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, April 18, 2015

Movie and Lunch Club: The Longest Ride

A beautiful, warm day. What more could I ask for our monthly Movie and Lunch Club date? Not much. It doesn’t happen often but the committee who picks the movies picked the one I wanted to see so I was a happy camper before the film even began. If you think you wouldn’t like a movie or book club that takes you outside your comfort zone, well, that’s the whole point of a club. We get into ruts, we don’t expand our horizons often enough so it’s good to let a club push our personal envelopes. Still, every once in a while it feels good when the club takes you back to the places that feel like home.

If you’re a reader you probably know that eleven of Nicholas Spark’s books have been adapted into films and I’ve seen The Notebook, The Lucky One, A Message in a Bottle and now the latest one, The Longest Ride. I’m not a huge fan of his---Spark’s plot devices tend to fall together a little too conveniently for my tastes and the stories are full of clichés---but when you’re in the mood for schmaltzy you always get your money’s worth with his books or movies. I am, however, a fan of feel good movies and The Longest Ride is one of those. Any movie that can make me shed a few happy tears is worth the ticket price.

The movie’s plot summary at IMDb reads like this: “….The Longest Ride centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and fateful connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, The Longest Ride explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.” 

Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott, was in the leading male role and he did a great job. You could sure see his resemblance to his dad when they did profile shots. The female lead had such an expressive face, she was perfect casting. Alan Alda (playing Ira) was the only actor in the whole movie who I actually knew and if I was going to be picky, the only criticism of film I’d made is the casting of the younger version of Ira. He was supposed to look/be starry-eyed in love but it came off looking cartoonish and too cliché in my opinion. For what it's worth, none of the other fifteen in our group agreed with me. The movie is rated PG-13 so you know there wasn’t much nudity but I must say what there was, was so well filmed that I loved, loved, LOVED the love scene. It was super artistic and dream-like. The filming of one of the bull riding scenes was also very artistic. Pure beauty caught in slow motion, bull spit flying in the light included. 

All and all I’d recommend the movie to anyone who likes romantic dramas and/or Nicholas Spark’s book. Although PETA members will have to suspend their beliefs to enjoy it. (Actually, in some cities they are protesting outside of theaters and 20th Century Fox is calling them miss-informed.) Like many of us who were raised east of the Mississippi River I’m conflicted about the sport of bull riding but I accept it as an iconic part of western culture and I think it's here to stay. Of course, slavery was once an iconic part of southern culture so “iconic” alone doesn’t justify anything if it’s truly cruel to man or beast. 

After the movie we went to a restaurant I’d never been to before which is usually the case. They always pick new places, up-scale stuff and/or restaurants that have gotten good reviews. It’s fun because I’d never go to these places on my own. For lunch I tried the “Undead Elvis Burger” which was made with peanut butter, bananas, a fried egg, bacon, mayo and, of course, a fat patty of hamburger. I couldn’t believe I was paying $10 for a hamburger but I was in the mood to be adventurous. Near the end of our meal the chef came out of the kitchen and did the little chit-chat they do at tables, then he asked who had the Elvis burger and how did I like it. It was the first day they’d had it on the menu and I was the first person to try it. I gave it high marks and would order it again. It had an interesting flavor and I suspect the bananas were caramelized before layering them between the hamburger and the bacon. I also suspect the layering order is precisely worked out so that no one flavor profile over powers the others. The peanut butter was a paper thin layer on the top and bottom bun, maybe even a peanut butter sauce rather than straight out of the jar. 

Memories of Elvis and modern day cowboys in action all on the same day. I OD’s on testosterone that’s for sure. I’m still smiling. ©

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Folk Singer, Red Hats and Travel Purses

The monthly luncheons at the senior hall draw an eclectic group of entertainers. April's luncheon featured a guy who is a high school music teacher by day and in his spare time he moonlights as a folk singer/guitarist playing various venues around town. I like the teacher-entertainer combo because they all seem to enjoy talking about the history of the songs they sing. For example, from this month’s entertainer we learned things like the story behind why the Massachusetts Transportation Authority calls their electronic tickets ‘Charlie Cards.’ It comes from a 1948 tax protest song later made famous by the Kington Trio. The song tells a humorous tale that’s etched in the history of Boston and is about a guy named Charlie who was forever trapped on the subway because he couldn’t pay the five cents surcharge to leave the train. The teacher said one summer while on vacation he spent a day riding on the MBTA and singing that song. He’s got a quirky way of planning vacation destinations. He seeks out places that have been memorialized in folk songs where he does something similar to what he did on the subway in Boston. Listening to him talk in between songs reminded me of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, a book that's been described as a search-of-America travelogue. What a colorful conglomerate of people and stories we have here in the USA! Travels with Charley, by the way, is one of my favorite books. It’s written in a style that I very much wish I could do. 

Tuesday afternoon I attended one of the two monthly Red Hat Society teas. I can’t say I always enjoy the teas but you have to take the boring with good (the monthly walk-abouts). The issue is most of my Red Hat sisters have known each other for eons. They go to the same churches, their kids went to the same school. Heck, they even went to the same school growing up and they still live in the same, small community. Lovely women but too often I’m out of the loop when they talk about people I don’t know. I hang in there because for years when I was caregiving Don the thought of rejoining the chapter I was a charter member of kept me believing there would be life after the caregiver rat race I was on came to an end. And I can’t tell you how many times I day-dreamed back in those days about starting another Red Hat Society chapter open strictly to caregivers and with a rule that we could all bring our care recipients if we couldn’t get a sitter for any given event. It’s funny how attached I became to an organization I was only involved in vicariously for over a decade. Now that I’m back in the chapter I’m reminded that nothing ever stays the same. The frequent trips that I could never go on that caused me to drop out of the fledgling chapter have evolved into morning walk-abouts. And teas are no longer home gathering where we’d alternate showing off our finest china and baking skills. Now, teas take place in a mall’s community room with a Starbucks near-by. 

Wednesday I met my youngest niece at the surgical center to wait with her as her husband went under the knife. I brought with me four baby sweaters and let her to pick one for her grandma box. My great-great niece is due on earth any minute. This niece has the most upbeat personality of anyone I know. Even when she gets vexed---which isn’t often---she’s got a way of spinning things that has everyone around her laughing. I want to be like her when I grow up.  After spending a couple of hours of quality time with her my funky mood lifted and I was able to erase the word ‘lonely’ off the blackboard in my brain. 

Today I went to an interesting lecture sponsored by the travel club I joined---don’t ask me why. I don’t travel and probably won’t take any of their trips any time soon since I spent my mad money on a new car. The organizers don’t care, they depend on people like me talking up the club when we get the opportunity. And I have done that, bringing two new members in who are far more likely to travel than me. Today’s lecture was on travel gear and I was impressed by the anti-thief purses, for one thing and the anti-microbial underwear for another. The underwear is quick drying and supposedly you wear it in the shower to wash it and you at the same time. Who knew! The purses were made with metal in the lining and straps so people can’t cut them open and run with the contents. I didn't know they even made things like that. We all were impressed with the amount of stuff the lecturer pulled out of the three different sized carry-ons she brought with her. I won an Eagle Creek pack-it system/door prize that will be the envy of all the street people should I ever find myself living out of a shopping cart.

All in all it’s been a great week and it’s not finished yet. Tomorrow my Movie and Lunch Club is seeing The Longest Ride. Bingo, the committee picked the one I was hoping to see! ©

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Busy Week, Purging, Bucket Lists and Loneliness

If my wintertime dragged on because I had nothing much on my calendar, I’ll make up for in the next couple of weeks. They should fly by and that’s okay with me. Over the next six days alone I have a dentist appointment, a luncheon, a Red Hat Society tea, a Movie and Lunch Club date, a lecture on selling houses, another lecture on how to pack for overseas travel plus one morning I’ll keep my niece company while her husband has surgery and in the afternoon I have to clean the garage for an upcoming appointment for my sprinkler system spring turn-on. (How do garages get so messy over the winter?) I doubt I’ll ever travel overseas but l like gadgets and gear so I thought that lecture would be interesting. I’ve decided I won’t be selling my house this summer so I could skip the real estate lecture, but I won’t. Buying and selling is still on the table but the condo open houses I’ll be going to over the summer is mostly to check out the communities, to see which ones fit my needs the best.

Have I mentioned that I flunked the class I took last winter about purging? I need to do more of that before I move. It was given by a professional organizer, a mercenary without a sentimental bone in her body and her ideas of disposing of collections and “guy things” rubbed me the wrong way. The first year after my husband died, I paid off a $40,000 mortgage selling his stuff (aka junk in some people's eyes) and Ms. Purge told the class to just give everything that belonged to a dead spouse to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. I about went into cardiac arrest. Giving generic, one-size-fits-all advice to a room full of widows drove me crazy. “He had his is fun with his stuff,” she said, “You don’t need it anymore. Make a clean break!” I get that mindset, I really do, but on the other hand some widows have trouble making ends meet yet they don’t understand some of their husband’s “stuff” has great value and could be sold to help pay the bills. "Be smart," I would have added to her lecture, "and do a little research before you wholesale donate everything but the kitchen sink."

For some odd reason a lot of people recently have been reading a Bucket List post I wrote three months after Don died, so I reread it. Of the 40 things listed I’ve accomplished 21 of them. That would be impressive if I hadn’t listed some pretty small and insignificant things like get low lights in my hair. There was only one biggie---going to Nantucket. (Well, two---moving being the other one.) If I was rich, I’d rent a cottage on Nantucket for the summer. Three things on my Bucket List I no longer want to do like buy a bike. After falling over my own feet since I wrote that list and breaking my elbow and doing damage to my shoulder that lead to surgery, my days of chancing another fall are over. I could get a three wheel bike but I’d have to eat a lot of crow because when my mom was my age she bought an adult-sized tricycle and I made so much fun of that bike, I should be ashamed of myself. Thankfully, I didn’t do it in front or her or my dad.  

I need a new Bucket List with goals and things to check off. I’m drifting through life again and dare I say the word ‘lonely’ has entered my vocabulary recently and I hate both those things. In the winter it was easy to tell myself that any isolation I felt was purely weather related “and this too shall pass” but with spring I’m not buying that anymore. I need a friend! How on earth does a person my age find friends other than doing what I’ve been doing? I’m getting out and about in the community, doing things I enjoy and I’ve made a lot of friendly acquaintances since Don died, but no one person I could call and say, “Hey, do you feel like going over the Lake Michigan for an afternoon?” or even out to lunch. Woo is me! Cripe, it just dawned on me that I’m down today because the next two weeks is filled with too many memory triggers---birthdays, anniversaries, a sadiversary, etc. And Lake Michigan is calling because it’s what we used to do annually to celebrate our birthdays. Thankfully, I’ll be too busy over the next two weeks to feel too sorry for myself. Still, I need to restart the “this too shall pass” looping message in my head. By March I hope to shed the ‘lonely’ label I have stamped on my forehead! Fingers crossed. ©