Sunday, March 30, 2008

Under the Wire

March 2008: Treat 2 of 2

A generous serving of Ben & Jerry's organic vanilla ice cream.

On a bed of sliced banana.

With a handful of frozen Thin Mints—the only way to have the Girl Scout Cookie classic—crumbled on top.


A big shout-out to Zach, who talked his way into the market moments before closing time in order to procure the aforementioned Ben & Jerry's.

(And came home with a pint of his own as well.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Again with the Treats

It's official.

I've started fetishizing my twice-monthly treats.

The way this month has played out, I'm almost 27 days in and have not yet had my second treat.

I've noticed that the later it gets, the higher the stakes. What might have been treatworthy a week or two ago has absolutely no chance now.

Treat number two is going to have to rock.

No single scoop of ice cream this time around.

We're talking full-on banana split.

With a layer of brownie underneath.

Or an obscene hunk of Zach's incredible pumpkin cheesecake—the one with the killer graham-cracker crust.

It's got to be something with multiple flavor and texture dimensions.

Oooh—maybe a homemade Chipwich! Zach makes these amazing oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies and slices up a pint of Ben & Jerry's for the fillings. He doesn't even have to roll the edges in chips because they are THAT GOOD.

Out like a lamb, my ass.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Erin Go Bra

I have been thinking a lot about bras lately.

I didn't think about them at all until sometime in middle school. Then I probably thought about them a lot: all the angst about whether I needed one, then all the angst about buying my first one, then all the angst about whether anyone would notice that I'd started wearing one.

We often played Truth or Dare during those fraught adolescent years, and I remember one game in particular. I'd chosen Dare a couple of times and had regretted it, so when my turn came around again I opted for Truth. The boy I'd been paired with gave me that "Now I've got you!" look and threw down the challenge:

"What size bra do you wear?"

I could feel the other girls recoil right along with me. Even in the Age of Mortification, this was too much.

I froze.

Then I did what any almost-teenage girl would do: I huddled with my friends and tried to figure out what to say.

One suggested that I try to back out and retroactively opt for Dare. Even if the boys (who were in a huddle of their own by now) came up with something really revolting, it had to be better than this, right?

Then I realized that a critical fact had been eluding us.

The boys knew even less about bras than we did.

This would soon change, but for now they didn't know the difference between a 32AA and a 36DD.

And that meant I could bluff.

I gathered up my guts, looked my gauntlet-thrower in the eye, and gave my answer.

"Twelve," I said, as boldly as I could.

The gambit worked. My interlocutor looked around at the rest of the boys, and they all kind of shrugged. A couple of seconds later it was somebody else's turn. And I made it through adolescence relatively unscathed, with just a few bra-strap snaps along the way.

Then 20 uncomplicated years went by.

These days, "What bra size do you wear?" is actually a much harder question to answer.

Although I used to be perfectly symmetrical, that adjective no longer applies—either to circumference or elevation. And while some bathing-suit designers are now enlightened enough to sell two-piece suits as separates, allowing for a more customized fit, there's no equivalent in the world of bras—no left/right sizing for those of us in need of independent front suspension.

Which is why I am perennially in search of the magic-bullet bra, the one that looks great, fits great, and feels great—the one that can take fraternal twins and make them look identical.

In my quest, I have stumped professional bra-fitters around the city.

And I have been uncomfortable nearly every day for the past seven years.

If I had jillions of extra dollars, I would happily invest in bespoke brassieres. (Hmm. Wouldn't that be a great business name? Bespoke Brassieres!)

Until then, however, I will continue the search.

And now that I'm a big gym-goer, I'll have to start looking for magic-bullet sports bras, too.

In size 12, of course.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Old Tunnel, New Light

Nearly three years into what was supposed to be a two-semester degree, I had almost given up hope of ever finishing J-school.

The situation reminded me of that old mathematical principle about how you can never reach a fixed point if you travel only half the distance toward it with each step. You get closer and closer but won't ever actually make it.

Well, that's how I'd been feeling for quite some time—like I kept traversing great distances toward the goal of graduation but couldn't quite get there.

Of course, in the mathematical example, the rational thing to do is give up. Or just settle for getting tantalizingly close, and claim victory.

But neither option really worked for me. I'm stubborn (no, really?), and I find it very difficult not to finish what I've started. (I sometimes take this to ludicrous extremes.)

And it would be hard to claim success without an actual diploma to show for all of my very hard work. J-school, dear friends, is not for the faint of anything. At Columbia at least, it is a grueling experience.

Nonetheless, I had begun to reconcile myself to the likely reality that a degree would not be forthcoming soon, and possibly ever. What I had left to do to complete my requirements seemed insurmountable given the other demands of our lives right now, and I knew that the longer I went without graduating, the more powerful inertia would become.

I rationalized that I had already gotten nearly all the value I could possibly hope to get from the program, and that a piece of paper would not confer any more.

True, perhaps, but truer still is that the piece of paper would at the very least give me closure, something I've had precious little of these last few years.

And having that piece of paper would make my already mottled résumé a little easier to explain. I wouldn't have to use the dreaded "degree expected" phrase anymore, and I could stop revising the accompanying date every few months. (I went from anticipating a May 2006 diploma to hoping for one in May 2007, then October 2007, then February 2008. I've completed so many degree applications that I'm surprised I haven't triggered some kind of academic fraud alert.)

More than all of that, I just want to finish something that would be a tremendous accomplishment if done the normal way (that is, in 10 short months) and will be so much more than that after everything that has happened to us from the moment I decided to apply to the program 40 months ago.

And so it is with tremendous relief—and some degree of lingering disbelief—that I tell you that barring something ELSE unforeseen (fate, don't you dare mess with me again so soon), I will collect my degree in about 10 weeks.

I have some serious work to do between now and then, but what once was stubbornly out of sight is now very much within reach.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

New Year

Note: I just discovered this fragment of a post, which I started almost six months ago but never finished. Apparently I hadn't been sleeping well at the time.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was just a couple of days ago. As an adult, at least, I've always appreciated this two-day respite from the entropy I call my life, mostly for the opportunity to reflect back on the past year and gaze hopefully ahead at the new one.

I don't get to spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts these days, even though I seem to have a lot to think about. That quiet time is something I miss very keenly right now, with so many commitments and responsibilities pulling at me, and I was looking forward to the introspection that, for me, comes with attending the high holiday services.

Just before the holiday, I took the train out to the rehab hospital to visit my dad. When I walked into his room, I found him asleep in bed and my mother dozing in the chair next to him. The two of them looked so peaceful that watching them for a few minutes made me feel rested, too.

Originally drafted on 9/15/2007, 10:08 p.m.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Exactly seven years ago, a doctor I had met only once broke the news to me that I had breast cancer.

He did it over the phone.

It was a Monday, and Zach and I had spent the weekend on tenterhooks. The previous Friday, I had gone in for what was supposed to be a baseline mammogram and walked out bruised, bandaged, and utterly blindsided, with a sonogram and biopsy added to my tab.

The same doctor told me that 80 percent of the time, breast biopsies were negative, so we spent the weekend being logical and rational, not getting ahead of ourselves when the statistics seemed to be so persuasively on our side.

We hibernated, not wanting to talk to anyone else, not wanting to answer the most pedestrian conversational questions about how we were or what was up, not wanting to needlessly worry our families.

We did everything we could to distract ourselves until the phone rang, detonating the cancer grenade that had landed in the middle of our lives.

Two weeks, six books, and three surgical consultations later, I was in the O.R., about to be relieved of half the reason I'd been wearing a bra for the past two decades.

And a month after that, I rolled up my sleeve and watched the first dose of colorful poison drip into my soon-to-be useless vein.

Here I am, seven years removed from that initial jolt and still so connected to the anguish that followed.

Perhaps some moments arrive with such force that their impact never fades.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


During my first (and so far only) meeting with a trainer at the Y, I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork in order to participate in the Personal Fitness Program.

One form asked me to list my fitness goals and then, underneath, the obstacles that could prevent me from reaching those goals.

I don't remember exactly what I enumerated as my goals, but I have no doubt that they were the same tired chestnuts that everyone trots out: feel better, live longer, be healthier, tone those areas that might still be tone-able, etc.

Under obstacles, I listed limited time, unpredictable schedule, and cold weather. (It was really cold on that particular morning.)

The trainer laughed at that last one—I don't think he'd ever seen it before. But then he thought about it for a second and said that more people should probably include it on their list.

I didn't really think about my goals and obstacles again until last Thursday, when it was 18 degrees outside. (And by "outside" I mean on the "sunny" side of the street, when the wind got distracted for a second and momentarily stopped blowing at hurricane strength.)

And still, I dragged my not-yet-toned butt out of bed at an excruciating hour and hoofed it to the gym, where I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill.

Somehow I think I got more of a cardio workout during the 40-minute round-trip commute, what with breathing in the arctic air and fighting the wind resistance every step of the way.