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Just finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Pork, on January 29th, 2015.

sweet_sour_cabbage_beer_brats

A simple dinner, my old favorite sweet and sour cabbage, and I threw in a couple of beer brats during the last 5 minutes and that was my meal.

For awhile I haven’t given much of an update about me, my grief journey, or my foot injury. Or anything very personal. Here goes.

My foot: did I mention that I did have an MRI? Finally. Once I found out it could be done in an open MRI machine. Should-a done that a long time ago, because what it showed that darned sharp rock I stepped on tore my plantar fascia. Not just a strain or sprain, but a small tear, that’s 80-90% through the plantar fascia. So I’m back in the gosh-darned boot. Have been in it now for 4 weeks. Have another 2+ to go before I see the doctor again. I am, however, getting cold laser treatments to the area (from my chiropractor), which increases blood flow and, supposedly, helps cell growth (scar tissue, really) to grow/heal the plantar fascia. And I’ve only had 2 treatments so far and I swear, I can tell a slight difference. I was able to walk into the regular grocery store this morning and I did 3 aisles, came home and my foot doesn’t hurt like it did just 2 weeks ago when I tried that. So, I’m hoping that means it’s on the path to recovery!

My grief journey: it’s hard to say exactly where/how I am. I still, this being said at 10-months since my darling DH’s death, have rough days. I’m sure it’s not unusual. Most of my friends aren’t aware that I have bad days. They usually occur when I’m at home, on a day when I don’t have much planned. That’s when I miss Dave the most. That’s when I think about him more. When the house feels too big for me, and it’s too quiet. Memories come pouring in, and the tears flow out. Of when I’d see his smiling face as I came and went to my day’s activities. I miss him at our bible study group, when he’d make some very thoughtful comments. I miss him when dinnertime comes around, because I eat alone. And of course I miss his hugs and kisses. That goes without saying. I still haven’t been able to set the dining room table with 2 place settings and eat my dinner meal there without him. I want to, but can’t. I know he understands why. I miss him every night as I get into bed. But I try very hard not to dwell on it at that time because I don’t like crying myself to sleep. I get all choked up and it takes awhile for my sinuses to clear out so I can sleep. When I say my nighttime prayers I usually ask God to tell Dave I love him. Probably sounds kind of silly, but it comforts me. I know God answers prayers, so I hope he does that for me. Or sometimes, in my prayers I just speak the words in my head, directly to Dave, telling him I love him and miss him so much.

Dave and I used to go out to dinner (to nicer places) at least twice a week. I don’t do that anymore, and I miss it. I haven’t screwed up my courage yet to go to a nice restaurant by myself. I’ve read about women who do it, but I haven’t yet. Most of my friends are married couples anyway. I have some widow acquaintances, but none that I’ve bonded with very much –  yet. I need to work on that.

My life is so changed, now that I’m a widow. I still have lots of activities – I don’t sit at home day after day in a stupor – far from it. I’m busy. Almost too busy sometimes. And I wonder if I’m just masking my grief by staying too busy. Don’t know the answer to that. I suppose only a grief counselor could tell me. But nearly every widow I talk with tells me she’s managed her grief by keeping busy. Some widows have told me, just recently, that their 2nd year was harder than the first year. I still feel very married. Dave’s just not here. But he’s still my husband – in my mind. In the eyes of God and of the law I’m not married. Hard for me to accept, emotionally.

There’s still a lot of paperwork, meetings, trust tax returns, attorney visits, etc. regarding Dave’s and my trust. Nothing bad, just time consuming and it keeps dragging on and on. New bank accounts, closing old ones, etc.

My life is just different. I live solo. Nobody really cares where I am, that I’ll be home at 2:00, or greets me. No one really cares what I do with my time. I don’t feel like I accomplish very much anymore – my life doesn’t have the meaning it used to.  (I do have things I do – I sing in the choir, am in two bible study groups, I’m doing ministry in several areas, I’m in several organizations, have 3 book clubs I’m in, occasional lunches out with girlfriends.) I don’t think I’m depressed – I have days when I’m down – but most days I’m okay. Writing this, though, brings tears to my eyes because my emotions are right on my sleeve. My kids think I should get a dog or cat. I don’t think I should have a dog because I can’t walk much right now. A cat might be okay, but I’m taking some trips in coming months, and it would be a disservice to a new cat to get acquainted and then leave for awhile. I’m taking a trip to Europe with friends. Not for awhile – later this spring. My San Diego granddaughter is keeping her eye out for a rescue cat for me. I have a particular breed in mind (a Snowshoe) that’s spayed and de-clawed already. It would be an indoor cat completely. I live in an area not suitable for outdoor cats (way too many coyotes). I’d probably prefer a dog, but I’d have to drive the dog somewhere to take a walk (no sidewalks or areas suitable for walking where I live, a narrow 2-lane street that doesn’t even have curbs).

Which brings me to my mobility. I can walk, and I do. I’m able to go to and from places, short distances, and I spread my activities out over the course of the day (that’s what the dr. advised). But I can’t walk around a block even – that’s too much for now. I can drive with no difficulty (injury is to my left foot) thankfully. But I’m severely limited in how much distance walking I can do. I can’t go to a mall and visit 2-3 stores. I need someone to drop me off close to door so I don’t have to walk very far for anything. In a month, I hope I’ll be walking again, more normally, without the boot. I hope. I pray. If you’re a praying person, I ask for prayers for the healing of my foot.

Cooking? Well, there’s not a whole lot I do. That I can do. Simple meals I can manage. Standing up at my kitchen counter is the most painful thing I do, along with standing up in church to sing in the choir. After about 5 minutes of standing I can begin to feel an ache in my foot. So I spread out the dinner prep a little bit if I can, with a few sit-downs in between prep and cooking. I got a craving the other day for some sweet and sour cabbage. When I found the recipe some years ago that I’ve posted already (link up in first line) I’ve stuck with it. I like it. Just the right amount of sweet and tart. All I did this time was chunk-up some bratwurst (happened to be beer brats) in it during the last 5 minutes of the cabbage cooking time, and that was dinner. It was very satisfying. I had dinner out the other night with my friend Linda in San Diego, and I ordered an appetizer portion of mac ‘n cheese. And wings. That was dinner. Both things I rarely order, but oh, did they taste good. All comfort food for sure.

As I’m writing this I’m going to a new cooking class with my friend Cherrie tonight, so hopefully I’ll have some recipes to share from that class. I have posts that go out about 3 more weeks. I’ve managed to keep posting every 4 days or so. I still don’t know how long I’ll continue – I just take it one day at a time. Writing, I know, is therapeutic for me. Especially this post.

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  1. Toffeeapple

    said on January 31st, 2015:

    Whilst I can’t pray for you, I do wish you all that you want and need. Thinking about you frequently and sending hugs. xx

  2. Cynthia

    said on February 1st, 2015:

    I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. May God bless you.

    Thank you, Cynthia. I don’t talk about my grief journey very often, but people who have been reading my blog for awhile, I think, want to know. . . carolyn t

  3. Connie

    said on February 2nd, 2015:

    When I read your “grief journal”, I wonder if we are twins who were separated at birth. So many of your comments reflect my life. I am 2 years and 4 months into my journey. We were married 49 years. I grieve not only for John but, the older I get, I grieve also for …how to say it…the youth and years we had together raising our family. The comment that struck closest to home with me was the one about not eating out anymore. There are so many places I think about going but don’t because I don’t seem to “fit” with either the married couples or the other widows. I keep busy but it doesn’t fill the loneliness. Oh well…. Keep on keeping on.

    Thank you, Connie. I’m sure our journeys in grief are no dissimilar. It’s just a different chapter of life, I suppose. Not a very fun one, for sure. Thank you for commenting, and keep in touch. You can email me directly if you want to – email address is on my contact page. . . .carolyn t

  4. janet

    said on February 6th, 2015:

    Hang in there Carolyn. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Janet

    Thank you, Janet. . . . carolyn

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