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, October 18, 2017

Boredom, Laugh-Fest and the Immacuate Conception

Just click along to another blog if you don’t want to hear a bored widow wailing about stupid things that she has no right to be wailing about in the first place. That’s what happened when I hadn’t talked to another human in several days and it didn’t have to be that way. I have both a landline and a cell phone that I could have used to chat with someone plus a car in the garage that could have taken me to some people populated place when I got tired of being alone with no one but the TV to get fat, sassy and nasty with. Not that I’m ever nasty with people but I’ve been known to use a few nasty words when I talk back to the TV news pundits.

Since I got my new landline phone with the ‘block caller’ button I don’t get nearly as many junk calls as I used to get every night between five and seven. I did get one yesterday from a guy who wanted to warn me that my computer was being taken over by hackers. He said he was from Microsoft and was calling to help me fix the breach. I took great delight in saying, “Oh, no, that’s terrible! Please tell me what to do!” and then I pressed the ‘block caller’ button to disconnect the jerk. It’s hard to believe that people still fall for that scam, but apparently enough people do so they keep trying to find those suckers in the haystack.

Monday I got up at the crack of dawn if dawn came at 7:30. I hate getting up with an alarm clock but I had places to go and fun to have with my posse of Gathering Girls. The seven of us had plans to meet for an early lunch at a popular bar slash restaurant. They have a lunch menu that offers ten things for $5.50 each. Such a deal. The acoustics in the place were so bad I hope never to cross over their threshold again. But I would have loved the place if I was young and slightly buzzed at happy hour. The place was noisy and filled to the rafters with grey-haired old women and a few working class guys who had me thinking about the Village People singing Y.M.C.A. "Young man, there's no need to feel down. I said young man..." At one point we Gathering Girls were attempting to discuss a thrift store that unbeknownst to me is named ‘Y.E.S.S.’ and it was like the old Abbott and Costello baseball nicknames’ skit, “Who’s on first.” “No, Y.E.S.S. is closed today.” “Which is it…yes, or no?” “Africa’s Child is open, Y.E.S.S. is closed.” I was confused until I actually saw the thrift store sign a half hour later.

At the first of several thrift stores we went to after lunch, three of us put our purses in one shopping cart and it was like keeping track of the president’s nuclear codes football. “You’re in charge of the cart now.” “I’m taking charge of the cart.” “Where’s the cart?” “I thought you had the cart.” “I thought you did!” You can’t be too careful wandering around a place where a hundred dollar bill could probably buy out the entire glassware and china departments. Slight exaggeration. It might take closer to ninety dollars.

After leaving the last thrift store three of us stopped at the Guy Land Cafeteria for dessert and we laughed so hard two of us were ready to burst and the third Gathering Girl wasn’t far behind. It all started when lady number three shared that she goes to Bible Study every week because, she said, “I like the stories.” Then she leaned as if to share a succulent secret in a voice barely above a whisper, “Sometimes I have doubts. Do you believe in the Immaculate Conception? I mean I’m just not sure… We’re supposed to believe everything in the Bible is true.” I leaned in and replied, “I don’t care if it's in the Bible it takes a man to make a baby!” Then I babbled on, as the other two laughed, about how back then they didn’t understand how a lot of natural things work, "why the sun comes up every day, how babies are made," etc. Lady number two chimed in, “We think we know the sun will come up every day but we really don’t know that for sure” which led to a remark about Trump blowing up the world. Yadda, Yadda and a lot of laughter later we noticed the man in the next booth had slid over in his seat so he could eavesdrop better. He probably wanted to point out that today a virgin could---with the help of modern science or a turkey baster---have a baby without having sex. It was one of the funniest, gut-splitting and most fun conversations I’ve had in a long time and I wish I could have recorded it to savor later.

Unbelievable, isn’t it, after me trying so hard for so long to find friends after my husband died, that I finally have some. Making new friends is not easy at any age but in widowhood it’s probably the hardest, and maybe that’s because so many of us have lost our best and longest standing friendships when our spouses died---that one person we could truly be our unguarded selves around. At least that’s my Truth to take or reject. ©

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Reading, Writing and Why did I do That?

By Wednesday I still didn’t know what I wanted to write about for my Saturday blog post. I had no choice but to hope my attendance at book club the next day would give me a theme and if not, I planned on taking myself out to lunch afterward for some good old fashioned people watching. That's always good for a few paragraphs. Living alone means nothing remotely interesting ever happens here unless I want to bet with myself on which chair the dog will sleep in next. He’s got three. I’ve got one so that tells you something about the hierarchy in this household. 

The Invention of Wings by Susan Monk Kidd was up for discussion in book club and we all liked it, with one woman saying she loved the book. For her, a book passes over into the “love” category when it inspires her to research the subject matter after reading the final chapter. And she brought in some photos of the mansion in Charleston, South Carolina, where much of the story was set. It's a fictionalized depiction of the Grimke sisters---Sarah and Angelina---who were raised in a household that owned slaves and who ended up becoming the first female abolition agents. They were also among the first Suffragettes. The author used their actual letters, diaries, speeches and newspaper reports to research for the book and to flesh out these real-life social justice pioneers. It’s estimated that over forty thousand people heard the sisters lecture on the evils of slavery in just one year and they dedicated their adult lives to the cause. The book starts out on Sarah’s twelfth birthday when she was given a ten-eleven year old slave to be her maid and from then on every other chapter is written from the slave’s point of view with the opposite chapters written from Sarah’s viewpoint.  

Our discussion was going along great with everyone offering up answers to the official book discussion guide questionnaire. Questions like: Did your opinion of slavery change while reading the book? Has women’s achievements in history been lost or overlooked? What do you think it takes to be a reformer today? It wasn’t until we got to the very last question in the last five minutes of book club that things went off the rails. The question was: How has slavery left its mark on American life? Everyone tippy-toed around racism---yadda, yadda, yadda---until someone said, “Our president is making it worse.” Another lady jumped in milliseconds later with, “No, he’s not! He’s doing everything just right!” Silence fell over the room before the facilitator recovered enough to say something to placate both ladies. In my head I was yelling, “Are you crazy!?” 

Speaking of books, a new member in our club recently self-published a book and she put us in an awkward position when she asked us all to read and discuss it. We agreed but she didn’t tell us that we’d have to pay full price for the ‘privilege.’ Okay, that sounds snotty but I have self-published five trade size books and I know they didn’t cost her anywhere near the $20 each that she charged us. That was last month. No one in the club knew until this week that I also write and have self-published. Why did I make the scary decision to out myself? Probably because I was jealous? But of what---that she was getting a lot of attention or that she found it so easy to brag about her accomplishment? Who knows why, but I am sure that I didn’t like how she was carrying on about the "amazing experience of being a published author." Give it a rest, lady, I was thinking, SELF-publishing isn’t such a big deal. Anyone can with the desire and a few bucks can do it.

I outed myself this week by bringing in a copy of one of my books to give to our facilitator. She reads to a group in the assisted living place where she works and she had mentioned they love stories about dogs. The book I gave her (before the other club members got there) is written in the voices of two dogs---one on earth and one who resides at the Rainbow Bridge. It’s not book club material, but it’s filled with humor and a few tears. I have no idea what I expect to gain from my boldest in giving her the book, but I do know that my writing can hold its own against the other self-published writer in our group. God, am I petty or competitive or what? I'm at a loss to explain my reactions to that woman. She makes me feel like I'm living in Lee Ann Womack's country western song: "She may be an angel who spends all winter bringin' the homeless blankets and dinner, a regular Nobel Peace Prize winner. But I really hate her. I'll think of a reason later."

It will be a whole month before I find out how my book was received at the assisted living place and if the facilitator will mention it in front of the whole club, but she seemed thrilled to give it a try. I admire her skill at deescalating touchy discussions and inspiring positive conversations so I’m pretty sure she won’t pan my book just for the fun of seeing my self-esteem crumb in front of her eyes. ©

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three Movies, One Week


I’m usually not a person who channel surfs looking for something to watch. Of the 98 channels on my cable lineup I watch only four consistently and another two or three occasionally. Over the weekend I was totally bored and I started clicking through the channels. It was still early evening---sevenish---and I was shocked to find Fifty Shades of Grey starting. Fifty Shades of deviant behavior in a time slot where little kids could be watching! What were they thinking? The movie caused quite an uproar when it made the rounds in the theaters a couple of years ago. I’m not a prude about sex in movies and books but I strongly objected to a story line that includes bondage and sadomasochistic crap being marketed at an erotic "love" story. Don’t correct because I’m not wrong, but there is nothing romantic about a woman giving up her power and allowing herself to be handcuffed and beaten and I don’t care how many "safe words" you agree on ahead of time, sadomasochism is the product of a sick mind. 

I’d hadn’t seen the movie or read the book but I’d read enough about the controversy over the so-called love story to have that strong opinion above and it didn’t change after I sat in my living room watching this movie minus the minutes they had to cut to make it “suitable for TV.” It’s starts out like an overused and outdated boilerplate romance with tired plot devices---extremely wealthy man takes an interest in a naïve virgin and remains aloft as he tries to resist falling in love. Where it separates from the romance genre is when he presents her with a bondage contract. The woman who plays Anastasia, Dakota Johnson, has the most expressive face! She was mesmerizing even if the character she plays is ten shades of stupid. 

125 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey were sold and when the film was in town back 2015 I watched a news segment where a local TV personality interviewed the owner of an X-rated video and sex toys store and he said their bondage kits were “flying off the shelves.” I don’t shock easily, but that interview shocked me---that a store on the fringes of polite society was being presented like it was just another dollar store in a strip mall! According to Wikipedia in the year that followed the book’s release injuries that required a trip to the ER from S&M related sex spiked 50%. So much for 'safe' words. I rest my case. I win. A marketing department mainstreaming deviant, abnormal behavior as “normal romance” is just plain wrong. And speaking of marketing ploys, the third in the “shades” trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker is due out for Valentine’s Day.

The second movie I found channel surfing was a cute romantic comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black called Shallow Hal. It has a good message about judging a book by its cover, so to speak. Jack plays a guy who is stuck on superficial, physical looks in women until he gets hypnotized by a life coach who makes him only see a person’s inner beauty and not the package it comes in. He falls in love with Rosemary, a morbidly obese woman who, to him, looks like Gwyneth but when he is given the trigger phrase to break the hypnosis he doesn’t recognize her. Fast forward past this turning point in the story that has her heartbroken and joining the Peace Corps to where he has an epiphany. He comes to realize she has a beautiful, loving soul and he signs up for the Peace Corps, too, and they presumably live happily ever after. How’s that for movie bookends? One lighthearted and uplifting and the other gratuitous and sending the wrong message to young people.

In between these two movie bookends I saw Victoria and Abdul with four of my Gathering Girls pals. It’s based on the true story of elderly Queen Victoria’s unlikely friendship with a young servant from India. It takes place in the late 1800s and I’m glad I saw it at the theater instead of waiting until it comes on TV. Why? Because It was filmed in twelve spectacular locations, places like: Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire and Osborne House in England; the Isle of Wight in the English Channel; the Highlands in Scotland , Agra, Uttar, Delhi and Pradesh in India; the University of Greenwich, National Railway Museum, Windsor Castle, York, North Yorkshire, Richmond, Surrey and Hertfordshire; West Wycombe House and Ham House in London. Downton Abbey fans will probably love this movie and we were quite entertained by the humor in it. Lines like when Victoria’s son said to his mother, “You’re treating him like a member of the family.” “No,” she replied, “I like him.” We all enjoyed the movie and lunch afterward but I was hoping for a knock-your-socks-off, full of wisdom answer to Victoria’s question to Abdul when she confided: “Everyone I have loved has died and I just go on and on. What is the point?” “Service, my queen" Abdul said. "We are here for a greater purpose.” What’s the ‘greater purpose?’ He didn’t explain and I need to know! And how can I find mine? ©

Shallow Hal

Fifty Shades of Grey
 Victoria and Abdul