Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Friday, September 19, 2014

Day Trips and Metaphors for Widows



I knew this week would be exhausting but what are you going to do when you don’t want to miss anything?  Besides my Fun with Metaphors class, I went on a long day trip this week and to an oriental restaurant with my Movie and Lunch Club. (I skipped the movie because I had to pick the dog up from a boarding kennel out in the boondocks where he stayed for two nights and a day.) Tomorrow I’m going on a Red Hat Society walk-about to a deer park whatever that is, I shall know soon enough.

The day trip was billed as a Brown Bag Mystery Tour, an annual event so named because only the senior hall director, the bus driver, a fancy-shmancy restaurant and a handful of merchants know our destination until we get there. We took 150 people (three buses) staggering our stops in four small towns in mid-Michigan so we wouldn’t overwhelm the stores like a bunch of locust wanting the freebies they were waiting to put in our brown shopping bags. I’m not fond of mindless shopping without a list and a mission but I did manage to buy a jar of bourbon molasses mustard and---of all things---a bed spring turned into a note holder with the help of small, painted clothespins. After lunch, where I had the best cream brulee in my entire life, a guide from a small Presbyterian college hopped on our bus and gave us a presentation about the campus while our driver took us around. I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and never knew we had a college so close by that has a Scottish Highlands dance troupe, a pipe band and its own registered tartan. Even their marching band wears kilts and the college hosts traditional Scottish games and revelry every summer. How cool is that!

A “cultural stop” is a part of these mystery trips, too, and this year it was a two hour stop at an educational center and museum of the Saginaw Chippewa and the Great Lakes Anishinabek Indians. It's a wonderful museum with a history lesson taught from the Indian point-of-view. I thoroughly enjoyed it but there were a couple of people on my bus who said they would have preferred to spend the time across the street at the Indian Casino. With that said, I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when our museum guide asked for a show of hands on how many of us had heard of the Boarding School Era of Native American history and I was the only one who raised a hand. I came by that nugget of history through the back door, so to speak---by reading historical romances and wondering if this or that really happen. Back when I was hooked on the genre, I often did my own research and learned to trust the accuracy of the historical settings and events the authors’ had based their stories around.

In my Fun with Metaphors class I got my homework critiqued and if you’re not into discussing writing techniques you might get bored out of your tree by what follows so keep reading at your own risk. Those who are interested in what the professor had to say, keep reading. First, as a reminder, The metaphor I had written was: Widowhood is a vacuum sucking tin soldiers off the floor swirling them around in a dark void while other tiny souls still in its path of wrath struggle to pull its life-line from the wall.  The professor loved the last part but thought I needed to find a way define that the vacuum was a vacuum cleaner and not the other kind of vacuum. I was confusing readers right out of the gate. Then she asked what the tin soldiers represent which hadn’t even occurred to me to ask myself but I blurted out, “Parts of myself, my past and future.” Who knew! Then she asked who was pushing the vacuum and I answered, “No one. Widowhood was the driving force with no one in control.” I guess her point was that I need to learn to dig deeper when writing metaphors. Readers will asks these questions while trying to find the hidden meaning in what we write. Anyway, the changes in my re-written metaphor are subtle but they do make a difference, shoving the metaphor more into the realm of free-verse poetry. Here’s the version I’m handing in next week:

Widowhood is a vacuum thrusting forward
And sucking up tin soldiers off the floor,
Swirling them around in a dark, deep void
While more tiny souls, still in its path of wrath
Struggles to pull its life-line from the wall.

Also in class we were all given index cards with writing prompts on them to finish with a metaphor. After five minutes of writing about half the class read theirs out loud, myself not included. My prompt was: “His mind is___” And I wrote, His mind is a steel trap, leading you in with a tempting bite while you’re unaware of the game he is playing. You hang on every word of his bait. You are mesmerized, not seeing the cage door about to slam shut. He’s a storyteller, a gamester, with a purpose and you are his prize. Other writing prompts that people drew from a basket were: My house is___, my life is___, my past is___ my friend is___, and so on. The morning class went by quickly and I can see how a group like that can get to know each other on a deeper level than, say, a group of senior citizens going on a field trip. ©


Note: The photo above is of an Indian boarding school that operated in Michigan between 1893 and 1934 with the federal government sponsored purpose of assimilating the children away from their culture and traditions. The kids were forcibly taken away from their tribes and never allowed to go back home. Harsh punishments were given to any child who was caught speaking their native language.

17 comments:

  1. I thought the latest metaphor was about an abusive husband--because it sure sounded like mine. Yes--I knew about the Indian "schools" and the bad treatment. Talk about ethnic cleansing!!!

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    1. I get why you could think that! It sounds sinister, doesn't it. Not what I had in mind, though. I was thinking of my husband's story telling abilities. It's probably a good thing (writing/reading wise) that people can read a metaphor and find something different, based on their life experiences.

      It was ethnic cleansing, those so-called boarding schools.

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  2. Remember the schools for unwed mothers. Often the girls were - more or less - forced by society and/or their parents to give up their babies. I lived near one in the seventies.

    Your class sounds interesting and I can see how you would get to know your classmates. Writing is such an individual thing.

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    1. We have a school in town now for unwed mothers, but they get baby care classes along with their other high school courses. My how times change!

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    2. Back-in-the-day, if you got pregnant before graduation, and the school found out, you were expelled!

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    3. Yeah, I was one of those girls back in the seventies. Kept it a secret so I could graduate! Had an abortion (not so readily available in those days), so I could go on to college. No regrets, but I wonder what would have happened in these times.

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    4. GowithFlo...Don't you think your choices would still be the same, especially since you say you have no regrets and you were so determined to go to college? ...unless you kept it from your parents and they had no way of strong-arming you to make a different choice.

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    5. At age 17, I was highly impressionable, and what teenager doesn't overestimate their abilities? My mother prevailed, and my boyfriend agreed. Before too long, I wasn't pregnant. Thankfully, this decision allowed us both to grow up before becoming parents. In my case, step mom to an 18 and 20 year old when I was 32.

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    6. Everything happens for a reason.

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  3. I have a few questions about your metaphors
    1. The difference between tin soldiers and tiny souls. The implication in tin soldiers is that they are soulless (made out of tin)... Is that the way you want them to be?
    2. That lifeline in the wall...is that the vacuum cord?

    And that picture from the boarding school is so interesting.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Leze, Someone in class brought up that very point about tin soldiers and tiny souls, I was visualizing the toys coming to life when they saw what the vacuum was doing to their buddies and, yes, they are trying to unplug the vacuum cord, take its power away. Like me, trying to find a new life again. The soldiers already sucked up are my memories and past while the other soldiers are trying to protect my future. After class, I thought about using 'tiny men' instead of 'tiny souls' but it just didn't feel right to me so I went back to the original. The professor suggested the vacuum could pick up other things and I may write other verses doing that which had not occurred to me when I started.

      That boarding house picture was blown up huge and was hanging in the museum. The museum has a research center and they have all the records for the boarding school. They are tracking down what happened to all the kids that went there. One boy in particular the guide talked about had been kicked down three flights of stairs for speaking in his native tongue and died from his injuries. The school was closed in 1834 so some of the kids that went there could still be alive to tell their stories.

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  4. I'm not very good at these types of exercises, but I did get stuck on the harsh punishment of the Indians. That's just so wrong on so many levels. Very interesting day. I would have enjoyed the field trip.

    Have a fabulous day. :)

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    1. I think sometimes these trips are called mystery trips because if they told us where we were going, no one would want to sign up but, when we get there and learn so many new things right in our own back yards, then we're glad we went.

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  5. Here in Washington, there are dozens of Tribes all with their stories of the Boarding School years. The physical and sexual abuse those children suffered added to their shame (born of being told they were barbaric, couldn't speak their native language, could never see their families) about being Indian in a White-dominated land. Many schools were run by the Catholic Church; often there is still lingering animosity. What a tragic and terrible time in our history. I understand that our collective ignorance is sometimes well-intentioned. I will NEVER understand how violence and abuse is justified for any reason, particularly aimed at children.

    I would be challenged by the metaphor class. I should take one!

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    1. The museum I toured called it 'The Era of Stolen Children' and 'the American Indian Holocaust.' They also pointed out that the era followed the era when the government's policy was "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" so the whites of the time thought of the Boarding School era as an improvement in policy. Mind-boggling, isn't it. I don't know if the school here in Michigan was run by Catholics but I do remember the guide saying groups could bid on government contracts to open a boarding school, so it stand to reason that they might be run by different groups in different parts of the country.

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  6. Gosh, I would have a lot to learn about metaphors. But I do think I need a class to keep my brain going. Plus I like to learn.

    I never knew about Indian boarding schools. I wonder why some people think THEY should change other people?

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    1. We are still trying to change people today----the 'my religion is better than yours' mind-set. The Europeans want the land the Indians roamed. We want to control the oil in the Mid-East. Each century brings us to a better place of understanding and getting along but why does it have to take so long to bring about changes?

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