Sunday, February 9, 2014

Life Over Easy

This photo has all the makings of an omelet...
Eggs. They're pretty much a staple food in most people's refrigerators, always on hand but oft forgotten as you're standing there with the door wide open, muttering to yourself that there's nothing good to eat. For the past several months, I haven't been doing much weekend breakfast cooking. Once Spartacus and I discovered that Ria's Bluebird Cafe, the funky Grant Park diner across the street from Oakland Cemetery where Margaret Mitchell is buried, happens to have the world's most excellent buttermilk pancakes, we've become regulars there nearly every Saturday morning.

Ria's eggnog pancakes with torched marshmallow...mmm!
On the weekends, Ria's does specialty pancakes. Regardless of whether I'm having eggnog flapjacks with toasted house-made marshmallow or strawberry-laced ones topped with Chantilly cream, I always order a single poached egg. Poached eggs are a SUCH a pain in the ass to make at home. I've tried every method known to man, including the addition of vinegar as well as the purchase of silicone egg cups that you submerge in simmering water so the eggs hold their shape without the white spewing out everywhere, but it's just not the same as when the egg is prepared special, just for you. In my book, you just can't beat the simple glamor of a perfectly poached egg, adorned only with salt and pepper. 

Well, this morning was a little different, and I'm really not sure why. Both of us got up pretty early, which means we could have easily beaten the crowd at Ria's, but for some reason, I was motivated to cook. Maybe it's because I had an entire carton of eggs that was about to expire. Usually, I just hard boil eggs that are getting close to their expiration date, but since I also had a chunk of smoked gouda that was on the verge of going moldy, I decided I'd make an omelet. I had spinach, green onions, and grape tomatoes that needed to be used up, too, so into the pan they went. Man oh man, our kitchen smelled so good! As I stood there, flipping the omelet around in my trusty old non-stick pan, I felt strangely reassured. I was thinking to myself, "Nope, I haven't lost it," when it dawned on me egg-xactly where this sudden burst of culinary mania was coming from. 

Me & Julie, celebrating our friendship & 5-7 years of no more periods.
Last week, I went to see a gynecologist for the first time in seven years. The last time I saw one was to have my now-expired Mirena IUD inserted. Here in the US, the Mirena is considered effective for five years, but in France, it's been demonstrated to retain its contraceptive efficacy for closer to seven years. Since I was 44 at the time I had it placed, I pretty much banked on being menopausal by the time it was ready to remove. Back then, I was single. Aside from the fact that I was, uh, quite sexually active, and hated using condoms, I really couldn't stand having menstrual periods interfere with my life. There was nothing quite as sucky as being caught on call with blood-stained panties and no tampons, and don't even get me started on the grossness of sex whilst menstruating. My girlfriend, Julie, told me she loved her Mirena. I mean, what's not to love about no fuss, no muss contraception with the added benefit of no monthly period? I was quickly convinced that the IUD was definitely for me. One afternoon, while I was having lunch in the physicians' lunchroom at work, I bumped into a colleague who happened to be one of the head honchos in Emory's department of gynecology. He's a fatherly figure, a real good egg, and since I'd developed a pretty friendly relationship with him during my GYN rotation as a surgery resident six years before, I felt perfectly comfortable telling him about my situation. He got me into his clinic, and within a week, I had my IUD. (Since then, my well-woman exams and Pap tests have been performed by my internal medicine doc, just because it's easier than scheduling separate appointments).

Pregnant me at my nursing school graduation
When I made this most recent gynecologist appointment, it was basically to find out where I was in my hormonal cycle. I mean, hell, I'm 51. I'd convinced myself that I was in some early stage of menopause, based on the fact that I keep having these horrible acne breakouts on my chin. For me, one pimple constitutes a full on breakout; don't judge. I suppose I'm a little vain, but since I never had zits as a teenager, dealing with them over age 50 is somewhat traumatic. When the subject of my ancient IUD came up, the doc said she'd check my hormone levels, and that we'd go from there. Later that evening, Spartacus and I were joking about how weird it would be to have a baby at our age. Since I work in an infertility clinic, giving anesthesia to women who are having their eggs harvested for in vitro fertilization or cryopreserved for later use, and men who are having their vasectomies reversed or their testes biopsied because of low sperm counts, I am constantly reminded of how difficult it is for some couples to get pregnant. If Nature had a cruel side, it would be definitely be infertility. For me, conception was easy. I got pregnant two months after stopping birth control pills, and at sixteen weeks, we learned I was carrying twins. By the time I was 28-30 weeks along, I was as big as a house! In 1990, pregnant belly photos weren't yet in style, so the only known pregnancy photo of me is the one shown here, taken during my nursing school graduation ceremony. Talk about hormonal! I could never imagine going through that again, which is why I'm very lucky to have had twins. It still amazes me that two people came from one of my eggs.

How can Spartacus sleep at a time like this?
Late Friday afternoon, I got a call from my gynecologist. I wasn't expecting to hear from her so soon after my appointment, and I was momentarily struck with terror that she was delivering really bad news. My life flashed before my eyes. A lump rose in my throat. My heart started having palpitations. The pause between me answering the phone and her telling me she'd reviewed my lab results was immeasurably long. Spartacus was napping on the couch, and there I was, a complete basket case about to learn that I had some sort of gynecologic cancer. I was totally unprepared for what came next. "Kristyna, we're going to need to replace that IUD. You've got some verrrrry young-looking ovaries, and you still need protection. You're not going into menopause any time soon." She sounded so upbeat and happy. Relieved but also in disbelief, I nearly shouted into the phone. "Are you kidding me? I could still get pregnant at this age?!" WTF?! I guess the yolk's on me. All along, I thought I was on the verge of being over Hormone Hill, that this freakin' acne would resolve, and that my body would soon be free of implanted devices. Not so much. 

Me and my huevos
I have to admit, as shocked as I was to hear the egg-ceptional news about my youthful ovaries, I'm secretly a little turned on by it. My libido's raw, as in sunny side up. It's as if I've regained several years of my life. I've always looked and felt younger than my actual age, and maybe these raging hormones have had something to do with that. Who knows, maybe there is power in suggestion? I thought my eggs were poached, but my gonads have kept right on crackin'. No, I haven't lost it. After enjoying my luscious spinach-tomato-smoked gouda omelet, I called myself in some prescription strength acne gel to combat yet another zit that's popped up. (That's one of the few perks of being a doctor). I'm getting a new IUD on Tuesday. As for me and my huevos, we're scrambling to stay as deviled as possible while taking life over easy ;-)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Everyone Loves Meat Loaf

Puddin' Thighs adjusted her hairnet, giving the elastic waistband of her suffocating pantyhose a determined yank.

Sucking a final drag from the filterless cigarette clenched tightly between her teeth, she averted her gaze from the puke-green cinder block wall behind the stained wooden chopping block onto the ketchupy splotches besmirching her clunky lunchlady shoes.

Smiling coyly, she dumped another plastic bucketful of greasy mystery meat into the trusty old Hobart mixer.

"Everyone loves meat loaf," she murmured, clearly pleased at how ridding herself of yet another rotten ex-husband permitted her to remain within the school's annual cafeteria budget.