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 22, 2016

The Color Tour, Minimalists and Missed Opportunities



The director of our senior hall listens to her members. Last year I made a comment that I wish the center would offer a shorter color tour than the annual one that takes twelve hours. My dog’s kidneys are good for seven hours but I’d have to put him in a kennel to go on the longer trips and I’ve missed seeing the colors on country roads. This year she offered a half day trip and it sold out five times, meaning she was able to set up four additional days to take people up north for lunch, tree peeping and stops at an Amish bakery and a cheese factory. To my surprise, while on the bus she acknowledged the shorter color tours was my idea and I got a round of applause. I wish we could bottle up her expertise at running a senior hall and distribute it across the country. Her guiding principle is that we older people are no different than younger people; we enjoy life learning experiences and don’t want a center than only offers aging related stuff, bingo and trips to casinos.

The color tour took us around the summertime stamping grounds of my best friend growing up. They’ve got a growing Amish community going in the area now but back in our teens they could have been there and we wouldn’t have noticed. The summer I stayed at my friend’s cottage we were so boy crazy we only noticed guys in cars and bathing suits. I loved how all the Amish kids waved at our bus and how they were working out in the fields with bare feet and straw hats as if the temperature wasn’t in the 60s. I loved seeing the old fashioned corn stalks that reminded me of an old master’s painting I can’t name the moment. Seeing the horse drawn buggies go up and down the roads had the same effect on me as my listening to my Buddhist meditation app. Maybe it was the reminder that living a simpler life is possible and it had me romanticizing about what life would be like if I’d let go of my attachments to worldly goods and more importantly, if I let go of wanting something so vague I can’t even name it. But the truth is, being a minimalist seems like the scariest thing in the world and going off in that direction before I’ve put a label on the vague wanting inside me seems foolish. 

From time to time I'm drawn to reading about minimalists like a gawker who can't look away as a man strips naked in the street. On a minimalist website it says, “The entire minimalist lifestyle promotes individuality and self-reliance. This will make you more confident in your pursuit of happiness.” I get the self-reliant part but how does it promote individually when you live in a sterile environment void of anything that sets you apart from other minimalists? Lifehack.org also says, “When we cling onto material possessions we create stress because we are always afraid of losing these things.” Well duh! That one-size-fits-all bit of rah-rah-you-can-do-this logic might work for younger people who are still in the workforce and can afford to buy stuff back if they regret their minimalist choices, but it doesn't work for this child of depression era parents. Younger people also don’t have to shake the feeling that downsizing is preparation for the end of your life. I’m still here! I still love my art and antiques and having a forty year old Faberware indoor grill in the cupboard that I only use once a month. It can’t be replaced. I’ve tried and the George Foreman and Cuisinart grills both ended up at Goodwill.

Back to my leaf peeping color tour: The landscape color palette was spectacular with its scarlet, merlot and cadmium reds; flaxen, banana and ochre yellows; tawny, tortilla and burnt sienna browns; juniper and pine greens; and fire and ginger oranges. The sky bounced between coin and cloud gray as the sun tried its best to shine and its failure to do so took the frosting off the vista views but it did not spoil the cake. God, I must be hungry with all the food and drink colors that came to mind here. Which is a good lead in to the Amish bakery that ran out of black walnut bread by the time I got to the front of the line but I scored a pumpkin roll and resisted the best looking caramel and nuts rolls I’ve ever seen. 

We had lunch in a resort/lake community and I was bookended by two ladies who always order gluten free. I’m glad I don’t have to do that. The year I had to avoid yellow dye #5 in food in an effort to figure out if it was giving me hives made me appreciate how hard it is to label-read everything that goes in your mouth, not to mention the fact that gluten laden foods are simply the best in my book of forbidden pleasures. One of the gluten free ladies was my seatmate on the bus. She was raised in Kentucky and she is always a pleasure to be round because our sense of humors match. She asked me to co-chair a luncheon with her at the senior hall, but I turned her down. Ya, I know, not a smart move for a person claiming to be looking for friends. I miss enough opportunities for bonding deeper that I wonder sometimes if what I say I want is remotely near what is written on my heart. ©

30 comments:

  1. Fall is my favorite season. I love the beautiful falling leaves and the wind whipping them around. I don't enjoy the sound of leaf blowers blowing them into piles.

    This minimalist/downsize thing seems to be bugging you. I see them as completely different. I'm not a minimalist in any way, not even tempted in that direction. I have the things around me I enjoy. I enjoy having money to buy luxuries, things I want but don't necessarily need. It's too late in life for me to go minimalist.

    Downsizing happened to us when we decided to move from Texas to Oregon. I knew we were going to become apartment dwellers so I had some decisions to make. No way was I paying to move 30 years worth of stuff across country.

    I have everything I want these days I find I just don't want as much. I don't like clutter. In an apartment 'things' can quickly get out of hand. I'm diligent in making Goodwill donations. I would like to have holiday decorations but I keep all that to a minimum because it has to be stored 11 months out of the year and I don't want to look at it in my closet.

    Perhaps you have the cart before the horse. How can you 'downsize' when you've not decided what your next move will be? There's no need to 'downsize' as long as you continue to live in your house.

    It's very hard for me to go looking for friends. I have to make myself go out and make contact with people with skin. I much prefer contact through digital devices. I think we need contact with people wearing skin but it's not easy for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The minimalist fascinate me because 1) I don't think I could live that way, 2) they are so proud of themselves. Hoarders fascinate me, too. If you've watched any of those programs on TV it quickly becomes apparent how sick Hoarders really are. And I wonder if minimalists aren't just one step away from freeing themselves up to living out of a cardboard box under a bridge. The two extremes outside the norm.

      I feel the need to downsize because I now I have the physical and mental ability to do it and who knows how long that will last. My downsizing involves things too valuable to just drop off at Goodwill. Well, I could but that's not particularly smart to do on a fixed income. I have a five year plan in the back of my head.

      Delete
  2. Our leaves are just beginning to change. The landscape is still mostly green, but once it starts it changes fast. We're planning a day trip to the mountains. It's always beautiful up there.

    I used to read minimalists blogs, too. The idea of the minimalist life sounds interesting in theory, but I don't think I could ever get there. I satisfy my desire for simplicity by purging once or twice a year. It always feels great when I'm pulling out of the Goodwill parking lot or the dump. We auctioned off a lot of our furniture before we moved. We just didn't have space for it in this house, but we are far from minimalists, and I consider my forty-something afghan that I crocheted back in the day a must-keep.

    I don't have a pet, but a twelve-hour tour is too long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My bones can't take the long bus tours either. At least in a car you can stop and stretch when you want or kick off your shoes. When I came back from this trip I decided I need to not schedule anything for the next day. I ended up canceling my movie and lunch club because my energy was gone.

      I think if the auction house was as close as Goodwill I'd have an easier time dropping off stuff. It kills a half day to go and the summer of 2015 I did it every week. I've got to put it higher on the job list next summer, to finish up what I started.

      Delete
  3. Always good to give feedback/suggestions (I always do), and you benefitted too! - great. The Amish bakery sounded wonderful. I love "bakery" and homemade stuff as opposed to the supermarket baked stuff. I'd have had problems choosing what to eat.

    I agree entirely re the minimalist thing - good in theory, difficult in practice. Yes, I know if I chuck away stuff, I can buy it if in the future I re-need it. Trouble is, it means changing clothes and getting out - takes my entire day away basically because once I'm out, I figure I might as well "look around" the mall. Not like the kids, who hop in the car, buy required item, and return immediately.
    Having said that, I threw away a lot in my phase I decluttering - and no, don't miss it.

    I know what I yearn for - but no chance of getting it.

    Curious me: Why decline the lady-you-like invitation? ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I declined the co-chair invitation for two reasons: 1) neither she or I has ever co-chaired the luncheon for 115 people (plus 10 kids from the school that run food to the tables) and that combination of inexperience makes me nervous, and 2) it's for the February luncheon and that would add the fear of having to drive on an icy/snowy day--two really because it takes that long to set it up. It involves a lot of responsibility: entertainment, food, decorations, buying twenty door prizes, set up, clean up, putting together a group of ten ladies to help make coffee, tea and ice water and dish out the food.

      You're one step ahead of me, knowing what you yearn for. What is it? Maybe it's what I want to.

      You would not believe the pies at that Amish bakery and cookies in high stacks. Do you have Amish Down Under?

      Delete
    2. That's a huge responsibility - now understand.

      Yearning is for my husband. No Amish here (tho' I'm sure we must have the equivalent). ~ Libby

      ~ Libby

      Delete
    3. Yup, the past is one thing we can't have back..... :(

      Delete
  4. I can't describe it for you, but I see a great difference between today's minimalists and traditional simplicity. One thing that grates with some of the so-called minimalists is the way they hawk it as the latest, greatest, answer to the conundrums of life, when in fact, it's been couseled for millenia: proposed by thinkers east, west, and otherwise.

    I suppose it all gets down to needs and wants, and balancing the two. Everyone's circumstances vary, and what you need, I might not even want. What I have to have, others might consider ridiculous. The trick is figuring out for ourselves what we want and need.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that train of thought...the differences between today's minimalists and traditional simplicity. The Amish are certainly practicing the latter and that appeals to me more than the minimalists. Simplicity as a philosophy for living has been around since Buddha at least and maybe before. To me, simplicity of living encompasses the spirit and soul where the minimalists seem to be doing it more for superficial reasons. I could be giving them a bad rap with that statement but it's how I see them. They are very prideful of their minimalist choice where simplicity of living doesn't involve pride. Love this topic.

      Delete
  5. I'm in a hurry this morning and can't comment on all that your post revealed; just want to say, "Beautiful piece of writing, my friend." What a pleasure it was to just sit in the glory of your use of language as you painted such pictures and provided such insight. Have a great Saturday!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Being a woman of few words today I ditto what donnajurene said.

    Genie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I ditto my "Wow and thank you" to you! It's always a good day for me when I get comments, no matter how brief or how infrequently.

      Delete
  7. I don't know much about the minimalist movement and what I do know seems to point it in the direction of back to the landers from days gone by. Which does, in a lot of ways, mix with attempts at a more simple lifestyle. Where I am not sure that I want to equate terms is simple and Amish. Indeed they do not have an excessive material lifestyle but their lifestyle is based on working the land and it is arduous. I guess because I see what hard workers they are and what long hours they put in washing and tilling the fields, I don't want us to think of their life as simple in the sense of easy or not complex. It is simply uncluttered with modern conveniences and stuff.

    Your descriptions of the colors are really lovely. Despite a very dry summer, we are also having a spectacular autumn with oranges that I have not seen in a long time. We are presently in the midst of three consecutive days of rain so tomorrow all those beautiful leaves will be on the ground!
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my mind Amish and minimalist don't have much in common. Minimalists simple reject consumerism and keeping up with the Jones so to speak...that's my observations anyway. I do get that when it comes to how young people starting out seem to want bigger and better houses and everything brand new and have to work so much to pay for it. Minimalists don't want to do that. They reject materialism to make their lives easier which can't be said of the Amish for reasons you outlined. I do think a lot of us romanticize the Amish from time to time because they are so self-reliant and because we see our own lives as too complicated and we glaze over what hard working people they are. For example, where I might knit, quilt, make bread and jams for a hobby they HAVE to do it to survive.

      Rain does bring the beauty down, doesn't it.

      Delete
  8. It sure feels good to get a deep eyeful of delicious fall color splattered around, before it drops away. You've an artist's palette eye and a journalist's vocabulary. Wonderful!

    Nature has the economy of life/death cycles purging accumulations, at least in our cooler climates. We older folks have fewer cycles left in us. Knowing that, throwing too much out is like losing too many cycles of my life.

    The lady from Kentucky - any chance you could steer a get-together toward something you'd prefer doing? Like exploring some funky restaurant that serves gluten-free meals?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I don't really like the fall color palette (I hate browns and oranges) and I'm trying to figure out if I've ever seen a landscape painted all in hues of purples and blues but with the wide values range of fall. You're an artist. Do you think I could make that work? My the way, compliments about my vocabulary are the best because it's what I struggle with the most.

      You get it with the "throwing out cycles of ourselves." Apparently it's easier for some than others.

      That's a good idea about the gluten-free restaurant. There must be one around if I keep my eyes open.

      Delete
    2. As another gluten-free person, it might not have to be a gluten-free restaurant, as long as it has gluten-free items on the menu, or perhaps a gluten free menu section. Depending on the kind/degree of gluten intolerance, some can handle just picking the croutons off their salad, but others need a whole new salad that has never been touched by the croutons. You'll have to check with her to determine what works, or maybe ask her to choose the restaurant. Believe me, she'll know.

      Delete
    3. Asking her seems like the best idea. Thanks! Most of the restaurants seem to have gluten-free now-a-day but I'm sure she'd have a favorite. Someone just asked me meet her for lunch and she gave me three choices.

      Delete
  9. Half day trips sound best to me, too. My Oregon Adult Center calls them "Short and Sweet" trips. I used to drive the van for them! VERY fun. Our center sounds almost as good as yours! Now to make good use of it ... as a participant rather than volunteer.

    I'm in the "less is more" stage but I could never be a minimalist. I'd say downsize downsize downsize while you are able. It is really hard and ruthless work. I wish I would have taken more photos of my house and the things I loved. It's easier to be ruthless when the time comes ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know the photos helped. When I sold things on eBay and at the auction I had to take photos. One day I'm going to make a book of my 25 favorite things and tell a little story about each. It feels like I've been downsizing his Don's stroke because I literally have been through auctions and antique booths and donating. I'm just taking a break this year.

      Delete
  10. I'm not a minimalist, but I'm not a collector either. My rule is simply that I only add new possessions that I think will improve my quality of life. I didn't hesitate to have an expensive addition put on my house or to buy all new living room furniture, and if my food processor died, I'd probably buy a new one within the week. On the other hand, I only have one tv and no cable service, and I still don't have a cell phone.
    p.s. I loved all your color descriptors. I have a very strong sense of color, but don't necessarily know the names to describe them. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe you don't have a cell phone. So many people in my age group carry them for medical emergencies.

      I remember the photos of your house. It's really lovely inside and out. You've found the right balance.

      With a fall landscape you could name just about any color and it would probably be in it somewhere. You would not believe how many paint chips, value charts and color wheels I have in my art room. I still can't name them a tenth of them.

      Delete
    2. Jean, I'm sure you've looked on Ebay but is this the grill you're describing? http://www.ebay.com/bhp/farberware-indoor-grill

      Peggy

      Delete
    3. It is Peggy! It's a bit more trouble to clean and store than the newer grills but I think it cooks better.

      Delete
  11. I don't have a cell phone and don't plan on getting one.
    Up north one time, bought an apple pie at a stand at the end of an Amish driveway--worse tasting pie I ever had! Maybe they were Mennonites instead of Amish?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your pie story just goes to show that just because someone bakes from scratch all time doesn't necessary make them good at it. LOL

      You have so many close-by neighbors who probably all know your business that you don't need a cell for emergencies. LOL

      Delete
  12. You are fortunate to have such a senior leader who listens. Having provided rehab in adult to senior age setting for many years I've seen far too many who don't -- from activities within as well as trips to music choices, including in dining areas.

    I agree, too, there is a significant difference between simplicity as my mother practiced it and more modern minimalist ideas. I prefer and follow the former, but probably save more than I should in case of a "rainy day". Also need to downsize at a bit more rapid rate, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are lucky. She's amazing. She even started a group for senior activity leaders around town for them to share ideas and resources. She's in her forties so hopefully she'll be around a long time.

      That "rainy day" saving was real for several generations, was it. But to younger people it's a foreign concept.

      Delete