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September 2008
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November 2008

Somewhere I have never traveled...

There are many places.  Many places I have never traveled before, and as Wednesday was  World Stroke Day, I am thinking about those places.  Some of those places never happened because of my stroke.  Because I was afraid of what might happen if I left home, and the security that home provided for me.  Places like: 

Montreal, Montreal

New Years Eve on Martha's Vineyard, Mv copy
the Pacific Coast Highway,
Cypress

London,

London

Morocco, Marrakech

and Spain.Gaudi These were all places I almost never traveled to.  But I did.  I did travel to these places.  I laughed, I ran, and I did everything that I possibly could to take it all in, and to absorb each second, each minute, and each moment.  There will no longer be moments of no travel, or unknown places.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

-ee cummings


An Early Halloween

Halloween comes and goes, and even while the excitement over this macabre but wonderful day occurs, decorations for that other holiday in late December start to abound.  But I like Halloween.  As a kid I loved to watch the scary movies and get dressed up to go trick-or treating.  So it was not surprise to me that I delighted in attending a pumpkin carving contest held last Friday where I work (well, in one of the labs where I work). 

Since the contest was full of kids, the appropriate carving encouragement was set out in advance:

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There were pumpkins meant to scare...
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and others meant to delight:
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and other were there to light up the night:DSC_0682
It was the first glimpse into Halloween.  I am already looking forward to the 31st!


A test of strength

Facebook... it is one of those things that I started several years ago because some students told me that I would be able to reach out to my freshman advisees.  When I created an account, it was only open to people at universities.  Then Facebook opened to everyone, and anyone.  Interesting how quickly it has created connections among long, lost friends.  Recently I have found a lot of these friends:  people who knew me in third grade when I was the new kid in school and told a friend that her mother ate worms, or those who saw me get pulled out of class by the headmaster because I spit cheetos into a girl's hair on the bus ride to school (this was at 7:30 in the morning - why I was eating Cheetos at the hour is still unknown to me...), but these people and I have history.  We live scattered all over the country right now:  Colorado, California, D.C., and Florida, but with the click of a button, and the fabulous thing called a "Wall" we can "talk" to each other like time never passed.  They know me as I truly am.


Then there are people who you meet as you grow, and these are amazing friends as well, because they are with you when you grow and mature into who you eventually become.  But when I think about who I really count as my friends, I include those who I would like to have to my home for dinner, people who I could open a bottle of wine with, individuals who do not care if I am wearing my sweat pants, or am dressed up.  I also include people who understand and value a friendship, and can give into a friendship selflessly instead of selfishly.  Far too many times I have been around selfish people, and following my stroke and surgery, I gradually started to realized that I do not need those people in my life.  Life is too short to have people in it who are constantly taking, but never giving.  Or if they are giving - it is really only so they can get something in return.

So when I found this group of people on Facebook:  Kristen, Pam, Karen, Brooke, Milo, Lyle (in no particular order here - I am not playing favorites!) I felt incredibly lucky to reconnect.  Memories of 25 years ago came flooding back, and I did not remember silly arguments, or fights, but how much fun I had with everyone, and what good people they all are.  It is truly a test of a friendship's strength that it can withstand time.  

An unlikely friendship

They met almost 3 years ago, and it was only 2 years ago that they really started to know each other.  She needed something from him.  He was the only one who could really tell her what it was like.  He could talk to her about the pain, the experience, and the recovery.  No one else in her life could explain it to her like him.  It was odd  - she was only in her early 30s, and he was in his late 60s, but they had this one thing in common that would turn into a bond very strong.  It turned into a strong bond of friendship.  She was terrified.  She was facing her own mortality at 33, and seeking advice from someone who had not planned to have the surgery.  she on the other hand had spent months planning.  Too many months, and these months were excruciating.  They drained her, and no one could give her answers that put her mind, body, or soul to ease.  There was that first meeting between the two of them when she timidly asked for 15 minutes of his time - his precious time, for he is a man of greatness, and his time is great as well.  People from Heads of State and CEOs have asked for less time, and probably not even been granted it.

She walked into his office:  the mahogany desk, an American Flag, awards that lined shelf upon shelf.  Greatness was everywhere.  So where did she fit in?  She just needed to know.  She needed to know what it was like.  What happened when they stopped your heart?  How did it feel after?  What does it feel like when you wake up?  How bad is the pain?  No one else provided her with these answers, but he did.  Perhaps she found out more than she really wanted to know, and the information send her head spinning and her legs running back to her office so that she could furiously type an email to her doctor with even more questions about the heart surgery.  But at least she knew.  She knew that she might gain up to 15 pounds of fluid after the open heart surgery.  No doctor or nurse had told her this, and she only had 2 weeks to go before the operation.  She now knew that she might receive shots of insulin after the surgery - again, no medical practitioner mentioned this to her either.  She listened as he told her about the pain each time he took a breath or tried to cough, and the fear doctors and nurses had about pneumonia in heart patients following surgery.  Why didn't doctors tell her this before?  Did they not think that she could handle it?

In the beginning, it was a few words of encouragement back and forth to each other. Then, it turned into something more. Their exchanges of words and thoughts became deeper, and they spoke about everything from world events, to cooking with the greats like James Beard. They talked about the financial state of the economy and long days in the South of France, all the while knowing that what bound them together was their hearts... the fact that both of them underwent such tragedy and were able to sit face to face and even joke about it with each other. Their jokes did not make everyone laugh. In fact, at times those around them became uncomfortable as the two friends spoke of blood, beating hearts, scalpels, and heart-lung bypass machines. But the friends knew it was their way of coping. They always took time to ask how each other was doing. She asked him recently how his heart was. "Oh, not so well." She became concerned. Did he need to go through more tests? "What is wrong?" she asked him. "It is still beating," he responded, and then he smiled, and she smiled back knowingly. One of those jokes that only someone who had been through what they had been through would understand.


In response to Liquid Gold...

Olive_tree

An Olive Tree...

The other day Maryam, the amazing and nothing less than fabulous, wrote about her liquid gold.  It is in the most beautiful bottle you have ever seen with a label to match.  Olive oil, from her very own trees.  After stumbling upon Frances Mayes "Under the Tuscan Sun" I too wanted to have my own olive grove, but I never saw Frances' oil...  I did however lay my eyes on Maryam's when I looked at the images on her blog. 

There was a time in my life when I would not go near the stuff.  I begged my mother to keep my food "oil free".  I stayed away from the complex and sometimes subtle flavors of the olive.  As time went on, I gave in, and started to taste... just a little and then more and more.  A finger into a small bowl with some sea salt.  It was smooth and thick, and ran down into the palm of my hand.  Then there would be a piece of bread to swirl around the bottom of the bowl to ensure than nothing was left behind.  I still held pieces of myself back.  There are so many flavors, colors, and kinds of olive oil (never mind actual OIL itself!).  And so when I went to Morocco, I had read about oil.  I went wanting a very particular kind of oil.  Argan Oil.  It is in the travel guides, and even written up in the New York Times as "liquid gold" due to its super high vitamin E properties...

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(Image by Tara Darby, The New York Times, November 17, 2007)

So of course, off I went to Marrakech with one thing in mind:  Argan oil.  And I bought it.  Of course since I have returned, I have tasted it, but rather than put it into my food or use it in the bottom of a dipping bowl for bread, I use it on my face and hair.  That is what I bought it for after all...

But then I saw Maryam's bottles, and it made me realize that Argan has nothing on her.  No matter what I put on to my face, hair, or other bits of skin, it is really what I put inside that matters!  Countless studies have shown that olive oil is supposed to be good for one's heart...  so bring it on Maryam!  Oh, I cannot wait to taste it...


The ups and Downs

They were up, then back down, and then look... they were up again. No wait, down.  That is what the stock markets might look like today, yesterday, last week...

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Copyright © 2008. Quotes and other information supplied by independent providers identified on the vendor disclosures page. The New York Times

but her emotions took her on a bigger ride over the years.  They went up higher, and then dove right back down.  They highs made her feel like she could conquer what happened.  That tiny little hole in her heart that caused the stroke, none of that mattered when she was lifted high, when the steps that she took after the surgery turned into running.  But when the lows came - none of it mattered at all.  She questioned whether it was even worth getting the surgery because of course it could happen again.  After the surgery, after the healing, the ups and downs still happened, much like the numbers on the DOW over the past few days. 

About a year ago someone close to her told her that it was all her fault.  They told her that she actually made it happen.  How does one make a hole happen?  How do you do that to yourself?  Well, after hearing that, even though the hole was closed, a tiny bit of the thread that held that hole so tightly together started to unravel and fray at the edge.  Just a very small amount, but enough that will always remain as such.  Unraveled and torn.  And it too will go up and down like the emotions of the markets.


Running for women

There were 7000 women all running together through the streets of Boston.  The race has been going on for more than 30 years, and on Columbus Day the streets fill.  Down Beacon Street, around Charles Street, then over the Salt and Pepper Bridge onto Memorial Drive in Cambridge.  The loop on Memorial Drive is a back and forth loop that ends by going over the Harvard Bridge back into Boston.  Last year was my first year, and it was because of the American Heart Association.  They encouraged me to run... to run for me and my heart.  In 2007 when I stood on Beacon Street and looked around the women that surrounded me, it turned into an emotional event.  This year was similar.  Again, asked by the AHA, there I was, but it was different.  Last year I ran for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.  It was the first time I participated in an event since my stroke and surgery.  I was interviewed, photographed, and stayed for the awards ceremony at the end...
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(from the Tufts Website)

But this year, the running was for me.  There were no cameras, no interviews, and no press tent.  When the race ended, I went home, and did not stay for the awards ceremony.  This year, the sun was out, and there was no rain.  I ran for myself, I ran for my mother, and my grandmother.  I ran for the amazing women in my life who support, inspire, and pick up pieces that fall.  That is why I ran.


Open Market

I am a fan of open markets.  It is one of the first thing that I look for when I travel.  I love the sights and the sounds - there is so much to learn about a place, a culture, and a group of people from an open market.  Often, when I travel, I forget what is right in front of me - what is located in the heart of my own neighborhood.  That is why I was so happy to go to the open market on Sunday.  Three little girls played together, while a vendor waited for customers underneath her tent...
Girls

 

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Toys

 
























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Bread

and what market would be complete without the food section?  None as far as I am concerned.  It is absolutely necessary to have a food section, and my market had one.

but there are only 3 more Sundays in the season of this market... October 12, 19, and 26 from 10:00am - 4:00pm.  How can I not go?  It takes me away from what I know, it takes me to what I love about traveling, and all I have to do is travel a few blocks down the the road...


Familiarity

She had done this kind of things so many times before, and it was all so familiar.  Too familiar in fact.  In the beginning, she would have people with her, but at this point, it did not matter anymore.  Often, she was the youngest person there - by far.  People the age of her parents and grandparents filled the waiting room.  This visit was like no other.  The room was filled with women - but most of them were waiting for their husbands who were getting some kind of procedure done.  The TV had some kind of soap opera on - on that she had not seen for years.  She could not believe that there had been a time when she watched soap operas daily.  But there was.  Priorities change, and so do people.  Instead she opened up her book - a chick lit book, which one could argue was not much better than the soap operas!

When her name was called, she was brought into a bay, told to change into a gown, put her clothes into a bag, and that the nurse would be right back.  The socks...  there were those hospital socks.  The ones with the rubber treads on the bottom.  This time the were brown.  She preferred the blue ones.  They were prettier.  After changing she unfolded the blanket and spread it over the bed.  She questioned this.  Who takes the time to smooth out a blanket over a hospital bed?  It proved to her that she had been in this kind of situation one too many times.  She climbed into the bed with her book.  Aside from the medical supplies, the harsh florescent lights, the saline bags, one might, might, think that she was getting ready for bed.

But this was not bed.  This was not a bedtime story.  This was yet another test.   When the nurse came with the IV needle and failed to get the vein in her hand she realized how real the whole situation was.  The bruise is still visible on her hand, and she hesitates to shake hands with people because it hurts, and their fingers dig into the bruise.  Eventually the nurse got a vein in her arm, and the saline solution started to run.  Soon, more fluid would start to run.  It would run into her veins, the quickly reach her heart.  It would make her feel dizzy, almost like she had finished off a few cocktails.  Then it would all begin and be over before she knew it.  As the next solution went in, she looked at the monitor.  Her pulse was 45.  Her blood pressure 92/58.  She felt her head spin.  She felt everything and nothing.  The feeling so familiar, but she was unsure if it was good to know what this felt like.  She just let go, and drifted away.


Chocolate and Cream

She broke the bars up into little pieces between her fingers.  There were two different kinds - one that was 72% cocoa and another 56%.  Both labels said "dark" but the 72% had a richer flavor.  She learned in a class some time ago that the recipe would not work with a cocoa percentage about 65.  The oil from the cocoa butter would separate, and she it was true, because she actually saw it happen.  She added one bar of the 72% and three of the 56%.  She split up the pieces, and tasted a few every now and then... for quality control of course.  The heavy cream simmered in a pot, and just before it reached boiling, she lifted the heavy bottom pan off the stove and poured the cream onto the chocolate.
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The chocolate started to melt slowly, and the cream swirled around the little pieces.  The beginnings of the truffles were in the works.