Gimme a smile: Sunshine on my shoulders me sunburn

We’ve had an incredible run of sunshine these past few weeks. I’m starting to get used to seeing the sun every day, a rare treat for us rainforest dwellers.

When I was a kid growing up in Florida, the evening newspaper actually guaranteed sunshine. If a day went by when the sun didn’t shine at all, the evening paper was free. This happened maybe a handful of times during my childhood. Every other day counted as “partly sunny.”

All this sunshine inevitably led to sunburn.

As a redheaded, fair-skinned native of Florida, I’m an expert when it comes to sunburn. As a child I soaked up my fair share of sun, without benefit of sunscreen.

When I was a kid, sunscreen was called zinc oxide, a thick white substance with the consistency of clown makeup. You glopped it on your nose, which then stayed white for the next three weeks or three hundred face washings, whichever came first. No one ever applied zinc oxide to any skin surface other than the nose. If you wanted to protect any other part of your body from the sun, the accepted regimen was to slowly build up an immunity to sunburn through strategic tanning sessions in your backyard lounge chair before hitting the all day picnic at the beach.

Come to find out, redheads don’t tan. Ever.

Slow, steady doses of sun exposure only led to darker, more numerous freckles and low-grade sunburn in my case. For me, the only method of sun protection was the dreaded swimming shirt.

No teenage girl wants to wear an extra-large t-shirt over her swimsuit at the beach. It isn’t natural. Mom wasn’t looking, so I ditched the t-shirt at the church picnic at Ft. Desoto beach. During the prime sun hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., I swam and played and reveled in the glorious Florida sun.

I think that was the worst sunburn of my life. I remember my back and shoulders blistering and peeling. It only got worse when I spent the afternoon playing with my friend in our secret hideaway in the middle of a patch of brambles. I had a tank top on to spare my shoulders the friction of sleeves. I guess I didn’t think about the friction caused by crawling under the scratchy branches. I looked like a snake shedding its skin by the end of that fateful afternoon.

My shins hurt so bad from the sunburn that I had to wear knee socks to bed because I couldn’t stand the whisper touch of the sheet on my legs.

The skin on my scalp peeled off, making me look like I had big flakes of dandruff caught in my hair.

Worst of all, I had to wear the dreaded swimming shirt to swimming lessons at the pool every day for the rest of the summer — plus zinc oxide on my nose.

Fast forward to the present — I live in Juneau, where the sun seldom shines. Sunscreen now comes in SPF numbers up to 100 (you may not know that SPF stands for “some poor fool,” a reference to the poor saps who think they can bask in the sun without using sunscreen. Kids, don’t try this at home).

Sunscreen is hard to come by in Juneau in the winter. You don’t normally find it displayed next to the snow melt and Yaktrax in the grocery store. It’s a classic case of supply and demand. Who wants to buy sunscreen in the winter when they live in a rainforest?

I once encountered a bottle of sunscreen in the store that was past its expiration date. The poor bottle had sat hopefully on the shelf all those lonely months, waiting for someone to buy it, until it quietly expired in dusty isolation.

I’m a good customer for sunscreen these days. I haven’t had a blistering sunburn in years. I feel like a fool slathering on sunscreen when it’s raining outside, but I wear it faithfully, every day (just about). And yes, I do wear a t-shirt to swim in when I go to the beach in Florida on vacation. It’s the best sun protection I know.


Guy About Town: Help for a town made of people

Hey, all! I hope you’ve been having a healthy, enjoyable January despite the meteorological mood swings. Like seriously, it’s like it can’t decide whether it wants to try to rip the door off my house or knock on it gingerly and sell me cookies. I have the fortune, however, of not having windows in my office. See, I don’t have to watch the tumultuous perpetual gray on the one hand, and on the other I don’t have to feel bad about being inside when it’s sunny. I just turn on my Costa Rica webcam and put my shades and Pet Sounds album on and party with those spreadsheets all day long.

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A big thank you to Bartlett Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation department

Thank you to the staff and patients of Bartlett’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Department for their donation of baby food. This much-needed donation is critical for providing healthy food to young family members, who are most in need of nutritious food. We should always remember that “healthy choices fight heart disease.” Bartlett’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Department’s special, specific donation reminds us that the health of our children is the first step towards a long and healthy life, and their generosity is overwhelming. This donation will make a difference in the lives of babies and their families in need. Thank you Bartlett’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Department!

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