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, September 20, 2017

Fall Chores, Olds Books and the Devil’s Vomit

The weather here in West Michigan has been perfect. Warm. Sunny. Just the way I like it. But I didn’t like doing my weekend project. I had two vintage outdoor chairs and a couple of side tables that needed spray painting. The last time I did them I thought it would be the LAST time because, back then, I was hot and heavy into shopping for a condo and I planned on leaving them behind in a history-of-my-life tag sale. I’m too old to be wrestling metal, clamshell back chairs around. I built a cardboard paint booth so I could spray them on top of the deck instead of dragging them down to the back yard. Worked great but I still can’t figure out how I got sail blue paint up my nose. I was wearing a face mask and safety glasses. I hope the ears, nose and throat doctor I’ll see later this week for my ear doesn't notice, but I bet he will. It’s not every day he comes across blue nostrils. 

I make no secret out of the fact that fall is third place in my Favorite Season Contest. Over the years it’s brought nothing but hard work into my life. Now I hire most of my fall yard work but for more decades than I care to count I had to rake leaves at four houses. Sometimes more if Don was in one of his do-good-for-the-neighborhood widows mode. Plus we took down screens, wash windows and put up heavy wooden storm windows at two houses. That was in addition to moving an army of snowplow equipment out of storage in the country to maintenance and then to the parking lots where they’d be used. I’ll be in a nursing home before I'll get over the notion that with fall comes work and that I have to start gathering nuts and seeds and stocking my cave for the coming cold and snow. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I've never lived in a cave.

And have I mentioned I hate the orange color palette that Mother Nature will bring us soon? I appreciate that the trees turning into a riot of color is pretty but don’t expect me to like the fall landscape painting on your wall or that orange sweater you like to wear around Halloween. My grudge against orange runs deep. I wouldn’t eat anything orange as a kid---didn’t start doing that until I was forty---and I doubt that had anything to do with my brother telling me that Satan’s vomit is orange. I was spitting out carrots and squash before I understood words. Whoo! Do you think he was calling ME the devil because anything orange I attempted to eat came right back out Linda Blair style?

In college I acquired a book titled, Your Color and Your Self: The Significance of Color Preference in the Study of Human Personality. It help solidify my hate-fest toward orange. “In the general study of human likes and dislikes for color, orange ranks very low among the hues of the spectrum,” the author wrote. “Red personalities are wont to state that they ‘hate’ the color, while blue personalities may scowl at the sight of it.” That’s me. I openly hate the color and scowl at it too. I haven’t taken that book off the shelf in years much less opened it to read the passages that are underlined. Here’s what it says about my color preferences: “You have a secure hold on your passions and enthusiasms. There is weight to your character, real and implied. You like to be admired for your steady character and for your wisdom and sagacity, although the truth may be that you may spend little effort to warrant admiration.” Ohmygod! I wonder if I could use that in my obituary without getting in trouble with the gods of plagiarism! My apologies to the author, Faber Birren, if I ask my heirs to do it. Faber is dead now but he wrote forty books and 250 articles about color. 

In the above mentioned book there’s a chapter on how color effects people with neuroses and psychoses. Scary stuff on how our color preferences change with increased mental illness. For example, intoxicated alcoholics will prefer red but most of them will prefer something else when sober (and hint, be weary of anyone living with brown walls). You know what else is scary? The library fine that would be due on this book. It was checked out in 1962 but never returned. Oops! In my defense, it was probably the end of my junior year and I didn't return to the same campus the following semester, though I don't recall ever getting a letter from the college librarian demanding its return or they'd withhold transferring my credits.

Speaking of memory loss, this week I got two more punches on my Old Person Card. One because I hopped in my car to go to a Red Hat Society tea, unfortunately I was one week less five minutes too early. We meet in the community room of grocery store that has an extensive deli department so I loaded myself up with a spinach wrap and an orange-cranberry muffin for dinner. A half-gallon of French vanilla ice cream might have jumped into my basket as well. My other Old Person mistake was I signed up for a ‘Making Soup’ class at the senior hall and half way through the session I remembered I’d taken the same cooking class a few years ago. Not that it mattered. The chef served a good lunch and no one seemed to notice my sail blue nostrils. ©

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Life Changing Secrets and Leg ‘Magic’…or so They Claim

Do you wear compression stockings? If so you might have liked a class I went to this week called, Healthy Legs. The class description started out, “Maintaining a healthy active lifestyle starts with energizing your legs” and I didn’t bother to read the rest. Had I done so, I would have known it was put on by Juzo Compression Garments. I don’t wear compression stockings and after watching three 30ish, skinny model types pushing the idea that, “EVERYONE needs to wear these no matter your age” I did not join the cult. Although they did have styles for everyone---ankle, knee and thigh high, open toed for scandals and panty hose plus garments just for sleeping. Each of those came with compression rates from 15% to 50% and even though they come in some cool tie-dyed and jewel colors, none of those young women fooled me with their “Spanx for legs” jokes. They still looked medicinal.

And it wasn’t just the stockings. You’d need accessories just to get them on---special gloves, a ‘donner pad’ for the floor, donning lotion and a parachute-like device that helps you thread these stocking up your legs. It all made me feel very old for reasons that are probably related to why I resisted having a magnifying glass next to my chair in the living room for so long. Old people gear here and there and before long I might as call my house a nursing home.

Someone asked why the compression stocking she wore didn’t stay up and the answer was: there are two types of human legs---stove pipes and pie shaped and if you are in the wrong type and/or size garment they won’t work. You need measurements taken up and down and around your legs at several places to get the right compression in the right places. The garments has different compression ratings in different parts, the higher up your leg they go. So why compress your legs? Apparently it helps push the blood from your feet up to your heart where it gets oxygenated before the blood returns to your feet. I did not stick around to get a fitting. I will not be asking my doctor next month at my bi-annual appointment if I'd benefits from compression stockings like these ladies suggested. I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and sing, "La, la, la, la, I can't hear you!"

Also this week I went to my book club where we had our best discussion ever. The book that inspired it was The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. The blurb says this: “…the novel begins on a winter night in 1964 when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins…but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down’s syndrome.” In a split-second decision he asks his nurse to take the baby to an institution and tells his wife the girl was born died. Instead, the nurse left town, keeping the baby to raise as her own---two secrets that the wife and other twin didn’t find out about until after David died sixteen years later. 

Everyone in my book club had a story to tell about babies given up for adoption, most in secret that got revealed years later. One woman found out a week after her mother died that she had an older brother. It seemed her two aunts had kept the secret long enough and they gave her the contact information for the long-lost older brother. She said she felt like her whole life had been based on a lie because her mom had told her she was a virgin when she got married when, in fact, she’d had an affair with a married man. Her younger brother refused to believe it and didn’t want anything to do with meeting the half-brother. Fast forward ten years she hadn’t contact the older sibling, lost his contact information during a move and the aunts died. And she is left to wonder why her mother lied.

Another woman had recently found a message on her phone from a cousin who wanted to get together. “My mom told me a secret about your mother that is going to blow your mind.” She was afraid to call the cousin back. On one hand she wanted to know what it was but her older sister told her, “Trust me, you’ll wish you didn’t know.” The consensus in the book club was that a lot of secrets went to the grave with women in past generations. It was a different time for unmarried and pregnant young women and none of them could have ever imagined how easily their babies-out-of-wedlock secrets could get tracked down in our modern, internet savvy world. There are whole websites devoted to the effort. ©

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cool Guys and Uppity Women

Poor planning on my part left me with an hour and a half to kill in between getting a haircut and The Gathering (for people looking for friends) at the senior hall. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I found myself sitting outside at Starbucks drinking a pumpkin spice latte, eating a bacon, Gouda and egg sandwich and doing my best imitation of a wanna-be writer. My notebook and pen were almost salivating at the prospect of describing a gentleman in his late forties sitting near-by. He was wearing sandals, the palest pink shorts I’ve ever seen---probably once white that had clandestine affair in the washing machine with a red sock---and he paired the shorts with a lavender and blue plaid shirt. His long blonde hair was tucked behind his ears, his sunglasses were perched on the top of his head as he read a hardcover book and sipped on his blended drink. Two girls next to me were talking office politics and I listened for awhile but not so intently that I missed it when lean and lanky Mr. Cool Guy finally closed his book and walked by me. He smiled. I smiled back. It was like being served dessert. As he walked toward his car, in my mind I could hear Travis Tritt singing: 

And it's a great day to be alive
I know the sun's still shining
When I close my eyes
There's some hard times in the neighborhood
But why can't every day be just this good

While I was still basking in the aftermath of Mr. Cool Guy’s smile, my nephew’s mother-in-law stopped her Ford next to the railing of Starbucks’ patio and yelled out, “Hi, Jean!” I felt like I’d been caught with my hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Darn it! I wanted to keep thinking about the guy who was self-confident enough to wear pink shorts and carry a hardcover book around in public. I go to Starbucks all the time but that was the first time I’ve ever sat outside and I’d do it more often if I thought “dessert” came with it every time. Was he one of those guys who smiles at everyone or did he instinctively know I was writing about him? If only we had been from the same generation, we could have been a good match. He likes to read. I like to write and I sure could use a proofreader in my life plus I wear enough red clothing that I always have a full load of reds for the washer. No colors and whites have ever accidentally done the hokey-pokey in a batch of my laundry. I’ll put that in my profile should I ever decide to join one of those online dating sites for seniors.

Saturday was another perfect weather day and I had the pleasure of going to an Art in the Park show and having lunch with two of my Gathering Girls friends. It was a juried event with 35 artists showing their pottery, jewelry and visual arts along the river in my adopted hometown. As we looked around a booth with ceramics I picked up a fancy gadget and asked the artist, “Okay, what is it?” and he replied, “A wine bottle stopper.” “Ah, no wonder I didn’t recognize it,” I said, "I don’t drink.” A stranger standing near-by put her hand on my arm and in a tone usually reserved for comforting newly minted widows she said, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” I started laughing and she started apologizing for her sense of humor. I love art shows. They draw some interesting people like the guy who excitedly announced, "Siri is talking in my pocket!" Apparently, she/his phone was answering questions he'd been asking his companion.

At another booth I accidentally insulted an artist...or maybe it was the other way around? I'm not sure. She had a half dozen 3' x 5' canvases (minus their stretchers) hanging on a clothesline. They reminded me of some canvas floor cloths I used to make and that I’ve seen before at art shows. (Canvas floor cloths have been around since colony days, they're the forerunner to linoleum and they come back around from time to time in the decorative arts world.) After the artist in the park told us that her canvases were ready for framing---not!---I asked her if she’s ever turned them into floor cloths. “My dear, these canvases sell for $600! You wouldn’t want to walk on them.”

Her uppity tone made me want to be snippy back at her, but I said, “Floor cloths are protected with layers and layers of varnish.” And I bit my tongue to keep from saying any more. How did she know I wasn't a rich bitch who wouldn't think twice about walking on a $600 throw rug? First rule of sales: don't judge what's in a customer's bank account. I also wanted to point out that I've seen canvas floor cloths go for higher than $600 and that her impressionistic swans were overpriced. But I’m basically a nice person who would no more say that out loud than I would have told Mr. Cool Guy that his smile made me want to shout out, “It’s a great day to be alive!” But I do worry about the day when the filter in my brain wears out and my all thoughts come rolling down my tongue, randomly flattering or insulting strangers in my wake. ©

Link to Kathy Cooper's site: Modern Floor Cloth Artist