Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The First Anniversary

Writing by orders or dictate has never been my thing. I can’t for example dash off a poem to stand up and read at our first anniversary of the continuum care place where I live. Ya, I was asked to do that at a party being planned by the Resident Council. Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that I didn’t agree to be part of that group? I was also asked to help with floral arrangements for all the tables and I used my hand surgeries for an excuse---as if I needed one beyond, “No.” Why is saying ‘no’ to someone so hard to do? The guy in charge of planning the party is an old florist like I was but he’s barely mobile. He’s appointed himself to decorate the lobby for the seasons and holidays and anyone who helps him ends up doing the leg work, hauling stuff up from his storage unit. I’m still mobile enough to do it but I’m either a selfish person who doesn’t see the point of doing for free what the management of the place should and would have paid a service to do before Mr. Florist got involved or I prefer my low key persona where I watch the action rather than be the action. 

Guys like him, I’m guessing, have their self-worth more closely tied to their past professions than most women in my generation. We measure ourselves on different scales at different points in our lives. At least I do. I measure myself in terms of emotional grow and life experiences rather than what I did to put food on the table. He says he still loves making floral arrangement because they make women happy. Being a woman I get that. But being a floral designer is just something I used to do, it’s not who I am anymore or who I want to be. I suppose if I’d had an esteemed career I might feel differently and I’d want to flaunt it. But---surprise, surprise---we’ve had an astrophysicist on campus from the beginning and I couldn’t have picked him out in a lineup until this week. He squirrels himself away in his apartment writing a book about astrophysics which disappointed me; I’d hope our not-so-mythical author who was rumored to be pounding away on his computer was a fiction writer and he’d want to share his passion for writing in my creative writing group. Nope. He’s a serious man on a serious mission and more power to him. He could give lessons on saying ‘no.’ When he told me what the book was about I said, "I'm guessing that means you don't want to join our creative writing group?" He laughed and just shook his head.

The anniversary party does sound fun, though, if they can work out the differences of opinion on whether or not it should be a fancy-dress up event---kind of like a prom for old people---or if ordinary go-to-church-on-Sunday clothing will do. The latter seems to be winning at the moment but The Council will let us know before October fifth. Then I can decide if it’s worth getting a cobalt blue silk blouse/maxie shirt I’ve had since the ‘70s dry cleaned or not. I’ve adored that shirt for decades, but I’ve never wanted to wear it where I might spill something on it. But I’m eighty-freaky-years old! What am I saving it for? Jewel tone colors are my friends. I could live in royal blue, magenta purple, jade green and ruby red. Throw in a lot of black and white and I just might redo my wardrobe to reflect what I always wanted to be: Queen of the color wheel.

There are three women here who hang out together and usually wear black and white and when they enter a room one is in the front with the two others fanned out behind in a V-shape like superheros on a comic book cover and I’ve taken to calling them The Force. If you've seen the movie, Queen Bees you’ll be able to picture the women who always draw attention where ever they go. And I have no idea why I’m putting them in this paragraph other than to say I think The Force ruined my go-to black and white outfit for when I want to look nice.

One day, I promise, I’ll quit talking about updating my wardrobe and actually do it. I did buy two cashmere turtleneck sweaters from L.L.Bean---one black, the other one gray---and a ruby colored, Jessica London vest plus a gray cardigan crew sweater from Land's End  that I'll end up buying in multi-colors if I don’t keep my credit card tucked safely out of reach. Can you tell I got cold on a day when I had too much time on my hands? That cardigan sweater makes me feel like Patti Page without the traffic cone breasts that women seemed to grow back in the ‘50s. Someday I am going to drag everything out of my closet and only put back what I truly love and when the day comes I’ll blog about it. Before I die I’d love to have a wardrobe that looks planned rather than bought willy-nilly. Ya, I know I've recycling that dream over and over and over in my head to the point it feels so real I don't actually have to act on it. Don't tell anyone but that's my super power---day dreaming. Always has been, always will be. ©

* Stock photo above of Patti Page, 1955

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Living the Entitled Life

What is wrong with people? What is wrong with me? Don’t answer that just yet because I’m going on a rant and I’ll give you my opinion on the matter first, then it's your turn. The other day I happened to sit next to a guy on campus who I try to avoid and I’ve been doing an excellence job of it until now…nearly a whole year since he first told me on an elevator that Covid would be gone as soon as the Democrats are out of office because they made the whole thing up. That was his excuse for not following the mask mandate that my continuum care complex had for all public places at the time.

He thinks we’re friends now because he joined the creative writing group and because he wrote a self-published book and I said some nice things about it. Sincere things because I don’t care if a 350 page book is vanity press it truly is an accomplishment and a commitment to put that many words downs on paper, sent them off to a printer and be able to hold the results in your hands. It’s an autobiography with a very impressive sepia tone front cover photo that makes him look like a Founding Father with his neatly trimmed white beard and stately posture, and he’s donated a copy to our campus library. He hired an editor to correct punctuation and spelling but not to touch the content. I found this out because he said when he gave a copy to a friend to read the friend reported back that Mr. DNR (department of natural resources) told the same story seven times in his book and I remarked that a good editor should have caught that. “Oh, no,” he replied, “it cost more to have the editor work on the content. I got the punctuation and spelling package only.” I didn’t say it but I’m thinking that editing out that much duplicated material would have dropped the printing costs down enough to offset the content editing service package. 

As we sat next to one another the topic of fishing came up---we were eating it at the time---and how he thinks it’s a crime that the Native Americans have exclusive rights to fish for a certain species of fish in the Great Lakes and they are using commercial fishing boats with huge nets---all because of a treaty written back in the 1800s. “They should be making them fish with canoes and dipping nets like they did back in the 1800s when the treaty was signed!” 

This guy is a NRA super supporter, a Trump Maga Republican and he put up a terrible fuss when he found out this place is a gun free campus. His Second Amendment rights gives him the right to move a cruise missile into his apartment if he wants one, he said, and “You’d all be happy I have my guns if a mass shooter tries to charge the place! I could pick him off from my balcony.” This conversation took place back before this complex was even built, at one of their marketing parties and the sales manager offered to give him and his wife back their deposit because the no guns rule is firm: he and his gun collection could not move in. Mr. DNR claims he gave all his guns to his sons to comply but I doubt that. I remembered all this when the guy mentioned the canoes and dipping nets and I wanted to ask him is he believed the Second Amendment should limit gun owners to musket and balls type guns like they had back when the Constitution was written. But I didn’t ask. We were eating dinner and it wasn’t a situation where either one of us could walk away. 

I told myself after the first creative writing session that I’d try to be open-minded about this guy but at dinner he told me he’s dropping out of the group because of Chatty Cathy---the song writer. “She interrupted me several times and others, too, and I can’t abide that.” “I know,” I replied, “I think she might have impulse control issues because of the stroke she had” and he said, “I don’t believe that. You could see she wasn’t paying attention. She was thinking about what she wanted to say next.” He told me to let him know if she drops out and then he’ll come back. "I will," I told him but in the back of my petty little mind I was cheering the fact that I won’t have to play nice with a Maga Republican in the creative writing group.

I said at the beginning I was going to rant out an answer to what is wrong with people and I guess I should keep my word. What is wrong with people is we can justify illogical thinking when it benefits us personally. And this guy’s attitude regarding the fishing rights of Native Americans vs his own right to own any kind of modern weaponry he wants is a perfect example of living an entitled life where the rules of logic and ethics are applied unevenly to serve the selfishness of oneself. And to serve my own selfishness I lied when I promised to call him if Chatty Cathy bails out of the Creative Writing Group. I was so happy I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep the smile off my face.   ©

 * photo from the GLIFWC website

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What Happens in Creative Writing Group Stays in CWG

There are three residents out of the fifty-five who live on this continuum care complex that I generally avoid. Two of them joined the creative writing group I started. Our first meeting was the afternoon of my surgery and when my niece and I were on the way to the surgical center we were talking about my expectations and fears about who would show up. I already knew a conspiracy theorist/Trump fan was interested and I wasn’t too happy about that. My niece is a retired educator married to a retired educator and the mother of a talented daughter who writes and teaches high school honors English and writing classes. Cindy (my niece) said something to the effect that we can learn something from everyone, even the people we disagree with and so I challenged myself to work on honing my patience and reining in my quick-to-judge character flaw with him and a woman who talks non-stop about everything but the topic others are discussing at the moment. I started by nicknaming him Mr. DNR instead of defining him by his political opinions. He retired from a high up job in our state's department of natural resources and he's a walking encyclopedic of knowledge on all things water, animals, fish and vegetation related.

In our mission statement it says the purpose of our group is to support each other’s writing goals and Chatty Cathy writes religious songs that her former church choir used to sing. Color me impressed! That’s an experience that is so far out of my comfort zone it isn’t funny but I did go through a short period when I wanted to write country western songs. How hard could it be, eh? Pretty damn hard for someone who can’t sing and who left my guitar lessons back in 1954. Chatty Cathy told us repeatedly that she doesn’t write the songs, God does and she just copies them down. So with an abundance of curiosity I’m looking forward to having a Celebrity Ghost at our table next time, and as a bonus I won’t be the only person after Labor day wearing sandals since I'll probably still have trouble tying my tennis shoes. 

She also said her son writes but when she tried to read one of his books he had a passage in it about a couple playing tennis naked and she quit reading it after that. We have a line in our mission statement that reads: We agree that what others may share in their writings stays in the Creative Writing Group. Look at me! Already I'm breaking a rule I personally wrote. I’m giving myself a pass here, though, because she didn’t write about the tennis game so I'm saved by a technicality. I've read so many naked scenes in romance books I can't imagine being shocked by one. I am SO over my head with this writing group I started. And you may have to keep reminding me it's not a group formed to judge content---like in a book club---but rather to help each other with process of writing it. To be fair, I suppose devoutly religious mothers don't want to think of their adult sons as knowing anything about sex beyond the missionary position to beget those grandchildren.

To prepare for this writing group I reread Stephen Kings’ non-fiction book titled On Writing. We were all told to bring a piece of written by someone we admire to our first meeting to out loud and I picked a passage from that book about how "writing isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. It’s writing damn it, not washing a car or putting on eyeliner...” I didn’t know I’d be reading it out loud to someone who professes to being the writing instrument of God. At our next meeting when we start reading out loud things we’ve actually written, I’m keeping that passage handy because I am vowing to myself and anyone else who cares that I will not to edit my stuff to suit someone who’d quit reading a book by her own son because a character did something immoral in her eyes. My first reading will have some dialogue with four swear words so I’m not sure how that will go over with God at our table, but it’s my writing group. My idea. My jumping through the hoops to get it on our schedule. Somehow I think God---if there is one---is broader minded than to be offended by a few four letter words when the world is full of bigger fish to fry in the departments of sinning and evil doings. 

In addition to these two in the group we have a retired high school teacher who taught English and writing who wants to work on a memoir and a graphic artist who wants to learn poetry writing like I do and a woman who I've admired since the '60s when she wrote a Sunday column for the local newspaper. She's the pastor here and I've written about Ms. Angel before. We hit it the first few times we met on campus including on the bus ride to the Van Gogh exhibit. Then yesterday we talked non-stop for an hour at coffee---just the two of us. We talked God and religion and spirituality like I've never talked with anyone but my niece until now. Want to take bets on whether or not that in a year from now I'm still calling myself an agnostic?

Speaking of my niece: With schools beginning so starts the annual book banners who show up for school board meetings and my niece is planning to be at one to object to the pulling of a book from the eighth grade curriculum, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Crisneros, from what I understand is a coming of age book about an immigrant girl. My niece wrote an open letter to the town newspaper on the subject of book banning to rally attendance at the board meeting so she spent her time re-reading the book in question while she had to wait for me to wake up after my surgery. Apparently this book has been frequently challenged by book banners since it was published and critically acclaimed in 1983 for portraying a Latina girl growing up with domestic violence and racism and learning to reinvent herself to who she would become. Have the book banners read the Bible? I ask rhetorically. It’s been decades since I listened to the booming voice of Charlton Heston reading the Bible to me in my bedroom during my 'searching era' but I recall there being a lot of the same elements in it that book that the book banners get their panties in a wad over their high school kids reading about.

All is going well with my hand surgery except I torn one of my stitches out and it has a tiny infection in it. I’m hoping to get the other hand done in mid October. So, Cindy, if you’re reading this find another good book to fill up three-four hours while you wait.

Other than that I have three neighbors here who are trying to make me feel like a wimp because they got carpal tunnel surgeries done on both hands at once and/or just got a block in their arms when I was put fully under. The doctor didn't give me a choice. I don't know if having my thumb done at the same makes a huge difference or not but I can't image having both hands not at full function at the same time. I keep pointing out to the I'm-braver-than-you-crowd that they still have husbands to do their bidding and one of the guys mouthed in the background that he waited on his wife hand and foot. 

Until next time....  ©

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Gallows Humor and Noisy News


I writing this post on the eve of my surgery (9/7) because I have this bug up my butt about not missing a blogger’s beat. For the past nearly twenty years I have posted twice a week…more often in the early years when I had more stress in my life. Tonight I looked at my scheduler and realized that I was one post short of my goal of having extra posts to cover the time when one-handed typing would be required. That’s not entirely true; I had scheduled a rerun of an older post for the seventeenth---one of my favorites--but I decided at the eleventh hour not to use it for the simple fact that when I go to someone else’s blog and see an “oldie but goldie” or a “classic” or however a person wants to present it, I usually skip reading it. But that’s just me. I don't like decades old movies and TV shows either and other people living here in the continuum care complex thrive on them. But I do understand that sometimes life gets in the way and finding time and muse to type a post isn’t always practical or high on everyone's To-Do List. However I'm a numbers glutton who doesn't want the internet bots to send my blog to the bottom of the index just below searches for Jimmy Hoffa and that can happen if you don't post on a regular basis. Don't judge me; you guys are my only confidantes and I'd miss you too much if I skipped posting.

Remember Ms. Social Worker? She fell in an exercise class and over the next week she fell five more times. She was taken to ER by ambulance three of those times and once I went to an Urgent Care with her. Apparently, whenever a person over 65 calls 911 about a fall they automatically take us to ER to check our heads, hearts and whatever else they think can go wrong between the ages of 64 and 65. The last time they finally kept her there to do a thorough work up. As of this writing she'd not back home yet. But I don’t need a battery of tests to know what is causing her falls although I doubt she’ll fess up to the reason my Nancy Drew Mystery honed instincts and her kids are pointing the finger at. She takes an opioid based pain medication that her doctor prescribes for face pain she’s had for a couple of years...due to a root canal. Say what? you're thinking. Me too. 

Just before her last fall she was down to lunch, acting really good but complaining about her kids objecting to that drug, “I like taking it,” she said, “and it’s none of their business!” When she left she said she was going upstairs to take her pain pill and three hours later she was on the floor screaming for someone to help her. And this next line was edited in in real time 9/16: Her kids took the hospitalization as an opportunity to jump on the doctor and the controlled substance drug is history. Her daughter is flying in to babysit her for some follow up medical appointments next week.

It seems like over night we have enough people living here who are on the edge of a medical emergency that we could almost make up bingo cards with their names. And when the ambulance---that seems to average two pick ups a week---carts someone off we could put a bingo chip on his or her name. Gallows humor I’d guess you’d call that idea and there's a fair amount of that around here. The opposite is also true---lots of Mary Poppins types doing nice things for each other. A man who was dying and under Hospice care finally passed over and there is an abundance of compassion and loving gestures flowing toward his newly minted widow. Even before he passed people dropped off food and treats and offered to sit with the guy so his wife could go for a walk or get a haircut. 

Another woman who lived here just a week or two before getting her leg amputated was/still is the recipient of an outreach Circle of Grace, with people going out of their way to make her feel welcome, included and looked after. Except for me, I stay away from her because Ms. Social Worker told me I'd better watch that mole biopsy site on my ankle that won't heal because that's the way the amputee lost her foot and I really don't want to learn first hand if this is true. I doubt anyone at a lunch table would ask, "How did you lose your foot?" but I'm taking any chances.

Even me with my minor hand surgeries had the Cheerleader asked what I needed for support because she’d be glad to create a Circle of Grace sign up sheet to do whatever I might need. I told her I didn’t think I’d need anything except maybe my food cut up at dinner for a day or two but I figured the chef could to do that before I get served. But it’s comforting to know if I ever have something more serious come up that there are willing hands nearby which is one of the reasons I choose to live in a CCC.

Okay, this post might be shorter than my usual but at least it’s current content, having only been in my scheduler for a week.  ©