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, July 28, 2018

The ‘Mamma Mia! Here we go Again' Post


Three of my Gathering Girls pals and I went out to lunch and then to go see Mamma Mia! Here we go Again. I’ve never been to a more confusing movie in my life and I wasn’t alone in that opinion. The two of us who hadn’t seen the original Mamma Mia got totally lost trying to follow the flashbacks. If you see it, here’s what you need to know: the 2018 Mamma Mia is both a prequel and a sequel to the original film and the four main characters were played by eight actors---and the audience needs to believe that the younger versions (in their early-twenties) some 25-ish years later could have morphed into people who were played by actors ages 58 to 69. Do the math. It doesn’t work. Other quirky casting head-scratchers were Cher at 72 playing Sophie’s grandmother while Meryle Streep at 69 played Sophie’s mother. I’m sorry but no amount of camera filters makes that math add up. And did I mention Meryle appears as a ghost to sing duos with her daughter? Even the hotel morphed from run-down to restored and back and forth a few times using weird camera tricks that had me wishing I had a drink in my hand to explain the weirdness they triggered in my brain.

I’m always fascinated with how IMDb capsulizes a film’s storyline down to one sentence and this case they wrote: “Five years after the events of Mamma Mia! (2008), Sophie learns about her mother's past while pregnant herself.” Yup, half the movie was spent showing how the mother (younger Donna/older Meryle) was a slut having had three affairs with strangers during her fertile days resulting in a pregnancy. The three guys, lo and behold, somehow became best friends by film number two and they all considered themselves to be co-fathers to Sophie. (Like getting a DNA test never occurred to any of them? Was that explained in movie number one? I just don't know!) 

I do know that both Mamma Mias are musicals based on a lot of ABBA songs and, of course, there were bell-bottoms and colorful costumes galore and masses of people dancing everywhere including on the boats that brought people to the Greek Island hotel where most of the movie's action took place. At rogerebert.com the review said the older fathers---Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Pierce Brosnan---looked like they were “forced into singing ABBA songs that clearly make them miserable.” I, on the other hand, thought they looked like they were having great fun clowning around in a senior hall musical.

I like to watch movie trailers before seeing a film and to read reviews afterward (before writing my own) and I ran across an on-camera review from The Onion, a web satiric site. It made me laugh and I saw myself in what Peter K. Ronsenthat said because I really had no interest in seeing this movie. I went because the others were lusting to see Cher, Meryle and the ever popular-with-senior-women Andy Garcia. I did not know the actress, Lily James who played the younger Donna but she’s a great singer and she was in Cinderella, Downton Abby and War and Peace. I also didn’t know the other talented young woman who played Sophie, Amanda Seyfried. She was in the original Mamma Mia and also in Les Miserble. But for the entire movie I thought flashback younger Donna and Sophie were played by the same actress. It was only after consulting Professor Google that I could be talked out of that delusion. Like I said, I’ve never been to a more confusing movie. Still, it was fun to hear the old ABBA music and to know that people approaching or in their septuagenarian years can still pull off acting gigs that required them to climb hundreds of step to a mountain top chapel. 

The New York Times scathing review was probably one of those The Onion reviewer had in mind when he said something like, “Did you really expect Schindler’s fucking List? It’s July, not Oscar season.” For myself, I was glad we went on cheap Tuesday because I had enough fun to warrant paying the discounted rate but not enough to feel good if I had forked over another five bucks. It was a silly movie---and I generally like 'silly'---although I could have done without the fast moving colors that occasionally gave me what felt like psychedelic color induced brain blinks. But I did find myself wishing I could have jotted down a few lines of dialogue like when a woman was introduced to Andy Garcia she said, “Have him washed and brought to my tent.” An old joke but it made me laugh and another line I liked was said by younger Donna: “Life is short, the world is wide and I want to make some memories.” Good memories is what my gal pals and I made that afternoon and since half the fun of going to the movies is comparing notes afterward we also stopped for ice cream before going home. ©

Note the photo at the top: Those are the two girls I thought were played by the same actress. I still can't tell them apart. They even sounded the same.

 The very funny review from The Onion

The New York Times Review

The Official Movie Trailer

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Good Luck Charm


I am staring at a computer cabinet that is messy beyond my normal degree of messiness. And it’s all the plumber’s fault. He came to the house on Friday to: 1) swap out the guts of the toilet because it was taking forever for the bowl to refill after flushing; 2) replace the mixer on my shower so I no longer have to boil myself to get clean; 3) swap out the hoses on my washing machine because it’s better to do that before they leak causing the floor to rot and the machine to end up in the basement; and 4) to fix a leaky kitchen faucet that got completely replaced because a screw was too rusty to turn out to fix the old faucet. He also had to go down the basement to turn off the water and while he was down there I had him test my sump pump. I hate sump pumps. That’s where murderers hide bodies in bad books and movies and I’m afraid I’ll drop my eyeglasses inside when I look down in there. I had no idea until Friday what I was looking for when I do my sump pump checks. But now I know if the white float is under water, then it’s time to dial 911-emergency plumber and get the bugger swapped out before the next big rain storm.

So what does having the plumber literally all over my house have to do with my messy computer cabinet? A lot. He might only be a serviceman, but I don’t get much company and I like having my house look great for anyone who steps through the front door, especially now that I’m old enough to be reported to Social Services if I look like an old woman in need of a keeper. All the desk-type stuff I normally have on my kitchen table got piled inside my computer cabinet were it still remains, and all the normal junk in my shower and on bathroom counter top went inside my bathroom linen closet. I didn’t want the guy to read my bottles and jars and know I’m obsessing about my skin again. Why do I do that? I’ll go for months doing little more than washing my face at night and in my morning showers. Then something will set me off and I’ll be ‘sanding’ my skin, loading it up with masks and potions that promise to make my pores disappear. 

My husband had rental property for a time and one of the houses came with a tenant who was 93 years old when she became a problem; the utilities were included in the rent and they got so high they totaled up to more than she was paying in rent. (She probably kept her thermostat the same as her age.) Every month when Don would go down to collect the rent he’d vow he was going to raise her rent to the breakeven point. And every month he’d come home saying he couldn’t do it. She worshipped the ground he walked on and who wouldn’t when you have a landlord who’d pick up prescriptions or a few groceries whenever he stopped? She always had a little ‘errands list’ for him and she was so appreciative to the point that he couldn’t bring up the rent increase. 

Finally, he called her daughter and told the woman he was going to evict her mother if she (the daughter) didn’t take over one of the utilities bills. “She’s your mother, not mine! I shouldn’t have to supplement her living expenses.” The daughter was quite wealthy and did nothing to help out her mother but she caved into Don’s toothless threat and the gas bill was switched over to her account. He wouldn’t have evicted his “good luck charm” as he called her but he often said, “How much longer can she live?” And who would take her mangy dog if he did evict her? He'd already taken in his mom's nasty tempered cat when she went in a nursing home, he didn't need to make any more promises like that. When Mrs, Anderson finally died a few years short of 100, we had to gut all the flooring down to the floor joists in one room to get rid of the dog’s ‘bathroom’ and we repainted all the walls four times to get rid of the odor of her cigarette smoking. You could practically get lung cancer just opening the front door. 

Mrs. Anderson is the reason why I half-joke, half-fear someone calling Social Services on me in the future should I become a danger to myself; we were in a position where we debated which was the kinder thing to do----report her to Social Services so she’d be forced into a nursing home or her daughter’s fancy digs or let her live out her life in a house where she’d been a tenant for the better part of her life. We made the right choice but only because Mrs. Anderson died of natural causes. We always worried that she’d fall asleep with a cigarette in her hand, die in a nasty fire and we’d end up regretting not making that call. And talking to her daughter about the situation was like talking to a yard ornament. Yup, Don’s lucky charm is why I hide my kitchen table clutter in my computer cabinet when the plumber and other service people come calling. You can never be too careful around young people because you can’t tell which ones could be on a mission to save old people from themselves. ©

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Great Summer Social Outings


I’ve been to many places this week where old people conjugate and let me tell you I was a little shocked at how---well, how old we all looked! At the senior hall ice cream social a field of white hair was all I saw when I first walked into the place. Then my artist eyes zeroed in on wrinkled and saggy skin and plump bodies with lumps, bumps and skin tags not to mention knobby knees and puffed up feet in sensible shoes. Of those who weren’t overweight or out of shape there were a few ladies who looked like death warmed over. And if you look that way here’s a fashion tip: don’t wear those god-awful ‘cold shoulders’ dresses! You have to work out at a gym to look good in those. One women who last year at this same event was showing off her new eyelids lift surgery I hardly recognized this year because the skin on her face was like a blow-up plastic doll’s and not in a good way. I don’t know what kind of cosmetic surgery she had this time but it was proof positive you can’t turn back the hands of time. That day and the next at a Red Hat Society garden party they started out by announcing the grave illnesses and impeding deaths of a couple of delightful women. “Send prayers,” they said and I thought, I’ve got to quit hanging around with people my own age! They scare the crap out of me, reminding me that the damn funeral bells could toll for me next!

The garden party was a crack-of-dawn breakfast planned during our recent heat wave but that morning I could have used a sweater. Half the ladies were directed to bring ‘savory’ and half of the group was directed to bring ‘sweet.’ The orange juice was spiked with champagne, the coffee was strong and just the way I like it. There were twelve of us so I was in sweet-tooth heaven with all the cranberry-walnut bread, donuts, date strudel, pecan rolls and baked French toast. I was assigned to bring savory and---surprise, surprise---everyone raved about the mini tarts I made. I’ve been bringing mini tarts to everything that requires a dish to pass since last Christmas and I’m getting pretty good at inventing fillings for them. These were filled with a spinach, artichoke and Parmesan dip that was cut with equal parts of whipped cream cheese and mixed with chopped bacon and dates. I’ll probably make mini tarts again for a summer picnic next month but I’ll have to bring ‘sweet’ to that party so I’ll probably experiment with lemon curd tarts topped with raspberries stuffed with almond paste or blueberries because half the fun of making tarts is testing combinations and eating the rejects.

Somewhere in my busy week I found time to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which was actually the results of a mistake on my part. A Gathering Girl friend and I had intended to see Won’t you be my Neighbor? in a tourist town near-by, but the listing on the internet I read for an AMC theater was for a showing in a town with the same name in a different state. The ticket seller says it happens from time to time but it was still embarrassing. Jurassic World was the only thing starting soon and tickets in that theater are only $4.50 so we went inside on a spur-of-the-moment decision and had a good time. It had a darker, more sinister storyline and ending than the original Jurassic Park but it was fast paced, scary-as-in-I-screamed-out-loud-a-couple-of-times and the movie had the cutest leading actors who stole my heart with flashes of humor and romance. Chris Pratt was paired with Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard’s daughter, who I didn’t know was in the business. What a beautiful woman.)

Chris got his start in the TV series Parks and Recreation and in the storyline of the film he and Bryce's character used to date and were thrown back together. My favorite lines came when he was asking about who she was dating now. “A lawyer? A Wall Street guy?” he guessed. “Your skin looks great. A dermatologist?” If they could bottle up that flirty, sparkle in his eyes and the tease in his voice I’d buy a fifty gallon drum of that charisma and wallow in memories of being young enough to have flirty eyes and a voice like that aimed in my direction.

By Thursday all the fun stuff was over for the week and I was in caregiver mode taking care of Levi. He’s always been a wimp about getting his annual teeth cleaning and this time he got three teeth pulled as well and he cost me over $1,000! We’ve gone through this seven times now and it doesn’t get any easier. He doesn’t handle pain well and he’s been known to pass out for unknown reasons. Poor baby. And the patch they shave where his IV line got poked in his leg annoys the heck out of him and I think he blames me for the whole ordeal. Hopefully, by the time this post gets published the ‘mighty’ should be back in Levi my _______ Schnauzer. In the meantime I'll be fluffing his pillow and dispensing his meds. ©