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 16, 2017

It's all Over but the Crying...

It’s the middle of December and Christmas has come and gone for me. I started the season out gleefully anticipating the six parties on the calendar but I only got to go to four of them before winter got in the way. Wednesday the Alberta Clipper dumped 6-8 inches of blowing snow where I live, creating havoc for drivers and my Red Hat Society party got canceled. Since the fifteen of us were supposed to meet at a restaurant, we were able to move the reservation to January when the weather could very well interfere again. On the good side, the gift I bought for the exchange is one I really love and I will be thrilled if I get to keep it. Everything has a silver lining. I’ve never come home from a Red Hat party with something that didn’t go directly into a donation box. I wish they’d go to the ‘consumables only rule’ that is popular down at our senior center. All door prizes and gifts given down at the hall cannot add clutter to our houses. Twice I tried giving consumables at Red Hat Society parties but they didn’t go over as well as things like cookie jars, flashy jewelry, lawn ornaments, tree ornaments, kitchen gadgets, etc. Clutter for people with more life behind us than in front of us.

The road crews did a great job clearing the roads after our storm and the next day I was able to go to our book club party. We each brought a tray of finger foods and no gifts except for the one the club bought for our facilitator. Several people raved about the tarts I made and I’m going to get sick of them before the year is out because I had already brought the ingredients to make them again for my family’s party but I won’t be able to attend. I can’t drive after dark out in the boondocks and the niece who was going to drive me back to the city with her husband following behind in their car has decided to go south for a couple of weeks. Good call on her part. I’d take a beach community over snowy Michigan, too, if I could. But the knitted hats I made for everyone are with my other niece so they'll make it to the party.

January marks the beginning of knitting season at my house and I have to decide what to make. The hats for twenty-nine people was too ambitious a project for me. I got bored and tired of making them and I barely got them done by spring. The year before I made sweaters for babies and three winters ago it was baby car-seat blankets. Another year I made mittens for the senior hall sale but they don’t hold their annual crafts sale anymore. I will probably make something for my niece’s grandma drawers. They both have houses on lakes and they are carrying on a tradition my mom did with them. She had a chest of drawers with extra clothing for her grandkids because weather is often colder around the water and parents forget to bring extra sweatshirts, sweatpants or hats and with winter sports, dry mittens are always in short supply. I’m not fond of knitting with four needles but I’m thinking about making kid sized gaiters. I love gaiters and finger-less gloves. I wear both all winter long including inside the house. It’s a thyroid thing. I’m always icy cold, even in the summer.

I won a beautiful pink poinsettia at the union hall Christmas party and it’s the only holiday thing I have in the house. Unless you count the decorated tree that is nicely wrapped and sitting on a shelf in the basement and the two beautiful door wreaths with big velvet bows in their custom wreath boxes stacked on the same shelf. How lazy was I this year! Three trips up the basement steps could have put some holiday spirit in the house, but it felt like I'd be putting ruby-red lipstick on a whore hoping to score. See my big red bows, stop by for a visit! I've got holiday cheer inside! But I’ve been faithfully visiting my tree and wreaths when I go down to check on the mice and I’m happy to report that I’m winning that war. Ya, I know. I could have multi-tasked while I was on mice patrol and brought my Christmas stuff upstairs since I was going that way anyway. But I didn’t and I don’t really know why. Sometimes it’s better not to exam things like that too closely because we might not like what we find. ©

It's All Over but the Crying
The Ink Spots

It's all over but the crying
And nobody's crying but me
Friends all over know I'm trying
To forget about how much I care for you
It's all over but the dreaming
Poor little dreams that keep trying to come true

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Letters from the Edge

I’ve been sending self-depreciating attempts at humor otherwise known as my Christmas letters out for so long that it’s hard to stop even though this year I planned on doing just that. Then I ran into several people at a party who mentioned how much they look forward to my letters so I went home and whipped one up for 2017. If you’ve been reading my blog this past year you might recognize themes in the letter below but people on my mailing list don’t know about my online life so they won’t spot the copy and paste sections……. 

Dear Friends and Family, 

I wasn’t going to write a Christmas letter this year but I’ve been in a holiday mood and it’s hard to resist bragging about---I mean sharing all the good things that happened in my life these past twelve months.

Let’s start with January when I spent the entire month obsessing about why two large box stores and some smaller ones in town don’t carry light bulbs that fit inside my refrigerator. Granted mine is fourteen years old but it felt like a vast conspiracy was under way to sell me a new energy efficient appliance by phasing out the bulbs with a compatible base. I finally found what I needed online, ordered two and life was good again. 

February I bought a work-out shirt that has printed on the front: Everything Hurts and I’m Going to Die! But I never got a chance to wear it to the ‘Move it, to Lose it’ class that I signed up for at the YMCA. I flunked the assessment test to determine if I was strong enough to join the group. 

In March I was a very bad girl who spent too much time in bed with Ben and Jerry and other comfort foods. 

April: Can you believe it, I was having trouble opening bags, jars, bottles and tuna cans! I can’t tell you how many times I’d thought about running food containers over to a neighbor’s house while yelling, “Help me! Help me!” Instead, I bought some handy devices for old people and now you can be assured that I won’t starve to death while trying to get into hermetically sealed bags, olive jars and pull-tab cans.

May was spent worrying about lumpy finger joints, eyelids that need lifting for better vision, moles that grow in strange places, nipples that point toward the floor, my fatty-fatty-two-by-four body, cataracts and conversations that go on inside my head when I have too much time on my hands. 

June, July and August I did some serious trolling for friends down at the senior hall and all those seeds I sowed are starting to grow. Don was my best friend for forty-two years but the blooms of yesterday sadly fade away and it was time to find some gal pals.

September? Who remembers September? If you saw me then, let me know what I was doing.

October I went to a thrift shop with my new gal pals where several of us put our purses in one shopping cart and it was like keeping track of the president’s nuclear codes football. “You’re in charge of the cart now.” “I’m taking charge of the cart.” “Where’s the cart?” “I thought you had the cart.” “I thought you did!” I was probably doing most of the worrying because in all the years of asking Don to “keep an eye on my purse” I never could trust him not to wander off.

I spent the entire month of November living in 1967. Not to worry, I wasn’t having a “senior event.” I was re-reading letters I got from Vietnam and copies of letters I had sent to the fifty penpals I had back then. I started my trip down Memory Lane after going to a lecture given by a guy from The Center for American War Letters and he said in the Q &A that they’d welcome my collection. Before sending them off, I wanted to re-read them and I hardly recognized the girl I was back then who loved to ski in the winter and sail in the summer.

That brings me to December and I’m immensely happy that the biggest decision I had to make this month was whether or not to write an annual Christmas letter. Merry Christmas and may the New Year bring us all a more peaceful world than the one we’re leaving behind in 2017.  Jean

*  *  *  * *
To my deep embarrassment I just discovered I sent that letter out to everyone with a typo in the very last line where I wrote “we’rge” instead of “we’re.” When will I learn to proof-read from the bottom up! I make the most mistakes in the last paragraphs of whatever I'm writing. ©

Saturday, December 9, 2017

From Holiday Guilt and Presidential Powers to Full-out Gratitude

With the holiday spirit hanging in the air---the decorations lighting up the neighborhood nights, the Christmas music and good cheer heard in the stores, the parties lined up on the calendar---it feels like I’m living in an twilight zone. I swing from being genuinely happy in the ho-ho-ho season to feeling guilty about that. Who am I that I get to be light-hearted when so many people in Southern California are losing their homes and livelihoods to raging fires that are destroying thousands-upon-thousands of acres? Who am I that I get to be in my warm, well-lite home when 66% of the people in Puerto Rico are still without power since Hurricane Maria destroyed the island in September? 

FEMA is closing operations in our southern states but their workers aren’t getting a much needed break. They’re headed out to California and you can’t help but wonder how much longer our nation can afford to fund all the natural disasters we’re having back-to-back. If we lose our power grid here in the frozen north this winter, for example, will anyone be here to set up shelters for us? Yet our lawmakers are giving big tax breaks to billionaires thus raising our national debt but when it comes time to balance the budget it will be cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have in their crosshairs. They’ve actually spoke those words out loud and we’re supposed to say, “Oh, well,” and go back to our holiday cheer. If I drank I’d get one of those Virgin Wines Advent Calendar boxes. Open a door every day and pull out a bottle of bubbly.

I am getting whiplash trying to keep up with the changes the current administration is making. This week Trump set things in motion to relocate an embassy to Jerusalem against the advice of virtually every world leader, and he’s radically slashed the size of protected lands in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by 2 million acres---to the orgasmic delight of mining and oil exploration companies. And Utah is just the beginning. The administration has plans to shrink land in 24 national monuments including in Montana, California, Kentucky, a few states out east and the new marine monument in the Pacific Ocean. The smallest monument park, one in Mississippi that is dedicated to an early NAACP official who was assassinated by white supremacists in the 1960s is already under an acre in size. What possible justification could there be for slashing that national monument land in half other than it being dog whistle gesture to the guys who like to march around with Tiki torches?

Breathe, pace myself. Yes, time to change the topic. One of the commercial blogs I read from time to time had a topic this week titled A Powerful Reason to Give Gratitude During the Holidays and into the New Year. The bottom line, according to the article, is the holidays are often stressful so we need to double down on the act of giving gratitude throughout the day. “Gratitude stimulates your neurotransmitters, the hormones that bring energy and happiness into your living experience.” Or so they claim. Call me a cynic but sometimes I think the wine would work better. 

All kidding aside, I am grateful for the things the Sixty & Me blog article said I need to focus on: the people in my life, my talents and the events in my past that helped make me who I am. Although if I’m to be 100% honest here, I’m still working on being grateful for the latter. Being a widow helped make me who I am. Being my husband’s caregiver for so many years helped make me who I am. Watching my mom die due to a series of human errors helped make me who I am. These events may have made me a stronger person yadda, yadda, yadda but I was pretty happy with myself before I was tested with these challenges. So my gratitude in this area is not written in flowery cursive in a cloth-covered gratitude journey. If I wrote them down at all, I'd write them in pencil so I could erase them from time to time when I’m decidedly ungrateful and I’ve dedicated an hour to a pity party. 

What I am is immensely proud and grateful that I can still feel a full range of emotions, that I still have empathy and a sense of humanity that have not been crushed by Man or Nature. I am also grateful that Time Magazine chose the “Silence Breakers” that launched a global movement against sexual harassment as their ‘Person of the Year’ cover. I predicted it would Tarana Burke, the #MeToo Movement’s creator, and I got that and so much more. Woman Power is back and “the future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.” Yes, I understand the audacity of quoting that line from Al Franken’s resignation speech in the context of the Time’s magazine cover. Life is messy. ©