Wednesday, May 07, 2014

For the record: wig

If you’ve just blanched almonds for cookies and put them out on your deck to dry and a few minutes later find a crow standing in the middle of the sheet pecking at the almonds with his big, black beak do you:

a. Weigh the almonds, figure out how many the crow’s eaten, add some extra almonds, and proceed with the recipe, confident that the cookies will be sterilized in the oven

b. Let the crow finish off the almonds because he might have contaminated them with a bird virus that doesn’t bake away

c. Throw the almonds into the trash because they might be contaminated, but you’re too pissed at the crow to reward him

I went with "c," but considered both "a" and "b."

I couldn’t decide what to make for the end-of-term party at the ESL class where I volunteer on Wednesdays, so decided to bake a variety of things, a good excuse to spend a couple of hours futzing around in the kitchen rather than working. We now have brownies and butter cookies. Banana bread is cooling and macaroons (made with clean almonds) are in the oven. 

I needed a relaxing morning of baking. It’s mammogram season. For me, the anxiety leading up to the mammogram followed by the anxiety of waiting for the results lasts for roughly a season, a.k.a. spring. (My mother died of breast cancer -- I'm not totally crazy.) I had my mammogram last week and found the dreaded call-back message on my phone about an hour after I landed in New Mexico on Friday. “This is Leslie from Kaiser radiology. . . “

Blood ran cold. I thought, ok, this is it, Jenny, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Do you think you'll go with a wig or a snood? 

It wasn’t the moment I’ve been waiting for, though that could come at any time. It turned out the technician had made an error and they needed to take one shot over again. I went back in yesterday morning and moped around for the rest of the day feeling pathetic, doomed, and alone. I was my worst self, small, anxious, and childlike.

Then last night I read this. I felt immediately and completely better. Warning: it's crude, even gross, but irreverent, funny, and big-hearted about something terrifying and a lot of the comments are, too. We’re all in the soup together and might as well be open about our struggles and fears.

So I’m being open.

I love Chuck Wendig’s blog, by the way. I have some of his classic posts bookmarked because nothing gets me out of a writing slump faster. 

Today he wrote this, which delivers a very familiar carpe diem message, but is nonetheless bracing and true. It made me think that I should be writing rather than baking cookies, but I love the people in my ESL class and there’s (probably) tomorrow.


  1. I just had my annual mammo, too. I don't have too much anxiety about it, but I will say that the whole process -- the checking in, the derobing, the out-of-date magazines, the being cold (WHY IS IT ALWAYS COLD IN THERE?!), the waiting for the results - all make me feel very vulnerable in a way that I avoid in the the rest of the my life. I'm not afraid of my emotions or confrontation or hard workouts or public speaking, but man! put me in a doctor's waiting room, and I feel tiny and fragile -- like I might be one giant bruise.

    I'm sorry you're in your "season." Going to check out those posts you recommended. Hugs from Austin.

    1. My first mammogram I almost fainted. I had to be seated by the technician and wait 5 minutes. Now I don't mind the mammogram itself at all. That's a breeze! It's the anxiety. If I could just squash the anxiety, all would be well.

  2. My husband studies disease vectors, so I asked him about your almonds. He said, "I wouldn't worry about it" and thought West Nile Virus would be the only one at play. For what it's worth, the CDC says you can safely consume WNV-infected birds as long as the meat is fully cooked. Blech.

    1. I suspected as much. Thank you for asking your husband and confirming. I probably would have proceeded if I'd been making the cookies for my family, but I was taking them to this party where all the students are senior citizens and I have an active imagination. The other day I dropped my son's sandwich in the sink -- a semi-dirty sink -- and my husband said I should just put it in his lunch anyway. I thought about it, but made a new sandwich. I think I might have been right in that case.

  3. You know, if your mother did not have a genetic type of breast cancer, you are no more likely to get breast cancer than anyone else, but that is logic, and this is not a place for logic, is it? I'm sorry you are going through this. It must be awful and exhausting to have to relive one of the saddest things that happened in your life every year.
    As for the almonds, when something like that happens to me, I always consider all the options you outlined as well as the fact that the almonds were probably living in a factory full of vermin prior to being bagged up, but I always end up throwing the food away and starting over simply because I would have to think about that crow every time I ate a cookie!

    1. About the cookies -- exactly! Our minds work alike.
      No known cancer genes have turned up in our family, but my previous doctor was very alarmist. I'm a logical person about almost everything but this.

  4. I would have gone with a. Then I would have thrown them into the oven for a few minutes because I would have remembered that crows eat roadkill with that same beak. Fun fact: Crows are crazy smart. They've been known to gather black walnuts (which they can't open themselves), drop the walnuts into the crosswalk of a busy intersection, wait until the cars crush the nuts, then WAIT UNTIL THE WALK SIGNAL TURNS GREEN and proceed to strut across the crosswalk and gather their lunch. It's bananas.

    I had a pain in my breast that I got checked out recently, and I had to go to Kaiser Sunset instead of my usual Kaiser Pasadena for some more elaborate form of mammogram. In addition to the discomfort of being cold (I was told that all Kaiser facilities are kept cold to make an inhospitable environment for germs; not great when my poor dad is shivering in his emergency room bed with one thin blanket and no one can find him another), I find it really uncomfortable to sit around bra-less for any length of time. The mammogram was normal.

    1. I'm glad everything was normal. I haven't paid attention to the temperature at Kaiser -- but I'm sure I'd notice right away if my father was shivering in the ER. That's terrible.
      Kristin, have you had crows in your yard with the chickens? I was shocked one day to see that chickens (dumbish) actually intimidate crows (smart.) At least that's the way it works in our area. I throw some leftover sandwich out, a crow tries to swoop in, lands, a chicken goes running at the crow and the crow quickly flies away.

    2. We do have crows. I haven't seen too many landing in our yard, but they are all over the telephone poles in our block, and I welcome them because they gang up on hawks. A friend who has chickens told me how one day he saw a--hey! I get to say it!--murder of crows in his chicken enclosure and he thought they were attacking a hen, only to find, under all the crows, a hawk, and under the hawk, a hen. He thought sure the hen was a goner, but she popped right up and ran back to her pals. I've definitely seen pairs of crows flying at hawks overhead.

    3. That is such a wild story!

  5. Isn't it funny how a person anticipates these dreaded things? I've had a secret plan for a long time to wear fake dreads if I ever get cancer.( In real life I tend towards a much more normal, solid colored type of fashion.)
    I want to add that I loved your book, love your blog and you have inspired me to try new cookbooks and recipes. I never would have tried "Burma" for instance without you and it was a great experience- even with a few recipes- it enlarged my life.

  6. Why do weird things happen when you have to cook for others? I was making Christmas presents- toffee. I was setting the hot sheet pans of cooling candy on the back porch. I had the porch filled and decided the first batch was probably cool enough to crack. Looked at the candy and thought it odd that I had forgot to dust the top with nuts. Until I started looking closer and saw FOOTPRINTS on all the pans of toffee. Actually thought about trying to salvage it for a hot minute. My other worst time involved bugs in the chili powder. I always refrigerate it now.

  7. I would have left them for the crow! A bird's gotta do what a bird's gotta do.

    Once I had a New Year's Eve party and a friend brought a flourless chocolate cake with a garnish of 12 whole almonds, arranged like the numbers on a clock around the top. It was on the kitchen counter.

    When I went in to get it, all the almonds were gone, neatly removed from their ganache nests. My cat, who never, never, never jumped onto the kitchen counter, was nowhere to be seen.

    Over the next two days I retrieved twelve intact almonds in the scoopings of the litter box.


  8. Thanks for the link to Wendig's blog. I just laughed myself silly and then forwarded to my sister who used to work in oncology. (I also forwarded it to my husband because he's given similar diatribes against his doctor.) It really is a great PSA for cancer screening.

    I hope the results of your mammogram are good. I hate the annual boob squoosh too but, it's a necessary indignity. Good luck!

  9. Nice post , i hope everyone will like your post

  10. Are you able to get digital mammos? I get them (possibly because I have had tumors in the past, so I don't know how common they are), and we get the results in about 10 minutes. It magnifies the tension, but for a briefer time.

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