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, October 28, 2020

God, Religion and Growing up Without a Church

 

When I was a kid, my parents didn't go to church but we lived within walking distance to four-five different denominations of Christian churches and for a couple of years my brother and I were required to walk down to which ever church we wanted to on Sundays until we turned 10 or 12. We tried them all and we also went to some summer day camps sponsored by churches and I still have a silhouette of praying children I made at one of them. I'm not sure if my folks ever found out but there came a point when we'd sometimes go up to the Indian mounds instead going to a church where we spent the time looking for arrowheads, which I count as part of my spiritual growth. You can't walk on those mass graves sites without thinking about the cycle of life, other cultures and our places in the world.

Back in those days the town I grew up in was called the City of Churches and when it comes to religion it was a source of anxiety for me whenever the topic came up. My earliest memory of religion being a hurtful thing was on a playground when a pigtailed little girl told me she could no longer play with me because my parents didn’t go to church. I’d been to her house after school the day before and I guess her mom determined my family was unfit. In high school I had the same thing happen when a boy I dated took me home and his parents made him quit dating me after they found out I wasn’t tied to a church of their liking. In between those two incidents I worked at honing the skill of ducking all questions and conversations that involved religion and I kept that going until just a few years ago when I flat out told a Red Hat Society sister that I didn't go to church, when asked that dreaded question. She was kinder than the little girl with pigtails of my youth but the shoulder she gave me after that had cooled. Or could it have been my pre-programed imagination working overtime? Some childhood scars never really heal.

In college I took three classes on comparative world religions, one was at a large university, two were at a small Catholic college. They made it clear---at least to me---that at their core all religions have the same basic values. And when on a debate website two years ago this question came up: 'Is the world better or worse off because religions were established' this is what I wrote, “The evolution of morality was well on its way thanks to the Great Philosophies before the major religions were founded so I believe the world would have been just fine without the introduction of religion. However, Christianity tends to translate the messages taught by its founder into a worship of its founder and I have a real problem with that. Jesus, like the founders of other world religions, was a link in the evolutionary progress of societies trying to develop their sense of right and wrong. He just had better a 'press corp' than other founders of the major religions preaching with similar creation stories and parables. Religion is a living entity, changing and growing in acceptance. Some are just farther along in that process than others, but they all have there dark moments in history."

The way I was treated growing up by ‘good' Christians, makes it hard for me to respect any Christian denomination that claims that a belief in Jesus is the only path to finding God or salvation. I also have a hard time with the personification of God, even calling him/it the Supreme Being which is inclusive of other cultures and religions is too super-sized humanizing to me. I prefer to call it the God-Power which takes away the image of a man in the sky controlling everything like I was taught in those early years at Sunday school. I was in my mid-twenties when these thoughts jelled for me after a minister at a church where I was setting up flowers for a wedding told me, "The secret to understanding God is there is no secret. God is love and love is God. It's as simple as that." After our conversation is when I started using the term the God-Power. The power of love can save the world.

Up until the Great Book Purge last summer I had an unread book on my shelf titled, The God Delusion. I don't know much about Hitchens other than he also wrote, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. But I know enough about finding new friends to know I shouldn’t have that book sitting on my shelf when I move to the continuum care campus. The place is a non-profit supported by a deeply entrenched denomination here in town. So I know that I’ll have to go back to my lifetime ways of not being completely open about my views on religion, of avoiding conversations about churches.

Rightly or wrongly, I label myself an agnostic because I don't believe in a heaven or hell---we make our own heaven or hell right here on earth by the way we live our lives. And I define God as the combined goodness of mankind (love) and the devil as the combined evil of mankind (hate)---I got that definition from my dad. I see God more as an internal force, a power that drives us all to try to do good in our lives. If people need to go to church to be prompted to do good things, fine. I can respect that, even admire that as long as they don’t in turn look down on me because they think I need saving or educating. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the Bible quoted as if the quote was a slam-dunk ending all logical debate no matter the topic under discussion followed by the words, "Read your Bible!" Thank you very much but Charles Heston read it to me during my search-for-the-meaning-of-life era.

My parents were good people with good reasons for not going to church and while my dad and I had many “God and religion” conversations I never had any with my mom. When I asked my niece, this week, if she ever did she replied, among other things, “Whenever I read John Wesley’s famous quote, I think of Grandma. ‘Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can.’” I didn't really appreciated all the good things Mom quietly did for others until her funeral when I heard story after story from people she’d helped. I had hoped my niece could shed some light on which of my parents thought it was important for my brother and I to walk up to the churches. She couldn’t. But after our talk I'm guessing it was my Mom's doing. I'm guessing it was after the playground incident when I cried about it at my mom's knee when my brother and I started our Sunday mornings routine. Either way I’m glad they did send us. The Bibles stories and parables are so much a part of our western culture it would be hard not to know the references/code words. Eve and her apple. Noah and his ark. The speck and the log. And, yes, thanks to my parents I know that Mathew, Mark, Luke and John were not a '70s rock band. ©


Saturday, October 24, 2020

My Hodge-Podge Week


GATHERING GIRLS:  Why do all the bloggable things happen in one week? Monday started out with another long brunch with my Gathering Girls pals. And if I haven’t said it before, let me tell you that with the except using the F-word, I’ve never had friends that I’ve felt so completely free to say or do whatever silly or irreverent thing that crosses my mind. To misquote Sally Fields, "We like each other, we really do!” and that’s all the sweeter because we only met three years ago proving old dogs can learn new tricks. Unfortunately, though, our numbers keep dwindling. We started out with seven but Monday only three of us dined together. One was flying out to Arizona, another won't go to restaurants during the pandemic, a third lady was sick and one of our original gal pals had to drop out of our group for health or eye-sight issues---I don't remember which. Call me 'old'. I can take it.

THE ARGUMENT: Tuesday I had an argument with the dog, both of us speaking at full volume. Here’s the back story: My computer sits around the corner from the laundry room. In addition to what you’ll usually find in a laundry room is the door that leads to the garage and to another door leading outside to the dog’s yard. It’s also where Levi’s water and food dishes sit side-by-side. Yesterday I had my head lost in Facebook and Levi started in on me, acting like he wanted to go outside. Or so I thought. I opened the door to the garage and ordered, “Outside!” He took a leisurely stroll around the car and came straight back inside instead of heading to the outside door. Two minutes later he was begging again with the same results. After the fourth time I yelled at him to go get in his bed and he disobediently ran for the living room couch. And why not. I’ve let him treat the couch like a time-out, no scold zone so many times it’s actually become one. Five minutes later he was back in the laundry room again, this time banging his water dish against the wall and with a demonic look on his face that let me know that he knew my Facebook polluted brain was malfunctioning and not receiving the mental telepathy we usually share. It was so dry my heart sank, knowing he must have been without water all morning long. Levi accepted my apology but he put me on notice that it better not happen again. And don't you dare call the Old People Police! I'll deny the dog neglect ever happened.

HOUSE CLEANERS: Wednesday I lost my cleaning service, or rather I should say they lost me. After my favorite cleaner quit to go back to school the service hasn’t been able to find anyone to replace her who is willing to clean in my neighborhood. If I had a bigger house that took longer than 2 to 2 ½ hours to clean or they had other clients near-by, that might have changed things. But given the fact that they charged me an average of $74 per cleaning and the person who actually does the work only gets $30 of that fee I can see why no one wants to hop on the expressway from their offices to come through the heart of town to get here for a lousy $30 a month. I've all but resigned myself to cleaning my own house again---I did it all but the last 4-5 years of my life, so how hard could it be to get back in the groove?  I'm even warming up to the idea of earmarking the money I'll save for something special for my new home.

PARTY AT THE CCC: Thursday I had to make a $20,000 payment on the unit in the continuum care campus where---with any luck---I’ll be living by this time next year. Their marketing managers usually invent a reason to bring those of us who have already bought into the dream out to the building site around the time when a scheduled payment is due. This time they called their social-distancing party a “Topping Out Celebration.” The construction company brought a large truss up to the sales building and we all got to sign our names on a grid, after which we were supposed to watch a crane haul it up to the third floor roof and ‘top out’ the building. But it was raining so hard they decided to put that part off for later and we ate yummy falls treats instead. If the chef who prepares all the food for these events wasn't so young or me so old, I'd be in lust with the man. The only thing my husband could make was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and even then he go the proportions all wrong. An inch of peanut butter, Don? Really?

THE PORCH CEILING PROJECT: Friday the son-I-wish-I-had came over to paint the ceiling on my porch, to finish off our barter agreement. One of the reasons I can’t wait until after the election is over is because he’s a Trump supporter. I love this guy, have known him since before he got married, had three kids and 12-13 grandkids. We were neighbors for years and he worked for my husband and after my husband’s stroke he helped us more than all my other family and friends put together. I thought I knew him well but Trump has brought a side out of Tim that I’d rather not know about. It makes me sad and we tippy-toe around politics so carefully you’d think current events are freshly laid eggs in a hen house. But his Facebook posts---all I can say is I’m shocked at how much Kool-Aid he’s drank. The election can't come fast enough! No matter which way it turns out the true character of our country will be exposed. God help us all. ©

 Photo at the top was taken on the campus of the CCC.