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

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The New Years Resolution 2023

This time of the year I’m programmed to think about New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, I’m one of those dinosaurs who has been making them (and breaking them) since my early teens. That’s a lot of years. In this century, however, I jumped on the One Word Mantra Movement instead of writing resolutions and that worked great for me in the early years of my widowhood. The idea is to pick a word that expresses your intention for the coming year, an inspiration to apply to your life. “Believe” was a common one back about 8-10 years ago but “Bravery” was my first one word mantra. It worked to chant it  under my breath when I was doing things alone for the first time after my husband died. After 3-4 years of using different one word mantras I expanded to a one sentence mantra like “Be the peace you seek.” which you’ve got to admit is better than the Resolution that made my list of New Year’s Resolutions more years in my life than any other: “Take better care of myself.” I’ve been making and breaking that one since I was fifteen and I finally decided it wasn't working because I needed to be more specific.What does 'take better care of yourself ' even mean? Resolutions need to be filled with more red meat than that.

Not having a clue what I wanted to do this year I did some research online and ran across an article titled 65 Rewarding New Year's Resolutions for a Healthy, Happy Life. Most of those suggestions, however, have made my resolution lists in past years. It’s a boring list of 65 that includes stuff like “Chili Out” “Practice Mindfulness,” “Quit smoking” and “Drink less Alcohol.” For a minute and a half I considered their “Get in a body positive mind-set.Then I decided that would take more effort than I’m willing to do (and probably a few hours on a therapist’s couch). The only suggestion that almost made it to my resolution list is number 47 which was about quitting multitasking: “Multitasking doesn't make you more efficient, but it does stress you out, says mindfulness expert Pedram Shojai, author of Focus: Bringing Time, Energy and Money into Flow.' If your focus is fragmented, you'll likely find yourself getting anxious as new items come up when old ones are still incomplete, he says. Instead, he suggests, organize your activities into chunks of time, such as kid time and cooking time, and then commit to being focused in those allotted minutes and see what happens. It'll help stop you from overthinking everything." Right now as I write this post I’m listening to a book and doing laundry.

Another article I found on making New Year’s Resolutions was titled 12 Inspirational Mantra for the New Year and it has stuff like:

She who is brave is free
The body achieves what the mind believes
In my words, thoughts & actions, I choose kindness
Seek the sweet moments in every day

That last one really appeals to me even if it is just a rehash of the gratitude journey I kept the year after Don’s stroke as per Oprah’s popular fad in 2000. Looking for something positive every day help get me out of the depression the aftermath that his stroke caused in our lives.

But one article on New Year’s Resolution seemed to be written strictly as click bait and it was just a word search image. The first four words you find will be your mantra for 2023. I found care, break-through, money and power on my first try but I didn’t like them and I kept looking and found change, purpose, love and alignment. This is a lazy man's way to pick a resolution so why bother? I’d never pick my resolutions that way but I'm not above using the idea as blog fodder, so there you have it.

Every year when I write a post about resolutions I get a lot of comments from people who don’t make them and/,or think it's a silly idea, a waste of time. Writing them is outdated, I'd agree, but I still think there is value in taking stock of areas in your life that you want to change or work on improving over the next months and that’s all New Year’s Resolutions have been for me. For most of my life I've had an end of the year ritual of reviewing old resolutions written for the year that's ending and beyond. Then on New Year’s Day I’d record a new list in the front of a brand new journals. 

I destroyed volumes and volumes of diaries and journals when I move here 14 months ago, just keeping the ones from my pre-teens and teen years---my naive and innocent years---which were filled with crushes and silliness. To this day I kind of wish I’d kept at least the first pages out of those 60+ years of diary and journal keeping. I miss that end of the year tradition of getting them out and reflecting over how how pretentious, silly, dramatic or lonely I was from year to year. ©

 Happy New Year, Everyone! 

I'll be the one spending next year trying 


Seek the sweet moments in every day.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Christmas Day in Chaos

Blizzard warnings were all over the United States (except for one place where they had Lizzard warnings posted). Christmas eve and morning blowing winds and snow had already caused crashes and car pileups on the icy roads in the area. I was hoping my nephew would call and cancel their Christmas get-together. But he didn’t and after he picked me and my brother up to go to his son’s house it took us an hour and a half to travel what would normally take twenty minutes and the extra time was not because of the weather. My nephew is into four wheeling and he took us on a joy ride on two-track dirt roads that were buried somewhere under the snow and ran through beautiful, quiet woods full of ups and downs and around curves. No houses in sight, no where to walk for help and no one would come if you did call so I resisted whipping out my cell phone to see if we even had cell service.

My nephew was having the time of his life. Apparently he’d been on these same roads---if you could even call them that---the day before. His wife was in the back seat reminding him every so often that their grandkids were waiting for their presents. My brother, his dad, was also in the backseat sputtering that he never should have built him a dune buggy when he was eleven-twelve years old because he hasn’t slowed down since. “Are you scared?” I asked him. “Darn right I am!” my brother answered. By then I had relaxed and was reliving going through that same, snowing woods back when my husband  and I thought snowmobiling was more fun than anything on earth. My nephew said it was only fitting that he take me four wheeling because it was my husband who introduced him to the sport.

I remember that summer Saturday well. My husband had taken a gaggle of pre-teens to a mud run including my nephew. To this day I believe that people who purposely go on roads where the mud is deep enough to suck a truck down in past its hubcaps are crazy. They came back from the mud run with not only the Chevy covered in mud, so was Don and the boys, and they were smiling ear to ear and ready for pizza.

As bad as the weather was on Christmas weekend, I felt safer there with my nephew on those two-tracks than I did out on the roads with other cars traveling to and from their holiday parties. And I was doing my "I'm impressed" aunt impression. At one point I complimented my nephew's driving skills and the cool sound his jeep was making. Little did I know I was going to get a ten minute explanation on how he’d just changed some pipes on his muffler to get that growling sound.

Finally we got to where we were going which was a mad house of four kids all under the age of six or seven, two large dogs, four pet rats and a cat that was so fat I thought it was ready to deliver a litter of kittens until I was told that was an impossibility. “Do I want to hold my rat?” I was asked before even getting my coat off. “No, thank you.” The floor, by the way, was littered with so many Christmas gifts and their discarded wrapping paper and boxes you could barely see the carpet and no one seemed to notice my brother was picking up his walker trying to wade through the mess instead of using it to support his unsteady walking. I held my breath until he reached a place to sit. And did I mention in the chaos going on there were three drones flying around the great room?

One little boy seemed to take a liking to me and he appointed me to hold his brand new watch off and on all afternoon while he’d go off to fly his drone around his father who was cooking at a huge island on the other side of the great-room and every time the adults turn their back the cat would be on the island proudly showing us how he got so fat in the first place until he finally got banished to the bedroom.

“What grade are you in?” I asked the boy. “I don’t know, I’m home schooled. I don’t even know what real school is.” When I told him I had a dog with the same name as him he asked me how I picked that name. “It’s the same name as a great-grandfather of mine and yours.” Just then his dad called out to me, “Can I fix you a plate of shrimp and dip?”

“No thanks, I’m allergic.”

“How allergic?”

“If I eat it I will die allergic.”

“Where do I stand in the will, aunt Jean?” he teased. 

There were only two places in the living room to sit because the left-overs of Christmas were piled high everywhere which by default seemed to be reserved for my brother and me unless I'd get up temporarily to forage for snacks for my brother and me. Then my spot would quickly get filled in by a large dog whose been part of the household since before the kids came long. Nothing seemed to bother him. Not Silly Putty molded to his head, not flying fairies shot from a windup toy. At one point my brother and I was sitting there like we were watching a movie---all the other adults busy at the island, the kids running every which way burning off the sugar high they were on---and my brother said, “I’ve been here before and it’s always like this.” 

I’m proud to say I survived the chaos of Christmas 2022 and I came home with a half a block of the best smoked Philadelphia cream cheese in the world. My great-nephew does all the cooking in the family and smoking stuff is his specialty. And both I and the cat can attest to the fact that his Christmas ham was to die for. ©

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Wind-up to a White Christmas!

Thursday night as I write this. The winter blizzard that as been crossing the country finally hit my side of Michigan. We’re supposed to get a sizable amount of snow dumped on us before the storm leaves our area on Saturday night. Temperatures are in the teens and the winds coming later tonight are predicted to cause whiteouts with snow blowing sideways and drifting on all the north/south roads. We were supposed to have a choir entertain us tonight but that got canceled and judging by the rolling message at the bottom of my TV screen just about everything going on in town got canceled for tonight and tomorrow.

Our activities director let us know our Christmas party entertainment for Saturday night, however, won’t get canceled because the one man band lives here on campus. And I’ve met the guy! He’s a new resident here, and he’s the husband to the woman with dementia who I wrote about a few posts ago while attending a meeting about dementia support. I found a video of him playing at a polka festival last summer. His introduction promo claims he’s “shared a stage with the Four Tops, The Coasters and many other popular artists.” I can’t wrap my head around that kind of music at a Christmas party but I’m bidding his accordion can play just about anything. I wish I could find a way to bring my brother over from the next building for the show. He used to play the accordion.

I’m worn out already. I’m not cut out for all the socializing this holiday bought with it and I’ve still got the holiday buffet and the above mentioned entertainment to go to here and a family party off campus at my great-nephew’s house on Christmas Day. This past week-end we had a sing-along (great fun and I'm surprised I knew most of the words to Christmas songs I rarely listen to). 

Another afternoon I took part in a gingerbread cookie decorating class. For the artist I wish I were, cookie painting was frustrating! I made eight cookies but I only liked the way two of them turned out meanwhile others in the room made such cute cookies that I had cookie envy. Can you believe it, I’ve never done Christmas cookie decorating or cookie exchanges since I was a kid helping my mom. I was a babe in the woods surrounded by super moms and grandmothers with tons of experience. 

Within two days I’d eaten the ugly cookies I made and I intend to take the good ones down to my brothers this afternoon, but I’m wavering on that idea. I’m worried his grandson’s wife will have sent him some in the mail. She’s been posting photos of the ones she’s baked and decorating and they look so professional. Mine by comparison look like a child did them. Ya, I’m that petty competitive.

My great-niece-in-law's cookies

My sad attempt at Christmas cookies

Another morning I spent writing my annual Christmas letter but when I went to print them, my printer wouldn’t work so I ended spending the afternoon hand addressing envelopes and writing notes in cards. My printer picked that time to tell me the ink pads have reached the end of their life. When it tells you stuff liked that it doesn’t give you a warning, it just quits working. I had just installed $80 worth of ink cartridges I can't return, so I was more than upset.

I found directions online for how you change the pads and it's a job I won’t tackle and the Epson website lists a place that is out of business as their authorized service center here in town. I read half an evening about the printer problem I learned there is a way to reset your printed page counter to ‘trick’ your printer into thinking you haven’t actually printed as many pages as you have and that gets you another 1,500 pages out of the black ink pad but it takes a download and a one time code from the Epson company which after talking to them for a half hour they wouldn't give me because the printer is out of warranty. A real catch 22-22. There's a black market download you can buy for $8 but I'm leery about putting something on my computer from an unknown source.

Another Christmas related thing I’ve been doing was just as frustrating as the two things up above…making stuff to past around at the parties. As I mentioned in another post I wanted to use up the pretzels I had left over from making the gingerbread house so I planned to dip the small ones in chocolate and cover the with the green sprinkles that came with the gingerbread house kit and arrangement them in a wreath shape (like the one pictured above) but do you think I could find those packet of sprinkles? No, I couldn’t and I turned this apartment upside down looking for them. I ended up rolling them in pecans instead. After finishing up that job, I grabbed a plastic bag out of my storage drawer to use for trash and there in the bottom of the bag were the sprinkles. Jeez!

On Christmas day---unless Covid or the weather cancels out the plans---my nephew is picking my brother and me up to spend the day at my brother’s grandson’s house. The people and the kids who will be at the party are all super nice and I’m looking forward to that part but the house we’re going to has bathrooms that are no where near old people friendly. The guest bathroom was built kid-friendly and the toilet is literally a child’s size and there is nothing to grab on to to help you get up. The setup in the master bath isn't much better so I learned the only way to do parties there is to not drink anything the day before or day of the event.

Hope your windup to Christmas as been less frustrating than mine! Then again, maybe being frustrated and crazy busy is part of the holiday fun. ©

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Annual Christmas Letter 2022

Dear Family and Friends, 

I was going to stop writing annual Christmas letters this year but the mail carrier has been leaving me 7-8 requests for charity donations every day since before the mid-term elections and I thought if you get them too you might like something different in your mailbox to throw in the trash. When I moved into my independent apartment here on the lake just over a year ago I had hoped the hounds of solicitations wouldn’t find me but they have and I recently caved long enough to donate a hive of honey bees and a flock of chicks through Heifer International and to buy some dinners to feed the homeless at shelters here in town. Next Christmas I see honey glazed chicken on someone’s holiday menu.

Some of my neighbors compare our place to living on a cruise ship where something fun or good for your mind or body is going on every day. For example, I just got back from a travelogue about hiking in Japan and tomorrow at this time I’ll be in the woodshop learning how to use a lathe to make ink pens. Last week they taught us how to use a band saw to make a gadget for pulling a hot rack out of the oven. If you’re on my Christmas Gift List forget what you just read in the last two sentences.

In addition to the normal lectures, Ted Talks, exercise classes, birthday parties with musical entertainment the holidays added twelve extra things to our calendar. One of which is a gingerbread house contest and, yes, I entered one. By the time the votes are counted---assuming someone will demand a recount---our new-to-us bus will have taken a group of us to the Ball Park to see the Christmas lights and earlier in the month a group enjoyed an outing to the symphony. This month our chef is also giving us a cooking lesson on how to make cranberry jam. You’d think when most of us living here were born in the same decade as Spam that cooking lessons wouldn’t be very popular, but free samples will no doubt be involved and we have good turn outs for anything involving cake, cookies, $2.00 happy hour drinks and pie samples. The food on our menus along with sports and our community jigsaw puzzle are common conversation starters around here. By the way, it’s only a myth that Spam stands for "Scientifically Processed Animal Matter.” If you are serving it over the holidays be sure to correct this unkind acronym that our WWII soldiers came up with.

When I moved to this Continuum Care Complex I thought I’d be doing a lot of painting and quilting but I haven’t found the time for them. Yet. I spend most of my mornings writing and a couple of people here nicknamed me the unofficial Poet Laureate after one of my rebel-rousing ditties went public. Thankfully the label didn’t stick. (Or maybe they no longer say it to my face out of fear I’ll make up a poem about them?) In the afternoons I usually find a class or lecture to attend and on Wednesdays I’ve become obsessed with playing American Mahjong. If you want to see my dark side, distract me during a game.

Although there are a few things I miss about living on the north end (mostly the lack of traffic) my move to this place was a good decision. Last month my brother moved into the next building over from me where the accent is on Memory Care. He is settling in well. And I’ll be able to see my nieces and nephew more often, a win-win for me because my brother and I are also getting to talk often about our early years in the way that only siblings can do.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 


Bonus for my internet friends....

This is me wining at Mahjong by drawing the very last tile on the table to get one I needed for a pair and if you play the game you'll know how hard that was to do. Two of the same tiles were already exposed---there are four total in the game---so it was a huge long shot that I could even win and I had just said that before turning the tile over.  P.S. My neck is not dirty. It's a reflection off my shirt. 


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Three Things to Talk About

First off just let me say that I came in second place in the gingerbread house contest and I voted for the house that won. The house that came in third I thought should have been disqualified because it had way too many trinkets on it that were not eatable like a costume jewelry for windows and doors and plastic people climbing all over the roof. But the kitchen staff made it and there were no rules, so it is what it is. There was a private party of 100 people from "the outside" booked in our restaurant during the voting period and they all voted in addition to our employees and residents so it was a fair contest but a lady who entered the contest obsessed that everyone would vote for friend’s house or stuff the ballet box for themselves. She was upset there was no way to register who voted and who didn’t and she complained about it all week. As it turned out, her house probably would have won third place if a rule had been in place restricting the decor to all be eatable. If we have rules or not next year she says she’s not entering again and while I’m really competitive with stuff like this, she took it way too seriously.

My house is at the top and the first and third place winners at the bottom of this paragraph. The house that won had the most creative ideas, not the prettiest house but the couple that made it put in a ton of work to make something different out of the standard kit we all started with. I already know what I want to make next year and I've written the idea down on November’s calendar page so I don't forget. This year my theme was a gingerbread shoppe giving out free samples. I think themes help. The house that won had a tiny sign on the lawn that said, “Home Renovations by so and so.”

The problem with making a gingerbread house is that you have way too much candy left over and in my case I ended up with three bags of pretzels. The thin ones I used to trim out the doors, the twisted medium sized that I going to build a fence with but the scale was wrong and the square ones are what I used for windows. I’m not even supposed do eat salty snacks because of my high blood pressure so I got online and found an article title 50 Recipes that start with a bag of Pretzels. I have two parties to go to here that aren’t being put on by the management so we each have to bring something to pass and I’m bringing pretzels coated in white and dark chocolate and rolled in  pecan chips and red sprinkles plus I’m making snowmen in nests of chocolate covered pretzels and a Pina Colada Salad with pretzels. 

From a cute and fun topic to a gross and ugly topic. The photo below was talked at my dermatologist's office this past week for my one month post surgery appointment. The doctor was pleased with the way it looks---no sign of infection and a ring of new tissue forming around the edge. There is a center white area that I’ll need to work harder at scrubbing out when I change the dressing everyday. It’s a scab trying to form above tissue that hasn’t healed yet. In eight weeks I have to send the doctor a photograph and we’ll take it from there. 

I was having so much trouble with the area itching that they hooked me up with a special tape you can only buy online and I’ve got to get more liberal with putting on the Vaseline. They don’t want it to dry out on the surface before the lower levels heal. It’s been over a year since I first discovered what I thought was tick that turned out to be a cancerous mole and I’m betting it will another year before I go without a dressing on it

Back to a fun topic: There's a semi-professional baseball field in town and they find uses for it year around. They host a winter beer festival that I have no desire to attend but for a long time they’ve also hosted a Tour of Christmas Lights that takes people on a long and twisting drive-through it. I lived close by it before I moved and always wanted to see it up close and personal but my husband never did. This year our management offered a trolley ride tour that was as uncomfortable as all get out but the show was spectacular and I now I can cross it off my list of things I've wanted to do.

And forth---I’m not changing the title of this post to Four Things to Talk About because I like the ring of the three ‘T’ words---we had our second annual Tour of Apartments here. Ten of my fellow residents opened their doors to show off their Christmas decorations and general decor, the latter being my main interest in seeing. I don’t do much for Christmas other than a two foot tall tree, and on my main door I have a wreath and on my deck door I have a large red bow so I will never be on the tour.  ©