Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

After almost two years of waiting and poking and prodding, six months of dialyzing, and about four weeks of nailbiting, a small Christmas miracle occurred. Mom got a kidney transplant. Granted thousands of these operations happen every year, it still seems surreal and amazing. The organ starting functioning almost immediately, and thus far there have been no complications. I didn't think the day would arrive so soon or wash over us all so smoothly. Best of all, Mom sounds great. It's literally like she has her life back. There's a different note of hope in her voice now. For the time being she needs a lot of sleep and a few more weeks of monitoring, and she cannot be in crowds for a while. What a small price to pay for another shot.

We don't know the exact identity of the donor. I want to send my thanks to her and her family, a 26-year-old schizophrenic who had a seizure while in an institution. The tribulations this young woman experienced must have been so painful for her loved ones to witness. Having to make a decision to give others the gift of life in the midst of such grief and anguish is so selfless and courageous.

[public service announcement] Don't know what to gift for the holidays? Please sign the back of your license and become an organ donor. Yes, it's hard to look mortality in the face and prepare for the worst. This small act will allow your family the peace to not have to make a decision for you, and will give a number of people a second chance on health and happiness. Those two things are priceless.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fear of Falling

Many of you have asked me why I have not posted anything in a couple months. There are several reasons for this. One big one is, I had a very bad bike accident on August 30 and needed 20 stitches just below my knee. This happened two weeks before my very first half Ironman race and was a huge blow to my confidence, not to mention very painful and disruptive to my normal routine. For two weeks, I could not straighten my leg, and because I was given incorrect care instructions, it took a long time to heal. Now I have a gnarly scar, and it is slowly fading.

Ironically, the reason why I fell and got hurt was because I was afraid. The bike has been the weakest part of my triathlon mainly because I find riding with clip-in shoes really intimidating. Flying over the handlebars of my brother's BMX and tearing all the soft tissue in my rib cage two weeks before my Sweet 16 didn't help either. More fundamentally, I have often been afraid to fail, to f*ck up, to fall down. What I realize now is that, falling from time to time is inevitable. The key is picking yourself up to keep going. While I was recovering, I read "It's Not About the Bike" by Lance Armstrong. For a professional elite cyclist, he has fallen a lot, and look where he is. I also read "The Long Run" by Matt Long - thanks Frevin. If his recovery doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will.

Ultimately, this episode made me realize that falling down occasionally is nothing to be afraid of. Also, I need to make friends with my bike so I can get back to the joy I used to experience as a kid, riding around Bayside. Like many of my triathlete comrades, I've decided to name my bike Lucy (after the bossy character in Charlie Brown). Before the end of the year, my goal is to learn as much as I can about how Lucy works and get back on the bike outside. If any of you out there want to accompany me, I will reward you with home-cooked goodness.

This of course has been just one piece of my recent saga. More to come...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

There's nothing like waking up with breakfast already made. It's even better when the apartment smells heavenly. My crockpot oatmeal is convenient and fragrant, plus it's healthy, easy, and can serve several people or be refrigerated for later in the week. Thanks to Mommy's Kitchen for the inspiration.

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 cup milk
cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon
2-3 cloves

Monday, August 22, 2011


During my FMLA break, one of my biggest tasks has been cleaning the house. My parents have started referring to me as the White Tornado, and they definitely batten down the hatches once I get started, especially when trash bags are in tow. My mother refuses to part with most of her possessions, each one has a story around its origin. The typical shrieked response is, "You can't get rid of that! That belonged to Grandma/your Aunt Frances/Bisnonna Meme," or "so-and-so gave that to me for my bridal shower." I have to admit, some of the pieces are really nice, such as a kitschy orange flower-shaped fruit bowl, but come on, a horse-head creamer? Three basket steamers? A British pudding mold? The kitchen has taken the longest thus far due to the number of hiding spaces and sheer volume of stuff that needs inspection, dusting or full wash, and neat stacking and organization. It shocks me and my folks how good I am at it, since I'm not exactly the neatest person. My room still has not been tackled properly, although I have been purging clothes.

Besides housewares, my mother is afflicted with Italian Famine Syndrome. Scratch that, it seems that most ethnic mothers are utterly paranoid of having their mission to keep their families well-fed thwarted by famine, blackouts, or supermarket closing hours. As a result, we have overflow of canned goods and spices on industrial warehouse shelves in the TV room. Many of these cans are past their expiration date. I ignore this since I hate to throw away food, and most canned products are pumped full of preservatives anyway. Thus I restack and demonstrate to my mom that we do not need anymore canned tuna, coriander, or jalapeno jam. The second prong of this attack is to use as many of these products as possible. We have been having jello and instant pudding at least twice a week. For Dad who insisted on three Costco jars of Welch's grape jelly, there is brownbag peanut butter and jelly, and one empty jar. I've also continued to sift through recipes, almost like Iron Chef. Instead of buying ahi tuna, I mixed canned Italian albacore in with the mayo mixture and used up two open jars of capers instead of opening cornichons in this yummy open-facedsandwich. Mom loved it. When my Betty Crocker mood struck, I had all the ingredients for Nigella's coffee-walnut splodge cookies to take to a friend's.

So I admit, I tend to scoff at people who "cook" by opening cans or boxes. Besides the health benefits of eating minimally processed food, cooking loses its creative edge when the only task is to add water. However, good food is good food, and if one can save time in an already busy day, it's still better than fast food. Sandra Lee, I will never thumb my nose at you. Maybe giggle at your emphasis on cocktails, but I respect thee for liberating busy cooks from the guilt of not having enough time to make everything from scratch. Will save that for the weekends....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pedestrian Voyeurism

I kinda doubt anyone cares about what happens on my block, because there's not much. When my neighbor across the street answers the door in a towel, even less so.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There's Something Wrong

Two years have gone by since the horrific "wrong-way" crash, and last night HBO debuted its documentary on the families involved. It's hard to watch. Besides the picture of Diane Schuler dead on the grass, the surveillance video is so eerie to watch. Besides the images, it made me wince to see the Schuler family grap at every straw they can to "clear Diane's name."

Sometimes it is hard to accept a painful event, especially if there is no closure. It seems that the Schuler family is struggling to come to terms with what happened or that she could have done something "bad". It struck me that the alcohol and marijuana in her system is being contested so vehemently, even though they admitted she smoked pot on occasion to help her sleep. They are insistent on a second autopsy and have latched onto a "medical" situation as the root cause, such as her abscess tooth.

Separating the person from the action, Diane is human, her friends and family loved her, and she made a choice to drink and smoke pot at some point that had tragic consequences. In addition, exhuming her body for an autopsy may revisit the physical state of her body, but there is no way to trace her mental and emotional well-being. Perhaps she had a psychotic break or a panic attack, either of which would not leave a trace in her system like BAC or THC. There may have been secrets she had, lingering pain, unspoken feelings. There is no black box for the mind.

A commenter on HBO's site said it best, there are no winners in this situation. One can only hope that the loved ones left behind can find peace with what transpired, accept what happened and her humanity, and forgive.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

This P*sses Me Off

Food trucks rock. The crackdown is so ridiculous. Any shop that feels threatened by a food truck probably sucks. Get over it, it's called a free market. Thank godness for The Lot on Tap

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Switching Gears

Peritoneal cavity...nephrology..catheter exit site...these are all words I'm using more often. Someone close to me has advanced kidney impairment and started peritoneal dialysis. It's a great treatment that can be done in the comfort and convenience of one's home. However, in the beginning, it needs to be done four times a day, and takes an hour for each cycle, not to mention the preparation and sterile conditions required. On top of everything else to do, this is quite disruptive.

Looking at the situation, I decided to move back in to my folks' house and take FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act of 1993) for nine weeks to help out. Some people may question this, how it would affect my career progression, if I would even have a job. FMLA guarantees a role upon return, so that wasn't really considered. Part of me wondered if I would even want to go back after a break or how my peers and superiors would view the break. In the end, I decided that family is more important right now that work, and that I would appreciate spending more time with my loved one down the track. People in our current society place so much emphasis on career focus before anything else can transpire, but life doesn't always work that linearly. Having worked straight through college and consistently afterward, what could be the harm in a break?

Not to say that I am sitting on the couch eating bonbons. There is driving to doctor's appointments, changing dressings, carrrying dialysate bags upstairs, schlepping used solution to the nurse practitioner for testing. Having more time at home and more people in the house allows me to cook more too, allowing me to go through my archive of Chow recipes of the day, such as beet greens and feta pasta and shells with arugula pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts.

In addition, I have taken it upon myself to clean my parents' house (read: get rid of junk). The living room is done, onto the kitchen. It pains my mother to part with Danish butter cookie tins and glass jars, but I'm warming her up to it. When the furniture gleams from orange-scented polish and the cabinets can be opened to well-organized, non-expired foodstuffs instead of an avalanche of plastic bags filled with God-knows-what. So far so good. Now if I could only tackle my room....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just When You Thought I Could Not Do Anything Crazier...

Ironman NYC. August 12, 2012. I will be at my computer Wednesday at 11:55am to start the entry process.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tutte le strade portano a Roma

If you've ever wanted to immerse yourself in a particular city, a marathon - itself a tradition stemming from classical Greek culture - is one of the best ways to do so. Now imagine yourself at the crossroads of the ancient and modern, where structures built centuries ago stand besides or are incorporated into modern buildings. Visualize running on paths trod for many centuries and observing these relics free from the fingerprint-muddled barrier of a tourbus window. What surrounds you are not only the sights, but also the sounds, feelings, scents, emotions even, of several millenia. This is what the Rome Marathon is like.

This was my first marathon, as it was three years ago for a friend who recommended the race. With four half marathons under my belt and a handful of road races and triathlons, I felt ready to take the next step. Truth be told, I could have used about a month more of training to feel more physically prepared, not to mention more therapy on a nagging left shoulder irritation. About a month ago, I almost pulled out. My good friend and ex-colleague fell on her chin and both knees during a training run the week prior and almost didn't go through with it either. Nonetheless, we charged ahead for what proved to be a seemingly epic adventure, the beginning of which started when my hotel, 800 meters from the starting line according to Google Maps, was located on the other side of town. What good fortune to have cousins located an hour away who were able to drive me around town!

For those of you accustomed to pre-race expositions that rival major conventions, set your expectations a bit lower. The Palazzo dei Congressi was built during the Mussolini era and reflects the rationalist architecture of the time, symmetric yet severe. Once inside, forget about queuing and make way through the hordes for the bib number and then the race packet. Navigating the different booths feels a bit like a labyrinthe of yore without mythical creatures to fight off. Most of the merchandise are similar to items that can be purchased at home for a third of the price, and there is a smattering of promotional items. My cousin was a fan of the McDonald's pavillion, where you could have your face painted with the Italian trecolore and receive a noisemaker. We spent maybe fifteen minutes inside. Onto more important things, like pre-race carboloading! Between pasta, risotto, and bread, there are so many options for all diets. Most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate special requests.

The racecourse is one of the best I have encountered to date. The starting corrals are located next to the Colisseum, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Approximately three-fourths of the course pass by the major sighseeing attractions and distinct neighborhoods that make up modern-day Rome as well as Vatican City. Coincidentally, the city is still decked out for the recent 150th anniversary of Italy's unification. It's hard to resist taking photos while stretching or slowing down for a spell. The flat layout and mild spring weather make it ideal for runners of all levels. Besides water and Gatorade, refreshments included sugar packets, blood oranges, apples, bananas, and cookies, as well stations in between the refreshment stations handing out wet sponges. I found the port-a-potties lacking toilet paper but equipped with cranks to "flush" nasty bits down a conveyor belt. How clever of Italians to think of the aesthetics of portable toilets! (Shout out to Plamen, who I ran into in his AG gear towards the beginning of the race.)

The stretch between the 20-30km mark is quite far-flung from the main drag, the main landmarks being the Foro Italico (the Olympic stadium also built by Il Duce), the Rome Mosque, and a bridge that is still under construction, with volunteers and cops scattered throughout. Those on the slower side may feel a bit deflated from the thin crowd support on the home stretch. Sidewalks were deserted of spectators, and pedestrians and cyclists kept crossing in front of runners (me included) struggling to reach the finish. With an irritated shoulder and leg muscles I didn't even know I had screaming from kilometer 30, this made it even more difficult. However, sheer will carried me over the finish line, as well as thoughts of my mother. My maternal lineage hails from the Roman region, and thoughts of relatives long-gone on the same roads kept me going. Also, mom's health is not the best as of late, making it difficult for her to walk up the block. I was determined to finish, if only because I am able. At the end, I was almost destroyed, but not enough to collapse in a heap. Veni, vidi, vici! To celebrate my achievement, I had an medium (enormous) three-scoop cone at Gelateria Della Palma, somehow still able to stand. Delizioso!

Would I recommend this race? Conditionally. For the scenery, the spectacular cuisine, and the experience of running through two foreign countries, absolutely. If you speak Italian and/or are in a group, even better. However, converting 26.2 miles to 42.2 kilometers may throw the metrically-challenged for a loop. Those of us accustomed to races in the States are spoiled by drinks every mile (1.6km), whereas in Rome the refreshments and sponge stops alternate every 2.5km (just over a mile and a half) starting at the 5km mark (3.1 miles). For those of you who prioritize efficiency and order or are just plain impatient, this may not be for you. Most southern Europeans have a "get there when you get there" attitude. You will encounter this everywhere from the expo to the corral lineup to post-race medal engraving. Advance planning and packing is required since most stores close early and are shuttered on weekends. If I hadn't been so spent, the woman removing my timing chip with a pocket knife while still pinned to my shirt would have put me into a panic, . However, if you can go with the flow and cope with the unexpected, focusing on the excitement of the journey itself, go for it. In bocca al lupo...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grow Up

Is this for real? The problem is, men don't act politely and sincerely. They just expect women to put out and deal with all their immature nonsense, including festering diseases that cause cancer. I say, sack up, keep your fly closed most of the time, bring back romance, and maybe you'll reap the rewards.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Союз нерушимый республик свободных

Two years ago, Here is the City News reported that the Soviet national anthem had been played on Goldman Sachs' trading floor. Are we still headed in that direction, or does it seem like business as usual still?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

How Not to Marry

As I was cleaning out my Gmail account, I found this article written by Maureen Dowd. In a nutshell, it's what to look for in a potential spouse. Three years later, we are now graced with the Divorce Pages.

I'm just holding out hope for a guy in the tri-state area who is a good boyfriend. Even that seems like a rare commodity. Oy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

About Time

The City is planning to name a street after a fellow high school alumna (and the sister of my trainer) who was killed in 9/11. Finally something that hasn't been politicized and polarized. Just hope City Council doesn't crush it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

In the Palm Beach of Your Hand

Here I am again in sunny south Florida. Despite the God's waiting room reputation, I quite enjoythe more laidback pace, great weather, and low prices. Plus, staying with my aunt and uncle, even though my parents have just acquired their own condo one floor below, guaranteees a long weekend of great food, alcohol, and good conversation. Why do I live in New York again?