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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

$100 Days, Psychic Apps and Free Ice Cream

Every four weeks I get a haircut and every eight weeks I get a pedicure and the dog goes to the groomers. Monday was our mutual day of beauty. I got up at the crack of dawn so I could get a shower and show up on time for my haircut. Then I raced the five blocks back home, picked Levi up and took him to the nature trail for a short walk before dropping him off at the groomers for his bath, haircut, doggie pedicure and whatever they do to his butt---I don’t even want to know. I’m just glad I don’t have to do “it”---whatever “it” is. After dropping him off at noon I grabbed a quick lunch at a drive-through Wendy’s that has a lake behind it. I like sitting back there as I eat, listening to the seagulls but I often wonder if they feel deprived because they consume more French fries than fish. Do they ever get out to Lake Michigan? Is this lake next to a parking lot a ghetto in the Kingdom of Birds?

The pedicure place is close by and while I was waiting for my nails to dry I read an article about sleep research. After sitting in their back massaging chair for over an hour, I could have fallen asleep but I had to pick Levi back up before they sold him off to a cat food cannery or a medical research lab owned by Dr. Evil. They have five groomers, one bather and two desk people working at the doggie beauty parlor and it’s always busy and bubbling over with canine energy. For some reason Levi and another schnauzer seem to get booked on the same day. The other dog is so cute and lady-like and I think Levi has a crush on her. I know I do. I call days like this my hundred dollar days but they actually cost closer to $120 to get us both “prettied up” and that doesn’t even include tips and lunch. First world problems, Jean, remember how lucky you are to have them instead of second and third world problems.

Today was the annual ice cream social at the senior hall. A local creamery donates the ice cream and all the sundae fixings to honor us oldies-but-goodies for reasons all their own. It’s the best made ice cream in area and usually it’s so hot in July the ice cream melts before you can get to the bottom of your dish. Not this time. It was 60 degrees! Can you believe that? The cool weather we’re having coupled with the back-to-school advertising blasted out everywhere is making me sad. I’m not ready for summer to end. I’m not ready for a lot of things. They will come anyway. But if I’ve learned anything in my 70 plus years it’s that life is constantly changing. The ebbs and tides, the yin and yang, the positives and negatives all do their dances to keep the world turning which means no one can stay sad for long at the senior center where they book bands that tell corny jokes like this: An old guy using a walker made his way up to the window at Tasty Freeze and ordered a sundae. The clerk gave him a kind smile and asked: “Crushed nuts?” and he replied, “No, arthritis.” You can always count on old people humor at the senior hall.

All of us at one time or another wonder about life, what it’s all about and why do some suffer and others don’t. I compare my first world problems with those from around the world and wonder, why me?  Why am I lucky enough to have hundred dollar days and free ice cream? Why am I lucky enough not to have the sound gunfire over head? I’ve been thinking too much about this topic lately and even when I try not to it comes knocking on my door. Turn on the eerie music while I explain that one. I have a Buddhist Mediation app on my cell phone that I like to use in the car if I have time to kill. It gives you a phrase you’re supposed to repeat each time a Burmese gong or Chinese hand bell rings and before the ice cream social I turned it on. The phrase they gave me was, “There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.”

Usually my Buddhist Mediation app puts me in a mellow state, almost on the verge of sleep. Not this time. After spending four minutes repeating, “There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it” I was analyzing and wondering if we truly wouldn’t recognize the intrinsic value of good if not for the evil in the world. Do we all know the perimeters of those words, or are some of us still in the dark ages and truly don’t know that doing good is better than doing evil? I decided the latter is true. Since time began, we’ve gotten a lot better though. We no long burn girls at the stake because a neighbor’s cows went dry. We no longer shanghai boys to work on pirate’s ships. We have a world court to try crimes against humanity. And we have eerie mediation apps that seem to be psychic and make me focus on Truths as old as enlighten thought and written language. And one of those Truths is the fact that all any one of us can do is our best to leave our tiny slice of the world a better place than when we found it. ©   

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Operation Get My Mojo Back!



The other day when I lost it in Stretch and Flex class, bringing on a flow of tears that aren’t completely under control even today, I realized that I have a problem and I need a plan. A post-menopausal women can’t stay weepy this long without having “Aunt Flo” as an excuse, and a widow over two and a half years out can’t blame it all on lingering grief. (Well, she could but I’m almost sure that’s not the whole ball of wax entrapping me.) Something is wrong. The signs have been there since the Fourth of July weekend, ignored hoping my body and mind would self correct. Mild depression are the dirty little words I’m applying to the poor state of my grey matter. Gasp, I said it out loud! Well, not exactly but I did type it out.

When I was growing up there would be times when my mom played Solitaire over and over again. She’d pull up a red leather footstool and deal the cards, play the tricks, until I would go daffy watching her. I didn’t play the game myself until after my husband had his stroke. That’s when I bought a tiny deck of cards at a hospital gift shop and I carried it everywhere we went for the next 12 years. Spouses of disabled people spend a lot of time in waiting rooms. I became my mother only with a twist that, I thought, set me apart from the woman I didn’t understand growing up. I bought a book titled 101 Ways to Play Solitaire. Yes, I played the game that drove me daffy as a kid but I was learning 101 new ways to numb my brain, to turn it off so I didn’t have to have think about the serious issues going on in my life. Bottom line: This paragraph is leading up to another round of True Confusions: I’ve been on another binge of Solitaire the past few weeks. I should have picked up on that clue right away. I didn’t.

Clues number two, three, four and five: I’m not paying attention to nutrition, I’m on a sugar binge. I’m not getting enough physical exercise…or sleep. I’m not keeping my house as picked up and neat as usual. “Okay,” the right side of my brain said to my left side, “It’s time to climb the ladder back out of this hole you’re in. Go get your mojo back!” I say that as I kick myself for not going to a wedding at Niagara Falls that my whole family is attending this weekend. I could have used the break, even though it seemed like too much trouble, money and distance at the time I sent back my RSVP. Anyway, the two sides of my brain have worked out a plan to turn things around.

- Don’t drop out of those exercise classes I started at the senior hall last week. Great. I have two weeks to get in the habit of going then they are closing for two weeks to do yearly building maintenance.

- Quit buying sugar filled comfort foods!  Bad girls do that, good girls make kale chips.

- Good girls also sign up for the summer salads cooking class to use up the gift certificate I won last fall for the fancy chef’s school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take place until the middle of August and unfortunately, a month ago I signed up for an ice cream social coming up on Tuesday. Ice cream is the mother lode of comfort foods for me. (Check this one off the list. I registered for the class in the middle of the last night.)

- Good girls also put their new high-tech, custom shoe orthotics to better use than just walking around the house. (Ohmygod, those things make a difference as they should for $250. My orthopedics doctor has them made and they require you to walk barefoot across a mat with sensors in it, making your feet glow up in bright neon colors on a computer screen.)

- Weed myself off from watching daybreak-to-bedtime news. Maybe I’ll pig out on the Hallmark movies---those sappy love stories with happy endings, but only after a widow or divorcee goes through hell after losing husband number one before husband number two shows up to save the day. Formula fiction, that usually ends with a wedding that the x-floral designer me can critique.

- Stay off the political debate sites. In other words tune out until the world leaders tune back in and do something constructive towards a more peaceful co-existence and/or my liberal soul doesn’t feel compelled to cry over all the injustices on earth. I can’t fix the world, I need to concentrate on fixing me.

- Take more sleeping pills. One every night for a week in an effort to reset my body clock should do the trick.

- Get a new computer chair that gives me more back support. Back pain is part of the reason I'm not sleeping well.

Well, there it is, my plan for Operation Get My Mojo Back. I hope it works. ©

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Widows Tears and Stephen King



Today I went to my second exercise class at the senior hall, this one a Stretch and Flex. I thought it would be easy but I’m finding out how out of shape I really am. I don’t have the agility I should have and my balance is shot. Standing on one foot for 60 seconds? Forget it!  Not to worry, those are things this and the Balance class I took earlier this week are designed to help. The only thing I excelled at was eye hand coordination which sounds impressive but just means I can throw tennis balls into a basket from various distances. Near the end of the class today the instructor put on a CD for one of those guided relaxation things. You know the drill, “Close your eyes. Relax the muscles in your face, your hands, your feet…” yadda, yadda, yadda. “Now visualize yourself in a place that brings you peace and happiness. It could be on a beach or maybe in a wooded place. Where ever you go that….” Oh-my-God!

I don’t know where they came from but tears rolled down my cheeks and not just a few. I was struggling to keep from sobbing out loud and bringing everyone out of their descending down to a relaxed state of mind. My mind I was anything but relaxed. I was running though places that I could visualize and all that did was remind me of things like the last time I was at the beach I left some of Don’s ashes behind and the last time I was under the towering pines up north Don was with me. I had no place to go! It even crossed my mind that maybe the cemetery would have to be my new place to visualize when doing visualization exercises which, of course, seemed ridiculous even to me, the person who dreamed up that dichotomy. Before the CD ended, I wiped my eyes and face dry while the others still had their eyes shut and after class was dismissed I didn’t stick around long for fear someone would notice I’d been crying. The lingering loneliness of widowhood bit me good and I still don’t know why/how my emotions could turn so quickly. It’s been months since I’ve shed a tear and even longer since there was sobbing involved. I want to go back to the Stretch class again next week but as sure as hell is hot I’d better have someplace lined up to visualize for the last ten minutes. I don’t want a repeat run of my knife-less, Madame Butterfly-like drama.

I also got news that the antique mall that I moved into last spring is going out of business when their lease is up in November. They will let us out of our leases early if we want to go so I have a new dilemma to think about. I was there Thursday to restock and start running some targeted sales and so far, they say, only one person is leaving early. I took some photos so I can place some Craig’s List ads hoping to generate traffic towards some big items I don’t want to haul back home. At this point in time I’ll stop bringing anything new in and start rotating 40% off sales on different categories of stuff each week, with a goal of doing a booth wide 50% off sale the last month. It’s a nice little mall and I’ll be sorry to see it go. But all good thing must come to an end. “Put that on a sampler and hang it in your kitchen.” That’s a line out of Stephen King’s Joyland and I love it almost as much as I love another line in the book: “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” We widows are especially good at that, aren’t we. We gloss over, we polish, and we minimize and inflate. We build our stories from whole cloth but in the end, nothing changes. All good things came to an end and our kitchen sampler isn’t big enough to give equal space to the blandness left behind.

Recently I’ve had several people remark that I’m keeping very busy and by their tone of voices I can tell they are saying that with approval or something akin to admiration…or even mild jealously. This is going to sound priggish or ________ (fill-in-the blank) but those remarks are annoying me for reasons that make no sense. (Or maybe they make too much sense?) I want to snap back, “My being busy isn’t taking the edge off my boredom! I still eat all my meals alone and the only one who leaves dirty socks on the floor is me." What makes the widowhood induced sense of emptiness come and go like it does? It’s been two years and seven months since Don died. How long is long enough? I hate the poor me feelings I’ve been fighting the last few weeks. I guess I should try to be more honest with people, let them know that “busy” doesn’t translate to “happy.” Hey, that brings up another Joyland line by Stephen King that I identify with: “I was raised by my parents to believe that barfing your feelings on other people was the height of impoliteness.” So I don’t. Instead, those feelings go in my blog/diary. Dear Diary, today I cried in Stretch and Flex class….. can you help me feel better in the morning? Boohoo, diary! ©