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

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Quilt Full of Memories, Restaurant Hops and Moving On



The weather on Thursday was cooperative for a day trip to a tourist town on Lake Michigan. It was sunny, warm and the clean smell of the Great Lake was in the air. Grand Haven is known for its summer Coast Guard Festival but I was there for a restaurant hop organized by my local senior hall. (There were four busloads of us who went, spread out over several days.) If you ever get a chance to go on one, try it. We started out with soup or salad at a place with a great ambiance, then we shopped our way down to a gorgeous turn-of-the-century bank-turned-restaurant where the main course was served followed by an hour where we could do more shopping or check out the nearby marina and lighthouse. I did the latter. After that, we met for dessert and drinks at a third place. The best part of a restaurant hop is we pre-order and pre-pay for our choices so we have don’t waste time looking at menus, waiting for our food to be prepared or standing in line to pay. I had a shaved fennel and apple salad, a Stony Creek salmon dinner and tiramisu for dessert. All gourmet. All yummy! 

This week I also went to see a woman who does long-arm quilting for those of us who have made the tops of quilts, basted the batting and back panel in place and then left the project hanging in a closet for too long. That’s what I did with the queen-size quilt pictured below. I call it my “sanity quilt” because cutting and hand-sewing all those quilt pieces together literally saved my sanity in the first year following my husband’s stroke. We were stuck in a one bedroom, wheelchair accessible apartment while our two houses were up for sell and I was taking him back and forth to therapies four days a week. The lady will have the long-arm machine work done by the middle of July, she promised. I can’t wait. I’m thinking of redecorating my bedroom to match the quilt. She said when it’s finished I “must” take it to a quilt shop to show her friend who owns the place. She supposedly will “appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship.” 

I’ve only made two handmade quilts in my life and taking my “sanity quilt” in to be finished off rekindled the bug to try another one. Like I need another project, says the woman who still has some unfinished designer-type teddy bears sitting in a box from my pre-caregiver days. Heck, let’s be honest here. The entire contents of my old sewing room from my old house has never been unpacked. Still, when the big summer fabric sale starts I’m going to check it out. I really do wish I could get my creative flare for working with fabrics back. It got lost when I finished that "sanity" quilt top and I got busy settling us into our new “normal” life that lasted for twelve years. Defining moment. When Don acquired a major disability it sure changed the trajectory of our lives. It changed him. It changed me. I’ve written about defining moments in this blog before. Once I wrote: “Sometimes we need the distance of time to recognize our defining moments.” And another time I wrote, “It's not always what we do in life that gives us our defining moments, sometimes it's what we don't do---the roads not traveled.” I'm thinking that getting the quilt finished will put a period on that caregiver part of my life?

With the exception of these past three years as a widow, I have not traveled life alone in a very long time. Now, there is nothing holding me back from doing whatever I want. “If only it was that easy,” a choir of widows is singing in my ear. I read in a grief recovery book that for every year a couple was together it takes one month to recover after one of them dies. For me that translates to three and a half years. Drum roll please. I’m three years and nearly four and a half months into that professionally predicted grieving and healing period. Can you believe it, I still have forty-eight days to go before anyone has the right to say, “It’s been long enough. Move on woman!” Of course, no one is going to say that to me. They see me going here and there. They think I have moved on, and on the surface they have good reason to believe that to be true. 

Forty-eight days, or not, who knows if ticking off that time will actually matter. All I know for sure is when the dusty light of dawn creeps into the my bedroom and I'm just waking up I feel empty inside---even on days when I’m going on a day trip. That feeling doesn't recede until I'm in the kitchen drinking coffee and the dog is barking at something moving in the yard. Still, that’s progress. I remember when those empty and alone feelings used to last all day long and into the night. ©

You can right click on the photos to enlarge them, if you want to see the details on my quilt.




Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Health and Happiness Report



Back in April when I went to the doctor for my annual wellness test, the blood work showed that my thyroid was low. I could have told him that without the lab work---my hair is falling out at an alarming rate and I’m always cold no matter how many layers of clothing I wear. And let’s not even talk about how hard it’s been to keep my weight in check. The doctor wanted another test in six weeks before upping the dosage of my thyroid replacement medication. Sure enough, that second test proved it's still falling and a new prescription came in the mail this past week. I have to get retested again in six weeks to see if the dosage still needs adjusting. Every summer there seems to be something to remind me that I’m married to the medical community. Bummer!

I’ve had thyroid issues since I was fourteen or fifteen so this isn’t new. What is new in this century, though, is me acquiring an autoimmune specialist and her suspicion that thyroid antibodies are causing the chronic hives that I get every four or five years---the first time before I could even walk---and that stick around for months at a time before they go away as mysteriously as they appear. Translation: I may be allergic to myself and there is nothing that can be done about that. So when I go to that nursing home someday and I’m covered in hives and my roommate is blasting a baseball game on TV I can look forward to oatmeal baths to get away from her. And did I mention I’ll have a broken hip as well? Thyroid replacement medications leach the calcium out of your bones thus my three broken bones since menopause and my three fake joints and still counting. Why does aging have to be a blood sport? I take daily injections to strengthen the insides of my bones but that will be coming to an end later in the summer because you can only take that drug for two years. Most treatments for osteoporosis only strengthen the outsides of your bones, or so I am told by my bone doctor. I’m hoping the next treatment I get will be the one where they hook you up to an IV twice a year. Oh well, if thinning bones, chronic hives and hypothyroidism are the worst health issues I have to deal with I’m actually pretty lucky compared to some people my age. 

I didn’t plan on doing it but half of Memorial Day I spent watching a marathon of The Last Ship, a doomsday series about a naval destroyer and its crew that is forced to roam around the world looking for ways to stop a pandemic that is killing off most of the earth's population. Hey, it was that or noon-to-dark Saving Private Ryan type movies that I’ve seen a million times. Throughout the afternoon of binge watching I was also jumping up and down to do the laundry, get my trash ready for pick up, finish up the last baby sweater I’ll knit in 2015 and water my houseplants---the normal stuff I do on Sunday or Monday. Rather than depress me like it did two Memorial Days ago, the doomsday marathon actually cheered me up. The world’s very survival doesn’t depend on me finding a cure for a deadly virus. It's all good after that. The only thing I really have to worry about is an insect bite I probably got at the cemetery when I cleaned up my husband’s gravestone over the weekend. That sucker was/still is red and swollen and, of course, the doomsday marathon has me believing the bite was actually the deadly virus transmitted to me from my flat screen TV. Oh course I’m kidding about the TV giving me the virus but what’s the point of watching stuff like that if you’re not going to get caught up in the yucky-dos and what if’s of the series? However, I am a wee bit of a germophobic so the TV show worked as good at scaring me as Poltergeist did on a whole generation back in the 1980s. (By the way, pay attention the next time you wash your hands and see if you're actually washing your thumbs. Many people do a good job on their fingers but miss their thumbs.)

Am I happy the Memorial Day weekend is over? You bet. I have my sense of humor back and I found a sock that had been missing since last winter, plastered inside the leg of a pair of pants and here I thought the washing machine ate it. But I have to say that after watching the marathon I’m totally sick of seeing Viagra commercials which begs the question: Why does the pharmaceutical company who makes it think the men who watch The Last Ship all need their product? ©

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Fourth Memorial Day Alone



To most people Memorial Day weekend is a time to honor fallen soldiers and still others think of it as the kick off of summer to be celebrated with a mini trip. For many years the holiday, for me, always included helping my husband decorate the graves of his ancestors on one day, seeing family on another day and the third day of the holiday we spent antiquing along Lake Michigan. Since Don died, I’ve been struggling to establish my new normal for the long weekend. My first Memorial Day as a widow was all about Don’s newly installed headstone and the unkempt condition of the grave site. My second Memorial Day was a woo-is-me time of loneliness and misery and I didn’t help myself much by watching back-to-back doomsday movies on TV. My third Memorial Day included a proactive plan to stay busy and stay off Facebook so I didn’t have to hear about other people’s plans. And it helped. This year---year four alone---the holiday weekend snuck up on me. I didn’t have a plan, didn’t have a single thing on my day planner. The cul-de-sac got creepy quiet on Friday when half my neighbors packed up their toys and tents and took off. That was my first clue that a long, lonely holiday was coming. Ohmygod! How would I get through these days without me metaphorically bellowing out “woo is me!” a few times?

Friday I got busy picking up the house even though no one would stop by and pronounce my life in a shambles because my kitchen counter top was loaded up with an assortment of stuff that didn’t belong where I dumped it coming in from the garage. That left Saturday, Sunday and Monday to sit twiddling my thumbs if I didn’t find a way to kick myself in the butt. So Saturday I decided to go to some of the houses on the annual Parade of Homes. Seventy-one houses on the tour and only three were condos. Of those three two were actually advertised as zero steps condos. Better than last year. There was only one. One of the condos I toured was in the perfect location and the other was in the perfect price range. It gave me hope that it will be possible, one day, to find a condo that is a perfect combination of both price and location.

One of the builders has a dozen zero concept condos in various stages of development. But he needs a crash course on what zero steps concept is all about. In his model house the master shower was big enough to fit four wheelchairs but the entry to the shower was only eighteen inches wide which is way too small to be ADA standard which is thirty-six inches. When I pointed that out to the agent, she said a lot of people had mentioned that. Duh! People looking for zero step concept want to age in place. There was no design reason for not doing the shower opening correctly. It even would have cost him less in ceramic tile work and labor.

Saturday I went to the cemetery and had a talk with Don. I told him that I think of him often and that I’m doing okay even though he took a piece of me with him when he left. I cleaned up his headstone which amounted to digging out the sod on all fours sides that have grown over the marble, then I cleaned the stone with water and soap and finally I glued another snoopy trinket in place. By fall it will be gone if past history predicts the future. I don’t bring flowers to plant because the sextons there want you to put them in footed urns that they put on top of the stone for the summer and I refuse to see Don’s name and dates covered up like that. It’s all he has left, for crying out loud!

It was quiet and pretty in the cemetery with all the bright flowers and the flags flapping in a gentle breeze. Although the x-florist in me wanted to rearrange all those terrible silk arrangement that people don't know enough to tweak before plopping them in an urn. Hint: Flower don't grow as straight as an eighteen gauge wire; give those plastic coated wires a bend! As I drove out of the iron gates of the quaint, small town cemetery and past its fieldstone walls, I fell in back of a car that had giant lettering from taillight to taillight that read, “Are you in God’s Hands?” I’m surprised I didn’t have a tailgating collision with the car as I tried to figure out if it was a giant decal or a custom, lettering job. If I’m in God’s hands I wish He would have slapped me silly when I got back home and spent the afternoon power eating my way to just one King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll short of an epic binge. 

Two days of the holiday are down and two more to go. Woo-is-me it’s supposed to rain both days so I won't get my flat of moss roses planted. So now all I have left to do is decide if I'm going to marathon watch the SyFi channel in a heroic effort to avoid setting up my summer eBay station in the garage or try to find the concentration to read one of the gazillion books in my library. Not a good plan but sometimes a widow just has to hang tight and lick her wounds. ©