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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Glass Castles and Engulfing Fires

This past weekend my adoptive hometown had a fire that destroyed its oldest building, circa 1873. Before the 1930s it was a pool hall and bar but during Prohibition when alcohol was banned across the nation they had to serve food in order to keep their license to run a pool hall so hot dogs replaced the liquor. After Prohibition ended the building became known far and wide as the place you go to get hot dogs and beer. Too young to go inside a bar? No problem. They had a window on the street where you could walk up and order. Many hot summer nights when we couldn't sleep my husband and I would go for a ride and find ourselves getting hot dogs and taking them down to the moonlit river. The place was more than just the town’s tavern, it’s a place where memories were made. As recently as two days before the fire I had dinner there with a couple of my husband’s old classmates. We’ve been meeting there for decades, whenever they come to town, and I’m glad my husband didn’t live long enough to see this fire on the news. He was sentimental about his hometown and it would have broke his heart.

I don’t understand why anyone takes part in hot dog eating contests but this bar has been having them since 1968. The names of the winners lined the walls of the bar, each one printed on a two inch wide slat. The owner said all that information is on a data base and can be recreated when they rebuild. The owners are resilient. Within a few hours of the fire department and gas company getting to the scene the owners had set up the pop-up tent they use for outdoor events and they were making and give away hot dogs to all the on-lookers and people working on the fire. They didn’t quit for two days, until all the hot spots were finally out and the fire department left. True to the character of this tourist town, the other businesses are rallying around their neighbor. They’ve organized a day next week when 15% of all sales will go to the seventy---yes, 70---employees of the bar and a custom tee-shirt shop has already raised several thousand to go to the fund plus offers of temporary jobs are pouring in to tide them over until the bar can be rebuilt. Small towns have big hearts.

Movie Day: Last month my Movie and Lunch Club got canceled because the woman in charge was ill and in the hospital. She’s still not out of the woods but someone else stepped up to the plate to organize our lunch plans and to pick the movie. I don’t always like the restaurants or movies chosen but I sure wouldn’t want the job, so I would never breathe a word of complaint. It involves maintaining an e-mailing list of nearly fifty people, notifying everyone each month of the plans, then calling reservations in to the restaurants for those who promise to show up. We average fifteen to twenty-five people but not always the same fifteen to twenty-five. 

This week we saw The Glass Castle with Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts taking the leading roles in this film based on a memoir written by Jeannette Walls.  IMBd describes the storyline like this: “A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who's an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children's imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.” Wikipedia says the film came out with the critics praising the work of the cast but criticizing “the mishandled tones and material.” I don’t know if that’s a fair observation but several in our group who read the book, said the movie followed the book closely. 

Did I like the film? It’s hard to use the word ‘like’ about a movie depicting four children growing up with no stability, never having enough to eat, never going to school and living in such turmoil and filth. It was an engaging movie that you won’t soon forget. In an author interview Ms. Walls said she believes her father was bi-polar and trying to self-medicate with alcohol but she never doubted that she was loved which is probably why the kids were able to turn their adult lives around. She also said that Woody Harrelson nailed both her father’s dark side and his generosity of spirit. And now I want to read the book. Okay, I guess that means I liked and I would recommend the movie.  ©
 Official Movie Trailer

 Interview with the Author of The Glass Castle

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville’s Unite the Right Rally

It was July 8th when I last wrote about world events and politics, the G20 Summit to be exact. And no matter how often I vow not to write about controversial and divisive topics here I am again, ready to broach the event that brought homegrown hate groups together last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia---the Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, White Supremacists and the KKK. Their Friday night Unite the Right torch-lite rally where at one point hundreds yelled obscenities in front of a church filled with area clergy who were inside praying as part of the counter-protestors was shocking and downright scary. “You will not replace us!” they shouted along with “Blood and soil!” and other Nazi inspired slogans. 

The next morning many of Unite the Right attendees donned their protective gear, grabbed their guns, flag poles and shields and took to the streets and we all know what happened after that including a young neo-Nazi from Ohio plowing his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors killing one and injuring nineteen. President Trump still has not called that deliberate mowing down of people an act of domestic-terrorism. If the driver had been a Muslim, he would have tweeted that out within an hour and that fact is a dog whistle telling the hate groups all they need to know. Silly me, why would I expect any better from a president who installed Alt-Right Steve Bannon and White Nationalists Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller into key positions in the White House? Even before the latter two were added to the administration, one of Trump’s first acts in office was to shut down the arm of Homeland Security that kept track of home-grown domestic hate groups. Thanks, guys, for helping to elect me.

Many people, no doubt, saw nothing wrong with what the president said on the weekend: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” The president dug the hole he found himself afterward by adlibbing the words “on many sides, on many sides” that weren’t in the written text of the statement he was given to read. Almost immediately people took that to mean he was lumping the counter-protesters in with the hate groups who converged on Charlottesville. Surely, a president should be nuanced enough to know there is no moral equivalent between the white supremacist groups and those who came to counter-act that kind of hate. Senator Kamala Harris made that point more bluntly when she tweeted: “It’s not hard to spot the wrong side here. They’re the ones with the torches and the swastikas.” The Tweeter-in-Chief could have put this controversy to a rest swiftly after it started, but he didn’t. It took him over two days to come before America to read another scripted statement, trying to undo the damage he did with the first. 

“As I said on Saturday, we condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America…,” he read off a teleprompter Monday, looking like a hostage forced to do it. “We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” 

Was that statement too little too late? Was it sincere? I guess that’s for each of us to decide for ourselves, but for me I was surprised he didn’t choke on the words, “we must love each other, show affection for each other…” His entire campaign fanned the flames of prejudice and divisiveness, his tweets are nests of nastiness and as president giving Bannon a strong voice in policy decisions is not the act of a man who wants to bring us all together for a rousing round of We are the World.

Republican strategist and CNN political commentator Ana Novarro said: “I've been embarrassed about having Trump as President, many times. But no time, worse than today. I'm beyond embarrassed. I'm ashamed.” I share that shame and embarrassment with Ann, especially now after Trump made his third statement made on Monday about Charlottesville, showed his true colors and emboldening those in the White Supremacy Movement. Make no mistake about it, Trump came down on the wrong side of history and I hope I live long enough to see him pay a heavy price for that. ©

 Bella in the comments suggested this video. My God, half way through watching it I was choking up. It's 22 minutes long so if you can't watch it now, come back. It's worth it if you are still struggling to understand what happened. The girl reporter, Elle Reeve, is impressive and very brave.

Stephan Colbert's Response to Charlotteville

 Jimmy Fallon's response to Racism

 This photo and Nelson Mandela's words below is what President Obama tweeted out in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Always a class act.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From Silliness to Seriousness and Back Again

Barely two weeks into August and it feels like fall this morning. I’m sitting here wishing that I’d give into the urge to turn the furnace on to take the chill out of the house. My yard on the other hand looks like a lush, dew-touched jungle in the early sun. Plants need thinning, trees need trimming, weeds need pulling and the woodpeckers are pecking on their feeding log near-by. They’re the only birds I’m feeding these days. I do see an occasional hummingbird coming by to check out the big ball of pink otherwise known as a begonia that sits by my window screen. They’re not impressed. Ungrateful creatures, I bought it just for them. 

Earlier this week the Gathering Girls got together for our First Mondays brunch. We have a seventh member now, invited in by unanimous consent. I like her a lot and we discovered Monday that she’s got a background in art. What are the chances that three out of seven random woman looking for friends would have art in common? Our little spin-off group from the senior hall has been doing brunches since early spring and back then I had visualized we’d be doing more summer outings than the two-three we’ve done in addition to the brunches. I forgot how old we all are and how that factors into how far people are willing/able to walk in peruse of fun. Still, I’m counting the experiment in trying to organize us a success. Did I mention that I appointed myself the group’s secretary who sends out a mass email reminder before the brunches and another of ‘minutes from the brunch’ afterward to keep us all on the same page regarding future plans? Yes, I can officially say I now have post-widowhood friends. It’s been a long haul finding them and it took an adjustment in how I define friendships.

New topic: I get my health insurance through an employee’s retiree trust and they are leaning on us to change from Traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage PPO. It’s voluntary now but how long will that last? I went to a meeting this week about the plan because I’m stressed out about making this decision. Literally half the doctors in town---all attached to the largest hospital---are out-of-network for the advantage plan but, for the most part, I don’t use that hospital or their doctors anyway. I hate changes like this! I hate that our entire country’s healthcare system seems to be pulling apart at the seams. I hate that I can’t be young again when all I had to worry about was measles, mumps and running with scissors.

In addition to the insurance meeting and brunch with the Gathering Girls, I had my second (and last) painting lesson followed by going to a Big Band music concert in the park. Another day I had lunch with my book club plus old friends from out of state were in town and we had dinner together. But the biggest time-consumer project this week was getting my carpeting cleaned. Everything small had to be moved out of the way in four rooms and then carried back again after the carpet dried. Last year when it was cleaned the dog vomited on it soon after the guys left. I have never had a dog who up-chucks as often as Levi does and no matter how hard I try to get a paper under him or him moved to a hard surfaced floor when I hear those telltale retching, gagging sounds, he resists. He seems to think vomit belongs on carpeting which is why I pay an extra $100 to have them treated with Scotchgard. It works. Sign me up for one of their commercials where I’d get paid to say, “Levi puked here and there and it didn't stain! It sits on the surface waiting for me to clean it up.”

Back tracking to the concert in the park: When Don was alive we went every summer Tuesday but this was only the second one I’ve gone since he passed away. Gosh, it was fun! B.L. and I had dropped our chairs off before walking across the park to get ice cream and when we got back we discovered that a couple had moved our chairs back a row and put theirs in their place. Who does that? We got our revenge laughing when a bird came by and pooped on the guy’s down-under hat. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to people watch at free concerts. My favorite was a guy strutting around in cheap, red gym shorts that at first glance looked like they had a girlie ruffle at the bottom and with them he was wearing red high-topped leather boots. On the opposite end of the ‘classiness scale’ was a couple who danced to nearly every song---songs like, Stormy Weather, Red Sails in the Sunset, String of Pearls, and Georgia. A grandmother dancing in a long, bumpy lumpy pink knit dress was also entertaining to watch. She was holding a towheaded boy who in turn was holding a black baby doll while five little kids ran circles around and around her feet. Other people watchers watching B.L. and I giggling over silly comments whispered between us probably thought we were two seventy year olds acting like seven. I don’t care. The world would be a better place with more silliness and laughter. ©

 This video of movie dance scenes mashed up has nothing to do with this blog. 
It's just fun to watch.