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, July 15, 2017

Computer Geeks and Rowing Crews




I have a tech guy---young, cute as a ladybug if ladybugs were males that wear black leather pocket vests full of tiny tools. I’ve loved those pocket vests since I first noticed them on gutsy photo-journalists running around dodging bullets to report on some long-ago and far-away war. It’s the one piece of clothing that I’ve lusted after for decades but would never let myself purchase. Maybe if I become a bag lady a pocket vest would be become a necessity but for now I’m too vain to add that much bulk to my already bulky mid-section. But every time Nate makes a house call to fix my computer woes he kick-starts the vest lusting all over again. This time the guy was sporting what I’m guessing was a two-day old beard. Talk about a lethal combination! A black beard with inky dark eyes, dimpled checks and that leather vest. Be still my heart. My days of seeing him might be coming to an end, though. He suggested we set up my two computers so he can do repairs and maintenance remotely from his shop for a fee of seven bucks a month. My computers would send him reports when things need doing or aren’t working and he’d do what needs doing. Every time he walks through the door it costs a hundred dollars so on one hand, his suggestion would save me money, but on the other hand I’m not sure I want to give someone a backdoor into my computers. Even though I know and trust Nate, there are others working in the business. It’s a local chain with five locations.

While he’s here we always have interesting conversations but this time I was struggling with my voice. I’ve just come off from a round of Prednisone (for joints inflammation) and one of the side effects for me is my voice gets very hoarse and soft which is shocking at first because I don’t get Prednisone often enough to remember this happening. I googled the drug and learned that sometimes your voice doesn’t come back! I’ve had the Prednisone medrol dose packs five-six times in the past---a year apart each time---so I know it’s just a matter of time when I will get my voice back but for the two days when I didn’t remember this side effect, I was bummed out thinking, First my eyes, then my ears, now my voice! What’s next?  But I know what’s next. I have to do something about my clicking, painful jaw. In the mornings I’m starting to have trouble opening my mouth wide enough to shovel cereal inside. Google is telling me there isn’t much that can be done except exercises so I’m letting it ride until my next dentist appointment. 

This week was my monthly book club and we had a great book to discuss, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The cover describes the book in one precise sentence: It’s a true story of “nine Americans and their epic quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” Almost 400 pages long but, boy, did I learn a lot about rowing crew teams and what it was like to grow up during the Depression, the socioeconomic landscape of the 1930s that molded the characters of these nine young men. The research and details that went into this book is mind boggling and it includes a lot about how Hitler prepared his country for the event. The boys in the boat who won the Gold in Berlin were the sons of loggers and shipyard workers in the Pacific Northeast, college students at the University of Washington in Seattle. If you like Olympic sports history you’d like this book. But it’s also a very human story about overcoming family dysfunction, nearly impossible odds and never giving up. 

George Yeoman Pocock, a designer/builder of racing shells and a mentor to the 1936 Olympic Team was quoted near the end of the book as saying, “Good thoughts have much to do with good rowing. It isn’t enough for the muscles of a crew to work in unison, their hearts and minds must also be as one.” Couldn’t the same be said of families and other groups to succeed? We have to give up our individual desires for personal fame or power in favor of working together, setting one goal to move forward.

Most times when I leave my house I go past a place on the river---a shell house---where rowing crews from the area high schools store and launch their shells. In the fall, when they start practicing again I will have a new appreciation for a sport I erroneously thought was just for yuppies. I look forward to pulling into the riverside park and watching for a while. I’ll know if they’re doing sweep-oar rowing (one oar per rower) or sculls rowing (two oars per rower). I’ll have a label---the coxswain---for the person who sits in the back and coordinating the rhythm and power of the crew, who has to factor in the wind, the weather and the position of the other shells in the race as he/she barks out orders. That’s what good books can do for us, they can make us see our own little world through a new and broader lens. ©

40 comments:

  1. The book sounds good. I enjoyed the video.

    I had to take massive amounts of steroids intravenously for a few months, and use an inhaler with steroids for a couple of years. I now only use the inhaler as needed, which is very seldom. It makes my heart race. My voice became raspy/hoarse for a while during and even after the steroids stopped. It's better now, but I have days when it gets raspy again. It kind of goes in and out. It isn't so bad that it prevents me from being understood. H says it's sexy. :) Some men like raspy voices. I think the steroids affected the way food tasted, too. For about a year, I couldn't eat certain things that I had previously liked. I'm happy I can eat salmon again. I love it and it's so good for you.

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    1. I don't mind the raspiness as much as the lack of power behind it. I doubt you yell at H much but I do yell at Levi. "Leave that rabbit alone!"

      Thanks for reminding me about salmon. I haven't had it in a while and I'm going to the store today. I love it too.

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  2. I also don't like giving control, albeit shared, to someone else over my computer/email system. I recently joined Tripit, thinking it'd help coordinate trip itineraries. But when I found that Tripit would have back door entry to my emails, I thought: No, I don't want this. I immediately closed the barely- opened account.

    Old age is certainly not for the faint-hearted. At the risk of offending you, and your readers, I have to say I hope euthanasia is allowed in my life time for those who wish to depart at a time of their choosing.

    I watched the video and marvelled again at how tough life was in those days. It's tough now too, but in a different way. And it's going to get tougher for all, particularly males, with automation and AI leading to job losses. I'm glad I'm no longer working.

    Technology is advancing so fast that its scary. I still find it unbelievable that my smart phone has so much more power than the first home computer we bought in 1997(well, it was the last century!). Recently I saw an iPad Pro, with the user drawing and painting on it, and printing the resulting masterpieces for sale. Expensive, but no more fear of the kids using their crayons on the walls and expensive furnishings! ~ Libby

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    1. How tough it was back in Depression days is what really struck me about the book. I already knew from my parents and other reading but, I guess, the fact that kids could go from not having enough to eat to winning the Olympics touched me.

      I read an article about how when the baby boomers die off---and they are world wide---there will be tons of jobs and countries will be fighting to take immigrants IN to fill them. Technology and automation will not be able to fill them all. I worry that the smarter computers get the dumber people get. When you phone does it all....



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    2. Libby,
      I too have thoughts about physician assisted suicide. It is a touchy subject, and I can understand why, but I'm one of those who would like to have input about the end of my life.

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  3. I never knew that much about rowing and can see how this book gave you a new appreciation for it, I have this book on my to read list but just haven't gotten to it yet.

    I too would have a problem opening a backdoor into my computer, I have had people offer to remotely do things for me in the past, but I have never allowed it and don't believe that I would.

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    1. If you try the book someday, the first quarter of it was kind of boring (for me) with all the technical stuff about rowing, but then it takes really takes off. Everyone in my book club loved it though and it's rare that we all agree.

      I don't think I'll allow the backdoor either, as tempting as it is to have a trouble free computer.

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  4. Here's my two cents: I'd never give anyone back-door access to my computer on a regular basis. I've done it twice -- once to solve a problem with my ftp server and once during a transition from one machine to another -- but if someone's getting access and fooling around, it's going to be at my request.

    Beyond security concerns, I'm assuming that any repairs or adjustments would be above and beyond that seven dollar monthly fee. I wouldn't want anyone telling me I owe money for something that my computer "told" them was needed. If I have a problem I can't take care of myself, I want to be in charge of the repair process, and I never would allow anyone to mess around without my knowledge. Even without ill intent, things can go wrong, and I always run a full backup before messing around myself.

    There's a rowing school here, and some teams that compete around the state (or around the country, for all I know). They often come down the channel by my place in the fall and winter, and it's such fun to watch them. The book sounds fabulous. It's always interesting to get that "inside look" at something that's both familiar, and strange.

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    1. The only time I have house calls is when I have WiFi or other problems where my printer and computers aren't talking with each other. Otherwise I take them into the shop. They both go into the shop once a year for optimizing and upgrades. I'm not doing the backdoor thing. It's bad enough that Windows keeps making automatic changes!

      I looked up rowing in my area and they have classes for all age groups including mine. But I can honestly say that is one class I don't lust after to take. But the next time I visit my niece I might be tempted to take her row boat out. It's been years since I've been on the water.

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  5. My computer lady can take over my computer to fix things, I love to sit and watch as she zooms the cursor around. BUT--I have to approve with a password. She has a small shop and I trust her.

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    1. I would trust a one person shop more than one like mine that has many employees. But to sit and watch my cursor move around as if by 'magic' would be creepy. LOL The sad fact is that anytime someone works on our computers they could put a backdoor in that we'd never know about if they were inclined to be snoopy or had criminal intents.

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  6. I must be a bad computer mom. I don't take mine in unless something goes wrong and I can't fix it. Maybe the would last longer if I did regular maintenance? But $100 a visit? I have an Apple MacBook which rarely has any issues with anything.

    I don't think I could allow anyone remote access, unless I was actively participating at the time.

    Portland has a lot of rowing going on. Just 3 blocks away the City owns some equipment and they have lessons and races. Dragon boats during the summer are awesome to watch during our 2 month long celebration of the Rose Festival.

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    1. Apple products are more maintenance free but the Apple store/repair place is a long way from here, in a busy shopping center with wait times god awful long from what I hear told---like over an hour. I've used Microsoft/windows for 17 years now and I don't want to learn my way around another operating system at my age. I can fix a lot of things but once or twice a year I get stuck. My computers do last a long time. I think I'm only on my 3rd in 17 years and I'm on my computer 5+ hours a day.

      That's the second time today I've hear "dragon boats" and I have no idea what they are! Just google it! Never seen them before.

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    2. My Apple store is 20 mins away ... and we can make appointments for help! No waiting!!

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    3. Apple makes appointments here, too. The place I go, though, is five minutes away and I've never waited more two minute. It's a drop off place, really, they work all night and you pick up your computers the next day.

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  7. I would be concerned about letting him have easy access to your computer also. He might be fine, but would he be the only one who could access your files?
    That looks like an interesting read. I'll check my library to see if they have it or can order it.

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    1. I'm not going to do it. Although I fully believe if he was up to no good he could put one in to my computer while I'm sitting next to him and I wouldn't know it. LOL

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  8. I believe my computer days are about over. My son isn't up on the newest things and I trust no one else. I'd rather play games than leave a back door open for someone to fix.
    I could never row like those boys. I did row my grandfather's puddle jumper across the lake, years ago. I enjoyed that.
    Interesting story!

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    1. I spent all my summers on a lake growing up so I spent my share of time in a rowboat. I couldn't even coordinate my own two oars with each other there is no way I could coordinate with 8 other guys in a boat.

      That's too bad, if you have to give up using a computer. They are a lot of company.

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  9. Is he sexy? Ha,ha,ha. Seriously, I wouldn't check on my computer from his office. I wouldn't know what the heck he was doing. Heck, I don't even know hat he's doing while I there but at least I right there. At least when he's there, you can look at him. If he's at his office, all you see is your computer. Ha,ha,ha.
    What the heck is a cockswan, oops sorry there. I mean coxswain. I'm not into rowing.
    Have a great Sunday Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

    PS Another cruisin friend of mine who cruisin with Carnival and lives in Allen Park, Michigan, we call him Big Ed, passed away yesterday. It seems that many of my friends are leaving this earth. RIP Big Ed.

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    1. Sorry about your friend, Paul.

      My younger self would have found the tech guy sexy because of those dimples and dark eyes but at my age, no, I just see a cutie-pie I'd like to see in the movies.

      A coxswain is the brains of the rowing crew, he's the one in the back of the boat with no oar and a megaphone.

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    2. A megaphone? For what reason would he want to use a megaphone?

      Cruisin Paul

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    3. To be heard at the front of the boat. Apparently it can get very loud out on the water. At the Olympics the crowds were cheering so loud that the coxswain resorted to facial gestures to give his orders to the crew. The don't just start rowing as fast as they can, there's a lot of strategy involved with holding back your power or using it at key points.

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  10. Noticing when someone is attractive falls under the category of 'beauty appreciation' in my book. If it's a woman, I'll tell her! Why not let someone know you appreciate their beauty? If it's a male, age is the determinant of whether I say something.....very young, I'll tell them what a cutie pie they are because they assume it's Grandma showing love, really old works too because it's flirting that can't go anywhere but makes everyone feel good.

    I would never pick up a book about rowing, but your report makes me want to read this book. To heck with Oprah's Book Club, I'll read Jean's blog to find new material!

    And Libby and Bella, I live in Oregon where the Death with Dignity act was voted in many years ago. Not many people use it, but I find it very comforting to know I don't have to suffer needlessly OR endure the medical procedures if I choose not to.

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    1. The Boys on the Boat starts out slow and a little boring in the first few chapters but worth sticking to it.

      I like your take of "beauty appreciation." There is a large age range in men when I wouldn't dare to comment on their looks for fear they'd misunderstand and think me a cougar.

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  11. Your book reviews are good enough to be a professional level. Maybe you could do that "on the side."

    I've been away for awhile since my husband was diagnosed with cancer.

    I'll try to catch up...

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    1. I actually did review books for awhile, but all romance novels. Not going back. The pressure of reading one book a month for book club is all the pressure I want now with reading.

      I'm sorry to hear about your husband!

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  12. It would be worth a hundred bucks just to have that cutie come visit now and again....

    About rowing. My son rowed in high school and his team miraculously won a berth in the Nationals. They did not do well, but it was a thrill to go and to watch him nonetheless. The Boys in the Boat is a phenom book in these parts, since here we are in the heart of the setting. And yet, I have not read it. You have inspired me. There is still a Pocock Rowing Club in Seattle and my BFF's son rows a Pocock single shell. My son's girlfriend rows on a club too. I knew NOTHING about rowing before moving here. Not many crew clubs in the cornfields of northern Illinois and I also thought it was an East Coast "preppie" sport and I grew up about as far from that kind of privilege as could be! My sons H.S. team had all kinds of kids and not all of the "preppie" persuasion. I now have adult friends who row on "senior" teams too and they are a hoot. I've never been drawn to it, but it's common here so I've learned by association.

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    1. He actually gave me a freebie this time because it only took him five minute to fix. He's also walked me through as issue over the phone without charge. I think of him like a grandson I have to pay.

      The university in Seattle has the Pocock 1936 shell that the boys won in hanging somewhere on campus. His shells are known world wide although now more modern materials have taken over the industry.

      What surprised me about rowing out your way is how they practiced in all kinds of weather and that it's more technical that I had thought. Even the weight of each team member and where they sit, how tall they are is factored in, etc. I would imagine it's a cheap sport to have a kid in? I mean compared to football or sports that require a lot more of equipment.

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    2. I've been thinking of you because I'm reading a book about a woman from Upper Peninsula, Mi. It's a suspense book called The Marsh Kings Daughter. You might enjoy it.

      I think you should get one of those vests. They're cool!

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    3. I just looked up that book on Amazon. Boy, it sure has gotten great reviews.

      They are cool vests, aren't they. To me, they say the person wearing them is the adventurous type but they are really just practical for certain jobs or hobbies.

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  13. I ca appreciate your hesitation about signing up for remote computer assistance. I've had remote help from the beginning but use with my son in the Midwest. We used a program downloaded free off the net which allowed him to take control of my computer, but when we did it I was following simultaneously -- not the same as what you describe I don't think. If you have firewall, antivirus, malware, keep them updated, I wouldn't think you'd have that much difficulty. Of course, a desktop unit you couldn't take in to his shop is another matter. Guess you have to determine if cost effective for you and consider the convenience factor, plus weighing that privacy matter.

    Jaw sounds like TMJ issues, but hope you see your dentist soon as that would be a frustrating issue eating.

    My book club read that rowing book this past year. I recall not being very excited about having it on the list, but then when I read it becoming quite interested. Coincidentally, soon after, the video aired on PBS which I also enjoyed, especially because I'd read the book.

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    1. I have a desk top and a laptop. The desktop has a huge screen which allows me to jack up the font size 150% and still see a whole page. My house call computer issues are usually printer related but I do take both computers to the shop once a year to get them updated and optimized.

      I've had TMJ for years but this is more severe than anything I've experienced in the past. I'm probably just wearing out. My eating issues are only in the mornings, gets better as the day goes on.

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    2. Jean, do you were a mouth guard at night? I found it very helpful for tmj.

      Peggy

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    3. I do but it's old and it's been a long time since the dentist has checked it out.

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  14. Since I grew up reading all the John O'Hara novels, I too thought it was an east coast, preppie sport and it was not available in Kansas. I knew it would never be accessible to me since I was female and middle-class. I'm glad that your son has the opportunity to row and to form those long-lasting relationships that lead to life-long business contacts in his adult life.

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    1. Just to clarify for those who might be confused---Donna (comment up the page) is the one with a son with a connection to rowing. Classof65's comment belongs under hers. I don't have children.

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  15. My husband (then boyfriend) and I took a rowing class. I LOVED IT. However it was all age ranges and different levels of fitness. It sure isn't easy. As you stated you must all work together for a common goal. Rick and I were on separate teams. I was on a team with one older person who just didn't get it. Oh how I would laugh after our time together. We would all be rowing in unison and she would be going the other way and you'd hear, clang, bang, because she would hit someone's oar. Some got really mad at her. Some yelled. At the time I was 31 so she was probably my age now, early 60's. I felt badly for her because she took a lot of grief from the others on our team. I would try to speak with her after class to help her. And God love her she never gave up. Our team never won a lick and most thought it was because of her. I felt we all were at fault for not helping her enough. But talk about strength and ab training. Whew!

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    1. The coach in the book wouldn't let his boys do other sports because he thought that would develop the wrong set of muscles. I can really see the ab strengthening. The Gym has rowing machines and I've seen people stay on them a whole hour! One girl has an incredible upper body and if I get a chance I'm going to ask if she's on a rowing team.

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