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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Here's Something That Sucks

My husband and I are trying to lose a couple of pounds and get into shape. It shouldn’t be that hard. We are smart, relatively drug-free people. We support each other. We live in Florida, where most people are blond and toned and a lot of the fat and/or ugly people have been driven out, so we don’t have the disadvantage of looking around and fooling ourselves into thinking we look pretty good, relatively speaking. (I understand it’s like this in California, too.)

But losing five pounds is harder than you would think.

Here’s a snippet from a conversation my husband and I had in our bathroom yesterday morning, while he was getting ready for work. He had gotten on and off the scale without saying anything. (Always a bad sign.)

Me: “Are you losing any weight?”

Him: “No, and I’m not going to until I can stop drinking wine. And that’s not going to happen until things stop sucking. And that’s something I don’t have a lot of control over. It’s kind of out of my hands.”

Things sucking is the new glandular problem. We’d love to lose weight, really we would. If it were up to us, I’d be a Victoria’s Secret model and my husband would be that guy from that movie with Diane Lane, the guy who was killed when Richard Gere bopped him on the head with a snow globe. But we can’t help it. We have a things-sucking problem. Which requires us to drink the wine, and there you have it.

I stopped weighing myself with any regularity. Because I’ll tell you one thing that sucks and that’s my bathroom scale. The little beeyotch sits there while I’m at the gym pedaling away on the bike, lifting weights, and running on the treadmill, and then I come home and drink about 70 liters of water - last week I ate prunes, for crying out loud - and then it tells me I’ve gained a fifth of a pound. Shut up. You suck.

I have two weddings coming up. Because I’m very event-goal-oriented (I can’t even vacuum without dinner guests on the calendar), my weight loss and fitness goals are enmeshed in these two weddings and the dresses I’ll be wearing to them.

The purple dress I bought for my nephew’s wedding is perfect for standing, walking, even sitting, but I’m not sure I can get into a car without ripping something.

The green dress I bought for my niece’s wedding might as well be a sweat suit; it’s stretchy and has lots of give. I could not only stand, walk, sit and get in and out of a car, I could also do the chicken dance, roll into a fetal position, and attempt a couple of round-offs at the reception. (Don’t worry Amy: I’m not going to do that.) However, it accentuates a roll of extra fat around the middle (meaning the dress doesn’t have enough starch or discipline) so I just look matronly in it.

The gym, the bathroom scale, the prunes, nothing was helping. So I broke down and bought a spandex slip. It’s made out of a thin wetsuit material. In fact, it looks like something a Bond girl would wear, in the way that famous people can wear underwear out in public and look perfectly normal.

Remember when I made fun of people who wear girdles? I take it all back. My stretchy Bond girl slip is not a girdle, but it may as well be. It’s tight enough to keep everything where it belongs and might even allow me to exit a car without being on a stretcher.

Putting the thing on my body, however, is a feat. If I try to slip it over my head, it tightens up around my neck and threatens to cut off my air supply, which is scary. If I step into it and try to pull it up, it binds my legs and I could topple over. I need a spotter to get dressed now.

I wonder how many emergency room visits are the result of someone getting stuck in their Seamless Tunic Shaper.

I’m hoping that sometime between now and these weddings I’ll lose those few pounds and I won’t have to wear any constricting undergarments. That wouldn’t suck at all.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mad About Middle Names

I’m making an effort to remove myself from people who are negative, mean-spirited, and not at all fun. I try to spend a lot of time around funny people, because I’m convinced that my good health is due primarily to the fact that I laugh a lot. I love when I go to the doctor and they ask, “What medications are you on?” and I get to say, “None.” And then I laugh and laugh, just so they know that’s part of the package. It’s a challenge to laugh a lot and not seem ditzy, but I’m up to it.

So last week, I had to remove myself from a Facebook conversation where someone brought up - in all capital letters, which is another favorite of mine - the fact that President Obama’s middle name is Hussein.

Who is still talking about that? Anyone who’s fixated on the fact that our president has a Muslim middle name needs to move along, folks. Nothing here to see. Now, if you want to talk about funny middle names, then I’m right there with you. Let’s start with Joe Biden’s: Robinette.  SEE? ISN’T THIS MORE FUN?

I’ve never been a fan of middle names. They’re nothing but trouble. From what I can tell, they only come in handy if you become an assassin. Not having one could keep you out of a lot of trouble.

When my kids were born, I was more interested in choosing the hospital photo package than picking out a middle name for them. I had absolutely no interest. Once their first name was chosen, I happily moved onto the 5-by-7 vs 4-by-5 decision. My husband doesn’t have a middle name, so he was no help. We finally decided to pick a middle name and give it to all of our kids.  Kinda like pulling a George Foreman, but not as creepy. On the other hand, we have two boys and a girl, and they all share the same middle name. Even George didn’t do that.

My middle name is Carol, and my mom said she was always being asked if I was named after “that black actress on Julia,” Diahann Carroll.  My brother was given my dad’s name for a middle, and my sisters got Joyce, Patricia and Sue. Weirdly, none of us were burdened with Marie or Ann, the two most popular middle names for girls for going on four generations now.

Very few people use their middle names, so I’m a little surprised that we’re still giving them to babies when they’re born. It’s just another thing for kids to wish their parents hadn’t done to them. Barack Obama and Joe Biden probably have whole conversations about it. Barack: “At least your middle doesn’t conjur up images of WMDs or the lack thereof.” Joe: “Hussein, Huschmein . . . At least you don’t sound like a French can-can dancer.”
Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Charlie Sheen Economic Indicator

I’m beginning to doubt that our country is in such horrible financial shape. I know the national debt and the imbalance of our budget is so outrageous that we’re nearing the kajillion mark. I know that somehow, someday that might affect me and my life, possibly as to how cheaply I can buy the Chinese crap at Walmart. But as long as people are purchasing tickets to Charlie Sheen, I just don’t believe that Americans are so bad off.

Charlie and his Violent Torpedo of Truth tour are coming to Miami. According to today’s paper, many South Floridians are opting instead for Jimmy Buffett. On one hand I’m happy, because Jimmy Buffett is one cool cat, who deserves every cent in our entertainment budgets. But on the other hand, if more people were going to see Charlie Sheen, it would mean that we as a nation are richer and freer with our money. Irresponsible spending is a good economic indicator.

On the TicketsMore website, we are encouraged to hurry up and buy Charlie Sheen tickets before they sell out and we’re forced to just read about it in the paper the next day. And then we’re reassured that there are plenty of tickets left.

“All fans of Charlie Sheen in Miami have been awaiting this concert. Tickets for Charlie Sheen in Miami are in high demand and now that tickets for Charlie Sheen in Miami are on sale, people are ordering cheap Charlie Sheen concert tickets.

“Many tickets for Charlie Sheen in Miami are available. This year, Miami will have some great concerts (such as Charlie Sheen). If you've ever been to a Charlie Sheen concert, you know how much fun it is! Charlie Sheen fans from Miami are purchasing tickets quickly. We have tickets still available for the Miami show but make sure you order yours before they are sold out!”

From what I can gather, tickets to Charlie Sheen are either selling like hotcakes or there are a lot still available. Either one. You decide.

If, in fact, they are selling like crazy, then the people of Florida should just smack themselves. If you buy a ticket to Charlie Sheen, you forfeit your right to complain about the economy or whine that Social Security and Medicare are in danger. In fact, I think one way to raise some dough for U.S. coffers is to write down the names of all the people who bought Charlie Sheen tickets and just take their Social Security right now and use it for something useful. Because anyone who has $30-$246 to listen to Charlie Sheen for however long he’s on stage before he offends or is offended and walks off (I’m giving it 45 minutes in Miami), doesn’t know the first thing about financial planning or wise spending. They probably won’t even remember that they were supposed to get Social Security.

All Charlie Sheen ticket buyers also must abandon all arguments that the federal government isn’t fiscally sound and isn’t making the right cuts. Who are you to say that anybody isn’t spending money wisely? Also, you’re gonna hafta stop saying the word taxes at all. And no complaining about corporate fat cats and the fancy parties they throw.

I wouldn’t say this about any other form of entertainment or vice. I believe that poor people and Tea Party ranters alike should be able to spend their money on cigarettes, booze, movie theaters, comedy clubs, concerts, whatever. Go at it, have-nots. Immersion in laughter, drunkenness, music and general good times are good for the soul and everyone deserves a little of that.

But Charlie Sheen? He’s not funny, he doesn’t sing or dance or even do skits or dramatic readings. From what I’ve read, his routine involves:

  1. lots of complaining, but not about anything that we can relate to. I don’t think he rants about the deficit or the cost of oil per barrel. I think he focuses mostly on how he’s been screwed by Hollywood and the press. All positive talk is reserved for prostitutes and blow.
  2. showing clips from his dad’s movies.
  3. two women who he calls goddesses awkwardly kiss each other on stage. (Girl-on-girl action is so last decade.)
  4. trying to hide the fact that he’s a badly aging gasbag by wearing a baseball cap and low-rise jeans.

Winning? Maybe. But in a sad, Hugh Hefner kinda way. Nobody wants in on that.  For my $30-$246, I’d rather be in Margaritaville with Jimmy Buffett.
Saturday, April 16, 2011

Welcome Back, Cooking Mojo!

Ladies and gentlemen! Put your hands together and give a nice, warm welcome back to your friend and mine, Cooking Mojo!

You left me about four years ago, without warning, while I was making a vegetable lasagna that had to be renamed Chunky Gray Soup because of all the liquid that came off the mushrooms. I knew better than that, and I would have done something about it, except I always relied on you, Moj, to tap me on the shoulder and say, “Shouldn’t you cook those first to get the juice off?” or “Better not put those eggs in yet or you’ll end up with lumps” or the one I always forgot - “Capers taste like formaldehyde and have no place in your digestive tract while you’re still alive.”

We ate that lasagna but even my teenage son, who would eat literally anything and everything, hesitated before getting seconds. Later the peanut butter and bread were quietly passed around. This is as close as my family gets to telling me they hate my food.

I thought you had just taken a brief vacation. You deserved it, having worked around the clock nonstop since I got my first apartment and bought the Marian Burros Keep It Simple cookbook. Remember when we made Fish Bon Femme in that little kitchen in my apartment? That place was a crappy little box with plywood walls and ceiling, and freaking freezing in the winter, but we hid the smell of sour milk that wafted from the kitchen sink by making spaghetti carbonara and chicken on a bed of ______ (fill in the blank with your favorite on-sale produce item). That apartment smelled so good that once an evangelist came to the door and partway through his spiel said, “ . . . uh, what are you cooking?”

You were right by my side when I got my first subscription to Bon Appetit magazine, shopped with me for my cast iron skillet so I could make blackened fish, and helped me find the perfect garlic press. You high-fived me when we got that gig making pound cakes for The Coffee Station. (I quickly forgave you for not wanting to have anything to do with the angel food cakes, though. You were right. That would have been just too much work. Plus, I was drinking a Bud Light at 10 a.m. just for the bottle to hang the cakes upside down. Not the path I needed to be on at that point in my life.)

And then, one day, you disappeared. I didn’t know you were gone until I made rubbery scallops for the second time and it occurred to me that I hadn’t wowed anyone with my cooking for quite a while. Plus, I didn’t know you were gone because you’re Cooking Mojo and you’re invisible. Imaginary friends are easily forgotten, sadly.

I muddled along for the next couple of years. Not everything was a complete disaster. I made some OK meals, but cooking had lost its vitality for me. Without mojo, it’s hard to have fun.

The low point was a couple weeks ago when I made a casserole to give to a friend. The recipe looked pretty good, so I doubled it and kept one for myself. See, without you here to read recipes with me, I didn’t recognize the unpleasant combination of tomato sauce and spinach. The casserole was so bad, I toyed with the idea of trying to take back the one I had given away. I’d make up a story about losing a jagged piece of glass in it. Anything to avoid the shame of having someone say, “Ew, who gave us this?”

Then, last week, I made a delicious Moroccan Chicken with Eggplant and Tomatoes. The next night, a pork roast with rosemary, green beans with mushrooms, and a mixed greens salad with homemade dressing. For breakfast one day, I made oatmeal with bananas, apricots, walnuts and brown sugar. Last night, I made fish tacos and Cuban black beans for dinner. I was thrilled when my husband took a picture of his plate and posted it on Facebook with the caption: “Best. Cook. Ever.”

Cooking Mojo! You’re back! I hope you’re well rested, because I have a party coming up and -- remember when we made pâté that one time in Cleveland? I have big plans.

You and me, baby. We’re back in business.
Friday, April 15, 2011

What's in a Chinese Name?

My son, who is a teacher in China, has the cutest stories. His students range from adorable little first-graders who still have their baby fat and who I’d like to adopt; to sassy, clever tweens; to studious, watch-me-kick-American-ass adults.

I love to hear him talk about what it’s like to live in China, how Americans are viewed, and how different his way of life is there, especially compared to the college apartment he lived in before moving there. (Less beer, more money, to sum it up.)

But lately, I love hearing about his students’ names.

Chinese people have an English name that they use whenever they’re in an English speaking situation. When they’re at English school, or if they’re doing business with English speaking people, or in any situation when their real name is sure to be badly pronounced or the user is unable to write or understand Mandarin, which is pretty much every situation involving an American.

They sometimes don’t choose English names like Mary or John, instead they choose English words that sound nice when they speak them. I’m pretty sure they don’t care about the meaning of the word, because once it’s their English name, that’s what the word means.

I was laughing at some school papers my son showed me and noted that a large number of his students were named Tom. “And what’s with Die Van Gogh?” I asked.  “Is that really his name?”

Yes, that’s his name. And that was only a sample. One of the teachers made a list of all the funny names that the students at their school have. In addition to Die Van Gogh, some of the boys’ names are:

Celine Dion
Mr. Bean
Mr. T

And here’s a sample of the girls’ names:
Renee (pronounced Rainy)
Abby (pronounced A.B.)
Coco Chanel
Stop! (with exclamation point)
Pirate's Baby

My son’s own students include boys named Apple, Dracula, Doomsday, Lupinelee, Stroumedere, Caesar, Clinton and Report, and girls named Louisiana, Wasabi, Yummy and Clevery. And a bunch of Toms.

I can imagine the teachers have some fun with the names when grading papers.

“Great report, Report!”

“Ice, Ice, baby, what were you thinking with this essay?”

“Keep up the good work, Stop!”

“Renee, Snow and Sunny should not be working on group projects together. Too much conflict.”

“If Yummy, Rainbow and Dimples should ever team up to go up against Dracula, Doomsday, Satan and Dragon, call Disney studios: There’s a movie in that.”
Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Oh Fail, Toe Nail

Good thing I look up gross and ugly photos online before I start writing my blog. Before I sat down here this morning, I was feeling like my feet were really unsightly. A quick Googling of ‘ugly toenail’ and I’m feeling much better. And, no, I’m not going to show you any of the pictures. This is a funny blog; it’s supposed to make you laugh, not wretch.

A lot of people with cameras and no sense of shame have extremely ugly feet, as it turns out. Human feet even at their best look pretty weird if you look at them long enough. The ones with long curly yellow toenails and bones sticking out at weird angles make you wonder how these people can walk around.

The ugliness I can understand. There’s a lot of weight put on our feet. We cram them into 6-inch heels with pointy toes and old running shoes. But according to the Internet photos, lots of people are just not cutting their toenails. What’s with that? Sure, it will take a small power saw, but for cripe’s sake, fire that thing up and get rid of those talons.

My only-moderately-unsightly feet are because of my big toenails. For being so big and hard, my big toenails are apparently super sensitive. They got pushed on by my running shoes for two work-outs last week and they just up and died.

After the second day at the gym, I decided I better switch shoes. But it was too late. My toenails were hurting and hurting and hurting. By the seventh day, I decided I better take off the nail polish and see what was going on under there.

A lot was going on.

My big toenails are dead.

I’m not sure I could get any of the Vietnamese nail salon people to give me a pedicure. I don’t want to be the subject of the tales they tell when they go home at night. I’m looking at the calendar and hoping I don’t have anywhere I need to be in the next few months, where I can’t wear a pair of fuzzy slippers.

My friend Kathy tells me the same thing happened to her from wearing ill-fitting ski boots once. She said it was a year before her toenail was normal again. 

Looks like that foot modeling job I had my eye on is out of the question now. But I might post some photos on the Internet just to join the fun.
Monday, April 11, 2011

Beer, Baseball and Band Moms

I was all ready to write about Barbie and her new occupations, or my self-destructing toenails, or the EV I drove last weekend, but my friend Tara came to visit and I was reminded about when I had to work as a slave selling beer at the Lexington Legends games.

I was a band mom, which means I would do anything that I was told to do by someone wearing a name tag. In the name of fundraising, I sold and bought fruit, knick-knacks, sausage and cheese that can sit unrefrigerated for months and not go bad, frozen pizzas, plants, candles, and gift cards to restaurants I don’t go to.

And because of some crazy fundraising contract that some overzealous committee chairman had signed in blood, I also had to work behind the concession stands at the minor league baseball games. We didn’t get paid, but we got a checkmark after our kids’ names, indicating that we had worked at the number of games required. And the number was 15.

I never stopped to think about what would happen if I didn’t work those 15 games. Would my daughter’s instrument be filled with the beer that I didn’t sell that night? Would we be ostracized at the band banquet? Would I know the difference?  To tell you the truth I was too scared to put that to the test.

We weren’t allowed to put the high school kids on the beer taps because of some stupid international law to prevent child abuse, so all adults had to pour beer. We all fought for the nacho cheese pouring station or the pizza oven or even hot pretzels - all of which were harder, hotter and more dangerous than pouring beer - but those jobs had to go to the kids, so that the adults could serve the alcohol. (There was also ice cream and popcorn, but I’m pretty sure you had to sleep with someone to get those jobs.)

Rumor had it that a couple years before, some parents claimed they wouldn’t sell beer for religious reasons, but it didn’t take long for every band parent to claim they were Mormon or Baha’i or Jehovah’s Witness or Southern Baptist or Muslim. Some may have even made up new religions that were too hard to check into. By the time I got there, there were no exemptions. I, who had been seen both in a Catholic Church and in bars, had no chance: I had to man the beer tap.

The Legends games were popular drinking hang-outs for college frat boys. Some math major figured out that it was cheaper to buy a ticket to the game and buy $1 beers on Thirsty Thursday than to go to a bar. And with a bunch of reluctant band moms behind the bar, being overserved was a piece of cake.

I hated those punks.

We had to keep remembering who we had served and how many we had given them. Twenty-one-year-old frat boys all look alike. Their fake IDs all look real. We were supposed to engage them in conversation so we could determine how drunk they were and if they should be cut off. It shouldn’t surprise you that there are very few topics of discussion between a college kid and a tired band mom whose shoes are sticking to the floor.

Some games went into extra innings, we’d be working seven or eight hours, and no matter how fast you served and rang up the sales, the lines would just get longer.

Occasionally, we’d get a regular adult to wait on and that was a relief. They would go check and tell me what inning it was, tell us we were doing a good job despite the fact that we were just regular moms, and some of them even tipped us.

That was three years ago. Now, every so often, someone will suggest that selling concessions at the local baseball stadium would be a “really great way to raise money.” I threaten to resign whatever office I hold or committee I chair, because I’m done serving beer to frat boys. From now on, it’s funnel cakes or nothing.
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Laundry Detergent, Where Art Thou?

It’s happened to me again: A product that I love and use and buy regularly is off the market. About every other week I buy Arm & Hammer laundry detergent. It’s in a green semi-transparent bottle and it’s called something environmental . . . Wait, let me go look at the bottle in my laundry room . . . Oh yeah, I can’t because it’s not in my cupboard because they stopped making it.

I can’t imagine why they would stop making this particular type of laundry soap. I was buying it all the time, whether it was on sale or not; whether the price went up or not, for years and years.

(The reason for that is I have a fear of switching laundry soaps. Almost every time I go to the doctor and describe symptoms of anything, the first question I get is, “Have you switched laundry soap?” This leads me to believe that switching laundry soap could cause everything from a simple rash to bleeding ulcers to infertility.)

So to avoid a health crisis in my home, I always used the same laundry soap. I stuck with it when every housewife in America jumped on the Tide-wagon (I can smell that on your clothes, you know), or when buying the Martha Stewart all natural laundry soap was the politically correct thing to do, or when I was trying really hard to save money and had to pass up sales on the off brands.

I tried to buy it three times at two different stores when I got the message that it wasn’t just out of stock or on a special display. It was gone.

That’s when I noticed that Arm & Hammer has a ridiculous number of flavors to their laundry soap. They’ve got Lavender + Linen, “For Sensitive Skin,” 2x Concentrate with Highly Effective Clean Burst!, Skin Friendly with Fresh Scent, Power Gel, Oxi-Clean, Power Gel with Oxi-Clean and all combinations of all of the above. I guess they ran out of room on the shelves for mine.

The last time I was this upset about a discontinued item, I wrote a letter to Quaker and tucked it inside a consumer survey I was taking. The letter said, “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BRING BACK WHEAT CAKES. YOU’VE GOT ALL THESE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RICE CAKES BUT THEY ARE SPONGY AND THE WHEAT CAKES WERE CRUNCHIER. Let’s face it, wheat cakes are an entirely different product. If you were going to remove one type, you should have ditched the low-salt cheese flavored ones. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BRING THEM BACK OR AT LEAST TELL ME WHERE I CAN BUY THEM ON THE BLACK MARKET.”

Like then, I now am wishing I could go back in time and buy a huge amount of laundry soap, so that the people at Arm & Hammer would go, “Hmmm, this laundry soap in the green bottle with the tree on the label is quite a big seller! Weirdly only in the Sea Plum Plaza Publix store in Jupiter, Florida . . . but still. We better keep this baby around for a while!”

I won’t go crazy with the capital letters if I write a letter to Arm & Hammer, but I might say something like this:

Dear Arm and/or Hammer,

I don’t know what you were thinking in discontinuing the laundry soap in the green bottle that had some kind of environment word in the name, like Clean or Fresh or something that starts with an E. (You can look it up.) It was the best. For health reasons, I really don’t want to have to switch to another of your sub-types of soap.

I was one of your best customers, so I think you’re going to want to at least think about bringing it back. Because now I’ve got my eye on a bottle of Seventh Generation.


Florida housewife who is by now either covered in skin sores or buried in dirty laundry.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Great-Grandma is on Skype' and Other Signs That the Rapture is Near

When my oldest son first started making noise about moving to a foreign country and traipsing around Asia to teach English, learn Mandarin Chinese, and eat things with feelers and tentacles, Jim, a high school friend of mine said, “You’ve got to get Skype.”

He has lived in Czech Republic for many years and as his children graduated from high school, he sent them to college in the States. He said the only way he was able to do Olympic feat of heart-wrenching parenting is because we now have things from The Jetsons.

Skype, if you live in a cave and don’t know, is like a video phone call that you see on sci-fi movies and a couple of Twilight Zone episodes. I think George had a couple of video conferences with Mr. Spacely using a crude version of Skype. The person you’re talking to shows up on your computer screen, sitting at his computer, and he can see you sitting at your computer.

So now, when I call my son in China and my other son in Arizona, I have to go put on makeup. Hey, Future Man, thanks a heap.

I had to issue a warning to my mother-in-law when she was setting up Skype on her new laptop. “Be really careful,” I told her. “When you first click on this, a camera view will pop up on your screen and you’ll see yourself. If the screen is tilted funny, you’ll look like you’re peering down into your own grave.”

It’s always a shock to me to see myself on the screen when it first pops up at the start of Skype. Of course I’ve seen myself on my computer. I have Photo Booth and I’ve spent many, many, many minutes posing for potential Facebook photos (oh, you’ve done it, too) and experimenting with the effects (Stretch, Bulge, Dent, Squeeze, Glow, Twirl and X-Ray - sounds like a new Seven Dwarves). For some reason the 'Skype me' is older, saggier and my hair is downright lackluster.

But back to my mother-in-law getting Skype. How cool is that? Not as cool, when you find out that she has been on Facebook for more than a year and also has Twitter. She has a sweet little Macbook Air that she carries around in her Paris bag. 

I won’t tell you how old she is (other people are always telling her age, bragging about her because she won’t do it herself) but let’s just say she is the only one at her class reunions who goes to the gym every day, swims laps for 30 minutes straight, walked all over Paris and Rome last summer, and keeps getting hired back to her job. She’s retired four times now. Also, I suspect she has a secret life in espionage, since she doesn’t have fingerprints and has no explanation for it. She just laughs and says, “Maybe they just wore off!”

She was pretty excited about getting Skype. Now she can talk face-to-face with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who live all over the country. While the other great-grandmothers are knitting afghans and sending Hallmark cards, she is firing up her Air on her wireless network and video-chatting with people a fraction of her age.

As my sister Kathy says: “I love living in the future.”
Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Was A Homely Newlywed

I’m working on a late anniversary present for my husband (not late as in, our anniversary was in December, but late as in, our 25th anniversary was 2 1/2 years ago) and after several hours of sifting through old photos of the two of us, I have the following announcements to make:

1. If I attended your wedding/graduation party/baby’s baptism between 1987 and 1996, please discard all photos of me and my dress. I’m blaming it on Delayed Chronic Postpartum Fashion Choice Hysteria and an experiment with shopping from the Chadwick’s of Boston catalog. I am wearing the most ridiculous get-ups, including the blue and white flowered dress that kept coming unbuttoned in front.

2. My husband and I both are not only better looking now but we have a lot more fun. The pictures of us when we were dating are lame. In the pictures of us within the past five years, we are laughing and smiling, we’re tan and healthier, and in the background there are other happy people, confetti, blenders and other signs of wellness.

3. How anyone could find a mate in the ‘80s is a mystery to me. Two words: Hair and glasses. My husband and I seem to have had a contest going as to who could have the biggest and dorkiest glasses. (It was a tie.) And unfortunately, the year he had me beat in the glasses, I was experimenting with a perm. At his college graduation and party following, I sincerely wish everyone had left their cameras at home or in their cars. Because of photo evidence of a short perm, I can’t pretend that I was hot when I was in my 20s.

4. I always had fat ankles. If you’ve seen me lately and, like me, thought that I could stand to lose a few pounds around each ankle, put it out of your mind. Looking at a picture of my husband and I dancing at our friend Tim Roberts’ wedding in 1985, I can see cankles under my off-white hose and I was only 26 and was only 8 weeks pregnant with my first baby. I’ve still got the perm from hell, and my husband and his glasses are smoking a cigar. We are dancing what appears to be either a polka or a square dance. I think I understand why no one said anything about my ankles.

5. I’d like to snarkily thank my sisters for putting my hair dryer in my big suitcase and not my overnight bag on my wedding day. (I can’t remember why I needed someone to pack for me . . . was that an old Irish tradition or something? All I know is I didn’t have access to my big suitcase until after I arrived in New York late the next day.) In all the photos of me from the morning after my wedding until we got to New York, my hair looks like shit. But, seriously, thanks for packing for me. That was a nice thing to do, even though you made mistakes.

6. My kids were the cutest babies and toddlers that you ever saw. Honestly, I was looking at these photos and practically crying, they are so cute. If you ever wonder why a woman would leave her career and embrace poverty and sweatsuits seven days a week, just take a look at my pictures from when my husband and I had little kids. God, they are so cute.

7. My mother told me once: “You married well.” At the time I didn’t think she meant “You married someone that you’ll always have fun with, and someone who will stay with you despite how you adopt fashion trends." But now, I wonder. She was a pretty smart lady.
Friday, April 1, 2011

Cameron Diaz, Me and Our Skin Disorder

Remember The Heartbreak of Psoriasis? I have that. I have a little patch of skin on my left elbow that is psoriasis-y. But I’m happy to report that I’m not heartbroken, yet.

I received the psoriasis diagnosis at a recent visit to a dermatologist for a bevy of other skin-related things I was stressing over. I was actually relieved, since I thought it was a dreaded Sore That Won’t Heal. I’d had it for about two years. I had figured I either had a psychological condition that compels me to pick at every scab and piece of skin that is half hanging off the mothership, or I had AIDS. Psoriasis wasn’t as heartbreaking as it could have been.

Don’t image-Google heartbreak of psoriasis, because you’ll see photos of people that have what looks like infected leprosy so bad that they would have been voted off the leper colony island. Ew. And a photo of Obama scratching his head once. Also, some photos of Cameron Diaz, who reportedly had it and it was all over the Internet. The whole search was kind of heartbreaking.

The commercial in the ‘60s had a man’s voice saying, in a very serious tone:

Eczema. Seborrhea. Psoriasis.

Eczema is an easy-come, easy-go kind of skin condition. I used to get it on the insides of my elbows all the time. It’s nothing to brag about. Seborrhea must have gone out of fashion because I haven’t heard mention of it since the early ‘70s. They must’ve found a cure for that around the same time they found a cure for Getting Overheated, something my mom used to warn us about whenever we got too wild in the house.

But psoriasis has risen to the top of the heap of skin conditions. Everyone seems to have it, including Cameron Diaz. So it only makes sense that there are some hilarious TV commercials urging the use of a new drug to treat it.

The ad for the psoriasis drug Stelara needs a lawyer bad. I know drug ads have to disclose every bad thing that could ever happen if you took it, and many drugs go to great lengths to be very up-front about the nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, dry mouth and gas that we’ve come to expect from taking anything that’s advertised on TV. But Stelara ad guy, come on! At what point after writing in the script These may be signs of a rare, potentially fatal brain condition do you just throw up your hands and say, “You know what, we don’t really need to put this on TV. Let’s just sell it the doctors through our drug reps like we did in the good old days.” Save your advertising dollars and invest in stress balls and paperclip-holder freebie hand-outs and catered lunch for the staff. Because as heartbreaking as psoriasis can be, I’d rather have rough, red patchy skin than having my own brain kill me.

I am not faced with that choice, yet. My dermatologist is treating me with a white substance that comes in a tube and if I could remember to apply it liberally BID, I think I can be psoriasis-free.

Cameron probably had people to do that for her.