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, December 31, 2014

Confession Time, Again



It was one of those days that started out great. Cool but pleasant driving conditions. Money in the bank longing to be spent. I got a parking space up close to the doors at the super store where I can buy everything from groceries to paint thinner. Not that I’m going to thin paint any time soon but at least I know where I can go to buy some when the mood strikes me. Inside, I walked right up to the courtesy desk, no waiting in line like I expected to do this close after Christmas. And surprise, surprise they had my lost watch in their ‘lost and found’ drawer. It had been in that drawer since the Monday before Christmas, not long enough for it to make friends with the two dozen other watches waiting patiently for their owners to take them home.

I did my grocery shopping which wasn’t that easy to do because I was also busy patting myself on the back for passing up all the tempting things in the cookies, candy, chips and ice cream aisles. Walking through those aisles was a real test of my will power. I had worked hard on my recent weight loss but I had also strayed off my diet over the holidays with all temptations around and I was determined to get back on track before I can’t even see that track anymore or worse, I don’t care anymore that it’s located on the corner of Better Health and Common Sense. The last area of the store I had to walk through to get to the cashiers was the Evil Bakery where I said to myself: Why you’ve been such a good little girl passing up all those cookies, candy, chips and ice cream you deserve a Bismarck.

“Are you crazy?” I heard another voice saying. I looked around. I was alone so I figured I must be talking to myself again. Is that a byproduct of living alone or am I---well, you know---on the bridge leading to the land of senility?  If so, I should be there by now because I’ve been talking to myself since Ring was a pup. You know Ring. I wrote about him in my last blog. He’s the old Beagle Don had when he was a kid. “Ring time” was a marker for him, sort of like using B.C. and A.D. for before and after Christ was born. Okay, I’d better strike that last line out of the final draft so I don’t offend anyone who might erroneously think I’m comparing Ring’s importance in Don’s world to the importance of Jesus in the history of the world. But darn it, to a boy of 14 or 15 the death of a dog you’ve had your entire life is pretty important. If not for Ring’s passing, Don might never have reached out and discovered girls.

Back to the jelly filled Bismarck. As I reached in the case to pull one out I swear it looked at me as if to say, “Sweetie, are you sure you want to do this?” And because I really didn’t want to do that I ate it in the parking lot before coming home so the evidence of my sinful ways wouldn’t be around to mock me. Damn it, it's time for a sugar detox again! How many times do I have to have sugary treats grab me by the throat and insist that all my troubles will be far away if I just consumed it? Wait! “All my troubles will be far away?” Isn’t that a line in a Beatles’ song? Great. Now I’m channeling a song that never fails to make me cry. “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.” Yup, only a crazy person could connect a classic Beatles song like Yesterday to a Bismarck from the bakery aisle. Or maybe a would-be writer could to that, too? So am I off the hook, off the train to Crazyville? I guess as long as I’m not grabbing the aluminum foil out of the drawer in the kitchen to fashion myself a hat, I’m still okay.

All kidding aside, my eating is out of control although my bathroom scales hasn’t yelled, “Loser!” at me yet---that didn’t come out right. I wish it would shout “loser” at me. What I meant to say is I haven’t lost or gained anything over the holidays but I have to turn that round so that I’m losing again. But mostly I have to get the sugar monster off my back. Oh, well, my day may not have ended as good as it started---contrary to how it might look, binge eating does not make me a happy camper---but at least the dog didn’t see me do it. ©

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Widow's Workbook: Another Chapter Ends



For several weeks I’ve had an empty Stetson deodorant stick container sitting next to my computer monitor. It’s one of those things that if it were found there after I died it would drive the people cleaning out the house nuts. “Why keep an empty container like that?” they’d want to know. “And why keep it inside the computer wardrobe?” “What was a man’s deodorant stick even doing in the house?” “Why didn’t we notice how flaky Aunt Jean must have gotten in recent years?” Confession time. It’s a widow’s thing and a little back-story is needed to understand all the whys and wherefores involved.

My husband wore Stetson everything---cologne, deodorant, antiperspirant, after-shave, their whole product line---that part isn’t too hard to figure out. But it was getting increasingly harder to find it in the area stores so one time I bought another brand. Big mistake. You should have seen Don at bath time when I handed it to him and his aphasic, stroke damaged brain couldn’t tell me he didn’t like that brand. His vocabulary at that point in time was around twenty-five words and “don’t buy this crap anymore” wasn’t one of his working phrases, so day after day he’d throw the offending brand at his feet until I figured out what the problem was. A guy wants to smell like he wants to smell.

Rather than chase all over town to the better department stores that probably carried the Stetson and where we’d had to wear our Sunday-go-meeting-clothes just to walk in the doors, I finally started ordering Don’s Stetson online at $9.00 a stick plus shipping. I know, I know that’s a ridiculous price to pay. My husband grew up poor and later in life grew into a bit of a label snob and to make it worse he was a bulk buyer. If he needed paper towel, for example, he’d fill up the back of the Blazer with paper towel without thinking about his limitations on storage space. Formerly poor boys don’t like running out of stuff, it brings back old feelings that are better left in the past. We all have our quirks when we look close enough but his weren’t hard to miss. Recently, I found out that Wal-Mart carries Don’s brand of deodorant but it wouldn’t have mattered since we’ve boycotted that chain of stores since Ring was a pup and he’s been gone so long I don’t even remember where the old Beagle is buried.   

When I found the Stetson deodorant online and showed Don the website, he was desperately trying to tell me to order more than the two I had selected in the shopping cart window. “Okay,” I told him, “I’ll order three.” ‘No!’ was one of his working phrases and we bargained back and forth until I got him down to me ordering six deodorants instead of “ten clock ten”---translation, 10 times 10 or in other words, he wanted me to order 100! “It will all evaporate before you can use it up,” I told him, “if we order any more than six.”

Fast forward to when Don died, one of the first things I did was clean his presence out of the bathroom---tooth brush, comb, brush, disability things he needed in the shower---but when it came to his stash of unused Stetson deodorant...  well, I guess I was too cheap to throw them out and who donates that sort of thing to the Salvation Army? If you’re guessing that I’ve been using them since Don died and the empty container sitting next to the computer is the last of the lot, you’d be right. I figured no one was going to get close enough to my body to detect “the rich, masculine blend of rugged woods and spices” as promised in the Stetson advertisements, so I didn’t mind leaving my cheap brand behind to use up his high-end stuff. Now, near the end of my third year of widowhood, I get to go shopping for my own scented deodorant, something girlie. But I knew I wanted to write about this particular chapter in my “widow’s workbook” thus the container sat by my monitor as a reminder. (Like I’ve said many times in this blog, a widow’s work never seems to end.)

One time I went to an estate sale and every item there had a note attached and I understand the compulsion old people get when they want to do that. I bought a beautifully tailored but tiny pair of wool pants at that sale and in the pocket was a handwritten note that read: “My first pair of long pants, 1902.” I still have those pants and the note is still in the pocket. I’m far enough along in my campaign to stay on the right side of a competency hearing that I was sorely tempted to slap a note on that empty Stetson explaining its presence by my computer. I didn’t, but the thought was in my head. After I post about it, though, it will go in the trash. But let it be known I’m keeping the bittersweet memories that the Stetson deodorant evokes and I’ll feel good about that fact that my heirs won’t end up with a mystery to ponder should I die suddenly. ©

NOTE: If you want to read one of the very first (and, in my opinion, one of the funniest) blogs I ever wrote you can find it here...   The Shower Stall Mystery

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas Roller Coaster



I felt like I was on a roller coaster and I hadn’t even left the house in more days than an elf could count on her jingle bells. I don’t know exactly how many that is, but it’s a lot. For days leading up to Christmas I had a feeling behind my eyes like I’d been crying hard and the exhaustion that comes after a soul-reaching cry like that had settled into my bones. Only I hadn’t been crying and I didn’t even think I was sad enough to squeeze out a tear if I tried. “Queue the cameras, the widow’s going to cry. Cut! Get her an onion!”  What the heck was wrong with me? I thought maybe the mini sugar binge I was on could have caused it or maybe the bag of vinegar and sea salt kettle chips I ate and shouldn’t have mixed with my high blood pressure made me feel the way I did. I haven’t had those sorts of things in my diet for months. Maybe being naughty instead of nice had caught up with me? Then I obsessed thinking I was dying. Nope, my pulse was still strong and the dog wasn’t checking my breath the way he does sometimes when he’s wondering if it’s time to start digging my grave. (Hint: Never shut your eyes around a Schnauzer.) Having ruled dying out of the equation, I thought maybe I was going through the holiday blues and was getting too old to recognize the symptoms. In the end decided I needed to take an aspirin and call the doctor in the morning. Maybe a blood test was in order.

Queue the e-mail from my niece offering to pick me up for the Christmas Eve party at her sister’s house out in the boondocks. Mind you Google says this takes her out of her way by 68 miles round trip (she says less, who you gotta believe?) and I stressed over the decision to let her do it, or not. We had three to five inches of wet, heavy snow predicted and I had already sent a text to my youngest niece saying that my old eyes and the predicted weather was going to keep me at home. God, I felt bad about that! Family who don’t always get to attend her annual party because of work or living out of state, were going to be there this year, not to mention we have two new babies in the family to maul and plaster with affection. Not to mention that I also had the photo essay books of my mom and dad back from the printer and ready to give out. The roller coaster chucked its way up to the top by the time the noon weather forecast was over. The storm had been downgraded and I decided to accept my niece’s more than kind offer.

For the rest of the day and into the night the roller coaster got stuck at the top. How cool is that? After the noon weather report was over I threw together my marinated four bean salad and hoped it could do its job in six hours instead of the required overnight marinate. I had some Tuscan, herb infused olive oil (sun-dried tomatoes and garlic) and Sicilian Lemon infused balsamic vinegar that both cost a fortunate and I figured they would more than make up for the lack of hours. I left the half a cup of red onions out of my recipe just in case six hours wasn’t enough time to soak the rawness out of them. Maybe if I didn’t tell anyone they wouldn’t notice. It was a recipe my mother always made for parties when I was growing up and I improved with the foodie quality oil and vinegar. I hadn’t made it in a long time but a few people at the party remembered it from years ago. My niece’s mother-in-law even asked me for the recipe. I doubt anyone has ever asking ME, the inept-cook, for a recipe before.

The down-graded one to three inches of snow never materialized. Still, it was rainy and not the best driving conditions but I was happy the little kids all got cheated out of their promised white Christmas. Safe driving conditions always trumps ‘pretty’ in my book. (Screw Santa and his sleigh. He could use wheels like the rest of us.) The party was all the sweeter because I hadn’t planned on going and it was the first time since Don’s stroke in 2000 that I had a designated driver so I was able to drink all the red wine I wanted. For my brother and me, red wine is a family tradition that goes all the way back to when we were nine-ten years old and my Italian dad would give us each a shot glass full on special occasions. I had three glasses of wine on Christmas Eve, ate way too many sweets but I had the best time.

At some point in the evening the entire group, roughly 21 of us---young and old alike---divided into two teams pitting the men against the women and we played a fast-paced game. It involved shouting out the answers to clues given and it brought lots of laughter when people called out the wrong answers, either accidentally or on purpose. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my roller coaster riding Christmas this year even if the dog did leave me a “gift” in the middle of the floor that I nearly stepped in when the ride came to an end. Jeez, Jean, you’ve got to let your four-legged kid outside once in a while, I told myself on Christmas morning. "Oops. Sorry Levi." ©