Thursday, January 27, 2011

Job hunting with Miss Tasha

As we all know, yours truly is trying to eke out a bit more money from her hardscrabble existence, so that I can a) pay my bills, and b) keep Kona and Timmy in the style to which they’re accustomed. And those are not necessarily in the order of importance.

Plus, because I try to keep up-to-the-minute on any and all latest trends, it also occurs to me that there may be some of you out there in the blogosphere similarly looking for work in what has charitably been called a “challenging” job-hunting environment. So, as part of my mission to always offer the most helpful advice to my sixteens of readers, I’ll start sharing with you some gems of wisdom that you too can apply to your own job hunt. No need to thank me – that’s what I’m here for.

So, to begin. As I am always alert to any tips that I read in the paper, I was intrigued by a column in the Chicago Tribune the other day from their resident job search guru, about “creative” ways to handle the process. Okay, I can be on board with creative. This was the first tip:

Go to the coffee shop or the gym

Apparently one is supposed to go to these places and start chatting people up, those that you think look appropriately managerial. I guess that would be the frazzled people who come in early in the morning for their jolt of caffeine before they head off to their jobs? You know, as opposed to the unemployed folks who are actually hanging out in the gym or coffee shop all day.

“Go to a Starbucks or gym, for example, in a neighborhood where managers live and start conversations, asking managers about their businesses, listening for their needs and offering solutions.”

Because I am all about test-driving the unknown before I foist them on you, the unsuspecting public who isn’t as armed to handle catastrophe as I am, I decided to try this out this morning when I went to my local Starbucks for Kona’s scone and my coffee. Here’s how it went:

Starbucks Jesse, making another woman’s coffee before she gets to mine: Hey Tasha, how’s it going? Barbara, how are you?

Me: Where’s my coffee?! Ha, just kidding. Hey, I thought you were only friendly to ME, and now I see that you’re chit-chatting with everyone! What’s that all about?

Other woman, laughing: I think we’re both special, part of a select few.

Jesse: Yeah, that’s it!

Me: Hmm, okay then, I can live with that. (To other woman) So you’re getting a coffee before you head off to your high-powered job at some random company which is what exactly and would I perhaps want to work there because you know I’m really brilliant so you probably need not just someone like me but me specifically to help your company before it hits the skids, right?

I finish with my usual bright, winsome smile. For some reason, the woman grabs her coffee and bolts. Hmm. I guess I need to work on my delivery a bit.

Then there’s this tip:

Become a stalker

Okay, so it doesn’t say that exactly, but that’s the gist of it. No, seriously.

“If you have a specific company or job in mind, try parking lots in office parks and warehouse districts. Hang out at conference hotels and choose seats on trains and in airports next to people with laptops.”

The part about sitting next to people at airports with laptops will have to wait until my next flight, but I’m looking forward to that one. I speak from experience here, but there’s nothing that a business traveler working on that all-important presentation appreciates more than a crazed job-seeker sitting next to them firing questions. So I’ll report back on that.

As for hanging out in company parking lots, this morning I had to go to the grocery store, so I decided I would take the synergistic approach and swing by the WGN building on my way. They’re a tv station – surely they need good writers for the stuff their on-air people blather about, right? Story or research people? Sure.

So I head on over, and realize mistake #1: since it’s 10AM, most people have already gotten to work, and the only parking is waaay off in the distance. Well, most legal parking. Since that clearly won’t do for my purposes, I just pull up in the emergency lane so that I can see people right as they walk in or out of the building. And wait. And wait some more. Damn, it’s cold. I finally see someone peek his head out…but no, it looks like it’s just security. I’ve started the car to keep warm, and am blasting some Shinedown to keep myself entertained, when I see someone in some kind of uniform headed outside towards my car. I’m sure he’s just bringing me coffee or something – after all, aren’t all of us lowly cogs in the corporate wheel in this together? – but I suddenly remember my need to be elsewhere, so I drive off. I think I’ll have to try this again in summer, when it’s a bit warmer. I’m sure that’ll make all the difference.

As always, I will report back.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Doubling down on crazy

Sunday is the most insanely long day in creation, and I wind up catching up on emails at 2AM because I can’t sleep. Then finally, Monday! Yay! I head downtown and park on my usual Tammy “Stand By Your Man” Wynette floor, and thank god there are no lollygaggers today as usual, because otherwise there might have been a death or two. Not mine.

The small waiting room after you’ve gone in and changed into the flimsy hospital gown

First it’s just me, and then more women troop in, until there are about 6 of us, a regular caffeeklatsch. I think about asking one of them if they brought a bundt cake. Then the older, frazzled-looking woman next to me starts talking.

OFLW: Blah blah blah waiting blah blah blah keep a close eye on me blah blah something in situ.

Me: Oh, you had DCIS?

OFLW: Yes, I think that’s it. Something tiny that they found but it’s been ten years and I haven’t had any problems or anything since then. Thankfully, because that would be the worst thing to have to go through!

Woman 2: DCIS, that’s what I had.

Woman 3: Oh, me too.

Woman 4: So did I.

Woman 5: Me too.

What the hell kind of crap is this? How in the world did I wind up with my appointment on “lucky older women who had what most call pre-cancer” Day, while I’m the token representative of the Huge Honking Tumor group? OFLW is still yammering about “God looking out for (her)” and “being too stubborn to get cancer”, and I start looking around the little room for a frying pan, preferably cast-iron. Surely they have such things on hand?

Talking to the mammo tech while she’s setting up the machine

Me: At least it’s nice and warm in this room – the waiting room is kind of chilly.

Nice tech lady: They do try to keep it warm in here, though they have to be careful so the machines don’t overheat.

Me: Oh great, what happens then, do they start smoking?

NTL: Ha ha! They……umm, I don’t know. I think we just need to wait until they cool off.

Me: That’s good, because I tend to have bad luck with such things. My friends call me Schleprock.

NTL: No, really? Mine too! They always tell me that if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.

Me: Me too!

NTL: I did have good luck once for a while…

Me: Lucky you!

NTL:….but it didn’t last.

Me: We’re a great pair here then.

NTL: Well, maybe our bad luck will cancel itself out.

Me: Ah, good point, like matter and anti-matter. I like that. Yes, let’s go with that theory.

I then get the little stickers that they give you to put on scars and such to protect them from the evil death rays from the mammogram machine. Okay, I don’t know what they’re for exactly, but they come from these rolls of stickers and have flowers and hearts and balloons on them, which I always find amusing. But NTL informs me, after I ask, that no, they do not in fact come from the craft store or the dollar store, that they really are special stickers. Who knew?

When I get out, I go back to the little waiting room, where thankfully OFLW is not in attendance. I wait, and wait, and wait, imagining all sorts of dire scenarios, whereby my films are so shocking and scary that Dr. Jeruss is trying to muster up the courage to tell me that I’m doomed. Because I’m sure that’s what she’d say, too: “Tasha, I hate to tell you this, but you’re doomed.” Right.

As I ponder an escape downstairs to get a tea latte, I’m then bustled into another room for an ultrasound. The lump is apparently nothing to worry about, though they’re not sure exactly what it is, but then the tech calls in the radiologist.

Nice radiologist woman: Okay, so this lump that you’re feeling, I don’t see anything there, and….hmm….

Hmm? I look over at the screen where she’s focusing on one little area under my armpit. You know, where those pesky lymph nodes are.

NRW: Hmm….

“Hmm” again??? What the hell?

NRW: There’s this lymph node….I’m sure it’s nothing, but….hmm……maybe…you know, you just sit tight, I’ll be right back.

Great, the lump was a red herring, and now I have a pesky lymph node to worry about. Just super.

NRW, coming back: Okay, you know what, we’ll just keep an eye on this node, so instead of having you come back in a year like we normally would from now on, we’ll see you in sixth months. But really, it’s nothing to worry about!

I decide to just go with this. They’re not worried, I’m not worried. I eventually see Dr. Jeruss, and she’s her usual chipper wonderful self, not worried at all. Which is great – except for one tiny thing. And that’s that I often think that our doctors – those of mine and all my CancerChick friends – have little understanding of why we tend to freak out at every little bump or ache or weirdness or just whatever’s going on that’s new and unfamiliar. To them, the chances that any of this is the cancer coming back is remote.

This is the problem with that thinking: some would look at us and say oh, you shouldn’t have gotten cancer in the first place, so the chances of it coming back are infinitesimal.

We look at that same info and say yes, we shouldn’t have gotten cancer in the first place, but since we did in fact win the shit-luck lottery, that means we’re not very fortunate people in the first place. And it means that cancer cells know how to grow in our bodies. For whatever reason, they do, and that means they’re more likely to come back. Because whatever reason we got cancer in the first place, that hasn’t changed, if it’s something in our genetic makeup or bodies or environment, nothing’s changed. I’ve read studies that show a clear linkage between secondhand smoke exposure growing up and BC in pre-menopausal women. I’ve never smoked myself, but that doesn’t change the fact that my dad smoked like a fucking chimney my entire life. Which I’m actually not bitter about – there’s no point to that, since it’s unchangeable.

But the fact remains that we’re younger women with aggressive fast-growing cancers, not 65-year-olds with 3mms of DCIS.

And there is no cure for breast cancer.

We’ll never be able to “get over it.”

We see our friends die on a regular basis, these lovely beautiful smart funny women who leave a gaping hole in the world when they leave. And we rage about the unfairness of it all.

So no, we’re not paranoid or hysterical or overreacting – we’re fierce about protecting our health and being diligent about anything that could be something. And we don’t really care if you think we’re being ridiculous. We’ll continue to be ridiculous until we die of something else – hopefully many decades into the future.

Monday evening

Stan comes and gets me, and we go to Moody’s Pub, for celebratory onion rings and sloppy joes and hot-cider-with-rum. As we clink glasses, I bask in the joy of being alive. Because yes, my life is rather sucky at the moment, but no matter how sucky things get, it’s still great to be alive. This is something I’ll never stop appreciating, especially after an all-too-frequent cancer scare. I may want more out of life, and feel I deserve more, but for tonight, just being alive and cancer-free-ish is good enough. I’ll take it.

What crazy feels like

I was fine after finding a lump in my breast (note: not “boobie”) last Saturday. Really, just fine. Until I remembered that at my last mammo, they kept calling me back for more films, where they were focusing on some seeming abnormality – right in the spot where I had just discovered this seeming lump. Hmm. Thus the rest of the weekend was as follows:

Saturday, mid-afternoon

Kona and Timmy are roughhousing, as usual, and as usual Timmy winds up bonking me in the lip with his hard little Dobie head. Dammit, that hurts. As I’m feeling my lip to see if it’s bleeding, I start bawling. Bawling! Not quite in a Nancy-Kerrigan-why-me kind of way, but in an

“I don’t understand what the fuck went wrong with my life somewhere along the way – here I am, old, single, broke, alone, with cancer, can’t find work – what the fuck? How did it all end up this way? I know life’s not fair, but this is just fucking ridiculous”

sort of way. I am just a bundle of cheer today, yes sirree.

Saturday, later afternoon

My friend “Stan” (aka Keith) calls me back, to give me a hard time as usual.

Stan: Blah blah blah. So what’s new?
Same shit, different day. Aren’t you keeping up with All Things Tasha by reading my blog?
I’ve been on the road for work – I’m not exactly hooked up to a computer all the time. I haven’t even checked my emai….
Me, interrupting:
Email, schmemail – I don’t care about that stuff. But you should be reading my blog religiously, like all those who truly love me do.
Okay, I’ll read it, and send you a dollar every time I do, how’s that?
That would work, I guess. So in addition to my usual sucky life, I found another lump. I’m doomed.
Stan: Uh oh, that’s not good.
Me: Yes, so as I was putting away my Christmas ornaments, I was thinking of the one you gave me, the cute fishie with the pouty lips. So cute. (sigh) I just hope I’m around next year to put it on a tree again.
Oh, don’t say that!
Me: Yeah, I guess that’s a bit morbid. Hey, where are you? I hear rustly sounds in the background.
I’m on a Metra train.
Oh, awesome! Now you can be one of those loud people having inappropriately personal conversations on your cell phone. “WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY ABOUT THE CANCER? IT MIGHT BE BACK? IS DEATH IMMINENT?”
Stan: There’s only one other person on the train.
Oh, damn. That’s not quite the same. So if anything happens to me, will you make sure my awesome Christmas ornaments and my Helga picture go to good homes?
Okay, that’s it. You know what? Cancer won’t have a chance to kill you, because I will.

Saturday evening

Whee! I discover a bottle of margarita mix with the tequila already added in the frig! This constitutes a joyful evening here, folks. I of course post something about it on Facebook, and immediately, my CancerChick girls are right there to join me in teledrinking. In fact, Kim and Melinda are there with the telebottles of wine – and then Noreen joins us. Yay, par-tay!

2 hours later

Me: Sniffle, I loooves you girls! You’re the only ones who understands me, sob. Here’s to the sisterhood! Hiccup

To be continued…..

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hunkering down

My faithful fifteens of readers know that Miss Tasha has been having herself a bit of a tough time with the whole money situation. Business is slow, I still have all these goofy-ass medical bills to pay plus my own insurance costs, etc. and so on, and due to all that, I was getting into a bit of a panic, though I wasn’t quite there yet. As my dear friend Adrienne told me, “This is no time to panic! Unless it’s a perfect time to panic.”

It’s time to panic.

You see, while as my resume will attest I’ve done a lot of great contract work over the past number of years - work that my clients have been thrilled about - my one truly steady source of income has been the market research work I’ve done for one particular company that specializes in such things. For ten years now – yes, ten – I’ve researched and written reports on a vast range of topics, from soup to gardening to footwear to oral care. You name a consumer good, chances are I’ve written about it. All the editors I’ve worked with have loved my work – and no wonder, considering some of the other writers they’re dealing with.

I have seen some of this other work. It has not been pretty.

So imagine my surprise and shock when I discovered just yesterday that I’m not being assigned reports due to…..who knows. Some random concern about timeliness? Which begs the question – if a report that’s turned in on time is deemed by the company to be not on time even though it is on time, in how many ways can one’s head explode? So that’s clear as fuck-all.

Concerns about quality? Hmm, let’s see. There was a report that I did in November that the QC guy (who needs to justify his existence to the company) took issue with. Living as he does in the tony enclave of Kenilworth, he apparently was unclear on a few concepts as far as research that I put into the report were concerned. What? People are struggling with a poor economy? Business at second-hand shops is booming? No!

And then there’s the work for the company that I’ve taken on the past that’s consisted of rewriting – yes, entirely rewriting – the shoddy work that other writers have done. There was the entire consumer section for one report, which consisted of statements like the following:

“Black people buy more biscuit dough because it goes well with their fried chicken, which they love and eat constantly, which is also why they will purchase items with the Aunt Jemima symbol, as she with her nappy hair and broad features represents the down-home cooking of their childhood, with chitlins and other black foods.”

No, I’m not making this racist shit up.

Then there was another report where, also in the consumer section, the Asian consumers were referred to as “boat people,” or, for a cute little colloquialism, just “boaters.”

Clearly, that’s some quality writing there.

So it’s unclear why I’m suddenly and inexplicably and with no warning persona non grata. Hell, I didn’t know there was a problem until the report-scheduling guy ignored all my emails, and didn’t respond to one until I called him and left a message, as he ducked that call too.

I can only conclude that their new research director, a woman with editing experience but no background or experience in actual market research, is perhaps fearful that The Cancer is contagious – kind of like cooties. Or maybe she thinks I’ll suddenly be stricken by a sudden bout of The Cancer! Like gout or something. That’ll render me somehow unable to complete my assignments. This is the kind of forward thinking I suppose the company wants to be known for, always alert for any possible problems on the horizon, no matter how remote. After all, that report that I was assigned that happened to coincide with my cancer surgery, bike crash, broken collarbone and brain injury two years ago – yeah, I finished that one. Even though I couldn’t even type at the time. But you never know, so one must always be alert for potential shirkers.

Now, I know what you’re all saying. You’re saying “Now Miss Tasha, be that all as it be, we ain’t here to hear ‘bout your problems, we be here to learns abouts the training and stuff, and fo sho to be some kind of entertained!”

I realize this. I’m one of billions of bloggers out there, a minute speck in the Blogosphere, and I’m sure if I depart, by tomorrow there’ll be six wanna-be bloggers to take my place: The Shake-Weight Route to Pasadena, and so on.

So in that vein, I present to you my latest in diet advice, that I’m sure will hone my already-almost-perfect-athlete’s physique to an even greater state of perfection. We all remember my Stillman's diet, which proved to be a bit tricky on those long bike rides:

The there was the liquid diet, which was certainly a happy one, though perhaps not the most productive.

My current one, therefore, is borne out of Need and Opportunity, or as we call it, Neeportunity. This is akin to when you’re on a bike ride and need to do some intervals, and you see a hill so you ride up and down it, even if said hill is on someone’s property. Or when you’re on yet another long ride and need some quick fuel, so you stop at a nearby donut shop. This is the kind of opportunistic thinking that’s made me the goddess I am today.

So for my latest diet, it occurs to me that I need to a) not spend money I don’t have, and b) get my ass in shape for this summer’s cycling adventures, to include my Crazy-Ass Bike Ride Across Iowa, or CABRAI. I think that’s what it’s called. And who is it that has enough food stored in her place to last through the next millennium, due to her Ukrainian-bred tendency to buy food in bulk when she sees it in a store? Yep, yours truly. I honestly think I can go months living on what I have in the house, between the cans of tuna and frozen chicken breasts, and so on. Oh sure, scurvy might be lurking around the corner due to a lack of fruits and vegetables, but you can’t have everything.

Because you see, the timing of all this – and the unexpectedness of it – is really shitty. Not only do I have the regular bills, plus what I’m sure will be an early property tax bill (unlike the fall one, which they delayed by several months until after the election), as well as the root canal that I need, but…. I also found a lump in my breast this morning. The right one. The cancer one.

Now, do I really think this is anything? No, I honestly don’t. I really think it’s scar tissue or the port that I still have in there, or even a frisky meandering implant. Though it’s a bit of dejavu that I have my every-six-month mammogram schedule for Monday – which is just what it was like for my original cancer diagnosis.

So I don’t think it’ll be anything, but at the same time, it pisses me off, because my first thought was, oh for fuck’s sake, can’t I get a fucking BREAK around here once in a while? And I don’t mean a break that’s just a lack of bad news, as in “oh whew, it’s not cancer.” Or like the Ukrainian National Anthem, Ще не вмерла Українa, which translates to Ukraine is Not Yet Dead. Gee, yay.

And I don’t even mean I need the seriously amazing luck, like winning the lottery. No, I just want a garden-variety decent something happening in my life. Oh, you know, like say having one of the many potential projects I have out there actually come to fruition, where some company realizes – hey, you’re exactly the kind of brilliant person we need, you with your fan-fucking-tastic resume and your amazing experience!

Seriously, is that too much to ask of the universe?

Apparently so.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The orphans need your help....

Before I move on to my next post, which will be related to training (I can hear the gasp of excitement already!), I’d like to take a moment for a Jerry-Lewis-esque appeal for cash. Well, not cash outright, but rather cash in the form of a raffle ticket purchase.

Yes, as part of our effort to raise more funds this year so that we can help more orphans, IDR is having a Mega O’Rama Raffle – at least that’s what I like to call it. Big Money! Big Big Big! For purchasing just one $10 ticket, you have the potential to win BIG MONEY! Okay, so I don’t know exactly how much – it’s a 60/40 raffle so the amount depends on how many tickets we sell.

Why is IDR so important to me? Well, for one, it did bring the love of my life, HRH The Kone into my sad little CancerWorld. He makes me laugh or smile every day, and these days, that’s saying a lot. And IDR helps dogs like my rascally little impish foster Tiny Timmy.

And then there’s Miracle. Our Miracle dobe, who some of you know from following along on Facebook. Who was found near death after being dumped in an alley in Gary, IN – and luckily the shelter down there called IDR, and of course we said YES, we can help him, YES, please send him to us. Because that’s what we do. This was Miracle a week ago:

And this is him the other day, taking his first tentative steps after being unable to walk.

Walk? Hell, he couldn’t even lift his head when first brought in – and they couldn’t even get a temperature reading on him. But IDR helped him – because that’s what we do. We take in the old, the sick, the heartworm positive – all the ones that certain big shelters in Chicago pawn off on rescues because they’re not “perfect.”

They’re perfect to us, all of our babies.

Even when we want to kill them, after they’ve peed on our bed. (Thanks Timmy!)

And we’re beyond grateful – beyond! – for all the donations and love and support inspired by our Miracle boy, but the more funds we can raise, the more of Miracle and Kona and Timmy’s orphan brothers and sisters we can save. But we need your help.

The irony here in my asking you for this is that Miss Tasha is beyond po.’ Miss Tasha be sellin’ biscuits on the corner pretty soon to try to make some money. (Wait, biscuits? Wha...? I think those are the drugs talking. Or the whiskey.)

So yes, I have a fan-fucking-tastic resume, great experience, and many happy former clients, but can’t find work. WTF? But I’ll manage. And I’m not so po’ that I can’t offer up my standard PRIZE offering for those who buy an IDR raffle ticket! Yes sirree, while I have yet to open my own Fuck Cancer Emporium, which is still in the works, I’m still willing to procure an FC hat, and will raffle it off to anyone who lets me know that they bought at least one IDR raffle ticket (and you can do that via the website here). Just email me or comment on this post – we’ll go with scout’s honor here.

And if you can’t donate yourself, please pass this around far and wide. Let’s help this Little Blog That’s Sweeping the Nation do some good for a change! Let’s let freedom ring! Let’s say, yes we can! Let’s get Tasha some help before she completely loses her ever-loving mind!

Oh, where were we? That’s right, my shameless plea for cash for IDR. Maybe, just maybe, if you’re one of the people who’s ever eked out a tiny bit of amusement or joy or fuck-YEAH-glee from my blog, you’ll want to pay it forward by helping IDR. Or you’ll at least think about it. That would be good too. The orphans – and I – thank from the bottom of our respective pawsums, and heart.

The path to greatness - what it takes

Armed with my salt rinse solution – and yes, I started going places with a little vial of salt in my purse – I then turned to finding a dental practitioner. Which was how I wound up at Brushin’ on Belmont, a place that I drive by every day after leaving the dog park with The Kone, and which got good reviews on Yelp. Hmm. I should have been wary when I called and they insisted I tell them which specific tooth was causing the problem. Umm, if I knew that, I might just pop that sucker out using the ol’ string-and-doorknob method, eh?

But I go in anyway. And it’s a very nice place, and conveniently close, but…..

Dental technician: Okay, which tooth is the problem?
Umm, I’m not sure. The whole right side of my mouth and jaw hurts, the pain isn’t from any one tooth.
But you have to pick a tooth!
Really, I have no idea – but this tooth did crack about a mont….
Perfect! We’ll take an x-ray.

They take an x-ray of that one tooth, and then the dentist comes in.

Dentist: Okay, this tooth is clearly the problem. You need a root canal.
But are you sure? Why is the pain so widespread? I can’t even tell where it’s coming from!
That’s normal – the nerves wrap around like that.
But….don’t you think there’s an underlying infection?
No, I don’t think so – it’s just that tooth that needs to be fixed.
But…can’t I have some antibiotics just in case? I swear I think there’s an infection causing this agonizing pain.
I really don’t think you need any…
PLllllllllllllllleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaseeeeeeeeeeee……….my first-born for some antibiotics!

Good lord, now I’m sounding like a junkie looking for Percocet or whatever the narcotic du jour is these days. Luckily she acquiesces, because I’ll be damned if I’m leaving without them. And I’ll be damned if the antibiotics don’t actually start to work! Yep, within a couple of days, the pain is drastically reduced – imagine that. But I still need a dentist, because I have no confidence that I’ll get a root canal on that one tooth and that’ll solve the problem. I don’t believe the dentist actually even looked at my teeth – and then charged me $107 for the privilege of the sole x-ray and the consultation which consisted of a 5 minute conversation. Not too shabby – for them.

Thus begins my quest anew for a new dentist – and though I get a lot of good recommendations, I go with the one of my friend Alton, who raves about his guy, Dr. Codel. And here was my first conversation with them when I called to make an appointment.

Me: I have a bad tooth that’s causing horrible pain. Well, it might be one tooth – I’m not really sure. I need a dentist who can figure that out.
Nice appointment girl named Bernie:
Okay, I can help you with that!
Me: B
ecause I really can’t take it anymore and I just went to another dentist and they said it was this one tooth but I don’t know and I’ve taken to popping whatever pills I have at home and drinking whiskey….
Did it help at least? The whiskey?
Well, kind of. Or at least it just knocked me out. By the way, sorry I’m babbling, but this has just been horrible, I can’t sleep, the only that helps is a salt rinse so I’m walking around with salt with me at all times…
Oh no, you’re fine! It’s always good for us to have as much information as possible! Oh, what kind of dog do you have?

She hears Kona and Timmy barking in the background, and after I tell her, she waxes eloquent on how much she loves dogs. So that’s it, that’s all I need to hear. I’m talking to people who are okay with my nonsensical babbling, and they love dogs. Score! Well, it’s not like Yelp was much good, now was it?

Finally, the big day – and thankfully, by now the pain is almost gone. We’re down from 24-hour pain, to maybe a couple of hours a day. Huh, imagine that. I’m chit-chatting away with Bernie, who’s wonderfully awesome, when I get sent back so that Dr. Codel can check out my teeth. And lo and behold, he actually does a pretty thorough inspection, and as he looks at my x-ray, we start chatting.

Dr. Codel: Oh, I see you’ve had a root canal on this adjacent tooth.
Yeah, my teeth have always sucked, no matter how well I take care of them.
Dr. Codel:
Hmm, interesting….
Dr. Codel:
Oh, the way they did the root canal. See how they used a screw? A ridged one no less? Those aren’t really used anymore, because they have no give or flex, so there’s a greater chance your teeth will crack or break.
Oh great – I’ve been paying big bucks for shoddy dentistry.
Dr. Codel:
Well, it’s just that there are so many more advanced techniques. For example, some endodontists are using carbon fiber inserts for root c…
Me: Wait.
WHAT??? Did you say……carbon fiber?
Dr. Codel:
Oh yes, absolutely – there was even someone who insisted on a titanium cap for a tooth.
Me: Titanium?? So you’re saying that to match my titanium collarbone, I could have a carbon fiber TOOTH? And then a titanium cap? Okay, that might be a bit expensive. But an AERO TOOTH?
Dr. Codel:
Well yes, that’s one way of looking at i….
SWEET! Sign me up! Root canal, here I come!

I give the “V” for victory sign, as I think most people do when they’re told they need a root canal, yes? And yes, Dr. Codel does check out all my other teeth to make sure they’re not the problem – and then after giving me a referral to a root canal specialist, doesn’t even charge me for the consultation.

But clearly the bigger lesson here is that the path to greatness is never easy. Look at me, for example – not only was I willing to completely shatter my collarbone so that I could have a titanium collarbone (i.e. the very definition of aero), but I also got The Cancer (implants = more buoyancy for swimming), and finally the toothache from Hell (= an aero tooth). Now, I’m not saying this is why I’m known as the Triathlon Goddess – but, this is why I’m known as the Triathlon Goddess. Are you willing to do what needs to be done to reach my exalted stature? Yeah, didn’t think so…..

A long day's journey into Hell

Sartre said that hell is other people, but clearly what he meant to say was this: Hell is a toothache. I mean seriously, WTF? Since when is pain so unrelenting, so all-encompassing, that it can’t be contained by all the god-given narcotic-based drugs modern medicine has given us? I shake my head.

It all began a few weeks ago now. No, forget that – about a month ago. No, forget that – about 2 years ago, when I stopped going to the dentist. Why? Well, I had all these stupid medical bills to deal with thanks to The Cancer, and enough doctor appointments to contend with, and oh yeah, there was the fact that at the time I was going to the dentist EVERY 3 MONTHS (I have crappy teeth) yet would still wind up with cavities, a need for root canals, etc. Plus when I did get work done, it seemed a bit….sub-standard. I mean, I’m no expert, but it seems to me that a filling shouldn’t fall out a couple of months after it’s put in as you’re eating corn on the cob. Neither should a tooth that’s been worked on crack when you eat a peanut. I’m just sayin.’

So where was I? Oh yeah. Hell. My foray into hell began that erstwhile month or so ago, when a back molar cracked. A piece of it fell out or something – I think that’s the technical explanation, piece displacement. But it didn’t really bother me, other than making me think, “humm, I guess I should find a new dentist and hie myself there one of these days.” But that was as far as it went. Until Hell arrived. Yes, Satan and all his minions in the form of the most god-awful tooth pain this side of the Mississippi. So terrible that I couldn’t even pinpoint which tooth specifically was causing the problem. The entire right side of my face hurt, from pain radiating through my jaw, to my front teeth.

And nothing helped. And oh yes, I tried it all, starting with the drugs. First I went small, mainlining ibuprofen. Then I thought, what the hell, that won’t do anything, and ramped up to the hydrocodone I had left over after a recent surgery. I waited about 30 seconds, and since there was no instantaneous relief from that, I next pulled out the big guns: the oxycontin.

Okay, so they were mere 5mg tablets from 2 years ago, hence with the potency and strength of baby aspirin, but again, nada. Damn.

At this point the damn tooth pain was keeping me awake, so I figured I might as well pull out the laptop and do some work. You know, at 2AM.

Then, miracle of miracles, a bit of advice came along from wunderperson and friend Jennifer Pick, who asked me if I had tried a salt rinse. Well no, hadn’t even heard of such a thing, but it was worth a shot. And lo and behold, it worked, it worked! Sure, it only took the pain away for a brief period of time, but hell, that was WAY better than where I started out. This may well be the most important piece of advice you ever get from this little blog, my friends: toothache = salt rinse.

Of course, this didn’t preclude me from looking up other DIY remedies on the interwebs, which was how I wound up trying a mouth rinse…..with whiskey. Which, may I say, is one of the most heinous things known to man – so I wound up just doing a shot (or two) of whiskey, trying to make sure it hit the right side of my mouth going down.

So to recap my efforts – 800mg of ibuprofen, hydrocodone, oxycontin, then whiskey to top it off. Don’t try this at home, kids.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yet another Mecca

I know, I know, sometimes I come across so many Meccas, I could pass them out like cheap party favors. It’s a gift, I suppose. So there I was in Boston (and yes, we’re still back in 2010, so sue me), visiting my friend Jennifer as we started making our plans for the weekend.

Jennifer: So I’d really like to do some shopping, but I also need to head to the Christmas Tree Store.

Jennifer’s Aunt Kate: Oh, good luck with that, I never go there.

J: Tasha, do you have Christmas Tree Stores?

Me: Umm, what’s that? A store that sells Christmas trees? Or is it like one of those pop-up stores that show up around Christmastime each year for a little while?

J: No, nothing like that. You’ll see.

Me: Okay.

Great, I’m thinking. This should be less than thrilling, as I imagine the typical pedestrian Michael’s Crafts Store-esque kind of place, all dusty and anemic, with schlocky holiday decorations galore, like plastic garland that’s been there since the Eisenhower administration. Whee. Well, I can put up with anything for a little while….

That Saturday

We head up to New Hampshire to the Christmas Tree Store, so that we can live free or die and not pay taxes on stuff. Damn, I love that. We’re in good company as we pull into the parking lot, as there are swarms of people descending on the CTS, as well as the other stores in the strip mall.

Jennifer: Let’s get a cart.

Me: Seriously, a cart? Do you really think we’ll buy that much stuff?

Jennifer: Just in case, let’s get one.

I step into the store…..and it’s like WonkaLand, if WonkaLand were a massively cavernous store packed with every kind of holiday decoration imaginable. My eye catches something in the corner – ooh, look at that shiny wreath!

Jennifer: So Tas….Tasha?

Jennifer realizes that she’s talking to a vapor trail.

Five minutes later

I’m wandering around in a daze, not quite sure where to start. There’s everything here! And it’s all so CHEAP! $1 Christmas dishtowels! Decorative snowmen! Adorable wall hangings! I’m stunned.

Me, talking to myself in a wonder, dazed: This is…it’s like some kind of BizarroWorld.

Cute guy next to me pushing a cart: BizarroWorld - that’s exactly it! Best way to describe this place!

Me: It’s just….we don’t have these where I come from.

CG, wryly: Ah, you see what you’ve been missing out on?

I think I’ve just met my soulmate at the CTS.

Ten minutes later

Me: Jennifer, where the heck have you been? You have the cart!

I dump an armload of stuff into the cart.

Jennifer: But I thought you…

Me: No time for idle chitchat! There was the cutest reindeer figurine I had my eye on, and that festive cookie platter….. (dashing off)

Five minutes later

I’m standing there with yet another armload of stuff, perusing the figurines and trying to decide if I want the reindeer in a Santa suit, or the snowman similarly attired. Hmm, decisions, decisions. Then who should come walking up to me?

CG: I see you found some stuff, huh?

Me, sheepishly: This place is like the Borg.

CG: It’s a vision of Hell.

Me: Resistance is futile.

CG: Exactly! It’s like a bar – you go in for one drink, and then….

Me: Give up hope, all ye who enter here….

We smile at each other, in perfect understanding and totally harmony with the world. Alas, I'm leaving in 2 days, so we're destined to be nothing more than 2-people-clutching-snowman-figurines passing in the night. Life is never fair....

Five minutes later

Me: Jenn! Jenn! Did you see these adorable gift bags!

(I dump another armload of stuff into the cart.)

Me, adding: Are you done shopping yet? Now that I’ve picked up a trinket or two, I’m done.

Me, magnanimously: But if you want to shop more, you go right ahead! I’ll be patient.

I smile beatifically. I honestly have no idea whatsoever why Jennifer tried to leave without me, no clue at all…..

Next up: Getting aero in all ways possible.....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Denied at the stripper store

There’s time before the next session, so the girls all rush up to Command Central, aka my and Kim’s room, so that we can use the interwebs to find a solution for Cori. Being a Philly native of sorts – ahem, having gone to Wharton for my MBA – I recall that South Street is a bastion of all things bizarre and eclectic, and if there are going to be any slutty nurse outfits anywhere, it would be there. Sure enough….

Cori: Great, I called this place and they’re open until 5PM – let’s hit it, ladies!

One contingent branches out to hit South Street, while another one decides to stay and listen to the seminar “So Cancer Has Caused You to Forget how to Put Makeup On.” The suspense is at a fever pitch…

On South Street

Cori is standing in front of the erstwhile stripper store, and sure enough, there are stripper outfits galore in the window. Victory! But wait, what’s this? The door is locked. Hmm.

Cori: Okay, let’s go down the street and check out what else is around here – hey, is that a condom store? The store person here probably just went in the back to go to the bathroom or something, and locked the door.

The girls explore all the wonders that South Street has to offer and then Cori makes the fateful call.

Cori, calling the stripper store: Umm, hi, I was just at your store? And the door was locked, but I called earlier and the person said you guys were open. Are you?

Stripper store person: Yes, we’re open until 5PM. But you have to dance.

Cori: Dance? Umm, okay, sure. We’ll be there soon.

Dance? Cori figures, as do the rest of us, that this is some weird deal they have where you have to dance to get in, prove yourself worthy or something, in some bizarre South St. tradition. She decides she’s up to the challenge.

Cori, knocking on the door of the stripper store: Helloooooo?! Are you open?

A guy comes up to the door, unlocks it, and peers out at Cori.

Stripper store guy, coldly: Yes?

Cori: Hi, I’m the person who just called, to look at your merchandise? You are open, right?

SSG: We are, but by appointment only. And we’re not taking appointments…..(he looks her up and down)….today.

And he proceeds to close the door in Cori’s face…..and lock it.

Yes, denied. Not just denied, but turned away in spectacularly humiliating fashion, in front of all the denizens of South St. The outrage among the girls is palpable. What, Cori doesn’t look enough like a stripper?? What the hell?

Meanwhile, back at the conference….

The “How to Put On Your Makeup Such That You Look Like a Clown” seminar is over, and the girls have gathered back in the big ballroom for the closing remarks. There’s been an exhortation to get up and dance, and other bizarrely jiggy stuff, and now it’s time for what we are all referring to as the Kumbaya Moment – where everyone is sitting at their tables holding hands, contemplating their place in the world and what they’ve learned along this Incredible Journey that is The Cancer. The room is hushed, except for a few sobs here and there, as people are overcome with the emotion of the moment. Patti has put her iPhone on the table in front of her, and amidst this reverent hush, suddenly there’s the distinctive “ptoodoolooh” sound indicating that she’s gotten a message, which all the girls sitting on her side of the table can see:

“Cori got denied at the stripper store!”

Now, I’m not quite sure if the snorting uproarious laughter that followed is enough to get all of us blackballed from the conference next year, but well……if it is, it was worth it.

That evening

Cori is devastated at her inability to get a simple fricking slutty nurse outfit in the entire burg of Philly, and so, as we all try to console her, she takes to drink again and mumbling about how we all need to take The Man down, i.e. the asshole who shut the door in her face at the stripper store.

Cori: What, like my Boobages aren’t good enough?? Look at these puppies! Just look at them!! Some of Dr. Fine’s best work! I mean really, what the hell?? I’ll sue, that’s it, I’ll sue! Mental distress to the Boobages!

This sounds to all of us like a fine idea, though this could also be the alcohol talking. Who can say?

The next morning

We’re cleaning up the hotel room, and as I peek in the fridge, what do I find? Eggnog! The magic elixir that I had bought at RTM yesterday, and totally forgot about! Yum.

Kim: Eggnog? Where’d you get that?

Me: Oh, I bought it at Reading Terminal Market yesterday, from the Amish-looking folks at that one end selling the juices and milk products. Omg, this is the best eggnog I’ve ever had.

Kim: I thought you were boycotting the Amish?

Me: Did I say they were Amish? I misspoke. With all the black they were wearing, I’m pretty sure they were……Hassidic Jews. Yes, that’s it – I think the Hassidic Jews are known for their fine eggnog, no?

I really don’t know why the girls look at me so strangely at times – really, it’s a puzzle….

The quest continues...

As has been noted previously, these conferences aren’t all fun and games, not at all. This means that while Cori is still AWOL, many of us are at the first seminar, having chosen the “Cooking for Health and Wellness Even Though you have The Cancer and None of That Stuff Really Makes a Difference” one. I figure at the very least we’ll get some tips on using quinoa and other miracle grains, or turmeric, which is apparently a miracle spice. Who knew?

Instead, we get some otherworldly version of the SNL Delicious Dish ladies:

First cook: “Boy, I’ve always wondered what something like this ingredient could be used for. Hmm.”

Second cook: “Oh, you mean the salt? Why, that’s a GREAT question! Let me tell you ALL about it!”

And so forth.

But then we get to the heart of the presentation: the cooking. And first up on the agenda – muffalettas! Yes, the classic N’Awlins sandwich that’s piled high with meat and cheese and all sorts of yummy things. In fact, they set the anticipation level pretty high through their slide presentation, which shows them getting fresh ingredients from Reading Terminal Market that morning, and lo and behold, there’s a picture of a muffaletta, about a foot high, stacked with every meat and cheese imaginable. Sweet! This will probably be a slightly healthier version of that, I’m thinking.

“And now, we’ll show you how to make……an Almost-Like-a- Muffaletta -Salad!”

Hmm. Okay. I guess that can work too, if you substitute lettuce for bread and still pile it high with the good stuff. I try to pay attention, but Katie and Melinda are just chattering away like magpies.

Me, hissing: “Pssst! Pssssssssssssssttt! Girls! Can we pay attention here please? I’m trying to learn how to make a muffaletta salad that seems to bear no resemblance whatsoever to the sandwich of the same name.”

Now surrounded by the proper kind of respectful silence, I gamely listen on, waiting for the part at the end where they’ll surely pile on the masses of meat and cheese, right? Right now they’re taking half an hour to make the homemade dressing, which is really just glorified oil and vinegar.

“Then you use some freshly picked peppercorns from your adorable little rooftop garden, and put exactly 12 of the roundest looking ones – I like to use this special device to make sure I get ones that are round and not oddly misshapen – into your mixture that I’ve just taken half an hour to prepare…”

“And then, to finish it up…”

I perk up, eagerly waiting for the muffaletta part to come in.

“You garnish it with this sprig of jicama, and voila! Your Almost-Like-A- Muffaletta -Salad!”

Huh? As Cori’s husband Dan later points out, that’s not a muffaletta salad – it’s a fricking garden salad. No wonder guys don’t go to these conferences – they’d never stand for this stuff.

Then it’s on the pumpkin soup – where they lose me basically right from the start.

“So for this, you want to start out with a fresh pumpkin that you’ll hollow out and cook yourself – and then you want to pop over to the market like we did and pick up a huge piece of fresh ginger, like this! And then spend hours slicing off pieces for the soup – this will really require some muscle power!”

Okay, now seriously folks. No offense meant to the organizers of this conference at all, because they did put together an immensely well-run event – but these two are talking to a bunch of cancer survivors here. Most of us are broke, none of us have tons of free time, and if we do, we’re not going to spend the day traipsing to the market to pick up fresh ginger root to grind, m’kay? So telling us how to spend literally hours making one batch of pumpkin soup isn’t all that helpful.

Finally, they’re winding things up with my favorite part: dessert! Whee! This would surely have to be good, right?

“For dessert, because sugar is BAD BAD BAD, we picked up a whole bunch of these different kinds of seeds and nuts, and we’ll make a paste out of some of them, then sprinkle in a carob chip or two…”

That does it. Carob? Also known as one of the most heinous substances known to man?? It’s time to take matters into my own hands.

Me: “Whoopie pie, anyone? I bought them this morning at RTM. Look, there’s chocolate, and here’s a red velvet one…”

Our cooks yammer on as our table partakes in whoopee pie goodness. Finally, this seminar is over, and who should come bustling in?

Cori, bustling in: “You guys won’t believe this! I couldn’t get anyone to open up the slutty nurse outfit store, so I’ve been looking ALL OVER this city and haven’t found anything so far. I must have that outfit!”

The sisterhood springs into action….