Monday, August 27, 2012

Another fun day

Lotsa Laughlins

Another fun lunch date – this time with The Twins, their dad, and his wife Sandra visiting from far off Tennessee.  I had been eager to meet them for a while because I had heard so many great stories about them,  and had admired their dad's artwork.  Plus, he reminded me of Rebecca’s father ( a fellow to whom I was once married.)  They are both pretty cute guys – real charmers, in fact.  His wife, "the saintly Sandra," is wonderful too.  Today I heard stories of the arrival of the twins – Corinna the expected one, and Maria an aftershock!  That would indeed be quite a surprise – to think you were done birthing and then to see another little head or foot peeking out, anxious to make an appearance.  What a double blessing!

Lovely lunch
Then, I girded myself to return the vacuum cleaner I had purchased on Friday.  The salesclerk was one of the most annoying I have dealt with in ages and ages.  He had been so awful that he gave me a headache, and Ana, who had kindly come along for moral support, had to deal with him.  The next morning when I opened the box, it was not even the one I had purchased.  Instead, it was a horrible hideous fluorescent orange one.  I was not looking forward to another session with the clerk, but it had to be done.  I hoped it would be his day off, but no such luck.  When I returned it, he denied having the one who waited on me and had rung up the wrong one.  “It must have been someone else,” he said.  “What was wrong with it?” he wanted to know.  Well, besides being the wrong one, I hated it.  “I want one with a light on the wand,” I said.  “They don’t make them with a light on the end.”  “Why not? I asked. “They used to and it was a great feature.”  “People didn’t like it, so they stopped making them that way.”  “What’s this?”  “Oh!  It looks like a light.  I guess they do still have them.”  And this is the guy selling them.  Grrrrr.  Anyway, I exchanged the orange monstrosity, came home, vacuumed and was happy.  The Margaret and Tobias hairs had been getting awfully thick on the carpet. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Very Pleasant Day

After my mega-horrible Thursday, Friday was a lovely day.  I got up, the sun was shining (but not overdoing it,) and everything looked positive.  I finished my blackberry vinegar with no further incident, my focaccia had risen overnight exactly as it should and didn't look like this, I had an enjoyable time cooking, I was looking forward to a meal with friends, and then had a wonderful visit with them. All in all, it was an excellent day, and quite compensated for its awful predecessor. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Really Horrible Day

Think soothing thoughts, Joanna.  All will be well!

I have had a seriously horrible day.  A couple of horrible days, in fact.  I told you in a recent post about the demise of my beloved sewing machine.  Well, while I had my hand cranked one to get me by, it wasn’t really satisfactory, so Becca investigated sewing machines and ordered me a new one.  As sewing machines go these days, the new one is very basic.  Very, very basic – but nonetheless, way more complex than its predecessor, and I was suitably intimidated by its sleek lines, totally different look with arcane knobs, levers, and markings.  I stared at it periodically, but for several days, always had something more important to do than to figure out how to use it.  Finally, I forced myself to knuckle down, read the instruction booklet and then sit in front of the sewing machine, manual in my lap, and actually stitched a little something. The next day, having conquered the basics, I was working away on my tablecloth (which I have come to resent horribly – as the seeming author of many of my recent woes,) and thinking – actually thinking – that I bet Becca is afraid to sew over pins. Suddenly, as I was sewing over a pin, Snap! Bang!  The needle hit a pin, broke, and wedged the now bent pin into a little slot where pins are not meant to be. I replaced the needle, but the machine said only “whirr, whirr,” and refused to sew.  I called local service center, and the nice woman tried to help me diagnose the problem - related to feed dogs (Margaret was interested in this, but it had nothing to do with dogs or food) - over the phone, but none of her suggestions worked.  So this morning, at the crack of dawn, after minimal sleep, when I had only done a couple of clues on my crossword, and was really not at all ready to face the day, Becca and I forged our way to the sewing machine shop in far distant Ballard.  The problem was quickly solved, but I was a little undone by the journey itself, and totally done in by the time we got home.  It was Family Kitchen day, and washing hundreds of dishes, trays, pots and pans, just had no appeal.  I was planning to make blackberry vinegar, and had to do it this very day, as the blackberries were ripe and would get icky quickly.  On our journey, Becca and I had gone to two different grocery stores, and both times, I forgot to get the vinegar I needed for the recipe.  So after the Family Kitchen, I went to yet another grocery store, to buy bottles of white wine vinegar.  After standing in a humongous line with my vinegar, I reached in my pocket for my money, and realized I had left it home.  I inwardly said several bad words, and then debated what to do.  I remembered that I had a little emergency cash secreted in my car, so I got that, paid, and finally came home to prepare my blackberries.  I looked at the recipe again, and saw that it called not for white wine vinegar, but for rice vinegar, so the white wine vinegar ordeal was all for naught.  Another bad word escaped me.  Fortunately, I had rice vinegar, and so was able to do step one of my concoction.  Then, as I was having guests for lunch tomorrow, I needed to vacuum.  I did one room, and was thinking, actually thinking, “All I need now is for my vacuum cleaner to poop out!”  At that very moment, it sputtered, groaned, emitted that odious smell of burning electrical things, and died. I could not believe it.  This time, I had to actually shriek the bad words.  This made me feel a little better.  I called Becca and she pointed out that the cat hair on my dark rug was really contrasty, and my guests would be horrified.  Not really a comfort.  Oh well, I think the best thing I can do now is go to bed.  So I will.

Birds are singing somewhere!
Update next morning:  Turned off light, closed eyes, was strafed by a wretched mosquito.  Restrained bad words.  Today will definitely be better.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Nurses Day

Rebecca's Nurses Day presents are flourishing

It isn’t really Nurses Day.  That comes in April on Florence Nightingale’s birthday.  It used to be that hospitals gave their nurses some sort of gift on Nurses Day.  This would often be some really useful item like a pen on a string, to be worn around the neck so as to never be lost.  Often the pen would even have a useful advertising slogan on it – promoting the hospital.  One year, the local nurses union gave us little pen like things which squirted out hand sanitizer.  I collected two of them, and gave them to my two most OCD friends.  Both very enthusiastic hand washers, they were thrilled.  I, however, was pretty unimpressed by this largesse.  A bunch of years ago, two years in a row, Virginia Mason requested that nurses turn in inspirational stories related to their nursing experiences, and these were published in nice little book.  This was a wonderful way to celebrate nurses day, and I treasured the books.  After that, we were back to the pens on a string – but now that budget crunches are such an issue, we all get a little card telling us how valuable we are.  And that’s it.  At Rebecca’s hospital, the much smaller staff in her unit (labor and delivery,) celebrate Nurses Day in a big way.  The managers prepare a hanging plant for every one of the staff.  Rebecca had nowhere to hang hers, so she gave it to me.  I put it on my front porch, and enjoyed it all last summer.  When winter came, I put it aside and watered it sporadically, thinking it very unlikely to survive the rigors of weather, but in spring, it showed faint signs of life, so I gave it a bit more attention.  This April, she received another one, and gave that to me as well.  Now, to my surprise, the one from last year is flourishing.  They make a nice couple, and give me a little tweak of happiness every time I go in or out of my front door, or come down my inside stairs from which I can see them gracing my front porch.

I was going to share one of my stories, but I couldn’t find the little books.  This was pretty upsetting, as they are among my treasures.  I have interceded with St. Anthony, but so far he hasn’t led me to them. I don’t even really remember what my entries were about – with one exception, and I found a copy of that one in something else.  Here it is:

 Post-operative complications are a major RN concern, and we nurses have many tricks up our scrub sleeves to combat them.  This may be a new one.
One evening, as I was humming my way through my shift, the aide came to me and said, "Mrs. B in 975 wants to see you.”  I headed for her room, wondering what she could possibly want.  When I got there, Mrs. B, an adorable octogenerarian was beaming at me.  “I just want to thank you, dear.  I just had the most wonderful bowel movement.  It was your singing of “In the Garden” that did it.  That’s one of my favorite hymns.  You sang it so nicely and it relaxed me so, that I was finally able to go.”  This was a useful nursing intervention, but I don’t think the manufacturers of Milk of Magnesia need to worry. 

I recall that the next year, for the second book, I came up with something longer and more inspirational.  The Seattle Times was doing an article on Nurses Day and the booklet, and asked me if they could use my story. I naturally agreed, my story being so inspirational and all.  A few days later, I was surprised to see so many people smirking at me on my way to a meeting at work. The meeting was led by our CEO who also was smirking as he said something about “Nurse Ryan.” I was shocked to learn that the reporter didn’t care at all about my inspirational story, but had published the Milk of Magnesia one. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Sad Day

Wow!  No blog from me for quite a while!  What have I been doing?  Lots, but none of it interesting.  I have mostly been working and helping take Rachael’s poor kitty to the cat dentist.  There must have been other things, but they were so dull that I barely remember them. 

I did have Ana for a nice al fresco dinner.  That was interesting, and made clear to me that I really, really needed a new tablecloth for my outdoor table.  I had a nice yellow one, and those little devils, the squirrels ate it.  You can’t turn your back on those imps for more than a minute or they will have ruined something.

So Becca and I went to the fabric store and bought the ingredients.

With the help of Tobias, I made a pattern. 

I cut out the pieces and got set to sew.  I got half the pieces sewn together when, horror of horrors, my sewing machine, my modest friend for over fifty years – always faithful, always true, gave up the ghost.  There was a little agonal whirring, and that was it.  I called the sewing machine MD, and, after listening to the symptoms,  he said that he thought it was a hopeless case, as the part which had apparently broken was no longer made.  AAAAAAARGH!  I wanted Becca to lend me hers so I could finish my table cloth, but she was in the middle of a project herself!

I have a very old machine which I purchased in Ireland and lugged back with me.  It was faithful then, but since, I have only admired it occasionally, never actually trying to get it to sew.  I saw no reason why it shouldn’t work now, and so I hauled it out.  

It is hand cranked, so one can easily go as slow as necessary for delicate maneuvers.  

As it was locked in its case, the first challenge was finding the key.  Initially, my search was a failure!  But St. Anthony came to the rescue, and I was able to get it open. Then, it wouldn’t go at all.  I prayed this time to St. Martha – my friend in all housekeeping crises, and St Jude for desperate cases.  After invoking them, I oiled it and it struggled to life.  But would it actually sew?  That was the big question!  And the answer is yes!

It is slow going with this machine, but at least it is going, and it is kind of exciting to be using it again.  When I lived in Ireland, thirty years ago, I used it to make a wool suit and several dresses for my mother, and a suit for myself.  I am too fat for the skirt, but still wear the jacket sometimes. 

I think, however, that there will soon be a new sewing machine in my life. It won’t be able to replace the other two in my heart, but I am hoping that it will nicely replace them in my sewing room.    

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Funereal Day

After four years of procrastination on my part, finally, with the encouragement and help of my (and Tom’s) friend Dan, I managed to arrange to have Tom buried.  Today seemed like just the day for this, as it is the fourth anniversary of his death, and the feast of The Transformation, a celebration of which he was particularly fond. 

It was a lovely afternoon as we gathered at the cemetery to celebrate once again Tom’s life and some of his music.  Dan officiated with a service he had prepared - of prayers, some of Tom’s chosen readings, and his settings of the psalm and responses.

My contribution to the day was getting a bit of food together for the funeral meats.  I didn’t get underway until fairly late, and the evening turned out to be rather trying.  I planned to make focaccia - to start it, let it rise the first time, refrigerate the dough, and then get up early and finish baking it.  I did get it mixed up, and it was rising while I stirred up a batch of cookies, when I noticed that, in our unusually warm weather, it was rising much more quickly than I had anticipated.  I popped it in the refrigerator to slow the rising, and continued with my cookie making.  When I next opened the refrigerator – what a shock!  It was twice the size it had been minutes before, and like “the pot that would not stop boiling,” it looked about to take over my refrigerator. 

It's not supposed to look like this!
While I was dealing with this, I heard an uproar on my back porch.  As I went out to look, Tobias rushed past me through the door, running pell mell into the dining room, hiding under the table.  The ruckus seemed to follow him.  It was apparent that he didn’t want me to investigate more closely, but I knew he was up to no good. And I was correct.  He had caught a baby bird, and was playing with it in that horrible way that cats do.  Margaret was so thrilled by this that she had an unfortunate accident, (which I later stepped on) also on the dining room rug. By this time, it was nearly midnight, and I was getting very grumpy. What else can go wrong, I wondered.  Suddenly I heard an ominous high little chirp. A warning that a fire alarm battery is getting low, I realized.  As I was climbing up onto a chair to take the alarm down, I heard the chirp from a different alarm, and realized that I was taking down the wrong one. I stood under the other one until the chirp came again. Not this one, I thought.  It must be the one upstairs.  Those little chirps are like police sirens in that you can hear them, but often can’t tell the direction they are coming from.  Frustration.  Finally, unable to tell which alarm was chirping, I took all three down, and set them on the table, waiting for one to chirp.  Nothing!   What to do? I turned them all off and went to bed – hoping that the house would not burn down during the night. It didn’t, and in the morning, all three alarms seemed to be working well. No doubt one of them will be chirping again soon, as I am sure the fix was very temporary.  

Note Tobias being the genial host.

Note Margaret waiting for a bit of the funeral meats to drop.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Bittersweet Day

I was astonished at my reaction this morning when I saw that Irish author Maeve Binchy had died.  It was as if I had lost a sort of friend.  And a kind friend.  What was with that? I don’t think I have ever felt that way when reading of the death of an author, no matter how much I loved or admired their writing.  Maeve’s books were good, but definitely not literary masterpieces.  They were more comfort food – reassurance that ordinary nice folk pull through, and sometimes even come out on top.  Gore Vidal who also just died, was, on the other hand, actually a literary great. And I am a huge fan.  His Lincoln, one of my all time favorite novels, is a wonderful portrayal of Lincoln as a troubled and torn man, beset with turmoil  on all sides. It is a shattering depiction of that terrible time in our history.  His essays are brilliant, if a bit on the acerbic side. More than a bit, actually.  I am sure that if I were to go out to lunch with him, he would think I was stupid, and wouldn’t hesitate to let me know he thought so. 

So what’s the deal with Maeve?  I first met her (in the literary sense I mean – I never actually met her) in the 70’s, when we lived in Dublin and I read her column and that of Nell McCafferty in The Irish Times.  I adored them both. I think that when one reads a columnist regularly, they become more of a real person – someone with whom one actually has a sort of relationship.  At least, that’s how I feel about these two. 

My mother was always trying to get me to read her favorite books, and usually, I spurned them.  However, when she gave me one of Maeve’s novels, I remembered the chummy relationship we had in Dublin.  So I read it with an open mind, unlike most of the novels my mother offered, which I would not have read at all – let alone with an open mind.  This opened up a new vista in my relationship with my mother.  I realized that everything she read was not totally stupid, and a lot was quite good. Later, we shared much reading, and this pleased my mom. So I have Maeve to thank for that too. 

I am sure that my luncheon with Maeve, unlike my lunch with Mr. V, would be quite pleasant, and if she thought me stupid, she would be kind about it and would never let on.  Just like she did in her novels, she would let me know that it would all be okay.