Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow, senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Jean

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Goodbye 2020!

In my entire life I’ve never looked more forward to a New Year’s Eve than I have this year including the years when I had fancy, dress up events to attend. I’ll bet most of us can say that in this year of the World-Wide Pandemic, Mother Nature Gone Wild and our Bat-shit Crazy Politics. 2020 needs to be thrown on the heap of history with the hope of better things to come. 

This time last year I started the year out with an actual Good Things Jar, fully intending to add a note each day of something good that happened that day. That lasted until March when my state got our first covid-19 lock down. By mid-summer I emptied out the jar to repurpose it. I hate admitting that, but facts are facts. Usually I keep my commitments to myself. (Well to others, too, but the point is that the Good Things Jar was another good thing in a long list of good things that went badly in 2020.) Since I was a teenager I’ve faithfully written New Year’s Resolutions. After widowhood my resolutions morphed into the then new fad of having a one word Mantra to live by over the next year. I loved the mantra idea and should have stuck to it. Better yet when the Good Things Jar bombed I should have revived one of my past Mantras. My mantra of ‘courage’ that I used the first year after my husband died would have worked for 2020 because it took courage for me to roll out of bed each morning and stay focused on my move to the continuum care campus while the building project got shutdown due to the virus. Or my past mantra that was inspired by Wood Allen of ‘Just show up’ could been bent to fit the trials and crud that came with 2020.

One way I will celebrate tomorrow night is to watch a movie that has become a tradition on the last day of December since it was first released in 2011. It’s a comedy romance titled New Year’s Eve and it centers around the ball dropping at Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It gets stuck and the woman in charge of the drop steps forward and makes a touching speech that in the shadow of 2020 sounds almost quaint. “…As you all can see, the ball has stopped half way to its perch. it's suspended there to remind us before we pop the champagne and celebrate the new year, to stop and reflect on the year that has gone by, to remember both our triumphs and our missteps, our promises made and broken, the times we opened ourselves up to great adventures... or closed ourselves down for fear of getting hurt, because that's what new year's all about, getting another chance, a chance to forgive. To do better, to do more, to give more, to love more, and to stop worrying about what if... and start embracing what will be. So when that ball drops at midnight, and it will drop, let's remember to be nice to each other, kind to each other, and not just tonight but all year long.” 

I still love that speech but I’ll be the first to admit the ‘what ifs’ of 2020 haunted me, I embraced them in a hug so tight that it felt like I was super-glued to all that went wrong in the political world, with the world-wide pandemic and with acts of God and how all three of those things converged in what felt like I was a small sailboat being dragged down into the Bermuda Triangle. So on New Year's Eve I’m metaphorically going to ER to get that super-glued hug unstuck like the time I super-glued my eye shut and had to go in for emergency eye care. Oh my God, did that hurt! And to this day I still wear safety glasses whenever I use glue. Super gluing your eye shut doesn’t do any permanent damage. If only we could say the same thing about all that went wrong in 2020. But we can’t. Lives and homes were lost to fires, floods and hurricanes. Millions of people have died because of the world-wide pandemic. Jobs and businesses were also lost to the virus. And we can only hope that our very democracy has not been damaged beyond repair from having the most corrupt and self-serving president in our history these past four years. My hope is probably echoed across the world, that we’re leaving all that behind in 2020 and we get a cleaner slate starting out 2021. Note I didn’t say ‘clean slate’ because we still have still have to mop up a few major messes from last year.

Back to what I plan to use for a mantra or New Year’s Resolution for 2021. I’m going with ‘Hope, Health and Moving Forward.’ And that means I’m nurturing the hope that all our lives will improve as we get the virus under control. The ‘health’ in the mantra means I need to step up and be proactive to get my small health issues under control before they mushroom into something bigger---my arm, foot, weight and, of course, avoiding the virus. And the ‘moving forward’ part of my 2021 mantra means every day I need to keep doing what needs doing to facilitate my move to the continuum care campus in August. ©


Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Picture Purging Project

 My niece drove up from the boondocks to spend the day with me. We hadn’t seen each other since several months before the pandemic started. Her mission was to get me started on downsizing all the photos that I’ve accumulated over my lifetime and part of my parent’s lives. My goal was to end up with forty-one images to go into a 27” by 40” photo collage frame and another 100 to be digitized to become a slideshow in a digital photo frame.

My idea was that the photo collage will be an easy move if/when I ever have to get relocated out of my independent living unit on the continuum care campus to their memory care building. Those kinds of place always ask family to bring photos in. When my husband went into stroke rehab I scrambling to put together a board of photos that the therapists wanted in his room so they could try to pull language out of him. I don’t want to put that kind of stress on my nieces someday, not to mention they wouldn’t necessarily pick the same photos I would to invoke memories. Some of Don’s nieces and nephews, for example, brought in photos of their grandkids who Don hadn't seen often enough to be able to name before his stroke. Can we all spell ‘confusing’ for a guy who’d just had a massive brain bleed and 'awkward' for me having to remove them off the wall?

Anyway, photo purging with my niece was both easier and harder than purging my closet was last week. Easier because anything I was willing to let go of my niece wanted. Absolutely nothing got trashed that day. But it was harder because we kept getting side-tracked down Memory Lane and I kept forgetting what the goal was. We didn’t get anywhere near my finish line---I had a full week penciled in to complete the job---but we had fun and she went home with two 22” x 16” x 6” boxes full of photos and albums from my side of the family. She sent me a text when she got home saying she hoped I wasn’t too stressed with the purge and I wrote back, “Not at all. Downsizing to Goodwill is stressful. Downsizing to family is not because I know if I made a mistake I can turn into an Indian giver and get stuff back."

She also went home with the 25th anniversary dress of my mom’s, a “memory jacket” of my dad’s golfing days and a like-new L.L. Bean goose down parka that she’ll give to her daughter. She also took my dad’s oak tool box, some old 1940’s linens and a couple of things to pass on to my other niece who is surprising both me and her sister by developing an interest in collectibles at the ripe old age of 50 something. She’s the niece I used to hire when I wanted someone to help me deep clean and I wanted to be talked into parting with stuff. She was ruthless with her, “Aunt Jean, you don’t need that!” She’s still a cleaning machine and does it professionally, doing two and three houses a day.

The second day of my photo purging project I was on my own and I disassembled most of my photo albums and filled a 13 gallon, tall kitchen trash bag up with photos to throw out. I also labeled four  4” x 7” x 11” photo boxes to rough sorting photos I might want to keep. Yes, I know, my idea of only ending up with 140 pictures quickly got scrapped as an impossible mission unless I got a lobotomy to cut out my sentimental side.

The third day of my project I filled up another 13 gallon trash bag. All but 5-6 pictures of our travel and trips got purged as well as all the photos from my husband’s side of the family, (except for a few ancestors that will get mailed to his brother). The travel photos I kept were from our time spent in Central City and Silverton, Colorado taken on the day I call the happiest day of my life. One of those photos will go in my jar of fool’s gold and rubies that we panned on that trip. It wasn’t a honeymoon but it sure felt like one. If we could have figured out how to make a living in Silverton we would have moved there. For months afterward we got home we tried to figure out a way to buy the Teller House Hotel that was for sale at the time. It was built in 1896 and only the bar on the first floor was still open, but we got to wander around upstairs and got an invitation to stay overnight at the bartender’s house. All I could think about was getting murdered in our sleep by a stranger who looked like Jack Nickelson so we slept in sleeping bags on bed the of our pickup truck instead---like that was somehow safer. A decade or so later casino money came in and turned the entire area into a huge tourist destination and the hotel got restored to its former glory.

Teller House

On the fourth day of my photo purging project I took all the photos I had in frames and in three photo collage boards out of their frames and started the process of figuring out what to put in my new photo collage board. It’s going to take time to complete that project because I’ll have to send many of the photos out to get resized. But it was unrealistic to think I could complete this project in a week. Duh! I’ve also rescheduled the photo frame slideshow part of the project to after I move. After researching the cost of sending them out to be digitized and putting them on a memory stick I decided it wasn't something I'm willing to pay when I can teach myself how to do it when I don’t have pressure of a moving breathing down my neck.

On the fifth & sixth days of my photo purging project I sorted through a 15” x 20” x 18” box of 35mm slides that I had taken back in the '60s. It was a box that I hauled out of my clothes closet during that purging and it had been in there so long I forgot what was in it. A month before my husband died we sorted through a similar size box of slides that he had taken, with the intentions of getting the best 100 put in a digital slideshow photo frame. We were both avid amateur photographers back in the day, me concentrating on candid shots of people, he loved landscapes and nature shots. The best of the best of his photos were tucked in the top of my box of slides and I made quick work of cutting that 100 slides down to 25. My slides---close to 1,000 I'm guessing---were a harder sort, but I did it! And I fully plan to carry that digital frame goal over the finish line and it will have to accommodate 200 images now, instead of half that. In addition to the 100 slides I kept for myself I set another 200 aside to give to my nieces since they were my favorite subject to follow around with my camera.

On the seventh day I rested to write this blog and wished a good fairy would come by to clean up the mess this week's project created. My work tables in the garage are filled with stuff to pack for Goodwill and photos that need resizing are waiting on my dining room table to get labeled to take into the photo center. Photos have a way of evoking memories that otherwise get lost in the shuffle of life and, boy, this week of photo purging sure gave me have some vivid dreams each night, making my Christmas week pass no anxiety. I had a full life, not a conventional life but it hit enough benchmarks to make me happy and with few regrets. ©

This is photo collage frame that will hang in my future laundry room.

This is what is left of my photos and slides and they all fit in my media cabinet. Before the purge I had albums that took up three feet on a bookcase, those white boxes were all full---two are empty now---I also had the four photo collage boards (up above) that hung in my garage, the box of slides and a basket full of photos that were in frames. The only photo collage I couldn't bring myself to disassemble is one of all the dogs I've had in my life. I'm thinking I can find a place to hang that one after I move. Don't judge. I never had kids. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

I Need a Nondisclosure Agreement with Myself

 I also need a volleyball named Wilson to talk to like Tom Hawks had in the Cast Away movie.  Thankfully, I have a dog even though he’s a boring conversationalist. “Give me a treat!” he barks then repeats: “I said give me a treat. Right. Now!” “Open the door!” “I said open the door. Right. Now!” Ya, Levi’s a demanding housemate who only think of himself. If I need a hug he’s not on board. If I need him to quit barking at the neighbor’s dog, he’ll give me that look. The one that says, “You’re not the boss of me.” But he IS a living organism that's keeping me sane during the pandemic so I put up with him mouthiness. A volleyball would be easier to live with though.

I’ve never thought of myself as a person who needed others around me to be happy. Having no children and working out of my home for the majority of my working years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time alone. But this pandemic is starting to make me feel disconnected from society and not in a good way. Sure, I’m connected through Facebook, e-mails, text messages and through listening to television playing in the background of my life, but the people on the other end of those various forms of communication are starting to not feel real. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like the world is becoming all digitized and robotic and all my social contacts are like Alexa or Siri---voices with no hug-able bodies attached, no eye contact to make them real.

Speaking of Alexa, aside from missing her old voice---they soften the voice to sound more real---I also miss her spelling words for me every morning. My Kindle quit charging and no amount of trouble shooting would bring it back to life. During the pandemic reading trashy books has become my lifeline and this past week I’ve been in reading withdrawn hell. That is until I discovered that my old Kindle 3 still works, after four years of inactivity. Thankfully, I didn’t get around to taking it to electronics recycling and now I won’t. Ever. But without a light-up screen it’s not as good for reading in bed like my Kindle Fire 8 was. I was planning to get a Fire 10 next summer anyway because it has a few features I wanted like Zoom and a better/louder speaker so I can listen to books and I figure the bigger screen will be better for watching movies, when I'm ready to do Netflix's. But I’ve been sitting on my fingers to keep me from ordering the new Fire because I’d just purchased a new computer chair (after my old one broke) and I wanted to pay the credit card off so I could use the points toward the Kindle. Finally the points did show up on my Amazon Card and the wait was worth $54.00. The Fire was also on sale for Christmas so for $100 and taxes a new Kindle is coming my way soon.

I’m not sure who I’ll Zoom but it would have come in handy for an e-Visit with the doctor’s office this week and that will probably be the main way I’ll use Zoom going forward. I’ve got one of those annoying UTI. I kept putting it off calling the doctor because I thought they’d make me come in to the office to leave a urine sample and with the Covid-19 raging in my state a medical office was the last place I wanted to go. I get an UTI every 4-5 years so I was pleasantly surprised that the doctor’s nursing assistant just called in a prescription. 

Aside from the usual annoying problems that an UTI causes I wanted the darn thing under control because I needed to make an appointment with the foot doctor. Across the top of my right arch is painful and by night-time the lower half of my foot swells and I could visualize it causing a blood clot if I let it go on too long. I called the office thinking it takes at least 2-4 weeks to get an appointment but they got me in two days later (today)….on the third day of my UTI medication and thankfully I got through the appointment without having to rush out of the exam room like a cheetah with its tail on fire in search of a bathroom.

I seem to be good at assuming the worst when I’m walking into a doctor’s office. I was sure I had broken a bone and would need to have surgery and/or a cast but the pain was getting too bad to ignore. Turns out the pain IS caused by a broken bone but ones I broke back in the ‘70s. The fracture lines are so full of arthritis that it’s pinching a nerve that is causing the pain, swelling, tingling and needles-and-pins feelings followed by numbness. The She Doctor doubled the dosage of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that I take for my arm pain, wants me to use ice for 15 minutes every night on the foot and she’s sending me to a specialty shoe store to get a pair of shoes that I’m to wear in the house. No more Crocs for me! Ever! And trust me, I hated the woman for that proclamation. In six weeks I’m to go back and if doing all this stuff hasn’t helped she’ll inject some gel along the fracture lines to get some space around the pinched nerve which is the same thing my bone doctor will be doing in my shoulder at my next appointment.

Sometimes we/I spill too much personal information in my posts especially since the pandemic has kept me at home with nothing but the four walls to write about. I mean do faceless Alexa and Siri-like people out in cyberspace really need to know about my UTI or the other innate thoughts rolling around inside my head? That’s a rhetorical question. You don’t need to answer. But I do think I need to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement with myself to set some limits on my what my loosey-goosey standards allows me to type into my blog. Maybe I need to put that down for my first New Year's Resolution. ©

 Photo Note: The cast up above is the actual cast I had on my foot when I broke my foot. I had that thing on for 12 long weeks. I broke several bones in my foot when I missed a step while running down a staircase.