Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Gathering Girls and Spring Plans

Last Friday five of us from The Gathering (who henceforth in this blog will be known as ‘The Gathering Girls’) went to our local garden and sculpture park. It was a rainy day with severe weather in the forecast but we’d had the outing planned, canceled and rescheduled already so we went anyway rather than reschedule yet again. Even with retired widows it’s hard to coordinate schedules with five people involved. There is plenty to do inside the buildings at the park. The butterflies were hatching and flying about in the tropical conservatory which was totally unexpected for me. I associate them with April when I usually go to see them as an annual pilgrimage to honor my husband’s birthday and our anniversary. We also nabbed the best table in the dining area, under a small, glass conservatory where we laughed and recuperated half way through viewing the Al Weiwei show we’d come to see. 

According to the booklet they handed out at the exhibit, Mr. Weiwei is one of the “most compelling and influential cultural figures in the world today.” He’s a Chinese artist and activist who has been arrested, held under house arrest and his art studio was torn down for speaking out against censorship and the political system. His porcelain work is flawless, but I can’t say I like many of his pieces. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s not the aesthetics as much as the underlying statement that he’s making that is the most important element. One piece, for example, consists of 1,000 porcelain crabs in a pile and The Guardian explains the work of art like this, “The word for crab, hie xie, is a homonym for harmonious, we are told, and much bandied about in Chinese government circles. There’s not much harmony here among the crustaceans. The word is also used a lot on the internet in China, as slang for censorship.” Okay, I got that at first glance. Easy-peasy.

The Gathering Girls all have a similar sense of humor; we laugh at the same throw-away lines and all of us add our own throw-away lines to conversations. Four of us are in our early to mid-seventies and one is eighty-something. We’re all widows but the oldest of us has a long-time significant other that she visits daily in a nursing home. She’s the only one who doesn’t live alone although she’d like to move out of her son’s house. He and his wife are against it. We’re still in the getting to know each other stage but two of the ladies seem to be bonding faster than the rest of us and that’s probably because they take the same exercise class at the senior hall. Three of the ladies are extremely spontaneous. For example, at coffee after the last Gathering (for people looking for friends) someone suggested we go to a movie on the spot and they would have if they had found one scheduled they hadn’t already seen. Me, I have to think about the dog and how long before he’ll need to go outside so being spontaneous is harder for me and for the elder in the group who meets her young grandson at the bus stop after school is out. The two ladies I’d love to bond with the most double-adore shopping and of all the activities women do in unison that’s one thing I’m not fond of…but I will do it to be sociable. Color me sad about that. 

Monday was RSVP day at the senior hall for all the activities that will take place in April and May. Have I whined enough about the process for you to get the idea that I hate the system of having to be at your computer exactly at 9:00 to send an email list of what I want to do? If you’re one minute late there’s a high probability of going on a waiting list, to see if enough people sign up to add another bus or class or someone cancels. There were twenty-seven events listed (not counting the daily drop-in stuff). I picked six to RSVP but I usually do twelve. I cut back to make room for my personal training sessions and classes at the YMCA. Yes, I’m serious about this being my Spring of Getting Physically Fit. I passed up some great day trips and off-Broadway type shows, too, but I snagged a reservation on one of the five buses going on a restaurant hop in my favorite get-a-way tourist town on Lake Michigan. So I was a happy camper.

But before I get to my April and May spring plans I have to get through March which just might kill me and make the dog an orphan or at the very least, a lonely Schnauzer. There are 25 weekdays in March and I have 29 things on my schedule. Because of my new YMCA sessions, I’m getting up 6:30 when I normally don’t roll out of bed before eight or nine. I’ve been falling asleep before Stephen Colbert does his monologue at 11:30 and that is something I truly regretted until I found clips of show online the next day. How did we ever live without the internet? ©
Al Weiwei's pile of crabs

29 comments:

  1. Hmm, not impressed with the crabs. The sentiment could have been shown in some other way, most any would do.
    Sounds like you will be one busy lady next month. I'd never be able to do that, even when I was younger.
    Don't they have a doggy day care around? Poor Levi.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do have doggie day care around her and Levi has gone before and he loves it. Wouldn't you know it, the one we both like the most is the hardest to get him in. Most of them prefer dogs from working families rather than an occasional drop in like Levi. I took him to the pet store yesterday to do his own shopping and you should have seen him. He was so happy and excited, smelled every single aisle up and down both sides.

      Delete
  2. I don't get the crab sculpture either!

    You're busy so less time to snack and lounge around - half the battle done. Guessing you'll enjoy your relaxed days once the hectic schedule finishes/slows down. Good for you to be so active! You've inspired me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Above comment by Libby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard to criticize art when world experts tell you is so great BUT to me, the crabs are gimmicks. In one room the art was the ugly wall paper. I asked what happens to it when the show is over and it is destroyed, it came to them on a disk that is sent to a wallpaper manufacture at each city where it's shown. I think more than the art itself what is important to the art world is the fact that he stood up against the Chinese government against censorship and helped bring about changes to society. My tastes in art are for the aesthetically pleasing. I don't necessary need art to make me think like another piece of his which is black blobs symbolizing oil spills in oceans. I'm already aware.

      I don't like being as busy as my March will be but the time will go fast. For me, if I didn't do something to get my weight gaining under control, I'd be a lost cause. I'd either continue wearing clothes that are too tight or buy bigger---both would make me ashamed of myself.

      Delete
  4. Well that really is a pile of crabs. I would probably not be a fan. I understand your concern about Levi's bladder. I have the same restrictions on my spontaneity worrying about Callie. She is worth it however.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Levi is worth it too. I've never lived without a dog in the house, he's family.

      Delete
  5. I cannot imagine 29 scheduled events in 25 days. NOPE! I do get out and about almost every day but usually to grocery stores. Always take Mr. 6 to school. Yesterday was haircut and there is a chi chi grocery store near there. I went up and down every aisle in amazement. Mostly about the prices!

    Gathering Girls sounds perfect! A group of condo peeps are going to do Thurs Happy Hour at one couple's condo. We each bring a nibble and a beverage and laugh a few hours away.

    Good job!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never heard of a chi chi grocery store, something to look forward to.

      I'll let you know if I die of exhaustion before the month is over. So far, spending an 1 1/2 at the gym then coming home to get ready to go some please else seems to be giving more more energy, not less. You're keeping up with two busy little boys. I couldn't do that!

      Delete
  6. It's fun to see your social life pick up. Your problem with leaving Levi is one of the reasons I'm hesitant to get a dog. It would be fine now but might not be fine if I lived alone and was free to come and go as I pleased. Decisions, decisions, always decisions.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dog or no dog I'm not the spontaneous type. I like knowing where I'm going a day or two head. For example, if I'm going to meet someone for lunch on the south end of town, I might plan an errand along the way. Not having a dog so I can be more open to spontaneous stuff would be a terrible trade-off for me. I love having a mini responsibility who gives me a sense of purpose. Coming home to an empty house is not my cup of tea.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Maybe it's because crabs are so much a part of life here that I really like the pile. I think it's the contrast between the display and the way crabs behave that's interesting, and raises questions about his larger purpose. I did once use crabs as a metaphor, myself -- I described events "crawling over one another like crabs in a basket." These crabs don't look so lively, though.

    I'm glad you're developing the social life you've craved. I couldn't stand that much activity, myself -- I'd never get anything done. But much of it sounds great, except for the shopping. There isn't anyone in the world I like well enough to go with them to a shopping mall, or shopping at all, for that matter. I would take my mother, though. I miss her a good bit, but I don't miss the shopping trips.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never seen live crabs except in a tank in a restaurant and I try not to look at those. 1) one almost killed me (for real) I'm allergic, and 2) my bleeding heart feels sorry for them. LOL In nature, do they call all over each other? Even though they are crabs, the porcelain was as beautiful as the finest china.

      Trust me, my March will be much busier than I normally like being. A couple of times a week is my ideal to get out and about. In December when I'm snowed in and have to pick my RSVPs for March it all sounds so good I sign up for too much. Then there are things that get added in that I didn't foresee and it's easy to get overbooked. It's happened every March since my husband died.

      Delete
  9. I don't have a TV which means that for years I have been watching Stephen Colbert and John Oliver and others on the Internet. Some of the shows aren't posted on YouTube until 24 hours later and John Oliver doesn't post the entire show but I can live with that! It's better than not getting them at all.
    Years ago there was an Al Wei Wei exhibit in Toronto and honestly it didn't take me long to decide I would rather look at other exhibits. It was too focused on the art as protest and more in the lines of what you said, I would rather look at art for arts sake!
    Regards,
    Leze
    Yesterday was 59 F and I was raking. Today is 19F and snowing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have snow today, too, and ice. I'm debating if I want to go to the gym or not. Spring will be back in a few days.

      Thanks for the tip on Oliver and Colbert.I'm happy with the highlights only, too.

      I would have liked to see some pieces from Al Weiwei's early life...before he got political. He must have been a good craftsman and artist but did the fact that the government wanted to shut him down elevate him to the world stage and not necessarily his artistry per say? I'm thinking of some people in the world of music like Dylan, Lennon and Bono who who used their talent to make political statements. I have no idea what I'm getting at here so I'll stop before I expose my ignorance on this topic. :)

      Delete
  10. I am just a farm girl and the pile of crabs really didn't do a thing for me. I guess I need to become more sophisticated? Your Gathering Girls sounds like fun. I wouldn't fit in--I hate shopping, especially mall or window shopping. I do enjoy shopping when I know what I want/need and go and get it and then come back home and occasionally in those forays, find something I didn't know I wanted until I saw it. I like that. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Become more sophisticated? No, everyone's point of view is valid with art and I'll bet yours and mine are the most common, only a lot of people won't say so because they're told it's world class art.

      The Gathering Girls haven't been shopping together yet unless you count the gift shop at the museum. We were all comparing notes for ideas of things we might to together. Because I don't like to shop I could see the other planning an outing without me...and that would be kind of sad for me.

      Delete
  11. I was following your thinking, even if you weren't!
    Many times we don't know artists until they have achieved a level of success that puts them in the public consciousness. But for a lot of them, even though they are new to us, they are in a mature stage of their art. For years all I ever seemed to see of Picasso was his cubist period and his blue period. Over the past few years I have been to several exhibits that had early sketches and portraits. I hadn't really seen that talent in his cubist art although I really like that period of his works. But his early works show an incredible talent. It's so interesting how his popularity came with his experimenting with different styles which he felt liberated enough to play with once he was noticed as a great artist. It's much the same with John Lennon and Dylan: they, too, by establishing their talent, were given the flexibility to experiment and change styles. I think the flexibility and ability to change is part of the reason these people were recognized as great talents. The question is why them and not so many other talented people? That, I think, in many ways, is being in the right place at the right time. Remember how people really despised Dylan when we went through his electric phase. He was ready to experiment but most of his audience wasn't as forward thinking as he was.
    I agree that it would be interesting to see his earlier works because protesting was a part of his rise, but presumably he had already established his talent enough that his change was something worth noticing.
    Regards,
    Leze

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's exactly what I was thinking but didn't know how to say it! Experimenting after having achieved a level of fame already---Picasso was a perfect example as I used to know his work well. The question you pose about why some talented people get recognized and some don't I agree is partly being in the right place at the right time but I also think it has to be with the artist having a bit of business and marketing sense.

      I loved Dylan and my husband didn't, drove my husband nuts when I played him.

      Delete
  12. It sounds like The Gathering has been a success as a way of making new friends. What a great program! My retirees group of four has a scheduled get-together once a month (although some or all of us may get together for some special event in between). At the end of each monthly gathering, we get out our calendars and pick a date for the following month. -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is and we Gathering Girls have started bringing our calendars to The Gathering to set our smaller get-togethers in between the main event.

      Delete
  13. Have you considered getting a DVR? I wouldn't get to see much without one because I usually fall asleep on the couch.

    Peggy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have one, but I need to teach myself how to use it again. It's been years since I've needed it. Thanks for the reminder.

      Delete
  14. I recall the news stories about this artist. Interesting the significance crabs have in China. Obviously this bit of art is not designed to be displayed in the home.

    Nice that you've been able to connect with this group of widows. Haven't found a similar opportunity here to find such a group. When, or if, I finally do, they'll probably be younger than me which is fine for me, but not sure it will be for them. Shopping with friends has never been my idea of a fun outing, too many other more interesting things when with someone as can always shop if I need something.

    I wouldn't want commitments every day -- had enough of that most of my life. Like to be able to sleep-in in the morning if I feel like it, too. Like to stay up late at night if I feel like it. Guess might be hard for me to connect with some other such person like me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your last paragraph describes me, too, regarding sleeping in and staying up late. But it does make it harder to connect with others when so many others are morning people and go to bed with the sun. The senior hall, for example, has a ton of things going on in the mornings that I've never attended---crafts, cards, exercise classes. It's like a whole different place than I see in the afternoon which is more cultural---lectures, day trips and topic specific classes.

      Al Weiwei art---at least in this exhibit---was all created for public spaces. He has studios all over the world so he must be making the big bucks doing it.

      Delete
  15. I just realized I missed this post.

    I like the crabs, my family has crabs everywhere: necklaces, platters, pictures, I even have a crab puzzle. We're a little nutty about them, but they've been good to us. My family has been in the seafood business for four generations, so crabs have been a large part of our livelihood. They are struggling in the Chesapeake Bay now, largely because of pollution. It's sad. Okay, enough about crabs. I'm babbling.

    I can't believe how busy your March will be. You're a wild woman. Go for it! And I'm happy that your social life is heating up. I hate shopping, too. I almost don't do it anymore. I order almost all my clothes online, but I still go to Home Depot, Dollar Tree and Sam's. Gotta do that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe it either and I can't say I like being that busy but it was now or never to add all the sessions at the YMCA to my schedule. To wait would have meant buying bigger clothes for spring and once that's done there would be no incentive left to go....or in mine mine that's the way it went down.

      Delete
  16. I'm so far behind in my blog reading -- and writing! Where does the time go and how in the world do you keep that schedule???? I feel like I'm busy all then time with something scheduled almost every day....and if not, I jus "veg" and do nothing productive. Your Gathering Girls sound like fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This past week I've come home at 4-5 o'clock and taken a nap. I haven't napped in decades! And yet I'm still able to fall asleep.

      Delete