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

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Touring the Redecorated Bedroom

Today I'm taking you on a photo tour of my bedroom redecorating project. This first photo is the view from the doorway going into the bedroom looking right, and the second photo is the view looking left. The rocker is one of my first stripping and refinishing jobs in my teens.

Working my way around the walls...


The teddy bear on the side table is one I made back a year or two before Don's stroke. I had plans to make bears and sell them at arts and crafts fairs.




Above the bed and on another wall are art prints of Nantucket Cottages. I bought them a few years ago when I thought I was going to buy a condo. They should have been matted but I already owned these frames, left over from selling some guy stuff prints of my husband's, so I used them. I used to do all my own matting and framing and I got sticker shock when I inquired about having these done professionally.


The decorative pillow on the bed is named "Nantucket Bike" according to the tag and I couldn't resist it when I saw it today.



The narrow door on left side of the bed was my husband's gun cabinet. I sold the guns shortly after he died and now it holds a memory foam for my sleeper chair and teddy bear making stuff---some dreams die hard.


This clock was given to me in the '60s or '70s by my brother and sister-in-law. It says, "All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today." I've always loved its message and it's been hanging in the garage too many years.


On the other side of the a six foot wide window from the gun cabinet is this setup. The three drawer chest is another one of my refinishing jobs and the toolbox with small drawers used to hold my dad's tool and die making tools that he made a living with. The wide drawer in between was made by my dad when he needed more room for tools at the factory.


This shadow box holds all my baby stuff---a very fragile sipi cup, baby ring and locket, a vase my dad brought to the hospital the day I was born, diaper pins, silver spoon, a baby doll and my photo. The shoes on top were hand-me-downs from my brother as was the block next to the shadow box.


The basket below is almost as old as I am and it's what I got all my Easter candy and eggs in each year when I was growing up. The blanket is my baby blanket and the cat brings back a silly memory of the day my husband bid on it at an auction when we first started dating. I learned over the course of a few auctions to say, "I love this BUT I DON'T WANT TO OWN IT!" Otherwise he'd bid on anything I admired. What can I say, he was smitten.


In between the bath and closet doors is a medicine cabinet from the 1800's, another refinishing projects. Its burl walnut was covered with milk paint. The ice cream set below is a reproduction from the '60s. I love how my shower curtain looks from the bedroom. If I leave the shower light on at night the girl and the ocean look magical. (A photo tour of my bathroom is a few posts back.)


My ice cream table used to be on my sun porch and the three drawer chest used to set in this space and a small book case my dad made was where the three drawer chest is now. I'm painting the book case for the hallway. The table is now a place I can sit in the middle of the night when I can't sleep until I write down an idea that pops into my head, I discovered there are hummingbirds on the bed quilt so I moved this glass one in from the porch as well.




On the forth wall is my media cabinet with some of my primitive lamps on the top and Levi is below wondering what the heck I'm doing. The second ice cream chair will come in handy at the closet door because I like to lay out my clothes for the next day.



Leaving the room.


I wish I'd taken some before photos of my bedroom and bath but this one below will have to do. It shows the Pendleton wool reversible bed covers we used and the rooms' former color scheme. The photo was taken because I'm going to sell them on eBay. Most widows redecorate their master bedrooms long before I did. It's been seven years, but I've had the hardest time letting go of these bed covers because I won a $1,000 in a writing contest and these are what I bought with the money.


Speaking of money my little decorating project cost $2,469. Can you imagine how high that would have been if I had bought all new furniture, window coverings (I have mini blinds) and new flooring? That includes a new bed ($350) and the mattress set ($1,000), painting services for the bedroom and bath ($450), the shower curtain ($85) bed quilt ($140), sheets, mattress pad and towels ($200), rug in the bathroom ($100), pair of lamp shades ($30 on sale), decorative pillow ($15 also on sale) and carpet cleaning ($99). I still need a blanket. I've discovered those labeled full/queen are too big, making a trip hazard and let me tell you, the plain 'full' size are hard to find. I've got one on the way. Oops, I forgot to add in the box spring cover that is not skirt but serves the same purpose---that was $30 at Amazon. They are made out of swimsuit material and are so easy to put on; the mattress delivery guy and I had it on in less than a minute. He said he'd been delivering mattresses a long time and has helped lots of people put on bed skirts and he'd never seen this kind of cover before. I'd grown to hate bed skirts. I got my box spring cover to match the bed metal so it will go with any color sheets I could pick in the future.


This ends the tour.  I have a few more details to add to the room---a small lace doily my mom made, the paddle off my old sailboat, maybe a plant---but essentially I'm finished with this project. It was a lot of work but worth the effort. Levi and I have only slept in the new room four nights and we're still fighting over the fact that he wants to sleep at the end of bed,  stretched out from side to side instead of top to bottom where he'd take up less room. He's been staying a hour or two then leaving to sleep on the couch which is fine with me. According to my Fitbit I've been sleeping an extra hour without being restless in the bed bed.💓

P.S. Next I'm redecorating the back seat of the car for Levi. He's getting the red plush throw from my former bedroom decor and the red pillow cases. I keep pillows on the floor back there in case he gets thrown to the floor if I break too hard. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Grave Digger

I had a blog post due soon and I didn’t have a single idea rolling around in my head. I guess it was too early in the morning for inspiration to kick in from looking out the window at the dwindling patches of snow along the cattail bog and the unwelcome red squirrel munching my at woodpecker feeder. Still, I dutifully sat at the computer. I’m from the school of belief that if you want to call yourself a writer you have to spend a minimum of an hour a day writing. Others set their daily writing quota in terms of a word count but that seems like a rule tailor-made for cheating. I mean it’s really, really, really, really easy to cheat when you’re using a word count to judge your productivity. Having a propensity for redundancy or worse yet, powder-sugaring all your nouns with too many adjective might be tempting tools to use in college but I’m too old to step in that bull poop.

As I sat there I was totally wiped out physically from all the work and shopping I’ve been doing to redecorate my bath and bedroom. I was so thorough, I even used Bio-Clean on my toilet, shower and sink drains and I vacuumed out the heat ducts before putting the caps back on. And I waxed the drawer runners in my chest-of-drawers and I used toothpicks on the tiny crevices around the light switches before putting the plates back on. There isn’t a surface that hasn’t been painted, washed, shined or lemon oiled except the ceiling fixtures which I hope I can get my cleaning service girl to do next week. Obsessive? I think not. Those rooms haven’t been deep cleaned in a couple of years…since I started using the cleaning service. They just do a lick and a promise---looks nice when they leave if you don’t examine the corners and look under stuff. What gets me is they do offer a deep cleaning service but they charge ten dollars an hour more to their $32 an hour normal rate. I’ve done too many deep cleaning projects in my life to believe a low skill job like that is worth $42 an hour. Call me stubborn because I won’t pay that when in my daydreams I’m still willing and able. Well, willing for sure but the able part just might kill me. 

Later that day I ran some errands---one to return a blanket and another to get yarn to knit a sweater vest with a John Deere tractor on the front. On the way home I stopped at Culver’s, my favorite fast-food place. Usually I use the take-out window but I decided to go inside instead, thinking I might find someone to exchange a few words with. You know, like: “What can I get you?” “A North American cod sandwich and a small chocolate concrete mixer. Oh, and a cup for water.” “That will be $9.36.” “Put this number on your table. Have a nice day.” Yup, I got my conversation for the day…or so I thought.

A woman at drink dispenser machine was vexed because she couldn’t find the water. I showed her the lever and she said, “Jean! I’d know your voice anywhere!” I looked at her face, drew a blank and it must have shown. “You don’t know who I am, do you,” she stated. After an embarrassingly long pause I guessed ‘Sandy’ only because I knew she lived in that neighborhood but I hadn’t seen her since my husband’s funeral. She is the wife of a guy my husband went to high school with and at their class reunions we’d keep each other entertained. Sandy invited me to sit with her and her sister and I got the conversation I’d been craving. 

You’d think after knowing my husband for 42 years I’d know every detail of his life, especially a guy like Don who loved telling stories. But that afternoon I learned something new: my husband once dug a grave! It happened in his teens and it all started when three guys got in trouble for taking a picnic table from the riverside park and putting it in the river. Sandy’s husband was the fourth guy in the caper but he didn’t get caught and the other boys didn’t rat him out. The town judge sentenced the kids to cutting the grass at the cemetery for the entire summer. I knew that part. I didn’t know that one day their supervisor gave them some hand axes and told teens to cut down a couple of trees. Don---a farm boy who grew up cutting firewood in their sixty acre woods---went home, got his chainsaw and they had the work done in no time. When the supervisor found out they’d escaped the manual labor and had taken the easy route he made Don---the ring leader---dig a grave with a hand shovel.

If teenagers got in this same kind of trouble today, I wonder what a judge with do with that. Make the parents pay a fine? Listen to the parents make excuses? “It was just a silly prank!” Send the teens to juvenile detention? I don’t know but I have a new trinket to shop for and glue on my husband’s cemetery stone…a tiny shovel. I’ll bet some random kid won’t be as quick to steal that like they do every summer with the Snoopy trinkets I leave Don instead of Memorial Day flowers. But I’ll bet others passing by the stone will wonder if the shovel was there for the deceased to dig himself out. ©

 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Everything That was Old is New Again


I’m sitting here waiting for FedEx, UPS and USPS to show up with early birthday gifts to myself. Shopping online is way too easy. Coming today are my iron bed in a gun-metal gray (a new twist on a very old style), a box spring wrap (a new twist on bed skirts) a blanket and another set of sheets. The blanket I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond might go back, if I like the one coming from Amazon better. That store was a disappointment when I shopped it last week. They’ve enlarged a makeup section and cut down on the selection of towels and sheets. I guess makeup qualifies as “beyond” but most people think “bed” and “bath” supplies when they go there.

On my library shelf I have an 1895 Montgomery Ward and a 1905 Sears-Roebuck catalogs left over from an era when I day-dreamed that I was going to write historical romance novels. As much time as I spent studying those catalogs you would have thought I was living back in those times when ordering something took weeks to get delivered. Now you order, and two days later it arrives at your door. How cool is that! Over the years those catalogs have come in handy for identifying stuff we’d find in our travels. If no one could tell us what something was, there was a good chance it would end up in my husband’s collection. Sometimes it would take a few years, but eventually we’d figure it out, although I still have two things in the house that are mysteries. Even today I get a kick out of looking through those catalogs. You never know when it will come in handy to know that in 1895 you could buy a yard of 1¼ inch Irish Point Cambric Embroidery stitched on a three inch cloth for seven cents. Okay, so I’ve never actually been able to work that fact into a conversation, but I’m hopeful that day will come.

Back on topic. Here’s the deal. The bed comes today (Thursday as I'm writing this) and Saturday the guys from the service that Wayfair hooked me up with will come put the bed together. The mattress place only delivers to my area on Tuesdays and Friday so I’ll be in a holding pattern where I’m sleeping on a twin bed in the same room where my new bed will be set up. Tuesday the son-I-wish-I-had will be back to pick up that second twin---he’s already picked one set up to make room for the new bed. He has two sets of twin grandkids and they will put my old bed frames and mattresses to good use. Confused? You’re not the only one.

With the painters then all the other stuff going on poor Levi has been confused and out of sorts. I used those twin beds shoved up sit-by-side and he's been sleeping on Don’s side since a few days after he died. The first night with only one twin in the house Levi tried to claim it as his. I made him a nest on the floor next to the bed but he wouldn’t use it and there is no way I was going to sleep on a crate liner with a cushy blanket on top. It took him a half hour of pouting and pacing before he finally acknowledged me as the alpha member of our pack and went to the living room to sleep on the couch. The second night we agreed to share the foot end of the twin, but I was so afraid I’d fall out of bed that before I fell asleep I woke him up and made him move. He rearranged the nest on the floor, laid in it for two minutes then left to sleep on the couch. By the time he gets used to this temporary arrangement, the new mattress will be delivered and he’ll be confused all over again. 

Fun fact: The iron-look-alike bed I just paid $350.00 for on sale cost $7.50 in 1895 plus 35 cents for extra slats...and that one was solid iron. I had an antique iron bed that I had to sell when my husband had his massive stroke and it went for $800 on eBay. Everything that was old is new again.... ©

Here's all the photos of the finished bathroom redo:

view from the doorway, left side of the room---that linen closet is 22" deep

view from th doorway, right side of the room--the chest was not in the room when Don was alive and we needed the space for his wheelchair after transfers
This chest is one of the first pieces of furniture I refinished when I was in my teens. The 3-D photo on the wall was of one of my husband's gas pump faces. It was taken by a professional photographer who now sells them for big bucks. It speaks to me in ways I can't describe.
of course, we need one of these in a bathroom

This watercolor print was done by a local artist. It's of a channel coming from Lake Michigan and it's one of my favorite places on earth.
Going back out of the bathroom you see the necessary stuff on the counter top, although the linen closet has plenty of room for it if I want to hide it out of the way.
I wanted a pop of color on the floor without a pattern that fought with the shower curtain and I didn't want a solid color the would dominate the space. This 5'x7' rug filled the bill and is meant to look like a worn-out oriental rug. I had 23 rugs on my 'wish list' at Wayfair before I narrowed it down and I'm happy with my final choice.

Last but not least, pulling back the shower curtain to show the safety features in my shower. They are one of the reasons why when I was looking for condos a few years ago I couldn't find one that didn't feel like a downgrade for aging in place. If the portable chair is removed there's enough room for a rolling shower-chair for a disabled person. It might look like over-kill with all the grab bars but trust me, as the caregiver helping with showers I used them all...and still do to practice being safe in the leading place where seniors fall. Anyone remodeling a bathroom needs to plan for their needs down the road, think safety and accessibility BEFORE you actually need it. (Are you listening, N.K.B.?) After Don's stroke our houses sat empty and we were parked in a small apartment while our new house was being built because neither one of our old houses had bathrooms that could be remodeled to suit his needs. Even the apartment bath had to be approved before the hospital would release him to my care. In the stroke community I ran into a lot of people who spent unnecessary time in nursing homes waiting for their home bathrooms to be upgraded for safety and/or accessibility. 

If you think I'm being militant about this issue now, you should have known me a year or two out from Don's stroke, after we'd been through major housing issues. We had too much income to quality for the government subsidized apartment buildings that are set up for the disabled and the required 10% accessible apartments in large privately owned complexes were being rented to people who didn't need them. The apartment we did find had to have the bathroom and bedroom doors removed to accommodate his wheelchair while the apartment next to us had the government's basic ADA requirements---zero steps, wide doorways, grab bars in the bathroom---was rented by a young, healthy girl. Hopefully, the housing accessibility issue is better now than it was in 2000 but I wouldn't bet on it. Some states have since passed laws that large builders must build 10% of their houses accessible but back when I was following stuff like this, there was push back on making that a federal law. And ordinary people like to fool themselves into thinking they will never have a need for commonsense stuff like good grab bars. Drives me crazy! Rant off.