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, April 26, 2017

The Movie Club, Birthday Party and Brand New Baby

There was a time when I could have written, “The mantel clock struck twelve...” which is arguably a more dramatic word picture than saying my atomic clock’s digital numbers just let me know I’ve wasted the entire morning sitting in front of the computer in my bathrobe. Ohmygod I can be lazy when given the opportunity. One side of my brain tells me I deserve it for surviving the past four weeks of over scheduling myself because I feel like I’m returning home after a long, hard trip down a rabbit hole. At least when Alice came back from her trip down the White Rabbit’s hole she had some interesting tales to tell thanks to her creator, Lewis Carroll, who had an extraordinary imagination---or a good supply of psychedelic drugs. Me, I have neither one at my disposal. And what’s the other side of my brain telling me? It’s doing a constant drum beat: Life is too short, use it or lose it! Nothing new to see here, move along little doggies, move along.

Since I last sat down to write a blog post, I’ve been out with my Movie and Lunch club, to a family birthday party and to the gym a few times. The movie we saw was Going in Style, a remake of a 1979 film by the same name starring George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. You know you’re getting old when you can remember the original movie almost as well as the one you just saw a few days ago. The new version stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Joey King and they threw Ann-Margret into the mix so they could add a senior sex scene. (At least they didn't make us look at them nearly naked.) If you’ve seen the trailer for the movie you’ll know it's about three old guys who plot and carry out a bank robbery. In the original version they did it to add excitement to their lives; in the remake they did it because the bank dissolved their company’s pension funds to pay off the company’s debts which put a darker twist to this “comedy” that was a little too real for me, having survived almost losing our pension during the banking meltdown a few years back. I wouldn’t recommend the movie if you pay night rates but we only paid $5.00 for a matinee and it was worth that much. Although I must disclose that others in our group of twelve gave the film a higher rating than I did. What I liked, though, was the opportunity to go to an oriental restaurant afterward and get almond boneless chicken. I miss oriental food since my husband is no long in the picture. We’d pick it up at least once a week. Now, even that close-by take-out restaurant is gone.

Guess what I tried to do at the birthday party for one of the newly minted two year olds in the family? I tried to jump a hop-scotch pattern drawn with pink chalk on the driveway. I did okay until I got to the part where I would have had to hop on one foot three times, then bend down to pick up the stone marker. No way could I do that even though my balance is improving since I bought a balance board. I tried to talk my older brother into trying the hop-scotch grid but he accused of wanting to get him into trouble like he claims I did when we were kids. (It was the other way around.) He recently got a new bathtub and he brought the empty box over to the party with “doors” and “windows” cut into it. The kids loved it for a while then the little balls of energy were riding tricycles and pulling wagons and marking up the cement with colored chalk. Some things never change. I’m impressed by the millennium parents I’m seeing lately. They are in patient teacher mode all the time or maybe it’s just the age of the children I’m around who are all at an age where the entire world is just one big learning tool. The oldest, a three year old is learning how to shake hands when he meets people and he does it like a pro. 

I just got a call from my brother letting me know that we have a brand new baby in the family---the boy I’ve been wanting to carry on the family name. They named him Levi…yes, the same as my dog. My brother named his first born after our family dog-at-the-time. Does that mean another family tradition was born along with this baby? The parents and grandparents, I’m told, all thought I’d get a kick out that. Little do they know but Levi my Might Schnauzer is not the only Levi in the family. Shake our family tree and both the first and middle names of our newest baby will fall out. How cool is that! ©

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Memory and Brain Farts

Have you ever run into someone who seems to have a luminous aura, like they know stuff the rest of us don’t? If a person is pairing their I’m-at-peace-and-you’re-not look with a Mona Lisa smile they don’t even have to talk. I’d like to develop that quality…not because I know stuff that others don’t---no way is that true---but I’d like to develop that look to cover up the fact that my language skills are waning. It’s alarming when I open up my mouth and the wrong words come rolling out. For example, I was sitting in the doctor’s office this week and four or five times I spoke using the wrong-but-similar words, like someone who needs hearing aids will hear ‘feet’ instead of ‘street’ or ‘cat’ instead of ‘fat.’ I corrected myself on the spot and hopefully I caught all of my brain farts but the more often things like that happen the more timid I get about talking in public. I figured I wasn’t having a TIA or the doctor and his wanna-be doctor-in-tow would have said, “Hey, lady, we need to get you to the ER. STAT!” At one point I made a joke about my tongue not working right but just between you and me, I knew better. I was having bona-fided brain farts right in the middle of my Medicare Wellness Exam.

What’s worse than these “brain farts” or malapropisms is when someone asks me a simple question like, “What have you been doing to keep busy?” and my mind goes blank. That happened twice this past week. Once at the butterfly exhibit when my niece’s daughter-in-law---who says she has trouble making small talk---asked me that question and couldn’t come up with one single example from my busy schedule. It was such an awkward moment! I felt badly for her. I felt badly for me. She was trying to make small talk and I couldn’t hold up my end. Then again when I got my teeth cleaned yesterday, the hygienist asked me what I’ve been doing lately. She’s used to me rattling off a string of stuff but all I could come up with was a fancy lunch down at the culinary college and that took place several weeks ago. What happened to all the stuff I’ve been doing since then? Where the heck did the Memory Fairy dump those events? I'm guessing in a dark corner of my brain that won’t be accessible until someone asks me if I want gravy on my mash potatoes.

It’s not enough that we have to worry about joints that need replacing, eyelids that need lifting for better vision, moles that grow in strange places and nipples that point toward the floor we also have to worry about losing our marbles! At least I do. That cluster of brain cells that stands guard over my memories is being a cranky child, intent on embarrassing me when I least expect it. I think it would be a good idea for me to go to one of those retreats where silence is required, assuming they have mirrors available. I could work on looking luminously radiant from a spirit within and pretend I still remember me. Remember me! I do need to remember me, more specifically that I’ve never had a good memory for the places I’ve been. Case in point: Back in the ‘80s while on our way Out West my husband stopped at a restaurant that I absolutely loved---the décor, the menu, the view---and when I expressed my joy at finding such a wonderful place he said, “It wasn’t hard. You loved it the last two times we were here.” My bad memory for the places we’d been before was notorious but when you’re young quirky personality ticks like that are no big deal. But when your hair turns gray your memory ticks turn into telling lies on your Medicare Wellness questionnaire. “Nope, nani, nah, nda, nahi, no way do I forget stuff, Doc! Who told you that?”

When I turn the page on my day planner putting April in the past, my over-booked life will be behind me until October when I’ll do it to myself all over again. No more getting up at six or seven and falling asleep before my head hits the pillow at midnight. No more living by a schedule that would put the White House Director of Scheduling and Advance to shame---yes, that’s a real thing. No more waking up in the morning and before getting out of bed saying something like: If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium. I’m hoping my brain farts are just a symptom of exhaustion, of trying to do too and not from having my gray matter cluttered up with too much junk like obscure romantic comedies featuring American tourists in Europe. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could clean out our brains like we do our computers---save this, delete that, reformat the space and send the whole kitten kaboodle off to a geek when it needs fine tuning. ©

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Doctor Happy and the Bunnies and Butterflies

Easter Sunday was noisy here in Levi-the-Mighty-Schnauzer Land where he spent the entire afternoon in voyeur mode watching and barking at four rabbits trying to mate in the back yard. The lady rabbit/s were playing hard-to-get. Every so often I’d let Levi out on the deck and when the rabbits ran by he’d bark and they’d freeze in place like plastic toys on a cake. It was probably the only rest they got all afternoon, it was a regular rodeo back there. I can’t tell the bucks from the does, so in three weeks we could have one, two or three new mom’s making nests in the neighborhood. Most years I get one under my pine trees just 6-7 feet from the dog’s pen. Crazy momma. She’ll sleep in that nest all night long even when Levi goes out to pee and to bark at her from the other side of his white picket fence. In the daytime she’ll leave the babies on their own so she doesn’t draw the attention of predators. I always have to make sure my lawn care guy doesn’t disturb the nest when he puts down the new Pacific Northwest pine needle mulch in May. I know what you’re thinking: Who buys pine needles to put under their pine trees? I’ll try to remember to take a photo when he’s done. It looks so much better than bark mulch under those three trees and along my near-by cattail bog.  

For Easter dinner I grilled a steak, steamed some asparagus and had strawberry shortcake and, yes, Levi got a little plate of his own of everything. He especially likes strawberries and when I make protein shakes in the mornings, he’ll come running to the kitchen when he hears the blender where he knows he’ll get a few bites of whatever fruit I’m using that day. I expected my big Easter dinner to show up on the scales Monday morning. It didn’t. I’m saving the traditional Easter ham I bought for later in the week because I didn’t want the salt to show up at the doctor’s office in the form of a higher blood pressure reading and added water retention. 

My bi-annual appointment with my internist was Tuesday. The doctor was pleased. I was pleased. Even his young, tag-along student doctor was…well, he couldn’t have cared less. I think he was bored with this old lady with no real problems to solve. I did get permission to go faster on the treadmill as long as I don’t let my heart rate get over 135 on my Fitbit---like I could actually go faster than the 1.35 miles in 30 minutes that I’m already doing. I was glad the doctor thinks doing the treadmill a half hour 2-3 times a week is ideal, that I don’t need to walk longer, just a tad faster, if I can work up to it, using my heart rate as my guide. He also said that strength training and exercise is more important at my age than at any other time in our lives. 

The day before Easter I got to spend time with eleven members of my family---me being the oldest person there and the youngest one is just a few months old. We met at our local sculpture garden to see the Butterflies are Blooming exhibit in the tropical conservatory. We were there all morning and the baby woke up just once to nurse but otherwise slept contentedly in one of those baby slings that keeps babies close to their mother’s stomach and chest. Why did it take so long for those slings to get popular in modern society? Indigenous people all over the world have been using them since way back when the earth was still thought to be flat. The two, two year olds with us took quite an interest in the butterflies. It was fun watching their faces light up and it was heart-warming when Little O held my hand for the first time. Until now, he’s been standoffish to me, the little girl is just the opposite. I don’t know how to interact with children anymore like I did back when my nieces and nephew were young, but I don’t see these kids often enough to re-learn. Big sigh of regret here.

I started going to the butterfly exhibit after my husband died as a life-affirming pilgrimage around all of my April sadiversaries, then last year when my youngest niece heard that I was going she wanted to meet me there. Five of us went last year and that grew to eleven this year. I’m hoping we’ve started a tradition that will last a while. The park is huge with lots of things for kids to do as they grow older. For me, I don’t think I’ll ever lose my fascination of seeing thousands of butterflies all in one place and I still haven’t gone after dark to one of their butterflies and flashlights events. The exhibit has the power to slow us down to pay closer attention to our environment---the sun patterns through the foliage, the kaleidoscope of colored flowers that draws the butterflies to land and the warmth of the conservatory that previews what’s to come outside as April creeps forward into May. And of course, the amazing and mysterious cycle of chrysalises and cocoons that turn into beautiful creatures that live for such a short time but while they’re here they do their work in making sure their species continues. Life affirming. Oh, yes! ©

My great-great nephew and niece. I don't like to post pictures of kids without their parent's permission---adults either---but since no one can see their faces here, I'm making an exception. In the one up above Little O is taking a close-up look at a butterfly and the photo below was taken in the children's garden at the sculpture park.