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, September 24, 2016

Clean Carpets and Dirty Politics


With something on my schedule every day this week, it flew by, but not everything was social or fun. One day was devoted to getting my house ready for the carpet cleaners to come the next day. In recent years I’ve scheduled them to come the day after my monthly house cleaning day so I could get the cleaning service girl to help me stack and move furniture around, but one thing after another got in the way of that plan this year and I couldn’t keep putting it off. Boy, have their prices have gone up in the decade I’ve been using the company. They started out at $20 a room and now it’s $50. I suppose that’s to be expected but the rub comes from the fact that pension and Social Security checks have stayed the same. And young people wonder why old people start letting house maintenance go by the wayside.

This week also included Red Hat Society Wednesday and we had our second meeting at the brand new senior living complex, a very elegant and accommodating place but I was ready to dance on a table top when a vote was taken on staying there, or not. It was ten to one to go back to our old meeting place in the community room above a supermarket in the tourist town near where my husband grew up. I wasn't the only one who missed getting a Starbucks on the way up and a few groceries after the meeting. We also had a good time discussing tee-shirt designs. We’re all having trouble finding purple clothing so we’re looking into the idea of getting purple tee-shirts with the Red Hat Chapter’s name on the front and something like, “Wild and Crazy” on the back with a line crossing out the ‘wild’ part. We kicked around other ideas that had us laughing and talking about the last time we felt “Sassy and Bad Assy.” By the next meeting we should have some design options to vote on. 

Ohmygod, do I dare bring up the presidential election? I can’t take it anymore! I'm angry and disgusted over all things Trump related. He doesn’t have the temperament, knowledge-base, judgement, character or personal ethics to be the leader of the free world. Never before in my entire voting life have I ever feared that if “my guy” didn’t win that the country would be in extreme peril. I blame the obstructionists who have dominated Washington D.C. in recent years for bringing us to this point. There is no excuse, for example, for the Senate not to give Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court---Merrick Garland---an up or down vote. That vote has been blocked for over a year now when the average length of time for a justice vote is 75 days. Mitch McConnell and his band of cohorts are no better than welfare queens; they collect a paycheck but refuse to do their jobs. People are rightly fed up with government, but the solution isn’t to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

And now Trump is saying he’ll implement a nationwide Stop-and-Frisk policy as a solution to big city crime when a 9½ week federal trial in 2013 has already ruled that it’s unconstitutional. And from the other side of his mouth he supports the NRA’s push to make open carry legal in every state. How’s that going to work out? Stop and frisk the blacks for guns but let the whites keep right on walking with their AK-47’s slung over their shoulders? How’s that going to play in Peoria? 

For all Trump’s claims about loving America he sure doesn’t respect our Constitution. How many times has he promised to take free speech away from the media if he’s elected? Once is scary, Hitler-like enough but he keeps beating that drum. Presidents don’t get to cherry pick the Constitution like it’s an assortment of decadent desserts on a cart. Trump also has no grasp of American history. If he did he couldn’t stand on a stage and claim, “African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever!” Worse than during slavery? Worse than during the 100 years of Jim Crow laws and segregation?

And his running mate, Mike Pence, believes all schools should teach Creationism, says condoms are “too modern” and that the government should pay for gay conversion therapy. In other words, he’s a liberal’s nightmare. I need to quit writing before I bust a blood vessel in my head. It’s enough to say that I both dread the outcome of election and wish it could be over with tomorrow. The drama of this election makes me feel like barfing the way the dog did on the carpeting ten minutes after it had been cleaned. ©

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Invincible Widow

After dropping Levi off for his grooming appointment on Monday I had an hour to kill before The Gathering, a monthly event at the senior hall for people looking for friends. Starbucks Double Star Day was calling my name so I stopped. I usually take advantage of the drive-thru window but I felt like doing my John Steinbeck impression so I went inside where I thought the seven busy employees could keep me entertained as they did their mixing and blending. All summer I’ve been drinking their Ice Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiatos but fall is officially here which means out with the old and in with the new featured drinks made with pumpkin, chili and salted caramel. I’ve been drinking a lot of soy milk lately which I credit for keeping the chin hairs away which inspired me to include it in my Starbucks order and for the first time ever, I became one of those people whose drink order sounds like an essay, “I’d like a tall Salty Caramel Mocha Frappuccino with soy milk and, yes, to your next question regarding the whipped cream.” I’ve tried the pumpkin drinks and they’re good, but I can’t wrap my brain around having coffee seasoned with chili powder.

After sitting at a table where I could see everyone in the place I took out my notebook---not the kind that has a keyboard---to use as a prop for my struggling writer act. I was the only person in the place over thirty and I was surrounded by others using notebooks---the kind that doesn't require an ink pen or pencil. None of them were doing anything remotely interesting and I decided the next time I want to people watch I’m going back to the Guy Land Cafeteria. At least there if the other customers ignore me I’ll know it’s not age discrimination.  

I’m crazy about Starbucks. I like the seasonally drinks and more importantly l love their commitment to ethical sourcing and verifiable fair treatment of 3rd party workers. I like that Starbucks takes a holistic approach and teach classes in small farm communities around the world about long-term sustainability of land and water sources. I like that they pay their baristas’ tuition for any online college courses they complete and that all their baristas look smart enough to wash their hands after using the bathroom. And I don’t mind paying a little more for all those things. 

After The Gathering when seven of the fourteen in the group went to Tim Horton’s, I felt like I was cheating on Starbucks. Drinks were cheaper but their two employees struggled with our orders. Two of us got bowls of chili instead of the smaller cups we ordered. The cashier didn’t know how to process a gift certificate and when he was reminded that bread came with the chili, he handed out slices without a plate or napkin. But we had a good time and I think a couple of the ladies are going to start going to The Movie and Lunch Club next month. Slowly but surely---cross my fingers---we are working our way out of the friendly acquaintance zone into new friends getting to know one another. 

At The Gathering a man came for the first time. When I saw his name tag, I started to laugh and I made a comment about the facilitator labeling him “guy” because there are so few men who come to the senior center. Guy had no sense of humor and did not laugh but four of us turned bright red trying to quit. Where is a mother with a bar of soap when you need one? He’s veteran who recently went through a “nasty divorce that took all his money, his house and his dog.” All that came out when we played a game where we each drew a penny out of a dish and had to tell the others something that happened in the year that matched the date on the penny we drew. I lucked out and drew the year Don and I moved into our brand new house, a happy memory after two years of extreme hardships and stress that included Don’s massive stroke and 9/11.  

After leaving Tim Horton’s and picking up Levi, I felt a sense of pride in myself. Yes, I still miss my husband---not a day goes by that something doesn’t remind me of Don. But I am a woman who has not let forces beyond my control rob me of my sense of humor. I’m still standing and the only real dilemma in my immediate future is if I’m going to try the Chili Mocha at Starbucks. I am strong and I’m in danger of belting out the chorus of Helen Reddy's song about being invincible, so I need to quit writing here.  ©

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mannequins, Movies and Mice

One of the ladies from The Gathering invited me to be her guest at a meeting of the local chapter of the American Sewing Guild. We’d been taking about needing inspiration and, she said, that was the place to get it. She wasn’t kidding. The ASG, according to their pamphlet, “was founded in 1978 for the purpose of preserving and promoting the sewing arts through sewing education and activities for sewing enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels.” The night I went the speaker talked about the benefits of making your own duct tape mannequin. Yes, duct tape. I used to sew my own clothing starting back in high school and the two decades that followed---even took tailoring classes in college---but I never had my own mannequin. A google search will find tutorials and photos galore of duct tape mannequins. I never knew it was a popular trend! Oh my gosh, if I still sewed clothing for myself I would have signed up for one of the classes that, by the end of the day, would have you walking out with a duct tape version of your own body type---flaws and all. The speaker had a wonderful sense of humor and had us laughing frequently. 

After Mannequin Lady finished and snacks were serviced there was a show-and-tell which was also punctuated with laughter as women told the kind of stories all sewers can relate to---happy and sad accidents and one-of-a-kind treasures. One woman made a wonderful suit but discovered after making both pieces that the fabric dye lots for the top and bottom are noticeably different. She’d bought part of the fabric online and the other part locally and no way could she wear the two pieces together. It was clear there was a lot of talent and creativity in the room of fifty women and a few men. Some wore their show-and-tell and others did a “Vanda White” as they displayed an assortment of bags and purses, showing off techniques they’d learned at a recent retreat. One quilt top blew me away with its unusual color scheme and 1920s art deco vibe, a project started by a mother years ago and a daughter took on to finish.

As much fun as I had that night, I’m not sure if I’m going to join the guild. I was hoping there would be more handcrafts but that was probably my misunderstanding of the ASG and I’m thinking a quilters bee or knitters club would fit my area of crafting interests more at this point in my life. I can barely keep my computer, printer, and other tech stuff running without pulling my hair out, I can’t imagine adding the stress of keeping stitch tensions on a sewing machine operating smoothly. It also wouldn’t be as much fun to sew for my old woman, pudgy body as it was to make A-lines dresses to go with my go-go boots back in my clubbing days. But all the ladies at the guild were friendly and excited about what’s going on in their world and I could see my younger self in their enthusiasm. It was time well spent.

The next day the son-I-wish-had came over to work on the Mouse Project. For the last three winters I’ve had mice in the basement and I wanted to see if we could figure out how they’re getting in and plug up their entrance point. It won’t be too many more years before I’ll get too old to go downstairs every few days to bait them and it wouldn’t take long for them to breed their way upstairs. (I killed nine last winter.) I had a pretty good idea where to start looking and sure enough we found two places to block with a foam sealant by Great Stuff, PESTBLOCK, especially made to block yucky things including mice. We also replaced a twelve foot section of insulation where we found signs of nesting and vacuumed up the mice droppings so we can tell if they come back. I shouldn’t say “we” because he’ll have to check since I don’t do ladders and this area is at the top of the basement wall where it meets with my sun-porch. Next I’m getting some mothballs to throw under the porch. He swears by mothballs for keeping mice out of boats and cars in storage and Google confirmed it. I have latticework around the porch so no animals will get the mothballs, but they will melt if they get too wet. Worth a try anyway. If they last through the fall, the mice will have already found homes somewhere else before the snow flies.

Yesterday my Movie and Lunch Club saw the new Tom Hanks movie, Sully, which was about the 2009 water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 dubbed the ‘Miracle on the Hudson.’ The film focused mostly on the aftermath that was not made public at the time---the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation while Sully was being treated like a hero in public. The board was pushing the narrative that Sully needlessly endangered his 155 passengers and crew when he didn’t turn the plane back to the airport. Eventually, Sully was cleared of any wrong doing and a lot was riding on that decision: large insurance claims involving the airline and manufacturer, not to mention Sully’s pilot license and pension rights. We all walked out of the theater feeling good about our movie experience. It was an engaging story, well told. ©