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, March 4, 2017

Red Hats, Purses and Stair Climbing

High winds on Sunday made the neighborhood and beyond lose power for five hours. The outside temperature was in the low ‘40s so I knew the water pipes wouldn’t burst nor would the dog and I freeze to death. I put on two layers of clothing and struggled to get a sweater on the dog who no doubt thinks his naked body is too cute to cover up, then I snuggled down in bed for a reading marathon. That’s making lemonade out of lemons; my book club meets next week and without the power outage I might not have finished the book. Within ten minutes of the power coming back on, the cable went out. I had heat and lights, thankfully because it was getting dark but no computer, Wi-Fi, landline or TV for the rest of the evening. It was 1950 all over again, trying to find something on the radio to fill the house with noise. Silence in the day light is one thing, but something altogether different after dark.

I’ve missed so many Red Hat Society teas lately that I made a real effort to get to Wednesday’s and I will do the same with the St. Patrick’s Day lunch later in the month. There were eleven of us in attendance and I found out they’ve been planning a three day trip to the other side of the state---to the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and a car factory tour. I doubt I’ll go. Been there, done all that several times and the idea of carpooling around Detroit with old women who may (or may not) be over estimating their driving skills in a strange town isn’t my cup of tea. On the way to the meeting I got trapped behind an old woman who was driving 15 miles an hour on a hilly, curvy road with a posted speed limit of 38 miles per hour. There was no place to get around her for two long miles! If I ever get to the point where I’m driving less than half the speed limit I hope some kindly police officer will stop me and call the Old Fogy's Brigade to get me off the roads. Heck, a cop on a bicycle could have caught up with that woman! 

Have you heard of The Purse Project? I hadn’t until the Red Hat Society tea. You take a gently used purse and pack it with things that would be useful to a woman living on the streets. A local Woman’s City Club spearheaded the project in town and the first year they distributed 75 purses, the second year 150. We’re going to contact them and see if we can donate packed purses. For many years at Christmas time we’ve had a similar project of packing shoe boxes for homeless veterans and all of us in attendance were enthusiastic about taking part in the Purse Project. I can’t image living on the streets but it could happen to anyone. Back during the banking meltdown that started at the tail end of the Bush Administration, Don and I were in real danger of losing our healthcare insurance and pension. The stress was a ball-buster---if I'd had a pair but saying an 'ovary-buster' just doesn’t evoke the same visual, does it. Anyway, our healthcare benefits and pension did get cut down but, thankfully, those safety nets are still in place for me. However, I’d seen enough people struggle through bankruptcies when I was a mentor in the stroke support community to know that no matter how well off you think you're doing financially, a major medical crisis paired with no insurance can put you at the mercy of the gods of spit and vinegar to keep you from moving to a highway underpass. 

Well, isn’t that a Debby Downer thought. On to something more upbeat. If anyone had told me two weeks ago that I would be able to walk up three LONG flights of steps and back down again and do it four days in a row---one foot in front of the other rather than always leading with my left---I wouldn’t have believed them. I’ve been doing the left lead on steps for well over two decades. Strength training is working! I’m also now up to 30 minutes on the treadmill. I’ll be adding five minutes every third time I go to the YMCA. My trainer says, for me, that distance and speed aren’t as important as lengthening my time spent on the treadmill. Still, I have a hard time ignoring those numbers. Once when the William Tell Overture played on my iPod, I actually RAN for 30-40 seconds before I had to punch the machine back down to a safe speed so I didn’t go flying off the end like a cartoon lady. That day when I left the treadmill I sat in a chair at the head of the last set of stairs going down to the locker room and I must have looked as tired as I felt because someone passing by asked if I was okay. “I’m just resting up to tackle that staircase,” I said, “but thanks for asking.” The elevator with its shiny, stainless steel doors was calling my name like a would-be lover trying to seduce me with roses and champagne, but I got up and made my way down the steps instead. ©

37 comments:

  1. I think that purse thing sounds like a winner.
    Congratulations on the strength training working already! Good for you!

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    1. Does it! People do a lot for the homeless vets here in town but this is the first I've heard of women being targeted.

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  2. No comment. I just enjoy your blog and your sense of humor. Thanks.

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  3. One of the things that several groups here have done for years is pack shoeboxes (or the equivalent) for the International Seaman's Center. There always are lots of sailors from all over the world here at Christmas time, and some of them are pretty lonely. It's nice for them to receive a collection of men's toiletries, sweets, and so on.

    I've not heard of the purse project; it's a good one. We do have a place here that accepts only unwanted women's business attire. One of the problems for women trying to move back into the work force is that they don't have the wardrobe necessary. They can pick out a few outfits -- I think maybe five -- at no charge, and I'm told it's just extraordinary to see the change some nice clothes makes for them.

    That speed limit sign made me laugh. Thirty-eight mph? Why not 35, or 40? Are there places where the speed limit's 42? 18? Fifty-six? I did see what looked to be an official speed limit sign in Arkansas, but probably wasn't. It said, "You fly, you die," and it was near a hairpin turn.

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    1. Interesting about the sailors! That would be fun to see. We have a place around here that collects business suits for men and women wanting to get off the streets into the work force. They even recruit hair stylist to help in the transformations. As much sadness as their is in the homeless situation there are also good stories of those willing to help as well.

      I'm going back on that same road today and I will double check out that speed limit. Maybe it was 35 instead of 38? I was "crawling by" it and could have misread it. I'll let you know. LOL

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    2. It was 35 miles an hour. Funny how I never even thought 38 seemed like a strange speed limit when I typed it. Duh! I seem to prefer driving 45 on that road, I noticed today.

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  4. Congrats on your taking control of your body. You go girl! You made my day when you shared your leading with one leg on stairs for a couple of decades. Thank you Jean! I have been doing that now since probably 2006. I figured it was hopeless with 2 arthritic knees that need replacement but not in enough pain for that yet. Strength training gave you the ability to change your stair climbing. Would you be willing to share what you are doing? I'm 66 years old with high blood pressure but controlled with meds. Otherwise I'm very overweight and need to start caring for myself efficiently and as regimented as I did for my family and husband. I struggle caring for myself. What is it? Is it that I feel what's the difference? At this age, who cares? I would like to be more active. I'd like to walk down the street and not feel I'm on display. I have my little dog who loves to go for a walk. I could blah blah blah about my hang ups but enough. You inspire me with every blog post. Keep up the good work and work out!

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    1. I also have high blood pressure, am overweight and had decades of arthritic knee pain before I got my replacements done---best gift I ever gave myself. Mine were done in 2007 and 2009 but stairs are/were still a problem. The YMCA trainer has me laying on my back in a machine for leg presses (I think that's what it's called) and it's the same one PT had me on after surgery. And of course, going up and down the stairs at the Y are part of the training. They also have me doing deep squats while holding on to an overhead band so I can't fall. My left leading on steps was not because of pain since second surgery but out of weakness, probably caused by favoring one side out of habit for so many years. Before my first surgery I lost weight by doing exercise in the YMCA pool classes. Doctor had told me the stronger you are going into the surgery, the easier the recovery. But I've let the weigh creep back since.

      To answer the question you asked yourself: "at this age, who cares?" I think it's a matter of quality of life as we age and trying to get healthy enough to stay out of a nursing home. Looking better would be great, too! LOL For me, I need the pressure of a class to motivate me. I don't want all my coming blogs to be about the Y training but I do plan to write one down the road describing what's it's like being around all the beautiful and not so beautiful people working out. You get over your self-consciousness early on.

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    2. I will look forward to your future blog on getting over the beautiful people working out. When my husband was still alive we both belonged to the Y and there were more beautiful fit young people. For me it was like being in a twenty pound bag of potatoes and me being the rotten one. You are so brave.

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    3. Not brave. I look at the beautiful people and say, "They looked just like me six months ago." LOL

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  5. I love the purse idea!! I think the PT on my neck/shoulder is starting to work too. By spring time, we'll be moving and shaking!

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    1. That's great news, Judy. You worry me!

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  6. I have a friend who did the shoebox. When we lived in Baltimore, H's office participated in a coat project for the homeless. M aunt's knitting/crocheting club knitted lap blankets for hospitalized veterans. I think the purse project is a great idea. It really appeals to me. There are so many creative ideas out there, things that are easy for us to do.


    "Silence in the day light is one thing, but something altogether different after dark." Truer words have never been written!

    My motto is, never ride with old women. Of course, I make an exception for myself.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't like riding with certain old people. It sounds weird coming out of my mouth, considering I'm no younger.

      I think I'm going to make knit hats for the purse project since we're hoping to fill them in the fall. I just finished making 27 hats for Christmas next year for my family.

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    2. I forgot to mention how fantastic it is that you're coming along so well with your exercise program. I couldn't believe how wimpy I'd gotten when I couldn't walk around much. It's amazing how much you can improve with exercise. It's so important. Good for you!!

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    3. As much as I don't like exercise, I know you're exactly right.

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  7. Curious. I wonder how many of us tolerate silence well? I require silence to think straight, but by the time evening comes and I don't want to think straight anymore, on comes the TV or music. There's something about forced silence or being stuck in a house from a power outage or weather event, that I can only take so much of.

    Terrific that you are huffing and puffing your way to all systems: Go. Glad your knees like it. Is all this exercise improving your mood? Gosh, someone driving 15 mph around here would be having curses thrown her way. Not by sweet ol' me, of course. And not by sweet ol' you, of course.

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    1. Forced silence is different than by choice, isn't it. I'm not big on living in silence but it doesn't bother me during the daytime either. I like the TV going (on low volume) in the background even if I'm not watching or listening.

      My mood is better with the exercise. It's hard work while I'm at the GYM but I seem to have more energy after I get back home.

      The road with the slow woman is so dangerous with curves and hills there is literally double yellow lines the whole way. I'm just glad some hothead didn't come up behind me and try to pass us both. I had already planned to pull into someone's driveway if a car came up behind me. I love that road, though. I take it to the grocery store when the roads are dry.

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  8. I really like that purse for the homeless idea. Sometimes I wonder why I worry and fret about health insurance and retirement funds when ours is all from the federal government and does not appear to be in danger, at this moment. It well might be by the time Trump leaves office. I worry because I see so many people not preparing for retirement. They're going to be in bad shape one of these days.

    I did exactly what you did using stairs. I probably did that for 20 years at least. I used a treadmill faithfully for a few months and all that went away. Now I walk the stairs like a normal person.

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    1. Teachers, police and firemen didn't think they'd have to worry about pensions either but some states are trying to legislate them away. Never thought we'd have to worry about the Big Three Auto workers either but if Romney had been elected instead of Obama, he would have thrown us under the bus, even wrote an opinion piece advocating just that. Nothing is for sure these days. I think a lot of younger people are going to depend on inheriting from their baby boomer parents for their own retirement nest egg.

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  9. I see the comment above...I too was going to ask you if it really was a 38 mph speed because I do think they are normally in increments of five!
    I am amazed at the exercise you are doing. That is very impressive and also impressive is that you are already feeling the benefits! I used to, in my younger days, run half marathons. I miss it and sometimes when I am walking, I try to run for a few yards. The other day I was out for a walk and it started to rain so I started to run. I like running and I didn't feel any discomfort when I got home so I might try a bit more next time. I don't think my knees are that strong any more. Oh that aging thing...its cramping my style! My fingers are getting stiff and I don't want to stop playing the flute.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I'm kind of surprised myself. It hasn't been that long but to date I've been to the gym ten times.

      Ah, yes, aging does cramp our styles! LOL Do you do the finger exercises for arthritis hands? I learned it in a class for arthritis and it does feel good to purposely spread and stretch your fingers. I'm at the keyboard so much that that I worry about them getting stiff, too.

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  10. Exercise is wonderful I'm not regular but each time I do it I feel better,

    I always used the fire escape staircase at work rather than the lift. I was on the 14th floor so it was good exercise. So much so, that I did it at lunch twice per day some days. (I remember reading stair climbing is what Madonna did on tours where there was no gym in the hotel. She ran up and down the stairs more than twice though!). ~ Libby

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    1. 14 floors? Wow! That would give you a great work out. I don't see anyone running on the stairs at the gym but they use get more use than the elevator. They have dozens of machines to run on and climb on plus a track.

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  11. I don't do specific exercises for arthritis (I don't specifically know any because I have never looked into it). I do, however, spread and stretch my fingers often by playing flute, recorder and piano!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Spreading and stretching the fingers and holding them for a few seconds is the main exercise I was taught in a class which sounds like what you're already doing.

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  12. Hi Jean. I'm back after some probkems. My computer died and I lost everything so I've had to slowly get everything back together. My old blog came back and the new one is gone so here is my bog

    cruisinpaul.blogspot.com

    See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Thanks! Computer issues are so scary and frustrating. Are you sure you didn't just have an outdated link address to your new blog? I ask because I can still access it at: http://cruisinpiet.blogspot.com/

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  13. Hi Jean. Yes my other blog is still there but I can't write a blog in it. When I go into Dashboard it goes back into my first blog. I can't get into my other blog. Oh well, as long as I can get into one of them, I'm OK with it. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. That's crazy! I hope that doesn't happen to me. I'd sit down and cry. I'll re-do the link in my side bar. Thanks for the heads up.

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  14. Oh, you're experiencing a training effect from your fitness program. That's exciting! Congratulations! -Jean

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  15. So excited to hear of your commitment to and progress in the fitness class! So essential as people grow older to be as fit and flexible and balanced as possible. I did a yoga class AND my strength and conditioning class yesterday and boy do I feel it today! But still gonna hop on my at-home treadmill for 30 mins. Gotta overtake the sugar binge I had earlier this week when I bought a 4-pack of Cadbury Creme eggs for Easter Baskets.....they are, alas, all gone.

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    1. I've never been a person who likes fitness and exercise classes. So I have to ride this train while it's still moving in the right direction because I know how easily I can fall off the darn thing.

      You would have to mention Cadbury Creme eggs. :)

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  16. Driving and giving it up is a major blow to being independent which people who don't have ready access to transportation really don't want to give up. I know what your saying about the dangers of driving too slow, especially on two lane highways. Still, a part of me has thought, long before I got old, that it's too bad our society can't tolerate moving at a slower speed occasionally to accommodate some in our population who choose to go a little slower. A speed limit is just that -- the top limit at which we are supposed to reach. Doesn't mean we are all supposed to drive at that top speed. Ideally the slow driver should pull over if sees cars lining up behind her/him -- just a courtesy practiced in mountain driving for example. Just one way to look at the whole driving issue. Roads and freeways with more than one lane can offer a slow lane, tho usually here the slow lane moves at the top speed limit and all other lanes are exceeding the speed limit. Oh well, a few more years self-driving cars will resolve some of those issues. They already have many automatic features to prevent collisions.

    Purse idea sounds good & must surely be appreciated, just as gifts to people in nursing homes are, too.

    Good for you on exercise pgm. When I worked the hospital, several floors, I often chose to take the stairs instead of elevator as I went to see patients in order to get needed exercise. I don't have stairs now but could sure benefit from using some. As we age, the legs are often the first to go, so I better get at it.

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    1. Giving up our cars will be an awful blow. My local grocery store chain just announced they are starting a delivery service which will be wonderful for the aging population. At least I'll be able to eat.

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