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, October 31, 2018

Climbing Mountains

I’ve never had a desire to climb anything higher than the three story rock climbing wall at the YMCA, done with a safety harness and a guy holding the rope below who tells you where to put your hands and feet. I’ve watched plenty of people do the wall as I used a treadmill across the gym but I never had the guts to sign up because I didn’t think my old hips joints could make the necessary stretches. I wish they’d had walls like that when I was a kid. Maybe I wouldn’t be afraid of heights now if they did. As a young adult in the 1960s The Empire State Building had me crab-crawling the floor of the observation deck where I had my first, full-blown panic attack and when a group of us was about to get on an elevator in the Sears Tower ten years later, which at the time was the tallest building in the world, I felt another panic attack coming and I refused to get in. So mountain climbing? No way, Jose`. Never in a 100 years. I’d probably panic at the top and stay until my bones bleached in the sun and other climbers started decorating my skeleton up like a snowman.

This week I went to a lecture at the senior hall that was presented by a local university professor who has climbed the Himalayas in India, Ben Nevis in Scotland and other mountains around the globe, and he's over half way to joining the elite mountaineers who have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. But this lecture focused on climbing Mount Kenya (17,057 feet) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet), ancient volcanic mountains and the tallest in Africa. Someone asked him what the appeal of climbing is and at first he joked that he climbs for the views, then he said he does it for the adventure. He started rappelling down the sides of buildings at ten and climbed his first mountain at fourteen. If you watch the History or Discovery Channel you may have seen some of his recorded lectures and heard his delightful Australian accent. Craig Benjamin also lecturers on cruises sponsored by both the New York Times and Scientific American and his bio page on Wikipedia includes a long list of books and articles he’s written. He’s the real deal, an expert on ancient Central Asian history. Mountain climbing is his hobby. A fascinating hobby but I’ll stick to knitting. 

One thing I found interesting is he said climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is more like steep walking, except for the glacier on the summit which takes serious ice climbing expertise and equipment which few people do including the lecturer. And all his photographs supported the “steep walk’ observation. You aren’t climbing straight up like I envisioned but rather you’re going on spiraling paths around three volcanic cones to get to the summit. The climb didn’t look at all scary---hard but no places where you could fall off sharp cliffs. His team of six averaged around three miles a day carrying fifteen pound backpacks and they were supported by two dozen porters who carried 40 pound packs, everything from tables and chairs, tents, food and water to a canvas outhouse or as he called it, “The loo.” 

The park only allows 200 people on the mountain at any one time and the law requires they weigh everyone’s packs and inspect everyone’s boots and socks before you can go. Kilimanjaro took them 4½ days to climb up to the rapidly shrinking snow cap (global warming) and 1½ days to climb down and it costs $2,000 per person plus airfare. It’s a major source of income for the country. Another interesting fact is every day they’d climb up x-number of feet and the tour guide would make them come back down a fourth of the way to camp for the night. That got their systems acclimated to the high altitude so they were less likely to get sick from the lack of oxygen in the mountains.

I’ve been in the mountains out in Colorado and on roads so narrow we had to fold our truck mirrors in so we could hug the high side or risk falling 100s of feet below and the evidence of tragic accidents like that could be seen if you looked down. I’ve been in mountainous area where we had to use come-alongs and winches to get yourselves out of muddy mountain ruts---my husband’s idea of a fun afternoon, playing in the mud. Don loved the Rocky Mountains and he camped in them for several weeks every year for over 25 years, pretending he was a mountain man. He had a 35 mm camera with telephoto lens that could turn a speck on the horizon into a moose so close up you could count his eyelashes. He was a good photographer and judging by the hundreds of slides he’d come home with, it’s pretty safe to say one of the things he loved about The Rockies was the views. Me? I’d still like to see the view from the top of the rock climbing wall at the YMCA which is pretty funny given the fact that I gave away my six foot step ladder for fear I’d try to use it and fall to my death. And I'm pretty sure I'm still afraid of heights. ©

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Great Little Train Ride

A town on my side of the state has a restored train that’s almost a 100 years old that they run back and forth to another town a short fourteen miles away. This time of the year it runs for fall color and pumpkin peeping tours but they also do murder mystery excursions, bunny runs in the spring, Santa runs in December and the ever popular Great Train Robberies plus the three car train can be booked for private parties. You can also book special rides on just the engine or the engine pulling the caboose. I’ve wanted to go on this train for a couple of years now and last summer my Red Hat Society chapter took the trip but on a day when I had a long-standing doctor appointment that I couldn’t change without waiting another four months. I was a tad miffed since it was my suggestion that started the ball rolling. But they voted on the date, majority rules and that was that. Democracy, you’ve gotta love it even when it sucks. 

I got another chance to take the train this week when three of my Gathering Girl pals and I managed to get tickets on an excursion sponsored by our senior hall. I hadn’t been on a train since the mid ‘60s when I went to Chicago on a Christmas shopping trip with a group of 10-12 other twenty-somethings in a service sorority I belonged to back in those days. What I remember the most about that group are the candlelight induction ceremonies, the Jackie ‘O’ classic sweaters most of us wore and all the tea and cookies we served for God knows who around the community. Hoity-toity groups like the Daughters of the American Revolutionary War. Who knows why we were there, maybe they were too old to bake their own, darn cookies. It’s a mystery that’s lost in my old brain. I was only in the group a couple of years. Apparently that’s all the candlelight-minus-a-male-across-a-table I could stand. 

Back on topic: The day of the great train ride finally came, a crisp day that had us all wearing winter coats but that didn’t dull my anticipation of having a good time except for the possibility of having to pee while on the train. The only thing I remember about my earlier train ride to Chicago is how hard it was to accomplish that task on a train that swayed from side to side when I was still young enough to hover over public toilet seats instead of actually sitting on them. Growing up my mom drilled it into me that I’d die of a dreadful disease if I didn’t hover, which I did most of my life until my knees got so bad I couldn’t do it anymore. Was that too much information? Thankfully, I didn’t have to pee on this train ride, but I did check out the bathroom and it didn’t look like an outhouse inside like the one I remembered from my ‘60s train ride. Historical accuracy is great in restoration projects but I draw a line at wooden stabs with holes cut in the top and calling it good enough.

Our senior hall bus delivered us to a railroad museum first where we had lunch before getting on the train and getting our tickets punched by a conductor dressed for the 1900s. $39 covered the bus transportation, lunch and the train ride. Not a bad deal for a fun afternoon if the food had been eatable. Those who ordered the beef said it was too tough to eat, while those of us who had the chicken were happily satisfied. My travel mates offered their beef for Levi’s dinner and since I had a pocket full of plastic bags (to pick up poop on his walks) I took it. He loved it but the tough beef and empty stomachs gave we Gathering Girls an excuse to have donuts and coffee after the train ride was over during the time allotted for us to shop the small town while waiting for the bus to take us back home. Our senior hall director thinks no day trip is complete if it doesn't include shopping time.

The train coach seats were designed in such a way that two people faced two others, so close together that our knees were miserably close and overlapping. Before the train was rolling we moved to the dining car. It was great, lots of room to spread out since only eight of the 50 of us on the train made the switch. The conductor was dressed in period garb and as he punched our tickets he got teased about not spelling out words like the conductor on the Polar Express. Having never seen the movie someone had to explain the joke to me. A singer with a guitar sang railroad themed songs for half of our ride and we really got silly taking part in the sing-alongs but otherwise as the train car swayed back and forth it could have easily wooed us to sleep. Someone had an app to measure how fast we were going and we never made it over 12 miles an hour. Why does anyone need an app for that? Are you going to measure how fast you walk? How fast your Uber driver is going? Or maybe a roller-coaster? Inquiring minds want to know. But until a plausible answer comes along I let me say I'm glad I got to check this great little train ride off my Bucket List. ©

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Ten Things I will Never, Ever Do Again

1. I will never, ever fly again. I did it five times in my life---long before 9/11---when the seats were bigger, the food was real, the flight attendants actually gave you service and the lines at the airports were shorter. I did not enjoy the experience all five times, now I’d probably hate it.

2. I will never, ever pick stuff off the carpet again without my glasses on. Scared the crap out of me when I did it once and the “lint” started moving. I dropped that spider and he got away to live another day.

3. I will never, ever eat sushi, liver, veal, crickets or any insects even if they’re dipped in chocolate. Actually, except for liver, I've never eaten any of these so I should kick #3 off the list of things I'll never do again or maybe change it to: I will never, ever pass up a chance to eat Ben and Jerry’s American Dream or mint chocolate ice cream.

4. I will never, ever use Krazy Glue again without protective eye wear. God, it hurts when you accidentally glue your eye lid to your eyeball. I was fixing an antique kitchen chair and I put glue in a hole and shoved the chair rung into the hole, splashing the glue in my eye. At the emergency room they said it’s such a common accident that they keep drops in stock that un-glues the glue. The burn the Krazy Glue caused took a couple of weeks to heal but left no permanent damage.

5. I will never, ever knowingly break a law---well, except for speeding. I do that way too often. I keep wondering when that old person gene kicks in that will have me driving fifteen miles an hour in a fifty-five mile zone. But in general, I’m a rules-following kind of person.

6. I will never, ever text without punctuation and proper spelling…except for when auto-correct changes things and I can’t fix it. It took me too long to learn how to do those things correctly or I should say do them within a reasonable degree of accuracy. And have a complained lately about how much I hate acronyms? Except for LOL I have to look them all up.

7. I will never, ever make love in a patch of poison ivy again. Once in a life time is enough. But you’ll have to use your imagination because I’ll not be sharing more details of that moonlit, summer night.

8. I will never, ever grow old gracefully. I’ve never done anything gracefully in my life. Why start now? I do hope to grow old, though…100 would be nice but that’s assuming I won’t be living out of a shopping cart and sleeping under a bridge. A week of doing that and I’d be slitting my throat.

9. I will never, ever stop caring about the environment, the French Impressionists, my family---not necessarily in that order---civilized society, educational opportunities for all, liberal arts, libraries and books, wildlife, sea-life and domestic animals.

10. I will never, ever quit wondering what my life would have been like if I knew in my twenties what I know today. I’m pretty sure we all do this kind road-not-taken mind-game on rare occasions and I’m also guessing that most of us come to the same conclusion---that if we could do it all over again, we’d take the same path…missteps, mistakes, warts and all. No missteps are ever wasted because they teach us how to recognize and grab onto the good stuff that comes along. So I keep all my memories tucked away and invite them out to play on those full moon nights when sleep eludes me. ©

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by….”  Robert Frost