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, August 29, 2020

Life in the Stress Lane


Have you ever felt like you’re collecting stress, one petty pebble at a time? A pile of pebbles adds up and I’m not sure how much more I can take. For example, my cell phone wouldn’t turn on after charging. We’ve lived decades without one so it shouldn’t be a big deal. Solution: take it to the cell phone repair place and throw money at the problem. Okay, I did that. In the meantime the dog groomer told me that Levi has a golf ball sized tumor on the inside of his back leg that wasn’t there six weeks ago when he was last bathed and beautified. Went right home, called the vet and was told to call on my cell from the parking lot when I arrive for the appointment. Oh, great! First World problem meet the pandemic rules of engagement.

Next pebble: I left the post office after dropping a letter in their outside box and while I waited for the pickup truck in front of me to turn onto the street, I could see an accident about to happen. And it did. The truck had those humongous tires that puts the driver up high in the air and just as he was pulling out he hit a woman on a bike who shot out in front of him. She was coming down the sidewalk and she never slowed down or stopped at the corner or even tried to make eye contact with the driver before pedaling her way into the accident. Anyone who’s been in one of those jacked-up pickup trucks knows there’s quite a blind spot in front. I blame them both and while she didn’t get hurt as badly as the back of her bike, it was stressful to watch. Waiting for the aftermath to unfold made me late for an appointment with my bank’s investment broker and I had to reschedule. Ya I know, ho-hum more First World problems.

Pebble number four: I have an issue going on with my arm and I’ve had to wait four weeks to get into see my bone doctor. September 8th can't come fast enough. I’ve mentioned before that I had elbow surgery two decades ago and a year ago it was giving me a lot of pain. When the doctor x-rayed it he found out that the screws have backed out and one is floating around and the end of a one bone is not attached to anything. Not wanting to go through more surgery he told me what not to do to keep the pain at bay. Not lifting anything above my waist and keeping my elbow tucked in close to my side when I do pick anything up has worked well until all of sudden my arm started giving me needles-and-pins feelings whenever I type and my arm often feels like dead weight that alternates with feeling like I’ve got a blood pressure monitor squeezing me. I have a high tolerance for pain but the constant weirdness is driving me nuts. I’m not sure if I’d label this a First World problem but I just wish it could go away with a bonk on the head from a good fairy's magic wand. 

Then there’s the pandemic that adds surprises (and not in a good way) to our lives like going to the dollar store and running into a cashier who was wearing her mask on her chin. We have a mandatory mask law in place in our state and this is an anti-maskers protest move that keeps them from getting fired or fined. All it did for me is tense me up wondering if someone in line would challenge her selfishness for not covering her nose and mouth. A little stress pebble from a woman with rocks instead of brains in her head. I got the last laugh, though, because the receipt gives a link to rate your visit and for the first time ever, I went online and filled out one of those forms.

More pebbles of stress are coming at me from the political election crap/conventions heating up. I just want it all to go away as easily as drinking a tall glass of icy, cold water could make a mirage go way if one were crossing the Jordan Desert with a camera crew remaking Lawrence of Arabia. Whoa! Where did that thought come from...but aren’t movies great? We get the danger, the romance and the allure of far-away places without breaking a sweat. Like my fascination with being a CIA agent/spy which is only attractive as a career choice if I could take a stunt double with me while I save the world. Is that too much to ask? I’m digressing again but know this: if I ever get dementia I'm going to have fun living inside my head.

Back to pebbles of stress, did I mention wasps are busy as I type building a nest under the shingles of my house and that my yard is creeping me out? Everywhere I look poison ivy is growing. Why? I don’t need more jobs on my list of things to do. I feel like I’m juggling too many balls in the air and they’re all about to fall because I’ve lost interest in everything except when can I buy ingredients to make s’mores? And trust me, I'm reaching far back into my past to be lusting after those as comfort food. What next will I crave? Gerber's Sweet Potatoes and Peas? That's what I get, I suppose, for banning ice cream, cake and cookies from the house. 

The bottom line? Where do I go to find some gratitude that my First World problems are just pebbles compared to the boulders that others in Third World countries face? Where do I go to get an attitude adjustment? My problems are petty but the more stress pebbles that get thrown into my metaphorical pond the more I wonder if I’ll need a surfboard to navigate the ripples as they seemingly grow higher and higher. ©


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Overdue Visits and Scary People

Can you believe it, fall is just around the corner. The nights are getting cooler and the sidewalk chalk art is fading around the neighborhood. I guess all the kids got the memo that it’s time to redirect their energy into back-to-school mode…however that will look this year during the pandemic.  

For the first time in nearly a year I took an overdue trip to my niece’s cottage, wanting to get it in before her daughter goes back to school. My great niece teaches honors English to kids who really want to learn while her two sons are cared for by my niece turned-granny-nanny and her husband who are both retired teachers. I asked Niece #1 (I have two) how her daughter feels about going back to school, given the Covid-19 pandemic we’re living in, does the school she teaches in and where her son was supposed to start 1st grade have plans that feels safe and comfortable? "No! Not at all,” she answered. It seems the powers that be in their school district is a Republican who either doesn’t think the virus is a real threat or he don’t care. They aren't taking many of the same precautions other schools in the state doing. So Niece #1 will be doing online classes with her grandson and, she says, if her daughter so much as has the sniffles coming home from the high school she’ll keeping her two grandsons at her house instead of sending them home. Last January they all got extremely sick---my niece with a confirmed case of Covid-19---and she says they’re not going through that again!

Like all states in our union there is at least one county that is a hot bed for hate groups and both my nieces lives in one. Niece #1 was telling me about the local chapter of the Proud Boys which make themselves very visible. Look them up on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, where they track hate groups, and you'll find this introduction: “The Proud Boys are self-described ‘western chauvinists’ who adamantly deny any connection to the racist ‘alt-right,’ insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an ‘anti-political correctness’ and an ‘anti-white guilt’ agenda.”

My niece says they run around the area in groups of 12-14 pickup trucks that are decked out in gun racks and large American, Confederate and Trump flags, generally trying to intimidate others by the mire sight of them. They made the news last year when a black family was having a birthday party for little kids and the Proud Boys were racing back and forth in front of the house while the party was going on. And just last week they made the news again when they gathered in a college town causing counter-protesters to gather. A local news media wrote: “The group is listed as a hate group because of its frequent denigration of Muslims and Islam, misogynistic rhetoric, and its role as a gateway to other extremist groups.” You know where this is going, don’t you. Yes, our president thinks the Proud Boys have “some very fine people” in their numbers. And if you think that's the most outrageous endorsement he's made then you didn't see him at a press briefing this week saying nice things about QAnon, a group that spreads conspiracy crap and believes the Democratic party is full satanic pedophile cannibals. Yup, we literally eat aborted babies for breakfast. It would be funny if Jo Rae Perkins, a proud card-carrying QAnon member hadn't just won the Oregon Republican U.S. Senate primary and was praised by Trump.

Back to normalcy: My nieces have both grown into wonderful women, both have very different personalities and interests but they are close friends as well as sisters. They talk on the phone every day and hearing that made me long for the days when I had daily phone contact with someone I loved and who knew me as well as I know myself. It’s been years since I've had that kind of relationship in my life. Niece #2 was on vacation up north or she would have been at the cottage too. She's cornered the market on humor in our family and it's always fun to be around her.

I hate driving the expressway I have to take to get out to get to either niece’s home in the boondocks and as I was going through the infamous S-Curve through town it occurred to me that the number of times I’ll have to get on that expressway for the rest of my life can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Once I move I’ll never have to do it again and good riddance to that route out of the city because I don’t want to be one of those old people who drives thirty miles an hour under the speed limit while cursing drivers dart around me with their middle fingers in the air. As I told my niece, one of the things I like about moving is that when the time comes for me to give up driving, I’ll have a built-in back up plan in place. The continuum care campus will have a mini bus that will go to the grocery store weekly and a concierge service to help us arrange rides to doctor appointments. 

With any luck, I won’t have to give up driving for 6-7 years. But from the first time I sat behind the wheel of a car, I’ve hated driving so giving it up will not be the traumatic 'benchmark' for me as it is for others. For my brother…now that will be a different story. His first wild driving stunt happened when he was four and he took his tricycle at full speed off the end of the porch to a six foot drop below to a cement driveway. Picture Fonzie and Happy Days and that was the brother I grew up with---the stereotypical teen aged boy of the mid-'50s trying to look cool with the help of a pocket comb and pomade-enhanced greaser hair. He pushed the envelope on everything he ever drove: bikes, boats, snowmobiles, dune-buggies, cars and pickup trucks. I don't envy my nieces if/when the times comes when they have to ask their dad to hand over his car keys. ©

* That's my brother on his bike at the top.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Hard Hats and Temperature Checks Required

 

It’s been a busy week with a bright highlight smack-dab in the middle. It came with do's and don’ts and signatures promising that I’d read a safety-on-a-construction-site document and I hadn’t lied on the standard, half page form we Michiganders have to fill out before we’re allowed around others who have taken the same “blood oat” that none of us hasn’t tested positive for the Covid-19 virus or live with anyone who has it. I’ve had my temperature taken so many times for that form this past month that I’m thinking about gluing a forehead thermometer bar on my head. I don’t trust those temperature guns they point at our heads. Do they remember to clean them in between foreheads? (Medical offices yes, hair salons no.) How do we really know they aren't crawling with covid cooties or even the common variety, kindergarten cooties?

The construction company building the continuum care campus where I’m planning to live sends out a newsletter explaining stuff like: “This summer has flown by and progress on site continues on at a fast pace as well. July was an extremely busy and critical month for the project as we reached our first big milestone on the project. On buildings one and two, the pre-cast concrete columns, beams and floor planks were completed, enclosing the parking garage below. This was a critical time for us because the pre-cast installation drives a huge portion of this project. It now allows us to open buildings one and two for the remaining concrete work, and shortly after that, wall framing can begin.”

Honestly, I don’t know why they made us wear yellow hardhats, goggles and vests. The tour took place in the late afternoon after all but four of the workers had left for the day so we weren’t in any danger of a crane dropping a steel beam on our heads or us getting run over by a cement truck. There wasn’t even any wet cement around and, trust me, a few of my future neighbors on the tour have a mischievous side and were hoping to write their names in the construction zone cement. They should be fun to live near as long as they don’t lick door handles or otherwise do stuff to endanger our lives like make s’mores over an open flame on their decks. Did you know you can buy a s’more maker? (Just one of the things you can learn from reading smut romance, action adventure books.) Amazon must have nearly two dozen styles of s’more makers from indoor electric to hibachi style with chafing fuel cans. But I digress...

The tour was on a perfect summer day with a light breeze and a bright sun overhead. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record their chef out did himself again. Before the tour he served two kinds of sliders, shrimp kabobs, a Gouda cheese and pretzel thing to die for, and we each got a box of four homemade raspberry truffles to take home. They served liquor as well but I don’t drink and drive. I am, however, looking forward to the day when I can have wine at the CCC’s restaurant where I’ll be eating this chef’s food every day, if I want, and walk home if I get a little giddy at the bar.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to like living in what is essentially a three story apartment building complex with 52 units. The only time I’ve lived in something other than a single family house was when I was in college where I was on the third floor in a women’s dorm and the bathroom was down the hall. But, hey, it was college where we didn’t care if it was noisy or you didn’t have a lot of privacy or you ate your meals on a cafeteria tray. Mostly what I remember about that building (nicknamed spinster hall) is how we all huddled around a small television set in the public room watching Kennedy talking about the Cuban Mission Crisis and then the calls started to and from families (including mine) arranging to pick us up, emptying out the dorm before the sunset. If there was going to be a war, we’d all die in our basements with our parents. If danger from man or nature comes to my future home in the CCC I’ll just go one floor down to the underground parking garage/tornado shelter.

Being in the health care business with another campus in town and an older section on the same lake where the 52 units are being built, their sales crew, CEO and chef who work at the CCC were super careful with the masks, hand sanitizer stations and having tables and chairs set up with social distancing in mind. Our state has had a mask requirement for a long time, now, but there was still a need for the speaker to remind people that their masks needed to cover their mouths AND noses when we weren’t eating. Except for picking up our food, the event took place almost entirely outside and it felt safe. The cherry on the top was the four construction workers who gave us the tour. Not only were they able to answer all our questions but they were easily the best eye candy I’ve seen in a long time. Ya, sure, I know what you’re thinking but just stop it. At my age, raspberry truffles was the only candy I was interested in taking home.  ©


 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wrist Watches and Classy Salesman

 

Before the pandemic I could just walk into the jewelry store to get fresh batteries put in watches---that is after looking into their security camera, pressing a button and after I’ve passed their look-and-see test. Yup, old woman not carrying a Glock 43 and an empty duffle bag, she can come in. The place is near my house and is a fancy-schmancy store that sells high-end stuff and probably has over a hundred Rolexes on display and a couple dozen Audermars Piguits. I don’t have high end watches in need of batteries but I do/did have watches I don’t want scratched by someone who just started working at K-Mart or wherever else you can buy batteries and get them installed. I’m down to the last two watches from my husband’s collection that are going on e-Bay. They are vintage Mickey Mouse watches that’ll I’ll probably get shy of $250 each. $500 wouldn’t cover a faction of the taxes on most of the watches they sell at Fancy Schmancy's.

For the first time, because of the pandemic, I had to leave the battery-needy watches, get a claim ticket and I’ll pick them up next week instead of waiting for them like I’ve done in the past. Fine by me. The place makes me nervous because it’s been hit by armed, daytime robbers at least five times since I’ve been living near-by. Maybe the owners don’t mind having a gun aimed point-blank at their heads but I’m not wanting to pee my pants that way. If I’m going to pee my pants in public---not saying I want to or ever have---I’d rather it to be because I am laughing uncontrollably.

Yes, I know other lesser quality jewelry stores will change batteries but this place also buys gold and when I dropped the watches off I sold them the last of my husband’s gold coin collection. He didn’t have many gold pieces to begin with---five-six, I lost track---but it feels good to have them gone. It did, however, give me pause thinking the world is going to become a dystopian and maybe I should have kept them to sew in the lining of that last coat I’ll own when I’m wandering around the bleak landscape that was once America, former home of free and brave. Can you tell, post-apocalypse books have been catching my interest since the pandemic? 

A therapist could probably explain my new attraction to books like that but all I know is there is something comforting about knowing life will go on even if Trump causes a nuclear disaster or a world-wide depression starts picking us off one-by-one as we die waiting in soup lines. In the end I decided that gold coins would not be the commodity that a dystopic world would trade in…it will be cell phone batteries. Everywhere I go people have cell phones attached to their ears. No more polite conversations between strangers. We back up when they come into our six foot bubble and talk into our cell phones like they're going to save us from real-time human interactions because they do. Dating in 2020 must be a bitch. “When this pandemic is over I’m going to remove your mask slow and easy and kiss you hard and fast.” Or as author Keri Beevis said in a meme, "If the conona-19 virus doesn't take you out, can I?"

Ohmygod, I need to lighten up the post and I think I’ll do that by explaining the canning jar full of watches up above. That pint of watch faces---27 in all---is practically every watch I’ve ever owned since my first one in the '50s. Unlike my husband’s watches mine were mostly cheap, throw-a-ways and I had planned to group them up in three logical lots to sell on e-Bay but many had bands that were so old they were literally falling apart. So I took a page out a fellow blogger’s playbook and stuffed the watch faces in a jar. Thanks to Dawn, at the Bohemian Valhalia I now have five jars full of pared down collections: one quart jar has a 100 wooden nickels, another is full of buttons and I have plans to fill up a two quart, wide mouth jar with Cracker Jack toys. I just have to get past the fact that it took me years to sort and date all those plastic and metal toys before I’m ready to undo it all to gain a smaller footprint to display them. I’ve already filled a two quart jar up with bits and pieces my husband and I picked up out West on what I consider the happiest day of my life, but I’m pretty sure I’ve shared that story already.  

While sorting through my box of old jewelry I came across a sterling silver ring that I remembered getting after seeing The King and I back in the ‘50s when I was a teenager. It’s stamped ‘Siam’ which is the country that was renamed ‘Thailand’ in 1939. I put it on and haven’t taken if off since. It’s got two fish on the front which, of course, I researched because that’s what I do for fun and I found out the fish symbolizes wealth, prosperity, strength and bravery. I forgot I was wearing it when I went into the jewelry store yesterday. Normally I haul out and wear the only good piece of jewelry I own---my wedding bands---when I go to the jewelry store because I want to look like have something of quality. The people who work there, however, are trained to treat everyone with equal respect and warmth whether you’re dressed in Woman Within clothes like me or high fashion designer duds. Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole world adopted that same attitude? We could have licked so many of our social ills by now if we did. ©

 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

My Mary Oliver Story

 

I knew I was overdue to make a run to the grocery store when I found myself standing in front of the open refrigerator in the middle of the night snacking on cooked, cold cauliflower with the dog. He loves it and I only eat it because it’s good for something besides adding pounds on my hips or spiking my blood pressure. Levi will probably out live me; he loves all the vegetables on the ‘color wheel’ and I’m all about the dressing and croutons that goes on top of salads. My normal mid-night raiding bounty is sugar free parfait snack cups. Twenty-five calories topped with twenty more calories of sugar free whipped cream from a can. You gotta love whoever it was who invented spray cans and sweet, bread and butter pickle chips. I’ve never eaten the two together but I’m not dead yet and that’s still on my Bucket List.

Seven years ago when I couldn’t sleep I wrote new blog posts. My husband had recently passed away and I wrote more philosophical stuff than I do now. Case in point: “I am reminded of a passage I read in a book a long time ago, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden: ‘We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.’ Grief and its aftermath is that kind of a force that makes us find a new direction in our lives, an uncharted course that eventually picks its way back down the hill with the volume of our tears added to its flow.” I’m not sure if my sentence about grief and its aftermath is brilliant, sappy or cliché but it’s as close to Mary Oliver as I’ll ever write.

“And that is just the point... how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. 'Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?'”

Mary Oliver

Do you know how hard it is get a Pulitzer Prize in poetry? Actually, I don’t but considering how few people voluntarily sit down and read a book of poems I’m guessing it’s pretty difficult. Mary also got the prestigious National Book Award as well as other great honors to add to her resume. She started writing poems at fourteen. And so did I. Her writer’s voice came from living a hard life in a dysfunctional family that included sexual abuse that caused her to focus more on poignant observances of the natural world around her instead of on what was happening to her. My early poems came with common teenage hormones---little, love sick crushes and bruises that no other eyes than mine has ever seen. It’s on my Bucket List to destroy those poems soon, another part of my past gone. How many parts will end up on the trash heap before I’m no longer me?  

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

Mary Oliver

While Mary was writing about things that resonates world-wild, my teenaged mind was coming up with trite like this: 

My heart stands naked

Like the wintered dogwood tree

And the wind blows strongly

Through the branches left to see.

The snow lies heavy

On the cold, harden bark

And the limbs bow lowly

As the day turns dark.

Yadda, yadda, yadda and after a few more verses I predicted the boy who dumped me would come back in the spring when dogwood blossoms. Re-reading some of my old poems this morning reaffirms the fact that I need to stick to writing memoir-style prose. And here's your laugh for the day: I don't even remember the guy's name who broke my heart. ©

 "Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”

Arthur Golden