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

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Service People and Bad Movies

It seems like all I’ve done lately is wait for service people. Twice this month I waited for the cable company, once to fix a digital box they installed wrong and two days later to install two more boxes….couldn’t do it all on one trip, oh no. That would take organization and proficiency in their scheduling department. Another day I waited all morning for a cement contractor to show up to power lift a couple of slabs in my driveway that were undermined by a misdirected downspout pouring rain water along the side of the driveway. Mission accomplished and the hollowed-out area under the slabs is now filled with cement. Then I waited for my house cleaner who, as it turns out, got booked for 2:30 instead of our standing appointment of 12:30. Someone screwed up and they didn’t tell me about the change. Then when she didn’t show up at 2:30 I got a call from the cleaning company wanting to reschedule to another day! It’s frustrating when the world of service makes me wait. Don’t they know I’m old and don’t have time to waste?

Then there are the contractors who show up on prearranged days but they don’t need to come in the house. The lawn care guy. The fertilizer guy. And the mole exterminator who uses an environmentally friendly method to kill the evil rodents that are hell-bent on turning my yard into a perfect movie set for a remake of Caddyshack. What is the environmentally friendly way to kill a living creature? I’m afraid to ask. I think he sits out there and tries to talk them into committing suicide. But I wouldn’t care if the guy took a shotgun to my yard and pumped the ground full of bullet holes if the moles would just go away. By the way I hated that movie---not my kind of humor---but Chevy Chase did have one memorable line: “Don't be obsessed with your desires Danny. The Zen philosopher, Basho, once wrote, 'A flute with no holes, is not a flute. A donut with no hole, is a Danish.' He was a funny guy.” There really was an influential Japanese poet who lived and studied Zen back in the 1600s named Matsuo Basho. However, I seriously doubt this guy who wondered around observing nature wrote about Danish and donuts but if that movie line inspired even a tiny fraction of Caddyshack fans to google ‘Basho’ that would give the film a redeeming quality. You never know when it will come in handy to know which poet of centuries past first perfected the art of haiku writing.

Friday my Movie and Lunch Club saw Tammy with Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon starring as granddaughter and grandmother on a crazy road trip that involves a robbery and Sarandon hooking up with guy that leaves Melissa sleeping on the sidewalk outside their motel room. McCarthy and her husband wrote the movie script and, of course, it fit her style of comedic acting but I couldn’t find one memorable line in the whole film and I always try to do that when I see a movie or read a book. The casting, too, made it hard for me to suspend my disbelief. Sixty-eight year old Sarandon being a grandmother to forty-four year old McCarthy while technically possible visually it didn’t work for me. There were other casting choices that also had me scratching my head. But lunch after was great. We always go to different restaurants around town and going places we wouldn’t go alone is a nice treat for a pack of widows like we are.

I feel so spoiled sometimes, living here in the United States where the worst issues I have at the moment are a cleaning woman who doesn’t jump and ask “how high?” when I speak and so-so movies. I’m a news junkie and lately that’s been making me feel obscenely lucky to be living in a safe place where commercial airplanes aren’t getting shot out of the sky and tunnels aren’t being dug underground to bring weapons and war to my doorstep. No, I get to sit here writing about a Haiku writer, service people and bad movies while I wonder why I won the born-in-America lotto. The accident of our birth country has everything to do with everything that happens after…the hardships or opportunities and the peace, war or famine around us. I went to a baby shower yesterday and was thinking about that and about the pleasure of being able to carry on family traditions. Does that get to happen in war torn countries? My niece has a rocking horse that I painted for her son 28 years ago that she is passing on to her first grandchild and I had a set of blocks that her father and I played with as children that I divided up and I gave some to my two nieces (both first time grandmothers). Bridging the generations is still a strong value in this country and one we are so blessed to be able to carry forward. ©
This is the set of blocks I saved for myself. For now. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Day to Laugh and Day-Dream


It’s only Tuesday and already I’ve found something to get excited about this week. And it’s about time. I’ve been off my stride since the long 4th of July weekend which seemed to drag into a two week ordeal, making the first half of the month feel like a wash with only one or two exceptional days thrown it. Today I attended a potluck at the senior hall. We have two potlucks a year because we can’t get food for our monthly luncheons through the school system’s food service in the summer like we usually do the rest of the year. One hundred and ten of us each bringing a dish to pass. Can you visualize the food tables? It was something to see and I’m always surprised at how the number of desserts and salads always even out at potlucks. The meat, rolls and drinks were provided for a measly $1.00 each donation.

The entertainment after the potluck was a group of twelve elderly people including an Irish Catholic priest with a brogue I could have listened to all day long. Too bad he is married (in the mystical sense) to the church or I would have tried flirting with him afterwards just to hear him talk. The group did short skits based on the old time radio format---Joe Friday from Dragnet and Fibber McGee and Molly style---and when they weren’t acting they were talking in rhyme. I didn’t catch their group’s name but it was something like The Rhyme and Acting Club. Everything they did had us laughing but the only story I remember, now, was performed by a gal pretending to be a reporter interviewing a wealthy woman with three died husbands and a forth one still living. The first husband, the three-time widow said, was a banker. The second one was a ring leader at a circus, the third husband was a preacher and the forth one an undertaker. The punchline, if you haven’t figured it out by now, was that she had married the first guy for the money, the second man for the show, the third guy to get readying and the forth one to go. Hey, in a senior crowd it got a big laugh.

The most exciting tidbit I picked up, though, was about the parent program to their group. It seems a small local college here in town---we have thirteen---has a program of non-credit classes for people over 50 who want to keep learning and enriching our lives through cultural experiences. No tests or text books required and the courses are taught by their fully accredited professors. The best part is they’ve got art classes! I went to this college for a couple of semester’s decades ago and their Catholic campus hasn’t changed much since those days. The nuns and priests still dress in old order clothing and judging by the priest I saw today they still enjoy good, hardy laughter.

So what does this agnostic/Humanist think she will do come fall? Will I fit in and find classes I want to take? Yes and yes. I’m hoping to sign up for World Music Appreciation and Drawing if the schedule fits into my life. If not, they offer thirty classes in each of six sessions a year, I’m sure to find something I like. They have classes in Philosophy, Exploring Film, Brain Phenomena, Lewis and Clark, one called ‘The Best Advice I Ever Got’ that all look interesting. Plus the curriculum changes from one session to another.

If you’re a long time reader at my blog, I know what you’re thinking: I didn’t like the art classes I took earlier this summer because the instructor was heavy-handed with religion but those classes were one-on-one which made it hard to just blend into the background when you don’t agree with something but don’t want to offend anyone by speaking up. I also get along great with Catholics. My best friend growing up was Catholic. The entire paternal side of my family are Catholics. I can talk Catholic dogma with the best of them. I just won’t be able to wear my Red Hat Society clothing on campus but I don't wear it anywhere else but with the group anyway.

Speaking about the Red Hatters, tomorrow we have a tea. Thursday my cleaning girl comes, Friday is Movie and Lunch Club and Saturday I trek south to attend a baby shower for the daughter-in-law of one of my two favorite nieces. Finally, my family is growing and so is my ability to day-dream again. ©

Monday, July 14, 2014

Go to Weight Watchers or Become an Artist's Model? That is the Question

I'll be the first to admit it. Overweight old people don't look good naked. We've got bulges and things that look better draped in tee-shirts and sweat pants. It's not just the extra pounds but at a certain age we start growing things: warts and moles and bumps of unknown origin. My husband can get away with carrying a few extra pounds. He's got the Santa Claus look---a belly that looks like a bowl full of jelly, and hair and a mustache as white as snow. Well, grayish snow that's been lying around too long without a touch up from mother nature.

Me? I sometimes wonder if I was once the Venus of Willendorf before she turned into limestone. Unfortunately, most of you will never get to Vienna to see her. But she has her counterparts in primitive art from all over the world---the fertility goddesses carved of various stones---so you can use your imagination about my figure type. Why couldn't I have been born back then when 'mature' bodies were revered and worshiped? "Hefty woman. Works hard. Lives through famines. Makes good babies." When the heck did that ideal of femininity slip out of fashion?

Fluffy women were still desirable when Botticelli was into painting nude women in the 1480s. But those wide-assed ladies with flat, lifeless hair wouldn't get a second look in a pick-up bar today. And Mona of the Mona Lisa fame, she'd have to drop thirty-forty pounds if she wanted to find a husband in the year 2007. Her beautiful, creamy skin and soft eyes wouldn't cut it at a place like Mickey Gilley's without a cropped top to show off a flat belly she doesn't have. Can you image Mona line dancing! There would be a few rednecks down there in the south who would make "mooing" sounds at the poor girl. Then what would happen to her famous smile?

I've been slinky and skinny. I've been fat and fluffy. I've been in between, bouncing around for a lot of years. I was probably sitting at one of the very first Weigh Watchers meeting in town back when they thought dehydrated onion flakes and pimientos makes everything taste better and bouillon cubes were a major food group. I've dropped in and I've dropped out of the diet and exercise crazes more times than I can count. Once, I was even on the belly dancing exercise program for weight reduction. No kidding. I had a hip-rider, layered transparent skirt with bells and other clinking things attached so you hear when your hips were moving just right. Okay, so I was too chicken to wear that skirt without a leotard underneath, but I still thought I was pretty hot stuff. And this is the kind of thing that young people don't understand about old people! Most of them seem to think we were all born with our gray hair, wrinkles and extra pounds. They don't look a Mrs. Santa Claus figure type like me and see a person who could have dreamed of owning a belly button jewel that would dazzle the guys as it moved up and down and around. They don't see an old man in a wheelchair, like my husband, and think to themselves that he was probably a hot piece of eye candy in his prime.

Growing older and imperfect makes you feel like you're also growing invisible. I'll bet I could walk into a bank in broad daylight and rob it and no one but the security camera could describe me. I hate feeling invisible. Even worse is being noticed and treated like my brain is operating on only two of eight its cylinders. "Here's your change, dear. Can you find your car in the parking lot?" Elvis may have left the building, but I still have all the bats in my belfry. Thank you, very much! And how does that young twerpy clerk know that I didn't come riding in on a customized Harley-Davidson Screami' Eagle? Old people have the money for toys like that, you know....or maybe you don't know because you're---gasp!---one of those young people.

Back when I was young and dreaming of fame at the end of a paint brush, I took a lot of life figure drawing and painting classes. They used to hire all types of people to pose nude. Fat ones, old ones and models with wrinkles and rolls were the most fun to draw and paint. So, I'm debating a decision: I either get back into Weight Watchers and I start a diet, or I go get a job posing for a life figure drawing class. The young people there would not only HAVE to look at me, they'd have to PAY to look at me as I lounged wearing nothing else but a Mona Lisa-like smile. And that smile would say it all: "One day, kids, you're going to look just like me."

By Jean Riva

Jean's main passion in the writing world centers around educating the general population about stroke related language disorders, caregiving issues, and growing older---often using humor to do so.