I know I’ll never be wafer thin. You know, like those waifish models you want to shove a cheesecake down their throats. Floating around in their skeletal frames, withering away ounce by ounce, dying for fashion.
Most of the time, I’m okay with this. Sure, it would be nice to walk into any store, shop any rack, and wear what all the fashionable women are wearing. But where’s the challenge in that? Having to be more creative not only requires me to be a great illusionist, making those less-than-desirable body parts disappear as best possible, but it it also saves me a lot of money. Not in my size? Good thing, because I can’t afford it anyway!
I have to admit, though, that right now, I’m pretty angry about it. That’s right, I said angry. This love of food so proudly shared through this blog has a down side–one must remain active in order to stave off weight gain. I’m not even talking about losing it–just maintaining. But if you’re not all that mobile, there’s going to be a problem.
Some of you may know about my incident this spring. I had been dealing with sciatica pain on and off since I was pregnant with my daughter six years ago. This past May, two weeks after I graduated college, I massively herniated a disc in my lower back and had to have emergency surgery. I limped into the office for the results of my MRI, and was hobbling into the hospital for surgery less than 5 hours later. In a matter of days, my sciatica had gone from an annoying, dull pain in my lower back and hips to a red hot, burning pain down my left leg that couldn’t be touched by anything (including Vicodin). At the same time, a persistent numbness rapidly progressed down to my toes. My doctor and chiropractor feared that if surgery were not performed right away, there could be further paralysis. No guarantees were made that I would ever be 100% again–just that surgery would make it better.
And it has. I definitely am no longer a victim of the debilitating agony that kept me a prisoner of my bed for the five days that preceded my surgery. But there have been lingering issues that have stuck around far longer than I anticipated.
Like the numbness. The back of my leg is still dulled. I can feel pressure when applied, but the scrape of the razor blade when I shave does not register. Then there are the pins and needles that never go away, intensifying over the last week in the middle of my foot. There’s the fact that I can still only lift up half of my foot and toes, and that is only weakly accomplished. I can’t walk safely without an ankle-foot orthosis (which requires wearing sneakers at all times) and I’m still on light duty at eleven weeks post-op. I thought I would be back to normal by now. I’m realizing that this may be my new “normal” instead.
I may not be wafer thin, but I did have a somewhat active life pre-herniated disc. I downhill ski in the winter. I mountain bike. I treated myself to a road bike this spring, in hopes of gaining more time in the saddle by heading out early on summer mornings, before my husband has to go to work. As it stands, I cannot do any of these things and the realization that this limitation may not be temporary is causing immense frustration.
So yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t do the active things I once did. I’m angry that the struggle to maintain my weight is all that much harder now. I’m angry that the life I once had was taken away in a moment of stupidity when I thought I could push the washing machine across the basement floor without any consequences. I’m angry at myself and I’m angry at the world.
As angry as I am, when I step back and examine my circumstances further, I know that I have nothing to be angry about.
I am quite lucky, despite it all. And instead of putting my energy into futile bursts of rage, I’d rather focus on something more important.
You see, Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen–beloved food blogger and mother of two–has suffered a far greater loss. And yet, she is not out there ranting and raving, even though she has every right to be angry with the world. I can learn a lot from her.
I do not know Jennifer in real life, and have only briefly encountered her in the blogging spheres on Twitter, but she has touched my life in a huge way. Jennifer recently lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. There was no warning, no chance to plan or say goodbye. Her life was changed in a moment, as well. And her loss is irreversible. I may regain feeling in my leg someday. I may be able to ski and ride my bike again. I will probably get to do the things I’ve wanted to do all summer with my family. But Jennifer will never see her husband again. Her little girls will grow up without their father–and this breaks my heart.
I have no right to be angry. My complaints just don’t hold up under pressure, crumbling like a wafer cookie in the hand of a hungry child. It is all very shallow by comparison.
Tomorrow, Jennifer will be attending her husband’s memorial service. In his memory, she asked us to make a Creamy Peanut Butter Pie–his favorite–and share it with the ones we love, to show them how much we care. It is the very least I can do, this very simple request. I hope you will do the same.
In the meantime, I’m making my Chocolate Wafer Cookies today for the pie tomorrow. This is for you, Mikey. Rest in peace. And I will do my best to find peace as well.
Chocolate Wafer Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 14 Tbsp Kerrygold salted butter straight from the fridge
- 3 Tbsp whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean scraped
- Measure the milk into a cup. Slice open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds (“caviar”) out with a spoon, depositing them into the milk. Set aside. (Use the scraped bean pod to make some vanilla sugar.)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, sea salt, and baking soda. Mix for 30 seconds or so. Cut up the butter into small cubes and drop them into the bowl. Mix on low speed until you start getting clumps (they don’t have to be pea sized like when making pie dough or scones). Pour in the milk/vanilla bean scrapings with the mixer on and keep mixing until the dough gathers together into a ball. Turn off mixer, remove bowl, and knead the dough a few times in the bowl just to make sure everything is well distributed.
- Rip off a piece of wax paper. Roll half the dough into a log about as wide as you’d like your cookies to be. Roll it up in the wax paper, fold over the sides, and put it in the refrigerator. Repeat for the other half. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove the cookie dough logs from the fridge and slice as thin as you’d like (the thinner they are, the crispier they’ll be). I use a tomato knife for really thin slices, but do what works best for you. Place one inch apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheets.
- Bake 12-15 minutes (watching carefully–thinner cookies will be done sooner). Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies will crisp up more as they cool.
- Store in a covered container for up to 3 days. Dough can be kept in refrigerator for at least a week before baking, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Tomorrow, we’ll be using these cookies to make Jennifer Perillo’s Creamy Peanut Butter Pie. For Mikey. And all those we love.
Hello! I so enjoy your posts and this one I found particularly poignant. Thanks for the honesty—you are encouraging me to write my own! And also LOVE the recipe for the choc. wafer cookies. On my agenda for the weekend!
Incredible words and puts everything in perspective..thank you for this.
Kate @ Food Babbles
What a fantastic post! I know you’ve been struggling with your back and your recovery. I truly hope at some point you get back to normal. Your words about Jennifer are so moving. I don’t know her either except to tweet a bit back and forth yet her loss has really hit home for me. We’re about the same age, both with young children… I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she’s going through.
The Poet Herself
Thank you! I found I’ve been feeling sorry for myself a lot lately and forgetting the big picture. There are so many more important things in life. My heart goes out to Jennifer. Maybe it’s the fact that, like you mentioned, we’re around the same age with kids close in age as well that made her situation feel so personal even though I do not really know her, but I do feel for her right now. She and her girls are on my mind often.
Sasha @ The Procrastobaker
Im so sorry to hear about your back problems, sounds truly horrible. I too read about Jennies story this morning, heart breaking isnt it. I loved the honesty of your post, and well i wouldnt be here if i didnt love the look of your recipe too! I also hope to make that pie and already needed a good basic wafer recipe so thank you for this 🙂
The Poet Herself
Thank you for your comments! It’s not always easy opening up but I had so much on my mind, I had to. Getting to work on that peanut butter pie shortly. Glad the recipe will be helpful for you!
This is an amazing post. You’ve been through so much. I wish you the best of luck with your continued recovery.
(and I love the sparkly sneakers!) 🙂
Mike@The Culinary Lens
I had to think twice about commenting because almost anything sounds trite after reading this.
I guess as a result of being in my forties and having seen people die way too young I have suddenly run up against situations that put the things I complain about into perspective and trust me the things I complain about are much smaller than your sciatica.
You know you still have the right to be sad or angry but things like this might be the thing to help you move onto bigger an better things.
The Poet Herself
The thing is, it’s so easy to forget the bigger picture. My father also had a heart attack at 51 years of age–just 6 years ago. He was lucky enough to be in the ER when it happened and thus survived. He got better. He returned to his old lifestyle within a year. And now, it’s pretty much been an out of sight, out of mind thing–you move on and the lessons learned are forgotten. It’s really sad that it takes something tragic to jar us back to reality, you know?
In other words, I should already know better.
That’s not to say we’re not allowed to get angry, be sad, or whatever. But there are better things to put our energies into than dwelling. And that has been my problem. You’re right–it’s time to move onto bigger and better things.