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, June 25, 2016

Serendipitous Learning Experiences



It’s been a busy week. Wednesday the son-I-wish-I-had spent the morning vacuuming my 1,500 square feet basement and mopping the cement floor and I did some sorting down there, earmarking five boxes for him to take upstairs to the garage. A trip to Goodwill is in my future. I was shocked that Tim only found two spiders as he worked. I hate basements! Even though this one has a daylight window and high ceilings, they are all too dark and claustrophobic for my taste. I would not have made a good cave dweller in a past life…or maybe I was one and that’s why I don’t like basements. Ya, I flirt with believing in reincarnation. It's something interesting to think about and wish for because if we’ve lived in the past then that means we’ll live again in the future, once our current life is over. I hate the thought of dying. I will not go quietly in the night.

The next day I went to a free monthly event put on by a travel club. Usually they’re classic travelogue stuff with a slide show/lecture presented by someone involved in the world-wide travel industry. This time I didn’t read the fine print in the brochure and when I walked in I discovered it wasn’t a presentation about Belgium; it was a beer tasting of Belgian beers. I don’t drink beer! But I was in Rome so I did as the Romans did and I drank six, two ounce samples of Belgian beer. On an empty stomach. Over the hour and a half I learned all about Saison, Golden Ale, Dubbels, Triples, Quadruples and Lambic with lots of wonderful word pictures painted about the quaint places in Belgian where these beers are made and consumed. I couldn’t help laughing at myself for being there in the first place so I was in a good mood right from the get-go and in an even better mood when I left. I found out that the decision I made in my early twenties about not liking the taste of beer still holds true. Except…

Except for the Lambic which was a sweet, fermented beer with raspberries that looked and tasted more like wine. God, I’d walk a mile for a full eight ounce glass of that stuff! Unfortunately, you can’t buy it here in The States. The speaker said the closest to it is a beer named Calabaza Blanca by Jolly Pumpkin and their website says it’s “spiced with orange peel and coriander, refreshingly tart, with a wonderfully dry finish.” Wine and beer aficionado language goes right over my head. All I know is I’d be tempted to suck a Lambic stain out of a table cloth. The internet is a wonderful place when it’s not being a source of disappointment. A Google search pointed out the fact that I’d have to take road trip to another part of the state to buy the American version of Lambic. 

One of the ladies sitting by me at the beer tasting commented on how times have changed. Growing up in our city, it was known as the City of Churches and now we’re known as Beer City USA. The micro brewery’s, the beer tours and the restaurants that offer beer pairing meals has exploded. While I’m not particularly interested in beer or church tours they’re both so popular here it wouldn’t be surprising if the old Polish church in town started pairing home brew tastings with stained glass windows tours. The guy narrating the Belgium beer tasting said over there six beers are made and sold exclusively at monasteries. The Chimay Red Dubbeis we tasted was one of them. 

Sometimes not reading the fine print on a brochure and ending up at an event that initially you have no interest in attending can turn out to be a fun, serendipitous learning experience and I think I’ve figured out why I love it when something like that happens. When I was growing up, every day after school my mom would ask, “What did you learn today?” In my younger years I’d crawl into her lap to answer but the habit of sharing what I learned was a habit that stayed with me until she died. I could never contain my joy of sharing something interesting with her or my husband and now that they're both gone, I do it in my blog. 

As we age I’m guessing most of us spend some time reviewing our lives and trying to figure out how we developed our quirks and personality traits. My mom had to drop out of school at an early age but she was very pro-education, especially for women who she saw as needing to be able to make a living and have her own money so we couldn’t become victimized by hard times or irresponsible spouses. She was proud of me for being the first in the family to go to college and was deeply disappointed when I dropped out after my third year. I felt like a failure for years for not finishing and her death in a large part was instrumental in my decision to go back. Graduation day---twenty-five years after I started college---was one of the happiest days of my life. Isn't it a telling thing how much the absence of someone in your life can still have the power to influence you long after they're gone? For better or worse the imprint of a lost parent, spouse, child or friend stays deep within for our entire lives and maybe beyond. ©

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” 
Eartha Kitt


I wanted to share some photos of how the nature strip in my back yard looked this morning. The first is a wider view of the other two close ups photos. My nature strip is 185' long by about 20' wide on my side of the lot line, with my neighbor to the back having an additional 10' on his side of his pines. It's well used by critters and birds year-around but especially when a 20' x 20' patch of wild raspberries (to the right of the pink flowers) are ripe.



29 comments:

  1. That nature strip is gorgeous!!! Do you tend it or just let is grow wild? I'd be letting it grow wild and through some wild flower seeds in there every year. :-) I know nothing about beer tasting. Well, that's not quite right. I did taste a beer one time--EYUCK! I had the same reaction to Wine. I did drink a Fuzzy Navel drink one time, now that was some yummy stuff! It was so good, I drank it right down. It made me dizzy. That is the extent of my alcoholic drink experience. 1 taste of beer, 1 taste of wine, one glass of peach schnapps and orange juice. HAH! BTW--a day without learning something, is in my opinion, a day lost. :-)

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    1. The nature strip was just a dirt area when we bought the lot and had the lawn put in, up to it. The first few years I'd throw wild flower seeds out there but it now takes care of itself. When ever I buy cut flowers I throw the dead heads out there, it's fun to see what might be strong enough to grow out there. I've got one area along the front where I planted Iris but they aren't out yet. The only maintenance do is in the spring I have my lawn care guy cut down sumac that might drift over from the neighbor. I had that stuff! My nature strip is the prettiest along my block in my opinion. The others serve the purpose for the animals but mine has color and helps the butterflies and bees.

      Fuzzy Navels were my go-go bar drink for years. I forgot how much I liked them until now. I usually would only have one then switch to coke.

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  2. That nature strip is wonderful. I don't envy anyone their houses (much) but I do envy the garden space. I've decided to dump some of the plants that have been around here for years that I don't especially enjoy and mostly don't even see, and spiff up my balcony. First, a good cleaning. Then, gritting my teeth and giving away some of the spineless prickly pear that have multipled beyond reason. Then, I'll begin figuring out what blooming plants might thrive out there, in relatively harsh conditions: that is, hot, hot, extended afternoon sun and heat.

    I love that Eartha Kitt quotation. Like you, I love learning things, which is why I love blogging as I do. Writing a new blog is a wonderful excuse to hunker down and do some research, or hit the road and find something new.

    I'm not much of a beer drinker, but in summer it's a brew from your part of the world I love: Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy -- a combination of lemon and beer. It's light, and actually thirst quenching. It was "invented" for bicyclists!
    (And yes, the Leinen that's my last name is a shortening of Leinenkugel, undertaken by immigrants who wanted to shed a little of their former identity.)

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    1. You hit the nail on the head about blogging giving us an excuse to do some search and to get out of the house so we'll have something to write about. It's a driving force for me.

      Container gardening on patios and balconies looks intriguing to me. If you redo your balcony I hope you'll share before and after photos on your blog.

      Love your 'beer story' and with your last name it's a perfect choice for you. For years we used to buy a now defunct brand of dog food for the same reason. I just googled Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy. It's brewed one state over from me but it's quite available around here.

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  3. Love nature strips in bloom, hard to beat. I have yet to find alcohol of any kind that I enjoy the taste. Believe me I've tried. I have essential tremors and a small glass of wine or alcohol of some kind stops the tremors for hours. So far I'd rather have the tremors than the alcohol.

    Bob reflects on the past a lot but I seldom spend time thinking such thoughts. I suppose it's just a difference in personalities. I'm always looking for something new to learn.

    That basement sounds like it's no fun. I've never lived in a house with a basement and I don't recall ever seeing one. Texas wasn't big on basements.

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    1. I'd rather have ice cream than alcohol. LOL

      We tried to build a house without a basement but in this area it's not allowed. Many/most people turned them into finished living space with daylight windows and a door to the outside. Mine can be by a future owner, thus the high ceilings. People love them for kids and recreational space. I've never met a person who hasn't seen a basement. Interesting the regional differences in building codes.





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  4. Love your nature strip! Beautiful and natural. As for the beer -- UGH! I don't think I could drink even one 2 oz pour. I've acquired a taste for almost anything except beer and blue cheese. Just can't do it. My husband is a big microbrew fan. He'd love to visit your town and dive in. I think learning keeps us going. I love being informed and inspired and amazed by what I don't know. :)

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    1. Your husband would love the beer and food festival they have within 5-6 miles from where I live. One hundred micro breweries take part and each serves several kinds of beer. People come in from all over the world. From the news coverage, they look like they have a great time but I don't know how they keep people from getting drunk. You have to buy tickets, so maybe that's how they do it. Or maybe it's because they hold it outside for only four hours in the dead of winter and they have a shuttle bus that goes to all the downtown hotels.

      I love my nature strip, too. My new neighbors (young couple) just used Round-Up on theirs because they want to make their already big yard bigger. It looks awful and makes me very sad that they don't understand its value to Plant Earth.

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  5. I don't want to go all political on you, but I've been signing petitions to do away with Roundup. Farmers used to leave strips of ground between fields unmowed so as to encourage quail and pheasants to nest there. I suppose it was so there would be hunting in the fall, but it was also beneficial to keep down the populations of crop-destroying bugs. Now with Big Agra those strips are plowed up and planted with crops and harvested (although I wouldn't think the additional yield would be very large.). Anyway, Roundup is now used so extensively that doctors have found its residue in human breast milk and it's in nearly all Americans' blood. Another result is that Roundup is sprayed on weeds in ditches, thus destroying habitat for bees and butterflies and other pollinators to the extent that those creatures are becoming more scarce -- scarce enough that we may soon lack enough pollinators for the actual crops that we want to thrive, like wheat, vegetables, and fruits. Of course there are other problems with bees -- they are being attacked by mites which can kill entire hives and we have yet to discover anything that will kill the mites without also harming the bees. It's a huge problem for farmers, but they continue to use Roundup to kill off weeds, the very weeds that feed the bees... a vicious cycle.

    I'm glad you've left your nature strip to develop "naturally". I've also considered planting some milkweed plants which are the preferred food for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, another endangered species of pollinator.

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    1. I agree with the idea of banning Round-Up or at the least make it a product that has to be applied by licensed contractors for regulated purposes only. If we kill off all the bees, none of us will get to eat!

      My lawn fertilizer and weed control service is a leader in area for using all natural and environmentally friendly products. It costs more than the other companies but these guys know there stuff and my lawn looks great. And I feel good about not harming what shouldn't be harmed.

      I'm glad you reminded me about milkweed plants. I've been wanting to get some started back in my nature strip.

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    2. OMG! Round Up is evil and will be the death of us all if the bees continue to decline in number. I don't know anyone who still uses it, but it's on display at all the Home Depot type stores, so they must sell it. I've been petitioning for it's regulation too. Yay you for going "au naturale". :)

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  6. Gorgeous! Almost all of my plants are in pots. Each with it's own little squirt of water every morning. In the summer, I do have to water them all again ... or find someone to hire to adjust the timers! Which I've not been able to find yet. I'd like someone (maybe you or Judy or Bella Rum's H) to come once a month to weed, fertilize, trim, check sprinklers, etc. Still dreaming ....

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    1. Considering that you live in paradise I wouldn't think it would be hard to find someone to come garden once a month. LOL

      Have you googled the instruction manual for your watering system? I had to do that recently and was able to reset my own timer. Companies who install those systems will come do maintenance and adjust timers too.

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  7. It's funny. I love the taste of beer, but I only drink it with pizza, which I only eat a couple of times a year. I occasionally take a swallow is H's.

    Your nature strip is beautiful. H planted a perennial bed, but some if the flowers are not blooming. There's too much shade. I think we will have to go to plants that are shade-loving.

    I noticed the milkweed comment above. I need to get some.

    H and I had a conversation this morning about still deriving pleasure from learning new things. I guess it never stops.

    It is so true that we are still influenced by those who have passed.

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    1. I'd kill for some pizza right now. Don and I used to get it at least once a month but I've only had it once since he died, when a friend and I shared it for lunch. I've had frozen since then but it's not worthy of the name.

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  8. Basements, some of them can be dank, scary places. We had a basement at one house, when the kids were small and needed space. We ended up painting the walls a light sunny yellow and put down tile. I added some old furniture and we ended up with an office and a large playroom. It really didn't have that basement feel.

    That beer tasting sounds like fun! I would have gotten snockered. No, this gal can no longer hold her liquor, and yes, I had a lot of practice in my younger days. I get a slight buzz just whiffing it. No chance you could talk to the guy at the liquor store into ordering you some of the Lambic?

    I seem to learn something new everyday, whether I'm looking to or not. Maybe it's stuff I already knew and my short term memory thing has washed the memory down the proverbial tubes. Today, I learned (or learned again) how to find a game I lost somewhere in the bowels of my computer.

    Our lawn hasn't had regular mowing this year. The weeds have been blooming, bright little yellow flowers that I think is plantain. The lawn is getting to be a chore for DH with his goofy work schedule. I'm thinking we could have the neighbor disc up a good portion and throw in a bunch of wild flower seeds and simply not worry about mowing every single week. I love the big yard, but I rarely see half of it. May I would look, if it was flowers ... We still would have to mow by the house because of the snake problem. I think your nature strip is absolutely beautiful and have envisioned at least half my lawn looking that way.

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    1. My friend who helped me clean the basement says he's jealous of all the space I have. As basements go, it's actually a nice one. In my old house we had painted walls and floors, too, and what a difference that makes.

      We don't have snakes where I live but the nature stripe does attract field mice, the only down side. Birds hunt them in my back yard but they don't get enough of them. LOL It took about four years for my nature strip to go from dirt to something that was pretty nice.

      There is a liquor story close by. I should ask. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  9. Your irises haven't come out yet? I'm surprised because ours have been and gone.
    I am a beer drinker (not in quantity...usually one a day or two if it is hot and I am working in the garden) and I like good beer. Last summer, I happened to be visiting my daughter on Cape Cod. Her partner works part time at one of the breweries and they needed one more person for a special function that they were doing so I went along with them, representing the brewery on the "Rails and Ales" tourist train. It was great fun. People paid to take a two hour dinner train ride and there was a different beer tasting with each course so it was our job to walk through the train during our appointed course and serve the beer. As you can imagine, everyone was in a good mood! And we had the second course which meant we were finished early and spent the rest of the ride in the brewer's car sampling each other's brews. I'm thinking about doing it again this summer!
    And I attended a beer festival a couple of years ago in Burlington Vermont and this is why nothing gets out of control. When you enter you are given a 3 oz glass and a certain amount of tickets and even if you used all the tickets I don't think you would be intoxicated. The one I attended was controlled and monitored but fortunately it didn't take away from the fact that it was in a park on Lake Champlain on a beautiful evening in July. I still remember a beer festival my husband and I attended in London in 1976 (we still have the glass) and it was a constant stream to the toilets (English beer does that!)

    I started playing the flute just months after my mother died and I knew that she would have been really pleased. Somehow that still keeps me playing!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. The flute keeps you connected with your mom, I'm sure.

      The "Rails and Ales" sounds like a lot of fun. The guy who did our tasting explained how they pair courses with different beers---the lighter the course/food the lighter the beer.

      The tickets and the 3 oz glass makes sense to control consumption. So far, I have found that I like the Lambic. I will stick to hard root beer and hard cider although I'm going to another brewery next month so maybe I'll find something else. :)

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  10. Ha! I love the story about the beer tasting! That is so funny and the kind of thing I would do, show up for something that I hadn't read the fine print for, be surprised, go ahead and try it anyway and end up having a good time. That Lambic sound so delicious, I hope you didn't hear me slurping as I read your description. What fun!

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who does stuff like that. LOL

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  11. Like beer, with nibbles. Your nature strip looks beautiful - I like serendipity in flower beds. Libby

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    1. "The Serendipity Garden" would make a good name for a book.

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  12. I hope it's OK to be off topic.

    Have you decided not to move?

    I really enjoy your writing. You always make me laugh and you often move me. Tonight it was the memories of your mother.

    Finally, I always look at the box indicating where your readers are from. It's so impressive to see how far and wide they are.

    Peggy

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    1. I don't mind off topic questions at all.

      I was seriously looking for a condo last year but the more I researched what kinds of things would be available for social activities if I moved closer to my family the more I realized that it wasn't a good trade off. My senior hall is a very busy place with lots of opportunities. And all the condo rules for dogs made me nervous.

      I love looking to see where readers come from too, I wish more of them would leave a comment once in a while. Thank you for yours!

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  13. Your nature strip is so beautiful! I love the serendipitous juxtapositions of color, height, texture, and timing of blooms. I continually marvel at how plants march this way and that, seeking ideal growing environments, sometimes clear across the yard. My serendipity in the garden is yours on your outings. So nice that you discovered a beer you like. If I ever come your way, I will bring Calabaza Blanca by Jolly Pumpkin, then leave it on your doorstep.

    Your image of your Momma eagerly listening to your day is exquisite. I will use my imagination for such an exquisite momma. Never too late to catch-up with childhood perks and privileges.

    Enjoy your day!

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    1. I have wild geraniums in my yard that have managed to reseed themselves ALL OVER from one little plant 6 years ago. I swear they even grow in the cracks in the sidewalk. My yard is very fertile for serendipitous growth.

      Wow, a Jolly Pumpkin fairy! I'm going to start checking the doorstop every morning. :)

      When I read your blog I often wish I could have loaded you my mom. She would have seen your need for closest and love right off and given it to you. She was so good with all the ragtag muffins in the neighborhood and as adults they all spoke so highly of her.

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  14. I, too, had a mother who wasn't able to get the education she would have liked (although she was the only one in her family to graduate from high school) and her encouraged both formal and informal education in her children. When I started college, I began recommending books to her, something that had only happened in reverse when I was younger. When she was in a nursing home dying of a brain tumor and could no longer read, we were still discussing books.
    Your nature strip looks lovely. I wondered what those flowers were, but now I see they are wild geraniums -- a native plant that makes a welcome habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
    -Jean

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    1. You telling about recommending books to your mother made me remember a book my husband gave to my mother.Imagine my shock when I found her reading "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex and Was Afraid to Ask." I still don't know how that ever even came about.

      Not all the pink are wild geraniums, but some are. The others will have to remain nameless because I forgot years ago. They came in a package of wild flower seeds for bees and butterflies and have reseeded themselves every since.

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