Thursday, January 5, 2012


My last post was Sept 10th-- almost four months ago. I keep a pretty strict policy not to post when things are going badly—to protect my own mental health as well that of my precious readers. Writing about how bad I feel just isn’t cathartic for me, and I’m sure reading about it isn’t therapeutic for anyone else.

My primary reason for not posting, however, has been even more basic than that: no time.

At the end of September, I flew back to Seattle after two months at my parents’ in Washington DC, and the Poet flew back from two months in Egypt. I arrived at our tiny apartment (a little gem of a place with a view of Lake Union, a shimmering emerald back yard, and in walking distance of anything you need) to breathe in mold.

To clarify: MOLD, the thing I am most allergic to in the world, so allergic that I have suicidal thoughts after a few hours in forced air heat or air conditioning, or—perhaps the more palatable alternative—become a raving, sobbing lunatic after said exposure. Don’t even talk to me about basements. To cop a metaphor from the title of this post:

Kryptonite:: Superman
Mold:: Naomi

except with way more melodrama in the mold-Naomi scenario.

Back to my story. While the Poet and I were away, condensation on the old, single-paned windows had created mildew on the decrepit paint of the window casings. The spores in the air had overwhelmed my air purifiers, which I’d been smart enough to leave running, but not smart enough to get new filters for. I’d also left strict instructions to our house sitters to keep the windows open, or at least cracked, but this clearly hadn’t been enough. The moldy, musty smell (ie mold spores) had gotten into every textile in the apartment.

So I spent September 27th through November 20th or so dedicating my every free moment to coordinating the mold patrol (house cleaners armed with bleach) and then getting rid of bedding, clothes, curtains, pot holders, papers, art supplies notebooks, and wood book cases, and my futon couch. I had such a steady stream of giveaways set out on the corner that neighbors asked if we were moving.

While this was going on, I had some terrible allergy attacks, one when I had to run out of the apartment with my teeth chattering uncontrollably as tears streamed down my eyes and I shouted incoherent things to my mother, whom I happened to be talking to on the phone. Thank god for that happenstance, since she is one of two people on this planet who could immediately understand what was going on and talk some sense into me. She got me to call my naturopath, Nesreen Medina, who came up with a wonderful solution:


1. Bentonite Clay. Nesreen was such a sweetheart she actually brought me this stuff on her way home from her office, since I was in no shape that day to drive to pick it up from her. It calmed me down quickly, and I was even able to go back into the apartment after I’d had my first dose of it. I’ve been taking it every day since then. According to Nesreen, it binds to “neurotoxins,” that is, the mold and other junk those of with Shoemaker livers can’t detox on our own. I love you, bentonite clay!!!!

So, after that crisis, I was able to go back inside and keep stripping things out of my apartment, until, with the passing of time, winter was coming on and I was left with the 15% of my clothes (the summer 15%) that I’d managed to salvage by running through washer countless times with industrial quantities of Seventh Generation Essential Oil of Lavender Blue Mountain Purer than Pure Eucalyptus and No Added Chemicals Laundry Detergent, and these precious clothes were stored in plastic laundry hampers in the kitchen, and I was sitting on the new organic cotton meditation cushion I’d bought at the Soaring Heart Futon and Mattress store (yes, that’s the real name), shivering in a summer sweater while I awaited delivery of a new air purifier filters and a new futon couch and read the instructions to my new Dyson vacuum cleaner.



It is an infallible principle of Newtonian physics that no matter how many plastic laundry hampers you have, they will always be in full use. I would like to note that two Decembers ago, after the freak snow storm that sequestered Seattle, the Poet and I used our plastic laundry bins as sleds, to excellent effect.)

The allergies until then had always been the sideshow of Lyme Disease, the bearded lady, so to speak, but now that I was out of the big tent, away from the clutches of the Ring Master, with all his fatigue and brain fog, it was time for me to take a good long look at the bearded lady, and then duel it out.

So I had my Dyson, and I had Ghusun (remember Ghuson—no?—well, she plays the role of kick-ass, no nonsense friend; if you don’t have a Ghusun in your life I suggest you go get one) who took me in hand and told me I had to allergy-control the apartment. No papers exposed to air, no clothing stacked on open shelving just because I was allergic to the dresser I’d tried to buy a couple years before at IKEA. No dust building up for years under the bed, no book creep as the Poet snuck more and more used books out of the extra room and into the comfort stacks next to his living room easy chair, no waiting until next week to vacuum.

Ghusun:: Bearded Lady
Kryptonite:: Superman

I couldn’t have taken on the sideshow without her. I could not found my way out of IKEA without her, I could not have Dysoned under the bed without her, nor pulled the musty boxes from the way back of the closet without her there. And then she got a job.

So enter Susan, whom my mother found through a personal assistant agency. Susan was an angel disguised as a part-time nursing student. While I kept up with the Shoemaker protocol, she brought her sewing machine and hemmed the new curtains, made cushion covers for the bed, assembled a new set of drawers, organized closets, carried away boxes and boxes of books, sealed up the vents of the forced air heating system (which we’ve never used but nonetheless was putting dust into the apartment), and washed and dried and folded and organized and Dysoned everywhere as she went. Not to mention that every hour or so, she said, “This job is so much fun!”

And then the apartment was finally allergy resistant. We gave Susan a big hug goodbye, and it was time for David to arrive for Thanksgiving.

The bearded lady? Please. Don’t make me laugh.

1 comment:

Tyrone Swopes said...

Good thing that your apartment was already free from allergens and your health improved. But it's better to maintain it by applying bearable heat levels, proper ventilation and insulation and air conditioning so that the molds won't grow back.