Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hadassah Arms? No, Michelle Lives in the White House

Travis Long/The News & Observer, via Associated Press
This article about Michelle Obama in today’s paper reminded me about Allison Olmsted, a colleague from my days in New Hampshire, who once wisely quipped that “No one over 30 should ever wave on the beach.”  Indeed, Michelle Obama is the exception that makes Allison’s rule true.

For years, my sister and I always jokingly referred to those jiggly flaps of skin—often found on older and (mostly) Jewish women we knew—as “Hadassah Arms.”  Meaning no disrespect to either the women or the organization, it was a reference that reflected our world, and quickly became part of our family’s vocabulary. 

The clincher came, though, when one of us said something to our Aunt Claire about “Hadassah Arms.” Not understanding the reference, she thought we were talking about an apartment building!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Yom Kippur Browse

Yes, my dad and I maintained our minhag yesterday and after a bit of schmoozing following the morning service at temple, we drove down the road to Barnes and Noble for our annual Yom Kippur browse.

Increasingly (and as I wrote last year), it seems, the store is filled with more “stuff”—stationery, school supplies, writing journals, calendars, photo albums, e-readers and the like—and fewer books, and this year was no exception.  Nonetheless, ignoring our hunger, the thick, earthy smell of coffee from the cafĂ©, and several rowdy teens, we each managed to find a few books, a chair and enough energy to thumb through our selections until it was time to return to temple for the afternoon service.

While my dad perused The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, Explorers of the Nile:  The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, I went back and forth between two hefty selections:  Les Miserables and The Fountainhead.  Of course, the hefty selection I should be reading right now is Bureaucracy:  What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It, all of whose 464 pages are supposed to be read by the time I get to class on Monday night.  Better get to it... 

In the meantime, stay tuned to find out what my dad and I actually end up reading in 5773—especially once my thesis is finished in December, when I’ll be able to choose my own books instead of having someone else choose them for me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Tattoo Tutorial

Because I’ve been so very forthcoming about my ongoing BRCA journey, I need to fill you in on today’s adventure—not only because it’s a milestone on the journey (the last official step in the reconstruction process that started 14 months ago), but also because it happened to coincide with the beginning of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) week.

So, here we go…

A few minutes before 10 a.m. this morning, I checked in on Foursquare at Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion on 53rd Street.  Up on the 10th floor, I checked in again—this time with the receptionist in the Plastic Surgery suite.  About 10 minutes later, I was in one of the exam rooms (at this point, I think I’ve been in all of them), where I met Casey, Dr. Mehrara’s physician’s assistant (PA), who, if she was so inclined, could moonlight as a tattoo artist in the Village.

Initially, had the setting been a bit different, I might have mistakenly believed I was at the Clinique counter in Macy’s, trying to find just the right shade of lipstick.  As she applied each option to my skin, Casey would comment:  "This one is too orange…  I think this one’s too pink.  Let’s see what happens if we add a little brown to this pink one…"

Once she and I agreed on the color, we moved on to pick the size of the areola, using what looked like one of those kitchen gadgets that lets you measure how much spaghetti to cook based on the number of servings you need.  With the tentative measurements and pigments marked on my body, Casey called in “the boss” who OK’d our handiwork.

With that approval in place, she got down to work.  Because there are few if any nerve endings in the abdominal tissue that now masquerades (quite well, I think) as breasts, the actual tattooing didn’t hurt, although I could feel the pressure of the needle.  In one spot, there does appear to be some nerve regeneration going on (this is a good thing), so she applied some topical Lidocaine before taking up the needle again.  Once she was finished, I got a quick look at my newly tattooed (but also very red and bleeding) body parts before she applied antibiotic ointment and covered them with non-stick gauze anchored in place with medical adhesive tape. 

Armed with written instructions and all the supplies—non-stick gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, petroleum jelly, adhesive tape—I’ll need to care for my new tattoos for the next week, I was back in the waiting room by noon, ready to make my next appointment, which is now scheduled for January.  Thirteen blocks later, my new tattoos and I were at 633 and I was at my desk, catching up on emails from earlier in the day.

No, definitely not just another day in the office, but rather a personal milestone worth marking in some indelible way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#BlogElul 24: Giving

In honor of #BlogElul 24, I'm GIVING you an opportunity to read my post over at

In the New Year, may I GIVE generously--of time, of money and of myself to those who need an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry upon, a leg to stand on, or a friend with whom just to be.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

#BlogElul 21: Can You Hear Me Now?

My sister, a true New Yorker, always says that when it comes to guys, apartments and jobs, you just have to go with your gut.  I happen to think she's right on all three counts.

As the years tick by, I find that my both my heart and my gut speak to me quite often and, reliable body parts that they are, they're generally spot on, not just about guys, apartments and jobs, but about lots of other important--and not so important--things.

In 5773, I hope that my heart and my gut will speak to me often and--most of all--that I'll have the good sense to hear them when they do.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Love: A Tongue-in-Cheek Reflection for #BlogElul 18

Dear Love,

I'm exceedingly grateful to have you as part of so many of the blessings in my life. I've got loving family, supportive friends, a great synagogue community, work I enjoy, a healthy body, a comfortable home, meaningful opportunities to stretch my mind, and the list goes on... Without a doubt, my life is rich and full in countless ways.

And yet, how nice it might be if the new year were to bring a mensch around every once in a while. Perhaps we'd start with coffee, just to test the waters. If it all goes well, we might progress to dinner and a walk. If we're lucky, there'll be some common ground, lots to talk about, ample laughter, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, we're onto something good.

If by some chance, you think you might be able to help direct guys my way in the new year, I'm happy to give you a few pointers based on my previous experience writing "ads" about the type of guy I am (and most definitely am not) seeking.

Ready?  Here goes...
  1. I’m 49, so when I say late 40s or “age appropriate,” I don’t mean 28 and I don’t mean 57. Forty-eight to 55 would be great.
  2. I’m Jewish and although not religious in the traditional sense, being Jewish is an important part of my life in a liberal sort of way. Therefore, Jewish guys who still retain some attachment (even if it’s just cultural) to their heritage are most desirable. 
  3. Although I’m not looking to get married again (at least not at the moment), I am also not interested in meeting guys who already are married or are not quite divorced. If you're going to send me guys, it would be great if you could limit your selections to those who are single, fully divorced or widowed.
  4. I don’t have a specific “type” in mind when it comes to guys and I don’t much care about hair color, eye color or that sort of thing. At the same time, at 5’5”, I do appreciate guys who are at least 5’7” or 5'8". Please feel free to let your pool of candidates know that I’m height and weight proportionate (and stay that way with the help of a treadmill when I can fit it in). I’ve got long, curly auburn hair, brown eyes and a great smile.
  5. Much more important to me than looks, though, is that you do your best to send me a mensch. Of course I don’t expect perfection (I’m old enough and seasoned enough to know that it exists only in fairy tales and the movies), but would love to spend time getting to know someone who is honest, gentle and kind, seriously interested in finding the right somebody and not into playing games. I don’t really care about how much money he makes, whether or not he travels annually to the Caribbean or how many electronic gadgets he owns. Speaking of electronic gadgets, though, if we do decide to meet and chat over coffee or a drink (my preference for a first get-together), it’d be nice if he’d turn off his iPhone and put it away. Having it out on the table would just be a distraction for both of us.
  6. I live and work in Manhattan.  Therefore, a Manhattan guy would be great, but I'm also open to guys who live in the other four boroughs, as well as close by in Westchester or New Jersey. Florida, Maine, and upstate New York, however, are a bit out of the question. Some consideration of geographic boundaries would be greatly appreciated. 
  7.  I know that these are tough economic times, but gainful employment is a big plus as are solo living quarters unless, of course, the guy shares space with his kids – either full-time or part-time. (Although I don’t have any of my own, I believe that children come into our lives in many different ways and I’m definitely open to having other people’s kids in my life.) 
  8. If Mr. Right is going to write initially, please keep in mind that although I don’t expect the Great American Novel, a few brief, well written sentences about who he is, what his life looks like, and the positive attributes he'd bring to a meaningful long-term relationship would be appreciated. Most undesirable in the response category are one-liners, canned text, and photos with no words (and no shirts). 
  9. Although I know that you won’t necessarily send me a guy who’s a carbon copy of me (that’d be boring), it would be great if he and I shared some values. High on my list are honesty, integrity, intellectual curiosity, ideas, family, friends and other things money can’t buy. 
  10. Lastly, to make this thing really work, I hope you might be able to send me someone with whom I have that all elusive chemistry. Ideally, we’ll have an emotional, intellectual and physical spark that together we can coax into a wonderfully warm and glowing relationship. 
Love, I know this is a tall order, but as always, I'm hopeful that 5773 will be the year that I meet my bashert, and I'm counting on you to help.

~ JanetheWriter.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

#BlogElul 15: Health

Last year during Elul, I received this message from a friend:
Wishing you the sweetest, most joyous, healthiest and most undramatic of years to come....  I would offer a prayer that you be inscribed for a good year but I think you've already pushed God out of the way and written it in yourself! (It's okay; I have it on good authority that God likes being pushed around by the likes of you.)
He was referring to the lengths to which I’d gone during the last year and a half to remain healthy and free of a disease to which I have a genetic predisposition.

In 5771, I spent a total of six nights in the hospital, had two major surgeries—first this one, then this one, which was 12 hours long and included immediate reconstruction using my own abdominal tissue—and stayed at home recovering for weeks…and I wasn’t sick.

In 5772, I had a minor same-day procedure to tweak the results of one of the earlier surgeries and spent a week recovering at home.

In the earliest days of 5773 (just before Yom Kippur), I’ll have a minor, in-the-plastic-surgeon’s-office procedure to put the finishing touches on the most recent surgery.  Early in 2013, I’ll have follow-up laser treatments on some heavy-duty scarring caused by a wound and, if all goes well, I will be D.O.N.E.

Although I’m not sure that I “pushed God out of the way,” I definitely made some tough choices that, even as the whole ordeal fades into the rear view mirror, have left me with deep physical and emotional scars.

In 5773 may these scars continue to fade and may we all be inscribed for a year of health and blessing.