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, February 17, 2018

Another Valentine’s Day Under my Belt

After a long stretch of dreary winter days, Valentine’s Day was so bright and beautiful I had to put sunglasses on as I drove home from the grocery store and serendipity brought Travis Tritt on my radio singing “…it's a great day to be alive. I know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes.” I was feeling good. I even had one perfect red rose with baby breath in the back seat as well as a heart shaped box with three pieces of chocolate candy inside. Heck, if there’s no one else around to treat me, why not do it myself. I love me, right? No crime in that. 

While I was picking out the rose a young man was near-by and he was studying one miniature rose plant after another trying to decide which one to buy. The ex-florist in me wanted to ask him if I could help because I could see he was leaning toward plants that were nearly bloomed out and the ones with a few flowers still in bud would last longer. I laughed at myself when it crossed my mind that he might think I was trying to flirt with him if I offered my opinion. Me 70-something and him 30-something. Dream on, old lady! My second thought was that I should write a note for him to give to the recipient of his gift, telling her she’d better appreciate the thoughtfulness he put into picking it out. He was as serious as a Tibetan monk as he studied his choices. But I had my own perfection to find and that’s not easy in this day and age when supermarket cut flowers are so jacked up on preservatives that they often don’t open. I hate that. 

When I got home I went to my Facebook page. I rarely post anything there---a few animal videos just to let people on my friends list know I’m still alive. Mostly I go there to read my news feeds and look at family photos others post. But I had something I wanted to share so when Facebook asked me “What’s on your mind?” I wrote: “It was on a bright, sunny day just like today and I was selling Valentine's Day flowers in the middle of the mall when Don came strolling in after plowing snow all night. He ended up staying to help me and he was so good with the customers. If that isn't love, then I don't know what love is. Still miss you, Don!” That day at the mall is one of those days that comes floating back to the surface when I’m trying to decide exactly when and where I was when I first knew I was in love with Don. I have five-six memories like that fighting for first place on my love-smacked list.

Like all couples, I could also conjure up a short list of memories when I wanted to kick Don to the curb. But there’s something that happens to many women when we get knighted with our WIDOW titles that diminishes memories of fights and hurt feelings and changes them into regrets or comedy skits. Not long after Don died I was in the toothpaste aisle at the grocery store and a couple was arguing over what brand of toothpaste to buy. I had a hard time resisting the temptation to step in between them with my metaphorical referee’s whistle and telling the couple to buy both brands, for crying out loud! “Isn’t having a peaceful marriage worth four bucks and a little extra space in your medicine cabinet?” I’ll never understand why people argue over trivial stuff like that. We never did that. Ya, right. It’s too bad there wasn’t a newly minted widow around the day I picked a fight with Don because the night before I had dreamed he was cheating on me with a woman who looked like Jennifer Anderson. Back in the days when Friends was the hot TV show he developed a crush on her that lasted his entire life. How does a guy defend himself against a dream? See what I mean about how fight scenarios when viewed after death could easily be turned into comedy skits? The mind is an amazing place when it’s trying to justify our own illogical behavior. 

Valentine’s Day night I dreamed something with details that are fuzzy to me now but when I woke up in the morning I was happy and I knew Don had come to visit me in my sleep. Often times my sleeping life is richer and more fun than my daytime life. And if the need to pee didn’t wake me and force me out of bed, I wouldn’t mind living in that twilight zone between sleep and wakefulness. Too many mornings I throw my legs over the side of the bed and sit there for a few minutes dreading the long, lonely day ahead. I don’t know how to fix that feeling when it comes… ©

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Homophobia at the Olympics and Lunch in the Heartland

FOX News columnist and executive editor John Moody wrote a hissy-fit column this past weekend where he said that the U.S. Olympic Committee this year has changed their motto of ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ to ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’ “Were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do,” he asked, “or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B and C?” Setting aside the fact that all the athletes have to go through stiff competitions to qualify and they’ve earned their places on the team, Moody’s attitude reminded me of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin when someone else tried to make the Games about something other than being faster, higher and stronger. Yup, that’s the one where Adolf Hitler intended to showcase his warped ideas about the superiority of having an Aryan Nation. Instead, the Fuehrer stumped off in anger when a black “sub-human”---his words, not mine---named Jesse Owens won four gold medals in track and field events.

What possible reason other than racism and homophobia can explain Mr. Moody’s anger over having ten black athletes competing in South Korea and for the first time, having two openly gay U.S. athletes at the Games? And I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by “different” unless he’s talking about the eleven Asian-Americans on our squads or the fact that 45% of the athletes this year are women. “No sport that we are aware of awards points — or medals — for skin color or sexual orientation,” Moody wrote. Is it any wonder the blow-back on his column was so fierce that FOX ended up taking it down?

Next up: The mini controversy created by Adam Rippon, our openly gay figure skater, when he didn’t want to meet with Vice President Pence before the opening ceremony. His reasons? Pence has advocated for federal funding to go to institutions that offer gay conversion therapy and, as governor, he signed a bill that allowed businesses to refuse services to LGBT customers. Then there’s free-style skier Gus Kenworthy, a returning Olympian who won silver at the Russian Olympics. He came out of the closet since those Games and he was more diplomatic in his refusal to meet with Pence stating that he didn’t want to be “distracted” from his training. About coming out of the closet? Gus said it felt good not to carry that “dirty little secret” around anymore---his words, not mine---and the peace of mind that brought him, he says, has improved his skiing. 

The whole issue of gayness and being in the closet was brought down to a personal level for me this past weekend when a young relative I haven’t seen in over six years came into town and wanted to take me out for lunch. I’ve known he is gay since he got married three-four years ago but I’ve never had a conversation with him about the topic. I had heard stories from others in the family about who did their best to accept and understand the news and who initially rejected the idea adding extra drama to his disclosure; I’m guessing it’s that way in most families. He brought his wife/husband with him---I still don’t know what label to hang on his marriage partner---and I was a tad nervous on what to say when meeting him for the first time. I decided to make it clear from the minute they walked into the house where I stood on the acceptance scale. After being introduced I hugged the partner and said, “Welcome to the family. I didn’t get to tell you that back when you two got married.” By the time they left after lunch, I knew we couldn’t ask for a warmer and more likeable guy to join the family fold.

Over the years I’ve had several friends who are gay. One I've known since we were both toddlers and his parents ended up divorcing over their son’s sexuality. Another guy I thought I knew well in college didn't come out of the closet until after his elderly mother died. By then he was in his sixties and his coming out was an ‘aha moment’ that made pieces of my own life fall into place. We had dated for several years and while we talked about getting married, I’m grateful that we didn’t. I can’t imagine the pain a woman goes through when she thinks her closeted spouse is rejecting her in the bedroom and she has no clue why. And then there was my work friend and ski buddy in the '60s who agonized over telling his military-career father that he is gay. I'm not sure if he ever did. He moved out of town to put distance between him and his family and we lost track of each other. These three guys are the defining factors in why I fully support working towards a world where sexual orientation is no longer a “dirty little secret.” Are you with me…or do you share John Moody’s fear that the Olympics and life in the U.S.A. are getting “too dark, too gay and too different?”  ©

Photo: Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy at the Olympics.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Goldfinch and the Book Club

When I first looked at the novel my monthly Book Club selected I was overwhelmed. It was 771 pages and as I thumbed through the book I felt like I was back in grade school where I often got hopelessly bogged down in the minutia of trying to sound out words. The book was filled with foreign words and art and antique terms that were so far out of my vocabulary that they might have been written in Klingon and I knew I’d struggle too much to read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Perfectly timed to my dilemma, a gift from the gods of Amazon came along---an offer for two free audible books appeared in my email box. I downloaded The Goldfinch so fast I’m surprised my Kindle Fire didn’t squeal like a stuck pig in the process, but I soon figured out that the volume on the device was so low that even with my hearing aids in I had to sit in my La-Z-Boy with the Kindle on a table three feet away. A master at multitasking I thought about knitting something while Kindle read to me, but instead I ended up following along, my eyes touching every single word in the entire book. Wow!  Thirty-two and a half hours of listening and I did it all over five days which should tell you something about how highly I’d rate the book. That's definitely the way to devour books that intimidate you. 

I loved the characters, loved the story line and looked forward to discussing them both in Book Club. The depth of the author’s knowledge and/or research abilities blew me away. The book is being made into a movie coming out next year and out of curiosity I wanted to see how IMDb summed up the plot and can you believe it, they did it in one lousy sentence! “A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Wikipedia did a better job saying: “The novel is a Bildungsroman told in the first person by Theodore Decker who, at the age of 13, survives a terrorist bombing at an art museum in which his beloved mother dies. Staggering out through the debris, he takes with him a small, Dutch Golden Age painting, The Goldfinch, which will serve as a singular source of hope as he descends into a world of crime. The painting is one of the few surviving works by Rembrandt's most promising pupil, Carel Fabritius; nearly all of Fabritius' oeuvre was destroyed in the Delft explosion of 1654, in which the artist himself was killed.” I dare anyone reading this to tell me what “bildungsroman” means without looking it up. Give up? It’s just a fancy way to say it’s a coming of age story. 

Book Club took place just a few hours before a major snow storm was due to hit the area. All of us showed up with the same plan to stop at the grocery store on the way home so we'd have supplies to hunker down for the weekend weather siege. But no one seemed to be in a hurry to start discussing the book and finally it came out that only four of the twelve us had finishing reading it. What a disappointment! Those of us who read the book spent the rest of the hour answering questions from the others who hadn’t read it wanting to know how this or that aspect of the complicated plot turned out. And for once, I came to club super prepared with my answers to the Readers Guide Questions written out, complete with page numbers to passages like: “Because our secrets define us as opposed to the face we show the world, the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am. And it's there: in my notebooks, every page, even though it's not.” I thought about that passage a lot and I wanted to know if the others in the club agreed with that passage. Am I defined by the secrets I keep? Are you? As much as I’ve written about my life, I still have a few secrets tucked away. 

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately. Some good, more a waste of time. I’m getting better at not finishing those that don’t hold my interest or are riddled with stuff that drives me crazy. I mean come on, if you set a scene in Minnesota on Christmas you don’t have your characters splashing water in a backyard swimming pool! I checked, the author lives in California so maybe she didn’t know that back yard pools get drained in the fall in climates where water freezes in the winters, but that's what Google is for, isn't it? You research what you don't know---but how do you know what you don't know? Oh well, wordsmiths like Donna Tartt who take your breath away and make you think more than make up for the writers who don't. ©

Dialogue from The Goldfinch