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.


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…





Jane Austen, and simple civility

But first… I do have a confession to make, although I seriously don’t think that it will cause any real issue to anyone who reads my blog. I just feel guilty in an odd way, and feel the need to come clean.

I made a point to fully divest myself from Facebook quite some time ago – maybe it’s been a year now – and I have never regretted choosing not to be a part of that drama-filled, often hate-filled world of comments and likes and opinions and trolls and constant updates of every minute of everyone else’s day.

Giving up FB also meant giving up a few trivial forms of entertainment that had come to occupy some of my spare time. Alright, I admit it – I was sorta hooked on this fun version of Mahjong. I honestly figured that I would just find some other version on Google and play that. I was wrong. Nothing about what I found available was quite as enticing as my old, favorite game. Apparently, my addiction was too strong and I caved. I set up a new FB account just so that I could continue to play that game

There…I’ve finally said it. That little secret has been weighing on me for a long time. I don’t use Facebook for anything else. I have only one friend there, and that friend supplies me with the occasional impromptu picture of two lovely young girls named Miss G and Miss C that I can add to my grandma’s picture file.

Since rejoining FB I’ve added three other games. One follows a similar pattern to my favorite, but it’s difficult, and turns out to be a game theme I really have never enjoyed or been successful with. When I leave this post that game will also be leaving my playlist.

I also found this nifty Cross-Stitch game, which really isn’t a game at all except that FB does entice players to spend coins and gold on patterns. Let’s call it ‘virtual cross-stitch’ for lack of a better description. Patterns are either purchased with FB money, or players can actually download their own pictures that are then conveniently set into pattern form. Although some autonomy is lost as the color choices are set for you, this game is more of a creative outlet for me. My twisted finger joints will not allow me to cross-stitch in the traditional way anymore so this game gives me the illusion of artistic expression without the pain.

Recently I came across a game themed to all things Jane Austen. I believe it came as a recommendation because cross-stitch is also a theme, and you know how FB likes to find and recommend common threads. This little game is all about creating sentimental art pieces and completing Pride and Prejudice themed word search puzzles to earn ‘Janey’s’ – currency – that can be used freely to purchase goods to decorate cottages and fine manor houses. So again I have a silly creative outlet, but I also get to utilize my interior designer wanna-be skills and create my own authentic, or stylized, versions of Georgian society.

It’s a fun, and sometimes funny, pastime. I attempt to keep to what I believe would be traditional outfitting. Many others who play the game take extravagant liberties by mixing tradition with distinctly modern looking (and often rather outlandish) decor. Who am I to tell others that Big Box store commodities like plastic and metal canisters would likely not have been seen in the manor house kitchen in 1800 . Others – what I am coming to call the ‘hard-core’ Austen group – seem to have immersed themselves into this world a bit more deeply than I might choose. I will stand on the fringes of this group and ponder their ability to live so fully in the past.

My point however, and thus a reference to the title of this post, is that this game does include interaction among it’s participants. Games such as those are ones that I have always stayed away from, especially on a social media platform. It’s too easy for the interactive games to turn, to become everything I never liked about Facebook in general: the lack of respect and civility; the over-arching concept that anonymity inspires the ability to speak without filters or to attack at will.

I am new to this game. I choose to remain on the sidelines mostly, reading discussions and observing and learning. It is a new game, still small, and so the sense of civility and respect may simply be a reflection of that. Perhaps the nature of the games theme, and the overt charm and decorum and manners displayed during Jane’s era help to reflect a sense that FB game players can be decent and respectful. I think you can clearly guess that my focus is not just on FB as a platform for nastiness and rudeness. Civility and respect are decidedly lacking in many arenas these days.

Jane’s society, while not perfect in many ways, did observe some basic elements that seem to be missing in our society. Manners for one, and I’ve always felt that the style of language of that time forced everyone to really listen for the point of the conversation. Here I admit that reading Austen can be a struggle as descriptions and dialogue can be circuitous. But, if you really listen and pay attention, the point comes through, often in a pleasantly biting, but never truly rude manner.

Plus, we can’t forget the practicality of fashion in the world of Jane Austen. I find these styles of dress to be the most unencumbered and sensible… entirely more practical than what was to become popular. Maybe it was easier to remember manners and take part in meaningful dialogue without all those stays and bustles and corsets and buttoned-up-covered up-cinched up garb introduced by Victoria.

from englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com






It was so long ago that it’s impossible to remember how the argument began.

She remembers words like priority being tossed about. He felt he wasn’t a priority in her life. His career was coming to an end, changing. His identity would also change and she guessed that he feared that. It was implied that her focus was misguided, that his needs were the priority now.

The children were young. In her mind, they were the priority still. They were a constant for her. After raising them almost single-handed for so many years no one in the house was comfortable with this man. He was looked upon as more of an occasional visitor than the husband or father the outside world predicted him to be. If she was honest, it almost felt like an interference – the coming months when he would be a part of their life, play a role that he was so unaccustomed to playing.

“You’ve changed,” he said to her. His voice came across the darkness. “You have all those feminist friends now.”

That sentence said with such contempt and disdain. Those words, voiced in the darkness and meant to convey a message that haunts her years later.

She chose to ignore the call to action that night. She wanted her children to finally know their father.

Now, so many years later, she wonders what they know of him. What they think of him.

Who is the man they see?

What he will never realize is that she hadn’t changed. He had chosen, just like she had chosen so early in their relationship, to see only select aspects of the other person. She assumed that she could, and would continue to accept him and find a way to move forward.

She was wrong.

A doorway opened that night. Both he and she were afforded a glimpse of the whole person on the other side. She now knows in her heart that something began to change just then, at least for her. Emotions clouded and optimism turned to hints of defeat.

She can only wonder what he saw or if he felt the heaviness begin to pull at their life as well in those moments. He gave no hints of a turning point, but neither did she.

Now…now she wants to ask but needs to go beyond. Changes real or imagined, changes that never were, changes that must be recognized.

Life altering changes that should have happened many years ago.



I haven’t used that word in about 4 years. It was an everyday word in my vocabulary when I was still a surgical assistant at the oral surgery office. We lived and breathed impacted 3rd molars (wisdom teeth) that showed up in places they shouldn’t, or were spectacularly oddly shaped, or even came with extra little mirror images. I think that I had a patient once who actually had 9 wisdom teeth. Yes, I said Nine. Supernumerary they would be called, along with a rather large cyst in the mandible. But, I digress – although I haven’t had the opportunity for dental speak in some time and it’s nice to toss about those words again – this post focuses on another sort of impaction that I came across this morning.

A word of warning – I will attempt to be as tender as I am able as I move forward, however – this post could definitely win the TMI award, if there was such a thing.

Also, my medical background is limited so what I am about to tell you in the next paragraph is only speculation. I’ve started an IV once. I’ve helped to open airways and bag ventilate patients. I’ve even filled syringes with some pretty hardcore hallucinogenic and narcotic drugs. I know my way well around CPR and an AED. I’ve cleaned up puke and slapped O2 masks and BP cuffs onto arms and faces in record time. That is my limit to any sort of real medical expertise.

This morning, ( and I so apologize now – and if you have a weak stomach – STOP reading) I believe I performed my first (and definitely only) digital disimpaction of feces.

Physicians and nurses reading this – please trust me to be clear. This fecal impaction was not found in a human. I did not undertake this task (and yes I was gloved) on anything living or breathing or that had ever been alive.

In simple terms, a toilet in my house (we have 3) was clogged. I did not know that this toilet was clogged. The toilet in question is one that I do not use anymore. I relocated much of my living space to the areas upstairs after Alison moved out. I almost always use the bathroom upstairs now. The details behind that move/adjustment follow in line with some recent posts on changes, moving forward, and the like. The hows and whys of that change are for a different post entirely.

I did find myself near the offending toilet though, for other reasons, and as I had downed a cup of coffee earlier, my bladder was calling out. I cannot describe the panic after I pushed the handle and watched the water rise…almost to the top…then slowly – so very slowly – begin to drain – but not enough.

I’ve been alive long enough to have encountered clogged plumbing before so I felt pretty confident that this might be a case of overuse of paper. As much as I wanted to simply close the lid and the door and tell the offender that he had a job waiting for him when he arrived home I stupidly bravely jumped into action.

I would so love to share with everyone the scenes that followed over the next 30 minutes. I will not though. I will simply redirect you to this line:

I believe I performed my first digital disimpaction of feces.

We have a plunger, which was used. Luckily I remembered not to hover over the bowl as I was plunging. There were tongs involved as well, and lots of rags. All of which are now in the garbage can. The plunger was effective to a certain extent, but… well I will just refer you to that statement from above again.

I will close by saying – the toilet flushes freely now.

Have a lovely day.

Oh, and aren’t you glad I didn’t include pictures…


But first – a preface feels necessary.

Some force seems to be prodding me to put fingers to keys if you will, and the result is taking the form of scenes and moments and memories from the past. With small changes here in the last few weeks, and changes still to come, I feel slightly closer to the ‘looking ahead’ part of my life. I don’t know how long these posts will last. A figurative radio silence may come at any moment if words disappear once more, or thoughts become too maudlin, or the bits of cheer that accompany small decisions suddenly wear down to complacency again. 

So, onward we go –


Have you ever had something dedicated to you?

Perhaps a former lover, late one night, called a radio station and made a dedication of a song that held special meaning. Maybe you know a published author who felt compelled to name you as somehow inspirational to their writing. Perhaps a friend or someone else in your life dedicated a contribution in your name for some philanthropic cause.

The words that are to follow were, I believe, a true dedication meant to honor me. They were chosen as a means to convey affection at the time. No, it was more than affection. It was love. They were presented to a large group of people on an early evening in April many years ago. They were the words to a song that I had heard often prior to that night, but on that evening they held such promise, and I felt truly honored to listen to them once again and be the recipient of the love that was intended by them.

At times I just don’t know
How you could be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me

And I know that I won’t ever change
We’ve been friends through rain or shine
For such a long, long time

Laughing eyes and smiling face
It seems so lucky just to have the right
Of telling you with all my might
You’re beautiful tonight

And I know that you won’t ever stray
‘Cause you’ve been that way from day to day
For such a long, long time

And when you hold me tight
How could life be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me

And I know that I won’t ever change
We’ve been friends through rain or shine
For such a long, long time

Well, I must say it means so much to me
To be the one who’s telling you
I’m telling you, that you’re beautiful

Those words are the lyrics to the song “Beautiful” by Gordon Lightfoot, the song my then fiance requested we play at our wedding. It is a lovely song. If you would like to hear it just follow the link.

For consistent readers I doubt that I need to tell you that the intent of these words, and even the love behind these words, has diminished since that night in 1983. Let’s be honest. The intent they were meant to convey and the love that made those words swell and sink deeply into my heart, is gone.

It was made very clear to me not so long ago that different words are favored to describe me now. I can’t/won’t share them here. It is enough to know that they originate on the opposite end of the spectrum from the words that filled the church that night. That those words should be voiced at all, in light of the fact that speaking of any emotion or feeling is typically unheard of, surprised me much more than the words themselves. They were not presented to me, however.  I had to learn of them from someone who was made to witness behavior more like a child’s tantrum than an adult with self-control.

The words, while hurtful, did little to alter my own emotions. I have reached a point of resignation. I have reached a point that, even if I was offered an opportunity to go back, to catch this disaster before it became our end, I have no desire to do so.

So now, even if I find myself lingering too long listening to those words, I cannot go back. I can still see the room as clearly as if I were present there now. I can remember the face of the man standing in front of me at the alter, holding my hands and making silly faces to keep me from crying. His efforts helped some, but not entirely. I can remember feeling as if we were the only two people in that huge church as the first chords of the guitar came through the speakers.

I can remember, and linger, but I cannot go back.

I can only go forward.



Summer 1982

Torches belch out black smoke trails that mingle with KFC chicken smells wafting skyward on the other side of the fence. Exhaust is a heavy commodity as well, if you concentrate too much.

The midnight sky is only slightly deeper than the purple hue that has stained her lips from glass after glass of red wine. Pinot Noir, or perhaps Zinfandel. Whatever the varietal, bottle two is clearly almost empty.

Car sounds are muffled by the stereo sending out smooth Grover Washington Jr. saxophone riffs… Just the two us, we can make it if we try – Just the two us, building castles in the sky…Just the two us, you and I.

Her voice mingles with his. The volume is low, but an occasional laugh rises into the night sky on a soft breeze. If any of the neighbors are still awake and listening they might catch snippets here and there…

Little phrases, shared ideas, big plans, lives seeking a future together. Hopes and dreams that she will never imagine could fade, or fail. This man, munching cheese and apples and sitting next to her at 2 AM refilling her glass is everything. She looks over at him, the buzz from so much wine does nothing to cloud her belief that he -and she- would live the happily ever after storybook tale.

Summer 2016

A lavender scented candle flickers as dusk settles over the room.

She hasn’t had a glass of red wine in a long time. Red disappears much too fast now, and it’s usually only one person drinking…glass after glass on any given night. She buys white wine now because he won’t drink that. Pours are closer to just a few ounces when she drinks at all.  She’s learned to appreciate and savor even a small amount. She doesn’t need more.

From her quite spot upstairs she can hear bird songs, and often the baby next door. The neighbors waterfall splashes in the distance although invisible from her new sanctuary. When the stereo is turned on now, Mr. Washington’s predictions of castles and forever love don’t play their promises anymore. In fact, the last saxophone she heard was likely played by her own son years ago in college.

Mingled voices don’t exist in this place. Words are rarely shared unless they must be. Plans made back then, at least some of them, did come to fruition. She has her children, and damn if that fortune teller on her Hawaii honeymoon wasn’t correct. They did have three after all.

The only laughter any neighbors might hear now comes from the TV reruns, turned up loud. She often wonders if he is more comfortable, has always been more comfortable – with his TV, than with her.

On the rare occasions that they are in the same room together she will sneak a glance in his direction. She witnesses small bits of the man she knew, a strangely familiar resemblance but at the same time – not. She would tell you that wishing for storybook endings is risky at best.

Summer…the future

Herb pots and a few small sweet smelling flowers send their scent her way as she waters and plucks out dead blooms. The scent of her favorite lavender candle still lingers even though it hasn’t burned for hours.

A nice glass of Malbec sits on the outdoor table. She sips on occasion, but reserves most of the small glass to have with her dinner.

She likes listening to the slow swish of traffic sounds rolling across the fenced yard. The shouts of children playing in the park nearby remind her of her granddaughters lively antics as they played in the pool yesterday.

She nods and waves quickly to the neighbor. They often chat over the hedge – He will call out hello and ask about her day while puttering in his yard if he sees her reading in the sun. She reminds herself to mention to him that she will soon be away for a few weeks. He and his wife keep and eye on her small home when she travels. She has a family vacation planned with her children and grandchildren.

She sits down with her dinner and thinks back to just a few days ago. Driving home, flipping through channels on the radio, she caught the end of an old, still familiar song. How many years have come and gone since she last heard, or even thought about, that music? Now, looking down at her glass, for a few moments she allows herself to think and remember…

…the way her head would hurt with the efforts to piece together the puzzle and answer all the questions of when, and why, and how.

…how impossible it is to know when she allowed herself to stop believing in the castles, and the idea that the world was open to just the two of them.

…that she was a different person then. That she lost herself somehow, and that he probably wasn’t the man she believed him to be, but a man she created by closing her eyes to what was real and creating perfection from an image and a name.

The familiar saxophone came to a crescendo just as she pulled up to her new home.

Still such a great song.

She would always be thankful that he had introduced her to jazz, and red wine…and yes, even dreams.