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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Widows in Gilded Cages and Other Irrelevant Things

My Thanksgiving Day spent with near strangers turned out good. I had a pleasant conversation with the hostess who is a nice lady and I was grateful that I wasn’t one of the two people she asked to say a prayer before we all made our way through the food line. I sat next to my nephew during dinner---the group was made up of people in his wife’s family---and the food was tasty. After we ate I was invited to play a card game called B.S. (or 'bull shit' if you’re trying to Google it). Playing the game involves lying and deceit and I played with a large group ages 15 to 78. I found out I can’t get away with lying. I got caught nearly every time.

Then I came home and spent the entire night and Black Friday being sick and living on anti-diarrhea pills and Gatorade. I don’t know if it was something I ate or if I caught one of the bugs going around but my symptoms were more in line with food poisoning. I’ve hesitated calling anyone who was at the dinner to find out if I was the only one who go sick. It just doesn’t feel right to do that. On the good side, I didn’t gain any weight over thanksgiving and I didn’t bring home any of the offered leftovers just to throw out and make me feel guilty if the source of my food poisoning turned out to be something else.

Saturday afternoon I got all the ‘guy bling’ out of my rented showcase/booth at the antique mall….all six shelves worth of gas station and car related advertising giveaways, many of which are smaller than a quarter. You just never know when you walk into a place like that if you’re going to find that coveted Mercedes stick pin for your ascot, a brass token worth a free gallon of gas for your new 1939 Desoto coupe` or a 1914 gauge to check the air pressure on your balloon tires. Need an empty, embossed glass oil bottle to fill and sell in front of your hardware store to those crazy people who think cars will catch on and horses will all be put out to pasture one day? I still have one left. This is the kind of stuff I’ve been selling at the mall since Don passed away. I’ve done well. Between eBay for the big stuff and the mall for small stuff, I’ve downsized an entire three stall garage full of gas station and car related stuff and I’m now down to a few boxes of smalls that I was able to bring home in the trunk of my car. I might try a smaller venue closer to home next spring or do eBay again. I haven’t decided.

When I found out what my final check from the mall will be, I promptly came home and ordered the smart phone I’d been lusting after and for a shocking $59.00 savings because I had ordered on Black Friday weekend. Who knew? Then I arranged for the cable company to come out to upgrade me with Wi-Fi in the house and I got a bundle that is actually going to save me $100 a month plus I’ll be getting some bells and whistles I hadn’t counted on. They even waved the installation fee because it was Black Friday weekend. Apparently they want old people like me to step into the 21th century, a place I’m not sure I belong but, what the heck I’m not getting any younger. We did try digital TV with on-demand a few years back but Don couldn’t manage the complexities of the remote so we sent it back in favor of letting him have more independence in his viewing habits. With both the new phone and the cable company I’m getting a money back 30 day free trial, so we shall see how tech ready I am.

With all the things going on in my life I’m still finding the time to get bored. Or maybe it’s because there IS a lot of stuff going on in my life that I’m bored. I’m going through the motions of a full life but I haven’t fallen into the life pattern I want for myself. And who can I blame for that? I’d quote Miss. Piggy here for an answer, but I don’t know how to spell in French. Does it explain anything if I say I’m starting to feel like a bird in a gilded cage again? I know that place well. It’s the cage where you think ‘stuff’ is going to make you happy, make you forget about the unobtainable things in your life. It’s that cage you sit in, knowing you’ve got it much better than many other people and it makes you feel ashamed that what do have isn’t enough to make you truly happy. You still want that intrinsic hug or kind word from someone special in your life, that phone call that never comes to say ‘I love you.’ You want human warmth and companionship or maybe the life you left behind.

In my case, the special people I miss the most---especially around the holidays---are all deceased so I know in order to find what is missing in my life I have to keep on getting out in the world, keep on accepting invitations from near strangers. And I need to keep on asking myself to dig deeper into the Kingdom of Jean in order to make peace with what was, what is and what will be. But one nagging question keeps dogging me: who am I when I can’t find my refection in the eyes of another? No man is an island---or so they say, but I feel like one, a storm-torn island.  

Oh, boo-hoo! I hear a voice in my head saying. If you had any talent you could write yourself a country western song and it would resonate with half the population. I’m guessing that resonate-with-half-the-population idea is an important clue along the road I’m traveling? Sometimes my inner voice talks in riddles, sometimes she's full of bull and other times she's spot on. Which is it tonight? Okay, I'm going to quit typing now and go sit in my gilded cage until I can figure it out or sing like a tufted titmouse---which ever comes first.   ©

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Preach It, Sister Preach It!

I had to go to the doctor’s office today to pee in a bottle. Again. I just did it yesterday and they somehow let the specimen get frozen. We’ve got three inches of snow and ice on the ground here in Michigan and it didn’t occur to them that it’s cold outside? They forgot you can’t leave stuff like that outside for pickup in an uninsulated box. When I told them that I may not be able to get back there today the girl on the phone begged. “The paperwork has already gone through the computer,” she said, “and they need a bottle to go with the lab orders.” Jeez, I got the impression that if I didn’t get  right back in someone else's urine would end up in a bottle labeled with my name and I’d be pronounced cured or pregnant. So off I went.

On the way home I stopped at Starbucks and it took a bit longer than usual because they had to unlock their cash box to get change. When the girl handed me my caramel macchiato she also gave me a card that read: “We apologize if your Starbucks experience was anything but wonderful. The next time we see you, please enjoy a beverage, on us.” After reading it, I decided the doctor’s office should hand out something similar. “We apology for letting your pee get frozen and you had to drive all the way across town to do give us another sample. The next time you are scheduled to pee in a cup we will wave your co-pay on the test.” Now that would have made me feel better about the inconvenience.

I pulled over to enjoy my caramel macchiato and noticed the sky was bright blue with fluffy clouds and those clouds pulled me back in time to when I was going to Sunday school classes back in the 1940s. The teacher had a board on a painter’s easel that was covered with flannel and she’d slap cut-out pictures on the flannel as props to tell Bible stories and they would stick. I have a vivid image stuck in my head of God standing on a flannel cloud looking down on a field full of cut-out cows clinging to the flannel. Can you image kids in our hi-tech world paying attention to a story told in flannel and cut-outs images from a coloring book?

I acknowledge and respect the fact that all of us have the right (and duty) to follow our own path to God…just as I have done decades ago. They may see God as an all-knowing, all-powerful “him” sitting up somewhere controlling and creating everything down here on earth. Many people believe in this kind of God. Many people believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible or the literal interpretation of other religious scriptures from other religions. I would never try to persuade anyone to take my point of view. But the image of a God sitting on a flannel cloud just never worked for me. The definition of God that I subscribe to is this one: God is Love, Love is God.

Back when I used to service weddings as a bridal consultant in the floral industry, I had occasion to talk to a lot of clericals from a wide range of Christian denominations and other religions. One conversation in particular, that has always stayed in my memory bank, happened when I found myself standing at the front of a church reading a silk banner stretched across the back wall of the altar area.

“It pretty simple isn’t it?” A minister smiled as he came up beside me.

“Simple?” I said.

“Yes, simple to understand what God is all about when you break it down that way,” he replied, nodding to the banner that read, God is Love, Love is God.

“You mean when you set aside the personification of God that man has assigned,” I asked, “and you just look at what that personification is supposed to convey?”

“You’ve got it!” he beamed, “I thought my sermon tomorrow would be harder to teach.”

“In one of my art history courses,” I told him, “We spent a lot of time studying the personifications and allegorical stories in early Christian art work. I did a term paper on the way personifications were used to teach the illiterate masses about morality.”

The minister laughed. “So I can’t count on my flock tomorrow catching on as quickly as you did?” He nodded to the banner again.

“A piece of cake,” I told him.

The conversation continued as I set up my wedding candelabras, taped flowers to the ends of the pews, and laid an aisle runner down. He was a good natured man, an interesting person and a joy to talk with. If I had had the inclination to be a church-goer I would have enjoyed his services but by that point in my life I’d come to believe that there are many paths to God. I had found my way and I didn’t feel the need for a minister, priest, rabbi, or other religious leader to keep me on the path to spiritual growth. And I still don’t; I am comfortable with my journey to inner peace. The Buddhists have a saying: The secret is there is no secret. The minister that day at the church put it another way: “Understanding God is so simple,” he said, “that most people think they’re missing something and they keep looking for answers in the scriptures.”

So how would I---an agnostic if your definition of the word fits me---respond to widows who can’t make peace with their loss because they are still looking for a lesson to learn from God for why a good man had to die and leave them all alone? I’d tell them that maybe they lack a real understanding of why we are each here on earth. I tell them a well-known secret: we are here to love one another. We are here to be God-like, to create goodness and overcome evil by spreading our love, by doing good things. When a death in the family happens that's heart-breaking but God (aka love) didn’t cause it. Love (aka God) helps us get through the pain. In my spiritual world, there is no lesson to learn, no punishment given. It is what it is. Shit happens. People live. People die and pee freezes when a sample is left outside in the winter.  ©

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Widow’s Holiday Secrets and Confessions

“We can all find reasons to be thankful,” I was told when I was lamenting the fact that I wasn’t looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with strangers. Ya, sure we can. After all, isn’t thankfulness ‘mindset' #12' in the Handbook for Better Living, a book I’ve been preaching from my entire life? Thankfulness is a cornerstone of philosophic thought all over the world and I know the Thanksgiving Day drill: “Dear Lord, I’m thankful for central heat, clean water, indoor plumbing and the fact that my address isn’t ‘the center refrigerator box underneath the Main Street viaduct.’ I’m thankful that farmer Jack’s cows come home every night for milking, that I have Ben and Jerry’s Death by Chocolate ice cream in my freezer, and that we’re not living in a nuclear winter.” But here’s where I get a little testy. We humans are multi-taskers so why is it so hard to understand if a thankful widow---anticipating a Thanksgiving dinner with strangers---can visualize herself standing up on her chair and proclaiming she’s got a whole cup of crazy going on in her head? “But I am thankful you invited me here,” she’d continue, “and I thank you for asking me to lead us in prayer.” Of course, you know I’m not going to do that at dinner on Thursday, even though I am stressing out over the very real possibility they’ll ask me to lead a pray, me the person these super-sized Christians don’t realize is an agnostic.

You’ve got to admit there’s a difference between having a good time and pretending you are so you’ll get invited back by the hostess of whatever affair you’re attending. You want her to know her kind gesture of including you is sincerely appreciated. And isn’t that what a good guest is supposed to do? We bring a little wine, maybe a box of bonbons or flashy flowers and smile in all the right places. We help where ever we can and feed their dog under that table. We are good little guests who try hard not to let on that we feel out of place, like a fish swimming in olive oil. I am woman, master of multitasking and I can be as two-faced as the next person. “Thank you very much for inviting me and my ghost for dinner," but did you have to let your uncle Harry sit on his lap?

Last year, my holiday season and the invitations that came with it was all about concentrating on not bursting into tears. This year my mission statement for the holidays is to “dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” I am a woman at war, a woman determined to stand on her own two feet. A widow who can move on with the best of them. But I’ll tell you a few secrets I’ve learned over the past year. Moving on doesn’t mean you forget. It doesn’t mean you can’t be both thankful and regretful at the same time and still be a perfectly balanced, sane person who knows how to keep her cup of crazy from spilling over. And the piece of résistance of all secrets is this: in the second year of widowhood a woman must learn to carry her losses forward (minus the pain) to live in harmony with the joy that she’s adding back into her life one baby step at a time. It’s hard work. It’s worthy widow’s work to let go of the pain that came tethered to our losses. And, yes, I am thankful I learned these secrets in a timely manner and I didn’t scratch anyone’s eyes out in the process. I am woman and I’ve roared enough for today. ©

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holiday Funerals, Facebook and Discontent

When someone dies around a holiday---any holiday---I can’t help thinking about my mom and dad. Mom died on Easter and Dad died on Christmas. I know all about grieving around holidays when the whole world around you seems to be celebrating. And I’ve always been grateful that Don, if he had to die, at least he didn’t do it on a holiday. I don’t know why it should matter, though, it’s not like I’ll ever forget the day I lost my spouse. But then again it is different when someone dies at other times of the year because, you don’t have to endure hearing about joyful holiday gatherings when your anticipation of the holidays are forever changed, like a full-colored photograph that’s been printed in black and white. Your memories of holidays past and future always come with a tinge of regret when that date gets engraved in granite.

Now, I’ve got another funeral to go to on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. The deceased is the father of my niece-in-law that I’ve been walking the nature trail with all summer. She comes from a close, loving family and he leaves behind a wife of 60 years, a women who’s always been so upbeat and sweet. I know many of his grandkids and I’ve been reading their Facebook postings. You can tell they’ve been influenced and blessed by their grandfather’s caring spirit. I’ve never been a grandparent (or had one of my own) but if I did I’d be proud if my grandkids were to post the kind of memorial tributes that I’m reading about my niece-in-law’s father, not to mention the photos and videos being shared. Facebook has its bad points but at times like this the site sure has the power to draw people together in shared memories and grief. Who would have ever guessed how much technology would change the customs and etiquette of grief.

I’m fighting it, but discontent is seeping into my soul and I’m sure it’s due in no small part because of my dad’s death nearly 14 years ago. He passed away just five months before Don's massive stroke, ending a tough five year stretch of my brother and me sharing his care. I hadn’t fully recovered from that experience when I was thrown into another caregiver firestorm. So my holiday plans since the beginning of my caregiver life have always come with the good graces of others inviting me to be a part of their celebrations. Anyone who’s been in a caregiver role will understand what I mean when I say I barely had the time or energy to blow my nose let alone decorate, cook and invite people over during the holiday season. So here I am now with all the time in the world and with holiday parties lined up to attend on Thanksgiving and at the Historical Society, the Red Hat Society, the sculpture park, the neighborhood association and probably on Christmas Eve. Can we all say, "It will be lonely in a crowd?" Debbie Downer can but my Mary Poppins persona is telling her to move out of the way and let the good times roll.

Tomorrow the good times start out with the tree lighting ceremony and dinner at the sculpture park, if it doesn’t rain. I can’t image me riding around the park in an open tram if the weather is miserable. The other day I decided I should have bought two tickets and put out an invitation via a mass email to my new Red Hat sisters to see if anyone wanted to go with me. I might be alone in the world but that doesn’t mean I can’t prime the pump of friendship a little harder. The email list is long and at least one person would have jumped at a free ticket. Others in the group have made similar offers ending in success.

Several of my blogger friends have written recently about being former extroverts turned introverts since losing a loved one. It seems I’m trying---maybe too hard---to be the other way around…a former introvert who wants to be an extrovert. My husband was an accomplished extrovert and I spent years coasting in the making friends department because he was so good at it. Well, I’ll have lots of opportunities over the holidays to practice what he’s taught me by example. Then, when the new year starts I’m going to hunker down here on Widowhood Lane and revert back to type. Winter will give me time to think about what I really want the rest of my life to look like. Jeez, why do I have to feel so much pressure to catalog choices and make decisons?   ©

Friday, November 22, 2013

Online Dating Series

If you've ever been curious about online dating sites for seniors, I did a little research at Our Time and Senior People Meet that might give you some insight and a few laughs at the same time.

Research Project: Operation Internet Dating

Operation Online dating Profiles Part II

Rejected! Online Dating for Seniors


One Widow, Two Thanksgiving Invitations and a Bunch of Other Junk

There is a new generation of robocalls out there and I’ve gotten a few that reminds me of Apple’s Siri. They sound so much like a live person talking that when you interrupt with the question, “Are you a real person?” it gives you an answer something like, “I’m a computer aided communicator using a script. May I continue with the script?” If you’re in the mood to play with the system, like I was today, you can reply with something like this: “Do your scripts come in Chinese?” and it will say, “We have English, Spanish and French on our menu.” A few months ago I finally registered both my cell and landline phones on the National Do Not Call List but I don’t think it’s done a bit of good. I still get too many junk calls. But I must admit I might actually miss these interactive robocalls. One time I barked like a dog at the communicator and it said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t get that. Can you repeat your question?”

I wish they also had a National Do Not Mail List. If they did, I’d be a happy camper. I am so sick of getting hearing aid information and other stuff designated for “old people” in the mail. You turn a certain age and the whole world thinks you need a security system, an emergency dialer, hearing aids, and estate planning advice, plus information on picking an independent living home and your final resting place. I have a security system. His name is Levi the Schnauzer. I have an emergency dialer, hearing aids and a gravesite, thank you very much, so stop reminding me through the daily mail that I’m getting old!  And if I start going on the tours of independent living facilities or sitting through estate planning seminars you can bet I’m going because I need the free meals that comes with them.

It’s been a busy week here on Widowhood Lane, staring Monday when my friendly plumber spent the morning in my bathroom and me having to wait around all afternoon for a delivery. (I replaced Don’s 14 year old shower chair with one of my own.) Tuesday was a Thanksgiving dinner luncheon at the senior hall where I learned that old women who talk about the good old days of baking and cooking this or that are boring. No wonder no one wants to sit next to grandma at family parties. Wednesday was a Red Hat Society tea where a new member shocked the heck out of me by announcing that she was a church pastor about to retire. My image of pastor ladies needs adjusting because I think she’s going to be a lot of fun. Thursday I went to a lecture at the senior hall given by a woman who had walked a total of 2,000 miles around selected shorelines of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. Man, I have to push myself to walk two miles on a nature trail. What drives someone to take on such an ambitious trek?  She said she was having a mid-life crisis and here I thought all mid-life crisis’s involved a pair red high-heels and a mini skirt for women and a sports car and chest waxing for guys.

Friday the plumber had to come back so I can use the shower. Ya, I know all about sediments that can get pushed through the pipes when the main water line gets turned off, then back on again and the sediments can get caught in filter screens, cutting off the water flow, but why do things like that always happen to me? I had just put shampoo in my hair and I had to finish my ‘shower’ in the sink. Well, I could have used the guest bath but at the time the thought never crossed my mind. That room is off limits to me and the dog---always has been, and apparently always will be. While I was doing my ‘shower’ in the sink I asked myself the is-this-a-disaster-or-an-inconvenience question in an attempt to talk yourself down off the window ledge I was clinging to in my head. And the answer came back that I’m lucky I at least have a house and a shower and the money to fix what gets broken. Crisis averted. Chalk another one up for common sense.

I thought I’d be spending Thanksgiving alone this year but I finally got two invitations, two days apart. One was from a niece on my husband’s side of the family that I’ve spent many holidays with over the years. This year they are going to a restaurant. And the other invitation came from my nephew’s in-laws for a big gathering of their family. I’m going to feel out of place with my nephew’s in-laws---I don’t know them well---but they asked first so I’m going with a Mary Poppins smile in place and my store-bought tiramisu in hand. First I have to study up on appropriate dinner table conversation. My Victorian era etiquette book says not to talk about politics, religion or finances in mixed company---a rule I’ve always agreed with at party format events---and I’m adding cooking back in the good-old days to that list. What’s left? Twerking? All I can think about when Miley Cyrus does that is how easy it is to accidentally fart in that position…and I seriously doubt THAT’S a proper topic for conversation with a table full of near-strangers. Who would have ever guessed my Thanksgiving, this year, is coming with homework in advance? ©

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

100 Things About Me

As part of flashback Wednesday, I'm going to reprint a blog that I wrote about 6-7 years ago in hopes that it will inspire some of my friends in cyberspace to make and post their own '100 Things About Me' list. Anything printed in the color red, was just added for this addition of my list (in 2013). So here it goes....

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  1. My hair is naturally curly.
  2. In my entire life, I’ve only lived a couple of months without a dog in the house. And when I was away at college.
  3. ‘Hate’ is not a strong enough word for the way I feel about the color orange.
  4. I practically live in sweats and jogging clothes. Not so much now that I have a social life.
  5. I’ve never gone jogging.
  6. My favorite male movie stars are: Brad Pitt, Toby McGuire, Robert Redford and Tom Cruise.
  7. If I could have three wishes come true, one would be to have my dad back again.
  8. I detest watching sports on TV or at sports events.
  9. I love movies about sports and sports figures---Babe Ruth, Tin Cup, etc.
  10. I still have many of my childhood toys.
  11. If there was a support group for pack rats, I could be their keynote speaker. Not so much anymore since I moved twice since this was originally written.
  12. My favorite hot house flowers are gardenias and roses.
  13. I’ve never had a baby.
  14. I like dark semi-sweet chocolate much better than milk chocolate.
  15. Currently, my favorite flowers grown outside are sweet peas and sunflowers.
  16. I totally don’t understand why people get face lifts.
  17. I’m left handed.
  18. I’ve only changed a tire on a car three times in my life.
  19. I’m fascinated with bungee cords. I used to say, “Bungee cords are my life” to my (late) husband all the time, but I have no idea what that means.
  20. I over-eat when I’m stressed.
  21. I used to have a lot of contact with published authors.
  22. One of the authors named a fictional character in my honor; another mentioned me in a dedication.
  23. I’m dyslexia.
  24. I detest the smell, sight, taste and texture of liver.
  25. I’ve had pen pals in my life since I was a teenager.
  26. I’ve lived alone for more years of my life than I lived with other people.
  27. It’s a rare day that I enjoy driving.
  28. My favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate.
  29. For 18 years, I did commercial snow plowing in the winters.
  30. My favorite public personality is Oprah although I'm not sure I have a favorite anymore and if I did I'd probably name John Daily or Steven Colbert.
  31. Phil Donahue used to be my favorite personality before Oprah.
  32. I don’t have a favorite, FAVORITE song---just lots of them I love a lot.
  33. I rarely wear jewelry, not even my wedding rings.
  34. Silver is my favorite of the precious metals.
  35. I collect Cracker Jack plastic toys.
  36. I like to knit and sew, but I don’t do it much anymore.Since Don died, I've taken up knitting again.
  37. I have more collections/hobbies than I could name on my fingers. Not true anymore, I've downsized but I still have a lot.
  38. I follow the rules of life.
  39. If I could have three wishes granted, one of them would be to a famous artist.
  40. My eyes are brown.
  41. I love the oil paintings of John Singer Sargent.
  42. I made all my own clothes in my teens and well into my twenties.
  43. Traveling overseas has never, ever held any appeal to me.
  44. If they could bring Paris over here, I’d be the first one in line to see it.
  45. My computer desk is really messy and unorganized.
  46. I ‘m a very well adjusted person. Crazy people probably say that too.
  47. I’d rather write a letter than make a phone call.
  48. For over a decade I edited and published a 24 page bimonthly readers' forum where I also wrote book reviews of romance novels.
  49. I love Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld reruns but now I mostly watch CNN and the FoodNetwork.
  50. I finished college exactly 25 years after I started. My degree is in fine arts.
  51. My favorite fruits are peaches, strawberries, and bananas.
  52. I do many things well but few, if any, things really great.
  53. I detest fake fingernails on other women. (I just don't get that!)
  54. On my desk is a Ziggy cartoon that says, “Your past failures will always overtake you if you STOP chasing after your future success!” Wow, I wish I still had that cartoon! I wonder what happened to it.
  55. I’m a sweetaholic. Somethings never change.
  56. I still have contact with my best friend through grade school and high school---she lives far away now.
  57. Sleeping on jersey knit sheets is my preference over other fabric choices in sheets.
  58. I’m pro-choice.
  59. I like the color gray for neutrals in a house and for exteriors. If I redecorate, I'm going for beach, seashells and sky colors. Light and airy.
  60. When I was a kid, I wouldn’t eat orange vegetables and often had to sit at the dinner table for hours until either me or my mom would break.
  61. I was over forty before I would eat squash willingly and now I love it.
  62. I can’t spell very well without my electronic dictionary.
  63. I could happily live in bathrobes all day long if ‘custom’ would let me.
  64. My older brother is my only sibling.
  65. I was a bridal consultant in the floral industry for twenty years.
  66. For ten of those years I had my own business.
  67. For several summers I worked part time filling pot holes in parking lots.
  68. I don’t like tattoos on women. Add men to that list. I'm really sick of seeing tattoos. Too much bad and boring art.
  69. My husband and I used to have booths in three antique malls. We both always had more than one job/business going at one time.
  70. I like milk.
  71. If I could have three wishes come true, one would be to have new knees without going through the pain of surgery. I can cross this off the list. I got new knees and the pain was well worth the results. So to replace this wish I'd like my husband back even for one day with him being able to talk again, to say all the things that went unsaid for the last 12 years of his life.
  72. I was a ‘take-classes’ junkie for most of my life.
  73. A portrait of one of my ancestor’s is hanging in a national art museum and although thirteen generations separates her from my mom, they looked like sisters. 
  74. My husband knows all my secrets and dreams. Knew all my secrets and dreams. Now, no one does and that's one of the saddest parts of widowhood for me. To have someone know everything about you---the good, bad and the ugly---and they still like/love you is a gift. If you have it, treasure it!
  75. I love anything that smells like peaches---hand creams, shampoos, soaps, etc.
  76. I’m a democrat and a liberal.
  77. I’ve only had one beer in my entire life. But this past year I've learned to love hard cider from micro brewers when going to a nice restaurant.
  78. I could eat or drink anything if it had crème de’ mint in it or over it.
  79. My belly button is an ‘inny.’
  80. I’ve made wedding flowers for literally thousands of weddings, but I didn’t have any at my own.
  81. I’ve own one of my house plants for 46 years. I still have it and it was over 50 years old when it had its first flowers. They smell so bad I have to cut them off and it blooms twice a year now.
  82. Vanilla bean frappuccionos and caramel macchiatos are my favorite drinks at Starbucks.
  83. I’ve only moved twice in my life and both times were within the last seven years. I bought the house I grew up in and my parents moved out.
  84. Growing up, red was my favorite color to wear.
  85. Now, purple is my favorite color to wear.
  86. I have a lot of allergies and have had chronic hives many times in my life.
  87. I would hate going back to a world without microwave ovens.
  88. I admire and appreciate good cooks, but I have no interest in being one. I have more interest now but I still don't do much 'real' cooking. I'm not gifted in that department.
  89. I once slept overnight on a cemetery plot.
  90. My tastes in music cover a wide range from Big Band era stuff to World Beat. I listen to a lot of country western now.
  91. On one side of my family my ancestors go back to the Mayflower.
  92. On the other side of my family, my ancestors were part of the great Ellis Island immigration era.
  93. I’m half English descent and half Italian descent. Duh, I think cheated on this one, given numbers 91 and 92.
  94. I’m glad I flew when I was young because I’d be scared to do it today.
  95. I’ve never bleached or dyed my hair or had a permanent. I did low-lights for a year after my husband died, but I went back to the gray. Who knows, maybe next year I'll get fake fingernails or a tattoo. :)
  96. Before my husband’s stroke I was in a library once or twice a week, now I’m lucky to get there once every six months.
  97. I carry two credit cards in my wallet but I rarely used them. Down to carrying one now.
  98. I hate reptiles.
  99. The best gift I ever got was at thirteen when my dad told my mom I didn’t have to eat orange vegetables or liver anymore.
  100. It took me two days to come up with this list…making one is harder than it looks!

Post Script added in 2018: Nothing has changed since I last edited this list in 2013 accept I no longer watch the FoodNetwork.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Panda Bears, the Widow and her Aphasia Book

Since the birth of the twin panda babies at the Atlanta Zoo in July I’ve been a daily fan of the panda cam. I’ve watched them grow from 4 ounces, 4.5 inches long to eleven and half pound butter balls. Until this past week they’ve divided their time between an incubator and their mother as the zoo keepers swap them out every few hours and sublimate their diet with a bottled milk. The mother panda has never had them both at one time until this week. She's been such an affectionate mother with her cubs. She carries them around in her mouth like cats do their kittens and you’d swear she’s smiling when they nurse. She cuddles with them even when they aren’t nursing, she bathes them and  the babies often look like they're sucking their paws/thumbs. It’s been such a sweet and angelic story to follow from the hairless and ugly little creatures they were at birth to the beautiful, fur-balls they are now. Now that they are spending more time together they attempt to play even though their walking is wobbly and they’re not in control of where they’re trying to go. The twins are too cut for words.

I had just gotten into making teddy bears before my husband’s stroke. I still have a stash of exotic fake furs and bear joints in the basement because I never gave up the dream of making artisan bears with personalities. And I have a collection of teeny, handmade and signed bears that measure under three inches tall. I love the micro-mini bears the best. The smallest I’ve ever achieved is five inches tall and he looks like a bulky ox next to my treasured, tiny favorites. The panda twins have gotten me thinking about making bears again. I wish I could find a good panda pattern. It’s been so long since I’ve tried alternating patterns that I’m not sure I can do it anymore. The only panda bear pattern I’ve found they want $17.50 for a downloaded pattern and the reviews say there are no instructions or how-to photos to go with it. I can’t believe that! I used to be able to exchange them free with other bear makers or buy them for next to nothing. So far, I’m not willing to pay $17.50 for a piece of paper to come out of my printer. But I may weaken and buy myself a Christmas present.

Being a widow and no longer being a caregiver to a severely disabled husband sure freed up a lot of time in my life. This point has really been brought home to me as I work on the book I’m writing for the National Novel Writers Month. As I read over the seven years’ worth of journal entries I made as a caregiver/spouse I can’t believe the range of emotions I recorded. So many things I wrote about I’d forgotten about doing. Studying those journals has made me laugh and cry and both be ashamed and proud of myself for how I handled life during those difficult years. I believe in this book because I believe that I can help others by sharing the raw emotions of what a couple goes through as they search for acceptance and a new normal after such a life-altering medical crisis. I will get the rough draft done on the book by the end of the contest, I just hope I don’t lose my mojo for getting the draft turned into a “final product.”  And maybe that’s why it’s a good thing that the panda bear pattern I lust after costs so much---if I don't buy it, it can't distract me from my do-good book project.  

But the worry-wart in me keeps wondering if I'll ever be able to do everything I've put off doing while I was busy living a different existence---paint again, make bears again, keep writing and be totally happy again. Now that I have the time but not the husband to share my joy in doing these things, do these goals from past years still ring true? Or maybe that's the way it's suppose to be. Maybe we're supposed to keep on wishing and hoping and dreaming about that next project just over the horizon until the day we die. Even if that next "project" is just trying to figure out how to steal the jello off our future roommate's dinner tray at the nursing home. Without wishes and hopes and dreams would we ever accomplish anything? I don't think I want to slow down long enough to find out. ©

The bear pattern I lust after.
One of my micro-mini artisan babies.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Poor Bored and Boring Me

This has been one of those crazy weeks where I wish I’d stayed in my nightgown, found a delivery service to drop off a batch of cream puffs and stayed home from Monday through Friday. Nothing bad happened that involved fire, floods, spilled blood, hospitals or funeral parlors so I should be happy. Right? Life is still good when none of those biggies are penciled in on the day planner. Repeat to myself: “A boring life isn’t such a bad thing.” So if I can’t call my week boring the next best word to describe it would be ‘annoying.’

Monday I was fifteen minutes late for my haircut appointment because I lost track of time while playing on the internet. The stylist had me reschedule for Tuesday because she had a class to go to and she didn’t want to rush my cut. Then I went to the bank, library and the post office which were all closed for Veteran’s Day. Oops! I'm not getting old and forgetful, I told myself as I went off to Burger King where I thought I could indulge in a batch of sinful sweet potatoes fries. Oops, yet again. “That’s a seasonal item,” the speaker woman told me.

While sitting trapped in the take-out window line, I was having a panic attack as I wondered what I’d do if a giant space craft hovered above my end of town and started sucking vehicles up like a huge magnet. How would I escape, trapped like I was? I could abandon the car but I can only walk so fast and I’d probably get trampled by the other panic-stricken people in line who’d also leave their vehicles. Finally, I remembered that I’m a news junkie and if a giant UFO had been coming towards earth all our spy satellites would have seen it approaching and by now Edward Snowden would have leaked that information to the press.

Tuesday I repeated Monday’s agenda minus the panic attack and plus a trip to the gadget zoo at the senior center where I petted and lusted after the iPads, smart phones and tablets. AGAIN. That's three months in a row. How tech savvy does one elderly woman need to be, for crying out loud? I’ve got a desk top and lap top computer that are both fairly new. I’ve got a Kindle, iPod and an old people’s cell phone. Do I really need more tech stuff? Is raw, unadulterated lust a good enough reason to buy more stuff to keep me tethered to the information mongers on earth? If I was my sister-in-law I’d say, “No, that would be cheating my kids out of their inheritance!” But I don’t have kids and my dog only needs so much kibble when I’m gone and he’s already got more toys than he needs. (I’ve been meaning to talk with him about donating some of them to the local humane society. But he’d just point out that I have ‘toys’ that could go to Goodwill so I keep putting that conversation off.)

Wednesday my house cleaning service failed to show up because the girl who was assigned to me got her schedule mixed up. Since I did something similar on Monday I could hardly get mad about the fact that I had to clean my own house this month. (I didn’t want the plumber---this coming Monday---to wade in my yucky-dos when he comes to install my new toilet, shower head and to fix a few leaky faucets.) The cleaning service would have rescheduled someone else to come on Thursday “if I felt comfortable leaving a key” since I couldn’t be home. But I gasped at that though! Leave a key for a total stranger who could steal my stash of Little Miss Debbie Chocolate Cakes, read the junk e-mails and let my dog out to play in traffic? No, way! No thank you! On the good side, cleaning my own house this month gives me an extra $50 that can go in Lust Fund.

Thursday I had to go back to the hearing center in the morning for part two of how to be an old lady with a new set of hearing aids. Then the afternoon was spent manning the front door at the museum where traffic was so low I had enough time to sweep the lobby, fold a box of handouts and read Crazy Cat Lady on my Kindle.

Friday was my Movie and Lunch Club day but they picked a movie I had zero interest in seeing so I opted out in protest for not picking Last Vegas. Not that anyone noticed my protest when I ever so politely emailed my I-can’t-make-it-this-month regrets. But at least Captain Phillips didn’t get my ticket money. (Oh, goodie, more money that can go in my Lust Fund!) Besides, I needed the full day to clean what my cleaning service could have done in two hours.

Today was the only day worth the time it took to shower and get dressed all week. I did the Christmas craft shows tour and lunch with the Red Hat Society ladies. I didn’t buy much but I like looking and it was a pleasant way to spend an overcast morning. Having done the craft show tour last year all by myself after a decade of doing them with my deceased spouse, I looked up what I wrote about the experience a year ago. What a contrast from then and now!  No tears this year, no going home early and no ghost riding shotgun in my car. And this year came with an unspoken promise that friendships can grow---someday, if I live long enough, Downer Debbie is saying in my ear. Don’t be so negative, my Mary Poppins persona is saying in my other ear. Ohmygod, I used to have just one inner voice talking to me! Now I have two?

Back on topic: Life might not be a basket full of good tidings and joy here on Widowhood Lane yet but it could be far worse. After 42 years of being two peas in a pod, two nuts on a squirrel, the hole in your life doesn’t fill in with a couple of years under your belt. You go on. You reach for that happy place again. You might even find it from time to time but, damn it, it’s so boring without the other pea in my pod… ©

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Rhythms of LIfe, Fly Fishing and Widowhood

What follows in a movie "review" I wrote for one of my top all-time five favorite movies. At first you might not see its relationship to widowhood---and maybe it's an obscure stretch for me to say it has one. However, it definitely has something to do with accepting the rhythms of life---birth, death and everything in between.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Robert Redford, director and voice-over narrator of the film, A River Runs Through It, says near the beginning of the movie: “My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things---trout as well as eternal salvation---came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.” As films go, this one is a masterpiece with Oscar award winning cinematography and with spoken language that closely follows the autobiography on which the film is based.

For anyone who hasn’t seen this 1992 movie, it’s a story of two sons growing up in the same house with their Presbyterian minister father in rural Montana, in the early 1900s, but with different results. One takes the path of vice and personal destruction while the other brother becomes a professor of literature in Chicago. It’s a story about the unconditional love between brothers and a father and their mutual love of fly fishing that binds them together. It’s no accident that many parallels between the art of fly fishing and the rhythms of life are carefully drawn into the texture of this favorite film of mine.

I’m not a fly fisherman---though I’ve done a bit of it growing up in the summers on a lake---but there is one fly casting scene in this movie that is a spiritual experience just to watch. In the scene Brad Pitt, who plays one of the sons, is fly fishing in the Big Blackfoot River, in total communication with nature, using an artful casting rhythm that has far advantaged beyond the four count rhythm of a metronome that his father had taught him as a child. And watching this scene---the morning sun dancing on the greenery and bubbling blue water, the sounds of nature blending with the casting rhythms as his fly tempts the trout to the surface---you understand the reverence this film is trying to convey about the relationship between religion and art. The art of doing something well after years of practice---of creating something from nothing---and knowing that it’s only through the grace of God that we humans are able to find our passion in life and that is something few of us appreciate the way we should.

Grace is my favorite word in the English language. My Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines ‘grace’ this way: Unmerited divine assistance given to man for his regeneration…” I see grace in my life in simple things like being born into a family that nurtured its children and in the fact that I was born in a place and time where there were opportunities for women. I see grace in the angry storm that passes without damage, or in the car accident that I’m able to avoid. I see grace in the fact that we find people to love. And especially in the fact that people find creative activities that we can get passionate about, that regenerate our spirits and souls. Fly fishing, baking bread, gardening, painting---there are many art forums that we can practice to perfection and find that kind of regeneration of spirit in the doing.

But life is also about choices---about choosing between living on the edge or living within the circle of rightness. Two brothers grow up with the same opportunities and love from their parents. One grows into a responsible adult and as an elderly man, writes a story about his brother who took a different path and died young. Not exactly Cain and Able but none the less A River Runs Through It is a movie with the same message. Choice and grace---man has been enjoying from them both since the beginning of our place on earth. The waters flow. The flowers grow and man comes and goes as the basement of time keeps the rhythm of life as each generation finds what ever it is that speaks to their souls.

The last lines of the movie are spoken in a voice-over by Mr. Redford, words written by Norman Maclean: “….when I am alone in the half light of the canyon all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul, and memories. And the sounds of the Big Black Foot River, and a four count rhythm, and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs….” ©

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Gifts This Widow Gives herself

Have you ever researched something online, then for the next few weeks everywhere you go on the internet that product pops up in a sidebar or banner across the top? Right now I’m dealing with the reappearing toilet ads and to make them disappear I have to find something else to research. What should it be? Thrill seekers vacation packages? Serenity retreats in Tibet? Spanx undergarments? Anything to get rid of the Toto toilet ads!

I went out to our trusty plumbing shop this week and ordered a new ADA toilet. “Big deal,” you’re saying, “what does that have to do with widowhood?” Actually, quite a lot in my case. You see, for the past twelve years of Don’s life we had a potty chair over a low toilet because that’s the combination that gave my right-side paralyzed husband the most independence when it came to butt wiping. It took an hour appointment with an occupational therapist to figure that one out, but I like the height of the potty chair so I kept on using after his passing. Then the seat broke and they won’t let you just order a new one, you have to buy a whole new potty chair. It seemed silly to put $150 into a potty chair when I could use that towards a real ADA toilet that is costing me $340 plus labor to install it. Little by little the reminders of my spouse are drifting away. Don’t get me wrong. I won’t miss the ugly potty chair but replacing it is still a sad reminder that my life will never be the same with Don gone from my world. <big sigh here>

The Red Hat Society business meeting tea was my Wednesday outing. We each signed 80 Christmas cards for the shoeboxes full of goodies we’ll be putting together next month for homeless vets and residents at our adopted nursing home. We also chit-chatted about past fun and future plans. Somewhere in the conversation a lady made a comment to me that I should write a book. And dumb me, I outed myself by saying, “Oh, I already have.” Long story short, one of the other ladies e-mailed me several hours later to say she found my books online and ordered them both. My “secret life” won’t be so secret after she reads them. What’s the worst that could happened? No one will want to sit next to me unless I sign a pledge of confidentiality? They’ll ask me to drop out of the group because they can’t trust me not to write about them next? See, I told you I’m a worry-wart. I’m actually quite careful not to use people’s names when I blog/write because I do value other people’s expectations of privacy when they are in social situations.

This week I also got the test results back on my bi-yearly checkup---I’m going to live!---and except for a thyroid issue we’ll have to deal with I’m doing fine. Changing the way I eat has made a big difference in my blood work. Under protest I got a breast exam, too, which turned out fine as I knew it would. Also this week, my antique booth got a quick overhaul. The last time I was there I put my notice in that I’ll be moving out at the end of the month. The whole booth is now marked down to 50% and sales should be good through Thanksgiving. If I had any brains I would be moving out after Christmas but I don’t want to drive that far out of town in snow season so I’m letting commonsense rule over greed.

Today I volunteered at the museum where I spent a boring afternoon with the director of the place. He’s not boring---quite the contrary---but there was very little traffic coming in and that’s not likely to change until next spring except for an occasional Boy Scouts troop and other school aged group tours. One of these days I’m going to volunteer to be there when they are scheduled but I’m almost afraid to do it for fear I’ll get bit by the bug to do it again. It's kind of fun to play with the Lincoln logs in the kiddie corner.

The second anniversary of Don’s passing comes the middle of January and my holiday season in between now and then sure is lining up differently this year. Last year, there were no parties or social engagements, nothing to look forward to but the dark side of grief. Not that I would have felt like partying last year but by contrast I can see the fruits of my efforts to build friendships the past 4-5 months. I still won’t have any place to go on the actually holidays, but there are plenty of other parties in my day planner starting next Saturday with a purse party. Don’t ask me what that is. All I know is I said, “yes,” when the invitation came in to our Red Hat chapter. ©

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Road to Happiness

This post is part of Flashback Wednesdays, which I'll be doing through November while I'm taking part in National Novel Writers Month. It was written back about six years ago in response to some people who couldn't get out of the 'poor me' role they'd assigned to themselves. I think what I wrote is still relevant in my widowhood life.....

Have you ever wondered why it is that some people who have so little are able to sincerely appreciate what they do have while others who have so much can’t appreciate it at all? We all have an occasional blue day from time to time when the pity pot seems to be the most comfortable chair in the house. I’m not talking about those fleeting times where at the end of the day we stand up and realize we’ve worn a big red ring on our butts from sitting too long where maybe we shouldn’t have taken up residence in the first place. I’m talking about the general approach that some people have towards life itself where their negative disposition erroneously makes them think that their pain and disappointments are always worse than their neighbor’s pain and disappointments. I’m talking about falling into the trap of using pessimism versus optimism as a general philosophy for living.

I’ve always been an optimist. Even in my darkest hours I’ve been able to recognize that wallowing in negative thoughts won’t help me climb back out of the muck of any given life crisis that all humans, at one time or another, go through---death of a loved one or a falling out with a lover or friend, major disappointments and depression, loss of good health. For me, getting back up after a punch in the gut comes from being able to see that my metaphorical glass of life is half full---not half empty. It’s a personality flaw that I have to struggle to have sympathy for those people who spend their entire lives describing their glasses as half empty. Sure, I understand that we’d all like to have our glasses over-flowing but more importantly I also understand that those times when they are over-flowing are as rare as penguin eggs in the dessert. The optimists will tell you that the adversities we meet while we’re striving towards that 'over-flowing glass' goal is what makes a person strong and that our heartaches are what makes love---when it comes along---all the sweeter. The pessimists, on the other hand will throw in the towel the first moment things don't go their way and they walk around in circles like both of their arms are tied behind their backs. They delude themselves into believing that they have no control over their own happiness.

It must be hard being pessimistic, to aimlessly drag those woo-is-me thoughts and resentments around where ever they go. Optimists, on the other hand, achieve more in life---have more, are loved more---not because some divine intervention sprinkled magic fairy dust on some of us and not on others. Optimists achieve more because they don’t give up on themselves the way people with a defeatist attitude do. Pessimists don’t see each new day as a ‘do-over’ that can change the course of their lives. They are so busy cataloging yesterday’s losses and tomorrow’s grim predictions to realize that they are stealing their own futures in the process. Pessimists are chickens, plain and simple. They are too afraid to roll the dice, take a chance and give up their defeatist attitudes long enough to work as hard at being happy as they work at being miserable. Nothing comes without a price tag, happiness included.

Life is full of hardships, challenges and heartaches for all of us and I am very proud I've never let those things keep me down for the count. A few pity parties once in awhile, sure, but it's not over until the fat lady sings at my funeral and in the meantime I am in charge of way I meet life. ©

painting by Henri Rousseau

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Widows Who Write

I thought it might be emotionally hard to re-read the journal entries I made over seven years of going to speech therapies with my husband in preparation for the book I want to write for National Novel Writers Month. But it’s not. I am able to look at the words and see what’s important, what isn’t and what needs rewriting. I suppose if I had tried this project in the first year after his passing I wouldn’t be able to separate my emotions from the story I want to tell, a story about living in the land of severe language disorders. We went through so much during those years and it’s hard not to take pride in all we accomplished. I say “we” because speech therapy for Don wasn’t something I just dropped him off for and picked him back up afterward. I had to take part in it all, so I could learn queuing, and coping techniques, and help with homework, etc.  At times, though, the book idea seems like an overwhelming task because I wrote so much during that time frame and it has to be ruthless edited down into a cohesive book. Oh, well, I have until the end of the month when the nationwide writing marathon ends for me to figure out. And in the meantime, it’s fun interacting with other wannabe writers on the site. We even got a pep talk email from author James Patterson of the Alex Cross series. I can’t wait to see who else they have lined up for pep talks.

In addition to writing this week: Levi got a haircut, I got a pedicure. My antique booth at the mall got restocked, my car got an oil change, I went to a life enrichment lecture at the senior hall about the river that runs through town and I went to a dinner theater with my Red Hat Society group. Some of my Michigan friends probably know about Turkeyville, near Marshall, which is where I attended the audience participation play, A Girl’s Guide to Murder and Mayhem. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that much and I couldn’t decide if I was glad or sad that they didn’t call me on stage to take part in a murder scene. I did ask a question during a portion of the show where the audience became the detectives who got to drill the suspect and that brought laughter from the crowd. That was fun---you know me, anything for a laugh. The dinner was---what else---a big turkey dinner like you visualize when you think of Thanksgiving. It will probably be the only one I’ll get this year with a real turkey and real potatoes. The only down side of the whole day was the seating was hard and uncomfortable and the ride down and back took a toll on my old bones. I came home with so many aches and pains that I can’t decide if a few hours of fun is really worth the trade-off of joint pains that kept me up last night. I don’t do well when I have to sit in one position too long.

I’m glad I didn’t sign up to go the ballet on Tuesday through the senior hall although I feel guilty for not. How often do you get a chance to buy $100 tickets for just $20? But I’m still overbook and will be for the next two weeks before I can slow down. Being a widow on a mission is too much like work! Oh, well, in December when I’m winter bound I’ll be back here complaining because I didn’t sign up for enough stuff at the Historical Society, Red Hat Society and the senior hall. I wonder, sometimes, if it’s even possible to find a balance when I feel the breath of old age breathing on my neck, telling me I need to keep moving if I’m ever going to accomplish whatever it is I’m on this earth to accomplish. I guess this is where I need to tell myself to quit over thinking it, and just learn to relax and enjoy each day as it comes. 

Speaking of accomplishments my second book, another self-published bit of fluff, is finally in print. You can preview the first 15 pages by following the link below. It’s a story about two canine brothers with a bond that transcends earth all the way to the Rainbow Bridge and back again. ©