Looking Up with My Mouth Open

Isn’t that how turkeys drown, looking up with their mouths open in a rain storm? This isn’t about turkeys except I had a “fowl” experience…

In July I had my teeth cleaned and low and behold the dentist found a cavity. This makes the first cavity since 1975. I had to have those fillings replaced a few years ago which wasn’t too awful. I didn’t know it but fillings don’t last forever. The lifespan of an amalgam alloy filling is about 25-30 years. Mine lasted 35 years so that wasn’t too shabby. So back to this latest experience. My appointment was on last Tuesday. The cavity was on the occlusal surface of my last molar in the upper arcade on the right side. I have a small mouth. This required me to have my mouth cranked open to it’s maximum. I also have TMJ due to surgery (orthognactic to correct a congenital abnormality) which makes holding my mouth open for long periods of time problematic. I was a little nervous so my blood pressure was elevated to normal and my heart rate topped 75 bpm.

Anyway the assistant used a topical gel to numb my gum. Then the dentist came in to take a peek. He placed a hard rubber wedge (think door stop) between my teeth on the opposite side. It was uncomfortable but bearable. Then the Novocaine injections. Good grief! He made 3 injections and it caused me to rotate my feet in an effort to become air-borne. He was fairly fast and my feet didn’t unscrew themselves at the ankle. Then they all left. And I sat there with the door stop in my mouth unable to swallow, practically standing on my head, with my eyebrow to my collar bone going cold and numb. The actual drilling took maybe 5 minutes. Once he put the drill down he muttered incomprehensible instructions to the assistant and left! She cleaned the area around the tooth, applied some goop to the tooth, mixed the filling material, AND FILLED THE TOOTH!!! Yep. The dentist didn’t even do that part. Which in my mind is the more difficult part. She supposedly did a fantastic job according to the dentist who came in to give his blessing.

Now comes the really bad part. I was numb from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. As the Novocaine wore off I developed a twitch in my eye. Yes, a little annoying but not life threatening. Then there was the swelling. My eye was puffy, my cheek was fat, and my jaw line lumpy. Even though I hadn’t eaten anything, I must have bit myself since I could now feel the inside of my cheek where it was sore and raw. The assistant told me that I would probably have some sensitivity to hot and cold in that tooth for a couple days. She also mentioned that I should be able to eat without any problem. Since my teeth are always sensitive to hot and cold I didn’t think that would be an issue. But my tooth is sensitive to pressure. Very sensitive as in not willing to chew on that side of my mouth. I have had a constant headache from the TMJ acting up. And when I lay my head on the pillow I dare not place that side of my face down. If I do I have a sharp pain that pierces my face and stabs me in the eye. I now understand the attraction to extraction!!

I am meeting saintvi to do some geocaching and then joining a planning session for the big geo-event at Fernwood in October. My tooth is still tender but my face doesn’t look puffy. I’m going to be swallowing more ibuprofen before I leave the house and carrying a few extra with me just in case…

Looking Fired Up

A quick check of the time and she knew there was no use trying to talk to anyone in Human Resources. That was just as well, she needed to consider carefully her course of action. Losing her job was not expected. Now she’d have to deal with the unemployment office, HR, and insurance companies. The prospect would have crushed the old Lu but the new Lu would not be defeated by paperwork. The drive home was punctuated by bursts of profanity directed at idiot drivers. Going into the house was hard. She half expected Mister to come silently down the stairs but it was still and empty. Dinner and the clean-up were quick, even with the dishes from the night before. She had eaten with a notepad at her elbow and jotted notes outlining her plan of attack. It was liberating to have an agenda and an attainable goal.

The adrenalin slowly wore off and she became more introspective. A smile played across her lips as she recalled the security guard. His last words were hesitant and hopeful wishing her luck and telling her how he would miss seeing her every day. She considered the possibilities but they evaporated as she considered her next move. Calling to the offices of Polder and Swale she made an appointment. The plastic receptionist tried to put her off for several weeks but the new Lu was having none of it. She had an appointment on Monday morning. The next step was to send the recording from her phone to herself as a wav file. Then she burned it to a CD. Without Mister she lost track of the time. It was well past midnight when she crawled into bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.

She woke up before the alarm went off. Saturday was going to be a day of activity. She tackled the closet. Out were all the dumpy clothes, clunky shoes, mannish sweaters and gender neutral shirts. The closet was nearly empty. Next was the dresser as she eliminated almost everything, even the men’s black crew socks. Although she had removed her entire wardrobe it all fit into 5 large grocery bags. They went into the trunk of the car after removing her work effects. The thrift store opened at 9:00 AM and Lu was there before the door was unlocked. It took her nearly until noon but she put together a new look for under $50. She was more feminine and colorful version of herself. She looked in the full length mirror and was pleased at what she saw.

She looked younger. She took her hair out of the rubber band and fluffed it. She gazed critically at her reflection. She didn’t look glamorous but she wasn’t homely either. For a brief moment she thought of Aurora but it was only because she was wearing a dress. There was still much to be done – a haircut and style, maybe even a manicure, a stop at the optical shop, the shoe store and even the dreaded mall. She figured if anyone could give her free makeup lessons it would be the maniacal women at Macy’s perfume counter. From there it would be to the dollar store to purchase makeup and any hair accessories. By 5:00 PM she was exhausted. It would have been easy to just go home but she felt compelled to stop at one more place. She pulled in and the sign said they were open until 7 PM. It took a couple deep breaths before she exited the car. She had put a wad of Kleenex into her coat pocket just in case.

Lu has made a decision. She is taking charge of her life. Who knows where this may lead? Stay tuned.

Looking at Laughter

I want to laugh
With abandon
Carefree and with volume
Do not shush me
Try to make me afraid
To shake and gasp
Open my mouth
Reveal all my teeth
I want to laugh hard
Without judgement
Disapproving looks
Telling me I’m unseemly
Unladylike, brazen
Don’t try to stifle my joy
Minimize my mirth
Do not muffle my humor
I will only laugh harder

This little free verse was inspired by a warped sense of humor. Little did I know or realize but my sense of humor is a product of my upbringing and societal norms. When I was young, ladies giggled or maybe tittered and sometimes they would produce a “ha!” almost as if it were an involuntary sneeze. But genteel women didn’t throw their heads back and roar. They didn’t gasp or snort or laugh so hard that they gasped for air. A lady never laughed so hard that they would cry – that would have doomed her mascara! So I learned to laugh with my father who would laugh explosively and then shake silently before another round of roaring laughs escaped him. I soon learned that this was too shocking coming from a little girl. I suppressed my laugh. In high school I only laughed when in the company of best friends or family. The rest of the time I suppressed the laugh and only released minor chuckles when deemed appropriate. I was considered a humorless and altogether sober student. It took a long time before my husband ever saw me “crack up”. In fact it was just before he proposed. He had given me a Garfield comic compilation. I started reading and my smile broadened and then I giggled and before I could control myself, I burst into a full fledged laughing jag. I think it startled him. But it didn’t make him love me less. It just might have made him love me more. Now I laugh as often and as loudly as I want. I’m free. I have an odd sense of humor. I think farts are funny. So is rabbit poop. And incense that comes in boxes with holes. I laugh at fashion and food and small children trying ice cream for the first time. But cats always amuse me along with people who own them trying to understand the mysterious ways and why fores of the feline! Thanks goodness for “I Can Has Cheezburger?” videos!!

Looking at Artistic Efforts

I nearly missed my opportunity to continue with a summer ceramics session! With the hoopla for my retirement and the whirlwind of activity involving weddings etc. I missed the sign-up deadline for classes. I realized my mistake by the second week of class (in an 8 week semester). I made a visit to the class instructor and found out that there was going to be a compressed class schedule (meeting twice a week for 4 weeks) starting in 2 weeks. I was elated and then deflated. You see the planned trip for the wedding would mean I’d miss a class or possibly two! By talking to the instructor I arranged to start my class a week early and make up for missing the other session(s). Everything was handled and I was very productive. But there are glitches. I made 7 orbs, 3 wall plaques, and a whistle but only 4 have made it through the glaze firing – – so far.

This is my version of Coronasphaera maxima, a coccolith found in the Gulf of Mexico. This was made using a dark stoneware clay body and glazed with Semi-Matte Blue in the bottom of the cups then immersed for a quick dip in Turner’s Celadon. The result was delightful. It almost looks like Rutile Blue inside but without the tendency to run! Sadly the photo doesn’t do it justice!

This next one is a repeat that I did back in 2014, Alveosphaera bimurata again from the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to try a glaze that is available for a limited time only (the ingredients are too expensive to make it a regular option). It is called Milk Glass Glaze and when fired turns a milky blue-grey. Because there was only a little left I opted to only put it in the interior places on this orb. The majority of the piece has a red iron oxide stain applied. I put it on thickly and the result is a rich metallic sheen. Although it isn’t very flashy, this is the one that got “oohs” and “aahs” from the kiln tech and instructor.

Looking Fired

Her boss was reading a report and peered over her cheaters at Lu with a look of surprise and apprehension. “What are you doing here!” her boss nearly shouted. Lu was confused. This wasn’t part of her script. Sputtering she replied, “I stopped in to let you know that I’ll be back to work on Monday.” Lu had begun to frown. In the past she would have started to apologize even if she didn’t know what she had done wrong but not today. The frown deepened as she noticed a box on the floor filled with familiar items including her photo of Mister and her cat pencil holder. She still had her hands in her coat pocket and there at her finger tips was her new phone. With a simple thumb print and a double tap her phone was now in recording mode. She removed her hand and the phone from her pocket. She shifted her attention to her boss. With a piercing look, Lu stared her down. Her boss was now at a loss. She had never dealt with this new angry Lu. She stood up and leaned forward bracing herself on the desk. Lu recognized the stance as the “power pose” from that online seminar on managing the manager. She consciously struck her own pose, open arms with relaxed shoulders and a slight sideways tilt of the head. She was signaling that she was not afraid, she would not be cowed. “Ms. Dupin, I regret to inform you that you have been terminated effective immediately.” Lu nodded to herself as she looked inward and considered her next move. With a steady voice she asked on what grounds she was being let go. Her boss paused. Lu thought that it was odd that she didn’t have a well-rehearsed reply. Her boss started and stopped in the way a child does when conjuring a lie. She was being let go for too many absences, for failing to call in, for missing the project due date on a critical contract. The boss’ voice trailed off. Lu stared hard at her boss before she spoke. “I called you Monday morning to call off. That was my first missed day of work since starting this job.” Lu paused but maintained eye contact. “I worked Tuesday and called you that night to explain my situation. I distinctly remember you telling me to take the rest of the week off. You assured me that others would handle my work load.” The boss was starting to look uncomfortable. Lu continued, “I have accrued over 5 weeks of vacation time. Counting today, I have taken 4 days in the last 6 years.” Lu paused again, just like the prosecutor on Law & Order, “How does one sick day and 3 vacation days translate to too many absences?” Without allowing a rely she continued, “How many other people in this company are required to call in everyday during a vacation to remind you that they are not coming in? And how is it that you are firing me over work you assured me would be handled by others in the office?” Lu waited for a response. There wasn’t one immediately.

She blinked the way Mister did when he was being patient and condescending at the same time. She continued to look at her boss in a way that demanded an answer. Her boss lost the staring contest, probably because she wasn’t a cat owner but remained mute. Lu was angry. That fire that had been burning in her stomach flared. She took a deep breath before asking, “Can you get someone to carry my things to my car? I’ve got a very sore back and my hands hurt.” The boss asked her to have a seat and she’d call security to have them escort her out and transport her stuff. The boss maintained an uneasy silence. While Lu waited she looked at the photo of Mister sitting atop her things. It was a picture she had taken last year on a sunny day. Mister had found a sunbeam and positioned himself sphinx-like, eyes half closed. She had taken the photo, in fact several of them while Mister had posed unflinching as she tried to get the best angle. Her reverie was interrupted with a knock on the glass door. It was Angelo who arrived to carry her things. When he realized what was happening the happy fled from his eyes. He simply took the box and headed down to the lobby. Lu stood and looked at her former boss. She was half expecting some words of luck or encouragement but none came. She headed to the door but was brought up short when the boss asked, “By the way, how’s your cat doing?” Lu spun like a tiger that had its tail yanked hard. “He’s dead! I can’t carry the box because I have blisters on my hands from digging a grave in the frozen ground,…” She spat the words. There was a pause at the end of her sentence. Calling people names was something she did in private, in her car or in her head. Today she reconsidered. “…bitch!” She stormed out. There was only silence as she swept past her former coworkers. As she reached the elevator she could hear the slowly rising hum of the comments. She was feeling powerful and now she had more work to do.

Lu is starting to get mad. Yes, she is probably going to exact some sort of revenge but as you well know, revenge is a dish best served cold…

Looking at Fears

From a very young age I have been afraid of spiders. Perhaps afraid is not the right word. I’m terrified in a cartoonish crawl out of my skin and run screaming into the next century way. My first memories of spiders were of the neighbor boy pulling the legs off a daddy long-legs. I was angry that he was hurting it. I vaguely remember picking it up (minus a leg or two) and relocating it away from where he was sitting. The next memory was when I was in kindergarten. I woke up one morning and slowly opened my eyes. There on my pillow, a fraction of an inch from my eyes was a spider. I could see all of its eyes and very clearly its mouth parts moving. I leapt up and screamed. From that point on I wanted nothing to do with the 8-leggers. My mother tells a story from when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was in bed when I spotted a spider on the wall next to me. I bellowed for my father. He came in and wanted to know what was wrong. I pointed to the wall and shouted “spider”! He looked, finally noticing the tiny black dot, and pointing said to me “This?” I affirmed that that was it. He then smashed it on the wall with his index finger. It was no bigger than a period from a newspaper. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a slightly greater tolerance for them. As long as they stay out of my way and don’t enter the bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen they can live. If they come into my space they must die.

Which brings me to my latest encounter. I went geocaching in the woods with saintvi. For some unholy reason this particular woods was home for every species of spider known in lower southwest Michigan. No sooner had we started than we began encountering fiendishly positioned webs. They were strung between trees at face level. There were some that were spun with metal cable that could easily withstand a human walking into it. I envisioned a giant mutant spider able to devour an adult. I won’t lie, I made a high pitched scream. Yes it was a true “girly” scream. Then there were the hellish webs that were strung canopy-like over head with large active 8-leggers scampering to and fro. As we trudged to one cache, I admit to whimpering. There were webs everywhere! I am not prone to panic. However at one point I had my hand over my mouth to stifle my shrieks as I saw a score of little spiders riding silk threads on the slight breeze. I didn’t kill any of them as I was on their turf. Nevertheless I was very happy to exit that particular area.

To top it off Sparky decided we needed to watch the movie “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as if I hadn’t had enough arachnid exposure for awhile!! At least Spider-Man only has 2 arms and 2 legs!! (and I did enjoy the film but I know that it was just a refresher as a prelude to the newest installment “Spider-Man: Far from Home”)

Looking Bruised

I have been feeling the pressure to get a new bicycle. My current model is from 1969. I got it for my birthday. It has been well cared for and still works (mostly). It was only a 3 speed but time has reduced the speeds to one. Sparky has been urging me to upgrade. One of my friends has also been pushing for me to get a new ride. I even tried out her 3 bikes to see if I liked any of those models. Sparky bought a refurbished bike this summer and has been riding it across town to Planet Fitness, doing his exercises, and then riding it home. All in all he is gone for about 4 hours. Except for last Sunday. It went down like this:
On his way to Planet Fitness (~3 miles from home) he was bitten on the left wrist by some ferocious bug. It took a chunk of skin and made him bleed. It also hurt as in searing pain. In the space of 15 seconds he thought “I need to stop to get a good look at this bug bite.”, he forgot to apply the back hand brake before the front one, flipped the bike forward, went sailing over the handlebars, skidded to a stop by using his left palm as a brake (also used his left knee and his chin). After picking up his bike (with a busted gear shift cover) and assessing the damages decided to continue to Planet Fitness. After a few feet he changed his mind and headed home. I was awake, barely, when he came into the bedroom. His tone had me up and groping for my glasses. He wanted me to assess his injury. I looked at the bug bite. Ouch. I looked at the odd angle of his middle finger and red and swollen middle knuckle. I moved his fingers, felt the joints and then the bones of the fingers. They seemed fine. The metacarpal bones in the back of his hand however were very painful. We got changed and headed to MedPoint Urgent Care with the hope that we could be seen and still make it to church. We were delusional. After a medium long wait in the patient intake area, a semi-long wait in the exam room, x-rays of the hand, and examination by the doctor, we were ready to leave. The good news is his hand is not broken. It is sprained and bruised requiring ibuprofen and RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). He was told to take antihistamines for the bug bite. The bad news is that we missed church. His hand is better but still a little sore. He has been doing exercises to maintain mobility since he’s had it wrapped to help with the swelling and to hold the ice pack in place.

The result is that I’m not so sure I want a new bike. I don’t relish the thought of a broken anything. I’d be willing to ride my bike around the neighborhood but the whole riding in traffic scares me. I can just see me falling off my bike and being run over by a car…

Looking Assertive

It was a quick drive to the offices of Polder and Swale. She marched to the reception desk and demanded to speak with Mr. Swale. The fake smile fled from the receptionist’s face. Lu’s tone of voice commanded action and the lawyer appeared much more quickly than on her previous visit. She transferred the papers to his hands and asked for a receipt acknowledging he had taken possession. He looked at Lu. He was puzzled because this woman was not the meek and withdrawn person that he remembered. Lu was done being a door mat. With a curt nod she turned and headed for the door. On impulse she tossed a comment over her shoulder, “You will keep me informed. Feel free to call and leave a message.” Once in her car a little of the bravado slipped. Looking at her hands she could detect a slight tremor born of repressed panic. She was going to fake it until she made it. Everything had gone smoothly. People had snapped to attention. She was catered to. She had to admit that it felt good to be in charge. Although she was feeling a wave of bravado it started ebbing as she considered her next move.

Checking the time, she estimated that she had at least an hour before her boss would leave for the day. A turn of the key and her car nearly drove itself to her place of employment. The lot was almost full. She had never failed to get a spot in the first row but now found herself parked in the far corner with the prospect of a long cold walk to the building. Looking for her gloves brought the realization that she’d left them in the phone store. On any other day, she would have taken that as a sign that she needed to abort her mission. Today it pushed her forward. Her pass key in her hand and hands jammed into coat pockets, she headed inside. The security guard was at his post and she nodded and swiped her card but the door didn’t click open. She tried again. Lu felt the familiar tingle of panic and a tightening of her throat as the guard approached. “Good morning Ms. Dupin. Is there a problem?” Normally she would have turned and run, instead she managed a hoarse affirmative and an explanation that her card wasn’t working. She noticed for the first time that his badge had his name on it, Angelo. She looked at his face. He was smiling and had happy wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. She blushed. He reached past her and with his card let her in. He even held the door for her. She was flustered and she felt her face getting warmer. She dropped her gaze as she muttered a soft “Thank-you.” The elevator was already at the lobby just waiting for a passenger. With relief she entered. She hated to ride with other people. So much so that she would take the stairs all the way to the 6th floor. Today was her lucky day she told herself. The soft chime indicated her floor and the doors opened to a familiar sight of file cabinets and cubicles. She turned left and headed to the frosted glass that was the location of her boss’ office. As she rounded the partition the normal murmur and hum of the office went silent. It was as if the sound tract had been placed on mute. Lu paused briefly and considered if her stress had finally caught up to her. Looking into the cubicle city she saw what looked like a hundred eyes staring at her. She shifted her attention to the office door. The frosted glass couldn’t hide the fact that he boss was at her desk. She knocked and entered without waiting for the invitation.

Lu is turning the corner. I think she has discovered her spine and maybe a little seldom used courage…It is amazing how a smidgen of self confidence can make a person that much more attractive!

Looking Exercised

Last week I took a tour of the university fitness center. It has been open less than a year and with all the other things going on I never went during the open house. I met a former coworker and she showed me around. It isn’t as open as the old fitness center (which was renovated for the women’s basket ball practice facility). The old track was bigger (6 laps = 1 mile) and had windows looking over campus on 3 sides. This track isn’t oval it is winding and narrow with the feel that you are walking through hallways. There are maybe 3 small windows and the rest of the time it is just walls with bright lights. There are however so many machines of all types. Some of the machines are very complicated. It is a little intimidating but there are people manning the desk who are able to assist me. I guess the news is that I’m going to exercise 3 times a week. This is my first week. I’m going to just do the walking track to start. Walking is a low impact exercise. I used to walk and it afforded me time to clear my head and concentrate on a single topic – almost a meditation. I’m sorting my poems into categories in hopes to assemble a booklet. I really need to give it some deep thought on the direction I want to go. The by-products of this exercise regime should be better cardio fitness, clarity of thought, and even some toning of muscles. If all goes well I should feel fabulous and have accomplished a book ready for publication.

Looking at the Recipe Box

I am my mother. I never thought in a million years that I’d come to that conclusion but here we are. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been sorting through my recipe boxes. Yes, I have two stuffed to the bursting point boxes of recipes. Some of the recipes date back to B.C. (before children) or even pre-B.C. (before Betty Crocker)! It has been my mission to wade through the contents and toss any that are horrible. Now I have to confess that a good portion of these were part of a 9th grade Home Economics project that involved collecting recipes and putting them into a card box. I was not selective. It was one of those boring and in my 9th grade mind pointless activities. I did exactly what was required to receive an A. Thus I have in this file a couple of recipes that I will never in 10,000 years ever make or eat if someone else makes. The funny thing is that my mother gave me a fist full of newspaper clippings and recipes that she had collected and never used for this… so we have 2 generations of dishes that no one wants to eat.

Curried carrots
Pickled tongue
Creamed turnips
I’ve come undone
Barbecue hotdogs
Celery jello
Asparagus flan
I’ll just say no!
Green olive soup
Fennel bread
Vinegar pie
I’m better off dead

I hope you enjoyed the list poem (with a touch of rhyme), I’ve tossed the above recipes. The asparagus flan was a weird and disgusting recipe. Just imagine for a moment making a fruit flan but substituting asparagus in place of apricots. Yeah, there is no point in keeping that one! I did however keep the recipe for “Cherry Fluff” that my Grandma Tena gave me. She went through a phase in the late 1970s when she made and served this dessert at every get together. I’m not sure why but it was a favorite, however I usually make it with black cherry jello.

Pink Fluff
1 large package of cherry jello
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can fruit cocktail drained well
16 oz. cool whip
1 c. chopped pecans

Mix together pie filling, jello, and fruit cocktail. Fold in cool whip until it is a uniform pink. Refrigerate. Sprinkle nuts on top and serve well chilled.