Open Wide

I have amazing spit.  No, really, I do.  You see, as of yesterday, I had the ability to proclaim that at 39 years of age, I had acquired only one cavity in my otherwise pristine mouth of filling-less teeth.  (The only one I did have was waaaaaaay back in a wisdom tooth, so it really wasn’t even my fault; those suckers are so far back there, my toothbrush really doesn’t stand a chance.)  Supposedly, this is somewhat due to my saliva; I have been told that some people produce saliva that helps to ward off cavities.  (Technically, it’s the sugar complexes in the saliva that aid in repelling the cavity-causing bacteria, but I digress…).  Apparently, my mouth is lucky enough to produce said saliva, thus providing me the opportunity to skate by many a year with dental visits that included nothing but a run-of-the-mill cleaning and standard x-rays.

What is unfortunate for me (or fortunate for the rest of the world, depending on how you look at it), is that there have been many advances in the Dental industry in the past forty or so years.  Gone are the days of the routine cleaning with the black and white x-ray film, supplemented by visual cavity checks alone in a stark, white, sanitized office with a small packet of hermetically sealed instruments that double as standard-issue interrogation devices.  Nowadays, you have ‘theme’ offices with tropical fish or rock memorabilia decorating the walls, complete with a flat-screen television for your viewing pleasure while you recline in the exam chair.  X-rays are taken digitally and even projected on the flat-screen for discussion purposes (what, you didn’t want to see your teeth and gums super-sized?  You don’t say!).  Super-saliva alone is no longer the best defense for a cavity-free life; there is now a method of highlighting tooth decay that rivals a military infrared system where the normal surface of the tooth shows up in green, and any decay easily stands out in bright, glowing red.  I was treated to this lovely display on my last visit to the dentist when they helpfully pointed out that there were a couple of shiny red areas of “early decay” that they were concerned about, and recommended I have them filled preventatively so that they would not become full-blown cavities.  Reluctantly, I agreed.

That is how I found myself in the dental office this evening, in the procedure area (an offshoot of the cleaning area, for in this office the procedures are so darn special they get their own separate wing!), smiling nervously as I anticipated the worst.  Did I mention I only have one filling?  One filling.  One.  And it was forever ago, so I don’t really even remember it.  I am not a fan of dental work; I diligently attend my 6-month cleanings because I love my teeth and would like to keep all of the originals, thank you very much.  But I will admit I am somewhat of a white-knuckler with all the picking and scraping and polishing, etc. that goes on with just the cleanings, alone.  I’m not terrified by it, I just don’t like it; it creeps me out.  Looking towards even more invasive work is clearly not a picnic for me.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the hygienist blithely mentioned that as soon as the doctor popped in, we would get started on my four fillings.  FOUR!?!?  I thought the loud screechy question was only in my head, but it had actually come out of my mouth that way, because the hygienist calmly smiled and backpedaled in an effort to calm what was obviously the “patient-most-likely-to-bolt” sitting in her chair.  Talking like you would to the four-year-old who is on the verge of meltdown, she soothingly said we could simply wait to talk to the doctor and review her notes to make sure that was the plan, and that we were all on the same page before proceeding.  I just tried to use my best ‘big girl’ voice and croak out ” Uh, okay”.

As it turns out there were four total spots they wanted to fill.  Apparently I have deep grooves in my molars and, after 39 years, even the super-saliva isn’t quite cutting it anymore.  Two molars and two wisdom teeth were on the drill menu for the evening; I prepared the knuckles for a long ride.  I was not relishing the fact that I would now have fillings in all of my wisdom teeth, but what are you going to do, right?  Wimp out and actually BE the patient that bolts?  I don’t think so.  Instead, I said “aaaaahhhhh”, gritted through the novocain shot, attempted to mentally slow my racing heartbeat, and tried to think of other things when the drilling began.  (Of note: you would think that with all of these amazing “advances” in dentistry that someone could invent a drill that was a bit less brain-jarring as they gouge away at your enamel.  I’m just sayin’…)  The flat-screen helped a little, but not as much as I would have hoped.  Fortunately several of the areas were very shallow and only required minor surface fillings, thus shaving much time (and agony and shots) off of the whole ordeal.  I did still go home with my lower right face/tongue completely non-functional, which is a sensation I would have preferred to not remember.  I felt the need to keep touching my chin and lip to ensure they were in the correct position and not drooping on my chest.  And when I said goodnight to my daughter, I had a lisp that would rival that of Cindy Brady.  As I leaned in to kiss her on the forehead, she literally shrank back and looked at me as if I was the most freakish sight she’d ever seen; and, really, who could blame her?  The fun continued about two hours later when I got hungry.  Wanting to eat when your face clearly isn’t planning on helping is really just a cruel joke.  Yogurt?  (I’m not a fan.)  Soup?  (It’s 85 degrees, people.)  Oatmeal?  (Takes too long, per the sound in my stomach.)  I settled on cereal which, while trying to get the first spoonful in, I realized was a hilariously poor choice.  But I was determined to win out over my uncooperative mouth, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t finish the whole small bowl without spilling a single drop.

An hour later, hungry again.  Crap.  Too tired to fight with any new food groups, I’ve decided to sleep instead.  I figure I should be able to eat by morning, right?

Quick aside:  yes, for those counting at home, I do only have three wisdom teeth and they are still very much in tact.  In addition to having super-spit, I also have genetically freakish chompers.  I am missing my adult upper eye teeth, as is my father, and my daughter (take that, Darwin).  Because of the extra space up top, I never had the need to have my wisdom teeth removed, as the braces I wore for four years pulled everything together all nice and neat-like.  I am also missing one of my lower wisdom teeth, as is my mother; as luck would have it, I have somewhat smaller teeth and had room for the other lower one, negating the pulling of that one as well.  One rite of passage I am happy to say I never had to endure!  But I now have passed the genetic teeth mutation on to my offspring.  And as per the new fancy schmancy x-rays tell us, I’ve compounded the freakishness – not only is she missing her upper adult eyeteeth, she’s also missing her lower…so the money I saved my parents in dental work I will undoubtedly spend on her.  Yay!  My only saving grace will be if we can offset the missing teeth with a lack of cavities; let’s hope the super-saliva doesn’t skip a generation…

A Mother Of A Day

It started out as a lovely day.  Actually, it started before the day actually began, when my daughter brought home her carefully crafted card from school on Friday, and decided she couldn’t wait two extra days to give it to me.  “Happy Mother’s Day!” it shouted from the cover, complete with hand-drawn flowers and carefully crafted letters.  Inside were additional words sharing how much she loved me, with added hearts and stars for effect.   It was, as personally made cards go, pretty much perfect.  She beamed with pride as I hugged and thanked her, and told her it was the perfect start to a lovely Mother’s Day.

The next day, the celebration of “all things Mom” seemed destined to continue.  My husband took over swimming lesson duty while I opted for the rare opportunity to go shopping alone.  As I strolled down the lane of our local outdoor mall, I frequently checked my watch, only to remember that I actually had nowhere to be, and no time to be there.  It was an odd feeling, and I finally embraced it (about 45 minutes in…).  Though I didn’t purchase much in particular, I did partake in a leisurely solo lunch, and very much enjoyed browsing the bookstore without anyone constantly tugging at my arm asking when we could go to the kids’ section.  That evening we had a lovely dinner at a new pizza restaurant (the cooks entertain the kids by throwing the dough and drawing pictures in the flour – the kids love it!).  The food was great, the ambience was light and relaxed, and the evening just made for the cap to a wonderful day.

When I awoke this morning, I was convinced that since the weekend had gone so well, the rest would follow along.  As far as breakfast was concerned, I was completely on the mark.  Instead of trying to face any of the Mother’s Day crowds, my daughter and I instead had a personal pancake-making lesson.  It was lots of fun watching her be so careful with all the steps, and be unbelievably proud of herself when she accomplished her goal.  After breakfast wrapped up, she and I devised a plan that today would just be a girl’s day.  Next on the agenda: movie and shopping; oh, what fun!

The movie went pretty well; she enjoyed it, anyway (the Three Stooges – let’s just say I was glad to have my internet-connected phone with me to make it through all 90 minutes).  My wonderful weekend was continuing swimmingly; or so I thought.  On the way to the clothing store was when it started to turn, as my daughter began informing me she would really rather not go.  I coaxed from the front seat, trying to make it sound like a fun adventure.  No dice; her protestations got louder.  In an effort to revert back to the Mother’s Day bliss I was previously in, I turned on the radio to temporarily drown her out (come on, we’ve all done it).  We arrived, parked, and walked in; the way she dragged her feet and bee-lined for every puddle she could find (despite my asking her not to) really should have tipped me off to what was to come.  But I was still in Mother’s Day denial, so I pressed on.

Once in the store, we didn’t really find much for her.  But I did find a few things for me that I actually needed, though I had to try them on before buying.  This is always a challenge; my daughter is not a fan of sitting and waiting while I try things on for myself.  So I pulled out the other well-know parental prod: bribery (and yes, you know you’ve done that, too).  As soon as she started complaining about being bored in the dressing room, I happened to mention that I might need to go to the jewelry section afterwards, and if she behaved, we could maybe get something for her, too.  I thought it had worked when her eyes brightened and she said, “Oooh, jewelry!”.  And I was right; it did work – for about five minutes.  After which point the boredom really started to set in, and she decided she wanted me (and every other customer in about a 10 foot radius) to know about.  She quickly got louder, and more frustrated.  I then did what I normally do when she acts out, I warned her of consequences.  If she didn’t behave, she would lose the jewelry option.  Thing is, you can’t expect to threaten something like that without following through on it; and I forget that trying to teach a lesson in a public place is not always the brightest idea.  So when she decided that dropping the shirts I was saving to buy onto the floor (“to see if they would float!”) was a good idea and I did, in fact, take away the jewelry as a consequence, that’s when my Mother’s Day turned into – well, you can guess.

Squalling.  Tears.  Pleading.  Stomping.  The works.  It was a display worthy of a Tony award.  All in the confined space of a dressing room that does not connect to the ceiling, which has the effect of amplifying the sound through the whole cache of rooms connected to it.  You can imagine the looks I got as I left with her (which I had to do by pulling her by the arm, because at this point she refused to walk normally).  It was a six-year-old’s version of the wailing banshee.

Of course, by the time I got home I was furious, and exhausted.  I felt like my whole Mother’s Day had been ruined by this singular, raucous, embarrassing event.  Not only that, my daughter was now angry with me, and I was frustrated at her.  Fantastic way to end the day, right?  Granted, I tried to rise above and calm us both down for the evening, because I don’t like going to bed angry or with hurt feelings, especially for her.  But I still had my own adult emotions to deal with after she went to sleep, and I couldn’t help feeling that my Mother’s Day had been hijacked somehow.

But as I reflected on it further, I realized that I had probably THE most perfect Mother’s Day of them all, if you really think about it.  Because what is being a mother, if not a challenge?  Being a mother is certainly not perfection.  You do not sign up for this job because you expect never ending days of tranquility, unaccompanied shopping trips, agreeable children, and peaceful days and nights, do you?  Clearly not.  You sign up for loudness, confusion, scraped knees, high fevers, sleepless nights, backtalk, grumpiness, frustration, and tears.  You sign up for worry, desperation, bribery, cajoling, arguments, errands, homework, and laundry.  But you also sign up for laughter, bedtime stories, stargazing, and first-tooth-losing.  You sign up for butterfly-chasing, late-night campfire singing, costume wearing, baby rocking, and hair smoothing.  You sign up for hand holding, secret sharing, Eskimo kissing, milestone watching, “I love you more than all the clamshells in the sea, Momma” hearing.  That’s what you sign up for.

None of it is perfection; and all of it is.  It’s one big giant messy world of nothing you ever expected and everything you never dreamed all wrapped into the most beautiful package of a person; the one that calls you Mother.  So I’ll take my Mother of a Day, today, bruises and all.  Given the right vantage point, it ended up just as lovely as it started.

Split Second Karma

I have a confession to make; I greatly dislike eggs with runny yolks. We all have them – those idiosyncrasies about us that exist without explanation. One of mine just happens to be runny eggs; it’s not so much dislike as despise, really. For me, they rank right up there in the “irrational things that freak people out category”. So much so that, this morning, I lied to my husband – who had so kindly made breakfast for the family – in order not to hurt his feelings. You see, my daughter loves her eggs that way, which is why he chose that method. She dips her toast in them; she even has a nickname for them, calling them “the poach” (which, clearly, is an incorrect reference to the manner in which they’re cooked, but she continues the misnomer even after numerous corrections). And this morning upon seeing his culinary creation and hearing my daughter’s delight (“Daddy made my favorite poach, Momma!”) I didn’t have the heart to criticize his efforts, nor did I have the stomach to pretend to consume them. So I feigned lack of hunger, said my goodbyes, and headed off to work.

Confession number two: I am a sucker for Starbucks breakfast sandwiches (though I have never been a coffee drinker, so how I got sucked into their franchise in the first place still baffles me). So when my empty stomach began protesting about 15 minutes into my drive-time, I began anticipating the exit quickly approaching where I knew there was an easily accessible Starbucks drive-thru. The freeway traffic at this point was fairly clear, as I’d left the house early. I pulled off, procured my prize, and was back en route within about 10 minutes time.

But the freeway I returned to in no way resembled the one I’d just left. Upon entering the on-ramp, I could see that I was heading toward a massive wall of grid-locked cars that were barely moving. Glancing farther up the lanes (there are three at this juncture) I could see that all of them were stacked; it was as if I’d left a deserted country lane and returned to a downtown New York street in rush hour.

Clearly something had literally just happened. My suspicion was confirmed when I suddenly heard sirens, and all of us in the three lanes quickly had to converge into two in order to let first an ambulance, then a fire engine pass. By this point we were crawling along, and I was able to make out additional emergency lights not too far ahead. I spent the next 20-40 minutes inch-worming with the rest of the traffic as we all now merged into one lane and, eventually, followed a serpentine pattern through where there had obviously been a fairly large collision (verified by the radio traffic team to have included four vehicles).

The congestion combined with the delay was initially very frustrating. Especially since my whole point of leaving the house early this morning was to get to work early and get some tasks out of the way before all the hustle and bustle began in the office. But when I got to the point of the accident itself, I noticed two officers clearing a motorcycle – now void of its rider – out of the way. It made me pause; first in the hope that that rider, and the other drivers involved were hopefully not seriously injured. But then, I thought of the timing of the whole scene. How it really seemed to come out of nowhere in the short time it took me to exit and then re-enter the freeway. 10 little minutes to purchase a breakfast sandwich; had something that banal really changed the outcome of my day? And, if so, in which direction?

I am a firm believer in Karma. I truly feel that for whatever energy you choose to put out into the universe – good, bad, positive, negative – you will somehow receive the same. And on this morning, when I realized how this little 10 minute shift may have affected me, it made me wonder for just a moment, “hmmm…good Karma, or bad?” I initially assumed that perhaps I had bad Karma for lying to my husband about breakfast and was now stuck in traffic being late for work. But when I thought about it further, I wondered if it was possible I was receiving good Karma for some other past action, and had narrowly missed being in the accident myself. For if I had stayed on the freeway and not exited, if I had not given up those 10 minutes of travel, I surmise that I would have been in that exact spot at almost that exact time; the same spot where they removed the broken, riderless motorcycle from.

I chose to believe the latter, and instead carried myself with a little extra caution for the rest of the day. Feeling like I narrowly missed disaster already, I guess I didn’t want to chance it. Though I’m sure the egg incident will come back at me in some form, or another; it’s really only a matter of Karmic timing.