Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Books, Lectures and other Fancy Schmancy Junk


What happens when you put an archives librarian together with a retired professor to give a lecture on the Myth of Biddle City? You get a well-research topic told in such a way that it was hard to follow and somewhat boring for anyone except those with a connection to our state’s capital city---Lansing, Michigan. At least that was the consensus of myself and two of my seatmates at the Life Learning Lecture series down at the senior hall. I’ve been going to these lectures for six years and this is only the second one that didn’t live up to the hype. But the cookies were good, the crowd was friendly and the price of admission was free so I’m not mourning the afternoon not spent at home playing with my toes. I hate to say this, being in the same age bracket as the professor but even with a microphone her voice had that old person, wavy and shaky quality that made her hard to understand. My voice is starting to do that, too. I think I’m saying stuff clearly but syllables here and there don’t come out. Vocal chords dry up and get too stringy for normal vibrations. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Growing older sucks. If aliens from outer space came down, snatched a septuagenarian off the streets to use to decode our language they would have a big surprise when the next person they snatched is young and has a well-modulated and strong voice. But I disagree. 

As a Michigander, I did find it interesting that when our state capital ended up in Lansing in 1847 the place only had nineteen houses and no roads. (The provisional capital was in Detroit but it was deemed to be too close to foreign soil to stay there.) A year later with the help of investment capitalists an entire town sprung up and they were paying a $6 bounty for killing wolves within the city limits. And when they had conventions in the early 1850s, the records show they averaged 5-6 ‘soiled doves’ locked up in their jail each year. The men who bought their favorites, of course, were not mentioned and presumably roamed as free as the four-legged wolves. 

The next day was my monthly book club. I was a bad, disinterested participant because half way through the book I quit reading. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore is a true story of two black boys who grew up in the same, drug infested neighborhood but one ended up serving a life sentence and the other became a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran and worked at the White House. When the latter Wes heard about his “name twin” he got curious and started visiting him in prison. They became friends and the bottom line message of the story is that by the grace of God their life paths could have easily gone the way the other person’s did. My reasons for not finishing the book were twofold: 1) The download of Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, came on my Kindle, distracting me, and 2) The book club selection was confusing as the story transitioned back and forth between being told in the first and third person. I blame the publisher for that more than the author. Those transitions needed clear cut visual queues in the way it was printed. No one in club gave the book a high rating.

It’s been a busy week. Our Sculpture Park also had a lecture, this one titled: Contemporary Disability Sculpture. I had no idea what to expect even after reading the description of the show: “This exhibition emphasizes the relationship between disability and the fundamental human experiences of change and embodiment.” Who writes that double talk? Over 600 people usually attend these quarterly lectures and they draw people in from all over the country to hear a panel of critically acclaimed artists talk about their work. They also serve fancy schmancy desserts and you get to hob-knob with a bunch of creative types and eavesdrop while mingling with the crowd after the lecture when the exhibit is unveiled. Walking around trying to figure out why corporate leaders are willing to pay thousands of dollars to own some of that stuff, is fun. What makes a giant blob of orange string more arty-farty than, say, the world's largest ball of twine in Kansas? The curators of our Sculpture Park are too contemporary for my tastes. If I had my way the place would be filled with Michelangelo’s naked men and armless Venus de Milo-like marble statues.

Have I ever mentioned that I spent a semester in college carving marble? Back in those days our marble slabs came from monument companies who’d occasionally misspell a decease’s name on a tombstone. I managed to get all the writing off the stone and I got a set of B cup breasts rough-cut into the headless piece before the semester ended but it was far from finished. For some reason the professor took pity on me and gave me an ‘A’ anyway. To this day, I see a granite countertop and I think, “What a waste!” I'm just sayin' beware if you ever invite me over to see your new countertops because I still have my stone chisels and mallet. ©

Photo from the sculpture exhibit.

28 comments:

  1. Jean, I totally agree with you, growing older sucks.As I was wrapping up your blog, my eyes got big, really big when I read. I got a set of B cup breasts rough-cut. What? But as I continued my eyes relaxed. Carving marble, amazing. So you were like a Michelangelo. I use to paint but after the stroke my right hand wasn't the same so I got into Calligraphy and I really enjoyed. Oh well my friend, that's it for now. Enjoy your Saturday. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Ohmygod, no, I wasn't like Michelangelo. His talent and persistence had no end. He was a genesis. What I learned in that class was an undying appreciation for his contribution to the world of art and science and how time consuming marble carving really is without power tools like they use now.

      I knew you did Calligraphy but I didn't know you painted. I love Calligraphy.

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  2. That book had a very interesting premise and too bad it didn't hold your interest. You certainly have a lot of places to go for free and eats. Sorry some are boring but as you said it beats contemplating your toes. Wish we had things like that here in tiny town.

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    1. No matter where I go I can always find a nugget or two of information that's interesting, so it's never a waste.

      That book did have an interesting premise. The writing was good, but the organization was the issue that made it hard for all of us to follow. It won a lot of awards. It was even recommended by Oprah.

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  3. I swear, if I lived near you I'd want to visit with you nearly every day! You're so funny and your content (whether you think so or not) is always interesting. That had to have been at least a slightly controversial art project, for a girl, back in your high school years. Hope you have another interesting week coming up!

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    1. If I had people visiting me I wouldn't have to blog. LOL

      The sculpture class was in college and I don't remember it being controversial. We were doing life drawing classes by year two when I also tried marble carving. I'm the only one who tried it. Others using doing wood or plaster...I didn't know any better. LOL I probably knew who not to tell about my art classes and who to tell.

      Next week I'm going on a junk yard tour and watch them smash cars. That should be fun. Some day you'll have to explain why you like The Walking Dead. I just don't get the attraction.

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  4. I recall viewing the story of the two Wes Moores in a special TV news focus long ago. Circumstances can make a lot of difference in a person's life.

    Always interesting to see what different people find attractive -- whether its art as you describe, or music which especially interests me, for example. If all that's being considered is technique, that's one thing. Otherwise, I think what appeals to a person is strictly subjective and what triggers those preferences can be intriguing, even unconscious/unknown.

    Too bad you were unable to finish carving your marble creation. Maybe the subject matter coupled with your skills were found especially appealing to your male professor? *smile* . (not to take away from your incomplete work of art -- or maybe he considered it complete as was). I dislike most granite counter tops I've seen, so you'll never find them in my house. Another periodic design fad to create work for remodelers, etc., in the name of change with something new.

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    1. Both Wes's lost their fathers early in life---one died and the other left his family. The successful Wes had grandparents who were involved in his life. Made a huge difference.

      Actually my art professor was a woman so that shoots your theory. LOL Sculpture created by taking away rather than building up takes a different mindset and she was enjoying my challenge, I think. Most used easier mediums.

      I also have a strong dislike of granite counter tops. All the condos I've looked at have them and I intensely hate the brown granite. The grays and black I could live with, but it's not my first choice of materials.

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    2. Glad I'm not the only one who has a deep dislike of granite countertops. I find them very chaotic in a kitchen. Also very sinister. And since they were such a "high-end" trend, they became so ubiquitous. Like stainless steel appliances, which I also have come to loathe, mainly because they are a bitch to clean.

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    3. I'm not fond of stainless steel either. We could co-exist in kitchen re-design heaven.

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    4. I don't like stainless steel either. Re your marble creation -- So much for my sexist theories! ha Was reminded when you wrote of "taking away rather than building up" -- a later family member, in one of his younger days, before we knew him, creative endeavors was a stone cutter. He spoke of cutting angels for churches in the Canton, Ohio area. Also, mentioned being hired privately to carve in stone (marble, I think) a life-size replica of a family's cocker spaniel with it's wavy hair. We lived some distance away and never saw any of his work or pictures for he had long-since had to give up that work due to respiratory health reasons. I asked how he knew what to cut. I was struck by his very matter-of-fact response as though it was all so simple, "You just cut away what you don't want."

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    5. You really learn to appreciate the art when you think in terms of taking away rather than building up because you can't make mistakes unless you're working on an abstract form. Your family member must have been very good at his art.

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  5. How was "Fear"?

    I'm happy to attend free lectures if they have good bikkies! At least I get out of my PJs and the house. ~ Libby

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    1. I'm only only 53% of the way through it and so far not many surprises. Trump should have read it before badmouthing the book because there are many things he'd probably like. I think Woodward was far and his research sound. Undeniable, the man isn't suited to be president.

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  6. Sculpting class? Getting to know you has been like peeling an onion. What did you do with your B cup breasts?

    Interesting about the vocal chords. My voice goes in and out occasionally. I'll be speaking normally, and suddenly I sound scratchy and croaky. Every darned thing wears out eventually. Except Styrofoam. That stuff will last forever. A million years from now, someone will dig up a perfectly preserved Styrofoam cup. And what about those Styrofoam peanuts they use for packing? Okay, I'm babbling.

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    1. The "breasts" were in my yard until Don had his stroke and we had to move into an apartment while the house was being built. I was bemoaning the fact that I had to leave them behind and my brother took it half down marble to his house where he's got it in his yard in a line of rocks.

      Styrofoam cups and peanuts will rule the world one day.

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    2. Ah hah! Get him to send a photo of that marble sculpture and post it here. It very well could be that you got an A for your sculpture because it was unique and satisfying to look at. It must be or it wouldn't still be around!

      I remember seeing Wes Moore on PBS Newshour. It's too bad the book was hard to read, but I wondered if it even needed to be a book. The basic story line is unfortunately common.

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    3. My brother doesn't even own a computer and I don't think he even knows you can use a cell to take a picture. One time he had some company over and they were walking in the yard when the guy says, "Is that what I think it is?" It has a nice home as part of the large stones edging the pine tree. It's still around because I come from a family of savers. LOL

      What I found the most fascinating about that book is that these two guys got to be serious friends and were able to deep dive into their pasts to write the book.

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  7. You do keep yourself busy! I hope you NEVER stop blogging. Maybe Alexa will help you when you are 102! I think we need to USE our voices more to keep everything working. Especially living alone, we don't talk as much as we used to. I'm going to start using the dictaphone in my iPhone to send short texts or emails. Or maybe singing lessons!

    Thank you for writing and always including a pic!

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    1. Today I'm having a nervous breakdown over wifi issues and eBay listings closing. No wifi no printer! I said to myself, "I've got too many things going on!" I've got to slow down come October!

      I've been singing in the car since I read about old people's vol vocal cords. It's one of the things they recommend.

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  8. My once, nicely modulated and great singing voice is gone!
    When I answer the phone, people are prone to say, "You sound awful. Do you have a cold?" I go days without speaking more than a few words to the cats. I guess I need to start talking to and answering myself!
    BTW--my little home town of Byron, was a major stagecoach stop between Detroit and Lansing and we were the Capital of Michigan overnight--as the "papers" were on their way to Lansing.

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    1. I guess singing is one of those use it or lose it things.

      That's interesting about Byron. The lecturer talked about the horses that would die from making that trip back and forth between Lansing and Detroit, and the state would have to pay the owners $75 to replace them. A lot of money back in those days, I would imagine.

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  9. You do so much. I envy that. I am so busy with just my every day stuff that I am not always able to do such interesting things. I hope my retirement allows me to do these fun things.

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    1. I am by far the busiest person I know in my age bracket. Some people go to the exercise classes down that the senior hall every day and then most of the afternoon events as well. There are really a lot of fun and free things to do around a community, once you start looking.

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  10. Hi Jean :

    this is my 3rd time trying to write comment since I won't give up giving my feedback since I read other Wes moore & loved it, I know having great set of parents in my life, I know very well parents & responsible adults in kid's life can make huge difference. Also I am no artistic person but was in awe when we visited micheal angelos work in italy & saw his David & sistine chapel. It dies make you realize you can try to be very good in your work when you are passionate about something micheal angelo must be thats why he was doing that back breaking jon in sistie's chapel.

    Asha

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    1. I'm glad you got your comment through because it's important to have someone who read the book to weigh in. Parents really are a tipping point when all other things are equal. In the case of the Wes who was successful, it was his grandparents, our club agreed, that make the biggest difference.

      I think one of the reasons why I tackled marble carving is because in the same time frame I had an opportunity to see one of Michangelo's most famous pieces---Pieta---at the New York World's Fair in the Vatican Pavilion. It blew me away...both the scale and the detail. He was passionate about his work but back then few artists really had a choice but to work for the church as almost slaves. I envy anyone who has been to Italy and the Sistine Chapel. There will never be another like him.

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  11. I love your posts - so wide ranging! As for the talk, I envy the cookies but not the talk itself and at least the lecture had "fancy schmanzy" desserts. (I'm beginning to see a theme here!) The book sounds like it was a good premise, poorly executed. As for your marble creation, my husband makes kitchens for a living so I'm not letting you near any of his marble counter tops!

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    1. A pattern? I'd call myself the cookie monster if the name wasn't already taken.

      I'll bet your husband is demand where ever he goes!

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