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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Extra Report from the Frozen North



PHOTO NOTE: That was just one of many pile-ups around town this week. This one was near a friend's house and his church (also close by) opened up as a warming center. Not sure how many cars were involved but the church took in over 100 people between victims and emergency workers. It took hours to get medical help for those who needed it, to sort out all the vehicles and haul them away, the accident reports written, the highway opened back up and all the people picked up who’d lost their cars to take them home.

This has been a horrible week. For the first time in my memory the U.S. Mail delivery was even canceled for several days. Trash pickup too. All the schools and public buildings are closed and many/most private businesses and offices. But the scariest of all is the energy companies last night put out a state-wide urgent warning asking everyone to turn our thermostats down to 65 because of a fire at a natural gas storage place down by the state line that supplies 65% of the state's heating sources. They say if enough people don't comply we can face total gas line supply interruptions. Only people who heat with propane are exempt. It’s scary for two reasons one of which is the people who maintain the infrastructure grids like this have been trying to sound an alarm for several years about how vulnerable our grids are to terrorist attacks and yet we have a stupid president who not only jokes about how two hundred million people in this country are suffering in the polar vortex, he doesn’t listen to his own intelligence people on where our national security risks and threats are and---hint---building a wall isn't going to reduce the real risks.

On the good side, I’ve been following my township’s official message board and---knock on wood---I’m not having problems like some others. Water pipes in homes and in the street freezing and breaking, furnaces going out, furnace and dryer vents getting covered in snow which can be deadly dangerous, doors freezing shut---had that in the past; it's very scary---and people desperate to find someone to plow or snow blow their driveways. (I don’t understand people who wait until it snows to hire someone to plow but that’s another story titled, Too Cheap and Short-Sighted.) When the storm finally breaks it will be roof cave-ins to worry about with the heavy snow and ice lifting shingles up.

Also on the good side, the media has been asking people to check on the elderly and I’ve gotten my fair share of calls---both my nieces, the son-I-wish-I-had and even a blogger friend called. One of my neighbors snow blows my sidewalk along the street when he does his own and another neighbor helped me shovel a snow drift that was up against my garage door where the driveway plower can’t reach. Today should be the last day before we get a break in the cold but we’ll all still have a lot of shoveling to do because most people just shoveled enough to keep our places accessible in case of emergencies and I, for one, will have to widen out the paths to the doors and dog yard to make room to stack snow from the next big snowfall. Every day I’ve been out shoveling but I’m been following all the safe-in-the-fridge-cold rules. I shovel for fifteen minutes, then come inside for thirty before going back outside which takes all day long. I also remember to drink plenty of water and nothing with caffeine---one is good for your heart, the other is a bad combined with cold air and shoveling.

In the house I’m dressed in a fleece lined sweatsuit, fleece lined fingerless gloves with L.L. Bean hand warmers inside, a wool neck scarf, silk long underwear, heavy socks and leg warmers. To go outside I add boots, long gaiters, a hat, a scarf wrapped around my face and neck, a puffy parka and snowmobile gloves. At night I add a ‘bed buddy’ to my bed that’s been heated in the microwave to keep my feet warm.

I could keep going on but you get the idea---it’s not only cold here in the frozen north it's been a lot of work for everyone. Today's high: predicted to be three degrees. ©

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cold Weather and Warm Waitresses

The thermometer read five degrees below zero but the view beyond the deck railing where it hung was so bright with the sun glaring off the pristine snow that I was tempted to put on sunglasses just to look out the window. The sky was stone-washed denim blue, the pine trees standing as still as fence posts in an Andrew Wyeth painting. If I still owned a snowmobile suit I would have been tempted to go outside and make snow angels on the lawn, give the neighbors something to talk about on my sleepy cul-de-sac. Even with the proper outdoor gear and knowing the fridge weather was not people friendly, I probably would have nixed the idea. But I longed to go somewhere. It had been too long since I had a conversation that didn’t include the question, "Do you want a snowpea or a Milk-Bone?"

That was the day our monster storm was due to smack us full on the lips, but it wasn't due to hit until 4:00 and it was barely past noon when I slid into a booth at the Breakfast Only Café, so I wasn’t in a hurry. It was a good thing, too, because the waitress was slow in making her rounds which was easy to forgive considering she had fifteen tables full of people on her side of the place to wait on. If I’d been new to the business I would have thought someone didn’t show up for work on this bitter cold morning, but I knew better. Two waitresses is all they ever have on duty plus two cooks, a busy boy and a cashier. The latter has been known to help out by pouring coffee but she was nowhere in sight. Every time I go there I thank the powers that be for keeping me from ever working in the food industry. Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique did a good job indoctrinating me into believing that pouring coffee for bosses was the root of all workplace evil. I took it a step further in my mind to conclude that serving coffee to anyone was evil if I was the one doing it. Just call me Little Miss. Hospitality.

The waitress has been working at this café at least fifteen years and maybe for the local chain even longer. I used to know her cheating-x-husband-did-her-wrong backstory but I’ve forgotten the details. The owner has several places around town and decades ago we used to go to one on the other end of town. It was the only place around that was open all night and even though half the employees had prison tattoos we always felt safe there because the place was full of cops coming and going. It took the owner getting an award for his prison-out-reach program recently for me to have an 'ah ha moment' that explained why so many of his cooks and busboys sport facial tattoos. Anyway, one night my husband’s nephew was doing a ride-along with our snowplow crew and after finishing our work we were eating at the Breakfast Only Café when the nephew started bemoaning that fact that he couldn’t find a girlfriend.

“What about the waitress?" My husband asked. "She’s pretty nice. Cute too. Why don’t you ask her out?”

His nephew made a point of checking her out then replied, “Nah. Her ankles are too skinny.”

“Her ankles are too skinny? Are you serious?” It took a lot to shock my husband, but that comment did.

“Yes, I like girls with nice ankles.”

“No wonder you can’t find a girlfriend,” my husband shot back, “if you’re going to be that picky!” And for years to come that her-ankles-are-too-skinny line became a joke told every so often by our snowplowers when one of them would get caught checking out a waitress. Although I think ‘ankles’ morphed into a euphemism for ‘breasts’ after a while. It was a ‘70s when guys did things like that without being labeled sexist pigs like they would be today.

Speaking of dogs, Levi my Might Schnauzer has been driving me crazy with the bitter cold temperatures. He’ll beg to go outside then he wants to come right back in, before he’s had time to do his business. Then he’ll want to go out again after he’s had a minute or two to warm up because he still has to pee or poop. In and out, in and out. He’ll even beg at different doors because he thinks the weather might be more to his liking on the other side of the house. He does that in rainy weather too. But on the good side, he’s helping me make my Fitbit steps goal every day which I haven’t been doing since last summer. If you're wondering why I don’t just leave Levi outside until I’m sure he’s accomplished his mission to that I’d say, “I wouldn’t leave child outside in sub-zero temperatures as naked at the day he or she were born either. Why would I do it to the current love of my life?” He's also a nudist who refuses to wear a coat in case also you're wondering why he goes outside without one. It would take two men and a boy to wrestle him into one. © 

When the polar vortex comes to Michigan you might as well have fun with it like this school superintendent and principal did with announcing a school closing 1st and 2nd days. They can sing!

 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Baby it’s Cold Outside…and Everywhere Else!


I’m always cold except for maybe between July 1st and the middle of August. This morning I woke up to sub-zero temperatures that have only climbed to minus five in the two hours I’ve been sucking up coffee and zipping around the internet. I have my fingerless gloves on with L.L. Bean hand warmers tucked inside. My house is making noises I don’t usually hear and I don’t blame it. The furnace can’t keep up, but I never touch my thermostat; it stays at 70 but I’ve been known to wear as many as four layers of clothing including silk long-underwear. I did find a place, last week, where I was as warm as I wanted to be. I have a niece-in-law with MS who lives in an assisted living facility who I went to visit on her 51th birthday. I was there an hour and a half and left because I was afraid if I got any more comfortable, I’d want to book a room and stay until spring.

Before her mother passed away, this niece and her mother lived in the same facility for a short time and my sister-in-law had a black roommate. One day her other daughter came rushing into her sister’s room and said, “You’ve got to talk to Mom! She’s calling her roommate her ‘chocolate chip cookie.’” “Don’t worry about it,” came the reply, “her roommate calls Mom her ‘white cupcake’---they’re friends.” I miss my sister-in-law. She was such a dingbat. In the fifty plus years that I knew her she was always saying outrageous things and starting fights among her kids. She could leave me laughing, she could leave me speechless or shaking my head at her wacky way of looking at life but she was never boring. Her pet name for me was “Mother Theresa” because, she said, I always took the high road. I had to around her. She was such a prolific gossip that I knew my every word would get repeated to someone if I didn’t. It’s funny what we remember the most about others who’ve passed on. I remember her for her great cooking and how much it delighted her that I never shined in that department, but for some reason I keep forgetting that she also took in kids and babies that social services had to place in a hurry, sometimes in the middle of the night---26 or 27 cases---while she was raising her own five. It’s important to balance the good in a person when saying anything negative.

Writing that last line reminded of a movie quote from New Year’s Eve, it’s one of my favorite quotes and favorite films. “Sometimes it feels like there are so many things in this world we can't control. Earthquakes, floods, reality shows... But it's important to remember the things that we can. Like forgiveness, second chances, fresh starts... Because the one thing that turns the world from the longing place to a beautiful place... is love. Love and any of its forms. Love gives us hope...” As exasperating as my sister-in-law could be at times with her gossiping and stirring the pot, she never let an opportunity go by without delivering warm meals or groceries to the door of anyone in need. It was also rare to see her without a crochet project in her hands. She made baby layettes for friends, family, acquaintances, several charities and her church's craft sales.

Last Monday was supposed to be one of my Gathering Girls bi-monthly, standing brunch dates but we canceled it because the weather was predicted to be way too cold for man or beast to be outside. The ice we got earlier didn’t have a chance to melt and is still under a layer of snow. Between lung issues and fragile bones it was prudent to cancel, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. I haven’t been any place in what feels like a month of Mondays. The only voices I hear are coming from the TV and---surprise, surprise---I’ve even been waiting until noon to turn it on. A couple of times I’ve tried singing or talking out loud just to make sure I could still do it, but the dog gets upset and/or confused. He rules my life, so I shut back up.

So what have I been doing to keep my brains from setting up like lime Jell-O?  January has turned me into a regular little Susie Homemaker. I’ve been deep cleaning closets, cabinets and chest-of-drawers in my master bedroom suite. After my cleaner comes on her first Friday of the month, I’m calling a couple of painters to get estimates on step one in my redecorating project. I’ve also spent some time working on a portrait, baking scones, making soup and shredding papers. I hate that latter job, but tax time is coming to America…assuming we’ll still have a country by April 15th to pay my fair share towards the costs of running it. And that last thought explains why this news junkie has been taking a respite from consuming any more than two hours of news updates a day. My news respites in the Era of Trump never lasts longer than a few weeks before something sucks me back in. ©

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Marie Kondo and my Bedroom Project


Let me say right off the bat that I’m about to trash Marie Kondo’s methods of “tidying up.’ If you don’t know who she is, she’s got a new TV show on Netflix that is based on her run-away best-selling books and just about every talk show has either been talking about or interviewing her. As a blogger friend said, “You either love her or hate her.” For me, ‘hate’ is a strong word that I reserve for presidents who commit High Crimes and Misdemeanors but a guest on The View was quick to label Marie “his mortal enemy.” If you’re one of her fans stop reading if you can’t be open-minded about my reasons for not buying into her philosophy starting right out with her calling what she does “tidying up.” In one of her videos she said she’s had clients who filled up over a 100 trash bags. That’s not “tidying up” that’s deep cleaning or decluttering. Tidying up is putting the potholders in the drawer and making your bed because company is coming. Language matters. You wouldn’t call a leg amputation a pedicure and you’re not “tidying up” when you can put a 100 trash bags out to the curb on trash pickup day. Also, Marie never addresses the psychological reasons why possessions are security to people who ‘hoard’ to that extent.

To be fair to the girl, I decided to do some research to figure out why she evokes such a negative reaction in me. In addition to watching some of her YouTube videos I bought the Summary: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It’s a 75 pages, $3.99 Kindle download and I read every page but it didn’t change my attitude nor make me want to click to buy the full book. I do like her method of folding socks and I’m am now using the official KonMari method of doing that task. I own a lot of socks. I have knee highs and no-show socks and everything in between---all black or gray. I even have old socks in my cleaning closet that are used to clean up dog vomit, after which I finally throw them out. I’ve tried to research how many socks are too many according to the Tidy Up Girl but I couldn’t find a number. She a minimalism so I’m guessing two pair in each style. I visualize her doing laundry nightly like someone living out of a suitcase.

One of the things that I bad-mouth about the KonMari method is Marie’s attitude towards books. She believes you should throw out books you haven’t read and books you’ve already read. Yup, if you’re reading a book that’s the only one in the house that’s safe from being labeled, “garbage” which is her favorite word to use for our stuff. She also says if you have a book you just can’t part with, tear out the pages you like and throw out the rest of the book. And if you can’t do the tear-out thing then, she says, put the books in a box and store them in your closet. Thirty should be enough to keep. I have an entire library room in the house with twenty-feet of floor-to-ceiling shelves full of books. I value books. I wouldn’t destroy a book but I might start calling my library a book closet. All I’d have to do is cover the glass-paneled door over so you can’t see into the room from the living room. I do plan to purge and donate enough books so I can move six running feet of books from my bedroom to my new ‘book closet.’

Which brings me to another, exciting project. It started with an exhaust pipe in the roof that was leaking and caused a stain on the master bath ceiling. I had the pipe cap replaced, then I marked the edges of the stain so I could be sure it didn’t grow. Enough time has passed that I decided I could repaint the ceiling but guess what. A few years ago when I thought I was going to buy a condo I threw out the paint I’d saved for touch ups. Now I have to paint the whole bathroom so I’m taking the opportunity to change color schemes in the master bath and connecting bedroom and to get a smaller bed. So off I went to shop quilts as my color palette starting point. Hours and hours of online shopping later I bought a quilt and shower curtain. I’m going from a grey, black and red palette to a girlie beachy/cottage theme.

My closet purging project, by the way, got done. Like Frank Sinatra, ‘I did it my way’ in five sessions---not the KonMari one giant session way. Her method of piling all the clothing from all over the house into the center of a room, then picking up each piece and asking yourself it if sparks joy might work for some people but if I did that I’d end up with three things to hang back up: two iconic outfits from the ‘70s and a 1950s Scandinavian sweater that my mom made that earned me a quarter page photo in the newspaper with the headline: Baby, It's Cold Outside! I get joy from many things, but clothing is not in the mix. I get joy from my metal Cracker Jack toys, from my handmade scenic and portrait buttons from the 1800s, from books, stones and seashells. I get joy from my whale oil lamps, woman's suffrage postcards and art prints. The list goes on and much of it serves no useful purpose in this century. 

I do respect the idea of creating a smaller footprint---the minimalist mindset. I’ve read a lot about other minimalists in recent years because they do fascinate me but none of them make me feel like a lion who'd like to stalk them for dinner like Ms Kondo does and I figured out why. By her soft-spoken, simplistic labeling of everything that you don’t use daily or doesn’t spark joy as “garbage that you can get rid of” she’s insulting my entire, life-long collector’s life style. Other minimalists use words like ‘recycle’ and ‘donate’ for things you may have tired of owning which I don’t believe appeared even once in Marie's summary book while the word ‘garbage’ appeared so often that I wanted to bounce my Kindle up against the wall. ©

Photos: My new quilt at the top and this is my new shower curtain.