Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 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 double-ass ugly. Comments welcome! Jean

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Butterfly Exhibits, Exhibitionists and Facebook

One of my young relatives likes to post comments about her workplace on Facebook. And yesterday I found my hypocritical side while reading one of them. As I read it I was thinking that she could get herself in trouble by letting her co-workers have access to her train-of-thought and then it hit me. Why you damn fool! I admonished myself, your blog is a hundred times more detailed than her two or three daily lines! What makes me think my blog can’t get me into the same kinds of trouble I’m worried about her getting into? Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I can’t inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings or throw down the gauntlet to a war of words I hadn’t intended to do. I may be older but that doesn’t automatically make me any wiser when I write for public consumption.

Like her, I used to be a hard worker with long hours and when I think back to the diaries I kept back when I was her age they are filled with those few moments during my days when my co-workers and I would have a little unauthorized fun behind the boss’ back. And whine about long hours and hard work? I did that too. Whine about my boss? Ditto. So I’m putting myself in the penalty box for forgetting that hypocrisy isn’t a flattering look for an old broad like me to wear.

Monday I went to a showing of 40 prints and drawings done by sculptors. Many of these art pieces were the preliminary drawings to the sculptures residing outside in the park. (See the photo above. It's a huge place covering many acres.) The show was held in a gallery near the annual Butterflies in Bloom exhibit that I’ve been going to since Don passed away, to honor all my April sadiversaries. I didn’t know what to expect since I had over-heard a couple of women talking about how the drawings should not have been shown in public, let alone in conjunction with an exhibit that draws so many children into the sculpture park. “Why, one of the drawings had a woman contorted in such a way that her ‘ya-ya’ was showing!” I had a pretty good idea what her ‘ya-ya’ was but I was visualizing a scene in an episode of Sex and the City---the one where Charlotte poses for an artist who was doing a series of vagina paintings. The gallery opening in Sex and the City was full of huge canvases of bigger than life, primary colored vaginas hanging all over the walls and the Sex and the City girls were trying to figure out which one was Charlotte’s.  

As I wandered the gallery at the sculpture park I kept wondering if the “offensive drawing” had been taken down. Most of the nudes I was seeing were quickie sketches, abstracts or light studies and far from titillating or in-your-face obscene---in my arty-farty opinion. Then I found it, a pencil drawing and it made me laugh right out loud at its understated presence. If I hadn’t been looking for a ‘ya-ya’---don’t you love that crazy euphemism---I would have missed it. On the way home I wished I had read the description plate on the wall. I’d like to know if it was a preliminary drawing to one of a huge sculptures outside.  If so, I’m sure some enterprising and happy bird has found the absolute, perfect place to build its spring nest.

After the seeing the prints and drawing I spent an hour in the conservatory with the butterflies. I had worn a red blouse that seemed to please the Common Morpho which are anything but common with their iridescent blue, flashing wings. They have a three inch wing spread and as soon as I walking into the tropical setting, several Common Morphos set their flight paths towards me and within a foot from landing on my blouse they saw the error of their ways and pulled upward, away from the “flower” that wasn’t. Around and around the conservatory they’d go, always reacting the same way to my blouse when they came near. I was a Common Morpho magnet the whole time I was there. If you happened to see my last year’s post about the Common Morpho you might recall I have a special bond with this subspecies of butterflies. In my twisted widow’s mind I associate them with Don’s spirit soaring. This year, it was like they were saying to me, “You’re back! We missed you!” I miss you, too, Don. It's good to see you so foot loose and fancy free from the broken body of your last twelve years on earth.  ©

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pass-Around Widows, Easter Traditions and Other Stuff

For a week now my urine smells like fried chicken and I haven’t eaten any in months. But every time I pee lately I want to go to KFC. At first I thought I’d finally contracted some dreaded disease that only effects widows who don’t eat enough fried foods but a quick internet search leaves me believing I either have a urinary tract infection or Maple Syrup Urine Disease. (Yes, that’s a real disease. I’m not making that up to make you laugh.) I’m voting for the UTI. MSUD is an inherited disorder and growing up, I don’t recall anyone talking about maple syrup as they came out of the bathroom. Not to worry, tomorrow I’m going to the dentist which means I have to take a heavy round of antibiotics so the germs from cleaning my teeth don’t settle in my artificial knee joints and I’m hoping some of those antibiotics find their way into my bladder. If not, I’ll have to go pee in a cup at the lab and hope they don’t leave it out in the elements this time. Last year when I had a UTI they accidentally froze my specimen and I had to go back and do the pee-in-a-cup trick all over again. I hate that trick. There are some things guys are just better equipped at doing and this is one of them.

My nieces threw a surprise 75th birthday party for my older brother a few days ago. It was so good to see everyone in the family except my brand new great-great nephew and his parents who live out of state. My brother was thoroughly surprised and everyone loved the photo book I made and had printed at Blurb. It’s going to be a good summer for family get-togethers---two showers and a wedding invitation are already filed in the pages of my day planner and I’m working on a cousin’s get-together at the cottage where I spent all the summers of my youth.

Easter was good, too. The night before I got a call from my niece-in law asking me to join her huge family for dinner out in the boondocks. It was her mother’s first Easter without her husband and I think the invitation had something to do with that, but she was fine---seemed to be holding herself together pretty well and enjoying herself with all her kids and grandchildren around. Most of the adults in attendance and I have crossed paths for 42 years of going to weddings, showers and funerals so I didn’t feel entirely out of place.  At one point in the afternoon five of her grandsons packed their babies up in their strollers, grabbed a beer or wine cooler and off they all went for a walk around the lake while we women folk sat in a sun circle talking. If someone 40-50 years age would have told me how much attitudes about fatherhood joys and duties would change I wouldn’t have believed it. But I think all the hands-on stuff is good for guys, their families and society. Why should women get all the fun and bonding time with their kids? Time to share, ladies.

As fellow blogger Belle Rum over at Cul-de-Sac-Chronicles recently wrote: “We make traditions and we keep them for years. Then things change. Kids grow up and move to another city, loved ones die and we are left to celebrate even when it doesn’t feel like a time to celebrate.” My own family’s holiday traditions fell apart years ago when my mom died, new ones were born, then reborn again and again---the last time to fit my husband’s disabilities. (Wheelchairs limit your invitation venues big time.) This is my third Easter without Don and new traditions have not yet been established, so I was grateful to grab a little holiday spirit, even if vicariously through someone else’s family. These past few years since Don died I’ve been the elderly aunt passed around on the holidays, never quite belonging anywhere yet never quite an outcast or third wheel either. Life is full of mystery and sometimes I wish mine was like a book and I could sneak a peek at the last chapter to see if holiday traditions ever find me again. Or is this it, the new normal for me? Am I now officially living in the land Pass-Around Widows, never knowing from one holiday to another where we’ll be next? ©

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Scary-Cat Widow and the Artist

 My Red Hat Society Chapter is planning a wine tasting tour next month near the top of the state, a trip that is estimated will take about twelve hours start to finish. Sounds like fun, right? I did this same trip with 100 people from the senior hall in 2012 and I’ve always loved going up to the area. The views of Lake Michigan are plentiful along the Leelanau Peninsula and the air smells so fresh and clean. So, what’s my problem with going again? I’m turning into the biggest worry-wart living on Widowhood Lane! The chapter has rented a fifteen passenger van and two women over 70 are planning on driving it. Mind you, neither one has ever driven a vehicle larger than a SUV but they aren’t worried. “I'll be fine,” one of them said, “we won’t be going in the middle of tourist season so we should be able to find parking without having to back up anywhere.” Ya, sure. I have driven a 24 foot motor home in a past life and as much as I never wanted to back up, sometimes you just can’t plan your way out of situations that require things you’d rather not do while on the road.

Twelve ladies signed up for the trip at our last tea so I need to make up my mind quick if I want push past my fear of dying alongside a highway in a cloud of red and purple hats, feathers and dresses with wine from broken bottles soaking through to my underwear. A couple of ladies are planning to buy a year’s worth of wine. Boxes of it, riding home in the non-existence extra space in van. I bought a bottle up in wine country in 2012 and I still haven’t opened it. My Italian ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves. Not that I don’t have my own indulgences. If I we were going on an ice cream tour, I’d be sitting on a cooler full of Ben and Jerry’s on the way home.

I told the ladies at tea that I have to do some math to see if I can afford to go because in addition to splitting the cost of transportation, the tour and lunch I’d also have to pay $71 of kennel fees for Levi. That was a white lie---not the kennel part, but I’d have no trouble paying for it all if I decide to go. Ohmygod, what kind of person am I turning into? Telling lies! And what happened to the woman who once happily spent an entire day in the mountains of Colorado on roads that were so narrow we had to fold in the mirrors on the truck or risk falling off the edge of the mountain to sure death? Other days out west in the boondocks we had to use come-along cables to ratchet ourselves out of the mud and we were as happy as a litter of piglets after a rainstorm. I know. I was young and in love and I trusted Don to take care of any situation and he would never, ever leave me behind. A bus load of older women? They could get half way home before they remembered to do a head count.

Speaking of spending money, I finally got to the new art studio in my adopted hometown, to ask about art classes. The guy who owns the place used to be an instructor at a near-by art school that has a international reputation for being one of the best in the U.S.A. I’m pumped up! (He also writes books.) The only hang-up is I’d have to do private lessons at $30.00 for two hours to get what I want---not a bad price, but I was hoping for more human interaction. All his group classes are just for what I call pop-up “art” classes. Classes for bridal shower or birthday party guests, etc. Two hours start to finish they copy a simple painting while they eat and drink and have a good time. It pays his overhead so I can’t fault him for that. He showed me his work and that of the other “real” artists who sell their work in the studio's show gallery. And we talked about what medium/s I should try after 50 years of being away from the world of art. We settled on Prismacolor pencils because they are “cheap” and not too messy for me to work with at home since at present I don’t have suitable studio space.

I left the studio, went directly to an art supply place and spent over $80.00 on the “cheap” stuff. I start my classes in a couple of weeks when I can move my eBay stuff out to the garage, freeing up my dining room table. In the meantime, I need to put together some of my old artwork to show the guy so he’ll have a gauge of what I once was and what I might be able to achieve again. (Knock on wood.) While down in the basement looking for stuff to take, I found a ton of oil pastels that are still good. One set of 48 pastels had the original price tag of $3.75 on the box and I’d just seen a set that size at the art supply store for over a hundred dollars. And no, I wasn’t using them to paint on the walls of caves. Although, that gives me an idea. The cost of canvas and paper is so high, now, I just might be using the walls of my house as I progress with my new trip to the land of would-be artists. ©

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Culinary Class - Thai Cooking

Last fall at an auction I won two expensive cooking lessons at a fancy place with a beautiful view of a tree lined ravine with a fast rolling river at the bottom. It seems I was one of the few people at the auction who recognized the bargain price the classes were going for. I was thrilled when I won. Last night I cashed one of the certificates in on a three hour class on Thai cooking. Let me tell you, I was a fish out of water with all the foodies in our little group as we sat on tall stools around a chef’s stainless steel topped table. But I was honest about my lack of cooking background so I’m sure my naïve questions amused my companions whose questions were far above my skill set. The chef had a sous-chef who did all the chopping and running. He was a good looking guy of---I’m guessing---Italian descent and I wanted to take him home, stand him in the corner of the kitchen to come to attention whenever I need assistance.

They started out with Pork Satay and Peanut Sauce, then they progressed with putting on a pot of Tom Kha Gai soup. While that was on the stove they made Phat Thai and ended with Sticky Rice with Mangoes for the desert round. We were munching and drinking wine the whole time---well, I wasn’t drinking, but the others were and it was fun to watch them all get buzzed while exchanging foodie stories as the night advanced. I learned two things: 1) To do Thai cooking you need to keep the following ingredients in the house: brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and soy sauce. And 2) Thai cooking has five flavor profiles: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy. Thai cooking is good at isolating those different profiles in the same dish so you continue to get unexpected flavor bursts as you eat. All in all, I had a great time and a to-die-for meal.

Will I ever make any of this stuff at home? No, but at least I’ll appreciate my take-out Thai more. But I probably will get some coconut milk, lemongrass paste, scallions and chicken and play around with inventing my own soup concoction. Recipes are for sissies. Or so my mother taught me by example which is probably one of the reasons why cooking freaks me out so much. It’s always an 'adventure' into the unknown.

As usual for me, I took my camera but it never made it out of my purse. The stock photo at the top is pretty close to the Phat Thai I ate last night. Oh and by the way, I sat next to a guy close to my age who was there alone, too, as were three other women. So there is no reason for  widows to fear going alone to classes like this. The only couple in the group were young and are getting married next summer. The guy I liked, the girl reminded me of a few bridezillas I dealt with back in my former life.

“It’s going to be MY wedding,” she announced at one point, “not his and he doesn’t get a say in anything.”

The rest of us were all old enough to have grandchildren and we looked at each other at that statement. If I had been drinking, too, I would have been tempted to ask the others if they wanted to place bets on how long their marriage would last with that attitude. One of the other women did say, “Marriage is an 80% 20% deal. 80% of the time you love each other and 20% of the time you want to kill each other.” 

Then I said, “I agree except the longer I was knew my husband that equation changed to 90%, 10%” and others agreed that was true for them as well.

Bridezilla piped up, “For us, its 50%, 50%.” I looked at her would-be spouse and hoped he’d could read my mind because I was telling him to run for the hills. Seriously, you shouldn’t have to work that hard at love! The only time I had to work that hard at love the relationships didn’t last. Am I just too old to remember how it is with young people or am I just making myself feel superior by thinking I can accurately read the signs when a relationship is doomed from the start? We widows do tend to have thick rose-colored lenses in our glasses when it comes to remembering our other half and our shared romantic past.

I’m saving my other class certificate for something to do with summer stir-fry or grilling. So part two to this story will be along someday. ©