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

Saturday, February 6, 2016

500 Blog Entries and Pushing Forward


For anyone who likes statistics, my last blog entry was the 500th one that I’ve written since becoming a widow four years ago. I don’t know how to feel about that. On one hand, it's hard to be proud of something that came about because of my husband's death but on the other hand, it feels like I’ve reached a cake-and-candles worthy benchmark. Either way, this blog and the caregiver blog I kept while Don was alive both helped to keep me sane when my world was flipped off its axis. Both helped me find my sense of humor again while forging my way through some difficult challenges. And both blogs gave me a sense of purpose, that I might be helping others by exposing my journey to other caregivers or widows who could identify with its ups and downs.

Caregivers and widows have a lot in common, but society seems to judge widows with a harsher eye. With caregivers, others can see the on-going stresses and the changes in life-style and they’re often looked upon as “angels” who buck it up and do what needs to be done. But with widows others look at a calendar and at varying points along its timeline they will send out silent messages that seem to say, “Get over it, already!” Caregivers and widows both tend to feel isolated and feelings of fear, regrets and longings are kept increasingly closer to the vest. For me, being a diary keeper since I was ten, it’s second nature to unpack those feelings in a blog like this. I write mostly for myself, but I'm grateful that people have found it worth reading here from time to time, giving this blog over 224,600 unique views since I started it. For statistics junkies, like me, that averages out to about 450 views per blog entry and viewers have come from eleven countries including 6,038 from Russia of all places. I try to write around 800 words per blog which equals about 400,000 words written in this blog. The most read blog entry---a letter to my deceased husband---has 7,041 views and hopefully Don got to see it, too, where ever he is in the Great Unknown. 

Now on to my daily grind. This week my Red Hat Society Chapter went to our adopted nursing home where we make residents, who were interested, into honorary members of our group---we do a total of four events there per year plus send bags of goodies over on three holidays. Wednesday we served cookies and punch to thirty women and five guys and helped them all hot glue bling onto red visors. A few ladies were disappointed that we didn’t have bingo on the agenda this time. What is it about bingo that seems to go hand-in-hand with aging? With this group, it could be the prizes we hand out. We roll out a cart full perfumes, body creams, socks, books, etc. and it takes the winners forever to pick out their prizes. It would be fun to sneak a pair of sexy, red lace panties in with the other prizes and see what happens, but the World of Proper Decorum can be glad my actions rarely follow behind my mischievous thoughts. 

Honestly, though, it’s a good thing my chapter sisters all wear red hats when we go to the nursing home because it’s getting increasingly harder to tell us from the residents. Four of the ten of us who showed up were using canes and two couldn’t stand long enough to do much besides give moral support to those of us serving and interacting with the residents. And guess what, I finally graduated up to working at the glue gun station. Well, sort of---I only got to glue a few bouquets onto visors near the end. But that’s okay. After working twenty years in the floral industry, I don’t enjoy creativity by committee. As others debated if this flower or that one should go here or there I resisted the temptation to flaunt my two floral design school diplomas to get them to do it my way. But I didn’t do it because being right isn't as important as keeping peace in the valley and letting diplomacy be the star of the show. Mostly, I helped residents pick out their bling and ran it back to the glue station for someone else to marry it to a visor.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m never enthusiastic about going to our adopted nursing home, but my better self always shows up when I walk through the doors. I do my best to make eye contact with the residents I come in contact with and to show genuine interest in what they’re trying to say. One old guy, for example, wanted to talk about the fiddle he used to play and I told him it’s my favorite instrument to listen to. When Don and I first started dating we went to a lot of bluegrass festivals and my honorary Red Hat guy had played at a few of the venues I named. Who would have ever guessed that finding some foam rubber musical notes to hot glue onto a visor could evoke good memories for two passing strangers? But along with the good memories a hint of sadness followed. We could see it in each others eyes. And that’s why after writing 500 blog entries I still may have something to share. My memories of the past, the accomplishments of my present and my dreams for the future still come filtered through a lens known as widowhood. ©

35 comments:

  1. "...a hint of sadness followed. We could see it in each others eyes. .." The words strike a chord.

    I'm surprised at your audience being restricted to only 10 countries - the predominantly English speaking, previously British Empire countries, I'm guessing - I'd would have expected it to be wider. But I've seen your blog cited as an uplifting one for widows, and am pretty sure that your audience is much greater than the comments would seem to reflect. While I don't like leaving a meaningless comment (same as I don't like to leave a blog that I found great, uncommented), this is an exception considering its a landmark one. Well done! and congrats again.

    Libby


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    1. Thank you! Surprisingly, it's not all English speaking countries, but they had translators you can put on computers so that's might be how some read here or they are Americans living aboard. Though I think there are a lot of bio-lingo people in Europe in order. Here's the list: United States, Canada, Russia, France, Ukraine, Germany, Turkey, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. Oops, that's eleven. I need to edit my post above.


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  2. CONGRATULATIONS!! You deserve a piece of cake ... ala mode!! It is interesting to look at those statistics. I can't wait until I have more international views!! And I do wonder where some of these people learn about our blogs. I know some of my viewers visit from YOUR blog. We've even become friendly ... Facebook and word games. Sometimes emails! This is a really fun hobby for me.

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    1. Thank you. I'm going to a shower today and will eat cake. So I'll be double celebrating.

      There is a place on your stats were you can see what search words people used to find your blog. Title lines are important but that's one of my weak points when writing. It is an interesting hobby, isn't it. I love the bloggers like you I've meant through reading and commenting. We truly get to know each other.

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  3. And how many blog entries on your other blog!???

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    1. I just looked so I can answer your question. I have four other blogs totally 299 entries. One is from my dog's point of view (115), one is a family history blog (18) and the other two are caregiver related. I had another blog, my very first after Don's stroke, that got purged from the host site because I quit adding new entries. I have no idea how many entries got lost. I had copies on a computer that went belly up and even those copies got lost. That's why now I've been having a hardcopy book of this blog printed each year at Blurb just for me...my diaries, I call them.

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    2. Jean, how is this different that just printing each entry on our printers? Does blurb reformat our posts? I would really hate to lose my posts, and I've yet to print a single one, maybe because I don't what to use up my color ink on the same background, again and again for each post.
      Is the process on Blurb complicated?

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    3. A lot different. Blurb prints up and binds blogs so they look just like the trade books you see in bookstores. If you want to see a sample of one I did of my dog's blog, go to http://cooperthedogs.blogspot.com/ and the first post you'll the first 15 pages of a book I made from that blog. You can enlarge it to see it better. You control the content, cover art and editing, they do the rest for a reasonable cost if you keep the inside black and white and leave off the photos and images.

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    4. I'm confused, You sent me to your blog, formatted like this one (two columns - the post and the column of stats, archive and feedjit visitors). Is this what was printed in your Blurb book, basically a blogview? BTW, I visited Blurb.com and it's awesome.

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    5. No, Blurb does what they call 'slurp' up your posts only. You have your choice to use the post images or not. I don't. You can auto slurp or selective slurp. I do the latter. You pick out your fonts style and size and build your book using their software that you'd downloaded on your computer. When you have your book looking the way you want, you upload to their site and they print it. Their turn over time is quite fast and you can order anything from 1 to whatever. What I do is proofread my posts on my blog before I slurp them up. From there I can build a book is a few days.

      Did you open up and enlarge the book in the first post you saw when you went to my dog blog? That shows you exactly how that blog looked in book form.

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  4. Congratulations! 500 strong, and we readers count on you to keep going! Not a piece of cake, what you reveal, I know.

    Re your view that all comes filtered through your widowhood lens - I so agree. Every emotionally influential moment of our lives alters our lens. Widowhood, being ever so emotionally influential, is just the latest. Earlier periods - infancy, childhood, school, marriage, motherhood, all deeply emotionally charged and proportionally influential. What is 100% influential for the infant, becomes a lesser percentage as we live, until we barely sweat the small(er) stuff. Widowhood wasn't small stuff for me. I wonder, though. Widowhood might create a different lens for someone with a horrid marriage. Dunno.

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    1. Thanks! I know what you mean about wondering widowhood creates a different lens for someone with a bad marriage. I would imagine all the same triggers that bring forth memories will still be there only instead of being comforted by them, they churn up something else and it no doubt takes a strong person to make peace with their past. Whereas those of us with good marriages sometimes bring forth the past to find peace. Just a theory.....

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    2. I have known those kinds of widows. They almost seemed relieved to be set free--start getting their hair done, dressing better, softer, happier look on their faces.

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  5. Congratulations! You are a prolific blogger and I love that I found you! I always wonder if those from other countries are actually reading my blog or just cruising by on the way to somewhere else. I'm not too well-versed in figuring out how to interpret my stats. How do I know if they've search for keywords? And what are the addresses of your other blogs??? I might need to subscribe to Levi's blog to see what he has to say about you!

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    1. Thanks! Sometime when you've got a few extra minutes just click on your 'stats' on your dashboard (right and column) and look around. There are lots of options there to refine. Also in the right hand column on your dashboard click on 'traffic sources' to see what keywords were used to land someone on your blog and also what websites or blogs people come from. The top keyword search for me is 'dreams' which brought in 947 views.

      You can find my dog's blog at: http://cooperthedogs.blogspot.com/ but I would suggest you go to the top right hand column to find the first post and read forward (rather than starting at the main page and reading back in time. You get introduced to my old dog first, then he dies and becomes an angel-dog to puppy Levi so I write from both of their points of view. I had a big following on that blog and when Cooper died I didn't want to quit writing so I just found a way to make it work. And they told a lot of things about me and Don I couldn't write about myself.

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    2. When my mother was in a nursing home the last year of her life, my sister (who is disabled and was using a walker at the time) used to chat up all the staff and make sure they knew who she was. She joked that, otherwise, she was afraid someone might try to stop her from going out when it was time to leave! -Jean

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    3. That's the fear I always have when we go there, that a nurse's aid will stop me at the door and tell I can't leave. LOL

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  6. Congrats. I sometimes don't comment, just because my world and my experiences are so different from yours in certain respects, but I do enjoy reading along.

    This made me laugh out loud, and scare the cat: "Honestly, though, it’s a good thing my chapter sisters all wear red hats when we go to the nursing home because it’s getting increasingly harder to tell us from the residents." Isn't that just the truth? Well, on we go. This may be the year I reach 500 posts, although I'm far less prolific than many. But I have fun -- and that's sort of the point, I think.

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    1. You are FAR more prolific than I am. One of your posts is like four or five of mine in length---like reading an entire chapter in a book. You're such a lyrical writer and your blogs are so informative compared to than mine and I'd kill to have as many comments as you manage to rack up. Are you listed in a blog directory some place?

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    2. No, I'm not. I do publicize new posts on Twitter, but I don't get more than 3-4 hits per post from that. And I'm not on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. I've just built it one reader at a time -- just like the one-customer-at-a-time approach I took to building my business. I've never advertised, but I still have as much work as I want. With the blog, I just decided to write about what interested me, and if someone else wanted to show up? Well, that thrilled me to death!

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    3. Thanks for sharing that! I would have never thought of using Twitter. Of all the posts I've done only 3-4 have been posted on Facebook and none on Instagram or Pinterest---who has the time for all that. So basically we're both building readership up the same way. I think because you write about topics that have a broader interest in the general population than widowhood, that might explain (in part) how you've gotten so many followers. You have a wonderful blog!

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  7. I think I get sad when I visit a nursing home because I see myself. I don't know of anyone that went willingly, but after about 6 weeks have settled in. Do any of the patients living there REALLY like it, or have they just realized they have no control, there is nothing they can do about it and perhaps their kids are right--"it is the best for you, Mom. They will take good care of you." Actually the whole ending up there is scary to me, but maybe by the time my turn comes, I will be ill or senile or something so I will think it is just fun? I HATE Bingo and you know how much I would just love to gather in the game room for all the festivities. NOT!!

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    1. I knew a lady once who liked the nursing home because she was so lonely at home. Not for me but at some point we won't be able to control our futures, I'm afraid. I have a sister-in-law who wants to go because she'd tired of cooking, cleaning and running a house. It all overwhelms her She needs help but not a nursing home but won't hire a cleaning woman for example. She won't fight going when her kids think it's time.

      I share your feeling about the whole scary ending up.

      My husband's mother was in a nursing home for a number of years and we went twice a week to keep he life on track and had to move her once because the care was so bad.

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  8. Way to go Jean, I'm hoping one day to find Antarctica, 120 countries so far.

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    1. Your stats must be amazing on your blog. Your write about topics that so many people search for I'm not surprised you've got 120 countries. Still, that's mind boggling, isn't it!

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  9. Sheesh! I've never added "labels". The Google SEO look for blogs that have the most posts and list them first. But I better figure out labels and tags .....

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    1. I'm sure search engines still find posts even if you don't use labels and tags. I just started using them a year ago. What counts more, is keywords repeated in the title and first paragraph and of course, how often you post.

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  10. Wow Jean 500 blogs congratulations. I love all your blogs even your widowhood blog which I can not relate. but I find your sense of humor & your inner strength inspiring & uplifting.

    Asha

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    1. Thanks Asha. Coming from someone who read my very first blog entry in my very first blog right after Don's stroke that means a lot.

      Thanks, also, for the comment you didn't want me to publish. I'm very flattered by the thought.

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  11. I hope I am not skewing your statistics in an unscientific way: although I am normally in Northern New York, I am in England for five weeks and we have today arrived in The Netherlands for a week. I see that I am being tracked on your feed!
    This is such a sweet post. And I totally understand you about the nursing home and how you may not feel like doing it but once you get there, you get into it. We play music for the residents of our local nursing home once a month, and for some of our band, it is hard for them to walk through the door (especially the woman in our band who is over 80) but once we get there, we all push ourselves to entertain. And carrying a musical instrument helps to get you out the exit door!!
    Regards,
    Leze


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    1. The statistics are all that important other than something fun to write about.

      I love your nursing home story. And I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't look forward to going but once there, gets into the right spirit of doing something to entertain the residents.

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  12. Congratulations on your 500th post. That's a wonderful milestone indeed. I get why you're torn about it though.

    I've only see the red hat ladies once here. They were a sight. Had no clue what they were doing and had to have someone explain it to me. Then I've not seen them again and that was probably 25 years ago. I'm guessing you have fun while doing good things.

    We visit a long term care for hubbies mom who'll be 96 on March 8th so we see many of these same folks. Some are lonely and some are downright angry, and some are living far, far in the past. It's quite the experience.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. The Red Hat Society is world wide and has a millions of members but if our chapter is any indication, I think it's will die out with my generation. I don't see a lot of new people wanting to come in and I think it appeals to women who were used to putting their families first their entire life, which isn't necessarily true of younger women who have/had careers and interests outside of their children and husbands. It is fun.

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  13. First, congratulations on 500 posts. That's quite an accomplishment.

    I wish I'd found your caregiver blog back when I was a caregiver. Blogging saved my life during those days. H would see me typing away when he went to bed or when he woke in the morning - even sometimes in the middle of the night. Your words about feelings of isolation and longing ring true. Life is easier now. Can't say that to everyone. Some would not understand.

    Your Red Hat Society does a good thing. It's hard, though, isn't it? It's always hard to visit those places. It forces us to contemplate our own futures. The last years of life are seldom easy.

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    1. I do understand and our saying that things are easier now takes nothing away from the loving relationships we had when we were caregivers. It's truly a stress filled time of life.

      Facing the future gets harder the older I get. I'm glad my R.H. sisters "force me" to do things that I don't want to do. It's a good feeling to leave the place, knowing we helped brighten up a few hours for the residents.

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