Friday, November 27, 2015

Missing my mother, and feeling grateful for her life

The four months leading up to my mother's death on Nov 26 – which this year fell on Thanksgiving – and the three months after in 2006, were the worst.

I had found out in August of that year – on my birthday – that she had lung cancer. Maybe Stage 3, but it, turned out, actually Stage 4. I said to a friend, "What am I going to do?"

"You'll do what she did when you were sick. You'll be there for her," she said, referring to my battle with leukemia.

In the months before her death, I was holding down a full-time job as a newspaper reporter and running a house with three kids in it, and racing back and forth to New York, trading shifts with my sister, Diane, as my mother quickly became bed-ridden. Meanwhile, the evil empire – a.k.a. the architects who had bought our building to convert to condos – were wreaking havoc in the lives of the elderly rent-controlled residents they couldn't kick out. One of the remaining few tenants at 1200 Fifth Avenue, where I grew up, said that they thought the new owners were trying to kill them. In updating the heating system, they butted out a wall in our already small dining room, upsetting my mother because she had a special drawer built onto the wall to hold her precious silverware, some of it previously belonging to relatives who had been killed by the Nazis. They painted the wall an unsightly green. My mother loved her Yankees, but she called it the Green Monster, in honor of the left field wall at Fenway Park, home of her grandchildren's beloved Boston Red Sox.

The condo owners removed the old windows and put in heavy top-to-bottom single paned monstrosities that were difficult to open, and furthermore, not installed properly, a point proven when one fell on an elderly resident, injuring her and sending her to the hospital.

We wondered if all the dust and stress had had something to do with her getting lung cancer. Inside me, a relapse was brewing. (I had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2003, treated with extensive chemotherapy and received a bone marrow transplant.) Later I wondered if the stress and all the bad air had set it off the relapse that occurred some six months later.

The new owners violated city codes by failing to turn the heat on that fall. They preferred to pay the fines. They even begrudged us the space heaters they were supposed to buy. My mother lay huddled under quilts and blankets. It was like a florist in there, so many people had sent flowers. Friends and relatives came and went. I lay next to her, holding her hand.

She was drifting in and out of reality when Thanksgiving came. I wanted to bring my children, Ben, Joe and Katie, to New York to have it by her bedside, but she said to please go home to Western Massachusetts and have it with them in the dining room of the historic colonial where my parents had loved to have Thanksgiving with us. Meanwhile, I finally decided to take a leave of absence from my job so I could spend her remaining days with her. She died before I got the chance. When I cried and cried and cried, I couldn't stop thinking about Thanksgiving.

A wise cousin said to me, "You gave her the greatest gift. She wanted to picture you in your home with your children, and you let her be the mother and tell you to do that." She had not been alone; my aunt and uncle and cousin were with her, and it was all for the best.

We had three months to clean out the apartment. When a toilet broke, the EE (Evil Empire) at first said they didn't want to fix it because we were leaving soon anyway. They finally caved in.

Every Thanksgiving, this all comes back to me, and I wonder how it will be.

It was Ben's year to be with my daughter-in-law's divorced father and his wife. So for Thanksgiving, it was me, Joe, Katie and Jim, my former husband, at my house. In the two days before, I must have gone to five stores picking up this and that. I figured I did not need do buy the yahrzeit candle that Jews burn on the anniversary of a loved one's death. I thought I had a stash. But when I reached back into the cabinet, there were none. The stores were closed. I made a few calls to Jewish friends, to no avail. Then I remembered a friend's mother had given her an electric one. We had joked about it at the time, but it came in handy after I called her and she said she would lend it to me.

At her Thanksgiving morning yoga class, our teacher, Michelle, talked about a positive way to view bad things: "This bad thing happened...AND this good thing happened." For example, she found out that she needs to replace her heating system, AND she still has heat in her studio to teach classes for now.

I raised my hand.

"At the last minute, I realized I did not have a yahrzeit candle to burn for my mother," I said. "AND my friend had an electric one." I said I think my mother would be OK with this. Michelle said she thought so too.

I applied Michelle's phraseology throughout the day.

"I miss my mother so much, and she had a wonderful long life."

"We had a horrible end to our life in the apartment, and we had a wonderful life there."

"I am sorry not to be with Ben, Meghan and (baby) Nell, and I get to be with my other two wonderful children and I am friendly enough with my ex-husband to have it with him."

I had a bad divorce, and now I can cook Thanksgiving dinner with my ex-husband.

I had leukemia three times, and I had the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and my bone marrow donor, Denise, to save my life.

When I took my mother's beautiful serving spoons out of the drawer in the hutch, I said, "Hi Mom," as I looked at the photo of her doing one of her favorite things, arranging flowers.

I knew my mother was there, and it was OK.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A good morning with Friends

Yearbook photo, next to
William Penn's hitching post.
Telling people you went to a Friends high school can be like playing Who's on First.

Me: "I went to a Friends school in New York."

The other person: "I wasn't asking about your friend's school. I was asking about yours."

When you say a Friends School is operated by Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends), people aren't sure what to make of that either. I only knew one or two Quakers at my high school, Friends Seminary. Actually, a good percent were Jewish.

So what about the Quaker part? The philosophy guided our school. Quakers believe in the inner light in everyone and in working for peace and social justice. It is hard to say it without sounding corny, so I'll send you to the Friends Seminary website.

When I was in 10th grade, the school organized a bus trip to Washington for a silent vigil around the White House to protest the Vietnam War. That is the kind of thing we did. Silence is another key component of a Friends education, specifically the one-hour silent meeting for worship that we had every Wednesday in the meeting house. There is no program; you sit in silence, and if you are moved to speak, you stand up and begin. This website has a good explanation of Quaker Meeting.

Meeting house, left, and Friends Seminary
My mother said that as soon as we went into the beautiful historic meetinghouse on 15th Street and Rutherford Place, she knew it was the school for me. The school is one of some 80 in the country; the Obama girls attend Sidwell Friends. When I reconnected with friends from Friends who live in the Valley, we hardly skipped a beat. My friends from Friends are like family.

Wherever I live, I usually find a Friends meeting. For example, when I lived in Brookline, I went to the Friends Meeting at Cambridge.

Some time ago I went to the Mount Toby Friends Meeting in Leverett, but I hadn't been for a while. Sunday mornings I usually either go to a spinning class at the Holyoke Y or a yoga class at the Hampshire Regional Y in Northampton.

I bring this up now because in the past two weeks I went first to the Friends Meeting in Northampton, and then this past Sunday to Mt. Toby. A friend from Friends and I had talked about wanting to go together, and I was curious about the meeting in Northampton (on Center Street) because I pass by it all the time.

Given the terrorist attacks of the previous week, it seemed like a good time to go sit with the peaceful people. So that is what we did. He wasn't available, so I went by myself to the Mount Toby meeting. It is easy to find – it's on Route 63 – but, if you know me, you know I can get lost in South Hadley. I misread the directions and took one wrong turn, which led to another, and another, with Siri being of no help and saying, infuriatingly, "I'm sorry, I seem to have lost my Internet connection."

I got there about 20 minutes late, but people were coming in and out anyway, so it didn't matter. Just coming into a place like that, I could feel my blood pressure drop. We sat in silence, with some people standing up to talk – mostly about the terrorist attacks – and then, after an hour, each person turned to his or her neighbor, shook hands, and said, "Good morning." Then people went around and introduced themselves, with newcomers like myself receiving a warm, "Welcome." Afterwards, I chatted with some members over coffee.

 Here is the description on the website: Mount Toby Friends Meeting is a welcoming faith community. We come from many different religious backgrounds, including birthright Quakers, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Pagans, and those with no previous affiliation. Believing that every human being shares in the universal Light, we join together each Sunday to create an expectant silence where the spirit may enter. Our Meeting is “unprogrammed,” which means that there is no formal order of worship, but those who are moved by the spirit can speak. Thus we all are ministers as well as attenders.

Friends education gave me the gift of being able to return to meetings and feel connected and gain a sense of inner peace wherever the meetings are. The gym will be there the rest of the week. My friend from Friends and I are going to return.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Good news 'bad news'

Regarding the bad news in the headline, I put it in quotes because it is not really bad. Since I have reported actual bad news in the past, I thought I should begin with that caveat.

First, for the good news:

#1. I had a great day Thursday in my first substitute teacher role in an adult literacy program. As a volunteer at the Literacy Project in Northampton, I felt like I knew enough to transition into a paid role. Freelancing, especially coming into it so late in the game, is an on-again off-again source of income. I am on the sub list for the Literacy Project's locations in Western Massachusetts and for the Valley Opportunity Council in Chicopee, which is where I led my first class on Thursday.

I was a little nervous, but the students were fantastic, helping me out and showing me the routine. We changed declarative sentences into questions, read a book they already knew, focusing on expression and meaning, and did some word puzzles. It was a beginning level Adult Basic Education course like the one in which I have been volunteering, so I felt comfortable as soon as we got going. As is the case in Northampton, I found there is always something to learn from these students, who want to be there, as opposed to subbing in a public school...well, we all remember what it was like to be a kid in a class being led by a poor sub.

#2. Maddie had her weigh-in at doggie weight-watchers, a.k.a. The Valley Veterinary Clinic. She lost five pounds in a few weeks. That's about what I guessed because her breathing had returned to normal. The vet wants her to get back to 60 pounds, meaning she has seven to go. The tech who weighted her said to let up on her at the holidays.

#3. Tonight is the long-awaited performance of The Moth MainStage at the Academy of Music. I remembered my friend Emily talking about The Moth coming to Pittsburgh and saying how interesting it is to hear people tell their stories. You can also hear them on public radio on The Moth Radio Hour. When I got an email from New England Public Radio in August saying that tickets were on sale and would sell out quickly, I went to the site immediately and saw it was 80 percent sold out.

I got two tickets, forgot about it, then panicked when I couldn't locate my records, which is unusual because I usually print everything out and put it in a special place. Luckily, the Academy of Music box office person said I was all set and could get the tickets at Will Call.

#4. Last night I went to the tennis mixer in Enfield. It is a little late to go that far, but I like doing it once a month. The tennis is always fun, the people are nice, and the pizza is good.

#5. I made light and fluffy waffles this morning by searching for an easy waffle recipe and getting this one from All Recipes and bringing out my old waffle iron. (Every recipe I make has to begin with the word "easy." Hence, the easy banana bread I made earlier this week when I noticed I had four overripe bananas.)

OK, so, as for the 'bad' news: The mice are back...dancing through my kitchen drawers.

I heard one in my walls yesterday morning and came down to find it had left some presents in the silverware drawer. A post on Facebook drew some interesting suggestions, such as, learn to like cats, which is impractical since Joe and I are allergic. A couple of people suggested peppermint. I need to get some mouse traps.

Yesterday I put all the silverware through the dishwasher and cleaned out the drawer. Today when I went to look for my measuring cups I saw that that the mouse, or mice, went into the big drawer containing spatulas, large spoons, etc. It will have to be emptied out an cleaned.

On another topic, when I was telling Katie last night about my "dilemma" about whether to choose the Ludlow pizza mixer (closer but not enough tennis) and the Enfield mixer (a little too far but more tennis), I summarized with letters that stand for this kind of problem, and the problem with the mice: FWP.  First World Problems, all.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

(Not) just another day at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center

Yesterday, there was nothing wrong with my driver, but a few things were wrong, or at least odd, with my day.

I called ahead to the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center like I am supposed to do to say I was on my way in for my 3 p.m. ECP. The front desk person who took the call said she would let the nurses know. But when I got there it turns out she hadn't, meaning I had to wait about 20 minutes for the machine to be primed.

Then, my nurse had a hard time getting the needle into a vein where it would draw. When she finally had it in and was waiting for the machine to start, she realized it was taking a long time. She called in another nurse who said one of the tubes was not connected properly and was drawing air. They had to take out a new kit and start again. In the meantime the needle in my vein started hurting a lot. She flushed it, and it hurt even more. Turns out it had infiltrated. She had to switch to my right arm. The machine beeped repeatedly, signaling that my blood was not being pulled out. After some injections of heparin to thin out what was probably clotty blood, it finally started working.

While we were waiting for the machine to start, we talked about the Paris attacks. (How can you not?) My nurse reminded me that back a month or so ago when we were talking about the refugee crisis, and she had said she didn't want any Syrians to come to this country because terrorists would be sneaking onto Massachusetts Avenue, I had said these were just poor people in need of a haven.

She said, "I told you this would happen," referring to the speculation that one of the attackers had slipped in with the wave of Syrian refugees. I said actually, most if not all of the attackers were from Belgium and France, and, judging from what I had heard on the news, the potential for this problem is greater in Europe due to the controversial Schengen agreement, allowing for the free movement of people across the European bloc. I told her I also heard that the vetting process in the U.S. is more thorough. And I asked, was she sticking me so many times because of our disagreement. She laughed and said of course not, which I knew to be the case. It was just one of those days.

I took a nice nap and then woke up and watched most of an episode of Bloodline. I had told my driver I thought I would be done early (because I have gone down to five rounds instead of six), but in actuality, I was done late, at 7 p.m. We closed down the place.

Getting home around 8:30 is a kind of strange time. Too late to eat a real dinner but too early to not have anything. In the car on the way back I had had a clementine, some popcorn and a piece of the banana bread I had made. At home, I had yogurt with chia seeds and raspberries and some of the Teddy Grahams that are an addition to the snack menu at the Kraft Center. The chia seeds made me feel healthy, and the graham crackers made me feel like a kid.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On waking up in the middle of the night

Someone used to call me pokey because I slept so late. I did that for a long time while my body was adjusting to all the things I had gone through.

I'm still pokey in many ways, such as getting out of the house. But instead of sleeping too late, I have been waking up too early, usually between 4 and 4:30 a.m. It stared about four months ago. Of course I looked it up and saw that waking up in the middle of the night is not uncommon. I mentioned it to some friends who had the same issue. I fall asleep fine but then wake up when it's too early to get up. I try the things that you're supposed to do: progressive relaxation, three-part breathing, thinking of something calming. My yoga teacher, Justine, said to try putting on my eye pad, so I have done that too.

If I give up, I know that checking my iPhone ruins my chance of getting back to sleep. Who's on Facebook, who's Tweeting, who might be emailing in the middle of the night. I did that for a while, until someone pointed out to me that the screen is the worst, and these seven tips for falling back asleep confirmed it. Stress is said to be a factor, but I don't feel any more, or less, stressed than usual. Sometimes I think it comes from writing too far into the evening, causing my brain to go into overdrive that wakes me up at night. A person could get stressed out just wondering about it.

Today, I slept until 5:30 and thought that was great. Maddie woke up at about the same time; I got her to lie down for another 15 minutes or so. Still, I had to rush to get out of the house to get to the Literacy Project in Northampton on time for my 9:15 a.m. volunteer tutoring job. I had decided I had to use the over-ripe bananas to make banana bread. Then I got glued to the morning shows, watching the news about politics and about the Paris attacks. I can't say why that took three hours, but it did.

Observation of the day: If you take the four small Polish pottery bowls down from the cabinet and put them on the counter and balance them with your left hand while reaching up with your right hand for the larger one in which to put the spaghetti you are cooking, one of them is likely to fall onto your tile floor. And break into a million pieces. And if you close the door to the kitchen to eat your pasta in the dining, your mess will still be there when you go back in.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New kid on the block

Yesterday, after I played tennis at 8:30 a.m. with a group of seniors at Bay Road Tennis, one of the men told me, "You're too young to play. You have to be at least 65." I think he was kidding.

Turns out they are in their 70s and even 80s. Some of them look their age; others do not. They have obviously played forever and are good at what they do, including crazy spin and perfect placement. The only difference is that I run after the loose balls while they take their time.

I looked over at one player who looked younger and asked, "What about him?"

"Oh, he is in his 70s and he has two stents and no prostate." I'm not sure what the prostate thing has to do with tennis, but we'll just leave that be. It's just $12 for non-members, so I'll do it regularly except for going to a mixer once a month.

Thursday, I met a nice Jiffy Lube guy who, after seeing my yoga mat in my car, said he does yoga, and although the other Jiffy Lubers laugh at him, it's what keeps him in shape. The others can't believe he is 45. I told him to say hi to his yoga teacher Susan Moore, who had been my physical therapist.

I liked him because he did not try to sell me extra stuff, except for the air filter which I needed because a critter had chewed around the edge. He said if you take the filter out and put a dryer sheet on top, you will deter the critters. I told him I was overdue because I keep trying to come on Tuesday to get the discount but find the lines too long. He found another code to give me the discount "just because I like you."

On Wednesday, a new driver took me to Boston. I called the driver from last week and asked him not to take me if he has to be on the computer and on the phone. He said he has to dispatch and would send me another. As loud as the Turkish boss was, this driver was so quiet I could barely hear him. That was fine with me.

When I got to the Kraft Blood Donor Center, I found out that all the beds were taken by patients who had ports, and I would need to sit in a chair. At first I was unhappy because I thought it was the same reclining chair that had given me a backache, but it turned out to be a new heated chair that even vibrates as though you're in a nail salon. I got so relaxed I dozed on and off sooner than I usually do.  From across the room, a patient was telling my nurse, Roberta, about his cleansing diet. He started talking about the protein drinks he takes, and then Roberta talked about her own concoction, and one thing led to another until she was pulling up photos of wheatgrass on the computer screen and saying how good for you it is. Esther brought over some Halloween candy and opened it for me. These distractions almost made me forget the big needle in my arm.

In this way, the time passed, and before I knew it, I was done.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Going back to Vassar College

Professor Gifford in 1982
Next month I am going to go to Vassar for a two-night stay at the Alumnae House to attend a memorial for one of my English professors, Bill Gifford, with the secondary goal of eating a Vassar DevilI was unsure about going, because I have mixed memories about my college days, but a former classmate nudged me, and also I would like to go and share memories with other writers and pay my respects to Professor Gifford's family. I'm sure they'll be happy to see how many professional writers he helped produce.

I stayed in touch with him for a while but then drifted away, and I was sorry after I saw all the students who remained close. But what are you going to do? Time passed. Stuff happened.

His Facebook page, In Memory of Professor Bill Gifford, Vassar College, is filled with tributes by professional writers who attribute their success to his encouragement. I wrote this on the page: Mr. Gifford was always very nice to me and supportive of my writing. I was not always that happy at Vassar but I usually felt better after his classes because he was so friendly and warm. After graduating in 1976, I went on to get a master's in journalism and to write for a daily newspaper, and that might not happened had I not had such an encouraging teacher. Although other students called him "The Gif," that was a little too informal for me!

This upcoming trip to Poughkeepsie precipitated a nightmare combining back-to-school anxiety with newspaper-reporter anxiety, like so:

The teacher in a college writing class told us to write a short story. I tried fictionalizing my memories of my high school boyfriend. It was awful. The teacher marked it up and told me so. I went back home to our New York apartment, where I tried to redo it on an old clunky manual typewriter. Frustrated, I decided to change my topic to an infamous tennis team trip to the Districts in Providence, R.I., where all sorts of crazy things happened. The teacher said I couldn't change topics because a photographer had already been assigned for the previous story.

I got so upset about being told to write fiction that I screamed, "I just cannot make things up!"

By the way, in case you're wondering what is in a Vassar Devil, it a mix of devil's food cake, fudge, ice cream and marshmallow sauce. Given my recent intestinal problems, maybe I should skip at least the marshmallow sauce, which might have seemed appealing to me in college but does not dies not sound so appetizing now. I could chase with Tums.

Friday, November 6, 2015

My two months of fame (at the YMCA)

When Julie from the Holyoke YMCA left a message last week for me to call her, I thought maybe I owed some money.

But when I called back, she said I had won the Golden Sneaker award.

I wasn't sure what that exactly meant. She said it meant I was a good role model. Some nice person had entered my name for the award that is chosen every two months. The staff read the entries over, without looking at the names, and they picked me!

I asked if I actually got a golden sneaker, and Julie said that I really did. I thought it was probably a little charm, but it really is a gold sneaker, as you can see from the photo.

Julie asked me to come in so she could interview me for a write-up that is posted in a display case in the lobby. I told her reporters hate to be interviewed, but I would do the best that I could.

It wasn't bad at all. Her questions included asking what motivates me, and I said, among other things, that although it isn't always easy to get out and exercise, I always feel better mentally and physically when I do. I also said I enjoyed discovering new activities, such as spinning, where at first it was hard for me to stand up and sit down, but now I can not only keep up but also get into the fast pace and loud blaring music and being one with the group. If you heard me telling my kids to TURN THE RADIO DOWN in the car,  you would never believe this other me. Call it Zen and the Art of Spinning. It has also counteracted the muscle-weakening effects of prednisone and helped get me stronger.

Then, she did a nice write-up. I thought it would be a little thing on the wall, but I was surprised at how big it was when I came up from spinning the other day and basically came face-to-face with myself.

I thought I was just showing up.

But I guess if you believe Woody Allen, "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Just another crazy day on the road

"David: Axel."

"George: Axel."

This is my Turkish driver dictating texts into one of his phones while barreling down the Pike at 77 miles per hour. He maneuvers two phones at once and monitors his computer, where he keeps track of his 16-car fleet, including the repairs that George and David need on their cars. Customers call to complain, drivers call for assignments. A loud conversation takes place in Turkish. This man with the mane of the wavy black hair is the boss.

We hear a loud POP. A truck has gotten a flat tire. A piece of rubber flies past the windshield. We escape without harm. And somehow I get to Dana-Farber in one piece. I tell the nurses about this and ask what am I going to do. I am not going to file a complaint about him because he told me how he built this business from scratch based on two broken-down cars. I like him, he gets me there fastest, and he is very polite. I think I will call him directly on his cell phone and say that I am uncomfortable with him conducting business while driving me, and if he has to do it, please do not put in a bid with MART to drive me again.

The day started with a beautiful Indian summer clinic outside. I had just about half an hour to make my lunch and get my things together – well, just my computer and a book that I don't usually read. Marlene, my nurse from last week, who I also had today, had suggested asking Melissa if I could do five instead of six cycles because my arm starts to hurt at the fifth and it really doesn't make the much of a difference. Melissa gave the OK, but when Ellen the PA came around she said she would rather see me do six to get the most benefit. I told this to Marlene and she said there is no reason to sit in pain. I said I know that pain causes stress, which releases the hormone cortisol, which is not good for your health. I am going to stick with five.

For the past two visits, Marlene has looked from time to time at my computer while I watch my latest recommendation from Joe, the Netflix series Bloodline. There are so many flashbacks that it is difficult to keep it all straight, but Marlene and I have helped each other figure it out. I texted Joe that it was a little confusing and he said it will all become clear. He says he has never given me bad advice, and this is true, so I will have to take his word, since he recommended "Friday Night Lights," "Breaking Bad," and its antidote, "The Office."

Also, it is nice to see Kyle Chandler, who will always be Coach Taylor.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What I have, and what I do not have

Today I got the diagnosis for what was making me so sick to my stomach for 20 days, once recently and once in May. It is collagenous colitis,  an inflammatory bowel disease occurring after age 50, in women more than in men. Leave it to me to pick up some weird new thing.

The good news is that it is not caused by graft vs. host disease as suspected, meaning that it would not help to increase my prednisone dose. My lovely new GI doctor said I did not need to take those courses of flagyl and Cipro, although I did need to take the non-absorbable steroid Budesonide, which I now need to continue using until December. Then I can taper.

It is set off my some unknown cause and unfortunately can happen again. But it is benign, so I really can't complain. Oh by the way I have lost about 10 pounds during all of this.

I know what finally made it stop. I kept canceling the pizza mixers at Enfield until finally, with my month running out on my free mixer, I decided to just go, even though I was still having problems. I told Karen at the club that I was going to eat pizza and it would cure me. And sure enough, that's what happened. A scientific study would not find a link, but maybe the pizza scared it out of me.

On another food note, I woke up this morning with a terrible headache. Tylenol didn't work, so I tried Ibuprofen, which finally did the trick. I think it came on last night as I was eating some vegetable tempura to take a break from the chicken stew that I had prepared in an effort to get me through a few days. Living alone, I am not so great about eating a good dinner as I was when Joe was here. I thought some avocado roll and the tempura from Iya Sushi and Noodle would be an inexpensive and healthy alternative to what I had on hand.

Anyway, my rational mind won over when I resisted the temptation to look up "Signs of an an aneurysm," although I just did it and saw that a sudden, severe headache is one. But there are others too, so I feel safe in ruling that out.

Instead, I searched, "Does Japanese food cause headaches" and saw that the miso and soy sauce served with it can be culprits. Since I have had no problems with soy sauce before, I figured it was the miso that came with my vegetable tempura.

So that is what I have and what I do not have.