Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Am I Adventurous or what!

The dog decided to get up in the middle of the night and christen the carpeting with three piles of vomit. I wasn’t particularly worried about his health because Levi has always had a touchy stomach. A couple of days of me making him scrambled eggs and rice usually puts him back on track. And his vomit episodes turn me into the queen of getting yellow stomach acids out of light gray Berber carpeting. I could do a commercial for Resolve High Traffic Carpet Cleaning Foam. Day one I follow the directions on the can but I leave the can sitting next to the spot. Day Two I wait for the sun to pass over the spot so I can look for a telltale ring. If I can see one I repeat Day One. This time, because Levi upchucked hours before I found it, I had to add a Day Three and it took an entire roll of paper towel to blot up the rise cycles before I was satisfied the spots were gone. It’s a good thing dogs are so lovable because spot patrol days test my patience as I waffle between being glad Levi didn’t end up in animal ER and wanting to kill him for something he can’t help and finds embarrassing to look at.

On day three of eggs and rice Levi wanted nothing more to do with that sick puppy menu and he demanded his regular fare back again. That dog is a popinjay and there’s no mistaking his message when he’s barking in front of his plastic bin of kibble. As I fixed him a bowl, I apologized because that’s when I realized that I was probably responsible for him being sick in the first place. I had mistakenly toppled his last bowl of kibble with 3-4 inches of doggie tooth paste instead of dog food enhancement. I had recently moved the doggie tooth paste to a new location which obviously was an ill-fated idea that came straight out of a box of rocks. Both are the same shaped tube, both mixed in the same way and Levi likes the peanut butter flavored tooth paste. I thought about punishing myself by eating a couple of inches of Colgate Whitening Toothpaste for people but I was afraid if I upchucked it I’d have to go through Day One through Three of Resolve High Traffic Carpet Cleaning Foam again and who wants to do that twice in the same week? 

Day Three was sunny and beautiful, especially for January in Michigan, so off I went to the pet store to see what they had in new foods for dogs with touchy stomachs. (Ya, I know, putting my glasses on at feeding time might cure some of his issues but don’t spread that around, okay?) I couldn’t believe all the gluten-free, grain-free products at Chow Hound! But they didn’t have any sample bags for sale like they often do and I wasn’t about to buy ten pounds of stuff that Levi may or may not turn his nose up at. So I got him some more food enhancer only this time I got a brand that didn’t come in a toothpaste shaded tube. Now I have to worry about getting his doggie broth mixed up with my Swanson’s chicken broth when I make soup! Same box, different labels.

After leaving the pet store I sat in the car trying to decide where to have lunch. I was parked in the Bermuda Triangle of Restaurants. Across the street was a local chain that I’ve been going to since before Levi and his predecessor were born. It’s a sit-down place that reminds me of Cheers, the old TV sitcom but no one ever knows my name. I like to go there when I’m feeling widow-strong and independent, like I could belt out “I am Woman!” at the top of my lungs. Straight ahead was Starbucks where I knew I could collect an extra ten points for ordering a Gouda and Bacon Breakfast sandwich. Ten points gets me that much closer to earning a free lunch. I like going there when I feel like showing the young’uns that I can do something they can’t---write in cursive. I could take my new Kindle Fire and use the ‘OneNote’ app to take notes and I'd blend in with all the others using devices but my 3 ½" x 4 ½" notebook and pen makes me feel like a sly spy as I make up back stories for my fellow coffee drinkers.

The Guy Land Cafeteria was also close by and that’s where I ended up. I ordered their new Canadian Bacon Club Pita because after eating their tuna melts on rye for the past twenty-five years I was ready to put some adventure in my life. I sat down at a booth, dug out my notebook and pen, ready to record my adventures in Vomit Land and whatever else came into view. That’s when I noticed a woman I’ve seen there many times in the past. She’s around my age, always sits at a table where there’s a wall plug and I’ve never seen her with food or dishes on the table. She charges her phone while working on an adult coloring book. It was two in the afternoon and to the right of me was a set of grandparents with a pre-schooler who was still wearing his Spiderman pajamas. I was jealous! Why do I have to get dressed to go out for lunch? And why can’t I bring Levi to restaurants? He certainly eats neater than that little boy did. He was having fun with gravity while his grandparents ignored his game. When they left the floor needed a treatment with Resolve High Traffic Carpet Cleaning Foam. ©

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Wright, Van Gogh, Beethoven and my Plans for Immortality

This week I took part in a Frank Lloyd Wright marathon down at the senior hall starting with a book discussion of Loving Frank and ending with a viewing of a PBS documentary by Ken Burns. Over five hours between the two. It would have been even longer if I’d signed up for the bus trip portion the next day to tour a classic Prairie house that Wright designed. I’ve been inside that house several times in the past and had no desire to see it again. I’m not a fan of its rigid, tightly controlled interiors but since my secret desire from age twelve to forty-five was to be an architect, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to learn more about a man that many call a genius, thus the time I invested in the marathon was worth it. 

PBS describes the films we us saw this way: This two-part documentary explores the life of one of America's greatest architects -- hated by some, worshiped by others and ignored by many. Using archival photographs, live cinematography, interviews, newsreel footage and home movies, the film tells the story of Wright's turbulent life and his extraordinary professional career.” 

Built over 800 buildings including the Guggenheim Museum, known for his huge overruns, a hustler and a salesman/showman as well as a genius engineer and designer, Wright was unique. His personal life was riddled with scandal---left is first wife with a ton of unpaid bills and six kids to raise while he ran off to Europe with a married woman and never looked back. Got married two more times, had two more kids, Wright lived way above his means but he didn’t seem to care. His personal motto was, “Live in the now.” And just to keep his beloved Taliesin house in Wisconsin, his friends had to bail him out of bankruptcy on several occasions.

After leaving the movie marathon, I got to thinking about other people who put their mark on the creative world who were troubled or outrageous in their personal lives. Vincent Van Gogh of Starry Night fame, for example, a post-impressionist painter who suffered with what people now guess was bi-polar issues. He killed himself at age 37 and was said to have cut off his ear in a fit of madness. (Although not all historians agree on whether he or his friend Paul Gauguin lopped off the ear with a sword during a fight.) Then there’s Georgia O’Keeffe, considered to be pioneer of American modernism. I hate, HATE her canvases of enlarged flowers and I have no clue why one of them sold for 44.4 million 3-4 years ago. She was legendary for her “independent spirit” but her personal life was filled with anxiety, depression and hostility. And who could leave out Beethoven in a discussion of famous works created by people with a messed up personal life? Alcoholic, extreme highs, suicidal lows. Ken Burns compared him to Wright because near the end of his life when he could no longer hear the music Beethoven wrote the notes on paper to create masterpieces that have passed the test of time and Wright, well into his 80s, did the same with innovative and pioneering engineering concepts. 

What does it take to be so creative that your work is your immortality---to be a genius in your genre like Beethoven and Wright? Do you have to be a self-absorbed ass-breath? Someday will, say, Harvey Weinstein’s cutting-edge achievements in film production, his 194 credits, be a large enough legacy to transcend his personal failings and flaws? Will students of film study his movies like architect students study Wright, overlooking the people Weinstein hurt like the people Wright hurt fell by the wayside? Does art---The Work---rise above its creator? Or do the scandals, the whispers of wrong-doing, the self-promotions and the self-adsorptions actually help to elevate their greatness---calling attention to the mystique of the misunderstood artist that translates into upping their commercial value after death?

I really want answers because when I turn 80 and check myself into a nursing home I want to be the next Grandma Moses. I want to get “discovered” by a newly minted arts and activities director for building fanciful structures out of Popsicle sticks and paper clips and or for painting noses and lips, eyeballs and ears swapped out of their proper places on portraits of my fellow inmates. I want my work to make me immortal but I don’t want to be considered crazy or misunderstood until I’ve got someone else lined up to do my laundry and fix my meals. ©

Saturday, January 20, 2018

If it’s January it Must be Diet Time

The ungodly cold and bleak weather finally broke and on the same day as I decided to re-join the human race after being under house arrest for catching one of the ‘yuckies’ going around. It was long enough that I was sure I wasn’t contagious so I took the shower I should have taken two days prior and I left the house for the first time in more days than I could count on my fingers. Well, assuming one finger had been cut off in an industrial accident which it wasn’t. Levi was out of peanut butter treats and it’s not fun to be in the house when the dog’s begging for biscuits that aren’t in the jar. So off I went to Chow Hound and since the Guy Land Cafeteria was several businesses down the street, I stopped there as well. I ordered the biggest breakfast I’ve had in ages: scramble eggs, bacon, American fries and English muffin toast. I couldn’t eat all the American fries so I carefully sorted the crispy golden fried potatoes from the anemic, soft white ones and ate the former. I was proud of myself that I was able to leave food on my plate but I covered the potatoes left with a napkin to make sure I didn’t keep picking at them as I stayed around to write in my little black notebook. I might not be a tortured author working out of a half empty pub in Havana but I play one in my daydreams.

What I am is a grown woman who hasn’t lived with my mother in a half a century but at mealtimes I still hear her voice in my head, “Clean your plate, children in China are starving to death!” It wasn’t just a throwaway line to Mom. She was militant about it. And at the dinner table I sat until bedtime on a regular basis if I didn’t heed her demands---to be more precise, every Thursday on liver night and whenever she served orange vegetables. It was just after World War II when the government put out its first guidelines on what to feed kids because the draft had pointed out an alarming problem: too many young people had Rickets and other vitamin-deficiency diseases. She followed that government chart to the letter. Even though her force-feeding came from a place of love, Mom creating a human being with an eating disorder. I still struggle with my brain not believing the messages from my stomach when it’s full. It can’t be full! There’s still food on the table! 

One of the very few arguments my parents ever had was on my 13th birthday when my dad finally had enough of the fighting at the dinner table over me cleaning my plate. Dad won a compromise of sorts: no more orange foods as long as I ate everything else I was served. And no more liver! But wasting food in our household was still a major sin. Fridays at our house was use-up-any-leftovers-in-the-house day because Saturday was shopping day. I loved Fridays for its bread pudding. To this day I get a warm-fuzzy feeling just thinking about bread pudding. I’ve collected nearly a hundred recipes for it but I haven’t made bread pudding since Don died because I know I’d eat it all within a day or two. Now, the squirrels get the stale bread. 

The day after hiding the anemic fried potatoes under the napkin I was back at the Guy Land Cafeteria for an impromptu lunch with three of my Gathering Girls pals. We like to go there for several reasons: 1) It has cheap-but-good food; 2) breakfast and lunch are served anytime; 3) it’s centrally located to us all; and 4) it’s large enough that we can sit for nearly two hours without feeling pressured to leave because they need our table. Trust me, sitting that long at a table after we’ve finished eating is difficult for me because even if I’ve cleaned my plate I’m eye-balling other people’s plates and I get anxious over all the wasted food. Thankfully the busboys often come by to clear our dishes, then I can relax. One of the Gathering Girls once talked about how much she likes to linger after eating because growing up, talking around the kitchen table after dinner was her family's norm. She gets annoyed when company at her house jumps up and wants to clear the table as soon as a meal is over. It’s not lost on me that we are polar opposites on that score and hanging out with her has been good for me. Although one time I got so obsessed and uneasy over discarded food on one of the lady’s plates that I debated in my head if I dared to ask her to cover it up. Out of sight, out of mind.

And since I’m on the topic of food, I will mention here that I’ve lost six pounds since January 2nd but more importantly I’ve broken away from the sugar cravings that always hold me hostage through the holidays. Like most people who struggle with their weight, I know my food issues. I know their causes. I know my excuses and I know what I have to do to get myself in check again. For me it’s tracking every single calorie that that goes in my mouth and I know I’ll keep it up until April when I see my doctor for my by-annual. As soon as he gives me that “good girl” pat on the head I’ll drift away from the boring process of accounting for every morsel that I eat until after the next New Years Day when I’ll begin the cycle all over again. I'm as predictable as sunrises and sunsets. ©