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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Touring Hearts, Homes and Dark Memories



When I was young I was a fast worker. Now that I’m a septuagenarian I clean at a turtle’s pace. Finally, my bedroom has been deep cleaned but it took me five days. I used a mop to wash the walls so I didn’t have to get on a ladder and for the first time in my life I skipped doing the ceiling. But the blinds and windows are clean, the mattresses were flipped, the bed skirts have been washed and ironed, the furniture was polished and all the wall hangings are sparkling clean. The carpeting will wait until spring when I hire a professional to do the whole house. I changed my bedroom color scheme along with the deep cleaning project. The red sheets are gone and the red fabric that was framed to form a sort of headboard was swapped out to what you see in the photo above and I have enough fabric left over to make a decorative throw pillow. For under fifty bucks the room has a whole different energy. This is the room’s third reincarnation using framed fabric and new bedding which is one of the reasons why I love having neutral colored carpeting and walls.

After I got a haircut Monday I went to the Guy Land Cafeteria, one of my favorite people watching places. But the most interesting thing that happened was two black guys came in and not for the first time I wondered what it feels like to be black in a sea of white people. I’ve been going to this place for years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a black person there, which tells you a lot about my white-bread neighborhood. They were wearing sweatshirts with ‘UChicago Tech’ written on the fronts which reminded me of a bus trip I took to The Windy City. It was in the spring of 1963 and we were a bunch of college students on our way to the museums. 

There was a detour in the city that took our bus through a ghetto complete with the driver’s mocking voice coming over the intercom describing what we were seeing, a dilapidated area with black people sitting on porches and kids looking with interest at our shiny motor coach bus with its tinted windows---at least I hope they were tinted back then. I'd hate to think those people outside the bus  saw us all staring at them. It was the first time I’d seen severe poverty up close. A few days after we got back home images of the police in Birmingham, Alabama using high-powered fire hoses and police dogs on black students, who had gathered to do a peaceful walk, dominated the nightly news. "They Fight a Fire That Won't Go Out" was the caption used on a photograph that appeared in Life Magazine of what happened that day---a day the world, including mine, woke up and started paying attention to the Civil Rights Movement. Over the years when I remember that bus trip I'm still stuck by how dehumanizing it was for the bus driver to treat that ghetto the way he did, like it was just another “tourist sight” along the way.

I thought about that tour recently when it was time to decide if I wanted to sign up for a senior hall tour, or not, of the oldest black church in town followed by a tour of a Buddhist Temple. I’ve wanted to go to the Buddhist Temple since I first learned about it ten years ago, so I put in my reservation although I’m slightly concerned that I’ll feel like we’re a bunch of white tourists when we visit the black church---like it’s an upgraded version of that trip in the ‘60s. This church tour is part of a monthly series billed as “How We Worship” and they include a talk by the church leaders so I’m sure my apprehension is for nothing. It’s not like they don’t know we’re coming or have no control over our visit. 

Race is such a hot button topic in recent years…well for some people. Maybe my naivety or flaming liberal nature will show up here when I say this but I don’t get how some whites can feel that being born white makes them better. It’s a crap shoot being born white or black. It’s a crap shoot being born into poverty or plenty. It’s a crap shoot if we get supportive, loving parents or those who aren’t. How can a person feel superior about something they had no control over and didn’t work to achieve? Opportunities matter and without a doubt just being born white before the Civil Rights Movement gave us more opportunities. Those opportunities compared to starting a 26 mile marathon at the 13 mile marker and wondering why the black kids, who started at the first mile marker, didn’t finish in the same time frame. 

Two black guys walked into a cafeteria on Monday and they ordered their food to go. Maybe they were traveling and didn’t have the time to sit down and eat, or maybe they wanted to talk shop while eating in private. I hope one of these two things is true because I’d be sad if they didn’t feel comfortable enough to eat their lunch inside. I looked around at my fellow diners and I didn’t feel an undercurrent going on. I listened to the cashier interact with the guys and noted no changes in her tone or demeanor. Still, the fact that their presence in my white-bread neighborhood was so unusual could be used as an example of how far true equality still has to go. ©


Levi on his side of the bed. He thinks it's cool he matches the decor`.

41 comments:

  1. Strange how countries follow each other. Actually, not so strange as I'm aware that Australia copies US and Canada policies. Australia had a White Australia policy, ie only whites allowed to immigrate, till the 1970s.Till then, nary a non-white seen on the street. Then multiculturism became the flavour of the day. Its not quite so popular nowadays. Most of the young couples I see nowadays are mixed marriages. Beautiful children - mix of European, dash of Asia, etc. Similarly, mixed marriages in regards to religion eg Protestant/Catholic, Muslim/Jewish. I think its wonderful. Everyone can learn from each other. Whatever the origin, the children brought up here are Australian, full stop. Its only recently that home-grown terrorism is showing its heading (assuming that these children do not feel assimilated in the mainstream). A great pity.

    Beautiful and obviously deep cleaned bedroom- like the idea of fabric frames. I now like plain walls (esp after having to spack fill holes when painting!).

    Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What interesting stuff you've shared, Libby. I don't know much about Australia's popular culture. Maybe I'm naive but I've always believed that mixed marriages will someday end racism. Not in my lifetime but maybe 50 years into the future.

      I pity the person who fill holes in my walls in the future. I have so much hanging art it isn't funny.

      Delete
  2. Very insightful post. Thank you for making me think this early in the morning. Just wanted to also tell you how helpful your blog has been to me in helping my sis-in-law after my brothers death in 2013. I print out occasional blog posts for her or read some to her since she has a severe vision problem. Now I've passed on your blog info to a newly widowed friend. I read it faithfully, but haven't commented often but now I have keyboard for iPad which maybe will help me to do so. Thank you again for sharing your journey with others. Alice

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm very pleased to know my blog has helped in some way, if only to spark conversations between you and your sister-in-law. Thanks for reading and recommending it. When ever you want to jump in with a comment, know that I will love it no matter what you say. We all learn from each other as we travel through life.

      Delete
  3. Clarification: I made it seem as if there were LOTS of mixed marriages. Thats incorrect. Its just that decades earlier a mixed marriage was an oddity. Now (at least in my opinion), its not.

    Trump's win today made me think: wonder how he'd have fared against Obama. The internet provided hypotheticals. Obama thinks Trump cannot win. I'm beginning to think anything possible (never thought Palin could get votes.... and she's today a political pandit?!).

    Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here with mixed marriages.

      I never in a hundred years would have thought so many people in the Republican party would vote for a man with such a nasty mouth, who so openly cheated on his x-wives, who called a prison-of-war a loser, who is married to a model who posed naked in men's magazines, who made fun of a disabled man, and who makes up his own "facts", etc., etc. Not to mention his four bankruptcies and other failed businesses (Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage Co etc.). But it's happening so I agree with you, anything is possible this election cycle! Politics is nothing if it's not a fascinating statement about our society.

      Delete
  4. Neat to hear and see the bedroom makeover. Beautiful! You ended the reign of red in your bedroom - now it looks restrained and calm - so Zen. A whole different sort of activity is inspired in there LOL.

    It's such an education to try to see through others' eyes. No amount of my imagination can entirely grasp what pride and love and pain it is, walking in different shoes, or no shoes at all. I get what you mean about feeling uncomfortable attending these 'dip-in, dip out' excursions, but maybe these folks inviting you want you to see what they experience a little more clearly. I'm guessing the two black guys might have been on their own dip-in dip-out excursion to Guy Land Cafeteria.

    When I'm with flaming liberals or conservatives who are amazed by the naiveté everyone else has, I'm embarrassed by them, how haughtily they dehumanize others for their beliefs. Bernie Sanders isn't that sort of haughty liberal. I'm looking for someone who isn't that kind of haughty conservative. Election cycles are interesting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The church and temple tour is on the 24th so I don't have to wait too long. It should be interesting. For all I know the church might be the keepers of a lot of local black history artifacts. I'm hoping so.

      Oops, I apologize if my flaming liberalism caused you to be embarrassed. I promise I only talk about touchy topics like this in three places: on rare occasions in my blog, with my oldest niece and with a close friend of my husband's. Otherwise, I'm a perfectly mannered and normal person out in public. LOL

      Delete
    2. Goodness, I didn't mean you. I'm thinking a subgroup of liberals or conservatives who get on their high horse. You, Jean, are the opposite of high-horse haughty! LOL I was thinking of somebody in my family. (Did I mention I am a liberal? shhh)

      Delete
    3. Glad you cleared that up. LOL I kept wondering how I could have written parts of this post differently so it didn't come off "haughty." By the way, I had to look that word up so you beat me on the vocabulary quiz portion of our entertainment.

      I'm kind of proud of myself for being brave enough to write about one of the three no-no-topics for polite company---religion, sex and politics. I've tackle two of the three so far and if I remember right, you've written about the third. LOL

      Delete
  5. I wonder the same thing about being a different race in a place occupied entirely by another race. I experienced it when I traveled to Baltimore and a (black) friend took me to an all black crab shack. I felt a bit strange, but everyone there was so friendly and nice. To see a person of color ANYWHERE in this area, makes everyone turn and look, even me, because it is a rare sight indeed. Living where I grew up, small school, farming community, I didn't meet a Negro (as we called them) until I went to college at age 24. and yet we had a Japanese friend who worked for us during WWII and none of us or the neighbor's thought anything of it. Strange and weird world out there.

    LOVE the bedroom! and the fact that Levi matches the decor only makes it that much better!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting, Judy, your experience in Baltimore and you having a Japanese friend using the war! I wonder how your friend's family escaped the internment camp or maybe they didn't and you just don't remember them leaving the area part way through the war. You had to be very young.

      I remember seeing black people on the bus going and coming from downtown when I was a kid but I don't recall ever sitting in a class with a black person. Even in the 1980's when I went back to a university to finish up my degree, I didn't have any black classmates. Things sure have changed over our life spans. In my dad's life span he grew up seeing a KKK hanging in the woods behind his house and other Klan activities to seeing Tiger Woods win the PGA. He was so proud of Tiger's accomplishments, thought it said so much about our society. I used to read him Tiger Woods articles in his last months of life. Thankfully it was before his sex scandals hit.

      Delete
  6. One of the most baffling things to me has always been how some people have a sense of entitlement. I admit to growing up in circumstances not a million miles removed from those of Bernie Sanders...socialist, communal, liberal, tolerant so I can't wrap my head around people who feel superior. Human nature is so interesting in all its colors and disguises!
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautifully said, Leze. A "sense of entitlement" is what I was struggling to write about above. I wonder, though, if its human nature or human nurture that brings that out in people. Maybe some of both?

      Delete
  7. Unfortunately I really do think it can be both. Nurturing is something that is more in our control. Our nature is a lot harder to control. You only have to think back to elementary school days or stand outside the fence of a school playground to observe issues of domination and hierarchy. Games like King of the Castle and Tag always have at least one person in control. It IS human nature and that's why I say unfortunately! I am thinking of that song from South Pacific "You've Got to be Taught to Hate" and while I would like to think it is true, I don't think it is. We've got to be taught not to hate and that is why it is such hard work.
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make excellent points and it's a fascinating topic. I do believe, though, that little kids pick up on their parent's body language, voice tones and other reactions almost from birth and what they hate the child picks up and emulates...even if the parent is SAYING all politically correct things.

      Delete
  8. This "flaming liberal" can't even really begin to comment on the undercurrent of racism that still exists everywhere! It's such a complex and demoralizing topic, but I can only hope that one person at a time we make a difference in our everyday lives and by supporting programs, legislation, and causes that will help equal the playing field is the least we can do. I admit to sometimes taking my white privilege for granted and while it's not the same at all, I do feel a kinship with those who have been held back when I remember the discriminatory practices towards women that were so culturally ingrained overtly and continue to this day in a more covert manner.

    As for politics these days....I have never been so demoralized as I am when I look at the Republican candidates and wonder how my way of thinking could be so diametrically opposed to those who support them (especially Trump who is a certifiable narcissist.) I can find no common ground. None. So I'm mostly trying to ignore it and see who gets the nomination and then I'll work my tail off for either Bernie or Hillary and also the "down ticket" races to hopefully change the tenor of this currently recalcitrant (and possibly racist) Congress. (I've likely offended some of your conservative readers...sorry. But I guess my buttons were easily pushed this morning.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are cut from the same cookie cutter in the way we think, and what you've written I could have wrote. In addition I'm very concerned about the fact that the next president will likely be appointing a lot of Supreme Court Justices so I, too, will work for Bernie or Hillary.

      Delete
  9. Love your new updated bedroom look! I have never washed a wall in my life! Something wrong with me???

    Politics? We do not have much choice. Your side is the worst off, Bernie or Hillary. She has done so many deceitful things and then lied about them. My side is almost as bad ... but that's because I don't think the Donald will get very far. Sometimes I feel like I vote for someone just to vote AGAINST a person, not because I choose them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love my new bedroom look, too. Gosh, I can't believe you've never washed a wall in your life. I used to do it every spring up until the last 15 years when I started doing it very other year. You can see and smell the difference in a room. My mom used to do it and so I always thought that was normal for everyone.

      Delete
  10. I love the new bedroom look -- very sophisticated, and you even have a fashionably color-coordinated dog to go in it!
    Good for you for taking on the topic of race; many white Americans like to think that if we don't talk about it, it will go away. One of the classic articles about this that I liked to use in teaching was Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Backpack of Privilege." Right now, one of the books on my wish list at the library is "Why Do All the Black Kids Sit Together in the Cafeteria?" and Other Conversations About Race. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never would have thought I'd like the black, white and gray as much as I do. It was meant as just a cheap and redo until I get what I really want.

      It seems obviously (based on recent events) that our country is long overdue for the conversation on race and I do see it starting to happen in the media. But on a personal level, the people I know in my off-line life who are racists are just as racists as they've always been if not more. It's hard to tell if they are or they are just more embolden to speak up because of Trump's influence to be "politically incorrect." As hard as it is, I believe they need to be challenged. My husband used to do it but I never did/do. At the very least I think we all need to look at our own lives and figure out where our own ideas about race come from. Thanks for the book suggestions. I'll check them out on Amazon.

      LIBBY: If you're looking for my reply to your comment below. Scroll WAY down. Something screwed up to put a lot of space between our words.

      Delete
  11. So, wipe the walls with damp mopped (as opposed to wiping them with say feather duster )? Doesn't paint get affected over the years? Remember older family members wiping varnished doors (shined up beautifully).

    For me, for elections its years since I voted FOR someone. Now, I have to think hard who I dislike *least* and vote for them.

    I thought Palin voted as VP was a disaster, but Trump?! truly scary.

    Libby












    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think a lot of people will be voting for who they dislike the least this year or they will stay home from the polls. Craziest election cycle I can ever remember.

      I've been washing walls since I was old enough to help do it, using Spic and Span. Never, ever had a problem with it effecting the paint but we don't use cheap paint either. The sponge or mop isn't soaking wet though, just rinsed after every few strokes. Back when my dad and later when Don smoked you could really see the difference when the walls were washed. Now, it's more an awareness that it looks and smell better but not a drastic change.

      Delete
  12. Your room is so pretty, and Levi looks fabulous in it. I think he knows it, too. I really like the fabric framings. I've never done that. Great idea. I like the texture.

    My sister used to wash her walls every spring. I've never done it except when we moved into Dad's. Dad hadn't done much in the way of housekeeping and always refused to get someone to clean or even to let me do it. He was very independent. Everything needed a good cleaning.

    Your mention of your bedskirt reminded me of a friend who is much more relaxed about such things than I am. She bought a new bedskirt and spread. I was helping her redo her bed. I asked her if she wanted to iron the bedskirt before we put it on the bed. She said, "I don't think so. The wrinkles will fall out, won't they?" I told her that the wrinkles were not going to fall out ever, and the only question was, could she live with them. She said, "I think it will be okay." I said, "Where's your iron, I'll do it." :) It was her bedskirt and she was fine with it, but I had to get those wrinkles out. We still laugh about it.

    Did someone help you flip those mattresses? Whew!





    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No one helped with the mattresses and it was scary doing them. I pictured them falling on me and me getting pinned down until death. LOL I will never ever buy those thick 12" mattresses again!

      That's a funny story about ironing your friend's bed skirts. I thought about not doing mine but decided it might be long time before I have another opportunity.

      Levi does look pleased, doesn't he. I think the fabric framed is a good place to add texture to a room without distracting from other things.

      Delete
    2. (Hope this e-mail shows up on your system). Following up on washing painted walls, I used Dulux Wash n Wear (primer + three coats, both roller applied). Wouldn't dare to wipe them with damp sponge for fear of getting shiny spots (DON'T want to repaint so fast). But I have lived before in a house with silky oil paint on the walls - would have no probs wiping those walls. In this house, I used gloss Dulux oil enamel on the interior trim - no probs wiping those areas either.

      I just hopped on to the Deluxe website to read reviews about their Wash n Wear paint and many said when wiped, it left marks. So, what paint is on your house walls: water based acrylic, or oil based enamel?

      Libby

      Delete
    3. Oil base. I've never heard of Dulux Wash n Wear but reading reviews first was really a smart thing to do. Isn't the internet great!

      Delete
  13. Many thanks! makes sense if paint is oil based.

    Libby

    ReplyDelete
  14. I checked out my previoud house, where walls and ceilings painted with oil based paint. Sponging the walls was easy, and left abs no mark - this not possible with water based acrylic paint, which is whats used here (oil based paint only used on doors and trim). If I paint my house again, I'm going to go against fashion and use oil paint all over-love the ease of cleaning, and thr silken feel n look.

    Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too, Libby. We can be old fashion together.

      Delete
  15. Your advice please: I have cedar planks horizontally laid on the wall near my front door. The front door (including the cedar planks) are in an enclosed porch and hence covered from the elements and get no sun. The cedar is weathered grey and looks dry and not-quite-nice. I was thinking of doing a Sikkens finish (oil based) OR do I let the cedar continue to weather? (I have scoured the websites but still undecided. The home maintenance guys I asked are also of not much help.)~Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh, the only cedar I've ever dealt with was cedar shakes on a house. We used oil base stain and we liked it but I also love the weathered look of cedar. With cedar I think it's more a thing of personal taste rather than must do or must not do. Don't they have a colorless Sikkens stain/product you can use that would take away the dryness of the wood without changing the weathered look of it? If you didn't like it you could always do a second coat with stain in it, if you use another oil based product. Ask the people at a real paint store what they think and take some photos with you.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so very much!!! (Paint store not very helpful, even with pix - so no luck there). Just spoke to an old timer friend and she advised: light sand, then decking oil, several coats (to get rid of the dryness, and then O'Cedar Oil on it i.e. no need to sand again, whenever I wanted to 'polish' it again. I use O'Cedar Oil on my dining table - love the smell and it gives it a beautiful patina - so very happy with that. Many thanks again!!! Gosh, these blogs have been a life saver for my mental peace, and now with house maintenance!! Felt a bit stupid after sending my mail, and then thought, what the heck! worst is it'll get ignored! (no, didn't really think you'd do that). ~ Libby

      Delete
    3. You know, I was trying to think of decking oil but I couldn't remember what it was called, duh! That's basically what colorless oil based stain is. I think.

      Delete
    4. [well, paint shop didn't mention it either - they suggested brand name products!! think decking oil will do me mighty fine. Nice chatting to you, ma'am (tips hat). NYT on Christie's "new role" is hilarious].~ Libby

      Delete
    5. I lost all respect for him. He prostituted himself for a promise of Attorney General or VP.

      Delete
  16. PS I have to add: Super Tuesday results are interesting! looks like you may have Madam President after all! with a husband ex-President, in a land which had a father, followed by a son (what are the odds?!) - truly fact stranger than fiction. If I was reading this in a novel, I'd have chucked it aside as trash long since.~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's a long way to go but I like the direction you're projecting. Sorry if your a fan of one of the Republicans. LOL

      Delete
    2. I do NOT like Trump, nor Cruz, Rubio, Carson (haven't seen much of Kasich) - just don't like the look of them, full stop. I also don't like Hillary much either, but she's the lesser evil. But I'm not American so who cares. No more - apologies for extending the convo - it just got interesting, that's all. ~ Libby

      Delete
    3. Not very many Americans are happy with our choices either. It's a crazy election cycle.

      Delete