Tag Archives: humor

19 Raisins

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2018 and the struggle endures. The never-ending battle, the fruitless quest for weight loss (well, not entirely fruitless….after all, raisins are the subject of this blog).

Speaking of “fruitless” — and getting off on a tangent before even addressing the question of raisins — most diets do allow fruit now. My last round at Weight Watchers permitted it “until satisfied”, dangerous words for us emotional eaters who don’t really get the meaning of “satisfied”. Does “emotionally satisfied” count? And I’m sure they didn’t mean dried fruit, like raisins or papaya leather.

Like others, I’ve tried diet after diet, exercised until I’m blue and hurting, jogged and walked, joined Jenny Craig, TOPS, and Weight Watchers multiple times, achieved “goal” weight, then put it all back on again and then some. Now I’m older and facing knee problems and phlebitis, neither of which responds well to my extra poundage and both of which prevent me from exercising as often I should. I’m caught in a Catch-22 situation: will gain weight if I don’t exercise but can’t exercise because of my weight.

I ask you…is this fair?

No, it’s not. It’s not fair that food should be allowed to kill me like this, despite my best efforts and my total lack of self-pity. I mean, a total lack.

So I’m angry. As angry as Father Mulcahy when Hawkeye reamed out poor Radar in an episode of MASH. The gentle Father really lost it: “I am incensed! I am outraged! I’m acrimonious!”

My doctor told me years ago, in an attempt to scare me into action, “Losing weight gets harder as you age.” Turns out he was right. Those extra pounds cling to hips and thighs like limpets  to rocks in the sea.

But I keep trying.

These days I use an online calorie counter called LoseIt, which I like because it’s free, for one thing. Also, it allows me to log my daily food and find restaurant calorie counts. So I can search for “McDonalds Chicken Chipotle wrap” and get the exact calorie count. Not that I would ever buy one of those. Oh no. The app will also find “Starbuck’s Carmel Macchiato, Almond Milk”, which, I’m pleased to note, contains twenty fewer calories than the regular variety. And who knew that IHOP’s blueberry pancakes were only 350 cals for two?? Very reasonable. We won’t discuss the syrup that goes on top.

Which brings me to the 19 raisins. It’s the allowable number for a serving, aaccording to this app. Not 20 raisins, mind you, but 19. This strikes me as odd. Why not round it off?Anyway, I use raisins daily on my muesli (half cup=170 cals, so I have three-quarters of a cup; more filling). At first, I actually counted out 19 of the little guys. Then, when I grew familiar with the visual, I just stuck my hand in like a carnival digger and pulled out a few.

“There! 19 raisins,” I told myself gleefully, pleased to have beaten the system in at least this one small way.

SS Catala: Ch 2 (Memoir)

Summary:  In 1953, when I was five and my brother was three, my father proposed that our family move from Vancouver to a remote logging camp on Vancouver Island where he and my mother had been offered teaching positions. This admittedly out-of-order chapter marks the start of our 3-day journey there.

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My brother and I quivered with excitement on the morning we left Vancouver. We had never sailed on a ship of any kind, and now here we were, standing at the foot of the gangplank in Canada’s largest port, ready to board the steamship SS Catala.

“Do we really get to sleep overnight on this boat?” I asked, looking up at my folks.

“We really do,” laughed my mother. “We’ll have our own private cabin. The ship doesn’t arrive at Englewood until noon tomorrow!”

This was a thrill beyond words for two small children who had never before travelled out of the city, let alone slept on a real ship. We could hardly contain ourselves.

The Catala looked huge from where we stood. It was a steel, twin-propeller passenger freighter with 20 cabin berths and a cargo capacity of three hundred tons. Called the SS Catala, it formed part of the Union Steamship Line, a cargo and passenger line which serviced remote communities along the northern BC coast.

“See how the bottom is painted red and the upper part is black?” said Dad. “All the Union Steamships are painted the same way. They were all built in Scotland and brought over here in 1925. That’s more than 25 years ago, kids!”

We clambered aboard. Soon our heads were full of wooden decks and chunky, white portholes. After standing at the rail for some time and watching huge crates being loaded by crane into the hold of the ship, we climbed to the upper deck.

Everything was new to us. We discovered a covered deck halfway down the ship with shuffleboard pitch painted onto its wooden planking. We found discarded chairs, stacked in a corner and covered by heavy tarpaulins. We craned our necks at the huge, black-and-red funnels towering above the steep, “crew only” staircase. We peered excitedly at the lifeboats and ran our hands along thick ropes and polished, wooden railings.

An hour after we’d boarded her, the steamer pulled out of Vancouver harbour and headed west into Burrard Inlet, past the docks of the North Shore, where loose piles of bright yellow sulphur towered skyward like inverted traffic cones. The morning sky was cloudy, with the kind of misty overhang unique to the west coast. There was a chill in the air that made our noses run and defied any sweater or coat, but we were used to this and didn’t give it much thought. We hugged close the notion of sleeping overnight on this great monster, and this was enough to keep us warm. Having toured the ship, we kids were as ready as the other passengers to watch the Catala negotiate the narrow passage under the Lions Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge similar in appearance to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, only much shorter.

As we approached the bridge, everyone clambered onto the upper decks. We had travelled across the bridge many times in the family Ford, but to see it from below was a rare treat and not one to be missed. In our collective minds, there was always the danger that the ship wouldn’t clear the bridge.

“What if those tall chimneys scrape the bridge and come off?” I asked, meaning the tall, red-and-black smokestacks. “What if we tip over?”

Dad laughed. “Lots of room!” he said. “It just looks narrow from here. Not to worry.”

I wasn’t convinced, still believing the funnels might scrape along the bottom surface of the span and scuttle the ship. Pleasantly horrified, I held my breath as the distance between the Catala and that great ribbon of concrete narrowed. Would we make it? To my untutored mind, it was a case of irresistible force meeting immovable object.

People got out their Kodak box cameras. Suddenly, the huge cables of the suspension bridge drooped and swooped above us like streamers at a birthday party, forcing heads back to watch the unfolding drama. At the very moment of potential contact, there was a tense silence on the decks. Then we were under with buckets of room to spare! It seemed incredible to us that such a large ship could pass through such a narrow space, but of course, ships even larger than the Catala sail under that bridge today. It was a fine lesson on the tricky optics of perspective.

I felt immense relief. Reassuring, too, was that immediately after the bridge, the channel widened out. We passed the endless beach of Spanish Banks on our port side and the Point Atkinson lighthouse on our starboard side. Calm returned to the passengers as we watched the pale, yellow lighthouse blinking in the distance.

“Wanna hear a good lighthouse story?” said an older man standing near the rail on our side. He wore a slicker and a canvass rain hat. “This here ship had quite an adventure fifteen years ago, up near Prince Rupert.”

“Tell us!” we cried.

“Well, farther north, the ship sailed past Egg Island, in Queen Charlotte Strait. Noticing that the lighthouse was strangely dark, the Captain tied a rope around his waist and swam to the Island.”

“He swam?” our eyes were agog.

“That’s what they say. Anyway, he found the lighthouse’s usual keepers missing and the remnants of their last meal on the table. After resurrecting the light, he came across two overturned fishing boats and suspected that the lighthouse keepers had been drowned. They were never heard from again.”

“My goodness,” said my father. “Is that a true story?”

“Yep,” said the stranger. “I should know because I was that captain!”

He sauntered off, smiling at our gaping mouths. It was difficult to believe that anyone would jump into these cold northern waters voluntarily. My mother was skeptical.

“I think he just made that story up,” she whispered.

Soon, however, we caught sight of the Point Atkinson lighthouse on the starboard side.We watched its light wink on and off, then we swivelled around to watch the headland of Point Grey pass by on the opposite side, where the university sat atop some sizable cliffs. On the beaches below, one or two crumbling gun emplacements and submarine watchtowers still sat, remnants of home defense efforts during WW II.

We had truly left Vancouver and soon floated in the vastness of the Georgia Strait, with low, brontosaurian humps of land visible in the distance on either side. The chill wind continued to cut through our clothing, so we decided to head inside to our cabin.

Elevated Thoughts: Writers’ Festival

book

I enter the elevator, heading for the writers’ event in an Arts District studio. More than my anticipation of hearing live authors, I’m thrilled to find a lift, since my heart – not to mention hips and legs – had quailed at the prospect of a long, slow climb up the two sets of stairs which had thrown themselves at me as I’d walked in the door. There they’d loomed, gleaming in a metallic, cobalt blue, an industrial-chic effect not totally lost on me despite my dismay (I’m a writer, after all, and ergo, a keen observer). I’d detected them in the blink of an eye, noting the droves of cultured young things scampering up and down them like springbok.

Were I to attempt the ascent, I would have to first grip the handrail like a drowning person grasping at rope around a lifeboat. Then I’d place one foot heavily on the bottom step and pull up the other one to join it. I’d move the gripping hand along and repeat the arduous process for the second step, and so on, twenty times. Stairs, for my age and weight, are no longer to be taken lightly. Indeed, the physical layout of a venue becomes a central concern, far more important than the event itself. Ben Heppner or Pavarotti would take back seats, as ’twere.

In the elevator, I stand near the door. Behind me is a gaggle of young women, laughing and shrieking. Not one or two, but six! It’s like a frat party in that cramped space. I’m just about to turn around and frown them down, old-lady-like, when one voice rises above the others.

“Yes, it’s true! They can’t start without us, even if we’re a bit late.” More squealing laughter.

I’m stunned. This is clearly the event’s welcome guide and the gaggle of gigglers are – incredibly – the writers! She-who-spoke has that welcome-guide look about her; older than the others, with a commanding presence. She may even be in her forties.

I do a reality-check.

“Are these the writers?” I ask, all my preconceptions blown.

“They are,” she replies.

“All of them??”

She cocks her head, brows furrowed.

I don’t mean to be rude; I’m just incredulous. These young women certainly hadn’t been acting like writers, or the way I imagined serious writers would act. Is this how being a thirty-something writer manifests itself? To my aging eyes, the group is barely discernible from a herd of millennials at the mall.

Seemingly, my preconceived notions about writers is entirely false. I’ve noticed before that my 68 years hamper me from distinguishing between ages 20 and 40. This group may as well have been teenagers, so young did they seem. These days, I feel the same about groups of off-duty young teachers. Or nurses. Or lawyers.

Hearing their guide’s louder voice, the young women take the hint and settle down. Most of them make eye contact as their guide speaks with me, but three avert their eyes. Am I just another overweight old lady to them, with pretensions to literature? Have I ever written anything in my life? Can I even read? Do I adore Danielle Steele at home and Hello magazine in the beauty parlour? (um….I do like that last option).

As we exit the elevator, I stand aside to let the giggling herd pass. I have excellent seats in the front row of the small theatre, but somehow it doesn’t matter. The event feels ruined for me, and I make a plan to leave early. I cannot imagine what this group of young people can have yet experienced that would be of interest to me.

Turns out I’m wrong. Their books are brilliant. I stay on and even buy one of the novels on the way out. An autographed copy.

Who the heck is Seth Rogen?

Maybe it’s my age, but I’m noticing a new celebrity phenomenon. Sort of a personal non-phenom, actually. What I mean is, suddenly there are stars going viral (as ’twere) – stars of whom I’ve never heard (er..never heard of). Like Seth Rogen. I kept hearing his name, over and over. “Who IS this person?” I asked myself. Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I googled him. Turns out he’s “a Canadian actor, screenwriter, comedian, producer and director.” He began in standup.  Now, of course, he’s titanium, what with his part in The Interview and all. Not that I’d ever see it, North Korea notwithstanding.

I do try to keep current, going to movies, watching the AMAs, the Academy Awards and Emmys, listening to pop radio. Some of the stuff is excellent, so it can’t be my age. But it keeps happening: Seth Meyers (another Seth!), Zac Efron, Patrick Dempsey, Colin Farrell, Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Lautner. These are all stars I’ve had to Google. How sad! Once I knew them all as they reached mainstream fame. Now, thanks to niche movie-making, there are whole genres whose names are Greek to me. I don’t discover the young hotties spawned and developed only for teen flicks. For example, to know Trevor Lautner, I’d have to watch The Twilight Saga. Yikes. To get acquainted with Colin Farrell: Fright Night and Horrible Bosses. Double yikes. To recognize Seth Meyers: SNL , The Office and The Mindy Project. Yikes x 3!

So I guess it makes some kind of sense. Movie audiences get younger and less sophisticated; so do their movies. The celebrities go along for the paycheque. It’s the New Way of Things.

As long as it’s not “my age”, I can live with it.

MY WAR ON TEA

Tea, tea, the musical fruit….oh, wait…that’s beans. But who can keep it straight, when “tea cachet” in gourmet circles now rivals that of baked kale chips? Tea is even gaining on cute-cat videos for social media clout. It’s infiltrated YouTube; a search for “tea jingles” brings up oodles: Dixie Tea, Berqa Tea, Ahmad Tea. And Lipton has a whole history of crappy tea jingles, perusable on Google. Tea lurks everywhere – in ads, in junk mail, at Chapters, in gift packs, at Starbucks (!!). There’s the infamous Tea Party in politics and a made-in-Canada Tea Party rock group.

I ignored the trend until it began to affect my personal space. Now my “of an age” girlfriends come for Games Night and what do they want to sip while playing Taboo and Pictionary? Tea! Not sherry, not wine, not Diet Pepsi or Pellegrino. They want TEA. Quelle hassle! Find the kettle, fill it, plug it in, wait 10 long minutes and endure a screeching whistle. Then….find the teapot, wash off tea stains from 5 years ago, let the hot water warm it….find four matching tea cups….I tell you, tea-making goes on and on. Give me Perrier or Diet Lemonade any day.

To make things worse, I’m forced to act pleased when “the girls” bring special tea treats. Not content with Orange Pekoe, they now hanker for herbal teas, black teas, green teas, chocolate teas and some horror called rooibos. As a non-tea granny, I’m bloody sick of it all. It’s come down to “me or the tea” at my house. I won’t serve it; I won’t drink it (it’s like warm piss).

Tea even chases me in restaurants; the absolute worst (for me) is going out for oriental food and having to drink PLAIN GREEN TEA. No sugar, no milk. JUST PLAIN TEA.

What’s a princess to do?

Extras

No Action in the movie line;

this one’s a wrap!

Ahead, four de Caprio girls

dumb-blonding me blue,

(even the brunettes)

Big kohl eyes slant javelin glances

at baggy-pant dudes.

I slant my own dull javelin, and it sticks in two crones

at Cineplex doors, on their way out, so to speak,

all done with early shows.

This plot is thick – real characters!

though truth be told, they pass for Church Ladies.

(pull-on pants, white hair).

But at least they know their lines.

They work the crowd in “period” dress.

(I envy them their dedication to the project)

I nearly yell, “Cut!” and “Print!”

I want to steal their dog-eared scripts,

and learn some lines myself.

We Are Cat Whisperers

black catAt first, the stray wouldn’t enter the house, no matter how much we sucked up to him. With winter coming on, we cooed and clucked, administered ear rubs on demand and fed him daily outside the front door. He would lace into the food like a bulemic, but any sudden movement or noise caused panic and a zippy departure. Such a pretty thing, too, with a full tail and everything (our previous cat was a manx).

After a couple of months of this yes-I-will, no-I-won’t behaviour, we didn’t expect the little guy to stay, so we didn’t get creative about a name – we just called him “Blackie”. Original, I know. We decided he must have a home, but figured that if he did, they sure weren’t letting him in much. He came to us morning and night, hanging about, auditioning us for his new owners. We were happy to oblige but remained daunted by his high expectations.

Then – lo and behold – one day he pranced into the garage – aka our smoking lounge. Sharpening his claws on the right front car tire, he leaped onto the hood of our Chevy Tracker and cleaned himself up a bit. Then he matter-of-factly climbed over the rear view mirror into the car, settling down on the driver’s side for a snooze. My husband and I stared in wild surmise. This was great progress! We felt like cat whisperers, so far had the little guy come with his trust issues. Filled with pride, we encouraged more of same by leaving the car window down and making sure Blackie could exit the garage when a leaf moved unexpectedly.

We must have passed the garage test too because he was soon lacing into his food on the warm side of the front door. We opened it one morning to find him pressed up against it, eager for entry. We felt the thrill of victory once more and plopped down his bowl by the front hall closet, careful to maintain all ear-scrubbing and easy-exit practices.

And then – wonder of wonders – days later, he pushed through our cat door and ate in the kitchen! Once or twice he even climbed up for a cat nap on our family room sofa. The “sudden movement” rule still applied, however, causing him to bolt for the cat door at the smallest provocation. But we knew we’d won.

Now he’s ours, just in time for winter. Instead of huddling under a car on cold nights, he now stretches out beside our older cat on the bed and hardly moves as we come and go. We love him dearly, happy to have him boss us around on a permanent basis.