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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Irons, Tea Cups and Teddy Bears

I don’t read a lot of Dean Koontz books but I’m glad I read his Seize the Night simply because I was able to get one of my favorite quotes from that book:

“My mother’s favorite things were not my mother---they were merely her ‘things’---yet, though we like to believe that memories are as permanent as engravings in steel, even memories of love and great kindness are in fact frighteningly ephemeral in their details, and we remember best those that are linked to places and things; memory embeds in the form and weight and texture of real objects, and there it endures to be brought forth vividly with a touch.”

That quote gives me permission to be sentimental about objects that I enjoy having in the house. For example, I have a child’s size electric iron---about five inches long---that actually works plus the ironing board that goes with it. Can you image giving a child a toy like that today? It was mine when I was a kid and my parents can thank the gods of good luck that I didn’t burn the house down while ironing clothes for my paper dolls. Back when I was a kid girls were around nine-ten when we graduated to ironing with our mother’s irons doing pillow cases, handkerchiefs and other flats. The bigger I got, the more ironing became my responsibility and back then everything needed ironing. There was no such thing as iron free or wrinkle resistant cloth. When I was older and became a “career woman” I took all my ironing to a widow woman who pressed it perfectly while I was at work and I’d pick it back up on my way home. I hated ironing, still do and I base my whole wardrobe around that fact.

I’ve always credited the grandmother of my best friend growing up for my love of old objects. She had such beautiful tea cups and other things and each came with a story. My grandparents were all dead by the time I was two so my friend’s grandmother became the prototype, in my mind, for what all grandmothers should be. Now I’m the old woman with interesting objects that all have stories. Generation teaching generation. When Mrs. K. passed away after having had dementia for several years the person who did the eulogy said something I’ve never forgotten. He said that even after she lost her memory she was still of service to her family because her illness taught so many lessons in unconditional love. Those of us who’ve cared for a relative with dementia can relate to that.

I was Don’s caregiver for over twelve years and in those years I learned a lot about myself---my strengths, my weaknesses, what I valve, what I don’t as well as what Don valued and the depth of his character. I’d always known he was strong and determined but it was never so apparent than in those post-stroke years. He fought so hard for his limited recovery and he did it without complaint or the bitterness you see in so many other people who’ve had life changing disabilities. But there was another side to Don as well, a sweetly sentimental side that I remember every time I see his childhood teddy bear sitting on its shelf. Its form and weight and texture, like Dean Koontz said, brings back so many memories. Like the day Don got mad at the dog for playing with his teddy bear. It was the only time in all 42 years that I knew him that he ever raised his voice to any of the dogs we ever had. He was always the big, strong macho guy who carried my little dogs around every where we went and openly showered them with affection. But Sarah, Jason, Cooper and now Levi never got a chance to play with Don’s teddy bear again after Sarah’s first transgression. And this memory leads to another, of my mother telling us: “That dog as legs. Let him use them!" ©

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's the Point? (Curing Grief)

I was having trouble deciding what to write about today. My head felt like it was filled with pudding; no thoughts were able to wade from one side to another. On top of that, on the way home from an appointment I had lunch at a pity party with a few tears to keep me company. Loneliness caught up with me, I think, when it crossed my mine I had no one to go home to or to care about how I was spending the day. What’s the point, I thought, about anything I do or don’t do?

Closely following that poor-me thought I decided to write about the topic and maybe I’d find some answers in the process. So when I got home I googled the phrase “what’s the point?” Google brought up 15,000,000 hits and the very first place I clicked on stated this in its introduction: “This site is an attempt to inspire people to get out and enjoy life.” At first I wondered if the creator of that site had been peeking through the keyhole when I was having my pity party. That’s what I need to do----get out and enjoy life! Yup, it sounded reasonable. Then the website owner went on to explain his theory on “what’s the point” and he says it’s all about creating the best possible memories for yourself and your loved ones. Memories, he said, are really all we have in life. But it turns out he was trying to sell travel adventure packages: bike tours in Nova Scotia, white water rafting, and skydiving. If that’s really the point then I wonder if I can get my adventure by just watching his videos. I’m too out of shape to bike that far, white rafting with cold water splashing in my face sounds too much like water boarding, and skydiving would make me poop my pants.

After finding a couple more sites trying to sell stuff like needlepoint and arrow heads I decided I couldn’t google myself a short cut to finding out what’s the point. And while I’m deciding this I heard Steven Colbert talking to Julie Andrews about her children’s books in the background. “You have to let your sparkle out,” she said, and I was intrigued by that phrase enough to abandon my writing which wasn’t going all that well anyway and I discovered there is a whole line of let your sparkle out merchandise connected with her books. Somehow I think there’s a connection between “what’s the point” and letting your sparkle out but I haven’t figured it out yet. Or maybe the guy who believes that our sole purpose in life is to create good memories is right and by living his philosophy we’d automatically be letting our sparkle out.

Then it struck me that maybe instead of consulting Google I should have consulted Robert Fulghum, (author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten). So I pulled his second book off the shelf and on the back cover was a giant clue to the answer that had been dogging me all day. He wrote: “It’s not the meaning of life, it’s the meaning in life.” But what really gave me chills was on the first page of the book:

“I believe….
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Don has been gone just a few days over three months and if I’m to believe that love is stronger than death then does that mean he’s still with me as long as I still love him, that I’m really not alone? True or not, it’s a comforting thought and I won’t feel guilty if I try to wallow in my good memories of Don like a ravenous suckling child. I still might not fully understand what’s the point or how to cure my grief but the above three sources I consulted today all suggest that finding things to make you laugh and that makes you happy inside is crucial. And haven’t I known that all along. ©

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Rule of Three

For the first time since Don passed away I spent some time at a news and politics message board I used to go every morning to fight/debate. I always considered it to be a good way of keeping my aging brain from turning to mush and at the same time, to do my part to help the causes, elected officials and candidates I care about. What I learned today is I’m not ready for the intensity of a place like that. There are so many mean-spirited people there---always has been but apparently my tolerance level has changed. So now I don’t know what to do with my morning computer time. I can’t take a steady diet of the widowhood site anymore where I’ve been going these past few months.They are so nice and so sympathetic over there and sometimes I just want to analyze the crap out of their policy of telling everyone exactly what they want to hear. But I can’t do that. Who am I to tell anyone else how to grief or move forward? I can hardly figure out where I belong while enjoying my morning coffee. I feel like Goldilocks testing porridge. One bowl is too hot, one is too cold but I can’t find the one that’s just the right.

I guess I still belong in a house where there’s a self imposed TV black out and I suspect that’s because my brain is still too busy processing the repercussions of Don’s death to concentrate on the programs I used to enjoy. I was a bit of a news junkie. But now the world could be falling off its axis and I wouldn’t know it. And I haven’t yet grasped the fact that I can change my routine now that Don’s no longer here. I don’t, for example, have to kill time on the computer in the mornings anymore. I could do something else entirely. That started because Don needed mid-morning naps.

The dog is stuck in a routine too. If I don’t open the library door before I sit down at the computer, he lets me know in no uncertain terms. It’s Levi’s favorite place to sit and watch the street which he’s not allowed to do during the night. The other day I sat in the library chair he uses and Levi got very upset. I tried to explain mortgages and home ownership to him but he threw Squatters Rights back at me and won the argument. No library sitting for me! That was Don and Levi’s domain and I can keep on doing as I’ve always done---go in the library long enough to pick out or return a book then walk back out.

My search for the third bowl of “porridge” (i.e. a website to go to that’s just right) has me thinking about the 'Rule of Three', how it came about in story telling. That’s the principle that says things that come in threes are more effective than in other numbers. Some say the Rule of Three started with the Bible---the Holy Trinity, the three wise men, the three crucifixion crosses, the three Magi gifts---but I wonder if it didn’t evolve from something older and more intrinsic to human nature; sort like a mother-father-and-baby-makes-three symbolism passed down from the ancient world.

The Rule of Three is every where there is written language but most noticeable in fairy tales: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice, etc. Even the Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland talks about his three sisters and Dorothy clicked her heals three times in The Wizard of Oz and Jack---remember Jack? He climbed his beanstalk three times. The examples go on forever. The Rule of Three can even be applied to my widowhood in the sense that I have to work through my past memories and catalog my future options before I can find peace in the present. Oh my God, I’m living in a production of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol!

“Jeez!” I can hear my inner voice saying, “Go turn on some music and get that Rule of Three out of your head before it drives you crazy.” But I tell her with my luck Lionel Richie would be singing Three Times a Lady so I might as well stay here and bemoan the fact that the Rule of Three was broken at my house when Don passed away. It’s always been Don, Jean and the dog. We were a family.

“You could buy a puppy sibling for Levi,” my inner voice says.

“You can’t replace Don with a dog!” I snap back at her.

“It was just a suggestion. What would YOU want if you were granted three wishes?” my inner voice asks. “Levi and I want a puppy.”

“You don’t speak for Levi.”

“Do so.” ©

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My First Movie Date

A couple of days ago I went to a movie and lunch with twenty women from the senior hall’s monthly movie club. It felt sort of like I was on a date fifty years because: 1) I didn’t get to pick the movie or have any input on the choice; 2) It was the same with picking out the restaurant; 3) I had to make small talk with people I didn’t know very well; and 4) I couldn’t wait for the ‘date’ to end so I could go home.

The movie we saw was good---The Lucky One. I wouldn’t have picked it if it had been my choice because the author of the book it was based on is not one of my favorites. He---Nicholas Sparks--- wrote Message in a Bottle and while others raved about both the book and the movie version, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief long enough to buy into the plot. It felt forced and sappy. The Lucky One is definitely a chick flick love story and while the plot was another attempt to explore fate and destiny, it was thin. The acting, casting, and scenery, however, made this movie well worth the price of admission. It also had a touch of humor in it compliments of a senior citizen character---Nana---and I could relate to her. She had lost a grandson recently and one of her lines really spoke to me as a recent widow. Nana said words to the effect of: “The older you get the less you begrudge the moments you didn’t get and you appreciate the ones you did get.” That’s what I try to do with the loved ones I’ve lost.

Lunch was at a fancy oriental place that dragged out the four courses and charged $5.00 per person for a pot of tea that I could have made at home for pennies. It took forever and made me so antsy. (I had left the house at ten-thirty and didn’t get back home until nearly five. The only time I’d been away from the house that many hours in a row while Don was still alive was when I was in the hospital getting knee surgery.) As I sat there, caregiver guilt was getting to me and since I no longer have a care recipient I transferred my worrying to the dog. How was Levi doing being alone for so long? He’s not used to that. Was he getting separation anxiety, knowing not all that long ago Don and I left him alone for too many hours and only one of us came back home? It was ridiculous to think this because he’s never shown any signs of separation anxiety and it didn’t escape my notice that I was showing signs of separation anxiety in between the appetizer and soup courses. I wanted to go home and apology to Levi, then go out and buy us a matching set of thunder jackets. (Do they make them for people?)

I’ll probably take part in the movie and lunch club again next month. But I don’t see this as a good way of forming friendships as I originally hoped it would be. The logistics of sitting next to a different set of women every month will keep the conversations very superficial and focused on the movies. What’s new? I’ve never been good at making friends. I had Don for a best friend and really never needed anyone else. So my friendship building skills are as rusty as a junk yard sculpture. ©

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sense of Purpose

Well I did it. I signed the paperwork to rent some space in an antique mall….just three shelves in a locked showcase, but with the tourist season coming I’m hopeful I can find new homes for some of Don’s smalls. ‘Smalls’ in collector circles are anything from dime-sized whatnots to items 5-6 inches in size. Smalls are the little items that fill in around the bigger, high ticket items that you see in antique shops. My collection of Cracker Jack premiums and Don’s collection of advertising ink pens are examples of smalls. We have a gazillion ‘smalls’ in the house. So between here and May 1st I’ll be in price marking hell. But three shelves is not a major commitment, and my little venture won’t be time intense once I get the shelves stocked for the first time.

I hope I’m doing the right thing at the right time. It felt good up at the antique mall today, to be in the presence of others who understand the obsession of collecting. But handling Don’s collectibles and remembering the where, when and how he got this or that might be hard. There was always a story attached to each new acquisition.

Some people are clueless about why some of us amass a quantity of anything you can’t use. I have a relative who collects advertising yard sticks because he likes the history behind the obsolete businesses they came from. A friend of ours collects post cards because it’s a way of learning geography. Another friend doesn’t collect anything older than dust bunnies and very few of them because she’s a bit of a cleaning Nazi which is why she doesn’t like having useless objects around. We are all so different. And just as our collections are different, people collect for a variety of reasons:

1) To bring back good childhood memories
2) To invest (hopefully) in something you enjoy looking at
3) To be an obsessed fan of all things related to a certain topic
4) To have bragging right to having found something unique
5) To have fun---the thrill of the hunt

Don fell into the latter two categories of collectors. He was an obsessed hunter who loved to story tell after the hunt was long over and done. He could go into a flea market that covered acres and come out with the tiniest things, like looking for a needle in a haystack. If he’d been a caveman hunting for survival his family would not have starved to death. He was a good hunter of things. Too good.

I feel over whelmed a lot since Don died. There’s so much to do if I’m going to put myself in a position where I can downsize next year to a smaller place. But any deadlines I have are all self imposed so they really don’t count, do they. At least that’s what I keep telling myself in an attempt to quell my sense of panic. What does count is that I’ve lost my sense of purpose in life now that I’m no longer a wife and caregiver and I don’t think I can get that back until I can move on to a life without all of Don’s stuff weighting me down. As small as this mall project is going to be, I hope it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t want this transitional period in my life to become my sole purpose in life. I’m old and I have other things I want to do. ©

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Diary Keeping

I started keeping diaries when I was just a kid with nothing to say of any importance---that’s not meant to infer that I have anything important to communicate now that I’m old enough to remember when “body shapers” were called girdles. I’m just stating a fact about all kids who write in diaries when they’re still in grammar school. Who knows why my mom gave me my first diary but I suspect she thought reading my diary while I was in school would be like a 1951 version of the 21st century practice of snooping around your kid’s Facebook page. Little did she (or my older brother) know that eventually Nancy Drew Mysteries would teach me a few things about setting traps for prying eyes. Sewing thread and baby powder kept my secrets secret for a lot of years. Or so I thought. Maybe they just didn’t care what I wrote about each night.

One diary entry that I made back when I was young enough to play with dolls still cracks me up and reads like this: “Today I took a spelling test and I funked it.” I’ve been a notoriously bad speller my entire life. Every day I thank the gods of spell-check and electronic dictionaries for making my diary keeping less of a chore than it was back in the days when I wrote everything out long-hand. A pencil with an eraser is still my writing implement of choice and wouldn’t you know it, I’d end up married to an ink pen collector. Don was a good speller and when we first knew each other he couldn’t understand why I’d wear down all the erasers in the house before the pencils were too short to use. And as smart as he was, I’m still shaking my head over the time he found me sitting in the car, balling my eyes out and holding up a pencil with a broken point. “Don’t cry! Don’t cry. I can fix that!” and he ran into the house to sharpen my pencil. Another woman, of course, would have known right off there was more to my wailing than a broken piece of lead. Guys! They can be endearing when they’re clueless.

Because people write diary style in blogs and forums on the internet, I see a lot of broken hearts and broken dreams on the widowhood site that I frequent. I see a lot of pain created by financial issues caused by the death of a breadwinner. I see a lot of anger and confusion brought on by finding out a deceased husband was having an affair or by in-laws who are less than supportive. And I see a lot of people who have lost their faith in God. I see all the same kinds of issues and coping methods that I saw back when I was hanging around a stroke support site after Don’s stroke. Sad but true. Change is hard and it’s easy to forget the rest of humanity goes on when own little corner of world stops and takes a giant breath. I’ve been lucky. I haven’t been disillusioned by circumstance or people in my widowhood and if I need to vent, I have my diary/blog and I think that helps.

Writing, diary keeping or blogging---whatever you want to call it---to me, is a way to empty out my mind when all my thoughts are fighting to see who gets to be king of the mountain. I hate it when they fight! I hate it when my thoughts chase each other around and punch and kick one another until one idea or the other goes limping off with a bloody nose. Writing soothes me and brings my life into focus. If I empty my thoughts out on paper then I can organize them, edit them and lay some of the more mundane or destructive thoughts to rest in a dignified manner than doesn’t require a first aid kit. Thank you, dear diary! And other times it’s just plain fun to spend an afternoon reading old diary entries like the time I was reminded of a long ago live concert I’d attended featuring Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. I wrote about it a few years back in a blog entry titled American Graffiti that can be found here. ©

Monday, April 16, 2012

Interring the Ashes at the Grave

I woke up before the robins this morning with a dream still hanging around in the corners of my mind. I was searching in vain for Don’s phone number because I knew he’d overslept and wouldn’t be able to wake up without my help. My deceased parents were also in the dream and not at all concerned that I couldn’t find the number I was looking for. “Leave him alone,” my mom said, “He’ll be fine.”

It’s not unusual for me to wake up with a fragile dream hanging just out of my reach and sometimes I try to will myself back to sleep so I can finish the work my subconscious mind was doing in the night. But this morning I couldn’t drift back to sleep because I remembered this is the day Don’s ashes get interred at the gravesite---at least most of them. Some I’m taking to Lake Michigan this summer. I’m having trouble fighting the compulsion to divide his remains even more so I can leave some of his ashes at the farm where Don grew up and also take some ashes out during a bad snowstorm and let them go in the wind. (Don loved snowstorms and the plowing that took place after.) I’d also like to put some of his ashes in our backyard, at the house we built together. It’s a place he was immensely proud to live in and the first thing almost every morning that he lived here he’d sing, “Beautiful, beautiful!” to the walls. I can think of a dozen places I’d like to leave part of his ashes and burying them with a headstone is not one of them. 

But he wanted to be interned in this cemetery, in the town where he went to school, and where he once spent the summer mowing the grass as a punishment from the local judge. (Kids today are still messing with the city sign but few are as creative as Don and his friends who managed to change some letters around and create a swear word.) Don picked out the gravesite based on the fact that his life-long friends owned the site next to ours. That tickled his sense of humor on one hand, but on the other hand there was something deeply sentimental about his choice. Don was more sentimental than a lot of people would have guessed. 

At the cemetery the sexton asked me if I wanted to be at the foot or head of the gravesite because Don’s ashes would be placed at the opposite end and it struck me that these three guys---two sextons and the funeral director---would probably judge our entire marriage dynamics by the answer I gave. I went back and forth trying to figure out a logical choice and finally I decided dead is dead and what difference could it possibly make what I picked or what these strangers thought. They call it widow’s brain when you can’t make decisions and this decision made me feel like a driveling idiot. I did, however, decide quickly that I wanted a rock that the sexton unearthed while digging the hole for the box of ashes. Don and I never took a vacation that we didn’t haul a few rocks back home. 

I had the dog in the car and after the ashes were in their final resting place I took Levi down the near-by nature trail and I picked a spot by the river to sit down and reflect on the finality of getting buried in the ground. It was cold and windy with the smell of rain pushing in with the dark clouds over head. No other people were in sight but the sounds of nature were all around me---the trees rubbing against one another, a pair of broad-winged hawks soaring above, the current of the river making its way south---and surprisingly Levi sat quietly watching a chipmunk balling up a dried oak leaf to carry home. If it had been a bird, he would have barked. 

I don’t really believe that our dreams are anything more than our own thoughts, memories, fears, and imagination all twisted together and processed in the unmapped parts of our brain. I used to wish our dreams are windows into a parallel universe where we’d all go at night to live. I still believe that great movies like What Dreams May Come (about the hereafter) are born in a person’s nighttime dreams. But today the only thought I had about dreams is this: if there is even the slightest chance that some dreams are spiritual signs from the other side then my mother’s words when I woke up this morning are the greatest comfort I could have asked for at a time like this, that “Don will be fine” where ever he’s at in the great unknown. 

Note: The photo above is the rock from Don's gravesite. It measures nearly five inches across and if anyone knows what kind it is will you leave me a note? The photo below shows some of the rocks we've brought home over the years.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Moving Forward...or Not

Leaning against the dining room wall is a poster with thirty-one photos that was made for Don’s memorial service nearly three months ago. I’m still amazed that it only took thirty-one photos to represent all the highlights and stages of a person’s life---his youth and formative years, Army Reserves, occupations and hobbies, important relationships and benchmark moments---from babyhood to old person status on one 20” x 30” poster board. I could have filled up more boards with more photos, of course, but I was trying to tell a story with the photos I chose to share and in the world of storytelling editing is king. Less is more. Or so they say.

I should probably take the board apart and put the photos back in the albums where they came but for some reason I can’t seem to do it. No “probably” about it, I SHOULD do it! I need to do it. How can I sit here and be critical of widows who after one-two even three years still have their decease spouse’s underwear in their dresser drawers, their clothing still hanging in the closet, and their combs and toothbrushes still sitting in the bathroom when I have unfinished business of my own? And I do make judgments about other grieving people. I’m not proud of that, but it’s a fact. In widowhood support circles you often hear the phrase that grief takes however long it takes, but in the back of my mind I keep hearing a voice saying you can’t move forward if you’re living in a time capsule. I suppose it gives comfort to pretend someone is coming back to wear the clothing in the time capsule or to use a hairbrush again but I’m glad I took care of this immensely personal stuff early on after Don’s passing. And, yes, that poster of photos calls me a hypocrite when my back is turned.

I love Amazon.com. Within seconds I can get a book downloaded on my Kindle or within days if I want a “real” book to show up in my mailbox. Yesterday the mailman brought me If the Buddha Got Stuck: a Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path. The back cover reads: “This wise yet lighthearted book by the author of the enormously popular If the Buddha Dated and If the Buddha Married will speak to anyone who’s ever experienced being stuck in life. With her signature clarity, wisdom, and wit and her trademark blend of psychological and spiritual insight, Charlotte Kasl presents seven simple yet profound steps on the path to change. 1) Notice where you’re stuck. 2) Show up. 3) Pay attention. 4) Live in reality. 5) Connect with others, connect with life. 6) Move from thought to action, and 7) Let go.” On that list, I’m approaching point six and it’s too bad I had to buy the whole book when I only need the last few chapters.

Some day I’ll learn to use the library again. Before Don’s stroke, I was there twice a week. Family and friends have been checking in on me this past week, knowing it would be a week of many widowhood firsts. First Easter without my husband, our birthdays and anniversary without each other, and Don’s ashes getting interred tomorrow all had people thinking about me. Last night some friends stopped by and we talked about moving forward and how I have to slow myself down because I have an overwhelming compulsion to get it all done as soon as possible “so I can move forward,” I said. Bless his heart, my friend replied: “But you ARE moving forward. Moving forward isn’t a goal you get to; it’s a process, a journey that you’re taking step by step.” And with those words in mind, I give myself permission to hold on to the poster board of photos a little longer. ©

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Box Full of Wishes

My oldest friend in the world sent me a small box in the mail. Not just any old store-bought box. This one was made of paper and it came with instructions on how to put it together. A tiny note was attached to what became the bottom of the box and it said the box was overflowing with good wishes. A red stain ribbon to tie the lid in place---I presume so the wishes can’t get out---completed the gift. It brought a warm smile to my face. My out-of-state friend couldn’t know this because we hadn’t seen each other in years but I have a fascination for the way boxes go together. I’m always bringing odd-shaped fast food boxes home to deconstruct just because….well, just because I admire the creativity that goes into designing them. That, or maybe in another life I was a Geisha girl who did Origami in my spare time. There must be some explanation for why I’ve always hated serving beverages to able-bodied men and love small paper boxes. Gloria Steinem’s Feminine Mystique didn’t have a thing to do with it, I’m almost sure.

I put the box full of wishes by my computer for inspiration, trying to decide what kinds of wishes I’d put in the box if it hadn’t already come fully loaded with my friend’s wishes for me. It reminded me of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle song. I must have heard it a hundred times in the 40 years since the singer-song writer wrote it but I had to look up the lyrics to make sure I got them right. Where has the time gone? I didn’t remember or maybe I never knew the back story about Time in a Bottle, how Jim wrote it for his baby son not long before Jim died in a plane crash. That fact sure puts a different twist to the song. Life is such a fragile thing.

“If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that Id like to do
Is to save every day
Till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you.

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you.”

Off and on all day I thought about the wishes I’d add to my little box of wishes from my friend. My thoughts ranged from wishing for one more day with Don to wishing I could work through the grief process at a faster pace to wishing I knew what Jim’s son thinks about his father’s words so long ago. But finally I decided that I want the same thing Jim said he already had in his box---empty space where unfulfilled wishes and dreams used to be. What a joyful thought! And in most ways, I already do have that. Don and I had a good life together. I have great memories and few regrets. Few unfulfilled wishes as a couple. But as more wishes and dreams do evolve from this widowhood phase of life, I will tie them securely in my paper box with the red satin ribbon and keep them there until I figure out how to make them come true. ©

Friday, April 13, 2012


In 2004, according to Wikepedia, the word ‘serendipity’ was voted one the ten hardest English words to translate. It’s been around since 1754 when it was coined by an Englishman, Horace Walpole, after he had read an ancient Persian fairy tale set in a country called Serendip or Serendippo depending on the translation. The heroes in the Three Princes of Serendip were always making discoveries by accident in their quest to track a lost ‘camel’ they’d never seen. Thus the word ‘serendipity’ was born to describe happy accidents or good luck finding things we’re not actually looking for in our travels through life. I love the word ‘serendipity.’ I like saying it. I like the way it sounds and its meaning. I like thinking about the different ways serendipity enriches our lives. If I win the lotto and could buy the cottage of my dreams I’d name it Serendipity. I also like houses that have names.

Serendipity was going to the Butterflies in Bloom exhibit yesterday---to start an annual pilgrimage during the week of Don’s and my birthdays and anniversary---and finding out the botanical gardens and sculpture park hold art classes and workshops. Last winter I spent a couple of hours online trying to find myself a leisure time art class in the area with no success. And yesterday they just fell in my lap at a point in my life when I will have the time (and hopefully the money) to get back to one of my first passions in life---drawing and painting. But I need to do it in baby steps; I have to know, first, that I can actually spend several hours with strangers without breaking out crying. I’ll start by becoming a member of the gardens and learn my way around the place---it’s huge, 132 acres---and maybe wait until fall to actually sign up for a workshop.

Yesterday’s pilgrimage turned out to be the life affirming experience I had hoped it would. It was a bright, sunny day and the minute I sat down to watch the butterflies in flight overhead and all around me I felt at peace. One particular 3-4 inch blue butterfly kept trying to land of people and I was envious of others wearing brightly colored, floral blouses. I don’t own one, or picture myself ever buying one, but I did wish I had purchased the floral patterned summer purse I rode around in my shopping cart recently before returning it back to the rack. It’s going to take baby steps to updating my wardrobe as well. But one way or another, I’ll have a butterfly attracting flower with me when I return to this exhibit next year. After an hour with the butterflies I took an hour tram ride around to see the outdoor sculptures. On the ride I learned that this park ranks in the top 30 Must-See Museums in the world. And it only takes me 20 minutes to get there! 

It wasn’t the first time I’d been there. A few years back I took Don to see the butterflies but it was too hard to get him and his wheelchair around with my old lady lack of energy for pushing. We’d also been there four months after his stroke. It was a graduation-from-rehab field trip and his physical and occupational therapists were there to get him standing up just long enough for a photo-op underneath the park’s signature bronze piece---a 24 foot bronze horse. It was supposed to symbolize what can happen when you never give up on your dreams, because this colossal horse was 500 years in the making. I wonder how often I’ll have to see that sculpture before I can look at it without tearing up. We were all so proud of Don that day. 

And since this essay is about serendipity, I’d be remiss for not pointing out that the inspiration for this huge bronze sculpture came from the drawing board of Leonardo deVinci, a commissioned piece that fell through due to war breaking out and the bronze being needed for other purposes. It was pure serendipity the day the founder of our local botanical garden and sculpture park happened to see those deVinci drawings while visiting a bronze foundry where he was checking on a little piece he had commissioned. He was intrigued by the detailed deVinci plans, and the story behind them, and he was able to help put things into motion to bring this massive sculpture to fruition. That was serendipity power at its finest! ©

“Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy.
Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in.
Without serendipity, there are no surprises.”
Rita Golden Gelman

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Man of Strong Opinions

Anyone who knew my husband knows he could be a stubborn and opinionated man. Nothing demonstrates that point more than his relationship with the NRA. He hated that organization with a passion even though he’d been a life member since as far back as I can remember. He remained a member until after his death when I finally wrote and told them to cancel the magazines that have been coming to the house for decades as part of his lifetime, non-refundable membership package. At the time Don became a life member, the NRA was more about riffles, marksmanship and hunting and a whole lot less about political activism as it has evolved into today. And even though each magazine delivered would go immediately in the trash with a few choice swear words, Don wouldn’t let me cancel them because it cost the NRA money to keep him on their mailing list and that was money, Don decided, they couldn’t spend on lobbyists. I’ve often wondered how many other life members of their four million members strong organization felt the same way.

Don’s falling out with the NRA started in earnest back in ‘80s when the organization put up a strong opposition against the Brady Bill regarding background checks for purchasing firearms, and that falling out grew over the years as the NRA got more and more political. The fact that the NRA won’t compromise on keeping high powered assault weapons off the streets of America was something Don despised the most and “screw their second amendment argument!” Reasonable men know that our Founding Fathers never envisioned weapons like we have today. Reasonable men could compromise. Don was a reasonable man…. at least to those of us who knew and loved him.

Being a man of strong opinions was one of the most memorable, frustrating, admired, and endearing qualities of Don’s all rolled into one. You always knew where you stood with him and he enjoyed a good debate. He was well read and rarely forgot anything he’d ever seen, heard or read which made him an interesting person and I used him as my personal, walking encyclopedia. The fact that one of his oldest and dearest friends in this world holds political opinions in direct opposition to what Don held attests to the fact that Don could disagree without being disagreeable. But he also knew when to soften the harshest of his opinions by using humor and he knew when to say nothing if he was talking to someone too militant for a respectful exchange. In the latter case, Don would often take out his checkbook and make a donation to an organization fighting to preserve whatever it was the militant person was ranting against. He worked with a few militant Right-to-Lifer's, for example, so Planned Parenthood got a lot of checks after one of them would lecture Don. If he couldn’t win someone over with words, he’d let his money do the talking.

Some of the organizations who will miss his support include: The Sierra Club, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Doctors Without Borders, The Clinton Foundation, The Humane Society, The Civil Liberties Union, The Alliance for the Separation of Church and State, The Salvation Army, The National Democratic Committee, Planned Parenthood, Habitats for Humanity, the local soup kitchen and mission serving the homeless, The National Organization for Women, and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. ©

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Carl Jung

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional”.
Max Lucade

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This Year I Cry for Me

The first half of April, this year, is marked by many sad occasions for me. I already had Easter as the marker for the day my mom died although it actually happened on the 3rd. Easter, however, never falls on the same calendar date so it’s like there are two dates of sorrow instead of one for her. Next, Don’s ashes will be interred on the 16th which was our anniversary. Both our birthdays plus my parents’ anniversary also fall in this first 16 days of April. So, many once-happy occasions have become dates for tears now that Don’s death is so fresh. I need to get through one more week, one more week of intense grief and I greet each of these dates on the calendar with tears for me. But next April I swear on all that is holy to me I will celebrate the lives lived well instead.

In a couple of days I’m starting a new tradition of marking all these April dates by making an annual pilgrimage to see the Butterflies in Bloom exhibit which is always in town this time of the year---to do something life affirming and symbolic of the cycle of all living things. What could be more life affirming than to sit among 6,000 butterflies hatching and flying free in the conservatory? They say if you sit very quiet the butterflies will land on you and you can feel the whisper of air from their wings when they take off again. I want to do something positive and uplifting like this to honor the lives that are gone instead of me mourning the hollow place their absence---especially Don’s---leaves behind. I might not achieve that goal this year, but in the years to come I will.

Grief is grief and it takes however long it takes, but for me it helps to have an exit plan like this for leaving the grieving path behind. I want to remember Don, Mom and Dad with a joyful heart, not a tear-stained face. They were all good, caring people. My dad, my sweet and wise father who is never far from my thoughts. So much of my world view came from him. My mom who taught me to be strong and independent. My loyal and loving husband who taught me that love is patient and full of laughter. By next April I will be joyful and celebrate that I had them all in my life for as long as I did. But this year, I cry for me. I cry for Don. This year I see the ugliest of all cocoons---grief---but I know it holds the promise that from it will emerge the most beautiful of all butterflies…. spiritual and physical healing. ©
“Our lives reflect the pictures we create in our minds,
therefore we should pay close attention to our mental doodling.”
Mary Manin Morrissey

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Bucket List

With my birthday approaching and Don’s death not far in my past, I’ve been thinking a lot about making another Bucket List of things I’d like to before I die. In preparation---or maybe it was just a stall tactic---I spent the morning researched what other people put on their lists and I found a Squidoo Lens with 1,000 Bucket List ideas. This is a serious, heavy weight article with tons of links to things like a guide to the world’s best festivals, the National Geographic’s 500 most peaceful and powerful places on earth list and 100 of the greatest adventure books of all time. You name a category of human experience and they’ll be a link to it on that lens. As I skim-read the site, the very first entry on my Bucket List was born: to follow and read every single link on that lens.

I learned one important thing about myself as I scanned through those bucket list suggestions: I’m not interested in doing extreme sports or traveling. Not surprising. I wasn’t interested in sports when I was young except for a few years of snowmobiling, skiing and sailing nor did I especially enjoy traveling by trains, planes and ships. Don and I were more the RV and tent-camping in state parks type of travelers and I wouldn’t do either one alone. About the only place I’m seriously interested in seeing now is Nantucket Island---don’t ask me why. I really don’t know. But if I had the money I’d rent a cottage there and stay until I figured out why the place calls my name.

UPDATES: Items with a red number have been checked off this list since it was written. 9/24/15. Items with green numbers, I no longer care about doing, 4/12/16. Things marked with ** at the end are things I need to revisit for one reason or another, 6/1/19.

1. Read all the links in the 1,000 Bucket List Ideas lens.
2. Take a Tai Chi class.
3. Read more travel adventure books like the autobiography the movie Seven Years in Tibet was based on.
4. Plan my funeral and put my financial affairs in order so I never have to think about them again. **
5. Update the emergency care plan for Levi, my schnauzer, to include a vocabulary list of the words and commands he knows. (Once a caregiver, always a caregiver.) **
6. Spoil myself with more and more spa-like treatments. Okay, so I’ve only gotten one pedicure so far but I’m scheduled for finger and toe nails both next week. And I want to do the sugar thing to get rid of old lady chin hair. Who knows what will come after that---maybe a spa retreat in Hawaii or a Tibetan Silent Retreat. If I wasn't laughing so hard while I write this, I'd realize I could actually do these outer and inner beauty make-overs someday.
7. Buy more beauty products. About the only thing I’ve bought regularly since Don’s stroke has been Burt’s Bees watermelon lip balm.(Oh, my God! Maybe this is why so many older women start looking like they've been to the Clown School of Makeup Tricks! They get addicted to beauty products.)
8. Gradually upgrade my wardrobe. Jeez, will anyone know me when I finally shed my caregiver look? I’d been standing behind a wheelchair for so long I still feel naked without it. **
9. Put low lights in my hair. Don’t ask me what that they are. My hair dresser thinks it’s a good idea.
10. Take the dog to the dog park twice a week. This involves a long walk on the nature trail to get there so I’ll be getting my exercise as well. Dog parks can be dangerous.
11. Print the family history book I have sitting in the ‘My Canvas’ book queue.
12. Finish the book I started on living with someone with severe aphasia.
13. Print Levi and Cooper’s diary sitting in the Blogger’s book queue.
14. Continue to blog the first year of my widowhood, then print it and pronounce myself ready to move on. (Although the people at Widowed Village say the one year mourning period thing is a myth. It can---and usually does---take much longer than that.)
15. Write a fan letter to Oprah.
16. Do the NaNoWriMo challenge in November again. (Write a book in a month.) I tried it a few years back and it was---well, a real challenge that I couldn’t accomplish. But it was fun interacting with all the others trying to do the same. **
17. Get a comfortable computer chair for all this writing I’ll be doing on my Bucket List projects.**
18. Sell my house next year.
19. Buy a small condo next year. **
20. Go to Nantucket and/or turn my new condo into a cottage themed retreat. Accomplished part of the cottage theme in the house. ** Haven't been to Nantucket but I've got more cottage theme in the house.
21. Visit our world famous sculpture park in town again.
22. Visit our world famous art festival and contest in the fall.
23. Cook and eat some fried green tomatoes.
24. Go to a wine tasting.
25. Start drawing again. 
26. Start painting again.
27. Start baking bread again. (I had to stop last year when I was fighting chronic hives.) ** I'm into making scones now.
28. Visit Don’s grave on Memorial Days. (For decades we made the rounds of graves in three counties---a promise he made to his mother. We were buying flowers for people we never met so I’m thinking Don would want me to visit him.)
29. Never, ever forget the special place where I keep his memory tucked in my heart.
30. Read a couple of Dr. Seuss books. Can you believe I’ve never done that! ** Didn't read Dr. Seuss by I have recently read some classic children's books.
31. Buy a bike. (Although I’m starting to chicken out on this one after a relative said she fell while riding and broke her wrist. I asked the salesperson at the bike shop if I could get training wheels and he just laughed. But I was serious!)
32. Buy an iPad and take the class on using it.
33. Get a smart phone and take the class on using it.
34. Admit defeat and call the damn geek squad to set up my new printer that’s been sitting here since December.
35. Take up knitting again.
36. Finish the quilt I have ready for the backing or hire a service to do it.
37. Restore the finish on my ice box that dates back to before electricity.
38. Live to be a 100.
39. Enjoy life until the last breath.
40. Add 60 more items to this list before the end of the year. ©

Friday, April 6, 2012

No, Officer, It's Just my Husband

Oh my God, I can’t believe I have a box with Don’s ashes in the trunk of my car! Spur of the moment decisions always get me in trouble---not really, that’s just the message looping through my brain right now. But I am a schedule it kind of person. I don’t like surprises. This morning I took the dog down the nature trail in Don’s home town and afterwards I decided to swing around to the cemetery to see if the headstone for our joint grave had been placed. Sure enough, the sexton told me it was delivered yesterday and it’s just waiting on top of the grave site for the cement footing to be poured. I don’t know what made me decide to go to the cemetery today or to think the stone would be there, considering the only promise made on delivering the tombstone was: “it will be in place for Memorial Day.” That’s eight weeks away. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to question my intuition too closely or I’d scare myself to death….but this time I suspect Don was whispering in my ear while I was walking the White Pine Trail.

A lot of thoughts went through my head while I looked at the stone---scrambled, mixed up ideas along with bittersweet memories. But the main idea involved Duck tape. They say you can do anything with Duck tape so maybe I’ll just use some to cover up my name on the Vermont marble. It creeps me out seeing it preserved for all eternity! It’s bad enough that I have to see Don’s name etched deep and black against the unpolished background. What else could I do? He wanted a tombstone. He got it. He wanted “happy trails to you until we meet again” on the stone. He got it. See, things work out when you plan ahead. I just remembered those were the very last words I said to Don. He had passed just minutes before and he had such a sweet, angelic look of peace on his face. I’ll never forget that look. Damn it, I just made myself cry again!

A lot of the headstones near by ours have things glued on top or stuck in the ground: knickknacks of all descriptions---birdbaths, flowers, pinwheels, figurines, solar lights and wind chimes. Lots of wind chimes. We’re moving into a noisy neighborhood. I did some thinking about what Don would like on his side of the stone. Whatever I pick will probably have four wheels and goes “zoom, zoom!” in little boy talk. Or maybe a plastic Snoopy would do. He’d like that. On my side, maybe I’ll put my Fossil sundial watch. It’s always good to know what time it is when you’re in a cemetery.

On another spur of the moment decision I stopped at the near-by funeral home to arrange to do the interment of Don’s ashes on our anniversary which is coming up soon. While I was there the funeral director gave me a boxed, plastic bag with part of Don’s ashes to scatter at Lake Michigan this summer. That packet came with a document clearly spelling out the contents within “just in case you get stopped by the police.” Apparently cremated remains have been mistake for cocaine. That’s just what I’d need, to get arrested for transporting my husband around in a plastic bag! I just may leave him there in the trunk, though, until the day I go to the lake because those ashes sure kept me from speeding on the way home. Plus I haven’t had a vehicle with a trunk since the ‘70s and it seems fitting that Don gets the honor of being the very first “item” to get toted around town in my brand new trunk. It even has a glow-in-the-dark trunk release handle inside in case Don’s spirit wants to set his ashes free while I’m going down the highway. ©

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My $15.00 a Month Friend

One of the hardest parts of widowhood to get used to is not being number one in anyone’s life, of not having someone who would know right away if I disappeared off the face of the earth. I could be lying hurt in the basement for weeks then die of starvation before anyone would think to come looking for me and that would probably be a neighbor wondering what the awful smell was coming from the house next door. For the past few years I never went downstairs or to the back yard without telling Don to call 911 if I didn’t show back up in a timely manner. Even before his stroke, Don and I always knew where the other one was at any given time and there was comfort and security in knowing someone worried if you didn’t show up at predictable intervals.

Not being able to teach the dog to dial 911 I bought myself a “friend” who I can call when I get myself in trouble. Yup, if I have car trouble, hear a strange noise in the night, fall and can’t get up, lock myself out of the house or I’m having a medical emergency I now have a 5 Star Urgent Responder to talk me through it and hook me up with the right service or person on my call list. They can even help the police track me using GPS should I get kidnapped while standing in front of the senior center. Well, it could happen! A psychopath with a fetish for gray hair and sensible shoes could come along.

Heck the whole world could track me if I cared to publish my account password. Sorry world I’m only going to give it to my nieces. Seriously though, having a panic button with me sure takes the fear out of doing things like going on the nature trails alone. And as an added bonus, by the time I’m old enough to get lost going to places I’ve been to a hundred times before, I’ll be so used to having a panic button with me that it will be easy to use this modern technology to find me. Of course, by then if I get lost---or heaven forbid, kidnapped---and I hear a voice talking to me through the urgent responder clipped to my bra I’ll probably think it’s God telling me to stop walking and wait by the nearest tree for the police to come pick me up.

When you get a certain age you can’t help wondering who will be the first to die in your circle of friends of the same age. I don’t have to wonder any longer because it was my husband, Don. It wasn’t really a shock that he’d be the first, given that he wasn’t the healthiest kitten in the litter. Still, you’re never prepared for all the changes losing a spouse and best friend brings into your life. But I’m determined not to be like a few widows seem to be---stuck in a “poor me, why me” mind set. There’s a balance to everything in life, a yin and a yank, a positive to every negative. And in death there is both regret and gratitude. Regret that our relationship couldn’t go on forever and gratitude that I had Don in my life for as long as I did. I never want to lose track of that balance, and I hope the people who know me best won’t lose track of the fact that I’m now packing a 5 Star Urgent Responder. I don’t want anyone freaking out, thinking I’ve got one too many bats in my belfry should they see me talking to my cleavage. I want them to remember there could be an actual person---a $15.00 a month “friend”---on the other end of the conversation. ©

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Happiest Day of my Life

I wish I had a better memory or I would have had the foresight to keep travel diaries when Don and I took vacations. In my defense, I never needed to keep track of the pesky details of our trips because Don could be counted on to be my living, breathing encyclopedia. If he was here right now, for example. I’d ask him if it was in Central City, Black Hawk or Cripple Creek Colorado where we found ourselves on a Halloween night with nothing but fumes in the gas tank. It was one of those little boom and bust towns high in the Rocky Mountains back in the days before they became tourist destinations. That happened more recently after the state legalizing gambling in their historic goldmine districts. What ever town we landed in on Halloween, back then there was only three ways to get to that town: a narrow gauge railroad, a two lane road that wound its way through horseshoe curves with a mountain on one side of the road and a drop off without guard rails on the other side, and a far less dangerous road going out the other side of the town. We were young and stupid back then or we never would have taken that mountain pass---especially after dark----and we never would have driven past a sign by a gas station proclaiming it was the last chance to buy fuel for x number of miles.

Let me tell you, we were never so relieved to see a gas station in our entire lives and as far as Halloween memories go, that night created some of the best. Inside the station was a table full of popcorn balls for trick-or-treaters and when Don tried to buy one, the lady explained they had 27 kids in town and only 27 popcorn balls. ("No popcorn for Don!" as Seinfeld's soup Nazi might have said.) We had a 50 gallon auxiliary gas tank on the pickup and it took a long time to pump 49+ gallons so we were there a long while, and as we waited Don handed out popcorn balls while the proprietor took Polaroid pictures of the kids for their bulletin board. That was small town America at its very best.

Our next stop in town was to the only other business open that night---a bar inside of an old three story hotel built in the 1800s that no longer rented out rooms. It was a beautiful building with ornate carved wood everywhere and it had a staircase winding upward to a sky light framing a full moon. No among of talking on Don’s part could get the owner to let us stay in one of those rooms upstairs but he did get us invited to stay overnight in the private home of a patron of the place. Don would have taken up the offer, I’m sure, if he’d been alone but all I could think about was the Bates Motel and getting killed by a psycho while taking a shower. No, that night it was sleeping bags under the stars for us.

The next day we spent roaming around the town, talking to the residents and soaking up the history of their heyday of gold mining. We even spent a fair among of time sitting on a huge pile of dirt at the mouth of an old mining shaft, sifting for gold that some how---we thought---had escaped the eye of hundreds of other people in the hundred years since that mine was active. It doesn’t sound like much to tell the story but that afternoon, sitting there in our flannel shirts and jeans, the sun overhead and the smell of fall in the air was the happiest time in my life. We were young, crazy, newly in love and we didn’t have a care in the world. We were letting our imaginations run wild picturing ourselves alive and living a hundred years ago and also trying to figure out how we could buy that old hotel in town that was up for sale for ridiculously low price, especially considering what has become of that place since casino gambling gave the area another boom. 

People in the widowhood circles I’ve come to know all seem to name their wedding days as the happiest day of their lives. And of course, everyone else immediately understands the reference---the emotions and commitment a day like that represents. I usually don’t say anything when this topic comes up because there is no shortcut to understanding how sitting on a pile of dirt in the mountains of Colorado could be the happiest day of anyone’s life. But it’s the day I keep coming back to when I think about Don’s and my life together. Even when people see the gold miner’s pan filled with rocks, fool’s gold and unpolished rubies sitting on the dinning room table no one could ever guess that it’s the equivalent of having wedding day flowers pressed between the pages of a book. They’re the souvenirs we brought back from a trip we took to heaven on earth. ©

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dr. Seuss and Don

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.“ Dr. Seuss

Thedor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had a strong connection to Essomarine motor boat lubricants, a brand produced by Standard Oil. He was working in the 1930s as their illustrator for advertising campaigns. I just found this out this morning while googling Dr. Seuss quotes. Don would have loved knowing this bit of trivia about a brand of motor oil he had in his gas station memorabilia collection. That’s assuming he didn’t already know it. He didn’t just collect, he studied. He knew the histories of the companies he collected and what he didn’t know he kept researching and asking questions until he found answered.

One time Don bought a cast iron pot with two spouts marked Oil City, PA patented in 1872. He didn’t know what it was and he carried a photo of the curious pot around to all the oil collector conventions and swap shows for years before getting an answer. That year we were on our way to a Romance Writers of America convention that took place in Texas. I was publishing and editing a 28 page bi-monthly readers’ book reviews newsletter back then and this was a business trip mixed with pleasure. So finding out what the two spouted pot was on this trip came totally unexpected.

Anyway, we had stopped at a tourist information center at the state boarder and there on a brochure for the Kilgore Oil Museum was a picture of our mystery pot. Off we went, 100 miles out of our way to go to the museum where we found out that the pot is called a “yellow dog.” The story goes that President Roosevelt was the one who coined the name for these pots that were used to light up oil derricks using fresh crude. He thought they looked like a dog’s yellow eyes in the night and when he said so in front of a gaggle of reporters, headlines back east proclaimed: that “Roosevelt sees yellow dogs in Texas.” In political circles “yellow dogs” has since come to mean something else as well but this is the kind of trivia that kept Don collecting and researching. Who would have guessed that Dr. Seuss and President Roosevelt could be connected in a ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ kind of way?

Last week I had lunch with a friend in a little town not far away. As I pulled off the highway there in view was a big sign proclaiming an antique mall was ahead. Having time to kill I went inside and came out with information on renting some showcase space. Should I do it? I don’t know yet---I can’t stop thinking about it---but I do know what Dr. Seuss would say about my chances of being a successful mall vendor again:

“Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”