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, August 29, 2018

An Afternoon with my Two Favorite People


Friday night I packed the back of my Chevy Trax up with an oddball collection of stuff, all with one thing connecting them to another---my parents.  There was a coat and hat rack from the turn-of-century, a small side table/book case my dad made, a box of silverware, a box of containing embroidery pieces my mom did, a few of her hand crocheted dollies, a baby quilt she made for either my brother or me, a quilt she made for my dolls, a set of embroidery quilt blocks that never got put together and my brother’s and my baby blankets. I was actually worried I’d get into a rear in collision on the way to the lake and these things I’ve been holding onto would get destroyed before I had a chance to put them up for grabs.

The next day I almost fulfilled that car accident vision in my head and it would have been a doozy. I was in the right hand lane of the expressway going through the busy city and after passing a large convoy of slow moving military equipment in the center lane, I put my turn signal on to pull in front of the head truck in the convoy and at the exact, same time a car in the far left lane was doing same. We came towards each other like two fat and happy sports fans coming together for a belly bump. And like a synchronized ballet we both saw each other at the same time and jerked ourselves back to where we came from, the belly bump not completed. Thank goodness! I would bet money that the young guy driving that head military truck was peeing his pants. I know I would have been if I hadn’t just emptied my bladder at home five minutes before the almost pileup of heavy equipment that surely would have closed the highway down for hours. At least my obituary would have noted the fact that I always follow the rules of life. “She died in a fiery crash, her turn signal still flashing when the fire department arrived.” 

I met my two nieces at a popular bakery/restaurant for lunch before going over to the family cottage to have what one of my nieces dubbed an episode of the Antiques Road Show. After the waitress took our orders my oldest niece told the waitress to bring her the check and I protested telling her to give it to me. The waitress said, “The first one to speak up wins.” My younger niece laughed and said, she told her husband that’s exactly what would happen. Niece #1 always has an excuse for taking the check, this time it was because niece #2 had a birthday in August and I was bringing family treasures out for them to pick through. One time niece #1's excuse for taking the check was, “I just got a new credit card and I want to see if it works.” When hearing that, her nephew naively asking, “Why wouldn’t it? You have to apply to get them” which had everyone howling with laughter. 

Niece #1 is enamored with all things mid-century and she was thrilled to get my mom’s silverware. Before I gave the set to her I researched to find the pattern name on Replacements Ltd. and I had to go through 28 pages of flatware before it popped up. When I saw that ‘1950’ release date, I was so excited that she’s lucky I didn’t call her because it was after midnight. Replacements Ltd. is a great resource for finding missing pieces of vintage and antique crystal, china and flatware sets. I love Google. I was also able to find the building plans for the revolving book case/end table that my dad built for my mom’s 1958 Christmas present. I have my ways of paying my niece back for lunches. I snapped those plans up on e-Bay. She was a teacher and will enjoy that show-and-tell prop.

But the most fun part of the day was when niece #2 told a long-drawn out story about a trip she made to Pet Smart to buy a goldfish and they wouldn’t sell it to her after asking what size tank she had (15 gallons) and how many fish she already had (three). She was told her a fish would die with four in a tank that size and then she’d come back wanting a replacement. “What if I sign a pledge not to bring back a dead fish for replacement, would you sell it to me then?” “Nope.” “You’re serious!” “Very.” “Can I see your manager?” After telling the manager she’s got four grandchildren and she wanted a forth fish so they’d each have one to name the manager told her if she didn’t quit trying to buy a fish they’d have to ask her to leave the store. She ended the story by saying she went to another store that confirmed the fact that four fish in a fifteen gallon tank is too many. PETA guidelines. “So you won’t sell me one either?” “I’ll sell you anything you want,” the clerk said. Niece #1 and I had tears running down our cheeks we were laughing so hard. Niece #2 has always had a great sense of humor and a personality that makes her fun to be around but until that afternoon I didn’t realize that she could easily do standup comedy. ©

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Two Days, Two Gaggles of Women



I had the weirdest lunch recently at a road house near a Nature Center that ten of my Red Hat Society sisters and I visited earlier in the day. When I see something on a menu that combines things I’d never put together at home, I like to try it. That’s how I ended up with a Cauliflower Crusted Grilled Cheese. How bad could it be, really, when it’s a “house favorite?” It was listed as a sandwich but it was round and flat like a tortilla that had been folded in half and cut into two pie-shaped pieces and filled with cheddar and Provolone cheese, spinach and tomatoes. But you could smell the cauliflower coming to the table before the waitress set the plate down. In my head I expected the cauliflower cut up in the filling, not something made by putting cauliflower in a blender with an egg until it’s the consistency of rice, then pan-fried to be used instead of bread. Would I order it again? It was interesting to eat but for $11 with a dab of chips on the side, I thought it was over-priced. But never let it be said that I’m not up for a little culinary adventure.

You know how people will travel half way across the country to tour a place they saw in a travel brochure, but we ignore those kinds of places in our own back yards? The Nature Center is only 13 miles away but it’s the first time I’ve ever been there. It has grown from 17 acres in 1965 to 264 acres today, a private non-profit charity and the passion project of an amazing 91 year old women. The place has education programs for all ages, overnight 'survival' camping, a maple tree sap-to-syrup overnight camp, a working farm, woodlands, wetlands and wonderful trails all over the place and all but one are dog friendly. That one trail is a boardwalk around an area where wounded animals in their care are kept. Mostly what we saw were huge owls that can’t fly. I have Eastern Screech Owls in my yard and I hear them every night but until our outing I’d never seen or heard a Barred Owl (20” to 24”) or a Great Horned Owl (20” to 25”). I was immediately smitten, seeing them up close. One of the owls had brain damage from getting electrocuted on a power line and he had a funny way of holding his head and looking right at you that was adorable. His glassy eyes and lazy head reminded me of a drunk on a bar stool trying to flirt with a girl he can barely see.

After lunch we went to a meat market. I didn’t even know places like that still exist. My chapter sisters were oohing and aahing over red meat in glass-front cases and the frozen section with wild game and odd ball stuff like cow cheeks and octopus. And I’ve never seen so many different kinds of sausages, jerky and salami in my life which was probably a nod to the neighborhood’s Polish roots. I didn’t buy a thing but the others loaded up their debit cards. If they had frozen mice I might have been tempted to buy a treat for my new-found love back at the Nature Center. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did have frozen mice somewhere in the store. The place was huge with ten butchers working behind the counter and a line of people backed up behind the cashier. It was like being back in the 1940s on a Friday afternoon with my mother. 

That was Wednesday last week with no opportunities for human contact on my day planner until this week Monday when I got together with six of my Gathering Girl pals at the Guy-Land Cafeteria. After two and a half hours we were reluctant to leave, but leave we finally had to do or risk growing roots like potted plants into our booth. We didn’t solve any of the world’s problems but we had a few serious conversations mixed in with our usual laughter. Surprisingly, we talked at length about churches and how they’re changing, trying to hold onto their younger members and I was shocked to learn that four of the ladies had Catholic upbringings. (All of my life I’ve been surrounded by mostly members of Christian Reform Churches.)

We also talked about the homeless, accepting the gay community and helping the poor---or not. We had one dissenter on that last issue. We usually don’t have conversations like these but it felt good to be in a group where everyone was listened to and really heard without judgement. I’ve been missing in-depth conversations---a byproduct of living alone or growing older? Take your pick. I interact with people when I'm out and about but usually those conversations are like eating a cup of Reddi-Whip nondairy whipped topping when you’re craving a pig-out session with Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream. But I think Scarlett O’Hara said it best if you substitute “good friends” for “Rhett” in the following quote from Gone With the Wind: “Talking to Rhett was comparable only to one thing, the feeling of ease and comfort afforded by a pair of old slippers after dancing in a pair too tight.” Did I just compare my Gathering Girls pals to a pair of old slippers?  Oh, dear… ©


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Political Post


It’s been a long time since I’ve dedicated an entire post to politics. I think I’ve only done it twice---after the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and after the White Nationalists torch-lite rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Today will be full-blown political rant, this time against Mr. Trump. So, be forewarned if you’re a supporter of the president you might want to skip this blog post and come back Saturday when I’ll be back to writing about the benign minutia of living in my widow’s world. 

Before you leave, yes, I do know that he has a title that should go in front of his surname but he’s done so many things to dishonor the office of the presidency that I don't use the title when I speak or write about him. Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember as far back as the Eisenhower administration that I can’t understand how Trump’s fans can overlook his total lack of presidential decorum. Maybe it’s because I remember not so long ago when parents told their children to study hard and one day they, too, could grow up to be the president that I can’t understand how his fans can overlook his playground bullying, lying and lack of interest in studying the material needed to make good decisions. Please don’t feel the need to explain your support, just come back in a few days and I promise I’ll have my rant put back in the closet like a party dress that’s seen better days. 

To anyone still reading I want to say up front that I think Trump has turned the White House into a snake pit and breeding ground for evil that---by design or incompetency---is working towards destroying the very foundation of our nation. Under the gun is: 1) our Forth Estate, the freedom of the press; 2) our three branches of government that are supposed be autonomous to act as checks and balances; 3) respect for Truth and due process; 4) respect for following proper protocol and vetting when hiring and firing people to work in the White House, the Cabinet, the intelligence community and the Judicial branch; 5) respect for academia, science and the environment---rolling back regulations that are keeping our water and air clean is nothing short of scandalous; and last but not least 6) he’s costing us the respect of our allies and friends around the world. If I wanted to name a seventh thing Trump is doing to destroy the country I’d name the fact that he’s added twenty-one TRILLION dollars to the national debt, and don't get me started on what he's doing to our national parks system.

Everything Trump does is about him, his ego and his self-grandiose. And the 93 million dollar (now postponed) parade he wanted is a prime example of that. He wants to be dictator-in-chief instead of president. He’s divisive. He’s mean-spirited. He spends way too much time on Twitter picking fights with random people he nicknames whack jobs, slime balls, low-life’s, rat, low IQ’s, dogs, enemies of the people, dumb, liberal clowns---the list has grown to 487 people, places and things Trump has insulted and you can find the complete list at The New York Times here.

But his supporters would say, “He’s bringing in more jobs.” True or not, other candidates in the field who ran could have done the same and without the daily drama. His supporters would say he gave us a tax break. Thank you very much but I’d rather have that nineteen bucks used to help the poor and elderly. His supporters would say he’s doing something about illegal immigrants. What a nasty joke that is! If he really wanted to do something to stop illegal immigration he’d support one of the E-Verify bills floating around effectively drying up the job market that is drawing people across our southern border. What we don’t need is Trump’s inhumane program of separating babies from their mothers. How is it not kidnapping to keep babies under five in this country while deporting their mothers back to Central America? Yes, the administration is doing that and one judge ordered a plane---mid flight---to turn around and bring a mother back thanks to a lawyer from the ACLU.

In the personal blogs community, writing about Trump's failures is akin to touching the third rail. Mostly we resist the temptation to do so because we know it will offend roughly 30% of the population who holds Trump up as a savior while roughly 45% think he’s the anti-Christ and 25% are pretending to be ostriches with their heads buried in the sand. I did so today not because of anything new he’s done but because to continue to ignore “the elephant in the room” is not representing my life as it truly is---meaning I spend a lot of time following the national news. I always have. It’s a facet of my personality. I say in the introduction at the top of my blog, “I am a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world.” I usually write about the first two things but right now I’d burst at the seams if I couldn’t express how utterly disgusted I am with our so-called president.

If anyone is still reading, I know the odds are high that I'm preaching to the choir, so to speak, and that's okay. Maybe if we "preachers" and "choirs" get loud enough the ostriches will hear us and pick a side. It's our best hope for adding enough pressure on the House and Senate to get them to fulfill their duties to protect our Republic from presidential over-reaches. ©

NOTE: This was written before Paul Manafort's conviction came in and before Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to various charges, two of which implicate Trump in campaign finance violations. It's been a busy news day.