Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. 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. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 21, 2018

All's Well that Ends Well

My Alice in Wonderland theme birthday party came and went and everyone seemed to have a great time. It started with the invitations up above, and on the day of the party as the guests came up the sidewalk to my door they were greeted by the White Rabbit playing in our rare April snow. 

After opening the door (above) guests found me wearing this silly headband, which I hope distracted from the fact that I hadn't been able to wash my hair for three days because I lost my hot water heater during the ice storm. It was so comfortable I forgot I was wearing it when later I took my dog outside for a potty break. God only knows what the neighbors thought!

One of the first things the ladies saw coming in the door was this floral arrangement that my niece sent me for my birthday. And after everyone got here we did a little Q & A involving the scrolls below.

In an email before party day I had sent the guests---my Gathering Girls group---a list of three questions with the instructions that they’d have to know the answer to one of them to get in the door. The questions were: 1) who made the tarts in the ‘Alice’ book; or 2) what was the key used for; or 3) what did the flamingos and hedgehogs do in the book? I had a method to my madness---no pun intended. Mad Hatter, get it? One lady found answers for all three questions and she didn't have to take a scroll. One forgot to look, another had an answer but it was wrong. Both had to take a scroll. The scrolls were just a fun way to assign tasks to do at the party: 1) to help carry the food from the refrigerator to the dining room; 2) to pour the drinks to toast 'friendship'; 3) to help plate the cake and ice cream; and 4) to help make and serve the tea with dessert.

Can you believe it, I totally forgot to take pictures of the food---well, of anything on party day! I had planned to do it when all the food was sitting on my Hoosier cabinet before it was passed around. My camera was sitting only two feet away, how could I forget! I served two kinds of tea sandwiches (tuna and a cream cheese with cucumber and spinach), potato salad, a cucumber salad and a marinated four bean salad plus trays of cheeses, olives, pickles, red tarts and one of my friends brought dill pickles rolled up with cream cheese and ham. The tray of olives was a joke for one of the ladies who says when she goes out with her family she steals all the black olives off their salads. I had tiny flags marking the black olives "Sue's" and the green ones "Everyone Else's." She got a kick out of it and wanted to take the flags home to show her family. There were a few other flags here and there proclaiming, "Eat Me!" as per the story-line in the 'Alice' book.

The photos below were taken the day before the party and in some cases they don't show the finished version. The first one is a place setting, for example, that is minus a key at the top of the plate. The dessert cups on the left were filled with the four bean salad, the ones on the right were for the water and champagne. I've loved my moss green thumbprint Fenton luncheon set since the '60s when I first started buying the pieces. But it's been so long since I've used them that they all had to be washed before the party as well as afterward. So worth the effort for sentimental me!

My centerpiece is not impressive in photos but in person where you could absorb the details and symbolism from Alice in Wonderland I think it worked nicely. (My friends seems to enjoy it.) It only cost me the price of a deck of cards, some glass bottles (both from Amazon, both cheap), tags from Hobby Lobby and the flamingos are from the dollar store. The rest I had around the house. 

I love these tiny bottles. In the book Alice drank a potion from bottles like these to make her grow smaller so she could fit through the small door the key unlocked to the garden. Mine just held pink lemonade.

I broke the minute hand on this pocket watch from my husband's collection trying to set it to rabbit time---2:30. (The rabbit's watch stopped but at different times in the Disney movie and the original book.) The rabbit is three inches tall, handmade and I bought him years ago at a teddy bear convention. Before my husband's stroke I was teaching myself how to make designer teddy bears. The smallest one I ever accomplished making was a six inch, jointed bear with a silly looking neck.


The little scrolls (in an upside down candle holder) contained seven life lessons that the 'Alice' book teaches. (I wrote about the lessons in any earlier blog.) I think/hope everyone enjoyed their positive messages and the bit of conversation they triggered. I was kind of shocked that some of the ladies had such expressive voices for reading out loud, no doubt honed over years of reading to grandchildren. I messed up my reading and I'd read all the lessons more than once while I was making them.

The one inch cake and the chair are from my dollhouse (and represent the time when Alice was big and the cake was too tiny to share). The Cheshire Cat card was not in my centerpiece but the branches with the ribbon you saw in the photo five up above represents the tree in Oxford where the cat was known to sit, a real cat and tree that Lewis Carroll wrote into the book. The Dodo in the story was based on the author himself who was a stutterer like Dodo. Another interesting fact: Alice in Wonderland has never gone out of print since it was written in 1865 and it's been translated into 176 languages.

The circle of playing cards grounds the other stuff and are copies of the vintage art work in the book. In the center of the cards is a cake plate to give height to the second tier of things.

The photo above shows the table without the water glasses and bean cups or the keys at each place setting. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the table with all my Fenton on it. You'll have to take my word for it that the table sparkled in the sun coming through the windows. And I didn't get a single picture of my oak table in the kitchen where I had a red velvet cake, my mother's lily-of-valley tea cups and a small tray of cookies set up. (The cookies were just the king and queen cookies sorted out of two bags of Pepperidge Farm Chessman---lots of leftovers for me to eat.) The cups and saucers are in the dishwasher now but the photo below will give you an idea of the colors and dishes on the cake table. The dishes were supermarket premiums back when I was growing up and when I downsized my everyday dishes---heavy restaurant ware from the 40's---I went on e-Bay and China Replacement to fill out what was missing from Mom's lily-of-the-valley set to build a service for six. Seemed only right since my brother and I broke most of Mom's prized set. She had a thing for lily-of-the-valleys---wore the perfume, had the flowers in the yard and picked them in the spring. My brother, nieces and I have all transplanted some of Mom's lilies to where we currently live.

The party started at 12:00 and ended around 4:00. Toasting to friendship and my birthday, those us who could have alcohol with our medications polished off a bottle of champagne and those who couldn't, polished off a bottle of sparkling white grape juice. Hey, it just dawned on me that we didn't sing Happy Birthday! But we all laughed and shared a lot and no one person monopolized the conversation. The thing I looked forward to the most was letting the ladies wander through my house and see my collectables and art work and they seemed to enjoy that. I think it helps friends to bond and understand one another if we see each other in our natural habitat, so to speak---what we treasure and surround ourselves with. (And I often feel misunderstood.) I had a great time planning the party and it sure kept my mind focused on the here and now and not the six sadiversaries April usually brings.

And to my best friend since kindergarten who lives far away and answered my endless email questions about food and menus, these balloons are for you. You kept telling me I couldn't have a birthday party without balloons and one of my Gathering Girls pals must have heard you because she was the first to arrive and she was carrying these.....

"All's well that ends well" is a phrase that's been around since 1604 when Shakespeare wrote a play by that name. My party is a perfect example of how that sentiment is still as true today as it was when he gave those words to the world. ©

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Just so you’ll know…

Just so you’ll know I’m writing this on Sunday the 15th and the report on my Wednesday party will be published on Saturday, but I will tell you that the Evil Overlord of Party Planners got me again. It wasn’t enough to give me an easy-fix electrical problem and an impossible-to-fix ice storm that had me rescheduling my party, this morning I hopped in the shower to discover that I didn’t have any hot water. We had some wind but I’ve never lost a pilot light on the hot water heater in the 15 years of living here, like some people do on windy days. I did, however, have the faucet control mixer on the shower break once so that's a possibility it did again.

Calling a plumber on a weekend costs double their rate---even if they’d come out in an ice storm for a non-emergency. I’m hoping if I call early Monday I can get them out the same day. I don’t have a choice but to wait and in the meantime, I’ll try to figure out if it's the pilot or the mixer. The water in the kitchen seemed a little tepid or is it my imagination working overtime? And, drats, I’d have to lie on my stomach on the basement floor to look at the pilot! Scratch that off the list of possibilities. If I did that, I’d have to call 911 to get back up. The last time I lost a hot water heater---the bottom blew out---was the morning of my mom's funeral. It was one of those infamous things that happens when you have to ask myself, "Is this an inconvenience or a disaster" to put it in perspective.

At any other time but during an ice storm, I could ask the son-I-wish-I-had to come over to check the pilot light but he just buried his father a few days ago after spending two weeks doing a day and night vigil at his dad’s Hospice bedside. I just can't do that to him because I know he’d come, if I asked. To answer my blogger friend, Judy, before she asks why I don't call the gas company, I took that option off the table years ago when we had rental property. I don’t like dealing with them when I have other options.

Monday Update: 7:30. I just got off the phone with the plumbing company. Mind you, this company has 160 trucks on the road---a very large and well established business---and they couldn’t get out today. The only choices for scheduling were: 1) smack dab in the middle of my bi-annual doctor’s appointment with my internist on Tuesday which would have been just a quick check of the pilot light with no repairs, if it’s something more serious; 2) smack dab in the middle of my party for a check, repair and/or replacement; or 3) smack dab in the middle of my dentist appointment on Thursday. I picked door number three and I will reschedule the dentist. After talking with the plumping company, I’m probably just going to go ahead and replace the hot water heater, which I planned on doing this summer anyway. A 15 year old unit isn’t worth putting any money into repairing it and he said that if I've never lost the pilot light before, it’s likely not a simple fix like relighting it.

It’s going to be quite a week and if nothing else, it’s proving that I’m still one of the lucky ones. Why? Because as many things as the Evil Overlord of Party Planners threw at me, I’m still standing and I can find the humor in the never ending process of revising my party game plan---did I mention I had to add shoveling snow to my schedule today and salting on Tuesday to help the ice melt as the temperature gets above freezing? More importantly I am lucky because I live in a part of the world that has running water and electricity and I’m not a refugee seeking a new life away from unending wars, bombs and chemical attacks. And if I've learned anything in my twenty years of servicing weddings in the floral business it’s that no one cares about the challenges the vendors go through as long as the end results turns out great on the big day.  ©

Note: While I was searching for a photo for the top of this blog I ran into an article titled, How to Burn Fat with Cold Showers proving that for every negative thing life throws at us there is always an upside. LOL