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Health : Challahbear

Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

Last week I had a free cholesterol test taken at work as part of my employer’s a heart health initiative. My dad and Kirios both had their checked recently, and my mom pointed out that I’ve been eating a lot of cheese lately. They do not provide the results by phone, so when I went back to the clinic to get my results, the nurse and receptionist asked me if I was a vegetarian. “An itty bitty thing like you, you’ve got to put some meat on those bones.”

Something told me my results were atypical.  “No,” I said, “but I do have Crohn’s Disease.” The women both nodded before escorting me to a patient room for a consultation, where they showed me the test results indicating that my cholesterol levels were abnormally low. Most people would be glad to hear that they don’t have high cholesterol, but this was not news that I wanted to hear. I wanted, for once, to have a medical report telling me that I’m average.

My first thoughts were concerns about Crohn’s Disease – I’ve been feeling well, but is it possible that I’m suffering from malabsorption anyway? If my cholesterol is low, what else am I low on? Then of course I returned to my desk and googled – low cholesterol can be caused by Crohn’s Disease. It can cause anxiety and depression, and if pregnant, increases the change for a premature baby. Would I really worry less if I had higher cholesterol?

I called my mom to tell her, and I emailed my Dad. Then I told Kirios via gchat, and lightheartedly suggested he defrost steaks for dinner when he came home that evening. Next I emailed my doctors. None of them seemed concerned with the results. The PA who regularly administers my Crohn’s infusions agreed to do additional blood work during my next appointment to recheck my vitamin levels just in case.

Kirios surprised me by stopping at Koshermart on his way home from work. When I got home, he urged me to check the refrigerator to see what he bought. There was a package of beef short ribs and a package of kosher lamb bacon. There was also a new hunk of cheese from Trader Joe’s. He was serious about fattening me up! Or at the very least, he was serious about keeping me cheery, and distracting me from any anxious health thoughts.

“Are we having ribs instead of steak for dinner?” I asked with a smile on my face.

“That was the plan at first,” Kirios replied. “But then I stopped next door and picked these up.” He pulled two warm and massive laffa bread sandwiches out of the oven, one with falafel the other with schwarma. “We can have the short ribs tomorrow.”

Olympic Bum No More

In case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Olympic coverage.  It started July 27th with opening ceremonies. I hosted a Shabbat dinner for some friends. I served freshly baked raisin challah; roasted red pepper hummus; and Asian cabbage salad with ramen noodles, oranges, and almonds. For the main course we had St. Tropez Chicken (marinated with honey, wine, and herbs de Provence), egg noodles, and broccoli with garlic and breadcrumbs. As we finished eating, we moved closer to the television and watched the activities in London unfold. Then I served this peach pie.

Go Team USA!

By the end of the night I was feeling patriotic, well fed, and sleepy. That’s pretty much how I’ve felt most nights since. I’ve gone out to tasty restaurants, I’ve cooked good food, and I’ve woken up at midnight, once after 1am, to find myself on my futon with the TV still showing NBC.  The Olympics suck me in every time they come around. I admit, I prefer the winter games. My mother figure skated when she was young, and there was nothing I enjoyed more than watching Kristi Yamaguchi and friends compete for the gold. (Side note: Her commercial endorsing Romney makes me pretty sad.) But who can ignore the talents of the US swim team. Rooting for Michael Phelps has become a national pastime. The youngest US Olympian this year, 15-year-old Katie Ledecky, is from my neighborhood. She took gold. And then there’s the women’s gymnastics. The National Zoo has committed to naming its baby cheetah twins – one male and one female – after the winners of the 100 meter dash. I’ve seen synchronized diving, volleyball, heptathlon, cycling. The sport doesn’t matter – the spirit is infectious.

As I’ve watched the athletes accomplish great feats and find myself spending more and more time planted on my futon, I can’t help but feel like a bum. I spent 10 months training for and running two half marathons. It was grueling on my body, but I lost about 30 pounds and felt great. Since then, my knee has hurt whenever I run for more than 10 minutes and I haven’t exercised regularly. I walk fifteen minutes to and from the metro every day when I go to work and I walk up some extremely tall escalators, but it’s not exactly endurance training. Last summer Kirios and I made a big effort to go bike riding. We’d go out two or three times per week when our schedules allowed. I’m embarrassed to admit we haven’t even gone biking once this summer. Kirios has had additional evening commitments and quite frankly the extreme heat has kept us both indoors as much as possible. It’s been over 90 degrees almost every evening.

Fear not, I finally decided to do something about the situation. Last week I ordered an exercise bike online. It’s semi-recumbent and folds up to take up less space. It arrived on Thursday and I spent an hour assembling it on Friday afternoon. Full disclosure, I assembled the whole thing except for the handlebars. I couldn’t figure out how to get them to attach. Kirios put them on this morning and told me the screws went through the bottom, not the top. Oops. So for the past two days I’ve spent 30 minutes cycling while watching the Olympics. I may not deserve a medal for it, but it certainly makes me feel like less of a bum!

My New Bike

Thank You, SCOTUS

I have Crohn’s Disease. It is chronic, and there is no cure. Since my diagnosis four and a half years ago, I have lived in fear. My biggest fear has been that my symptoms will flare and I become too ill to work. Without employer-provided health insurance, I bankrupt myself (and perhaps my parents and brother shortly thereafter) trying to control my disease and still, I am unable to afford adequate care.

I am completely functional. I live on my own, hold a steady job, mostly eat and drink whatever I please, and have even run half-marathons. Please, do not dismiss my fears for paranoia.

In December 2008 I graduated from college – a semester early, at the top of my class with well paying job waiting for me, despite the beginning of the financial meltdown only months earlier. In the weeks following my graduation, I suffered from a Crohn’s flare-up and became too ill to routinely partake in everyday activities. I racked up tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills and other medical expenses. My family consulted with labor attorneys and human resources professionals.  I deferred my start date for work and eventually walked away from the opportunity all together. I could not afford – literally – to start working and get sick again before I worked long enough to be eligible for COBRA.   

I tend to avoid political discourse in online formats and I don’t particularly enjoy arguing about politics. As an adult in the Washington DC area, my lack of interest in political confrontation makes me seem atypical. But it is not because I’m apolitical. I take my civic duty of voting very seriously, I keep up with the news, and there are political issues which I am extremely passionate about. Today I am confident that America’s future involves healthcare reform including insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Regardless of any legislative changes which may alter what that reform looks like, things are improving.

Today, I am less afraid.

Summer Days

It’s been a fairly busy two weeks since my last post and Kirios’ homecoming!

We had a new employee join my team at the Postal Service. It’s nice to have someone else on the team to take on some of the work, and it’s especially nice to have another young woman around the office. Before the new girl, the person closest in age to me was 40. And she’s been on military leave for the past year…

My mom was in town on business for a few nights. We cooked dinner together one of the nights she was in town – salmon on a bed of spinach and feta and grape tomatoes, approved by Kirios, our own expert on Greek cooking.

Kirios and I metro-ed into Washington DC the other weekend to join our friends Marnina and Seth of ibeafoodie.wordpress.com for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s annual Take Steps fundraiser walk. My parents actually attended their Pittsburgh walk the weekend before. It was a beautiful day and the walk route went around the Tidal Basin, passing by many monuments. It was actually the first time I saw the new Martin Luther King Jr. monument close up too!

Kirios and I stop for a photo during CCFA’s Take Steps

The next day, partially inspired by Marnina and Seth and their friends at the walk who participated in the most recent Team Challenge season together, I decided to go for a morning run. It’s been almost a year and a half since I last went running. I stopped running shortly after completing my second half marathon. Since then Kirios has and I have gone running once or twice, but the last time we did, my knee started hurting pretty soon after we started. Unfortunately, even though so much time has passed, that’s what happened last weekend too.  I ran for a little over 15 minutes before my knee began hurting, and I didn’t make it very far after that. My knee hurt for the rest of the day and it was painful to walk up and down the steps at Kirios’ house that night. I think it’s time to try cycling again, because I think my running days are behind me! 🙁

Friday night I got together with a friend for a night of Thai food and television. He convinced me to try watching Firefly, the cult classic Western in space. I hang out with a lot of geeky guys, and have been encouraged to watch it many times. I have to say, it wasn’t bad. I’m not drinking the cool-aid yet, but I could definitely watch some more on another rainy night.

This past Saturday I woke up early and went to the supermarket to buy blueberries. I made my dad’s famous blueberry tart recipe. Kirios met up with me and we packed sandwiches before heading out to Virginia to meet up with friends at the Del Ray Music Festival in Alexandria. It was a little out of our way and random, but a very cute little festival. We got there around 6pm and ate our sandwiches. We also shared snacks – veggies, chips, dip, and the blueberry tart. It was a lovely picnic. We sat on bales of hay and laid out on blankets while local bands played. The sun went down and the temperature improved a lot. At 8:30 Pat McGee came on stage.  I hadn’t heard of him, but one of our friends is a big fan and got us all together for the event. The music was relaxing and the company couldn’t have been better. As the festival winded down, Kirios and I grabbed forks and fought over the rest of the crust in the tart pan.  We went home happy and sleepy. Days like that are what summer is all about!


Is there a Doctor in the House?

I have been living in the Maryland suburbs of the DC metro area for 3 whole years now under my own insurance plan without a primary care physician. In college, I did my best to schedule doctors’ appointments over breaks and holidays when I would be home in Pittsburgh. This was especially necessary because it’s very difficult to see an out of area doctor on University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Insurance, which I and the majority of Pittsburgh residents had at the time.

When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in the beginning of 2008, my gastroenterologist told me I would need to start seeing a doctor near school to manage my disease. I worked with my insurance company to ensure I could see an out of area provider. They may have even picked the doctor. When I returned to school to start my new semester, I met with my new gastroenterologist. He was an older man and more than a bit out of touch. He lectured me on the effects of stress and how it can exacerbate the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. “Do you have anything causing stress in your life right now?” he asked. “Um, it’s the first week of classes and I just broke up with my boyfriend,” He continued his lecture, telling me it was important to eliminate all stress from my life. So naturally then I should drop out of school and never date again. Come to think of it, work and families create stress too. Perhaps I should just sit in an empty room by myself all day. Needless to say, I was not a fan of Dr. DC Gastroenterology from the start.

Despite my disdain for my new doctor, I continued to see him. I was a busy college student with out of area insurance. I had classes, extracurriculars, and parties to worry about. Switching doctors is stressful too! I was able to get appointments when I needed them, and get the medicine I needed to manage my disease… until I didn’t.

By the time I graduated in December 2008, my symptoms had worsened to a point where a drastic medical intervention was necessary. I set up meetings with my doctor, only to be seen by a new fellow or physician’s assistant unfamiliar with my case for 15 minutes, occasionally followed by 5 minutes with my doctor himself. The doctor never seemed to remember the details of my case that while either, and seemed less and less “with it.” (Did I mention he was probably in his seventies?) I was scheduled to start my first job in February and decided that it would be a good time to find a new gastroenterologist once I started my new insurance plan. Meanwhile, the current doctor’s office prescribed me a low dose of steroids, prednisone, to help my symptoms. It wasn’t enough and they quickly bumped my dosage up. It still wasn’t enough. My dad came down to help take care of me and we visited the doctor’s office. They bumped my steroids up again. (Did I mention they have horrible side effects, all of which I was experiencing) They said if I didn’t respond, I would need to be hospitalized and that I would most likely need surgery to remove part of my colon.

Needless to say, my dad and I were pretty scared. We had already been researching other doctors in the area (bless my parents for trusting me when I said I didn’t like the one I had) and following this terrible appointment we walked down the block to a different practice that we had been eyeing. My dad was on hold with the insurance company requesting authorization to get a second opinion. He looked at the receptionist with fear in his eyes and asked if there were any gastroenterologists that could see me. The sooner the better.

I was seen two days later. Unfortunately I got sicker before I got better, and I did need to be hospitalized and ended up moving back home to Pittsburghto recover. But I did make it back to the DC area, and it helped knowing that a good concerned and cooperative specialist was there ready to help me manage my disease. He had even called to check up on me while I was gone and spoke with my gastroenterologist in Pittsburgh to stay up to date on my treatment.

When I moved back to the area three years ago I enrolled in an HMO insurance plan that didn’t require referrals to see specialists. Aside from my gastroenterologist’s practice, I have been to four other specialists to deal with things like asthma and high blood pressure. I visited the emergency room once for a high fever at night on the weekend that appeared to go up instead of down with Tylenol (I was being extra cautious since I take immunosuppressant medication) and I made one trip to urgent care for a strep test. Lately, coordinating my care between all of the specialists has been a real chore. I photocopy pages of lab results before visiting doctors, I consult multiple doctors before starting new medications, and I have a lot of questions. Most of my doctors are willing to answer them to the best of their ability, but by now, we all agree: I need a PCP to help me with this.

I wish this was the solution to my problem. Instead, it is yet another stressor in my life. Most PCPs in this area are NOT accepting new patients. In fact, when you hear of one that is, you almost have to wonder what’s wrong with them. I’m not looking for someone to give me a strep test; (although I may need him or her to do that for me at some point) I need a partner in managing my health. I deserve a doctor’s office where the staff is efficient in courteous in scheduling appointments whether in advance or on the same day if I am ill, who accepts my health insurance plan, and doesn’t play games when billing. I deserve a doctor who is knowledgeable, listens and addresses my concerns in a pleasant if not supportive manner. I deserve a doctor who is part of an on-call network should I be ill after 5pm or over the weekend. I deserve a doctor who will visit me at the hospital of my choice should I be admitted.

It seems like I’m asking for a lot. And I know not every doctor can do everything well, they are human. But it shouldn’t be treated the same way as a self-declared princess holding out for a tall dark and handsome doctor or a lawyer making $200K+/year who is funny, charming, good with kids, and has the same religious/political/ideological beliefs as she does. After all, I’m not asking for exclusivity here! But my health is too important to settle for a frog.

Reverse Retail Therapy

I had a stressful day yesterday. As I recently posted, I’ve been struggling with managing stress lately and even with an evening trip to finally see Hunger Games with Kirios and a friend, yesterday was a difficult day. This morning I found myself dragging a bit more than a typical Monday morning. While it doesn’t help that I’ve cut back on my caffeine consumption at my cardiologist’s request, I know that my morning blues are a byproduct of a non-relaxing Sunday. So in an effort to change my spirits this evening, I plan to partake in some reverse retail therapy.

It just so happens that Kirios and I went on a major TJ Maxx & Ross shopping spree on Saturday. I had never actually been to a Ross’ before, and I’ll admit, I went a bit overboard. But what woman doesn’t love a new dress that compliments her curves? And at only an additional $15, how could you not buy a second one? Truth be told, I purchased a total of seven dresses, ranging from casual to professional to little black dress. I also purchased two skirts, a pair of shorts, and a handbag which came with a matching compact umbrella. I know, I know, a bit overboard.

Kirios and I returned to his house just before 10 pm. We stayed out shopping so late that we missed out on an opportunity to attend a party downtown, and we still hadn’t had dinner. We were both excited about our purchases, and the prospect of future occasions to show them off around town. I knew that Kirios’ parents would be home and eager to see what we returned with, and I was more than a little embarrassed by my Santa-sized sack of clothes. To my delight, rather than suggesting I return some of the items, they ooh-ed and ahh-ed at each item, agreeing with how nicely the dresses matched my turquoise sandals, or jewelry Kirios has given me. When I was done with show-and-tell, Kirios’ mother even reminded me that if I had gone to a department store, I could have easily spent the same amount of money on just one or two dresses.

My shopping trip moved to the back of my mind when less pleasant things filled my thoughts yesterday. So tonight, I plan to try on all of my clothes again. Of course, it’s reasonable to try them on again before I take the tags off and wash them to make sure I chose wisely. But I’ll admit it, twirling around in a new dress (or seven) seems like just what the doctor ordered to send my bad day blues away!

Blogging while Mad or Sad

I know it’s been a while since I’ve blogged… I’ve struggled with it a bit lately. It’s easy for me to write about the nice things in life – trying a new restaurant or a new recipe in the kitchen, visiting friends and family, and celebrating life’s special occasions. But some days I’m mad, I’m frustrated, or I’m feeling somewhat deflated. And on those days, even if I have the time, I usually don’t like to blog. It’s not that I want everyone to think that my life is full of rainbows and fairy dust all of the time, but I’m afraid to say something which will hurt someone I care about; to complain when so many people have it so much worse; or for some tidbit of information to be googled and used against me at a job interview or in court or something else crazy off into the future.

I have a friend who’s living abroad while in the Peace Corps. She sends out email updates from time to time, and I am always impressed by the way she shares and communicates her experience. She talks about the trips she makes, and the beautiful sights she sees, and the relationships she’s forged. She also discussed the cultural differences she’s found, and the projects she’s hoping will help the community in which she serves, and she discusses the poverty, lack of medical care, and sex tourism which plague the area. She frequently discusses how she’s coping with the experience, giving a glimpse into the immense emotional and physical demands which plague her. Her emails show determination and optimism, frustration, and acceptance of an imperfect situation. They give me a very real sense of how she’s doing, for better or for worse, and they make me proud to be her friend.

I suppose what strikes me the most about my friend’s emails is that despite being a mass communication, they share a level of honesty most of us reserve for intimate meet-ups and phone calls. When you run into someone on the street and ask how they’re doing, how frequently do they tell you that they’re struggling? Usually, we just say things are going well. My Zaydie struggled each and every day after my Grandma, the love of his life, passed away. Every time we spoke, for almost a decade, I’d ask him how he was doing, and he always replied, “I’m doing the best I can.” He never said he wasn’t doing well, and yet, he could never say he was doing well either.

Since my last post, I have been doing well… Kirios and I have cooked revithia, chickpea stew; savory whole wheat herb crepes; and delicious soutzoukakia, Greek meatballs (with some alterations to make them kosher). We’ve gone to birthday parties, explored the National Park Seminary (a very strange and interesting place worth reading about!), and even saw a high school musical! I traveled to Portland, OR for a business trip, gorged on extra-large sushi pieces, and then flew out on the red-eye the next night so I could spend the beginning of Passover in Pittsburgh with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, and Kirios. I am lucky to have so many wonderful adventures, large and small, on a regular basis.

Also since my last post, I have I have struggled… I won’t delve into the different stressors in my life. They are mostly outside of my control and normal, albeit unpleasant things, similar to those that all people deal with at times. But mostly, I have struggled with managing that stress. It’s easy to say “stay calm and carry on,” but honestly, my mind and body seem to have the opposite idea these days. My blood pressure went up again, and I’m once again taking medication for that. This past week I learned that my platelets are also elevated, and I need to see a hematologist. (This is likely being caused by the Crohn’s Disease, and I don’t believe it’s an indication of a more serious problem, so please, don’t worry.) Between this news and my Passover diet last week, my Crohn’s wasn’t exactly cooperating with me either. It’s easy to get frustrated with life sometimes, but things definitely aren’t all that bad, and I’m doing the best I can.

Hopefully this will end my Challahbear hiatus, and I’ll start to blog more frequently again. I anticipate that I’ll continue to post about good times, good people, and good food. After all, those are my favorite things. But if I need to, I just may share when I’m having a bad day too.

Don’t Kill the Dinner Guests

Dinner party etiquette can be extremely complicated, and while I don’t typically host formal events requiring the use of a confusingly high number of scary utensils, there’s one rule I try to live by: don’t kill the dinner guests. I learned from my mother, when inviting someone for the first time; always ask if they have any food allergies. What about other food restrictions, medical, self-imposed, and the ever pleasant ridiculously picky eaters? Depending on the type of event and the number of people you’re cooking for, it can get tricky.

When you’re not serving a meal, it’s typically pretty easy to provide a variety of snacks that can keep everyone happy. And individuals with more difficult restrictions are generally accustomed to asking in advance, bringing something along they can eat, or at the very least, showing up with a full stomach. But when it comes to a home cooked dinner, I have a lot of sympathy for people with dietary restrictions. After all, I keep kosher and I have Crohn’s Disease. I think choosing to keep kosher is similar to choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I have certain traditions, beliefs, etc, and while others may not share them, I want them to respect them. And while my disease is well-controlled through medication and for the most part, it won’t hurt me to eat anything in moderation, there have been times when that’s not the case, and my diet is incredibly restricted. I may not go into anaphylactic shock, but trust me, Crohn’s flairs aren’t pretty, and can lead to severe malnutrition, dehydration, and a need for serious drugs, hospitalization, or even surgery.

Generally, by asking people if they have allergies, they’ll volunteer any other pertinent dietary information. But at the same time, it’s not as wishy-washy as asking people if they have any likes or dislikes. If someone doesn’t like the texture of mushrooms – will eat them if they’re mixed all together, but pick them out if they’re big enough pieces, tough toenails! (I know – what a ridiculous phrase. My boss says it all of the time and I couldn’t resist.)

So this brings me to the Friday night Shabbat dinner party I hosted last week. My brother was visiting from Seattle, although his wife had to leave for New York Friday morning. Kirios was busy with his company’s holiday party. But I was taking the day off to spend time with my brother, and wanted to ensure that our evening was filled with good food and good company. I invited our first cousin who lives in the area, as well as her roommate who is also a friend of mine. I invited a childhood friend who lives in the area, and hadn’t seen my brother for a decade, and with his boyfriend. 6 people, no problem. There were a couple of allergies in the group – tree nuts, fish, sesame, and cocoa. As depressing as being allergic to chocolate sounds, this didn’t seem like a menu-planning challenge at all. In honor of my brother and cousin, and I decided to make our Grandma Magda’s Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage – a real patschke recipe that I had never tried myself (Yiddish for a production), but a wonderfully heavy and distinctive meal for a winter’s night.

Then all hell broke loose. And by that, I mean my brother casually asked if he could invite his fraternity brother who lived in the area over for dinner. I can seat 8 at my table, and cooking for seven or eight isn’t really any more work than cooking for six, so I naturally agreed. In fact, I had recently seen this guy at an event, which he attended with a lady friend. So I told my brother to go ahead and invite his girlfriend as well. They both graciously accepted our dinner invitation. “Ask about allergies,” I instructed my brother. Turns out the girlfriend is a diabetic who eats no carbs (including rice) and is allergic to soy. GREAT.

That’s when I started to panic. I realized it would be easy enough to keep some of the stuffed cabbage separate for her, without any rice mixed into the beef, and without any sugar in the sauce. The Hungarian version of this recipe is sour, and only includes a spoonful of sugar anyway (unlike the Polish, who make it sweet with raisins). Obviously I was planning to make challah for Shabbat, which she wouldn’t be able to eat. But I was determined to plan the rest of our menu to include her dietary restrictions. In the end, my brother and I settled on making a butternut and acorn squash soup, and roasted broccoli, onions, and mushrooms to accompany the cabbage. We were told she could eat fruit, nuts, and chocolate for dessert. Since nuts and chocolate were already on the allergy list, we had been planning to make an apple crisp. For our diabetic guest, we took some of the sliced apples, doused them in cinnamon, and baked them for her.

In the end, the stuffed cabbage and the rest of the food came out well. No one went hungry, and as far as we know, no one got sick from our food. I’d consider that a successful Shabbat!

I’m not going to gripe about being on hold with BestBuy for two hours or the fact that Starbucks charges an extra 60 cents for soy milk today. It’s time to talk about the things that really make me sick to my stomach, keep folks awake with worry, and bring out existentialist crises. Today, a long-time friend of mine lost her mother to a battle with non-smokers’ lung cancer. In itself, this is terrible and depressing. But to make matters worse, another friend of mine lost her mother to the same disease less than four months ago.

My mother called to tell me the news, and after a while our conversation drifted. My mom started talking about some other family friends who have been having a rough time. A little older than my parents, both husband and wife have been struggling with serious health problems. As my mother detailed medications, surgeries, and worrisome coughs, I suddenly told her to stop. “Enough for today.” My mother frequently brings up subjects I don’t care to discuss – Mothers never stop embarrassing you. I tell her to change the subject or I’ll get off the phone, and she gets upset, saying it’s unfair for me to control the conversation like that. But today, she didn’t object, she just obliged. She too knew the feeling – enough is enough.

I’m 24 years old, and I am not ready to lose my parents. I’m also not ready for my friends to lose their parents. I’m not sure if anyone is ever actually ready for that. I know it happens, I have friends who lost their parents when they were young. Maybe too young to really remember them. But my first memory of a parent’s friend dying is when I was in 12th grade. My friend was away from home for her first year of college, and her mother found her father – he had complained of a headache the night before, but no one knew he had a brain tumor until he was gone. It scared me. Since then, there have been more losses – some sudden, some with prolonged suffering. They don’t get easier. Each one is a painful reminder of how fragile life is.

I know that death is part of life. And until it’s our time, we must live on. But tonight, I’d like to publicly declare that non-smoker’s lung cancer, common in younger women, makes me frustrated. And when one of my friends loses a parent, it really makes me sad.

Veal to the Rescue

For the past week Kirios and I have both been battling colds. His throat started hurting first, so naturally I blame him this time. But for all intensive purposes, we’ve both had the same symptoms – congestion and phlegm, mostly in the mornings and evenings. Nothing too debilitating, but especially with a long weekend trip toWisconsincoming up on Thursday, we both realized that we needed to take time to rest.

Last week I spent every evening at home, except Friday, which I spent watching movies at Kirios’ house. This is very uncharacteristic of me, as I tend to get stir-crazy, especially since I moved into a one bedroom at the end of the summer, sans roommate camaraderie and a cable subscription. During the daytime, I generally felt decent enough to get along fine at work. So on Friday when I worked from home, I was up for running some errands. During my lunch break, I went to the kosher store to pick up a frozen duckling. Kirios and I agreed to celebrate our second “semiversary” (a.k.a. eighteen months of dating) by cooking a kosher duck together, since duck is a very special treat for me. Our semiversary is on November 8th, so we plan to cook it the following weekend. But since it will take time to defrost and prep, and we’ll be away this Friday/weekend, I thought it was best to pick it up now and be safe. Plus I had a groupon for the kosher store which was expiring anyway!

While at the kosher store, I couldn’t help but browse. My freezer has a good supply of frozen chicken legs from Costco and some ground beef from my local Giant, so I wasn’t planning to make any purchases aside from the duck. But when I saw that veal cutlets were a daily special, with a package large enough for two priced at $6.29, I couldn’t resist. Veal is a real treat for me, and I had only cooked it myself once before, while studying in Rome.

Saturday was especially cold and gross out, with the Nor’eastern storm passing through, so I spent the whole day at home, mostly in front of the TV trying to rest up. I was super excited when Kirios decided he was feeling well enough to come over for dinner and provide me with a little company for a couple of hours. I threw some potatoes and sweet potatoes with rosemary and olive oil into the oven so they would get nice and crispy. When Kirios arrived, we made veal schnitzel – coating the veal with egg and then a combination of bread crumbs and spices before frying it in hot oil. Kirios did the frying, since the oil scares me a bit, and I must say, he did a superb job. The veal was cooked to perfection. We prefaced the veal and potatoes with some butternut squash soup. While it wasn’t homemade, it was nonetheless appreciated by two under the weather individuals on an unseasonably cold day. It’s safe to say that it was one of our favorite meals we’ve cooked together in a while, and it saved an otherwise crummy day!