Bottoms Up

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Well I SUPPOSE it’s about time for a REAL post.  Said the pre-retiring mess-making cartoon-drawing officially old lady trying to make sense of this new not-classic mode of creation on Word Press.

So just ignore that, I’m not here to complain about insignificant things, because what I really want to talk about is my signature beverage.  It was a WP prompt awhile ago that made me laugh, because, really, who do we think we are, famous people with images or something?  And without even knowing me all that well you might suspect my drink du jour would be a tall glass of red wine (good guess) but it wasn’t always so.

It used to be chocolate milk.  I thought I would never outgrow it, and maybe I still haven’t completely, because that stuff is good.  Not the kind you mix with a powdered concoction into actual milk, but the kind you buy in little brown bottles or cartons which may or may not contain any real milk.  Smooth and thick and chocolate-y with coma inducing amounts of sugar.  This was such a rare treat when I was a kid that whenever we ate out (another once in a blue moon treat) that’s what I would order to drink.  Who cares about the food.  Chocolate milk goes with absolutely everything.

Then when I was a teenager trying to put chocolate behind me, Coca Cola was the next best thing.  Until it became cool to prefer Pepsi although if you did a blind taste test you’d probably have to cheat if you really wanted people to think you could tell the difference.

In my twenties and beyond, when I became extremely world-weary and sophisticated, my go-to beverage was a Harvey Wallbanger.  Because what could possibly be more sophisticated than that.  Not cheap draft beer, that’s for sure, although I admit I drank my fair share of that too, depending entirely on the money situation of the moment.   Vodka, orange juice, Galliano, a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry.  And lots of ice.  Umbrella purely optional.  But a nice touch.

W is the one who got me drinking amber rum.  Probably because the umbrellas were an embarrassment for him.  And it had to be with real Pepsi, no substitutions.  And a twist of lemon or lime.  I’m the one who switched myself to spiced rum.  He hates it.  All the more for me then.

Raising children changes everything of course, and drinking something like coffee to keep yourself alert replaces drinking anything that might cause you to pass out and miss seeing whatever it is they’re up to now.  And coffee seems harmless enough until you clue in to how addicted you are to it.  Even then, it’s not easy to give it up.  Mostly because you can’t possibly convince yourself that there’s any good reason to do so.  And besides, you spent a lot of money on that stupid Tassimo.

But pop and diet pop are SO incredibly bad for you.  I’ve had enough of them to last several life times and now I’m ready to quit.  Wine seems like a viable alternative.  I used to like white, but not much.  Then my daughter started raving about Malbec and I’ve been hopelessly hooked ever since.  It’s like store-bought chocolate milk for adults.  Plus you look way more worldly and refined sipping on something that’s not in a plastic cup or a travel mug, right?

Well I hope so.  I have a friend who won’t drink red wine because it makes her teeth and lips red.  I say, who cares?  I also say, drink whatever you want, teeth and lips be damned.  That’s the first time I’ve ever said that really, and probably the last time now that I look at it critically and while completely sober.

Damn, I should have said water.  We should ALL be saying water.  And being thankful that we have access to the clean and drinkable kind. That would be commendable, but also boring.  So red wine it is.  Until I’m at the stage in my life where they switch me to Metamucil through a plastic bendy straw.  May the wine preserve me until then.

Work Should Not Be Such Hard Work

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I have all but officially given my notice of intent to retire from the workforce on the last day of September.  Of this year!  Like in about 42 days.  Just have to put it in writing and hand it in and try not to look too ecstatically happy in that moment.

It’s time.  I can’t remember the last time I was enthusiastic about my job, or truly happy to be doing it.  Situations don’t suddenly become horrible, but deteriorate gradually with ups and downs until the downs tip the balance and you just accept that as normal.  It’s not enough when a pay cheque is your only source of inspiration and joy.  And the job itself is slowly sucking the life out of you.

Okay, where did that come from?  Time to make my escape before I kill somebody, by the sounds of that.  Plus I’m very old.  Cranky old ladies eventually get cranky enough to call it quits.  And the world should probably thank them for that.

In anticipation of being home all day with nothing to do, I have made a start at setting up a place to create fabulous works of art.  This little section of the L-shaped living room was originally used as a dining area by the previous owners.  It’s too small for that.  The last thing it became was a place where W had his favourite chair and footstool and could read his paper and fall asleep.  I figure he can do that anywhere, so I moved him across the room.  This spot will have great natural light when I get around to opening the blinds.

Those little white drawers are chock full of unfinished projects.  I have three times as much stuff elsewhere throughout the house waiting to be assessed and organized and resurrected or chucked out.  W found my old easel in the rafters in the garage.  I picked up a few new art supplies.  I had forgotten how much I love a blank canvas.

Obviously I will need a chair, and something to protect the floor, and it will never look this clean and tidy EVER again once I get started.  I’m good at folk art and not terrible with acrylics, but I’d like to take classes in watercolor, and try encaustic painting (painting with hot wax.)  And mixed media where anything goes.  And then of course there’s writing about all the disasters later, and sharing a brilliant moment or two.  Hopefully at least two.

This week is a hard one at work because we’re down to a skeleton staff with the manager on holidays and no one to hire and our part-time people quitting and going back to school.  Inventory coming up.  And me in the middle of it all, having a difficult time giving a crap about anything.  It’s lovely to know it won’t be long before I can walk away.  And never come back.  Take a new path to a different destination.

Remember what it’s like to really love what I do and who I am.

The Bean Rules

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Whenever someone sent me a text message to ask me what I was doing in the last two weeks when we were on holidays, my answer was pretty much always “beans”.  My sister is a slave driver.  And she has a lot of beans.  Remind me next time I decide to go visit her to try a different time of year, would you?

I didn’t have to go out to the garden to pick anything, though.  She and my brother-in-law did all the picking.  My grandchildren were thrilled to help with that sporadically too, although they’d never make any money at it since most of what they picked they also promptly ate.  Peas and cherry tomatoes were a big hit.  Cucumbers.  Giant zucchini.  Almost makes me want to get back into gardening.  Ha.  No it doesn’t.

But anyway, back to the beans.  There were green ones and yellow ones in buckets and bowls, delicious at every meal, but what do you do with the overflow?  I’m glad you asked.  It’s a complicated process.  There are rules.

The beans have to be sorted, putting all the straight ones in one bowl and all the crooked ones in another.  I thought they were kidding at first too.  But nope.  The crooked ones need the tops and bottoms cut off, and then they can be cut in half if they’re short and in thirds if they’re long.  They have to be washed.  Then they are blanched in boiling water, dumped into cold water to cool, and then drained and packed into plastic bags for freezing.  But wait!  Don’t seal the bags until you’ve poured in a cup or so of the water they were boiled in.  This gives them more flavour.  No one wants a bean that tastes like cardboard.  I found out the hard way that these bags are tippy, and if they fall over, all that precious juice flows across the counter.  Some cold day this winter when they cook up that bag of beans they will know who to blame for their tastelessness.  (Sorry).

The straight beans are destined for greatness.  If you have never had a dill bean in your Caesar, you have no idea what you’re missing.  The tops and bottoms are left on these.  They are also washed and blanched and popped into cold water to cool.  Then the real fun begins.  The beans have to be right side up. (Apparently it makes them easier to pull out of the jar later.) They must be painstakingly packed into sterilized mason jars containing a clove of garlic and some dill weed.  The beans have to remain straight, and the jar has to be full.  The whole time I was helping with this job I was trying to think of an easier way to do it.  Like buying some dill beans from a store, for instance.  If you use the flat side of a knife you can pack the beans in even tighter.  It’s practically an art.  I had no idea.

Finally, a mixture of bean water and vinegar is poured into each jar and they’re sealed. Something else I learned – when you open up a jar of these to put them on a vegetable tray, half of them will disappear before dinner.  I don’t know if this is also a rule, but I’ve seen it happen more than once.

My sister doesn’t even like dill, or dill pickled anything, but every summer she does this labor of love for the rest of the family who do.  Ever since I came home I’ve been toying with the idea of going to a farmers market, buying some yellow beans (do you suppose they’d be willing to sort out all the straight ones for me?) and doing up a jar or two.  But then I think it must be the heat making me think this way, and really, that’s a lot of Caesars to get through.  Plus I hate rules.

Nothing is a Lucky Seven Letter Word

Yes, it's a picture of a painting.  Should I blow it up and frame it??

Yes, it’s a picture of a painting. Should I blow it up and frame it??

Yesterday I sat in the waiting room at the specialists office for my follow-up appointment concerning the results of the needle biopsy I had done over two weeks ago.  Our holiday in Ontario was wonderful, by the way.  I forgot a hundred times that all this was hanging over my head.  The time flew by.  Time waiting in a doctor’s office does not fly.  There were eons of it to look around at all the other people there facing their own worries and battles and challenges.  I’m not so special after all.  Just another patient to be diagnosed and treated.

And it turns out I’m okay.  There is no cancer, there is no lymphoma.  Just inflammation from an infection that never cleared.  Who knows where or why.  Today I start on a course of heavy-duty antibiotics for a month, and return on the 22nd of September to have it all reassessed.  The biopsy found nothing.  “Nothing” never sounded so good.

You don’t realize how much something is weighing on you until it’s lifted and set aside.  The relief is huge.  I feel like my life has been given back to me.  I know that’s way over the top for drama considering the circumstances, because I would have dealt with a different outcome too, one way or another.

And then this turns out to be the same day Robin Williams decides to end his life.  I just don’t get it.  We look after the physical body so well, but our mental, emotional and spiritual healing practices need a lot of work.  All I know for sure is that no matter how difficult this life might get, I still want to live it.

But maybe that’s because the degree of difficulty has never overwhelmed me.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be to battle depression every day of your life.

So are we back to normal here yet?  Picking out all the funny little things in life that make us happy?  Annoying the hell out of people who have REAL problems?

Yes we are.

Getting It Over With

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In the middle of the night I woke up obsessing about something I do all the time.  I just want to get things over with.  Mostly bad, unpleasant things, but often simple ordinary ones too that aren’t horrible at all, until I make them dreadful by wishing them away.  Like the last two hours of a work shift.  The time spent on a plane.  A road trip across the country which has me wanting to whine like a little kid – “Are we there yet??”  Waiting to do something or be somewhere or be totally finished with something.  I’m not always very good at enjoying the journey.

This wasn’t a dream, because I was awake, tossing around,  trying to find a comfortable sleeping position.  I imagined myself way back before my life began, in another dimension, with a group of old souls about to embark on our next life adventure.  There was excitement, anticipation, high hopes, elation.  And me, saying, okay, I’m ready, let’s just get this over with.

Well, I don’t think I can be held totally accountable for the all the weird things my brain comes up with at three a.m.

This morning I drove in to the city to the clinic where my needle biopsy was booked.  I made a conscious effort to enjoy the drive through Old Strathcona.  Rush hour was over, the sun was shining, I hit lots of green lights.  Found a parking spot on P3, took the parking lot elevator to the main floor, walked to the patient elevators and zipped up to the second floor of the clinic.  Checked myself in and was told the doctor was running behind.  Cheerily said, hey, that’s okay, and sat down to wait.

And wait, and wait, and wait.  There was a television blatting away behind my head, so I moved to the front of the room to get away from it.  Many different nurses called the names of many different patients for many different doctors.  None of them were me.  They called for Amelia, and got no response.  Same thing with Audrey.  After that, every five minutes someone called for either Audrey or Amelia.  Finally Amelia sauntered in from God Knows Where.  And eventually Audrey and her husband showed up too.  Amelia didn’t take long to be seen, but Audrey took for flaming ever.  I began to blame Audrey for making my doctor get so far behind.  I imagined giving Audrey a little lecture on the importance of not leaving the waiting room. I wondered why Audrey was so damned special and didn’t lose her place in line.  I wondered if I could get away with leaving the waiting room to grab a coffee.  Stupid annoying Audrey did it.  I imagined my file had been misplaced and everyone had forgotten all about me.  What the hell were they doing to Audrey, anyway?  Amputating her legs?

Eventually Audrey returned with a huge cast on her arm.  I decided I shouldn’t hate her anymore.  Because obviously we weren’t seeing the same guy.  Finally, my name was called (two hours and many magazines later) and I was led down a three-mile long corridor to a little room where two medical students and a doctor introduced themselves to me and asked me lots of questions, gave me lots of information and asked me to read and sign a consent form for the procedure.  All three of them took turns poking and prodding at my neck.  ( Is there any discomfort?  Well there is now. )

I’ve had a needle biopsy before, many years ago, for my thyroid.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t horrific either.  The doctor had to do it twice to get a sufficient number of cells.  So when the first student was wielding the needle with the doctor hovering over her shoulder giving her instructions and they decided it should be done again, I wasn’t really surprised.  The second student was more aggressive and less afraid to go deep, so her sample was good.  Yay.  Are we done yet?

I got a band-aid but no lollipop.  I was a good patient and helped in the training of two future medical professionals.  So good for me.  I got that over with.

Deep breaths.  Back through the clinic to the parking elevators, remembered where I left the car, paid twelve dollars to get it out of there, did some shopping in a store close to home and then after a quick lunch, crashed for a two hour nap.  All that useless hating on poor Audrey zapped a lot of energy I guess.

Tomorrow I will try yet again not to wish so hard for things to be over and done with.  It’s so pointless.  Everything ends, whether you wish for it or not.  Focus on the journey.  That’s probably how Audrey lives her life.

What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination, but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive.  (Barbara Kingsolver)

Attic Salt

Tiger Lilly patch in the backyard.

Tiger Lilly patch in the backyard.

argle-bargle   – copious but meaningless talk or writing

attic salt  – refined, incisive wit

I was considering making new categories for each of the above, but I’m afraid one would be over loaded and the other one would be empty.

Hello.  Lilly Lady here again asking a question you may never have been asked before.  Ever had a camera shoved up your nose?  I have.  So I’m putting that experience on my bucket list and crossing it off promptly before the ink dries in anticipation of never having it done again.  They called it a throat scope, which is a very misleading description.

The doctors (not sure exactly who is responsible) moved my consultation appointment to this morning so that I could talk to the specialist before I leave for Ontario.  My G.P. thought they might do a lymph node biopsy procedure in-office today, but the specialist is opting for a much simpler needle biopsy instead until he is sure what this is.  The fact that he doesn’t want to say for sure what this is seems very reassuring to me.

Next on the agenda is a return trip to the Kaye Clinic on Thursday for the needle biopsy, results in 10 to 14 days.  Then we’re off to Ontario on Saturday.  Back to the specialists office on August 11th for the follow-up.

This would be a good spot for me to insert some refined incisive wit.  Hope you can live with disappointment because I am a tad witless at the moment.  Just happy to be living in this city with such easy access to incredible medical care.  A half hour drive away from one of the two top specialists in the WORLD in their field of expertise.  Amazing.

Of course, I’m worth it, right?  They made me feel like I am.

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In lieu of wit, here’s an argle-bargle photo.  Am I secretly a farm girl at heart?  Those farm roots manifest themselves in strange ways here in the big city.  These are two animals that hang around by the tiger lilies in the back yard.  I put them out in the spring and let them fend for themselves until the snow flies.  They reward my attentive care by looking insanely cute.

Just Another Scintilating Sunday

Asiatic Lily Bouquet, forced to listen to Satelite Radio and blooming madly anyway.

Asiatic Lily Bouquet, forced to listen to Satellite Radio and blooming madly anyway.

This morning as I was overloading my blender with mad cancer fighting ingredients (I say mad because if they’re fighting they ought to be mad) I wondered if it isn’t about time for me to make my peace with the satellite radio.  Normally I don’t appreciate it’s noise, and there are some days when I hate it.  Those are the days when I want everyone in the world to just shut up.  So if you are dropping over for coffee on one of those days, God help you.  But no worries, today I’m feeling pleasant and chatty.  And I am blogging this without wearing any make up. I feel like what I have to say is more important than how my face looks.  Although if you were actually here drinking coffee with me you might beg to differ.  Anyway, I know there are people out there who blog naked, so this is hardly big news, but it’s as close to blogging naked as I’m likely to get.

Okay, back to the sat radio.  W has it on all the time.  When I come home he is smart enough to turn it down.  If he doesn’t and I get to it first, it gets turned right off.  He also tries to find channels with the highest percentage chance of me being able to tolerate them.  I do try to be tolerant.  Especially of people who dearly love background noise.  And this morning I was thinking that because there’s a lot of channels, there should be at least one or two that not only won’t make my head ache but that I might also actually enjoy. Yeah, well, it’s Sunday, the weather is nice, I’m in a good mood.  Pigs could fly.  Let’s try some music from the 1940’s.  I’m not kidding.  They had weird music back then and I don’t mind listening to that.  I picked up the remote, pressed select, and tried to remember what combination of zeros and fours would get me there.

Suddenly there was a deep growling voice doing hip hop rap.  I don’t care if there isn’t any such thing, that’s clearly what it was.  He sounded like a mad muppet monster, only less intelligent.  So not exactly what I was expecting.  Eventually I found Count Bassie, a definite improvement.  I love jazz, swing, big band and piano blues.  Although in small doses rather than large.  Maybe I was born in the wrong era.  The radio is still playing but I’m in a different room and can’t really hear it.  But, hey, it’s still turned on.

Speaking of “hey”, I had a delightful conversation with a little boy at work yesterday.  He was about three, with ears that he hasn’t quite grown into.  He walked right up beside me in our lab.

Him:  HEY!

Me: Hey.

Him:  Hey!  What are you doing?

Me:  I’m cleaning a pair of glasses.

Him:  Hey!  What’s that white thing?

Me:  It’s an ultrasonic cleaner, sort of like a bath for glasses.

Him:  Hey!  That’s funny!  Haha!

Mom from the doorway:  Hey!  What are you doing?  Get out of there!

So hey, he had to leave.

Aren’t those Asiatic Lilies beautiful?  A gift from K and C last weekend.  I can’t believe how they’ve lasted.  My tiger lilies in the back yard are just starting to bloom too.  I’m surrounded by lilies and Woody Herman and Duke Ellington and the voice that says “…no destination…just 40’s and beyond!”

Sort of like this post, no real purpose, just some meandering coffee talk, keeping my typing fingers limber.  Well, I’m going to go get some more coffee, how about you? Really?  But I’ve got French Vanilla cream!  Hey, where are you going?  Come back!