November 9, 2011

Jess Do It

As if one marathon wasn’t enough, my wonderful dream friend, Natty, decided to put on her running sneaks and tackle that 26.ridiculous mile New York course again this year. All in the name of Lupus research. All so that someday, people like me won’t have to feel tired, run-down, or kidney-less because of this chronic disease.

While Natty ferry’d over to the starting line, the rest of us bundled up and leisurely walked across the Island, bundled up of course, to await her passing.

And as we slowly strutted our way uptown, I reflected on this wonderful dream friend of mine.

Chronic illness is a difficult condition, not just because it is with you for life, but mostly due to the fact that we do not have the right words in our vocabulary to talk about things like pain and exhaustion. My “tired” is different from someone else’s “tired.” My “throbbing” is different from someone else’s “throbbing.” And without the ability to truly communicate, sometimes it feels like even your nearest and dearest can’t understand what a typical day is like in an atypical body.

But I feel really lucky as I’ve not only found helpful ways to talk about my illness, but I’ve found friends who go beyond the call of duty to walk in my shoes. Or run, in Natty’s case.

Because I rarely look sick, it is easy to forget the extra load I carry everyday. And since nobody wants to be a complaining Cathy all the time, I have found that a lot of people shut down and keep their illnesses locked up inside. But Natty is one of those special people who remembers.

She doesn’t coddle me. She doesn’t keep me wrapped up in bubble wrap. She never questions any of my decisions–whether it is flying five weekends straight in a row or racing in my own triathalons. She supports, she champions, she cheerleads and she applauds my every effort to life a full life. And that is really special.

And seriously, who looks this happy 18 miles into a marathon? And who wears a pink flower in their hair the whole time? This girl can make anyone’s spirit sing.

So this post is to thank Ms. Natty for her constant cheer. For her understanding. And of course, for running the NYC marathon to keep my kidneys running too.

And while Ms. Natty Super Pants shaved off SEVEN MINUTES from last year’s finishing time–yes, that is like taking off an entire mile from the run–she also raised over TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS for the SLE Lupus Foundation.

And I’m pretty sure she beat Christy Turlington, too.

Run on. And enjoy this salt-free’d Butternut Squash Soup from Ms. Natalie, the wonder friend, herself.


  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 5 tbsp salt-free curry powder
  • 3 cups easy, salt-free mushroom stock (see recipe below)
  • 2 medium butternut squash, about 3 lbs (6mg sodium per 1 cup)
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and curry powder and continue to cook, covered, until the onions are soft, 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile peel the squash (using a knife or peeler to removed the outer layer), dig out the seeds with a spoon, and cut the flesh into chunks.
3. When the onions are soft, add the vegetable stock, squash, and apples. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer with the lid partially off the pot. Contine to cook and reduce for another 25 minutes.
4. Pour the soup through a strainer, reserving a liquid, and place the solids in a blender. Add 1 cup of the liquid and blend until smooth. Tip: Be careful! When blending hot liquids, blenders can explode and spit. So let everything cool off for a few minutes before turning that machine on!
5. Return the puree and the cooking liquids to the pot. Add the apple cider and cook until the soup reduces to your desired consistency. Season with black pepper to taste.
6. Serve warm as is, or garnish with chopped chives, shaved apple slices, and dollops of low-sodium Greek yogurt or creme fraiche. Dig in.
Extra Tip: Easy Vegetable Stock
When a recipe calls for chicken or vegetable stock, an easy way to avoid the salty canned products and flavorless soup is to whip up this quick vegetable stock.
Simply gather a bouquet of vegetables (like fennel, carrots, garlic, onions, and shitake mushrooms) and/or some fresh herbs (dill and parsley work best) and put them in a pot. Fill the pot with more water than the recipe uses (i.e. if it calls for 4 cups of broth, fill the pot with 8 cups of water, so you’ll be sure to have enough). Then, simply bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid, lower the heat to a simmer, and let it roll for 45 minutes to an hour.
That’s it. Seriously, that’s all you need to do to have a super flavorful stock without any salt. The mushrooms give the water a strong umami flavor and all the other herbs and vegetables you use will add earthy notes to any recipe. And it can all be done while you’re prepping your other ingredients.
Before using, strain the stock, reserving the liquids and composting the solids. Then put it in your recipe immediately or allow it to cool and store in plastic containers to freeze for future recipes.

Nancy Newman November 11, 2011 at 8:50 am

Jess, What a wonderful blog on so many levels. Your dear friend Nat is so special and so connected to the people in her lives. And you are so positive and at the same time very clear about who you are and how you feel. You are a great help and inspiration to anyone suffering from a chronic illness. You are a guide for all of us – those who suffer and those who care. Much love, Nancy

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