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, August 21, 2019

Doilies and Drawings


My mom, like other moms in the 1940s and ‘50s, was prolific at crocheting and embroidery and while emptying out the basement I ran into a dozen or so pieces she made. They sat in my garage for a week, making me feel impotent because I couldn’t decide what to do with them. The local auction house would have ended up selling the entire lot for a dollar and after the fees were paid I’d get a whole eighty-two cents and e-Bay doesn’t have a strong market for that sort of thing either. Throughout the week the Salvation Army with it cardboard box labeled as such sat on the garage floor mocking me for my inability to let go. I had already given my nieces some of her handiwork last summer, thinking that was all I had until these pieces showed up so passing them on to them wasn’t a strong possibility either. 

Sometimes what goes on in the back of my mind surprises me. With seemingly no forethought I woke up one morning, marched directly to the garage still in my nightgown and I took some pictures of the embroidery, posted them on Facebook and tagged some of mom’s nieces to offer the handcrafts up as gifts. By nightfall they were all spoken for including things I hadn't even photographed and I mailed everything to various relatives the next day and, boy, did that feel good. One of my cousin’s collects crocheted doilies which I didn’t know and she ended up with an entire bridal party of dolls in dresses that mom made back in 1950. Another shirt-tail relative from out of state who I’ve never met offered to take some of Mom’s handiwork for the museum she runs and I gladly complied with her request for a photo of Mom and a small write-up about her to display with them. One cousin who had an terribly abusive childhood came to the give-away post late and she ended up with a couple of things I had planned to keep for myself. She and my mom had a special relationship and I figured she needed the physical connection to my mom more than I do.


It was an emotional week in the Department of Downsizing. Another task I had in the garage was sorting through decade’s worth of art supplies plus drawings from classes I took back in the 1980s. I don’t know why I thought it was important back then to save every edition of prints I’d pulled off metal plates, wood blocks and lithograph stones in a printmaking class or all the drawings of every naked person who stood before me in figure drawing classes. Judging by the style of some of my prints I was trying to be the next William Blake. My mom had died the year before---under traumatic circumstances---and apparently I was trying to make peace with her death by writing cryptic poetry and committing then to etching plates. I hate the color orange with a passion, always have, so for me spend time making an etching plate and pulling twenty orange editions off it---the class requirement---boggles my 2019 sensibilities. I was in a very dark place.


Not all my prints were weird poetry, some had pedestrian subjects. Thankfully, we were graded on learning the process, not the subject matter of our projects.
For those who might not know of William Blake (1757-1827) according to Wikipedia he was “an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.” Obviously, he was a prolific saver of his work because you can’t study printmaking or poetry without falling all over him. At least you couldn’t during my age of being a sponge in the world of art history. I admired him. I wanted to be him…or Michelangelo. Among the other art supplies I still hoarded in the basement was my set of marble cutting chisels---my 1960s period. I ended up sending all the usable art supplies to Goodwill---enough pastels, charcoals, chalks and tablets for half a classroom and just in time for back to school. And trust me when it say it hurt to send a large set of portrait, oil pastels off because I also dreamed of being another John Singer Sargent. All my expensive printmaking blotters went to recycling. That hurt too. Dried up oil and watercolor paints and printer inks were set aside for another trip to hazardous waste. My art room upstairs already has my prim pencils and acrylic paints and I hope to be able to take up art again once I move, so they will go with me. I'll have an eight foot long closet to divide up between art, quilting and/or knitting supplies plus out of season coats, the vacuum and whatever else I can get in there and still close the doors.

I had two whole boxes of drawings folded up for recycling before I thought about taking a few photos.
 

People say that downsizing must make me feel “lighter” or “freer” and at times those words apply. But downsizing also reminds me that most of my life is in the rear view mirror and there is no turning back, no making up for lost time during my caregiving years. Other times downsizing makes me angry for having kept so much or spent so much money on stuff that I abandoned---wasted cash that could have been growing in the bank. Often times downsizing makes me worry I won't be me anymore without the visual queues from my past to remind me of where I've been, what I've done. And this week of downsizing chastised me for not living up to my youthful fantasies. Did I not work hard enough, not have enough raw talent? Or worse yet, did I have talent that I let gather rust to the point that it’s lost forever? Downsizing is like going to a funeral. Sometimes the mourners stand up and tell funny or sweet stories, sometimes they stand up and share their tears and fears. Either way they confirm the fact that the past is really past. ©

Part two of downsizing my art stuff will be posted on Saturday.

33 comments:

  1. Hi, Jean - I feel your pain with regard to downsizing and am going through my art closet as well. I feel as if I've lived many many lives and off-loading things that were an integral part of my life at one point (but are not now) feels like getting rid of that person. It's painful, but necessary. I don't have plans to move, although I would love to live in a smaller, more manageable place. Real estate in my city is through the roof and it's just not possible financially. Meanwhile, I persist in trying to get to the point where I don't have anything that I don't want anymore. Following your journey is inspirational. You're doing a fantastic job.

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    1. Downsizing arts and crafts really does feel like I'm getting rid of a person, granted a person I no long am. But I liked her and fear she's being replaced by vanilla pudding. They have an annual art show of the resident's work in the old section. Can't wait to go to that, see how I might fit in.

      Moving and selling houses is scary!!!!!!

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  2. I do hope you can take up art again after you move. You did lovely and varied work. Great solution for you Mom's handiwork and you delighted a lot of other people with mementos.

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    1. There is going to be an art studio in the complex so I should be able take supplies there and work along side of others. That's the plan anyway. I had an outdoor easel that I gave away a few years back that I wish I had back though.

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  3. I think you should remember the Ken Burns quote: "There are no ordinary lives."

    Celebrate the fact that you did so many things! You truly explored the many interests and gifts that you own. You were not afraid to try new things and go plunging into them full-hearted. You created art. You created expressions of your visions in many media. You freely adventured into so many avenues of creativity fearlessly. And you found satisfaction and parts of yourself in each of them. That's not something to mourn, I don't think. Do you know how many people DON'T try new things because they are afraid to fail or be less than perfect at those things?

    All those art supplies and finished pieces are just chapters in your life. You wrote them, now you're reading them, and now you can move on. Frame a few or not, but don't feel bad about them. Be proud and celebrate them!

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    1. Wise advice and words, Nance! When I went back to college in the '80s I took a class called 'Women in Transition.' The professor had us keep a diary of that we had to turn in every week, about our reactions to what was going on in the classroom. Once I wrote that I felt like a failure because I try so many things but once I get fairly good at it I lose interest. Long story short she said something that changed the perception of my life. She said that "It's not the finished work that gives you satisfaction, it's the process of learning that gives you satisfaction. The key for you," she said, "is to find a career that is constantly giving me new challenges." That class and finally getting my degree after 25 years averted my mid-life crisis of feeling like a failure. Now, I have to work on not having a senior-life crisis. Close old chapters, open new. Rise and repeat. LOL

      In my Saturday post I'm showing a couple of pieces I'm keeping and tell the back stories on why.

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    2. I love that insight from your professor. I’ve always been that way, too, and felt somewhat bad about always moving on to the next thing calling me.

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    3. It's that great. It sure helped me see my life differently.

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  4. Most of my down sizing was utilitarian things--pots and pans, small electrical appliances, towels, blankets, dishes--so it didn't hurt so much, but...it did make me feel strange that I no longer needed or would use any of those things. I couldn't bake a cake even if I wanted to. No mixer, no pan to bake it in. When cooking and baking used to be such a big part of my life. Down sizing didn't make me feel freer, it just points out how useless I've become.

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    1. Your baking supplies is a great example of the emotions that come along with downsizing things that were once important to our lives. I'll be doing my kitchen come winter but other than dishes I won't miss a whole lot of my cooking and baking pans but I will keep a few.

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  5. So happy your Mom's handiwork found appreciative homes. Well done. As for your art, I liked the things you did. You have talent and I hope you continue in your new digs. Good to hear they have an art studio that will just suit you. And you will have the time.

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    1. Not only will I have time, I will have guilt-free time. I haven't had that in a very long while. I know it's in my head but is is what it is.

      I'm warmed by the fact that so many of Mom's nieces and great nieces wanted a memento of her. They all spent time at our cottage growing up and saw her working on handcrafts.

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  6. I'm so glad you found good homes for your mother's handicrafts. And that you took a lot of pictures. When I recycle things that were once a big part of my life I always take pictures to keep the connection. For me the pictures are enough, and I bless digital cameras.

    You are going through a lot. Take care and again, thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. I take a lot of pictures of things I sell on e-Bay but I forget to take them for other stuff I'm purging from the house. I just happened to remember someone commented they'd like to see some of my art and I those photos I shared here was all that was left to photograph. I had done a study of the dog up above and I wish I'd photographed that!

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  7. You are so wise to take photos of things you are downsizing. We didn't do that ... and I wish I had. Thankfully Mr. Ralph took lots and lots of photos so I can be nostalgic looking at those.

    You are doing such a structured job about getting things done. Congrats!

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    1. Yup, that's me. Have a plan and work the plan. LOL But seriously, that works except for the fact that I'm getting tired and I have to stay on schedule before I have to move inside.

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  8. Dear Jean, I'm relieved to learn that you taking a few selected art supplies with you when you move. When you begin to paint-draw-scull-print again, you may find that the years have given you a vision that is ready now to come to fruition. That's what happened for me with writing. Be gracious to yourself and kind to that younger self who built the person you are today. Peace.

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    1. Thank you, Dee. Age does change our creative visions so I'm hoping I it works that way for me and that I 'find myself' again.

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  9. I started painting again with 40 year old tubes of oil paint. Still in good shape but I did have to transfer some into new tubes because of corrosion.
    I surprised myself when I started painting again and I'm sure you will too.
    Drawing is the most important part of painting and you clearly do that well, so go ahead and dive back in! Will you have any free time AD (after downsizing) or do you anticipate it taking most of the time you have left in your house? Dip your toes in the water girl!

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    1. Oils can last a 100 years under the right conditions. I didn't know you get new empty tubes!

      I will have some time this winter to work on art but I need to get everything done in the yard and garage before it gets cold. I have some paintings I want to finish that I started a long time ago. I found all my notes on colors I mixed and the photos I was working from and, boy, was I excited about that. I thought they blew away when we moved stuff to storage after my husband's stroke.

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  10. The emotion of the whole process is just beginning. It is hard, hard, hard.

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    1. Boy, isn't that the truth! I'm starting to get physically tired too, and I know when I start inside the house it will get even harder emotionally.

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  11. Downsizing is indeed an Emotional Process, I hadn't realized just how intensely until I began it in earnest... and of coarse the Emotional attachments and detaching can be epic too with some objects. I'm glad you found good Homes with extended Family for your Mom's handiwork, so few things made by Hand anymore. I can relate to your range of Emotion while culling possessions... and for having accumulated so much as well. I wonder sometimes what Void I was filling?

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    1. Yes, of all the bloggers I know you and I have the most in common when it comes to a love of collecting stuff..even though our tastes are vastly different.

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  12. We hear so many stories about how nobody wants the stuff we've saved, so I found the story of how all your mother's handiwork was quickly spoken for heartwarming. I particularly love the fact that some of it is going to a museum. I'm not a believer in an afterlife, and I've always thought that our immortality lies in the influences we had on others in our lives and on how those influences are passed on. You've kept your mother's influence alive for future generations.

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    1. The museum was my favorite give-away too. After my husband died I gave two museums something I knew they'd like of his. One was a car musuem and the other a small musuem in his hometown. And come to think about it, I sent my entire batch of letters back and forth from Vietnam to the War Letters Museum. So maybe I've already got the immortality thing covered that I've wanted all my life?

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  13. You have led an interesting life! I grew up in a small 2 bedroom apartment in a city. We kept very little. There was no room for storage so we had very little “keepsakes”. I think I have always continued to have that mindset of don’t accumulate things and don’t hold on to anything beyond its use. I do have photographs and far more stuff than I need but I try not to have anything that I don’t use.
    It must be hard to go through your stuff. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to! Only memories!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Both my husband and I grew up with parent who went though hard times and who instilled in us that you never throw out or waste something that is still usable. "Hard times could be right around the corner again." Finding homes for stuff gets me past the guilt that I'd get if I just discarded stuff willy-nilly.

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  14. Your closing paragraph says it all, and beautifully so. Thank you for sharing the emotions behind this process of sorting through life in the form of the things we keep. I can so relate. I am currently reading a book called Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Scwab. She a young woman who realizes she is a borderline hoarder and decides to do somehting about it and in the process learns much about herself along the lines of what you wrote at the end of your post. Like me with my photographs and writings, there are some things so hard to let go of. (I am in a current attic cleaning binge and finally 11 years after her death donating items I have from my mom -- but those embroidered pillow cases, table toppers, and dresser scarves still sit, unmoving for now. Wish I had any relative at all who would talk them.) Thanks for this post.

    Also, I LOVED seeing some of your artwork. So many talents!

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    1. Sounds like an interesting book. I may have to check it out.

      You don't have siblings or cousins? Hard to believe there is no one left whose been touched by your mom. But on the other hand, I was quite surprised that I had people in my life who wanted some of my mom's because EVERYONE has mothers with keepsakes.

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    2. Both of my brothers are dead and their wives and children are uninterested. I have one cousin and some more distant cousins. Haven't seen them in a decade. I forgot to mention the book is also a fun read -- she has a humorous style.

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  15. Ah, you nailed the downsizing dilemma. Lighter but not without some sadness and anticipation that is not pleasant. Well, your drawings and prints are beautiful. Printing -- that's way out of my wheelhouse and I love it so much. I think it's wonderful you found a spot for your mom's work, someone who would love it. I look at all the art supplies surrounding me at this very moment and I'm a bit overwhelmed. These will largely be donated at some point to a youth art center but I'm just not ready. Basement first, upstairs later. And hope no emergencies come in-between!

    Truly. I am in awe of your art.

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    1. I'm sad by how many paints I let go bad that could have been donated earlier. Can't wait until Friday when I can drop the bad stuff off at the hazardous waste recycling. The very heavy box is making me feel bad.

      Are you a fortune teller? My next post is partly about an emergency that came up that could very well upset my apple cart!

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