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, May 31, 2017

Mice and Memorial Day




The holiday weekend brought a glut of cars to the highways, most of them around here were headed north to open up summer cottages on one of Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes or going to cabins out in the boondocks where off-road recreational vehicles reign supreme. Over 3,000 other weekend warriors on the roads were pulling campers or were loaded up with camping gear headed to one of the state campgrounds. The lucky ones had reservations for the coveted campsites right on the beach. There is nothing better than waking up to the sight and sounds of water lapping the sand and seagulls looking for breakfast. Scoring a campsite away from the beach under the White Pines comes in a close second. Michiganders love Memorial Day weekends and it might seem like the original meaning of the holiday gets lost in mini vacations but it hasn’t. The stream of cars going in and out of the cemeteries the week before the holiday is as much of a tradition as having hot dogs and hamburgers on an outdoor grill. The military memorial services still go on. The Scout troops still clean up the veteran’s parks. The cemeteries are bright with flowers and flags and fresh cut grass and we remember... Boy, do we remember with feature stories in the media, war movie marathons on TV, Facebook posts and personal blogs.

This time of the year I'm wistful remembering trips up north. I cross over the highway and see the bumper to bumper traffic below and wish I was down there on my way to or from having fun, but my days of camping are long gone. Instead, I joined the homebody Michiganders who flood places like Lowe's and garden centers for do-it-yourself project supplies. The homebodies hate having sand up their bathing suits, fighting traffic and sharing showers with spiders in rustic campgrounds where a midnight walk with a flashlight to the public bathroom will not be enough to scare off the raccoons looking for careless campers who forgot to lock up their food.

I came back from my trip to Lowe's armed with ammunition for the war I’ve planned against mice. I have two coming to my bird feeder---at least I think I’m seeing two different size mice---but I’ve never seen them together. I want them dead because for the past 3-4 winters I’ve had signs of mice in my basement. I bait them down there, they eat the d-Con and I rarely see them dead. But I can’t bait them outside because of the birds and rabbits. First I tried a trap that the mice are supposed to go inside and not be able to escape but a clever mouse sprung it and moved it two feet off the path to the feeder. Next I dug a plastic paint pail into the ground below the feeder and I put a few sunflower seeds in the bottom. The birds should be able to get out if they go after the seed, but I’m told mice will not be able to climb up the slippery sides. Three days and no mice in the pail. One side of me is relieved. I don’t want them to suffer for days trying to scale the white wall before giving themselves a heart attack and I don’t think I could drop a rock on a mouse trapped in the bottom of a pail. I do own a BB gun but I’d probably shoot into the pail and have the BB bound back and put my eye out instead of killing the mouse. Can mice swim? Could I drown them?

It breaks my heart but after the rest of my birdseed is gone I’m no longer going to feed the birds except for those that eat jelly and the sugar water. I found a little stash of seeds in the basement and that was the last straw. No wonder condo communities have rules about feeding birds. I will miss seeing my cardinals and woodpeckers. Maybe I’ll get one of those videos they make for cats to watch of birds doing bird things inside the TV set.

My husband worked at a funeral home during high school and the experience indoctrinated him for life to the importance of being there to support the living and remember the dead. Decorating graves for Memorial Day was a big deal for him. I remember it all. Oh yes, the holiday get-aways but making sure the family graves were well tended before we went. I have not been to the cemetery yet to tend to Don’s stone but I’ll go soon. Half of it will be covered over with sand and I’ll carefully clean the gray granite and glue another Snoopy trinket on the corner that by fall will be in the pocket of some random kid...unless this year I put the Snoopy on the bait platform of a mouse trap that can snap down on little fingers that try to steal it. I suppose there’s a rule against that. Like condos, the cemeteries around here have rules for everything. ©

Don, I still miss your "Snoopy days."

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 ©