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, July 17, 2019

Life in the 'Zipper' Lane

Levi’s stuff monkey must have diarrhea. He’s taken him outside three times this morning. Or maybe they’ve been fighting because all three times I’ve had to remind Levi to “get your baby” before coming back inside. In all the years we’ve been a “couple”---me and Levi---I’ve never been able to figure out how that dog decides which animal needs to go potty in the morning. His once favorite, a duck, hasn’t been outside in eons. His monkey and frog’s paw make it out a least once a week. Yes, I said ‘frog’s paw’. It used to be a whole frog bigger than Levi was at the time the frog joined the family but Levi kept beating it up and shortening its limbs and now that squeaky paw is all that survived. It will make the cut when it comes time to downsize Levi’s collection of stuffies. Oops, there’s that ‘D’ word I vowed not to use in so many future posts.

Since the ‘D’ word did come up I’ll just do one paragraph on the topic and then move on to other happenings this week. I opened up a filing cabinet drawer in the garage that I hadn’t opened in almost a decade and I was stunned to find three bundles of type-written papers containing copies of every single word I’d written at a once-very large stroke support website where I volunteered for 4-5years. The bundles stacked together measured eight inches tall! I had a ton of time-consuming, up-front and behind-the-scenes responsibilities on their message board plus I kept a blog there---was even on the board of directors---but eventually the site owner got so demanding it wasn’t funny. It’s a classic story of volunteerism, I suppose. You work hard, you’re good at what you do and they keep piling more and more work on until you call “uncle” and quit.

Make that two downsizing paragraphs…. Anyway, I let the bundles sit on my work table overnight trying to decide what to do with them. I've often said I wanted to write a book about that period of Don's and my life and there sat a treasure trove to help with that. On the other hand, I’m getting ready to open a new chapter in my life that, hopefully, will give me something more current to write about. I finally cut the bundles open, tore each sheet down the middle, mixed them all up and filled up my recycling box. Unless you’re a wanna-be writer, too, I don’t expect others to understand how truly difficult that downsizing decision was to make. But I have no regrets. Just seeing all those bundled up pages brought painful emotions to the surface and made me realize that no matter how much time passes I can’t go wading through the fine details of living on that website again.

New Topic: I think I shocked everyone in book club last week when I announced I’m dropping out. I like this group of women and they seem to like me, but I can’t concentrate on fiction when I have so much reading to do to research stuff I’m selling, and I won't be one of those members who never reads the books---too many of those in any book group. I’m sure they didn’t understand why I'm quitting now when I'm not moving anytime soon and I didn’t bother to explain how this is my last rodeo, so to speak, to make some money selling off my past. They did invite me to the summer luncheon in August and I will probably go. Maybe I'll bring my newly researched pair of 1899 handcuffs for show and tell. It's unique patent revolutionized police work.

Afterward, I went over to the office supply where I got a bunch of colored, stick-on dots to mark stuff in the house. Green dots go on stuff that gets moved with me, yellow goes on things I’ve identified to sell on e-Bay, blue stuff gets sold at the local auction house and so on. The dots will simplify the process so I’ll only have to glance at something to know a decision has already been made. Next I stopped by Bed, Bath and Beyond to look at dishes and bath towels. I’m not telling you why because I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve turned my sun porch into a Hope Chest of sorts. Okay, I’ll spill the beans on the towels; I bought new bath towels last winter but my new place will have two bathrooms with the same aqua color accents so I wanted to get more of the same towels while they’re still available and that will simplify my future laundry sorting days. Hey, I’m at my best when I’m living in the future. And dishes? That could be whole blog all by itself.

My cleaning girl is not very good at cleaning. But I love her for our great artsy-fartsy conversations. What does that say about me that I’ll clean my own sink drains after she leaves and this after I mentioned it to her in the past and I always leave an old tooth brush labeled “sink” down in the drain that’s calling out, “Clean me, clean me!” And this time I resorted to pulling the appliances away from the wall before she came or she’d just wash the countertop around them. I’ve decided I can’t be pleased. My last cleaning girl used to take everything off the countertop and set it all on the floor. Bugged the heck out of me that she was transferring yucky-do germs from the floor onto those nice, clean and sanitized counters when she’d put the stuff back where it came from. I finally spoke up about it but there again, I liked her and it was hard to be critical, knowing she had low self-esteem issues.

And so it goes living here in the 'zipper lane' where the past and present are merging until they are one and the same and they are creeping ever so slowly into my future.  ©

Levi and his monkey down for their afternoon nap.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Wandering Texas

My living room is one big souvenir box of our many vacations out West. In 1990 we went to Texas and came home with lots of great memories in addition to ‘stuff’ I’m now selling off. I wanted to attend a Book Lover’s Convention in San Antonio that year and Don was more than willing to go along. I was a member of the Romance Writers of America back then and the convention drew 600 ladies and a couple dozen men. Don loved being one of those guys at the book fair portion of the three day event and he was such a good sport. I’d given him an autograph book and a list of author’s tables where I wanted him to visit and he dutifully---probably gleefully---stood in lines while I went to workshops and lectures. He’d never read a romance book in his life, but he could talk the talk; he’d been the proof-reader for my bi-monthly book review newsletter for over a decade. It was a subscription publication that started out as a campaign against rape scenes is books labeled ‘romance' and it grew into a 28 page “newsletter” by the time I had to give it up to make time to share-care my dad.

Wandering the back roads of Texas before and after those days in San Antonio was an eye-opener. We came back knowing that although Affirmative Action seemed to have out-grown its usefulness in Michigan that sure wasn’t the case in Texas. For example, in a town too small for a traffic light we were in a store waiting to pay for something when a siren started blasting. Don asked the shop owner, a man in his mid-forties, what the siren was for and the man laughed and answered: "That’s the siren for the volunteer fire department. One blast for the white side of Main Street, two blasts for the businesses on Main Street and three blasts for the black side of Main Street. That one’s three blasts and no one is going to answer that one.” There was no shame in that admission, no hint that there was anything but delight in the man’s voice. Don and I looked at each other, set our would-be purchase down and walked out.

But we met some great people in Texas, too. One couple who befriended us had invited us to a party and to this day I regret being too chicken or polite or stupid to accept their offer. It was a party for Ann Richards who was elected the governor of Texas the following month. We’d never heard of her before, didn’t know how outrageous and dynamic she was. Didn’t know how important she’d become to the Democratic Party in later years. But I can image what would have happened if Don and Ann had gotten the chance to swap stories. He could out-story anyone and just the thought of those two together makes me grin. 

Texas was full of colorful character back then. Late one afternoon we ran into a guy who owned an antique store and he had a steer head scull on the porch that Don wanted to buy. The guy wouldn’t sell it to him but he said, “Come back tomorrow. I’ve got twenty-five more coming in the morning.” “If you’ve got more coming tomorrow,” Don replied, “why won’t you sell me that one today?” “I can’t”, the guy answered, “if I sell that one, I won’t have any left until tomorrow.” Around and around they went and we left without a bleached-out scull. Up here in Michigan, if you have a customer with cash in hand, you take it. We did get a steer head in our travels that year, probably a slander house special and it still hangs in the living room today. 

Another interesting encounter we had happened when we’d stumbled into a bar full of Native Americans one Saturday night while trying to find a place to get a thermos filled. All I can say is I was glad there was a BIG guy there wearing a badge. He stuck to us like glue until we got our business done and was out of the place. At one point when one of the locals challenged Don to a game of pool the big guy answered for Don that we were just passing through. Under his breath he was probably adding, “just a couple of dumb-ass tourists who think they’re Roy Roger and Dale Evans.’

From the back roads of Texas we picked up a couple of phrases that became part of our permanent vocabularies. One of those phrases we heard repeated by five-six guys was, “I’m a multi-millionaire, you know.” Over the years as Don and I would reminisce about wandering Texas those words would come bubbling out of our mouths. Another phrase we came home with was, “Don’t ever start buying food. Once you start, you’ll never stop!” We had run into a woman picking through garbage cans one night while walking the dog. She liked us and gifted us with that little bit of philosophy and many times over the years when we’d be going into a grocery store, one of us would say, “Muriel was right. Once you start buying food, you can’t stop.” We heard the next day that Muriel owned half the closed-up stores in that tiny town where she ate out of the garbage cans.  

When you go off the beaten tracks of any state you come home with quirky stories to tell and that's the way we always traveled. ©

Photo: That's my living room with cow's scull mixed in with the art work.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ants and Ancient Things

I’ve been invaded by tiny ants, or rather I should say the dog’s feeding area has been invaded. (Although in the process of killing them I found one crawling on my elbow!) It’s the second time this summer they’ve done that and I’m running out of new locations to put Levi’s food and water. This time I had to throw out the contents of his self-feeder---about three pounds of kibble. Hint: when your dog doesn’t want to eat, put your glasses on and look for ants. I don’t have any indoors ant spray because I’m guessing it’s not safe for Levi, so I used Lysol All Purpose Spray which I’m sure is just as toxic to dogs as ant spray but at least your floors get cleaner in the process of mass murdering the devil ants. Why is it that I still feel bad about killing a firefly last week but I have no sympathy for the ant carcass I just smeared all over the floor with the bottom of my shoe? He was a little scout, I presume, looking for his dead buddies that died by Lysol to drag them back to their nest to mourn or feed to his queen. Good luck with that, I wiped at least a hundred of them up with wet paper towels. I’ve seen ants carry off their dead but I made up the part about feeding them to their queen. But it sounds logical to me. It’s a cruel, hard world out there.

I’m struggling to write about something that doesn’t include the 'D' word in it. If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know which 'D' word I’m talking about. If not, I’ll give you a hint: It involves moving to a smaller home. I’ve only been at it for a month and I’ve come to the conclusion that this time around it feels different, more joyful. And I’ve further concluded that the joy is coming from a place where I have an exciting goal I’m working towards and not a painful experience driving me forward. I’ve only done the 'D' work twice in my life. Once after my husband’s stroke and once after he died. The first done under extremely stressful conditions, the second under a veil of sadness, tears falling like rain drops from Eeyore's cloud. Both times I was saying goodbye not only to things but to our whole way of life and saying hello to an unknown and murky future. However, I’m doing the 'D' work now because I will be moving on to life style that will come with very few responsibilities and I’ll be able to do my favorite things without the guilt of thinking I should be doing something else. I intend to be that quirky woman in the complex who paints and writes and knits and does the most complicated jigsaw puzzles on the planet---yes, the two-side puzzles, same picture on both side only slightly different view. My favorite one being a photograph of a pile of yellow No. 2 pencils.

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to take any quilting supplies with me but I’ve been thinking I should make one more quilt before I die. I don’t do them by machine so a box of ‘quarters’---quilters will know what those are---won’t take up much room. That box of fabric and a few quilters’ rulers, maybe some books of patterns and oh crap! I’ll need scissors and needles and thread, of my! How much hobby stuff can one fit in an eight foot long closet in my future den/hobby room and still have room for out-of-season coats? 

After my three day marathon of working in the garage and making great progress I took Saturday off to go to Goodwill, recycling and the grocery store and to stop by the pet store for more kibble. As fortunate would have it, I had a $15 rewards coupon so the dog food was nearly free which just goes to prove there is balance in the universe…the ants taketh away, the coupon giveth back. 

But before my afternoon trip to run the above errands I literally spent the morning trying to identify the above object and when Google images can’t ID something, you know you’ve got something rare. I once had a magazine article written about that very object but do you think I can remember what it said or where I put it or even if I kept it? Heck no! It’s a primitive lock---the tail/key comes out---but knowing for sure if it’s Roman or whatever can make the difference between e-Baying it for pocket change or hundreds. I’d donate it to a museum but I’d have to research museums to know which one exhibits that sort of thing which brings me right back to having to ID than dang thing first. It occurs to me that I really do have a lot of obscure information in my head; is it any wonder some of it falls out from time to time? With my last downsizing I donated a large oil and grease chart for a 1905 Reo Motor Car that I matted and framed like it was fine art for one of my husband’s birthdays and the car museum was happy to get it. It’s hanging in their research library where people who are restoring antique cars come to play. Sometimes giving something away feels great.

My house cleaner is coming today and I’ll go to my last book club tomorrow followed by a lunch date on Saturday with a very old friend, so I can almost promise, positively (well maybe) that the 'D' word won’t come up in my next post or two. But be forewarned, my husband didn’t nickname me "One Track Jean" for nothing. ©