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, March 13, 2019

Learn Something New Every Day


This morning I went looking for the reason why Catholics eat fish on Fridays because I was planning a blog post about a fish fry I went to last week. It was at a private club that our senior hall takes a group to every year on the Friday following Ash Wednesday. My husband was a member of that club for over thirty years but I gave up my “spouses membership” after Don died. Their fish dinners are the best in town, bar none, so I don’t like to pass up this yearly opportunity to visit the place again.

Anyway, the following explanation is from Catholicism.org: “…why do Catholics eat fish on Friday – or, better said, why do Catholics abstain from warm-blooded flesh meat on Friday? The obvious answer that every Catholic should know is that it is a penance imposed by the Church to commemorate the day of the Crucifixion of Our Lord – to enable us to make a small sacrifice for the incredible sacrifice He made for our salvation. Why, then, is fish allowed? The drawing of a symbolic fish in the dirt was a way that the early Christians knew each other when it was dangerous to admit in public that one was Christian. Our Lord cooked fish for His Apostles after His Resurrection, and most of these men were fishermen....” 

My Catholic ancestors would be happy that I didn’t just accept the explanation a random internet warrior found in the supposed writings of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Meat tastes too good and is too much of an aphrodisiac to consume while you're supposed to be fasting.” I LOVE, love a good steak but eating one has never made my hormones run and hump the first guy I saw. My ancestors would also be happy that I’m skeptical of a theory that “a medieval pope made a pact with some fishermen buddies - not the fishers-of-men kind but literal fishermen - to boost their business.” Thus he proclaimed Fridays to be fish eating days.

I’m not Catholic but all my relatives on my dad’s side of the family are practicing Catholics. (My dad broke from the Church when he was just boy while his siblings and father stayed with it. If you want to know why, read about it here.) I grew up hearing cousins and my best friend talking about what they gave up for Lent. I get the whole idea of giving up something pleasurable to symbolize Christ’s forty days of wandering in the desert and if I was going to comply---and why would an agnostic do that?---I’d give up coffee. During the power outrage last month that’s what I obsessed about, what I missed the most. According to an online article, coffee is number nine on the list of the ten most popular things to give up for Lent. Chocolate, social networks and alcohol topped the list. 

At the fish fry I was at the beginning of the line of 100 of us from the senior hall. I picked up my food at the service window, sat down and soon an acquaintance sat down across from to me---by choice, the place was full of empty chairs. It’s happened a dozen times before at various events so I assume she likes me. She on the other hand makes me laugh for all the wrong reasons. She wears ruby-red lipstick and she purses her lips like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character. She talks non-stop and when she’s on a word-riff the following country song often buzzes around inside my head:

“She may be an angel who spends all winter
Bringin' the homeless blankets and dinner
A regular Nobel Peace Prize winner
But I really hate her
I'll think of a reason later.”

For lent I decided to give up my judgmental ways, determined to just sit there contented to listen which I did long after we’d both finished eat. From her, I learned how to “band” baby male calves to cut off the flow of blood to their testicles so in a few weeks their balls just fall off and you can make fuzzy little earrings out of them. I also learned her granddaughter is studying to be an animal dentist and has already been “floating” horse teeth since she was fifteen. Floating, I didn’t know, is filing down teeth that gets too sharp and makes it hard for animals to chew their cuds. Which begs the question, what happens to wild horses who can’t get an appointment to see a dentist? Answer: they chew dirt and peddles attached to wild vegetation and that keeps their teeth worn down. I learn something new every day but the most important thing I learned at the fish fry was I don’t have to like Ms. Ruby-Red Lips to thoroughly enjoy her company for a couple of hours. Tops. Longer than that and I make no promises. ©

31 comments:

  1. As I was reading your question I was answering it out loud to no one.
    I was made to attend mass, we did the stations of the cross after dinner at home during lent and we had to eat fish on Fridays. I had to go to catechism classes every week until I graduated. Oh how I promised myself as soon as I could I was outta here. Until my father got dementia he was still not eating meat on Friday even though the church said you no longer had to. I left the church as soon as I could. I have a strong dislike of the "church"
    Ms. Ruby Lips sounds like an interesting character. I may have to judge. :-)

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    1. The closest I got to a Catholic education was waving good-bye to my best friend when she got on the church bus after regular school got out.

      Ms. Ruby-Red Lips is truly a character who'd hate my guts if she ever heard me talk. LOL She has a very negative view of the world and I've never heard her laugh, while that's all I do when I listen to her talk. One time she got on the topic of sex and I thought we'd time-traveled back to the 1800s. She's a very black and white thinking and I tend to see the grays in between.

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  2. I could not wait to leave the Catholic faith. If I had a nickel for every single time I was admonished that "Jesus died for your sins!", I would be a billionaire. Seems paltry to give up chocolate in comparison to that sacrifice, so why bother? Catechism classes every Monday from 4-5 coincided with raging sick headaches. Some of the worst days of my life.

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    1. I always wondered about giving up something like chocolate too. I'm assuming it's the symbolism that counts, the daily reminder for the 40 days. Sorry you had such bad experiences. Seems like a hard concept to teach to children thus it taught kids like you to resent the church instead of love it. I have some very devout relatives but in their favor not a single one tried to my dad to come back to the church.

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  3. I never wanted to be Catholic when younger for I really don't like fish, however I told my parents in the first grade that I wanted to be Jewish for they had more holidays.
    Actually you learned some interesting things from that lady (did not know that about fuzzy earrings) and she gave you a fun post. Not wasted time at all.

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    1. I wanted to be Jewish for awhile, too, because when I was servicing weddings at churches, etc, around town the people who worked in Jewish temples always treated me so good.

      I know, I was fascinated that anyone would make earrings out of those poor baby's balls. It was too good not to share.

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  4. I'm a Catholic my nature and I believe in God. When I was young I believed in everything the Church taught me. I was an alter boy in church. I taught in the Catholic school but after our first child, I wanted to baptize my first child the old way. Just having my priest friend and a few friends but the pastor informed that THEY wouldn't allow me but I could baptize my child with many other people having their children baptized. I informed the pastor that he was suppose to be there for us but things changed and they were telling me what to do what they want. That changed everything. Today I believe and love my God but I don't love them. Later after 2 years I was told that I could do what I wanted. You know what I told them.
    I just wanted to talk about fish but I wrote a book. Sorry about that Jean. Years ago it was very important to only eat fish on Friday but later that was changed also. You could eat meat on Friday but on Good Friday you had to eat fish. On this Good Friday I'm going to my Colonoscopy. I'm eating anything until around 6 or 7 later that night. Oh well. Have a great fish dinner. Duffy's Tavern was where the best fish dinner was located in Amherstburg. It no longer is there. See ya my friend

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. No need to apologize for "writing a book" on my blog. I guess it's good that churches can change over time, but it's sad when it hurts members like you in the process.

      Good luck with your Colonoscopy. Not fun but it feels good afterward when you get a clean bill of health.

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    2. Well my doctor's office called today and they informed that my blood tests were all good. My PSA test was up a little but my doctor said don't worry, just have another PSA test in 6 months. That make me feel so good. See ya.

      Cruisin Paul

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  5. I know what you mean about Ms. Ruby-Red Lips. I've known people that I could take for a short time, but could not stand to be around for any significant amount to time. It cracked me up that giving up social media is high on the list of things to give up for Lent. Eating fish is not a penance for me. I enjoy it very much. That fuzzy earrings sorry is a hoot!

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    1. I don't like a lot of fish so I have trouble getting enough of it in my diet.

      If you had seen the disapproving look on her face when she told about the earrings it made it that much funnier. Poor little calves.

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  6. I've heard of people making earrings out of moose turds, but not calf balls. Hopefully she had a photo to share, or maybe she'll wear a pair if you ask nicely.

    Sheila

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    1. Nope, no photo or examples but that would have been interesting. I'll probably regret looking but I googled earrings made out of calf testicles but I didn't see any photos that I thought were for real.

      Turd jewelry? People's imagination never seized to surprise me.

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  7. I'm see I'm still having trouble being recognized here, so will post with URL again and continue with my troubleshooting, but I have NO IDEA what to try next. Anyway...I know a few people like your fish fry companion. You are a generous soul. LOL

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    1. Donna, the next time you post a comment using the URL look for the box to check that says, "save my ID" or something like that. I think your Google ID no longer functions because Google is fazing them out. My advice is to just quit worrying about trying to get it back.

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  8. OMYGOSH! Here I am! Used a different browser. Thanks for your patience!

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  9. Oh my GOSH I love those lake fish dinners. I was so excited when I was old enough to help. I was raised Catholic but stopped after high school. Tried many different denominations but nothing clicked ... Unitarian was the almost right one.

    I love fish ... anything fresh or flash frozen (no fishy smell or taste) But especially perch and walleye and bass ... we have a local restaurant owned by a Midwest guy ... those are always on the menu! Just like the Lenten fish frys of back when.

    Now I'm hungry!

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    1. Perch dinners are common around here but I'm so afraid of chocking on bones that I don't eat a lot of lake fish. White fish and salmon are my favorites.

      I've been to a couple of Unitarian events and liked the 'feel' of that church. If it wasn's so far to drive, I might give it a try.

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  10. Here in Gillespie County, TX, we have several catfish fish frys every year to benefit our local volunteer firefighters. One is held on or near Labor Day and turns the tiny town of Doss (pop. a couple hundred, on a good day) into a hoard of nearly 3,000 people. It's all by donation and you get fish, potato salad, beans, bread, and dessert (cakes or pies donated by local ladies.) Oh, and did I mention the free beer?

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    1. Free beer with catfish? What a deal! I'd pass on the beer and double up on cakes or pies. Fish fries are not uncommon around here in the summers. I can think of five groups that do them for fund raisers like the VFW hall and places like that. Roast beef fund raisers are more to my taste and SO good if you like beef.

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    2. I'll be darned! I hang around Gillespie County as much as I can. Two weeks ago, a friend and I did our first-of-the-spring tour of the Willow City Loop, and another trip up for the Loop, Wildseed Farms, and Enchanted Rock's going to happen, if we can. You live in a beautiful part of the county -- I'm down on Galveston Bay.

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  11. We have a lot of fish fries, too, but the one I always make time for is the one that includes fried shrimp and oysters along with the fish. It's a fund raiser for Hope Village, a residential program for people with various disabilities.

    You brought back memories of those intense discussions about what to give up for Lent when I was in grade school and junior high. Watermelon always was a good one -- never mind the fact that there wasn't a watermelon in sight. I certainly agree that coffee would be a tough one. Personally, I'm convinced that the Lord wouldn't require that of me, since He knows what I'm like when I don't get my coffee in the morning!

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    1. Leave it to a kid to pick watermelon. That would a hardship in July, though.

      Good point about giving up coffee wouldn't really be fair to the people around us.

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  12. There is a lot of similar symbolism in all religions I’m sure. It is clear that the 40 days of wandering in the desert is a symbol. Jews celebrate Passover by retelling the story of Moses wandering in the desert. To commemorate what do Jews do? They give up all leaven products so no bread and no beer and nothing with yeast or anything that rises (technically for longer than 18 minutes which is how they can celebrate with unleavened bread or matzoh that are not baked for longer than 18 minutes).
    So many stories written around similar time periods with similar themes!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. That's the important take-away from studying world religions---They all have very similar stories. And why not, for four hundred years the stories of Moses, Jesus and that era was passed down word-of-mouth and spread all over the world. Anyone who's played telephone sitting around in a circle should be able to see how different cultures put their own spin on the stories that became to foundation of our morals and values.

      That's interesting about who unleavened bread is defined. I didn't know that.

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  13. Some people are good in small doses just for the stories you can tell later. Ruby Red Lips sounds like one of those. Bless their shrivelled little hearts!

    Deb

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    1. That's very true. I kind of feel sorry for her because I don't think she had a very happy marriage. Life was hard on women in my age bracket who thought they had no other choice but to stay in bad marriages.

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  14. Kind of you to be a listener to her but glad you don’t have to be subjected frequently. I like fish of every kind and try to eat some at least twice a week. However, I don’t want it in batter, deep fried. Breaded, or in cornmeal I like if pan-fried, also broiled, baked.

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    1. My mom used to pan fry fish that had been rolled in eggs, then flour. And boy they were good, but I haven't had them fixed like that in decades. I do like batter deep fried fish if there is more fish than batter which isn't always the case. For a chain places I think Cultver's does fish the best of them all.

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  15. You've done your pennance. Don't sit with her again unless you're looking for good blog material!

    For me, fish would be no penance. I love it to the max. Anyway you prep it!

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    1. I'm always early, so she often picks me to sit next to. I'm a good lisener. LOL

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