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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Church Tours



I’ve told the story of why my dad left the Catholic Church before but I’m going to tell it again. Back in the 1920s when Dad was eight years old a priest, while teaching Sunday school, accused my dad of throwing a spitball. If you don’t know what a spitball is, it’s a piece of paper that’s been chewed and shaped into a ball. Dad always claimed he didn’t do it but that didn’t stop the priest from opening the door on a potbelly stove, picking my dad up by the seat of his pants and the collar of his shirt and pretend he was going to throw Dad inside to teach him about the fires of hell where bad boys go. After that, my dad refused to go back to Sunday school and while his siblings continued growing up Catholic my dad was sent off to the only other church in town, a Methodist.

I was grade school, too, when I had a life-changing ‘church’ event of my own. Less dramatic but just as hurtful and long-lasting. I can still see myself with long pigtails and wearing a pink print dress standing on the playground during recess and being told by a classmate that she couldn’t play with me anymore because I was a “heathen who didn’t go to church.” The day before, I had gone home with her after school to play and her mother had given me the third degree. “What church to you go to?” Blah, blah, blah. It was after that when my parents had my brother and me start walking up to one of the four churches close-by for Sunday school and it didn’t matter which one. Our choice. At one of those churches I learned that God was an image cut out of a book, pasted to a piece of flannel and slapped above a flannel-backed cloud in the sky where He overlooked a field full of cows. 

Oddly enough, my date for the junior prom was the son of a dairy farmer. A deeply religious farmer who beat his son for dating a girl outside of their church---that would be me in case you’re having a Dense Dianna Day. My friend ran away from home after that beating but he didn’t stay away long enough for his black and blue marks to fade. He told me that farming was in his blood and if he didn’t break up with me, his father would disinherit him and give the family farm to his cousin. I got over the breakup quick enough but I spent the ‘60s trying to figure out why God encouraged his followers to abuse little boys with spitballs, polite little girls with pigtails and a nearly grown boy who thought I was special enough to introduce me to his parents. 

Being brought up in what was known as the "city of churches" I learned the art of avoiding the topic of religion early on in life. I have a master’s degree in avoidance so imagine my surprise when I signed up for a senior hall tour of a church denomination that’s only been in town for ten years: The Unitarian Universal Church. Why did I want to learn more about this church? Because several (holier than thou) people I know think the place is the devil’s spawn and by contrast, one of my favorite and most admired bloggers is a member of the UUC. So I dusted off my eggshell walking shoes and hoped my seatmate on the bus didn’t want to talk Christian doctrine. She didn’t. The church tour series goes to two different churches every month and the other church on our agenda Thursday was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, another controversial church according to some. 

The local UUC church actually holds its services in a Jewish Temple and has been doing so since its inception which seemed weird until I learned that the UUC’s logo---a flaming chalice---has ties to an underground group during WWII that helped Unitarians and Jews escape Nazi persecution. Sometimes we’re so busy looking at the differences between people and groups that we overlook their similarities and where their histories intertwine. I was impressed by the minister saying they are an inclusive community that celebrates theological diversity. She is free, for example, to base her services on readings from scripture, Buddha, the Torah, Maya Angelou or wherever else she finds inspiration. A recent sermon of hers I found online was inspired by Donald Trump saying he doesn’t have time to be politically correct. Another thing that sets them apart from some other churches---if I'm understanding it right---is they consider Jesus to be a high prophet but not God, not part of a holy Trinity.

The other church we toured, the LDS, was everything I would not like in a church but the hour and a half we spent there was certainly interesting. If you’ve ever had two of their missionaries stand on your porch steps you’ll get the picture of the tag team that walked us through the workings of their church, throwing in a heavy dose of evangelizing for good measure. 

Tour or no tour, I do occasionally wonder if I’m still searching for that enlightenment I think I found in my twenties. Will I wake up one day with a desire to start attending church? If so, the UUC is probably the only place I could feel like I belonged. Life would be less complicated if I had a church here in the city of churches. A church comes with a social life and that would be nice, too. But I’d feel like a hypocrite if I took up a religion like the LDS that personifies the meaning of God as I have come to know God---that combined goodness of mankind, a force for and of goodness. Can you believe it, in one of the class rooms at the LDS they even had a cut-out silhouette of God/Jesus standing on cut-out clouds. The more things change the more they stay the same. Not since college have I seen so many prints of Jesus in one place. There must have been over fifty in the building.

When I was an art major in college, we studied a lot of religious works of art because throughout man’s early history anyone with an artistic talent was basically enslaved by the church for the express purpose of personifying God. And while many religious philosophies of the world used artists to do pictorials to teach spiritual concepts and lessons to the masses who could not read, the Christians were the most prolific, especially during the reigns of Sixtus IV and Pope Julius II. Fast forward a few centuries when the depicted messengers became more important than the message---how do you put that Jeanie back in the bottle? How do you embrace God if you think of God as something separate and outside of yourself, outside of your own ability to create goodness and love? How can a person claim to know God yet carry out actions rooted in hate? I guess that's a diploma for those who do it to explain because try as I might over the decades, I haven't figured it out.

I apologize to anyone still reading this super-sized blog post. I usually don’t post things longer than 900 words but try as I might I couldn’t edit down my thoughts and anecdotes any more than what I’ve shared above. I even cut a whole passage about drum circles, Christian hymns and wailing walls that I particularly liked. If I’ve inadvertently said anything unflattering or untrue about your religious beliefs, I’m sorry. Please feel free to correct any errors or misrepresentations I may have made. ©

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Run, Widow, Run!



Life is moving along and I’m having a hard time keeping up at the moment. Monday I made my last trip to the auction house…except maybe to pick up an item that isn’t getting any bids. It’s a tall, glass oil bottle from the turn of the century that on e-Bay would easily sell for $75 to $100. I didn’t want to put it in the local auction---it’s the last of Don’s glass bottles---but at the time I packed it I was being militant about curbing my sentimentality. I’ll bid it back to me if it doesn’t get a bid over $45 by the closing on Wednesday. Everyone is probably sick of reading about my adventures at the auction house but stick it out for a few more sentences and I’ll tell you that over the summer I’ve made sixteen trips there, sold 672 lots with many of those lots containing between 2 to 20 items per lot. Granted, half of these things were smaller than a dollar bill but I actually accomplished my goal of selling off all the stock we had accumulated to sell in our antique booths and at gas and oil collectors’ swap meets. I look around at the mountain of empty plastic totes and boxes and it hasn’t sunk in yet what life will be like without that monkey on my back. That’s not to say I’m finished downsizing. I still have a showcase or two of stuff inside the house to sell on eBay---the personal keepers---but nowhere near the volume I sold over the summer.

I ruined my printer attempting to print my last inventory sheet for the auction house and I had to write it all out by hand. I had sent a paper through the machine with white-out on it that apparently wasn’t dry enough. The paper jammed, I got it out but I couldn’t make the error message to disappear so I could print again. I went online and tried every suggestion offered and all I managed to do was make the error message go way but then I couldn’t wake up the printer. I uninstalled the thing, reinstalled it and still I couldn’t make it work. Then I called the computer repair place to see if they fix printers. “No.” “Do you know anyone who does?” “No, they cost more to repair than to replace.” Great! So after the lecture at the senior hall off I went to buy a new printer. And tomorrow I’ll have to pay the recycling place $10 to take in the stupid, old printer. I don’t feel good about filling up our landfills with machines that can’t be fixed. It’s only two years old! 

The lecture I went to was given by the head historian of our local museum and it was about our city charter set up in 1916. Sounds boring, doesn’t it, but it was far from that. He had us spellbound talking about our city founding fathers, scandals over the decades and how the city is governed in accordance to that charter. During the depression we had a program to put people to work and feed them that became the model for President Roosevelt’s WPA program. 

Sunday a nephew of Don’s is coming to take the bed and mattress set in my spare bedroom. At the same time, I’m having him move my heavy, oak painting easel upstairs to fill the space. I doubt I’ll do any painting this winter but it will be inspiring to know it’s going to be a major part of my life again, once I'm through downsizing. I’ve given away two other large pieces of furniture, too. After Christmas Don’s niece is taking a Hoosier Cabinet and next spring my great-niece is taking a buffet. In the meantime, I’m arranging to have someone refinish a small, old oak ice box that I’ll use in place of the Hoosier. The Hoosier was the very first piece of furniture Don’s parents bought when they got married in the ‘20s and it should stay in the family so I’m not sorry I gave it away. Ditto on the buffet. Downsizing is hard! The current trend for young people is to paint all antique furniture shabby chic white and I’m going to cry if either of these pieces end up that way. We spent over $700 to have the Hoosier restored to its original state and the buffet took me weeks to do seven pumice rubbed, tong oil coats on its golden oak. I keep telling myself I just have to keep moving forward and close my eyes and ears to the what-ifs. Gifts can’t go with strings attached. And I shouldn’t be so emotionally involved with furniture, for crying out loud. But I am and all the cookies in the world isn’t going to cure that.

Thursday I’m going on a half day trip on the senior hall bus that I’ll write about this weekend. It should be interesting if not a little strange. Like I said, life is moving fast and I’m having a hard time keeping up. And, I haven't even started doing my outside work to get ready for winter. That will come next week. ©

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Travel, Old Guys and Bling Boots



This was a busy week in the world of old people fun and games. On Wednesday I went to a Red Hat Society tea where we packed sixty bags of Halloween candy for our adopted nursing home residents. And once that was done they started planning a trip to Chicago for a weekend of Christmas shopping. They’re driving to Michigan City, Indiana, then taking a train into the city. I say “they” because I’m not interested in going. 1) Driving to and being in Chicago in the winter sounds more like punishment than pleasure---especially considering all the gutsy, no-fear drivers are older than I am; 2) I’m not a shopper, not to mention I have no one to buy a present for except the dog and he gets to pick out his own gift at the pet store where he also gets his picture taken with Santa. Don’t judge me. It’s a fund-raising tradition for the Humane Society; and 3) Levi the Mighty Schnauzer would have to spend four nights in a kennel and that would be costly on top of the other expenses. If I need any more excuses for not going to Chicago it’s the fact that I’d probably buy something I don’t need at a time when ‘downsizing’ is my current mantra for living a goal driven life. 

The next day I went to a travelogue about Italy, the ancestral home of my dad’s family. The travel escort company that sponsors these travelogues has grown quite a bit since last year when I started going to them and I understand why. They put together interesting programs. The speaker was a guy who had worked as a singer on a cruise ship for four years, traveling all over the world. What a great job for a single person. He worked nights and had his days free. In ports, he could take any of the side trips offered to the cruise ship passengers and if he wanted, he could earn extra money on the shore tours just by holding up a paddle that identified their group. He’d been to Italy four times and had some interesting experiences to share. “Where ever you go in the world,” he advised, “walk a few blocks away from ‘tourist row’ to explore and eat. You’ll get a whole different experience.” As I sat enjoying the slide show presentation I decided I will probably never go abroad but I sure love learning about foreign places and travel venues.

Friday I had an appointment at the hearing center for a yearly checkup. They usually just replace the tubes but this time they sent my aids back to the factory to check for battery drain. Too often I’ll put a new battery in and within five minutes it will be as dead as the bird the dog hauled into the house yesterday. I’ve gone through so many batteries, they gave me a box of forty for free and a battery tester. How cool is that! In the future I can play audiologist with my tester and determine if I got a bad batch of batteries or the aids need to go back to the factory. I have a full schedule of places to go next week while the aids are gone so I expect to spend a lot of time miss-hearing similar words. “You’re going to buy a beach tie?” “No, I’m going to buy a peach pie.”

Coming home from the hearing center, I stopped for lunch at the Guy-Land Cafeteria. The place never fails to entertain me and this stop was no different. I watched an elderly guy shuffle in, speaking to everyone he passed. When he got to me he said, “How are you today?” “Fine,” I replied, “and you?” “I’ll be a lot better when I get rid of this damn catheter.” Thankfully I didn’t have a mouth full of coffee because I would have sprayed it across the table. Too much information, guy! With his comment his shuffle---that I originally thought was due to arthritis---took on a whole new visual and try as I might I couldn't get it out of my head. This is the kind of place where you go through a line to order your food, get your beverages and pay. When your food is ready they call out a number. For some odd reason on this day instead of going up to the counter to pick up their food when numbers were called, some people in the place were yelling out, “Bingo.” Apparently, if you have a catheter, walker or vintage AARP card you can get food delivered to your table. But I was confused there for a while, thinking I’d wandered into a nursing home by mistake.

To round out my week of old people fun and games I had an appointment at the shoe store. It’s a specialty store for people with foot issues which I’ve had all my life. I needed a pair of snow boots. My old ones are close to a decade old. Naturally, the most expensive pair of boots in the place felt the best and are the ones I ordered. $240! Makes me wish I’d kept one of Don’s handguns to protect myself from boot robbers this coming winter. I did compromise and order black instead of my first choice of purple. I loved those purple boots and if I win the lotto I’m going back after them. The salesman called them ‘bling’ boots. Oh, yes, I would sell my soul for bling boots if I thought I could wear them out before I die. Big sigh here. When you can only afford one pair of boots, you need a neutral color. At least, I do. If I wore purple boots to a funeral or likewise solemn occasion I’d hear my dead husband’s voice inside my head and Don would not be happy. ©