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, May 26, 2021

Oh Happy Days!

Have you ever felt so happy and light-hearted that you keep looking behind you to see if you’re farting rainbows and puppy dogs? Me neither but I came close today. The euphoric lift in my caboose might not have come from leaving a trail of puppies in my wake but I swear there’s a rainbow following me around and before you ask, it smells just like wet grass and cotton candy---strawberry cotton candy and good old, Kentucky bluegrass. To be honest the scent in the air is probably coming from the neighbor who is mowing his lawn and I have a Dutch Rusk smeared with strawberry jam sitting next to my keyboard. Ya, in my world I have the super powers of a five year old girl. If a rabbit was in my view right now my imagination would turn him into a unicorn. That said, I just used 148 words of my 1,000 word quota to convey that I’m having a great day.

What brought on this happy mood? Simple. Yesterday the son-I-wish-I-had spent a couple of hours helping me clean my garage and now there is nothing left out there to purge before I get the house whipped into shape for the listing. When Tim drove off with his trailer loaded with my stuff he also took a lot of my stress with him. What was in the trailer? He took---bought actually---five large metal cabinets that filled up one wall; three large boxes of e-Bay shipping supplies (he does e-Bay too); five long tables from the days when Don and I were vendors at swap meets (four more will go later on); a snow blower plus driveway salt and snow shovels; two vintage 20 gallon metal ice cream drums that I was using to hold tools with long handles; an assortment of tools like a roof rake, shovels and gardening tools; a box of wood scraps; and several full sheets of Masonite that I used to create a ‘bull pen’ for my shipping activities.

There were things in that load Tim hauled away that I could have tried to sell on Facebook Marketplace like the snow blower but even though it was in mint condition I figured no one would buy it this time of the year, however the e-Bay supplies would have been an easy sale. But I screwed up with the vintage ice cream drums. I should have looked up their value before giving them to Tim who, by the way, was elated to get them. He said he’s wanted them for years and I realized too late that I lost an opportunity for a $100 barter. It’s what we do. We barter and with the move coming up I’m going to be on the bottom side of our little game. Still, it turned out great this week. He moved a bird bath in the yard for better drive-by appeal, helped me in the garage, was great company and at the end I owed him $100 for his labor and he owed me $125 for the cabinets and $12 for twelve Rubbermaid boxes. (I've probably got 40 more empty Rubbermaid boxes to clean up and use for packing up the house for the move, after which Tim is barter/buying them all.)

The garage is only 90% ready for photo day but it makes sense as a garage again. I could park four small cars in there now or a RV and two cars. A 24 foot sail boat would fit or a pop-up van with a wheelchair lift and ramp like we had in the oversized space. There’s more square footage in that garage than in the place I'm moving into. One guy who came to pick up a Marketplace purchase took one look at the vaulted ceiling, showroom lighting and finished wall with miles of pegboard and said, “Wow! I could live in this garage!”  In other words, it’s a guy’s dream garage which I’m hoping will help sell the house because the kitchen is not a woman's dream kitchen. It's too small by today's standards and not an inch of granite or stainless steal to be seen.

When my husband was alive 2/3 of the garage was his show-and-tell space for his Classic Corvette and all his gas & oil collectibles---restored gas pumps from the 1920s, porcelain signs, tall glass oil bottles and metal cans. We also had a showcase of “smalls” which in gas & oil collector’s circles means we had everything that gas stations once gave away for promotionals. We specialized in Smalls when we had booths in several antique malls and would do swap meets out of state in the summers.

In the first two summers after Don died, Tim and I systematically e-Bayed all of Don’s collection. Tim sold the pumps, globes, larger signs---things we knew would sell for big bucks---and I sold the rest. We did it that way because he was taking a 30% commission out of anything he sold and with cheaper things it wasn’t worth his effort. Paying him that 30% was well worth it because he covered the e-Bay fees and handled all the shipping and pickups which was no small feat to arrange on those old gas pumps and globes. Those two summers our e-Bay accounts were both going hot and heavy. And now, for the first time since I’ve lived here, my garage is just a garage. OH HAPPY DAYS!

The photo below is of the one-piece, hand painted Musgo gas globe and it was Don's pride and joy. When he first offered $5,000 for it and let the seller work him up the $7,000 I thought they were both crazy. But fast forward 15 years and his investment sold for $20,000 (minus Tim's $2,000 broker's fee for arranging the private sale to another collector) which in turn helped me pay off my mortgage early. Now, there are three piece reproductions on the market which always drives the prices down on the originals. I sold it at the right time. I've always hated having large sums of money invested in breakable antiques and I was glad to get the Musgo out of the house, having once broke a $4,000 globe just packing it up to take to swap meet. My husband wasn't even mad. "Why aren't you yelling at me?" I asked. "Why should I?" he replied, "You feel bad enough for both of us."

All traces of its former uses are gone from my garage and my life is about to change, leaving behind my wheeling and dealing memories. And there are a lot of memories involved. My husband was the up-front man who bought and sold the stuff but I'm the one who worked behind the scenes cleaning, polishing and pricing it all. I'm the one who did the packing and unpacking for shows and the mall restocking and who single-handedly hung it all in our garage after Don's stroke, then I e-Bayed it after he died not to mention I was with him when he bought most of that stuff. 

Now, I'm looking forward to getting re-acquainted with that five year old girl who lives inside of me and who wants nothing more than to pretend I'm about to move into a tiny cottage near a lake where I'll be free to paint and write all day long, occasionally looking over my shoulder to see if I'm leaving a trail of rainbows and puppy dogs in my wake. ©

Photo Notes: The top photo is of one wall as it looked when my husband was a live but I can't find a digital photo of the wall of the gas pumps and globes, and I don't have the time to deal with finding a print copy to scan. The center photo is of my husband (in the wheelchair) and a good friend (to the left) and his friend's brother who is standing in front of the showcase of Smalls.

27 comments:

  1. I love the Joy in this post! You have seen the return of your investment, for sure. Well done!

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    1. My husband didn't believe in banks, he believed in collectables. Not 100% true but that's what I've always say about him.

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  2. Tim really does have your genes though not related. I wonder if his wife is also as enthused but she must be used to him now. Bet his garage is full. Don collected like some people play the stock market. His way seems a lot more fun with less chance of loss.
    I am delighted at at you leaving puppy dogs in your wake. Keep it going.

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    1. Tim's favorite phrase is "I love my life!" He makes a living renting out dumpsters and doing clean-outs on houses for realtors and banks foreclosures and does small demolition jobs for a retail developers. (Tearing out old store fixtures when a store goes out of business.) He says, no two days are the same. His wife is a real sweetheart but makes sure that he sells the stuff he brings home at regular intervals. He's a true wheeler dealer. He developed a good eye for antiques and collectibles because of my husband and does really well picking and selling to serious collectors like Don was. He's got a goofy sense of humor and a great work ethic and they are one of the happiest, well balanced couple I know.

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  3. Oh happy day! What a lovely place you have arrived at in this journey to a new lifestyle.

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    1. I know! It's been a long time coming and I'm finally seeing that the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed, not another train coming.

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  4. Oh great news. Can Tim come help us with our garage. we only have 30 more days to get it done and my husband is a pack rat. I love this photo of Don. He looks so jovial, just like I imagined from your stories!

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    1. It's the kind of job he'd take in a heartbeat if you were closer. He does it all the time.

      It's one of my favorite pictures of Don, too. His friend has such a great sense of humor and never treated my husband any different after his stroke than he did before his stroke which we found to be rare in others.

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  5. I've never heard of Musgo. The logo design is beautiful. You might be surprised to find out that your not up-to-date kitchen is exactly what someone is looking for. Many people now want to buy a home and make it all their own. I think it has to do with Instagram wherein people swoon over anyone who fixes things up, then they call themself an Influencer.

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    1. Musgo was a small brand that never left Michigan with only 34 known globes left. In the hay days of the gas station wars there were dozens and dozens of tiny brands all over the country that kept getting bought up into the bigger companies over a few decades. Another prized globe collectors want is a White Eagle in the actual shape of an Eagle. When collectors get deep into the histories of these companies, they are getting a heavy dose of American history during a fascinating time frame. The lives of Rockfeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, they are all part of the fascination of the gas & oil collecting.

      When we were looking for houses we always liked the fixer-uppers. A house with good bones. It was always a turn off to find a house with fresh paint and all new flooring in colors we hated. I'm hoping the need for updating will appeal to buyers.

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  6. Well that's good that you got the garage cleaned out.

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    1. It was really worrying me because it was something I needed help with and don't know many people trailers who live close enough to help.

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  7. You are making great progress. You are really on schedule to get your home ready for buyers! Good for you!

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    1. Thanks are starting to happen fast. I hope I can stay on schedule!

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    2. I have confidence in you! You will definitely make it work!

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    3. I have a trick for that...I just rewrite the schedule. LOL

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  8. Happy, happy, HAPPY! Such remarkable progress! I'd be tooting puppies too!

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  9. I Loved hearing of all of this Jean, it made me Happy just reading it and I'm glad you're on a Natural High right now, which should sustain you the rest of the Journey to your new Life you're about to embark upon. Your Garage sounds like the size of our RV Garage, which is 100% mine and 100% of the Hoard now. *LOL* To get it Organized and properly Showcasing things like you had them is my ultimate Goal. That Globe was Amazing... you had the type of Collection they envy on American Pickers to go to and try to buy from! The Stories from finding all that are the best part of The Thrill Of The Hunt, aren't they? The stuff is really secondary and eventually most of it we can detach from at some point in our Journey. I've always made money on our Collections, so they served an Investment purpose and we got to enjoy them before reselling them. I'm so Happy for you! May it all be Unicorn Farts, Buttercups and Rainbows from here on out!

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    1. We knew the guys from American Pickers before they even had a TV show. They came to all the swap meets. You hit the nail on the head about how interesting all the picker stories are. That was what hooked my husband. The more he studied the history of Gas & Oil and talked to other collectors the more he loved it. He had an amazing memory too and could swap stories with the best of them.

      With a few exceptions like stamp collecting and spaghetti poodles we made money from our collectibles too but I admit there have been a few times since my husband died that I said I wish he'd just put the money in the bank instead of buying stuff. The kinds of things you and he collected have a small but lucrative audience of buyers to connect with if you're going to get the most money out stuff.

      Since becoming a widow I've cringed seeing a more than a few women sell off or their husband's stuff for peanuts or just throw it all out. The widow of the guy who bought one of my husband's globes for example. We put her in touch with the best known appraiser in the country who offered to buy her husband's entire globe collection at a fair price. He would have flown a crew out to pack them all for shipping. Make it real easy and quick. But she got greedy and wanted a local auctioneer and she screwed herself royalty because he didn't advertise in the right markets, sandbagging with it came to photos too. She got 15 thousand less than the appraiser offered. Personally, I think that local auctioneer did it on purpose and had shill buyers in the audience bidding on things that he knew he could turn around and sell at a good profit.

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    2. Yes, for the uninitiated they can get fleeced in the resale of the Collections, especially if they were the Spouse not interested in the Hobby/Collection. That said, almost anyone disposing of anyone's Estate can find it so overwhelming that they just want to have it over and done with. Selling to the right Buyers is Work, as you well know, you have to be Businesslike about it and put in the Hours for the Payoff. So long as I'm making Money I'm not losing Money, so I am not that interested in holding out for top dollar, tho' I have gotten that at times to the right Buyers who just happen to show up. The Thrill of the Hunt is my Jam, I Love the Community of Consummate Collectors and Junquers... I'm more the latter than the former, tho' I'm told by others in the Industry that I have what they consider The Good Stuff so they say I know a lot about what I happen to Love... which is True. I guess I'm like your Hubby that way, I am so forgetful about most things, but when it comes to what I'm Passionate about I'm like a freakin' Encyclopedia of knowledge, it's kinda eerie how much trivia stored in the Memory Banks when it comes to Stuff. *Ha ha* So, you knew Mike and Frank, Cool! Some Friends went to their Southern Store and said it was mostly all Mike's stuff and most of it wasn't even for Sale, just Props for the Biz being all about the Brand and Souvenirs, they took pixs and came home with just T-Shirts and Coffee Cups, which was disappointing. They said he must Sell direct to specific Clients becoz they didn't see where it was your usual 'Shop' now that they're Famous.

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    3. Don't know if it's still true but Frank and Mike used to put a lot of what they buy in exclusive, specialized auctions. Back when we were involved in the hobby all the serious collectors knew each other and who had the deepest pockets and who was looking for what. I think that may be true of other stuff too like classic car collectors, art, etc.

      I know it can get overwhelming to sell an estate off but I've known a couple of widows who were belly aching about not having enough money to pay the bills but they were sitting on a lot of valuable things that could have been turned into thousands. One of them paid someone to all it all to the dump, the other one I wrote above up above. As a widow it's not about getting top dollar so much as it's about survival to me.

      Talk about being an Encyclopedia of Knowledge, I was thinking about that very topic recently--- about how much all of us have stored in our brains over a life time. Truly amazing, isn't it.

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  10. Your happiness and relief jump off the page! You have a full and lovely life as a collector and you obviously had the very best partnership with Don in all of it. But I particularly like your ending -- finding that little girl again who wants to paint and write and live in a cottage by the lake. It's sooooooo her turn! ❤️

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    1. Thank you. It was a good day when I emptied out the garage. Now I'm filling it back up with boxes that are packed to move. I'm so worried I'm taking too much.

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  11. I loved seeing the photo of your husband in a joyful moment, in his element. And it was great to hear your relief that now allows you to focus on the move without dread.

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    1. It's one of my favorite post-stroke photo of him because he was in his element and enjoying life to the best of his ability.

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