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, May 30, 2020

Mr. Rogers, Sex, Racism and Aliens from Outer Space


Here I am again staring at a blank computer screen and wondering what I’m going to write about. At times like this do I call on Stephen King or Fred Rogers for inspiration? Mr. King, when people ask him how to write, he answers, “One word at a time” which seems like he blowing them off but, really, he’s not. You can’t write if all you do is think about writing. He goes on to explain that the Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time and you can see it from space. So what’s a little blog post between friends? I can do this! The trick is to figure out the right words to use in the right order and Mr. King keeps that secret close to his vest. 

I mentioned Fred Rogers  as inspiration for blog fodder because too often since the pandemic started I’ve been thinking about of one of his songs, hoping it would conjure up a magical spell or fantasy that will set my world right again.

“What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong...
And nothing you do seems very right?

“What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?”

I’m obviously too old to bite or punch although some old people have been known to revert back to those childhood habits but I’m not going there if I can help it. “Pound some dough” though is thought-provoking considering that so many people have taken up baking during the pandemic that it’s caused a shortage of flour nation-wide. Did we learn that trick for coping with stress in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood so long ago that we’d forgotten why kneeing dough helps calm our minds? Or is it something more primal inside us? I always found baking bread to be meditative and it didn’t hurt that making artisan breads was one of the few things I was actually good at doing in a kitchen.

Speaking of kitchens I’ll tell you a secret; I kind of wish now that my husband and I tried sex in the kitchen. (It’s all those stupid romance books I’ve been reading that’s making me type this confession.) I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing that we never did it the kitchen or we just didn’t think of it but whatever the reason that ship has sailed without me. Even if I was still interested, there aren’t men in my peer age group who could lift me up to sit on the edge of countertop so we could---shall we say---line up our ‘baking equipment’ and that might be the least of an old dude’s problems. Egads, I need a Clorox Disinfecting Wipe to get that image out of my head! Funny thing about fantasies, though, I’m always young, fun and sassy in mine. And just in case you're wondering---and who doesn't---"wham-bam thank you ma’am" is literally defined as a sexual encounter conducted quickly. It's been around since the 1950s and it was made popular by Dean Martin.

Tip for the day: We can’t play tag with our friends during social distancing because being tagged “it” could cause us to get us sick and die, and if you’re black you also can’t run as fast as you can without chancing getting killed for #runningwhileblack. There’s a list of 100 Things Not to do While Black online with links back to stories of everyday things people of color have done that caused a white person to call the police---too many of which resulted in unjustified killings. Black kids as young as seven have been shot by the police for doing normal kid stuff. And it doesn’t matter what kind of neighborhood you’re in. A former White House aid under Obama was moving into an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment and someone called 911 to report he was burglarizing the place. Some people say that racism has gotten worse since Obama became president, that he somehow caused a wider divide and I used say, "No" his getting elected just brought the racism out in the open. Then I heard Will Smith squash both those ideas on the Stephen Colbert show when he said, “Racism Is Not Getting Worse. It's Getting Filmed." Yup, the popularly of cell phones is just documenting what’s been there all along.

I've gotta end this blog post someplace and if I was writing fiction I’d have a mass invasion of purple aliens coming to earth in peace with a Covid-19 vaccinate and a way to mindwipe bigotry out of existence. And while we wait for that to happen, let's all pledge to stay safe from the virus and to not rush to judgement regarding those who are protesting in the streets (before the White Supremacists and anarchists entered the fray and turn the protests into riots). Sure, it's bad, it's shocking, it's tragic, it's terrifying and the lawlessness needs to end, but try to remember that when activists like Colin Kaepernick took a silence knee at sporting events to draw attention to the types of things that sparked this recent violence, few people listened. Let's hope something or someone can find a middle ground in between these two extreme ways of reacting to the same social injustices so that more people will demand systemic changes. God help us if we can't.  #blacklivesmatter! ©

Wham Bam...one of the things I didn't know when I was a teenager

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Pandemic Routines, Depression and Disappointment

This post is brought to you by people watching myself. It's all I've got, no laughs included.
I’m disappointed in myself and I don’t know how to turn things around. I am wallowing in pandemic inspired depression and I’m reminded of that the minute I wake up in the morning and my feet hit the floor. Another day of sameness to look forward to is the first thought that pops into my head, another day of being ashamed of how much time I’m wasting when I could be using it more productively. Instead, I spend too much of my awake time burying my nose in the refrigerator or trash books or wishing I could have my pre-pandemic schedule back. I’m such a creature of habit that I miss routines like going to recycling or seeing my gal pals twice a month or reading labels in the grocery store. Recycling opened up again last week so there’s that to look forward to, but my gal pals getting together again and leisurely trips to the grocery store are collateral damage of Covid-19. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Around 8:00 AM I shuffle into the kitchen, put my Starbucks Sweet Morning Blend coffee grounds in my maker and while I wait for it to perk I jump on the computer. (Not literally jumping up and down on my keyboard, but you knew that didn't you.) Once my coffee is ready I’m again reminded that we’re in pandemic mode because I haven’t been able to buy my specialty spray foam to top off my coffee since the shortages started in the grocery stores. The dog doesn’t care, Levi sleeps in until around 10 AM and speaking of grocery store shortages, I live in fear that I won’t be able to buy his Milk-Bones Trail Mix or Milk-Bone Brushing Chews. I might be able to understand disruptions in our food distribution chain but Levi will make my life utterly miserable at 10:15, 3:00 and at bedtime if he doesn’t get what he demands. He doesn’t suffer in silence. He’ll bark his demands until I get my head out of the clouds and make my way to the antique canister set where I keep his loot. Yesterday I reminded him that he’d better watch out. If meat prices keep going up, he’ll be in danger of ending up on someone’s crock pot. 

By 10:30 I’ve had my breakfast and I’m reminded again that we’re in a pandemic by the orange juice I’ve add to my mornings. It’s silly to think it can help build my immune system up to fight getting the virus but don’t tell me that. I want to believe I’m in control of something besides picking the lint out of my belly button. Also by 10:30 I’ve checked on my e-Bay sales, checked my blog for new comments or new posts from my blogger friends plus I've read my email and Facebook page. Facebook is one giant billboard flashing reminders that we’re in a pandemic. And just so you’ll know, I’ve quit watching the morning news shows or TV in the mornings for that matter, which in itself is a huge reminder that the pandemic has changed my routine. 

Between 11:00 and 12:00 I force myself to get dressed and I do mean 'force' as I'd happily stay in my bathrobe all day. But if you're taking my mental health temperature I should add that I've actually only done it 3-4 times since the pandemic lock down started in mid-March. My afternoons are spent researching the collectibles I’m selling, photographing them and writing up listings plus getting them ready to ship so they can be weighed before uploading the listings to e-Bay. I could do this all faster if I wasn't sneak-reading chapters in trash books in between my downsizing work. If I had any sense at all I’d get myself outside after getting dressed to walk the dog around the neighborhood. I have my excuses and even I don’t want to hear them---hear about all the new dogs in the neighborhood that makes it harder to walk Levi and I don’t want to hear about how strange it is to pass by so many other walkers as we try to avoid getting close to one another. With the exception of the inspirational sidewalk chalk art it’s not friendly “out there” anymore and I half expect to see drawings of a hands giving walkers the middle finger showing up because foot traffic has gotten fierce and frequent.

In the pre-pandemic days I used to eat lunch out around 2:00 and several times I week I’d do that out of the house and run a couple of errands while I’m out and about. I miss listening to my Sirius XM radio in the car far more than I would have guessed. Now, the pandemic has me considering if I should cancel it because I’ve only driven my car a whole 12 miles in the past 10 weeks and I don't see that changing any time soon. I also miss people watching at the Guy-Land Cafeteria where I used to sit writing blog posts out long-hand. I miss the monthly get-togethers they had at the continuum care campus where I’ve been planning to move. I miss that dream---the dream of me and Levi wandering the trail around the lake on their campus with a camera in hand, then going back to my unit where my time would be spent in guilt-free painting, writing and reading. Now, 'guilt' seems to be my middle name.

Since the pandemic hit the U.S.A. I’ve been eating a combined lunch/dinner around 6:00/7:00, while mindlessly sitting in front of the computer again or playing my two daily required ‘brain-games’ on my Kindle. Early evening is also when I go to Amazon Unlimited to return a book and find another book to read between 11 PM and 2:30 AM. Even reading straight-forward genre books that don’t require any thinking doesn’t cause me to fall asleep without the use of a sleeping pill and even then they sometimes don’t work. The minute my light goes out, I’m back in pandemic worry mode. And I’ll end this post where I started by saying, I’m so disappointed in myself and I don’t know how to turn things around. ©

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Memoral Day Hindsight and Ice Cream Cones


Memorial Day is fast approaching and I need to plan a trip to the cemetery to tend my husband’s gravesite which isn’t really a gravesite since he isn’t actually buried there. Part of his ashes are there and a stone that shows both our names and his birth and expiration dates. Expiration date, yup, if you have read the very first post I wrote in this blog you’d know why I’m using that word instead of saying the date he died. I can use it tongue-in-cheek now but back when he died this is what I wrote:

“Widowhood: Day one after the funeral. I made some calls today to notify people about Don’s passing. One was to the medical supply company that rented us his oxygen machine and the backup oxygen tanks to use during power outages that never happened. And the woman on the phone says, ‘And when was your husband’s expiration date?’

Expiration date? I thought. We’re not boxes of cereal with expiration dates stamped on our bottoms! If that were true we could have planned our lives better! And that thought got me to laughing and visualizing poor Don's bare butt with an expiration date tattooed on one cheek. No doubt Ms. Medical Supply Lady thought I was entirely too happy, given the nature of my call. I wasn't happy, of course, but I'd already used up my daily crying quota by noon and it was 2:00 in the afternoon.” 

I have since come to understand that no matter how a person talks to a newly minted widow they can’t win the wordage war. “When did you husband die?” “When was your husband’s expiration date?” Tomato tomahto. Emotions are raw. Tears are close at hand and we’re on the lookout for targets to aim our pain and anger. My target came in the form of an old friend who wrote in a condolence card words to the effect that now I was free to go have fun. Say what? She was lucky she didn’t say that to me in person and I’m proud of myself that I didn’t write that in a condolence card to her five years later when her husband died. I’m not proud to admit, however, that I thought about doing it but tit-for-tat is for children I finally decided. And I’m not proud of how much space that single sentence took up in my head. It festered and grew until I finally came to the conclusion that as inept as her words were she looked at my 12 ½ years of caregiving my husband as a long suffering burden---which wasn't the way I defined that period of my life---and in my new widow's shoes she’d want to go on a Caribbean cruise as soon as the ink dried on the life insurance check. Did I mention that’s exactly what she did after her husband died?

If we did come with expiration dates tattooed on butts, what date would I pick? I’m not a proponent of the Death with Dignity Movement by any stretch of the imagination. It’s too draconian for my tastes and ripe for misuse and murder. Nope, I’m not going under that bus with a little push from God knows who including someone with selfish reasons to want to me out of the way. Also not going to ride an iceberg off into an icy sea in a noble gesture to save the tribe from caring for the elderly. Who goes next, the disabled? The unemployed? But if I could whisper a hint in ear of the universe I’d pick my expiration date to be the day after my 100th birthday. How’s that for having a lofty goal for a Septuagenarian? 

Speaking of lofty goals, ohmygod I just did the math and if I’m going to finish reading War and Peace before I die I’ll need to read 73 words a day for the next twenty-two years! That’s so do-able if I could just get past the fact that I don’t care about Russian society or Napoleon’s invasion. If the main theme of Tolstoy’s tome is supposed to be that “family happiness is the ultimate reward for spiritual suffering” as one summary states why couldn't Leo have gotten that point across in less than 587,287 words? What I’m beginning to question why I'm still holding on to that grueling reading goal when another long-time, fun-filled goal gets overlooked. That one involves balancing an ice cream cone on the end of my nose before it drops on my chest and ends up on the sidewalk. (I was thirty going on twelve so don’t judge, but I still think I can do it even if I failed my first time out.) I’ve had the War and Peace goal for so long that I don’t remember how it came about but I’m guessing it has something to do with my dyslexia and coming to the doors of the library later than most---figuratively speaking. I should get real, admit that it’s a futile goal and model myself after a character in one of Pippa Grant’s romantic comedies who chants to herself: “Accept it and let it go. You are a river, constantly in motion, leave the past behind.” Never let it be said that you can’t find nudges of inspirational thought in trashy fiction. ©