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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Laundry Day and Cows

Buying art for a living space that isn’t even built yet might sound like I’m putting the cart before the horse---especially given the fact that I have a lot of signed and numbered prints to sell before I move. And given the current state of our country could even cause my plans to move to fall through all together. Too many what ifs are motion right now. What if the stock market doesn’t come back or the housing market is dead when I need to sell? What if I can’t get downsized in time? The what ifs are endless. But I’ve always been a long range, detail planner so under ordinary times anyone who knows me well would not be surprised that I just ordered a couple of canvas stretched, mass market prints for my future home. But these are not ordinary times and common sense tells me I shouldn't have bought them.

What send me off shopping for art? Two things, 1) I needed something positive to focus on, and 2) looking at the floor plan and schematics of a new unit I’m buying I couldn’t get past the empty space above my kitchen sink that will be all white subway tile and it’s the first thing most people will see when they entry my unit. I’ve never not had a window above a sink and that’s a space I couldn’t let stand naked in my mind. I have a vintage window frame that would be the perfect size to go there and at first I played around with putting a print behind the window panes of something like a lake shore or boats off in the distance, but then I worried that hanging something as heavy as a an old wooden window frame would pull the subway tiles off the wall, even an ordinary art frame with glass would keep me up at night worrying about those tiles falling off the wall. Then I played around with the idea of using a stretched canvas of Salvador Dali Girl by the Window. The idea of having a print of a window with a view tickles my funny bone, but after a whole lot of hand wringing I couldn’t live with a vertical print in a space that calls for something horizontal.

Thus I did a search by shape at AllPosters.com and came up with two themes that speak to me in the right shape, in the right colors. The cows’ print is called Country Drive Cows II and the other one is called Laundry Day. Back and forth I went for several days and finally I decided that the cows would read better from the distance of my doorway as people come into the unit. And it speaks to my soul in a different way than the other print because it reminds me of the cottage where I spent all the summers of my youth. There was (and still is) a large dairy farm on the corner where we turned onto the road leading to the cottage, and since the whole theme of my unit is going to be “summer cottages” the cows will whisper in my ears and they’ll be saying, “You’re here, you're at the lake! Let the fun begin.”

Everyone hates cookies when websites use them but I found out that if you keep going back to look at two prints at AllPosters.com they'll offer you a one day only sale of 60% off. The $150 price tag for each stretch canvas print was dropped so much I couldn’t resist buying them both---the cows for over the sink and the Laundry Day I ordered in a smaller size to hang on a wall near a signed and numbered print I already own of a bird on a clothesline. That bird-on-the-quilt print will be above my restored oak ice box---what old cottage didn't have one of those. And I paid the same thing for the two new canvas wrapped prints that I would have paid for one if it weren’t for cookies. 

I used to have a collection of 100 clothespins---all different. The collection is stuck at the local auction house in a lot of other vintage laundry room stuff. But I kept eight of them, handmade pins known as gypsy pins. I’m so excited that I finally know what I’m going to do with them in my new place. I have two matching shadow frames and one will hold that Laundry Day print and the other will hold the gypsy clothespins. There’s the perfect wall near the ice box where I can stack-hang the two frames (one over the other). I’ve been hemming and hawing about sending those frames off to the auction house. Now, they contain prints of gas pump faces that were a gift from the artist who used my husband’s antique gas pumps to inspire a line of prints that he still sells today. The frames would cost a small fortune to replace and I’ve been looking for a way to re-purpose them. 

 And that’s the reason why putting the cart before the horse makes perfect sense when downsizing for a move---at least under ordinary times. Doubts disappear and decisions of what to keep and what to let go turn into exciting marching orders. That old window frame that I haven’t wanted to let go of? I’m turning the panes into mirrors and hanging it right next to the door so I can check myself out before answering the door or going out, and maybe it bring some sunlight down to that end of the unit space. Wall art has always been important to me and what I’m living with now was mostly selected by joint decision with my husband when we were on various vacations out West. I still love our James Bama, Paul Collins, Bev Doolittle, J. Snidow, Charles Eurings and Wayne Cooper paintings and signed and numbered prints but I’m leaving all western memorabilia behind and in the next chapter of life I want to feel like I’m Grandma Moses renting a cottage near the beach. If all works out according to plan... ©

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Shower Stall Mystery

NOTE: This might not be throw-back Wednesday but I felt like sharing a humorous piece I wrote back when I was a caregiver for my husband, after his massive stroke. Back then, I was submitting pieces like this to a site where we'd get paid for each click the articles got. My clicks totaled over a million, but a million pennies does ad up...


I wonder if there are any statistics on how many female caregivers stop shaving their legs when we have to start shaving our husband's faces. Time constraints are as good as any other excuse for our apathy about not shaving what can be hidden with slacks or for not applying makeup and perfume. I can't remember the last time I took a leisurely bath where I had the time to lather up my lower limbs and run a razor up in smooth, slow strokes like a model in a Gillette commercial. While helping my husband, Don, in the shower today these were the thoughts that ran through my head as I looked down at my legs expecting to see the natural, European look. I was shocked to see they are bald as a proverbial billiard ball. Oh, ya, I forgot that menopause takes the hair away and it doesn't come back.

I've been shaving Don's face since he went on the blood thinner, Coumadin, even though his occupational therapist wants him to do all his own grooming. But he's so clumpy shaving left-handed and it's really hard to make time for extra trips to ER. Besides, we have a new wheelchair accessible bathroom and the color of blood would clash with the décor and if I let Don do it all on his own, our water bills would be around five hundred dollars.

Our shower routine: I help Don transfer into the shower, shave his face, scrub his back, and pull the curtain closed so that he can do the rest of his shower alone. Then it starts---those sound effects, the kind like Meg Ryan made in her famous movie scene where she's faking an orgasm in the restaurant. The first time I heard Don moaning and groaning I thought, "Oh, God, he's having a private moment and I'd rather not know about." This went on with every shower for a couple of weeks before a voyeuristic moment made me slowly draw the shower curtain back to peek inside. There sat Don, eyes closed, doing his moaning and groaning routine only he wasn't---well, you know what he wasn't doing. He was shampooing his hair! I can be so slow on the draw. It hadn't dawned on me that all Don was doing was an imitation of the shampoo commercial that is imitating Meg Ryan's orgasm scene.

Time to dry off---Don does it all but his tush. But I'm on the creams and ointments committee, so I have to be there. I start with his feet, and work my way up. I apply the Naftlin gel for the toe nail fungus he picked up at the hospital and that his diabetes doesn't want to give back. Next comes the Nystatin for jock rash. That was fun the first time I had to have Don's doctor look at that---all three of us with our noses practically down in Don's crotch. The doctor tells me it's common for wheelchair bound guys to have a perpetual case and it won't go away without air. I've tried to get my husband to sleep commando, but he picks this stage of his life to get modest. Men! Go figure.

Next I apply a coat of Betadine antibiotic to the bruises and scratches on his paralyzed arm that are caused by our lap sitting dog and the Coumadin. Someday I'll probably get investigated by Social Services and I'll have to prove that the bruises are not caregiver abuse---hey, maybe I should knit the dog a set of booties. At this point in Don's routine I think, "Did I miss anything?" No, Don is applying his Stetson antiperspirant to his left arm pit. You should have seen him the time I brought home another brand and his aphasiac brain couldn't tell me in any other way but to throw it across the room day after day until I figured it out. His vocabulary is around twenty-five words and "don't buy this crap anymore" isn't one of his working phrases.

Following the left arm pit, comes his right arm pit royal ritual. No antiperspirant here or the fungus will start back in again. No air gets to the pit when you can't move an arm. So, it's ten powder puffs full of Johnson's Baby Powder. Not nine. Not eleven. I tried explaining the danger to our lungs of inhaling that white cloud in the room but for some reason, Don's aphasiac brain counts everything in tens. Now I just hold my breath and hope that he doesn't pick bath time to start learning to count to a higher number. And people wonder why we take two hours to shower.

After our showers today, we got distracted by a fat cat with long brown hair and four white feet who was stalking the neighbor's bird feeder and all three of us---the dog, Don and me---stopped what we were doing to watch until the cat got bored and lumbered across our back yard. The three of us followed his path, going from window to window until the cat caught Cooper's eye and they tried to stare each other down. The cat won.

Being Saturday, we headed into town to go to our favorite restaurant for omelets. I parked in the last handicapped space, transferred Don to his chair and when we got to the door a waitress barred the way and told us they were doing some painting over the weekend and were closing early.

"If you had just gotten here five minutes ago," she said, "We could have served you."

On the way back to the car I was cursing the cat in the yard and promising Don I'd shoot the darn thing the next time I see it. Damned cat cheated us out of our omelets! Don, he started yodeling at the top of his lungs. The man can't talk but he still finds ways to made fun of me when I get into one of my titters.

We drove to our next favorite restaurant and as I lowered the wheelchair with its Bruno lift, it got hung up on the trailer hitch. While I was trying to decide if there was a beefy guy near-by to help, Don was sitting inside the Blazer joyfully teaching himself the four letter words I had used to describe the cat. I was pleased when he came up with one of his own.

Inside the restaurant Don smiled across the table and I saw the want-to-cowboy he used to be and I thought about how lucky I am that I no longer had to purée his egg rolls and thicken his tea. He's come a long ways since the stroke. I looked down at my plate and saw a couple of tiny cubes that looked like clear gelatin and I wondered what they were. I ate one. Tasteless. I ate another, and then it dawned on me. They were eatable computer chips that program people to drive to their restaurant every time a UPS truck comes down the street.

Back in the Blazer after lunch, Don had to pee. We drove around to the back of the grocery store, before going in, and I pulled up to our regular spot where he could use his urinal. I felt like a male dog that needed to remark his territory as I poured the pee at the base of the 'No Parking, Fire Lane' sign. I laughed, thinking, "If only the people who believe I always live by the rules could see me now." It may not have been a bra-burning march or a stop-the-war demonstration from my youth, but I can still pull off a little civil disobedience.  Jean R. © 2006

Preposted from my caregiver blog From The Planet Aphasia

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Reporting from House Arrest

All is well here on Widowhood Street. I still have Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, Mandarin Orange Slice candy and Windmill cookies plus milk to dunk the latter in. I’m getting low on toilet paper but outside my window I have a view of several dozen cattails proudly swaying in the breeze and I’m wondering if I should harvest them before the birds pick them bare for nesting material. (Time to start thinking like a frontiersman.) I still have internet connection; I’d die a slow and painful death without it. And I still have a mouthy dog and a new project to cure him of that. Yes, my Palace of Dreams aka Amazon just delivered my new and yet untested Ultrasonic Anti-Bark Device and if that doesn’t work, thanks to all those Navy SEALS, Mercenary and Delta Force books I’ve been reading I now know a multitude of ways to assassinate a person and I’m assuming they would work on Levi my Might Schnauzer as well. I'm tired of him barking at all the new canines in the neighborhood! Next time the dogs across the street have their fence line play date Levi has a surprise coming. I’m just hoping he’s not smart enough to figure out that I’m the one giving it to him. I love the little sucker and I want him to go on thinking I’m his personal AMT machine for dispensing treats. Mean Jean with her torture machine is going to keep that device out of Levi's sight.

I’m pretty sure I should be doing this House Arrest differently. It seems to be enhancing all my worst habits. Point of Fact: Most days I haven’t gotten dressed for the day until well past noon since the coronvirus inspired house arrest started---whose going to catch me in my bathrobe now that everyone is staying at home?---and I’ve been thinking about a meme I saw about changing from nighttime jammies to daytime jammies. What a wonderful idea, the best one I’ve seen for coping with House Arrest! If my body wasn’t bumpy, soft and squishy in places that should be lean and mean I could easily turn into a nudist. Clothing has always had the power to make me break out in hives if I have them on too long. And, yes, I’ve tried all different fabrics and laundry products. But alas these hives are pressure hives but I get the other kind too Aren't I a lucky little lady.

In the past ten days I have been out of the house. Twice to the post office to ship eBay packages, but you can get in and out without literally touching anything and at the time I go I rarely see anyone other than the clerk. She has more to fear from me than the other way around since she has no way of knowing if I’m been coughing corona germs all over my boxes before setting them on her scale. I also got a haircut just hours before our governor announced she was closing all hair, nail and tanning places. They had a large bottle of hand sanitizer just inside the door with a sign on it to use the sanitizer before going any farther. I usually get my eyebrows trimmed with my haircuts but they weren’t doing any services that required them to touch faces, nails or feet and they weren’t serving any beverages. Everyone is taking precautions, it’s our new coronavirus hill to climb and I predict when we get to the top I won’t be the only germaphobic to plant a flag of victory.

I also went to my first designated senior grocery shopping time at the godawful hour of 7 AM. Did you know it's still dark at that hour of the day? I haven't driven in the dark for several years now and don't think I hit any nocturnal foragers along the way but I saw a few. Before going inside the store I had visions of it looking like a scene in Stepford Wives only with women who'd aged themselves out of the movie franchise. But instead of 'little pretties' with ramrod straight backs and shoulders thrown back gliding down the aisles, I thought I’d see a bunch of gray-haired women with camel backs and uneven gaits and I wasn’t far from wrong. None of the grim-faced shoppers had floppy garden hats on like in the movie but that could change in the future if they keep the hair salons closed for very long. We corona shoppers weren't wearing Stepford Wives white cotton gloves either but many had on disposable plastic gloves and face masks.

And the place was a zoo, busier than at Christmas and there was no way to keep to the six foot social distancing rule at the front of the store. When I finally broke through the log jam to get to the shopping aisles I found myself in the men's underwear aisle and I took a few minute to calm my nerves. (Did you know Jockey's makes men's bikini briefs now? How long has that been going on?) When I got to the grocery section they still didn't have toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towel, eggs and noodles and the laundry soaps aisle was nearly empty. Also couldn't get a fresh battery for my digital thermometer, should I need to use it. But on the good side of senior shopping they'd mass disinfected the shopping carts with a fogger and all 18 cashier lines plus the self-checkouts were open with little waiting in line. Still, I did not like the experience and I was glad to get home, have some breakfast and wake up the dog. It was 9:00, about the time we both usually roll out of bed.

The coronavirus pandemic is touching every phase of our lives, isn’t it. Even the libraries’ donation drop slot is closed. Like why when it requires no humans at the other end of the book chute? I had just loaded some books in my trunk to donate before finding that out. I took the books out of my car and filled up the trunk with stuff to drop off at Goodwill and I was looking forward to the four point seven mile "sightseeing tour" but I had to unload the trunk yet again. Our governor just announced a stricter stay-at-home order for the next three weeks! ALL businesses (including Goodwill) are closed except those deemed "essential" like gas stations, healthcare facilities, grocery stores and liquor stores. Yes, they included liquor stores on the list of essential businesses but they left off Lady Godiva and Dairy Queen? What the heck is wrong with the people running the world? No wonder I haven't had a good night's sleep since the pandemic came a calling. ©

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Mercenaries and Toilet Tissue

I’ve been walking around the house singing, “Stop the world and let me off. I’m tiring of going round and round.…” I’ve had those lines suck in my head for days. I can’t remember the rest of the lyrics but I’m pretty sure they don’t have anything to do with a Pandemic or being on a path to environmental suicide or being a flaming liberal living in a country run by an alt-right president. Nope, belting those words out this week may have started as a reaction the Pandemic but on closer examination I found nothing but good memories attached to the song including the first time I was introduced to those lyrics. It was back in 1958 and Patsy Cline was crooning them out from my cousin, Shirley’s record player. It was the summer I was unofficially indoctrinated into the country/western music fan club.

That summer she and her three toddlers were living in a small travel trailer parked behind our cottage, while her husband was overseas in the Army. She was a good singer and in the evenings when she wasn’t playing the likes of Hank Williams or Johnny Cash records she was playing her ukulele and leading us ‘cottage kids’ in sing-alongs. Other nights she’d make a batch of fudge or popcorn that we munched on while we played poker sitting at a picnic table under a single light bulb strung in the trees. It was a good summer of laughter and music and a naive belief that the world would always be that way. Shirley was a beautiful woman back then and not much older than we teens she entertained. Her life filled up with bitterness not long after that summer and I never saw her happy again. “Stop the world and let me off.” If only it was that easy to escape our woes. 

I got my credit card bill for the month when I went crazy reading books on my Kindle. $55 worth of downloads, mostly books about Navy SEALS, Mercenaries and Delta Force military types. I took one look at that $55 and went directly to Amazon and signed up for Amazon Unlimited, hoping I understand the fine print correctly. For $9.99 a month I get to read unlimited books and I can cancel at any time. With the state of our clusterfucked nation I can’t seem to stop reading trash books about muscled-up men who are out to save the world from all the bad guys. I have, however, branched out to other authors than the first one who got me hooked on the “military elite” genre. I'm shocked at how many of them are out there.

Today I had to laugh at myself, though, when I realized I used military lingo in a conversation with my brother: “We need more intel on that” and “copy that” I said in our phone call. If I start swearing like a Navy SEAL please do an intervention. If these books are 75,000 words long (just guessing) at least 7,500 of them are the F word. And if I start planning a trip to California with aspirations of becoming a Frog Hog (aka a slutty woman who sets her goal on bagging a Navy SEAL) handcuff me to a chair in a shrink’s office until I’m cured of turning fictional alpha guys into my safe place. The world doesn't need anymore cougars.

I woke up at 3:30 a few nights ago and couldn’t fall back asleep. My niece is very sick. She says it’s the croup. Her two grandsons had it and she was taking care of them. Then her daughter and son-in-law got it. My brother stopped to visit and he said she was really mad that he walked in the house, fearing that he’d get it too and she made him march right back out. If they all get the coronavirus on top of the croup, when their immune systems are so low---I don’t even want to think about it. Apparently my subconscious mind has no such qualms about doing just that. Since I couldn't stop the world and get off, I grabbed my Kindle at 4:00 and relished the thought that I, too, could be a sniper who gets a clean shot of an international terrorist, making the world one less bad guy safer. Yup, some of the women in those books are as badass as the guys.

Seriously, these books are so out of character for me that I’m afraid to reveal that I’m reading them except to my blogger friends. Not that that’s anything new. I tell you guys things I wouldn’t blurt out in my offline life. For example, I rub my eyes way too often, given the fact that it's one of the ways you can put the coronavirus into your system. It’s eerie how something I’ve probably done subconsciously all my life suddenly becomes a death threat. God, where is my SEAL when I need one? I'm pretty sure he'd have a cure tucked away in one of the pockets of his cargo pants. Oh, yes, you know you're old when you find yourself lusting after what's in a man's pockets rather than what's behind his zipper. (Did I just type that? Ya, I'll do anything if it makes someone laugh.)

I haven’t been to my first senior shopping day yet at the grocery store. Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7:00 AM to 8:00. (Health care workers get other special days and times.) Ohmygod, how am I ever going to get up that early? One of my friends who has gone said most of the shoppers were wearing plastic gloves and the employees were all cleaning floors and the check-out lines. Toilet paper is being limited now that they have it back in stock---why didn't they do that early on? Stories of people helping each other are all over internet and the funny memes about toilet paper are making me laugh right out loud. There’s the bouquet of toilet paper a florist cooked up and an 18-wheeler that had a single pack of toilet paper strapped down on the bed of his trailer going down the expressway. The miniature toilet paper earrings and a cake made to look like a roll of toilet paper both tickled my funny bone. Did you ever think you’d see a day when the world would be obsessing about toilet tissue?  ©