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, July 23, 2016

Book Clubs, Gatherings and Politics



After my husband died I lost my concentration for reading and it still isn’t firing on all its cylinders. Back then I belonged to a book club, dropped out and they kept my place open for a while before I told them to give it to someone on the waiting list. This week the senior hall started a brand new book club and they asked me to return. I guess they kept my name on the waiting list all this time and since there were finally twelve names on the list it was deemed time to start a second group. Our county library system has what they call ‘Book Clubs in a Bag’---so named because they pack twelve books per bag for clubs to check out, which is why the memberships are limited. The first meeting was this week and of the eleven other members in the new group I knew three by name---a mother/daughter comb from the Movie and Lunch Club and a lady from The Gatherings that I’ve been hoping to get to know better. I felt like I was out of my element, though, because most of the women could name off favorite books and authors so quickly. Me? I read a book and promptly forget most of them. There are three former teachers in the group who did a lot of across-the-table talking and I’ll bet they’ll bond with one another. Birds of a feather. 

We got our first book on Thursday. Maybe you’ve read the Friendship Bread by Darien Gee? The author has a website with over 250 recipes for Amish friendship bread and I’m having a hard time resisting making a batch of starter. But we’re having a heat wave here in Michigan, not a good time for baking. The storyline has been described like a chain letter, with the starter bread being passed along instead of a letter. (The starter recipe makes four batches and you’re supposed to bake one and pass the other three on to friends and each of them will do the same with their starter bag of dough.) I’m half way through the book and so far the author has introduced over fifty characters which is challenging my ability to keep track, and so far the book isn’t ‘grabbing’ me. If you read it, do you have an observation that I can “borrow” to make me look smart at the next book club meeting?

Also this week I went to another Gathering at the senior hall, a group for people looking for friends. We played a game where we had to write down two sentences---one true, one false. Then the facilitator read our sentences out loud and the group had to guess which sentences were which. I wrote down, “I play the piano in a jazz trio” and “I plowed snow for 17 years.” No one guessed my correct sentence which was the one about plowing snow. We learned that one woman has a glass eye from having untreated Pink Eye as a kid. Another woman had an accident pulling into a police station and she damaged four police cars before coming to a stop---no one guessed that story was true either. These games are fun!

Afterward five of us went for coffee down the block; the first time that’s happened. It was a little harder to talk without our facilitator in tow but the ladies were nice. We discussed knitting and sewing circles and other common interests like writing family histories. We made a date to do lunch after the next Gathering. Could a budding friendship/s be in the making? It’s too soon to tell but sometimes I have a panicked feeling about getting involved one-on-one with other people. I had that feeling when one of the ladies passed a paper around for us to exchange contact information. I know, I KNOW, I’ve been bellyaching about needing to make friends ever since Don died, so why the cold feet all of a sudden? If you have an explanation, clue me in. 

Glutton for punishment that I am, I had the entire Republican Convention playing in the background of my life from morning to bedtime---all four days and the after hours rehashes. And all I’m going to say about that hot mess is that Trump thinks he’s running for God. “I and I alone can fix this,” he said about everything from stopping ISIS around the world to stopping lone wolves from killing cops to fixing my neighbor’s broken garage disposal. Okay, he didn’t promise to fix the garage disposal, but it was implied when he boasted, "I will fix EVERYTHING and I will fix it fast!" The Cult of Personality has taken over the Republican Party and its nominee is a sociopath from Gotham City's dark under belly. ©

38 comments:

  1. I never understood the point of book clubs. I like/not like a book, period, and don't see the point of analysing it to the nth degree and "reading" things that its author never imagined.

    While it'd be nice to make a good friend at this age, its as unlikely for me as being crowned Queen of the Scots.

    I watched/read, parts of the RNC/write-ups, and think, verily "Truth is stranger than fiction". ~ Libby

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    1. I like the analyzing part of reading a book and comparing my views with others. So a book club works for me. We all bring a different set of life experiences to reading and we don't all react the same way to stories. I like it when we can offer up different endings, too.

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  2. We are in for a heat wave, too. I think it's supposed to stay hot until and through part of October down here. I can't believe it. Ug!

    I haven't read Friendship Bread. I don't think I could keep up with fifty character. Whew!

    One convention down and one to go!

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    1. Let's hope we get through this next one without any violence in the streets. That's my biggest fear.

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  3. Here we go. Which is false, and which is true? (1)While in Liberia, I used to roast termites to have as a snack food. (2) My first involvement in a political campaign was as a Goldwater Girl.

    Just picking the sentences was fun!

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    1. I'm going to guess you were a Goldwater Girl. If you weren't a writer I'd go with the termites but you're got a creative mind so I'm sticking with #2. Then again, you're also an adventurous, independent person and I can picture you going to Liberia. I loved writing the sentences, too. I wish I had thought to ask people commenting to write their own like you did.

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    2. True: when I lived in Liberia, from 1974-1977, I did learn how to roast termites, aka "bug-a-bugs." However, even though I used to help my houseboy roast them, I didn't eat them. False: the Goldwater Girl business. I did eat lunch with Goldwater in the Senate dining room, though. My first public political declaration was an I Like Ike button that I wore during the 1952 campaign.

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    3. Your 'coolest' just when up a few more notches. And it was already up pretty high. I still have a small collection of 'I Like Ike' stuff. My husband collected political memorabilia and I haven't wanted to sell it yet. Bad move on my part because this is the ideal time to do it.

      Why were you living in Liberal?

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    4. I was there with the Lutheran Church in America, doing public health work at Phebe Hospital: specifically, mobile maternal-child health clinics in the bush. Then, I did some clinical supervision for pastors in training at an interdenominational seminary in Gbarnga, a town up the road, and taught some classes there, too.

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    5. What an interesting experience that must have been.

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  4. No observations about Friendship Bread here. I read non-fiction books and so does my little book club (which is begging for members, by the way). It's neat that one woman you like overlaps two groups you're in. How often will you then see her?

    I'm curious. Might your reluctance for one-on-one be that you perceive its return on your time and emotional investment to be high? Or ...bleh...low? For me, group activities and socializing can't go deep into someone's personal interests because it would leave others in the group out. Whereas a one-on-one can explore our idiosyncrasies. And revel in them. Heck, I'm trying to put my welcome mat out for folks who could revel in my idiosyncrasies and I in theirs. I've been overcautious about broadcasting them, much to my detriment. Are you more cautious than you used to be, say, when you met Don?

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    1. Put a notice up at a near-by library or grocery store. I'll bet you'll find more members for your reading group. Many libraries will even let you use a room if you don't want strangers in the house. Our Red Hats meets with permission at grocery store's food court.

      I am the opposite of our blogger friend Awkward Widow. She jumps in feet first meeting new people and doesn't worry about rejection. I put my toe in and hoping to find a good match. If someone pushes it too fast and I worry that person is going to be a clinger and will eat up more time than I'm willing to give so I back off. Before Don I didn't worry about making female friends. LOL But to be serious, I am not more cautious than I used to be. I've just never felt the need to look for friends before Don died.

      The woman (there are actually two now) I'm hoping to get to know better I'll see 2-3 times a month at senior hall activities. I've been going to the large events at the SH but I think these smaller groups will give more opportunities to bond.

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  5. I was a voracious reader--until Fred died. I have only read one book, all the way through, in the last 4.5 years. I would not dig a book club either.

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    1. Isn't it odd that widows can lose something like the joy of reading! I understood in the first six months, but this far out? I really wasn't sure I wanted to join the book club but I'd also like to recover my joy of reading which I'm hoping will happen in the group.

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  6. Very good post. Lots to think about. I've never belonged to a book club. I don't have the discipline to force myself to read something I'm not interested in even thought it might be good for me. I'm not in college. I read non-fiction only until about 5 years ago. Somewhere in there I switched to audio books. Now I would like to switch back to reading but have been totally unsuccessful. I have no concentration to read right now.

    I am lousy at choosing friends and have been badly burned. Moving to Oregon wiped the slate clean and I have no desire to start over. I enjoyed good neighbors but I'm to longer open to friends.

    I felt like I was watching the ravings of a lunatic while listening to Donald Trump's speech. I'm a political junky and had tried to back off for my mental health, though I haven't been all that successful. Now my interest is peaked in following the Republicans closer to see how all they've done plays out for them in the coming months.

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    1. I'm not surprised that you have no concentration for reading with everything going on with Bob. It' just the way it goes for most of us.

      Badly burned by friends. Sounds like a good topic for a blog. LOL

      From one political junkie to another, you were watching a raving lunatic. However, there are a good many people who totally disagree with us. Can't wait to see the DNC convention next. Then the next big thing will be to see if Trump backs out of doing presidential debates. I predict he will.

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  7. This is so interesting .... that we all stopped READING? It used to be I could not sleep at night if I didn't read for a while. When I started international traveling with Mr. Ralph, I got a Kindle. Otherwise I would panic when my book was nearing the end and we still had a week of travel.

    I've tried two book clubs. One was like a characterization of a rich ladies book club. Everyone decked out in designer clothes, shoes, jewelry, hair, makeup and the food was the star of the gathering. Most of them had not even READ the book. I was totally out of my league.

    And I like to read what I like to read. Now I watch a Netflix episode in bed each night.

    Oh the conventions! It is so interesting how people post on Facebook ... saying things they would NEVER say to my face! I've unfollowed quite a few until after Christmas. They've probably done the same. It bothers me when people spread misinformation. Honestly ... no one has ever changed my mind by posting on FB!

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    1. When our new group got together the facilitator went around the room and asked us each what we expected out of a book club and two ladies complained that they'd been in clubs just like you described where it was more about the food, fashions and not reading. Having a facilitator I'm thinking makes a big difference. I've never been in a club without one.

      I know what you mean about Facebook, politics and people saying things they'd never say to someone's face. I try hard not to post politics on FB. I just saw an ugly exchange this morning and I've actually lost some respect for a few family members based on that exchange.

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  8. I was in a bookclub for several years back in the day. I read voraciously, then just sort of lost interest in it and showed up for the potluck without really having read the book. Slacker. Now I find I have a hard time concentrating on reading -- the effects of social media? (I hope not). I prefer non-fiction to fiction, and that holds my attention for longer spans of time, unless the story engages me from the get-go (Outlander...obsessed).

    Politics. I am a political junkie as well and I was appalled at the RNC debacle. That man is truly dangerous and his followers seem not to question him and his lack of experience, integrity, policies, or care about his lack of grip on the reality of governing. They scare me more than he does -- one minute declaring themselves so compassionate and loving and the next applauding his racist rantings and reveling in "lock her up" chants about how to deal with political opponents. It was surrealistic to watch.

    The Dems are not perfect, but their views align with mine and I plan to work my butt off to ensure a Dem victory. The stakes are high.

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    1. For me, social media being available 24/7 does replace much of the time I used to use for reading. I don't mind, though. I look at it like mental exercise.

      Political junkies unity! Those 'lock her up' chants were truly surreal, like watching a 3rd world banana republic being born. Did you see the adviser to Trump who said Hillary should face a firing squad? A team of twenty-five investigators from the FBI and 8 million dollars spent on the Benghazi hearing and they couldn't come up with crime to charge her with but that fact just can't penetrate some people's mindsets.

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  9. I like groups of 3-4 as a way to get to know others; it's a small enough group to have some real conversation, but it feels less pressured than the one-on-one pairing. Both my retirees book group and the group from my Master Gardener class that I get together with periodically are four-person-groups.
    One of the fun parts of my retirees book group is that, although we are all retired academics, our training is in very different fields and we tend to bring very different perspectives to the same book. -Jean

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    1. I think the little groups going out after the Gatherings are going to be promising for making friends. But I can't picture a book club that small although, when I think of it in larger groups there is always people who haven't read the book and don't take part in the discussions.

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  10. I've never been in a book club. I would have to take notes after I read a book to be able to talk about a book I had read that long ago. (Month or week) I am a book pig. It comes from a love of reading and being denied while raising 'two batches' of kids and no time. I am making up for it now.

    It sounds like you are putting yourself out there. I think it takes time. I've been burned a few times, so I can kind of understand your hesitation. (Even if you haven't been burned.)

    I hate to tell you, but I hate politics. I think we should get rid of the presidency and go for something like a 3-5 person panel. (Who get paid only a stipend when they actually work) I am waiting and hoping for karma to bite those two in the buns ...

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    1. I do take notes when I'm reading for a book club and I try to find the BC questions online so I'm prepared to answer them.

      I wonder if there is a country in the world that is run by a 3-5 person panel. Interesting idea.

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  11. I am a omnivorous reader -- I devour books. We've recently moved back to our old home town and I haven't had time to get a library card so I've been re-reading all my own books, many of which I nearly know by heart. I've never belonged to a book club. I would be especially leery of the scholarly types who see symbolism in everything. And I'm so old that I never dress up for anything. As an example, I wore blue jeans for my last wedding (that was 31 years ago and we're still together, so maybe that's the key to a good marriage) :-)

    I don't have any close friends except my husband and my son. When I was still working I was the boss and it didn't seem to be a good idea to socialize with my employees -- I didn't want anyone to think I was playing favorites -- and I didn't have time to meet anyone else except on a very superficial level. Now I have the time, but my health is not too good and I treasure my solitude. I, too, worry about "friends" who only seem to want something from me, whether it's money or help of some nature or they're just too clinging and always hanging around under foot.

    I watched as much of the RNC as I could stand. Which wasn't a lot. That man and his family all rub me the wrong way. Trump talks like a dock worker, but is oh-so-fastidious. His wife is window-dressing, his sons are gofers and props, and, if it were allowed, Trump would be cohabiting with his daughter, and so would his sons. Just gave me a creepy feeling to watch the body language and interactions within the family circle. And Pence seems like a "hired gun."

    I'm not a fan of HRC, but I've got to vote for her when I think of the Supreme Court and the EPA. I wanted Bernie to win, but his campaign at least made Hillary make some concessions regarding Citizens United, the TPP, and college tuition. It will be interesting to see if she holds up her end of the bargain, but I'd still rather have her as President than Trump. End of rant.

    I worry about the state of the world, but I won't be here to see how it all plays out and, in a way, that's a relief.

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    1. I always plan to re-read books that I love but I never seem to get around to doing it. I do mark passages and will stop read those from time to time.

      I did have one person ask me to loan money and I did but I'd never do it again. I got it back, but I worried too much that I wouldn't and it would ruin our friendship. I didn't have work friends for the same reason you didn't.

      I think Bernie will have a prominent position in a Clinton administration should she get elected. I can't see her not doing that. And the Supreme Court and ending Citizens United are too important to put that in hands of someone like Trump. Talk about body language that air kiss he gave Pence sure was weird!

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  12. I gave up my book club some years back when it became a political talking mess.

    I've become a rotten blogger lately too. So sorry. I do pop in and read though.

    Bee

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    1. I doubt our book club will get into politics---it just isn't done around the senior hall but I can see how that would be messy.

      I do the same with your blog, too, Bee.

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  13. Just came to flag an article in the Huff Post: basically, if T. loses, he's capable of stirring his supporters that verdict rigged, etc etc. Believable, going by past form. ~ Libby






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    1. You know what, just yesterday I thought the same thing. If Donald loses he will never go quietly with grace the way Al Gore the year that had the hanging chads scandal. Not sure how much real trouble he and his followers could cause if he loses, though. He's so unpredictable.

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  14. Ah book clubs! I was really hesitant of yours when you mentioned that you feel you need to prepare but I am relieved now that you mention there is a facilitator and that she asked for input.
    I belong to a small book club but long ago we gave up the pretense of reading books! At the time we were all working and not reading and we reduced it from books to short stories to articles but now we get together and rant over the state of the world. Fortunately we are all flaming liberals and scared shitless over what might happen.
    On the topic of lunatics, I don't think I have ever noticed the bizarre side of Rudy Guiliani...that's scary!
    And if Trump loses and his supporters have difficulty with that, they might truly understand the significance of law and order if they take to the streets.
    Jon Stewart did a very good rant the other night on Stephen Colbert about Trump supporters wanting to take back the country. Only trouble is, Jon said, it doesn't belong to you...you don't own it.

    I only read non-fiction (to return to the topic of books!!)
    Regards
    Leze

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    1. We actually set some rules up for the club like no one can demand we don't talk about the endings of books if they haven't finished it and we can't bring food. Apparently, these are common reasons for clubs to fail. The facilitator is a recreational therapist and seems to know her stuff.

      I saw that Jon Stewart rant. Well done! I also saw a post about how Democrats are uniting to thank Trump for bringing Stewart out of retirement.

      Guillani was scary and bizarre in a pool of scary and bizarre speeches. Most bizarre of all was Trump rehashing the whole thing with Cruz in his first airtime after the convention, when he should have been using time time to talk about his agenda.

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  15. Hi Jean R. - I watched bits of the RNC today, partly 'cos I read online of some speech that was GREAT, and when I see it myself think its a damp squib, so had to watch myself. I had to share with someone who would appreciate it too. Michelle Obama was WONDERFUL (and all the more so, because it was genuine and *positive*), and Elizabeth Warren was GREAT. Excellent delivery - neither of them shouted (as HRC does, she needs to improve her speech delivery, she's great in one-on-one interviews). Bernie, when he started, seemed to be doing a Ted Cruz (it seemed to be all about him) and ending with a weak endorsement - but no, he ended up giving her strong support (good on him!). As the world noticed, T did not tweet about Michelle's speech (Anne Coulter tweeted it was 'cos Melania would be doing that speech in a few years. I found Coulter's comment puzzling since she's a rabid Trump supporter).

    It wouldn't surprise me if the Russians are behind the DNC leak - governments, including the USA, have interfered in other countries' elections before. But can T (and his cohort) be such a traitor?! I don't know. But then watching him grope his daughter on the RNC stage ....

    I'm amazed at the oldies on the stage - HRC, Warren, Bernie (and T) are all older than me, and really into life, while I'm thinking that my life is over?!! Its inspiring, and dampening, simultaneously. Random observations: It is true that we've all got used to today's female roles - its just some years ago that women had to resign from their jobs on getting married! HRC and Obama both have aged badly in recent years with their jobs.

    I used to love reading (fiction). Then became obsessed in web-surfing. Watching the election is like reading a riveting novel - and its real-life (so I can't flip to the back page to see who wins, dammit).

    The media certainly has great power. By their coverage, they can really influence opinion. However, with the combination of twitter/internet/forums/TV, its easier to form a better informed opinion. I admire people like yourself - I think you'd have found T repugnant for his divisiveness, bigotry etc even if you were a lifelong GOP supporter. I suspect that's why I'm finding the election interesting - don't want evil to prevail. ~ Libby

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    1. O, my gosh, Michelle was the star last night, in my opinion, followed by Cory Booker and Bernie. Bernie had me holding my breath wondering if he'd finally do what he did. I am so going to miss the Obama's.

      You bring up a good point about the ages of the people on stage! I've go to do some thinking about that, kick myself in the butt for feeling old.

      I saw an interview last night about the hacking. The codes and malware left behind in the hacking---it was actually done a month ago so they've had time to investigate it---and experts believe it was a Russian hacking. Like you said, they've done it with other governments.

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  16. You may not agree: Like Tim Kaine (including the NYT description "self effacing ....in sharp elbows").

    My first hearing of Christie was when he bear-hugged Obama on his rescue mission to NJ (and the GOP hated Christie for that). And now he's best symbolised by "The Scream". Its sad to see a man selling himself so badly. Politics is tough, as you can see from T's public humiliation of Christie (and the man comes back for more?! I pity him). ~ Libby

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    1. I like Tim Kaine from what I've seen of him so far. I like that he's got a reputation for working across the aisle and is respected in Congress.

      I have lost so much respect for Chrisie during this election cycle and before his handling of Bridge-gate I used to like him. If Trump gets in he'll probably give Christie the Attorney General slot. It's the job Christie wants.

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  17. I have trouble concentrating while reading unless the TV is off and the birds are asleep. :-) I've just finished reading Susan Branch books and I loved them. They aren't typewritten, but hand printed. She painted all the images in them too.

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    1. I just checked Susan out on Amazon but they didn't let you look inside to see the hand printed fonts. They called her series an illustrated memoir. Very cool to do that!

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