lust for pie

On Sunday, my lust for pie landed me at Urgent Care.

If you follow me on any other social media platforms, you may already be familiar with this saga. For the benefit of those wise subscribers who don’t follow me elsewhere, and for the sake of posterity, I’m about to re-tell the tale here in long form.  Probably too long.

Anyway. Here goes.

We used to have this neighbor – he moved out a couple years ago. We called him Crazy Gary. I feel pretty OK with labeling him as crazy since I’m sort of crazy too and also he was definitely, obviously a little bit not right in the head. Which is fine, nothing wrong with being crazy if it works for you and you’re not hurting anybody…which I’m relatively sure he wasn’t.

Crazy Gary lived in this little house on a bit of property that’s bordered on two sides by our quiet, dead-end road. The other two sides are bordered by our landlord’s property, which is mostly a woodchuck wonderland of lawn and vegetable patches. Crazy Gary was a hoarder and a tinkerer. He had every kind of engine you could imagine sitting around in his tiny back yard, and could often be found fabricating strange hybridized lawnmower-garden tiller-tree trimmer things out of like, spare bike parts and twine. The guy was clearly some sort of mechanical genius. What he was NOT, however, was a responsible custodian of the house he lived in. The house actually belonged to Crazy Gary’s absentee mother and I guess she eventually got sick of the place being trashed and full of boxes of greasy sprockets whenever anyone went to check on it, so she had him evicted. Technically the house is now for sale as a ‘fixer upper’, but it’s really more of a ‘faller inner’. They cleaned out a lot of Crazy Gary’s hoard (like four huge rolling dumpsters worth, plus I don’t even know how many truck loads. It took them a couple weeks), but there are still piles of junk hanging around. The house has some broken windows. One of the exterior doors came unlatched at some point in the winter and now the woodchucks are using it as a clubhouse. Most mornings when I drive by on my way to work, there’s at least one woodchuck out on the front step sunning itself, giving me side-eye like “yeah, you keep moving, bi-ped. This place is four legger territory now.”

Point being…the property is abandoned.

Which conveniently relieves me of any qualms I might have had about appropriating the odd armful of stalks from Crazy Gary’s huge, beautiful rhubarb patch. It’s not stealing if it doesn’t belong to anybody in the first place, right? And it’s just going to go to seed and spread further across the lawn if someone DOESN’T harvest it, so really, I’m doing them a favor, right?

Right.

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This patch is easily 6’X8′. Trust me, there’s enough. Also? Someone else had been in it before me, so I feel almost entirely absolved of guilt.

Sunday afternoon was actually the first time I made a rhubarb run this season. It had been ready to make delicious things with for a few weeks but I kept either forgetting or running out of time in the day (you don’t go into woodchuck country at night. They’re like bats but worse. 10 gold Internet doubloons if you get that awkward and unskillful reference), or just plain lacked the ambition to walk the 50 yards out around the corner and pull some. But this past Sunday the weather was glorious, I was in a mood to cook, and the siren song of pie was just too much to ignore…so off I went.

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On the way back home with my only-marginally-ill-gotten gains. You see that knife glinting out from the rose-tinged stalks in my hand there? I sharpened it up real good before this whole endeavor kicked off. Foreshadowing? POSSIBLY.

My bounty and I made a quick stop at the compost pile to get rid of its leaves and stem ends, and then it was back to the kitchen to transmute this bunch of inedible hell-stalks into a toothsome pie.

Rhubarb pie is dead simple to make, especially if you’re a pastry slacker like me and use store bought pie crust (life is too short to fuck with pie crust from scratch. Don’t come at me with your tips and tricks because I’ve tried them all and they work fine, I just completely detest rolling out pie crust and I’m not going to do it. Save the wear on your finger joints. I love you). The majority of the work is in slicing the stalks and mixing them with sugar. Super easy.

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There’s that very sharp knife again. It’s a Henckels, and I’ve had it for nigh on 15 years. I cook A LOT and this knife is essentially an extension of my right hand.

One of the things about my ADHD is that it often takes me on tangents. The beat up jalopy of my mind is always taking turns down sketchy, winding side roads, often on two wheels at a high rate of speed, when it is least convenient. It can get very frustrating because I feel like I’m not the driver but rather, just one of those little smiley-face balls people sometimes stick on the end of their radio antennas. Sometimes I’m just along for the ride and I have very little say in direction or velocity, and that gets exhausting. I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I find helpful in terms of regaining a feeling of control over my brain is to make things. The creative process burns a lot of gas for me (big on the automotive metaphors today, I guess. Crazy Gary would approve), which helps slow things down a little. Making also often involves repetitive motions: the under-and-through under-and-through of knitting, the stab and draw of the needle and thread when embroidering…and of course, the methodical motions of chopping up ingredients for a dish.

Some people are afraid of very sharp knives, but anyone who has spent any time in a professional kitchen will tell you that the sharper the knife the better. Sharp knives are safer to work with, and they’re far more satisfying. There’s a specific swish that a good sharp knife makes when it cuts through veg, a specific feeling when I’m motoring through a stalk of whatever and making nice even cuts. It’s like everything else falls away, including the static in my head, and I’m in a state of flow. It’s just the knife and the veg dancing across the board, with my hands guiding via pure muscle memory. I don’t have to think about anything when I chop. I just have to show up and make the motions. It’s like a tiny glimpse of nirvana.

Another thing about ADHD is that it there are no guarantees. Something that helped you relax and focus one day might not work the next. And that hyper-focus, that Zen-like state of flow where everything seems like it’s happening almost without you, like some beautiful out-of-body experience where you get to just sit back and watch? That can vanish in an instant, in mid-motion, leaving you feeling lost and bemused until you realize, oh yes, I’ve fallen out of The Flow and I’m back on planet Earth.

And the thing about sharp knives is, they’re made of metal and thus very unforgiving. They have ZERO fucks to give about your mental state. They demand constant respect and utmost focus. A sharp knife can do a lot of damage if you’re distracted for even a split second.

Which, as you may have guessed, is how I ended up crumpled in a kitchen chair with my head between my knees, trying desperately to not pass out while I squeezed a wad of paper towel against the side of my left index finger in an attempt to staunch a rather alarming flow of blood.

The knife was in my finger, completely through my flesh and out the other side before I even registered anything. I tried to give it a quick rinse under cold water but I could immediately tell that it was deep and bad, so I went for paper towel and pressure instead. I’ve cut myself plenty of times in the past and I knew all the things to do – hold firm pressure on the wound, keep my hand above the level of my heart, sit down and stop pacing. I breathed my way through the massive urge to throw up and the torrent  of cold sweat that an adrenaline come-down always leaves me with, then I made my way to the couch so I could put my feet up. Mark wasn’t home and Keppo was pretty sure that he could fix everything by adamantly licking my face, which was as endearing as it was ineffective.

The blood wasn’t seeping through the paper towel, but the wound was getting re-opened every time I moved the paper towel to try and see if the bleeding was stopped. After about 40 minutes or so of repeating that cycle, I finally admitted that I may need stitches. I probably COULD have driven myself one-handed to Urgent Care, which is about 30 min away almost entirely by interstate, but I was still feeling a little wobbly from shock so I called my dad for a ride instead.

About twenty minutes after I went in, I emerged from the Urgent Care facility with a finger held together by superglue and steri-strips, and wrapped with elasticated gauze to roughly the size of the average corn dog.

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The doctor pointed out that it kind of looked like a dick and I couldn’t not see it after that. He used the term ‘winky’ though, which was more charming.

I’m grateful that I didn’t need stitches. I’m even MORE grateful that I didn’t sever an artery or a tendon. I’m still going to keep my knives sharp, but I might not do any serious slicing or chopping while I’m home alone for a while.
And I’m definitely going to steal more of Crazy Gary’s rhubarb.

how dare you

Some people collect Pez dispensers. Some people collect uranium glass. Some people collect magazines, or rocks, or posters, or children.

I collect house plants.

I mean, I collect other stuff too, but if you were to walk into my apartment and look around, the second thing that would probably stick out to you is that I have a lot of random green things growing in various containers of dirt. The first thing that would stick out would be the dust bunnies, but we’re not talking about them today. Or ever.

There’s a pothos vine that cascades about three feet from the top of the hutch in the kitchen. There’s a smaller pothos vine that I propagated from the first one (because buying new living things is fun, but growing new living things from the old things without having to pay for them is even better, unless the living things are human, in which case NOT INTERESTED). There’s a huge aloe plant that I detest but can’t seem to give away and don’t have the heart to just throw out. There are four bushy holiday cacti (not actually cacti at all by the way, they’re epiphytes…/plantnerd) – one that I bought and three that I inherited when my Nana passed away. I have a dracaena that is aspiring to become a legit tree, and a mini jade plant that I intend to someday turn into a bonsai.

Then there are the violets.

I have three mature African violets – two full sized and one miniature. I also have four containers with violet leaves in various states of propagation, most of which have more than one plant in them. So, while my actual mature violet count is currently three, I have a Potential Violet Count closer to like…12. Which is way more than I realized and now I kind of regret doing that mental tally because I sound less like a collector and more like a hoarder-slash-mad-scientist-wanna-be, which isn’t exactly INACCURATE, but is maybe hitting a little too close to home. Also, tangent: this list of house plants doesn’t take into account the stuff I have growing in containers out on my front step, because those are OUTSIDE plants and are thus a whole different classification of problem.

ANYWAY.

All this is to establish that I’m pretty into plants, violets especially. It should come as no great surprise then that I participate in an African Violet growers group on Facebook. It’s a private group so at least it’s not the abject hive of misery and abuse that a public group would be…but like any group about any subject on the Internet, there are people with Opinions. The Opinions are almost always shared respectfully, which is a refreshing change, but every once in a while the snark creeps in a little bit and it’s unintentionally hilarious.

Take, for instance, the lady who recently posted a picture of what she called her “palm tree violet”. It was a lovely little plant with a thick brown stem that rose up a couple inches and was topped with a canopy of lush green leaves. The crowning glory was a small cluster of light pink blooms set just a little off center, like a lady with a rose tucked into her hair at a jaunty angle. The overall effect was, to me, quite charming.

Most African violets grow from a center stalk outward, pushing new leaves up and out from the crown of the plant. As new leaves get bigger and spread out, they force the older leaves down.  That bottom layer of leaves has to regularly be removed as the plant grows, so that the new leaves can keep growing without exerting pressure and damaging the old ones. The problem with doing this is that, by removing those lower leaves, you expose the central stalk (also called the neck) of the plant. Normally you see African violets with their bottom-most layer of leaves flush against the edge of the container they’re growing in – that’s the standard. Growers will usually re-pot their violets every 6 months or so to maintain this look. What the “Palm Tree Violet” lady had done was the opposite – she just kept trimming the old bottom leaves off but didn’t re-pot and trim the central stalk, so it just kept growing up and up with the rest of the plant growing on top.

The plant was perfectly healthy and happy, as evidenced by the condition of the leaves and the fact that it was blooming. But OH MY GOD, the side-eye in the comments. It was gold:

“What did you DO to that plant?”

“You’re torturing it!”

“That’s not what it’s supposed to look like, Janet.”

“Why would you do this?!”

“You need to trim the neck on that plant IMMEDIATELY.”

And on, and on. Several brave souls interjected that they liked the look, and that she could grow her plants any damn way she liked, but the vast majority of comments were the Facebook equivalent of disapproving tuts. Which, granted, considering the utter vitriol that bubbles forth from most Internet comment sections, it was like a picnic in the park that was topped off with a free ice cream cone and a hand job, but still. Sooooo much side-eyeing and snark over one little plant that was probably being grown culturally much closer to how it would be found in nature to begin with.

Because you know there aren’t like trained chameleons in the cloud forests of Tanzania going around trimming the bottom leaves and burying the necks of wild saintpaulias in order to make sure they adhere to AVS standards.

Also, now I want to get some chameleons and see if I can train them to clean my bathroom…

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“Holy pole-dancing Christ, lady. This is the most boring thing you’ve ever written. It’s so boring that I’m considering eating my own poop for a little excitement. I mean, I was thinking about it anyway, but it’s becoming a more viable option by the minute. Seriously what’s wrong with you?” – Keppo, Trash Eater and Blog Critic Extraordinaire

what’s the password

My job is very password-intensive. There are a bunch of different websites and databases I need to access. At last count, my list of work-related passwords had 39 entries.

Of that 39 passwords, there are about a dozen that I use on an almost daily basis. Most of the sites I use have extra ridiculous security rules when it comes to setting up login info (for instance, at least two of them require a 15 character password minimum, plus a number, plus a capital letter, plus a special character, but your password also cannot contain more than four consecutive alpha or numeric characters, no repeating numeric characters, you need to provide exactly 6 mL of tear drops that fall within the personal salinity tolerance levels of your specific body every 90 days in order to keep the system from suspending your account, etc). Most of these websites and databases also require changing your log-in information every few months. Just when you get used to one, you can kiss it goodbye and spend the next 15 minutes trying to come up with a new one.

It’s a gigantic pain in the ass…especially when, like me, you have the short-term memory of a recently clubbed seal.

I was going to insert a picture of a cute baby seal here but frankly, I already feel bad about making the joke to begin with, and adding a picture would just make things worse. I’m a monster, undeserving of love or happiness.

ANYWAY.

Because of security concerns and the nature of the work I do, I’m not allowed to let my browser just remember all my passwords for me, so I have to keep a list stashed away in the bowels of my computer (which isn’t exactly a secure way of doing it either, but it’s at least a little better than just loading everything into Firefox and hoping for the best). This method has worked pretty effectively for going on 11 years now.

Except…there are times when, for whatever reason, my brain goes rogue and decides FUCK THAT LIST, I CAN REMEMBER THINGS GOD DAMN IT. I’ll sit there typing in password after password until the site eventually locks me out due to too many failed log-in attempts. For some sites, that’s like three attempts…but for others it’s like…15. And I still get locked out. Because I’m too fucking stubborn to look at THE LIST that has ALL THE APPLICABLE INFORMATION right on it.

Most sites I get locked out of then require that I call them, give them all my personal info, tell them half my life story, answer a series of archaic riddles, and promise them my first-born child (haha, joke’s on you, motherfuckers, I’m not procreating), before they will reset my login info. Many of them also require that I use a temporary password to log in and reset a new password, blah blah blah. The whole process ends up taking tens of minutes. It’s objectively far more of a pain in the ass than just pulling up the list and finding the correct information to begin with.

And yet, I continue to do this to myself on a regular basis. Something in my clubbed-seal brain keeps telling me that I’m above using the list, that at 38 years old I should still have the mental dexterity to remember a handful of god damned passwords.

In case you hadn’t guessed yet, I’ve written this post while waiting for a database manager to call me back about resetting my access because I just got myself locked out. Again.

password

Is that the red, or the white?

cookies god damn it

We had this lunch conference at work today.

Well, I say “we”, but nobody mentioned it to me until I was already warming up my leftovers from home, so I’m filing that under my not being invited and I therefore did not partake.

ANYWAY.

So, the place where the food came from always includes a load of cookies…REALLY GOOD cookies…when they cater a lunch for us. Usually when we have one of these things, it’ll be like an hour of people yakking in the conference room, then they’ll all eat, then they’ll fuck off back to their desks and leave the leftovers for us admin peons. So even though I didn’t partake of the lunch proper, I had a pretty reasonable expectation of being able to scam some of those fantastic cookies after everyone cleared out and went back downstairs.

Except, today, the people putting on the conference hung around.

And hung around.

And hung. The fuck. Around.

Every time they moved around in there I’d perk up and think “ooh, this is it! Cookie time soon!” BUT NO. They would settle back down and talk more. I’ve been waiting for my cookie opportunity for MULTIPLE HOURS while these dicks sit around jawing about who even knows what. Nothing important, that’s for damn sure.

It’s now 3:40pm EST and they are FINALLY starting to pack stuff up in the conference room and move toward getting the hell out. Hooray! COOKIE TIME, YES?

Uhh, no. Because you know what happened? My boss gave the leftovers to the lady who put on the conference.

INCLUDING THE MOTHER FUCKING COOKIES.

ADLKH OIJLKJFS SLKJSF DLKJSLD (insert image of me foaming at the mouth)

Literally all I wanted out of today was some of those cookies. Granted, I didn’t know the cookies were even going to be a thing until 12:30, but still. I looked forward to those damn cookies all afternoon.

You know what he said to the lady?

“Here, why don’t you take these cookies home, no one here will eat them.”

No one! No one will eat them! COOKIES! Are you MAD, sir? Have you taken a turn? DID YOUR MOMMA DROP YOU ON YOUR HEAD AS A BABY?!

Needless to say, I’m very disappointed.

And I’m probably going to buy cookies on the way home from work.

a crimbo miracle

I was eating a cheese stick as I rolled up to the stop sign. I saw the NH State Police cruiser sitting there across from the little general store. It was pointed in my direction.

Setting the remains of the cheese stick aside so as not to look like I was driving distracted, I made extra sure to come to a complete stop at the sign. I even announced it out loud to the cruiser as I did so…because, honestly, it’s kind of an occasion. I’m queen of the rolling stop.

Smug with satisfaction regarding my (admittedly somewhat selective and opportunistic) ability to follow rules, I then looked both ways and proceeded through the intersection. I picked my cheese stick back up and took another bite.

Onward, to glory!

Force of habit made me flick my eyes up to the rear view mirror just in time to see the cruiser slowly pull out from its parking spot, headed in the opposite direction as me. I was mentally wishing the officer happy holidays when I saw the cruiser’s blinker turn on. The car executed a wide turn around in the parking lot of the store it had been parked across from and started traveling south, the same as me.

A second later, the blue lights started. The cheese stick was set aside once more.

I put my blinker on, pulled over…

…and immediately remembered that my car registration is like four months out of date.

“FUCK.”

Visions of large traffic tickets danced in my head. A slurry of coffee and cheap convenience store cheese bubbled threateningly in my tensing stomach. My pre-holiday festive mood was ebbing fast as the officer made his way to my window.

“Good morning ma’am. I’m Officer Whosiface from the New Hampshire State Police. Do you know why I stopped you this morning?”

“I’m sorry, Officer, I don’t.”  It wasn’t a lie. I knew damn well I had come to a complete stop at the sign because I made such a big deal out of it. What the hell else could I have done that would merit being pulled over? Surely it couldn’t have been the cheese stick.

“I stopped you because you failed to use your turn signal at the stop sign back there. Even when there are no other cars around, we need to use our turn signals for safety. Can I have your license and registration, please?”

Fucking turn signals! He saw that I’m from Vermont. Didn’t he know that the unofficial state motto of Vermont is “we don’t need no stinkin’ blinkers”? I decided not to bring it up, especially considering I was about to get spanked for having an out of date registration.

I handed over my license, went to grab the registration card from the center console…and came up empty. Shuffling through the CD’s and detritus in the little tray area underneath my stereo, I came up empty again. Well, super. No registration is even worse than an out of date registration! I was probably going to spend Christmas in jail. The cheese slurry menaced in my guts again.

“Sir, I’m so sorry, but I can’t seem to locate my registration at the moment.”

I braced for impact.

“That’s alright, I should be able to pull it up in my computer. It’s in your name, and registered to this address on your license?”

“It is.”

“And what year is the car, ma’am?”

“It’s a 2012.”

“Ok, I’ll be right back.”

He headed back toward the cruiser. I slumped dejectedly in my seat, picked up my phone and took a picture of the blue lights in my mirror, and looked at Facebook for a minute. Realizing it might not look great for me to be brandishing my cell phone when the officer came back, I set it down on the passenger seat next to the half-eaten cheese stick.

A few minutes later the officer returned and handed me back my license. There was no paperwork in his hand. I dared to dream the impossible dream: that I might in fact NOT be getting a ticket.

“Alright, I’m just issuing you a verbal warning today for failure to use your turn signal and for failure to produce your registration, ma’am. Again, please make sure you’re signalling any time you make a turn, even if there are no other cars around. And it would be a good idea to find your registration card as well.”

“Of course, sir. Thank you, sir. I will, sir. Blinkers, all the blinkers, sir.”

He handed my license back to me. I thanked him six more times than was necessary and wished him a Merry Christmas as he headed back to his car. I made extra sure to use my turn signal when easing back out into traffic, and looked up into the rear view again just in time to see him pull another wide turn in someone’s driveway and head back north.

I never did finish the cheese stick.

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If filthy dashboards were a crime, I’d be public enemy number one.