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, January 30, 2016

From Car Accidents to Zhuangzi



My sweet, innocent little car that hadn’t lost its virginity yet got herself molested by a big bad-ass four wheeler. We were waiting in a take-out line at Culver’s for a North Atlantic Cod sandwich and a concrete mixer when the truck in front of us rolled back and my baby got smacked with a trailer hitch dead center in the front. I hopped out of my seat to look for damage and the woman driving the four wheeler got out to ask, “Are you alright?” I was, but I appreciated the fact that she thought about a human being before property damage. Me, I was just the opposite. I was busy searching my car for boo-boos. I didn’t find any until I got home and wiped some of the winter road crud off the car. There is was, a nicely formed square punched about an eighth of an inch deep into the nose of my Chevy Trax. 

I spent the next two hours pouting about my first world problem while trying to remember that the nice lady did something I could have easily done myself back in my bad-ass truck driving days. Sitting up high in a truck it’s easy not see a car sitting low behind you and it's easy not to put your car in park when you're waiting in line. And even if we had exchanged insurance information the damage wouldn’t have exceeded my deductible. Well, maybe it would have. It doesn’t take much to spend $500 on body work these days. Still, I’m not enough of a perfectionist to spend that much out-of-pocket to make my little car whole again. That didn’t stop me from pouting about the square tattoo on my bumper reducing its resale value even though I kept reminding myself I’ll probably keep this car until someone pries my driver’s license out of my wallet and hides my keys. Then resale value will be the least of my problems. At least I had a good reason to pout. Before the accident happened I was already having a regular pout-fest. 

Why was I pouting? I don’t know. I was having a doofus week, feeling sorry for myself, feeling fat, feeling like a failure, feeling all alone even though the morning of the accident I spent an hour talking on the phone to the son-I-wish-I-had. If someone wrote ‘doofus’ on my forehead with a magic marker I wouldn’t have been surprised. This week, even the dog looked fat and I only finished 7/8 of my closet cleaning project---I still have to vacuum the floor. And I can’t find a rug I want for my bathroom online. Damn first world problems! What I need is to spend a week living on a pile of raw garbage in Bangladesh. I also need to sleep one night without getting woke by a dream of my husband. Apparently, my sleeping self has been trying to contact him but he’s always just out of reach and I’ll wake up feeling frustrated that I couldn’t hogtie him to the bed so he’ll be there after I’m fully awake. At least long enough to have a conversation. He’d have some animated opinions about our current political landscape. We used to love the drama and craziness of election cycles and would talk them to death.

Before I went to Culver’s where my car lost her new car virginity---I’m still sad about that---I was at JoAnn’s Fabrics where I bought a tube of paint and some fabric for my bedroom. With the Naples yellow paint I no longer have any excuses not to start painting again. (It’s been almost 30 years!) I’ve been studying how-to books, I’ve identified and located everything I need. I even know what I want to paint first and have done a few rudimentary drawings, but I still have to screw up my courage to mix that first palette of paint. Color theory was never my strong suit. I won’t let myself start, though, until I finish the closet project which probably explains why I haven’t gotten the vacuum out of its cave. Doofus, yup, that’s me. Who cares if I vacuum the closet? No one goes in there but me and the dusty bunnies. That territory is even off limits to my cleaning woman and maybe that should change next time she’s here. Ohmygod, could my first world problems get any shallower?

The fabric I bought for my bedroom is to go in five picture frames that line up across the wall in place of a head board for my bed. I’m toning down the colors in there, getting rid of my red bed sheets, the red fabric in the frames and the red rug in the adjoining bathroom. I’m going subtle and Zen. I’ve hauled two yards of fabric home from Joan Ann’s and neither one does what I want it to do. Honestly. I should be ashamed to admit to the frivolous stuff that occupies my brain. 

“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” Ya, sure, that’s easy to say if you’re an ancient Chinese philosopher making a living writing wise and influential ditties but try letting your mind be free and staying centered when you’ve got a closet full of dust bunnies taunting your allergies. And try letting your mind be free and staying centered when your poor car is still sobbing over losing her virginity and the dog is yell, "Hey, I'm not fat! How could you say that?"

“Grasshopper…”
What?!
“Chill out. Remember what I’ve been saying for centuries, ‘Those who realize their folly are not true fools.’” 
Thank you Master. I keep forgetting. ©

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"I’m a Lazy Slug," Confessed the Widow



If you look up the term ‘Lazy Slug’ you’ll find my picture and this explanation: Lazy slugs can’t be motivated short of using an electric cattle prod. Lazy slugs know there are things to do and places to go but instead of doing and going they live inside their heads. Lazy slugs spend so much time playing on their computers they wear the letters off their keyboards and can't help wishing those keys came with heaters like seats in automobiles. And lazy slugs have been known to erase the word ‘Monday’ at the top of a job list and write ‘Tuesday’ or ‘Wednesday.’ 

Yup, here it is Wednesday and I’m still working on Monday’s job list. Worse yet, it’s almost February and I’ve yet to complete December’s goal list. I had planned to deep clean the entire house this winter and all I’ve gotten done is two rooms with five to go. Or is it six, seven or eight? I can never decide if the laundry room and the dining area get counted as rooms since they’re connected to other rooms with no door to close them off, and since the two bathrooms are small, should they count as one on a cleaning chart?

Lazy slug that I am, I read the words of Sue Kreitzman on a Post-it note above my computer with no reaction. “Be bold, be adventurous. Do profound things, dazzle yourself and the world. Contribute to society, and live large. Life is short, make every moment count. It is never too late to find your passion.” I read those words then I go back to picking lint out of my belly button. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Everyone knows you pick at your belly button lint in the bathroom where you have a magnifying mirror.

I wish I could be bold and adventurous but someone has to deep clean my bedroom closet this week. The only way I’m going to find adventure in there is if I fall off my step stool and break a bone while surrounded with red hats from the box I smashed in the fall. I know why I’m dragging my feet about cleaning the closet. I still haven’t lost the five pounds I gained over the holidays and I’m afraid to play the game of what fits and what doesn't. I still have a box of too big clothes sitting in the garage ready to donate from the last time I cleaned the closet even though I go past Goodwill once a week. I have a serious problem letting go and believing in my ability to maintain the size I'm wearing. Even my Fitbit has lost faith in me. It gives me a weekly report that I’m not meeting my goals. Get in line Fitbit, I’ve got goals all over the place that aren’t being met. If I ever win the lotto---which won’t happen since I haven’t bought a ticket in years---I’d hire a personal assistance to meet all my goals for me. And that day-dream has Lazy Slug written all over it.

In all seriousness, how is it even possible to take Sue Kreitzman’s advice to live large, dazzle yourself and do profound things making every moment count when the mundane chores of life keep getting in the way? If I don’t go to the grocery store, for example, the dog and I would eventually have to eat that back-up box of Bisquick in the cupboard or starve to death, and if I don’t do the laundry I’d be a smelly old lady trying to live large and that won’t work well in this age of grooming products galore, including belly button brushes. (Yes, I have one. I’m obsessed with belly button lint. Where does it all come from and why is it sometimes pale purple?) And if I didn’t take time out to be a lazy slug I’d never hear my inner voices debate the meaning of life and what it’s going to take to make me truly happy. Without my lazy slug down time, I never would have figured out that if I want to paint my niece-in-law's portrait it doesn’t matter if her eyes are hazel or gray because either way I’m going to have to buy a damn tube of Naples yellow to mix both those colors.

Have you ever admired someone but no way on earth would you want to live their life or be them? That’s the way I feel about Sue Kreitzman. She’s an artist who says that “color is like a drug" that she can't live without and "it makes life possible." She’s flamboyant and walks the talk but if I lived in her house or clothes I’d go stark raving mad in a month. I’m the anti-Sue and I suspect that if everyone was like her she’d become as subdued as a Rembrandt painting…all raw sienna, burnt umber, lead white, yellow ocher and bone black. What I admire, though, is she knows who she is and what it takes to make her happy. We should all be so lucky as we negotiate the life changes that come with aging or loss and as we live small while dreaming big. ©

                                                                 Sue Kreitzman

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Luncheons, Lectures and Red Hat Ladies



 
We humans are creatures of habit. We sit in the same section in restaurants, churches and movies theaters. We take the same routes to the places we go routinely. Our lives have a rhythm even when we’re retired with no job crying out for our time and talents. After all these years of not being in the work force, I still do my laundry on the weekends, water my house plants on Sundays and at five o’clock daily the dog gets his denial care stick. The senior hall and Red Hat Society sets the monthly rhythm of my life but if my world was perfect, the activities I like doing with these two groups would be spread out across the month. Instead, the third week of the month will always find me going to a luncheon on Tuesday, a Red Hat Society tea on Wednesday and a lecture on Thursday. 

The food at the luncheons is always good and at a bargain price. The entertainment comes free after the meal and on rare occasions that's all it's worth. This week, it was a gray-haired singer whose pink paisley tie ended half way between his belt bucket and the beginning of his inseam. How could someone of his advanced age not know how to buy or wear a tie? Not that I’m a fashionista but it was distracting---or maybe at my advanced age I just needed an excuse to stare at a man’s crotch? While the others around me were swooning over his voice and the Jesus-is-the-answer song he was singing, I was wondering if he stood up straight and tall would his tie issue be resolved, or would a pair of scissors be in order. Lord help me if the filter in my brain that keeps me civilized ever gives out and I start acting on my old person thoughts.   

The following day at the Red Hat Society tea we packed bags of chocolates, cookies and Valentines for 65 nursing home residents and employees, then we planned a day trip via chartered bus to wine country up north to take place this coming June. It will fall in the same week the senior hall is planning a day trip south to a Shipshewana garden quilt tour. Woo-is-me, if I do both the dog will have to be in a kennel four nights because both trips leave too early in the morning for me to check him in the same day as the trips, ditto on getting back too late. I'm so torn, but I can't do both and live to tell about it! Besides the kennel issue, my bones and bladder are too old for back-to-back bus trips. And did I mention a third day trip that is calling my name? It’s to a prison that was once the biggest one in the nation. Nothing to fear. It’s closed now and has been re-purposed into an artist colony. The tour comes with lunch and a lecture on the history of prisons and would cost a $100 plus $54 for Levi to spend two days in doggie jail. Summer promises to be a good one this year. My niece is also talking about organizing a family weekend at her cottage. I'm totally geeked up about that idea.

The lecture I went to this week was interesting for anyone who has ever spent much time in my home state of Michigan. It was about the history of M-22 and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline. M-22 starts at Manistee and travels north 116 miles along Lake Michigan and up the west side of the Leelanau Peninsula and back down the east side ending at the bottom of Grand Traverse Bay. (That’s just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from to wine country). My husband would have loved all the vintage photos of gas stations, maps, lighthouses, camps, resorts and businesses, and seeing all those slides made me homesick for doing the M-22 tour again. They churned up good memories of Don and I taking the Corvette up along that highway. It was one of our favorite weekend trips and we always stopped at the Gravity Hill near Arcadia---there are two in Michigan and only 31 in the entire USA. I know Gravity Hills are just an optical illusion but it’s still fascinating to see balls and out-of-gear cars appear to roll up hill.

I hesitate to mention how happy I’ve been without the massive snow falls, ice storms and blizzards we experienced here in Michigan the past two winters. Bless the gods of normal winters. I haven’t been snowed in once and I haven’t had to shovel snow three-four times a day just to keep up. I hesitate because I know so many people in our country are facing a monster storm as I write this. If you’re reading this from the land of snowzilla, I hope you were able to stay safe and warm! ©