GRATITUDE

Last year I reflected on 2018 as my year of letting go.

2019 was a chaotic year for the universe.

For me, it was a year of gratitude. Besides the obvious, here are a few of my favorite things:

  1. I’m grateful for discovering black coffee – the Israeli/Arab version of black coffee. Trust me, it’s not American black coffee

2. I’m grateful for Sundays with fellow football fanatics

3. I am grateful for Shookit

4. I’m grateful to have a work partner that grants me flexibility

5. I’m grateful for my dad, who has taught me to feel blessed every day

6. I’m grateful for music and technology that shows me the playlist I have rocked to this decade

7. I’m grateful to have a family that knows when you have to drop everything and recognize what really matters

8. I’m grateful for the iPhone, now that I own a Samsung

9. I’m grateful for my super soft bamboo sheets

9. I’m grateful for anyone who travels great distances to celebrate love

10. I’m grateful for Tums

11. I’m grateful for VPN

12. I’m grateful to be alive

I AM GRATEFUL TO ALL OF YOU FOR READING LOVEANDMEDICINE AND FOR SUPPORTING ME ON THIS JOURNEY…💜

AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO THOUGHT THE MARRIAGE STORY WAS LOUSY?*

*spoiler alert- for readers who have seen The Marriage Story or those with no interest in suffering through it.

It is partly my fault. My expectations were über high. The hype – the actors, director, subject matter – all right up my alley. I had the December 6th release date etched in my mind.

It did not come close to meeting my expectations. In fact, watching until the end felt like a chore. The rave reviews and award nominations were shocking. What do they see that I missed?

A good movie starts with casting. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are brilliant actors yet neither felt right in this role. They had zero chemistry. Their attractiveness and avant-garde lifestyle made them unrelatable to the common movie goer. While I felt empathy for Driver, I honestly didn’t really care about either one of them. Their son was incidental, neither seemed to care very much about him. To like a movie, I need to care about the main characters.

The cliché stereotypes of New York and Los Angeles are passé. Come on Hollywood, aren’t we over that? No one exemplified platitudinal LA better than Laura Dern who played Johansson’s slick divorce lawyer. Hey, isn’t that Renata Klein? Dern basically plays the same role she played brilliantly in Big Little Lies. Was Johansson really so vulnerable and naive to fall under her spell? “It’s the manuka honey.” We all know LA is not only superficial and indulgent and New York is not all genuine and real. Was this maybe a parody that I missed? If so, it just didn’t belong in this film.

Sex was hardly mentioned. The influence of sex on marital conflict and relationships and vice versa was completely ignored. Isn’t sex the main difference between marriage and other adult relationships?

The complexities of in-law involvement was presented comically and it was not funny. When couples split, it usually means a break up from the extended family. It can be hurtful as hell when the family acts as if they “side with” the soon to be ex-spouse. Johansson, feeling unsupported, demanded her mom side with her. Again, the scenes were not funny, not believable.

The music by the talented Randy Newman is beautiful but was ineffectual background music here.

Naturally I thought about Kramer vs. Kramer, the 1979 award winning film starring Dustin Hoffmann and Meryl Streep. I encourage anyone who watched The Marriage Story to watch this. Just to make sure I wasn’t basing my thoughts on sheer nostalgia, I watched the movie again before writing this article.

There are scenes from that movie that are unforgettable – Dustin Hoffman making french toast with his son, the painted cloud walls in the boy’s bedroom, the accidental run in between the gloriously naked JoBeth Williams and Hoffman’s 6 year old son, the musical score – “Mandolin Concerto in C Major” by Vivaldi. Hoffman took ownership of his role in the dissolution of the marriage and became a more evolved human being. The emotions were palpable.

The Marriage Story left nothing memorable. No one evolved. It felt disconnected, forced and superficial. Taking on the unraveling of a marriage is a herculean task, I understand that. Let’s go deeper next time. We are adults and we can handle it.

INSPIRATION

Solitude is not an absence of energy or action, as some believe, but it is rather a boon of wild provisions transmitted to us from the soul.

In ancient times, purposeful solitude was both palliative and preventative. It was used to heal fatigue and to prevent weariness.

It was also used as an oracle, as a way of listening to the inner self to solicit advice and guidance otherwise impossible to hear in the din of every day life.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

The Secret Killer in Your DNA

Who’s afraid of genetic testing? Pretty much everyone.

Just like there are people who unpack their suitcase at a hotel and others who don’t, there are people who want to know their genetic risks and people who don’t. I get that. Particularly when it comes to diseases which have no cure, like Dementia.

BRCA is different. 

WHAT IS THE BRCA GENE?

BRCA genes are tumor-suppressor genes that help repair damaged DNA. Both men and women carry it. A damaged BRCA gene can lead to an increased risk of certain cancers, particularly breast or ovarian in women. It can increase the risk of breast and prostate cancers in men also. One in 400 people in the general population carry a BRCA mutation. The number is one in 40 in the Jewish population.

WHO DISCOVERED IT?

The BRCA gene was discovered by Dr. Mary-Claire King. She is an American Cancer Society Professor of Genome Sciences and Medical Genetics. Her discovery of the BRCA gene has dramatically changed the field of genetics.

HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE IT?

You can talk to your physician who will collect blood or saliva for testing. 23andMe does include BRCA but at his time, it only tests for three BRCA variants, while there are over 1000. 23andMe also does not include genetic counseling, an important part of the process. Invitae, a company that provides genetic information and support as well, would be a good place to start.

WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW MY FAMILY HISTORY?

This would be a good time to ask relatives if you are unsure. Take the time to find out the cause of death of close relatives, if you can. I am missing some valuable genetic family history on my father’s side because of the Holocaust.

ISN’T THIS SOMETHING MY DOCTOR WILL TALK ABOUT?

Like sex, doctors don’t discuss genetic testing. According to Dr. King, only 19% of U.S. primary care physicians take a decent family history to assess for BRCA testing. In Israel the number is only 35%, even with the common knowledge of the increased risk of BRCA related breast and ovarian cancer in the Ashkenazi (Eastern European origin) Jewish population. Don’t wait for your doctor to bring it up, particularly if you have family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Too often testing is done only after a woman develops cancer.

WHEN SHOULD I GET TESTED?

Dr. King advocates for testing of all women around age 30. If you haven’t been tested, now is a good time. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, the results may change the course of action in the treatment.

WHAT IF I AM POSITIVE?

Breathe deep and know you have options. This is life-altering news but you are blessed with knowing and you have options. Choosing preventative surgery, like Angelina Jolie decreases your risk to nearly zero. Genetic counselors are expertly trained to support and guide.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you know your BRCA status, you can be proactive and take steps to prevent deadly cancers. As Dr. King states, women do not benefit by practices that “protect” them from information regarding their own health.

None of this changes the fact that a healthy lifestyle and diet remain central to the enjoyment of life on earth. Illness can be random and beyond our control. But when it comes to BRCA, you may have an opportunity to dramatically reduce your risk before it is too late.

Special thanks to Laurie Nemzer, Genetic Counselor extraordinaire, and her colleagues at Kaiser Permanente for their oversight on this article. 

The Weekend

What are you up to this weekend? I’m laying low; I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep. Here are a few suggestions for reading and watching…have a good one!

If only I had the problem of big hair! This is a fun read about hair and identity.

How One Woman Refused to Let Anxiety And Anti-Semitism Define Her

I’ve been enjoying The Time of Our Lives on Amazon Prime Video. This very watchable Australian series tackles marriage, divorce, parenting, infidelity and adoption with sensitivity and keen insight.

I can easily recommend this book, before I have even finished it – Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, Ronan Farrow’s new book. He recounts the Harvey Weinstein story and the Hollywood cover-ups with chilling detail. The mistreatment of women and the extent men are willing to go to silence them reaches far beyond the man and the victim – it is a team effort, in this case by NBC.

Ronan Farrow

Apples 🍎! After an afternoon of apple picking, I made applesauce mixing Macintosh, Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp. I threw peeled and cored apples in the crock pot with juice from one lemon, a cinnamon stick and about a tablespoon of brown sugar and cooked 3-4 hours on high. That’s it! A few seconds of hand immersion blending created a smooth, bronze, creamy applesauce that tasted nothing like store-bought. Food porn at its finest.

My friend sent me this New Yorker article and I’d like to hear your thoughts . A long life is a gift. But will we really be grateful for it?

This past weekend the Kincaid fire couldn’t keep us away from a family wedding in The Sea Ranch, California. Quite the nauseating three hour drive from San Francisco but the place is special. A haunting, sparse, quiet place for celebrating love and healing along the craggy coast of the the pacific. Check it out.

Sunset at The Sea Ranch