Monday, November 15, 2010

Los Nuevos Extraterrestres

This ship is making its way through the water just fine on its own, thank you. I haven’t really been making a whole lot of choices these days beyond what to have for dinner or what color to paint my kitchen. No big ticket items. No real direction. I gave in. I am letting the current take me where it will. I just hope it knows where it’s going. All that talk about life being about the journey rather than the destination may have finally gotten to me. So here I am. This is me on the journey. Now what?

I have been making small strides and
achieving goals. Accomplishments are my new thing, however small. I went back to where it all went awry and rather than forcing the issue or bullying the out the desired result, I am letting things take shape on their own. I have been temporarily taken over by one of the body-snatchers. And I have to say, I needed the break. But this comes with consequences as most idyllic notions do. This isn’t actually life. Autopilot does not equal reality. Though recharging oneself is necessary before moving into the next phase of life, sometimes you have got to put a clock on it.

In the mean time, while this Alien is navigating, I am reconciling what I actually want my life to look like and making a mental list of practical goals. I find that this can be productive and rather creative. I always want to combine two things that don’t go together. Nothing seems to fit, and yet, it all does. And while I am on this steady course to no place special I am cleaning house – figuratively of course. This seems like as good of a time as any to jettison that which does not apply to the future. That great unknown place where dreams go to either come true or die. Or, if you are a terminal optimist like me, go to get revised. Revision is my new mantra. Adjust, Modify, Amend. CHANGE. They don’t need to be biggies either. It is so true that the little things make all the difference.

Suffice to say, I am utterly content at the moment. You can see it in my expression and in the way I move about. There are great things happening behind the scenes. I am enjoying this time in the open sea because I know that there is hard work ahead, a bit of quiet before the proverbial storm. Eventually I will need to step to the helm and set a course, however right or wrong it may be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I love cows. I really do and am an adamant supporter of their humane treatment. Temple Grandin has done some amazing work in this arena. If you aren't familiar, I suggest you pick up one of her books or read one of her papers about animal behavior. But I don't want to be a hypocrite here. I drink lots of milk, consume all things dairy, eat rare red meat and wear leather. While wildly delicious and diversely useful, I also like spending time around these animals. Even though they heave and sigh more dramatically than a bored tween and they don't understand your commands or react when you need them to. I have a scar on my foot from where I got stepped on (with full weight) by one of those bitches. They need people in a hapless and helpless way. Sometimes they will piss right in your face or buck your thigh or swat shit in your eyes with their tails. When I worked at the dairy regularly I would eat cheeseburgers after every evening milking shift because they made me so mad. "I'm going to eat you!" I would mutter. And I would. But there is something powerful about being engulfed by the weight of mammalian trust that tears you away from the modern world. This is what I am most thankful for, this is what brings me back. They are warm doe-eyed beasts with little brains and thankless jobs. They emit an incredibly docile sultriness and draw you into their calm. You are part of the herd while you are working in it. They know you are there and they accept you. It's cool with them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I am the Fourth Philosopher…

Running season kicks off for me with the end of lake swimming and the Chris Bond 5K. This year I slept through the race due to a grueling evening in the ER. So I ran the course solo after my evening shift to make up for it. I just got some new sneakers and will enjoy shredding them immensely. I have a new determination. I feel as though I have a new body and mind as compared to last year. I still hate running – it is so bad for you – but I feel that there are few exercises that require such little money, time, thought. So, for me, it fits the bill. I am making new play lists, mapping new routes and I know Ivy is more than excited to hit the streets again. The act of going on a run is meditative for me. I don’t like to go with others and I prefer to go in the dark with a frozen moon over my head, music in my ears, dog at my hip. It all sounds so rewarding and pure, I know. That being said, when I am done with my run (all showered and dressed) I go to the pub and drink like a sailor. But, I don’t ever fall out of my chair. At first I chalked it up to stellar genetics – I am a good drinker, no doubt – but then I realized that something happens to how my body metabolizes alcohol when I put it through hell. It is kind of awesome. I would like to take a moment here to give a shout out to Ommegang for making my favorite beer in the whole world: the high-test Belgian known as Three Philosophers. I swear it makes me smarter; just ask my bartender Annie! This acquired genius propels me through my wintry days in a heavenly (and hangover free!) fog. And so, I run because it is free so that I can spend the money that would be the equivalent of a gym membership on beer.


“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.” - Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, October 9, 2010

nothing in the dark

I am around death more than the average person. It comes with the job. Thankfully, the departed I have cared for have not been anyone familiar to me. This is an inevitability though that I am not prepared for. I have had to re-reconcile my feelings toward death so I can do the work that I love so. It has sparked some long thoughtful walks. This year I lost several important people that I knew not only as  a child, but also as an adult. I am still processing the fact that they are gone, the impact they had on me and our relationship over the years. This is what we are all left with after somebody passes away. In our culture (I use the term loosely) death is not part of life. We don't talk about it and we don't deal well with it. I am witness to how awkwardly the details are handled, how little the extended family is involved. I hear over and over again the "coulda, woulda, shouldas." They are unnerving to me. I am driven to navigate my interactions with a different zeal. I say to myself "I don't know if this will be our last conversation - how will you remember me?" It is no longer conscious but it was at a time. Sounds crazy, I know. I am not a different person because of this change. I still shoot from the hip and make some pretty spectacular mistakes. But I have allowed myself the emotional freedom to tell the lovelies in my life how I feel about them. And also to stay clear of those I know to be unhealthy. It is not that I believe life to be short or that karma is instant. It is just that life is quite unexpected. My current theory on the meaning of life is get to the end of it with as few "coulda, woulda, shouldas" as possible.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Honky Tonk Angel

Kitty Wells is my hero. If you were at Barangus Saturday night you'd know why. There were random fireworks across the way and lightening was still lighting the sky even after the storm had passed. It was a perfect summer evening and a little slice of what I love about Texas right here at home. Tequila shots, cheap beer and getting pushed sweetly across the dance-floor by a nice fella. It was just what I wanted, just what I needed. After drinking a few cold beers in the parking lot I was called to the stage to make my country singing debut. I got up and sang a few songs with the "Family Tradition" band. With my cowgirl boots on and a rose in my hair I was somebody’s June for a little while. Now it’s time to practice my guitar and learn some new songs. And maybe change my last name to Carter-Cash Wells.

Friday, July 16, 2010

No McDreamys Here...

Life in the Emergency Room is probably a lot like you imagine. It is sort of like a television dramedy. We make wise-cracks at each other’s expenses while mending gaping boo-boos. We drink gallons of coffee and eat high calorie foods in between drawing blood and catching barf. The human body is a marvel; a truly disgusting marvel. In a way, I just sort of showed up and said “put me to work.” And they happily did. I come from a long line of Emergency Medicine practitioners. I clearly got the gene, while my sister and brothers remain blissfully ER-gene free (dang!). Not much grosses me out and I dare any of you to try. Having an integral part in the resolution of somebody’s crisis changes you. You are at once humbled and hardened. You grow more attached to and thankful for what you have in your life, as you are reminded of how fleeting it can be every shift. As a self preservation mechanism you distance yourself from those you are caring for. Not in a derogatory way though. You simply wouldn’t make it through the day if you let yourself care as much as you normally would. And these are people in your community that are seeking your help – people you love – but you must remain calm and keep a brave smile. Even when you know better. I can feel the transformation and am trying to find a balance. Though it can be draining, working in the ER is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I don't say "No" to an open shift. I am compelled to be there - all the time. The team I work with is nothing short of amazing and I either learn or see something new every day I’m there. Beyond the cacophony of babies crying, people laughing, painful moans, dirty jokes and the soundtrack the ER doctors put to our insanity; beyond the bodily fluids, malodorous occurrences and broken bones; I am now part of a bigger picture and a greater good. I am honored to help those in need. Thank you for allowing me to lend a hand.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bovine Dreams

I really do want to be a Dairy Princess. I am a little past the appropriate age but I dreamt about it even before I started milking cows. It was the practical kind of princess that resonated with me. I wasn't into unicorns and Cinderella. I loved the real-life princess who showed cows at the State Fair and got blue ribbons for taking extra care to wash the white parts of her beloved Heifer with bluing. The girl who was in high school and was beautiful without make-up and wore a gold locket with a picture of her boyfriend in it. Who wouldn't want to wear a sash and a tiara and wave at the crowd from a convertible in the parade? People lining the main street on a summer afternoon waving back at you for no other reason than you waved first. Sweating in a new dress better suited for a prom or debutante cotillion and feeling the August sun burning the back of your neck. I waved at this young woman year after year in between scooping up fireballs and dum-dums from the street. She waved, I waved. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

I am officially back in the saddle again. I can’t explain what it means to me to be able to be around these amazing animals. No matter however brief the time may be, I always leave refreshed and humbled. I didn’t always love horses. They scared me so much as a youngster. There was no traumatic event that occurred, they were just so big! I didn’t stay on a horse until I was about 19. I would be put atop a saddle and then immediately wanted to get off. I had just moved back from California and reconnected with an old family friend. She had a horse farm that abutted the National Forest in Hector and I went out there to ride twice a week. I am by no means an expert rider in any way. Actually, I am not that good at most of the stuff that I do but it has never deterred me from continuing. We would mostly ride the trails in the forest smoking cigarettes and chatting; intermittently hanging forward in deep bends to swat at deer flies circling the heads of our horses. Sometimes we would just sit on the ridge looking out at Seneca Lake as though we were the only humans alive. Once I could post a trot she wanted me to buy a Percheron and move to Wyoming and be a ranch hand. I nearly did. I came closer than anyone knows. But something came up. I can’t remember what. Something trivial I am sure like a new job or a boyfriend (both ruin everything), something important to a 19 year old. So ended my magical trial riding days in Hector. I still have dreams of the horse whose invitation west I foolishly declined. Now I ride when I can. I found a great farm nearby called Kelviden and really enjoy spending my Saturday mornings deep in concentration, flushed, sweaty and as dusty as Pigpen. Smiling all the while.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ah, another Monday night at Ron Don’s. My brother Mike behind the bar, baseball on TV, chicken wings at the ready and bottomless beers. Perfect. I have this wonderful friend Jenna who is very inquisitive. She asks interesting questions, sometimes inappropriate but always thought provoking and fun! We often get together on Mondays to catch-up with each other. She somehow manages to get her laundry done while I can barely manage to get myself home at a decent hour. Tuesdays are rough. So, last Monday Jenna asks me and our friend Emma “What is your favorite part of your body and what is your favorite thing about your personality? No thinking allowed.” Me: my bum and my genuine compassion; Jenna: my breasts and my ability to make people happy; Emma: my calves and my deep empathy. And it is all true. We are some sharing and caring cuties. So there we sat laughing and drinking, getting to know each other better and ourselves better. But now I ask you dear reader, what is your favorite part of your body and your favorite thing about your personality? No thinking!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I have a whole town to look after now...

Um, most of us are pretty Googleable at this point. I found out that I have a whole town in Ontario. That is an awful lot of responsibility and I'm not sure I am ready for all that. I should probably take a trip up there this summer to say 'hello,' check-in, maybe do some fishing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique

Music is affecting me more than usual. I mean, I can feel the blast of synapse firing - I'd light up an MRI scan like a Christmas tree. I've been watching Austin City limits again and was brought to tears a few months ago by the beginning of the Avett Brothers performance. Sometimes a song will come on my ipod while I'm running and destroy me. I'll sprint until I drop. Lately it has been either Ambling Alp or Don't Let Me Fall and anything by The Clash. I have to be careful about my play lists. I was supposed to read 'Musicohpilia' in my book club last year but I got sidetracked by my own goings-on. The book is about the incredible effect music has on the brain and about how this phenomenon is uniquely human. Though not well received by the ladies in my club, maybe I should actually read it or at least something else by the author. I wonder if this new sensation is because my heart is so open and raw these days. So hopeful for and terrified of love. Probably why I started swimming. I swam in Cayuga Lake everyday last year until I couldn't any longer. The water gets pretty cold come October so I then I began running. I hate running - every second of it. I think about swimming, I think about having a drink (or five) when I'm done, I think about how much I hate running. So, the heartache led to the swimming which led to the running which led to the music and now I'm a walking around with my deep sonic sensitivity on my sleeve. In a way all this exercise is paying off. I am stronger both physically and emotionally because of my new found sportiness. I have also been asked to swim as part of a relay triathlon team this summer. And all this moving keeps me moving in a fantastic cycle. I hear music; I move, I dance no matter where I am. I'm spellbound. It is all very good but also a little alarming. Hello new emotive Vanessa. Nice to meet you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vanessa, Get Your Gun!

I have a newfound love of firearms. You'd think that since I am kind of a country gal I would have fired a gun before I turned 30. Not so. I started shooting trap last year at the Trumansburg Fish and Game Club. I spend most of my Sunday mornings with a latte and a box of shells - my kind of church. I am currently taking a pistol safety class at the club and am high as a kite from gunpowder and giddy with adrenaline. I fired my first handgun tonight. Got my pistol cherry popped so to speak. It is scarier than shooting a shotgun, hands-down, but it is also very exciting. I did really well considering I am a total novice. My grouping is tight and I am definitely a double-action revolver kind of girl. It might have been a blessing in disguise because I am totally hooked. It taps right into the part of my brain that shouts more, More, MORE! I'll be on the lookout this year for a sweet little over/under shotgun if you know of one. And don't worry, you are actually safe with me behind the barrel. Promise.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Refractive Index

Rainbows have been following me around. At first I was overjoyed! How wonderful! I saw ten in less than two weeks. Often double rainbows, one on each side of the sun. Maybe I just started noticing them more but it is getting a little cheerfully creepy. It seems that everywhere I turn now there is a rainbow or a prismatic reflection. Right, why should I be so suspect of such a lovely phenomenon? I don't know. I mean, really, who sees that many rainbows on a regular basis in the winter in Upstate New York? I must have done something good to be worthy of such a treat. In Greek mythology, the rainbow is considered to be a path made by the messenger Iris between Earth and Heaven. I hope whatever news it is, it's as lovely as the route it is taking.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!

More specifically: let them eat hazelnut cake with raspberry caramel sauce and hazelnut ice cream. Let them also eat five spice pork belly with cabbage slaw, watercress salad dotted with gorgonzola dolce and apple slices, rabbit blanquette with braised root vegetables, seared duck breast atop shredded brussels sprouts and toasted hazelnuts, oh I could go on. I mean, that is just what I ate tonight. I am just back from a lovely dinner at the Hazelnut Kitchen. If you have not had the pleasure, make a reservation RIGHT NOW! It has been such a blessing to have this bistro in our little town and it has been a joy to get to know the proprietors Christina and Jonah. I have had some of the most memorable and inspirational meals of my life come out of that kitchen (and I have traveled quite a bit). I had the sweet pea flan (pictured here) last summer and nearly fell out of my chair it was so amazing. A few weeks ago it was the green coconut curried escargot and the beef carpaccio that floored me. The menu changes every month and there is always something that just knocks me out. Everything is local and in season and all thoughtfully prepared. The wine list is foolproof and the desserts will bring you to tears. Nothing short of a foodgasm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How come things that happen to stupid people keep happening to me?!

What do I know about anything really? Somehow this year I have found my way and fallen back in love with myself. All it took was a major change in my life to throw me into a spin that would land me firmly in my skin. You don't however usually welcome these upheavals or order them up when you think it's time for a difference, but we all amaze ourselves and each other with our innate resilience. It's good to suffer from acute cases of the human condition from time to time. I started really thinking about all of this when my sweet friend Scarlet Lily experienced some wonderful and major changes in her life. She lives away from me now but I am kept up to date via her blog. Last week she asked if I wouldn't mind guest posting because I am so quickly marking things off of my life list that I don't even keep one any longer. This prompted me to begin my own blog and an exploration into my own self and how wonderfully ridiculous life can be. My unsolicited advice to all of you? Confer with your seven year old self before doing anything. I am also a fan of treating every day as though it were your birthday. If you aren't a believer in successful regressions as a gateway to inner-peace and inner-silliness ask yourself: What might Homer Simpson deem a good idea? 

Monday, March 22, 2010

1215 Manzanita Drive

I miss my grandfather. He's been dead for quite a few years now but I think about him everyday. When I lived in San Francisco I would take the train out to Millbrae a few times a month to visit him. His name was Elmer but everyone referred to him as "Whitey" on account of his super blond hair. He was sweet and unassuming. He was a Merchant Marine and grew up in Chicago. He laughed at his own jokes unabashedly, which is good because they weren't that funny. He kept a large canister in the kitchen that contained a mix of about 6 breakfast cereals. "Why limit yourself to just one kind?" He got a gold Cadillac when he retired and he loved me. My mother and sister are in California now cleaning out the house where he lived, nestled in a suburb that would make Tim Burton feel at home. His wife recently passed and now we can finalize things and perhaps move on a bit or, at the very least, grieve in a different way. Once the house sells it's done. No more coffee on the veranda or picking lemons from the tree in the backyard. Really, no more hearing him laugh or whistling lazily while moving orchid pots around the garden or waiting for him to look away so I could leave the waitress a little more money. No more 'Okay Vanessa, okay.'

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ugh, etc.

Well, I'm sick. As in, my hair hurts and I've had 1,000 pots of tea in the last 36 hours and I can't leave my couch for too long. Thank goodness for DVR and Ivy! I made sure to pamper myself yesterday thinking it would help. I gave myself a manicure and a pedicure, drank a few tall glasses of McKenzie Rye Whiskey from Finger Lakes Distilling, had some excellent eggplant lasagna from the Pourhouse and a few pints with some great friends. I even got a great night's sleep. But I feel worse. I always tout that because I work at a hospital and am around germs all the time I rarely get sick. While this is mostly true there are always exceptions; like now. If you see me out kiss me at your own risk.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Raw Milk

I didn't think I'd love it as much as I did. I would always hold my nose dramatically whenever we drove by a dairy farm. I would wail "Oh my God!" and hold my breath for as long as I could. Then, one day it all changed. I was in my twenties and just back home from an Au Pare stint in Europe and working at a local vineyard. I didn't need a second job. I was too busy as it was. But there she was: a lovely woman getting a hot cocoa while waiting for her daughter to finish up her violin lesson at the conservatory. I was in line at the coffee shop behind her listening while she told the barista this information. She turned to me and was wearing a sweatshirt with the family's dairy name embroidered on the chest. I didn't even think about it before asking "is that your dairy?" while pointing at her shirt, it was all so automatic. She said that yes it was and it was over right then and there. I was hired as the weekend milker and I just fell in love with the farm and the family. Suddenly, the odor that had offended me so as a youth was as complex and multi-layered as any great wine I had ever had. A heady mix of manure, sweet hay, warm milk and iodine. The pervasive aroma along with the hum of the milkers and the steamy breath of my "girls" on a winter morning was the most comforting feeling I'd ever known. Burned coffee and cigarette paper on my lips, country music scratchily emitting from the radio precariously tied to one of the parlor gates, shit on my boots, humidity in my lungs: my heaven. If I could, I would do it everyday for the rest of my days. Sometimes you lose sight and let other things get in the way. Regrettably, I left my position at the farm. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to catch the eye of a dairy farmer and one day be the mum of a Dairy Princess.