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, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville’s Unite the Right Rally

It was July 8th when I last wrote about world events and politics, the G20 Summit to be exact. And no matter how often I vow not to write about controversial and divisive topics here I am again, ready to broach the event that brought homegrown hate groups together last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia---the Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, White Supremacists and the KKK. Their Friday night Unite the Right torch-lite rally where at one point hundreds yelled obscenities in front of a church filled with area clergy who were inside praying as part of the counter-protestors was shocking and downright scary. “You will not replace us!” they shouted along with “Blood and soil!” and other Nazi inspired slogans. 

The next morning many of Unite the Right attendees donned their protective gear, grabbed their guns, flag poles and shields and took to the streets and we all know what happened after that including a young neo-Nazi from Ohio plowing his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors killing one and injuring nineteen. President Trump still has not called that deliberate mowing down of people an act of domestic-terrorism. If the driver had been a Muslim, he would have tweeted that out within an hour and that fact is a dog whistle telling the hate groups all they need to know. Silly me, why would I expect any better from a president who installed Alt-Right Steve Bannon and White Nationalists Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller into key positions in the White House? Even before the latter two were added to the administration, one of Trump’s first acts in office was to shut down the arm of Homeland Security that kept track of home-grown domestic hate groups. Thanks, guys, for helping to elect me.

Many people, no doubt, saw nothing wrong with what the president said on the weekend: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” The president dug the hole he found himself afterward by adlibbing the words “on many sides, on many sides” that weren’t in the written text of the statement he was given to read. Almost immediately people took that to mean he was lumping the counter-protesters in with the hate groups who converged on Charlottesville. Surely, a president should be nuanced enough to know there is no moral equivalent between the white supremacist groups and those who came to counter-act that kind of hate. Senator Kamala Harris made that point more bluntly when she tweeted: “It’s not hard to spot the wrong side here. They’re the ones with the torches and the swastikas.” The Tweeter-in-Chief could have put this controversy to a rest swiftly after it started, but he didn’t. It took him over two days to come before America to read another scripted statement, trying to undo the damage he did with the first. 

“As I said on Saturday, we condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America…,” he read off a teleprompter Monday, looking like a hostage forced to do it. “We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans. Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” 

Was that statement too little too late? Was it sincere? I guess that’s for each of us to decide for ourselves, but for me I was surprised he didn’t choke on the words, “we must love each other, show affection for each other…” His entire campaign fanned the flames of prejudice and divisiveness, his tweets are nests of nastiness and as president giving Bannon a strong voice in policy decisions is not the act of a man who wants to bring us all together for a rousing round of We are the World.

Republican strategist and CNN political commentator Ana Novarro said: “I've been embarrassed about having Trump as President, many times. But no time, worse than today. I'm beyond embarrassed. I'm ashamed.” I share that shame and embarrassment with Ann, especially now after Trump made his third statement made on Monday about Charlottesville, showed his true colors and emboldening those in the White Supremacy Movement. Make no mistake about it, Trump came down on the wrong side of history and I hope I live long enough to see him pay a heavy price for that. ©

 Bella in the comments suggested this video. My God, half way through watching it I was choking up. It's 22 minutes long so if you can't watch it now, come back. It's worth it if you are still struggling to understand what happened. The girl reporter, Elle Reeve, is impressive and very brave.

Stephan Colbert's Response to Charlotteville

 Jimmy Fallon's response to Racism

 This photo and Nelson Mandela's words below is what President Obama tweeted out in the aftermath of Charlottesville. Always a class act.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From Silliness to Seriousness and Back Again

Barely two weeks into August and it feels like fall this morning. I’m sitting here wishing that I’d give into the urge to turn the furnace on to take the chill out of the house. My yard on the other hand looks like a lush, dew-touched jungle in the early sun. Plants need thinning, trees need trimming, weeds need pulling and the woodpeckers are pecking on their feeding log near-by. They’re the only birds I’m feeding these days. I do see an occasional hummingbird coming by to check out the big ball of pink otherwise known as a begonia that sits by my window screen. They’re not impressed. Ungrateful creatures, I bought it just for them. 

Earlier this week the Gathering Girls got together for our First Mondays brunch. We have a seventh member now, invited in by unanimous consent. I like her a lot and we discovered Monday that she’s got a background in art. What are the chances that three out of seven random woman looking for friends would have art in common? Our little spin-off group from the senior hall has been doing brunches since early spring and back then I had visualized we’d be doing more summer outings than the two-three we’ve done in addition to the brunches. I forgot how old we all are and how that factors into how far people are willing/able to walk in peruse of fun. Still, I’m counting the experiment in trying to organize us a success. Did I mention that I appointed myself the group’s secretary who sends out a mass email reminder before the brunches and another of ‘minutes from the brunch’ afterward to keep us all on the same page regarding future plans? Yes, I can officially say I now have post-widowhood friends. It’s been a long haul finding them and it took an adjustment in how I define friendships.

New topic: I get my health insurance through an employee’s retiree trust and they are leaning on us to change from Traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage PPO. It’s voluntary now but how long will that last? I went to a meeting this week about the plan because I’m stressed out about making this decision. Literally half the doctors in town---all attached to the largest hospital---are out-of-network for the advantage plan but, for the most part, I don’t use that hospital or their doctors anyway. I hate changes like this! I hate that our entire country’s healthcare system seems to be pulling apart at the seams. I hate that I can’t be young again when all I had to worry about was measles, mumps and running with scissors.

In addition to the insurance meeting and brunch with the Gathering Girls, I had my second (and last) painting lesson followed by going to a Big Band music concert in the park. Another day I had lunch with my book club plus old friends from out of state were in town and we had dinner together. But the biggest time-consumer project this week was getting my carpeting cleaned. Everything small had to be moved out of the way in four rooms and then carried back again after the carpet dried. Last year when it was cleaned the dog vomited on it soon after the guys left. I have never had a dog who up-chucks as often as Levi does and no matter how hard I try to get a paper under him or him moved to a hard surfaced floor when I hear those telltale retching, gagging sounds, he resists. He seems to think vomit belongs on carpeting which is why I pay an extra $100 to have them treated with Scotchgard. It works. Sign me up for one of their commercials where I’d get paid to say, “Levi puked here and there and it didn't stain! It sits on the surface waiting for me to clean it up.”

Back tracking to the concert in the park: When Don was alive we went every summer Tuesday but this was only the second one I’ve gone since he passed away. Gosh, it was fun! B.L. and I had dropped our chairs off before walking across the park to get ice cream and when we got back we discovered that a couple had moved our chairs back a row and put theirs in their place. Who does that? We got our revenge laughing when a bird came by and pooped on the guy’s down-under hat. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to people watch at free concerts. My favorite was a guy strutting around in cheap, red gym shorts that at first glance looked like they had a girlie ruffle at the bottom and with them he was wearing red high-topped leather boots. On the opposite end of the ‘classiness scale’ was a couple who danced to nearly every song---songs like, Stormy Weather, Red Sails in the Sunset, String of Pearls, and Georgia. A grandmother dancing in a long, bumpy lumpy pink knit dress was also entertaining to watch. She was holding a towheaded boy who in turn was holding a black baby doll while five little kids ran circles around and around her feet. Other people watchers watching B.L. and I giggling over silly comments whispered between us probably thought we were two seventy year olds acting like seven. I don’t care. The world would be a better place with more silliness and laughter. ©

 This video of movie dance scenes mashed up has nothing to do with this blog. 
It's just fun to watch.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Love Letters and those that Aren’t

“Windows down, country sound, FM on the radio, Just me and you and the man on the moon, Cruisin' down some old back road…” Ever since I heard Rhett Thomas singing those words on my XM satellite radio, I can’t get it out of my head that I want to write a love letter to my husband which is strange on several levels, the least of which is the fact that he’s been dead for five and a half years. But the main reason it’s strange is because when he was alive I never wrote a love letter to him. Notes scribbled in greeting cards, yes, but not the rambling kind of letter listing the reasons why I loved him or containing a dissertation on why we were good together ending with a declaration that I’d never stop loving him. Oh, I’d written letters to him but I only wrote them when something in our relationship was bothering me and I wanted to put my all thoughts in a format where they’d be heard…really heard. In full. No interruptions. And those letters usually became tools for us to work through a misunderstanding or whatever “sugar pea” I had stuck up my nose and couldn’t see past. 

After Don had his stroke and we were in the process of moving, I had to empty out his desk and I was surprised to find a file folder containing seven of my letters---probably every one I’d ever written to him. Imagine that, a whole folder full of what I perceived as being wrong between us. Anti-love letters, so to speak. I kept them until last year when I decided they did a disservice to our forty-two year history together, didn’t represent our relationship as a whole. It still bothers me once in a while that I destroyed them because---for one thing---that act was an admission that I’m going to join him in the Great Unknown sooner rather than later and someone else could have ended up reading them. There was nothing shocking in the letters. There were no villains or long suffering heroines in our story, we were just dealing with normal life stuff---yadda, yadda, yadda to the very end when Don’s dying words to me were, “Love you.” But there was nothing in that folder for balance. Nothing to show the Yin to my Yang, the seasons of contentment to my winters of discontent. 

Widows are often accused of putting their husbands on pedestals that no living man could ever compete with and while I do believe it’s true with a lot of widows who start dating too soon (in my opinion) I don’t think that’s what I did when early on after Don’s death I made a conscious decision to only write about him in a positive light…the pedestal so to speak. I know he was human with human failings and foibles like the rest of us, but he was first and foremost a good man, a man of honor and honesty. A hard working man who loved me enough to let me be me, who provided the security I enjoy today and who made me laugh far more often than he made me cry. Lately, songs I’ve been hearing on Prime Country XM have been flooding me with overwhelming feelings of gratitude and love. I wish I could hug Don one last time and whisper all those feelings in his ear so they’d quit chasing each other around in my head like a puppy trying to catch his tail.

The song mentioned above, Make Me Wanna, with its line about getting “drunk on you with no alcohol” makes me remember in vivid detail that new-love, I-had-him-at-hello feeling but what’s out there to help us remember old-love, like fine wine, that gets better with age? Kenny Rogers’ Through the Years comes close but while it does conjures up a deep appreciation for the longevity of relationships, hearing it often makes me remember the sadness of kissing Don’s lips moments after he died and whispering, “Until we meet again.” Where is the song that mimics what’s in my heart?

Maybe instead of a love letter I should write a song, one that goes something like this: “If I could, I’d write you a country-western love song, one that makes me feel the warmth of your arms around me when it comes through my Sirius radio, one that tells the world how grateful I am that you were you and I was free to be me and together we two traveled side-by-side along the bumpy roads of life, always looking for the breathtaking views, always helping each other reach our goals.” If I only could, I would. But song writing is a skill set I don’t have so, Don, if you’re out there somewhere and can read the thoughts in my head, please know that someday I will write that love letter, the one that ends with a declaration that I’ll never stop loving you. ©