pastrytopediatrics

from one to the other and life in-between

You were a fighter.

I thought I could walk it off. I couldn’t.

You only came in for labs.

You walked in. You never knew you’d never walk out. Neither did I.

I watched as your vitals came up. It’s a weird word—vitals—this adjective we’ve turned noun to give us a picture of its origin. Your picture wasn’t a pretty one. Numbers flashed everywhere. Your heart was flying, your body burning; I blinked as your O2 sat flashed. 45%. My vision blurred. My heart raced. I slowly started shaking.

No. That can’t be right. Frozen, I calmly order: “Move it.”

I don’t believe it. You’re talking. You just told the nurse where to put your IV so that it wouldn’t infiltrate. The number flashes again; it’s the same. Things start moving very quickly. There’s suddenly dozens of people. They’re everywhere.

An oxygen mask covers your face. A voice shouts for someone to get a resp rate. I start counting. 38, no…48. You’re breathing faster than any newborn I’ve ever seen. Your lungs sound like a junky car that can’t quite start but keeps turning over again. I’ll never forget that sound.

You were a fighter.

IVs in both arms, we flooded your body with drugs. The propofol briefly knocked you out. Someone shoved a tube down your throat. Someone bagged you. Moments later, you were conscious, fighting, searching for something, something I couldn’t see or understand, something the drugs couldn’t give you. You tried to extubate yourself a dozen times. There was a ferocity in your eyes that defied the drugs, that pushed past all the flashing numbers that told us we were losing you. You kept fighting. You needed something that all the medicine, technology, and science in the world couldn’t give you.

I kept blinking them back, forcing my eyes open wider and wider, until I’m brimming with tears I pray won’t overflow. I don’t want you to see me cry. I want, I need, to be strong for you right now. I consciously tell myself to keep swallowing. Somehow, I’m swallowing back all the tears I know will pour out later.

Counts and labs cover the screen in flashing red flags. Everything’s wrong.

Your body’s failed you. We failed you.

We did everything we possibly could and it wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter. It didn’t work. We couldn’t save you. I was angry. I was scared. I felt betrayed by this science, this science that we slave away to understand. It’s a joke. It just didn’t work. I’m angry that I’ve even tried.

Yet somehow, you’re still here. Toxic levels of anesthesia surged through your body. You didn’t give up. A ventilator forced oxygen through your body. It still wasn’t enough. I watched enough fluid pour out of you to fill a two-liter bottle. I watched you cough up a frothy pink fluid I only suddenly recognized from a lecture pounded into my head what seemed like decades ago. I watched you cough up blood. I wasn’t even surprised. I could count your platelet level on my two hands.

Nothing made sense. Your eyes flashed, scouring, searching for something I desperately wished I could give you. You’re intubated. You’re on a ventilator. You shouldn’t even be conscious. I just don’t get it. You’re defying everything I’ve lost endless hours of sleep and sanity trying to comprehend. I just don’t understand.

And, suddenly, I do

Your mom walked in.

The ferocity left your eyes. Your breathing slowed. I understood. I started uncontrollably shaking as she came to your side, her own eyes brimming over with tears she tried to hold back. She asked if you could hear her. A softness came over you, and intubated, on a ventilator, you pulled out your iPhone. You typed something I couldn’t see. You gave it to her. Your dad stood over you, sobbing, as your mom read it. Then, she started, too.

You held out. You defied every ounce of medical logic.

‘I love you, and goodbye.’

It’s what you needed to say before you could stop fighting.

I understand now, but I hate that I have to. I wanted to fix you. I wanted to save you, and I couldn’t. We couldn’t. I can’t even begin to understand how you did it, how you held out, but I’m glad that you did.

No parent should ever, ever, watch their child die. It’s something I can’t even begin to comprehend.

It’s a painfully honest moment in which we realize science doesn’t explain us. All the advances in the world can’t predict how a single individual can defy all odds to fulfill the simplest wishes of the heart—that’s something for which I’m truly grateful. I may not fully understand such miracles in life, but I’m glad they exist. I’m glad I got to be a part of yours. I may be broken for days, but I’m glad I got to experience this one, and I’m glad it was my first.

Life, and love, truly unconditional love, is a truly miraculous occurrence. I wish more than anything in the world that I could simply hug my own mom right now. I’d pay irrational amounts to make that possible right now.

I’m glad you fought. I get it now. You put up one hell of a fight. You’re in my heart, always. You never forget your first, right? I’m honored that you were mine, kiddo.

If You’re Going to Steal My Credit Card, Please Buy Some Vegetables.

I may have grown too comfortable with New York; it feels like home now. Maybe I’ve just let my guard down. Maybe after surviving both New Haven and Detroit, I subconsciously believe I’m street savvy. I’m clearly not. I swipe through the turnstile, pause to put my metrocard back in my wallet, fumble with my credit card, and before I even look up, a barrel of a man body slams me. My wallet flies. I nearly topple. He quickly and profusely apologizes. I stumble over, grab my wallet, and make my way down to the 4 train.

It was probably my fault. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was musing over the latest and greatest playlist my friend Patrick had sent my direction. He has this incredible way of effortlessly mixing things like Flaming Lips with ten-minute dramatic instrumental pieces and somehow it all works. I love that he’s always introducing me to new bands I need to know and reminding me of old favorites I can’t forget. Maybe I should wait to listen until I’m on the train from now on. 

Half an hour later, I’m at MRY for Travel+Social Good. I geek out over these things. The ideas and innovation that bounce around, the energy and passion that just explode out of days like this–it’s an inexplicable force. It’s enlightened inspiration, and a hundred brilliant beautiful minds that all really want to do something. It’s incredible. It’s a force that keeps you moving for weeks, for months, through the moments why you question why you’re struggling so hard for something. It’s an alliance of people that truly care enough to create change.

Two hours later, I’m amongst a much smaller crowd, with Runa Tea founder Dan Maccombie at the helm. The idea: Every bite counts. How can food change the world? We agreed. We disagreed. We all came at it from different perspectives and different backgrounds. Academics. Travel Writers. Doctors. Social Engagement Managers. CEOs and Presidents of Food Startups. We debated a lot of things. We struggled to really get into the girth of it in a mere twenty minutes. 

Someone gave us the two minute warning; we talked for another five. In my last month at Marlow & Sons, we shot for an article in Saveur, featured as one of the twelve restaurants changing the way America thinks about food. 

That was four and a half years ago.

We need to change the way America thinks about food.

We still do. 

It was the one thing we all agreed upon. Tristram Stuart closed Travel+Social Good by asking us all to join him at the Feeding the 5K/Disco Soup Launch Party at Pier 57. A thousand pounds of food waste. One celebrity chef and a great space. Half a dozen DJs and a ton of helping hands. We danced, we ate, we laughed. We made dozens of plates and handed out them out to the handfuls of New Yorkers simply walking by or walking home or walking wherever they were walking. We just handed out food. Healthy food. Some people probably needed it. Other didn’t. I’m sure some were simply thankful they didn’t have to go home and order some mediocre $20 delivery off Seamless. 

I started to walk home. I needed to take it all in. I felt thankful–thankful to live in this phenomenal city, to be this blessed, to have the opportunity to be a part of an amazing movement. My feet blistered. I didn’t care. It was worth it to feel that alive. 

I woke up this morning, made coffee, started baking bread. Joys of moving. A small army of fuzzy things resembling baby caterpillars had taken residence in my bread flour. I quickly throw on a sweatshirt, grab my wallet, and run the two blocks down the street to pick up a new bag. I get to the register with my King Arthur in tow and…my credit card’s gone. Okay, maybe it’s just in my purse. It’s probably not. I instantly flash back to my subway slam. I should have looked. 

I get home and still don’t really believe it. I check my purse, it’s not there. Once my bread’s proofing, I call. Apparently, I’m rather predictable. Credit card companies are smart in 2013.

Gorilla|Fairway|Stumptown|McDonalds|McDonalds|McDonalds|$100+ @ Cheap Liquor Store|Papa John’s. 

I wasn’t mad. I was sad. As I was on my way to a day-long exploration of social good, the center of which (for me) was food security and sustainability, you took my credit card to buy your food.

I spent my night making and giving away good, healthy, free food. You spent yours taking my money (okay, credit) to buy food (though the quality of that you bought can barely be considered such) and booze that only wrecks your body. I wish, instead, I could have fed you, with my hands and my heart. I wish you’d had what I could have given you, what I’d like to give you, and really, whoever else you fed with three trips to McDonalds, one hell of a pizza order, and a bender booze run.

I would have fed you better than that. I had something to share. (It wasn’t my credit.)

The fraud agent spent an unusually long amount of time on the phone with me. She asked about my day, about Travel+Social Good, about Disco Soup. I’m sure most people are probably really angry when their identity, or credit, gets stolen (I should know. It’s my fourth time in ten years). Maybe she could tell me I was sad or perhaps was she just genuinely curious. She finishes telling me they’ll mail me a new card, pauses, and slowly asks,  “You do you want to reject these charges, correct?” 

She knew it, too. I wanted to feed you, but not like that. I actually had to stop and think about it before I answered. Reluctantly, I said yes. If you’d bought apples, would I have said no? I don’t know. 

This is what I do know. You stole from me to feed yourself while I was discussing how to feed the masses and then actually doing it. You chose McDonalds. Repeatedly. If you’re going to steal my credit card, please buy some vegetables. 

We need to change the way America thinks about food. We need to do it now. 

finding my heart-tug

It’s crunch-time, which mean I’ve morphed into an uber-productive state reminiscent of my years at NYU. Truthfully, it feels like 2013 has been one extended period of crunch-time, but this is where it climaxes. With four finals in less than five days, one would naturally assume I’m holed up in the library (or more likely, on our front porch) studying in a manner only brought about by prolonged procrastination.

False. I’m mid-flight to Orange County, where I’ll be joining a handful of fellow champions and the Shot@Life team that makes our everyday advocacy possible at the Mom 2.0 Summit. Is it the smartest academic decision I’ve ever made? No, probably not (Yes, we can say it’s actually, far, far from it. It’s okay. I know it).

Aaannndd, hold the phone. Hello, small world. In typical fashion, I’m diligently working on something while simultaneously creeping on my fellow travelers. I attribute it to spending the greater half of my adult life in New York. People-watching while working is a skill (amongst the multitudes, of course) we as New Yorkers believe we’ve perfected. Now, back to my current creeping endeavors. I’ve seen this woman before—yes, on Facebook. Forgetting any ounce of social grace I minimally possess, I simply burst into a brief albeit blunt interrogation, “Where are you going? Who are you?” Yes, that’s what I thought. We are both going to the same conference. No, I’m not a mom. No, I’m not really a ‘blogger’…err, maybe I am. I don’t feel comfortable saying that. I’m a newbie blogger. I’m testing the waters. I haven’t really figured it out yet. But, yes, I guess I have a blog.

Another big surprise, I wrote this two days ago (scratch that, it was only yesterday) and never posted it. So here we are, it’s Friday night, and I can confidently ascertain why I’m here. I’m here because I found it—that thing that pulls at my heart. The thing that makes me jump out of bed before six in the morning ready to do anything and everything I can to make a difference. It’s what inspires me to run twelve miles with Charity Miles, not necessarily because that sounds like fun, but because I can save a few lives. It’s why I’m running the Brooklyn Half, why I’ve taken a crash and still stumbling course in social media, and why I launched an Etsy site that I barely have time to restock. It’s because I finally realized I have a voice, and that voice matters, even if I’ll never be the person shouting from the rooftops (I’m much more of a chat on the sidewalk girl). I found Shot@Life. I found my heart-tug, my happy place, that thing, that issue, that makes me talk so fast and furiously I frequently forget to breathe.

I’m here to give one more child a chance to change the world. I’m here to bring a voice to all the children that never got that chance, but should have—children that never got the shot (that’s a good pun). No child should ever lose that chance to something we can so easily prevent, but they do, and it happens everyday.  That’s something we not only can change, but must change—and, well, that’s why I’m here.

Well, and we get to hang out w/amazing people like Dennis Ogbe, US paralympian, polio survivor, and fellow Shot@Life champion.

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Let That Child Loose

Some people stick. I’ve tried to explain this countless times in my life with more detail, more eloquence, and it never really works. I always come back to the same thing. Some people just stick. It’s a face, a feeling, a moment you can’t quite describe–it leaves a lasting impact on your life. There’s no rhyme or reason to who makes the cut…or maybe there is something to it. Maybe it’s divine intervention, maybe it’s a series of mile markers/hearts/lives that determine the direction we drive our destiny (and yes, I realize that’s a paradoxical statement….one with which I eternally wrestle). Whatever it is, I haven’t figured it out yet, and I don’t know that I would want to if I could. The individuals that have most influenced my life aren’t those I would have predicted or planned upon; I’d safely venture to say the majority are people I’ll probably never see again.

Two weeks ago today, I encountered two of those people. I first learned of them two months prior with a sneak screening of Revolutionary Optimists at the Shot@Life Summit in DC. Two kids, in their barely double-digit years of life, decided to do something. They decided to change their world. They identified the importance of polio prevention, clean water, and girls’ rights, and they did something about it. They put themselves on the map (both figuratively and technically). These aren’t small-scale feats. These kids didn’t mess around. They wanted better lives and a better community, so they set it in motion. They drew a map. They went to Parliament. They walked through the streets of their slum with megaphones shouting about polio vaccines.

Now, they’re thirteen and fourteen, and they’ve changed their world. I’m inspired and awestruck. I have total kid crushes. I’m tempted to call them junior change agents, but they’re far from it. They’re the real deal–the ones that any and all of us still aspiring, should seek to embrace and embody. The week of the NYC premiere, UNICEF hosted an intimate screening and panel discussion with the filmmakers and the inspirations, Salim and Shika, along with their group leader, Amlan, of Prayasam. I jumped at the opportunity. I accepted the invite, put on my Shot@Life shoes, and headed into the city for the night.

That night, Salim became one of those people. He stuck. Amidst the audience, someone posed a question. People always say you have to see the opportunities past the obstacles to make a difference. I’m sure you’ve faced your share of obstacles along the way. What did you do when people told you no?

Salim sat there for a moment processing the translation. His face lit up as he started giggling. In the amplified decibel of his still-learning English voice, he simply said, Well…I didn’t listen.

It was that simple. I didn’t listen. The room erupted in laughter and clapping. I took those words as truth. That moment, that sparkly-eyed boy that seemingly can only speak in a shout, he stuck in my heart. He didn’t hear no. Maybe he heard it, but he refused to accept it. I’m determined to be more like Salim. My thirteen-year-old role model’s the real deal. There’s a child that can change the world in all of us–it’s our job to let that child loose.

photo 12.43.35 PM

Amlan, Salim, me, and Shika @ the Revolutionary Optimists screening @ UNICEF, March 27, 2013.

love without boundaries

Thanks for still believing in true love. You’ve inspired me not to settle for anything less. 

I read it over and over again. This must have gone to the wrong person. It can’t actually be meant for me. Me? I’m not sure I believe in this concept anymore. I did, or at least I thought I did. It didn’t work out so well. The aftermath’s left me ironically apathetic. A wise friend said it well: Hold onto what’s left of your heart with ferocity. 

The truth hurts. It’s harsh. It’d be really easy to be angry (and sometimes I am). I refuse to fathom a reality in which love and humanity are disposable. Well…that’s false. I can fathom it, largely because I’ve been unwillingly hurdled into its receiving end. Even then, I refuse to embrace or embody it. It’s simply a subpar way to live.

All of which leads me to question: Do I really believe in true love? Inwardly, instinctively, I scream its antithesis. It’s unimaginable. It’s impossible. I lived in eternal exhaustion trying to teach someone how to love. In retrospect, it was an unachievable feat. You can’t learn to love without letting go of your heart–that’s just a fumbling road to failure and disappointment, on both ends.

All of that considered, I do believe in true love. It might not be in the most conventional sense, but I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. I know it exists. I know through my kids. No, I don’t really have my own kids–but, I have those that have forever left an impact on my heart. I know it in the big brown-eyed four-year-old Liam that lit up my life with every little laugh and twinkling eye and heavied my heart with every tear. It’s what’s behind every toppling hug and morning smile. It’s a limitless love, one that knows no constraints of circumstance or other’s opinions. It’s in the fiery shouting spitfire Shelly that, in outstretched arms, spun in endless ecstatic circles blowing bubbles until she couldn’t breathe. I’ve fiercely felt that love. It’s ruthless. It’s unconditional. It knows no boundaries. It fights to the end and never lets go.

Hopeless or not, I believe in that love–and I refuse to accept that it ends with double-digit ages. I believe in real-life, grown-up Liams and lasting love and happily ever-afters. It takes a heart willing to love with conscience and courage over cowardice. Those brave enough to live and love like that evidently are not a dime a dozen, but I don’t care. I’d rather last a lifetime longing for a Liam-type of love. It’s worth it.

sweet study buddies: maple fig pecan bars

If I have to quarantine myself to the couch studying, I’m at least going to minimally multitask. I adapted this recipe from Greyston Bakery’s The Great Blondie recipe:

Maple Fig Pecan Bars

1.5 sticks butter

.75 cup brown sugar

.75c white sugar

Cream the above together until light and fluffy, then incorporate: 

3 eggs 

2.5 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt

Fold in: 

2 cups oat flour (or whole-wheat pastry flour)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

.75 cup roughly chopped, roasted, salted pecans

.75c roughly chopped calimyrna figs

Bake at 325F until golden–cool, cut, and share. 

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agreed: the twentysomethings are all right.

I talk to myself, a lot. I became acutely aware of my apparent audible rambling earlier this week as a late sixty-something-year-old man loudly hissed ‘SSSHHH’, only to immediately continue his own stream of consciousness spewing. His was clearly his shopping list and for memory’s sake.

Mine, to the contrary, was nothing of the clear-cut productive sort. I was sorting out my life while mindlessly slurping a grande soy latte and scarfing down the mini Cadbury eggs I had not yet purchased. Despite an atrociously expensive French pastry diplôme, I still strangely love those little pastel-coated chocolate thingies. They remind me of home and Easter egg hunts well past the age of any acceptable occurrence of such (think post-NYU graduation, and yes, I’m serious…just ask my mom).

Somewhere between electronics and babies, I consider leaving first-world comforts behind and doing Doctors without Borders when I graduate. Graduation: the elusive concept that forever taunts me amidst endless exams, rotations, and overcommitting myself to extracurriculars. As it looms closer, this quiet panic sets in with the pressure to ‘figure things out’. I thought that’s what my twenties were for, but their end looms ever closer as well–and I still don’t have everything, or anything, figured out.

Babies. As I wander (and often wander) the aisles, I convince myself I’m doing ‘research’. I work in pediatrics. I’m just seeing what’s out there. Note: this is the same shoddy justification I use to warrant my wandering of the toy aisles. Really, I’m just looking for new developments in the world of Curious George. I wonder if I’ll ever be in a place to buy onesies and wipes. It too, seems so elusive. I can’t even commit to buying an iPhone car charger, let alone a child (and yes, I know I can’t buy one. Well, I could, but I wouldn’t. I’d prefer not to go to jail). But I know that I want one, or several, someday. For now, I’ll stick to the four-legged shedding variety that conveniently vacations at grandmommy’s house whenever the need arises.

As I deem the off-white ballet wedges no city girl should ever own a ‘necessity’, I’m struck by how much I miss my best friend. She’s in Seattle. She would stomp her foot, demand that I put them back, then turn around and confidently claim the imperative nature of the neon green sports bra in her iron-clad clutch. She’d laugh if she saw the waylaid rainbow chip frosting of our childhood I secretly stashed in the freezer; she’d laugh even harder if she knew my mom had sent it to me to send to her. Instead, it took residence next to the ice cream maker and supplements study sessions, one sickly-sweet frozen spoonful at a time. I can’t even remember the last time I saw her, but I know she’s always there. We’re polar opposites, but she gets me and always has. It’s one of those friends to the end kind of things.

It forces me to acknowledge the value of meaningful intimate interactions and the incredible influence they bestow in our lives. It’s 100 humbling, inspiring strangers creating a unified voice for a million and a half children that need us. It’s the early morning text from a true friend that stops to convey the value of your friendship and love (thanks Jess) in the craze of always celebrating others. It’s five fabulous hours spent with someone that makes you realize everything you were missing before this. It’s enchanting, lost in conversation infatuation that restores your faith in love, even amidst the ‘wrong place, wrong time’ reality.

I thought I only came here for conditioner. I think I really came here to wander aisles and let my mind do the same: to figure out that I don’t have to have things figured out. Twenty-seven plus year later and I’ve finally accepted it, somewhere near the milk. I don’t know what I’m doing next year, let alone next week, and I’m okay with that. It’s a live, learn, and love by the moment type of life, and I think that’s called the twentysomethings.  Although I do have an an admirable assortment of kitchenware, so I guess I’m one step closer. I agree Nathan Heller, it is a semi-charmed life. The twentysomethings are all right. 

V is for: Valentines, Vows, and Vaccinations

I woke up this morning with a bit of shell shock. I woke up in New Haven, not DC (nowhere near as fun). Instead of advocating for global vaccination, I was getting my own (typhoid fever and a Hep A booster). I walked fifteen minutes to a cushy clinic, waited five minutes, and walked out another five minutes later. My trip totaled under an hour.

I woke up this morning grumbling about my early AM appointment and the 10’L, 5’W snow dome that apparently contains my car. Something stood out. I woke up this morning with a choice. Imagine a world without that choice. That’s what we’re fighting everyday with Shot@Life. We don’t live in a world where we walk two days to stand in line for hours to provide a simple, lifesaving solution for our children. I’d be surprised if I walked two miles.

It’s challenging to come away from such an incredible week and reintegrate into daily life. My mind’s reeling with ideas and inspiration. I want to pour every ounce of my heart and soul into this–but, at least for today (and maybe a few days), I need to catch up on what I’ve neglected here at home.

In the meantime, I’m making a simple V-Day vow: to provide one more child protection against polio everyday in 2013. I turned my late four-mile morning run into one more polio vaccine through the Charity Miles mobile app, and I plan to do so every single day moving forward–that’s another 320 children protected against polio. It’s what we like to call stupid-easy: turn your daily deeds into something significant. Log your morning run, walk to work, or puppy’s potty break with Charity Miles and Shot@Life. Every child deserves a shot @ first grade and first kisses, at tiny envelopes full of bright paper hearts and sparkles. I’m lucky enough to have a Valentine tonight, and to remember years of candy hearts and broken hearts. Take today (and everyday) to give a child that chance. It truly is stupid-easy.

If you happen to find yourself in need of a new cookie recipe, or are scrambling at the last minute, I just made these for my valentine:

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Cookies

2 sticks butter

1 cup vanilla-infused white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 vanilla bean (mine are bourbon-soaked), scraped

Cream the above together.

2 eggs

1 tablespoon espresso

Beat in the eggs and espresso.

2 cups AP flour

2 cups whole-grain oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup dried cherries

1 cup sweetened coconut

1/2 cup roasted, salted pecans.

Fold in the fun stuff, bake at 325F until golden, and share with someone you love.

 

the original and the adulterated upgrade

Brownies: I once was one (short-lived, of the Girl Scout variety. I got kicked out). These days, I prefer to make them, find the willpower not to lick the bowl clean (fail), and stick to the center pieces sans crust.

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The Original-ish Version

8 ounces chocolate (milk or dark)

4 ounces butter

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1.5 cups white sugar

.5 teaspoon salt

.75 cup AP flour

The Adulterated Version

10 ounces dark chocolate chips (at least 61%)

another handful of chips, for nibbling and later mixing

4 ounces butter

4 eggs

.5c vanilla bean-infused white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons cooled espresso (or strong coffee)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

.75 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon salt

a generous sprinkling of cinnamon

a handful of roasted, salted sunflower seeds (or roasted, salted pecans)

a handful of dried Montmorency cherries (better macerated in bourbon)

a handful of coconut, lightly toasted

gold dust (because it makes everything better)

steps: 

  • Melt the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally until fully melted.
  • Whisk eggs in, one at a time.
  • Whisk in the sugars, salt, espresso, and maple syrup until evenly incorporated.
  • Gently fold in the flour and cinnamon w/a spatula, mix in the handfuls of chocolate chips, cherries, coconut, and sunflower seeds (or whatever else your heart desires).
  • Spread into a buttered 8×8 pan, sprinkle w/gold dust, and bake at 325F until the center’s just set and has a dull luster finish (never let them go until the toothpick comes out clean–that’s just an overbaked travesty).
  • Slightly cool, cut, love, and share.

clarity comes with chocolate

“My mom told me to always follow my heart.”

It was a simple, concise answer. It was a question I’ve been asked at least a hundred times. It was this fabled moment for which I’ve yearned for years and it finally happened. Clarity and peace converged at this single point in time and I responded, slowing smiling with this surety I’ve never before known. The question’s one of natural curiosity, a curiosity I should anticipate and mitigate after so many years.

“What made you go?”

It’s a simple, four-syllable question. It’s a question that’s thrown me into a heightened state of exaggerated turmoil since it’s virginal utterance. My mind instantly catapults into this state perhaps best described as the intimate version of the intro to Homeland, infinitely fast-forwarded and repeated until enough awkward silence has passed that I’m socially obligated to answer.

Hundreds of memories flash through my mind–here’s a mere few:

I’m working at UNA, taking twenty credits, bartending at a sketchy 6th St. Moroccan restaurant, graduating a year early, interviewing for Peace Corps, and readying myself to defend my senior honors thesis to BDM (only anxiety-provoking to anyone that followed Cabinet game theory circa 2006). Yet somehow, my friday nights are spent with my friend James. We attempt to perfect my mom’s incredible chocolate chip cookie recipe as we lament my last-year college woes: largely, grad school boys, and the ever-resurfacing question (Should I move back to Paris?) over a six-pack of Amstel Light (how I’ve become such a beer snob after spending the entirety of my city-child undergraduate life drinking the aforementioned and Stella is a mystery). I’ve rarely been happier baking cookies in one of NYC’s most ill-equipped kitchens (especially for a one-day Le Cordon Bleu grad). We laugh at the irony of our weekly runs to and from Magnolia, solely motivated by the cupcake intermission and sugar coma of Grandma-style buttercream.

I’ve been here since 5.30AM. I don’t even know why I’m here anymore. I’m working on this groundbreaking (or maybe my naivety overshadowed my reality) genocide prevention proposal and we’ve been stalled in advisory meetings for hours. This position is the only reason I came back from Paris. This is hopeless. This is enlightening. This is incredible. This is pointless. I could waste away my whole life doing this (as evidenced by the me in 40 years 60-something bachelorette ambassador that humbly tells me her life passed her by sequestering sides in this very room). I’ll do just fine, that’s not me. That’ll never be me. My mind drifts for a moment. I’m dying to get home and crawl into bed with my Moosewood Cookbook. I covet the last few moments of my 2am bedtime: scouring, reveling, dreaming of the recipes I read. Yes, I read that report; yes, I agree. Dallaire said it perfectly; I’m reading the book. We’ll follow that course. I’m back to a reality I can’t wholeheartedly say I believe in.

I’m mid-morning run; my typical five-mile loop ensures my sanity for the day ahead. I’m without music, gear or gadgets. It’s my outlet, my release, my free moment (or hour…or two). I throw the keys for my teensy (think under 325 sq ft–yes I’m serious–gem) 2nd St. studio into my pocket and run out the door. There’s nothing that defines or identifies me; it’s just me (yes, in later moments, I’ll regret my utter lack of license, cell phone, anything). It’s just past 5am. It’s a beautiful time in Manhattan. The streets are clear; there’s a quiet only heard at this waking hour. I run past the UNHQ to which I’ll soon return and SLAM. I’m flying. I hit hard, or really, it hit me hard. I think of Paris, of long lunches, of longer lingering mornings in the Marais, of spontaneous midnight picnics filled with laughter and love. I want it back; I want it back now. The appreciation of the experience, of a single moment, of time truly well spent, of love, of life without a timecard–of fromage, cheap vin rouge, and fresh-picked apricots that taste like honey.

It’s the last thing I really feel. The terrified expressions of onlookers register, yet fail to resonate. I’m hit, broken, and bleeding. I somehow can’t speak, but I’m fully conscious, at least for a moment. I’ll later find out I flew across four lanes of traffic, hit by a Navigator going somewhere close to 60 MPH. I don’t know how I survived nearly unharmed. I just ran into the crosswalk and got pummeled.  This wasn’t how my day was supposed to start. I was angry, incapacitated, and inconvenienced. Yet, that day, I was the lucky one. I was one of two NYU seniors that day in hit-and-runs. The other morning runner never made it back–to classes, to graduation, to waiting friends and family, to life. I felt like I lost a friend in someone I never even knew. NYU’s a strange family. It’s truly inexplicable, this bond that forms. Maybe it’s the whole moving to New York at seventeen-thing so romanticized by our love of Felicity and Noel and Ben, maybe it’s the forged freshmen friendship of people I still so incredibly value and respect, or maybe it’s the elation elicited from the endless inspiration of the world as the classroom. Whatever it is, it’s a truly remarkable force.

It’s a force that demands life be lived large and limitless. It’s understanding there’s no agenda for life–and after understanding, accepting it. It’s walking away from a mind-numbing job in corporate America and a dozen law school applications to frolic, falter, and find yourself. It doesn’t have to make sense. I call bullshit on a life of somedays and it’ll be easier whens. Live now. Live with conscience and intention. Life doesn’t happen tomorrow; it happens today.

So, I listened to my mom. I followed my heart. I found dreams and disappointment and Valrhona chocolate. I found passion in my way back to pediatrics and global health, and peace that only comes with bedtime stories by Julia Child.

And a sincere love of brownies, especially in adulterated form (recipe to follow).

Today, I’ll drink too much tea, pack for DC, and hope that a freaking plow finds my street by tomorrow morning.

Thanks Mom.

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