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, January 31, 2024

How to Keep Your Apartment Super Clean

I’ve finally figured out how to keep my apartment clean and ready for drop-in company at any moment. Step one: Have a second cousin and her husband invite themselves over one Friday afternoon for a tour of the complex and to catch up on family news. I was excited to do it and needless to say I worked hard at spit shining my apartment so it looked its best. I used to babysit her and her three siblings---two sets of twins and let me tell that’s not an easy task for a young teenager and if I’m not mistaken that’s when I came up with the slogan that I’ve literally used ever since those bygone days of: “I won’t babysit anyone who isn’t old enough to say, ‘My stomach hurts. I need to go to the hospital.’”  

Step two in how to keep my apartment spic and span: Have that same cousin want to come back the following Friday to look at and identify old family photos and to include my oldest niece in the process. 

Before the first Friday it took me two days to get my apartment looking its best---dusting and cleaning the floors, the bathrooms and kitchen because it came when I couldn’t have the benefit of my monthly “Environmental Specialist” aka cleaning woman’s scheduled stop. I didn’t want to repeat the two days of cleaning so in between the two Fridays I was extra careful not to mess things up again…and that’s the secret. From now on I’m going to require someone to stop by every Friday. Heck, if I could wave a magic wand and make that happen I could fire my cleaning lady who, by the way, had barely anything to clean this month since I was on her schedule the following Monday morning after the second Friday. Both of those Friday visits, by the way, were full of joy and we made plans for a couple of summer get-togethers. 

Isn’t it silly (or maybe cleaver) that the management calls our cleaning service people 'Environmental Specialists?' I suppose its meant to give them more pride and prestige and I can imagine that title has a practical application for the young and single Environmental Specialists out on the town trying to pick up members of the opposite sex. When they first opened this continuum care complex and we had our first monthly Resident Dialogues meeting with the management, on the agenda was a line about introducing us to the Environmental Specialist team and no one sitting around me could figure out what that position was.

We get the cleaning service free and can’t change our dates of service. And even if I wanted to I couldn’t fire my ES nor could I get a rebate if I canceled. Trust me, people here in the CCC have tried. They has a list of things they can’t clean that would be considered deep cleaning in most people’s lives but some residents have too high of expectations, in my opinion. It’s a basic cleaning meant to keep our kitchens and bathroom from making us sick from germy surfaces and our floors mopped and vacuumed. One man got so mad that the management wouldn’t give him a $40 credit for not allowing the ES into his apartment that he put a chair outside his door and expected the cleaning woman to sit there for the whole hour and half she was scheduled to clean his place. “Since I have to pay for her time anyway.” Another woman---our resident MAGA fan---is so distrusting of cleaning people that she won’t leave them alone in a room because she thinks “they’ll steal you blind.” I’m pretty darn sure that everyone working here has to pass a background check so that doesn’t concern me. Still, I’m not naive either and I lock my filing cabinet on cleaning day where everything needed to steal my identity is kept. And after spending five or ten minutes talking to my ES I’ll walk over the the cafe for coffee.

We’ve had three different cleaners since I moved in two years ago. The first one was a fresh-off-the-boat Irish immigrant. She got moved to cleaning on our sister campus because so many people complained about her. I felt badly for her and thought she was a victim of the residents' unrealistic expectations for places like this. Next we got a black guy aka Mr. Eye Candy who left to start his own cleaning company. He was one of the best cleaners I’ve been around. Our management just subcontracted his new company to clean our carpets in the spring. The young black girl who replaced him has the same aspirations of starting her own service. Both are super nice kids. (I’m old, anyone under 35 is a kid.)

I personally think our forced cleaning service is an excuse for the management to check on us seniors. To make sure we aren’t turning into hoarders (we do have one here) or otherwise inviting bugs and mice in or doing dangerous stuff like burning candles or smoking (we have one of those, too) or leaving burners turned on or having an unregistered pet that isn't being fed or walked outside for potty breaks. If my theory is right, I’m not unhappy about that. Some of us seniors need a Big Brother watching over us. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. ©

P.S. Our resident smoker was recently sent to a hypnotist, but claims it didn’t work. Management is sending him back for a second session. In the meantime he’s supposed to only smoke on his deck which is so much better than him trying to hide in the closet where he smoked before. He’s in his mid 80s and I’m glad we don’t live in the same building. The hoarder lives in my building and I’m guessing the fire department will give her a health and well-being citation when they inspect the smoke alarms and sprinklers next summer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Is There Any Subject I Won't Write About?

I woke up this morning thinking that I had to pee like a Russian race horse. I haven’t been around horses enough since my teens to remember how they pee but it’s phrase my husband used all the time. I hadn’t thought about that idiom in years and I’ve never tried to track down its origin before today. 

My husband was brought up on a farm that used work horses to plow the fields before 1955 when his father bought their first tractor. A brand new blue Ford that I had to sell after Don died in this century. I tried to get him to agree to sell it after his stroke when we had an auction at the pole barn where we stored his heavy equipment but I was afraid it would give him another stroke if I sold it without his agreement. So I had it moved to a small storage unit where it sat eating up money until he died. Well, not really. The antique value of the tractor off-set the twelve years of storage fees. Tip for the day: Never try to have an argument with a stubborn stroke survivor with only a 25 word vocabulary. Sympathy will make you lose most of the time, especially when his face gets beet red and he’s holding on to your hand for dear life and repeating the word, “Please” over and over again.

I could not find a source that I totally trusted for an explanation for the ‘pee like a Russian race horse’ idiom but someone on a Reddit forum said it came about when Americans started betting on race horses only the phrase was “pissing like a rushin’ horse.” Another forum user wrote: “Some claim that the expression is negative because Russian trainers (or the Russian mafia) cheated by feeding their horses a lot of water…and somehow prevented them from urinating thus making them nervous and faster. People saw the horses nervously peeing before a race. If a horse did this before the race it was an advantage since it could lose up to 10 pounds. In the ‘70s trainers started giving a drug called "lasix" to their horses.”

Another Reddit user from Southern Indiana wrote this: I've always said, "I have to pee like a rushin' racehorse". Meaning that the horse was in such a hurry (or rushing) to get to the finish line, because he had to Pee so bad. That's how all the people around me interpret it. I can see how Rushin' can get mixed up with Russian.”

None of this gives me a clue how and where my husband picked up the idiom. My best guess is he heard it at basic training. Anyway, today was the first time in my life I remember comparing myself to a Russian race horse and I hope it’s the last. But it does occur to me that I’m being drugged like a race horse to pee on queue. I take a pill at night that cuts down on me waking up to mild bladder urges so that I can get a better quality of sleep---and no, I don’t wet the bed taking them. I get 'false' urges when my bladder isn’t full. Isn’t that amazing. They have pills to make you quit peeing and pills to make you pee.

Getting enough sleep has been an ongoing problem since I moved to the continuum care campus. First it was the bright parking lot lights that lit up my bedroom like its daytime, messing with the circadian rhythms that ques us to when to sleep. After six months of complaining about that the management agreed to buy us all black out shades to address the problem. Then I got into the habit of watching two hours of TV in bed before I turn it off. Actually, I’ve been watching TV in bed for the better part of my life but the TV in my bedroom, now, is smarter than my old bedroom TV that is now in my living room. The smart ones emits UV rays which also mess with your circadian rhythm. Don’t suggest I swap my TVs around. It wouldn’t work. We have no cable connection in our bedrooms here and to watch Netflix's in the living room I’d have to buy a new TV that can stream. If you’d ever dropped off a TV at the county electronics recycling center you’d understand the sick feeling I get when I think of getting rid of a TV that still works great with cable. I just can’t do it. My parents were Depression Era people who imprinted on me the habit of never throwing out things that still work and around here, The Salvation Army and Goodwill will not take TVs.

But for ten dollars I may have solved my screen-time-in-bed problem. I bought a pair of clear glasses that block the UV light. I put them on when I go to bed to watch TV. I thought it would take time to experience a difference in my ability to fall asleep---if it did at all. I’ve only had them five days and all five nights I got sleepy at 12:30 to 1:00  instead of 2:00! If this keeps up I’m going to have my next pair of prescription glasses made to block out the UV rays for all the hours I spend in front of my computer. In the meantime I've learned to use my Kindle safer by using the Blue Shade timer setting and that’s got to help too---assuming I remember to grab my Kindle instead of looking up random idioms on the computer in the evening hours.

Until Next Wednesday. ©

Photo Note: You haven't lived until you've let someone drag you to an antique tractor show, not once but every year for a decade. It was Don's dream to show his farm tractor one day. This show was in Sussex, UK. We didn't go there but they all look (and smell) the same. If my memory serves me right the idea with the steam powered tractors was to see how slow you could go before killing the engines or maybe it was the goal with the gasoline engines? Or both? Not sure and I'm too lazy to look it up.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Sadiversary Number Twelve

Last summer the IT guy here on the continuum care campus was messing around with my computer for some Mickey Mouse reason when he said I don’t have the requirements needed to upgrade my operating system to Windows 11. I didn’t care. I don’t like change. I hate it when they become a necessary evil in the computer world. I told him all that and he said just keep it in mind if you see a great deal on a new computer. You’ll need one when Microsoft quits supporting Windows 10. I wanted to ask him if he thought I’d live that long but he’s my computer doctor not my medical doctor so I let it pass. When we were having this conversation I thought we were talking about something that would happen five or six years from now but---yikes!---I just looked it up and they quit supporting Windows 10 October 14, 2025! 

This conversation was floating around in my head because since New Year’s I’ve been wondering if the operating system known as my brain has run out of room. They say our brains are like computers and for the past couple of weeks I couldn't concentrate and thoughts seemed to be running around in a loop, not finding a place to land. Even the deck top in my den mimics the disarray inside my head. It looks like it belongs to a slob with its piles of notes, mail and papers that need to be put in my filing cabinet or in the shredder, both of which are within three feet from the desk. Wouldn’t you think if I can walk that close to where something goes I could take it all the way to its destination? I get this way every once in once in a while. I’ll “file” stuff to the right room but won’t bother to deposit it where it belongs---in the right folder so to speak. For example, I bought a bottle of eye drops recently and instead of putting it in the medicine cabinet I put them on the counter top in front of the cabinet. 

You’d think  by now I’d recognize the signs…that I get totally weird the first two weeks of January which “just happens” to lead up to the Sadiverary of when my husband died. It’s been twelve years since I lost him and while I can say I’ve succeeded in earning my Widow’s Wings by moving on, building a new life for myself that for the most part makes me happy and contented, not a week goes by that I don’t think about Don. How could a person not? He was literally in my life for half of it. I’m 82 and we were together for 42 years. 

In hindsight I think the lack of snow we've had up until now deepened the windup to my Sadiersary. It reminded me of the winter we had the year he died. I always thought Don custom-ordered that weather pattern as a parting gift for me so I didn’t have to fight the elements to plan his funeral and take care of all the duties a widow has to do during and afterward. He was into following the weather big time, being in the snow plow business most of his adult life. Of course, if we had gotten a blizzard instead of an El Nina winter that year I would have found a way to romanticize that as well. It’s how I roll. 

The Sadiversary takes me by surprise every single year. Why? Does my brain block it out until I can’t ignore it any longer? Sounds logical, although I've never been good at remembering birthdays and anniversaries. If I had a do-over and it wasn’t in January I probably would have established a yearly ritual to commemorate the day so it could be penciled in on the day planner where it couldn't sneak up on me. I do that a week in April when both our birthdays and our anniversary happen. I plan a trip to the butterfly exhibit where I pretend that the huge blue butterflies that fly in pairs and follow the brick path around and around the glass enclosure are Don and me. Yup, I have a bit of melodrama going on inside my head that wishes it would manifest itself Emily Dickinson style. Try as I might, my poetry is amateurish at best and sucks at its worst. And can you believe it, I totally forgot to go to my Creative Writing Group this past week? The group I started and lead! I had my stuff-to-share ready to go and when the time came to leave my apartment, it never crossed my mind. One of the members called me afterward to check up on me because it was the first time in two years that I’ve missed it. 

Now that the Sadiversary has passed, I feel different---like someone poked a hole in my brain and let all the hot air out. I looked around this morning and saw a cleaning session in my future.
Until Next Wednesday. ©
After great pain, a formal feeling comes
by Emily Dickinson
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown, A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go 
Photo Note: Not sure what year that photo was taken but I'm guessing it was in the mid-'80s. That was the smallest of Don three front end loaders. That's all snow behind us, piled up by one of the larger loaders.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Broken Resolutions and Unfinished Crafts

The first week of the 2024 is over and all I have to show for it is a pedicure and a ten dollar bill from winning at Bingo. Considering it costs five bucks to play it’s not a win big enough to celebrate. But the popcorn was free and the company was good so there’s that. I never played the game before moving here to the continuum care campus but as the saying goes, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Side note here: Does anyone else find it interesting that that idiom was first found in writing in 1777 and we still use the phrase today? Supposedly it was a quote spoken by St Ambrose and written in a letter by St Augustine about napping in the middle of the afternoon. I’m almost sure the phrase back in that era in Rome also referred to pigging out at decadent parties and a few other things that one would not put in a letter to the Pope. But at my age I might have a foggy memory of the allegorical paintings I studied in art history class back in my youth and I could be a half century off on when the Decadent Movement was at its height in Rome. I hate that I can remember obscure paintings like the one above but I forgot to buy baby aspirin when I was at the grocery store yesterday.

If you are a long time reader of this blog you know I’m not fond of getting pedicures and have only been getting them for a few years of life. I resent the time and money spent and trying to make myself understood when I say things to indicate that I want the cheapest pedicure they give but still end up paying $50 plus a tip. Once it was $60 and I have no idea how that happened!

Finally, after getting my first ingrown toenail---that, by the way, cost over $300 to treat!----I have a pedicurist I like. The foot doctor’s office has one under their umbrella of services and you have to have their recommendation to get on the client list. They don’t push polish, did a great job, it only it took a 1/2 hour and the charge was $40 plus I tipped her $10. They call them medical pedicurists and they are trained to look for issues like ingrown toenails, fungi and other potential issues we don’t want on our feet.

The new year came with a couple of new resolutions but already I fell off the wagon of carrying them to the goal line. But before I share that part I want to ask if anyone has done the Swedish Death Cleaning? A few years ago there used to be a blogger in our circle of bloggers who did it---Judy gave away everything she didn’t use anymore, finished up all her unfinished projects and drastically de-cluttered her mobile home then deep cleaned it thoroughly. The idea is to make it easier on your family when you die. The name gives me the willies but I saw clips of the Swedish Death Cleaning TV series and from what I saw it was a kinder, gentler version of Mari Kondo's show.

I live with a lot of guilt over not downsizing as much as I could have/should have when I moved. And with the turning of the new year I made up my mind that I need to do something about that. I’m 80-fu*king-two, after all. But that notion lasted about a half a week when I couldn’t decide where to start. So instead I planned to finish up a few craft projects. One was a cashmere scarf that I started seven years ago but life got in the way and I stopped working on it. Picking it up now it took me three days just to figure out where on the complicated pattern I left off. I finished it but if you look close enough you'll see my skill level has gone down hill.

Next I tried picking up a project I started on circular needles and after a night of working on it I gave myself permission to rip it all out, put the yarn in my stock box and declare that I don’t need to know how to do everything. That felt good too. My mom did beautiful sweaters on circular needles and even though I've done a lot of knitting over the years I never liked holding the circular needles. 

Next up was either a half done knitted teddy bear or a cut-out 3” velveteen teddy bear to construct or a cross-stitch that only has a one inch square left to do. The cross stitch I started back in the1960s when my brother was hospitalized after his appendix burst and I’ve only worked on that cross-stitch when someone in the family was hospitalized. I no more than put the kit case by my La-Z-Boy when it spooked me out, thinking if I start working on it someone will end up with a medical emergency. I listened to my inner voice and put that project back where I found it. 

The next day I completely failed at my resolve to finish up all my unfinished craft projects when I bought some yarn on impulse to start something new, a sampler of knitting stitches. I might be 82 but I’m not dead! I thought standing in front of the yarn bins. And maybe if I make a sampler project like I did when I first learned to knit as a teenager it will turn out to be a good thing, like putting a period at the end of the last sentence in a book. Ya, I'm not taking any bets on whether or not this will turn out to be my last knitting projects.

Until Next Wednesday…  ©

                                                                 My Seven Year Scarf  

*The painting above by Thomas Couture is titled: The Romans in their Decadence. (French: Les Romains de la décadence) First shown in Paris in 1847.


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

A New Year: It’s Just Us Now

The end of 2023 has come and gone and except for a party on New Year’s Eve that started at 6:00 and ended at 8:30 there’s nothing earth-shaking to report on from my little corner of the world. It did crack me up that the social committee here at the continuum care complex planned a party that ended (on purpose) long before midnight. I don’t remember ever going to bed on New Year’s Eve before midnight. This year, I went to bed shortly after midnight and after watching Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen get silly over John Mayer celebrating in a Cat Bar in Tokyo. They couldn't stop laughing. If you don't know what a cat bar is it's one where patrons can interact with cats---lots of them. There are cat coffee houses cat cafes and deli's, too. I know! All those crazy cats ladies missed the boat, not monetizing their obsession before now.

Our party here was resident driven which means management provided the space and we did everything else. If I didn’t personally know and like the three residents who provided the entertainment I would say it was pretty bad, but friendships count so I would never, ever say that around here. We each brought a dish of finger foods to pass. My go-to party passing finger foods always involves Phyllo Shells. They might be stuffed with a good quality cheese or something like this year when I used American Spoon Lemon Curd topped with a touch of shaved walnuts and a few crystals of Sparking Sugar. We had so much food at this party that it's a wonder no one went into a blissful food coma requiring we call an ambulance.

My parents had life-long friends and I can’t think of New Year’s without remembering the many times the families celebrated New Year’s Eve together. One family’s house would become party central for grownups and another family’s home would become party central for the kids. We kids had a sleep-over with a babysitter in charge and the next morning the adults would all gather where the kids stayed the night and they’d cook a huge brunch before taking us kids to the roller rink for the afternoon. I'm still impressed with how they made sunny-side eggs on cookie sheets in the oven.

That tradition marked well over a dozen New Year's Eves in my life. And it’s just occurred to me to ask where did the parent’s sleep? Did they have a slumber party as well? I do remember them all calling at midnight to wish us kids a Happy New Year and that went on long after we kids had out-growth the slumber parties. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander so fast forward to when my parents stayed in and Don and I would call them from our New Year’ Eve parties.

When I remember how close my folk’s circle of friends were I have to admit to being jealous. But it was a different era where people were less apt to move out of town, making it easier to nurture life-time friendships. They played cards every month for decades and even took vacations together.

I still have a close friend who I’ve known since kindergarten. She has Alzheimer’s now so her husband has to help her dial the phone. We can talk about things we did in school but... You know how it is, I have to talk to her husband to know how her current days are going. Life changes and we just go along for the ride.

When I visited my brother in the Memory Care building before the party started in my building he asked me if our mother was still alive. "She died in 1983," I told him. Then he said, “It’s just us now.” And it kind of broke my heart---his tone of voice, like he knew we’d both be toast sooner rather than later. His question started a whole conversation about how it feels weird being the two oldest people left in the family. It’s sounds morbid to review how and when everyone died, but it wasn’t because we also told some fun, remember-when stories as well. It just dawned on me that this conversation, a few hours before we sang, “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” is probably what made me burst out crying at the party! I never saw it coming. One minute I as smiling and happy and the next minute I was trying not to show my quivering lips and teary eyes.

Tears have been close to the surface this entire holiday season and given the fact that they use music on campus as part of a program to help the dementia residents hold on to their memories I shouldn’t be concerned that maybe I'm depressed and just don't know it. Still, it’s embarrassing to be the cry baby in the group. Old music to induce memories and emotions works too good for me. Classical is the worst. It can make me melancholy in ten minutes.

I’m writing this on New Year’s Day which traditionally I’ve spent putting Christmas stuff away and putting the final touches on my New year's Resolutions. A clinical psychiatrist on the TV playing in the back ground is saying that 37% of people make resolutions. He’s saying we need to be realistic in our goals and only make two or three. 

I was15 the first time I made New Year's Resolutions and I haven't stopped. In recent years, though, I’ve done the mantra version of Resolutions and they’ve worked out great. Last year, for example, my manta/goal/resolution was 'Seek the sweet moments in every day.' Like all my resolutions I did a good job of living that mantra until summer was coming into focus and then my resolve began to stray. Still, it was a good mantra and served me well. 

This year my mantra is harder to explain: ‘Start Where I'm At’ is the short version. The long version is I tend to judge myself by my past level of skills and I come up short every time, then I feel bad about my self-worth. The mantra is to help me to stop judging myself. I'm not 60 anymore so why do I expect myself to be able to carry on a conversation like I could back before a few TIAs messed with my cerebral wiring? Or do crafts as well as when I had opposing thumbs that worked? We can't stop the aging process so each day I need to remember to 'Start Where I'm At' and do the best I can.

Until Next Wednesday!

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail.
Aim to be you.
Aim to look and act and think like you.
Aim to be the truest version of you.
Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it.
And don't give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it.
Most gossip is envy in disguise.” 
Matt Haig author of The Midnight Library

These were my lemon curd tarts and the photo at the top is of our New Year's eve buffet.