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

Monday, January 28, 2013

Circus Acts and Widows Who Bake Bread

Every where you find widows you’ll find someone making the statement that the second year is harder than the first. They say it with the conviction of Captain Obvious declaring that water is wet. We’re suppose to accept this as a Universal Truth and I’m sure it is true for many---if not most---widows who wandered through their first year in a fog of shock and disbelief. But we’re talking about people here, not cookies all cut from the same cutter. The emotional make up of widows come in many shapes and shades like frosted lions, tigers, and bear treats on a plate for a child’s party. Many widows in the first year are like bears that hibernate to protect themselves through the harshness of winter but there are also widows, who like the lion, fight to keep their place as the king of the jungle, the new head of the family. And there are widows like the tiger in the wild that stalks prey to solve its empty belly problem, searching for answers to questions that have none.

I am a lion---a cowardly lion but a lion none the less. I am fighting to prove (if only to myself) that the second-year-is-the-worst is a myth for some of us. I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t want to be pre-programmed into believing the second year is going to be worse than the one I just came through without examining the concept more closely. In another widow’s blog on this topic she said words to the effect that her load was lighter in her second year but her ability to cope was breaking down and that makes perfect sense to me. That armor we wear around our hearts gets heavy after awhile and we have to set it down. If we accept this idea then maybe we have to accept that grief is no longer the main issue in the second year. Maybe finding a better set of armor is---one that is lighter and less battle scarred---is what we have to work on?

I baked bread for the first time since Don past away. I used to bake bread every three days. It was my only claim to fame in the kitchen. It impressed and pleased my husband and brought back memories of growing up in a farm family where his mother cooked everything from scratch. But I always felt like a baking fraud because I was making artisan no-knead bread, the kind where you mix up a big batch and can keep it in your refrigerator for two weeks and it gets better every time you’d bake a loaf from the batch. Don and I could eat a loaf of artisan bread in three days but for the very first time a loaf of bread I baked got stale before I could use it up. Not wanting it to go to waste, I made croutons for the first time in my life. Then I had to make a pot of soup so I’d have something to eat with the croutons. All this soup, croutons and bread eating made me gain two pounds this week so now I’m kicking myself for wanting to be a lion in my kitchen again. I think the gods of good examples just wanted to give me something to illustrate how it’s not just the big things that change in a widow’s life.

I have a book on how to teach dogs circus tricks. Levi can do a few things like the ‘shell game’ where he finds a treat planted under one of three cups and he can do the ‘which hand’ trick that also depends on a dog’s sense of smell. I used to have a poodle that could jumps through loops and other entertaining stuff you’d see at a circus. But the trick that always got the most laughs and attention was when my dad would tell his dog to wag his tail after I’d show off my poodle’s many accomplishments. If wasn’t fair. I’d worked so hard at teaching tricks and everyone with a dog knows that voice tone alone can get any dog to wag its tail. If there is a lesson to learn here it’s that a dog is at its best when he’s just being a dog.

So here I am. I’ve shed my first year’s widow armor and I’m feeling like a dog dressed up like a lion and paraded around a child’s circus themed party. As a widow at the start of her second year I’m expected to act a certain way when inside I’m just an old dog trying to learn new tricks. Can I learn to bake a half a loaf of bread? Maybe. Probably. I’m king of the jungle, aren’t I? I can do things other beasts of the night don’t try and I most definitely don’t cry over making a batch of croutons. Well, almost never. When I’m wearing my lion’s costume I roar instead, “I made a batch of frigging croutons!” ©


  1. Somehow I think you're going to rewrite the book on second year widowhood. I'll keep reading.

    I was still in a haze my second year, though more energetic and spunky. A counselor I saw said "Now remember to do something challenging each day." Like there was a day that went by without a challenge??

  2. That's funny advice, actually. Like you said, most things are a challenge. When I open my eyes in the morning I know if it's going to be a good day or a bad day without even moving a muscle.

  3. What a great sign that you're making bread again. Delicious. Fortifying. And there's no shame in the no-knead. Sounds like it's always been a hit.

    As for the leftovers, your new normal might be a few extra pounds, or buying a smaller loaf pan, or taking Levi to feed your local ducks twice a week. It could be your own "communion," if you will.

    I feel like you are my mentor in grieving, a few months ahead of me in the grieving process, light years ahead in knowledge. Just so you know, lion or not, stalwart or vulnerable, you've got a den of widows looking to you.

  4. Mentor? Oh, gosh, no pressure. LOL

    You know, the feed the ducks idea will work great in the summer months. The nature trail I take Levi has ducks and swans both, and I have rabbits in my yard during the winter. Thanks!

  5. Mama enjoyed reading this post. She liked how you described making the bread. And she liked reading about teaching your dog different tricks.

    Love -

    Hershey and Kaci

  6. Hershey and Kaci, come visit Levi sometime and I'll teach you some tricks. Levi is being stubborn about learning some of them.