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, March 23, 2019

Everything That was Old is New Again


I’m sitting here waiting for FedEx, UPS and USPS to show up with early birthday gifts to myself. Shopping online is way too easy. Coming today are my iron bed in a gun-metal gray (a new twist on a very old style), a box spring wrap (a new twist on bed skirts) a blanket and another set of sheets. The blanket I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond might go back, if I like the one coming from Amazon better. That store was a disappointment when I shopped it last week. They’ve enlarged a makeup section and cut down on the selection of towels and sheets. I guess makeup qualifies as “beyond” but most people think “bed” and “bath” supplies when they go there.

On my library shelf I have an 1895 Montgomery Ward and a 1905 Sears-Roebuck catalogs left over from an era when I day-dreamed that I was going to write historical romance novels. As much time as I spent studying those catalogs you would have thought I was living back in those times when ordering something took weeks to get delivered. Now you order, and two days later it arrives at your door. How cool is that! Over the years those catalogs have come in handy for identifying stuff we’d find in our travels. If no one could tell us what something was, there was a good chance it would end up in my husband’s collection. Sometimes it would take a few years, but eventually we’d figure it out, although I still have two things in the house that are mysteries. Even today I get a kick out of looking through those catalogs. You never know when it will come in handy to know that in 1895 you could buy a yard of 1¼ inch Irish Point Cambric Embroidery stitched on a three inch cloth for seven cents. Okay, so I’ve never actually been able to work that fact into a conversation, but I’m hopeful that day will come.

Back on topic. Here’s the deal. The bed comes today (Thursday as I'm writing this) and Saturday the guys from the service that Wayfair hooked me up with will come put the bed together. The mattress place only delivers to my area on Tuesdays and Friday so I’ll be in a holding pattern where I’m sleeping on a twin bed in the same room where my new bed will be set up. Tuesday the son-I-wish-I-had will be back to pick up that second twin---he’s already picked one set up to make room for the new bed. He has two sets of twin grandkids and they will put my old bed frames and mattresses to good use. Confused? You’re not the only one.

With the painters then all the other stuff going on poor Levi has been confused and out of sorts. I used those twin beds shoved up sit-by-side and he's been sleeping on Don’s side since a few days after he died. The first night with only one twin in the house Levi tried to claim it as his. I made him a nest on the floor next to the bed but he wouldn’t use it and there is no way I was going to sleep on a crate liner with a cushy blanket on top. It took him a half hour of pouting and pacing before he finally acknowledged me as the alpha member of our pack and went to the living room to sleep on the couch. The second night we agreed to share the foot end of the twin, but I was so afraid I’d fall out of bed that before I fell asleep I woke him up and made him move. He rearranged the nest on the floor, laid in it for two minutes then left to sleep on the couch. By the time he gets used to this temporary arrangement, the new mattress will be delivered and he’ll be confused all over again. 

Fun fact: The iron-look-alike bed I just paid $350.00 for on sale cost $7.50 in 1895 plus 35 cents for extra slats...and that one was solid iron. I had an antique iron bed that I had to sell when my husband had his massive stroke and it went for $800 on eBay. Everything that was old is new again.... ©

Here's all the photos of the finished bathroom redo:

view from the doorway, left side of the room---that linen closet is 22" deep

view from th doorway, right side of the room--the chest was not in the room when Don was alive and we needed the space for his wheelchair after transfers
This chest is one of the first pieces of furniture I refinished when I was in my teens. The 3-D photo on the wall was of one of my husband's gas pump faces. It was taken by a professional photographer who now sells them for big bucks. It speaks to me in ways I can't describe.
of course, we need one of these in a bathroom

This watercolor print was done by a local artist. It's of a channel coming from Lake Michigan and it's one of my favorite places on earth.
Going back out of the bathroom you see the necessary stuff on the counter top, although the linen closet has plenty of room for it if I want to hide it out of the way.
I wanted a pop of color on the floor without a pattern that fought with the shower curtain and I didn't want a solid color the would dominate the space. This 5'x7' rug filled the bill and is meant to look like a worn-out oriental rug. I had 23 rugs on my 'wish list' at Wayfair before I narrowed it down and I'm happy with my final choice.

Last but not least, pulling back the shower curtain to show the safety features in my shower. They are one of the reasons why when I was looking for condos a few years ago I couldn't find one that didn't feel like a downgrade for aging in place. If the portable chair is removed there's enough room for a rolling shower-chair for a disabled person. It might look like over-kill with all the grab bars but trust me, as the caregiver helping with showers I used them all...and still do to practice being safe in the leading place where seniors fall. Anyone remodeling a bathroom needs to plan for their needs down the road, think safety and accessibility BEFORE you actually need it. (Are you listening, N.K.B.?) After Don's stroke our houses sat empty and we were parked in a small apartment while our new house was being built because neither one of our old houses had bathrooms that could be remodeled to suit his needs. Even the apartment bath had to be approved before the hospital would release him to my care. In the stroke community I ran into a lot of people who spent unnecessary time in nursing homes waiting for their home bathrooms to be upgraded for safety and/or accessibility. 

If you think I'm being militant about this issue now, you should have known me a year or two out from Don's stroke, after we'd been through major housing issues. We had too much income to quality for the government subsidized apartment buildings that are set up for the disabled and the required 10% accessible apartments in large privately owned complexes were being rented to people who didn't need them. The apartment we did find had to have the bathroom and bedroom doors removed to accommodate his wheelchair while the apartment next to us had the government's basic ADA requirements---zero steps, wide doorways, grab bars in the bathroom---was rented by a young, healthy girl. Hopefully, the housing accessibility issue is better now than it was in 2000 but I wouldn't bet on it. Some states have since passed laws that large builders must build 10% of their houses accessible but back when I was following stuff like this, there was push back on making that a federal law. And ordinary people like to fool themselves into thinking they will never have a need for commonsense stuff like good grab bars. Drives me crazy! Rant off.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Grand Central Station Busy Around Here


I’ve been planning my bedroom and bath redecorating project since January when I wore out the internet shopping for a quilt and shower curtain to establish a color palette. I wanted a girlie, beach cottage theme which probably has you wondering why I’m now the proud owner of newly painted gray walls, white ceilings and freshly steam-cleaned gray carpeting. The answer would be that I like starting with a neutral foundation that lends itself to making changes down the road should I get tired of living with the pale coral and soft aqua accents I’ll be living with for a while. Those are not colors I’ve ever had before and, believe me, it was hard not to go full out with pale pink and burgundy cabbage roses with moss green accents that I lived with for years (in my pre-husband life) and I still adore that combination.

My redecorating project was a long time in the thinking stage because I wanted to get a new mattress and bed and the harsh winter and bad roads kept me from shopping. And it was also hard to justify getting rid of my old mattress that still has a lot of life in it. But the bottom line is it’s too heavy for me to lift to make properly since my issue with my elbow that resulted in a life-time weight restriction on what I can lift unless I want to risk an elbow replacement surgery. I’ll bet I’m the only mattress shopper who had to act out putting bedding on a mattress before ordering one. Not being able to make a proper bed, I think, is contributing to my restless sleep. And I hate the way cleaning service girls don’t have a clue how to make a hospital corner. I’m so old that all females had to learn how to make them to get out of high school. I doubt schools even teach ‘domestic engineering’ anymore aka home economics.

Figuring out a schedule for painting, carpet cleaning, pickup on the old twin mattresses and bed frames, delivery on a new full-size bed and finally delivery on the mattress was driving me crazy. No matter how I shook it up, I figured there would be a few nights of me fighting the dog for the couch. Stay tuned half the swap-out is completed and the rest should occur over the coming week. In the meantime, the bathroom is almost finished. I still have some artwork to go up. The photo at the top is a preview of my big reveal when the whole project is finished. I love that shower curtain!

Monday I woke up with an Ambien hangover which has never happened with that drug. Or maybe it was a hard-work hangover because the day before I wore myself out washing windows and mini-blinds and polishing furniture. But I had places to go and things to do and one of those things was to have brunch with my Gathering Girls friends. It was the day after St. Patrick’s Day and I was lucky to score a great corn beef sandwich. When I got home---after a detour to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy sheets and towels---I got a call from one of my friends. She was crying because she’d lost a diamond and sapphire ring she’d paid $1,500 for, but more importantly it had a great deal of sentimental value. She called the restaurant. They did a search around our table and out where she parked. She searched inside her car and around her house. A few hours later she called back. The ring was sitting in a soap dish in her guest bathroom. She figured she hadn't even worn the ring to brunch. Haven’t we all been there with something we thought we lost? I’m just glad it wasn't me, this time, who had to call all my friends back and own up to having a senior moment. 

Now a warning to Trump supporters: Stop reading here unless you have an answer to what you think he had to gain by bad-mouthing John McCain in a series of tweets this past weekend? Did he think we’d be so outraged over his treatment of a guy who’s been died since August that we’d be distracted from the fact that the terrorist who killed fifty people at two mosques in New Zealand wrote in his manifest that President Trump's White Nationalism was an inspiration to him? I feel badly for McCain’s family. At least McCain’s daughter had a good come back: "No one will ever love you the way they loved my father....”

Trump also spent time twitter-ranting about GM and Saturday Night Live---that’s what keeps him up in the night? Forty-nine tweets over the weekend from his presidential account but no mention of the disastrous bomb cyclone that raged across the Midwest leaving behind devastating floods. No compassion for American still in peril. But he did tweet several times to his fans to put pressure on FOX News to bring back pundit Jeanine Pirro who’d been suspended for making Islamophobia remarks plus he whined-tweeted about Hillary, Steele, McCabe, Amar Ilham, Weissmann, various republicans and the country of France. Okay, rant off. In truth I’ve cut the time I usually spend on politics in half this past month or two. But I fear I may have to redecorate my entire house to stay sane between now and the next election. And should he get re-elected? I'm going to invest in a barf-bag factory. ©

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Spying on Myself and Finding Ghosts


March 16th. How did that happen? Life goes by too quickly and sometimes I think that happens because I tend to over schedule myself but I know if I didn’t the Lord of Boredom steps up to harass me. And he has a wicked sense of humor. Monday I took Levi to the Foo-Foo Doggie Beauty Spa, then I picked up some lunch, stopped at the pet store and on to the grocery before swinging back around to collect the dog. Tuesday and Wednesday I emptied out my bedroom and bathroom of everything I could carry to get ready for the painters to come beautify my rooms. (You should have seen all the stuff I purged out of my media cabinet and my medicine cabinet!) Wednesday I went to a lecture on Music Theory and how it affects the brain. Thursday was book club day and I’m composing this post before the painters are due on Friday. Is this lineup enough to qualify as over-scheduling my life? It wouldn’t have been back in my heydays when if I didn’t have a half-dozen things to do each day I was on vacation.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I’ve been playing with my little spy tape recorder. Years ago when I was using it a lot, I had a bad habit of not labeling the tapes I made. And since I wanted to recorder myself sleeping to see if I snore with and without the Snore Stopper device I wrote about last week, I decided I should listen to a few tapes to see if there was anything worth keeping before I recorded over one of them. The first two I listened to were conversations with my dad---he died in 1999. Worth keeping. The third tape I pop in was a shocker. It was my husband’s last out-going message from his telephone answering machine. The forth tape had me cracking up laughing along with myself laughing on the tape. I was attending a lecture given by the humor columnist from our local newspaper but there’s no denying the other voices on the tape were mine and my husband’s from 25+ years ago. A few minutes into the lecture the speaker had asked the audience members to each state our names and why we came to the lecture. Here’s what I heard…

“My name is Jean and I’m here because I don’t get a lot of humor.”

The speaker: “Are there any comedians or comedy shows you do get and like?”

I like Barry Miller,” I answered, “but I don’t get Woody Allen. I really don’t!” Then the speaker explained the differences in the two kinds of humor employed in my examples. 

Next up was my husband. “I’m Don and I’ve got to agree with her. She doesn’t get all humor and I think she’s funny when she’s not getting humor.” I’m laughing in the background as he went on…and on. “Barry Miller is a classic and Night Court. I predict in the future there will be tapes of those shows we can watch over and over again and still see the humor in them. Robin Williams is another. When he gets on a roll---say on the Johnny Carson Show---he can have us laughing until our stomachs ache. Another thing I find funny are your columns.” Don was being a kiss-up, but I could tell he was nervous speaking in public because he always talked faster when he was. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside to hear the two of us having a good time laughing and interacting with the group. But I’m glad he wasn’t around to see what happened to Robin Williams. Don dealt with a few periods of deep depression in his life---which few people knew about---and Robin’s suicide would have hit him hard.

The first night I set the voice activated recorder to find out if I snore I was in bed from midnight to eight in the morning but my Fitbit claimed I only got three hours of sleep, the rest of the time I was restless. Now I know why. I’m not snoring but I sure am having a lot of conversations in a language that would take an intergalactic interpreter to translate. Pure gibberish punctuated with laughter and some whimpering and apparently I must look at the clock because at one point I said, “Three o’clock” as clear as a bell. Interestingly enough it was after 3:00 when Fitbit said I actually slept deep enough not to be labeled ‘restless.’ The second night I set the recorder I was wearing the Snore Stopper “baskets” up my nose and my Fitbit said I slept 6 hours and 53 minutes with only 49 minutes being labeled ‘restless.’ But the funny part was the words I was saying were easier to understand and there were less of them. 

Talking in your sleep is generally harmless, according to my online search and the only treatment needed is having your bed partner wear ear plugs, but have you ever tried making a dog wear them? I’d probably forget to take them back out in the morning and spend all day wondering why he’s ignoring me. It’s the Lord of Boredom who makes me do experiences like this, but all kidding aside, how much does a sleep study cost these days? A $1,000+? And I’ll bet I wouldn’t have learned a whole lot more. ©