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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Chatty Cathy, Shipwrecks and New Classes



Three days in a row with no where to go and no human voices in my life that weren’t coming out an electronic device, maybe I need a Chatty Cathy doll! She had eleven phrases when she first came out in 1959 but she didn’t say, “May I have a cookie?” I’d have to get the 1964 doll for that. I'm thinking if I fed all the cookies in the house to Chatty Cathy, it would keep me from getting fat when I feel like the last person on earth. Alas, all Chatty Cathy dolls were a bit needy, always saying things like: “Do you love me?” Tell me a story,” “Please brush my hair,” “Will you play with me?” “I’m hungry,” or “Please take me with you!” If Levi my Might Schnauzer had a pull-ring to make him talk, he’s say exactly the same things. He’s needy enough, so I guess I shouldn’t be doing an eBay search for Chatty-the-annoyingly-needy-doll.

Still, I want more laughter and hugs in my life and teddy bears are better for the latter than plastic dolls. I want a lot of things including world peace, purple socks and an answer to a question I heard Sunday in a song on the TV series, Chesapeake Shores: “If memories are all we have, does that mean that’s all we’ll ever be?” The guy singing the song was young and I’d tell him, “No, get out there and make more memories!” But somehow that advice doesn’t work as well for worn out people like me who have memories that are starting to fad like fabric left outside in a tropical sun. Sometimes my get-up-and-go gets up and leaves me behind!

Then Tuesday came along with a class in the morning and a lecture in the afternoon with only a scant hour in between to catch a quick lunch of Slim-Fast in the car. The class was billed as part exercise and part group discussion on balance and preventing falls as we age. Eight weeks, two hours each session, I guess it’s going to entail more than just telling us to get rid of our throw rugs, don't use ladders and to donate all our Crocs and flip-flops. Ya, I know that rule. It comes stamped on the back of our Social Security cards, doesn’t it? We all know that falls are the number one thing that puts seniors in hospitals and nursing homes. If the Old People Police come by, they’d ticket me for having three oriental throw rugs and fifteen pairs of Crocs. Note to Self: Don’t wear the latter on Tuesdays for the next seven weeks. The facilitator is the same one who facilitates The Gatherings at the senior hall so that’s a plus for this class of just twelve. We laughed a lot, set goals and shared stories about our falls and fears and we got a half-inch thick workbook of homework. 

The lecture was part of the ‘Life Enrichment’ series and it was about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 that caused three massive freighters to sink off the shores of West Michigan within miles and hours of each other. The monster storm killed 273 people including 56 sailors. This is the third lecture I’ve seen featuring Valarie van Heest an underwater explorer, archaeologist and author. Never---even for a million dollars---would I want to go deep diving around shipwrecks but I don’t mind vicariously sucking the marrow out of Valerie’s adventures. She’s a great documentarian. This lecture was a fascinating collection of old news reels, photographs and underwater videos. One of the freighters was 420 feet long and is now an upside down, watery grave and the storm that put it there forever changed the way our nation’s weather is predicted. Can you imagine, that day the temperature dropped 40 degrees in a matter of minutes, with a 100 miles an hour winds and no one even knew a storm was coming because the weather bureau didn’t operate 24/7. She also showed photos of nearly a dozen other ice covered ships that were in extreme peril that day but didn’t sink and she told about the hardships of getting the sailors off those damaged ships. 

Note on the first presidential debate: Before the debate started I was wishing for a rare Cussing Chatty Cathy doll to keep me company. Yes, cussing as in swearing. They were made by Mantel in 1964 as gifts for their top salesman and executives. By the end of the debate I wanted, instead, a Celebration Barbie. My 'home team' won! No chance of finding a Cussing Cathy anyway but one time my husband found a rare Barbie doll for two or three dollars that he resold for nearly $1,000. After that, no matter where he found one---garage sale, flea market or antique shop---he’d be the macho guy undressing Barbie to look at the markings on her right buttock. The summer when I sold off so much of my husband’s stuff, I was not surprised to find three naked Barbie’s in a shoe box. Memories. Yes, in the end memories are “all that we’ll ever be.” At first those memories are painful for widows but in time they leave you with a smile on your face.  ©
                                                          Catty Cathy Commercial

31 comments:

  1. My father threatened to throw my little sister's Chatty Cathy into the fireplace! So, my poor sister could only play with her in her bedroom. I NEVER heard of that storm! I wonder why family didn't talk about it when I was little. Born in 1939, I should have heard of it at some point in my life. Maybe you need to write another book, to keep your mind and soul occupied? Write about the collection Don had and why. The price he paid, the price he sold the items for. What we need to look for when hunting for treasures. OR--write your autobiography. Include photos and every memory you have in that brain of yours. Could be fun.

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    1. I ran across a place online that repairs those Chatty Cathy voice boxes. I think they annoyed a lot of parents back in their day and could again. LOL

      I never heard about that storm either. There are a few monuments around our state marking the graves of unidentified sailors that washed up on shore after that storm, but they are in the coastal towns and I'll bet the maritime museums there have stuff on storm. That link I posted shows a news reel of a Puget Sound bridge tearing apart in the winds of that storm and of Chicago before it hit the Great Lakes. Some of the ships that didn't sink were so damaged from ice they could only savage off them before sinking them on purpose. Hard to imagine that! She lectures at a lot of libraries all over our state. If you get a chance to see her, it's worth the time.

      I do plan to do another book of my favorite things with photos. The books with photos are costly so it won't be very big. For the past five years I've done book each year of my blog entries which is one of the reasons why I like to write about some of my favorite memories from time to time. If I ever get where I can't use a computer anymore---happened to my sister-in-law---at least someone can read to me stories I might remember. LOL

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  2. I get the hazard of throw rugs but what is the problem with crocs? I don't own any but I do wear clogs and other backless sandals. Is it because they are backless?

    Leze

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    1. Apparently, as we get older we shuffle our feet more and the backless Crocs, clogs and sandals cause a lot of falls when we shuffle-turn or step backward. The goes for high heels, too.

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  3. I am extremely fearful of falling. Just this week I ordered a walking 'stick,' not a cane. I just needed a little reassurance when I come to wet spots on sidewalks when I'm out walking, not something to use like a cane. I watched about 15 minutes of the debate. When Trump began to unravel I cut the TV off and read my book.

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    1. Funny you should mention walking sticks because I brought them up at the class and we had a good discussion about them being a great alternative for people who don't want to feel 'old' by using a cane. I have a telescoping one by Colman that I use in the winter, got it online and it has a rubber tip and an ice pick tip both.

      You missed the best part of the debate. He was at his best in that first 15 minutes and Hillary at her worse. Then they reversed for the hour and 15 minutes.

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    2. Twice I've had hard falls and both times Crocs were responsible.

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    3. That's scary! Half of my Crocs are not the standard style. I have their winter boots, rain boots, slippers, cross-trainers and others that have straps to hold them in place...but my others ones? Maybe by the end of the class I'll give them up?

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  4. Yes, good idea to leave the roller blades and skateboard at home on those days.

    Chatty Cathy - Scary stuff. We got a Drowsy doll for our daughter and she screamed bloody murder.

    It's odd how many 'Storms of the Century' we can have. The planet has thrown some really nasty weather our way, but we forget and consider the next round of beastliness the 'worst.' It makes me wonder how many horrific events went down before photographs and news media. Of all the stories of weather that were passed down by word of mouth, I think the one about the rain and flood must have been a doozy.

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    1. There have been many 'Storms of the Century', haven't there. We should not be surprised by that considering they don't just happen in one place at the same time, For example, England can have one but two countries over not experience theirs until the next decade. Same within the USA. There are 1,800 shipwrecks at the bottom of the Great Lakes. Lots of storms out there the average person doesn't know about.

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  5. Shudder...What a terrifying storm. No safety, no rescue. Think of how much we've benefitted from NOAA radar and Warnings. Interesting article! When I tried to watch the two videos, though, the commercial ran first, as expected, then the videos never loaded. So it goes.

    Can you believe I've never heard of Chatty Cathy? I would've been six when she came out. Yeah, I can imagine a lot of parents would get sick of her questions. lol.

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    1. Oh, that's too bad you couldn't watch the video! I have one of her books and she does a great job on them. When the plane got lost two years ago she was interviewed by CNN because she had just found a lost plane in Lake Michigan that had been underwater since the 1960s.

      I don't know how you escaped the Chatty Cathy dolls. She was the second most popular doll of the 1960s and was reproduced again in 1999.

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  6. I use a bright pink flowered cane for reassurance since I fell in front of Starbucks in May. It is especially helpful on uneven ground.

    Don't worry about Cathy being gone ... there is talking Elmo and many others to take her place. Much more snuggly as well!

    We moved west after the Ohio blizzard in 1978! Best thing ever!!

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    1. You always looks of 'hip' and young in blog that I can't picture you with a cane. But a bright pink floral one certainly fits your personality. I've seen them, they are cool.

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  7. Thanks for the information packed post. What sticks in my mind is Harold at 85 still not over the loss of his father at 10yrs old. HIs three siblings not mentioned - guessing they passed away, or moved on in life.

    Chatty Cathy sounds like a good idea - but, I sympathise with the parents! I remember the time my kids got a drum set - and did I curse the giver!

    Hillary Clinton did the Dems proud! She was GREAT, especially under the enormous pressure she was under to perform. I watched a clip of a group discussing the debate and a lady acknowledged DT was an idiot, but he was leading the GOP mule train, and that's all she needed. I shake my head in disbelief. I guess the GOP supporters similarly shake their head at the Dem's support of a "Benghazi/e-mail traitor" - never mind that many more people are shot each DAY on the streets. And never the twain shall meet. ~ Libby

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    1. When Valerie hosted Harold (and others) at a memorial service on her boat over the ship where his father was entombed and he said something like, "Now maybe my pain can float way with those flowers" quite a few of us were dabbing tears. He said it gave him comfort to know that no diver would ever be able to get inside because it was upside down.

      I saw that same lady and I don't understand that kind of logic of voting for an idiot. The GOP is not the same party it used to be, if that is what she was counting on. Hope Hillary does as well in the next two debates. The VP debate is first though.

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  8. I'll give you a big hug my friend Jean. If we every meet, the first thing I'll do is hug you and then say hi.
    It has been raining throughout the night and rain a great deal. It's raining right now at 10:00 am in the morning. Oh well it's autumn
    Chatty Cathy, oh my goodness, she was so ridiculous but at the time it was OK but today she would be stupid. Remember Chatty Cathy.
    Did you watch the debate? I unfortunately did and Trump is still an idiot. Hillary overall did look presidential but Trump, oh my goodness. I just believe that there some people, many people that are thinking of voting for him. I feel sorry for relatives & friends in the US if he wins.
    Chatty Cathy, I was 10 years of age and I remember some of my cousins having one. Wow was she silly. I remember when my cousin pulled on her to talk and it pulled right out of her head. Boy did I laugh and Chatty Cathy talked no more.
    About the large freighters, I enjoyed going down to the Navy Yard and watch some of these large ships because they had to pass Amherstburg down the Detroit River. These new ones are so large I wonder how they can pass through the locks. I would love to see some cruise ships but I doubt that will ever happens.

    That's it for now my friend. Enjoy your day Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Your cousin wasn't the only one to pull Chatty Cathy's string right out of her body. It's the number one repair job they do to restore those dolls.

      I did watch the debate and it sure made me feel more hopeful for the elections. I'm still worried, though. Trump would be a disaster!

      You would like Valerie's shipwreck books I'll bet. She does dive and lecture up your way. I thought I heard some where that the Great Lakes is getting a small cruise ship. I know a West Michigan town on the Lake are getting ready for regular stops. If I remember right it will cruise the lakes and the locks and stop at Detroit, Chicago and Grand Haven.

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    2. P.S. All hugs are welcome in my world, even virtual hugs so thanks!

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  9. I had to make a run into the wilds of the interwebz to find out about this Chatty Cathy. Hmmmm... I wonder what she'd sound like, updated for 2016. Better not to ponder that, perhaps.

    A friend and I were talking about falls last night. We agreed that one of the worst problems is the combination of non-skid soles on slippers and shoes, and carpeting. As people begin to shuffle a bit, the non-skid grips the carpet, the shoe stops, and the person keeps going. Kerplunk!

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    1. What Cathy would say today is a funny thought to ponder. Thanks for putting that into my head. LOL

      I have that problem of shoes stopping and me keep going. I'm able to catch myself but it only takes once to end up on the floor.

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    2. Oh gosh, thanks for putting that thought in my head about what an updated Cathy would say today. She's probably be a smarty pants. Cathy Smart Ass.

      I have had that problem of my shoes sticking to the floor and me keep going. So far I've been able to catch myself but it only takes once.


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    3. I think an up-to-date Cathy would be a "Texting Cathy" Her fingers would move , but she wouldn't say anything.

      Those non-slip shoes are dangerous!

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  10. The lecture about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 sounds very interesting.

    I still wear flip-flops. I know I shouldn't, but they're so easy.

    I remember Chatty Cathy and her voice even though I never had one. Effective commercial. Who wouldn't want all those pretty clothes?

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    1. You were the one person I was hoping would read this post about the storm and the ships> Because of your brother spending so much time on fishing boats, I knew you'd find it interesting.

      I know what you mean about flip-flops. I gave them up but Crocs aren't much better and they are my go-to when my shoes get too uncomfortable.

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    2. I would have enjoyed that lecture. My family is always interested in weather because so many of them work or have worked on and around water. There are always risks. My father could taste/smell a squall before it hit. My nephew has a penchant for going out alone to check the crab pots. He and my brother have had a number of conversations about it. My brother does not like it at all. He continues to do it - likes the solitude.

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  11. I never had a Chatty Cathy. I did have a Betsy Wetsy, however. I think I'd have rather had a talking doll than a peeing one. LOL I wouldn't mind having a human-looking robot to do my bidding. I know some find the idea creepy and scary, but the are so many tasks I'd assign to him/her...and who knows? Maybe they would make good company? Not in my lifetime, I imagine.

    I've caught my flip flops on the edge of a stair; thankfully no falls that way, but I can see it being very possible. I take my mobility for granted....for now. I remind myself often to appreciate it and remind myself not to be careless.

    Wasn't there a song about a famous shipwreck in Lake Superior? I can't recall the name of it....

    The debate was highly entertaining since my gal dusted the floor with him. It cracked me up how he fell into every trap and then has continued to ensnare himself for days and days afterward.

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  12. Yes, There was a song. I can sing it but I'm not sure I can spell its title. The Ella Fizgerald.

    I had a wetting doll and I feed it milk instead of water once. That was the end of that doll! Boy, did she start to smell when the milk got spoiled. I like the idea of a human-looking robot to do my bidding. They say they are coming to help the elderly in the future.

    I felt so much better after the debate but the uptick wasn't enough to breath easy yet.

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  13. I'm always impressed by the rich array of intellectual stimulation available in your area, and by your getting out there and taking advantage of those opportunities. I confess that I often find excuses not to go to talks that I would probably enjoy if I got to them. -Jean

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    1. Most of the things I go to are at the senior citizen hall or library. The hall is unique in that we have a director who knows how to find interesting speakers/teachers and community sponsors who pay most of the expenses of bringing them to us. I don't even do half of the things offered like a 10-12 hour bus trip monthly to places like Chicago for special shows. I just got the newsletter for the next two month and there are 22 events to sign up for not including the ongoing exercise classes, craft and card clubs. I don't sign up for many things in Jan. or Feb. because I use the weather as a (valid) excuse.

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