurance Company on Grand Circus Park. I was in IT, an administrative assistant, doing balance and control. Frustrated that they would not promote me to a programmer trainee position, I went to Texas where I found that opportunity. I was happy in Dallas for a long time.

Things change as they often do and I'm back. This time with twenty years of IT Consulting under my belt. However, the economy has changed, many jobs like mine were outsourced to India. I went back to school and got that degree I never thought I'd be able to earn because of family responsibilities.

In 2008 I returned to Michigan to settle an estate of my former spouse. I fell in love with Michigan all over again ... yes, even the winter weather. I've been looking for work but we all know the story on that. However, I may have an opportunity to return to my old working neighborhood! Not Grand Circus Park but the old First Federal Building, just down the street from JL Hudson's historic enterprise.

An IT firm, GalaxE Solutions Inc., contacted me for a telephone interview for this Thursday. There was a day when a telephone interview was a pretty firm bet on a start date, but as I said, times have changed.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, saying my prayers... it's part of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).. not sure how it all fits together, but they wanted to make sure I was willing to work Downtown Detroit? ~~Absolutely~~

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm planning to head over to Watervliet this weekend and plan to camp at least one day at the Paw Paw River Campgrounds. The resturant serves an excellent all-you-can eat breakfast, has clean, hot showers and a very peaceful river for canoeing. You can rent the canoe from the office and they will take you upstream and drop you with the canoe for a very reasonable price.