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28 October 2005

"I want to be a part of it...."

New York spinach and raisins, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

New York, New York. That's where I'm heading tonight.

After writing New York memories with increasing frequency here, I recognized that I needed to visit. After all, because of the mystery illness last winter and spring, the one that took nearly three months to correctly diagnose as celiac disease, I haven't been back to New York in over a year. And I miss it, dearly. I miss the dirty streets, the honking horns, the way the skyscrapers blot out the sky. I couldn't live there anymore, but sometimes I just jones for the chance to walk down Broadway, going fast, passing thousands of people on the sidewalk on the Upper West Side. And, even though I can no longer eat bagels from H & H, or bread at Le Pain Quotidien, there are new gluten-free restaurants to explore. We have a five-day break coming up at school. Why not take two more days off and make it a week in my favorite big city in the world?

So, the plan is to teach my last day of classes, write evaluations all afternoon and early evening, dash home to pack, then climb on a midnight flight to JFK. Then wake up in New York City, one of my favorite places in the world.

Well, that was the plan.

Update since I first started writing this post. It's actually Saturday now, even though the date on this is yesterday's. Yesterday morning, I put up this photo and started writing, in the giddy, silly hope that I could overcome what, in the end, prevented me from climbing on that plane last night.


Well, on Thursday morning, I slipped on some stairs at school, missed a step, and slammed down on the outside of my left foot. It appears now that this either stretched tendons and ligaments beyond their capacity, or tore them, or caused a hairline fracture. Or all three! When it happened, I immediately thought, "Shit! I broke my foot!" Students ran for the athletic director, who brought up ice and an ace bandage. A friend drove me home, and I lay on the couch all day, in shock, my foot propped up on five pillows, icing and resting. Being the model patient. And I really just thought, "Oh, I'll rest today, and I'll be fine."

But that night, it all grew worse. It swelled in the night, even though I iced it. I didn't sleep more than an hour and a half. I knew then I'd have to postpone my flight at least a day. I went to school, to try it out. And during the day, my ankle and foot grew grotesque. Ballooned. Blue, purple, green. Even the inside of the ankle swelled and turned colors. I could see the blood pooling at the bottom of the foot, under the skin. (My friend Dorothy said today, after seeing it: "It looks like someone sliced off the bottom of your foot, bruised it badly, then sewed it back on." I could post a photo, but this is ostensibly a food blog, and I don't want to turn your stomach. This description will have to do.) And I could barely put weight on it. Walking in the hallways scared me, for fear that kids would bump into my foot. How was I going to do the subways?

By the time I reached the doctor's office--I had to listen to reason and have it x-rayed--I had already accepted my fate. And then, when he took a look at it, he said, "Wow, you have a doozy here." (Apparently, I can't do anything halfway.) When I jokingly told him that I had a flight to New York that night, he wouldn't even pause to let me tell him that I had to cancel. He just looked at me and said, "You are not traveling."

So there you go.

The good news is that it doesn't appear to be broken. It could be a hairline fracture, but it will--get this--take four or five days for the bone dust to settle before they could see that. If it doesn't feel significantly better by Tuesday, it might mean torn ligaments. So I have to rest. He wants me to start physical therapy immediately. I will. If I had pushed it and gone to New York anyway, I could have damaged this foot far more badly, and left myself with lingering effects for months and months. I've already had that, with the car accident. Now, I know how to rest. I know the beauty of surrender.

In the meantime, I rented four or five dvds to watch. I have four or five new cooking magazines to read. I have friends stopping by to bring me supplies. I'll have days at home, with no obligations, and hours to write. I haven't had that since school started in September. I'm alive. I'm fine.

I'll miss New York. I talked to my friend Monica on the phone this morning and heard car horns honking behind her and wanted to cry.

But at the same time, I'm aware of how much worse this could be. After the car accient, I always feel this. All I did was trip and sprain my ankle.

We make plans, and then life changes. Okay. It's only the transition time that's hard, the moments when I can't quite believe that what I envisioned my life to be is not going to come to fruition. But isn't that most of life?

And, as my friend Jara wrote me in an email today: "At least you didn't break a rib, so you can still laugh." Absolutely.

Besides, life provides when you need it. On Thursday, when Francoise pulled into my driveway, my ankle dripping from the ice bag, she had to block the sidewalk a bit. My neighbor's car was in the way, so we jutted out. At the precise moment we opened the car doors, a tiny, wizened older lady walked up. She was a perfect evocation: hunched back, smeared red lipstick, a clear plastic rain bonnet on her grey hair. Francoise apologized to her, and said: "I'm so sorry, but you'll have to go around the car. My friend is injured." The woman took a look at me, my swelling ankle, the way I had to hobble from the car. And she also looked at the stone steps up to my door. So she said, "Oh dear, I'm sorry. Would you like to use my cane?"
I looked back, softened. "Oh, that's okay. Thank you, though."
She leaned her body against Francoise's car, then held out her battered metal cane. "No, you really should use it, my dear."
And I looked at her, and the steps without a railing, thought about it for a moment, then said, "Okay."
It really came in handy.

So you see? Sometimes you hurt your ankle when you least expect it. And you miss your trip to New York. But then, an old lady will offer you her cane. And all is right with the world.


When you're injured, and in pain, you need comfort food. My first thought last night, after visits to the doctor and bumpy bus rides to the drug store and back, and after years of habit, was "I want macaroni and cheese." But of course, that's not possible now. Not unless I have gluten-free pasta at the ready, and two stable feet to stand on as I make homemade mac and cheese. Right now, that's not me.

So instead, I offer this suggestion. I made this a few days ago, based on a suggestion Melissa had made in the comments on my post on turmeric, and how much I love spinach. I'm sure the dish she had in Spain was far better, but this one certainly satisfies.

1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 large bunch of spinach, washed and dried
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of plump golden raisins
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric
sea salt and pepper to taste

°Boil the chicken stock in a large skillet, until some of it has boiled away.
°Throw in the spinach, and the spices together. Cook until the spinach is wilted.
°At the last moment, toss in the pine nuts and golden raisins. Cook until everything is hot. Eat immediately.


At 5:33 PM, Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

I am so sorry about your foot. But you are right, it could be worse. During the school year I look at any chance to stay home as a luxury (don't let the little critters know I said that). By the way, the spinach sounds just wonderful.

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor girl! Glad to hear that it is not broken and that you are able to put some weight on it. Will keep my fingers crossed that it will be much better by Tuesday.

Now for the Mac-n-Cheese...nothing beats homemade, but in a pinch when one is sick or sad Amy's frozen GF mac and cheese will deliver. It's made even better with a few slices of ripe tomato added when baking.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

We are mortal, frail, and sometimes it's shocking to find that out.
Sympathies to you, Shauna. Sorry about the trip. (Pun! Unintended, but it just happened.)

At 6:53 PM, Blogger inlandchi said...

Take care of yourself, Shauna!

I am just writing to say I was very moved by your moment with the older lady. Thank God you had the grace to accept her help. I think it is so important to remember to see the person behind the "aged" exterior; there's so little of that, I fear. To let her help you, a wonderful gift, for you both. :)

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your foot and your missed trip. I haven't spent any time in Manhattan in 3 or 4 years now, and I miss the bedlam. Take care of yourself!

At 12:56 AM, Blogger kitchenmage said...

That's really lame. (sorry, I'll go sit in the corner with coookiecrumb now...) I'm adding a new phrase to my list of things I don't want to hear, "...(it'll) take four or five days for the bone dust to settle..."--ummm, ouch! Even with the injury and loss of the trip, your writing makes me smile. Your students are lucky.

At 3:25 AM, Blogger Cerebrum said...

So sorry to hear about the foot Shauna. Loved the image of the little old lady sticking out her cane for you to use - priceless. And wonderful. Get better soon!

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Peggy said...

Oh, you poor thing! I'm so sorry you had to miss your trip, but it's nice to hear there are some good people out there who are willing to help. Take care of yourself!

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

Your story's so sad, maybe no one else's noticed the PERFECT plate!! Very impressive ;-) Alanna

At 7:10 AM, Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

My aunt lost an arm when she was a child and of course it was awful: but it didn't stop her then and doesn't now at 80. She drives, she diapers(ed) babies long before double-sticky tape, she cooks glorious meals, she knits, she crochets, she sews, she plays tennis and curls, she Lives and Loves and Laughs. You are too! Do be well ... Alanna PS I love the idea of heat in the cookies, might just give it a try with pumpkin bread later today.

At 7:26 AM, Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi shauna, ouch! that sounds really painful...really hope your foot is feeling much better. take care and get well soon...

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Shauna said...


You're right. I'm trying to enjoy the fact that I can just rest, with no obligations, and no school work (well, tomorrow I have to write evaluations). I try to savor whatever arises.


I know! I love that Amy's GF mac and cheese. Sadly, my little corner store didn't carry it, and that's the only place I could go with this hobbling foot.


Oh, yes. It's good to have that reminder sometimes, isn't it? My terrible car accident taught me that two years ago, down to my bones. This one? Just a little trip. (and I love bad puns, by the way.)


Thank you for noticing that. I adore older people (and after reading your comment, I remembered to go back and change my post to read "older" instead of "old"). One of my favorite people in the world is 74 years old, and she's feisty and alive. Fabulous. I take hydrofit with older people, and they have more ease in the world than us young-uns. And I agree with you: we all have to learn, more and more, how to accept help from each other. Thank you for your sensitive comments.

Pragmatic Chef--

Bedlam. That's exactly the right word. The quiet of my living room, with the clicking of this keyboard being the only sound at the moment--it's a far cry from Manhattan. But I'll be there soon enough. I'm just going to enjoy this week in the quiet instead.


Thanks! For the compliment, and the bad pun. I love the laughter. You have to make bad puns in life. Nothing needs taking that seriously.


Thanks, sweetie. I'm an eternal optimist. I believe in the goodness of people. And I love when life affirms that, with an outstretched cane.


Yay! Someone spotted the plate. I love that wide-mouthed bowl. I bought it a funky store in New York, nearly seven years ago, and I love it to bits. I used to eat my oatmeal out of it every morning. Now, it's better suited for spinach.

And I would love to meet your aunt. She sounds like just my type of person. A friend of mine said to me yesterday on the phone, "No matter what happens to you, you just don't get down!" Well, in the short-term, I'm human. But sulking over a missed vacation just prevents me from enjoying what's happening right now. Like reading all these lovely comments from people. Thank you!


Thank you, my dear. It will heal. And at least I can write here every day now!

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Nic said...

Oh, Shauna, I'm so sorry to hear about your foot and the cancellation of your trip. You'll get a chance to go again soon, I'm sure. Feel better!

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

So sorry to hear about your ankle. What a bummer!! Only you could find the silver lining.

A couple of years ago my husband did a similar thing (I checked out your photo and his looked a lot like it). We actually did go to NYC anyway with my cousin and his wife who was just coming off her chemo treatment. So there was a lot of resting, not the usual "crazy running around the world's best city".

Hope you get better soon. I love your positive attitude.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger vlb5757 said...

Shauna, I have been on vacation and am just now catching up on all my favorite blogs. I kept reading about your ankle and then I got to the bottom of the page and got the whole story. I am so sorry about your ankle. We are redoing our stairs and I feel down the stairs yesterday. I have a lovely bruise on my shin, but yours takes the cake (gluten free of course)! I hope that you feel better soon. There is no shame in TV dinners. They are there for such instances! No guilt. Just food to keep your healing and blogging.


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