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, February 27, 2021

Walking the Mighty Schnauzer

These past few days of rising temperatures and sunny days have elevated everyone’s mood and made it easier to move from point A to point B and beyond but I suspect it will take more than a week of good news from Mother Nature to melt all our snow. And with each layer that melts more dog poop in the Levi’s pen is revealed so I’ve had to add picking it up to my daily list of things to do. It’s not an easy task for someone afraid of falling on the icy snow pack but I have my trusty garden hoe to dislodge the frozen “logs” and my long handled pooper scooper. I also have ice fishing cleats on the bottom of my boots so eventually the job will come to an end without any broken bones. 

Sometimes I can’t believe how much Levi’s life is going to change after we move. For one thing, he’ll never get to pee or poop in private again because I’ll have to walk Levi each and every time and follow along picking up his poop as soon as he drops it. Now, his walks are sporadic and never in winter or at either end of the day. Not in the winter because I’m afraid of falling on icy sidewalks---did I mention heated sidewalks in my future?---and not in early morning or late at night because I don’t like to be dressed in street clothes any longer than I have to. And on rainy days? He’s stubborn about going outside in the rain and I’m sure his avoid-mom-dragging-him-out antics are going to amuse my future neighbors. His German roots makes him stubborn but I've been known to throw a hissy-fit right back at him.

Levi’s life this summer is going to be confusing for him as deep cleaning and maintenance people start coming in and out of the house. I’ve even started packing some stuff so when the time comes to list the house I won’t have to do so much depersonalizing the place. However, my once empty library shelves have filled up again with boxes of stuff packed and ready to list on e-Bay. It’s been a long haul getting rid of collectibles on e-Bay but with the local auction house I was using going out of business I had no real choice except to give it all away which would have been a financially stupid decision. By mid-March I'll redirect my energy to selling off art and the pieces in the garage that are earmarked to sell on Facebook Market Place. Spring is going to be busy. I also have to dismantle my shipping and packing area in my garage. Spring isn't even here yet and already I sick of the work it will bring.

Levi’s also going to be spending the spring and summer getting himself on a schedule for his body functions so we'll be doing a long walk daily---at five---and short ‘quick pees’ at 10:00, noon, 3:00, 8:00, 10:00 again and midnight. A ‘quick pee’ in dog talk means Levi gets to go out to the streetlight in front of my house and mark it which actually takes forever and a day for him to read the pee mail other dogs have left behind. (He’s not allowed to use mailboxes even though the other dogs in the neighborhood do which, I think, is rude for their humans to allow. Who wants to get a whiff of urine when they grab their mail?) This schedule isn’t too far off from when Levi usually wants to go outside but it’s me that needs the schedule more than he does. It's too easy, now, to just open the back door and let him do his thing. 

But I am looking forward to those heated sidewalks. I hope they aren’t so warm that I’ll have to start putting boots on Levi. He’s a nudist and hates wearing sweaters so I imagine trying to corral him to put him in boots would be like catching a greased pig. We used to have a poodle who wore boots and loved getting dressed up. I could have put her in a risqué bustier, fishnet stockings, high-heeled boots and red lipstick she would have paraded them up and down a runway like she owned the place. Poodles really are show offs. (Ever have a dog eat a tube of lipstick? It's hard to get mad when they look so silly and you're more worried about the color of their next bowel movement.)

I bought a neat dog walker’s cross-body bag---I'm used to just stuffing some baggies in a pocket and taking off. It’s got a place on the side where poop bags are dispensed and I added a jump ring on the other side where I can hang a full bag of poop using a bread bag clip so I can remain hands free. It has pockets for keys, a cell phone, hand wipes and treats. Another jump ring could give me a place to hang a water bottle and the bag came with a collapsible bowl. In this neighborhood there are lots of dogs that can turn Levi into the Barker-in-Chief so I'm also going to carry my anti-bark gadget. He sits sweetly when little kids approach but another dog has him pulling my arm out of its socket and we’re going to work on that over the summer. The director of the continuum care complex where I’m moving couldn’t tell me how many dogs will be moving in to my building but Levi won’t be the only one, she says. Oh, well, I’ll worry about that bridge to cross when I get there. Now, I have to come up with a $1,000 to cover the cost of some elective surgery for Levi---removing a large, fatty tumor between his tail and his rectum and while he's under they'll clean his teeth, too. I’m pretty sure my income tax refund will cover it once I get around to filing my taxes---but it's going to cut into my fund for a new La-Z-Boy, computer desk and bar-cart-turned artist-in-residence-cart. Oh, yes, I've been online shopping! ©

 

Not sure I'll ever take walks long enough to need a water bottle but this flat, reusable bottle will work great if I do.

I've already tried walking with a full bag of poop attached this way and it works great. The trick is to use a bread clip that is too big to past through the jump ring.    

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Rainbows, UFOs and Number Two Pencils

Here we go again. It’s Saturday and I don’t have a single idea for what I’m going to write for next Wednesday’s post. I suppose the weather is a good place to start. It’s not snowing. Check the ‘Good Things’ box. But it snowed recently so the snow on the ground is so clean and bright in the morning sun that my backyard looks like a field of diamonds. It’s a cliché thing to say but it’s true and I’m checking the 'Good Things’ box again. I’ll do another check mark for the angle of the sun which is hitting the crystals hanging in my windows just right so that my walls are covered with rainbows. I started counting prism created rainbows and gave up at thirty-six. The record count was 98. Who can be sad when you’re standing inside a place splashed with bright colors that only happens when conditions are just right and by chance you’re there to enjoy it? I’m going to miss the light in this house. With all the windows and glass surfaces covering pieces of art some of those rainbows end up being reflected beyond their natural reach, even around corners to places that still amaze me. No one could ever have an affair under their spouse’s nose in this house without a stolen kiss being reflected on a glass surface giving them away. I can even watch a television screen that’s behind my back using a reflection on a window.

Living here has made me believe that many of the UFOs that people see are just reflected light coming from miles away and bouncing off common stuff. For example, last year a bouquet of twelve silver helium filled balloons, tied together at the bottom but traveling as one, escaped from a party back East and caused a frenzy of UFO reports as they flickered and reflected lights off their innocent surfaces as they changed positions in the wind. Well, not so innocent surfaces. Balloons are bad for the environment and wildlife but that’s another story for another day. Anyway, did you know that reports of UFOs are up? Folks in the know think that’s because the pandemic has given people more time to look at the sky. And looking up they’re seeing easily explained phenomenon they've never noticed before.

New topic: E-Bay sales were a bust last week with only nine of my twenty things listed selling. Several reasons explain that. One, when half the country is dealing with power outrages or shoveling out after a snow storm or glued to their TVs during a crisis, e-Bay bidding is down but another part of the equation is the stuff I’m selling is more common than the things I was selling earlier in my downsizing project. Thus it might take a few relists and price reductions to see the stuff on my e-Bay shelf mosey on down to the post office. I’ve just enacted a three-strikes-and-it’s-off-to-Goodwill rule for what's left. I rarely needed relists in the past. 

I did have an unexpected bidding war on a wall plaque seashore from the ‘50s last week. It was one of those Lucite things with shells embedded in it, very corny and cliché for bathroom walls of the era. I debated back and forth about keeping it for my cottage themed future home or at least giving it to my niece who is slowly turning her cottage into Mid-Century decor but it brought a good price so I’m not sad to see it go even though earlier in the year I had deemed fit for my 'keep it' box. (And I'll bet my niece, if she's reading this, is saying a prayer of thanks that I didn't offer it to her because I'm not sure she knows how to say 'no' to me. Just kidding, Cindy. You are welcome to take or reject anything I owe.)

I have a scouring can cover from the same era than didn’t get any bids so I might rethink keeping that if round two doesn’t sell it. It’s been in the family since the ‘50s when I believe my mom had to send coupons into the company to get the plastic Cameo can cover in the mail but I haven’t been able to find any history on it to know that for sure. Putting a little history in a listing helps sell a piece---sets it apart from other listings. Some listings are saying the covers are Bakelite, not plastic, but I would never put that in a listing without confirmation. Bakelite would up its value. I always loved it when iconic things like this can cover and the seahorse get sold to buyers in California because in my imagination I see my treasures ending up in the props inventory of a motion picture company. In my next life prop procurement is what I'll want to be when I grow up. It checks all my favorite boxes: research, organizational skills and unlimited storage space.

Not everything I’m getting ready to list on e-Bay now is of lesser quality stuff than I was doing earlier in my downsizing project. I’m starting to go through the stuff I’d decided to keep and I’m picking a few to let go of. For example I have 1897 mechanical pencil sharper that’s thirteen inches long and made of cast iron. Number two pencils are my preferred writing instruments but that’s not why I’m on the fence about selling it. Industrial mechanical stuff is hot right now and this piece will sell for $300 to $400. I’ve loved it for years and it's been a fascinating piece for show-and-tell but that kind of cash will go a long way towards an area rug I’ll need in my new place. I’ve got the sharper photographed and packed for shipping but I still haven’t pulled the trigger on listing it. Baby steps in between the giant steps. I’m going to be so bored after I move and have nothing left to research. So many things that I’ve had for years I’ve had to reacquaint myself with again to write up listings and sometimes that research makes me fall in love with a piece all over again. When that happens I ask myself, "Does this really fit the beach cottage theme I'm going for?" And with the pencil sharper I answer, "Yes it does if the cottage is owned by a wanna be writer and artist." ©

 

P.S. After purging all the stuff out of my kitchen cabinets (a recent blog topic) I couldn't help but buy a new coffee cup at Wayfair. It was one of these deals where if you spend $4.00 more you get free shipping that would have cost you $12.00. My new cup reminds me of childhood and of singing that song on the drive to the cottage. I'll be drinking my morning coffee in it after I move. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

I'm Sick of Everything!

I’m so sick of life right now! I mean it! I’ve reached my limit of tolerance. My give-a-damn is broken in half. Yup, I’m sick of everything to do with anything especially the cold and snow that's finding its way to parts of the country where it doesn't belong rubbing our noses in the fact that it's still winter. If we didn’t have a world pandemic still taking people out like balls rolling near the gutters at bowling alleys take out the seven and ten pins I’d say I need a vacation. A nice trip to any place, even to the local sculpture park would brighten my mood. When are the butterflies coming to their tropical conservatory? March? April? Oh, ya, they’re be there for both months but will it be safe for humans to attend the normally shoulder-to-shoulder exhibit? Will school kids be bused in one load after another, day after day? I have gone most years, often meeting my youngest niece there with her grandkids. After not seeing her for a whole year, I’ll bet she wouldn’t even recognize me with my pandemic hair style. Make that two years! The pandemic closed the butterflies down last year, and I'm sorry World but emails, text messages, phone calls and Facebook postings aren't slicing and dicing my loneliness enough to make a tablespoon of cure.

I suppose the state of my mind was inevitable after weeks and months of being invested in things I have no control over like the pandemic, the state of our political climate and now with Republican Senator Ted F'ing Cruz making his "excuses tour" on the media for flying to Cancun while the people of his state were/still are suffering during a nearly state-wide power outrage due to a harsh weather event. In the meantime, Democrats and private citizen Beto O'Rourke and Senator A.O. Cortez stepped up to do what Cruz shoulda'/coulda' have done---care about people, help them! Beta organized a massive phone bank to check on seniors and AOC raised 2 million dollars to fly food and water to Texas food banks.

Is it possible for an entire nation to have a collective mental health breakdown? If so, call me the Indian scout who goes out to test the route the tribe behind is about to travel. You all, turn around, find a kitten to pet and calm down! Meditate. That's what scouts did, they'd find trouble up ahead and warn the tribe to change course. Yes, I’m of that generation who grew up watching Western movies, double features on Saturday afternoons which begs the question: What were our mothers doing with their time when we sat in the movie theaters for four hours? I don’t remember ever going to the grocery store with my mom as a kid. Did mothers in the 40s do their shopping after dropping us off to see the latest shoot-em-up or Lone Ranger film? It was the only day my mom had access to the family car. Did they also have ‘private time’ with our dads? Yuck! Parents shouldn’t have sex! Gouge that image out of my head! My dad was perfect, my mom had her faults but I don’t want to think about them playing kissy-face even though I know they did it at least three times. (They miscarried a baby in between me and my brother.)

I’ve often wondered how much different my life would have been if I’d had a second sibling, a brother closer to my own age. Would we have shared friends, done more things together than my older brother and I did? As kids we did our share of ice skating, sledding, playing board games and hanging out in the woods behind our cottage growing up but by the time he was a teenager with a large posse of friends we grew apart. Then he got married right out of high school, moved a good distance away and they spent the next few years popping three babies into the world while I finished up high school and started college. I don’t think my brother understood me at all during the entire 1960s when I dated a lot but didn’t get married. I’m pretty sure he thought I was freakish for not having the same goals that most of the girls he graduated with did---the big wedding, babies and a nice house. He even told me once that I was too picky. It’s not that I didn’t want those things and a white picket fence I just had other goals as well.

Boy, has this post gotten derailed from the original topic I started writing about. Oh, well, that’s probably a good thing because my little I’m-sick-of-life temper tantrum wasn’t getting me anywhere…and they never did. As a kid my mom had little sympathy for my tears and she discouraged my dad from showing empathy when I cried. And clearly empathy was his first reaction to any sign of discomfort anyone around Dad was experiencing. Hardened by life, I never saw her cry. Around her ninth birthday her own mother had died and my mom got separated from her siblings to earn her keep working in a boarding house. She was a product of her times---a child during the last world pandemic, a young woman living on her own during the Great Depression, a mother during WWII and, boy, did she come out the other side of all that societal stress a strong woman.

Looking back, people all tend to put on rose colored glasses and think past generations had it easier than we do in real time. We romanticize. We generalize. We gloss over. And some day in the far future people will look back at 2020/21 and do the same thing. They will romanticize our pandemic driven stay-at home orders and generalize it to the point they'll only remember the closeness many families were able to achieve during this time---the TicTok videos, the zoom choirs---like the fun stuff they portrayed in all the USO movies of WWII. Pain always lessens with the passing of time. People in the future will gloss over the political unrest, too, that we are living through and only remember those among us who get through it stronger and more principled than before---the political heroes yet to rise to the top. Until then I’m taking two aspirin and living in a house of silence for a week which has always proven to be cure for what ails me right now. Sensory overload. My media block out will be akin to my mom sending me to my room until I quit feeling sorry for myself. ©

The snow now piled at the top of my driveway

Snow along the sidewalk to my front door. I just shoveled what I could reach off my shrub.

The path I shoveled on my deck for the dog to get to his pen.

Snow in the dog's pen. That fence if 3 foot tall.

 

And last but not least my front mailbox and the path I shoveled to its back side. All photos taken to remind of what I'm leaving behind if I start missing this house next winter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Purging Dishes in the Kitchen

With the schematic of the kitchen cabinets in my future home at hand, I’ve been a busy bee this week trying to downsize the dishes in my current kitchen cabinets. I’m on a break right now that I just used to pack the trunk of my car with some stuff to take to Goodwill tomorrow. I’ve almost taken more breaks than the amount of time I’ve logged working on my cabinets. On one break I shoveled a path through the snow to the mailbox because I hadn’t been down there in four days---the path being between the sidewalk and the back of the box because the plowed road is too icy to walk around to the front of the box. I don’t know how many days it takes for a mail carrier to ask the police for a wellness check on a senior citizen but I don’t want to find out by getting one. Actually, I say that tongue-in-cheek because I’ve been scheduling e-Bay packages for porch pickups just about every Monday and Tuesday so I’m pretty sure the mail lady knows I’m still breathing.

Also on one of my breaks I’ve been photographing things to list on e-Bay. Aside from selling art down the road, I have another month for one last big push to give one-of-kind, valuable sleepers and sentimental things with little value new homes. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before, but I have a large collection of Cracker Jack toys, boxes, tins and other memorabilia including a rare, unopened Cracker Jill necklace. With a few exceptions the collection has very little monetary value. The tiny plastic toys sell for $2 to $7 each but a dozen or so of my metal pieces would sell for $50 to $100 each which I'm not going to do. I struggle with the idea of putting them all in a large mason jar to display on a shelf. I have them are all in a divided fishing tackle box sorted by the dates issued and I can’t bring myself to undo all that work of identifying the various series’. Where was I going with this? Oh, ya, I made the tough decision to take all but one of my Cracker Jack tin cans to Goodwill and to sell off the boxes, t-shirts and Cracker Jill stuff leaving me with just the tackle box of toys. These were part of the things I was photographing as a diversion from thinning down my dishes. My love of Cracker Jack collecting goes back 75 years and what I'm keeping doesn’t take up much space. I even had three complete sets of Cracker Jack baseball cards and albums that I sold last summer. I’m proud of myself for letting those go. It took me several decades of hunting to pull those together.

Dishes: Oh! My! God! I’m also proud of the fact that I got my iridescent carnival glass dinnerware out of my kitchen and into the garage where I’ll try to sell it on Facebook Market Place come spring. Growing up, my mom bought a lot of stuff at the Salvation Army resale store and part of the set I have now was dishes she purchased there and we used to eat off from at our cottage in the 1940s. I added many pieces to the set so that I have a service for ten. Over my lifetime the prices for carnival glass has taken a nose dive after decades of shooting up and now I’ll probably have trouble giving them away. No one wants dishes you can’t put in the microwave or dishwasher which has killed the vintage fine china market but the death blow came from the Food Network when they popularized using plain white dishes. (And I have to admit, eating off orange carnival glass takes a strong gag reflex if you don't take the color of your food in mind when you plan your meal.) The only people buying fancy vintage dishes these days are people who repurpose them into garden art. I did separate the creamer and sugar set from the rest of the carnival glass because those I’ll probably be able to sell on e-Bay for $50. Cream and sugar bowls in any china set are still worth listing.

More Dishes: When I was a kid my mom replaced the carnival glass at the lake with Lily-of-valley dishes that were grocery store premiums in the fifties. I love those dishes but my brother and I broke a lot of them and by the time I was old enough to care about pretty things there were only a few pieces of that pattern left. So I set out to build a set with a similar pattern from the same super market premium era. 

My mom had lily-of-the-valley in her yard and wore the fragrance and I can’t see a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley without thinking of the gentlest side of Mom’s personality. She could be a hardcore disciplinarian, too, and to this day my brother and I still argue over which one of us she loved best. I think it was my brother because he gave her three grandchildren and all I gave her was poodle grand-babies. Back to the dishes, though, I’m keeping my lily-of-the-valley dishes plus some vintage diner dishes and some olive vintage Fenton glassware that all blend together. The diner dishes I use when I’m alone because I can throw them in the microwave and dishwasher. Heck, I could throw them against a wall and they wouldn’t break. Not that I'd ever do that, but I have dropped a few on the floor. I used to have a whole set of for ten of the diner dishes but I downsized them after my husband died to just four place settings, plus extra cups, pitchers and serving pieces of all sizes. The pitchers and platters will go on e-Bay soon. Mid-century style furniture making a comeback is helping to make diner dishes popular again. My brain hurts from downsizing decisions. At one point I even went online thinking I’d get rid of ALL my dishes and start over with a brand new set. It was fun looking but in end the end I recognized the shopping was just another diversion for avoiding what I didn’t want to do and that was letting go of more of my memories attached to my dishes and green stemware, most of which were bought one piece at a time while combing antique malls, flea markets and estate sales. ©

This is the carnival glass I moved to the garage and it came out of the glass front cupboard below. Of those three pieces still left, the center one is all I'll be keeping because it belonged to my mom. The other two are just staging for when the house goes up for sale.

 


 
The two boxes of vases at the top of the cabinet up above will end up in my new laundry room. (x-florist that I am, these vases are what's left after last summer's purge from an entire cabinet of vases that I had in the garage.) Before this week's purging that top shelf was filled with vintage diner pitchers and serving dishes. The photo below shows the only pitchers and serving dishes that made it through the purge. 
 
 














  





The photo above is of another cabinet in my kitchen and, yes, I have far more cups than I'll ever need but, what can I say, I can't bare to get rid of the lily-of-the-valley ones that I rarely use, and the others I do use. One of the boxes at the top one holds some cut glass dishes my mom used whenever my folks had a party. The other box holds some pressed glass party dishes that made it through the purging of the Hoosier cabinet that I sold last summer. That Hoosier was entirely filled with pressed glass. And last but not least the hardest purge of all was letting go of my green Fenton stemware and plates (below). I'm only keeping two sizes out of five. But that box of Fenton in the garage won't be going anywhere until I actually see my new home. They've tweaked the laundry room footprint so much since giving me the schematic that I'm not sure how much stuff will fit in the cabinets above and below the folding area. My head hurts from thinking about all this! 

Good bye beautiful Fenton! I will miss you.