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 28, 2017

Lazy Widow, Busy Widow

When the noontime news came on TV I realized I’d been sitting at my computer all morning. In my full length cranberry colored L.L. Bean flannel nightgown. And even though more of my body was covered than it would have been if I'd been fully dressed in street wear, I'd still be embarrassed if someone came to the door. I’d be even more embarrassed if anyone caught me eating cereal out of a coffee cup because I hadn’t run the dishwasher all week. Erma Bombeck might understand that I’ve had a busy week and I needed a lazy day but Emily Post would not.

I love the free lecture series at the senior hall and this week it was especially fun because I sat with three others from The Gathering (for people looking for friends) and we were able to carry on the same laugh-fest we’d experienced the day before at our monthly meeting. Four of us are starting to gel as friends. While going out for coffee afterward we talked about the women’s march and discovered we have similar political views but all of us generally keep our opinions to ourselves because we’re surrounded by people---including family---who are Republicans and Pro-Lifers. I’m beginning to think those of us who don’t fit that description need a secret handshake so we can find each other. 

Back to the lecture: In 1926 a heir to a lumber fortunate built an 11,000 square foot house on 8 ½ acres in my hometown and in addition to that main house with its 41 rooms he built residences on the estate for a gatekeeper, a gardener and a chauffeur plus an eight stall garage. It was one of five homes the owner had around the country including one out East where his wife and he hobnobbed with the Rockefeller's. It cost 4 ½ million to build and the landscaped acreage was designed by the same man who did New York’s Central Park. The house now belongs to a college but before it was donated to them the furnishings ended up in a high-roller auction in New York. When they cleaned out the basement, a dumpster was ordered and eight large boxes of records and blueprints got tossed. They documented all the materials and labor expenses accrued while building, landscaping and furnishing the place. Even letters and photographs to and from interior designers traveling Europe looking for things like marble, light fixtures, flooring, tapestries and silverware were in those boxes. 

Enter a dumpster diver who was also a history buff and she recognized the gold mine contained in the boxes. She donated them to the public museum and the contents are being cataloged by the guy who gave the lecture. He said that such a thorough documentation of a 1920s Great Gatsby style house is extremely rare. It's hard to wrap my head around why people think that kind of extravagance is going to make them happy and in the case of this house, the guy’s wife died near the end of project. On a document found in the boxes he wrote, “The house killed her!” Apparently she was so worn out from trying to make the estate better than those of her socialite friends that she died from the stress. He didn’t have the best of luck with wives, his second wife left him for a penniless California surfer and his third was decades younger than his children and they hated her.

The day after the "house" lecture I was back to the senior hall. This time for a field trip to our public museum. I’ve been there many times but this was no ordinary tour. We got to go behind the scenes to buildings and levels generally not open to the public where a quarter of a million archived items is housed including hearses, stuffed buffaloes, quack medical machines, furniture---you name it, they’ve got it. One entire level (almost as big as a football field) contained nothing but clothing going back to the 1700s. It was a great tour but tiring with all the walking through history we did.

5th Sadiversary Report: Finally, it's well and good behind me and I can report that I’ve lost that sense of restlessness that’s plagued me so much the past five years. The path to promising friendships is clearly marked and I’m comfortable with my decision to stay put where I live now. Even my neighborhood is looking friendly since last week when someone set up an online forum called NextDoor. Since I joined I’ve “met” three people living on my cul-de-sac, noted that someone from two streets over lost their dog and another person near-by is looking for a baby sitter. I see great potential in having neighbors connecting in this way. All and all, my life is looking good right now---well, except for the fact that the dog and my Fitbit are nagging me to get up and move and watching the news makes me sick to my stomach. ©



28 comments:

  1. Happy for you that you've found like minded folks at The Gathering.

    Just reading about the couple managing that h-uuu-ge building project made me stressed out. But some people enjoy doing it. I had a friend who did a similar project - but obviously on a MUCH smaller scale. She's now enjoyed the fruit of her labour and has never regretted.

    I continue to admire you for keeping yourself busy with tours/visits.

    The neighbourly e-contact sounds great. ~ Libby

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    1. Those NextDoor online for neighborhoods are all across the country, I guess. But this is the first I've heard about it. Can't wait to see where it leads.

      You should see all the stuff I could but DON'T do through the senior hall. Today they are on an all day tour which I don't do because of Levi and my bad bones. Every day there are exercise classes of all description and crafts, cards none of which I do either. We all worry that township budget cuts will come along and the hall will be the first to go.

      I would love to build another house but its not going to happen at my age and financial situation. I'm glad I had the experience... only a few regrets like "why didn't I have an outlet put there?" kind of regrets.

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  2. There's a lot to be happy about in this post. I'm happiest about your three new friends. The Gathering really worked out for you. I like the idea of NextDoor, too. I can see how that would be useful. I'm glad things are working out for you, and that you are comfortable staying in you house for now. I know how it feels to feel like you're in the wrong place. Your nightgown day sounds cozy and relaxing to me.

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    1. I love that nightgown so much it's scary. It's my 3rd L.L. gown but one needs to be made into rags. The other is 5-6 years old.

      My little sub group from the Gathering decided that we're going to start meeting for lunch or coffee half away in between the regular meeting. We laugh SO much it's almost embarrassing.

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  3. Kind of feels like the 5 year mark IS the one that breaks the "hold", unless of course, one wants to make a career of being a "grieving" widow. Sure there's still the sadness at times and a tear comes now and then, but that aching, foggy, sort of lost feeling has abated.

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    1. You just passed your five year mark, too, so if antidotes mean anything, you and I can offer that hope to newer widows. I think it can come earlier for many and later for others. We all have such different life experiences and coping skills. For me, I'm so glad that restlessness is gone, that waiting for something to change.

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  4. I admire that you are as busy as you want to be. FINALLY getting your friendship on and learning about others. Just toss out the negatives and enjoy the laughter! That in itself is worth the time invested!

    The widow journey has different turns and detours so I'm glad yours is being gentle with you. I have one widow who is still devastated and has weeklong crying bouts and depression ... and it's been ten years. Part of it is she doesn't have friends. Or a hobby or a passion so methinks she dwells on that too much. Thank goodness she has a dog!

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    1. I know a long-time widow like that, too, and I'd really like to suggest that she needs to see a doctor for a round of anti-depressants. It's hard to lift yourself out of depression that may be caused by a chemical imbalance. The early months of widowhood can cause the chemicals in our bodies to change and that eventually leads to different but treatable cause of depression.

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  5. I am really pleased for you that you are feeling less restless and more comfortable with some of the people in the gathering. I really like the idea of a secret handshake. I feel like I need to talk my way into feeling if someone is part of the "resistance" and once they give me some clues, we are on more comfortable ground! So much for reaching out! I don't feel like I am that interested, at the moment, in connecting with people who are willing to excuse so much morality and virtue.
    We marched last Saturday in London and I found it really interesting that I felt like I wanted to be there but, while I am usually friendly and talk to people, I just didn't feel like I had much to say. I just wanted to be part of the group. Kind of like when you are in mourning and just feel like you want the closeness of others around you. I don't mean to sound too dramatic but I guess I felt it was like our farewell to democracy.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Your experience at the march is interesting and I understand completely about wanting to be there. Ever since the election, I've felt like America's heart and soul died so your sense of mourning resonates with me.

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  6. I'm not ready to say America's heart and soul has died. I still want to resist. Proud of you for sticking with The Gathering until some friendships began to develop. Sounds like some good opportunities there. I love the idea of a secret hand shake. Can't join you in wearing sleepwear all day. I dress the minute my feet touch the floor in the mornings. All in what you're used to I suppose.

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    1. I am joining the 'resist' movement. I've hated all the stories coming in the news today, about #45's EO that was not thought out well and caused the demonstrations at the ports. #45's smugness when he said the EO is working fine was disgusting, when he knew that translators who'd been working with our military and who had gone through 2 years of vetting got turned back to start the application process all over again.

      One of the things I dread the most about going to a nursing home is that they make you get dressed first thing in the morning. LOL

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  7. Jean

    I am so happy for you,your mission to find friends is be omming successful. We all find joy in life again albeit different when we don't give up and keep on trying new things. Today we watched hidden figures based on your last blog recommendation and boy loved it so much there was clapping in the hall. We both enjoyed it equally. Felt so proud of smart woman engineer myself I m glad you arehandling your sad anniversary better now.
    Hugs
    Asha

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    1. I'm so glad you saw the movie and more importantly, that you loved it. It's hard to explain how a movie can be uplifting when it dealt with segregation and prejudice, but it was. Women have come such a long way and I liked that it showed that a few good men helped us advance as well.

      Thank you and hugs back at you!

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  8. Erma would have asked for another coffee cup as she reached for the cereal.

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  9. Oh Erma how I loved her! Thank you for reminding me of her.
    The Gathering group sounds very promising. I have NextDoor too and I find they just complain all the time on there. :-) I hope yours is better because I find the whining exhausting.
    I see so many of my neighbors when walking my dog and chatting. This dog has made me meet neighbors so it's been good for me since I work from home. And hey, when you learn our secret handshake - please pass it on. The word forboden keeps coming to mind. I feel a black cloud encompassing America. Not sure if it's just the evil or something big is about to happen. But when I get these feelings it is never wrong.I hope it is this time.

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    1. I love Erma, too. I wish I could write like her.

      So far, NextDoor in my neighborhood seems to be about lost and found dogs and since I have one, I'm glad for the resource should Levi ever get lost. I'm hoping it will be about garage sales come spring. Time will tell.

      The word 'foreboden' is perfect. I wake up in the middle of the night, tempted to turn on the TV to see if #45 started WWIII with a late night tweet storm. It's going to get worse before it gets better.

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  10. Thanks for introducing me to NextDoor. I had vaguely heard of it, but didn't know what it was. I went on their web site and signed up, but there isn't any group yet for my neighborhood. I'm very interested in promoting local community and neighborly assistance, so I may go ahead and start one. I have a feeling it hasn't taken off yet in rural communities, but is probably more needed there. -Jean

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    1. I would agree with that. Rural people are spread out and more isolated. I think the NextDoor is a lot like the old community bulletin boards.

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  11. We have a thriving Nextdoor community in our community's zipcode, which covers about 25 square miles. Tips, recommendations, news, notices of missing pets, invitations to interest groups are knitting our community together. I've been to a knitting group, where I cast on 60 stitches for a scarf. Knitting the second row has stymied me. I feel embarrassed I've made no progress, but I may show up at the nexty meeting anyway. Once I get my house visitor-friendly, I may see if there's any interest in a drumming circle.

    I'm glad you made it through your fifth sadiversary, Jean, and that you now feel you have traction toward a satisfying life. I don't know about people who build big houses, or undergo remodeling projects. Can they be anything other than a stressful distraction? Certainly didn't work out well for that millionaire, though it will work out splendidly for all the visitors at the college. Must be gorgeous!

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    1. No reason to feel embarrassed. It's not unusual to forget what you were taught when you get home from a lesson when you first learn to knit. I've sat through several viewings of YouTube videos learning new stitches, then forget by the time I get to my chair. A neighborhood knitting circle or book club sounds like a great idea for next winter here. Great idea! I've been to a drum circle a couple of times. One of the drum circles was on large exercise balls that don't make as much noise a drums...better for neighbors. If you suggest it's great for carto (sp?) exercise you might get more participation. That's what they do here.

      I've been by the outside of that house, but not inside. Other old mansions on campus are beautiful though. I had Ollie classes in them. I loved the experience of building our house and would do it again if I had the money, but that house was over the top.

      I think sadiversary month will always effect me and partly because it comes on the heals of the holidays when living alone is accentuated more.

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  12. Never heard of NextDoor. I will see if my neighborhood has one. Jean, I found some great like minded friends when I volunteered at the local soup kitchen.
    I go every week and enjoy the kitchen work ( setting tables, drying dishes, etc.) and the lovely people I work with. I am truly blessed to have found just the right place to hang out!!

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    1. Isn't that a good feeling to find something that full fills you. Finding like minded people isn't easy and I'm glad the soup kitchen works for you.

      I love that photo of the stones on your blog. I should do more meditation. I only do the four minute kind with my phone app and usually in the car when I'm sitting in a parking lot before going inside place.

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  13. This post makes me soooooo happy! I've been completely immersed political actions and today I'm trying (unsuccessfully, but trying) to return to some semblance of "normal" if only in fits and starts. Thanks for this glimpse into your life and renewed optimism about friends and connections. We need that more than ever!

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    1. I think you're going to like my latest blog more than this one. A few things to feel encouraged about on the political front.

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  14. I just heard about NextDoor a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I hadn't heard of EventBrite, either. I'm so behind the curve.

    I know that some of my neighbors use NextDoor to find pet sitters, but I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with that. For one thing, getting involved where there are more apartments than single person/family homes is a little different. There's a lot of coming and going, and you just can't always be sure who you're dealing with.

    Behind-the-scenes tours are so great.I happened to have one today, at a fish hatchery. I got to see ten-day-old flounder. Can you imagine? I couldn't. We learned that they're hatched with one eye on either side, but by ten days, both eyes have moved to the same side. Don't say I never gave you a conversational tidbit!

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    1. I would not trust a stranger to dog sit just because they live in my neighborhood. Neighbor's can be bad people, too.

      Fish hatchery tours are a real eye opener--parody the pun. I went on one last summer and found it fascinating but I wish I knew your "eye story" back then. LOL

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