It seems weird to say welcome to my blog, because in September it will be 12 years old, but it’s been a very long time since I did a bit of a reintroduction to me and my blog. I have new subscribers from Instagram, so I thought now would be a good time to fill you in on everything you need to know. I am basically an open book!
That’s me! Well, me in 2013. That is one of the few professional headshots that I have and haven’t upgraded them so I just reuse them. That was after an hour of hair and makeup too!
I am a legal secretary by day but cooking and spending time in my kitchen recipe developing is my passion. I love finding ways to lighten up recipes without sacrificing flavor. In 1999 my sister and I joined WW and in 15 months I lost 70 pounds and kept that off for years. When my husband started getting sick and my focus was on him, I slowly gained about 35 pounds back. I am still down almost 30 pounds from my highest weight – so at least I didn’t gain it all back!
Right now I am doing intermittent fasting – my brother has been doing it for a couple years. My hours of eating are basically 8 hours – so whenever I eat my first meal (usually around 12:30 p.m. and the kitchen closes at 8:30 p.m.). This has helped me not think my kitchen is a 24 hour diner while working from home.
I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999. I was on oral medication for years, but have been insulin dependent for about 10 years now. I use a Free Style Libre 24 hour system continuous glucose monitor and it has been life changing. I can now test my blood sugar 100 times a day if I want.
I’ve even done a video for the company – you can see my youtube videos here, here and here. That last video has 1.3 million views!
I am 52 years old and a widow. My husband Jeff (known as Tony on my blog) died of complications from congestive heart failure on December 2, 2014. He was 54 years old. We got married in December of 2000, so I had fourteen wonderful years with him. You can read the story about how me met here.
He first got sick in 2007. I came home from work one day and he had trouble breathing. I told him we were going to the ER and he said that he didn’t want to go to the hospital at night. We waited until the morning after he still had trouble breathing. We were in the hospital for a few days ruling out a lung infection, bad strain of the flu, etc. One afternoon we were watching a John Wayne movie in the hospital bed when they came in and did an EKG – they immediately ran into action and before I knew it they were wheeling him to the ICU.
When I got down to the ICU I was told that he needed to have an aortic heart valve replacement due to endocarditis. Overnight I had to call his parents and tell them their son was having open heart surgery the next day and decided whether he should have a pig valve replacement or mechanical valve replacement.
Tony was 46 years old. I read that pig valves would need to be replaced every 20 years, and I thought “would I want him to have open heart surgery at the age of 66?” Nope. So I chose the mechanical valve and well, his heart never beat normally again – it was like a “click click” and when we went to bed we could both hear it. His engineering background told him that mechanics fail. It took a long time for him to accept my decision on which heart valve replacement he got.
In the last 7 years of his life we would spend the equivalent of about four months in and out of the hospital. That photo above was when we were in the hospital in 2011 after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Since he was on blood thinners surgery was always risky, and we had to get his INR number at just the right number so he wouldn’t bleed to death during surgery. I think that look on his face was after the third day in a row that they said his numbers weren’t right to have his colon cancer removal surgery.
I was the “sleep whisperer.” Tony could really only sleep well if I was in the room. Luckily for most hospital stays I was working close to the hospital he was at. I would go there before work, on my lunch break, after work, repeat. It wasn’t unusual for me to cook a steak at 10:00 p.m. at night just because being in my kitchen was my stress relief. Sadly, the last few months of Tony’s life, he hated the smell of cooking, and my kitchen was officially closed.
Our favorite thing to do was hang outside grilling, me sipping wine and Tony drinking his grey goose rocks on while smoking a cigar while listening to Frank Sinatra. He LOVED maintaining the yard, and in fact I only mowed our lawn less than five times because he hated the way I mowed it. Every time I look at our yard I think “I hope Tony thinks I am doing okay keeping up with the lawn!”
On Instagram, I refer to my daughter Hannah and her husband Jacob as my roommates because they basically are. They moved in a month after my husband died in January of 2015. They saved me from grief. Not that I didn’t have a hard time after Tony died, because I did. But I had them and their two dogs to “take care of” so to speak after taking care of my husband for so long.
One question I got asked a lot after my husband died was if I would be able to stay in my house on my income. Luckily we bought a house that was small on a big lot, so my mortgage is only $397 a month – with my home owners insurance and taxes, it’s still under $750 a month. I couldn’t rent a studio apartment for that price.
Also, Tony never opened a piece of mail the whole time we were married. Even if I left on a trip without him, I would come home to a stack of mail to go through. I even prepared a document that I left on the desktop of our home computer that read IN CASE I DIE BEFORE YOU, THIS IS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW. It had all our log in information, passwords, etc., because I am pretty sure he didn’t even know the name of our mortgage company.
In October 2017 – my roommates got married! Jacob’s grandma was getting sick, and they wanted to get married before she passed away. We had an open wedding “reception” a week before the wedding at a local restaurant and they got married on Friday the 13th at our town hall. It was perfect for them! I always knew they wouldn’t have a grand wedding, or that they would just be together forever and never get married. Ironically Jacob’s grandma also died on December 2, 2017 – three years after my husband died.
Jacob and Hannah met at the bus stop in 5th grade. We moved to our town when Hannah was in 4th grade. She came home and told me no one at the bus stop talked to her. She said next year, if there was a new kid at the bus stop, she was going to become friends with that person. Turns out Jacob was the new kid the next year. They didn’t start dating until high school, and the day they met at the bus stop Jacob went home and told his Mom that he met the girl he was going to marry.
They have a wonderful relationship and compliment each other so well. I am blessed to have had these last five years with them to get to know Jacob on a much deeper level if he hadn’t lived with me all these years.
JOE AND LIZ
Joe is my step-son and his he is married to Liz. They met at age 19 and literally within months decided to move to Austin, Texas. My husband had such a hard time letting Joe go, but I love the life that Joe and Liz have created for themselves. They will be married 8 years in November already! Ironically they live only ten minutes away from my brother and his family!
I met Joe when he was 10, almost 11. This “family” photo below was taken three weeks after Tony and I met. It was at an outing my company hosted. A month later Tony moved into my two-flat. We lived at my house Monday through Friday, picked up Joe on Friday night and would spend the weekend at Tony’s house (which at the time was his parents house that was on the market after they retired to Florida).
Hannah and Joe look a bit alike that people that didn’t know would think that they were actual brother and sister. Joe was a sophomore in high school and Hannah was is 8th grade in the picture below.
MY TWIN SISTER
If you follow me on Instagram, you may be familiar with the Biz and Jenn show. My twin sister and I live an hour away from each other, but luckily work four blocks from each other so we try to meet Monday through Friday to walk around the city of Chicago, and if its too cold or the weather is shitty, then we walk the floors of Macy’s.
We have been on the Oprah show – well, in the audience. I was actually pregnant with Hannah in this video. The shirts are priceless! You can check out that video here.
She loves to cook just as much as me, in fact we started our blogs the same year – she started hers in April of 2008 and I started mine in September 2008.
She lives in the town we went to high school, in fact I don’t think she’ll ever leave that town. She is married and raising three kids – the youngest one is a senior in high school, and I feel so sad that her senior year is being basically cancelled – no prom, just online classes and no graduation. She’s an awesome student too and one of the top kids in her graduating class.
We have a brother Charlie who lives in Austin with his wife and daughters. Well, one daughter is married and lives a couple hours away.
My brother also has a blog, although life gets in the way of keeping up with it. But if you could just check out two of my favorite blog posts he did – I would appreciate it! Here is the first one, and here is the second one. He is an amazing writer and actually has two published books! Here is his first book, and here is his second – available on Amazon to download to your kindle app. The second book’s plot: “Charlie Hills has been trying to write a novel for nearly two decades without much success. Will a Stage IV diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma finally help him cross the finish line? Probably not. But the cancer subplot helps keep it interesting anyway.”
Both my brother and his wife are cancer survivors. My brother with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and my sister -in-law from breast cancer. Happy to report they are both cancer free!
MY PARENTS IN LAW
Tony’s parents are in Florida and I am glad we have continued our relationship after their son died. I haven’t visited in a few years, but once things get back to somewhat normal, I need to visit them again – love you Bonnie and Carl!
My Mom is the strongest woman I know, and because of her and the strength of all the women in my family, I was able to survive the loss of my husband as she became a widow at the age of 59 when my Dad died 20 years ago. Side note: I may cut my hair short like the one on the right! Also, standing next to my Mom is the only time I feel tall – I am 5.2. 😀
She will be 80 years old this year and is so active in her community and with her friends. It makes my heart happy to see her thrive. She never dated again after my Dad died. And I kind of think I may not either. My Dad was sick a lot towards the end of his life, so my Mom and I have walked the caretaker shoes. In fact my Mom made the biggest sacrifice because she had a trip to Thailand planned six months before Tony died and decided last minute to cancel it to be with me once we knew that Tony wasn’t long for this world. Thank you for doing that Mom, and luckily a year ago she was able to recreate that trip.
It’s not that I am not open to dating, but I had such an instant connection to Tony that I don’t know if I will ever be able to get that again. I am not telling your our marriage was perfect, far from it – but the magical thing that happens after you lose someone is all the good stuff you remember floats to the top.
So I hope this gives you a little insight to my life. Feel free to ask any questions, as I said, I am an open book!
Happy Monday – make it a great day!