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, May 30, 2018

Cemetery Run: Year Six


It was a bright, sunny day in the neighborhood when I got up and I had places to go and things to do including going to the cemetery to do some “housekeeping” around my husband’s gravestone before the Memorial Day weekend kicked into high gear. But first I needed to drop off my recycling at the transfer station what’s located along the way. I’ve been on a militant mission to recycle as much one-time use plastic, glass and metal as humanly possible. My recycling “come to Jesus” moment came after I posted the video back in April of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck all the way up inside his nose. I’ve always recycled newspapers, cardboard and pop cans but I didn’t think I was generating enough kitchen and household recyclables to make a difference. Boy, was I wrong. Before, I was going to the transfer station every 8-9 weeks but now I’ll probably need to go every 2-3 weeks and I’ve reduced the trash that goes out to the street for Monday pickup so much that it looks absolutely ridiculous in a tote big enough to hold 332.5 pounds. I’ve called around looking for a trash pickup service that offers smaller containers or once a month, rather than weekly pickups but they all seem to be using the same play book.

The cemetery was a busy place. Mowers and guys with weed whackers were working on the far side of the rolling, tree studded place and Boy Scouts were making their way down the rows of stones, looking for graves to put fresh American flags on. After I parked off to the side, careful not to encroach on any gravesites, I grabbed my long-handled shovel, a jug of water, scrub brush, plastic bag and garden gloves and I was surprised to see the tombstone looked better than it usually does when I do the spring the cleanup. Usually sod is attempting to take it over and the engraving in the marble is filled up with dirt. Others like me were parked here and there and as we worked the bees were buzzing, the birds were singing and the flowers were holding their faces up to the sun. A perfect day to be anywhere but where I was.

As I dug out the sod around the stone I thought about what I wrote in my blog last year---I had looked it up the night before. “This year,” it read, “is my fifth Memorial Day since Don’s passing and I could write exactly what I wrote last year: ‘I went to the cemetery on Saturday and had a talk with Don. I told him that I think of him often and that I’m doing okay even though he took a piece of me with him when he left.’” This weekend, my sixth Memorial Day of grooming his gravestone we didn’t seem to be on speaking terms and that may be because I had a half of jug of water left and I got side-tracked cleaning up a near-by grave of a veteran of the Korean War that looked pitiful and abandoned. I almost cleaned it along with Don’s last year but decided not to because I had just read another widow’s blog who had gone ballistic when she went to the cemetery to clean her husband’s grave and found it had already been done. She suspected his first wife did it and she was going to have a showdown over it. Dead and fighting over who gets to clean up after the guy! He must have been quite the prize. Anyway, I’m thinking if Don’s Korean War vet neighbor in the cemetery has a living widow around, I could take her down in a fist fight.

On the way home from the cemetery I got caught in a road construction maze. The street I usually go home on had been closed off permanently and the traffic light that used to be at that intersection was moved 200 feet down the road, at the exit ramp coming from the expressway. It’s not like we didn’t have a month of warnings. We did, but old habits are hard to break and thank goodness I didn’t make a left onto the exit ramp. (Someone's going to do it!) Turning around in the carpool lot so I could head back in the other direction, I found the brand new by-pass road that eventually connected to the road I needed. But on that road I ran into road block and had to turn around. AGAIN! I didn’t think I’d ever find my way home and I was running out of options. I ended up going way far out of my way but all’s well that ends well because that road took me to Starbucks and my Chevy Trax is programed to turn into their driveway.

As I jotted down notes for this blog entry I was sitting in their coffee shop, using the stainless steel straw I now carry in my purse---that’s how serious I am about doing my part to reduce was goes into the landfills and oceans. It was my first “granda Teavana shaken pineapple white ice tea lemonade sweeten infusion” of the season. They don’t tell you this, but ordering drinks at Starbucks is a senility test. If you get any one of those words out of order you have to start all over again. ©

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Club: a Movie Review


The movie review at rogerebert.com starts like this: “When I learned that Book Club was Hollywood’s latest bid to please the senior-discount demo with a glittering array of big-screen notables of a certain age was partly inspired by the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy—aka The Joy of Sex for semi-literates—I shuddered a bit. Please, don’t waste the estimable talents of Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, all acting together for the very first time, on kinky cosplay.” Have you ever googled a word like “cosplay” and after reading what pops up you still don’t have a clear picture of what the person who used it was trying to say? Understand it or not I’m using the quote above to supplement how IMDb sums up the storyline of the film: “Four lifelong friends have their lives forever changed after reading Fifty Shades of Grey in their monthly book club.”

Each character supposedly “represents a romantic stage of older womanhood,” but I personally don’t known any wealthy women who have never married---Fonda’s part---who has an active sex life but never gets emotionally involved with any of her sex partners. When she hands out the ‘Fifty Shades’ books she picked for the group to read one of the ladies said, “Give me a break. I’m not reading that!” and another says, “To even be holding this book is embarrassing." I’ve never known a federal judge either---Bergen’s part. She plays a divorced woman who hasn’t been interesting in dating (or sex) in nearly two decades. At one point in the movie she says could put Christian Grey “in jail for any one of those things” he did to Ana in the book. Steenburgen plays a married woman who hasn't has sex in six months. Keaton plays a widow one year out who is being pressured to move into a ‘senior-safe’ basement suite at her daughter’s house. And one of the best lines in the movie came when she told her daughters “you both seem to have good mothering instincts but you should save it for your children.” 

You can’t have love and romance in a movie without men---well, you could but not in this storyline---and they paired Fonda with Don Johnson and Bergen with Richard Dreyfuss. Steeburgen’s husband was played by Craig Nelson and I saved the best for last, Keaton was paired with Andy Garcia. All six of us who saw the movie together left the theater in love with Andy’s character. He and Johnson provided the required silver-fox eye candy for this old hen flick. (Old hen as opposed to chick flick. Not funny? Sue me.) The casting director‘s choice of Don was an interesting pick considering his daughter, Dakota Johnson, played the lead in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. In an interview he said he didn’t see the movies because “there are some images that shouldn’t be in a father’s head.” Good choice, Don.

I don’t know how the opening weekend box office sales were but judging by the fact that I could have seen Book Club with three separate groups, I’m guessing they were good. My senior hall Movie and Lunch club chose it but I only went to lunch with the fifteen in that group. My Red Hat Society chapter threw in an extra outing for May just to see the movie and that doesn’t happen often. I went with my Gathering Girls group. We laughed. Two of us cried. And all of us had a fabulous time and several of us---including me---want to see Book Club again because there was so much dialogue that got lost in the laughter at the theater. 

As a feminist I had mixed feelings about seeing a movie that piggybacked on the popularity of the ‘Fifty Shades’ books and movies. I even wrote a blog in 2015 about how I think the mainstreaming of sadism and masochism is a dangerous message to send to the young women and men. Last February the first movie came on late night TV and I decided I’d bitched about the so-called “erotic romance” enough that I should see if my impression that hard core S&M and grooming for such was being passed off as romantic foreplay matched up with what was actually in the film. It did. S&M should stay in The Encyclopedia of Abnormal Human Behavior Encyclopedia where I first learned about it decades ago. When I was telling one of the Gathering Girls pals about my skepticism about seeing Book Club she said, “We don’t know how the material is handled in THIS movie.” That was a good point and reason enough for me to give up my qualms about paying money for something that might elevate the ‘Fifty Shades’ mind-set.

As it turned out, the characters in Book Club agreed near the end of reading the trilogy that it wasn’t very good even though it did bring changes in each of their lives. (The emotionally unavailable hotel owner opened herself up to being vulnerable. The judge started online dating, the recent widow found her voice and the married couple made their way back to each other.) Although one of the characters said a line about trilogy that rubbed me the wrong way: "It's just a love story that proves even a guy who is fifty shades of fucked up needs love.” If they had left that one line out of the movie my feminist sensibilities would have been happier. It's a dog-whistle to abused women who suckle at the tit of ‘Fifty Shades’ suggesting they should keep loving their abuser instead of leaving. 

But the bottom line from my point of view is you don’t have to like the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey books and movies to enjoy a light comedy like Book Club. I sure did. And it definitely wasn't "cosplay"---I finally figured out what the word means. No one dressed up in S&M garb or bought handcuffs or set up a red room with torture devices like Mr. Grey's. The characters were relatable and believable and I loved the way Candice Bergen delivered her nuanced humor. She was my favorite character. If you saw the movie who was your favorite? ©


If you want to read a funny (but long) tongue-in-cheek movie review of the last of the 'Fifty Shades' trilogy movies, I highly recommend one from The Atlantic. Fifty Shades Freed: a Spoilereview

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Time Zones and Royal Weddings


Lectures at the senior hall are never a crap-shoot, meaning they book good quality speakers who talk about interesting topics. This month’s lecture was titled Michigan’s Great Time Confusion but it could have been labeled for any other state as well. We probably all know that back when travel was by stage coach, wagons and horseback time in America was set in what is known as Solar or Sun Time. But, I for one, didn’t know that most communities had one person in town that was appointed by local ordinances to be the official time keeper for its citizens. If you wanted to set your pocket watch correctly you’d walk down to the city hall or church tower clock to check their time. The keeper of the official town clock would use a Meridiem Chart that depends on the position of the sun in the sky, the date and their location on the globe to adjust the time a few minutes back or forward each day. It didn’t much matter if the towns half way across the state were running its official time twenty minutes faster or slower because there wasn’t much commerce done between them. 

Then the railroads and telegraphs came along and it wasn’t long after when they found themselves operating in 27 different time zones just in Michigan alone and other states faced similar problems. It was a nightmare for the rail companies trying to print and keep schedules, for travelers and for businesses shipping by train, so the railroad lines started pushing to standardize time across America. Thus Railroad Time was invented. Cities and towns and the schools, tradesmen and factories within them fought over whether or not to change to Railroad Time and in many communities they used both Solar and Railroad Time. Individuals fought about the time, especially at bar closing time, in courthouses and at train stations and housewives hated having to get their husbands ready for work on Railroad Time and their children ready to go to school on Solar Time. Towns voted Railroad Time in, then back out again and it got so confusing that the federal government finally stepped in and in 1882 the National Time Standard was established.

Then in 1918 Daylight Savings Time started, an act meant to help preserve coal during WWI that was used to make electricity so they’d have more coal available for troop trains and ships. It was so unpopular that the law was repealed later on making DLS time a local option until WWII came along and Daylight Savings Time was mandated year-around across the nation and it was called War Time. The chaotic transition from Solar Sun Time to Railroad Time to Standard Time was a complicated story to tell but our speaker used lots of newspaper clippings, railroad schedules, charts, photographs and court and government documents that he projected on a screen to make the lecture come alive. I loved it! 

Time zones were important the following weekend to those of us around the world who wanted to watch the royal wedding in Windsor. The actual wedding started “over the pond” at twelve noon their time, 7:00 AM my time. I woke up a half hour late but what I didn’t see at the beginning I caught in the replays afterward. And if I hadn’t already been smitten with Harry and Meghan I sure was after hearing the song they chose for their wedding, Stand By Me. “When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we'll see, no I won't be afraid. No I won't be afraid, just as long as you stand, stand by me.” To use one of my all-time favorites---a song about enduring love and solidarity that’s been inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry for its historically significance---as their wedding song is a wonderful window into Harry and Meghan’s union. They seem genuinely happy and in tune with each other’s life goals and after my twenty years of dealing with brides and grooms when I was in the working world I can say that with real conviction. 

Forever more Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And that got me to wondering if Prince Harry actually has a last name for feminist Meghan to reject or accept changing hers to. Harry’s full name according to Wikipedia is: “His Royal Highness Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales. And, no, Wales is not his last name…” After a frustrating google search I still didn’t have a definitive answer. But I did learn that it was her feminist choice to walk halfway down the aisle by herself, meeting tradition halfway to the altar where Harry’s father (standing in for hers) joined her. Pretty cool symbolism, if you ask me, and I noted that she didn’t vow to obey. I don’t get why any bride would make that vow in this day and age…and yet last summer I watched in shock as a young bride did just that. I’m surprised I didn’t stand up and yell, “I object!”  ©