Friday, October 30, 2009

Rachael and I were leaving the house at nearly the same time – I to go to work, and Rachael to go somewhere girly. She was murmuring something about a button, and I was focused on my own issues, mostly the mess of newspapers on the bench by the front door. “I’m putting things in the recycle. Do you want me to save the Sunday Style section for you?” I asked. That’s another girly thing. “It’s radical left-wing.” She firmly replied. “Huh?” I thought. “The NYT fashion section is left wing? How can that be?” I debated whether that meant she wanted to read it because she too is a radical left wing sympathizer, or not read it because she isn’t a left wing sympathizer. I was thinking that she was actually a left wing person, although not terribly radical, but in that case, she would have simply said, “Yes, save it for me.” We both went our separate ways, me still pondering this odd exchange. Later, looking at her knapsack, I realized that her new Mumia button, which she had gotten at the Anarchist Book Fair, was actually the radical left-wing thing she was talking about. Our conversation had been like one from some farce where everyone is on a different page and confusion reigns. When I later mentioned this to her, she said, “I thought you looked awfully confused about what I was saying, but I attributed it to you just getting old.” Harrumph! I’m not THAT old, I think!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A tiring day

My job runs the gamut from stultifyingly boring (very rare) to excruciatingly tense (way less rare.) I way prefer the latter. It is rewarding to recognize an impending crisis, and avert it before it happens, or deal with it before it becomes a disaster. This is gratifying in many ways. The most obvious is that one has saved someone’s life or limb. And then, there is the yummy adrenalin. One can become addicted to it. And there is the interaction with the many disciplines all working together to solve a sometimes critical problem. It is wonderful. On a less exciting, but still rewarding level, one just makes life easier for one’s patients, supports them in their concerns, pains, infections, etc., advocates for them with the sometimes less than congenial medical bureaucracy.
And then there are evenings with uninspiring little mini-crises, one after another, that just take time to deal with. Last evening when I arrived, I got report and found that I had four patients who were “due to void” at times not too distant. Great! My heart sank. I knew this would be a lousy evening. Lots of work with a real problem that sounded so plebeian to everyone except the person with the too full bladder which they were unable to empty. The first two patients had no problem going potty. The problem was getting them to the potty as frequently as they then wanted to be there. They were both hefty and had joint replacements. Plus, the aide I had this evening was from another unit and not one of the wonders we have on our unit’s staff. She was no ball of fire, and I ended up doing a lot of her work myself, which seemed easier than chasing her down. Our usual crew get everything done before one even thinks to ask them. They are a component of Nurse Heaven.
One patient just could not go, and I kept asking the physician if I should put a catheter in as she had not urinated in a loooooong time. The doctor kept saying “Let’s just wait.” We waited until it was nearly time for me to go home. I pointed out that the patient hadn’t urinated for nearly twelve hours and had almost a liter of fluid in her bladder. Great! Just when I am finally nearly ready to go. For some reason, placing a urinary catheter is something that all nursing students are eager to do and are thrilled if they get the opportunity. The summer when I was a senior nursing student, the nurses on my unit let me put in every one that needed to be done. I thought they were so generous and kind. Little did I know. This is a task that very quickly loses its charm!
There were other uninteresting problems ( which required one or more calls to the physician) with every single patient. I had no breaks and got out an hour and a half late. I was so knackered that I slept for over ten hours, and then this morning, just sat around stupefied for several more. I did finish the NYT Sunday crossword, and that was gratifying, but then I considered the time I had wasted on it (it took me quite a while as it was a hardie) and felt ungratified. Now it is dinner time and I am just coming to full consciousness. What a life! (Don’t get me wrong—I love it and wouldn’t trade with anyone!)

And the relevance of these pictures? One is fluid based, as was my evening, and the other is the cuddly thing that snuggled and comforted me when I finally got home.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A cinematic day

Have I mentioned that Ana and I have project? It won’t be a lot of work. We are planning to watch all the movies on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list. This really means 100 greatest American movies, you know, so many worthy contenders are not on the list. No Samurais, no bicycle thieves. We plan to skip the too gory ones, as neither of us is into that sort of thing. We have gotten a good start. Last week we watched The Birth of a Nation, which was unsettling, to say the least. We were both a little stunned and shattered. This week we had a fabulous triple feature with the original King Kong, which we didn’t enjoy as much as we expected to. I hadn’t seen it for about forty years, and had a rather different memory of it - way less silly. Still, Fay Wray was adorable, and worthy of any apes adoration. I expected Kong to be a more sympathetic character, as he was in the remakes, but he was really pretty creepy. We didn’t like him at all, and were relieved when he fell off the Empire State building. Then we watched The Jazz Singer, which last I saw when I was about nine. I had Al Jolson records that I listened to all the time, so I must have liked it pretty well, but I wasn’t prepared for how very much I liked it now. It was fabulous. Al Jolson was super wonderful, dancing, singing, twitching in a slightly pre-Elvis way. Our third movie was one of my all time favorites – Bringing Up Baby – which I have seem so many times that I could almost quote it as it went along. It only gets better with each viewing. I love Screwball Comedies, and BUB is the funniest of them all.
Our dinner had elements of the screwball comedy in it. We were making it during intermission between the first and second movies, and it was supposed to be a meal-in-minutes. I planned to make barley soup, and just as the barleys were hitting the onions in the pot, I realized with a sickening feeling, that they were not barley at all, but wheat berries. I ask you, what sort of dodo would keep wheat berries in an unmarked jar? I remembered that wheat berries took Hours To Cook. However in my handy pressure cooker, they only took 35 minutes which was only 20 minutes longer than the barley, so not that much of a disaster, and the results were very good, making this was a happy mistake.

Wheat Berry Soup
Olive oil
Lots of garlic, sliced (we used about ten toes)
One onion, sliced
½ cup of wheatberries
2 carrots, diced
Celery, about a cup, sliced
Mushrooms, about two cups, sliced
Parsley, ½ cup chopped
Spinach – about four cups fresh
Vegetable broth, 6 cups
Salt, pepper
Using a pressure cooker, sauté the onion in olive oil till translucent, add in the garlic and give it a few more turns. Add the wheat berries, stirring a few times more. Stir in the carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Give it a few more stirs. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook at high pressure for 35 minutes. Quick release the pressure and enjoy a hearty, lovely soup in nearly no time at all. Even Rachael, who doesn’t like soup (can you imagine!!!), liked it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A busy day

Aaaaahhh!! Ecstasy! I have been going full throttle for four days, and I am done in. How wonderful to flop into bed with a nice cup of tea! On Thursday, Rebecca had many knitting needs which had to be shopped for, and I had a few needs myself, so we spent the day going from place to place until it was time to go to the Family Kitchen, and then to choir practice. Friday I worked and it was pretty hideous. Given that I have had a long string of nice work days, this was to be expected eventually. It was definitely my turn for a bad night. Saturday we were fixing dinner for the Aunties. Early on, Auntie Pauline called to say that Auntie Dakki was in the hospital! (Not to worry – she is OK, at least that is what she says, and I hope she is right.) So we debated what to do, and decided to have just the one auntie, and ask Julie to replace Dakki. Julie felt that this was an impossible demand but she agreed to give it her best. At the crack of dawn I drove to Becca’s to pick up her and her food bundles, bags, and boxes. We brought them in and laid everything out on the table. “Oh, no!” she moaned. “I forgot the ……..!” (I didn’t take in what it was she forgot.) So we hopped in the car, went back to her house and got the missing item. A short ways into the cooking, “We have to go to the store,” she said. “I forgot the (something or other).” So off we went again. We got home, and I was writing an email to a friend about going to the library when I suddenly realized that I needed to go to the library that very day or my requests would return to circulation! So off I went. As soon as I got back with my books, to my dismay I heard, “I don’t have any chilies. I thought you would have them.” Now there is one thing she could be sure I would not have, and that is chilies. I avoid them assiduously. So we went to the store again and got the chilies, and also the cat food which I had forgotten on the previous fourteen trips to the store. By this time, our guests were nearly due. Some frantic cooking was happening even as they arrived. Then, as I was getting a big ceramic soup tureen off a high shelf, to my horror, I saw the lid go gliding, in seeming slow motion, toward the counter and heard the terrible crash. Everyone marveled that I took this disasterlet so calmly, but by this time, I was inured. Plus, I was so relieved that only the lid broke without taking five other more precious things (like for instance, the stove top) with it. After this horrific day, the dinner was delicious – it was Chinese food with hom baos and vegetarian tripe (!!!!!). Then out again into the night to pick up Dakki’s car at the hospital! (Did I mention that on one of these outings, we visited poor Dakki?) We delivered Rebecca’s things at her house, and then Julie drove us to Dakki’s car, which is so eccentric that I am afraid to drive it in the daylight, but at night….. Well – then it’s really scary. We made it home and then I drove Becca back to her house and came home and did the dishes. Many, many dishes. Are you exhausted just reading about it? I am.
Today, we went to church, sang, visited Dakki, went to the opera – La Traviata! So wonderful. Towards the end, everyone around me seemed to be having bad allergies. There were a lot of sniffles. The opera was fabulous. A wonderful end to a Very Busy Weekend. But not quite the end. Back to visit Dakki, and then finally home to bed. Just like Samuel Pepys.
You can read Rebecca’s version of the day here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A bully day

There has been quite a bit written lately about bullies. Nearly every third nursing journal has something about bullying, as frequently do the newspapers. Bullies are a hot topic. I had been thinking of bullies as greasy thug-like boys and young men who preyed on their peers in school and later at work - or more likely not at work because they didn’t have a job, being bullies and all. In other words, in my eyes, bullying seemed restricted to the “bachelor herd.” But, thanks to my recent reading, I have realized that bullying is a much more pervasive problem, and the definition of “bullying” is much broader than I had thought. And I also realized that I have been the victim of several myself, and in fact, still am. Does it count as being bullied if the victim isn’t frightened (the aim of the normal bully) but simply thinks, “What an amazing jerk! Where did his (or her) parents go wrong?” The bully thinks that his subject is cowed into submission and is in awe of the tormentor’s power, when all she wants to is to avoid an unpleasant situation - not from fear but from distaste.

Usually the bully will select someone he sees as weak and unlikely to retaliate. He often bases his selection on outward appearances – which can be deceptive. One of my sisters-in-law always seemed terribly fascinated by everything I said. Consequently, I thought she was a brilliant conversationalist. Later I realized that the cut of her eyebrows gave her that perpetually astonished look, and that I wasn’t being fascinating at all. Rebecca is a sweet little thing who looks sensitive (as indeed she is,) and as though she would not hurt a flea (which she would not), and thus has been the occasional victim. Her tormentors “misunderestimate” her (as our former leader might say), and soon find that she does not put up with much, and can turn into a wolverine when wrongly badgered. Dennis, the fellow to whom I was once married, sometimes said that I resembled a very large white mouse, creeping about. Dennis and I both really like mice and rats, and have had them for pets, so this was not as offensive as you might think. Nonetheless, I was a little offended. Later, I saw a family video, in which I was creeping about like a large white mouse, and I realized that it was all too true. Small white mice are the preferred victims for felines, and large white mice are one of the preferred victims for human bullies.

Happily, my grammar school, with the exception of a couple of the nuns, was bully free. I guess those bullies in black kept everyone else in good order. Sadly, not so in my all-girls high school. We sat in alphabetical order, so for four years, I was near a set of twins – one very nice and the other not nice at all. Unlike her delightful sister, the evil twin was mocking, sarcastic and rude, and often made my school life unpleasant. Once, during a very quiet Latin test, to my horror, I let slip a loud rude noise. Thinking quickly, I turned and looked at the evil twin with repugnance and disgust. She blushed furiously, and looked mortified and guilty. Hurrah for me! Everyone nearby looked at her, gasped, and tittered. Oddly, she didn’t later loudly proclaim her innocence. I felt somewhat vindicated. Another time, during a chemistry test, when the teacher stepped out of the room, she harassed me for an answer to one of the questions. To shut her up, I gave her an absolutely absurd answer which she believed and put down. Later, when the tests were graded, Sister Angela Marie, a master bully herself, said that she was mystified about something. About ten people who all sat in the back corner of the room, had given the oddest answer to one of the questions, and she simply could not understand where such a ridiculous answer had come from, but she suspected cheating. Hah! Wimps sometimes conquer, and although that bad twin had often made me wish that my name began with "A," I felt vindicated once again.
I currently have a couple of bullies in my life. Until I read these articles, I hadn’t really thought of them as bullies, but now I realize that that’s exactly what they are. One of them is at my job, and was particularly obnoxious on a recent evening, which is what precipitated this line of thinking today. Happily for me, I am annoyed but otherwise unaffected by them, and am amused at their pathetic attempts to delude themselves about their inadequacies by picking on someone they see as vulnerable. Actually, I am even a little sympathetic about their poor self image which must be bolstered by exerting fictitious power over others.

Pictured above is the little bully who lives at my house. She terrorizes poor Margaret! And here is Rachael, the almost always sweet one, showing you how a bully looks, so that you will recognize one the next time you see one.

A Post-birthday

I just assume that the world wants to look at these two adorable people, so here they are -- Rachael and Paul at choir practice. Since after practice, nearly every time, I am frantically rifling through my bag looking for my keys, while they are chomping at the bit to leave, they selected this cute key ring as a birthday present for me. It can’t possibly hide in the corner of my tote. And Paul says it even looks like me. Do you think so? Hmmm! Maybe it does. I must be cute then.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A conversational day

My Aunt Dakki called me up the other day, and triumphantly told me that she had read in a newspaper advice column that it was rude to take one’s knitting along and knit while visiting. “Bosh,” (or something like) was my comment. “I can visit perfectly well, and can, in fact, listen better when I have my knitting.” “I’m just telling you what the newspaper said,” she piously replied. “Harrumph!” was my response. Then yesterday, she brought me some apples which someone had given to my other aunt, who had, in turn, given them to her. They looked rather the worse for wear, and a few appeared to even have inhabitants. I decided to make her some Apple Betty. I was keeping up a flow of interesting banter as I peeled and chopped. Her replies were things like, “Hmmmmmmm,” or “Interesting……” I looked over, and this was how she was attending to my every word. Knitting rude, my foot! I pointed out to her that she wasn’t listening to a thing I said, and she agreed and went back to her article. Nervy, don’t you think? The Apple Betty was good, but a little sweet. I used the Betty Crocker recipe, but didn’t measure anything, and overdid it a bit with the sugar, I think. I had planned to put in lemon peel, but forgot all about it till it was too late. A blob or yogurt made it perfect – tanginess to counteract the somewhat overpowering sweetness. Yum!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Birthday

Today is my birthday! As usual, I wasn’t really into it, and hadn’t mentioned it to those who probably would wish to be reminded. I always wake up not into it, but generally family and friends rev me up, and by evening, if I am having dinner or party, I get pretty excited. This year, since both Rebecca and Rachael were working, I decided to hermitize at home and see if anyone remembered. My friend Samos is really into birthdays. “It’s two weeks till my birthday,” he used to tell me. “It’s eight more days. I hope you’re ready!” etc. So I was a little surprised not to hear from him. At around noon, the phone rang, and it was he. He said, “I’m coming to town. How about lunch together.” I wasn’t very hungry, but said we could go grocery shopping and get a snack. That was fine, so off we went to my favorite grocery store, where we saw these wonderful squashes. After that, we debated about where to get a snack, and decided to go to this funky little Mexican restaurant. We both had always wanted to go there, but were a little nervous about it. It is not far from my house, but in the very part of the neighborhood where, not too long ago, driving through, one always used to lock the car doors and keep an eye out for the pimps and dealers with their gats – the very scary part of town. Everything there is newish and respectable now – the pimps are gone, the dealers have moved a few blocks south, but this one restaurant remains from the bad old days. We felt a little frisson of daring. I wanted only a tiny thing to eat, and he wanted real lunch. “Who’s paying,?” I asked, knowing full well that he had paid last time. “I think it’s your turn,” he said. Had our lunches been more equal, I would have just paid. However, “It’s my birthday,” I announced. Was I not naughty? He was horrified. How could he have forgotten! Of course he would pay. He couldn’t believe he had forgotten. What luck that he had called. Yes indeed, it was good luck. I had a very pleasant outing and a nice lunch at a cute restaurant, not scary at all (except for the headless horseman pumpkin), and a fun time with a good friend.

PS Ana and Julie remembered, but those aunties - so far, at least, did not!!! I had better call and remind them or they will be upset.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A celestial day coming up

My idea of the world's most beautiful music is pretty mutable. Often it is what I am listening to, or what we are working on at choir. Generally the world’s most beautiful music is something by Bach or Mozart. Today, however, it is Duruflé’s Requiem. Every year we sing a Requiem Mass on November 2, All Souls’ Day, and most often it is Mozart. However, some years, we sing another Requiem, and this year it is Durufle, which we have not sung the for quite a while. Mozart’s Requiem is all about the ultimate victory over the terrors of death, and the magnificent triumphal march across the Great Divide into Heaven. Duruflé, on the other hand, seems to have accepted death, and realizes that it can be peaceful and lovely. His Mass setting is more about Heaven itself. Dies Irae, the most terrifying part of the Mozart’s Requiem is not even there. Duruflé is all about eternal bliss. The Gregorian chants are imbued with a new life and quiet magnificence unimaginable until you hear it. It’s like being in a cloud of celestial sound.

You can hear a snippet here, and you can participate in the whole thing at St. James Cathedral on the evening of All Souls Day.

PS: Candle photo is from the Cathedral website, and probably taken by my friend Maria.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A perfect day

There are many things which can contribute to the perfection of a day, and one of them is not having to change out of ones pajamas from morn till night. Such has been my happy situation today. Actually, the day started with a blot – the newspaper man delivered the Seattle Times rather than the New York Times. He does this occasionally, and it ruins the first part of the morning. The only thing the Seattle Times has going for it is the comics page. While it is basically news-free, it does have the NYT crossword, but I will have already worked that six weeks previously. I have to admit that I seldom have more than the vaguest memory of having done it unless it was a spectacularly clever one on which I had some fantastic insight into the solution. Even then, there is a haze which does not diminish my pleasure in doing it again.

I spent the morning knitting and listening to “Mansfield Park,” the only Jane Austen novel I have not either read or listened to in the last year. Actually, I haven’t read it for quite a few years as it is my least favorite. Fanny Price and Edmond Bertram are such a couple of prigs! Don’t you think so? But a least favorite Jane Austen is better than the most favorite of most other authors.

Then, Aunt Dakki came to visit, and I prepared this squash with corn pudding from the ever reliable 101 Cookbooks blog. I selected it because it looked tasty, not much work to fix, and just the sort of thing Dakki would like. Then I decided to make a ginger cake as well. The recipe told me that it would take an hour and a half to prepare and another hour to bake. I read through the directions, and pooh-poohed the idea. I thought, “It will take no time at all. You just mix the ingredients up, and Bob’s your uncle.” Well, that was true to some extent. However, before mixing the ingredients up, you had to line the cake pan with buttered parchment, grate up 50 grams of ginger, and that is a lot – given that the ginger is rock hard, and I am always in fear of grating off a bit of my finger. You must also chop up the dates, peel and dice the apples, and zest the lemon. Is zest a verb? Probably not, but you know what I mean. I must have a very short memory – rather like a woman, who, after giving birth, forgets the pangs and remembers only the joy of bringing forth a new life. I made this cake once before, and only remembered how good it was. Dakki was there that day as well. I recalled that she kept repeating, “I can’t believe you are doing all this work just to make a cake!” That in itself should have been a clue that the cake actually did take quite a while to assemble. Once again, she was astonished that I would go to such trouble. Since she was there cheering me on, it didn’t really seem like that much trouble, but it did indeed take close to an hour to get it all peeled, grated, and chopped. The result was worth it, as it was super delicious. No more remarks about how much chopping there was as we gobbled it up. It had the yummiest things in it – ginger, my number one food love, as well as other favorites - dates and lemons. It was tastier than it was photogenic, so instead of a picture of it, here is one of Rachael, Paul, and I at choir practice.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A squashy day

I made Squash Risotto for Ana and me to have as our pre-movie dinner. Rebecca is a great cooker of winter squash, but all too often there are bits of her finger included in our squash meal, despite the fact that we are firm vegetarians. Consequently, I was a little nervous when cutting up this squash. I frequently cook acorn squash, but it has a different physiognomy and is a little easier to deal with.
Whenever Rebecca was preparing squash, I stood by in terror, wringing my hands, as she attacked the rock hard foe. When she used her mandolin, it was even worse. I begged her to use the finger protector which the mandolin people wisely provided, but she said she was careful and didn’t need it. I was sure she was going to slice off a finger tip, and was even more frantic than when she was simply cutting up a squash. She bore my carrying on fairly stoically, but recently confessed that it really got on her nerves. Small wonder, I might add. However, not too long ago, she was chopping up vegetables for a big salad, and Rachael wanted to try slicing things with the mandolin. Becca didn’t want to let her, but Rachael insisted. Rebecca stood by, watching in horror, and remembered all the times she had been so irked at me for doing the same thing. She said she now understood all about a mother’s terror when her darling girl is in imminent danger of becoming a finger amputee.

Happily, my squash preparation went without incident and I still have ten fully intact fingers. Here is the recipe, if you would like to try it. It was super good, and very easy and quick to fix.

Squash Risotto

Olive oil – about 2 or 3 tablespoons
1 medium onion, sliced into strips
About 6 garlic toes, sliced into tiny matchsticks
1½ cup of Arborio rice
4 cups vegetarian stock (I get a powder from the Kosher section)
A pound of butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt, if needed
About 6 sage leaves, or dried if you don’t have fresh
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ to ½ cup of grated Parmesan

In your pressure cooker, sauté the onions till translucent, stir in the garlic and fry a little longer, add the rice and give it a few more stirs. Add the squash, fry for a few turns, and then add the stock. Add the pepper and the sage. Taste for saltiness, and add some if it needs it. Bring it to high pressure and cook under pressure for 5 minutes. That’s right! Risotto in 5 minutes with the mighty pressure cooker. Quick release the pressure, stir it a time or two, and give it a minute to thicken up. Sprinkle on the cheese and parsley. Yummissima!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An impoverished day

Horrors! My internet has not worked for five days!!!!! I can hardly stand it. I feel bereft! I miss my cyber-friends, something awful. Whoda thunk? Even non-internet things are impacted. I was finishing up a NYT crossword, and I realized that I would not be able to immediately see what Brian and Ryan had to say about it. That is a big part of the fun. Although they don’t know me, they are a part of my day, and there is a little blank spot without them. If you actually read this, you will know that I have gone to some dreary internet place to post it, just for you!
Becca and I went shopping today, and at Costco,I picked out two of my favorite movies (Casablanca, maybe the best movie ever made, and Meet Me in St. Louis) to buy. I always spend way too much there, and today I was trying to show restraint because I have had about three large financial setbacks – a dead tree, a friend in need, and an awful letter from the IRS demanding $700 more! All expensive, and all within about two weeks! Horrors again! So we were in line and nearly at the checkout stand when I decided that maybe I shouldn’t get the movies, and ran and put them back. As the check out man was starting, Becca reminded me to use the gift card which I had gotten from my job quite a long time ago- way last Christmas, or maybe even the one before. I kept bringing it to Costco and then forgetting to use it. Consequently, with the gift card, the total was far less than expected. She said, “That’s not much at all! You had better get your movies.” The man said, “Yes, you had better get your movies! You can get them and then come to the front of the line and I will check them out specially so you don’t have to wait.” And I did, and he did. So that was way more like a real Christmas present from Virginia Mason (my hospital) than the rasins and cheese which I would otherwise bought with it!
We also went to the Asian market with its mysterious and fascinating produce section. These vulgar looking things are some geoducks – a Northwest clam like creature, I think, and the lovely green things are some bitter melons.