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, November 29, 2023

Christmas Spirit and Activities on Campus

My first Christmas alone after my husband died came on the heels of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of twenty children and six adults. It put my grief in perspective. After all, I had forty-two years with Don and the parents in Newtown, Connecticut only got a few years with their innocent little angels. Their bottomless grief was a stark reminder that there are always people in the world who are hurting more than we do. I asked the universe back then “Where have you Gone, Christmas?” Now I'm asking similar questions when the world is so full of hate and war and discord. A world where our dysfunctional Congress has done nothing since Newtown to curb school shootings that are as common now as fleas on an alley cat. But I’m trying my best to push the atrocities of war and political inaction aside and find my Christmas spirit. How do I do that? Do I embrace Solomon’s line about there being a time for peace and a time for war, essentially saying “it’s not my problem, let God handle it?”

“To everything there is a season….a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” In times of grief I’ve always found that Bible verse to be comforting and it’s commonly quoted in sympathy cards. I just wish Solomon’s list of contrasting seasons didn’t end with, “there is a time for war and a time for peace.” I much prefer the Humanist Bible’s take on war and peace which says in Proverbs Chapter 143: “There was never a good war or a bad peace," a quote 'borrowed' from Benjamin Franklin and meant to remind us all that wars come with a terrible cost, no matter the altruistic justifications we use to support them. With that off my chest, I've given my Christmas ghosts their due. Tomorrow I'll turn the page and find my holiday spirit.

There is so much Christmas related stuff going on here at the Continuum Care Complex where I live that you can feel the energy has changed but most of it is stuff I’m not interested in taking part in. First, there is a bus trip today a town on Lake Michigan for holiday shopping followed by lunch. Another day of shopping takes place next week to a pop-up Christmas market here in town. Another night they've booked a trolley ride through a baseball park set up with millions of Christmas lights. Then there is the annual “Decorate the Lobby” party where last year there were two dozen chiefs and very few Indians doing the work. I walked over to that event last year with the intent to get involved but kept right on walking when I saw what was going on. Creative decisions by committee is not my cup of anything. Well, maybe a shot of whiskey could make me see the humor in five people trying to figure out where to hang one Christmas ornament on a tree. When I started in the floral industry I had an old boss who was fond of saying, “Time is money” so I learned to make creative decisions that didn’t light his fire by soliciting the opinions of others. I was a trained floral designer and I had to own it. He was a crusty old guy that most people didn't like but we got along great and he taught me a lot like, "If you don't drink coffee you don't get a coffee break."

In the food department here at the CCC I was happy to see a cookie decorating event on our calendar again and I signed up for that and the gingerbread house contest. We get our house kits this week and I’m excited about that. They’ll have a bake sale here closer to Christmas like they did before Thanksgiving. The kitchen bakes all kinds of goodies we can buy to take to family parties. They are good but pricey. But what isn’t these days. They’ll also have a Christmas buffet and our resident driven Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties.

I’m not one of these people who plays Christmas music in the house. My only music related tradition comes in the form of two music boxes. One my dad brought home from a deer hunting trip when I was four-five years old. It’s the kind that hangs round a child’s neck and it has a crank on the side to play Jiggle Bells. It still worked up until last year. The other music box has a wooden Santa's sleigh on top that goes around when the music plays Silent Night. I’ve had that one since the ‘60s. But on this campus there are tons of music related things to go to. Two bus rides off campus to hear concerts at local churches. A choral group is coming here and we’ve already had a two man show of Christmas music, and a Christmas Caroles sing-along is coming up before the ink is even dry on this essay. (If I were writing this out long-hand instead of on a computer. I need an updated, before-the-ink-is-dry phrase. Any suggestions?) And did I mention all the exercise classes that involve music---and there are four of them---have switched over to Christmas music? The exercise addicted people on campus are going to be sick of it before 2024 gets ushered in. I’m sick of it and I just walk past the exercise room on my way to other things.

And last but not least for many people on campus, since the beginning of November through the end of the year the Movie series, The Chosen One plays twice a week with a study discussion taking place afterward. (They did the same thing last year as well.) Those discussions occasionally spill out onto the lunch table so I know the series is, to quote the internet: “based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.” All the people who are following this series rave about it and for a minute and a half when it first started this year I thought about watching it with the others. My favorite pastor on campus, Ms Angel from my creative writing group, was to lead the discussions and she knows I’m a serious doubting Thomas when it comes to religion. But two weeks ago she and another pastor got downsized without any warning that it was coming. Now, this campus and our sister campus share one pastor. I don’t know how they could do that to her right before Christmas. She was devastated…but trying her best to see this as not an ending of a hard earned goal but as the beginning of a new chapter. And isn't that what most/many of us do when we must move on? ©

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

My Crazy Week with a Happy Ending

It’s Sunday and I don’t have a post ready to edit for Wednesday. That’s out of character for me to cut it so close to the wire. But I’m stalling here, because it's been a crazy, busy week and I haven't narrowed down what to write about. So I’ll start out chronically and see where that takes me.

Monday: I got an echo-cardiogram and before I got home the raw data was posted on my patient portal with a caveat tacked on that it hadn’t been read by a doctor yet. If you’re like me you’re guessing that I then consulted Dr. Google with search terms like “moderate aortic insufficiency present” and “pulmonic valve insufficiency present.” I tried not to get too lost in the weeds until my doctor contacts me, which my portal says could take 10-15 days. I’m six days out from the test now but I’d put money down on him claiming this test proves the cause of my one leg swelling up off and on since July Fourth among other quirky stuff going with my health.

While I was at the hospital for the test I dropped off a couple of bags of clothing for my brother who just had a partial hip replacement the night before. He has since been moved to a rehab hospital in another town and according to my nieces he is doing well physically and is almost back to his baseline mentallys. The rehab hospital is too far away for me to drive so I won’t see him for long while. The plan is for him to return to the Memory Care building next door from me but in the back of my mind is the unsettling thought that it won’t happen, that I will never see him again. But I will not borrow trouble from the future. Yes, that’s my current mantra. Live in the moment. Take it one day at a time. All of those sayings are worth planting deep in my fertile brain lest the negative thoughts take over and I go into a funk just in time for the holidays.

Tuesday: I got a pedicure and afterward I called the foot doctor to take care of what I self-diagnosed as an ingrown toe nail on my big toe. I’ve never had one before but my toe was red and hot and hurt like the devil himself was sucking on it. Fortunately the doctor keeps a crack-of-dawn appointment open for situations like mine and I was able to get in on Friday. She dug out a large chuck of nail that was over-grown with skin. And now I understand why pulling out finger and toe nails is the preferred torture treatment of cartels and prison camp interrogators. I have to soak my toe in Epsom salts for two weeks and put a prescription medication made for ear infections on it---yes, you read that right. I meant to type “ear.” If the redness and soreness isn’t gone by then the foot doctor will have to cut the entire side of the nail out. The office she’s in has 8-10 other foot doctors and they have their own therapeutic pedicures on staff and I’m really happy I have a new place to go where I know I won’t pick up an infection or an ingrown toenail and I can make the technician understand that I don’t want the $10 coat of whatever it is those oriental nail spas want to (over) sell me.

The afternoon of the pedicure I had a dentist appointment to replace two crowns---step one of two. I’d been putting these off for a year because I didn't trust the dentist who claimed I had a cavity he couldn’t get at any other way until another dentist came up with the same claim. The caps were over twenty years old and when I went to their business office to pay for the new crowns the estimated cost had dropped over $600! I couldn’t have been happier. Especially since that same day we got notices that our service fees here where I live is going up $135 starting in January. Right now I’m paying $2,215 a month. When I moved in two years ago it was $1,900. I’m seriously starting to worry about which one will run out first---my life or my money. If it’s my money that runs out first, the Continuum Care Complex is contractually obligated not to kick me to the curb but they do have the right to downsize me to a single room with a half bath. What was that mantra I mentioned earlier? Don’t borrow trouble from the future. Live in the moment. Take it one day at a time. Easier said than done when I feel guilty about spending money on wants and not needs. (See below example.)

Wednesday: This is always my favorite day of the week. I go to lunch at 11:30 and then to a lecture followed by two hours of mahjong. This week the lecturer had a clever presentation of the history of a Michigan Regiment in the Civil War. The guy was in uniform and kept in character of a soldier who told about his life and the battles he’d been in and he shared the letter he was writing back home to his wife and hers to him. Two of the battles had been the same battles my Civil War ancestor had fought in. For an entire hour he kept us spell-bound with his one man 'play'.

Thursday: I got a haircut in a fancy-ass part of town I don’t like going to. I followed my hairdresser over to that shop when she quit a place that was so close I could practically walked to it. I hate looking for new stylists and I don’t look forward to winter driving to a place where I feel like I need to wear my Sunday best just to walk in the door. But that’s a problem for the future and I’m not supposed to look that far ahead. Afterward I went to a fancy-ass candy store that carries all kinds of old-fashioned candy and I spent $35 I didn't need to spend. They are holding another gingerbread house contest here at the CCC and this year I’m determined to move up from third place. (The kitchen staff and chefs took first place and a lot of us think they had an unfair advantage so in my head I came in second place. Nothing competitive about me.)

Friday: I downloaded the Kindle audible of The Knight in Shinning Armor by Jude Deveraux and I spent the afternoon knitting and listening. Knitting and listening and I didn't feel but a tiny bit guilty for wasting the time. Back in my 40’s I fell madly in love with historical romance books and Deveraux was one of my favorite authors. The year this book came out on cassette tape I was plowing snow for my husband’s business. I bought a copy and listened to it every season for 11 years. When I downsized to move here I gave away all my books on tape except for this book. I still have the hardcover as well. It’s consisted a classic in the genre and there is something comforting when you’ve had a crazy week to know a happy ending is coming.

Until next Wednesday. ©

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Sentiemental Garment Show


Our Life Enrichment Director is really good at listening to our suggestions for cultural or fun events to put on our calendar and one I suggested happened this past week. It was called The Sentimental Garment Show. The idea was for people to bring a garment or a photo of yourself wearing the garment to the activities room for a presentation that explains why it’s sentimental to you. At first I thought the idea was a bust because no one signed up for it the first week it was added to our sign-up apt---yes, another reason it helps to be computer literate in continuum care facilities---so I started talking the idea up at the lunch table, explaining the kinds of things people could bring. It worked and we ended up with twenty-two people bringing items and many of them brought more than one garment.

One of the most interesting garments was a simple, white linen ‘under dress’ that was 100 years old and belonged to the grandmother of my 92 year old upstairs neighbor. Another woman had a jacket from the Olympics. She had been on a ski patrol most of her adult life and when the Olympics were in Salt Lake City the committee invited her to work at it, grooming trails. She said they were provided workers with an entire wardrobe that even included underwear in the Olympic colors and with the three ring logo imprinted on everything. A christening gown was made by another resident and she had a photo album with the twelve babies who wore it. Four wedding dresses appeared---one in a preservation box and the others three on hangers and displayed by a woman who’d been married three times. (She gets teased a lot about having three husbands and is good nature-ed about it.) Two quilts made from shirts of husband’s who’d died (one since moving here) were in the show and I could have brought one of those as well, but didn’t. A ratty old bathrobe was brought down with an explanation that it was the owners go-to comfort robe when she was feeling under the weather. I tried to get some of the guys to bring down one of their ratty old tee shirts that their wives claim they won’t let them throw out but I struck out.

A wonderful wool, winter cape was made by the mother of one of our residents. The workmanship was to die for as was the workmanship on a velvet bridesmaid dress and a ring bear’s outfit made by the mother of another resident. A knitted baby dress was presented and a baby’s quilt and a photograph of a baby’s bassinet with a skirt that was made out of a wedding dress.  Another couple brought a king sized quilt they said was sentimental to them for no other reason than that fact that she made it…somewhat out of place in a garment show but if you knew our Life Enrichment Director you’d understand why she rolls with whatever anyone wants to do. There were two hippy, Flower Child dresses and one of them was mine.

The write-up on my entry read: “If you look closely at the fabric in this dress you’ll see the date 1776 scattered in the print. I made this “Hippie Dress” for our Bicentennial in 1976 and I wore it nearly every weekend through that summer. You may remember that cities and small towns across our nation held patriotic celebrations of all descriptions that entire year and my husband and I went to nearly all of those within driving distance. The photo of me wearing this dress was taken after I signed a copy of the Declaration of Independence that’s in a time capsule in some forgotten town. I was wearing this dress when church bells rang in synchronization across the nation on the Fourth and I wore this dress when I stood along a parade route in a tiny town where half its citizens were in the parade while the other half watched. Celebrating the Bicentennial became a cultural phenomenon that included everything from serving red, white and blue foods at family picnics to building UFO landing pads in several cities as an invitation for space aliens to come help us celebrate. When I downsized to move to Clark I sold off a massive collection of Bicentennial Souvenirs but I couldn’t part with this dress and the nostalgic memories attached to it.”     

Changing topics: Another resident suggested a lecture given by her granddaughter who is a Major in the Air Force and works as a dentist for the military. I go to every lecture, even if I think they’ll be boring or ‘hokey’ and I was surprised at how professional this woman’s presentation was and how interesting the life of a woman career officer was. Duh, I hadn’t realized recruitment was part of her job. Only once was I disappointed in a resident-inspired activity. One couple living here has a granddaughter who sings for the local opera house and while she’s well known and respected around the community the room she sang in here was just too small and about busted my eardrums. I’m not fond of that genre of music to begin with but others who like it had the same complaint, so I won’t be in attendants if she’s invited back again this Christmas. Another family has a daughter and son-in-law who run a dude ranch out west and when they come visit family around Christmas they lead a sing-a-long at are fireplace that make us want to have ‘smores. With all the holiday doings going on around here I might have to add an extra post or two in to the line up.

Until Next Wednesday. ©

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Covid on Campus, Netflix's 'The 100' vs Hallmark


Well, it’s started. Covid is on our campus and is rearranging our lives. First it was two people then it spread to four and then it took the entire bridge club out of action and our Life Enrichment Director started canceling stuff hand over fist. Those with symptoms have to quarantine themselves in their apartments until they get a negative Covid test. Those who were exposed to someone with symptoms must get tested every day for five days and are asked to wear masks during those five days of waiting to see if they come down with Covid. Our dining room is like a ghost town because so many people are getting take-outs.

They had a vaccination clinic on campus yesterday for anyone who still hadn’t gotten the latest Covid and flu vaccines and it was well attended, I heard. I got my shots last month but it was interesting at the dinner table last night listening to a woman who took one look at the application for the clinic shots and decided not to get them because, “They want to know too much about us!” I saw the application in our daily email and it was the standard questions everyone everywhere will ask so they can bill your Medicare and/or private insurance company. And while several people including her husband tried to tell her that, she flatly refused believe it. So I mentally checked her off the list of people I’ll be sitting next to at book club, dinner, parties or lectures until flu and Covid season is over. I joked that I wish the powers that be should make us all wear our vaccination cards around our necks so we'd know who skips getting them, and someone else took that idea to higher level and added that they could color code them like the state does with are car license tabs.

I also checked off the list sitting near known Trump supporters. As our most vocal Trumpette said this week, “Covid is just a bad cold with a new name!” I beg your pardon, Dumbass, colds didn’t killed millions of people worldwide at the beginning of the pandemic. Oh, the things I would like to say and don’t. She tells everyone she’s never had Covid, been sick with a bad cold but go over it. “It was nothing.” I did have the guts to call her a Spreader, though, after she said she'd never been tested for Covid. “If you’ve never been tested then you don’t know if you had it or not. That makes you a Spreader.” I learned those lines from my niece and I was proud I had the guts to use it. 

This year, people have been reporting how easy Covid was to catch but that their symptoms are cold-like. That’s no excuse for not getting the vaccines. It’s because of the vaccines that Covid variations are getting weaker and/or our immune systems are getting stronger. One couple here, though, was an exception. They’ve been sick and off the grid for five whole weeks. They’d been tested many times over that time frame for Covid and various other viruses but nothing has shown up. They described their symptoms as “Sleeping Beauty Meets Apathy.” All they wanted to do is sleep, and had no energy or desire to fight the fog in their heads. Listening to them at dinner I started worrying about myself because lately I’ve been falling asleep every time I sit in my La-Z-Boy. When I voiced this out loud someone laughed and told me that’s just old age catching up with me.

We’re not under a mask requirement to be in public areas. Yet. But before the winter is over I’ll bet we will see its return. Visitors aren’t being logged in for contact tracing either which I’m happy about not having to do every time I visit my brother. But I will gladly comply if it means the Activities Calendar doesn’t keep getting events crossed off. This morning the monthly birthday party bit the dust and I always enjoy the musical entertainment at those. Even Mahjong got canceled because the woman who taught us all how to play also plays bridge and is still in the "spreader phase" of Covid.

Between Covid taking away my fun stuff, my frustrations with Google and Bloggers, the clown show going on in our House of Representatives, two terrible wars in the world and now another mass shooting spree, I finally resorted to doing what I usually do in situations when I feel helpless. I found myself a post-apocalyptic Netflix series to watch. I know, it doesn’t make sense that watching or reading about how people survive (or not) in a post-apocalyptic world somehow helps me to put things in prospective. But it does. My problems get smaller by comparison and they remind me that it’s the strong that survives, the ones who don’t give up. I got this way because both my parents were good at pointing out, "It could be worse" when I did stuff like skin a knee. "you've still go a leg."

In the past week and a half I’ve binge-watched the first three seasons of The 100. It's about a group of 100 teenagers from a detention center who were born, raised and lived on The Ark, a space station built after a nuclear disaster that fried our planet. The Ark is dying and the teens were sent down to see if earth is inhabitable. Of course, it is and they soon find out there are pockets of societies who are descendants of people who never left earth. Here in real time there are so many bat-crazy things going on but at least I can go to bed at night and not have to worry about people living in a domed city who’d hunt me down, drain my blood then give me to the Cave Reapers to finish me off. You can't get that kind of reassurance watching those Christmas Romance movies on Hallmark. 

Yes, it's that time of year again and one day like magic a switch will get flipped in my head---soon I predict---and I'll be trading the post-apocalyptic junk in for the promise of everlasting love. Three of Hallmark movies doesn't make a binge but that's my score as of right now and already I see a pattern emerging of overworked mom's learning how to knit. That's product placement at work but no one does product placement better than Hallmark. Last night's movie revealed a brother and sister separated by adoption 50 years ago had both written, never send but kept Christmas cards they wrote every year to the other one. That script was a shoe-in to sell to Hallmark. Don't you just love how cleaver some people can be? Hallmark wants a Christmas card in every movie, I've give them 100!

Until Next Wednesday. ©