Self-doubt

This hasn’t been a good week. I’m trying to remind myself, borrowing from the wisdom of a strong woman (A, her name is Alice) who has had, and is dealing with, her own setbacks and steps forward, that I have to stay on the path that makes the most sense to, and for, me.

It isn’t easy. Life refuses to stand still to accommodate my plans. Nagging doubt, worry, and even guilt get in the way. I question myself as I imagine others must be questioning me. Why should I give any credence to what ‘they’ might think, or believe, or be told about me. I do care though, but how incongruous that seems when I have no clue if their thinking and opinions and questions are really happening, or simply being fabricated by my own weary brain.

I seem to be investing my entire self into a battle that the other half of this equation simply shrugs off. I know that this behavior, by nature, speaks to the way I handle most things in life. I’m an all-or-nothing person. I don’t have the capacity to come at something half-assed. I don’t have the ability to trust that things will get done, or be handled. Nothing is simple in my world, yet I wonder time and again if I am the one making life this way. Is control the ultimate goal, and at what price happiness…

Curiosity caused me to spend some time with Google last night, searching out the answer to a question about anxiety and stress. I’ve witnessed a specific behavior over the years, witnessed it again yesterday, and I was pretty sure that I already knew the answer. I was correct. Anxiety and stress can manifest in numerous signs and symptoms for different people. This very specific sign, and the surrounding drive to withdraw from stressful situations, is a coping mechanism in and of itself. In other words, I’m being hit in the face yet again with a clear message: rather than be present in this world; rather than work to solve or move ahead; rather than take responsibility, the choice is to shut down – retreat – ignore, and when you pretend that you are helpless long enough your life gets very easy. You can go about your days letting others handle things for you. You can be indecisive, feign ignorance, and go on living a lie, presenting yourself to 98% of the outside world as an adjusted, rational, normal person.

Some days, like today and like day after day this past week, I would so like to be that person. I would relish the freedom to let the world lead me and do for me, knowing that the only effort I would have to expend would be a handful of hours here and there, keeping up the pretense for those few who are relatively insignificant in my life while avoiding the ones who should matter most.

Some days, like today, I am so very glad that I am not that person. I am so very glad that something (stronger?) within myself allowed me to choose a different path. It’s not a perfect choice, and my own actions will never be perfect, but every time that I am witness to the consequences of inaction I am renewed in my focus. I have to remind myself that I don’t have control over what others will see, or think, or believe. I have to remind myself that, while at this moment I may appear selfish or unkind or disinterested to others, the opposite has been true for decades.

Some days though, I am just so tired. Some days it would be so much simpler to be the person I was 30 years ago. If I do that, if I make that choice, then I will continue to live a lie. I think I owe myself more than that.

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Bragging Rights

I just cannot resist posting these pictures. I haven’t given in to my grandmotherly urges as much with GD (granddaughter) #2 – Cece Mae, but with just two months to go until this precocious little girl turns 1 year old, I thought I would share.

She stands and walks along the furniture – any furniture, even it if won’t hold her – but crawling is still her main mode of locomotion. She still has no teeth and she refuses to learn how to drink from a cup. “Baba” will likely be with her for some time. She loves to dance to the ABC song, waves bye-bye, signs for more, shakes her head no, makes a mad face, but can melt your heart in an instant with her smile. She says mama, coco (the dog) oh-oh, and ga-ga (her sister Gisella). I still haven’t heard her say dada.

She is a joy, just like her sister. I believe they will both take over the world one day.

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Conviviality

I met the nicest man this morning.

I had scheduled a service appointment for my car at the dealership very early. Little did I know that they are doing Major renovations there, like they literally have no showroom at the moment and are working from construction trailers. I only needed an oil change and tire rotation, but when I saw plywood and tarps and lots of hardhats I began to wonder if I should have simply gone elsewhere and paid out of pocket.

It became even more interesting when I told them that I planned to wait while the service was performed, yet I noticed the usual entrance to the waiting area was boarded over. The manager saw my glance, chuckled and said, “I’ll walk you to our waiting area.”

We left the building, walked all the way around the front, all the way down the side of their old showroom along temporary chain link fencing towards some of their back lots. I spotted a trailer and assumed that was the new ‘waiting area’ but no, we walked beyond that, and there tucked into a corner of the very back lot was a large tent lined with tables of coffee and water, and snacks, as well as the old black leather chairs from reception. A portable white picket fence enclosed some picnic tables and chairs. It was really rather ingenious. I wish I would have taken a picture to post, but I didn’t.

I sat down to read and the early morning sun shining on my neck was already warm. We are expecting 90+ degree weather for the next few days so my choice of an early appointment was genius. I think it would have been unbearable under that plastic tent by noon.

So, on to the gentleman. I noticed him as I made myself comfortable in a chair. He looked to be in his 70’s and was wandering the lot, looking at cars. A few other customers came into the area to wait, but you know how it is in waiting rooms of any kind. You always try to pick a chair well away from others if you can. It must be that whole personal space thing I guess. So when I saw the older man enter I assumed he was going to sit in one of the readily open spots.

Nope. He very purposefully strode toward my row of chairs. I was on the end, saw him and probably gave a courteous half smile while quickly realizing that he was quite clearly headed directly to the open chair right next to me. Even before he sat down he had started talking.

“Well, have you noticed that the Forester and the Outback are really about the same size now? When I was looking for my last car I compared the two and the Forester was just too small. I couldn’t get my wife’s wheelchair into it and the Outback seemed bigger. Now either one has gotten smaller or the other has gotten bigger I can’t tell which…”

I wrote the above with clear sentence structure and punctuation, but the reality is that all those words came out of him in one sentence. And then he kept going…off to another subject.

I think my mouth may have been hanging open a bit. I also believe I was in a little bit of shock. I’ve had people; men, sit down next to me and say a few words or make a small comment, or even strike up a short conversation, but I’ve never encountered anyone who came prepared to have a purposeful non-stop conversation like this man.

He wasn’t odd, or creepy, or pushy, or anything negative. He wasn’t an old fart who had the gold-chain lecher qualities either. He was clean, dressed casually but nicely, well-groomed and polite.

Within those first few seconds, as I took this scene in, I realized that he was a man much like a few dear old patients that used to routinely come into the office: older, intelligent, and lonely. It was clear that this was a man who was gregarious and someone who enjoyed conversation. It quickly became clear that he was very much alone and lonely. As he asked questions and we chatted a comment came out about his wife. In fact, he actually had to stop for a moment, almost to collect himself, before he noted that she was now “in a home.” I really was taken back to a few very special patients that we often suspected would come into the office with phantom tooth issues simply because they needed someone to talk with.

We spoke for perhaps 5 minutes, and then my phone rang with the technician telling me that my car was done. I gathered up my things, all the time he was still talking, and as I rose from the chair I gently touched his forearm, looked him in the eye, thanked him and told him that it had been a pleasure passing time with him while we both waited.

I meant those words very sincerely. He was an absolutely charming bright spot in my morning.

Kitty goes home…

Today was the day. Kitty, aka Snowflake, has gone to her new home. Alison has fulfilled her summer work/travel duties and came to pick up the kitty this morning.

I was ready in many ways, but also not so ready. I am delighted that I will have more freedom. This is literally the first time in more than 31 years that either a child or pet has not been dependent upon me for care or food. Snowflake helped make the transition of Alison moving out a bit easier, but today I can truly claim to be an empty-nester. She has missed Alison, and I know that Alison has missed Snowflake greatly.

Right now I’m finding things odd, more than sad. I can visit the cat, and in the long run I think that will be enough and suit just fine. Odd it is though, when you expect to see an animal curled up in it’s bed on the couch it’s been occupying for years. Odd when you realize that there is no more liter box to clean, or cat food to buy, or a furry yowling alarm clock to raise you up at exactly 5:30 AM without fail.

The move seemed to go off without a hitch and Alison sent these pictures of kitty in her new home.

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Her bed and her cat grass. What more does she need.

A loaf by any other name…

…is nothing more than an oblong shaped conglomeration of items – sweet or savory or protein filled, baked, sliced and possibly drowned in ketchup-y tomato sauce if meat is involved. I believe, although I have no facts at hand to back this up, that meat type loaves were designed especially to stretch the housewife’s dollar in the 1950’s and 1960’s. You could feed a few more hungry kids with a loaf and maybe even have leftovers for sandwiches.

Alright, you may be asking why I am posting on the topic of ‘the loaf.’

My daughter shared with me a recipe for Spicy Tuna Cakes. She makes these a lot as they are gluten free. Obviously not baked in loaf form (hence the name cake) although I suppose it could be, the little tuna cakes are baked in a muffin pan. They turned out to be quite tasty. It was the ingredients, process, and the overall look  of the mixture that made me think of a few loaves that used to be common in my childhood home.

Meatloaf is a given. My mom made a pretty good one actually. Along with the hamburger and other typical ingredients she added pork sausage. As that loaf cooked the grease would rise to the top. When I was old enough to safely navigate a hot oven I would often have the duty to skim off the excess grease as the loaf baked. She baked this meat mixture in a round Pyrex bowl, not a loaf pan. I have no idea why. She also never used that tomato sauce topping that is so common to the meatloaf. Again, I have no idea why. The best part of this whole process…cold meatloaf sandwiches. White wonder bread, two slices of loaf, and for me both mayonnaise and ketchup.

The other popular loaf in our home was a salmon loaf. The smell from the canned pink salmon would permeate the entire house. It was dumped into a bowl and she (I, again when I was old enough) would use a fork to pick through the meat, scraping and removing any really dark skin and looking for the stray back bone pieces that always were included in each can. I forget exactly what she added after that. An egg, and crumbled saltine crackers for sure. This loaf was a true loaf. the mushy mixture was dumped into a pan and baked until brown and set. Sometimes, if we had any extra, she would put a few pieces of bacon on top to bake with the loaf and get crispy while imparting that smokey taste into the salmon.

The tuna cakes are a much healthier version of the loaf as their binder consists of egg, but mostly mashed orange sweet potato. You get your veg and your protein all in one, unlike my experience with the childhood versions.

So how about you? Were ‘loaves’ a big thing in your family growing up? Were they mostly sweet, like yummy breads, or of the variety that easily stretched protein a bit further for hungry mouths. Do you make any sort of loaf still as a regular go-to recipe? If you have an outstanding one, feel free to leave the recipe in the comments.

And, may your loaf always hold it’s shape and slice without crumbling to pieces…

A Passing of Sorts

Most of you know that I closed out my final career as a surgical dental assistant. If you’ve been around here for some time you might also remember that I’ve also worked with pregnant couples as a doula and educator. I always wanted to be a nurse, then a midwife, but dentistry was quicker, cheaper and more attainable way back in 1978 so that’s the route I took.

I found that I really liked it and was quite good at my job. My rather overt need to be organized was a big plus when it came to working in a structured and procedural oriented occupation. I also really enjoyed educating patients and helping them to have positive, healthy and often extremely life-changing moments and outcomes.

One of the perks of my educational program way back then was that students were almost always guaranteed to be placed in a dental office after graduation. Often we received internships prior to graduation and then simply stayed on as a new assistant in that office. I had one of those internships, but the dentist and office staff, as well as their overall philosophy, just didn’t fit with my personality. I was terrified the day I had to sit down with the dentist and tell him thanks, but no thanks. I did it though because I knew that I would never fit in that office, and I wanted the advantage of my schools support to find a position rather than trying to go at it on my own.

After my decision to forego the elite pediatric dental office I ended up just staying in our schools clinic, finishing out my last few months there, working with the local dentists who volunteered their time to come in, teach us what they needed in a chairside assistant, and provide low-cost care to the community.

Just prior to graduation I was sent out for an interview at a brand new office just minutes from my home. I was totally enthused because I would be the only back office staff person. The office was that new. Plus he was offering an amazing $12.00 per hour, along with incentive bonuses as we grew the practice. I couldn’t believe that I was getting my very own office, so to speak, right out of school, plus a big enough paycheck that I could live on my own. Remember this was early 1980 after all.  

Here’s my graduating class. I’m way over to the right in the end chair.

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I worked in that office for 6 years until I was politely asked to leave because I “seemed not to be as focused on my job anymore” which really translated into ‘you’re pregnant now  and I’m not a man who finds pregnant woman acceptable (he used to make really sexist comments about his pregnant wife who was just a few months farther along than me) and so I’m giving you this opportunity to leave.’

He really was an ass, and always had been, but paid well at the time plus let me do what I wanted to set up and run the back office along with performing lots of individual procedures so I chose to overlook his attitudes. I look back and admit that wasn’t how I would choose to situate myself now. In reality, that abrupt end turned out fine, as I had not planned to return there after giving birth anyway.

I went on to be a mom, and an educator, and a doula, and then back to dental assisting in a general dental practice …for another sexist ass, prior to finishing my career in oral surgery. I suppose pondering this trend to associate myself with men who clearly lack any cohesive bond with feminism, as well as my own moral compass and ethics in working for them, needs to be fodder for another blog post.

So, why this clearly endearing walk down memory lane you might ask.

That first office, MY first office, is no longer standing. It has been situated on a very busy corner along a major highway for almost 37 years. I passed it often. The same dentist, my first employer, has been in that location the entire time. We had an insurance office on one side and a deli on the other. The deli owner was also an overt sexist. The insurance owner followed LDS beliefs, but I can’t speak to his views on woman. There have been many changes in the businesses alongside over the years, but the one constant was my dental office.

About 2 weeks ago, as I drove by to go to the bank I noticed a chain-link fence surrounding the property. About 1 week ago, I drove by again on my way down the highway and realized that the building had been razed. Huge pieces of equipment were positioned to pull out crushed concrete and metal and load it into waiting trucks. The only thing left today when I drove by was the original concrete slab and a few small piles of rubble. Now only a concrete footprint delineates the place that I began my career. I had to stop for the traffic light, and as I looked over toward the almost empty lot I noticed a few pipes remaining. They were the lines that had fed nitrous oxide and oxygen from our outside tanks under the concrete slab and into our building.

Other memories rushed in as I remembered having to unlock the outside tank storage area every morning and turn on those tanks, then do the reverse at the end of each day.

Some things that stand out include:

The very frightening and totally unacceptable fact that we never wore masks or PPE of any kind, and only used surgical gloves if we were extracting a tooth. Common practice in 1980. Yuck, gross, alarming, and why/how I’m still alive after all that exposure is amazing.

Polyester uniforms and white nurse shoes. As you can note by my grad picture, we were required to wear all white during school, even white nurse socks. The first thing I did when I got my first job was to go out and buy a colored, print top and toss the white stockings. No breathable scrubs back then…no way…only thick polyester. I chose the brightest top I could find. It was orange. I have never worn orange since.

Along the lines of that personal hygiene/safety issue, we cleaned some instruments with alcohol only. No, I wasn’t trying – or being directed – to cut corners or be cheap. It was what we did back then with a few select groups of instruments. It was standard practice in dentistry. It was gross. It was awful. It does not happen now so please continue to go to your dentist.

Unknown, but likely high amounts of scatter radiation from our panoramic dental x-ray machine. Now days those types of x-rays are either digital, or must be in a position in the office where operators and other staff/patients are shielded. Ours sat out in the open about 4 feet from the reception desk and the receptionist herself.

Mercury. Perhaps sharing too much about this topic will push you beyond your limits when it comes to learning what happened in dental offices just a few decades ago, but I’m sharing anyway. Mercury was mixed with a metal alloy to form amalgam, the stuff of silver fillings that so many still have in their teeth. Many offices literally had their assistants physically placing the alloy pellet and the necessary amount of mercury into a tiny capsule that was then inserted into an amalgamator which shook the contents at such a high rate that a soft, pliable substance was formed and could then be pushed into a waiting cavity prep. Even in the offices, like mine, that used pre-mixed capsules, assistants still had to load a tool with the soft amalgam. Remember, we didn’t use gloves. Let’s now consider mercury vapor…along with the repeated, even if inadvertent, contact with mercury that was inevitable with that system overall.

It is no wonder that, as I find myself getting more forgetful, and contemplating if I may be headed for dementia or even Alzheimer disease in the future, I need to reflect seriously on a more likely scenario – long term exposure to mercury and it’s effects. 

Please note – I am not saying it is imperative to rush out and get any remaining amalgam fillings removed and replaced. I will state though that if you happen to go to a dentist that still routinely uses amalgam there are better, safer alternatives. It may be time to question the continued use of this substance, for your sake and the office staff as well.

1st generation Volkswagen Scirocco’s. Anyone remember or every drive one? This was the car my dentist drove. I will always remember being crammed into the non-existent backseat on a 50 minute trip to Seattle for a dental convention.

Hormonal migraines. During the time I worked in this office I was experiencing some of the worst migraines I ever had. I would literally have to force myself to sit upright and assist with patients. The overhead fluorescent lights pierced my eyes like a knife. At lunch, when I had a headache, I would curl up in the dental chair for as long as I could until we started our afternoon. I was the only assistant. I never thought that I had the option to leave.

A patient named Mike. Horrible teeth that we fixed up nicely, along with a partial denture as he was missing many of his molars. He was incredibly nice. He rode a motorcycle. I rode with him a few times. He was also into martial arts. He recommended Tiger Balm…for various uses. Enough said.

The dentists wife. Nice enough to your face, but I always had my suspicions. She was also a dental assistant. I swear that she would come into the office after hours or on the weekend and rearrange things to suit her idea of proper dental order. I could never prove it, and the mercury hadn’t clouded my memory that soon. I knew how I left things and they were not always as I left them. As I noted earlier, she and I were both pregnant with our first child at the same time. I remember concerns in her pregnancy centered on the possibility of spina bifida. The child was fine. It shocked me though, to find out many years later that the younger brother of this child – who had attended the same high school as my son and graduated in the same class – died. I somehow stumbled upon an obituary and was truly saddened for their family.

Well, let’s call it a wrap. That’s enough reminiscing for one post, and probably more than any of you ever wanted to know about pre-stringent dental infection control standards.

There are no informative signs up, or indications of future development plans, so I have no idea what is going to go up in place of the old building, if anything. It is on a weird corner though, sort of a triangle, with the closest business being a Bucky’s Muffler Shop, or maybe it’s a Jiffy Lube. Something automotive anyway. Geez, you think I’d remember the name of a business that I drive by so often…

Anyone for a few drops of shiny mercury. It forms lovely little silver balls…

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http://www.liquidmercury.net