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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Plan for an Old Widow



One of the catch phrases I’ve used throughout my life has been, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” I’ve liked learning about many different things over the years and I’ve often wanted to do this or that off-beat profession. An artist, a tailor, a photographer, a teddy bear maker, a dog trainer, a writer, a furniture restorer, a basket weaver and I even tried my hand at making floor coverings. To this day the-son-I-wish-I-had stills teases me about making my own Linoleum. When he helped us move after Don’s stroke he found an area rug I had made and he couldn’t get over the fact that someone would actually make their own Linoleum. “Who does that?” “The Colonists”, I told him, “and people during the California Gold Rush when canvas off from sailing ships was plentiful and carpeting was not.” 

A summer or two ago I ran into a woman at a summer art fair who was selling handmade Linoleum area rugs.  (They're actually called floor clothes but they are the forerunners of Linoleum.) Hers were no better or worse than mine were and that old longing to march off into the sunset doing something different than the norm washed over me again. Woo is me, I guess I was just ahead of my time. That may be the excuse I tell myself for not taking my rugs on the art fair circuit, but the truth is that I get bored easily. After I’ve learned the ends and outs of doing particular craft it no longer holds any mystery for me, and I lose interest.

A professor of a ‘Women in Transition’ class I took in my forties when I went back to college to finish up my degree told me that the trick for me would be to find a career that was always presenting new challenges, new projects that changed often enough so I didn’t get bored. For that class, we had to research five careers we thought we might like and narrow it down to one that fits our personal assets and she considered my desire to keep on learning new things to be an asset. Believe it or not, that opinion changed my life. It was a light bulb moment. I no longer thought of myself as a loser who couldn’t find herself. I no longer felt guilty for spending so much time and money gearing up for hobbies and crafts that I didn’t stick with once I got good at them. That class taught me that it’s the process of learning that I like, not the finished products. Wow, why hadn’t I thought of that? It could have saved me a lot of negative feelings.  

I investigated the five careers and settled on the same career choice I wanted to be right out of high school: an architect. Oh boy, I thought, I can still do that! And that may have been technically true but in practical terms it was pointless for me head in that direction that late in life. After studying the government forecasts for the field, I learned that computers were going to drastically downsize the number of architects needed and by the time I would get a degree in that field there would be a glut of people all fighting for fewer jobs. In the end, I went for the degree I could get in the shortest length of time because, when it came right down to it, I just wanted to finish what I had started back in the 60s. Graduation day was one of the happiest days of my entire life.

What does all this have to do with the price of tea in China, as my mother used to say when something said didn’t seem relevant to the topic under discussion? A lot. On Christmas Eve I was telling my niece about a cottage I came close to buying just before Don had his stroke and how much I loved the area it was in. It’s close to where her daughter just bought a house and considerably closer to where my entire family lives. “Aunt Jean, they still sell little houses in that area,” she said. “You could still find one.”

Could I really? I thought about what is holding me to the north end of town---a house that is perfect for aging in place, a senior hall that is bustling with activities. Could I find a place and remodel it to overcome the first and find a source of activities to replace the latter? I hopped on Zillow, the real estate website, and all week long I’ve been looking at property within my budget. I found a cottage on a lake about a mile from where my nephew lives and with a little remodeling it could work for me. Zillow posts a lot of pictures so I was able to draw up the floor plan to that house and figure out what it would take to make it better suited to my needs. I did the same with several houses and googled how far away one in particular is from the doctor, the dentist, my nieces, the hospital and my favorite grocery store.

So Zillow is going to be my new best friend and maybe, just maybe the little cottage I wanted before Don’s stroke will come up for sale again. Tiny places on the lakes around here tend to do that often enough and if I keep going to Zillow long enough, I might come up with the almost-perfect house. I designed the house I live in, working closely with the architect and our builder and it will be so hard to leave it behind but the pull of being closer to my family is strong, too. At least I have a new dream to keep me busy in this new year…that is until I get bored again. ©

21 comments:

  1. What a fun thing to do. You'll spend hours and hours looking for that little cottage. Excellent. Being closer to family is a good thing too.

    Have a fabulous day and a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year. ☺

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    1. Thanks, Sandee. It is fun and I literally can spend hours looking at houses and drawing their floor plans with all my stuff placed within. I even have scale "furniture" to move around on house plans. I made them back when we built this house and it sure makes a difference.

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  2. Jean, I been reading your blog for a while without commenting. My husband died about prior to your dh. For a long time I thought I would stay in our last house (several moves in diff. states) but now I'm seriously considering a move. Not sure where or when. Want to really reduce our possessions/furniture before moving. Amazing how much we accumulated over the years, always been good at going thru things but now memories are making it difficult to move thru items quickly.

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  3. Jean, I been reading your blog for a while without commenting. My husband died about prior to your dh. For a long time I thought I would stay in our last house (several moves in diff. states) but now I'm seriously considering a move. Not sure where or when. Want to really reduce our possessions/furniture before moving. Amazing how much we accumulated over the years, always been good at going thru things but now memories are making it difficult to move thru items quickly.

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    1. It's such a hard and involved decision, isn't it. I want to do more downsizing too but it's hard, isn't it. I'm thinking of spending the summer downsizing and studying the real estate market and be ready to jump on something the spring of 2016. I want to talk to our builder, too, because I might be able to swing building again if my target area will allow 1,100 square feet houses. A lot of areas require bigger houses around here or you can't get a building permit.

      I'm so glad you "introduced" yourself here!

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  4. I'm always checking Zillow and realtor.com. Even before we started looking for real. It's my fantasy. You will be entertained all winter, and who knows? You may find something that you're willing to make the move for. Family is a strong draw, especially as we get older.

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    1. Zillow is a dream machine, isn't it. But I've already opened myself up to the idea of getting a new manufactured home that is built universal design. There are two parks in my target area and they both have indoor pools, workout rooms and I'm thinking a social life. I've called to find out if they are dog friendly but all I got was an answering machine.

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    2. I love my manufactured home!

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    3. I just found out tonight there is a company that builds them for Michigan's weather and I know from back when Don had his stroke that I can get one with the universal design features that I want---wide doorways, tall toilets, levers instead of door nobs, etc. I just hope the two parks I'm interested in are dog friendly. I'll call back Monday. If they are, those parks would be better than a condo because with a condo, I'd have to walk Levi instead of just putting on a chain at my back door. A new manufactured home would be cheaper and quicker than finding and remodeling a house too. And having an indoor pool and a club house is a big draw for me as well. I've been through the park, too, Don used to run his street sweeper there to clean the place. Do you have two or three bedrooms? I'm thinking two is enough if I have an attached garage which most do in these parks.

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  5. What an exciting project! Go for it! (says the woman who has just spent months beating her head against the wall in frustration over her house renovations -- but now that it's just about done, it's all worth it. :-) )
    I love the fact that your class gave you this important insight into what makes you tick. That was always the great joy of teaching for me -- those "lightbulb" moments when a student suddenly understood themselves or the world around them in a new way. -Jean

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    1. I always wondered if that professor knew how big of a deal it was to me to take that class. It was a no credit class required for women in my age bracket going back to college, so I suppose she saw many 'light bulb' moments.

      Seeing your project coming to an end does inspire me. I'm so happy for you.

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  6. Exciting! You remind me of my mom -- she was as talented and creative and restless as you -- loved learning and was sort of an amateur "inventor". I didn't inherit her skills, but I love 'em in others. You go girl!

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    1. You have talents in other areas of life, I'm sure, in your work where it's harder to measure success than it is with tangible things.

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  7. I do so love to draw floor plans and then to scale furniture to lay out to see if it would fit. Remember last year when I so wanted to buy that small house out where my family lives. Took pictures of the rooms--measurements. Came home and made the floor plan and then my furniture to scale. it kept me occupied and interested for quite a few weeks. GO FOR IT!!! A cottage on a lake? A place of my dreams!

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    1. I do remember. I'm always amazed at how much we have in common! A house plan can keep me busy dreaming for along time, too.

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  8. What an interesting take your professor had on your transitory interests. She spotted the pattern as a gift, not a curse. Perhaps you are a modern day renaissance woman, well adapted to change, nimble in thought and deed.

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    1. I don't know how "nimble" I am at adapting to change. I don't think I am the way you mean it. I was writing more about learning and getting good at crafts and hobbies, then losing interest. Most of my negative thoughts about myself came from my mother who couldn't understand why I kept doing that. She saw it as wasting my talents. It was an eye opener to have the professor tell me that it was the PROCESS that I liked, not the finished product. Totally changed my self image.

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  9. Such a fun new hobby!!! And creative. It's been fun rearranging my condo ... although I think I will draw my furniture to scale so I can further refine the rooms!!

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    1. You'll love it. It's much easier to push scale furniture around than the real thing.

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  10. Have greatly enjoyed your Web site. My late father, Peter Rebuffoni, came to the USA from Italy in 1920 and was a coal miner in Coello for the next eight years or so.

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    1. Thanks! My my grandfather was a coal minor in Franklin County in towns near Coello.

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