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, June 26, 2024

The Iron Chefs and the Eye Doctor


There are eight Continuum Care Communities across three states taking part in an Iron Chef competition. The way it works is each month all eight chefs go to one of the campuses to compete with a theme food they prepare for the residents living there and then the residents and guests vote for the best dish served. They just had their fifth cook-off at our sister campus and our Life Enrichment Director took a bus full of us over to eat and drop a voting chip into---presumably---our own chef's ballot box. The theme this time was 'Food Truck Food' and I had no trouble voting for the women who currently designs our daily menus. She served what she called 'Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly.' It reminded me of those 'pies' you make over a campfire with the round, pie irons. The sandwiches consisted of the centers of two pieces of white bread dipped in pancake batter with peanut butter, jelly, bananas, honey and mini chocolate chips inside, the edges were cut and sealed with a drinking glass before deep frying them for a minute. She took second place. She's placed first or second consistently through out the competition and is the only woman competing. 

If I hadn't voted for the chef from my campus I would have had a hard time deciding between a deep-fried, one bite cheese cake and a loaded baked potato. The cheesecake balls give you a sensation of something warm and sweet going into your mouth followed by a burst of cool and tart cheesecake and it was additive. The Bourbon Bacon Jam Potato' was---duh!---a potato topped with a jam made with bourbon, coffee, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and caramelized yellow onions. Bourbon was in at least one other contest entry---a peach ice cream topping. I think Bourbon in my new, favorite flavor profile. We got a packet of all the recipes used and the street tacos had the most ingredients of all the dishes coming in at thirty with our chef's peanut butter and Jelly having the least number of ingredients---only eight. There was a Korean short rib dogs with peach relish that was good too and it had 29 ingredients. I've never made anything with that many ingredients in my life!

I'm quite sure this competition is designed to give bragging rights to all the category winners and the top winner for marketing purposes. In the commercial cooking world there's a big competition for good chefs at continuum care complexes and most CCC's serve lunch on the tours use to entice people to come look at their facilities. I almost hate to see our chef placing so well in these contests because then other places will try to steal her away. In the two-and-a-half years I've lived here she's the third or forth chef we've had and she is by far the best of the lot. And get this, she's the only one in the contest without a culinary degree. She used to own her own restaurants, lost it during Covid.  

All in all it was fun way to spend a few hours and we got a free lunch and transportation out of the deal. Plus we got to visit with a guy from our campus who was recently moved over to our sister campus because he has ALS and needs a higher level of skilled nursing than he could get here.

Speaking of Covid I went to the eye doctor yesterday and I remarked about how nice it was that we no longer have Covid protocols to follow and the woman doing the pre-testing before my actual appointment said it was terrible working conditions because so many people tried to argue their way out of wearing masks or bringing in proof that they'd been vaccinated. She said she even had one guy lick the chin rest on one of the machines. (This was the Trump effect---people denying the science.) I remember how careful they were about cleaning those machines after they were finished measuring my macular pucker. I can't imagine dealing with jackasses like Licker Guy or as my niece called the ant-vacciers  'The Spreaders'. 

By the way, my pucker hasn't changed much since my last visit but I have developed "a lot of dry areas on my corneas" which makes my eyes feel like I have grit up inside the lids. I'll now be adding drops twice a day and before I drive. My getting-ready-time in the mornings and at bedtime is getting as long as a teenager addicted to layers of makeup. No matter how many suggestions I follow for getting drops in my eyes I can't seem to do it on the first few tries. Laying down in bed while hold one eye open and using the other to put the drops in the corners of my eyes works the best. I went into this appointment thinking/hoping I'd get a new prescription because I can't read street signs as well as I'd like. But the doctor said the dry corneas are probably causing that more than anything. I'm getting a new prescription for computer glasses that block the harmful light coming from the screens. I'm excited about having prescription glasses exclusively for the computer. I don't know why I didn't get them long before now is a mystery. No more trying to find the right place in my trifocals! 

I love my eye doctor. He used to be a nice piece of eye candy, too, but over the past half decade he's put on a little weight and quit wearing his cute, little surgical scrub cap that he wore during Covid. But he's still got his easy going and confident demeanor which I find to be the most attractive quality in the opposite sex. The way he says, "your other right" or "your other left" has a humorous ring to it that neither makes you feel stupid or nor gives you a sense that he's bored because he's probably said it thousand times to his patients. Actually, I've never thought to ask him if all his patients need the 'other direction' corrections or is it just his dyslexic patients like me. What do you think his answer would be? 

Until Next Wednesday!

 *photo by soydolphin

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Farm Table Conversations and More

On an average day, when there are no lectures going on, there are around twenty-five out of the seventy-five people living in my Independent Living complex that I interact with. That includes brief "hellos" in the common areas and the most popularly asked and answered question: "Has Jesse (our mail carrier) been here yet?" Me, I'm more interested in if the Amazon driver has made one of its two stops a day but I rarely have to ask because I can see their truck coming and going from my window. Between them, UPS, Fed-x and USPS our mail room is always full of boxes and puffy bags in all sizes and shapes. We seniors have learned the fine art of online shopping. 

One of my six hall mates has appointed himself the package delivery person on my floor so I rarely have to retrieve an expected delivery. Another guy on the floor tried to give him a hundred dollars in a Christmas card for the mail-room-to-door service but he gave it back. By contrast I gave him a Valentine's Day card with a thank you message inside and a few pieces of Nutella. (The card idea pre-approved by his wife, of course.) Big tipper guy owns a company that makes high school and college class rings and he has two houses and one of biggest apartments in the building. Even though he lives across from me the only time I see him is in the parking garage where our cars are parked side by side. He's always coming or going from the airport and when he's gone lots of packages and the Wall Street Journal build up at his door. Except for his name, you now know as much about him as I do and we've lived across from each other for over two years.

Mr. Big Tipper Guy has nothing to do with the topic I set out to write about so I'll get to that now: I always eat one meal a day in our facility and every chance I can I eat it at one of the common tables. The common tables are where I do most of my interacting with fellow residents. At night it's a table known as the Farm Table, at noon it's just several big tables pushed together to fit fourteen of us. I especially love the Farm Table. Someone asked us the other day what's so special about eating there and several replied that we hate the required system of having to call around to find other people to make reservations with to fill a four or six topper table in the main dining room. We can't just show up and expect to be served in the dining room. We can do that at lunch, but not for dinner. Another reason we like the Farm Table is we like not knowing who we'll dine with on any given night. We still need to make reservations to sit there but we can only make one for ourselves. For me, I like to sit close to the middle of the table and just listen to the conversations around me.  Sometimes there are three-four of them going on at once. It's an eavesdropper's paradise.  Other times we're all engaged in the same topic.

There's a lot of laughter at the Farm Table like the other night the special was an oriental dish with oyster sauce in it and several of us at the table are allergic to shell fish so we were asking Seri and Alexa what's in oyster sauce. (Yes, we are like a bunch of teenagers with our phones out fact checking each other.) I don't know what one of the guys put in the search engine of his I-Phone that it came up erroneously saying that oyster sauce was made from "nut seeds." But we all caught the silliness bug and went with that tidbit: "Who cuts the nuts off from the oysters?" "How do they extract those tiny swimmer seeds out of the nut sacks?" And "who would have ever guested that was a thing?" We were laughing so hard and one of the guys was turning beat red. Laughing over silly things doesn't happen every night but often enough that I'm addicted to eating at the Farm Table.

Living here isn't the first time I've experienced the Farm Table concept of dining. When we traveled we liked to stop at mama/papa style restaurants in small towns. One year on vacation out West we discovered that a lot of the places we stopped at had these long tables for people who wanted to interact with who ever came in for a meal or just coffee. My husband was a good conversationalist and no one was ever a stranger around him for very long. Those Farm Tables gave us a feel for the regions that you couldn't get in the chain restaurants along the main interstates. One time, though, we sat down at a Farm Table and you'd swear we accidentally went to a Klan meeting and for once my husband kept his mouth shut. His mama didn't raise any fools. 

At another Farm Table the locals told us the place was famous for their cinnamon rolls and we each had to order one with the coffee we stopped in for. They assured us they were worth every penny of the $3 they cost (in the '80s). When they arrived, each cinnamon roll covered an 8"x10" baking pan and, of course we ended up passing them around the table. Turned out to be a game they played on strangers like us to get us to treat the table. It's a fun travel memory and I often thought that cross-country Farm Table conversations would make a good book, sort of like John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. I loved that memoir of him traveling with his poodle. We always traveled with a poodle, too, in what we called our Traveling Dog House aka RV.

Our Farm Table seats twelve uncomfortably and ten perfectly. It was made out of the biggest tree that had to be cut down when the facility was built. It was a custom-made gift given to us by the construction company and it sits off to the side of our lobby which leads to another reason why it's fun to sit there. We can see and interact with everyone coming and going into the main restaurant and into the lobby---whose kids are visiting, whose getting a Door-Dash dinner delivered, whose getting a take-out dinner from the dining room, whose dog is getting walked. It took over a year to get the dining manager to allow us to have a Farm Table in the evening and she kept pulling our noon-time tables apart. She insisted it was too hard on the waitstaff. But it took going above her to finally get our way and the waitstaff is doing just fine waiting on the flow of people coming and going from the noon table. At night we have to be there at 5:00 which was our compromise.

So there you have it, another borderline boring chapter in the life of a senior citizen living in an a continuum care complex. 

Until next Wednesday. ©


The Farm Table set up potluck style for one of our resident-driven parties. The management occasionally serves buffet style meals on the Farm Table, too, usually around holidays when they'd normally be short-staffed.

This photo shows the Farm Table on the near right and at far end of the photo is our fireplace gathering place. The people standing on the left (middle of the photo) are behind the concierge's desk, directly across from the entry door.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Connecting More Deeply with Others

If you've been following my blog you might remember that I've been listening to an audible book by David Brooks titled: How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. I'd love to claim that I'm intellectual enough to have known who David Brooks is before I started this book, but I'm not. All I knew was that Bill Gates has the title on his 'Must Read" summer reading recommendations list and that two of his takeaways from the book are about understanding the power of curiosity and how to acquire empathy building skills. After a little more digging I learned that he's a conservative columnist for the New York Times and that Barack Obama is also a fan of David Brook's writing. That was good enough for me to invest my time and money into the book. I fangirl both Gates and Obama.

I was not far into the book when I decided to try out one of the suggestions for how to draw people out when I found myself at a dinner table with The Art Professor and two former child psychiatrists---one is my neighbor who I've nicknamed Robbie's Mom because of her dog. The other psychiatrist at the table I've never written about so let's call her Sarah, which may or may not be her real name. I tried on the nicknames The Caregiver, Liberal Lucy and Sam's Wife (since I know him better than her, having spent six hours teaching him how to play mahjong and having played with him every Wednesday since March). But she is more than all those nicknames as are all my fellow residents who I've given nicknames to.

Anyway, I'm getting off track here. When it came time to ask each other what we did that day (which is always par for the course around here at dinner tables) Sarah shared that she'd taken her husband to the dentist and I replied, "That must have been exhausting." "It was!" she replied and the Art Professor looked confused.  "Why was it exhausting?" she asked. Sam is a big guy and Sarah's petite and he's confined to an electric wheelchair and has to transfer in and out of a manual, transport chair for outings. Long story slightly shorter we got into a discussion about how going to public places you never know how steep the incline ramps are or how disability friendly the parking lots and restrooms will be, not to mention pushing a big guy in a chair is hard physically. And Sarah said, "It takes three people to get him out of his transport chair and into the dentist's chair." Then she turned to me and said, "Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to vent!" Wow, I thought, the book suggestions actually work!

The Art Professor then spoke up to ask how can friends and the community help family caregivers? Sarah hemmed and hawed but didn't say anything so I jumped with, "Time," I suggested. "Offer to sit with a disabled spouse so the caregiver can have a few hours to run an errand or two." 

"I had a friend with a disabled husband, "The Art Professor replied, "and she always turned me down when I offered. I guess she didn't really need a break."

 "Well, sometimes you worry all the time you're gone from your disabled spouse," I tried to explain, "and it's not always as enjoyable as one might think." 

"Worry about what?" 

"About what could go wrong. Bathroom issues. Falls. My husband, for example, had swallowing issues," I said, "and could choke to death if he wasn't watched like a hawk." And here's where I was rendered speechless.

"That could be a good thing. It would speed up the dying process and end a caregiver role." 

So much for empathy! So much for The Art Professor not noticing that I dropped out of the conversation and was boiling over with ambivalent thoughts. I wanted to both rage at the coldness of her careless and/or callous statement and at the same time I wanted to use it as a teaching moment that might embarrass the crap out of her---and tit-for-tat me would have been happy if it did. It's three days later as I write this and I STILL want to tell The Art Professor that choking on some potato chips a friend let my husband have off his plate was ultimately what killed him. Even though a nurse happened to be close by at the restaurant and preformed the Heimlich to save him that day he unbeknownst had ingested potato chips into his lungs where they caused a fungi to grow and by the time he was hospitalized weeks later it was too late. The fungi had taken over and he died 10-15 minutes after being taken off life support. Yup, choking on his food DID "speed up his dying process" but it was by no means a good thing for me or for him. 

That conversation was the only social experiment I did based on David Brook's book but it probably won't be my last. However it will be a while before I strike out again to teach myself to connect with others on a deeper level. Quoting this author: "There is one skill that lies at the heart of any healthy person, family, school, community organization, or society: the ability to see someone else deeply and make them feel seen—to accurately know another person, to let them feel valued, heard, and understood. And yet we humans don’t do this well. All around us are people who feel invisible, unseen, misunderstood." In the course of this one dinner I felt both empowered by helping one of my neighbors be seen but I left that dinner table feeling invisible and if I wasn't a blogger I don't know where I would have dumped the pain and guilt that bubbled back up regarding the way in which Don died. ©


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

From Sinful Pleasures to Stubborn Streaks

My most sinful pleasures in life have always been simple. A good piece of dark chocolate, a medium rare steak, a summer afternoon spent at an art-in-the-park show, an occasional day trip along Lake Michigan with the t-tops down on our classic '78 Corvette that wasn't a classic when we had it. It was just old back then. Now that I'm on a fixed income I have to think about where I'm at on my monthly budget before I can indulge in a gooey chocolate dessert or a steak. The Vet is long gone and even if I still had it, it was built too low to the ground for me to get my old bag of bones into it now. And I haven't been to an art-in-the-park show since Ring was a pup.

I’ve never had a dog named Ring but that phrase was a favorite of my husband’s to denote that something happened a long time ago. Don didn’t have a dog named Ring either. He picked the phrase up from his dad who got it from Don’s grandfather who---family folklore claimed---actually did have a dog named Ring that resided in the back pasture with a rock rolled over the grave to keep wild animals from digging up his childhood dog. I love family verbiage like this and wish I had another generation to pass it down to. A few years ago, out of curiosity I googled 'since Ring was a pup.' (Or maybe it was suspicion that made me want to fact-check three generations of males who were all gifted storytellers.) I found ten listings for the phrase, three of which were links to my own blog entries, four to other people’s blogs and three appeared in newspapers dated 1911, 1914 and 1922. I wish I could break that little tidbit to my husband! He would have laughed and loved to have one of his grandfather’s tall tales get exposed after so many years of blind faith in its accuracy. 

Digging even deeper in the google weeds today I learned that the 'since ring was a pup' phrase was derived from another phrase widely used in the 1860s---'As Dead as Hector.' According to the Historically Speaking website, 'As Dead as Hector' "was a reference to Hector, the son of King Priam of Troy...and one of the chief participants in the tale of the siege of Troy by the Greeks in Homer’s epic The Iliad.  King Priam, as we all know," the website wrote, "was killed in single combat by the Greek champion Achilles." Maybe you, dear blog readers, know the storyline of the The Iliad  but it's all Greek to me. I could go on like this all day drifting from one idiom to another. But I'll bet half of you already know that the phrase 'it's all Greek to me' was coined by one of the conspirators who assassinated Julius Caesar. <end of history lesson> But first I've gotta predict that Taylor Swift's lyric line 'just shake it off' will probably still be in use hundreds of years from now.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in my nightgown writing. It felt good and decadent and I produced a book report for book club, a poem, two writing prompt assignments for my creative writing group and a blog post. The latter of which disappeared into the jaws of my writing app never to be seen again. So here I am trying to reconstruct it and not doing a very good job of it. In that post I was mourning something that hasn't happened yet and may never happen but I've always been good at borrowing trouble from the future. I was poking fun of this foible of mine regarding if and when I get moved into Assisted Living or Memory Care and I won't be allowed to hang around in my nightgown all day long. The powers that be in geriatric care assume an old person is depressed if the don't care about getting dressed. Down in those buildings they wake you and and help you get dressed by 8:00 when breakfast is served and because it's the morning shifts duty to see if anyone died in their sleep.

Recently, in one of our morning emails here in Independent Living we got word that a woman who used to live in my building but was moved to Memory Care four months ago died in her sleep. We'd just been talking about her the night before and the general consensus was she had adjusted remarkably well and seemed to be happy and content with the extra layer of care. She had a room across the hall from where my brother was when he was still alive so I saw the change in her firsthand. She no longer had a panicked look on her face, no longer looked lost and afraid.

Change of topic: I downloaded a new audible book to listen to on the recommendation of Bill Gates titled How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Seen by David Brooks. (And that should tell you volumes about what I see as a character flaw that I can may be improve on before I die.) I like to listen to books while I'm getting ready to face the outside world. But usually it's a book we've picked for our book club. This coming month we're supposed to read Just like that by Gary Schmidt, a book written for ages 9 through 12 by a professor at a near-by faith-based college and is a friend of our retired art professor. I have a stubborn streak and I refuse to buy a children's book for book club---we usually get them free from the library. I'll probably be sorry I'm sitting this month out because Ms Art Professor is going to get the author to come to our discussion. We won't be discussing the book until July so I have time to change my mind. I've been known to do that from time to time.

Speaking of book club, in case you're wondering why I wrote a book report for the club: One day a year we pick a year's worth of books to reserve. The popular books in the Book Club in a Bag program get reserved very far ahead. This year we're asking everyone to review a favorite book to campaign for it to be added to our reading list so we don't get one or two people's choices dominating the list---that's how we got the children's book. I'm campaigning for You Before Me by JoJo Moyes which on the surface is a little too chick-flickest for this group to pick but is actually a good segue into a discussion of assisted suicide.

Until next Wednesday. ©

"I live in my own little word, but it's okay…they know me here."

quoted from a beverage coaster