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, November 28, 2018

Sleeping, Shopping and Earrings

Ohmygod, it’s two in the afternoon and I’m still not dressed. That’s not to say I haven’t been doing anything. Since I got up at 10:30 I’ve made coffee and toast, cruised all over the internet, gave the dog fresh water and opened the doors so he could go outside to his yard. Don’t shake the finger of shame at me for sleeping so late; that’s nowhere near the time I usually wake up which is usually around 7:00. According to my Fitbit tracker I average about 5 ½ hours of sleep. Average. Sometimes my restless sleep phrase is so long that I’ll only get two hours of deep sleep. The only time I get more is when I’m under the influence of a sleeping pill like I was this morning. I love Ambien but I limit myself to only taking 3-4 a month, around the full moon. 

I’m not a good sleeper. I do everything wrong starting with having a television in the bedroom but I tell myself that’s okay because I put a sleep mask on when I go to bed around midnight---so the flicking lights don’t do whatever they reportedly do to our sleep cycles. I’ve tried soft music but music sets off too many memories and emotions. I’ve also tried a sound machine to no avail. I’m usually in bed about an hour before I feel that tipping point coming on then I’ll use the remote to turn off the TV. If I time it too early, the minute it gets quiet all kinds of thoughts come rushing into my head instead of sleep and I can’t make them go away until 3-ish. It also doesn’t help that I get up every two hours to pee and the funny thing is when I take a sleeping pill I don’t wake up for 7 hours and I don’t wet the bed so what’s up with that strange phenomenon? And dreams! I dream a lot and I like my dreams. Many times when I get up to pee I’ll try to will myself to pick up a dream where it left it off but I have no idea if that actually works. 

And I’m pretty sure I snore because the dog will get up half way through the night and moves to the living room. They say you shouldn’t sleep with a pet but Levi is not the cuddly type. He sleeps as far away from me as he can get and still be on the bed, afraid I’ll give him cooties if we touch. I used to have a dog who would burrow under the covers and sleep between my feet. Back in those days I slept great but if I were to go to a sleep specialist I'd probably lie about Levi being in the bedroom. He has a solemn duty to be there because he’s a certified rapist-is-coming-in alarm. I’ve got an excuse for every ‘good sleep’ rule that I break. 

Change of topic: I’ve been on a major and out of character shopping binge. I’m used to buying my own Christmas presents, ever since my husband’s stroke back in 2000 but usually it’s just one or two items, but the recently acquired e-Bay money in my account was crying to get out. I gave part of it away to charities---earlier and bigger donations that I usual do for the holidays. But the remaining money was still calling out for some serious online shopping. Nothing extravagant except for the Black Friday special $199 DNA kits comb from 23 & Me. I also bought a Christmas sweater from Land’s End---my first ever holiday sweater---and two pairs of sweat pants. The sweats I’m wearing sprung holes in the left knee. Still can’t figure that one out. Why just one knee on three old pairs? I never kneel. Also got a box each of imported candies and imported cookies to have on hand in case anyone stops by, not to be eaten be me until New Year’s Day if no comes over. I rounded off my shopping binge with a package of underpants, Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, a flannel shirt and a nightgown from L.L. Bean and a pair of earrings, the first pair I’ve bought since Levi was a pup back in 2008.The best part of my shopping spree is with PayPal, I won't get any bills, it was like shopping with cash.

At one time I owned over 225 pairs of earrings. I craved earrings in the ‘60s and I bought a new pair every couple of weeks. They were to me like Jimmy Choo high heels are to Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, the thing that made me feel feminine and ready to go out man-shopping. Two years ago I downsized my earrings to 75 pairs---sold all my ‘60s era dangling, drops and hoop earrings at the local auction house for a whopping twenty-four bucks. Some vintage clothing store owner probably had a field day sorting and marking them for resale. I sold them because I was earlobe obsessed---still am for that matter. I really HATE old people earlobes, the long droopy lobes and I was sure all those earrings could contribute to me someday looking like a Basset hound. I quit wearing them when I got my Social Security card.

But now all I can think about is finding some posts with drops or dangles. Why? Because I’ve discovered those stabilizers thingies that you put on the back of your ears that keep heavy earrings from pulling down your lobes, and they even keep your studs from pointing downward like nipples on an eighty year old. Before I got the stabilizers wearing any studs would make one earlobe look young and perky and one look old and droopy. The moral of this story is that the minute you sell or give anything away, you want it back. Well, maybe not “the minute” you let go but the point is those old earrings didn't take up much room, I should have kept them. And if that's the biggest regret I can come up with today, I'm one lucky lady. ©
the backer to support heavy earrings

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Holiday with the In-Laws

Due to my own loose lips on Facebook, one of my great-nieces on my husband’s side of the family got wind of the fact that I was going to be alone on Thanksgiving. She told her mother and her mother called me and said: “I’m not taking ‘no’ for answer. You’re to be on my doorstep at twelve noon tomorrow.” I did try to say no, that I’d be fine alone but she repeated “Twelve sharp! You don’t have to bring anything” and I said, “Good, I don’t have anything in the house to make and the stores will be too busy tonight.” But her daughter had a request of all the guests. We were to bring one of our favorite things---something small we are grateful for. She was bringing, for example, Oreo cookies to hand out during the ‘favorite things’ game. 

Serendipity kicked in after I got off the phone when I remembered that Amazon had just delivered a box of Turkish Delight Pomegranate Pistachio jells. (A Christmas present for myself.) Oh-my-god are they good and with a 65% sugar content these small cubes of candy melt in your mouth. Supposedly they were developed in its current form in the 10th century by Arabic apothecaries and they are the great-granddaddy to our modern day jelly beans when a smart confectioner in Boston in the 1860s put a hard sugar shell on them instead of the classic powdered sugar. Turkish Delights are also known as “Lokum” named after the Sultan who helped to popularized them around the world. Who knew jelly beans came with such an interesting back story. Anyway, I got out some paper cups made to hold mini tarts and I filled fifteen of them up with Turkish Delights to pass around.

This exercise in sharing something we love was more fun than I expected it to be. Everyone told a story about why they brought what they brought. My niece-in-law handed out circus peanuts, one of her daughter’s brought chap sticks for everyone. Twinkies, Ding Dongs, beef jerky sticks, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, incense, Pepsi, new car scent tags for our cars----lots of laughter came with the stories. I told the history of the Turkish Delights and how one of my guilty pleasures is to occasionally try something new that’s made in another country. Several of the stories were so sentimental they came with tears as people told about the long-gone person who introduced them to their comfort food. And it was great hearing people talk about their Uncle Don (my husband). Everyone knew he would have brought coffee and our sister-in-law---the mother or grandmother of everyone in attendance---would have brought slices of Polish kielbasa. It’s kind of cool, really, how certain foods can bring back memories of certain people. My dad was the Fig Newton cookies guy and I can’t see Brach's Orange Slices candy without remembering my mom. 

Thanksgiving was a day of good food and fellowship and I came home with enough food for two more meals (plus a bag full of favorite things). No family in my life-long experience has ever had so many good cooks as in my husband’s. And no one had their noses buried in a cell phone. Being the oldest person in the room it was quite obvious---at least to me---that I crossed over ‘The Line’ a few times when I blurted out things I probably shouldn’t have, the way old people and young children do. For example, after my niece-in-law’s husband said, “I’m always careful” I blurted out “And yet you ended up with all these kids.” He was talking about carpentry but everyone laughed at my joke. It was one of those rare afternoons when I didn’t try to edit any of the words that passed over my lips. Unconsciously I knew that no matter what transgression I could make, I’d be forgiven. “That’s just Aunt Jean” and we love her flaws and all.

Why would they cut me slack when others might not get it? Because I came into the family 48 years ago as the barefoot, hippie girlfriend of the family’s baby brother. Don’s oldest brother---the deceased father or grandfather of everyone there on Thanksgiving---got a kick out of how much I shocked the uptight, next-in-line brother and how much I confused the ever elegant Cary Grant-like third-in-line brother. I was just as likely to sit down on the floor and play with the kids as I was to hang out with the adults. I didn’t drink or smoke but I could ride the pink elephant in the near-by park and I loved board games. They didn’t understand me but in their eyes I was a good influence on their baby brother. I only met Don’s father once because he died soon after but he sealed the deal for me when he told the family, “This is 'The One' Don needs to settle done with.” I remember that day as if it was yesterday. I was wearing a t-shirt with two giant foot prints on my chest and all the other ladies were dressed in their Sunday best---I didn’t know I was going to meet the family that day---and I sat on a footstool next to Don’s dad. He teased me unmercifully and I gave it right back at him. The rest is history. ©

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Widow Alone on Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’ll be having a quiet day home alone with a roast beef in the crock pot. Boo hoo, the grocery store didn’t have any turkey legs but I did pick up some cranberries and a pumpkin pie. So there’s that to set Thanksgiving apart from a normal day and I’ll stay off Facebook until after the weekend. No sense torturing myself with photos of happy families celebrating. 

I had a two hour brunch with my Gathering Girls pals on Monday and I’m chalking that up as my day of thanks and gratitude. And why not. I am grateful for these friendships that came in my post-widowhood life. They might not be the kind of friends that I could call in the middle of the night and say, “I just killed someone” and they’d say, “We’ll be right over with shovels and a bucket of lime” but when I need comradery and lots of laughter I know it’s on tap twice a month. By the way, that was a joke about the murder and the lime. I’d never kill someone---I apologize to bugs when I wack them---and if I did I’d want my friends to help me go to the police and confess. And if you’re a friend reading this, please note that I’m not your go-to person for a shovel and a pail of lime in the middle of the night. No one is that good of a friend…past, present or future.

Since my husband died, this time of the year I’ve been over-dosing on Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel. That’s sounds strange, I know, considering what I just said about staying off Facebook around the holidays. But watching fictional strangers celebrate is different. I can poke fun of them and their often under-researched storylines, the fake snow and the over-abundance of lonely and alone people and how every one of them magically finds love by Christmas Eve. But I watch the holiday films because they give me a sense of tradition when all the old traditions have slowly seeped out of my life in recent years.

One of my favorite movies to pick apart is based on a plot that involves a woman hired to decorate a house for the holidays and she’s worried about the fact that she only has two weeks to complete the job she’d already been working on for a week. When I was in the floral business I did those kinds of jobs for rich people, but my employer would have gone broke if I had taken that long to do them. What you don’t do is literally spend 9 to 5 every day for three weeks inside a house putting up bows, holly and tinsel while falling in love with the bachelor/home owner. Watching that movie year after year is my Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’m a cult fan of one.

And then there’s the movie based on emptying out the humane society for Christmas when most of those kind of places suspend adoptions over the holidays because it’s not a good time to introduce a new pet into a family. But my favorite nitpick to make in holiday movies is how often the characters walk around outside with no winter coat or in high heels when there's a foot of snow on the ground. The only people who do that in the Snow Belt are college kids who are rebelling against a lifetime of their mom’s yelling at them to come back inside and put on their coats or boots. Every time this topic of dressing for the season comes up a fellow blogger, who also lives in Michigan, comes along and shares/brags that she acts more like a 20-something than a 70-something and I’ll write back that even in the house I wear fingerless gloves and layers of clothing. I wouldn’t want to test the theory but I’m guessing if we were both stranded outside in a snowstorm---her coatless and me dressed for the weather---I’d probably be the one to die of exposure. Death doesn't follow any rules. Good men die and nasty ones get elected president.

Okay, let’s get down to the reason why we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. We all know that supposedly Thanksgiving evolved from a feast the Pilgrims had in October, 1621, to celebrate their first harvest in the New World. But it wasn’t until 1863 that the entire nation celebrated a fall harvest all on the same date and that came about because Lincoln proclaimed that “Evacuation Day” would become a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise.” Prior to the Civil War, Evacuation Day was November 25th and it commemorated the date when the British withdrew from The States ending the American Revolution. More tweaks happened over the years landing Thanksgiving on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Yadda, yadda, yadda and now it’s a day when families watch the Macy's Parade on TV, then stuff themselves and and maybe go around the table so everyone can share what they are thankful for.

What am I thankful for? Lots of things including a home to shelter me and my might schnauzer, food for our bellies, money to pay our bills, extra money to donate to organizations helping with the wildfires out west, the election that put the House in control of the Democrats, and a world that---at the moment---is not hosting a nuclear war. Oh, and I'm thankful for Hallmark holiday movies because they remind me that love always wins in the end. ©