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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Widow’s First World Problems



It was raining on Friday when my house cleaner came for my monthly appointment. I’m to the point where I’m thinking it’s more trouble than it’s worth to have someone clean. The service charges me $27 an hour but the girls who actually do the cleaning only get paid $10 so there isn’t much incentive for them to work, should they want to take a long weekend off and lately I’m getting a different girl every month. Having a cleaning service was one luxury widowhood brought into my life that I really enjoyed at first. The girl who was assigned to me was a college kid studying to be a social worker and we had the best conversations while she worked but she’s moved on and all I’ve gotten since is a string of strangers. Can you believe I’m sitting there getting all bitchy, old person cranky about a first world problem? The strangers have done a passable job cleaning and I have no right to expect them to be able to carry on a decent conversation, too. But I do. Are humans ever truly happen with what we have? When we have luxuries not everyone can afford, most of us still want more. And that admission reminds me that all roads lead back to gratitude. When we don’t have gratitude, we become sourpusses. When we do have it we’re on the Zen Lane of life, seeking and often finding the fragile balance that keeps us happy.

I was so far from being Zen-like this past week when I was at my new monthly Write and Share MeetUp that I’m amazed I could even spell the word. At least I think I could. I didn’t try it at the time. Reading out loud freaked me out---again---and half way through the reading I realized I needed to slow down. I was making too many mistakes and I had to let go of the fear if I wanted to live to tell about it. I had picked a blog entry from my old caregiver days to share, one of my favorite humorous pieces that I’m thinking about putting in a book about living with language disorders. I started writing that book last year but quickly decided my widowhood was too fresh to be re-reading what I wrote about my life before Don died. Now, I think I can look back at that chapter of my life using an editor’s eye to hone my blog material into a story without me getting pulled into another round of grief.

When I finished reading to the group a conversation broke out about how people deal with stress. I knew my friends in the stroke community where I was blogging at the time I wrote the piece got my use of humor to convey stressed-out emotions but I wanted to find out if my writing style was strong enough to convey that to people who aren’t familiar with language disorders. The people in my writers group were my guinea pigs and they passed the test, they got me. If you want to see if you’d pass, click on this link to read: You’re in the Dog House Now!

Switching Topics: My new young neighbor guy is like a friendly puppy---energy in motion, feet too big for his skinny body and a perpetual grin on his face like he's been drinking goofy juice. But we might be having “an issue.” Last week a crew of young guys were like honey bees on a hive, swarming all over the hated two story deck in his back yard but in the process of taking it down and moving trucks and trailers back there one of them hit a 3’x3’ electrical junction box on the property line that services the whole the cul-de-sac. The tire tracks to the “crime” were as plain to see as Washington’s nose on Mount Rushmore. They also took out one of my irrigation thingamajigs. The next day I called the power company to report the junction box being off its cement foundation and within a half hour they came out with a boom truck to reset it. “That’s a dangerous situation,” one of the workers told me. He also said their “detective team” will study the photos he took and probably call my neighbor “to get his side of it. He may claim your lawn care service hit it.”

Oh, crap, that’s no way to start out a relationship with a brand new neighbor. (I had already decided to eat the cost of the service call from my irrigation company in the spirit of getting along.) It seems the electric company detectives, though, do their best to find someone to pin the bill on and I’m not going to be happy if it’s me since I’m the one who called it in. Another first world problem. Breathe, Jean, breathe. I have electricity every day. Regularly without interruption. I have enough money in the checking account to pay for a boom truck bill, should I begrudging have to pay it. And I have a new, young neighbor who has already borrowed a wrench which means he’s obligated to open my next new pickle jar. And those are all good things to write down in a gratitude journal. ©

22 comments:

  1. I am not in my usual place in Northern New York (I am in England) and I am not being successful posting to you. I have written but they disappear.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Oh, that is frustrating for both of us! Three posts like the one above showed up on my end.

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  2. Keep strong Jean. Everyday will be better. My mom taught me to smile and deal with strength. You'll be OK.
    Have a beautiful positive & wonderful Sunday. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Thanks Paul. Sounds like you had a great mom.

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  3. Jean :

    I so agree with you about being grateful for what we have, which we so easily take it for granted. I know for sure when you loose your sigh from that gratitude ball extra ordinary things become ordinary. So thanks for that reminder.

    Asha

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    1. We all need to keep reminding each other, don't we. All things are better with gratitude. I used to keep a gratitude journey and would again if I really thought I'd strayed too far off. Nice hearing from you again.

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  4. Jean, I too agree that gratitude is everything...My mother told me that years ago, and shrugged it off, but it so true. And as far as opening "pickle jars" if your neighbor is not available try a hammer. I opened a fig jar with one the other day. I just hit the top of the jar at a slant, and whamo, I was in business. I'm not sure if "whamo" is a word, but you get my meaning.

    Have a great day!

    And by the way I plan on reading "You're The Dog House Now"

    :)))

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    1. A hammer and one 'whamo'---sounds like it would work but I'm doing it in the sink just in case I'm stronger than I think. LOL

      Hope you like my dog house story.

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  5. I often find myself complaining about "first world problems" and like you, I find when I calm down and notice, I'm really grateful. AND there is the reality that we live in a first world and these problems, while petty and to some, are real to us. I call it "hassle factor" when things start to go wrong with "stuff" -- it's not life-threatening, but it is a pain in the butt and we DO have to deal with it. (Don't take the rap on the boom truck bill!)

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    1. I like that...the hassle factor. Sound better than calling stuff like this a problem.

      I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to fall. Still haven't heard from the electric company "detectives". I will fight it, though.

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  6. An attitude of gratitude keeps life liveable and lets us glide through the junk life throws at us.

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  7. Read you aphasia blog post. I now view you with a greater respect than I ever have! How in the world did you ever live through all that? I would have exploded with a "SHUT UP!" half way through the morning--I know I would have! Great humorous post about a very wearing day.

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    1. I had a ton of wearing days like that in the 12 years after my husband's stroke. I started my first gratitude journal in the first year as a coping technique. In the second year I learned to find the humor in living with someone with language disorders and I never looked back. I have a ton of stories like the "dog house" and I really think they could help people understand what it's like to live with language disorders. So many people think if you can't talk your intelligence is effected and that simply isn't true.

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  8. I love reading your posts. I am still in the caregiver phase to my husband. His stroke was 8 years ago and we still struggle with his aphasia. He will just say words out loud at random times and I have no clue what he means. It does drive me crazy when we are driving and he points out every bus, truck or car that he sees. I am never sure if there is more to what he is trying to say or if he just wants me to know that there are other cars on the road with him. I do try and be patient but sometimes he does get on my last nerve. I know I should focus on all the positives but I can only take so much. It helps to know that I am not alone going through this. I am still going back and reading some of your older posts and they are helpful. Thank you for capturing your true feelings and sharing with us.

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    1. Driving with someone who has aphasia is SO stressful, isn't it. Those random words in a car could mean anything from "Tom had a car like that" to "that car is going to hit us!" Don used to pull on the steering wheel with no regard for what was beside or behind us. It took several years for that to change and me blowing my cool more than a few times about it. I'm still amazed I got through those years without having an accident.

      I'm glad to hear that some of my old posts at my old Planet Aphasia blog helps you not to feel so alone in what you're going through. It's such a hard issue and misunderstood condition. I had one friend who thought Don was faking and others who thought he was making progress because he could parrot words they said, not understanding that is so different than saying speech he planned in his own head.

      Thank you so much for commenting! It gives me hope that I could do a book about living with someone with language disorders that could be of value to other caregivers.

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  9. Ouch! First world problems or not, they're real. Can't be cheap to fix the irrigation sprinkler head. Maybe your new neighbor is also upset about possibly ticking off HIS new neighbor and hiding it real well. Now, children, no fighting. Be nice. I hope a fence doesn't have to go up between you two!

    About that Japanese garden you visited last week....I always wondered if they could enable a little Zen rub off on us. Did the Zen last as far as the parking lot?

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    1. Springer head service calls are usually around $60. I think my neighbor is too young to realizes these things cost money to fix. This was a one time thing with cars driving over the lawns to get to the back yard, I'm sure, so no fence necessary unless he gets a dog that comes over to bother Levi.

      The Zen garden within the Japanese Garden was magical. I would like to be there when they rake in the morning, but there were other areas I liked more. The entire experience lasted for several days.

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    2. We do have so much to be thankful for don't we. I like you have a very comfortable life. I was so broke in my younger years and scraped by. Now I'm comfortable.

      I hope you don't get stuck with the bill.

      Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    3. "Comfortable" is a good place to be at but, like you, we worked hard to get ahead so I'm grateful for those opportunities. Have a good day, too.

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  10. Oh, Jean, I jumped over there and read "You're in the Dog House Now". It was very funny, especially the ending, when Don said, "Change lanes." Ha! That piece pretty much encapsulates the frustration part of caregiving. I'm sure your class enjoyed it, and probably learned something from it.

    Gratitude is where it's at. I've really learned that lesson in the past few years. Of course, I "knew" it before, but I practice it more now than I ever have. We always want more. We always want what we don't have, but that feeling subsides when you feel grateful for what you have. It's so true.

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    1. That means a lot coming from another former caregiver. As stressful as that job is humor can to be found. Don made me laugh a lot and he never gave up.

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