Day One-Hundred-and-Twelve: A mole, a doctor, and an inconvenient discovery

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WARNING: Squeamish readers beware. It gets pretty descriptive further down.

 

“I would prefer to take that out,” the doctor said a month ago, squinting through the skin-scope-thingy. “I mean, you don’t have to do it today, or this week or anything, but I would do it within the month.”

She looked at me hard before I left, and repeated: “Within a month. If we don’t hear from you, I’ll be calling you myself. I’ve even set a reminder.”

Cue reluctant phone call to medical centre just inside a month later. If there’s one thing I can’t take, it’s a scolding from a medical professional.

Plus, I’m super brave, right? This is for my health. That mole might be a ticking time bomb. (Or, as I’ve suspected for a while now, it might be a cute little brown spot that’s called my back home for the most part of my life. It might be called Steve.)

If you’ve read me before, you know that I have an intense and all-encompassing fear of needles. I hate those pointy bastards. So it stands to reason that submitting to a series of needles and then having some of my flesh cut out is not something I’m entirely comfortable with.

Mum endured the same procedure only a few weeks ago: two incisions on her back, one on her neck.

“The neck was fine,” she told me, gesturing towards the dressing. “It was the back that was the most trouble.”

Had I told her at that stage that I was going to get a mole removed from my back? I’m not sure. If so, she had pulled a real dick move.

“How was it trouble?” I asked, stupidly.

“Well,” she said. “For one, it’s been the more painful of the two sites in healing. I can’t really sleep on my back. And then there was the thing with the anaesthetic…”

“The thing with the… what?” Is she serious with this shit?

“Well,” she said again. “She’d put the anaesthetic in and was all good to go. Then she started cutting and I could feel it.

I gaped at her. “Did you scream?”

“No,” she said, waving her hand. “I just told her and she put some more in and then it was fine. Actually it was lovely having the extra, because it was numb for about eight hours afterwards.”

Lovely is not the word I would use, but surely my mother was just one of those weird people who doesn’t react properly to certain medicines. Like those poor souls who go in for surgery and somehow remain conscious (and aware of every sensation) for the entire thing, but have no way to communicate this to the surgical team.

Well, not quite that dramatic. But close.

“I think it was just because she was working so close to my spine,” Mum reassured me. “Nervy area, you know?”

 

Oh, I know.

 

I left the house and drove the three minutes down the road to the medical centre.

“You’re getting it out at the GP?” my boyfriend had asked a week before.

“Yeah,” I said, wondering if he was about to tell me some horror story. “She said I could go to a dermatologist, but that would cost more, and it’s only on my back, so I don’t care as much about the scar.”

“Did you ask her if she’s done this kind of thing before?”

I hadn’t. But she’d spent a good deal of time prodding the area and describing the size of the potential scar, so I figured she knew her shit.

I pulled into the car park and wondered for a good moment whether I would be in a fit state to drive myself home after the procedure. I could always call someone, I figured. A year ago, my dentist’s receptionist hadn’t wanted me to drive home after I had a tooth pulled, but this was different. That had been traumatic.

I walked in and announced myself at the front desk. A large sign asked me whether I’d had my shingles vaccination. (I haven’t, if you’re wondering, but weirdly enough my brother came down with shingles two weeks ago.)

I took a seat against the wall and waited. The waiting is the worst part. Any time to think about the impending procedure is not welcome. They should just stick with the needle as you walk through the door.

When my name was called, I smiled woodenly and followed the doctor down the hallway to a room that housed two beds surrounded by curtains.

“Have a seat there,” the doctor said, indicating the closest bed.

I hoped that she wasn’t expecting me to maintain a seated position through this. I was already in danger of passing out.

I removed my shirt and she greeted my mole with an “ah”. After some more prodding, she bid me lie down and elevated the bed.

“I’m going to mark out where to make the incision,” she told me. (I’d already asked her as we walked in not to say ‘cut’.)

When she was happy with her lines, she walked to the head of the bed and explained the risks.

Bleeding. Infection. Scarring. Further incisions if the mole proved to be sinister. (She didn’t think it would be.)

“So, is that all good?” she asked.

“No,” I laughed. “But go on.”

 

“We’ll put the anaesthetic in to numb it,” she told me. “That’s the worst part. It does sting.”

‘Sting’ is what a bee gives you. Don’t get me wrong; bee stings hurt like a sack-whack (I assume from the similar facial expressions), but this I would describe as something deeper. Sure, if ten bees pooled their resources into a long metal needle and poked their way under your skin to deliver a shot of painful venom in a very small area, then yeah, it stings.

“Ok,” the doctor said after the ‘sting’. “And now I’ll do the other side.”

I was left alone for what I imagine was five minutes, and the doctor spent a further few minutes making sure the equipment was prepped, and washing her hands.

“That should have done the trick by now,” she announced upon her return.

I could only agree with her. I’d never had local before, and it was such a small spot that I wasn’t entirely sure whether it was numb or I was just unaware of it. I was still suffering the after-shock of the ‘stings’.

“Sharp or dull?” the doctor asked, lightly pressing some metal object against my mole.

“Dull,” I answered after a moment.

 

If you’ve ever had nightmares about being cut, then you will sympathise with me here. You also might want to stop reading. (As if, though; you’ll be right.)

I was expecting pressure. I was expecting a tugging sensation. I was not expecting another ‘sting’.

“Sharp!” I gasped as she started to slice. (Gross. Sorry.)

She stopped. I could hear doubt in her voice when she asked, “What does it feel like?”

“Like you’re dragging a needle across my skin,” I answered.

The only answer was more anaesthetic. The ‘worst part’ again. Fantastic.

Two more jabs of searing sting-fluid would do it.

It didn’t.

 

I should clarify that the anaesthetic wasn’t totally ineffectual, and I didn’t scream through a procedure where I could feel each cut intensely. But it was not completely numb. Some spots were worse than others. Some I truly couldn’t feel.

“Can you manage it?” the doctor eventually asked, after I’d whimpered in pain at another cut. (Even after what I can only assume was a double dose of local.)

“Yes,” I replied, gritting my teeth.

I was already there, already brave, already cut. I couldn’t quit and come back to face it another day.

And so it continued until the mole was off. If you’ve had a tattoo (I haven’t), you’ve probably experienced a similar (or worse, let’s be honest; you guys are tough) sensation of stinging and dragging. But you’re expecting it. You don’t get a tattoo if you’re not.

I had nine stitches in total. I felt all of them. The pain was vague, but it was enough. And it was not supposed to be there at all.

By the last stitch, I’d nailed my deep breathing, and I joked to the doctor that I thought the anaesthetic might finally be working.

 

I walked out of there a mess. I’ve only just stopped shaking. I shouldn’t have driven, but here I am, alive.

“Next time you’re having something cut off, let them know that they need to leave quite a bit of time for the anaesthetic to kick in,” the doctor told me on my way out.

Next time I’m having something cut off, they will have to knock me out and tie me down. Nuh uh, sister.

 

TB

(The irony is that now I can’t feel it at all. Just like Mum said!)

Marriage is between a man and a woman… and the church and the government and your mum

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I can’t help but notice that a lot of people are getting married lately. Every couple of weeks, I’m seeing white dresses and rings all over my Facebook feed. I’m also hearing a lot of wedding-related conversation.

I don’t hate the idea of marriage at all, and although the thought of planning a wedding fills me with cold dread, I can how it might be nice to do the deed at some point down the track.

I do have a problem with the traditional (and legislative) caveats that come with the ceremonial joining of two lives. Marriage and weddings have become a balancing act: please the church, please the state, please the family. It’s your special day, right?

 

Boy Meets Girl

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Or boy meets boy. Or girl meets girl. No, wait, scratch that. Marriage does not apply to those last two pairings. Silly me. To me, and people like me, the “gay marriage debate” is just us shooting confused looks at one another and meeting every opposing argument with, “Why is this even a fucking question?” A marriage involves two people who want to permanently join their lives together (legally, spiritually, perhaps physically through some kind of surgery…) and obviously have the intestinal fortitude to deal with all the bullshit that is part and parcel of taking that plunge. It’s pretty simple, really. In theory. In a vacuum. Ah, sweet love.

 

Going to the Chapel

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I haven’t been to very many weddings, but all of them have been religious (Catholic) ceremonies. To me, the ritual was dry and unromantic; it even disturbed me in places. (There’s something about verbally agreeing that your union will result in the production of offspring that seems pushy and overly involved. Can we leave my uterus out of this?)  Having said that, I completely respect a couple’s desire to include their faith in their union. After all, religion is a deeply personal experience. For the same reason, I am completely offended by the hijacking of marriage by any one religion. To suggest that a marriage is any less legitimate because it didn’t happen exactly according to some ancient custom is stupid. It’s also kind of offensive. It’s also technically wrong. After all, what’s a joining of two souls without a bit of legally binding paperwork?

 

All You Need is Love and $40.50 for a Certificate

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Nothing screams romance like registering your every move with your friendly government. I was pretty disappointed to find out that my birth certificate wasn’t a “Congrats for being the winning sperm” thing, but more like a livestock tracking system. You can get ‘married’ by a bilingual Eclectus Parrot in a hot air balloon over a volcano, but it doesn’t mean anything (in the eyes of the law) without that scrap of paper. Despite the fact that a separation of church and state is written into the Australian constitution (I know, we have one – crazy shit), the only real basis for not changing the Marriage Act to encompass the union of all couples is that, like, you know, it’s just not right. I mean, we’re not saying “according to the Bible”, but…

The Commonwealth shall not make any law… for imposing any religious observance.

Right. Of course. Shit. OK, so, it’s not about religion. It’s about… tradition! Upholding the cornerstones of our society or something. Changing things makes us feel weird.

Then again, if federal finances continue the way they are, marriage equality may be a quick cash flow solution for the government. I mean, that’s a lot more $40.50 payments…

 

Why Are You Crying?

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Every little girl dreams of her wedding day. That’s a thing, right? There’s some kind of borderline-creepy scrapbook that details everything from the dress to the typeface on the place cards, with some vague notion of a groom who’s, like, handsome or has ten Ferraris or something? Even the non-scrapbookers have been told since birth that the day of their marriage will be their special day.

“Why don’t you want your father to walk you down the aisle? Do you hate him? You’re his only daughter. He’s dreamed of this day,” sobs your mother when you tell her you’re thinking of keeping things low-key.

“You’re not inviting your second cousin and her six children? You’re practically Satan,” scolds your wife-to-be’s great-aunt.

“I’ll go, but I want things arranged so that I don’t have to see, hear, or smell my stupid bitch sister. Some kind of tagging in and out system would probably work, but it’s pretty inconvenient for me,” sniffs your Nan.

“We’re making the trip up just for your wedding. We’ll just stay in a hotel though, so don’t tell your mum we’re coming,” writes your uncle. (This one actually happens in my family. It would be kind of cool and secretive if it were something more juicy than “don’t tell your brother we met up for coffee today” – because he’s totally going to care.)

I’m genuinely surprised that more brides and grooms don’t start their vows with “Firstly, fuck all y’all”. Tradition is lovely if it means something to you. It’s fucking irritating if it only means something to two very pushy people in your extended family. The apparent rules around who to invite, where to seat them, what to feed them, and how to fork out thousands to do it are enough to give any marriage-participant a cold sore the size of a grape. And that’s what you want when you look back over your wedding photos: tired eyes, a forced smile, and a perpetually empty wine glass.

*

My mum gets this, thank god (or the God-Abbott coalition). She tells me that as long as I’m happy, she doesn’t care if, when, or how I get married. I assume there are practical limits on this; human sacrifice hasn’t been a family ritual for at least a decade.

Your marriage should be like your sex life: how you do it is between you and your partner. If other people want to come and applaud, they can do so from a safe distance, on the condition that they offer no suggestions.

“But, you know, missionary is traditional…”

TB

Day One-Hundred-and-Forty-Eight: Don’t be afraid to reconnect

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Source: shoeboxblog.com
But maybe they’re not as inarticulate and annoying in person, right?

There’s a spot on my floor, about the width of two tiles, that is noticeably warmer than the rest of the floor. I only notice it in the evening, when the weather cools, and the tiles take on a (sometimes welcome) chill. On my journey from the kitchen to the bedroom–usually with some food item in my hand/mouth–it gives me pause.

My boyfriend and I have discussed it. We’re not sure of the cause. Probably some pipe or power source running under there. Or our downstairs neighbours have a small heater on their roof. I like to think it’s a posh floor-heating mechanism that was partially installed during building, then scrapped when the owners found out how much it would cost (and how ridiculous it is to have a heated floor in Brisbane).

And what, you may be yelling at your monitor, is the fucking point of this story?

Well, it’s been 28 days since my last drink…err, post. For reasons that are clear only to the monkey who drives my brain, I felt like it was time to reconnect.

And that’s all it takes, right? Just a small thing to start a conversation, and get things rolling again.

I was talking to someone the other day about whether it would be weird for them to reach out to old friends and suggest a catch up. Now, I’m no well of wisdom (actually, the only thing I can say with any certainty that I’m a well of is blood and urine), but it seems to me that in this new-fangled age of Facebook and Twitter and all that self-broadcasting shit, reconnecting with people is as easy as liking a post or getting involved in an in-status debate about Tony Abbott. (Well, that’s if you think making sense of a plethora of poorly-formed sentences hurling abuse at bloody Labor/LNP/Juliar/Clive “Dat’s a Huuuuge Bitch” Palmer is easy.) The point is that striking up a dialogue has never been so simple and non-stalkerish.

For example:

Your high-school buddy posts a status about how fucking good Meaty’s Steak Emporium and Barbeque Palooza is. You’ve been to Meaty’s and you can totally attest to its jizz-inducing deliciousness. (You have the stains to prove it.) Why not post a casual “OMG I KNOW RIGHT LOL” and see what happens? Maybe you guys can go to Meaty’s together some time and eat ribs until you’re more pig-meat than man. Trade “What I’ve Been Doing with My Life” stories over a stack of buffalo wings. I don’t fucking know; it’s not my job to plan your meat-ups (ha!).

(By the way, if I open a steakhouse, I will call it Meaty’s Steak Emporium and Barbeque Palooza, so if you open one before I do and steal this name–thanks for reading!– I will hunt you down.)

What I’ve realised, through the magic of self-examination, is that nobody is going to react in a negative way when you attempt reconnect with them. (Unless you were a total c**t in school. I can’t help you there.) If you’re worried about looking like a desperate weirdo contacting old friends, think about it this way: if you got a nice message from an old mate, wondering what you were up to, and suggesting a catch-up, how would you feel? Warm and fuzzy, probably. You’re very unlikely to laugh derisively and delete their message. (Unless you are the the aforementioned c**t. God, you truly are a dick.) In fact, provided that the message doesn’t begin with “I wish to have tell you about the joys of Islam” (an actual Facebook message I received–please know that I am prejudiced against all religions equally), you’re probably going to be pleasantly surprised and happy to hear from them. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. (I’m not saying that you wouldn’t also be interested in the joys of Islam.)

I have friends whom I can go months without seeing. When they pop up on my radar again, or I swing them an “it’s been too damn long”, there’s no recriminations for the lack of contact, no raised eyebrows and WTFs, just a genuine keenness to meet up and talk shit about life (and eat, usually).

And yes, I get that sometimes people from our past are best left there, and you’ll probably hear a lot of “we should totally catch up some time” bullshit before you actually end up doing the thing, but, like an old friend once chided me, you’re never going to meet anyone if you don’t get out there. (I appreciated the message, but it’s totally not true. They could come to my house. And what with home-delivered groceries and the wonders of the internet, I could conceivably never leave the confines of my apartment. Or wear pants.)

Sometimes *cue sad, reflective music* you’ll hang out with someone again only to realise that your lives have diverged so obviously that you no longer share any common ground. You’ll sit opposite them in a cafe, smiling awkwardly and trying to react in a casual and interested way to the idea of a competitive all-male knitting club, and you’ll know that your future interactions will be limited to a ‘like’ and maybe a “sick cardigan, bro” here and there. The awesome (and terrifying) thing about the world is that it’s full of people, a good proportion of whom are statistically likely to share your interests. Expand your circles (not an advertisement for Google+). Old friends have new friends, who can be your friends too if you reconnect with the old friends. Friend poaching!

So, reach out or don’t. Whatever. The door is never closed (unless you’re in prison)(especially if you’re in prison for stalking and murdering former friends).

 

Good to see you.

We should definitely catch up some time.

TB

Day One-Hundred-and-Twenty: Full-time badass/writer

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“So I want the monogram to read M-A-X P-O-W…”

 

I am happy to announce that an actual real-life company has deemed me employable. Yeah! Not that any of you ever doubted that, right? (Right?)

So, I have a full-time job.

This is both awesome and scary.

It’s a big tick in the ‘Growing up and getting my shit together’ box, and a big step further into the adult world–which, let’s face it, still makes me feel like Will Ferrell in Elf.

I spent my first day as a technical writer being shown around the building, having stuff explained to me in a “we’re not trying to overwhelm you, but you probably need to know this” kind of way, and double-checking that they had hired the right person and I was not part of some switched-at-interview mix-up.

It’s not that I’m super surprised that someone would give me a job–I do have a degree now, and a not-useless set of skills–but a lot of writers only dream of being paid (in a full-time position) to just, well, write.

When I get a census form whenever the fuck those things come out (every five years, apparently, so I’ll be waiting until 2016), or am filling out any other form that asks for my occupation, I can actually put the word ‘writer’ in my job title. Not a vague ‘Administration’ or ‘Hospitality’ (because KFC totally counted) or ‘Sales’, but a studied-to-get-a-freaking-degree-in-this writer.

This is a serious win.

 

“I thought you studied journalism,” some of my more observant friends will point out.

This is true. I did study journalism. I also had a second major in Creative and Professional Writing.

“But didn’t you want to be a journalist?” the same friends will tactlessly push.

While it is true–though, admittedly, shocking–that a student of journalism would be considering a career as a journalist, asking the above is a bit like asking a science student, “But didn’t you want to be a scientist?” It’s kind of reductive to assume that the broad set of skills one obtains in each of those degrees would only be useful and desireable in one single job. (Besides, ‘scientist’ is about as vague as you can get. Some of those guys don’t even wear lab coats and swirl beakers. I know!)

I did consider getting a job as ‘a journalist’, and even applied for a few, but at the end of the day, my most basic desire is to work as a writer. I want to have a job where the skills that I paid a painful amount of money (that I don’t yet earn enough to pay back–writing jobs, eh?) to get are being used. If that job is as a journalist: great. I love journalistic writing; I’ll probably do it on the side anyway. If it turns out, as it has, that a job as a technical writer ticks those boxes, then I am happy to broaden my horizons beyond the expected, and get some new skills to boot. Someone actually wants to pay me to do what I love? Show me to my desk.

So, here’s to Monday to Friday, bussing to the city, budgeting with an actual income, challenges and new experiences, and the impending appearance of some kick-ass business cards.

 

TB

Technical Writer/Bad-Ass M.C.

Day One-Hundred-and-Seven: I’ve made my peace with Valentines Day

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Nothing says romance like a teddy riding a Hummer

My drive to the spice shop today (because you know, nothing says ‘I love you’ like chilli) took me past a florist. It was the usual thing. Nobody really notices there’s a florist there until it’s Valentines Day. Then you can’t get at that place for love or money (or love and money, as it were). And these guys were theming it hard. Apart from the fantastic signage pictured above, they had red streamers hanging from the awnings, teddy bears in the window, balloons-a-plenty, and a big sign reminding everyone who hadn’t yet realised that it is ‘Valentines Day! Roses $40208325805 a dozen!’

Ok, so maybe the roses weren’t that expensive, but when you can use hyperbole if not on V-Day? I love you so much I wanna punch a kitten in the face!

It’s one of those occasions where ordinarily-carefree men scramble in desperation to find a gift that says, “I love you. Like, more than usual. But this ain’t no birthday/anniversary”, and ordinarily-tough women turn to mush over a pink stuffed animal.

Yeah, I’ve always had a problem with Valentines Day.

When I was sixteen, I formed a club with one of my best friends. We called it ‘Fuck Love’. Pretty succinct. It had its own Myspace and everything. I don’t think either of us had really given up on the idea of love, but we were the two singletons in our group of four, and it made days like V-Day a bit more bearable. We’d listen to our friends describe their (what I realise now were totally juvenile, high-school) relationships and roll our eyes at each other over the table. “Fuck love,” we’d chant when the stories got too much.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the idea of celebrating love. I love love. It’s the best. Now that I’m in it, I can’t imagine life without it (lame lame lame). It’s just the expectations and pressure that this one day seems to put on people.

It’s a make-or-break day for relationships new and old. First V-Day together? Be afraid. You wanna get this right. But not go so far that your partner expects similar or grander things every year. Don’t use the diamond ring card, for example, unless you have a shit-ton of money and your girl/guy doesn’t feel that bending her/his fingers is particularly necessary (if you’re really that rich, it probably isn’t).

Those in longer-term partnerships might be starting to get into the comfortable stage (which I don’t subscribe to really – yes, I’m comfortable, but I also still want to jump your bones), and will see V-Day as some kind of chance to reinvigorate their passion. Or something. Either you both forget (we did until yesterday), one of you goes to more effort than the other, or the pressure to be romantic is so great you give yourself stomach ulcers.

There’s another option, of course: Use the day as a reminder to do romantic things, catch up with friends/family, and just appreciate your relationships a little more. Don’t put your partner in the doghouse if they don’t tell you they love you on Valentines Day; put them there if they don’t tell you every day. If you want to take your partner out to dinner, and send roses to them at work, that’s also fine. But do it because you want to, not because you have to. Put some thought into what little thing will say, “Hey, you there! I love you.”

For me, the little thing will be having a special meal ready for my boyfriend when he gets home from work (hence the trip to the spice shop). It’s picking up some things we need and grabbing a treat to share with him later. It’s spending time chatting and giggling and kissing. (Not to gross you out, but we’re that kissing couple. One of my friends timed us once, and said in a social situation it was roughly every thirty seconds that our faces drifted towards one another.)

So, to the guy I saw walking out of the florist carrying a bunch of roses and a look of sheer panic, chill out dude. Give her the roses, tell her you love her, and then bust out that copy of season four of Game of Thrones that you somehow managed to illegally obtain and had to kill, like, six armed guards to get (hint hint).

 

All my love,

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TB

Day One-Hundred-and-Two: We all need therapy (a post involving brownies)

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What’s this about bacon?

I had a stress dream last night. The finer details elude me, but I know that I was trying to escape from something/somewhere/someone. This may be attributable to all the Walking Dead I’ve been watching lately, or the impending job interviews on the horizon. Either way, it’s not a great way to get your nightly rest.

Breakfast and a shower are sometimes all it takes to set things right. Not today. Today called for more intense therapy.

Enter baking.

Baking for me is kind of a double-edged sword. I should mention that I have zero natural flair for cooking. I have no sense of how long to cook things, which flavours will go together (although this is improving with time), and the combination/ratio of ingredients required to ‘just wing’ a dish. I like recipes. No, that’s not true. I love recipes. I love that recipes are freely available on the internet. I love that I can type ‘paleo desserts’ (the diet name that covers all of my intolerances, despite my not actually being paleo) into Google, and get pages upon pages of delicious and bizarre creations to drool over.

I really enjoy baking. When it works. When it doesn’t work, and I have rock-hard pancakes, soggy brownies, or wrong-tasting raw chocolate, it’s not good to be around me. There are knives in the kitchen, and you know…

The funny thing is that my failures never put me off. I just resolve to find a better recipe, to trust my gut (taste-buds) more, and get back on that horse.

The real therapy comes in the final stages, where your ingredients have met in the bowl, and you pour that delicious goop into a tray/tin/mould and watch it become something else in the oven (or fridge – the raw stuff inspires the same kind of awe despite the lack of viewing window). It’s out of my hands at that stage, and all I can do is trust that the recipe is a winner, that my oven is consistent, and that I remember to set the timer.

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This is where the magic happens.

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Damn, baby, you look goooood.

 

Part two of the baking therapy (and this is the part that actually kind of feeds into my obsessive nature and probably isn’t therapy at all) is the clean-up. This is what oven time is for, people. Sure, you’re going to want to spend at least five minutes staring into the oven, enjoying/hating the waves of heat, and wondering if it’s possible to speed this shit up in any way. What you should be doing instead is putting away all the ingredients, washing up the mixing bowl and measuring equipment, and wiping the benches until they sparkle. There’s something satisfying about a clean kitchen. Especially when you pull that baked treat out of the oven. You do not want to place that beauty to cool next to an explosion of flour and a pile of dishes, do you? (If yes, you’re a monster, and you don’t deserve baked-goods-babies.)

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Can you feel the zen? Can you?

 

Part three is the hardest part: waiting for that sucker to cool. Since you’ve already cleaned the kitchen, you deserve some relaxing time. Of course, there’s nothing relaxing about resisting the scent of baked goods wafting through your house. You’ll be telling yourself that third degree burns are worth it to experience the flavour just five minutes earlier.

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Hint: use the exhaust fan to speed up the cooling. Or just to make yourself think you’re speeding up the cooling.

 

Part four is bittersweet. Sometimes your baked goods are also bittersweet; this is a success. Mmmm bittersweet. But I digress. The final stage of the therapy is the most nerve-wracking. You’re finally going to taste the thing that occupied the last hour (usually more) of your time. Will it be worth it? Will your baking dreams be validated? Did you use enough sweetener? The first cut is the deepest. Or, like, the most important. This usually determines the inner texture of a baked good, and whether it cooked all the way through. It’s like on Masterchef, except there’s no irritating ad break, and the only fat judge in your kitchen is you. (Not that you’re fat, but when it comes to food it’s surprising that you’re not enormous.) A failure is disappointing. It leaves you wondering where you went wrong, and who the hell is going to want to eat weird-tasting chocolate sludge. (If you have a brother, that one’s not so hard to answer.) A failure makes you hungry, not only for better-tasting goods, but also for redemption. You will try this again, and you will succeed! Yeah, cook power!

A success? Well… Have you ever made love to an angel on top of a mountain while Elton John plays Your Song on a chocolate-coated piano? I haven’t either. But I imagine the two are similar. Baking successes are those therapy sessions where you walk out smiling and fist pump the air like you’re in a romantic comedy. “I think I’m gonna be alllllll right, Doc,” you tell your bemused therapist through a mouthful of molten chocolate (your therapist in this case being your oven).

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The dampest cake I’ve had all year!

 

Today’s therapy was sweet potato brownies from Eat Drink Paleo (http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/chocolate-brownies-that-blew-me-away/). And they are good. See? I already took a bite. (Excuse the terrible photography. Not so pro at food blogging. I was going to stack them on a plate all artistic-like, but I don’t want to wash a plate.)

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Pull focus from gnarly chewed-on brownie. Good call, auto-focus.

 

If you now feel like some baking therapy, I would encourage you to get onto this. Brownies have double therapy points because, well, brownies. And these ones are healthy, too.

(If you’re interested, I subbed coconut oil for the olive oil, only used a tsp of baking powder and half a tsp of baking soda, and just over half a cup of raw cacao – tasting after each quarter cup. Cue bittersweet, fluffy brownies. Look at me, trusting my gut over here.)

Therapy: success!

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go “clean” the brownie pan.

 

TB

Day Ninety-Eight: The first step to healthier eating? Reduce your barcodes

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Good luck weighing this trolley-load, son.

 

Sometimes people ask me for tips on cleaning up their diet. It’s usually because they’ve watched me pull out a packed lunch of nuts, fruit, and salad (or more likely, because they’ve seen me turn down chocolate and cake at a party). I have no nutritional qualifications, mind you, only a basic grasp of what’s good and what’s not so good. But I noticed something today that I think sums up what a healthier lifestyle is all about.

I was watching the nice lad (yes, I’m 80) at the supermarket scanning my groceries. Or should I say, weighing and entering my groceries.

You see, this poor guy (check-out whizz though he was) only got about 10 easy scans out of the 50 items we bought. The rest he had to stop and locate in his database, and weigh, before handing them over to be bagged. That’s the key difference between our trolley and the ones of most other shoppers: 80 per cent of what we buy is in its original form. And if it has a barcode on it, it’s probably not in its original form.

When my boyfriend and I go shopping, we race down the packaged food aisle (the first one you encounter when you walk into Aldi, in contrast to the immediate fruit and veg onslaught in Coles and Woolworths–different marketing technique?), stopping only for some canned tomatoes, rice milk, and bags of sunflower seeds. The real fun happens in the fruit and veg section. (If you’re wondering, yes we do buy most of our fruit and vegetables from Aldi. Not organic, not all Australian-grown, but one battle at a time, hey? We also hit up the farmers’ markets when we can. But the Aldi stuff is well-priced and tasty, and we modestly-employed youngsters love a delicious bargain.)

We spend the bulk of our shopping trip skipping around the fruit and veg like small children who’ve been given free reign in the confectionery aisle, asking each other with shining eyes if we might get some pears this week. Discovering watermelon on special elicits squeals of excitement. Don’t even ask how many bananas we bought. That should last a few days, we told each other, before grabbing an extra bunch just to be safe.

The point is that healthy eating for beginners can be simplified into this: fill your trolley with 80 per cent barcode- and ingredient list-free products. If it comes in a box or a bag, it’s very likely been processed, pumped full of of excess sugar and preservatives, and too far from its natural state to be any good for you.

 

To break it down, here are food items we buy in packages:

Nuts (raw and unsalted)

Rice milk

Tinned tomatoes (because non-perishables are just so handy)

Rice

Dates

Gluten-free pasta

Gluten-free bread

Tuna (protein-rich lunch on the run)

Meat (this one makes it in here on a technicality, since it is in a packet and does have a barcode)

 

With the exception of the gluten-free bread, which has all sorted of crazy gums and stuff to hold it together in the absence of gluten, even the packaged stuff we buy has only a couple of ingredients.

The downside is that we have to stock up on fresh goodies more than once a week. The upside is happy tummies, clear minds, and an appreciation for how food is supposed to be eaten (i.e. fresh and whole).

I’m no expert, just a girl with hyper-sensitive guts trying to keep her body from rage-quitting–and, hey, it’s working out pretty well so far. To the ones who ask, I’ll tell them it’s all about taking the first step, making changes that are manageable for you, and learning to look at food differently. If I had it my way, we’d live on an acreage, grow our own fruit and vegetables, and start a co-op with like-minded neighbours, but we’re a way off that yet. For now, it’s enough to make better choices in the supermarket (enjoy our patronage while you can, you greedy bastards) and pat ourselves on the back when we crave bananas instead of cake.

 

(Of course, we do enjoy our modified treats too, because resisting chocolate will always be a challenge. Today was caramel slice aka Sweet Happiness.)

TB

 

Related articles:

7 Tips to Help You Make Healthy Choices at the Supermarket (http://dellaterrawellness.com/make-healthy-choices-at-the-supermarket/)

The Benefits of Healthy Whole Foods (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-healthy-whole-foods)

Why Eat Wholefoods? (http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/nutrition+tips/why+eat+wholefoodsr,14993)

Survey: Processed Foods vs Whole Foods (http://www.sarahcalandro.com/thesisblog_2/?p=727)

Day Ninety-Five: Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef is like eating white rhino steaks (and other offensive activities)

We used to be into the Tasmanian Tiger cutlets, but, well, you know…

Today’s post is brought to you by Morbo.

ImageEven so, it doesn’t hurt to, you know, not deliberately wreak havoc on our one-off natural wonders.

 

Dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef marine park is a bit like:

Wiping your arse with the Shroud of Turin

ImageSorry, the nearest paper was like twenty metres away. We have more of these though, right?

 

Building a McDonald’s in the Great Pyramid of Giza

ImageWell, have you heard about the rent prices in the Sphinx lately? Phew.

 

Filling the Grand Canyon to facilitate a new highway

ImageWell, we had to sacrifice LA and forge a new coastline to provide enough dirt, but the 15 minutes this cuts off the drive is so worth it.

 

Housing a sewage plant in the Colosseum

ImageWe like to play Gladiators, except instead of lions we run from walls of gushing effluent.

 

Testing rocket launchers at Stonehenge

ImageOK, guys, this one definitely works. We, uh, need a new range now though. How about the Great Wall of China? Bigger surface area.

 

Wanton destruction annoys me. Wanton destruction of super amazing one-of-a-kind things makes me want to invite the dime-a-dozen idiots who make these decisions to a ropeless bungee from the Empire State Building.

 

TB

Day Ninety-One: How it feels to face your phobia

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I take a deep breath and push the heavy glass door. A bell tingles overhead to signal my arrival. No hope of sneaking out again then.

“Won’t be a minute,” calls a male voice from a door down a hallway. I know what’s in those rooms.

A TV plays grainy news footage in the corner, and a sign on the wall announces the place as registered. Yep, everything’s above board.

I don’t sit. If I do, I might end up clinging to the chair like a two-year-old having a meltdown. No, the least I can do is maintain some of my dignity. Besides, if I’m standing, it means I can run. And I should run. I want to run.

Then the man appears. He looks at me inquiringly, so I hand him the form I’ve been given. He asks to see my medical card, and checks the details against the ones on the form.

The bell sounds again, and I see another victim has arrived. This one’s a man, casually dressed. I guess that he’s in some kind of trade. He loiters near the door, waiting his turn.

“You can have a seat,” the man behind the counter tells me. “I won’t be long.”

Take as long as you need, I think, lowering myself into the closest chair. Then again, maybe we should just get it over with, before my courage deserts me. But that’s not right. My courage left me at the door.

The new arrival saunters up to the desk, all nonchalance. I’d like to see him when he goes into that room. Perhaps he does this all the time. Or perhaps other people don’t taste bile at the back of their throat when they come here.

I hear my name. My heart is threatening to beat its way through my chest wall and make a bloody escape.

“First door on the left,” the man tells me.

“First… which?” I reply intelligently.

“Go into the first door on the left,” he repeats, not unkindly. I’m sure he has six-year-olds who freak out on him all the time.

I force one foot in front of the other, and shuffle into the room. My brain is telling me to run, but I don’t think I could do it without collapsing. I can see the chair now, the bed next to the wall, the equipment. I shouldn’t look. But it’s hard not to.

“Just have a seat on the chair,” the man says, expecting a normal patient, expecting no trouble.

I’m not falling for that one again. Once you’ve tasted the cold embrace of unconsciousness and woken on the antiseptic-scrubbed lino floor, you learn very quickly to request the bed. Which is what I do now.

He looks at me, and I think he realises what he’s dealing with. “No worries,” he says. “But we’ll do the paperwork first. On the chair.”

He skirts around me like I’m a frightened cat and not just a frightened human, and gestures towards the chair. It might be a trap. Maybe I should just claw his face and run while I can. The voice in my head is soft, but firm: You have nothing to fear. You are being ridiculous.

I sit in the stupid chair, and sign my name with a shaking hand.

And then it’s time.

He asks me if I’ve had this done before. I nod. I’m going to vomit; I know it.

He asks me whether I have a ‘usual’ arm. Without looking, I point to the crook of my right elbow.

He nods and places the tourniquet around my bicep. He asks me to clench my fist, so I do. He feels the ropy life-support under my skin, and approves.

Then it’s time to get on the bed.

“Get as close to the wall as you can,” he says, so I do. I would disappear into that wall if I could.

It’s not too late to run, my head screams. I think I might cry.

He approaches with a plastic container filled with equipment. He asks me what I do for work. I tell him. I can’t breathe.

He’s still talking casually when he warns me I’ll feel a sting. I bite my lip so hard it hurts. It’s not enough. I still feel the sting.

All I can think about is the fact that I’m being drained. He’s sucking my life force through a sharp straw, and I can’t take it.

It’s over as quickly as it began. I feel the pull as the needle is removed, and oblige when he asks to press down on the cotton bud. He returns moments later with medical tape, and tells me I should keep the pressure on for five minutes.

“But you can go,” he adds, obviously assuming that I have the power of movement. I wonder what colour I am, whether he can smell my fear, how big my pupils are.

I don’t trust myself to walk, but I swing my legs over the bed anyway.

“That wasn’t so bad,” I tell him, faintly.

“I like to think I’m pretty good at it by now,” he shrugs.

“Right,” I try to smile. “Thanks. For making it easy. I’ve had some bad experiences…”

“You can go now,” he reminds me. He doesn’t want to hear my double-arm, hit-the-floor, bruises-the-size-of-tennis-balls story. I don’t blame him.

In the waiting room, the other man is sitting, scrolling through something on his phone. The phlebotomist beckons him into the room I’ve just vacated. I consider sticking around to see if I hear any screams, but my breakfast is threatening to reappear, and I just want to go home.

Hours later, every twinge in my arm makes me light-headed. I know the puncture has knitted together. I know that my blood is well-contained inside me. I know that I’ve lost only a few drops from the river that courses through me.

And still I fear.

 

 

I went alone to face my biggest phobia. I didn’t die. If only that meant I was cured.

 

TB

Day Ninety: Learning to be comfortable in silence

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They say that when you run out of things to talk about in your relationship, you start planning a wedding. When it happens again, you start planning babies.

If that’s the truth, I will never be married or have babies.

 

Someone asked me the other day how long I’d been with my boyfriend.

“Four years,” I replied.

“And you guys are living together now, hey?”

“Yep,” I smiled. I always smile when I remember that we’re cohabiting.

“That’s cool. Have you, like, run out of stuff to talk about yet, though?”

 

This attitude assumes two things:

1. That there exists a finite number of topics of conversation; and

2. That my boyfriend and I are constantly throwing words at one another in some sort of desperate attempt to avoid an awkward pause.

 

Neither of these is true.

For starters, my boyfriend and I each have a life outside of our shared home–whether it’s work, social stuff, or hobbies. This creates a wealth of conversation topics beyond just “how was your day?” We’re interested in different things, and spend some of our time reading about our specialty areas, and then sharing tidbits with one another.

“Did you know that they’ve just successfully teleported matter?” he’ll ask me over dinner.

“And yet they still can’t figure out how dinosaurs mated,” I muse.

We talk in bed before we go to sleep. We talk while we drive. We talk when one of us is in the shower and can only just make out what the other is saying over the rush of the water.

 

But we also spend a fair whack of time not talking. Whether we’re sitting together or at opposite ends of the house, we can go hours without uttering a word to one another. It’s not because we’re mad at each other, and it’s not because we’re bored or uninterested. We’ve just achieved a wonderful kind of comfort in silence.

Sometimes we’re taking a long drive, and we’ll sit holding hands over the gearstick, lost in our own thoughts, offering the occasional smile to one another. Sometimes we’re lying in bed, nestled together, our legs intertwined, reading our separate books/phones. Sometimes we’re just enjoying a great meal, and there’s no need for extensive conversation.

When I told my boyfriend about my friend’s question, he shook his head. “It’s not about having new things to talk about all the time; it’s about being comfortable enough with each other that you’re ok with silence.”

 

And when in doubt, make out😉

TB