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 16, 2019

The Upside Movie Review, Red Hats to Mad Hats and Other Chit Chat

“Every moment of every day we can be our best, most loving and vibrant selves. Together, let’s step up to show up better than yesterday.” Jimmy Rosenberg, the founder of Evolution Fresh, signed his name to that bit of inspirational philosophy on the side of an orange juice bottle that I got at Starbucks this morning. (The company is a subsidiary of Starbucks.) In the almost two decades I’ve been hooked on Starbucks this was the first time I’ve bought an orange there so I don’t know if the same bit of philosophy appears on all its bottles or it changes from time to time like similar words do that appear on the disposal cups you get at this so-called "yuppie, left-wing liberal" coffee shop chain. But I’ve sung my Ode to Starbucks before so I’ll skip to the reason I was up early enough to require a shot of orange juice along the way. I wanted to go the hazardous waste collection site and it’s only open from 7:30 to 9:30 one day a week. I had a twenty-five year old fire extinguisher in the garage that still showed it was fully charged but I wouldn’t trust it after all those years and a gallon of windshield washer that was nearly that old. I don’t even know how to open the hood of my car, much less where to fill the washer bottle. As they say in the better parts of town, “I have people for that” now. 

There was a day, though, in my distant past when I could check my own oil and transmission fluid and top them off, if needed. My dad didn’t think his kids should be driving if they couldn’t do those things plus change a tire and I had to prove I could do it all before he’d let me take the family car. Fast forward to when I met my husband and he did all those things. But Don did put me in charge of tire safety with a ceremonial gift of a tire tread depth gauge. It was a joke gift because I was tire obsessed with the tires on Don’s menagerie of nine pickup trucks and four pieces of heavy equipment, and I made good use of that tread depth checker. He no longer had to listen to me ask, “Are those tires safe?” Instead I got to say, “Those tires need to be replaced” and off we’d go to Costco. I still have that tread checker but I don’t drive enough to put any wear on my tires so it’s in my toolbox now instead of in my glove box. Ya, I know Marie Kondo, the Tiding Up lady, would say I need to honor that tread checker’s history then throw it in the garbage. Hey, lady, I honor it by keeping it! Maybe she can live with just one sweater---white at that---in her wardrobe but I’m a spiller and I’m digressing….

New topic: My Red Hat Society Chapter officially dissolved with our Christmas party. We’ve been together since 2002 and I was one of the founding members. The National organization raised their yearly dues significantly. So we’re changing our name to the Mad Hatters and everything else will stay the same except we will wear whatever darn color hats we want---as long as we wear one to our teas and outings. Other than the licensing rights to use the Red Hat name and logo the National hasn’t been of any benefit in recent years like it was when we were younger and could travel to conventions. Last March I blogged that I was seriously consider dropping out of the Red Hats altogether but I shifted my attitude and stuck it out. Now I go to the fun stuff and skip the things I didn’t like doing like visiting nursing homes and going on endless church tours. Mostly I stopped feeling guilty about skipping what I skip and more importantly I stopped resenting the dictatorial nature of the person making most of the decisions. My philosophy? If you don’t like something either work to change it, move on or find a way to accept it. I choice door number three. 

I saw a good 'dramedy' movie this past weekend, The Upside with Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart and Nichole Kidman. IMDb sums up the storyline this way: “Philip is a disabled [quadriplegic] white billionaire, who feels that life is not worth living. To help him in his day to day routine, he hires Del, an African American parolee, trying to reconnect with his estranged wife. What begins as a professional relationship develops into a friendship as Del shows his grouchy charge that life is worth living.” The reviewers have not been kind with their ratings—three out of four that I read gave it two stars and the forth gave it three. Two harped on the fact that it didn’t measure up to the French version (The Intouchables). Big deal! How many Americans watch foreign films with subtitles? And one reviewer didn’t like that comedian Kevin Hart took on a roll that included a good deal of serious acting along with the comedic parts in the film. I couldn’t figure out if it was comedians in general, black guys or just Kevin who shouldn’t be stretching their type-casted wings. All I care about is the film is based on a true story and it took movie goers through a full range of emotions from belly laughs to empathy to sadness and back to happiness. I left the theater feeling uplifted and I felt I got my money’s worth. So a pox on the two star ratings! The Upside has a lot of upsides…. ©

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Flaky, Polite and Joyful Conversations

But first a message from the whine-like-a-baby-department: Have I mentioned lately that beds are evil? For the second time in my life I tripped while making my bed. The first time was in 1999. That resulted in a long elbow surgery and months of physical therapies that I found out last summer has totally failed. All the screws backed out and a bone is swinging in the wind and gives me pain if I don’t remember not to do certain things. This time I fell on my knee then my hip and only hurt my pride but it took me fifteen minutes to get off the floor with my two fake knees and damaged elbow. I finally did it by butt-crawling to the bathroom where I threw myself over the toilet and used a grab bar to pull myself up with good arm while Levi, my Might Schnauzer, got all concerned from a safe distance. At first I wondered if he thought my whining was catching like the flu but a couple of days later it dawned on me that when my disabled husband would fall Levi was trained to lay down out of the way and wait until Don was back in his wheelchair.  

Monday my Gathering Girls group got together for a two and a half hour brunch at the Guy Land Cafeteria where I suspect eavesdroppers had laughter or friendship envy. We’ve got a lot of life experiences between us to draw on and whenever something gets too serious someone makes an off-the-wall comment that has us all roaring with laughter. About the only topic we don’t discuss is Donald Trump because one of ladies is a supporter so politics only comes up with she’s absent. Mostly we poke fun at ourselves. This week one of the ladies did a rant about how much she hates Wayfair (the online homes goods store) because they send her too many emails and I was trying to explain to her and a couple of other computer literates at the table how to unsubscribe and how not get signed up in the first place. I love Wayfair and I never get emails from them. A guy in his early twenties at a near-by table was no double enjoying our conversation and probably went back to work to tell his buddies about the horse-and-buggy era grandmas at the next table. I can’t complain since I get a lot of blogging material in that place. 

The I-hate-Wayfair lady loves to shop on QVC and I haven’t got a clue how that works. I told her she needs to give me a clothing shopping class---I desperately need a new wardrobe. She said when she was back in the working world she was ‘Mrs. Got Rocks’ and could buy good quality clothing and I guess on QVC you can shop in different price ranges. She’s no longer Mrs. Got Rocks but she still dresses a whole lot better than I do. Earlier, I told everyone about my DNA test results from 23andMe and the line “but I don’t have the Alzheimer’s gene” became my running joke whenever I miss-heard or needed something repeated. Someone asked, “Do they had a gene marker for being flaky?” And I replied, “If they did, I’d probably have that variant.” Like I said, we all have a talent for poking fun of ourselves.

The next day I had lunch with my Movie and Lunch Club. I’d already seen the movie but the restaurant was one I hadn’t been to since before my husband died and I wanted to go there again. I sat at a table with seven others who’ve I’ve known twice as long as my Gathering Girls group but our conversations are day-and-night different…friendly but never getting below the surface, never a belly laugh. Nice women but we’re still in the acquaintances zone where my Gathering Girls group have crossed over into the friendship zone. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the magic ingredient that makes that happen with some people but not others? I suspect that magic ingredient---at least for me---is humor.

New Topic: My house cleaner is such a joy to have in the house. She’s the new-ish one who’s in a grad program to become an art professor and she’s already teaching a couple of freshman classes at a prestigious college of art and design. I showed her a painting I’m working on and she gave me a critique and I hope she wasn’t blowing smoke up my butt when she said she liked what I had going on. She pointed out a place where I had the sunlight showing on the wrong side of the boy’s hand and she suggested a color to try adding to his shirt. We talked so much that I’m sure my cleaning hours will get billed extra this month. But I don’t care.

We also talked about the new guy she’s dating, a boy she knew in grade school but hadn’t seen since she was ten. They had crushes on each other all those years ago and she still has a love letter the 10 year old version of this 27 year old guy wrote to her back then. They reconnected on Facebook recently, talked for five hours on their first ‘phone date’ and they spent a lot of time together over the holidays. There isn’t anything sweeter than seeing the glow in a young girl’s eyes when she says, “I think he’s the one!” I love that girl. She’s not the greatest cleaner the service has sent me but her company is worth the trade-off. After she graduates she’ll no doubt hang up the cleaning job. So for now I’m riding the serendipitous wave that brought her into my life. ©

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My 23andMe DNA Test Results and Other Junk

I’ve got so many projects started that I’m beginning to question what’s going on inside my head. I have a baby sweater in the works, two books part way read, an oil painting in the early stages and I’ve spent time working in my walk-in closet where I’ve barely made a dent---my goal is to try every single thing on, then be ruthless about the piles I sort the items to. I’ve also got some blog entries and a few poems in rough drafts. And then there’s the joyful day I spent poking around the 23andMe website looking at my DNA test results. I’ve got more Neanderthal gene “variants” than 70% of the 23andMe customers…oh, my! 23andMe has a forum for people to compare tests, ask questions and generally play around like people do on forums. I love forums and I found a thread about having a lot of Neanderthal genes where people were joking around about how they have to trim the hair on their toes or put Band-Aids on their knuckles from dragging them around. One woman confessed that once a month she wants to tear her husband’s arms off and suck the marrow out of his bones and now she knows why. All jokes aside, Neanderthal variants supposedly come into play with allergies and infertility issues which has my name written all over them.

Since my husband died six years ago this month, January’s have sent me into a woe-is-me, I’m a lonely widow’s tail spin. But I’m not depressed this year and I don’t feel lonely although I’m beginning to wonder if I’m subconsciously trying too hard to keep the boogieman at bay and that explains why I’m hopping from one project/task to another. Or maybe I just jumped into the deep end of the New Year’s Resolution pool and got myself overwhelmed like a kid in a candy store who can’t make up his mind what to buy with his birthday money. 

The baby sweater is easy to figure out. Both my niece’s need a bigger sweater for their gramma drawers at their cottages and I needed an excuse to evict the dog from the La-Z-Boy in the living room where he sits a hundred times more often than I do. I spend way too much time in the kitchen playing on the computer and I wanted to change that. I’ve been on a writing binge to beat all binges lately but I’m not creating any particularly interesting. I mean who really cares that I wrote about dumping a whole box of oatmeal all over the floor and I actually considered putting it back in the box to cook later? In case anyone DOES care, I did a quick calculation on how long it had been since my cleaner was at the house and I decided no amount of microwave heat was hot enough to kill twenty-five days of floor germs and there was no way I could have gotten the oatmeal back in the box under the ten second Oreo rule.

My 23andMe DNA test for health risks came back with no gene markers showing for the 54 health issues and diseases they tested for including Alzheimer’s, Macular Degeneration, breast cancer, Celiac Disease, Parkinson’s and a bunch of stuff I've never heard of and was written using a medical jargon I didn’t understand. I’d study that vocabulary and the links they provided if the 54 tests had shown some variants, but I’m happy not to have to take on that homework. On the fun side is trying to figure out how a little spit in a tube could tell them that I’m likely to consume more caffeine than the average duck in the gene pool, that I don’t sleep deep, am likely to tolerate lactose, am genetically predisposed to weigh more than average and I move around in my sleep…ALL TRUE! 

Even funnier is the fact that the test report included 27 silly but accurate traits. For example: I don’t have dimples but have “attached” shaped earlobes. They told me what hair texture I have, my toe length ratio, my finger length ratio, my eye color, the fact that I likely am not able to match a musical pitch, that I was born with lots of hair, that I don’t like cilantro and mosquitos love me, and that I prefer sweet over salty. The weirdest trait listed is they said I have dry, flaky earwax instead of wet earwax. “…the same genetic variant in the ABCC11 gene that determines the dry earwax type is also linked to lower levels of body odor.” Who knew! Isn’t that crazy. Reading my DNA results was all fun and games, considering I didn’t have any health risks on the 54 diseases and conditions pages. I was slightly worried about having the genetic marker for Alzheimer’s but I can quit wondering if my brain cells will run out of its hour glass long before I die. Yippie-Yi-Yo!

A few days before getting my test results I saw the movie, My Sister’s Keeper and if you read the book you’ll know it’s about a couple who had a daughter with leukemia who conceived another baby whose embryo was specifically picked to be a perfect donor match to her older sister. This was a fiction story that brings up the moral issue of editing human embryos but last November a Chinese scientist claimed he just did that with two babies. Until I got my DNA results back I didn’t realize how gene specific that could actually get. These babies in embryo form had their genes edited to “disable CCR5, a gene involved in allowing HIV to invade cells, which is how a virus infects a host.” Right or wrong a brave new world of medical possibilities is upon us. ©