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 30, 2015

Life is Good Again - Adventures and Gardens



These past few weeks I’ve been driven and part of that is because I’m feeling truly good physically for the first time in probably a year and a half. This time last year I was getting ready for shoulder surgery. The painful windup to that and the recovery afterward was long and difficult, given all the restrictions that came with it---a winter of one-handed snow shoveling, not lifting anything heavier than a fork. Also going on was the bottoming out of my thyroid and the lethargic moods and weight gain that came with it. Once discovered, then came the gradual building up of the hormone to where my latest blood test two weeks ago said, “You’re there, let’s celebrate!” I’m back to walking every day (until the snow flies). I’m back to eating healthy again (until the farmers market closes). And I lost the weight I gained while my thyroid was wacked out and I’m in serious downsizing mode. 

With my mojo back and with any luck, I’ll be able to buy a condo in the spring and I’ve found not one, but three online that are in my target neighborhood and price range. They are zero-steps concept, just like my house, and even though those condos will be gone by the time I’m serious about moving it makes me happy that I won’t be looking for a needle in a haystack. The baby-boomers have “arrived” and they are doing what they’ve done since birth---driving the marketplace. Now, that means the building industry is starting to build for aging in place. When we built this house in 2001, zero-steps houses were as rare as unicorns. All I'm saying in these two paragraphs is it feels like an adventure on the horizon and I’ll be ready for it.

Speaking of adventure, can you imagine what it would be like to do a 1,000 mile journey to explore the islands in the Great Lakes? This week I went to a lecture featuring a woman who did just that---hiking, boating, kayaking and biking around just a fraction of the 35,000 islands in the Great Lakes. (If that number sounds high it’s because an island is defined as land that is at least a square foot and has at least one tree and is surrounded by and above water year around. Who knew!) The lecturer is in her fifties and did half the trip on her own, the other half she took part in scientific research projects. I learned a lot about my home state and saw a video presentation of beautiful, wild places I never knew existed here. I have no desire to set rugged goals for myself like Ms. Niewenhuis---this was her third 1,000 mile adventure---but I bought her book all the same. She’s inspiring. She sets goals that scare and challenges her, plans how to get from point A to point B and then has confidence enough in her own abilities to carry it through. What’s not to like about that? And once back home, she writes a book about her adventure while planning her next one. On the way home I challenged myself to stop at the nature trail to walk a couple of miles with a looming storm overhead even though I knew I’d be walking later that afternoon at the sculpture park.

I went to the sculpture park for a book club like no other that I’ve ever been to or heard about. The book discussed was Gail Tsukiyama’s The Samurai’s Garden and we met in the dry (Zen) garden for the first half hour, then in the wet (moss) garden for the second half hour. In both places the lead horticulturist shared his vast knowledge. The two types of gardens share elements of texture, movement and the all-important use of negative space. The Zen garden, he said, is a tool for concentration and is more for the gardener than those who come to visit. There are twelve classic patterns they use to rack the crushed granite and how the gardener gets out of our garden after completing his work is to hop from boulder to boulder. The head librarian at the sculpture park’s research library read passages from the book and asked questions. In the moss garden she read: “The garden is a world filled with secrets. Slowly, I see more each day. The black pines twist and turn to form graceful shapes, while the moss is a carpet of green that invites you to sit by the pond. Even the stone lanterns, which dimly light the way at night, allow you to see only so much. Matsu’s garden whispers at you, never shouts; it leads you down a path hoping for more, as if everything is seen, yet hidden. There’s a quiet beauty here I only hope I can capture on canvas.” 

Even though it was only 64 degrees, I thoroughly enjoyed this garden book club experience---much more than reading the book. But, of course, they went hand-in-hand. The people at the book club were interesting, too. Before it started I talked to a woman who volunteers for two weeks each spring to work at a large Japanese garden in Ohio, staying in a cottage on the grounds. Not something I would aspire to do but like the lady who traveled 1,000 miles I’m always impressed by the vast areas of interest people find to feed their souls in retirement. ©

26 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you're feeling so good. That's a really good thing. I hate being incapacitated in any way. Makes life such a challenge.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Ya, it is. I had a note on the calendar to call my surgeon if I needed a follow up injection for pain on my surgery anniversary and that reminded me of how far I've come this year.

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  2. It certainly takes a long time to really get back to normal after these joint surgeries. I am 3 years out from my last hip replacement and only now, can I walk farther and work and lift more. I even sat down on the floor yesterday and got up. Not something I have been able to do for years and years.

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    1. I would give anything to be able to sit on the floor and get back up. I used to do so many projects on the floor. I have a friend who had hip surgery about 3 years ago, too, and she is tracking just like you on recovery. They don't tell you that when you have it done, do they.

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    2. No--the surgeon says 6 weeks. The PT people say 9 months. The people who have had it done say 2-3 years. BTW I forgot to tell you that Saginaw has a beautiful Japanese garden, tea house--just lovely. Designed and some built by my old Japanese friend. I went to their opening ceremony and there I stood--5'11" with all the little Japanese people from Saginaw's sister city, staring at me and giggling behind their hands. HAH!

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    3. I can just see you at the garden with your short friends. LOL

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  3. Mr. Ralph had a great saying. Health is a "1". Everything else in life is a "0". Put them together in any combination and as long as you have that "1", you've got it. You HAVE come a long way, baby, in the health department! It's nice to look back and see all the progress you have made.

    I had never heard of zero step floor plans. After Googling it, I guess I'm still not quite clear. Just means you don't have long hallways connecting rooms, or stair ways or the like?

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    1. A true zero concept house has no steps, 36" doorways and 4' hallways, if any at all. It's one floor living with no ramps and a walk-in shower. That's the basics. But there are lots of little things/variations that can be added to make aging in place friendly like in my kitchen there is no kick plate so a wheelchair could pull up to the sink, the bathroom has a closet for stuff and no drawers or shelves under the sink. It also has the 5' circular area in the center of the bathroom that is required for wheelchair people to be able to use all the fixtures by themselves. If you want to see all the things an aging in place house could/should have, google Universal Design. So many people don't understand what the is that builders have nicknamed it zero steps concept.

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  4. This is divine! Now that the shoulder and thyroid problems are behind you, I hear you in the land of "Why Not?". Why not walk an extra couple miles? Why not move where I want when I want? Why not find new ways to feed my soul? So great to have the mojo back. Me? I'm heading back to Hawaii in a couple weeks. I've had a summer of "Why Not?"s. It's sort of become my mantra.

    Love your commentary on the Zen garden.

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    1. I've been wondering what you've been doing this summer. I even checked your blog today thinking maybe I hadn't gotten the notice of something need. You love your last retreat, so I'm sure you'll get more out of it this time.

      I really do feel good and "why not!?"

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  5. My gosh. I had no idea how much you've been through in the past year, plus. I'm so glad that you're feeling so good, and that the long process of recovery is behind you. It is the little things that make such a difference. Even being able to walk around the block can be a big thing for someone who's been immobilized by one problem or another.

    When my mother, at about age 85, fell and did in one hand, the orthopedist asked her what her goal for recovery was. She said, "I want to be able to knit again." And she did.

    That's fascinating about the wet and dry Zen gardens. I had no idea. What I do know is that the simplicity and beauty of Japanese homes has become an inspiration to me. I need to continue on with the decluttering. Now that we're moving toward winter, I may get it done. There's nothing like spending a gloomy day creating space!

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  6. Last spring the idea of even going for a walk seemed like too much work but the last three weeks I started walking and I'm up to 3 miles, which is a lot of me.

    I actually prefer the moss (wet) garden but I now have a better appreciation for what the dry garden is all about. I find the simplicity of Japanese homes inspiring, too, and although I'll never live THAT simple, I have been letting go of things I never would have guessed I could a year ago.

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  7. I think you are probably going to deny it but you do seem so organized and focused on "downsizing" toward your eventual move. I, too, will probably return to more organizing and sorting as the weather closes in to winter. It has been far too pleasant out of doors to want to spend time in the attic!
    It sounds very exciting that you are seeing postings for places that you would like to live. I wish you good luck with all your preparations and I am so glad that you are feeling more energetic and mobile,
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. No, I won't deny that by nature I'm an organizing kind of person. And long range planning is my forte, having worked in the bridal/floral industry for 20 years. It's just that I have so MUCH stuff to downsize.(We had two houses and a huge pole barn before moving here.) I'm excited that I found a niece of Don's who wants a big piece of furniture built in 1910, that belonged to Don's parents. I love it when things stay in the family. A niece of mine is taking a buffet.

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  8. I am very happy to know that you are feeling good! I have osteoarthritis so I know pain and have had several health issues in my 58 years so I fully comprehend. You have a lovely blog! :)

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    1. Thank you, Linda! I just checked out your blog and voted in your poll. I'm shocked more people don't get the flu vaccine than get it.

      We have something else in common. Panda bears. I watch panda cams every single day. The video you posted is SO cute. Panda moms are the best and who could not fall in love with the babies.

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  9. The garden book club program sounds wonderful, and the other book is also a genre I love. I'm glad to hear you are feeling good and have your mojo back. -Jean

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    1. I knew you'd relate to this blog post. They are going to do four book meets a year out in the garden with a garden related book. The next one will be in January, outside in the snow, after dark. I've spend a lot of time being outside on winter nights when I plowed snow, so I'm looking forward to that book.

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  10. I love the Japanese garden there, but it's too far away to visit on any regular basis.

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    1. It sure is pretty and peaceful there, isn't it. I am fortune that I can get there in 20 minutes. I'm looking forward to seeing it in a few weeks when the leaves are turning. It will be its first fall so I'm sure it will be busy.

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  11. Hey there Jean. I'm so happy that you're feeling so great. Health is so important and it's so nice to see that your health is back. It's really getting very cold around our area, isn't it. I used to go and sit and down by the Detroit River ( The Navy Yard, in Amherstburg ) but not now. It's to cold for me. Winter is coming just around the corner.
    Have a wonderful Friday my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Thanks. Winter sure is coming and I dread it. Sitting by the Navy Yard sounds very interesting! I would like that.

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  12. Oh gosh. This post made me so happy for you! Nothing like feeling like the stars are finally aligning. So glad your physical challenges are behind you and the move more a reality. You've set the intention for what you want...it will come. Also, what a cool book/garden outing! I would love to do something like that! And who knew there were so many islands in the Great Lakes?!?

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    1. I'm going to the doctor on Monday, let's see how he thinks I'm doing with my health.. LOL

      I was shocked at that number of islands in the Great Lakes. I'd like to know who counted them. and why.

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  13. I'm happy that you're feeling well. You sound great. It's startling to realize how long your shoulder issues continued. My husband is so active and sometimes he does things that I think are too risky. I keep telling him how much time an injury would keep him from doing all the things he enjoys... like golf and gardening, etc. Of course, he pays me no mind. :)

    Thank for the definition of an island. Who knew? One square foot and one tree!

    Your garden/book adventure sounds like fun as does the lecture about exploring the islands around the Great Lakes.

    So happy to hear that there are multiple selections for you in the "new condo" department. They are still "unicorns" around here. I look forward to reading about house-finding process.

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    1. One square foot, one tree and surrounded by AND above water year-around. The lecturer took part in two projects that were interesting on two island. One protecting the egg field of endured birds, fencing them off from predators and people. And hiking the island to find moose antlers and sculls to be studied in labs. They do both of these things every year with volunteers. When I move I will really miss going to the senior hall lecture series.

      Too bad you can't get H to be more careful. Injuries do take forever. My great-niece who had shoulder surgery the same day I did took just as long as I did to heal and had more issues along the way. Now, she has to have the other one done. They think she injured it in the same fall but it took longer to show up in her non-dominate arm. We both fell with our arms stretched out in front of us like a baseball player sliding into a base. It's a common sports injury.

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