Welcome and thank you for joining me in lightening up.
Please enjoy my collection of stories which serve only to make you smile or laugh - you choose.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Making the Cut

I recently fulfilled a childhood dream and was quite impressed with myself for checking it off of the list.  It hasn't been looming over me or anything, but when I accomplished it I was taken right back to 2nd grade "Show-and-Tell" where I declared it as one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.

Our teacher had given us a project.  We were instructed to create a presentation to share what our desire was when we got older.  I was only able to narrow it down to 2.  My parents got a big kick out of them and kept the evidence of the experience.  I remember looking at the photos and my report just a few years back.  I had decided I wanted to be one of the following:
1.  A "Cheerlitter"
2.  A "Hair Beautier"

God bless my parents for allowing me to do my homework all by myself and make my own poster for each of these occupations.  Were they encouraging my independence or looking forward to the many giggles they would have when seeing the pictures of my handiwork?  I graciously choose the former explanation but realize the latter probably played an equal part.

Anyway... I never held a formal title of "Cheerlitter" and if you know me personally you realize that my build does not lend itself to the role.  I pity the person who would be required to toss me high in the air and then worse... catch me when gravity threw me back with a vengeance.  I did, however, participate in many sports where every player was expected to cheer on their teammates, so, technically I was a cheerlitter of sorts.  So I crossed that one off long ago.

The goal of becoming a "Hair Beautier" held more promise for me.  I loved to brush, curl, braid and style my long hair when I was young.  I spent hours trying new ideas and took every opportunity to work on my friends' hair as well.  When I was in college and played field hockey I was known for producing the tightest french braids on the team and had many "clients" on game days.  At the beginning of hockey camp one year I put one teammate's hair in a french braid and she decided to see how long it would last.  Four days later we had participated in 9 practices and 2 swimming sessions and she still had a decent braid.

Up until the other day that was my "Hair Beautying" claim to fame.  That was... until I was asked to become the barber for the 84-year-old gentleman I work for.  It took me 10 minutes to run the clippers through his small amount of hair, trim his eyebrows and the area at his ears.  In those 10 minutes I learned that even the easiest of haircuts requires some know-how.  Eventually I took his hair off adequately but found I had applied it all to my dark-blue sweatshirt with ease.

But, my crowning achievement which would have made my 2nd grade heart so happy and caused my parents to well up with pride for their little "Hair Beautier," was when I cut his wife's hair the other day.  It was the first haircut she had since she was a little girl and it was an honor to be selected to "Beauty" her hair.

I cut nine inches off of the hair of this wonderful 81-year-old woman, leaving the length to fall at the middle of her shoulder blades so she can still put it in a ponytail and put it up if she wants to.  Those nine inches of hair carried a lot of emotion as it had taken her a long time to decide it was time to make her personal grooming easier.  To wash it had become quite a chore for her and brushing it, getting the snarls out, and putting it up in a bun was more work than she needs to do anymore.

I thought about all the history that hair had seen.  As I evened up the ends I thought about the changes in her life that had brought her to the point where she was willing to cut it off.  Out of necessity she shortened the hair that she and her husband both loved all these years.

I am still able to french braid her hair and will do so soon, I'm sure.  Perhaps it will be because she asks me to, or maybe I will suggest it so she can be assured that it can still be done.  No doubt, when I do braid it, her husband will be sitting there watching like he always does when I braid her hair.  I don't know if he catches me looking or not but I love to watch his expression as I weave the strands together.  He still thinks his wife is beautiful and loves her hair.

It was a sad day for both of them when I cut the length off her hair.  I know he still thinks she's beautiful... I can see it in his eyes in more instances than when I'm Beautying her hair.  But he always loved her long hair and she told me many times that he wasn't ready for her to cut it yet either... until he realized it was so difficult for her to work with.

Anyway, I am happy to have fulfilled my goal of becoming a "Hair Beautier."  I'm not opening up a shop or anything but I do have 2 loyal customers who rely on me to beauty their hair.  That's something a "Cheerlitter" could really cheer about.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Level of Detail

The local Car Wash establishment has the funniest sign and every single time I drive by I fight the urge to go in wearing nothing but my bathrobe, a shower cap and slippers.  I imagine the look on their faces when I ask to speak with their "specialist" in private and discuss the situation.

The sign says the following... verbatim (and this is no exaggeration):

"Have a funky smell?
Ask us how we can help."

Anyone want to join me and hit them with a barrage of desperate people looking for a solution to a very personal problem?

I realize they specialize in detailing but this is more detail than I think I'd like to trust them with.  Then again, after what I experienced with my "Sitz Upon" recently, I may want to consider keeping them in my speed dial.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wining While Stranded

Well... Sunday was a great day in the Fingerlakes wine country - more specifically, Seneca Lake, NY.  But... any day in wine country is great!  We stopped at several wineries and even a distillery and just had to do a tasting at each one.  At what would prove to be our last stop of the day we finished our chocolate and wine tasting - a glorious pairing of 4 chocolates and 5 wines - and made our purchase.

As we prepared to leave we were given a very strong message from God but we were unclear as to the specific sentiment.  He either said "Your tastings have exceeded the approved limit for driving" or, "It's a beautiful day and you need to sit and appreciate the beauty of my creation, including the wine produced by my faithful servants at this winery."  I'm pretty sure it was the latter of the two.  Either way, he spoke to us through a vehicle which refused to start.

After several unsuccessful attempts from the winery owner to jump start the battery and the assistance from a bus driver who brought in a sizable party to the winery, it was clear God wanted us to sit and relax.  Phone calls were placed and a tow truck driver was reached and we were given the gift of time.

If you are going to be stranded and wait for a tow truck there is no better place than a winery with some fantastic wines, bread and sausage to enjoy on a deck with comfortable chairs, nestled into tall trees bursting with fall colors and Seneca Lake in the background.  Car trouble is a blessing in this situation!

We enjoyed a bottle of Billsboro winery's Rose' and a wonderful baguette.  We also spread the delicious Liverwurst that Billsboro offers on the bread.  I have never been a fan of Liverwurst and I don't typically opt for a Rose' wine, but Billsboro changed my mind when it was offered as a wonderful pairing during our tasting.

We polished off the bottle and half the baguette and Liverwurst before Richard, the tow truck driver arrived.  Richard is quite a character!  He got the car started but the battery did not hold its charge so he loaded it onto his flatbed tow truck - in mere minutes.  When we showed how impressed we were at his ability he commented, "Thanks.  Not bad for my first day on the job!"  Then he giggled and shared that the joke never got old to him.  "I tell everyone that even though I've been doing this for 41 years."

On the 40 minute drive back to Watkins Glen Richard gave us a lot of history on the area.  We learned things we never did on any official tour.  He even shared with us a few of the theories of how the Finger Lakes were created.  "Some say it was glaciers but if you believe the Creationists theory the lakes are actually the handprint of God.  He reached right down and placed his hand on this part of the country and the lakes were formed."

That theory makes me wonder why the lakes are not crawling with Forensic investigators dusting for God's fingerprints and DNA.

Anyway, Richard unloaded the car at the Jeep service center and then dropped us off at our hotel 2 blocks away.  $208.00 was the total cost of our official tour with Richard - pretty steep when compared to other tours but this one offered far more practical information.  Among other things, we learned all about the former military base on the East side of Seneca Lake, how to hide from the police to get out of a speeding ticket,  and our favorite piece of enlightenment - how to use a flashlight as headlights when trying to stay off the radar of local police.

If you're ever in the Finger Lakes and looking for a great winery to visit you can't go wrong with Billsboro.  The wines are great, the setting is gorgeous and the owners, Vinny and Kim, know how to treat people.  Thank you to both of them and the Billsboro staff for making our time of distress so pleasant.  I believe they could add a new pairing to their list for such an occasion and encourage guests to relax on their deck or patio.  They could call it the "Battery Charger Pairing" and, stranded or not, guests will certainly benefit.

Hopefully you won't meet Richard under the same circumstances we did but, just in case, take a few cans of Mountain Dew with you.  If he ends up towing you anywhere he may cut you a break on the price of his "tour" if you offer him his favorite beverage.  Wine was of no interest to him and don't even think of offering him cheese.  But the caffeine-rich soda might buy you a portion of your tour or, at least get him to provide some practical information which might be extremely useful the next time you find yourself trying to beat out a speeding ticket!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why I Don't Play the Piano

I have a great little dog who makes me smile and laugh all the time.  He is an adorable little thing - all white because of the Bichon Frise in his mix - he is also part Cocker Spaniel, and his name is Opus.

Opus does not like to be alone.  He actually doesn't really like it if all the members of the household are not present at the same time and will sit and wait in the window that overlooks the driveway until all his people are with him again.

Opus also loves it when people visit, especially children.  He can hardly contain himself.  Fortunately, he does not bite so there is no concern in that regard, but, at 2 years old, he doesn't yet abide by the "Stay Down" rule and just wants to jump in the lap of everyone who sits down.  He is hyper and, despite his cuteness, he is very annoying when he feels he needs to get to one of our guests.  And he's fast!  He can also jump from the floor to the chest of a seated person in the blink of an eye - so he MUST be relentlessly policed if he remains in the group setting.

I have actually put him in the car before (only when weather allowed it) when guests were visiting with a small baby, just for the ability to have a nice visit without supervising his behavior or listening to the whining complaints he puts out when confined to another area of the house.

Dogs are very unlike cats in this regard.  Where a dog wants to be social a cat will typically be stand-offish with guests, and let the guests know they are of no interest by a telltale glance of disapproval.  This does not apply to every single cat, I know.  In fact, I know this too well!

During my college years I lived with my sister, Debbie, in a 2-bedroom apartment.  We had always had pets as kids and decided, mutually, to bring a cat into our household.  Within seconds of the suggestion we were headed to the pet store where we found 2 orange-haired kittens to choose from.  We asked to get both out of their cage so we could decide.

I was handed a whiny little furball that shook uncontrollably as he cried.  He curled up in my neck but his crying did not subside.  Debbie was given a kitten with the polar opposite personality.  She tried to cuddle him but he saw the macaw bird perched on a stand a few feet behind her and he was certain he could take it down.  With the prowess of a lion he scaled my sister's arm and reached her shoulder in an instant.  As she tried desperately to keep him from leaping from her shoulder to the bird's perch he swiped with his tiny little paw, hoping to land a shot on the colorful bird.  He wasn't even close but his determination was evident.

We chose the hunter over the whiner and they put the tiny little thing in a big box for us to transport him home.  We were given strict instructions to not alter his diet so we splurged for the expensive food the store sold.  Far be it from us to cause a disruption in his eating habits and set ourselves up for what the salesperson ensured us would be cute little vomiting kitty with terrible diarrhea to boot.

In the car the cat cried like he was dying.  I have never heard a kitten who was less than 1 pound in mass make noises like this.  When I looked in the air hole and talked sweetly to try to console him a tiny orange paw with fully extended claws shot out through the hole and latched on to the outside of the box. His talons sunk into the cardboard and he could not retract them.  He was suspended inside the box.

Of course I had to open the box and rescue him.  Big Mistake!  I had unleashed the tiny little fury and just barely caught him before he leaped at my face.  This kitten packed a wollop!

When we arrived home we decided it best to put him back into the box before walking through the parking lot to our apartment.  We didn't want to lose him after all.  Somehow, he had already grabbed us each by the heart.  Debbie held the box open while I peeled him from my shirt and lowered him in.  All four paws shot out and he successfully prevented being deposited into the box.

We tried again.  This time, I gently held him under the belly with my left hand and used my right to keep his front paws contained.  Debbie did the same with his back ones and held the box open too.


The next two attempts failed too and the little growl warned us that he was done with our game.

Debbie put him inside her jacket and held him close to her while we made the walk to the apartment.  I carried all the other stuff, willingly.  I was relieved to not be at risk of having my skin shredded if the kitten got spooked.

Once inside the house the first thing we did was cut his claws, a regular practice I can assure you.  He was surprisingly good for this process but we still worked together on it, one to hold him still and gently squeeze his little paw to expose the razor sharp claws (Debbie), the other to do the deed (me).  Then, the little stinker took off to explore his new surroundings.  Debbie was not injured in the process so we proceeded to set up his food station and kitty litter box.

When our little terror heard the litter hit the pan he came running and promptly christened the fresh clay.  That would be the beginning of a ritual for him and he responded to the sound the same way each time from then on.

From there he joined us in the living room.  Debbie was seated on the couch and she called him up to her.  He clawed his way up and she picked him up to give him a little nuzzle.  It lasted all of 2 seconds before he smelled the contents of the bowl of cream of broccoli soup she had eaten for dinner.  She left the bowl on top of the backrest of the couch when she was talking on the phone and had forgotten to put in the sink afterward.

Our attempts at keeping his diet intact failed as he immediately lapped up all the remaining bits of soup and growled when Debbie reached to take the bowl from him.  This cat had serious attitude.  We named him Murphy.

This tiny little devil maintained that attitude throughout his life.  He had moments of sweetness with us but he was mostly ornery, especially with guests.  Except for the friend whose perfume he really liked, he was content to show his disapproval with anyone who visited.  He even bit one friend on top of her head - just because he woke up and saw it close to him.

On one particular occasion I was caught completely off guard.  Debbie's electric piano was in need of repair and the man to handle the job came to the apartment.  He laid the machine on the floor, upside down, and proceeded to do the work.

Murphy was on the couch next to me, where I sat reading a book for one of my classes.  He took a good, solid nap and then jumped down to get a refreshment.  I watched him as he made his way behind the gentleman who was kneeling on the floor with the piano apart in front of him.  He was a pleasant and professional man.  He was dressed very simply, a pair of gray pants and a white, button-down shirt.  He was minding his own business, working at his task.

Something about him gave Murphy reason to stop behind him.  I saw the look in his eyes and recognized he was about to make himself known to this man, in a way that did not match his professionalism.

"Don't even think about it Murph," I warned as I put the book down and proceeded to get up from the couch.

He didn't listen ... he never listened.  In the blink of an eye I watched in horror as Murphy sprung from the floor and onto the back of the nice man fixing Debbie's piano.  His claws sunk in on the man's shoulders and he held on with great vigor as the man desperately tried to reach him over his shoulder.

It was a sight that has been burned into my mind - kind little bald man in a white shirt, flailing back and forth trying to grab hold of the by then 13 pound cat attached to his back with feline grappling hooks.  I swear Murphy was smiling and just enjoying the ride he was taking on the back of this man.

When I peeled Murphy off of him I was mortified at the sight of the ten dots of blood in the white shirt.  I apologized profusely and the gracious man assured me he was fine.  He finished his work quickly and left without another word of the incident.

I can't be 100% sure but I am fairly confident I saw my cat laugh as the door closed.

I am thankful Opus is not a loose cannon like Murphy obviously was.  But... just in case... I have decided it best to not play the piano.  If I played the instrument I may become tempted to get an electric version.  At some point it would probably need service and I can't take the risk of ever seeing that poor man again.

And that's why the world is deprived of my piano prowess.  Sorry.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Leave of Abscess

So… it’s been a while since my last post but a lot has happened in the past few weeks.  My ability to find sillyness in the serious was put to the test in some interesting ways and I am happy to report that, for the most part, I was successful.  I had a few moments where I had to look in unexpected places but I am fortunate to have people in my life that willingly helped me in my time of need.

It all started a few weeks ago…

I injured my butt!  It’s kind of pitiful actually… but it really happened.  I’ll spare you all the details and just give it in a nutshell:

I sat down on a small brick wall – narrow (only one brick wide) and low – but I was in a crowded festival and desperate for a place to sit and wait for a while for a friend.  The wall was lower than expected and I landed harder than anyone my size ever should.

Over the next few days I endured soreness that turned into pain from what I believed was simply a bruised “Sitz Bone” – not the medical term for it but I think it’s actually referred to as such since it’s the best way to describe it.  I believe in “The Head Bone’s Connected to the Neck Bone” song this particular verse would go like this:

            “The Tail Bone’s connected to the Hip Bone;
            the Hip Bone’s connected to the Hiney Bone;
            the Hiney Bone’s the one that you sitz upon…”

…And it hurts like a bad word when you injure it!  Apparently I set off a chain reaction when I sat on that wall.  Fluid began to collect at the injury site but had no place to go.  After a few days it swelled up and caused pain I won’t soon forget.

A few days later – that’s right, a few days later… I didn’t get to the doctor right away since my research on the bruised bone informed me that what I was experiencing was not unusual – the situation had changed drastically but not in my favor.  I thought I could endure the worst of it and surely the issue would clear up on its own.  Don’t judge me for wanting to keep my “Sitz Upon” to myself.

A quick visit to the Dr. turned into a further trip down the road to the Emergency Room. 
Diagnosis:  The injury turned into an Abscess with a Severe Infection – my surgeon said it was “the biggest he had ever seen.”  He was not referring to my “Sitz Upon” but to the abscess and infection accompanying it.
Treatment:  Immediate surgery to drain abscess and hefty doses of some powerful Antibiotics, administered through IV

The third day after surgery I was cleared for release from the hospital by the surgical team – but I did not get to go home.  Just after achieving the necessary requirement for recovering in my own environment I was notified that additional judges had weighed in and my sentence had been extended.  A combination of circumstances caused injury to my kidneys and I was in “Acute Renal Failure”:
-Consuming ibuprofen prior to arriving at the ER in a self-prescribed dose exceeding the label on the bottle
-Receiving an IV dose of a strong painkiller in the ER with similar properties
-Having a CAT Scan with IV contrast material

I couldn’t believe it.  I was very ready to go home and certainly didn’t feel like I was suffering from any additional physical problems.  I have since learned my condition was pretty serious and they had to make sure I was recovering appropriately before feeling it was safe to send me home.

I spent a total of one week in the hospital.  In that one week I had some new and undesirable experiences:
- Emergency Surgery
- Fever over 1030 (Right after surgery my vital signs were taken every hour and I recall hearing 103.9 at one point. I know many people have personally experienced or nursed their children through much higher than this but my normal temperature is in the 96.6 – 97.2 range so I got to cradle what seemed like an enormous ice pack for a while – that was a wonderful gift from the nurse caring for me and it achieved the desired results of cooling me down)
- Morphine!
- Kidney failure
- The roller coaster ride of emotions that accompanies a hospital visit
- No less than 30 different people have seen my “Sitz Upon” in its full splendor – more if my suspicions are correct and photos were taken for “Posteriority”

So… in all of this my typical approach was challenged and there were opportunities for my weapon of choice – laughter – to be found lacking in its power.  Fortunately, when I had little strength to wield my sword of silliness I had willing friends and family members to raise it for me.

Here are three of my favorite (though there were many more) moments in the hospital in which I giggled like a schoolgirl and my stay felt like an adventure in silliness:

1.  My nurse wanted to get me out of bed and walking around the hallways.  She offered me a few additions to the wardrobe so graciously supplied by the hospital. 

“Here is a pair of disposable underpants and a pad to put inside them to absorb the drainage from your wound (which there was a considerable amount of).” 

I held up the underpants.  My friend Weezer and I laughed at the qualifications of the apparel. Similar material to pantyhose they were very stretchy width-wise but from waistband to the hem of the leg they spanned four inches.  My “Sitz Upon”, from “waistband to the hem” is an impressive eleven inches, grading on a significant curve.  Math Major or not anyone can figure out these measurements are not equivalent. 

I opened up the sanitary pad to insert into the underpants and, no kidding; the thing was designed to line beaches in preparation for hurricane weather.  Weezer and I giggled again.  We contemplated staying in my room and conducting absorbency experiments with the apparatus but decided to obey my nurse’s instructions.  Oh the hilarity.

Getting up and walking around was the anticipated result but the actual experience was building new muscles.  I used several I was not aware I had as I slowly did a figure-8 lap of the 3rd floor ward and successfully held the sandbag and tiny-hiney panties in place.

When we returned to my room Weezer was gracious in helping me steady myself as I shed the garment or, rather, finished what gravity had already begun.  When I struggled to get my foot out of the underpants, which was appropriately suited with the gripper socks the hospital provides (they are made with rubber, skid-proof grippers on both sides so you don’t have to worry about getting them on correctly), Weezer looked down to assess the problem. 

We both giggled uncontrollably at the sight!  My grippers were stuck to the pantyhose; half the pad was still glued to the underpants and the other half had separated from the material but stuck fast to the vinyl flooring – the adhesive in the pad can only be described as “industrial strength”.  The result – I was shackled at the ankles by my tiny-hiney panties.

My nurse at the time must have thought we were ridiculous but she did not scold us.

2.  The day I was absolutely certain I would be allowed to go home I was ecstatic.  My joy was dashed when I was told it would be at least another day.  I shed a few tears of disappointment and one of my doctors came in shortly afterward.  “We just want to keep you here a bit longer because of the amount of protein in your urine.  Your kidneys are not functioning at a high enough level yet.  I’m sorry… I know you were hoping to go home today.”

I sat there with my frustration.  Weezer was right there with me – as she was through the entire ordeal – and she knew she needed to rally.  After a few minutes of quietness she spoke up.  “Hmmm… protein in your urine, huh?  I guess that’s not a good thing and it’s best for you to stay and rest a bit longer.”

“Yeah… I guess.  But it really sucks.  I feel fine,” I whined.  “Protein in my urine… pssshaw.  Where did that come from?”

“Maybe you have a chicken hanging out in your potty!”

The mental picture put me over the edge and the next tears were from my fit of laughter.  At various quiet moments throughout the day Weezer would “cluck” and I’d lose it again every time.

3.  I shared a room with a 90-year old lady who had been in the hospital for over three weeks already.  Complications from one surgery lead her to another and I was her roommate in the days leading up to and immediately after a lengthy surgery to remove and repair a portion of her bowel.  She is an adorable lady with the cutest voice I have ever heard.

The curtain separating us offered visual privacy but certainly was not sound proof, so I was aware of everything she was experiencing.  Two days after her surgery one of her doctors came to see her and asked a standard round of questions pertaining to her recovery.  One, in particular, evoked a response from the prim and proper little lady on the other side of the curtain that I will never forget.

“Your incision looks good; I see your catheter has been removed and you are using the commode.  I know you haven’t had a bowel movement yet but have you begun to pass gas?” he asked in his authoritative voice.

“Oh no… I wouldn’t dare,” the cutie-pie responded with a shy little giggle.

I laughed out loud.

So… my last few weeks have given me lots to think about.  I am thankful for the care I received, the recovery I am experiencing and for all of the wonderful people in my life who have offered concerned prayers on my behalf.  I have also learned A LOT from this experience.

In all of this I am most thankful for my faith.  I was never scared or felt alone in any of it.  I know – without a doubt – that I was in the hands of the Greatest Physician.  How wonderful it was to feel His presence.  I know He carried me through safely.

I am also thankful that God did not decide that my time on this earth would come to an end because of this situation.  As much as I enjoy a good laugh I would still not desire my obituary to read, “She died of a busted ‘Sitz Upon’.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dental Dehydration

In my last post I shared about my pitiful crying habits.  I did not mention the one place I am guaranteed to cry, whether warranted or not… the Dentist.  I lose more fluids in the form of tears in the dentist’s chair than I ever did in sweat on the hockey field.

There are two reasons for this:  1.  Despite the ability to use it to a larger degree than most, I have a small mouth. It is difficult for the dentist to perform the most routine tasks, such as inserting films for x-rays.  That process makes me cry every time, even when they switch to the child-size films.  2.  I had a bad experience in the dentist’s chair when I was a teenager.  I had a bad cavity needing to be filled and, in the process of doing so, there was pain.  There was also a dentist who did not believe I was in pain.

I had already been crying because of the x-rays necessary prior to the procedure, so my nerves were at their peak.  The dentist had given me a shot of Novocain and went to work after it took affect; or rather… he thought it should have taken affect.

“Raise your hand for me if this hurts, ok?  I’ll stop immediately,” he promised.

He asked me to open my mouth and went in with his tool.  Up went my hand.

“I barely touched you,” he assured me.  “Did that really hurt?”

I’m sure he thought I was just scared but it really did hurt.  Another shot of Novocain was administered and we waited again for it to take affect.

The same thing happened again… and then again after the third shot.  By that point he was convinced the pain was in my head.  Still, he gave one more shot but explained that it was the maximum he would offer for the procedure of drilling and filling my cavity.

Finally, he went to work.  When my hand went up he ignored it and kept working.  When the other hand went up he offered his apology but insisted he was almost done.  My face, ears, neck and hair were getting wet from my tears.  Before long I would be severely dehydrated.

Next, I heard the words that I will never forget and what makes me nervous each time I sit down in a dentist’s chair, “Now brace yourself… I am right at a nerve and in order to finish cleaning this out I will probably hit it.  But we’re so close to being done with this part it will only take a few seconds.”

Oh the insanity!  Everything went white.  Both hands were up in the air and there was no way of bracing myself.  I slid down the chair but he was up to the challenge.  He followed me and completed his task.  I ended up with my feet on the floor and my back against the bottom half of the chair.  This is no exaggeration.

After that ordeal I was terrified of dental appointments and did not follow the rules of twice per year.  In fact, I refused to go back again – EVER!

Sadly, I was forced back by a friend who was concerned when I had some serious pain in a tooth and was experiencing swelling.  I was 22 years old, unemployed and had no dental insurance.  This good friend of mine was sure the situation was serious and she got me an appointment with her dentist, assuring me he was sweet and gentle and would make sure I was at ease.  She even offered to pay for the appointment.

I was experiencing a swelling I had never thought was possible so I agreed to go.  The right side of my face was swollen from my cheekbone straight down to my clavicle bone (at the shoulder) and it was as hard as a rock.  I knew this was not normal but I had clung to the hopes of it clearing up on its own.

I sat in the dentist’s chair and immediately began crying.  I was terrified.  My friend was right though; the dentist was sweet and gentle and did his best to assure me he had no intention of doing anything until I was relaxed.  Hearing that made me relax a little since I believed it meant he wouldn’t do anything because I would surely tense up at the slightest attempt.

When I opened my mouth for him to check out the situation he took all of 15 seconds to make his assessment.  “Okay, you can close your mouth.  I won’t be doing anything today except putting you on antibiotics.”

I can’t tell you how relived I was… for all of 10 seconds.  “But you need to be admitted to the hospital.”

“What?!?” I screamed… in my head.  “I can’t pay for that.  What in the world is…?”

Seeing my reaction he explained the situation.  “You have a severe infection causing the swelling and it is called cellulitis.  It’s not often seen in the head and neck area and you are in danger of suffocating if it continues to worsen.  It is currently at one side of your throat but if it travels past the middle your airway will be cut off.  In the hospital you will be monitored and they’ll do what is necessary if you reach that point.”

Through my tears I explained my situation.  He listened and gently gave me the strictest of instructions, but allowed me to go home.  The antibiotics were strong and an appointment was made for the next day to remove the tooth causing the problem, but not by him.  I went to an oral surgeon.

At the surgeon’s office I was just as terrified as ever.  After three shots of Novocain my nerves were still frazzled and I tensed up at the slightest approach he made for my mouth – propped open by several rubber wedges.

“Okay… we need to give her the Nitrous,” he instructed.  “I won’t do anything with her so nervous.”

What a wonderful invention!  I was instantly transformed from a complete and utter mess to someone who was blissfully silly.  The nurse who administered it and monitored its affect on me later confessed she kept me talking simply to hear me.  “This stuff is wonderful!”  “I need to get me one of these tanks for my house.” And “I know I didn’t make a good impression on Dr. Cutie yet but he should know how much I love him for this stuff!” were comments she repeated back to me. 

All of the staff had gotten a kick out of it but I didn’t care one bit.  I actually enjoyed something that took place at the Dentist.

When the surgeon finally performed the surgery I was aware of everything he was doing, despite how tightly I closed my eyes.  He talked me through it and assured me I was doing well.  I didn’t flinch once and didn’t tense up at all.  As a coping mechanism I counted while he did his job.  I was impressed with how quickly he worked.

“If I had known it was only going to take you 114 seconds from start to finish I could have tried to endure it without all the drama,” I shared with him when he removed the props and I could talk again.

“You were counting?” he laughed.

“Yup.  I’m impressed,” I commended in my slurred speech.

He and the nurse laughed and she stayed while I came down from my high.  I’m sure I was the talk of the office but I really didn’t mind.  I never mind being laughed at for something that really is funny and not demeaning.  I also didn’t mind because my ordeal was over. 

The recovery was a piece of cake compared to the time in the chair – it always is for me.  I still have my issues with going to the dentist but there is a big bold note in my chart that says “NOVOCAIN DOES NOT ACHIEVE NECESSARY RESULTS!”  There is another one that says, “NITROUS OXIDE IS NECESSARY FOR ANY/ALL PROCEDURES”.  I didn’t ask for them to be put in the file, I just happened to see them there while waiting during my last appointment.

I was in search of a new dentist at one point and began calling a few who advertised a gentle approach.  Apparently, even this process makes me nervous and when one receptionist answered I asked if they were accepting new patients and then blurted out, “Does your Dentist have gas?”

She giggled at the question but then answered very professionally, “As a matter of fact, yes, he does.”  Because of her I knew the place was a potential fit for me.

So… why do I tell you this story?  Well… I guess it’s to encourage everyone out there who shares my feelings about being nervous at the mere suggestion of a dentist appointment.  If your fear is not as intense as mine then you can be encouraged that at least you are not as bad off as the crazy lady who writes this blog. 

If you have a greater fear than I do of all things dental I am so sorry for you.  Next time you have to go to the dentist please contact me and we’ll get together.  I will gladly listen as you tell me your fears while we share a tank of Nitrous Oxide.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Weepy Cheeks

I LOVE to laugh!  It’s my favorite thing to do and I make a point to do it often - sometimes at very inappropriate moments: when I’m in trouble with someone and should be sincere in my remorse but something has hit my funny bone; in church, while singing sacred hymns I am often reminded of hearing someone sing the same hymn in a strong vibrato or worse, they were tone deaf and I can’t stop myself from doing my best impression; or at the movies or theater when the scene is building up to something comedic.  I often anticipate where the scene is heading and begin to laugh when I appreciate the humor…  a moment or two early.  Or worse - I think it’s going to be funny and am then horribly surprised when it takes a different direction and I am the only one who has laughed at all.

The flip side of this manic disorder of mine is that I HATE to cry.  It’s not because I think crying is a sign of weakness, because I have learned to appreciate the strength it takes to offer tears of compassion or the healing affect crying has on the body.  Why I hate to cry and will fight it with every fiber of my being is because I am an ugly cryer (I know spell check says it’s to be spelled c-r-i-e-r but I would read that and pronounce it “creer” and I don’t like the sound of that, so poo on you spell checker!)

I have several friends who are wonderful cry-ers.  They don’t fight their emotions and try to keep them to themselves.  They also have the ability to listen to someone in pain and express compassion back to them through their own tears.  These friends are beautiful cry-ers and weep silent, gentle tears of empathy, sharing the moment with a wounded soul.

One friend I have in particular, I will call her “Erin,” is someone who I have come to appreciate very much for her crying ability.  I have seen Erin console many people as she sheds her beautiful tears right along with them and tenderly pats them on the back or offers a needed hug.  Then, just minutes later, Erin’s face shows no signs of the tears.  After wiping them dry Erin can return to her normal activities, with no one seeing the evidence of her sympathy.

I am not at all like Erin.  When I cry, those few situations where I succumb to the emotions that provoke the action, there is nothing beautiful about it.  First of all, once I get started I have a difficult time stopping.  The harder I try, the worse it gets.  Next, I am a loud cry-er.  I sniffle like crazy, I often blubber like an idiot or sob, emitting unrecognizable sounds with either.  Finally, my face turns a shade of red Crayola should add to their assortment.  They could call it “Weepy Cheeks” or something like that.

It is not a pretty sight!  Plus - the effects linger.  I cannot get the red out of my eyes or cheeks for hours.  Usually, only after a full night’s sleep is the evidence gone.  So, you can see why I fight the tears.  Unfortunately, fighting the tears is probably what causes the effects to be so severe.  Even when I am doing my best to defend against them breaking the barrier it is evident in my face.  It must be a frightening transformation to witness.

I certainly believe that the shedding of tears is healthy but I do my best to reserve crying for appropriate occasions.  The following are times I have not been ashamed to shed tears:
  1. A funeral or event surrounding such
  2. The receipt of bad news
  3. Comforting a friend who was hurting
  4. The death of a beloved pet
  5. While watching a sad movie or television program, or reading an emotional story
  6. As a result of hysterical laughter

On the flip side, the following are not what I would consider appropriate reasons for crying but have lost the battle with my tears in them anyway:
  1. When singing a song, any song.  I’m not sure why but whenever I sing I begin to cry.  It’s a weird thing that I can’t explain but it makes church, birthday celebrations, karaoke, a ride in the car with music playing and even cleaning my house an awkward experience.
  2. Tripping on the sidewalk.
  3. Being told by a telephone operator, “Your call did not go through.  Please hang up and dial again.”
  4. Opening the dryer and realizing my clothes are still damp and have a mildew smell to them - and I really wanted a shirt from the batch.
  5. Unloading an entire cart of groceries onto the cashier’s counter, having them rung up and bagged while several customers wait behind - only to find out I forgot to transfer my wallet back to the purse I am using.
  6. Forgetting to check the bathroom stall in the busy public restroom for toilet paper and have learned, at the moment I really need it, there is none.
  7. Ordering a “Pepsi” at a restaurant while out with friends, and being asked if “Coke” was okay.  I said “Yes” but everyone knew my true feelings when the tears sprinted down my cheeks.
So… you see my dilemma and why I seek laughter in times of difficulty.  I am both an ugly cry-er and an inappropriate cry-er.  Oooh… and I now have one to add to the list of ridiculous reasons to cry:
#8- Reading and reliving the pitiful moments my tears kicked my butt.

I think I’ll call Erin and see if she can come over and help me through it.  Maybe I’ll get her to take a picture of my face and then I’ll contact Crayola with the suggestion and example for a potential addition to their line.