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, June 24, 2017

Maintenance Month and Summer Expectations



I now officially have the cleanest gutters and downspouts on the block and it only cost me a hundred bucks. Trust me, that’s a bargain. This spring my neighbor cut down seven dead, 100 foot tall pine trees so I’m hoping my gutters will stay clean longer than in the past. The wads of yucky pine needles and maple leaves the company threw on the ground looked like bird’s nests for vultures. Having my gutters cleaned yearly---sometimes twice yearly---is a “thing” for me and I always schedule it just before the Fourth of July. Why? Because I have neighbors who are into shooting off fireworks and I’m afraid those rockets and other things that go kaboom in the night will start my house on fire. Every year, I find spent fireworks in my yard, just feet from reaching my roof. It's legal here around the holiday, so don’t bother suggesting I complain. It’s also legal to have open campfires in our back yards and two of my neighbors have them quite often. 

I officially also have the cleanest windows on the block. This week I had a company do those as well. Twenty-four windows and glass doors for $180, another bargain. It’s been five years since they’ve been professionally cleaned inside and five years since the outside has been done by anyone other than Mother Nature. The crew took the screens out, cleaned them and the window frames as well as all the glass. Two birds have died striking the windows since yesterday---the glass is that clean. Later today I’ll go to the bird supply store to get some bird strike decals. I took the old ones off for the cleaning crew because their UV reflective quality does wear out over time. And I thought I wouldn’t need them anymore, now that I don’t feed the birds at the back of my house which is where the birds did their suicide dives. The woodpeckers outside my breakfast nook window got a reprieve. Right now, I’m getting as many as seven woodpeckers at a time coming to their suet-plugs-in-a-log feeder and half of them are babies getting fed beak-to-beak by their mamas. 

The tree guy was also here this week. Can you sense of pattern here? Two of my best trees have/had a disease and this week’s treatment was the second of three needed. What a great recovery they are making, worth the $88 spent per service call. That may sound like a lot of money to spend on trees but if you’ve ever had a landscape company come in to plant mature trees you know it’s an investment worth protecting. Not to mention it costs far more than $264 to have two dead trees cut down.

Oh, the joys of home ownership! Ask me later on for that list because I still have two more maintenance contractors that need to come out for I'm done for the summer: one for carpet cleaning and one for my roof. Has anyone had any experience with low pressure washing your roof with a chemical that kills the algae (the black streaks)? It doesn’t cost much (under $300) and the guy who came out to give me a price says I don’t need a new roof at all. Oh course, the guy who came out to give me an estimate on replacing the roof ($14,400) says I do need a new one. One of the Gathering Girls, who is on her condo board said, “We looked into that wash. Don’t waste your money” but someone else I know had it done seven years ago and the black streaks haven’t come back yet. Decisions like this can drive a widow crazy. No wonder so many elderly people give up on maintenance and are living in houses that are falling down around them. 

I can’t believe June is almost over and the fun I thought I’d be having this summer doesn’t look like it’s going to materialize and there is no one else to blame but myself for setting unrealistic expectations. I had high hopes for my gaggle of new friends (aka The Gathering Girls) going to summer street fairs, outdoor music concerts and art-in-the-park shows---maybe even spend an afternoon at Lake Michigan. But after making concrete plans to go to the first outdoor event of the season three of the six of us buggered out on going because they didn’t think they could do the walking required. Another had a funeral to attend so that left just two of us. Not being able to walk a couple of small town blocks, cuts out a lot of activities we could have planned. We are all still hanging in there with our “First Monday Monthly Brunches” and lunch/dessert after the official, senior hall Gathering (for people looking for friends) and I foresee all us still going to movies if Hollywood would just cooperate and put out something worth seeing this summer. But as a group we’re going to need some fresh ideas that are lower key than the vagabonds-wandering-in-the-summer-sun stuff I had envisioned. Growing friendships is tricky business. No wonder we’re all going to a "Friendship for Dummies" group. Finding our common denominators, working around our individual foibles and family obligations is like solving a Chinese puzzle box; it's going to take a little frustration and a lot determination to get to the prize. ©


34 comments:

  1. H still does most of our home maintenance. I still help with the painting, and other things inside, but the outside is his now. I keep telling him to get someone to do it when he feels like he doesn't want to do it, but he says he still enjoys it. We did get our roof cleaned at the other house. It still looked pretty good after about four or five years. Then we moved. It was starting to slightly stain again, but wasn't bad enough to do anything about it before we put the house on the market. I hate those stains on roofs. I'm sure everyone would not agree, but to me, it's worth the price.
    It is expensive to take down trees. We've done it. It was a pretty big oak in our backyard at the last house that died. We couldn't leave it there to fall on our neighbor's house. Home ownership is an ongoing job that is not for everyone, but we love it.

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    1. Thanks for your input on the roof treatment. I'm pretty close to making a decision to do it.

      I can understand H liking to do home maintenance, it is satisfying to see the end results. Don and I maintained so many houses (rental property, our own and our parents' places) that I am happy, now, to hire it now on one hand, but on the other hand, finding the goods ones is a process I don't like. Anyway, I put the prices I paid in my blogs so you DIY people can know how much you save. LOL

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    2. Do you have gutter guards. I think you mentioned it one time, but I can't remember. We have them, but the gutters still get clogged.

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    3. I don't have them because I've always suspected they wouldn't keep the pine needles out and they'd just make it harder to clean. I've never had gutters and rain downspouts in any other house I've lived in or helped maintain and I don't really like them.

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  2. Oh I need to get my gutters cleaned, the carpet and tile grout cleaned and I thought I'd tackle painting the baseboards myself. I bought two new Crepe Myrtles to have planted next week. My favorite at home hobby is putzing in my yard. My big home debate now is whether to change my older gas hot water heater to electric. I've always been afraid of gas, especially when you see the pictures on the news of homes blowing up from it.
    Always something is right, but I love being a homeowner...just hope I age well enough to always stay here..

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    1. I love home ownership, too, even with all the issues that come up. I just wish I had a couple of kids who felt the need to help like Don and I did with our parents---especially his mom. I miss mostly having someone to bounce the decision making process off from.

      I've lived with a gas water heater my entire life and all our rental properties had them too. We've never had a problem. But our neighbor worked for the gas company and had one blow up when a homeowner turned on a light switch while he was on his way downstairs to light the pilot. That's a real no-no when you have a gas leak---do nothing that can cause a spark when a room has gas in it. Those kinds of thing are rare, though. Gas is still as safe as electric when it comes to starting fires.

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    2. P.S. I do see and response to comments on old posts.

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  3. We had new gutters and downspouts installed 4-5 years ago, with screens. No problems so far. Windows cost me $10 each to have cleaned and DH screamed a bit. They didn't stay clean long enough to suit him. Was nice while it lasted. Maintaining a house is a lot of work and expense, but ... Oh, the birds around here will hit dirty windows as well as clean.

    You were lucky with the cost of taking down trees. A friend of mine said she paid $750 to take down each of the trees she had removed. Of course, she's older and they probably saw her coming. Some of these maintenance outfits take advantage of old people.

    I can't imagine trying to coordinate activities in the summertime. Seems everybody has different places to go and people to see.

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    1. I've thought about getting those screen guards put on my gutters but I'm concerned those pine needs are small enough to go right through those little holes. I thought about having them removed altogether but then the sump pump would get stressed. There's always something.

      $10 a window is reasonable, too. And I paid $750 to have a tree taken down two years ago and at the time the guy was not the highest bid. I'm just glad my lawn care guy told me there is a treatment and I was able to find someone who specializes in saving trees.

      I under estimated how hard it would be to coordinate people. Part of the problem is some people aren't good at using e-mail. LOL

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  4. At least with electric appliances, i.e. water heaters, you never have a gas leak to blow up. Just drain your water heater every fall and it should last a long time. I got my house power-washed, that was my #1 to do this spring, still waiting for the tree trimmers to come--gotta get rid of those small sucker branches before they become limbs. Wanted to get my office painted, but I don't think there's any $$$ in the budget for that now. Maybe this fall?
    It's hard enough to get our Old School Gal Pals together once a month. We finally just set a date--2nd Thursday of each month. If you can get there fine, if not--see ya next month. LOL

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    1. Your second Thursday is the way we have our First Mondays Brunches set up---come if you can, let us know if you can't so no one is there waiting all alone.

      My interior needs painting too, and I dread that project so I probably won't do it. Next winter I might just wash the walls instead. I do it with a long handled mop so I don't have to use a ladder.

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  5. Finally you have given me justification for not having sparkling clean window. I am saving birds. Thanks.
    Don't know about the roof thing. I have a metal roof so fading is my only problem. Good luck.

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    1. Always glad to be of service. LOL

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  6. Nice to have your trees trimmed, gutters cleaned, and windows washed! We have an ash borer in Indiana that is killing all the ash trees, and I have had to have 20 trees removed in the last year and a half. Most were ash, but 3 were living trees that fell in a bad storm we had last August...days of rain to saturate the soil and then wind that brought trees full of leaves down. As far as gutters, I've lived here 17 years and have never had to have the gutters cleaned due to the screens on top of the gutters. I have trees, but not pine trees, near the house. I don't think the pine needles would go through the screen, but they might from a mat on top though. As a teenager, I was our designated gutter cleaner, so I know how messy the job can be.

    Fireworks landing on the house concern me also, and I am always glad if it has rained right before the 4th of July. We have had a lot of rain this week but the 4th is still several days away. This morning I fished a large tree limb out of the creek that the rains brought my way. I have a variety of long-handled tools that I use: a grapefruit picker from our days in the south, a very long-handled snow rake, 2nd story window washing equipment, and my favorite tool that worked this morning was just a long-handled saw. Still, I wonder how long I want to do this kind of physical work. A couple of friends have recently moved to condos, but I still have too much downsizing to do and I also enjoy the privacy of my own home.

    It's too bad some of your new friends have walking limitations. The art fairs and music concerts and going to Lake Michigan sounded like fun. Although I guess I am not one to talk, I turned down two invitations to go to Lake Michigan this month. I am regretting my Pentwater decision a little, but not the one farther north. Both would be long driving trips. I lived a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan in Chicago and spend several 4th of July weekends on Mackinac Island watching fireworks over the bridge from one of the homes on the bluff. I think Lake Michigan is always beautiful.

    Good Luck finding the common denominator with your new friends. You're half way there though, finding new friends is no easy trick...and you've already done that! Ann

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    1. Hi Ann, I enjoyed your comments. Thanks for leaves them.

      Those long handed tools are handy, aren't they. I have a snow rake for my roof and a tree trimmer but my favorite tool is a long handled light bulb changer.

      That's sad about loosing so many trees down your way, specially the healthy ones. Lots of rain followed by winds can, indeed, take down shallow rooted trees and there's not a thing you can do to save them. The trees I'm treating are blue spruces, not the same kind of pines that my neighbor lost but I don't know their name.

      4th of July weekend of Mackinac Island sure would be a great place to be. What a change that would be from being in Chicago. I have so many good memories of the 4th, I used to say (pre-widowhood days) that it was my favorite holiday of all.

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  7. Well, I don't have a roof or gutters or trees to tend to, so I spent part of the afternoon digging in the closet, sorting and bagging and deciding what goes and what stays. I finally called the guys who built my new computer, and asked what it would take to clean up my old Vista laptop to make it ready to give away. To get all of my old files and programs off the thing, then reinstall the system, would be a hundred bucks. That seemed exorbitant, so I called around and found out it was cheap.

    So, I called back my guys, and asked if there were any options. Mark said, "Sure. Put it under the bed, or in the back of your closet, and let someone deal with it after you're dead. No one today is going to want a twenty-pound laptop with a Vista operating system anyway."

    Now, that's advice a girl can use. Straightforward, honest, and recognizably true. So, I ran through the thing, made sure there weren't any saved passwords, deleted some programs, and put it in the back of the closet. Back to your cannonball for a minute: at least you didn't pay someone to take it off your hands! I'm not doing that with a computer, either.

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    1. I was advised to take a hammer to the hard drive of computers I don't want and then send them off to the recycling center who charge $10 to take them. Goodwill takes them for free (if you don't destroy the hard drive). You might want to check on eBay for old computer prices. There are some model laptops that are considered to be collectable and go for enough to make it worth selling, assuming you know how to wipe the hard drive first. I personally use the "under the bed" system. LOL

      In a couple of weeks I'm going to be digging around and purging in my clothes closet, too. I don't need half the stuff int here.

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  8. Jean R - I just wrote a long comment and hit preview to edit it, if needed. It just disappeared. Please let me know if its in your inbox. If not, will re-comment. Thanks.

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    1. If you are Anonymous Ann, your long comment is up above. If you are anonymous someone else then your comment didn't come through.

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  9. Not I, Jean. Someone else must be trying to post a comment.

    Concerning computer recycling...Best Buy here will take old computers and printers for free. I removed my hard drive first.
    Ann

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  10. Wow. Expensive. Glad your husband got to use the benefits of the research and can see why you would like to pass it on to someone who could really use it. Hope you find a way to do that. Ann

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    1. Thanks for that tip. I have a computer that was set up with a speech program for my husband that Medicare paid for---drum roll please---$4,000. I really need to do something with. I'd like to take the personal info off and donate it to a speech pathology client. In case anyone is shocked by that price, I was told that it's the governments way of paying for research since they won't fund it directly. The developer gets to over charge for ten years to recoup their investment before other companies can get Medicare approval of like medical equipment.

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  11. Ahh...so dirty windows serve a good purpose--they protect the birds! We still have birds hitting our windows sometimes. I probably need to get some of those. Our windows are only cleaned when my husband pressure washes the house. We have vinyl siding (unfortunately!), so pressure washing is a must.

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    1. I have vinyl siding too and I like it so much better than the wood I used to have. Power washing is much cheaper than painting. I only have mine done every 3 or 4 years, though.

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  12. Jean R. - Its me (Libby) whose comment was gobbled up by the system. I hit the send button, and then realised I hadn't included my name - sorry!

    Congratulations on getting your home maintenance done! I found the prices reasonable. I'd be paying more here.

    There are companies here that paint the faded cement tiles so that the house freshens up (other contractors say this is a waste of money and to replace the roof by spending just a bit more). Their is also the option of a power clean. I haven't been interested in any option as yet.

    I painted the house interior a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the accomplishment. Plus lost weight with all the climbing up/down ladders (which weight sadly I have put on again). I saved myself about AUD$5,000, so quite happy with that.

    I've been doing mini-trips (including overnight stays) around my home area. So far, so good. I find people are open to chatting with a single aged person. I chatted with people that I met, including retired men and women, and picked up useful tourist information as to what to see, etc. All passing-ships-in-the-night. I think, at this age, its unlikely that I'm able to form a deep friendship - too many scam stories heard by all! While sometimes it'd have been good to have a companion, I realised this way that I had full freedom when to sleep, eat, visit etc. ~ Libby


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    1. Hi Libby! Those were bargain prices for here, too. I've paid more for the same jobs in the past.

      I've painted so many interior walls in our days of having rental property it isn't funny. I get what you mean about enjoying the accomplishment and new paint makes a huge difference, even it you go with the same color. The most I'll do now is wash my walls and that makes a difference, too.

      Good for you on the travel! You are braver than I am. I don't mind going alone in a group, but alone alone isn't on my Bucket List. But I've always found people in tourist towns or at tourist stops are always open to conversations. It's part of what makes travel fun.

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  13. It look like you've been a busy bee Jean. I have a treen in the back yard that has been there for 25 years. This year it looks like it may be its last because it hasn't had any leaves or buds. I love this tree but I may have to bring it down. Oh well, that's life.
    " Friendship for Dummies " Ha,ha,ha. I love it. Have a great day Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I always hate to losing trees. Sometimes weather can play a part in them not budding out one year, but come back that next. Had that happen to a Red Bud tree off my deck. 25 years isn't old for many tree species.

      Get the golf game in, rain is coming your way. We've got it today.

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  14. We had gutter guards and the starlings loved them; they provided a perfect haven for nesting underneath. What a mess. Took them off. No idea how they managed to work their way under there.

    My husband, a carpenter who once owned his own home remodeling company (before back surgery, etc), wishes he were not the Handy Sort. He would then feel so much better about hiring out all the big chores of home maintenance. If you keep getting good deals and can research the company, pay for the help. Aren't you always glad when it's done? And all at once, too, rather than frittered away here and there (like my stuff always is, weekend by weekend). Aaarrgghhh.

    I hope you don't get too irritated by summer moving along. Remember how lovely September and October are. Very nice for being out and about as well, and often much more temperate.

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    1. I know what you mean about not wanting to hire work done that you think you can do yourself. I used to have a problem buying ready-made clothing because I was a great seamstress but the problem was I didn't have the time to sew anymore. And until my husband's stroke we never, ever had to hire anything out. It's hard to get over paying for work you know how to do even though realistically it's not possible or smart to do it anymore.

      I do like having all my maintenance done in the same time frame. Get the intrusion in my life over and done with. It's how I spend my tax refunds. The more I get back, the more things get done.

      I'm trying to regroup my expectations about summer and make other plans to fill up my time. But you are right about the fall.

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  15. Wrote long comment, then went to preview it and it disappeared. I give up! Enjoyed photo of you on cycle! Not you??? Ha! Can identify with house maintenance issues. Sorry your summer plans having glitches. I would enjoy some driving trips but haven't connected here, and think it unwise for me to travel alone now as I would have ten years or so ago. I've stopped making an effort to come up with local gal pals -- just focus on myself now. Never could have imagined this situation would develop given my past life, but.....

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    1. No not anyone I know in the photo above. I wish. LOL

      I may come to that myself---just focusing on myself, but I'm not ready to give up yet.

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  16. Glad you will have better peace of mind for the holiday and the fireworks. :)

    I have a trip to San Francisco coming up, and we are going to Alcatraz for the first time, but I read the climb up is steep. Like 38 flights of stairs high. Or maybe it was 18. Either case; high. They have shuttles for the truly impaired; might have to avail myself of that. We'll see. That, or I need to get my hilly neighborhood walking started again NOW to build up my stamina. LOL

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    1. Alcatraz will be interest! Our senior hall tours a prison last summer and it was fascinating. Wish I could tag along with you.

      Be sure to read my blog tomorrow. I'm writing about building up my stamina that I've been doing for the past five months. Got the evaluation today from my trainer.

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