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

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Time to Pay the PIper


I’ve always known that I’ve lived a charmed life. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of heartaches, obstacles and challenges to overcome in my almost eight years on this planet. By charmed I mean grew up in a post-war era that mostly spoiled and nurtured their baby boomer kids and with parents who gave my brother and me plenty of love to balance off the discipline, who taught us the value of working hard and keeping a high standard of ethics, who gave us a safe place to live and all the bells and whistles their own childhood’s lacked. 

By charmed I mean that I've been lucky enough to see positive changes in society over my lifetime for example when the Civil Rights Movement came along. Not overnight and not without a lot of growing pains that our world is still dealing with all these years later, but measurable changes in the level of racism none the less. Sure, some people are still finding it hard to leave blind hate behind, to treat others based on their character and not the color of their skin but what was once the norm is no longer true in younger generations. My dad spent the first 10-12 years of his life in Southern Illinois and had seen firsthand the hanging of a black man in the woods behind his house. He saw a neighbor laid out in his coffin, his family proudly having him dressed in his Klan robe and hood. One of my dad’s earliest childhood memories was of a black man being chastised for not moving off the sidewalk fast enough to let my dad pass by. Ya, my life was charmed by the fact that I never experienced blind hate and white privilege being so openly practiced and taught. One generation at at time, we are building a better world even though it will probably take yet another generation or two before we reach true equality.

By charmed I mean that by the time I became a young adult the new wave of the Feminist Movement opened doors that were closed to past generations of woman, a movement that told me I didn’t have to settle for the first man who came along and told other women they didn't have to suffer spousal abuse as something written in between the lines of their wedding vows, a movement that let me indulge myself into believing I could be anything I wanted to be. Just the idea of Equal Rights and opportunities for women let me spend my life trying on ideas for what I want to be ‘when I grow up’ like some women try on and buy new shoes. The shoes they wear for a season or a special reason then discard in the back of the closet. In my head I could have made a living as a marble sculptor, a furniture maker, a writer, a tailor, an architect, a Disney artist, a portrait artist, a photographer, a teddy bear maker, a poet and a print maker. In reality, I spent my work life being a floral designer in the bridal industry, a snowplower and a parking lot maintenance person who could put down yellow line stripes with the best of them. As the song says, life happens when you’re making other plans. But it's been a good life living with my illusions and zest for embracing whatever caught my fancy.

By charmed I mean my life until this year was in my hands to control and I haven't had any life experience to suffer through that millions of others haven’t also done and overcome---the loss of a parent, the loss of a spouse---and even now the lost opportunities and interrupted dreams are shared by people world-wide as we wait out the pandemic. Somehow, though, the rose-colored glasses I’ve used all of my life are out of focus, those glasses that allowed me to separate the learning experience from the pain and leave the latter behind as I moved on to the next shiny object, the next challenge. Try as I might I don’t think I’ll move past the world pandemic without paying the piper for my charmed life. I’ve had nearly eight decades of living under rainbows and counting unicorns, of naively believing I controlled my own destiny. Now I have sense of dread hanging over me. Instead of fight or flight I'm frozen in place and I feel like I’m stuck in the Beatles song, Help! ©

 “When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors

“Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me, help me, help me?

"And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I've never done before”

Help, I need somebody! Help!


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Going Rogue


I was as giddy as a virgin at the Hunk-O-Mania Strip Club when I woke up this morning, knowing I was going to be a premeditated lawbreaker for the first time in my life. Yup, I was going to take my pandemic protective gear on the road. I had my story rehearsed in case I got stopped, “Officer, I’m going to Walgreens to get some allergy medication. That’s allowed. Right?” Or maybe I’d haul the grocery list out of my purse left over from the last time I went and use it as proof that I was going to one of the two approved locations old people without essential jobs are supposed to point their cars towards. It was raining out so I breathed easy, figuring I’d have to be doing something grossly wrong on the road for a cop to pull me over and even then, they’re not giving tickets out for a first offense. They're not even making random stops to check on pandemic run-aways. A lawn care service owner, though, tested that second offense rule. He’d been reported for leaving fliers in mailboxes and was given a warning. But he didn’t stop. The second time he was caught he was given a $500 fine and his name was plastered all over the media. Honestly, who reports a guy for doing something as petty as leaving a piece of paper in mailboxes? Maybe I’m just being a softie after my own “crime spree?”

It all started earlier in the week when I got a call from Levi’s groomer about his upcoming appointment. Other places where I’d had appointments---at the hair salon, the dentist, the doctor and for a couple of senior hall lectures---were all canceled via a personal phone call so I was pretty sure that’s what the groomer was going to say. Imagine my surprise when the shop owner told me they are still keeping all their standing appointments for terrier class dogs, which covers Levi my Might Schnauzer. They normally have six groomers working six days a week but the shop owner himself cuts the terriers breeds so, he figured he could be safe with only him and his wife in the place. They had just ended a two week quarantine, he said, after returning from vacation and the shop had been closed for a total of four weeks. Levi would be the second dog to cross the threshold. 

I can be as selfish as the next guy so I turned a blind-eye to the groomer breaking the law by conducting non-essential business. I wasn't looking forward to cutting Levi's hair at home, knowing it would be like putting a single pair of handcuffs on an octopus and thinking that would keep the cephalopod from using its other tentacles to suck your eye balls out or create a wind tunnel between your ears. Been there, done that with wiggle wormy Levi. For some reason he trusts Glen to cut his hair and do his manscaping while the guy baby-talks Levi through the whole process. Levi wants me no where near him with a pair of scissors in my hand. Ya, I know, all law breakers can justify their actions. I should have said "no thank you" then planned on shipping Levi out to Montana during sheep sheering season when the pandemic is over.

While Levi was being an unwitting victim of a criminal act, I went across the street to the grocery store hoping to score some toilet paper. No such luck. They said when they get a shipment in, even with limits of one package per shopper, it’s gone in an hour. If you follow a community message board in your town you’d understand how that happens. People are posting time-dated photos of when they see toilet paper on the shelves and people in need are dropping everything they’re doing, jumping in their cars to score a package and the person who gets the last package posts a picture of it. This same message chains happens every day, several times a day. I’m not desperate enough to hang around the message board from daylight to dust to see the first posts live, but that day will come if people don’t start going back to work and doing their business in public bathroom stalls.

I might have gone into that grocery store with a two item list but I bought $70 worth of stuff, mostly meats for the coming apocalypse in our food chain caused by the recent closing of huge meat processing plants in states that didn’t have social distancing in place. Their employees processing beef, pork and poultry were dropping like flies from the Covid-19 virus. “Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties,” one analysis said. I only eat meat a couple of times a week. A little chicken here, a little beef there with some bacon occasionally thrown in between. Since the pandemic started I’ve stockpiled enough beef cuts to reconstruct my own cow. If I liked head cheese, I’d almost be there and I can safely say that day will never come. But I can see a day when I'll be bartering roast beef for toilet paper.

During my day of shameful civil disobedience I also went to the pet store where they had erected a huge acrylic wall at the cash register. A lot of time and effort that went into making that and I couldn’t help wondering if the factories churning them out are working around the clock. I've only been to four places since the lock down started and three had installed these ‘sneeze guards’ around their employees. The dog groomer’s check-in desk being the exception. That one is so tall I can barely see over it. I’m happy to report I wore my face mask everywhere I went, and grocery store even provided plastic gloves for my foray inside. I suppose I should have stood on a soap box and belittled the groomer for enticing me out of the house, but I didn't and I maintained my giddy-to-be-free mood the entire day…until I saw the look in Levi’s eyes when I picked him up and he first noticed my mask and smelled my hand sanitizer. Whatever he was thinking it wasn’t good.  ©

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Grocery Shopping and Eating During the Pandemic



I’ve been trying to teach the dog how to say the word “water” but the best he can do is stick his nose down into his nearly empty dish, then give me the evil eye as I sit at my computer nearby. Is he a poor student or am I a bad teacher? Don't know, don't care. I just care that it would be easier if he could talk and not do the Jedi-mind thing he does to me. That's creepy. Anyway, that last half inch of water in his dish is yucky from his long schnauzer beard bringing debris into the house. In the pre-pandemic days the spring cleanup in my yard would be done by now and since it isn’t, with every trip Levi makes outside he comes back with oak leaves attached to his fur. He needs a trip to the groomers but, of course, that's not happening under pandemic lock down. I try to do a body check before he comes through the door but he’s younger than me and he often wiggles his way past me too fast to get them all. I find dried up old oak leaves all over the house. There's a foot deep pile of them in his pen and for some reason he loves to wade into the center of the pile and poke his face deep down inside it, probably looking for bugs. He’s all boy. He loves bugs. 

I hope some of our stay-at-home orders are lifted at the end of the month. It’s so close I can almost taste it and it tastes like hot dogs and Starbucks. I can count on one hand the number of times a year I eat hot dogs. Since my husband died I have one each on the spring and fall trips I make to his home town where I go to his gravesite to dig the crabgrass up around the stone. If I didn’t do it, the stone would be completely covered in no time at all. There's a famous hot dog place in town that my husband and his friends hung around their entire lives and when I’m done at the cemetery tradition pushes me to their pickup window for a dog and chips before heading down to the riverside park. It's a perfect place to reminisce about the olds day when my rose-colored glasses still worked and my future held nothing but fanciful dreams. It’s a peaceful park despite the fact that it’s a busy place with bikers and dog walkers using the trail that runs alongside the river and goes miles in either direction. I pick a bench with my back to the trail and if I’m lucky I’ll get to watch graceful swans at the top of the dam, if I’m not lucky the ducks are never far away.

When you can’t go any place that seems to be the time when you can think of a dozen places you want to go. I’ve only been out of the house three times since the stay-at-home orders started the middle of March. Twice to the grocery store and both trips were creepy. The most recent trip was a few days ago. Still no toilet paper or wipes or pasta and a lot of the shelves were empty. A limit of one per person on eggs, milk and paper towel was posted. Just a handful of mixes for making bread and cake mixes---maybe 10 were left on the 50 foot of shelves allotted for them. I forgot to look for hamburger but I heard that was hard to score and butter was very low. I didn't even need paper towel or butter but I felt compelled to buy them! I had no trouble getting chicken and rib-eye steaks. I spent a fortunate at the store and hope not to go back for 3 weeks. My biggest fear, now, is that we’ll get a spring power outrage and I’ll lose all the food I bought. 

I’ve gained five pounds during the pandemic and my internist, on our telephone appointment, didn’t even ball me out. Still, I felt guilty enough that I bought a bunch of Atkins liquid meal replacements to drink for breakfast. I generally do better resisting comfort foods when I stuff myself full of vitamin and mineral rich foods early in the day. But Atkins, gummies and orange juice is my new pandemic breakfast until I can reign in my appetite for random eating. Fifty-five calories for 4 ounces of OJ and 160 for the Atkins and that’s less than half what I’d have with my usual cereal, milk and fruit…all the more calories to spend later in the day on Oreo Thins. God, I’m in so much trouble with my pandemic eating! I generally even don't buy Oreos unless I'm expecting company under ten but they jumped in to my shopping cart along with wild sardines. Sardines, at least, are a long standing comfort food that I don’t buy often either but the store was out of tuna. It’s like I’m storing fat up on my body for the coming famine. The scare of disruptions in our food chain is getting real.

My plans for this summer were so much different than they are starting out. I wanted to do a lot of walking and dieting so next winter I could replace my entire wardrobe before my move to the continuum care campus that was supposed to happen the spring of 2021. Other than undies and socks I haven’t bought new clothing in probably 2-3 years and my wardrobe is looking shabby, even to me, the queen of putting comfort over style. I was in between two sizes and now I'm not, and I didn't go the right direction.

Levi has been outside enjoying the sun while I’ve been writing this and he’s now doing a spread eagle on my window screen. It’s his version of ringing a doorbell. It often reminds me of one of my husband’s favorite movies, The Graduate. Levi’s spread eagle is so like Benjamin’s at the church window while he was yelling “Elaine!” only Levi is doing his Jedi "Mom!" trick in my head. And I just noticed the screen will need to be replaced before I can open the window unless I want to allow mosquitoes inside to feast on my blood. There’s always something. ©