Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

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

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Old Houses and Young Dreams



Those who know art will recognize the painting above as done formula-style aka amateurish in the tradition of Bob Ross. I found it down in my basement last week. It was tucked away in one of my printmaking folders and I hadn't seen it for nearly twenty years. I'm keeping it for my new place while better quality, arty-farty paintings I’ve done got sent off with the trash. The colors will go with my future decor and it reminds me of a house my husband and I almost bought and wanted to restore to its former glory. It had a round barn in the backyard---one of the few left in the state---and house was out in the middle of nowhere. It never had indoor plumbing other than a make-shift shower in the basement and a cold water tap in the kitchen. Late 1800s bathroom fixtures sat in their original shipping containers in the basement, never installed. But the person who inherited the house from a great-uncle (who built the house for his run-away bride) got nervous he wasn't asking enough, so the nephew got a realtor involved and he backed out of our deal. A year later he sold the place for $10,000 less than we offered plus he had to pay realtor fees proving that a bird in the hand really is worth two in the bush.

I think about that house from time to time and how different our lives would have been if we'd gotten our dream home. It would have changed the trajectory of our lives. The uncle lived in the kitchen and butler's pantry his entire long, lonely life and the place was so thick with dust you couldn't tell the windows were beveled glass or what kind of wood was on the floors. No furniture had ever been moved into the rest of the house. The exterior was brick with a tin roof and it was structurally as sound as the year it was built. We loved the promise of greatness that house whispered to us. We adored that barn, even the brick outhouse would have been turned into something quaint. We got to see the inside of the house again, at an open house when the restored Victorian was up for sale. It was magnificent! They had installed the copper bathtub and the toilet with its ceiling-high oak water box that were in basement crates and they added a skylight above them. My heart be still, that bathroom still makes we wish I could take a bath under the stars. Touring that house had me wondering if the reluctant bride was sitting on a cloud and saying, "Would you look at that, God, the house finally got finish!"

And then there's another painting of another empty house that needed a lot of tender love and care, this one painted my mom (below). She took up oil painting at the age I am now and she was a true disciple of learning-to-paint via a TV show on PBS. Being a somewhat snub about art back in those days, I wasn't especially fond of her work and if honesty were required here I'd admit to being a tad bit jealous because I'd taken a million and one art classes during my life and she'd had none yet people were handing her compliments right and left. I resisted the temptation to critique her work when I'd see one of her canvases though I wanted to. She had that Grandma Moses-like lack of prospective that drove me crazy.

my mom's work
Background on Mom's painting: First off I hate orange but it was a gift from Mom because she wanted each of her kids to have something she created. It hung in my closet forever---is still there today. It goes with me when I move, and will probably decorate the inside of my 4' x 8' storage unit at the end of my parking space. The old house theme was a family joke of sorts because for several years Don and I was in serious house shopping mode, had notebooks full of newspaper listings. Every Sunday morning when the realtor section came out we poured over it looked for what was new on the market. The family joke was we didn’t like any house if it had electricity, central heat and plumbing and if birds were flying in and out of broken windows, all the better. That wasn’t far from the truth. We had more dreams than common sense and we figured whatever an old house needed we could learn how to do.

We did buy a few old houses…in the form of prints we found at art shows but we never did find our dream house to restore.



And the photo below is one my husband took of an old house that was surrounded by hoarfrost the morning we saw it. It took third place in a photo contest with over 700 entries. I won’t be able to hang any of these in my new place---wall space is limited---but they might find their way onto the walls of my storage unit. I don't plan to keep much in there. No someday maybe projects but a miniature art gallery would be fun. I literally have 49 paintings, prints and silhouettes hanging in my house now that will have to be pared down to seven or eight. Trust me, I'm not looking forward to that downsizing project! ©
 

25 comments:

  1. What fabulous stories and memories are behind each of your pieces of art. I do hope you can hang some in key locations in your new place.

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    1. Thanks. The key places will go to art work that I like better than these pieces. Everything I have has stories and memories attached to them. I may have to keep a few things under the bed and rotate. LOL

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  2. Had to laugh at the house you almost got and how the new version had a skylight above the tub. Now you have me craving looking up a the stars while bathing. I do think you ought to bring your Mom out of the closet however. I liked her painting.

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    1. It was the coolest bathroom and I wouldn't have thought to put that skylight in it. But they tore down the brick outhouse. I would have turned it into a garden shed with a picket fence and big hollyhocks in the back.

      Maybe if Mom's painting wasn't done with a fall palette I could hang it someplace other than a closet, but I truly don't like anything about it other than the theme and the love mom put into making it for me. I'm thinking of taking it to a family reunion next month to see if anyone would like it enough to take it home.

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  3. Do you have enough space to do a gallery wall? That way you could hang a number of artworks, and of all kinds.

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    1. I wish. There are only two walls that could work that way but I have six foot tall by five foot book shelves that will go on one of those walls and a media center on the other. The laundry will have one wall that I plan to hang ceiling to floor art pieces with for the smaller prints like the ones above.

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  4. What hard decisions to make! At least keep photos of the ones you have to get rid of.

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    1. I will. Some I will miss more than others. Hey, maybe I should just do a photo collage of all the art I'm selling off.

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  5. Well, I for one thing both you and your Mom are brilliant Artists. Her Style just being different, yet also very appealing, probably more to the untrained Eye such as myself that just likes what I likes. *winks* I'm glad you're keeping your Victorian House painting because it's not only Beautifully done, but holds special memories of a place. That story was wonderful, life trajectories are interesting to contemplate. I still would love to buy a ruin and be Living The Dream, albeit my OWN Dream version since for most people a wreck of a Home, when I have a Luxury Home right now, makes zero sense to them. *LOL* My tastes having never made sense most aren't necessarily surprised by my preferences, just baffled by them. I don't know what triggers the longing for Saving Old Homes, but it's deep for those of us who have it within us... so there must be Purpose to it?

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    1. Oh, my gosh! we used to baffle everyone we knew with our choices of houses to get excited about, too. But we were deep into antiques---Victorian and colonial---and we heard the stories from deep in the bowels of those old houses. We once fell in love with a house built of field stone that one of your photos reminded me of so I can see Your Dream. It didn't have the acres we wanted at the time but it had sheep in the yard, fenced in with a log split rail. God, that place was cool!

      "Brilliant" or not thanks for the compliment. My painting goals have changed over the years. Now I just want let some Recreational Therapist think she's discovered the next Grandma Moses. LOL

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  6. I love both paintings! Orange isn't my favorite color either but I'm a big fan of anyone who takes up a paint brush. I also love old houses, (and your painting of one is exceptionally charming), but two minor fix-ups during my youth cured me of ever wanting to do a full on restoration.
    When I built my current house I picked one that had an old house rustic feel to it, but I find myself itching to move back into an old house! Not gonna happen though. If there's another move it will be into a one level condo so I don't have to mess with the maintenance.

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    1. Coming from a talented artist like you, your comments mean a LOT. I had my painting sitting on the floor and there was a nightlight 6-7 feet away. When I walked through the room one night without turning on the light, that painting practically glowed in the dark! Shocked and delighted me.

      Maintenance is starting to get to me this year. Never did before. My great-niece and her husband are a couple of years into restoring an old 4 by 4 farmhouse. I think they are getting tired of the process but it's going to be great when they are done. I do think you need to be young and stary-eyed to take on projects like that.

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  7. I think it's a great idea to photograph any of the paintings you decide to let go and also to take the one your mother painted to the family reunion. Someone might really love it and you would know that it is still in the family.
    Yesterday a friend told me of the death of her sister in law's step- father and , since I am interested in small towns, I looked the town up. There were several mansion type fixer uppers and one was priced at $17 a square foot! So there are many still around in rural areas. This was the Midwest.

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    1. So true about not knowing what's still around of my mom's. I know my brother has two...I gave him one a couple of summers ago when he was redecorating his living room and the colors were perfect for it. My mom spent a small fortune getting it framed. I was there when her artwork was disposed of and two was all I had. Well, two and a 1/2. I have a tiny 4 x 6 canvas of her dog. I really love that painting.

      Wow, at $17 a square foot that's reasonable. If you're willing to move, I agree there are some great old houses still around. I'm past that point in life but maybe I'll switch from trying to be a portrait painter to being painter of old houses. LOL

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  8. Love your mom's painting! I'm a huge fan of old houses, having had two of them in my lifetime. They have so much character but they also are an incredible amount of work which never ends.

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    1. I can image how much work they are. Just a regular house takes a lot to keep it up. When you're young the character of an old house is worth the effort. Moving into a brand new house is has hidden work too, though.

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  9. It's easy to see only the flaws in your own work. I think what you and your mom have done is beautiful. I don't know if I could paint buildings or people realistically.
    As for saving old buildings, in my 50s I spent 4 years working on the building I live in now - while living in it (not recommended! LOL!). I love seeing old buildings restored and I'm proud of what I've done and I don't think I could do it again, in another place. But...never say never!

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    1. So true about seeing the flaws in our own work. I think the reason why painting has intrigued me for so many years is because I've never been able to prefect it to my satisfaction.

      Restoring building and houses is a young person's game, I think. I'm happy there are still young people around who see still do it.

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  10. What a coincidence! My Mom painted and love Fall colors. My sister-in-law made them a quilt for their 50th anniversary ... all fall colors ... and it is now mine. I wish I could think of a way to display it with my white, blue and yellow room. Even their house was in orange and Fall colors.

    Have you ever thought about art shelves? From IKEA (but can order through Amazon) different lengths of three inch shelves with edge so you can lean your art instead of making holes. And then you really WILL rotate your art! I have them in bathroom, very long wall in living area, one over my bed and one on the wall, kitchen nook.

    You have so much creative talent. I'd like to discover a creative hobby ...

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    1. Thanks for reminding me about art shelves. I've always wanted one in my dining room! I love how easy it would be to rotate. I'll have to find a photo and put it in my planning book so I don't forget.

      Too bad you've got the blue in your room. That quilt would fit right into a white and yellow room.

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    2. P.S. A lot of the basic books and TV shows for amateur artists have loads of follow-along examples of scenes with a fall palette. They are easier in my opinion.

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  11. So many memories. My mom was a "self-taught" painter too. No perspective either! LOL But some are lovely nonetheless and others less so. In my attic clean-out last week, I let several of the mediocre ones go and kept one of Mt.Rainier that also isn't perfect, but reminds me of how proud she was to paint a landscape for us of an iconic feature of our new home state of Washington after we moved here. Many years later she moved here too to be near us; something she would never predicted having lived her life prior to that within 20 miles of where she was born. Twists and turns of fate.

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    1. Perspective must be hard to teach. My mom, too, was proud to have painted a subject she thought I'd love...and I do. I just wished it had been a house in spring time. But to be fair she probably never knew how much I hated fall colors, because it was truly her favorite palette for home decor. I was surrounded with it growing up.

      Life is sure full of twists and turns, that's for sure.

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  12. It's interesting, that looking back, isn't it? Well, I love BOTH the paintings. I think the house (yours?) is well done and has a wonderful feel to it. And on top of that, it reminds you of good times -- and yes, a life that would have been different, indeed. Your mother's is charming. I love the flat-feel it has. Almost like folk art but in many ways better done.

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    1. Yes, one of the best parts about growing old is our ability to look back and see how all the pieces of our lives came together.

      I did do paint the first house. Some of Mom's stuff had the folk art look to it which I used to love back when I was into Colonial American collectibles. I just have a hard time looking past the orange in this panting to see the charm others see.

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