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, September 10, 2014

The Seventy-Something Year Old College Kid

At age seventy-something I just spent the entire day on a Catholic college campus. A ‘Fun with Metaphors’ class filled the morning and a seminar called ‘Vulnerabilities of Aging: Laughter amid the Tears’ took up the afternoon. The latter was taught by a Jewish Rabbi. He’s a well-known inspirational speaker in the area and he could have been a stand-up comedian if he hadn’t taken a detour through his synagogue. Actually, laughter was the theme for the entire day for those of us who were able to ignore the driving rain pounding the landscape. I did feel bad about leaving poor Levi the Schnauzer home alone to protect the house from mortal danger and lightening strikes, but not enough to drop him off at doggie day-care before joining the rush hour crazies. He’s not afraid of storms but I was afraid the other dogs would tell him, “Hey, this is how you’re supposed to act when it's blustering outside” and on the way home I’d have to buy Levi a thunder-shirt.

When I found out storms were coming on my first day of school I scouted out the campus the day before. That way, I wouldn’t have to look for street signs and landmarks in between the windshield wipers clacking back and forth. It was a good thing I did get the lay of the land ahead of time. The small campus is nestled in an old neighborhood of quaint stone walls, iron fences and white picket fences that stand in front of mature coniferous trees that block out the large, stately houses you can only peek at down their driveways. The Metaphors class was held in one of those old, converted mansions and it would be easy to drive right on by it. I also learned there are no fast foods places near-by to grab lunch and I wasn’t sure if I’d need a campus ID to eat on campus, so I packed a Fiber One Meal Bar and a bottle of water just in case.

The Olli program classes like I’m taking can be found across the country, maybe even in your neighborhood. Olli stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Basically, they are college level classes for people over 50 but without the need to buy books or take tests. Their six semesters comprise thirty-five classes per semester and class lengths vary from two to five mornings or afternoons long plus several short seminars thrown in for good measure. In my metaphors class there were twenty-five people and 175 attended the seminar. Oh, my, should I mention that there were men in these Olli classes? Except for going to retiree’s union meetings sporadically, I tend to forget what guys look like when they come packaged in old people wrinkles. I thought Olli classes would be more like the senior hall events, a place men seem to avoid like the Ebola virus.

In metaphors class there was an interesting mix of people: seven retired teachers, three retired nurses, two people who grew up in Germany but didn’t know each other before class, a couple others who mentioned being widows, lots of world travelers, and one woman I sat with later on at the seminar whose husband went through the same speech therapy program as my husband. We knew each other by sight but had never talked before today. We all laughed a lot in class and threw metaphors around, discussing “dead” metaphors, similes, and figurative vs. literal language. “A metaphor,” the professor said, “is a tool to help us understand something in life. It's a different way of looking at the world."

For our homework assignment we have to use a metaphor to explore something we are struggling with---aging, retiring, that sort of thing. I knew I wanted to write about widowhood and the word ‘vacuum’ popped in my head. From there, my metaphor wrote itself: Widowhood is a vacuum sucking tin soldiers off the floor, swirling them around in a dark void while other tiny souls still in its path of wrath struggle to pull its life-line from the wall. I’m going to like the class but time will tell if I’ll have the guts to read my assignments out loud in front of the others. It’s not required that we do. I’ll wait to hear what others have written before I decide if I want to be critiqued in a room full of would-be writers and poets. ©

NOTE: I'm not as dark and depressed as that metaphor sounds. It was just a writing assignment and I was going with the word image/figurative language of relating widowhood to a vacuum. Originally, I was thinking about widowhood as creating a vacuum in my life that needs filling but the metaphor took me in a different direction.


  1. I take Olli classes too! Such a fabulous resource. I love your metaphor. I take writing classes occasionally and in most one is expected to read their work. I find the quality is all over the map and the "critique" is generally very positive and affirming. You go, girl!

  2. You must be one of the youngest people in the program! Glad you like the classes. This is my first experience with Olli and so far I'm impressed. The woman I sat with at the seminar has never written anything so I can see how the quality will be all over the map.

    I'm leaning towards reading my metaphor and hope it redeems me from a dumb comment I made about a poem the professor read. Hey, I still think my observation was valid though no one agreed with me. LOL

  3. I think I will just stay here and blog away. Rarely am I critiqued--sometimes on Face Book, but rarely here. I am a chicken when it comes to criticism.

    1. I think we all are, Judy, when it comes to criticism. Critiques are something I never got used to when I was taking art classes...never really took a writing class before so this will be an adventure. Criticism and critiques usually come from a different place, though.

  4. i love your metaphor and think it's true for some. keep writing and DO read them out loud, they are wonderful!

    smiles, bee

    1. Thanks, Bee. You guys are giving me confidence which, I suspect, is why I posted it instead of waiting until after the next class.

  5. What Empress Bee said.

    It's nice to meet you. I've put your blog in my reader so I will know when there is a new post.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  6. Any friend of Bee's is a welcome here. Thanks for putting my blog in your feed. I will do the same with yours.

  7. Jean,
    I can't imagine having my writing critiqued. That takes courage. Everyone is so nice on my blog. I'd enjoy a metaphor class very much, but what I need is a basic punctuation class and some advice about hyphens. I learn from reading others. What fun blogging is. You are such a good writer. Your content is compelling, and I learn things from you all the time. You have a helpful streak, and I'm just the kind of gal who likes that.

    Your class sounds like fun. How serendipitous that the woman whose husband was in the same speech therapy class as Don is in your class. Maybe you will find that she will make a good friend. You never know. If not, at least you can throw spit balls at the boys in the class. I trust that your skirt is not too short. (imagine wagging finger)

    1. You don't have to take a back seat to anyone when it comes to writing. You have a great style that always leaves me wanting more. As for basic punctuation, haven't we all struggled with that in the blogging world? I still have a Basic Composition book that I got in 1960 that I still refer to from time to time and every so often I have to think about how I'd diagram a sentence as a way to test its correctness. Getting a book on grammar and punctuation would probably give you the confidence that you've been doing things correctly right along.

      It was serendipitous that a woman in my class and I have so much in common---heavy things, life-changing things. It would be great to build something there. We sure could talk easily to one another.

      No skirts for me. LOL

    2. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss is an entertaining book on punctuation, Bella.

  8. These classes sound very interesting.

    Mama wanted to let you know that she started writing a book. It is about her first dog, Bosco.

    Love -

    Hershey and Kaci