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, August 30, 2023

True Joy, Jigsaw Puzzles, Teenagers and Disillusioned...

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I've got held up for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
  George Bernard Shaw

I’m addicted to watching Facebook Short Reels every morning and every morning I find something that touches my soul or my funny bone or makes me think. Today I ran across the above quote of George Bernard Shaw and it shined a light on what I’ve been doing wrong my entire adult life and what my niece has been doing right her entire adult life. She is being honored in September as a ‘Hometown Hero’ so it’s not just my opinion as a proud aunt that she's making a difference in the world. Me? I’m may not be a “selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [me] happy” but except for a brief few years in my life when I was mentor and administrator at a large stroke support website I’ve lived a life one might say was devoted to making myself happy.

A recent post in Donna’s blog, My View From Here, reminded of a quote from Socrates that goes "the unexamined life is not worth living." That’s one thing I’ve done in my life. I’ve examined the stuffings out of my every action, my every thought and that comes from being a life long diary keeper starting at age ten. Cause and effect. I said or did so-and-so and as a result this or that happening. It was that cut and dry when I was a teenager writing about crushes I had and all I can say about that is I’m glad we didn’t have the internet back then. I would have been a cyber stalker instead of just a girl joy riding with my best friend past the places where our crushes lived, hoping they’d be outside washing a car or mowing the grass. Guys back then did the same thing. My best friend and I would hang out on our front stoops hoping a guy we liked would drive by. One time a guy drove around the block seven times before he got the courage to stop and talk to us. Trust me when I say that was a red letter day in the life of a teenage diary keeper. Literately. Back in those days I put a red star next to “special” encounters with the opposite sex. 

Now days my encounters with the opposite sex involve disputes I’d like to have but avoid over the community jigsaw puzzle. I’ve decided I’m too OCD to play nice with others at that table. Last month I spent over an hour sorting a new puzzle by colors---we have a puzzle table with drawers for that purpose---and a guy came along and dumped all the drawers with the sorted pieces onto a large, white foam core board. He likes the white background to “see the pieces better." I didn’t say a word to anyone about the ‘dumping’ but I vowed that was the last time I’d work on the puzzles. The guys are the ones who used to take pieces of the puzzles home so they could be the last person to compete a puzzle. And it's a guy who stacks pieces on top of the finished portion of the puzzles and that makes me want to go postal. If you ever see a headline that reads: 'Beloved Grandfather Killed Over a Jigsaw Puzzle' you'll know I finally did! If you say anything to him about how hard it is see pieces laying on top of the others, he'll say "I don't worry stuff like that. That's my wife's job." I'll bet she's been picking his dirty clothes up off the floor, too, for the past 61 years and putting them in the hamper.

For two weeks I stayed away from the puzzle and it was a hardship because I love working on it 10-15 minutes while waiting for a class or lecture to start or for my dinner reservation time. It’s set up in the hub of everything and it’s the best gossip gathering spot on campus, with its location just a few feet away from a grouping of chairs by the fireplace. People tend to forget you’re there with your back to them and your listening ears on. The only time I work longer on the puzzles are when they unbox a new one; I’ve gained a reputation for being The Sorter because no one else seems to want to do it and it's my favorite part.

Changing topics: I admire how so many young people today seem have found their sense of community at such a young age. Every day on Facebook I see them working for causes that sets them apart from the self-absorbed teen I used to be. They are bringing attention to climate change issues, working to change our gun culture or helping the homeless or standing up for their LGBTQ+ friends. They are going to be force to be reckoned with when they come of age. That has me wondering what my parents' generation must have thought about me and my best friend when were we teenagers. Did they think we were self-centered or naive? Looking back I know I was both those things. Even so, until the Trump administration came along I was proud of my generation because we’d done our part to make the world a better place as all the generations before ours had done. In the sixties---the era of social changes---we Baby Boomers led the charge through activism. But all our gains in Women's Rights, Civil Rights, Voting Rights and personal freedom are on the cutting block.

Yesterday at a birthday party/sing-along on campus we sang God Bless America at the beginning and the end and it felt hollow and wrong. The night before six of the eight candidates in the Republican primary stood on a stage and pledged with a show of hands to support Trump if he wins the primary "even if he's convicted of high crimes in a federal court." (One retracted his hand raising afterward, said he misunderstood the question.) How can anyone be proud of our country and ask God to bless Her when so many Americans are willing to trade our Democracy for Fascism and the Cult of Personality? ©

Until next Wednesday…

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Too Much Screen Time!

Often times over dinner people here on the continuum care campus will ask each other what we did all day. A table of twelve might bring answers like, “I went to Macy’s…” or “…out to lunch with my daughter” or “I went to the farmer's stand south of town to buy sweet corn” or “I had physical therapy this morning and napped all afternoon.” I rarely have an answer that I feel like giving because the truth makes me sound so lazy. Instead, I’ll say I was busy all day but don’t remember what all I did. (And it just dawned on me that apparently I don’t mind looking like I have dementia setting in.) But the truth usually goes like this: I spent two hours writing a poem, then I wadded it up and threw in the waste basket” or  “I watched too many Facebook Shorts where I laughed or smiled at dogs, cats, gorillas, panda bears, two-toes sloths, immigrant comedies or a hottie Ukrainian dancer that takes me back to all the Gene Kelly movies I loved as a kid. I don’t actually tell anyone about the hottie so let’s keep that between us, okay? I don’t want anyone in my family or here at the CCC (should they stumble onto my blog) to label me as a---what? Couger? Creepy old woman who cyber stalks man-boys? Someone who wishes I was young enough to move my body the way Itslavik does?

https://www.facebook.com/reel/1528848141257257 Itslavik

I have a habit of pigging out on too much screen time in my life. At night I watch an hour (sometimes two) of Netflix. I just finished binge watching Suits and I’m looking for something new that is binge worthy. I was half way through season six of Suits when I realized that one of the main characters is played by none other than the Maghan Markle. She’s really a good actress! Then she had to go and ruin the series by marrying The Spare to the Royal Monarch and the series wasn’t the same. I guess it wouldn’t be proper for the Duchess of Sussex to be filmed making out with her TV co-star. Such prudes, those British people. The writers sent her character and her TV husband off to California never to be seen again. The series is set at a New York lawyer firm that only hires from Harvard. Except for one guy. Maghan’s TV flame and later TV husband, Mike, who talked his way into a job as a lawyer even though he’d never been to lawyer school. Of course, he and the wall partner of the firm who hired him spent several seasons trying to hide that fact and another season trying to keep themselves out of prison.

I did find time to finish another custom paint-by-number. (You send a photo into the company and they turn it into a paint-by-number kit.) The painting I made with the kit is to the left. I gave it to the little girl's grandmother but her dog kept barking at it so she gave to her granddaughter, the subject of the portrait. I've had dogs do the same thing with other portrait paintings and I wasn't surprised because this one turned out with the "haunting eyes" that seem to look at you no matter where you stand. How cool is that! I had a hard time letting it go. The girl in the painting is older now and she loves her portrait so all's well that ends well.

I got a pedicure today and the place was overrun with little girls and their mothers. I was clueless that this has become a back-to-school ritual for people with their priorities out of order. In my humble opinion I should add. One woman with three daughters and herself paid $350 plus tip! If you have that much discretionary money on hand why not buy $25 worth of polish and files and teach your daughters how to give themselves or each other nail care and send the rest of the money to the Red Cross or some other charity helping out with the fires in Maui? A couple of those little girls acted like they'd rather be anywhere else but getting pampered by a manicurist and pedicurist at the same time. At least I have an excuse for getting my toenails done: I'm old and can't reach them anymore. I really hate paying for pedicures!

It feels like summer is already over with all the back to school stuff in stores and our fall schedule filling in here at the CCC. I signed up for way too many outings, given I've been busting my budget lately. But how could I turn down a bus trip to my favorite tourist town in the whole world? Or to High Tea or to a lecture by the author of a Braiding Sweetgrass? I’ve only gone to High Tea once, back 15-20 years ago when I was in the Red Hat Society. After I signed up for this tea I remembered I no longer have a hat nor an outfit suitable for the event. So I hopped on Amazon and order a $7.00 Flapper hat that will go with the best outfit in my closet---black pants and a black and white crepe tunic with flowing sleeves. I’ll be woefully under dressed but there is nothing new about that for me and it won’t spoil my fun of reliving the playtime tea parties I had with my mom and my nieces when they were wee little girls. We didn't dress up like princesses or Garden Club ladies like my Red Hat sisters did but my imagination can color in those details just the same. 

Also on the front of what's new in my life is my drafting table and magnifying light. I didn't think I'd be able to show you this photo because the stupid email on my phone quit working so I couldn't email photos to my computer. It took me forever to figure out how to sent a photo to the cloud and pull it back down. Ya, I know I should have learned how to do this years ago instead of emailing myself photos. Call me paranoid but I don't trust those clouds not to be easily hacked. The table is sitting in my living room window and it looks exactly like I envisioned my apartment would be when I picked it out. It just took me nearly
two years to get my act together. Now, I have to get my head together and wrapped it around fixing my email.  Again. I spent over two hours trying every fix on the internet including uninstalling the app and reinstalling it. Still doesn't work. The next step is to call the Jiggerbug's tech department but I have to be in the right mood for that.

Until next Wednesday.  ©


It's a long clip but it shows the chemistry between these to characters and how the hiring happened.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Crazy Day, Crazy Dream and Baseball Parks

It was one of those days when I was so busy the step counter on my fitness watch was calling out in pain, not to mention my fallen aches were doing the same. It was window washing day at the continuum care facility and that generated three appointments for the project. The first at 7:45 AM and I normally don’t get up that early. That one was for the maintenance man to pop out my screens, then another appointment at 10ish for the guys from window washing company to wash the inside of my windows followed by a 12ish appointment for them to come back to wash the windows on the outside of my deck and to pop the clean screens back over the rest of my newly washed windows. In between all this I had a terrible case of diarrhea and the house cleaning service woman showed up on the wrong day and we had to work that out lest she be cleaning around all the stuff that I had to move out of the way of the windows.

After the three window washers/college kids left my apartment I went over to the cafe, had a half a bowl of soup before a lecture titled 'Quirky Baseball Parks' that started at 1:30. I had just enough time after that ended to go back to my apartment, pick up the Mahjong set and deposit the other half of my soup in the refrigerator. Thankfully, the afternoon was diarrhea-free and I won all three Mahjong games.

The craziness didn’t end there. After Mahjong I had a date with three others to go off campus to a popular bar for dinner. And that came about because their usual fourth for off campus adventures was Ms Manners (who moved out) and I happened to be sitting near-by when they planned their dinner so they asked me if I wanted to come (in her place). I really like all three of these women. One is as crazy about Mahjong as I am, one is my neighbor/a retired psychiatrist and the other was a high school English teacher who has the classy wardrobe on this campus. She’s tall and willowy and she could make a potato sack look like Paris couture. All three are in our Tuesday Dinner Discussion group formally known as the Secret Society of Liberal Ladies. Yes, you’d win a bet if you placed it on us toasting the latest criminal indictment of the former president. Speaking of which, there’s a rumor going around that Trump could be offered a plea deal. In exchange for admitting guilt and agreeing never to run for office again he could avoid a trial and a possible prison sentence. Place your bids, ladies and gentlemen, I’m saying he’ll never go for it. He’ll continue putting the country through his circus of flying monkeys until his tombstone reads: “I won that damn election.” 

After I got home from dinner, I put all my furniture and window decor back in place, lined up clothes and plans for the following day then I felt into bed at midnight for a hard sleep that ended at 3AM with a nightmare. I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Finally after playing a dozen hands of Mahjong online, I went back to bed and by morning it came to me what had caused my nightmare. 

In the dream there was heavy wooden door that I kept trying to close and lock with an old fashioned key but the door kept opening up, over and over again---me slamming it harder each time but each time it would open wider than the before. On the other side of the door were ghost-like figures looking menacing like from the movie, Scream. The door in my nightmare---it finally connected in my conscious mind---looked just like the rustic table top at the bar we’d been to.

At dinner the evening before the nightmare the other ladies were all talking about their divorces and how all their husbands had been alcoholics and abusive. And I revealed a carefully guarded detail about my life: The fact that while my husband and I had been a couple for 42 years we were only married for 12 1/2 of those years but the HUGE secret part that I've never shared on campus is that we didn’t live together until after Don's stroke. We had houses a mile apart and our relationship was complicated, hard to explain without a glass of hard cider in my hand and a growing trust factor that I wouldn't be judged. The English teacher said, “You were ahead of your time. That’s the way young people are doing now.” The secret revealed was the broken lock in the dream that wouldn’t keep the door shut any longer.  

By the way, the lecture about quirky baseball parks was interesting and was given by college professor from a local college who was animated and funny in his delivery. Playing field sizes and shapes were not regulated in the early days, he told us, and that contributed to some of the records set by the stars of their era. Some fields where rectangles, others the size of little league fields today and several had uneven distances between their bases---as much as 50 feet! One even had a hill to climb in the outfield. Babe Ruth fell on the hill and quit playing four days later. In a Chicago park there was a small metal sign in the outfield that read: “Hit this sign and you’ll get a free suit at so-and-so store.” One baseball player hit it seven times and got seven tailor-made suits. 

Wednesday are always Mahjong, lunch and lecture day. Wednesday is my favorite day of the week and in no small part because I get to interact with the blog community. Thank you all for reading and leaving comments here.

Until next Wednesday…. ©

 P.S. I won two of the three Mahjong games we played this afternoon. I really love my Wednesdays.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Rumor Mills and Plants that Talk

Image © Friends of Acadia National Park / Yehyun Kim
If you’re a long-time reader you might remember that I’ve hated being pared for dinner with only one person living in my Independent Living facility. I’ve nicknamed her both Ms Manners and Vinegar Lady, the latter because she’s like vinegar to my oil. The former nickname is because of her oh-so prefect table manners and vast knowledge of proper British and Downton Abbey decorum which she talks about in her canary soft voice that barely makes it across the table. She never fails to find something to pick apart about the food---how it’s prepared, how its platted or how its served. She makes me want to lick my knife and watch her faint.

When she’s not talking about the above topics she talks about her world travels and gourmet cooking techniques. Rumor has it that she’s a trust fund baby because she’s never married and never worked. To balance all this out she’s by far the most creative and gifted knitter I’ve ever seen. Every single day, year-around for the two years I've known her she's worn one of her own creations of intricate stitches and the finest yarn money can buy. If I could steal her talent I would do it with no remorse.

Recently we got a notice in out daily email that the elevator in my building would be experiencing long waits that day which means someone was moving in or out. Since we didn’t have any empty apartments everyone was trying to figure out who moved out before the birds woke up. You guessed it. Ms Manners moved which she kept close to her vest (or sweater in her case). One person reported she hadn’t been happy here for a long time, doesn't think the place is managed well. But her next door neighbor had a long conversation with her just the day before the move and she never even mentioned the move nor said goodbye to her circle of line-dancing friends save for one person. We’re all trying to figure out how much money she lost moving out of this continuum care facility then buying into another. Gossip mills have to turn and this was a high-powered surge of gossip turning that metaphorical wheel.

I wondered if my oil vs vinegar reaction to the woman made it past my careful applied, fake smiley face and she sensed my true feelings and that contributed to her discontent with living here. As quickly as the thought ran through my head I dismissed it. In all our interactions she never once asked a question about me, my history or hobbies. We had the no children and knitting things in common so I did try in the beginning to befriend her before I decided I couldn't fake interest in her topics of conversation longer than over dinner. (Don't you hate it when you have to work at being nice? It's exhausting.) I’m sad, though, that she’s gone and I’m not sure if it’s the shock of her leaving or because for a blogger always on the lookout for blog fodder my world lost one of the quirky characters in my sphere of existence. Yup, you guessed it. I do enjoy/tolerate some people for all the wrong reasons.

Change of Topic: In our book club we’re reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Blinklist.com says it’s “a powerful exploration of the relationship between humans and nature, weaving together indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and personal anecdotes.” The author is an enrolled member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a college professor in the Environmental Sciences and Forestry Department at a university in New York. I was surprised Blinklist categorizes the book under the heading ‘Religion & Spirituality’ but I can’ think of a better one because they don’t have a category titled ‘Lyrical Prose that Rolls off your Tongue Like Poetry.’

The retired Art Professor here is the one who suggested the book and she’s been freaking out (my words, not hers) but when I asked her if she was nervous about the coming discussion. She shook her head ‘yes.’ My question was precipitated because The Professor put on her teacher's hat and sent us several emails on how to approach the book and a couple links to videos of the author interviews, etc. She really wants us to love the book as much as she does and most of us were complaining that we were having trouble getting into the book.

I’m still Fangirling the professor so I downloaded the audio version---which I often do if a book is too hard for me too read---and finally by the end of chapter three the book grabbed me and I fell in love with the smoothness of the author’s writing style, the language she uses and the stories of indigenous people that she wove together with modern environmental issues. Jane Goodall says it better in her back cover review: “….Kimmerer shows how the factual, objective approach to science can be enriched by the ancient knowledge of indigenous people. It is the way she captures beauty that I love the most---the images of giant cedars and wild strawberries, a forest in the rain and a meadow of fragrant sweetgrass will stay with you long after you read the last page.”

 Until next Wednesday. ©

 One of my Favorite Quotes from Braiding Sweetgrass 

 "Tom unlocked the door and we stepped inside. What words can capture that smell? The fragrance of your mother's newly washed hair as she holds you close, the melancholy smell of summer slipping into fall, the smell of memory that makes you close your eyes for a moment, and then a moment longer."

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Steamboats and Guilty Trips

A powerful storm torn through our campus several hours before twenty residents from the Independent Living building were booked to go on a steamboat ride down the Grand River. When the severe weather alerts went out we were all thinking the trip would get canceled, but it turned out to be one of those slam-bang-thank-you-mam kind of storms and by the time our bus picked us up we couldn’t ask for better weather. 

Sitting in the lobby waiting for the bus someone pulled the paddle boat’s website up and read a listing of things we’d be seeing: “Trees, streams, flowers, boulders, boaters and paddlers, people fishing, jet skis, fish, Bald Eagles, Herons, Cranes, Ospreys, Swallows, waterfowl, turtles, islands, trash traps (unfortunately), bridges, dead trees…and so on.” By the time the list got to “trees with woodpecker holes” we were all making fun of that dorky list and the Activities Director said if she had time, she’d make us some bingo cards based on that list. Imagine our silly delight and laughter when we got on aboard and they handed out bingo cards like that. It doesn’t take much to entertain old people.

All kidding aside, the steamboat has two paddle-wheels that operate independently so it can maneuver better through narrow channels and sandbars in depths of water as shallow as 22 inches. We’re talking a structure that’s 105 feet long, 25 foot wide and 20 foot tall and holds 144 people including the crew. I don’t care who you are that’s impressive. And the fact that steamboats just like this one have operated from that very same loading dock since the 1830s with it’s hey days ending in 1910---well, all I can say is my generation may have given mankind computers and cyberspace but other generations have built some pretty amazing things as well. Steamboats were an important part of commerce at one point in our history.

Did you know the units we use to measure energy output was named after the guy who invented the steam engine (1769)---James Watt? I didn’t until I started doing research for this post. A steam engine converts water into steam and the steam is what moves the paddles and other things like the wheels on old farm trackers. Not that I needed to research to know how steam engines work. Michigan hosts the biggest steam engine shows in the world and you can’t go to them without learning a thing or two.

Back to the human side of the trip down the river. Five of us from my group lucked out and got a table right next to the captain’s pilothouse so we got the wind in our hair and a forward view that didn’t include other tourists. Two others at our table were from a group of 35 widows and widowers. One of the ladies had been a widow for 15 years, the other less than a year and they hit it off with a newly minted widow from our group. They told us their club meets for lunch once a month and for dinner once a month. They also hold support groups weekly plus outings like we were on four times a year. My brother went to one of their support groups after his second wife died and said he’d never go back. “I couldn’t take all those crying women,” he said. Judging by the guys from this group of widows and widowers---who were keeping the dance floor busy on the steamship---other widowers aren’t as allergic to tears as my brother.

Summer is going by too quickly, isn’t it. It seems like yesterday when this place was hanging flags for Memorial Day. Residents with occasions to celebrate have been keeping the community room busy with their private parties and sometimes that puts me on the spectrum between jealousy and melancholy. But it is what it is. I can’t compete in that arena when others have four to six kids and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren to help them commemorate special occasions. Not only don't I have any wiggly little ones of my own I don’t even know the youngest generation---my great-great nieces and nephews---well enough to keep most of their names straight. Not to mention they live too far away for me to see more than a couple of times a year. The most I can hope for is one day when they're adults they’ll know my name from reading the family history book, assuming at some point they want to find out more about one of the branches in their family tree. I suspect, though, that having an interest in genealogy is a dying hobby with interest waning the farther way one gets from their immigrant roots.

Whenever I get into this kind of poor-me-I-don’t-have-little-kids-in-my-life mood it reminds me of my Aunt Maggie and I feel guilty that I wasn’t warmer to her growing up. She didn’t have any children either and she had some learning and/or mental disabilities. She worked her entire adult life scrubbing toilets and floors in a Catholic hospital so she couldn’t have made much money. Even so she never missed sending me and my brother a few dollars in a greeting card on our birthdays and holidays. Sometimes she’d take a bus out to see us from her tiny apartment near the hospital. 

My mother couldn’t stand being around my aunt and whenever my mom got frustrated with my then-undiagnosed dyslexia she’d say, “You’re just like your Aunt Maggie!” It also took me a very long time to break myself of the brain fart that made me repeat the same things twice which is what my aunt did constantly that drove my mom up a wall. Technically, those brain farts are called Palialia which is on the Tourette's spectrum. Ya, I know, if only they'd had labels for syndromes and conditions back in the '40s and '50s then the mom's of the world would have done better. One could compare this with the awaking happening now regarding the biological causes of transgenders and non-binaries. Scientists know, now, how that (faulty) brain wiring happens but it's taking the general population awhile to catch up and universally accept that's it's not a choice.

Back on point: My cousins treated my aunt better than I ever thought of treating her. There was a genuine warmth between them. Me? I was as stiff as a board when I'd have to accompanying my dad when he'd visit his sister. He loved and was protective of her, knew how hard a life she had---lost her mother at five or six, bullied in school, and was even purposely set on fire once. If I wrote a book about my aunt and I'd title it The Hard Luck Life but I need get off this guilt trip I’m on because it’s heading towards Sadness Lane and it’s too nice of a day for regrets rooted before my teen years.  

Until next Wednesday… ©