I Am Allergic to Apples

Yesterday, I brought two mangoes to class to eat for breakfast. Since eating mangoes usually results in delicious juice dripping down my face, hands, and clothes (anyone else feel like they can’t ever get the stickiness off?), I decided that being in a class where we were using sefarim (holy books), I should try to find another approach.

It took me forever to eat these mangoes. I peeled them, cut the flesh off the pit, and used a fork and knife to eat the mangoes. Apparently (I obviously didn’t know this, at the time), it mesmerized everyone in my class. Afterwards, I was approached by several people, all asking:

“Do you always eat mangoes that way?”

Although I don’t always eat mangoes that way, I do usually eat mangoes over any other fruit. This, I am sad to say, is because I am allergic to the majority of other fruits.

When I was a teenager, I went to see an allergist, who did a plethora of tests. The blood tests revealed that I am not allergic to any foods.

But wait, you must be thinking, she just said she’s allergic to the majority of other fruits. Is this person insane?

I assure you, I am not insane. Both of these things are facts. I am not allergic to any foods, but I am allergic to most fruits. This is because my allergy is not the result of an allergy.

What I have is called oral allergy syndrome. It means that I am allergic to some sort of pollen that has a protein compound similar to the fruits, which gives me an allergic reaction. When fruits are cooked or frozen, I am not allergic to them because those protein compounds have broken down. I learned the hard way that those protein compounds do not break down if the fruits are freeze dried.

So what fruits am I allergic to?

Apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries (these give me the worst reaction), plums, and almost any other fruit that has a skin that you eat along with the fruit (save for grapes).

What happens to me? Nothing life threatening, thank G-d, but my mouth gets very itchy, and cherries make me lose my voice. I’ve heard that these reactions can get worse if you eat these fruits more often, so unfortunately, there’s only one way for me to enjoy these foods, which I happen to love:


See: Pie.




Taking Time

Loss is difficult. Anyone who has experienced it can tell you that. How difficult depends on the situation, on the person, on the circumstances.

Loss is transient. One minute, it doesn’t feel like anything is missing; the next, the whole world can come crashing down in one second. A memory sneaks up from behind and puts it’s arms around your eyes and yells: “GUESS WHO!?”; circumstance brings up feelings that are too raw for you to know exactly where to put them.

For my whole life, I think I’ve always felt that if I could “conquer” one thing at a time, the large things would never make me sweat. They would never challenge me in ways that I didn’t think I could ‘handle.’ I could ‘handle’ being sick; I could ‘handle’ a bad teacher, a bad grade, a fight with a friend. As long as it was one thing at a time, I could figure out a way to put one step in front of the other.

These days, I feel like ‘stepping’ is all I can do. Some mornings, it feels like I am carrying the weight of the whole world, and then I remember: Pop Pop is gone. I get bad news. I look at our bank statement. And it takes every ounce of my being to put one foot in front of the other.

Control has always been my biggest issue. I want to control everything, which I joke is why I cannot ever decide to become a surgeon, but really, it affects every aspect of my life. Because when something happens that’s beyond my control, or when something doesn’t seem “fair” or “the way things are supposed to be,” it seems like everything begins to spiral out of control. Sometimes, I feel like I should have done something differently. That on some cosmic level, I have to be paying for something. Other times, I just don’t know what to do because it feels like everything is spiraling out of control and I simply don’t know where to begin. How to get back on my feet. How to walk in a straight line again.

Recently, I’ve been handed a series of challenges that are so intricately connected and complex that I feel like I have no choice but to face them all head on at once. I don’t have the option of trading scrabble tiles for better or more useful ones, and I certainly cannot fold this hand of cards. Suddenly, I’m forced to deal with challenges that I thought I’d ‘handled’ long ago, and experiencing feelings and dealing with issues that I never thought would be on my radar screen, let alone forcing me to have tunnel vision. My coping mechanism? I retreat. Onto a sofa, into a book, TV show, or gallon of ice cream. These days, ice-cream’s off the table, which means a lot of time on the sofa or in bed.

I recently started taking a class on Wednesday nights with a group of my girlfriends, and the introduction to the book that we are using talks about the concept of patience. Patience, or in Hebrew, “Sooflanut”, has a very different concept in Judaism than it does in the secular world. Sooflanut doesn’t mean to “roll with the punches,” or to ignore feelings such as anger and resentment when something doesn’t go your way. Instead, it means to have those feelings, and to channel them to a place that makes you better, to say, “This sucks right now, but I have no choice but to keep moving, and it’s up to You to give me strength,” or “This really sucks right now, so I’m just going to focus on putting one step in front of the other until I can handle a little bit of a heavier load.” That sometimes, we don’t have to necessarily learn from our challenges, experiencing and living with them can be enough. We don’t have to “conquer” everything at once; instead, we just need to focus on getting from point A to point B to C and D without any (or many) physical or emotional casualties along the way.

The key to this? Time. Time, like loss, is also transient. Some days, it’s easy for me to get out of bed and notice things like the reflection the rays of sunlight make on the window panes, or to appreciate the pounding rain as it washes away the pollen from our unwashed windows. Other days, I just want to retreat under the covers with a cup of tea and a novel, retreating away from my emotions and from my soul until I feel strong enough to deal with everything once more. And that’s okay. I’m allowed to take time. I’m allowed to have these feelings, to feel like everything sucks until suddenly, it doesn’t anymore, and I’m in the kitchen mixing spices, herbs, and ingredients to feed my husband’s and my soul.

The healing process isn’t easy, and on days like today — impossible. It feels like I took five steps forward only to take ten steps back. But I just have to keep telling myself — it’s okay to feel this way, it’s okay for things to suck.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow will be better, and if it’s not, that’s okay too, as long as I never give up, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, telling myself that I’m getting to a place of “okay” with every step along the way.

Hagen Daaz of Coffee

I woke up this morning with a headache right smack in the middle of my forehead, between my eyes. You know, the kind you want to just put your hands over and squeeze out of your face? I tried —

it didn’t work.

So, Jonathan drove me to work, and low and behold — we found a parking space, right in front of the BEST (and I mean BEST) coffee in the city!

Coffee I’ve coined the Hagen Daaz of coffee. Because it’s rich, hot, and coats your throat. And it really helped with my headache.

The Pen is Mightier than My Stomach

I feel like I owe you an apology. I haven’t been completely honest with you, and my flowery, melancholy posts about how stuck I feel in my skin may have been alarming. I’m deciding to make some changes. This post is to help you understand why.

For as long as I can remember, I have had health problems. They were so integral to my identity, that for a long time, when I would meet someone, I would introduce myself by saying, “Hi my name is Carly and I have a disease.” Which I do.

I don’t remember a time before I got sick. I remember the onset of symptoms, of the confusion and disbelief that comes from watching and experiencing your body not behave the way that it was trained to. The way that it’s supposed to. I remember the doctors, and I remember crying in the car on the way home from the diagnosis (Ulcerative Colitis). I was five years old, and I needed to start taking medicine every day, medicine I’d be on for the rest of my life.

But I don’t remember ever really feeling like I was sick. Sure, I had some bad days; some really bad days, and I missed a lot of my childhood. I missed a lot of birthday parties, a lot of school, and a lot of sleepovers. But I still felt like a kid, for the most part.

The normalcy of my childhood is 100% completely and ultimately accredited to my parents. They gave me independence; allowed me to make my own decisions, to control how and when I wanted to take my medication, but they also did not let my disease define who I was or what I thought that I could do. They sent me to overnight camp with my bottles of pills, sent me to Israel when I was a little older, let me have relationships and let me explain on my own terms how and why I wasn’t always functioning on the same level as everyone around me. And I coped. I made a name for the “little man in my intestines,” who I creatively called Colin and determined each day whether he was in a good or bad mood. I took my medicine every day, talked to my doctors about switching from 4 pills 3 times a day to 12 pills once a day, and when I was in eighth grade and decided that it was all in my head, I even stopped taking my medicine for a while to prove it.

Obviously, I was wrong, and I still have the same condition today that I was diagnosed with when I was five. Plus one-or-two more, newer diagnoses (I was upgraded to Crohn’s Disease) that have resulted in my feeling a little bit disconnected from my body in the past few weeks. Just feeling like I’m really trapped in a machine that doesn’t know how to work, or keeps malfunctioning and I have no way of getting out.

I’m tired of feeling that way; I want to feel like I belong in this body, and while I know that there are certain things that I will never be able to change, I want to take control over the things that I can do. Primarily, I want to get rid of the extra weight that I’ve been lugging around; I want to be able to walk up two flights of stairs without getting winded, and I want to be able to shop in any store that I want to and find any article of clothing in my size that I’d like to buy.

To do that, I need to take better care of myself. I need to get some sunlight, eat healthier, eat less, and exercise more. Thanks to some inspiration from an old friend from camp and my determination to write a book about what going to weight-loss camp taught me, I’m really going to take better care of myself, once and for all.

As I explained in The Dreaded First Post, I’ve always failed at diary-keeping of any kind. Personal diaries, “dear diaries,” and even agenda-keeping. I think one of the main reasons for this is my inability to face commitment: once something is written down, it is real; so if I don’t write about something that is particularly challenging, I don’t have to revisit it. I can ignore it, and it will pass. But I am trying diary-keeping again, in a different forum. I started a new blog, called Journey to Half of Me. I don’t necessarily want to cut myself in half (there would be hardly anything left!) but I do want to become whole. And the only way that I can do that is to fill the gap between my soul and my body, to treat myself like I care about myself and to remember, every single day, that there is something inside of me that is divine.

To remember that I am NOT my body; it’s just something that I move around in. There is a silver thread running through my veins that contains the most fundamental and precious parts of me; and in order to maintain it’s value, I have to take care of the skin it’s in.