Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. 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. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Facebook and Green Burials

I love Facebook, especial the Short Reels. I watch them an hour and to an hour and a half every day. I suspect I'm addicted to them so I've resorted to setting a timer to limit my time. I don't feel guilty about spending time this way, however, because I learn things and often I get my post inspirations from the site. One of the most useful things I've learned is to never 'like' something on Facebook unless you want to see a gazillion of similar short videos and/or advertisements. I do follow certain people, though, to make sure I don't miss something they put online: Jon Steward, Stephen Colbert, Josh Johnson, The Good News Girl, and the Texas Beeworks girl are all people I follow for predictable content. 

In addition to these celebrities I follow some zoos for content about silverback gorillas, panda bears, sloths and elephants. I also follow or subscribe to Facebook sites about the following topics: Tiny Houses, Unique Trees, Lost Pets, Mid-Century Modern and Atomic Mid-Century Modern decor, cute puppies and kittens, Mahjong and freeing wild animals caught in dangerous situations. Currently I'm fascinated by the turtle pictured above who runs around on a skateboard tormenting the cat that I've actually seen helping the turtle get on his tiny skateboard. As my husband would have phrased it, "That little guy can really haul ass with those wheels under him!" As a kid I spent my summers at a lake so it's probably a sentimental thing, a throwback to when I had baby turtles as pets, that makes the turtles on skateboards so endearing.

I've seen giant tortoises, too, on what I thought had to be custom made skateboards. But I decided to fact check myself before I made that claim and I was shocked to find lots of sources for "Pet Skateboards" and as cheap as seven bucks. There are photos of birds, turtles, bearded dragons, small tortoises, cats, dogs and pigs acting as catalog models for the boards. You can even buy harnesses that go around the boards and your turtles so you can walk them on a leash like a dog. Please do an intervention for me if I start talking about getting a turtle as a pet. Wouldn't I be the talk of my independent living complex if I start walking a turtle? I did do a wee bit of research and learned I'd need at least a 29 gallon aquatic turtle aquarium for a smallish turtle and the water has to be changed weekly. That leaves me out because I can barely lift my gallon watering can to maintain the plants on my deck. 

Still, I miss having a dog. I'd had one in my life from birth to when Levi died a few months before moving here to independent living. Long time readers might remember when I researched getting a cage of canaries and I decided against the idea. There are seven dogs and five cats living here now so I do get to pet a dog almost daily, but I don't think I could find two people who'd agree to care for a dog if something happened to me which is in a document we have to sign to have a dog or cat living with us, plus we pay a $1,000 deposit. That's one of the disadvantages of not having any children or grandchildren or a big estate where I could hire strangers from the pet trust lawyer here in town to be a dog's guardian. The document makes sense in a place like this where every week someone gets hauled off to the hospital. If that person had a pet, the concierge or security guard would call the pet's guardian to come pick it up for temporary or permanent care depending on the outcome of the medical emergency.

Another one of my current fascinations on Facebook are Neil Degrassee Tyson clips. He's an astrophysicist, author, Noble Prize winner and the host of a National Geographics TV show. Not bad for a man with only 132 IQ, which is notably higher than the average person on the street with sixty-eight percent of us falling between 85 and 115. But Neil's is a far cry from smarty-pants public figures like Bill Gates (IQ 150), Elon Musk (155), Mark Zuckerberg (152) and Sunny Doel's 166. What Tyson has that most of these other guys don’t is an ability to communicate advanced theories and technical stuff to ordinary people in a way that we understand it. 

Recently I saw an interview of Neil's where he was asked what happens to us after we die and they got to talking about 'green burials' which is what Neil wants done with his body. I first heard the term on the Netflix series Six Feet Under and the Green Bureau Council defines them this way: “Green burial is a way of caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that furthers legitimate ecological aims such as the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat.” What they aren't saying is your body is wrapped in burlap and placed in a shallow grave where the worms and bugs help decompose the body and the open land itself can eventually be reclaimed by nature. 

Neil says he wants this type of burial "so that the energy content contained within it [his body] gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime.” Not for me! I'd rather have the energy left in my dead body go up the smoke stack of a crematorium while its still legal. The National Death Centre says, "one cremation uses as much energy in the form of gas and electricity as a 500-mile car trip and releases a staggering 400 kilos of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, not to mention mercury vapor and other pollutants." 

Everything comes full circle if you give it enough time. I predict that 100 years from now our choices in deposing of our deceased will be between green burials and 'sky burials.' There are fourteen places in my state where green burials are legal now, but when I checked while I was binge watching Six Feet Under there were only a couple of places. So clearly this trend is becoming a real thing. They've got to be considerably cheaper without embalming, a casket, a cement vault or a cemetery marker which might account for the trend more than people being concerned about the environment.

Sky or celestial burials were used by indigenous populations and on every continent on earth dating back thousands of years. (How historians know this would fill an entire post.) Sky burials are still legal in Tibet and parts of India and there is a movement to bring them back as an Eco-friendly choice. A sky burial, in case you don't remember involve a raised platform or a tree and either fire or vultures. Yikes! I'm off to Facebook to find some puppy and kitten videos to replace that image in my head. But I'll leave you with this: If you haven't put your preferences in writing, you should because your next of kin might be a penny-pincher and choose something you (may) or may not like.

Until next Wednesday. © 


Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Living Through an F-5 Tornado and its Aftermath

The1956 photograph above is of my husband standing on the back steps of what was left of the farmhouse where he grew up. A tornado hit the farm twice, ten years apart. The last time it was an F-5 and they couldn’t rebuild. Strange stories came out of that tornado like the fact that Don’s fifteenth birthday cake still sat on the kitchen table on the other side of the window on the far left in the photo---not a fleck of debris on it. The second story and roof above the cake were gone. The wall that was still standing upright to the right of Don had a clothesline running between it and a tree and when the clothesline was cut that wall fell in, starting a chain reaction that took down the wall with the window. (If you look hard enough you can see the clothesline on the right side in the photo.) 

Other strange things included one of their work horses was found miles away after the tornado passed---too far for him to run in such a short period of time. Not a scratch on him while the other horses who ran for the near-by woods weren't so lucky. A heavy china cabinet with a wave-glass front toppled over on its face and while three legs snapped off the wave-glass doors were intact. I still have a set of circa 1910 ivory elephants that were inside that china cabinet. Once a set of seven classic elephants but one was lost to the tornado and another suffered a broken leg. Which elephant got lost---happiness, wisdom, prudence, royal dignity, invincible power, longevity or intelligence---was debated a time or two over the years.

The first tornado didn't do as much physical damage but a scandal came out of it because the local insurance man had scammed all the people who 'bought' policies from him. He took their payments for years but never sent them into the main company to actually secure the policies he 'sold.' Victims like Don's parents were left to rebuild on their own. 

Just days before the second tornado Don's dad had bought his first tractor, a 1955, bright blue Ford and the barn it was parked in went flying all over the fields that they previously worked with a team of horses, but the tractor didn't get a scratch on it. The only work that tractor ever did was when the family used it to help drag what was left of the house and barn out to a gravel pit on the farm that they turned into a burn pit. Someone in the family had to camp out 24/7 on the driveway with a rifle close by to stop the looters who came along soon after the tornado left the area. And to the day he died, Don would never pass up a Salvation Army bucket without putting money in it. During that cleanup period someone from the organization would hike across the field to the burn pit every day to give the workers coffee and sandwiches so the women folks didn't have to stop to make lunches. Their job was to comb though the debris and sort out what could be salvaged and what had to be burned or buried.

In the decade that followed the tractor was parked in a garage at a house his parents moved into back in town. Eventually, Don bought it from his parents and he still had the tractor when he died twelve years ago---in storage most of that time. Even after he had a massive stroke in 2000 Don couldn't be talked into parting with that 1955 Ford. I finally sold it as an antique tractor after his death and even though I got a good price for it, it was a break-even thing if you factored in the decades of storage fees we paid for Don to hold on to a piece of his family history.  Some might see it as $8,000 thrown down a rabbit hole---as storage fees generally are---but it was his money that he worked hard for and I can think of worst things he could have done his money. I was glad to see it go, though, and I tell myself that Don would be happy that the buyer planned to enter that tractor in antique farm equipment shows. That was Don's retirement dream, taken away from him by his stroke.

The 160 acres of land that made up the farm had nothing left on it for years except a silo and 60 acres of virgin timber. For decades we could still go up there and pick rhubarb and raspberries and hike in woods. But eventually after the four brothers inherited the farm it was a source of many arguments between the head-strong brothers. Two wanted to develop it into a housing project and two wanted to turn it into a campground with hiking trails. After a half a decade of debating and getting no where, the county came along and wanted to buy it. They agreed to sell, but the family tried to get the buy/sell agreement to include the right to name the proposed 'public park' they claimed they wanted it for but the county was adamant that would be a deal breaker. After the sale went through we found out why. It wasn't a family picnic park they wanted the land for, they built a sports complex there and the corporation fronting the money to develop it wanted the naming rights. After the sale, Don could never drive by the old farm without bad feelings coming back up. He felt they'd been lied to and that they never would have agreed to sell if a family picnic park had not been the carrot held out to them. He always wondered if one of his brothers had clued the county in on how to sway the others to sell.

We humans are resilient creatures, aren't we. We go through horrific events like losing our homes, our jobs, our health or people who are important to us but somehow most of us manage to come out the other side of our tragedies to rebuild our lives again and again, and to dream again. But if you look deep enough those horrific events leave scars behind on our souls. 

Living through two tornadoes effected Don. Not only did he take storm warnings seriously and would go to the basement when the weather bureau issued their warnings. I believe if he hadn't stood  watching things like old license plates, his childhood pedal car, live chickens and 10 gallon milk cans spinning upward he wouldn't have spent his entire adult life trying to buy back his childhood in the form of all the toys and family pieces handed down through the generations. He couldn't pass up an estate sale, garage sale, auction or antique store without stopped.

This has been the backstory about how one memorabilia collector was born. All collectors have a backstory---whether it's the good stuff worth big bucks they collector or their houses are over taken by plastic recycling and rotten, bug-infested food. I'm grateful my obsessed collector was the former (sentiment driven) and not the latter (insecurity driven). If you've ever watched the TV show, Hoarders, you already know that they both have a common thread of a loss in their lives that contributes significantly to their need to surround themselves with whatever they collect, be it trash or treasures.  ©

Until Next Wednesday. 

This photo is of the farm before the tornado destroyed it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Sick to my Stomach Over the Debate!

By the time this post goes live the first presidential debate for the 2024 Biden vs Trump election will have been hashed over and dissected everywhere except maybe in outer space where it's still not known if there are little green creatures living there and if they are, have they 'cracked' our language enough to understand how seriously flawed this debate was? What is for certain is the 51 million people on earth watched that hour and an half Hot Mess in what CNN is saying was "both the highest-rated program and largest livestream event in CNN history." But like I've said many times in the past I often write to help me sort out my emotions so let this be a warning to anyone who is sick to dead of this topic, you may want skip reading this post. But I hope you don't.

There is no way around it, Biden (81) came out looking fragile and very early on he delivered a word salad at the end of a sentence and he never recovered from that faux pas, even though he stuck to the format of the debate and actually tried to answer the moderator's questions where Trump (78) employed an underhanded and nasty debate technique called The Gish Gallop. Wikipedia defines the Gish Gallop like this: "The Gish gallop is a rhetorical technique in which a person in a debate attempts to overwhelm their opponent by providing an excessive number of arguments ...with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments." I used to be on a debate team in college and I have no clue how anyone could ever successfully combat the number of lies and insults Trump threw out at a such a fast pace and usually with no relationship to the questions the moderator asked of Trump, leaving Biden looking befuddled and at a loss for words. Who wouldn't be?

CNN didn't live fact-check the debate because, they said, it was up to the candidates to call each other out on misleading and false stuff. The day after, however, Fact Checkers were going at it all over the place including at NPR that reported Trump's claim that food costs have "double, tripled and quadrupled" under Biden when it actually only increased 21%. NPR also said of Biden's claim that Trump's tariff proposal would drive consumer costs up $2,500 per household that it would actually range from $1,700 to $2,500 per year.

I could be here all day if I repeated all the false claims Trump made so I'll jump on the two most outrageous. 1) He denied that the Charlottesville march with the Proud Boys wearing swastikas and carrying tiki torches while chatting Nazi slogans ever took place, and 2) he claimed that the January Sixth Insurrection only "involved a relatively small number of people who where escorted in by the Capital Police." How on earth he gets his followers to believe lies like these when those events were both live on TV and documented on film by a wide number of trusted media sources is beyond understanding. It's scary that we live with so many low information people who believe the crap coming out of his mouth or worse yet, they don't care that he lies and insults his way through life.

The next day both men were at rallies hashing over the debate and Biden was a totally different person who looked and sounded strong and energetic. I truly wish that Biden had shown up at the debate. A couple of sources said he was fighting a cold the night before but I find it hard to believe a night's sleep would make that much difference unless he'd taken something for the cold before the debate. He admitted he isn't the debater he used to be or as young as he used to be but, he said, "I know right from wrong and how to tell the truth and how to get things done. When you get knocked down, you get back up!"

Obama put out a Facebook post after the debate that said much the same things. "Bad debate nights happen," he wrote. "Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself. Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight — and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November." 

I have to confess that watching the debate made me sick to my stomach. There's talk among the party big wigs about replacing the top of the ticket and there is still time to do that, but that process is messy. Here's what Reuters reported was said by Elaine Kamarck, from the Brookings Institute and a ranking member of the DNC. "He will not be nominated officially until later this summer, so there is still time to make a change and a handful of scenarios to enact one: Biden could decide himself to step aside before he is nominated; he could be challenged by others who try to win over the delegates he has accrued; or he could withdraw after the Democratic convention in Chicago in August, leaving the Democratic National Committee to elect someone to run against Trump in his place." Doing it after the convention would be less messy and would present a more united front. Governor Gavin Newsom, Pete Buttigieg or Governor Gretchen Whitmer are mentioned by most sources as the most likely to get voted in at the top of the ticket. This all makes me feel better that we aren't locked into running the Biden who showed up at the debate, should he show up more often in the next few weeks. 

But I'll be perfectly honest here, I'd prefer it if Biden stepped down but if he doesn't I will vote for him over Trump even if Joe is in a coma. Our Democracy is at stake and that is NOT hyperbolic. Trump's a dangerous threat to our entire system of government. Especially now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the president has "absolute immunity from prosecution for official acts, even if done corruptly or in violation of the criminal laws," as Chief Justice Robert wrote in the majority ruling.

Trump plans to gut the FBI, the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue, do away with the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, undo all the climate control protocols set in place, not to mention how he'll continue to destroy women's reproductive rights. All that and his allegiance to the NRA, Project 2025 and the Heritage Foundation that has already made serious inroads into watering down our Supreme Court will fundamentally change the character of our country from a Democracy to Authoritarian government at best, or a Dictatorship at its worst. And let's not forget that the next president also will get to appoint two Supreme Court justices because Thomas and Alito want to retire. 

This election is the most important one in our lifetime. We all need to stay informed and help people understand that we must go to the polls this fall if for no other reason than for the down-ballot people. Which party controls the House and Senate are is going to be crucial no matter who is elected our 47th president.

Until Next Wednesday. ©

Footnote: I just saw this posted on Facebook by Kati Berg: "I have fond memories of the last time Trump was in office ….. refrigerator trucks full of bodies.”about 100,000. Food shortages, people fighting over toilet paper. And essential workers, being sacrificed. Isolation. School shootings . Good times. 🙄 "