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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Desk Delimma

 

I have three desks in my house and a drop-leaf table that also doubles as a landing place for my laptop. I don’t use that laptop much, mostly I keep it for back up in case my main tower with my attached ergonomic keyboard and large monitor goes down, but I think that will change after I move. There will be plenty of public places on the campus---outside and inside---where I’ll be able to sit and write guilt-free without the worry that I'm taking up space a business needs to make a living. When I write in public places, now---or rather in my pre-pandemic world---I’d write long-hand, always careful to make sure others aren't waiting for a table. But even with the new freedom I'll have on campus, most of my computer time will still be spent in front of my curved keyboard. I’ve used it for so many years that I find other keyboards painful and clumsy.

Then I have my husband’s oak roll top that I wrote about before. I dearly love that desk but it’s got to go. I also have a desk and chair that I refinished in the 1960s during my Fruitwood Period and all things Early American, a secretary where I used to sit and write long-hand penpal letters, round robin letters and letters to Vietnam service men---boys, really, mostly just out of high school who got drafted with a few gun-ho, committed-to-the-cause guys sprinkled in who enlisted. I haven’t used that desk in many years but I still love it and enjoy looking at it when I pass by it sitting in my art & crafts room and hopefully I can find room for it in my future bedroom. If so, I’ll press it back into service as my center for charging devices, keeping my day planner and paying my bills. The bedroom is the only room that will have a door I can close when I want to keep prying eyes out of my business. Ya, my half bath and laundry will also have doors but they will protect a different kind of privacy….

Then I have the quality-built oak, computer wardrobe that I’ve been using for the past 15 years. I’ve logged so many hours sitting at the wardrobe that I wouldn’t be surprised if we shape-shifted into one, inseparable entity. She and I have a love/hate relationship though. I love her doors that can swing closed and lock off my business very quickly. It’s got a ton of space for everything and then some. But I hate that I always have the inside of her trashed out with dozens of Post-a-Notes, a cluster-muck of pens, pencils, rulers, papers to file and dust. If I didn't have those doors, would I keep a neater desktop? Absolutely. I am a vain person when it comes to the impression my house makes on others. When my realtor opened my walk-in closet door, I died ten times over. That place and my computer wardrobe show the stormy side of how my brain works---the messy, careless, get-it-out-of-sight, everything-piled-haphazardly-on-top-of-each-other side. It kills me that my new place will not have a door on the master closet. Where will I hide my messy side and where will the bogyman hide? My bed is too low to the floor so maybe the universe will send a bogy-child instead?

I also hate how hard it’s become for my old bones to thread the wires and cords through the computer wardrobe to the cable manager. I don’t have to do it often---only when I need to take the tower into get serviced or I need to replace it or a printer---but I just can’t get down on the floor to do it anymore. Well, I could get down, it’s the getting back up that’s the impossible part. This wardrobe has to go for that reason and because it’s too big for the miniature office/hobby room I’ll have in my new place. Thus the late night online shopping for a smaller unit to organize my office area.

Shopping for a new computer desk has taught me: 1) No matter how much you plan to spend you can’t find a quality built desk configured as well as the cheap ones; 2) The cheap ones come in a box like a giant puzzle that you either have to spend three hours putting them together or hire a service that specialized in that kind of thing; 3) Because of Covid-19 several companies I've contacted thought their chatlines no longer offer shipping to the room of your choice for an extra fee. They park the 100+ pound box at your front door; and 4) because so many people are working from home now, computer desks are selling like snow cones on the desert and are out-of-stock almost before you can save them on your Wish List.

But the most distressing thing I learned is that most desks these days are built without pullout keyboard trays as more and more people are using laptops. It took me two weeks of bedtime shopping to find out that for us dinosaurs we can buy monitor shelves to solve the no-keyboard tray problem. And most of the smallest desks being sold also don’t have places for a printer. It also took me two weeks of shopping to figure out why. They want you to buy a separate printer stand on wheels that you’d supposed to tuck away in a space I won’t have. 

I’ve debated about ordering a desk after I move in like I plan to do with some of living room furniture and area rugs, but they take 3-4 weeks to get delivered and the son-I-wish-I-had thinks it would be nicer to be able to set up my computer and it get working with Wi-Fi, etc. on move-in day and that would be my dream scenario. I found the ideal set up for a computer desk---at least for me---but I want to take the photo of it out to the Amish built furniture store to see if they’d custom order one configured like I want only made with better wood. Those the particle board made desks they sell online won’t hold up more than a few years before they get saggy. The Amish place custom-made our kitchen table so my husband’s wheelchair fit nicely under it but they only had to modify an existing plan. If it took them a few months to build, I’ve got the time to wait. Fingers crossed they'll do it at a price I'm willing to pay which is pretty high, let me tell you, since the majority of my time is spent at my keyboard and I don't see that changing after I move. I have a dozen projects lined up in my head.

Next week when I take a trip to the Amish place, and while I'm on that end of the county, I'll stop at the PODS place to get information on using one for packing up my life after the house sells. With the listing timing my realtor and I mapped out I'll be homeless for a couple of weeks but that will save me having to waste time and money on getting a bridge loan. During that time I plan to take up niece's offer to let me stay at her cottage. The POD, in that scenario, will go in their indoor storage facility and I will just have to worry about keeping two house plants alive. My niece would have welcomed Levi to use the cottage, too, so I'm pretty sure she'll let me litter up her place with my plants even though she's not a "plant" person.

I have a third house plant, a Hoya, that I've had since I was seventeen and it was tiny cutting given to me by an elderly friend when I visited his greenhouse full of Hoyas in every color known to Man, but it's showing its age and not in a good way. I'm kind of hoping it will die this summer so I don't have to move it or murder it. It took it over 38 years for it to have its first flowers---duh, the old guy didn't tell me it needed full sun for that to happen---and when it blooms twice a year now, the flowers are truly beautiful but SO stinky sweet it fills up the entire house and I have to pick them and throw them out or they'll give me a headache. That plant is a metaphor for my life in a way; I'm good at waiting and planning for beautiful things to come along but when they do I can only enjoy that anticipation fulfilled for such a short time before I'm asking myself, "Was it worth it? Would I do it again? What's next?" ©

That's the Hoya plant back in the corner and below are what the flowers looks like.

 

 

P.S. From an earlier post you may remember that the-son-I-wish-I-had wanted to do a barter on the roll top desk and he thought he could talk his wife into it, but she was firmly against it. So I am now getting ready to list it on e-Bay---what a job trying to empty it out! It has 29 drawers and seven cubby holes plus a secret hiding place. Big things like that do sell there for local pickup. I sold 6-7 restored antique gas pumps on e-Bay after my husband died and the buyers each arranged for a freighting company to pick them up and prepare them for long distance shipping on their dime. Crossing my fingers that the desk will sell as easily at those old pumps did.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Things I keep Foregetting...


I keep forgetting…

That when I eat oriental takeout food right out of the Styrofoam container my fork pokes holes in the bottom and the sauces leaks all over the table. Solution: Take the time to use real dishes…like that’s going to happen. I don't eat it often enough to remember how messy it can be.

I keep forgetting…

That whenever I wear my favorite royal blue shirt with the ¾ sleeves that I can’t type without the sleeves getting hooked on the backs of the armrests of my computer chair. Solution: There is none short of throwing out the shirt or feeling stupid when I have to go change my shirt to type frustration-free.

I keep forgetting…

That I no longer have a four-legged, furry vacuum cleaner that scarfs up stray Cheerios. Looking at my floor this morning one would think there’s a toddler in the house. Solution: Don’t fill the cereal bowl up so full that adding milk floats the Cheerios over the edge.

I keep forgetting…

That I’m too old and dyslexic to teach myself how to do computer coding. Solution: Reset my tech goal to something more realistic like learning how to write an entire paragraph using new-age hieroglyphics aka emoji’s. For the life of me I don’t understand how an eggplant emoji came to represent a penis. I’ve seen my fair share of penises in my life but none of them looked like an eggplant.

I keep forgetting… That ‘no’ doesn't always means ‘NO!’ when I tell myself I can’t have another bowl of ice cream. This solution can be checked off my list: I bought myself a set of 5 ounce bowls so now I can have that second bowl without feeling guilty about it.

I keep forgetting…

That my trash pickup day changed from Mondays to Thursdays several months ago. Solution: Write it on my day planner or have the following words embroidered on my days-of-the-week underpants: ‘Thursday is Trash Day.’ Hey, I think I’m on to something here. I’d have ‘Sunday is Laundry Day’ and ‘Monday is for Grocery Shopping’ and so on.

I keep forgetting…

To wear my hearing aids. Now that Levi’s gone I can’t hear anyone ringing my doorbell or know when the back yard is under attack from rabbits. The neighbor lady said she came over twice before finally getting me to come to the door the third time. Solution: Isn’t it obvious? Wear the dang annoying, itchy hearing aids or buy a louder doorbell, neither of which are going to happen anytime soon.

I keep forgetting….

That I still need to do chin hairs checks even though the pandemic has been keeping me at home for over a year now. Those suckers get long without the plucking routine I had tied in with getting ready to go out in public! Solution: Look in the mirror more often! Maybe that can be my Tuesday’s embroidery message on my undies. Tuesday is Chin Plucking Day.

I keep forgetting…

That I’m too young to give up on making a good first impression. I really need to start caring about my wardrobe choices again now that I’m getting out and about a little more often, thanks to the vaccination. After a year of pandemic-related, less than fashionable apparel choices I recently discovered a pair of pants I’ve been practically living in has a quarter sized hole in the seat. Solution: Start by throwing out those comfortable pants. But they're like an old friend that died and I don’t want to go to its funeral. Help! I need a closet intervention.

I keep forgetting…

That I have an Errands List to run today. Solution: Take my fingers off the keyboard and be on my way...

1 To an appointment with my bone doctor for a $460 out-of-pocket injection of Synisco Gel in my shoulder. It's out-of-pocket because he's using it off label. It's supposed to be just for knees joints. I've had the injection in both knees and my other shoulder with good results of relieving me of pain for a couple of years. Worth every penny that helps avoid surgery as long as possible.

2 To the pets supply charity storefront to drop off the last of Levi's stuff. Well, almost the last. I decided to keep a shoe box full of puppy stuff just in case I decide to get one after I move.

3 To Lowe's to look for an odd-ball sized lampshade.

4 To the library to donate a few books on dog training, dog dancing, teaching dog tricks, and a canine health and medical dictionary.

5 The bank to make sure the account I use for e-Bay transfers doesn't have over-draft protection. e-Bay is doing away with their arrangement with PayPal and everyone who sells there will be required to give them permission to deposit and withdraw money directly to your bank account. Just in case they get hacked I don't want my two accounts connected.

6 To lunch at Burger King since I'll be on the same side of a busy road after the bank and because I haven't been there in in over a year.

7 To the post office to drop off a few priority boxes I won't be using. Got more but this will be a good start. 

It's been a long time since I've had an errands list this long. Getting fully vaccinated sets you semi-free! Still social distance and wear a mask in public places. ©

 

When I go through the takeout window at Burger King I always park by this tree that overlooks the river. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it's a White Oak. The way the lower branches spread out to the sides is not real common where I live, not rare either in my state.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Travel Club and Summer Vacations

 

The pandemic came into our lives last year like a wrecking ball and look what it’s done to me…I’m spouting Miley Cyrus lyrics. The pandemic, however, is nothing like a love affair that wrecks your life and makes you do stupid stuff like ride a wrecking ball across a stage and write songs about your torrid love-life that's gone badly. Still, I couldn’t get the image of a wrecking ball out of my head last week when I went to a travel club presentation for the first time in over a year. Normally there would be one every other month and there were usually 35-40 people attending. And maybe there was this time, too, but I only saw 15 because they had to do two presentations in order to social distance those of us who wanted to come.

Listening to how hard it was to deal with all the reservations that had to be canceled for their 2020 group tours because of the pandemic is what made me think of that wrecking ball. The two sisters who own the travel company specialize in escorted senior citizen trips and I’ve always said if I was going to travel abroad I’d go with them. I’ve known one of the ladies nearly 15 years, she’s the director of our senior hall. The other gal is her sister and they both have backgrounds in the travel industry. Everyone I know who has traveled with them gives them high marks and one person has been on five of their group trips. I’d have a nervous breakdown spending that kind of money on travel over 2-3 years. She lives in an area that isn’t safe. But she promised her dying husband that she’d have fun after he was gone---she’d been his long time caregiver like I was to Don---and by God, she’s going to grant him his dying wish. To me, it would would have been more fun to move to a better neighborhood where break-ins, getting mugged and drive-by shootings aren't as common as full moons. Oh, well, we aren’t all cookie cutter made people and I guess that’s a good thing? Widows. We all have different ideas about what to do with life insurance money. I could write a book.

I’ve gone to these travelogue presentations faithful since the beginning of their enterprise just because I like learning about new places although I never seriously thought about going anywhere. But this time hearing about their Iceland trip---6 days, $4,099---it dawned on me that now with Levi gone I could take a trip without worrying about his well-being. Growing up we had a dog who refused to eat while we were on vacation and he died of a broken heart and I thought my mom would too when we got back. That dog was her constant companion and her protector when she had to drive to a sketchy part of town to take my dad back and forth to work. Don and I traveled with our dog/s, bought a RV that my husband called our rolling dog house just so the “kid” didn’t have to stay behind. As soon as the thought about Levi's death freeing me up for travel passed through my head I felt guilty for thinking it because I still miss him terribly. Fixing straw berries for shortcake today, for example, I missed seeing him sit patiently for the berry slices I'd give him and I wondered how my acquaintance from the travel club felt when she was touring the pyramids three months after her husband died, did she feel guilty for enjoying herself? Did she enjoy herself?

Circling back to the travel presentation and the idea of overseas travel this year. No way am I interested when the pandemic could close them down again. Their Christmas on the Danube River and the Markets of Prague trip, however, is almost full---8 days, $3,798 w/a roommate. So I guess others don't share my lack of confidence in the pandemic going away before Christmas. Not to mention that I don’t even like to Christmas shop here and with my luck I’d get a roommate like Kathy Bates in Misery. In addition to the every other month travelogues they have mixers for those who've signed up for a trip so you can get to know others the going and maybe find a good match for your roommate. With some trips you can upgrade to a single room but not with all of them and upgrades are not cheap.

This year they are also offering two trips within the U.S. which hasn’t been their norm for travel destinations but the pandemic is changing the way a lot of businesses do what they do. One trip is to San Antonio---4 days, $2,599. Been there done that. Wandering Texas was one of the top two best trips of my life, but I don’t want to chance ruining those memories by going back again. The other U.S. trip is to South Dakota---6 days, $2,948. Been there done that, don’t want to go in August. What’s in South Dakota besides Mount Rushmore, The Badlands and buffalo, you ask that would take up six days? That’s what I wanted to know. The answer: an off road jeep Safari, Devils Tower, Crazy Horse Memorial, Deadwood and of course, the famous Wall Drug Store. I still have my Wall Drug Store sign from when Don and I was there back in the ‘80s. These two in-country trips are what they're calling Spotlight Tours. You stay in one hotel the entire time and take day trips from that place. At my age, that kind of trip is appealing, staying in the same bed each night, only unpacking once but I'd rather do it near a large body of water.

These two ladies know I’ll probably never travel with them but they invite everyone to come to these events for the word-of-mouth advertising they hope you’ll help spread and I do my part on that. They used an inheritance they got from their grandmother for the startup money for their company and I’d hate to see the pandemic wreck it for them. They’ve worked hard to get it going this past five years, gave a lot of people great travel memories and gave other people like me hours of entertainment. But I missed their Trader Joe cookies and coffee this time. Masks required, no food or beverages allowed. Damn pandemic! Still, it felt good doing something halfway 'normal' again. ©

 

NOTE: In the spirit of Truth and Accuracy Mily Cyrus claims Like a Wrecking Ball is not a breakup song. She says the song is about her brother and not the guy she'd recently broken up when she wrote it. The internet rumor mill, however, claims otherwise and right or wrong the song will always be known as Mily's break up song.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Travel Journal Filled with Forgettable Details

 


I wish I could remember how many years we owned a motor home. Less than ten, more than five is my closest guess-imate. We took it on several trips to the Deep South to visit friends, to Texas to a Romance Writer’s Convention and to Iowa, Pennsylvania and Tennessee to many gas station collector’s conventions. We also used it on day trips along Lake Michigan and on camping trips upstate a couple of times. When we traveled Out West, our most frequent destination, we took a pickup truck, leaving the RV home because my husband loved hanging out in the Rocky Mountains on the two tracks they called 'roads' back in those days.

For some of the years we had the motor home I kept a travel journal and yesterday I read through it with the end game in mind of putting it through the shredder afterward. When I finished the last page I decided it was the most boring travel journal ever written and I won’t have any trouble getting rid of it. I hope. It’s still sitting on my computer desk where I used it to pull a few quotes out of it to use as blog fodder. Those of us who keep blogs know how hard it's been to come up topics to write about during the pandemic and while my travel journal isn't insightful or as entertaining as John Steinbeck's Traveling with Charley who wrote about searching for America with his French Poodle as his companion, it's better than reading labels at the supermarket. I used to love doing that, by the way, but with the pandemic we're not encouraged to stick around inside the store any longer than necessary or to touch stuff we're not going to buy. And if you don't know it by now, I follow the Rules of life so don't expect a blog post about the most interesting food labels in aisle eight. Damn pandemic!

In May of 1993 I wrote in the travel journal: Here at Motel Walmart in Fayetteville, TN, Cooper (our dog at the time) thinks he’s died and went to heaven. They’re having a sidewalk sale and every time they call out over the loud speakers “Sidewalk Sale Today!” he only hears the word “walk” which is his favorite word in the English language. As for us, Motel Walmart was noisy last night with our own private security guards chi-chatting on their two-way radios as they watched over the merchandise that employees dragged outside at closing. At 3:00 AM I learned that one of them has an Aunt Betty with a bunion which I related to Don in the morning since he could sleep through anything. (We often stayed overnight in the parking lots of Walmart which wasn’t uncommon for RV travelers back in those days.)

June 5, 1994: We got on the road early with no coffee, no breakfast and me begging Don to get a map and some gas so we didn’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere because we were off to chase another unicorn. On a back road off the interstate---interstates, according to Don, are for people with no adventure in their souls---we stopped at a fruit and produce stand where he claimed the bearded old man wouldn’t give him directions unless he bought a watermelon. Cooper was happy to see it get plunked down on the floor of the motor home. He had a lot fun trying to hump and wrestle the last melon as it rolled back and forth. The old man’s directions were good, though, and we were able to find our destination---a tiny, over-grown and deserted gas station from the good old days of one pump and a Coke-Cola machine out front. It had one of those old screen doors that squeaked when it was opened and it slammed shut with a thud on your way out. It was nailed closed so we couldn't listen for those sounds of our youth. Where is the logic of nailing shut a screen door? If you wanted to break in you could just rip the screen. Don was in photography heaven and I was wishing it was 50 years ago so we could have bought some gas and a bottle of pop, maybe a bag of chips and called it breakfast.

August 15, 1997: This is the year of Don’s fuck-ups. Everything was going fine, great weather and we had lots of time compared to other years headed out to the Iowa Gas convention. Then Don got stubborn about the high cost of gas at the truck stop and that’s when we discovered how few (if any) stations there are between the truck stop and Moline. It was nerve racking on 80 with traffic down to one lane. Getting off the highway, we got lost looking for a station, adding drama we didn’t need---especially since we discovered on this trip that the motor home doesn’t start when it gets over-heated. When we finally found a gas station we had to put 29.30 gallons in our 30 gallon tank. After getting back on the road we developed two bad tires on the driver’s side and we are now sitting in South Amana where we’re waiting for two new tires to get delivered to a Country Bumpkin Gas Station with a one bay service garage. We’re calling this our ‘Grapes of Wrath’ trip.

September 10, 1998: We stayed in a $44 a night Motel 8 in Georgetown north of Lexington, KY. It was okay, no frills but clean and quiet. It was worth it just for the hot showers after three days of sponge baths in the motor home. We ate at a place called “Golden Girls” around mile marker 116 which was great. At least I loved my pork. Don had a t-bone. The national news last night was filled with Ken Starr and the report he just turned over to the House for possible impeachment hearings against Bill Clinton supposedly for perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering and abuse of power.

And probably the most boring travel entry into the journal was the day I wrote: We planned to leave town at noon, but as usual with our trips, we were late. It was 3:00 before we headed up north for a long weekend at the Buckley Steam Engine Show, which they say is the largest show of its kind in the world with 50 thousand plus people going through their gates each of the four days its open. We took our time getting there. 1st stop: gas $24.82. 2nd stop: yard sale in Bailey where I picked up another Sterling diner dish. 3rd stop: the Trade-a-Rama in Grant where we bought two jars of Vidalia onions for $6.00. Around White Cloud Cooper, Don and I sang a couple of versus of All My ex’s Live in Texas. You know Don has reset his body clock to Vacation Time when he and the dog start singing duets. Do we know how to have a good time, or what! ©

All my ex's live in Texas
And Texas is the place I'd dearly love to be
But all my ex's live in Texas
And that's why I hang my hat in Tennessee
 
Photo Note: The photo at the top is not our motor home but it’s close. We had an awning on ours. Below is my favorite travel photo. That's Cooper greeting Punxsutawney Phil. Cooper was fascinated by that statue's butt. He probably thought his nose was broken because he couldn't smell anything. That photo wasn't staged, by the way. He was a great traveler. He took his first trip in the motor home when he was eight weeks old and he played in a dishpan of water all the way from Michigan to Iowa. On the way home we stopped at a beach on Lake Michigan, thinking if he liked splashing water in a pan that he'd love the waves on the big lake but he was scared of them. He had more sense than we did. He didn't even weigh five pounds back then and the undertow would have killed him had he waded in.