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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Is the World Still in One Piece?

Wild fires out West, flooding in West Virginia, Great Britain voting to pull out of the European Union, stock markets plummeting world-wide and suicide bombers in a busy international airport. Sometimes I feel guilty writing about my silly life when so many serious things are happening around the globe. But other than show sympathy or shock or sadness what can the average person do to help those suffering in different geographical areas? Not much. The stock market volatility, however, that’s a different kettle of crap---I mean fish. I haven’t even dared to look at how it might have affected me personally nor have I responded to my financial institution’s ominous e-mail telling me, “We are here to help.” Thank you, but I’d rather stick my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and sing, “Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr."  Hey, it works for Dr. Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, why not me.

On a personal level---of which I am an expert and fully qualified to comment on and critique---I got some great news this week from my orthopedic doctor. The results of my bone density scans show that I’ve lowered my risk factor for a major osteoporotic fracture down from last year’s 20% to this year’s 15%. The Reclast infusion did its job---far better than the daily Forteo shots did after two years of use which only lowered the risk factor by 1.3%. Now I’m glad I followed the rule about having no caffeine for the two weeks after the infusion was given. Boy, did I miss my Starbucks fixes. Getting all your calcium and vitamin D3 in during those two weeks is crazy important as well. It’s in the first two weeks when the Reclast does 95% of its work and it needs that stuff to maximize the treatment. 

I wish I had asked the doctor a question about the possibility that three more infusions could lower my risk factor to zero. Wouldn’t that be nice!  Four broken bones without a car or hang gliding accident to explain them is enough for one life time, thank you very much. As Sheldon Cooper says, “A fear of heights is illogical. A fear of falling, on the other hand, is prudent and evolutionary.” I do fear falling so I don’t roller skate or snow ski. Nor do I ride bikes, horses or elephants although it would spice up my autobiography if I did that latter. In my younger years, however, I’ve done all of the rest. Nope, I’m a dull old woman who is an obsessed fan of The Big Bang Theory---both the TV show and the scientific theory on how the universe began. And if you bought into the idea that I’d still be doing all those things with wheels or four legs if only I didn’t have bad bones then I’ve got a mountain top monastery to sell you. I have no desire to do activities that routinely come with bloody bruises and Band-Aids but now that I think about, that mountain monastery sounds pretty good so I’m retracting that real estate listing in case my imagination needs to go on a retreat. Do you know what Sheldon Cooper’s most popular phrase is? “I am not crazy; my mother had me tested.” My Mom never had me tested but I’ll bet she wanted to a few times. 

Speaking of the importance that two weeks can make. (Yes, I was doing that two paragraphs ago in case you’re memory isn’t what it used to be.) The dog is back on solid foods again after his $527.14 dental surgery. He had to have the gums on two teeth cut back to below the roots so a treatment for puss pockets could be done and then the gums were sewn back in place. He had so many teeth pulled last year that we need to save these two, if possible. In the canine world they are the ones the Tooth Fairy pays top money to acquire. Levi hated the canned mush he had to eat until his two week follow up appointment cleared him for dry kibble again and he lost 1.4 pounds over that time frame. That’s a lot for a dog who only weighed thirty to begin with. I really should try to schedule his yearly dental work and my next, yearly Reclast infusion for the same day. That way, my two weeks without caffeine and his two weeks of getting force fed disgusting stuff would fall at the same time. No point in being miserable alone when we can do it together. 

I watch the nightly news, see people’s houses float down a swollen river and entire neighborhoods go up in flames, know others are watching the stock market volatility suck money out of their retirement accounts while dozen lie dead in an airport and sometimes it seems surreal that my life goes on as usual. “As usual” this week involves going on an out-of-state day trip to Amish country near Shipshewana, Indiana to something billed as a Quilt Gardens and Mural Tour. But I’ll save that story for the weekend, assuming the world will still be in one piece by then. ©

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Serendipitous Learning Experiences

It’s been a busy week. Wednesday the son-I-wish-I-had spent the morning vacuuming my 1,500 square feet basement and mopping the cement floor and I did some sorting down there, earmarking five boxes for him to take upstairs to the garage. A trip to Goodwill is in my future. I was shocked that Tim only found two spiders as he worked. I hate basements! Even though this one has a daylight window and high ceilings, they are all too dark and claustrophobic for my taste. I would not have made a good cave dweller in a past life…or maybe I was one and that’s why I don’t like basements. Ya, I flirt with believing in reincarnation. It's something interesting to think about and wish for because if we’ve lived in the past then that means we’ll live again in the future, once our current life is over. I hate the thought of dying. I will not go quietly in the night.

The next day I went to a free monthly event put on by a travel club. Usually they’re classic travelogue stuff with a slide show/lecture presented by someone involved in the world-wide travel industry. This time I didn’t read the fine print in the brochure and when I walked in I discovered it wasn’t a presentation about Belgium; it was a beer tasting of Belgian beers. I don’t drink beer! But I was in Rome so I did as the Romans did and I drank six, two ounce samples of Belgian beer. On an empty stomach. Over the hour and a half I learned all about Saison, Golden Ale, Dubbels, Triples, Quadruples and Lambic with lots of wonderful word pictures painted about the quaint places in Belgian where these beers are made and consumed. I couldn’t help laughing at myself for being there in the first place so I was in a good mood right from the get-go and in an even better mood when I left. I found out that the decision I made in my early twenties about not liking the taste of beer still holds true. Except…

Except for the Lambic which was a sweet, fermented beer with raspberries that looked and tasted more like wine. God, I’d walk a mile for a full eight ounce glass of that stuff! Unfortunately, you can’t buy it here in The States. The speaker said the closest to it is a beer named Calabaza Blanca by Jolly Pumpkin and their website says it’s “spiced with orange peel and coriander, refreshingly tart, with a wonderfully dry finish.” Wine and beer aficionado language goes right over my head. All I know is I’d be tempted to suck a Lambic stain out of a table cloth. The internet is a wonderful place when it’s not being a source of disappointment. A Google search pointed out the fact that I’d have to take road trip to another part of the state to buy the American version of Lambic. 

One of the ladies sitting by me at the beer tasting commented on how times have changed. Growing up in our city, it was known as the City of Churches and now we’re known as Beer City USA. The micro brewery’s, the beer tours and the restaurants that offer beer pairing meals has exploded. While I’m not particularly interested in beer or church tours they’re both so popular here it wouldn’t be surprising if the old Polish church in town started pairing home brew tastings with stained glass windows tours. The guy narrating the Belgium beer tasting said over there six beers are made and sold exclusively at monasteries. The Chimay Red Dubbeis we tasted was one of them. 

Sometimes not reading the fine print on a brochure and ending up at an event that initially you have no interest in attending can turn out to be a fun, serendipitous learning experience and I think I’ve figured out why I love it when something like that happens. When I was growing up, every day after school my mom would ask, “What did you learn today?” In my younger years I’d crawl into her lap to answer but the habit of sharing what I learned was a habit that stayed with me until she died. I could never contain my joy of sharing something interesting with her or my husband and now that they're both gone, I do it in my blog. 

As we age I’m guessing most of us spend some time reviewing our lives and trying to figure out how we developed our quirks and personality traits. My mom had to drop out of school at an early age but she was very pro-education, especially for women who she saw as needing to be able to make a living and have her own money so we couldn’t become victimized by hard times or irresponsible spouses. She was proud of me for being the first in the family to go to college and was deeply disappointed when I dropped out after my third year. I felt like a failure for years for not finishing and her death in a large part was instrumental in my decision to go back. Graduation day---twenty-five years after I started college---was one of the happiest days of my life. Isn't it a telling thing how much the absence of someone in your life can still have the power to influence you long after they're gone? For better or worse the imprint of a lost parent, spouse, child or friend stays deep within for our entire lives and maybe beyond. ©

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” 
Eartha Kitt

I wanted to share some photos of how the nature strip in my back yard looked this morning. The first is a wider view of the other two close ups photos. My nature strip is 185' long by about 20' wide on my side of the lot line, with my neighbor to the back having an additional 10' on his side of his pines. It's well used by critters and birds year-around but especially when a 20' x 20' patch of wild raspberries (to the right of the pink flowers) are ripe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Making Friends - Mission Possible?

Have you heard the acronym, FOMO? It stands for ‘fear of missing out’ and it’s usually sparked by reading social media like Facebook postings and if you’re not careful to check yourself that spark can turn into a raging fire. Since becoming a widow, I’ve had FOMO more often than I care to admit, mostly on holidays like Father’s Day when friends and family share photos of their get-togethers. Those glowing faces smiling for the camera seem to say the whole world is with someone special while I’m sitting in front of a computer screen with a cup of coffee for company. 

Envy isn’t a nice quality to have and I wouldn’t characterize my FOMO as envy. Hold on, you're probably saying, envy is the root cause of FOMO! Okay, that's a good point. But there is envy as in I-hate-you-for-what-you’ve-got and there’s envy as in I’m-sad-that-part-of-life-truly-has-passed-me-by. I’m in the latter camp. Never having had children and grandchildren makes me different than most women and that significantly impacts the stereotypical assumptions of what I should be/could be doing at my age. At my Movie and Lunch Club and my Red Hat Society meeting last week, for example, most of the chatter was about running around to events involving families and boasting about the accomplishments of grandchildren. What could I add to those conversations---the fact that my dog had oral surgery to the tune of $527.14? Nope, nothing I do dovetails with “my grandson is going to Stanford in the fall.” I interject the appropriate platitudes like “his parents must be so proud” yada, yada, yada and while I have gotten to know these ladies and their life styles well they probably couldn’t pick me out of a police lineup. 

Woo is me. I’m in a funky mood. I go days without hearing the sound of human voices except on TV. In the summers I only have to go a week in between hugs---one of the perks of hiring my nephew’s lawn care service---but in the winters, hugs are few and far between. I think about moving to a place where higher numbers of retired people are plopped down in one place. (My neighbors are all young, working families and rarely home.) And as tempting as that sometimes sounds, I fear I’d get neighbors like one of my blogger friends whose neighbors frequently drop in unannounced and stay for several hours. I would hate, HATE that! My husband used to have a neighbor who did that. Don would come home, go directly into the bathroom and by the time he finished peeing the doorbell would ring. He got frustrated by the infringement on his time and would complain to me, but he would never go to the door and say, “This isn’t a good time.” Maybe that’s why he always had more friends than me. Just sayin’.

Monday was a busy day. The dog had an appointment at the doggie foo-foo beauty parlor which meant I had no choice but to take him on a long walk ahead of time. Well, I had a choice but he and/or the groomer would have paid a price if I skipped it. While Levi was getting beautified I went to the bank, the vitamin store and to another Gathering at the senior hall. The search for friends was back on again!

The Gatherings are billed as events for people who are looking for friends. It was the third Gathering in their pilot program and I’ve discovered I love get-to-know-each-other games. This month’s game involved taking squares of toilet paper off a roll, enough “to get the job done” but the facilitator wouldn’t clarify which "job" she was talking about. The lowest number of squares taken was four, the highest number was eleven. Then we were asked to tell the group as many things about ourselves as the number of squares we took. No one person dominated the conversation, no one was ignored. It was interesting, enlightening and many fascinating details and common threads were revealed.

One lady made a comment that she has lots of acquaintances but few friends. Where have I heard that before? Oh ya, inside my head. Another woman built on that statement by saying you can’t turn acquaintances into friends unless you share yourself. (Do you think she got that from Oprah?) If only it was that easy. If it was I’d print out some of my blog posts, hand them out at the next Gathering and say, “Here’s a study guide to getting to know me.” I’m kidding, of course…but it’s not a leap in logic to say that total strangers do know me far better than people I actually interact with in person. Like someone with the stomach flu, I vomit my every thought all over this blog, but sitting with a group of others? Well, let's just say I often feel like a fly on the wall pretending I'm Superman when in actuality I'm an unassuming, mild mannered Clark Kent type sitting at the table. ©