where can I find a pet leech???

Do you want to do something beautiful for God?
There is a person who needs you.
This is your chance.

Mother Teresa

Isn’t this the greatest picture ever?

Such a happy, handsome and loving couple…

It’s a photograph of my parents in 1958 the year before I was born (hear the pride in my voice)

Oh, you think that couple looks a lot like Gary Grant and Sophia Loren?

Hummmm…

well…isn’t that quite the coincidence?!

If you’ve been with me for a while here in blogland, you’ve already heard me speak of my
beautiful mother Sophia…

but shhhhhh, she doesn’t know.

Those of you who know me or have read much of this little blog over the years,
know that I am actually adopted.

I’ve shared this little tale before but for those of you who haven’t heard this
part of the backstory, I’ll back up a tad…

Back in college, my college roommates, whom I loved and still love, all knew of
my adoption.
One evening when I was in the Library having to do some sort of research on whatever
it was I was researching, I happened upon a shelf of books all concerning adoption.
I started pulling book upon book off the shelf and read about a subject I’d never really
looked into, much less discussed.

I shared with my roommates these new findings and curiosities.
And they too were curious…as many friends have been ever since.

But they also had their fun…of which I did indeed find funny.

They knew how besotted this hopeful one-day art historian was with all things Italia.
I yearned for Italy.
I had taken art history course after course on the Italian Renaissance.
I was smitten by those whom I considered to be the world’s greatest artists.
I had never been to Italy, but there some unseen power constantly pulling
me closer and closer.

So as screwball and silly college kids can be, I came home one day to a picture
of Sophia Loren taped to our room’s door with a hand-scrawled note, “adopt a Wop ”
–a word not considered politically correct—
but once upon a time, before this dreaded PC world of ours,
each country, each ethnicity,
each nationality had its own euphemism for their fellow nations
and fellow nationalities…
and it was what it was and no one much protested.

Everyone had a nickname—the yanks being the US, Frogs were the French and on and on…
Most names came from those things that these nations did or ate that would set them apart
from a fellow nationality.
Italians were not exempt.
Wop is a butchered word which roughly meant ‘thug’…
It originated in the southern Italian region—an area known for its heavy Mafia influence…
and so it goes.

But I was happy and even flattered to be linked to someone like Sophia Loren
and I was happy imaging that I had possibly Italian lineage.

Yet this post is not about all of that so I don’t want to belabor the point.
But just know that I knew I was adopted and must obviously be some sort of lost Italian.

Never mind that I’m actually Scotch / Irish.

So claiming Sophia Loren as a mother, who had no clue that she actually had this
long lost child living in the Southern US, as she was from Southern Italy, seemed so grand.
Add to the fact that whenever anything has gone wrong with me, I’ve always blamed it
on being adopted.

So today is no different.

I had my stress test.

It went ok, sort of.

The nurse told me that if I went on for 10 more seconds,
I would have registered having the heart of a 27-year-old….but…
there was a small anomaly.

When I got up to speed and began huffing and puffing, as I was now running uphill
and just praying I wouldn’t come flying off the back end of this inverted rollercoaster,
my blood pressure did not rise with the level of exerted intensity.
In fact, it didn’t rise at all.
It was the same as the resting rate before the treadmill.

Sooo, the cardiologist has ordered a nuclear stress test—
So I will now glow.

Here in the South we like to say that we don’t sweat, we glisten…
so I can now glisten and glow all at the same time!

He’s also ordered a heart ultrasound for the more compelling reason as to why
I had the stress test.

I’ve often referred to my having a bad thyroid.
I have a condition referred to as Hashimoto’s Disease.
It’s a thyroid that fluctuates like a roller coaster.
For a body to function properly, a thyroid needs to be consistent.
If not consistent all sorts of things go awry.

So I take a thyroid medication, which I’ll take forever and it helps to keep
my levels, level. I’ve taken it for years. I blame the adoption.

I have to go every six months for blood work in order to see if the levels have changed.

I did this last week.

The nurse called the following day…she starts the conversation with “Julie…”
I sensed something different in her voice.
“your liver enzymes are slightly elevated…”
meaning I still have a fatty liver—a result of a lifelong love affair with butter…
I get that from my aunt Julia Child…
“your cholesterol is up”—no news there.
and your hemoglobin is up…but that shouldn’t be too concerning…
however, she
(she being the doctor) still has a few questions so she’s sending
for more testing.”

The nurse calls back, following the weekend, and proceeds with “the news.”

A normal iron level, on the high end, is 150
Seems mine was 5 times higher…almost 600

I laughed rather incredulously.
“What does that mean,” I ask.
She tells me that the body obviously needs iron but my system is acting like a giant sponge.
Working on overdrive.
The body does not excrete iron.
There is no eliminating all the excess, it just keeps going and going, soaking it up.

Excessive iron produces symptoms—
all the symptoms I’ve been having but symptoms that have been simply chalked up to age,
or thyroid disease, or in my little mind, adoption…

Because when all else fails, we always blame the adoption…that being the unknown.

Yet excessive iron poisons the body.

Effecting the big three organs– mostly the heart, liver, and pancreas.

It effects the joints.
It causes fatigue.
It causes depression.
It causes hair to thin and fall out
It causes the fingertips to turn blue

Check,
check,
check,
and check…

But…doesn’t the winter’s dark cold dreariness make us all fatigued and depressed?
I’ve lost two significant family members this past year, that’s cause for depression right?
The blue fingertips is a thyroid symptom, right?
My osteoarthritis is age right?
The hair loss is also the thyroid, right?

This latest life glitch is called Hemochromatosis Metabolic Disorder.

A hereditary genetic mutation…
Mutation,
as in a mutant,
as in an X-Man.

Now it’s all making perfect sense…
As in, there are secret powers that I don’t know about right?
And now I know my family lineage….


(my new family)

So now we see all the connecting of the dots…

I told you it was the adoption!

I asked how one treats this little problem…as in how do I get rid of all this iron???

The nurse flatly states Phlebotomy.

Huh!?

I nervously laugh again.

Oddly, she is not laughing.

Cause all I heard was ‘otomy’…like a lobotomy…as in a hole in my head…

But then reality hits and I was like, “how is that to work??…
what are we talking about??…
giving a little blood or what??”

She tells me it most likely would be a weekly visit to the hospital to have a liter or so pulled off…
as in weekly!!!
As in like a freaking pin cushion.

Never mind that I also now need to cut out iron, alcohol, fat, sugar, citrus, Vitamin C, chocolate,
cooking in cast iron, using my grill (iron grates)…on and on and on goes the list of horror.

Just shoot me now!!!!!

But tea and red wine are ok as the tannin they contain helps impede the absorption of iron
in the body…Go figure.
Cabernet, a headache, and blocked iron…brilliant!

The last time I gave blood was in 1978, I was a senior in high school.
Once the process was finished and they had me to sit up, I immediately fainted.
After about 30 minutes, they tried it again.
Again, I fainted.
Finally, when they thought all was good, I was dismissed back to class.
By now it was lunchtime.

I had just grabbed a salad and was heading to the table when the next thing I know
I’m on the cafeteria floor looking up at a bunch of faces staring down at me as lettuce
was now scattered all over me…

I’ve never given blood to that level since.
I can do vials, tubes etc… just not bags.
And here now, I’m being told I’ll be giving at least a bag a week…
Geez Louise!

So maybe that’s my secret X-man mutant power…
Goodbye Sophia Loren and hello Leechwoman

So yes, now I’m thinking that perhaps if I could just find a pet leech,
I could work out this siphoning business from home so I wouldn’t have to keep going
to the hospital…makes perfect sense.

To be continued…..

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would if it could walk up and down in the garden, swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

― St. Nicholas of Myra

DSCN8712

DSCN8714
(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”

Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .