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, January 31, 2018

Am I Adventurous or what!



The dog decided to get up in the middle of the night and christen the carpeting with three piles of vomit. I wasn’t particularly worried about his health because Levi has always had a touchy stomach. A couple of days of me making him scrambled eggs and rice usually puts him back on track. And his vomit episodes turn me into the queen of getting yellow stomach acids out of light gray Berber carpeting. I could do a commercial for Resolve High Traffic Carpet Cleaning Foam. Day one I follow the directions on the can but I leave the can sitting next to the spot. Day Two I wait for the sun to pass over the spot so I can look for a telltale ring. If I can see one I repeat Day One. This time, because Levi upchucked hours before I found it, I had to add a Day Three and it took an entire roll of paper towel to blot up the rise cycles before I was satisfied the spots were gone. It’s a good thing dogs are so lovable because spot patrol days test my patience as I waffle between being glad Levi didn’t end up in animal ER and wanting to kill him for something he can’t help and finds embarrassing to look at.

On day three of eggs and rice Levi wanted nothing more to do with that sick puppy menu and he demanded his regular fare back again. That dog is a popinjay and there’s no mistaking his message when he’s barking in front of his plastic bin of kibble. As I fixed him a bowl, I apologized because that’s when I realized that I was probably responsible for him being sick in the first place. I had mistakenly toppled his last bowl of kibble with 3-4 inches of doggie tooth paste instead of dog food enhancement. I had recently moved the doggie tooth paste to a new location which obviously was an ill-fated idea that came straight out of a box of rocks. Both are the same shaped tube, both mixed in the same way and Levi likes the peanut butter flavored tooth paste. I thought about punishing myself by eating a couple of inches of Colgate Whitening Toothpaste for people but I was afraid if I upchucked it I’d have to go through Day One through Three of Resolve High Traffic Carpet Cleaning Foam again and who wants to do that twice in the same week? 

Day Three was sunny and beautiful, especially for January in Michigan, so off I went to the pet store to see what they had in new foods for dogs with touchy stomachs. (Ya, I know, putting my glasses on at feeding time might cure some of his issues but don’t spread that around, okay?) I couldn’t believe all the gluten-free, grain-free products at Chow Hound! But they didn’t have any sample bags for sale like they often do and I wasn’t about to buy ten pounds of stuff that Levi may or may not turn his nose up at. So I got him some more food enhancer only this time I got a brand that didn’t come in a toothpaste shaded tube. Now I have to worry about getting his doggie broth mixed up with my Swanson’s chicken broth when I make soup! Same box, different labels.

After leaving the pet store I sat in the car trying to decide where to have lunch. I was parked in the Bermuda Triangle of Restaurants. Across the street was a local chain that I’ve been going to since before Levi and his predecessor were born. It’s a sit-down place that reminds me of Cheers, the old TV sitcom but no one ever knows my name. I like to go there when I’m feeling widow-strong and independent, like I could belt out “I am Woman!” at the top of my lungs. Straight ahead was Starbucks where I knew I could collect an extra ten points for ordering a Gouda and Bacon Breakfast sandwich. Ten points gets me that much closer to earning a free lunch. I like going there when I feel like showing the young’uns that I can do something they can’t---write in cursive. I could take my new Kindle Fire and use the ‘OneNote’ app to take notes and I'd blend in with all the others using devices but my 3 ½" x 4 ½" notebook and pen makes me feel like a sly spy as I make up back stories for my fellow coffee drinkers.

The Guy Land Cafeteria was also close by and that’s where I ended up. I ordered their new Canadian Bacon Club Pita because after eating their tuna melts on rye for the past twenty-five years I was ready to put some adventure in my life. I sat down at a booth, dug out my notebook and pen, ready to record my adventures in Vomit Land and whatever else came into view. That’s when I noticed a woman I’ve seen there many times in the past. She’s around my age, always sits at a table where there’s a wall plug and I’ve never seen her with food or dishes on the table. She charges her phone while working on an adult coloring book. It was two in the afternoon and to the right of me was a set of grandparents with a pre-schooler who was still wearing his Spiderman pajamas. I was jealous! Why do I have to get dressed to go out for lunch? And why can’t I bring Levi to restaurants? He certainly eats neater than that little boy did. He was having fun with gravity while his grandparents ignored his game. When they left the floor needed a treatment with Resolve High Traffic Carpet Cleaning Foam. ©

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Wright, Van Gogh, Beethoven and my Plans for Immortality



This week I took part in a Frank Lloyd Wright marathon down at the senior hall starting with a book discussion of Loving Frank and ending with a viewing of a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Over five hours between the two. It would have been even longer if I’d signed up for the bus trip portion the next day to tour a classic Prairie house that Wright designed. I’ve been inside that house several times in the past and had no desire to see it again. I’m not a fan of its rigid, tightly controlled interiors but since my secret desire from age twelve to forty-five was to be an architect, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about a man that many call a genius, thus the time I invested in the marathon was worth it. 

PBS describes the films we us saw this way: This two-part documentary explores the life of one of America's greatest architects -- hated by some, worshiped by others and ignored by many. Using archival photographs, live cinematography, interviews, newsreel footage and home movies, the film tells the story of Wright's turbulent life and his extraordinary professional career.” 

Built over 800 buildings including the Guggenheim Museum, known for his huge overruns, a hustler and a salesman/showman as well as a genius engineer and designer, Wright was unique. His personal life was riddled with scandal---left is first wife with a ton of unpaid bills and six kids to raise while he ran off to Europe with a married woman and never looked back. Got married two more times, had two more kids, Wright lived way above his means but he didn’t seem to care. His personal motto was, “Live in the now.” And just to keep his beloved Taliesin house in Wisconsin, his friends had to bail him out of bankruptcy on several occasions.

After leaving the movie marathon, I got to thinking about other people who put their mark on the creative world who were troubled or outrageous in their personal lives. Vincent Van Gogh of Starry Night fame, for example, a post-impressionist painter who suffered with what people now guess was bi-polar issues. He killed himself at age 37 and was said to have cut off his ear in a fit of madness. (Although not all historians agree on whether he or his friend Paul Gauguin lopped off the ear with a sword during a fight.) Then there’s Georgia O’Keeffe, considered to be pioneer of American modernism. I hate, HATE her canvases of enlarged flowers and I have no clue why one of them sold for 44.4 million 3-4 years ago. She was legendary for her “independent spirit” but her personal life was filled with anxiety, depression and hostility. And who could leave out Beethoven in a discussion of famous works created by people with a messed up personal life? Alcoholic, extreme highs, suicidal lows. Ken Burns compared him to Wright because near the end of his life when he could no longer hear the music Beethoven wrote the notes on paper to create masterpieces that have passed the test of time and Wright, well into his 80s, did the same with innovative and pioneering engineering concepts. 

What does it take to be so creative that your work is your immortality---to be a genius in your genre like Beethoven and Wright? Do you have to be a self-absorbed ass-breath? Someday will, say, Harvey Weinstein’s cutting-edge achievements in film production, his 194 credits, be a large enough legacy to transcend his personal failings and flaws? Will students of film study his movies like architect students study Wright, overlooking the people Weinstein hurt like the people Wright hurt fell by the wayside? Does art---The Work---rise above its creator? Or do the scandals, the whispers of wrong-doing, the self-promotions and the self-adsorptions actually help to elevate their greatness---calling attention to the mystique of the misunderstood artist that translates into upping their commercial value after death?

I really want answers because when I turn 80 and check myself into a nursing home I want to be the next Grandma Moses. I want to get “discovered” by a newly minted arts and activities director for building fanciful structures out of Popsicle sticks and paper clips and or for painting noses and lips, eyeballs and ears swapped out of their proper places on portraits of my fellow inmates. I want my work to make me immortal but I don’t want to be considered crazy or misunderstood until I’ve got someone else lined up to do my laundry and fix my meals. ©


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

This, That and a Movie Review of ‘The Post’


This past month I recorded a lot of thoughts rolling around in my head on topics I probably should have kept to myself. The Bachelor? Oprah? Who really cares about how I feel about pop culture and celebrities besides me and often times I wonder about my own level of interest in what goes on in between my ears. It’s called ‘editing’ Jean. I know how to do that when I’m face to face with others but I could use a refresher course in editing my thoughts when I write. If you rooted out an apology in this paragraph, au contraire. I'm just saying that a self-imposed commitment to write a 1,000 words twice a week might be good disciple and a useful teaching tool for would-be writers but there's a fine line between forcing a topic and finding one. Sometimes I forget that.

The January thaw has brought my social life back into the realm of possibilities which is always good for journaling fodder. This week’s choice: Should I go to the rescheduled-for-the-3rd-time Red Hat Society Christmas party or go on an outing with my Movie and Lunch Club? I chose the latter because I was totally out of the mood to stretch the holidays out past the middle of January. From the photos they shared online, I was the only one who didn’t make it and I didn’t feel even a tinge of regret looking at all those smiling ladies all decked out in their gaudy best. Ever since they changed “management” over a year ago, I’ve lost interest in the group. One power-drugged person---even a nice, church lady power-drugged person---can change the whole dynamics of a group. Dictatorships, whether in a group of twenty or in a country, creates the dissident class. That’s me, Ms Dissident.

I skipped the ‘lunch’ part of my Movie and Lunch Club because I still felt a little weak from being sick not long ago and I didn’t want to over-tax myself with a stretched-out social afternoon. The movie we saw was The Post with Tom Hawks and Meryl Streep taking the lead parts and directed by Steven Spielberg. You can’t go wrong with that combination of talent at the helm. Rotten Tomatoes.com sums up the story like this: It’s “…a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post's Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers - and their very freedom - to help bring long-buried truths to light.” 

For anyone who lived through that era when the Pentagon Papers were exposed and The Times and The Post ended up in an emergency Supreme Court hearing charged with treason via a suit filed by the Nixon administration, for any history buff or political junkie, for anyone concerned about our present administration’s attack on the press this is a MUST-SEE film! All the glowing reviews this movie has gotten are well deserved. But I wish more younger people were interested in see it. My niece saw it on a Friday night and she noted the same thing I did about my afternoon audience. We were all older, well dressed people who looked college educated or at least smart enough to follow the complicated and fast-moving true story and the importance of the Fourth Estate in our democracy. 

Near the end of the movie they quoted Justice Hugo Black’s argument for ruling in favor of the two newspaper’s right to publish the then-classified Pentagon Papers and against Nixon’s attempt to control the press and I was able to google his words. They’re important words, words that matter today every bit as much as they did in 1971 when the court ruled 6 to 3. He wrote, “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” 

And that’s why Trump’s attempt to erode the credibility of the press is so dangerous. It’s why we need to remain vigilant against his corrosive, dictatorship-inspired tactic of calling any news he doesn’t like “fake” news. It’s why we all need to put on our dissidents hats and stand up for this basic building block of our democracy. ©

 This is probably the most comprehensive movie trailer I’ve seen in ages. The 2:32 minutes sums up the two hour movie and the historical event it covers with near perfection.   



A fun and fascinating interview of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep on CBS This Morning about the movie. 


“Katharine Graham stepped into a moment in history where she made history.” Meryl Streep

“The news is the first rough draft of history.”
A line attributed to Katharine Graham in the movie, who was quoting her father.