Say “ah”

You might want to put down the drinks while you’re reading this one….  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Three weeks ago, an old porcelain filling broke and fell out into my hand.  They put on a temporary crown and yesterday morning I was getting the permanent one “installed”.

Now, to say that I hate the dentist is inaccurate.  I actually like my dentist a lot.  He’s very nice and competent.  But I hate dental procedures.  I have a strong gag reflex and I’m not a fan of the whole “holding-your-mouth-open-for-hours-on-end-so-they-can-poke-you-with-sharp-sticks” thing. When I am really stressed, I have dreams that my teeth are falling out while I speak.  On top of that there’s that flaw-intensifying mirror right over your face, so yeah I’m not a fan of dental things.

But today was to be quick – three easy steps:  1) Take off temporary crown. 2) Glue on permanent one. 3) Thank dentist and head to work.

Somewhere between step 2 and 3 my day took a left turn.

He had placed the new crown on and instructed me to bite down on one of those cotton rolls for 3 minutes.  Then he was going to scrap off the extra cement and we’d be done.  So I sat and read a trashy magazine for 3 minutes.  I felt drool pooling in my mouth, but my stomach turned at the idea of swallowing cement. I chose to let all the saliva get soaked up by the cotton.  The tooth/crown was the very back tooth on the top.

The hygienist came over and said, “Open up” – with her fingers all set to grab the cotton.

I opened up and….that drool soaked cotton roll, which was sitting right at the back of my jaw slid to the right and popped straight down my throat.

Cotton Roll right into my throat, where one talks and breathes.

I JUMPED out of the dental chair gagging and choking and trying to cough it up.  The sounds I was making are hard to replicate in words.  Imagine a momma bird flapping around to hack up food for her little birds, but with less feathers, fewer worms, more flapping, and more panic.  Suffice it to say, you’re probably lucky you weren’t one of the other patients within earshot of my hacking and choking.

I don’t know what the hygienist did but soon the dentist was at my side, trying to calm me down while looking for an appropriate tool to shove down my throat.

“You can breathe, you are breathing, it’s cotton, the air will get through” is what he kept saying.

I kept trying to signal for someone to whack me on the back or something.  And I may have slapped the dentist somewhere in there.  He got me to sit down and he tried to look down my throat, but the urge to not tilt my head back was too great and I jumped back up and tried to cough and dislodge it from my throat.

And at about that point, the dentist yelled, “Call 911.”

So, if you’ve never had a dentist yell “Call 911” during your dental appointment, let me tell you, I don’t recommend it.  In fact, try very hard to NOT get into a situation where that phrase is ever necessary.

Thankfully the call was cancelled because just about that time my will to live (or gravity) helped to push the cotton down and my throat was cleared.

About a million years after the whole cotton ordeal started (or roughly 1.5 minutes, take your pick),  I yelled out, “I swallowed it. Oh my God. I can breathe.”

I fell back on the dental chair and took some deep breaths and wiped away some tears.  And I’m pretty sure the whole office (staff and patients) heaved a big sigh.  Of course I think they might have all wet their pants before that – but we were all breathing again which was the important part, especially for me.

As I was sitting there collecting my thoughts (which mostly consisted of “I almost died in the middle of the dentist office”), the dentist and I weren’t sure whether to laugh or be horrified.

“You weren’t even numb, I could imagine if your mouth was numb….but this….”

“I know – but there was a lot of spit. Oh my God.”

“Hm, I think you should probably go to the ER anyway.”

“Excuse me?”

He proceeded to tell me about two directions down your throat – the stomach or the lungs and said something about lung abscesses three months down the road.  My brain started screaming as I was still trying to clear the nasty feeling in my throat.

I very calmly asked if I could call my husband, and if the dentist could please check the crown. We seemed to have forgotten it in the whole ordeal.

With my new tooth cleaned off, a sample cotton roll in my purse (for doctors’ information), and assurances that the dentist’s insurance would pay for the ER visit, I waited for my husband.  He showed up quickly but a little confused and worried.  He called my primary doctor, but got dumped to voicemail.

“Well, you aren’t going to develop a lung abscess in the next three hours…”

“Are you suggesting I go to WORK?”

“No, no, I’m just trying to figure out what to do.”

“The ER, now!”

The intake desk guy didn’t seem to understand what I had told him, because when the triage nurse called me up, she asked, “So you are here because you’re having throat pain?”

“No, I’m having throat pain because I was at the dentist and I swallowed a cotton roll.”  And I held up the sample one the dentist had given me.

cotton roll

And that was the first of several identical looks I got at the ER – the look that is both horrified and humored all at the same time.  Like you want to giggle but you don’t want to offend the person and at the same time you want to run and cancel your next dental appointment asap.

As they were getting me to an ER room, I was frantically trying to get an email to my students from my cellphone. Steve was helping but the connection to my webmail was slow and at one point it almost sent my class the following:  “Class cancelled. In ER. Not going to make it.”  After about 10 mins it finally let me add “to class” and I hit send.

After vitals and such, they took me for an X-ray and Steve left for work.  He couldn’t cancel his classes and we both figured this was going to take no time at all.  Ha.

In the X-ray room, I had to explain to the two technicians why they were photographing my insides.  Again with the horror and humor and comments of “I hate going to the dentist.”  Meanwhile, I hugged the X-ray machine and wondering if these pictures would show the awesome weight loss (20.5 pounds so far) I’ve achieved with Weight Watchers this year.

Back in my ER cubicle, I read a book and checked Facebook as I waited for a doctor and my X-ray results.  Had posted the following with a check in at the local hospital: You know those days when you go to the dentist for a crown and then the cotton roll in your mouth gets wet with saliva and then slides and lodges in your throat and you think you will choke to death at the dentist and then as they are calling 911 the cotton slides all the way down and the dentist says you should go to the ER to be sure it’s on it’s way to your stomach and not your lungs? Yeah well that’s the kind of day I’m having. 

The comments and jokes from friends were pouring in.  Including an offer to rewrite the lyrics to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” to make “Cotton-Lunged Jenn”.  A runner friend asked if I was going to still be able to run. A friend who writes amazing comic books sent me a message asking what the bleep was going on and did I now have any superpowers.  I suggested a new sidekick: Cottonmouth Girl.  She can shoot cotton balls out of her mouth and tangle up criminals in them.

Meanwhile our church’s children’s director had seen FB and was texting me asking if I was okay.  As I was responding to him, a friend who also works in children’s ministries with me was rolled by on a gurney.

“Maureen???  What are you doing here?”

“I fell off my bike taking the kids up to school.  You?”

“I swallowed a cotton ball at the dentist.”

“Oh my goodness!”

So I amended my text to include that now two people from church were in the ER and someone probably needed to pray over us.

As I sat there, I fretted that this was the day I chose to wear my brand new skinny pants (2 sizes smaller than usual) and was upset that only the hospital staff would see them and thus not be impressed.  Just in time, my friend, Lea, showed up to sit with me and did the appropriate oohs and ahs over my weight loss. Then she took my picture for FB.

er shotShe was soon joined by Darren, our children’s director, who came to check on Maureen and me.  They both laughed so hard at my story that a man sitting with another ER patient overheard us and came over to our cubicle.

“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear.  Did you swallow a cotton ball at the dentist?”

“Yep – it looks like this.”  I held up the comparison sample.

“I work emergency medicine all the time.  Never heard of this – quite incredible.”

“Thank you.”  Cause really – what else do you say to that?

Finally the doctor showed up and I had to explain all over again.  He seemed amused but not troubled because I was breathing okay.  There was a lengthy description of how breathing works and the low odds that I won the “stupid things in my lungs” lottery.  But he still had to check the x-rays, which he assured me wouldn’t be helpful because cotton probably wouldn’t show up on x-rays.  Of course.

This consultation did not earn me a discharge – but I got moved to another area so more urgent patients could use my bed.

Darren eventually had to go check on Maureen again and then head back to work.  Lea was about to leave when a nurse came in and asked for my information.

“Okay we need a CT scan.”

“I had X-rays though.”

“I have orders for a CT scan. Let’s go.”

As I lay on the scanner bed, I tried to not think about all the episodes of House where the patient would code or seize while in the scanner while Chase and others were discussing their sex lives.  I just stared at the ceiling and wondered if Lea was right that they’d have to put something down my throat to fish it out, “like a sword swallower”, she said.

When I returned, my cell phone was totally dead.  Lea saved the rest of my day by running out to my car to get my briefcase and phone charger.  She left me surrounded by my laptop and various cords as I surfed the hospital’s free wi-fi.

And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

I surfed on FB and kept adding updates.  The TV in the room was set on the Food Network, which only served to remind me that the only thing I had had to eat since 8 am was a piece of cotton.  And for some reason I kept burping.  For the record, cotton does not have a bad aftertaste.  I contemplated whether it would absorb all the high cholesterol I apparently have.

Around this time I realized that I had to pee. The cup of chai before the dentist appointment was now pressing on my bladder.  The next time a nurse walked in, I asked where the restroom was.

“Oh, you need to go?  Do we have a sample from you?”

“Excuse me?”

“A urine sample.  We might need it.”

“Um no.”

“Okay well let me get you a cup.”

I carried my briefcase and purse and clean catch cup down the hall to the restroom and pondered whether they could test for cotton in my pee.  Or whether they were going to have to operate and therefore they needed to check if my bladder was up for the challenge.  And then I had to explain to the other nurse why I was now handing her a cup of pee when she was assuming I was going to be discharged at any moment.

I went back to waiting and FB surfing and two streams of panic started to overtake my brain.

First there was the “are they going to have to dig around in my lungs?” panic.  And all associated fears such as – will Steve make it back in time to hold my hand – did I tell my kids I love them when I dropped them off at school – what will they sing at my funeral – will Steve remarry soon – how soon is too soon.  Yeah my brain works that way.  Especially when all I’ve had to eat all day is a cotton ball.

Then I started to look at the clock and panic about getting my kids from school and getting to the parent-teacher conferences.  My phone was now mostly charged but the cell signal was weak.  I was limited to FB and email and some texting via wi-fi. Friends offered to help and Steve was done and able to leave work early.

Finally a pulmonologist came to examine me and ask questions which set the first stream of panic into a complete ocean of fear.

“Okay so how old are you?”   “Any kids?  How old?”   “Are you pregnant?”  “Do you have regular mammograms?”

He looked at me and finally said, “I’m asking these questions because the CT scan showed some grainy sections on your left breast.  And those are things we don’t tend to see in breasts at your age.”

“Oh – I know.  There are several fibrous areas that my doctors are watching carefully but they are not a problem.”

“Okay.  CT scans are not the best way to examine breasts. But I was concerned.  But you must remember that I do not examine breasts on a daily basis.”

And with that comment, I almost bit my tongue in half to stop from laughing.  I swallowed a cotton ball and now the lung doctor was telling me my boobs were the problem.  Who goes to the hospital with a cotton ball in their throat and gets diagnosed with breast cancer?

He did finally get back to the matter at hand and tell me that things looked fine and I should follow up with him next week and I would be discharged finally.  It was nearly 3 pm and I had gotten there at 9 am.  It was definitely time to go.

I called to assure the dentist office (“Um hi, this is Jennifer – your most memorable patient from this morning.”) and assure my mom (“I’m fine I’m fine.”)  Stopped at church to pick something up and had the whole staff gathered to shake their heads at me and ask if they should cancel their upcoming dental appointments. Then I got the kids from my friends’ house.

My daughter wanted to know why I was at the dentist all day. When I explained to her and her brother what had happened, my 9 year old son got excited in the way only a 9 year old boy can.

“Mom – can I put on rubber gloves and cut up your poop to check for the cotton ball??”

We shelved that idea and raced to meet Steve at school. My son’s teacher was in tears of laughter when she saw me.  Apparently some of my friends had alerted her that I might not make it to the conference.  In fact a friend had told the whole story to the entire 3rd grade staff.

After the conference I ran into that friend and she suggested that next time I go to the dentist, I bring an unused tampon to bite on instead – it has a string to grab!  (Note – GENIUS idea.  Someone get on this immediately.  Dental tampons!)

Later we were leaving my son’s karate practice and I was complaining that I still had not eaten and it was now 6 pm.  My son piped up to ask me, “How many Weight Watchers points are cotton balls anyway?”

Needless to say, I am fine.  As fine as one can be after swallowing cotton.  I have tried really hard to suppress the memories of when I was choking and chosen to laugh.  But, I’m not at all sure that I’m ready to schedule my next dental cleaning.

My recommendation – next time you go to the dentist, bring along some super absorbent tampons with extra long strings and explain what happened to me.


When convos go wonky….

A friend and I were having a conversation several days ago about some of the wackier FB threads we’ve been a part of over the years.  And we admitted that as a result, we both selectively edit what we are willing to post because of backlash we might get from people.  People get rather huffy when you don’t change your profile picture to support homeless chickens or celebrate siblings-in-law day or whatnot.  And others get mad if you post links to topics that they disagree with or comment on deaths of famous people that they don’t actually like.  And in general – sometimes people forget that FB is a nice way to connect not a way to lecture people and take things way too seriously.

It reminded me of one of my favorite Jon Acuff pieces about what he calls the “Jesus Juke”.  Essentially it’s when a conversation totally takes a left turn towards an uber religious serious tone when that was not the original intent.  Jon’s piece (and the term) was prompted thanks to a tweet he posted about a bodybuilder doing pushups in an airport terminal.  While most of the responses he got were along the lines of “how funny” and “post pictures!”, one person’s comment took that left turn:  “Imagine If we were that dedicated in our faith, family, and finances?”

Acuff’s ponderings on it are exactly on point (quoted from his blog):  “I was fine with that idea, I was, but it was a Jesus Juke. We went from, “Whoa, there’s a mountain of a man doing pushups next to the Starbucks at the airport,” to a serious statement about the lack of discipline we have in our faith and our family and our finances. I don’t know how to spell it, but in my head I heard that sad trumpet sound of ‘whaaaa, waaaa.'” Acuff is much funnier than I am.  So be sure to read his whole piece.

But it got me thinking about all of the other “jukes” that occur on Facebook.  Whether or not you’re religious, you’ve experienced the “juke”.  People like to juke everyone else about finances, kids, parenting, social skills, eating, politics, happiness, depression, jobs, the economy, …. whatever.

Thus, a FICTIONAL FB thread popped into my head.  No, it’s not based on reality at all.  Other than a warped sum collective of all the realities of all the FB convos you’ve ever seen.  And no, I did not really post this and my friends did not really respond this way…..but probably somewhere on someone’s timeline someone has…..And if you are my friend on Facebook – again – no  – these are not based on you.  So don’t unfriend me.  🙂

Bottom line – let’s just keep things in perspective peeps.  And laugh more – especially at ourselves.

You The kids and I had a great conversation today about sharing and being kind.  As a result we decided to pay for the meals for those in the car behind us at the drive thru.  What a great feeling to help people in unexpected ways.  #blessed
Friend Aw so sweet.
Mom Did you get my package I put in the mail to you? Give my grandkids kisses.  Grandma wishes she could take them out to dinner.
Old College Buddy Remember when we used to go through drive thrus and not pay back in the day? Guess you’re making up for it.  Ha ha.
Nutritious Friend Really?  Fast food?  That wasn’t being very kind to those people at all.  You should have given them directions to the farmer’s market. Everyone needs fruits and veggies. Not pink goop.
Mommy Friend Why don’t I ever get behind people like you at the drive thru?  Do you know how nice it would be to have someone else pay for my kids’ chicken nuggets?
Political Friend I hope it wasn’t “Brand Name Fast Food”.  You should be boycotting them.  Do you know how they treat chickens?  It’s horrific.
Political Friend #2 Rather than pay for other customers you should have given the money to the cashier.  They make NO money and are forced to work long hours with no healthcare.
PTA friend Why did you go to the drive thru?  Today was Spirit Day for our school at the local pizza place.  If you had spent your money there, the school gets a cut of the profits.  Next time check the PTA calendar!
Mother In Law You’re going out to eat?  I thought I bought you that slow cooker and a recipe book so you’d be feeding my grandkids homecooked meals.  Tell my son to call me.
Fitness Friend Fast food??  You better show up at boot camp class tomorrow and work off those French Fries, girlfriend!
Apparently Druggie Friend Dude, I could totally go for some awesome french fries right now.  Got the munchies!!!
Clueless Friend who doesn’t read the other responses That’s awesome.  We’re all so lucky to be friends with such a kind person.
Husband Did you get me the sandwich I wanted?  See you at home later!
Fiscally Challenged Friend I wish I could do that.  We are still trying to pay off our credit cards.  Maybe I should have you take me out to dinner!  I deserve that free meal more than some random person.  Who knows, that person might be a criminal or something!
Church Friend Good job!  Next time though, give the cashier a paper with a Bible verse on it and our church service times to hand to the other car.  Maybe Matthew 25:35!
Non religious Friend OMG, you don’t have to be religious to be kind. And really if you give me a free burger, does that mean I have to go to your church?  No thank you.  I’ll eat elsewhere.
Feminist Friend Did you get the kids meals? I hate when they ask me if the meal is for a boy or a girl.  I always say “it’s a child not a gender!” Our kids should not be getting color- or gender-matched toys.  Anyone can play with any toy they want to.
Random Friend Oooo…..Did you get one of those new deluxe wraps?  They are DELISH!
You No good deed goes unpunished….especially the ones you mention on Facebook.

I am naive and I’m okay with that.

As I cleaned up the kitchen this morning, I put in the DVD of School House Rock for the kids to watch……“I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill…”

I should be finalizing my long overdue post about our Disney races.  I should be stretching and doing some running work.  I should be grading papers.  I should be wrapping birthday presents for Steve. There’s a lot of “shoulds” that any one could choose from.  I figured most pressing was that I SHOULD be able to find my kitchen counters.  And floors.  And island.  And maybe my bathroom floor.

But my mind is far from housework.

I’ve been pondering the last week or so of my life and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am naive.  Or I’m an optimist.  Or some combination of both. Either label will do. Because I happen to always believe that good will prevail. Always.  Every time.

The short version of the story is that it’s come to light that our county is in the process of permitting a developer and come in and build a big box store (probably Walmart) plus five outparcels (such as fast food stores) AND up to 300 apartments on a piece of property.  The issue isn’t “promoting” economic development.  And for me the issue isn’t really about “Walmart.”  I know people who don’t shop there – and I respect that.

The issue is that this piece of property happens to front on a very congested road right next to the local high school, the public library, and another shopping center.  It is across the street from three residential streets and just down the street from the YMCA and the entrance to a huge neighborhood with several subdivisions, a little league ballfield area, and two public elementary schools.  All locations that are busy with families and children. They are proposing entrances and exits (probably without stop lights) onto this already crowded roadway AND onto another road which has been deemed a “roadway failure” by the county itself.

Those of us who travel this route daily understand why we have to leave our houses 30 mins early to get to ballet or karate or church. Looking at this plan, we may have to start helicoptering in and out of the neighborhood if we want to get anywhere at all.  Long story short – the stupidity of this plan is evident to any local resident.  But apparently not to those who run our county.

Since the moment I read the first news story about this, I have been on a mission to get everyone mad.  To get everyone to write to our county commissioners.  To get everyone to call the county planning commission.  To get everyone to be fully informed.  And to get everyone to express the stupidity of the plan back to the county people and ask for them to fix it. NOW.

And yet they won’t.

We get double speak.  We get tons of calls and emails about the “process being followed” and that “the zoning was changed and this is allowable”.  I even emailed the school board to remind them that just a few months ago 11 high school students were injured when two school buses collided on this road.  The school board’s email response to me was to say “Once it’s built, we’ll have conversations with the shop keepers if necessary.  Maybe we’ll get a turn lane put in if necessary.”  Dear God, these are the people that keep getting voting onto the school board despite me voting against them each and every time???

The point being that the county’s current stance is to repeat until they are blue in the face that “this is the process we are doing, nothing illegal, and the developer has the right to do this.”

And yet I’m actually proud of this.  Because I’d like to think that my grassroots campaign to email and FB EVERYONE I KNOW is the reason that some of the county email inboxes have blown up this week.  They could have been having lazy lunches and coming up with other idiotic bureaucratic red tape that gets them what they want without considering what the people who live here want. But instead – they were fielding calls and emails that I helped jumpstart.  They even had to come up with a public statement that I think they never expected to have to research and write. Yeah, I’m patting myself on the back just a smidge.

And yet there has been no solution as of yet.  They just offer to let you talk to the county attorney so he can tell you the laws and why they are following them.  And they say, “sorry no public meetings cause this is all just hunky-dory.”  They are missing the point.

Things can be perfectly legal and yet be DUMB ASS ideas.

It’s legal for me (a resident over the age of 21) to sit on my couch and gobble up all the fast food and guzzle down all the Boone’s Farm I want all afternoon (as long as I don’t drive somewhere afterwards).  But frankly – that’s a dumb ass idea.  And you know it.  And so do the county people – I hope.

And thus I press on.  I do.  I intend to email and call until someone in the county stops telling me about zoning laws and starts to tell me what THEY are going to do to CHANGE this stupidity.  Until then – what I am going to do is challenge them to CHANGE it.

Why?  Because I’m naive and optimistic.  I’m a child of the 70s and 80s.

I spent a lot of time in the 80s playing with kids at someone’s house while our parents organized the PTA and others to protest the closing of our elementary school.  T-shirts were printed, meetings were attended.  My parents were on the phone with people all the time. They were probably in the news but I don’t remember that.  I do remember sitting in the basement of someone’s house while the parents organized upstairs.  We kids were watching “Red Dawn” – which seems perfectly appropriate.  WOLVERINES!!!!  Sadly, Landing Elementary was closed, sold, and turned into houses. Probably some kids living there now have no clue that we played tag, held spelling bees, learned how to draw in perspective, memorized multiplication tables, started schoolyard fights and crushes, and held field day events in what is now their backyards.  So goes progress.

But I press on.  Despite the “loss” my parents’ group suffered, I maintain that anyone can fight the good fight and good will prevail.  That is what I learned throughout my childhood. Look at the influences I had:

I grew up on School House Rock and learned that anything you learn can be put to song.  And that our government is FOR the people and not a bunch of monarchs.

Daniel-san defeated the bad guys (on one foot) in the Karate Kid movies.  One foot, people!

I rooted for the Goonies and wept openly when they found the treasure and saved their homes.

Rudy got carried off on everyone’s shoulders.  (Yeah I’ve loved Sean Astin long before he helped Mr. Frodo.)

And heck yeah, I’m not declaring love for Hugh Jackman when I yell “WOLVERINES”.

The Death Star DID get blown up – twice.  Sure the rebels had to freeze their butts off on Hoth and deal with the dopey Ewoks – but they hung in there and prevailed.

People work hard and get things done together – yes Laura’s sweet big sister Mary went blind, but even that nasty Nellie got her comeuppance every now and again.

ET makes it home without becoming a government experiment. Bicycles are the only way to outrun the government.

The Nazis didn’t close their eyes but Indy was much smarter than they were.  (No I’m not equating the local government with Nazis – far from it.)

Wesley was only “mostly dead” and thus came back to defeat evil and rescue Buttercup.

You can take your DeLorean back just a few minutes earlier and take out the terrorists and rescue Doc.

And don’t forget – Ferris was able to trick Mr. Rooney.  (Okay maybe not the best example but still)

*if you don’t get these references, you might have missed the 70s and 80s – and you might need to rectify that with some Netflix now.

The point?  Good always prevails.  I believe it.  I have faith in it. I live my whole life this way.  I have high expectations for people.  This is not about politics (cause I don’t discuss my politics with most people) on the left or the right. It is about the basic expectation that we act and behave in accordance with good.  I expect that people will understand stupidity and fight against it – within themselves and in others.  And yes I have fallen way short myself.  I am not perfect. But I work on my faults.  I set higher expectations for myself when I stumble.  How else are you going to get up and keep stumbling forward?

I expect that, sigh, one day there probably will be a Walmart on this piece of property – but I’m not going to make it easy for them. I expect I will never set foot in it.  I expect that I will keep pressing on the county leaders to change what is wrong and corrupt within their system.  I expect myself to keep speaking up and fighting for my community.  I expect myself to rally others to the cause and to find a better voice than mine, to find a more knowledgeable person than myself.  Because somewhere out there is a Mr. Miyagi who is wise.  Somewhere there is a Doc with a superflux capacitor to fix this.  Somewhere there will be the next leader who will help prevail over injustice.  Maybe Batman will come along when we need him.  Or maybe Sean Astin is free.

Either way – I know that I’m doing what is right.  And sometimes what is right gets knocked down – but right never walks away.  Simply dusts itself off and stands up again to fight another day.


Designed by the awesome Calmixx.  Visit his website ( and "like" him on FB.  He's a good friend.

Designed by the awesome Calmixx. Visit his website ( and “like” him on FB. He’s a good friend.



A life well lived

I had a good strong run today.  Despite a nagging knee, I managed to feel pretty good about speed and stamina. Got Disney looming and want to do better than Savannah.

But most of my run (and maybe the root of my success today), my thoughts were not on running but on my sister, Stacia, ….and her dog, Scout.  I remember when Stacia called me to tell me she was getting a puppy. And I still can hear her saying, “And the best part is that I will become a runner – think about it, I can run with my dog by my side.” I’m not sure how many miles Scout actually managed to go with Stacia over the years, probably preferring to watch from across the room as the treadmill motor whirled.

Now, Scout is nearly 17 years old, and has seen Stacia through her first apartment, her dating and engagement and marriage to Rob, her years of teaching elementary school, then through graduate school, and then her eventually teaching college students. Scout has run in the apple and peach orchards that Rob and Stacia have, and has been ridden, hugged, tugged, kissed, and squashed by many a young niece and nephew.  She has shed her fur in many of our houses (enough for at least another 4 dogs) and tolerated the introduction of another dog, Mac, to the house a few years ago. And her name is a constant reminder of my sister’s favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Through it all, she has always been a dog of great poise. She often casts looks around her as if to say, “I’m putting up with this stuff?  Why?”  Yet, she happily tolerates all the love and adoration that has come from Stacia, Rob, and their large group of family and friends. She carries herself with an air thick with loyalty – and fur, lots of fur. She is the reason our daughter desperately wants a dog. The reason we don’t have a dog is that dogs like Scout are a very rare breed.

Sadly, the last few weeks have made it clear that Scout will be heading for the Rainbow Bridge very soon. She has been an amazing pup and has lived a great life. And while it breaks Stacia’s and Rob’s hearts – and both their families’ hearts as well – they know she is in a lot of pain.

I feel so helpless – can’t be there to hug my sister. The best we could do was Skype last night. It helped our kids a lot – to see Stacia and Rob and get to “talk” to Scout. She is still the beautiful pup we know and love. Our kids were really quiet and sad (which was an improvement over the sobs when I read Aunt Stacia’s email to them). But I know it meant a lot to them.

So thank you Scout – for being a friend to Stacia and Rob – and to all of us.  I know we’re all a little bit better for getting to hang out with you all these years. May we all have a touch of your dignity and love and loyalty. Love you, girl.

Gotta run

This morning I was trying to dry my hair, tame my daughter’s out of control curly locks, fix my son’s bedhead hair, finish washing my face and put on make up, find my shoes and my keys, and get everyone and their Bibles out the door for church.  All in under 6 minutes.  And in the process of mentally cataloging all that needed to be done, I looked down at my poor toenails and their chipped polish.  Sigh.  Well, yet another thing that wasn’t going to get done this morning.

The hectic nature of my morning is not unusual for any mom.  And frankly for any given Sunday morning here at the homestead. But unfortunately I’ve been feeling like this ALL day long every day since August.  Since the kids went back to school and I started teaching three college classes instead of my usual 2.  Every hour has been filled with the stack of stuff I have to do right now AND the stack of stuff I’m trying to keep track of in my head AND all the emails I’ve answered in my head but not on the computer AND which kid has a project due at school AND what we might want to eat for dinner AND if we even want dinner AND whether dinner is actually the right term as opposed to ‘supper’ AND the never ending question of when will I have time to clean out the microwave and mop the kitchen.  It’s been go go go all the time.

Yeah right – having it all. If by all you mean “nervous breakdown”, then yes I am having it all. With a side of chocolate.

Part of all this crazy autumn has meant that my poor blog, which means a lot to me, has gotten the toenail polish treatment. That is Scarlett’s notion that “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  (Side note: I have never seen more than 20 mins of Gone with the Wind despite having had two roommates who were passionate about it.  All I’ve glean from their knowledge of the movie is two quotes. That one and my other favorite one: “Quitting time!”  My apologies to Scarlett, Cristy and Betsy.)

Thus I’ve punted on the blog (despite starting a 1001 posts in my head while driving to work or grading papers) and in related news my running has been challenging. Not that I haven’t run. I have. Sometimes at 5 am. Sometimes at 10 am. But mostly not as far or as often as I should have. And so I didn’t know what to blog about. Cause you and my other reader don’t come here to read about my complaints, do you?

But I have stumbled forward….praying for the holiday break and for a chance to catch my breath.

And I’ve run. Or hobbled – depends on your definition. And before I knew it – we were driving up to Savannah last week for the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. And I was wishing for a giant pause button so I could catch my breath and have another 6 weeks of training.

Despite it all, I finished the race. Yea!  Not very quickly. Boo. A time of 3:02 is not what I had in mind.  But then again I was worried about collapsing before mile 5 – so that’s an improvement.  And in reality I was chugging along on pace to finish in 2:35.  Which was awesome.

Until I hit the wall.  (Upon hearing that, our daughter asked me why anyone would put a wall in the middle of the race.)  Mile 8.  My legs just up and gave up at mile 8. And from there on out it was mostly walking with snippets of running to keep up the pace. Until mile 10 when my iPhone died and I had no clue how fast (slow) I was going. So then I trudged to the end. (Side note – I think Santa’s getting me a Garmin for Christmas.  Or a Nike+ watch.  Either way – there was a silver lining to that!)

But I finished. And I was not the last one across the finish. And had I been running the whole marathon instead – that would have been an AWESOME time.  LOL.

We had a great weekend – especially getting to spent time with my folks.  They were kind and got up at 4:30 to take the shuttle with us and they hung out with the kids while we ran (and I even got to see them at about mile 6.3 – yea!).  So while it was not the running triumph I had hoped for back in the summer. It was fun and that’s what counts.

Soon enough it will be time for the Disney run again. About two months and I’ll be up for another 13.1.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reminded of my first year in grad school. I enjoyed the work load and the new people to meet and focusing on my career. But I missed reading for reading’s sake. I am a huge bookworm. And I found myself trying to settle my heart by telling myself that “come summer break”, I’ll read all I want.  Pretty soon, I realized that you can’t cut out that which is a core part of you. So I read. In between classes and research, I made the time.

Granted – back then I didn’t have two kids and a husband. But I hold onto that important lesson. And I am trying very hard to get back to what is at the core of me nowadays – running. So what if the microwave has layers of crumbs and my toenail polish is chipped? They can wait till tomorrow. I gotta run.  (after I grade three stacks of tests….  🙂

Everything old is new and vice versa

The kids started back to school yesterday. Which meant that in the last few weeks of summer, blogging got pushed aside for things like camp (ballet and rockets), Vacation Bible School (where my husband and I stretched our acting chops in the skits), a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s, and lots of back to school shopping. And definitely running.

Including the running from Target to Walmart to find the darn pocket dividers that one teacher required. Of course once I had everything purchased and labeled, we got an addendum list with MORE things on it.  And once again….off to the store. Our son’s lunchbox made it through ONE day of school before it ripped. As I had officially declared back to school shopping OVER, I went the route of duct tape to fix it. And now he can tell his lunch box from the other boy’s exact one by virtue of the tape.  Several life lessons there – including buy the more expensive lunch box no matter how much your child begs for the cheaper one. And the corollary one – you will have to purchase another lunch box when the duct tape is no longer cutting it.

As we walked the kids up to school yesterday, the street got thick with bikers and car riders. I spied one little girl excitedly sticking her head out the car window as she waited for mom to get to the corner to turn into the already jammed school parking lot and car line. I’m sure for every one of the “hanging the head out the window in breathless anticipation” kids, there were equally sullen kids rather excited by the traffic snarl which ensured another few precious moments of summer freedom.

Thankfully our children were more excited than sullen – if only because our son is cheered by the fact that we are going to Orlando on Saturday for the Star Wars Convention.  He sees that as the ultimate reward for surviving the first week of third grade. Our daughter is concerned there aren’t enough “girly” things at Star Wars.  

And so the circle goes.

As an academic, I’ve lived all my life on the school calendar.  K to 12. Then college.  Then 2 years of a Masters program.  Then 4 years of a PhD program.  (Yes I am over educated, why do you ask?) Then the years since then as an adjunct instructor, a visiting instructor, a post-doc, etc across a variety of institutions, depending upon geographical location.  For the last 8 years, I’ve been very blessed to be an adjunct at the same university where my husband is a tenure faculty member.  (In fact, we are in the same department – because we are both psychologists – but not THAT kind of psychologist.)  I’ve had the fun of teaching without the requirement to be advisor, go to meetings, and do other faculty related things.

But this year – I have the pleasure of serving a one year visiting assistant professor position in the same department.  In my mind that has meant I get to teach 3 classes a semester rather than 2, I get more money, an office to squat in, and I get the option of attending the department meetings that Steve tells me are not all that exciting. To the university that means – I have a lot of meetings to go to and things to think about that other adults tell me they worry about (like benefits) but I have chosen by marriage and profession to largely ignore.

Thus once we had the kids off to their respective classrooms (and I had deposited the immediately-wiped-off-while-scowling kiss on our son’s head) I had to race home to drive in for the day long orientation for “new faculty”.  I don’t feel so new as I have been around long enough for my husband to get tenure, but that is a mere footnote to the university. As I drove to campus I was a mixture of that girl hanging her head out the window and that child who wants summer to last forever.  Yes, I love teaching and new notebooks.  But I love summer and being an academic means that summers can be rather laid back.  And I was headed to all day meetings – oh joy. The only consolation being that I was required to go to a faculty reception at the end of it all which included an open bar.

Well I survived the meetings, introduced myself while turning beet red, tried to not yawn at the information I already knew (after 8 years I do know the policy on whether you can tell helicopter parents their darling snowflakes’ grades) and I tried to stop the brain explosion of information on benefits. Yes I get benefits and I am glad for that.  But trying to calculate 20% of a payment on a hypothetical medical appointment that may or may not occur makes one want to stab themselves in the heart with all the free pens we got. I stopped myself in time to realize that I wasn’t sure whether emergency room visits were covered before classes started.  Then again, there might be a caveat in the eye care benefits that covers it – I should have paid more attention.

I pondered all of this while I was running this morning. In addition to the three classes, I’ve packed a 1/2 marathon in this fall (Rock & Roll in Savannah) and the Disney 1/2 in January 2013. Yes I am insane. Even more so because, given our schedule for this fall, my running has gotten pushed to 5 am.  Four days a week.

Oh yes I am quite insane.  And it is quite humid here.

By the time I got back home this morning, I could wring my shirt out and fill the bathtub. At least 1/2 way up.  At times I wasn’t even close to outrunning the sweat dripping down my head. However, I had a steady pace for quite awhile that encouraged me. I hope the sweat cleared all the neurons that had shriveled during yesterday’s meetings and worked off all the sushi I munched on next to the open bar.  But moreover, I’m hoping these next few weeks are old and new.  Old in that running is a part of me now.  New in that I can get back to the 1/2 marathon shape I need. And running each run at 5 am will be new for me. I kinda like the lazy approach of walking the kids to school in the running clothes and then going.  Now I have to run, clean myself up, get dressed and packed for work and then get the kids all put together.  Hmmm…..what are odds this habit will get old sooner rather than later?  Or maybe I could get a new PR in the 1/2 instead.  Yeah yeah – I’ll lean towards that one…..

Here’s to good runs for you all – even those (especially those!) at 5 am!


Love and friendship

My feet hurt.  Not in a “I’ve run and run” all weekend.  But in a “I’ve been at an incredible wedding weekend and blast those darn high heels after miles in my Merrells.”

It’s late on Sunday night. Steve and the kids and I are flying home (towards Tropical Storm Debby), exhausted and filled with the lasting joy (and tiredness) of the past few days. I’m nursing sore muscles and reflecting on the past four days of wedding events. One last brunch event this morning closed out the magic of a wedding celebration weekend.

I have known the bride, Andrea, since before she and her twin sister were born. We moved in next door to their parents just 2 months before they were born at the end of a hot summer.  My brother, sister and I range in age from 4 to 9 years older than the twins. But from the beginning, they (and their little sister) have been our little sisters and our families have been dear friends.

We grew up together, spending time running from house to house. We played together, creating games of our own and spending time fighting over the rules of traditional games. Our fathers played tennis together and our mothers shared books, gossip, and parenting tips. Our families often traveled on vacations together and we spent most summers swimming at one house and eating and then moving to the other house to swim and eat again. We taught the girls how to sing in Polish and we tolerated how they licked popcorn and put it back in the bowl.  And we sang songs together – putting on our own Broadway productions in the basement. Two families, two sets of experiences, but often one joy in being together.

It’s been hard sometimes to explain the relationship our families have had over the years. To say we are “family friends” seems inadequate.  To describe them as “family” seems closer to the truth but feels insincere to those who share names and DNA with us. Thus we’ve skipped the labels – it’s simply been that they’ve always just been “The Smiths” and we’ve been “The Jones”. Okay not really our names – but that’s not the point of the story. We know what we mean to each other and we know that our lives have been richer for it all.

I think my children understand it a bit.  After today’s brunch, our son commented that he wished he had a next door neighbor family like I had. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d long given up the hope of that for our family. For such a natural and easy friendship is rare and one you can not hope for – you must just relish when it blossoms and help it to flourish when and where you least expect it.

Through the years, we’ve all grown up, gone to college, and my parents moved away to warmer climates. But the bond is still there. Still visit and still vacation together now and again. But time together is shorter and we are older. We share drinks rather than run around the basement singing show tunes from the 80s. Our parents still discuss us “kids” but now with new worries and new concerns for us.  We’ve been in each others’ weddings over the years and the girls have bounced our children on their knees.

Which brings me back to Andrea’s wedding to Michael this weekend.

A four-day Hamptons, NY wedding is not your typical expectation for a wedding. But the “Smiths” are not typical.

We started the weekend with a clambake on the beach – complete with great weather, a campfire for smores, and a launching of hot air filled lanterns to send up well-wishes for the couple. The rehearsal dinner was a wonderful family style dinner (for over 100 people) at which people were welcome to the open mike for toasting and roasting.  My siblings and I made sure to come with speech in hand, ready to share Andrea stories and wish Michael well.

And then the wedding itself. (By which point, my kids and my nephews were wondering how long weddings exactly last for, and “aren’t they married already??”)  But my musings on the weekend and the wedding especially are not about the details, the dresses (gorgeous), the cake (chose the ice cream sundae instead), or even the yummy food (and the need to request special plain chicken nuggets for one picky kid while the other dined on lobster tacos and sweet potato pierogis).

Rather, the ceremony caught me up in lovely moments of….love.

As you listened to the chosen readings and the special vows, one could easily be somewhat wistful at the special relationship these two share.  Yet, for those of us who have been blessed with our own incredible relationships, we quickly turn that into a silent recognition and appreciation of our own unique love stories. We smile quietly at the inside jokes in the vows, then turn to our partners and spouses and wink at our own jokes and memories – those of long years and those more recently.

For me, this overwhelming reflection on love brought about the recognition that our own families started this way – the vows my parents took and Andrea’s parents took years ago were the beginnings of the journeys that we all shared now as families. Great love stories do not end with the joining of two people. Rather those people create a galaxy of people, drawing others into their lives and strengthening them.

I am filled with joy that my family members have found love.  My brother and sister-in-law, my sister and brother-in-law, Steve and I.  In turn, each of our love stories has been unique – but filled with love and friends and our growing galaxies of love.  As I looked around the wedding this weekend, it’s clear that Andrea and Michael have already filled their lives with tons of people who love them.

No, we all will probably never recreate the friendship that our two families nurtured over all these years.  But that’s okay.  We are still special to each other, and in turn that friendship and love has taught us about our own unique relationships that encircle each of us.

On a lighter note – actually a heavier one – I refuse to look at the scale after this weekend blow-out.  I was relatively good but the food was yummy. But now that we’re home, I’m back on the straight and narrow. I did manage to get in one run over the weekend – in the Merrells.  Worked on the mid-foot strike and clearly I was good at it for my calves hurt all weekend.  🙂

Here’s to celebrating love – with much fewer calories in the upcoming days.

If a mom tries to go for a run

nods of fan appreciation and apologies to Laura Numeroff

*based on a true story

If a mommy plans an early run, she will set her alarm. But then she will wake up ready to go an hour before the alarm rings.

When she realizes it’s an hour early, she will fight her way back to sleep until the alarm really goes off and she’s too tired to get out of bed.

When she does get out of bed, she will have to listen to the cat meowing at her while in the bathroom.

When she looks up at the cat, she will realize the cat is actually meowing at a cockroach.

When the cockroach gets spooked (because of course it will), it will run straight to the pile of running clothes the mommy has collected on the bathroom floor.

When the mommy sees the scurrying insect, she will jump off the toilet swinging and screaming at the cat and the roach.

When the cockroach sees the looming shadow, it will dart for the shower so the mommy will worry about it later when she showers.

When the mommy goes through the pile of running clothes, she will pick out the least stinky clothes and get dressed.

When she grabs her shoes, she will head to the kitchen where she will realize she has no socks.

When she goes back in the bedroom, she will apologize to the daddy as she puts on the lights to find running socks (which can not be determined by feeling around the drawer).

When she gets her socks and shoes on, she looks for her iPhone with running app and the case for the iPhone.

When she can’t find the case (and vows to clean off the surfaces in the kitchen later today), she will go back to the bedroom, apologize again and turn on the light again.

When she still can’t find it, she will go to the bathroom and NOT apologize to the cockroach as she turns on that light.

When she finds the case, she will go back to the kitchen to realize she needs some water bottles.

When she fills up two containers of Gatorade, she will realize she forgot her gel shot.

When she grabs the gel shot, she vows again to clean up the kitchen today.

When she goes to her car, she will open it to find the faint smell of yuck from all the rain the day before.

When the smell overwhelms her, she will go back inside to find the Febreeze.

When she can’t find the Febreeze immediately, she vows to clean the laundry room after she cleans the kitchen.

When she finally finds the Febreeze, she will spray up the car.

When she gets into the car, she will choke from all the fumes.

When she finally stops choking, she will get to the meeting place and run three sweaty miles with her friend.

When she gets home, she eats breakfast, writes in her blog, and ….

then she remembers she’s suppose to clean the kitchen, the bathroom, and the laundry room.

Anyone up for another run instead?


Fill ‘er up

There are some people who fret about how much fuel is in their car’s tank. For example, on long car trips with my dad, my mom worries when the gas gauge gets below 3/4 of a tank.  Okay maybe at 1/2 tank. But the concern is that you might not know what’s around the bend so you should keep it filled up while you can. You don’t want to get caught on empty in the middle of nowhere.

My stomach is exactly like that.  It constantly thinks it’s in this state:

  In actuality the gauge is probably more like this:Stupid stomach.

In addition to poor skills at measurement, my body is apparently very bad at subtraction. I mentioned to the doctor that earlier this week I had eaten roughly 1200 calories and burned approximately 400 in exercise that day.  When I stood on the scale the next day, I had gained 2 pounds!  What in the world????  The doctor’s response – you’re not eating enough.

Oh yeah that must be it.

Apparently when I don’t eat much my body is worried that the next gas station isn’t for miles and miles.  So we have to hang onto all the lovely fat – and even multiple it when possible. My stomach isn’t clued into the fact that there is food in the house and it will last for awhile.  Stupid stomach.

But I am trying and I am being good. The loss has stalled for a few days – but I’m determined to get my stomach and body to get with the program.


Give or take a pound or two

One of my sillier memories of fifth grade involves a gaggle of us girls asking one of the boys in our class how much he weighed.  I have no clue what precipitated this interrogation or why we were even remotely interested in the answer.  But I’ve never forgotten the response.   He simply said, “At what time?”

Being fifth graders we were ready to pounce on his inability to understand simple question words.  We had asked for a quantity in pounds and he was talking about hours of the day.  Clearly the boy had lost his mind.  (After all, he did support the independent candidate for president that year – John Anderson. Why do I remember these things about former classmates?  I have no clue.)  But we had forgotten the important detail that he was one of the smartest kids in our class (and future Ivy Leaguer).  Thus we were subjected to a whole lecture on gravity and how a body at rest at night will distribute weight more evenly than say later on during the course of the day.   I have no idea if his theory was right….but years later I still assume that you weigh much less first thing in the morning…..even a 10 year old knows that, right?

So despite gravity, the weight loss is occurring.  I’m actually down about 5 pounds from when I started the deal with Steve. So about 21 pounds to go.  However, I’m convinced my scale is trying to make me lose my mind in addition to the pounds.

First of all – I weigh myself every morning.  Um yeah –  I know the experts say not to. However I also know weight changes everyday – and I like to track change…I’m a developmental psychologist – we STUDY change.   I like to start my day off with a reminder to my mouth and stomach about what we are trying to accomplish here.

Thus the early morning weigh-in has a required procedure beforehand.  Including (but not limited to) putting in contacts (glasses add at least 7 oz more as I am rather blind), wringing out the bladder (again a few more oz), and making sure the scale is in the optimal point on the bathroom floor.

Steve had redone our bathroom floor with groutable vinyl tiles a few summers back (very nice).  And as he is a perfectionist – I know my floor is flat and even.  However – there is a vortex just next to the closet door where I swear gravity is stronger than usual.   Thus I try to be careful when I turn on the scale so as not to accidentally tip it so that one corner of the scale is in that vortex.

The other day the scale was completely trying to mess with me.  I got on and weighed 1 pound more than the previous day.  Poop – but again I know it’s just daily fluctuations. But then I moved the scale across the floor (avoiding that vortex) and remeasured.  Discovered I had lost 1.2 pounds in those 30 seconds.  Wow!  So I again moved the scale, made sure the four feet were completely even, no wiggles. And then I gained .75 pounds back.  Two times in a row.  Finally moved the scale back to the original location. And got a completely different number.  See – completely messing with my head.  (I wrote down the lowest number in my log – duh.)

Earlier in the week I had a doctor’s appointment to hear my latest cholesterol results.  I had been happy with my morning weigh in – but my appointment was at 3pm.

“But I totally was like 3 pounds lighter this morning.”

The nurse just nodded as she wrote down the number.

“Clearly gravity is different in the morning than in the afternoon. Or maybe it’s different here in the office compared to my house. But I swear I’m really lighter than that.”

At this she just laughed and probably made some note on my chart to indicate the doctor might want to order a psych eval as well.

Regardless – I know this to be true….at least, thus far, the scale has NOT shown me any numbers equal to or greater than where I started. WHEW.  I claim that as victory alone.

I’m also running better.  Not necessarily faster but for longer stretches before I take a walk break.  I didn’t realize quite how out of shape I was with the injured foot. But I’m starting to get my endurance back bit by bit.

I will win this bet ….. despite the strange pockets of gravity densities in my bathroom.