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, March 2, 2016

Books on Cold Winter Days - One Plus One



When I checked the school closings website on Tuesday I yelled “Yay!” One look out the window when I got up and I knew I didn’t want to chance the roads to go to the senior hall lecture about great books and I was glad it was canceled and rescheduled for Monday. It’s a yearly program presented by the head librarian in the township and I’ve always thought the timing was all wrong. It should be given at the beginning of winter, not the end, when we have months ahead of us to spend inside the house. I’ve never actually read one of the books she recommends but a few of the titles are on my ‘Wish List’ at Amazon. She’s such an animated and interesting speaker that she makes you want to dive into any book you can get your hands on.

Up until the last ten days, I’d been in a reading dry spell, having gone almost two months without reading anything other than blogs, The Sunday Press, Facebook, political message boards and news related stuff online. Then the spell lifted and I’ve polished off two books and I’m two chapters into a third. It all started when I saw a movie trailer for Me Before You based on a book by Jojo Moyes. I knew right away that I want to see that film even if it’s not what my Movie and Lunch Club picks for our June outing. The lady who sat next to me when the trailer was playing had high praises for Moyes so I went right home and ordered Me Before You online. I probably could have found it at the library but I’m a bit of a germaphobic about library books during flu season. If I was totally honest here, I'd admit it’s not just during flu season. Every time someone donates a dead person’s books to the senior hall I have thoughts of getting leprosy or Ebola from their pages. I don't care that they sell for only twenty-five cents, nope, at Amazon full-priced books come plague and deadly bacteria free. When I donate books to the senior hall I have the urge to write on the cover, “Germ Free!” And it’s up to you to decide if I’m kidding about that urge, but I’ll give you a clue: I occasionally let the dog eat off the china. Not much of a clue, though, considering I have a dishwasher with very hot water.

Me Before You is about a quadriplegic in his early thirties who decides he wants to leave England and go to a Swiss clinic for an assisted suicide. But he promises his parents he’ll give them six months if they'll respect and accept his decision when the time is up. He’d already attempted to take his own life before the promise, so his parents hire an off-beat girl to essentially be on suicide watch and to maybe help him find a reason to change his mind. I already knew a lot about living as a quadriplegic because my boss at a support message board where I worked for several years was a quad. One of my jobs on the site was to evaluate if any of the posters on the website were serious when they talked about suicide or if it was just talk. If I thought they were serious and had the means at hand to carry out a plan I was authorized to contact their local police department to intervene. That’s how I found out that no matter how anonymous someone thinks they are online, we really aren’t. One intervention happened on the other side of the globe and, boy, was that person mad.

Anyway, back to the book. The girl fell in love with the guy, and he fell for her, too, although he never voiced it and at the end of the six months---spoiler alert---he still went through with his plans. The last chapter or two was a well-written, in-depth examination of all sides of the assisted suicide debate. Ohmygod, there are so many layers to this book I’ve lost count---living with severe disabilities, a poignant love story, family bonds, rape, guilt, assisted suicide, sibling friction, support message boards for quads, life in England, etc., etc. Let's just cut to the chase and say it was well-worth the cover price and then some. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie and if you like tragic love stories with red meat on the bones, you'll want to see it, too.

The other book I read recently was The Martian by first time author, Andy Weir. I had it on my Amazon ‘Wish List’ forever and despite the fact that all the space science stuff that was way over my head, I really enjoyed that book. I kept thinking if an astronaut can spend over a year all by himself on Mars, with all the problems that came up, I could stand one more day of not having any human contact in a string of solitary days when I was snowed in and marathon reading. Aside from that the book had many funny moments and it blew my mind on how really, really smart astronauts and the people at NASA are.

Now, I am reading another JoJo Moyes book, One Plus One. I will finish it by the time the rescheduled book lecture takes place on Monday. I suspect I’ll be working my way through all of Moyes’ books. Hallelujah, my reading mojo is back! ©

Favorite line in the book: 
"Some mistakes...just have greater consequences than others. 
But you don't have to let that night be the thing that defines you."


22 comments:

  1. 'JoJo Moyes' - the name rang a bell. I just checked and had previously read and enjoyed her "A Ship of Brides". I will now check out her other books - I'm surprised I haven't already, but have been busy for many months with the renovations and then decluttering. I've tackled everything that people said was tough/impossible for me, but decluttering has brought me down to my knees. Then last night I looked up on the web re decluttering and got scared s****** that I have the hoarding disease, as I could identify with many victims' statements. So much so, that I got up at night and began chucking stuff, already taken from cupboards for sorting, into bags - then had a re-think on how stupid I was being and would do it the next day. Well, of course, I hardly slept and was abs useless today, but will tackle the job till its done. It helps that I've found someone who can use much of the stuff that I'm discarding.

    There are many days that I don't talk to anyone (other than myself, which I've done when I'm admonishing myself to take decluttering decisions). The blogs/web provide wonderful reading, just as interesting as a novel, but different. I must get back to going back go the library again. Unlike you, I have no phobia re germs/books. When I buy a second hand book, I fan it out and keep it in the hot sun for a few hours, and consider that sanitises it. And that sun is HOT - just went to check the mail (5mins) and came back feeling my skin had burnt even tho' I'm not fair skinned. Turns out that with age, the skin thins and is more light sensitive - I can believe it with today's experience. I've put tons of moisturiser and even aloe vera on my arms and its only marginally cooler. ~ Libby

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    1. De-cluttering after losing a spouse, especially, is hard work. I will have to dive into it again now that summer is just around the corner. Guilt, fear, shame, longing for the old days, depression all enter into the picture when you de-clutter. Gotta learn to pace yourself and remember it took a long time to acquire stuff, so it will take a long time to reverse the process.

      The tip about putting books in the sun is a great idea. I have put many books in the freezer to kill mold and then into a box of charcoal to absorb the smell. I used to collect antique books.

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  2. PS - I'm getting senile! pretty sure I've read the book, but unsure about its sequel. Puzzling - unlike me not to chase up the sequel at the library?! Sigh, spent the day chatting on phone/web - just not into working today. ~ Libby

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    1. After you is the sequel to You Before Me. I'm hoping someone who has read both will come along with a review.

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  3. Isn't it great when you get your reading mojo back. I go through dry spells, too, and when I start reading again, I never can understand how I left it alone for so long.

    I can't imagine having the responsibility you had when you worked on the support message board. First of all, that's way above my pay grade. I don't have the expertise. I'd need a lot of training. I would believe everyone who told me they felt like committing suicide was actually going to do it. Interesting how you say, "no matter how anonymous someone thinks they are online, we really aren’t." That's something I think about.

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  4. Same with me about books and reading mojo.

    People who are really tech smart can figure out ways to make themselves harder to find but they still can't hide forever, if they do bad things to make law enforcement have a reason to find them. The average person using a fake name around the internet are easy for law enforcement to backtrack. The above mentioned suicide assessment was only one of my responsibilities and thankfully it wasn't a frequent thing. I basically had to make sure people followed the posting rules and slap their hands when they didn't.(LOL) I also helped them learn how to use the site, gave advice on caregiving. I really learned a lot about the internet and the "back side" of message boards from my boss but he worked me ragged Like with a lot of do-good organizations, the more you do the more they want you to do. I had to quit to break that cycle.

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  5. I couldn't hold it together watching that trailer. I cried and cried. I so wish there could be happy endings.

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    1. Depends on how you look at it. He opened her up to a world she couldn't have discovered one her own (can't wait to read the sequel) and he was saved from a life-time of pain and downward spirals, and his parents were spared standing by to watch it happening, knowing there was never any hope for recovery.

      It's a very complicated story with an equally complicated ending.

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  6. Thanks for this recommendation; I hadn't heard of the book, the author, or the movie, but now I've added the book to my library "for later" shelf. (I'm definitely not a germaphobe about library books.) -Jean

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    1. I'm not a germaphobe about library book all the time. Mostly in the winter. But I am all the time about magazines in doctors' offices and hospital waiting rooms. I always bring my own reading material there. LOL

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  7. Can you catch leprosy from a piece of paper!? Or a cold germ?
    I gave up reading novels a while ago. I am more interested in reading history and learning areas of science that I never understood. So little time!
    While I was in England, there was a really good documentary on a 65 year old man who went to Switzerland for suicide. He had Parkinson's and he couldn't bear the loss of speech and then the ability to write. His family and friends were all opposed but in the end they felt they needed to honor his decision. He was very educated and at one point he said "I speak four languages and now I can't even speak". The frustration overwhelmed him.

    I, too, have been snowed in for two days.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I seriously doubt you can catch anything from library books. I was half kidding but I do like to buy books if I think I'll love so that I can write in the margins as I read. In recent years I've tried to write on a note card instead...not as much fun.

      I never even knew that assisted suicide was legal in Switzerland before reading this book.I have very mixed feelings on the topic because I know that in the beginning of someone becoming disabled or getting a disease the depression can be temporary. Plus one of our neighbors committed suicide and his decision destroyed a lot of lives. Although how much of that was because of the shock of it which they wouldn't be in the equation with an assisted suicide? The documentary you wrote about gave me quite a knot in my stomach because my husband lived 12 years without his speech. He couldn't read either. I was basically his translator and could only do that because I knew him so well.

      I worry about the slippery slope aspect of assisted suicide and family members might put pressure on older adults who aren't really ready to go but do it to make it easier on their kids. On caregiver sites I see people say it all the time, "I wish he/she would just die!" Support for family caregivers in this country is getting better but we have a long way to go. Hand the other hand, who are we to say how much pain someone else has to live with on a daily basis?

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  8. Maybe you should suggest changing the timing for winter reading! They may not have thought about that!!

    You do seem to worry about so many things ... have you always been that way? Or is it getting more so now that you are aging (and alone). Just curious. I feel like I am becoming more cautious about things ... locking doors, germs, .... just don't want it to get worse!!

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    1. The senior hall doesn't need my help or suggestions. In 7 years the director built it up from about 100 members to over a 1,000. She does a great job of bringing in interesting stuff. The librarian gives book talks all over the county, year-around. If I really wanted to hear her in the fall, I could just look up her schedule and go to one of her lectures. I just like to create the perfect world when I write but I accept that in real life it doesn't work that way.

      I guess I need to work harder at writing self-deprecating humor if it's not coming across that way. If a thought flits through my mind---like fear of germs---I'll exaggerate it when I write about it but that doesn't mean I actually build my life-patterns around those thoughts. I'm not stupid, though, in flu season I do like everyone else and use the anti-germ clothes given out in the supermarket to wipe down my cart and I won't pick up two year old magazines at doctor's offices. And when I bought and sold antique books I did treat them for mold spores that can get in your lungs and do real damage.

      Getting more cautious as we age? I think we get more cautious when we feel more vulnerable. Age alone won't do it. Maybe I am fooling myself but I don't call it 'worry' to project would could happen if I don't do this or that. I spent 20 years in the wedding/floral business where thinking ahead to avoid unwanted things happening and good planing were assets. Being a caregiver for my dad and Don for a combination of 17 years also required thinking ahead and good planning. Now, I have less things going on in my life so maybe it does look like "worry" when I micro-manage as I've done my entire life. Have I thoroughly confused anyone?

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  9. Hi Jean. Have you warmed up yet. I noticed that next week the temperature will be in the 50's. Hot diggity dog.
    I use to enjoy reading books. I don't know why, I just find it so hard getting into any book.
    I think I just want some heat and I want to soon take my Camero out. I'm excited for that. Zoom, zoom.

    Have a wonderful Thursday my good friend in Michigan. Exactly where do live in Michigan? See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. We're due for warm weather soon but not today. We still have 8-10 inches of snow on everything and I can't wait to see it disappear. If you see the weather reports over Grand Rapids in West Michigan, they'd be the same for me. I'm near-by.

      I guess it's normal for all of us to get into reading slumps. I'm glad to know that!

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  10. Your self-deprecating humour comes through as intended, loud and clear, so please don't feel you have to change. I like your blog because its amusing and informative, and look forward to reading each post. I also like to read the comments and view points - everyone's different, thank God, and learn from them also. From the comments, I remembered why I had "lapsed" in reading (mostly novels) because I began to think it a waste of time. I have learnt many things from your blog, from home maintenance to general knowledge (eg wouldn't have known about "The Revenant" otherwise). Also greatly appreciate that you respond to everyone's comments, and post well-written and thought out text (it shows!) regularly with humour and kindness.

    Re books, Jodi Picoult books are like JoJo's - both bring up a moral dilemma and then examine the surrounding issues. I think it was 'My Sister's Keeper" and "Nineteen Minutes" that were my faves. I read pretty much all her novels but, after time, I found them formulaic. On a side note, I checked out JoJo's bio - she's so damn pretty!! like Jodi. Not air - beauty and talent. ~ Libby

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    1. Gosh, thank you for boosting my mood. I really do worry, sometimes, that my sense of humor could lead people to get a false impression when I write. Humor is the hardest of all to convey in print---no facial expressions and body gestures to go with the words. I really am quite normal. LOL

      I read My 'Sister's Keeper' and really enjoyed it for the moral dilemma and good writing. Honestly, I think all prolific writers fall into formal patterns. We tend to forget, it's their living and the publishing industry is happiest when they can churn them out at regular intervals. In the movie clip above, By the way, JoJo appears at the beginning to talk about her book.

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  11. Forgot to add: you, and all your commenters (from their sign-off names, I know they're not-sweet sixteen and some are widows) inspire me. If you guys can do it, be it deep clean the house (I'm slack! and blame my creaking bones!!), or go out and about after setbacks, well, so can I.

    Mitt Romney speaking *against* Trump - politics is becoming fun, and no wonder people, esp the young, are disgusted with politicians and their self-interest. ~ Libby

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    1. I wish more people would comment so there was a broader cross section of opinions and sharing ideas and reactions. But that's the nature of blogs...some like to write them, others only read them.

      The GOP is headed towards a brokered convention. I don't think Mitt's speech will phase his fans but it might influence some of those sitting on the fence. In a week from now we should know if Mitt helped or hurt Trump's run.

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  12. I always like to express my appreciation when I like something (tho' towards the end of my career, began to think that complimenting even a female colleague on her dress, hard work, whatever could be construed as harassment - it become so PC now). There are sites that don't make it easy to do so eg have a Captcha thing which I can never bypass (sometimes its the PC, other times my ignorance). Your blogger makes it easy. And the internet is sometimes not safe so guess people don't like leaving any tracks, which makes sense.

    Someone opined that perhaps Trump has made a deal with the Clintons - with him in the race, Hillary would be a shoo-in. The polls seem to support that theory. Politicians and businessmen have only their self-interest, so while it seems far fetched, well, there are mad conspiracy theories that later proved to have some truth. ~ Libby

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    1. I like to leave comments at places I like too.

      I've heard that theory about Trump and the Clinton's and, in my opinion, it's about as far-fetched as it gets.

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