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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Virtual Reality and the Coronavirus



I’ve always wanted to explore virtual reality---you know, where you put a gismo on your head and you walk around looking stupid because you’re seeing things that others in the room can’t see. A walk in space, a visit to Buckingham Palace, a roller-coaster ride, taking part in a boxing match or driving in the Indy 500 are just a few examples of things you can do in virtual reality. I finally got my chance to try it out this week. Our senior hall sponsored the event and it was so popular they added two encore sessions. Translation: I wasn’t the only one who wanted to do this, the RSVP wait list was so long they were able to book slots for sixty of us instead of the expected twenty they thought would signed up. Unbeknownst to me, there’s a business in town that books parties where they hook up all your guests to virtual reality. How cool is that! Now, for $30 an hour I can travel and never have to leave the city, never have to worry about getting a passport or being held hostage at the airport by a terrorist or a coronavirus quarantine or worse yet, a terrorist coughing coronavirus germs all over the place.
We didn’t get the full menu of virtual reality choices like you’d get if you went to their place of business but we did get to “visit” the Basilica of Notre Dame, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Taj Mahi and the Palace of Versailles. If I ever do it on my own I’d go to space in Apollo 11 or to the bottom of the ocean or try Google Earth. When I got my haircut yesterday I was telling my hairdresser about the experience and she said she’d want to play Blade and Sorcery or Space Pirate Training. Who would have guessed that a pregnant little thing like her would be a blood thirsty little thing who is going to quit her job in April and leave me searching for someone else to cut my locks? She said quitting her job to be a full time mom is bitter-sweet. “Yes,” I told her, “sweet for you and bitter for me!” I hate changing hairdressers but I’m going to try another girl in the same the shop. I knitted her a hot pink pussy hat back a few years ago when Trump was elected. She was thrilled and personality-wise we’ll get along great. Wow, did I get side-tracked here!

Back to virtual reality. When they first handed out the head gear it reminded me of an old stereoscopic from the 1890s that I sold recently with its viewing lens lined up with two separate images of the same scene on its viewing cards. But the VR viewers actually have two feeds/images per eye (one set hidden behind the other) and you’re viewing videos that were photographed with cameras that can take 350 degrees photos. Utterly fascinating how they can make you feel like you’re actually walking around inside the places that are being fed to the VR head gear viewers from a computer. 

And VR is not just for entertainment. An article I found on the web said: “Virtual Reality is widely utilized in both mental health and medical training, and is used to treat post-traumatic stress, anxiety, phobias, and depression. Both medical and dental students have taken advantage of this technology, as it enables them to practice surgeries and other procedures…Military forces use VR for flight, battlefield, and vehicle simulations, as well as medic training and virtual boot camp. It also helps them reduce training costs and recreate training conditions safely.” Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! And I might get the chance someday at the continuum care campus where I’m moving. Their last newsletter had an article telling about how they are using virtual reality in their memory care building. 

Speaking of bringing the coronavirus to the U.S.A.---yes I was, a few paragraphs ago---one of my Gathering Girls pals who I have brunch with twice a month is on a cruise to the Mediterranean and will be in the area where a hotel has hundreds of people on lockdown because of the coronavirus. I can’t say I’m looking forward to having brunch with her when she gets back. Do you think anyone would notice if I wore a face mask and drank my lunch through a straw inserted in a hole in the mask? Would it be wrong of me to hope she self-quarantines for two weeks after she gets back? The world of germs is a scary place. I ought to know, I’ve been a bit of a germaphobic starting in this century when I had to spend so much time around medical facilities after my husband’s massive stroke and it ramped up big time the winter of 2019 when I got the flu so bad that I literally thought I’d die all alone and no one would find me until the stench got so bad a safety officer from the police department was called. That episode and the five day power outage that same winter lite the fire under me about moving to the senior friendly community where someone will check on me if they hear moaning through the walls. Ohmygod, I hope my future neighbors wear their hearing aids more often than I do! I can't even hear myself pee when I'm not wearing mine. ©

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Marie Kondo Would Throw up a Kitten if She Saw me Downsizing



My recent computer meltdown freaked me out because it made me realize---again---how fragile the whole process of downsizing is, how interdependent each step is to another. At least the way I do it which is so not the KonMari way. Add to the computer malfunction was the fact that I couldn’t get a hold of the-son-I-wish-had who is slated to help me get my house ready to sell next summer and physically move my stuff when the time finally comes to do it. Last summer he hauled stuff off to the auction house, and I have another big batch ready to go—maybe the last, but I said that once before. By mutual agreement we didn’t have anything planned until March but he’s good at settling my nerves when I start obsessing about getting my downsizing done in time. I called but his voice mail was full for two days and I felt cut off from the emotional support I needed. Being old school, it didn't occur to me to text him a SOS. If something, God forbid, happens to Tim I’d be in a world of trouble. I need a backup plan just in case. It’s never good to have all your eggs in one basket.

Downsizing Saga Chapter Five, if anyone is counting: My husband collected cigarette lighters and amassed nearly 400 of them. Lighters are small and you wouldn’t think they’d take up a lot of room but they actually did because they were all stored in black, velvet lined boxes especially made for that purpose. His collection covered all the decades in the twentieth century including WW I and II trench lighters and tons of new old stock commemoratives put out by Zippo. In addition to old lighters he'd find at flea markets and estate sales, Don had befriended a Zippo district salesman and was buying stuff wholesale to keep for investment. Yup, the guy’s version of collecting Beanie Babies only they did actually turn out to be decent money makers. Over half of his collection sold on e-Bay for $50 to $125 each, many others went in the $35 range and six sold for $250 to $410 each. Now I’m down to the lesser quality ones that I’m selling in lots of five to ten.

Prepping lighters for e-Bay sales has not been easy because they are so shiny it’s hard to get good photos of them. The Far East and Mid-Eastern buyers who are big-time into collecting lighters bid higher when you have good photos of all sides of the lighters, their boxes and their guts. I finally, just this week, took my last photos and wrote up my last listing descriptions of the last forty lighters and I have them all boxed up ready to list and ship as they sell! Then I have all the collector display boxes to list but those will go in three large lots without a lot of fuss. I also have a shoe box full of empty lighter boxes. Believe it or not that will go for around $50. All of Don's lighters had been separated from their original boxes so they could go in the display boxes. You should have seen my dining room table when I tackled the Great Box-Matching Project and try as I might I just couldn't match up that last dab of boxes with their proper mate---an important goal with any collectible because it increases its value.

I did set aside two lighters for sentimental reasons and I’m trying to talk myself into letting go of one them go. Marie would tell me to toss both since I don't smoke and she is not fluid in speaking Sentimental Attachments. One of the lighters I bought for my husband on a trip out West. It’s a one-of-a-kind with a silver inlay added by a silversmith after leaving the Zippo factory and my husband loved it. He carried it when he was all dressed up for special occasions. The other one would have been another $300-ish sale if Don hadn't had it engraved with his full name. He carried it daily so I'm trying to gauge how I'll feel if I put it up for auction and it goes for peanuts. Military lighters don't seem to lose value if they're engraved but Military collectors are coming at the hobby from a whole different prospective than others do. Decisions, decisions. No matter what I decide to do, I’m absolutely ecstatic to be so close to ending the lighter saga and if you're still reading this I'll bet you're as sick of 'lighter talk' as I am.

Now I can move on to downsizing something else like my collection of fifty spaghetti poodles from the ‘50s. I will probably take a bath on those because the market has dropped so much I doubt I’ll even be able to sell them, but I’ve gotta give it a try. I might be crying my way all the way to Goodwill to donate them. I have a small, tabletop Zippo showcase that could hold six poodles and I’m desperately trying to figure out a place in my new unit where I could put that showcase. I am too sentimental for my own good. I’d keep all fifty poodles if I could. I like poodles. I had a poodle skirt back in the ‘50s and I didn’t talk to my mom for a full week after she gave it to my cousin. It didn’t matter that I out grew it, I would still have that skirt today if she hadn’t snatched it out of my closet. Mom was evil like that, but she sure made my younger cousin happy. At every family reunion Judy reminds me of how much she loved getting my hand-me-downs. Her favorites were my favorites and she can describe them in detail---the pink circle skirt with black poodles dancing around the bottom, the forest green velvet dress with the lavender ribbon belt and nosegay of violets at the waist, the chiffon, summer white wonder that made us both feel like we were a walking cloud.

My cousin is the most saintly human being I’ve ever known and I've never told her about rift those hand-me-downs caused between my mom and my adolescent self. It would make Judy feel bad and then she'd offer a sincere apology and give me a hug that would make me feel bad for being a petty kid who decades later still wishes I at least had a photo of me wearing that poodle skirt. Big sigh here. Poodle "adoptions" start in March. Stay tuned...and Cindy (my niece) if you are reading this you need one to go with your mid-century decor. The pick of the litter is yours if you want it. ©

This is the lighter I bought my husband out West on the day I label the happiness day of my life. It would not be an acceptable photo for e-Bay because of the reflections but I like the arty-farty look they create.