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. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, November 28, 2020

My House is Up for Sale!

Do you have any idea how hard it is to hang two pairs of drapes all by yourself? It took me forever and an hour of working with a flashlight, a pair of twisters, tiny O-rings, toothpicks and the best outdoor glue on the planet. Did I mention the drapes were in the bedroom and parlor of my childhood dollhouse? On the spur of the moment I decided if I have half a chance of selling that house it was the ideal time to get it listed on Facebook’s Market Place---just before Christmas and when parents of a little girl might be looking for ways to entertain her during a pandemic and the long winter ahead. The house was built from plans that appeared in a magazine the year Gone with the Wind was a box office success. The porch looks vaguely like Tara from the movie but that’s where the similarity ended. Evidentially that movie inspired a lot dollhouse companies to put out southern style plantation houses. My mom bought my house used at The Salvation Army Store and I got it for Christmas circa 1947. I found the magazine article with the plans on a serendipitous trip to an antique mall in the '90s while looking for gas station advertisements in a magazine vendor's booth. Can you believe that!

Back in the ‘70s when every female over the age of 30 who was also an aficionado of all things Hobby Lobby were building dollhouses and shadowbox rooms, I did some extensive redecorating in my childhood dollhouse. I wallpapered, put down new flooring and built a ton of furniture from kits, made draperies and linens. My mom crocheted tiny bonnets for a coat rack and throw rugs for the floors and doilies for the living room. I also bought a lighting kit and woodwork to cover up the wiring but it never got installed because, well, that was about the time when I got distracted by more grown up things. (Use your imagination.) I also never got the outside siding hung and I’m glad I didn’t because over the years I’ve gotten sentimental over seeing the original stenciled shrubbery and shutters and I'm glad they didn't get covered over because they were exactly like the stencils in the magazine to help date the house. All but one stained glass window panes are still waiting to be installed. The brick that I did manage to put on the chimney and front porch got so sun faded since the remodel that they’ll have to be done over. Yes, I had to list my dollhouse as fixer upper.

I have lots of little great-grand nieces---three living in the same house---and I'd love to give the dollhouse to them but they are still toddlers and this is not a toddler kind of house. It’s still an option if I can’t sell the house on Facebook’s Market Place but it would be a pain to get it out to the boondocks two counties away where my great-grand nieces live because the dollhouse won’t fit in my car. (I think I just coined a new phrase---great-grand nieces. What do you call the children of your nephew’s son?) Whatever I end up doing with house, it was fun playing with it again as I sorted through all the accessories and supplies that go with it. I fell in love with the tiny light fixtures all over again, and it reminded me of a conversation where I tried to talk my brother into wiring the dollhouse since he was an electrician. If I wasn’t in a serious downsizing mode I could easily be inspired to do another makeover, the 2020 edition. But I am downsizing and I don't have the finger dexterity that I had back before time and my aging body left a lot of hobbies I used to enjoy behind in the dust. I even found a kit to make a wicker chair and table for the porch when I unpacked all the stuff. No way could my old fingers weave that furniture together!

On my real house I’m poking along on my ‘To Do’ list of things to do before I sell it. I just picked up two window screens from the window repair place. $52 spent because the dog loves to use those screens like a doorbell when he’s out on the deck. They were replaced twice before since the little bugger was adopted nearly 13 years ago. The newly replaced screens are not going up on the windows any time soon, just sayin. Back in the day when I had a house full of wooden framed screens I replaced the screens on fourteen windows all by myself and I’ll bet I didn’t pay $52 total. It was easy work with the right tool, not sure I could do my own screen replacements today.

Writing about Levi costing me money reminded me of a dog I had back when my husband was alive and first started plowing snow in the winters---this was before I learned how to plow and had my own truck. Don would often beg me and Jason the Macho Poodle to ride along to help keep him awake. Those two had a real bromance going on and Don didn’t like going anyway without that dog tagging along. For some crazy reason Don started a piggybank for Jason and would pay him a quarter every time he rode along when Don was, himself, earning money with his truck. And the dog would give quarters back to Don, taped in greeting cards on Father’s Day and his birthday. Me? Did he pay me to ride along? No…but Don did buy me breakfast in the mornings when we’d finish getting all the snow off the parking lots. My love for the Guy-Land Cafeteria goes way back to that era of my life in the ‘70s and I’m glad the local chain has a branch down near where I’ll be living this time next year. I'm hoping it will be my happy place to write like the one near-by as been for the past decade plus. ©  










Edit to add: The house sold with only a half day listing. And like real houses in today's market I could have had a bidding war if I had been smarter about it. Interest was very high---12 people wanted it in the first two hours---and I didn't know people made offers on Market Place listings. After I accepted the first offer of $125 someone else offered $150 but a deal is a deal so I turned down the latter offer in lieu of keeping my word. Two girls ages 8 and 12 will be getting it for Christmas and they are at a good age for it. Not so young that they'll break the fragile, tiny stuff. The couple who picked it up were excited, and full of ideas to redo the outside including adding brick pavers and real shutters. I was excited just listening to them. Woman said she was honored to have the house and will take good care of it and will send me photos when they get it done. It was surprisingly easy to let go of because I worried about it going to the right home and I think it did. The parents are going to order all the stuff needed for the renovations so after Christmas they can all work on shingling the roof, brick pavers and siding. I gave them a miniature miter saw to make their job easier. How coo is that!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 - Hell Yes, I'm Staying Home!

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house not a creature is stirring except Levi, my four-legged spouse. I have no place to go tomorrow, no dish-to-pass to make in the kitchen. No problem. I’m a big girl and I am thankful that I have a warm house and food in the refrigerator. Okay, I actual wrote those opening lines last year for my day-before-Thanksgiving post and while on a personal level not much has changed since last year when I wrote them, on a broader level everything in the world has changed. And since Thanksgiving is about giving thanks I am thankful I’m not one of the thousands of people who've had to wait in long lines to get Covid-19 tested and I am thankful I’m not like so many others who, for the first time in their lives, found themselves waiting in long lines at food banks. But I am heartbroken (and angry) that so many others are victims of the world-wide pandemic not only those who are sick or the exhausted essential workers but also those who have lost jobs and businesses and loved ones they’ve had to bury. It didn’t have to be this bad. Politicizing wearing masks, not modeling social distancing. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, I'm also thankful we're getting a new president in 54 days. Okay, Jean, time to put your snarky remarks back in the box. It’s a holiday after all, the opening bell to the season of joy and peace on earth and all that good stuff .

Since starting this blog I’ve written about Thanksgiving thirteen times and while preparing to write this Thanksgiving post I skim-read all those other posts. The first two years after my husband died I spent the day with relatives on his side of the family, feeling like the proverbial fifth wheel. The third year I came home with food poisoning which wasn’t fun but I was thankful my husband wasn't with me. Can you imagine managing a guy in a wheelchair while you're both upping your cookies and purging your bowels? I’ve written about Sarah Joseph Hale who lobbied politicians for 40 years to get Thanksgiving celebrated national on a fixed date. (Talk about being dedicated to a passion project!) I’ve written about overdosing on Hallmark holiday movies, about making turkey soup and surprisingly I’ve written very little about my childhood holiday memories. (Look at me, using two words on the no-no list---‘very’ and ‘little’---that serious writers should never use and I strung them together no less. Oh well, I have a bad habit of over populating my posts with too many no-no words. Try as I might I can't help being smitten with starting sentences off with 'and' and 'so' even though it makes me sound like a Valley Girl. But I digress.)

Several years into widowhood I turned down all the invitations I got and I wrote: “My determination to stay home alone this Thanksgiving was part of an experiment on aging, on widowhood? Does it really matter which? The point was: 1) I didn’t want to be someone’s charity case, an old person/widow only invited because others felt sorry for me being all alone on a holiday; 2) I actually wanted to see what it felt like to be alone on a holiday since I'd never experienced that in the past. And you know what, it turned out fine. I didn’t wallow in loneliness, self-pity or memories of happier times. I didn’t go hungry as an elderly relative predicted I would, forced to eat stale crackers for dinner, and I didn’t treat Thanksgiving like any other day on the calendar. I planned a big meal with a few comfort foods from holidays past. I cooked, cleaned up and froze my leftovers for Christmas dinner. I also realized that I do have a post-Don Thanksgiving tradition: Watching the annual National Dog Show with Levi. We saw it last year and this year both and that dog actually watches the TV, barking and whining at his favorite canines on the screen. He is my core family now that my husband is gone.” That was written 5-6 years ago and Levi and I have continued our Dog Show tradition but that turned out to be the last year I cooked a special meal.

Levi is not feeling well today and I’m concerned. He’s clinging to me like white on rice which is not normal for him. When I put him outside for his first morning pee he laid down on the deck which in itself wouldn’t be alarming but the temperature outside is 38 degrees and he just got a haircut. Tomorrow I will be thankful if I don’t have to spend Thanksgiving Day at the animal ER. ©

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Eating During a Pandemic

I made my last trip to the grocery store until after Christmas. I felt like a mouse, filling up my nest with food to get me through the pandemic and winter here in the frozen north. Why the mouse comparison? The summer when I downsized everything out of my basement I opened up a box and found a stash of probably fifty safflower seeds collected and carried from my bird feeder---a long trek across the yard, down a cement wall and to the box that was sitting in the middle of the basement. I had to admire that mouse’s industrial work and forethought but when push came to shove that stockpile and its owner had to go. That’s when I made the hard choice to stop feeding the birds. I had a vision from my childhood of a time when I was helping my mom clean our summer cottage in the spring and we found a nest with a mother mouse clutching her nursing babies and if that mama mouse had been wearing pants she probably would have peed them; I'll never forget the panicked look on her face. My mom had my brother carry the dresser drawer with the nest out to the woods where he was instructed to carefully re-locate the nest and family within it. Later that same day my mom was running around the cottage with a broom trying to smack another mouse died, probably the daddy mouse for which my mom had run of sympathy. If he had been wearing pants she probably would have told him death-by-broom served him right for not keeping “it” in his pants.

Anyway, back to 2020 and I have so much stuff stuffed in my pantry that I can barely close the doors. I need to make a list by expiration dates and start using things in a planned pattern. Recently I had to throw out two boxes of “fake” almond milk that I don’t like but I buy every fall just in case I can’t get to the store to buy real milk during the winter. There are a few things like milk that if I don’t have it in the house I practically have a panic attack. Cereal is another one. Can you see a pattern here? I eat cereal every morning. Hot cereal. Cold cereal. Soggy cereal if I get interrupted half way through breakfast. I’ve been known to have cereal for dinner since becoming a widow. Some of my favorite snacks are made with cereal and that fact didn’t slip by my best friend since kindergarten because back in the ‘80s she gave me a cookbook of all snack food recipes made with cereal. One of the neatest things about being a Septuagenarian is that everything we do and see can trigger a memory. One of the most annoying thing about being a Septuagenarian is that everything we do and see can trigger a memory.

I don’t do much food pick up or drive-thru since the pandemic started, once or twice a month tops. But the other day I was going past a local chain that will hence fore be known as the Dutch Boy Restaurant and the marquee announced that turkey dinners are back. My car must have sniffed the air and before I knew it she was rolling up to their drive-thru speaker. I got thoroughly hooked on their seasonal, turkey dinners three years ago. For just under $12 you get (real) turkey, (real) mash potatoes with gravy, stuffing, a dinner roll and pumpkin pie. Why no cranberries, I can’t understand and the people who take your money can’t explain either. But it’s enough food for two meals and by coincidence I had some deli cranberries in the house so I pronounced my mood high on the matrix grid as I drove my box of happiest home so Levi my Mighty Schnauzer could get his cut.

Going to the Dutch Boy, though, usually makes me feel like I’m cheating on my husband. And I’ll repeat a paragraph explaining why from a prior blog post: “Why did we avoid the place? Because the owner wore his religion on his sleeve and he reminded Don of the members of a church who hassled the owners of a movie theater where he grew up. Imagine going to see The Lone Ranger and Gene Audrey at the Saturday matinees and being told they were ‘evil’ and the theater was doing ‘the devil’s work.’ Imagine knowing the owners kept the theater open long after it was turning a profit just to give the town’s teenagers something to do on the weekends besides drag racing on rural roads. Imagine all that and you might understand why my husband absolutely refused to support places like the Dutch Boy Restaurant with its judgmental religious tracts all over the place. Over the decades most of the religious tracts have disappeared but Don never let go of his dislike for the place.” I've gone there occasionally since becoming a widow because they have some good quality meals and they are known for their homemade pies and cream puffs. Little known fact: Back in the day I'm pretty sure a guy could have gotten into my pants if he’d been smart enough to show up at my door with a box of cream puffs. ©

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Sleepwear and Pandemic Diets

I ran out of cereal bowls this morning and no, smarty pants, it wasn’t because I’ve been using them for ice cream. I haven’t had ice cream in the house since Ben and Jerry dropped off a pint of Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream last May unless you’re counting Purple Cow Cream Pops. Since you can have one of those ice cream core popsicles for 46 calories, I just call them Dessert Without the Guilt. Stick with me, kid, and I’ll teach you how to think like a fat lady.

I’m getting a head start on that January diet I usually do each year only I’m rebranding it as my Pandemic Diet. I hate to admit this but I gained eight pounds since the world pandemic and the American election formed a symbiotic friendship, like an oxpecker riding on the back of an elephant. Thank goodness pandemics only come around every 100 years and elections have never stressed me out in the past or I’d be as big as the elephant in that little visual I planted in your head. Let’s hope 2020 turns out to be an anomaly in the grand scheme of things. By the way, did you know that oxpecker birds graze exclusively on the bodies of large mammals eating “ticks, small insects, botfly larvae, and other parasites” according to Wikipedia as well as earwax and dandruff. Can you imagine a bird pecking at your ears? That would stress me out enough to eat gallons of comforting ice cream.

Back to cereal bowls…when you’ve eaten so much cereal that all your bowls are in the dishwasher it’s time to switch to coffee cups. It would take me twenty days to run out of them because I rarely use them for caffeinated beverages. I have one favorite cup I use for my morning coffee which I rinse out and put next to my coffee pot after each use. Probably not the smartest habit in the house but I have so many bad habits you’d be hard pressed to notice this one should you come to visit. Just know if you do come over, don’t grab the only yellow cup in the house and pour yourself some Starbucks Sweet Morning coffee. Not that you could do that during the pandemic. It hasn’t been in the store for several months. Neither has the Reddi Wip Barista Series Sweet Foam. The last time I found it I almost bought all four cans in the cooler but then I felt sorry for the next addicted person looking for it and I put one can back. Call me crazy, but don’t call me a pandemic hoarding bitch. Or maybe Levi my Mighty Schnauzer is rubbing off on me. He has a highly annoying habit of leaving one piece of kibble behind in his dish when he eats. Why? Is he dumb enough to think he’s leaving it for seed? Maybe. What ever the reason I’m jealous of his self-control. As old as I am, I still feel the compulsion to clean my plate for fear my mom will make me sit at the table until bedtime if I don’t. Light bulb Moment: Could Levi be my mom reincarnated come to torture me with that stupid, single kibble left behind in his dish daily reminding me not to keep blaming her for my lack of self-control? I mean I've had well over a half century since I ate at my mother's table to reprogram my mindset. Aren't I supposed to be the boss of me by now?

New Topic: Levi has me rethinking what I wear to bed. Don’t twist that into something kinky. What I mean is I’m not a person who likes to pop out of bed and get dressed. I like to wake up slow, drinking coffee and not get dressed until mid-morning. But once I move I won’t have that option because I’ll have to walk him instead of just opening up a door and turning him loose. My favorite one-stop-shopping store has a huge display of sleep jammies in stock---pandemic office wear---and seeing them made me think if I started wearing those to bed I could just put a coat over them do take Levi outside in the morning and late at night. For years I’ve worn L.L. Bean long flannel night gowns in the winter and oversized Hanes cotton men’s t-shirts in the summer that fall to my knees, neither of which would look good with a coat thrown over top. While shopping I saw a twenty-something walking around with sleep jammies on and she obvious wasn't wearing underwear underneath. Why is it that kids like her can get away with wearing sleepwear in public but a seventy-something can't do it without others thinking she's lost one too many of the social norms to be living alone? Sure, twenty-somethings have firm and perky breasts under that flimsy fabric but aside from the unfairness of gravity, I am here to protest against young people's right to dress comfortably 24/7.

I bought a set of jammies to try out. And while I was tempted to get a 'Hello Kitty' set, I didn’t. Too many of the heroines in the romance books I’ve been reading wear 'Hello Kitty' jammies while eating ice cream straight out of the cartons when they're on a classic, Ross and Rachel Break. As a widow I’m on a long break from my soulmate but I don’t need another visual trigger for eating my favorite comfort food. ©

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Week of the Bleeding Checkbook

 I hate to make phone calls. Always have, always will. It takes me days to work up the courage, even then they get moved from one ‘To Do’ list to another until I get the job done. I usually save a bunch of calls to make back to back because my ‘courage days’ don’t come around all that often. I needed to schedule appointments for fall maintains jobs around the house and since the businesses all got called within an hour of one another the appointments all got on my day planner one day after another. Side note: My husband was surgically attached to his phone and hated to write letters. I love writing letters and treat my phone like its Typhoid Mary. It was a match made in heaven.

First came the carpet cleaners and $225 later I had three rooms cleaned, Scotch-Garded and deodorized. My carpets are a light grey, commercial grade that have held up well and that Scotch-gard treatment is well worth the extra charge because it keeps the dog’s vomit sitting right on the top and easy to clean with a little Resolve Pet Cleaner. Levi vomits more than all the other dogs I’ve ever had put together but he hates the foods the vet suggests for dogs with touchy stomachs. Mr. Carpet Cleaner, by the way, told me Nature’s Miracle Cleaner is better than Resolve.

Next came a new house cleaning service. After I lost my old service, I had decided not to replace them and do my own cleaning again, but this company fell in my lap when I mentioned the loss to the son-I-wish-I-had. “My sister has a service,” he told me. Color me embarrassed because I didn’t even remember he has a sister! Turns out she not only has a cleaning service but she covers the entire county. She sends out two person teams and they were in and out in an hour for only $50. But the cherry on the top was the fact that they get down on their hands and knees to scrub floors. My old service wouldn’t do that---I asked. They’d just spray some cleaner on the floor then use a microfiber mop to blend all the dirt together. My new, rock star cleaner changed the water pail five times in my kitchen. This on a floor that had so-called been cleaned a month ago by my old service. It looks so good now! It hadn’t been scrubbed on hands and knees since before my husband died when I could crawl up the side of his wheelchair (with him in it) to get off the floor. Having two fake knees and a bad elbow puts a crimp on any activity that requires me to be on the floor or ground…cleaning, gardening, laying out quilt blocks, reading the Sunday newspaper, filming commercials where I get to say, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"

The following day was Sump Pump day. It costs $165 just to have the plumbing company come out to check it and for another $200 to replace it. It was out of warranty and even though it was working "okay," he said, I wasn’t about to take a chance on another basement flooding. Once was enough. Weighing the $365 up against the $3,000 cost of having another flooded basement pumped out the decision was easy.

The last maintenance service call was to get ready for our Michigan winter, the yearly furnace check that they suck you into getting with a $98 coupon. I’ve used the same company for years so I knew in recent years they'd often find something they can replace so they can tack on a few extra bucks. My furnace is eighteen years old so whatever petty part they say needs replacing I go for it rather than spend the winter worrying it will let me down when we’re having near zero temperatures outside. This year it was suggested that instead of waiting for a break down, I should be proactive and replace the blower motor and inducer motor at a cost of $1,275. Wow, I was not used to hearing numbers that high! I told him I'd take my chances but that next day I reversed that decision and called them back. A housing inspector---next year when I sell the place---will discover those motors are only working at 80% and I'm worried a buyer could demand I put in a new furnace for $6,000+ and what happens if the pandemic causes shortages should one of those motors belly out on me this winter? It also makes sense for me to continue doing what I'd normally do to maintain the house until the day I close on it, take no shortcuts because who knows what might happen down the road in these uncertain times we're living through.

Most of my life I was spoiled when it came to doing home maintenance. Between my dad and my husband they could do any project around a house. With nearly two decades since my husband's stroke and me being in charge of hiring everything done I find myself smiling every time I get to say to myself, “That’s the last time I’ll ever have to do that!” And I’ve been saying it a lot during my week of the bleeding checkbook. By this time next year I’ll just have to call maintenance to do everything from changing a light bulb to hanging a TV to fixing a washing machine. If only they would add dog vomit removal to their menu of services I’d be happy camper.  ©