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, October 26, 2016

The End is Near---no, not that one! Markets and Madness

The farmers market in the fall is a different place than the beehive of activity it is in the summer. It wasn’t just the sparseness of shoppers and fewer tents lined up against a backdrop of fall colors along the river. It was also the sight of vendors wearing knit hats and gloves as they sipped on steaming cups of coffee. The sweet aroma of the kettle corn maker, the baker and the flower vendors still filled the air but in place of vendors selling cucumbers, corn, peppers and tomatoes were tables overflowing with squash, pumpkins, root vegetables and apples. Instead of tender plants for gardeners were bulbs and potted mums. I bought cinnamon bread, heads of broccoli and cauliflower plus carrots and squash to hold over the winter (wrapped in newspaper and stored in the garage). I was going to buy a bouquet of mixed cut flowers but I fell in love with huge stems of cut ornamental kale and I bought three in dark lilac fading to soft mauve. 

One more week and the market will close and I’ll go back for potatoes and maybe breakfast at a nearby place that was a favorite of my husband’s. It’s a terrible place to get into with a wheelchair but the market people who frequent the place always went out of their way to help with the double doors. Don never seemed to notice how many machines dispensing gumballs and newspapers people had to move out of his path. All he ever saw was their friendly, smiling faces. It was a gift not to notice the inconveniences of going to that old, tourist town restaurant because that sort of thing tends to make a lot of disabled people stay at home. I suppose it was because Don, the master storyteller in his pre-stroke days, was used to being the center of attention. I, on the other hand preferred then, as I do now, to be like a camera drone recording life from a safe distance. And from my bird’s eye view I’m happy to report that most people show kindness when it counts. Motivational speaker and author Steve Marabholi wrote: “It only takes a split second to smile and forget, yet to someone that needed it, it can last a lifetime.” Boy isn’t that a fact! Look how long I’m remembering the time and place of warm smiles and small gestures of kindness. 

On the opposite end of kindness is the meanness that has become part of our current election season and aren’t we all glad that, like the farmers market, the end is near. Am I alone is sensing a shift in hostilities? People have made up their minds and in some cases have already voted. Soon, Facebook will no longer challenge my willpower and self-control to not get involved in nasty political exchanges with some in-law family members. One woman in particular has spent months posting extremist, hate-filled and offensive stuff but this morning I thought someone must have hacked her account when she posted a meme that read: “The less you respond to negativity the more peaceful your life will become.” I read that over several times and spent a full two minutes trying to decide if I should hit the key that would publish a response I had typed that read, “The less a person posts negativity the more peaceful everyone’s life will become.” In the end, I back-spaced my catty words off the reply box and left. Many people unfriend someone who bugs their sanity and temps them to leave civility behind but that’s not my style. I like to have my finger on the pulse of what family thinks…recording it like that camera drone overhead. But I will admit I no longer feel an ounce of warmth toward this woman…and all because of this election!

“Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Those words roll around inside my head, telling me I should have taken a stand on Facebook starting months ago, but my silence was insurance against getting turned down if I should ever need a ride to a med station or the hospital. I live close to In-Law Land so my silence was self-servicing and I’m not proud of that. If I do give in before the election and post a Facebook response to the “great, white hopes” of a Trump presidency or an armed resistance if he doesn’t win, I hope it will be something polite like the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The fate of America cannot depend on any one man. The greatness of America is grounded in principles and not on any single personality.” Can you tell I just got a new book titled, The Best Liberal Quotes Ever? ©

The photo at the top is of the fall cornucopia on my dining room table. I know they’re hopeless out of fashion but I’ve been making them since the early ‘70s and I still love them. The scarecrow below is on my front door and the four foot wooden trencher is along my breakfast bar. (If there isn’t a holiday around, the trencher gets filled with stones and fossils.) And last but not least are my farmers market cut kale. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Color Tour, Minimalists and Missed Opportunities

The director of our senior hall listens to her members. Last year I made a comment that I wish the center would offer a shorter color tour than the annual one that takes twelve hours. My dog’s kidneys are good for seven hours but I’d have to put him in a kennel to go on the longer trips and I’ve missed seeing the colors on country roads. This year she offered a half day trip and it sold out five times, meaning she was able to set up four additional days to take people up north for lunch, tree peeping and stops at an Amish bakery and a cheese factory. To my surprise, while on the bus she acknowledged the shorter color tours was my idea and I got a round of applause. I wish we could bottle up her expertise at running a senior hall and distribute it across the country. Her guiding principle is that we older people are no different than younger people; we enjoy life learning experiences and don’t want a center than only offers aging related stuff, bingo and trips to casinos.

The color tour took us around the summertime stamping grounds of my best friend growing up. They’ve got a growing Amish community going in the area now but back in our teens they could have been there and we wouldn’t have noticed. The summer I stayed at my friend’s cottage we were so boy crazy we only noticed guys in cars and bathing suits. I loved how all the Amish kids waved at our bus and how they were working out in the fields with bare feet and straw hats as if the temperature wasn’t in the 60s. I loved seeing the old fashioned corn stalks that reminded me of an old master’s painting I can’t name the moment. Seeing the horse drawn buggies go up and down the roads had the same effect on me as my listening to my Buddhist meditation app. Maybe it was the reminder that living a simpler life is possible and it had me romanticizing about what life would be like if I’d let go of my attachments to worldly goods and more importantly, if I let go of wanting something so vague I can’t even name it. But the truth is, being a minimalist seems like the scariest thing in the world and going off in that direction before I’ve put a label on the vague wanting inside me seems foolish. 

From time to time I'm drawn to reading about minimalists like a gawker who can't look away as a man strips naked in the street. On a minimalist website it says, “The entire minimalist lifestyle promotes individuality and self-reliance. This will make you more confident in your pursuit of happiness.” I get the self-reliant part but how does it promote individually when you live in a sterile environment void of anything that sets you apart from other minimalists? Lifehack.org also says, “When we cling onto material possessions we create stress because we are always afraid of losing these things.” Well duh! That one-size-fits-all bit of rah-rah-you-can-do-this logic might work for younger people who are still in the workforce and can afford to buy stuff back if they regret their minimalist choices, but it doesn't work for this child of depression era parents. Younger people also don’t have to shake the feeling that downsizing is preparation for the end of your life. I’m still here! I still love my art and antiques and having a forty year old Faberware indoor grill in the cupboard that I only use once a month. It can’t be replaced. I’ve tried and the George Foreman and Cuisinart grills both ended up at Goodwill.

Back to my leaf peeping color tour: The landscape color palette was spectacular with its scarlet, merlot and cadmium reds; flaxen, banana and ochre yellows; tawny, tortilla and burnt sienna browns; juniper and pine greens; and fire and ginger oranges. The sky bounced between coin and cloud gray as the sun tried its best to shine and its failure to do so took the frosting off the vista views but it did not spoil the cake. God, I must be hungry with all the food and drink colors that came to mind here. Which is a good lead in to the Amish bakery that ran out of black walnut bread by the time I got to the front of the line but I scored a pumpkin roll and resisted the best looking caramel and nuts rolls I’ve ever seen. 

We had lunch in a resort/lake community and I was bookended by two ladies who always order gluten free. I’m glad I don’t have to do that. The year I had to avoid yellow dye #5 in food in an effort to figure out if it was giving me hives made me appreciate how hard it is to label-read everything that goes in your mouth, not to mention the fact that gluten laden foods are simply the best in my book of forbidden pleasures. One of the gluten free ladies was my seatmate on the bus. She was raised in Kentucky and she is always a pleasure to be round because our sense of humors match. She asked me to co-chair a luncheon with her at the senior hall, but I turned her down. Ya, I know, not a smart move for a person claiming to be looking for friends. I miss enough opportunities for bonding deeper that I wonder sometimes if what I say I want is remotely near what is written on my heart. ©