Sunday, May 29, 2016

How Does My Garden Grow

Vanessa asked after my African violet.  How is it doing?  It's SUPER AMAZING!

Here's one bunch of blossoms.

Here's another.

In fact, the plant is so jam-packed with flowers that you can't see them all superficially.  Like, here's one (of many) hiding inside the outer leaves:

Look at how fuzzy those leaves are!  Soft as a baby bunny.  :-)

This flower, whose name I don't know or have forgotten, is at peak scarlet.

The recently-repotted coleus is so happy,

that this branch is about to flower, I think.  That spiky growth in the centre is going to start putting out blooms that look like tiny purple slippers, if memory serves me correctly from last year.

I think that even my Venus Flytrap is brewing up a flower!  I'm excited because I've had it for less than a year, so I've never seen it bloom.

The long bit sprouted out of nowhere over the past week.

What?  I never told you guys that I have a Venus Flytrap?  Huh.  Well, my Mom decided that it would make a great birthday gift for me last fall.  I named it Audrey, after the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.  

She's a high maintenance plant.  She needs at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, which is a bit tricky to arrange in my tightly-packed, mostly-shady condo complex.  I leave the blind open on this window all the time just to accommodate her.  

She will only drink distilled water, which I have to buy specially.  And yes, I do feed her.  I don't go running around chasing after bugs.  Audrey eats bloodworms.

Mmm, yummy. :-p

Because she's so small, I take out one teeny tiny worm, and re-hydrate it in distilled water.  Then I roll it up into an itty-bitty worm meatball (delish!), stick it on the end of a toothpick, and put it into Audrey's most wide-open trap.  Then I wiggle the toothpick, because the trap will only close for live prey. I have to fool her into thinking that the worm is crawling around.  After the trap closes, I pull out the toothpick, and then I have to massage the trap so that it seems like the worm is struggling to get out.  (If the trap isn't well-sealed, Audrey might get indigestion.)

I only have to do this once every 1-2 weeks, but still.  She's a real diva!  None of my other plants are this demanding.

She hibernates for 4 months per year.  It's possible to over-winter a Venus Flytrap outside even in Canada (they are originally from the Carolinas), but because I don't have a proper garden Audrey lived in a plastic bag in my fridge from December through March inclusive.  I wasn't sure if she was going to survive, but she did very well, actually.  During hibernation she doesn't eat and barely needs to be watered.

If she grows big enough to re-pot, I'm going to have to make a special trip to buy sphagnum moss for her, because she's too special for regular potting soil, of course.  *sigh*  My Mom had no idea that Audrey would be this demanding when she bought her for me.  But that's okay.  Audrey is pretty cool.  She's worth a little extra attention.

(Disclaimer for L.L. Cool Joe at al: I apologize for any offence caused by humorous references to gender stereotypes in this post.  They were used for comedic purposes only, and do not reflect my actual views.  For the record, I know a lot of high-maintenance humans, and the hyper-demanding ones include every gender.  If Audrey ever opens up one of her traps and clarifies a different pronoun preference, I promise I will honour it. ;-)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Things she left behind

Bubbe was never a material girl.  She wasn't interested in stuff or things; she was interested in people, and learning.  In part, that can be attributed to her generation; she was in her late teens when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.

As you know, she died at the ripe old age of 99.  Understandably, she had expected that she would die "soon" for a long time before it actually happened. So she didn't bother replacing things, like her bedspread, that were worn and faded.

When it was time for the family to go through her apartment and take stock of the contents, there wasn't much there of objective value.  There was a treasure trove of ancient photos.  And some random objects that, to Bubbe, would have just been her day-to-day things, but to us were remarkable antiques.

The world's oldest office supplies.

A sifter that must be at least 70 years old.

A very Mad Men coffee pot.

The world's oldest adhesive bandages...

... from an era when people didn't think twice about calling one, pale shade "flesh color".

A well-used recipe box, filled with hand-written index cards.

When the box is closed, it looks like a fake antique from Home Sense.

The tabbed cards dividing the different sections are so ancient that they tear at the slightest pressure.  Fortunately I found this out by tugging on the Salads tab.  I would have been much sadder if I had torn Puddings or Jellies.

The most prized possession I have to remind me of both my Bubbe and my Zaidy is a ring that Bubbe gave me a few years ago.  She used to wear it all the time.  Zaidy made it when he took a jewelry-making course shortly after he retired.  It's a silver band with an oval, opaque, orange stone polished smooth and set on top.  It's a precious treasure, and it fits me so well that I can wear it without having it re-sized (which I don't know if I'd do, because that would change it too much).  It represents both of them and their love for each other, so it's the best memento that I could ask for.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

#Veins #ICan'tEven

I'm not a squeamish person.  I watch educational shows that contain "graphic medical procedures" and stare happily at every detail.  By any measure, I have a high tolerance for biology.  Except.  Except when it comes to me.  Inconveniently, I am phobic about any medical procedures performed upon my own self, even if they don't hurt, or involve only the most minimal and brief discomfort.  It's completely annoying.

This is why, although I've been accumulating spider veins on my legs since I was in high school, I've never had them treated.  I alternate between wearing long pants all the time and, on the hottest days of summer, just saying F it, and exposing my pasty, blue cheese thighs to the world.  If you don't like them, look somewhere else.

On two occasions, I did go for sclerotherapy treatments.  The first time, after a few injections I started to feel faint, and I never went back.  The second time, many years later, I didn't even make it through the consultation.

This time though.  This time I'm determined to be brave, and to go through with it.

I found a clinic two blocks away from where I work.  The doctor has rave reviews on  I made an appointment.  I spent time during the two weeks before the consultation visualizing how the appointment was going to go, and talking myself through it.  "You're going to be in an examination room with people in scrubs.  You're going to wear shorts.  They will run an ultrasound thingy up and down your legs [*rubs own knuckles against legs*] like this.  See, that doesn't hurt, does it?  Then you will talk to the doctor.  You will be totally fine."

And that is more or less how it went.  Except for the totally fine part.  Because I had forgotten how strongly a phobia can surge up from one's subconscious and start calling the shots.

My self-talk: "You're doing great!  Hey, look out the window!  Isn't that a nice view?  Look, you can see our office right there.  I wonder what's happening at work."


I was keeping it together until the doctor asked me to look at the ultrasound screen.  He pointed at an area that was pulsing red.  "See that?" he said.  "That's why your left leg is worse than your right.  That's where your blood is flowing in the wrong direction."  (Emphasis mine.)  Basically he was showing me that in one of my main veins the valves were slightly degraded, and therefore the blood that should have been flowing back up to my heart to be re-oxygenated was in part flowing back downhill whenever his assistant gently squeezed my thigh.  I can write that now and find it interesting and not terribly threatening, but when I was standing right there I heard "Your essential, life-giving blood vessels are rotting within your aging flesh, and soon you shall suffer and die in horrible pain."

My subconscious:

So then we had to take a little break while I laid down on the examination table, sweating profusely and apologizing to the doctor and his assistant for making their lives difficult.  They gave me a cup of cold water and a wet cloth for my forehead, and left me alone to stare at the ceiling and contemplate my failure.

Just think of how badly things would have gone if I hadn't mentally prepared myself, right?

Anyway, I did recover enough to complete the examination.  Then the doctor had a little chat with me while I carefully sipped my cup of water and concentrated on not freaking out.  Every time he said "saphenous vein" it got a little harder to wrangle my flight reflex.  But somehow I got through it.  Yay me!

The upshot of his diagnosis is that my veins are just good enough that if we treat them now I can avoid the more expensive treatment which would be necessary down the road if I keep ignoring the situation.  And, if I ignore it indefinitely, it could progress from a cosmetic problem to a medical problem, with painful varicosities and even the potential for skin ulcers.  No more sticking my head in the sand.  I've got to deal with it now.

So, I went out to the reception desk to order two pairs of super-expensive compression stockings ($150 per pair - mercy!), and book the appointment for my first treatment, in June.  I can expect bruising, soreness, and possible discolouration of the skin in the area which may take up to a year to fully resolve.  Fantastic.  I will also have to wear the super-expensive compression stockings for weeks after each treatment, and I expect that they won't be super-comfortable.  (I ordered thigh-highs instead of pantyhose, because the less of me that gets compressed the happier I am.)

Oh, and also, because I have protein C deficiency, which I never thought much about, but which is actually a clotting disorder, I have to take blood thinners before (and after? I'm not sure yet) the treatments.  I am slightly terrified by the blood thinner (Xarelto).  Maybe it will be fine.  Or maybe I'll have a stroke and die, like Joan Didion's daughter.  (On the other hand if I don't take it, I could get a blood clot and die.  Six of one, a half-dozen of the other.)

All in all, I'm being a total wuss about my first foray into middle-aged-person medical procedures. I guess that's just how it goes.  You start small, with vein treatments, and work up to the bigger stuff, like knee replacements or any diagnosis that has the motto "It's not a death sentence anymore, but it's a life sentence."  I hope that the repeated visits to the vein clinic will function as exposure therapy for my phobia.  Either way, I'm going to be brave, and I'm going to get through it.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bubbe is Resting in Peace Now

She will always be in my heart.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Chop and Screw

First, updates.

Bubbe is still hanging in there.  She has gotten accustomed to having a Personal Support Worker (PSW) staying with her during the day, and has stopped referring to the arrangement as "over-supervision".  It's certainly easier on her family to know that she is being well looked-after by a series of cheerful young ladies in red shirts (the agency uniform).  Good thing we're not living in Star Trek reality.*

*"Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to refer partially to the characters who wear red uniforms, and mainly to refer to those characters who are expendable, and quite often killed, sometimes in great numbers."

I'm getting along well with my new boss. He's intelligent, reasonable, decisive, and self-possessed.  He also seems to think highly of me, which is a relief.  I'm doing everything I can to make the best possible first impression.  There is still some working-at-cross-purposes among the company directors, which creates problems, on one hand, but on the other hand makes me more indispensable as a go-between and communications facilitator.  I am not longer feeling quite so insecure about my job.

Next, an anecdote.

I was on the subway train yesterday, on my way to meet friends.  I noticed a young man wearing a cowrie shell necklace draped over his black parka; a rather odd sartorial choice, I thought.  He got the attention of another young man and they proceeded to have a conversation. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I got the impression that the two had been strangers before this interaction.

When the second young man had left the train, cowrie-shell guy turned to me.  He had a grill on his teeth and his eyebrows were shaved into stripes. He asked me, in a Carribean island accent, about something that I was wearing, and then launched into a speech about his music career that was clearly worded to make him sound like a big shot.  He asked me if I went to university or college, because he wanted to perform on campus in Toronto.  "Yeah, twenty years ago!" I told him.  No use getting his hopes up.  But I don't think he heard me.  He was probably high.

He asked me if I had heard of "chop and screw" music.  I had not.  I thought it was something that he made up, but apparently it's A Thing.  He pulled out a CD that had CHOP + SCREW scrawled on it  in black marker, and asked me if I had a CD player on me.  I did not.  (Aren't portable CD players a total anachronism from the 90s?  I feel you might as well ask someone if they're packing an 8-track player, at this stage.)  I told him "It looks good!"  Because clearly he was proud of his CD and I didn't want to harsh his mellow.

Since we couldn't listen to the CD, he told me that he would perform for me.  He proceeded to lean in very close and rap, something along the lines of "Canada, Canada, yeah, yeah."  And so forth.  There were more words, but it was kind of hard to hear what with the subway being so loud, and also I was paying most of my attention to how weird the situation was.  At least I liked the Canada part.  "That's cool." I told him.

Encouraged, he told me that he hoped I wouldn't mind if he did the strong language version.  I said okay, I'm sure I've heard all those words before.  So he leaned in again and did "Canada, Canada, F#@! the *bleep*, yeah, yeah."  At that point the train rolled into my stop, so I bade him a quick goodbye, and prayed he wouldn't follow me off the train.  He did not.  He just said that it was nice to meet me, so I said it was nice talking to him, and then went off chuckling to myself and thanking the TTC for yet another funny, harmless crazy-person story.