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, September 18, 2021

The Highs and Lows of one Crazy Week

Let's get the low out of the way because it wasn’t so earth shakingly awful that it could harm body or soul. It was just stressful to the control freaking side of my personality. Raise your hand if you knew I was like that. You also know that I’m moving, right? That’s a joke for anyone who’s been reading my blog more than a year. It seems like I’ve been writing about aspects of the process since the turn of the century. 

This week I had two women who work for my cleaning service scheduled to pack the kitchen and originally the master closet. When they got here they said they only had an hour and a half before they had to be at their next job. “But we can get it all done in that length of time.” They didn’t. The kitchen is barely a third done, and with the time restrain I scratched them doing the closet and I had one of them take the art off the walls instead, then start shrink wrapping all the stuff with drawers while the other lady worked in the kitchen. After seeing how careless she was at packing my glasses, cups and stemware I was grateful the universe saw fit to do me a favor when they got doubled booked and couldn't stay all afternoon.

If the dish barrel box gets to its destination with no breakage I’ll be surprised. the woman had the box half full when I stopped her from putting heavy stoneware cups on top of fragile antique cups with just a foam pad in between and to make it even worse she had the antique cups resting in the pockets on their sides, not their bottoms or tops. She also only had one strip of tape on the bottom of the box and it didn't even wrap up the sides. Those dish barrel are huge and heavy. I don’t know what she was thinking to only put one piece of tape up the center to join the two flaps. I made her tip the box up while I added more tape. She was snarky when I first asked about it. “I’ve packed many houses up and never had a box come apart.” And I got snarky back at her, “I’m a worry-wart and have lots of tape, so humor me.”

This week I had to make my final payment on the continuum care campus apartment where I’m moving. The first one was in June of 2019 when all there was were huge drawings and blueprints on the walls of a newly built sales office next to the building site. The first time I drove down the wooded driveway and saw the lake off to the side, I knew I wanted to live there. The setting reminded me of our family cottage where I spent all my summers growing up.

Even if Covid hadn’t shut down the building process down for one whole winter it still would have been a long time windup. And yet with all that time to plan I still don’t think I downsized enough. Like I told the son-I-wish-I-had this week, “No one needs four boxes of sea shells.” Oh yes, I got a carried away with pushing the western theme decor out of my life and embracing the beach cottage theme that previously only occupied my guest bath and sun porch. But never fear, before coming home from making my last payment I scouted out the closest Goodwill and found it an easy three minutes away. That's Plan C but it's still a plan for all the stuff I don't have room for once I start unpacking. Plan B is to rotate decor with the season. Some people swap throw pillows at holidays, I could swap out whaling lamps for 1940s sand toys.

Oh, and do your remember that landline phone number I've had for 35 years and am trying to port to my upgraded cell phone? I started the port process August 20th and they still can't work it out between Great Calls/Lively and Spectrum. I just got off the phone with Great Calls and they are giving me a $100 credit on my account to make up for the frustration I'm going through but they still don't have a for sure answer for if I'll be able to keep my old number. My new best friend at Great Calls says their entire port team has never seen anything like my case. Spectrum is now claiming they don't own the number they've been charging me monthly to use for the past 20 years. On another day they said the number was deactivated and out of service for a long time. Yet here we are.

If you’re reading this on the date it’s published (Saturday the 18th) the count down to my move is 17 days. Today when I made my final payment I also made the appointment to pick up my keys, parking pass, WiFi passwords and ID badge after which Tim and I are going to move stuff into my underground storage space and generally show him around for moving logistics. I’ll also be dropping off water, toilet paper, box cutters and other necessities we'll need the following day for the actual move. Sleeping there that first night will be kind of creepy. They'll only be four of us moved in by then. After that four people a day will be moving in all through October.

Four days before my move-in date they’re having a dinner in the new restaurant to welcome all the residents and five days after my move they’re having a Grand Opening party/media event. Look for me on the five o'clock news. Who am I kidding? I'll be so worn out by the Grand Opening I'll probably fall asleep before they serve the champagne. ©

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Life is Perfect, Even When it's Not

Today's post reaches back nearly twenty years to a time when I first started blogging and my husband was still alive. It's always been one of my favorite posts from my caregiver days and I'm hoping you'll enjoy the break from my caterwauling about moving which is the only thing going on in my life right now. With only twenty days left to go before the big move I plan to recycled an older post for the next two Wednesday and (hopefully) real-time posts on the next three Saturdays, then get back into my regular writing routine. In the meantime here's Life is Perfect, Even When it's Not.

At the dentist office today, I took my wheelchair bound, right-side paralyzed husband, Don, to the restroom. It’s a good one with grab bars situated so that he---with my help---can stand up to pee. But first we had to get him out of his coat. Its nylon and is so slippery it would be like holding on to slime, should I have to catch him in a fall. That task accomplished, I got Don’s pants down and held his shirt out of the way while both of us stood side by side waiting for the flow to start. It didn’t. So, I’m humming game show tunes in my head---the kind they play while a contestant is trying to come up with an answer while the clock ticks away. For some reason the wait seemed longer than usual which made me think of our friend who has a ‘shy bladder.’ He can’t pee if someone else is in the room.

“Ron better hope,” I said to Don, “that he never needs help peeing.” Don got the humor in that statement which gave us both the giggles. We were giggling and laughing so hard by the time the pee stream hit the bowl it’s a wonder it found its mark and didn’t cover our shoes instead. The restroom is just a few feet from the receptionist’s desk and heaven knows what she was thought we were doing in there. The look on her face when we came out was priceless. She wanted to ask. Oh boy, did she want to ask but her phoo-phoo manners wouldn’t let her.

As I sat in the waiting room while Don got his teeth cleaned, I picked up an old copy of Real Simple magazine. On the first page I turned to was a Ralph Lauren double-page layout for Polo Black, a men’s fragrance that featured a hot model. And I do mean sexy as in take-off-your-clothes-and-let-me-see-the-rest-of-you sexy! I looked at him, and then around the room trying to figure out if the Thought Police was present. I decided that a dentist’s waiting room was not a good place to have a virtual orgasm, so I quick turned the page. Thanks goodness, the next page was a double-page layout for a Chevy. Cool. Keep those cars selling, we need their pension money. I flipped through a few more pages and came to an ad for Starbucks coffee liqueur which was exactly what I needed after lusting after the Ralph Lauren guy. I’ve never smoked but that guy had me reaching into my purse for a pack of cigarettes and I came out with a stick of gum.

By now I was beginning to think that the Real Simple magazine was nothing but advertisements. Duh, aren’t most of them? And sure enough, the next page was a double-page layout for American Express featuring Ellen DeGeneres. She says in the ad that her life is perfect, even when it’s not. Wow, what a nice thing to be able to say about your life! I think I actually know what she means.

Finally, I came across a few articles in the magazine. ‘What’s the Craziest Thing you ever did for Love?’ was the title of one article, and there were some notable answers like: “take skydiving lesson,” “move into a log cabin built in the 1800,” and “eloped 36 days after meeting someone.” Another article was titled, ‘Portrait of a Family.’ There is humor in this, I thought about reading these two articles back-to-back because my family portrait and the craziest thing I ever did for love could be one and the same. Yup, I’m getting out the oils and easel and painting a portrait of Don and myself. We’ll be standing side by side, leaning over a toilet bowl, expectantly looking down and hoping that neither one of us ends up with pee our shoes. Love doesn’t get much crazier than that, does it?
©

Saturday, September 11, 2021

My Super-Doper Weight Loss Discovery


Remember back before my house sold when I was eating my way through my stress and I topped off the 5-6 pounds I gained during the pandemic last winter with a few more? Guess what! They’re all gone now plus a couple of extras and I hit a low I haven’t been at since before the pandemic. How did I accomplish this blissful feat? It wasn’t a planned diet nor did I lose any limbs but since I started the packing process I’ve been so busy that my step counter says I’ve been reaching my daily goal of 6,000 step in the middle of the afternoon---instead of closer to bedtime, if at all---plus for some odd reason I started buying BelVita Breakfast cookies. I don’t know what’s in those suckers but I can eat a serving size package at 7:30-8 o’clock and they keep the hunger away until noon-ish. Not bad for a 230 calorie, flavorful cardboard-like breakfast.

At noon I’ve been drinking an Atkin’s meal replacement shake which is nothing new for me to do when I'm busy and they keep me from thinking about food until 5-6:00 when I’ve been having a Stoufer’s or Atkin’s frozen dinner or take out. It’s been several weeks since I used up all real food in my freezer---chicken, beef, salmon, pork, homemade chili, etc.---and I haven’t wanted to buy more. Same with my pantry, I’ve used up as much stuff as I can. Most of the snack foods are gone from the house and evn if it wasn't by evening when I’d normally be tempted by them, I’ve been too tired to walk out to the kitchen to scout out what's left in the cupboards.

I’m glad I decided not to upgrade my wardrobe before the move. If I can keep this up through the fall and winter I’ll be in a smaller size by spring when I'll have fun wearing out the pages of the L.L. Bean catalog. With a gym roughly a 100 feet from my new apartment door and two on-campus restaurants that will be serving far better and healthier food than I’ll been eating since before the pandemic, there is no reason why I can’t keep this ball rolling to a new me.

And guess what else is new! I got my long, pandemic driven hair cut off. Gone are the sexy locks and in its place is an easy-breezy style. It still isn't as short as I’ve worn it most of my life but I told my stylist I wanted to get rid of four inches and leave two-three to possibly get cut off at my next and last haircut with her. I'm going to miss that girl! She’s helped me grow my hair out to the longest it's been since I was a child. It's been a fun distraction when I had the time to mess with it. Growing it out and getting haircuts every four weeks doesn’t compute for some people but my hair grows fast and needs to be trimmed and thinned like clock work or it goes Afro. Not that there’s anything wrong with having an Afro but that style on white-bread me gives me nightmares of what my high school senior photos looked like when all the cool girls in my class had straight-as-a-pin pageboys.

The son-I-wish-I-had came over this week and we make a game plan for the week of the move which settled my nerves down considerably. His sons are helping Tim load and unload the truck---he's licensed to drive large vehicles and has been doing so for decades. They are all work horses and great people to be around if you don’t talk politics. Tim owns a business that includes moving stuff out of houses and cleaning them up after people move out. He gets a lot of business from banks that have done foreclosures and realtors who sell estate houses. In both cases families tend to walk away from a lot of the contents. Tim will do a good job for me---he moved me into this house---and I’ll be saving several thousand dollars. Not that I’m using him to save money. I was to be his Guinea Pig to see if he wanted to expand his business to offer a service of helping seniors downsize and move. 

We both did some research into the idea, including having him sit in on a couple of free estimates I got from companies who do that sort of thing. In the end, he decided the senior moving service business is not for him. The two businesses we sucked information up from both have retail shops to sell the downsizing stuff they get paid too well to pack up and haul away. They charge $75 an hour per person. Tim's going rate is a two hour minimum for $75 then $35 per hour after that for his wages and $25 for his extra workers. One of the downsizing specialists had actual dollar signs lighting up her greedy eyes when she walked through my house like I was too stupid to know I had some valuable stuff she could charge me to haul away, then sell to line her purse.

I've got to get back to work. I have a small chair cushion to cover and an oil lamp to clean---both sentimental pieces from the cottage where I spent all my summers growing up. I need to get that lamp oil up to hazardous waste and return the shoot stapler that I borrowed for the cushion project. It's a wicker chair I used as a toddler and I was planning to used that chair as a toy box for Levi...but we all know how that's turning out. I don't know how to say this without sounding "???" but thoughts of leaving my life with Levi behind in this house is hitting me harder than leaving the memory triggers of husband behind. I saw someone walking a schnauzer yesterday and out of no where I burst into tears. I guess six months of mourning the fact that I'll probably never had another fur baby is not long enough...  ©

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Disjointed Bits and Pieces from Moving Central

 

Remember the U-Haul situation in my last post where I channeled my dad’s peace making skills? I had to go back in to get some more boxes and I explained the overcharge to the counter woman, the same one who made the mistake but she didn’t remember me. She did, however, take my word for it and gave me a $10.95 credit toward my purchase. But can you believe it, she made another mistake with my new box order. I checked the boxes as she loaded them in my car against my list and her invoice and she gave me eight medium boxes when I only ordered two---and there was no chance I misspoke because she had my list in front of her when she punched the order into her computer. When I pointed out the mistake, she started unloading the extra boxes but I said, “That’s okay. I’ll probably need them down the road anyway and since I already paid for them and they fit in the car I'll keep them." It was one of those reminder moments that if you do something right the first time, you don't have to work as hard or as long.

The bank manager called. With all the money sitting in my account from the sale of my house it got tagged to look closer at it and they found my account didn’t list any beneficiaries. I wasn’t about to let this detail fall through the cracks so I compiled a list of my heirs, had to unpack a box to find their contact information and birthdays to do it. Without those names on my account, when I die the money would have to go through probate, a long, drawn out headache for both the bank and my heirs. One hitch, though, they would only let me list three heirs. On my will I listed my nieces and nephew to each get 30% of my estate and the son-I-wish-had to get the remaining 10%. But since the faux son turned into a Trump supporter and anti-vaxxer, it felt kind of good to cut him out with no planned malice on my part. The alternative option was to list as the beneficiary "the estate of  Jean ____" and let it get dispersed according to my will thus back to probate. Listing heirs by name lets them just present a death certificate to the bank and one third gets transferred to them each. Easy-peasy.

I’m still having trouble getting my landline phone number ported to my new cell phone. We’re on the fifth attempt and this is after several conference calls between me and both phone companies with all of us verifying that all the information is correct. But Spectrum’s automated rejections keeps saying the address is wrong. I was literally on the phone from 12:30 to 3:00 with a guy from Great Calls/Lively as we got passed around Spectrum. I peed twice during that time, careful not to flush. I'm pretty sure he peed once. While I was on the marathon phone call we did get some additional technical information that might help solve the problem---stuff I didn’t understand but Steve, my new best friend, thought his supervisor might. 

I’m going to pursue the port to bitter end but I’m also gearing my brain up to the fact that I may end up with a new phone number that no one knows, moving into a place no one knows. Half my friends and relatives don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. It’s a catch-22 situation. Steve said this is the most difficult port he’s ever worked on and he's been doing them for ten years. Near the end of the call he asked his supervisor to escalate the case because, “This is ridiculous that its gone on as long as it has.”---nearly three weeks. Now I have to wait until next Wednesday (9/8 in blog time) to see if the escalation to a higher level of geeks works. 

I also got a phone call from the place where I custom ordered my Amish oak desk. It came in a month earlier than promised. In order for them to hold it in their show room for another month I had to finish paying for it. A trip down to their place would eat up a half day so I paid The $1,200 sight unseen with a credit card. If you can’t trust an Amish carpenter to do a good job, the world is coming to an end. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

I tried to kill a spider in my closet but he got away and now I don’t want to go in there. I can deal with spiders on the wall, floor or ceiling but this one was on a shirt sleeve. I’m glad I hired someone to help pack up my closet and kitchen. I packed up the rest of the house in a total of 120 boxes---16 are full of books---and I could probably do the kitchen and closet without help, but I didn't know that when I booked the appointment several weeks ago.

I’ve been reading a true story set in Amazon called The Puma Years. At the animal sanctuary where the author worked they had spiders the size of dinner plates living in the shower stalls and dorm. I keep thinking that spider I didn’t get to kill is going to grow super-sized and, I’m sorry, but I could not co-exist with dinner plate sized spiders living in the corners. I’d find me a hand gun so I could stand a good distance away and use them for target practice. 

That book is full of scary insects. The sanctuary takes care of wild animals that are rescued from the illegal pet trade---most so abused, neglected and/or unable to forage for their meals in the wild that they have to live out their lives there. The big cats get between a quarter and a half an acre enclosures/cages in the middle of the jungle and many are walked daily like dogs. The descriptions of the rain forest’s vegetation, insects, sounds,wildlife and climate kept me reading even though the insect yuck factor was high. Near the end it became clear why it went into such detailed descriptions because the underlying message in the book was to draw attention to how the logging industry, animal poachers and big corporate farms are destroying the ecosystem of not only the Amazon but the whole world.  

The author, Laura Coleman, is an artist and writer who has devoted her immense talent to bring awareness to illegal wildlife trafficking and environmental justice issues. Environmentalists are cut from a different cloth than the rest of us and that's really sad. We could all do more, care more and think more globally than we do. Every thing we could or are doing helps from making sure the coffee, chocolate and beauty products we buy are ethically sourced to committing to recycling more militantly to not replacing perfectly good stuff just to get the latest and greatest features. 

On that note, I'm going to Starbucks for an ethically sourced Double Chocolaty Chip Creme Frappuccino and if anyone has anything negative to say about their prices or coffee please keep it to yourself.  It's not their coffee that makes their customer base so loyal, it's about the feeling of being part of the solution instead of adding to the problem. It's about rewarding companies with high ethical standards.  And I was thrilled to learn the two restaurants on the campus where I'll be living in less than a month will be serving Starbucks coffee. ©

Saturday, September 4, 2021

How U-Haul Cheated me out of my Lunch Money

 

Monday morning I was up before the sun made her royal entrance. That doesn’t happen often and I got to see her fingers of light as she poked them through the pine trees and touched a rabbit sleeping underneath. A series of rabbits has been giving birth in the same spot for over a decade, ever since I started having the landscaper use imported Western Pine needles there instead of regular mulch. They have good taste. That stuff costs double what common mulch costs and apparently it’s easy to burl down into to make a place safe from predators. Except for when Levi was alive. He’d barked his, “I see-eee you!” and they’d pretend to be made out of cement. They aren’t stupid, they knew he couldn’t escape his fence. If Levi had been a human boy he would have been riding the short bus because he never gave up on getting those rabbits to run.

I was up early to run errands and go to U-Haul to get some more packing boxes and what a crap-ass experience that turned out to be but not as crappy as a man who was working there was having. He installs trailer hitches and was dealing with a irate customer who was standing nearby yelling that she was on Yelp writing a bad review. He looks at me and starts in telling me that she showed up for her 9:00 appointment at 9:30 with a different year and model car than the one she told him she was bringing in and of course the hitch they ordered didn’t fit. She's calling him stupid and incompetent for not being able to make the one ordered work and he’s telling me, “It’s up the customer to know what kind of car they have. “You open the driver's door and read the tag! How hard is that?” he asked me but was clearing saying it for her benefit. They are both bickering and waiting for a return phone call to get an okay from the head U-Haul office to overnight him another hitch that will fit the car she brought in. In the meantime all the people who usually work the counter are missing in action and he’s having a second meltdown because he was all alone to man a counter that isn’t his responsibility.

Another customer walks in and takes one look at the situation, turns around and leaves which is what I should have done. But I really wanted those boxes. They were both getting themselves more and more worked up when I finally spoke, “This really is not worth either one of you having a stroke or heart attack over. Can you both just take a deep breath and try to calm down a little?” I’m lucky I don’t live in an open carry state because at that request I’m betting I would have had two hand guns pointed at me instead of each other. Oh, goody, I thought as they both gave me a long, blank stare, at least they’re agreeing on one thing. Without a word, she walks outside and lights a cigarette while he starts silently gathering up the boxes on my list.

Finally, a counter worker shows up, writes up my order and loads the boxes in my car…all in a pissy hurry while she and her co-worker are squabbling over responsibilities, the angry customer is still smoking on the other side of a plate glass window. I'm worried the metal edges on the wardrobe boxes are going to damage my backseat, so I'm getting annoyed that the clerk is taking her stress out on my car. It wasn’t until I was going over the receipt at the Guy Land Cafeteria that I noticed she charged me for three wardrobe boxes when I only got two. Those suckers cost $10.95. I thought about going back for my money. But the boxes totally blocked my back window view and to go back would have required a few lane changes where going home required none. The way my luck with U-Haul was going, I’d probably get in an accident on the way back causing bodies and cars to get wrecked and I didn’t have time for that. Decision time.

I finally decided that $10.95 doesn’t stand between me and starvation but if it ever comes down to that, I’ll be the homeless old woman who is cursing U-Haul as kind strangers drop coins in the cup at my feet. I never forget a debt and T.C. if you’re out there and find my blog, you still owe me $20 from the morning you borrowed it from me after what the kids these days are calling a “hook up.” I could re-frame that whole experience and say I once paid a gigolo $20 for sex. Does that sound any better? No? I didn't think so.

By the time I got to the Guy Land Cafeteria, in case you're wondering, all the old men morning coffee clutches were long gone and the working class men were filling up the place for lunch. But the gods of good-things-after-a-bad-morning gifted me with a whole table full of college guys on their way to school. And they sat at a table four foot across the aisle, perfect for eavesdropping. They talked about the classes they were taking and wondering who'd be living in their dorm and what the food on campus was like. You know, the same sorts of things I'm thinking about as my move gets closer. ©

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Story Telling at its Best - West With the Giraffes


I shouldn’t be reading this month with all the stuff that I’ve got going on in my life but a book going off Kindle’s Free Unlimited sale caught my eye. I promptly downloaded West With the Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge thinking if 77% of 29,289 readers gave it a five star review it should be worth my time. I was look for a slow read, something that was easy to put down and ignore for days at a time. Boy, did I miss that mark. I read it in two days, then bought a copy and started listening to the audio venison.

West With the Giraffes is a work of fiction that was inspired by a true event that happened in1938 during The Depression. An event that was followed by over 500 newspapers across the country as they tracked two young giraffes that survived a hurricane at sea and spent twelve days getting from New York to the San Diego Zoo. They rode in the back of a tricked-out farm truck escorted by a crusty old zoo worker and a homeless teen victim of the Dust Bowl. Following in a car was a young woman who aspired to be a photographer for Life Magazine. Amazon’s blurb says this about the book: “Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.”

The author writes the book from the point of view of the teen boy only he's very elderly and is looking back at the many perils they found along the way. I couldn’t put this book down. Aside from the adventure aspect and the descriptions of the people they met along the way, I loved the philosophy sprinkled through out like: "...destiny is a mobile thing—that every choice you make, along with every choice made around you, can cause it to spin this way and that, offering destinies galore."

Here’s a couple more of my favorites passages:

“Time heals all wounds, they say. I’m here to tell you that time can wound you all on its own. In a long life, there is a singular moment when you know you’ve made more memories than any new ones you'll ever make. That’s when the moment your truest stories---the ones that made you the you that you became---are ever more in the front of your mind, as you begin to reach back for the you that you deemed best.”

And: “I had quit going to the zoo, spirit willing but body worn out. What I hadn’t noticed is my mind was wearing out, too. Time plays its cruelest trick without you knowing it. Even the memories a body holds most dear becomes like scratchy old phonograph records played too long, fading in and out with little sound and even less fury. Until you’re only another old man sitting in a wheelchair…”

I did a little research on the author and found out she’s an animal lover who has spent time with giraffes but I didn’t need to know that to know that she sure can write wonderful descriptions of them---their movements and personalities right down to what it feels like when they sneeze snot all over you or lick your head, smell your crotch. I love it when an author’s cadence---rhythmic flow of language pleases my ears while the words themselves spark my imagination. Lynda Rutledge did that for me in this book. Or maybe I was just ready to break out of genre reading with something that made me think instead of just mindlessly popping words off pages like eating popcorn at the movies.  

This post is a tad shorter than I usually write and with the long quotes I included it didn't take me long. I'm assuming all my posts in September and half of October might be short but I'm hoping not to miss any of my bi-weekly commitments to myself. I might even reach into the archives to re-post some of my favorites, although I don't like to do that if I can avoid it. Just warning you all ahead of time. ©