Sunday, July 28, 2013

We Exterminate our Hunger at Dahlak

   An unscheduled weekend can often be just as complicated as a busy stringently scheduled weekend.  For some reason free time will turn my husband and me into seven year olds during summer vacation.

     “What do you want to do?

     “I don’t know what do you want to do?

     “I don’t know what do you want to do?

      Thankfully my husband broke the cycle and made a suggestion.

     “Why don’t we try that Ethiopian restaurant in the city…what was the name…oh, Dahlak.”

     “Wait, what is the restaurant called?” A cheesy grin spread across my face. It took my husband a few seconds to catch on.

    “Huh, I never thought about that.”

   “We HAVE to go!” I cried.  So we set off into the city to exterminate our hunger at Dahlak.
     Dahlak is located on Baltimore Ave in the University City section of Philadelphia.  We have never eaten Ethiopian food so we were looking forward to a new eating adventure.  The inside of the restaurant looks a bit worn and the windows looked to be in serious need of some Windex but other than that it is a pretty cool place. It was fun sitting on cubes situated around woven tables (there were regular tables for those who weren’t down with the cubes). 

We happened to be visiting during University City’s restaurant week so we decided to take advantage of the special restaurant week three course menu. For $15 each we got an appetizer, one meat dish, two veggie dishes and dessert. 
The meal is served family style so you end up getting to try a little bit of everything anyway. We both chose the feta salad.  It consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, feta and a cilantro dressing.  The lady at the table next to us meticulously picked all of the cilantro out of her salad.  That made me sad because I love cilantro. 


Ethiopian food is not for germaphobes.  There are no utensils except for your hands and your injera bread.  The bread has the consistency of a crepe and you tear it into pieces that you use to scoop up your food.  On our plate we had chicken stew, beef stew, beet stew, okra stew, chickpea paste, cooked cabbage and lentils.  Everything that we ate was delicious.  We tore it up, literally, since the food was set on top of a large piece of bread that you could also tear and eat.  I now have a new cuisine to add to my list of foods to crave. 
We will definitely be returning to Dahlak.  Our meal ended with some yummy baklava and a check that was light on our wallet. 
   After our noshing we took a stroll and strolled right into a lovely little independent bookshop called Bindlestiff Books.  With a name like that how could I not go in?
For as small as the store was they had an impressive selection.  Of course what kind of reader/writer would I be if I didn’t do my part to support a local independent bookshop, so I had to buy a book.  Like my food I can’t wait to tear into this book.

*For those who didn’t understand my enthusiasm over the restaurant’s name, Dahlak is pronounced like Dalek, one of the villains in Dr. Who.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ridiculously Amazing

A few months ago I bought this little sign to put into the bathroom that I use to get ready in the morning.

While I was in the hospital I received a lot of questions and comments from the staff regarding my positive, cheerful, pleasant non-grumbling disposition (on one of the doctor’s reports he described me as lovely and youthful).  I was never exactly sure how to answer the inquiries.  I could go into a deep spiritual explanation but honestly it is not even as complex as all that.

   A common phrase heard in our house is, “Dear, you can’t do everything.”  This is usually uttered after I have rattled off a list of things that I want to do…NOW!  I want to take a class, I want to be in that play, I want to eat at these five restaurants and see these movies and these four plays on Broadway, and meet these people and volunteer for this and lead that and vacation hear…..then my husband will say, “Dear you can’t do everything.”  It kills me to know I can’t do everything and I know I never could.  When I start to compile all of the places I want to go, the foods I want to try, the things I want to see and the experiences I want to have, there isn’t enough time in two lifetimes to do it all.  Life is short and with that in mind I know that I don’t have a single day to waist on being bitter, or angry or outraged (if I’m not going to pitch in and help to make the problem better) or grumbly. I need to look at each experience good or bad as something that can be learned from and make the best of it that I can.      

    It doesn’t mean that I don’t or can’t have moments of frustration (where I’m prone to rant) or have sad days or grumpy days where I do whine a bit, but it is not habit or an everyday occurrence. When those types of days do occur the next day when I wake up and go into the bathroom I know that it is a fresh new day and today I will make it RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fanboy/Fangirl Camp?

 So I’ve been reading the book Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman (who will be at the Collingswood Book Festival this year).   It is such a fun book and is an excellent summer read.  Every time I open the book I’m instantly transported to the camp and feel like I am hanging out with Gabe, Wesley and Nikhal.  When Color War finally broke, I was just as excited, sadly maybe even more excited, than the characters in the book.  It made me wish that as a youngster I could have gone to an awesome camp like Gabe (note: you had to pass a test to be accepted into the camp. I imagine the test included a lot of math so I probably would have never gotten into Gabe’s camp) but my brief camp experience was not that awesome, in fact I hated sleep away camp and was happy when after two years my parents did not make me go again.

   Firstly I thought that the camp brochure was a gross misrepresentation.  There were pictures of smiling kids swimming, doing archery and making crafts.  My expectations were that I would go to camp and shoot arrows all morning and then maybe take a dip in the pool before heading to the craft room to whip up a little something.  When I got to camp I learned that we were allotted only an hour of “free time” and the rest of the day was micromanaged with a strictly followed schedule. The schedule included a lot of activities involving balls, like whiffle ball and kickball and a lot of organized group games.  As a child who had the luxury of a stay-at-home-mom and summers that were slow, unhurried and free, I did not acclimate well to being forced to participate in activities like daily kickball games.  The camp that I went to was a conservative Christian camp and we were taught a song that went…

Yoda, Obi wan Kenobi, using the force.  E.T. with his magic finger, He-man with his sword, all of these are using powers God’s word does condemn, the Bible calls it sorcery and sorcery is sin…

The song made my 8 year old self skeptical of the camp and its leaders because 1) I watched and really liked He-man. He-man was great (I had yet to be introduced to the world of Star Wars). 2) I would argue that E.T. came from another planet and that any abilities that he possessed were the result of the atmosphere and/or the evolution of his species on his planet and/or the advanced technology of his planet and in no way falls under the category of “magic.”  It’s funny what miffs you off as a kid that still sticks with you into adulthood. 

   Aside from one friend (hi Sharon) who went to space camp, I don’t remember there being a lot of cool summer camp opportunities when I was young.  Now there are theater camps, rock music camps, forensic science camp and I even passed a sign this summer advertising robot camp (I believe you build robotics not that the camp is run by giant robots although that would be neat too unless it turned into West World…).  I started thinking as an adult, what kind of summer camp would I like to go to now?  I decided that I would love to spend a week at a  Fanboy/Fangirl summer camp.

  There would be archery of course but you could also learn sword fighting or light saber dueling. All activities would be optional of course.

  For crafts you could design your own superhero mask and of course no one could leave camp without a popsicle stick TARDIS.

   There would be indoor games like Vampire (if you have never played Vampire in a large group of people I recommend it, it’s fun), pin the beard on Riker and of course video games…lots and lots of video games. Also don’t forget RPGs and a special room reserved for games featured on Tabletop.  Outdoor games would be offered as well like wrestle the inflatable Kraken in the pool and instead of capture the flag you would play Rebels vs.  The Alliance to capture River Tam or Orks vs. The Fellowship to capture the one ring, and you couldn’t have a Fanboy/Fangirl summer camp without a week long kick ass quidditch tournament. 

   The camp would offer workshops like Zombie Survival skills, comic book writing, calculate River Song’s timeline…are you seeing how much fun Fanboy/Fangirl summer camp would be?

  At night everyone would gather around the fire to sing Klingon battle songs or lullabies in Elvish before hitting the hay with dreams of time travel dancing in their heads.  Oh, if only my Fanboy/Fangirl summer camp was real.   

 Here's a picture of me at summer camp.  Don't let the smile fool you.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

The times they are....

...a changin'

     Remember my nice little blog ( at Christmas about our traditional tree hunting expedition?  This week while traveling to work I passed this

That is the restaurant we always ate at after we conquered our tree.  The sight reminded me that life is always in a constant flux.  Tradition is nice, but change is good too, it give one room to experience, learn and expand. Goodbye Tokyo Mandarin and hello to whatever new restaurant we decide to warm our frosty fingers, toes and nose.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


This week while visiting my Rheumatologist she stated,

     “You sure like to keep us on our toes.”  She was referring to all of my surprise medical issues in general, but mostly referring to my surprise hospital admission last week.

   For anyone who has spent time with me over the past few weeks you will have noted my annoying hacking cough.  It was going on for several weeks with no end in sight.  On top of the cough my leg starting hurting, not good, but I wasn’t too worried.  Monday (June 24th) I went to work and did all of the things I normally do then went to bed early since I wasn’t feeling my best and figured a good night rest would do me good.  I woke up at about 4am on Tuesday and my leg was killing me. No matter how I moved or shifted I couldn’t relieve the pain. My cough also seemed worse.  I relocated downstairs to the sofa thinking that the change in location might help.   I can’t remember if I fell back asleep or just floated restlessly in the cool semi-darkness of the living room, but when it was time to get up to go to work I felt horrible.  I had chills and felt flushed.  When I took my temperature it was 102.  My leg looked slightly swollen and I just felt like something was very wrong.  I decided that I should probably go and get checked out at the emergency room.  I have a history of having serious things wrong with my health while showing minimal symptoms so I’m always a bit on guard.

     When I first arrived, the triage nurse and the emergency room nurse seemed skeptical and seemed to think I was just being lazy about not going to my family doctor and was clogging up the ER.  They first sent me down to have an ultrasound of my leg.  Shortly after getting back to the ER the doctor came in and told me that I had a large DVT (deep vein thrombosis/blood clot) in my right leg.  Last year I had a friendly little superficial blood clot in my left leg, but my current clot was a DVT, the unfriendly can potentially kill you clot.  I was sent for a chest x-ray and then a chest CT scan.  Once the results were all back the doctor came in and sat down looking serious. She said a bunch of times throughout our conversation that she was glad that I had decided to come to the ER when I did before it was too late.  She explained that I had a pulmonary embolism.  A piece of the blood clot from my leg had broken free and was now in the lower lobe of my right lung.  Had the entire blood clot decided to move to my lung it would have killed me.  I think the doctor was waiting for me to start crying at my brush with death but my mind was appreciating this odd you might even say ironic moment.  You see, when I was 21 I was in the ER because I only had 3,000 platelets left and my blood wasn’t clotting and doctors were worried that would bleed to death at any moment.  My how times have changed, of course I am extremely happy to be alive through that experience and this one.  A few years ago a co-worker died from a pulmonary embolism so I know I am quite fortunate. 

     I was told that I would have to be admitted and that I could no longer walk and had to be still until my blood was sufficiently thinned to be sure the clot no longer had intentions of moving.  I waited for a few more hours in the ER until a room could be secured.  I was grateful it was a Tuesday so I could be comforted by a marathon of Law and Order SVU. Eventually I was moved to floor 3B to my lovely nice single room.

This wasn’t my first hospital admission, but it was my first stay at the new Virtua Voorhees.  If you have to be admitted into the hospital it isn’t a bad place to be.  I have to start out by saying that everyone was super nice.  It was almost as if they adapted the Disney World staff handbook to use with hospital staff.  Even the housekeeping and room service staff were attentive and pleasant.  Speaking of room service, it definitely made a difference.  Instead of getting a little card prior to meals with maybe, three choices like most hospitals offer at the new Virtua you get a room service menu. 
You call a number and you can order food from the menu whenever you want throughout the day.  When they deliver the food they knock on your door and say, “room service,” like you are at a fancy hotel.  Some of the food items were better than others but it was certainly an upgrade from most hospital fare.
This was my grilled cheese lunch one day

The oatmeal cookies were really good, so I got one with every meal except breakfast.
I had a very nice view from my window, though I couldn’t really appreciate it since I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed until my last day.
They low jacked me during my visit.  I wasn't sure if they were worried I would escape or if I was in danger of being kidnapped but when they took me down one afternoon for another test I imagined myself as a little moving dot on a screen. Beep - blink - beep -blink - beep....
My co-workers sent me my favorite flowers, sunflowers to brighten up my room.  It was fun because the flowers seemed to brighten up everyone’s day who came into my room.  I’m glad lots of people got to enjoy them.
This was my fancy necklace, which was actually a heart monitor that I had to wear my whole stay.  I started to know how that albatross guy felt.  Also that gluey stuff from the electrodes is impossible to scrub off once you are home.
     They gave me lots of IV heparin and then switched me to shots which I had no problem self-injecting thanks to 3 rounds of IVF. I was also taking oral blood thinner and they gave me two IV infusions of iron since my labs showed that my iron was low.  I’m usually used to watching clear fluids move through my IV so the color of the iron was a little unnerving.  I still wake up every morning and check myself for any possible mutations (I want to be a shape shifter like Mystique if I had a choice).
Once the doctors were satisfied that my blood was sufficiently thin and that I was no longer in danger I was allowed to go home with instructions to self-inject shots until Monday, oral blood thinner for the next six months and I had to get labs everyday for one week and then twice a week for the next six months.
Shots at home
I now have a new hematologist who will be following me.  He ran a lot of specialized labs that won’t be back for a few weeks but the theory is that the clot was episodic, which means I won’t have to be on blood thinners forever.
What most people don’t know is that in May I found out that I was pregnant.  No drugs, no procedures, just old fashioned conception.  It came as quite a shock since we were told there was almost no chance we could conceive on our own.  I didn’t find out until I was 5 weeks.  At 5 weeks everything looked fine but when I went back at 7 weeks the ultrasound showed that the pregnancy had shut down at 5 weeks.  It had never progressed past that point and it was no longer a viable pregnancy.  I opted to have the pregnancy extracted so that pathology could be done to see if genetic issues caused the pregnancy loss.  All of the results came back 100% normal.  No genetic issues at all.  The theory is that the pregnancy triggered the blood clot; that when my estrogen is high it flips on a switch that hyper-coagulates my blood. There is still a lot of figuring out to do but I would rather have an episodic blood clot than a I have to be on blood thinners forever clot, though blood thinners forever is preferable to death.
For now I’ve been resting as much as I can.  I still have the annoying cough from my lung tissue being irritated by the clot but at least my leg hurts less and feels much better.  My biggest complaint is that I have extreme fatigue at the moment which has made me grumpy because if you haven’t noticed I love being active and out and about and all of the sleeping is getting old.  It is especially difficult during a weekend when there are lots of fun festivities going on and I'm just home  making myself depressed by watching House Hunters Beachfront Homes.  Hopefully the sleepiness will pass and I’ll soon be out and about once again.