Saturday, April 26, 2014

Chemical Peel

Born in Michigan to a blonde, blue-eyed father and an olive skinned brown haired, brown-eyed mother, I ended up with dirty blonde hair, green eyes and freckles. Three of my four grandparents were blue eyed. I'm not sure where the green came from, but they’re a point of vanity. They make me feel special even though most people think of me as having blue eyes. The freckles used to be kind of cute, too. Now they’re viewed with suspicion. We have no history of skin cancer in the family, but my dermatologist isn't taking any chances. 

Raised in New York, we resided for a while by a lake and my father had a sailboat on Long Island for years. There were the catastrophic sunburns in Florida- second-degree burns that blistered and peeled. At seventeen I moved to Hollywood and spent my fair share of time by the pool. When I moved to Mill Valley there was a slab if concrete in the back yard that I dubbed the "sun pit". You get the drift. That was before all the years at the girls' swim meets followed by the tennis years. Suffice to say, if I never had another drop of sun on my shoulders it wouldn't be too soon.

At a recent visit to the skin doctor he looked at me and put it quite bluntly. He said he could zap my face thirty times or I could have the blue light treatment. No third option? I guess not. Eric has the same dermatologist and he prescribed the same treatment for him. Forty years on tennis courts and a South Florida childhood had come home to roost.  

We decided to have it done together. Double date. The first question the doctor asked me was if I was ok with having a “vicious” reaction. Apparently, the longer the chemical is left on before the light treatment, the deeper it goes and the “better” the result. The medicine attaches to the pre-cancerous cells and then they peel off. He suggested I might peel for ten days. Eric had gone first so I said I’d do whatever he did. It was an hour and a half. In retrospect, it’s a decision I regret.

After Eric waited for his hour and a half, he spent seventeen minutes under the ultra-violet light. I could tell it hurt by looking at him when he returned to the waiting room. Then it was my turn. If you’ve ever had a lip wax you might be able to imagine the pain. It’s like the ripping part for seventeen minutes. Also like someone is stabbing your face continuously with tiny hot pokers. Ouch!

Afterwards, you scurry home under a hat and stay in the darkest room of your house for forty-eight hours. We have a very light house. With six skylights, it's even bright in the garage. Many of our windows are up high and have no shades. That ruled out the master bedroom, bathroom and living room. We draped the kitchen windows with towels and drop cloths. It was rainy when we went in for the treatment, but four hours later it started to clear up on the way home.

That was yesterday. I cannot express how miserable I am today. Red, itchy, blistery, scaly face with out of control swelling. Pain like the worst sunburn I’ve ever had, along with that chilled feeling. It’s a glorious spring day and miserable to have to stay inside the whole time, but it’s probably just as well. I could scare children if I’m seen in public now. Eric is having some itching but he looks practically normal.

Now that I’ve finished all 775 pages of Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”, I’m at a loss. Agitated, bored and grumpy. As unpleasant (medical euphemism) as this is, I know it’s the right thing to do. I need to get the bad guys off my face. It will heal and I’ll forget about how awful it was until I go back for treatment number two. In five weeks.
The kitchen looks like an encampment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Home Again

Our House
Sometimes you take a trip and end up in the same place. The place where you started.  Maybe all trips are like that. I don't know. I'm getting confused. What I do know is, I thought we were moving in one direction and it seems we're not moving at all. Anywhere.

The house plans went along swimmingly until they didn't. Tilt. Shock number one was looking at apartments. On New Year's Eve we checked out The Cove. It was the emergency back up plan because they accept pets. For $2,300 a month we could rent a tiny one bedroom. But, hey, they take pets.

The Cove triggered a tsunami sized panic attack. The idea of living in a crappy apartment while someone else lived in our house was horrible. And offensive. And horribly offensive. I know. I know. It was my idea in the first place to find a temporary rental, empty out the house so we could refinish all the wood floors, and then stage it for sale. The Cove cured me of that notion. Leaving the house before we had somewhere to go was a bad idea.

Then I realized the plan had another flaw. The part about leaving Mill Valley. The concept was that we would rent until we found something we could afford to buy and if we didn't find anything in two years (which is the deadline to transfer the property tax base) we could buy in San Anselmo or Fairfax which are more affordable. It was all perfectly viable until I realized I don't want to leave Mill Valley. It's home. My post "My Town"  ( says it best. How could I have forgotten all that?

Ruby enjoys the new window seat.
Reconstructing the past few months, and even the last year or so, I can see why securing my future became of such paramount importance. Cashing out seemed to be the right thing to do. Maybe it is. Maybe it's not. It's all in how you look at it. I am such a tricky combination of eternal optimism and doom mongering. Crashing about between feelings of bounty and scarcity, I even confuse myself.

We've done so many projects preparing the house for sale. At some point it stopped being for others and started being for us again. Well, maybe for me. Eric has been so whipsawed by the process, and all the changes of my mind, that he doesn't much care anymore. So much of the work needed to be done to care for the house properly. New hot water heater, new bathroom floors, getting rid of dry rot. It's all good. The landscaping in front was long overdue and is lovely.

Having automatic irrigation at long last is simply marvelous. Installing a lawn during a drought drew some ire, but I knew having timed watering would ultimately save water. We used to put the sprinkler on in one spot and forget about it for two hours. Talk about waste! Anyway, we ended the drought. The afternoon our sod was installed it began to rain and it rained off and on for weeks thereafter. The reservoirs have filled up. You're welcome.

I've always wondered how you know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. As the song goes, when to walk away and when to run. Is it too soon to leave or too long to stay? For jobs, homes, relationships, it's a perennial question. Selling our house is not the problem. Lots of folks want to buy the house. One of our neighbors offered to buy it for an exorbitantly high price, and have me list his for sale. He's never even been inside!

The problem is where to go. For now, the most affordable place for us to live in Mill Valley is our own home. It's partly why there is nothing to buy. People like us can't sell because they're locked in. Things will change. They always do. For now, I'm enjoying being back home, even though I never really left.