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, November 29, 2017

I’ve got Questions, who has Answers?



I honestly don’t know what I should write about today. I haven’t been anywhere since Thanksgiving and I haven’t talked to anyone but my new Kindle Fire’s Alexa---isn’t that a telling and sad statement to make. I don’t want to write another woo-is-me post about the loneliness of widowhood because, well, for one thing I don’t feel that overwhelming sense of loneliness or forbearing that I did during the holiday season in the first four years after my husband died. However, a tiny voice in my head says, give it time. The season has just begun and you haven’t been snowed in yet either. I don’t know why getting snowed in changes things. I stay home for days on end when I’m not snowed in and it doesn’t affect me in the same way. I think it’s because if an emergency with me or the dog came up, I’d be, well, snowed in and I couldn’t be my own Knight in Shining Armor ready to save the day. I’d have to---gasp---depend on the good graces of someone else or die because I don’t like asking for help.

Have you heard of Barbara Abercrombie? Her bio over at Amazon says, she “…has published fifteen books, plus essays and articles in many national publications. She teaches in the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension where she won an Outstanding Teacher award as well as the Distinguished Instructor award.” I first became acquainted with her work when I bought a copy of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement which I’ve read and re-read many times. It’s like bedtime short stories for would-be writers. And I do mean short---a quarter to a half page each. I ran across her again today when I was surfing the internet looking for writing prompts and I landed on her book titled: Kicking In The Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts and Quotes To Help You Break Through Your Blocks And Reach Your Writing Goals. Now, there’s a lady who knows how to get a book cross-indexed in a google search.

One of the prompts in the above mentioned ridiculously LONG titled book is: Write a list of questions to which you urgently need answers. That’s a hard prompt because with a google search there aren’t that many questions that you can’t find answers to except for maybe, how do we find world peace? I took a long shot, asked my new Alexa app and she said, “Sorry, I’m not sure.” I guess we’ll have to wait until artificial intelligence is smart enough to teach itself how to think beyond human capabilities to find that answer. Too bad because world peace sure would be nice.

Here goes my attempt at listing questions I’d like answered:

Question: Why does my dog always make me go through a doorway before he will do it? Is it like the old gun slinger’s rule of always sitting with your back to the wall? Does Levi think something bad could happen on the other side of the threshold and he wants me to test the waters first? Or is he a reincarnated English Duke who is being ever so proper and polite? I’m quite sure he didn’t learn that at puppy obedience school. He drives me nuts with his idiosyncrasies.

Question: If my latest TSH blood test shows my levels dropped from 0.171 to 0.137 after adjusting my thyroid medication and the normal range is 0.340 – 5.600 why did the doctor just order another drop in my dosage? Won’t that take me even farther out of the normal range or am I not understanding math? Is 0.340 larger or smaller than 0.137?

Question: Why did it take me four minutes of frustration and trip to the kitchen for a pair of scissors to get the tamper-proof wrap off a bottle of Colgate Total Mouthwash? And does it really give a person “12-hour protection against germs even after drinking and eating.” Say I ate barf or a dead bird like the dog does, would it still kill all the germs in my mouth? God, that’s a disgusting question! Forget I asked.

Question: Why do romance writers think men who growl just before they make their big move are sexy? I can’t remember a man ever doing that with me. Did I miss out on one of the wonders of the mating ritual? And biting each other! Would it be too much information if I admitted that I’ve never bit or been bitten during sex---at least not hard enough to remember or leave marks the next day? Who bites, period, past kindergarten? And here I thought getting a line of hickeys was the end of the world when I was fifteen.

Question: Why am I sitting here at my keyboard when the grocery store is calling my name? Oh, boy! I’ll get to have conversations with at least three people---the deli guy, the cashier and the barista at Starbucks. ©

Saturday, November 25, 2017

My Amazing new Christmas Gift to Myself – The Kindle Fire


I got my Christmas present to myself early this year. I didn’t want to wait for the craziness of Black Friday when I could have gotten the All-New Fire HD 8” Tablet with Alexa for $25 cheaper. I was afraid they’d get back ordered and it took me FOREVER to decide what I wanted. I debated about getting an Apple iPad for hundreds more than the Fire but I already have a desktop that I dearly love and a laptop that I fiercely hate plus a Kindle 3rd generation that still works fine, a smart phone, an iPod and a four-cup coffee pot. In other words, the essentials of life in the modern age. Well, that last one should be a Keurig to qualify for a ‘modern life’ but that was my Christmas present to myself a few years ago and I finally got so frustrated with it getting clogged up and having to fix it with a paper clip when I needed my morning coffee the most that I sent that Keurig off to the Salvation Army last summer and I never looked back.

I love Alexa. I wish I could change the voice to a male but the best I can do is change her to a British accent. That was cool when I played 'Simon says' with her and asked her to repeat "bloody hell." She bleeps out other swear words to keep it family friendly, I presume. Oh, yes, I’ve been having fun with my new playmate. Already I’m in love with her spelling skills. Just writing this, so far she’s spelled ‘fiercely’ for me and she beat my beloved Franklin Language Master 3000 that has been my constant writing companion since the ‘80s. But her pronunciation skills needs work. I asked her how do you pronounce c.a.t. and she replied, "C" and when I asked her how to pronounce m.u.c.i.l.a.g.i.n.o.u.s. she apologized for not knowing the word. She sings a mean rendition of Happy Birthday though.

I spent Thanksgiving with my youngest niece and her 2 ½ year old grandson walked up to her Amazon Echo and said, “Alexa play…” and he named a child’s song I didn’t know and can’t remember and his mother said he’s getting so good at giving Alexa commands at her house that’s she’s going to change its name to something he can’t say. On the way home I got to thinking about that. We’ve got a whole generation coming up who will be so used to asking Seri and Alexa for stuff they’ll be clueless if they see something like a radio from my youth. They won’t understand what knobs and dials are for---and forget record players. "You have to do to play music?!" What will be the point of kids ever having homework in the future when they can get Alexa or Siri to do it for them? But for disabled people who are confined to beds and wheelchairs what a godsend these voice activated devices are.

Guess what, I’m not finished writing about my new toy. I went off to Amazon to find some cheap books and I’ve finished reading one and have started another. The first was The Dog who knew too Much by Spencer Quinn. Apparently he has a whole series of mystery/detective books written in a dog’s voice and I’m a sucker for canine points of views. I even gave that style of writing a whirl in a blog I kept for my dog before my husband died. Sadly, I abandoned it to switch to writing this widow’s blog. Quinn's dog is a bit of an airhead at times which adds a sense of humor to the book. It was popcorn for the mind kind of reading. Now I’m reading Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid, another 'popcorn' book. I hadn't read a romance in a long time and I was curious if the formula had changed. 31,673 people reviewed it with an average of 3.93 overall, so it’s safe to say more people liked the nerdy, socially awkward heroine in the romance than didn’t. To me it was another gorgeous, brooding wealthy-man-falls-for-a-woman-who-doesn't-know-she's-beautiful plot. But since I identify with heroines who talk in their heads the book sucked me in early on:

My heart skipped two beats. I turned around.
Oh my God, it’s you.
“Oh my God, it’s you.” I realized too late that I said and thought the same thing in unison.

I never warmed up to on reading with my old Kindle because I like real books that I can underline passages in and write in the margins. If I buy a book, I don’t mind making it mine in this way. I never could figure out how to do those things on the Kindle. This time around I’m going to try learning to use all the features in the reader app. Already I’m a pro at using the Fire's Silk browser, e-mail, maps, weather and OneNote apps and playing music. And I was about to learn manage grocery lists using Alexa but my niece told me if I do, don’t be surprised if she places an order at Amazon for what I want and it’s delivered to my doorstep in two days. Oops. ©

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Holiday Plans and the Movie Wonder



I’d been wanting to call my youngest niece for over a week but I was afraid she’d think I was fishing for an invitation to come out for Thanksgiving. We talk on the phone every so often and we were overdue for a conversation. I knew she’s been busy helping her husband shrink-wrap boats after doing a her regular full time job and also helping out her daughter-in-law who is recovering from surgery, so I wasn’t concerned that I hadn’t heard from my niece.

In the meantime one of my niece-in-law’s pressured me into going to her Mary Kay party this past weekend even though I told her I don’t wear makeup anymore. But you know how those parties work, sometimes you end up buying when you don't want to because family is involved. I spent $50 on a face mask product and a sun screen. It didn’t help that I’ve become obsessed with my aging skin since I dug out a photo of me taken in 1967 and I had concrete proof that a century of living has not been kind to my once beautiful complexion. Boo woo, a close up photo of my skin would be hard to tell from a moonscape! But I am not obsessing enough to buy the Mary Kay $315 Awesome Advanced Age-Fighting Regimen Kit. My life-expectancy is too short to spend all that time and money cleaning, repairing, lifting, creaming and moisturizing my face with the contents of those eight tubes and jars.

 When my niece-in-law asked me what I’m doing for Thanksgiving I said, “I’m making turkey soup.” Why did I have to give her an honest answer?“Come over here!” she replied. “We’ll have lots of food.” I gave her a non-committal answer something like if you don’t hear from me by Tuesday, I’m not coming. I knew when I said it, I wasn’t going. I’m not fond of being around one of her grandsons.

After I got home from the Mary Kay party, right on queue my niece called and said she’d been so busy she forgot to call and she wanted me to come out to her house for Thanksgiving. Yeah! “…over the river and through the woods. Now Grandma’s cap I spy. Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” I have fond memories of singing that song as Don and I would drive down the dirt road to my mom and dad’s cottage out in the boondocks. Between that house and my brother’s near-by my nieces and nephew have been a part of my Thanksgivings for thirty-five years.

Change of topic: The movie Wonder, based on a novel by the same name and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay was a fantastic, feel good piece of inspirational writing paired with perfect casting. Jacob plays a ten year old boy---Auggie---who had been home schooled because of a facial distortion called “craniofacial difference” a birth anomaly in his DNA and the movie starts with him going to his very first day of regular school, in the 5th grade and it follows him through that first year of him and his classmates learning to accept each other. A subplot involving his older sister and her friends added a layer of teen drama that also turned into the warm, fuzzes by the end of the film.

I went into the movie believing it was based on a true story but when I googled it later I learned it wasn’t. The story grew out of an incident where the author, R.J. Palacio, was in an ice cream shop with her family when the facial deformities of a girl at the next table caused her own child to start crying. She said she acted badly and rushed her kids out, missing a teachable moment instead of setting a good example to her kids about acceptance. That night she started writing the book with the basic theme of choosing kindness. I love how the story was told from several viewpoints: Auggie’s parents, his older sister, the bullies, the do-gooders and the best friends he developed at school. I cried once, when the dog died---oops, I guess it’s too late to issue a spoiler alert---but all of Gathering Girls I saw the movie with were dapping our eyes at one point or another. Mostly happy tears.

This would be the perfect movie to take a grandchild of any age to over the holidays. We all left the theater in an uplifted and happy mood, knowing it portrayed the world the way it should and could be if we all took the challenge one of Auggie’s teacher gave his students: "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." If you think that line looks familiar, the author borrowed the it from inspirational speaker, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer but her Wonder book elevated it into the ‘Choose Kind Movement’ in classrooms across America. A perfect message to be reminded of over the holidays. ©