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, November 21, 2020

Eating During a Pandemic

I made my last trip to the grocery store until after Christmas. I felt like a mouse, filling up my nest with food to get me through the pandemic and winter here in the frozen north. Why the mouse comparison? The summer when I downsized everything out of my basement I opened up a box and found a stash of probably fifty safflower seeds collected and carried from my bird feeder---a long trek across the yard, down a cement wall and to the box that was sitting in the middle of the basement. I had to admire that mouse’s industrial work and forethought but when push came to shove that stockpile and its owner had to go. That’s when I made the hard choice to stop feeding the birds. I had a vision from my childhood of a time when I was helping my mom clean our summer cottage in the spring and we found a nest with a mother mouse clutching her nursing babies and if that mama mouse had been wearing pants she probably would have peed them; I'll never forget the panicked look on her face. My mom had my brother carry the dresser drawer with the nest out to the woods where he was instructed to carefully re-locate the nest and family within it. Later that same day my mom was running around the cottage with a broom trying to smack another mouse died, probably the daddy mouse for which my mom had run of sympathy. If he had been wearing pants she probably would have told him death-by-broom served him right for not keeping “it” in his pants.

Anyway, back to 2020 and I have so much stuff stuffed in my pantry that I can barely close the doors. I need to make a list by expiration dates and start using things in a planned pattern. Recently I had to throw out two boxes of “fake” almond milk that I don’t like but I buy every fall just in case I can’t get to the store to buy real milk during the winter. There are a few things like milk that if I don’t have it in the house I practically have a panic attack. Cereal is another one. Can you see a pattern here? I eat cereal every morning. Hot cereal. Cold cereal. Soggy cereal if I get interrupted half way through breakfast. I’ve been known to have cereal for dinner since becoming a widow. Some of my favorite snacks are made with cereal and that fact didn’t slip by my best friend since kindergarten because back in the ‘80s she gave me a cookbook of all snack food recipes made with cereal. One of the neatest things about being a Septuagenarian is that everything we do and see can trigger a memory. One of the most annoying thing about being a Septuagenarian is that everything we do and see can trigger a memory.

I don’t do much food pick up or drive-thru since the pandemic started, once or twice a month tops. But the other day I was going past a local chain that will hence fore be known as the Dutch Boy Restaurant and the marquee announced that turkey dinners are back. My car must have sniffed the air and before I knew it she was rolling up to their drive-thru speaker. I got thoroughly hooked on their seasonal, turkey dinners three years ago. For just under $12 you get (real) turkey, (real) mash potatoes with gravy, stuffing, a dinner roll and pumpkin pie. Why no cranberries, I can’t understand and the people who take your money can’t explain either. But it’s enough food for two meals and by coincidence I had some deli cranberries in the house so I pronounced my mood high on the matrix grid as I drove my box of happiest home so Levi my Mighty Schnauzer could get his cut.

Going to the Dutch Boy, though, usually makes me feel like I’m cheating on my husband. And I’ll repeat a paragraph explaining why from a prior blog post: “Why did we avoid the place? Because the owner wore his religion on his sleeve and he reminded Don of the members of a church who hassled the owners of a movie theater where he grew up. Imagine going to see The Lone Ranger and Gene Audrey at the Saturday matinees and being told they were ‘evil’ and the theater was doing ‘the devil’s work.’ Imagine knowing the owners kept the theater open long after it was turning a profit just to give the town’s teenagers something to do on the weekends besides drag racing on rural roads. Imagine all that and you might understand why my husband absolutely refused to support places like the Dutch Boy Restaurant with its judgmental religious tracts all over the place. Over the decades most of the religious tracts have disappeared but Don never let go of his dislike for the place.” I've gone there occasionally since becoming a widow because they have some good quality meals and they are known for their homemade pies and cream puffs. Little known fact: Back in the day I'm pretty sure a guy could have gotten into my pants if he’d been smart enough to show up at my door with a box of cream puffs. ©

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Sleepwear and Pandemic Diets

I ran out of cereal bowls this morning and no, smarty pants, it wasn’t because I’ve been using them for ice cream. I haven’t had ice cream in the house since Ben and Jerry dropped off a pint of Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream last May unless you’re counting Purple Cow Cream Pops. Since you can have one of those ice cream core popsicles for 46 calories, I just call them Dessert Without the Guilt. Stick with me, kid, and I’ll teach you how to think like a fat lady.

I’m getting a head start on that January diet I usually do each year only I’m rebranding it as my Pandemic Diet. I hate to admit this but I gained eight pounds since the world pandemic and the American election formed a symbiotic friendship, like an oxpecker riding on the back of an elephant. Thank goodness pandemics only come around every 100 years and elections have never stressed me out in the past or I’d be as big as the elephant in that little visual I planted in your head. Let’s hope 2020 turns out to be an anomaly in the grand scheme of things. By the way, did you know that oxpecker birds graze exclusively on the bodies of large mammals eating “ticks, small insects, botfly larvae, and other parasites” according to Wikipedia as well as earwax and dandruff. Can you imagine a bird pecking at your ears? That would stress me out enough to eat gallons of comforting ice cream.

Back to cereal bowls…when you’ve eaten so much cereal that all your bowls are in the dishwasher it’s time to switch to coffee cups. It would take me twenty days to run out of them because I rarely use them for caffeinated beverages. I have one favorite cup I use for my morning coffee which I rinse out and put next to my coffee pot after each use. Probably not the smartest habit in the house but I have so many bad habits you’d be hard pressed to notice this one should you come to visit. Just know if you do come over, don’t grab the only yellow cup in the house and pour yourself some Starbucks Sweet Morning coffee. Not that you could do that during the pandemic. It hasn’t been in the store for several months. Neither has the Reddi Wip Barista Series Sweet Foam. The last time I found it I almost bought all four cans in the cooler but then I felt sorry for the next addicted person looking for it and I put one can back. Call me crazy, but don’t call me a pandemic hoarding bitch. Or maybe Levi my Mighty Schnauzer is rubbing off on me. He has a highly annoying habit of leaving one piece of kibble behind in his dish when he eats. Why? Is he dumb enough to think he’s leaving it for seed? Maybe. What ever the reason I’m jealous of his self-control. As old as I am, I still feel the compulsion to clean my plate for fear my mom will make me sit at the table until bedtime if I don’t. Light bulb Moment: Could Levi be my mom reincarnated come to torture me with that stupid, single kibble left behind in his dish daily reminding me not to keep blaming her for my lack of self-control? I mean I've had well over a half century since I ate at my mother's table to reprogram my mindset. Aren't I supposed to be the boss of me by now?

New Topic: Levi has me rethinking what I wear to bed. Don’t twist that into something kinky. What I mean is I’m not a person who likes to pop out of bed and get dressed. I like to wake up slow, drinking coffee and not get dressed until mid-morning. But once I move I won’t have that option because I’ll have to walk him instead of just opening up a door and turning him loose. My favorite one-stop-shopping store has a huge display of sleep jammies in stock---pandemic office wear---and seeing them made me think if I started wearing those to bed I could just put a coat over them do take Levi outside in the morning and late at night. For years I’ve worn L.L. Bean long flannel night gowns in the winter and oversized Hanes cotton men’s t-shirts in the summer that fall to my knees, neither of which would look good with a coat thrown over top. While shopping I saw a twenty-something walking around with sleep jammies on and she obvious wasn't wearing underwear underneath. Why is it that kids like her can get away with wearing sleepwear in public but a seventy-something can't do it without others thinking she's lost one too many of the social norms to be living alone? Sure, twenty-somethings have firm and perky breasts under that flimsy fabric but aside from the unfairness of gravity, I am here to protest against young people's right to dress comfortably 24/7.

I bought a set of jammies to try out. And while I was tempted to get a 'Hello Kitty' set, I didn’t. Too many of the heroines in the romance books I’ve been reading wear 'Hello Kitty' jammies while eating ice cream straight out of the cartons when they're on a classic, Ross and Rachel Break. As a widow I’m on a long break from my soulmate but I don’t need another visual trigger for eating my favorite comfort food. ©

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Week of the Bleeding Checkbook

 I hate to make phone calls. Always have, always will. It takes me days to work up the courage, even then they get moved from one ‘To Do’ list to another until I get the job done. I usually save a bunch of calls to make back to back because my ‘courage days’ don’t come around all that often. I needed to schedule appointments for fall maintains jobs around the house and since the businesses all got called within an hour of one another the appointments all got on my day planner one day after another. Side note: My husband was surgically attached to his phone and hated to write letters. I love writing letters and treat my phone like its Typhoid Mary. It was a match made in heaven.

First came the carpet cleaners and $225 later I had three rooms cleaned, Scotch-Garded and deodorized. My carpets are a light grey, commercial grade that have held up well and that Scotch-gard treatment is well worth the extra charge because it keeps the dog’s vomit sitting right on the top and easy to clean with a little Resolve Pet Cleaner. Levi vomits more than all the other dogs I’ve ever had put together but he hates the foods the vet suggests for dogs with touchy stomachs. Mr. Carpet Cleaner, by the way, told me Nature’s Miracle Cleaner is better than Resolve.

Next came a new house cleaning service. After I lost my old service, I had decided not to replace them and do my own cleaning again, but this company fell in my lap when I mentioned the loss to the son-I-wish-I-had. “My sister has a service,” he told me. Color me embarrassed because I didn’t even remember he has a sister! Turns out she not only has a cleaning service but she covers the entire county. She sends out two person teams and they were in and out in an hour for only $50. But the cherry on the top was the fact that they get down on their hands and knees to scrub floors. My old service wouldn’t do that---I asked. They’d just spray some cleaner on the floor then use a microfiber mop to blend all the dirt together. My new, rock star cleaner changed the water pail five times in my kitchen. This on a floor that had so-called been cleaned a month ago by my old service. It looks so good now! It hadn’t been scrubbed on hands and knees since before my husband died when I could crawl up the side of his wheelchair (with him in it) to get off the floor. Having two fake knees and a bad elbow puts a crimp on any activity that requires me to be on the floor or ground…cleaning, gardening, laying out quilt blocks, reading the Sunday newspaper, filming commercials where I get to say, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"

The following day was Sump Pump day. It costs $165 just to have the plumbing company come out to check it and for another $200 to replace it. It was out of warranty and even though it was working "okay," he said, I wasn’t about to take a chance on another basement flooding. Once was enough. Weighing the $365 up against the $3,000 cost of having another flooded basement pumped out the decision was easy.

The last maintenance service call was to get ready for our Michigan winter, the yearly furnace check that they suck you into getting with a $98 coupon. I’ve used the same company for years so I knew in recent years they'd often find something they can replace so they can tack on a few extra bucks. My furnace is eighteen years old so whatever petty part they say needs replacing I go for it rather than spend the winter worrying it will let me down when we’re having near zero temperatures outside. This year it was suggested that instead of waiting for a break down, I should be proactive and replace the blower motor and inducer motor at a cost of $1,275. Wow, I was not used to hearing numbers that high! I told him I'd take my chances but that next day I reversed that decision and called them back. A housing inspector---next year when I sell the place---will discover those motors are only working at 80% and I'm worried a buyer could demand I put in a new furnace for $6,000+ and what happens if the pandemic causes shortages should one of those motors belly out on me this winter? It also makes sense for me to continue doing what I'd normally do to maintain the house until the day I close on it, take no shortcuts because who knows what might happen down the road in these uncertain times we're living through.

Most of my life I was spoiled when it came to doing home maintenance. Between my dad and my husband they could do any project around a house. With nearly two decades since my husband's stroke and me being in charge of hiring everything done I find myself smiling every time I get to say to myself, “That’s the last time I’ll ever have to do that!” And I’ve been saying it a lot during my week of the bleeding checkbook. By this time next year I’ll just have to call maintenance to do everything from changing a light bulb to hanging a TV to fixing a washing machine. If only they would add dog vomit removal to their menu of services I’d be happy camper.  ©