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 28, 2016

Chatty Cathy, Shipwrecks and New Classes



Three days in a row with no where to go and no human voices in my life that weren’t coming out an electronic device, maybe I need a Chatty Cathy doll! She had eleven phrases when she first came out in 1959 but she didn’t say, “May I have a cookie?” I’d have to get the 1964 doll for that. I'm thinking if I fed all the cookies in the house to Chatty Cathy, it would keep me from getting fat when I feel like the last person on earth. Alas, all Chatty Cathy dolls were a bit needy, always saying things like: “Do you love me?” Tell me a story,” “Please brush my hair,” “Will you play with me?” “I’m hungry,” or “Please take me with you!” If Levi my Might Schnauzer had a pull-ring to make him talk, he’s say exactly the same things. He’s needy enough, so I guess I shouldn’t be doing an eBay search for Chatty-the-annoyingly-needy-doll.

Still, I want more laughter and hugs in my life and teddy bears are better for the latter than plastic dolls. I want a lot of things including world peace, purple socks and an answer to a question I heard Sunday in a song on the TV series, Chesapeake Shores: “If memories are all we have, does that mean that’s all we’ll ever be?” The guy singing the song was young and I’d tell him, “No, get out there and make more memories!” But somehow that advice doesn’t work as well for worn out people like me who have memories that are starting to fad like fabric left outside in a tropical sun. Sometimes my get-up-and-go gets up and leaves me behind!

Then Tuesday came along with a class in the morning and a lecture in the afternoon with only a scant hour in between to catch a quick lunch of Slim-Fast in the car. The class was billed as part exercise and part group discussion on balance and preventing falls as we age. Eight weeks, two hours each session, I guess it’s going to entail more than just telling us to get rid of our throw rugs, don't use ladders and to donate all our Crocs and flip-flops. Ya, I know that rule. It comes stamped on the back of our Social Security cards, doesn’t it? We all know that falls are the number one thing that puts seniors in hospitals and nursing homes. If the Old People Police come by, they’d ticket me for having three oriental throw rugs and fifteen pairs of Crocs. Note to Self: Don’t wear the latter on Tuesdays for the next seven weeks. The facilitator is the same one who facilitates The Gatherings at the senior hall so that’s a plus for this class of just twelve. We laughed a lot, set goals and shared stories about our falls and fears and we got a half-inch thick workbook of homework. 

The lecture was part of the ‘Life Enrichment’ series and it was about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 that caused three massive freighters to sink off the shores of West Michigan within miles and hours of each other. The monster storm killed 273 people including 56 sailors. This is the third lecture I’ve seen featuring Valarie van Heest an underwater explorer, archaeologist and author. Never---even for a million dollars---would I want to go deep diving around shipwrecks but I don’t mind vicariously sucking the marrow out of Valerie’s adventures. She’s a great documentarian. This lecture was a fascinating collection of old news reels, photographs and underwater videos. One of the freighters was 420 feet long and is now an upside down, watery grave and the storm that put it there forever changed the way our nation’s weather is predicted. Can you imagine, that day the temperature dropped 40 degrees in a matter of minutes, with a 100 miles an hour winds and no one even knew a storm was coming because the weather bureau didn’t operate 24/7. She also showed photos of nearly a dozen other ice covered ships that were in extreme peril that day but didn’t sink and she told about the hardships of getting the sailors off those damaged ships. 

Note on the first presidential debate: Before the debate started I was wishing for a rare Cussing Chatty Cathy doll to keep me company. Yes, cussing as in swearing. They were made by Mantel in 1964 as gifts for their top salesman and executives. By the end of the debate I wanted, instead, a Celebration Barbie. My 'home team' won! No chance of finding a Cussing Cathy anyway but one time my husband found a rare Barbie doll for two or three dollars that he resold for nearly $1,000. After that, no matter where he found one---garage sale, flea market or antique shop---he’d be the macho guy undressing Barbie to look at the markings on her right buttock. The summer when I sold off so much of my husband’s stuff, I was not surprised to find three naked Barbie’s in a shoe box. Memories. Yes, in the end memories are “all that we’ll ever be.” At first those memories are painful for widows but in time they leave you with a smile on your face.  ©
                                                          Catty Cathy Commercial

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Clean Carpets and Dirty Politics


 


With something on my schedule every day this week, it flew by, but not everything was social or fun. One day was devoted to getting my house ready for the carpet cleaners to come the next day. In recent years I’ve scheduled them to come the day after my monthly house cleaning day so I could get the cleaning service girl to help me stack and move furniture around, but one thing after another got in the way of that plan this year and I couldn’t keep putting it off. Boy, have their prices have gone up in the decade I’ve been using the company. They started out at $20 a room and now it’s $50. I suppose that’s to be expected but the rub comes from the fact that pension and Social Security checks have stayed the same. And young people wonder why old people start letting house maintenance go by the wayside.

This week also included Red Hat Society Wednesday and we had our second meeting at the brand new senior living complex, a very elegant and accommodating place but I was ready to dance on a table top when a vote was taken on staying there, or not. It was ten to one to go back to our old meeting place in the community room above a supermarket in the tourist town near where my husband grew up. I wasn't the only one who missed getting a Starbucks on the way up and a few groceries after the meeting. We also had a good time discussing tee-shirt designs. We’re all having trouble finding purple clothing so we’re looking into the idea of getting purple tee-shirts with the Red Hat Chapter’s name on the front and something like, “Wild and Crazy” on the back with a line crossing out the ‘wild’ part. We kicked around other ideas that had us laughing and talking about the last time we felt “Sassy and Bad Assy.” By the next meeting we should have some design options to vote on. 

Ohmygod, do I dare bring up the presidential election? I can’t take it anymore! I'm angry and disgusted over all things Trump related. He doesn’t have the temperament, knowledge-base, judgement, character or personal ethics to be the leader of the free world. Never before in my entire voting life have I ever feared that if “my guy” didn’t win that the country would be in extreme peril. I blame the obstructionists who have dominated Washington D.C. in recent years for bringing us to this point. There is no excuse, for example, for the Senate not to give Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court---Merrick Garland---an up or down vote. That vote has been blocked for over a year now when the average length of time for a justice vote is 75 days. Mitch McConnell and his band of cohorts are no better than welfare queens; they collect a paycheck but refuse to do their jobs. People are rightly fed up with government, but the solution isn’t to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

And now Trump is saying he’ll implement a nationwide Stop-and-Frisk policy as a solution to big city crime when a 9½ week federal trial in 2013 has already ruled that it’s unconstitutional. And from the other side of his mouth he supports the NRA’s push to make open carry legal in every state. How’s that going to work out? Stop and frisk the blacks for guns but let the whites keep right on walking with their AK-47’s slung over their shoulders? How’s that going to play in Peoria? 

For all Trump’s claims about loving America he sure doesn’t respect our Constitution. How many times has he promised to take free speech away from the media if he’s elected? Once is scary, Hitler-like enough but he keeps beating that drum. Presidents don’t get to cherry pick the Constitution like it’s an assortment of decadent desserts on a cart. Trump also has no grasp of American history. If he did he couldn’t stand on a stage and claim, “African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever!” Worse than during slavery? Worse than during the 100 years of Jim Crow laws and segregation?

And his running mate, Mike Pence, believes all schools should teach Creationism, says condoms are “too modern” and that the government should pay for gay conversion therapy. In other words, he’s a liberal’s nightmare. I need to quit writing before I bust a blood vessel in my head. It’s enough to say that I both dread the outcome of election and wish it could be over with tomorrow. The drama of this election makes me feel like barfing the way the dog did on the carpeting ten minutes after it had been cleaned. ©

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Invincible Widow



After dropping Levi off for his grooming appointment on Monday I had an hour to kill before The Gathering, a monthly event at the senior hall for people looking for friends. Starbucks Double Star Day was calling my name so I stopped. I usually take advantage of the drive-thru window but I felt like doing my John Steinbeck impression so I went inside where I thought the seven busy employees could keep me entertained as they did their mixing and blending. All summer I’ve been drinking their Ice Coconut Milk Mocha Macchiatos but fall is officially here which means out with the old and in with the new featured drinks made with pumpkin, chili and salted caramel. I’ve been drinking a lot of soy milk lately which I credit for keeping the chin hairs away which inspired me to include it in my Starbucks order and for the first time ever, I became one of those people whose drink order sounds like an essay, “I’d like a tall Salty Caramel Mocha Frappuccino with soy milk and, yes, to your next question regarding the whipped cream.” I’ve tried the pumpkin drinks and they’re good, but I can’t wrap my brain around having coffee seasoned with chili powder.

After sitting at a table where I could see everyone in the place I took out my notebook---not the kind that has a keyboard---to use as a prop for my struggling writer act. I was the only person in the place over thirty and I was surrounded by others using notebooks---the kind that doesn't require an ink pen or pencil. None of them were doing anything remotely interesting and I decided the next time I want to people watch I’m going back to the Guy Land Cafeteria. At least there if the other customers ignore me I’ll know it’s not age discrimination.  

I’m crazy about Starbucks. I like the seasonally drinks and more importantly l love their commitment to ethical sourcing and verifiable fair treatment of 3rd party workers. I like that Starbucks takes a holistic approach and teach classes in small farm communities around the world about long-term sustainability of land and water sources. I like that they pay their baristas’ tuition for any online college courses they complete and that all their baristas look smart enough to wash their hands after using the bathroom. And I don’t mind paying a little more for all those things. 

After The Gathering when seven of the fourteen in the group went to Tim Horton’s, I felt like I was cheating on Starbucks. Drinks were cheaper but their two employees struggled with our orders. Two of us got bowls of chili instead of the smaller cups we ordered. The cashier didn’t know how to process a gift certificate and when he was reminded that bread came with the chili, he handed out slices without a plate or napkin. But we had a good time and I think a couple of the ladies are going to start going to The Movie and Lunch Club next month. Slowly but surely---cross my fingers---we are working our way out of the friendly acquaintance zone into new friends getting to know one another. 

At The Gathering a man came for the first time. When I saw his name tag, I started to laugh and I made a comment about the facilitator labeling him “guy” because there are so few men who come to the senior center. Guy had no sense of humor and did not laugh but four of us turned bright red trying to quit. Where is a mother with a bar of soap when you need one? He’s veteran who recently went through a “nasty divorce that took all his money, his house and his dog.” All that came out when we played a game where we each drew a penny out of a dish and had to tell the others something that happened in the year that matched the date on the penny we drew. I lucked out and drew the year Don and I moved into our brand new house, a happy memory after two years of extreme hardships and stress that included Don’s massive stroke and 9/11.  

After leaving Tim Horton’s and picking up Levi, I felt a sense of pride in myself. Yes, I still miss my husband---not a day goes by that something doesn’t remind me of Don. But I am a woman who has not let forces beyond my control rob me of my sense of humor. I’m still standing and the only real dilemma in my immediate future is if I’m going to try the Chili Mocha at Starbucks. I am strong and I’m in danger of belting out the chorus of Helen Reddy's song about being invincible, so I need to quit writing here.  ©