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, March 25, 2017

Taxes and Treadmills

I’ve been going to the same Certified Public Account to get my income taxes done since Ring was a pup and he’s been died and buried under a rock in the back yard for over twenty years. I’ve never had a dog named Ring but that phrase was a favorite of my husband’s to denote that something happened a long time ago. Don didn’t have a dog named Ring either. He picked the phrase up from his dad who got it from Don’s grandfather who---family folklore claimed---actually did have a dog named Ring that resided in the back pasture with a rock rolled over the grave to keep wild animals from digging up his childhood dog. I love family verbiage like this and wish I had another generation to pass it down to. Today, out of curiosity I googled “since Ring was a pup.” (Or maybe it was suspicion that made me want to fact-check three generations of males who were all gifted storytellers.) I found ten listings for the phrase, three of which were links to my own blog entries, four to other people’s blogs and three appeared in newspapers dated 1911, 1914 and 1922. Oh how I would have loved to break that little tidbit to my husband! He would have laughed and loved to have one of his grandfather’s tales get exposed after so many years of blind faith in its accuracy. 

My taxes are much too simple to require the services of a CPA but he’s been doing my taxes since---well, Ring was a pup and Don and I both owned businesses and rental property. It was complicated back in those days of employees, depreciations and income and expenses coming in from all directions. Simple now or not, as long as I can still drive the dreaded S-curve to get to the CPA's office, I’ll keep going to him. He’s a straight-up, honest guy who plays by the rules and I like that. We’ve never worried about the IRS hauling us off to tax evader's prison.

The next day I had to go to the dealership for my Chevy Trax’s 10,000 miles free maintenance---tires rotated, oil changed and the fluids topped off. “Have you seen the new arrivals in the show room?” asked a salesman who stopped in the waiting room to refill his coffee cup. “Nope. The last time I did that I went home with my Trax." Can’t fool me twice. The day before my appointment I cleaned out the inside of the car of its winter clutter and when I was done I felt ten years younger. Why? Because I found a pair of prescription sunglasses that I’ve been looking for for weeks. I’m not a person who misplaces or loses things and every time I’d think about those glasses it would make me feel old, like it was a sign that I’m losing brain power. I tore up my reminder note about the missing glasses, quit obsessing about them and went back to believing that my brain might live to see another year before it descends into a pile of mush. 

Friday was my 15th time on the treadmill at the YMCA and I’m doing one and a quarter miles in a half hour. I decided not to follow my trainer Julie’s instructions to add five minutes every third time until after I see my doctor in April. He’s the boss of me not that tall, skinny-as-a-flagpole girl with her bouncy black hair and Marilyn Monroe red lips. If she ate an olive she'd look pregnant.

My Treadmill Playlist: From the top of the stairs to the treadmill is about a half a city block and I start my iPod playlist at that point so I can strut down the aisle with the Bee Gees singing, “Here I am, prayin' for this moment to last, livin' on the music so fine…” By the time it’s finished I’m on the treadmill and ready for what comes next, the Saturday Night Fever version of The Fifth of Beethoven. I love that piece! Years ago I used to plow snow to it---windows rolled down and the volume jacked up in an effort to keep myself awake near the end of my shift. My third treadmill walking song is by The Killers, All These things That I’ve Done. Until today when I googled the lyrics, I thought they were singing, “I got sold, but I'm not a soldier” They’re actually singing “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined a backstory for that line and now I have to start all over again. What the heck does that mean? The forth song is my favorite: Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. “Life is goin’ nowhere, somebody help me! Yeah, I’m stayin’ alive.” By then the treadmill is getting harder and I’m wishing someone could help me! 

Then comes the biggie, the 9.52 minutes long Finale from The Lone Ranger movie otherwise known as The William Tell Overture. I really love it but I alternate between wanting to let go of the treadmill to become a made-believe orchestra conductor (which would have me flying off the end of the machine) and trying to figure out which of the false endings is actually the end of the piece so I can slow down and cool down with Helen Reddy’s I am Woman. All I know for sure is when the bass oboes play I think I’m going to die if Finale doesn’t end soon. It doesn’t. I’m going to be three-quarters of a century old soon. I can practically count on my fingers and toes the number of days until it's cake and candle time and I can’t believe I'm doing this gym thing---that I'm actually ABLE to do this gym thing!  ©

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dogs, Downsizing and Cooking Class

Levi is an amazing dog. He adapts well to my schedule no matter how crazy it gets. When I leave the house I might get a dirty look once in a while when I kiss his forehead and say, “Be a good boy and don’t let any rabbits get in the house” but the dirty look goes away when I bribe with a Milk-Bone Trail Mix treat that he often gets with the goodbye kiss. He loves that trail mix. He’ll cooperate with anything you ask him to do if you use the magic word, “Treat.” Sometimes when he won’t come inside when I call his name I’ll use the magic word and he’ll make a beeline to the door. (More than a few times I've gotten the sense that I’ve been conned.) That beeline ends near the pantry where he’ll position his little butt smack dab in the middle of the doorway between the kitchen and the living room so I can’t pass by until he gets his promised trail mix treat.

The long awaited rotisserie Chicken class that I signed up for back on January 3rd finally took place this week. It wasn’t about how to cook them but rather what we can do with the store bought variety. The chef who taught the cooking class started by showing us how to break down the chicken and many of us we’re impressed by how easy she snapped the legs and thighs off with a simple trick of turning the chicken upside down first then pulling upward on that legs, both at the same time. (Or was it downward? I can't remember!) Next she flipped it over and cut down the center of the breast and since she was wearing plastic gloves it only took her seconds to have all the meat picked clean off the bones. When I do it I have to wash my hands a million times and I decided buying a box of those disposal gloves would be worth it, since rotisserie chicken is a staple around here. She talked about making her own chicken stock and chicken soup before she demonstrated making Chicken Shepherds’ Pie, Chicken Enchiladas and Chicken Salad on Croissants---all three of which we got to eat. I doubt I’d ever make the first two but they were good, and freezable recipes for four, but the class did inspire me to get more creative with my chicken salads.

The monthly Gathering (for people looking for friends) took place this week, too. I could go to this senior hall activity once a week and not get tired of playing the getting-to-know each other games the facilitator comes up with. Afterward six of us went to a near-by Tim Horton’s where they seem to have a knack for hiring the most inept employees but that works well for us because we can sit and gab for over an hour without the pressure of taking up a table in a busy place. Often we’re the only ones there.

We talked a lot about downsizing and how hard it is to find family members who want our good china, crystal and silverware---or even to sell it. Microwaves and dishwashers have single-handedly (or is it double-handedly?) ended the era of fancy plate settings. Young marriage minded couples no longer registered for crystal goblets, paper-thin butter plates and silver encrusted teaspoons in carefully picked out patterns that, back in our day, we knew we’d own a lifetime. Now, brides and grooms want either plain white or black ceramic or bright colored Fiesta ware that clashes with many of the foods that will be served on them. Hint: If you invite me over for dinner don’t give me strawberry shortcake in an orange bowl unless you’re prepared for me to upchuck on your table. Na, I wouldn’t actually do that but I’d sure write about it behind your back. A girl’s got to get her blog fodder wherever she can. I really do hate orange, though, and the thought of eating off that color does turn my stomach. There's no end to my first world complaints, is there.

We Gathering Girls brought our day planners to Tim Horton’s so we could schedule a get-together away from the senior hall. In two weeks we’re meeting for lunch and then we're going to a near-by consignment mall that sells a little bit of everything---crafts, up-cycled stuff and antiques. One of the Gathering Girls has a new booth in the mall and just hearing her talk about it brings back good feelings of the days when I had booths in antique malls. It can be a lot of fun but it's also a lot of work. I have to keep remembering the latter part lest I put my name on a waiting list to rent a stall. Let’s hope the practical side of my brain keeps overruling the dreamer side. The kinds of things I have left to sell needs a bigger market like eBay than a neighborhood mall. I did so much downsizing in the first three summers after Don died that I’m having trouble working myself up to jumping back into the game.

I want so much out of the coming summer: a skinnier and stronger body, less and newer clothing in my closet, more time spent bonding and hanging out with the Gathering Girls, and downsizing more stuff that no longer makes sense to own. So little time, so much to do and none of my summer goals are easily accomplished not to mention I’ve got to get through all the spring yard and house cleaning and maintenance that comes first. ©
I found this googling the word, 'downsizing' and thought it was too cute not to share.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Eagle Nests and Old People Nests

Occasionally my senior hall offers tours of independent and assisted living facilities. Wednesday I hopped on the bus with twenty-four others and off we went to two new places on the other end of town. One fed us lunch and the other served us coffee and the best peanut butter cookies I’ve had since my mom used to make them. Both of these places are the type that steps you up to increased care when you reach a certain point and we learned a lot about those trigger points. One was when you require a two person assist to make transfers. I never would have thought to ask the 'triggers point' question but it’s an important one because the cost of your room about doubles when they step you up. I’ve toured five places like this, but this time we had a guy who came with us who owns a business that specializes in in-home care and assisted living placement. There are a lot of placement specialists around---even national chains that do it---but I never knew much about them. He says they get $2,500 for every client they place, paid for by the facilities and all facilities pay the exact same amount to all the placement specialists in town.

At first, one of these places seemed kind of creepy with all its high tech surveillance gadgets. Each resident wears a watch-like gadget that automatically unlocked AND locks your apartment door, tracks your every move by GPS and gives you a way to talk directly to the staff, and them to you. But the creepy part is they also have motion detectors in your apartments (the units were cute, by the way) and those motion detectors spend two weeks learning your habits---like how many times you pee and how long it takes you to do it, what time you get up and go to bed---then after that if you break your pattern someone will check on you. The staff all wears a red “tag” that electronically logs where they go and how long they stay with each resident and those logs can be reviewed by families. I jokingly asked them if the microwave in your unit is eavesdropping and we were assured that the only listening device is on your arm. Like that’s a big comfort! We talked about this ‘big brother’ kind of care on the bus afterward and at first glance it creeped most of us out but as we talked and compared it to other assisted living places where lights are flashing and call bells are going off in the halls, this place felt less institutional, more homey, and we soften our views on these high tech babysitters.

I am nowhere near needing or wanting to move to an independent or assisted living home but Mr. Specialist says that’s the best time to check them out and make decisions so families aren’t making decisions like that in an emergency situation. He also has resources to calculate if you have enough money to go to places like this compared to in-home care. That “resource calculation” service is free and I'm going to make an appointment with him for that. It will be helpful to know how long my assets would last if/when I need care. Can I afford to redecorate now? Take a trip? The assisted living places we saw this week cost $4,000 a month and doubles if they have to step you up. He said the lowest priced place in town is $1,500 a month and I know it to be a Medicaid dive. When you get through talking to him about your finances, he can tell you the price range you need to stay in and he gives you a list of places in that range. He’ll even drive you around to see them, if you want. I’m thinking whatever he has to say it will be fuel to keep me on my self-imposed, Spring of Getting Physically Fit program. Two person assist transfers? Heck, we all need to make sure we don't need a one person assist if we want to age in place!

This week I also went to a fascinating and funny senior hall lecture about bald eagles. It was delivered by a woman who lives on a pond where a couple of eagles nested for five years and raised fifteen baby eagles, many of which were banded as babies by researchers who climbed up to the nest to take blood samples and weigh the fuss balls and take the cutest baby pictures. The lecturer had wonderful photos and she made you fall in love with the personalities of the nesting mamma and poppa eagles. She wrote poems about the eagles, funny poems that where illustrated with slides. One was about ice fishermen who have their fish snatched by the eagles if they don’t hide them as soon as they reel them in. Others purposely threw their catches on top of the ice just to get a close up view of the eagles diving in for the steal. What a thrill that would be!

I had three options for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, one with the Red Hat Society girls for lunch out in the boondocks for a traditional, boiled Irish dinner. I called to cancel that because of an impending storm that was supposed to include ice, snow and rain. Another was to go with the Movie and Lunch Club but I had no interest is seeing The Beauty and the Beast so I e-mailed my regrets. Then at the eagle lecturer some friends invited me to tag along with them to an Irish Pub close to where I live. I figured I could get in and out before the storm hit but this morning that got canceled, too. I am SO sick of winter and spring playing chase-and-flee tag with our lives! ©

Stock photos, our lecturer was not online.