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 13, 2019

The Power Outage Refugee

I survived the Great Ice Storm of 2019 without becoming a weather related statistic. 268,000 people in Michigan lost our electricity this past week starting on Wednesday and most of us got ours back on Sunday afternoon minus 1,368 rural residents still waiting for power on Monday. My county was ground zero and thick ice was covering every surface, taking trees and power lines down. Temperatures outside got down in the low teens at night and in the 20s during the day. Add high winds to the mix and it was dangerous for the linemen who were working 12 hour shifts around the clock. One school a mile from me had a sewage line freeze and burst and a hallway filled up with raw sewage. And here I thought having a water pipe freeze would be a nightmare.

The first day of the outage I was spared but the following morning I woke up to no heat or lights. Even though the house was 50 degrees inside I thought I could tough it out. I’d been camping in cold weather but I’d forgotten how nice it was to warm up with hot coffee, a campfire and going inside a tent rated for use in Alaska. I became obsessed with wanting a cup of coffee. It wasn’t until the second morning I was without power that it dawned on me that I could bypass the electric igniter on my gas stove by using a match. Last month I had almost thrown out an old box of instant coffee during a purging session and as I heated up water I smugly told Marie Kondo, “See, this is why we keep stuff!” 

Tidy Girl Kondo’s name came up a few times during the outage.“Marie, I wish I’d kept that propane heater that my husband used at disability deer hunting camp!” “Marie, I’m glad I didn’t throw out my drawer full manuals because you said they’re all online. You can’t google without Wi-Fi!” If I had done that I wouldn’t have been able to figure out how to get my garage door open during the outrage---not that I’d drive with all the ice, but I envied neighbors using their cars to get warm or charge devices. But I couldn’t reach the power override cord and I doubted I could have lifted the oversized door if I could have and I wasn't about to fill up the garage with carbon monoxide. I also had an old cassette tape player that I couldn’t figure out how to open without its manual. I’d kept the player because I have cassette tapes of an interview I did of my dad back in the ‘80s. But I bitched at Marie Kondo for guilting me into donating a bunch books on tape. I only kept two. 

The first night after dark I laid under a mountain of blankets listening to A Knight in Shining Armor, wishing I had one. Late afternoon the second day the house was down to 42 and I wasn’t looking forward to the other book, The Grapes of Wrath which is about the hardships of the Dust Bowl, hardly something a woman fearing that she might not wake up in the morning wanted to hear and at one point I thought about Scarlett O’Hara at Tara saying, “When this war is over I’ll never go hungry again!” I couldn’t even make a peanut butter sandwich because I keep my bread in the freezer and you can only eat so many sardines and crackers before you start speaking with a Norwegian accent. By then I was wishing I could google ‘chilblains’ to see if I had them. I was getting the shivers that started deep under my ribs and I was so sleepy that I knew I should do something but I didn’t know what. My phone only had 10% battery life left, even my emergency dialer needed charging. I turned them both off so I’d have some power if I had a true emergency requiring 911. And that decision probably saved me a world of hurt. 

One of my Gathering Girls pals knew I was without power and when she tried to text me and it wouldn’t go through she got worried and sent her son-in-law over to check on me. He turned out to be my Knight in Shining Armor. He introduced himself and offered to help me turn off my water and drain my pipes and talked me into coming back to M.J.’s house where she had already taken in five other power outage refugees and a dog. Her son-in-law could have literally saved my life because I know I would have just politely refused an offer to come over if it had been sent in a text. When help was standing in my living room it was too tempting to refuse. I was so cold and there was no hiding it, as bundled up as I was. 

M.J. is the only one of my Gathering Girls pals who is a Trump supporter. On the second morning I was at her house, she got a phone call and one of the first things she said was, “We have the same thing here. We’re avoiding watching CNN and FOX.” The conversation went on for ten minutes about the “witch hunt.” When she got off the phone I told her it’s fascinating that two likeable ladies like us with similar upbringings and life experiences could view the world so differently and that I blame that on having so many cable channels with too many “news commentary” shows. She agreed. Then she did a monologue about how Trump doesn’t get enough credit for undoing all the “bad things that Obama did" and he was getting the world to respect us again after Obama’s disastrous presidency. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I sat there listening without speaking and when she finished I said, “We should probably change the subject but first I want to say that it’s amazing to me that all the words you use to describe Obama are the same words I use to describe Trump.” It was all very civil, like two friends trying to figure out the answer to a calculus equation.

When I got back home I was telling my niece about the conversation and she said words to the effect that the big take-away was that we (meaning everyone) need to quit judging each other along party lines and start judging each other by the humanity we show each other because dividing our country is exactly what the Russian disinformation campaign was/still is all about and we can't let that happen. In my case, a Trump supporter took me in at a time of need. We played a few board games, had a great time and she doted on Levi to the point she became his “aunt M.” By the time her son-in-law was able to take me back home my Gathering Girl pal and I had deepened our friendship and I wish I could figure out a way to thank her. I was truly touched by her kindness and generosity. ©

42 comments:

  1. I'm so glad your Gathering Girl friend sent her S-I-L over to help you, and thank goodness you made the good decision to accept. That was a dangerous situation. When you start to shiver, it's time to find warmth, and you found both the kind of warmth that warmed your body and your heart. You can't beat that.

    We used to have a kerosene heater. Boy, did that thing heat up the house! Really nice, but we got rid of it somewhere in one of our moves. My niece expressed surprise that we don't have a generator - just a small one that would keep the fridge and freezer and television going. I miss the television more than anything when we lose power. I feel so isolated. We've been lucky about the time of year we've had outages. Never in the winter, but we do have a gas fireplace, and we're getting a gas stove. When hurricane Isabella hit, we lost power for three days. I'm still grateful to my next-door neighbor. She was the only one in the neighborhood who had a gas stove. She made coffee for all the neighbors. I was surprised how much I missed my coffee. We have a Coleman stove now, and an old-fashioned camping-style coffee pot that makes the best coffee. Much better than my fancy coffee pot.
    Anyway, I'm so happy that this experience is behind you. It's making me think of getting a generator or kerosene heater. Now that we're on one floor, a kerosene heater would warm most of the house. I could close the doors to the laundry room and guest rooms. Stay warm!!!!

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    1. I missed coffee and my Fitbit the most, well, after heat. I didn't miss television as much as I missed having information about the outage and predicted length. After while the outage update line quit giving estimates. I've always been afraid of things like kerosene stoves and propane heaters but they sure would have been handy. I've never lost power for more then four hours before and I hope I never do again.

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  2. Your niece is quite correct in her analysis, I think. That’s why I try to avoid so many labels like political parties, other categorizing terms attached to the parties.. So we need to focus and talk about issues cause people define those divisive terms differently and assume too much else about what they think you stand for based on them which may not be true at all. Disinformation groups nourish that to create dissension.

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    1. I know my niece is right but it's hard to focus on the issues when people can't agree on basic facts, or we don't trust basic facts. Something has to turn around in this country. Disinformation has become an art form.

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  3. Oh my goodness what an ordeal. I am so glad you went to your friends home, trump supporter or not. You could have died if you had been stubborn. So I am thankful you went.
    You made me laugh with the Marie Kondo comments. My thoughts exactly.
    When I saw your comments on my blog I knew you must be okay and that was a good thing. Thank you for the comments so I knew. It's funny how you worry about people you've never met isn't it? You and Levi stay warm. If you have netflix and power you can watch the weird show Sisters now. :-)

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    1. Marie kind of became the focus of many of my thoughts. I was wearing two pair of leg warmers on my legs and another pair on my arms and I know she would have only wanted me to keep only one pair. "See Marie, I needed them all!" I was wearing a wool coat that is normally too big but it fit over my layers of long underwear, pajamas, sweatsuit and the bathrobe I had on. "See Marie!" She would have wanted me to donate a coat that was too big.

      Bloggers get to know each other on a deeper level than sometimes we get to know people we see in person so I'm not surprised that we worry about each other. When I posted the short post on Saturday I did it on my Kindle (which I can barely see to type on) but I knew people would see MI on the news and wonder about me because I usually post like clock work on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

      I wish I did have Netflix! My friend has it and a HUGE TV. I couldn't get over how she could back things up and probably see a show from space.

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  4. I'm so glad that you're ok. Emergency preparedness is so important. Sometimes I think ice storms are the worst weather emergency. I live in NE Alberta and the temps have been -30-40C for 11 days. It's all good as long as the power and gas are on. I do have a wood stove for back up. I enjoy your blog so much.

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    1. Thank you! I need to do some reading up on emergency preparedness. Simple things like all my travel bags were on a high shelf in a dark closet and when I had to pack some things to take to my friend's house I had to use grocery bags. I want to create a small travel bag (kept low) that I keep a list of things in to grab. I was happy I had L.L. Bean hand warmers in the house and lots of flashlight batteries. A back up heat source like you have sure would take the fear out of weather related emergencies. I can see a lot of houses from my windows and I only saw two the seem to have generators to keep their light on. We aren't used to such long outages in my neighborhood because all our wiring is underground.

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  5. I was worried about you Jean. I know how cold it was around here but heck you were in a heap of trouble. Your gal friend was fantastic even though she's a Trump supporter. It's like Sandee and I. We both have decided to be good friends as long as we don't deal with anything about Trump. Sometimes it's hard but I'm happy that Sandee & I are back together. I hope that you're back to normal and Levi is happy again. Your gal friend was like an angel. Maybe that is what you can get for her, an angel to give to her signifying her help that she did save you. Once again Jean, I'm happy that you are OK. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I saw Sandee was back on your blog. I wondered if you made up. That's good because I know you valued your cruising buddy.

      Stay warm up there in Canada!

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  6. What an ordeal! I'm glad you had Marie Kondo to focus your frustrations upon; being able to snark at her really kept your spirits up. And having some Old School Ingenuity And Toughness came in handy, too. (Not to mention plain old Manners once your friend took you in, bless her.)

    (I chuckled all the way through your post at how the word "outrage" was substituted for "outage." Even though it was a sneaky little typo, it sure worked just fine and was a terrific metaphor! LOL.)

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    1. Talk about manners, when my friend's S-I-L phoned my friend that I agreed to come over her granddaughter said, "Let's bake cookies so she'll know she's welcome!" So when I walked in that was the first thing I noticed---the smell of chocolate cookies.

      I can't tell you how many times I proof-read this post and I never noticed the outrage/outage typo. It is a perfect metaphor. I saw a meme on Facebook today that Mother Nature is missing and is off her meds. I thought that was so funny.

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  7. So glad you survived! Here in Texas we like our ice in our tea. I signed up for the one month free trial of Netflix and have been binge watching the show "Grace and Frankie" starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It's about two women in their seventies who have been married to their husbands for forty years. The guys are law partners and tell their wives they've been in love with each other for the last twenty years. Hilarity ensues. (No, really. There is drama but an awful lot of great comedic writing.) The husbands are played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. I'm afraid I'm hooked and may have to continue with Netflix after the free trial is over. Damn.

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    1. I saw an episode of Grace and Frankie when I stayed at my niece's over Christmas. I would love that show if I had Netflix. All the good stuff seems to be on Netflix. :( You will be my cautionary tale not to go for a free trial. LOL

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    2. If I continue with it, it's only $8.99 a month for viewing on one screen. It wouldn't exactly break the bank if I did, but still... I have Hulu with live TV and they just raised their rates.They know they have us in their clutches and there's nothing to be done.

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    3. I mostly listen to TV while doing other things so the idea of paying for more TV---so far---is something I can resist. Knock on wood.

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  8. Jean :

    I am so glad you are ok & have caring friends who sent out their family member to get you. Its amazing to see just because of our political, s religious or spiritual beliefs are different does not make person good or bad they are just different. I miss your blogs & humors & look forward to it every wednesday & Saturday.

    hope you & levi are back to normal now.

    Asha

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    1. Maybe that was a lesson I needed to learn, Asha. I just wish Mother Nature didn't have to teach it to me.

      I am slowly getting my house back in order. I lost some house plants and it took an hour to get my landline working. I still have to figure out why my hot water isn't getting to my bathroom. But I'm still in a happy and grateful mode right now so I don't really care about the little things.

      Levi was so well behaved while he was there and I didn't know it before but my friend is a 'dog' person. She doesn't have one now because she doesn't walk well and lives in a condo where she'd have to do that. The two dogs got a long great but the other one went home before we were able to.

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  9. Oh my gosh! No power in that miserably cold weather! I'm cold just reading this! Makes me think WE should put together a power outage box ... propane burner, extra CHARGED cell batteries, candles, water, soup, tuna, crackers, and power bars. We have a wood burning fireplace so I might toss in a bag of marshmallows

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    1. You have a wood burning fireplace in a condo? That surprises me. Where to you keep extra wood? I always have plenty of flashlight batteries for my camping lanterns, bottled water and power bars that I didn't get hungry enough to eat---I don't like them. I just can't think of a place in my house that a propane burner would be safe and effective. I have a very open floor plan but probably it would end up in the guess bathroom tub so Levi couldn't accidentally tip it over. I will be researching...

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  10. I have been wondering about you and hoping you had back up heat or had found a warm place to be. Like you the first bit without power I look on it as an adventure like camping out. With that cold you have however that would have worn thin in a hurry.
    Cracked up at the ironic thought of being rescued by the T supporter and thought it would like me being rescued by Ann Coulter.
    Still she opened her home to you and probably saved you severe discomfort if not worse. Your niece nailed it. I have many friends on the other side of the aisle and by staying away from politics we are able to see the good in eachother. I thank your friend for giving you comfort.

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    1. My little Gathering Girls group has stayed away from politics after the one and only time Trump was brought up and M.J. got upset with the rest of us. So we only talk politics if she's absent. Works great. I am so grateful but the irony of the rescue still cracks me up. Although, I can honesty say I would have offered her a bed if the tables were turned.

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  11. I remember the Lansing power outage of 2013 that went on and on and on. I'm so grateful you are all right, that you took up MJ on her offer, which was very generous. I avoid politics with most people because it just gets really ugly and they are fine people if we don't go there! So, good for you, holding tongues and all. As much as possible! But I'm really glad you are back at home and that you are warm. And that your pipes got drained!

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    1. When I was looking for a photo to use for this blog entry I kept running into photos of Lansing's ice storm and none of ours---probably to early. That was an equally bad ice storm from what I was seeing.

      I found out that M.J. wants to write a memoir but has no idea where to start, so I ordered couple of workbooks to help a novice writer do one. I will give them to her as part of a thank you gift. She's got an interesting life story to tell.

      I wish I was as warm as I'd like to be right now but I'm happy not to be freezing cold.



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  12. Jean, your blog brought tears to my eyes. So glad you are OK. I'll talk to you later about all of it. Take care.

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    1. 3rd Monday brunch is coming. Hope we can all make it. I'm sure the topic will come up.

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  13. Oh my! Your coldness ordeal sounds awful! There are few things I hate more than being cold. I'm so glad help arrived. And in the person of a Trump supporter. So yes, there is a lesson there people helping people regardless of politics. And yet, the world views you and she hold also tell a lot about who we are as well. It's a conundrum. Just glad you both were able to be civil and deepened your friendship. You can continue to lobby her for 2020. LOL

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    1. No, there will be no lobbying to tempt anyone to come to our side of the political isle. LOL But I do need to work on putting into practice what my niece said. We can't let disinformation separate us. I've got to believe the truth will come out and be recognized in its own time.

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  14. So glad you're both ok! Please consider a heat and power source to keep you safe. With climate change (or the Russians), I fear this kind of situation is going to happen more often and be more widespread.

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    1. I know you're right. But will take some research. I heard today there was 700 serious house fires caused by people using alternative heat sources.

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  15. Jean, Glad you're back home safe and without any major damage to either you or your house. I agree with your niece; it's good to be reminded that their political positions aren't necessarily the most important characteristics of people we know. You might think about doing something special for your friend on the anniversary of the storm. Forty years ago, a friend of mine took in a stranger who got stranded outside during a record-breaking blizzard and could have died of hypothermia if my friend hadn't gone downstairs to see who was pounding on the door of her building in the middle of the night. A year later, my friend got home from work and found a gift bottle of wine accompanied by a heartfelt note of gratitude and an illustrated book of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." The thank-you gift was as memorable as the storm.

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    1. What a thoughtful thing to do! I just wrote a post-it note to put in the back of my day planner to remind me of the idea next February. In the meantime I've come up with a couple of ideas for right away.

      Like you, my niece is a retired teacher and the mindset of always finding the teachable moments is so much a natural part of her character that it's always an upper to have a conversation with her.

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  16. That was quite an ordeal you just went through. I'm really glad that your Knight came riding by, because from the way you described things, you were edging uncomfortably close to hypothermia. This worried me when I read it: "I was so sleepy that I knew I should do something but I didn’t know what." I didn't know until a couple of years ago that slower mental processes, confusion, and poor decision making can be a sign of hypothermia, and I didn't realize that you don't have to be in a literal snowbank to suffer from it.

    I had to laugh at your comments about Marie Kondo. A friend was taking Kondo's name in vain the other day, and here's exactly what I wrote in her comment section: "Marie Kondo’s working a scam on the culture. I suspect what gives her real joy, and what she’s not going to get rid of, is her bank account. I don’t begrudge her the career or the profit at all — but she’s not going to be a guide for my life. Fin."

    As for supplies, if you don't have a couple of those mylar "space blankets," they're worth their weight in gold. Also, if you don't have a portable power bank for your phone, get one, and keep it charged up. Mine cost about $60, but when I tested it, there was enough oomph in it to fully charge my ipad and my phone twice. Every now and then I pull it out and use it to charge things up, then plug it in and get it back to full power, too. It's such a small thing to be so powerful -- fits nicely in my purse -- but it sure does offer a sense of security.

    As for those alternative heat sources -- we always hear of a few house fires when it gets cold down here. So often, it's the simple things that do people in, like getting a space heater too close to curtains. On the boats, people use those "cube heaters" that are really safe and really effective. Of course, they require electricity!

    I'm just glad you're safe and getting warmer. We certainly don't want you to turn into a popsicle!





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    1. I wondered at the time if sleepiness and a foggy brain was a sign of hypothermia setting it but I've almost afraid to look it up now that I can. Everyone remarked about my color coming back after I'd been it my friends house a couple of hours. I really think they saved my life.

      We used space blankets for camping and I will pick up another. Thanks for the reminder. Never knew there were power banks for your phone! I have those 'cube heaters' and I hauled them upstairs when we were threaten with a natural gas shortages a few weeks ago but they're no good without power, of course. Space heaters with fuel in them make me nervous but I guess I need to get over that. I did pick up RV antifreeze yesterday when I saw they'd gotten a new shipment in at Lowes...just have to learn where you put it in the washing machine and dishwasher. That's called closing the barn door after the cows got out.

      Here the house fires were complicated by the fact the most of the fire departments didn't have any power either and the streets were clogged up with abandon cars in the snow for fire trucks to get to them. This fall I bought a brand new extinguisher, but it's small. I need another. This storm taught me a lot. Thanks for all the advice!

      I laughed at your friend who is in the say-no-to-Kondo club with me. I saw her on a late night TV show recently and for the first time that I've seen her, she wasn't wearing her little white sweater. Her dress was beautiful and very expensive looking and I thought, "Boy, that dress would give me joy." I'll bet that phrase will be part of our culture for a long time.

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  17. My sister likes the fact that Trump is stirring things up, and my husband is a libertarian who thinks every problem is caused by the government. (Fortunately he doesn't vote because he doesn't want to encourage them.) I love them both but carefully avoid talking about politics if I want to avoid hearing rants. :D

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    1. I went to a Michael Moore movie about Trump last year and in the lobby we met a woman who was there by herself. Her husband was a Trump supporter and she had to lie and tell him she went somewhere else so it wouldn't cause trouble in their marriage. You have my admiration that your can live in harmony in Trump land. Political discourse has been a part of my life for so long that these last two years has been hard. I've always been able to discuss the news with Republicans in an open and friendly manner until he came into office. I've run into a few people who think like your sister and I don't get why they like the daily drama and insecurity of stirring the pot. It will be interesting who we get next. Thanks for stopping by. If my memory is correct this is your first comment here.

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  18. Happy Valentine Jean my lovely friend. Have a great day. See ya.


    Cruisin Paul

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  19. Dear Jean, I am in agreement with your niece. However, I surely fall short of that ideal daily. Each evening when I watch the national news on CBS and the PBS Newshour, I find myself thinking only negative thoughts about President Trump and also many Republicans. I need to do what your niece suggests and stop thinking only along party lines.

    The Trump supporter who befriended you reminds me of a poem by Thomas Hardy in which he speaks of two men--on opposite sides of WWI and how if they'd met at a bar they would have sat down and had a good chat and some ale! Peace.

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    1. I struggle with the same problem when I watch the national news,Dee. But don't you think we ARE judging the politicians by their actions, and not just whether or not they have a D or a R in front of their names? For example when they don't stand up to separating parents from their children at the border and they lose those children in the system. But in my private dealings with people in my sphere I'm going to make an effort to not pigeonhole them by party because when I do that I do hold myself back from getting to know others on a deeper level.

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    2. Dear Jean, I hope you are right and that I don't just dismiss anything one party says and does and embrace everything the other party says and does. That is to say, I hope I have a moral compass about the actions I see from all of those in Congress and in the State House here in Missouri.

      I've seen the results of pigeonholing when I was working for a boss who did that. He wasn't able to see the real talents in his employees because he judged them on one thing only: whether they would work longer and longer hours than the 40 hours they were being paid for. If they weren't able to do that, they were pigeonholed immediately! I'd like to think that I respond to people as they are--multi-layered and not just a mask of one issue that I don't agree with. Peace.

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    3. Amen to keeping our moral compasses in good working order, Dee.

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