Friday, March 30, 2012

Another One for the Recipe Books

I overheard a drugstore-aisle conversation about which exfoliating scrubs are the best to use and how much each option costs. Damn, the things people regularly spend good money on. Exfoliating scrubs are a lot like meals – when they’re whipped up by people who know what they’re doing, the home-cooked ones reign supreme.

I’ve only recently jumped on the exfoliation bandwagon. I used to just moisturize, and thought exfoliating was for the vain, high-maintenance, desperate-to-look-younger spa-hoppers. Now I know better and how important it is to deep-clean your skin to remove its dead cells.

Here’s the formula for my preferred homemade exfoliating scrub. There are so many other homemade versions that incorporate ingredients like lemon juice, honey, oatmeal, etc. But this is the one I stick with because: it requires the least amount of time and effort; it gives me optimal results; and I watch every bit of my capital like a hawk – thus shelling out for extravagances like almond flour, Epsom salts, jojoba oil (or other items I don’t routinely have on hand for other purposes) is not something I’ll be jonesing to do anytime soon.


1 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking soda

2 Tbsp water


Once a week (and never more than twice a week), mix all 3 ingredients.

Gently massage the mixture into your damp skin (face, neck, chest, hands, elbows, knees, feet, wherever). Make sure to use light pressure, especially on your face. (If you rub the mixture in too aggressively, your skin will be red and irritated for at least the next few days. And, trust me, you don’t want that.)

Leave it all on for a few minutes.

Rinse/shower it off with warm water.

Pat dry.

Moisturize all exfoliated areas.

Bask in the afterglow.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Voice Lessons

When I first moved into my current apartment, years ago, I called it the salon. I had everyone, near and far, calling it the salon as well. “So how’s the salon?” out-of-state loved ones would ask during phone chats. “When can we stop by the salon?” local acquaintances nagged. People I hardly knew invited themselves over for dinners, drinks, and discussions. When the salon ultimately devolved into a saloon, nobody was less surprised (or more thrilled) than me. It’s fun to be a guest in the salons of others; it’s draining to keep hosting your own.

One of my college professors was just in town for an event hosted in her honor. The event organizers characterized it as a salon – one without snacks or booze.

Every university campus has its stable of star professors, and she was one of ours. One semester I decided to take whatever class she’d be teaching the following semester, and that happened to be a graduate-level seminar. I spent two mornings a week at a table, surrounded by full-fledged adults. It was hard to get a word in edgewise with this older, smarter, more self-assured crowd – so, at first, I never tried. I quietly took notes and listened.

This professor sent me an e-mail, insisting that I needed to speak up. Only, in keeping with her star quality, she phrased it much more poetically; the delivery was something along the lines of: “my dear, why are you depriving me of your voice?”

After reading that e-mail, I started speaking up more, in and out of class. And I’ve barely been able to shut up since.

At her salon the other night, I told her she’s created a monster. “Oh please,” she said, assuming that I was exaggerating. It wasn’t until she later introduced me to a small group of her family members, and I said something that everyone but me considered a little too unrestrained, that she got to see exactly what I meant.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Not-Nearly-Haunted-Enough House

Those who know how obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera I was in high school have been putting me on notice of PBS’s special broadcast of it this month. This televised version is so much better than what it was like experiencing it live, as I can now finally see and hear everything: the volume can be turned up; no one’s head is in my way; I never have to rise, two verses into a dazzling duet, to allow a single-file line of tipsy people to shuffle to their seats 25 minutes late; and (thanks to those pledge drives) there are more intermissions. (I’m in favor of PBS brokering a deal with the Broadway theaters. I would pay a little extra to be able to see hot live shows from the cushions of my couch, and know 6 or 7 others who would be willing to do the same.)

When I wandered around the Parisian opera house this musical is based on last month, I wanted the Phantom to reach out to me (via slamming one of the doors I walked through or whispering something naughty in my ear). I’m still miffed that he didn’t. For that nine-euro entry fee, would it kill them to rattle a chandelier in there every now and then?

I get how the idea of that place being haunted came about. The lighting was pretty dim and the air smelled like sorrow. My late grandmother had a friend who used to live in a house that felt similar to this one.

A partially open door led out to a small balcony, where there was a half-full bottle of Moet on the thick ledge I leaned against. On the street below, a homeless man was sprawled out on a huge blanket he had spread over the concrete, across from an Apple store. The hushed tones of bewitchingly beautiful music from a rehearsal somewhere else in the building wafted out and into the atmosphere.

Since a real mood had now been set, I pulled out the brochure I grabbed on the way in, to read more about the history of this joint. But it was written in German, and I don’t know any German, so I used it as a visor to keep some of the sun out of my eyes while I tried to see if I could spot a Starbucks anywhere within a 2-block radius of that Apple store.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Handle Hashimoto’s

On February 29, 2012, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.

How do the medical professionals plan to treat or cure it? They don’t. Their response to, “So what do I do?” was on par with, “Just deal with it/Own it/This is who you are.”

A former boss of mine once ran down a list of her chronic physical ailments. When she got to Hashimoto’s disease, I distinctly remember thinking, “Man, if I ever have to get a disease, that’s the one I want.” And here I am. Could I have willed this to happen?

The years of bizarre weight and energy-level fluctuations have almost all been worth my now being able to go up to someone, look this person in the eye, and say: “I have Hashimoto’s disease.” The facial expressions I get in return are the stuff retorts are made of.

It sounds like most people with Hashimoto’s say (and only when asked): “I have a thyroid condition” or “I’ve got a jacked-up thyroid.” Not me. It’ll be Hashimoto’s this, Hashimoto’s that. Hashimoto-based haggling, Hashimoto-ing my way to getting an entire row of seats to myself on the subway (“Oh honey, I wouldn’t sit there if I were you, what with my Hashimoto’s disease and all…”), etc., etc.

Let the ownership begin.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Calm During and After the Storm

As I crossed a street in my neighborhood this weekend, a group of 4 or 5 vibrant little girls were skipping toward me, and we smiled at each other. They’re future alpha women, especially the one who seemed like the leader of the pink-and-purple-clad pack. On the other side of me, there was a guy zooming around on his motorbike without a helmet. My ability to accurately size people up very quickly has become legendary within my social network, and I could tell he was trouble.

Less than 20 seconds later, I heard a big bad noise. I turned around and saw 2 of the little girls I’d just been smiling with lying in the middle of the street.

The motorbiker scampered off, on foot, taking the bike with him. Some of the eyewitnesses chased and tried to grab him so he wouldn’t get away. If I could run as fast as I could 5 years ago, I would have joined them. They couldn’t run as fast as I could 5 years ago either - the motorbiker was the fittest of us all and I think he did end up outpacing them. While all of this was going on, another guy (who I also immediately sized up as trouble) emerged from a car and started to wheel the now-abandoned motorbike away, to aid and abet the motorbiker - until he got chased too.

The head alpha girl had been hit the hardest. Although she might have a broken arm, she was conscious and there was no blood. Her mom and the other little girls levelheadedly took care of business while waiting for the ambulance. The cops caught the motorbiker, who didn’t so much as glance in the direction of the crash site when he limped past it.

It’s remarkable how many people are able to keep their cool in the face of a sudden life-or-death catastrophe. When news reporters interview someone who has just pulled a family member’s body out of an earthquake’s rubble or someone whose friend got blown up by a car bomb an hour earlier, I’m often stunned by how little hysteria there is.

Not even 30 minutes later, I ran into 2 of the girls from the original group in the pasta aisle of the grocery store (their skipping had been resumed). When I asked them if they were okay, they nodded and looked up at me as if I were the one in need of some looking after.