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. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

New Year's Resolutions Report - Week Four


As you may or may not remember I’m taking a 12 week course called Stronger Memory and one of the three requirements is reading out loud 20 minutes a day. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it. It’s not! My voice box hasn’t gotten this much of a workout since…well, since never. I wasn't a mother who got to read to kids or grandkids and I’ve never taught classes or had a job where I had to give corporate reports. The closest I got to speaking out loud for any length of time was back in college when I took a couple of classes in public speaking, and I was a second stringer on a debate team but even back then our preposition and rebuttal speeches were limited to ten minutes.

A quick google search of how our voice changes over the years brings you information like: “As you age, all of your muscles naturally lose mass. This includes the muscles of your vocal cords and voice box that make your voice work. The older you get, the more your voice may become hoarse or ‘tired’ feeling as a day wears on." Even before I signed up for this course and discovered how hoarse my voice really is I’d been concerned that my voice was cutting in and out when I talk. I spent so much time alone during the pandemic of 2020/21 that if I hadn’t had a dog to boss around my voice would be even thinner and more cracker-ly than it is. (Oh, look, I just made up a new word.) As one website describes the aging process of our voices, “Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin.” That’s me. My voice sound ten years older than I am by the calendar.

The above paragraphs are the long way of saying that after ten minutes of reading out loud, it gets hard to do! I have to push myself to get through the next ten minutes. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m supposed to be reading out loud. (And I'm not alone in these complaints about our homework.) I am, however, enjoying the content of the book I’m reading: Painting Techniques of the Impressionists. One of the things I’ve learned that gives me hope for my own work is how long it took various Old Masters (by contrast to the Impressionists) to complete some of their famous works of art. Notes, sketches and color samples in a notebook of Turner’s for example resulted in a finished painting ten years later. Impressionists were not like that. According to my book they were “…painters of fleeting effects, as no other painters had done…” Impressionists would paint outdoors then come back with paintings they’d show and sell in galleries while the Old Masters would have taken those same paintings back to a studio, refined them and worked on them for long periods of time---years even---before they’d declare them finished. No wonder the Impressionists were scorned by some in the art world. (The invention of the camera factors in here, too, but that's a whole another topic.)

Anyway, back on topic: New Year’s Resolutions kept and discarded. I have started a painting but I had a least ten false starts before I settled on a subject to paint. Check that resolution off the list since the resolution was about starting a painting…nothing was said about finishing one. Okay, so that’s a technicality and some might say I’m cheating but it’s my Resolution List so I get to make up the rules here.

Although by the end of the year I do hope to finish a couple of canvases I’d been working on when my husband had his stroke in 2000. I recently found the photo and notes I’d mourned as lost about what color formulas I’d been using on a painting I truly want to finish. It’s of my great-niece when she was a little girl and now she’s a woman with two children of her own. If Turner could take ten years finish a painting and some of the Old Masters work on the same paintings for half a decade, then Amateur Hour Jean can take twenty-two years and not have to feel like such a failure about it. And Manet had once scraped a face off his canvas 25 times before being satisfied that he got it right, so I guess there's no shame in me redoing a face for a second time. Still, my mom in the last few years of her life made a conscious choice to finish up all her unfinished projects and sometimes it feels like her ghost is haunting me, telling me to hurry up and tie the loose ends of my life up because time is running out. Mom, quit nagging me, I'm trying!

The above paragraphs cover two of my New Year’s Resolutions, a third one about improving my personality has already been moved to the discard pile as being too vague. I’ve changed that from “improve my personality” to “reveal more of my personality” and I did so recently at a lunch table when the topic of Chick-fil-A came up. Someone asked if their chicken is really that good that people would wait so long  in line to get it and I mentioned that I wouldn’t know because the place is on my Boycott List. When I was asked why I boycott it I kept it simple, just saying that they support a lot of conservative causes that I fight against. That statement opened it up to where three others revealed that they boycott the place too.

Then one of the Skinny Minnie Twins admitted to buying a My Pillow pillow before they knew the company owner was so off the rails Trumpian and how much it hurt to throw that very comfortable $100 pillow out because she couldn't put her head on it without negative feelings filling her head. Another woman admitted that she will only go to Hobby Lobby when she’s exhausted all other sources to find what she’s looking for. Because I had the guts to drop the ‘Boycott List’ into a conversation I’ve found my political tribe on the continuum care campus. And here I didn’t think there were any other Liberals around.  However, The Cheerleader causally mentioned that we all have to live together for the rest of our lives and there are so many other things in the world to talk about that we should keep politics and religion off the table. Okay,  then. ©

Photo at top: J.M.W. Turner's 'Dutch Boats in a Gale.'

The unfinished portrait that I'm pledging to finish by the end of the year. (Need some practice time on other stuff before I tackle her face again.)
The shelves I mentioned in an recent blog that I had added to have a place to store wet canvases and various things I need for inspiration or to have handy in my painting nook. The thing to the right of the easel is a fold up, antique table that I can put my palette on when working.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Widow Does Netflix's

So far I’ve written about the things I love the best about living in an independent living apartment on a continuum care campus. One thing I don’t like is the television service. On paper it looks good ---60 free cable channels for one TV plus free internet and Wi-Fi sounded good after paying over $300 a month for a 60 channel package where I used to live. But 10 of the channels here are a sports package and there are probably another 6-8 others that I call Old People Channels which I don’t watch at all. I could care less about black and white movies or TV shows from my youth or game shows, but I’m in the minority on that opinion around here. I think. Oh, and I'd rather you gag me with a spoon than make me watch the imported shows from England. And did I mention the "cable" isn't a true cable and the service is effected by the weather?

Recently Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was on one of the old people channels and the lunch table talk the next day was about that movie. There’s a delightfully crusty women here in her late nineties who had never married and she just raved on and on about how much she loves that movie and how she watches every chance she gets. I like her because she has no filter when it comes to asking other people questions. For example when she found out that we have to write essay answers to questions in the ‘Stronger Memories class she tried to convince us all that “they” could take those answers to get inside our heads. They’re just questions to provoke memories like ‘what did you do for fun growing up?’ But she won’t take the class because she doesn’t want a psychiatrist analyzing her! Heck, I could analyze her based on just the premise that her all-time favorite movie being about seven brothers who essentially kidnapped a bunch of women to turn into wives. I might not be right in my analysis but I’d have fun doing it. 

Never-a-Bride’s younger sister also lives here on a separate floor of the same building and both say they’d kill each other if they shared an apartment. She cracks me up. She asks me a lot of no filter questions. I give her a lot of sassy, no filter answers. She spent her career working in a lab that runs tests on blood for the medical community, the only woman in her field when she first started working. I would love to do a deep dive into her life story. But she plays the tit-for-tat game whenever anyone asks her a probing question and I’m not quite readying to bare my soul in this community yet. So I’ll gather her stories up like grains of rice leaking out of a tiny hole in a box of Uncle Ben’s.

Back to TV: Like I said we get free cable into our living rooms but if we want a TV in our den or bedroom it has to be a smart TV or an old set that you can hook up to the new version of the ancient antennas (rabbit ears) to pick up what local channels are available. I’ve got both, but apparently I can’t enjoy TV when I can’t have all three televisions set on the same channel so I can walk freely from room to room and not miss anything. I’ve never been a sit-and-watch kind of person but Netflix is turning me into one. So every night from 9 or 10:00 to 1:00 I’m binge watching and I can’t multi-task my time in the bedroom which is a problem I’m still working on solving. I downsized a standing TV tray out of my life that if I had it back I could put my laptop on it and multi-task while sitting on the side of the bed, but I doubt you can buy just one of those trays because they come in sets---at least they used to back in the '50s when they are popular. New mission: Find a way to do more multi-tasking with my Netflix beside fold laundry and clean the on-suite bathroom.

I started out binge-watching Longmere, a modern westerner that I loved, then I binged Outlander which I also loved. I hated to see them both end. If you don’t know that Outlander is based on a well-love series of time-travel romance books you’ve been living under a rock. I cut my romance reading teeth on time-travel romances so this was right up my alley. I tried to like House of Cards but I’m still too turned off by politics to continue. I also tried to like Grace and Frankie but like I told a fellow resident, all I could think about watching the first three episodes is how close I came to living the lives of those women---married to gay guys who didn’t come out of the closet until they were old enough to draw Social Security. I see the heart-break and deception while everyone else sees the humor. Schitt’s Creek is another one I tried to like, but didn't. I watched three episodes and see the show as version Green Acres. Rich people loss their money and have to adjust to living a different way---a popular series here on campus. The Maid was another one that didn’t hold my interest and I don’t know why but I'm thinking I just don't relate to the whole single parent thing. For awhile I watched The Ranch because I like Ashton Kutcher and Sam Elliott but that got boring after hearing the thousandth F word. I’m still getting used to Netflix’s having no restrictions on language or full nudity. I'm not offended by either one in the least but it's lazy writing when it's just there because they can.

Now, I’m binging and loving Heartland, Virgin River and I’m embarrassed to admit to liking Jane the Virgin. A lot. That show is so campy, stupid, silly, far-fetched and you never know what the writers are going to do next. (Mel Brooks on steroids.) I’ve watched a few movies on Netflix too, but nothing special enough or bad enough to mention. If you’ve got any suggestions for my next binge, leave me a comment. I’m going to need something new soon. ©

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Covid on Campus and Exercise Woes

Thursday morning I sat waiting for the results of a rapid-Covid test because a married couple here on the continuum care campus has it and is under quarantine. Contact tracing of their whereabouts put them within one degree of someone I sat next to at a recent meal and she’d been in their unit with them the day before they got sick. The dining areas in both restaurants were closed (until Monday) and that night they got thoroughly cleaned which included the use of a large ultrasonic UV-C cleaning machine that the company describes at a “dual emitter UV-C sterilizer specifically designed to work in tandem to emit germ deactivating UV energy.” It supposedly cleans the very air we breathe and every surface with lights so strong you can’t look at it without special goggles thus it’s done during times when all good little soldiers are no where around. It’s same machine they use to disinfect airplanes and hospitals. The management applied for a special grant to buy it and this was the first time it was used.

Everything on our calendar got canceled for Thursday including I was supposed to get my apartment cleaned in the morning and I set my alarm at the crack of dawn to be ready for the guy. But he’s the only one trained on our new ultrasonic UV-C machine so I’ve been put on hold while he gears up for being The Germ Terminator. By the end of the day when the results of everyone’s rapid covid tests were known we all breathed a sigh of relief because they proved that the only ones with it are the couple with covid symptoms plus three others who’d been in close contact and tested positive but they don’t have symptoms. All are under house arrest until they test negative again. And yes, the One Degree Woman was one of "the three others."

The rest of us could resume normal routines but masks and public distancing through out the place are required and we can only get our food in to-go boxes until Monday. I’ve already gotten my first boxed meal and it was so good I wouldn’t mind emergence rations every day. In the box was a thick steak to die for (poor choice of words considering), mashed potatoes and broccoli. All we had to do is place an order by phone from a three item menu and then pick it up 30 minutes later, disregarding the normal 11:30 to 1:00 and 4:00 to 7:00 hours when the kitchen is generally serving.

Topic Change: When I moved into this place in October my weight had dropped eight pounds due to the packing and unpacking and forgetting to eat during those craziness days but the holidays put them right back on again. So I dug out my I-pod with my treadmill playlist and I’ve been on that machine every day for the past five days. Going to a gym that is virtually across the hall is handy and when I get off the treadmill I walk the distance of our hall and back to Helen Reddy singing I am Woman and that always makes me feel like---well, I could do anything. Anything but stay on that treadmill for that last song on my playlist...but I'll get there. 

I have such a love/hate relationship with exercise---mostly the latter. I love the fact that it helps me lose weight but I have to work myself up to do it, get thoroughly disgusted with myself. It just doesn’t stick as life style routine. Never has, never will. It’s always been punishment for being fat from the time I was 14 and my mom took me to my first gym aka fat camp where one of the things they did to me was wrap me in wet cloth and stick me in a sauna.

There’s a woman here who is a perky and petite blonde who I nicknamed The Cheerleader the first time I saw here at a tailgate party. She was knitting and throwing her arms up in the air often enough that I was sure she was loosing stitches. Turns out she really was a cheerleader in both high school and college. Married the star quarterback. Divorced the star quarterback. Then she married twice more, both times apparently to nice guys who ended up dying on her. She’s an exercise fiend. She’s always got her Nordic poles with her walking her little feet off outside inside, good weather and bad weather. She says it’s her job to stay healthy and walking with her Nordic poles keeps her arm bones strong. She doesn’t believe in popping pills like I do for my bones. I don’t believe in spending several hours a day doing something I’d absolutely hate.

It the past I had the typical stereotype for cheerleaders in my head---stuck up and shallow---but our cheerleader is nothing like that. Whenever someone new walks into to the cafe` or the lobby she’s on them with a greeting---a regular little welcome wagon. She’s not the least bit shy which I both admire and recoiled from at first. I kept looking for a hidden agenda like maybe she’s noisy and her perky little welcome wagon covered that up. But, nope, she genuinely seems to care about people. For example when she found out I like art she told me about the art professor living here and she made sure to point her out to me when we happened to all be at the same dinner table. The Cheerleader does that sort of thing all the time, matches people up with like interests.

There are two people here on campus who are tuned into what everyone else is doing, and The Cheerleader one of them. If you want to know something you know who to ask. But the two of them are opposing forces. Our cheerleader is all about spreading positive energy and the other is all about spreading discontent.

Since I wrote the above I got a request from the management to go to the office to get a second Covid test because contact tracing---again---put me at a party earlier in the month where someone in attendance just tested positive. I passed this test too, but it makes me want to google where I can get a bi-hazardous suit so I can socialize without fear that we're playing Russian Roulette.  ©

My latest 600 piece jigsaw puzzle, started is Saturday night, finished Monday morning. Fairly easy but still fun and different than others.