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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rejected! Online Dating for Seniors

After spending two and a half days reading profiles at on-line dating sites for old people I decided I don’t want a man in my life which I suspected all along. At my age who needs the stress of being judged and maybe rejected like a cow at a county fair whose owner was hoping for a blue ribbon. It’s hard enough to make new women friends at the senior hall and the woman/man thing is so much more complicated. With most of the profile guys on dating sites they want traveling companions (which I’m not interested in doing) and too many are just looking for opportunities to prove that “their plumbing works." Oh, my! That’s old man code for what young guys would come right out and say: "Only hot babes looking for hot sex need apply!" Hot babes are few and far between in the geriatric set and profile guys don't seem to know about the hot babes over at Advanced Style where the blog owner has a catch-and-release sort of program. He photographs all the hot older ladies he meets and he doesn't find those women all over the place. He searches and searches the streets every day.

If I were to write and post a profile for on-line dating I’d say, "I’m not interested in seeing your underwear or your birthday suit" and not a damn guy would send me a ‘flirt’---that’s the lingo they use for making your first contact with someone you’re interested in conversing with. See how smart I’ve gotten in such a short time of studying on-line dating? If I were to write an honest profile---and there shouldn’t be any other kind---I’d have to confess to not liking motorcycles or cooking my skin at the beach, cooking food in the kitchen or doing all the laundry while the Sports-All-Day-Long Network plays in the background. I’d have to confess that I’m not interested in having a guy relocate his life into my house or me relocating my life into his dwelling place. In other words, I’m not marriage material. If profile guys are being honest, marriage is a high priority…except with the pen-pal seeking prisoner I wrote about in previous posts. My husband and I worked too hard to get the security and creature comforts I enjoy now just to hand them over to a profile guy after a month or two of conversing like my friend in Florida has been known to do with the guys she meets on-line. Even if a profile guy turned out to be a nice dude, and not a con-artist, x-con or axe murderer, merging bank accounts and household bills is not going to happen so why lead on a marriage-minded guy when all I want is to talk to someone, once in a great while, who doesn't wear a bra?

And let me add as a Weight Watcher drop out, I’m turned off by the hypocrisy of guys who are carrying spare tires around their waistlines and look like they’ve got walnuts stuffed in their cheeks who specify how much their dream woman should weigh. What are they going to do, take a bathroom scales to their first in-person date and make sure his internet match didn’t indulge in one too many fudge flavored ice cream bars? Check your mirrors, profile guys with skinny-chick fetishes, many of you couldn't pass your own the body mass Litmus Test.

In all seriousness, though, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about romance and love and what it takes to fall in love over seventy as opposed to when I was young. It’s more complicated as we age, isn’t it. There are children, grandchildren, x-spouses, dead spouses, cats and dogs involved not to mention deeply entrenched opinions and likes and dislikes. When we're young and in love we tend to grow in the same direction like morning glory vines greeting the sun. If you were happy together for many years like Don and I were you get to the point where you can’t tell where each other stops and starts.  Something tells me that can’t happen with seniors who may fall into companionship-works-for-me but that’s not love according to the Gospel of Jean.

Since I started researching on-line dating every song I hear on the radio reminds me of something about my husband---a come-recuse-me look from across a room or that twinkle in Don’s eyes when he was intrigued by something I said, or those smoldering looks that spoke volumes. Earlier this week at a museum party I attended an old guy looked at me like he was intrigued by something I said and all I could think about was, I wonder if he has all his own teeth. In my mind I just can’t pair the Gerital set and romance up in the same sentence. Yet I know it happens. After my dad gave up his driver’s license I chauffeured him and his girlfriend around on weekly dates. Sometimes he looked at her like she was the Fountain of Youth and he’d just walked through the Sahara Desert. Daughters don’t like to think of their fathers as needing to get a room, but looking back---Geez, I have to go watch a video of someone beating a puppy to clear that visual of my dad out of my head!

Speaking of videos, have you seen the one by Donnalou Stevens? She’s a woman who is trying to break into the business of writing and preforming funny, light-hearted songs and her Older Ladies video at The Kickerstarter Project has gone viral. “Well I ain’t 16, not a beauty queen,” she sings, “my eyes are baggin’ and my skin is saggin’, and if that’s the reason that you don’t love me then maybe that’s not love.” Check it out. It’s hilarious. After that, you can check out the next video below if you’re interested in seeing what I’d consider to be a sexy older guy who could probably, maybe someday in another galaxy far, far away charm his way past my widow’s weeds. (Look it up, it’s a proper term.) This guy may be chronologically too young for me---I can’t judge age anymore---but his artistry with a camera alone is a super turn-on and people who knew Don will be able to see the strong resemble between video guy and my husband at his gray-haired best. Who needs on-line dating when I have YouTube to keep me entertained? ©


 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day Trip with my Posse of Post-Menopausal Women

 
Tuesday night I dropped the dog off at the kennel so he wouldn’t have to be alone on Wednesday while I was on a long day trip arranged by the senior hall. Two buses of us (100 people) made five stops not all that far from home but to places I’d never been before. At one stop, half our group toured a restored 1920/30s art deco theater, a labor of love by people in a small town, after it sat empty for a number of years. It was interesting being back stage to see how the curtains, props and screens were raised and lowered. I hadn’t been back stage since my high school days and it brought back a horrible memory of the cruelest prank anyone has ever played on me. I was an understudy for a speaking part in the play that I didn’t memorize and the night of the opening my best friend, who was in the play, called to tell me I had to go on that night because our other friend---the one I understudied---has lost her voice. I, of course, forgave my friend for lying because I was so relieved I didn't have to embarrass myself on stage but, Nancy, I know you will read this so be forewarned that a pay-back prank is still on the way.

Then the people on my bus toured an Italianate style home---a mansion, really---that hadn’t been remodeled or redecorated since 1880 when it was built while the other half of our group headed for the art deco theater. The guy who commissioned the house to be built started out his work life at age 14 as an orphaned farm hand and he went on to become a prosecuting attorney who also owned 1,000 acres on Bois Blanc Island and a steamboat to take his family back and forth to their summer home there. I guess it paid well to put people in jail in Ionia County.

Next we took a steamboat, luncheon cruise near our state capital. The food and jazz band were great and it was the first time I’d been on a steamboat. I especially enjoyed the storytelling skills of the captain/owner of the vessel. He remained me of my husband because you could tell the captain enjoyed repeating his well-honed stories and getting laughs over how his family came to own so many steamboats---4 or 5, I lost count but the one we were on holds 400 people. Going up and down the river was nothing special---no view of the State capital building or fancy estates that I’d hoped for---but as I sat in a deck chair on the top level enjoying the summer sun another woman and I discovered that she and her husband and Don and I had made the exact same trips out west to Colorado and Wyoming during the same months and years, to the same little towns as one another. It’s a small world after all, as they say at Disneyland.

After lunch we toured a “castle” that was built in 1922 as a replica of a Norman Chateau. No one ever lived in the place, it was built as a writing studio for a man who was then the largest selling author in the entire world, James Oliver Curwood. Lo and behold I found one of his books in my library when I got back home. He wrote over 30 books and at least 18 movies were based on his action-adventure novels including one that starred John Wayne. The poor fellow died at age 49 from a spider bite. And I never, ever want to go in another castle. I am not a mountain goat, used to climbing steep stairways in turrets, and the views of the Shiawassee River from the top were less than spectacular. I love saying that word, Shiawassee which means, “River that twists about.”

Our next stop was to a historical village that I found somewhat boring except for the fact that many of my traveling companions knew so little about 1800s gadgets and household items. While I was saying, “Oh, I have one of those!” others were asking, “What was that used for?” I was rather shocked at that and about half way through the ten buildings I quit saying, “I have one of those” for fear they’d think I live in a hoarder’s house. Which I don’t, in case you're wondering. I guess hanging around antique shops since I was 18 years old is something I took for granted. I thought the whole world, for example, recognizes a salt dish when they see one.

On this trip I actually felt that I am finally starting to fit in with the crowd, having found a click of woman who seem to want to include me in with their inner circle now. This change has been building slowly over the past year of seeing each other on trips, at the movies and other senior hall events. I even got a phone call, this time, from one of the ladies ahead of time wanting to know if I’d like to be her seatmate on the bus. It felt nice to finally feel like I’m no longer an outsider. These ladies don’t feel like good friends yet, who know me well enough to pull off a good prank, but progress is progress and who knows what the future will bring.  ©

 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Operation Online Dating Profiles: Part II


First, again with the disclaimer: I'm not looking for romance. But Judy from the Upward and Onward blog and I have a new hobby worth writing about a second time---checking out profiles at a dating site for seniors. I know what you’re thinking. We both live in Michigan, both viewing the same pool of guys and sooner or later we’re going to have a cat fight over a guy who intrigues us both enough to actually sign up and send that poor unsuspecting fellow a ‘flirt.’ That's not going to happen and I'll tell you why. She’s a feline person, I’m a dog person. She smokes, I don’t. She’s a church goer, I’m allergic to churches. These areas of incompatibility are deal breakers on my side of the state. Therefore, guys who smoke and love going on church mission trips and/or have cats won’t get a second look from me which means Judy’s pool of candidates is much larger than mine. Although when I told her about the guy with the 15 cats, she didn’t seem all that interested. I wonder why. But I found out that even dog loving guys can be prejudice against me bringing sweet Levi the schnauzer into a relationship. Profile guy Exhibit A has two dogs of his own and thinks traveling with anymore pets than that would be too much trouble. So, he has a ‘no pets’ clause in his profile. The jerk.

I strongly suspect I’m also not compatible with a guy who is looking for a woman into AFHV. I don’t even know what that means and I’m afraid to do a Google search for fear I’ll land on an X-rated site that will send me pop-up ads for the next two years. Decoding the dating profiles is getting easier though. “Very loving” equals “I’m horny.” “Love long walks on the beach” means “I will do romantic things until I get you in the sack.” “Seeking a woman who likes to hug, kiss and hold hands as much as I do” equates to “I’m very horny. Did I mention horny?” Some guys have sweet ways of saying they are horny, like: “Falling in love is like riding a bike. You never forget how. I have a bicycle built for two with a vacant seat.” Ladies, can we all do a collective sigh right now? That's a great line, internet profile guy. Much better than a guy who, in his profile photo, is holding a sign that reads, “Wish this was still America!” No decoding necessary here. He is saying: “I’m a Tea Party guy who hates Obama. Stay away, liberal ladies!” He doesn’t have to ask me twice. I back-buttoned off his profile at warp speed. Maybe I should have bookmarked him for Judy? NASCAR guys and those looking for spontaneity can count me out, too. My neck gets too tired when it has to spin around and around, following the action on the track and being spontaneous left my DNA during those seventeen years I was a caregiver to my dad, then to my husband. Now, I reside in the land of lists and schedules and I’m happy with that. And speaking of decoding, I’m beginning to wonder if “willing to move” isn’t code for “I live in a run-down shack and would like to upgrade to your place.” Aren’t I the skeptical one!

Profile guys can be just as picky as we women, though. One guy doesn’t want a ‘flirt’ from any woman who doesn’t post a photo. Oops! I think did that once quite by accident. Another guy---Mr. Kind he calls himself---doesn’t want a woman over 150 pounds. A guy with one leg, who claims he's never had a serious relationship in his entire life, doesn’t want a woman who will try to change him. Okay. Back button to you, too, Mr. Happy-To-Me who probably loses women because he won't give up midnight runs to the liquor store even though he's already too drunk to find his prosthetic leg in his hoarder's house. I am not making this up. This guy exists and I doubt he could be trained to put the toilet seat back down, another deal breaker for me. Correction/confession: I did make up the part about the hoarder's house. He was a "rolling stone" so probably he doesn't own much of anything, what with his traveling all over the world with the job that he lost with the leg. My widow friend who is into fixer-uppers would love this guy.

Finding a travel partner is a big requirement for a lot of profile guys as is finding a women who like motorcycles and boats. (I don’t even like to get into cars with women in my age bracket unless I know they’ve had their eyes checked recently and I can see that their cars don't look like they've been used to play bumper cars at an amusement park. Getting on a motorcycle with an old guy when I don’t have access to his DMV records isn’t going to happen.) One sweet guy was looking for a woman to take fishing and “she doesn’t have to bait the hooks or handle the fish” so long as she "pretends she is having fun on the water." How cute is that? If he didn’t have a cat, I would have bookmarked the guy for someday, maybe. (I don't hate cats, but they've been known to make me break out in hives and have trouble breathing.) I nearly bookmarked another guy who was just looking for a pen pal but a fellow blogger in the comment section over at Judy’s blog pointed out that pen pal guy is probably in prison. Oh gosh, I am so naive! That thought never crossed my mind.

Judy and I lost our husbands in the same month of the same year and I have to wonder why we are both, now, drawn to spending time looking at old-duffers' on-line dating profiles. We both tell ourselves it’s just something amusing to do with our time but is there something deeper going on in our subconscious minds? Are we opening up to the possibility of finding love again? She says she compares everyone to her beloved Fred. For me, I don’t so much compare profile guys to my husband---he was truly unique---I compare their likes and wants to my likes and wants and it seems like an impossible task to find compatibility. I was twenty-seven when I met Don after a lot of years of looking for Mr. Right. If I started looking for Mr. Right: The Second Edition, I’d probably find him in time for one or the other of us to help our family pick out a casket, so why even bother with the process? And then I look at my older brother. Widowed a few years before me, he is now in the best relationship of his life. Behold the wonders of senior dating! ©

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Research Project: Operation Internet Dating Profiles

First let’s get this straight: I am not looking for love on the internet or anywhere else for that matter. I was just bored when I sat down to write about my less than exciting life and I was under the influence of what fellow blogger, Judy, over at Onward and Upward had shared about finding the profile of guy she dated way back during band camp---some 50 years ago. She found the profile at Our Time, a dating site for people over 50. I often see one of their commercials on late night TV, the one where they show a guy who has a deep, sexy voice like my husband had and I can never ignore what he has to say about getting his first “flirt” within minutes of posting his profile. Well, duh, he’s a pretty hot looking guy who comes off as ‘normal’ aka not a mass murderer or a con-artist.

Anyway, back to Judy. What a bizarre thing it was to find an x-boyfriend like that, I thought. Maybe they are star-crossed, like Don and I were before we started dating, being at the same places at the same times without seeing one another yet destine to meet one day. Or maybe unlike me Judy and her X just live in a small town where the pool of people is so small they're bound to reappear in each other's lives from time to time. Type your zip code into the Our Time search bar and it spits out your next door neighbor. Your married neighbor with the sweet wife. After reading Judy's post I couldn’t stop thinking about the guys I had dated before Don and I got together and I wondered if it was that easy to find out what happened in their lives over that past half century. Judy said you don’t have to post a profile over at Our Time to “window shop” so that’s what I did. I went window shopping in Old Geezer-land.

I have another widow friend who has been going through men every three to four months for the past four years and she meets them all through on-line dating and my opinion on the quality of the guys she finds isn’t all that high. They are all flawed human beings but when you get as old as we are I suppose it would be nearly impossible to find people on-line (or anywhere else) that aren’t flawed by the challenges that life throws at us over the years. One profile I read at Our Time was written by a guy whose wife had died over a decade ago and he had to see a shrink to get him to a point where he could try dating again. Our Time was his first foray into the scary world of finding a woman to replace is died wife. Okay. My widow friend would have sent him “a flirt” because she is into fixing broken souls. It’s her widowhood hobby like cross-stitching or knitting.

What shocked me the most about what I found in my research project was how many guys ages 70 to 75 I found at Our time who live in my zip code! There must have been a hundred and I dare say half of them profess to loving long walks on the beach and holding hands. Really, guys? How often have you actually done that in your lives? Or is that a code for something I don't understand? Pardon me if I’m a little skeptical here. The other half who don’t declare an undying love for shoreline walks were looking for women who love water sports as much as they do or motorcycles. (That leaves me out. The cellulite on my legs is allergic to bathing suits and the last time I was on a motorcycle I was fifteen and I got sent to bed without my supper when I got back home.) These ‘sporty guys’ might as well say, “Look at me, I'm still strong and athletic for an old duffer and I have all my own teeth.”

If I was into fixer uppers, I’d teach an on-line class on how to write a dating profile that actually might reel them in a suitable mate. And I’d start with photographs. I swear to God some of these guys look like that could have been stand-ins for demon possessed Jack Torrnace aka Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Get a decent haircut, guys, and smile for the camera. And don’t go to a photography studio in a thirty year old suit or have a yacht in the background unless you actually own one. One stand-out guy at Our Time professes a love of astrology and here I thought, “What’s your sign?” went out with the ‘70s. Remember, you're no longer flirting in the prime of your life, guys. Update your pickup lines! And the super-sized income some of these guys claim they have! Why even bother listing your income unless you're looking for a sugar baby, gold digger with with fake breasts and low morals. She's the one I see occasionally in my travels through Old People-hood who walks around with a body full of jewelry like merit badges and says, "Friends just like to give me stuff ."

One of my favorite profiles reads like this: "I provide honesty, kindness and compassion. I am well read and value long conversations on any subject. I am a Christian. I am physically clean. I do not smoke and rarely drink. Like everyone I carry some 'baggage' but it is under control. I look better on the inside than on the outside. I try to not be a bigot. I was widowed after 36 years.” He’s one of the guys with a Jack Torrnace-like, scary photograph and I don’t know why his profile amuses me so much. Maybe it’s that “baggage under control” part that intrigues me. Maybe he buries bodies under his house but he only does it every couple of years. I do like his line about looking better on the inside than the outside. If I ever write an on-line profile for a dating site I will use that line, but be forewarned if that ever happens, hell just froze over. I can, however, recommend spending an entertaining hour or two of window shopping at Our Time. Just be careful what you click on or before you know it you could be sending a "flirt" to a potential axe murderer. They should make those buttons bigger on old-people dating sites! Some poor guy out there in Old Geezer-land thinks he got a "flirt" from a ghost with no profile.  ©

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sex, Lack of Sleep and Pink Toenails

Naming my blog posts has always been harder for me than writing an entire post. I thought about naming this one The Joys of Self Sex but then I’d have write about the topic and while I’m not a prude, that’s not going to happen. I learned my lesson back in my first year of widowhood when I wrote a post titled, Sex with a Ghost. That one still pulls in views from all over the world. Who would have guessed that sex with a ghost would be so popular and since self sex is ever so much more common than ghost sex, my poor little view counter would probably get busted if I were to write about that touchy---no pun intended---subject. Instead, I’ll just start ramble writing and see what ends up on my computer screen.

I am worn out! I am not cut out for the busy social life I’m been living since spring in pursuit of building friendships. I could curl up in a ball and sleep like a bear for the next three months except my dog won’t let me sleep past daylight in the swamps. I don’t live near a swamp, that’s just a metaphor for when it’s light enough for Levi to make out his nemesis, The Rabbit, through the hazy light of dawn. Every morning  during my childhood and high school days my mom would wake me up by yelling, “It’s daylight in the swamps!” We didn’t live never a swamp back then either, nor did she when she was growing up. Some family sayings stick through the generations, don’t they, to a time when their origins is all but forgotten. My father’s favorite, silly phrase was, “Do you live around here or ride a bicycle?” And he would ask that question of any little kid he encountered. I just googled the phrase and was surprised to see it appeared in 4-5 obituaries of people in my dad’s age bracket and the origin of the phrase seems to come from The Gargoyle Magazine (of College Wit and Humor) Volume 18,1924. Don’t you just love Google? The moral of that little story is be careful what you include in any obituary you might be required to write because Google will spit it out to anyone who comes knocking on its door…like my Sex With a Ghost post that will live on past a time when I, too, am nothing but an see-through entity that comes in the night. Again, no pun intended.

The dog went to the groomers this week and I got a pedicure. Let’s hear it for clean schnauzer fur and pink human toenails. I wish I could still reach my toenails---I don’t bend like I used to---because I hate paying $41.00 to get the job done. A friend of mine from the senior hall broke her wrist trimming her toenails, can you believe that! She gets hers done professionally now, but it was a long time before she could drive again after her surgery, the cast and physical therapy that followed the break. Old people woes. No matter how you try to avoid them they find you anyway like chin hairs and nipples that don’t line up without adjusting them manually. One goes south, the other goes west looking pretty silly through our silky blouses and thin sweaters and it never happens to pre-menopausal women with their firm breasts. I’m still mad about that.

My irrigation system guy was supposed to work on a leaky valve this morning but we had thunder storms last night and this morning making it impossibly wet where he’d have to work and he has to reschedule when he gets back to the office. So I’m sitting here wasting the time that was earmarked to follow him around like a puppy dog looking for treats. Well, not exactly wasting time. I’m waiting for a total of four---count them! One, two three, four---call-backs for scheduling appointments. Damn world thinks old people have all day to sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Once the calls all come in I'll be too busy again. I think I’ll take a nap and hope Don’s ghost doesn't come by for a little tryst. I really am getting sleep deprived! ©

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Fault in our Stars: A Widow's Review

 

When I got the e-mail from my Movie and Lunch Club letting me know we’d be seeing The Fault in our Stars I knew nothing about the award-winning book the film is based on. After looking it up on IMDb I wasn’t enthusiastic about seeing a film with teenagers in the leading parts and with a cancer theme piled on top of that. Oh, well, I thought, it’s an afternoon out so I e-mailed back, “Count me in!” Fast forward to Friday and I certainly didn’t expect to be sitting in a theater with a bunch of cry-babies (me included) for the latter quarter of the movie. One of the other widows in our group couldn’t even get out of her seat at the end. She had to sit there for five minutes composing her emotions before she could join us in the lobby and her face was so puffy from crying she looked like a person with a ragweed allergy who’d just spent the night sleeping on a pillow stuffed with those evil weeds. As one reviewer promised about The Fault in our Stars, “It will break and heal your heart.” 

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” That’s a quote from the film and it’s talking about An Imperial Affliction, a factious novel that is discussed through-out the storyline of The Fault in our Stars. I feel that way about this movie. If you love love stories, if you love witty-but-deep characters, if you love emotional drama mixed with humor on the screen, and if you love dialogue that makes you wish you had a paper and pencil to record what you’re hearing to savor later you’ll love this movie. Did I say ‘love’ enough times in this paragraph? In case you missed a few ‘loves’ I loved this movie! I loved it so much I came home and ordered a copy of John Green’s book. It's classified as a young adult novel but a New York Times reviewer called it “a blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny” and it won a basket full of awards so I know I’ll---one more time---love the book as much as the movie.

Here’s my nutshell synopsis of the storyline: Sixteen year old Hazel Grace has thyroid cancer that had spread to her lungs and she has to haul an oxygen tank around where ever she goes. Seventeen year old Gus is an x-high school basketball star who lost a leg to cancer. They meet at a cancer support group and they agree to read each other’s favorite novels and they end up using a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to go to Amsterdam to meet the author of An Imperial Affliction---with shocking results. One of them, of course, dies later on but before that happens they both write each other's eulogy. In the eulogy Gus writes he says, “We don't get to choose if we get hurt in this world, but we do have a say in who hurts us. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.” Did I mention that I am smitten with Gus? Ansel Elgort, the actor who played the part, has the most expressive face and eyes and he reminded me of my husband, the early edition. If Ansel needs a grandmother, I’d adopt him in a heartbeat. I’d adopt Shailene Woodley, too, who played Hazel Grace. Those two kids should go far in the movie industry.

I suppose I’ve gushed about The Fault in our Stars long enough so I’m moving on to the lunch conversation we had afterward. The movie, of course, was the discussed and was loved (there’s that word again) by each and every single one of the fifteen of us who attended. We also touched on soap operas and when some of the ladies were having trouble remembering the names of characters they’d been watching for decades, one lady said: “Have you ever noticed that it takes a village to have a conversation at our age? What one of us has trouble remembering, someone else has to fill in.”

Then something incredible happened. Well, at least to me, a woman who has been longing to talk politics in my off-line life. We got on the topics of Hillary, Eric Cantor and cable news and I spoke up as often as the others. Pin a badge of courage on my proud chest! And best of all, no one looked at me like they wanted to say, “Go away. You can’t play in our conservative sandbox anymore.” It was a great conversation with various opinions expressed and respected. And I discovered that at least three others in the group think very much like I do on the political topics we covered.

I don’t have a good ending for this post other than to say this month’s Movie and Lunch Club ended an already great week on an even higher note. ©

My favorite line from the movie:
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Doctors, Cheerleaders and Mechanics, Oh, My!

 
Thursday I had an appointment at the orthopedics center on the rich side of town where I’m guessing my bone doctor could walk to work from his gated community, if he was so inclined. I got there an hour early because I didn’t run into the road construction I expected along the way so I looked for a coffee shop near-by. In my part of the world Starbucks embeds mini coffee shops in grocery stores but in this rich man’s neighborhood I discovered their grocery store has a full service/maxi Starbucks with enough chairs to seat the entire Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad plus an extra chair for each girl to park her pompoms. Why do they need 39 or 40 sets of boobs and butt cheeks jiggling on the field at half-time? I once watched an entire episode of their training camp reality TV show to find an answer to that and other burning questions but all I got was another question that begs an answer: How do they keep from getting their private parts chafed from all that jumping around in their skin tight short-shorts?

The rich man’s grocery store also had something I’ve never seen in a public place. A deluxe family bathroom with a urinal, regular toilet and a child sized toilet. With over twelve years of experience under my belt of seeking out family bathrooms for my wheelchair bound husband, I had never seen a child’s toilet in one---nor a urinal now that I think about it. I would have taken a picture but I thought I might feel like a tourist from Kick’s Ville if I did. The grocery store also had people who took their customers’ groceries out and loaded them in their cars. That was a flash-back to a by-gone era when they quit giving that service on my side of town and now I want to be rich. Is it too late in life for that to happen short of winning the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes? All afternoon, I kept opening the front door hoping to see their camera crew parked on the street and them unloading a giant check made out to me. Life is so full of disappointments.

Wednesday I had an appointment to get my car’s 12,000 mile maintenance done where I learned that even with my hearing aids in the numbers 16 and 60 sound the same. In addition to the other stuff, I needed new windshield wiper blades and I was begrudging the fact that they’d “gone up” so much since I last bought a pair. Boy, did I feel silly when I told the cashier she made a mistake and undercharged me for the blades from what the (female) service manager told me they would cost. They had to call the service manager over where it was determined that my next service appointment should be at the hearing aid center.

The dealership where I take my car is in a small town near-by and it has more than their fair share of female employees working in traditionally male roles. And they’d hired a new one since my last visit---a certified mechanic so tiny she could have crawled in with the engine of my car, closed the hood and still have room left over to do pushups inside. A slight stretch of the truth, but you get the idea. She was petite like a Barbie Doll if Barbie Dolls worked on pink plastic cars. The waiting room has windows allowing customers to watch the mechanics at work and it crossed my mind that if their new mechanic wore a pair of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders’ shorts to go with her bouncy ponytail they could triple their business. (Hey, I wish I had thought to write that on a comment card.) Okay, that’s a sexist thing to say about her wearing shorts and not including the guy mechanics in on the new dress code suggestion but I’m old and I can be forgiven for poking fun.

In all seriousness, though, Betty Friedan would have been proud if she were alive and had been my side-kick at my Chevy dealership. And so am I. All that work we ladies of the Feminist Movement did in the `60s paid off for the current crop of young ladies. Girls get to be anything they want to be and as soon as my peer age group dies off there will be no one left to think it isn’t perfectly normal to have women (and men) let their talents and desire take them wherever and not be pigeon-holed by gender. Now, if we’d just break that glass ceiling in the White House before I die….. ©

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Funeral Parlor and the Widower I Never Met



Monday and Tuesday I worked my tail off helping the son-I-wish-I-had price stuff for an estate sale he’s conducting this coming weekend. I’m not used to working like that anymore---seven hours on one day, and four and a half the other. The estate belonged to a widower and the consensus in his family is that he died of grief and a broken heart. His wife died 8-10 years ago and after that he lost interest in everything. A man with teenagers still at home, the widower pushed people away and he lost his job because he quit going in. Eventually he started drinking and abusing drugs. Fast forward, his house that was new when his wife passed away got filled up to the berm---hoarder style---of stuff bought off the home shopping channel. I have never seen so many Santa Clauses, angels, dolls, eagles, tin signs, sports collectibles, religious plaques, clocks and garden statues all in one place in my life. There were easily 500 Santa Clauses alone, taking up an entire bay in the garage.. So let that be a cautionary tale for CVQ shoppers with dead spouses. You can fill a house up with junk but that empty place in your heart will still be there. So save yourself the trouble. Just turn the damn channel!

Tuesday I also went on a tour of the back rooms at a mortuary with 49 others from the senior hall. It wasn’t morbid, scary, creepy or any other negative adjective in your bag of words. And we laughed. We started laughing on the bus ride when we speculated on what they’d serve us for lunch. I guessed liver or Rocky Mountain oysters. (If you’ve never seen the latter on a menu they are fried testicles.) And we didn’t stop laughing until after the tour and luncheon was almost over when a woman asked, “When I die in Florida who should I call first?” and before the mortician could answer someone shouted out, “Call 1-800 Hello God.”

We were taken to various rooms at the mortuary in groups of ten for talks given by different people: 1) a man who teaches embalming and is on the state licensing board to certify morticians, 2) a man from a crematorium, 3) a monument company representative, and 4) a funeral director who took us in the casket room. The latter guy showed us how the rental caskets work when transferring a body in and out and what the actually burial box looks like. And did you know you can get a casket built by Saunders/Ikea? That was good for a laugh and I mistook an ashes casket for a speaker’s podium which was good for another laugh.

The guy from a monument company told me how to keep the Snoopy charm on my husband’s marble tombstone. Double faced heavy duty tape, not glue. He also told us about Monu Marks. Have you heard of these little QR codes you can put on tombstones? Neatest things I’ve seen in ages. They allow people to use their smart phones to read whatever you upload to Monu Marks…pictures, the obituary, the eulogy, genealogy, GPS, stories, whatever you want to upload---unlimited. Can you imagine that? The monument company sells them for $50 installed (on a new or old stone) and they will replace them free of charge if they ever get damaged. If you have family coming in from out of town, they can use the GPS app to find the plot in the cemetery.

The guy from the crematorium had photos of the inside of their facility and he walked us through the whole procedure in detail. (Their gas bill is usually $6,000 a month to do two bodies at a time 24/7. In separate chambers in case you're wondering and they never see the body.) One question I had was about getting DNA from ashes and as you might guess, they can’t. But a numbered tag that won't burn goes into the crematorium chamber with the body and it is sifted out later and tied on the plastic bag they put the ashes in.

I had an opportunity to talk to cremation guy and the funeral director without the others from my group in earshot, so I asked about how the unburned twigs and leaves could have gotten in my husband’s box of ashes. They had no explanation and the guy from the crematorium was visibly shaken by the question and he sought me out later on to ask for more details. He shot down my theory that they could have been in the plastic bag before the ashes were added. He says, the bags come inside the ash boxes and are fastened with the metal tag mentioned above. He mentioned another theory about the twigs maybe being broken rush broom bristles instead. Some places use rush brooms during the sifting process but we agreed those two little leaves shoots that theory down. I was mistaken about there only being one crematorium in town. We have four and Don was not cremated at his place. The funeral home I used is not one of his contracts. The bottom line, I’ll never know the answer to my unburned-twigs-and-leaves-in-the-box question but I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will be the talk of the local industry...and who to blame. I shouldn't have even been able to pick out bone fragments.

The embalming room we toured, which looked like a low budget surgical room but just as sterile, white and bright---we even had to wear coverings over our shoes---was the most interesting part of the tour and it was surprising how much we laughed and learned in that room. No two bodies are embalmed the same way. What the person died from, how long they have to keep the body before burial, how long a person was dead before discovery, if the body is going on an airplane where pressure effects the body fluids all factor into which chemicals are used. There are roughly a dozen to choose from. Different limbs can even get different chemicals from one another. There’s a lot of science, tools and filters involved in the process and it’s easier, now, to understand why it cost so much to prepare a body. Did you know some countries use a chemical that makes the body and bones completely disappear after the funeral? Poof. Nothing left, not even the chemical.

I’ve never been to a funeral home that had a banquet room---a concept new to this area. That's where they served us their typical after-the-funeral lunch. (No eating off the caskets and no liver or Rocky Mountain oysters as we had speculated on the way over.)  On the bus ride home, there wasn’t a single person, by a show of no hands, who was sorry they took this tour. Quite the opposite. It was a roaring success. I wouldn't recommend it to newly minted widows but a few years out like I am....? Well let's just say the tour left me with an elevated impression of people in the business of dealing with the after death necessities of saying good-bye. ©

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Widows and Little Girls with Issues


I wish I had the courage to be as open about my political leanings, thoughts on current events and opinions on social issues in my blog as Ronni is over at Time Goes By. She’s my new blogging hero. But given her long career as a TV producer for shows on 20/20, PBS, CBS and the Barbara Walters Specials I suspect she’s been seasoned well to take more heat than chicken me has ever taken for speaking up in public---if, in fact, she does get nasty, defamatory or hateful emails from people who disagree with the opinions she blogs. Her comment section is not moderated and I don’t see any signs of her getting disrespectful feedback so maybe it doesn’t happen? I find that fascinating. I don’t even see occasional spam in her comments which my moderator function catches from time to time. I mostly use the moderator function, though, so I don’t miss a comment because I feel if someone takes the time to leave one I want to acknowledge it.

Part of the problem with me being more open on certain topics is I’ve learned from early childhood not to talk about religion and politics in public because there were very real repercussions. For example, I had a friend in early grade school tell me on the playground that she couldn’t play with me anymore because I didn’t go to her church. I’d been to her house the day before and her mother had asked The Church question that I would hear often in my life. Have I mentioned that I live in an area once proudly labeled the City of Churches? I had a guy in high school tell me---after meeting his parents---that he couldn’t date me anymore because I didn’t go to the right church. Growing up and well into my 20s, “What church do you go to?” was the second question most people asked. Heck, even today it comes up often when I meet someone new. Early on I learned to lie and name one of the four “approved” churches in my neighborhood. I don’t lie anymore when answering that question but I’m very skilled at giving non-committal answers to the you-should-try-my-church comments that follow. During the Feminist Movement in the ‘60s (my awakening into the world of politics) the people I worked with were so anti-anything that didn’t involve women being subservient that I kept my involvement in the movement top secret. I remember once sitting in the coffee room and listening to a conversation and thinking, “God, these people think people who think like I do have horns growing out of our heads!”

Another part of the problem with me getting more open about the my thoughts on current events and politics here is the title and original purpose of my blog. It started out as a way to deal with my newly minted widowhood and it has evolved from there to a blog about one woman’s search for something elusive---new friends and contentment. I just don’t know how I can make politics and current events fit into my unwritten mission statement for The Misadventures of Widowhood but I somehow think they are connected. I have spent my entire life not being totally honest and open when I meet new people and that is standing in the way of forming anything beyond surface friendships. I'm tired of pretending! How’s that for a new revelation? They think I’m a nice, sweet and agreeable pin cushion and inside I feel like a phony who wants to scream, “I might not go to the right church but I still have good values and a code of ethics that has been intrinsic in every civilized society that has ever walked on earth!” I’d even settle for being able to say to someone face-to-face, “I don’t agree with you because….” I can do it on-line and with four people in my life, but that’s all. The little girl inside is still afraid if I'm honest about my liberal politics and Humanist-as-opposed-religious leanings people will say, “I can’t play with you anymore.”

This isn’t my first blog. I have/had seven others that cover different stages of my life. I could start another where I introduce the “me” that is striving to be more like Ronni at Time Goes By but it’s such a hard decision. My five blogs that are still available on-line plus my Yahoo articles have a combined view count of over 450,000. I think I’m afraid that a new blog would rack up a 50 or so before drying up. Okay, confession time. I’m addicted to my view counter. It’s like validation but the 64 million dollar question is: “What does it validate?” Maybe that a dyslexia, left-handed little girl who had trouble learning how to read, spell, tie her shoes and tell time didn’t deserve the “stupid” label she heard as a little girl? Or maybe that I am worth playing with out in the big scary world? I’m not sure which, but if there is a moral to this post it would be to be careful what you say to kids because they carry labels with them forever. Do you have a label buried deep inside of you? ©

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Widow’s Week in 596 Words


My Red Hat Society chapter had a walk-about this week. We went to a neighborhood near downtown where a cluster of antique shops are located. They cater to young professionals and people looking for shabby chic and their stock was slightly different than what I’m used to seeing when I go antiquing. One store had a laundry basket full of faces from old pocket watches. It made me sad to think about all those past century pocket watches that were obviously melted down for their silver or gold, saving only the guts to sell to crafters. Those hundreds of tiny little roman numerals on ivory colored clock faces with ornate embellishments cried out to me. Needless to say I didn’t buy any of those $6.00 little gems. It would be like buying the bones of a once beautiful child. I have a dozen or so pocket watches slated to go up for auction on e-Bay and I came home wondering if I couldn’t somehow put them in a shadow box to display. But if I put everything in shadow boxes I’m having trouble parting with my walls would probably fall over from the extra weight.

Also in the same neighborhood was an old style deli where we ate lunch. The food was super flavorful and there was never a time while we were there that there wasn’t a line out the door. Desert---Red Hatters never pass up desert---was at an equally old style bakery. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve even seen a bakery and the cream puffs and éclairs shouted out: “Hey, I’ll look good on your hips!” The bakery had high shelves lining the walls with more antique cookie jars than I’ve ever seen in one place and I’ve seen a lot of cookie jar collections in my travels. I would never drive to this part of town alone which is probably a good thing because I’d be in that bakery way too often. I really do wish they’d outlaw sugar. If I had to buy sugary products under the cover of darkness I might have a chance of staying on a diet. I don’t like to drive after dark. My eye doctor, today, said I have the beginnings of cataracts and that’s what gives us old duffers the halo around street lights and headlights, making night driving so annoying. My cataracts are not big enough for him to start nagging me to let him remove them---his words, not mine---so I have a few move years of staying home after dark.

‘Old style’ seemed to be this week’s theme. At the senior luncheon I saw one of the best bands I’ve had the pleasure to see in a very long time. The music teachers who made up the band played six instruments between the three of them including a bass, fiddle, acoustical and regular style guitars, banjo, and a washboard. They played what they called “porch music” which was a blend of mountain music, prohibition era songs and stuff you could picture yourself singing if you were living in the book, The Grapes of Wrath, dirt poor and on the way to California to look for work. What made the show doubly good was in between the songs the teachers talked about the history of the genres they sang, their instruments and old time singers and song writers who influenced modern music. And all that for $6.00 including food.

It was a busy week but I’m starting to bore myself writing about it, so I’ll quit while I’m ahead. I want something big and exciting to happen it my life. Something bold and good that will cause me to wear the letters off my keyboard as I tell the world about it. Maybe next week.....maybe then I'll invent a 'years eraser' and I'll be twenty-two again and singing on stage with Taylor Swift. ©

Monday, June 2, 2014

From Boring to Macabre


I went three days without speaking to a living soul other than the dog and he’s not much of a conversationalist. Levi’s favorite sentences are: “I want a treat. Right now!” “Let me in!” “The rabbits are attacking the house again!” “Let me out!” and “Oh, boy, I really get to go to Starbucks with you?” Today I finally broke down and called a friend and after a half hour conversation I was ready to go back to my exceedingly-boring-at-the-moment life. Have I mentioned that my friend’s conversations are as predictable as the dogs? Aches, pains the rising cost of everything and grandchildren.

Then I called the service department at the electric company to arrange to get a radio transmitter device put on my meter so their meter readers won’t have to walk through my dog pen anymore. I’m getting old-lady cranky and I’m sick of them leaving the gate open. Last winter when the gate was frozen in the snow one of their guy’s climbed over the fence, broke the top off one of the pickets and it was the last straw, today, when I had to go to Lowe’s to buy a special glue to fix it. The electric company couldn’t have been nicer about my request. Friday someone will be here to install the new device free of charge. And for a bonus I'll get someone new to talk to while he/she is here.

Coming up soon I'll have other opportunities for conversation: a haircut and eye doctor appointment, a trip to restock my mall booth, the June luncheon at the senior hall, and a tour of the back rooms at a funeral parlor. Sounds macabre, I know, but haven’t you ever wanted to ask a funeral director questions at a time when you’re not seriously mourning a loss? Well, I know I’m not the only one because our senior hall was able to fill up a whole bus load of curious people like me. I plan to ask some questions about cremation but I’m not sure I want to hear an honest, truthful answer. Like, “How did the unburned twigs and two dried leaves get into my husband’s box of ashes?” “If those ashes were tested would it prove they were ashes from a common, backyard fire pit or that of human origins?” Trust is such a big issue when turning a loved one over to a funeral home, isn’t it. When I first found the twigs and leaves I should have marched that box of ashes right back to the funeral home, slammed it down on the director’s desk with a force that propelled a ghostly cloud above the box and demanded an answer then and there. But how much stuff can a newly minted widow take? So here I am nearly 2 ½ years later with the courage to finally ask those questions and the universe is giving me an opportunity to do it.

The funeral home is going to feed us lunch, too. That might be a little creepy, eating in a funeral parlor. I’ll let you know. I just hope I come home with some satisfying answers and a free ink pen. I’ve finally run out of working pens from all those that my husband used to collect where ever we’d go. Guys in wheelchairs with flirty, baby blue eyes and missing vocabularies can con a lot of ink pens from office girls, nurses, doctors and waitresses. Everyone needs a hobby and that was his post-stroke hobby. May he be resting in peace where I left his ashes and that his body was not sold off for God knows what. In past centuries would-be doctors and artists would buy dead bodies so they could study the muscles and bones under the skin. What macabre uses would the black market find today if their agents of evil and vice gave a widow fire pit ashes and sold her deceased husband off for cash? Now, aren't you sorry you read this all the way to the end and learned about my burning---no pun intended---little mystery. ©