Wednesday, February 25, 2009

a rite of passage

Yesterday we faced the much-dreaded-by-Mac day where he was going to learn to ride his bike without training wheels. You'd have thought we promised him a visit to a torture chamber followed by a delicious lunch of cyanide by the level of crying and carrying on that occurred as we were getting ready to leave the apartment.

We went to the consulate to practice on the basketball court (remember it's Carnaval here so the consulate was shut down Monday through today). Here's the first photo before they started:

Not five minutes into the "training", Mac told Jimmy that he needed to stand back so Mac could ride the bike without him hovering. He did really, really well (with the exception of this one little potentially dangerous crash.

We might have a bicycle convert on our hands!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the photographic evidence of a medical miracle!

Before the treatment. Photo taken on morning of February 11. Notice The Stain and the freckles and darker spots.

Soon after the treatment. Photo taken 2 hours after procedure on February 11. Notice how BROWN everything is. The Stain, the freckles, everything. How Now Brown (Greasy-at-the-Hairline) Cow!

Today! Photo taken today, nine days after the treatment and today's follow-up with the dermatologist. Okay, so I still have some fine lines and wrinkles. But wow, does my skin look like I'm pre-sun damage???? I am a convert of this procedure AND the use of high-level sunscreen!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

peeling freckles everywhere

This truly is the most bizarre thing ever. Freckles are literally falling off my face. This morning I work up super-early and moved to the couch to read so Jimmy wouldn't be disturbed by the light. As I was laying on the couch, I kept feeling little dry-ish spots on my face, so I went to the bathroom to discover that my face was finally peeling!!! Not all over but definitely in spots. The sunspot (not The Stain) peeled off and I was ecstatic. Needless to say, I helped the process along a little (VERY gently rubbing, but I did nothing extreme). And I did not touch the scab, Scout's honor.

So we went to church and after we got in the car, I looked down at my black pants and saw a freckle on my pants! How weird is that? There was a little freckle surrounded by white skin just laying on my pants. The freckle just fell off my face.

We went to the movies after church and upon arriving home, I realized that part of The Stain had also peeled off. I promise I did nothing but perhaps rub my finger on it. I did not pick at anything. All of The Stain except the scab part is GONE!!! The end is in sight!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day 3 or is it 4?

I'm not sure how days are marked when waiting for the magic 4-14 day limit. I had the treatment on Wednesday morning. So if every 24 hours counts as a day, then we're on day 3. If it's calendar days, then we're on day 4. I'm hoping we're counting calendar days because I'd like to be within the range of the end result.

The part that I smudged with my finger has peeled off a little and there's a little scab now. Oops. Not sure if that's supposed to be there or if I caused it, but it's there. I'm a scab-picker extraordinaire, so I'm really tempted to pick it off and see if "the stain" goes with it. But I have promised Jimmy that I won't - plus I'm afraid it'll hurt - so I don't touch it.

The rest of my Pippi Longstocking freckles appear to be disintegrating. They haven't peeled off or maybe they have? I don't know because I don't see anything visibly coming off my face, but the freckles are breaking up.

This is honestly the weirdest thing I've ever done to myself.

Happy Valentine's Day from us to you!

Friday, February 13, 2009

treatment research

Last night I decided I need to do the research on this procedure that I probably should have done before I had the procedure. I found one website where people could write reviews and it turns out 49% were happy with the procedure and 51% were unhappy. Oops!

But it turns out the people who were happy had similar situations as me. They had fair skin with sun damage, freckles and dark spots - same as me - and the procedure removed all of that.

So I am still hopeful that this thing will work. Because I didn't really understand how the color was actually going to leave my face, my research was helpful. The pigment is being drawn to the surface and within 4-14 days of the procedure, it will all peel away in some fashion. A little weird, but that's what the website said should happen. So I wait.

I am also a little distraught that most people have used this as a beauty treatment. Some people sign up for multiple sessions at a time and go every few months for "rejuvenation treatment." I really just wanted to have that pigment spot removed and now I've joined those people that have had "work" done. I'm disgusted with myself because I said I'd never have "work" done. This is what too many years in Brazil does to you.

But if this "work" works, I may be a little happier and might can live with myself....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pippi Longstocking in the house

Update on "The Stain"

The redness totally disappeared within a couple hours of the procedure yesterday, but it's almost like I became whiter at the same time, which makes the freckles all the more pronounced. When Jimmy got home, he said I looked like Pippi Longstocking without the braids.

An interesting thing happened yesterday afternoon that I hope didn't mess up the whole process. My face was really gunky from the leftover gel and the sunscreen they put on before I left the doctor's office. After a few hours, it was driving me crazy, so I decided to blot it with tissue. When I looked at the tissue after blotting, the tissue was brown-ish. Now perhaps the gel (which had mostly been cleaned off after the procedure) was brown, but I know the sunscreen was white, so was this pigment literally being wiped off my face???

After another little bit, I did my every 20-minute mirror check to see if there was any difference and I noticed "the stain" had a little glisten to it. So I just used my finger to try to wipe it off AND THE BROWN SMUDGED ON MY FACE AND ACTUALLY LEFT A LITTLE SPLIT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STAIN! Kind of like a "Moses parting the Red Sea" thing. So now I'm worried that I screwed up the chemical or whatever sort of process was happening and that it won't go away right and now I'll be left with two different spots. The trials and tribulations of vanity continue.

Today it's raining in Sao Paulo but that didn't stop me from applying the SPF 65 sunscreen the dermatologist told me I had to use right now. I have decided if I'm ever asked to be in the Miss America contest, my platform is going to be sunscreen use for all. Maybe they have a Miss America for middle-aged, sun-damaged housewives??

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

vain. adj. 3. having or showing an excessively high regard for one's self, looks, possessions, ability, etc

My name is Susan Story, and I have succumbed to the call of vanity. For many years, I have had a pigment spot on my right cheek (that the dermatologist so impolitely called "a stain"). I can't really remember when it came to be; I guess I could look at photos and date it. I have attributed it to hormonal changes during my pregnancy with Mac because that's when I can really remember it being noticeable. The dermatologist last week told me that it was sun-related and we could remove it, and I jumped on the bandwagon hook, line, and sinker.

She explained that to remove the spot, she'd apply a topical anesthetic cream to numb the face (by now she'd decided I needed to do my whole face to remove all sun damage and not just "the stain" and when she told me it would even reduce wrinkles and fine lines, I was totally in), then she'd apply a gel and use a laser over my whole face. She assured me it wasn't painful - her words were "I am - how do you say in America - chicken and it was fine for me when I had it done." So I got the next available appointment which was today.

I arrived at her office at 9:30 for the application of the anesthetic cream. Then I waited until I was called back for the procedure with my dermatologist and another doctor as well. My doctor was apparently so taken by the really unnatural whiteness (I prefer pearl-like condition) of my stomach that she felt the need to show the other doctor it before we started. Then they got down to business. They cleaned my face of the anesthetic cream, applied little adhesive strips to my eyebrows (to prevent singeing???), applied this very cold gel all over my face and gave me these little glasses to wear to protect my eyes. The glasses look like what I'd imagine you'd wear in a tanning booth. I have never been to a tanning booth because I prefer my sun damage au natural.

And then the zapping began. It wasn't terribly painful except for the instant the always-surprising flash of light hit the skin. The two doctors kept talking among themselves and of course it was in Portuguese and it was medical lingo which I haven't studied, so I had no idea if they were saying "isn't this interesting that her skin is falling off of her face and she doesn't complain at all". Within 10 minutes they were done and they told me not to panic, that my face was very red but this was normal, and my freckles (and "the stain" we were supposed to be removing) were very dark but this was normal, too. The redness would disappear within an hour or two and my freckles and "the stain" were going to peel off in the next week or so.

So I walked out of the treatment room to pay and wouldn't you know that in a city of 18 million people, there was somebody I knew sitting in the waiting room waiting on her appointment. And I looked a sight, let me assure you. Big red splotches all over my face, freckles that looked like I'd painted brown magic marker on them and greasy residue from the gel around my hairline. I now understand why movie stars get their treatments done after-hours and in very private clinics!!!

I'm now about 2 hours past the treatment and the stinging has totally stopped, the numbness from the anesthetic cream is wearing off, and the redness has now fully encompassed my cheeks so it's more uniform and not as splotchy. But wow, those freckles and "the stain" look prominent!! I am hoping and praying for a quick peeling off of those because I won't leave the house in the present condition. Vanity does have its price. I just can't believe that I paid for it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

another one bites the dust

No, you're not looking in the mouth of an Amazonian piranha. This is the smile of one young Mac after losing yet another tooth yesterday at swim class. That's 6 down and how many to go?

Monday, February 9, 2009

the photos you've been waiting for...

Yes, I know it's in poor taste, but how many times do you get to lay on a presidential bed??

Daniel from the Hilton, Jimmy, me, and former exchange student to Australia and now wife of Aussie Consul General Lisa

Some of the 3000 people who came out for an evening of samba practice

Somebody shaking her groove thing with very little on

My feelings are no longer hurt

For the record, Anonymous and I have kissed and made up (so to speak).

Friday, February 6, 2009

my feelings are hurt

This week has been very, very long and very, very stressful for a number of reasons. So this morning I got my feelings hurt when I checked my email and found the following message:

"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "a list of life to-do's":

6, 43 and 60 are easily done and really good for the soul."

I know this should be like water off a duck's back, but I'm ticked off and my feelings are hurt because apparently Anonymous thinks I'm uncharitable. So to set the record straight:

#6 - We give a lot to charity and we have given more than we felt we could afford before. To say that out loud (or in a blog), though, sounds as if you're putting yourself in for the Mother Teresa award, so that's why I didn't put it there before.

#43 - You're right, Anonymous - buying a meal for a stranger at a restaurant is easily done and might be good for the soul. I'm sorry I haven't done it and I'm sorry that you felt you needed to point that out to me. I have paid tolls for people on toll roads if that makes it any better.

#60 - Of the last 11 years of my life, I have lived 8 of those out of the US where "soup kitchens" don't necessarily exist as they do in the US. Of the three I was in the US, for two of those I had a young baby/toddler and a husband who traveled every other week, so I was a little preoccupied with trying simply to exist without having a nervous breakdown. In my time abroad, I have done work at orphanages, women's cooperatives, hospitals, and training programs, so yes, I have put in some time at other non-soup kitchen charities. The list said soup kitchens and I haven't served soup. Forgive me.

Thank you for allowing me to vent.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

my every-20-year visit to the dermatologist

I decided to visit a dermatologist here in Sao Paulo after a 20+-year hiatus since my last dermatological visit. I have had a lot of sun exposure in the last 2 decades and thought that it might be good to have a checkup, given my fair skin and propensity to burn.

I was supposed to go in November, but cancelled that appointment because it fell during the chaos of the unexpected apartment move. I called yesterday to reschedule and the doctor could see me today, so off I went.

Aside from my seriously dry skin (which I didn't think was that dry but which is apparently near-lizard-like in the doctor's eyes) and aside from the lecture I got about wearing sunscreen (I was prepared for that), she made an interesting observation. She said that comparing my lily-white stomach and my not-so-lily-white chest is a textbook example of sun damage. She said everybody says it's just ageing, but as she pointed out, my stomach is as old as my chest, so if it were just ageing, my stomach would also be dry and wrinkled and rough. Instead it's smooth as a baby's skin. Too bad I can't reverse that damage.

Next week, I'm having this cream/laser-burning treatment on my face to remove some bad spots. I think it's the same procedure that Jimmy had a few weeks ago and he looked awful and said it hurt like crazy, so I'm not terribly excited about this. But the doctor said I will be amazed at the difference in my skin afterwards and so I'm hopeful it'll be worth it.

As of today, I resolve to use lotion on my face daily that actually has sunscreen in it and to use sunscreen on my body that's higher than 15 SPF when we're at the beach or pool. That I currently use 15 SPF at the beach or pool provoked a guffaw of shock from the doctor. She said it had to be 50, but I'm going to compromise on 30, which is still really high, right? I mean 50 is like a force field that nothing can penetrate and you need a little bit of Vitamin D.

I know a lot of you are bundled under layers of cold-weather garb, but I hope you're protecting your skin well!

living life high on the hog

Last week Jimmy and I received an invitation from our Swiss friend Daniel, who is the Food and Beverage Manager at the Sao Paulo Hilton, for a pre-Carnaval dinner at the Hilton followed by a samba school practice.

Jimmy tries to limit his work social events to two nights a week and this made for the third evening out this week. But I'm never invited to the work social events and my dance card for the week was fairly empty, so I insisted that we go.

Then we both had really awful days yesterday, and we were tired and grumpy and neither of us wanted to socialize.


I am glad we put on our happy faces because we were treated to the most sensational evening - one that will definitely be remembered as a highlight in Sao Paulo.

We assumed this was a big affair that the Hilton was putting on, so we were a little confused when we asked the concierge where the dinner hosted by Daniel was being held. He asked us to allow him a few moments to find Daniel. This was odd because why wouldn't he just point us to the restaurant along with the masses of other people who were surely here for the dinner?

A couple minutes later he found us in the lobby and said he'd escort us to the correct floor. He pushed the top button and I just figured they had some sort of rooftop terrace where we might be served drinks before we headed back to the restaurant.


We entered this FABULOUS living room with a view over the river and the new incredible bridge here in Sao Paulo. The kind of view that has those automatic shades where you push a button and they go up by themselves. I could've parked myself on the couch and never left. Other than a bartender tucked away in a corner, we were the only people there so it seemed as if maybe I could just park myself there and never leave. Then Daniel came out with the sales manager and we promptly started eating hors d'oeuvres like sushi and crudite and these marvelous mini-croque monsieurs. It was all very delightful and civilized and we had a great time catching up with Daniel who is one of the funniest and definitely one of the nicest and most genuine people in the world.

We found out the Austrian and Australian Consuls General and their wives were the other guests, so it was an intimate gathering. So the Austrian couple arrived and he made the comment that he felt "presidential" entering the room. I am so clueless that it still didn't register where we were. I didn't know who he was before last night, so my first thought was that maybe he was getting ready to run for the Austrian presidency and my second thought was does Austria have a president??

Then the Australian couple arrived and within 2 minutes of meeting them, we discovered that Lisa was a Rotary exchange student to Australia (she's Canadian) the year after I was there with Rotary and we shared many of the same experiences (except she ended up with an Australian husband and I, obviously, did not).

At some point, the lightbulb turned on in my very dim brain that We. Were. In. The. Presidential. Suite. at the Hilton. We were sitting on the couch where Really. Important. People sat, and there I was dropping a carrot from the crudite tray on the floor.

Perhaps some of you live in a world where this is no big deal. This is a big deal to me because I don't live in that world. So forgive me my gloating because I'm going to regale you with the details of what we ate, the bathroom visit, etc.

So once all the guests were there, Daniel led us the dining room of the Presidential Suite (did I mention that's where we were?). Appetizers came first - a 3-tiered tray (like what you'd serve food on at high tea) was placed in front of each person so we each got a small plate of a cold vegetable salad with shrimp, a mushroom dish, and carpaccio. This was followed by the main course of beef with risotto, which was followed by a cheese course, which was followed by a dessert of tart and ice cream, which was followed by coffee. I believe there were 3 if not 4 waitstaff for just the 7 of us. It was so civilized - the food was excellent, the company was marvelous, the conversation lively and engaging and the location wasn't bad either. A perfect dinner party, all in all!

Then we were given the opportunity to go the restroom (and of course see the bedroom) before we took off for the samba show. As tacky as it sounds, we all took our photos on the bed where people like none other than our former president slept. Some people can say they slept in the Lincoln Bedroom but I can say I reclined in the Hilton Presidential Suite Bedroom. Those photos will hopefully be forthcoming because I, of course, having no idea of what we were doing, forgot to charge our camera batteries and the camera wouldn't work once we got there. I will post photos as soon as I get them.

I didn't have long to check out the bathroom because we were in a hurry, but they did have good L'Occitane products for the likes of Very.Important.People to use. So I pretended I was a Very.Important.Person and slathered myself in cream.

Then we were off by van to the samba school. The school is called Rosas de Ouro (Roses of Gold), and Daniel is actually dancing with them for the Carnaval parade in a couple weeks. They practice a few nights each week in order to improve their chances of winning the whole Carnaval shooting match. (Last year they came in 4th). They started last night at about 11:10pm and went for an hour without a break in the singing, dancing, or drumming. In addition to the dancers and drum corps who are actually part of the school and must come to practice, there were some 3000 people there last night who paid R$20 each to come and dance and watch the rehearsal. It was incredible. The energy was amazing and actually generated heat. It was a very Brazilian, very cultural experience. Where else but Brazil would people come out on a Wednesday night at 11pm to watch people practice dancing? It was total madness but all excellent fun.

As an aside, we met a famous tv host there. I can't remember his name - terrible, I know, but we don't watch Brazilian tv - but he hosts a midday show on Globo and he's the big Brazilian Carnaval announcer every year. He happened to be there last night so Jimmy was introduced to him and I got two sweaty kisses (he was sweaty, not me!), for which he apologized profusely.

We finally fell in the bed last night at 1:30, totally exhausted but completely exhilirated from a really fun and special evening.

Daniel, if you're reading this, thank you a million times over for a fantastic night. It was an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from beginning to end.

Now I need to figure out how to make Jimmy president so I can be kept in the manner to which I could easily become accustomed!