August 4th, 2005


adventures & realizations

I've recently developed some new food allergies, so I went for comprehensive allergy testing on Tuesday. A nurse put a bunch of tiny holes in my back and put allergens in them, then waited to see what puffed up and complained. The nurse said that if those spots itched, it was normal, but if anywhere else on my body itched, it wasn't normal, and I was supposed to tell them if something out of the ordinary happened.

I sat in the consultation room until the doctor came in, reading 2-year-old magazines with articles about how much J.Lo loved Ben while my back started itching and crawling and burning and I wasn't allowed to touch it.

The doctor came in eventually with his handy clipboard and when he saw my back, his eyes widened and he swooped over and said, "Oh wow!" in a surprised but horrified tone of voice. He promptly started making notes and asking questions. We amiably discussed family histories, etc., while my back ran away screaming.

When the doctor started winding down, the nurse came back in with information for him and she stopped inside the door, stared at my back, and said, "Oh my goodness!" She then leaned out the door and said, "Psst--!" and another nurse arrived and made similar noises. I was a veritable freak show of horrified fascination.

I started noticing that the back of my right arm was itching quite a lot--it turned out that my reaction to the tree-based allergens was so intense that the reaction had started crawling up my arm. The doctor made more half-laughing wow noises. He said I was reactive to every outdoor allergen except dogs and feathers, but he was only 80% sure of those not being reactive, because the surface test has a large error margin for false negatives. They could have injected more dog and feather allergens into me to make sure, but he figured that my body was probably under enough stress as it was, trying to cope with 30+ allergens simultaneously.

At that point, he offered to put topical Benadryl on my back and arm. Despite the fact that I was supposed to go to a business meeting directly after the appointment and the cream would probably stain my dress shirt, I eagerly accepted the relief. I spent the business meeting sitting forward the entire time. I must have looked really interested in the proceedings.

jcobleigh said I still had spots on my back this morning. The blood tests for the food allergies should be in in another three weeks.

I didn't think I was that fragile! :)
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big smile

praise of unexpected value

Back in my undergrad days, I took a class called "Biblical Myths & Legends" from the Judaic Studies department at UMass. It was offered by the very colorful Professor Julius Lester. Despite the title, it wasn't about deconstructing the Bible and assuming it was myth--it was about reading the very first few chapters of Genesis, pondering the word choices, appreciating the puns, and speculating on the origins and motivations of the authors. For me, it was an incredibly rich discussion of Creation and the beginning of the monotheistic religions.

It was one of my favorite classes ever, mostly because several of our assignments required us to write midrashim: stories that fill in "holes" or questions that the text leaves unanswered. (Things like: if Adam and Eve were the first two humans and they had only three sons, Cain, Abel, and Shem, how did Cain go off somewhere else and find a wife?) In the midrashic tradition, rabbis usually made up stories that were meant to not only answer one of these sorts of questions, but to also teach the listeners an important moral lesson. I think this is a fun idea (though a slightly dangerous one: a few of the Jewish friends that I discussed the Bible with had no clear idea which stories that they'd heard as children were actually in the Bible).

Essentially, Prof. Lester was asking us to write Biblical fanfiction, so I dove into it with great delight (though I struggled with feeling heretical, too!) All of my stories were returned to me with "A++!! 105/100" etc., on them. I was surprised and pleased that the professor liked what I turned in, and I was only too happy to keep writing fiction for class credit. Once, when he handed a story back to me, he said that it was a delight to read and it was some of the best midrash he'd ever read. I put those assignments up on my webpage and moved on with life.

jcobleigh and I just spent a week in Maine on vacation, at a friend's cabin. The friend had the book "Do Lord Remember Me" by one Julius Lester, on a shelf in the cabin. I saw it, blinked, and thought, "How many Julius Lesters can there be in the world? I wonder if my professor wrote this..."

I remembered to look it up this morning and discovered that not only had he written it, he'd written a ton of award-winning novels, nonfiction, and various other odds and ends.

It was an eye-opening moment. An award-winning author liked something I wrote... wow. Cool.

That was today's nice surprise. :)
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