Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Top 15: I’m Thankful For…

15. Twenty-two percent of my fantasy football team’s starting lineup (Willis McGahee and Rob Gronkowski) getting injured on the same day for the rest of the fantasy season.

14. Robert Griffin III playing for the Redskins and Tony Romo playing for the Cowboys.

13. My two-month diet ending the same week I start a new job at an office that seems likely to provide consistent holiday treats.

12. My five-year-old laptop approaching death just when new ones are available at slashed holiday rates Hanukkah and birthday gifts subsidize the majority of a new one.

11. The thirteen-year-old car my parents bought me when I was 15 still breathing Never having a car payment.

10. My leanness and left-hiplessness leading to a 26-inch waist that adds an additional tailoring cost to every new pair of pants (men's pants begin at a 28-inch waist).

9. My direct-from-Vietnam tailor selling suits so cheaply that even though she screwed up my suit pants and has not sent corrected ones after four months, the perfect suit jacket itself is still worth the full price.

8. Moe’s Southwest Grill just down the street from my building offering two Coke Freestyle Machines. The second is necessary after I deplete most of the flavors from the first on “Moe Mondays”.

7. The one-day gap in health insurance before my new policy begins occurring on a Saturday when I plan to sit on my La-Z-Boy all day I’ll be at a wedding in Charleston doing fun things.

6. No short-term health insurance policies offered for a single day (the minimum is one month).

5. Nothing unordinary happening to me on December 1, 2012.

4. The word "turducken". John Madden "booms" through football game cover

3. JD and me not screwing up Thanksgiving dinner as we take over duties from my mom while she rests her healing foot.

2. Not being allergic to turkey.

1. Sucking up to the turkey spirits to ensure nothing unordinary happens to me on December 1, 2012, despite me eating several pounds of that critter today.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Fiber: My November Cancer Peep

Mom’s Poor Feet

I want to sit down with boxes of the least nutritious breakfast cereals, a bowl, spoon, and a carton of almond milk in front of the TV for an upcoming Cheat Meal. My dad thinks I’m crazy to “waste a Cheat Meal,” but I think he’s crazy for not yearning for Cinnamon Toast Crunch. In my teen years I ate my cereal dry, which I accept is a little crazy, though I still enjoy it.

While receiving cancer treatment 11-12 years ago, dry cereal and pretzels were all I ate. My mom stashed shoulder bags with mini boxes of Kellogg’s and General Mills in the living room. For all 14 cycles of chemo and 6 neutropenia admittances she lugged those heavy bags around for me, her poor feet taking the brunt of the force.

After my cancer surgery my mom carried the cereal bags while pushing me in a wheelchair. The balance required to push and turn, while preventing the cereal from dropping and crumbling, caused lateral tension on my mom’s poor feet. I don’t blame her for running me into walls and doors. She may have even run me over her own poor feet.

While visiting me after my transplant, my mom spent much of her days on a recliner. But the hospital chose a knock-off La-Z-Boy that jerked up and down and was too firm. My mom’s poor feet would have been better off if she ran shoeless on hot coals or splintered particleboard.

When I returned home to recover from my transplant and sat watching NFL Sunday Ticket, screaming at the TV during Redskins games and shrieking with joy while watching all the other games, my mom stared terrified that I’d lost my mind. Nearly in a state of panicked unconsciousness, she stood rocking back and forth on her poor feet in ways humans aren't meant to move.

Diagnosed with an obscene variety of back diseases in a short time period—spondylolisthesis, stenosis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disk disease—my mom dealt with the pain by compensating and, again, her poor feet took the brunt.

My parents’ kitchen renovation provided for deep cabinets where unopened cereal boxes remained in the back. If my mom suddenly ran out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch then she’d have to stand tall on her poor feet’s toes to reach more.

These compounded effects led to a ligament tear in her poor right foot five years ago and she underwent a faulty operation from a careless surgeon, leading to an extended and arduous recovery. It was inevitable that her poor left foot would also tear a ligament, which occurred months ago and she underwent surgery today to repair it. Fortunately, this time her surgeon is kind and has done everything he can to alleviate her poor feet and back and fears.

So, Mom’s Poor Feet, here’s to a speedy recovery so that you can join me for a breakfast cereal Cheat Meal and even fetch our box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch pushed deep into the cabinet. But instead of mini boxes like a decade ago, we’re going Costco-size.
Author Benjamin Rubenstein as a toddler playing with his mother at his birthday party

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Critical Aspirations

When someone asks what I do I often say, “That depends: I do one thing for money and more interesting things for zero or negative money.”

It became clear when my book released two years ago that I would need to speak publicly, then one of my greatest fears. I had even selected college courses based on the likelihood I’d have to speak in front of the class. My friend, Bubbles, assured me I’d improve with practice, but I cowered under an assumption that speaking anxiety could never diminish.

But “coward” is banned from my Superman dictionary. I persevered.

I have come a long way from my terrorized voice-cracking high school presentations. I seek out and accept any speaking engagement, no matter the paid-time-off I must use or personal money I must spend. I have improved my body language, gestures, vocal variety, and cadence. My Toastmasters group considers me one of our best speakers.

I like asking people how they would spend their time each day if nothing else like money was considered. My answer could easily change, but I would write and share my story with others, a shocking turnaround from years ago when “cancer” was also banned from my Superman dictionary.

I prepare for every speech like it is my second (non-paying) job. But for my next speech I am preparing like my future depends on it. In four days I’ll speak for thirty minutes at the Critical Mass Young Adult Cancer Alliance 2012 Annual Conference, in Atlanta.

Kodak zx5 pocket camcorder for YouTube videosMy speaking agent asked for footage, so I bought an HD pocket camcorder with image stabilization to record myself. Hours of preparation still may not prevent a voice crack, so my friends may have crisp footage to laugh at. Unlike twelve years ago, I won’t put my notecards down and rush to my seat: “notecards” is not in my speaker dictionary.

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