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, May 27, 2017

Ernest Hemingway, Sports Bras and Gym Germs


Young Hemingway finding his writing muse in Michigan


I sign up for lectures months in advance and on my day planner I just write, “lecture 1:00” and note the location. By the time a lecture rolls around I’ve forgotten what the topic is going to be but in the case of this month’s lecture I also wrote down the word, “Petoskey.” Petoskey is a coastal resort town in the upper part of Lower Michigan. If that sentence doesn’t make sense get out a state map where you’ll see we have a lower and upper Michigan connected only by a 26,372 feet long suspension bridge that stands 8,614 feet above the point where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron roughly connect. Once a year they open up the Mackinac Bridge to walkers and if you live in Michigan it's almost sacrilegious if you don’t do "the walk" at least once in your life. While you’re up in that neck of the woods it’s also a mini travesty if you don’t go forty miles to the west of the bridge to Grand Traverse Bay and hunt for Petoskey stones on the beach. If you don’t find any you can buy them at practically any area store but you’ll never find them on any other beach in the entire world except for those of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. They are fossilized coral colony heads formed 350 million years ago. But I digress.  

When I left the house for the lecture I had it in my head that I’d be learning about the history of Petoskey so imagine my surprise when the lecture turned out to be about Ernest Hemingway’s twenty-two summers spent in northern Michigan. His father, a physician and avid fan of photography, bought a cottage on Walloon Lake in the backlands of Petoskey in 1898---the year before Ernest was born. The speaker was the President of the Michigan Hemingway Society and he hosts scholarly Hemingway conferences and tours of the places that influenced the author’s writing. His life and times spend in the area are well documented through a glut of photos and letters. In one letter we heard, he apologized to a girl for using her real name in one of his books, in another letter Hemingway told his father he had rented a cottage in Petoskey and was going to become a “professional writer.” But the tidbit that intrigued me the most was how Hemingway became an alcoholic. He was rejected from serving in the military during WWI because of a "bad eye" so he joined the Red Cross where he drove an ambulance and was badly injured by a mortar shell. The Italian hospital where he was sent didn’t have enough morphine so they gave their patients cognac. Lots of cognac. For years after the war Hemingway carried around a bottle of cognac and a pocket knife to dig out the metal fragments that kept working their way to the surface of his body.

Change of topic: I bought a sports bra, my first one ever. Imagine that. At seventy-something years old and with boobs that could only look "perky" is if I assumed a Downward Dog yoga pose. Not that I can do one but I’ve seen pictures and my trainer is taking me through baby steps to get there. Yikes! I had to buy the bra because the latest round of exercises she has me doing was showing off my wares to half the gym patrons. The bra is surprisingly comfortable---no straps making inroads into my flesh, no straps sliding down. But every time I take it off I hear my mother saying, “Let’s skin the kitty.” What a weird and gruesome thing to say to a little kid! The phrase has been around since 1832 when the House of Commons' Minutes recorded testimony for a proposed bill about cruelty to animals: “There are two ways to skin a kitty---dead or alive." Thanks Mom, for making me think about that every time I take off my sports bra.

GERMS at the GYM: I am obsessed with analyzing a person’s character based on how they follow the rule about wiping down the equipment when they finish using it. You’re supposed to take disposal Purell disinfectant wipes from a dispenser and use them to clean what your hands touch. The true germaphobics-but-socially responsible people wipe them down before and after their time on each machine. Then there are the selfish germaphobics who only do a ‘before’ wipe down and the self-absorbed who wipe nothing down. The people who take the crazy-cake home use a terrycloth towel meant to wipe your body sweat---one towel, the same towel---to wipe down every single machine they use thus spreading germs all over the gym, like a bee pollinating flowers. And did I mention they also sit on those towels so their butt germs get added to the mix? Some people use Purell wipes on the seats and head rests on the machines but most don't, me included. I am, however, the only person I’ve ever seen who wipes the knobs we use to adjust the seat heights and set the weights. Before me, germs have probably been living on those knobs since the place was built! I've developed another strategy for fighting gym germs: the last thing I do before leaving the building is to wash my hands and the outside of my water bottle---not sure what that says about my character. ©

Petoskey Stones
 

30 comments:

  1. Those Petoskey stones are beautiful. Love your method of character assessment. On one of our early dates, H had to put air in a tire. I remember how he carefully rolled up the hose and placed it back on it's hanger when he was finished. Some people will not put their grocery carts where they belong, but leave them all over the parking lot. I always think how the wind could blow them into someone's car. I remember "skin the cat" or kitty.

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    1. H's neatness impressed you and he got that girl. hehehhe

      I've often wondered where my mom heard that phrase. She used it on me and my nieces and nephew when helping us get ready for bed.

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    2. P.S. Top stone has been polished, the pile of stones is what they look like when you find them on the beach. I have both in the house. Jewelry people make all kinds of things with them to sell to tourists.

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  2. Interesting information re Hemingway. (Btw, I also make abbreviated reminders, and as a result am also sometimes surprised about the actual topic of a meeting/event).

    I love the comfort of a sports bra once its on, BUT hate putting it on, or taking it off.

    I only wipe the equipment (rather cursorily less I've seen the previous user perspire excessively) after using gym equipment. I just wipe the handle bars and the seat. Never thought of wiping the buttons. But I'm not a germaphobe. i was the mother who had no issues with kids playing in the dirt; and am ok with perfunctorily wiping fruit (rather than washing it) before biting into it. Its great were not all identical. ~ Libby

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    1. A true germaphobic would not hang around a gym, I think. Oh my gosh some people really are dripping with sweat when they work out. I only do when I'm seven minutes into my time on the treadmill.

      I'm not good about washing fruit, either. I'm need to do better.

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  3. My husband was born in Charlevoix and I've been there and Petoskey, Traverse City area several times. It is a beautiful area. His 98 year old aunt has outlived everyone, including my husband, lives in Owosso. I miss going up there.
    I wish I had the desire to go to a gym, but I just don't. I walk in my neighborhood. I'm one of those few who stay skinny even though I LOVE food. I think it's my nerves.
    And I think everywhere we go is laden with germs...washing the hands is the best thing!

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    1. I miss going up north this time of the year. We used to get up there several times a year for a quick get-a-way. Traverse City is my favorite although it's changed a lot over the years. They are really into wineries and growing grapes now.

      You are lucky you stay skinny. I'm kind of bummed out that I'm not losing a lot of weight with all my time spent in the gym. But I am happy about how much stronger I've become thus that makes me feel physically less vulnerable.

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    2. Don't forget -- muscle weighs more than fat, and as you add muscle, you will be adding some weight to counterbalance the fat you lose. Plus, you'll be better toned, stronger, etc.

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    3. On the 20th I'll get weighed at the Y on one of those scales that can tell muscle pounds and fat pounds to compare it with my beginning numbers. I sure hope that theory is correct! (How does it do that???)

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  4. Those stones are gorgeous. Thank you for the geography information...I really don't know much about Michigan!
    I, too, put date and time of lectures on my calendar, but the day before the class, I recheck the original booklet to find out what the lecture is. I don't want to walk in that surprised! And there is always the possibility that it is a short lecture and then a walking tour ...last week I did just that...a short description to familiarize us with trees and then a walking tour of the university campus to try to identify the trees.
    I have been wearing sports bras for years. I converted when I was actively running many years ago and they are so much more comfortable without the hooks and hardware!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Our senior hall offers a lot of walking tours in our downtown area but I pretty much know the history of all the buildings down there so no chance of me signing up for those. A campus tree tour sounds like something I'd sign up for, though.

      I love the comfort of the sports bra but I still haven't figured out the best way to get it off. I can see women wear them all over the place.

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  5. My mother taught me how to "Skin the cat" on a swing or tree branch. Hanging on to the swing ropes, you throw your legs over your head--your arms are sort of twisted, then you let go, landing on your feet. I also skinned the cat, when I pulled the kids clothes off over their heads--they hated it, so saying those words kind of distracted them.
    I have always been fascinated with Petoskey stones and have many. I have one that I found on the Lake Huron shore--I wonder how he got way over there. Fossilized coral--amazing. I recently watched a TV movie marathon of Hemingway movies.

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    1. I was surprised when I tried to find the first reference to the "skin the kitty" that it's also the name of the 'trick' you described.

      Petoskey stones are like magic to Michiganders, I think. I can name at least six people who have them sitting on windowsills or sinks. I think it's because they reminds us of a day spent at the beach. The Ottawa Indian translation of its name is 'rising sun,' 'rays of dawn,' or 'sunbeams of promise'".

      Aside from it being our state stone (thanks to Governor Romney)the largest Petoskey stone ever found was 93 pounds and the state took it away from the guy who found it because it actually breaks the law to take more than 25 pounds of rocks or fossils from the lakes.

      I wish I had known about the Hemingway movies marathon!

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  6. MICKIE: If you see this I need to apologize to you. I just found a comment in my spam folder that you wrote about a post I wrote a month ago, "Where Do I Go From Here?" When it didn't appear you probably thought you did something wrong when the mistake was obviously on my part.

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  7. Interesting info about Hemingway. My grandmother in Key West once collected rent checks from him when he lived upstairs in her home while his home was being worked on. She said it took a dump truck to remove all the spent demijohn liquor bottles when he left. Wish she had kept a couple.
    Those stones are beautiful.

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    1. How interesting! He was a fascinating character and a gifted writer but I wouldn't have wanted him for an upstairs tenant.

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  8. Ah, the sports bra. Indeed so comfortable while wearing and a real job getting in and out!! I'd probably dislocate a shoulder trying these days!

    I'm so PROUD of you for sticking with the gym. A condo buddy hired a personal trainer for twice a week. She's had four sessions and is also surprised at her strength. We are talking about sharing him after my new knee is installed! He's 35 and specializes in "seniors".

    I use my iPhone calendar and put the event, the address and any other info right into the palm of my hand.

    I want one of those stones!

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    1. There's always a pair of scissors if those sports bras get to hard too get off.

      Sharing is really a good way to get a personal trainer for not much money. They can do it at the Y for up to four people.

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  9. Hi Jean, interesting facts you have shared with us today, a lot of things I never knew, like Hemingway being wounded during W W I and becoming an alcoholic. Cindy is a bit of a germaphobe also, it got much worse with her when she got into health care, I can just imagine her at a gym, between you and she the whole place would be wiped down.

    I like the way you mixed in some learning with the entertaining parts of your post.

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    1. From the time I was a little girl I've always liked sharing what I learn. I also like how people could go to the same lecture or read the same book and can come away with different facts that intrigue them.

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  10. This post reminded me of my honeymoon -- we lived 40 miles west of Chicago and decided to "drive around Lake Michigan" for our honeymoon (45 yrs ago). We started on the Wisconsin side, crossed the Mackinaw Bridge to the upper peninsula and then came back south along the Michigan side of the lake. I loved that trip...for many reasons. Maybe we should do it again soon so I can get some of those gorgeous Petoskey rocks!

    I never knew about Hemingway's Michigan connection -- I always associate him with Key West. Thanks for the history/literatue lesson.

    And sports bras...I have a love/hate relationship with them. I like that they are comfortable, but I hate the whole "uni-boob"look. Even though now they come with more of a "cup" I still feel like "the girls" are a little squished together, making them look like just another roll of fat. LOL

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  11. Just about everyone I know drove around Lake Michigan at some point in time. It's a great trip with a little bit of everything. 1,200 miles by car, 1,000 by bicycle which my niece and her husband did one summer. My favorite place was Grand Marais MN. Did you have a favorite?

    Sports bras do tend to make us look like we only have one breast but I got tired of the bouncing around and it cures that.

    Hemingway's history in Michigan with the Chicago bootleggers who'd come over here to speakeasies is interesting too. They even have a tour...

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  12. Oh dear, I'm afraid I would turn out to be one of the self-absorbed types. I don't worry about germs, so I think I would have trouble remembering to wipe down the machine after I used it. I think it's likely that teaching is a profession that doesn't go well with being a germaphobe; kids are always coughing or sneezing on you -- not to mention what is on the papers they turn in. I used to wonder if I could get lung cancer just from breathing while grading the papers of some of the heavy smokers. -Jean

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    1. My niece tells me the same thing about the relationship between teachers and germs. LOL I really don't worry much about germs at the gym but I do get a little germaphobic about supermarket carts during flu season.

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  13. Say Petosky to me, and the first thing that comes to mind is American Spoon Foods. I've been buying their products from time to time for at least a decade. Their sour cherry fruit perfect is the closest thing to the filling my mother used to make for cherry pies that I've ever found. I've never had a bad product from them, and their lemon curd is the best!

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    1. I'm not surprised. That whole area of the state is known for growing that best cherries in the nation---something about the weather coming off the Big Lake---and the cherry products I've had from the area are trutly wonderful. I've got to try their lemon curd!

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    2. Here's an old family favorite, for that time in summer when you need a dessert, and just don't have the oomph. Buy a nice angel food cake. Slice it in thirds horizontally. Spread lemon curd between the slices. Then, frost it with sweetened whipped cream. Freeze it. Take it out just a little before serving time. Delish!

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    3. That sounds really good! I love anything lemon flavored and angel food cake and the fact that it's so easy!

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  14. Well, when I began your blog I was interested about Petoskey and learning about the Mackinac Bridge and then I thought I'd enjoy your blog about Ernest Hemingway but to my surprise, I get to learn about your boobs. Now being an Italian, I do enjoy learning about the female beauty so I totally enjoyed this particular blog of yours. Ha,ha,ha. Thanks for teaching me about Petoskey, the Mackinac Bridge,
    Ernest Hemingway but most of all the boobs. LOL my friend.
    I hope that you'll enjoy my new blog tomorrow, Saturday, June 3. See ya then.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Gotta write about a little of this and a little of that to please everyone. LOL

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