FredCo Headquarters Moving to Florida

Fredco logoIn a memo to executives and minions, Fred Kamsler, CEO of FredCo, LLC, announced that the multinational corporation will be moving its headquarters from Long Island to Lake Worth, Florida, at the end of October 2016.

The move has been in the works for some time, although the timetable has moved up — corporate executives had been led to believe that a shift was more likely in 2017. “That’s generally how things work around here, though,” an employee told us. (This interview was given under the condition of complete anonymity and the option to be relocated through the Witness Protection Program.) “We might get a rumor of something coming, but we’re not considered worthy of details or information. We do and go as we’re told.”

FredCo poseNow that the news has gone public, we were able to get a few words from Mr. Kamsler himself, in a remote interview from an undisclosed location. “It’s true, we’re moving the company south,” he confirmed. “I would think the reasons are obvious. Warmer climate. None of that snow nonsense — the plows disturb me. Better flora and fauna. And closer proximity to my off-shore accounts.”

Joining Mr. Kamsler in Florida will be his brother and (honorary) Vice President of FredCo, George. (When asked for comment, George seemed confused and asked a number of questions about powder puff availability in the southern states.) Also accompanying the brothers will be, of course, their parents, Toni and David Kamsler. “This arrangement will allow my father to serve in his role as parental minion in a full time capacity,” the CEO explained. “Brushings were not being given as frequently as I required.” When asked about his mother, Fred looked possessive and ended the interview abruptly.

FredCo, LLC (“Using Your Money For Our Benefit Since 2008”) is a solely-owned and controlled multinational corporation with field offices located around the world. For more information, contact Publicrelations@fredanswerstonoone.com

Hair today, gone forever

Me with a fun hair moustacheI’m a fair-skinned Italian girl with dark, thick hair. Which is nice for the hairs on your head, but not so nice for other parts of your body, namely the upper lip. For years (decades) I’ve been embarrassed about it, but thanks to electrolysis, no more — and never again.

There’s a lot of things for a woman to feel self-conscious about. Her weight, her height, her clothes, her hair, her laugh, her voice, and her moustache. If you’re a lady who’s never experienced the misery of trying to keep facial hair under control, be grateful.

Otherwise, you know what I’m talking about. There’s waxing, of course, which hurts like a #$!@#%. Once the redness dies down, it looks pretty good. But it grows back. Then there’s threading, which I’ve never tried; I’ve heard it hurts kinda less than waxing, but still does. And it grows back. There are bleaches and creams, but as a friend once said, you can bleach that stache all you want, but it’s still there — it’s just golden-yellow now. Usually these didn’t even work for me and the cream is all burn-y and hurts. And the hair comes back. And there’s shaving, which is easiest obviously, and takes almost no time at all, and doesn’t hurt unless you’ve got really unsteady hands. The hair comes back right away, though, and even better: you get shadow, not just at five o’clock, but really all the time.

My personal method, btw, was plucking. I had it down to a science. A tedious, painful, required-growth-in-between science. But — you guessed it — the problem is, it always came back. (It turns out, it comes back worse — more on that later.)

Then my friend Amy Oztan (who blogs at SelfishMom.com) told me about electrolysis. I’d heard of it, but didn’t really know what it was. She told me how successful it was for her, but she didn’t sugar-coat the pain or the expense. I hemmed, I hawed, and finally, after my very awesome husband gave me the go-ahead, I made my first appointment.

I should tell you in advance that while a lot went right at that first appointment, I didn’t care for the practitioner I’d found at all. She was professional and good at her task, but she was also… well, uppity, and controlling. We listened to her weird Enya music which I didn’t care for and she wouldn’t change, I wasn’t allowed to speak during the treatment, she would only work according to her treatment plan (how often, what parts of my face to work on, and how long), with no input from me. She also informed me she was raising her price, at the end of that first appointment, from what she’d quoted on the phone. I wasn’t happy, and I promptly started looking for a new electrologist. Happily, I found Michelle Robinson from the Electrolysis Treatment Center. Michelle is just as professional, warm, comfortable to be around, and let me be the one to decide what my priorities were, and how we would proceed. If you are on Long Island and looking for an electrologist, I cannot recommend Michelle highly enough. If you’re from somewhere else, just make sure you find someone you like. This isn’t a process you want to go through with someone who isn’t willing to work with you in a helpful and professional way.

Electrolysis is the only method approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal. It works like this: a professional electrologist inserts a very fine needle (usually thinner than the hair being treated) into the natural opening of the hair follicle alongside the hair shaft. A tiny amount of electrical current is then applied to destroy the hair growth cells. Here’s more from the American Electrology Association on treatments:

Hairs have differing cycles of growth, many of which are not visible on the surface of the skin at the same time. The follicle produces the hair from the blood supply, and discards it eventually through shedding. The process of growth, rest, and replacement are known as the hair growth cycle. Since individual hairs are in different phases of the cycle at any given time, multiple treatments may be required to remove unwanted hair.

So, in other words… you go in for a treatment. The electrologist inserts a fine needle along each hair shaft, then there’s a flash of heat that kills the cells. The hair is then removed with a tweezer, having been severed off — in other words, you’re not tweezing the hairs out manually (tweezing alone can actually stimulate hair growth activity, so I was essentially making matters worse all those years!). Are you done in one session? No. Why not? Because hair has a growth cycle, and you will catch them at different cycles. Some hairs take multiple sessions to completely zap away. Also? You have more hair follicles than you think you do. Anywhere from 100 to 1000 to as many as several thousand per square inch. They just aren’t all activated or showing at the same time. So you think you plucked a hair away and that it grew back shortly thereafter, but that’s really from another hair follicle, nearby.

So here’s the nitty gritty: how long, how much, how painful?

How long?

Well, as I said at the beginning, I’m blessed with a full head of thick, healthy hair, and that unfortunately extended to parts of my face (upper lip, chin, etc) where I didn’t want it, and my hair is fairly thick. So at the beginning, I went in for a half-hour treatment every week. After about four months, we went down to every other week. At eight months, we dropped down to every three weeks. And just recently, at eleven months in, we shifted to every four weeks. Keep in mind, you could go every four weeks right from the beginning, if that’s what you want. You’d just see a lot more hair growth in between, especially at the beginning, and the entire process would take longer. For me, I wanted to go at it aggressively and stick with it. Eventually I’ll need to go even less often, every two months, three, four, and so on.

Does it work, by the way? Oh yes. Before, when I was waxing and plucking and shaving and so on, honestly, the hair would start to grow back almost right away. It was all just a maintenance game, trying to stay ahead of it, never really satisfied with the results. If I’d let it go and done nothing? I’d have been stubbly in days and Billy Dee Williams after two weeks. Now, after four weeks since my last treatment, there are just a few stray hairs here and there, easily taken care of at my next appointment. And the ones that are gone are gone, gone, gone.

How much?

How much electrolysis costs will depend on prices in your area, how often you go, and so on. Maybe the easiest way to say it is that in the past year — which was the first, most intensive year of treatment — it’s cost me about — brace yourself — $1200. Yeah, I know. It might be more than you’re willing or able to spend. You might not need as many treatments as I did, though — we’re not all this hairy — and your situation might be different. All I can say is that it is absolutely worth it, that it works, that it’s not a penny wasted. The shame and embarrassment I used to feel over unwanted facial hair made me miserable, and being able to put those feelings behind me is priceless. Plus, it’s permanent.

How painful?

Well, you know, in a word? Very. While the American Electrology Association says “you may feel discomfort”, I’d like to politely disagree completely with them on that score. No, to be candid, it hurts like nobody’s business. Now, much like getting a tattoo, some places hurt more than others. Chin, for example, was not really that bad. I find it itchy, more than anything else. But upper lip? Yeah. It’s not so great. Especially the little hairs right under your nose, you know the ones I mean? Just think about it, and try not to cringe. You can get a prescription for Lidocaine cream, to number the surface of your skin, and that helps a little, but not always. It hurts like the dickens. But it’s quick and then it’s over, and the result, to me at least, is worth it.

In the end, it’s up to you whether electrolysis is something you want or need, and whether it’s worth the cost, the time, and the discomfort. My mother used to brush the tangles from my hair and say, “It hurts to be beautiful.” And in a broader sense, she had a point: anything worth having requires effort, and anything important enough to you is worth whatever it takes to get it. Electrolysis has changed my life and made me more confident and happier with myself. For me, it was well worth the cost and effort involved.

 

(By the way, to anyone reading: if you have any questions about what it’s like to get electrolysis, feel free to comment or message me privately if you’d rather not discuss it in a public setting.)

guilty pleasures

Ross: Rachel claims this is her favorite movie.
Chandler: Dangerous Liaisons.
Ross: Correct. Her actual favorite movie is?
Joey: Weekend at Bernie’s.
(Friends, The One With the Embryos)

On my college application, I said my favorite song was the Commendatore scene from Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni. I do like it — it’s a compelling piece of music — but if I was being honest, in 1989, my actual favorite song was probably Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam’s “Head to Toe”.

Even sadder, “Head to Toe” came out in 1987. By 1989, my favorite song was probably something by Paula Abdul.

Sure, we all wish we had consistently high-brow tastes. And sometimes we do! I really do like Mozart, and my favorite book really is Anna Karenina. At the same time, when I want to wooby with a blanket and the cats, I’m usually reaching for something with a lower IQ requirement. So I share with you, with no small amount of shame, my guilty pleasures.

Movies

Selena (1997): The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts. This one stars Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos (if Olmos is in it it can’t be all bad!) and I could watch it FOREVER. I’m nearly physically incapable of changing the channel if it’s on, despite, yes, owning a copy as well. BIDI BIDI BOM BOM.

The Twilight Series, but especially Eclipse. Look, these movies are crap. There’s no two ways about it. I own them all, though. There’s no good explanation. The plots are trite, the dialogue is mediocre at best. I’m frequently rooting for the bad vampires. Mostly the wolves. The soundtracks are surprisingly good (Iron & Wine, for crying out loud!) and there are some neat visuals. I find Kristen Stewart oddly mesmerizing. And Taylor Lautner’s abs are distracting. As Edward says:

Edward himself is singularly unappealing to me (what happened to that handsome young lad in Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire?). And they’re both young enough to be my kids, so there’s that. (Well, Pattinson only if I started REALLY young.)

The Devil’s Advocate (1997). This one is my husband’s fault. It’s his guilty pleasure movie, one he has a supernatural ability to find airing on TBS at any given time. Al Pacino gives the worst performance of his career (did he lose a bet?) and Keanu Reeves makes you wish he was playing a robot in a plot full of holes you can drive a semi through, while Charlize Theron changes her hairstyle and hopes you forget she was even in this piece of dreck.

Just about any dance movie, ever. Favorites include Center Stage, Strictly Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, All the Step Up movies (all five!), Shall We Dance, White Nights, Mad Hot Ballroom, Coyote Ugly, Billy Elliot, Singin’ in the Rain, and Save the Last Dance. If there’s dancing anywhere in it, I’ll watch it. Repeatedly. Starting with when it premieres in the theater. Me and a lot of teenagers, usually. I’m there.

Books

You know, I don’t feel guilty about these. They’re great books. It’s just the sheer number of times I’ve read them that borders on embarrassing.

Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay: I once started this book at a favorite scene somewhere near the midway point, finished, went back to the beginning, and read the entire book through again, to the end.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. The ones she actually wrote, not the ones her son has written since she died. (No offense, Todd.) I think what lies beneath this obsession is a deeply-rooted desire to able to communicate telepathically with my cats, along with the knowledge that we would be bonded for life. On the other hand, sometimes I think their thoughts might not be particularly flattering, especially on the days they haven’t had any Fancy Feast.

The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I still have the same yellow paperback set I had as a child. By the Banks of Plum Creek! By the Shores of Silver Lake! Nellie Olsen. Almanzo. Nearly freezing and starving to death in The Long Winter. Pa and his fiddle. Good times!

Having said that, there are a few books that only keep from embarrassing me out of an admiration for the written word in all forms. Judith Krantz’ Princess Daisy. Flowers in the Attic. Jean Auel’s books, especially the latter ones like The Plains of Passion — I mean, Passage. Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches saga. Janet Dailey’s Calder books. And oh, The Da Vinci Code. I hang my head in literary shame.

Songs

The Spice Girls, Wannabe. They sold, like, a zillion copies of that CD, but no one ever, ever admits to having owned it.

Britney Spears, Womanizer. I’ve got an excuse for this one. It was my favorite routine on the Wii “Just Dance” exercise program. I mean, with lyrics like “Womanizer, woman-womanizer, You’re a womanizer, Oh, womanizer, oh, You’re a womanizer, baby”, what’s not to like, right? But it does make a good workout song.

Carly Rae Jepson, Call Me Maybe. Every now and then a song is so annoying you end up liking it, which doesn’t make sense but it’s still true. I still feel like this song got published on a dare, but if so, it paid off.

The Backstreet Boys, As Long As You Love Me. Okay, I’ve got no defense for BSB. It’s not like they can consider themselves pseudo-cool like NSYNC for bringing us Justin Timberlake, Lance Bass, and Joey Fatone (hey, he was good in My Big Fat Greek Wedding!). I can’t name a single other song of theirs, but I like this one. It’s nice!

Lastly, and this I say with no shame whatsoever, Sonny & Cher’s I Got You, Babe. You know, this song had a bad rap for a long time, but I don’t know why. It was sung by two kids who were nuts about each other, and stayed good friends for the rest of their lives, even after their marriage ended. I had this song played at my wedding and it’s one of my favorite memories of the whole night. So I’ll leave you with a very early performance, from 1965:

back again, a cruise, and dizzy

Last year turning into this one has been interesting for me, to say the least. It was sometimes amazingly wonderful, to say the best, and sometimes pretty lousy, to say the worst. I had a re-occurrence of back issues, followed by an amazing Disney cruise, followed by a bizarre (but familiar to me) case of dizzyness I’m still shaking off the dregs of now. So that was ouch, yay, and ugh, for anyone keeping score.

I had back surgery in 2012. It was, well, mostly successful, but not completely so. An oft-repeated mantra I’ve had to accept is that “the purpose of back surgery is not to fix your back, but to make it better than it was”. You rarely fix backs. Sometimes you make them better. Sometimes you don’t even do that. I’ve had a couple of bad back pain incidents since the surgery, and each one scared the bejeezus out of me. This one made it impossible to sit comfortably — that’s not hard on anyone’s life, right? (Anyone else ever have sciatica? Cringe with me now.) Luckily, I found a great new doctor, a physiatrist who helped me get past the pain and back on my feet, with some drugs, some physical therapy, and some patience. I also got a brand-new MRI that at the very least assured me there’s nothing terribly wrong with my back, just the usual bulges and whatnot everyone has — in other words, this time when a doctor looked at my MRI he didn’t say, “Oh dear god this is terrible”, so that was a step in the right direction.

Back pain Public Service Announcement: we were somewhat startled to realize that each time my back has been bad, since the surgery, it’s been the end of November/beginning of December. Like clockwork. My doctor says this is actually quite common — fall, and the change of seasons, is his busiest time. Moral of this story: go south.

As luck would have it, we had plans to go south, to the Caribbean, to be specific, for a wonderful cruise on the Disney Fantasy — back after having a terrific time on our honeymoon. I can’t say enough good things about the Fantasy. The rooms are spacious, the service is impeccable, the fun is everywhere to be had. A short glimpse of our trip:

The warm weather got my back feeling a thousand percent better on just the first day alone. (The jacuzzi helped too.) We had a terrific time.

But… the moment the cruise was over and we got back on land, something I dreaded happened. After the last cruise I found myself stuck with my sea legs. As the days and weeks went by, I still felt like I was on the ship, swaying back and forth, sometimes almost violently. It wasn’t a pleasant rocking. It wasn’t something that went away after a few days. Several different medicines and several different specialist visits later, we learned I had something called Mal de Débarquement syndrome. It’s super rare. It stinks. There’s no treatment. You just have to wait for it to hopefully subside. Luckily, that time, it did, after a miserable month. (Some people have it a lot longer. Like, even for years.)

Why did I cruise again, if this had happened to me before? Eh, I don’t know. I thought I hadn’t taken the right seasickness meds, I thought it was a fluke, I thought it wouldn’t happen again. But I did everything I could, this time, and it didn’t matter. They don’t know what causes this, but it tends to happen to women in their 40s who get migraines (raises hand) more than anyone else, so apparently I’m the poster child for MdDS. And this time it was worse. We came back from the cruise on January 9. This time it took closer to two months for my symptoms to fade, and they were stronger. Two really miserable months, and I didn’t want to talk about it, or the cruise, or anything much else for most of that time.

Today, though, I’m pretty close to being completely better. I feel like I’m just getting off the ship, in more ways than one. My back is in better shape, the world isn’t tilting precariously, and the snow is melting. So, it’s good to be back, finally. Land ho!

Year in Review – 2015 edition

My fabulous friend Erica​ brought a blast from the past up when she re-found my “year in review” from 2010. I thought I’d take a look again, 5 years later. So with no fanfare and to the delight/boredom of you all — My Year in Review, 2015 version. Some things changed a lot, and others not at all…

20151. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

Went to Disney World. And oh, it was wonderful.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I tried. I focused on being healthier, and stronger. I did my best, but towards the end here, my body’s let me down a little. I’ll do my best again in 2016, and every year after.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

There was that lady on the bus…

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Same bus ride, can you believe it?

5. What countries did you visit?

This one. No others. Not even my beloved Canada.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

I’m still waiting on a teleportation device.

7. What date(s) from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The older I get, the worse I am with dates. So the answer, to the question as written, is none. But there was this one day in the summer, when Dave and I went to Jones Beach. The water was warm and surprisingly clear, and we played in the waves and had an amazing time. I think I’ll remember what a great day that was for a long time.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finally figuring out where I am. GPS doesn’t help you learn the lay of the land, really, not when you just let it take you from point A to point B. That first year on Long Island, I just did what my phone told me to do. This year, I actually have a sense of direction.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Staying healthy, though I swear through no fault of my own. If there’s a weird eye infection or intestinal inflammation, I apparently felt the need to have it.

10. Did you suffer any illness or injury?

See above. In September I had a joyous bout of abdominal adenitis. I don’t recommend it.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My favorite thing that I bought this year was a Kindle Fire for Dave. I was really excited about getting it for him. Also all of his Christmas presents, which I can’t describe here, obviously.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My niece Rebecca graduated from high school and started college in her chosen field, and I’m incredibly proud of her for her dedication and determination. I wish I’d been half as focused at her age.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Politicians. Reality show celebrities. People who care what reality celebrities think. Parents at Disney World who are too focused on cramming things in and don’t let their poor tired kids take naps. Myself, when I’m tired and in pain and irritable.

14. Where did most of your money go?

FredCo, LLC

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Disney World, tied with The Force Awakens

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

“Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? the same
ii. thinner or fatter? slightly thinner, but not as much as I should be
iii. richer or poorer? ask Dave. I have no idea.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Seen my friends.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

Home with Dave and kitties and making sauce.

22. Did you fall in love in 2015?

I always do, every year.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Modern Family

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I pretty much hate all the same people, though a few of them I doubt I can really muster up the energy to care about either way.

25. What was the best book you read?

A Street Cat Named Bob” by James Bowen

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Well, having left my gig at Sony Music, I’m not in the music discovery business anymore. Seriously, anything I “discover” has probably been around for ages.

27. What did you want and get?

True love

28. What did you want and not get?

A cure for AIDS, but I keep up the hope we’re getting closer.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Shortlist
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 43 this year (right?). No recollection of what we did at all.

31. What political issue stirred you the most?

The continuing efforts of some politicians to reach into my uterus.

32. Who was the best new person you met?

My favorite person at Stony Brook Medicine is Bev, who is one of the most fascinating people to listen to, and talk to, that I’ve ever met. She has an amazing outlook, a realistic view of the people around us, a wicked sense of humor, and wisdom up the wazoo. When she retires that place is going to get a lot less interesting.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:

There’s more than one answer to these questions, pointing me in a crooked line.

Random grateful thoughts – Thanksgiving edition

It occurs to me that I’ve never sat down made the traditional “what I’m grateful for” list on Thanksgiving itself. So with no rhyme, rank or reason:

— I am very grateful that my cat Fred is okay. We had a last-minute run to the vet’s office yesterday and as always, I fear the worst. Just an eye infection, which means he’ll like me a little less for the next week or so while I have to put drops in.

— Tangentially, I’m always grateful for my husband, who took Fred to the vet, and takes care of so many other things. You know, I almost said, “I don’t know what I’d do without him” but that’s not true, because I spent a lot of years without him, so I do know what it’s like. It sucked.

— Good health in general is always appreciated. This year I had not-actually-appendicitis adenitis, had an unnecessary cancer scare, and struggled with my back issues. But I think I’m very lucky to be relatively healthy, especially compared to some, and I’m grateful for that every day.

— I am grateful for Chipotle, for cupcakes, for glop, for the best burgers in the world (I’m looking at you, Amherst Ale House), for chicken parm, for spaghetti parm, for anything that stands still long enough to be parm-ed, for peanut butter, and for chocolate. (Wow, my whole mouth just filled up with saliva, there.) Today I’m grateful for turkey, for stuffing and cranberries and sweet potatoes and pie. I’m grateful for the commitment we have made to eating healthy, of course, but I’m also grateful for the days we enjoy our favorite things.

— I am grateful for my friends, and the family I have that are also my friends. I see all of them less than I would like, and contrarily I see people I like less more than I would like, and that doesn’t seem fair. But I’m grateful to have them, wherever they are, nearby or out in the ether.

— I am grateful for stories and books, old and new, for authors who write the things that I read and devour, sometimes over and over again. Thank you for putting the stuff in your head out there and sharing it with me. Similarly, I am grateful for Netflix and all the storie I can find there for keeping me entertained while I’m at the gym.

— Lastly, I am grateful for science, for logic, for the fact that facts are still facts, that math is the same in any language, no matter what politics, religion, or the ignorant may say. It drives me to distraction to witness people earnestly arguing that their opinion negates reality, but at the end of the day those facts are still there, unmoved by such shenanigans. As Sam Seaborn once said, “There are certain things you’re sure of — like longitude and latitude.” Cartography aside, I’m glad that’s still true.

10 fun things about being married

At the Rainbow Room on our anniversary.Today is my second anniversary, and although I’m spending it mostly at work, in the car and in my doctor’s waiting room, I’m also spending it thinking about the great guy I married and how lucky I am. In his honor (and mine), a quick top ten list for us both.

10 Fun Things About Being Married (at least, for us)

  1. Sleeping company. I know a lot of people disagree, but I like having someone else around to sleep with at night. Yeah, it means sharing the bed and the covers and so on. But it also means someone else for the cats to walk over, someone else to turn to and say, “Did you hear that?!” when there’s a weird noise at 3 AM, someone else to ignore the telemarketers that call too early, someone else to talk to when you can’t sleep. I like the company.
  2. Team Kamsler. I may be right and I may be crazy, but either way I’ve got someone who’s promised to be always on my side, right or wrong, no matter what. And I like being part of his team, too.
  3. Feline management assistance. I’ve been outnumbered by Fred and George for years and finally I’ve got someone else to perform minion duty with me. Fred is pleased that our deplorable lack of adequate staff has finally been addressed.
  4. In sickness and in health. It stinks that I get more out of this than Dave does, but then again, I’m glad he’s healthier for his sake, not just mine. We’ve all been there — sick as a dog and miserable, wondering if you can make it to Walgreens for Dayquil or if you might pass out on the way. Now there’s someone to make sure I don’t drown in my own sodden tissues.
  5. Instant Comedy Duo. Dave and I always appreciated each other’s sense of humor, but we’ve got our just-us act down now. It’s like Laurel & Hardy times a million. Secret one-word in-jokes, Friends quotes, and a shared eye roll make the world a funnier place, for just the two of us.
  6. Heavy lifting. I can’t pick up anything that weighs more than a flea anymore, but even without back limitations, there’s some stuff I wouldn’t have been able to budge. Enter SuperHusband, who can lift many groceries with a single arm. Most impressive.
  7. Way Up High. Similarly, speaking on behalf of said husband, he gets the benefit of my being tall. There isn’t a shelf I can’t reach.
  8. Partner in Crime. Dieting, exercising, shopping, it’s all easy together. Unfortunately so is cheating on the diet and being slothful.
  9. Division of Labor. I’m really good at doing laundry, and (weirdly, I know) I actually like doing it. Dave volunteered to be the one who cleans the bathroom and has an (unnatural, in my opinion) obsession with his new vacuum cleaner.
  10. Warm Units. I was even promised them in the vows. My feet are ALWAYS cold at night, and Dave is apparently a human furnace. Who needs socks? 🙂

So happy anniversary to my very best friend and favorite person in the world. 🙂 You are awesome, and we’re awesomer together.

the happiest place on earth

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7472505237Last week Dave took me to Disney World for my very first visit. It really is the happiest place on earth, though in full disclosure, it’s also one of the busiest, most hectic and somewhat expensive places out there too. We had a magical time, but Disney World is a marathon of a vacation, and not for the faint of heart.

We took a Disney cruise for our honeymoon and loved it, but the ships are relaxing — there’s a limit of how much running around you can do, that limit being the ship itself. Disney World, on the other hand, is enormous. It’s the size of San Francisco (not quite as fabulous, but it tries). Twice the size of Manhattan. It’s 25,000 acres and 40 square miles. I think we walked all of them in the four days we were there.

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It’ll always look like a giant golf ball to me. I’m surprised Dave didn’t run screaming.

As an aside, we rented a car instead of relying on Disney transportation. This was a last-minute decision based on me coming down with a thankfully-not-appendicitis abdominal infection two weeks before the trip. The Disney transportation system of buses, monorails and ferry boats is impressive, and I think mostly works well. But we weren’t sure I’d be up to waiting even a short amount of time, when I needed to get out of Dodge. I did okay — just one or two rough patches — but better safe than sorry. We still used transport to get to the Magic Kingdom from the parking area, since you have to. Mostly we used the ferry, which is a nice way to float up to the park, Cinderella’s castle looming into view.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Epcot_7465377710Because I’m a geek, I had as good a time planning our vacation as I did going on it. We made our food plans — ADRs, Advanced Dining Reservations — right away, 180 days out. We didn’t get every restaurant we wanted right away, so I spent the next few months stalking out that elusive Be Our Guest dinner and the pre-park opening breakfast at Crystal Palace until we had everything just right. Then at 60 days out you get your FastPass+ selections — we were able to get one for everything we wanted since we’re not big thrill-riders. And then I found a fantastic group on Facebook for people visiting Disney in September. With slightly over 1600 members, the group was an amazing resource for shopping tips (disposable ponchos are at Dollar Tree! The new Disney Vans are out!), advice about getting around the parks, and trading hard-to-get reservations. I bought a pair of Cleo Crocs on a recommendation from the group, and wore them every day of the trip. Walked about 35 miles in those shoes in 4 days, and no blisters, no pain, no problems.

I was proud of how well I did walking. A couple of years ago, after my back surgery, I couldn’t walk around the block without terrible pain for days. But I’ve been swimming and exercising and getting stronger, and I did okay. For me the hard part is standing, not walking. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of standing (in line) at Disney World. I had some bad moments. But I made it!

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The view outside our room at dawn.

The trip was great. We stayed at the Port Orleans – French Quarter resort, which is small, quiet, and quaint. We liked the pool and we liked our room, but we felt a little too “away from it all”. Next time we’ll probably stay at one of the popular Value resorts. You don’t spend that much time in your room regardless, and the resorts all have great pools when you want to take a break and cool off. (I don’t know how people afford the Deluxe resorts, which look awesome — but some of those places are $500 a night. We’re not poor, but sheesh!)

We went to Rope Drop at the Magic Kingdom on our first day. Just before the park opens, the train arrives carrying Mickey and his friends. Along with Disney Cast Members (CMs) they give a welcome show and the park opens. You have to get up really early to get there (it’s crowded) but I’d heard a lot about it and I wanted to see it at least once. I didn’t know that they sing the “Good Morning” song from “Singing in the Rain”. Well, I lost it. My mother used to sing that to wake me up on special days — birthdays, picnics, field trips at school. I was all blubbery. I so wished I could call her at that moment, but it was a happy moment because of it.

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The “Tree of Life” in Animal Kingdom.

We were in the Magic Kingdom every day, but we also visited Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. I loved the Magic Kingdom, of course, but also really enjoyed Hollywood Studios. Toy Story Midway Mania is a blast, and Star Tours more fun than I could have imagined. The safari ride in Animal Kingdom was a lot of fun, as well as the Kali River Rapids ride — we got soaked! I wasn’t a huge fan of Epcot, though Soarin’ alone was worth visiting and I can’t say enough good things about Nine Dragons, a terrific Chinese restaurant in the World Showcase. All in all, I think we used our time really well — all that pre-planning helped. Dave will agree that for a girl on her first visit to Disney, by the time our trip took place I had our four days planned to pretty-near perfection, and we made the most of a short visit.

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It was so humid I was seriously envying that snow cloud.

We purchased the Memory Maker package and got a lot of great pictures. They have PhotoPass photographers throughout the parks and you walk up and have your picture taken. Sometimes there’s a little extra magic in the finished shot. 🙂 You can buy the photos online individually for $15 each, or you can buy the package for $199 ($169 in advance) and get all of them. We ended up with a couple hundred photographs, about 75 of which we definitely would have wanted — so it was worth it.

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Later he kissed my hand and I blushed. I love Sulley.

We met a lot of characters — having my picture taken with Sulley from Monsters, Inc. was a Disney bucket-list item for me.  I have a thing where I don’t really like meeting “face” characters. I mean, the princesses and all. I can’t get over the fact that I’m a grown woman and this is another grown woman pretending to be Sleeping Beauty. But Sulley, Pooh or Donald Duck? That’s totally different.

EPCOT_CHRCON2_7465493566The characters were great on the whole. Minnie and Daisy Duck make kissy noises when they hug you. Buzz challenged Dave and then danced an impromptu rumba with me. Goofy took one look at Dave’s Goofy shirt and then tried to quit work for the day, figuring this guy had his costume on and could take over. A lot of people think Disney’s just for kids, but it’s not true. We’re grown-ups, but we still love Disney, and we still wanted to have fun and goof around. The characters all understood that.

We shopped a lot. A LOT. The beauty of going to Disney with no kids and not being broke is that when you want things you get them, without worrying about whether you should or not. I got a new Pandora bracelet and charms, we cleaned up at Bonjour Village Gifts (for Beauty & the Beast fans) and Dave got very into pin collecting.

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Hidden Mickeys in the fireworks!

All good things come to an end, though. Eventually it was time to leave. In the moment we were so wiped out, we didn’t think we’d mind. But it didn’t take long for Disney Depression to set in. No one takes our Magic Bands as payment. No one’s told me to “Have a Magical Day” all week. And there are no FastPasses for skipping long lines anywhere. It’s sad.

Good thing our next cruise is in 94 days. 🙂


probably not cancer

daymammoSo while I haven’t mentioned it much of anywhere, or to too many people, I’ve spent the past six months in various states of anxiety over my last mammogram. To give away the end of the story, everything is fine. The problem is, everything was always fine, and those six months of panic could have been avoided by a better system.

I’ve had mammograms before, so this wasn’t my first trip to the rodeo — but it was my first time having one here on Long Island. Back home in Buffalo, I used a particular lab group that had a different way of doing things. We’ll get back to that later. Here, I made my appointment, showed up, put various bits of me in a machine to be squeezed (while it’s not something I’d do for kicks, I don’t find it all that painful), and that’s when the technician said, “Oh, looks like you’ve got a cyst.”

“A cyst?!” I asked, instantly freaked out.

“Or a nodule or lump or some kind,” the tech replied, as if we were talking about a weather system moving in later that day, or a sale at Target. She didn’t elaborate, and I was ushered into the ultrasound room. A different technician directed me to lie on the table. She was taciturn and didn’t respond to my questions. I asked what this all meant, and she told me to hold still and not talk. At this point I started crying, silently as ordered. When she finished she left the room, came back, and said I should get dressed and go home. I asked, again, what was going on. She said my doctor would contact me. I asked to see the radiologist. She said he wasn’t available.

I went out to my car and cried out loud this time. I called my husband at work — something I *NEVER* do in tax season — and talked until I was calm enough to drive home. This was a Friday afternoon, of course. There was no reaching my gyno all weekend. By the time I finally spoke to her on Monday, it wasn’t really much help. She said she hadn’t had a chance to look at my report but had it in front of her now. She rattled off a lot of medical terms that made no sense to me and did say she wasn’t worried so far. I should go back for my recheck in six months and then if there was anything I’d be referred to an oncologist (which is one of the top ten most frightening words in the English language, imho).

And that was it. That’s all the information I got. For six months all I had to hang my ramped-up worried, concerns, fears and panic on was that and a form letter from the lab that said, “We found something abnormal on your last mammogram that we believe is probably not cancer.” There’s something not very reassuring about that phrase. I mean, of course it’s better than hearing “it probably IS cancer”, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing to make you sleep well at night either.  “You’re probably not going to have a fatal accident on the way home tonight.” “You probably won’t fail your final exam.” “The guy who just moved in next door probably isn’t a serial killer.” It’s technically positive, but it whiffs a bit too much of the possibility of the negative.

For six months I worried, I fretted, I told myself it would be okay, I told myself it wouldn’t. I clenched my jaw so hard I gave myself shooting headaches. Dave was there when I was up and when I was down, of course, always, reassuring me everything would be okay. And of course it probably would be, but I still worried. I couldn’t help it. And that worry and anxiety colored everything I did and everything we planned.

Last Tuesday, I went back for my recheck. I started off the day doing relatively alright, but as the morning wore on, I got scared. I spent a half-hour in the waiting room with a locked jaw, focusing on the boring repetitive news reports on the TV, afraid I would throw up if I lost focus for even a second. Finally, they called me in. I apologized to the technician — a different one than last time — in advance, and said I was so anxious I was shaking a little, and would try my best to hold still. She asked why I was so concerned. I told her about the cyst or nodule they’d seen on my last scan, and how worried I was. She frowned. “You didn’t have a cyst, or anything,” she said.

I’m going to make what’s already a long story short and skip past the next 45 minutes, where we did the recheck and I put my foot down and insisted on seeing the radiologist this time. He was actually very nice and did, in fact, bring me in to look at all of my scans, went over everything with me, and answered all my questions. I’m fine. I was always fine. I don’t have a cyst or a nodule or a lump or anything. There was a spot on my mammogram six months ago, so they checked it with an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed there was nothing there. This happens because of something called overlapping tissue. In blunt layman’s terms, when they squish your breast in the machine, sometimes you’ve got a flap of skin or some tissue or something that makes a spot on the mammo. They do the ultrasound to see if there’s anything there. When there’s nothing, they send you home. You have to (and by have to, I mean by law they are required to tell you you should) come back in 6 months  for a recheck, just to make sure they see the same thing.

The nice radiologist told me that yes, he saw the exact same nothing this time. I made sure I understood him correctly and asked the same question every way I could think of. He didn’t waver. But I also asked a lot of apparently unanswerable questions about why this happened this way. Why did the first technician use a word like “cyst” or “lump” to me at all? Why didn’t the ultrasound technician tell me that the radiologist said they’d found nothing? Why didn’t the radiologist himself just explain this all to me six months ago? And this is where I’m giving Buffalo one, Long Island zero, because at the lab I went to in Buffalo, you ALWAYS spoke to the radiologist before you left — unless you didn’t want to. So the person reading and analyzing the scan was the one who went over it with you. The best we could make out what happened here six months ago was that someone wrote a report somewhat badly and then sent it to my gynecologist, who clearly didn’t understand what she was reading and therefore conveyed the information to me very badly, if not incorrectly. I was scared and terrified and confused unnecessarily. The system let me down. Mind you, I’m VERY grateful for my results. I’m lucky, and aware of that. But I’m still downright pissed about the negative effect this bad process had on my life for half a year.

To maybe turn that negative into a positive, thuogh, I’d like to share two articles I found that every woman should read — the first is a PDF about “The Dreaded Callback“, and the second is titled “Abnormal Mammograms Often Terrify Women Unnecessarily“. Neither of these articles minimizes the importance of regular breast cancer screening — it’s incredibly important. But there’s often no reason for it to be as frightening a process as it is. I wish I’d read them before all this happened, but at least from now on, I’ll be informed, and possibly someone else reading this will be too.

Coloring books

catcolorHave you ever sat down to color with your son, daughter, nephew, niece, some other young person, and when they’ve wandered off ten minutes later, you’re so engrossed in your artistic creation you barely notice? An hour goes by and you’re still coloring away? It’s happened to me more times than I can count. Kids’ coloring books are a lot of fun, but now there are more challenging options for adults, too.

Coloring books for grown-ups are popping up on Amazon’s bestseller lists these days — some popular titles are Enchanted Forest and Secret Garden. These books and others like them feature complex, detail-heavy drawings that can take days to fill in, with endless opportunities for creative choices. I very much recommend Creative Cats — I happily spent days coloring in my first selection, proudly shown here. The paper quality is excellent and pages tear out for easy use.

I was kind of obsessed with my crayons, as a kid. I treated them more like toys than tools. I had a Crayola Caddy and would rearrange the various hues according to all kinds of complicated schemes. I was convinced they had personalities — gender, moods, backstories. Yellow Green and Green Yellow, that’s an obvious conflict right there. Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber were having a clandestine romance. And the primaries, simple Red, Blue Yellow, White, Black, these were the ruling classes of the caddy, settling inter-color disputes and passing down judgement on caddy proximity. My crayons re-enacted their own episodes of Game of Thrones on a daily basis, though with less bloodshed and much rarer beheadings. (There was a sharpener, though.)

crayonsSadly, the Crayola Caddy of the 80s is no longer made, but I recently received the Ultimate Crayon Collection as a birthday present, and the possibilities are endless once more.

If you haven’t colored in a long time, give it a try. It’s a great way to relax, to focus, to take your mind off anything but the fierce rivalry between Red Orange and Orange Red, and the fate of Crayola society as we know it.