Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fashion Police on Duty

A shirt-tail relative on my husband’s side of the family got married. I’ve only met his bride once but I’ve seen plenty of photos of the couple online and in all of them she looked like a pretty and wholesome young lady. But as a bride she put her porn star sized breasts on full display in her wedding gown…if you could call it a wedding gown. It looked like it was the sheer lace outer layer of a wedding dress meant to be worn over a silk under layer. Underneath she wore black bikini panties and barely there, black self-adhesive pads for a bra. I don’t shock easily and I’m not a prude but that choice for a wedding dress to be worn in a Catholic church in front to 200 guest made me feel cringe. What was she thinking!

Being in the wedding business for twenty years, I’ve seen a ton of bridal gowns but never one like this. Granted they were all in the past century and I expect fashions to change, but is sexy the new look girls are going for these days on the presumably most important day of their lives? She is a college student, responsible for her own choices but you would have thought someone with influence over her would have knocked some sense into her. Her bridesmaids worn black velvet formal gowns that covered all but their arms as did both mothers of the bride and groom. The men in the wedding party were in black tuxes and black bow ties. All very formal and tasteful until your eyes catch the outline of the bride's underpants and black nipple pads. Had I gone through the receiving line I would not have been able to tell the bride she looked beautiful. Would you have? Am I getting too old and judgmental in my Fashion Police uniform?

The last time I donned my Fashion Police uniform was a few years ago at a high school graduation party. Before the party I couldn’t have picked the graduate out of a line up but her grandmother said the girl is “sweet inside and out.” At one point during the party she was standing with a group of friends, looking pretty with her long black hair falling half way down her backless-to-the-waist dress, the hemline of its circle skirt hitting her mid-thigh when a breeze came up and exposed her entire buttock, as bare as the day she was born. My mouth dropped up and I looked at the people sitting near me for validation that I was seeing what I saw. My shock must have shown on my face because without me saying a single word her aunt said, “I saw it earlier. She’s wearing a thong made out of dental floss.” It must have been nude colored dental floss because I couldn’t see it that time or during the other opportunities that came up later to look. (It was a windy day.) Another one of her aunts said she wouldn’t let her daughter wear a thong like that and I was having a hard time reconciling the label of “sweet inside and out” with a girl who must have felt the hot sun and wind on her bare butt and didn’t have enough decorum to go inside to put on some proper underwear. 

Fashions sure have changed since my young adulthood. We had tiny pins we used to make sure our bra and slip straps didn’t slide down our arms to show. We didn't worry about our pantie lines showing because we didn't wear skirts and trousers as tight as a second layer of skin . Hems lines on skirts had to be mid-calf and we weren’t allows to wear slacks to classes in either high school in the fifties or to college in the early ‘60s. Then the Sexual Revolution came long, thanks to the invention of The Pill, and chastity and modesty took a sucker punch. 

Fast forward to 2023 and I found an article in The A Magazine about a survey on the sexualization of clothing and one of the women replied with: “The problem isn’t what we are wearing, it’s how we are perceived because of it…it’s just not an invitation to treat them any differently. What we wear doesn’t define how much respect we deserve.” In another part of the article it says, Many of the women answering the survey "shared that they have been told by older men and even family members that they are ‘asking for it’ because of certain clothing items.” The article goes on to say, “Clothing is a way of expressing yourself and feeling confident, it’s not fair that women should feel they have to dress a certain way to feel safe around people.” 

Rant on: And here's the difference in attitude between myself and the young women who think that way and go around showing their nearly bare butts and breasts in public. They don’t seem to understand that their fashion choices ARE sexy as hell so why are they surprised when they are perceived as sexy and looking for that kind of attention? Half naked young women need to acknowledge that if they choose to prance around showing their lady parts they should be prepared to be judged a certain way, just as they’d be judged a certain way if they wore a nun’s habit. If you wear a cute little tennis outfit and walk around with a racket in your hand, people are going to assume you play tennis. If you wear a tailored suit and heels they're going to assume you're upper management in an office. See how that works? After all, to quote their mantra, “Clothing is a way of expressing yourself.”  Rant off. © 

Disclaimer: I know sexual harassment is a real thing. So please don't tell me that women should have the right to flaunt their wares however and wherever she wants. I'm not saying that they don't. I'm saying women have the right BUT along with that right should come some common sense to dress for the occasion.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Eavesdropping and Destiny

I like to imagine fiction writers are like sponges. Everywhere they go they are eavesdropping on the conversations around them, soaking them up and filing them away. As a family member to an author you’d have to be careful what you share because you’d never know when your Word Soup will feed one of their characters and words you've said will appear in print. If you read enough author interviews you’ll see the ubiquitous question of what inspired such and such a character or storyline and they’ll confess to what I’m saying. The elements of fiction can come from anywhere and everywhere. The book I just finished about the all girls filling station was inspired by one sentence the author's aunt said ten years before Ms Flagg started writing it.

No one would ever get inspired by my conversations. Yesterday on the phone with my brother (who lives in the memory care building of my continuum care campus) he asked me if I’d give him a ride downtown to buy some stamps. “I’ve got stamps,” I said. “How many do you need?” “I don’t know,” he replied. Then he served me a word salad and long story short I put my dementia decoder ring on and figured out that he didn’t want a ride to the post office, he wanted a ride to the Secretary of State’s office to buy new license plate stickers for his truck. He remembered his birthday is coming up and that’s the yearly marker when people in my state have to renew our license plates.

I wasn’t sure if my brother knew or not that his truck was sold so I played along and told him now days you have renew your stickers online and one of his daughters would have to help him with that. I did ask at one point, “I thought your truck got sold,” and he replied the lawyers were holding that up.” Sometimes he’s totally lucid with the bits of information people give him and the next minute he’s back to worrying about his truck that, in his mind, is “sitting in the street” waiting for a cop to ticket it the minute his birthday comes around. Trying to transition to a new topic I told him his birthday is nearly a month away, and he's got lots of time. “It will take a month,” he raised his voice to say, “before I get someone to take me to the post office!”

That same day at Mahjong our conversation was so fast moving and silly a person would have to had recorded it to get the belly laugh benefit of eavesdropping on it. But I’m pretty sure the humor of it is one of those things you’d have to have been there to understand. For example, at one point our wall of titles was short and across the table from me and when I went to pick one up I could barely reach it. “I suppose I could push that wall out more,” the woman across from me said, and without missing a beat I replied, “You could have but you didn’t.” And that as all it took for the four of us to laugh so hard and for so long that I was red faced and couldn't talk, another woman confessed to peeing her pants and a third had to walk away to get her composure back. When we finally gained control of ourselves, someone said, “I don’t even remember what we were laughing about” and that started us laughing all over again.

The rest of the game was full of silliness, of calling each other out for breaking rules and others offering to let it slide if they'd slip bribes under the table. We could never play in other Mahjong venues, especially in places where they play for money, because they take their games seriously and don’t talk while it’s going on. Thankfully the woman who introduced us to the game and trained us all has a great sense of humor and I’m pretty sure she wished she’d had been playing at our table that afternoon instead of with a table of newbie players. Some of the newbies are so slow, it’s like watching the proverbial paint dry. 

A woman I know from going to the monthly dementia support group happened to be observing that day---people do that when they think they want to learn the game---and I felt sorry for her. She was so confused. She and her husband live here in Independent Living as do at least four other couples where the one with dementia couldn’t stay if she/he were living alone. Yesterday I found one of the ladies with dementia in the lobby of my building, lost and clearly panicked because she couldn't find her apartment. So I took her up the elevator to her floor and delivered her to her husband. He’d been taking a nap and he didn’t know she left. 

The spouses in these “mixed couples’ remind me of my caregiver days…in the last year or two before Don died. There's a certain kind of desperation that sets in as you try to hold onto the threads still left of your loved one’s mental or physical health. In the back of your mind, you know it’s hopeless but you’re too scared to admit that out loud. So you put on your caregiver track shoes and run yourself ragged trying to out-pace your destiny. Most of us do the best we can for as long as we can even though practicing the Golden Rule takes its toll. ©

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Trip to the Corner of Fiction and Dyslexia

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about books. I’m not reading as much as used to. I’m still keeping up with our book club here at the continuum care campus but that only requires that I polish off one book a month. Some of our recent reads have been: Everyone Brave is Forgiven, The Vanishing Half, Everything I’ve Never Told You and The All--Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. That last book was written by Fannie Flagg ten years ago and I read and liked it when it first came out. This week I listened to it and liked it even more. Fannie read the book for the audio version using both a southern and a Polish accent. I usually prefer audio books read by professionals but it didn’t take a deep dive on the internet to learn that Fannie IS an accomplished actress, comedian and author. She’s had parts in Grease, (playing the nurse), Fried Green Tomatoes (playing the teacher), Five Easy Pieces (playing Stoney) as well as she was on a long list of TV shows including two seasons on The Dick VanDyke Show. She was also a recurring panelist on an impressive list of popular game shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s. She was even nominated for two Academy Awards. 

Although she wanted to, Fannie didn’t write during ‘70s but a note from a teacher in the audience of a game show, who noticed a pattern of misspelling in her answers, changed Ms Flagg’s life by telling her she’s dyslexia. “I was, am, severely dyslexic and couldn't spell, still can't spell," she said in an interview. "So I was discouraged from writing and embarrassed." This side-note on the author blew me away. I can’t tell you how many close friends and family have expressed shock when I’ve asked for help spelling a word. It’s deeply embarrassing to have to ask in the first place, then have them respond with something like, “How can you write if you can’t spell?” I tell them the mechanics of spelling isn't the same things as picking out the words you want to write. It's an inadequate explanation for a deeply misunderstood learning disability but it’s all I’ve got.

Now days kids with dyslexia are identified early on and they are given tools to help keep them from falling behind. But they still struggle and like many famous people who has come forth to share their stories about growing up with this learning disability kids today still fear reading out loud and getting bullied. Robin Williams joked he was the only kid in his neighborhood who once went Trick or 'trouting'. Cher, Henry Winkler, Richard Branson, Anderson Cooper, Albert Einstein and Pablo Piasso have all written about their struggles with reading and spelling. Clearly, dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence but I dare say those of us who have it have all been called 'stupid' or 'retard' while growing up.

Back to the book: The All--Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is a lighter read than my book club usually picks and while we haven’t had our discussion yet, I’m getting the impression from a few snippets of conversions around the campus that others are not getting into the storyline like I did. I’m not surprised by that. The others have more sophisticated tastes in books and read more widely. I’ve been open about the fact that I’m dyslexic and that I came to love reading later in life than most people. Still, I like to think I hold my own with the discussions when I’m not having one of my tongue-tied days. All bets are off when that happens.

Okay, I should probably get down to what I liked about this book and that’s easy to answer. I love Ms Flagg’s research on the WASP (the Women’s Air Force Service Patrol). She was able to make this little known period of women’s history come alive. One of my ancestors, Amelia Earhart, was in the WASP so I was already aware of the more than 1,000 female pilots who racked up over 60 million miles of operational flights. When I think about them flying brand new planes from the factories to the air force bases and doing things like towing aerial targets for the guys in training to shoot at and transporting cargo in every type of military aircraft produced during WWII it makes me mad that it took decades and a signature from Jimmy Carter for these women to finally get included into the military history books. I read in one article the reason the air force didn’t want it known that women were able to flying the same planes as the men were flying is because they needed the combat pilots during WWII to feel like heroes. That may have been true during the '40s but it shouldn't have taken the Good Old Boys Club so long to finally give the WASP their due credit. Can you imagine the nerves of steel it took to pull a target behind a plane while fighter pilots in training tried to nail the target you were pulling?

I may not remember the story lines of most of the books I read but I do remember favorite passages that I collect from the books that speak to me. And From The All-Girls Filling Station Last Reunion the quote I saved came after the leading character's mother died and Sookie had time to reflect. This is what she told herself: “Thanks to Dr. Shapiro, she has learned that being a successful person is not necessarily defined by what you have achieved, but by what you have overcome. And she had overcome something that, for her, was huge. She had overcome her fear of displeasing her mother….” 

Finding this new lens to judge my own life by, made the trip to the corner of Fiction and Dyslexia worth while. ©