Dental Joy

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Disclaimer:  This is a shameless plug for Smiles for Kids.  Just so you know.

Ruby doesn’t like going to the dentist.  That being said, I don’t know any kids or many adults who do.  I don’t, either, but after enduring nearly 3 years of braces as a teen, the dentist seems like a walk in the park.  I know I don’t have to expect some heavy metal bands inserted into little metal grooves on my teeth.  Nor do I have to try to hook dinky rubber bands around the extra grooves, realigning my jaw while making me feel like a human trap.

We haven’t taken Ruby back to our regular dentist since the latest visit resulted in a fiasco with tears all around.  I researched the pediatric dentists recommended by our clinic.  None of them took our insurance.  Going back to the source, I called our dental plan.  They emailed a list, the closest clinic an hour away.  No go.  Not happening.

Jonathon, man about town, stumbled upon a kids’ dental clinic in Lacey.  He walked in.  He spoke to the receptionist about our health plan (state government) and she said they took it.  Amazing!  I called and scheduled an appointment.

Ruby, ever dubious, didn’t erupt with joy at the prospect.

We left when school started, a beautiful, sunny day greeting us.  Ruby sat quiet in the back seat. Puffy clouds rode the breeze to add texture to the endless blue.  Not bad, so far.

I found the clinic and we walked in. I nearly tripped on a fire truck. The young blonde receptionist greeted me.  I filled out paperwork while Ruby watched “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”.

Then another 25-year-old gal came out and talked to me.  Anorexically slender, she had completely mastered the smokey eye. Her green-blue-gray eyes stood out a mile. I couldn’t tear my eyes away.  Which was good, since she had something important to say.

“We aren’t sure your insurance will cover Ruby’s visit today, ” she told me.

I got a little hot, and it wasn’t from the sun pouring in the waiting room onto my sweatshirt-encased back.

“My husband came in and talked to you, ” I gestured towards the front desk, “and you said you took it.” I kept my voice low.

“Oh, I know, ” she reassured me. “And we do take the main form of your insurance.  But there are all these changes to plans now,” she smiled.  “We’ll have to call to make sure all our effort to be a preferred dental provider paid off.”

I looked at her.  I didn’t want to leave.  Ruby had a chance in this place. The gal stood up.

“If you want, we could still do a cleaning, since you’re here.  It’ll be $49.  We can at least get her in…”

“Yes, “I replied.  “Let’s get her in.  She needs it.”

Ruby, curled up next to me, wasn’t  listening.

We walked back to the X-ray room.  Ruby was a trooper, holding the mechanism in her mouth.  Much less unwieldy than the one at our regular dental clinic.  She got a Wreck-It Ralph sticker for her pains.

Then, the hard part.  Ruby sat in the chair and the hygienist lowered her back.  She polished Ruby’s teeth in stages.

“Do you want the magic straw? I need to get the spit out of your mouth, ” the hygienist asked, holding up the suction device.

Ruby, visibly freaked, shivered and shrunk into herself.  Aha!  That’s the thing she’s afraid of.

The young hygienist, a real pro, offered Ruby a cup to spit into.  Which she did, numerous times.

Ruby dutifully laid back down, with a little coaxing, each time.  Except for the last time, when she wouldn’t lie down for anything.  She didn’t like the buzzing, polishing little round brush, either.  At all.  She held it together until the very last part.  Ruby cried a little, brown eyes shiny. The hygienist and I cajoled, wheedled and encouraged.  I prayed a little, too, under my breath.

“How would you like hold a monkey?” the original smokey-eyed gal asked Ruby, appearing out of nowhere.

Ruby nodded.  Score!

She returned with a large stuffed monkey who sported a full set of teeth.  Creepy, to me.  Wonderful, to Ruby.  She hugged the monkey and watched the kids’ TV show playing on the ceiling.

The rest of the visit went well.  Dr. You’re Young Enough-To-Be-My-Son recommended better brushing.  I think all dentists read from the same script – brush better, floss more, etc.  Part of the dental code.

“Ruby, how do you feel?” I asked as we drove back down the highway to her school.

“I feel awesome.  I did it!” she said, her smile lighting up her whole face.

Yes, baby.   I smiled, too.  And $49 was a bargain.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

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When Warnings Fail

I would want to know this had our name on it.  Photo by tsun.scc.ru

I would want to know this had our name on it. Photo by tsun.scc.ru

I’ve been getting these bizarre Special Weather Statements on my smartphone.  The first one I got – true story – told me a tsunami was on its way.  Then it said it was only a test.  Psych!  I was not amused. I had already started thinking about finding high ground on our property.

After listing specific place names and areas where something *might* happen, this new one cropped up:

Lowland snow is possible in Western Washington this weekend…Once again High pressure over Southwest Canada will Push cold air into Western Washington this weekend through the Fraser River Valley (?).  Meanwhile, an upper Level trough over british Columbia will generate Light precipitation across the region.  The Best Chance of Snow accumulation will once again be in the North part of Western Washington where Snow Levels will be near the surface.  The higher hilltops and areas near the mountains May also see Snow.  The forecast has a great Deal of uncertainty so Stay tuned as the weekend nears.

I typed this verbatim.  The random capitalization adds to the Twilight Zone feeling, I think.

Thanks for nothing.

Essentially, this warning tells me that we might get snow.  And we might not.  So be ready for anything.  It’s so not worth it.  Warnings means nothing unless they give exact instructions.  Like, “Don’t walk in the sun if your head is made of wax”, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin.  Or “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”  Also helpful, especially if you love eggs.

This reminds me of the story of the boy who cried wolf.  Anyone remember it?  It’s one of Aesop’s fables.  A wily shepherd boy tricks his neighbors into thinking a wolf is after his sheep.  He calls out “Wolf!” to them, time after time, only to have them run to his aid while he sits back and laughs at their gullibility.  Then one fine day the wolf actually shows up.  The now-desperate boy cries for help only to be ignored.  The wolf gobbles all the sheep.

The moral of the story is:  don’t count your snowflakes/tsunami/wolves until they’re falling/mounting/onsite.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

Middlemarch

I know it’s only February.  I’ve attempted to read – again – what Virginia Woolf called “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.”

And I hate it.

You, dear readers, might know something of the book.  Written in 1871-1872 in  by George Eliot, and published in serial form, it depicted the life and times of people living in the fictional English town of Middlemarch.  George Eliot, I should mention, was not male.  Mary Ann (or Marian) Evans wrote under a pseudonym so her books would be taken more seriously.  Women writers of her day wrote “light romances”; she didn’t want to be included in that group. This book, full of very real, multifaceted people, many consider her masterpiece.  I wanted to read it and love it.  But I didn’t.

Why?  Good question.

I find no fault with the writing itself.  It’s dense prose, descriptive with many wonderful turns of phrases fully depicting the mindset and lives of the time period.  Like this one, describing the friendship that developed after Dorothea rejected her suitor:

She was perfectly unconstrained and without irritation towards him now, and he was gradually discovering the delight there is in frank kindness and companionship between a man and a woman who have no passion to hide or confess. (p. 72)

Or this:

We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, ‘Oh, nothing!’  Pride helps us, and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts – not to hurt others. (p. 62)

Women had no hope of a good future unless they made themselves marriageable.  They earned their feminine badges through studying “arts lite” – sketching, dabbling in piano and voice, perhaps a bit of baking.  The general (male) consensus was that females didn’t have the brain capacity to pursue studious pastimes.  No one taught them Greek or Hebrew, even if they wished to learn them.  Women provided decoration, amusement, and the ability to procreate along with companionship.  Kinda like a beautiful cocker spaniel.  But this fusty mindset, a relic of the time, didn’t bother me.

I didn’t like any of the main characters.  There.  I said it.  Dorothea, with her idealistic ascetic religiosity married to Mr. Casaubon’s dry intellectualism made me ill.  I despised beautiful, blonde Rosamond Vincy Lydgate with her finishing-school snobbery and overinflated ego.  I liked Dr. Lydgate for a few minutes, then realized he had no backbone to deal with his wife’s extravagant ways.

Most of the main characters dreamed a little too much before they actually got married.  They each entered matrimony with starry-eyed notions.  Then, the day-to-day life of a married couple became a rude awakening.  Jealousies, unspoken expectations, prejudices and frustration cropped up quickly.  It all saddened me.  Yes, these things do happen.  I could relate to bits and pieces of the characters but their obtuseness bugged me.  Did Dorothea really miss the fact that Casaubon had no feeling, no passion?  He could never return her dogged devotion.  Nor could Lydgate see beyond the pretty face and figure of Rosamond to her true nature.  I guess I could say the novel pits realism against idealism.

Several other characters people the book, but I won’t mention them here.  As I read the book, I also realized I’d read it before.  Or, I should say, tried to read it before.  I had that deja-vu feeling.  Ah, old age!  Thou mockest me!  I didn’t get as annoyed this time, but I still couldn’t finish it.  Who could blame me?  I made it to page 119.  The book is 838 pages.

I did skip ahead to the end.  I wanted to see if Dorothea at least found happiness.  She did, despite the death of her husband early in their marriage.  But she gave up her fortune to marry her now-deceased husband’s cousin.  Will Ladislaw, idealistic himself to some degree, made a much better match for Dorothea.

So I amend my former complaint.  I did like Middlemarch, a little.  Dorothea grew on me.  Pain and suffering deepened Dorothea’s compassion and kindness.  She still saw the best in people, but armed with love and not expectations.  When she did remarry, it was for all the right reasons.

Ship’s Manifest

I read Captains Courageous a couple weeks back.  Kipling’s vivid descriptions of the ocean and the ships fishing topside upon it captured me. It took me right to the untamed Atlantic, bobbing on the big blue wet thing.

The story gets rolling when fifteen-year-old Harvey washes overboard an American ocean liner bound for Europe. A Portuguese fisherman plucks him from the briny deep. Forced to earn his keep, Harvey grows up fast. The transformation of young Harvey from rich, spoiled brat to seaworthy fisherman kept me engaged. The crew, an eccentric bunch, kept me laughing. Harvey finally earning his father’s respect and attention made me cry. Harvey learns responsibility and teamwork and accountability from one summer stuck on a smelly fishing boat on the open seas. He became a man.

We watched the movie “Courageous” the other night.  It’s a Christian film, and a good one, about police officers whose “good enough” ideas of fathering and being men get turned upside down by a horrible tragedy.  I won’t spoil it for you by giving out all the plot elements, but the movie got me thinking on several levels.

One of the main characters asks the other men in the story, “When did you first realize you were a man?”  Don’t jump to the first conclusion there.  It wasn’t like that.  They each gave different answers; some didn’t have any idea.  The idea behind this question is that fathers do that for sons.  They call out the man in their sons, draw them on towards responsible adulthood within a masculine framework.  Fathers have a unique role to play in their sons’ lives. Mothers, though equally important in their sons’ lives, can’t do it the same way.

So my question is, what does this look like for women?  I need to look in the manifest, the Bible.  How can we call out the woman in our daughters?  Where is our standard for this ship of womanhood?  I guess I need to find out.

Break a Leg

Ten days ago, Jonathon and I went on a Valentine’s Day date.  We spiffed up and went to dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the water.  The food was excellent, the company divine.  The sun set behind the hills. The ocean turned from blue to gray to black, birds swirling in winged clouds above it.  I found the view mesmerizing, the changing light in the sky transforming the landscape minute by minute.

For the next part of the date, my romantic husband surprised me with tickets to a play.  We went to view a local production of “Educating Rita”.  This came out as a movie a couple of decades back, I believe.  Jonathon and I are great fans of live theater, having directed and participated in some ourselves.  There’s nothing like the energy of a live audience.  And with live performances, anything can happen – and usually does.

We sat in a very small theater, seats lining 3 sides.  We quickly discovered we were some of the youngest people there.  Most of the audience had gray or white hair and glasses.  Some had walkers.  We felt privileged to be in such company.  Must be something worthy going on here, we thought.  We found seats together, towards the back.  We settled in and the lights dimmed.

After more than hour into the two-person production, the lights came up for intermission.  We milled around the small lobby, munched some snacks and took care of nature’s call.  Everyone stood as long as possible.  Legs can get cramped sitting so long.

We climbed back to our seats.  The older man sitting in front of us addressed us.  He was still standing.  He wore slacks and a button-up shirt under a brown sweater.

“My wife and I were admiring your dress,” he said, indicating my black dress with a sparkly texture to it.  I made an effort to look nice, being it was Valentine’s Day and all.

“We both think it reminds us of curtains,” he said, indicating the pleating in the stretchy fabric.  I looked down with new eyes at one of my favorite dresses.  I had never thought of that before.  It did sort of look like cloth Venetian blinds.

I tried not to laugh out loud.  Was this supposed to be a compliment? Hey…

“Well, I was going for that ‘Gone With the Wind’ vibe…You know, we now have no curtains in our living room, thanks to me,” I quipped.

We all laughed.  And nobody died.  The lights flickered, then dimmed.  On with the show!

Carol Burnett did it better.

Bypassing Boy Trouble

I ran 6 miles today.  I didn’t get much running in this week because Rubious got sick.  She had a fever, then a cough and fever.  Now it’s a cold with a runny nose and cough and sneezing.  She’s spent countless hours watching “Littlest Pet Shop” and playing Minecraft.  I always feel a bit guilty.  I want to engage with her, but she has no energy to play games or create anything.  The best I can do is keep her company and keep feeding her.

I had a revelation recently, probably from the extra TV I watched alongside Ruby.  I realize more and more the extent of  the brainwashing done to our young women.  Everywhere, images of the most beautiful, thin, sexy women abound.  Moms in commercials manage to look put together and svelte, no rolls of fat cluttering their middles. Girls have perfect hair and all their straight, white teeth.  Nobody’s hair is curly, save the very young.  Apparently curly hair is babyish.

The cartoons marketed to Ruby’s age bracket now have  several regular plot lines about boys and girls “going steady”, if I may use that archaic term.  It’s wrong.  Girls appear to have no value if they aren’t attractive.  Keep in mind, Ruby is 8 years old.

I felt myself getting steamed.  I had to say something. I muted one show.

“Ruby, you know you’re just fine on your own.  If you never have a boyfriend, you’re enough.  You’re beautiful, smart and funny.  God made you and He loves you.  You don’t have to earn anyone else’ s love.”

“I know, Mom, ” Ruby said, never taking her eyes off the screen.

I pray she does.

I spent most of my life believing I was no one unless somebody loved me.  Somebody of the opposite sex who was available, that is.  I devoured teenage romance novels.  I completely bought the lie that if a boy didn’t like me, I was worthless.  I was in love with the idea of love – butterflies, magic, flowers, romance, the whole deal.  If white doves swooped down near me, that worked, too.

Growing up white and nerdy, I didn’t date.  Heck, I barely spoke to boys.  Too intimidating.  Also as a Christian, it made the possible pool of eligible bachelors incredibly small.  Not that there were any takers.  I barely spoke at all except to my friends and family, oh, and speaking up for the discussion part of class. Had to get a good grade for that, you know. You could say I had a painfully shy personality.

I don’t want any of that for Ruby.  So far, she seems well-adjusted.  Ruby’s life comes with  a few advantages mine didn’t.  Her parents are still together. Casting no aspersions on my parents there, simply a fact.  She’s secure. She doesn’t struggle with identity issues.  She knows who she is and what she wants to do.  I never did.  Ruby loves herself and manages to love others, too.  I’m working on that.  Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” has no place to land if you don’t love yourself first.  You  have to love from a place of knowing who you are, secure it that knowledge; if not, you’ll find your love riddled with holes.

We all have value because God made us.  Women have value. We aren’t “things” to be used for pleasure or put on pedestals to be worshiped as gorgeous, unattainable goddesses.  True, some of us are more appealing to look at than others.  But then again, I believe that’s part of the cultural brainwashing.  Everyone has a measure of beauty to offer this world – men included.  It might not be in the physical.  Some of the most beautiful people I know have the most loving hearts.  Their eyes shine with kindness and humor.  They offer mercy when no one else will.  They serve without strings.

I believe one of my tasks is to teach Ruby and Zac what true beauty is.  The Bible has much to say about it.  Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. – I Peter 3:3-4 

I have much to unlearn.

Lessons from a Short, Slow Season

Ruby is still home sick.  Her fever spiked yesterday afternoon and she acquired a nasty cough.  She’s holding up well.  However, I’m getting a little stir crazy.  But I have learned a few things…

If someone gives you an Easy Bake Oven, make sure it comes *with* the miniscule pans.  You can’t cook without them.  You’ll never know if 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips turn out a dozen dime-sized cookies.

Cough medicine sometimes hurts your foot.

Socks cut friction when you when you slide across the linoleum.

Follow the yellow brick road.

You can make dandy cat puppets out of scotch tape and old Christmas napkins.

Chicken soup with rice is the bomb!

Snowdrops and crocuses make February bearable.

Let sleeping cats snore.

Orange chicken from the supermarket can be…pungent.  Douse liberally with another sauce to aid ingestion.

Salsa stains carpet.

When your mom comes for a visit loaded down with 3 different types of cookies, you stand very little chance of staying sugar free. Not like Valentine’s week  Day did you in or anything.

I’m sure there are lots more.  After all this introspection, I need a nap.