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, May 27, 2017

Ernest Hemingway, Sports Bras and Gym Germs

Young Hemingway finding his writing muse in Michigan

I sign up for lectures months in advance and on my day planner I just write, “lecture 1:00” and note the location. By the time a lecture rolls around I’ve forgotten what the topic is going to be but in the case of this month’s lecture I also wrote down the word, “Petoskey.” Petoskey is a coastal resort town in the upper part of Lower Michigan. If that sentence doesn’t make sense get out a state map where you’ll see we have a lower and upper Michigan connected only by a 26,372 feet long suspension bridge that stands 8,614 feet above the point where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron roughly connect. Once a year they open up the Mackinac Bridge to walkers and if you live in Michigan it's almost sacrilegious if you don’t do "the walk" at least once in your life. While you’re up in that neck of the woods it’s also a mini travesty if you don’t go forty miles to the west of the bridge to Grand Traverse Bay and hunt for Petoskey stones on the beach. If you don’t find any you can buy them at practically any area store but you’ll never find them on any other beach in the entire world except for those of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. They are fossilized coral colony heads formed 350 million years ago. But I digress.  

When I left the house for the lecture I had it in my head that I’d be learning about the history of Petoskey so imagine my surprise when the lecture turned out to be about Ernest Hemingway’s twenty-two summers spent in northern Michigan. His father, a physician and avid fan of photography, bought a cottage on Walloon Lake in the backlands of Petoskey in 1898---the year before Ernest was born. The speaker was the President of the Michigan Hemingway Society and he hosts scholarly Hemingway conferences and tours of the places that influenced the author’s writing. His life and times spend in the area are well documented through a glut of photos and letters. In one letter we heard, he apologized to a girl for using her real name in one of his books, in another letter Hemingway told his father he had rented a cottage in Petoskey and was going to become a “professional writer.” But the tidbit that intrigued me the most was how Hemingway became an alcoholic. He was rejected from serving in the military during WWI because of a "bad eye" so he joined the Red Cross where he drove an ambulance and was badly injured by a mortar shell. The Italian hospital where he was sent didn’t have enough morphine so they gave their patients cognac. Lots of cognac. For years after the war Hemingway carried around a bottle of cognac and a pocket knife to dig out the metal fragments that kept working their way to the surface of his body.

Change of topic: I bought a sports bra, my first one ever. Imagine that. At seventy-something years old and with boobs that could only look "perky" is if I assumed a Downward Dog yoga pose. Not that I can do one but I’ve seen pictures and my trainer is taking me through baby steps to get there. Yikes! I had to buy the bra because the latest round of exercises she has me doing was showing off my wares to half the gym patrons. The bra is surprisingly comfortable---no straps making inroads into my flesh, no straps sliding down. But every time I take it off I hear my mother saying, “Let’s skin the kitty.” What a weird and gruesome thing to say to a little kid! The phrase has been around since 1832 when the House of Commons' Minutes recorded testimony for a proposed bill about cruelty to animals: “There are two ways to skin a kitty---dead or alive." Thanks Mom, for making me think about that every time I take off my sports bra.

GERMS at the GYM: I am obsessed with analyzing a person’s character based on how they follow the rule about wiping down the equipment when they finish using it. You’re supposed to take disposal Purell disinfectant wipes from a dispenser and use them to clean what your hands touch. The true germaphobics-but-socially responsible people wipe them down before and after their time on each machine. Then there are the selfish germaphobics who only do a ‘before’ wipe down and the self-absorbed who wipe nothing down. The people who take the crazy-cake home use a terrycloth towel meant to wipe your body sweat---one towel, the same towel---to wipe down every single machine they use thus spreading germs all over the gym, like a bee pollinating flowers. And did I mention they also sit on those towels so their butt germs get added to the mix? Some people use Purell wipes on the seats and head rests on the machines but most don't, me included. I am, however, the only person I’ve ever seen who wipes the knobs we use to adjust the seat heights and set the weights. Before me, germs have probably been living on those knobs since the place was built! I've developed another strategy for fighting gym germs: the last thing I do before leaving the building is to wash my hands and the outside of my water bottle---not sure what that says about my character. ©

Petoskey Stones

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dreams, Cottage Pie and Art Shows

Recently I had another dream about my husband cheating on me and it woke me up. That makes four in recent weeks. This time I couldn’t fall back to sleep and by the time the sun came up I was more than irritated with the man. What a gloating snot he was being---the way he told me of his affair! In the dream we weren’t married yet and he had just picked me up for a date when he said, “I have a new roommate.” “I know,” I replied, “I’ve met him.” “I have two roommates, I mean.” The way he was grinning made me ask, “Two? Is one of them a woman?” “Yes.” “Are you sleeping with her?” I asked the question but I knew by the proud cat-with-a-bird-in-his-mouth look in his eyes that he’d answer, “Yes.” If he wasn’t already died, I’d kill him for waking me up before I could slug him with my purse. I am not getting enough sleep! I’m beginning to wonder if these “cheating dreams” have something to do with me looking forward to hang around with my posse of Gathering Girls this summer. Who knows how and why our subconscious brains twist stuff around when our heads hit the pillow.

Three of us Gathering Girls went to an outdoor art show over the weekend. There were two rows of vendor tents flanking a tree covered walking trail that ran between a covered bridge on one end of the show and a performance stage on the other end. It was a beautiful setting for a comfortably cool day where Mother Nature had the good sense not to rain on our parade. We didn’t buy much at the show but we all did purchase English toffee from a good looking, flirtatious guy who kind of reminded me of my husband. He was crushing on one of us and it wasn’t me he gave his business card to. He looked Italian to me and he had a great line of Irish blarney although he claimed he was Dutch. We knew his entertaining spiel was to boost his sales receipts but we didn’t care. It was all good-natured cajoling and we gave it back as good as we got. Oh, and did I mention the toffee samples were wonderful? I’m glad the roofing company that sent an estimator out to my house a few weeks back didn’t send him or I’d be $14,400 poorer by now. I wouldn’t have guessed in a hundred years that a good looking man could make my lady parts tingle at this point in my life. Too much information? 

After roaming by the art tents, we walked to a near-by restaurant and ate cottage pie, salad and ciabatta bread---lots of ciabatta bread. It was bread heaven. I wanted to order the lasagna but I also knew I wanted to blog about the cottage pie because I’d never heard of it before. And saying we sat on the deck of a vintage farmhouse-turned restaurant eating cottage pie sounds so much more summer-quaint and relaxing than saying I had lasagna. (The sacrifices I make for this blog!) A google search says cottage pie shares an English/Irish history with Shepherd’s pie only the former is made with beef and the latter with lamb. Who knew? Probably everyone but me. I also think there should be a law requiring a food with ‘pie’ in the title to have a pie crust. In this case, I made up for the missing pie crust when we got back to our carpool place where we went inside for dessert. I had lemon meringue pie while my partners in crime had hot fudge sundaes. Hanging around these ladies this summer is going to seriously feed my sweet tooth. One of the ladies coined a slogan that often comes up when we’re together: “We have to order dessert, if we don’t they’ll take it off the menu!” That led to me to create my very first meme (below) and now that I’ve found a meme generator I’ll probably paper memes all over my blog.

Anyone who follows this blog knows I love to google. I just googled “dreaming of dead husband cheating.” Ohmygod, it came up with 168,000,000 links to references of dead husbands cheating! That number makes me feel less like an odd-ball widow. A few sites I read claim the dearly departed is coming back to deliver a message that’s it’s okay to move on. Gee thanks, but I've never needed his permission for anything I wanted to do. Another site says it’s “a gentle push to get you to let go of the past.” If I let go of any more of my past I’ll have dementia! No thank you. And another link states: “Dreams about infidelity are rarely about cheating, but rather more about your own feelings of insecurity.” Am I insecure? Yes/no? Oh, who cares! “I am what I am and that’s all that I am,” to quote Popeye the Sailor Man. I quit clicking on links because I realized the quicker I finished writing this blog the quicker I could publish it which means the web would then have 168,000,001 links to dead husbands cheating and because it really doesn’t matter why I dream what I dream. I’m just glad to interact with Don again from time to time although I wish the theme of the dreams would change to something that will have me waking up with a smile on my face---like sharing a piece of pie. That’s not how you thought that last sentence was going to end, is it.  LOL ©

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Horses, Travel, Movies and Chicken Wings

 My social life feels like a full time job sometimes…like the past three days when I went on a tour of an Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, to a travelogue presentation and I saw a film with my Movie and Lunch Club. And over the weekend I’m going to an art-in-the-park show. I wish I could queue up my social activities like I can On Demand TV. I’d get up in the morning, decide if I want to stay home or queue up a place to go that fits my mood, the weather and the amount of physical exertion I’m willing to spend. If I loved what I did the day before I could even queue it up again for an encore.

Have you heard about therapeutic horseback riding? Sure you have. Ann Romney---if her husband had won the White House back in their day---would have turned the front lawn into a riding track as part of her treatment for MS. The therapy place our senior hall arranged for us to tour was amazing. It's a non-profit that sits on 35 wooded acres and they have an indoor heated ring for the winter and an outdoor “sensory trail” for the summer months. They do 150 therapy half hour riding sessions a week and have a waiting list. They could offer more time slots if they had enough trained horses and ponies---only one in five pass the temperament test. They have twenty-seven horses and each riding appointment takes a certified equine-assist therapist plus two volunteers to be with the rider. They also do summer day camps, derby days and other fun things. Their youngest rider is two and their oldest is ninety. Riders are all physically, mentally, social or emotionally challenged. I have a niece-in-law with severe MS who goes there and it’s the highlight of her week. I was surprised to learn that most insurance companies cover this therapy.

While on the tour I made sure to pet the two barn cats and rub my forearm up against both a gigantic Percheron horse and a smaller Peruvian so I could take their scents home to Levi. That Schnauzer loves playing detective, trying to figure out where I go when I leave the house. I really gave him something to think about this time! When I was a teenager any bare skin contact with horses would have brought on an outbreak of hives and I also wanted to see if I'm still was allergic to them. Nope. I’ve outgrown reacting to them or to touching grass. One summer I had a terrible crush on a boy who worked at a stables near our cottage so every time I had some babysitting money I’d go riding. I spent a lot of time with pink Calamine lotion on my skin before my mom put two and two together and made me stop riding.

The Travel club. I almost fell asleep during their presentation of the trips they’re planning for 2018. For the first time since I’ve been going, they had trouble with their slide show presentation. It kept stopping and repeating the same photos that didn’t match what the speaker was talking about. Drove me crazy! They are going to Poland ($2,995 for ten days), The Baltic's ($3,999 for eleven days), Peru ($7,499 for ten days) and the Parks of the American West ($3,995 for ten days). They gave out recognition badges to people who’d been on three or more trips with the agency over the past year and all I could think about is: Where do these people get that much money to blow on trips? Any three of last year’s trips combined would cost over ten grand! 

Movie and Lunch Club. If you watch TV you’ve probably seen the trailer for the movie with Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer, Snatched. Like its title, the plot is short on content. They play a mother-daughter combo who gets kidnapped in South America and an action/comedy results. I couldn’t find a reviewer who gave the film more than two and a half stars and I’d agree with that. But if you need a break from the world of serious and sinister news, the movie will give you enough lines and antics to laugh at to get your matinee money’s worth. It’s an R rated movie for its language and it was classic Amy Schumer potty-mouth. I had to laugh, though, at one couple in our group who bought their tickets before knowing it was R rated. They’d never been to an R rated movie before and they promised they’d walk out if it “got bad.” They didn’t but I’m pretty sure they were still blushing when we got to a near-by restaurant called Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s a sports bar chain but I’ve never heard of it before. I don’t usually go to places with the word ‘sports’ in the title…no arenas, no bars, no retail stores. The couple zeroed right in on the Lotto screens on the wall and she said they used to play until they’d win enough to pay for their meals. Oh my! I guess we all have our own definitions of what’s obscene. I’ll take a few dirty words over wasting money gambling any day. ©