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.




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.

Undeniable Proof that I Cannot be Funny on Purpose

I am a failure. At comedy.

Seriously, if I was a sitcom, no one would watch. Something about me just makes me un-funny. I try so hard. I know that you’re not supposed to try to be funny. But I do. Which makes it even sadder when I try to channel my inner David Sedaris.

I don’t know what it is about me. But here are some examples of my experiences that have taught me just how un-funny I am.

At a staff meeting:
At our staff meetings, which occur every Wednesday, I am usually one of the first to sit in my seat (which are not assigned, but we keep going back to the same ones every week). Someone will come and sit next to me, and then the next person, etc., etc., until we are all in our places. Before the meeting is called to order, someone will make small talk. I will react with a facetious clause that I know is HILARIOUS. And everyone will ignore me. Until the person sitting next to me says the exact same thing that I just said. The one that no one laughed at. And everyone will double over, guffawing with joy.

With my girlfriends:
I think that one of my biggest challenges is that my sense of humor tends to be depreaciative, so we’ll all be joking around over ice cream and coffee, laughing until our stomachs hurt with humor. Until one of us goes too far. And it’s usually me.

In the street:
I may be funny in the street. But it is not on purpose. Definitely not on purpose.  

Witty banter:
I really wish this was one of my strong suits. I love the english language so much that I wish I was able to cant and recant every statement with something full of hilarity. Give me a glass or two of wine, and I will be sure to knock your socks off with my intelligent remarks. And make you laugh with every syllable that slips…oh wait, what’s that?

You laughing. And it’s not with me.

The Space I’m In

Don’t you wish that our brains had a magic “off” button? One that you could just hit when you wanted to sit in silence and just be without the stream of thoughts rushing by? For some reason, my thoughts always take the persona of the New York Stock Exchange in Times Square — digitized digital words flying by faster than I can put them into sense. Digital is so much more…severe than analog.  Letters lose their curves; words lose their softness when they are forced to confine to boxes; pixellated particles of thought.

Sometimes, usually at the worst times, my brain just turns on and won’t stop – I can’t make the thoughts slow, or change, and as soon as I break one thought’s downward or side-ward spiral, another one takes over and sweeps me away again.

But aren’t my thoughts what separate me from my body? What forms the bridge between the two? Without them, would I be able to engage my body, ask it to move, or stretch, or breathe deeply?

For me, associating with my body is somewhat…painful. Difficult. Irritating, to say the least. For as long as I can remember, I don’t remember my body every really working the way it was supposed to work. Looking the way that it’s “supposed” to look. Fighting against illness the way that my mind wanted it to.

The challenges associated with my body led me to take medication that poisons it — it was working too well, fighting against itself. Failing to recognize the “good guys” from the bad, and putting up equal ammunition against both of them. The overachiever inside me given flight.

In reality, my body functions, albeit not at full capacity. It does what it’s supposed to do (slowly), absorbing nutrients, creating new cells, discarding waste, pumping blood, taking in oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide.

It does what it’s supposed to do.

But it doesn’t explain why my best friend, mother, and husband still need to stop me every once in a while to say, “Ani Lo Guf.” I am not my body. I am thought. I am air. I am something divine, taking up space in a protected shell. What I am does not have physical confines. If we could just take off our bodies like we do our shoes…..

It would all make sense.

The Torah tells us that Adam and Chava didn’t have skin or bodies the way that you or I do. They had light. Light covered by a sheer substance most clearly resembling our fingernails – but not adult fingernails. The soft, malleable, baby fingernails that bend and shine and reflect light. They didn’t require tissue and muscle and blood to keep the light in their eyes alive — they were souls wearing shoes made of translucent fingernails.

I’ve spent the past few days grappling with what it means to be a soul wearing a body. To dissociate myself from the size of my thighs or stomach and to realize that I need to feed my soul more than my body needs to be fed at the same exact time. And to feed my soul, I need to realize what it feels like just to occupy this space. To get to know my body from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. That looking in a mirror won’t teach me what it feels like to let the light leak out.

The Heart of the Matter

I have started to write two substantial blog entries and deleted them both. On purpose. Everything I try to write is coming out wrong today.

I spent a long time last night working on my manuscript – taking out entire lines of poetry, throwing entire poems into the trash. I have some more to add; things that were written after I compiled everything — but the truth is I’m not sure there’s a market for poetry anymore. I’m not sure that people want to learn or read or do poetry the way that they did before.

All the greats are gone – Vonnegut was the last of them, and the last to go. I’d like to picture him at a great table, somewhere with Hemingway, and Orwell, and Shakespeare, and Hunter S. Thomas, drinking mead and wine and doing shots of tequila, laughing at the nuances and language of today. Shakespeare, who penned so many of the words  we use today, created them just from their sounds — hearing people say things like, “LOL” and “GTG” – can you imagine? He’s probably thrilled he’s not here to see it – but laughing uncontrollably nonetheless. Waiting to see who will come up with the “next great idea.”

Many people describe my generation as the “Lost” generation, but the truth is that we should probably be called the “invented” generation. Children of baby-boomers who care about nothing more than money and cars – driving fast, dying young, devaluing the dollar, the law, and life itself.

A reality I live every day at the job I do is about the insane amount of young people who take their lives as a result of the constant tormenting they face every single day at school, on the computer, and at home from their parents. NJ Governor Chris Christie just signed a bill to enforce support groups for young people contemplating suicide, and all I can think about are the kids that were killed because they were hated. The kids that didn’t want to die – and the kids that kill themselves anyway.

I know that there’s so much to blame, but I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of generous stimuli surroudning us 24 hours/day and a lot of it has to do with the lack of imagination young people have today. There’s no need to want anything. Kids don’t need to play with refridgerator boxes anymore — there’s an app for that. Don’t have to build using wood blocks because they can build houses and roofs and community centers on the computer. They can create false realities and identities and actualize them using the computer.

And I can’t even think of characters to put into a damn novel.

I don’t know if I have it in me to write fiction. So much happens in the world surrounding us on a daily basis, and while I love to jump into a novel and escape from the world – I don’t know if I can create my own. I was always told to “write what I know” – but if I’m not sure if I even know anything…where does that leave me? A blank sheet of paper?

Scratching Ink-Notes

Something happened on Friday. Something that jolted me out of a type of slumber I’ve been zombie-ing in, something that made me want to reach for a pen and to just purge my thoughts from my mind.

Something happened.

I started stringing words together in my head again — I started plucking them out of the depths of my mind — words about words, and about dictionaries and thesauruses and words that made me giggle just because of the way that they sound.

The truth is, I’m going to be leaving my job soon — at the end of February, to either take a break from work to focus on class (if I get into UPenn) or to get ready to go to Israel. And I think I’m going to try to substitute teach for those few months in-between, but I think that more than that, I’m taking off to write. I’m going to write like I used to – force myself to do exercises and just make the words flow.

I just read The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, and while I’m a little bit uncomfortable when authors write autobiographical works about people who cannot speak for themselves, McLain’s novel was well-researched and beautifully written, and it made me want to write. And any book that makes me want to write is worth reading over and over again.

Writing, for me, used to be a kind of addiction. I used to carry a notebook and pen everywhere and even if I never wrote in it, I always felt better knowing it was there if I needed it. Because lines of prose and poetry are fleeting — they soar into my brain one second and if I don’t jot them down (like I didn’t on Friday), they disappear and only reappear later, and only sometimes. Existing apart from writing is painful, and I’m not sure if I like what it makes me.

So I pulled out my manuscript. I needed to remember the poetry and I still can’t believe that it’s mine. Reading one poem took me back to the firehouse where I read it to an entire room of people and only saw Jonathan. Took me back to laughing and choking on crackers in my favorite teacher’s classroom as he tore apart my work.

It’s so interesting to read about who I used to be. The me that’s still inside, somewhere; the poems about my best friend as our frienship fell apart; the love I had with Jonathan. I thought it was so desperate. I thought I needed him so badly. Now – the type of love we share is so much more…real. It’s more mature and developed and old and comfortable. And so much more desperate. Like if he wasn’t anymore I would cease to exist. There is no me without him anymore and just the thought of that makes my stomach flip upside down and turn in circles in a delirious delicious flood of emotion. I never knew that kind of desperation could be good. I thought that it would mean I was weak. Unsubstantial. But since Jonathan is the one that makes me real, it only makes sense.

And it makes me want to write again.

Going back to Hogwarts, Going back to SCHOOOOL

So, that’s decided, I’m going back to school. For a major change (haha, I hope you enjoyed the pun!).

I always thought I was a liberal arts person. I couldn’t exist apart from it. Books, writing, poetry, music, history – they all defined who I was, who I associated with, what I did; how I thought. In high school, I hated anything that didn’t have to do with English or politics. I LOVED English and French, hey, I still love English and French, I just hated the way that it was taught in college. (see: class A is on dead white males, class B is on people that hated dead white males.)

So naturally, when I went to college, I wanted to major in – English. It was a no brainer, both to make the decision and to participate in the studies. My teachers didn’t care at all about teaching, or helping us to create and form our own opinions; they just wanted us to spit out facts from each of our required readings and reiterate their opinions on everything. The problem was, I had already learned to think for myself, and I realized I didn’t need an English degree to prove it to everyone.

So I changed my major. And those of you who’ve read un-Orthodox understand why I don’t need to work in the “academic” Jewish world – I live there.

So I found myself at a crossroads. A rather dramatic one, as I realized that this was a HUGE decision and risk. But I decided.

About two and a half years ago, when I started my journey with Jewish Studies, I had a bit of a nervous breakdown. Because I realized that ultimately, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a nurse. But more than a nurse. I wanted to be a midwife.

But I didn’t want to start school over (yet). I hadn’t taken a single science class, or math class, and realized that it wouldn’t mean one extra year of school – it would mean two, which I was not interested in doing. So I did some research, and found DONA International – and started thinking about becoming a Doula.

For those who don’t know, a Doula is kind of a combination of a birth coach, spiritual/emotional mentor, and friend. I would help a woman who is in delivery by suggesting different positions, making sure she (and her partner!) is comfortable, and work with the mother to give her the easiest and most fulfilling birth possible. Statistics show that women who utilize the services of a Doula are less likely to require medical intervention, including a cesearean.

So I’m almost done with the certification – and should be totally finished by the end of 2011. Which brings me to the next chapter.

Next week, I’m starting classes again to complete the prerequisites for Nursing School. Because, ultimately, I do want to be a midwife. So, Anatomy and Physiology, here I come.

I’ll be honest. The work that I do at the organization that I work at is important. It matters. The organization I work for matters. A lot – and more than many think that it should. But the work is endless. And there’s no endgame. Sure, it’s rewarding when one out of the 200,000 students we work with chooses to stand up to adversity, but all-in-all, we’re fighting a losing battle.

Having the priviledge to help a woman deliver her child would be the biggest honor. It’s really the most blatant miracle that we have the merit to witness in our world. I mean, come on – we’re only humans. And something that started as a cell, a miniscule cell that only the most powerful technology can see, with an enormous amount of energy inside of it, grew exponentially in nine months, still hidden from the world.

To have the honor to witness that miracle every day? There could be no better blessing.

So, I’m going back to school.

I used to think I was a liberal arts person. Every day, I realize a little more about what it means to be a Person.