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 9, 2016

Romance and Summer Picnic with Ladies in Red



One of my Red Hat Society sisters is a gifted poet who works hard at her craft. She goes to out of state workshops and takes online courses but more impressive to me is she does open mike nights at a local club that draw poets in from all over the area. Very Greenwich Village 1960s style. I’ve heard her read in a writer’s group we both belonged to last summer before it went defunct and I know her to be generous and helpful in her critiques of other people’s work. And she’s got a vocabulary that has me lusting after her command of the English language like a puppy lusts after cuddles and kisses. Any time I say, “I don’t know that word, what does it mean?” she never has an air of superiority when she defines it and its origin. She was a teacher before retiring and once a teacher, always a teacher.

Recently her husband did something for her that I think is one of the most romantic things I’ve heard in a long time. Quoting Virginia Woolf as the inspiration---"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction"---he sold his motorcycle in order to buy Sue an Amish built 8’ x 8’ writing studio for their back yard. Now she has a personal writing space with a red tin roof, blue batten siding and white trim and we christened it with a Red Hat Society garden party only instead of breaking a bottle of champagne we toasted the new space with an assortment of wine and hard lemonades. I can highly recommend the Mike’s Black Cherry. Perfect for a hot summer day. 

I suppose not everyone will see what he did as a grand, romantic gesture but then I spent 42 years with a man who had some screwball ideas on what passed for romance and over the years I had to redefine the term. Candlelight dinners and roses were not in Don’s playbook. The most romantic thing he did for me was to support me every which way he could when it became necessary for me to spend two days and a night each week with my dad for five long years to help keep him out of a nursing home. Where are the romantic Hallmark cards for husbands like mine and Sue’s? “You take my breath away” doesn’t cut it in my world.

Speaking of Hallmark, since Don died I’ve been hooked on one of the strangest concepts in TV programing: the Hallmark Christmas in July movie marathon week. Finally, this year I got it---why they do these holiday movies filled with snow, Santa’s, carols and often times plots that include widows finding love again. July is when they introduce their newest keepsake tree ornaments for the coming holiday season. Duh! I found this out while channel surfacing to avoid my usual morning of all news, all the time and I landed on Hallmark’s morning talk show. The Christmas movie marathon couldn’t come at a better time. Too bad it has to end before the two political parties hold their conventions in the 3rd and 4th weeks of July. Heavy doses of predictable, love-wins-in-the-end movies could be an antidote for the craziness going on in this election cycle. 

Back on topic: When I shopped for a greeting card to give to Sue for her christening garden party I had a hard time finding just the right one. I ended up with a blank card and inside I wrote: “Christening a writer’s space is such a special occasion. It reminds me of the great garden art philosopher who etched the following on a stone: ‘Only you can give your special gift to the world.’ Actually, I think he plagiarized that from Oprah but either way it fits this occasion. You have a special ear for language and words and you have a personal point of view that needs to be shared. Time to chase your dreams at full throttle...” Sue wants to put together a chapbook of her poems and like all of us, she isn’t getting any younger.

As per the Red Hat decree there was no shortage of food at our potluck and the guest of honor made cucumber mint tea sandwiches that she said she made as a joke---very Victorian with ice tea and garden parties. I loved them enough to put a mint plant on my grocery list when I got back home. How could I get to be 70-something without eating a cucumber sandwich?

The poem that inspired the Red Hat movement says, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me…and make up for the sobriety of my youth." I don’t suppose women have to play dress up to enjoy each other or to drink wine and hard lemonade to trade life experiences, but they both helped at the party. At one point we got into a discussion of grilled cheese sandwiches and mac-and-cheese and how we all have memories of comfort foods that spans the generations. And that’s when knew it’s true, what I heard this week on the Hallmark channel: “Sometimes we don’t think we're doing enough for the people we love, but sometimes it’s the little things that we do that ends up being the best things.” Grand gestures are---well, celebration worthy---but tiny time-tested traditions add up to be incredibly special as well. ©

33 comments:

  1. Hear hear to the last sentence of your post.

    Your friend sounds wonderful. I had the luck to have a great boss similar to her personality - very knowledgeable guy and ready to share his knowledge, with abs no superiority.

    Your Don, by your accounts and his pix, was both witty and handsome, so you did well - plus he cared for you in all the ways that matter. Five years of looking after your dad thrice a week, and he supporting you in that - if that's not love, in all forms, I don't know what is.

    I'm going to be shot/lynched here: I read of the two black deaths, and saw the videos briefly. (I've also seen in person here in Oz six to eight police officers surrounding a single man thrown to the ground - excessive force I thought. I'm ashamed that I watched on as if it was a spectacle. But someone had jumped into my backyard the day prior and I was trying to check out if that man was the same person). I'm aware American police officers have dangerous jobs and can be shot on the job. However, it does seem blatant discrimination is there at times. So, the first news I heard of snipers shooting at police, my first thought was along the lines of the trodden fight back, and what else do you expect with police highhandedness. Two wrongs do not make a right, but I can see the viewpoint of a guy who shot back in defence of his "team". The news reports do not indicate a relationship with the deceased, just that he was a returned veteran. Sigh, and all the dead have grieving families.

    I understand/share people's distaste for politicians (with few exceptions). Your B. O'Reilly and P.Ryan are truly weasels. I'm not an HRC admirer either. Oz has their clones here. ~ Libby

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    1. Libby, if you and I were on the same continent we would have such great conversations agreeing with each about politics and society. I'm often struck by how similar we think and am truly surprised that you, way down under in OZ, seem to keep up better with our news in the USA than many people living here do. As I've said before, not having someone to vent with about politics is one of the things I miss the most in widowhood.

      Thank you for what you said about Don. It's all true.

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  2. What a wonderful thing for your friend! I would certainly have to agree with you. Romantic, very. Loving, absolutely. The christening party sounds like a lot of fun. I've never eaten cucumber sandwiches, perhaps I should give them a try sometime.

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    1. So many of us in the blogging world like to write that I knew I had to share this event here where having a dedicated writing space would be fully appreciated.

      If you try a cucumber sandwich, don't forget the cream cheese.

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  3. I absolutely love cucumber sandwiches, cool, crisp, and clean tasting. The little writing cottage is adorable and I certainly agree it was a romantic thought. Sounds like it was a lot of fun that day.

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    1. Isn't it a cute little writing studio.

      I went to the farmers market today and got a mint plant. I see more cucumber sandwiches in my future.

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  4. True proper Victorian cucumber sandwiches would have the crusts removed before they were cut into wedges and placed on the plate! They would probably be sitting alongside cheddar and chutney sandwiches and egg and cress!
    It's an interesting thing that you and Libby mentioned...my English friends and relatives are great observers of American politics and life. I think they look upon it with normal interest but then a certain amount of sport enters into it (oh...those silly cousins of ours...I wonder what they will do next). I do think the recent vote to leave the EU has stunned a lot of the population who otherwise considered themselves "above all that". But we're not...we are a great source of amusement, disdain and puzzlement.
    I have spent many years trying to understand the difference and I think, in large part, we are very aware of all the disfunction and corruption and don't want to delve too deeply and so, to foreigners, we tend to appear unread and aloof. But I don't necessarily think that we are. For many of us, I think it is not worth getting too upset over things that we can't change. I think I'll stop here because this could be a very long post!
    I actually wanted to tell you what a lovely letter you wrote to the woman who has the new studio...it was so thoughtful...I would feel so pleased if someone took the time to write something so sweet to me.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. These cucumber sandwiches were made with thin white bread without the crusts and were cut into wedges. I've never heard of cheddar and chutney sandwiches. Is that an English thing?

      Leaving the EU is something I'll bet they will regret doing in England. The whole world is full of unrest, it seems.

      Thank you for the comment on what I wrote in the card. I know how I felt when I got my painting studio set up this past spring and having a creative space after so many years without one. It IS a big deal occasion!

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  5. How romantic and generous! And I just had cucumber sandwiches last week for lunch! So crisp and refreshing. Have never tried the mint though! I also like to take a slice of cucumber and add a bit of turkey or cheese .... instead of bread.

    A Saturday well spent! Although I can't do alcohol early in the day ... makes me sleepy!

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    1. We didn't really have much alcohol. But I can say that I'm grateful all the hard root beers, cider, lemonades and pops they have now were not available when I was young.

      I'm surprised at how many people like cucumber sandwiches.

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  6. That sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends.

    Romance comes in different packages, doesn't it? When you wrote about Don's idea of romance not being the norm and how he supported you, it made me think of how my husband supported me through my caregiving days. We are so lucky for men like that. They are there when it counts, and even when it isn't so easy.

    I googled Mike's Black Cherry, but it said it wasn't available near me. Drat. I was ready to get some today. I like cucumber sandwiches. They're refreshing and I love the crisp texture when you bite into them.

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    1. We were lucky that we had supportive spouses while we were caregiving our dads in their last years. Spouses who aren't supportive of your goals in keeping a parent in their own home put so much extra stress on women. And I've seen it tear marriages apart. My only regret was that Don and I only had five months after my dad died before Don had his stroke. We barely had enough time to plan things to do with our new found freedom before it was gone forever.

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  7. This writer's cottage so SO romantic in my book. Anything that provides a means for one's beloved to flourish, or in tough times, to survive, is hugely romantic. My hubby wasn't the flowers kind of guy, but boy, was he romantic. Here's one example.

    Since moving to Connecticut nearly 30 years ago, my gardening passion took root. Forget about painting a linen canvas; I had an acre to 'paint' with flowers and stone walls and bushes! But the bane of my garden's existence - the 4 legged munchers - reduced me to tears, time and time again. JUST before a flower was to bloom...gone! I tried sprays, smelly soaps, smelly milorganite fertilizer, and after any heavy rain that washed the smells away, the munchers would come. One year my hubby painstakingly installed an electric fence around the entire acre - the kind you see around pastures - to keep the deer out. I cried in his arms I was so happy.

    We are fortunate women, to have dreams still. Nowadays I believe the romantic gesture is there at the end of our own arm.

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    1. Supportive husbands are treasures that are too often taken for granted. Though I'm not sure most of us fully know that until they are gone. Sounds like that wasn't true in your case.

      Did the electric fence work for deer? I would think they could jump right over it. I have a friend in the D.C. area who has a hate-hate relationship with deer and they have the mess deer fencing. I think it works except when they learn to just go around and walk down the driveway.

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    2. The electric fence my husband installed was just one electrified wire three feet off the ground. It worked beautifully for about three seasons. The deer altered their path from our yards to our neighbors'. I felt kind of bad that my neighbors' vegetables and flowers were 'suddenly' disappearing.

      Then gardening got interrupted by caregiving for a few years, and when I returned to it afterwards, I did so with the vengeance of a woman scorned by those 4 legged creatures FOR THE LAST TIME. I pounded new 6' high posts in and added an electrified wire above the first. Worked... five years or so.

      Finally, in 2013, I threw BIG bucks at the problem. P aid my handyman to rip the entire electric fence out and install 120' of permanent, solid 6' fence, plus hundreds of feet of permanent 8' wire fence, plus special gates at each garden path entry. The lady triumphs!!!

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    3. Wow, you were at serious war with those cute little deer. LOL I'll bet a few people thought you were protecting a pot farm.

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  8. Your friend's cottage is a writer's dream! And I do think it's a grand romantic gesture, just as Don's was to you. Maybe I just don't "get" the stereotypical romance thing, the candlelight and gazing longingly. It's fine in books and movies, but in real life it often feels forced and silly, at least to me. Cook me a meal. Laugh at my wit. Listen to me talk. Hold me when I cry. Give me plenty of alone space. That's the romance I need -- and get from my man. He says I'm a super cheap date -- no roses, diamonds, expensive restaurants, or fancy anything. He did agree to buying a subscription to Starz so I could watch Outlander in real time. So, OK, I guess there is a romantic bone in my body. LOL

    Your note to your friend is a beautiful piece of writing. :)

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    1. I knew the poet in you would love the writing studio and the longing to do a Chapbook.

      I had a serious relationship before Don who did all the stereotypical romance things---often. He literally talked about getting married one week and the next he broke up with me with no explanation. When Don came along I would not have trusted the roses, candlelight dinners, etc. I think your definition of romance are the deep lasting kind.

      Did you read the Outlander books and if so is the TV series as good?

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    2. It's been so long since you asked the question, you may not go back here to find the answer, but, Yes I've read all the books the first three twice! I'm an addict. The books, as usual, are much more nuanced, detailed, and flesh out the characters more deeply. So, the show is great, but for me and loyal fangirls of the books, the show can feel too rushed and the departures from some parts of the book are jarring and disappointing. I know they have to do that due to time and financial constraints. My husband, oldest son and daughter in law have not read the books and they LOVE the show, so it doesn't suffer as a stand-alone series. The cinematography, costuming, etc are exquisite and basic story and characters are beautifully acted and portrayed.

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    3. Gosh, I'm going to have to break down and get Netflix if for no other reason that Outlander.

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  9. For many years I longed for a little house, out in the yard, where I could go to write poetry, fiction, or just work on house plans. After my girls grew up, I use to use their play house for that, but--no electricity or heat in the winter soon dampened my spirit. Why do we have to wait so long to find we can refresh our spirit all by ourselves?

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    1. That's a good question, Judy. Perhaps even a blog worthy topic.

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  10. I love those corny made-for-TV Christmas movies, too. If the Christmas and July marathon were during the political conventions, it might induce me to run out and get cable!
    At first, I thought the photo was a garden shed; but a writing house is so much better!! My ex-husband's favorite complaint about me was that I was "too damn independent." I consider a grand gesture in which a husband supports and encourages his wife's independence very romantic indeed. -Jean

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    1. Before meeting my husband I had a guy break up with me after dating a year because he thought I was too independent. I've always been grateful it didn't work out but at the time, if hurt. I occasionally think about how much different I'd been living with a person who tried to hold me back. You and I are lucky to have escaped.... :)

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  11. I'm just laughing. This, from my About page on my blog:

    "Living a quiet life, a hidden life — anchored to my dock like a barnacle to a piling — I varnish boats for a living. My dock provides both things Virginia Woolf recommended for a woman who writes: money, from the labor, and a room of my own — space and solitude for thought, remembrance, and creative reflection on the truths and mysteries of life."

    I suppose it's not for everyone, but it's worked for me, and proves that Virginia knew what she was talking about.

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    1. It sure does work for you! You're such an elegant writer and the things you write about resonate with a broad spectrum of people. I'm always blown away how large your comment section grows with each post. If you come back to read this, please tell me how long you've been blogging and if you blog is listed somewhere that helped grow your readership to what it it?

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    2. Here I am -- run in by the heat for the rest of the afternoon. It's nice to have a little extra time to get caught up -- and by the way, I re-read your post, and laughed at the cucumber sandwich. I've never had one, either. I guess I need to give it a try.

      I've been blogging since April of 2008 - eight years! I very briefly took part in some of those "awards" that get passed out, but I stopped that after a year or two, and I don't use any of the promotion services. Since I'm not on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., I don't publicize there, either. Occasionally I will post a new blog's link on Twitter, if I happen to think about it, but I often don't think about it.

      Many more people read than comment, and some commenters pop up just every now and then -- it may be three months between comments.

      But that's what's great about it. The number of followers has grown steadily, and even if I cut the total in half, to eliminate the Indonesian marketing experts and such, and then figure 10% of the rest are active and engaged, I'm more than happy. I purposely don't publicize the number of followers I have, or page hits. When I started out, I sometimes felt intimidated by people who proclaimed "SIXTEEN GAZILLION FOLLOWERS!!!" and I don't want any new bloggers who come along to feel like I did.

      What I have been thinking about doing is reposting my first blog, the one that explains where the title of my blog came from, and one that pretty much explains how I go about the writing process. There's been a tremendous turnover in readership -- it keeps increasing, but many have fallen away, for many reasons. Some died, some stopped blogging entirely, some took up yoga and have substituted the Downward Facing Dog position for blog reading. C'est la vie, sez me. Onward!

      From the beginning, I've just written, responded to comments, and visited other people. Growth was very slow for a while, but that was fine. I wanted to respond to comments, to set up discussions, and a huge number of commenters would make that impossible.

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    3. Thank you! You clearly have a good readership and have worked hard at it plus the topics you blog about have a broader appeal than, say, my blog.

      I think the idea of reposting your first blog is a great idea, maybe even put it in a link in your side bar. I often seek out a blogger's first post to see why that started and how they started out.

      Anyway, thanks again.

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  12. Nearly every man I ever dated told me how much he admired my independence -- and yet that was the first thing they all tried to change in me. Lord knows that I certainly didn't feel independent, but I definitely wasn't a clinging vine. I learned early on that people couldn't read my mind and if I wanted something I had better figure out a way to get it or a reasonable facsimile myself. Otherwise I might as well forget it. The flowers I received always surprised me, but seemed a cliché gift from someone with little imagination. And I never knew how to react to such a present. If I gushed over them, I felt phoney, but if I shrugged them off, I felt I was short-changing them -- after all, they did go to the trouble to get them for me. It seemed ungrateful on my part not to ooh and ahhh over them.

    I'm not too good at buying gifts for others either. I try very hard to pick out something special for the other person and an appropriate card, but the card gets merely a glance and the gift seems such a let-down. I've taken to giving cash or gift cards to my kids since we live so far away from each other that I don't know what they already have or our tastes are so different that whatever I buy will probably be in next summer's garage sale.

    Oh, I almost forgot to warn you -- mint is an invasive plant, so unless you want it to take over your entire yard, and probably your neighbors' yards, too, you should probably plant it in pots and be prepared to cut it back now and them because the stems can start new plants if there is a good source of water and sunlight. I love the plants, though. Did you know that there are different varieties with different flavors like chocolate mint? It's a wonderful plant!

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    1. Years ago we knew a mint farmer who supplied most of the mint used in spearmint chewing gum and every year he'd give me enough to make mint jelly. I did get a plant at the farmers market this week and will keep it on my deck. I hope I get enough for the jelly, it was always one of my favorites. Better than store bought. I didn't know about chocolate mint! I'll have to call around and see if anyone has it. It sounds interesting.

      It's kind of sad that most people now (including me) give cash or gift cards. That says so much about society and how are values have changed through the decades. But there is no turning back now, I guess.

      Love what you said about guys telling you they loved your independence but always tried to change you. LOL

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  13. Sounds like you Red Hat gals had a great time. I've never had a cucumber sandwich either, but never too late and I like cucumbers.

    BTW I've thought the woman Red Hats revere was against conformity, so I've never understood how that jibes with all wearing red hats? ;-) Lots more in life I still don't understand.

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    1. Wearing a red hat and something purple at all outings is the ONLY rule put down by the national and international RH Society. Each chapter gets to set their own agendas and rules.

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