Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A satisfying day

Have you ever been afraid to do something that you know is probably easy to do,  and that you know is really, really stupid to be nervous about?  Does everyone have these silly little fears, or is it just me?  I have worked with poor little nursing students (a generally abused and terrified group) who were actually trembling as they were about to hang an antibiotic under my watchful eye.  “Let’s stop a minute here and think,” I would say.  “You’re nervous about hanging this antibiotic, and I know these things are scary the first time. But what really could go wrong?  We know we have the right patient, the right medication, and we know that she is not allergic to it.  What could be a problem, other than spilling the whole thing on the floor?  If that happened we would just order another bag.”  They would realize that all would be okay, and would proceed fearlessly until the next task, when terror would overtake them again.  They were operating within reason, however.  One reads so much about what goes wrong with medication delivery in hospitals, and the students have fear drilled into them in nursing school, with teachers constantly telling them how easy it would be to harm a patient. 
So I am not talking about reasonable fears, or even things like acrophobia, which seems to me to be an innate inherited flaw.  I can blame my mother for that one.  She and I share a sickening terror of heights.  No, I mean really dumb things – like putting new ink in your printer.  For years, Rebecca was in charge of all things technological, and she took care of this job, while I was lost in admiration for her mechanical skills.  After she moved, she still would do it for me, but finally decided that I needed to be more independent and do it myself.  So what was the problem?   How can I say?  I just really, really, really didn’t want to do it.  Rachael said she would do it, but then we had to rush off somewhere and she didn’t get it done.  Ana said she would do it, but we forgot.  Rebecca refused absolutely.  She said, “Just look at the instruction booklet.  That’s what I did.”  The implication was there - “What’s the big deal, you dodo?”  However I had visions of secretaries at my job making some little slip while trying to replace the toner on the copy machine, and ink dust everywhere.  Stat calls to housekeeping, engineering, and earnest discussion as to whether to call an emergency chemical spill.  And this more than once! 
Well, it looked like no one was going to do it for me, so several weeks ago, I got out the ink and the instruction booklet, stared at them, but was paralyzed by inward doubts (and pictures of ink dust everywhere.)  I just could not bring myself to do it.  I got everything out several more times, but sine success.  Finally, today, I thought that I had accomplished absolutely nothing in the last few days, and had better do something.  So once again, very determined, I got it all out again.  I convinced myself that printer ink and copier ink were very different.  I read and reread the directions, and thought about the worst thing that could happen.  Not much really, except ruining the ink and having to buy new. So…..  Voila!   Triumph!  And it was so easy!  What a silly I can be.  But I am happy now that I can print again.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A fun, somewhat gluttonous day

Our wonderful friend Martha and her husband Joe invited Rachael and me to the MacKenzie family Christmas dinner.  Getting there was a trifle traumatic, but fortunately Rachael, with her handy telephone GPS, was a little Sacagawea, and was able to safely guide us there through the raging storm and the mysterious and scary freeway exits.  And when we arrived, intact, what a treat awaited us!  Everything Martha does is fabulous, especially if it involves food.  I felt as though I already knew most of her six children and grandchildren, as I had seen pictures, heard stories, and met some of them briefly at church, but I had never really, really met them.  Actually chatting with them was a delight.  What a diverse, interesting, and fun group they are.  And I met her grandson Ian, author (along with his dad) of Tone Out, a very funny web comic.  Warning –  it’s R rated, perhaps even actually X rated.  Not for the squeamish!  Ian is, after all, a fifteen year old boy.  You know what they are.
In the G rated arena, Martha has lots of angels and several crèches, including this biggish one.  But not as excessive a number, as some folks Maureen Dowd knows.  
Joe showed me his new camera - a cute little red one with lots of clever features.  Now I have severe camera envy!
And now also, after all that great food, I am full as a tick, and am hoping that I don’t get a rude shock when I step on the scale in the morning.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A very fun evening

This has been a monstrously busy week – all busy with fun things.  I tease my aunt about her rich, full social life, but I have enjoyed the same lately.  On Monday, I visited Samos’s fabulous house.  It is becoming a work of art, as is his garden.  The light was poor, so no good pictures, except of a bit of Christmas décor.  Then, a games evening with The Twins.  We had a lovely dinner with a delectable salad, delicious lasagna, and some delightful cookies.  Our game du jour was Scrabble, which, as faithful readers know, I hate.  But I only hate it if we keep score, because I always lose.  Thinking up nice words is fun, but constantly losing is not.  When Rachael was wee, we played and didn’t keep score, and that was great fun.  We did keep score last evening, but I didn’t pay attention, so it was the same as not keeping score at all.  Our object was not big numbers, but fun Dickensian words.   I was thrilled to be able to put down Smee.  (Click here for pictorial evidence.)  Maria instantly said, “That is not a Dickens word.”  I said, yes it was, I was sure.  It was from Nicholas Nickleby. Corinna agreed with me, and we both agreed that it was the “poor beat up boy.”  We did develop slight doubts, however, as Maria was so certain.   Maria instantly whipped out her miraculous telephone, and informed us that the poor beat up boy was Smike and that Smee was a pirate in Peter Pan.  The astonishing thing about this, is that she also found that Winona Ryder, playing Jo in Little Women, looking through a window at Laurie, said, “He looks just like Smee, from Nicholas Nickleby.”  So I was not alone in my error.  A very odd coincidence. 

Here are bits of Christmas décor from both visits – a lovely new crèche, (the Wise Men are on their way, and are still off on the other side of the room) and a funny tree ornament.  I bet you can guess which was whose. 

P.S.  I lost grandly at Scrabble, but enjoyed it enormously anyway. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

A proud day

Wow!  I spent nearly eight hours in church yesterday!  That may sound terribly pius, but it wasn’t really, as most of the time was more musical than prayerful.  But don't worry, there were some prayerful moments too.  Rachael and I arrived at nine for choir practice, then sang at the ten o’clock Mass, then had more practice for Christmas Eve.  Then home for a little rest – actually, for a little housework – then back at four for more practice - this time for the Schola part of the Christmas Eve Carol Service, then singing at the five-thirty Mass, then the big event of the day - the Lessons and Carols service in the evening.   This is one of my favorite services of the year, and I have several friends who will agree that it is truly the most wonderful - simple, direct, straight to the heart.  The amazing St. James children’s choirs sound like little celestial beings as they sung carols from all over the world.  These are interspersed with marvelous Christmas readings from the gospels, and carols for everyone to sing.  The finale is Silent Night, first sung by the kiddies in German as the lights dim and candles are lit throughout the cathedral.  It seems so solemn, mystical, and wonderfully moving.

The real thrill, however, was little Rachael singing a part in a trio – “Once in David’s Royal City.”  I wondered if I would be able to hear her well from my perch half a block away, but she sounded like a little cello – bright, clear, and beautiful.  My heart went pitter-pat with grandmotherly pride.  In the picture, you can see a little blur of her on the altar, singing away. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A fun day

Every year Samos and I go last-minute Christmas shopping in the Pike Place Market.  This year we deviated a bit from our custom by not waiting till quite the last minute.  The weather has been horrid, and I was worried that our trip might need to be postponed.  But the day was perfect.  Actually, I think that Samos did not find it quite as perfect as I did, because he generally likes things a bit warmer than I do.  On our way, we took a walk along Lake Union, and saw this sunken house boat, guarded by a fierce dog.  He seemed to resent us even looking at it.  Or maybe he didn’t care about the houseboat, but resented us looking at him.  In any case, he was a grumpy fellow.

On the other extreme, grumpiness-wise, were the jolly ladies in the Bavarian Meat Market.  Knowing that Germans have the handle on all things Christmas, we stopped in to look about.  I got some lebkuchen and chocolates to put in my Christmas stocking.  The ladies offered us a free wienie, but I had to say “No, thank you.”  When I told them I was a vegetarian, they seemed a little shocked.  Despite this being a meat store, there are always wonderful non-meat things to look at and to taste. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A scary evening

Vampires seem to be très chic these days.  I have not succumbed to the mania for these delightfully sanguinary creatures, but I have, on the other hand, succumbed to a desire – not for blood- but to simply to reread some of my favorite 19th century novels.  One of these is Bram Stoker's Dracula. The edition I have is pretty old and a little funky, as you can see from the cover illustration.  I bought it new, and the flap says that it cost 60¢, which will give you an idea of how long I have had it.  
I love scary books, and this is one of the creepiest and scariest.  I don’t like violence – just scary by atmosphere and innuendo.  And I like them best if I am reading then in the perfect environment.  When I was married, it was not as fun to read a frightening novel if my husband was snoozing next to me, ready to save me from any danger which might be lurking between the pages, so I saved my scary books for the nights he was out.  Then I would set up everything – Rebecca tucked in bed, lights off all over the house,  phone turned off, and so on, so that I could delightfully terrify myself.  It doesn’t take much.  I recall reading a Mary Roberts Rinehart novel – very tame by today’s standards – and having to go around checking the locks on all the doors, turning on all the lights back on, and enticing Rebecca and Bobby, the dog (who was not normally allowed on furniture), into the bed with me.   This was not hard to do, and the Bobby and I agreed not to tell Dennis about it when he returned home.

Last evening when I left work at nearly midnight, the weather was lovely.  It was fairly warm and there was a little drizzle, but not enough drizzle to actually get one wet.  I was anxious to get home, to bed, and back to Dracula.  I read a few pages, and got to the bit where Johnathan Harker, imprisoned in Dracula’s castle, woke up to find three very pale, very beautiful women with “great dark eyes, that seemed almost red, brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips”  drooling over him, and arguing as to which one of them got to have the first go at him.  I nearly jumped out of my skin.  Just then, the heavens opened, a torrent of wind and rain came crashing down, whipping the tree branches about, and clattering against my window.  Perfect!  Now in the light of day, those three ladies seem a little silly, but I am sure that when I get home from work tonight, they will not, and I will have another opportunity to terrify myself into an ecstasy of fear and trembling.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A teary day

When Rebecca was little, every Friday evening we went to a movie at the Little Theater at my college.  These Friday films were always very good, were usually old, and were appropriate for all ages.  There was another movie series on Tuesdays.   Those movies were usually good, sometimes old, sometimes not so old, but seldom appropriate for most ages.  Rebecca stayed home with her daddy  for the Tuesday films.  One Tuesday evening, they showed Repulsion – beyond a doubt the scariest movie I have ever seen.  In fact,  about 15 minutes into the film, I couldn’t stand it, and told the two I had come with that I had to leave.  It was just too awful.  They said Okay, and that they would come along later.  I left the theater, and when I came out in the hall, two other friends – the ones in charge of the series – were standing by their makeshift box office (a card table) chatting.  I was so jangled by the movie, and so startled by them, that I screamed.  They were very pleased, and felt that the movie was a success if it had such an effect.  I might add, that at the point at which I left, absolutely nothing violent had happened.  Roman Polanski is such a genius, and had created such a menacing atmosphere – all in the disintegrating psyche of the Catherine Deneuve character.  It was much more effective than the usual blood and gore of most scary movies.  I chatted with them for a bit, and after a few minutes, one of my companions emerged, trembling.  She couldn’t stand it either.   Later, the third of our party, a fellow who was visiting Dennis, came home and told us he had left also.  A tale of three wimps. 

Our movie last evening, however, was the polar opposite of Repulsion, and was Friday evening family fare to the core.  After watching David Copperfield, Ana and I were inspired to watch more Freddie Bartholomew.  I remembered Captains Courageous from the Friday evening series.  I didn’t remember much about it, except that I liked it very much and that it was a real tear jerker.  We got the movie from the library, and it was indeed wonderful.  And indeed, it required at least three hankies.   It was, in fact, the best movie I have seen in a long while.  It had a young Spencer Tracy, old Lionel Barrymore, and teen-aged Mickey Rooney (not one of my favorites, I must confess.)  Loosely based on the Rudyard Kipling novel, there was much of The Secret Garden about it.  Freddie plays an obnoxious, spoiled rich kid, who, on an ocean voyage with his father, is swept overboard and picked up by Portuguese fisherman Spencer Tracy.  Aboard the fishing schooner, he learns to be a mensch.  More, I won’t say.  I will let you watch it and find out for yourself.  It was really, really wonderful. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Greasy Day

Gosh!  It has been a week since I chatted with you!  And a very busy week at that.   The big event was the installation of our new Archbishop!  A signal event in the life of St. James, the life of Seattle, and the life of me.  My other busyness was less monumental.  Mostly working on Christmas presents.
I took a break from all this hurry and scurry for a movie evening with Ana, and we made a delicious risotto using most of the rogue vegetables in the refrigerator, including butternut squash and beet greens – an unusual, but successful combination.  As I said, it was delightful to eat, but for the second time in my cooking risotto in the pressure cooker career, the bottom of it burned.  Fortunately, both times, we were able to serve it very cautiously, taking care not to scrape any of the burnt bits off the bottom of the pan.  The first time it happened, the pan would not come to pressure, and so was on the stove too long.  I can’t imagine what went wrong this time.  Everything seemed to go normally, and I was shocked when I opened the cooker.  The bottom was hard and black!  The risotto itself was wonderful, and we had a movie to watch – Pillow Talk with Doris and Rock – a very fun movie, so I just slipped into denial, poured some water into the pan, and left it to soak till the next day.  When I attacked it the next morning, the scorched rice was hard as a rock and was immune to any efforts I made.  I knew that Rebecca had conquered this problem in the past, but she was not available for advice just then.  I found some internet advice, which was helpful, but not completely efficacious.  No problem, the article had untruthfully said. Baking soda soaks would soften the impervious mess up, and it could be wiped off.  Hah!  It was a little better, but not a lot.  So I decided to soak it another day, using a higher concentration of baking powder.   On day three, I was balefully looking at my dear pan, when my dear girl showed up.  “No problem,” she truthfully said.  “Elbow grease is the only answer.”  And she went to work.  She used baking soda, a bit of vinegar, some Barkeeper’s Friend, and a lot of elbow grease.   Within minutes she had it sparkling – relatively sparkling at any rate.   Once again, I felt so thankful for having such a great daughter.

Here is a mystic photo of the pan and the cleaning aids.  This illustrates the mystic powers of Rebecca.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A birthday!

Happy 39th Birthday, Dakki!  For the 47th time!


Rebecca prepared a phenomenal vegan feast - all super delicious, although the vegan ice cream and non-vegan frozen yogurt did not seem to be such great hits, to judge by the leftovers on the dirty dishes after.