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, December 8, 2018

Levi and the Music in my Life

Levi had to go back to the vet recently for a recheck of the pus pocket on his lip. It cleared up nicely on the antibiotics but he was still digging and scratching the area constantly. This time we were able to see a 'skin tag' we didn’t see before and it freaked me out when I discovered it a few days before the appointment because I thought it was an embedded tick. Between the veterinary, her tech assistant, me and Levi’s cooperation the vet was able to pronounce that what I thought were legs coming out of the ‘thing’ were not. We were also able to see that the salivary gland near the upper lip where the pus pocket was two weeks ago was enlarged and the vet was guessing it’s plugged and that’s the source of the annoying itching Levi was experiencing. 

She put him on a twice a day drug for itching and it’s been like a miracle. I’ve only seen him digging at his mouth three times in four days since starting the pills. The plan is to reduce the drug down to once a day after a two week trial, hoping to give the salivary gland a rest and chance to correct itself. Going into surgically open it up or remove the gland would be costly and an unnecessary risk at his age. Better to do it with his annual teeth cleaning next summer, if the pills give him enough relief to wait and he's not running a fever. As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always something.” 

Changing topics: I’ve been in the car a lot lately which means I’ve been hearing a lot of music. I don’t listen to it in the house but I’ll explain that later. Yesterday Thomas Rhett came on The Highway XM radio channel singing the last choir of his latest song, “Now I'm twenty-five and I'm drinking wine with my wife at home. Got a couple of dogs and a couple of songs on the radio and we sit around and we laugh about how we used to be when all we cared about was turning sixteen.” The song progressed from looking forward to sixteen, then to eighteen and twenty-one…always looking forward to the next benchmark. That’s what I’ve done my entire life, never happy with the here and now. That is until I got so old the next benchmark is dying and I find I don’t know how to live in the here and now.

Honestly, I don’t understand why people don’t like Country Western music. The songs are mini stories about looking back and looking forward and enjoying where you’re at. They’re about crying and laughing and loving. Sure, a few of the songs are about pickup trucks and hard drinking but more talk about things like skipping rocks on a river and watching sunsets with the one you love. And there’s a lot of practical advice in Country Western songs like in this one Kenny Chesney sang to me yesterday: 

“Scared to live, scared to die
We ain't perfect but we try
Get along while we can
Always give love the upper hand
Paint a wall, learn to dance
Call your mom, buy a boat
Drink a beer, sing a song
Make a friend….”

I don’t listen to music in the house is because 1) it makes me too moody, and 2) I get lost in the song writer’s creativity and that stifles my own if I’m trying to write. Getting lost in their storytelling makes me forget to eat, pay bills and wipe my…dog’s feet when he comes inside. You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you. I thought about it but I pride myself on not being crude enough that I’d say “wipe my ass” in public. 

When I was in college I took a class on Music Appreciation and we studied classical pieces side-by-side with those written by the new-at-the-time Beatles. The professor predicted that the Beatles music would be around in four hundred years. Years later I got to hear an entire concert of Beatles music played by a full orchestra and I was blown away. The professor was right and I loved his class but the only time I listened to classical music after that was when I was plowing snow. Rachmaninoff’s Flight of the Bumblebee and Beethoven’s 5th Sympathy could keep me awake like no other tip or trick of professional truckers. I still have my old cassettes but no way to play them without my pickup truck. 

Music played an important part in a different stage of my life. After my husband’s stroke I was back to singing childhood songs in the car everywhere we’d go. Songs learned before the age of five are stored in a different part of our brains, his speech therapist said, so singing them is a way to try to kick-start lost speech to come back. It didn’t work and after a year that "homework" faded out of our world but for the rest of his life Don often belted out, “Jesus likes me. Yo, you know” and every time I’d reply, “I think Jesus loved you when you were a kid." At that point he’d switch the only other song he could (almost) sing, Happy Birthday. Of all the things I’ve written over the past nearly two decades of writing on the web, my favorite humorous essay was about Don and his two songs. If interested, you can read it here. But be warned, the word ‘ass’ does come up. ©

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Baking Classes and Pink Stoves

I had a whole post prepared for my mid-week commitment to this blog but during the proof-reading stage I got to wondering if I’d written about some of the same stuff in the past. So off I went to my “search this blog” feature and sure enough I’d already told the story about the house my husband bought just before we met that came with a pink kitchen stove and how he promptly hauled it off to the dump after his buddies teased him about having a bachelor pad with a pink stove---it was 1970 and guys didn’t do pink back in those days. I’d only seen that decked out GE one time but it was memorable and worth a second mention. For any new readers, though, I should say that he never replaced that stove the entire time he lived there. If his kitchen didn’t have a coffee pot and a door going out to his garage he wouldn’t have known the house even had a room that was supposedly used to prepare and eat food in. 

I haven’t spent a lot of time in kitchens over my lifetime either and with the “search this blog” feature I discovered that I’ve also written about how when I was a teenager my mom would stress out over my lack of interest in learning to cook. Whenever the subject came up I was like a parrot repeating, “If you can read, you can learn to cook. When I need to learn, I will.” Later on in my twenties when I still wasn’t married with a few kids to feed, I switched to saying, “I’m looking for a man who can cook or has the money to eat out all the time.” I found the latter. 

Our senior hall offers a lot of cooking classes and you’d think they wouldn’t be popular, given the fact that most of my peers have spent a life time cooking for families. I don’t take many of those classes but this week’s class on baking caught my eye. It was taught by a Le Cordon Bleu Paris trained pastry chef and I took it mostly because you get to eat what is demonstrated. The class was billed as one that would teach us how to make easy desserts for our holiday buffets from “rich, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cakes with dark chocolate ganache to nutritious dried fruit/nut/chocolate clusters.” Heck, I had to ask Alexa what a ganache is; that’s how little I know my way around the world of baking. By the time the registration was closed they had filled up four baking classes of twenty-five each with a waiting list should anyone cancel. The senior hall recently bought a 5 x 12 foot, special overhead mirror for the cooking area so everyone can see inside the pans or bowls so it’s safe to say the cooking classes will remain on the calendar for a long time to come. 

The pastry chef who taught this class had been an emergency room doctor for twenty years before deciding to give it all up and go to Paris, France and Florence, Italy to get a degree in baking. I learned a lot like the fact that my kitchen is woefully understand stocked with gear and gadgets if I truly were interest in doing some baking. I don’t have the silicone tiny molds used for making bite-sized cakes, for example, or the bowl scrappers that she said are her favorite baking tools---she has five. And did you know that those silicone molds need to sit on wire racks placed on top of cookie sheets during the baking? (The wire racks helps to circulate the warm air around the molds for a more even baking.) We also learned tips for piping batter in the molds and why using a water bath is preferable for melting chocolate over doing it in a microwave. I also don’t have a food scale; it seems that professionals all weigh ingredients rather than measure. Good to know. 

I learned that chocolate ganache is to die-for and is made of heavy, boiled cream poured into soften chocolate---in a ratio of one part to one part for a medium weigh ganache. She gave us a chart that I lost on the way out of the building that broke down all the kinds of ganaches you can make by using different types of chocolate and ratios to the cream. But probably the most useful tip I learned is that she always sets her oven timer for half the time called for on a recipe at which point she turns the stuff in the oven---front to back and side to side. And for the remainder of the time she might turn the heat up or down depending on if the tops are browning too slow or fast in relationship to how the insides are baking. Many factors like the humidity in the air or the moisture of ingredients (like in fruits) can factor into baking times so you should expect to tweak the baking time for each batch of anything, even if you’d made it a million times. 

She asked for suggestions for future baking classes we’d like to see and I put in a request for one on scones and biscotti. Before this class I’d already decided I want to teach myself how to make them on days when I get snowed in this winter. My mom would be proud I'm taking an interest, finally, and if my old stove pukes out I might even consider getting a pink one. I hear retro is a hot trend right now. ©

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Bones, Bacteria and Boogers

Hungarian Puli

Monday we had our first school closings of the season due to the weather. I didn’t have to go anywhere that day so being snowed in didn’t ruin any of my plans but I was keeping a close eye on the storm all same because I needed good roads the following day to get to an appointment at the infusion center and my niece was stuck at the Chicago airport, sleeping on a cot while all the planes were grounded---she was on her way home from spending the holiday in Texas. My other niece who had been up north at her favorite vacation destination in Traverse City was also keeping an eye on the storm and was able to leave in time to beat it before it hit southeastern Michigan and it’s a good thing she did. The storm brought them 6-7 inches of wet, heavy snow where she lives causing electrical outrages and backup generators were put into service.

Trust me, I won’t be getting my yearly bone infusion treatment in 2019 because I’m skipping next fall’s scheduling and picking it up again the following spring of 2020. This 2018 appointment was booked early last September at my biannual with my internist and this was the first opening the infusion center had available, and scheduling wait times are only going to get longer and longer as more baby boomers start getting Reclast for their bones. I’ve had super good results with the Reclast and hate the idea of letting a 5-6 month lapse without it but I hate the stress even more of worrying about winter storms colliding with important appointments you can’t cancel without it costing you a lot of money, more wait time and a repeat of your pre-infusion blood tests.

The day of my appointment I had allotted an hour to get across town. The side roads were wickedly icy but the biggest problem I had was all the street signs were covered with snow and unreadable otherwise the main roads were good plus I got all the green lights and I got there in twenty minutes. I always have my trusty notebook and pen with me so the extra time was put to good use while I waited out in my car. I also had my Kindle with a new book loaded on it. The infusion itself (an IV line in your arm) took an hour this time when the same infusion last year took half that time. It seems I’ve reached that “magic age,” the nurse said, when IV drips get slowed down because our veins are old and might spring a leak like an old garden hose. Right or wrong, that’s my translation for the medical explanation I was given for the change. I was lucky to get through the infusion without having to pee. The more water you drink in the two days before the procedure the better it goes and I was hydrated so much my veins were plumped up and eager to carry the Reclast where it needed to go.

The room I was in had sixteen white La-Z-Boys full of patients covered in white warming blankets and 6-7 nurses tending to our needs, checking our lines and beeping machines and working at desks inside a glass cage. Two chairs away the only black person in the place, a bored girl in her late twenties, sat down shortly after I got there. They handed her a bag that at first I thought was a barf bag that she breathed in for a good 15 minutes but it turned out to be a collection bag for bacteria. She had the IV portal in her arm but there was no line of liquids hooked up the entire time I was there. They were waiting for whatever it is they do with bags full of bacteria in the lab before starting her IV. I was glad she wasn’t right next to me because: 1) I didn’t want Bacteria Girl to breathe her bacteria in my direction, and 2) I was fascinated with her dreadlocks and I was afraid I’d be one of those rude white people who’d ask if I could touch it. It reached down past the middle of her back and she was constantly petting it as if she had one of those Hungarian Puli dogs attached to her head.

In between me and Bacteria Girl was a woman who’d been there with an IV in her arm for five hours and when I expressed shock at that the nurse told me they have a few patients who spend eight hours parked in their La-Z-Boys. Aside from that, there was very little conversation going on between patients this time or the other times I’ve been there. Most people, I assume, are there for far more serious treatments than I was and conversations seems intrusive---lots of bald-headed women, a few bloated up men and a surprising number of young women who obviously come there often enough to be well known to the nurses.

Most of my hour was spent pretending to read on my Kindle while surreptitiously people watching. I was afraid to use my notebook to write about what I was seeing out of fear I’d drop the book on the floor where I couldn’t reach it and someone else would pick it up and see the sentences I wrote about a guy with a booger hanging from his nose. I don’t know why a nurse didn’t hand him a tissue. I'm guessing they’re so focused on looking at IV lines that they don’t look at faces as they cruise around the room. Whatever the reason, Booger Man strengthen my resolve not to use the bathroom while I was hooked up to the IV. You have to drag the IV pole with you and all I could think about is how many germs were on those poles. Places like that always bring out the germaphobic me. ©