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, July 31, 2019

Money and Eating Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Reading my blog, people might get the impression that I’ve never had to worry much about paying my bills. With the exception of a few months in my early thirties when I was on crutches and couldn’t work and a few months after my husband's stroke when we had major cash flow issues, that’s essentially true. But both my husband and I worked a lot---had two or three jobs/careers/businesses each most of our adult lives. He was raised on a farm with parents who went though hard times and learned early on never to turn down work if you knew how to do it and he could do a lot of things. He was a tool and die maker by trade, but in the Army Reserves he learned how to drive and maintain heavy equipment which he loved doing, thus he came to own a parking lot maintenance company on the side, making more money with that than he did with his GM job of 35 years. And while I never made much money by comparison I never had expensive tastes or spent above what was coming in.

Following Don’s street sweeper, frontend loaders and snowplows around town with my yellow flasher going was part of my life for decades, and so was helping to fill pot holes and lay down yellow lines and---the biggie---I plowed snow for 17 years. Thankfully, after three years of asphalt patching he dropped that aspect of the business. That’s an awful job, so when you see a crew out working in the streets have pity on them. The heat coming off that asphalt makes you punchy, not to mention it sticks like snot on everything you’re wearing and you have to throw out clothes faster than you can buy them at Goodwill. 

Don tried to get me to learn how to run a frontend loader but I put my foot down and refused to do it, but another woman on our crew was more than willing to learn. It was a match made in bragging rights heaven. She was the first woman in town to do that kind of work and she needed the self-confidence it gave her. He loved shocking all the guys he came in contact with the fact that half his snowplow crew were women. Back in the ‘80s that was a big deal in a male dominated field. Don claimed women were better because we followed instructions and the guys he hired wanted to do things their own way. And, Ohmygod, it was true! The stories I could tell about pissing contests....

Anyway, because I’ve never really had to worry about paying my bills and still having money left over to eat and play, I’ve become obsessed with making as much as I can during my downsizing because I’m worried once I move and my expenses increase---that continuum care place I’m moving to is not cheap---I’ll end up eating peanut butter sandwiches the last week in every month. I’ll need to be on a budget for the first time ever. I take solace in the fact that many of my frugal living blogger friends seem to find budgets and bargain shopping to be a fun challenge rather than a blood sport. And I'm wrapping my head around the fact that there's a difference between being fugal and being cheap. I don’t want to become a person who steals sugar packets from restaurants and toilet paper from gas stations. I dated a guy who did those things before Don came along and I couldn’t stand his cheapness. He was living frugal but on other people’s money. Waitresses for example never got tipped no matter how good the service. Most of us work hard to get ahead and it isn’t right to justify stealing goods or services like he did. That’s not to say I’ve never stolen anything; when I was 12-13 years old I stole a small, ten cents cross from a dime store and I still have it. It’s made out of a clam shell and it stares up at me from my jewelry box, reminding me that a little humility is not a bad thing. We are all imperfect human beings. 

Back to making money as I downsize. Sometimes time is more valuable than money. I had a lot of stock left over from when we had booths in antique malls and were vendors at gas & oil memorabilia collector’s swap meets and shows. Gas stations, during their heydays of trying to market their way to the top of the heap put out a lot of freebies like mirrors, combs, match books, note pads, car window hooks, coin and toothpick holders, poker chips, charms, key chains, ink pens, tokens, games, calendars, thermometers, sewing and first aid kits, maps, etc. etc. We’re talking the ‘30s through the ‘50s, before the drinking glasses most of us remember from our childhoods came along. That’s the kinds of things I’m currently e-Baying. If I had all the time in the world, I could e-Bay my heart out but I can actually see the end of my old gas & old stock and the end is looking good to me. So I’ve started selling stuff in groups of 20 to 50 and I'm giving the swap meet vendors some fun bidding wars. I picked out the stuff that goes for over $50 a whack to sell individually, but stuff under that are going in what is known as junk drawer lots. The most I’ve gotten for a junk drawer lot is $148 but that translates into eating less peanut butter sandwiches at the end of the month. Hey, wait a minute! Sometimes I actually like having peanut butter for dinner, especially when I fry the sandwich and it includes banana slices and bacon. ©

Saturday, July 27, 2019

August is Coming and I've Got Places to Go!

I need a name for the community I’m moving to. I’m thinking of calling it The Lake Apartments. Its actual name is _____ on _____ Lake which obviously I'm not sharing with the blog community because that’s just the way I roll here in cyber space. I share a LOT but not my name, rank and serial number so to speak. Nothing that would help the trolls track me down. Anyway, the Lake Apartments people have get-togethers for those of us who signed up early. They call us---the first 45---the Admirals Club but that sounds so pretentious, I don’t like using it. It makes us sound like we’re a bunch clueless yachting types like Thurston and 'Lovey' Howell on Gillgan’s Island. 

Yesterday I got my second Admirals Club invitation in the mail…. a cocktail party in August before a classic car show that is taking place on the grounds around the lake. Then later in August they’re having a fashion show. I haven’t been to a fashion show since the ‘70s but I’ll play the game---can’t wait to see if it will be age appropriate clothing. No cut-to-the-crotch play suits for me! I’d be over the moon if it turned out to be a trunk show of muumuus and bathrobes, and sweatsuits for more formal attire. They’re also putting an email list together for those of us who want to stay in contact in between these planned events. I’m guessing they’re doing all these things to keep us in the basket labeled “Still Enthusiastic.” With so long to wait for them to break ground on building the place it would be easy to get impatient and start asking for our sizeable deposits back to go elsewhere. So far, my enthusiasm isn’t waning. But I wish I could fast-forward and get past the downsizing, get past selling my house, get past the physical move and just be free to start anew. 

Speaking of downsizing---yes, I know, that’s all talk about lately---I found three manuscripts in a box of creative writing box and I made the mistake of reading the first chapter of one of them, however I stayed strong after that and I ripped the rest of my book up. But bless my self-indulgent heart, I’ve decided to copy the first page into my blog to preserve the story-line somewhere other than inside my flaky head. It started like this:

“Katherine Abbott sat in the back row of the packed auditorium fidgeting with the braided trim on her wool traveling suit. Lord, there would be hell to pay if her father finds out she’s in a town fifty miles short of where she was supposed to get off the train, let alone at a Woman Suffrage meeting, of all places! He’d be so angry he’d pop the buttons off his waist coat ranting and raving about how a woman's brain is too small to be burdened with the task of entering the political arena. He's just like the anti-suffrage people handing out tracts outside the auditorium, she thought, and the longer she sat there the more she regretted the split-second decision that brought her to the meeting.

“With a round of applause from the few gentlemen in the crowd, a sea of white handkerchiefs waved in the air as the black-clad speaker crossed the platform to take her place behind the podium. It was a silent tribute to the illustrious Susan B. Anthony from progressive women who all across the across the country have come to believe that hankie waving is a far more lady-like greeting than loud hand clapping. (Inserting a 2019 edit here to cut out a bunch of bull crap about Katherine’s frazzled nerves and naiveté, both of which were annoying me.)

“Leaning against the side wall of the auditorium, Thomas Whitmere’s face split into a wide, devilish grin. His hands were tucked in the pockets of his finely tailored frock coat and his long, sinewy legs were crossed at the ankles. He’d been watching the prim little morsel sitting in the back row for the better part of an hour. When he’d first noticed her she was shut up tighter than a jar of jam sitting on a cellar shelf. Now she was perched on the edge of her seat completely captivated by the words coming from the platform. ‘Miss Anthony,’ he shouted in a tone his friends would recognize as teasing. ‘I’ve heard it said that if a woman had a ballot she’d sell it for a bonnet. Is that true?’

“’Perhaps,’ the speaker shot back. ‘As my good friend, Anna Shaw, so aptly once put it, a new bonnet is a fine thing, and most women hanker after new bonnets. But a good bonnet costs more than a glass of whiskey and that, sir, is the market price of male votes nowadays.’”

Well, that’s enough of that. Fast forward to the end of my manuscript and be assured that the guy gets the girl and they lived happily ever after, but all the details in between are headed to the paper recycling center. Mostly what I got out of reading that first chapter were good memories of how fascinated I was by researching the Suffrage Movement and that explains why my library is still filled with women’s history books some forty years later. My heroine was not atypical of historical romances back then but I doubt I could write a silly, afraid-of-her-own-shadow type woman today. Not that I’d want to try my hand at writing fiction again. I’m perfectly happy being a blogger who blogs slice-of-life Seinfeld style who is also looking forward to August. But be forwarded, I did set aside some of the poetry I wrote back before menopause and a few of them might make it into my blog if my 'slices of life' get too thin.  ©

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Blogging in the Real World & the Straw Wars

I wish I was a person who did things like mountain climbing or sailing from port to port or monitoring endangered species in the wild, if only so I’d have more to blog about. I do wish I could generate more than two blogs a week but who wants to read the minute-by-minute details of a seventy-something woman’s life who has no job or goals beyond the obvious?---eat, sleep, and wake up every morning. No one wants to read about the keys on my keyboard that stick or how often I ask Alexa how to spell something and I end up yelling at her for misdirecting me to words I have no interesting in using. And what about that Windows 10 update that put my printer out of commission just before I needed it for e-Bay labels? Does anyone really care that at my age I was able to puzzle out the fix without calling the Geek Squad? Well, I care but that's beside the point. In the real world if I did live the life of an adventurer or was involved in scientific investigation---like how do elephants react to whale vocalizations and visa versa?---I probably wouldn’t have the time to write a daily blog. Is that a dichotomy or what? Seriously, is that a dichotomy? How else would you describe a situation where you’re too busy living to write a blog but if you’re not a busy person you have nothing to write about?

As it is, my blog drives me out of the house more often than I’d care to admit. I go out looking for human interaction and to prove I’m still alive and not a figment of my own imagination. A few days ago, for example, I went to a busy park where a trail brings bikers and walkers by a river observation area with benches where people like me sit and eat ice cream. The only words I said that day were, “I’d like a single scoop of mint chocolate” and “thank you.”  But the sun was shining and I soaked it up, wishing I had the dog with me because he likes watching the swans floating at the top of the dam as much as I do. How do they know not to get so close that the current takes them over the falls, landing them below where there are usually five-six guys standing in the water fly fishing? Don’t they have jobs? I’ve often wondered of those fisherman---not the swans---and do they really trust eating fish caught in that water? A shoe factory that tanned leather used to dump their waste water in that river and, wells at houses all over the area have recently been found to have dangerous levels of toxic PFAS contamination. 

It seems like each generation has to clean up the messes of the previous generation’s ignorance. Were there people back when it was legal to dump toxic crap in rivers, who knew it wasn’t a smart thing to do? Did they have their plastic versus paper straws debates back then? The Trump campaign store is now selling plastic straws---a 10-pack for $15.00 “because Liberal paper straws don’t work,” Trump proclaims. I can’t believe straws have become symbolic of Right versus Left! I guess they want to brag that they are a party who doesn’t care about killing wildlife or polluting the oceans. Trump thinks paper straws are an invention of the far Left, as evil as evil gets. And as a card carrying member of the Left, I think Trump is as evil as evil gets. He’d probably enjoy pulling the wings off butterflies if he hadn’t found a job where he gets to mess with human lives instead.

I’ve been carrying my own paper and stainless steel straws since April of last year when I saw a video of sea turtle getting a straw removed from his nose. Back then I wrote: “Have you heard about the movement nicknamed Straw Wars? ‘National Skip the Straw Day’ took place in February so I’m late to the party. If you are too, let me introduce you to the cause. According to National Geographic Magazine Americans use 500 million plastic straws DAILY. They are a particularly insidious pollution because they are often the cause of death for marine animals. Plastic straws are an unnecessary pollutant because there are Eco-friendly wax coated paper straws and reusable stainless steel to take their place or we can go straw-less altogether.” 

Perhaps you’ve been in restaurants who’ve joined the war and either don’t automatically give you a straw or they’ve switched to paper or adult sippy-cups. Where I live, they are becoming common and when I pull out my paper straw young wait-staff are quick to offer positive reinforcement. The Millenniums are driving the Straw Wars into action in the food service industry and very quickly. Makes me think of a Bible verse. “…and a little child shall lead them.” They are social media savvy and are going to be a force to recon with as they take over the world. At least that's my hope. 

Trump plastic straws sold out the same day they were first offered and are on back order. And that begs the question: Will the Straw Wars become iconic? Will people a hundred years from now be standing on mounds of plastic garbage proclaiming victory or will the other side be shaking their heads and wonder how those who are opposing paper straws could have been so wrong-headed? You know, in the future when whales and dolphins no longer die with pounds of one-time use plastic in their tummies and plastic bags and straws no longer kill over 100,000 marine creatures and a million sea birds annually because they are either all instinct... or enough ordinary people in this decade cared and gave up their one-time use plastic and saving the planet snowballed from there. ©