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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mary, Hillary and the Handyman---Sounds Kinky, Doesn’t it



A few months ago I signed up to get Merriam-Webster’s Word-of-the Day delivered to my e-mail box. The idea was to build my vocabulary and I had planned to use a new-to-me word in each blog entry. That didn’t work out. Although I still read, listen to and study each daily word, I’ve only used two of them in my own writing. Today is my third attempt and the word is ‘holus-bolus’ which means “all at once.” The example they gave was this: “If you shout your questions at me holus-bolus, instead of asking them one at a time, then I won't be able to hear any of them.” The minute I read that word I thought of Mary Oliver. I think she’d like ‘holus-bolus.’ I’ve been reading her book titled, A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry.” I bought it because I have a secret desire to write poetry and because everywhere I go lately Mary Oliver’s name shows up. Even Hillary Clinton mentioned Ms. Oliver in her new book, What Happened. (I’m reading both books at the same time. Well, alternately but wouldn’t it be cool if we could read one book with one eye and another book with the other eye? Think how much smarter we’d be if we could maximize our reading time like that.) 

Mary’s book starts out with gobbly-goop about the alphabet of familiar sounds. Vowels and consonants and semivowels and mutes. Oh, my! She writes stuff like, “In this run of short i sounds, the i used as part of a diphthong (in ‘their,’ ‘coin,’ ‘eerie,’ and ‘fusion’) is not a part of the assonance proper; neither, of course, is the long i in ‘spinal.’ But the y sound in the word ‘crystal’ is.” If I have to understand gobbly-goop like this I’ll never learn how to write poetry. It doesn’t help that I never learned how to sound out words. Still can’t. But I can still remember the opening line to a poem I wrote in high school: “Oh, how I hate to sit at home and rack my brain to write a poem.”

Hillary’s book is much easier to understand. In the early pages she wrote about how she reread one of her favorite books after the election, The Return of the Prodigal Son. She quotes the author, Henri Nouwen’s, lesson of the parable of the Prodigal Son---“I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly. I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.” Hillary says Nouwen’s “discipline of gratitude” to her means that having gratitude for the good things isn’t enough, that’s too easy. She says we need to be grateful for the hard things too because, “in the end, they make us stronger…. My task, “she wrote, “was to be grateful for the humbling experience of losing the presidential election. Humility can be such a painful virtue.” Personally, I don’t know how she ever got out of bed let alone go through the cathartic process of writing a book and going on a book tour.

This week I finally got into the ears, nose and throat doctor. He was running nearly an hour late but it was worth the wait to have him find a ball of gobbly-goop---I love those words---in my ear made up of blood, dead skin and wax. He suctioned it out and wrote me a prescription for ear drops for the infection left behind. Afterward I rushed home to meet with a contractor I found on Home Adviser, a franchised service called Handyman Connections. I had a piece of siding in the peak of my garage, that had fallen off and it required a fifteen foot ladder to put it back on. I only have a two step ladder lest I’d be tempted to do anything farther off the floor than that. He was ten minutes late and he got the job done in fifteen minutes but it could have been done in ten if a family of wasps hadn’t built their nest on the vacated space left behind when the shingle fell off. Ninety-five dollars and I was glad to pay it since two other near-by siding companies I contacted didn’t even bother to respond. 

When I think of all the ‘honey-do’ projects like the shingle job that my husband did for us, his mother, my parents, the neighbors and other people who knew he always had the right tools for any job, I realize how under-appreciated he and most handy husbands are. Handyman Connections earned extra bonus points because I didn’t have to nag the guy to get the work done in a timely manner and he picked up after himself and that can’t be said about all handy husbands. What more could I have asked for on a bright, sunny day? Well, I could ask for my husband back but we all know that’s not the way the world of wishes works. (Did I just write an assonance at the end of that last sentence? Mary has me so confused!) ©

“In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love and the ability to question.
Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.”
Mary Oliver

31 comments:

  1. I'm happy to hear that your ear issue was something easily corrected.

    I'm grateful every day for my handyman husband. There are so many small and big things that he repairs, installs, adjusts, etc. I'm glad your siding was easily fixed and that you were pleased with it.

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    1. I can tell by your blogs that you appreciate your husband and I'm sure that runs both ways. Women, too, do a lot of things that if you had to pay for the services would be missed.

      It's going to be ten days of treatments on my ear, can you believe that! But I am glad it wasn't anything that can't be fixed.

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    2. Yes, like all that cooking I did for years. I'm so glad he enjoys it now. :)
      Ten days is a lot. I hope it goes well.

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  2. My admiration for Hillary has gone through the roof. I really admire her courage and for not being bullied to go away (unlike Bernie, who I wish would go away and soon). I like reading excerpts from her latest book (don't have the attention span to read the entire book).

    I empathise re the handyman jobs. I have several jobs waiting to be done around the house. And a few tasks that I have no idea who to call. It'd be nice to have a trustworthy tradie to call.

    I had to look up 'assonance' - I learn every time from your blog! (My 2c input is that your text is alliteration. But I'm ready to be corrected.) ~ Libby

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    1. There you go...'alliteration' (repetition of initial sounds of words) and the definition of 'assonance' (resemblance of sound) are so close that I get confused and don't understand. I'd flunk a class if I was taking it.

      Widows finding handymen is a major problem for us all, especially those of without adult children. The problem I see with the service I use it it's seems to be a bit like Uber. You aren't necessarily going to get the same person when you call although they do claim they've all passed a background check.

      Hillary would have made a great president.

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  3. Ha! I kept my mouth shut when you first posted about Mary Oliver's how-to manual on poetry, but now I'll add what I thought: good (even world-class) poets who've temporarily run out of inspiration or want to make a buck often resort to writing how-to books. That may be unnecessarily cynical, but it's a fact that there's a lot of gobbledy-gook out there, and it's not helpful to beginning poets. As for essays or blog posts or books, the best way to learn is to write and evaluate. Whether it works or whether it doesn't, figure out why, and then go on to the next one.

    I do think it's important to understand all of the whys and wherefores of poetry -- rhythm, rhyme, metaphor and so on -- but those are tools for analyzing a poem after the fact, not part of a manual for writing one.

    Give me an early cup of coffee and I've got all kinds of free advice!

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    1. Since I consider you to be a gifted poet I'll take all the free advice you've got. I've been struggling to understand Mary's book and I'm glad it didn't cost much. Years ago when I actively tried and tried to write poetry I concentrated on rhythm and rhyme---wouldn't have known a metaphor if it bit me---but the free style poetry so many people write now days doesn't seem to follow any rules that I can figure out other than 'less is more.' That's something I work at with blog writing, editing out unnecessary words where ever I can to make cleaner sentences. I love writing. You never run out of things to learn, improve upon and try.

      I've wanted to figure out why Mary is so popular and all I'm finding is her poems don't seem to speak to me in the same way they do other people. Granted, I haven't read a lot of her work but what I'm finding is she seems to write a lot about the natural world and nature. Observations. Where I think my tastes are more along the line of poetry that reads more like country music. Observations about people and emotions. If that makes any sense. I need a new hobby. Mary is driving me nuts!

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  4. I am happy to hear that you got into the Doctor and got your ear problem taken care of, that has to feel so much better.

    As for being a handy husband I'm not sure if the shoe fits but I do my best to take care of everything around here. I am glad that you found a handy man that you are satisfied with, did he take care of the wasps also?

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    1. Yes, he was braver than I would have been about the wasp nest. He sprayed it first, then dropped it to the ground with his hammer where I was standing ready to spray it again. I'm allergic to bees so it was scary. While he was up there a few wasps came looking for their nest but he didn't seem to be fearful of getting stung.

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  5. I'm having trouble with words today, or I should say, more trouble with words. Too many of them look foreign.

    Good that you found out what was going on in your ear. 10 days is a small price to pay for the problem to be gone.

    $95 is a small price to pay to actually get someone to do it. It sounds like you could have ended up with structural damage if you let it go. OK, it may have taken a years, but water and insects can bring houses down.

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    1. I have days like that, where reading itself seems like a foreign concept. Usually, I just have to wait an hour until my brain wakes up better.

      That's what I was worried about. Water getting into the peak of the garage can do a lot of damage and it's on the north side where it gets a beating from the weather in the winter. I'm relieved to have the job done.

      Can you believe it, the prescription for the ear medication was $265! Insurance paid all but $45 but even that seemed ridiculous. I was tempted to use the drops the vet gave me for the dog. LOL

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  6. Good luck with Mary's book. I'd need a dictionary handy. So glad the ear was an easy fix. Also with your handyman. You do have him on speed dial now don't you? My brother is one of those handymen. I know I keep him busy when he visits here and he works for food--the sweeter the better.

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    1. I wish he was that kind of handyman. Handyman Connections is actually a huge business that subcontracts people to do all kinds of work in different fields, Uber style. So you're chances of getting the same person each time would probably be on the rare side. I found out afterward that the son-in-wish-I-had is one of their subcontractors. He has his own business but when get takes one of their jobs, they get a cut. He can take or pass on jobs if they don't fit in with his own contracted work.

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  7. Ear problem solved! My hubs used to get blocked ears all the time! Finally, he just started using drops on a regular basis. No more Dr visits.

    Poetry? I have never gotten into it ... just the Hallmark card stuff! So have fun! I love learning new things and I bet it works a different part of your brain as well.

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    1. My brain is getting a work out now! But that's a good thing at my age. Only trouble is I'm so one tracked I can't work on my brain and my body at the same time. LOL

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    2. That's what we need to do for our brain -- introduce new information, activities, etc., so sounds like you're doing a good job of that with your words. Glad you're on the mend with your ear as you surely don't want to risk your hearing. Re taking your dog's med -- this isn't exactly the same thing, but, I recall from fifty years ago an older family member who had a vetinarian as a personal friend who supplied him with meds at a much cheaper price than the family member would have had to pay his pharmacy. Revealed quite a pharmacy markup for humans in their processing, I suppose.

      Wise you stayed off that ladder and found good handyman. I sure know what you mean about the challenge of hiring good help for small jobs. I finally found 2 locals in our town's weekly newspaper -- one a licensed carpenter, the other a licensed electrician, but both work independently and will do handyman jobs at reasonable rate. The latter buys houses, refurbishes them himself, then sells, so is adept at plumbing and everything. I feel really fortunate they've proven to be so reliable, but I recall how apprehensive I was trying to find someone. Prior to using the source where I found them I had people make appointments, then never show up or call.

      My husband didn't enjoy being a handyman. When he was still jobbing on the side as a musician he said he'd rather play a job and hire someone else to work on the house. I could empathize as there were lots of housekeeping things I didn't like doing either. Perhaps we should have had a live-in household staff.

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    3. The first time the vet told me to the dog Benadryl, and in the same dosage as I take, I was shocked. I even asked him twice if I had heard him correctly.

      I really miss phone books where you can look up contractors and handymen. Anyone can put up a website but if they were listed in the phone book at least you knew they'd been in business at least a year and had a physical address. I'm glad you found reliable people. IF I was going to hire live-in household staff, I'd start with a chef. LOL

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  8. I have written poetry but have no formal training, so I always feel my poems should have and asterisk beside them. I took a class from a renowned slam poet who advised," if you say you are a poet, you are one." He was trying to encourage the act of writing, of storytelling through poetry, the organic process of getting emotions on the page and sharing them at the microphone. I loved it!!! My poetry is much better spoken than read, but for the past few years I've not written much, since I find more pleasure in my blog essays. I like Mary Oliver; Billy Collins is my fave. Check him out....more about people and emotions. Brilliant observations of every day occurrences.

    I'm so grateful to have a handyman husband! He can tackle and succeed at almost anything but has been trying to find a roofer for our large garden shed for two years and no one wants to do such a small job. For now a brown tarp dons the roof and we are glad it's at the back of our property so not visible to anyone but us. Still....

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    1. Finding a contractor for a small job is nearly impossible around here too.

      We have open mic slam poetry nights around here. A friend from Red Hats takes part in them. I wish I could drive after dark, I'd go hear her sometime. Thanks for the Billy Collins recommendation. I'll check him out. I like the advice you got from your class, very freeing.

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  9. Oh! I forgot to comment on Hillary! I'm so totally impressed with her...what a role model! Having her back with her book tour has given me lots of opportunity to see her on various TV interview programs and I am just blown away, again and again, at my longing for what could have been....

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    1. Me, too. She is one strong woman. But maybe her grace in handling the losing to a man like Trump will become the catalysis for a new wave of feminism that will stop his kind from multiplying during the next election. Let's hope the pendulum of indecently has reached its full swing.

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  10. As a new widow I am dealing with repairmen too. I ask for recommendations on nextdoor.com and read Yelp reviews. I hired a garage door repairman, an electrician and a chimney inspector/cleaner thus far. Next is new flooring. I agree I appreciate all the work my husband did around our house.

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    1. It's hard, isn't it. New flooring, which I need too, is easy for me because here you don't have to hire the contractor, you just find a long established store in town that sells it and they have their own contractors to lay it. But it's only been since my husband's stroke in 2000 that I've ever had to deal with contractors of any kind so it's scary, thinking I could make a costly decision.

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  11. You were lucky that your late husband could do so many things around the house. I can't do anything. When I was young my dad wouldn't allow my brother and I to do a thing so we didn't learn the little things around the house. As far as climbing, hell no. I hated heights anyway.
    " gobbly-goop ", I like that word but the other one ‘holus-bolus.’, that one was stupid.
    As for as Hillary, I would like to read her book to just find out her feelings about losing the election. Regarding Trump, dear Lord, the world is in trouble.
    Have a great Sunday my good friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I felt the same way about 'holus-bolus.' How many people actually would know what it meant if you said it in conversation?

      When I finish Hillary's book I may do a book report, but I'm not far enough into the book to tell you much. I think she was devastated, though.

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  12. ...extra bonus points because I didn’t have to nag the guy to get the work done in a timely manner and he picked up after himself...

    Oh, this! A million times this. My husband is a Handy Husband, but holy crap. The list of Projects is endless and always will be and my Nagging Button is officially broken.

    As far as the Instruction Of Poetry/Poets, I taught the writing of poetry for 30 years. I can say a helluva lot about it.

    But I won't here.

    As far as Secretary Clinton, from what I understand, she is guided to a great extent by her Methodist faith, which has been lifelong. I have always been an admirer of hers.

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    1. She writes about her Methodist faith and her daily contact, before and after the election, with a minister she has trusted for many years. Their devotions are now in his book titled, "Strong for a Moment Like This: Daily Devotions of Hillary Clinton" by Bill Shillady.

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  13. Glad your ear affliction has been properly diagnosed. I hope healing is uneventful. I’ve never had a handy hubby, but this one makes up for it in other ways. 🙃

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    1. Okay, now there are two mysteries in your reply: 1) in what ways and 2) how did you get your emoticon upside down?

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  14. Now--I want you to use that new word in a conversation with your gal pals! HAH. As for Mrs. Clinton, her Methodist faith and mine are quite different. My Methodist church is and always has been anti-abortion. I thought the word was gobbly-gook? Like the gook he took outta your ear? Glad he got the goop/gook out!!

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    1. "Gook" is not a word I'd ever use, it's slant for an oriental person and was in common used during the Vietnam era. Oh, I plan to use gobbly-goop every chance I get. I'm quite taken with it. But not the holus-bolus that was the word of the day. Hard to work that one in. LOL

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