Category: Health

The Winter of My Skin’s Discontent

“She couldn’t get any farther away inside from her skin. She couldn’t get away.”
― Cynthia Voigt, When She Hollers

Confession. All my adult life I’ve read the articles in women’s magazines about the perils of winter on a girl’s skin, and I always assumed I got genetically lucky. My skin was largely okay. Even living in a desert state with dry air for years, the only thing that really affected my complexion was hormonal cycles and bad eating (still occasionally guilty of the latter). Then I moved to London. After an initial breakout, my skin calmed down again (many thanks for your advice)…until winter hit.

Team, consider me a convert. The magazines were not, in fact, just lying to promote sales of various products. The desert air has nothing on your old school heater in a city flat. I’ve never experienced the flaking, cracking, and shedding of my epidermis that I have in the last couple of months. Also, as a child I had eczema that mostly cleared up, except for my scalp where it has more or less stayed for the past two decades. Annoying but manageable. Not anymore! My eczema is back with a vengeance and it has become quite painful in areas.

2014-01-24 08.39.32
I’m giving the mirror some serious side-eye here.

Sorry to the more prurient minded among you, that’s not a hickey. It’s but one of the visible patches of winter eczema currently dotting my neck, chest, and face. This one is mostly healed, after a week long battle with medication. I’ve got streaks of it just below the neckline of my supremely fashion forward alma mater hoodie, and a patch on my right temple which took a big enough hit that I’m pretty sure its going to leave some scarring. Drat.

The current arsenal.
The current arsenal, posed in front of the offending heater.

Nivea is currently managing things below the collar bone while my argan balms and are keeping things like knees, elbows, and feet intact. I’ve got my eczema specialist for spot treatment, my moisturizer with SPF for day and my eye cream and Kiehls treatment for night. Lips require their own regimen. Neosporin gets slathered on any point where the skin is punctured, fractured, or generally abused. One heavy duty cream for the nights where they won’t cut it. For the first time in my life I’ve needed the occasional slathering of hand cream after a day out in the cold!

All of this is mostly helping, but I’m wondering if it’s a bit much and if there’s an easier way to keep my skin from falling off. So I’m putting another call out for winter skin and facial care recommendations. RSVP. Before I disintegrate.

Sick. And Tired.

“Sickness is the vengeance of nature for the violation of her laws.”
~Charles Simmons

A child lives above us and it’s been affecting me, not in cute baby ways. This baby must have something wrong with it, possibly really bad colic, and it screams for hours at a time, day and night – but mostly night. I haven’t had three hours unbroken sleep in weeks, but lately it’s been getting even worse both as to noise (which was pretty loud to start with) and duration (which was nothing to sneeze at either). I’ve tried moving to every room of the flat to sleep except the bathroom but it doesn’t work, nowhere is safe.

This whole past week I was sick from lack of sleep. I lost my voice for a while and had to call in for two days, apparently one day leaving a supremely loopy message on my supervisor’s answering machine much to the hilarity of my coworkers. Today I slept until nearly two – completely spacing a lunch date with a friend – who, weirdly enough, had a prophetic dream in which I had to cancel and then saw from a Facebook post from a couple days ago that I was ill and when I didn’t return texts to confirm assumed I was knocked out cold. Which I was. Apparently some of her ESP rubbed off on me because I woke up mere minutes after her phone call and was able to grovel appropriately and reschedule for an early dinner, but I missed a phone call from my sister-in-law inviting us to a nephew’s birthday party dinner tomorrow.

As I type this now, in the mid afternoon, the infernal child is wailing.

I’m exhausted, and I can’t even imagine how the poor parents are coping! I’m pretty sure at least one of them is a student at the university and this is finals week. This is not how I imagined wrapping up my last couple weeks at work and packing up the house…

Love Letter to the Lone Man in My Zumba Class

“Start out perfect and don’t change a thing. Always accentuate your best features by pointing at them. And conceal your flaws by sucker punching anyone who has the audacity to mention them.”
– Miss Piggy

Dear Sir:

In time (a lot of it), this could be you.

In a class of 50+ women, you found a place on the floor and manned dinky little hand weights with the rest of us.  When asked by the instructor who was new, you raised your hand fearlessly, and when asked your reasons for coming, you responded, “I’m just trying to get healthier, and I wanted to try something new.”  Bravo.

Surrounded by girls who looked at you askance, you marked choreography.  You learned to cha cha.  You laughed and had no trouble making a fool of yourself.  When a load of loutish freshman boys walked by the doors to the gym, pointed you out, and laughed, you returned a roguish grin (in no way lessened by the sweat running down your face) and gestured to the ridiculously fit and attractive blonde next to you and shrugged.

In addition to an admirable attitude, your shimmies, dear sir, are magnificent.

Moreover, we saw you checking out that same cute blonde to the right of you, making funny comments to her during water breaks, and offering to turn in her weights for her when class was over.  I watched you fumble cutely to ask her out, sweaty mess that you both (to say nothing of the rest of us) were.  I’m pretty sure I saw her give you her number; I sure hope I did.  I think you earned it.

Sashay on, sir!

Your admirer,


“Didn’t…didn’t you used to have that on the other side?”
– Young Frankenstein

I was an excellent dancer my whole life, but two years of marriage to a man who Does Not Dance has turned my once innate sense of rhythm into a sort of  limping flail.  My toes may be perfectly pointed but my African dance arm circles do lack some finesse, my samba steps may be lightening quick but my “hip hop” (note the sarcastic airquotes) could use some work.  But what I now lack in technicality I make up for in enthusiasm.

Riding a wave of said enthusiasm last night, I decided, “Margot’s in California for the weekend, I’ve nothing else to do tonight and two exercise classes in a row won’t kill me.”

Boredom produces frightening effects in me, kittens.  It was brutal.  But it wasn’t until halfway through class number two that I realized that I was probably doing something personally embarrassing – beyond the obvious movement of my bum in improbable directions.  Then the girl behind me tipped me off, she was staring at my back and every time my gyrations turned me about I got a quick glimpse of her puzzled face.  I pieced it together during the cool down period.  My workout top had a hood, but when putting it on, apparently the hood had gotten turned inside out and stuck on inside my shirt.  Creating a sort of hunch.  That moved about as I did.  Enthusiastically.

"What hump?"

Oh, Darling, NO…

“From the cradle to the coffin underwear comes first.”
– Bertolt Brecht

Talking of working out, the business of getting healthy has given me quite a bit of fodder over the years, but what I saw the running track the other day boggled me.

As I made my way around the track, sans Margot, someone or rather something caught my eye.  My eyesight, never 20/20 and at the time worsened by sweat, took a minute to adjust, and my brain took an even longer minute to process before I could coherently form the thought, “Are those…knickers?”

And lo, minions, they were.  Sort of.

The girl just ahead of me on the track was made up to a ludicrous degree, which (since she was running) looked rather bad; her mascara was starting to run and the carefully applied roses in her cheeks to, er, wilt.  Her hair was a shade of blonde not seen in nature, and her skin an equally improbable degree of orange.  She was wearing an extremely low tank top that provided no, ahem, support as she moved.  But what truly baffled me was that she was wearing a skirt to jog in.

I call it a skirt.  Truthfully it barely fit the description, ending as it did just south of the law.  Loincloth is more appropriate.  And there’s no need to accuse me of clutching my pearls and prudery, if you’d seen it you’d agree.  The trouble with this skirt/loincloth was that every time she took a step it rode up to reveal her choice of underwear, which I will only characterize by saying they must have been desperately uncomfortable to run in…if you know what I mean.

I’ve seen people at gyms spending more time gazing at themselves in a mirror or strutting around the machinery to attract attention, but all that paled in comparison.  Alright, perhaps I am pearl clutching and getting a bit Victorian Aunty in my old age, but honestly?  Knickers on display?  At the jogging track? Really?

Jillian Michaels Is As Evil As She Seems

“I came the simple way, down the stairs.”
“Down the stairs?  To Ursa Minor?  Hey, you must be unbelievably fit.”
– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

On the recommendation of a coworker, a rather impressive sister-in-law, and over a thousand Amazon customers, I picked up Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred.  Amusingly, the DVD case got worked over in the mail and it arrived, ahem, shredded!  (Guffaw)

The DVD itself runs just fine, but that’s more than can be said for us.  J. pushed himself too hard the first day we did it and lost his dinner rather inelegantly.  I’ve been unable to walk without wobbling a bit for the past few days,.  Iimagine a more than usually ungainly penguin bobbing back and forth across the ice and you’ll have some idea what I look like going up and down stairs.

My bum hurts.

In other words, it’s working.  I’m determined to be extremely fit by the time we go off to grad school!

This is Your C. on Drugs

“Like everybody else, when I don’t know what else to do, I seem to go in for catching colds.”
~ George Jean Nathan

Kittens!  I am so sick of being sick!  In desperation I went to the doctor yesterday (which since I’m normally a pretty healthy person, is highly unusual) and in order to calm my swollen throat I was prescribed antihistamines.

The trouble is, antihistamines have a very peculiar effect on me.  About half an hour after taking them I turn into a hyperactive cross between a more than usually destructive two year old and a terrier.  Everything is funny and the only way to live is running around in circles until you drop from exhaustion.  It’s the pharmaceutical equivalent of watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail at two in the morning.  After this high comes the crash and I drop into a comatose state from which not even the zombie apocalypse could wake me.

Even after I do manage to wake up (a dozen or so hours later), the lingering traces of chemicals in my blood stream mean that throughout the next day I will get waves of intense tiredness.  Quite suddenly my head will drop or my vision will blur and I feel like I just need to lie down for a few hours.

Unfortunately this last bit is where I am now and it’s making work more difficult.  I’ve already scattered a package of dried oatmeal all over the floor and caught my fingers in my keyboard and it’s not even 11am.  I’m afraid I’ll do myself an injury long before 5pm.

Walking. Wounded.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
– The Buddha

Chinchillas!  I’ve just emerged from a four day bout with a sinus infection/cold/fever and things are still a bit woozy at chez Small Dog.

J. got it first, poor guy, and just when he was struggling free of it, bam!  I woke up Saturday morning with a fever and chills and it all went south from there.  No amount of vitamin C could put a crack in this thing and I ended up taking both Monday and Tuesday off of work – an unprecedented event.

Anyway, I may still not have hearing in my left ear, my throat may be clogged with gunk, and every time I stand up I may feel dizzy, but you should have seen the pile of work on my desk when I got in this morning!  I really couldn’t have left it another day.  Also, most daytime television is pretty terrible and I didn’t think I had it in me to watch The Price is Right one more time.

Small Dog’s Tips for Curing the Plague:

  1. Airborne.  I don’t care what anybody says, my clan swears by this stuff.
  2. Per Mum’s strict training, drink a large glass of water or orange juice every hour, on the hour to keep you hydrated and to clear out the grossness.
  3. Watch Jane Austen movies, or old black and white classics (my preference?  The Women – the 1939 version, avoid the 2008 remake like the very plague you are trying to expel).
  4. Ricolaaaaaaaaa cough drops.
  5. Chicken soup, not just for the soul.

Hope your weekend was a little more perky than mine.  What did you do?  Share and cheer me up a bit?

Just Roll With It

“And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter.”
– Judges 15:8

Within our front closet lurks a hateful device: The Foam Roll.  The purpose of this thing is to use pressure to stretch and loosen tight muscles, which is all very nice in theory, but when one has an extremely short iliotibial band in one’s right leg that has caused all manner of physiological problems, the Foam Roll becomes an instrument of Dante-esque torture.

To such a person, the Foam Roll combines some of the most horrid ways human beings have come up with to kill one another throughout our creatively violent history.

Purpose: to stretch you. To death.
Purpose: to pressure you. To death.
Purpose: to make you spill your guts. To death.

How does the last one apply, you ask?  Because every time I’ve used the blasted thing I’ve been swamped by waves of nausea and/or actual vomiting.  Admittedly it’s a creative stretch, just go with it.

J. can use this device without so much as a wince whereas there are days that even a light tough on my right leg (to say nothing of putting all of my body weight onto it) hurts like the bleeding devil.  Nevertheless whenever I get a pain flare up or overextend myself exercising, J. will smugly point at the Foam Roll and declare it my only chance at salvation.

He did this the night before last when I limped into the flat after work.  My mature response was a feral snarl and an attempt at a quick escape, which looked more or less like a Quasimodo lurch at a snail’s pace towards our office.
“It’ll be good for you,” he insisting, picking up the hated thing and following.
“Don’t come after me!  It’s not fair, you can out-run me,” I gasped, thumping faster.
“I can out-walk you,” he retorted and thrust the roll at me.  “Use it.”

So I did.  And since he found me five minutes later, clutching the toilet with mascara running down my face, I’m choosing to hate him for it.

Any less immediately painful solutions, ducklings?

She Who Limps Is Still Walking

“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.”
– Aristotle

I have problems with my iliotibial band in my right leg.  The band is too short which therefore pulls my leg bones and muscles in all sorts of directions, which therefore makes my whole leg turn outward, which therefore pulls my spine out of alignment fairly consistently, which therefore causes various problems.  Notably, chronic back and leg pain, particularly in my right hip joint.  I walk with a slight limp, virtually impossible to detect unless something is inflamed and then virtually impossible to ignore.  The upside?  My turnout in ballet was extraordinary!

Kind of like this. With pointe shoes.

Aggravating?  Yes.  Anything to be done?  No.  Any chance it will keep me from wearing heels?  Don’t you know me at all?!

Anyway, the only real help is to keep the muscles and joints strong with decent exercise.  Sometimes, though, I overdo it.  Like on Tuesday.

I did some lunges with those dinky little five pound hand weights while J. was bench pressing far more than I weigh (which is just fine as I find this – and his broad shoulders – all sorts of fascinating, but I digress).  Then I did some other leg exercises and strength training and left feeling tired and pretty pleased with myself.

Yesterday I woke up almost unable to move my right leg.  Bending my knee nearly put me on the floor as my inflamed and shaking thigh muscles wouldn’t hold me.  And as for that hip joint, holy mother of torture! J. tried to help by massaging my calf muscle but after approximately two seconds I beat him off with a pillow and bellows of pain.

“You know what you need,” he said in a firm voice and emphatically raised eyebrows.
Slowly, evilly he gestured towards the closet.

Wherein resides the most exquisitely vile torture known to man…

Next time: Just Roll With It