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, February 15, 2017

From Snarky to Happy Anticipation


After my book club met this month I wondered if I’m turning into a snarky book critic. We discussed The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, a saga by Jan-Philipp Sendker that GoodReads says is “a poignant and inspirational love story.” Gag me with a spoon! I hated the book but I was the odd man out because the other eleven ladies in the club loved, LOVED, loved it. One women even said she sobbed most of the way through it “because it was such a beautiful story.” When it was my time to speak, I stated that it was a classic Romeo and Juliet plot with Burmese parables thrown in and that I hated the LONG, backstory monologues spoken by a character using an all-knowing point of view that he couldn’t possibly have been privy to. All eyes staring at me until one woman broke the silence with, “I don’t care. I loved it.” I guess I’m also too cynical to believe that teenaged love can be sustained for 50 years without any contact with one another, then they can pick up right where they left off and end up dying in each other's arms. One woman in the club gushed that our “Romeo” was such a caring man. And I retorted, “A kind man wouldn’t have left his family and friends in New York to wonder why he disappeared off the face of the earth.” (He left for work one day and never showed up at the office.) Why was I so confrontational about this book? I couldn’t seem to help myself. In my defense, it’s not like I could have kept my opinions to myself because the facilitator calls on each of us.

I did a lot of thinking on the way home from book club. Why couldn’t I overlook the glaring flaws in the structure of the book and see what the others saw in the story? I believe in love, but I also believe that fifty years of living changes people. Or at least it should. And I couldn't help wondering what if I was the lone holdout on jury, would I cave and abandon my own instincts and sense of logic under peer pressure because maybe the others were seeing something I didn’t? I didn’t like feeling that I wasn't in the norm, didn’t conform. It’s a popular book for clubs and during the discussion I felt myself tense up. I didn’t know whether to be upset with myself, the others or the author. No one’s life depended on my vote for or against the book, but what if it did? I almost hate to admit it, but on a jury I probably would cave and not let a murder trial go to a mistrial.

New topic: Monday and Tuesday I spent more time at the senior hall than I usually do because I volunteered to help with their Valentine’s Day luncheon. It’s a five-six hour commitment between the two days and this was my third time helping with one of these events. I did it because it was time to pay the piper. 1) Last fall a woman I really like asked me be the co-chair for this luncheon and I turned her down but offered, instead, to be on her crew of eight workers, and 2) the director of the place would like everyone who is able to volunteer to help with something twice a year. Yeah! Now I’ve got my 2017 commitment out of the way! The first day I got to cover the tables with red table clothes and put Valentine’s Day napkins and chocolate kisses on white placemats and the next day I was in charge of patting 117 giant strawberries dry and placing them on dessert plates with the best chocolate cheese cake I’ve ever had and to be the sour cream girl in the food line. (We assemble the plates in the kitchen and high school kids run the plates to the banquet room.) The entertainment at the luncheon would have been better suited for the Easter luncheon since a guy with a saxophone played mostly of southern gospel music. Ya, go figure that combination! But he was good and I was glad he didn’t play sappy love songs like they’ve done at other Valentine’s Day luncheons. They made me cry at least three years in a row. All and all it was a happy, two day experience.

After helping set up on Monday I walked across the hall and took part in the tail end of a Gathering (for people looking for friends). I truly adore that group and afterward five of us went out for coffee, then we made plans to meet next week for lunch at the sculpture park and to see their new exhibit of Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and international activist. Can you believe it, we all have memberships to the park! I don’t know another living soul who has one. I hope this excursion works out. It would be great to have some gal pals who might like going to summer art fairs and shows.  ©

34 comments:

  1. Jean R. - count me as your biggest fan! I laughed out aloud at your description of the book club and your comments because that's pretty much what I'd have done. True, it leaves one wondering is something is wrong with one's self, but... I think its more important to be true to myself! and at this age, I have nothing to lose!

    Many thanks for your tip about sour cream and strawberries. I have some left over sour cream in the fridge that I now know how to use, albeit it'll probably be with whatever fresh fruit I have at home.

    Happy for you that the Gathering is working out. ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, I wrote that wrong if I left the impression that the sour cream went with the strawberries and cheese cake. It was for baked potatoes. But add a little sugar to it and I'll bet it would work as a dessert topping.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one to trash a book others loved in public. Makes m e feel better.

      Delete
  2. PS I read a review and articles about "When Breath Turns into Air", including one from his widow, that made me cry. And request a copy from the library. Also read a NYT article about President Obama's 10LAD (sorry, you'll have to google that if you're interested) and the work team involved in that - cried some more, and my admiration for that wonderful man soared some more, as my contempt at the successor and his feckless party. ~ Libby

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just found the first book at Amazon to put in my wish list. And I read the NYT articles about letters to Obama. I really hope that turns into a book. I miss that man. Thanks!

      Delete
  3. So many people like a book because their opinion is guided by what others think of it. I only had hostile feelings for one book I read. It was supposed to be a romance, but it left such a bad taste in my mouth I couldn't give it a fair review.
    Your luncheon sounds pretty nice and good for you - to get those obligations out of the way early on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Romance" books with violent or cruel leading men turn me right off, otherwise I usually like a wide variety of romances. It's funny how a book can leave us feeling hostile...it's just words.

      Delete
  4. I'm assuming they were some of the same women you've gone out with before. It is so cool that you've found friends that have interests that align with yours. I think you may have hit the jackpot.

    I laughed when your mind jumped to jury duty after the book club. I've always told myself that I would have been the hold-out on the O.J. trial, but I probably would have caved. Remember how long that trial was? And they were sequestered! They must have been desperate to go home.

    I belonged to a book club. All of the other members went to the same church. At the first meeting they said that we would exclude books with "bad" language and violence. After about three meetings, they chose Unbroken, a book about a POW in WWII. He was an incredible man whose story deserved to be told, but the book was a laundry list of violent assaults against the human body and the human spirit. I hadn't read anything that disturbing since Night by Elie Wiesel. All the other members loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read a few POW and Holocaust books. They are hard to forget, aren't they. That the human spirit can endure so much is amazing.

      Wouldn't you hate to be sequestered for months with a bunch of strangers who might or might not turn into people you like.

      Yes, these are the same ladies from the Gathering that I've written about before. Now that nicer weather will soon be on the way, I'm hoping we can really start bonding with more outings. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

      Delete
  5. I just recently joined a book club. I haven't been able to read books since my husband died almost 4 years ago, but I want to connect with these women. One lives in my neighborhood and I really like her. The book is ok and I'm almost done, but it doesn't seem to have the depth of characters and quality of writing of books I read long ago. But a really good book might take me more than a month to read with all the other stuff I do.šŸ˜Š Your senior center sounds wonderful. I'll have to check mine out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary, it took me a long while before I could concentrate enough to read again after my husband died. Even now at the five year mark I still don't seem to enjoy reading as much as I used to, but I fully believe it's worth pushing forward...to challenge myself. Good luck with your club. We have a list of questions to guide our conversations, put out by the publishers and available online.

      Delete
  6. It sounds to me as though you read the book, found some inherent problems (that long backstory, for example)and enough flaws that you couldn't enjoy it. End of story. When someone says they "loved, LOVED, loved" a book, it says something about them, but not a thing about the quality of the book. While it may have been a perfect read for some, that doesn't mean it couldn't have been a wholly unsatisfying story for a more critical reader --as it clearly was for you. (And by critical, I don't mean negative; I mean discerning.)

    Of course, I'm not generally a fan of overlooking flaws. I do it for friends, and the occasional relative like Aunt Ruby. And I'll take an imperfect flower, or an overcooked dinner, and be happy. But when the point is to critique, I'm more than willing to do so. I'm even critical of my own stuff. There's a reason some blog entries have more than a hundred revisions. It's possible that, if I overlooked the flaws, I wouldn't have a single reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for what you said in the first paragraph. I really couldn't overlook the long---like 20 pages long---monologues scattered through out the book and I kept wondering why an editor allowed the author to break all the rules about point of view story telling.

      With people, we all overlook flaws. Otherwise none of us would have friends or warm relationships would we.

      You are such a beautiful writer, I'm surprised that some of your blog entries go through so many revisions. On the other hand, that's probably WHY they are so well written and you have such a large following of readers. Your blog entries belong in a book, a traveling the back roads kind of book.

      I know what you mean though about self editing and critiquing. I've gotten up in the middle of the night to change, cut or add a paragraph to something I'm working on. That's what I love around writing and painting---no matter how hard you work at it, you can always get better and you'll never be good enough.

      Delete
  7. Oh I love that you didn't cave. I quit my book club for a plethora of reasons but this was one of them. I never saw the books the same way. I never poo-poo'd their comments or their logic. They were quite pretensious about what we read. God forbid when it was my turn to choose the book and I picked a current best seller. How pedestrian of me! I listened to them discuss and pontificate and was fascinated how we all read the same book and saw it all so differently. Or at least I did. Inevitably I was the hold out, it began with a few but they all gave in to peer pressure and the "leader" who thought her opinion was all that mattered. The book was Eat Pray Love. I did not see it as the rest of society saw it. But I didn't cave. I gave my thoughts to them and was lambasted. When I was cornered in the club I just said, "isn't it great that we are all different? There are millions of books for us to love." I let it go but my goodness they were as tenacious as pit bulls to make me change my mind. Why did it matter? Wasn't a book club to discuss all views of this book we are all reading? The women were all about 10 yrs older than me and so rigid, so much so that they couldn't even comprehend how someone just didn't agree with them as they would tell me their past careers. I was a lit. teacher, I was a librarian, etc as though that made their opinion matter more. I would smile and sit there and think how I was going to tell them I was leaving the group. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My book club was formed three books ago and has a lot of retired teachers in it. So far I haven't been "lambasted" for being the old man out on all the books but I'm grateful we have skilled facilitator who keeps things moving along. I do find it fascinating that people read the same books and come away with such different opinions. We all bring different life experiences to what we read and see. It's fun to figure out what those experiences.

      "Eat Pray Love" I read the book and saw the movie and then promptly forgot what it was about, so it's safe to say I wasn't overly impressed.

      Delete
  8. I probably wouldn't have read past the 4th chapter of a book like that. You are right. How caring can a man be who walks out on his family? I'm curious--were the other readers of the conservative bent politically? Are you still angry about the Trump election? Maybe that is what colored both sides of the review of this book. I am finding that people are still angry (on both sides) as a result of this election. People are still snarking back and forth at each other. This would not be a good time for ME to be in a group because I would probably disagree with the majority, just because I am still in a very bad mood, and if I thought those other women were all so sappy over a book, I'd probably feel I HAD to enlighten them. LOL Which begs the question--why do I feel that I am teacher of the world?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've never discussed politics at the book club and I have no clue what way the others in the group lean. I'm not angry about the election---it's over---but I'm fearful and angry with the direction #45 is taking the country. But without a doubt that isn't channeling into my thoughts about this book. (I have a website I go to for political discussions and get that stuff out of my system.) But you make a good point about them being all sappy over the book and that alone putting me in a bad mood. Why didn't at least one person see it the same way I did?

      If you feel like the teacher of the world maybe everyone in our age bracket feels like that but only you're the only one admit it out loud? LOL

      Delete
  9. I've never belonged to a book club. Never wanted to belong to one for precisely the situation you and some of the comments relate. Most of my life I've read only nonfiction. A few years ago I started reading some fiction. I had problems because I wanted time lines and situations to be true to real lie. Doesn't work that way in fiction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good fiction writers do good research. Historical fiction is my favorite genre. I can't tell you how many times I've fact checked authors' timelines, etc. only to find out they were right. You learn to trust certain authors over others.

      Delete
  10. I had to look at reviews for the book on Amazon. 2,368 positive. 354 critical. Please add yours! Personally I steer clear of romance in books and movies ever since I've been single, so I would have skipped this book.

    Strong words of praise "I truly adore that group". Think back a year ago, or five. Ever think you'd get here?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I looked those reviews up at Amazon, too. But since I didn't buy the book there I won't leave a review. I think most people like it because it's set in an exotic place and they are fascinated by the culture.

      Compared to five years ago or even two, I am in a better place, that's for sure.

      Delete
  11. I used to belong to a book group. I still see the women regularly but we no longer read books for discussion. We actually stopped reading books, because at the time we were all still working, and none of us felt that we had time to read. Now we chat about the world and everything in it!
    I am not a movie watcher. I found, over the last years, that I was becoming less tolerant of films that didn't grab me from the beginning and that I really dislike unnecessarily emotional or sentimental movies. I dislike the way that I feel that we, as the audience, are being enticed by the background music or close up facial expressions meant to tease us into feelings. I, somehow, feel that my emotions are being manipulated. That said, I love opera and its absurdly sentimental music and drama. I think the difference there is the expectations I have when watching the different art forms.
    I feel the same with books, although I abandoned reading non fiction some years ago. Not to criticize your book club partners but I wonder how many of them are willing and wanting to abandon their critical faculties to be able to "lose themselves in a book".
    And I was amused by your comment "it's just words". There are some in the current administration who are trying to convince us that we shouldn't listen to POTUS comments because they are just words. As all of us who have read Elie Wiesel know, words have incredible power and can stay inside of us for a long time.
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh gosh, I will never say "it's just words" again because, you're right, that's what POTUS' defenders say about his lying. Words do have power beyond belief---the right words, said by the right person at the right time can start wars or heal nations.

      You have an interesting take on movies and books manipulating your emotions yet you don't view music as doing the same thing. For me, music can change my moods in under two minutes...less if I recognize the opening notes of a favorite. Any art form be it writing, music, film, dance, a painting or sculpture evokes emotion. With the better ones you're just not aware that you are being manipulated to see what the creator wanted you to feel. I'll have to think about what you said about there being different expectations when watching different art forms. You're probably 100% right. You love and have studied music. I love and have studied writing. Our expectations and standards are not going to be equal reading a book or going to a concert.

      Delete
  12. Wow, it's about time that you wrote a blog. I've been excited waiting to read it.
    As far as you being the only one not liking the book, SO WHAT! I'm impressed that you admitted the many flaws it had. The other ladies just wanted some love with it. Jean, I love the fact that you say what you want to say and no matter what others feel, you give what you say and that's great. To many people today follow the club even though they may feel differently. Don't change your ways my friend. See ya until next the time.

    Cruisin Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't always say what I think. Lots of time I go along to get along or I soften my first thoughts before I speak them...and that's okay with me. LOL

      Delete
  13. I do agree with you about manipulating emotions. I think my problem with Hollywood style movies is that too many of them are too overt in their presentation. Beautiful people, sunsets, romantic music. I find music intriguing because there is such a mystery to the way it stings your emotions: why are two notes so deeply connecting with something inside of me. There was a book that I read several years ago and I think it is time to read it again: This is your brain on music. I think, for me, I also resent all the stereotypes and lack of imaginative story lines in so many movies. I write this and am very much aware that I love opera and there is so much convention and structure in that too! I stopped watching movies when I felt that creativity wasn't strong. With opera, even if there is music that is familiar and written to sting your emotions, there is also creativity in the designs and production and it is a feast when it works well.
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just looked at that book on Amazon. It looks like an interesting read. Your description of how you feel about opera is fascinating. I never would never have thought of opera as being creative---emotional, yes like listening to classical music can be---but the stories and notes in opera never change. What do I know, I've never even been to a live production of opera. They must have their tricks, too, like in Hollywood style movies that use visual clues to evoke moods and emotion. Stage and costume designers must do the same, only in a shorthand kind of like of way because their productions are more static in nature. What's your favorite opera?

      Delete
  14. I think a good comparison would be the different ways a song is interpreted. Consider the National Anthem being performed at baseball games and how the singer is subtly changing rhythm or tone values without changing the notes. We have a Shakespeare company that performs here every fall at the local college, and while it is convention to not change the words that Shakespeare wrote, they do perform in costumes of different periods and use song to reinterpret the plays.
    My favorite opera is La Traviata, which is an interpretation of a 19th century novel by Dumas. Verdi's music is sublime and there is some singing in Act 2 (especially scene 3) that is so heart stinging! It's a classic love story between a well positioned guy and the woman he loves (who doesn't have acceptable standing in society). In Act 2, there is singing between the man's father, who opposes the relationship, and the courtesan who eventually dies of TB. A couple of years ago my husband and I were in NYC for a week. We saw 3 operas in that week! We did see La Traviata and that time the first Act was done in greys:the costumes were all grey and the scenery was all grey and then Violetta appeared in this fabulous red dress. It was stunning!
    You are forcing me to consider why I have no patience for mediocre films or television. I think it is because I have too often been disappointed and am no longer willing to give films a chance. On my 7 hour flight across the Atlantic last week, when there was an hour left, I started watching Frozen (the animated Disney film). I like animation. I spoke to several people later and explained that I only saw part of the film and wanted to know how it ended. Both people said they couldn't remember the plot! I thought that was significant...pure eye candy. Which, in a sense, is what I am admitting about opera, except that it also has superb music and acting and when it all combines there is a depth of quality that is exciting.
    Regards
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you believe I've never seen Frozen! Animation is not something I willing watch. Aren't we all so different. Maybe it's all just pure eye candy only some of us like the orange candy and some of like the purple so to speak. The all grey scenery with the red dress does sound stunning...using color to direct the audience to really focus on what they want to uplift. That's what I meant about live stage productions having to convey a mood using a kind of shorthand that films don't need to do.

      I just went to YouTube and listened to Pavarotti- La Traviata- Brindisi. That's my attempt at growth for today. LOL

      Delete
  15. I'm too selfish to join a book club. I tried it once and it was like an episode of Desperate Housewives. The hostess lived in a $1M (or more) home and was dressed in designer clothes (and not my Walmart upscale wardrobe). They all had Louis Vitton purses (or other high cost brand). The food was exquisite and mostly purchased for exorbitant costs.

    And only ONE other person (there may have been 15 ladies) had even read the book.

    Now I hear about books from others (you, my sister, friends who belong to book clubs, Oprah) and when I'm back to reading more and watching less, I've got a nice list going. In Maui I bought audible books and listened while cleaning or ironing or whatever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hate to break it to you, but that wasn't a book club you belonged to. LOL

      Delete
  16. I feel like the whole point of a book club is to be exposed to other points of view. (Otherwise, why bother discussing the book with others.) I have the opposite tension in my book group; I'm always the least critical member of the group. But I don't feel as though my friends' critiques ruin the books for me, just help me to think more deeply about them. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. We are such a new group we're still getting to know each other and our tastes in books. I don't believe I'll be the odd man out on the book we're reading for next month's discussion.

      Delete
  17. I was in a book club for about 5 years a long time ago and mostly liked it, but mostly for the social aspects and eventually I was one of the "bad" members who never finished the book and another woman and I talked about TV shows and movies. I've not joined another book club because of my slothful tendencies -- I don't like reading under pressure.

    I really appreciate when others have divergent views on things and I totally relate to your critique of the book. I think that's why I mostly like non-fiction. Sometimes I just get annoyed with fiction -- except my obsession with the Outlander series, which I totally admit is a total fantasy that apparently appeals to zillions of (mostly women) readers. One day I'll examine that phenomenon in a blog post. I've got some ideas...

    I'm so glad your gathering group is turning out to be a place of companionship, comfort, and validation! Woo-Hoo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Outlander" is an amazing writing feat combining research, imagination and talent. I've read a couple to see what all the buss was about and it's well deserved. Just not my idea read. Expect me to copy and paste this paragraph when you write your post. LOL

      Reading under pressure is hard!

      Delete