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. Jean

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Accidental Matchmaker

How do I get myself into these things? Last week I was going to be in a town near-by where two old friends live, a man and a woman who both knew each other years ago but none of us have seen much of each other in recent decades. (He’s divorced and just moved back to town. She’s been a widow 5-6 months and, like me, she’d been in the caregiver role for many years before losing her husband.) So I called them both up and asked if they’d like to meet for lunch. They said yes and why not, we used to have fun together in the old days when we all had significant others and no emotional baggage to haul around. Lunch went well and we all agreed that we should meet for some of the summer outdoor music jams that are common in the area. Great! Well, great for them. The next day I got a call from the guy and he wanted her phone number so he can ask her out on a date. Judging by the fact that she had to hold back tears a few times during lunch when “widow talk” came up I seriously doubt she’s ready for romance, but that’s her choice to make and his demerit point to take for not noticing her watery eyes. Whatever her answer, the question alone is a game changer and I can probably count the music jams dead in the water. It’s no longer possible for us to just be three old friends hanging out together without me feeling like a fifth wheel. Hey, maybe I can take up matchmaking as a new hobby.

The next day I went to a tasting and recipe exchange event at a store that sells nothing but balsamic vinegar and olive oils. They carry 50 different kinds and they fill bottles from large urns when you make a purchase. I was on a mission: to find vinegar to make a healthy dressing for spinach---yes, I’m still on a kick to learn to eat better and I recently bought my very first bunch of fresh spinach, but I didn’t know what to do with it. Well, I do now and I can’t believe I just paid $18.00 for a bottle of vinegar! It’s from Modena, Italy and its supposedly aged 18 years in barrels made of chestnut and oak. You could practically drink it down like black wine, it’s that good. Before settling on a balsamic, the store owner talked about “pairings” and she mixed vinegars and oils together like a chemist. So, of course, I had to buy a herb infused olive oil as well. That’s when it occurred to me that I was using the services of a matchmaker just to buy a frigging bottle of vinegar.

I’ve got a couple of busy weeks coming up---sixteen appointments, lunches, bridal showers, classes, etc. spread out over twenty days. Plus Don’s and my birthdays and anniversary fall in the same time frame along with the anniversary of my mother’s passing. To commemorate these latter events one of my appointments involves going on my second annual pilgrimage to the Butterflies in Bloom exhibit. And I swear if a pair of them land on the floral print purse I bought special for the outing I’m going to smack one of them for living. I really wouldn’t do that but I would wonder if Don’s soul found a new friend and he’s bringing her by to meet me. Do you suppose they have matchmakers in the butterfly kingdom?

Speaking of matchmakers reminds me that a week after Don’s funeral, one of my relatives said she could picture him up in heaven holding court with a bunch of women sitting at his feet, hanging on his every word and I said, “Well, thank you very much for implanting the image in my head.” After some back and forth regarding whether or not I’d want him to be happy up in heaven I blurted out something like, “Not THAT happy!” His ashes hadn’t even come back from the crematory yet and she was matching him up with angels.Young, pretty angels. Now, almost 14 months later I’m contemplating butterfly homicide at the mere possibility that Don’s soul could be catching a ride on its wings with a new friend flying two-by-two at his side. Widowhood is turning me into an accident prone crazy person. How else can I explain pushing the cork down inside my very first bottle of expensive balsamic vinegar and matchmaking two old friends all in the same week that I have less than admirable thoughts about an innocent butterfly I haven't met yet?  ©

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Widow and The Culinary School

A month or two ago I signed up for a tour organized by the senior center. It took place yesterday and what a tour it was. We went to a culinary institute connected to a near-by university where we toured some of their class rooms and listened to a “foodie lecture” in a tiered room that looked like it could have been a set for a TV show on the Food Network---cameras and viewing screens every where! And we ate at one of their two restaurants. The food was to die-for. I had "crispy sautéed supreme salmon served on a warm bouquetière of apples, fennel, asparagus and carrots all drizzled with caramelized Founders Brewery oatmeal stout ale vinaigrette." Along with that, they served bread baked at the school with yummy blended butter mixes and a choice of five decadent deserts. It was very elegant and all prepared and served by the culinary students.

As I sat in the restaurant taking in the beautiful ambiance and watching the nervous students all dressed up in starched uniforms it occurred to me that even though I am alone in life I don’t have to give up having fun experiences like that….well, as long as I have the money to sign up for senior hall events and classes, that is. I don’t think I could raise much money if I stood on a corner holding up a sign saying: Will work for cash so I can eat at the culinary institute’s five star restaurant!

It also occurred to me while sitting over lunch that some of the other women in our group could feel as lonely as I do at times. But as I listened to the chit-chat around me, I concluded that they weren’t sitting at my table. Two of my table mates were former co-workers and they still meet every morning for coffee with a group that’s been doing it for twenty years. Two other ladies were widowed 12-13 years ago and they seem to be quite at easy and content with traveling the world by themselves. The fifth person at our table for six still has a husband. Woo is me. I still can’t find a friend that I can call up and say, “I feel like I just climbed Mount Everest! I finally figured out why my new iPod Nano wasn’t syncing PSY!”

I have an in-law whose kids are talking about putting her in an assisted living facility. She lives close by and since Don died I’ve been in the habit of stopping by her house 2-3 times a month. I am SO going to miss that connection to Don’s family if she’s banished from the neighborhood. There’s not much difference in our ages and it’s also hard to watch others---strangers in the medical community---pass judgment of whether or not a person is safe living alone. My brother and I shared-care of my dad for five years when he was in the early stages of dementia so I’m not blind to the problems families in this situation face, but as a bias senior citizen I want to see families go the extra mile, like we did, to support their parents in their own homes for as long as possible. Woo is me again. At my age, it’s depressing to think about how that last chapter or two of life will be written if we don’t play our cards right.

Today I got a call from a number that showed up as ‘unknown’ on my caller ID. The man on the line had a thick accent and he wanted me to go to my computer because, he claimed, an unauthorized download was happening as we spoke. He said he was from Windows tech support and he was going to help me stop the download from infecting my computer. “Hey, aren’t you the same guy who tried to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge last week?” The call reminded me of a “directive” my lawyer gave me last summer when I set up a new will. She told me to always look at caller ID and never answer the phone if I didn’t recognize the caller. She made me feel so old to be perceived as being too naïve or out-of-touch to recognize a scam when I hear one. I should have thanked my caller today for reminding me that I still have a few good brain cells left in my head. There’s no need for anyone to follow ME around with commitment papers to ship me off to no-man’s land for the crime of being over 70 when you burn something in the microwave. Hey, as a preventative measure, maybe I should sign up for the course in culinary math down at the institute for culinary education! I bet those students never accidentally program three minutes in when they meant to punch 30 seconds. ©

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Widow's Ktichen: Cooking-For-One Part Two

We used to know a carrot farmer and he told us to never to buy carrots without smelling them. Back in those days---15-16 years ago---3rd world countries used Kerosene for herbicides and if you have a good nose you could detect the toxic stuff with the sniff test. I was reminded of this in my cooking-for-one class this past week and of another story he told about how orange carrots became the color of choice. Carrots used to grow naturally in a rainbow of colors, but in the 17th century a Dutch grower started cultivated the orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange who, as the story goes, led the struggle for Dutch independence. Over a generation the purple, white and yellow carrots fell out of favor and the rest is food growers’ history. It’s funny how things in life come full circle. Recently our local supermarket started selling the heritage colored carrots and the skinny dietitian teaching my class is singing their praises. She says they are more nutritious than the orange, especially the ones that get machine shaped and polished---those cute little “baby carrots” I’ve been buying for years.

The dietitian should have called the course, How-Not-to-Cook-So-Much-for-One. By the time we get through all six sessions she’ll have us grazing in the fields and orchards in her campaign to get us away from processed foods, time-consuming cooking and ingredients that come with long labels filled with unpronounceable words. She’s a vegan but claims she’s not trying to turn us into one. Ya, sure. Is that why this week’s class was about all about using nutrient rich whole grains without a bite of meat in sight? She’s got me wondering, though, if I haven’t been feeding the birds and rabbits better/healthier than I feed myself. Karma is laughing at me through this class, I just know it. I never took an interest in cooking in my younger years and the very first cooking course I sign up in for in my entire life seems to be all about cooking less and eating closer to the earth.

The grains and pseudo-grains we sampled in class were all new to me---bulgur, farro, wheatberries, quinoa, spelt, triticate and amaranth---but they were surprisingly good mixed with varying combinations of things like fresh spinach, tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil, garlic, mustard, balsamic or raspberry vinegar, cranberries, apples, oranges, agave, and pecans. She says these grains are easy to slip into any salads and soups, have a long shelf life for single living and freeze well in small batches after cooking. So turn your ice cube trays into grain trays if you want to be healthy in your widowhood---that’s my big take-away from the class. You never know when you’ll get the burning urge to plop a cube of grain on your dinner salad or in a mini-crockpot of soup.

My second cooking-for-one tip I offer with apologies to the swine population and while wearing ear muffs so I don’t have to listen to the vegetarians and vegans yelling at me. It’s something I learned from a Food Network magazine and have been doing for a year now: roll your bacon before freezing it (see the photo above). And the next time I’m waiting the 6-7 minutes for a slice or two of bacon to defrost I will take a moment to thank the organic food industry for making ancient and Old World grains new again. According to the class dietitian they are easy grains for small farmers to grow without using pesticides---and presumably without Kerosene---than the better known grains we’re used to see coming from the big, chemical dependent factory farms. Who knew I’d have to get old and widowed before appreciating the value of making grain porridge. ©

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

iPods and Vacillating Widows

Have you ever bought something then wished you’d gotten a different model? I just did. I bought an iPod Nano 7th generation and after shopping accessories I wish I’d gotten the 6th generation because you can turn them into neat watches with after-market wristbands and the clock app. They sell a cheaper silicone wristband for the 7th generation but who wants to look like you’re wearing a credit card on your wrist? I never guessed that going smaller than a credit card could actually be an advantage, or that someday I’d own a tiny device that could play pod casts, movies, books or hold a thousand songs and also be a voice recorder or a radio for when I’m out walking. I love the recorder app because I get a lot of good ideas when on the nature trails and this device will keep me from forgetting stuff.

In my garage I have a 14” x 20” radio built when radio stations first started broadcasting in the early 1920s and it was popular to send away for tubes, knobs, wires and plans to build a radio to receive their signals. It has earphones the size of the Titanic to listen in private and a horn style speaker to use for group listening. The speaker stands two foot tall and was designed by Thomas Edison himself. Amazing isn’t it, the technological changes that take place in roughly 100 years. I can’t wait until the next little kid comes over for ‘show and tell’ so I can compare my new iPod to the walnut radio. If I was tech savvy enough I’d figure out a way to hook the iPod up to the two foot tall horn speaker then go out walking with that combo in tow. That would be a head turner, wouldn’t it? I know someone who took a 100 year old manual typewriter and turned it into a computer keyboard. It’s mind-boggling what kids can do these days.

Lately I’ve been vacillating between feeling like I have a lot of quality time ahead for new goals and panicking because I feel like time in running out. Back and forth I go. The reevaluation of priorities and options that most widows seem go through in their second year out has me back on the train to Crazyville. And still other times I think the Prime Country radio station is conspiring to tie me to the tracks as an approaching train is coming at full speed. Yesterday on my way to the grocery story Clint Black was singing, “There’s no time to kill between the cradle and the grave.” No shit, Sherlock! Too bad you didn’t tell me that fifty-sixty years ago. I’ve wasted too much time in my life.

“Father Time still takes a toll on every minute that you save
Legal tender's never gonna change the number on your days
The highest cost of livin's dyin', that's one everybody pays
So have it spent before you get the bill, there's no time to kill.”

Even the March weather seems to mirror my vacillating moods. Two days ago it was like spring. Today I’m looking at five inches of snow outside my window. I want spring! I want clear and solid decisions regarding what I want my future to look like. But then again maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself. Maybe life is meant to be fluid and flowing from one place to another, less structured and free of stressful decisions and schedules.

“But I can look ahead and see that time ain't standin' still
No time to kill but time to change the kind of hurry I've been in
And quit this work and worry lookin' back at where I've been
You don’t look ahead nobody will, no time to kill, no time to kill.”

I almost wished I’d heard those lyrics before I bought the iPod. Do you know how much time you can kill at iTunes? How do I get myself into time robbing stuff like this when I have other dragons to slay? Four years ago President Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II a personalized iPod that has video capabilities---she already had one that had audio and had expressed a desire to upgrade. He took a lot of criticism from Republicans for giving that gift but from all accounts, she loved it. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only old woman on the planet who lusted after an iPod. I only wish I had the staff she has to upload music into the tiny thing! I just want to play it, not spend my life setting it up, and I’ll bet my husband’s uncle felt the exact, same way when he built the radio that sits in the garage. The more things change, the more they stay the same. ©

Painting above:  Salvado Dali's Persistence of Memory 1931

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Changing Circumstances and Dreams

While looking for a quotation for another blog post, I ran across the following words that I saved for later dissection and consumption:

"I’ve been thinking about the human spirit lately, that delicate, resilient, ageless part of us that holds fast to our dreams, hopes, needs, and wants. And I’ve been wondering, can we keep the changing circumstances of our life, both good and bad, from changing that essential part of us?”

It’s a wonderful string of words, don’t you think? But do they have the ring of universal truth? I’ll get to that later. They were written by Lilli Jolgren Day, a debut author of the book The Wonder of Ordinary Magic. After reading about the book on Amazon and at the author’s blog I don’t think the quote is from her novel but rather it’s a random thought dispersed in with her lovely photographs. But I was pleasantly surprised to see she was offering free downloads for Kindle readers. She says the book explores “grief, courage, vulnerability, family and connection” so it might be awhile until I read it. I’m not ready for that yet, to grieve again even for a fictional character. The story unfolds in a hospital room as family members come and go at the bedside of a young writer who is in a coma.  He is aware of what is going on around him and he struggles to finish writing---in his head---the book he’d been working on before his accident. Any teachers who might be reading this will laugh at my attempt to condense/review a book I’ve never read…so if I gave you a reason to smile today, your welcome.

Back to the quotation. Ms Day asks if we can keep the changing circumstances of our lives from changing our dreams, our hopes, needs and wants. To me, the answer is a no-brainer. Editing those things is inevitable with changes in our circumstances. It’s the changing circumstances of our lives that makes us grow and helps form the resilience she talks about. Candice Lightner founder of MADD would not have started the organization if not for the death of her daughter at the hands of a drunk driver. If not for the Civil War coming along Clara Barton probably would have died an anonymous teacher instead of becoming the driving force behind establishing the Red Cross. These are extreme examples but they illustrate my point that the changing circumstances of our lives can’t help but alter our dreams, hopes, needs and wants.

Now at the dawn of my second year of widowhood I’ve been cataloging my dreams, hopes, needs and wants to see what I’ve outgrown or no longer desire in my new, single-hood world and what I might like to add to the list. Widows all eventually get around to doing this; I have no doubt about that. And I’ve been thinking about moving my computer cabinet and kitchen table out of the breakfast nook and claim the area for an artist nook so I can take up painting again. Here’s the hang-up: it would involve making room in the library for my computer cabinet. I’ve started taking some of Don’s books to my antique booth to sell but the enormity of the job of downsizing his collection is overwhelming. It will take me forever if I don’t go into full battle mode with eBay listings. Believe it or not, going through his books is almost worse than purging his clothing from the closet was. He didn’t care about clothes, but he loved his books. Donating the books isn’t an option I like because many of them are too valuable and I’m too practical for that. Why does it have to be so hard to get from A to point B? After fourteen months of widowhood you’d think I’d get used to these bumps in the road, wouldn’t you. Sometimes I feel like a turtle crawling along the sand trying to keep the Sea of Enormous Possibilities in view, but wanting nothing more than to draw my head inside my shell until one of these widowhood induced issues goes away.

Art classes will be starting up soon at the sculpture park and when I go out to see the butterfly exhibit in April---the week of Don’s birthday and our anniversary---I’m going to sign up to become a member and pick up a class schedule. It’s a start. Maybe it will give this turtle the scent of the sea. We shall see if the changing circumstances of my life has closed or opened a door to past dreams.... ©

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Live Long and Prosper

I’ve been practicing the Vulcan Salute lately---hey, we all need a new hobby once in a while. I was have trouble keeping the last two digits on my hand together when I spread my other fingers to show the  required space in between the middle and ring fingers,  but I guess I’m not the only one who finds it difficult. A lot of actors in the Star Trek series, I read, had to position their fingers off camera with their other hand before going on camera with the salute while they said the Vulcan Blessing of, “live long and prosper.” For training purposes tape helps, though, so let it be known if I die with two fingers Scotch-taped together you’ll know why.

I had three great-aunts who all lived to be over 100, the oldest being 104 when she died. The sisters worked together right up to a year or less before they died in 1980s. In their younger years they had inherited their father’s newspaper in a small town and after the newspaper went out of business many, many decades later the sisters used their printing presses and old-fashioned type setting skills to print wedding invitations, programs for school events, business cards and flyers, etc. It’s always fascinated me that brides would trust women over 100 not die before they got their invitation orders filled.

One of the sisters was a colorful character, a staunch political activist who wrote books on local history and she was a frequent guest speaker at the local school and a near-by university. Like me, she never took her husband’s last name when she married only she did it long before the Women’s Movement came along. She didn’t want to lose the name connection with our ancestors who are minor figures in the history books. She’s my role model for how to age well and since I’m hoping I’m lucky enough to share the sisters’ longevity gene I suppose I need a game plan for the next 30 years of my life. The only trouble is my game plan hasn’t gotten past the thinking stage and the idea that I need to learn the Vulcan Salute. If I was twenty and trying to figure out what to do with rest of my life I’d cut myself some slack for not being able to do it with the snap of the fingers and the can-do attitude of a five-star general. Darn, I’m getting antsy over my future!

Earlier today I had the TV on and I heard the actor who plays Jack on The Young and the Restless say in an interview that he never gets tired of playing the role because Jack has such rich history. “I’m forever writing Jack’s story,” he added. Then this afternoon in the car I heard Alan Jackson singing, “I’m a work in progress…be patient with me.” Put together, I couldn’t help thinking the universe is trying to tell me something. Maybe something like what Rasheed Ogunlaru said in this quote: “Legacy is not what's left tomorrow when you're gone. It's what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you're here that then happens to live on.” I don’t think my aunts, while they were alive, gave a thought to their legacy but they left one all the same. Their life’s work plus that of their father’s before them is now archived at a university in the form of bound copies of every single issue their newspaper put out from start to finish---a legacy of 100 books for 100 years of small town history.

While waiting for a red light today I actually discovered the secret for learning the Vulcan Salute---at least for me. If you put your outside digits together first before trying to create the space in between the middle and ring fingers it’s much easier to achieve the salute than pairing your other two fingers first. But something is strange. I’m a left-handed human but I can only do the Vulcan Salute with my right hand which makes me wonder if I’m half-Vulcan like Mr. Spock. ©

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
John Lennon.

Hear that Ms. Widow Lady?
Time’s a ticking….

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mister Rogers and the Widow

I woke up this morning wishing I could hear Mister Rogers singing, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you me mine? Could you be mine?” But in my mind all I heard was Elvis singing, “I’m so lonesome I could cry.” Well, that’s going to change, I thought. I have places to go and things to do.

I took a two minute shower then played with my hair for a zillion minutes before calling it a lost cause. My hair dresser recently put low-lights in my hair and she made me look like a skunk. (Mercy me, there are so many anonymous older women on earth I need to apologize to for my wicked thoughts. It never dawned on me until I became a skunk myself that other women don’t necessarily request their salons give them coal black hair that doesn’t go with worn out skin. I thought they were just trying to recapture their youth.) But I wasn’t going to let my hair keep me home. I had a date with a snake. Literally. The senior citizen hall was hosting a presentation put on by the zoo’s outreach program. Besides, I knew there’d be a few ladies there with Easter egg pink or blue hair and maybe even another skunk-like do. It isn't fair that when you’re young and have “unique hair” it’s called cutting edge but when you’re my age people just think we need an intervention from a make-over squad.

I actually got to touch a half dozen animals and reptiles I’ve never touched before. Not that it was on my Bucket List to do so, but I do what I have to do fit in and it was interesting hearing behind-the-scenes stories about caring for the animals. Each day at a certain time, for example, a brown bear at the zoo beats on the metal door to the enclosure where their food is left while the other bears in the habitat keep right on doing what they’re doing until they hear the door open before they mosey on over. Isn’t that a lot like what we humans do? Some of us rush ahead trying to mold things to our timetable and liking while others among us wait for the future to unlock its door and then we walk through it.

I don't know if I'm a door-banger or a waiter but I wish I’d check myself in the mirror more often when I’m rushing off in an attempt to make new friends in the neighborhood. When I got home today I realized my sweater was buttoned up wrong. I went all day like that and no one told me! I suppose there is an etiquette rule that dictates one is not supposed to mention transgressions like these to the transgressor. But I’d rather be told so I only spend half a day---instead of all day---having people think I’m a few mistakes short of being shipped off to an assisted living facility. “Put another punch in her Old Person Card. Only seven more and off she goes.”

The senior hall is a god-send for widows, though, even if they don’t tell you when your sweater looks like you let the three year neighbor button you up. The summer newsletter was available today and I’ve already signed up for four day trips, three luncheons and three life enrichment lectures plus I have the monthly cooking-for-one lessons as well. I keep thinking I should do some of their drop-in exercise classes---yoga, line dancing, zumba, or pilates but contrary to popular belief not all old people like getting up at the crack of dawn---at least I don’t. Instead, I’m thinking of finding a beginner dog dancing or agility class or maybe another summer dog training class. I’ve got this four-legged creature living in the house and he needs something to look forward to besides having me follow him down the nature trail stealing his poop deposits.

Aside from working hard at trying to find myself a social life, I don’t know what else to do about the loneliness widowhood brought into my life. It’s starting to frustrate me and I’m having a terrible time controlling the impulse to stand on a street corner and sing like Mister Rogers: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, won’t you please, PLEASE be my friend!” Well, he didn’t beg like that but he was such a beloved educator, songwriter, minister, author and TV host I doubt he ever got so lonesome he could cry. ©

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Soul Mates and Fingerprints

I think my fingerprints are disappearing. I wish I had an ink pad in the house so I could test out my observations. I could commit a crime and get inked up at the police station but that might cause a ruckus at the booking desk when they see what I see. Or rather what I don’t see---ridges in the skin on my finger tips. Where did they go? Does this happen to all old people? The next time I’m at the senior hall would I dare to line up a few ladies and do an inspection to compare their fingers to mine? When I was a kid my brother and I had a Dick Tracy Detective Kit so we could fingerprint each other and the cat. I wish I still had it which just goes to shows if you keep something long enough you'll find a use for it again. One of those kits sold recently for $100 on e-Bay. I suppose if I looked through my husband’s container of comic book hero radio premiums I might actually have a Dick Tracy detective badge in the house. I wonder if it would get me into the police station so I could fingerprint myself. I also wonder if I should be putting these thoughts down in writing at my age. I can see my nieces standing in front of a judge using my blog as evidence that he needs to sign those commitment papers in front of him. Not yet, girls! Not yet.

Growing old has its good and bad points. Growing old without your soul mate doesn’t have one darn thing to recommend it to anyone other than the Wicked Witch of the West but if memory serves me right from my fairytale reading days she wasn’t able to land a husband. So I’m guessing she never had a soul mate to lose. Hummm---that might be a good idea for a spin-off if I was into writing such things. The Wicked Witch of the West meets Baldwyn the Bastard from Bolivia and they have---you guessed it---a storybook romance that includes casting spells on virgins and castrating pigs, the four-legged kind. (“Good Eats!” as Alton Brown from the Food Network would say.) All kidding aside, why does the Great Kahuna in the sky separate soul mates, churning out widows like Land O’Lakes does butter? You’d think he/she would see the value in keeping soul mates in boxed sets while we’re here on earth that gets more valuable over time like old Dick Tracy crime stopping kits do.

Do you believe in soul mates or is it just something made up to explain why we are drawn to stay monogamous to someone we’ve pledged our lives to---someone with similar life goals, values and taste in crystal stemware? Do you believe we can find another soul mate after losing one? If I get my head out fairytales long enough I’d admit I believe soul mates are not only possible but it’s possible to have more than one soul mate in a lifetime---the old karmic soul mate and twin flames debate. Insert the fairytale mode back in my brain and I’d say, “Hell, no! Only one soul mate per customer and make your purchase last through the annals of time.” Soul mates are forever, I’d state with conviction. We keep finding each other when we’re recycled back on earth and in between times when we’re drifting around in the Great Unknown. Soul mates live happily ever after in storybook land. End of story. No buts about it.

From all accounts souls don’t take any form we can see, touch or hold so how will we find one another again in the next realm of existence? Are we just spinning around out there like clothes in a dryer hoping to meet up again, not knowing we’re already like a sock clinging to the inside of a pant leg? How many times have you looked for a lost sock, not knowing you’re already wearing it in the most unlikely place? I think our souls could be like magnetic jigsaw puzzle pieces that grab out and lock in place as we’re spinning in the universe. I think our souls have unique fingerprint-like IDs that don’t wear out like fingertip ridges do on old ladies who type too damn much. ©

Monday, March 4, 2013

Survivor's Guilt and Carnivores

Painting by David Otto

Just when I start believing I’ve got nothing more to say about widowhood thoughts kick around inside my head that could shock the panties off a nun. Why do I do that to myself? The day started out happy enough. It was sunny and finally I was getting out of the house. Destination: the bookstore, office supply and post office, Hobby Lobby and Culver’s. Plus I wanted to buy a shower gift at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Most of these places have marvelous things begging for my attention and I was happy to give it to them. At the bookstore, for example, I spotted a book titled Vegan Cooking for Carnivores and for a few moments I was excited. The author is the personal chef for Ellen DeGeneres` but for some wacko reason lacking logic I didn’t expect all the recipes to use pretend meat. In the used book section I found a vegetarian sandwiches book and bought that instead. Pear and goat cheese grilled sandwiches? Who wouldn’t be fascinated by that…or dumb enough to think you’d need a cookbook to make one? (Wait! Did I just call myself dumb?) When I got to Bed, Bath and Beyond I found a five inch sandwich and panini griddle with a cast iron press---perfect for my learning to cook-for-one project. Things were going great.

Near the end of my shopping trip I was eating a delicious Culver’s butter burger and trying hard not to see the sad faced cow in my head that donated the hamburger when it hit me how much Don used to love the “trap line” of stores I’d just checked out. In the bookstore he’d sit in the coffee shop trolling for cappuccino fans that might enjoy translating his aphasia language disorder into English. I’d come back to collect him and he was never at the table where I left him. At Culver’s his silly, wordless antics would make me laugh and forget how much I love pastoral settings with cows grazing in the summer sun. In April I’m going to be the same age as Don was when he died and then the year after that I’ll be older than him. Darn it, that’s not fair!

Do you know what else isn’t fair? Gift registers.Yup, I’m on the Debbie Downer train now and it keeps right on rolling as I wonder why widows can’t register at Bed, Bath and Beyond for our transition from living in a two-by-two world to living alone. The widowhood required redecorating alone can cost a fortune! Some of the stuff young people think they need fascinates me, though. The bride I was shopping for wanted two silicone baking mats for $25 each. I’ve had my wire cooling racks since Ring was a pup and he died in 1978. They still sell those wire racks…right next to the silicone mats and they only cost $9.00 a pair. From my bad mood view, you’d better be baking cookies that could win an episode of Sweet Genius to make $50 worth of mats make sense.

But the world doesn’t always make sense, does it. Why do we humans keep thinking it should? We find love then lose it again and throw ourselves more than a couple of pity parties before shoving a steel rod up our backs and walking forward. It’s a miracle! No more tears. Then one day some sad soul is singing about lost love on the radio and we’re left wondering how the hell that guy got inside our heads to flip the Good Mood switch to Melancholy. In a flash our emotions go from holding on to reality to wishing for the past. Does it make sense that I should enjoy a leisurely shopping trip while Don is dead? Is this my new reality---feeling guilty for getting happily involved in retail therapy? The Debbie Downer train needs to pull up at the station and let me off so I can quit asking these beat-the-widow-up type questions!

One last question, though, I’ve got to ask. If there’s a heaven or a Great Unknown as I prefer to call it, do you think the cows up there are forgiving? I can’t help it. I enjoy a good, brown sugar and bourbon marinaded Black Angus steak once in a while. And I’m only exploring the worlds of vegan and vegetarian because I can’t eat a whole beef roast all by myself. Woo is me, the widow who thinks too much. ©

The documentation of my first year of my widowhood is now available in a book format that can be previewed and/or ordered here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sadiversaries - 6 months, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th

This is a link list to the posts I wrote about the anniversaries of my husband's passing:

My 6 months Sadiversary: Rest in Peace

My 1st Sadiversary: One Whole Year of Grief

My 3rd Sadiversary: Three Full Years a Widow

My 4rd Sadiversary: Fourth Sadiversary on Widowhood Lane

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dating, Dreaming and Firemen

I’m a person with a high tolerance for being alone but I’m so sick of my own company right now I’d like to scream. The snow was keeping me trapped in a cycle of shoveling and more shoveling broken up with periods of sleep and playing on the computer. I’m bored! And I’m seeing Don more frequently in my dreams again. Last night I was back in high school cuddling with a guy while watching a football game and Don was off selling peanuts to the other people in the bleachers. I hate football and I haven’t thought of the kid I was cuddling with in fifty plus years. He was nothing special to me back in those days, not a boyfriend or crush or even close. He was just a kid who grew up sitting behind me all though grade school and he got in trouble more than once for dipping the ends of my pigtails in his ink well. I suppose the dream has something to do with an essay I’d been working on about widows falling in love again. But I’ve been working on my taxes, too, so why wasn’t I dreaming about dating my accountant? Now there’s a macho guy worth having an imaginary cuddle-fest with while the whole world is watching. The widow is out on a date with a handsome, young guy! Bets are flying back in forth in the bleachers as people try to decide if he’s a grandson or a paid escort.

One of my sister-in-laws asked me if I’d like to fall in love again which is why I was trying to write about the concept. She was widowed a few years before me and she thinks it would be nice to have to a man to go out to restaurants with and I told her guys in our age bracket are only looking for good cooks and caregivers. “Someone would have to take us both as a matched set,” I told her, “to get both of those qualities.” It was a toss-away comment but if I was going to be truthful, I’d say the whole idea of dating again makes me sick to my stomach. And I hate the taste of Pepto-Bismol. Call it a selfish attitude but after years of being a caregiver I’m still worn out from the responsibilities that come with love, and I feel like a bear coming out of hibernation in the spring, still sleepy and looking around for what to do next. Love again? I'd rather have a bar of dark chocolate, but thanks for asking.

Besides, senior citizen dating sucks! During the years after we took my dad’s car keys away, I had to chauffeur him and his girlfriend of ten years around on dates. Their dating destinations were dictated by which fast food joints had the best coupons in the Sunday paper or which town near-by was having a VFW or lodge dinner or a sale on all-bran cereal. And who wants to go dancing at 10:00 in the morning? Apparently a lot of people do because that’s when they hold senior dances at a near-by fire department. When Don was still alive I couldn’t get us up and out of the house early enough to check those dances out. Now that I don’t have that excuse, I’m still thinking it’s too freaky early in the morning to polka or line dance or whatever it is they do down there. The band is made up of firemen and if they get a call, they’re out the door and you’re left dancing to a jukebox…or so I’m told. I suppose I should go see for myself for no other reason than I’d get a few images of hunky firemen stuck in my brain. Who knows, that might make for some sweet dreams at night. Jeez, I’m starting to sound like a cougar and I’m not even a cat person!

Before anyone else says it first, I know that not everyone in the septuagenarian and octogenarian sets go on dull dates like my dad and his friend did. I guess it means something that I don’t want to acknowledge my older brother and his lady friend would need tracking devices implanted if we wanted to keep up with their love life. They are literally all over the U.S. and Canada. It probably means I’m not bored or lonely enough yet---Yet? Gag me with a spoon!---I'm not going to roll the dice and gamble on another human being changing my life as I know it. It probably also means I’ve said everything I’ve got to say on the subject of falling in love again and it’s time to shovel some more of that relentless snow! Spring, where are you? ©