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, November 22, 2017

Holiday Plans and the Movie Wonder

I’d been wanting to call my youngest niece for over a week but I was afraid she’d think I was fishing for an invitation to come out for Thanksgiving. We talk on the phone every so often and we were overdue for a conversation. I knew she’s been busy helping her husband shrink-wrap boats after doing a her regular full time job and also helping out her daughter-in-law who is recovering from surgery, so I wasn’t concerned that I hadn’t heard from my niece.

In the meantime one of my niece-in-law’s pressured me into going to her Mary Kay party this past weekend even though I told her I don’t wear makeup anymore. But you know how those parties work, sometimes you end up buying when you don't want to because family is involved. I spent $50 on a face mask product and a sun screen. It didn’t help that I’ve become obsessed with my aging skin since I dug out a photo of me taken in 1967 and I had concrete proof that a century of living has not been kind to my once beautiful complexion. Boo woo, a close up photo of my skin would be hard to tell from a moonscape! But I am not obsessing enough to buy the Mary Kay $315 Awesome Advanced Age-Fighting Regimen Kit. My life-expectancy is too short to spend all that time and money cleaning, repairing, lifting, creaming and moisturizing my face with the contents of those eight tubes and jars.

 When my niece-in-law asked me what I’m doing for Thanksgiving I said, “I’m making turkey soup.” Why did I have to give her an honest answer? “Come over here!” she replied. “We’ll have lots of food.” I gave her a non-committal answer something like if you don’t hear from me by Tuesday, I’m not coming. I knew when I said it, I wasn’t going. I’m not fond of her grandchildren, one of whom will probably end up committing mass murder. And I’m not joking. 

After I got home from the Mary Kay party, right on queue my niece called and said she’d been so busy she forgot to call and she wanted me to come out to her house for Thanksgiving. Yeah! “…over the river and through the woods. Now Grandma’s cap I spy. Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” I have fond memories of singing that song as Don and I would drive down the dirt road to my mom and dad’s cottage out in the boondocks. Between that house and my brother’s near-by my nieces and nephew have been a part of my Thanksgivings for thirty-five years.

Change of topic: The movie Wonder, based on a novel by the same name and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay was a fantastic, feel good piece of inspirational writing paired with perfect casting. Jacob plays a ten year old boy---Auggie---who had been home schooled because of a facial distortion called “craniofacial difference” a birth anomaly in his DNA and the movie starts with him going to his very first day of regular school, in the 5th grade and it follows him through that first year of him and his classmates learning to accept each other. A subplot involving his older sister and her friends added a layer of teen drama that also turned into the warm, fuzzes by the end of the film.

I went into the movie believing it was based on a true story but when I googled it later I learned it wasn’t. The story grew out of an incident where the author, R.J. Palacio, was in an ice cream shop with her family when the facial deformities of a girl at the next table caused her own child to start crying. She said she acted badly and rushed her kids out, missing a teachable moment instead of setting a good example to her kids about acceptance. That night she started writing the book with the basic theme of choosing kindness. I love how the story was told from several viewpoints: Auggie’s parents, his older sister, the bullies, the do-gooders and the best friends he developed at school. I cried once, when the dog died---oops, I guess it’s too late to issue a spoiler alert---but all of Gathering Girls I saw the movie with were dapping our eyes at one point or another. Mostly happy tears.

This would be the perfect movie to take a grandchild of any age to over the holidays. We all left the theater in an uplifted and happy mood, knowing it portrayed the world the way it should and could be if we all took the challenge one of Auggie’s teacher gave his students: "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." If you think that line looks familiar, the author borrowed the it from inspirational speaker, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer but her Wonder book elevated it into the ‘Choose Kind Movement’ in classrooms across America. A perfect message to be reminded of over the holidays. ©

Saturday, November 18, 2017

When the Past Connects to the Present


He was in his mid twenties with long, Braveheart-style hair only clean and looking like a photographer's fan should be blowing it back away from his perfect face. He was tall, muscles in all the right places, flat mid-section and his eyes---heck, I’d be lying if I said I noticed what color they were but I’m assuming they were like pools of dark chocolate. Let’s cut to the chase; he was tall, dark and handsome and I picked his checkout lane at Lowe’s because...well, his was the only one open but if I were inclined to embellish this story I’d say I picked it because he made my heart go pitter-patter. 

He took my check and stared at it for the longest time. I thought maybe I’d made a mistake and put the year 1967 down instead of 2017. I’ve been living in that year every day since I started re-reading the letters from the fifty penpals I had back during the Vietnam War. Finally he said, “You have beautiful handwriting.” Oh. My. God! That’s exactly what made so many G.I.s I had sent Christmas cards to want to write me back. That and the Avon Unforgettable perfume I sprayed on the envelopes. But I digress. “It’s nearly perfect,” he added. It wasn’t and I had an urge to say, “That’s my in-a-hurry writing. I can do better. Let me write you another check.” I didn’t. I kept that thought in my head.

“Did you know that Steve Jobs studied calligraphy with a monk before he started Apple?” he asked. “I do,” I replied and then he said, “Isn’t it ironic that a guy who credited his love of calligraphy for the fact that computers now come with lots of typefaces would become the very guy who is making cursive writing obsolete.” Wow, that’s mind blowing! I thought but I replied something about how they don’t even teach cursive in schools anymore and how someday there will be scholars who will do nothing but translate cursive. The guy was clearly in love with my handwriting and he seemed reluctant to put the check in his drawer. If I had been his age, I would have written my name and phone number on a piece of paper and slipped it into his shirt pocket. We made that kind of connection. Well, not exactly. I was in lust with his mind and body and he was fascinated with the mathematical precision of my penmanship and how Jobs could write coding for that, but it’s my story so if I want to suggest our connection could'a run deeper in a boy/girl kind of way if only that age thing hadn’t been an issue, I can. 

I came right home and googled Steve Jobs and I found an article about a speech he made at Stanford’s 2005 graduation ceremony. He talked about his time spent learning calligraphy and how it influenced how Apples were built to include different fonts and typefaces and how that in turn influenced Microsoft to follow suit. "You can’t connect the dots looking forward," he told the grads. "You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something---your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." 

Being the age I am, I saw the truth in Steve’s words. When we’re young we try a little of this and a little of that, haphazardly tasting what life has to offer. It’s only through the passing of time that we can see the trajectory our lives took, how all the parts fit together. I see that in the letters I’ve been re-reading. I was so young and innocent back in 1967 and not afraid to take on the world. In 1967 and 1968 I saw both the highest and lowest points in my entire life and who would have thought that 50 years later I would go to a lecture about war letters that would cause me to revisit that pivotal era in my life and in such a close-up and detailed way.

I’m three quarters of the way through the letter reading project and it finally dawned on me to get out the journals I kept during that time frame and compare them to the copies I kept of the letters I wrote to my G.I. penpals. Two sentences jumped out at me and they changed the watercolor memory of a serviceman I dated for a year after he came home and who broke my heart and spirit in ways I’ve never written or talked about. It went something like: “He scares me sometimes. When we’re horsing around he’s not quick to let me go when I tell him to stop.” Those sentences sent chills down my spine. There's no way of knowing where that aggressiveness would have led if we had stayed together but I do know I'm on a cathartic journey that is connecting all the dots in my life.

Steve Jobs said you have to believe in something and I pick destiny. Destiny put me in a checkout lane for a brief liaison with a young guy who loved my penmanship. He might have loved it for an entirely different reason than my G.I. penpals did, but his expression as he studied my check could have been the same mesmerized look that stared at my envelopes at Mail Call back in 1967. Having beautiful penmanship changed my life.  ©