Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This morning, I went to the dermatologist. I expected the visit to take 10 minutes, but then, I remembered to ask her about a weird bump on my nose. She looked at it, found a second one, and decided to biopsy them, mostly to be safe. After all, I have a family history of paleness. More importantly, my mom had skin cancer a few years ago, but all that really meant was she had a small tumor removed from her nose, and some reconstructive surgery performed by a very handsome plastic surgeon who she was just aching for me to meet.

I can imagine being very very nervous before a biopsy, running various worst-case scenarios through my head. But this biopsy came about so suddenly that I didn't have enough time to get nervous.

I was surprisingly fine with the shots of lidocaine and the first biopsy, right up until I caught a whiff of the scent of my own flesh being cauterized. Then I felt the second biopsy, and had to smell the burning flesh all over again.

Once it was over, I got up off of the table, and went to go get my purse and the post-procedure care instructions. I felt the room spinning, and went to go sit down on the chair. That was the last thing I remember until the doctor, the nurse, and the assistant were all standing over me. I had no idea when it was or where I was, and it took me a good 15 or 20 minutes to begin feeling like myself.

Vasovagal syncope. Common faint.

My mother would have seen this one coming from a mile away.

Mom used to joke about me passing out at doctors' offices. The story always went something like, ". . . It was just a shot. Then I looked across the room, and Dara's eyes were rolling around in her head. I got there just before she fell down. . . ."

I always took it as a thinly-veiled insult, implying that I was a girly little wuss, afraid of the sight of my own blood.

Sometimes Mom took a bizarre pride in my fainting episodes. "I told the nurse that Dara was no good with needles, but she ignored me. And of course she missed the vein. So, after Dara passed out (as expected), she threw up all over the sterile equipment tray."

The worst, though, was the time it happened when she took me for a pedicure at the beauty school and they cut my foot. That one led to an emergency room visit, a lot of fluids, and a whole host of lectures about the interplay between low blood pressure and dehydration. So, since then I try to drink more water and eat breakfast, yadda yadda yadda.

Today, when I got home, I commented about the event on Twitter and Facebook. Which led to some panicked friends, and a panicked phone call from my brother, about how I was supposed to let him know BEFORE any medical procedures.

Now, hours later, in the comfort of my own house, the idea that it might be skin cancer is slowly sinking in. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is the idea of going through this alone -- without my mom holding my hand and warning all of the nurses that I am a fainter. It made it all easier.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bikinis, tattoos, and sarcasm

(Scene: A lovely tropical destination, where our brave and fearless heroine has been sent for work. She sits at a table on the patio of a resort hotel with her coworker, who is on his second or third rum drink. It is clear that she would rather be anywhere else, with just about anyone else.)

Coworker: There are a lot of women in bikinis here.
B&FH: Yes. We are at a beach resort.
Coworker: My wife says it's okay if I look, as long as I don't do anything else.
B&FH: Yeah, people say that.

(Several increasingly uncomfortable moments of Coworker commenting on the women of the resort as they pass by.)

Coworker: I don't understand why women get tattoos. It's trashy.
B&FH: Yeah, whatever.

(A few uncomfortable moments later.)

Coworker: Is that a tattoo on your wrist?
B&FH: Um, yeah. I generally keep it covered up.
Coworker: I don't know why you'd do something like that. I'd never let my daughters do anything like that.
B&FH: Well, I guess my dad wasn't paying enough attention.
Coworker: Looks like a star.
B&FH: Something like that.
Coworker: Why'd you do it?
B&FH: It was the only way I was ever going to be able to tell the difference between my right and my left.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Cookie Experiment

For some reason, I got it in my head that I needed to bake hamantaschen for Purim. Forget that I hadn't been feeling well -- forget that I was busy with work -- forget that I had no time -- forget that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. These cookies demanded to be made.

So I acquired a recipe from a friend, and on Sunday night -- the day after Purim -- I made the dough, which was the easy part. And then I struggled to make the triangle shapes. That night I used about half of the dough, filled most of the cookies with nutella and a few with strawberry jam -- and watched a bunch of soggy triangles emerge from the oven. Strike one. I put the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator overnight.

The next evening I tried again. I took just a small bit of dough and rolled it out less thinly. I used a juice glass to cut out a half-dozen circles, filled them with black raspberry preserves, and pinched them into triangles. Much better, but the shape still needed work. Strike two.

So, with about a third of the dough left, I tried again the next night. Instead of rolling out the dough and using a cookie cutter, I rolled the dough into a log, as if it was the Pillsbury ready-to-bake cookie dough, and used a knife to slice it into quarter-inch circles. I filled half with nutella and half with lingonberry jam from Ikea. I folded them into triangles using the pinwheel method I read about on the internet.

I baked them for the perfect amount of time, until they were just barely golden brown.

The result was magnificent -- especially the lingonberry ones. Home run!

When I tasted them, I thought about my great-grandmother. When I was little -- essentially still a toddler -- I used to "help" her in the kitchen when she baked jelly cookies -- kosher jelly cookies. I think that's why I like to bake so much, even though neither my mother or my Nana were bakers.

And I know it's impossible for me to really remember the taste of those jelly cookies, but I imagine that these were pretty close.