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, May 4, 2016

Thank God for May, Eyesight and Gatherings

I’ve never been so glad to see the end of a month and the beginning of another. This year I had twenty-five appointments spread out over the thirty days of April and it was like having a job, getting up every day with a mission on my day planner. It’s easy to understand why people like me who are living in hard winter climates do this to ourselves. In addition to the biannual medical stuff that we older people save up for good driving weather, we’re sick of being snowed in thus we over schedule fun stuff as soon as the snow disappears. And then there are the appointments related to getting the house and yard ready for summer---the irrigation system start-up, the spring cleanup arranged, the eaves cleaned out and the weed control guy lined up. First world stuff---all of it and I still have more first world things to do before summer gets into full swing. But that window washing and carpet cleaning are going to have to wait. I have a dead tree that needs to come down before it falls into my bedroom and my maintenance budget is getting stretched. Woo is me. At least I have a maintenance budget. Some people don’t even have a place to maintain.

The last appointment I had in April was for the eye doctor. My eyes have been bothering me for a couple of years now but there’s nothing wrong with them that glasses can correct. In one eye I have a giant floater that looks like a spider crawling over anything light colored like walls, floors or book pages. When it first appeared it scared the heck out of me and when I called the eye doctor he had me come in that same day. Nothing to worry about, he said, unless I start getting white flashes of light in that eye then it crosses over to the land of eye emergencies. The spider will go away in time but it’s been with me for over a year now and it still startles me from time to time. I hate spiders! With the other eye I just found out I have a condition that only happens to 6% of the population. The doctor explained it this way: If you place your hand palm down on a piece of fabric with your fingers spread and then you draw that fabric into a ball…that’s what is happening to the lens in my eye. It causes some mild distortions in my sight and in rare cases it could get bad enough to require surgery. The first thing I thought of is there is an artist I studied in the ‘60s who painted like what I imagine I’ll see if the condition gets worse. Maybe if that happens I could revive his style and become famous like a modern-day Grandma Moses. That’s not out of the realm of possibilities. I once read an article written by an ophthalmology who credited eye diseases for the way various famous artists in past centuries saw and painted their worlds. Heck, I could make lemonade out of anything. 

The senior hall started a new monthly event called The Gathering. It’s a mixer for people looking for friends and I went to the first one…not opposite sex friends, just friends in general. It was great! Around twenty-five of us showed up. The facilitator did what I imagine are common "mixer games” designed to get us talking. With one she had us each pick up a picture when we entered the room and later on we had to talk about. I picked a polar bear which led to a discussion of environmental issues. Another woman picked a butterfly and told how, to her, it represents her faith in God and how she has a butterfly in every room of her house. Another person picked a photo of a dog and she talked about her pets. Sitting there listening I discovered things in common with others in the room and with one woman/recent widow in particular we have three overlapping interests. I signed up for the next two Gatherings and with the next one they’ll have a contact list of those in the group so we can arrange coffee dates or whatever. 

In the first years following my husband’s death I was in an almost desperate search for friends. (Why did I use a modifier with 'desperate'? I did feel desperate, just admit it Jean, you're a big girl now!) Anyway, It took a while for me to figure out that the hole in my life Don 's passing left behind can’t be filled easily. I was meeting and making friendly acquaintances and although I naively missed a few overtures, finding friends to do things with, to talk to occasionally on the phone, didn’t happening. I made peace with the fact that my friendless status quo would be with me for the rest of my life. Now, with The Gatherings I’m guardedly optimistic about resuming the search. Everyone at The Gatherings is looking for friends which is different than going “cold canvasing” out into the big, scary world looking for a connection. I’ll give it the summer…. ©

P.S. There is a new widow in my 'Blogs I Follow" feed---her husband died in February. If you have the time to pop over to say, "Hi" or to give her some encouragement, you'll find her at: Surviving Widowhood

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Islamic Center and Mosque Tour

Finally the day came and went and I’m still here to tell about. It was ages ago since I signed up to go on a field trip to an Islamic Center and Mosque as part of the senior hall’s monthly series, How We Worship. It was January 4th to be exact when I put in my RSVP, one month after the San Bernardino rampage leaving fourteen people dead, the victims of radical extremists. I’ve been both looking forward to this trip and slightly apprehensive at the same time, and that latter emotion is one I wish I didn’t have to admit. I’m an open-minded woman after all, nothing to fear. So what if we had to dress conservatively with long sleeves, no shorts and scarves covering our hair. All that meant is I didn’t have to wash my hair on Thursday when we went to learn about Muslims and the Islamic faith and to be served a traditional Mid-Eastern lunch.

Knowing this field trip was on my day planner my feelings of apprehension were heighten last month when a man---not far from the very Center I signed up to tour---made the national news when he was caught on video chanting at the top of his lungs: “Kill the Muslims! Kill them all! Trump! Trump! Trump!” He had taken a swing at a Muslin and was fist-pumping his chant as he walked away. Trump had been in town for a rally not long before this incident which, I’m guessing, emboldened the chanter. I saw the entire rally on TV and it’s not hyperbolic to guess that’s what happened. Watching that news clip, I could visualize that radicalized Trump fan showing up with an assault rifle at the Islamic Center on the day of our tour and opening fire while we all sat eating hummus smothered bread. With our Anglo-American heritage tucked under our head scarves he’d never guess our group was collateral damage. Oops. None of that happened, of course, but we met the Egyptian Muslim leader---I can’t remember his title---who the Trump supporter tried to slug. He was quoted in our local news as saying that he was shocked when it happened and something else about showing patience, ignoring it and that “time would mend it.” 

When we first got to the Center we were served a fantastic lunch of the freshest of fresh salad, rice and almonds, chicken, beef, mixed vegetables, pocket bread and hummus. None of us at my table could identify the favor profile of the meats or the oven baked peppers, carrots and zucchini slices. Coffee and an array of rich, nut-filled desserts came next while a man gave an hour long presentation about Islam. We learned, for example, they believe that Jesus was not crucified on the Cross, that a secret stand-in or swap of some sort took place to protect him. We learned that women wear head scarves to honor Mary, mother of Jesus. “Mary the Blessed” they call her and the Quran has a whole chapter devoted to her. They also believe there is no such thing as original sin. In Islam, everyone is born pure. And if you wrong someone, you must first seek their forgiveness before you can ask God to forgive you.

We were told they believe that God sent the Torah, the Christian Gospels and the Quran to guide humanity through His prophets…Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. To quote the handout we got: “Islam completes the long chain of guidance from God to humanity. Meticulously preserving and thoroughly documenting, Islam’s message has a familiar resonance with other Abrahamic religions, owing to their shared history and common values.” Muslims all keep a ‘family tree chart’ from Adam to Muhammad to honor early prophets including Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Noah, Jacob and others all Christians would know.

We learned so many interesting things that I couldn’t possibility list like why they’re called to prayer five times a day, what words are actually said during the call and why they separate the sexes while at prayer. Our presentation ended when the call to prayer came---get this---on a cell phone app. It’s not always at the exact, same time because they’re based on the setting and rising sun. At that point we were able to go into the Mosque (worship area) where we sat in back to observe the prayer. But before we could go into the Mosque we had to park our shoes in a large shoe closet or put paper booties over top of our shoes. After it was over we were able to ask questions. Someone asked about the bookcases inside the Mosque that were full of Qurans written in a dozen or so languages and we learned that only the Qurans that are written in the original Arabic are considered to be Holy Books. Once something has been translated it loses its purity and possibly some of its original clarity.

In addition to the theology and history presentation we were all fascinated by the bathrooms. (Not many world travelers in our group, I guess.) They had stations for sitting to wash your feet and an assortment of rubber sandals by the stall doors that you are instructed to wear while inside the stalls. Inside each stall was a small watering can that none of us could figure out what it was for and also a long hose (like a flexible shower sprayer but called a bidet shower) that was to be used to wash your private parts off while on the toilet. Thankfully, they also had toilet paper. There were no mirrors in the bathrooms, either, and talking is forbidden in restrooms. Our male bus driver, on the way back home said the men’s room had individual stalls and no urinals in addition to what was in the woman’s. The senior hall director lead a conversation on the way home and none of us could quit talking (in positive ways) about the things that surprised or impressed us. All in all it was an afternoon well spent and the Muslims we met couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. ©

Note: I didn't take the photo above but it is of the Mosque I was in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Emotional Intelligence and Dumb Phones

It’s only day three in the week and already I’ve had a unique experience to fill up time in my weird widowhood world where sometimes it seems like that’s all I’ve got is time. Woo is me. I want something more meaningful in my life but until I make that happen for myself I go to things like an OLLI class that was billed as “a stimulating and thought-provoking session about the fascinating field of emotional intelligence.” Would you sign up for a workshop like that if that’s all you knew about it? Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who was intrigued and foot-loose enough to act on that impulse. Fifty people showed up and we had a great time laughing our gray-haired heads off as we learned that emotional intelligence is about “managing our own emotions and the ability to ‘read’ emotions in others.” We talked about the nine ways people learn and how IQ alone is not an indicator of success in a person’s life. We talked about the characteristics of emotional intelligence---the other indicator of success---which includes handling relationships and being a self-motivator. We touched on that fact that emotions are impulses to act (flight or fight) and feelings are more mind based, our reactions to emotions and we base those reactions on our past experiences. 

I’d been to one of the speaker’s workshops two years ago so I knew he’d be entertaining. That one was titled, “I’m Dying to Talk to You” which was about end-of-life conversations. He had worked for Hospice for 25 years and he’s one of those people with a thousand anecdotes on the tip of his tongue and he likes to interact with his audience, letting us share stories as well. If he could be cloned he’d make the perfect “gift” to give to lonely widows and children you’d like to grow up to be good citizens of the world. Up for auction! One male who actually listens, who can tell funny stories, who has a generous heart and throws out sentences that you want to write down like, “Human souls don’t want to be fixed, they just want to be heard” and “we’re all recovering children” and Emra Bombeck’s “Worrying is like being in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but does not get you anywhere.”

That last one about worrying is a hard habit to break. At least for me. If you don’t worry, you don’t troubleshoot your way out of potential problems. Or is that a cop-out, something I tell myself to justify things like getting naked in front of a dermatologist so he can look at my moles? What’s the difference between worrying and your mind subconsciously working on ways to avoid what you’re worried about? My biopsies came back, by the way, and two are cancerous so I’m scheduled for what they call “surgery” but is really just them digging out more skin around where the moles were removed for the biopsies. Sorry, Emra, but my ‘rocking chair’ did get me somewhere. 

Changing topics: I bought a new smart phone that was absolutely the stupidest phone I’ve ever had and between Don and me we’ve had a lot of cell phones going back to the ‘80s when Motorola bag phones first came on the market. (See photo above.) Can you believe it, the plan we had with that first cell phone was $9.99 a month for life for unlimited calls and we were able to keep that plan, transferring it to upgraded phones, until 2005. We finally voluntarily gave up the contract because the company got fussy and would only let us use it with a basic cell phone and I wanted one with more bells and whistles on it. But I still have that same cell phone number---31 years!

The phone I bought had some (new to me) features on it that I wanted like voice texting and voice maps but what it didn’t have the ability to get itself activated. After making four calls to the company spread out over 11 days and waiting on hold for over four hours finally a technical support guy declared the phone is defective and they’d send me a pre-activated phone to make a swap. The good news is they said they’d wave the $35.00 activation fee and drop five dollars off the monthly service fee. The bad news is when the phone arrived today in the mail it wasn’t the right model. It was a phone that cost nearly $100 less than I paid! Back on the phone I went but this time I had a direct line to technical support so I didn’t wait on hold. I got the apologizes one would expect and the promise that they’d use overnight delivery to get me the right phone. This whole saga has been frustrating but I’ve kept my cool through it all. However, if one more thing goes wrong with this fiasco my emotional intelligence will go down the drain and I’ll be back here writing Dumb Phones, Part Two. And I’ll be naming names. ©