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, February 20, 2019

Handy Tools, Chickens and Family Visits


Do you know what a chicken catcher is? I didn’t until last Saturday and now I’m the proud owner of my very own poultry catcher leg hook and, no, I don’t have any chickens to go with it. It’s a 4 1/2 foot long pole with a rubber handle at one end and a hook at the other, a fancy model compared to some I’ve since seen online. My niece and her husband live in a county south of me and they drove up to present me with my new prize. I’m pretty sure he made it, judging by the wood burnt label on the smooth wood because it matches the work on the walking canes that he makes and sells. They don’t keep chickens anymore but at one point in time they used to have a dozen chickens---each a different, fancy breed that laid various colors and sizes of eggs. But at least three of my brother’s grandchildren keep chickens. Chicken talk in the family amuses the heck out of me but we have the best deviled eggs and potato salads at parties. They didn’t grow up on farms but they are prime examples of a growing phenomenon of backyard and urban chicken hobbyists in their generation. There are five magazine publications on the market now devoted to raising backyard chickens!

So what am I going to do with my new tool? Hope I’ll never, ever have a need to use it but if I experience another power outage, the chicken catcher hook is the perfect tool to pull the manual override cord on my garage door. It’s such a simple concept and a solid solution for those of us with bad bones who don’t get on ladders. I got curious about how the tool works for the purpose it was invented and all the videos I found online are so quick you can’t really see what’s happening. But this description from UIUC Poultry Farms explains it: “What this tool does is it catches a chicken by its leg and because their legs bend forward (and not backwards like ours) their leg gets stuck. From there, I lifted it up and grabbed it by both of its legs. I was then told that the proper way to hold a chicken is by splitting my fingers into a live-long-and-prosper sign, then sliding that along the chicken's stomach. This allowed me to hold both of the chicken's feet as well as support its entire weight in my hand.” The guy who wrote that was learning how to catch and band chickens but I assume other people catch chickens to cook for dinner. That was one of my husband’s job as a kid growing up on a farm. I can’t even buy and prepare whole chickens from the grocery store without them remaining me of a living creature and that turns me off to eating them. I can’t imagine killing dinner with my bare hands. 

My niece is a grannie-nanny to her a four-and-a-half year old and a newborn. She, her husband and their daughter are all teachers---two of them retired, of course, but once a teacher always a teacher. They genuinely enjoy interacting with young people and I’ve come to believe that it’s also an art form that if I ever had it, I’ve lost it along the way to sprouting gray hair on my head. When I try to make conversation with little ones or pre-teens I feel like a sea lion preforming for a fish they never deliver. I didn't had that trouble relating to my nieces and nephew when they were growing up. Heck, I was still half kid myself. I was only twelve when the first one came into the family. 

Playing in my nieces and nephew’s fort in the woods, swimming, boating and fishing at the family cottage, snowmobiling, raking leaves, sleep-overs, planting gardens, walking country roads and me bugging them with my camera are some of my best memories. My brother thought I was spoiled because I wasn’t in the kitchen doing ‘women’s work’ before and after meals. Instead I was in charge of entertaining the kids. But who was I to question the wisdom of my mom who wanted us out from underfoot when serious meal preparation and clean up was under way? My mom and dad set great examples for how loving grandparents should interact with their grandkids and I like to think I set a good example for how aunts interact. However, I’m the official godmother to my oldest niece---and maybe my other niece, too, I can’t remember---I fell down on that job. Do godparents take that of roll of spiritual guide seriously? If so, I'm not dead yet. There's still time for that conversation. I'd probably quote something cryptic like Echart Tolle's, "You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself." Ya, I know what you're thinking. What was my brother and sister-in-law thinking when they picked me to be a godmother?

My niece and her husband and I had a wonderful, long visit. They helped me track down a problem I was having with my hot water return line since last week when all my pipes were drained during the power outage, then we went out for brunch and came back here to look through old photos. And, of course, I had a show-and-tell with the stuff I’ve bought for my upcoming bedroom redecorating project. Show-and-tells have always been one of my favorite activities and when you think about it, the blog world is full of writers and readers who also love them. ©

28 comments:

  1. I like a lot of Eckhart Tolle's sayings. His philosophy regarding stress is particularly helpful to me.

    Your saying about teachers remaining teachers lifelong rings true with me.

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    1. I like Tolle's philosophy too but I often get burned out reading him. What's up with that? Maybe he makes me think too much?

      I love being around my teacher relatives. The way they interact in public with strangers is so cool and the way they interact with children is so genuine the kids pick up on that. They don't talk down to kids which I suspect is how I'm perceived and I search for topics to talk about. I see the lifelong teacher thing in the blogs too, the retired teachers like you and a couple of others I follow...always sharing in a way that is as natural as breathing.

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  2. A chicken catcher. I never knew that before in my life and my grandparents had many chickens and they just grabbed the chicken. I could never kill them also but my grandmother just wrung its neck and she cleaned them. I ate them and they were really good but once in awhile I could remember just her breaking its neck.
    I'm glad that you were able to fix your hot water line. Well, there's not much more to say except, have a great day my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. My husband had to wring chicken's necks, too. And as an adult he didn't like eating chicken at all. He said he had too much of it growing up but who knows.... I suppose if you're brought up on a farm it's no big deal to kill them.

      The kids in my family who are now raising chickens did go to schools in the country that had 4-H clubs and their grandmother late in life took up backyard chicken farming so it's easy to see how they got hooked.

      I'm guessing the chicken catchers are making a comeback because of the free-range concept of raising them now, compare to when they used to just keep them in hutches where it was easier to catch them. Just guessing, but it sounds logical to me.

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    2. I'm with your late husband Jean. I'm sso sick of chicken and guess what? Our freezer is full of different types of pieces of, you know what, CHICKEN. I want more beef but the girls in my life ( in my home )want chicken. Spaghetti & meatballs please. See ya Jean


      Cruisin Paul

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    3. They are looking out for you. Heart disease and red meat supposedly don't go together.

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  3. Like you, I could never eat what I had to kill. I raised rabbits for food till the first slaughter. I sold all the survivors the next day. God, it was awful. Put the meat in a styrofoam package and I can handle it.
    Glad you have found another use for the chicken catcher. Sounds handy.

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    1. Yup, I like my meat cut up and in styrofoam packages. Oh, my gosh to raise cute little rabbits then have to kill them would be so hard!

      If I had had a chicken catcher last week I could have backed my car out of the garage to warm up and charge devices and even sign up for WiFi and get information. Funny thing is I could have made a hook out of a coat hanger too but it never crossed my mind because I didn't think I could lift the door---it's a two stall extra tall door to fit a pop up van. My neighbors changed their phone number or I would have called them to lift it. I'm getting that updated next time I see them outside.

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  4. What neat stories! Thank you. I especially like the idea of a chicken catcher. I didn't know that about chickens' legs.

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  5. I am a godparent to two. One I haven't seen since she was born, I think. (Her parents moved, divorced, I'm not even sure where she is.) The other, we are in touch but not in a particular godly kind of way -- we just share on FB mostly, and Christmas! I flunked.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that. Now I don't feel so guilty. LOL

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  6. Enjoyed reading this account and your humor. Hand made devices and canes sounds quite unique and special. Chicken catcher? I never heard of such a thing. For a few years when we lived in country when I was a girl we raised chickens, sold eggs, plucked pullets and hens feathers after causing their demise, cleaned and marketed them, ate a lot of chicken, too, and I still like it. We always caught the chickens easily by hand. We had some cute little bantams, and colorful fighting cock roosters kept to be guardians to sound the alarm if hawks or other predators threatening in the yard. We didn’t believe in the cock fight illegal activities prevalent in the area.

    Sounds like you would have been a fun Aunt. I wanted to be an Auntie Mame to my niece and nephew and was to a point. I was designated to become their guardian if something happened to their parents, but fortunately nothing did. I don’t know what god parents are supposed to do as our families didn’t have those. I expect it might have been similar to being guardian but just not setup as a legal responsibility.

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    1. I love eggs and chicken so I'm people are willing to raise them. Unlike you, my husband claimed he ate too much chicken growing up so I could never fix what were my favorite dishes back when we first meant.

      I didn't know cock roosters would sound the alarm if hawks were around. And I don't get people who enjoy cock fights. Makes no sense to me.

      Being a godparent doesn't come with legal responsibilities either but I think they are similar in that you'd look out for them and keep them involved in their extended family, if their parents died. You're also supposed to make sure they get a religious education.

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  7. My Grandma had a chicken farm. She used the catcher, then twist the chicken's neck to kill it, before chopping its head off. I rarely eat chicken anymore--UGh too many memories of cleaning the dang things. The smell of cooked chicken turns my stomach.
    I have the same problem with eggs. My job was to gather them and clean them. Wash all the chicken poop off the shells. In the hot summer time, some of the eggs were covered in Maggots. Nope--can eat eggs either without them being scrambled dry and mustard on top.

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    1. Oh, my gosh! Never thought about how eggs looked before they are cleaned. Yuck! I eat a lot of eggs but mine are always scrambled or boiled or in baked goods. I have never had them with mustard but I'm going to try it. I put mustard in my egg salad.

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  8. Chicken catcher! Love learning about things I never knew existed. Our neighbor across the street has chickens. They used to let them roam the neighborhood and that raise the ire of a few folks who didn't like their gardens messed up by routing chickens looking for grubs or whatever. (I know nothing about chickens, except friends who say if you keep chicken you will inevitably also "keep" rats....and I've seen the exterminator truck across the street, so...).

    I'm not particularly good with kids either. Funny, since I raised two boys and have two granddaughters. I love the kids I know in our family, and do fine with kids in controlled environments (like volunteering at my granddaughter's school), but I find I don't gravitate to hanging around with kids if I have a choice in social settings. I know some people "just love kids" and seek out any opportunity to be with them. I end up just feeling awkward and impatient with kids I don't know. I feel badly about that, but there you have it. Ha.

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    1. I suppose a lot of wild animals are attracted to the egg they can steal from chickens. Yuck to the rats!

      Your second paragraph describes me with children perfectly, that awkwardness that they seem to pick up on as not authentic.

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  9. Oh...and I think I'm a godparent too! I know for sure with my grandniece and maybe with a nephew? In both cases, I've obviously done nothing special to guide or give them a religious education. In one case I'm quite certain my brand of "religion" would be antithetical to his. In the other case, she and I are on the same spiritual page, but we rarely talk about it. She's getting married this year....maybe I'll dispense some godmother wisdom then. Overdue. LOL

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    1. Godmother wisdom before her wedding seems like a great occasion and excuse to bond deeper.

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  10. Dear Jean, I'm not a godmother to any child, but I do have a number of great-great nieces and nephews and I'm finding more and more that I don't really know what to say to spark their interest! Like you, I used to be so good at that. But not now. Well, for everything there is a season. And that's a line that you could share as a godmother and know that you'd helped the person along the path to maturity! Peace.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that. Maybe as we age it's common for all of us to lose touch with how to talk to children. "For everything there is a season" sure applies to many things, doesn't it.

      I'm really surprised that you aren't a godmother given you were a nun...but maybe there were rules against that? You would have been awesome at the job.

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  11. My sister worked at Woolworth's when she was a teenager and brought a box of baby chicks home one Easter. They were dyed in pastel colors. So cute but every darned one of them grew up to be a rooster. Of course, they don't sell chicks like that anymore. But those roosters were mean. You had to walk fast to get by them.

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    1. I remember those dyed pastel chicks. We had two but they died which is one of the reasons they don't sell them anymore at Easter. City kids didn't know how to care for them.

      I wander if those roosters were no accident...like they came from a chicken farm with no use for rooster chicks.

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  12. Bwaaahaaaa! Talk about coincidence. I just posted about an entirely different sort of chicken catching. It wouldn't do for ordinary days, but it's pretty interesting. And don't you love how certain gadgets perform tasks their inventors never thought of? I wonder if the chicken catcher was the thing that led to those pick-things-up-off-the-floor tools? Creativity knows very few bounds, that's for sure.

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    1. I think your chicken catching post was the most fascinating thing I've read in a long time. The cultural diversity in this country is truly amazing. Our comments on one another's blogs nearly crossed.

      I think those tools for grabbing things came from a long-ago religious cult 1700s (?). Where they used to grab certain people who were of a different faith to put in jail. I wish I could remember their name because I'm sure I'm screwing this up.

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  13. I just want to know if there really is a breed of chicken with those gorgeous blue feathers!?

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  14. There is. The one in the photo is a Ayam Cemani. There are also breeds that lay blue eggs. Some of the hobbiest put together a collection of chickens that lay Easter Egg colored eggs.

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