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 27, 2023

High Tea and the Mayor

It’s a rare occasion when I share a photo of myself online but the one below of me all dolled up and experiencing High Tea seems like a good time to do it. People on my continuum care campus are not used to seeing me put any effort into my clothing. (Jeans and a sweat or tee shirt are my uniform.) Heck, I even broke out the jewelry and I traded in my tennis shoes for some black dress shoes I’ve owned for two years and only wore once before. The self appointed mayor of our independent living building even paid me a complement while were waiting for our bus---only the third one I’ve gotten out of him in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. And one of those complements was for a poem I wrote that got me in a little trouble with the management. The third complement the Mayor gave me was when I walked a run-away at a purple fashion show for Alzheimer's Awareness. I wore a long, purple and turquoise  lounging dress of fake silk and he told me I “won the fashion show.”   

Mr. Mayor is an odd duck in many ways but in other ways he’s typical of most males born just before WWII whose ideas of the male/female roles are firmly fixed in his head. I met him the first month after we both moved in. I was in the cafe by myself and he came in and asked if he could join me. I said ‘yes’ and a scant few minutes later he got up and said he changed his mind and he moved to another table by himself. I found out later on that his wife had died not long before that and he was kind of a shy, corporate lawyer. His wife was a stay-at-home mom of five boys who always had a cocktail waiting for him when he got home from work and she laid his clothes out for him in the morning. She'd never even shaved her legs in front of him and they dressed for dinner at night. Fast forward to now, it didn’t take him long to get over his shyness and now he has what we all call his harem that he dines with him weekly at the so-called Mayor’s Table--seven women who are the cream of the crop, the head cheerleaders, the most bedazzled, the Royalty and Chosen Ones---I’ve used all these nicknames in my head and they often have cocktails beforehand in one of their apartments. His guest list changes slightly from time to time but I’ve never been invited to dine with the mayor so it's a good thing it's not on my Bucket List. In all fairness, the Harem mostly lives on the same floor which makes it easier for them to form friendships. I live on a hall with only six apartments and I rarely see anyone on my floor and I doubt I could pick two of them out of a lineup.

I do often sit at the community table with Mr. Mayor at lunch time and know how seriously he takes his job as the self-appointed mayor. He set up a residence council with by-laws and legal papers and a newsletter that he did ask me to be in charge of, which I turned down. I knew I had the experience to put one together but how he could possibility know that based on one poem I wrote and hung in the mail room is still beyond my comprehension. I’ve never told anyone here about the 24 page, by-monthly Readers Voice Newsletter I sold by subscription for ten years. I don’t even think my nieces knew about it. And Don---bless his heart---edited every word I wrote for spelling errors and in the process he learned a lot about romance books, the women who wrote them and read them. 

Anyway, back to the mayor. He’s kind of the center of every event. He makes speeches and advocates for residences on all kinds of things. For example, he got management to install dehumidifiers for those who wanted them attached to their furnaces and he wrangled a seat at the table when our CEO got promoted and the management was interviewing his replacement. He got them to agree to a matching fund to buy a baby grand for our lobby (but the majority of we residents voted the idea down). He might be a self-appointed mayor but he’s more than earned the title. 

Going to High Tea: that’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was in The Red Hat Society and I lost the opportunity to go with them. Back then we didn’t have a High Tea place in town so going was a day trip, and back then I couldn’t leave my husband alone for more than a scant two hours. My red hat sisters came back raving about how much fun it was to dress to the nines and be served exotic teas, fancy sandwiches and pastries on elegant china. 

A High Tea room opened up here in town this summer and the decor and table settings were rich and fancy with its exposed, vintage brick wall and red velvet davenports and gold trimmed china which is a good thing because the service was not great and the food was so over priced it could have ruined the experience if we had let it. (The photo of the menu is below.) By the time they added on the tax and the tip it was $49.00! per person. It looks like a lot of food for the $37 but everything you get for the $37 was two-bites and while it all tasted good, $49 plus $7 for the bus ride really put a nick in my budget. Or as one of my High Tea companions said, “I might as well have rolled up dollar bills and lite them on fire.” 

Still, the experience made me feel young again. Young enough to be having tea parties with my mom and later on with my nieces when they came along. My mom didn’t drink coffee or soda pops. I don’t even remember her drinking lemonade but I find it hard to believe that she’d have made it for us kids without pouring herself a glass or two. I also don’t remember her ever drinking ice tea but, again, I obviously didn’t pay enough attention back in those days to imprint a lasting memory of her liking ice tea or not. Her English ancestries would be proud that her appreciation for a good cup of hot tea never wavered. And that tea better be hot or she’d sent it back to where it came from for a do-over. Funny how some memories stick with you and others seem to float away like dandelions blowing in the wind. 

Until next Wednesday... ©


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Nerds with Muscles

There was a long line at the grocery store giving me plenty of time to study the stuff the guy in front of me had in his cart. The thirty year old inside me thought he was cute enough to be a cover model for a magazine called Nerds with Muscles. His body was what the in crowd today would called ‘hot’ but back in my thirty-something days we would have called him a hunk. He was wearing serious glasses---like the guy in the photo above---and his dark hair was styled exactly the same way as Photo Boy’s. If Photo Boy had a brother you’d swear he was standing six feet in front of me. Be still my aging ticker. What? An old woman can't enjoy the scenery around her? (By the way, that photo was pulled off a hair-styles-for-men site which is a great place to shop for eye candy.)

But what caused me to take a second look at the guy was what was in his cart. He had two giant, red bottles that on closer inspection turned out to be Old Spice Fiji shampoo and conditioner. And flanking those pump bottles were Old Spice Fiji body wash and Old Spice Fiji antiperspirant. The Old Spice website says "it smells like vacation with the scent of coconut and tropical wood.” Of course I didn’t know that standing in line but with all that Old Spice in his cart I had to find out if I could detect the scent of the Old Spice after shave that my dad wore for years. I got in front of my cart to unload my stuff on the conveyor belt and took a deep breath. I can’t honestly say that breathing in Mr. Tall, Dark and Nerdy made me think of my dad or a vacation in Fiji but the 30 year old inside me would have jumped his bones if he showed the slightest interest in me and my Aveeno scented body. 

Instead, I couldn’t help asking him if he had important date that night, motioning to all the grooming products in his cart. He must have had 4 or 5 body washes and an equal number of antiperspirants mixed in with razor blades, Q-tips---even some lip gloss. No food. Thankfully he laughed and didn’t look at me like I was an old cougar trying to hunt where I didn’t belong. “I have a date tonight but not an important one,” he replied. “That didn’t come out right,” he quickly added. “I like to stock up when I shop.” Nice guy, respectful of his elders but the sad part is when I was his age I wouldn't have been bold enough to talk to him.

Before going to the store I was struggling to find a topic to write about and the choices ran the gamut from the loss of a good friend I’ve known since 1970 to a day trip to my favorite tourist town to feeling like a college student at the beginning of a new semester with all the new events planned here on my Continuum Care Campus. One event in particular has me excited: a Murder Mystery Dinner at “Lord Heathchiff's Manor.” I’ve never been to a mystery/murder party so I’m excited about this one. We’ll get our character profiles two weeks earlier so I’ll probably tap my readers for some costume ideas and character idiosyncrasies I can incorporate into my persona. Scratch that. I just googled ‘murder at heathcliff manor’ and came up with the list of 20 characters in the game along with a description of what they should wear. I hope I don’t get the part of the Vicar. It could get me in trouble if I act all pious or let my contempt for organized religion show. Our Activities Director said some of us women will have to play a male part since men are not all that plentiful around here. The day this event was posted it filled up and we have a waiting list. That hasn't happen before.

It’s been a busy week in part because I decided I needed to be more intimately connected around here in a social group in addition to Mahjong. So I’m learning to play Quiddler with the Thursday night group. For someone like me, who is spelling challenged, it’s a bit scary but my mahjong mentor is part of the Quiddler group and I showed her my hand from time to time and asked, “Is this a word?” Her daughter is dyslexic and she has a way of laughing at me that makes me feel loved and understood all rolled into one large ball of acceptance. She puts everyone at easy when she laughs at and corrects a faux pas' I made when I talk “left handed” as I call it. The older I get the more I’m making mistakes like words out of order or the opposite of what I meant to say. The first night I played Quiddler I scored next to the bottom of the twelve of us playing. Last night I scored next to the top. 

I really don’t know if my attempt to network deeper into the social structure here will make me happier or whatever my goal is exactly. I just know a lot my neighbors have made some really good friends and I haven't. This was brought home to me when two of my mahjong buddies were talking about a Rhodes Scholar road trip they are taking with two others here on campus. Occasionally three of the four of them have asked me to dine with them. We even went to see the new Barbie movie together. But they all got close because they do the line dancing class together and that group of 12 do parties together and impromptu to outings for ice cream or coffee and even do off campus dance performances for our marketing department. I can’t say I’m jealous. Not exactly. But their road trip pointed out the fact that while I have friends here I don’t have any close friends. With my long-time friend dying this week and my other long-time one battling Alzheimer's I suddenly feel lonely.

While I was at the grocery store/big box store I got my second Pneumonia vaccine, my 2023 flu shot and the new RSV vaccine for respiratory virus’ and I signed up to get a text when the new Covid shots are available. You can predict with a high level of accuracy who around here is getting the Covid vaccine and new the RSV shots by what political party they support. The Trumpests aren’t getting them because “Covid is just like a common cold” and they say they don’t trust the new RSV vaccine because it is new. One of the guys in my Writing Group just got out of a two week quarantine with Covid and I don’t intend to go to Covid jail. Not that I couldn’t entertain myself that long and survive by getting food delivered to my door. The pharmacist who gave me the three vaccines said they might make me tired and I slept like the dead that night, only waking up once which is a record for me. Otherwise I didn’t even get sore at the injection sites. 

Until next Wednesday…

  Rest in Peace, Vicki. 

Some losses are too painful to express in words or actions. 
I didn't cry when I got the news
 that your valiant fight against cancer ended. 
But two days later I killed a spider
 I broke out crying like there was no tomorrow. 
He didn't need to die and neither did you. 
Already I miss our friendship
your trademark sense of humor.
Our road trips and get-togethers with you and Ron
 were the best.
You always packed
best laughter and good cheer.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Season of Spiced Lattes and Fall Colors

September is firmly in place with all the changes it brings. Children are settled into their new classes by now and when a sunny, warm day comes along we treasure it because we know we won’t get many more before we’ll be able to see our breath on our morning walks. It also won’t be long until Starbucks brings back their pumpkin spiced lattes and kids (and their parents alike) will be thinking about Halloween costumes. In my day---don’t you just love saying that---“In my day”? I do. It makes me feel silly, like I’m lapping up one of the few perks that comes with getting old; I’m schooling the ‘youngins’ about the good old days when we had to walk up hill to and from school and when if we missed an episode of our favorite TV show it was gone forever. Wait! We didn't even have a TV until I was well into high school.

Anyway, in my day adults didn’t dress up for Halloween. In fact, it was a two edged rite of passage when our moms told us we were getting too big to dress up for Halloween. On one hand we didn’t want to leave the free candy gathering ritual behind but on the other hand, we were being told Halloween was for little kids and our moms had moved us out of that category and into the boy-girl, spin-the-bottle parties era of our lives in place of going trick-or-treating. Today, dressing up is almost as much of an adult activity as it is for little kids. How did that happen? I really want to know. The last few years where I used to live I’d get my fair share of parents in costumes holding out their plastic pumpkins at my door. A few said they were trick-or-treating for a sick kid at home or for the baby in their strollers. I always had some boxes of animal crackers on hand for those stroller moms and I watched their faces to see if those stroller moms were disappointed that they didn’t get my Reese’s peanut butter cups. Old people know how to have fun, too. 

Some people love fall, but I’m not a fan. It’s always represented a lot of work getting ready for winter. But I've been down this Memory Lane before here in my blog so I'll just use the code words: Raking leaves, storm windows and getting snow removal equipment ready. I love trees but for a split second every fall I understand why two people I know cut down every darn tree in their yards. I hate it when people do that. We need the oxygen and shade they produce.

Now days I’m guessing you’d be hard pressed to find a teenager who’d rake and burn leaves after school for weeks on end or stuff a ton of large bags with leaves each seasons. We had a yard full of oak trees at the cottage and in town. And if you know oak leaves, you know they don't fall all at once like other species do. Raking Leaves is one of those jobs like giving yourself manicures and pedicures that are now full-fledged business’s for adults. It’s become another one of those ‘in my day-isms’ I like to throw around.

Another reason I’m not fond of fall is I’m probably the only person I know in seven counties who hates the fall color palette---orange in particular agitate me physically. But we’ve had this conversation before, too, so I’ll add some new content on the subject by sharing that I recently learned about the psychology of the color orange. In our western societies it’s considered a high energy color, the color of fire, and is often used in advertising and high school colors to get people excited. But in Southeast Asia monks wear orange robes---the color of saffron---to symbolize letting go of materialism and people in those parts of the world find color orange peaceful which demonstrates there is a cultural element to how we react the color. 

However, research has also proven that the longer wavelengths of orange and red are connected with higher levels of arousal which begs the question: Why Red Light districts and not Orange Light districts if the human body is sexually aroused by both colors?  I'll tell you why. Because back in the 1600s prostitutes in Holland, who met the ships coming into harbor full of sailors, would carry red lanterns because the red glow they cast camouflaged their pimples and boils and signs of venereal diseases. So the red lanterns became associated with sex workers that far back. And the custom spread out world wide from there.

The color orange has an interesting history if you enjoy that sort of thing. And I do but at the risk of boring readers I won’t overshare. Okay, you twisted my arm. Just one more fun fact. The color orange was around for several centuries before it had a name. It was just called yellow-red until the word for the color was first recorded in 1502. But it wasn’t until the seventeenth century that the word was familiar enough that people started using “orange” as an adjective to denote the color of an object. When I'm struggling to tell my nieces what I had for breakfast that morning I hope they'll remember I have obscure facts in my head, if only they'd ask the right questions to get them out. ©

 Until Next Wednesday….

* Painting at the top was done by artist Erin Hanson.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Tipsy Typing, Wine Tastings and my Medical Report

Every 4 or 5 weeks they have a food or beverage tasting or cooking lessons here on my Continuum Care Campus---well, at least here in the independent living building. I shouldn’t be starting a new post now since I just returned from a wine tasting which I did on a practically empty stomach. All I had to eat today was a bowl of cream of chicken soup at lunch time---and the tasting was a 3:00---and I feel a little tipsy. You would not believe all the spelling errors I’m making and I just got started. I’m not going to show them to you because I’m vain about my writing. ‘Self-conscious’ might be a better word/s than ‘vain’ but at the moment I don’t care enough to cipher out the difference. 

We tasted five red wines today and I could feel myself talking louder and sharing more freely than I usually do. I didn’t do that with the white wine or beer tastings or the ice cream tasting and certainly not at the salsa or tea tastings or the pickling demonstration. Ya, I know. Why would they teach a class on pickling veggies to a group of elderly women who probably all did some canning if not a lot of canning in their younger years include me, the Queen of Never Cook When You Can Eat Out. We all asked that same question and I came up with they just want to let us get to know the chef better. One time he taught us how to make a flaming banana dessert. It tasted fabulous but half the women living here won't use their stoves for fear of setting off our super sensitive fire alarms which brings the fire department to our doorsteps, so the idea of us using a blowtorch in our kitchens is laughable.

Anyway, back to Red wine. Red wine and I go back a long time. My mom and dad gave my brother and me a shot glass full of Mogen David Red wine on special occasions starting at age ten. I still have the shot glass that was mine. (Can I hear an "awe, isn't that sweet?") My dad was the son of Italian immigrants and in his formative years he lived surrounded by Italian immigrants in a coal mining community. Even after moving to Michigan before his teens he was tight with his Italian uncles and aunts who also moved here for better jobs in the furniture factories. I barely remember them, except for the stories my dad told, since most of them died before I old enough to pay attention to great aunts and uncles. Hey! Maybe that’s why I’m so obsessed about leaving something behind for my great nieces and nephews to remember me by?

I did this wine taste on an empty stomach because I'm running out of money in my food allowance and I only have $4 to last from now to the end of the month which is three days away as I type this. Don’t feel bad for me, though. I do have TV dinners in my freezer, cereal and soup and sardines in my pantry and if I really wanted to, I could go over my allotted $320 food allowance and they’ll bill my overage on my monthly service fee statement. I could even let it be known that I ran out of money and someone would invite me to dinner if their food allowance was more than they can use up before the 31th. It’s just a point of pride and discipline that I try to stay on a budget so I can break even at the end of the month. That’s getting harder and harder to do because food prices have gone up but not our allowance. My budget allows me two, half price happy hour drinks ($7) and one dessert ($5) per month and I may have to stop that soon.

Most people here either go wildly over or woefully under budget. The ones who have nightly drinks and/or desserts with dinner are in the former group---They don’t care what they spend. The people who don’t like eating on campus are always flush with food allowance money this time of the month. Over the next few days they’ll come down and raid the cafe of all its soft drinks, chips and ice cream bars. Or they’ll make reservations for their entire family and blow all their food allowance at one time.

A few days later: After re-reading the above paragraphs I was pleased that I can still use them in my blog and I only had to make a dozen corrections. Tipsy typing was actually fun. I should do it more often. 

Enough silliness: I’ve been using the search feature on my blog, trying to find out if I’ve written a ‘health report’ recently. I was using the search words ultrasound, ultra-sound and full bladder. The first two brought up old posts and the ‘full bladder’ search brought up a surprising number of posts where I was writing about urinary tract issues. But nothing turned up about the pelvic ultrasound I had recently where they looked at my bladder then stuck a camera up inside me to look for cancer in my female parts. Nope, don’t have any. They thought if I did that might explain why my leg has been swelling up since the Fourth of July. I did find it interesting that I can hold 32 ounces of water in my bladder for two hours. I practiced for three days before the test just to make sure I could do it. As a result I’m now on a medication to suppress bladder urges at night and I’ve gone from getting up 6 to 10 times a night to 3-4 times. I can live with that, but they say you don’t get the full effect of the medication for a couple of months so it could improve even more.

The search for why one of my legs is swelling up started, as I said, on the Fourth of July when I got an ultrasound on my leg looking for a blood clot at ER but that was only the beginning. A followup appointment at my primary doctor’s office with one of his associates put me in a line up of tests like I am a Domino ready to take down the rest of the tiles. Blood tests, urine tests and the pelvis ultrasound are done and coming up this fall is an electrocardiogram, a colonoscopy and endoscopy. The doctor doesn’t think the heart thing will turn anything up but with the later two tests they’ll be looking for something that has been causing the mild anemia I've had for the past three years. I know they’ll find something with the endoscopy but I haven’t confessed that to my doctor, yet. I’ve had some mild swallowing issues for a couple of years now that have gotten worse in the past few weeks. I self-diagnosed that I had a TIA at one point in time and why have an endoscopy and brain scan just to confirm that when there is no treatment other than, "Go forth and eat slower."

The frosting on the cake is that I have a wide-spread rash that gets red and itchy on the leg that swells up. I have to see a dermatologist about since the standard cream my primary gave me isn’t working. It’s the same leg where I had the Mohl surgery for skin cancer. I can’t help thinking that the swelling, the rash and my skin cancer are connected but the four doctors I've seen---ones at UC and ER and two at my primary doc's office---all say words to the effect, “Nope, put your medical license back in the Cracker Jack box where your found it.” Do you hate these medical 'fishing trips' as much as I do? 

Oh, and have I mentioned the dentist wants to replace two of my crowns because the rent on his boat slip is probably due? I told him I have bigger fish to fry right now. He wants a $1,000 above what insurance pays and the crowns I have aren't that old. I miss my old dentist who was a personal friend and never over-sold us stuff we didn't need. Covid caused him to retire early as did my eye doctor and they've both been replaced by kid-doctors who don't look old enough to buy beer.

Until Next Wednesday…. ©