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, September 30, 2020

Back from the Dark Side

After weeks of dragging myself from one pity party to the next I've finally got my groove back. Accomplishing stuff does that to your mood and outlook…at least it works that way with me. And what have I done to lighten my mood? Finishing up the Great Money Disposal Project I wrote about in my last blog was one thing and having the-son-I-wish-I-had come to fulfill his end of our barter trade was another. That barter meant I now have freshly painted door trims outside and a promise to finish the project up next week.

As a bonus to the painting project we got into some long conversations like back in the good old days when we were neighbors and we hung out as couples…his wife is a sweetheart and Tim truly did look at my husband as a father figure. He told me there wasn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t think of Don and all things Don taught him. When Tim left I said, “It's always great to be around someone who remembers Don. It’s fun to talk about him once in a while.” That's hard to do that with people who never met your spouse without them assuming you're still a grieving widow, lost in the past. And insider jokes about a departed spouses just don’t compute with newly acquired friends.

While the-son-I-wish-I-had was here I was lamenting about how conflicted I felt about having to send my favorite antique metal patio chair, footstool and side table off to the auction house. It needs spray painting every four-five years and I won’t be able to do that where I’m moving. So I planned on buying a cheap set that I can throw out when it starts looking bad. Tim is good friends with a guy who owns an auto body shop and he suggested I send my antique stuff to him to get it sandblasted and painted with auto paint which should last as long as I do. And it really won’t cost much more than buying a cheap set. I can’t tell you how happy that idea makes me. I just have to wait until I can see the outside treatment of the building before I decide what color I want my new/old patio furniture to be.

New Topic: My favorite people watching place to eat and write---the Guy Land Cafeteria----opened up this week. It had a kitchen fire just before the pandemic started last March so it couldn’t operator, even for curbside until the place was rebuilt. I heard flames were shooting through the roof, extensively damaging the place and for three months afterward, when our state was in total lock down, they weren’t allowed to do anything more than to secure it against the weather.

I love that place. It makes me understand why so many serious writers are fond of writing in coffee shops. As I sat there yesterday a guy in his mid-thirties caught my eye. He had a mask that was made of red, white and blue fabric that he’d push up high on his forehead, his sunglasses perched even higher up. I’ve never seen a mask worn that way and he got extra credit for creativity. It made him look a bad-ass biker and he was texting back and forth with someone who put a wide grin on his handsome face. He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring so I ruled out that he was texting a little princess or pirate at home with a wife. And like I imagine one of my favorite romance authors would do, I made him the central character in boy-meets-girl scene and he was making the lady parts on a girl across the aisle take notice.

When he stood up to leave---holy cow!---he grabbed a leather jacket off the bench seat on the other side of the table, making it clear he really was a biker. My heart be still, he was even wearing leather chaps over skin-tight jeans and you’d have to be a dead-Dora not to be impressed by his smoking hotness. In my imagination the woman sitting across the aisle was young but in reality she was my age and she, too, was enjoying the eye candy. As he pulled his mask down in place (a state rule for walking around inside a restaurant) the woman smiled up at him saying, “It’s a good day for a ride” and he replied, “Every day is a good day for a ride.”

In a novel you’d be prompted to read a double innuendo into the word ‘ride’ but in real-time the older woman kept right on talking and before the guy left she’d gotten him to show her a picture on his phone of his bike. The old hussy must have been a good flirt back in her day. In my wanna-be writer’s mind he would have then offered her a ride on the back of his Harley Davidson and she’d impulsively take him up on it the offer, pushing to the back of her mind that he could be a serial killer instead of panty-melting bad-boy. And I, as an observer in my fictionalized version thinking the same thing, would have snapped a photo of the couple in case she turned up dead. You can never tell if the writer sitting in public places is writing a romance, a murder mystery, a thriller or is just a bored blogger with a word count to fill. ©


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Tales from the Downsizing Front

Okay, now that I’ve finished selling off a collection of my husband’s that I didn’t want to talk about publicly until every last piece was out of the house I can finally announce that I've add another notch to my downsizing belt. It took me eight weeks of researching and sending off batches of coins and paper money to various places to sell, but I finally made it all disappear. Give me a “Hip, hip hooray!” Some went to e-Bay, some to the local auction house but the majority went to a coin shop. I could have made more money if I’d e-Bayed more and sold less to the coin shop but I’m so burned out on e-Baying, that I had to make a decision: Less money with quick, easy sales vs. e-Baying and shipping for another six-nine months.

The coin shop guy got some great deals and I’m okay with that. For example one $10 banknote I sold to him for $500 he’ll be able to turn for $1,000-$1,500 but he’ll work for it---grading it, babysitting listings and taking the risk that someone will buy it then send him back a photocopy while a refund is issued with the no questions asked return policy most online auctions have these days. He can also get banknotes certified and encased in plastic so the bait-and-switch scam is harder to pull off. He, of course, doesn’t mess around with e-Bay. There are better, specialties auctions to use and I wasn’t willing to spend the rest of my life learning my way around them. I'd researched the two best known international money auction houses, followed some of their auctions for weeks, sent them some photos of what I had and learned the turn-around was over a year from the time you send them stuff and you get paid. A lot can go wrong in a year.

I only kept one banknote, an 1857 $2 bill from a town along Lake Michigan that no longer exists called Singapore. Yup, at one time many towns had a bank that issued their own paper money. I kept this one because some of my husband’s ashes are spread in the dunes where the town once stood. Singapore Michigan was once a port town that Wikipedia says the founder has hoped would, “…rival Chicago and Milwaukee. At its height, the town boasted of three mills, two hotels, several general stores, a renowned bank, and was home to Michigan's first schoolhouse. In total, the town consisted of 23 buildings and two sawmills.” (That third mill was a small flour mill.) Then came the Great Fires of Chicago that caused sparks to travel across the Big Lake and destroy much of Michigan’s coastal areas, and by 1871 Singapore was in ruins. To this day those ruins are buried beneath the sand dunes at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck Township.

My husband’s family once owned a house that was buried under the sand dunes of Singapore and he grew up with stories of family members going there for summer picnics and camping when the third story attic of the house was still visible. He owned every Ghost Town book printed that mentioned Singapore and we spent a lot of time trying to track down the ownership of that house and property…visiting relatives, looking through photo albums and going to county records offices. He wanted to buy that property in the worst way and I will admit that I got bored on all those wild goose chases we went on trying to find out what happened to property after the fire. Records were lost, burned or buried, the land where the house once stood got land-locked in the 1900s but Don’s imagination and love of the Singapore mystique never wavered. I’ll bet he never imagined part of his ashes would one day be part of the dunes, scattered in the winds from the tallest dune just off the water’s edge and hopefully they got carried a few dunes back to where the house got buried. The things we do for love. (And Cindy, if you're reading this, thank you for helping me make that happen for Don. I'm not sure you ever knew the full story of Don's connection to the area.)

In good condition (which mine is not) the Singapore banknote is only worth around $100 if I were to sell on the retail market and $35 if I had sold it wholesale to the coin shop. As I sat there after the guy's offer, I just couldn’t say “okay” and I couldn’t make myself dicker for higher offer. So now the bill will become another project because I’ll probably frame it and making that decision made me regret that I didn’t keep at least one of Don’s ghost towns of Michigan books to display nearby. Oh, well, who would have ever guessed I’d get sentimental over an 1857 banknote.

People keep praising me on how much I’ve downsized and I get that. But what they don’t understand is that what I’ve been downsizing isn’t the normal stuff people downsize with a move. It’s been mostly collectables and I have STILL have to do the normal stuff people have to let go of to move to a smaller home…furniture, dishes, art, clothing and other household stuff, etc. And let me tell you, I’m stressed out over downsizing dishes. I have vintage carnival glass, 1960s Fenton stemware, 1940s diner ware, 1950s lily-of-the-valley patterned grocery store give-aways---the latter two sets were accumulated one piece at a time over years of antique hunting and I still use them daily. It’s killing me that there is no market for this kind of stuff anymore. Can’t sell it, can’t give it away. Young people have no interest in tableware that can’t go in a microwave or dishwasher or isn’t featured on the FoodNet. ©

The 1901 banknote I sold for $500. This is one of the prettiest bill ever made and that's not just my opinion, it's highly sauce after. There are lots of fakes and reproductions out there, so if you run into one, beware.

I can't remember how many decades it took for all the burned out and still standing buildings to get covered over with sand in Singapore---I'm guessing 40 years? The sand took over the town because without the trees that burned as a buffer along the shoreline of Lake Michigan there was nothing to stop Mother Nature.     

    

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Changes in the Boring Lane of Life

I hate minor changes that make major changes in how I’ve been doing things my entire adult life. “Say what?” you’re asking. “Just spit it out? And I will but mind you I feel the need to first state that I understand that in the vast pool of life problems what I’m talking about is a baby goose bump in the grand scheme of things to complain about, especially now when people are dealing with the danger of fires, hurricanes and floods and other truly life-changing events beyond their control. But I can’t write about anyone else’s life but my own. And even if I wanted to write about current events like the death of the notorious RBG and the impending election, what more could I say that hasn't already been said? Huge game changers, both of them.

I’m talking about is a tiny game changer---the city changing my trash pickup day from Mondays to Thursdays. It’s been Monday since I was young enough to still have brown hair and wore high heels and British Invasion style hats during my man dating days back in the ‘60s. (The '50s were my boy dating days, the '70s was my soulmate era of dating.) My Sundays have always started out with a ‘To-Do List’ that never changed: 1) Water the plants, 2) Empty all the waste baskets and gather up the trash, 3) Put the cart out to the street for Mondays’ early morning pick up, 4) Bring in the Sunday Press, and 5) Spread the paper on the floor and read it leisurely while sucking down a couple of cups of coffee. Actually, the 5th thing on list changed a few years ago. I can no longer get down on the floor to read---well, I could but I couldn’t get back up afterward---and more often than not in recent months the paper goes directly in the recycling box unread. Occasionally I use newspaper for packing e-Bay stuff but my e-Bay days will be coming to an end soon and after I move next year I’m going to say goodbye to the lost cause of trying to support the local newspaper.

I’ve always been a creature of habit and routine and it ticks me off that the trash company couldn’t have held out one more year before changing theirs. By then, I’ll be living in a place where I’ll just have to walk my trash down the hall any day or time I want and I could keep my Sunday ‘To Do List’ intact. It’s a good thing I have an atomic clock that tells the day of the week as well as the time and date. I’m going to be so ‘off kilter’ until I get used to having a Thursday trash day. Oh. My. God! I can’t believe how boring my life is that I’ve resorted to writing about my trash! If anyone is still reading this post, I’ll owe myself a quarter on a lost bid. I did have a mini exciting moment at the grocery story last week, though, when I needed to buy trash bags and I realized that it would be the very last box of 33 gallon cart liner bags I’ll ever have to buy.

Actually, I can write about another stupid little problem in my boring life. I pulled the front storm door closed yesterday and the door knob came off in my hand.  As I stared down at it, trying to make sense out what I was seeing, I mini-panicked thinking I couldn’t get out of the house without a doorknob. I looked all over for a hexagon shaped tool that is needed to get the level style knob to hold in place again. And wouldn't you know it I finally remembered that I sent my husband’s set of hexagon gauges and tools to the auction house earlier this year. If I still had them it would be an easy fix. I have not used those sets in the 19 years I've lived here and isn't that always the way---you get rid of something and that's when you discover a need for it. The door itself is a deluxe style still in great condition, being only five years old, and Crazy Glue comes to mind as a cheat-around to hold it in place. I’d hate doing that, but…

Speaking of moving, the continuum care campus had another event this month that they called ‘Mugs and Mugs.’ It was an outdoor happy hour where we could social distance and they served beer and root beer along with a lots of yummy finger foods. While that was going on a professional photographer took us one at a time to get our photos taken in front of the lake. At some point in time I’m guess the photos will appear on an ID badge but before that day comes they wanted permission to use our photos in promotional advertisements in various media ads. I didn’t give mine. I lived this long without my photo being tagged on the web, that's not going to start now.

For reasons I can’t put my finger on I didn’t connected with the other future residents as I’ve done at past events. I felt like I was on the fringe of most conversations, but not taking a meaningful part in any of them. Several said they were exciting and ready to move, others said they were terrified. Me? I have a foot in each camp---both excited and terrified. Change is hard, even minor stuff like moving trash pickup days and seeing all three floors framed in of my future building where I'll be living this time next year makes the next chapter of my life start feeling real. ©

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bees and Cleaning Ladies

The exterminator came to terminate the lives of some very ugly and active ground bees. I thought they were wasps coming and going under the metal siding of my house but the guy said differently and who am I to argue over the point. They were entering under the last row of shingles but then, he said, they were following a crack along the cement and going into the ground. As I stood 25 feet away, he made them very angry as he used a long, skinny tube and a hand sprayer to get a white and smelling powder down in the hole and under the siding. The guy repeated the action at least ten times over the course of a half hour causing bees to shoot out and fly around his body. One of the tallest guys I’ve ever seen in my life, he was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt that wasn’t long enough and it gave him something in common with plumbers who show off their butt cracks and the man didn’t wear any protective gear, not even a pair of gloves when his hands were only inches away from the nest. I, however, had wished I was suited up for space travel. Neither of us got stung, thank goodness, or I wouldn’t be here to write about it. I wasn’t too worried about it, I’d been studying their flight pattern for three weeks so I knew they never came near the area where I was standing, and being allergic to bees I’ve learned over the years to calm myself when one is near me. Apparently he knew that trick too.

I was told to stay away from the area for 24 hours because bees who make their way out past the powder were going to be “madder than a wet hornet.” I don’t know how they gauge wet hornet anger against powdered bee anger but, again, who am I to question a guy who does that kind of work for a living? Twenty-four hours later I went out to pick up dead bee bodies because I didn’t want the frogs in the area to eat them and get sick. They did that once when I killed some bees with Raid---ate them, but I don't know if the frogs got tummy aches. Dead, the flying death machines puffed up huge with their load of white poison. I didn’t feel one bit sorry for them. The exterminator said to be eco-friendly I should have sprayed them with equal parts of water and vinegar and if he knew why my bottle traps didn’t work, he didn’t share that info with me. He got distracted admiring a restored, antique ECO air pump in my garage that caught his eye. I told him it’s promised to the son-the-I-wish-I-had to cover $2,000 toward the cost of him helping me move next year and the exterminator had me take his personal contact information as a back up for a quick sale in case that deal with Tim falls through. I love back up plans.

The guy said I might still see some bees up to two weeks and after that if I see any I’m to call back within 15 days and they’ll come spray again for free. You can bet I put that date on my day planner so I don’t let it slide and miss the deadline. The service cost $189.00 but I didn’t have a choice. If the gods of the pandemic allow tricker-or-treaters this year they’d have to walk right in bees’ flight patterns as the mail carrier did when she picked up my e-Bay packages and I’ve been doing to take Levi for walks. 

The next day I had to get acquainted with my new house cleaner. If you follow my blog, you’ll know I loved my old cleaner for both her OCD cleaning abilities and our conversations. Purity has a hard luck history that includes childhood sexual abuse, rebellious teen years, giving up a baby for adoption---all leaving her with some serious issues that sound like you're picking random letters out of your alphabet soup. But she is street smart, determined to make her own way in the world, wise beyond her years and she had too much potential to be working a dead end job cleaning houses for the rest of her life. So I was both happy and sad to lose her because she’s going back to school to become a vet’s assistance.

Who knows, maybe my magnet that I placed on the refrigerator where she had to keep cleaning around helped give her a push in the right direction. It’s a George Eliot quote that says, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” More than likely her going back to school was triggered by the fact that she’ll be aging out of a state-aid program that helps kids like her with tuition money and that window will close on her 25th birthday. I’m happy for her and when she left she said, “You have my phone number, if you ever want to meet for coffee call me.” I was frankly shocked by that offer but I managed to say, “I’ll do that.” Maybe, just maybe she got as much out of our conversations as I did over the past three years...or maybe the coffee offer came because I had just given her a $50 going-away tip.

So many people come and go through our lives and we never really know how or if we’ve had an impact on each other. I do know when I’m around young people like her I have a tendency to try to be like my father. He had a sly way of teaching values and life-lessons, of planting seeds of wisdom that I didn’t fully appreciate until I was much older and cousins and lake friends would tell me how much he'd influenced them. I don’t fool myself in to believing I have his gift but he did pass it on to my nieces. I see my dad in them every time they're around young kids....their warmth, their patience, their positive reinforcements, the teachable moments they find are right out of my dad’s playbook. ©

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Day After..... and Handy Pandemic Gadgets

The day after seeing the bone doctor last week I woke up at 8:30 which was a full hour to an hour and a half later than I’ve been waking up during the pandemic. I’m not a morning person so it felt good to sleep in. I sprung out of bed as fast as a septuagenarian can spring which, in my case, is more like Red Foxx’s Fred Sanford character moseying around his junk yard while complaining about his aches and pains. I put the coffee pot on, then sat down at the computer like I do every morning. Fast forward two hours later I was still going down rabbit holes on the World Wide Web and I had forgotten to drink my coffee. I never forget my coffee. Never! Two cups usually goes with me when I'm chasing rabbits. I didn’t feel sick but what else could explain my coffee lapse? And don't say it's my age. I was only two days older than the last time the internet sucked me into its black hole of wondrous and fascinating things.

Not coming up with a logical explanation for missing my caffeine fix I got my act in gear and went to grocery store/pharmacy where my primary mission was to get my 65-flu shot. I waited until October last year and they ran out and I couldn’t get one until January and I wasn't about to let that happen again. My temperature at the pharmacy was 98.4 but the day before at the doctor’s office it was 97.6. Both within the normal range but pandemic paranoid me turned the burner up on my worry pot and I didn’t turn it back down again until a few days later when my temperature dropped back down in the 97s again. For several months last winter my temperature was holding steady down in the low 76s and, of course, I went to Doctor Google to find out why it was below the normal range and found out it "...usually happens from being out in cold weather. But it may also be caused by alcohol or drug use, going into shock, or certain disorders such as diabetes or low thyroid. A low body temperature may occur with an infection.”

I have a thyroid gland that operates at two-toed sloth speed, so I quit worrying that my low temperature meant that it was getting ready to spike high with Covid-19. Quit worrying until lately with all the back-to-back temperature checks required. And wouldn't you know it, just when I've gotten hair long enough to have bangs every place I go is asking me to push them off to the side so they can zap me with their temperature taking gun.

At the store I used my cool, new tool (photo at the top) to cut down on the things we touch. It opens doors on cooler cases, pushes buttons on key pads and acts as a stylus to sign screens. You can even use it in public bathrooms to flush the toilets and turn faucets on and off. I felt like I had a super power and I left the store feeling happy and upbeat. I had gotten my flu shot, bought some groceries and brought fewer germs home to breed and multiply.

Then on the way home that darn Prime Country radio channel ambushed me when they played Tim McCraw’s Don’t take the Girl. If you don’t know the song it starts out with an eight year old boy begging his father not to take the neighbor girl fishing with them and it ends with them both twenty-five and her life is in endanger after giving birth to their child. He gets down on his knees and prays:

“Take the very breath you gave me

Take the heart from my chest

I'll gladly take her place if you'll let me

Make this my last request

Take me out of this world

God, please don't take the girl."

Out of now where tears were racing down my cheeks. And I don’t mean just a few. It was like a dam broke and I had no clue where they came from. I’ve never particular connected with the song other than thinking it was cute in a sappy kind of way. But later on when I deep-dove examined my cry-athon I realized I was crying because I really, REALLY miss having love in my life. Duh, a widowhood issue, long buried and thought to be in the past. And it crossed my mind to question if maybe I’m reading too many romance books…or maybe I'm not reading enough romance books. I’m going with the latter theory because I’m not giving them up anything soon. They've become a pacifier to get me though the pandemic, taking the place of the human contact I was getting beforehand just being out and about in the world and down at the senior hall.

I’ve been reading the genre off and on since my 40s and the new crop on the market are holding my interest because they are so different from those I read back in the last century when I was hot and heavy into them to the point that one year in the '90s I even had a press pass to get into romance writer's conventions. The banter is different, most of the heroines are stronger, more independent and the sex/love scenes---well, they often have me thinking about the Twister board game and I’m not kidding. More than once I’ve stopped reading what I can only describe as bedroom gymnastics and tried to figure out how on earth it's possible for a hand or set of lips to be here or there while doing this or that some place else on the human body. And I've wondered if authors actually "fact check" those logistics with their husband’s. Do these guys have--- Okay, I need to stop writing before I embarrass myself.  

The bottom line: After having tried and failed to write a passable romance book or two I have an insatiable fascination with how authors work and I'm a sucker for non-fiction books about writers and writing. Do they have Zen-like offices, write in coffee shops, keep regular hours or do writing marathons when the inspirations strikes them? And why on earth is one of my favorite authors of romantic comedies so hung up on the number seventeen that she's used it a zillion times in at least two books before her editor made her quit? I did just learn from watching the You-Tube launch of her latest book that since the pandemic started she's been writing in the back seat of her car after parking it outside her local coffee shop while her husband is at home helping their kids with online schooling. I love how gender roles have blurred since my youth. But that's a blog topic for another day, isn't it. ©

 

NOTE: The no touch tool came from Amazon but I can't make the link feature work to give it to you. It’s the second one I bought. The first one I found at the grocery store near a mask display but it doesn’t have the retractable hook up or the sink faucet cut out at the top which are both great features. There are lots of other styles at Amazon, just put 'no hands tool for opening doors' in their search line if you want one.