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, January 30, 2021

Reading and Wall Washing

 I admit that I’ve spent the pandemic reading a lot of trashy books. With Kindle’s free Unlimited you can get a vast range of---shall we say---writing skills. Some books are just too stupid for words yet they have no trouble stringing a bunch of them together and calling them a book. I never write reviews of those too-stupid-for-words books because I’m quite sure if I’d been born a few decades later than I was some of those hardcopy manuscripts I had stored in the basement and I finally downsized out of my life last summer would have made their way to a self-published book on Amazon Unlimited where no one apparently proof-reads them or edits the content for quality. It takes enormous dedication and guts to get a book written and I'm not about to step on someone else's dream and, yes, I'm one of those people who thinks every little kid deserves a participation ribbon. Time to sort out the winners from the losers when kids are old enough to figure out what they enjoy doing. I sound like my mother. "I don't care what after school class you take, but you WILL keep taking classes until you find something you like doing." She didn't actually say those words but when I was an adult it's what she told me when I asked why she turned me into class-aholic and herself into a chauffeur.

I’ve read that real publishing companies routinely comb the stats at Amazon looking for those writers who know how to promote the heck out of their work and have parlayed themselves into great sales with a track record of favorable reader reviews. Those who can do that eventually land themselves honest-to-goodness book deals. The author of Fifty Shades of Grey comes to mind---barfing my breakfast up on that one---and Andy Weir who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Martian, are two examples. The latter of which I read free on Amazon before he made it big and his book was turned into a movie.

Another example of someone who was discovered through Amazon Unlimited was Mike Omer and his mystery, A Killer’s Mind that outsold J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, and Stephen King one summer. Some others who started out as self-published and made it big include: Christopher Paolini (Inheritance Cycle), Lisa Genova (Still Alice) and Amanda Hocking (My Blood Approves). So even though reading Amazon Unlimited books can be a hit and miss thing you can still find some thought provoking stuff. Not so much in the romance genre where I tend to hang out but I’ve come to the conclusion that the genre makes sense for me. 1) I was so boy crazy as a teenager I can hardly stand looking back at those embarrassing years. 2) People watching has long been a favorite hobby of mine and living vicariously through the pages of a book where people fall in love puts me in a better mood than reading a thriller, for example, where I start looking at others as a possible threat to home and body. I admire Stephen King, practically worship his writing prowess but I can't sleep nights with one of his books in bed with me.

Nope, if the pandemic has done anything for me it’s made me come out of the reading closet, no long hiding or being ashamed my preferred reading genre. The last romance I read, for example, was a weirdly engaging book about a famous artist who lost his sight for a year due to a car accident and then he gets eye transplants of eyes from a photographer who was once engaged to a woman the artist couldn’t stop thinking about after they met and who he couldn't stop painting before they met. The whole premise of the story line was that our eyes are the windows to our souls and the soul remembers... Oops, sorry about the spoiler but I doubt anyone reading this will pop over to Amazon to find The Girl in the Painting. And if the title sound familiar it's because I shared a quote from it in my last blog. “She is the red string on my finger. I can’t forget her.”

Change of topics: The project I’m doing this week around the house involves working my way toward staging my house. My library room that used to have two walls lined with book shelves and hundreds of books now has only one wall of empty shelves and the sleeper chair that was sharing a room with my artist easel and arty-farty supplies got moved to my library that is now rebranded as an office/guest room. The son-I-wish-I-had came over to help me move the furniture around including moving an antique Morris chair patent dated in the 1800s and monster size showcase with four sides of glass. They went out to the garage where I’ll try to sell them in the spring. We agreed that transporting the showcase in the winter would be a major problem for a buyer, so there's no point advertising it now. I’ve been busy washing the walls in those two rooms and spreading the art stuff out to take over the whole space. I finished the "room swap/rebranding project" and the photo at the top of my sleeper chair corner in one room and the photo at the bottom is of one end of the other room I call my art room. I'm really proud of those clean walls! And in case you're wondering why I don't have my window blind pulled all the way down  in the office/guest room it's because that's my dog's window to the world of other canines.

As for me at my age washing walls, I’ve got a special mop with a round head that I use exclusively for washing walls which means I don’t have to get on ladders. Next week, though, I have someone coming out to give me a price on washing the walls in my living room and adjoining dining area. Those walls are too high for my mop and I have too many heavy pieces of art hung for me to wrestle them off and back on the walls. While he was here, the-son-I-wish-I-had and I went over the master plan of what all has to be done to get ready before the house goes up for sale. My 'To Do' list is getting shorter and most of it involves stuff that can't be done until spring or can't be done without some help from others. I'll get there but I'm getting sick of making decisions. Like what color to paint my deck furniture that Tim took with him when he left and dropped off to a body shop where it will get sandblasted and painted with car paint that will outlast me. The vintage chair, side table and foot stool will only cost me $150 to paint and if I had to buy new deck stuff I'd spend that much if not more. But I'm so worn out from decisions and I sometimes need to remind myself why I'm going through all the trouble. Monday, though, it will start feeling real. I have an appointment to go to the construction site where I'll actually get my first look inside my unit. ©

This is the chair that's getting painted "Liquid Jade" (see color chip below). It's a really comfortable chair---rocks a little, the wire mess makes it cool to sit in and the arms make it easy to get out of. The deck siding the chair will go against is a dark gray and I'll get a colorful outdoor rug for the space.

 



This is one end of my art room. I think people will be able to visualize it as a bedroom now.

Since a few people asked, this is my mop... I call it a round headed mop but it really isn't. There's a pump action part on the handle that moves those two rollers down to squeak out the water.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Skin Care, Roommates and Bulletin Boards --- Oh My!

Every so often I get a bug up my butt about taking better care of my skin. Actually, it seems to be an annual event that lasts from January to spring when I realize I’ve dried out my skin too much. Dermatologists don’t recommend daily showers for old people if we’re not doing stuff to get sweaty and dirty. Our thinning skin apparently is chronically too dry which exposes us to all kinds of nasty skin ailments, the least of which is wrinkles. I don’t care about wrinkles but I’d like to avoid cracking skin and eczema, thank you very much, so I listen to my doctor. On days when I don’t shower I do what Victorian ladies referred to as ‘performing their morning ablutions’ which involved a servant bringing the lady of the house a pitcher of warm water and removing her chamber (aka pee) pot. The lady of the house would brush her teeth and wash her face, her arm pits and what I'll refer to euphemistically as her "nether region." Old school historical romance writers were fond of morning ablution scenes and you can use your imagination as to why. My husband had a more colorful term for doing morning ablutions. He called the process “taking a whore’s bath.” Google doesn't seem to know the etymology of that term but---again---put your imagination to work and it's not hard to believe that it's a term as old as the oldest profession itself. Boy, have I digressed!

If you’re a long time reader of this blog you may remember me lamenting the fact that I had great skin when I was younger but old age brought me teenage acne. Not a bad case but this time of the year I’ll look in the mirror and scream, “Holy cow, those blemishes are bigger than my nipples!” And I’ll make The Promise right there and then: “Cross my heart and hope to die, I’ll wash my face twice a day until it cries.” This week I made The Promise and also ordered some products. Not the hundreds of dollars an ounce yuppie stuff. Nope. I’ll break the promise before I get to the bottom of the jars and tubes plus I don’t buy the argument that they work any better than the cheap stuff. I’m pretty much an Alveeno Girl---or rather an Alveeno Old Lady---and I like Beauty & Planet products like their sugar and roses scrub. My husband had the biggest crush on Jennifer Aniston that lasted from her days on Friends until he died. Every time he'd see one of her commercials for Alveeno he's sit up straighter and pay closer attention to the TV. I was okay with that because I also had a 'Freebie List.' Did you and your spouse have a ‘Freebie List’ which is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a list of 5 celebrities who, should the opportunity arise, one is allowed to sleep with without it being considered as cheating by your significant other?” Don’s list had Jennifer at all five bullet points. Mine has Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Gerald Butler, Kevin Costner and Bill Gates. Yes, Bill Gates. Brains are sexy and I know how to close my eyes.

Years ago I used to be a Neutrogena Girl and once I bought their ‘P Cleaner’ that was supposed to deep cleaner your pores. When I put it on that it dried blue and made my husband laugh out loud. He was raised with four brothers and two farm hands and wasn't used to seeing girlie things on faces back in the good old days of learning how to share a bathroom. I threw that stuff out because it reminded me of my college roommate. She modeled clothing for a large, Chicago department store and she spent an obnoxious amount of time on her “morning ablutions.” She’d walk around with skin care masks on every night and literally spend more time on her looks than her homework.

Everything she did was obnoxious, a snob from day one and she ended up getting me kicked out of our room. I was an art major who was taking figure drawing classes which creeped her out. I never tried to draw her or anyone else in the dorm but apparently she thought that anyone who’d sit in a class drawing naked people had to be twisted sick. She went weeks without even acknowledging that another person was in the room. No “good mornings” and “Hi” when coming back from classes. No eye contact. No answers to my pleas, "Why won't you talk to me?" "What did I do wrong?" I had no clue. Turned out good for me, though. I got moved out (at her request) and another student got moved into my old space. The room I was moved to was a tiny room for one on the top floor. It was in a converted 4th floor attic dormer with crazy, sloped ceilings that the artist in me loved. It also had a window that overlooked the football field while the room we shared overlooked a parking lot. I feel in love with bulletin boards in that room and I've had one ever since.

Right now, my bulletin board looks pitifully under dressed in its downsized mode and it holds: 1) A greeting card with a panda bear, 2) A business card with a cow, 3) A list of people foods dogs can’t eat, 4) A photo of the three untouchable poisonous plants that grow in Michigan and 5) A photo of my two nieces and nephew. Over the years my bulletin board has become a depository for quoted lines I've read or heard and wanted to savor. Today I added, "She's a red string tied to my finger and I can't forget her." Simple but a great metaphor from The Girl in the Painting by Max Monroe. If you don't want to read a risque quote that made me laugh out loud, quit reading here. It was from Charming Co-Worker and the line was, "He's the catnip to my kitty." The book was forgettable but ohmygod how do writers come up with stuff like that? Lest you judge me based on this two quotes don't do it. My saved quotes over the years have run the gamut from Bible quote to---well, to this kitty joke and everything in between.  ©              

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Lecture I Didn’t go to and Other Crazy Things

Jeez, it’s already Thursday and I haven’t thought about writing my Saturday post until now. It’s weird that I even have to rush to get the job done because for several months I’ve had two or three posts sitting in my scheduler at any given time. It takes me more than one sitting to write a post so I don’t like working this close to my self-imposed deadline because I can’t safely write and edit for errors in the same day and I always do my editing first thing in the mornings when my brain is still half asleep. When I have a draft ready to edit I also look for places that can be tweaked for better word choices, tenses that don’t match or places where I can insert a little humor, if appropriate for the topic. 

Now, on to what’s been going on in my life besides breathing easier now that our country got through inauguration day without any drama. I spent that day channel surfing between three channels from 8:00 AM to midnight starting with watching Trump’s departure and ending with the late night comic’s take on the day. They did not disappoint me. Nothing about the day disappointed me except maybe Garth Brooks singing of Amazing Grace. Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga both killed their songs and both looked so happy to be there that they couldn’t hide their living-the-dream Sparkle if they tried. But I hope security thought to look up Gaga’s massive red skirt. She could have hidden a couple rabid assassins under there.

On the personal news front, Monday was the day when those of us who belong to our local senior hall had to make RSVPs for February and March events, a process that I’ve often compared to the running of the bulls because their events---lectures, lunches and classes---have limited space and normally they record 1,500 to 1,700 RSVPs over a three day period. This month, however, I talked to someone who works on the committee that sends out the bi-monthly newsletters and she said since the pandemic closed the place down for a few months last spring people haven’t been renewing their memberships. We’re down from roughly 1,500 to 700 members. Shocked the heck out of me. The place will not survive the pandemic if they keep bleeding members who are trying to save a lousy $15 a year fee.

The newsletter had a lecture I was interested in going to and I had my RSVP ready for the 9:00 opening bell to ring in my head so I could send it. Only the first 114 emails received get a lecture confirmation, any requests after that go on a waiting list. At the last minute I asked myself, “Why do I want to put myself in contact with that many people during a pandemic just to hear a lecture about haunted lighthouses?” Even wearing a mask it wouldn’t be safe. So, another month will go by without me having any social life except for every two weeks I go to the grocery store. It's been months without me even talking to enough people each month to set up a foursome for a round of golf. Not that I play the game but I did take 18 lessons back during my Chameleon Days aka back in my dating days when I thought I needed to do every and any thing a guy I was dating liked to do. Tennis---I loved the cute little outfits but hated playing. Lesson taken, a waste of time. I never improved. Snow skiing I loved and I kept going long after the guy I took lesson for and I broke up only to give up skiing when my husband came into my life. Yup, I was a chameleon for nearly a decade. Thankfully I never dated a bank robber.

Back on topic: The senior hall’s speakers’ fees are paid for by sponsors our director ferrets out in the community. In exchange for the sponsorships, the sponsors get to set up a table in the back of the room to distribute information on services or goods that are targeted to our age bracket. They come with give-aways to lure you over to their tables like cloth shopping bags, coffee cups, flashlights, key chains, paper pads and pens, but my favorite give-away of all time is a telescoping back scratcher. Handiest damn thing I’ve ever owned. It even has a clip that makes it look like you’ve got an ink pen in your pocket. Before the pandemic I scored my third back scratcher. I keep one in the car, another by my computer and one by my bed. And in case you're wondering, yes, I bath regularly but my poor posture pinches some nerves that make me itch across the back of my shoulders and sometimes it drives me crazy. My best friend all through grade and high school was probably the tallest girl in class and her mom used to make her practice walking around with a book on her head to improve her posture, keep her from slouching. I did it with her a few times, both of us being too silly to keep the books on our heads. I should have kept trying. It worked for her…moms do know best.  ©

Twitter had fun with Gaga's ensemble, comparing it to a character's gown in The Hunger Games, the one who says, "May the odds be ever in your favor." The gold brooch, many said, looked like the mocking-jay pin in the movie although it was actually a giant, gold dove of peace with an olive branch in its beak. I can't remember the symbolism of the color contrast and military-like top, but she sure set the fashion world on fire. Others said her dress was creating its own six feet social distancing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Building Our Own Violins aka Mindfulness

NOTE: This post was originally scheduled to run a few days after the Capital was overrun with domestic terrorists. So I kicked it back to a draft to make room for a few posts about current events. Today is Inauguration Day and I'm sure most of us are holding our breaths waiting to exhale when/if we get through it peacefully. In Trump's inaugural speech four years ago he painted a dark picture of America and promised: "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." In a perfect world, he'd realize those words should have been spoken today, on his last day in office. In a perfect world he'd know that his legacy will forever be connected to the worst carnage ever set upon our Democracy. But it's not a perfect world and more than ever we could do ourselves a service if we'd spend a little time each day practicing mindfulness.

 
Do you know what impresses me? That a guy could apprentice to a long line of violin makers and still be able to take the craft to such new heights of perfectionism that people nearly three hundred years later are willing to pay millions of dollars to own one of his instruments. Antonio Stradivari, in his seventy years of professional work, made 1,100 stringed instruments and 650 are said to still be in existence. Truly amazing! From a little stab of maple, some pine, glue and varnishes, and with a methodical persistence to find perfection the Stradivarius was born, a line of instruments with full woody tones unsurpassed even today.

I wonder what it would feel like to be truly gifted at something. I wonder if Antonio knew he was a gifted. I doubt it. After all the whole town of Cremona in the northern region of Italy where he lived and worked had a history---three centuries long---of making musical instruments. Did he think of himself as just another guy on an assembly line? Like some guy in Detroit punching out automobiles? Or could he feel that his work was special? Antonio must have had some idea; he kept his vanish recipe a secret even from his wife and children and many people feel that his varnishing process is what gave his violins their magic sound. But then again he was making a living and people protect their livelihood from their competitors, so that doesn’t necessarily mean he knew he was creating masterpieces that would endure over centuries.

I have a book titled, Wherever You Go There You Are---at least I had it before the big book purge last summer. That title amused me whenever I saw the book on the shelf. The author would not be happy to learn that I’ve never actually read the book cover to cover, but I’ve read enough of it to know that it’s about cultivating our ability to live in the present moment. Mindfulness. I don’t know where I am going with this except that I believe a person like Antonio Stradivari must have understood living in the moment. As he worked, he let the woods and varnishes speak to him and he listened in an analytical way that his predecessors, and those who came afterward, hadn’t done. He was not just another guy on an assembly line punching a time clock, picking up a paycheck. He had the “it factor” that Simon on American Idol used to talk about.

I have a sister-in-law who is a wonderful cook. Not only does her food taste fantastic, but her presentation, creativity and thoughtfulness in menu planning are something that I have long admired. She has the “it factor” in the kitchen. She’s in the moment when she is in the kitchen. I have a niece who when her two sons were young, she had the “it factor” when it came to motherhood---and now when it comes to grand-parenthood. Her older sister once said that Melinda is not just a mother, “She’s a human development specialist.” She’s in the moment when she interacts with the children in her life, gives them 100% of her attention.

You can guess what I’m going to say next. Yup, I’m going to tell you that we don’t have to build Stradivarius violins or paint like Rembrandt to achieve a state of oneness with our surroundings. To find that one thing that we can be passionate about, that something that regenerates our spirit and soul, and when we find it we can’t help but give it 100% of our attention. We do so many things on autopilot, thinking of past regrets or worrying about the future, instead of seizing the moment we’re in. Yada, yada, yada. This could be lecture #704 to myself because I fall out of mindfulness as often as I fall into it.

Someone in another blog said words to the affect that we live for the little moments in life that tell us that we’re alive. I couldn’t agree more. I would only add that increasing our happiness can come from practicing mindfulness—of teaching ourselves to live in the small moments of life. Over the past year when the pandemic and politics because the strangest bedfellows ever paired together it’s been impossible for me to live in the moment and I’m hoping I can get back to at least trying to do that. Granted, I’ve never been good at it for more than an afternoon, a day or a week at a time but those times when I do achieve mindfulness have the power to heal. And 2020 left me with a lot of wounds that need healing but it’s time to say, “Yup, today I'm metaphorically building my own violin”---to enjoy the process of whatever I’m doing at the moment. Antonio Stradivari might have said it this way: “If you live in a town that builds musical instruments, build the best damn one you can build.” If you're me you vow to bake more bread, a process that never fails to pull me into the moment. ©

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Power Outages and Standing up for Truth

I hate power outages. I especially hate them at night in the wintertime but we had one the day the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president. Again. It started at twilight giving me just enough time to gather the six solar lights that normally line up along the walk to my front door and I staged them to light up a path from my master bath through the bedroom and living room to the kitchen. This time of the year they don’t get enough sun to keep them lit more than a couple of hours after dark but those couple of hours saved me using up the battery on my camping lantern. A half hour into the outage I got a voice mail and text on my cell phone and robocall on my landline from the power company estimating how long the outage would last. Three hours they said, but that turned out not to be true. It lasted five. Apparently after the last outage I went into over-killed signing up for these alerts. I ended up getting a total of twelve updates which is more action than my phones have seen since Christmas.

I didn’t have an unread books downloaded on my Kindle so I spent most of the outage reading a book I’ve read twice before. It’s a good book, so I didn’t mind. In fact, knowing how it was going to end seemed comforting, given the political climate we’re in---a counter balance to that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to fall and not knowing if anyone will be there to catch it and return it or if that person will use it as a weapon. A poor analogy for the chaos of the January 6th insurrection and holding my breath hoping we don’t see a repeat on the 20th but no one ever accused me of being the sharpest pencil sitting in the coffee cup.

Two hours into the outage it was getting cool in the house so I managed to wrestle a sweater on to the dog. He hates wearing stuff, and apparently it wasn’t quite cold enough inside for him to appreciate the garment because he alternated between asking to go outside the front door and the back door. I didn’t dare take a chance that he didn’t have a bowel or bladder issue so I’d roll up the sweater to protect it from getting christened with pee, let him out and in. Finally, I got the hint that he didn’t really need anything other than to cool off, so I wrestled the sweater back off him and he settled down.

The day after the outage I found a message on my phone that came during the outage from the son-I-wish-I-had. He started the message out, “I’m calling from a Democrat run concentration camp, but I don’t want to talk about politics. I want to know if you want to start working on some things that needs doing to get your house ready to list.” It saddens me and makes me feel like I’ll be walking on eggs where Tim’s concerned for the first time in the 50 years we've known each other. I hate that he's been indoctrinated into Trumpism and far-right spin.

Since the insurrection at the Capital Tim's been Facebook posting like crazy which, in itself is out of character. His posts have all been focused on the evils of Socialism and social media censoring the president, and “there needs to be an investigation on why that 'poor woman' was shot through a locked door.” He got a lot of 'likes' and amen like-comments from his posts and no push back…until I came along. About the woman I wrote: “Did you see the video leading up to the shooting at the Capital? The woman was shot while climbing through the window in of the door to the Speaker's Lobby after the mob had broken through the glass. Totally justified.” And then I added a link to the graphic video. 

On one of his censorship posts I pointed out that the 1st amendment only protects free speech from the government making laws against it and he posted back, “Are you okay with that?” So I replied: “My opinion doesn't matter. PRIVATE companies have a right to apply any rules they want about the content they allow or not allow. For example, I was a monitor on a large stroke support site for nearly five years and we had a rule that people couldn't post about wanting to commit suicide. It was my job to remove those posts and contact their local police department for a wellness check if I thought they were serious. We had a five step procedure to make that judgement call. If we had let those suicide posts stand others could come along and encourage them to do it and that would have made the site legally liable. What Facebook and others sites are doing is no different. Again the constitution only protects us against the GOVERNMENT restricting free speech. The president has a fully staffed press room near the Oval Office where reporters are waiting 24/7/365 and he can get on all the networks within a few minutes if he wants to.”

No one gave either of my comments a ‘like’ or replied in any way which I consider progress since no one called me brain-washed, stupid or delusional either. My comments effectively ended the threads. Tim lives in a Red Bubble of friends, neighbors, church members and family and all his recent political posts are re-posts from far-right conspiracy websites. I don’t want to lose his friendship over Trump (and I don’t think I will) but if there was ever a time when we need to have the courage to stand up for facts and the Truth, it’s now! Our silence gives Thump's supporters fuel to keep spreading misinformation and those lies are like a cancer that is killing our Democracy. ©