Kids Gone, Dog Died–What Now?

“The kids are gone. The dog died, I hate my job and don’t know what else to do.”

I hear that refrain often from women in midlife–especially if they are widows. For without question, midlife IS more difficult when you don’t have a mate.

It’s even more discouraging if you don’t have a satisfying career.

“But what else can I do now? ” you ask.

Start by thinking about what actual activities would make you want to jump out of bed, run to your car and be impatient while you wait at red lights because you’re so anxious to begin your day.

That’s where you start trying to find more satisfying work.

Tally up all the skills you’ve learned in your previous and present work life, plus your education so many years ago, and see where those lead.

One widow named Sally mentioned she loves horses and her most happy hours lately are at the stable nearby, taking riding lessons. She stays afterward visiting managers, the facilities and especially the animals. Her degree happened to be in agriculture many years ago, but she doesn’t use that knowledge in her present job.

It’s pretty clear where she should begin inquiring about full- or part-time or even voluntary positions in her “after retirement” days.

And Sue loves to bake and make candy. Her finest creative moments are when she’s making fancy pastries and chocolates to serve at her own parties–or to bring to friends’ events. She has no such joy performing secretarial duties at the office.

We pointed out she can begin setting up a future company, (“Sweet Sue’s Sweets” perhaps?) All she needs are cards and weekends dedicated to the project until she can do it full time.

In both cases, that would get their minds off the beloved kids and the dear departed dog, and focused on moving forward.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to stay where you are and feel sorry for yourself.

It’s more important to remember that this life is NOT a dress rehearsal and it’s up to you to make each day as happy and fulfilling as we can. And also remember no one can do it for you.

But of course, www.Widowslist.com is always here to help, with our many years experience as the DR.JOB columnist syndicated in newspapers throughout the country.

So send us your questions and we may be able to help you develop and market a new career–and an exciting new life! ####

Want Senior Discount? Ask for IT!

OMG! I can’t believe what just happened!

I brought in the mail, opened a bill from the tree service that removed the 50-year-old Willow from our yard last week, and phoned the company to pay with my charge card.

Before I gave the receptionist my information, I casually asked, “Say, do you give a senior discount?”

She said, “Yes, you get 5 percent off.”

That changed my $2,650 bill to $2,518.

It was that easy.

I learned about senior discounts on my 65th birthday when my older brother told me I qualified for Senior Coffee at McDonald’s. Some stores don’t comply but most will either give you a few pennies off, or—the best—hand you a small cup of coffee free.

Recently, when I took out my credit card to pay for a root canal treatment, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the receptionist say “You get a 20% senior discount if you pay in full.”

Which I promptly did. (I also returned to my regular dentist and asked for the same, and have paid 20% less for all services there too ever since.)

So the lesson is clear: you deserve senior discounts simply because you’ve survived all these years.

So open your mouth and ask for them.

Remember: The squeaking wheel gets the grease.
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Guard Your ‘Brain Space’

Just spentthe morning with my cell phone provider because the phone keeps dropping off in the the middle of calls.

This isn’t the first time I tried to fix that. Sometimes, in frustration, I drive to the store. Others, like today, I try to work it from the house. Always with the same result: no fix.

I was starting to feel my blood pressure rise, when my pal, Bev, called. She was almost in tears because SHE spent the morning with her land line provider and got the same runaround with no improvement.

They promised to call back and set up an appointment to send someone to her home to fix it. “I’ve been waiting two hours and no one called back,” she said. “I can’t go out because they may call when I’m gone, so I’m trapped and I can feel my blood pressure going through the roof!”

I could feel my own blood pressure falling back to normal as I considered our predicaments. We get angry if we feel hurt, and when widows live alone, we easily misread all treatment as “personal.”

Bev and I talked about how busy all the phone companies are, and how uninformed most of their customer service people are. They usually read from the same manuals we could access online if we knew how.

“So why are you sitting there upsetting yourself?” I asked. “The phone is their problem not yours. You can use your cell phone for everything. Go to your card game and stop at Macy’s for the after 4th sale.”

She stopped venting. “I never thought of that,” she said. “You’re right. I’m leaving and I feel better.”

This all happens because we live alone and have no one to bounce our feelings off of, so we sometimes make the wrong emotional choices.

Most important: Remember that you have only so much space in your brain. Don’t give nonsense free rental space there.
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Saying Goodbye to Old Willow

I lost another dear friend yesterday: the 53-year-old Willow tree my husband planted in the back corner of our yard the year we moved into this home.

We often sat on the patio with morning coffee and watched it grow. Then I sat alone, remembering that strong, handsome young man who had dug the hole and lovingly patted soil around the roots. As it grew, so did our family.

It’s been trimmed fairly regularly as it began towering over the neighborhood. One grumpy neighbor (who moved long ago, thank goodness) constantly complained about leaves falling into his yard from “…your dirty old tree!”) We trimmed his side, but kept caring for our majestic beauty.

Four years ago I paid $800 to have the top and dead branches trimmed back so they wouldn’t smash into the house during a thunderstorm. I didn’t have the heart to take it down, and the tree specialist said we’d have about five more years.

Then last month I noticed sawdust around the ground beneath it. Then I heard a “thud”!” and huge chunks of bark began falling. The botanist assured me our old Willow was dead and had to come down to avoid serious damage to the surrounding area.

Yesterday,for 8 hours, Montoya Tree Service in Glenview IL climbed up and down the enormous trunk, grown as wide as three full size Maple trees, methodically sawing branches and chunks from the main trunk . The fee included grinding the stump out of the ground and hauling away huge blocks of tree this morning. I did have another surprise when I saw a mountain of stump shavings over that hole, and I asked if they were going to remove it too. They said many people leave it, then spread it around the garden for mulch.

I quickly called MC Landscaping, which handles my lawn care, and owner Manuel Cordoba said,”Make them take it away.It’s not good mulch. I’ll bring black dirt and grass seed to fix the area later.”

Meanwhile I checked Google and found that’s an ongoing controversy. It’s an old view that it’s harmful to gardens, yet many newer gardeners claim they have used it as mulch with no problems. I always side with Mr. Cordoba, and I’m glad the shavings eyesore is gone.

But I’m not glad our lovely old Willow tree is gone. I will miss it and remember it–as I do so many other things–and people– that are no longer in my day-to-day life. Now it’s up to me to keep them all alive with sweet memories.
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Diffuse ‘Cat Fight’ with Laughter

As so many of us do, I love going to the movies with women friends on Saturday nights.

Of course I’d rather still have my husband here to go with, but there is a guilty pleasure in seeing chick flicks instead of murder and war films.

Although we all usually get along well, occasionally there’s a “Cat fight.”

Like last night. Three of us set out to see “A Bag of Marbles,” (which, by the way, is a fantastic film and should win any awards it qualifies for. Don’t miss it!).

We no sooner picked up “Backseat Driver” than she told “Driver” to turn left to get onto the expressway from a second entrance.

“I like this one,” said Driver through clenched teeth.

Then we heard from the back, “Park on the street, it’s free, and there’s a spot.”

“I like the lot and I’ll pay for it,” Driver responded, again through clenched teeth.

I could see future issues brewing about seating when we got to the box office, and when they started snapping at each other, I broke out in laughter.

“This is the nuttiest thing I ever saw,” I said. “You both had to be bossy raising crazy kids and then had to take complete charge when your husbands were ill, but that was then and this is now.”

They looked surprised, then they started to laugh too.

“Guess what?” I added. “We better all learn to get along because we’re all we’ve got now.”

They laughed too and there was a silent truce.

All of us really loved the film as well as hot dogs at the joint across the street later. We sat and traded wonderful stories (and talked a little politics since we all agree about that no matter where we park.)

Saying goodnight, everyone hugged and planned to do it again next Saturday.

Where can I buy a “Smile” button?

(What do YOU do in these situations? Tell us in a comment.)
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God’s Waiting Room

Don Rickles once joked his mother was living in Miami, which he called, “God’s waiting room.” But that was while he was still young.

Those of us in senior years have a different view. Florida, Arizona, California, all start to look pretty good to us at retirement. They’re all places where we can walk outside without fear of slipping on ice. They’re also places where we can expect to meet others our age, with similar interests, often without mates, and the same eagerness to embrace some pleasure in these remaining years.

But you don’t really have to leave long- time friends and a beloved family to do that. There are plenty of very nice retirement residences, villages, and apartment complexes in most places provide the same. Granted, there’s the snow and ice issue. But there’s been less and less of both these last few years as climate change takes its toll. And when we DO get a snowfall, most of these places provide buses,in addition to the usual Pace, and Uber.

I recently attended a wonderful 90th birthday brunch at The Lodge, a charming (fast expanding) complex in Northbrook, IL. The chef prepared a beautiful and deliciious buffet table and the family provided decorations, a special birthday cake, and a pinata with the face of a president many there enjoyed smacking with a baseball bat.

When asked how they enjoy living there after 50 years in a nearby ranch home, the hosts exclaimed the many virtues mentioned above. “But the menu is too repetitous” grumbed the host, whose wife obviously spoiled him all their previous married years with varied gourmet meals.

“You get what you pay for,” sniffed his wife. “IT’s $13 a meal and it IS very good, but every two weeks they repeat menus exactly.”

I wouldn’t complain about that, since I eat a lot of broiled chicken and lamb chops here in my home kitchen (often in less time than two weeks apart.)

So I’d say The Lodge has a great rating since everything else was fine. I did suggest the couple organize a small committee to take a poll of residents and if all agree, to speak with the chef about disguising some main courses to vary menus.

The next week I attended a reunion of Chicago Media reporters and editors who meet once a month at our local Meier’s Tavern in Winnetka, IL.

One former publisher, who had already downsized with his wife to a nearby suburban hi-rise, said they were on the waiting list to move into fine old local senior complex.

“My wife has back trouble and just can’t cook or care for a condo anymore,” he explained, overlooking the idea that he might have pitched in on this over the years.

“This requires a down payment of several thousand dollars, which our kids will get back in part some day,k and about $7,000 a month for both of us. That includes rent, food, housekeepers to clean the apartment, and other amenities. ”

His biggest reason for moving now? “You have to be independent to get in,” he said. “They won’t take us if we suddenly become infirm and need assistance or nursing care.
We have to get in while we’re healthy .”

I wondered why he thought there would be no assisted living or nursing facilities available when they became dependent. There are many that provide services as good, or possibly better, than this independent complex.

But I’ve noticed there is a fear element in every sales pitch, especially to seniors, and we should consider them carefully, preferably with family members, an attorney, and definitely an accountant, before making final decisions.

There is much more than bingo and bridge to consider.
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Me? In Home Depot?

I looked around wondering what in the world I was doing there.

Home Depot is huge, and I have no idea where they hide everything. Today I want to find a new toilet seat for the downstairs bathroom and some ant spray for the same place.l It’s an annual plague. Ants come in and the pest expert sprays the place–and in-between his visit, I like to help.

Fortunately, people in orange aprons run around rescuing the like of me.

One sent me to the right aisle, where I fortunately met a nice man also searching for a new toilet seat. Problem is there are so many choices, and they all look so alike, it’s hard to decide. We discussed the issue and together chose upper-mid priced seats. (Now I have to find a relative or friend to install it.)

Next I marched, over to the ant killer department. A very elderly but knowledgeable man perched on a seat at the front door wearing his orange apron directed me, saying, “You don’t want spray,that just kills ’em and you have to clean ’em up. Get bait . They eat it get it on their feet and go back out to the Queen and kill everyone in the anthill.”

Sounded good to me, so I went in search of bait. I found one and while standing in checkout, a lovely man standing behind me said, “You don’t want to buy that ant bait. It doesn’t work. Come back with me and I’ll show you the one brand that does work. I tried them all.” We retreated to the ant bait department (about a block by my measure) and he returned the package I had and gave me a box of Terro Liquid Ant Bait with six little packs inside. You just snap off the tab of one, and put it in the corner, label side up, and the liquid drips out for a month or so.

I couldn’t thank him enough, adding, “You know, I never had to do this while my husband was alive. He shopped in Home Depot. I belong in Macy’s. ###

Stand By Me

I was standing in line at the BBQ joint after seeing a fine movie, “Disobedience” Saturday night when my two friends, who had gone to secure a booth with their jackets, joined me.

“Say, We’re here in front of you, ” said two darling young men, who we hadn’t noticed behind me.

“Oh, we’re so sorry, ” I said, smiling at them and pushing my friends behind them. “They were with me, but you go on ahead of us. Please.”

They grinned back, shook their heads k and said, “Oh no, it’s ok.”

“Well, you’re right!” I quickly countered. “We’re old seniors, you’re so young. We have a lot less time left to wait around in lines than you do–so stay put!”

We all had a hearty laugh over that–and another unnecessary argument was averted.

Let’s all try and find the humor in those situations.

It would give senior widows a much better image.

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Doing Our Part for Alzheimer Research

They call us “Superagers,” and we’re part of an ongoing study of people over 80 who still lead busy, active lives.

I became involved when I responded to an item in the paper asking for participants and admit I was flattered when I was invited to join after a phone interview/memory test.

That was five years ago, and each October I take the train downtown to Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, for three interviews a week apart, that each last three hours. We also are given an MRI each year to note changes. We are paid $10 an hour and given free parking in the lot across the street. Happily, they report there has been no change in my cognition and memory thus far.

The researchers explain the purpose of the study is to helps them better understand and identify factors that cotribute to “Superaging”–the maintenance of cognitive functioning in old age.

Our interviews also lend a comparison between us and those afflicted with the disease of memory loss.

We also all agree to donate our brains to the study when we die. That was a bit off putting at first, but then I considered, “What will I do with it?” and signed the agreement.

Today I attended the 24th Annual Alzheimer Day, presented at the Feinberg Conference Center at Northwestern University in Chicago.

The Keynote speaker,Dr.Jeffrey Kaye, Director of Oregon’s Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, explained how computing technology now also has been introduced in Dementia research and care.

Unfortunately, summing up, there are no cures yet, no one knows its cause beyond some genetics, but there finally is HOPE because of so many ongoing studies throughout the world.

The conference encouraged early detection and many care options as the symptoms intensify.

But the researchers welcome (and need) more candidates for study.

If you would like to help, call the Superaging Study at Feinberg 312 -503-2716.

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