Thursday, March 31, 2011

My fallen heroes

Two gods in my pantheon died this week: Diana Wynne Jones and Irving “Daffy Dan” Shulman.

Every writer has a story. Before there was J.K. Rowling writing Harry Potter on the dole, there was Diana Wynne Jones writing the Chronicles of Crestomanci to replace the mediocre books that were available for her kids. I spent a good 10 years curled up on couches with one child’s head or another snuggled to my bosom (back when I had a bosom) reading Jones aloud. It put the fun in motherhood.

My friend B introduced me to Daffy’s, back when the main store was on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street. It changed my life. Suddenly I could afford clothes I liked. And there was a lot to like at Daffy’s. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t wear something from Daffy’s, though now I shop at one of the stores on 57th St. Today it’s a pair of brown cotton sweatpants that has a magical drape. My mom has a matching pair in gray because she saw me wearing them and asked for them. I mostly dress down, but when I’ve had to dress up, Daffy’s made it possible. Hanging in my closet is the black satin palazzo pants and the beaded vest top I wore to a gala where I met Elizabeth Edwards and Wesley “the Subway Hero” Autrey. 

The Subway Hero and me (I'm not sure where he shopped but I'm wearing Daffy's)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New York in the time of bedbugs

This is what it has come to. This afternoon, a woman was having an argument with her two teenagers in the row in front of us at the movie theater: “You’re crazy!” she said. “No, we’re just playing it safe,” they said. ”What a great idea!” I told the girls, who were spreading out a giant piece of clear plastic over each seat before they sat down. The mother turned around and told us that where she grew up—Cuba—everyone had bedbugs and it was no big deal. Then she broke out into what she said was a traditional Jamaican song about bedbugs that sounded a lot like “La Cucaracha.” It was a reminder that in New York (and elsewhere), It’s always something, as Gilda Radner used to say.

Branching out

Everybody's got a birds-in-a-tree iPhone snap. Here's mine:

Boss yoga

Every time I think I may have taken yoga as far as I can—or it’s taken me as far as it can—I realize there are more lessons to learn and more applications to put them into practice. At work, where I took on more managerial duties than usual this week, I realized how important it is to keep breathing, slow down. In the physical practice of yoga, there’s a rule of thumb that your breath is your guide to how hard to push. If you’re holding your breath or breathing high and fast, you need to back off. If you’re breathing easily, you should stay where you are or increase the challenge. There were a few hours this week when I was so stressed out, I think I inhaled about once every 15 minutes. Sadly, in situations like these, I rarely think about yoga, much less try to apply it. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

A sad little drama

A week ago, we noticed this amusing addition to the construction site that has become a permanent fixture outside our window:

Yesterday, we noticed that things had taken a creepy turn:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Achy breaky body

When I told my yoga teacher E a while back that sometimes my back is so sore and weak in the mornings, I can hardly get out of bed, she looked perplexed, as if she was confused by my bringing up the obvious. “Everyone our age has aches and pains,” she said. “I can’t bend over the sink to brush my teeth in the morning.” 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Schadenfreude at works

There's a guy at work who says peculiarly comforting things. It's hard to explain exactly why I find them so helpful, but I do. For example, when I obsess about potential imperfections in a task that I have completed, he says, "That ship has sailed." Poof! Anxiety gone. And this week, when I worried about how I was ever going to get all my work done, he said, "Well, at least you don't live in Japan." Wow! I cheered right up!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Human Race

I hate rushing. In order to avoid it … I rush. I get up early, so I won’t have to race the clock. I jump in the shower before Other, so I won’t get a late start and have to make up for it. I run to the subway station, so I won’t have to run for a train. I get to work early, so I won’t have to play catchup when I get there. God, it’s exhausting!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A day in the life

Ask anyone who knows me: I am one of the world’s least girly of girls. Nonetheless a good chunk of my time and money is devoted to body-improvement tasks of various sorts.

I floss, brush and irrigate my teeth and swish with plaque-preventing mouthwash twice a day. At night, I poke the interstices of my teeth with a wooden toothpick stuck into a special plastic doohicky from my periodontist.

I shower in the morning, then smear my entire body with moisturizer to replace all the oils washed away by the shower, and spritz my underarms with a mineral-based spray, which is probably not necessary because I haven't sweated since my lymph nodes were removed five years ago—but who wants to take a chance?

I neti my nose to prevent recurrence of the sinus infections that plagued me for two decades. Then I smear ointment on my nostrils to prevent irritation from the neti salts.

I take a multivitamin capsule, a calcium/vitamin D tablet and a biotin tablet every day. Once a week I take a bisphosphonate tablet, which will either maintain my bones or destroy my jaw or both. Time will tell. It’s a crap shoot.

Every other day, I shampoo my hair, then condition it to replace the oils I washed out.

I brush my hair, these days using a wig brush to prevent removing any loose hairs from my sparsely covered scalp.

Once a week, I grate the calluses from my feet with a Ped Egg rasp—satisfying but easy to go too far. Sometimes I slice off larger chunks with a superdangerous mini-mandolin-type thing.

In the morning, apply eyeliner and mascara, often twice since I usually get it wrong the first time. At night, I remove the stuff with a special makeup remover.

I exercise: a yoga class or 30 minutes on the elliptical and the armbike.

At night I squeeze a rubbery device over my toes to pry them apart and counteract the pressure from my bunions. I leave it on for 20 minutes.

I dab debriding gel on each of my toenails. When they grew back after falling out from chemo, they have been fungus-flaky, and my liver is too quirky for me to take the antifungal medication that might cure the condition.

I fill the humidifier I use to counteract the drying effect of the radiator heat.

I’m sure I’ve left stuff out. And this list doesn’t take into account the endless hours I spend muddling over my clothes and breast prostheses and looking in the mirror to make sure I don’t look like a transvestite and that my shoes don’t look too dorky with the rest of my outfit and that I haven’t once again put on my shirt inside out. And there’s the daily earring decision. And let’s not even get into outerwear selection.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I am a bimbo manque

Most of my life I have expressed disdain for the kind of woman who rides on her looks. Bimbos! But to be honest, I have cheated. Although I may not have worn the trappings of a bimbo, I was a bimbo at heart. I gloated at admiring glances and flirtatious overtures. I savored the advantages my prettiness gave me over homelier women.

Despite my best efforts, I never would have been able to relinquish my bimbo benefits. So in a way, cancer did me a favor by depriving me of my pretty hair and graceful figure. I can now live with an undivided heart. I can now say with full sincerity that it’s what’s inside that counts. No one believes me, of course. Not really. Especially pretty girls. But it’s true. Really.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I feel bad about my hair

Nora Ephron's neck problem is a damn luxury. I'm going bald. And I've been told there's nothing I can do about it. Mostly I deal with it through denial. In the mirror, I look at the front of my head, where my hair is thin but more or less covers my scalp. In Copenhagen, however, Other and I stayed on the fourth-floor of our hotel, and the only way to get to and from our room was to take the fully mirrored elevator. Every morning I woke up cheerful. Half an hour later, when I stepped into the "fun" house mirrors of the 'vator, I descended emotionally as well as physically. There was no denying that I look just plain depressing from the rear.

If I'd had to choose between my boobs and my hair, I would have kept the hair and lost the boobs. Sadly, I didn't have that choice. I lost the hair AND the boobs. Maybe I would have lost my hair anyway—my family runs to unmanageably thick tresses early on and unmanageably thin wisps beginning in middle age—but chemo certainly played a role. Taxotere (a.k.a. taxo-tears)  is known to cause permanent hair loss in a small percentage of women, a fact that has come to light mainly because women who get Taxotere are surviving their cancer long enough for the rarer long-term side effects to reveal themselves.

I'm one of the beneficiaries of Taxotere-promoted survival. I've lived so long—more than five years since diagnosis—that I'd like to put it all behind me and stop feeling like a cancer victim and start feeling like an ordinary person. But it's hard. I look 10 years older than my age and 20 years older than the preternaturally young-looking Other. When I walk down the street with him, I can practically hear people thinking how nice he is to be so affectionate with his mother.

At any rate, being boobless and nearly hairless is a cosmetic challenge. I try to wear at least one signifier of my gender every day: earrings, a necklace, a skirt, whatever. I've been trying to wear falsies lately in my effort to put the past firmly behind me and get on with my life. And I've found a pair that are tolerable, though not actually comfortable. Trouble is, the flat chest kind of explains the bald thing: people guess that I've had cancer. When I wear the falsies, people just think I'm an aging crone with a revolting hair problem.

So when I hear people like Nora Ephron whining about their necks or their thighs or their big butts, I have sympathy, but not that much.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

You're a ... dick-butt

I know this automatically turns me into a bad (and trivial) person, but I cannot deny it any longer: I’ve woken up every morning this week eager to find out what Charlie Sheen has done now.  I know he’s mentally ill and the public gawking at his spritzing spree is exacerbating his illness. Nonetheless there’s something exhilarating about someone being so bad. It’s like watching a 2-year-old having a tantrum or an 10-year-old calling his teacher a dick-butt. You want to join right in. Or at least I do. Watch out!