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, December 20, 2017

A Dichotomy of Epic Proportions



The concept of living in the moment has many benefits for health and happiness but I’ve never been able to sustain the activity for very long. A day or two at a time here and there at the most…unless I’m under a lot of stress like after my husband’s stroke. Then, I lived in the moment for months on end by intentionally concentrating on what I was doing, whether it was chopping carrots or shoveling snow. With the latter, I’d note the way my face is entirely covered over with a scarf and hat with only a narrow strip in between for my eyes and sometimes the hat slides down so I can’t see at all. I’d focus on using my leg muscles and not those in my back when I throw snow off to the side. I’d pay attention to my heart rate so I won’t power through when I should be taking a break. But even when the living-in-the-moment technique is applied to snow shoveling---which is the smart thing to do for your health---my mind wanders and I obsess about building a snowman once more before I die.

Growing up I spent a lot of time outside in the winter building snow forts and snowmen, ice skating, sledding and tobogganing, even ice fishing with my dad. In my twenties I took up downhill skiing and in my thirties that gave way to snowmobiling every chance we got. Nothing was better for living in the moment than parking our Skidoo on a hill top with a panoramic view of a snowy, rural landscape under a midnight moon. We’d turn off the snowmobile, pull out the thermos and enjoy the silence of the night. Michigan, even back then, has great trails for people who love winter. Don and I even tried cross-country skiing but it was a short-lived interest. While it’s a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors it was also exhausting! 

In my forties and fifties I was outside during the worst weather Michigan can throw at its residence because my husband had the bright idea that if I learned how to plow snow I’d get over my fear of winter driving. Not to brag but I was very good at it, so good that Don started hiring and trained more women to plow. He said women didn’t waste time trying to re-invent the wheel like the guys often did. At first glance that could sound like a backhanded insult to women but it wasn’t. On mall parking lots if we didn’t stick with the established plow patterns it could screw things up for the adjoining sections or cause other problems I won’t take time to explain. The bottom line was women listened, guys didn’t.

Now, I’m an inside chick---or more precisely an old hen who is still afraid of winter driving. But I would be very brave again if I was the only person on the road and I still had a four-wheel drive pickup truck with an orange flasher on top and a C-B radio to call my husband if I got stuck. I could do controlled, purposeful skids with the best of them. Wanna see a 180 turn on an icy parking lot, I’m your man. My truck had a fifty gallon gas tank on the back, so in addition to plowing snow I was the mobile service station. I don’t miss those nights of standing out in the cold, pumping gas or holding a flashlight while Don was flat on his back in the snow fixing a hydraulic hose on a plow. Being the first female plowers in the city did have its perks. The guys had to fix their own broken lines, but the girls had Don to do our dirty work. 

That was then. Back to now. So what’s stopping me from building a snowman? I’m afraid if the neighbors see out in the cold that long, they’ll think I don’t need them to run their snow blower across my front sidewalk. I really do need their generosity. Even with their help, I still have to shovel across the front of my two-stall garage where my plow service can’t reach and from my front door down 25 feet to where the walk connects to the driveway. I also shovel my dog’s deck and yard plus I make sure my two back doors aren’t blocked by snow in case I need to escape an axe murderer in the dead of night. Shoveling takes a lot of my time! Still, I debate the idea of building a snowman on my back deck where no one can see me and if I do I’m building a cat snowman that looks in the window to torment my dog.

Christmas time and fun in the snow have always gone together like a right glove with its left. After I out-grew some wintertime activities I still spent the next fifteen years being the aunt who got to take the kids outside to play in the snow while my mom and sister-in-law cleaned up after Christmas dinner. Where does the time go? Those kids are now all grandparents. Looking back at my best wintertime memories is like looking at an iconic village in a snow globe. From the distance of time, the winters of yesterday were sweet and carefree and it was so easy to live in the moment back then. Now, I have too many memories of the past to enjoy and not enough future to build new dreams around to maintain living in the moment for long. The bitter-sweetness of aging is a dichotomy of epic proportions.  ©
After writing this blog, I built this snow "creature" on the back deck..
The photo at the very top is of Levi meeting his new friend..

She has Dove chocolate for eyes and a nose, and pine needles for whiskers.
Levi's view looking out the window. 

28 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I was actually able to live in the moment for the entire time I built her. I felt like a kid again.

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  2. Your snow cat is wonderful. I recognized the whiskers for pine needles, but I'm glad you told us what the eyes and nose were made from. I was wondering.

    I find living in the present difficult. Like you, I can do it for periods of time, but then I think of the past or future. Kids seem to be better at it. What matters is NOW.

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    1. The best part about using Dove chocolate for eyes was eating them into a round shape. They were square. I wish I could have gotten down on my knees to build her. Next time---if there is a next time---I might try to do it on my outdoor table.

      I find living in the moment to be a good technique for dealing with stress but it's not second nature to me the way it is with some people.

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  3. Jean R. - I salute you! Your description of snow plowing, and driving on icy roads made me think of other brave women working in pioneer homesteads across USA, as seen in wild west movies. Its the same strength of character and will-power that made the country great.

    I too wonder at how fleeting life is. It seems only like yesterday I got married, and had children. There was then never enough time in the day to do everything. I now have empty-nest colleagues, with partners, who're re-kindling their romance. I envy them that opportunity. But a few times, from the odd remark dropped by these same colleagues, I think its not entirely paradise being in each other's pocket all day. Its a case of the glass being half-full, and half-empty at other times.

    Whatever! I do not want to go back to the beginning and start again. In some ways, I'm glad I'm heading to the exit, and out of this vale of tears. Then, a totally unexpected kind gesture by a stranger makes me wonder again at this thing we call 'life'.

    Your sculpture skills are excellent! That snow-cat is very life-like. ~ Libby

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    1. It was interesting watching Levi react to the 'cat'. It was life-like enough that he recognized the profile and had to smell ever inch of her. I laughed out loud of him smelling the butt area.

      Since my brother's wife died he re-kindled two very old relationships from his high school days. First one lasted 3-ish years, the second one is less than a year at this point in time. Guys have it so much easier in our age bracket to date again. But there is a trade off that's not for me.

      Pioneer women sure had to be gusty, didn't they, if they were to survive and thrive. It was interesting how many people back in my younger days didn't believed women weren't capable of learning to plow. It really bothered some guys that he'd even hired us in the first place. Times sure have changed and I'm happy I was a part of that.

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    2. Libby...you have a wonderful way of describing how I feel. "Were in the short rows now", as a friend of mine says and nostalgia can set in especially this time of year for what once was and long ago gone. I so agree, Jean that living in the moment was so much easier when we were young. In fact it just came natural, and now, the past is so full of where our lives were.

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  4. You did a wonderful job of building your Snow Cat. It's cheerful and companionable, and it's a Goal Accomplished.

    And--Bonus!--it's not made of snow from my yard, which right now, is green and grassy (so far!).

    I was not surprised At All to read that you were an adept Snow Plower. I think if you also confessed that you built your deck and re-built your carburetor, I'd simply yawn and say, "Oh, of course she did."

    You are My Hero.

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    1. LOL I actually could rebuild a deck, at least in principle because I've been around carpenters my entire life and helped hold a lot of things in place while someone else cut, nailed and sawed. And I did take some wood working classes and I have fancy boxes with dovetail joints to prove it. Anyway, I've got you fooled if I'm your hero. LOL

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    2. Jean, my dearest--My husband of 36 years is a carpenter. He built our deck(s), our garage, roofed our house, put on an addition, built our cabinets, and yada yada yada, all of which I was present for and helped with. I COULDN'T DO A BIT OF ANY OF THAT IF IT MEANT MY LIFE.

      Let me have my Hero Fixation, dammit. Take the compliment and run with it. Consider it a Christmas Present. XO

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    3. I love presents but I still think you and I could build a deck or cabinets yada, yada just by watching it done so many times. The important part is I choose NOT to do some things and so do you. LOL I can turn feminism on and off like an electrical switch.

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  5. I love the snow cat. But Dove chocolate for eyes? What ever happened to coal? I fear my poor snow cat would be blind then because I would eat them.

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    1. The last time we heated our house with coal my age could be counted in single digits. I couldn't think of anything else to use!

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  6. Had to laugh at your rationale for not building the snow creature in full view of your neighbors. Me too. We don't want to lose that well intentioned help. The cat is adorable and I loved Levi's reaction. Well done.

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    1. I know! Up until this year my neighbor was only doing half my front walk, turning around in my driveway. This year his wife took up the snow blowing and she's doing the whole thing.

      I love the big snow sculpture people build for contests. I would be doing that in my pre-fake knees era had it been popular back then. Too hard, now that I can't get down on the ground. Well, I can get down, it's the getting back up that I couldn't do.

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  7. P.S. to everyone: I'm pretty proud of myself for turning my thoughts into an action to do something I've wanted to do for a very long time.

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  8. Oh my gosh your snow creature is wonderful! Totally in the spirit of dichotomy!! And fun for Levi as well. S/he could be your Christmas cat decoration. Well done, my friend.

    The first year that Braeden had a big snow ... he built a Mr. Potato Head snow person! It was just a ball of snow and he stuck in the eyes and nose and ears and ...

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    1. Mr. Potato Head was a great idea! I actually tried to build this 'cat' two days in a row. The first day I couldn't get the snow to pack so I googled building snow sculptures and learned about water misting and kitchen tools. How did we ever grow up without google?

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  9. Love your snow cat and Levi's interest in the new deck cat. Such a good idea for living in (and enjoying) the moment. I may try that too, if we ever get some snow. Pretty unusual not to have a couple of snows by now. If the snow is not too deep or heavy, I shovel my 125 foot driveway, decks, and front steps. I love feeling the cold and having the beauty of the snow all around me. That is pretty much an in-the-moment feeling too. A few years ago, the ice on the driveway was so thick, I considered putting on my ice skates to do a bit of skating. Fear of a broken leg stopped me. Let me take this chance to tell you how much I enjoy and appreciate your blog. I am few years behind you in widowhood & caregiving (3 1/2 years) but much of what you write about resonates with me. Thank you and Merry Christmas! Ann

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    1. Ice is SO scary now that I'm past menopause and have four broken bones in my rear view mirror. But snow, something about snow does slow us down to take another look at the beauty of nature.

      I'm glad my blog is still relevant to other widows. I sometimes think I should change the name. Have a good Christmas, Ann. Mine will be quiet.

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  10. Nice job on your snow critter, I love Levi's view from the window, a cat that size he will be making friends with I am sure...I would.

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    1. If I built another I'm building it bigger and facing it out so the neigbhor's dog can see it LOL

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  11. I admire the cat too (and your resourcefullness in figuring out how to do it and still get your driveway cleared), but I have to know....did Levi pee on it?

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    1. I was worried that Levi would try to pee on the cat, but he didn't. Not that he wouldn't if I gave him a chance. LOL He never has free reign on that deck.

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  12. This is wonderful. I have a photo of me with a snow cardinal I built in our front yard when I was in high school. It took me a while to figure out how to do the tail. Finally, I got a piece of plywood, stuck it in the bird's rear end at a rakish angle, and packed snow around it. It was a fine bird, and it lasted a good long time. Our team was the Cardinals, so that explains the choice.

    When we had our snow in 2004, there was enough to build a very small snowman on my deck, although some people in Galveston built a big one holding a surf board down in Galveston. You're right that activities like that are wholly in the present -- as is snow, actually. Well, down here, anyway. I imagine it starts to feel like past, present, and future up there, once you get into February and March.

    Can you believe I keep forgetting about snowplows? If ice and snow come down here, we just sit around and wait for it to melt!

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    1. I wish we could just sit and wait for the snow to melt. We usual get one thaw during the winter, in January. Otherwise, our snow sticks around all winter and it gets like cement if you don't get it cleared in a few days.

      Cardinals wouldn't be easy to make. I'm impressed. I had pack my snow so tight I couldn't even get pencils poked in for whiskers. That you were able to get that tail board in was great.

      The neighbors up the street made a whole family of snow people the same day I did the cat---2 adults, 3 kids and what I think was suppose to be a dog.

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  13. You brought back so many memories of my northern Illinois childhood and snowy Christmas seasons. I played outside a lot too, but mostly I remember getting SO cold! It seemed no matter how warmly I dressed, I'd wimp out and have to come in with frozen hands, feet, nose and sit in front of the radiator thawing out. I still con't like to be cold...so maybe it's just my constitution. I LOVE a snowy scene -- looking out from indoors where I'm warm and cozy!

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your snowplow story -- BADASS WOMAN! Wish I could take spin with you in the plow rig!

    And the snowcat is beautiful! How whimsical and fun! Merry, Merry, my friend!

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    1. I'm trying to work myself up to going outside to chip away ice on my driveway. I did half of it yesterday and only have one more day before the temperatures will make it impossible to get the ice off until probably spring. Even with temperatures in the low 30's it's too cold now and we have better clothing now than when I was a kid. I agree, snowy days are better in memory and picture windows looking out. LOL

      That cat was fun to build and I might try a dog before the winter is over, but I'm learning that Dove chocolate is bleeding into the snow around the eyes and nose, giving the cat some character.

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