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, August 12, 2015

Whiny Wednesday and the Writers' Meet-Up



These past few weeks could only be described as boring-times-three, but that’s about to change. The second half of every month is when all my reoccurring social dates take place. If life was perfect, those dates would be spread out throughout the month but a little unfairness never killed anyone. Whining about it might not add to my happiness quota, though, so I should stop doing it right here and now. At least my reoccurring outings aren’t to medical clinics, caring for an elderly parent or other stress inducing life events that I left behind when my husband and dad passed away. ‘Boring’ can good. Not that I’m glad they’re gone. But, you know what I mean. It’s the living with the dying process of loved ones that I’m glad is in the past. Dad and Don were by far the most influential people in my life and I will always be grateful that they were both good, honorable people. My life was richer having loved them. However, love changes to another form when someone dies. It’s poignant instead of warm and fuzzy. It’s sad instead of smiles and sunshine. (One paragraph into this blog and already I’ve used three words on the writers’ list of no-no words: ‘little’, ‘but’, and ‘so’. Maybe I’ll make it a goal to use all thirteen before I’m finished. Stay tuned. I’ll let you know if I accomplish that infamous feat.)

Still, it’s almost the middle of August and with that date on the calendar I’m fighting with myself to keep the change-of-seasons melancholy away. Soon the school bus will be picking kids up at the end of the cul-de-sac, the leaves will start changing to a palette of colors I love in nature but loathe everywhere else and I’ll be collecting flyers off my mailbox from snowplowers. Look at me, I’m rushing my life away again instead of being in the here and now, enjoying the way the early morning dew sparkles as the sun threads itself through the White Pines outside my window. 

I read blogs written by women who enjoy their morning coffee by pools or in gardens and I think, why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I let the sweet, summer smells and sounds of early mornings help wake up my brain? Why do I have to start multi-tasking from my very first cup of coffee until bedtime? Recently, I realized I was watching an online video and TV plus writing at the same time. “This is crazy,” I said out loud, “pick one and go with it!” Do I have to wait until I’m imprisoned in an adult version of a highchair, drooling in my breakfast before I finally learn how to live in the moment, letting my senses drink it all in? By then, I’d probably bite some well-intentioned caregiver who’d be force feeding me. Hey Missy, I’d be thinking, can’t you tell the smell of bleach, urine and institutional oatmeal mixed together is making me sick! 

My ‘Write and Share’ Meet-Up group met last night. Only five of us attended and all we did was each read a couple of pages we’d written followed by positive reactions from the others. No cutthroat critiques from this group. It was a simulating conversation and the range of personal and writing experience we cover is amazing. One woman (my age) goes to writing workshops all over the country and is well-known in the local coffee houses that have poetry reading nights. A guy has a master’s degree in literature and where my vocabulary could fit in my hip pocket, he’d have to carry his around in an overnight bag. Two us who are self-taught writers who mostly write memoir type stuff. Three of them belong to more than one writing Meet-Ups. When I read a story about Don titled The Colorado Barstool Rancher the poet said, “I challenge you to submit that for publication. It’s just the kind of short story a lot magazines like Reader's Digest are looking for.” Needless to say, I went home wearing the compliment on my face.

As promised, as I wrote this essay I kept track of the thirteen words writers should avoid using at all costs: Little, but, looked, oh, and, just, very, tiny, then, and then, so, look, suddenly.  The ones I’ve underlined are the no-no words I used up above. Two of those words---‘but’ and ‘and’---I’m so addicted to using them they should go on my grave marker. “Here lies Jean, the Queen of Using Conjunctions.” ©

20 comments:

  1. Ah ha ha! this is how ignorant I am ... I didn't know there were words to NOT use! My whole blog is made up of them!!!

    Let's write up our obituaries!

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    1. I already did that. Last year, a 22 page obituary booklet that I published and gave out to my family and one friend.It was part spoof and part true. It's the only thing I've ever written that (I know of) that upset someone in my family. I had myself "die" at ninety-five and the paragraph that got me in trouble read like this:

      When the remaining members of her family were called together for the reading of the will, they were shocked to learn that Jean's entire estate went to Maxwell, her dog. Melinda shouted, "That's not fair! We looked out for that old flake for years." Cindy said, "It doesn't surprise me. After we put her in that nursing home she developed a mean streak." Jessie said, "Holy cow! Who would have ever guessed Aunt Jean had so much money! Can we contest the will?" Her brother said, What are you kids talking about? I thought my sister died years ago." Maxwell just sat in the corner licking his balls with a smile on his canine face.

      I heard by the grapevine that one of the above mentioned kids was upset that I portrayed my 100 year old brother as senile. My brother, though, thought it was funny.

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  2. Okay, now I have the conjunction song stuck in my head. Oh well, I'll just roll with it.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. "The function (whew whew) of a conjunction
      Is to link words together, link words together."

      That's my problem, I guess. I never learned that song. LOL

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  3. You should definitely submit any story about your husband. Reading your old posts about him make him sound very interesting. I say go for it!

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    1. Thank you Laura! Maybe the writer's group will help me screw up my courage to do some submitting. I do have some caregiver-tips kinds of articles that got published but they are different than personal stories.

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  4. Had it not been for you, I never would have known about those words we're never to use. What's amusing is that one of the words on the list -- "just" -- is one I've become aware of using too often. I don't necessarily use it in my posts, but in my comments, it's everywhere. I'm constantly going back and excising it. You know: "I was just so surprised," vs. "I was so surprised." That kind of thing. It's just such a nice modifier, you know? It often seems just the right word to give a sweet bit of emphasis, without being just a little too much. Etc., ad nauseum.

    Now, I feel justified in dumping those "justs." Without you, I never would have known!

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    1. I'm just so tickled that I was able to validate your instincts regarding one of your favorite words. LOL I used to use 'just' a lot too but The List helped me purge a about half of my bad habits. I still over use 'so' and, of course, 'but' and 'and.' I think I have the others under control but I still find them in my first drafts and have to use the delete key.

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  5. So, like your other commenters, I, too, feel just so tiny in my ignorance of the conventions of writing.
    When I asked a friend to critique a fabric landscape I had done, she told me she thought I was crossing the boundaries between abstract and realism. In my ignorance of the conventions of art, I didn't know those boundaries existed.
    So much for creativity!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Crossing the boundaries between abstract and realism on a fabric landscape (or other art form) would be a good thing! Art is always striving to push the boundaries.

      When writing, there are tips "out there" for better/tighter writing and the list of words to avoid falls into that category---not firm and fast rules, just a tool for improving your writing skills. Whenever I get on myself about my over used words I remember a scene in movie, A River Runs Through It where Brad Pitt's character is writing as essay. The father crosses out a ton of words and tells the boy to do it over. He does that several times before the father is satisfied. The boy grows up to be a writer for a newspaper.

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  6. I'm one of those people who has no trouble sitting out in the garden dreamily savoring my morning tea -- but then I couldn't multi-task if my life depended on it. Remember the commercial way back when featuring the woman who couldn't "walk and chew gum at the same time"? LOL, that was me! Seriously, I bet your years of caretaking reinforced the idea that you could never just sit down and relax. My job, by contrast, alternated periods of working long hours with periods of delicious and well-earned relaxation. Maybe you could learn how to relax and savor the moment gradually by setting aside 10 minutes a day where you have to just sit and stare into space and do nothing and then gradually increasing the time as you get the hang of it.
    Who decided that conjunctions were bad writing? Sometimes complex ideas require complex sentences. Without conjunctions, I'd have to use even more semicolons to link those independent clauses! -Jean

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    1. I think you are right on the source of my inability to just sit without multi-tasking. Twelve years caring for my husband and five with my dad is a long time when time itself was in short supply. I think your experiment with setting aside some time each day to do nothing would be interesting. I think it would make me feel guilty.

      I've had the list of overly used words when writing for so long, I forgot where it originally came from but the Bible of learning how to write---The Elements of Style---talks about the over use of 'and' and 'but'. To quote Strunk and White: "This rule refers especially to loose sentence of a particular type: those consisting of two clauses, the second introduced by a conjunction or relative. A writer may be making his sentences too compact and periodic. An occasional loose sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and gives the reader a certain relief. Consequently, loose sentences are common in easy, unstudied writing. The danger is that there may be too many of them." I'm reading Stephen King's book on writing and right near the beginning even he talks about the over use of certain words and how every would-be writing needs to read The Element of Style and practice omitting needless words.

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    2. I guess having The Elements of Style on my desk doesn't cut it; I actually need to re-read it!

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    3. I've started re-reading mine which I haven't read in a few decades.

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  7. You just have to stop with your sarcastic, humorous writing so as not to offend family. HAH AND DOUBLE HAH!!! NEVER I say, NEVER!!!!! A Writer Group "teacher" once told me that I use too many commas. So now, I use - - - or ... instead. Of course, not in stories I have had published, but my blog is written kind of like I talk. I like it that way.

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    1. LOL I'll stop if you will. Seriously, I was upset to think something I wrote was not taken for the humor I intended. At our ages, we kid about senility because we fear it but my brother's child who was upset by my portrayal of him maybe fears it in a different way than me. After all, those three kids have a potential of a lot of parents and in-laws in their future they'll have to look out for if they get dementia.

      I probably use too many comma, too. At least we write! So many people give that up when they don't have to do it anymore. LOL

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  8. Oh this is so great! I needed the Elements of Style reminder as well as a nudge to re-read Stephen King's On Writing -- a favorite. My husband can't believe I love reading books about grammar! I've been told by some who like my blog that it "sounds" so conversational -- just like sitting with me over coffee. I do take an informal approach to the writing, but (can I say that?) perhaps I could clean it up a bit and retain the "voice". I'll be more aware of the "no-no's".

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    1. I don't think you or I will "lose" the chatty voice by reviewing the art of writing rules from time to time. I actually think it will help. I haven't read "ON Writing" before but have seen plenty of quotes from the book online, so I'm looking forward to really getting deep into it.

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  9. Just found your blog for the second time and love it! I do wish that I could find the kind of writers group that you seem to be in. when it comes to writing I have difficulty putting myself "out there" more than I am.

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    1. Me, too. I just went on the computer and researchers MeetUps+my city and that turned up several groups in the area. MeetUps are all over the country now.

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